October 31, 2010

Happy All Hallows Eve!

There are so many memories from yesterday’s shows to keep me company today. I’m home with flu or an allergy-flu (there’s one going round, I’m told) and snuggled contentedly on my sofa watching the first year of West Wing on TV and playing canasta with my computer. It’s not a bad way at all to spend the day following the happy culmination of weeks of hard work. And that’s how I’d describe the inaugural DFT Halloween storytelling concerts yesterday.

We had a small but enthusiastic group of 10 story lovers at the afternoon Ghost & I show, 50% fewer than my anticipated success level of 20, which tells me I need to do three things: 1) enjoy the afterglow of the fun audience and a well-done show, 2) do more research into the schedules of families with elementary-aged children, and 3) develop more effective ways to spread the word around. One of the audience members volunteered to bring lots more friends to the next show, now that she knows how fun it is, so we’re on our way.

It was a perfect chilly autumn evening for Hauntings PG 13, and the audience size surpassed by five my anticipated success level of twenty. Robin, who volunteered to run the front of house and box office for both shows and was fantastic all day long, helped create a perfect stage setting.

Spider’s webs stretched artfully down the stairs on either side of the intimate stage and across a small organ (two young audience members helped with the stretching and placed the plastic spiders in the webbing.) We strung tiny blue, red, yellow and green lights across the front of the stage and placed flood lights with amber gels on either side of the stage to throw light on the performer’s faces, soft light lit the burgundy wall at the back of the stage and ivory curtains framed the performance area downstage center.

The table beside my storytelling chair was covered with an African cloth in harvest colors, decorated with a large yellow mum from neighbor Cheryl’s front steps, a yellow candle and a few small props. A pumpkin sat against the stage right table leg, overlooked by a grinning puppet ghost. The entire feel was warm and intimate.

Ryan Gunzel arrived early with his guitar and banjo—accompanied by his friend Karen and Karen’s parents who’re visiting from Ohio. We did a quick warm-up rehearsal of our songs and opened the house for guests. When all the chairs Robin had arranged were full, audience members helped her to carry more and add them at the back. My sister, Callie, arrived with cider and treats for a free party for the audience after the show, her thoughtful contribution to the community atmosphere.

It was a very fine show – so many friends were there if felt like telling stories to family, comfortable and rich. Singing with Ryan was incredibly fun. I’ve been a little shy about singing in front of people, but having such a wonderful partner gave me the necessary courage to sing full out – with both heart and art. Mine’s an oral tradition based singing, with rhythms more syncopated than smooth. And it is liberating fun to work with a musical partner who is adept at that language. We closed the show with a ghost story and a song, both of which I’d written in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. As my young friend Isaac said, pointing to his chest to show me where it felt this way, it was very sad but in a good way. I think he meant the word “good” in the same way I mean satisfying.

It was a satisfying day and night, and yielded many new names on our email contact list of people who want to know what’s happening with the Durham Family Theatre. I’ll keep you posted.

Warmly, Jenny

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