26 September, 2003

Thursday, 25 September

Screen Test For Mimi

When I spoke to the woman who I thought was a casting agent, Mary, I was on my way down to pick up my makeup kit from the RenFest for the screen test we had tentatively scheduled for Thursday (I got the notice on Monday that an actor/mime was being sought) but hadn't picked out a time. Mary said "Makeup? None of the others have had makeup on..." Bingo, I thought. And told her the brief version of my philosophy of visual art. I asked about costume. "Oh, that would be great!" she said, and requested bright colors. We said one o'clock, at Summer Productions, in Alexandria, a fancy suburb of DC.

I was okay until morning, when I got an extreme case of the jitters and couldn't find my favorite hat, not til the last minute. I was up at seven, sending a slanted bio and some Mimi photos to Mary's e-dress, after having attempted and failed at that same task around midnight the Wenedsday. I send a plea for good wishes, and get back several replies that I don't even have time to look at, but I know five people, at least, have wished me well. Mother kindly takes the kids off my hands, having the afternoon free and being back from visiting Grandmother in New Orleans, so I didn't have to wear two hats at once (for a change!) and be distracted worrying about them while trying to make a good impression.

I arrive exactly when I expect to, having calmed from "off the wall" to "genuinely thrilled", found close parking for free, and go into a building that suggests that you have no business here if you don't already know your way around. The only visual cue is an elevator door and an up button. I employ both, and note a sign instructs me to check in with the receptionist on the second floor. I do this. She asks if I'm a mime, and seems excited when I grin and say yes. She smiles very wide, and makes a call, describing me as a young woman, which was gratifying. The notice asked for people in the 17-35 year old range, which I can pass for if no one checks my birth certificate. Katie, Mary's assistant, will be down in a minute to get me, I could relax on that nice leather chair over there. I amuse myself looking at a row of Cine awards, which are very angular/curvy, very golden, very Art Nouveau, and assorted other oddments on a bookshelf which seems entirely decorative, on the leather chair, but hardly relaxed.

Katie takes me upstairs, introduces me with my "naked" face to Mary, who warmly says, "You look great!" She's in her mid to late twenties, I'm thinking she hasn't been out much if she thinks I look great now. I show her my costume choices, and she picks the one I had been leaning towards anyway, looks like I overpacked yet again. The bathroom is hearteningly well lit, and I take my time making up, wanting to look as perfect as possible for the camera.

Turns out this is not a casting agency, it's a video production company, and they already have a contract with an educational company out of Pennsylvania. The mime would be the intersticial (is my spelling right?); the fun that will compliment, not overshadow, the educational content. I smile, mention I've been doing writing for an educational software company, and Mary smiles wider, if that's possible. She thinks I look fabulous. I do. It's my specialty. Katie will do the shooting. We're in a tiny room, closet sized, really, and Mary tells me to go ahead and do a minute of improv.

I chew imaginary gum and have trouble with it, thinking this will allow me to show off my expressive face, since I have no training, skill, aptitude or affinity for the full body illusions that people think of when hearing the word "mime". Mary seems pleased and tells me she's going to read the script and have me act it out. We run through it a couple of times before Mary seems satisfied, once because I stumbled in getting to a prop, once because she dropped a line, and once because she wanted a faster pace, which I gave her. She hauls out a second script, and we do the same thing, doing only two takes of that one, since it's simpler and shorter.

Now you get a minute to show off any special skills you have, Mary tells me (which she'd also told me in e-mail, and miracle of miracles, I'd remembered.) I do a leap with three scarves in my hands, and then juggle them. This is not a skill that will impress a juggler, or anyone who knows a juggler, but it's pretty. I then blow a bubble through my bare hand. Again, not a high-end skill, but pretty, and lots of people haven't seen it, and are inclined to be amazed all out of proportion, which I'm counting on.

Mary asks if I have other "tricks" like acrobatics or something. She wants me to land this gig, I think. She'd like to work with me, and is trying to load the vid in my favor, I imagine. What a great feeling. But it turns out she wants, well, the client wants, to see some of that box stuff, walking against the wind, pulling the rope. I won't do the box. I'm LOUSY at the box, and have always refused to do it on general principle, so I've never improved from lousy. I pull an imaginary rope, do the mimewalk, go up some stairs, climb a ladder, get to the top, climb back down and end with walking against the wind. Mary is satisfied, and tells me I did a good job. She mentions the production schedule, which would be in late October or early November. The client will likely make a decision within two weeks, and she'll let me know. We shake hands, and I go back into the bathroom, undo all the artistry I've done, and gather my things to go. The whole process, elevator to elevator, has taken one hour.

I drive home, grooving on the lovevibe I feel from my friends, who have wished me well, who are even now thinking of me.

That's how it went. Beautiful, like my friends. Like my life.

Sunday, 21 September

Day Eleven of the Maryland Renaissance Festival
Day Two of Pyrate Invasion Weekend

On the drive in, I notice a pickup truck with a cab, a couple of lawnchairs strapped to its ass. Obviously someone's recreational vehicle, a cheap, scaled down version of a camper. As I pull up beside the truck, spying into the passenger window, I see an elderly couple. He's driving, and she's sitting, not beside the window, but in the center, as close to him as she can get while still allowing him to drive. I hope, I hope, I look into the future and see myself.

In the parking lot, Johnny Fox, who is a delightfully strange fellow on the best of days, and strangely delightful on the worst, carries a blue fleece slipper. His dog, Shanti, a Lhasa-apso, bounces along beside him. The slipper whimpers, I peek, and see the tail end of something ratlike. "What have you got, Johnnie?" He tips the slipper, and a tiny puppy, days old, slides into his palm. "Her eyes aren’t open yet," he says. I can see that. "How are you feeding her, Johnnie?" I ask "She feeds her," he tells me, indicating Shanti. Shanti stands on her hind legs, one paw delicately on Johnnie's knee, one hanging limpwristed and adoring. I did not realize this was Shanti's baby, but it obviously is. This was a litter of one puppy, Johnnie says. This is the only one she had. She was born on Friday night. Her name? "Isabella." Of course.

At Cast Call, Barkon brings me a piece of the Washington Times. He asks if I've seen my article. What article? Obviously not. It’s the article Tom R. wrote, about me, about Watergate! the Musical. Barkon, how sweet. I kiss him, he seems surprised. Can I digress? I have known Barkon for all the years I’ve been working this happy gig, and always thought he was strange. The number of people I have met since then have served to dilute the degree of strangeness he carries. Old Gym Sock is not a puppet or footwear, but a drink, an alcoholic mystery drink, that he no longer passes around due to the decline in the median age of the General Company and the increase of Young Actors and his inability to tell the difference. If he ever cared. Actually, I think it likely that Carolyn politely asked him to stop bringing Old Gym Sock to the costume house in the evening, as she didn't want the children getting picked up drunk. To be fair, most of us only really ever had a few tastes. Ah, but say Old Gym Sock to an oldtime cast member, receive a fond secretive smile as payment for a good memory.

Today I wear a different hot pink unitard, spandex instead of velvet. Ginny says it's quite slimming, and the light slides off it in a way that doesn't happen with the velvet. The nap of the velvet makes me look…puffier, perhaps. The spandex gives clean, smooth lines. I'll like it better, she says.

One of my Most Favored Patrons shows up for Mimi Flambé. I see him every year. He got married a year or two back, and his wife is with him. She thinks I won't remember them. She is half right. It will take a few more years before her face begins to register with me. He waits after the show, swings me around in a big hug. It is amazing how much love my MFPs have for Mimi. Why is that? It's just white makeup and a smile. John would shake his head and say it's more than that. You love them first. Why wouldn't they respond? Yes, loving them first, I know all about that. Having them love me back, I am surprised. Amazed. Shocked, every time.

Today is the first day I go up on stilts for a second time during the day. Since we had done the entire site but for the Winegarden, we go first through Stub Toe Lane to the Winegarden. Lots of children are in the Winegarden, oddly, and we pose for many photos with them, sell them back for sips of beer.

Some piratey types come up, saying 'Arrrgh, ahoy, Mateys! Here's yer booty!" And they hold a sign with an arrow that points to our bums, which we shake obligingly. It’s nice to see people having a good time.

Slippery dry mulch slides underfoot on uphill slopes. We are asked to stop for a shot. It's an effort, but we will not show it. Pass the pub, where the Rogues play Holy Moley. Everyone is happy to see us, and friendly. Even the black-clad dreadlocked skinhead clan is friendly. Can we have a picture? A woman asks. I dig in my bag and hand her one. Oh, you meant pose for one. Fine, that too.

We come down from stilts, and I go to find Hilby, the Skinny German Juggle Boy, which he pronounces Skeenay Cherman Chauggle Poi. He’s not quite finished his show, so I pop over to Fight School, and to hug Ken. As I stand in the rear of Fight School, feeling Ken look at me, feeling him need me, I feel someone closer looking at me. The man standing to my right exerts enough energy in my direction for me to make eye contact. At which he says, "I was't sure…I hope you won't think I…I didn't know how to approach you." Go on, my face says. "I took a picture of you and the crew last year, and it took second place in a photo contest I entered. It was something I really wanted, and I want to thank you. I'll bring a copy for you next week." I indicate gratitude, and he says "No, thank YOU." No, sweetie. You have no idea how much you have just given to me. I’m so full, I have to give away. I rush over to Ken, hug him tight awhile, while he says, "THERE you are," in a tender tone few would credit Ken with possessing.

I offer a bit of bread to a patron who's just purchased cinnamon roasted almonds. She takes it. I wait expectantly. She takes a bite. I turn my hand over and look pointedly at the open bag of nuts, then the bread. She laughs and hands me two nuts. A fair trade. No, no, I came out ahead.

Off to get Hilby, we've planned to do yoga together. He's very flexible, and leads me into various pretzellations. It's good, good, and the Kama Sutra suddenly makes a lot more sense. I feel relaxed, and it's time to go to the pub. Hilby has borrowed the mug I found six or seven years ago for four dollars in a second hand store, which I painstakingly chiseled the words from, as they were inappropriate to the period. I left the shield, however, and Hawk touched up the paint for me last year, using his model paints, which he mixed especially to match the color of the original paint that remained. He complained it wasn't exact, but I was touched by the effort. Last year, that mug disappeared for two weekends, and I was heartbroken, since I’d had it so long. Finally, I went back to the giant slide, where it had been all along, and the kids had held it there for me, knowing I'd be back. In my sorrowing search, I'd neglected my morning slide time and had missed picking it up four days running. The handle had broken off in a fall, and they had saved it for me. Pat P. glued it back, and apologized for its imperfection. I like the imperfection, the paint color slightly off. It reinforces the care shown to me, a tangible reminder of love.

We head to the pub. A man's T-shirt says Kiss Me, I'm a Pirate, so I grab the lapels of the shirt he's wearing on top of it and do so. It was an invitation. Wasn't it?

I wait on the stone base of Manny the Elk, Stag, Deer, Hart, whatever the horned creature is, who, in honor of Pyrate Invasion weekend, has been adorned with eyepatch, bandanna, and mullet wig. Jenna, who has concocted this nonsense, lies in wait for the original mullet man, in whose honor it has been done, trying to capture his face on camera. I do not indicate to her that it is a pointless exercise. He will neither show surprise nor laugh aloud. Well, leave her a moment of wistful whimsy. I am delighted to see people pulling pranks. When he arrives, he actually seems glad to see me. It is gratifying, at the very least. When our turn comes, he announces to the audience, indicating the costumed bronze statue: "This day we celebrate…the mullet. The only person who appreciates the mullet…is standing beside me. And she can't really say anything." The crowd roars. We go into the Fire of Friendship routine, which he messes up the patter to, having been so long out of practice, but no one seems to mind. He does the palm light, then lights my tongue. Then I light from his retention, and he does a fireball. It's like the best of the best of old times.

A man wears a T-shirt he's forgotten about, as indicated by his surprised expression when I kiss him, because he's a pirate. I point it out, and he grins sheepishly when I lift my eyebrows in a "ya asked for it" expression. The things I get away with. Why is that? White makeup and a smile, I guess.

Saturday 20 September

Day 10 of the Maryland Renaissance Festival

Mist smothers the landscape, standing water turns to steam so dense it obscures the sun, bravely shining in a dim pink patch- Ah! We’ve cleared the low spot, have escaped from the cloud. The sun is bright, today is beautiful.

A jeweled necklace of spiderweb strung with dewdrops adorns the fence as we turn in to the Faire site, which is surprisingly pristine, considering the hurricane damage that’s been sustained elsewhere in the state. The Smith Brothers, Jules, Justin, Mark and Adam, have done a spectacular job of cleanup. There are twigs and leaves on the ground, baby branches torn from trees, but what the heck, we’re in the woods. All the signs and banners, hastily pulled down in the face of Isabel’s wrath, have been rehung, and except for deep muddy furrows which Mark rakes away even now with his tractor, there is no evidence of any act of nature.

On the way to park the truck, I stop to greet Adam, in his golf cart. I touch his face, the injury on his head is healing. There is another mark, as though he had a long ago run-in with the wrong end of an icepick. Oh, he laughs. That’s from the tailgate of Jon Heights’s pickup truck. I was being chased by a calico cat and ran right into it. I was terrified of cats. I was three years old. I laugh with him, and wonder what’s chasing him now.

Mark Jaster brings a fabulous looking caterpillar on a stick as we are making up. “I wonder what kind of flying creature this turns into”, he muses, showing his treasure to us grown girls as well as the two young boys, one of whom belongs to him. It is black, with a red-orange head, black hairs like curb feelers scattered over its body, and spots like yellow lip imprints, or small leaves, outlined in white, stamped all down its back. Mark says he has a book and will look it up. I have Internet access, and will look it up, too.

I go to work my bubble magic, am distracted by a passing squirrel. He casually walks across the boards that form the parapet, moving slowly, very nonchalant. I think he does not notice me. I think my patrons are wondering what I’m looking at, so I turn back to them. At next glance, the squirrel has vanished, gone to whatever squirrelly destination he sought.

A little girl across the way shouts, “Look! An elf on a castle!” I like the description and am disappointed to hear her mother correct her, saying, “No, honey, it’s a clown.” Why should the word clown have less magic in my mind than elf?

It is very sunny and bright. A helicopter buzzes round, and round, and round. I watch, wave, in case the helicopter holds a photographer with a big powerful lens shooting publicity shots for the Faire. It is hot, hot, and by noon, I am drenched.

The boys want to head down to the Boardwalk, to play tag like last week after we go down the slide. Well, that’s fine, and tag’s all well and good, but how shall we get the audience involved? Discussion ensues. We will demonstrate to patrons, then tag them, get them to chase us, or each other. A good plan.

We head for the slide. Ah! Tragedy! The storm has taken away several sections of the original slide, and it is closed today. We ride down the newer one, built a year after the first, when the first proved to be so popular.

Off we go, playing tag. It works well, the plan we came up with. More patrons than I had imagined want to play. I break off to look, as always, for Ken. Today he is tucked away in the entrance of the Museum, sitting on a stool. He holds me for a long time, as though he needs me.

Up on stilts, we fascinate babies, and are chased away from the Hack and Slash show again: Spencer is doing his patter into a bullhorn. We stand, insolent, at the back of the crowd. “This is a mime-free zone,” he announces. We look at one another, shrug, fold our arms again. The crowd has turned to look. Spence starts up the aisle with a bullwhip, cracking it. We look at each other and scatter, if two stilting mimes can be said to scatter.

A woman wears a tee shirt that says “Kiss me…I need Inspiration.” I signal Ginny and we get her from both sides. It was an invitation. Wasn’t it?

Passing by Gracie’s hairbraiding booth, I look for her. Wait, says one of the girls. Gracie comes out with her hair half done, in a chemise that looks like a nightgown. Well, it could be. She stands on her “cheating bench” and I still lean down to hug her.

Garrett and I have a show that is as close to dead-on as we ever get. We share a good time with a bunch of friendly folk. That’s what it’s all about. For us, at least.

Headed home, we look forward to an evening with John, Uncle John, whom the children have grown to adore. Hawk asks John to interpret a dream he had. Cory comes over to chat, listen, discover. She cooks. John interprets Hawk’s dream, then Garrett wants a turn. I try to avoid chiming in too much. Next, Garrett wants to interpret a dream for John. John can’t remember a dream, and distracts Garrett by asking him if he can see auras and what color everyone is. He can’t quite get a bead on John’s aura, but gets Cory and Alaina as green, and Hawk and me as purple. John says “Listen to your child” when I protest that I couldn’t be purple. Evidently, I am. Hard to argue with John. Why would I want to? Cory goes home with what she wanted, reassurance and confirmation, and a great deal to think about. An evening with John has that effect.