13. April, 2008. One of my favorite shows to tour was our literacy awareness show. It featured Dr. Seuss and a young boy named Bart who hated reading. Really, though, the play wasn't about reading as much as it was about storytelling, because one of Bart's challenges from the good doctor is to make up a story and make it good. The play does a good job in discussing the basic elements of a story and soliciting the audience's help in a few areas. My favorite was always the point at which Bart needs suggestions from the audience to help him describe what the evil witch's tower might look like (because he watches TV and therefore has no imagination) You really never knew what you were going to get in this session. No matter how clear you make it that you are looking for good words to describe the tower, inevitably you always get some kid who wasn't really paying attention and gives you a noun or tells you they have to use the restroom. ("So you're saying it's a kitten-y tower? With plenty of available bathrooms? Okay!") You'd also have the kid who just shot their hand in the air because they liked to get called on, but the really hadn't but any thought into what might describe a tower at all, so they just say the first thing that comes to mind. Which is usually the opposite of whatever the last kid said was. ("So it's a hot tower, but it's kind of cold, too. Like, it's emotionally distant. Got it!") Even better, the princess from the story was in the background, reacting to whatever the kids said. If they said the tower was tall, she'd crane her neck to see the top. If they said it was dusty, she'd sneeze.
One day, we were performing at a school that had brought all of their first through fourth grade students. It came to this point and I called on a kid. "What word can you think of that would describe the tower?" I asked her. She was a pretty young kid. "Uh," she said, "umm....maybe, like, it has, ahhh, it has, like, maybe there's, like...a kitten." Okay. Not the first time I've heard that one before. "So it's kitteny-y?" I ask. "Yeah!" Dr. Seuss wrote that on the board, Princess pantomimes petting a kitten.
"Okay," I said, "who else has a word? Maybe what the tower looks like, or what it feels like? Yeah, you!"
"...Okay, so maybe it has a cow..."
One hand holding the kitten, one hand scratching behind the cow's ears. At this point, I see all of the teachers pointing at the other side of the auditorium. Apparently they had sat all of the younger kids on the side I was taking volunteers from. Teachers just wanted to help us out, and I was grateful for that, so I found the biggest, oldest-and-most-mature-looking child near the back, where the upperclassmen always sit, sure that I had struck gold. "Can you think of a word to describe the tower?"
"It has a bathtub!"
Beat. Teachers laughing. Princess suddenly tilting backward slightly, elevating her feet as if they're floating on water, trying to keep the invisible kitty from getting wet.
If only I'd had a camera.
14. February, 2009. Confession: I was not actually present for this one. But I saw the people involved immediately afterward, and they told me all about it. And obviously, I thought it was awesome.
You know how actors always say, "Oh, let's just go out and get lunch in character sometime! Ha ha, that will be funny!" Well, one of my casts actually went ahead and did it. Naturally, it was the cast of Hero Squad. (Three of them, anyway) See, the HS (save the Iron Lung, who was off building a set that day) had gone to visit one of our off-campus classes because...um...come to think of it, I don't really know why we did that. I'm sure there was a good reason at the time, though. Afterward, Lindy, 3-D, and Princess Mystic Starfish were driving home, still in costume because it was easier than trying to find a place to change at the school, and they were hungry. And the thought came: why bother going all the way back to the theater to change before we can eat? We're just going dressed like this. They pull into a Chik-fil-a.
Now you gotta understand, these were amazing costumes. These folks didn't look like characters from a play; they looked like they had actually stepped out of a freakin' comic book into the real world. So if you don't know who they are or where they came from, it pretty much looks like three bona fide super heroes just walked into the door. As it just so happened, there was a children's event at that Chik-fil-a at that time, so there were a ton of kids at the restaurant, along with a region manager. When they walked in the front door, the manager, not missing a beat, said, "Look, kids! Superheroes!"
I can't imagine how awesome that moment was.
I'm kinda jealous that the off-campus class didn't want a bottlenose dolphin bank robber to visit their class, too...
15. October, 2010. Okay, this one is gross. Like, seriously gross. In fact, you may just want to skip down to number sixteen. I almost didn't want to include it, but hey, sometimes art is ugly.
I've signed a lot of autographs at our children's theater over the years. I've shaken lots of hands. I've given lots o high fives. I've even give out a fair share of hugs. Yet I've never been overly germ-conscious about it. You'd think there's actually a pretty high chance you could catch something from one of these kids, given the number of hands you come into contact with and the rate at which sickness spreads in school groups, but it never bothered me.
Not until I shook that one girl's hand during Winnie-the-Pooh.
It was fall, so there were lots of kids with some sniffles going through the line. But this girl (wow, I'm getting grossed out just picturing it)--she was a really sweet girl. She wore such a nice huge smile. Really adorable. But her nose. Both nostrils were positively coated in snot. And not normal snot, either. We're talking toxic bright green snot. GAHHH!!! It was so gross! If you've ever seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, I will just say that this girl was sporting the most intense ooze-snot I've ever seen. This wasn't just me, either. About a week later in the dressing room, we were talking about sniffling kids, and I said, "Did you see that one girl last week..." and Piglet's eyes got huge as she said, "OH MY GOSH, WITH THE SNOT? IT WAS SO GROSS!" I'm not overreacting here, folks.
I hit the hand sanitizer in a big way that day, and every single handshake line since.
16. October, 2006, 07, 08, 09, and 10. This one was actually kind of creepy for awhile: the first four years I was here, the person (or people) standing directly next to me in the annual company Christmas card left the company within the following year. There was one exception to this rule, but she was gone by the following January. It didn't matter who it was: intern, company member, 26-year veteran: if they stood next to me, as in directly off my shoulder (one year I was positioned diagonally and the only person I was directly lined up with was gone by the turn of the New Year), they were history. It was so weird. I started trying to position myself by people who annoyed me, but you never really get to place yourself in these pictures because the photographer always knows what looks best. If I was standing next to someone I really liked, I'd be sad, because I knew they would be gone soon.
Then, finally, someone broke the cycle. I stood next to a girl for the company photo, and she stayed for more than a full year afterward. Of course, she had been trying to leave that entire time, constantly applying for other jobs that just weren't working out. So I realized that my Annual Christmas Photo Curse was not necessarily to chase people away, it was just to force whatever the opposite of their intention was. If they had no intention of leaving, they were history. If they wanted out, they wouldn't be able to escape. So no matter what, you didn't want to stand next to me for the Christmas card photo.
This year, I was placed next to our director of children's theater. I congratulated him. "Uh, thanks," he said, clearly not understanding but also not wanting to bother to continue the conversation. I explained it to him anyway: "In every year except one, the person standing next to me in the Christmas card photo has been gone the next year." Suddenly, he put his hand on my shoulder. "Really??" he asked. Then he began faux-sobbing. "Oh, Will," he exclaimed.
"I'm so happy! I'm so happy!!"
That said, he's still here. And I'm pretty sure the Christmas tree that was on the other side of me is not. The Christmas Photo Curse lives on...