Last Sunday we left Riverfalls, WI, and headed to Dodgeville, WI. Along the way we stopped at Crystal Cave to take a tour, and add to our adventures. We also made a stop at the American Players Theatre to catch up with one of Joseph's college friends working as their sound design intern. We arrived at our hotel that night and discovered our hotel was booked incorrectly and we would be evicted on Saturday morning. This solidified our choice to drive back to headquarters on Saturday instead of Sunday.
On Monday we held our auditions, and ended up with a cast of forty-five. Before auditions started I had a grandfather come up to ask if the little sister of one of the girls could still join if she wasn't registered through our sponsors. After talking with our sponsor, and assuring her we could take her on our end we agreed she would stay. We let the grandfather know and he asked her one more time if she wanted to stay. She quickly became shy and withdrawn, shaking her head and hiding her face. I took the time to assure her she'd be missing out. Although still reluctant, I got her to stay for auditions and told her if she didn't like it after we got done she could tell us and she wouldn't have to stay. She ended up staying and being cast as our Horn of Plenty. We moved through auditions smoothly and had plenty of time to teach them the beginning and end of the show. I even managed to sneak in some other scene work that normally we don't bother with until Tuesday. After rehearsal, Joseph and I did show laundry from the previous week.
Tuesday's rehearsals all went very well. My teaches were flying by because the kids were so on top of their game. I ended up playing quite a few rounds of Barricade with each group because I had so much extra time. The little girl who played our horn of plenty who had been so shy the day before that she almost didn't audition, came up to me and said, "That was so fun yesterday!" When I asked if she was glad she stayed, she was more than happy to announce that she was. After rehearsal, we started putting up the set and getting props ready.
Wednesday brought our tech rehearsal. Our lights and sound was ran by our sponsor for the first half of the day, and then two older kids magically appeared to her, volunteering to help out. The first run went very well and we had time to make some changes before sending them on break. When we came back, they participated in the Double-Time-Over-Do-It run through. After that was done, we looked at a few more spots and still had a tremendous amount of time. We ended up playing Barricade until the end of rehearsal. Joseph and I put up our curtains and brought costumes in to the school, and then we went to clean our van so it'd be good to go when we went back to Barrett on Saturday.
Thursday we did our full run without stopping and starting. After giving notes we sent them on break. We brought them back in and we normally just work problem areas, but since we had enough time and they'd done so well, we let them do another full run. We ended our day playing Barricade. That evening Joseph and I headed to the American Players Theatre not too far away. For those not familiar, this is a company that has both an outdoor theatre and an indoor theatre. We saw Othello in the outdoor space. It was simply beautiful.
Friday we started their dress rehearsal off with costumes. After we had them all fitted, we started their last rehearsal. They nailed it just like they'd been nailing everything we threw at them throughout the week. We took a dinner break, and then we got them ready for the show. They flew through the warmups we always lead, so some led their own fun songs. While we were waiting for stragglers to come back from the restroom I had a little one who was one of our trolls gravitate to me as I gave instructions. When I looked down I saw that she was crying. I asked her what was wrong, but she wasn't talking. I got her to sit down and with some coaxing she told me she was upset because her mom had said that she'd be there at dinner to do her hair and that she was supposed to help with makeup, but her mom never came. I calmed her down and told her that she did a great job with her hair all by herself, and how perfect it was for her character; and I assured her that we had been just fine for makeup and everyone got done in plenty of time so mom didn't need to be there. She saw my reasoning, stopped crying, and got ready to do the show. As we lined them up to go in she ran over and gave me a quick hug. Crisis averted, and adorable girl was happy once more. Their show was great! Each of them did a fantastic job, and the one kid who had been struggling with lines nailed his scenes. We were so proud. After the show we went to leave, but our van wouldn't start. Our lovely sponsor's husband managed to find someone who could give us a jump start and we were on our way once more.
Saturday before the show, the little girl who had been upset the day before came up as we were about to go in and gave me one more hug, thanking me for being a good director. I had to give the final speech after our curtain call. I had just watched these great kids give their last performance, just said my final line for "Jack and the Beanstalk", and watched Joseph lead our last bow. As I started thanking everyone I thought for sure I'd cry. Luckily, I held back my tears and kept it together. After the show, I sold t-shirts. The kids were all asking me to sign their shirts and with each goodbye and thank you I felt more and more accomplished. We packed up, and headed back to Barrett. We arrived at headquarters around eleven o'clock that evening, and were met by our boss and fellow tour teams who were either passing through to go on their last week, or finished with their tour as well.
Sunday we did our show laundry for the last time, and then ran some last minute errands before turning everything in. We got back to HQ and our bosses started checking our show in. As they went through each costume meticulously, we made quick repairs to holes or tears. They checked our props and set, and our van was completely cleaned out. We turned in all of our final paperwork and turned in our keys. Our time with Prairie Fire was officially done except for our exit interviews. I walked out of my interview feeling like I was on top of the world. My boss was very kind with his review of my time with the company, and I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to do.
I started this contract with the goal of bringing theatre to kids who don't get that opportunity and exposure enough. I wanted to help give them an understanding and appreciation of the arts. I wanted to inspire them in some way, to let them know that they can do anything they set their mind to. Too often kids walk away from things that they are passionate about because they didn't have the proper encouragement to keep trying and to follow their dreams. I'm one of the lucky ones. I grew up in a small town where I had to find and make my own opportunities. I grew up having this passion for acting, singing, and dancing. From the time I could talk, when people asked what I wanted to be, my answer never changed, "I want to be an actress, singer, and dancer." My fourth grade teacher still brings it up when our paths cross, that's how adamant I was, and still am. I was lucky that my family never tried to steer me away from performing because they thought it'd be too hard, or that I'd fail. They've always been supportive, even when they worry. I wanted to be that lifeline for someone this summer. Maybe none of them will pursue a career in the arts, maybe this will have been their only show they'll ever do. But dreams come in all shapes and sizes, and no one should ever feel like they can't reach their goals. Some would think it impossible to take seventy plus kids a week and put together an hour long show in five days. The tour teams at Prairie Fire do it week after week. Nothing is impossible. I want to make sure my Prairie Fire family knows what an inspiration they've been this summer. I've met some amazing artists, ended up on this journey with a great partner in crime, and have had the best boss I could have ever dreamed of. I can't wait for our paths to cross again! It's not a 'goodbye', it's a 'see you soon.'