Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Great Flood Of Aught Twelve

Tuesday, April 3: DeQueen, AR-4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (kinda)
Miles: 37
Lot: fairgrounds

After I got to the lot this morning I set up Emmie's wild duck sanctuary and made breakfast. Just as I sat down to eat, it started storming. Boy am I glad I didn't wait to let Emmie out after breakfast!

Later in the morning, after it had stopped storming, John Moss came by to let me know that in the evening we were going to be doing storm shows. Really bad weather was slated to hit us, so he asked that we take one gag out of the show.
Ryan and I decided that we would do the surfboard in the first half and not do the hillbilly gag.
Part of that decision came from our location in relation to the tent.

In 2008 the lot in DeQueen started flooding as tear down was going on. A nearby swamp overflowed and the water just continued to rise and rise.
Because of that, this year all the trailers were parked at the front of the fairgrounds while the tent and semis were all back in the "danger" area. This meant a long walk for the cast and crew all evening long.

The first show's audience was great. Having the surfboard gag in the first act worked like a charm.
After the performance I was in my trailer when it started raining. The storms were coming.
Most people had been watching the weather map on their phones and computers, and I was no exception.
All the nasty weather that hit Dallas was heading right for us; The Weather Channel declared thunderstorm warnings and a tornado watch for our area until the late evening.
The worst part was that everything was on course to hit us right at showtime.

Ryan called me and said that everyone was going to shelter. I threw on my robe and grabbed my umbrella before heading outside to see what the plan was.
The local police rounded up a van and bus to take folks to a nearby shelter; those of us with our own vehicles were asked to follow. We were told the second show was not canceled yet, rather it would start as soon as the worst of the storms passed.

Ryan and I jumped in my truck, with the skeleton from our chase riding between us (and my duck in the back of the truck), and followed our personal police escort to safety.
We must have been quite a sight to see! Well, that is, if you could have seen us. Right around the time we left the lot the rain was really coming down, and thunder and lightning was booming and flashing every few seconds. Visibility was not at an optimum.

I had to laugh when I saw our "shelter". It was a little community center lined with windows. I think I would have been just as safe in my trailer!
Everyone that came to seek shelter piled out of their vehicles and into the center. There was the police and one couple from town already there, and everyone else was from Kelly Miller.

After awhile, the weather calmed down and we were given the all clear to head back to the show.
I gave a couple of crew guys a lift and followed someone back to the fairgrounds (since I had absolutely no idea of where we were in relation to the circus).

When we got back to the lot, it was a madhouse. There were people everywhere! I couldn't believe the amount of folks that came out to see the circus in potentially deadly weather!

I quickly became enraged when I noticed that while we were gone, audience members had parked in front of our trailers, making it impossible to park in front of our homes.
In a blind fury, I drove all the way to the fairgrounds entrance and parked. Ryan tried to get a license number from the car in front of my house, but of course it had no plate.
An announcement was made, and vehicles were moved so we could park at our homes.

As I was getting dressed for opening, Ryan came over and said, "Take your costume off. Put together anything you can, but you don't want to wear your agent suit."
When I asked why, he took a picture to show me:


The whole tent was full of running, ankle deep water, and the back yard was even worse.
The plan was to put on an abbreviated show with whatever acts could work in standing water.
John Moss asked us to do opening and the surfboard gag. Since the surfboard gag is nothing but hits and falls (imagine that in a Steve & Ryan act), we put together serviceable wardrobe.
I wore an old red and white striped shirt that I have had since I was 15, and Ryan and I both donned colorful bathing suits that I had. We both went sans wigs.
I was going to wear my mud boots, but Ryan talked me into wearing old Converse sneakers since the boots might limit my movement.

After trudging through cold, occasionally knee high, running water in the back yard, I saw Ryan in the back door wearing his mud boots. That sunnova......

I'm not sure exactly when the second show started, but it was well after 8 p.m. Everyone from the shelter had to make it back and a game plan for the show running order had to quickly be made.

As Ryan and I were waiting to do the surfboard gag, we decided that we were just going to go out in the ring and have fun.
There was no getting around the fact that we were going to be drenched from head to toe, so we might as well take advantage of the situation.

Let me tell you, we put on a hell of a gag! The audience was in stitches, as were our fellow cast and crew members that were watching.
Ryan and I (mostly Ryan) threw all kinds of extra falls and craziness into the act. The water was cold, and the fact that it was running through the ring caused the surfboard to glide under me during one of my falls, but we gave it our all!

I'd like to thank Luis for bringing a tub from Carolyn's dog act into the ring for us. Otherwise I would not have had anywhere to put the foam megaphone, and it would have gotten soaked.

(Note: There is video of this gag. Ryan is working on a montage right now, so stay tuned!)

After the gag Ryan and I took our props back to my truck and then we both went to get cleaned up. We had just rolled around in swamp water after all.
I joked beforehand that it was going to be like the scene in "Stand By Me" with the leeches.

From reports I heard, the audience was happy with the show they saw under such adverse conditions, and in the end, isn't that what matters?

It had started raining around 6:30 p.m., and it was still coming down after I went to sleep past 11 p.m. Thank God all the trailers were on solid ground.
Everything from the tent area was pulled up by us before the crew's work was done.


2 comments:

Keith Karas said...

Ok, I am fixated on this point, and if I have it wrong, just humor me: You mentioned getting into your robe. Was it the black one emblazoned with the JRN II/Steve and Ryan tent logo?
You guys are amazing, nothing keeps you down.
Speaking of becoming enraged, one time I performed a comedy magic show for my old neighborhood association. I had to arrive about 5 hours before and set up a 12x12 tent as I knew if was going to be unbearablly humid and I wanted some shade as this was in a blocked off street. I placed a sign identifying it as reserved for me and my show at 1 pm. When I retunred at 12:30p, my tent had been moved down the street into some hoodlums backyard and they were having sort of a gangsta family reunion. These dudes had set up some turntables, were smoking god-knows-what and were cranking out the bass. I realized then why I moved out 25 years prior. My feelings were confirmed when I went to pick up my check (I stayed for 4 hours and was only suppossed to be there for 2) and the organizer said I was 10 minutes late in starting my show. The next year they asked me back, and I puposely did not return their frantic phone calls.
Your story was much better. Keith

Steve Copeland said...

It was indeed the robe you guys so graciously gave me.
I would much rather face swamp water than gangstas!