Friday, February 20, 2015
The Great Winter Post Of Aught Fifteen Part I: The Christmas Tour
Alright, alright. I know. I've been very lazy this winter.
But you know what? It has been so fantastic not having to write! And I plan on updating every day once we get on tour, so please try not to hate me too much.
Let's see....where did I leave off?
We finished the 2014 Circo Hermanos Vazquez East season in Queens, NY on December 7th, 2014.
The next day Ryan and I headed to Pennsylvania while Tatiana and Nico headed back to Hugo, OK in Ryan's trailer, commandeered by one of Tatiana's brothers. I forget which one.....they're twins.
It took us quite awhile to get out of New York City. First of all we had trailers and semis blocking us in until the afternoon, and then we couldn't even get our trucks to our trailers because the pieces of stage used in the big top had been stacked right behind all of the performers' trucks, trapping us all between them and a fence.
Finally we were able to hit the road after 2:00 p.m., and it took us a solid two hours to go from the lot in Queens into New Jersey on the other side of the George Washington Bridge.
The traffic was horrendous, and it was stop and go the whole time....definitely more of the former than the latter.
One nice thing was that Ryan's truck is now equipped with an RV GPS, so I followed his house out of the city. That allowed me to not have to stress about going somewhere where I would be stuck or lost.
Once we got into New Jersey it was smooth sailing to Hatfield, PA. I had reserved a lot at a trailer park in that town, and that became our base of operations for our two weeks of winter work.
The campground was great: the price couldn't be beat, the people running it were nice, and we were only located an hour or less from most of our upcoming shows.
Another amenity of the trailer park that was an added bonus for us was that they had a nice, warm, quiet recreation hall which the owners were nice enough to let us use for rehearsal.
Ryan and I needed the space, because we planned to debut our new song and dance act that we wrote with the amazingly talented Larry Lees, our new go to composer.
The act is called "Killing Time", and the premise is that one of the acts in the show was not able to make it to work, so Ryan and I are called upon to fill that time slot, even though we don't have anything prepared.
We then pull out all the stops to entertain the audience, all the while singing about how we are ill prepared.
The number calls for trumpet playing and tap dancing, so you can understand why it was nice to have the rec hall, an isolated building with a nice floor, to practice in.
This was our eighth tour with the Bill Hall produced "'Twas The Gift Show Before Christmas" run, so we were very happy to see our friends who have become like family after working with them so many times.
Clive Allen acted as tour manager and also performed his illusions, Gail Mirabella performed with her dynamo dogs, John Cassidy kept the crowd in stitches with his hilarious balloon sculpture and magic (and Ryan and I enjoyed spending time with his wife, Jen, and their adorable daughter, Kayla backstage), Larry Stout tickled the ivories and provided music for the performances, and John Bundy kept the show moving along as Santa Claus, the M.C.
New to the tour this year was the Ashton Family, who we saw perform in Baraboo this past summer.
Mike, Suzie, and Cheyenne performed three acts in the program. Suzie performed her lyra act, Mike did his foot juggling act, keeping aloft various objects, including his daughter, nine year old Cheyenne, who made her performing debut on this tour with her hula hoop act.
Ryan and I actually missed the first two days of the tour because of our engagement with Vazquez, so we were grateful that Bill Hall let us join late.
We were very nervous about debuting the "Killing Time" act, but audiences and the cast alike enjoyed it, and we got many compliments on it. Many on the show with us felt that it was the best thing we've ever done.
Looks like we need to stop spending so much time and money on props!
Here are some tour highlights:
- In Pottstown, PA, our first town on the tour, a very old woman slowly approached me at the end of the show to tell me these two unexpectedly filthy jokes:
1) Why are Santa and Mrs. Claus having trouble in their marriage? Because Santa only comes once a year.
2) What do the reindeer wives do when their husbands are out working on Christmas Eve? They go out and blow a few bucks.
The lady then smiled at me and slowly walked away.
- In Bethlehem, PA several folks from the Big Apple Circus came to see our show, including our ringmaster friend, Eggroll, Guillaume, the show's artistic director, and Jenny Vidbel, Suzie's sister, who came to see her niece, Cheyenne, perform.
- In Williamsport, PA we stopped doing the vacuum gag in the show since it was not a good fit for the venue. We put a manic club juggling routine in its place that was much more fun to perform, and received much better reactions than the vacuum gag had.
Unfortunately in the second show in Williamsport, the "Killing Time" number crashed and burned. There were issues with my mic which caused constant, ear splitting feedback. I finally had to turn the mic off, and Ryan and I had to share a mic, which really hindered the choreography for the routine.
I was so embarrassed that I didn't want to face the crowd for finale.
- In Ridley Park, PA John Bundy slipped a new joke into the intro for "Killing Time". He changed the missing act we were supposed to be covering for from the Fabulous Fratelli Brothers to The Great Le Pétomane, a French entertainer who was famous for making his living as a professional farter.
Bundy's joke went like this: "Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that our next performer, the inimitable, Le Pétomane, can not be with us tonight. It seems that on the way to the show this evening, he ran out of gas."
When Ryan and I joined Santa on stage and learned that Le Pétomane would not be joining us, I quipped, "That stinks."
Nobody ever got the jokes, but sometimes you have to do these things for yourself....
- In Lebanon, PA one family came up to us after the show to tell us they fondly remembered our Fruit Cake gag, a take off of the old vaudeville act, "Slowly I Turned", that we had performed on the tour last year.
Apparently whenever one of the boys in the family says the word fruit cake, his brother throws a fit and says, "Slowly I turned........"
We had so many visitors on the tour this year!
Ryan's maternal grandparents came to see us in Bethlehem, and they brought some delicious Chinese food from Chinatown in Boston.
Also there that night were twin photographers, Jason and Justin Senft, who visited again in Philadelphia with their mother. They brought us a bag of fruit to make sure that we got some proper nutrition during the tour.
Magician and hand balancer, Bob Good, also came with Eggroll in Bethlehem, so with so many friends in the crowd, you can bet we were kept busy visiting the whole evening.
In Ridley Park, PA we were visited by Pat and Thom Stevenson, Jim Shores, and Carol Lang, our friends from Maryland who are also members of our CFA tent, The John Ringling North II/Steve & Ryan tent.
They brought us lots of goodies, and they also treated the cast to dinner at Applebee's after our last show of the evening.
Also in Ridley Park we were visited by Larry Lees, who wrote and composed the "Killing Time" number.
I was so happy that he got to see us perform the act live, and I was even happier that he enjoyed it!
In Philadelphia we were visited by several of our clown friends: Chris Shelton, Keith Crabbs, Mary Kelly Rayel, and Andrew Scharff.
We had a great time going to dinner with them, and in addition to a case of beer that Chris and Keith brought for us, Andrew was nice enough to give us a lot of stuff he was clearing out of his house, including his clown shoes and tour jacket from his year on Ringling, and some costume pieces.
Check back in a few days to read about the work that we were lucky enough to pick up on the days off from our usual winter work!