I recognize that this blog post is more than a few days overdue, but better late than never? This week’s title is brought to you by our adventures with wasps while loading and unloading the tour van. Greg and I are both deathly afraid of and allergic to wasps and they’ve become desperate with the cold weather approaching. It’s become rather stressful to grab things from the trunk of the van while wasps are buzzing and swerving around us. This day of our Week 2, we were in Ajax when a wasp actually came into the van twice. Greg spoke those now infamous words, “It’s a fly. It’s not a fly, RUN!” I didn’t need to be told twice. In both instances I got out and slammed the door not caring if I left my tour mates in the van with the wasps.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I did not have a chance to ask a friend to edit this blog entry so I must apologize for the clunky phrases and lack of quality writing. I’m more of a speaker than a writer, I guess. I will continue to write about my first Smile Theatre tour in the hopes of raising awareness about this fantastic company to my performer and non-performer friends. I’m also trying a new format where I break day which day of the week I’m writing about and how many shows a day.
MONDAY (two show day!): Our second week of the tour began on Monday in Richmond Hill. A woman named Isabelle was celebrating her 90th birthday that day so we sang her our rendition of Happy Birthday before the show. The performance space was small and an extension of the front lobby. This place was very animal friendly; we had a dog in the audience and there were tropical birds in our dressing room. The show went very well despite an interesting comment before the show-a woman in the front row told Greg specifically to put the backdrop in the toilet. He handled it with a big smile and cracked a joke. At the end of our show, the same woman was completely won over and told Stephanie that it was one of the best shows she’s ever seen. She certainly left us that afternoon with a big smile on her face. It was a great way to start our week and we packed up after chatting with audience members after the show and went back on the road excited for our next show.
During our break we went to Hungry Brew Hop in Stephanie’s hometown of Newmarket. The restaurant has incredible food, we all highly recommend the cauliflower fritters! They have a bit of a kick to them so my tour mates found out that I can’t handle spicy food very well.
Our second show of the day was in Newmarket. We performed in the retirement home’s dining room where they had just finished dinner. We had an addition from the audience about zucchini, which made us all laugh. Greg’s Raging Granny character talks about how much she hates broccoli so the face that someone complained about the amount of zucchini on her plate was very apropos. There is a section in our show where we do have audience participation and so we never know what kind of answers we will get. It was an amazing audience who really laughed and sang along with us. Stephanie’s family also came to watch us and that was a special treat.
TUESDAY (Originally a two show day, one cancelled): Our morning show was cancelled due to an outbreak at the venue. This is done for the health of the residents as well as us. Health is extremely important for performers but especially for a Smile Tour when you are visiting with people who are vulnerable and with weaker immune systems. In the evening we had a show in Hamilton, where we had the cutest sign for the office that became our dressing room. We have our own laminated sign that we always tape up on the door of the room we’re using but today the coordinator made one for us! Met a wonderful couple named Charlie and Georgina (or big George as some call her) who came early to grab seats in the front row. Neither of them graduated high school as they had to go into the workforce at 14 and 16 respectively.
The funniest thing to happen (during the show) so far was how a woman answered my question: “If we had the power to change something in our world, what would it be?” Before the show began we talk about world hunger but when I prompted her during the show her answer changed quite drastically. She very eloquently stated that the easiest way to change our world is by starting with small steps, (so far so good) and then she proclaimed that the best way to do that is by changing your underwear! Even though I was more than a little shocked, everyone around was laughing and they seemed to find it hilarious. We’ll see if this still hold up as the funniest line from an audience member.
WEDNESDAY (2nd two show day of the week): We started the day with a “rockstar show” for community living. This was a much younger audience than we had seen and this was a drop-in centre. During the show we had some audience members come right up to the front with us for a song and dance. They were so enthusiastic during the show and were really wonderful to talk to. This was also the first time that the cast was asked for autographs and it was very sweet.
Our second show was at a smaller venue it was nice and we met a friend’s grandfather. He was so engaged throughout the show and tapped along with the songs. There was also a few residents who were coughing or sneezing throughout the evening which brings up health! It’s a good reminder that all 4 of us on tour need to keep healthy! We’re not only responsible for our own health but also for the seniors we visit. Part of our show is chatting with the audience before and after so we can’t be shaking hands and risk making someone really ill.
THURSDAY: The show was in a big and open space. Unfortunately there was no parking on site so Laura, our stage manager, had to go searching for parking which is never fun in Toronto. I spoke to a lady named Edna who is 97 years old and still drives herself around! She watched shows at the Stratford Festival when it was in its second year and still under a tent. We talked quite a bit about Smile Theatre as well since she knew some of the original company members, Tom Kneebone and Dana. Our dressing room was another wonderful movie theatre but this time, no movie posters that I'm so fond of.
It was a really fun crowd and I was really glad to have met Edna. We are all having so much fun with the show and there’s always something to keep us on our toes.
FRIDAY: This was a really fun show as one of our mutual friends came to see it, he’s been in a Smile show himself! This was another kind of drop-in centre so the seniors were quite independent. This crowd laughed in all the usual places and then some! During this show there were a few moments when I had a hard time keeping a straight face. If I’m not mistaken, Greg’s dog hat almost fell off of his head and there was no way to fix it inconspicuously. It’s really lovely to hear from audience members how much they look forward to Smile Theatre shows having seen them before. It proves that there is a demand for theatre for audience who may not otherwise get the chance to see it. In this case, Smile Theatre focuses on the senior demographic.
SATURDAY: We went out to Ajax for our final show of the week. It was a community centre of sorts so the seniors there were quite independent. They had a meal beforehand so some folks remained at their tables in a cabaret-like settin while Others ventured to the front! This venue decorated their walls for our show and had the cutest centre pieces on their tables depicting different travel locations.
The most dramatic moments of the day happened in the morning as we went to Tim Horton’s for some coffees before the show and had to deal with the crazy and deranged wasps.
Otherwise another fantastic week. I feel so incredibly lucky to call this my job. I’ll be answering some questions I received last week in the next post. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions of your own.
Until next time,