We rehearsed in the sun and the heat. Ate dinner together on the porch and watched the clouds from the west slip over the trees, swirling and swelling with formidable darkness. The wind picked up, felt cool and glorious. Thunder rumbled as a dry lightening storm flashed closer and closer. Luka didn’t like it. Wanted somewhere to hide. I was just about to take her up to the cabin when huge fat rain drops came down. Everyone took cover under the porch and in the cook shack, awed, how fast the weather changed.
The three designers and a musician, stripped to their underwear and took off running in the rain. The props designer stripped, slowly and walked into the storm, rotating his face, eyes shut. We all stood on the porch laughing at how crazy they were, how much fun they were having. I was moving their clothes and shoes into the cook shack to stay dry when K. looked at me and said “The skeleton head!”
Without hesitation I was two paces behind him running up the hill to site. My Obituary shirt instantly drenched, my shoes sodden and slapping my feet as I ran. The storm was right over us and the rain was blinding. K cut up the embankment to the Act 1 site. I ran up the road past the dry paddock. Vision blurry with water, lungs clenching, heart pounding.
As I ran the wooded path, lightening cracked and flashed so loud above me, I covered my ears and screamed. I entered the open riding ring where the metal bleachers are and thought, “What the fuck am I doing? This is fucking crazy!” The skeleton puppet head – 7 feet tall x 5 feet in diameter- took weeks to build and is unfinished. We didn’t have time to re-build it, if it was destroyed in the storm.
A quick scan on site, it wasn’t there and neither was K. I doubled back towards the Timber Barn and saw the four guys in their underwear, huddled in the Gazebo.
As I ran down the hill, lightening struck the South end of the Timber Barn where the power box was. People in the cook shack said there was a spray of sparks from the panel but remarkably the power didn’t blow. I ran into the barn, completely sodden, and helped gather up the head which had blown into the field and other puppet, prop and set pieces strewn about the barn.
Once everything was tied down, we waited for the storm to pass. All around us the horizon was clear and blue while this vicious monster passed over us, heading North. As we walked back to the yard, there was a double rainbow in the East. White under the arch, black and grey between the bows and indigo above. It was surreal and brilliant.
In outdoor theatre, our art is exposed to the elements 24 hours a day. 11 years doing this, my instinct is to run out into the storm and protect our work. Luka is always tucked into the cabin during show time but rehearsal period she can follow me around and hang out all day. I went into show mode and completely forgot about her when I took off. She followed me but lost track, terrified of the thunder and lightening.
I was standing in the yard with everyone marveling up at the sky when she came running down the hill. I was mortified with my negligence. She was wet and scared and worked up. I took her back to the cabin. Dried her off with a towel, fed her pumpkin oat biscuits, and rubbed her chest till she fell asleep.