summer smoke

IMG_20170828_064146.jpgThis is the backside of the four hundred pound draw bridge that cut my leg open seven years ago. It got heaved out of its storage space in the Goat Palace and straddled between the Boutique and Bio Board to block audience members from wandering between the structures but mostly to cover up the direct view to the compost behind the cook shack. Every morning I would look at it and flashes of the Devil and his minions waiting inside the horse drawn wagon for the bridge to be lowered by me, wearing a wolf mask as a monstrous game show ring girl, struggling with the safety latch till it released and the winch whirled through my shin, my leg pouring out blood and staining the stage. The black Percheron’s reared but the drawn bridge anchored them. The worst of it averted, stitches to my leg being that summers sacrifice.

2017, was forest fire smoke. Apocalyptic sepia drenched skies. Daily ash coating the props tables and bleachers, our lungs and eyes. It didn’t matter which way the wind blew, massive wild fires were burning in every direction around us but never a direct threat. Unlike 2003, what we dub ‘The Year of the Dragon’ when the fire came so close we were emergency evacuated and cancelled a week of shows till we could resume. I kept trying to capture the haze on camera but it never accurately portrayed how thick it was and how slow and dumb it made us all. Nor, how it made the summer not feel like a summer at all. As a rural outdoor theatre company we exist outside at least 16 hours of any given day. As government air quality statements warned the public to stay inside and close their windows, we could only shrug and squeeze the well water out of our bandannas before wrapping them around our faces and carrying on. At least the smoke kept what was supposed to be a record breaking scorcher a lot cooler than predicted but also gave us a taste of how the ice age must have started.

At one point it had been two weeks plus without the sun, just a dreary blanket of smoke and the hope that tomorrow would be different. What kept our spirits up was that we were doing this high energy devil at the crossroads story where love triumphs in the end with complex, weird and haunting quasi-bluegrass music to near full houses. The summer had a great ensemble; so important given that we are working and living together on a isolated mountain plateau for two months, too many parties that had me questioning my sobriety but stay the course and a queerness, a quiet strange I’ll muse over in a few separate posts as I get my legs back on this, whatever this is.

IMG_20170719_214133.jpgTech week. I had bad insomnia this summer and tried out a few herbal sleep supplements. During tech, when we work late into the night, I skeptically thought I’d try one of the tranquility pills before heading out to walk the lights; when the light designer goes over each of the lighting states with the director and stage manager. As the assistant stage manager on summer shows I always offer to be a body on stage, otherwise know as a ‘light walker’ recreating the stage blocking so the director and designer can communicate what is and isn’t working before we head into tech rehearsal with the ensemble. By midnight the herbal supplement that I thought wasn’t going to work had me swaying and hallucinating under the stage lights with bats swooping down catching moths and fat, crunchy june bugs drawn to the phosphorescence. Kate watching from the bleachers eating a bowl of watermelon said I looked like I was melting and Jamie left the cook shack party to swap me out so I could go to bed. I took this picture as I drifted pass the shop on route to my cabin.

IMG_20170720_053249.jpgSunrise. The first scene was a funeral procession to a church where the drunkard Reverend inappropriately espoused fire and brimstone at the wake. This is also when some audience members would leave and on their exit complain to the front of house manager that the show was offensively mocking Christian values. Ce la vie. The back side of the tack shed was used as the church. The inside of the tack shed served as my quick change booth for Hell Hound and Mephistopheles. To the right, the Timber Barn rain venue that we never had to use. We had one blast of rain all summer, a torrential twenty minute down pour two hours before the show.

IMG_20170820_054826.jpgAnother sunrise, late in the summer when the mornings are cool and the sun, what there was of it, has dried the life out of the grass. I love late summers last gasp.

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