Well - this might just qualify for a sweeps week blog. If we were on Lifetime - this would be a Very Special Blog with special guest star Valerie Burtinelli. Get ready to deluge the Pulitzer office with 'attention must be paid' phone calls... because this IS: PIE-O-NEAR PHESTIVAL 07.
Ok. not quite yet... but soon, I promise. Oh - I forgot to tell you - Janice went with us to Jean Anne's for breakfast on Saturday. She was facing the window. In the middle of our meal she looked out the window and her eyes bugged out of her head. Two men had driven past dressed like this.
It took her a minute before she realized they were on their way to the Phestival.
We had personnel overlap approaching at mid-day. Janice was going to head back to Ohio, and my friend David, and his co-confirmed-bachelor-roommate Adam were set to arrive 12 also. At around 10:30 I got a text message saying that they were running on GST - gay standard time - and they would be about an hour late. Ah, the ways of the Old Country. Anyway - before Janice had to motor, we got a whole lot of trouble-spots attended to, patching spots in the bathroom drywall. All those weird places we'd been avoiding - or small little plugs that needed slotted in - the final pieces of the ceiling... all of it got filled in. And by the time Janice left, the bathroom was fully walled-in. Yay for Mother-in-laws. And she made grilled cheese and ham before she left. So, pretty much, she's accomplished more this weekend than Oprah, Martha Stewart and Hillary combined.
During the whole morning we kept hearing this whirring sound. It turned out that it was coming from across the street where they were painting one of the store fronts. The whirring noise was emanating from THIS:
This is a scissor lift. It is a scissor lift that would fit THROUGH our doors into the auditorium. This is pretty much exactly the giant, mechanical doo-hinkus we need to be able to tackle the ceiling and walls the proscenium and all that jazz.
We wondered if this guy had any family that would miss him. Rich engaged him in conversation and then I whacked him over the head with a shovel. Sorry... I mean.... Rich engaged him in conversation and chatted with him about the apparatus. it's a rental, and Rich had already actually found a place where the long-term rental (a month) was pretty cheap. Still - it would have been cheaper just to joint-compound his missing corpse into a wall. That stuff covers anything. What? I'm just being cost effective.
So - David and Adam arrived. I've directed David in two shows... and he's one of those people that just makes me laugh like a hyena. And Rich was quite concerned that I should be quarantined in the apartment because with David around I was bound do something that was going to permanently embarrass us throughout the entire county. Or country. Or continent. Worry wart. I was good. Very restrained. Didn't attract any attention. Really. For me. Pretty good. Fairly. Mostly.
Adam and David are in 'Best Little Whorehouse' at a theatre in Michigan at a place called "Turkeyville". It is a dinner theatre which serves turkey dinners to it's primarily elderly audience so most of them are asleep from the tryptophan before the overture ends. They've been doing this for two months... so they were looking forward to a change of scenery. Poor things.
Rich and i had been trying to figure out exactly the right plan for their visit - because we knew they wanted to help out... (apparently Adam had been boning up by watching TLC). But we didn't really know exactly what the skill set would be... AND we didn't know if they really wanted to work.. or if they THOUGHT they wanted to work, and then they'd get a taste of just how UN-FUN most of these activities really are, and then run for the hills. And frankly, if they'd wanted to do jack-shit it would have been a marvelous excuse for us to take a forced vacation for a day and a half. No dice. They worked like troopers. Damn.
FIRST, though - we had decided it would be awesome if I went with them to the Pie-Onear Festival. Originally Rich was going to stay home and rest his foot... but I think his potential devastation at missing the cream-separating demonstration got the better of him. Also - he might have been afraid to let me out in public without adult supervision. So - off we went. The biggest event of on the Huntington Calendar year. Yes, the big-city-boys from NY...new kids in town... anxious to assimilate themselves into the local community... We arrive at the Pie-ONear Phestival like non-eq touring cast of Boys in the Band. So much for blending in.
Although - once we got there - I don't think we could have blended in no matter what. It was pretty darn hard-core people. And we don't own fringed suede.
Now, the ASTOUNDING thing about the Pie-Onear Phestival (Ok from now on we are going to refer to it as the P.F. BECAUSE I'm getting tired of typing the goofy Google-proof spelling - and - well I'm lazy).. The astounding thing about the P.F. was how GOOD it was. We were really expecting this to be kind of...tragic. First off - it was packed. There were fields full of cars parked outside the grounds. One thing that we thought was really weird - there wasn't like anything helping you find the place. Apparently people come from other states to this thing (and I can kind of see why... if you like...Pioneers and stuff) but MAYBE they just assume everyone in town KNOWS where it is. But we printed out directions from their website, AND their little map, and it was still not easy to find. And it's not exactly like this is a big town, kids.
Anyway - so we go inside and rapidly realize this is, like, SERIOUS. These people are Pioneer Pimped OUT. Every vender was in costume... there were covered wagons everywhere... tee pees, canvas tents for booths. It was kind of like Frontier Land gone out of control - but without Goofy. Oh wait, I was there.... ok - WITH Goofy. But this is clearly something people, like, have STUFF FOR that they just store all year. They HAVE a wagon to sell their lemonade in... they HAVE bonnets and petticoats and all that stuff sitting in the mothballs just a'waiting to be dusted off every September. It's like big business. It was kind of like a Star Trek convention for gingham. Jean Anne confirmed this. Even though, because of 'Pork Wars', she no longer is a vendor there... she had to have specially made clothes and everything for the event. Her sister made her a whole outfit. So - I have tried to convince her that when we do Oklahoma, during the Laurie Curly Dream Ballet, she should have a walk-on serving pork-tenderloins to the saloon girls. She'll give in eventually. :)
The hilarity started relatively early on, when David proclaimed: "I'm just so upset I don't have a bonnet". Weren't we all.
There was a whole lot of food everywhere... and I quickly got sucked into the temptation of the obligatory Apple Dumpling (what, you wanted me to be Un-American? If you DON'T have a dumpling, the terrorists win). As the day progressed, everyone else in the pack also seemed to get Dumplinged. Or Dumped. So maybe we should have been:
Anyway - you'll be glad to know that if you DIDN'T care for apple dumplings, there was plenty of other gen-uuu-ine Pie-onear food to be had.
And - if you didn't like your apple fried, or your cheese fried... you could go for the ultimate. Now - this was fascinating to me. This, my friends, is a vat of FRESH pork rinds.
Apparently that is forty gallons of oil. The rind, as it was explained to me, is (and I quote) "a layer of...um...rind" between the skin and fat. When dried out it ends up as these chips of stuff that look like dried-out flattened apricots. Then they drop this in the giant vat of oil... and it puffs up. And then you eat it. And by 'you'... I mean that literally. Have fun. More power to ya.
So - I took lots and lots of picture of the Phestivities - but first I should probably cover the two big events on the agenda that I didn't want to miss. First and foremost and most important... we got to see the Var-City Singers (renamed for Google-search safety). The show-choir in which our own Brent (Natalie's son) is a member. We had heard sooo much - and we were really excited to see Brent perform. I had never seen a show choir, so I was braced for some sort of weird hybrid that defies description.
They were great. They really were. All eighty billion of them. There's a LOT of them. I mean - these are High School kids, and David, Adam, Rich and I all agreed that we have each, individually, all been in professional shows with MUCH, MUCH less effective choreography, with casts that were not nearly as synchronized. They were incredibly precise... and they have great stage presence... and the thing about it that is so hysterical is that it's so good. David and I sat there giggling the whole time... because it's kind of bizarre. The town LOVES it. They're like the football team - but they grapevine. It's totally surreal for me to see something like that being done at a High School - particularly with my British background where...well... 'spirit fingers' were NOT embraced. But this was serious, serious shit. I mean, the board op was READING THE SCORE. I have NEVER seen a board op follow a freakin' score. (I've seen a board op TRY to score, while he should be mixing...but that's another story). Amazing.
It was all an entirely Civil-War themed show-medley-thing. Kind of like one of those historical rides in Disney world where they have quotes of things and snippets of songs and Abraham Lincoln stands up at the end... All with very, very stirring key changes as often as possible. It's kind of like Ken Burns meets Tommy Tune. I, for one, never realized that the Battle Hymn of the Republic could be effectively accompanied with Jazz Hands. There was more butt-slapping choreography than we would have expected - particularly during 'Johnny Come Marching Home'. (With that much butt slapping, I think, perhaps, Johnny was sent home on dishonorable discharge.) And yes, they sang ALL the lyrics to Jimmy Crack Corn. The VERY funny thing - that we had to figure out - is that they applaud after every solo. SO... Jimmy Crack corn was one of the early solos... so one little Laura Ingalls-looking girl is singing those marvy lyrics "When I was young A us'd to wait On Massa and hand him de plate" with such a shining bright delightful grin that you would think 'serving your massa' was just about the funnest darn thing around for Laura to do on the prairie. And then the entire audience applauds... They applauded with anticipation like people applaud Frank when he would get out the first words: "Start Spreading The..." And we were like... "Damn, these people LIKE their Jimmy Crack Corn". Rich turned to me and said "They are applauding the person singing, you idiot". Which was true... see someone had sung a solo right before - so it appeared as if they were going nuts FOR Jimmy Crack Corn. Which of course had been such a built up moment of anticipation for us that we could hardly blame them.
Like I said, they were awesome. I DID feel there was some strange song and monologue assignments. It's a weird thing when you have a group of almost all white kids doing a musical and dramatic cavalcade through the Civil War and slavery... because it's tough to have thirty nine white kids and one black kid NOT look a little out of place singing a negro spiritual. And looking really, really happy to BE singing a negro spiritual...
But these production numbers are all pre-orchestrated things that you purchase with scores and parts - just like you purchase the rights to do a full show. So if you're doing a pie-oneer phestival - and you're doing a civil war show - and you only have one black kid - you're kind of in deep manure. So it leads to a moment where this girl:
Performing with great passion a monologue that goes something along the lines of:
"They done said they be sellin' my Pappy tomorra... I sho' hopes they don't takes him away" etc. Awkward.
The truly awesome Red, White and Blaine moment was when they all - in total precision - and with no warning magically yanked hidden flags out from what appeared to be the back of their pants. (Upon second viewing of the show we realized that they had performed a concealing box-step diversion scheme in order to pass the flags through the group and hold them behind their backs just before whipping them out.) It was kind of like that moment at the end of Baby June and Her News Boys when the eagle pops out of the train station - but Bernadette Peters wasn't there making it suck :) SEE HOW NICE KIDS ARE WHEN YOU TAKE AWAY THEIR SKATEBOARDS AND GIVE THEM A FLAG?
And I can't wait to see their whole full-length show later this season. I mean - really - they do stuff with insanely professional precision and they sound great. It's like the Hitler Youth but cute. And it's kind of nutty that you can get kids to do that. Maybe they use electro shock. And it CAN'T be cheap. I mean Brent told me the girls have to spend a ton of money on their gowns and stuff. But, I mean, c'mon....every girl had a MATCHING HAIRPIECE!
BTW I don't think your average straight, male, Hoosier audience spends the show wondering at the quality of the girls' hairpieces. Dunno. I mean - most productions of Side Show don't have girls with matching hair. And their identical twins. Siamese.
Rich actually had this very interesting thought. The High School has this really competitive, very intense musical program - where they learn all this precise choreography and learn all these harmonies and stuff. And the quality is really quite high. And they clearly LOVE doing it. And then they graduate. And there's all that musicality and ability to memorize precise drill choreography going to waste. So - maybe we can see if there is some sort of Varsity Singers alumni association and find a way to give them a choral outlet. After all - the sound of music needs nuns. Lots of nuns. We're toying with some sort of Huntington Idol idea, too. Do I get to be Paula? That blonde girl can be Randy.
So - that was the Varsity Singers.
As we walked to catch the sheep shearing we heard my favorite 'Things you don't hear in Manhattan" quote of the day:
"OH, LOOK, SHE HAS THE SAME BUTTER CHURN AS WE DO".
The other thing that the Phestival featured, in a few places, was this weird phenomenon that we've discovered in the Mid West which is: things that are very very funny to us... but not in the least but unusual to them.
It's a different frame of reference thing. For instance... apparently here a good number of people put 'those nice rainbow flag bumper stickers' on their cars 'because they're pretty'. It's a rainbow... nothing more, nothing less.
This kind of thing induced a few David/Joel moments of hilarity during the weekend - one of which occurred when we passed by a food counter named "BACKDOOR CONCESSIONS". I mean... that's just plain funny, people. It's not my fault for FINDING it funny. It's just funny.
So it was time for sheep shearing. I thought this was going to take like five minutes. Oh no. She wasn't using shears... why WOULD she? We're at the P.F... so... She did it Ye Olde fashioned way. With shears. It was kind of incredible to watch. This lady shears about 1,000 sheep a year. She is booked until 2011. Yes... that's right. 2011. That's farther in advance than eighth row tickets to Wicked. The best part was that she explained that there are various ways of shearing a sheep - New Zealand style, Australian style, and Basque style. And these styles have positions. She was doing it Australian style. So she kept saying things like "Now I'm putting the sheep in fifth position" - which of course to Rich, David, Adam and I makes us think something like this:
But no. Apparently animals need their front left leg to stand up properly. So as long as you have that in control - you can pretty much do whatever you want with a sheep. But with a woman constantly saying - now I'm changing positions... with a sheep up her skirt - it was kind of hysterical. And simultaneously really impressive. And interesting. And hysterical.
ADORE-A ANGORA So - there was also a giant craft tent. A few of these booths sparked the age old conversation along the lines of "at what point do you go from - this is just a piece of felt and a pipe cleaner - to this is a CRAFT and I'm charging thirty bucks for a piece of felt and a pipe cleaner".
Some of the booths were really nice, though. I was particularly fond of the gourd booth:
At one craft booth Rich was perturbed to see JANICE'S SANTA CLAUSES. Now, these Santa Clauses are the stuff of legend. Apparently when the boys were wee little tots, Janice started making these Santa Clauses out of clorox bottles (and there was some use of velvet, yarn, felt and eye of newt or something). Anyway - apparently they were VERY nice. (every time Rich tells the story, the emphasis is on the word VERY). And I believe him. And then Janice would sell them at craft fairs... for like twenty bucks. And this was when Rich was a kid - so that's a sizeable price tag. Anyway - apparently with clorox bottles and felt Janice managed to save enough money to take the kids to Disneyworld, feed a third world country and buy Microsoft. It was a big success. So Rich was somewhat shocked to see knock-off janice clorox santas. Admittedly - Janice has never CLAIMED creative ownership of said creation. We imagine it was some sort of Ladies Home Journal type discovery. But still... Rich pronounced, however, that his mothers were MUCH nicer. Better yarn. Better velvet. These were not up to snuff. So - these are NOT as nice as Janice's. They were NOT... as the description goes... VERY nice.
OK - I JUST LOVE THE GLASSES/MOP CAP COMBO IS THAT A TOMAHAWK, OR ARE YOU JUST HAPPY TO SEE ME TALE AS OLD AS TIME... TRACKER JOHN M.D. TEE-PEE FOR TWO, AND TWO FOR TEE-PEE IN HUNTINGTON, YOU HAVE TO HAVE 'THE WOW TRACTOR' Apparently this is the same as Rich's grandfather's tractor. Don't ask me. YOSEMITE SAM LIVES INDIAN SUMMER LOVIN'
A lovely afternoon. And when we got home... Po had used the pad. On the linoleum. So, it was a PERFECT afternoon. I"m tired of writing - you're tired reading. I'll cover the rest of the day in the next blog. xo JO JO