This morning I have a few hours before the first commitment of the day, so I have a slow start, writing the blog, catching up with emails and generally doing not much.
Before breakfast I catch up on laundry, using two of the three washers available to me, and then changing to two of the three driers – I am truly spoiled at The Element.
Back in my room I do some work on my readings of A Tale of Two Cities that I will premiere this evening, and am not quite satisfied with the final passage. I open the online version of the book and find what I am looking for, copy it onto a USB stick, and print the relevant page on the lobby printer (fetching my dried washing on the way). It’s a wonderful world we live in when so much information is instantly available to us.
Having run through the whole script and worked on some basic blocking moves (mostly involving holding severed heads high for the crowd to see), I get my things ready for the days’ shows before wrapping up in a coat, hat and scarf to make the short walk to my first commitment, a radio interview.
The weather has changed in Omaha overnight; after a few days of warm sunshine the wind is now whipping through the city. Flags are straining, trees are pulling at their routes. Dustbins are bowling down the streets and people (me included) are walking at forty-five degrees.
Fortunately, the radio studio is only a two-minute walk away, on the opposite side of the Midtown Crossing park, but the exposure is enough to blow plenty of cobwebs away. I am meeting Patrick Tibbs, to whom I have spoken before, at Boomer 1490 and we are to record an interview which will be played on his drive time show this evening.
Shortly after I arrive, so does Rylee in his correct position as PR man for the Historical Society (rather than the general ‘fixer’ he has become at the events) , and the three of us record a fifteen-minute interview. After the recording is done Patrick goes back through and edits as Rylee and I chat. It is incredible to listen to our words being corrected and moved. Umms, and errs are removed, and at one point Patrick was talking as I was giving an answer; ’Oh, we don’t my jibber jabber over what you are saying…’ a few clicks on his keyboard and his voice is gone, leaving my words alone in perfect clarity. After about twenty minutes of clicking, cutting and pasting, he replays the interview to us in its perfected state. Remarkable.
It is almost noon now, which is when Lee is collecting me from the hotel. Even though it is only two minutes away, even though I am looking at the hotel, Rylee suggests he drives me which, thanks to the one-way system in midtown Omaha, takes much longer than the walk would have done.
Lee is waiting for me in the lobby and once I have fetched my costumes from my room, we head to the Field Club to prepare for my afternoon-tea performance of A Christmas Carol.
The first good news: Lee has collected my shoes from Andy’s and they have done a beautiful repair job, with new leather soles properly stitched: it is the work of a true craftsman. Lee tells me that Sam (not Andy after all, Andy was his father), does lots of work for the local professional theatre, and was particularly proud to share the information that his uncle had performed in A Christmas Carol as Jacob Marley.
The second good news: it is a sell out this afternoon. For the first time this year a group of tour busses have books massively, and the main function room at The Field Club is laid out to capacity – and more. Tables are tucked into little nooks and corners, whilst one is actually in an ante room, on its own. I can see that going badly!
Lee, Susie, Kathy and I have some lunch in the golf club’s dining room – a burger (no cheese) for me, before Kathy and Susie have to get to work. I have quite a long time to wait, as it is 1pm now, the tea service starts at 2 and my show at 3. Lee and I repair to the Cry Room, (the little bar for distraught golfers) and relax. There is a golf tournament on the TV, and Lee reads the newspaper. I make reminder-notes on my phone for the blog, and play a little backgammon, but soon both of us are on the verge of sleep: gently nodding as our blinks become longer.
This is no good! I decide to get changed and move around a bit. So in the locker room I get into costume. The first thing to be aware is that the virgin leather on my shoes is going to be very slippery on the carpeted stage – this show could turn into Dickens on Ice and I will have to be very careful.
I am almost ready, when Rylee comes bursting in, asking if I could be on mollifying duty. Sure enough the people at the separated table are NOT happy (not surprising) and although they have been moved into the room itself, some ruffled feathers need smoothing. I go to the table and talk for a while, and they are very nice, chatty people, who are pleased to be here. I don’t mention their position in the room, but we talk of mystery tours, and travelling and Britain.
As 3 gets closer I put on my scarf and hat, and wait for Kathy to make the announcement. This is a new experience for all of us, as the atmosphere is different to a regular Douglas County Historical Society Show. Tour groups can be notoriously difficult to please!
I start the show by weaving between the tables as the music plays, which is not easy due to the space constraints, and end up on the stage as the bells toll. ‘Marley was dead…..’ and here we go. It takes a little while to get the audience fully engaged, but as soon as they realise that I am going to play with them, and have some fun, so they begin to relax and join in.
I am careful with sudden movements, but the shoes don’t cause too many troubles, which is a relief. I need to walk outside in them as much as I can to roughen the leather up a little.
The show comes to an end and everyone joins in the final line: ‘God Bless Us, Every One!’ and the applause is fabulous. Usually at these events we have a Q&A session, which is fun, and sure enough Kathy gets up to do it, but this is a different audience and many of the tour tables get up to leave: more lessons to be learned for future years – we are always learning and developing, which is exciting and much better than remaining stagnant.
After a few questions, I rush to the locker room ready to change, and then spend some time signing programmes and books. I am very gratified to see that the people at the ‘forgotten’ table have all waited in line, and shake me by the hand and tell me how much they enjoyed the show. I am so glad that it worked out well for them in the end.
Time is against us, as it is 4.45 and we need to be at our next venue The Crook House, at 6 and in the meantime I have to return to the hotel to collect what I need for A Tale of Two Cities. Lee arranges to pick me up again at 5.50 and I go to my room, hang my costume up, before having a quick shower and getting ready again. Back downstairs, and off to the Crook House.
Many guests are already there, and I know plenty from previous years, as well as few from last night. They spend an hour sipping cocktails and nibbling from a beautiful buffet prepared by Chef Mario, before they are marshalled into the parlour for my performance.
As with any new programme I am nervous. It has been billed as the World Premiere of my new show, but in truth it is a series of readings from A Tale of Two Cities, which I hope I may develop into a full-blown show one day. This is Dickens in the raw, Unadulterated Dickens. Dickens uncut. Performing dramatic readings is an excellent way to discover what works on stage and I am particularly pleased with the response to certain sections: the absurdity of Monseigneur having his chocolate served by four men, and the awful running down of the child in Sainte Antoine glean the required responses. But it is the final scene as Sidney Carton makes his way to the guillotine holding the hand of the seamstress, until she, then he are executed, that brings the room to silence. It is such a powerful end to the novel and to my reading too.
Susie makes a champagne toast, thanking me for being in Omaha again, and I sign more books and programmes, before we all begin to drift away into the night. It feels as if it is 11 0’clock, but actually it is not yet 9.
A large plate of Mario’s best has been put together for me, so I take it to my room and eat while watching West Side Story.
Having enjoyed the cold beef, tortilla chips and everything else on the plate, I clear away, get ready for bed and settle in for a well-deserved night of sleep.