As I wake up this morning the first thing I see is a blinking red light on the phone next to the bed. I press the button for messages and listen to an electronically generated message informing me that I have a package waiting for me at the front desk. I dial ‘O’ and speak to a real person who confirms that indeed it is my suitcase that has been delivered overnight.
I have a fairly early breakfast and then retrieve my case and take it upstairs, much to the confusion of the bell hops who are not used to the sight of someone apparently checking in at 7am.
Up in my room I open the case up and have my second huge relief of the day when I discover that I had indeed packed my favourite scarf and hadn’t after all left it in the rental car or at Richmond airport. It is therefore in a good frame of mind that I continue into my day.
My first commitment is a live TV interview to promote my final USA performance on Sunday. I get into costume and also take everything that I will need for my show later so that I can drop it into the car on my way out. The TV station is across the street from the hotel so I stride out into the cold morning and get a good blast into my lungs before entering the offices of WCCO, and being greeted by Martin Keller, who’s company is handling all of the PR for the Aster Café where my show is to be held.
Martin guides me to the green room where we make polite conversation about the theatre scene in Minneapolis and the release of the new Star Wars film (neither of us can quite remember where we are up to in the plot, and what has been prequel and sequel). After a while we are ushered into the TV studio and I am fitted with a microphone and sat under the hot lights on a cosy part of the set, while the presenters do their stuff behind a more formal news desk on the other side of the room.
There is a local story running about the re-naming of Lake Calhoun in Minnesota: apparently there is a move to change the name because the Mr Calhoun in question was a keeper of slaves and honouring him in this way is now deemed inappropriate. However the powers that be seem to be saying that the Calhoun was not THAT Calhoun, Oh no, the lake is named after quite another Calhoun – a good man, very honourable and patriotic who did lots of wonderful things and never forgot his mother’s birthday and helped elderly ladies across the street and rescued kittens from trees: One gets the sense that the City would rather not take on the expense of re-branding when they can simply change the story.
The news moves on to viewers reactions to Star Wars, and while the screen is filled with tweets and texts the presenters pick their way across the studio, still talking which is an impressive thing to see. Their journey complete they sit on the sofa next to me and before I know it the floor manager is waving to one of the remote cameras and our interview begins.
I am sorry to say that I don’t know the name of either presenter as I wasn’t really concentrating when the floor manager told me, but we chat as if we are old friends anyway. I have some slight doubts when the girl announces that I will be performing at the Aster Café on Sunday, but she pronounces it ‘Aister’ whereas I assumed it was in Lady Astor. I decide to refer to just ‘the Cafe’ for the rest of the interview.
It is quite a long slot, in TV terms, and we talk about my show, my previous appearances in the Twin Cities and the friendship of the Café owner Jeff with my brother Ian via their mutual membership of the Pickwick Club in London. Our chat comes to an end and the male presenter, who is also the meteorologist, repeats warnings of light snow falls, and I leave the set saying thank you to all of the nameless people who fill the studio.
I have a very brief time to go back to my hotel but within twenty minutes I am on the road driving to the small community of Eden Prairie which about thirty minutes away, and where I am to perform this afternoon. There doesn’t seem any point in changing out of my costume, so I drive Victorian.
My venue is the Wooddale Church and it is an impressive sight as I pull into the parking lot. It is a modern building with an impressive metal, industrial ‘spire’ on the top.
I find my way into the main lobby area and am greeted by a lady whose name I don’t hear and then am introduced to another lady whose name I also don’t get. I am not on terribly good form today in the name stakes and I apologise to everyone involved for my inability to listen!
I am given a brief tour of the Church and shown the main worship space which is remarkable and dominated by the largest pipe organ in the USA. Then I am taken into the room where I am to perform, which is smaller and beautifully laid out. The guests are going to be served with a delicious lunch before the show ad already the tables have been set with plates of salad, while at the side of the room plates of delicious desserts are lined up waiting to be served.
Along one side of the room a large stage has been prepared and theatre lights hang over it, so that it will be well illuminated when I come to do the show. The Pastor (David – I made sure I listened) and the sound guy (Richie) introduce themselves, and we start the sound check. Unfortunately the only microphone they have is one of the ear clips, which always fall off, but my experiences at the Mid Continent Library have told me that a few mini binder clips can hold such a microphone in place on my shirt and so it becomes a lapel unit instead.
The first members of the audience are beginning to arrive, so I go to the little vestry which is where I am to wait until lunch has been served and it is time for the entertainment to begin (scheduled for 12.35 which seems terribly precise!) There is a TV set in the room and I assume that it is only an internal system broadcasting proceedings from the sanctuary, but I discover that actually it is properly connected, so I wile away the time watching the quiz show Jeopardy, and realising now lacking my general knowledge is!
Just before 12.30 I am collected and taken back to the room, where everyone has enjoyed their lunches and are settling back to watch the show. The event has been a huge success, with the lunch tickets selling out in a matter of minutes, and the organisers adding a few rows of theatre style seating at the back of the room to accommodate as many audience members as they can. David takes to the stage and announces me, and the music starts right on cue allowing me to walk, as if behind Marley’s coffin, to my place on the stage.
It is always an interesting to perform for a new group in a new venue, and for a while it is as if we are feeling each other out, and setting down the ground rules. I have plenty of space to perform, and soon the room is fully immersed in the story: the intensity and concentration of the audience is remarkable, and is most palpable.
I enjoy the performance but as in Williamsburg I am aware that my energy levels are still not where they should be, I concentrate on giving a measured, and not a strained show, which everyone seems to enjoy.
When I have taken my bows and made my way through the standing crowd, many of whom pat me on the back and shake my hand, I return to the vestry, change quickly and come back to the lobby where a few people are waiting to see me. The Church haven’t been selling any products, so there is no formal signing session, but it is very nice to meet and chat anyway. A lot of people have seen me in the past at various venues in the Twin Cities and one lady has pictures from my old performances at the St Paul Hotel dating back 17 years. How young and slim I looked, with even the trace of a fringe!
Another audience member is Peggy who was responsible for bringing my version of A Christmas Carol back to Minnesota when she encouraged the Arboretum to stage my show two years ago. Peggy has been a long standing supporter and has been behind a good many of my appearances. We hug and chat and she sends her love to Liz whom she met at the Arboretum last year.
I thank David and pose for some photographs and then soon it is time to get changed and leave the church. Of course I travelled here in my costume, but remembered to bring regular clothes, meaning that when I emerge back into the lobby the staff and volunteers get their first sight of a modern Gerald!
I say my goodbyes and offer my thanks to everyone who has made the event so enjoyable and start to drive back to downtown Minneapolis. Almost straight away I run into heavy traffic queues; it is only 2.30 and it seems as if the Friday rush hour has started very early.
Back at the Hilton I buy a sandwich and a slice of cake for my lunch, not to mention more bottles of water (the air is so dry here that I am constantly needing to drink), and go back to my room where I spend the rest of the afternoon.
I just seem to have no energy to do anything today, and even when I try to watch the second episode of Mrs Maisel I fall asleep almost before it has started. I turn all the lights off, get under the covers and have a long afternoon nap.
When evening comes I decide just to stay in the hotel and go down to the lobby bar where I have a delicious pork chop and risotto dish. A group of ladies at the end of the bar are out celebrating, one is sporting a Santa hat, and on hearing my accent (as I chat to the barman), they start to converse and soon are asking all about the shows and getting a little flirty.
I pose for a few pictures but really need to get some sleep, so I politely say my goodbyes and return to my room.
Tomorrow is a complete day off, with no media commitments or appearances, and it will be good to have a final day to recharge before the final show on Sunday night. I am thinking of joining the hundreds of thousands of other people who will visit the Mall of America tomorrow, just to pick up a few gifts, and I may well visit the Minneapolis Institute of Art which is always a favourite place when I am here.
But that is all for the morning. For now I bring a close a day when I couldn’t remember anybody’s name!