I wake up in my little apartment at the VNA Senior Living Centre and potter to my little kitchen where I put a pot of coffee on the brew, and will that is gurgling and dripping I start work on my blog.
Today I cant just mooch to breakfast when I feel like it, as it has been arranged that I will be hosted by Mary, one of the residents, and we are to meet in the lobby at 8am. I prepare and present myself at the appointed hour and sure enough my date is waiting for me.
We go into the café area (in act my theatre from yesterday) and there is a smattering of applause as I take my seat. We are joined by three other residents, and have a lovely time chatting about the show and Charles Dickens himself. From time to time other people come and have a word or two, including Oscar the centenarian . After a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon, and a paper cup of coffee it is time to leave the party and start getting ready to move on.
I take my costumes to the car first and hang them over the rear seats and then return to collect my cases. Mary is in the lobby and would like a photograph but her tablet is very slow to boot up, so I take one on mine which I will email to Linda.
It is a beautiful day to drive and I am soon guiding the Rogue through the streets of Sommerville and over the Charles River and past the Harvard Business school, before joining my constant companion on this trip, the I-90 headed towards Worcester again.
Today I am headed for Connecticut and the Water’s Edge Resort in Westbrook. This is another new venue for me, and it will be interesting to see how their method of staging the show will work.
I need to stop for fuel, and notice that the flags are flying at half mast in honour of President Bush snr. Irrespective of ones political leanings, it is always sad when a person who has served their country diligently and selflessly passes away, and the limp flag represents a historical day.
The miles and hours pass by in the company of Morse and Lewis and soon I am in Connecticut and headed toward the sea. In amongst all of the usual English place names – Canterbury, Colchester and Norwich – there is suddenly a mainland European enclave comprising Hanover, Versailles and Baltic.
Eventually I turn onto a road called Shore End and the sat nav suggests that ‘At the end of the road turn right and you have reached your destination.’ That will be Water’s Edge then!
The resort looks fabulous at first glance, a collection of grey and white wooden apartment buildings gathered around the main hotel block, from behind which the sea glints and sparkles in the afternoon sun.
I leave my cases in the car, assuming that I will be housed in one of the other buildings, and go into the lobby where I am greeted with a large picture of myself, promoting the events of this evening and tomorrow.
‘Name?’ ‘Dickens’ A double take from the girl behind the desk, a glance at the poster and she bursts out laughing. ‘Of course you are! Welcome to the Water’s Edge resort’
I am given the key to an upstairs room in a nearby block and delighted to discover that I am in another little suite, with a view across the ocean. I leave my bags and walk down to the sea and spend a little time walking and admiring the view. On the horizon Long Island seems to hover over the surface of the water. It is a beautiful and relaxing view and there is only one other person on the beach gazing out to sea. I can only imagine what these beaches must be like at the height of the summer and I decide that I am definitely here at the right time of the year.
I return to the main hotel and go to the bistro bar where I order some crabcakes for my lunch, which are delicious.
As soon as I get back to my room I get a phone call from Julia who is the contact here and who has worked with Pam Byers to create this event. Julia would like me to take a look at the room and stage, so we arrange to meet back in the lobby in 5 minutes.
I am performing two events and tonight’s one will be during a dinner service, so the ballroom is laid out with large round tables which are in the process of being set. Each setting has a green or red napkin carefully folded into the shape of a Christmas tree.
The stage is wide and flanked by two beautifully decorated trees, on it there is a chair and hat stand of course, but the stool is a very modern bar stool with a vinyl cushion and a slatted back. It looks very out of place, but unfortunately it is either that or chrome.
I am also slightly worried by the lighting on stage – the room is a bit dim, but the overhead lights cast a little glow on the stage, and there are small LED uplighters which may help as well. Julia shows me a large room that is to be my green room, and then informs me that the sound check will be at 4.30. After which we go our separate ways, me back to my room and she back into the corporate world that keeps the Water’s Edge Resort functioning. Strangely the feeling here is much the same as being at the Hotel Hershey.
At 4 I return to the ballroom and find a banquet supervisor making checks to the sound system, and when he is finished I take over. The level is slightly high and there is a little feedback if I stray too close to the speakers, but it all seems very good. The room is bustling with the waiting staff who are busily making the final preparations. Orders are shouted out in broad NY accents, questions are asked, replies given. Plates clatter and glasses clink.
In the corridor outside an extensive bar is being set up and a few early birds are already availing themselves of it’s services.
I go to my large green room only to find it being prepared for a bay shower, which Julia didn’t know about, so I am relocated into another room filled with poinsettias, bare trees, crates, carts, chairs and various other accoutrements of the Christmas season. At a large table in the centre a waiter is sat monotonously folding napkins. This is a working room and I will be sharing it this evening.
There are events all over the hotel tonight and as I get ready staff from all of them come and go and so I get to eavesdrop on hotel politics.
The guests arrive at 6, even though the event doesn’t start until 7, and soon the lobby is filled with noisy chat and the bar is doing good business. Eventually the clock ticks around and I am called for. I make sure that the microphone is switched on and not muted and peek into the hall. To my horror all of the lights are off and the little uplighters do no more than shed a coloured glow on the black back drape. I am dressed in black. The backdrop is black. This could be a very dim performance. I ask the banquet supervisor (a different one), if anything can be done but he says no, that would mean putting all the fluorescent overhead lights on which would spoil the atmosphere. And with that, I am on.
I am performing in two acts, the first up to the point when Scrooge is left in his bed by the Ghost of Christmas Past. I start and it is very like performing for an English audience, in that the responses and reactions are quite restrained. I am a little worried that it is not really a huge success, but become aware that there are increasing amounts of chuckles and the silences are truly silent and not filled with shuffles and whispered comments.
There are a tables with young children who have been brought along in their pyjamas and they are a little restless, but little pools of blue light reflecting in their faces show that tablets are keeping them occupied.
I plough on, remembering not to rely to much on facial expression as I doubt that anyone other than those in the very front seats will see them, and the performance is a good one – intense and focussed.
I get to the end of the first act and receive a very nice round of applause, so things must be going alright. I return to my room which is deserted now, as the staff are at the various events, and am brought a plate of turkey, beef, mashed potatoes and vegetables which is delicious. When I have finished eating I pass the rest of the interval by playing Backgammon or Angry Birds on my phone.
At 8.15 a banquet supervisor (yet another different one!) comes to tell me that we are almost ready to start, and I return into the darkness where the story resumes. Of course the scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Present are much livelier and soon the room is gasping and oooh-ing over the goose. I don’t pick a girl for Topper, as the tables in the front seem to be a little reserved and it may backfire on me.
As I get to the end I walk out to shake hands on Christmas morning and one young dude with a beanie hat on grabs my hand and shakes it vigorously ‘Merry Christmas man!’ he shouts out.
‘God Bless Us, Every One!’ and the applause is amazing and the room stands. It has been an interesting evening and an exercise in keeping my concentration and not letting negative thoughts take over.
I wait outside the room and lots of people come and thank me and tell me how much they have enjoyed the evening. Some are almost in tears as they shake hands. There is no product being sold, so no formal signing, but it is lovely to chat with so many of the guests.
When they have left I return to the stage to set things up for tomorrow morning’s show, and then go back to my room to change. I stop by the bar which is very busy and noisy with a live band playing, and order a glass of wine, and am amazed when the waiter informs me that it has been paid for by some other guests who had been at the show! I join the couple and chat with them until it is time to go back to my suite.
In bed my last thought is that we must somehow improve the lighting for tomorrow. And the rest is silence.