The memory posts on my phone will come in thick and fast now, as traditionally the week following the Thanksgiving weekend sees me hopping from venue to venue spending only a day at each. Sure enough I had quite a collection pop up on my screen this morning.
The first picture was that of a broken suitcase. At this point of the tour the opportunity to launder clothes can be limited so I have to pack around 10 white shirts, as well as two complete costumes (black frockcoats, gold waistcoats, grey high-waisted trousers, cravats, top hat and a woollen scarf). I need to bring along props such as my walking cane, a candlestick with candle and a red cloth which changes from a bedspread into Tiny Tim and back again. Besides that there may be other costume and props to use for any other shows which I may be performing during the trip, and that is all before packing any ‘normal’ clothes. All of that needs the largest suitcase I can find and for many years a suitably cavernous grey model gave sterling service. But being lifted in and out of cars, dragged into hotels, thrown around airports eventually takes a toll and sure enough a few years ago as I checked into a hotel the extendable pulling handle broke clean away in my hand and I was left with the immediate need to find replacement case. I was in Connecticut at the time and remember saying to the hotel desk clerk ‘if only there were to be a day when all of the major stores offered discounts….’ the words being spoken on Black Friday Eve (formally known as Thanksgiving Day) .
The following day I made my way to the nearest large mall with a sense of trepidation (for years I’d watched news footage of near riot conditions) but was pleasantly surprised at the ease with which I was able to find a case and make my purchase, In fact, maybe secretly I was a little disappointed!
The Black Friday Case did a couple of tours of duty but has also fallen by the wayside and I am on to yet another model now, which is certainly having an easy time of it this year.
More pictures from years past see my memories settling in Nashua, New Hampshire. My sponsors in Nashua have always been the Fortin Gage Florist and Gift Store which is located in the heart of the old city. Nashua was originally a textile town and along the banks of the River Merrimack sit wonderful old red brick mills and warehouses that would not look out of place in an illustration from a Dickens novel.
As part of the gift side of Fortin Gage’s operation the store carries the collectable Carollers made in Pennsylvania by Byers’ Choice and when I began to work with the latter company some twelve years ago a number of the new venues were those who had a professional relationship with them. Fortin Gage has remained a constant on my tours ever since.
Originally my performances were held in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua, which was great for me because that is also where I stayed, meaning that I didn’t have too much trouble getting to the theatre on time! We took over a ballroom where a large stage was set up with plenty of seating for a large audience and enthusiastic audience.
The events were organised by Jody and Jill Gage who were assisted in their marketing by Sandy Belknap: we became quite a team and the post show celebrations in the hotel bar have become a little hazy in the memory.
Although the large show in the ballroom was the main event of my visits to Nashua we also staged dinner performances where I would perform each chapter of the book in between the courses of a dinner. It was during those evenings that the ‘Supposin!’ curse settled on Nashua. As those of you who are familiar with the show will know there is a moment when poor Mrs Cratchit leaves the room to see if her Christmas pudding has cooked properly and in her nervous state she ponders: ‘supposin….supposin it should not be done enough! ‘Supposin….supposin it should break in the turining out! Supposin….supposin somebody should have climbed across the wall and stolen it!’ at which she goes running, screaming from the room. Well, Jill Gage would become almost hysterical during the ever longer pauses and eventually gave up trying to stifle her laughter. As Dickens himself points out in A Christmas Carol ‘there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter….’ When Gill laughed it infected others throughout the room, until even I was not immune – keeping a straight face when I heard the titters start in the darkness was not easy, I can assure you.
In more recent years we have moved our show to the superb auditorium at the Nashua Community College where I even have a back projection representing the skyline of London to help me create the scene.
The audience has swollen with the move but the old familiar faces who have been loyally coming to every show in Nashua are still there too, waiting until the signing line has cleared so that we can chat, catch up and exchange news.
Over the last few years I have also been performing at the Nashua Senior Centre and these shows have shows have become a fun addition to the trip: Mr Dickens is Coming, Nicholas Nickleby, A Child’s Journey With Dickens, The Signalman, Doctor Marigold and Sikes & Nancy have all been performed in the sparse, bright meeting room to a most enthusiastic audience.
As with so many of the venues I have been writing about it will be such a shame not to be in Nashua this year but Fortin Gage have taken the role of promoting my new film to all of the customers on their database, so the show will still be part of the Nashua Christmas celebrations, and they can giggle at Mrs Cratchit without fear of putting me off my stride.
The other great connection from my years in New Hampshire is that Sandy, who helped Fortin Gage with their promotion in those early years and again more recently, has come on board to handle the publicity and promotion of the film. She is coaching me in the use of social media and how to take the message to as many influential people as we can. She is a great asset to the the team and it is a pleasure to work with her alongside Bob and Pam Byers.
To rent the film: http://www.geralddickens.com/films.html