Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hometown...The Musical!

Dylan and I will be pulling an 11-hour day today as we make our way to rehearsal just after lunch.  He is on the technical crew, volunteering as the follow-spot operator, while I am on stage playing Grandpa George in Hometown...The Musical!, the story our community, and this place we call home.

I have been neck deep in practices since we returned from Christmas holidays which explains the absence of a Wood Buffalo Update.  Time is precious when burning both ends of the candle.

"I'm living my life in 15-minute increments," I said to someone the other day.  Fifteen minutes to get home from work, 15 minutes for a bath, 15 minutes for dinner, and 15 minutes to get back to the theatre.  If I can eek out an extra 15 minutes for a nap - bonus!  It's a grind, but I'm not going through it alone.

When we open the show on Friday, 122 performers - including Mayor Melissa Blake who will be making a cameo appearance - will be featured on the stage, the majority of which will be live and in person.  A small group of about 10 - including our neighbor Norm Sutton - are featured in video vignettes that are played while my character tells stories.

All of us are tired as we head into the final stretch, many struggling with this lingering cold that has punctuated the winter of 2013.  I am on Week 6 of dealing with massive congestion.  The 30  GDS (Generation Dance Studio) dancers, ranging in age from 8 to 17, have not only been pulling down a grueling rehearsal schedule for the musical, they were also spending all their days off from Hometown preparing for a dance showcase.  Almost to a girl, they excel at school, carving out time to complete their homework while being shuttled back and forth by their parents and during breaks at school.  They have been a delight to work with as have dozens of newcomers to the acting process.  This has really been a community endeavor.

My brother Greg, who is very active in community theatre back in Kamsack, will fully appreciate how frenetic things are on stage and off, as over 100 bodies come and go.  If you thought Fort McMurray traffic was bad, imagine what happens backstage when this energized group tries to move about in the dark.  Fun times!

For Dylan, this experience is super important, as he gets to work with a team mixed with professionals and volunteers.  From my vantage point on the stage, waiting to move forward in the cue-to-cue process, I can see him in the lighting booth at the back of the 600-seat theatre, perched on a stool watching carefully and listening for his next cue in the headphones he wears to keep connected to what's happening down below.

Claude, Tiffany and Madeleine have been here for several weeks, guests in our home while Hometown comes together, but so familiar and comfortable that they are like members of our family.  Claude is co-directing the show, Tiffany is doing the costumes, and Madeleine is making her youthful stage debut as an actual bundle of joy in a flashback sequence.

With Heather and Ben's support and indulgence we pull through, basking in the rare hours when nothing is on the schedule, catching up on household tasks and rest.

Last week, we were Heather-less as she traveled to Bellingham, Washington for a special craniosacral treatment from one of the leaders in the field.  She was inspired, excited and re-energized by the sessions and came home in excellent spirits.

While we've been rehearsing, the snow has been falling.  Long-time residents say they don't recall having had this much snow in decades.  We don't mind, as it seems to diffuse the doldrums that are inherent with the long nights and short days. It also means that the risk of forest fires in the spring will be somewhat dampened as all this white stuff melts away and settles into the muskeg.

I will be submitting my application to serve on the Premier's Council on Culture in the coming days.  As part of the process, I asked for letters of support from Mayor Blake, David Whitelock - Executive Director of Events Wood Buffalo, and Cindy Amerongen - my awesome boss at the college.  Reading the personal perspectives of three respected colleagues and friends about the role that I have played in the area of arts and culture in this community was both humbling and uplifting.  Cross your fingers for me, as this is outstanding opportunity.

In my professional life, it feels like progress is being made, energy and enthusiasm are building around the arts, and the future is incredibly bright.

If you're interested in a behind-the-scenes account of Hometown...The Musical!, I've written 19 articles (so far) about the process at

Have a terrific day!

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