The mid point of the summer is a lot like one giant, collective hump day. Hump week, really. This analogy has already taken a weird turn. Regardless, in the past couple of weeks I've experienced a phenomenon that seems unique to and inherent in an immersive experience like summerstock theater.
At the mid point of the summer, we in Virginia City realized that we had been cut off from the rest of the world for a couple of months, despite our continued Facebook statuses and groundbreaking blog posts. We let it sink in that apart from "Bad Blood" (because no one can escape the T-Swift), we hadn't heard any recent top 40. We hadn't seen any of the big blockbuster hits. We hadn't been there for the latest inside jokes, hashtags, and styles that had interwoven themselves into our friend group dynamics. Entire trends that in the future will echo in our peers' memories as staples of summer 2015, we discovered, evade the Virginia City Players -- and I suppose many summerstockians -- altogether. As this awareness of our sequestered lifestyle found us, the euphoric honeymoon period of escaping the real world waned. This new environment was now our normal, our new "real world." And as this truth became apparent in our bodies and minds, cabin fever set in.
The manifestation of this fever occurred symbolically, of course, in the theater itself. We spent a week churning out our final performances of a well-worn slapstick comedy while rehearsing for the opening performance of Phantom of the Opera, a gothic drama rife with miscommunication, mayhem, and murder. And while I've only killed 2 people here -- and those people may have been bugs -- we did meet a handful of challenges along the transition. Some cranky vocal cords, some technical malfunctions, some ghosts who tried to pit us against one another by turning off the coffee maker repeatedly and with malice.
Like a family of misfits who constantly experience everything together, we've been navigating through different stages of harmony and conflict, feeding off each other's energy. These stages ebb and flow, but because time moves differently in a ghost town, determining where one stage ends and another begins is tricky. Riding out the storm of this crossover hump week hence became a challenge. I'd created a system though: to mark each new turning point using our getaway field trips (fittingly designed to help us reconnect). Toward the beginning of the summer, Whitewater had marked the tentative establishment of a group dynamic. Lewis and Clark Caverns had solidified it. Yellowstone had signaled the end of our first theatrical experience together. And now, Canyon Ferry was set to usher us into a new show and the latter half of the summer.
At the end of the first week of Phantom performances, the actors took a trip to a large, clearwater lake called Canyon Ferry, where we rented a one-room cabin on an intimate, private beach (complete with fire pit, of course). We spent the afternoon swimming, skipping stones, burying Alex in the sand, and stealing each other's inner tubes. We cooked hot dogs over the fire pit as the daylight softened, drinking beers and giggling while our designated philosopher gleefully spouted his ideas about humans' disconnection from other living creatures. When the sky began to flirt with the idea of raining down on us, some retired to the cabin. Some laid out sleeping bags on the beach. One bold soul plopped an air mattress down in the center of the sand, tucking himself in with a pillow and blanket. I myself mooched the shelter of a tent that a more pragmatic friend had brought along. I fell asleep to the white noise of a light shower on the tarp above me and was glad for my choice of sleeping arrangement.
When I awoke in the morning, I unzipped the bedroom door to find a tiny, curious stranger before me. She stood there, fluffy and squat, only a foot away, and I was worried that she would be caught in the imminent dismantling of the tent. The destruction of a building -- even one made of tarp -- can be quite dangerous for a wee little bird. I encouraged her onto a stick and relocated her to a log out of harm's way, but she immediately and determinedly hopped back over to me, nestling between my knees this time. The juxtaposition of her blatant lack of fear and youthful fuzzy feathers perplexed me. I could not tell if she was a fallen baby bird who could not fly or a cocky adolescent who simply wanted to learn more of the peach-colored giant before her. Either way, she hopped into my hand without hesitation. But just then, a fellow Player enlightened me that if one touches a flightless baby bird, it will die. Shocked by this instantaneous, morbid certainty, I placed her gently back on the sand, devastatingly cognizant of my role as her own personal grim reaper. As everyone else headed up the gravel path to pack the cars, I continued to stare at my ill-fated little friend, racked with guilt and afraid to leave her to her slow demise. She of course had no inkling of what was to come. She continued to look at me, unruffled and content. I gave her space now, and my final blessing to roam the tent ground as she pleased. After a moment, she hopped her way to the base of the tent. She carefully inched her way up its wire hump to the point where it no longer curved. When she was comfortably perched two feet off the ground, she gave me a knowing last look. Then she flew away.
I've been feeling a bit cut off from the rest of the world, from my friends, from my life in New York. But only hours after a lakeside discussion with Logan le Philosophe about humanity's arguably disconnected approach to life and Earth's living things, I managed to befriend a scruffy, deceptively self-sufficient poof of feathers, even if only for the most ephemeral moment of solace. It isn't that I'm cut off from my world, but more that I'm being challenged to find new ways to connect with the world as she chooses to present herself to me. A tiny, spirit-guide-reminiscent bird ain't half bad. I've been Skyping friends more often as of late, but Poof gave me the gentle nudge over the hump. I'm happy on the other side with all my other scruffy misfits for now.
About this blog...
19th century melodrama,
haunted costume shops,
my discovery that "sump" is a word...
Box and Cox, a satire about two English gents unwittingly renting the same flat.
Season complete. Bags packed.