Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sands UK Tour, Day Six: London to Lincoln

Ten years ago this month, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity (SANDS UK) sent my solo performance I Hate This (a play without the baby) on a seven date tour of Great Britain.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Royal College of Physicians
We caught the 5:50 out of King's Cross on our way to Lincoln, and I am writing this on the train.

Yesterday started well enough, with a well-anticipated 5 mile run. Things quickly soured as the getting-out-the-door ritual was unfortunately stressful. I was exhausted and highly anxious about the performance at the Royal College of Physicians. But parenthood took precedence and we took the children to Coram's Fields.

Coram's Field is a lovely playground with expansive sandboxes for the toddlers, a wide variety of climbing contraptions, and even game captains to lead older children in more advanced play. It was formerly the site of the Foundling Hospital. The bad historical ju-ju, coupled with the sight of my own children playing without a care in the world made something inside of me crumble and I just had to sit and stare.

We arrived at the RCP in plenty of time to set everything up ... including a lovely, wooden rocking chair. I didn't want to get into it with anyone, I was about to collapse. I realized I hadn't had anything for lunch, so my stage manager and I breezed into the crowded hall where the food was, avoiding eye contact with absolutely everyone, loaded up a small plate, snatching an apple, a hunk of cheese, and bunch of grapes, and escaping back to the little room to the side of the stage.

There was a couch, some chairs, a table. I ate and whined about my life as my stage manager listened patiently, and then went out to get everything arranged on stage and in the booth.

A large painting, a portrait, of Edward VII hung on the wall. He looked like my Dad, except for the suit.

Panel discussion
I had never been so unsure of myself before a performance. And this wasn't even such an unusual event, but I was so shaken, exhausted, overwhelmed and unhappy, I had no idea how I was going to be able to do this. My wife came backstage and we talked. I just resigned myself to my fate, the show would go on, of course. I just hoped it wasn't terribly awful.

The music started and I stepped out and did something I never did before. The lights were on full, and I took my time walking to my place in the center of the stage. I usually just keep my eye on that spot, move to it, and look at my hands. This day I looked at everything. The table, the phone, the stepladder, I turned to look at the rocking chair. I took in this room of memories. It gave me confidence.

The room was a lecture hall, maybe three hundred seats, with an estimated 170 attendants, but they were spread evenly throughout the seats. The seats were steeply raked. I was mic'ed,  and when the opening music faded, I looked up and said, "WHAT?"

I surprised myself, and everyone else, by the volume. Good start, though.

And it was a good show, craning my neck up to the top, taking in the entire audience. Why has it taken five years to become so comfortable with this play? It's like something new, I am looking at the audience, not over them. I feel I am talking to them, not performing for them.

It was warm in there, some people were slouching a bit in their seats, but I didn't mind. The show was working. There were groans, laughs. The British jokes work.

After a short break for coffee, there was a panel discussion about the entire conference, and Toni participated in that. After we stayed and shook hands with a number of folks, including some young couples - two couples each lost a child just this past November. They all impressed me with the way they had already incorporated their children into their lives, though they all had stories about how difficult some family member was being in acknowledging their lost babies.

The rocking chair thing, it turned out, was simply a last-minute error. The chair that they did in fact have at the SANDS office has recently been picked up, unbeknownst to those who knew they still needed it. Just a miscommunication.

Got my brother a shirt!
For dinner we joined my brother and his family at a Giraffe close to our hotel. I was practically brainless, but the cocktails were scrumptious and I did my best to be personable. However, this five mile-running, nervous breakdown-having, solo performance-acting twit was not through yet. I felt I had earned some joy, and so I left bedtime to the wife, and went out pub-hopping with y stage manager and sister-in-law. The pints were tasty, the conversation was blue, and I went to bed shortly before 1:00 AM.

Today was spent leisurely in Regent's Park. My in-laws set off on their own the explore Westminster Abbey, and the rest of us just strolled through the park, paddled out on the pond to get a closer look at the baby birds, and took a nap under the trees.

Original blog post: June 13, 2007

No comments:

Post a Comment