Jenntertainment's Weblog

Adventures in children's theatre.

What I Did on My Vacation July 8, 2013

Filed under: My Job is Weirder Than Your Job — jenntertainment @ 11:29 pm
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     My favorite school activity was always Creative Writing, except for when the assignment was one of those awful “What I Did on My Vacation” journals. Other kids would write things like “I visited my grandparents in South Carolina and went fishing. It was fun.” If it was a really good vacation, they might write “We went to Disney World and my brother threw up on Space Mountain.”

     My summer journals were never so mundane. In fact, I still have one from the fourth grade that reads like this:

     “I had a lot of rehearsals on this ‘vacation.’ You couldn’t really call it a vacation, though, since I feel like I worked harder than I do when I’m at school. We had rehearsals almost every day for a play we’re doing called Gypsy and even though I’m only in the first act, there is a lot to be done. Gypsy is a play about a real-life stripper named Gypsy Rose Lee, and I play her when she’s a little girl (before she’s a stripper, that is).

     “When I’m not on stage, I’m usually helping backstage with costumes or microphones. It was really difficult finding ways to hide the microphones this time, since most of the girls hardly wear anything, but my dad says that I’m the expert. I also get to help Michelle with all of her costume changes, which keeps me pretty busy because she’s the lead. We also had to paint and build the set, and that takes a long time. Some nights we were there until two or three in the morning, but to be honest, I like those nights the best.

     “My favorite part of the play is “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” That’s when all the different strippers show off their routines, like light-up panties, butterfly wings and Mazeppa who likes to ‘bump it with a trumpet.’ It’s so funny.  After all that work, mom says we need a vacation from our vacation. I agree.”

     It may come as no surprise that I rarely got to read my reports out loud. Not all of my essays were about strippers; some were about learning how to load fake guns, getting makeup lessons from drag queens, or explaining the origin of the term avante garde, which I learned during a production of Mame. I vividly remember consulting my teacher’s aide about how to spell it, but she simply raised her eyebrows and said “Well, if it ain’t in the dictionary, and if I ain’t heard of it, then it ain’t a real word.” That was the first time I ever felt smarter than an adult.

     What did my teachers think I was doing with my nights and weekends, and how many times did they consider calling child services? Fortunately, my principal acted alongside me in many productions, including Gypsy, and we had a secret pact. “You never tell anyone at school that you’ve seen me dance in chaps,” he bribed, “and I’ll give you excused absences on your opening nights.”  It was a pretty good deal.

     A few of my friends were also theatre kids, raised in similarly unconventional environments. Like me, my friend Laura loathed Career Day assignments, because neither of us could explain our parents properly. While I tried to enlighten my classmates on the intricacies of the burlesque striptease, she had to tell everyone that her father sang at outdoor festivals dressed as Uncle Sam.

     The confused faces of our peers were the first signs to us that we were a little different. Then we both grew up and found out that not everyone has a costume closet in their house, and that most people spend their 4th of July attending fireworks shows, not standing outside on the roof of an 18-wheeler wearing earplugs and watching your mother call pyro shots in time to the 1812 Overture.

     I was quite content to lead a double-life; one filled with reading, writing, and kickball; the other filled with music, glitter, and provocative dances. The thing is, you don’t realize that your family is different until someone tells you so. But 17 years later, with a house in the suburbs and a job that sometimes requires fishnets, I still struggle to answer the simple question of “What do you do?” without feeling like that little kid standing in front of her class, reading an essay about strippers.


ExZooberance July 6, 2013

     I have a bad habit of getting myself worked up about things that are exciting to me, like birthdays or new flavors of Frappuccino. I imagine my impending joy with such detail that, by the time the event (or milkshake-disguised-as-coffee) arrives, it can’t possibly live up to the wonder I’ve created in my mind.

     Which is why today, a day I have been looking forward to for no less than three months, was such an amazing triumph of anticipation.

     Working in theatre, I don’t get a lot of weekends off. However, because Independence Day fell on a Thursday this year, and because we’re in the middle of camp season,  I hit the jackpot with an entire 7 days of vacation. Woohoo! Unaccustomed to such luxury, the only thing I could think of that I really wanted to do as a family was…

     …visit The Jacksonville Zoo.

     We visited the zoo for my birthday one year, and it was phenomenal. There were giraffes, and penguins, and giant elephant statues.

Phone Pics 087

May 4, 2009

     The only way I could imagine the zoo being any better was to imagine taking our adorable 15-month-old daughter with us. Lately she’s gotten quite good at animal sounds, and I thought it was time to let her know that the creatures in her board books are real and not just pictures to which I’d assigned arbitrary noises. Except for the kangaroos, who don’t actually go “boing-boing.”

   So that’s what I’ve been doing since March; imagining what it would be like to take her to the zoo. In my idyllic world, we would get up in the morning and have coffee with buttery, homemade cinnamon rolls, followed by some superb block-stacking. We would get into the car just at nap time, when she would drift peacefully off to sleep for the two-hour drive to Jacksonville. Upon our arrival, she would awake, pleased as punch to find herself in a new place that smelled faintly of manure. We would point at the animals and she would make the right sound, squealing with delight upon the discovery that parrots actually say “caw-caw” and that I wasn’t making it up the whole time.

     In my fantasy, we would pour our happily tired selves back into the car and Jamie would watch the DVD Curious George Visits the Zoo with a new-found appreciation for the elephant who paints billboards and the cat who makes pasta. The sun would begin to set just as we pulled back into our driveway, and she would snuggle in close to my shoulder as if to say “thanks for the super fun day, Mom.”

     Again, I may have over-thought this a little.

     Except today something amazing happened.

Jamie Kate & Lexy at the Zoo

Jamie Kate & Lexy at the Zoo

     Jamie turned all of the zebras into statues.

     Not really. That’s just a zebra calliope. But wouldn’t that be funny?

     Today was just magnificent. There might not have been filtered amber light shining on every part of my day, and it might have been 94 degrees with 1,000% humidity, and Jamie might have said “rawr” in answer to every animal call after seeing the lions, but everything else? As close to perfect as a trip to the zoo with a 1-year-old and a teenager (our exceedingly fabulous babysitter who came along for the trip) could possibly be. There were stingrays to be petted, and potato wedges to be devoured, and of course, elephant statues to be photographed.

Jamie Kate Elephants

Jamie Kate, Vann, and Lexy
July 5, 2013

      Don’t panic; the elephants were already statues before Jamie arrived. Why are all of our pictures with sculptures? I am too much in awe of God’s amazing creatures to bother with taking photos of them, so my zoo souvenirs (zoovenirs?) consist only of photographs with fake animals.

     The day was a wonderful success, complete with homemade cinnamon rolls, I-95 naps, and an overwhelming amount of cuteness in the form of baby animal imitations. I don’t think Jamie or Vann could have been any sweeter, and I can’t imagine anyone being more helpful and easygoing than Lexy. I claim this day in the name of wishful thinkers everywhere. We dreamed. We zooed. We conquered.

     Next stop? Georgia Aquarium!