Working out Imaginative Muscles

How much fun am I having at rehearsals for my current holiday mini-project?

Enough so that on more than one occasion I’ve arrived to rehearsal exhausted, or in a bad mood, feeling like anything but being playful and energetic, not looking forward to all the smiling, laughing and running from floor to floor (I’ll explain) or ad-libbing with fellow actors or with the (pretending they’re there) audience members.

Yet some how I end up leaving rehearsal feeling like I’m heading home after happy hour, a little more relaxed and less stressed, even if perhaps a bit sweaty. I shouldn’t be surprised at this considering it’s written by Joseph Scrimshaw, a very funny and successful writer, performer and producer (as well as probably a few other things like animal trainer and contortionist) and I’ve been enjoying his work for years.

One of the many old, and previously used, "sets".

You see, this isn’t your ordinary show. For one thing it doesn’t take place in a theater, or even a bar or coffee shop. It takes place in an historic flour mill – an enormous, cavernous, dusty old place which has burned and exploded on more than one occasion, and which hasn’t been a mill for over 40 years. What’s more: the audience sits in an immense elevator moving from floor to floor, while the show (and most of the actors, and primarily me, playing numerous parts) travel by stairs or other elevators up and down, hoping to be ready by the time the narrator has successfully navigated the car-load of people to the next scene’s destination and the massive set of doors open like a gaping mouth to form a proscenium.

It goes something like this:

Floor 1 (character 1,) elevator to 4 (character 2,) stairs to 3 (character 2,) stairs to 2 (character 3,) elevator to 7 (character 4,) elevator to 2 (character 5,) elevator to 5 (character 5,) then a mad dash up back stairs to floor 8 (characters 2 and 5, (and which, by the way, is more than your typical three story trip) ) and finally a slow and calming elevator descent back to 1 (character 1) while chatting with the audience. 

The final step is to lead that audience out the exit with smiles and waves, and do it quickly because the next performance begins in mere minutes.

After a run through tonight I found my mind flowing and firing on all cylinders. I did this show last year, but had forgotten how much it helped me discover and exercise my imaginative muscles. And I’d forgotten how much fun it is to do.

Happy Holidays, indeed.

An Eventually Christmas: Holidays at the Mills performs December 2 – 11 at Mill City Museum in Minneapolis.

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