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Posts Tagged ‘carrots’

I began my volunteer time at the Nutcracker this past Saturday.  At 8:00am, while the rest of the family was enjoying sleeping in, I snuck out of the house and headed to Hering Auditorium to loan my back to the “haul-in” of props and equipment.

It was a beautiful Fairbanks winter morning, cold and clear, dark skies, stars, a waning moon just past its halfway point, reflecting just enough light back onto the earth’s surface for the birch trees to cast shadows.  I started the truck, and quietly crept out of the drive.

The stillness of mornings like this set my mood and rhythm for the day, peaceful and thoughtful, introspective and focused; for me, high spirits.

Arriving at Hering Auditorium, in Alaska’s daytime darkness, I was fortunate enough to see a crack of light escape the stage door as it opened and closed, revealing to me the previously unknown back access to the stage.  Once inside I immediately ran into Pete, who has a son in the Nutcracker, so I knew I was in the right place.

I know Pete through the Farmer’s Market and his farm, Spinach Creek Farm.  They are known throughout Fairbanks for their carrots, which are unusually sweet and are a bit like eating candy.  Every year, during the Farmer’s Market Bazaar held in early December, the longest line at the bazaar is for Pete’s carrots, which usually sell out before everyone get’s theirs.  The carrots are without a doubt the best in Fairbanks, more than likely Alaska, and quite possibly the states.  It’s even rumored that there have been more than a few sightings of Bugs Bunny near their farm, where it is said that the hare has taken up permanent residence.  All of which has absolutely nothing to do with the Nutcracker.

After a few minutes, a fellow dressed in artist or beatnik garb; a red beret, green cargo pants, and long hair pulled back into a pony-tail, came over and spoke to the group of Dads that had gathered.  Personally, I like my Fairbanks winter hat to cover my ears, but I didn’t hold that against him.   We got our instructions for the day, and an explanation of who would direct our efforts.

We then loaded up in trucks and drove off to the connex (steel container used for barging or trucking, but commonly used for storage in Alaska) where the stage equipment was stored.  Fortunately it was a mild Fairbanks morning, somewhere between 0 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  We had a good group of guys, maybe ten, and it only took 20-30 minutes to load up the U-Haul and head back to Hering.

Have you ever walked into a place, usually small, where the person in charge has an inflated sense of their own importance in the whole scheme of things?  Like a tiny elementary school library that the librarian runs like the National Archives; or a small-town fire marshal who won’t let the kid’s put Christmas lights on a Christmas tree in the schoolhouse (though there is no code against it); or the college professor that belittles his class for not knowing his favorite subject “Underwater Basket Weaving” though it is completely irrelevant to 99.9% of them.

If you understand what I’m getting at, then I don’t need to describe the behavior of the stage manager any more than that.  If you don’t, let me go off.  Basically the guy, who as I understand it is under contract or employed by the borough to manage the auditorium (and thus probably the only person getting paid for giving up their Saturday morning) spent his morning gruffly ordering volunteers about whilst belittling the guy up on the catwalk that was adding weights to the backdrops.

Clearly, the stage at Hering Auditorium is his world. His fiefdom, if you will.  For that reason from here on out I’ll refer to him as the Stage King, or king.  For those of the rest of us who have a different perspective on where Hering Auditorium falls into the world order, world peace and electing a president with an IQ higher than my 4-year old can count can remain our priority.

I only got barked at once by the king, but it raised my volunteer hackles enough that I stayed away from him the rest of the morning.  It isn’t that I can’t hack it, I’ve worked enough construction jobs to tolerate barking, but it usually had to do with safety or some task that needed done immediately, said over the sound of construction equipment and always with the promise of a paycheck when the job was done.

On a Saturday morning when I’m volunteering for setting up a children’s ballet performance I had hoped for a lighter mood, more sugar, and less vinegar.  Fortunately I understand the king is retiring.  Maybe there will be a new monarch next year, possibly even a benevolent dictator.

As we hauled in equipment, a volunteer with experience in many Nutcracker campaigns pointed out where to put the props.  I’ll call him the stage general.

The general, “Stage left!”

“Where’d it go?”  (I told you didn’t know anything about the stage.)

The general, “Take that down stage.”

Me, “Hey general, I think the stage looks pretty level to me.”

Slowly I came to understand some locations, though I still don’t have any idea where down or up stage are.

It is comical that the king and general would think that a group of Fairbanks, Alaska Dads might know anything about the stage (assuming I wasn’t the only Dad without a clue).  Being locals themselves you would think they’d know better.  Of course, they may have forgotten what it is like to be stage ignorant.

Following the haul-in of the props, we began their assembly.  Again, it went relatively quickly.  At some point I began suggesting we put them together on the floor, then tip them up.  The general soundly refused my suggestion (it’s never been done that way before).

Something I’ve learned working with contractors and on job-sites, it is always better to put things together on the ground and minimize the time people spend on ladders or lifts, both from a safety and speed standpoint.  Apparently, that doesn’t hold true in the theater.

Then again, what do I know?  I’m used to real buildings, not fake ones.

I did quickly recognize that I didn’t want to insist on trying it my way.  One, because the general has volunteered for years and is due some respect for that; and two, any showing of expertise on my part might ensnare me into further volunteering.

Needless to say, given I’m already a quiet person, nobody heard much out of me the rest of the morning.

By 11:30 we had everything pretty much together except for that one brace we needed a lift to install but should have assembled on the ground.  I grabbed a bottle of water and a donut and hit the road, allowing some other volunteer to ride the lift.

Nutcracker Dad volunteer effort number one over and done with.

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