If you’ve been reading over here for any length of time, you know that, although I live in Virginia, I have a creative home in Grand Haven, MI, home of The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company. I’ve done three plays with them in the past several years, and have made short trips for other occasions, like a wedding and a conference. I have other connections with Michigan, too. Great American Playwright Pam Mandigo moved there a couple of years ago. I also did several long trips to the Upper Peninsula during my college years. My experiences in Michigan, all of them, have shaped who I am as an artist and a thinker and a person. I don’t have any intention of moving there (the Shenandoah Valley is too beautiful to contemplate leaving), but I love to visit, to work there, to hang out on the beach there. If only I had a teleporter!
Recently, PCSC did one of their two annual performances at The Rose, an Elizabethan-style playhouse at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. They are the only professional company that gets to perform in that space, and, unfortunately, they do it rarely. A couple of years ago, they remounted my Romeo and Juliet to perform it there, and I am still angry that I couldn’t go. Here’s a picture from that performance that I only saw for the first time this week:
I mean, look at those groundlings!
So I decided, no matter what, I was going to find a way to see one of the Rose shows this summer.
JC had to work, but we have a Chinese friend, Lydia, who is nearing the end of her year-long visit, and she is having trouble seeing more of the US before she heads back (it’s hard to travel without a car here). I invited her to come along.
I tried a new experiment with the drive this time. Instead of spending the night in the Cleveland area, as I’ve done every other time I have done this trip with kids, we just powered through. It was… kind of rough, but not rougher than doing it the other way, and it felt less intense, somehow. I timed it so that the kids would theoretically sleep, and we’d just get in really late. Unfortunately, they pretty much didn’t sleep, so that was wasted effort on my part. We also really need to work on a better system for the kids’ toys in the car. They can’t see what they have, they drop it on the floor and make a mess and get bored. But what’s a better system? We have a back-of-seat organizer, but I’m so short that they can’t reach it if they’re sitting behind me. Ideas?
We packed a lot into a very short trip. We stayed, once again, with the wonderful Steve and Linda, who always make us feel so welcome. On our first day, we went to the beach of Lake Michigan. I wasn’t expecting the kids to get into the water much (it was freezing!), but Silas shocked me by jumping right in, in his clothes! He thought it was hilarious that the only change of clothes I had for him was his bathing suit and my jacket.
The next day, we rode the Grand Haven Trolley and saw all the historical sites. Lydia thought this was hilarious, because the trolley driver was bragging about Pfaff’s Drug Store, which has been in operation for 100 years, and … well, she’s from China, where you can visit things that are literally 3000 years old.
We also took the kids to the Imagination Station playground, where Silas befriended a posse of young ladies, and Temptations, a much-loved ice cream parlor. On our way back to the car, they spotted a splash pad and got completely soaked (but happy!). We were freezing! Do kids just not experience cold?
On Saturday, we went to the Rose. This was what I had been waiting for, the point of the whole adventure.
It did not disappoint.
Sometimes I feel self-conscious because I’m so unabashed in my adoration of my friends at PCSC. Maybe I should tone it down a bit; I tend to gush. I’m a little embarrassed at myself, but not enough to cut it out. They are such a delight. The fun they were having together was infectious. The play was great to watch–high energy, big choices, solid commitment. And the space…! I hadn’t ever been in that space before, although I’ve visited similar ones. It’s very intimate. The actors are close. The round shape makes the sound move well, but without too much bounce. The pillars holding up the heavens create a dead zone in the downstage area, but they worked around this very well.
And of course, as I was watching, I kept thinking about how I would want to work in the space, what choices I would make. I hope I get the chance at some point.
Silas had his Manga Shakespeare: As You Like It, so he knew the general outline of the story. After the show, he asked everyone to sign it for him. He was so excited to talk with the actors. Kat took us back stage and let us go up on the balcony and look around. The backstage looks very usable; the design doesn’t interfere with the work that needs to happen. Petra and Silas were both thrilled to get to run up the stairs after sitting so long in the audience.
I had a repeat of my Duchess insomnia that night, laying awake listening to my thoughts percolating and bouncing around this new theater space and these wonderful people. I can hardly wait to work with them again.
Oh, and here’s my fortune cookie from dinner that night:
Silas, for his part, spent a lot of time the next day looking at his comic book and turning it into a musical. 🙂 It included a song about Orlando “making a savage attack” and then the Duke says, “There is no need to fight / Put down your knife and have a bite.”
On Sunday, after church, we met up with Katherine, Scott, and Lucy (the dog) for a quick picnic and romp around, and then came the thing that, for the children, was the point of the trip–a visit from Linda and Steve’s grandkids. When we were in Michigan over the winter, Silas and Petra became good friends with their granddaughter. They’ve skyped once, but it’s hard for kids to maintain connections over that kind of distance, especially since none of them can read or write particularly well yet. They spent a whole afternoon squealing happily with each other. That night, we stayed up Suuuuuuper late to go to the Grand Haven Musical Fountain (which was worth it). It had been raining, but the weather cleared just in time for the show. The kids were mesmerized.
And then… we came home.
I’m happy to be here! I have missed my friends, and I’m excited to see them. It’s good to get my hands back to work in my weedy little garden and set my house back in order. It’s good to be preparing for my upcoming show (with the American Shakespeare Company’s theater camp). It’s good.
But I left a big chunk of my heart by the lakeshore. And I can’t help but feel it tugging me there. I’m lucky to have good collaborators in both places. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to move between two groups and feel nearly seamless about it. I’m grateful for the work I’ve done in both places. I just wish I could divide myself and be both places at once.