The Final Few Days

It’s not over yet.

Over; finished; done with. The words hang over our hearts like clouds. How can it be that we performed our final show in Tweedie Hall today? Why is the tree back in the basement of Windsor Theatre Out Of The Box?

It’s not ever truly finished, though. Not until the last mug is washed, and the last bed cleared, and the final bit of dust swept from the kitchen with our multicolored broom can the tour be declared as over.  And looking at the state of our kitchen, where the remnants of supper and the overload of baking from the past few days seems to fighting a harsh battle for counter space, there’s still much time before any kind ofending is called for the Tintamarrathon 2012. Besides, there’s no time to think of the final performance when we’ve got four full days of tour to catch up on.

Wednesday saw us wind up in Windsor, Nova Scotia, for a double-performance day at Avon View High School. We were in the academic home of a former Tintamarrien, Chris, who welcomed us with a great big smile and enough pizza for everyone. Quel accueil!

En attendant un public…

C’était une salle qui convernait parfaitement à l’expérimentation. Nous n’avions que le trois-quarts de l’espace auquel nous étions habitués, sans même avoir un endroit pour se changer… une scène qui convenait parfaitment à la collaboration, donc.

The horror!

The students were wonderfully enthusiastic–we didn’t have the time for discussion with the first group, sadly, but we had fun at lunchtime, speaking with some who had seen the show, and letting others hide behind the curtains during an all-school game of hide-and-seek. We had a workshop with the drama class after the second performance, where we made portraits and warmed up our faces and taught people the Miramichi Folk Dance.

We were glad we’d warmed up with Wigglebottom the previous day–because Thursday started off with Miramichi Valley High School. We drove through wind and rain and moose, loaded out, and let the three Miramichildren in the group be reunited with fond memories (and dance sequences) about their time in the auditorium. It’s true–you leave a part of yourself in the spaces you call home. How wonderful, for me, to see Lauren, Allison, and Amanda in their element.

Rain-driving

L’auditorium à Miramichi

The audience was wonderful. We got loads of reactions from the group during the play itself, as well as baker’s dozen of intriguing questions. Did we always create plays about things that were in the news? How long had we been doing drama? Was Lauren coming home? (That last one was from her little brother.) We wish we could have stayed, but we were awaited at Bonar Law Memorial High School–so we packed our things and drove off in our magical van.

We were welcomed at Bonar Law by David, un tintamarrien de longue date. Ça fait plus de vingt ans que le Tintamarrathon visite Rexton, et c’est David nous a accueilli chaque fois! Quel dévouement…

En attendant

The stage for the show was a bit more constrained than normal, given the fact that we had to play within an existing set… of a house. (A forest in a house on a stage in a school. Meta-theatre at its finest.) The audience didn’t seem to mind; they hooted and hollered at our hooting and hollering, and asked wonderful questions about the process, and whether we could come back next year (we’ll try, we promise!).

Afterwards, we had a long conversation with David, who is retiring this year. He gave us his impressions of how audiences and students had or hadn’t changed in the past twenty years, and in his experience as a teacher. We talked about the importance of celebrating our differences, whether through plays like Tintamarre or by offering courses in the Mig’maw language at Bonar Law, which has a 50% First Nations student population. We were surprised and delighted when we heard that there was a truly thriving dialogue between cultures at that school–youppi! Vive le dialogue!

Après le spectacle

Serious business, le théâtre étudiant…

The next morning saw us blinking into the sunlight as we rose for our final day of school shows. We went out with much more of a bang than a whimper: three shows in the same space, back-to-back-to-almost-back… it was tough to get into the cars–not only for lack of sleep, but mostly because we knew that, when we returned, we would have to return them. No more road to be on. No more fist-pumping out of the window to the Baha Men. No more games of Think Tank.

As we drove over the swelling hills and into the sunlit valleys of Nova Scotia, though, I started to feel a kind of happy, nervous energy. Perhaps it was the landscape around us, green and slowly warming to the new life around it. Perhaps it was the memories of all the friends we’d made in all of the schools before this one, who were thinking about us and waiting for us to come back. Perhaps it was the joy at knowing that we would make new friends that day. I looked around me at the sleeping faces and smiled. It was all three–and it was going to be a good day.

The optimism we all gathered during the drive proved to be quite useful, because we got an interesting surprise upon arrival: the forty minutes we thought we had to set up had suddenly shrunken to… fifteen minutes. Yikes.

L’arrivée à Springhill

Quick–to the van! Load everything out! Find the stage–do we have enough room for the platform? No! Crap–a flat’s broken. Get the drill! Do we have loose pins? Are all the costumes out? Hang the sheeting! Set the Woodstock! Air out David’s shirt of its built-up sweat! Get the cushions! Done? Done. Whew.

It took us ten minutes to set up, warm up, and get into costume. Un tintarecord.

We had three very wonderful and very different audiences for the three shows. The junior high school, raucous though they were, got completely engrossed in our antics–so much so that they might not have been expecting Bear and Hibou to sneak up behind them and roar near the end of the play. (Some of the teachers seemed particularly delighted about that.) The high school students were slightly more subdued, but came up with excellent questions during our discussion. Where did we get the bear fur? Was there any trouble learning French? We had further questions with students who came back to us during our lunch break–thanks for coming to talk to us, guys!–and even discussed possible themes for future shows.

Springhill

Then came the final show–and we couldn’t have asked for a better audience. The grades four and five of Junction Road and West End Elementary Schools cheered and clapped at our warm-up, giggled at Hibou’s stares and Boris’ snapping, and were so engaged by the story that some looked as though they’d forgotten to breathe by the end of it. A forest of hands shot up for discussion, even though we only had seven minutes before everyone had to go back to the bus. Why were the tents destroyed? What happened to the dragonfly? Were our characters teenagers or little kids? Such fertile ground for dialogue… it was incredible to see how deeply our spectators were willing to analyze our play.

It was, we learned, only a part of the process that these students were going through. Thank you so, so very much to the teachers at Springhill, West End, and Junction Road for helping make the play so much more than a performance. Tintamarre extends much further than the group we call our family–we have Tintamarre aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and nephews, too. Much as it’s possible to think of the tour as over, it will live on–in our minds, but also in those of our spectators, who will be discussing it, drawing pictures of it, and giggling when they remember how funny the Arbustes looked. We drove off into a gorgeous afternoon, tired and happy. Heureux qui, comme Tintamarre, a fait un beau voyage! Heureux qui, comme Tintamarre, voyagera encore et toujours!

The post-show debrief

And then… well, then came the aftermath. I won’t speak of it too much, if only to save further tears from some cast members–including yours truly. Besides, we’ll have a post coming up in the next few days to talk more about the final show, and some reflections for the tour.

Suffice to say–le Tintamarrathon 2012 a été une expérience phénoménale. It has taught us that theatre can, and does, change the world; that silliness is a necessary ingredient in life; that there is no shame in joy, or laughter, or spontaneity; que la célébration des différences et la réconciliation des torts ne peut se faire qu’à travers l’amitié et le va-et-vient d’un processus collaboratif; et que rien n’est impossible, si l’élan est là et l’effort est continu.

It has been a wild ride. But it’s not done yet.

Stay tuned, folks. The rest is yet to come.

Avec amour,

Hibou

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