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  • Writer's pictureJosiah Howlett

Where's Witless? (Pt. 4)

Hello! Yes, I am alive. Sorry it has been so long; these last few weeks of our tour have been crazy busy!

Three weeks ago (wow, I’ve really been slacking), Sage and I stayed in Reno, NV. Now, if you thought the Fiesta Hotel & Casino in Henderson was crazy, just wait until you here about our accommodations for this week. That’s right, folks: we stayed in another casino hotel. This time we were in the Circus Circus Hotel & Casino. Surprisingly, the Circus Circus was exponentially nicer than the Fiesta. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being able to roll downstairs in my pajamas to see Incredibles 2 in the Fiesta, but the Circus Circus had beautiful rooms and fabulous restaurants at which we could eat. Plus, they had an entire midway arcade above the casino, which made for a really fun environment. I even had a little nostalgic WKU moment when I had Panda Express with a blue Powerade for dinner one night. (If you did not go to WKU, just ignore that reference).

This all came in handy, as our week in Reno was definitely our busiest yet! Like I explained in my last blog, we normally do three workshops during a residency week, as that is what is included in the contract with MCT. However, our week in Reno was just a little bit different. You see, during our stay, there was an annual arts festival called Artown taking place. We were actually brought in as part as the children’s programming for Artown. So, instead of our normal three workshops, we did a total of 16. That, on top of our regular rehearsal schedule, made spare time pretty scarce. But, it was actually a really great week. Our contacts were super friendly, the kids were great, and we had an eccentric pianist named Squeek Steele (pictured above) who I learned is a fellow Kentuckian! Squeek played her way into the 1990 Guinness Book of World Records when she performed more than 1,852 songs from memory over a three-week period. She was a character, to say the least. As you can see in the picture above, she was not afraid to make bold choices!

Although it was hectic, our time in Reno was a lot of fun! I think my favorite part came during one of our 16 workshops. It was the first time Sage and I got to teach our adult education workshop for educators who are looking to incorporate theatre techniques in their classrooms. At first, this was really intimidating, especially since the educators signed up were theatre teachers. However, it turned out to be a blast! The women in the workshop were so receptive to what Sage and I had to share, and we all ended up just tossing around ideas for theatre in education. It was one of the first moments that I really registered that I am a college graduate with a degree in theatre. That was an incredibly cool moment for me.

The following week, we travelled to the small town of Los Banos (pronounced “lohss BAN-ohs”), CA. “Los Banos,” as we quickly learned, does not mean “the bathroom.” Who knew? Though it was very hot in Los Banos, we had a nice week there as well. It was a unique experience, as it was our first time having an exceptionally small cast. MCT shows are written to accommodate around 50 to 60 children. However, in Los Banos we had about 21 cast members, with half being under the age of eight. This provided some special challenges, but by the end of the week, Sage and I were really proud of the cast for pulling through and doing a phenomenal job. It always amazes me how adaptable and smart children can be. I performed as Witless during this week, and snapped a backstage pic in which I channeled my inner mother of Jesus, which was only appropriate since our performance space was an old Catholic church (see gallery below to make sense of this).

Outside of the show, we had a really great week as well. We stayed in the home of one of the board members of the local arts council. This was our first homestay, and I have to say, I was hesitant about that type of living situation before it. However, Robert and his cat Emmy made Sage and I feel more than welcome. He took us out for dinner, let us use his kitchen, and even let me do a load of laundry while I was there. It was definitely a successful first homestay.

In addition to our fabulous host, our wonderful contact that week owned a local Mexican restaurant called Españas, and she gave us a gift card so we could eat there one night. The food was delicious, and I was so impressed with the service, menu, and atmosphere of the restaurant. My family lives in a small town back home, so I know how hit or miss restaurants can be in those areas. But, Españas was incredible and I was so grateful to have the opportunity to eat there.

Other than those few things, Los Banos was pretty uneventful. Our next week, however, was maybe the exact opposite of that. After Los Banos, Sage and I hopped in our #LittleRedTruck to drive to the Naval Air Weapons Station in China Lake/Ridgecrest, CA. Talk about unique, I mean this was an experience like no other. This was my first time ever being on a military base, so I really didn’t know what I was in for. However, after spending a week on base, I have to say that this was one of my favorite weeks of our tour so far. It was an absolute privilege getting to work with the children on base throughout the week. Many of them were in our cast, and we also got to do workshops with even more of the kids on base. On top of that, our on-base housing was nothing short of FABULOUS. Sage and I each essentially got an entire apartment to ourselves. It was the first time I was able to cook on a stove while on tour, and that was monumental. I went so hard at the grocery store because I knew I could finally cook for myself. It was wonderful. We each had a living room, garage, and two televisions, which made it super easy to hook up my Xbox and play some games in my downtime. I loved it there.

Our contact was also amazing, and the staff at the on-base childcare center were equally incredible. They helped us everyday during rehearsal, and even came early on show day to help us put up our set. It was so refreshing to have non-parent adults around to spend time with. They made our week so easy and extremely pleasant. However, that couldn’t have done anything to save us from our show day emergency (dun, dun, dun).

Unfortunately, after our Saturday morning dress rehearsal, one of our dwarfs came down with a violent stomach illness 30 minutes before the first show. Since Sage was playing Witless this week, I quickly learned her lines and prepared to make my debut as a dwarf for the first time in my life. If you have seen me, you know that this was hysterical. The only part of her costume that fit me was the vest, so I threw it on over my street clothes, hoping that no one would notice (see picture on right). I skipped onstage with the other six dwarfs singing, “we’re a happy group of little men,” while also being six foot, four inches tall. The childcare staff did actually step in to help in our time of need by being backstage during both shows. Since I had to perform, there would have been no one back there to supervise the kids. That gave me even more of a reason to be grateful for all of the staff's help that week. But, the day got even better when the evil queen was late making her entrance during the finale scene. Sage and I had to improv an entire one-minute scene about how happy we were that the queen had not showed up to harm us. It was a truly iconic moment. By the end of our stay, I was definitely sad to leave Ridgecrest, but I am looking forward to the last few weeks of our summer tour. I can’t believe I’ll be home in just two weeks! I am so excited!

Until then!



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