Adventures in "hot"-dessey
...why did I write that...
So, after a few weeks off of my crazy touring summer, I started another crazy touring season. For 5 weeks, I am touring the beautiful state of Arizona for the National Theatre for Children with my newfound friend and fellow, Nick. We are performing an educational show called "BrainSTEM" that teaches about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math through an SNL-esque improv comedy sketch format. We spent a week in Minneapolis training and rehearsing with a few other tour teams. Then, Nick and I drove to Arizona to perform for 50 different middle schools. Yes, middle schools.
Wait, let me rephrase.
Nick and I drove to Arizona to perform for 6000 young students who may or may not care about Science, understand English, or enjoy live theatre.
No, still not quite right.
Nick and I drove to Arizona to perform for 6000 wild animals.
At least the nachos are good!
Okay, it's not that bad, but it is certainly exhausting. We've had a lot of fun so far. After a 24-hour drive together (inaccurate estimate provided by Google Maps), you get to know a person pretty well. For example, Nick knows that I tend to be absent-minded and forget to do simple things/become too lazy to do them, and I know that Nick loves to take pictures of nature and mountains.
Case in point:
I also know that we get along pretty well for two guys who have known each other for a mere week. We left on Friday at 3:00 PM CT and arrived at our final destination on Sunday at 8:00 PM CT. By Saturday afternoon, We shared life stories, common interests in music and podcasts, and farts in the car. Since then, our stage characters have started to pick on each other too. Particularly when he plays my daughter who "should stop eating out so much" and I play his mother who "should make better food."
Needless to say, it's been fun just hanging out with another guy for this long. I rarely spend this much time with just one other male. It's invigorating at times, although I'm sure Nick would agree that it sometimes gets unnecessarily competitive:
"Nick, have I ever told you how much I love peanut butter?"
"Really, Josh? I love it too! I love it more than you do."
"No, you don't. I put it on my waffles."
"Yeah, I put it on my bananas."
"So do I."
"Well you have a small penis."
As for the show, it's been a blast. We do 4 sketches, one for each letter in STEM, and we perform 2-4 shows a day. The kids love the improv bits, because we involve suggestions from the audience, and it's a chance for Nick and I to try and one-up each other. It's all in good fun, and it really opens us up to being genuine on-stage while also teaching important information and still being totally silly. I think my favorite part (besides pretending to be Nick's Jewish mother from New York) has actually been learning the stories from the adults and teachers who have talked with us after the show. They've shared some really fascinating tales, and I think they're willing to talk because they're inspired by us, which is ironic because their stories are inspiring to me. In my reflections about the subject, I've discovered a pretty neat aspect about life.
When I see people I deeply love, reunite with a good friend, or meet someone for the first time, I crave to see the inside of their mind. I find that one conversation is not enough to get a good look, and so I want to spend time with them every day in order to see what they're really like.
Not to get anthropological or anything, but because I'm new to Arizona, the culture difference is a bit of shock, especially when I was on the border of Mexico. These people are just so fascinating to me, and I am only level 1 in Spanish on my Duolingo, so there is only so far we can connect. And since I only have a little bit of time at each school, that one conversation is all I can get. Thus, I have decided I might as well get as much out of that conversation by tracking them all through this memory blog and seeing what I can discover at the end. After talking with a person, I ask them if I can take a picture for my "Inspiring People" blog, and since I have honored them with a title of "inspiring," most people accept to be placed inside my humble worldview bank. The following is a record of the cool stories I heard during the first week of travel. Feel free to read them, and then vote on the poll at the end for which one you find the most interesting!
Or, tune in next week for another update. :)
In Douglas, AZ, I met a man named "Ramone." The only son in a family of intelligent women, Ramone felt like he had to prove himself to his father who didn't expect him to graduate high school. Not only did he do that, but he went on to college to study engineering, and became a welder. After his graduation, he spent the next 20 years working as a miner, gaining all 4 levels of colored helmets. Green for being a new guy, or a "melonhead." Yellow for getting used to it and becoming the average employee. Blue for becoming a seasoned worker who has learned all the tricks of the trade. White for becoming the foreman. He still has all these helmets in his closet, but due to an injury in his back, had to stop mining and now works at the Center for Academic Success, the school he grew up in.
Then, we came to his school to teach the kids about the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
Listening to a miner appreciate how his trade is recognized, valued, and encouraged to younger generations in inspiring. Thank you, Ramone, for your story. I did not get a picture of Ramone.
In Globe, AZ, I met two men; Robert and Robert. Robert Sr. worked at the school with the In-School Suspension, and his son Robert Jr., while being artist and air-brush lover, is working on starting his own t-shirt company. The two of them also work together with their local youth group and drama team. After talking with them and giving them a couple resources to continue their drama work, they told us how glad they were to have us performing in their town. Not only were they excited, but they were genuine, kind, and proud of their town and its beautiful surrounding mountains (which we drove through and almost exploded from majestic wilderness views). Robert Jr. pointed out some of his artwork that was on display in the cafeteria, including a beautiful eagle mural on the wall.
These amazing people taught us how important genuine connection is, and together, we shared our dreams and hopes for the future. Sharing, caring, and connecting, these two inspired me to write this blog.
Thank you, Robs. For "Robbing" my heart. ;)
One day in Mesa, AZ, I had to run to Western Union to get a few envelopes. When I arrived, I stood in line and nonchalantly leaned against the metal fences separating me from the lovely business people. The man in front of me, simply dressed in a dark polo and matching baseball cap, leaned on the fence just as I did. He noticed I had unconsciously taken his posture, so he looked at me with a smirk and a chuckle, followed by a "You look relaxed. God bless, my friend." Since he had broken the stranger barrier, I figured I might as well keep the conversation alive with a solid, "And also you." His name was Bobby. He told me that he didn't have a home, nor a place that he comes from because he is a gypsy. His home is where he travels. He also said he was a part of the "Gypsy Christian Church," and that part of his missional life is simply to live out Matthew 10:10, "No bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or staff; for the worker is worth his keep." He lives simply, and shares love and kindness wherever he goes, and he shared that with me.
It was inspiring to see someone happily living out his beliefs and not being afraid of talking to another stranger about it, regardless of our society's undercurrent of political correctness and mouth-shutted-ness.
Thank you, Bobby, for acting how you believe.
In Buckeye, AZ, Mr. B is a custodian at one of the middle schools we performed at. He joyfully helped us arrange the chairs for the audience and cracked a few jokes while he did it. After the show was finished, he came and told us how he and the other teachers probably enjoyed the show more than the kids did. Mr. B has 6 children, 4 daughters and 2 sons. His oldest son died years ago, and his youngest son, unfortunately, had cancer a few years ago and has had to have his tongue cut out. Since then, his son has had a tragic life, but Mr. B has always encouraged him that "life is too short to let it pass you by while you suffer." His personality was clearly bubbly and fun. After observing this, he proceeded to explain that he's been a clown since he was a boy. When he was young, a girl in his 3rd grade class was very sad and had few friends. He noticed her and so he tried to make her laugh. Every day, he'd do everything he could to make her smile and make her laugh. Eventually, he did, and it became a habit to do so. The two became friends, and she chirped up, until she had to move away. Because he had spent so much time trying to make her smile, it became his habit to clown around and tell jokes. It became part of his identity to be a clown. His wife today even sewed him a clown costume to parade around the house in when his kids were young to entertain them.
Mr. B inspired us by declaring victory over tragedy through comedy, and how a smile can go a long way. Thank you, Mr. B, for being one of the last remaining clowns.
And now, which one do you like?! Vote, and then have a great day!
Actor, Director, Creator, Dork