Wow! What a weekend

Friday evening was opening night of A Christmas Carol. Though a couple of weeks ago we may have wondered if we could pull it off, the performance was excellent. With a cast of almost 30 people ranging in age from 4 to almost 60 and technical wizardry far beyond anything we’ve attempted in the past, it has been a major undertaking but all the hard work most definitely paid off. The audience was entertained and we had fun. What more could we ask?

In addition to my small onstage roles, I was also busy behind the scenes. Quite possibly my favourite part in this year’s production has been helping dress Marley’s ghost for each performance. A large part of our cast is made up of teenagers. While I love them all, a few have very special places in my heart and one of these is Christopher who plays the part of Scrooge’s long dead partner. Before his scene, I help wrap him in chains and make sure the string of eerie blue lights woven into one of the chains is turned on and that his lapel mike is working. When he comes off stage, I help get him out of all of this paraphernalia as quietly as possible. While he’s onstage, I simply stand back and marvel at the wonderful job he does. This is no easy task for a young man with Asperger syndrome and I am so immensely proud of him. Many of the cast members, including several young adults, are former students of mine and I have so enjoyed being involved in this project with each of them.

Saturday morning came very early. The alarm went off at 6:20 and we were on the road less than an hour later heading for Edmonton and the funeral of my old friend, Sunny Ling. (For his story, see my previous post.) I am so glad that, in the middle of this very busy weekend, we took the time to go. With the exception of the immediate family, we were the only mourners present. I realize that had Sunny, at almost 94, not outlived most of his peers and had the funeral been held locally, there would probably have been more people in attendance but it still seemed very sad.

It reminded me of what isolated lives some people live in our midst. Almost every small prairie town in Canada has a Chinese restaurant operated by a family much like Sunny’s. They contribute to the local economy and send their children to the local schools but they never quite become part of the fabric of the place. I was led to wonder how many of these families hold weddings and funerals to which no one comes.

Attending the funeral definitely involved stepping outside our comfort zone; perhaps another reason why no one else was there. Though it took place in a funeral home, the ceremony was conducted by five women from one of the Buddhist temples in the city. Two of them were robed nuns with shaved heads. It was conducted entirely in Chinese but was followed by a brief eulogy in English. The ceremony itself involved the burning of incense, a fragrance so familiar to us after our year in Asia, as well as much kneeling and bowing on the part of the family and the chanting of many prayers by the nuns. Afterward, we went to the cemetery for a brief graveside service. Rather than taking our own vehicle, we were invited to ride in one of the funeral home limos. Offerings of food and drink were left beside the grave. We were surprised to learn that, according to custom, the men of the family couldn’t go to the cemetery or join us for the lunch that followed at a restaurant in Chinatown. Two friends of the family did join us there, including one who worked at the funeral home. Lunch began with a dish of pork and jellyfish. Richard and I had only eaten jellyfish once before when Sunny and his family took us to another restaurant in Chinatown for dinner several years ago. Clearly it’s a favourite of theirs but it’s one of the few foods that neither of us enjoy. The flavour is okay but the texture is definitely that of rubber! Out of politeness, we managed to choke it down, however, and then went on to enjoy many other delicious dishes.

As soon as lunch was over, we headed for home arriving just in time to put on our makeup and costumes and hit the stage for our second performance which went just as well as the first.

Yesterday began as every Sunday does with church. Immediately after the service, we were back at the hall for a matinee performance. Once again, it went very well. We usually find that our Sunday matinee audiences tend to be quieter than our evening ones but this audience was particularly responsive which gave the tiring cast a real boost.

Two of our cast members were fighting the flu in the days leading up to opening night and were still struggling with loss of voice during the first couple of performances. It wasn’t until immediately after yesterday’s performance that I succumbed, however. I could feel it coming on throughout the day but it didn’t hit with a vengeance until evening. I don’t know if it’s H1N1 or seasonal flu but by 9 o’clock last night, I lay on the couch wrapped in a blanket and suffering from a fever and chills. By this morning, after eleven hours in bed with a vaporizer running, the fever and chills were gone but I was left with a badly congested chest, a nasty cough and a headache. Fortunately, echinacea, prayer and a day of rest have done wonders. I don’t remember the last time I spent an entire day in my pyjamas but I seem to be well on the way to recovery. We don’t have another performance until next Friday evening so I should be fine by then and ready for another very busy weekend.


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