Backstage at Bracebridge Dinner

Bracebridge Webmasters - Pedro Rodelas aka Chef Pierre and me
After attending Bracebridge Dinner with the marketing group last year, I was so impressed that I resolved to volunteer to be in it this year. The Bracebridge organizers are (justifiably) particular about not allowing cameras during the performance, and I wanted to take pictures!

I didn’t end up taking that many pictures after all, but I did get to participate in a wonderful experience, and met some interesting people. I had corresponded a little with Pedro before in terms of updating the websites. He’s the one who put the wonderful videos that inspired me up on their site last year, and so introduced myself to him early on, and managed to nab this quick picture.

(from left to right) Christine, Cindy (half hidden), Tom, Maria, Dave, me, John, George, Sean and Katie
As a member of the serving party, my costume was relatively simple – a belted tunic and tights, with some buckles that went on over my shoes, and a funky floppy hat with a button in it – a far cry from the beautiful dresses that the choir wears, or even the interesting and unique costumes of the Forrest Folk. But I loved being part of this small group. Tom, Maria, Christine, Katie, Cindy, Josh, Ian, and Corey, plus the litter-bearers, Dave (our guide and mentor), Kent, Sean and John. It was funny to watch the boys pull uncomfortably at their tights, or twirl in their tunics like young girls in a brand new dress. Christine taught us some of the moves to Thriller in the lobby as we waited for our cues to go in, and even though I only volunteered for the first 4 performances, I made them promise that if by some miracle Andrea agreed to let us do the Thriller dance down the aisle on Christmas evening, that they would call me up.

As Lani told me at one point, “This is live theater, you never know what is going to happen.” I don’t want to give anything away for people who haven’t been yet, but in a performance like this, where the “stage” encompasses the entire dining hall and all of the people in it, including the audience, the potential for Things To Happen is tremendous, and I thought that the actors and singers were quick on their feet, and managed to absorb even the strangest and most unexpected things into the storyline with grace and style. Lani Spicer took a beautiful series of pictures of the “littlest guest“, a ringtail cat that made it’s way up on to the stage and sometimes stole the show.

The best thing about being in the serving party (other than the people) was that we were allowed to slip into the back of the house during scenes we weren’t involved in, and watch. There are so many things going on that I missed when I attended performance last year, that I was glad to have the chance to take it in again (and again), for example, the looks that the Chef and the Housekeeper exchange, or the reaction of the Squire to the Parson.

Plus, if I haven’t mentioned it before, the music is amazing. I’m not much of an opera fan, but there is something about the power of the human voice and that kind of music that gives me goosebumps. The music buoyed me up even through the long days that started at 8 am with a full day of work before hurrying to the Dinner performance which often lasted past 10pm, and I marched around the office with parts of the refrains running through my head and lending me energy.

Next year I wonder if I can finagle a spot as a hostess. They have the lovely dresses, and get to watch even more of the performance.

NaNoWriMo musings

I Finished NaNoWriMoI finished!

During the month of November, I and more than 32,000 other people around the world each completed 50,000 words of fiction. This was just over 19% of the people who signed up. Collectively, according to the NaNoWriMo stats, the word count of everyone who participated and uploaded their writings to the NaNo web site is 2,427,190,537. That’s a lot of words.

It literally took me years to decide to take the NaNo challenge. Tom and I picked up the No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty a long time ago during one of our random book store wanderings. It’s a fun book, and it suggests all kinds of fun indulgences you can expect to treat yourself to during your novel writing month – like a handy stack of snacks next to your writing spot (for energy), getting your spouse to do the dishes, etc. It also promises strange and crazy things like, if you write enough, your characters will start to do unexpected things. I wanted to know how that worked.

Only a few days before November, I was thrutching through a list of possible ideas for a novel, with no particularly appealing prospects, when Tom suggested that I write about a society that doesn’t sleep. He’d started a short story along those lines some time ago, although he had little more than a character and a set up.

I took that idea and over the course of a month developed it into a dreadful, going nowhere story with flat characters who I ultimately didn’t like that much. It’s not that the idea didn’t have potential, (I still think it does) but hey, I haven’t written any fiction in years, if I ever have, and it sucked. That’s OK, and I learned a lot.

I learned that a 50K word novel isn’t really that long, and I shouldn’t have been afraid of running out of story before I hit my goal. I learned that it’s easy for me to make things difficult for my characters. I enjoy it. I learned that I have a nasty habit of qualifying my speech/writing – as in “I learned that I might have a tendency to qualify my speech/writing a little” – which is great for word count, but makes for crappy writing. And I also learned that they weren’t kidding. My characters really did start to do some unexpected things. It works like this: you have this idea for what you think your character is going to do in the next scene, but by the time you get around to writing it, you realize that he/she would actually respond in a completely different way. So, then off you go, shooting down some previously unplanned avenue. It was wonderful.

For the most part, I held off on the snacks, but I did reap the benefits of having my spouse take over many of the household chores… I mean the ones that he usually does anyway. I’m generally terrible at domestic chores. Have I mentioned before that I’m crazy lucky that I married Tom?

So, now that I’m done, I’ve decided to simply close the door on that particular story. No, you can’t read it. I still like the idea, and maybe certain elements will find their way into other NaNo projects in the future, but this particular effort falls into the burn-it-now category. I’m not committing to doing this again next year in any way, but I also wouldn’t say for certain that I would wait a whole year before starting up some other little story. As experiments and projects go, this one was sheer fun.