- stuffed frog
- dance ribbon
- 20 hoops
- swivel chair
- striped socks
- sequin armbands
- toy instruments
- water bottle
After I haul all my props to the gym and answer questions about my eyelashes to a lash-curious secretary, I get set up. The floor of the gym is my stage today. Three hundred kids will sit behind the blue dashed line that marks the performance area. I rearrange the curtains that hide the stacks of gym mats and a large hockey goal cage, then set my props out. A parent volunteer introduces herself and her four year old son, who starts to climb all over the swivel chair. "Sorry, you can't play with that. I'm really sorry. I know it's tempting." I say. "Here buddy, take the Kindle," his mother says, and the boy parks himself against the wall with his digital dreampad. The stuffed frog and fox stare out at him with stitched on looks of "Are you flipping kidding us?"
I hate to admit it, especially to my impatient self, that I've been rehearsing the act I will perform at this school for a little over a month. Act development takes me forever. I love it, but I need time, and a lot of time, to create. Space. Plenty of room for screw-ups, flubs, bruises, popped off puffballs, getting stuck in hoop tangles, and complaining to my poor husband. Hours of videoing myself working the act. I share the rehearsal videos with my sister who I know I can trust for critical, honest, and very useful feedback. A sister will tell you when something isn't working. I develop the character, a little girl who has been banished to her room with her imagination, and create a 12 minute soundtrack. I polish the hoop choreography until my skeleton could dance it if my skin and muscles took off on a last minute vacation to Hawaii.
The boy with the Kindle is talking to it now. "I have gone to the most beautiful place! There's a unicorn in here!" His mother brings him over to the side of the stage where the amp sits. I've asked her to push play when I give her a nod from backstage. Kids file in from the hallway and sit by grade, the Kindergarteners in front. A few have spotted me waiting for my cue in the wings by the stack of gym mats and hockey goal cage. The principal makes a few announcements, I give my nod, the soundtrack starts, and I'm on. They laugh and clap at the swimming on the swivel stool, the stuffed animals growling at my neck after I step on them too much, and during the hooping their "holy moly!" "this is so crazy!" and "ooooooohs!" push me further.
Two little girls break the ranks of dismissal after the show to say hello to me. "Hi! My name is Anna! This is Tristan! We love what you did with all of those hoops!" Their faces are so full of everything I remember about being eight years old. Total wonder. They look at me as if I'm a rockstar, and not some middle aged woman with a penchant for 70s sitcoms and chocolate chips. There is nothing like making other people happy. I've made 300 people happier this morning. Maybe even inspired a few. I have gone to the most beautiful place. There's a unicorn in here. That's why I do this.