My weekend as a workshop volunteer/coordinator/go-to-go-fer girl

Everybody else got started on Friday. I helped out on Saturday and Sunday by running errands and generally making myself available for the actors’ and directors’ various needs. KLRU filmed every minute! And Jada documented everything with her skilled photographic eye. The hours that follow only signify actually being there at the theatre. Kat and Michelle boggled the mind by cranking out new and improved script revisions nightly – well into the wee-morning hours. Volunteers, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, designers, strangers, facilitators and sponsors and one of the best damn babysitters in town, all worked around the clock to make Performing Possibilites run like a dream!

8 am Whole Foods generously donated breakfast tacos all weekend for the actors, facilitators, documentarians and volunteers.

9 am Ate breakfast, chatted, woke up with a cup of coffee. Group expressed hopes to meet every week – it’s important to maintain a connection, and that’s easier to do in person. Want to establish enough funding to create part time jobs. Suggestions to balance out new attendees of freshly released, and those who’ve established life outside – to ensure representatives of both sides are present and provide a strong anchor for both parties.

10 -11am Olivia helped us ‘get grounded’. Much like savasana in yoga, we sat in a circle of chairs, closed our eyes and concentrated on some deep breathing. She talked us through a meditation to get in touch with our bodies, release any tension and make it easier to center – or relax – later, when we would certainly need it! Kat and Michelle led us through a series of team building exercises, to help everyone ‘work as one brain’. We walked silently, as a group, and focused on the energy in the room. Everyone tuned in for cues from others, so we could work as a whole unit. The goal was to get a nice rhythm going and move together, freeze together, form patterns together – essentially, to dance together. We were playing theatre games; they’re fun, but you learn something too! This helped us throughout the weekend to read each other, stay calm and go with the flow. We also ended up choreographing the movements that began and ended the show: key words (like community, success or stigma) were interpreted as a pose, and then one simple motion was incorporated.  A couple of the moves were morphed together – and in minutes, the actors had their eight-beat sequence!

12 pm Lauren P. brings our Whole Foods boxed lunches (yummy sandwiches, fruit and giant cookies). Typed up discussion notes and had a happy, full belly. Tons of candid photos are taken – all the actresses VOGUE for the camera; iphones are handed around, shots are compared (‘No Facebook please! Oh, wait, tag me in that one! haha’)

1 pm Timelines [of incarceration] are compared and personal notes are jotted down. Volunteers pair off with an actor for interviews: Where do you find beauty in the world? How were you known (name/number) while incarcerated? Where do you come from, who are your people? Actresses make journal entries: a letter to yourself in five years – where do you want to be, what do you hope to achieve? All material will be worked into the script.

2 pm Script read-through – this is powerful stuff. Tears, connections, and fist-bumps are shared. Poignant observations are made. REAL stories of love, life, heartache, God, loss, abuse, drugs, faith, friends, youth, pregnancy and reunions are told. There are no reservations. All the women are open and honest and heartfelt.

3 pm Tech time! Microphones are pulled out and chairs are arranged. (Break into impromptu karaoke Joplin session, a few girls bust out some sweet dance moves.) Margie, Dara, Lauren and Ashika rehearse their entrance, exits, moves and lines. Blood sugar starts to drop, laptop batteries die – we’re all hot and tired – but we make it through with smiles and lots of donated bottled water (thanks Banger’s!).

4 pm Wrap up and evaluation: who are we most excited about attending the show tomorrow night? What do we hope to achieve? What do we most want to communicate with the audience? Will we change perspectives or surprise people with this performance?

5 pm Mandatory group high five is exchanged: Saturday is done – great job cast and crew! I head home to pack some fun costume-y pieces, the ever-important fanny pack and silly hats (mostly to distract from pre-show jitters or tension) and answer a handful of emails and texts covering last minute show ideas and reminders.

 Did anybody actually sleep?

Kat, Michelle, and others gather at the theatre around 10 to start setting up lights and sound.

11 am Pick up donated sandwiches from Jimmy John’s, flowers and tissues for the cast, and four borrowed chairs from a friend of a friend of a friend.

12:30 -3 pm Lunch is a welcome sight for hungry campers! I set to work exploring the Off-Center’s many closets in search of supplies. Blanca tapes cords down, Lauren P. prints scripts, I run drink orders (Lauren J. needs a McD’s frappe – stat!), pick up ice, batteries and a much coveted Dove chocolate bar for Kat. I make a sign for the box office ($5-20 suggested donation!). Scripts are highlighted and punched into binders. Programs are numbered, phone calls are made. Lights, sound check, rehearse! Rehearse!

3:30 pm God Bless volunteers! Lori, her nephew Caleb, Kate, Matt and Fortune grace us with their presence and ultra-can-do attitudes. Jobs are doled out. Kate and Matt brave the hot, muggy evening to man the box office. Fortune guards back stage. Folding chairs are delivered. Central Market drops off dinner, Lori and Caleb dolly it all backstage. LOTS of running around, comparing notes, calming breaths, whispers, papers, pens, counting seats, grabbing this, handing off that, checking in and checking time.

5:10 pm Our lovely, patient, generous audience is seated and politely listens to Kat and Michelle’s introduction…fade to black.

The show is moving, inspiring and candid. There is laughter, praise, tears and loads of applause. The ladies take their bows to a standing ovation. A thoughtful Q&A between actors, directors and audience happens. Dinner is served (gorgeous sweets, delicious veggies, mouth-watering fancy little quesadillas, iced tea, lemonade and rolls). Guests mingle. Dara sports a blue wig, giant pink shades and a feather boa. Lauren dons a bright purple velour top hat and red glitter star glasses. Ashika slips on gold leopard platform sandals and Margie grabs the other boa – and they all look fabulously, deliriously happy. They work the crowd. Families hug and pictures are taken. Contacts are made; recommendations, invitations and numbers exchanged. The future looks bright and everyone is on cloud nine. Mission accomplished!

People begin to dissipate and the once packed street of cars empties out into the night. There is a massive cleaning, striking of the set, dispensing of leftovers and collection of personal belongings. Memories have already begun as everyone recaps highlights or favorite moments. There are hugs and compliments abound. I drive home sweaty and elated, wanting to know when we can do it all again.

Interested in volunteering? Sharing a meaningful experience? Spending your time on a worthwhile purpose? Meeting some super cool grrls? Email info@conspiretheatre.org.

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