Sunday, May 27, 2012

Il Saggio 2012
 Gioca Danza girls & their teacher Amanda
Why, we wondered, would Happy Gym have their end of the year performance all the way out in Cascina when there are perfectly nice performance spaces here in Lucca? The answer my friends, I'm going to guess, had to do with the fact that the Politeamo theater has an upstairs space with many dressing rooms where the one hundred little participants could run like wild monkeys without anyone knowing what chaos was going on downstairs. Stairs. There was a little claustraphobic, scary-I'm-an-Italian-- elevator --and-if-you-get-stuck-on-me-you-will-live-on-air-for-several-weeks-before-anyone-can-figure-out-what-to-do-with-you. But I preferred to take the Italian five, which means six for the rest of us, flights of stairs, up and down from the stage to the dressing room. The fact that our GPS navigatore from Esselunga supermarket coupon points got us to Cascina with no problems was a bad sign. It mean the part that goes wrong that you can't prepare for was soon to come.

Hairstyle # 34

T had prepared me for the fact that we would be helping fourteen little girls between the ages of two and three who would have their costumes in little cardboard shoe boxes with their names on them. They would have not one, but two, costume changes. I love Italy more than any American is supposed to, but the level of organized disorganization was breathtaking.  The well thought out plan was that these tiny little baby people were going to have a rehearsal at five thirty in the afternoon, that is an Italian six'o clock, and then their mommies and daddies were going to give them dinner and bring them back an hour or so later, that is an Italian hour and a half, and they would be in a show that started at nine o clock at night.  They would go on fifth. In part one of the show, they would go on fifth. Because, of course, there was also a part two of the show in which they were to go on third. They finished that up at eleven thirty at night when we left them there looking at us in their pissed off cuteness because they still had to go down for a final curtain call.

Let me back up to the preparation stage up in the dressing room. Luana, my boss' adorable mother, makes all of the costumes by hand: one-eyed pirates, Flintstones, sparkling disco dancers, angels -- she makes them all. Before the little bitties came back from dinner T and I got started doing hair styles for the six, seven and eight  year old girls. Dozens of hair buns, some braided with ribbons, and some side pony tails - which are called half ponytails in Italian and nobody told me they had to be high ponytails so I had to re- do them all. Not one little girl complained or moved as we yanked, pulled, untangled and sprayed them with the cheapest, most toxic hair spray you could possibly imagine. Eye make up was this white Halloween oil paint that had to cover the eye lid and below the eye and wing out into a Cleopatra like triangle.

Sometimes these little people would talk to me, blissfully unaware how much I was jealous of their perfect use of different tenses and colloquial expressions. Mostly they felt sorry for me when I responded with my cortisol driven answers to their very sweet little questions. One little high-pitched, squeaky, feminine person asked me why I had such a squeaky little girl voice and I explained that is how we all talk in New York. She looked impressed.

Alessandra, the helper on my left, was the real angel of the night.
This dear, sweet little person named Marianna, is now going to need therapy thanks to me. She didn't have a shoe box with a costume in it. She wasn't Aurora, Matilde, Martina B, Martina, Elisa, Elena, Bea, Arnese, Victoria, Fiamma, Giulia, or Ludovika. This freaked me out a lot more than it freaked her out. Then I asked her about seven times what her name was and why she wasn't dressed. Not good, I know. But in my state of anxiety, every time I did a head count to check who was missing their gold sash (which would not stay at chest height due to gravity and slippery-ness) or a gold hair ribbon, or their angel wings (which were made of thick foam rubber for some reason and had to be pinned inside their leotards with giant unwieldy safety pins),  I saw another girl who looked like Marianna -- they all started to look a like after awhile -- and got confused. Sadly, seven out of the seven time I asked,  it was always just still Marianna. Then some real adult helpers came and convinced her that wearing a blue leotard from the group that finished seconds before she had to go on was a good thing. Her favorite color was blue. It was all going to be okay! From then on I decided that I loved her beyond measure and I think she forgave me.

We did desperate things to keep the children from running up a slanted wall to see if they could fly and peeing themselves or smearing their make up. We ripped up coloring books so every one would have a page and when there weren't enough markers we gave them stickers to put on. I invented games that made T roll her eyes about dragons, and fairies, and rolling balls, and even though these games went no where and had no point they kept the little Gioca Danza girls from melding in with the disco dancers or the rambunctious Flinstone characters with the cardboard bones in their hands just long enough that we still had fourteen of them when it was time to go back down the five flights of stairs. Bea, who was just two, and will grow up to be Margaret Thatcher or someone like that, refused to do anything that wasn't fun for her including walking stairs and so T had to carry her in both directions.

I think this one was Marianna.

And also this one.

That's F in the back looking lost.

There's F again. WAY too much estrogen in the room.

Today I finally got one acne cyst on my nose to go away, but thanks to this show I have a new one right underneath it.

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