More Parades

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Lisa’s sister, my niece, Michelle, Stephanie and me on parade day

You know what this world needs?  More parades!

For years Lisa and I took our girls down to her father’s office on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh for the annual Christmas Parade.  He would provide the essentials:  doughnuts, hot chocolate, coffee, a parking space and a bathroom.  Our kids would be PUMPED, ready to kick off the holiday season.

When the girls and I began participating in Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol play five years ago, our parade routine changed.  We were no longer spectators, we were full on participants.  We don our costumes and walk the two-mile route encouraging the onlookers to ignore Scrooge who is shouting through a bullhorn to the crowd:

“Go home!  Christmas has been cancelled this year.  We’re going to have two Halloweens instead!”

The adults laugh and often respond with “Humbug!”  Some of the kids get fairly angry at the notion emphatically communicating with a man who is rolling down the street in a robe with a Christmas ghost at his side.  “WE ARE NOT CANCELLING CHRISMAS MR. SCROOGE!”

Although this is my sixth year in the parade, I noticed something different this go round.  Perhaps it is the political climate that made me more in tune.

What I saw were people, lots of different people, sitting together, laughing together, smiling together.  A man twice my age with a different color of skin responded to my hat tip and “Merry Christmas” with a hat tip of his own.  A girl in a wheelchair had a smile on her face that showed every tooth in her head.  Kids from 2 to 14 held out their hands for a parade high-five.  Groups of unrelated people came together to yell, “Merry Christmas Mr. Scrooge!” in unison. There were carefree smiles for miles.

My heart aches when I watch the news.  I sometimes feel as if our problems are so deep seated that there is no way we can ever mend.  But last Saturday, I had hope.  I saw laughter, and joy, and happiness and unity, and it did my soul good.

My prayer for my family, my city, state and country is a perpetual parade.  May we all recognize our blessing this week and bestow grace upon each other.

The Coveted Puffy Shirt

Puffy shirt

I got the puffy shirt!  Only for half of the shows, but a puffy no less.

Two years ago in Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol, I was cast not only as a townsperson, but also as a dancer in the second act’s Fezzy Wig dance.  The entire cast is on stage for this number but only about twelve are dancers.

It was perhaps the most stressful, nerve-racking thing I’ve ever participated in – including giving a speech to over 1,000 people, having surgery and riding The Beast, my first roller coaster.  Although I can shag and step to the beat when Let’s Groove Tonight is played at a wedding, sticking to set choreography that someone else is dictating is much more difficult for me.  I like to feel the music and do what comes naturally – can be a beautiful thing.

So, last Friday when I received an email from the play’s choreographer, not the same one from two years ago, informing me that one of the male dancers had “hurt” his foot and would not be able to perform Fezzy Wig the opening week of shows, a hinge of nausea overcame my being.

I wanted to know what was wrong with his foot.

“What do you mean ‘hurt’ his foot?  Is it broken?” I asked.  “Have you seen it?”  “Could he possibly get better?”  “Can I see a note from his doctor?”  “Can I take him some soup?”

He’s like 15.  He has to have a quicker healing cycle than someone my age.

I considered sawing a toe off.  I mean ten is a lot, and that would have to top his injury.

I would be filling in with only one practice and a dress rehearsal between me and 2,000 audience members who had paid money to attend this show.

Thankfully, Stephanie was also in the dance.  The floor in our den needs to be refinished because I made her go through each step with me countless times Friday night and Saturday.

Surprisingly, and thanks to a patient and diligent instructor, I caught on fairly easily.  Mind you, I made a few logistical changes to the dance steps to better fit my abilities.  At one point, because of my position on the stage, I was to do a 540 degree turn, and gaily clap across the stage to my next position.  I cut my spin down 450 degrees to 90.  I was afraid I’d get dizzy and land in the orchestra pit.

In addition to dancing, we are also supposed to sing.  I can’t walk and chew gum.  That ain’t happening.  I tried, but I continue to catch myself mouthing 1, 2, 3, 4 rather than come and join our rondelay.  I don’t even know what that means.

I’ll have to admit I’m sort of proud that I stepped in and thus far have not fallen on my behind.  Oh, and the best part of the dance for me?  All male dancers get to wear a puffy shirt – like Captain Hook!  Argh.

Come see Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol at DPAC this weekend:  https://tickets-center.com/search/durham-performing-arts-center/a-christmas-carol-tickets/?venueId=6022&performerId=6&venueName=Durham+Performing+Arts+Center&performerName=A+Christmas+Carol&vaid=123&pfaid=269&tagid=102&atid=1&nid=1&cid=86145766985&akwd=christmas%20carol%20%2Bdpac%20%2Btickets&mt=b&network=g&dist=s&adposition=1t1&device=c&ismobile=false&devicemodel=&placement=&target=&aceid=&random=9232261882099785294&vx=0&locp=9009736&loci=9060500&gclid=Cj0KEQiAqK-zBRC2zaXc8MOiwfIBEiQAXPHrXuGYDX_ueDQKslaw6_I0OLXEMrRa6OcXxXnS4uiEBf0aAq8N8P8HAQ

Hairy Face

Bruce with beard

Once again the Tanner clan, well three of us, are fortunate enough to participate in Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol  which will be performed at the Duke Energy Center in Raleigh, starting tonight, and at the Durham Performing Arts Center next week.

It is both wonderful and insane.  The insanity is primarily related to trying to fit three to six nights of play rehearsals/performances into an already blistering work, church and school schedule.  The wonderful part is the diverse and zany cast.

Although simply a chorus member, I have an assigned identity – this year, I am the cheese-maker.

David Wood encourages us to take on a persona, to really live into our character imagining what an early 19th century cheese-maker might actually be like.  I think my cheese-maker has a good sense of humor.  He smells bad, showers were hard to come by back then.  I envision him with Popeye like forearms (due to all that churning) and chronic back pain from lifting those humongous blocks of cheese.  Oh, and he’s making lots of money this time of year cause you gotta have cheese at a nice Victorian holiday drop in!  So he is happy at Christmastime.  I’m guessing he also has facial hair.  I mean who has time to shave when you’re up to your ears in Gouda.

This year, back in early October, the play costumer suggested that some of the performers consider growing beards.  I was committed to my character but spend six weeks pondering the fate of my chin.

I talked with the girls, Michelle and Stephanie were encouraging.  I asked several co-workers who also gave the green light, although now I’m thinking simply to have another reason to razz me.  At any rate, I took the bait.  I have not shaved since the Friday before Thanksgiving.

It’s interesting the comments you get when you change something significant about your appearance.  I wonder if women who color their hair get the same feedback.

Oh, there are many who act as if they don’t notice.  Perhaps if you can’t say something nice, it is better not to say anything at all.  Others have grossly differing views:

“Cut that crap off your face as soon as you possibly can!”

That one hurt…

“I think it’s a fine look, if you’re TRYING to look older.”

Oh my…

“I think it makes you look sexy.”

The guy who said that is weird anyway.

Or, “You’re just trying to look sexy,” a co-worker bantered in the break room.

I can assure you, looking sexy was not a major motivator for not shaving.  I’m a realist.  I know there are a lot of words that could be used to describe me.  Sexy, not top of mind.

In fact, last year a friend of mine, Sarah, shared that she was on a walk with another woman and my name came up.  I think they were pondering who they might set me up with.  The other woman said, “Tell me about Danny.  Is he cute?”

I asked Sarah how she responded.

She said, “Well, my first response was, ‘he has a great personality!’”

“Geeze Sarah.  Great personality?  I mean seriously.”

How many times have I used that line when describing very kind people whose personal strengths are not visible to the naked eye?

THE KISS OF DEATH.

Anyway, I’m not shaving for three reasons:

1)  I have an excuse:  the play.

2)  I have always wanted to see what a beard looks like on this face.

3)  I ABHOR shaving.

It’ll be off by January.  The damn things itching me to death.

Come see our the performance: http://www.ticketmaster.com/Theatre-In-the-Park-a-Christmas-tickets/artist/1003849

Batman, Right Here In Raleigh

bow ties

Lisa’s grandfather died in 1992.  We weren’t married yet, but we were headed in that direction.

When Lisa’s mother cleaned out his belongings, she came across several bow ties.  She asked me if I wanted them.  I worked at the Y, so I figured at some point I could use them, for a day camp skit if nothing else.

At the time, I only knew one full-time bow tie wearer.  It was Willis Brown, an attorney in my hometown of Fayetteville, NC.  Every Sunday he’d stroll into church with a crisp white shirt, a three-piece suit and one of his seemingly infinite ties.  I admired his style.  I admired his gutsiness.  Not too many dudes from Fayetteville had enough panache to pull that off.

I too took my virgin bow tie ride at church.  I figured it was a safe group – I mean they were coming together under the auspices of love and acceptance – even for weirdos who wore odd clothing.

The reaction was more than what I had expected, an outpouring of interest and support.  Person after person complimented my boldness.   It was my first step toward Willisness.

Now the bow tie is as common as a pair of flip-flops.  You look around the sanctuary at 11 AM on the day of rest, and you’ll find a sea of them.

I hate looking like every other Tom, Dick or Harry.  I like to stand out, to be a little different.  I’ve pondered the ascot, but that just seems like I’m trying too hard.  But in late December, I was given a gift – the gift of uniqueness.

Part of my intrigue with performing in the play, A Christmas Carol, each December is that I get to dress up in 19th century costume.  My favorite parts of the attire are the top hat and… the cape.  I love to strut around backstage pretending to be Dracula enveloping my children beneath the flowing fabric.  In a cape, you feel bigger than life.  As you walk down a hall, your presence seems to linger behind you.  Your body can be several feet in front of the rest of you.  It’s commanding!  It’s bold!  It’s powerful.

I can assure you Batman’s cape was not chosen because of its ability to help him fly.   No – his cape was a statement.  You don’t want to mess with me – I’m a badass.  I’m wearing a cape.

My fellow cast members understand my obsession with the cloak.  And that is why this year’s stage wife worked with the costumers to make me my own.  One that I could take home – that I could wear anytime I wanted!  It was presented to me on the last night of the show.

cape

I’ve pulled it out a couple of times but in comfortable safe settings.  However, in the future, if you see a guy walking through downtown Raleigh sporting a top of the line, navy ulster, it’s likely me.  In 20 years, it might be you too!

 

Sunday Post 200: Sing and Dance!

Sometimes we just don’t let loose.  You ain’t lived til you sing and dance.

This is some of the choreography from the play the girls and I were in this Christmas, Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol.  You don’t get the full effect without the costumes, but this is essentially our biggest number.

Next time you get the chance, let it out.  It’s therapeutic!

 

(In the new year, I’ll be posting every Wednesday as usual.  I’m cutting back on the Sunday posts though.  I’m too busy right now to keep up with writing two blogs every single week.  I’ll toss one in when I have something interesting to say.  Hope you’ll keep up with me mid week!  Thanks for reading.)

 

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

DJ’s College Essay

I’m proud of DJ, my senior in high school.  Even though she sort of cracks on her father in this college essay, I thought she did a pretty good job!  Hope she gets in!

When I was younger, my mom and I performed in Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol. This play has been running each December for 40 years in the Raleigh area, and more than 25,000 people see the annual performance. It is a spoof on Charles Dickens’ book with musical numbers intertwined. We were two of approximately 70 cast members singing and dancing across the stage. 

What I enjoyed most about the play was that I got to spend time with my mom. It was special, just for the two of us. When she passed away from cancer in 2010, I decided my sisters needed to pick up where mom and I left off, experiencing the magic of performing. We dragged my dad along with us. 

We tried out the year after mom died and surprisingly, we were all cast in the show. Our first rehearsals were easy, we practiced songs that we already knew because they were regularly played around Christmastime at our house. The next week got a little trickier. We were required to put dance steps with our singing. My sisters and I picked up the choreography in a heartbeat, but my dad struggled; he has two left feet. We spent the next few months teaching him how to do a jazz square while simultaneously lifting his arms in different directions. It was a challenge, but by the end we had him flawlessly placing his hands and feet in the right position on the right words.

In addition to vocal tryouts, each year I also attended the dance auditions for more advanced dance numbers. I have taken dance lessons since I was three, and it has been a way for me to escape. The problem was that I had never tap danced before, and one of the main dance scenes required that skill. I didn’t even own tap shoes. I returned to the dance auditions three years in a row, but never got cast as a dancer. I was only put in the chorus along with the rest of my family.

This year, I decided to give it one more go. I’ve spent thousands of hours in dance studios throughout the years, and I wanted to prove that I could perform at a higher level. I’d been working hard on my tapping skills at home teaching myself steps as I walked through my kitchen each day. Determined, but not expecting much, I arrived at the audition. The choreographer quickly yelled out tap lingo that was unfamiliar to me. I tried to act like I knew what I was supposed to do, but I really had no clue. I put on a huge smile and moved my feet in the general direction I thought they should go. When the cast list came out, I was thrilled. I was finally going to be a dancer in five main numbers, and one was tap! My persistence and hard work had paid off. 

This December, I will be performing at the Duke Energy Center and the Durham Performing Arts Center for thousands of people, tap shoes and all. My passion for dance and the energy I have put toward it over the past decade and a half have paid off in ways too numerous to count. Not only do I find great joy in performing personally, but it also means a lot to be on stage with my family next to me.

40th Anniversary of Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol

It’s Christmas Carol Time… Again

I think I'm singing on key...

I think I’m singing on key…

This is our fourth year performing in Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol and after being cast as a dancer last year, I had a pretty strong inkling that my talents were fully exposed.  I assumed I would, from this day forward, dance on stage.  In fact, I was fairly certain that talent scouts from other shows would be after me and frankly, I have no more time to perform.  I was saving it all for the fortieth anniversary show of Charles Dickens’ play right here in Raleigh, NC.  I wanted to please my hometown constituents.

Much to my surprise, not only did other talent scouts not call, but I was not asked to shake my legs this year in our annual Christmas performance.  Oh, I’m in the big numbers with all of the other townspeople, but the second act party scene with leaps, jumps and herkies, will not highlight my abilities as was the case last year.

I was deflated.  I sulked for days after receiving the news.

I complained to the girls, “How could this be?  How could they not see my talent with movement?  I mean look at these jazz hands!!”

DJ reminded me, “YOU CANNOT DANCE!  You don’t even march correctly! Didn’t you learn that in preschool?”

“Have you seen me shag?” I protested.

“Did they shag in the 18th century?  Do you remember how long it took to teach you Shuffle/Ball/Change?”

“That’s a VERY complicated step!”

I guess they decided they wanted to focus on my vocals, or perhaps my acting abilities.

We are reminded to act like it’s cold in the play, it is set in December.  And I shiver like a pro!

I mean, I can sort of understand that perhaps they wanted to give others a chance to shine.  And, well, maybe I am better with all of my focus on shivering.  That’s really important.  Sets the entire tone for the show.

I won’t be in the second act dance number this year, but DJ will.

Bailey ACC 2014 2

In fact, after three years of trying out to be a dancer, she has been cast in five big show stoppers.  In one she’s wearing an outfit that is actually a bit revealing.  Thankfully she has a feather fan that covers most of her business.

I estimate that I’ve spent $26,000 on ballet and jazz lessons over the past 18 years for that child.  Incidentally, that is the average cost of a wedding in America.  I should have just taught her myself.

But I guess the investment has actually paid off.  She’s knocking it out on the dance floor this year.

I would strongly suggest that you come to see her.  This is the 40th year of the production, big things are in store.  And you might even catch me bustin’ some moves in a few of the big numbers.  I’ve been practicing!

40th Anniversary of Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Card 2013

Love,

The Tanners

Tighty Tight Tights

Fezzi

Tonight was opening night for Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol.  The girls and I do enjoy participating in this special Raleigh tradition.

Although I wouldn’t trade anything for the experience, I don’t think I’m going to pursue acting as a full-time career.  There are just a couple of things that make me thankful I work at the Y and not on Broadway.

Now I’m all about a costume, and in this play, I’m hooked up.  My on stage 19th century family is The Knife Grinders.  Yes, I get to carry a huge stick with convincingly real looking knives dangling from the top.  And, I get to wear a cape – which makes me feel like Dracula, which for some odd reason I really enjoy.

But in the second act, I transform into a dancer at a very festive party.  Although I’m smiling on the outside, my insides are quite out of sorts.

Like Beryshnicov, my role requires me to don tights.  They are hell to get on.  And once over my knees, they knot my boxers up like the balled up paper wads we used to toss at each other in Mr. Green’s seventh grade general science class.

My undergarments are twisted and turned in every direction all smashed together by the elasticity of the hose.

On top of those two items come the elastic waist knickers complete with suspenders to ensure that the pants stay on the body as I gracefully leap through the air.

As I froze on stage, the entre into the festivities of Act II, I realized that the elastic of my boxers were in my southern hemisphere, the elastic from the tights were on the equator and the knickers had ridden up to the north pole!  I felt like Saturn, all sorts of rings around my body.  It threw my concentration off terribly.  My personality demands organization in my pants.  I cannot dance with my innerwear all discombobulated.

And once it was over, I had to go to the bathroom.  Jiminy Christmas, it took me 8 minutes to find my parts.  Have you ever really needed to go and been constrained like that?  It’s claustrophobic.  I nearly had a panic attack right there in front of the urinal.  I got both hands stuck in my pants and couldn’t move.  Felt like a straight jacket.

The strength of my hosiery was also alarming.  When I pulled them down, they clenched my knees together like I had leg lock jaw.  I had to roll them down as if I was making a snake out of Play Dough to get them off.

On the bright side, spreading my thighs ten times gave me the workout of a lifetime.  What a great way to tone up below the waist.

I actually find it hard to believe that men in that era actually wore this stuff.  I mean, I thought they were tough.

Nah, they were just like us – I imagine they did whatever their wives told them to do.

“Archibald, I’d liketh for you to wear tights with your knickers tonight.  The neighbors are coming over for goose.”

“Do I haveta Clementine?”

“Archibald Nimrod Finnamore.  Putteth on ye tights!”

“Geeze.”

“Oh, and would you slaughter a pig as well?”

I can’t dance for two minutes in the things.  Imagine what they had to do in them!

Thank goodness men came to their senses.

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and BraidsAmazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful:  Click here.  And thanks!

Sunday Post 145: Scrooge

For those of you who have seen Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol, you might most remember the hilarity of the show.  He is a very funny man, and his Scrooge is like no other.

When I first joined the cast, my assumption was that our primary focus would be on humor, and that is clearly important.  However, what means the most to me and perhaps to most who see the show is the very serious message that is played out in the last scene.

As a cast we are reminded countless times that the play is about helping folks discover or rediscover the true Christmas spirit.

Each year, when we first run the finale, it knocks me in the gut.  The lump hits my throat and the ba-humbug I may have brought into the theater is quickly subdued.

So what is Christmas really about?

For me, I think it’s become less about what I get and more about the joy of those around me.  It is those spiritual moments I experience when the church choir sings while the trumpets blare.  It’s the quiet of the candlelight service on Christmas Eve.  It’s watching mean old Scrooge break down in tears as he struggles to sing the words to The First Noel.

It’s the memory of Christmases of years gone by – my grandmother’s seven layer chocolate cake, acting out the Christmas story with my parents and brother when we were oh so young, Lisa’s affection for pig ornaments, and the first year without her –  Jesse served whiskey after the girls went to bed, a thoughtful gesture on a very tough night.

I pray that we can all find that inner peace – ignoring the annoyances, focusing on the beauty of the season.

Purchase Danny’s Book:  Laughter, Tears and Braids or at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

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