Musical Drama Camp, Week 1
On our way out of Rehoboth two weeks ago, we stopped at a Crocs outlet to get the kids new Crocs. Noah had outgrown his and June felt she needed more as well, although she has a few pair. She very nearly got some with Olaf the talking snowman from Frozen on them but Beth was concerned that since we were buying big and it takes her a long time to outgrow her shoes that she might find the design too young before she outgrew them. But on the other hand, she was trying out for Olaf at musical drama camp in just two days and it seemed like it could be a good luck omen. In the end, she went for a bee and flower design from the sale bin instead.
June surprised us with her first choice of character. I’d been confident she’d want to be Anna as she is a lot like Anna—a friendly, outgoing younger sibling, often eager for attention, plus in previous years she has rejected any suggestion on the camp director’s part that she play a male role. But she said she thought Olaf was silly and funny and she wanted a funny part. Anna was her second choice. On the first day of camp she tried out for both roles and when she came home on the first day she thought Gretchen’s reaction to her Anna audition had been more positive. She’d arrived in braids that day and she looked the part, plus Gretchen said her voice was better for Anna than for Olaf. But when I dropped her off on Tuesday, Gretchen said, “Hello, Olaf,” and that’s how she found out she got the part.
Musical drama camp was two weeks this year instead of one, though the first week was short because Friday was a federal holiday. It was also the first week of summer in which we were in our most usual summer configuration—Beth at work, June at camp, me working at home, and Noah also at home, doing a little summer homework and house or yard work every day and helping me with camp pick-ups. The kids also had their first music lessons of the summer on Wednesday. As it takes me a while to get into a routine, and that routine changes every week in the summer as camp locations and pick-up and drop-off times differ, I was glad this one lasted two weeks. It was a good way to ease into the controlled chaos of summer.
Fourth of July Weekend
On Friday of the first week of drama camp Beth had the day off work and June had no camp, so we went to the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival on the Mall. June had been singing the songs from Frozen all the time, particularly Olaf’s number “In Summer” to practice, so they were in my head. As we left the Metro and approached the Festival I started singing and June immediately joined me:
Oh, the sky will be blue
And you guys will be there, too
When I finally do
What frozen things do
“Not you, too,” Noah groused.
The focus of the Festival was Peru this year. Usually there are a few counties, but they’re tearing up the mall so there was less room than usual and it was a scaled down affair. We had lunch first: vegetable tamales, quinoa and avocado salad, choclo (large-kernelled Peruvian corn), fresh mango and pineapple, cookies with dulce de leche inside, and chocolate and passion fruit gelato. The corn was gummy so no one cared much for it but everything else was good.
We watched a couple musical and dance performances—cumbia and marinera, which is a dance of flirtation, according to the Smithsonian, and the dancers did use the handkerchiefs they carried to hide their faces and make it look as if they were kissing. I asked June if she thought they were really kissing and she shrugged. I always enjoy the music at the Folk Life Festival and we would have stayed at the performance tent longer but the venue was very small and it was hard to get a seat or even find a place to stand where you could see well so we just sampled a little.
In the kids’ tent, we listened to a creation story told first in an indigenous language spoken by a tribe with fewer than one hundred and fifty surviving members. The story was then translated into Spanish and finally English. June attended a workshop for kids by an urban poster artist from Lima and colored her own poster in bright colors. The artist had made a set of posters of Washington landmarks and Beth admired them so later while I was in the marketplace with the kids, Noah selected a postcard in one those designs and asked me to buy it for her. There were stripes of different colors in the background of many of them, reminiscent of a rainbow, so we looked for the Supreme Court, of course. But they didn’t have that, so he went with the capitol building. Earlier in the outing the kids had been bickering a lot and Noah had been complaining about having to come to the festival at all, so I was glad he made that gesture. And then on the way home, June informed Noah, “You may be annoying but you’re not evil,” which is what passes for sibling harmony some days.
Saturday was the Fourth. Our first order of business was the parade. June was marching with a Girl Scout contingent of several local troops and the rest of us were going to watch. But at 9:15 when it was time to leave, it was raining pretty steadily. I asked if she was sure she wanted to do it and she said yes. Beth had ironed three new Brownie badges onto her vest, since it will probably be the last time she wears it, and I’d dug through the bags of hand-me-downs in the basement to find a pair of khaki shorts since the girls were supposed to wear white shirts and khaki pants with their uniform vests or sashes. Noah wasn’t ready so June and I set out into the rain, with Beth and Noah to follow.
When we found the Girl Scouts it was a pretty small group and there were no girls there from June’s troop, which was a disappointment. After we’d been waiting for about fifteen minutes, a man came by with the news that there would be a half-hour rain delay, so we ended up waiting almost an hour in the rain before the parade started. But the rain cleared and the girls lined up to hold the banner and we bid goodbye to June and told her we’d meet her at the end of the parade. We made a stop at Spring Mill Bread Company, the new bakery in town, where we got coffee and pastries.
Then we walked down to the end of the parade route and waited for it to arrive. The parade was not as well attended as it usually is, so we didn’t need to get up from the benches outside the community center in order to see. There was the usual assortment of groups, starting with political candidates, a bagpipe and drum corps and various school and youth groups. There were multiple musical floats—playing everything from steel drums to zydeco, and dancers from different cultures and people walking dogs and people riding horses. They Boy Scouts rode their pinewood derby cars and the Girls Scouts had a fifteen-foot papier mâché statue of Juliette Gordon Low and a wagon covered with dolls in Girl Scout uniforms and that was enough to net them the prize for the best youth group.
Once we saw them arrive, I walked alongside them for the last two blocks of the parade and brought June back to Beth and Noah. We got funnel cake and ice cream—Beth said we were “taking a holiday from nutrition”—and we headed home. (I did pick some lettuce and the first two tomatoes from our garden for veggie BLTs at lunchtime and Beth made veggie hot dogs and fruit salad for dinner so the day was not entirely devoid of nutrition.)
June was very excited about the fireworks that night because she’s never seen them in her own hometown. I’ve always been strict, some might say to the point of being neurotic, about bedtime and as a result Noah never saw any fireworks anywhere until he was eleven. Last year we all saw them in Rehoboth (because there was no way I was going to pass up seeing them on the beach). I figured there was no putting that genie back in the bottle, so we were all planning to go to the Takoma fireworks together this year for the first time. It was made a little less stressful for me by the fact that the Fourth was a Saturday so June wouldn’t have to go to camp and dance and sing all day while sleep-deprived. And then, just before six we found out the fireworks were cancelled, or postponed rather, until Sunday. I was a little surprised because the rain was over, but they were concerned about the mud, I guess.
Neighboring jurisdictions were less cautious, however, so we were now faced with a choice. You can see the D.C. fireworks from the roof of Beth’s office building and her some of colleagues gather there every year, but in fifteen years of working for CWA, Beth’s never done it. She suggested we try it this year. I was hesitant, not sure what traffic getting out the city would be like, but I agreed. Sometimes I make an attempt to act like a normal person even if when I don’t feel like one.
Surprisingly, June resisted this plan. She really wanted to see the postponed fireworks in Takoma and she knew I would not let her stay up hours past her bedtime two nights in a row, but in the end we decided it made more sense to do it on a Saturday than a Sunday. (We also weren’t sure it wouldn’t rain the next day as well. It’s been an exceptionally rainy summer so far.) We had dinner at home and then drove into the city, stopping for microwave popcorn at Walgreens on our way. (The outdoor thermometer there said minus 196 degrees Fahrenheit. It was cool for July in the Washington area, but not that cool.) Once at Beth’s office we popped the corn and then went up to the roof where several of her co-workers and their families were mingling. There were a few elementary school-aged girls with paper and markers and June soon joined them. Noah found himself talking video production with the husband of the new Secretary-Treasurer of the union.
From the roof we could see two other rooftop parties. In one the participants seemed to have coordinated so everyone was wearing red, white, or blue tops. The fireworks started at 9:09, right on time. There were classic explosions, but also some innovations, like smiley faces and rings within rings. During the show June said, “If this is a dream, I hope I don’t wake up.” One advantage to not seeing fireworks until you are eight years old is that even the second year it’s pretty impressive. It lasted about fifteen minutes and then we were folding up our chairs and heading back to the car. Because we were far from the mall, traffic wasn’t bad at all. June, who’d been pretty zoned out in the car if not technically asleep, was in bed by 10:25 and asleep by 10:30 when Noah followed her to bed.
Sunday Beth, June, and I went to an outdoor pool and I made sour cherry sauce with cherries from the farmers’ market. We ate them with blueberries on vanilla ice cream as a belated Fourth of July treat. June wanted to watch fireflies in the yard while we ate, which I thought we could do without keeping her up past her bedtime again, based on the insects’ previous performance, but the darn bugs were tardy so she ended up staying up about twenty minutes past bedtime that night. I am considering this flexibility a demonstration of personal growth.
Musical Drama Camp, Week 2
The next week June went to camp every day again, and Noah and I held down the fort at home. He finished his summer math packet, started reading Into Thin Air, practiced his drums, vacuumed and mowed and weeded, continued to pick June up at camp and ran errands for me as well, picking up ice cream so I could make brownie sundaes and milk when we ran out.
The performance was Friday at 2:15. In addition to Olaf, June had a few small parts, including one she was assigned just the day before the performance. One of the Elsas was sick and she needed to sing her part in “Let It Go.” On the way to camp Friday morning, June was full of nervous energy.
We invited Megan to the performance and Noah and I picked her up at her house. Megan was very chatty on the walk to the community center and asked a lot of questions about which roles June would play and what songs she would sing. “I know why she wanted to be Olaf,” she commented, even though she had not discussed this with June. “She’s small and she’s funny.”
When we arrived at the auditorium, kids from another day camp in the same building who had watched the dress rehearsal were just leaving. We took our seats, splitting up so Noah could set up his tripod in an aisle and so Megan could sit as close to the front as possible. This ended up being fortuitous because Megan kept up quite the running commentary during the show. She was impatient for Olaf’s scenes and seemed to view all the others as impositions to endure. Whenever June was on stage she waved at her, but June kept in character and didn’t acknowledge her until she was in the wings, when she waved back. “So she did see me,” Megan said with satisfaction.
The cast was bigger than usual because Gretchen had two different age groups working on the same performance this year instead of doing two separate shows in separate weeks. So there were twenty-five kids, about evenly split between the two groups. The younger ones served as a chorus of Elsas, Olafs, and snowflakes. They wore white and changed only their hats depending on the scene.
What can I say about the show? It was wonderful. It gets longer and more polished as the core group of actors gets older each year. (The camp director just keeps shifting the age range upward so a lot of the kids come year after year. This is June’s fifth summer doing it.) The set was simple but cool. Boxes were stacked up to form a wall, with three sides painted to create different backdrops. Between scenes, they would flip them over to show the right one.
June played young Elsa in “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” Her only line there was “Go away, Anna,” but it was delivered with a good amount of realistic older sibling scorn. She was a servant during the party scene, mopping the floor and sometimes dancing with the mop. She sang in a chorus of Elsas during “Let It Go.” There was only one solo line but a pretty long duet and her projection was great.
Here’s that number:
And then she was Olaf. I didn’t realize how many spoken lines she’d have. She was on stage for probably most of the second half of the show. And here’s her big solo, “In Summer.”
I have to say watching her play Olaf erased all my doubts about whether it was the right part for her. She nailed it, in my objective opinion. Noah even told her later that evening, “You were the best, the best actor,” and he doesn’t offer hollow praise so he must have meant it.
On Saturday morning we went berry picking at Butler’s Orchard and came home with a bounty of blueberries and blackberries. Today I’m making a blueberry kuchen because as I said when we were discussing what to do the berries, I am “contractually obliged” to make one blueberry kuchen every summer. And Beth commented that yes, she was pretty sure it was in our wedding vows. It’s like going to the beach and the Fourth of July parade and drama camp, and later in the summer, band camp and the county fair. These are the things we do in summer.