Day 11; "Your American is Showing."
The poor 19-year-old videographer/stagehand joining the backstage team is not, in fact, a theatre person. He came here to do video tech. He's spent the majority of the last week with me backstage learning how to be a stagehand. He's not always enjoying it. He's particularly not a fan of the Gatsby style suit he has to wear to make a scene change on stage. He is very vocal about this. He is what the Brits call a "Whinger". But he's lovely and does good work despite the moaning. And has become less slightly terrified of myself and my ASM. I think. He is the one responsible for my favorite quote so far. We were in the middle of some tech chaos. I needed something done immediately. I shout down the stairs to him and he freezes. His eyes go wide and he looks confused and a little scared. "... I'm sorry... your American is showing. ...What..?"
It's been a fun punchline. The out of sync, often puzzled, American. The Street Team practices their American accent on me and I put on a Southern drawl to delighted laugher (and a"Coor! That's bloody terrifying. Please don't do that again." from the 19-year-old). I attempted a generic British with dismal results and more laughter. The goal is to have mine be passable and teach the drawl by spring. I had to ask for a translation from several bits of slang, though occasionally someone sees my confused look and translates automatically. I've learned what Carrefore is and how much a lifesaver it will be, that "bits and bobs" is not just something said in the movies but actually used in nearly every other sentence, and what exactly a perfect cup of tea tastes like (eventually I'll figure out how to make one). But mostly I've slowly gotten my feet underneath me and am learning how to keep up with everything that is happening.
The park opens in mere days, Press Launch is tomorrow, and there is so much to do still. I've joked that this job is basically my entire resume wrapped into one exciting evening of back to back incredible pieces of entertainment. There are single shows with MASSIVE sets, turntables, fly rigs, moving truss, LED screens the size of small houses, circus tricks, fire and CO2 cannons. Plus of course beautiful costumes and incredible dancers.
I've worked with many incredible people but I am still blown away by how consistently unbelievable and amazing everyone is in every show. The dancers have been working for 12+ hours and are still blowing me away the final time we run the chunk we've been working. I keep remembering my final event at Juilliard where my fellow ASM and I were watching the teenage musician and were hit with this realization that we'd begun to accept the extraordinary as ordinary. Our day to day was so packed with talent from around the world that we'd begun to take it for granted.
I want to make sure I remember that moment, and never take these casts for granted. For all their goofiness and down-to-earth attitudes, I've worked with some of the best dance students in the world, and I swear many of this cast are better. Two that I know of are even self-taught. It continues to excite me with what we have to show the press tomorrow and the public on Wednesday. It will be utterly amazing.
I've also come to realize how diverse Dubai really is, especially compared to NYC. Queens is one of the most diverse places in the United States, and I've always taken pride in this fact, but it has nothing on what I've found here. It's wonderful and enlightening to how sheltered my life has been despite my constant adventures. In Queens, my day to day had me crossing paths with Greeks, immigrants from the Balkans, French expats or other English-speaking westerners starting something new in the Big Apple. Here my day to day involves Brits, Indians, Chinese, Pakistanis, a security head from Ghana, and languages I don't even recognize, nevermind comprehend. I have gone entire days without seeing one of the other few Americans onsite. I feel split between feeling very small and out of place, to feeling as though I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.
The first day of the Araca Boot Camp in 2012 Mike Rego said something that has always stuck with me and been my mantra through the tough moments of growth and rising to the occasion.
"Yes, it's an honor to be here. But don't forget, you deserve to be here. Every one of you who made it here has earned the right to a seat at this table."
When I'm staring at my cue sheet and going through the massive scene transitions in my head, I try to remember that. It's an incredible honor to be here. But there's a reason I am.