Shoofly Pie and an early retirement

So much is happening here, if I wrote it all up it would be the length of a travel book or memoir (maybe one day…) rather than a humble blog.

Let me try a short hand account for now instead …

Tues.  March 13th, 11am – leave Bill’s to drive north to Akron, Pennsylvania for the first US performance of This Evil Thing.

11.30 – stop at Goldberg’s Bagel Bakery for ‘the best bagels in the US’, according to Bill.   (We have egg and Swiss cheese on sesame – wow.)

12.30 – enter Pennsylvania- stop at services/Welcome Center to use the bathroom and sign the guest book.(The lady there is delighted to hear I’m a British actor. ‘Who’s your hero?’ she asks.  ‘Laurence Olivier?’
‘Well, I did see him at the Old Vic when he was quite elderly and I was just a teenager.’
‘REALLY?!’
‘I also loved Alec Guinness,’ I continue.
‘Oh I LOVE Alec Guinness!’

2pm – arrive Akron, an attractive small town.  Maria, from CCW, and Cara, her dog, have arrived too.   Our host, Harold Penner, shows us our rooms at the Mennonite Church Welcome Center – which are lovely and beautifully presented.

2.30pm – to the venue, Akron Mennonite Church,  to set up my crates, old and new, and run sound  checks. It is full of resonant wood and can hold 300 plus.

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The stage at Akron Mennonite church

Mennonites are Christians, neither Catholic nor Protestant, but share ties to those streams of Christianity. They were nicknamed Mennonites after one of their early leaders Menno Simons, a Catholic priest who realigned himself. Most importantly for this project they are a peace church, like the Quakers.  There are conservative ones, (who still drive horse-drawn buggies) mainline ones and progressives – we are being hosted by the latter.

Helping me with sound is a Mr. Zimmerman. The only Zimmerman I know of is a certain Robert.  This man’s name is Delmar and he is charming and skilled and spot-on with the cues.

5pm – Harold takes us all to Gus’s Family Restaurant, where I have pasta (for fuel) and meet for the second time a man called Peter Goldberger.  The first time I met him was after a performance of my play in Edinburgh in 2016. He said then ‘You should bring this to the States’, and subsequently put me in touch with Maria and the CCW, and so HE is the reason I’m here now…I shake his hand warmly.

6.30pm – Harold drives me back to the church to finish setting up.  I look at the new crates in their new home and hope they will ‘behave’.

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My dressing room – very little time to spend in it, however..

7.15pm – Harold knocks on my dressing room door a little apologetically – ‘The local TV station want to interview you.  Now.  Is that ok?’  I’m still not quite ready – I haven’t even got Bertrand Russell’s pipe in my pocket yet – but I say, yes, of course.

7.25pm – I enter the back of the church.  A free event, we have no idea of possible numbers.   But it is full!  Well, 275 folk apparently.  Yikes!  I better be good then.

7.30pm – Harold introduces the evening, then Maria says a little, and then I begin, stepping on the stage area and on to one of the new crates.

People laugh a lot at the humorous  bits – very encouraging.  And then seem very attentive and held throughout the rest of the play. I wonder if they get everything I say in my many and varied British accents –  I try to speak as clearly as possible.

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‘Bertrand Russell’s arrival at the No-Conscription Fellowship conference is greeted with a tumultuous sea of handkerchiefs’

The new (heavy) crates give a great performance and I try not to let them down (or drop them).  I feel it goes really well.   And at the end?

8.50pm – ok, so this is a US audience, they are far more demonstrative than British audiences, but quite a few folk here tonight are elderly, shall we say, (though there are children and teenagers too).   Anyway, they all stand. All of them.   I am very moved.

9pm – many stay for the Q and A for which Maria joins me – she puts the position of COs in the US past and present.  This tour will really help publicise the CCW’s important work. (They are also one of the founders of the G.I. Rights Hotline, by the way.)

9.30 – we pack up while people ask me more questions including ‘How many British accents did you use in the play tonight? We thought we heard Scottish, Welsh and English.’   I explain that the ‘English’ included a good number of regional variants and types of ‘received pronunciation’ too.

10pm – back to Harold and his wife
Barbara’s for shoofly pie and ice-cream.
‘Er, what exactly is it made of?’ I ask.
‘Molasses mainly.  Lots of sugar,’ Barbara explains.  ‘Hence how it got its name.  It attracts the flies and you have to keep shooing them away.’

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PSSP – Post Show Shoofly Pie

Ah.  Got it.   It’s good, and I have a second portion while Harold watches the TV.   ‘Here we go,’ he announces.
What?

It’s me!  On local TV, my interview and clips from the performance – I hadn’t realised they were filming it too.  We’re on the news!  The play, its subject matter, the tour…

Afterwards Harold tells us how much was raised in donations tonight.   A lot.
Which will help cover the costs of the evening, and the CCW’s costs in making this tour happen.

11.45pm – back to our rooms.

12 midnight – I’m out like a light.

4am?  – awake and buzzing with all that has happened, and already thinking about tiny textual revisions to help an American audience.

6.50am – up and into the shower.

7.15am – Harold collects us to take us to a retirement home.   Seriously.
(To be continued.)

4 thoughts on “Shoofly Pie and an early retirement

  1. Reallly enjoying your blogs Michael! The first blog I’ve ever actually followed ! So Glad the tour got off to a good start
    love Rowena x

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  2. Sounds a wonderful experience in US and you’ve only just begun! Could we see the interview I wonder? What a great space at the Mennonite church. Would love to discuss how the different spaces impact the performances. Please take a photo of each one! Love to the crates! Mark

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  3. Interesting blog, and especially so since I was in the audience at Akron Mennonite church (front row) It was a terrific performance! I’d really like for you to come back to this shoofly-pie-eating area, so as to give my husband a chance to see you perform. Hope your tour is going well!

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  4. Hi from Bewdley, Michael. It looks as if your experience with the low ceiling here prepared you well for the Mennonite Church space. Great blog! I hope our friends in New York will be able to make your Manhattan show.

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