The week between the Parlor Show and Canterbury Village Medieval Faire somehow didn't exist. Like magic it just disappeared. Mirf and I were like "what happened?". I loaded most of the props and equipment on the trailer Thursday evening and clothes and costume Friday morning. Called to make sure the hotel reservations were still good before I left and confirmed they knew I had a furry companion that was not a dog with me, they told me I was allowed up to 80 pounds regardless of cat or dog. I thought that was an odd answer... On with the story! This was it; it was time to kick the tires and light the fires.
In my best Beetlejuice impression..."It's Showtime!"
We hit the road around noon Friday and drove to the Red Roof Inn in Oxford where we would be staying. The trip was uneventful aside from the slow pace caused by all the road construction. Mirf didn't care, he sprawled out on the seat next to me and always seems to enjoy the ride. When we checked into the hotel, Mirf tried to meet a new friend named cat. He belonged to the night manager, so he was prowling around the hotel akin to night security. He was cute but Mirf was not interested in making new friends. He didn't hiss, growl or anything like that, he was like pfft you're a serf.
We headed up to our room to settle in. I gave Mirf food and water, set up his litter box then left him lounging in the air-conditioned room while I went to unload the trailer in the 90+ degree heat.
I didn't want Mirf with me setting up the stage we would be performing on in the heat for no relevant reason. Unloading was the usual chaos, finding out what stage your assigned to, getting as close to the stage as possible to unload all the props backstage while everyone else is trying to do the exact same thing everywhere around you, setup signage and do a quick walkthrough to get the lay of the festival this year. Word is out, everyone that saw me was asking about Mirf. They understood why he was lazing around at the hotel while asking I bring him by their booth so that they can meet him. It's almost as if I'm the sidekick of my own show and I'm okay with that.
Saturday was a brutal struggle, the temperature hit 95 degrees and the humidity was high. It was hot and sticky by 9AM and the festival doesn't open until 10AM. Luckily it was only three shows to do per day, not four which is my usual cadence. Saturday's shows left a lot to be desired. I was not on the top of my game. I was too focused on Mirf, not enough focus on my material that didn't involve Mirf. I had a hard time remembering my order of effects in my show. I did a couple things out of order, Mirf was not as spunky as he normally is because of the heat. The stage was like a boiler plate in the sun made of brown composite decking it attracts heat very efficiently. All of our outdoor practice has been performed in unseasonably cool weather outdoors in the shade or indoors in the cool air conditioning. Our first festival performance day we were faced with unseasonably warm weather...how fun! It was actually a great first day because it was so brutal. Everything else has to be better going forward...right? Fortunately, I was also able to plug in my trailer to have air conditioning available for Mirf to take air-conditioned litter breaks between shows to prevent him from getting too warm. He's got a very thick, soft and fuzzy fur coat. there was shade backstage, but it kept moving with the position of the sun. Mirf always had shade and cold-water backstage, but on stage it was brutally hot in the sun. We managed to get through all three shows Saturday but I'm telling you the third show was touch and go for Mirf and I. We both struggled with that show, and I cut it short from 30 minutes to 15 for safety reasons. I have to show developed to the point where I can accommodate a 45 minute or 1 hour time slot. I have been performing outdoors for over 10 years, I am no stranger to high temperatures, this was the first time I felt like I was truly experiencing heat exhaustion. I did not properly prepare for me. It never even occurred to me, not a thought was given to my needs aside from performing. I forgot to bring a jar of pickles and a cooler with ice. I had water, lots and lots of water...nothing else. The pickles are great for a light snack but more importantly I drink the pickle juice in addition to the copious amount of water. Pickle juice is a mixture of vinegar, water, and different spices that help preserve pickles. Its benefits are that it can relieve muscle cramps, it contains probiotics that improve intestinal health, it is rich in antioxidants and electrolytes and helps regulate blood sugar levels. Give it a whirl, I highly recommend it. It's odd though, I have lists that I make for just about everything and I never even consulted last year's list, which is the list from the year before last. Maybe it's because I made new lists, the show with Mirf is new. Anyway, I digress... Our cadence was to do our show using either Mirf's card trick or the acrobatic silk trick depending on Mirf's level of participation. After the show we would do a meet and greet at a designated area away from the stage for those that would like to meet and pet Mirf. Once the meet and greet was done, Mirf would get an AC litter break. Then we would walk about to expose patrons to Mirf and promote the next show. Rinse and repeat. When we wrapped up for the day Saturday we cleaned up, secured the props and electronics and headed to the hotel. I was hot, tired, thirsty and hungry but Mirf is always the first priority. I squared Mirf away with fresh food, ice water, copious amounts of fresh catnip and his litter box, then I headed to the bar and grill next door. I sat down at the bar and asked the bartender for a large Caesar salad, tall glass of water and a bar rail Long Island. After eating the salad, drinking three glasses of water and half the Long Island I paid my tab and headed back to the room.
I found Mirf laying on the bed happily playing with his favorite toy, his balls. I was going to go for a swim in the pool, but I figured I would lay down with Mirf for a couple of minutes first and fell fast asleep. I awoke at 2:00AM to Mirf smacking me in the head with his paw wanting to play. Since he didn't have his little brother Ziggy to play with, I became his default playmate.
Thinking about the first weekend, Saturday the festival was lightly attended. The crowds were small partly because of the heat, partly competing events that were happening locally. I checked out of the hotel Sunday Morning before heading to Canterbury Village, it was 20 degrees cooler, and it showed in the early crowds at the village. More people attended while the rain in the forecast held off for most of the day. The shows on Sunday went much better than Saturday and Mirf was a bit more attentive while the crowds were getting larger. Part of it was the cooler weather, part was the word is getting out there about Mirf and people are coming to the show to see the man with the cat. With Mirf on stage with me it's a whole lot easier to get a volunteer to come on stage now, everyone loves Mirf and wants to pet him. Mirf presented himself well to the management, patrons and staff...and they loved him.
The second weekend temperature-wise was very similar to the first weekend only hotter. Saturday was hot, Mirf was a miserable champ. At one point he was laying his head in his water bowl in the shade of the big pine trees behind our stage. That was another issue, Mirf rolling in the pine needles. It was fun to constantly remove pine needles from his fluff. His tail is amazing, it's like a feather duster. Mirf and I struggled with the heat at the noon show and our last show was at 3:00. It was hot, it was humid, and I was worried about Mirf. The way he was laying with his head in his water bowl worried me. It wasn't that he was currently overheating, it was when were onstage with no shade inside a covered cage then later in a brown box that's been sitting in the sun for 30 minutes baking. This is a problem that I will encounter many times this season and beyond, it's part of the gig. The question is how to mitigate the heat, the solution is air flow. I remembered that I had gotten a folding fan from my friend Ming over a year ago to use at festival when it's hot. It's a nice bamboo and black cloth fan but it's too large for me to use effectively but it was still on the trailer...I had an idea. I went and got the fan out of the overhead and put it in my stage cabinet. I was going to have an audience member continuously fan Mirf onstage to keep him cool during the show. I believed I would find an audience member willing to serve Mirf. The show started in the usual fashion, I produced Mirf in the usual way successfully. I then explained to the audience that Mirf's health and welfare is paramount. He's not a pet, he's my partner and we travel everywhere together, if he's not welcome, neither am I. I also elaborated the safety aspect of the high temperature, direct sunlight, shade created by the top of his cage, but he needs constant airflow to keep him cool. I then produced the fan and asked if there were any volunteers in the audience that would like to come up on stage and fan him during the show. I had 10 hands go up before I was finished talking. There was this one young girl in the audience whose face was painted like a dragon, so I chose her. She turned out to be a trooper. She happily fanned Mirf the entire show with a big smile on her face. As far as I'm concerned, I could have sat in the audience and watched her fan Mirf, she was so cute doing it. She was truly mesmerized my Mirf. The show went well, I gave her a wand as a thank you for helping Mirf. That is the solution to my problem, get an audience member to fan Mirf. Sunday was again 20 degrees cooler than Saturday. I didn't have any need to fan Mirf he was fine and his normal self. Everybody (management, patrons, staff, other performers) was impressed with the behavior of a 10-month-old kitten. I'm Impressed with how well Mirf handled two brutal days starting off his career. Mirf is truly a special kitty.
Next...Lojack, Colon and Sterlini Theatre