Greetings, all! I am now back in Portland, ME after spending five days down in Vero Beach, FL on a mission trip with First Parish Gorham’s youth group. Ella and I chaperoned nine high-schoolers – five boys and four girls – and what a great week! It was sort of a smorgasbord of mission-work, a mission-trip sampler, if you will. We volunteered at seven different places in four days, going back to two of the places twice in the week. And we even had time for a trip to the beach one afternoon! (I mean, come on. You can’t go to Florida and NOT go to the beach!)
We left Portland on the evening of Easter Sunday, after spending Saturday night in a “lock-in” at the church. Basically, what this means is that the kids stay up all night watching movies, drinking soda, eating pizza, and playing “sting-pong” (a new game I learned and LOVE – it’s like regular Ping-Pong, but if you lose, you have lift up your shirt and your opponent gets to take a free shot at you with the Ping-Pong ball. Needless to say, this was popular only with the boys . . .). The reason we had the lock-in directly before the mission trip was because the youth group kids were serving breakfast after the Sunrise Service at First Parish Gorham, and everyone knows that it’s easier to keep a high schooler up all night than ask him/her to be somewhere at five in the morning. So we were all thoroughly exhausted by the time we hit Orlando airport at 11:45pm Sunday evening, and we weren’t even done yet! We rented a van, and I drove from Orlando to Vero Beach, which was about an hour-and-a-half drive. After we got to our home base and sorted out the bedding (which Ella and I had to pack ahead of time in two checked suitcases), we all hit the hay around 2:45am, after most of us had been up for nearly 40 hours straight.
We were staying at a place called Epic Missions, which is sort of a mission-trip middle-man. They are a Christian organization that hosts groups, or “teams,” wanting to do mission trips in the Vero Beach area. The benefit of this setup is that the folks at Epic Missions know their community and know where the need is. They can match up the teams with organizations that need help. We volunteered at a daycare for children of migrant families, at an old-age home, at a food bank, at Habitat For Humanity, at a homeless resource center, an after-school program for disadvantaged youth, and at a garden that donated 100 per cent of its produce to people and organizations in need. If we had just gone down to Vero Beach on our own and stayed in a hotel, we would never have known to connect with these organizations, and we wouldn’t have eaten three ridiculously delicious and ridiculously filling meals a day (I swear, Jackie works some kind of magic in the kitchen – she holds the record for best oatmeal and best coffee cake Matthew has ever tasted)!
I didn’t go into detail about the missions, because I’m going to leave that to the vlogs, and to Ella’s recap email that she sent out to the parents of and kids on the mission. This is the first time I’ve done a guest blog post, but who better for a guest blog post than my girlfriend and co-chaperone? So please read Ella’s update if you’d like a more detailed account of what we were up to this week.
So that’s our week in a nutshell. Keep an eye on this page for some vlogs where you’ll see the kids in action (unfortunately, I lost my camera in transit on the way back to Portland, so there won’t be vlogs for the last two days of the trip . . .). But you’ll get a good idea of we were up to nonetheless. Until next time!
Day one of the First Parish Gorham's youth group mission trip to Vero Beach, FL
After the closing performance of Tribes at Portland Stage Company.
Happy Easter everyone! May your day be filled with chocolate, friends, family, God’s love, and the assurance of the risen Christ. In that order.
Wow, it’s a testament to how fast the run of Tribes was by the fact that I haven’t even written a Blupdate since opening! It’s now a week since we’ve closed, and I’ve spent that week sending out postcards of my face (ha! That sounds hilarious to me, saying it like that) to other LORT theatres around the country. (LORT stands for League of Resident Theatres, and they’re theatres like Portland Stage or Seattle Rep that employ mostly Equity actors.) Basically, the purpose of the postcard is to let the theatres know I’m a working actor, and that I’ve gotten good reviews for the show I’m currently in. It’s a bit tedious, but I was able to watch six Harry Potter movies in a row while I tasked-away . . . so it’s not all bad!
The run of Tribes flew by; we had only three weeks of performances, and the first week was actually previews; so really, it was two-and-a-half weeks. Opening weekend was actually a little shaky after opening night; opening night was amazing: it was so good to see the show come together like that. Then we had two shows on Saturday and one on Sunday, and those shows certainly weren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. But they did seem to lack the spark of the opening show. We then had Monday and Tuesday off, and were back on Wednesday for a morning show. I was really worried that after the two days off, we’d all be a little slumpy and unfocused. Fortunately, the two days of rest had the opposite effect: we were all energized and on-point, and the show went really well. All that week, I felt the show was sharp; and that’s so important in a play like Tribes, where the dialogue is so crisp and quick.
That second week of performances looked like this:
· Wednesday morning at 10am for a high school group, followed by a talkback
· Wednesday night
· Thursday morning for another high school group, also with a talkback
· Thursday night
· Friday night
· Saturday at 4pm, followed by dinner, then
· Saturday night at 8pm
· Sunday at 2pm
The days we had two shows were pretty tiring. Tribes is an emotional play, and as I played a bipolar character in the show, those days were particularly tiring for me, seeing as the play showed Daniel in his highest highs and lowest lows. But those days felt like the basketball camps I went to as a kid: the GOOD kind of tired.
We then had Monday off, and were back at it Tuesday evening, starting our final week of shows at Portland Stage. The final week of performance was similar to the previous week, with the exceptions that we had no 10am shows, but we did have a 2pm matinee on Thursday. That was an interesting performance: there were scores of octogenarians in the audience (the primary purpose for this weekday-matinee is for the peeps at the old-folks home), all of whom were stunned by the foul language in the play (the third line of the play slaps the audience in the face with the c-word). Heh. Imagine that with an audience too offended to stay through the end but too crumbly to leave the theatre early. . . . So yeah . . . that was an interesting show.
We were lucky with our Sunday matinee: it was our final performance of Tribes, and we lucked out with a particularly responsive and audible audience. One of my favorite moments of the play – in terms of audience reaction – was when my character kisses his brother’s girlfriend. Almost without fail, audiences would let out an extremely audible gasp, horrified by the fact that I would complicate my brother’s relationship in such an awful way. While Sunday’s audience was no exception, my FAVORITE audience reaction was some old woman on Friday or Saturday who started laughing when I kissed Kate (who played my brother’s girlfriend in the show), and said VERY loudly: “Ope. Here we go!” When Kate and I broke apart from the kiss, both of us were straining painfully to not crack. It was so, so, SO hard not to laugh after that. Ahh, live theatre.
So the closing show went really well: we were pleased with our performance as well as the audience – always a good combo! After the show, the cast all went out to J’s Oyster House, which is where we all went after our first rehearsal. Chris, our director, was back in town for closing weekend, and it was great to have him come and join us as we celebrated together. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone the next day, but that’s theatre: show closes and you move on.
Unless you’re Matthew, and you stick around for another two weeks to help your girlfriend chaperone a mission trip to Florida. Which is what I’m doing today! This evening, Ella and I leave with nine high schoolers to Vero Beach, FL for a week’s worth of mission-tripping. I won’t go into detail here, but will give you an update once we get back next week. Be in touch, and much love to you all!
A quick backstage tour of Portland Stage during their production of Tribes
It's official! My first Equity card arrived in the mail! I had a tough time signing it, though . . .