Friday, June 11, 2010

Taking This Show on the Road

I have a degree in music.  I play the piano and I sing and I can make a flute wish it had never been born.  I know, you're thinking, "It must be so awesome to be DeNae."  Well you're right; it totally is.  Awesome, I mean.  To be, you know, me.

The problem is, when you have a music background and can do the two things they need you to do pretty much all the time if you're a Mormon (and in this case, I'm not referring to adding shredded carrots to Jell-O or procreating) then you live in constant fear of being pegged to write, direct, and somehow fail to throttle the living daylights out of the stars of...

...the roadshow.

Now, when I was a kid, the roadshows were a gas.  For one thing, we didn't have to do anything but show up, and as long as no one could trace any homicides or arsons back to the cast, we pretty much enjoyed four hours a week of unsupervised mayhem.  Word would reach, oh let's choose a random performer - me, for example - that Margene Conde - a saint who has written more roadshows than Moses wrote commandments - was waiting to run through the "Choose the Right Rap", and I'd simply toss my acetylene torch into the bushes, climb down off the roof, and waltz into the cultural hall to sing my song.  Then it was back to my crew for continued vandalism until it was time to rehearse the grand finale, "We All Want a Ride to Heaven 'Cuz it Sure Would be Hell to Walk", followed by doughnuts and fruit punch.

The other thing I loved about the road show was that we really took it on the road.  Admittedly, this was in Salt Lake City, where there are so many LDS chapels developers have had to manipulate the fundamental laws of time and space to allow for multiple buildings to occupy the same corner.  So the "road" on which we took our "show" was really more like a spin around the parking lot. 

We loaded the sets and the props into the backs of umpteen pickups, and then stuffed ourselves into umpteen more cars (all driven by saintly souls whom I barely even noticed were behind the wheel), pointed the vehicles in the direction of the next building, and fifteen seconds later, we reversed the entire process.  It was a kick.

I didn't really pay much attention to what it was like to be the directors.  We all loved Kevin and Margene, and we just took it for granted that they did the roadshow every year for four straight decades because, I don't know, it was programmed into their DNA or something.  Like, if they ever took a year off, they'd start to fade like Marty's photo in "Back to the Future" until eventually they just wouldn't be "them" any more.

You gotta love the social awareness of 14-year olds.

Years later, I found myself on the "Margene" side of the equation, writing and directing a show peopled with performers of all ages and varying degrees of commitment and talent.  I look back on those years as the times I came closest to becoming a Druid.  I wasn't sure what Druids did besides sit around making small talk with gigantic obsidian faces, but that was enough of a draw if it meant cutting me loose from these knuckleheads.

The worst part was the music.  Generally, the idea was to take a show tune or a folk ditty and write new lyrics to support the plot line and act as a substitute for dialogue.  Roadshow lyricism reached rock bottom one year when my brilliantly talented friend Ken was forced to write the words - and I'm not making this up - "It's a hard knock life.  For storks." 

Opening night found Ken locked in a broom closet drinking NyQuil through a bendy straw and bewailing the terminal loss of his professional credibility.  He was never quite the same after that.

It was therefore with this history and accompanying baggage that I read Braden Bell's novel, "The Road Show".  I did this at Braden's invitation, using a copy he sent me with a request to review his book.  I was a little concerned:  I don't read LDS fiction - ever - particularly since my critique group at LDStorymakers nominated my manuscript as "Most Likely to be Burned Crispy at the Second Coming".  And I've already told you how I feel about roadshows, specifically that a roadshow is something meant to happen to other people.

But I like Braden and want to see him successful with this new venture, and besides, he softened me up by writing revolutionary lyrics for the fat kid insurrection I led earlier this month.

Let me start by saying this is a quick read.  I read it in about two hours, and that's something I appreciate in a book.  I don't have much attention span for your "War and Peace"s and your "Webster's Collegiate Dictionary"s.  But not only was it nice to read, it tells a really good story.  It's all about flawed people coming together for reasons that aren't always apparent to others, and finding friendship, understanding, and even redemption in the most unlikely of venues - the LDS roadshow.  It serves as a reminder that there are as many reasons for doing something as there are folks willing to do it, and that we may think we know what is in someone else's heart but we almost never really do.  And it teaches that God doesn't much care what path you take to find Him, as long as you get to that place where He can heal you.

Well done, Braden.  You've written a good story with sensitivity and humor, one for readers of all ages.  And you've performed perhaps the greatest miracle of all:  You've got me enjoying "The Road Show" again.

If Margene weren't so heavily sedated, I'm certain she'd be thrilled. 


Braden said...

LOL about the storks! I have some memorie about sneetches I really would like to forget.

Great post--and thanks for doing it. That made me laugh out loud.

Gina said...

I actually was going to say the same thing as Braden, the storks line has to be the best thing I have ever seen. Ever.

Also, you really make me want to read this book... mission accomplished, I would say.

Lucy said...

Wow....did this post ever take me back. I was in roadshows when I was in that 14th year of age and above, and I thought they'd never end as an adult. And you're right. I've always been music . . . so you just know where I was planted every single year. The rehearsals were hell on earth . . . I do believe to this day. But when they were over we were all so proud and it was all SO. MUCH. FUN and worth all the trouble and hassel.

And I even eventually liked those kids again. :))

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I would just like to add a lyric from one of the roadshows that I participated in to further your cause:

"We are cheddar cheese if you please."

Inspiring, isn't it?

Lara said...

I'm just trying to imagine what on earth your road show could have possibly been about to be hard for the poor storks.

I was a poodle in the last roadshow I was ever in. And you know? I don't remember a darn thing about it except the very silly costume I wore. I must have blocked it all from my mind. Perhaps to avoid sedation.

Anyway, great review for a great book.

Kristina P. said...

I am sad that I never really participated in a road show. Of course, you are much, much, much older than me, because I am super young, so maybe that explains it.

Annie and I were talking the other night about how great this book is and that it really is different than the typical LDS book. It tackles really tough, real issues.

Kimberly said...

Who needs five stars on Goodreads when they've got DeNae in their corner? Fab review!

Lisa said...

One year, our BORN TO WRITE ROADSHOWS adults backed out. They'd had enough. We were incensed and decided to do it ourselves~the kids. How hard could it be? We'd dropped the ball within one hour and never looked back.

Amber Lynae said...

I've read some great reviews on this book It is definitely on my to read list.

The only road show I was going to be in didn't happen for me because of allstate choir.

Garden of Egan said...

I'm looking forward to reading this one. It's in the mail soon I hope.

I would really like to see what you would do with an impromptu talk in Sacrament meeting...I think it would be a riot.

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

I've only ever been in one Road Show and my mom had to direct it. I don't remember it even.

But I can't wait to read the book!

Kazzy said...

I am bummed that roadshows were on their way out once I joined the church. Plus, I was 19, so kinda beyond the age of being uninhibited.

This book sounds honest and real and likable. I am excited to read it.

Poor Margene...

Ken said...

Thanks DeNae! I really appreciate you dredging up that horrific time!! haha. Just to give your readers a bit of the back story: Our theme was WHERE DO WE COME FROM? The Stake wanted to have "spiritual" road shows that year. My response, uh hem, was a skit about storks. The opener was, It's A Hard Knock Life (for storks). Funny, they never asked me to do another one.

tammy said...

You nailed the roadshow experience with this post! Loved it. And now you've also talked me into reading that book. Braden probably owes you a lot of money now.

Cheeseboy said...

I haven't been in a stake with a road show since I was a teenager. I thought they had been banished like the carpeted gymnasiums and the selling of snacks at ward basketball games. Apparently not.

I must say, there is something worse than being called to do the road show program: being in charge of the stake float for the Days of 47 Parade.

I'd definitely come see your road show though DeNae.

Eowyn said...

lol. I'm totally going to have to read this now!

AS Amber said...

Ahhh Kevin & Margene. Two of the nicest people you'll ever meet and sooooo totally born to write/star in Road Shows!

I was a Three Little Pig in the last road show I was in. The year before that I was the STAR!! Crystal Clearacil, going to a stake dance & I got a ginorm zit. A ha ha ha!

I want to read this book & hear the music you & Sherrie & Veronica did for it!