The Last Dance
Five cities, 20 performances.
Not too shabby, everyone.
In the interest of accurately depicting the tour to the end, I’ll describe the last few days and then take a moment to reflect.
After the picnic and family time on Saturday, we had our best show to that date (I’ll let the experts debate how the last show figured in). Maybe the audience full of friends and family helped, but as a cast we were as “on” as we have ever been, and they had to kick our admiring audience outside after the show so that the next show could begin. We also managed to show some love to Jenny, our incredible stage manager and house mother, because Saturday was her last show. We called her down for applause, coffee cake, and a card as soon as the lights went down.
No rest for the wicked, though–Saturday night we moved Alex into his third-floor, no-elevator apartment. Childhood memorabilia and all.
Sunday gave us an opportunity for lots of downtime, but we all made it to the theatre on time for our final load-in. There was plenty of disbelief and even more hugging before the show, and that particular closing-night energy during the performance, where somehow everything looks fresh again, every line hits you in the chest, and each little change (especially the last-night re-additions of characters like Desmond, the cursing out of John Cusack, and the ripping of shadow puppets like the “End of the World” sign) is significant. Maybe it’s just me, but that was my favorite performance of the run, and the one that affected me the most. You would think that a one-hour show would get tiresome after 20 performances, but personally, I was enjoying all of the new moments the cast was finding even after so much time with the material.
Load-out took forever, between people trying to identify their belongings, fending off rabid fans, and the general exhaustion and relief of the cast. We still blew off steam, though–for example, Max and Alec played T-ball with the large street lamp puppet as the tee and also the ball. There was some joyous destruction of cardboard puppets that by all rights should have disintegrated long ago. Soon there were designer cupcakes and more of our distinctive group hugs, and maybe a little bit of crying. By this point we’re legitimately like a family, so what did you expect?
Some fun points I may or may not have mentioned: Joe Foti of Kraigslist expressed interest in producing us in Milwaukee in an actual coffee shop at some point, and Anna Weiler of the Dream Theatre also mentioned that they would love to have us back to re-perform here in Chicago. Last night, apparently, Samay Gheewala (I think it was him), the Merchandise Coordinator for the Fringe, stopped Alex to thank him for putting on a great show and mentioned that because of our show, along with a couple of others that also had good buzz and attendance, the Chicago Fringe made a little more money than breaking even and thus would be able to fund a second year. That’s right, ladies and gents, “Grind” was an integral part of establishing the Chicago Fringe as a viable institution!
This morning those of us still around had brunch at “The Grind” cafe on Lincoln because, well, how could we not? Highlights were the pesto-and-goat-cheese sandwiches, the lady who taught David some Chinese acupressure to get rid of his allergies, and the OB-GYN student next to us who mentioned early on to his companion that he’d seen a show named after the coffee shop the day before, and who realized as more of our members sat that he was sitting next to the entire cast. He introduced himself to us as he left and told us just how surreal the whole experience was for him. Those of us living in the neighborhood might even see him again. See, this show is a never-ending source of new friendships!
Loyal to the end, the boys assembled furniture in Cari’s and my apartment as everyone packed up, and finally those leaving for Northfield were on their way. Apparently as they packed up the Prius they saw Rod Blagojevich jog by and he waved to them. Scout’s Honor. Everyone is safe and home, more or less, now, and once we sleep for a couple of weeks, I’m sure we can start to process this entire crazy adventure.
For now, here’s what I know: I got to work with a cast and producing team who I immensely respect, a group who constantly pushed personal boundaries and embraced challenges (however grudgingly), who became as close as any group I have ever worked with and who I saw grow incredibly as actors, directors, stage managers, artists, and people. The summer has been a gift. Our experiences with each and every one of you, the supporters, family, friends, and audience members, has been a gift. I address this to everyone involved, however minutely: We couldn’t have done it without you.
Maybe, hopefully, we’ll all work on something like this together again. Definitely we will all meet again. And until then, I hope you go out and make something that never existed before, because that is beautiful, and that is what it’s all about.
Let me leave you with one last audience review:
Review: You are exactly my cup of tea by Lancer
This is one of two shows at the Chicago Fringe that I saw twice. You know, you are at a theme park for a few days, then suddenly, it is your last day, so you want to race back to your favorite rides before vacation ends. So it was with Grind. On opening day of Fringe, I spotted all these young actors on 18th Street as happy as could be on the sidewalk near the Dream Theatre, and in unison they were singing “Getting to Know You” from the King and I. I beamed, but had no idea this was the Minneapolis cast of Grind. Their musical is cheesy, giddy, silly, and aw shucks — exactly the kind of fluff you sometimes want to see. Some lyrics were lost to loud keyboards. Some lines were spoken lickety-split fast. Some of the staging was blocked too far back at the register counter, yet this was a sincere effort, with hints of Rent, Godspell, and Sleepless in Seattle percolating in the mix. On another trip to the Dream Theatre, I caught the bizarre Knee Jerk, which ended with no bows, but finished with the taped music of “Getting to Know You.” Returned to Grind on closing night of Fringe, and the beautiful curtain speech proclaimed “this is our last night of our 4-city tour. This is our 20th performance. Together, we all say, that this has been our best summer ever.” Good job, one and all.
rating: 4 stars
You summed it up perfectly, Lancer. To you and all our audience members in our five cities, thank you so much for coming, and we hope we see you again someday.