Serena’s Chautauqua Story
Here’s Serena’s chautauqua story. It’s partly about me, but I just blew her cover is all.
Hola, y'all. (I got out of the habit of saying that when I was in the service, but now that I'm home it's coming back to me.) I know Rene liked to say it a lot, and still does.
We all got home just in time to miss spring planting, aren't we lucky! I was kind of surprised that Kim and Christina made a point of spending their days with everyone else instead of each other — those two will still be going at it when they're old and decrepit like Dad (gotcha!). [Watch it kid, I’ll whack you with my walker as soon as I remember where it is. —FARf] But they fall asleep on the couch in the living room a lot, so I bet they don't get much sleep at night. It's good to have everyone home again; I missed helping Mom and Maria with the cooking, and all the other stuff. But it's different now; we're adults, done with school and all that. I guess Christina's going to be teaching at some college or another by next year, and they'll be gone. So will I. I'm not sure about Rene yet.
Anyway, we had a pretty good time at the chautauqua last week, even if Rene hooked up with an ignorama for a couple of days. I'm glad they started the chautauquas, it's a lot easier to bring culture to the people than it is to bring people to the culture nowadays. They did different things on different nights. Dad liked the drum&brass performance; he said it reminded him of the electronic stuff from when he was younger. I could tell he liked it, the way he was bobbing and twitching to the beat. There's a lot of beat in that stuff, and not much else. Give me a good marching band any day. But it was amazing how the two drummers would switch back and forth, one played while the other one rested. I never realized drumming could be so physically demanding.
I volunteered to help with security for the week, and it came in handy with Rene on Wednesday. It figures, the only time I was really needed all week and it was my own family! The sheriff was happy to have a volunteer with some MP experience, and even deputized me for the week. But I walking by the stage Thursday evening and overheard some of the troupe talking:
“Paula can't finish a line without coughing her lungs out.”
“What do we do then? Nobody else can play Susanne.”
“Well, we can't just cancel. We have a commitment.”
Curiosity got the better of me. “What's wrong?”
They looked me over, with the orange SECURITY vest and the Army patrol hat I like to wear when I'm out. “Our leading lady's sick. She can't perform.”
“That’s too bad. What were you presenting?”
“The Discomfiture of Lord Riot. We figured people would like it.”
“Oh. Um… I know that play. I did Susanne a couple of times. I'd be glad to step in.”
The guy they had playing Kip ran through a few random lines with me, and was satisfied with my delivery. “There's not going to be a problem with you doing the play and working security?”
“I'll let the sheriff know. I'll be able to see better from the stage anyway. I can probably bust a troublemaker without dropping a line.”
They laughed, and we shook on it. I went to let the sheriff know I would be sort of undercover for the play, then came back, scanned the lines just to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything, and got dressed. Paula's costume was a bit big on me, but we got it to hang all right and the show went on. I saw the family down in the crowd, grinning like a bunch of clowns.
So of course Dad and Mom came by after the play, and of course Dad had to open his mouth.
“She's your daughter?” the guy who'd played Riot asked. “She really did a great job.”
“She should have,” he said. “She wrote the play.”
“Dad!” I yelled.
“What? You didn't tell them?”
“Wait…” the guy who’d played Ronald said. “You… you're Serena Broward?”
Dad about fell down laughing, and Mom just looked at me. “I can't believe you weren't going to tell them,” she said.
The hubbub grew until Paula came out of the trailer. “What's going on?”
“Your sub,” the guy who played Farfet said. “She's Serena Broward!”
“Serena?!” she squealed like a fangirl, then started coughing and fell back inside.
How the word spread, I have no idea, but the entire troupe was suddenly out there mobbing us. I got Dad back, telling them how he'd played both Farfet and Riot in the very first production, and then the actors were all over him wanting details and critiques.
One thing led to another, and they offered me a job with the chautauqua writing new material in between acting or directing (everyone takes turns). I'm shocked; I never knew that my plays Dad uploaded to the samizdat were spread all over the place and performed so much. I figured a few people put them on, but to hear these guys talk I'm some kind of cult figure to the New Chautauqua movement.
I'm thinking about it. Dad said I should do it, and if I didn't like it I could always come back home.
She ended up taking the job and I’m happy for her. She’s always loved writing plays and putting on the Thanksgiving productions. I told the troupe about those, and they offered to come this year and do a play for us. That would be nice — we didn’t have them the last couple of years, since Serena was in Germany and nobody else took the initiative. I had to tell them about The Dialogues, in which two people (i.e. Serena and I) would do the stage equivalent of flash fiction serials, and they wanted us to tell them all about that too.
So I guess our growed-up foster daughter is about to leave the nest, not too long after coming back. That’s life.