"The sweat on their bodies”
I was introduced to live musical theatre at the Valley Forge Music Fair. It was summer stock for New York actors, singers and dancers performed in a tent on the East coast of Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia.
I lived my simple, country boy life about 30 miles to the west. It was at Valley Forge that I saw shows like Pajama Game and Damn Yankees and, for the first time, fell in love with live musical theatre.
Theatre in the round and being so close to the sweat on the dancers’ bodies made me believe that there was a possibility of connecting somehow. As a teenager, these theatrical encounters were a part of my growing-up world of serious sexual awakening. I had put aside my childish desire to be Robin to Batman or follow Flash Gordon around in his lamé hot pants. These new experiences were comprised of all the senses; but mostly, it was the smell of the greasepaint mixed with the dancers’ sweat. I was breathless from the experience.
Every summer I would look forward to these performances under that tent, the actors in such intimate proximity, darting up and down the aisles, making their exits and entrances. The tension of wanting to reach out and touch them was palatable.
I would hang around the parking lot after the shows, hoping that one of the cast would come along and say hello. I lie. Come along and take me away with them. I wanted to join this musical circus; I wanted to fall in love and get laid. I still get these three things mixed up.
Spiegeltent has arrived at the Edinburgh International Festival with great success. This year it will host a new range of sideshow acts, cabaret and spectacles.
Spiegeltents are hand-hewn pavilions used as travelling dance halls, bars and entertainment salons since they were created in the early 20th century . There are only a hand-full of these unique and legendary ‘tents of mirrors’ left in the world today. The performances at Edinburgh’s Spiegeltent are live, in the round and under canvass.
Marlene Dietrich sang ‘Falling In Love Again’ on its famous stage in the 1930’s and, since then, its magic mirrors have reflected thousands of images of artists, audiences and exotic gatherings. It’s old Cabaret magic that has somehow become new again. It reminds me of my youthful awakening.
Speaking of Falling In Love Again, I did. Not that I expected to. He is a Russian dancer on a ship. We first met three years ago. I have been extremely guarded with my emotions since our first encounter. We see each other infrequently—two or three times a year. The story, retold as it heated up recently, unfolds below:
A conceptual narrative diary compiled from daily Facebook entries:
. Time for the sea again....
· I should stop pretending it's luggage and just call them costumes.
· Sea day today. He is dancing his 'starring' role tonight. Me, organising my own costumes for the voyage. Stockholm tomorrow.
· Have to go now. Lunch date with the dancers tomorrow and not a thing to wear.
· 'The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.' –Marcel Proust
· He wants me to meet him at midnight. I am getting too old for this.
· Actually it was magical and moving. Overcoming my tendency towards inaction has been a theme in my life. In reality, it has brought me every reward.
· Having lunch with him today at the ship’s Ben Brittan restaurant; it's become a bit of a tradition.
·Things are getting very close to the edge.
· Someone said: 'Explain this to me'. I said, 'When I was sixteen I swam across a three-mile lake and back. These days I am happy when I can do a couple of laps in the pool. The same for emotional life, really'.
· In spite of all my best effort, planning and resistance, I am a bit lovesick.
· Remembering Carol K and her admonishment, after listening to my tales of love sickness: ‘Yeah, but did you get a painting out of it?’
· Time to forget, put aside and plough on with all of the projects and problems that I left behind. In a way, they will be a welcomed distraction.
· Do I dare? Have I lost my marbles?
· I constantly watch the ship’s webcam now. I watch the ensign change position on the bow. I make mental notes of the breezes. (Get a life, Kip.)
· Sunny, very little wind or activity. Ship in front is refuelling.
Fedor Tyutchev, Russian poet:
Я встретил вас - и все былое
В отжившем сердце ожило;
Я вспомнил время, время золотое -
И сердцу стало так тепло...
I met you and the past
came back to life in my dead heart.
Remembering a golden time,
my heart became so warm.
· The Baltic Sea is peaceful and blue, the sun refusing to set so far North. It’s almost 10:30 pm. He is about to start the second show, most likely.
· Should I be like a Brit and take a mini-holiday on the Bank Holiday weekend? Should I? Should I just turn up on the ship? Should I?
· Decision made. Нравится ли вам сюрпризы? (Do you like surprises?)
· Good-bye, Bette. You're with Dad now.
· ’Everything that passes away is only a reflection...' –Mahler’s 8th
‘Part of my intention in constructing a book out of a seemingly haphazard collection of notes was that these notes, by virtue of their accumulation and juxtaposition and patternation, would end up working overtime (not unlike what we might expect of the bits and pieces of a conceptual art’). –The Conceptual Novel: Michael Kimball Interviews Evan Lavender-Smith