The new shoes are holding up nicely and I’ve had a relatively easy week with a few cancellations giving me more breaks between lessons, as well as that unexpected day off. Today my morning lessons were farmed out again to Other Stephen because my services were required at the Rodina Theatre on Alexander Nevsky Street to reprise my hugely successful role as Santa Claus in our school’s production of The Grinch. Not once, but three more times.
I had a very early start – I set my alarm for 6am and was supposed to be at the theatre before 8am, in the event I got there a few minutes after. The first show was at 9.30 and there were a few small changes which needed to be worked through. For the first performance most of my colleagues at Voroshilovskiy were there to help out as guides (chivvying the children on and off the stage for all the interactive parts). This time I had a much larger cupboard to hide in during my “imprisonment” and I could keep my warm costume on (thankfully) because they had a spare Santa’s coat and hat.
We had a new Grinch for the first show, but Anna, the teacher doing all the organising reprised her role as Cindy-Lou. I don’t know where she gets all her energy from, she always seems hyper whether she is giving us seminars or running around a stage in yellow pyjamas.
At the end of the first show there was the usual stream of children wanting their photo taken with Santa and the other cast members (but mainly Santa!). Well, mainly the parents, some of the kids were a bit disinterested, but others were completely fascinated and wanted to be in every photo.
Before the second show I was to be interviewed (or at least filmed) by the local TV station. I had some words to read out (in English) about the school and how grateful I was to them. Edward tried to fix my beard so the strings weren’t showing, he took them off my ears and put them over my head instead. The result of this was that in the first take, my beard fell down while I was still speaking. We went back to plan A with the beard attached to the ears.
For the second show the original Grinch, Olga from Volzshky reprised her role, and we made a pretty good combination. The film crew were still there filming the second show, and also in the audience was Anna Markovna, the owner of the school and my ultimate boss. Fortunately she was very happy with our efforts and came to thank me for taking part. She also said for the next show she wanted Santa to personally hand presents to every child in the audience (somewhere around 50, I think) – my helpers had been helping me distribute the presents up to that point. It got a bit chaotic in the second performance when I was the opposite side of the stage to the presents and kept running out, the resupplies were not being passed to me but given straight to the children.
I came up with the idea of the second sack – we had a spare sack in the costume set, so I said fill that with presents, when the first sack runs out give me the second sack and re-fill the first sack. That way Santa always has a sack. It worked quite well though of course it took me a long time to go up and down every row and reach every child and be certain I had not missed anyone out!
This was after the third show of course, where we had yet another new Grinch, Maxim, a teacher I hadn’t met before from Tractorniy and Spartanovka. I’m not sure he inhabited the role as fully as the other two Grinches, but Anna preferred having a male Grinch because it is a more convincing “Christmas pirate” for the children.
I had been concerned that the third show was supposed to start at 1.30 and I was supposed to start teaching at Voroshilovskiy at 3.00pm – judging from the previous shows with all the gift-giving and photo-taking at the end I was unlikely to be able to set off in time. I was voicing my concerns to Katya (who is one of the managers there) but Anna Markovna was also listening and she offered to give me a lift there straight after the show.
The photo-ops were a lot more organised after the third show, with all the kids who wanted in on stage at the same time, rather than one after the other, I just looked in different directions so all the parents could get a shot of their kid with Santa. At the end a couple of disabled children were brought on stage too for individual pictures. There were also a few teachers and managers from the school who brought their own kids along and wanted pictures too!
Time was still tight though, so I shedded my costume quickly, grabbed my CD case (the only teaching aid I decided I would need today) and hurried to find Anna Markovna and her partner. They had a very nice car and managed to get me to the office just in the nick of time – I was actually there before a couple of my students. Three one-hour lessons later, and I could break up for my shortest Christmas holiday ever! I will meet my international department colleagues at 3pm tomorrow (Christmas Day) near the Embankment then we will all head to the party. On Monday 26th at 9am I am teaching again…