Christmas in Des Moines

It was a snowy, cold week in Des Moines. We had a long, long bus ride from Fayetteville on frosty roads to get to Iowa. There was an accident on the highway that caused us to have to detour onto a two lane highway for quite a while, but we finally arrived in the early evening to the Renaissance Savery in downtown Des Moines – the same hotel we stayed in when we played Des Moines in August of last year. 

Snowy trees on the way to Des Moines

Snowy trees on the way to Des Moines

After getting settled in, I headed over to The Royal Mile, my favorite Des Moines pub, for some bangers and mash. Then I watched a bunch of “Planet Earth” while I waited for Ryan to get home. Have you seen “Planet Earth”? I borrowed the DVDs from our prop guy, Scott, and they are amazing! I don’t know how they captured some of the things they did on film. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

On Tuesday we finished load-in. It was easy and quick, as we’d played the theater before. Tim, one of our ensemble guys, drove over and we loaded up his rental car with all the presents we had bought for the family we had adopted in town. It felt really good to be giving Christmas to a family in need. Everyone should do it if they can!

The show opened smoothly on Tuesday. It was a big friendly house. Afterwards there was an opening night party at the Court Brewery. Not as fun as the party we had there last year where everyone got drunk and silly, but the food was good, and you can never argue with free booze.

Wednesday we had the day off for Christmas eve. Ryan and I stayed in all day. I had caught a bit of a cold on the travel day, so we took it easy and hung out in the room, watching more “Planet Earth”! In the late afternoon, we got dressed up for the “Spamalot” Christmas party, which began with drinks in one of the ballrooms at the hotel, followed by dinner. After dinner (yummy roast beef), we congregated in Karl’s room (the giant penthouse on the top floor of the hotel) for dessert, drinks and to exchange our final Secret Santa gifts.

Mitchell and Suzanne at dinner

Mitchell and Suzanne at dinner

Ken and Matthew Greer's daughter, Miranda.

Ken and Matthew Greer's daughter, Miranda.

Angela was my Secret Santa – she gave me some gorgeous hand-dyed, hand-spun yarn along with a pattern book, some earrings, more chocolate and some wine. So generous! I was Mitchell’s Secret Santa, and he LOVED his punk rock knitted hat that I made him!

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The biggest hit of the party, though, was Mike Berg, our pyro guy, who dressed up as Santa Claus and passed out everyone’s presents. Everyone took turns sitting in his lap to get their photo taken. He was the perfect, perfect Santa.

Bergie Claus

Bergie Claus

The guys with Santa

The guys with Santa

You can see all my Christmas party photos here.

Paula and Cara

Paula and Cara

Annie, David and Lyn

Annie, David and Lyn

Christmas day was mellow – another stay-at-home day. We had a show that night and then gathered for drinks in the hotel bar afterwards. 

On Friday, the weather was warmer so Ryan and I ventured out. We had originally planned on going ice skating, but because of the warmer temperatures, there were giant puddles all over the ice rink, and skating through water didn’t look like so much fun. We instead walked up towards the Capitol building and looked in some of the shops along the way.

The ice rink

The ice rink

The snowy Capitol building

The snowy Capitol building

On Saturday the temperatures dropped again, and all the melted snow from the day before froze, leaving a sheet of ice across downtown. It was pretty treacherous walking to and from the theater as it was so slippery. The icicles on all the trees and street lamps were really beautiful though. I had never really seen the effects of an ice storm before, and although this one was very mild, it still left some really pretty visual effects.

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On Sunday we closed and on Monday I got up very, very early for the flight to Cincinnati where we will spend New Year’s. Wishing a happy 2009 to you and yours!

Tallulah, pooped after opening her presents.

Tallulah, pooped after opening her presents.

A Nice Surprise

Iowa State Capitol

I drove to Des Moines from Tulsa last Monday. Most of the company took a flight to Iowa but as the only planes that land in Des Moines are tiny fifty-seaters that don’t allow pets in cabin, I rented a car and drove the 460 miles. The drive was actually really easy and uneventful. I arrived in Des Moines around 3:00pm and checked into the Hotel Savery. I ended up with a smaller room than most, but I had a fantastic view of the state capitol, which made me happy.

That evening I wandered over to Java Joe’s – a very cool, comfy coffee shop about two blocks away. Java Joe’s is my kind of spot – it is attached to a small theater and they have live  music most nights of the week. I have definitely become accustomed to the tastes of Starbucks, but there is nothing better than a really great, unique mom-and-pop coffeehouse. I loved it. I spent time there everyday catching up on knitting, blogging and reading.

Java Joe's

Java Joe's

The theater in Des Moines, the Civic Center, is a big, spacious, modern facility. Well, modern meaning 1960’s/70’s modern. I wish I had remembered to taken a picture of the house, but alas, I didn’t. The seating is continental, with no different sections, just 3000 seats tiering up to the heavens. Best of all is the color scheme of the seats – green and blue with a couple of red rows thrown in there for some happy striping. It is quite a sight to behold. Backstage we had tons of room. The dressing rooms were sort of bunker-like, or as I thought when I first saw them, reminiscent of changing rooms at a public pool. But definitely adequate.

The crew, however, were far from adequate. I shouldn’t lump them all into the useless category, though – there were a couple of good carpenters. However, our two local prop guys were so old that Jovon and I were calling them “Gramps” all week, and worse than the age, my stage right guy was also deaf in one ear, and on top of that, could not retain any information. I spent most of the week pulling him around by his shirt as he couldn’t hear me yelling at him and was often about to get run down by someone or something, or miss a cue. Even at the last two performances he still could not remember what he was doing. From talking to Fran, the wardrobe crew there was much the same. Patrick (our Lancelot, Knight of Ni, French Taunter) had a dresser who had been in an accident a number of years ago and who now has a metal plate in his head which causes him to have no short-term memory. Fran had to re-teach him the show every night. 

Speaking of Fran, it was her birthday this week. We had an opening night party at the Court Street Brewery (where they had a Sir Robin ale in honor of us!) and we all embarrassed Fran by singing to her at the top of our lungs at the bar. Hee Hee Hee.

Fran - as we sang Happy Birthday to her

Fran - as we sang Happy Birthday to her

On Wednesday I took a walk over the river to the East Village neighborhood. There are some cute shops and bars over there and a lot of development going on. I think in a year or two it will definitely be the new hip place to live.

Over the weekend there was a farmer’s market on Court Street, which is a block from the theater, and downtown Des Moines’s “restaurant row”. The market was awesome – so much more than just a farmer’s market. There were lots of different vendors – my favorites being of course those selling handmade jewelry. I bought a pair of earrings as a souvenir.

On Saturday I had lunch with Ryan at The Royal Mile, an English pub on 4th Street. I had bangers and mash and a shandy. Yum. I also tried my first Scotch egg at Ryan’s insistence. Very tasty, but heart attack on a plate. I don’t think I will be eating them very often. Essentially it was a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage and deep fried. Not the most low-calorie appetizer!

 

The Royal Mile Pub

The Royal Mile Pub

The Royal Mile interior

The Royal Mile interior

Sunday night we bade farewell to Kevin Crewell, one of our original male ensemble members. As has become tradition for someone’s final performance, there were definitely shenanigans during the show – key being Cuz, our sound man, riding out in the Trojan rabbit, in just a kilt. While Kevin, as a French guard, and a couple of the other “Frenchies” were doing the scene peeking out of the castle door, Cuz lifted up his kilt inside the rabbit and did a little dance for Kevin in just a g-string. If you know Cuz, you know he is a big dude, so let me tell you, it was quite a sight to behold.
Kevin with his nephew

Kevin with his nephew

After the show, while the crew began load-out, I went up to Karl’s (our company manager) room with Ken, Jovon, Adam, Christopher and Jeff for a couple of cocktails. Karl and Jeff, as our company managers, usually get complimentary rooms at the hotels since they book our housing. At this particular hotel in Des Moines, they were given the two penthouses on the 12th floor – which are the only two rooms on the 12th floor, so you can imagine how big they were. Karl’s room in particular, which was the “presidential suite” (apparently all the U.S. presidents have stayed there) was ridiculously big, with a full dining room and a large outdoor patio. The funny thing about the rooms, though, was that they were probably very chic in the 1960’s, but now the decor came across as “Grandma’s penthouse”. It was very funny. But we did enjoy drinks on the patio overlooking downtown Des Moines.

All in all, I was very impressed with Des Moines. It was a charming little midwestern town, with some very cool, interesting spots. What a nice surprise!

Now we are in St. Paul, Minneapolis, enjoying a three week run. It is nice to be in one place for a couple of weeks and I have some day trips planned which I am looking forward to. Hopefully I will also have some finished knitting projects to show off soon, too!