Arkansas, Arkansas

Driving into Fayetteville was quite beautiful. I had spent the previous night in Oklahoma City en route from Albuquerque, and so only had a few short hours of driving to finish up on Monday. The roads were icy and so I had to take it slow, but despite the temperatures outside being near the single digits, there was no snow. As I neared Fayetteville, I had to take a two lane highway through a national forest. It was really, really pretty, and I’m sorry that I didn’t have more time during the week to return for some hiking and picture-taking.

After arriving and settling in at the hotel (a very nice Staybridge Suites), I drove back on that two-lane highway to the airport to return my rental car and to pick up the car rented for me by the company for the week. It’s amazing to me that there is even an airport in those parts, as it seemed so rural and remote, but it is also the main headquarters for Walmart, so there is indeed an airport in Bentonville, about thirty miles from Fayetteville. The nearest gas station I could find to the airport was three miles away, and had one pump. I had to go into the little shop next to it and tell the woman with no teeth who was working there how much gas I had pumped, in order to pay her. After doing the car switcharoo, I drove to a very nice outdoor mall to finish up some Christmas shopping and then back to the hotel in Fayetteville.

Near the airport in Bentonville - it was so, so cold!

Near the airport in Bentonville - it was so, so cold!

Fayetteville itself is a fairly typical suburban town – it has all your usual chain stores, including of course, Walmart. One of the locals told me that in the metro area, which has a population of about 400,000 and encompasses four towns, they have SIXTEEN Walmarts. Holy crap! I had some trouble finding a grocery store that night that wasn’t Walmart and so I had to pick up a few sundry items at Walgreens (which is unrelated to Walmart). Ryan would kill me if I shopped at Walmart – they are fiercely anti-union, which also explains why the theater we were playing, the Walton Center, was also non-union. The stagehands there said there was no way it would ever go union. It’s kind of sad for them, actually.

Fayetteville is also home to the University of Arkansas, so there were a lot of young people about, and there was a very cute strip of restaurants and bars downtown across from the theater, which obviously caters to the students.

The theater itself was really nice. It is fairly new, and after Sioux City, all the space seemed like a luxury. There weren’t many dressing rooms, so all the principals had to share one big room, but other than that, we fit just fine. The locals were really nice, some more on top of their game than others, but opening went swimmingly. Esther, who plays the Lady of the Lake, grew up in Fayetteville, and her family still lives down the street from the theater. Needless to say, she is a kind of a hometown hero, and every performance last week was sold out, largely due to her. She received entrance applause every night.

Outside the theater there is randomly this statue of a knitter!

Outside the theater there is randomly this statue of a knitter!

After the opening night performance, we all gathered at Esther’s parents’ house for a party. It was a nice gathering, and Esther’s homemade fudge was a hit!

The main event for the remainder of the week was Secret Santa! The festivities commenced on Tuesday, and all week people were running around, sneakily delivering gifts, and trying to figure out who had who. My Secret Santa went all out, decorating my spot at work, and leaving me treats every day.

I finished making my final Secret Santa gift, this hat - can you guess who the recipient is?

I finished making my final Secret Santa gift, this hat - can you guess who the recipient is?

It really was a week of preparation for Christmas. I didn’t even really take any photos. I would have liked to have gone to see the little museum in Bill and Hilary Clinton’s old house, which is all about them and their legacy, but with Christmas shopping and an understudy rehearsal on Thursday, there just wasn’t time.

On Friday, I went to Target and bought a bunch of gifts for a family that we (stage management and company management) had adopted in Des Moines for Christmas. Tim Connell headed up the shopping for one family, and then in lieu of giving the company gifts from us this holiday, we managers decided to instead adopt a second family. Shopping for them was loads of fun, and I only wish I could see their faces when they open all the dozens of gifts we bought them on Christmas morning. We spent the whole weekend wrapping gifts and loading them into a trunk for travel to Des Moines.

We closed on Sunday night and Monday I boarded the bus for the very long ride to Des Moines. It was a low-key, but productive week – sometimes those are the best kind!

Merry Christmas to all!

Me, at the town square, checking out all the lights!

Me, at the town square, checking out all the lights!

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