Stan's Cafe: One looks, marvels and understands

Haiku

February 22nd, 2009

They have a problem with keys at the Zilkha Gallery. Not very many people have them and fewer people know the alarm code. Thus far this has only been mildly irritating but this morning we arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled opening time and no one from the gallery is around. We’ve been given a key to the front door and a dressing room, so we call Public Safety – as the security guards are called in these parts – they say they’ll be with us so we get changed. Fifteen minutes later the only people who have shown up are audience members. The others start small talk. I get on the phone. Sylvia our local performer gamely launches into organising games with the kids. Barry turns up, bless him, to ‘see how we’re doing’, he get on the phone. Our box office guy turns up. He’s got not key. He gets on the phone. It turns out a moment after our initial call a fire alarm has gone off Fire trumps Gallery Opening trumps sitting around with a Coffee and the Paper. We’re out trumped. Some audience are leaving, others are arriving. Just as we’re calculating whether Burglar Alarm plus Fire Alarm trump just Fire Alarm ‘Public Safety’ arrives and all is well. No fights break out. The Public is Safe.

After this glitch everything is great and runs smoothly. Lots of people have seen last nights TV and we’re steadily busy with visitors through the day. The response is fantastic. People tell us how much they love the show and ask questions. It’s busy but not so busy that we can’t keep building the show.

I work on statistics for the vitrines that are poised to be placed around campus. Barry and I talk about Darwin as prep for the Science Department display (later he emails saying there are 27 adult Charles Darwins living in the U.S.). Vitrines are a kind of haiku version of the show, you have to boil it all down to 1m square and keep it elegant in both visually and conceptually. It takes far more time than we ever credit it with.

Eventually Graeme and I nail the Haiku (if you’re following the show on Twitter you will already know the poem). We carry everything over to the Science block turning heads as we go. They don’t often see a brown housecoat in these parts, still less two together. No doubt a rumour is sweeping campus about this new, quasi-Mormon sect.

All goes well with the vitrine, the rice is tidy, the paper all very neatly, Darwin is there, H.M.S. Beagle is there, local creationists are laid out beside local evolutionists. All is as it should be. We carefully lift the Perspex hood over the display and gently lower it down. Beautiful. We admire our work. All is good, so casually we pull the protective plastic coatings from the Perspex and bundle it up into balls. We’re all set to go but inside the vitrine things have gone crazy. Grains for rice are rising up, standing on their ends and leaping from the piles. They’re pinging themselves against the Perspex attempting to escape and the paper is curling at its edges attempting to catch them. Momentarily our allegiances in the Creation – Evolution debate swing decisively then the crackle of static electricity breaks out. Now we’re spinning and dancing with delight. It’s fantastic, now this extraordinary show even has its own weird, flea-show style variety act, should a cabaret opening come up. With one sheet of plastic still to be pulled and my camera-phone poised we shoot what, if Craig can give me the appropriate pass-words, should become one of You-tubes more esoteric clips.

Late in the day at the Student Union Chris and I take the precaution of removing the plastic from the Perspex well away from the rice and earth everything carefully before enclosing the second Haiku.

It’s a seven hour day but shift working gives the others a half day. I’m locked into this for now. Yesterday I went for a break only to find myself online in the union digging out numbers for Albinos in Tanzania and the U.S. (more in the former) and a up-to-date number for Guantanamo Bay internees – which is often an elusive one to find.

It’s been a good day 182 visitors added to last night’s opening crowd gives us 400 so far. We have our own key to the gallery and – don’t tell anyone – the alarm has been left off. Midnight party with the Dancing Rice Grains anyone?

James

P.S. Having researched Wesleyan’s Public Safety department for this blog I am now fully aware they are much more than just Security Guards. I also notice they do a neat line in statistics…

One Response to “Haiku”

  1. Graeme says:

    Just for the record it was Carolyn, not Sylvia, who corralled the kids of Middletown with some neat activities. Back at her place one night we find out that her career has included seasons as a Bob Fosse dancer on Broadway. The broader church of Stan welcomes manifold, if oft’ untold talents.

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