Meeting Sara Solum Hayashi
Artistic Director, Cindy Giese French, stands at the podium
Our Managing Director, Amy Gentry,
Last night Molly, Amy, William (my husband), and I sat nervously in the Diva Espresso at The Hangar at Town Square. In 20 minutes we would be presenting to the Kenmore City Council Members at the open comment section of their council meeting. The public would also be there. It was strangely terrifying. What would we say? Would we look like fools? Somehow the thought of that was more nerve-wracking than performing on stage for two hours in front of strangers.
With 10 minutes to go we make our way towards City Hall. We stand for what seems like an interminable amount of time at the crosswalk waiting for the light to change. It starts feeling very reminiscent of being stuck in traffic on a performance tonight. My bowels are starting to loosen. Finally the light changes and we cross the street.
When we arrive at City Hall we discover that the first portion of the meeting is still in session, as it has gone over its allotted time. So we spend more time waiting. Ironically, as we sit in the lobby we’re able to read the Bothell-Kenmore Reporter, which features a long article on our new theater company. This leads to a conversation about being misquoted in previous articles and the regret you feel when you say something stupid and then the stupid thing you say ends up making it into the article. Another wave of anxiety hits me as I project this happening to me during the meeting. I’m the queen of saying stupid things. Really. I should have a crown. My bowels loosen a little more.
After another 10 minutes the doors finally open and people begin meandering out into the lobby, while others quickly rearrange the chairs in the chamber. At least I think it’s called the chamber. The chamber. It sounds so Harry Potter-ish. But I digress.
Realizing the meeting is starting later than we expected, I shoot a quick text to our stage manager, Sarah, to alert her of our delay to rehearsal, where the other three actors wait patiently for our arrival. Side note: Always communicate with your stage manager. You never want to be in trouble with the stage manager. Never. They can make or break you. That is a rule to live by.
We nab our places in the front row and sit down. At this point I am ready to crawl out of my skin, Amy is giving me a terrified frozen face, but Molly looks cool as a cucumber. She loves to talk to people and she’s a natural at it. You would swear she’s from the Midwest the way she can engage you in conversation. And that’s the number one reason she’s our Engagement Director.
We are scheduled to speak fourth. Now I’m doing math. If each speaker has 3 minutes (they do) and they go the full three minutes (they don’t), we’ll be up in 9 minutes (more like 6½). Breathe, Cindy. Stop shaking.
The mayor of Kenmore solemnly opens up the meeting to public comments as the first of the commenters approaches the podium. Each person has only three minutes to plead their case, so they better be good.
It’s all such a serious affair, this politics thing. Something that big people do. Grown-ups. Something that I feel I am not. But let’s get on with it.
The commenters all bring serious discussions before the council. Their fights are genuine. The Kenmore City Council Member’s faces are grim. This is all very real. And sobering. Now I’m a bit concerned. This doesn’t feel like the right venue for dropping a little levity about our theatre company. But just as a quickly a second thought hits me, ‘Hey, there’s nowhere to go but up.’
I am on the brink of speaking. Molly turns to me and says, “Remember why you’re doing this.” and other sage words of advice, bolstering my nerves. My bowels tighten a fraction.
Finally my name is called.
Molly, Amy, and I approach the podium. I follow the protocol of the previous commenters by stating my name and my address, which is really a weird thing to do, stating your address. I am an anonymous neighbor no longer!
I look at the council member’s faces and the public’s faces and they are all still very serious.
“Hi, I’m Cindy Giese French, I live at blah blah blah and I’m the Artistic Director of As If Theatre Company…” Their faces shift a bit, maybe a little brighter.
I introduce Amy who deftly explains the themes of The Clean House and encourages people to attend. This isn’t her first rodeo. She knows how to promote a show and make people want to see it. It’s the #1 reason she’s our Managing Director. Then Molly takes over speaking about our desire to be part of the Kenmore community and the opportunities we can offer. I am in awe of these two women. They are fierce. There is zero trace of any nerves. They are leaders. And I am proud to be in their presence.
To finish off our 3 minute presentation, William joins us at the podium with his ukulele, where he and I sing a song that we wrote years ago with our children, inspired by Kenmore’s tagline, “Courtesy is contagious”. When we finish, most everyone is smiling and the mayor gives us a standing ovation.
I repeat, the mayor gives us a standing ovation.
It is a theatre nerd’s dream.
We hurry back to our chairs to gather our belongings so that we can leave for rehearsal, when Rod Dembowski, the Council Chair, rushes over to us to introduce himself and offer to get us in contact with 4Culture, a nonprofit organization that assists other artists with funding, etc. Ok, he’s my favorite.
Then Sara Solum Hayashi with Arts of Kenmore comes to meet us. She is a force, full of electricity and vibrance. “We need to talk.” We meet her outside of the chamber and the energy is palpable. It’s another fantastic connection. She’s my favorite.
Then a local pastor leaves the meeting to catch up to us in the lobby. She used to do theater, she wants to do it again, how can that happen? She’s my favorite, too. They’re all my favorite.
Last night was the strongest indicator yet that making the decision to start our theater home in Kenmore was the right one. It feels good. Really good.
Up, up, and away!