Without a net
Sunday in the Park
February 24, 2017
When you start to be "woke," the universe sometimes lines up. It's so obvious you have to laugh … After you've cried.
At my work this week — which involves presenting all forms of the lively performing arts — we had a circus without animals: a French Canadian troupe we hadn't presented in more than a decade.
It was small as circuses go, about 12 people, with performers who doubled as stage hands, musicians who juggled (and sang) and acrobats who danced and set up the equipment for the next trick.
They spotted for one another as they flew through the air and they moved set pieces as they sang. They had us gasping at their tricks and talents. They took us back to the way the west was fought and won, from the railroad to the gold rush to the automobile. There were love stories woven in with bar fights and death-defying moments. There were no nets and no wires.
We who exist in an interdependent resort were forced to consider suddenly we might have to perform without a net.
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It has been a very long time since I heard the collective gasp of an audience like that. And then, the extended applause and standing ovation and whooping and hollering and just plain joy at what we had collectively witnessed.
At the after party — with donors in a restaurant across town — the cast joined us and did a little more than just met with folks and have pictures taken. They pushed aside a table and started dancing, led a conga line through the restaurant. Posed together atop each other's shoulders. There were shots of whiskey. And we all laughed. A lot.
There was palpable relief they had performed without incident. They found the altitude challenging and needed oxygen backstage between stunts. There had been concerns about the equipment and the height and depth of our stage to perform. This was the very last stop of their three month tour where they had performed just one night in each town, and like old time circus performers, just packed up and left each new day.
We had a chance to learn they were not all from Canada. One women was from Michigan. A guy from Kansas. Another woman from Cairo. One from Istanbul. They traveled the world performing this thrilling professional show and living out of suitcases and eating different meals in different towns every two days.
The second night of the performance built on the success of the night before with folks prepared to see the show they heard about from friends and neighbors. And, of course, this was all complemented by heavy snow. Then a major accident on I-80 with a fatality that shut down the interstate for nearly 12 hours. Just days before that there had been a recognition of a vital role our immigrant community performs here, with many choosing to not work last Thursday with the support of their bosses, mostly in the restaurant community but not exclusively.
Then the news last Friday morning: Federal law enforcement officers had arrested four immigrants in an early morning search for those who had broken the law. And lots of vital people who keep us all "sticking our landings" were frightened. In the climate of the country, they have reason to be frightened. We live in fearful and often fear-based times.
I listened to people I respect become immediately divided about the cause and effect of the law enforcement actions and in an epiphany that seemed to come with a soundtrack. We who exist in an interdependent resort were forced to consider suddenly we might have to perform without a net.
I thought back to the Park City community I moved to in 1979. There was one family of color who lived here full time. Henry Coleman was a black man who worked at the post office and proudly raised and lowered the flag outside it each day. I interviewed him at his simple home under the tramway. His wife fixed me lemonade and we talked for hours about how Park City had changed from when he arrived here after the war. He was a kind, elegant man.
In the years that followed as the resort grew it had become obvious to PCMR even then, even in the '70s, there weren’t enough ski bums to run the lifts and make the beds and make the salads. So they went to Mexico and recruited men and women to move to town for the winters to make the town work. And most summers those folks would return to Mexico to their families and other jobs.
Time passes and the people we invited to work here seasonally started to stay and become more than valued workers. They became the lifeblood that connected us. The priest started a Sunday mass in Spanish and a market popped up to serve the needs of a unique market share. And the rest of us. The valued work force did landscaping work in the summers and house building year round and they cleaned our homes and hotels.
The stunts we perform each season now as a small group of dedicated performers in a resort community we do without visible nets or wires. We receive the applause and accolades from the international community for our performance. And we need each community member to perform without fear. Depend on one another. This isn't about politics, though politics inform decisions. This is about community. Real community and how we care for one another as we have been cared for by one another.
To keep the show going we all have to perform. And we have to have plans for when it snows extra hard or the freeway cuts us off from civilization for long periods of time. And for when our fellow performers need a leg up the ladder to take their turn to fly from it.
The only thing I am certain of this week is we are a tight knit troupe here and we need to stick together. Every way, every day, including all the Sundays in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.