Friday, March 22, 2013

My commentaries at the Visitors Educational Center are becoming more focused at this point, and -- though unpredictable -- we're beginning to bring return audiences to our little theater ... 

... and, though I'm more comfortable with being able -- still -- to draw upon memory while standing before audiences, and though it's beginning to be repetitive in some instances, the newness of the expressions on the faces before me manages to keep it all fresh and meaningful.  I'm not sure how that happens, but having the docents turn up the lights when the film ends -- so that I can look into those faces seems to hold the answer.  My command of the room clearly depends upon my ability to look into the eyes before me.  I could never work under a spotlight which blinds and disconnects me from the source of life -- the human connection upon which everything depends.

When these afternoon presentations were initiated -- and for some time afterward -- I felt drained after what is essentially a 45-minute program which included a 16-minute film with a Q&A.  The 2 o'clock program (on Tuesday and Saturday afternoons) and end at 3:00 o'clock which is the normal end of my 5-hour workday.  At first I'd find it awkward to tarry long enough to get audience feedback, and would scurry off with head down for the parking lot.

One day that ended.  Not sure how that happened, but I'm now able to stand at the front of the room and allow folks to comment without wanting to look down at my shoes before bolting.

... and I'm awed by the make-up of those small audiences (theater only holds about 45 folks at a time), but on Tuesday there was only one person of color in the room, a man who crept in shortly after the film started.  At the end of my remarks he lingered long enough for others to take their leave before coming up to offer his hand.  His words, "I was interested that -- when you were listing those black heroes who made up the events that occurred during the lives of the 3 women in your family -- of whom you are one -- you left out my ancestor,  Frederick Douglass."  Our visitor turned out to be a state worker just driving through Richmond on Highway 580, and noticing the signs leading to the Visitors Education Center decided to check out this park he knew nothing of.  His surname was, indeed, Douglass (two esses) and his great-great-great-grandfather was the historic iconic figure we've so revered since childhood.  His own father (still living) worked at the White House -- but here's where I was so stunned by his identify, and his excitement about what he'd accidentally discovered here -- that the rest was lost.  His last words were, "wait 'til I tell my Dad about this!"  He promised to return with father in tow soon.

Ya nevah know ... .