Every year for a couple of months in late winter I lose my mind and my heart to a small group of winsome home school students with an interest in theatre. I can’t explain why I spend a jillion or more hours on producing a melodrama with them, or why I let nearly everything else in my life go during this time.
Wait. Yes. Actually, I can: It makes me happy.
But definitely–happy or not–I’m totally unbalanced during the last few weeks, despite my best efforts. And this does not make me happy. At mealtimes I need something very quick and yet quite delicious, to pull out of the ‘fridge. (Quick because I have only a few minutes to spare; quite delicious because our spirits badly need bolstering, and mediocre food does not, after all, a spirit bolster.) That’s why I make every effort to put together my sister’s signature sandwich, the “Moll,” to have on hand during one of the most stressful weeks in our calendar. The Moll: It keeps well in the ‘fridge; it tastes AMAZING; it can be pulled out in a moment’s notice and be lunch. Or dinner. Or even a lovely spirit-fortifying snack.
It has it all, sandwich-wise.
Until the last couple weeks before the show, I do try very very hard to stay (what I consider) “balanced.” I keep up(ish). I indulge in my three minutes (hehe) of daily house-tidying (such as it is), to avert true pigsty-level surroundings. (And I have raised pigs: I know of what I speak!) The beds are made; the dishes are washed; the laundry is kept up (mostly). We eat together every day.
But any theatre person would agree that an attempt to maintain balance goes out the window during the last crazy creative couple weeks of production season. Well. The way we do it, anyway. If we had a big budget (we don’t) or a paid crew (nope) or even a restless bunch of kids underfoot at home (not any more, alas) we could delegate more. But as it is, even with my sterling, new-this-year production team, at the end of the day the buck stops with me. Me. Tired me. Unorganized me. Oft-overwhelmed, imperfect, unrealistic-about-how-long-things-take-but-not-in-a-good-way me.
As we get closer and closer to Show Week, after all, my time is spent conferring with earnest drama children-cum-young adults, via email, ‘phone, and texts, about the merits of a straw hat versus a felt one. Which colors must each flapper wear during the party scene? How high of a heel would really be worn by a 1920s party-goer? What kind of hair style would a young woman wear in the ’20s, if she did not bob her hair? How can we eke out just another hour or two to rehearse the Charleston dance contest scene?
These burning questions take precedence, of course, to meal-planning and bill-paying, to dusting the baseboards (ha), to the winter orchard tree pruning that is necessary (since the head pruner, *cough* is too busy during the growing season to get out there and do it), to closet-cleaning and house tidying, or even keeping up with my seed-sowing schedule. Alas.
Nothing else matters quite as much today, for instance, as making a few more clouds to hang above the stage, and designing and painting the salon mural. (Art Deco, don’tcha know? It’s the 1920’s!) The set is a pastiche of backdrops from other shows, props pulled from the attic, and Pinterest-gleaned projects, all hastily taped and screwed and super-glued together for a week, before being torn apart and thrown away, or socked away for another project sometime. I gaze at it–the set–made by rank amateurs such as us, for long moments and hope that it will do.
I don’t mind letting the house go for a week or two. Well, I do, but I don’t. I know, however, that there is real physical peril in letting our diets go, however, in the middle of flu season (as we are) at that. Here’s the thing: I don’t want to get sick during it all. I’ve been-there-done-that!
My personal show week goal this year? It’s pretty simple: Not to wake up sick the day after we strike set. Yes. That is a worthy goal, and that is why this fabulous sandwich with the meats and the cheeses and the marinated red onion slices and yummy spicy pickles and the homemade herb-laced focaccia bread*–all made ahead, so we can just pull wedges out of the ‘fridge when needed–is so important during this stressful week.
Without it, I may be sitting in a corner of the pantry, eating candy bars leftover from Candy Bar Night. Don’t laugh. It
happened could happen.
When you are in the throes of passion in creating something like “Peril on the High Seas . . . or Let’s Get Together and Do Launch!” you make a few rules–only a few–for yourself.
- Don’t let any of the critters die.
- Don’t get sick.
- Take vitamins and get 8 hours of sleep every night.
- Pay the bills, for pete’s sake. (Late fees stink.)
- Drink a lot of water.
- Water all the plants.
- Pray about it. All of it. First thing. Every day.
Everything else goes. Pretty much.
My heart has been touched by the precious group of seniors that we have in our drama group this year. They are so sentimental, and being a sentimental-to-a-fault person myself, I ache for them. Some years I have one senior. Most years, two or three. This year, I have seven seniors. Seven out of a cast of sixteen! They have communicated their appreciation and affection towards Bryan and me in various ways. This ties my heart up in knots, gentle reader. Knots. One sweet girl said this to me last week:
I always look forward to Show Week so much: it’s my favorite week of the year! But this year, I’m dreading it . . . because it’ll be the last one.
Oh, dearie, I wanted to say. The end of high school is not, after all, the end of life. It’s a scary thought now, I know, but next year will be all new and fresh. You’ll make wonderful memories. And the next year you will, too. Someday your high school years–so important right now–will just be a quaint memory, as your college years and what you are learning there become more important. And then the same thing will happen to your college memories, as you build a life as a young adult. Hopefully you’ll have a family to care for one day, and then those fresh experiences and puzzlements of raising children and building a life together will take precedence over all others. That’s what I wanted to say. I don’t remember what I actually said, but I’d guess it was not as inspiring as all that. It was probably something lame and forgettable, knowing me and Show Week.
It’s a scary world. I suppose it always has been, but it seems especially scary right now. Flags flying at half-mast this week are a reminder, every time we go out, that this world is not a safe place. I guess it never has been, but every age seems to have the worst and the best of everything, doesn’t it? Events of terrible, life-altering sadness happen for somebody every day. Every moment. And places that we feel good about leaving our children–at a school, or a shopping mall–are actually not safe. It puts a lump in my throat to think about how vulnerable our dear ones are. It also makes sure that I spend time every day on my knees, praying for them.
So as I gaze at these dear earnest kids, who treasure this experience and each other so well, inside this dark, tiny, cluttered theatre, I am deeply thankful for the few weeks that I can work hard with them to create a tiny bit . . . of magic.
This–now–it makes them happy. And as I stand in the back of a crowded theatre, watching the kids perform at their very best, and watching the audience members forget the sad things of life for a couple of hours, too, and laugh and giggle and throw popcorn, this makes us happy too. This–live theatre–takes us out of our daily grind with its hard things; it lifts our spirits.
Watching the joy on the faces of these sweet kids as they learn, collaborate, reach the worthwhile goal of learning how to perform well, is precious and worthwhile to me. Hopefully they will nurture a love for live theatre that will continue throughout their lives. Maybe they’ll major in theatre in college, or maybe they’ll be a positive part of community theatre when they are out of college, who knows.
One thing I do know: everything–for the nonce!–inside our little theatre will be good and safe and hopeful. And, if everything goes well after all, slightly magical.
Honestly . . . sometimes the lady looking back at me in the mirror looks like she could use a week-long nap . . . but tiring myself out for the good of these kids seems like a good and right thing for me to be doing right now. And if I’m going to be extra-tired anyway (which seems to come with *cough* the years), it ought to be for a great reason, like opening a door for these kids that might not be opened otherwise. I have written more posts about our group. Here’s how we came about, and there are many others, too, if you poke around just a bit.
But! Now I’ve got to get back to these sandwiches that this post is ostensibly about, though. I started out writing about them; I segued into heart issues, but now I’m back to (drum roll, please!): the Moll.
Last year, when I was toiling on another stressful but joyful production–my May Plant Sale–my little sister Mollie came to help me, and to sell her artisan breads. She is another theatre person and understands all-in productions like the ones we both tend to get ourselves into (God help us). She spent a day making artisan breads in my kitchen, and sometime in the middle of it she took the time to make these a-mazing sandwiches, and socked them into the ‘fridge. Then when we closed the sale for the day, we sat down at the picnic table outside. We grabbed a green salad that I had made from hoophouse greens, some olive oil for dipping, a bottle of wine (it was appropriate) and we tucked in.
I had never eaten any sandwich quite as delicious as that one, on that exhausting, exhilarating day. Mollie has developed the recipe over time, and so it is, in a word, Absolutely Delicious, and what I would deem just a tad self-indulgent, which–of course–is what you need during an over-the-moon stressful week.
This sandwich ought to be made ahead of time, and then wrapped up tightly and chilled, for the best effect, that is so the flavors mix and meld a bit. Here’s the recipe, and you’ll just have to imagine the charming curtsy from Mollie.
- 1-lb loaf of rosemary focaccia bread, sliced in half as if it's a big roll, then after sandwich is made, into pie-shaped wedges. (I use the olive oil bucket dough and bake a lb. of the dough in a round cake pan. Drizzle it generously with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary before I bake it.)
- 3 kinds of thinly sliced deli meat--Yes, three! I like turkey, ham and nice salami. All sliced very THIN, I say!
- *2 kinds of thinly sliced cheese. Something yellow, something white. Nothing with too strong of a taste on its own. (This is across the board. Opt out of the buffalo chicken breast, or the pepper cheese. You don’t want anything that’s going to overpower the other flavors.)
- *Marinated red onions: slice the onions really thin and let them soak in a vinaigrette for at least 30 minutes before you construct the sandwiches. I like Brianna’s salad dressing, but any oil/vinegar will do. If you don’t have a red onion, use a thinly sliced cuke instead.
- *Sweet and spicy pickles. Mollie likes Famous Dave’s brand, but any favorite pickle or bread and butter pickle will do.
- Note on rosemary focaccia bread: I use the olive oil bucket dough and bake a lb. of the dough in a round cake pan. Drizzle it generously with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary before you bake it.
- When making the sandwiches, put layers of the meats and one layer of cheese on the bottom half of the loaf. Then put on the pickles and marinated onions. Liberally sprinkle some of the vinaigrette inside the sandwich. Top with the last layer of cheese. This layer will keep the bread from getting soggy. Cut the entire loaf into wedges. For some reason, it tastes better this way. 🙂
- If you are making the sandwich ahead, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
- Keeps well for a day or two, but it probably won't last that long.
- *IMPORTANT NOTE from Mollie: What is this sandwich lacking? Tomatoes. Greens. Mustard. Mayo. All these things are good, but if you put them on, you need to eat them immediately, otherwise they get soggy. So, they don’t really have a spot on The Moll.
- AND: When making the sandwiches, put layers of the meats and one layer of cheese on the bottom half of the loaf. Then put on the pickles and marinated onions. Liberally sprinkle some of the vinaigrette inside the sandwich. Top with the last layer of cheese. This layer will keep the bread from getting soggy. Cut the entire loaf into wedges. For some reason, it tastes better this way. 🙂
- Serve with pickle spears, veggie sticks, and good potato chips.
Shhh: *Here’s a note about the homemade focaccia bread. Two, actually. Number one: watch this space, as i am working on a post about it, tra-la. And two: if you find yourself sadly lacking in homemade rosemary focaccia bread, try a ciabatta bun, or anything of that hearty, crusty ilk. (Just don’t tell Mollie.)