In 2008, I left Boeing to join, wait for it…The Cutest Show on Earth. The Cutest Show on Earth, also known as Let’s Pretend Entertainment, was presided over by the indomitable Elisa Hays. Providing four different children’s shows, we toured the American West, putting on shows at fairs and festivals.
That experience was energizing, exciting, and exhausting for me. I learned a lot about myself. I’m sharing that experience with you.
The Cutest Show on Earth
There are four different shows that a fair or festival can request when hiring from Let’s Pretend Entertainment:
- Wild West
- Insane “Wash your hands” Flight Attendant
The most popular show was the Flight Attendant show. It was also my favorite.
For each show there were two workers, the talent, and the backstage hand. We would rotate positions so we both got to perform. This was important since we were all actors.
The format, at its most basic, was the same. We recruited about 12 kids, usually ages 4 to 8, and 1 hapless man to be in the show. We put them in costumes and gave them very easy directions. Then we put on the most adorable show you will have ever seen.
So many adorable things:
- Little cowboys and cowgirls “shooting” the can off the cask.
- Little pirates rushing the audience yelling “Arrrggghhhh.”
- Little lions and tigers getting up on pedestals, roaring and taking swipes with their claws at the audience.
- Little victims, er, kids, who end up in a time capsule with an over-caffeinated flight attendant.
- Burly men dressed up as a parrot.
It goes on and on.
We did 3 to 5 shows a day. And boy those shows were fun! And they were especially great for the kids. They got to be on stage, being wildly applauded, getting to win!
I auditioned after one of Steven Anderson’s classes. Before the apocalypse, he came to Seattle 4 times a year to teach a weekend acting class. If he ever comes back, I highly recommend him. After one of these classes, Elisa asked me to audition.
The audition was to do an improv, as Miss Kitty.
The improv ended up being a wild chase with me not only playing Miss Kitty, but all the other roles. It was madness. And it went on for a long time. It felt like a half an hour but really, I have no idea.
Elisa just let me keep going.
Finally, we caught the bad guy and put him in jail. Me, playing the Sherriff, told me, playing Miss Kitty, to watch him. Well, watching someone is not very exciting in improv. Something had to change.
I then pivoted into a scene where the bad guy was trying to seduce Miss Kitty. “Miss Kitty, you’re a fine looking woman.”
Elisa stopped me there. She was just waiting for me to improv myself into a corner so she could see if I could get out of it.
I got the job!
In the Beginning
First, I did the spring fair in Puyallup to get my stage legs. I played backstage hand for Elisa and learned how it all worked.
Since I was going to be on the road all summer, I moved out of my apartment and into Elisa’s guest room. This was both convenient and challenging.
I think it was challenging for her and her family to have me in their space for all that time I wasn’t on the road, and it was challenging for me because I was in someone else’s space, not my own.
It was convenient because I could be there and help Elisa get organized for the season. Taking inventory, getting supplies ready, and putting processes in place. And I didn’t have to pay rent. I wouldn’t have been able to do the show if not for being able to stay with them.
Energizing and Exciting
I found everything about the show itself both energizing and exciting. I liked setting up the show and pulling it down. I liked being the talent and being the backstage hand. I loved playing with the kids.
I loved watching the kids as they were given a “round of applause”. Seeing their smiles. Seeing the happy parents in the audience. For many of those kids, it was probably a life changing event.
I had fun putting on the adult costume and running around the fair in it telling people about our show. (I wasn’t told to do this, but I did it anyway.) Talking the fair producers to let me get on the intercom, if they had one, to troll our show. I really like intercoms.
And there were exhausting parts to it. This was during the “Decade where Karin didn’t sleep well”, or at all, many nights.
Being on the road was hard on me. Driving the vehicle, especially at night, was over-stimulating and I couldn’t sleep. Being in different hotel rooms all the time made it hard to get comfortable. Elisa had each of us include a box with the things that will make us comfortable, and it was in our contract that our rooms have a microwave and fridge, but it was still hard.
While most of the room were very nice, sometimes they weren’t. In Clovis NM, the rooms were pretty bad. My partner’s room got flooded the first night. There was a dusty industrial complex next door and a train track.
But there was a microwave and fridge! Contact satisfied!
I was also coming off a bad time in my life. I really needed consistency in my life. I missed my friends and Seattle. I’ve healed since then but still, it was hard.
I had different partners during the season, all very different, with different challenges for me.
- One partner was a new mother who was missing her child and very focused on her new role as mother. We didn’t have a lot in common. Since I found solace in setting up and breaking down the set, she tended to let me do it. The Fresno fair saw this and didn’t like it, but I was happy to do it.
- One partner was really fun but being in that bad hotel in Clovis, with our show being put behind the farm tractors, in a show that was the newest show and not fully developed put a strain on us.
- One partner was the most professional of all of us. She nailed everything. But she was traumatized by the fact that I wanted to wear the red cowboy hat in the Wild West show. Elisa’s old partner had been extremely challenging for her and she associated both that hat, and my age, with that trauma. In retrospect, knowing what I know now, I should have taken pity on her and wore the other hat.
- Elisa was the one up for the most fun. But she was also the boss. It’s hard to have fun with the boss. It’s too easy to do or say something they don’t like.
- And I’m challenging as well, I’m sure.
I think it would have been easier if I’d had someone I could really bond with.
Stories from the Road
The Pirates of Clovis
The fair at Clovis put us behind all the tractors instead of with the rest of the children’s activities. So yeah, I dressed up as a parrot and flapped about the fair, squawking, a lot trying to get people to come to our show.
The most memorable show was when a group of disabled adult children came to our show. They didn’t have it in them to do the show, so we put them all in pirate hats and had a pirate party on the set with them. They’d take the wheel or run around. I ran around yelling “arrgghhh” and “walk the plank” and other pirate sayings.
I think they had a great time.
The Men of Fresno
Fresno is a very Hispanic city. It’s really hard to get a Hispanic man to do something that will result in people laughing at him, especially in public. My partner couldn’t do it, so I took over that task and I was fairly successful.
One show I was out looking for my man and the one I settled on was so alarmed that he ran away. I went looking for another man. The first one came back and was peeking at me from behind some people. I noticed him. He noticed me noticing him. When I started for him again, he panicked and ran down the fairway, never to be seen again.
And yeah, it was almost always men playing the adult part. Women have a hard time making fools of themselves in public. Someday maybe women will feel able to do it.
The Hardheaded Child of Puyallup
During the Puyallup fair, a family with a young girl showed up for our first show (there were 5 shows a day). She had so much fun that she refused to leave our show. She didn’t want to go on rides, play games, or see other shows. She wanted to stay with our show.
So, the confused parents ended up spending their whole day at the fair at our show.
This girl played a role in every show. She had something to do in every show. How can you argue with such determination and will?
For the final show, we had a much larger audience. It was time for her to let go of her acting role at the show.
I took her aside and ask her if she’d like to be my assistant backstage hand. She jumped at the chance! She helped me get the kids into the costumes, showed them how to moo and oink, and helped send them out on cue.
She was our number one fan!
The Obsessive-Compulsive Child of Puyallup
The show we were doing in Puyallup was the insane Flight Attendant show. It was my favorite because my character was an over-caffeinated flight attendant with mental issues. It’s a crazy show.
On this day, there was a child in the audience who was very upset about all the wackiness going on. Every time I asked for a volunteer, she’d volunteer.
The first time, it became clear that she volunteered so that she could ask me if someone else could do the show. That I was crazy.
The whole audience heard this; it was the funniest thing.
So, I kept letting her come up on stage with me. She’s sitting next to me in our time capsule, me laughing like a loon and wiggling my eyebrows at her. She’s still asking for someone else.
Her mother was in the audience laughing her head off and taking pictures.
That poor child. If she’d been born a canine, she would have been a herding dog, trying to make order out of the world.
The Challenged Child of Puyallup
One show we had a young girl in the audience who was extremely challenged. She didn’t understand what anyone was saying to her, and she was running wild.
It was my turn to do the show, and even though I wasn’t the backstage hand, I decided to put her in the show. I made her a cow.
This would not have worked if my partner was on stage. She was very attached to having the show run smoothly and complained later about the madness. I was a bit more open to chaos, especially since it is a children’s show.
We got through the show despite a rabid cow getting into everything. She was on the stage, in the audience, she was everywhere. Dressed as a cow.
When it was time to applause them, I called her our specifically. She stopped long enough to get her standing ovation before taking off again.
I think that everyone except my partner had a good time.
Elisa has had her own troubles and has since sold Let’s Pretend Entertainment. She has moved into motivational speaking and coaching, especially for the ADA. If you want to know more about this strong willed, never quits, powerful woman, go to:
Going on the road with this show was a once in a lifetime experience. I will have these memories forever!