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From Jp – Tales from the Resting Place Towpath

May 25, 2012

Some days, the gods smile on you; some days they don’t.

Other times, the gods will smile on you for an entire weekend. That smiley, shiny weekend for Touchstone started on April 13th. Somehow, months ago, we choose this beautifully-weathered weekend to hold A Resting Place.  Perhaps it was chance, perhaps there was divine intervention for our well-intentioned offering… I’m not sure, I’m really not an expert on such things; I’m just someone who gets really skeptical when a bunch of things in a row go as planned. What I can tell you is that this weekend also coincided with the two-breakfast-sandwiches-for-$3 at Wawa, so right there things are starting to get creepy awesome. And folks, my Karmic tale does not end there!

But let me start at the beginning:

Last year, myself and Christopher Shorr were coming up with our production design concept for A Resting Place. What we finally settled on was an 1800s pageant wagon that would travel around Bethlehem, pulled by an elephant or horses.

The pageant wagon on site at Lehigh.
© h scott heist 12 /

Well, thanks to our insurance company, the live elephant wandering around the streets of Bethlehem got nixed. I’m not saying I wasn’t 100% percent in love with Doug Roysdon‘s life-sized puppet elephant– we were just shooting for the real thing, at first.

Betty the Elephant – say hello, Betty!
© h scott heist 12 /

As awesome as the pageant wagon turned out, it was an epic pain in the backside and a significant stress that probably took a couple years off more than a couple lives. First came months of drawings and theories on steering, propulsion, braking, stability, aesthetic, and functionality. We eventually found a hay wagon that would suit our needs and a technical director that was willing to go down the rabbit hole (Endless thanks to Jeff Riedy, an amazing artist and technical director who nearly single-handedly built the wagon).

Thanks, Jeff!
© h scott heist 12 /

Fast forward a couple months through more discussions and delays (due to external production company incompetence) and we were at our gloriously, sunny April weekend. The wagon was ready to be hooked up to the Touchstone Van and be pulled to our five show locations (Note: It is not prudent to wait until the last minute to see if something is going to work, but sometimes you roll the dice). The wagon was off and running, and it was smooth sailing till the end of the night when the wagon found its way back home. It was noticed that a slight bend in the steering mechanism of the wagon had grown worse. At this point, it didn’t seem like a major problem, so we decided to just keep an eye on it. As we arrived at our second show on Saturday afternoon, I was informed by our on-stage Technical Director and driver of the towing vehicle that the yoke had buckled more.

No bueno!

The metal was far beyond a yielding point, and I couldn’t allow it to enter back onto the public street without some major repair. But it’s 6PM on a Saturday night! Who, what, where does one go to when a hay wagon needs emergency repair?! We’ve got two more shows the next day, and we can’t leave it in the middle of Lehigh’s campus overnight! The next hour of my life is filled with frantic phone calling, and it’s during this hour that once again, the universe told me to take a deep breath and that a Karmic response was on the way.

It just so happened that the building the hay wagon was parked next to on Lehigh’s campus had a metal shop in it. What? It just so happened that the graduate assistant running the shop had stayed on campus for the weekend. Really? And it just so happened that the only certified welder I know was willing to come out at 9PM and fix our wagon– Wow!

A late-night miracle!

Three hours later, the wagon, now stronger than it has probably ever been, was once again pulled back onto the streets of Bethlehem for a midnight run back to its home base. Catastrophe avoided!

Do gods really smile on us? Can instant Karma really get you? I’m not really sure– but thank God for Wawa’s 2-for-$3 sizzli deal!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ramona LaBarre permalink
    May 25, 2012 2:33 pm

    Expect miracles, JP. I believe it’s no accident that you are surrounded by good people, with resources, who are there for you. Anonymous welder? He’s a friend of ours as well.
    Thank you for sharing the perspective from Behind the Scenes! We came out for Sunday’s production at City Center and loved every minute ~ can’t wait for the Next one!

  2. May 25, 2012 10:27 pm

    What better way to avoid post-Young-Playwrights’-Festival-letdown than to read this karmic Touchstone tale. A great read, Jp!

  3. May 27, 2012 6:04 pm


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