Turning in the ‘mistress of ceremonies’ sash

I’m a drama queen. And no, not in the teenage-girl-eyeroll sort of drama queen way, where I’m constantly slamming doors and texting my friends in a huff because so-and-so didn’t include me in their plans to go to the mall this weekend.

I’m 23 years old, so that would be slightly more than ridiculous.

No, I’m a drama queen in the theatrical sense — I love performance, silliness and, yes, being the center of attention. Not all the time, of course, but most of the time.

I suppose this is exactly how I’ve come to be the resident “mistress of ceremonies” for all in-store events at my bookstore. To date, this has include the midnight releases of popular books Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Breaking Dawn and Brisingr, as well as a Holiday Open House, ceremony for the opening of our coffeeshop, Halloween storytime and an assortment of other smaller scale events.

And I’m always into these things! I was big into drama in high school but haven’t made time to get into theatre since then. My little crazy announcements and parties at the store are my only opportunity to be “dramatic” anymore.

And I usually dress up. Really dress up. Here’s me at the Harry Potter release in July 2007, just to give you an idea:

Yeah.

So this past Saturday, I thought I was prepared for whatever little adventurous, crazy thing corporate wanted us to do. This week, that included a children’s party complete with games, prizes and storytelling. Considering in the past we’ve had an even smaller staff with which to perform these events, I figured my co-worker and I would be fine-just-fine to deal with the kids party on our own.

I was wrong.

At the Harry Potter release, we probably had a thousand people mulling about the store — children, parents, teenagers, grandparents. We were jammed and I was overwhelmed and nervous, but we had a plan. I knew what tasks were expected of us — we had games organized for those interested in character debates or trivia. There were a ton of people, yes, but they weren’t all staring at me angrily, wondering how I came to be the one leading off these crazy, ill-fated plans.

Saturday started out like any other day at the bookstore — jammed, full of annoying and annoyed customers. I shrugged it all off without too much concern, gearing up for the children’s event. Which was supposed to start at 2 p.m.

By 1 p.m., hordes of parents are milling around back in Kids, already setting up camp on the few benches we began pulling out for storytime. By 1:30 p.m., a solid twenty or thirty parents were back there, all of them staring at Tracy and I from the corners of their eyes, waiting. And by five minutes to 2 p.m., at least a hundred people must have been sitting in front of me, the kids clawing at each other and me and Tracy and constantly — constantly — asking us when we were starting.

I was totally freaked out.

I’ve never been so freaked out at an event in my life. Not even at the Brisingr release a few weeks ago, when I knew nothing about the book series and didn’t have an entirely solid plan on what we were going to do all night. That went off without a hitch — albeit for thirty or so people, most of them adults, instead of a hundred or so adults with a hundred agitated children.

I read stories, screaming at the top of my lungs to try and be heard above the din. We handed out goodie bags — and ran out after twenty minutes or so, completely unable to keep up with the deluge of people. I fielded questions from angry parents about why we weren’t doing this activity or why we weren’t doing that activity — at our FREE EVENT. It’s free! It’s our event! Why are you dictating the itinerary to me?!

It was an hour and a half of pure, unadulterated hell. I’m still hoarse this morning from all the yelling. My legs ache from trying to balance myself on top of an unsteady chair, all in an attempt to be seen above the sea of heads with a book raised at my side. When customers slowly started getting bored and wandering away from my “stage,” I felt relieved — very relieved. And when it was over, I went and sat in silence in the break room, staring at the floor.

Maybe this was, in part, my fault. I should have been in costume. If I was going to play the part of mistress of the children’s party, I should have looked like the mistress of the children’s party! All actors need to be “in character,” right? I didn’t even wear my awesome white sash, pictured above.

But maybe my mistress of ceremonies days are swiftly drawing to a close . . . I’m not sure when I’ll stop having nightmares about this weekend!