Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It's All Write, Baby

Time weighs heavily, sometimes
pressing down, at once a comforter warming
sometimes cloying. Fevered. Difficult to breathe.

Night is eternal, still, I see the end of it.
Over there.

Don't press it.

Words are unbidden. Don’t think right. No. Wright.

Cute. Semantics.

Still they tumble, those … They tumble out, jumbling together, defying, daring me to make sense of them. Run the shredder backwards, please.

With wonder and loss I gather them. The image of a hen gathering hatchlings comes to mind.

That’s funny. That’s funny. That’s funny. That is so funny. I know nothing of animal husbandry.

I remember a cherished thought primal. Rather I have a memory of the memory, and it feels pause worthy. A star exploding in a distant galaxy. I empty, reaching down and back. What does it mean?

Pointless. Even if I captured it. Again. Intact. It wouldn’t be the same. It exists for the first reverie only. Examination is demeaning. Put it away – deep in the closet. Among the many others. At some point – years ago from now, take it out, fuzzy.

Why did I keep this?

Ah, there’s that time thing again. A gift. Numbs the pain.

Tomorrow I’ll be better. You betcha. Not fine, exactly. Too many of these, uh, too many of these. But tomorrow all – this – will be put away. One more meaningless verbal twitch of synapses. In company.

Let it pass. Breathe deep. Watch the jaded repetition that is CNN until sweet oblivion is everything. A drunk reaching that point.

Tomorrow … and tomorrow … and tomorrow. Yes. Yes.

And then? Excuse me if I can’t find the words.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Oh, The Shark Has Pretty Teeth, Dear ...

Recognize this woman?
Yes? No?

I’ll give you a clue. She’s a famous actress – world famous, in fact. Here’s another clue. Her husband was also in show business, and he was more famous than she was, and their greatest successes were when they worked together.

Got it yet?

So it’s an old picture. (I believe it was taken in or around the year 1928.) A little before your time, maybe. Certainly a little before MY time.

Okay. Another clue. In 1958 Bobby Darrin sang about her. In Mack The Knife Darrin claims she was one of the “girl friends” of the title character.

“Jenny Diver, Sukey Tawdry,
Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown.
Oh, the line forms on the right, babe,
now that Macky’s back in town.”

She is Lotte Lenya, married to the composer of The Threepenny Opera, Kurt Weill. As famous as they both were, this is the only picture I could find of them together.

For someone I stumbled across by accident, Lotte Lenya has proven to be a truly fascinating individual. Not only did she cross back and forth easily between stage and screen, but she also was exactly the right age to go through the evolution to modern theatre. She starred in Threepenny Opera when it first opened in Germany in 1928. Later – much later – she had featured roles in such popular films as the James Bond thriller From Russia With Love, and three years later she won a tony award for her role in the Broadway musical Cabaret.

But this gifted artist caught my attention for another reason. She survived. She went through some of the worst that the world could throw at her. (She and her husband went through a severe depression in Germany, escaped that country with Adolf Hitler hot on their heels, and landed in New York City just in time to face another depression.) They encountered open hostility and suspicion because they were German and Jewish at a time when neither was popular in this country.

Even when her husband died in 1950, Lotte not only survived, she prospered. She just refused to quit.

I admire that quality. It has occurred to me that most of my true friends are that way. Artistic people, they went through a period of adversity and came out the other side – sadder, wiser, maybe the walking wounded. But they kept going, and the world has been the better for it.

Am I talking about you? You know I am. Go back to the top of this post, take another look at the picture – another look deep into the eyes of a survivor.

See yourself there?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Day Is Done

The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.

For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.

Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Being with you this past year has been grand. Let's do it again in 2009.
Merry Christmas and may God bless you.

Monday, December 22, 2008


(No, I didn't write this - wish I had. But it spoke softly to me, and in volumes. So I thought - since your taste is so like mine - you might enjoy it as well.)


I suppose, with the wind and rain outside, and more to come, we’ve cocooned with blankets, warm fires. I suppose, like the change of season, freezing cold, instead of sun, inward, instead of outward, the season of that endless war, killer hurricanes, loved ones lost, I’ll just turn the page, start over.

I’ve often wondered if I’m a winter writer, rather than summer. Throw on thick sweaters, coats, gloves and trek high up the mountain to my tower, to “bear” for winter. One small, frosty window to look out. “Countless tales,” I write in my journal shivering, “layers of rain, snow, and wind, to overcome.”

It is this imagination that binds. Pen in hand, fingers spread evenly on a keyboard. Wipe the frost, find the pulse. Tell them what ails, or inspires. Reveal the colors, be it agony, intense and miserably cold, or thoughts of romance, desires, engulfed or enflamed by simple candlelight. Set the temperature and tone, open the page, begin.

I suppose, from my mountain view, the lights below, mere weeks before Christmas, that I’ve got something significant to share. A vast landscape, glistening jewels of light, smoke billowing from thousands of chimneys. Don’t know, can’t tell yet. Maybe nothing.

I stroke my long beard, smoke my pipe, pull the flaps of my hat lower. We are, the words of every season, all of us, to our last breath, touching hearts and souls, scribbling blindly, breathlessly, designing, building, hunkering down.

But all is silent, save the wind, howling at my back.

Look, tell them of the pain of death, so recently endured, what my eyes have seen, tortured, beaten, abused. Tell them of flying high above the fray, a view so magnificent, it begs to say, to express, to share. Create an unforgettable character, that mighty hero of mind and heart that gives, saves, knows all. One who carries us to that tearful page of victory. Lie down here, another blanket to keep warm.

I suppose there is no greatness, not now, perhaps later, but we trudge through, press on. Every day, every season, different.

High above the howling storm, frost on my beard, eyes searching wanefully to heartfelt losses, human touch. Seasons that follow, lead, churn deeply. Imagination does not go cold. Or does it? Here, take this pen, write it. Eyes, alive and moving beyond the snow, conjuring winters across the ridge, snowflakes dreamily to the page.

We’re not gone, only adjusting, acclimating, different sights and sounds, binding. Takes time to see, peel the layers, undress. There is nothing to say, not yet, the world at our feet.

“Countless tales,” I write, “layers of snow and wind, to overcome.”

Charles Mariano

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound's the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

Thursday, December 18, 2008


(I wrote this piece some years ago. I re-read it every once in awhile. The perspective is not too bad at all, I think.)

Let’s face it. Artists are strange people. Christian artists are stranger still, because – as Christians – they aren’t sure if strange is acceptable. Or not. Or could be. Or should be.

It’s all very confusing.

Have you ever been to a party thrown by and for artists? Here is how I remember them. Everyone begins by dressing in whatever will express individual disdain for taste. There’s always alcohol on hand, food, drugs … as the evening progresses, the music gets louder and older. And artists have a generally - and genuinely - boisterous form of fellowship.

Likewise, as Christians we know the importance of fellowship. Ever been to a Christian artist gathering? Try a mix of painters, musicians, photographers, writers, poets, and actors. You should have a truly exciting and creative atmosphere. Of all of God’s people, every single day artists clearly see the results of God at work. Why, then, do you have a quiet, polite, and generally cautious little party that’s right up there with watching dishwater?

The truth is, for being free and liberated, we don't feel very. There's not a whole lot of celebration in the celebration.

Shame on us for hiding what God intended us to be! In Galatians Paul admonishes Peter for being one way with the Gentiles and another way with the Jews. Aren’t we doing the same thing?

It’s time for a few great truths.

First truth; as artists, we work alone. Always have, do now, always will. You can have twenty artists working right beside you, and, unless you are making a quilt, the end result will still be the product of your hand and eye alone. People can teach you, critique your work, praise and/or criticize, and the end result still has you stamped all over it. As Christians, we are uncomfortable with this. Where’s the sharing? Where’s the support? You want to support an artist? Make dinner, do laundry, and stay out of the way.

Have we got that point established? Alone. I would suspect God intends it to be that way – perhaps so we can create something, well, individual. The problem is, after awhile, we take possession. The Daffy Duck paranoia – “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!” After that, we take identity. “I am an artist.” “I am a photographer.” Or in my case, “I am a writer.”

Well, I hate to disappoint myself, but I am NOT a writer. I am a child of God, who writes what God prompts me to write. A child of God. That’s WHO I am. I understand that. Still doesn’t quite satisfy that slippery “what” question.

Time for the second great truth – the gift is not ours – it belongs to God. Not ours. Never was, is not now, never will be. Let’s make this even more interesting; we don’t HAVE the gift – we ARE the gift! Want proof? Consider this; I know an artist who molds, decorates, and fires pottery. Is she a gift from God? You might think so, if every other pot in the world was Tupperware. From the world’s view, if art is inspired, THEN the artist is considered to have value. Doesn’t it make sense that if something is inspired, the inspiration had to come first? From God’s viewpoint, art is a witness to the value ALREADY placed in the person.

So this begs the next question. As an artist, is it really necessary to suffer for my art? Can I still be a good artist if I just feel mildly uncomfortable? Am I going to be really bad if I feel really good? And just where does God fit into all of this?

Time for the next great truth. Let the Spirit in. I sit at my computer, stare at a blank screen, and pray. It’s not one of those “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned” prayers. (Although that’s probably not a bad place to start.) Rather, it’s more like “Okay, Spirit, where are we going today?” Then I wait. Unfortunately, we live in a culture accustomed to instant gratification (I want my cheeseburger, and I want it NOW.), so waiting isn’t always easy. If, after a period of time nothing happens, I try again. “Excuse me, Spirit, I’m ready anytime you are.” Then I wait again. Now I’ll be honest with you, if something doesn’t happen within a day or so, I do tend to get just a little nervous. In any case, (and in God’s time) the answer eventually does come. At times the answer has always been right in front of me, I just didn't recognize it when I saw it.

But given enough time, I get it.

And this brings us back to the original question. As an artist and a Christian, should I try to be good (whatever that is)? Or even more formidable, should I try to be Christian? Wasn’t it in Romans that the Apostle Paul said, “the harder I try, the worse it gets.” (Or words to that effect.)?

Time for the last great truth. Let the Spirit out. As a Christian artist, I don’t try to be either a Christian OR an artist. There isn’t a whole lot I can do for myself, in either case. I believe that if I concentrate on HIM, who HE is, what HE is doing, then HE will make the changes, and what I am will grow closer to what I desire to write.

I believe that. I count on that. Hey! I’ve figured it out! I know what I am.

I’m a work in progress.


And how was your day?

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Teapot Collector


Yes, I collect teapots.

I actually feel a little weird admitting that. I don’t know why. I’m not sure why.

I didn’t start out with the idea of collecting teapots. I mean, I didn’t wake up one morning and say to myself, “Hmmm … that wall looks empty. What can I do that will involve building shelves, constant cleaning and polishing, require a never ending search, and – for the first time in my life – a surprising lust for my neighbor’s possessions?”

And then I thought, “I know. I’ll collect teapots! THAT will do it!”

Yeah. Uh-huh. Right.

Actually, I started collecting teapots because I didn’t have one.

Christmas was coming, you see, and people kept asking me what I would like Santa to bring me. This was a problem. If I wanted something, normally I’d simply go out and get it. But in a coffee shop I had seen a teapot shaped like a leprechaun (no kidding), and it was for sale for only nine bucks. I didn’t really WANT the thing, but the image of it stayed with me.

You ever have something like that?

So – you know what’s coming, don’t you? When someone asked what I wanted for Christmas, I’d say, “a teapot.” I figured that nine bucks was a cheap gift, and I really didn’t have a teapot.

What DIDN’T occur to me was that I had really cheap friends. That year I got twelve teapots for Christmas.

Wow. A collection.

I now have well over a hundred teapots. Some of them I even like.

This is from my "Been somewhere, done something" collection. The one in the back is from a 1924 street fair. In front of that is a Masonic teapot. In front of that is an Art Deco teapot that belonged to a wealthy woman, I bought it from her estate. Partially seen is a Sorority teapot.

This is part of my "people" teapots, because they, uh, look like people.

This is part of my international collection. In back, an American "Hall" teapot (Expensive). In front of that are Russian, English, and Italian teapots.

(Do I have you hooked yet?)

This is part of my "What was going through my mind when I bought this thing?" collection. I have boxes of these - all ... unusual.

In a moment of complete insanity I paid two hundred dollars for this one. It's beautiful, and lives on the top of a high shelf. Way up there. W-a-a-a-a-y up there.

I have a handful of metal teapots. The silver ones are almost always tarnished. I appreciate teapots that aren't silver.

These are my favorite teapots (as a collection.) They are English, with raised dots and patterns. All the same and all different. I purposely didn't dust these before taking the picture. (Multiply this by a hundred.)

Oh. Yeah. There's the leprechaun teapot. Of course I went back and got it. You knew I would. It only cost nine bucks.


And how was your day?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ho-hum. A dull day. Nothing special - not even worth your bother.

Sh-h-h-h ....

We're having a conspiracy, you and I. Don't tell anyone.

You see, it's not a dull day at all. It's a wonderful day. A special friend of mine is having a birthday in a little over a week. It would be a great good thing if you would drop her a line and wish her a happy birthday. Her name is Q, and her blog is http://underoverout.blogspot.com/

Q lives in Canada and writes in actual English. (That's a little unsettling.) She loves Dorothy Parker and Edith Piaf. She is a gifted short story writer and a dark poet.

So drop her a line if you get a minute, and wish her a happy birthday. I know she'd appreciate it - and so would I. But don't tell her I told you. Our secret. (That's why my subject line is misleading. She lists it on her blog.)

Heh heh heh. Maybe she will have no clue what's happening ...

Yeah. Right.


And how was your day?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Art Deco, In case you've wondered..

Art Deco. I like that. It's my favorite art style. I also like Art Nuevo, which is only one generation away.

(And before you climb all over me, yes, I like most art styles. There's something in almost all I've seen that appeals to me on some level.)

But I like Art Deco the best. There's a flow and a grace about it. There's an "in your face" whimsy. And you see it everywhere.

Buildings ...

And even what we consider classical art, such as Egyptian, becomes this ...

But best of all are the wondrous creations that once adorned lawns ...

... and homes ...

This is likely one of the most recognized Art Deco styles. Incorporated into structures, it defined a generation.

In the home, this would have been both typical and classic.

And so would this. Sadly, the only place
you find these today are in yard sales.

But this one is my favorite. It graces my living room. It warms me with personality every time I look at it. I wish I had fifty more just like it ... (and perhaps a slightly larger living room.)
And how was your day?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pondering A Decision Here.

I’ve been a playwright for something like, umm, almost 40 years now. (But you know that. If you cross my blog path on any sort of regular basis, I talk about this stuff all the time.)

And – by my own standards – I’ve had a decent career. With the exception of one play (which I’ve never offered to anyone) all my work has been produced. Somewhere. I’ve had plays produced as far west as Palm Springs, California, as far east as Pittsburgh, and a whole bunch of places in between. The best compliment I received was in being informed that one of my plays had been pirated and produced without my knowledge in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Wow. Somebody thought enough of one of my plays to steal it. How ‘bout that?!)

I never had a play produced on or off Broadway. This was never something that held any interest to me at all. At a time when I needed it, I had an agent (in Florida!) and made a respectable second income.

I enjoy writing plays. I’ve had a smattering of experience as a drama critic, and recently I’ve co-authored a book, and even more tentatively I’ve submitted articles to a handful of magazines. And a dear and talented friend has made overtures about the two of us working together to write a movie. And I just might. (Other than this, she seems quite sane,)

But I’m most comfortable writing plays. A play is the only form of literature that does NOT go through an editor. I like that. I like placing words on paper and having someone immediately recite them back to me. I like giving a concept to a group of performers, and watching (sometimes in amazement) as that concept is expanded.

I’ve purposely avoided what most people would consider success in this career, because that usually means stress, deadlines, antagonism, and all the other pressures that appear to define and repress creativity by today’s standards.

And I was happy. Write a play, send it somewhere. That was the pattern. And I’ve been lucky. Word of mouth has meant that SOMETHING of mine has constantly been on somebody’s schedule ever since I started writing.

But lately I’ve been a member of a couple of writing groups, and several people I admire are in the process of taking, what for me, would have been the next step. I wished them well. I was still not convinced this could or should be the next step for me – if, indeed, I was even looking for a next step.

And yesterday, while I was trying to find the synopsis of a play I’d never heard of, I came across a website listing maybe a hundred agents specializing in playwrights. Intrigued, I discovered I more than qualify to be considered as a client.

So-o-o … suddenly … I’m considering sending something to a bunch of suit types. Do I really want to do this? I’ve given you all my reasons for NOT doing this in the past. What do you think? Should I pick an agent with many clients? Or should I pick an agent with only one or two clients? (My agent in Florida only had three clients, including myself. She worked like a mad woman on my behalf.)

I know, I know, ultimately it’s my decision. But this is a new think for me, and I’d appreciate some thoughts.


And how was your day?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Words

Because of the vast number of request I’ve received, here are the translations of more Fargoeese words that you are forced to copy in blog comment boxes.

LIDEON, MEXILIDEON, and FRIGEON. These are musical terms – actually modes of music.

LIDEON is by far the most popular (hence the song, “I’m In The Mode For Love.”)

MEXILIDEON only applies if the performer has consumed copious amounts of tequila
before performing, and can still somehow remember which end of the horn to blow

FRIGEON is a music mode, but can also apply to the performer if he or she is
basically anti-social.

FRIGEON also can apply to any region of North America where ice can be found naturally in mid summer. It is possible to say, therefore, that “a Frigeon may be playing frigeon in the Frigeon.” (Unless, of course, the person is playing “in the gloaming,” in which case he or she would likely be wearing a skirt, standing in a field of clover, and blowing on a bagpipe.)

A bagpipe always reminds me of someone holding a cat under one arm, with the cat’s tail in his or her mouth … and biting on it.

But that’s just my opinion.

LAPLANDER. This is a close friend or relative that you haven’t seen for at least a year. (Unless, of course, this person is actually an anti social musician from Lapland, in which case he or she would be – ta da … Frigeon!

(And you thought high school Latin was rough!)

And finally, there are those individuals who look at us, shake their heads, and wonder how we managed to survive for the past roughly two hundred years or so. These people are called CANADIANS.


And how was your day?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Words I Never Knew

I’ll bet you’ve done this. You read a post on someone’s blog, and want to leave a comment. But before you can actually contribute anything in the comment section, you have to copy down a handful of strange looking letters into a little box.

Have you done that?

AND … I’ll bet you thought all those letters were just, uh, letters. Right? And maybe you thought they were just random, or something like that. Right?


What you possibly might not know is that all this blog business actually began in North Dakota, and so it naturally follows that the words you never thought existed, actually are parts of normal conversation in the almost mythical land of … Fargo. (And if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.)

Anyway …

In the spirit of open communication, I’ve assembled some of the more common words used in the Fargoeese dialect, with the thought that they might be of use to those few individuals who actually desire to have a vocabulary larger than twenty words …

MURFLEC: (From the word “genuflect”. When you bend over, this is the length of time it takes you to straighten up, once you past the age of fifty. At age sixty, it’s GERFEN MURFLEX. At seventy, it’s DU GERFEN MURFLEX. At eighty, it’s … well, when someone there reaches eighty, I’m sure they’ll think of the right prefix.

SURGLOR: This is a medical term, indicating how long it takes for your mind to register when you wake up in the morning and realize you should have been at work thirty minutes ago. FARFLEG is when you are standing in the bathroom and realize you’ve just brushed your teeth with Ivy Ease, and DEVMERG is when your mate wants to know why you’re running around like a crazy person on Saturday morning.

GRRDEEPER is the driver who cuts in front of you and then is forced to slam on his brakes.

There’s even a term for those individuals who fill out the little comment boxes. These are SHEEEPFLIPPERS, and you really don’t want this word translated …

So … wasn’t this educational? The next time you wonder what word you’ve just copied, send it along, and I’ll be happy to translate for you.


And how was your day?

Friday, November 21, 2008

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Sings ...

In THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE, Rogers & Hart wrote,

“Sing for your supper and you’ll get breakfast. Songbirds are well fed …”

I like that. Most of the singers I enjoy fall into the category of “songbirds.” That is, they can actually SING, and express positive personality while doing it. (In other words, anyone I consider good is either old or dead.)

In a previous post, I said I enjoy both Paul Simon and Carly Simon. What I didn’t explain was that I like Paul as a songwriter (he’s an okay singer.)

Carly Simon, on the other had, is a singer with all kinds of personality. Whether you like her or not, it’s difficult not to watch her when she sings.

I liked Reba McEntire even before she did ANNIE GET YOUR GUN on Broadway. She does “cute and charming” better than just about anybody I know.

I first became aware of Linda Ronstadt when she did THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE in New York’s central park. I’ve enjoyed seeing pictures of her over the years. She’s never going to be a great beauty, and the more they try to “glamorize” her, the more clown-like she looks. She likes singing back-up more than leads, and her favorite music was written before she was born. How can you not love somebody like that?

One of my favorite singers is Pam Dawber from the old MORK & MINDY TV series. I saw her in a production of MY FAIR LADY, and she was every bit as good as Julie Andrews – and that’s saying something.

Rounding out my favorite female singers are;

Edith Piaf, and

Patti LuPone. Pure raw command and power, both.

In men, one of my favorite singers is Mandy Patinkin, Patti LuPone’s co-star in EVITA. The man can sing anything, and chooses Broadway tunes that are both obscure and difficult.

I also like Michael Crawford, who starred in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. He was also featured in the movie HELLO DOLLY.

Do you get the feeling I like Broadway singers?

Well, I like Willie Nelson, so there! I don’t know why I like Willie Nelson, but I do. He’s one of those people who got better looking as he aged. He’s now 110, and tolerable. But as a singer, he sells sad songs wonderfully well.

I like Sting. He’s been touring lately as a balladeer, and that’s been quite nice.

And finally, I like Theodore Bikel (speaking of balladeers). He had a growing popularity in the U.S., before he moved permanently to Israel. Their gain. Our loss. (I saw him do the lead in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. He was incredible.)

Those are singers who come to my mind with no great effort. I know I’ve missed a few. So … do you think I have any taste at all?


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In a Paul Simon mood ...

It's evening.

I've comfortably on my sofa, listening to a new song by Paul Simon.

The song is mellow and relaxed. This is a good thing, because at the moment I feel mellow and relaxed.

I've been a fan of Paul Simon ever since he released his Graceland album. I liked the Graceland Album, and the copy I have looks just like this one.

I also like Carly Simon, but that's another story altogether.


And how was your day?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Reverie

The play I directed has one more weekend of performances. Friday Saturday Sunday and then it’s over. Gone forever.

I like to think that even something as quicksilver as a live presentation never actually expires – that somewhere in the great ether the performances of this play will continue to exist. Perhaps contained within some ubiquitous 4th dimensional equivalent of a television set I can see it again, if I can only figure out how to tune in the correct channel.

No no. There are some plays I’ve directed that a God of true mercy has allowed to fade into a so well deserved oblivion – being far more a product of vanity than any real or perceived talent.

Some plays live better in memory. Maybe most plays. (Okay. All plays.) After a number of years and lies they take on a patina that hides imperfections. They become benchmarks, icons, and, like the mighty H.M.S. Titanic, the romance of the image becomes far more desirable than the rusted relic itself.

Still and yet there was something different about this one.

I joined the company late. This was a first for me. I wasn’t, in fact, scheduled to direct it at all. The director hired for the production literally dropped out at the last minute, and I was asked to take the job two hours before the first rehearsal was scheduled to begin. (Fortunately I had directed the play once before – years ago, and had wisely kept all my notes.) (You could also read this as “I never throw anything away.” See? I TOLD you …)

I remember going to that first rehearsal, and being introduced to the cast and the Stage Manager. There we were, seven cast members and two crew, pieces of a puzzle in anticipation of assembly.

In retrospect I will admit to being lucky. The cast was – is – both collectively and individually talented. The play was – is – BLITHE SPIRIT, by Noel Coward. And, although it was considered sparkling repartee when it was written in 1940, today it can appear to be formidably long and wordy. The performers captured it perfectly, with no seeming great effort whatsoever. They uncovered the style, even the nuances of a form of comedy that no longer exists. I was impressed. More than that, the presentation often gave me shivers. I was observing living breathing history.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, even the setting seemed to take on a life and charm. It was a basic box set, with walls and floor painted white. Yet, when it was completed, it seemed less a utilitarian theatre setting and more like an artwork, quite capable of standing alone. Every time I found an excuse to be on that stage I felt like I was in the middle of a Maxfield Parrish painting. I never tired of being there.

In retrospect, then, this effort has been the main focus of my life for the better part of two months. And now it’s almost finished.

Perhaps I’m looking for closure of a sort. No pictures here, no bells, no whistles. Just words, a reminder to myself that I haven’t seriously written anything in quite a while. People who are dear to me, who have seen the show - they are reminders that I led quite a different life two months ago, and – if somewhat impatiently – it’s waiting for me to catch up.

And I shall. There’s a mountain of work waiting for me. And I’m looking forward to it.

Except …

In another town not terribly far from here another theatre company has added ON GOLDEN POND to their schedule, and are starting their director search.

I’ve always wanted to direct that show.

It couldn’t hurt anything to just send them a resume.

I mean … you know …

We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.


And how was your day?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sorry I haven't been with you ...

For the past week I have been really unwell.

But I'm getting better.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Theatre Settings as Art

Okay. So – you know – I’m directing this production of Blithe Spirit, a comedy by British playwright Noel Coward.

(And it’s going well, by the way. I’m working with very talented people who aren’t constantly falling over their own egos. Do you know how rare that is? Trust me. It’s rare.)

Anyway …

A play – any play, needs a setting, a location. In our case, it’s the British equivalent of an American family room, slightly off the main drag of the house. On one wall is a fireplace. On the opposite wall are French doors overlooking the moors. Directly at the back of the room is a large doorway, leading to other parts of the house.

Ya with me so far?

Here’s what the set looked like when the walls were first set in place on the stage. Eventually everything would be painted white – the walls, the fireplace, the French doors, even the floor. (It’s my set. I can paint it any color I want.)

I took some flack about the color, actually. “Nobody paints a set white,” I was told. “Nobody paints a FLOOR white.”

But I did.

Here’s the fireplace, right after it was constructed, and before it was painted and decorated.

Here it is, finished.

The mantle and fluted front is routed and carved Styrofoam. Nobody is going to dance on them. (Yes. I know. The candle is broken. It's part of the story, okay? Gimme a break.)

On the other side of the stage is where the French doors will go.

And here they are. Opened …

… and closed. Above the doors is …

a stained glass transom, constructed just for our set. We spared no expense. Sort of. (Our extravagance actually cost less than twenty bucks – eleven dollars for the Plexiglas, and eight dollars and change for the translucent paint.)

Here’s our hallway


What you see as the wall is actually blanket-like material, stretched over a frame. I found a roll of the stuff in the attic of the theatre. Nobody knows how it got there. Nobody will remember where it went.

And this is the finished set. I like it.

If this was a room in a real house, I could be quite happy here.

And how was your day?