Tuesday, August 30, 2011

At Sixes And Seven eights ...

     The bewitching hour never announces its arrival. I wait for it, start writing in faith, and discover it has been waiting for me – or, more often passed me by, offended that I might presume upon the nature of the beast.

     So sit closer, please. I am uncertain tonight. I am two-dimensional, desperately in need of taking definitive actions. The speeches are all in my mind – complete – edited and amended and augmented and articulated a hundred times. Tiny stitches in an old sock. But I am unsure, sore afraid of not being taken seriously or worse – being laughed at! So I hesitate, and by example live in parable. Who makes up these silly rules, anyway?!

     The play closed yesterday. The set is gone. Bare stage remains. As I have done so many times before, I stand there, alone, listening to echoes of echoes. It was a good show, excellent by the standards of this theatre – two standing ovations. And I should feel a sense of relief – this is the first time in 15 months that I haven’t been in production or pre-production for one show or another. But I feel nothing inside – empty. Why is that, do you suppose? Why this rush from one project to the next to the next? What void do I pretend to fill? I know the answer, of course. Fulfillment is finite. What increases one person diminishes someone else. I won’t have that. For the life of me, I will not.

      So maybe a vacation is in order – I haven’t taken one in at least ten years. At the moment the orient has some appeal. I’ll send you some postcards from Xanadu!

 j.      

Thursday, August 25, 2011

25 Thinks You May Not Know About Me

  1. I’m doing this under duress. I prefer being a more private person.
  2. The vast majority of my friends are involved in the Arts. Talented people allow me to breathe.
  3. My youngest friend is 14. My oldest friend is dead.
  4. I avoid other people who are Mensa (with a few exceptions). They are not nearly as provocative or interesting as they think they are (with a few exceptions.)
  5. I consider myself a gypsy. I’ve already stayed far too long in one place.
  6. My hobbies are horseback riding, sailing, and fencing. And I used to be damn good at two of ‘em.
  7. I’m learning that true intimacy with a few people may not be such a useless practice after all.
  8.  I’m running out of things to say already.
  9. I firmly believe that children should be seen and not often.
  10. I think marriage is a wonderful state. But I feel the same way about Nebraska, so what do I know?
  11. My favorite author is Dorothy Parker. She and Darth Vader could have been bff.
  12. I’ve always been a Feminist. There was a time when that meant something.
  13. I never wear socks; only wear shoes when I’m out in public. (I don’t think that has anything to do with being a Feminist, but if they ever need a sock burning, I'm there.)
  14. I like rum an’ coke, Greek salad, baked potatoes, and a really good steak – my favorite meal. But I’m open to new experiences. (Sam? Are you getting this?)
  15. I am at my most creative between three-thirty and five in the morning. I have idly wondered why that is so.
  16. I bore my dog to sleep on a regular basis, but he loves me anyway.
  17. I appreciate having friends in Canada and Europe. They give me a more balanced perspective on where I live … and where they live. I wish I had a friend in Russia. Or Nebraska.
  18. I just got SKYPE – yesterday held a video conversation on my computer. This is absolutely positively the best toy ever!
  19. I used to write plays because I thought I had something to say. I was wrong, but that realization has never slowed me down. (Nor anybody else.)
  20. I used to be a Republican. Then I became a Democrat. Now I’m looking wistfully toward limited monarchy. Come on, people – there’s gotta be SOMETHING out there that works!
  21. My ancestors were German and American Indian. They fought a lot – often against each other. Still do. Early on they worked as whalers, mule skinners, and educators. I’m the black sheep in the family.
  22. My favorite composers are Sergei Rachmaninoff, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Paul Simon, Scott Joplin, and George Gershwin. I plan to invite them over for lunch on Tuesday.
  23. Some of my friends are gay. Some of my friends are not. Most of the time we get along just fine.
  24. I've done almost everything in life that I've wanted to do, and I think not too many people can say that.
  25. And then there is you, managing to hang in through all my ranting, highs and lows. Thank you – you are pretty cool. And appreciated.

Okay. There. I did it. Your turn.

j.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Late Night Again

     My occasional dip into a melancholy mood always catches me by surprise. Slowly I become aware of the signs – it’s 4ish in the morning, I’m sitting here nursing the last of the rum an’ coke I poured several hours ago, and those who are dear to me are not within the arm’s length of where I want them to be.

    
 
In the background I hear Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. It could as easily be Willie Nelson (except that is whisky sipping music, and I don’t normally keep a bottle of whiskey in the house.) Or it could as easily be a tune by Hank Williams Senior – except for that, you need to be sitting beside strangers in a dingy bar where you can truly feel all alone in the world.

      So Rachmaninoff it is. A kindred spirit in a way. A tortured soul (largely of his own making.) His true brilliance came when he was relatively young, and he spent most of his career chasing his own shadow. He was artistic, and by being sensitive he was easily offended. I don’t know if he smoked, but he did drink some (or so I’m told), and, by being the poster boy for the Russian fatalistic temperament, he found women – especially in America – were particularly  drawn to him. When I was studying music theory seriously I discovered he had been the teacher of my teacher. I heard stories … perhaps that’s why I feel a relationship. If he was here now we’d both be sipping rum an’ coke and listening to his music. And probably crying for no good reason I know. And feeling good about it.

      The artist on this recording is Yuja Wang, who has done just enough to start attracting attention. Rachmaninoff was a huge hulking man, with hands like meat hooks. Ms Wang appears somewhat diminutive, with not the physical strength to attack some of the passages the way they were intended. On the other hand … Ms Wang has dexterity the composer could never have matched on his best day.

       So it’s a draw. Enjoy.

  j.   

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

JUST A THOUGHT ...

      Huh.

      OF MICE AND MEN is winding down. Granted, it has a couple of more weeks to run … but it’s going well – very well. And once a show opens, there’s not a whole lot for a director to do beyond keeping the show from evolving. In fact, most directors depart after opening night, leaving already strict adherence to vision in the hands of a Stage Manager who speaks directly to God, and hands out judgments accordingly.

      And …

      My next official (read “paid”) commitment is Shakespeare’s ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, scheduled to open in August of 2012, with auditions next June. The two leads have been signed already, and I’ve had initial conversations with both the costumer and set designer. Blah blah blah. In fact, the entire crew has been optioned, and I am now simply waiting to audition the supporting cast ten months from now …

     Yawn. Ten months. Being left to my own devices is not a good thing for a lengthy period of time. I tend to tap dance eagerly into marked fields of land mines. (If you don't believe me, please let me introduce you to colorful and expensive ex-wives.)

     And so …

     I just learned that the same theatre producing OF MICE AND MEN now will offer the Elton John/Tim Rice musical AIDA next May, (as a replacement for something). Auditions are in February, and they are suddenly looking for a crew and a director … Out of curiosity I inquired, and by the merest of coincidences, my entire A&C crew offered to step in.  All that remains is for me to decide if I want to apply to direct … This is, of course, a rhetorical pondering. OF COURSE I applied!

     Director interviews are in mid September. I’ll let you know how it goes. I presume the decision will be shortly thereafter. I’ll let you know how that goes, too.

     Things are lookin’ up.

     That’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh, I like it, uh-huh uh-huh …

j.       

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday, 5pm. Everything at Sixes and Sevens

      I’m bored. Rare for me. Recovering from a quite nasty infection which kept my physical activities at a painful (an understatement) minimum for over a month now. Drugs are definitely kicking in. Feeling better, but still officially “on leave.” I wanna go play. Something. Somewhere.

      Just finished reading “Metaphoric SilverBand,” a post from my favorite writer, Julie. If you have the inclination, check it out. It touched me on several levels. Maybe it’s the drugs. Yeah, I can tell myself that …




     Dear friend Malmesbury (if I may be so bold.) A White Castle slider purports to be a sandwich, square, which would fit comfortably in a teacup. It appears to suggest a foundation of a ground meat (of undisclosed origin) cooked with aged onion chips. This delicacy is then almost surgically inserted into a spongy bun lightly brushed with their trademark grease. To appreciate this treat fully, a most solemn ritual is required; rise early, work hard, only have a salad with perhaps a biscuit on the side for lunch. Skip the evening meal altogether. Instead, gather perhaps a half dozen close friends near and start drinking heavily just before the sun starts to set. (The time here is critical.) At somewhen between 3:30 and 4 in the morning, boldly invade your unsuspecting White Castle restaurant and DEMAND six sliders. With a little practice, you will be able to swallow each one without even a pretense of chewing. I guarantee, promise, and solemnly avow that manna from heaven could not possibly taste better! This will be followed by a few hours of unconsciousness (that you may claim as sleep if you wish.) Likely you won’t have any idea where you are when you wake, and be wrinkled both outside and in. You will most certainly be surprised that you had not died during the night, coupled with the fervent wish that you had.          

      I have acquired a new friend. I reviewed her in a play, and when I asked for cast pictures, discovered she had taken many of them. She is a truly remarkable photographer – every picture she takes is interesting and tells a story. I have introduced her to a local organization accustomed to promoting  the outrageously gifted. Unfortunately she is 15 and I am certainly old enough to be judged as having ulterior motives by people who don’t know me. A shame sometimes that life is the way it is. I feel cheated.

    Friday is our next performance of OF MICE AND MEN. The play is awesome! It took leaps during the last days of rehearsal, certainly beyond my initial concepts. I think that if I have a “talent” at all, it’s in casting truly gifted people, putting them on a stage, and then being wise enough to stay out of the way while they do what they do. (And, trust me, I’m not being modest. This happens too often to be coincidental.)

     So. Done now. I didn’t get to take my sprint around the neighborhood, but I’m learning to live with disappointment …


j.

    

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Oh Yeah, There's That ...



     OF MICE AND MEN opens Friday. Finally. In spite of everything that has happened - certainly I've not been as physically and mentally there as I normally would have been. But both cast and crew had been wisely selected, and our collective vision has remained remarkably intact. It's going to be an excellent production, with moments of great sad beauty and soul-wrenching honesty. As with every show I direct, my goal is to be a tough act to follow. I think we're gonna pass that benchmark without even breathing heavy.

  

Monday, August 1, 2011

For The Record

      I have received several snide comments recently suggesting that – based on blog comments I’ve made – I must certainly hate and/or enjoy degrading the entire population of Great Britain.

     I was shocked – enough so that I feel obliged to respond.

     So let’s be clear here. I love the Brits. When you are privileged to befriend the common individual (and not just the fa├žade), they are (generally) funny, loving, generous, inventive – in other words just like the Italians and the Russians and the Greeks and the Germans (well, maybe not the Germans) and ta-da – just like us!

     There are some interesting similarities. The English largely poke fun at their class distinctions. We claim to not even have class distinctions, but take our social levels very seriously.

     In England they speak English. In this country we speak dubious gibberish . The comforting factor here is that both nations butcher pronunciations equally.

     In certain parts of the British Empire a man in a dress is called a Scot. In this country that same man would be called “under arrest.”

     I learned to drink beer at room temperature from a friend who lived for years near the white cliffs of Dover. (I don’t know if they still do that, but it doesn’t matter – I’m hooked.) And I make the trek to Disney World in Florida every chance I get because that’s the only place I know where I can get a real Stout.

     On the other hand, the English eat … something … stuffed into skin that revolts me to even think about. In fairness here, we encourage the unsuspecting to swallow without thinking meaty time bombs called “White Castle Sliders,” so …

     Both Great Britain and the United States take great pleasure in royalty worship. The only difference is that in this country we hunt for stupidity to idolize, while they have to wait for someone to marry into it.

     With all that said, there is one mystery that eludes me. When a politician in this country makes a pronouncement, somewhere in England his equal believes it! I mean – honestly – haven’t you learned anything yet?! (I admit to a big prejudice here. I like Tony Blair. I always thought of him as being an honest and honorable man, and if he hadn’t followed the lead of a former US President quite so closely, he might not have been so rightly dumped, and set an example of something.)

     But what do I know? I listened to the same people HE did.

     So, We clear now?

     Next time we will talk about the Russians, okay? I like them (the people, not the politics). They have a fatalistic outlook on life – enjoy today because tomorrow the bomb may go off in Moscow (and they’re not at all sure if it’s one of ours or could be one of theirs …)

     This has been fun. Comments?


j.