Sunday, November 27, 2005

Another technological baby step

I had a nice bit of birthday money to spend so I actually bought an iPod today. Not the Nano; I wanted the additional storage. 30 GB is probably overkill, but given how much I want to load, I doubt it would take me long at all fill up the 2 or 4 GB available on a Nano. As for why I shelled out all that money, I figured it was a much more efficient way to take my music on the road with me than my Walkman, travel speakers, and a stack of audiocassettes. (Yes, I admit it - I even own LPs that I bought new, not from a thrift store.)

Now to figure out how to get this thing working. I'm impatient - I want to know how to use my new toys (the iPod, my digital camera, etc.) without having to go through the learning process. Not that I resent the owner's manual, I just resent the time it takes to figure out how to make my new toy do its tricks. Ah well, enough whining. As a former supervisor used to say, "Suck it up and drive on."

Thanksgiving in Florida

... just feels weird. 80 degrees and gorgeous on Thanksgiving Day? No, it's supposed to be cloudy, dreary, and maybe in the 40s. Actually, the weather was perfect just about the whole week we were there for Thanksgiving w/ my snowbird parents. The only hard part, of course, is leaving those balmy 80-degree temps to return to a clime easily 50 degrees colder! Brrrrrrr!

I'd been so preoccupied with other things that I'd never considered the possibility of seeing hurricane damage. My first reality check was as our plane was landing and I spotted an entire housing development with bright blue roofs. "How interesting and what a pretty, tropical color," I though to myself. This is Florida, after all, where the houses are often painted in bright colors - why should the roofs be any different? Then I noticed other onesie-twosie blue roofs, and the penny dropped fully when I saw partial blue roofs. In other words, I was seeing tarps covering damaged or destroyed roofs.

Once we landed, we hardly saw a single tree that hadn't lost at least some of its foliage; some had been stripped entirely, though not as many had been snapped off as I'd have thought, given all the wind damage. Broken or missing signs, piles of storm debris, boarded windows in many of the buildings, hand-lettered "Yes, we're open!" signs on otherwise empty-looking buildings - Wilma left not a block untouched, though a few buildings apparently survived relatively unscathed. What also surprised us was how long people had to wait to get power restored; waits of as long as 2 weeks weren't unusual!

All in all, it makes me realize just how very lucky we were to survive Hurricane Isabel a few years ago with only a 2-day power outage and some demolished bushes. It could have been much, much worse!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Domestic is all well and good but...

Can't wait until things at work settle down so I can get back to auditioning, rehearsing and performing. As it is, all I have time for are domestic pursuits - playing in the mud, planting bulbs and pansies, making the occasional pot of soup, baking, and too little reading. I enjoy all these things, but they don't get me out of the house and connecting with others (sorry, giving the cashier my grocery coupons doesn't count). And while the larder's full and the laundry's getting done (and even folded!) fairly regularly, I've been feeling kinda boring. After all, no one cares that I'm caught up with laundry & grocery shopping, and most folks aren't really all that interested in my little spurts of gardening - it's not like I'm breeding rare, priceless orchids or anything else out of the ordinary.

More color

There's something to be said for waiting. The nursery had end-of-season pansies for only $1 each. I bought 10, all different, and planted them as soon as I got home, while there was still a little bit of rapidly-fading light. They're now occupying the bed Chief worked up on Sunday. Since the dirt was already enriched and worked over, it only took about 10 minutes to get all my pansies planted. Can't wait to see how they look in daylight...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Spring color, part 2 of 2

Well, I ran out of bulb-planting time last week - only got the allium bulbs in. Today was absolutely gorgeous - sunny and in the 7os! Chief & I took advantage of the superlative weather to spend several hours out in the yard.

When I wasn't helping him with his projects, I dug holes - LOTS of them! - and finished planting all my bulbs. All 50 daffodils and all 90 crocuses! If you're fortunate enough to live somewhere with real dirt (black or brown, loamy, full of earthworms), this may not sound like so very much work. However, in our area that means digging all those holes in clay and working in some proper dirt and probably some bulb food, for insurance. I think most, if not all, of the Eastern Seaboard must sit on this red-orange clay. Makes great bricks, I suppose, but not something you want in your garden. You really have to put your back into it to dig up your garden and you absolutely have to work in some peat moss, humus, sand, real dirt, or other soil enricher (usually over at least 2 or 3 successive years), then hope for the best.

A few hours into it, I looked at how very many bulbs I still had to plant and thought "I'll have to finish this another time". But when I started planting on the side of the yard where we had the plumbing excavation back in August and realized the clay wasn't nearly as dense there, I started digging broader holes and putting several bulbs in them (one hole got at least a dozen crocus bulbs). So while I planted 140 bulbs, I did not dig 140 holes! However, I did expressly tell the Chief, "If I ever want to buy this many bulbs again, stop me!"

For his part, he dug up a flower bed, sifted the top few inches of dirt through a box filter he'd made himself to get rid of the rocks, roots, and other trash, then dumped the dirt back into the bed and worked in a 20-lb. bag of enriched dirt. This to get it ready for me to plant some color, so I'm off to the nursery later this week to get some pansies as stop-gap color. Come spring, though, that bed's earmarked for impatiens.

He also raked up nearly all of the last of the straw the excavators put down after the plumbing "adventure", bagged up the straw for the lawn trash pick-up, dug up a lot of the dirt and redistributed it (it's been settling very unevenly), put down lots of grass seed, and watered the lot.

Now we're joking about filling the tub with Ben-Gay and marinating our overworked muscles in it. Wonder just how stiff I'll be tomorrow...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Medical maintenance

What a week this has been. In addition to yesterday's mammogram retakes, I went in Monday for a blood test, which came back normal for everything they were looking at (cholesterol, blood sugar - the usual suspects), and this afternoon it was back to the dentist for some fillings. Never my favorite thing, this was worse than usual because he was working on wisdom teeth, so I had to keep my jaw open so wide I thought my jaw would separate. Maybe by tomorrow it'll feel normal again. And I'd forgotten how the anesthesia travels to weird places, like my ear and the bone under my eye on that side.

I guess it's true: after 40 it's all patch, patch, patch.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

HUGE sigh of relief!

Got my retakes done today. OUCH! Today I learned that "do over" mammograms involve a smaller plate (i.e., stretching and flattening only part of the breast) and greater pressure. Or at least that's what it felt like. They did both the diagonal and horizontal takes, but the radiologist was able to see enough from those two that I didn't have to do the sonogram. If I'd had a vote, I'd've had the sono first, in hopes of being able to skip the mammo! But the news is good - just fibrocystic tissue, which made for a slightly anomalous initial mammogram, but nothing worse. Nothing serious, nothing scary - we're going out to dinner to celebrate, and I'm hoping the restaurant has champagne!

Monday, October 24, 2005

"It certainly entertained the gapers."

Well, the furnace guy collected a new story this afternoon. We told him we needed someone to go into the crawl space under the house and check the ductwork because we know we've got a hole or break or something there from the raccoon. We told him the story and at first he just laughed in disbelief. "Raccoon?!?"

You see, a year ago August we had gone to bed w/ the kitchen skylight open. In the middle of the night, a juvenile raccoon, presumably smelling whatever we'd had for dinner that night, came walking across our roof toward the source of the aroma and fell into our kitchen because the skylight screen wasn't designed to hold any weight. "Then up on the roof there arose such a clatter, we sprang from our bed to see what was the matter." As we ran from the bedroom into the kitchen, the raccoon ran from the kitchen into the bedroom. We immediately shut the door and called Animal Control. I gotta hand it to them, we had an Animal Control officer there at 4 a.m., probably called from a sound sleep, no more than 45 minutes after the arrival of our unwelcome guest. We told him how said guest had made his entrance, whereupon our officer carefully slipped into the bedroom with his cage at the ready. Guess what? NO visitor! AC officer and Chief moved the bed (and all the shoes and sweater boxes stashed under same) to find the little rotter had pried up a floor vent and crawled into our ductwork! We never did smell it, so we know it didn't die in there. Chief noticed the next time he did yard work that a slatted ventilation grill in the crawl space had a section broken out. Given that and other evidence, we assume our probably rabid little friend took advantage of a join in the ductwork to make a break for freedom and eventually make its way into the crawlspace and thence into the neighborhood at large.

The next couple of times we had the system checked, I tried to get the tech to check for a break in the ductwork but they never did. I think this 3rd time was the charm; Chief even showed the tech where he'd nailed mesh over the grill to keep the critters out, because they've pulled down some of the insulation under the house for nesting or other, more nefarious purposes. Someone's supposed to call us tomorrow to arrange to repair the ductwork. Good thing - with all the gloom-and-doom forecasts about how heating prices are going to shoot up this winter, we DON'T want to be heating the neighborhood, or even the crawlspace!

Spring color, coming right up!

Well, not literally, at least not yet. I took today off work to take care of various business; getting the furnace checked out, running errands and - drum roll, please - planting lots and lots of spring bulbs. How many is "lots"? 175! I've got 35 Allium bulbs - new flower for me; can't wait to see how they work out - 50 assorted daffodils, and 90 assorted crocus bulbs! I absolutely love crocuses - they're my "hang in there, spring is coming!" flower.

I had planted about 200 assorted bulbs (snowdrops, anemones, grape hyacinths, miniature daffs, and crocuses, of course) across the little slope in the front yard several years ago, but most of them quit coming up. Don't know whether disease or insects got them, but now I get to spend a happy couple of hours digging holes and planting what I know will be a wash of color come spring. And because the package tells me the allium comes up in late spring, I'll be getting color for a while - first the crocuses, then the daffs, then the allium. Or maybe the daffs & allium will come in together. I don't care - it'll be fun to see what happens, and what colors and varieties I get.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Maybe it's not so bad after all.

I talked to my doctor this afternoon about the results of my first mammogram. She said it showed some thickening of the tissue, and a "questionable masslike area" but no calcifications, which is a good thing. There was also some "blurring", which is part of why they want to do another, magnified mammo, with a sonogram for independent confirmation, I suppose.

After talking to my breast cancer-survivor mom last night and learning this today, I'm feeling much less worried about the whole business, although I'm still not exactly looking forward to getting another mammogram so soon.

Ladies, do your self exams!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Pray for me!

Been catching up on a lot of medical "routine maintenance" lately - dentist, allergist, mammogram, annual "date w/ the stirrups". No fun, but some things ya just gotta do. Most of the follow-up has been merely tedious (e.g., flu shot, 2 cavities to be filled).

However. I had my mammogram last week and learned today from my HMO that they want to "re-image" my left breast and do a sonogram of it, just for good measure. My mom had breast cancer several years ago, so the implications of "re-imaging" are scarier than I care to dwell on.

I'm scheduled to go back for more pictures next Wednesday. That means a full week of fearing the worst. I'll happily take all the prayers and good wishes you can spare!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Reading back, I see I wrote that the fall festival "always seems to get good weather". Not true this year! It was raining steadily when we woke up Friday morning and didn't stop for good until late Sunday morning. The festival parking is in a field, so when Chief asked about going later in the day or even waiting until Saturday, I insisted on going as soon as possible, before the mud got axle deep in the lot entrances. (Trust me, dislodging a car mired axle-deep in mud is not quick, not easy, and definitely not cheap!)

Unfortunately, the weather definitely affected attendance by both visitors and vendors; the crowds were even lighter than we expected, and there were a number of empty vendors' spaces. A shame; this is definitely one of the better shows. It's large enough to be interesting but small enough to be manageable (not like some that cram hundreds of vendors into the county fairgrounds, for instance), and because it's juried, you can be sure that all the vendors make all their own things. No dishtowels reconstituted into a different shape or anything. And what I enjoy almost as much as seeing all the lovely, well-made things is getting the chance to talk to the makers about materials, techniques, what got them interested in (woodcarving, weaving, ironwork...), and so on. Several of the vendors are also re-enactors and wear their period clothing and are happy to explain the old techniques of barrel-making, why they use this particular breed of sheep for the wool in their sweaters, or where they managed to find the tools to make their instruments. Because the people are invariably emotionally involved in their craft, they always tell a wonderful story about it. That was one advantage to Friday's rain - because the crowds were so light, I think the vendors were happy to have someone interested in their work. The woman doing the Swedish weaving (basketweave throws with multi-colored embroidery) was good enough to show me how she did the patterns on the throws, the woodcarver answered my husband's questions about which woods were easier or harder to work with, the woman with the braided rugs was quite proud of the fact that in the past 5 or 6 years she's completed 160 rugs (her goal was 125!) and the cooper shifted easily from telling us the history of the "barn stars" he makes to the barrels he also makes. Well worth the price of admission!

By contrast, the apple butter festival was a disappointment. I think it suffered by being visited so soon after the other. This festival may not be juried. It was certainly more eclectic, with a lot of vendors the Chief described as "aging hippies"; my term was "New Age". As with the other, the rain hurt them; we saw a lot of empty vendor spaces, though we couldn't tell whether they hadn't shown up, or had merely decided to cut their losses and go home early.

And with all the rain, I didn't even pull out my old camera, let alone my new one. Maybe the next time we're out at the cabin...

"Spam" is a 4-letter word.

I really, really didn't want to do this, but may yet be forced to. Lately, nearly all the comments to my blog have been from spammers. This is really irritating; my blog is NOT intended as a place for some anonymous scam artist or self-promoter to make a fast buck. Not to mention that my ego is a little dented; the 2 or 3 readers I have aren't commenting, while the spammers have no qualms whatsover about butting in and making irrelevant, self-aggrandizing sales pitches disguised as comments. I suppose I should be grateful that at least they've been clean. So far.

Please, don't make me use word verification.

Monday, October 03, 2005

New toy!

My digital camera arrived today! Three guesses how I'll be spending the rest of the evening (well, after I bake an apple cake and deliver some "neighbor debt payments"). This is good timing because the Chief & I will be going out to an autumn foliage festival Friday and an apple butter festival on Sunday.

The Friday fest always seems to get good weather, perfect for driving around and looking at the scarlet of the sugar maple farms. I just hope they got enough rain this year to make the leaves turn bright colors before they turn brown and drop off. The festival has lots of crafts workers, furniture makers and the like, and draws large enough crowds that it inspires the neighbors to have little stands of their own for quilts, home-made baked goods, produce, and the like. The apple butter festival is smaller, but equally fun - I want pictures of the HUGE kettles they make the apple butter in. They often let little kids stir the stuff, but have to put them on a stool so they can reach, because the kettles are big enough to hold 3 or 4 toddlers.

I'm hoping the "Gourmet Termite" will be there again, too. The first time I went to the apple butter festival was while the Chief was deployed overseas. Among all the watercolorists, other artists, goodie sellers, and the like was an older gentleman with an old van he'd converted into a mobile woodshop! Calling himself The Gourmet Termite, he made custom signs while you waited. I had him make a sign for our cabin, selecting a sign template from among the many he offered, giving him the text and letting him know the local emergency crews mandated house numbers at least 4" high. While he worked on it, I nosed around the van, which was a marvel of ingenuity. Ship's cabins are marvels of efficient use of space, but this van easily rivalled them for efficiency. He had a shallow set of shelves in the back end of the van that stored what looked like various types and sizes of drill bits, while the body of the van housed his sign templates, paint, varnishes, and other supplies. The Chief would really love seeing the van and talking to the man when he's not busy. Although, come to think of it, I'd have a hard time tearing him away - he might want to sign up as an apprentice! :D

Friday, September 30, 2005

Locks of Love

Many of you have probably heard of Locks of Love, a charity which provides human-hair wigs for "financially disadvantaged children 18 years and younger suffering from long-term medical hair loss." They accept monetary donations, of course, but also donations of hair (at least 10" long). Go to the website, check out the before & after pictures, read the letters from some of the kids who've benefitted, and tell me this isn't a worthy cause!

I've known a few friends who've donated (I went to a wedding a few years ago where a friend and one of the groom's cousins were comparing notes on their donation experiences), so I've been thinking about this for a few years. Well, I finally took the plunge - this afternoon I had the hairdresser whack off 12" of my hair, which I'll mail off in the morning. How much difference does 12" make? This morning my hair fell to about my hipline; now it barely covers my shoulders, partly because, with so much less weight, my hair's natural wave can pull my hair up more.

And boy, is this going to take some getting used to! My hair has been waist-length or longer for 15 or 20 years; now, while I can still get it into a (much smaller) bun, I have all kinds of little ends to corral. It's much easier to french-braid; a ponytail now falls barely to my shoulders instead of to my waist. Maybe I'll be able to do a french twist now, too; before, all that hair weighed so much, it wouldn't stay put. And the first time I wash this much-shorter hair is gonna feel very strange indeed - it stops a lot sooner than I'm used to, weighs a lot less, and will thus need less shampoo & conditioner and dry much more quickly.

The Chief has only known me with long hair; he's been having a lot of fun getting oh, so melodramatic, clutching his breast, putting his hand to his forehead, and pretending to swoon at the mere thought of my cutting my hair. When I got home this afternoon, he made a big show of opening the door s-l-o-w-l-y, with one hand over his eyes, peeking between his fingers. What a ham! So far, he hasn't really said much, but I can tell by the way he looks at my hair that this is going to be an adjustment for him.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Can you say "price gouging"?

Noticed yesterday that a local gas station, a no-name chain, had jumped the price for regular unleaded from $2.89 in the morning to $3.29 that evening!!! A 40-cents-a-gallon jump! This makes them 20 cents a gallon more expensive than the Exxon just down the road, and the no-name station doesn't even take credit cards!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Now out on DVD...

Finally got my Mikado DVD last night, watched it tonight. The Act I disc is a mess; about 1/3 of the way through the sound gets out of synch with the picture and never gets back on track. I'll have to find out if anyone else had this problem. The Act II disc is better; no synching problems! I ordered copies for my parents and a couple of out-of-town friends; I'll have to check those copies to see whether they have problems, or if it's just that one disc.

After watching through the show once, I've decided two things about my vocal performance - I'd better continue my voice lessons, and my voice is better suited to Katisha than to Pitti-Sing. But I'm still glad I pushed for Pitti - I may never get that chance again! Dramatically, I'm not at all unhappy with how I did. Considering how painful it can be to watch oneself on video, that's pretty darn good!

It's nice to have a record of our Ko-Ko's lovely lyric baritone, our other principals' comic turns, the lush costumes, pretty stage pictures, and all the other things that made this fun to do. It's also nice to be able to hear how the ensemble numbers sounded - it's impossible to tell when you're in the ensemble how it comes across to the audience. The sound balance was such that I could usually hear myself and Yum-Yum in the full-ensemble numbers, thanks to our mics. I don't know that anyone else would notice, particularly, but it's an odd feeling to be watching this DVD and be able to pick out my own voice.

Also on DVD... My sister K's company has been putting on an arts festival every June for the past several years and this year they did a cut-down version of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, in which she played Lucy. Being partial, I was pleased and proud to see that she was the best thing on that stage both vocally and dramatically.

When the Chief & I were in town for the christening last weekend, K let me sing with her when she cantored at church. I enjoyed singing harmony to her melody on the Mass parts; I only wish the hymns had included some for which I knew harmonies. A pity we live so far apart; I'd love to sing with her more often.

The moral of the story is...

Read the online merchant reviews before ordering! I ordered a digital camera two weeks ago from WaWaDigital. I suppose the name should have sent me to the reviews, but no, I was a cheapskate and their price was the lowest. And I never got an e-mail order confirmation, which is highly unusual for an online merchant these days. But they did call me the next day to confirm my order, to be shipped in 7-10 working days, so I wasn't really concerned.

However, two weeks later my camera has yet to arrive, so I called earlier today to check on my order. The man on the phone told me it was "completely sold out for 3 weeks". Never mind that the website claimed at the time of my order and still claims that the item is in stock. Never mind that when the company called to confirm my mailing address (apparently just a thinly veiled attempt to get me to buy accessories in addition to the camera), they never said anything about its being sold out. Oh, and I notice that the website price today is $55 higher than when I ordered. Not that it matters, if the thing is unavailable, of course.

The reviews I read this morning included several people accusing them of bait-and-switch tactics - items that never arrived, pressure to buy additional items, etc. So I found it interesting that when I called today to check on my camera and they apologetically told me it wouldn't be available for at least 3 weeks and I asked to cancel my order, the man on the phone just said "yes, ma'am, we'll cancel that for you" and hung up. Didn't ask my name, address, or any other info that might help him identify the order I wanted to cancel, which makes me suspect it was never placed to begin with, perhaps because I politely declined to order anything but the camera.

Do you smell fish? I sure do!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Do you feel safer now?

One of the nice things about work is that sometimes they offer classes that, while not directly work-related, are generically useful and we actually get to go take them. I spent today in a sort of emergency/trauma first aid class (post-9/11 mentality driving the curriculum, I suppose). We did not cover CPR - that's a separate class, which I have yet to manage to get into. Instead we covered some basics, including definitions of terms like "communicable disease" and what they classed as "directional terms" (anterior/posterior, midclavicular line, proximal/distal, etc.), in case the real medical folks use those terms when they respond to the 911 call. We also learned about the signs of shock and what to do for someone suffering from same, dressing wounds, splinting and otherwise immobilizing broken bones, and how to treat burns.

Then things got interesting when the instructors trotted out some military-issue first aid kits (both are former military who now work for an emergency preparedness training company). They had us do dressings, pressure bandages, and even tourniquets on each other, practice a couple of two-person carries (out of several one- and two-person carries they showed us), and even do a little litter-bearing. God grant we never need the information, but given that I know at least one person who helped load people into medevac helicopters on September 11th, well, it never hurts to know how to make yourself useful.

I think I've finally learned how to find a radial pulse (I've never had trouble finding the carotid pulse but the radial one, in the wrist, always eluded me) and a brachial pulse (the one that runs under your arm). I also feel a little more confident that I could splint a broken bone without doing my "patient" an injury. Do you feel safer around me now? ;)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Hail to the Chief!

Since I'll be sitting out this theater season, thereby reprieving my husband from Theater Widower status for the time being, I've been trying to think of a new nickname for him. He retired from the military as a Chief Master Sergeant, so maybe I'll refer to him as Chief, especially as I occasionally call him that anyway...

The down side of vacation homes

After spending 10 or 11 days straight out at the cabin, I've realized there's a down side to a vacation place:
- no maid service to change the sheets, do the laundry, scrub bathrooms or chase the cobwebs;
- you gotta do your own grocery shopping
- no room service or restaurant to cook meals and do the dishes
- no maintenance workers to keep things running

However, we had gorgeous weather the entire time we were there. Having the windows open to the breezes and birdsong and being able to see nothing but trees (and a fawn that was snacking on the bushes just a few feet from our door one afternoon) was still good for the soul.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Ah, the marvels of the Internet!

J called us the same evening they got a christening date for our newest niece, the soon-to-be-former pagan baby, so I immediately jumped on the computer (it was cooperating for a change, hallelujah!) and was able to get us non-stop flights both directions, and a rental car for the weekend, for less than I thought we'd have to pay for the plane tix alone! Heck, even with airport parking the whole transportation bill won't come to $400, considerably less than I thought we'd have to spend, especially given fuel prices! =:o

Cooperative computer, Southwest's lowest fares still available on the dates we needed, airfares not yet reflecting near-European fuel prices, decent rental car rates - God obviously wants us to attend this christening!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The reviews are in.

Hey, it's my blog, started because people wanted to know how I felt about performing my first lead. (And no, I won't tell you who they are or where they live.) This is still new enough to me that the novelty has yet to wear off. A few folks who "reviewed" the Summer Sing I attended had this to say about my performance (extracted from their comments on the day as a whole):

"I finally had the chance to listen to Maureen, as a well-meaning Melissa with a round and mellow voice."

"Maureen as Melissa (with gilded toy axe!) deftly managed her mood shift in 'Death to the Invader/PleaseYou, Do Not Hurt Us' "

"I thought you did a great job with Melissa all the way! I especially loved the way you handled my favorite part, the "please, sir, do not hurt us" section, into that transition for the reprise of Death to the Invader. And good on you, as the Aussies say, for going for the high G--it was solid and sounded great!!"

I'm particularly chuffed, as the British might say, about that comment about my high G; nice to know the note I was so worried about came off so well.

Let's see, where was I...

Ah yes, singing G&S with a roomful of G&S fans. Did I mention yet how much fun it was? Our hostess did an impressive job - even had binders for each of us with copies of the individual choruses and finales from the shows we weren't singing in toto, so that no one had to schlep a dozen vocal scores. She even let us keep them. A also had nametags, a "program" listing who was singing the principal lines for the various shows and excerpts, a separate listing of participants, their points of origin, even their home company or companies where applicable (e.g., WS Gilbert, London, The Savoy Company). A. really did a bang-up job of organizing the whole thing; I hope I can do half as well when I manage to try putting one of these together!

Anyway, back to the singing: After Princess Ida we sang the Act I and II finales from HMS Pinafore, then our next full show: Trial by Jury. Trial was a great deal of fun, in large part due to the unabashed mugging of the Learned Judge, who flirted with any female within range, and the way V literally threw herself into the role of the Plaintiff, flinging herself quite literally at the Defendant, clinging to his leg as he dragged her across the floor in his attempts to escape her importuning. Oh, and everyone sang well, too. :)

We sang two more Act I finales, from Yeomen of the Guard and Iolanthe. More exhilarating Sullivan choruses to sing, though I was disappointed in myself at how much I'd forgotten since doing these shows. ("Ah, but recently?" "Oh no, years and years ago.") Guess I'll just have to get into more of these productions to remind myself of the music. ;)

On to our last "full" show (all the music but none of the dialogue) of the day: Utopia, Ltd., the 13th of Gilbert & Sullivan's 14 collaborations. I've done a cut-and-doctored production of this show about 5 years ago. While I feel it's deservedly obscure, it does have its moments. In this case, some of those moments came from the performers. Most of the soloists had done solo turns earlier in the day, a few were reprising roles they'd performed when Savoynet put together a production of Utopia for the Int'l G&S Festival in England a few years ago. But far and away the delightful surprise of the day for me was the young lady singing Nekaya (w/ the newly-returned-from-Buxton R as her twin sister Kalyba). S is a 10-year-old with a beautifully clear soprano who's going to be a show-stopper when her voice develops. She was also a charming performer, working beautifully with her "sister" R on their duets. Their bits of "business" were largely ad-libbed and almost completely stage-worthy.

We closed, an hour late (but is it really possible to have too much music?), with the Act II finale from The Gondoliers. We were all fading by then, 8 hours after the first note, but the day still managed to "leave [us] with feelings of pleasure".

Seeing familiar faces and meeting new folks are as important a part of these events as the singing, and I was glad of the opportunity to match faces with names I knew only from Savoynet (, to hear them sing and watch them perform at last, and in some cases to work with them. These events seem to be proliferating - I think there have been 7 or 8 up and down the East Coast (from Maine to Florida) this year - so if this sounds like your idea of fun, keep an eye on Savoynet for the announcement of the next one. I know there's one on Nantucket the weekend after Labor Day, though I don't know whether it's full.

It's a girl!

I've been waiting and worrying for several months about my sister's first little one. J was safely delivered of a beautiful baby girl last Tuesday. It was a C-section, so no conehead baby, but mother & daughter are both doing well. Little Girl is our parents' 9th surviving grandchild but a first grandbaby for her daddy's parents, who I'm told are absolutely over the moon about their new status as grandparents.

My oldest niece is thrilled to have another girl cousin and apparently also delighted to learn that she & her new cousin share a middle name.

Thanks to modern electronics, we already have at least a dozen photos of the newest addition to the family. Now to start lobbying my other siblings for current pictures of the rest of my nieces & nephews for the multi-photo frame I have at work...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

All but perfection

Ah yes, spending a day singing Sullivan's gratifying music with about 70 like-minded individuals - what could be better? Well, if TW were similarly inclined, and therefore willing to go with me, that would have been better. As it was, he stayed home and puttered - house cleaning, second-coating the front door, etc. It also would have been better if I'd had more time to go over the choruses; I found far too many places I didn't remember. Ah well, I still got to sing myself silly, which is why I went.

We were gathered in an empty office space. The low acoustic ceiling and commercial carpet weren't great for the acoustics, but there was plenty of room for all of us, our semi-circle of chairs, tables at one end for food and drink, and a space in the semi-circle for the keyboard and soloists, who were occasionally rather numerous (as many as 7 or 8).

"And how did the singing go?" I'm glad you asked! (Relax: I won't attempt a full review because this entry would be three times as long as it already is and, more importantly, I'd be sure to overlook someone.) We opened with 2 choruses from The Mikado: "If you want to know who we are" and "Comes a train of little ladies". Having just done Mikado, these were very easy and a great way to dive into the day's vast, inviting pool of G&S.

We then went on to the double chorus "In a doleful train" from Patience. "What's a double chorus?" That's when Gilbert has the men's and women's choruses singing different things - in this case, the women mooning about over a romantic poet and the men upset at being neglected by their onetime ladyfriends - and Sullivan sets the texts to different melodies and - here's what makes these so difficult and rewarding to sing - at different tempos or meters (in this case, the women are singing solemn half notes while the men are expostulating in outraged eighth notes). You know you're in a room of folks experienced in G&S when you can run through such a number without rehearsal and the group as a whole manages to finish together without a train wreck or even a near miss.

Perhaps in tribute to Savoynet's August 9th production of Iolanthe at the International G&S festival, our gracious hostess then let us all sing the March of the Peers (women could sing along if we behaved ourselves and sang in the men's register; easy for the altos & mezzos, not really an option for the sopranos, poor things). I've always loved that one - another exhilarating Sullivan chorus! (The man really wrote some of the most gratifying-to-the-singer choruses it's ever been my pleasure to sing.)

Next up: the first full (musically - no dialogue) work of the day - The Pirates of Penzance. This one has long been one of my favorites, and my friend D (she & her husband were my traveling companions for the weekend) was singing Kate. She was nervous, not having attended these things before nor sung the role before, but she did just fine. Being familiar with the show, she was also able to do a bit of acting. D and I became friends while singing together in the alto section of many a chorus, so I'm just a bit biased, but I thought she did a fine job. Also in Pirates, I got to hear W's lovely, lyric mezzo as Ruth. I knew her only from Savoynet, so I was glad of the chance to hear her in person, as well as to see her in action. E was a delightfully over-the-top Mabel, mugging fit to beat the band and popping out shamelessly high cadenzas with wild abandon. Her interplay with the tenor playing Frederic was great fun to watch, and they were both obviously having a great deal of fun. Yet they were completely capable of being serious; their "Ah, leave me not to pine" was probably the most moving piece of the day, all the more remarkable for the fact that they'd never laid eyes on each other before that morning. The Sergeant of Police was a true bass, with wonderfully rumbly low notes; the first time he hit one, Mabel abandoned Fred and fluttered at the Sergeant! :) My only problem w/ Pirates was that, in my eagerness, I had foolishly oversung and my throat was already feeling the strain. Not at all good, given that Princess Ida, up next after the lunch break, was the one with "my" music in it, and of course there was still plenty and plenty of singing to follow that!

Apparently the lunch break was sufficiently restful, as I wasn't noticing any vocal problems when we resumed. My first, very brief solo line as Melissa ("Pray, what authors should she read who in classics would succeed?" - that's the whole thing) may have been a bit shaky from nerves, and the fact that the personwho was supposed to sing Psyche, who was supposed to answer my sung question, wasn't there. F jumped in to cover Psyche, which helped immensely thereafter, as Psyche has a lot of music to sing. F either knows Ida well or is an excellent sightreader, as this seemed to give her no trouble. My next set involved a quintet and a duet back to back. The quintet, which A had warned me about because it was so easy to accelerate during the refrain, went well. A told me later that the 3 of us originally scheduled to be singing it did a good job of "anchoring" it for F and one of the men, who were last-minute substitutions and therefore hadn't had time to prepare. At any rate, while I had my nose in my score far more than I would have liked, I was able to interact with the men on either side of me when I wasn't singing, which was fun. I had taken my hair out of its ponytail for Ida (long hair just seemed to suit Melissa) and J, who was singing Melissa's mother, Lady Blanche, decided to let down her own, which is about as long, to heighten the "family" resemblance. The funny thing about that is that "my mother" is only a year older than I am. The duet, which I'd had fun singing w/ K in my voice lessons, went well, though both of us agreed later that we wished we'd had time to practice a bit together. The one piece I was worried about was "Death to the invader". The chorus sings, then Melissa has a verse (with chorus response), then the chorus finishes. Melissa's verse is written with both a high and a low option. I wanted to take the high road, so to speak, but having oversung by lunchtime, I was not exactly optimistic. However. By the time we got to that song, I was re-warmed up after lunch, and by the end of the verse I had enough of a running start that I decided to go for it. Never underestimate the power of adrenaline! :) It felt good, not screechy or strained, and I'm told it sounded "great"! This was the one number I knew well enough to do without my score (I'd sung it in the chorus several times), so I was able to "perform" it, not just sing it. At the end of my last voice lesson, K had dug thru her props collection and come up with a squishy plastic battleaxe, which I used to (I hope) good effect. If nothing else, it helped me with the switch when Melissa shifts from "Death to the invader!" to "Please you, do not hurt us!" Along with F singing Psyche on the fly, special kudos to R, barely off the plane from the Int'l G&S festival in England, where she'd sung Phyllis in Savoynet's Iolanthe less than 48 hours before, who sang the eponymous Princess Ida, and did it beautifully - wonderful voice, excellent emotion, not a trace of jetlag!

And K's battleaxe saw more action than I'd expected. I almost didn't pack it, thinking it silly to pack it for one number, but I'm glad I put it back in the suitcase. When Ruth and the Pirate King were trying to threaten Frederic empty-handed, I handed the weapon to Ruth. In Ida, one of Ida's three brothers used it for one or two of their songs, and of course I used it for "Death to the invader". Thanks, K!

To be continued...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

"Adventures in Babysitting"

From one of the blogs I follow:

Before you go to the link, you need to know that the children's parents are both theatrical people, as is the babysitter. I'd've paid good money to see that show!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Bad news travels in packs.

Last night wasn't one of the better ones. I got home from a wonderful time singing myself silly in NJ and started checking e-mail, from which I learned that:
  • R's mom had been moved into the ICU because her breathing problems were getting worse;
  • L wouldn't be able to have lunch w/ TW after all because he had to make an emergency trip to NJ to take care of an elderly aunt who'd had a bad fall.

But wait, there's more. Called my parents and Dad noted that his back (on which he had two major corrective surgeries last year) was hurting like (expletive deleted) and he was thinking about having the doc up his pain meds. Dad has a very high pain threshold, so he must really have been hurting!

Then TW talked to his brother and learned that he thinks their mom might be having some mini-strokes, as she seemed to think she was back teaching again, so P was going to take her to the doctor today. When we talked to her later last night she sounded OK, but I'll feel better when we know what the doctor said.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The dust has settled.

Or perhaps I should say the trench has been filled back in, the daylilies replanted (not where they were before, but no matter), and grass seed laid down and covered with a generous bed of straw. I had to water the stuff Friday so it wouldn't completely dry out in the summer heat, but we've had enough rain since then that I haven't needed to water it again. They warned us it could take upwards of four months for the dirt to settle back in, so we probably won't replace that torn-up section of walk until spring. TW's already talking about going with paving stones instead of concrete, which sounds good to me.

I should be packing. My friends are coming to collect me around 2 p.m. tomorrow to head off to to NJ to spend most of Saturday singing to our hearts' content. I just pulled a double batch of brownies out of the oven; that's going as my "contribution to the cause". It won't feed all of us, but it'll add to the festive air. (Hershey's Triple Chocolate brownie mix, bought at Sam's - awesome stuff, much better than the Ghirardelli's brownie mix, which I found rather disappointing.) My scores are already in my suitcase, along with my Savoynet T-shirt, but I still have to pack the boring stuff - toiletries, PJs, etc. I also need to set aside the provisions for the drive: a bottle of wine for tomorrow night, bottles of water, munchies, etc.

This is going to be fun. I always enjoy singing Sullivan's music, and I love singing in groups, the bigger the better. Singing G&S with 70 or 80 people is going to be quite a thrill! We'll get to cut up, renew old acquaintances and make new ones, wish our gracious hostess a happy birthday - this is gonna be one heck of an all-day party!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

It could have been worse...

Yesterday was a bad news/good news day with the plumber. The bad news: the estimate did not include the cost (think 3 or 4 car payments) of replacing the original, galvanized-steel water service pipe from the house out to the street. The good news: they were able to do everything from outside. In other words, they didn't have to break up any of the concrete basement floor, so no concrete dust all over the house - hooray!

I got lots of pictures of the trench. Interestingly, they dug up the two huge clumps of daylilies that were in the line of fire and placed them out of harm's way and also were careful to pile up the dirt so it didn't engulf one of the little boxwoods in the front yard. I had offered some of the daylilies to our next-door neighbor because that double clump has so very many, but admitted that I didn't know what time of year you're supposed to separate them. When we were talking this evening, we joked that "well, I guess we're separating 'em now!" Another side benefit of all this trenching is that the stump of the tree the daylilies surrounded is now history, as is the stump of another, smaller tree we had to cut down last year.

The guys were very careful about the daylilies but those impatiens I planted back in June are a lost cause. The guys who installed the neighbors' fence didn't exactly work around them, and the plumbing work pretty much finished them off. This was obviously not the year to plant anything in that bed!

After two days' work, the job is nearly done. All that remains is to cement the hole through the foundation where the pipes leave the house, have the inspectors give their approval, and fill in the trench. Oh, and pay for the whole mess. Which didn't quite come to 5 figures, but still would have paid for a very nice vacation indeed!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Starting to get excited...

When I mentioned to my voice teacher at my lesson yesterday that I'd decided not to audition for Company, along with the reasons, she commented that it was very "self-aware" of me to make such a decision, "And I mean that in a good way, of course." :) And since I'm not prepping audition pieces, we were able to spend the whole lesson working on my music for A's Summer Sing in NJ just 11 days from now.

I'm really starting to get excited about the Summer Sing. The other day I pulled out all the vocal scores I'll need to take with me. Although we're doing the complete music from only 4 G&S shows, we're also doing selections from 7 others. I had thought I'd just xerox the excerpts and put them into a single binder, but when I realized how much that would end up costing and how long it would take (the Iolanthe Act I finale alone runs 55 pages!), I decided lugging the scores around wouldn't be so bad after all. We'll be singing from late morning until evening, after which many of us will descend on a local eatery and likely subject the unsuspecting staff and customers to a bit more singing. Boy, will we be warmed up by then!

This will be only the third one of these I've ever attended; the last was 5 or 6 years ago. It will also be my first solo outing at such an event. I tried singing Pitti-Sing (IIRC) at the first one I attended, 8 years ago, but not being much of a sightreader, that didn't really work too well. This time will be better: I've now worked "my" music in 3 lessons, and have several years of voice lessons under my belt, so I'm in much better vocal shape now.

In such informal settings, it's perfectly OK for the women to sing along w/ the men's chorus and vice versa, to make all the punny, silly or smart-alecky comments you could never get away with in a performance situation, to mug and make melodramatic gestures; in short, to have a grand time in a room full of people of a similar bent. This is gonna be so much fun!

I'll be traveling with a fellow mezzo & her husband and won't be the least bit surprised if she and I end up singing all the way up, reviewing our respective solo turns and reminding each other of the alto lines in the choruses. Good thing her husband likes to sing along; that'll make it easier for him to put up with the two of us. TW, on the other hand, is completely and utterly not interested in any of these proceedings, so he'll be spending that weekend at the cabin, or working on the shed, or perhaps drooling over his woodworking books and magazines, designing and redesigning the workshop of his dreams.

The trial is almost upon us

This is the week the plumbers come to dig up our original sewer line and replace it with a new one, one that isn't corroded and which has the correct slope. I'm taking off work today and tomorrow, TW is taking Thursday & Friday. Naturally, the company called to say they didn't think they'd need all four days, so they won't start until tomorrow. Since I was already scheduled to be off work, I'm using the time for "fun" stuff like grocery shopping and laundry. Especially laundry, since we need to get the clean stuff out of the laundry "room". After all, that's where the sewer main comes into the house and therefore where they'll have to break up the concrete basement floor to replace it. I've experienced the "joys" of concrete dust before, when my parents added a bathroom basement (there's nothing quite like being awakened early on a Saturday morning by the sound of a saw ripping through 6" of concrete!) - I'm not looking forward to this.

Two small mercies: they won't be showing up until 8 tomorrow so I'll have time to sleep in a little and still finish breakfast before they start tearing things up, and they assured me they'll be turning the water back on after they finish each day's work, so we will be able to do dishes and take care of personal hygiene between Wednesday morning and Friday afternoon.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

"The pie sisters"

Speaking of pies... The first Thanksgiving after my sister #2 was married, she & her new husband were going to Thanksgiving dinner with his relatives and were to bring a pumpkin pie. S#2 has our grandmother's recipe but had never made it before. It's a custard-style pie, using more half-and-half than pumpkin, and hers turned out kinda pied (pun very much intended!) because she didn't stir the mixture when she added the half-and-half to the pumpkin and spices. As she pointed out in her defense, the recipe doesn't say anything about mixing it! She also excused herself to her new relatives with the explanation that she always did the vegetables in our house: "Maureen and Sister #3 were the pie sisters!"

I love that; makes us sound like an act on Lawrence Welk. "Thankhyew, Bobby & Sissy. And now the Pie Sisters will entertain hyew with ..."

Kitchen goddess

This was one of those days that seem to happen every now and then, when I spend all afternoon in the kitchen on one thing or another. First it was the blueberries we bought last weekend. I decided to make the blueberry crisp recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook. It's a quick, easy recipe, and called for almost exactly the amount of blueberries we had on hand. It's nothing fancy, but it sure did taste good, even out of the microwave instead of a "real" oven. Unfortunately, it doesn't make much at all; one serving for each of us, with just enough left over for TW's lunch tomorrow.

Next up: salmon spread. Lotsa calcium, what with the salmon & (light) cream cheese, low fat, no sugar, so it "tastes good and is good for you!" - what's not to love? That and some crackers and you're set. (Mom always served it as a party hors d'oeuvre as a salmon ball, rolled in ground parsley and nuts, but we like it straight.)

Then the big project - peeling and cutting up my "seconds" peaches to see how much fruit I'd get. My first surprise was that they were all white peaches. I'd never bought any or even tasted any; these had almost a floral aroma. I got almost as much from my "seconds" as I would have expected to get from the same amount of regular peaches, and for little more than half the price; not a bad deal at all. I ended up with enough fruit for a 9" deep-dish pie, which came out as one of the nicest-looking pies I've ever done. The juice only leaked in one place (I'm so glad I remembered to slide a cookie sheet on a lower shelf!), the edges didn't overbrown, and because I rather overstuffed the pie to begin with, the middle didn't collapse. I actually considered taking a picture, but what on earth would I do with it? Baby brag books are bad enough. Can't you just see 'em all running when I tell people I have pictures of my pie?!? :D This time I added some flour to the filling, which cured the runniness. I think I cut the sugar too much, though (from 1 c. to 1/2 c.), or maybe the white peaches just aren't as sweet as the yellow ones I've always bought.

OK, so much for dessert. Next up - dinner. I always save the drippings when we have chicken or turkey, so I pulled the drippings out of the fridge and started some gravy, then added some of the turkey left over from dinner the other night. Home-made mashed potatoes (TW won't acknowledge anything that came from a box or packet as mashed potatoes) and some asparagus, and I had finally finished cooking for the day.

If we ever invite you over for dinner, you'll probably be the beneficiary of another such cooking jag. Better make sure you're hungry when you arrive!

I'll have to think on this...

Due to a concatenation of circumstances, it looks like I'll probably be sitting out the entire 2005-06 theater season, unless I can manage a show this December or next June. Which means Theater Widower won't be a theater widower possibly for another year; I'll have to come up with another nickname for him. :)

Too much happiness!

TW and I had an impromptu date yesterday. We ended up hitting one of the larger local branches of one 'a' them bookstore chains (I'll name them if they're willing to pay me for advertising ;), conveniently close to the theater where we then went to a matinee of War of the Worlds, which was fun. Kinda noisy - they did say it's a war - and in a coupla places I thought they really pushed that "willing suspension of disbelief" thing, but on the whole we enjoyed it. The special effects were every bit as impressive as you'd expect from Spielberg, the tension very good, the girl playing Tom Cruise's daughter did the best terrified I think I've ever seen from a child, and the boy playing his son was also good. TW spotted a cameo at the end by someone who was in the first War of the Worlds movie. I like when they do that well, which Spielberg did - not blatant, not gimmicky, just a very quick "blink and you'll miss it" moment.

The movie let out just around dinner time. We ended up at a Japanese restaurant with tables out on the sidewalk. The weather was so lovely we decided to eat outside and were very glad we did. The highs only got into the 80s and the humidity was delightfully low - almost unheard of in July! - so we had a lovely time enjoying dinner and people-watching. And boy, the stroller patrol was out in force! There was a constant stream of parents passing with strollers, toddlers on shoulders, kids in their entourage, etc.

Good thing we did that yesterday - today, while the temps are still only in the 80s, the oppressive humidity is back and we're hiding out inside with the a/c.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Maybe I'm not a Sondheim fan

I was starting to prep for auditions for Sondheim's Company, being done by two local companies this fall in overlapping runs. I had read through a couple of synopses on line and wasn't all that taken by the show but ordered a CD of the music. Finally got a chance to listen to it the other night and decided that I won't be auditioning after all. It's bad enough that I didn't particularly like any of the characters, but I wasn't all that crazy about the music, either. I'm not so theater-addicted that I'm going to give up three months of my life rehearsing and performing something I probably won't like.

I haven't seen a lot of Sondheim - Gypsy, West Side Story, A Funny Thing Happened..., and Into the Woods. Except for Forum, they're all downers, and a lot of the characters are decidedly not sympathetic. That seems particularly true of Company (bear in mind that I've read synopses and listened to the CD; I haven't seen it performed). I figure if I want to see rape, murder, adultery and people just plain being mean and manipulative, all I have to do is turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper. It's not something I really want to sign up for.

Whingeing and moaning

("whinge" - rhymes w/ "hinge", means "complain, whine") Taking another class for work this week, teaching us training methods for those of us who have occasion to teach adults, either informally or in front of a classroom. Generally quite useful, but I do have one complaint. They want us to prep materials for practice lessons, including slides, but there are no computers or copiers available, so I spent a couple of hours tonight on the home computer searching up articles for tomorrow. I don't know how I'm gonna do PowerPoint slides for our "final" on Friday. Is it unreasonable of me to expect them to provide the wherewithal for us to do our homework instead of assuming we've all got fully equipped home offices?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Reasons to love our cabin.

TW and I were out at the cabin again this weekend. Lovely, as always, and we had all the windows wide open. We don't have a/c there, so we were grateful the weather was mild enough that ceiling fans and open windows kept the place quite comfortable, with the added benefit that we can hear the birds that much better.

Yesterday I was at the kitchen counter slicing peaches for TW's birthday pie when I heard a bird very close by. I looked up and there in the rhododendron bush right outside the kitchen window was a cardinal singing his little heart out. As many cardinals as I've seen, I don't know that I've ever heard one sing before. Quite lovely; a pity he didn't stay longer.

I was a bit disappointed in the spiced peach pie. I'd had to use margarine for the crust's shortening, which made the crust rather soggy (lard really does make the best pie crusts), and the filling was a bit sweet for my taste and quite runny. I think I need to adjust the recipe - less sugar, and add flour to reduce the runniness, with perhaps a touch less ground clove. TW thought it was just fine, however.

Our pastor was finishing up his scheduled vacation and decided to join us Saturday morning and stay until today. Hard as he works, it was rewarding to see him visibly relax and catch up on his reading and his sleep. He's been out a couple of times before, and we keep urging him to come out mid-week if he's so inclined. I think this weekend went a long way toward convincing him that he should take advantage of the opportunity more often. We bought the place with every intention of sharing it with friends and family, and this year we've had visitors more often than in previous years; we're hoping that trend continues.

On the way home we stopped at a produce market and picked up blueberries and "seconds" (bruised and overripe) peaches. Not sure whether the berries will end up on my cereal or in baked goods, but the peaches are definitely destined for the oven. One pie goes quickly, especially when you share it with your house-sitting neighbor, so I'm sure TW won't mind if I make another one to experiment with the peach pie recipe.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Just call me a "theater enabler".

Was chatting with a friend and sometime colleague at work today. He asked me how Mikado had gone, which got us talking about singing choruses in public. He sings tenor, so I assured him that, if he can move while singing, directors would love to have him in their cast! He also mentioned that he likes Shakespeare. When I commented that I knew someone who'd just played Lady MacBeth, he started quoting from the play, so I gave him the website of a local group that does "concept" Shakespeare. I recently learned that they don't do "authentic" productions in large part because that's expensive (examine closely the clothing and accessories in any Elizabethan portrait) and they don't have the budget to do it properly. Rather than do bad Elizabethan, they've opted not to do it all, for which I applaud them.

I told him they'll be doing King John this fall and Merry Wives of Windsor early next year. I do believe he's going to look into it. If so, then I'll have "enabled" him in his theater habit; something to be proud of, don't you think? :)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Pagan babies

This came up as my mom & I were speculating how soon my sister and brother-in-law might have the christening after their first baby is born (expected in about a month). Mom claimed that, when she discussed this with my sister, the latter declared it "wouldn't be a pagan baby for long!"

OK, show of hands - how many of you were encouraged, if not required, by your grade school teachers to save your pennies, nickels, and dimes for "pagan babies"? My mom told me that when she was growing up, the nuns told them they were "ransoming" the pagan babies! My teachers didn't use that verb, but they did still call 'em pagan babies. I imagine the money donated went to missionaries running a children's hospital in deepest, darkest Africa or some such thing, and I doubt that all the beneficiaries, or even a plurality, were actually babies, but still... I wonder how many American Catholic children (did the Episcopal schools do this too?) thought they were adopting a brother or sister? I don't recall thinking very much about it; we were asked for coins, we dutifully brought in our pocket change.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Looks like a done deal

The sing-along casting is out and I will indeed be singing the role the organizer had asked me to look at. Given some of the other mezzos participating, I'm flattered indeed! And I'll get to sing a duet with a friend with whom I've often/frequently shared the stage in the chorus, but in those cases we were always singing the alto line together. This time, we'll be the only ones singing; that'll be a novelty.

This will be quite a thrill - there'll be 60+ people singing, which will make for an exhilarating singing experience. I've sung in groups of as many as 200+ voices and shows with choruses as small as only 6 or 8. If you're gonna sing choruses in public, the bigger the chorus, the more fun!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Mikado pic #4

"If you want to know who we are"

This shot of our Gentlemen of Japan includes Pooh-Bah (leftmost, with the purple sash) and Pish-Tush (second from right, holding a fan). Though the men of our chorus were outnumbered 2 to 1 by the ladies, they (plus Pooh & Pish) still managed to produce a sound in the opening choruses that greatly impressed my voice teacher.

Mikado pic #3

"Comes a train of little ladies"

The two choristers on the left give you an idea of what the rest of the ladies looked like - cream-colored kimonos with flowers and things stenciled on them. "Very pretty, very pretty!"

Mikado pic #2

"Braid the Raven Hair". Yum-Yum and sisters are learning some unexpected things from the Kinsey Report! From this angle, I think that bow makes it look as though I'm wearing a bustle dress. Great shot of the seahorse on my sleeve.

I think it was during the 2nd week of the run, as the three of us were doing make-up and such backstage, that we decided that Peep-Bo is the youngest sister, because of her rather sarcastic comments (e.g., Nanki-Poo's pending execution "taking the top off" Yum-Yum's excitement about the wedding). Yum is the middle one, and Pitti-Sing is the big sister, giving Peep the evil eye for making Yum cry and telling Katisha to go fish ("there are lots of good fish in the sea!") when Kat comes to claim Nanki, her "perjured lover". Interestingly, a friend of someone in the cast came to exactly that conclusion after seeing the show.

Mikado pic #1

Hmm, I think this worked - first attempt to post a picture on my blog. This is one of the publicity stills from last month's Mikado - Pitti-Sing telling Katisha to leave Nanki-Poo alone "for he's going to marry Yum-Yum!" Because this was posed, not from a performance, it doesn't include the cigarette holder business (Katisha gestures at me with it, I snatch it out of her hand and stick it in my obi), but not a bad shot.

SOOO good to be home again!

Just got in last night from a week-long business trip to England. The temps were about 10 degrees hotter than I'd packed for. Those of you sweating in hot, humid places may think low-to-mid 80s temps sound pretty good, but bear in mind that very few things in England are air-conditioned, given that they generally need a/c maybe 5 days out of the year, and that most of the windows only tip or crank open; very few sash windows, so less cross-ventilation. (Makes for a very stuffy hotel room!) We got lucky - beautiful weather, no rain, and the meetings were productive, not just time-fillers.

What really surprised me was just how very much I missed TW. This is hardly our first such separation - I spent 10 days last summer helping my parents move - but maybe the difference is that, between the time difference (5 hours) and the cost of transatlantic phone calls, I couldn't call him every day while I was gone. But whatever the reason, I was OH so glad to see his smiling face waiting for me when I got off the last plane last night!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Another ego boost

I'm planning to attend a G&S "summer sing" next month, only my 3rd ever - I'm really looking forward to it! Everyone can sing the chorus bits, and the organizer will be casting leads after July 16th (deadline for role requests). I got my request in early, hoping it was sufficiently modest. This will be only a informal sing, not a staged production, but I'm still a bit shy about requesting leads. I also don't want to be greedy - projected attendance is already above 30, and it's usual to share leads around so more people get a chance.

I was surprised and quite flattered to get an e-mail from the organizer the other day, asking that I consider looking at the music for a role I hadn't considered, as I'm not as familiar with that character's show, but now I'll get the music on tape at my next voice lesson. The e-mail came w/ the caveat that the organizer won't be casting anything until after the 16th, once she has all the role requests, and therefore this was not a promise of anything, but her comments on my capabilities (from someone who's worked with full-time professionals for years) were certainly flattering. Even if I don't sing the role, it's nice to be considered!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


TW and I just got back from a long weekend at our cabin. No schedule, no deadlines, no phone - just the ticket! The weather was kind - not too hot or humid; we were generally pretty comfortable with the ceiling fans and only needed the bedroom fan the first night. We did a little bit of shopping on Saturday and played tourist yesterday, but generally did plenty of nothing; slept in, read, watched a little TV (very little; we only get 2 or 3 channels), and I indulged in another massage yesterday evening. Nice and quiet, lots of flora and fauna to look at, and we're finally getting the place the way we want it, so it's oh, so cozy and welcoming. As TW is fond of saying, you can absolutely feel your blood pressure dropping out there. We plan to go back for an even longer stay sometime around Labor Day; I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Cool words I've learned lately

Took an advanced English grammar course a month or so ago and learned two really cool new words:

- bustrophedon (also bustropheidon, boustrophedon, boustropheidon) can be used to describe writing that alternates directions: right to left on one line, left to right on the next. The word means something like "turning like oxen when plowing". Etymology: bu for cow, cattle, etc. (think "bovine") + strophe for line. I like the image of the writer's hand moving back and forth across the page like a plow team going back and forth across a field.

- paucal refers to a noun form that means "a few" (c.f. paucity). The progression would be singular, dual, paucal, plural. It seems that languages that have a paucal tend to use it for 3 or 4 things, going to the plural form at 5 (a made-up example: 1 blip, 2 blipa, 3 or 4 blipo, 5 or more blipi).

I learned another new word from one of the friends who came out to the cabin with us this past weekend. In the course of a discussion of how Splenda can claim to be made from sugar, W (a biochemist) gave us a quick, basic chemistry explanation, starting with the fact that all molecules have a chirality (kie-RAL-ity) or directional spiral. Reversing a molecule's chirality also means, inter alia, that people with penicillin allergies are able to benefit from penicillin-like antibiotics. I'd had a doctor explain why a new drug she was prescribing wasn't going to make me sick, but she didn't mention chirality. I wish she had; I'd've remembered what she said even better if she'd given me a spiffy new word to anchor the explanation to.

Doing my part for science...

I found this on The Flibbertigibbet's blog (

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Nice to have my weekends back

TW and I went out to our weekend place, aka "the cabin"; hot and a bit humid, but opening all the windows and cranking up the ceiling fans kept it mostly comfortable. Better, friends of ours were able to join us for most of the weekend. The distaff side got massages & manicures Saturday, while the men puttered and got hot and dirty in the process. Then all 4 of us did a little shopping, first so our friends could get a cedar chest, then to do a little antiquing. Grilled chicken and ribs for dinner, with a nice bottle of wine - what a lovely day we had!

TW and I will be back out to the cabin for several more weekends through the end of the year; I gotta make up for all the weekends I missed out on while Mikado was in rehearsal and production. ;)

Well, that was fun!

The last performance went pretty well. My voice teacher made it (and we did about a 45-minute post mortem at my lesson the next day). TW came too, and gave me a dozen roses when I came out for my curtain call! Strike went quickly - it's kinda depressing when you blow through a theater area and within an hour or two there's no trace of all your hard work. The director and her husband had the post-strike party at their place, which runs down to a large creek. Lots of mature trees, a few lightning bugs flickering in the bushes, a lovely big deck to lounge on, and lots of good food and good company. The gift presentations were pretty discombobulated (the cards arrived after we'd distributed the gifts), but I think the cast photos were well received just the same.

Now comes the post-show let-down. I don't miss the late rehearsal nights, but I do miss the people. I was invited to join a few others in singing some Mikado excerpts at a nursing home this past weekend, but TW and I had been planning for a month or more to spend it at our weekend place, and friends of ours were joining us there, so I had to beg off. Next time, maybe.

My voice teacher asked me what I'd learned from the experience. In addition to what I've already noted (seeing less of the show, different group dynamics), I commented that I had to learn to adjust my eating habits to optimize my voice. There are certain things I can't eat before I sing, and I found that eating around 5 gave me plenty of time for the digestive juices to settle before I had to sing. Of course, that invariably meant that I was ready for dinner again by the time the performance was over, 6 hours later.

As a chorister, I only worried about being able to sing (hot tea when fighting a cold, allergy meds in season); when you're one voice among many, vocal purity or lack thereof isn't noticeable, so things like "phlegm fatale" aren't a big deal. When you're out there singing all alone, however, every little thing makes a difference. So I found myself worrying more than usual about the pollen count and paying more attention to food sensitivities and respiratory quirks. And boy, did having solo lines to sing make me pay attention to my technique! I've been working on it all along, of course - that's how I got to the point where someone would actually want to give me a lead - but this really focused my attention on it. In that respect, being a lead was more work than chorus, but it was also fun. When can I do this again? :)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Afraid to ask

Out of all the folks who've stayed to say hi after seeing the show, not one has offered any specific comments on my performance, either good or bad. I never ask such things; if they're being polite ("if you can't say something nice..."), I don't want to make things awkward for them. And I just can't bring myself to fish for compliments; that seems like cheating, somehow. I guess I won't know how I did until I get the DVD, and I probably won't like it (does one ever enjoy seeing oneself on screen?). My only hope is that my voice teacher will make it, in which case I expect to get a post mortem at my lesson on Monday. But if she doesn't come to the show, I guess I'll never know. No one comments on the chorus members, as a general rule, so I should be used to that, but I did rather hope to hear something about my first lead. So I'll pout for a minute or two, then get back to real life and enjoy having my evenings and weekends back.

Random notes

I knew it couldn't last - if there was anyone in last night's audience whom I knew, they didn't stay to say hi after the show. There goes my streak. :)

Thursday night's brush-up rehearsal introduced a new bit of business to the Pitti-Kat confrontation in the Act I finale. Kat got so in my face that she started to gesture toward me with her cigarette holder; I snatched it out of her hand! A pity we weren't filming; I'd have loved to see the reactions I could hear from the others on stage, and of course I could see the outrage on Katisha's face. My first instinct was to snap the cigarette holder in two, but you never mess with someone else's prop, and you CERTAINLY don't destroy it!!! =:o So, while it seemed a rather lame choice, I handed it back to her. Well, last night our director/Katisha told me she wanted to keep that bit of business, so we decided Pitti would put the cigarette holder in her obi after snatching it away. I then give it back to her when we head back to the dressing room.

This is one show I'm going to be sorry to see close. This has been a very congenial, compatible cast and crew and we're having a lot of fun. I know I'm not the only one who feels that way, as I've heard that sentiment echoed by other members of the cast, including the chorus.

That's another thing I've learned from doing this lead: I'd rather suspected it as a chorus member, but the leads do have a different show experience than the chorus. You get a little tighter with people when you have to run lines or sing a small ensemble number with them, for one thing. The leads and chorus will often have different choreography to do, so the chorus tends to bond with each other when they drill their choreography, usually while the leads are running a different scene. The chorus is nearly always blocked upstage of the leads and therefore can see what the leads are doing, while the leads can't see the chorus. (And I can't see anything but the floor when I'm groveling for the Mikado!)

Leads often get more attention from the make-up folks, too. In this case, I do my own but follow our make-up designer's direction and have occasionally checked with her when I wasn't quite sure I was happy with how I'd done my make-up. Other of our leads, however, have much more intricate make-up designs and will let the designer do some or all of their make-up for them. I'm sure she'd be happy to do mine for me, but I like to be ready early and since so many people go on before I do, they get theirs done first. That just means I learn a few make-up techniques by doing my own, which is a nice side benefit.

Tomorrow is our last performance. Strike is gonna be a sad thing, and I wouldn't miss the post-strike cast party for the world! TW plans to come for strike and the party; I hope he hits it off with some of the others so he stays as long as I'll want to. I have every hope of working with my fellow cast members and staff again, but of course you can never reproduce a show experience - you can only hope to get another, different one that's just as good in its own way.

Ready to go digital, but how?

OK, you tech-savvy folks out there, help me out. After talking about it and putting it off at least twice, I'm finally ready to break down and get a digital camera. However, "I know nothing about such things", not even what questions to ask. If you have any experiences to share ("don't make my mistake" stories are welcome) or can point me to URLs for DigiCam101 or anything like that, please do.

I would much rather not have to buy even more equipment just to view or print my photos. I want something that's the equivalent of a point-and-shoot; the less fussing and fiddling I have to do to take and then view/print/e-mail my pics, the better I'll like it. And if the whole set-up costs more like a car payment than a mortgage payment, so much the better.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

And that's 2 weekends...

We've now done 5 of our 8 scheduled performances. Had our smallest house Friday night and our second-largest at today's matinee (opening night was the largest). More appreciative audiences, and my streak continues - our neighbors came to the matinee today, although they didn't stay to say hi. I've had someone I know at every performance of the run to date - I like that! :)

Last night was videotaped, and some of us were definitely up against the "video jinx", when you seem to make mistakes you've never made before, in places you've always been solid as a rock. Ah well, I still think we gave 'em a good show, which is the main thing.

Another first

Got my first theater flowers last night (i.e., the first flowers just for me, not for the women of the cast, or the whole cast). L & I sent a bouquet and card backstage to me when they showed up for last night's show. How fun! Even better, the colors in the bunch they gave me went perfectly with the flowers Theater Widower brought me yesterday afternoon.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

What a good neighbor

A few years ago we splashed out on Gutter Helmets, but for whatever reason - perhaps the pitch of our roof isn't steep enough - the gutters still clog. We had the GH folks out on Wednesday to clear them, but when it rained on Thursday, the water was still flowing over the sides of the gutters. I left another message with their "service department" (all I ever manage to get is the voice mail) telling them the cleaning didn't work. Rather than wait for these folks to get back to us, however, Theater Widower pulled out the ladder today and has been cleaning out the gutters. While he was up the ladder, he decided to trim some tree branches overhanging the roof, too.

He must be on a roll - I just looked out the window and saw him next door, flushing the neighbor's gutters. Next - more branch trimming, on their side of the fence. What a guy! He's really racking up the good neighbor points.

"Heaven help our hope."

Tonight's the night they tape us for posterity! Here's hoping for a reasonably full house of lively audience members. Last night the box office told us we'd sold 70 or 80-some seats, but only 30-some-odd people actually showed up. And it being a Friday night, when folks have worked all day and all week, they were relatively quiet, as I've come to expect from a Friday night audience. They obviously enjoyed the show - some of them gave us a standing ovation at the curtain calls! - just not numerous or noisy.

Perhaps because of that (or more likely, enhanced by that), we were a bit ragged last night. The timing was sometimes a little bit off, a few lines were misplaced or rewritten, a couple of choristers missed an entrance due to a "wardrobe malfunction" (the one's wig fell off and both were trying to get it back on in a more permanent fashion), the pianists made new mistakes - sigh. I'm glad we got that out of our system (I hope we got that out of our system!) last night; tonight's performance should be sharper. I know mine will, if only because I got to sleep in this morning.

And I'm on a roll. Out of 3 performances so far, I've known at least one person in the audience every time (just one last night, but out of a crowd of only 30-some, that's good). That's my best record ever; usually I only know someone for 1 or 2 performances of a run. If L is able to make good on her promise to attend tonight, and my neighbor to attend tomorrow's matinee, I'll know someone in the audience every performance for 2 full weekends, which could really spoil me if no one I know comes the last weekend. :) I can think of lots of reasons I haven't been much of a "box office draw":
- All my would-be supporters are on stage with me;
- All my would-be supporters are in shows that run concurrent with mine;
- It's too far (in this area, that usually means having to go through too many traffic choke points);
- Other scheduling conflicts
- They just aren't interested in theater. Strange as it sounds, I do have a few friends like that. And when it comes to shows w/ music, if it isn't Broadway, then it must be opera, and "I hate opera - all that shrieking, and I can never understand a word, even if it's in English."

I can't help but wonder about why I'm having so much better luck getting folks to come to this show - how much of it is because the timing or location just happens to work out for people, how much because they're being supportive of my first lead, and how much is because they're there to see someone else and I just happen to be in the same show. ;) Whatever the reason, I'm happy to see familiar faces in the audience.

Friday, June 10, 2005

"It seems odd, doesn't it?"

Last night I went to a final dress rehearsal to see friends in "Yeomen of the Guard" [Note: YeomEn, not YeomAn, ad in the local paper notwithstanding] because their run exactly and completely conflicts with the rest of Mikado - I'm on stage when they are. It was strange - no audience, aside from the director, choreographer, a couple of friends/family members taking pictures (with permission, of course), the company's artistic director, and myself, all sprinkled about the theater or, in the case of one of the photographers, wandering from side to side depending on the stage action. I missed not hearing the reactions of others in the theater, which always adds to the energy, not to mention that it felt very weird to be able to tell my clapping from anyone else's.

Adding to the strangeness was that this was a rehearsal, so the orchestra stopped a few times so the MD could correct or clarify something, in one case doing so right in the middle of a climactic moment on stage. The poor principals had rather a time recovering their composure because they had to resume in such an awkward place. There were some lighting cues out of synch, at one point so badly that the director had to have a chat with the person(s) on the lightboard, and a prop that appeared a bit early, which I knew because of the director's comment to the person responsible.

However, all that aside, I found much to like in the performance. "Yeomen" is the sole G&S work that attempts to be serious at least in part (there's a serious storyline alongside the comedy) and it has a deliberately ambiguous ending which is, however, unambiguously serious. I don't know this show very well - I've done it once, and this is only the first time I've been in the audience, although I've seen it discussed at length on Savoynet. This company did a few things a bit differently than I'd expected, without doing any injury to the text of the show. I particularly enjoyed the way the director treated the comedy, including a couple of unexpected twists that made the Phoebe-Wilfrid pairing more palatable.

I did get to go backstage at intermission and say hello, which is always nice, and congratulate folks on the way things were going at that point. The role of Jack Point was double cast and I would have liked to see the other Jack as well, but at least I got to see something.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Dressing room space

One of the things I've learned about community theater is that dressing room facilities seem to run from adequate to non-existent. When I did Comedy of Errors a few months ago, there was no dressing room - those of us with changes did them in the wings. I worked backstage for another show in a space that was a converted armory; the main "dressing room" was downstairs and not readily accessible, so tight changes were made in what was once probably either a small hallway or a long closet. I've worked in only three theaters with what was actually a dressing room, with dressing table counters with mirrors above them, though only once did I have a mirror all to myself. (It was a relatively small cast.)

The space where we're performing Mikado isn't much different. Being a concert hall, there's a room perhaps 15'x20' with large, tall closets (big enough to accommodate a couple of string basses, inter alia - handy for hanging up costumes with trains), with a smaller room with 2 counters with mirrors, and a single toilet just beyond that. Imagine my surprise when I arrived last Tuesday for our first rehearsal in the theater to have the director ask me which of the 4 places in the "dressing room" I wanted! She had designated it for the 4 female leads! We only close the door when we're actually changing, both so others can get to the toilet or a well-lit make-up mirror and for ventilation - the make-up lights heat the place up in a hurry! The rest of the cast has to make do with large mirrors propped up on 3 or 4 tables in the hall behind the concert hall and change either in the hallway or the larger room. A few cast members have also used the toilet to change, which fortunately is big enough for that.

How cool is this - because I'm a lead, I only have to share a dressing space with 3 others instead of the whole female cast, or the whole cast!

It's so nice having a mirror all to myself, not to mention a place to park my stuff, instead of pulling it out, doing make-up, then finding a place to stash it. And with the trains all 4 of us have on our costumes (Katisha's probably trails at least 4 feet behind her!), it's a luxury to be able to dress & put on our wigs and make-up with a minimum of traffic and crowding. But I'm very conscious of what the rest of the cast, chorus as well as male leads, have to put up with, so I have no problem sharing "my" mirror with someone who wants to apply make-up in a proper light.

And the facility has a message board out front - we're on there! I'm gonna hafta get a picture of the sign. My last show was in a (former movie) theater and our show was on the marquee above the door. I'm so sorry I didn't get a picture of the marquee.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

That's one weekend gone already.

Tech week and opening weekend are now behind us. I'm relieved we don't have a matinee. I can use the rest, so Theater Widower and I are going to see a friend of mine in Damn Yankees. Yes, it counts as a rest - I'll be sitting in the audience, not running around under hot lights in a heavy costume or worrying about lines, music, entrances, or costume changes.

Last night I was actually happy with how I did my solo verse in Braid the Raven Hair. This time I was paying less attention to my hand gestures and concentrating on things like breathing, diction, phrasing - all the "nitpicky" little details that make the difference between a sloppy or barely adequate performance and one I wouldn't mind my friends (or voice teacher!) hearing.

Which is a good thing, because I had 5 theater friends out in the audience. There were W and his daughter, both of whom I've shared a stage with; M, who just played the Mikado in February; D, who's directed me in several shows; and J, who was my dance partner in one show and has MDed others I've been in. When I mentioned the presence of those last 2 to our director/Katisha, she commented that "it's not like you're auditioning for them - they always cast you, don't they?" "Yes, but only in the chorus." So at first it did feel like an audition, but then I just concentrated on doing a good Pitti-Sing. Offstage, part of me couldn't help but wonder if this would convince them to consider me more seriously for principal parts in future.

The scene in the Act I finale where Pitti tells off Katisha was even stronger last night, and this time the pianists were ready for the applause, so we only lost perhaps the first word or two. Katisha got even closer to me this time - our noses couldn't have been more than 6" apart. One of the other cast members commented on it to our AD later, telling it so that it sounded as if we looked like we were about to start swinging at each other. Sure hope it comes out well on the tape! That's the one problem with being in these things - you never get to see what the audience sees. But it's a trade-off I'm willing to make, since it means getting to sing and dance and prance about the stage in some costume or other. :)

The sound that says "love"...

Applause! Last night the applause definitely got louder as Pooh-Bah and I came out for our bow! Come Friday I'll have to listen carefully and see if I can tell whether it's for me or for him; we've gotten a LOT of comments that Pooh-Bah and Ko-Ko are the best performers in the show. And if it is really for him, well, I'm quite happy sharing it. :)

Saturday, June 04, 2005

One down, seven to go...

Well, I made it through Opening Night without any disasters. Having an audience always does wonders for my energy level, and it didn't hurt that I quickly spotted Theater Widower out in the audience. (It wasn't until Act II that I noticed a couple of friends from church, sitting right behind someone I've done a couple of shows with.)

The first of my two glitches was my solo entrance in the Act I finale. After we all finished singing "thy knell is rung" to Yum-Yum, the audience started applauding, which probably drowned out my "Away, nor prosecute your quest". I'll have to talk to the AD and our pianists to see if we should come up with a work-around to wait for the applause to fade a little, or if I should just proceed as usual. This is a chronic problem with G&S Act I finales - they pack so much action and so many melodies into them that the audience isn't sure when or whether to applaud.

I think it was my strongest performance of that section - Katisha's attempt to hit Yum came a little bit earlier, giving Pitti more time to get really, really steamed about the whole business. So "he's going to marry Yum-Yum" was no longer a sing-songy, "nyah nyah" line and more "he's going to marry Yum-Yum whether you like it or not." Katisha got literally in my face at that - no more than a foot away. Pitti didn't so much as flinch. If you'd seen Katisha's make-up last night, you'd appreciate that Pitti must have been angry indeed not to twitch when practically nose to nose with such a harridan. :)

I wasn't completely satisfied with my solo in Braid the raven hair (there's one jump that crosses into my passaggio and is an accident waiting to happen). I think I may be worrying so much about the hand gestures and not making them too jerky that I'm letting my singing technique slide, so I'll have to woodshed that one a bit.

I had my little costume & prop problems - such as backing out of one of my sandals at one point in the Act I finale - but nothing serious. Just enough to remind me that I always have to pay attention to what I'm doing. The ladies' choreographies went better last night - I think we're finally getting used to parading around in close quarters with trains trying to get underfoot.

As for the bows: the chorus gets the first bow, as usual, with a separate bow for 3 choristers who do special bits during the overture (V with her fish kite, J who does a two-fan dance, and C who does an impressive knife dance). Then Peep-Bo and Pish-Tush take a bow; Pitti-Sing and Pooh-Bah; then Yum-Yum and Nanki-Poo. The three little maids then bow together, followed by the three men. The Mikado brings out Katisha, and Ko-Ko gets the last bow. It was fun to take a bow all by myself and actually hear the level of cheering increase! Maybe it was just the acoustics, but I prefer to think it was for me! :)

My "fans" waited for me after the show and one of my friends from church told me that now I'll "never" go back to the chorus. This is an old discussion between us; I reminded him that it's different for women (more competition), but he wouldn't listen. S is a sweetie - when I was cast as Pitti-Sing, he was every bit as excited as I was - but sometimes I think his loyalty gives him "selective hearing". When he and I did a show together back in March, his wife and my husband both came to the last performance and were probably comparing notes on theater widowhood while they waited for us to pack up our gear and help strike the set and clear out the dressing room. I'm sure it didn't give TW a warm fuzzy when S told him last night that "now you'll never see her again except on stage." I quickly reassured TW that he's got me all summer long.

When I start up again in the fall will depend on what's auditioning when. TW doesn't want me to go back to the company with which I've done most of my shows and on whose board I sit because he doesn't want to see me go back to the chorus. That group pulls a strong enough audition pool that I think it may be a while yet before I get out of the chorus there, but who knows. In the meantime, I'll keep plugging away. Knowing that at least ONE director thinks I'm good enough for a lead gives me hope that I'll eventually be able to bring others around to that way of thinking.

Impatiens at last

Now that Mikado has opened, I no longer have Saturday rehearsals that run until as late as 4 p.m. Whoopee! I took advantage of this sunny (but oh, so muggy) Saturday to plant the impatiens I bought 2 or 3 weeks ago. Two flats of the colorful little things, which are one of the few flowering plants that will grow in our shady yard. (But I do love the great big trees that are the reason it's so very shady.)

The impatiens went into a "new" bed. Theater Widower had to take out some dead rose-of-sharon and lilac last fall, leaving a rather forlorn-looking patch on the side of the house. It doesn't get a lot of sun because the houses on our block are fairly close together, and of course there's shade from the neighbor's lovely big maple. "Perfect for more impatiens!" cried I after TW ripped out all the deadwood. So a few weeks ago, off I trotted to the garden center on base - they were having a sale; they must have known I was on the hunt for impatiens! - and came home with 2 flats of color. Now we'll see if that patch is too shady even for impatiens...

I also did a little bit of weeding. We get a lot of "volunteer" trees, of course. The maples come up quite readily, but the other varieties are remarkably tenacious, even in rain-soaked dirt. The admirability of this tenacity depends on whether you want a free tree in the middle of your flowerbed or patio; if you don't, prepare to do some digging or get out the pruners (or a saw, depending on how long you waited to go after the volunteers).

Friday, June 03, 2005

Another open of another show

Tonight's the night! I took the day off work so I could sleep in. Other items on today's agenda include securing some costume fastenings, putting my hair into several braids to fit it under the wig, reviewing my music, lines, and blocking, and trying to keep my throat & lungs clear despite the rain. Fortunately, the rain is light enough that, if it stays like this, it shouldn't keep anyone away from the theater.

One of the folks in the box office was teasing our director earlier this week that "we don't have time to go to the bathroom for answering the phone!" And she wasn't just talking about tickets for opening night; apparently ticket sales have been brisk for all 3 weekends of the run! Hurray! There's nothing quite as discouraging as playing to an audience that's outnumbered by the cast. A fairly full house is always satisfying, and if it's SRO, that's as good as an award, at least in community theater.

Apparently this company has a tradition of an Opening Night gala, which includes a black-tie pre-show reception and tickets to the show. Last night they were marking off 52 of the choicest seats for Gala patrons. We've been warned that the reception-goers don't always come to the show (which seems a waste to me - after all, if you've already got the ticket...) and not to be upset or offended if some of the Reserved seats are empty. Hey, as long as the folks who do show up are laughing and applauding at all the right places, I'm happy! :)

I'm a fairly long-term subscriber to Savoynet (about 7 or 8 years by now) and it's been nice to see the responses to my occasional posts about characterizations or interpretation, including reminiscences from others who've played Pitti (for at least one of whom this was also a first lead). What's been more gratifying has been the encouragement and expressions of good wishes as I embark on my first lead. When I first signed on, I never realized that an online listserv can become a kind of virtual community. I've since seen examples of that on numerous occasions, especially when one or another Savoynetter suffered an illness or injury, and have seen some very moving tributes when someone's passing has been shared. I suppose it never occurred to me that I might be a beneficiary of this community, but here it is - this is my opening night, I'm still going thru my e-mail, and I've already had at least half a dozen "break a leg" e-mails.

Earlier this week I had my doubts whether my Theater Widower was going to be able to make it tonight. He'd come down with a particularly nasty cold - sounded horrible (his voice was much lower than normal), could hardly sleep for coughing, sniffling, and the like, and was therefore exhausted all the time. I even told him the other night that if he still felt so miserable, he should stay home and plan to come to a later performance. "No, no, I said I'd come on opening night." Fortunately, he's finally feeling better so he's going to be able to come after all (without worrying about dirty looks from other audience members finding his coughing and nose-blowing distracting). Part of me is glad; I don't know whether I'm going to have anyone else I know in the audience tonight. If I were in my customary role in the chorus, I wouldn't particularly care, but for my first opening night as a lead, it's nice to know I've got at least one fan out there rooting for me.