Thursday, August 31, 2006

"And now for something completely different..."

... GOOD news! My voice teacher told me in my lesson today that they'll probably call me back for a LEAD and I hadn't even put down anything but chorus!!! {squealing} {jumping up and down} {delighted laughter}

This is extremely exciting, largely because this particular company actually pays its performers and therefore gets some pretty high-power talent at auditions. My audition obviously went better than I thought. :D Seems the MD asked my voice teacher at some point in the proceedings the other night, "That one with the hair (I auditioned w/ my hair loose, as a prop), what was her name? I think I want to call her back for Jane." {squealing} {jumping up and down} {delighted laughter}

This character has one solo and one duet and does the rest of her singing with the ladies of the chorus. The one challenge to the role, IF I get it, is that I'd need to learn to play (or at least pretend to play) the cello, when I've touched a stringed instrument exactly once in my life. And I'd have to manage that in less than 2 months, as the show runs the first weekend in November.

Callbacks are next Wednesday, which gives me almost a week to learn Jane's solo and look over her dialogue. That time's gonna fly!

Update on Mom & Dad

It's possible I may have only one parent in the hospital as early as tomorrow. My sister J writes that they may send Mom home tomorrow. The question for my siblings in town now becomes, "How do we make sure she doesn't wear herself out doing for others?" H and her family will be in town for the weekend and had already planned to pitch in (they generally avail themselves of Mom & Dad's den and spare bedroom), so at least this weekend will be covered. J has suggested Mom go into their guest room so she's less tempted to feed and entertain others, the house is all on one level (OK, the laundry room's in the basement, but that just means Mom wont' be doing laundry) and they have a big backyard and a basketball hoop in the driveway, so that means more room for the grandchildren to be around but not on top of each other. Sounds like my local sibs are going to talk to Mom & Dad and see what they think. I'm grateful all my siblings are so good at taking care of others; makes it less difficult to be half a continent away at a time like this.

Mom told me this evening Dad was able to get a couple of "overnight passes" from his hospital so that he can spend Saturday & Sunday nights at home, though still having to show up to his room for "torture" on a daily basis. Mom sounded pleased that they'll be able to have so much time together; after 50 years of marriage, they're still sweet on each other. :)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Wait" is a 4-letter word!

Mom's needle biopsy was today. One of the docs thought lymphoma was more likely than sarcoma (God grant!), but it could be three days before they get the results back and we know for sure. ("Wait" is very definitely a 4-letter word in this kind of situation!) Fortunately, my sister-in-law is an oncology nurse and a nurse practitioner and another sister is an occupational therapist. SO nice to have someone in the family who speaks the language and can translate for the rest of us!

The rehab hospital wants to keep Dad until next Wednesday; Dad wants to ratchet up his PT to accelerate that. (He's so typeA!) As one sister put it, the local family members may have to have a conference to determine whether that's a good idea.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Two parents in the hospital!

Dad went into the hospital on Thursday and got a new knee (to go with the new shoulder he got in November, perhaps). The surgeon was delighted with how well the surgery went, Dad's pain is apparently no worse than is to be expected under the circumstances and he's already walking (assisted) up and down long hallways. Yesterday they transfered him to the same rehab hospital where he "did time" two years ago after two major back surgeries. He absolutely loved the staff there, so we know he'll be in good hands this time around.

I wish Mom were doing as well! She was treated for a kidney infection a couple of weeks ago but was having some pain. She went to the doctor last Monday and got a cortisone shot for bursitis in her hip. She was feeling better by the latter part of the week but still not great, so she went back yesterday. I learned from my sister earlier tonight that they sent Mom to the hospital from the doctor's office! Her potassium and sodium levels were both quite low, and they ran some other tests to see what's up. Well, turns out Mom has cancer, again! (She had breast cancer nearly 15 years ago.) It seems they found a "suspicious mass" near her kidney that turned out to be a retroperitoneal tumor. Worse, her lymph nodes are enlarged. They'll do a biopsy tomorrow to determine whether it's lymphoma or sarcoma. My sister told me that, if we have a say in the matter, we need to vote for lymphoma, which is apparently relatively easy to treat with chemo and perhaps radiation. Sarcoma, on the other hand, would mean surgery and the tumor is in such a tricky place that the doctor said he'd want to send Mom to the Anderson clinic in Houston or to the Mayo clinic to have it done!

Seems weird to be praying that the biopsy shows lymphoma, but that's the situation.

So here I am, with two parents in the hospital, in different states! (Their city straddles a state line; the two hospitals are only a few miles apart.)

A good audition

This audition went much better than the last one. Very simple - singing only. (I was hoping there'd be a dance piece to it, but oh well.) I sang a piece I've auditioned with before, most recently a year ago April, when I auditioned for Mikado. It's very comfortable vocally, lends itself to dramatics, and is one I don't have to think myself through ("now lift into this higher passage..."). Small audition panel - the stage director (my voice teacher), the music director, and another woman off to one side who might have been a board member; no telling. I also knew the accompanist, so all of that helped put me at ease. The auditions are being held in a church social hall like none I've ever seen - a room that didn't look like it'd been the victim of fellowship hours, scout meetings, youth group dances and the like, with a lovely hardwood floor and a sort of stage (up 3 steps), also hardwood, with nice lighting (not fluorescent).

So I got up there, we chatted a bit, then I began. I didn't worry about my technique at all, just let it happen, while I played with the dramatics of the piece. I must've done something right because both directors were laughing when I finished. My voice teacher has told me repeatedly that this is the reaction I want to go for, so I feel that went well. Because the cast will be relatively small, I asked whether there might be callbacks even for chorus. The answer was "we might", to check balance and blend.

Two more audition nights, then callbacks on the 6th. I've got a bit of waiting ahead of me...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Another audition

Yes, so the last one didn't go as well as I'd've liked. Time to try again. Tomorrow night I'm auditioning for a local G&S production. The audition info on the company's website says that folk dance experience would be an "advantage" - sounds like my kinda production! I did folk dancing thru most of college, continued it recreationally for a few years after that, spent 5 years with a Hungarian folk dance troupe. I've done some recreational ballroom dancing, and spent close to 20 years studying, performing and occasionally teaching Middle Eastern dance. Including the folk dances of the middle east. Yeah, I'd say I've got that part of the requirement nailed! Problem is, they're only taking 6 women in the chorus ("20 lovesick maidens" - HAH!), so I'd better nail my vocal technique this time. And my voice teacher will be the stage director and therefore will be one of the folks at the audition table; I'd really better show her that I still remember what we've been working on, even if I haven't had a lesson all month. ;)

Cabin update - coming into the home stretch at last!

Back to the cabin this past weekend. The molding is up around all the windows, most of the picture rail is up (I miscalculated and hafta order more; the contractor is waiting until it comes in to finish mounting the last piece of the first order), the back bathroom is fully functional... All this construction is almost finished!!! Still to be done: touching up the paint (dings and dirt), doing second coats in a few places, finishing molding near the new front door, installing the storm doors in the foyer and screens in the windows in the addition (we'll have lovely cross-ventilation once that's all done!), and mounting the gutters. Then one last electrical inspection, the overall county inspection, and we can officially start "moving in"! We'll want to do some heavy-duty cleaning first, of course - the dust is thick and ubiquitous - but depending on the inspectors' schedules, we could have the construction finished in another coupla weeks. It'll be SO nice to get rid of the debris, clear out the dust, start thinking about plants to put in over the septic tank (they ripped up a few hundred square yards to do all the work!) and to camouflage the foundation, and generally start making the addition look less naked and more like it belongs there.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Dinner w/ friends

A friend and I, after what seems like months of canceled lunches, finally decided to get together for dinner instead. Nothing like having a "date" with a friend of long standing when you've seen each other through some pretty awful times (deaths, divorce, family stuff, poisonous jobs...). Lovely dinner, bouncing ideas off each other, voicing concerns or complaints you can't tell anyone else, enjoying each other's successes - what a gift!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Evening of One-Acts

Saturday night I went to see the first of 3 weekends of a local company's annual One-Act Festival. I went because 2 of the 5 pieces on the program involved friends of mine whose work I've enjoyed before.

The first piece was OK, the 2nd was painful (performers were wooden & seemed under-rehearsed, timing was poor, and I didn't think much of the material), and the 3rd was a damp squib (didn't so much end as fade out). Fortunately, the two pieces my friends were involved with were quite a bit better. The piece I'd gone to see a friend in, Chekhov's "The Brute", was good material, well directed and brilliantly performed. The director decided on a light southern accent for the woman and sorta cowboy-ish accents for the two men. Because all three handled them with a light touch, I thought it worked quite well. (And the director's decision to use the Gone With the Wind theme for the after music was inspired!) I. has a gift for physical comedy and, as the old family retainer, adopted a funny walk that reminded another fan of his of Walter Brennan. At one point, he entered pumping his hands as if using a walker; very effective and quite funny. The costumer in me wanted to shorten the woman's white pettis so there wasn't such a blizzard showing under her mourning dress when she was seated, and her bustle dress needed a bustle, but those minor things were my only quibbles. All 3 performers can be proud of their work last night.

The other piece, directed by L, my "theater mentor", was based on the premise that lunching w/ an ex-spouse has become an Olympic medal event. Funny concept, and the material lived up to it. D did a lovely job - just the right amount of angst over remembered better days, and just exactly the right note of triumph in the last line as his character knows he's won the gold. Kudos to L&D for one of the two consistently strong one-acts of the evening.

This was the first time I'd ever attended one of these. I found myself wondering how the directors find the pieces they submit for inclusion, and why so many of the 5 presented last night were so dreary. I'm also curious about how they put these things together. I'm told that when auditioning for a 1-act festival, you're going into a pool from which the various directors draw; you don't audition for a particular role or show or director. I'll have to ask what you audition with - prepared monologue, cold reading, or whatever. Not that I'm planning to audition for a one-act festival in the foreseeable future; I'm just curious about the process.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Let's see if anyone reads this...

From a friend's blog (slightly edited to accommodate my own prejudices):

1. Name: Maureen
2. Living in the US?: yes
3. Single or Taken: very much taken! :)
4. Pet Peeves: sloppy language, selfish/oblivious drivers
5. Favorite Song or type of music to listen to: (that'd take up too much space)
6. Favorite Song or type of music to sing: anything I can harmonize to
7. Favorite Book: at the moment, Pride & Prejudice
8. Current hobbies and other pastimes: singing, theater
9. Hobbies & other pastimes you would like to take up or get back to: dancing, playing an instrument
10. Favorite movie star you wish you could meet: I'd love to dance w/ Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly, sing w/ Howard Keel
11. Do we know each other outside of the blogisphere?: I've known me since we were babies
12. Would you sing with me?: yes
13. Tell me one odd/interesting fact about you: I'm doing this and expecting someone to respond
14. If you could change anything about your current life, would you?: nothing major
15. Will you post this so I can fill it out for you?: just did
16. Post a picture of you: done

Monday, August 14, 2006

Better luck next time

While I haven't gotten the word officially, I know I wasn't cast. They told us they'd probably be holding callbacks for all parts and I wasn't called back. Which I expected, based on how I did at auditions.

I think I held my own with the dance combination, and I read reasonably well (the laughter and applause when I finished seemed at least a little more than merely polite), but when it came to singing, I fell flat. The accompanist launched into my piece as soon as I finished introducing myself to the audition panel, and the piece only has about 2 very quick bars of intro, so not only was I not ready, but I didn't get into the piece's "character" until about halfway through, and I could feel myself shifting all over the place vocally. I think the bad habits I've worked so hard to unlearn were trying to reassert themselves. Sigh. It's very discouraging to think I was finally "getting it" technically, only to have that technique fail me utterly when I needed it. :(

It was the kind of audition that makes we wonder why I bother, that I should just take my place in the chorus (in those shows that have a chorus; this one won't) and be done with it. But then I remember getting to do a lead last summer, and how much fun it was, and start thinking I just need to stop whining and get back to work.

More preparation is part of it; I shoulda been ready for just such an eventuality. I've dealt w/ accompanists who played at a tempo that was too fast or too slow, who couldn't handle the piece; starting before I was ready is now one more thing to add to the list of possible audition accompanist surprises. That, and maybe picking a piece w/ a longer intro!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Hunt it down and kill it!

There is some gottverdammt electronic something somewhere in the house that has woken me up at 2:30 in the blasted morning two nights in a row with its wretched electronic singing. Not particularly loud, just loud enough to wake me up. Both times it's shut up before I could find it. Haven't a clue what it could be! Neither of our cellphones has the alarm function set, ditto my iPod, the Chief's beeper doesn't play "tunes", and we haven't introduced any other new electronics into the house since buying the cellphones several months ago.

We generally sleep w/ the bedroom door open, but tonight I think I'm gonna close the door so I don't hear that miserable little electronic gremlin chirping sadistically away at 2:30 a.m.!

Wish me luck!

Tomorrow I have my first audition since a year ago April! I think I've made some strides vocally, and when I had my last lesson before my voice teacher went on vacation 2 weeks ago, she declared my current audition piece "ready to go".

Tomorrow it's all about the details - being careful about what I eat (some things give me indigestion or crud up my lungs); eating dinner early enough for the digestive juices to finish before the audition starts; getting and keeping my voice warm; finding an audition outfit that's comfortable, flattering and dance-able; and remembering the finer technical points of my audition piece.

I'm looking forward to it - it's like a tiny performance, and I've made enough vocal progress to give me the self-confidence to enjoy strutting my stuff. The audition includes learning a dance combination, which I always enjoy, so that'll be fun. I may run into folks I know (at least one friend is auditioning, though I don't know which night), but even if I don't, I don't expect to get too nervous. There is that one role I'd love to get, but I'm going in not expecting anything, realizing I might not even be offered chorus. My voice is big enough that I like to think I'd be offered at least chorus, but that's the thing about auditions - until you get in there and hear the others, and unless you go to all the audition sessions to hear everyone, you don't know what the competition is.

The last time I auditioned for this company, they were doing Cabaret and I was hoping for Frau Schmidt. (I had thought about asking to be one of the Kit Kat Klub dancers until I saw the audition combination - my knees wouldn't have liked it one bit!) I thought I sang pretty well, but the woman who followed me not only filled the cavernous room with her voice but "sold" the song beautifully, too. She got the role. I don't mind at all when that happens; I walk out of the audition already knowing they'll cast someone perfectly suited for the role, so there's no anguished waiting to hear.

Last year's audition for Mikado involved no anguished waiting, either, but for a different reason. I left knowing already that I was gonna get a lead - it was simply a matter of whether I'd be offered Pitti-Sing or Katisha. And even when the director called me and initially offered me Katisha, she let me persuade her to give me Pitti-Sing instead! How often do we get to choose which role the director gives us?! Probably only once, so I guess I've made my quota. ;)

So if you read this before 7:30 p.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 10th, send some good vibes my way.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Good news about the septic system!

Chief just talked to Gary, the contractor. The septic guy started working on our system yesterday, so unless we hear otherwise, we can plan to go out to the cabin this weekend. The weather forecast sounds perfect - sunny, temps only in the 80s and low humidity. Cabin, here we come!

Better make this quick

Eesh, what a day. The problems started, oh, late last night - I didn't manage to fall asleep until midnight or so, then was awake again at 2:30, 4, 4:30 when the Chief's alarm went off, 5, and then my alarm went off at 5:30.

Schlepped an extra 10 miles to a class, only to find that it had been cancelled due to insufficient enrollment. I didn't get a cancellation e-mail because I wasn't officially enrolled, just observing (I'm trying to get certified to teach it), and wouldn't have seen it anyway, as I was home sick yesterday. So I wasted an hour and most of a gallon of gas on a pointless trip.

Tried 2 or 3 ATMs, all of which refused my card, claiming they couldn't read the mag strip. A colleague suggested moistening the offending mag strip, which worked.

When I got to the office around 7:45 a.m., Outlook wouldn't load. When I called the help desk, I got a recording telling me the server was having problems. Estimated time of restoral - 9:30, nearly two hours later! Fortunately, rebooting eventually took care of things, but it certainly did nothing for my already-stressed-out mood!

Comfort food and a glass of wine for dinner helped some, as did the Chief's pre-dinner call to his mom. She sounded less tired than usual, and we found a new topic to discuss, which is always nice.

Early to bed tonight - I need to sleep for more than 2 hours straight!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Reasons to love The Muppet Show

Omigosh, I'd forgotten how funny they could be! I'm still working my way thru Season 1 on DVD. They hadn't hit their stride yet, and some of the material was just plain weird, but you can see where the greatness came from, all right.

Here are a few clips from later seasons:

Muppet Human Sacrifice:

Love Story (how Andy Williams kept a straight face for most of this, I'll never know!):

Kermit finally loses it w/ Miss Piggy:

Looking forward to Thursday

Thursday's the big day - my first audition in over a year! I've already got a "clean" copy of my audition piece for the accompanist (my working copy is very heavily marked up) and just printed an updated theater resume, so all I need to do is woodshed a few technical things in my audition piece. I'm hoping my French class (2 nights a week thru the end of August) doesn't conflict with rehearsals, but if it does, well, it won't be the first time conflicts have knocked me out of the running for a show. I just hope I audition well enough that they'll remember me favorably the next time I audition for them. (And there will be a next time.)

If I don't get cast in this production, there are plenty of other shows to audition for. I've got my eye on something in at least one other show, which doesn't audition until October. Ah, audition season - all those tempting possibilities...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

"Getting to know you" and construction progress

The "block party" out at the cabin yesterday was fun. The hostesses did a wonderful job, the turn-out was pretty good, considering how many of the homeowners are weekenders, the weather was cooperative (not too hot, not too buggy) - everyone agreed it was a wonderful idea and we should do it again. I know I told at least a few people that the Chief & I hoped to have a party once the cabin addition is finished. With luck, that'll happen while it's still nice enough for the party to spill outside.

With the septic still out of order, we stopped at the cabin only long enough to pick up a couple of chairs for the party and check out the construction progress. The entire addition has been painted (except the picture railing, which isn't up yet), the new bathroom has linoleum, and they've started putting down the "hardwood" in the new bedroom. Narrower slats than we'd expected (the sample in the store misled us), but it sure looks pretty!

Saturday, August 05, 2006


I'm planning to audition for a community theater production of Urinetown this coming Thursday, so last night I went to see a production of it put on by a company of young performers (youngest were in grade school, oldest a rising college sophomore) to get an idea of what I was letting myself in for. I'm glad I went! Not only because I found that I liked the music and found the show funny, but also because the performance was quite strong, even for opening night. (First night w/ an audience tends to do funny things to one's timing.)

Most of the problems I had with the performance are really just minor quibbles. For example, the compressed age range of the performers made for some interesting casting; the villain looked more like the heroine's older brother than her father, for one thing. All the leads wore headset mikes, which was sometimes a problem. I've never worked with that kind of mike and know nothing about the technical aspects of it, but many of the leads had moments when the volume was just right but, when they were in the meat of their vocal range, they were blowing out the sound - too much volume, almost to the point of distortion. Which was a shame, because this cast had some wonderful voices in it.

I left wishing I were a guy so I could play the bad guy! He has what I thought last night was the funniest song in the show ("Don't be the bunny" - even the title is funny!) and the actor was a quintessential villain. Other roles I'd love but will never be cast in - Little Sally, which is a big part with some of the funniest lines in the show. I didn't much care for the heroine, but maybe that's just the way it was played. One role it's not unrealistic for me to hope for is Penelope Pennywise. She gets some great music (including the first solo of the show, "It's a privilege to pee") and is a meaty character role. Wonder how many fellow auditioners I'd have to arrange conflicts for in order to get the role? ;) But there are other roles that get good featured bits, and the music sounds like it would be so rewarding to sing that I'd even take chorus.

Checking a list of roles culled from the site for this week's auditions, I see that last night's company gave several "baritone/tenor" roles to women. Not surprising; I noticed last night that the females on stage outnumbered the males. Wonder why guys aren't into theater? Given the current demographics, you could sell it as a great way to meet girls.

Something else I noticed last night was the make-up of the audience. Probably because last night's company was one targeting young people, probably 2/3 of the audience looked to be in the same age range (high school/college), with the remainder being parents and other supportive middle-aged and older types. Definitely a partisan crowd, as witnessed by the many audience members carrying bouquets and the vocal reactions at the curtain call.

This theater was in a high school, but not like any high school I ever saw! The kids who perform in it will be spoiled for community theater - this place was huge! I'm guessing it seats upwards of 500 people, and the stage was perhaps twice as large as that used by any community theater production I've ever attended or been in. Heck, it looked bigger than at least one of the local professional theaters! I would've loved to get a tour of the backstage area to see what kind of wings, flyspace, dressing rooms and tech areas they've got.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Are we there yet?

We knew when we started this whole addition/rehab project that, like every construction project, it would take a lot more time and more money than original estimates. Sigh. But we had a foundation over 2 months ago and yet there's no flooring in the addition yet. Apparently the painting is finished, but the contractor called yesterday to tell us there was some problem w/ the engineered flooring (pseudo-hardwood) we'd chosen for the new bedroom and we'd have to pick something else. Didn't we do that a few weeks ago w/ the linoleum? And the septic guy can't even come look at our system until next week at the earliest, so we don't have a single functioning bathroom, and there are fixture boxes all over the kitchen table, and there's a thick layer of construction everywhere, and the living room furniture is shoved over to one side in an only marginally comfortable arrangement... We'll be SO glad when the cabin is back to being a vacation place instead of a construction site!

Neighbors out there are having a block party this weekend. We were only going to go if we had a working septic system, but then decided we weren't gonna let a miserable plumbing problem spoil our fun. Seems a bit wasteful, gas prices being what they are, to drive 2 hours one way to go to a party, but we'll also stop by the cabin to check the progress, and maybe pick up some corn from a local produce market. (The corn we got last time was sweet as any candy; I love corn season!)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Too darn hot!!!

Ayiyi! With highs near the 100-degree mark for the 4th or 5th day running, heat indexes predicted to be 110 or higher (!) today, and a Code Red ("air quality unhealthful") declared, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that I woke with a migraine today. Or rather, the migraine woke me and, to add insult to injury, woke me at 4 a.m.!

Several hours later, the Imitrex has worked its magic. I'm staying home today; not going in to work, not going to French class tonight, not going anywhere that doesn't have cooled, filtered air. I might do a little bit around the house, but we've raised the thermostat to conserve energy (as it is, I dread getting the next electric bill!) and I don't fancy incurring another heat-induced migraine! I think today's agenda is gonna be heavy on drinking of iced beverages and watching more Muppet Show episodes, with maybe some Rocky & Bullwinkle thrown in for variety. The living room is on the north side of the house, nice and shady, so it'll be the coolest room in the house.