Thursday, May 31, 2007

Revels will be fun!

Went to my first Revels chorus meeting last night. The newbies among us have been assigned a "chorus buddy" to help us learn the ropes (mine sings alto, too; wonder if that's by design?), and the opening meet-and-greet, based on how many Christmas Revels people had done, tried to build a feeling of family or community. At the break, the one Reveler I knew going in confirmed the family nature of Revels, telling me that a few years ago, when first her husband and then she fell ill, other Revelers brought them meals, visited, and checked up on them every so often to see if they needed anything.

After we got introductions and administrative matters taken care of, we sat down to do some singing. We didn't have all 38 choristers but we had most of us, and oh boy, did we sound good! I've sung with some pretty wonderful voices, but this is the first time in ages that I've sung with so many wonderful voices. I loved it! I absolutely cannot wait until rehearsals start up in earnest in September - I am definitely looking forward to making music with such a large company of good, rich, solid voices!

One of the announcements for the newbies was that one of the many Revels traditions is that everyone gets a bit of "business" to do. Anyone who was interested in sthg in particular, wanted to read for a character turn, or had some unusual trick or talent was encouraged to let the ass't director know that. So when the crowd thinned, I trotted over to let her know that I'd like to read for sthg and also that I can dance w/ a sword on my head. They may not be able to fit that little party trick into their Elizabethan theme, but if they can, well, I'm ready to show off. :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Keeping my fingers crossed

...along with my toes, my arms, my legs, my eyes... TW is manifested on a return flight in the wee hours of July 3rd! Something could still happen to interfere with that (plane having mechanical problems, things heating up in theater, etc.), but being on the passenger manifest is a very promising sign. I won't rest easy, though, until I see him walking through the doors from Customs and into my arms.

Is this a problem?

I just realized that, with my fall season all sewn up, I don't have any excuse to audition for anything until companies start auditioning for their late-winter and spring shows. A shame. I don't know what it is about auditioning that I like, but maybe it's the possibility that I'll be the one they want, that they'll say "Wow, where has she been hiding?!" Or it could be I'm a touch wistful because I always enjoy the dance part, and it's fun when they let us read (although admittedly, with musicals that usually doesn't happen until callbacks). Maybe it's sizing myself up against the competition and seeing where I stand, or getting a chance to "perform" one of the pieces my voice teacher & I have been working on. And of course there's always the delightful prospect of a new toy to play with, in the form of a new show to do.

While it's nice to know already what I'll be doing this fall theatrically, that means of course that I won't be doing any of the other shows being performed this fall. However, I can always console myself w/ the same fantasy I indulged in when I was called back for Merry Widow earlier this year and had to turn it down: had I been able to audition, they would certainly have recognized immediately that I'd be wonderful in the role and have offered it to me before I left auditions. :D

Monday, May 28, 2007

Binge gardening!

Finally got back out to the cabin over the weekend. No frozen pipes, thank heaven, but the sink in the addition had sprung a leak. Seems that when the plumber installed it, he overtightened the drain pop-up sleeve. The plastic couldn't take the pressure and cracked, so now our contractor has to get him back out there to fix it. Good thing it's still under warranty.

Lovely weather the whole time I was there, though it did get a bit humid. I had planned to put up the blinds we ordered back in December, but stopped by the neighborhood nursery en route to the day's errands. I went in search of some ground covers for the hill where we put in the new septic tank & field to keep it all from washing down the hill. Turned out this nursery specializes in just what I was looking for. As a result, I ended up with 20 pots of lilies of the valley (averaging 4-6 pips in each pot), 5 ostrich ferns, 2 branford rambler ferns, 3 marginal ferns, a Christmas fern potted w/ sthg else, half a trash bag full of euonymus, aka purple wintercreeper, and half a trash bag full of pachysandra cuttings. Phil, the nurseryman, also gave me two 5-gal. buckets full of compost. I then spent the rest of the afternoon getting all the euonymus and pachysandra planted, as well as a few of the lilies and a couple of the ferns. I finally stopped because the gnats were getting so persistent; they shifted from "snack" to "feast" mode, as I told TW. I was shocked to find I'd been out there, not the 2 hours or so I thought, but 4 hours.

I only managed a scant hour for planting the next day, in no small part because our property in most places has just enough clay to hold the rocks in place. Because it's been so dry lately, that clay is baked solid, too. The only places I could dig down more than 1/2" were the places leaves had collected and started to decay. I decided to take Phil up on his offer to lend me his mini-tiller. Boy, is that one slick tool! Despite the rocks and hard-packed clay, I managed to dig holes for the remaining 17 lilies & ferns in less than an hour!

I've now got an electric mini-tiller on order, which I'll use to work 2 more buckets of Phil's compost into the clay on the north side of the house, where I'll plant a rambler fern, a royal fern, and a "keepsake" mountain laurel. That compost is so rich-looking, I'm hoping the ferns & laurel will finally succeed where everything else I've tried to plant there has failed. So far, the only things that have survived are the wood hyacinths that naturalized from the neighbor's yard and a few of the lily-of-the-valley pips Mom brought me several years ago but which have never bloomed. Oh, and the moss that fills the otherwise bare spots.

The muscles protesting my gardening binge are starting to forgive me, the clay stains on my hands are starting to fade, and my broken nails will grow back. I look forward to my next trip out to the cabin to see how many of these plants managed to take hold despite the wretched growing conditions. (I was very liberal with the compost, as if apologizing to the poor plants.) When I returned the tiller and collected more compost and the plants for the house, Phil offered to check on my plants and water them for me if we don't get rain out there! Bless his heart, I'm definitely recommending him & his nursery to our neighbors out there!

Bye Bye, Birdie

Birdie closed last weekend. Some shows you're sorrier to see close than others; this was one I was sorry to see close. Good cast, fun role, great audiences - what fun!

Our director's pre-curtain ritual includes what he calls a "circle of love". Before each performance, he singled out a few cast members to say a few words about their performance, dedication, talent or what-have-you. By the matinee added our last day, he'd gotten to all of us; what was left for our final performance? A lovely twist - he had each of us say something to and about the person on our left, passing the love around the circle. Some of the tributes had us awfully teary, but the love in the air was thick. It felt like one of our best, if not our very best, performance of the run. I know I sure had a good time pulling out all the stops, especially when I got to rant about Albert not needing me any more.

The cast party on Sunday was fun, and we got presents! Our director had a Birdie mug & magnet for each of us, our stage manager distributed 8x10 cast photos and photo disks, the company president handed out DVDs of the show, Ursula distributed cards & chocolates, and Ursula's mom had CDs of her photos for everyone. First cast party I ever attended where we went home w/ party favors. :D

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

TW may yet get extended

TW called this afternoon to say his deployment may yet get extended because his (insert vile imprecations here) agency still doesn't have a replacement lined up for him! His first thought was the B&B deposit and nonrefundable plane tickets for our vacation. He asked me to look into the travel regs to see whether he'd be able to deduct them or whatever on his travel voucher. The answer, of course, is no. Not that I'm particularly overjoyed at the prospect of paying high-season prices for tickets we might not be able to use, but what really upsets me is that it would be because he's stuck out there. We are both SO VERY NOT ready for him to stay any longer than he has to; a few days, maybe, but this could be an additional month or more!

Ooh, wow, drugs, man...

Yesterday I finally remembered to pick up the flexaril (muscle relaxant) Rx the work doc called in for me last week. They warned me and warned me about the drowsiness - "Don't take it until RIGHT before you go to bed, and be sure you can sleep a full 8 hours". Man, they weren't kidding! I took the stuff about 10 or 10:30 last night and still felt a bit groggy at noon today. I gotta find out if I can split these things or I'm not going to be able to do anything at work beyond keeping my head from hitting the desk.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Or maybe this should be Planning Ahead... Auditioned at 10 a.m. Saturday for the local Christmas Revels. (Apparently they always audition in May; maybe to lock people in and minimize cast members' conflicts?), ran home to change & inhale some lunch before heading off for a 1:30 call for our last two Birdie performances.

This audition was structured a bit differently from most I've done. First of all, they wanted 2 pieces, both to be sung a capella. They prefered you sing a "traditional carol" and another piece of your choice, but "preferably not opera or Broadway". They also specified they were looking for a "clear, straight" vocal tone; first time I've ever seen that much specificity. But then, of course, you wouldn't expect the panel to care about your coloratura if you're auditioning for Rent, or your belt if you're auditioning for La Boheme.

The dance piece was fun, and the first time I've ever done one where we danced with anyone else (i.e., looking at and making contact w/ them) as opposed to just dancing as a group of individuals. They taught us a fragment of a 3-couple set dance, very easy, and I got a partner who apparently was a Revels veteran, so he knew what he was doing.

This was very much a group audition, and not just because they took us in batches; I was in a group of 4. First they taught us the dance bit, then ushered each of us in to sing our solos. We all danced together (the choreographer and another staffer filled out our set of 6), then they had us sing together - first a round, then a bit of a 3-part song (set low enough that I could just as easily have sung the "soprano" as the "alto" line).

I left feeling satisfied with how I'd done. The group stuff was a piece of cake; I wore a "dance-y" skirt, which I played with during our little dance bit, and the group singing was fun. The only scary bit was singing a capella. I hadn't considered that working without an accompanist might be hard. After all, not having to worry about the pianist having trouble w/ notes or tempo is a good thing, right? ;) I quickly realized that the accompaniment hands you your starting note in the intro; I had to restart "America, the Beautiful" because 2 notes into it, I realized that if I didn't start again a little lower, I was going to top out higher than I wanted to sing "naked" notes at that hour of the morning. I could feel the nervousness in my voice, and boy, does that "exposure" force you to focus!

One of the auditioners commented on the dance section of my resume. I mentioned that, while I'd not yet seen a Revels, I'd auditioned once before, done another show w/ a Revels veteran, and 2 of the directors of a troupe I used to dance with had helped choreograph a recent Revels production.

To make a long story short, I learned this morning that I'll be joining their chorus. Yes, it's "just" chorus, but it sounds like the chorus gets to do a LOT of singing and dancing, which suits me just fine. Especially after doing a musical in which I got to do no dancing (unless you count backstage antics) and very little singing. So that's my fall show lined up. Now to start looking at what's going on next spring...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cervical radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy - that's the preliminary diagnosis. (I made the doctor spell it for me.) They changed my computer configuration on Friday; I now have 2 monitors instead of one, which meant they had to change where they sit on my desk. It's an old government-issue metal desk, not designed for computers. "An ergonomic disaster" is how I described it in my e-mail to my supervisors yesterday when I realized the pain & numbness in my neck, shoulder, arm and hand not only weren't going away, but were quickly getting worse. Now they're trying to find a way to either retrofit my desk with a keyboard tray instead of the shallow center drawer (at least 2 weeks to get that in) or replace it entirely with new desk with an electrically-controlled height, depending on how much that would cost and whether they have any in stock.

What's scary about this is how very quickly it came on - barely two working days after they changed my computer configuration! All of a sudden, my right arm and hand - my dominant side, of course - feel a little tingly all the time now, with a slight loss of sensation. I don't know that I can wait 2 or 3 weeks for that keyboard tray. Didn't help my confidence any that the guy who came to look at my desk and demonstrate my options (they've got some VERY cool mouse & keyboard variations out there!) was from the Disability Affairs office. All of a sudden I'm worrying about losing some function in that arm and hand. I'm not even 50 yet - I gotta get several more decades' use out of 'em!

It's a little embarrassing, and I kinda feel like a whiner, but I've put up with this crappy old desk for nearly 3 years without more than the occasional complaint under my breath about the annoying squeak in the center drawer. I think this desk design is essentially unchanged since its origin, long before computers were smaller than entire rooms. My sister the occupational therapist would have caniptions if she saw the desk I work at every day.

Lesson learned: design, especially ergonomic design, matters!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Another weekend under our belts

We survived another weekend. Friday was a little rough in places because we'd had 5 (!) days off, but still a good show. Our stage manager even told me the next day that she thought I was particularly "on" Friday night. One of the audience members was someone I'd done Ruddigore with and who is a good friend of Albert's. So I got a passing "you were good" and he got most of her attention, which is fine. After all, he's her age, good-looking, single and male, while I'm only one of those. :)

Saturday night we had an interesting diversion, if you will. Just as we came to the last chord in the Act I finale, it started raining on the musicians! Very literally raining - it had just started raining hard enough that water was sluicing down along the column in their corner of the nave, hitting the ornamental ring near its top and spraying all over them! We had a mad scramble to move at least the woodwinds and piano out of harm's way, then had a longer-than-usual intermission while the musicians (fortunately only 5 of them) were relocated and the floor mopped.

Also on Saturday, I knew 4 or 5 people in the audience. One was a woman I know from the chorus at work who also sings in the choir of the church where we're performing. She loved the show, kept telling me "You were great! You were great!" B, with whom I've done several shows, was there to see his niece and remembered only when I made my first entrance that I was in it too. :D He's Jewish and teased me in a complimentary way about my accent, putting on one of his own to do it. C is voice teacher to B, his niece, and several other people I've done shows with; she was there with her husband. Both enjoyed the show, but C complimented me specifically on my enunciation and projection: "I never lost a line, could hear every word perfectly." From a voice teacher, that's a rave review! And the best review to date of my characterization of Mae came by way of the mother of our "Ursula". Friends of theirs came to the show to see Ursula and, as her mother tells the story, "We'd been hearing stories about his mother for years but had never met her because she lives too far away. After seeing the show, our friend told us that 'Now you've met my mother!' " So now the reviews from the "native speakers" are trickling in - the ones I've heard are all positive. Gotta love it! :)

I don't know whether I had anyone in the audience Sunday, but I think it was another good performance. The audience certainly gave us our biggest ovation to date when we came out for bows. Especially nice was that Albert complimented me on my "garbage speech" (when Albert says he doesn't need her any more, Mae rants "Go ahead, get rid of me! Put me out w/ the garbage!") later; said it was especially good. What was funny was that after Albert sends Mae home, she rants & raves, then exits in a huff, and the band strikes up "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah", one of the cast members greeted me backstage with "By the way, happy Mother's Day"! Too funny!

Randolph Macafee gave his "mom" a Mother's Day card; charmed everyone who heard about it. Before he gave it to her, he told a group of us that he thought Albert should give Mae a Mother's Day card; everyone laughed, including me. When he followed up by saying Mrs. Macafee was going to get one, everyone thought it was very sweet. It may not have occured to Albert to give me a card, but that compliment makes a nice substitute.

The theater-to-church-and-back-again drill was faster this weekend because our Conrad Birdie not only was directing things in a very organized fashion, but had wisely mapped out the previous weekend which legs and platforms went where so he could direct "traffic" more efficiently. He seems to have an excellent eye for that kind of mechanical thing; you'd never guess he'd never done the "riser drill" before! I managed to get through without a single splinter or smashed finger, though I do have an interesting assortment of bruises on my forearms from moving chairs, legs, platforms, etc. Good thing that fur coat covers my arms. ;) I do have to wonder, though, at the number of people who showed up in skirts, flipflops, mules and other attire completely unsuited to tech. I can kinda see the younger kids doing that the first weekend, but the adults? And a second weekend, when they shoulda learned the first weekend what this was going to entail? Although, in their defense, they may have been helping haul props, costumes and set pieces (and their numbers are legion!) while I was stacking chairs, carrying platforms, and strapping riser legs together.

I learned that after our last show on Saturday, we not only have to take everything apart and reset the church; we need to get the props, costumes and set pieces out of the building! Can't put 'em back in the parish hall storage area, as the company is losing that space. I'm already starting to make a mental list of the things I need to remember to get back (the phone and wooden chair used as props, the 2 mirrors backstage, gloves for Rosie, tie tack for Albert...)

This has been a very social cast. Several of the adults regularly go out for a "sociable beverage" after rehearsals & performances, and the teenage girls seem to have bonded quite well. So well, in fact, that the oldest young woman who plays a teen has been talking about having them all over to her place for a slumber party. That same woman organized a group of nearly 30 of us to go out to dinner for Mother's Day after yesterday's show. This weekend will see 2 more get-togethers: the producer is organizing dinner at a local pizzeria between Saturday's matinee & evening performances, and the cast party is Sunday.

It's also been a physically demonstrative cast. The girls have been doing something my friends and I never did when we were that age. They spend their down time hanging on each other: sitting in each other's laps, wrapping their arms around each other, or lying on the floor like a pile of puppies, with this one's head resting on that one's tummy, who's resting her feet on someone else. Kinda sweet. Albert & Rosie are pretty chummy (not surprising, given the onstage romance), we've been teasing Harry MacAfee about fooling around w/ Mrs. Merkle (although he's just as affectionate with Doris Macafee), and everyone's generous with hugs. Our director has been such a delight, as both director & human being, that I'd audition for something just because he's directing it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hmm; am I a mom or not?

My sister K called last night about a Mother's Day gift my siblings were plotting. (Mom doesn't read my blog, and is getting back from Lourdes today and will be too jetlagged to read it if she were a faithful reader, so this shouldn't be a spoiler.) They're getting (something - it went by so fast, it didn't really register) that includes 5/8" plastic disks that can hold pictures. The others are all submitting pics of their kids and K wanted to know if I wanted to include one of my daughter, who died in Jan '97 at the ripe old age of 4 days. So this afternoon I swung by Kinko's w/ the 5x7 version of the hospital photo, scanned it to a CD, then e-mailed it to K.

She's the only one of my siblings who mentions Colleen to me. I suppose the others are afraid to touch on a sore subject. I also get the impression that some parents are superstitiously reluctant to raise the subject, as if talking about it could make it happen to one of their children.

K always sends me a Mother's Day card. At first that was really, really painful, but now I'm glad to know that someone remembers. A former roommate and very dear friend, and my mother-in-law also send me Mother's Day cards. The first time TW's mom sent me one, I was surprised, but we share a bond in that her 2nd daughter died of Hodgkin's disease at the age of 21. She's asked me about Colleen once or twice, and spoken of Barbara on occasion; I think she appreciates having someone who knows what it's like to bury a child.

Since I don't have any surviving children, I feel almost like a "stealth mom"; are you still a mom if you never got to raise a child? One friend, a single mother of six (and going to school while working full time - I don't know how she does it!), commented recently that "none of your children live with you". As the oldest of 5, I've always had a mile-wide mother hen streak. In college my roommates and I mothered each other, then I mothered my husbands, doing domestic things for them, friends have seen that mother hen in me come out, and now the folks I do shows with reap the benefits - I'm forever tweaking their costumes, working on sets, etc. Some of it even leaks out at work, though I do try to maintain a professional demeanor. ;)

Having had 20 years to get used to my situation, I'm usually OK with it, but sometimes when I see families together, I get really wistful, and holding baby girls is guaranteed to get me all teary-eyed.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Can you stand more thoughts on our opening weekend?

No? Then why are you reading this? :)

Striking the set and stashing everything (set pieces, props, costumes, sound equipment - everything!) didn't take nearly as long as I feared Saturday night - the last of us left by 12:30 Sunday morning. We also got the church back to a stage set in fairly good time Sunday afternoon, although some of the masking flats ended up in slightly different places, which created sightline problems stage right.

The work isn't so much strenuous as tedious, although it is not without risk. I have any number of little scrapes & bruises, and quite a bruise on the nailbed of one finger that didn't get out from between riser and frame quite fast enough. Naturally, it's on my dominant hand, and because it's the last section (joint? finger tip?), the pressure sensitivity means I notice every time I use that finger for a keystroke. Not painful, but certainly a nuisance.

Another eccentricity of performing in a church nave is that you can never bring the house lights down completely at the matinee because you get sunlight streaming in through the stained glass. This meant, among other things, that the black scrim masking the stage right "backstage" area didn't really hide us all that well because we're backlit.

Saturday I ended up running out to a mom-and-pop fabric store to pick up some daisy-sprigged gingham for windows in Ursula's and Kim's "bedrooms". (Sure beats doing housework.) I was going for "girly" curtains and they turned out even better than I'd hoped. I took a few pictures of the curtains once I got them mounted on the window frame piece and will post them if I can ever figure out why our computer flatly refuses to run Photo Shop any more.

Despite not getting to bed until 1:30 Sunday morning, I went ahead & set my alarm for church. It went off, I got up, realized I had another migraine, took some imitrex and went right back to bed. When I finally got up for good shortly after 11, I felt so much better that I can't help but wonder if God was giving me a bye - "sleep in, kid; you need that more than you need to get to church."

Did I mention that the principals are miked for this show? Seems to me from "stage" (standing on the lovely old hardwood floor) that the acoustics are good, but the walls are all brick and the ceiling is quite high in the center but much lower along the sides, so maybe the quality of the acoustics varies widely depending on where you sit. My costume is pretty well suited for the mike. The first dress has a back tie the power pack can clip onto and the second dress has pockets (yes, I actually have a costume with usable pockets!) which are just the right size for it. I can clip the mic to the neckline of the dress, the coat covers the cord from the mic to the power pack, and its neckline is open enough not to block the mic. The only tricky part is not to hit the mic when Mae clutches at her heart dramatically.

My costume is rather a mismatch: I have a feathered black hat that prompted chuckles from my fellow castmembers at the first dress rehearsal and lots of "that's a Mae hat!" comments. Poor thing's needed a bit of repair, though - the cluster of feathers on top has started to disintegrate on me twice. Elmer's glue got me halfway thru opening night, but I had to borrow the producer's glue gun to repair it more securely. I braid my hair and twist it into a bun, wear the hat pretty far forward above that, and nail it to my head with a pair of deadly hatpins that were my aunt's. Good & sturdy (I've had to warn people not to get too close when I've got the hat on) and tipped w/ tiny amethysts, they've served me well in more than one show. I wear the hat at all times, as well as a long (almost midcalf) real fur coat, pearl earrings & necklace, a plain white-gold wedding band (left over from my first marriage), and a pair of obviously well-worn shoes (my own, kept for running errands or wearing in messy weather). Mae's first dress is a black-and-cream check, the second is a brown floral w/ a bit of lace at the neckline; both are suitable frumpy. The only problem I have with the costume is that a genuine fur coat over a polyester dress is a very warm combination! As soon as I come off stage into the wings, I generally catch the coat in the crook of my elbows or take it off entirely, then stand over an a/c grate. Kinda like Marilyn Monroe doing the 7-year-itch thing at, oh, 55 or 60. :D

Naturally, Mae carries a purse at all times, even walking around the Macafee's house. No telling what Queen Elizabeth carries in her purse, but Mama's purse contains: some plain paper to bulk it out; a worn tapestry coin purse holding the large coin (a 2-shilling piece) she gives Albert to buy some candy; a dark green hankie, used as a hand prop; the gloves she wears for the Penn Station scene; the letter from which she wrings out "only a mother's tears" upon arriving in Sweet Apple, OH; the cats-eye glasses Conrad wears when he makes his escape in disguise; a tin of wintergreen Altoids so she can chew Albert out without blasting him with the fumes of whatever she had for dinner; a watch w/ a light-up dial; a tiny flashlight so I can check the list of scene change assignments posted backstage; and a tin of foreign change for weight, so it moves like a real mama's purse. For a while, I even had my swiss army knife in there. When I first added the tin of change, I didn't have much else in the purse, but now I've got so much in there that it'll have the right weight even without all that change. :D

So far I've had people I know at each performance. My neighbors came Friday night and sent a congratulatory "Sweet Apple telegram" backstage. This is a cute idea; for $1, the company will give you a piece of "telegram paper" (bordered in the Bye Bye Birdie logo) on which you can write a note and send it backstage to a cast or crew member. A tenor with whom I've done time in the chorus of many a G&S brought his wife to Saturday's show. He e-mailed me Sunday and, among other comments on the show, described my performance as "outstanding and very entertaining". What a lovely man! :) Sunday a Jewish friend from work came; if she didn't think much of my Jewish mother shtick, she was too polite to say so. I've joked with friends that the acid test of my accent will be the "native speakers" - my Jewish friends who grew up with that accent either themselves or in their family.

Another couple, whom I've known for years, also made it Sunday. They live rather a distance from where most of my shows have been performed so this is the first time they've made it to one of my shows. Our schedules make it hard for us to get together more than a few times a year, so the fact that they not only made it to the show (which I thought was my best performance to date) but were able to stick around so we could have dinner together was a lovely finish to the day.

Now I'm going thru the usual post-opening let-down. After nearly two weeks of rehearsing almost daily with everybody, now we won't see each other until Friday; feels weird to come home, have a leisurely dinner, and not go running out the door again.

God forbid!!!!

TW called me early this morning (before I left for work, instead of midmorning my time) to warn me that, due to some realignments in their section, there's a slight chance he might not get to rotate home on time! The supervisor who told him about the staffing changes also told him that no one has yet been involuntarily extended, but I'm already asking people to pray that TW gets to come home as scheduled. Yes, I'm well aware of all the military families whose father/mother/spouse/loved one is deployed for 12 or 18 months while TW is doing 6, but when you're missing someone terribly, every day added on is painful no matter how long or short the separation.

At this point we've now been married 6 years and a couple of weeks. Of that time, the chunks of time we've been 2 continents apart add up to nearly 2 years. I can't help but think of all those families in WWII and earlier who sent loved ones off to war not knowing when they'd be back - months, years, or only in a box. They didn't have the telecommunications advantages we do, either. Phone calls and e-mail will never replace being able to hold someone's hand, but at least TW & I have been able to talk pretty much every day. Not bad at all, especially given the 7-hour time difference.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

On our way to a fully sold-out run!

They were adding seats for all 3 performances this weekend; today they even had some poor souls seated way over in the nave's choir area, where they probably couldn't see very much. They were even turning people away at the door yesterday & today, and at intermission today, the producer asked the cast if we'd be able to add a matinee the last Saturday of the run. Nothing like that kind of ticket sales to make you feel good about how your show is going! Granted, we can't squeeze in all that many chairs (I'd be shocked if they could manage 130), but it's still far better than playing to audience that are outnumbered by the cast.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Random thoughts on another opening night

Well, we survived Opening Night. Some of the glitches weren't all that minor, but the audience really seemed to enjoy the show, and that's what counts.

Still to do when I arrived at the church yesterday afternoon - masking for the upstage entrances and for the stage-right area where we were stashing props, set pieces, and people (including access to the men's changing area). We also still needed platforms to go behind the scrim for Telephone Hour, and a frame to hold the windows "defining" Kim's & Ursula's bedrooms for their first scene. I think all that got finished by 6:30 - yes, that's right, only about 1 1/2 hours before downbeat! (Can't say "curtain", as we don't have any, given that we're performing in a church nave.)

While I took my sewing machine & kit with me, I ended up using only my tape measure and shears. I still got to have fun with fabric, though. Our director had bought a huge bolt of theatrical fabric (that black stuff used for curtain legs) for 99 cents/yard on E-bay, so I meaured off pieces of that to drape a couple of the masking flats (one was painted red and the other had a huge tear in it which showed white against the black paint). He also had a bolt of very good quality muslin (no slubs, straight grain, fine weave), which we used to make curtains for Kim's & Ursula's bedroom windows. I think our director started bulding that window piece around 5 p.m., I finished using white duct tape to pleat & hang the curtains around 6, and someone else swathed the base of the window piece with more muslin.

This is the first time I've done a show where we were still building the set so close to downbeat. Last-minute set dressing, yes, but set building, no. Every time someone would start to say "I can't believe we open in (VERY short amount of time) and we're still ...", I'd shush them and tell them I was trying desperately not to think about that, as my nerves were quite bad enough already!

Another stressor was that our props runner sent out a new list of scene change assignments yesterday. I don't know that everyone had a chance to look it over, as I ended up striking a couple of things alone or for someone else. Certainly more than one scene change took longer than it needed to because of the confusion. I found that the very first of my new assignments was going to have to go. Because I was striking a few pieces off left after the opening scene, I wasn't able to get stage right in time to come on for Telephone Hour - I missed that scene completely! Not a disaster for the show, as I'm just one more adult behind the scrim, but I was so upset about it that I spent the scene in the ladies' changing area swearing a blue streak. Poor Rosie was back there changing and had to listen to me. I need to apologize to her; she didn't need that aggravation.

On the up side, "Ann O'Nymous" is gone. After being even later for that costume change last night, I asked the director if I could just sing from the wings and he said yes. Hallelujah! Not having to worry about that change makes my life much easier.

By now you may be wondering "So how did the show go?!?" Judging from the audience reaction, I think it went very well. Typical of a Friday-night audience, they were a little slow warming up, but quickly got into it. There were certainly wide awake by the time I came on for my first scene - they chuckled at much of Mae's dialogue and seemed a bit shocked at some of the nastier things she says to Rosie. ("What does Rosie need a job for? In a year or two she'll be getting Social Security.") It was interesting and a little weird to play Mae for an audience, at long last. Having "real people" out there certainly changed the chemistry of my performance; in my very first scene, when Mae is talking about how "a mother can ride crowded in a dirty subway...", I found myself almost confiding in the audience, not merely kvetching to Albert.

I knew having an audience would affect my timing; you can never predict for sure which lines will get bigger reactions than others. However, this is the first time I've worked in a setting where the audience is so very close, and sitting higher than we are. (We're mostly on the floor, while most of the audience seating is on risers.) Makes for a very different energy, and I felt I was getting more energy from them than usual because of the more intimate setting. Albert even noticed that I adjusted my line readings in a couple of places. I must have looked worried, because he hastened to add that the changes were good. :D

I'm told the audience was shouting & cheering during Honestly Sincere, Conrad Birdie's first number, though I couldn't hear it backstage over all the teenager screams. ;) In fact, the audience seemed to love all the production numbers, and Rosie's last big number, Spanish Rose, got one of the biggest hands of the show. She's been sweating bullets over that one and working very hard on it, so I was delighted to hear how well received it was.

The company had an opening night reception after the show and I heard lots of favorable comments. The woman who founded the company came up to me and complimented me on my performance, even going so far as to say that she'd been asked to audition for Mae. She couldn't because she was going to be out of town for most of the run, but said that, while she'd have loved to do the role, "You were better!" What a generous thing to say!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Pray for us!

Since we couldn't rehearse on the set last night, we reviewed music and blocking. Because the two things I'm in were among the first things we worked on, I was home shortly after 9. However, instead of going straight to bed, I made opening-night cards, threw my costume dresses into the wash, and took care of a few other preparations, so it was midnight by the time I got to bed and turned out the light. For all that, I couldn't sleep past 6:30 this morning. I lay there for nearly half an hour trying to will my body back to sleep, but my brain had already kicked into high gear so I eventually gave up.

Last night I told the director I was willing to bring my sewing machine if he still wanted to rig some kind of masking for the upstage entrances. The look on his face let me know he planned to take me up on that offer, so last night I packed up my sewing stuff and set it by the front door, ready to be loaded into the car. I'm actually looking forward to sewing masking drapes; it'll make me feel in control of the situation, however slightly, and I'm so used to doing some kind of sewing during Tech that I think it'll calm me down. I'll also be there plenty early to help; having that "time cushion" will help my nerves, too.

The dancer who hurt her foot last weekend actually danced on the foot Wednesday night, but the boy with the newly-broken collarbone wasn't there last night. He was obviously still in pain Wednesday, so I'm wondering whether he'll be able to go on tonight, poor kid. He was one of the better male dancers, too, so at least one of the teen dance numbers will suffer for his absence.

I've got a bad case of Opening Night jitters today! Not sure how much of that is due to the last-minute things still to be done (new scene-change assignments, new placement for Telephone Hour, possibly new set masking, insha'allah) and how much is due to the fact that I made the coffee a bit too strong this morning. Two dancers hurt, new set stuff that we won't get to rehearse before we have an audience, I've been dropping lines all week (you'd better believe I plan to drill my lines today!) - is it any wonder I'm nervous? Part of me knows I'll be fine as soon as we have an audience, but just the same, pray for us all, especially our poor, long-suffering director.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Taking it a little easy today.

I had planned to take today off work but ended up having to go in for a meeting (rescheduling would have been more trouble than it was worth). So I warned them I'd come in late and leave early, since I wasn't able to take the whole day.

Good decision; I slept until nearly 7, which felt good. I also left early enough to pick up a color cartridge for the printer and a coupla other things and still get home by 4.

Rehearsals Tuesday night & last night haven't made me feel any more sanguine about our tech. I did have an actual oven to put my head in last night, but the Telephone Hour scrim is still to be rigged, and there's so very little masking around the stage area that I'm afraid we're all gonna hafta stand a few yards from the entrances to avoid being seen. That'll affect timing of entrances, and we won't get another chance to rehearse that before we open, which does not give me warm fuzzies!

We got 2 more musicians Tuesday night, bringing us to 6 - I joked w/ a few folks that we'd be up to a 20+-piece orchestra by Closing! And then at least one of them was missing last night - how the **** are they supposed to learn the show if they aren't there?!?

Tuesday night Albert & I found ourselves reblocking part of a scene on no notice. At that point, Mae is trying to guilt Albert into not going after Rosie by asking him to take her head out of the oven when he gets back from looking for Rosie. All along, we've been told the oven would be up center, but when the "kitchen wagon" finally appeared, it was tall enought that it blocked some other things and got moved down right. However, we didn't find out about this until we got to the scene where I have to stick my head in the oven and he pulls me out again. We ended up reblocking on the fly to pull the scene back into the light. (The lighting isn't quite as wide as the set.)

We still don't have our scene changes down yet, either. One of my assignments is to help remove the cart w/ the oven on it, but it's placed down right and I exit up left during that scene, so I can't get over there soon enough. A stool didn't get placed for one scene, the suitcase from the final scene didn't get struck, there were new furniture pieces to contend with in another scene - this has definitely been one of my more stressful tech weeks.

I'm no less nervous about my performance, either - I screwed up my lines again last night, this time in my first scene. Part of me keeps saying "You were doing fine until we got to Tech; you'll be fine again as soon as we have an audience." That's the little voice I need to listen to, not the one that keeps saying "OK, what are ya gonna screw up tonight?" ;)

That quick change of mine is continuing to be a problem. Despite changing to a looser-fitting pair of gloves and drafting "Mrs. Macafee" to help me change coats, I was a little late for my entrance Tuesday and quite late last night. I think tomorrow I'm going to wear a hat instead of a scarf as "Ann". I agree with the costumer that the scarf disguises me better, but the hat goes on in 2 seconds; I just don't have time (3 or 4 lines!) to position and tie the scarf.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Heavy tech week

We've done practically a double tech week for Birdie - rehearsals just about daily last week, though not on Friday. Saturday the director reblocked a coupla numbers to accommodate the performance space, then we ran the show. Sunday was the marathon - 1 p.m. call to set up, then run the show. We finally finished around 9.

Working with this company is unusual for several reasons. First, we perform in the nave of the church, which feels very weird to me. Performing in the nave means that Sunday we spent about 3 1/2 hours removing all the chairs, lecterns, and the altar (!), then setting up the risers that form part of the set and also hold some of the audience seating. That'll stay up until after Saturday night's show, when we have to tear it all down and return the nave to its worship configuration. Sunday we have a 1:30 call for the 4 o'clock matinee so we can turn the nave back into a theater. And repeat the drill the 2nd weekend of the run. Sure explains why there's no matinee the 3rd weekend - that's too much work for a single performance!

The other weird thing is that Thursday is their choir night and the choir rehearses in the nave because that's where the organ is. Which means that we don't get to rehearse on the set the night before we open! =:o Instead, our final rehearsal will be in the parish hall. At least we'll have our musicians for that, instead of having to make do with just a piano. TBD whether it will be a run or just a music/choreo rehearsal.

We never got a Sitzprobe (music-only rehearsal w/ orchestra), either, unless that happens Thursday. We just ran the show Sunday night w/ 3 musicians playing, and last night with 4. We'd been told there'd be 10, but it's probably just as well we don't that many; I don't know how we'd shoehorn them into the space available.

Other things unique to this performing venue: light spill from the stained-glass windows, so we have to rig sthg for the window directly behind the stage so the images projected on the backdrop screen (50s pics, Conrad Birdie, train station, etc.) will show. No green room or backstage dressing rooms, so we have to hang out quietly behind the stage and masking flats and change in improvised areas. The restrooms are reserved for audience members, at least at intermission, which makes me wonder how the cast is supposed to answer nature's call during the show. Because we have no wings or fly space, all the props and set pieces get stashed backstage or behind the masking flats.

Last night we had a 6:30 call to do make-up, hair & costumes, then blocked the curtain call. I was a little surprised to see how many little groups the director has come out - given the size of the cast, and based on my experience, I expected the teens & smaller adult roles to come out in bigger groups to make the bows go more quickly. Except for the teen girls (a group of about 6 or 7, I think), most come out in 2s and 3s. Mae comes out with Hugo Peabody; we're the first principals out. The MacAfees follow us, then Conrad, IIRC. Albert & Rosie get the final bow.

When we finally ran the show last night, we stopped at each scene change to assign responsibility for setting and striking props and set pieces. This obviously added quite a bit to our rehearsal time; I didn't get home until midnight. There are 10 of us in Telephone Hour who are singing and gesturing behind a scrim, but that scrim hadn't appeared by last night. I can't help but think that the scrim won't materialize and the 10 of us will be cut. I wouldn't be sorry to just stand in the back and sing (we were there for added voices and visual interest), but when I think of the rehearsal time spent on it... Ah well, guess it's the theatrical equivalent of ending up on the cutting room floor.

We added musician #4 last night (who was sight-reading), and we still don't have all our stage masking, or lights, the Telephone Hour scrim & back lighting, or the kitchen appliances. (Mae will look pretty silly sticking her head in a non-existent gas oven.) Part of me keeps saying "don't worry, it'll happen", but part of me is also nervous about how ready we'll be for opening night, especially as we don't get to rehearse on the set Thursday night.

We worked in full costumes, hair & make-up last night, so I did get to try my one quick change (from Mae to "Ann O'Nymous"). I was still buttoning my coat after I got on stage, but of course that was only the first time; it should be a little better tonight. The costumer pointed out today that I forgot Mae's supposed to wear gloves in that first scene. Fortunately, "Ann" doesn't have to, or that costume change would be even tighter. I'm expecting the make-up guy to tell me my make-up needs to be less understated, too - he seemed a bit unsure when I presented myself for his approval before we started, saying he thought it might be too pale but he'd have to see how it looked under the lights.

I'll have to get a picture of my Mae hat; when I put it on last night, people would look at me and chuckle or even laugh! And I'm sure that when I combine it with the fur coat, I'm a vision. Of what, I couldn't say. The fur coat produced some interesting reactions from a few of the others in the cast. When asked if it was real, I said "yes". A couple of the cast members are vegetarians and actually recoiled when they learned it was real, after they'd just been petting it.

Forced break

Woke up w/ another migraine today - that's 3 in a week! Yesterday's was soon subdued w/ meds and a can of Dew, but that didn't work today, so I ended up calling in sick again. I was blaming it on the pollen count (allergies can be a migraine trigger), but I can't help wondering how much stress might have contributed, given that I didn't get home from rehearsal last night until midnight. So I slept in and was relieved to find the migraine was completely gone by mid-morning. Didn't go in to work at all, which gave me time to starch & iron a shirt for one of the Birdie teens, load a wooden office chair for the opening scene into the car, and generally just sit and do nothing for more than 5 or 10 minutes at a stretch. I'll have time to eat at a normal pace, take a nice, long shower, and still get to rehearsal with plenty of time to find a parking place. I'm even taking time to do a bit of blogging.

I'm choosing to take this latest migraine as a sneaky gift of some down time. Much needed, as this has been a tough tech week and it's only Tuesday.

For the theater-addicted

I subscribe to Savoynet, a Gilbert & Sullivan listserve and the source of probably 90% of my G&S knowledge. (It can also be a fun fount of wordplay, but that's another matter.) A recent post solicited reactions to, where the director of the Opera Theater of St. Louis' production of The Mikado is writing up his impressions on the production process. I checked it out and found that he includes teaser pictures of the rehearsals & production stages of the show in addition to his impressions on pulling it all together. There are several things I like about it: it's well written and proofread; it lets me peek into how the process works at the professional level; and it's another look into The Mikado, the show that got me started blogging.

Anyone who's done or even seen more than one production of any show knows it's different every time. Change just one element, be it as small as a single cast member or the characterization of a minor role, and you get a different result. Change more than that - the director, the "concept", even the instrumentation, for musicals - and you have an entirely new show. Not being a chemist, I wouldn't consider attempting to analyze why or how that works, but it's what makes it possible to see the "same" show over and over again. "Haven't you seen Show X umpteen times already?" "Yes, but not with this director/lead/concept..."