Saturday, May 31, 2008


This cold has moved into my chest and is seriously hindering my voice. When I went to church this evening (so nice to have a church w/ a 5 p.m. mass not 5 minutes from the theater), I found that I could barely sing - so little breath I had to breathe in the middle of phrases, not much volume, and some notes and any intervals across or near my passaggio were difficult to sing, if I managed it at all. This did not bode well for my performance tonight!

I warned our music director that my volume would be limited and that he'd have to listen hard for me. This is an issue because the small space dictates that our musicians be placed behind the set, where we can't see them and they can't see us. There are several places in Pirates where a singer has an a capella pick-up to a measure before the orchestra joins in. Ruth has quite a few of those, so the MD needed to realize that he'd have trouble hearing them tonight.

As it turned out, I was able to get out my lines and my songs, but only just. I think I may have had perhaps half my usual volume. Even speaking required a lot of effort just to produce an audible sound; trying to sing at an audible level seemed to require as much energy as pushing a truck out of the mud. However, it must have sounded OK, because none of my fellow cast members commented on my reduced volume, and as I was working my way through the crowd, a woman came up to me, told me I was great, that she loved the show, thought we were all wonderful. Maybe I should have asked her to come home with me, so she could continue in that vein. No, best not, since TW has come down with my cold and we wouldn't want to infect the nice lady.

"Stage mommy"

A friend of mine somehow acquired the affectionate nickname of "stage mommy" when she was wearing her Stage Manager hat. Quiet and efficient, she could nevertheless be quite loud and ruthless when necessary. She ran a very tight ship, made sure cues happened when they were supposed to, and never let us sing in the dark unless that was supposed to happen.

I may be borrowing her title for the rest of our run. One of our cast members has now called me twice when he's been running late, presumably after calling the director. The second time was last night, as I was sewing on the Sgt's insignia. When I got off the phone, I joked to the room in general, "When did I become the mom of the cast?" But of course, since all the rest of the women and at least half the men in the cast are in their teens and twenties, I am old enough to be their mom. And as our Mabel commented, "you take care of us."

Last night was not our best show but neither was it as bad as we'd feared, given that most of our leads were sick with one thing or another. And one of our poor pirates spent most of Act II in the bathroom emptying his stomach. Which prompted me to load up a first aid kit of sorts with Pepto-Bismol tablets and antacids in addition to the more usual bandaids, antiseptic ointment, throat lozenges and such to take to the theater tonight. Here's hoping we don't need any of it!

Friday, May 30, 2008


Mabel now has a hat, just as her sisters do. I'm very pleased with how it turned out and hope to get some pictures tonight of Mabel wearing it, which I'll duly post.

Which means the only costuming left to do for this show is to get the Sgt's stripes sewn onto his coat and to take in said coat so that our Sgt doesn't rattle around in it. To that end, I'm schlepping my sewing machine to the theater tonight. I just hope our Sergeant answers my plea and makes the 6:30 call time so I have plenty of time to pin the stripes and the seams I need to take in.

I had to go thru my receipts so I can tell our Major General Stanley how much I spent for his nightshirt, which he wants to buy from me. I made the mistake of totalling everything - I've spent about $125 on costuming for this show, despite the fact that only 2 of the costumes had to be made from scratch! Granted, that includes the patterns, fabric, trim & notions for those 2 costumes, and at least $20 worth of materials for Mabel's hat. Oh, but it doesn't include the 4 hatpins I ordered for the girls' hats. Guess I won't think about that until the bill comes in.

Oh, crud

This cold has been moving along very quickly. I'm past the head cold stage; it's now moving down into my lungs. Wonderful; now I've got all this crud starting to swim around in there, just in time for this weekend's performances. And wouldn't ya know, Ruth's very first song is the 2nd number in the show, solo, three verses long. I have a feeling those verses may feel very long indeed tonight. I've decided to stay home from work today, lounge around the house, force fluids until I'm about to grow gills, and trim Mabel's hat. With any luck, I might even manage a nap so that I won't feel quite so run-down tonight.

And our Mabel seems to have come down with strep throat, poor thing. Same raw throat I've been having, but with nausea. This weekend's shows could be "interesting"...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Finishing touches

Catching up on e-mail and such after finishing the insignia for the Sgt of Police's sleeves (pictures to come, I hope). They turned out rather well, if I do say so myself. Tomorrow night I plan to take my sewing machine with me, fit the Sgt's coat before downbeat, then stitch it and sew on the rank during my Act I down time. We'll see if things actually work out that way...

However, it's getting close to 9 o'clock and I still have to trim Mabel's hat. I could finish it tomorrow between our office picnic and our 6:30 call, but the more I can get done tonight, the less I'll have to worry about tomorrow. And I would like Mabel to have a hat; her sisters do, and heaven forfend our lead soprano should be left out. :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Another chuckle from The Onion

Any woman who's dated more than 2 or 3 guys and every woman who's divorced should appreciate today's offering:

Uh oh!

By dinnertime yesterday I had quite a scratchy throat that persists even now, more than 24 hours later. Last night I assumed it was the Code Orange air - I confess, I did break down and open the back door while I ate dinner - but now I'm afraid it's a cold. I've already taken a zinc tablet and downed some orange juice. Maybe I should've had chicken soup for dinner. One way or another, I've gotta get rid of this cold or at least keep it at bay until after this Saturday's performance.

I know all "the usual suspects" - chicken soup, water, hot tea w/ honey & lemon, water, orange juice, water, zinc, water... Echinacea doesn't help because of the allergy factor. Any other homeopathics I can try?

And so begins another summer

May has been unseasonably, mercifully cool and incredibly rainy this year, but yesterday the odds caught up with us. The high got to the mid-80s and brought with it the first Code Orange ("unhealthy for sensitive groups") day of the year. So instead of opening the doors & windows and letting the lovely breezes in, I had to leave the house shut up and try to content myself with ceiling fans. This evening, though, the fans just weren't cutting it; we had to break down and turn on the a/c. I consoled myself with the thought that this is probably the latest in the year I've ever gone before having to use the a/c for summer weather, not just tree season.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Waxing piratical

As I had suspected, playing Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance is FUN!!! I don't get to sing "Pour, oh pour the pirate sherry", but as I pour said sherry, I tweak "my" pirates' collars and such, pull one's shirt closed, pat Frederic on the cheek and generally treat them all as my boys. Yes, I have to 'fess up to having messed up big time when I apprenticed Frederic to a pirate instead of a pilot, but then I get to be indignant when Fred tells me I'm plain & old, and clueless that while I'm a "fine woman", at 47 I'm just a wee bit older than he's looking for. And while I'm the only cast member not on stage for "Hail, Poetry" (so I sing it in the wings, along w/ the musicians), and yes, I spend more of Act I offstage than on, my 30 seconds at the end of the Act I finale let me get all upset when Fred & the other pirates reject me, so that I exit practically in tears.

Then comes the good part! In Act II I get to swagger and play w/ a sword and (very nice replica!) ivory-handled pistol, laugh my head off w/ the Pirate King at the paradox of Fred's being only 5 1/4 yrs old, and march with the rest of the pirates in Cat-like Tread. I even get to fight a policeman in the Act II finale, then drop a curtsey when the Sergeant charges us yield in Queen Victoria's name.

My Act I costume is a rather prim nursemaid sorta rig - a mobcap, a blouse w/ a collar, very full-shouldered sleeves, full apron, and a nearly ankle-length skirt that even has a pocket! Imagine - a costume with a pocket! Very handy for stashing my watch w/ the light-up dial so I can check our running time. Every bit of my Act II pirate costume is out of my closet - the full, flowy shirt (a RenFest purchase), the stirrup pants, the boots bought on sale in case I might need them for costume purposes, the headscarf trimmed with tiny silver disks (this is its 2nd Pirates), the blue sash, even the hoop earrings w/ sequin-sized "coins". Both costumes are hot as blazes under the lights, but at least they can go in the washer, instead of needing dry cleaning.

Sold-out house tonight - yee-ha!!! Friends from church were in the audience tonight, along with a couple of folks from work and someone I did a show with a few years back. They all seemed to enjoy it, and one friend of a friend commented that after seeing the show, she now wants to play Ruth too! I don't blame her - I'm having a blast!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Curtain up!

Pirates opened tonight! Best of all, we actually had an audience (I was afraid that, this being the start of Memorial Day weekend, we'd have maybe 5 or 6 people out there), who were vocal in their appreciation. The numbers I'm in generally went quite well, my voice was cooperating nicely, no major costume problems

The performance wasn't without glitches (e.g., I messed up my very first line; "My mind has long been gnawed by the cankering tooth of wisdom"?!?) but on the whole I think it went pretty well.

While I did attempt to costume a show last May, I think this is probably the one I'll leave on my resume. Our Mabel told me her mother loved the costumes, which was nice to hear. Our Kate finished MG Stanley's nightshirt for me (buttonholes & buttons, since the buttonhole foot to my sewing machine is AWOL) yesterday and did a nice job of it. I still want to make sashes for 2 of the daughters, put a hook on my Act I skirt and take in that blouse, and the Sergeant's coat still needs to be taken in, but things are essentially done. Hurray!

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Learned yesterday that they were going to take publicity pics of the show at this evening's rehearsal, not tomorrow's! There ensued a mad scramble to sew the nightdress & mobcap for the woman who, at 6' tall, is a trifle hard to fit. The fact that the instructions were less than helpful ("do ___ as shown" but no illustration; the Notions list didn't mention fusible interfacing and had a too-low yardage for the trim) both made the assembly take longer and kicked my blood pressure up a few notches. I did get preliminary alterations done to my Act I blouse but it's still too big, even after taking it in 2-3 inches at the shoulder.

So while the costumes weren't complete for the pics, we did have everyone dressed, and the director and the person taking pictures (who also is a major bigwig in the company) both made a point of telling me how much they liked how everyone looked.

While I was still working on the nightdress, with the mobcap still to create and my own costume still untouched, I started thinking about the fact that 3 of my numbers still needed their choreography finished. Despite knowing better, I still got all spun up about it. I had settled somewhat by the time I got to rehearsal and into my Act I costume (that blouse is just huge - still needs much work) but was still spinning enough that one woman made a point of looking me in the eye and saying "Stop spiraling!" :D

Cat-Like Tread still needs to be worked (we've been shown the choreography once), but Frederic, the Pirate King & I ran the Paradox trio and Away, Away a few times, and I got to see that the costuming is actually a lot further along at this point than many shows I've done. (In once case, I didn't get a major costume piece until the night before we opened.) I still have my Act I blouse to take in and the skirt needs to have the hem marked & sewn, I have sashes to make for 2 of the Stanley wards and the nightshirt for the Major General, and the Police Sergeant's jacket was cut for someone more "well rounded", but Samuel finally found a vest that both fits and looks good, the Pirate King & Frederic both have pirate pants that fit, Mabel's sash is perfect, and the other tweaks are similarly looking good.

And once I can relax a bit about the costuming, I desperately need to go back to my lines & music! When we ran the dialogue going into "O False One", I missed a cue entirely, messed up a line, and probably got some of my blocking wrong too. I suppose this is what comes of spending two weeks focusing on costuming the entire show. It's a wonder I haven't dreamt about it yet.

Friday, May 16, 2008

"Maid of all work" indeed!

Oy! Costuming a show I'm also in, and doing it in little more than two weeks, while holding down a full-time job, is a big time-eater! I've already made half a dozen trips to assorted fabric stores, spent an afternoon digging through costume closets while breathing sawdust (the closets are steps away from the scene bay of the company whose costumes I was digging through), made & updated spread sheets of all the bits & pieces each actor needs... Good thing the last few rehearsals have worked numbers that Ruth either isn't in or in which she only has a coupla lines.

Tonight our Major General called me to let me know he'd hit a snag w/ his Act II costume. The folks from whom he was planning to borrow it had a family emergency and hadn't had time to dig out the costume. In fact, they might not manage it until after we open, meaning we now have to scramble to find our MG a nightshirt, nightcap and robe. I did run out to get a pattern and fabric, but if no one volunteers to make it up, it could be Friday (the day we open!) before I have time to sew it.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Catching up

Pirates is getting closer to opening so of course I'm getting busier.

TW ended up not teching that show after all. He felt he hadn't gotten enough time with the equipment to be comfortable with it, and didn't get to go through a full run doing the cues, so rather than mess things up for the cast, he decided it would be better if he just withdrew.

I volunteered my connections to find out what another company (with which I've done lots of shows and for which I've helped with costuming) would charge to rent us Pirates costumes, and even measured the entire cast Monday night in anticipation of a costumer. Guess what - I'm it! It was decided that the rental rates are cheap enough that we're going to costume the whole show that way, and I'm now responsible to for getting everybody rigged out. Tomorrow I'm off to the renting company's scene/costume bay to rummage through their closets and try to find enough things in reasonable sizes for everyone. Good thing it's a small cast! My biggest concern is dressing MG Stanley's wards - the company needs all their bustle dresses for their own production, so I'll have to see what that leaves.

We got a choreographer Wednesday night (we open two weeks from tonight - yike!), who'll be working things up for us this weekend. Next week's gonna be a busy one, as we try to learn what she has for us and I have people try things on when they aren't dancing.

Back to TW's dentist this afternoon. Finally got my teeth cleaned, but probably should have waited. The pollen count has been at toxic levels the past week or so and sneezing fits have had my jaw in spasm. Trying to open my mouth so the hygienist could pick, scrape and spritz my teeth has my jaw aching. Oh, and the next doc to be added to the list will be an oral surgeon once I can find one who deals w/ TMD.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

I'm liking Prilosec!

As noted earlier, one of the things the doc has been testing was whether reflux might have caused or at least contributed to my little scare. To that end, she's had me on Prilosec, which I've been taking for a week or two now. So far, so good - tomato sauce is no longer evil! My reaction to the acid in tomato sauce had gotten so bad I'd just about given up on it, which really limits my choices when we go out for Italian! However, I got brave today and had a generous bit of spaghetti sauce on my pasta for lunch with nary a twinge of heartburn - yee-ha! Now I'm ready to try pizza again. Assuming, of course, the crust isn't so chewy my jaw starts shifting & popping like the San Andreas fault.

This should help when I'm trying to decide what to have for dinner on Pirates performance nights. Dairy is still off the pre-show menu, but maybe I can start trying food cooked w/ bell peppers, onions, vinegar (BBQ!), garlic and other good things, instead of plain poultry with some sort of plain side dish. Maybe the kebab place's sampler, with its hummus, tabouleh and grape leaves and that wonderful, made-to-order nan..

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Trying not to think about it

Pirates opens 3 weeks from tomorrow and we still have chunks of choreography we haven't seen yet! And places where the blocking is only roughed in or needs tweaking. And no costumer yet. Or rehearsal props (though the foils have been ordered). Last night several of us asked for more rehearsal, especially a 3-4-hour chunk of time in which to learn and drill choreographies. Can you tell I'm not the only one with "We open how soon?!?" nerves? Eeek!

Yes, I'm nervous that this is going to be a disaster, but that's normal at this point in the process. Come see me anyway, because of course I'm going to be wonderful. ("I'm going to be wonderful. I'm going to be wonderful. I'm going to be...")