Monday, April 27, 2009

Pollen as bio-weapon

Saturday my allergies were so bad, I sat out that night's performance of Follies. I was in such bad shape (sneezing fits, eyes streaming, nose running, constant coughing) that I knew no one would want me anywhere near, let alone doing their make-up. I was so bad off, I was even getting an upset stomach, headache and sore throat.

Yesterday & today I'm still uncomfortable, but it's nothing like as bad as it was Saturday. According to the weather report on the news just now, that's because today's pollen count is 1730-ish, which is miserably high (the non-sensitive start feeling uncomfortable when it hits 200 or 250; those of us with allergies start feeling it when the count's at around 100 or lower). Saturday's count, however, was at 4539! When I was half-joking on Saturday that the count was in the Lethal range, I had no idea how close I was to the truth!

The news is full of swine flu symptoms - sneezing, coughing, itchy/runny eyes, sometimes diarrhea or vomiting. My first reaction was that it sounds indistinguishable from "pollen poisoning"!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

All in

Yesterday I braved the pollen-saturated air and got the last of my bedding plants in the ground: one each speedwell, a pine-knot-strain hellebore or lenten rose, and elfin and limegreen thyme. They went into the same sunny corner as last year's phlox. And yes, the three budless plants are now starting to flower - white. And one last laggard is starting to come in with white-edged pink flowers. That corner of the front yard is now quite colorful - pink, violet and white phlox (the 2-tones are only just starting to open), blue speedwell and one or two random yellow dandelions. Now if the flowers would just fill in and cover that awful orange-red clay...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Blown away!

(NB: If there's a chance you'll be reviewing the show, read no further.)

opened last night and all I can say is WOW! I was able to sit in the house for most of it and was blown away by the much-deserved audience response. Every number got a big hand and the production numbers were all very enthusiastically received. I suspect the only reason no one got to their feet at the curtain call was that they were too tired by then from the waves of talent washing off the stage, because they were certainly making enough appreciative noise! The show was not without its glitches, but they were minor; they certainly didn't seem to detract from the audience's appreciation.

This company has the luxury of a big stage - the whole floor of the building where I did Pirates last year could probably fit on that stage 3 or 4 times over; more, if you include the wings. Plenty of room for the cast of 45, and plenty of overhead, so they could put the showgirls with their 3-4-foot-tall headdresses on the top steps and they'd not seem the least bit cramped. The lighting designer did a masterful job of making the changes, features and highlights seem natural and flow smoothly, and some of the special touches do a brilliant job of enhancing the story-telling. And this from someone who always notices costumes first and lights last, if at all.

This is essentially a one- or two-set show, depending on how you count the large pieces that get moved in and out depending on the scene. The orchestra overwhelmed a couple of the soloists in a few places, but not severely, and their internal balance was very good. The singers are quite good, and there are a lot of "star turns" for several of the "Weiseman Girls" which are all very well delivered. The production numbers are incredible - beautifully executed and costumed - and the Act I bolero was like a scene from any of a number of old dance movies. Wonderful! In fact, all the choreography is the most ambitious I've ever seen in a community theater production, and generally well done.

And omigosh the COSTUMES!!! Some of the showgirls' headdresses are full of ostrich feathers and as much as four feet tall! The costumes are just as over-the-top. The Busby Berkely-style costumes for 2 of the production numbers reminded me of some of the first musicals, as did the choreography. The former Follies girls are generally in beaded or otherwise glam dresses, the wigs that most of the cast (even the men in one of the production numbers) wear at one time or another suit the costumes well - it's an incredible accomplishment and makes for an eye-popping stage picture.

My own contribution seems tiny in comparison - I'm doing the make-up for just one of the former Follies girls (she's legally blind). I have to age her a good 30 years or so, and am getting to be a dab hand at the age lines and creases. I'm still getting the routine down - each night the make-up designer tells me I need more shadowing or I've forgotten to line her forehead - but I joked with "Heidi now" (as opposed to "young Heidi") last night that by the time we close, I'll have it down to a science.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Earthworm in the kitchen

Yesterday morning I was going thru the usual motions when I saw a crooked something on the kitchen floor that looked a little too regular to be a stick. It was a dirt-covered earthworm! I can only assume it came from the flower boxes we had brought into the kitchen the night before because the overnight temperature was supposed to get down to the freezing mark or lower. The compost I'd used with the potting soil often has worms in it, so I'm guessing my little visitor was an escapee. I escorted it outside to a nice little bush, where I hope it's much happier and aerating the soil there.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

More flowers

This afternoon I finally planted the flowers I'd bought for the flower boxes on the deck railing. Lobelia, violas, dianthus and (something) - some of them are not looking too happy right now, but I'm hoping they'll bounce back shortly. But wouldn't ya know, not an hour after I'd finished, the Chief told me we may have to bring them in tonight, as the forecast is for lows in the 20s tonight!

The first of our tulips opened today and the phlox is just starting to come into its own. A few of the plants are just a couple of days from their peak, though 3 of them still don't seem to have a single bud. I'm still hoping they're just a (much?) later-blooming variety.

Working the Fringe?

This will be the 4th year for the local "Fringe Festival", which I think is modeled on Edinborough's. For about 2 weeks in July, individuals and groups present a very wide variety of theatrical and other presentations. I just auditioned for one such production, a variation on the Christmas Carol theme.

It was an unusual audition in several ways. First of all, it was at the MD's house, not a classroom, church hall or other such venue. We also had to sing a cappella, as there was no accompanist available. I wasn't terribly thrilled with my singing - blasted pollen! - and I didn't go as high as I might have in my range testing, but I didn't see them cringing or wanting to put their fingers in their ears, so I guess it wasn't too horrible. ;-)

The reading was one of the more fun I've done, especially as we got to read each scene twice. I got to read 4 different characters: a stage manager who was less than pleased w/ the props, a bit player considerably less than pleased with her role, a sharp-tongued jealous fiance, and a somewhat insecure actor. All of 'em were fun, and I could hear them reacting with chuckles, but the best bit was when I was reading that last character. My friend & fellow actor is trying to reassure me that I'll be fine in performance and "offers" to bring in some kids as a distraction during a rehearsal. My character thanks him for the laugh, then asks "Tell me you're not serious!" I couldn't see the directors' reactions, as I was looking at the person reading the other character, but I sure did hear them laugh at my slightly panicked reading of that "Tell me you're not serious!" line. And doesn't every performer love to hear the audience react!

They have 2 more nights of auditions, so it'll be at least Friday before I know anything, but the director did tell me before I left that she definitely wants to use me. The big problem is that I've got that 5-night cabaret workshop that happens to run right smack in the middle of the festival, and the festival organizers won't announce all the performances dates & venues for another couple of weeks. In other words, the director won't know until then whether that workshop is a conflict or not. (I'm hoping & praying "our" performance dates don't fall then!) She & I had already discussed the problem last week, as I wondered whether I should even bother auditioning. She told me then and reiterated this afternoon that she's actually willing to consider double-casting me in a role. I find that both generous and flattering, especially as she told me this when I was one of the very first auditionees, and it would be so much easier for her to drop me from consideration so she doesn't have to deal with that uncertainty.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lotsa moving parts in this one!

Follies had its first tech rehearsal today. It was quite a marathon; the 3 of us who showed up for the make-up tech were there a good 5 hours, and the cast and other crew had another 2-3 hours to go. This production has a cast of about 45, most of whom have to wear at least one wig; one poor woman has four different wigs depending on the scene! They opened with designers' notes and announcements; the lighting designer announced that he had about 200 cues to set and apologized in advance for the necessarily painfully tedious process of inching thru the show to set those cues.

You'd think, as I did, that make-up wouldn't be too difficult; set it and forget it, right? Wrong! A scant handful of the cast have the same make-up throughout. Most change theirs from Act I to Act II, and some change it yet again during Act II. In addition to the make-up changes, there's a lot of "specialty" make-up, involving unusual effects (e.g., covering natural eyebrows and "drawing" higher ones) or special techniques. For starters, several people need to be aged, so the make-up designer has been instructing us in those techniques. The showgirls all get "ghost" make-up, and many in one of the big Act II numbers are to be made up to resemble Dresden dolls. This is going to be challenging, especially as there isn't nearly as much space as we could wish for the logistics of all these changes; little wonder they're telling cast members to get to the theater as early as possible.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


As usual once the trees start pollinating, I'm tired - trying to breathe that stuff is work! Which is why, when I only lasted 15 mins on the treadmill yesterday, and I get a little winded after taking the stairs to my 3rd-floor office, I don't beat myself up about it.

And work's been rather trying - I've spent a couple of days this week working on administrative stuff that shoulda been taken care of ages ago but which refuses to settle (doesn't help that one office completely and utterly dropped the ball on sthg important). Today I only got half a day for "real" work, as I had a lunch meeting (at least it was a useful one), a briefing, then had to take off early for a doc's appointment.

Let's see, 8:30 - bedtime! zzzzzzzzzzz

Jumping up & down and squealing!!!

I'm all set to travel to my friend K's graduation in about another month. I'm hugely proud of her - single mother of many, working full time while earning her degree - and looking forward to cheering myself hoarse in celebration.

As if that weren't enough, I just learned that my maid of honor, who used to be my roommate but now lives thousands of miles away and whom I haven't seen since her brother's wedding several years ago, will also be at the graduation. I can now look forward to a weekend of hugs, tears of joy, and probably much swapping of G&S quotes.

My MoH and I "mother henned" each other so much and got along so well, I'm sure there were those who wondered if we were a couple, and our friend the graduate was like another sister and often spent her non-custodial weekends at our place. The prospect of getting to see them both again, at the same time, has me over the moon - it's too much happiness!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

It's alive!

The phlox I planted last year hasn't been looking so great. While everyone else's in the neighborhood seems to be at or near full bloom, ours was still looking winter-dull. Until this weekend, when I noticed that most of them have buds that are just one nice day from opening. Can't wait to see how they do!

We also realized that grape hyacinths grow the flower, then the stem. I don't know why I never noticed before that the little blue clumps form up first, then the stem comes up underneath to raise the clump out of the green blades.

Signs of spring at our house

1. We start getting out and playing in the dirt. (The Chief's current project involves building a bed w/ pavers and planting caladiums and other shade-lovers in it.)

2. One or both of us trot off to the nursery and spend too much money on bedding plants. And this year we might even splash out on a little bitty flowering tree to replace the dogwood on the south side that died a few years ago.

3. When we change the sheets, we replace the flannels with percales. (Though I think we got ahead of ourselves with that this year - lows near freezing last night!)

4. We can leave the doors & windows open, and do!

5. I inspect the garden when I get home every day, seeing what's blooming where.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Playing in the dirt

The Chief & I took advantage of the lovely weather over the weekend and worked out in the yard. He'd gotten some free (wahoo!) daffodils when he was out at the cabin last week and stopped by a local nursery for some of their good, dirt cheap compost. The daffodils were the first things to go into the ground. I was a bit apprehensive, since spring isn't usually when I'd plant them, but we had some rain earlier today and they seem happy so far.

I also dug up some mats of vinca and transplanted them into the dirt strip down the center of the driveway. I'm hoping they establish themselves more quickly than the cuttings I planted last year. The vinca in general is going gangbusters this spring, so I'm hoping that planting them with some of that lovely compost will persuade the transplants that they like their new homes.

Yesterday I spent way too much money at the fancy-schmancy nursery (the local one doesn't look long for this world - shockingly little stock for April). I got the flat of impatiens planted in the bed under the mailbox and installed 2 little pots of Irish moss at the top of the driveway, where I'm hoping they'll dig in and spread to their hearts' content. I also bought 2 varieties of thyme, a hellebore and lots of different plants to go into the flower boxes for the deck railing. Oh goody - more excuses to play in the dirt! :D

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Emotional adoption?

Having no kids of my own, and with my nieces & nephews living a plane ride away, I tend to "adopt" the people around me. And the longer I've known you and the better we get along, the more likely you are to get the "mother hen" treatment. I try conscientiously not to do that at work but in the theater, and with the church group I've been singing with for umpteen years (I've known the kids since before they were born), well, it's so hard not to fuss over them. Some of my theater friends have learned to humor me when I start fixing their costumes, bless their hearts. And when we're all singing, playing, dancing, partying..., it's great. I don't have family living nearby, so they become my family - gotta love it! :)

(It's spring, I just spent too much money at the garden center today and planted a flat of impatiens - I'm in a good mood, what can I say?)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Chorus? or not?

I wasn't called back for Gondoliers, so now I'm waiting for the customary call offering me a slot in the chorus. The Chief would like to see me turn it down because I've been in the ensemble of just about every show I've done with this company. (The lone exceptions were the first time they did Merry Widow (lotsa dancing & one of the Grisettes) and Fledermaus, when I had a couple of lines as a guest at Orlovsky's party and had my "daughters" do their party pieces.

The Chief points out that I've had roles with other companies and I should continue to audition for other companies (which I'm doing) and to audition for straight plays rather than musicals (but it feels so weird to have no music!). He also would like to see me get back to having all my weekends free to go to the cabin or otherwise do stuff together, instead of letting Gondoliers eat up all my weekends.

This could be tough - much as I love the music in Gondoliers, I do owe my long-suffering husband a few weekends, given how many of them Merry Widow ate up. Maybe I'll just help with costumes this time round, usher a performance or so, work run crew or something...