Thursday, July 30, 2009

Florida-lush impatiens!

When we used to visit my parents in Florida when they were doing the snowbird thing, I used to be terribly jealous of the magnificently lush impatiens they had down there. We'd come home, I'd wait eagerly for late March to get my own bedding plants, but my impatiens never got as big or lush. Last year, in fact, they barely got a foothold; we never did figure out why they fared so poorly.

This year, however, has been a banner year for my impatiens. We had a very cool, very wet spring that lasted well into June, and even at the end of July we've had very few days with highs in the 90s and have enjoyed relatively low humidity. My impatiens seem to be loving that - they're the biggest, lushest flowers I've ever had - I may even have to move a few because they're crowding each other so!

Better still, I have a bonus - some tiny little volunteer violas (I think) that somehow managed to sneak into the impatiens bed and hold their own against the bigger, bolder flowers. Can you make out those tiny little splashes of yellow & blue amid all the pinks?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thoughts on directors

Most of the shows I've done have been musicals or operettas and in nearly all of those, I've been in the chorus/ensemble. I've learned a lot watching how the principals did their thing, so that when I was cast in a small role, with 75 lines (Comedy of Errors, Abbess Emelia), I wasn't completely at sea (even if I did keep waiting for the rehearsal accompanist to show up). Aside from a comment from the director during the "cut-up" rehearsal ("I don't know where that came from, but keep it!"), I didn't get much in the way of direction. Since I had one of the smallest roles in the show and the 2 romantic-lead couples pretty much carried the show, I didn't think much of it. I did have a scene with one of the female leads in which I thought she was misinterpreting the language. The director said nothing, so I did the same. To this day, I don't know if the director was just that hands-off or really didn't realize the error.

When I got my first lead, as Pitti-Sing in The Mikado, I similarly got very little specific direction. In that case, I think that was largely because the director had her hands full, as she was also playing Katisha. I did go up to the AD at one point and ask her about a scene in which I felt a little adrift; she reassured me that my instincts were just fine, but she'd say something if she thought it necessary. It probably also made a difference that the director realized I probably knew the show better than she did, having done it once already and seen several productions of it. At one point during the run, she even teased me that "you probably could play just about any role in this thing!"

I thin the most direction I ever got was playing Mae Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie. There was one scene the director kept running because we just weren't giving him the right reactions. That was about the physical interaction; I don't remember getting any direction about line readings, though I did ask about a couple of pronunciations as I worked on a New York Jewish accent.

In fact, looking back, I think all the directors I've worked with have avoided giving specific line readings (at least in my hearing), even in cases where I thought the actor in question was either doing it incorrectly (that one Comedy of Errors scene) or that a different reading might have served the text better or been more in character.

Being fairly new and inexperienced in having lines to give, I think I'd feel more comfortable if a director would address my line readings, whether to tell me I'm on the right track or to tweak an emphasis here or an intonation pattern there. Not sure if that's driven by insecurity, a desire for more attention, or just my love of all things language.

Similarly, I'd welcome suggestions for ways to bring the character to life physically as well as verbally - a gait, a gesture, posture, etc. At least let me know if I tend to, say, thrust my head forward or to stoop in certain situations if those don't suit the character or, worse, affect my vocal production.

I wonder if this kind of general, hands-off style is typical of all directors, or just those in community theater. Looks like it may be past time for me to sign up for an acting class or two and get some insight.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fruit pies are in season

I baked a peach pie Wednesday for the Chief's birthday, and an apple pie yesterday. The peach pie wasn't a big success - had to use a recipe with almost no seasoning, so I had to guess at what and how much to add, and I didn't have the thickener (instant tapioca) it called for, so it was pretty runny. It didn't help that I added too much water when making the crust, so it was pretty soggy. Fortunately, the Chief had scored some wonderful farmer's-market peaches, so the peaches themselves tasted MAH-velous!

The apple pie was full of Macintosh apples - turned out a little dry for my taste, but the Chief thought it was absolutely fine, claiming he doesn't like "juicy" pies. I watched the water when making the crust this time, and used butter instead of milk or an egg on the top crust, which made it nice & crisp.

But I sure would love to know where my pastry cloth & rolling pin sock are hiding. I have dishtowels that will do in a pinch for the pastry cloth, but I need my rolling pin sock to keep the dough from sticking. Ah well, I managed, and the Chief never noticed the difference.

"Get out of Hell free"

My Fringe show has closed and cast & crew have all been given our "get out of Hell free" cards. The last show was the worst - a leaky pipe had shorted out half the sound board, so that we could only just hear the higher-pitched notes in the sound track. I think we should've given the audience a refund and a sympathy card for suffering through our attempts to sing along with a sound track we couldn't hear. The reviews were just short of scathing - the reviewers did keep in mind that they were reviewing people, with feelings, who were painfully aware of their shortcomings. I just checked the ratings of the 100+ Fringe shows - on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being "Pick of the Fringe", we were one of 4 shows to get a 1.

One lesson learned from this - I will do my utmost to avoid at all costs doing another musical with a canned sound track. Even when I did a show with our 2 accompanists behind the set, they could at least hear us well enough to adjust when we got out of synch with them. The best situation is a conductor you can see, waving that magic wand that keeps us all together (assuming we're paying attention to it, of course), but after this, I've learned NEVER to take live music for granted, even if they're placed where we can't see them. As someone else mentioned, it's easy to understand why the Broadway performers supported the musicians' strike!

Other lessons
- Check the MD's credentials to make sure he or she has done this before, successfully.
- If they can't come up w/ an audition accompanist, ask whether there'll be a rehearsal accompanist. If not, don't audition. (I admit it - trying to learn my music from an mp3 was a huge challenge, which I never met to my satisfaction.)
- Try to work with companies that tend to get an audition turn-out greater than the number of roles being cast. Stiff competition for roles tends to produce better performances than little or no competition.
- Working with the playwright can be challenging if said author/lyricist/composer can't maintain a degree of objectivity about his/her "baby".
- Theatrical talent and savvy can come in teenage packages.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Domestic perfume?

TW's birthday is coming up, but he decided he didn't feel like going out to dinner last night after all. Instead, I made one of his favorites - pot roast, with homemade mashed potatoes and Moroccan carrots. That and a bottle of wine made for a very nice dinner, and the smell of the pot roast as it simmered in the crockpot all day permeated the house - yummmm!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Over too soon!

That was quick! My cabaret workshop has come & gone; Monday thru Thursday working on mic technique, patter, delivery, arrangements, etc., culminating in a little performance & reception for family & friends last night. I think we all sang the best of the week. I'm even pretty happy with how I did, despite forgetting a few chunks of the 2nd verse of "Distract Me". There were more friends in the audience than I'd expected - not just my husband, our songwriter neighbor and another neighbor, but my last voice teacher (one of my classmates is taking from her) and a few theater friends. I always feel better knowing I have friends in the audience.

It was fun: the 10 of us in the class had ourselves a little "love fest", cheering each other on; I enjoyed the singing despite my memory lapses; working with our brilliant accompanist made me feel like a pro - I wanna do this again! Fortunately, our instructor e-mailed us all to say there'll be a "weekend intensive" version coming up sometime this fall. I responded immediately, asking to know the second a date is decided so I can keep that weekend free.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'm in love!

The accompanist for this cabaret workshop is brilliant. He's been able to play with apparent ease everything we've thrown at him (20 songs in a pretty wide variety of genres), has the style of each, can improvise intros, bridges, vamps and endings, and gave me a couple of little delivery tweaks that are perfect for one of my songs. He plays with joy & enthusiasm, and absolutely radiates his love of this stuff. The man's an absolutely gifted accompanist, too - when he's playing with you, you'd swear he's breathing right along with you.

Can you tell I'm a fan? :D

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Shoot me now! Today I gave what was easily my worst theatrical performance EVER. I have the first vocal entrance in the first musical number of the show; I couldn't tell where we were in the music, so I completely missed that entrance. And it went downhill from there. Late or missed vocal entrances, actually forgot a bit of choreography (and at least 3 people told me they were wondering where I was, because I was the one they were cueing off of, heaven help them!). Fer cryin' out loud, I even skipped a costume change, which made me late for a subsequent entrance because changing out of the wrong costume took longer than changing out of what I should have been wearing. Which meant the rest of the cast had to ad lib until I got out there. And by the time we got to the last musical number, we were having a helluva time hearing the music (apparently, if it's loud enough for us to hear on stage, the audience can't hear us over the music), so I was screwing up right, left & center.

I know, I know, I'll do better tomorrow. Lord knows, I've got nowhere to go but up! But right now I just want to pull out of the show, move to some remote location (I hear New Zealand's nice) and lie low until today is forgotten.

The one good thing is that TW didn't come to see the show, so he didn't have to witness me going down in flames. At this rate, I don't know if I'll let him see it; too mortifying.

That was good.

Wednesday I went to a cabaret performance by the woman teaching the cabaret workshop I'm taking next week. Tech Week-induced scrambled brains meant I got there just in time for the last few songs, but I really enjoyed those few. L has an incredibly versatile voice and is a wonderful performer. Now I'm seriously psyched for this workshop next week; gonna be fun!

No fair!

So, the usual tech week exhaustion, this because I didn't take any time off work, not because we have marathon rehearsals every night. My idiot body clock woke me up this morning at 5:30 in anticipation of the alarm clock, obviously not realizing that it's SATURDAY and I actually get to SLEEP IN! Or would have. After about an hour of lying in bed, with show music playing non-stop in my head, I gave up.

I might try to go back to bed for a bit, but with a few things still to do before a theater company annual meeting at 11:30 and a Fringe speed-thru at 3 before our Opening Performance at 5, I don't expect my brain to downshift sufficiently that I'd actually be able to sleep.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A short respite

Learned that my voice teacher's recital, originally scheduled for early August, is now getting moved to September or October. That means the rest of my summer is rehearsal- and performance-free as soon as my Fringe show closes July 25th. I feel so much better prepared for this year's recital that I'm actually looking forward to it. That's a big change from last year's, when I'd only been taking with this teacher a few months and was nervous about my recital pieces right up until I started singing. Still, it'll be nice to be able to relax a while.

Feeling better about this

Sunday night's rehearsal was pretty bad, and last night's was HORRIBLE! One of my fellow castmembers shared this afternoon that "the audience looked like they were in pain"; probably an accurate assessment. We were dropping lines and missing vocal entrances right, left & center, even places we'd never had problems before. Maybe we were thrown by having enough room to work for the first time ever. (I had reserved my church's social hall and taped out the dimensions of the stage we'll be working on.) Whatever it was, I was about ready to slit my wrists in despair.

This afternoon we had just over 3 hours in the space - our only rehearsal there before we open on Saturday! It went much better than last night (it pretty much HAD to get better; couldn't have been too much worse), so that now I'm almost optimistic. ;)

It's been weird not having a proper tech week. Every other show I've done has been able to load in the weekend before opening or, in a few rare cases, even earlier. This gave us upwards of 4 nights in the theater with the sets, sound, lights, etc., and each rehearsal ran at least 4 hours. I'm still a bit nervous about not getting to work in the space again until we have an audience, but we did well enough today that the nerves aren't unmanageable, fala Bogu.

Another thing making this a weird tech week is that today's tech was in the afternoon; I was home and done by 5 or shortly thereafter. I can go to bed early during Tech week! What a concept! And tomorrow we have no rehearsal at all, so I'm going to the cabaret performance of the woman teaching the cabaret workshop I'm taking next week. (Which reminds me - I'd better start solidifying that memorization - we're supposed to have both our pieces memorized when we show up for the first session on Monday.)

This being a Fringe Festival, the 5 core venues are booked pretty tightly. In practical terms, that means we only get to show up an hour before curtain and half an hour before they start letting the audience in, and get into the dressing rooms only 45 minutes before curtain. We have 2 rooms perhaps 8 feet square serving as dressing rooms. They have mirrors and room for a clothing rack but nothing else, so I'll need to remember to put my make-up on before I leave the house on performance nights. Heretofore, I've always put it on after I got to the theater, perhaps because I could leave my stuff there. Not here. We do get a 2'x4' area where we're storing the cubes that are serving as set pieces, along with a few other large items, but costumes, props and personal items have to be cleared out within 15 minutes of the final bow.

Enough already!

Why is it that all the media seem to feel obliged to cover Michael Jackson's death, memorial and the legal wrangling in such detail? When he first died, you'd have thought the man was the Pope, JFK, Gandhi and a Nobel prizewinner, the way the event was getting 24/7 coverage. The man was talented, no question, but he wasn't a head of state or leader of a major (or even minor) world religion, he didn't cure cancer or bring even a temporary peace to the Middle East.

And it's not as though nothing else important is going on. Iranian protesters are still demonstrating (or trying to) against the outcome of that country's presidential election, North Korea continues to threaten to fire missiles at S. Korea, Japan, Hawaii or anyone else it can reach, the Chinese government is hammering their Uighur minority, things are heating up in Afghanistan... Sure, those events are happening far from home, but they deserve more than a tiny little "crawl" along the bottom of a full-screen showing of the "Thriller" video for the umpteenth time.

Monday, July 06, 2009


TW and I were out at the cabin last weekend, checked out a farmer's market and, as always, overbought. I ended up making a batch of blueberry muffins yesterday to use up a pint of berries while they were still fit to eat, had the last of 'em on my cereal this morning. I also bought a parsley plant and two mints - one peppermint and one spearmint. The mints are now in nice, spacious pots out at the cabin, so we'll have fresh mint for iced tea. Yummmm.

A little pressure off

Just got an e-mail from my voice teacher. She's rescheduling her studio recital from August to sometime in September or October. That means that the performance-free part of my summer will now start July 26th, after my Fringe Festival show closes, instead of 2 weeks later, after the recital. This is a good thing.