Wednesday, October 30, 2019

I guess it's that time of year again :(

Last night the Chief had to take me back to Urgent Care because my asthma was getting bad again.  It started with Wednesday's rain, and not being able to get the vials for my nebulizer until Saturday.  They had to give me a triple neb dose and 120 mg of prednisone.  Needless to say, I wasn't good for much today.

I gotta get this under control soonest, so I can start practicing in earnest for my Messiah gig; listening to recordings & following along in the score can only take me so far.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Back in the chorus again

Friday night I auditioned for a(nother) production of The Pirates of Penzance, asking for Ruth.  Knowing one of the other women going for that role, I didn't really expect to get it.  However, when I didn't get called back for the role, I realized I was kind of expecting I would at least get a callback.  Not sure why; given how few roles there are for older women, there was bound to be stiff competition, and the woman who auditioned right after me (also going for Ruth) sounded impressive from out in the hallway outside the audition room.  It didn't help that I was working against an asthma flare (which had me in Urgent Care that night).

Ah well, Pirates is one of the best for women's chorus.  I'll go into it already knowing the music, and not having to worry about memorizing lines will make it easier to design the show as well as be in it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Busy theater spring

I really loaded up my theater schedule this year.

First up was The Gondoliers.  Not only did I get to style 4 hedgehog wigs and a man's wig with buckles (those rolls on the sides), plus wigs for a couple of other folks that were set-and-forget, but I was also in the show.  Oh, and I made 7 headdresses for the married contadine of the ensemble and had a heckuva time figuring out how to anchor the *@&$%! things to everyone's heads.  That made tech week and the run even busier than usual, because I had to age one of the men, do final makeup for a few of the men, eyeliner for one or two folks with less-than-steady hands, AND had to keep tweaking that blasted buckle wig.  I dubbed it my "problem child" because I had to take it home and restyle it at least twice, in addition to all the backstage tweaking I had to do.  Still, it was a fun show, and I was happy with how the "hedgehogs" turned out.  Not as big as I'd hoped, but not at all bad for a first attempt.
one buckle wig (L) and 2 hedgehogs (C, R)

What's wrong with "The Play that Goes Wrong" - MAJOR spoiler alert!

The Chief & I found ourselves in NYC over the weekend and managed to find time to see The Play That Goes Wrong.  I knew people who'd seen and loved it, found it very funny.  We didn't; yes, it had its moments, but a "gut-busting" laugh riot?  No.

Warning:  The rest of this post will be full of spoilers.

The premise is a fairly incompetent college/university dramatic society putting on a murder mystery.  Two of the "stagehands" end up getting pulled into the action, at first reluctantly, but then deciding they like it when the audience applauds for them.  The character playing Cecil is your worst ham, smiling at the audience or repeating a bit if they applaud.  Funny the first time or two, but it can get old.

As you can guess from the title, the whole play is full of one mishap or disaster after another.  In fact, the whole "plot" is merely a vehicle to carry as many actor's and tech's nightmares as possible.  This means you find yourself wondering what's going to go wrong next, and when.  As a result, pretty much every performer on stage has to be good at (sometimes very) physical comedy, which probably left most of them with a whole lotta bruises.  The cast we saw did an excellent job at physical comedy, especially Maggie Weston and Matt Walker (Florence and Cecil).  Maggie got dragged upside-down & sideways through a window in Act I, and Matt took pratfalls, executed somersaults, walked into things face first, and generally made it look as though he'd be black and blue from head to toe by the next morning.

The set includes a platform, appropriately furnished, that represents an upstairs study.  Over the course of the play the downstage end drops a few inches two or three times, while there are people standing on it.  My first thought was "Are they OK?!"  Now of course I know that there is no way such a bit of business was allowed without making completely sure they could pull it off safely.  Still, it would be so easy for something unscripted to go wrong that I couldn't relax, for the performers' sake.

There were a few moments when something would happen or someone would say something and the people on stage would pause, or they would draw out a sight gag, milking it for all it was worth.  I know it was done for comic effect, but I felt that in most cases they let it go on too long.

The performers did do a good job, but they were upstaged by the special effects of the disasters.  Those were so well staged (the shifting platform, a trick floorboard, things falling off walls, and so many more) that it's easy to see why the set won a Tony.  The engineering involved in creating those effects so they could be controlled with exquisite timing was impressive!  (We couldn't help but wonder how long it takes the crew to reset everything for the next performance.)

There were a lot of references to actor's nightmares (e.g., an actor redelivering a line, causing everyone else to repeat a scene) and tech's nightmares (a stagelight sparking as its support falls), but a whole play based almost entirely on stringing them together was a lot funnier to the people coming up with the idea than it was to at least these two members of their audience.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

"Wig school" was so much fun!

DePaul University's Theater dept. offers a week-long wig styling & maintenance class, which I attended at the end of June.  There were only 7 of us, plus 2 students who worked in the university wig shop and were assisting the instructors.

I was a little intimidated to learn that I was the only amateur in the class.  Everyone else was a theater professional, most of them in some aspect of costuming (cutter, draper, wardrobe) who wanted or needed to learn about wigs because they sometimes got tapped for "wig duty" for one show or another.  Two of us had also taken the wig-making class taught the week before.  I might consider taking it in some future year, but for now this was plenty.

They showed us SO MUCH!  The size curls you get from different rollers, ways to color a wig (temporarily or permanently), how to wash a wig, how to wear and clean the lace on lace-front wigs, how to do your own wefts, how to do fingerwaves, and so much more.  Most of our time, however, was spent on styling wigs - setting the styles, drying them, brushing them out, then styling them.  I wasn't terribly successful - only got 2 right on my first try - but I took a lot of notes on what I didn't like and how to fix it, which is probably more helpful.

It was very productive, in that sense - we each styled at least 5 wigs in just 5 days' time:  an 18th-century man's wig, a modern man's wig, and at least 3 add'l styles (1940s, 1640s, and pre-Raphaelite for me).  I took so many pictures that I actually maxed out the data usage on my phone, for the first time since I got it 3 years ago.

Now I want to re-do some of the wigs I styled for my spring shows - the 1920s curls would look better, the 1780s "hedgehog" wigs would be bigger, bushier, and generally better.  As for the Duke's buckles, well, my first lesson was to use yak hair instead of the slippery, silky, static-y stuff on the wig I was trying to work with.  (Those side curls were the bane of my existence - I had to reset them for every performance!)

Gimme a period show to style, somebody, please!  I'm itching to use all my newfound knowledge! 😁

Another lovely birthday bash

Several years ago we learned that my former pastor and the Chief both have July birthdays, so we started having joint birthday parties.  Sometimes it was just the 3 of us, sometimes more; sometimes we grilled, or cooked in, and last year we experimented with having an Italian place cater it.  (Not bad, but not as good as we'd hoped.)  This year the Chief decided he wanted to host a group for lunch at the Italian place.

Today 10 of us assembled at noon and filled up a round table, so we could all face each other.  The restaurant serves groups of 8+ family style.  This meant that we chose a salad, an appetizer, 2 pasta dishes, 2 meat dishes, and 2 desserts for the table to share.  They brought out 2 plates of each item, with the salad & appetizer coming out together, and starting around the table.  We quickly found that passing the dishes around, and "who wants the last stuffed mushroom?" or "anyone want more lasagna?" only added to the fun.

Not only were we celebrating the 2 birthdays, but 2 of our number were newlyweds, adding to the fun.  M, who's a talented photographer, got pictures of everyone on her phone, including the plate of pretty little cookies w/ lit tapers anchored in a strawberry, presented to each of the birthday boys.

The service was leisurely, which was just fine - we had a group that didn't get to gather nearly often enough, and the new groom was new to most of us, so we had time to get past introductions.

What a wonderful way to pass nearly 3 hours on a perfect summer afternoon - the day was not too hot, the humidity was (finally) low, and there was a nice breeze.  The Chief is already talking about what he wants to do next year - go back to this restaurant, find a different one, or do something here at the house?

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Practicing theatrical owies

The director for this show wants 3 of the characters to look a bit the worse for wear when they make their entrance at the end of Act II (they've been in prison).  To practice that makeup, I gave myself a black eye last night.  Not as realistic as it could be, but not bad for a first effort.
Tools of the trade

You should see the other guy! 😁

Saturday, June 01, 2019

What a semester it's been!

It's been a very busy semester musically.  The MT workshop did 2 cabarets and performed at the university's annual "open house" (every department pulls out the stops to entertain and advertise to family, friends, neighbors, and more).  The concert choir sang a world premiere with one orchestra the week before spring break (good thing my boot was "concert black"), then sang with a 2nd orchestra at the end of the semester, including a performance at CARNEGIE HALL!!!

I learned a lot, sang a lot, and generally had a good time.  Good thing I only took those 2 classes or it would have been a lot more stressful.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

More crocuses!

Maybe because the winter has been SO wet, my crocuses seem to have generated more new ones than usual this spring.  I even have some yellow "volunteers" in the tomato bed, several yards from where I've had any even last year.  Looks like I'll be doing some separating come fall. 

While I'm at it, I may plant some snowdrops too, so I'll have flowers that much sooner.

New "shoes"

I have new "shoes" as of last week

I've been dealing w/ plantar's fasciitis since at least December, but a coupla weeks ago it was getting worse.  (Dancing a cachucha barefoot in Gondoliers' Act II probably didn't help.)  My GP sent me to a podiatrist, who told me that, in addition to the plantar's fasciitis, I have 3 inflamed metatarsals.  Who knew bones could become inflamed?!?  Anyway, left untreated, the periostitis could become a stress fracture!  He sent me home in the boot on the left. and told me to get the night splint on the right in the pic.  I have to wear the night splint to bed, to keep my foot flexed and stretch the plantar's fascia.  Yes,  it's as uncomfortable as it looks.  I've been wearing it since Friday night, but only last night did I finally get the straps adjusted so they're tight enough to keep the thing on but not so tight they dig into my foot.  Next goal - sleeping through the night.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

MT workshop has only met twice and I'm already learning a lot

The Musical Theater Workshop I'm taking this semester meets once a week for a 3-hour class period.  We've only met twice so far, but already I'm getting a new perspective on auditioning and performing an audition piece, and about how I need to rethink both.

I've sung in choirs and choruses on and off, but mostly on, since grade school.  That's a LOT of singing, but no instruction on technique.  It wasn't until I was fairly well established in my career, and had done community theater with a lot of excellent singers, that I decided I both wanted and could afford to take voice lessons.  Over the ensuing coupla decades, most of those lessons have been remedial work - unlearning all the bad habits I developed because a choir director doesn't have time to correct singers' vocal production techniques.  Only recently have I gotten to be a singer, not just someone who likes singing.

This class has already shown me that I've spent so much time working and concentrating on my technique that I focus on that when I sing, whether in performance or audition.  They don't care about my technique (unless it's awful, of course); they want to hear me put my heart & soul into what I'm singing, bring it to life.  A pretty voice is all well & good, but directors want to cast someone who inhabits the music.  Now that I realize that, I need to work on trusting my technique to take care of itself while I learn how to really deliver a song.

Cancer, the serial killer, is at it again

Not only is the Chief undergoing treatment for cancer, but a friend's MIL has a stage-4 diagnosis, and another friend at church was recently diagnosed and will soon start chemo.  One of her daughters, also a church friend, lost her husband to cancer just a few years ago, so she's having a particularly difficult time of it.

Last week, a couple we know who for the past decade or more have done fund-raiser bike rides for cancer research came to the show I was teching.  (She's a cancer survivor.)  I shared about how VERY many people the Chief & I know who have had cancer, and how many we've lost to it.  "Kill it with fire!  Bury it with a mouthful of garlic and several stakes through its heart!"

This is the first January in 3 or 4 years when we haven't attended a funeral.  When I start to think of all the people I've known who've dealt with cancer, I keep thinking of more - there are SO MANY.  😢

Wow, it's been a while!

Let's see, what's been keeping me busy?

  1. overlapping shows since October
  2. the news that the Chief's cancer is back
  3. dealing with all his pre-treatment tests and assessments
  4. a relatively last-minute decision to host another Christmas open house, once we knew the Chief's medical schedule
  5. a quick trip to visit my family over the weekend between Christmas and New Year's
  6. a show that loaded in the first weekend in January
  7. rehearsal and design work for my late-February show
  8. TONS of pre-class homework for my musical theater workshop
Yep, been busy lately.