Monday, August 25, 2008

Mixed Tapes

We've been in rehearsals now for two weeks and it's a big show; a lot to think about. People are coming on and off the stage, moving boxes, drawing chalk, mopping up... it's incredible. At the end of the week, I have one day left to clean my house and hang out with my kids. It's not a great deal of time but we make the most of it...or at least try to.

Last night, my daughter wanted to make a mixed CD (like we did in the 80's only with tapes). One of the songs she requested was Get Back. I immediately thought she meant The Beatles song but instead she wanted some Disney thing. Trying to influence her, I found a YouTube video of the The Beatles playing on top of Apple Records and played it for her and my son. Both of them loved it.

We ended up having a great night playing YouTube videos for each other. My daughter played the music she likes and we countered with what we used to listen to. Luckily, my husband knows a lot about music so when my daughter likes an artist, he can show her a musical influence from our generation. Here are some examples:

I played The Supremes because they are my all-time favorites but they didn't get into them--perhaps when they are older. They did, however, like David Bowie, another big favorite of mine. Someone once commented to me that David Bowie is the Frank Sinatra of our generation. He may be right. Anyway, I'm excited that my daughter's CD will be truly mixed with artists from all different eras.

This allows me to digress a bit. Years ago, before children, if one can remember that time, I went to a Bowie/Nine Inch Nails Concert with Brian. It was a great concert--Bowie and Trent Raznor were amazing on stage together. A few weeks later, Brian and I were chatting about this concert with some guy as we watched Cal Ripken break Lou Gerhig's record at a friend's house. This young guy, obviously a Nine Inch Nails fan, asked us, "Cool, so Bowie opened for Nine Inch Nails?"

Shocked, we chastised the poor soul by responding, "David Bowie doesn't open for anyone."

Some generations get it and some don't.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Goodnight Kiss

The rehearsal period for Candide has been very difficult for me because I have to leave my children in the morning and I don't often return home until after their bedtime. Even though their babysitter is wonderful, I can't get the picture out of my head of the two of them laying on the floor crying because I have left them. They don't do this of course; they spend the day playing tennis, building forts and making up rock bands.

My husband thinks it's great that I'm working again, because I do tend to be over-involved in their lives. I am glad they have a chance to figure out life without me but why do they have to grow up?

Tonight, though, when I came home, both the kids were awake. They were very sleepy but I was able to give them a hug, ask about their day, and give them a kiss goodnight. It's just enough to keep me sane and to prevent me from laying on the rehearsal floor crying because I have to leave them.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Theater as High School

Several years ago I went to the Lake Placid Film Festival and saw a short film entitled Dodgeball. No, not the Ben Stiller Dodgeball. In this short film, the characters worked in an office and each character was a caricature of a high school type--the jocks, the pretty girls, the nerds, the pot heads, you name it. Every afternoon, the manager had the office workers play dodgeball against each other; the ultimate in humiliation (except for the jocks of course). Anyway, the friend I attended the festival with, laughed hysterically at the film, commenting that it was just like her office. I didn't see it as quite that funny. I would never have thought that theater productions could be compared to high school cliques...until today.

Another rehearsal for Candide and we spent most of the time on music and dance. While the actors learned the music, the stage managers had very little to do. Oh, we made lists, but even that has it's limits. So we chatted with Jackie Goldfinger, the dramaturg--what's a dramaturg you say? Well, that's another post, altogether--who mentioned that you could, actually, make connections between production personnel and the different high school personalities. So for what it's worth, here's how we made the comparisons:
  • The Actors are the cool crowd
  • The Crew members are the pot heads (I didn't say it)
  • The Dramaturg is the nerd (her words because she's always looking things up)
  • The Production People (Production Manager, Costume Shop Manager, Props Master, Technical Director) are those "ivy leaguers." You know, the kids who seem to be able to do everything and easily float between the different cliques. The ones who have it made.
  • The director is, of course, that great teacher that everyone wants to impress.

As for Stage Managers, well, we're the Assistant Principal. Remember that guy? He was always enforcing the rules and yelling at you for breaking them:

You're late! No smoking at school! Aren't you supposed to be in class now?
Except we say:
You're late! No smoking in costume! Aren't you supposed to be on stage now?

So I'm wondering how we'd all do in dodgeball?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Getting to Know You

Candide - Day One! We started with a meet and greet of all the Arden staff. With 20 cast members, plus music directors, choreographer, dramaturg, assistant director, understudies, and the Arden staff, the room was full. Even after the staff left, I had trouble recognizing who was in the cast and who was on the artistic team.

Paperwork flew next as the cast finished up contracts and the costume department took measurements. After a presentation of the set and costumes, we finally got down to business. It's always a day of massive activity and answering questions. Getting those out of the way, the music director took the reins and began teaching some of the more difficult songs of the score. The little rehearsal room could barely contain the symphony of voices and we saw a glimpse of the final product as each voice found its own in the music.

The dramaturg, Jackie Goldfinger, did a brief history of the book and the show. The cast began asking questions that will continue to be explored over the next few weeks. I could see the seeds of ideas beginning to germinate in the actors' heads.

By the end of the day, my assistant, Alec Ferrell and I had between us, learned everyone's name. Not bad for a first day.

Monday, August 11, 2008

And, We're Off!

I spent the weekend in Saratoga Springs, NY, for a day at the races with my sisters. We were celebrating my sister's and sister-in-law's birthdays. They've hit the bit 50!

We had a great time (can you tell from our smiles?). We arrived early in the hopes of snagging a picnic table but we couldn't find any even though my sister-in-law, Liz (middle back) was the third person in the gate. Turns out, people go to breakfast at the track at some ridiculously early hour in the morning and "save" tables then.

But as you can see we found a great spot under a tree. I won $14 in the first race (on a 2 dollar bet) but did not have much luck after that. One of the cashiers finally told us the way to bet is to put 2 dollars on 3 horses in an "exacta box" on each race. This means that you are betting that 2 of the 3 horses will come in first and second in the race. Apparently, this pays the best if you do this for every race. Unfortunately, we didn't learn about it until our last race. But we'll know next time!

Win or lose, we had fun chatting, drinking wine, and pretending we understood the racing book. We had a lovely dinner in downtown Saratoga Springs at the Caroline Street Bistro after a glass of wine at the Wine Bar. A perfect day with perfect weather.

It also had the added benefit of keeping my mind off of rehearsals which start tomorrow. Even though I've done everything I can think of to prep for rehearsals, I would have spent the entire weekend fretting. Did all the actors get the message? Did I make enough copies of the contact sheet? Are the pencils sharp enough? Don't laugh, I need my sharp pencils. My husband Brian cannot understand why I go through pencil sharpeners so quickly.

But the pencils are sharpened and the actors know the schedule and the weekend is over. It'll be nice to finally put faces to the names on the contact sheet. As nervous as I am about the "bigness" of the show, I'm excited to see it get off the ground.

And we're off!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Last Night for Cocktails

Thursday nights are cocktail nights for Brian and I. We wait until the kids have gone to bed and then he makes martinis - well a martini for him, a cosmo for me. He makes the best cosmos with a squeeze of lemon instead of lime. Watch out though--they are strong! We either sit around and chat or watch our latest Netflix DVD (usually The Wire or Entourage). Lots of people, I've found out, like a cocktail or a glass of wine on Thursday nights. It's like we're part of one big cocktail party.

Last night's cocktail night though, was our last for a while. The rehearsal room has been prepped--I taped the stage (with help) and it looks pretty good, if a bit bright (they like neon colored spike tape at the Arden)--actors have been called, props have been gathered; it's time for rehearsals. So we've made the most of our last cocktail night.

After a great dinner of grilled vegetables and edamame salad (from Mark Bittman's The Minimalist) we had wine from our new favorite store, Moore Brothers. The wine store, located in New Jersey, specializes in wines from artisanal wineries around the world. The product is shipped from the wineries at 56 degrees and the store is kept at 56 degrees (bring a fleece) so the wines are fresh and delicious. If you like wines, check it out.

We skipped cocktails since we had the wine and sat on the porch, it was a beautiful night, discussing everything from managing people to the Presidential campaign. Our conversations run the gamut on cocktail night. Sometimes, we even figure out whatever has been bugging us that week. It's better than marriage counseling which we tried once. We failed at the counseling though (I'll explain in another post) probably because we didn't need it. Anyway, our best therapy is cocktail night and we get to drink.

Of course, I'm not going to see Brian for the next two months so I doubt we'll have any issues.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Prep Week

Prep week has begun for me. This is the week before rehearsals start when the Stage Manager gets the rehearsal room ready and makes sure that the actors know where to go on the first day. Another Stage Manager has blogged about this in a bit more detail.

It usually starts with a production meeting, at least it does at the Arden. The meeting consists of the production manager, the props master, the technical directors, the master electrician, and the costume shop supervisor. They hold these meetings weekly and during a production and I try to go to as many as possible. Sure, we have e mail and phones but to sit in a room with all that brain power gives me a sense of comfort. Any question or problem is taken seriously and everyone works together to solve it. I never feel, as I have in other theaters, that I'm out there in the wind by myself trying to figure things out.

Of course, the other part of prep week, the taping of the stage and the notifying the actors, that's all up to me. Taping the stage means well, it means laying the groundplan for the set on the floor of the rehearsal room with tape. This allows the actors to understand where the limits of the set are during rehearsals. Obviously, I can't put the stairs in but I can outline them so they know where they are. Not that it helps, inevitably on the first day on stage we hear:

"The stairs are there? I didn't know that?"
"What do you mean there's a wall there?"
"Are you sure that's a door?"
What can you do?

Anyway, I've spent years avoiding taping the stage due to the nature of the productions I worked on. So taping the stage has becomes this huge deal that I fret about for about a week. It started a couple of weeks ago when the Production Manager, Courtney Riggar, e mailed me the groundplans for Candide. Brian, my husband, took one look at them and said, "It's in the round? You are so screwed?"

He was messing with me because he thinks its funny I make such a big deal out of taping the floor. Of course measuring off the centerline and converting a 1/4" scale into feet is like second nature to him. I was a French major, the last math I did was in high school!

Last night, while my kids swam at the neighbors I sat there discussing how to tape an octagon. Kenny, the owner of the pool gave me specific directions but I had worked myself into a frenzy and couldn't comprehend it. I mean, it's an octagon, right? How hard can it be?

Well, we'll see today. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Lazy, Cheap, and Green

Stanley Fish of the New York Times, published what I thought was a rather funny column about eco-living. His main gist was that "going green" was too much work for him and he'd rather not do it. Judging from the comments, not everyone thought it was funny. The comments are worth the read; they range from denouncing global warming as a hoax to those condemning him for not wanting to lessen his carbon footprint.

As far as my carbon footprint goes, we live as green as we can. But to look at myself honestly, I'd have to say that most of the "green living" stems from the fact that I am lazy and cheap--I'm not kidding. It started 15 years ago when Giant offered 3 cents for each bag I brought to the grocery store. Well, 3 cents is 3 cents.

I started using vinegar and baking soda to clean my house when my daughter stopped taking her naps. I didn't want her around the chemicals and I didn't want to wait until bed-time to clean. Mom's off-duty after 8 pm. Vinegar and baking soda are easy to find in the grocery store and much cheaper than the eco-friendly products. I use the vinegar straight because, yup, too lazy to mix it with anything. And no, I don't bother mixing up special solutions to polish my furniture with because most of it is from the salvation army (although that is beginning to change a bit). Brian used to call our style "early 1970's garage sale."

And we don't have a lot of stuff because clutter = cleaning; knick-knacks = dusting. I tend to purge items as soon as I feel we are done using them, which is often before other people feel we are done using them. But we're learning to make do with less.

And as far as clothes are concerned, thrift stores are the way to go. When I go into a store like Target or Old Navy all I see is row after row of the same shirt in different colors. At least at a thrift store I can pretend I am buying something unique. And, if I spill red wine on a shirt from a thrift store, it doesn't matter as much.

Yeah, I've almost broken my arm congratulating myself on my green (by accident) living.

Until this past weekend when Brian put up a clothesline. It's a great idea in theory--save money by using nature to dry clothes. But it requires more time and planning than just throwing clothes in the dryer. The line only holds one load of clothes at a time and it's tedious and boring to hang up the laundry and then take it back down and fold it. It doesn't jive with the lazy side of my personality. I am trying to embrace it but I tell ya Mr. Fish, I know what you mean.

Date Night

My husband, Brian, and I went out last Friday night. It was my last weekend before going into rehearsals and we figured we needed to have a date before not seeing each other for a couple of months. We hemmed and hawed about what to do. On Thursday night, a friend from upstate New York was in town and we stayed up too late having beers and catching up. So we knew we didn't want to stay out too late, just long enough for the kids to go to bed.

We decided to keep it light and visited Chestnut Hill. The neighborhood is only ten minutes from where we live and yet we've never really explored it. It turned out to be an excellent choice. We wandered up and down Germantown Avenue, stopping in a few restaurants for drinks and appetizers. Big, fancy dinners do not work well for us; we prefer lighter dishes. Luckily, that is the new trend. Exploring an area this way also gives us a chance to check out different places. I think our favorite place on Friday was Roller's at Flying Fish. The roasted beet, grapefruit, endive salad is delicisoso!

We wandered into a few places that only accepted cash. Our bank was down that night so we'll have to try those another day. It used to piss me off that establishments would not take credit cards. Now, I think it's great. Many small places with funky decor and unique menus prefer to keep the money they earn rather then send it off to a large corporation. I'm for that! I've noticed far more of these "cash only" places in Philadelphia.

Back in upstate New York, date night usually meant dinner and a movie and don't get me wrong, I love the movies. But now, with all the choices that Philly has to offer, we've had some great date nights. I love taking the train into the city and meeting Brian after work to pop off to some new establishment for cocktails and appetizers. With all the different neighborhoods and events, it's not difficult to find things to do; one of our favorites was the Art Museum for Jazz after 5.

But another Date Night will have to wait until Candide closes. Brian, I'll see you in October!

How do you Date Night?