Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Happy!

I really meant to blog this week but I've been having too much fun baking, attending 5th Grade concerts, shopping for that last minute thing, and learning about the states--my son has flash cards and is into quizzing me: did you know the nickname for Montana is The Treasure State?

Oh, the things you can learn when it's cold outside!

So a happy holidays to everyone! It's been an especially wonderful year for me: having hooked onto Theme Thursday, I've encountered some of the most amazing, interesting, and informative blogs ever.

Peace and Love in 2010!
(huge fan of that exclamation point)

Can't leave without my favorite version of my favorite holiday song. I'll see you on the flip side!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Isn't She Pretty in.....

My daughter, Clara, returned some clothes she received for her birthday and bought new ones. Since it was her present, I just let her pick out whatever she wanted. Here's her outfit:



For those slightly less than young - did the outfit remind you of anything? Maybe this next photo will help:





Well, let me share with you what popped into my head when I saw her...actually, this video will do it better:



Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Theme Thursday: History

The University of Vermont where I went to school was not known (and still isn't known) as a theater school but hey, I'm working in my field so I can't complain. Theater majors had to take several History of Theater classes with Dr. Bryan (or Dr. B. as we called him). He was a tough professor who expected a lot from his students. He assigned a paper in all his classes but he would not tell us how long the paper should be: "Cover the subject," He would say. Students regularly turned in papers that were 50-100 pages in length. I only took one class from him (because I minored in theater) and wrote a paper on Women in Theater in the Middle Ages. There weren't many women in theater in the Middle Ages so my paper was only 7 pages long (got an A though!) Anyway, in honor of Dr. B. who passed away years ago but is someone I will always remember, I give you:

Tasty Tidbits from Theater History

La Comedie-Francaise, (known as the House of Moliere) was actually established 7 years after the death of Moliere by Louis XIV. His decree merged the two theater companies in Paris at that time: Hotel Guenegaud and Hotel de Bourgogne.

In 1673, Moliere died shortly after the 4th performance of his final play, Le malade imaginaire in which he played Argan. The chair he used during the performances is on display in the lobby of La Comedie-Francaise.

From 500 A.D. to 800 A.D., theater was all but extinct in the Roman Empires because Christians were opposed to it. Ironically, in 900 A.D. the Catholic Church began adding dramatic performances to its Easter services. Theater was re-born by the very institution that shut it down.

The earliest extant drama (complete with stage directions) dates from about circa 925 is Quem Quaeritis, a 4 line dramatization of the resurrection:
Whom seek ye in the sepulchre, O Christians?
Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified O Angel
He is not here. He is arisen. As He foretold
Go, announce that He is arisen from the grave.
It is considered bad luck to whistle in a theater. Before walkie-talkies or headsets, flying cues (to fly scenery in or out sight) were signaled in a performance by whistling. Whistling in a theater therefore, could cause a cue to be set in motion too early and lead to all sorts of disasters.

There are 2 hypothesis for the "curse of MacBeth." No one in theater actually uses the name of Shakespeare's play, calling it instead "The Scottish Play." In the 1600s, many believed the witches incantations in the play were real and therefore the cause for many coincidental catastrophes. The other theory states that failing theaters often produced "The Scottish Play" in order to boost revenue from the box office. The play then became associated with failing theaters.

The position of Director in theater is a relatively new phenomenon, first appearing in the late 1800s. The position rose to prominence in the early 1900s with the appearance of several strong personalities such as Stanislavsky. Prior to the 1900s, plays were coordinated by the writer or an actor-manager.

The position of Stage Manager (well, you knew that was coming) descends directly from the Actor-Manager of pre-1900s theater. The actor-manager would be responsible for finances and coordinating all aspects of a production. With the rise of visionary directors and the use of increasingly elaborate sets in the 1900s, a separate position was needed to coordinate the non-artistic aspects of the production.

And, to close, this isn't theater history but it's interesting to think about. I heard this at a seminar once and I'm paraphrasing:

Theater started when someone stood up around a campfire and told a
story. Drama started with words. The first movies were silent.
Film started with images.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ramblin' Reviews

I'm throwing my hat into the ring my own version of movie reviews. I tend to ramble so instead of summarizing the film, I've linked to the IMDB summary of the film for those interested.

Films for me come in a couple of categories:

Wednesday: Watch with care, pay attention
Friday: Relax, enjoy, have a beer or a martini

About a month ago I watched Army of Shadows (L'armee des ombres) the 1969 film by Jean-Pierre Melville that describes the daily life of those in the resistance during World War 2. At first, I thought I'd fall asleep during the movie since I was soooo tired from doing my show and the film is in French. But I was wrong; I was hooked from the beginning. The funny thing is that the film is not action-packed at all. Instead it looks at the mundane yet psychologically difficult toil of being in the resistance. It's very different from, say, Defiance, a great film but much more Hollywoodized. Where Defiance has action, love, and enemies, Army of Shadows has worried protagonists struggling with carrying out their orders.
Definitely a Wednesday movie and highly recommended if you like that sort of thing.

Last Friday, Brian and I watched Traitor with Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce. This film so wanted to be a Wednesday night, pay attention to me movie but it's much more of a Friday night have a beer film. Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce do well with the roles they are given but they aren't given much. The camera spends way too much time on people walking down a hall or driving. I don't understand the purpose of these "non-scenes." I usually get bored by this and open another a beer. Traitor reminded me of The Departed at one point but The Departed was so much better. Actually, if you liked The Departed, watch Infernal Affairs, a movie by Wai-keung lau which was the film Martin Scorsese riffed off of when he made The Departed. Infernal Affairs is much tighter and in my opinion much better. Of course, I watched the film a week before seeing The Departed so I'm not sure if that had anything to do with it.
So: See Traitor w/a beer or 2, even a martini. You don't want to pay too much attention but it's entertaining.
See The Departed - it's long--you could totally have a beer or 2 and enjoy it.
Definitely see Infernal Affairs, it's not necessarily a Wednesday movie but it could be. It's just good with or without the beer.

I did see The Men Who Star at Goats in the theater a couple of weeks ago. I had meant to go out for drinks with a friend but she cancelled and my kids begged me to go out so they could have a sitter (Brian was away on business), I'm not sure what that says about my parenting skills... I say this all because while The Men Who Stare at Goats isn't the greatest film ever made, it's enjoyable as an escape. The actors: Kevin Spacey, George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, and Jeff Bridges don't work too hard at acting but they do seem to be enjoying themselves.
So: Friday night, have a beer or a martini, don't think to much, just enjoy.

I did watch The Happening (M. Night Shayalaman) with Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschannel, and John Leguizamo, a couple of days ago. Run, do not walk in the opposite direction if someone suggests this film. It was so poorly done and poorly acted and just plain poor. The only bright spot for me was that one of my actors from The Seafarer was an extra in the film and I recognized him. And that was the only part of the movie that I liked. 3 martinis cannot help this film.

Monday, December 14, 2009

'Tis The Season!

I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone how busy it can get this time of year. This past weekend we had my daughter's birthday party while also trying to finish painting our kitchen and putting up new shelves. Brian's been working a lot as well as brewing some more beer; he put a keg in our downstairs fridge so he could keg the beer instead of putting it into bottles. (I hope to have pictures of our "updating" soon) Plus, we have the usual Christmas shopping, cleaning, and baking going on. And, need I mention that it's Oscar season?

I've been around to read everyone's blogs except that I haven't been commenting due to time constraints but I swear I've read them all!

In lieu of an awe-inspiring post, I'm going to share two "holiday" videos.

The first is pretty liberal:



The second is just good fun:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Theme Thursday: Snow

I grew up in Vermont where winters lasted 6 months out of the year, mud season lasted 4 months and summer came and went on a Tuesday.

But oh, what a Tuesday it was!

We'd wait all year to attend the Champlain Valley Fair in late August. I'd go with my friends on bracelet day when we could go on the rides all day for one price. In-between rides, we'd treat ourselves to a:



SNO-CONE


The sugary syrup would drip down our arms in colors not found in nature. The first bite into the icy coolness would cause a brain freeze as the sweltering sun (ok, this was Vermont, sweltering is relative compared to the winters) caused drops of sweat to bead on our necks.

And then Wednesday came and we had to return to school.
Happy TT Everyone!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Burgers and Other Scary Things

Do you have things that you avoid doing? I don't mean raking, I mean tasks or jobs that you don't do because you can't or you don't think you can because the learning curve seems to steep.

It's like that with me and the grill. I don't grill, in fact I'm a bit afraid of grilling because I think I might burn the house down or serve undercooked meat.

Now, you have to understand that I was a vegetarian for 13+ years so there are a lot of meat-related things that I haven't done. I roasted my first whole chicken just a few months ago. It turned out pretty good by the way, but it was pretty nerve-racking.

Okay, so I don't like to grill but I do enjoy a good burger, and so do my kids. I had ground beef in the freezer so I decided to de-frost it for dinner on Saturday. Saturdays were always burger night when I was growing up. I can still see my dad standing over the charcoal grill, rain or shine, making the burgers. You see, I'm the youngest of 7 and all my siblings are picky eaters. My mother made life easier for herself by having a meal for every day of the week--Sundays were roast beef, Mondays were leftovers, etc.--and Saturdays were burgers and potato chips. I still have a weakness for potato chips. Once she made pea soup and nobody liked it so we were all (all 7 of us) sent to bed without supper. After that it was burgers, roast beef, spaghetti, etc.

Anyway, the ground beef had not defrosted by dinner time on Saturday which worked out in my favor because Brian had to work late and couldn't grill for us. I skated on that one and figured we'd have burgers on Monday when he'd be home.

I should have known that I would have to cook the burgers myself. Earlier today, I was listening to NPR and someone said, "You should figure out what scares you and face it and do it." They were talking about in-laws but still it stayed with me. I have no idea what in-laws and doing something scary have in common but there you are.

Right after that, Brian called to say he would be home late. I knew it! But I chickened out (no pun intended) and cooked the burgers on the stove which is not in any way, shape, or form anything like grilled burgers.

It was an entirely dispiriting evening.

I blame Brian of course. Or NPR, I can't decide.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Boys

I've been talking non-stop about The History Boys since I started the project. It's now passed, a sand castle washed away by the water, but the memories stay with me. So, for those interested here are some pics plus a video montage (just like in the Oscars!) of the show so you get to see the super cool set among other things. I would love to say I'll never bring it up again but that's impossible!

C'mon, pretty good looking cast you have to admit!














Friday, December 4, 2009

To-Don't List

Here's what I should have done today:
  1. Raked the leaves on the lawn
Here's what I did today:
  1. Perused the newspaper and read all the movie reviews (it is Oscar season after all)
  2. Decided to run out to the store to pick up a present for the birthday party my son is going to. Ended up buying candles and a new napkin holder because really, the napkins shouldn't have to live in the perfectly functional basket they are in right now! Oh no, they need the stainless steel Europa model I ended up buying. Oh yeah, and I totally forgot the birthday present.
  3. Went running. I really, really wanted to run 12 miles but stopped after 10. My MP3 player gave out after 9 miles so I had to run in near silence, the only noise (besides the traffic) was the sound of my knees complaining. And you know, those knees are really loud.
  4. Had to stretch and shower after the run.
  5. Read a few blogs.
  6. Polished a candlestick for the candle I bought.
  7. Decided to blog about not raking instead of raking.

And now, it's much too late to start raking now. I mean it's going to be dark soon (well, in a couple of hours) and the kids will be home. I wouldn't want to be considered a neglectful mother by not meeting them at the bus stop. I don't know how the hours slip away from me. The person who said you can have it all--you know the perfect napkin holder and a raked lawn--probably had a lawn boy.

What's a girl to do?

Have a good weekend everyone!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Theme Thursday: Friend

There is nothing like a visit from an old friend. Last night, a college buddy of Brian's spent the night because he had been Philly that day on business. It was great watching the two of them fall right back into their easy going banter.

That happened to me this summer when I was up in Vermont visiting my mother. I told my friend, Mo, that I would be in Burlington but I probably wouldn't get a chance to see her. She lives 3 hours away in Brattleboro. So Mo got in her car with her daughter and they came up to spend the afternoon and have dinner. Although we don't talk a lot during our regular lives, I never ran our of things to say or talk with her about. Our daughters got along as well which really made me smile.

Another good college friend, Traci, flew up from LA to see me in San Francisco when I was there for my birthday last year. What a wonderful thing for her to do! We spent the day touring wineries in Napa valley with Brian and some other friends of ours who flew out to help me celebrate my birthday as well. Now, these other friends are buddies of Brian's from college so it was rather a mixed up college reunion you might say. As a result, Traci, my college friend is dating Steve, Brian's college friend which I find rather cool.

And lastly, I have this terrific friend Joe whom I met my junior year of high school. We met at a summer drama camp at Yale university and discovered we both lived in Vermont. Both of us ended up at the University of Vermont and we were almost inseparable our freshman year. He had to take a French class and I wrote his papers for him. Now, he comes down from New York City to see all my shows that stage manage and he even makes mixed CDs for me and my daughter.

When I went to college my mother said, "These are the friends you will have for the rest of your life." And, truer words were never spoken. Mo, Joe, and Traci have put up with me for over 20 years and the affection I feel for them cannot be put into words. So here's a video which I think says it all. For those of you who don't know, I LOVE The Supremes and in college, Mo, Traci and I would dress up and lip synch to The Supremes at theater events.




Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Few Thoughts on A Christmas Carol

I've been reading A Christmas Carol with my son this year. He is fascinated with the story. A few years ago, I worked on a small production of a stage adaptation of the book at Capital Repertory Theatre. The story was re-told by 2 actors using puppets made out of found objects as the characters. It was done for schools so it was pared down to 45 minutes. For the most part the production worked because the adaptation relied heavily on Dickens' own words.

Working on the production, I loved listening to Dickens' day after day. When an author writes so well, it is a joy to listen to the music of the words and to discover nuances and imagery with each new hearing. It's like playing a favorite song over and over again. That first line: "Marley was dead to begin with" can be said so many different ways - try it, emphasizing different words or parts of the sentence. My kids and I had fun reading and re-reading that line. Or how about this description of Scrooge:

Oh! but he was tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing,
wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!

So brilliant and the music of the words!

The New York Times today has an interactive article about A Christmas Carol. They have scanned in 4 of Dickens' original handwritten pages from the story. Readers are asked to decipher the changes that Dickens' made and comment on which change the reader believes to be the best or most interesting and why.

I jumped quickly to the comments section to see what readers had observed. There were a few comments that took me aback. Several people feel the story is very cynical because everyone (excepting his nephew) wants Scrooge to give them money. They feel that Scrooge should be able to "keep Christmas in his own way." To each his own, but I'm always amazed when people have a different opinion of something than I do. How can that be I wonder?

It reminds me of the time my mother and I were having a political discussion about George W. Bush. She insisted that no one in America could possibly like or respect him. I had to remind her that the country voted for him twice (okay once, he was appointed the first time). Funny, I know but you have to remember that she lives in Vermont which is its own secluded world of liberalism.

Anyway, I don't agree that it's a cynical work; how can it be with that rich, melodic language? I'm interested to see what readers come up with after perusing the text. In the meantime, do you have a favorite holiday tale? Or perhaps a literary work whose language just sings for you?

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Long and Winding Post

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, we drove a lot. Three days of driving to visit 2 families, eat 2 Thanksgiving dinner and return home. And every drive took longer than expected due to traffic and accidents. Once, we saw a car on fire. That was amazing; it looked like it was burning from the back end. No one seemed hurt though. The rescue vehicles had not arrived but the people on the scene were not frantic, they were just trying to direct traffic around the burning car.

All this driving left lots of time for thinking. 'Thinking and driving, it's worse than drinking and driving.' That's from Burn This by Lanford Wilson. Or, I think it is. It can't be the actual quote, though, because you have to think when you drive. I think the quote is actually, "Thinking and drinking is worse than drinking and driving." That makes much more sense doesn't it? Although, I think drinking and driving is worse that drinking and thinking because you can't hurt someone just drinking and thinking. Or, maybe you can.

I love that play, Burn This. It was originally written as a vehicle for John Malkovich who stared in the premier at Circle Rep. I saw it years later in 2003, at Signature Theatre with Edward Norton. Such a good production - a 4 person cast and everyone was great. Well, Catherine Keener wasn't my favorite but I'm not sure if it was because Lanford Wilson didn't write the character well or that it was Ms. Keener's first time on stage.

Edward Norton was fabulous of course but then I think Edward Norton is good in everything. He's in my top 5 of celebrities who I'm allowed to date if he knocks on my door. Have you heard of this? You can have a list of up to 5 celebrities, who, if they knock your door, your significant other has to allow you to go out with that person. I know, silly juvenile stuff. But it's fun. David Bowie is also in my top 5, but you probably knew that.

Not that I'd actually say anything if Edward Norton knocked on my door; in fact I'd probably faint. Even if I met him casually, I'm sure I'd just stand there looking dumb. I'd love to be one of those people who can meet a celebrity and say something memorable but that's just not me. If I met Edward Norton, I'd stand there dumbstruck, turn beet red, and rush for the bathroom.

I know this because I did meet a celebrity once: David Sedaris, the humorist and author. I just love his books. He was appearing at a venue about an hour from my house so at the last minute I decided to go. I brought one of his books with me because the last time I had seen him he did a book signing after the gig. My plan was to have him sign my book and I'd mention something funny he had said that night during the reading and strike up a conversation.

In my mind, I'd say something really witty and he'd laugh and we'd get to talking. Maybe we'd even be friends. He might invite me to France to meet Hugh, his partner. Hey, I had an hour's drive to work on this fantasy.

But when I got to the venue, he was signing books BEFORE the event. What??? Not to be detered, I got in line. He talked a lot with the person in front of me but I figured I'd come up with something really, really witty to say. So when I held my book out to him, guess what I said?

"Can you make it out to Kate?"

Yeah, I know, not so much with the witty.

He politely asked if I was with anyone that night and I said, "No." So he wrote, "To Kate, my lonely friend." And I, wishing to say something, anything funny, said, "But I'm not lonely."

It was about that time that I started looking for the bathroom.

He held the book out firmly with eyes that said, "It's time to leave." Crushed, I took the book, and made my way to my seat. I started listening to the reading around the second story. It took me that long to convince myself that everyone in the audience wasn't staring at me and silently snickering. Actually, the stories were really good and before long I found myself laughing along with everyone else.

On the way home, though, I did some thinking and driving. I was glad that I went to the reading alone--despite Mr. Sedaris' comment--because I did not need anyone to witness my flailing in the face of fame.

And, I have to admit, it doesn't bother me that Edward Norton has no idea where I live.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I Am Grateful

Last year, on the day before Thanksgiving, I ran 6 miles for the first time in my life. To commemorate that experience, I ran 6 miles again today. As I ran, I realized how grateful I am for:
  • Being able to run at 10 am or whenever during the day, except when I'm working..
  • I work in theater - how cool is that!
  • My kids are cool. I'm serious. I find them fascinating and adorable and so damn cool. I wish I was cool when I was that young. And their friends are cool.
  • My friends are fabulous! I don't know how they put up with me. I ramble on and on sometimes, and they know just when to comment. Plus, I've reconnected or stayed connected with so many so thanks Facebook!
  • The blogging community I've gotten to know over the past year. How fantabulous are they? I could spend all day reading their blogs and comments and never writing another post in my entire life.
  • My life: I get to run, spend time with my kids, work in theater, hang with my friends, and read fantastic blogs. I am seriously grateful.
Of course that last line really says it all but I like to ramble on and on and on and to be honest, I owe this beautiful life to Brian, my husband. So, I am most thankful to him.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Running Rocky's Roads

The Philadelphia Marathon begins and ends at Eakins Oval which is situated right in front of the Rocky steps or as we in Philly like to call them, the steps to the Art Museum. A statue of Rocky was placed at the top of the steps for one of his movies--3 I think it was--and it caused a lot of controversy over the meaning of art; was the statue art or a movie prop? Rocky now resides at the bottom and to the right of the steps. Tourists can take their picture with Italian Stallion before or after running up and down the steps.

It was a beautiful day on Sunday as we lined up in our corrals for the race. Brian and I were near the back because as I've said before, I run slow. We ran down to Old City, across Penn's Landing, over to South Philly (Rocky Territory), up through University City, by the Zoo (and a killer hill I might add), and finally looping back to the Oval.

It was a great race. I have run in Philly before when I'm working on a show and it's a bit difficult to stop and negotiate traffic and pedestrians. But Sunday was great because all the roads were blocked off and the sidewalks were full of well-wishers. Our names were on our bibs so people could yell out to us as we passed. That was extremely helpful coming down along the river during the last mile: as I turned to run up into Eakins Oval, I heard a man say, "That's it Kate, that's the way to go." And it spurred me on to run in at full speed (okay, full speed after 13 miles) across the finish line.

I so enjoyed my run even though, two days later, I'm still sore; I've never run so far or so fast before but I was encouraged by the other runners, the volunteers and the on-lookers. On Sunday, I really felt that Philly is the city of brotherly love and "sisterly affection" as the Mayor added.

After the race, we returned home and our neighbors all came over to cook us brunch and make us coffee and bloody marys. Brunch turned into early afternoon appetizers and wine as people stopped by to chat with us on the porch and the kids played in the field. They discovered that someone had tossed lots of bottles and cans into the stream so they spent a good hour picking up the litter. I was duly impressed at their civic mindedness. Such a spectacular day, what a way to kick off the holiday season!

Oh, what was my time? I ran it in 2 hours, 11 minutes and 59 seconds. I almost made the 10 minute/mile pace...maybe next year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Late: Theme Thursday

When I was a little girl, six or so, my oldest brother, Matt would call me Kate Late. No one else did and no one has since. I've never been one to collect nicknames. It was his name for me.

I'd call him, Matt Fat (in my head I would spell it with 2 "t's" so it was just like Matt: Matt Fatt.) He'd say, "Kate Late." and I'd answer, "Matt Fatt."

There was neither rhyme nor reason to these nicknames. My brother, a runner for over 30 years, is not and has never been fat.

And I, well, I'm never late. Ever.

Okay, yes, I'm late every once in a while but it's rare and it usually is because of outside forces...traffic, plague, tornadoes, etc.

It might be the Stage Manager in me as I spend most of my time at work worrying about time: When is the next break? How long is the break? When does rehearsal start? How close are we to show time? How long does the show run? How far into intermission are we?

Late for me is planning to arrive at work 45 minutes before rehearsal begins in order to complete 20 minutes of work; but then arriving 40 minutes before rehearsal, ending up in a conversation, and having only 25 minutes to complete my 20 minutes of work. Yep, I'm that anal.

And, part of my job is to call people who are late. I'm all about time. Just give me a stopwatch and a clipboard and watch me go.

Brian and I used to pretend that we were late people because there seemed such a prestige associated with that trait. "Oh we are so busy we can't possibly arrive on time, our lives are so full." But truly, we are the most on-time couple I know. We've been known to go out for a drink before a dinner or a party in order not to show up exactly on time.

I might as well confess it here: I'm intolerant of late people. Perhaps that makes me an anti-late-tite but there it is. While I used to believe that late people led such full, exciting lives, now I just think, "why isn't my time important to you?"

Of course, I understand sick kids or traffic or End of Days. But just to be late...and without calling...in this day and age. Not for me. And, it's the perpetually late people that annoy me. Not the ones who say, "Hey, we're always late so start without us." That's nice. It's the ones who are always late but believe that the event--whether it's dinner or whatever--should not begin without their presence.

On the other hand, maybe their lives are just really that exciting and I'm jealous. And I should be more tolerant because I manage time well--I have to, it's my job and it's why I'm good at it. Many people do overbook themselves because time management isn't one of their strongest characteristics. Another thing I'm good at is being lazy which also makes me good with time because I never overbook myself. Someone once told me that laziness often leads to efficiency, I'm not sure how but I'm going with that one.

Well, break's over and I'm back to the real world, so I'll just leave you with this video in honor of time:


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stepping Out Over The Line

It's been almost a year to the day that I started running seriously. For years, I ran 2-3 miles at a time to supplement my other workout regime, either weights or yoga. Last year, I bought a new pair of running sneakers and started tacking on the miles; I'm running (or at least planning to run) 13.1 miles this coming Sunday in the Philly half-marathon.

As I look back over this past year, I realize how much running has influenced my life. I used to worry so much about accomplishing "stuff" during the day. When I stage manage a show, I work A LOT but when I'm not doing a show, my days are my own for the most part. Oh, I have to get the kids to school and dinner on the table but the in-between is up to me.

So I'd worry that I wasn't busy enough. Everyone else talked about their hectic lives and I'd think, "What is wrong with me?"

Running has changed that perspective for me. Slowing plodding along, one step at a time, trying to get closer to the goal: life isn't a sprint to the end (at least for me), it's one step at a time. So now I worry less about how much I've accomplished and I worry much more about what I want to accomplish: I run, I volunteer, I bake and sometimes I clean and I'm doing just fine.

I don't compare myself to others either. I've run a few races in the past year never worrying about how anyone else was doing. I'm running for me; to see how I can do. And, I'll admit it, I'm rather proud of my quiet little life when I'm not doing a show. I have time for my kids, time for fun, time for...running.

Part of this new attitude I owe to the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It's a wonderful book, really well written, and I highly recommend to anyone who likes a good read (even the non-runners). He really expresses the joy and simplicity of running and why people love to run. He also de-bunks a lot of running myths such as: running hurts, people shouldn't run, you need certain gear to be a good runner. Running should be low-stress and so should life. I hope we all find that something that helps us in our everyday life. It doesn't have to be running, that's just what worked for me.

I'm still a slow runner (and I think I've gotten slower as I've upped the miles) but I run and I bake and I love it. So in honor of the book and the hobby that has given me a new lease on life, here's a video of someone who has clearly found something he loves to do; lucky for the rest of us, he's pretty good at it.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Magnificently Unprepared

There is a quote from The History Boys that I often think about. Truth be told, there are many quotes from The History Boys that I think about, I do so like that play.

Anyway, there's a line that goes:

Magnificently unprepared for the long littleness of life.

It comes from a short poem by Frances Darwin Cornford (a granddaughter of Charles Darwin), about Rupert Brooke, one of the most preeminent English war poets of World War One. The entire poem reads:

A young Apollo, golden-haired,
Stands dreaming on the verge of strife,
Magnificently unprepared
for the long littleness of life.

There is something so freeing in those last two lines. No one ever tells a young person,"Yeah, you'll have some great times but sometimes you'll be bored or overworked or overworked and bored and won't be able to see the end." Or, have you ever heard a commencement speaker say,"You'll do great things graduates, take the road less traveled, etc. And, oh yeah, there will be bills to pay and diapers to change, and just when you think you're on top of the world, your spouse is going to call and wonder why you didn't pick up milk."

Now, I know that sounds just awful but it's true. Life isn't one long, glorious climb to the top. In reality, there are bills to pay and work to do and milk to buy. And for some reason, having someone put that sentiment into a work of art just makes it seem easier to handle. As if it's okay to acknowledge the monotony; or even that there is company in the boredom.

I guess I can sum it up best with yet another quote from The History Boys:
The best moments in reading (and I would add art/theater to this) are when
you come across something -- a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at
things -- which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it
is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who
is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hanging on the Telephone: Theme Thursday

Random Fun Facts about All Things Telephonic:

Alexander Graham Bell patented his telephone invention in 1876, just hours before Elisha Grey patented his device to transmit speech electronically.

Yes, indeed, the first words spoken over the telephone were by Mr. Bell and they were: "Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you."

The first telephone at the White House was installed in 1877, under President Hayes. The telephone number: 1.

Operator, well, could you help me place this call?
See, the number on the matchbook is old and faded

In 1888, a coin operated telephone was patented by William Gray.

In 1892, long distance service opened between New York and Chicago.

The first song about the telephone was "Hello My Baby" in 1899.

Ev'ry single morning you will hear me yell
Hey central, fix me up along the line
He connects me with my honey and I ring the bell

"Hello Frisco, Hello New York", was written in 1915, to commemorate the first phone call between....you guessed it: San Francisco and New York City.

One of the earliest fake numbers used in movies was: 555-2106, used in Panic in the Year Zero, 1962.

867-5309/Jenny was released in 1981, and created the fad of calling that number and asking for....Do I really need to tell you? Jenny.

Jenny, I got your number, I need to make you mine

In 1958, Wichita Falls, Texas was the first American city to institute true number calling: 7 digits without letters or names.

In 1935, the first automatic answering machine was invented by Willy Muller. The 3 feet tall machine was popular with Orthodox Jews forbidden from answering the phone on the Sabbath.

The first cell phone call was made on April 3, 1973, by Martin Cooper.

Operator, can you help me please
Give me the area code and the number that I need
Bells Are Ringing began life as a Broadway musical in 1956. The story revolved around Ella who works at an answering service.

The Guinness Book of World Records lists the first whisper in the current record holding Telephone Game as "They inherited the earth and then the army came and scorched it."

Early touch-tone phones had only 10 buttons. The * and # buttons were added circa 1968, for advanced functions.

Tick, tick, tock it's a quarter to 2
And I'm done, I'm hanging up on you

Saturday, November 7, 2009

No Other Words

A couple of weeks ago I visited The Barnes Foundation. For those who don't know about it, the Foundation is a school and museum located on the grounds of Dr. Albert C. Barnes' home in Merion, PA (a suburb of Philadelphia). Dr. Barnes devoted himself to collecting art after making a fortune by co-developing the drug Argyrol. In establishing the foundation, Dr. Barnes envisioned it as a school rather than a museum and gave detailed instructions for it's operation after his death. Dr. Barnes arranged the layout of the paintings and African art objects himself in order to show students the visual and aesthetic traditions he felt were present in all art forms.

While Dr. Barnes' will stipulates that the paintings stay exactly where they are, the Foundation ran into financial trouble in the 1990's and petitioned the court to allow it to move the museum into Philadelphia to increase public access. The court ruled in favor of the Foundation and it is set to re-locate Dr. Barnes' collection in late 2011. The ruling has, of course, caused a great deal of controversy as many people feel that Dr. Barnes' wishes should be respected.

I wanted to see the collection as originally intended by Dr. Barnes so I played hooky from my real life and spent a couple of hours at the museum. Usually when I go to a museum, I look for the explanation about the painting that is hung nearby. I like to know what I'm looking at and why it's important, etc. I especially like the Philadelphia Museum of Art because during special exhibitions there, they will give you the audio headset free of charge.

No so with the Barnes. As I went from room to room, none of the paintings had descriptions near them. In each room, there were laminated cards that told you the name of the painting, the artist, and the date (if known), and that was it. There were no such descriptions for the African art objects intermingled in each room. So I had to look at each painting for myself and decide what I wanted to see and what I thought was important.
It was a fascinating afternoon. I scrutinized facial expressions and body language. I discovered similarities between painters. I enjoyed works by my favorite artists that I had not seen before. All this without reading a word of instruction about "what to look for."

At the end of the day I was reminded of a line in The History Boys. Irwin, a teacher, is reciting a line of poetry and then he says, "In other words..." A student jumps in with (and I'm paraphrasing here):
No sir, can I stop you? With a poem or any work of art you can't say in
other words. That's why it's a work of art in the first place, there are no
other words. You can't look at a Rembrandt and say in other words can you?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Idiots

On Fridays, Baino posts the latest Friday Fuckwit. This week's is especially hilarious. I'm borrowing the idea from her for this post. While my story doesn't quite make it all the way up to Fuckwit, I do need vent to vent about the stupidity of some people.

On Wednesday, I went out for a run. I'm training for Philly's half-marathon so I decided to try 12 miles again. I had done it once before but needed to know I could still run that long. People will say that you don't have to run the entire length of the race before running the race, but I don't believe them. In the middle of the Broad Street Run--which was 10 miles--I was trying to figure out how to quit. I only finished because I had nowhere else to go.

So I'm out on Wednesday, and 1 1/2 hours into my run (oh yeah, I run slow, 10 minute miles, veeerrrrry slooooooow), and a woman pulls her car over to me with the window rolled down leaning out to ask me a question.

While I'm running.

I have running shorts on, sneakers, a baseball cap, a water bottle strapped to my ass, and HEADPHONES! And, by the way, I'm running. Do I look like I want to stop and chat?

We were in Glenside, in the middle of the day. There are TONS of places to stop to ask for directions, why do you have to stop someone in the middle of her run? I kept running because I never would have finished the 12 miles if I had stopped.

Turns out, she's not the only idiot. My husband, Brian, was out running in Philadelphia when a tourist asked him where he could find the Rocky steps (never mind they are the Art Museum steps). Brian, being soooo much nicer than I, told him. This tourist proceeded to regale Brian with how far he had walked that day and that 3 more blocks probably wouldn't kill him.

Does this guy really believe that Brian (who's running) gives a rat's ass about his physical activity for the day?

I know we should be compassionate human beings but do I really have to be nice to someone who doesn't pick up his context clues?

Running Gear+Headphones+Running=Not interested in chatting at the moment

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Theme Thursday: Castle

When Robert Altman garnered an honorary Oscar at the 2005 Academy Awards, he compared movie making to building a sand castle:

"I've always said that making a film is like making a sand castle at a beach. You invite your friends, and you get them down there, and you build this beautiful structure, several of you. Then you sit back and watch the tide come in. Have a drink, watch the tide come in, and the ocean just takes it away. And that sand castle remains in your mind."

When I first heard this, I thought, yeah, but with a movie, you at least have the film - that doesn't go away. I've always thought this metaphor was better suited to a play where it actually does go away -- the set, the props, the costumes, the actors.

But as I re-visit this idea I realize that he is talking about the actual building of the sand castle. A film is just a photograph of the sand castle, it does not convey the joy or the camaraderie or even the agony of making the perfect sand castle.

So many memories are like this: they are built with friends and then washed away by the tide only to remain in your mind.

And this idea of memories really struck me the other day when I saw another picture of a castle. I was in New York City with my kids for an audition for my daughter (she didn't get it). We were walking by a slew of posters when I noticed one of them was for The Unforgettable Fire, the re-mastered version by U2. Immediately, I was in high school in 1984, having just returned from France where I had heard U2 for the first time. U2 was just starting to get popular in the states with this album and I'm in the lunch room discussing the band with friends, thinking I know more about U2 having heard them in France.

That sand castle is long gone but it's still vivid to me. So in honor of The Unforgettable Fire and all the memories U2 has given me, here's a link to their performance at LiveAid (remember that sand castle?):

Here's to your sand castles!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Theme Thursday: Halloween

I'm so excited about this week's theme. My daughter wrote a Halloween poem for school which I love. (Of course I love it, in fact, I can't believe the Pulitzer committee hasn't called yet) I've been meaning to share it on the blog and here's the perfect opportunity.

So without further ado:


What You Don't Know About Halloween
By Clara

Witches come and witches go,
The pale white ghosts begin to glow.
The scared children begin to shake,
Goblins gather at every gate.

The monster's evil, the light is poor,
Vampires enter at every door.
Darkness looms within the air,
Not an hour it can spare.

Jack-o-lanterns begin to eye,
Everything wih no surprise.
Then dawn breaks and begins to pry,
Open the darkness, and blue comes alive.

And every ghost just fades away.
And every ghoul rests their play.
As a bright blue guard begins to build,
And all the children, no longer chilled.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Traffic, A Theme Thursday Ramble

With (slight) apologies to Dodgers Fans.

Traffic is:
Another drink celebrating opening night because it's going to be a mess out there anyway.

Traffic is:
Wet, sleeting rain that barrels down from they sky and delays game 5.

Traffic is:
Relief at not having to be in Center City when Brad Lidge throws that last strike out.

Traffic is:
Pajama-clad faithful wandering dazed through the blocked off street of my sleepy hamlet.

Did we just win?

Traffic is:
Daddy stuck and missing trick-or-treating as the city tries to cope with the millions of fans attending the parade.

But he does make it home in time to test out the Butterfingers.

Traffic is:
Another beer after a different show because it's going to be a mess out there.

Haven't we done this before?

Traffic is:
Actors insisting on walking to Broad Street to join in the city's joy.

It all seems so familiar.

Traffic is:
Circuitous routes around the city, knowing what streets to avoid.

Traffic is:
All right with me because.....

WE'RE GONNA DO IT AGAIN!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Filming Books

This weekend the film Where the Wild Things Are opened to good reviews and tons of news stories. It is arguably one of the most popular children's books. But I'm not sure if I want to see the movie. I'm interested in Spike Jonses' take on the book since he is such an unusual director but I have issues with taking a short, poignant story and turning it into an 90 minute movie. In order to flesh out the book, the filmmakers would need to add stuff--backstories of characters that describe their motivations. Do I really want to know all that stuff? Or, do I want my monsters to be what I make of them?

When I graduated from High School, a pastor gave a speech about Where the Wild Things Are. He told us that just as Max had looked into the monsters' yellow eyes, we too needed to face the problems we'll encounter along the way. I've always remembered his advice (even if I've not always followed it) and I think it's because the book itself is so timeless--the monsters have no names or motivations; they are what we make them. And, the theme of the "wild child" is universal. Sometimes we all have to make mischief of one kind and another.

But once we name the monsters and give them voices and opinions and problems of their own, the story becomes of a time. It is cemented in the psyche of today. And, honestly, if Mr. Sendak had wanted his monsters to have backstories, don't you think he would have written them?

Of course, and I realize that this may sound hypocritical, I love it when a children's book is adapted into a play. Perhaps because a stage is limited and therefore much still needs to be left to the imagination. Or, maybe because many adaptations of children's books are down either with the author's assistance or at least his or her approval. When the Kennedy Center adapted Judith Viorst's Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, she worked on the book along with a composer who wrote the songs.

I don't have an answer because I may just end up seeing Where the Wild Things Are if only because the reviews are so good. But I can't help thinking, why ruin a perfectly good book when there are so many original stories out there to tell. I took my kids to see Up and we all loved it. Make a movie like that.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is another favorite book they have turned into a film. I am definitely not going to see it. They have massacred it! My opinion is based solely on the previews so I might be, you know, wrong, but I doubt it.

Well, there's my rant with no conclusion. I guess I really just have questions: have you seen Where the Wild Things Are? Did you like it? Or are you going to skip it?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Games People Play

I've been having way too much fun. Seriously. The cast of The History Boys are a blast to hang out with. We have an entire week of fun and games!

On Saturdays, we have Dollar Day. Each cast or crew member writes his or her name on a dollar bill. All the dollar bills go into a pot. At intermission, we draw one dollar bill out of the pot and the person whose name is on the bill gets the entire pot. I won last week, almost $20.

On Wednesdays, we go to Sugar Mom's, a bar just around the corner from the Arden, which has 50 cent perogies and $1.50 PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) tall boys. Of course, I'm too old to drink crap beer and I have to drive so if I'm only going drink one or two beers, it's going to be good beer. Of course, $1.50 PBRs works well for young, unsophisticated taste buds.

On Thursdays, we have wine night. Everyone or most cast members brings in a bottle of wine and we open them in the green room after the show. Sometimes someone will bring cheese or cookies or whatever. We all just love hanging out with each other and it's cozy and we chat and discuss wine and whatever else.

I'm going to be soooooo bored when this show is over.

Anyway, out and about this past week, I learned about a new way to play 20 questions. I love those trivia question games that can be played anywhere a group of people are together. Here's the new version I learned, plus another game that I like to play. I'm hoping some people out there in the "sphere" will contribute their favorite game. I'm always looking for new forms of entertainment!

Reverse 20 Questions: One person thinks of a celebrity and gives only the first letter of the last name. In order for other people to ask a question about the celebrity, they must first stump the person with the celebrity with another celebrity whose last name begins with the same letter.
Here's an example: I choose David Bowie so I say my person's last name begins with B. Matt then asks me: Was your person involved in the baseball steroid scandal?
If I know who is talking about, I'd say: No I'm not Barry Bonds. And if I don't know then Matt can ask me a yes or no question about my person: Is it a man? Is he a singer? etc. Then the next person tries to stump me with another celebrity whose last name begins with B. 1980's TV stars work really well here. It keeps going until someone guesses David Bowie.

M_O_V_I_E_S Game: This is for the movie lover. I name a film. The next person has to name an actor in the film. The next person has to name a different movie that actor was in. The next names a different actor in that film. So I say Risky Business. Matt says: Tom Cruise. Jane says: Days of Thunder. Carol says: Nicole Kidman.

If someone can't name a movie or actor, he or she gets an "M." It keeps going until someone gets all the letters of MOVIES and thus is out. It's like HORSE in that way. There are no repeats allowed in a round.

Okay, your turn, what games do you people play?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Men (and Women) in Black

I have to sing the praises of the running crew for The History Boys. Actually, I'd like to sing the praises of most of my running crews. Often, these people are overlooked when thanks and appreciations are going around.

I don't think anyone means to omit the crew but it happens. Perhaps, it's because of the conceit that if you wear black backstage, you won't be seen. Who knows?

But, after a long weekend of shows, I realized how much easier a show is when the crew is competent and pleasant--a key trait when we're doing 5 shows in a weekend. Crew members can become like an ersatz family especially after spending 70-80 hours with them during tech. We become each other's sounding boards and drinking buddies--a post show beer is a great way to let off steam.

They can also make my job much easier. I no longer have to worry about setting up backstage, I can just ask my ASM (Eric Snell in this case) if props are set and if he says, "yes," I know they are set. I can also call on them to go above and beyond. Larry Fowler is the sound board operator and I've worked with him on several shows. During The Seafarer, I had to rehearse an understudy so he jumped in and helped set up backstage so I could continue to rehearse.

Oh, and by the way, neither Eric nor Larry complain much about what they have to do. They are like walking Nike commercials; they just do it.

A previous Assistant Stage Manager of mine, Alec Farrell is now Stage Managing at the Arden. But he still jumps in and helps me out whenever I need it. An actor was late for the show one night and he took my car to try to find him. It's that spirit of "What can I do to help things run smoother," that makes a production so pleasant to work on.

Unfortunately, the crew is not often recognized as much as they should be. Although, Maureen Torsney-Weir, the only actress in The History Boys, made a point of complimenting the entire crew when we were in the green room. She said that all of us worked so well together and that we all made the backstage a nice place to be.

I was so excited that she mentioned all of crew when she did that. So I'm joining Ms. Torsney-Weir and raising my pint to the crew! Cheers guys!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Haiku for Friday

Ran six miles then
Wine night with the cast and crew
Friday: Not so much

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Collection of Thoughts on Collections

At first, I wasn't going to do a Collections post because like Baino, I don't collect anything. I'm the anti-collector; my favorite thing to do is to throw things out.

Children must instinctively know what drives their parents to insanity and then practice it to excess. My kids collect everything from toy cars to empty candy wrappers. And I'm not allowed to throw anything out. Of course, I do throw things out. And then all hell breaks loose.

I did have a small collection of pens from around the United States. When I worked at the Kennedy Center in DC, I was in charge of a children's tour. They would tour the country and send me pens from wherever they were. I didn't start the collection, the tours would just send them to me.

Eventually, they broke and we moved and I got to practice my favorite pastime and throw them out.
Then Megan's post inspired me because she talked about Church collections. I never collected money for Church but I have collected it for Theater. When I worked at the Saratoga Shakespeare Company, we performed outdoors in a park. After the performance the actors would wander through the audience collecting donations. At the end of the night, I counted all the money.

Finally, Kimy's post reminded me of a museum near me in Dolyestown, PA. The Mercer Museum was built to house Henry Mercer's collection of pre-industrial age Americana. What's amazing to me is that he knew, somehow, that life was changing and that if he didn't collect these instruments, furniture, boats, etc., they would be gone forever. It's a great museum, overflowing with items and a great place to take kids. The picture at the right is only a small representation of it. Lucky for us, he was the total opposite of me in terms of collecting.

So, thanks to all who inspired me to contribute. I think that's the best part of Theme Thursday: reading the collection of various thoughts, ideas, and stories on a single subject.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Here's Looking at You!

Some of The History Boys (I like to call them my boys but not to their face) compiled a video blog post for The Arden Theatre blog.

Anyway, I have trouble on my computer viewing videos embedded in blogs. I have to follow a link or look it up on YouTube. For some reason the embedded videos do not show up. So I'm going to post the link to the Arden blog in the hopes that your computer doesn't have the issues that mine does. If it does, perhaps we could start a support group.

The video post was made on opening day for The History Boys after a looooong tech process. The reason for the disclamer is that they did interview me and it did end up on the blog post. So now, you can see what I look like (I'm not actually a stick figure with a permanent headset and martini). I usually do not like having my picture taken or anything of that sort (one of the many reasons I like stage managing) but the boys convinced me that I don't look that bad. Just remember it was after a loooong tech process.

Also, it'll give you a glance backstage at the Arden and a look at some of my boys. Here's the link:
http://www.ardentheatre.org/blog/

For those gluttons out there, here is a link to some video of the last show that I worked on, The Seafarer. One of the actors, Brian Russell who played Richard, is back at the Arden working on Rabbit Hole which opens in late October in the upstairs theater. He's one of my favorite actors. And since I did write a bit about Seafarer, I thought it might be fun to show some of it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zosv49lwFJE

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The History Boys in Bizarro Universe

You know how in comic books super heroes enter a bizarro universe where there is a parallel Superman or Spiderman. I actually don't read comic books so I'm not sure what really happens in Bizarro World.

But we here, backstage at the Arden dub the understudy run, the Bizarro Run. The Arden has a policy of understudying all the parts for all the productions. The understudies attend our rehearsals when they can but also rehearse with the Assistant Director. After we open the show, the understudies perform the play on the actual set using the actual props, lighting, sound, etc. The artistic department at the Arden then watches the run to ensure that the understudies know the part well enough to go on in a pinch.
These understudies are culled, for the most part, from the non-professional actors in the city. Every once in a while a professional actor in the production will understudy another role in the same production. In The History Boys, the actor playing Crowther (Peterson Townsend) is also understudying Irwin (if you know the play).

It is such a blast watching the exact same production with different actors. The understudies are supposed to imitate (for lack of a better word) the performance of the actual actor but one can't bringing a bit of him or herself to the role. I'm actually in the middle of the understudy run right now as I write this. Some of these actors are so good; it's a joy to watch them. I do feel a bit bad for Peterson though; he's not only performing the role of Irwin but because one actor is understudying two of the boys, he also has to do all the transitions as well. He's doing a great job though. Tonight, however, he has to come back and perform the role of Crowther.
So do the rest of us on the crew of course. It's always fun though, to visit bizarro world.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I'm Back!

Finally, a few minutes to jot down a post. It's my day off and the kids are at school. Instead of rushing around trying to get everything done, I'm picking one or two things to do and then relaxing - haven't had too much of that lately. I'm not good at being busy; I am fabulous, however, at doing nothing.

We finally opened The History Boys last Wednesday. Tech was difficult for this show because it's so big. We have 22 transitions that all have music set to them. For the week prior to opening, we rehearsed all day and then ran the show at night. It's not a short show so it made for a very long day. Here's the Assistant Director's take on tech, as told in haiku.

The day after opening, my daughter filmed a television commercial; her first one. She's been interested in acting and modeling so we signed up with an agency. I'm not sure how far she'll go with it. Anyway, the agency had called me a week earlier to say that this commercial was a possibility. They e mailed me the information but sent it to the wrong e mail address so I never got it. The agency never bothered to call me to see if I received it. So the morning after opening, I received an irate phone call from the production company asking where my daughter was. I had gone back to bed because I was up late the night before celebrating opening. I threw some clothes on, took my daughter out of school and drove off to spend the day at the commercial shoot. My daughter loved it. I was just glad that I hadn't had too much to drink the night before. Being tired is one thing. Being tired and hungover just sucks!

Needless to say I gave the agency a piece of my mind. I also spoke with the production company after and they assured me they blamed the agency as well. It was just one more thing to deal with.

On Friday, I took the train into Philly to protest the Arts Tax. Can you believe the state government wanted impose a tax on all performing arts and cultural institutions in order to balance the budget? Not chewing tobacco or cigars but the performing arts! Seriously, what did the performing arts ever do to the government? Cigars ruin your health so let's tax something that actually enriches your life. A bunch of theaters organized a protest and I felt I had to go. I really wanted to stay home and veg but what if everyone did that? I've heard that it is almost guaranteed not to pass the state senate which is good news.

Then, over the weekend we had 5 shows (1 on Friday and 2 each on Saturday and Sunday). I am wiped. Tonight is the Barrymore Awards which is the local Award ceremony for Philadelphia Theaters. I had thought about going but I'm glad I'm not. It'll be nice to see my family for once. After reading Brian Miller's post about couples splitting because they are leading separate lives, I'm doubly glad I'm not going.

Tomorrow, is the understudy approval run for The History Boys. The understudies perform the play on the set with lights and video and props. It allows the Arden to make sure that the understudies are capable enough to go on if an actor calls out. It's always fun to see the same play performed by different actors. Of course, at the moment I'm just feeling that it's one more thing I have to do.

There's a great line in the play: History, it's just one fucking thing after another. Sometimes, my life feels like that.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pop History

So blogging has gone to the bottom of the list for me lately. In my precious spare time, I've had a choice between blogging and napping; I've chosen napping. It's all good, I'm sure I'll get back in the swing after the show opens.

At least, I hope so. The show currently runs 3 hours. The good news: it does not feel like 3 hours at all; it's so engaging. The bad news: It runs 3 hours.

This past week, we added some sound in for the transitions between scenes. The director, Terry Nolen (who incidentally is also the Artistic Director for The Arden), loves using the cast as scene changers. I have to agree, it makes everything run so smoothly and offers the audience continuity by allowing them to see the same people on the stage all the time. There is also the chance to work the scene change into the action of the show as well.

Anyway, our sound designer (who will also be providing some video for the show) is Jorge Cousineau. This guy is so bloody awesome! I can't think of a better way to describe him. The assistant Production Manager calls him "a mad genius." That fits as well.

He grew up in East Germany and came of age in the 1980's, around the time The History Boys takes place. He told us how he would rig antennae and recording devices up in order to get the radio stations coming out of West Germany and the rest of Europe. He'd record them on a tape player (old school) and then he and his friends would share what they had. He said that sometimes he'd have to stand "just so" in order to get the station he wanted.

So you can see why he became a sound designer. He also composes music; there's no end to his genius.

Well, the actors in our play are quite young since they have to play teenage boys. They didn't come of age in the 1980's. So Jorge made them all a CD of 1980's music so they could listen to what English lads were listening to at that time. I, of course as stage manager, had to have a copy and I love it! I actually recognize some of the songs which made me happy because the songs on the CD are all what teens listened to in Europe.

Jorge and I had a quick conversation about music of the 80's. I said I listened to: David Bowie (Let's Dance anyone?), Talking Heads (Stop Making Sense), U2 (I did hear them first in France on a school trip in 1984), and, hmmm, well, I can't think of the rest. Jorge just said, "Yup, American music."

As I write this, I'm listening to the CD and loving the trip down memory lane and learning about the music I missed on this side of the pond. What did you listen to in the 80's?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Let's Here it for the Boys!

We've been in rehearsals for two weeks now for The History Boys. I can't wait for school to start tomorrow! Once those kids get on the bus, I'll have an hour to myself before rehearsals. It's hard to be "on" all the time.

Although, I have to say, it's been easier with this show than with most. A few weeks ago, I blogged about some of my worries going into rehearsal. My biggest fear: would I get along with the cast?

And the answer is a resounding YES! This cast is amazing! I love them all! The boys, and yeah they are 21-30, but still they are boys, are so polite and nice and funny. And not to leave anyone out, there are 3 older actors (older than 30) in the show, and they are just as great. Take tonight for example, we did a run thru of Act One, and I took line notes (I jotted down when an actor missed a line or changed a word). When I approached each actor to let them know his mistake, each one said, "Oh great I'm so glad you took notes." Many times, an actor gets annoyed with me for doing this. Yeah, you messed up the line and it's my fault?

And, everyone is so into the play, really in it. There are--so far--17 transitions in the show during which the boys come on stage and re-configure the desks and tables into different rooms such as the classroom, the staff room, etc. And these boys learned these transitions so quickly and remember them. Of course, it could be their youth and the fact they don't have children on which blow all their brain cells. But still it's impressive.

Can you tell I'm really excited to work with this cast? So in honor of the boys, here's a link to, of course, Let's Hear it for the Boy

I cannot figure out how to embed a video into my blog. Also, I'm going to get around to everyone's blog this week, just as soon as those kids get on that bus!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Learning Curve

It was last November when I started running, really running. By that I mean running more than 2 1/2 to 3 miles at a time. I chalk it up to the great Fall weather and the yoga I was doing at the time (which has since fallen by the wayside for the moment).

I ran 4 1/2 miles one day, then 6 miles another day; I thought I'd just keep going. And I did for a while...then summer hit and the heat and my kids were home and I had trouble finding the time or the energy.

Very discouraging.
I am one of those people who believes things have to turn out perfectly or its a complete and utter failure and why did I think I could do it in the first place? I know, what am I? 12?

But I read a running book--well, part of a running book because it was really poorly written and I had trouble getting through it. An expert on running does not an expert on writing make--that said that every run should be a learning run, even bad runs.

There's my Oprah AHA moment!

Now, I'm getting it, and I'm learning that:

  • I need sleep. More so than I need to run. I'm not one of those people whose eyes pop open at 6 am eager to run. My eyes never pop open for any reason and 6 am, well, that's too bloody early.
  • I need to drink more water, lots more water. I ran 5 miles one morning. Did not drink much water that day then went out that night. Couldn't run for two days. Water, who knew it was that important?
  • I can't start out running too fast. On some days, I feel so good I run faster at the start and then poop out at mile 2. Slow and steady wins with miles.
  • Heat sucks. Can't really sugar-coat that one.
I've also decided not to do the marathon this fall but to do the half-marathon. The History Boys is a long play, almost 3 hours (those boys have a lot to say about history) which means long nights at the theater and less sleep. I figure that I'll stick with 13 miles for now, learn a lot about my running habits, styles, etc. and then kick ass next year.

See, you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Life Clips

Sporadic blogging for me these days with rehearsals, etc. But in the paper this morning, I read a list of, most of the movies coming out this Fall along with a one sentence description. I guess they really like Twittering in the New York Times.

I love the fall movie schedule (because many are Oscar contenders) but after reading so many short descriptions, they all seem to blend into one another, and I end reading some weird descriptions (especially before coffee):

  • A waitress traces the world's dependence on oil in this animated family classic

  • A teen pursues his dream girl, the only US Marshall in Antarctica, who is racing to catch a killer who lives vicariously through robots.
Not sure I want to see either of those flicks. But it got me thinking, how much more fun would today be (or any day) if I just planned it out like a one-line movie promo. You know, I'll just pitch my day to myself and see what happens:

Kate wakes up early to go for a run and spends the rest of the day trying to recover her lost sleep.

or

On her one day off, a Stage Manager has 24 hours to make her house livable for her family for another week.

Sounds so much more exciting than what I'm actually going to do.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

On This Date in History Boys

The History Boys rehearsals have officially started and we're off and running. And, by running, I mean running. The play is so dense, it's chock-full of references to poets, historical events, movies, songs, etc. that I wonder how these actors are going to make sense of it all.

The play takes place in a "sixth-form classroom in a boys' school in the eighties in the north of England..." So, first we had to learn about the general education system in England and what the heck a "sixth form classroom" is. A sixth form class, by the way, is where students study for their entrance exams into universities. The play itself deals with the idea of learning for learning's sake and learning in order to gain entrance into a prestigious university like Cambridge or Oxford.

But in addition to understanding the education system in England and the poetical references scattered throughout the play, the boys (and they are boys, most of them are in their early to mid-twenties) have to learn the dialect, a smattering of french, movie references, and a few songs. This is all before we get up on our feet to learn blocking and lines.

Just for fun, here's a list of some of the literary references in the play:
Today, is a typical rehearsal day: some actors are working privately with the dialect coach, others are meeting with the dramaturg to go over specific questions about what their character says, knows, etc., still others are practicing music, and then some are watching the movie scenes that their characters re-create on stage.

That's been a lot of fun, watching these guys re-enact the hokiest scenes from Brief Encounter, The Seventh Veil, and Now, Voyager.

But I love this type of play with things happening every minute and in several different spaces. Call me a total scheduling geek but I get a kick out of figuring out where and when and how everything is going to fit together. And, I love being in the thick of it all.

So, I guess I could say, on this date in History Boys, the circus came to town.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Glorious Inglourious

At first blush, I did not like Reservoir Dogs; it was the violence. But then, after chatting and chatting about it with people, I took another look and I've been a Quentin Tarantino fan ever since.

Oh, he's not for everyone and I totally understand that. There are many filmmakers that I don't like. I was never a Mel Gibson fan; didn't care for Braveheart. Of course, I feel totally vindicated about that now.

Last night, I saw Inglourious Basterds and loved it! I had that same feeling I have after every Tarantino movie: uh, um, wow, did I like it? Seriously, there is so much to digest that I'm a little dumbfounded.

Leaving the theater, I overheard another patron say, "Tarantino is back." And, I guess that's when it hit me, oh yeah, he is.

The script definitely does not sparkle like Pulp Fiction. But whereas Pulp Fiction was about the script, this movie is about, well, movies. He crams so many visual references into this film, you almost don't care what the characters are saying. In one scene, I saw references to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Godfather, Titanic and Lord knows what else.

Sure, the villain is a Nazi but I don't think he's referencing WWII Nazis, I think he's referencing cinema Nazis; that's what he's riffing on. He's not saying anything about World War II, just World War II movies (among others). He stuffs the film with so many movie references and cinemas and movie critics, it's as if he's beating us over the head with the idea that this is a movie about movies.

And he succeeds. Oh does he succeed. Yes, the violence is awful but by this time, you have to expect that from Mr. Tarantino. I feel like if he doesn't make you squirm at least once, then he thinks he has failed. The thing is, the Nazis commit only 2 of the atrocious acts in the film. The goriest violence is done to the Nazis. And true to a Tarantino movie, the villains all get their comeuppance.

There was one part I loved and I don't even know what it means. The Nazi villain, Landa, pulls a ridiculously large pipe out of his pocket near the beginning of the film, when he discovers Jews hiding at the house of a Frenchman. At the end of the film, Landa discovers that the famous German movie star, von Hammersmark is a double agent working for the Americans. To nab her, he has her pull her own shoe (found at the scene of the crime) out of his coat pocket. It's the same size and color scheme of the pipe he pulled out earlier. It's so cool when he references an earlier scene like that.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. It's a feast of sights and sounds that I felt as if I ate too much rich food at the end. But of course, like any glutton, I'm going back for a second helping.