Wednesday, April 29, 2009

To Sid With Love

My brother loves running, movies, and beer. Well, he likes other things as well but we have in common our love for running, movies, and beer. He was the first one I called after I ran my first road race.

Anyway, we were discussing movies one day and he said that if he'll always watch a film made by Sidney Lumet and I had to agree with him. If you think about it, Sidney Lumet has made a ton of movies and not always in the same vein: Network, Long Day's Journey into Night, Family Business, Q & A, The Wiz (where did that come from?). Those are just the tip of the iceberg.

I "discovered" Sidney Lumet after watching Before the Devil Knows Your Dead which I loved. I say "discovered" because I had watched a bunch of Sidney Lumet films without knowing he had directed them. I'd watch a film because it had been recommended or mentioned in a review and then realize that Sidney Lumet had directed it. That happened with Q & A, it was mentioned in a review of Michael Clayton so I watched it and then found out that Mr. Lumet had directed. Great film by the way.

About a month ago, I started to read Sidney Lumet's book Making Movies. I didn't finish it because I got sidetracked by another novel (a Richard Russo book about a small town just south of Schulyer Springs, NY, a fictional stand-in for Saratoga Spring, NY). Anyway, Sidney Lumet writes so clearly and eloquently about the entire movie making process. He absolutely adores actors because of how they can completely and emotionally expose themselves for their roles. It was a nice reminder for me as a stage manager who can sometimes get fed up with them. Of course Sindey Lumet worked with the best of the best: Paul Newman, Katharine Hepburn, Faye Dunaway, Henry Fonda, etc.

In the book he describes how he made his first film, 12 Angry Men. He used different camera angles to create the oppressive air of the jury room. As I watched the film the other night, I didn't notice the camera angles as much as I noticed the jurors becoming hotter and sweatier due to the summer heat outside. I was totally hooked.

My next film by Mr. Lumet will be Murder on the Orient Express but first I want to read the book by Agatha Christie. After that, probably Long Day's Journey. It'll be my own private Sidney Lumet retrospective. I am quick to follow actors from film to film but not as much directors. When I did my favorite movie characters a while back, Carl at Artistic Balance mentioned favorite directors. I don't have many, Sidney Lumet obviously, Hitchcock, Michael Mann (Heat, Collateral), oh probably Martin Scorsese. It's an interesting question, I think, do you follow actors or directors or both? Or Neither?

My brother (the beer-loving, movie fan runner) has a friend with which he exchanges movie quizzes. Here's a recent one he gave me: What three things do the movies Fail Safe, Dog Day Afternoon and 12 Angry Men have in common? Well, I guess you know one of the answers but do you know the other two?

Monday, April 27, 2009

What's the Deal?

It's a riddle. That's what the director and I decided one day, chatting after rehearsals for The Seafarer. I had mentioned to David (O'Connor, the director) how at the Arden we had joked that The Seafarer was just like The Piano Lesson (the August Wilson play that I stage managed last year) only set in Ireland.

And, from a certain viewpoint, the two shows are quite similar:
  • Both shows take place in one house
  • Both deal with family struggles and strife
  • In both shows, there is a lot of drinking (and I mean a lot)
  • Something spooky happens in both plays
  • Furniture gets busted.
For those interested here is quick synopsis of The Piano Lesson and here is one for The Seafarer.

David and I agreed that shows can be so similar yet still present it's own set of questions and issues. The director deals with most of these issues with the help of the stage management and production staff. These can range from how many glasses or bottles of whiskey do we need, to how to create a dank, messy basement on stage, to how to keep the furniture from falling apart in the first week of the run. But there is a very interesting question, unique to this production that I'm not sure how or if we're going to solve.

In the play, 5 guys sit around playing poker on Christmas Eve. Conor McPherson, the playwright, has written very specifically, what card each player holds in his hands. Yet, the guys shuffle the deck of cards between each hand played (they even refer to shuffling in the script). How do we ensure that each actor gets the cards specified in the script and still allow the cards to be shuffled between hands.

It's an interesting question. Most of the other theaters that produced this play presented it in proscenium (which means the audience is all on one side of the stage, like a movie theater) which meant that the audience did not see the cards. But we're presenting it in thrust (audience on three sides) so the audience may just see the cards.

So what do we do?

We don't have an answer yet but it's one of those fun riddles, peculiar to each production, that's keeps it interesting.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Eyes Have It

I had to take both my children to the eye doctor the other day. My daughter has amblyopia or lazy eye and we needed to check up on it. I thought she'd be easy since the problem seems to have stabilized. Basically, her brain makes her left eye do all the work and the right does nothing. I guess that's why they call it lazy.

Only, her left eye might become nearsighted in the next year or two. Probably because it's annoyed at the right eye for doing all the work. Then, it's back to the glasses but I can't see the right eye pulling it's share of the weight after lazing about for so long. I just hope it doesn't get worse and worse.

We had to have my son checked as well. The pediatrician thought he might have seen the beginnings of lazy eye. But not he has pseudo-strabismus. I had been told this by another opthamologist years ago. Of course I forgot the name and kept calling it pseudo-strombolli. Over Easter, my sister in law, who runs an eye surgery center corrected me. I guess he really isn't a fake bread machine, huh?
I didn't think pseudo-strabismus was such a big deal until this latest opthamologist said he has no depth perception. I don't even know what that means. The doctor said if it doesn't bother him than we don't have to worry yet but he may need surgery.
I kept trying to pinpoint her on what does "having trouble" mean? And, how am I supposed to tell he's having trouble or maybe he just doesn't want to play a certain game? Or maybe...see, when a doctor starts talking to me my brain just goes into overdrive.
And I had thought that he was going to do so well at baseball. The opthamologist said that there are plenty of professional athletes with no depth perception but that just doesn't make sense to me.

I never thought about sight much before. I've had 20/10 vision for most of my life and I think I'm down to 20/20 now so I suppose I've always taken it for granted. But I've always wanted glasses. I thought they looked so cool in that "I'm not into being cool" way. I could whip them off to make a point or slowly polish them when I wanted to convey deep thoughts. Brian wears glasses. When we first met he was going to get contacts until I told him I like a guy in glasses.

Unfortunately (or fortunately since I don't need them), glasses don't look good on me. Glasses make some people look smart or tragically hip. I just look tragic and like I'm trying way too hard. I become a pseudo-intellectual. I guess though, that's better than looking like a fake bread machine.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Day My Electronics Died

An ode to my laptop, my cell phone and MP3 player which have gone kaput in the last month.

(With apologies to Don McLean and everyone who likes American Pie and to those who would rather not have the tune stuck in their heads.)

A long, long time ago, I can still remember when
My MP3 played all my songs

And I used to think if I had my chance
I could text some people and
maybe they'd be happy for a while

But February made me shiver
cause my laptop would not deliver

Bad news in the main hall
My phone would not take one more call

I can't remember if I cried when my MP3 froze up outside
But something touched me deep inside

The day my electronics died.

So bye bye my electronic life
Took my MP3 out running and now it's all dry
Nothing else to do but drink whiskey and rye

And sing this is the day they all died
The day all my electronics died.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Who's Your Falstaff?

Megan over at All I Need Is Everything (I know, great blog name) posted her 10 ten favorite movie characters. I loved this idea and so I'm copying it. But, the thing is, I'm much more attuned to actors as opposed to characters. I can list 10 actors that I love to watch without even thinking about it: Daniel Day Lewis, Jodie Foster, Sean Penn, Judy Davis, Joan Allen, Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Dame Judi Dench. Of course it begs the question: does the actor make the character or is the character great to begin with? Ah, another post maybe.

When I mentioned this dilemma to Brian, he said, "Ah, the question is, who's your Falstaff?" And so, here is a list of my Falstaffs, I couldn't quite make it to 10. I'd love to hear yours! Or we could start another list such as favorite movie quotes (I got a bunch).

Megan listed each character and gave a quote from the film so why mess with success:

Marie LaTour

I need to have fun. I'm still young after all.

Captain Shakespeare
CAPT. SHAKESPEARE: And Yvaine, I have some lovely dresses, take your pick

YVAINE: I'm fine.

CAPT. SHAKESPEARE: Honey, you're wearing a robe.

John Cusack - in anything he does, let's face it he does tend to play the same character, loveable though he is.

I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, buy anything sold or processed or process anything sold, bought, or processed or repair anything sold, bought or processed. You know as a career, I don’t want to do that.

Mrs. Mia Wallace

I do believe Marsellus Wallace, my husband, your boss, told you to take ME out and do WHATEVER I WANT. I wanna dance, I wanna win, I want that trophy, so dance good.

Harvey Milk

I'm Harvey Milk and I'm here to recruit you.

Susan Vance

"He's three years old, gentle as a kitten and likes dogs." I wonder if Mark means he eats dogs or is fond of them?

James Bond

I don't have to say it do I? Y'all know his name.

Katherine Scarlett O'Hara Wilkes Kennedy Butler. I save the best for last because as God is her witness, she is never going hungry again.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Road Race

I ran my second race over the weekend. The first race I ran was in February, a 5-miler through picturesque Ambler, PA. This past one was a 10k (or 6.2 miles) in a town right near Ambler. Brian ran it with me. I beat him by 6 seconds. It will never happen again; my beating him, not racing.

I enjoyed both races much more than I expected. The first one in Ambler, I did by myself while Brian raced around dropping me off and getting the kids to their sporting events and then picking me up. I thought I'd feel very self-conscious but I didn't. I struck up conversations with a few people as we waited for the race to start, very friendly. My brother, who runs a lot of races, once told me (long before I met Brian) that if I wanted to meet guys I should do races.

I think I'm nervous because I am an erratic runner--I'll run fast then slow down and then speed up again. I hate running with people for this very reason. I tried running in a running group once and had to stop (and they were probably very happy about it).
But it didn't matter during the race because I passed some people and some people passed me. And then more people passed me. On Saturday, I found myself running behind this woman with a t-shirt on that said something on the back like, "Is it rude to count the number of people you pass out loud?" I kept seeing that shirt and I didn't like the saying so I sped up at the end and passed her. I know, rather childish but she'll never know the real reason; I hope.

Throughout the day on Saturday while running errands, I'd stop every once in a while and think, 'Oh yeah, I ran a race today, boy I feel good.' It was great knowing I had started off the day with an invigorating race. Now, I know why people get up at the crack of dawn to go to the gym. I'm not saying I'm going to join them anytime soon, but I understand.

And yet, I still don't know if I can call myself a runner. I know it sounds weird but when I talk to people about what they do for exercise, a lot of people will say, "I run, I'm a runner." But when does one become a runner? After one race? Two races? My brother (the one who runs, I have 3 brothers) told me about a race he is running in Germany. My niece (his daughter) is graduating there with a degree in culinary arts. Anyway, the half-marathon they are both running, takes place the day after she graduates. I asked, "Doesn't she want to hang out and have some beers after she graduates?" He replied, "Well, then she'll just run slower." See that's a real runner; even tying one on doesn't stop you.
But my problem may just be a personality quirk. A few years ago I would answer the question, "Do you work?" with a long involved response about how I stayed home but sometimes I stage managed, on a professional level. I never just said, "I am a stage manager."

I think I may call myself a runner if I can keep running and still stage manage a show. My prep week for The Seafarer starts next week and then it's rehearsals. I've signed up to do the 10 mile Broad Street run in the middle of all of it. If I can keep running (getting up early if need be), and even run Broad Street without falling flat on my face, then maybe...just maybe, I'll call myself a runner.

Then again, maybe I'll just be a part-time stage manager and mom who runs occasionally.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fakin' It Yoga Style

My yoga teacher, Jennifer, is leaving the studio I attend to concentrate on private coaching. While I'm trying to be all zen about it and wish her well, I am feeling a bit, 'but what about me?'

I've been doing yoga on and off for about 10 years (more off than on). A few years ago, I discovered Ashtanga Yoga through a video by Beryl Bender Birch entitled Power Yoga. I really took to this form of Yoga which is a set series of poses, each one designed to move you toward the next pose. These poses open up and realign the body. My explanation is rather rudimentary, here is a better explanation.

My point though is thatI connected with Ashtanga Yoga and I've been searching for Ashtanga classes ever since. It has been difficult finding instructors who teach this form; some people find doing the same poses class after class boring. Then, last fall, I happened upon this teacher, Jennifer who taught it twice a week! I've been gluttonously taking her classes for the past few months and it's been nothing short of amazing. My flexibility and strength have improved and I'm running longer distances. I've gone from 2 to 3 miles at a time to running 6 to 7 miles. None of my other yoga classes (and I've taken many) have had such an effect on me. I have heard the Ashtanga is a great form of yoga for runners.

The best part is that Jennifer really gets to know her students. She corrects us verbally and physically. A lot of Yoga teaches will not adjust students for fear of offending them but not Jennifer. She gets right in there and pushes you to your edge; gently of course.

So I'm attempting to be in the moment and enjoy my last few classes with her but then I realize that I can't even go to her last class because my kids are off from school that day. Why they get Holy Thursday off is beyond me. I mean Good Friday I can understand, but Holy Thursday? They had a meal, Jesus started talking and everyone fell asleep. Oh, he did wash their feet but really, a whole day off for that?

And yes, I am a Catholic but not really devout if you couldn't tell.

I'm also failing at the whole zen-yogi thing, obviously.

There is a phrase I've heard in yogic circles, 'When you are ready, a teacher will appear.' I really believed that when I discovered Jennifer's classes. Now I think they forgot to add the corollary, 'but use the teacher quickly because she's going to move on soon.'

That reminds me of another phrase that Jennifer is fond of during class, 'fake it till you make it,' meaning attempt the pose as best you can until you can actually do it correctly.

So in the spirit of faking it: Jennifer I wish you well and hope your new path brings peace and joy.