Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Movie Rec: The Edge of Heaven

Do you Netflix? We do. It makes sense for us since we tend to watch a lot of movies and some television shows (The Wire and Entourage at the moment). Sometimes, though, I'll have a movie for over a month and think, "Well, I'll just send it back since I probably won't watch it." I almost did that with The Edge of Heaven.

I'm not sure if Brian or I put the movie in our queue. He always takes the blame but I think this was one of mine (and not just because I liked it so much) because it's foreign and won an award and Cannes last year. He doesn't follow Cannes. Anyway, I wasn't going to watch it because of the subtitles; sometimes I just don't feel up to paying close attention to a flick. But, Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 90% on it's meter and so I gave it a go.

I'm so glad I did. It's such a great film and so difficult to describe. A man of Turkish descent accidentally kills a prostitute (also of Turkish descent) that has been living with him in Germany. The man's son goes to Turkey in the hopes of finding the prostitute's daughter to help her out and let her know what happened to her mother. The prostitute's daughter is involved in a radical group that the government deems to be terroists. The daughter escapes to Germany where she meets and falls in love with a girl at a university. And, I'm just getting started.

The movie basically intersects all these lives with coincidences and near-misses in such a beautiful way that they hardly seem manipulative. It's like Babel, only done right. I don't know if you've seen Babel but it that movie was so contrived, I had trouble sitting through it. I mean, a couple's youngest child dies of SIDS and they decide to run off to Morocco to save their marriage. They don't give a second thought to their two other children at home, grieving the loss of their brother. And don't get me started on the nanny who kidnaps the kids to go to her son's wedding in Mexico and then ditches them in the desert. I'm supposed to care what happens to these people?

But in The Edge of Heaven, even though no one is perfect, I did care about the characters. Fatih Atkin makes each one so unfailingly human that it's difficult not become entrenched in their lives even while thinking, "Oh no, don't do that!" He also employs a few other cinematic tricks such as fragmented chronology and chapter titles that announce the demise of a character that has not yet been introduced.

Oh, it's so good! I can't recommend it enough. And, one thing I LOVE about foreign films is that they tend not to hit you over the head with plot points or obvious conclusions; often, they let you decide for yourself. A welcome respite from the Hollywood belief that everything must be explained.

It's just one of those great films that stays with you long after the credits.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Doubting Me

For the past few weeks I've been full of self-doubt and insecurity. More so than normal. I've always carried a healthy amount of insecurity around with me. I have been combating it in a number of ways these past few years. For example, last fall, when I really started adding miles to my runs, I stopped thinking, "Man, I only ran 4 miles today," and began thinking "Wow, 4 miles, not bad, I wonder what I'll do tomorrow." And that led me to run and finish the 10 mile Broad Street run.

But it's been since that run in early May, that I've been rather insecure about everything and I can't seem to shake it. I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out where it's coming from. My only conclusion is that since the fall, I've met quite a few challenges such as stage managing Candide and running Broad Street among others. Now, with The Seafarer running so smoothly, it leaves me quite a lot of leisure time to worry about what other people think of me.

Then, today, I read this blog post over at A Majority of Two. Here I am wallowing in insecurity while children are struggling to eat. Boy, do I feel like an idiot. An idiot in a good way though, you know the kind that jolts you out of yourself and says, "Why are you so worried about what other people think of you? Why don't you start thinking about others?"

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When I Grow Up, I Wanna Have Boobies

My daughter has the Pussycat Dolls song "When I Grow Up," on her MP3 which I use when I run. For a long time, I thought the words were: When I grow up, I wanna be a star, I wanna have fun, I wanna have boobies which makes no sense whatsoever. Then, after listening to my daughter sing it, I realized it was "groupies."


Then I saw this YouTube video of Ellen DeGeneres commencement speech at Tulane and she too thought it was boobies so I'm in good company.

And, the commencement speech is quite good. Her basic premise being, "you're going to be okay."

I hope she's right.

Commencement speeches scare me because they point out not only the number of years I've been out of college but also the fact that I don't yet feel like I've grown up. What is it that I want to do? I love theater but can I continue stage managing and yet have time for my family? Is stage managing an end in and of itself? Shouldn't I be striving for something more? But what?

When I'm stage managing I make long lists of things I'm going to do when the show opens like: cook more, take piano lessons, learn to sing, run more, etc. And then the show opens and I don't do many if any of those things. Oh, but I did run Broad Street which is 10 miles so I did accomplish one goal.

But now what? It begs the question: What do I really want to do with my free time? And am I truly going to be okay? Hopefully, when I grow up, I'll find out...and I'll have boobies.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Theater Hangover

"Between the late nights and the pollen, I feel like I have a hangover," So said the Master Electrician this past weekend during one of our long days of tech for The Seafarer.

And I realized that that is how I felt as well.

Teching a show means adding lights, costumes, the set, real props, sound and everything else to the performances of the actors. It can be a slow, painstaking process as we set levels for sound or adjust lights so they are just right. Sometimes, tech can go quickly; the actors rehearse the show and the lighting designer might change lights around them. We work long days, however. Actors' Equity allows a theater to call actors for 10 hours out of 12 on two days preceeding the opening of a show. While these 10 out of 12s seem long to the actors, the rest of us are there much longer prepping the stage, lights, props, etc.

It can make a person go a bit batty as well. Spend hours in a dark room and then step outside into the blinding sunlight of spring. You forget that there is an entire world that exists outside of the play.

Of course spring means pollen which only adds to our woes as allergies are triggered. Late nights, dark rooms, pollen (and dust from the theater itself) and you can see why we sometimes feel hungover.

The upside though is that this play is going very well. We've been able to run the show quite a bit during tech. The director has moved on from tweaking lights to tweaking performances. Because things have run so smoothly, he is able to take apart certain scenes that have not worked well to find the truth in them. Perhaps it is a blocking thing: would that character move on that line? Perhaps it's an intention: when Richard asks that question, is he provoking Sharky? It's fascinating to watch as each moment is broken apart to find the honesty in it.

So hangover be damned! We have a show to put on. Although, I do wish that if I have to feel hungover, I at least had a couple of beers the night before.

Monday, May 4, 2009


A light drizzle fell softly as I made my way to the center of the field in hopes of finding my family. It was 8 am, 30 minutes to go until race time.

I hitched a ride with my neighbor who was also running Broad Street, Philadelphia's famous 10 mile run down Broad Street. This was my first time so he showed me how to get to the center of the field where I found my brother (the running nut) and niece. My neighbor then went off to prep for his run. He runs everyday and races quite often. I don't run everyday but I kind of wish I had the will power to do so. Of course, I don't shower everyday either so maybe I should start there.

My brother and niece had just returned from Germany where not only did my niece graduate from University but they also ran a half-marathon in Bonn. I can't imagine running 23 miles in a week (plus all the shorter runs they did in between). They looked refreshed and ready. I was just scared and needed to pee.

No one else in our family showed up at the field (we were expecting another sister, a brother in law and another niece) so we trotted off to our corrals. We all ran in different corrals based on our times. I was in the one of the back corrals meaning I'm a slow runner.

Broad Street is mostly downhill with a small gradual incline about half way through. I started the race with a bang and ran quite fast for the first mile or two when I realized that I needed to slow down in order to make the 10 miles.

Before the race, I had hoped to finish with a 10 minute per mile pace. By mile 4, I was hoping to finish. My knees started whispering to me, complaining that we had gone far enough.

By mile 6, I thought about just walking for the rest of the race. My knees were quite vociferous at this point, informing me in no uncertain terms that they had quite enough thank you very much.

Mile 7 was the worst. I was ready to pack it all in. I tried walking for a few minutes to alleviate the throbbing in my knees. I could hear them yelling at me: WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING? YOU ARE 40 YEARS OLD, DO NOT TRY TO RE-CAPTURE YOUR YOUTH BY COMPLETING THIS STUPID RACE. WE'RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE DO YOU HEAR US?

I grabbed some gatorade and contemplated just stopping but something stubborn inside would not let me quit. It kept poking at me and pushing me forward. C'mon, it said, you're pace is right where you want it to be. Slow down but keep running. It's less that 30 minutes to the finish, you can't quit now.

I kept going. I ran near one guy who kept urging his wife on by telling her how close she was to the finish. I pretended that he was talking to me. I listened to the cheers of the crowd and welled up with tears of gratitude and delirium as I thought about all these people standing in the cold rain helping us push forward with their words of praise.

At mile 9, I knew I had less than 10 minutes to the finish. The rain began in earnest and my entire body ached but I did it. I ran across that finish line and collected my medal. And yes, that is my official race time up at the top of this post. And yes, I'm damned proud of myself.
After the race, I limped through the food line and found the rest of my family. We all congratulated each other and then my sister drove me to my rehearsal. After rehearsal, my brother called to say he and his family would be in Philly for dinner and did I want to join him? Of course, I needed to finally celebrate my accomplishment. Over beers and dinner we re-hashed parts of the run basking in our success. I was still on an endorphin high and thought hmm, maybe I should start running everyday.
Of course my knees don't entirely agree.