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.....


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:

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.

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.