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:


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?