19 July 2005

Attention all English majors ---

Today's "must read" post:


Just drop whatever you are doing and surf on over. (I don't know how Mary does permalinks, but it's today's post is entitled "You Are Parties.") I, of course, left a comment with my own relevant anecdote.

We've all been there. We'll all understand. And she will feel our understanding and be comforted.

My misspent youth sometimes comes in handy

This morning David was telling me that Karen, his director for Book of Days, brought some Hoppe's #9 gun cleaning solvent to rehearsal last night. (A plot point concerns the smell of a clean gun versus a fired one.) David said "It smells like.... "

"Like gun cleaner."

"Yeah." And then he paused and looked at me.

"I was in the rifle club in high school." (And, I shared a house with Mollie for several years and we'd watch tv in our not fabulously well-ventilated basement while she'd clean her musket.)


So we talked about my firearms experience a bit and eventually a thought trickled through his brain. Leta has handled firearms and claims to have been a decent shot. (A decent shot, not a great one. I was in the rifle club, not on the rifle team, after all.)

"Yep. So keep that in mind the next time you want to make fun of me."

Bet he doesn't make one of those jokes at my expense that he thinks are funnier than I do for at least the next 18 hours.

15 July 2005

A decent interval

A decent interval is not so much distracting as bracing: too much passive spectating can numb the mind as well as the body.

Or, as Jeff puts it, the mind can only absorb what the ass can endure. Apparently, I am not the only theater-goer who judges theaters by the intermssion. A recent article in the Telegraph considers both the rise of the 90-minute, no intermission shows ("Art," for example, which, truth be told, clocked in at the Stage at a consistent 78 minutes) and grand theater and grand opera with intermissions practically long enough to catch another show nearby.

I usually come down on or near the long intermission side because (as we all know) I go to theaters for the concession stands. Good intermission treats will help make up to me for some poor choices on stage. Well, maybe not really, but I'm less likely to be cranky about it.

But the point remains that shows like "Art" or Betrayal need to stay on track. The Pavilion benefits from a short chance to catch your breath before you plunge back into the sometimes icy waters of Pine City.

The same blog from which I got the initial link has a comment with links to two other roughly related articles. Is it a bad thing that plays are getting shorter and smaller? Are important bits being left out in order to get the "punters" off to dinner? It depends on the play. The Mercy Seat says what it has to say in 90 minutes and more time spent with these people isn't going to tell you more. LaBute didn't ask a lot of questions and he has time to answer the ones he asks (or answer them as fully as he intends).

And, she writes with dread, in the day when all theater is viewed on our mobile phones, 90 minutes will be considered way too long.

Via The Playgoer.

14 July 2005

Stupid Rain

I'm normally a big fan of rain. Especially rain that comes with thunder and lightning and a greeny-grey sky. All good things. Lots of big clouds in 200 shades of grey. Love it. Improves the water table, chases away the bugs, breaks the humidity.

But not when I'm watching Shakespeare outdoors. Honestly, has this weather no consideration at all?

I've never seen The Merry Wives of Windsor before and the cast includes an actor I've recently started watching (Bruce) and an actor I haven't seen for years and years -- and years (Lewis). I think that the last time Lewis and I were in the same room, movable type had just been invented, so I was kind of looking forward to saying hello afterwards even though I can't imagine he would remember me. (Oddly enough, the first time I saw Bruce was when he did a reading with Nigel, another actor from way back in my checked past. Hmmmm.)

Anyway, I told Bruce after Humble Boy that I would get up to Baltimore to see him play Ford in Merry Wives. So, acting on one of my casual lobby promises ("I'll come and and see it!" - I should have that embroided or as a tattoo somewhere, I really should), I had a nice seat on the lawn, a nice glass of a local red wine, a pleasant stranger to talk to, and there was going to be a basket raffle at intermission. My kind of evening. But no, it was not to be.... (that's called foreshadowing, by the way).

On the other hand, I got confirmed something that I've noticed recently -- if I am sitting near the front and it's a small house, actors will talk to me. I must look especially engaged or something, but it's happened a few times recently and I find it utterly charming. (In fact, when I saw Side Man recently, Chris asked me afterwards if I'd noticed that he'd been talking to me. Of course I noticed!! It's probably one of the reasons the damned show made me cry!) Merry Wives had lots of asides to the audience and Bruce and Lewis played a fair number of them to me. I know, you're thinking "Sure, Leta, sure they did. Whatever you say." Fine. Be that way. Because they did. Bunch of fun-spoilers, that's what you people are. Kill joys.

Now I can imagine that Bruce might possibly have been thinking "Is that the woman who saw me at the Stage Guild and said she'd come to see this? I think it is. Oh, Lord. Do I have a stalker now?" and Lewis could have been thinking "Does that woman look familiar? Did I know her? Maybe in the late 18th century?"

Or, more likely, I got their attention because it was a Thursday night with predictions of heavy rain and therefore a pretty small house, so I may have been the only unfamiliar face in the "crowd." And because I wasn't a little kid. And because I looked rather fetching in my new purple Ann Taylor Loft tank shell. Let's never discount the power of a new Ann Taylor Loft purple tank shell.

And then the rain got serious. As the producer pointed out in his opening remarks, the show is a pretty active one for the cast and running and jumping about on a wet stage is just stupidly dangerous, so when it was clear that it wasn't going to let up for a while, they called it. I wish they'd hung in there because it cleared up about 15 minutes later. Damn.

Damn, damn, damn, rats.

11 July 2005

A Gilbert & Sullivan education

I attended a performance of Take Me Out at Studio Theatre recently. It was a thoroughly delightful show (with or without the cute, nekkid guys), funny and touching. It's not often that I'm thinking as the cast is leaving the stage "No! Come back! I'm not done applauding!"

And while I loved the show enough that I'll probably buy the script, one of my favorite moments had nothing to do with baseball, the many levels of men's relationships, nekkid guys, loyalty, or embracing diversity. Well, unless the diversity we're talking about embracing is the inclusion of 19th century word geeks in so-called normal society. Because it's possible that I'm the only person in the audience who appreciated this exchange:

A: Are you fleering at me?
B: Fleering? Why do you always talk like you live a hundred years ago?

The only other place that I have encountered the word "fleer" is in Patience:

(Chorus of Dragoons) ~
Now is not this ridiculous, and is not this preposterous?
A thorough-paced absurdity - explain it if you can.
Instead of rushing eagerly to cherish us and foster us,
They all prefer this melancholy literary man.
Instead of slyly peering at us,
Casting looks endearing at us,
Blushing at us, flushing at us, flirting with a fan;
They're actually sneering at us, fleering at us, jeering at us!
Pretty sort of treatment for a military man!
They're actually sneering at us, fleering at us, jeering at us!
Pretty sort of treatment for a military man!

And in case you were wondering, perhaps not having had the advantages of a G&S education:

intr.v. fleered, fleer·ing, fleers
To smirk or laugh in contempt or derision.
n. A taunting, scoffing, or derisive look or gibe.
[Middle English flerien, of Scandinavian origin.]
fleering·ly adv.

09 July 2005

Let them entertain you

I don't get out to Leesburg and Manassas very often because, well, my calendar is still seven colors. (I'm now looking back fondly on the carefree, innocent days of the five-color calendar...) Anyway, there is a growing theater community out there these days, so at some point I'm going to have to make the trek and see some stuff. Folks I like to watch on stage are making it too inviting not to.

Unfortunately, on the next oppotunity for a long-ish drive and some good theater, David and I will be out of town. But if I can't go, then local members of the Devoted Readership might want to consider a trip because this particular opportunity to drive-and-watch comes with a good cause.

Kat sent an e-mail around announcing Broadway Lights the Night - the first annual (if it succeeds) fundraiser for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Some really first-rate performers will be working very hard to raise lots and lots of dollars in the fight against a pretty brutal disease. So, please, go if you can and give if you can't. I'll be donating in lieu of attending, but I wish I could be there; it promises to be a heck of a good evening.

And I'm keeping my calendar open for Broadway Lights the Night 2006. Of course, by then the wretched thing will probably be in 12 colors.

07 July 2005

A great use for a blog

If something goes wrong in your area, post a quick "I'm okay" note. I have friends visiting London right now and I'd like to be able to stop vaguely worrying about them.

And if you're in an area that is constantly "wrong" (i.e., your civilian friends back home think it's dangerous) take lots of silly internet quizzes so that you'll have something to post on days when not enough happened that's post-worthy.

George III's blog post for July 4, 1776 "Nothing of any importance happened today."

04 July 2005

Happy Birthday, America

Every 4th of July members of the on-air staff at NPR read the Declaration of Independence. And every year I listen quietly, sometimes mouthing the bits I know by heart. Inevitably, I get all teary because so much of what I am able to take for granted today, so many of the rights and freedoms whose definitions and meanings that we Americans bicker over today, come from that one document. Of course, the bible and the Constitution provide a lot of bickering material, too, but this is the one that makes me cry. And even if I get through the whole recitation, I never get past the final phrase - "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor" - unteary.

When I was active with the First Maryland Regiment, I always looked forward to spending the 4th of July down at the Archives, helping to provide crowd control. We were dressed out (i.e., wearing our Rev War era garb) and would answer questions about the period, the guys (and Mollie) would do a demo of Rev War era drill and weaponry, and then the Declaration would be read by actors dressed as the Founding Fathers.

I would chat with the crowd (pause for audience surprise, yeah, yeah) and let parents know that the cannon (brought by the the First Virginia) would be extremely loud and that the sound would be contained by and bounce off of the buildings, so when they saw the crew members turning away from the piece (which happens just before the blast), they should cover their kids ears. And I'd warn folks with dogs how loud it would get.

One year I was standing near some very nice tourists and we were listening to the recitation which ends with the names of the Signers and their home states, a list I used to know completely by heart. The wife turned to her husband somewhere around John Adams' name and asked "Honey, who signed from Texas?"

I was good. I did not laugh.

The husband reminded her that there were no signers from Texas because the state of Texas didn't exist in 1776. And she spent the next few minutes adjusting her world view to include a United States without Texas.