30 September 2005


I work in an office. I play in theaters. And yet there is common ground:

An interview is like an audition;

A second interview is like a callback;

A CFO is like a producer;

and -- most importantly, at least in the use of colorful metaphors by normally mild-mannered people -- Year End is just like Tech Week.

27 September 2005

Original Celebrated and Curiously Ginger

I was at Target the other day picking up some of life's little necessaries when I found a new-to-me flavor of Altoids. Yep, those wily Brits have introduced Ginger Altoids. There's even a bit of ginger root and ginger flower (zingiber officinale) posing on the cover. Of course, the sketch of the ginger root looks rather like Ernest Shepherd's illustration of Tigger from the original Winnie-the-Pooh books, but no matter.

I actually hate original Altoids, largely because I hate strong mint flavors which hang around long enough to affect every sip of tea or water for the rest of the day, so I pretty much avoid Altoids, but ginger ones! Well, I had to try the ginger ones.

You know, they're pretty good. Ginger is one of those flavors that is good either strong or mild and the Altoid is like a little, teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy, beige, chalky, ginger snap. And as the gluten-free ginger snaps I tried recently were neither very gingery nor very snappy, this may be as close as I come for a while to ginger snapping goodness.

And, just by the way, here Ginger Reed does not sound like a stripper's name.

22 September 2005

A little heads-up

Said by me at last night's blocking rehearsal for The Emperor's New Clothes:

"Ohh, I feel an anecdote coming on."

So at least now my cast will know what to expect from me. I'm just afraid that they'll expect a similar "time for a quickie mental nap while Leta rambles" indicator and it's not likely that they'll always gets one.

21 September 2005

Men who bird and the women who love them

Tanya was out today so we had a temp named Linda. Unlike some of our temps, Linda had the foresight to bring a book. (I say this as someone who spent a couple of years temping and know what it is. To not bring a book is to risk spending the day reading the company's previous annual report. Possibly more than once.)

I asked Linda what she was reading, expecting it to be a mystery or something equally light and interruption-friendly. Conceive of my surprise when she showed me that it was Pete Dunne On Birding. So I asked if she's a birder and she told me that her boyfriend is a birder. Hmmmm. Well, we were as Ruth and Naomi after that, comparing how to us and our nearsighted eyes, all birds over 20 feet away (i.e., most of them) simply look like, well, birds. They have no decernible characteristics, like yellow bibs or blue bills or what-have-you. And how the females all look like brown birds with no discernible characteristics at all, really. And how our menfriends keep insisting that there is a difference between sparrows - House Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Office Ledge Sparrows, yeah, yeah, yeah.

She told me the funny story about how when she first began noticing birds there were a whole bunch of them in her yard and she excitedly woke her boyfriend to identify them because they could have been anything and they were ... robins. "You woke me up for robins?" So I told her about the time I was describing a Mourning Dove to David over the phone and refered to the bird's "teal green eye-liner."

Linda was able to add to her life list on a recent trip to Malawi. She said that it took her several months to get 30 or 40 birds here in the States, but that she added a 103 in Malawi. So I told her that David said that I'm good birding karma and how we saw a Barred Owl on a trip to Accokeek.

Conveniently for both of us, I still had in the car - and was able to copy for Linda - an article that David found for me when I pointed out that naming the birds after the male's characteristics seemed a trifle sexist, not to mention completely unhelpful when one is observing a female, say Red-Winged Blackbird, which is neither red-winged nor black. Hmpf.

The article, by Margaret Van de Pitte and entitled "The female is somewhat duller," makes my points at greater length and indignation than I did and the letters in reply were often more indignant still. Great fun. (Sample quote: "For example, how many obviously female birds have been featured on the cover of this magazine? Not many.")

Next time we need a temp, I'm going to ask that we request Linda because she and I have a real bond now.

17 September 2005


ALINE: Zorah is very good, and very clean, and honest, and quite, quite sober in her habits: and that is worth far more than beauty, dear Sir Marmaduke.

DR. DALY: Yes; beauty will fade and perish, but personal cleanliness is practically undying, for it can be renewed whenever it discovers symptoms of decay.

W.S. Gilbert, The Sorcerer

Dusting - like making beds - is one of those chores that are seemingly undone as fast as they are done. One can use Endust or Pledge and grab some of the dust, but so much of it ends up in the air and settles back as soon as one moves on to the next dusty object, like flushed birds settling back into a tree. But still I dust. Not very often and not as often as my grandmother would have thought appropriate, but I do dust. And a couple of times a year I gear up to dust the top floor of David's house. (Note: David's house is at all times and in all places tidier than mine. It's just dusty.)

I dislike dusting less than he does, so I gather up the supplies (because while he does not enjoy dusting, he is well equipped for it) - Endust, a feather duster, a cloth, and damp paper towels - and have at it. Some of the surfaces are easy - spray, wipe, and go - and others are filled with enough tchotchkes to make my little old lady St. Louis relatives proud. And I'm lazy enough that tchotchke land is given a thorough feather tornado which removes the dust from the knickknacks and puts it gleefully into the air. The areas around the electronics have grey felt shrouds that are so satisfying to remove. Look! Wood!

My mother is a member of the anti-dusting crowd, so I used to cluck at her and dust bits of her house. Of course, she also doesn't believe in bedmaking, so she's obviously morally lax. She once told me that the only two people in the world who cared if her bed was made were me and my grandmother. Probably true, but even so, an unmade bed looks like an unmade bed.

Bed making, dusting, dish washing, weed pulling - all of these are impermanent, but the payoff is the immediate satisfaction, which - like personal cleanliness - can be renewed whenever it discovers symptoms of decay. So this morning I have been dusting. I didn't get the entire top floor, but at least the bedroom would make my grandmother spectre happy.

And maybe knowing that David's house is not only tidier than mine but now less dusty than mine will encourage me to dust at home tomorrow.

Coming and going

An important rule of theater is that if you entrance is deep into Act IV (or what substitutes for Act IV in modern American theater, Act II short scene umpty-ump) then the memorableness of that entrance must be a square of the number of minutes it occurs after the Act II curtain. Michael Willis is currently appearing in "After Ashley" at Woolly Mammoth theater and in a show chock full of excellent performances, his was a real eye catcher. He strolled in complete with walking stick, Panama Hat, and savoir faire as though the late Truman Capote had never left us. Actually "strolled" doesn't really describe his locomation, which savored of a runway model wearing several times your annual salary on her back. As every other actor was doing the "I'm not on yet so you can't see me" approach, his lordly, well, mince would be too strong a word but I can't think of a better one, caught and held the eye.

Interestingly enough, he also got the best exit I've seen in quite a while several months ago during "Melissa Artic" when he got to bring to life the best stage direction in all of Shakespeare.

16 September 2005

Reason enough to see this play

The Rude Mechanicals (guess on whose work they concentrate?) sent the following plug to one of the local theater lists. It's enough warm the hearts of pedants everywhere.

Who says history has to be interesting? The Rude Mechanicals questionably present "The Life and Death of King John" on Friday and Saturday at 8PM, September 23rd, 24th, 30th, and 31st. By saving on the cost of printing "and October 1st", they are able to charge a mere $10 for admission. Another of Shakespeare's top forty plays guaranteed to transport you to Laurel High School's Seller's Cafetorium where the stifling heat, deafening air conditioning, excruciating chairs, and penultimate performance will simultaneously stupefy, mesmerize, paralyze, and euthanize you. Come see why this so seldom performed play is so seldom performed as it is so seldom performed so well.

"Bring a book!" - The Baltimore City Paper
The Sellers Theatre
Laurel High School
8000 Cherry Lane
Laurel, MD

09 September 2005

Ren Faire

"Hmmmm. Did you hear about that priest being murdered on Misbegot Bridge?"

Carrot looked shocked. "Not old Father Tubelcek? Really?"

Vimes stopped himself from asking: "You know him, then?" Because Carrot knew everyone. If Carrot were to be dropped into some dense tropical jungle it'd be "Hello, Mr. Runs-Swiftly-Through-The-Trees! Good morning, Mr. Talks-To-The-Forest, what a spendid blowpipe! And what a novel place for a feather!"

Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay.

McCall, Sara Joy, Mario, Paul, and I went to the Renaissance Festival on Monday. We did extremely important Ren Faire type stuff, like eat food that comes on a stick (you can actually get cheesecake on a stick at Ren Faire. No kidding.), watch Shakespeare Skum, run around looking all cute in our we-actually-have-these-in-our-closets-we're-that-geeky wenchy outfits, etc, etc. (Okay, technically, Mario and Paul did not dress out. And certainly not as wenches. Just wanted to clear that up.)

Anyway, so no shit, there we were, wandering around Ren Faire, when I started seeing folks I know. I used to do that all the time, but lately I haven't seen anyone I know at the Faire who isn't working the Faire, but this time I saw Chort & Paula, Graymael & Amanda, and Trevor & company.

But the best part, the part that made me think of Brett, the you-can-see-this-coming part, was when I was sitting and watching Shakespeare Skum. I glanced around and saw across a crowded crowd someone I was sure I recognized from ... my high school. Which would be odd because he lives in New York these days and, well, they have their own Ren Faire, so it's not like he needs to drive a couple hundred miles just to go to ours. But I kept staring and he kept looking like Dave-from-high-school. (Sigh. Of course his name is David. David is a root word that means "man." All men are named David. Even Graymael. Well, except the ones named John, like Chort and Hjalti. But that's not the point.)

So while we were waiting for Sara Joy and McCall to return from the necessary, I wandered over in his direction and with every step, he looked more like Dave-from-high-school. And when I got within range he saw me and recognized me. After thousands of years and everything. He's married now with a young daughter and they are in town visting his brother, who still lives in the area. We didn't have time to catch up more completely, but I gave him my e-mail address and phone number and with luck we'll talk more soon.

Are you going to Renaissance Faire?/Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme./Remember me to one who is there./For he is an old friend of mine....

Amazing Generosity

We are surrounded by the kind and the generous, but it really becomes apparent in time of crisis.

During the Rwandan Genocide, my step-Mom, Audrey, who is a nurse, joined a group called the International Rescue Committee and spent six months in Tanzania working with the refugees. I"ll write more about that some other time, but it's been 11 years since then and I am still amazed that she put her life here on hold for six months, packed up, and lived halfway across the world because she couldn't take watching the suffering on television without doing something to help.

The two things from that time that stick most in my mind were both from letters that I got from her. One arrived after she got the Christmas box that I sent, which contained things like a book (ever see the episode of M*A*S*H where someone got a book? That's how valuable books are in places like refugee camps), a small container of shower gel, some hard candies, and a pair of clean socks. Audrey wrote me a thank you letter and told me how much everything was appreciated and that she was "saving" the socks for when Dad came to meet her after her tour was over because the red clay in the soil got into everyone's clothes and wouldn't really wash out. I have a drawer full of clean white socks and get new clean white socks anytime I want with very little effort.

The other was when Audrey wrote and told me that it had been a good week because infant mortality was down 20% that week. Infant mortality is just not a part of my daily life. Burying babies is not something that I have to do. Every time I get a real good pity party started the back of my brain asks me how the infant mortality is going in my neighborhood. I'm amazingly lucky to live the life I do and I owe part of that sense of gratitude to Audrey's incredible generosity and character.

I think that Rosellen and Audrey would get along very well for reasons besides both being quilters, nurses, grandmothers, and gardners. Rosellen wrote a beautiful post about finding an unfinished quilt that her grandmother had started that I had to forward immediately to Audrey. Go read that post to see what she did with it. And then the two posts she's written since then.

Their generosity goes far beyond writing checks.

07 September 2005

A new book!

If I happen to be on my way home - or actually at home - at 11:00, I usually listen to "As It Happens," a news and events radio show from the CBC. As an American who lives in a busy metropolitan area, I can't get over AIH's tendency to sound like the Mayberry newspaper. They actually, literally, once spent 10 minutes interviewing someone whose cat was stuck in a tree and got rescued.

Listening to AIH reminds me of that George Carlin routine about the differences between football and baseball:

(Threatening growl) "In football you wear a helmet."
(Happy lighthearted voice) "In baseball you wear a cap."
(HLV) "Baseball has no time limit: we don't know when it's gonna end - might have extra innings."
(TG) "Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we've got to go to sudden death."

(TG) "In the US, you have congressional districts."
(HLV) "In Canada, you have ridings."

While in no way under-rating their professionalism or their jounalistic ability, AIH always struck me as a kinder, gentler form of radio news. So when the CBC started a lock out which put AIH on hiatus, I was sad. On the other hand, during the lock out (the CBC is referring to it as a strike and or a labor dispute, employees are calling it a lock out), the CBC is running a program called "Ideas" which basically spends an hour on whatever random topic the Magic 8 Ball chose for the day. We got to hear about ice cream the other night, I've heard a couple of shows about radical philosophers from small, poverty-striken island nations, and, best of all, I got to hear an hour on Edna St. Vincent Millay, who was - after Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel - probably the subject of the juiciest, spiciest, raciest obituary it will ever be anybody's pleasure to read.

At the beginning of the hour the only thing I knew about Ms. Millay was that she wrote "Justice Denied in Massachusetts" about the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti which contains the incredibly haunting line "We shall die in darkness, and be buried in the rain." At the end of the hour, I knew a lot more and was resolved to actually order Marion Meade's Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties.

It arrived today! I have auditions tonight (please come read for me), but as soon as I can, I'm zooming home to read about Ms. Millay, Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber, and Zelda Fitzgerald. I read bios of Sara & Gerald Murphy and Dorothy Parker recently and I actually recognize some of the people in the pictures in Bobbed Hair without having to read the captions.

A new book! A new book!

06 September 2005

Why David sometimes takes me to group events

David and I went on a little nature stroll with a naturalist from the Audobon Naturalist Society and about a dozen other people. I call it a "nature stroll" because if the point is to admire the flora and fauna, then you don't walk very fast or very far. In fact, I don't think that we actually really got out of sight of the parking area, but that's not the point.

So, anyway, we're admiring a Silky Dogwood and its lovely blue berries and Stephanie is teaching us about it Socratically (i.e., by asking questions). She tells us many cheerful facts about Silky Dogwood and points out that it is a member of the nightshade family* and asks, "so what would eat this?"

"Um, wealthy, elderly relatives?" said the girl who grew up reading mystery stories.

For a more grown-up, mature account of the day, see David's post on the subject.

*as are potatoes and eggplant.

She may live in her own little world, but it's a kind and thoughtful world

"Knock knock!"
"Who's there?"
"Control Freak. Now you say 'Control Freak who?' "

Okay, let's start this by saying that we tease Lisa a lot. To her face, behind her back, over the phone, via e-mail, on the internet - if there is a medium for expression, Lisa's friends have used it to make fun of her. And she's a very good sport about it (which is why we are all not dead and ground into a very fine powder). Mainly we tease her about being a little, teeny, tiny, you-wouldn't-even-notice-it-really bit of a control freak.

Like when she was pregnant and announced that the baby would be born on December 1, several days before his due date. Which Layne was because - as we put - he knew what was good for him.

Or like when she tells us something with perfect sincerity that, in fact, is completely untrue. And we just nod and smile. (A reaction that serves my friends as well as Lisa's very well.)

One time she said something that was so outrageous (I don't remember what) that I had to ask if the weather was always nice in her little world and without missing a beat (or getting crabby), she said that, yep, the skies are blue and the grass is green all the time. (At least it is if it knows what's good for it.)

So, anyway, I went down to Lake Ridge on Saturday evening to babysit Layne while Lisa was singing in VLOC's G&S By Request. (Layne is now nearly four and cute as a button. A really cute button, not just some run-of-the-mill button.) When I got there she had something in the oven and was puttering around getting ready to leave for the theater. When the oven dinged, she told me that she'd made a coffee cake and I could have some that evening and the rest had to leave with me because left over coffee cake is too much temptation. And I said "Oh, thank you, but I really can't have any." And then she showed me the package that said "Gluten Free!" all over it. Lisa doesn't normally shop at Whole Foods, so she went on the internet to find a gluten-free coffee cake mix because when she asked me what I missed the most on my new diet, I said coffee cake. She also got me cookies and a scone mix. She probably ordered them the day I agreed to watch Layne.

The coffee cake was actually pretty yummy. And I got to have some of the left over on Sunday morning, which made a nice treat before David and I went nature walking.

And she and husband Kerry and Layne are growing zucchini this year and she gave me this gye-normous zucchini to take home. I only have about two-thirds of it and I swear those two-thirds weigh a couple of pounds. And it's about 9 inches long and about 4 inches across.

I know the coolest people. I really do.

02 September 2005

This really happened, I swear

Ira and I were hanging out in the Starbucks on our way to one of his Tech Week rehearsals when we ran into Eve. We chatted for a bit and - as usual - Ira started making fun of me. (I am so put upon.) And Eve, bless her because this really, really improved my day, said "Hey! You can't talk to her like that! She's popular! People like her!"

Joking or not, it made my whole day.

So take that junior high school!!

My audition notice

I sent this to several theater-related e-mail lists in the area. Now I'm lighting candles that the Theater gods will send me lots of good auditionees.

I'm directing "The Emperor's New Clothes" for the Elden Street Players' Theater for Young Audiences. I need 5 or 6 people (men and women, ages 16 and up) for a fun hour-long show for kids.

Performances will be Saturdays at 11:00 am and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 from November 5 - 20.

Auditions are Tuesday and Wednesday, September 6 & 7 at 7:30 at The Town of Herndon's Industrial Strength Theater (269 Sunset Business Park Drive, Herndon, VA).

The benefits to doing shows for children:

* They are the most appreciative audience ever.

* The shows are short and fun.

* Chase scenes are aerobic.

* The rehearsal schedule is pretty light, too.

* No kid ever told a "lobby lie."

* No performances on Friday or Saturday nights, so you can (if you're me) go see other shows on those nights.

* It's a chance to grew the audience (and auditionees) of tomorrow.

* When kids ask for autographs, they aren't looking to sell them on eBay or being ironic.

* Herndon is a completely cool place to hang out. Okay, that may be a stretch.

* It's "The Emperor's New Clothes," so you can make up fun lies about doing nude shows for children.

* If you have a skill - like juggling or doing magic - that your other directors won't allow you to include when you do Chekov or Tennessee Williams, it can usually be worked into a children's show.

No need to learn a monologue, just show up in Herndon on Tuesday or Wednesday.

It'll be fun!



If dusting can count, so can this

I didn't think I got a lot of exercise until I realized that I exercise all the time. If one counts applauding as a little upper body/lower arm workout, then Leta the Constant Audience Member is good to go. What a relief; I was afraid that I was sedentary.

01 September 2005

Fill 'er up

I bought gas this morning on my way in to work for $2.85/gallon. Which makes this morning officially part of "the good old days" because every station I have passed since then is over 3.00 per. I must have caught the good folks at the Mobil before they raised their rates and I'm grateful. I'm also grateful that I drive a little car that can go 350-400 miles on a tank. And the folks in Europe have been paying over $4.00 per for some time now, so we're just catching up to everybody else.

On the other hand, my new hobby is laughing at the folks who decided that they needed Hummers to tool around the suburbs.

I'm going down to Woodbridge on Saturday where gas is usually pretty cheap. I'll report in on what constitutes "cheap" on Sunday.