29 November 2005


Elden Street is kind enough to post pictures on their website and the ones from Emperor are up. Whoo-hoo! And, ahem, note the unsolicited comment.

My adorable cast

All Photos by Jeff Boatright, edited by Richard Downer

28 November 2005

If I didn't do theater, I'd be the CEO here or something

I know that it's really weird, but if I don't have somewhere that I have to be after work, I just hang around here and kind of putter and get stuff done. I'm amazingly productive after 5:00 on a non-theater, non-plans-with-pals night.

(In fact, the Loyal and Dedicated will remember that this particular job was offerered to me about a half hour after I was off the clock because I was hanging around.)

Do I know why I do this? No, not really.

23 November 2005

Get 'em while they're cheap

The things one finds on the internet during a slow work day. My goodness.


Scroll down to #35.

David punts a perfect opportunity

Recently Karen and Jean discovered that David and I are dating. And have been for a while. So one night after a Book of Days rehearsal they made sure that everyone went out for a little cast bonding and then they flanked David and asked questions like "So how long have you been together?" and - much more importantly - "When are you two getting married?"

David told me about this and I begged him please to tell me that he had told them that my hints on that subject were getting less and less subtle and sounding, frankly, kind of desperate, but that he was resisting them.

But, no. Stickler for the truth that he is, David told them that we had no plans to get married because I'm not the marrying kind. What a fun-spoiler.

And, okay, I'm not. And neither is he. And if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

And skipping such an obvious chance to mess with good and kind people? Just so wrong.

On the other hand - ooooooohhhhhhh shiny.

22 November 2005

The Moral Turpitude Hat Trick

(Posted with Richard's kind permission. Because he thinks no one reads this or because he thinks I won't really post it, I dunno. Either way, he's wrong.) (Hi, Richard!)

Okay, so dedicated readers will remember that one of the interesting aspects of The Emperor's New Clothes was that it was finally brought nudity to the children's theater.

So, hey-ho, away we go, the show got cast, we had rehearsals, lots of fun was had, et and cetera. As we got closer to opening, I was zeroing in on breaking people of doing things that would prevent this from being the finest children's show ever. Kori needed to talk slower, Julie needed to stop shifting from foot-to-foot, stuff like that. Nothing major, just the usual clean up that you have to do. And Richard needed to be bigger.

Some actors are ... economical ... with their gestures and voices and for this show, I needed large, clean gestures and big voices. Which Richard resisted because he is not as naturally loud and extroverted as, say, I am. (Many, many, many people are not naturally as loud and extroverted as I am.) So I would tell Richard that I needed him to be bigger, and he would nod and file those statements away along with the other things that directors say.

As we got close to opening, I got more and more motivated to get a bigger performance from Richard, so during notes after a Tech Week rehearsal I told him that if at any time he went over the top in a performance, I would give him a dollar. Ritzya - who apparently had signed on to be Richard's manager - immediately asked if that was per performance or for the whole run. Per performance. Folks chuckled and Richard filed that away with the things that directors say.

(Ritzya, by the way, never needs to be told to be bigger. She goes over the top so often that she has a condo there. For which I was grateful more than once. White girl got jump.)

So I was giving the cast a little pep talk before the first performance and I took a dollar out of my pocket and showed it to Richard. "Meet the Ritzya standard, and this is yours." He nodded. Then I folded it up and stuck it in my bra. And, you know, one could actually feel him focus. And he said, "Okay, now I'm motivated." "Earn the dollar, Richard."

And several times he did. And I was delighted to be able to fish that dollar out and present it to him in front of the whole cast. In fact, at the cast party, I gave everyone a dollar for something great that they did during the run. But all those dollars came out of my pocket. Richard's was the only one tucked securely into my lingerie. Which meant, of course, that when dressing for the children's show, I had to wear something low-cut enough to allow me retrieve a dollar with any kind of grace.

So. I've directed my first children's show. And even though it didn't have a guy in a beard wearing a Big Pink Fluffy Skirt with Matching Hair Thing, it did have nudity, sex, bribery, and corruption. It was sort of like working at a strip club for minors.

Next time I'll see if I can work in the F word.

The Benign and Enlighted Leta Regime

When I am an Empress, I shall walk through my kingdom, no, wait, I guess it would be an empressdom, and I will wave at all the people ......

And there will be a few rule changes. For instance:

1. There will be no Christmas advertising, no Christmas music on the radio, nothing, nothing about Christmas until after December 1st. Those failing to uphold this law will be forced to wear a big, unventilated Easter Bunny suit all summmer long. The suit will have previously been worn by a heavy drinker with a sweating problem. (However, leaving Christmas lights up on the house all year will be acceptable. No point in having to climb up and down ladders twice a year if there's no gutter cleaning to do.)

2. Very simple: Myself is a reflexive pronoun. It is not a subject pronoun or object. Sorry Emily Dickinson.

Other rules will be promulgated as needed, but I heard a Christmas song on the radio today.

21 November 2005

Wil Wheaton nails it

Wil has blogged about the "close and strike" part of doing a show. Some shows are harder to close than others and there have been shows where we were so reluctant to leave that after the party, or the last round of food or drinks at the restaurant, we just stand in the parking lot, unable to walk away.

I have one theater friend with whom the best conversations - okay, our only real conversations - would happen in dark parking lots, puntuated every twenty minutes with "Well, I better go." "Okay...." and one last hug good-bye and then just standing there and talking some more. I miss that.

souvenirs from better times

20 November 2005

Q&A with Producer Charles

On the way home from the show, Charles had some questions about how the play he just saw varied from the book of The Emperor's New Clothes that he had read. And Charles' recall of detail is pretty good, so he had fairly specific questions, illustrated with quotes from the book. (Until he gets his producing career started, Charles might want to consider being a college professor, as he tends to ask essay questions which require specific examples in reply.) Anyway, one of the things that Young Charles was curious about was why the Emperor wasn't completely naked at the end of the show. In the book, he's naked. (Brett and Cate - what kind of books do buy for this kid???)

Well, I explained, sometimes the book and the play are different, even though they come from the same story.

Yeah, but he wasn't naked. Why? (Or why not. Please answer briefly with specific examples.)

Well, because, Charles, you're eight years old, so you could handle seeing a naked actor, but a lot of the other kids are younger, some of them are only three years old, and it wouldn't be appropriate to have a naked actor in front of three year olds.

This seemed to satisfy him. Producers, after all, know that children's theater needs to be family friendly.

So great. He's better informed and one step closer to being a wealthy and award-winning producer.

And I'm going to spend the rest of my life knowing that I told an eight year old that he's mature enough to see naked actors.

19 November 2005

Charles's theater job

Last Sunday The Emperor's New Clothes was completely sold out. This would normally be a very good thing, except that we had to turn some kids away, including Charles, which broke my heart (and Sandy's and Kat's and Mary Ann's hearts, too). Charles was great about it and cheered up after I told him that I would bring him back the following week and that I was very, very sorry. Very. Very. (And thus Leta learns - again - the virture of making reservations.)

So this morning through a covert agency-amount of organization and timing and scheming, I collected Charles (age 8) and Deb (cast member) and off we went to Herndon. Arriving with the director means a pretty fair amount of time is spent cooling one's heals waiting for the show to begin and we forgot to bring a book for Charles, so he definitely wins the award for patience. Mind you, he got to walk with me to the bakery (and help carry back the booty), and he got a chocolate pretzel, and he got to hang out with Annie and Joey (Richard's adorable and well-behaved children who just miniatures versions of him) and Kaitlyn (Sandy's daughter. Sandy runs our box office. She is lovely and a dear.).

At one point Charles was muching his pretzel and listening to me and Sandy discuss some of the logistics for the day. He started asking questions about how the box office worked, how many seats are in the theater, how many reservations there were for the day, etc. And I had two thoughts: 1. That a little boy who didn't get to see the show last week would have a definite interest in how many reservations there were; and 2. That, although he never used the specific phrase "How's the house today?," Charles sounded an awful lot like a producer. So once again I have brought a child to Elden Street who can have a career in theater that doesn't involve acting and could involve making enough money to take his parents on nice vacations in foreign countries. His parents can thank me later.

Also producer-like, Charles wanted to know why there were lights on over the house but not enough lights on the stage, so I explained the difference between pre-show house lights and show lighting. He seemed to think that there were a lot of stage lights and that we wouldn't need to use all of them. Probably because he's getting his percentage off the back end and doesn't want to drive down the gross...

He offered to help, too. And charmed everyone.

And didn't want to sit down front as Samatha does, but wanted to sit in the back row in the least seat on house right, which is near the booth. Just like a producer.

18 November 2005

One for the D2005 folks

From Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac for today:

It was on this day in 1928 that Mickey Mouse was born. Walt Disney's "Steamboat Willie," premiered in New York at the Colony Theater. It was the first sound-synchronized cartoon to attract widespread public attention. Along with Mickey Mouse, the black and white cartoon featured Minnie Mouse and Pegleg Pete.

D2005 is the e-mail that Brett set up for a bunch of us who go to WDW together every few years, usually in November. I was supposed to go this year, but the trip was the exact dates of the Tech Week for my children's theater show, so I had to miss it. Oddly enough, that date conflict was created by accident by Mary Ann, my producer, who has the same relationship with the Tragic Kingdom that Brett does (and that's even after having worked at Disneyland some years ago). She was - quite rightly - completely stricken when she discovered that I would have to miss a trip to visit the Mouse, but has done as much as possible to make up for it by assembling for me such a good team to work with that I'm looking forward to directing another kid's show in the future. She'll just have to clear the dates with Brett before I sign anything, that's all.

17 November 2005

The reasons to adore Richard just keep piling up

When I told Richard that there was a great demand on the internet for pictures of him in his Emperor's New Clothes final costume (great demand in this case meaning that Rosellen asked), he said that yes, I could take a picture on closing weekend and post it.

So I've borrowed David's digital camera and will take several shots of the glory that is my children's show. I'll take pictures of the cast, the set we play under, our set, stuff like that.

Richard has agreed to this even though his employer (and quite a few of his friends) are likely to come across these pictures. What a guy!

How to have your Pop-Tarts and be gluten-free, too.

1. Find an acceptable gluten-free bread (Ener-G makes one that's not too horrible).
2. Buy or make frosting.
3. Make toast, smear with frosting.
4. Enjoy yummy gluten-free "Pop-Tarts"

Bonus: I've actually been doing this for years and years (well, with real bread, of course, not the stale air that passes for gluten-free bread at about $5/loaf), but now it counts as being "creative" and "coping" rather than just being weird.

Those strangers at Wikipedia

David and I were discussing something once and I made some kind of assertion, I don't remember what, maybe that the sun rises in the east, and as he often does when, apparently, he does not trust me to get the simplest facts straight (note italics and boldfacing. Hmphf.), he went haring off to the web to check what I had said on Wikipedia.

So I asked in that light casual tone that should serve as a warning, how he knew that what he found on Wikipedia was correct? As he launched into what was sure to turn into a lecture about how wikis work and the nature of collective information, possibly accompanied by a quick sketch of some kind chart showing the proportion of all human beings who know what they are talking about better than I do, I just cut him off and got to the real point of my question: Why is he willing to blindly accept the word of a bunch of strangers with internet access but he doublechecks what I say? Hmmmmmm?

Well, it seems that the Guardian, if not wondering quite the same thing, was at least wondering how trustworthy Those Strangers on the Internet are. Here is a link (via Chris Abraham) that I found during my recent "time of no time" about who they asked and what those people found.

All-in-all Wikipedia scores pretty well, even though I couldn't find a page for California Tortilla.

The Pekoe Story, Part I

Here's how it all started. About 5 years ago - or maybe 6 - Debbie sent me the following e-mail because she finds Dave-the-cat-guy's (see all my previous whining about the name "David" elsewhere) writing style humourous and after she shared a few of his missives, I became a fan as well. So one day in March of 2000, I got this one, which, while not as humourous, gets the point across:

For those of you looking for a more permanent feline companion, may we present Mister Kitty? Mr. K is about 14 months old, a neutered male orange tabby, and is, simply, a love. He's one of the few cats I've ever met who actually enjoys being hugged. In fact, if he feels he's not getting enough attention, he will climb up onto a convenient table or countertop, wait for you to pass, and--basically--throw himself on you, purring and rubbing against your face. He's very good with other cats; in fact, he needs at least one other kitty for play and companionship. Mr. K really is one of the two or three most affectionate cats I've ever met (and y'all know that I've known one or two), and he's quite handsome to boot (photo available on request). Again, if you have any interest at all, please let me know.

So I forwarded it to Mollie. I suggested that we foster a cat and she suggested that I just go ahead and adopt "Mr. Kitty." So I wrote to Dave-the-cat-guy:

Hi David -

My name is Leta and I'm a friend of Debbie who forwards to me some of your e-mails about cat rescue [and your comments on "Tosca," which really helped me to understand the opera better when I saw it]. Until recently I was dating someone allergic to cats so I didn't think it would it send a positive message if I got a cat for the house, but he and I are now just Very Good Friends. So I would be very interested in getting more information from you about become a Cat Fosterer. Kind a kitty rental or try-before-you-buy.

Here is the situation at my house: I live in Silver Spring in a medium-sized house with a housemate [Mollie] and her dog [Max]. Max is 13 and doing the arthritic, grouchy-old-guy thing. Because of the arthritis he rarely leaves the first floor of the house, so any cats who wanted to avoid him could do so easily. He has lived with cats before and while he doesn't understand them he's willing to peacefully co-exist. For the next 6 months or so Mollie also provides day care in our house for three little children, two of whom are about 2 1/2 years old and one who will be 2 in June. The children are also pretty much restricted to the first floor but are themselves lively [very lively] and affectionate and used to pets.

I grew up with Siamese cats [still my favorite breed], so I'm well aware of what goes into maintaining cats in the style to which they can very easily become accustomed. I'm also aware that they are pretty useless when it comes time for household chores, unless you consider hissing at the vacuum cleaner and hiding under the sofa to be useful.

Mollie and I have discussed it and we thought that I should talk to you about adopting Mr. Kitty [who can resist the concept of assault friendliness? As Deb can tell you that's my basic M.O., anyway] and about me serving as fosterer for an additional cat. This way Mr. Kitty can have friends to play with - and new and different friends over time - but I don't have to permanently commit to two cats right away. If Mr. Kitty has already found new employment, then we should just talk about me becoming a fosterer.

I went to meet "Mr. Kitty." Dave-the-cat-guy warned me that Pekoe had developed an aversion to Kitty Fairs and might not be Mr. Personality if he suspected that this was another blind date dressed as a casual gathering of humans. But, ha ha!, I'm smarter than that, so I just ignored the cat and chatted with the people. And even though, oddly enough, this is a tactic I am completely unable to deploy around men I find attractive, it worked a treat with the cat. Before long he was climbing up the back of the sofa to get more up close and personal. Within an hour, he was in his cat carrier, his few belongings were packed, and he was on his way to a brand new life.

To be continued..... Stay tuned for exciting scenes from the next episode of "The Pekoe Story!"

Next time on "The Pekoe Story" -- Pekoe hates riding in the car!

14 November 2005


Two tech weeks, back to back. A cat with medical problems. Lots of work at work. Let's just say that it hasn't been a very quiet time in my own personal Lake Woebegone. Phone calls have gone unreturned, ditto a fair bit of e-mail. Scheduled activities have been pushed around and rescheduled. My home grows ever filthier.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. "The Emperor's New Clothes" opened on the 5th, so I stopped driving to Herndon for those rehearsals. And "The Cocktail Hour" opened on the 11th, This coming week is still action-packed, but I think I'll actually be home on Wednesday to watch "Law and Order." David and I get to go to a movie tonight.

And there was great rejoicing.

PS - And I still can't sleep.

How to decorate a set

An e-mail I sent to my Dad the other day --

Below is a link the press photos for "The Cocktail Hour." If you look carefully at the last picture (the cast gathered around the piano), you can see my high school graduation picture (the one on the left) and your mother's picture (the one on the far right). Hidden behind my graduation picture is one of yours & Mom's wedding photos with all the grandparents.

This is the second show that I've done at the Stage that needed family pictures, so this is also the second show that all three pictures have been in. In fact, it was the need to dress the set for "Independence" that got the wedding photo and your mother's portrait framed, which I'd been meaning to do for years and had never gotten around to. For "Independence" we also had Mom's, Sara's, and my baby pictures, which used to hang in Gram's house. Aunt Dotty gave them to me after Gram died and they usually hang in my bedroom.

By pure coincidence, the colors used on the walls in "Independence" matched the tinting in your mother's portrait (a kind of dusty yellow and sage green), so it looked completely at home there.

I pretty much hate every picture of me, so I hate these press photos, too, but I really enjoy having real pictures of my family on the set.


02 November 2005

It's Children's Show Tech Week!

My kid's show, The Emperor's New Clothes (bringing nudity to a children's theater near you!), opens on Saturday. The way it goes at Elden Street is that the mainstage show has complete use of the theater until they open. The Weir, the show under which we are running, opened this past Friday, the 28th, for instance. So once, they have their opening performance on Friday night, we get the theater Saturday during the day and can stay there until actor call - around 6:30 or 7:00 pm. However, before we leave, we have to put away anything of ours so that the the Mainstage show can have their evening performance. Fair enough - they have to strike anything moveable so that we can do our thing during the day. And we have the theater to ourselves for the week and can leave our set up.

We had a dry tech, which is when lights and sound are set and cued without the actors present, on Sunday. Dry techs are both good and bad, but I prefer to give the cast a day off before we start a week of rehearsals. It gives them a chance to do laundry and tell their families that they love them. And will miss them. I actually like Tech Weeks because it's when everything comes together - lights and sound and costumes and set and actors. You can actually really see the show you are going to have, for one thing and for another, I love the intensity and comraderie of spending that much time together. If you have a good cast (and I do) those days are just golden. Hard work but golden.

Tonight we were running the pre-show music and randomly someone would hear something they liked and would shriek and run into the theater and sing along and maybe dance. (And what it must do for the teenagers on my crew to watch the old people dancin' up a storm....) Richard, among his many talents, can dance. So he and I did a modified jitterbug - modified because he can dance I cannot and because the music wasn't really right for it, but who cared? It was fun. And I danced, like a wave on the ocean...

We have only one more rehearsal because The Weir has a performance on Friday night. So we'll run the show and I'll give My Last Notes because I don't give notes during the run. And then we'll strike our set and give the theater back until Saturday morning when we face The Kids. We'll have two shows each Saturday (11:00 and 2:00) and one each Sunday (2:00) until the 20th. But after tomorrow night the show belongs to the cast and to Sally (my Stage Manager) and Jen (my Sound Designer) and the rest of the crew. I'll be a tourist, attending as many performances as I can and seeing everything that I didn't clean up. Seeing blocking mistakes I made, directorial choices I messed up, seeing everything I did wrong. And adoring my cast because they are so adorable. Who do I have a crush on for this show? All of them. Well, all of them but when he makes his entrance in his costume for the procession to show off the New Clothes, I love Richard the best because he wears that costume with such good humor and grace.

And once this show is up I go directly into Tech Week for The Cocktail Hour. Back-to-back Tech Weeks. Hmm. Ask me on the 12th if I still like Tech Weeks.

One for the English Majors

I was typing something for my boss today and noticed that he had written "Transition [adjective] [noun] ..." and I asked if we could make it "Transfer [adjective] [noun]....." He agreed.

In this world of corporate-speak, this tiny victory is a lit candle in the vast darkness. The Professional Organization of English Majors will be so happy.

So you want to be a director

Holly's rule - If it makes the director laugh, it stays in.

Leta's corollary - If it the makes the producer laugh so much she snorts, it definitely stays in.