30 June 2008

Leta hates ---

When I was a young teenager and had braces, Mom would forget when my appointments were, and when, therefore, my jaw would be very tender, and would often make something for dinner that: a) I loved and b) required chewing. (Roast beef, for example.) This made both of us sad, me because, in some kind of horrible foreshadowing of the whole Celiac Disease-based Deprivation, there was wonderful food that I couldn't have, and Mom because good roasts are expensive and she was a single parent, so not having me fall to with my usual enthusiasm sort of undermined the pleasure of making a special dinner.

I only began to regard the whole process as slightly vindictive when Mom fell totally in love with home-made vinaigrette (with, I swear, extra vinegar) because in addition to my jaw being tender, the insides of my cheeks were pretty torn up by the wires holding the braces in place. My pleas for something closer to cream than Hydrochloric acid fell on deaf ears. Largely because Mom worked something like 60 hours a week and, let's face it, I talk a lot so remembering any one of my specific teenage complaints of the dozens and dozens I dreamed up each day would have taken quite a lot.

So later in my teenage years (the handwriting seems to narrow it down to about my junior year), I wrote a list of foods not to serve me any more because we were both tired of the "but I thought you liked this" / "No, I hate it" back and forth.

Mom found the list as she was going through stuff and gave it to me. And I've updated it a bit. I think that the parens meant that I willing to consume them in small amounts if they were cooked. Black is then and now, red is then, blue is now.

Leta hates:
black olives
(green peppers)
cooked cauliflower
cooked carrots
ricotta cheese
cottage cheese

So I only added one vegetable and I've removed the others. And, almost just in time to no longer be able to eat regular lasagna, I'd learned not to dislike ricotta cheese. For years and years every time I went to stay with friends of other friends such, dinner would be the hostess's special recipe lasagna. It was made special with the addition of extra ricotta. Hoo boy.

The list of foods that I love but should not eat, by the way, is:


Useful substitute grains are:

Indian rice grass
Job’s tears
Wild Rice

And some of these? I have no idea what they are. I'm willing to try them, though.

My other big rule for food these days if I'm allowed to eat it, I do. At dinner at the 4 Provinces after the NVTA awards on Sunday I asked if I could substitute something for the exceedingly-yummy-looking-but-made-with-flour blue cheese potato cake. I was offered, and cheerfully accepted mashed potatoes. Mary, who was sitting to my left asked if I wanted them to put any blue cheese on my mashed potatoes and I said, oh no, I was going to have them as God intended - with about a half a stick of butter and some salt and pepper. And I did. Because the "Leta loves" list would look something like this:

etc, etc, etc, etc.

29 June 2008

In the midst of death

I go to more funerals these days than I used to and I read this right around the time that I went to my friend Judie's recently.

In Arto's was the funeral party this time, but before we could begin first Zachara and Besso who wasn't speaking together almost three years must settle their quarrel and even I had to be friends again to Cucule and both we forget what happened, all for Uncle John's remembry. Is good this, even if an old-time way. It lets a man be sure he will finish from the grave, at least, what he has a duty to work for through his whole life -- bring peace among his friends.

So twenty men we sat down around the table to drink toasts for Dzea Vanno* and eat for him shilah p'lavi, the Meal For the Day of Death. Rice, it is, with enough pieces of fatted young lamb in and salt and black, black pepper, and onions, and thyme all cooked together until it turns velvet smooth. Hot and rich. Special good for people that is cold from new-turned ground, empty with looking at open graves.

But we didn't fill the glasses only for Uncle John this day. We remembered other men, too, that left our table. Davit and how every year he went to such troubles and strunged nuts on strings for dipping in thickened grape juice -- all to make chuchkella so little kids born here would know what candy tasted like at home.

A toast for Papa, too, who hunted thirty years to find somebody could speak our language and never thought his time was wasted.

Yes, and Nick, and Vasso, and Petri, many others, we remembered them, every one.

And somehow the table did what all the words couldn't -- gave us back ourselves and made us a promise that so long as one of our friends sits down to take pleasure in food and company and wine so long, too, we shall never be forgotten. More than that no man can want.

And so like everything in this world must, it came to an end our party, and Eliko rose for the last toast. To Dzea Vanno.

"I drink this little glass," he said, "for man who had the good sense don't leave us no fortune to fight over. He leaved us instead his responsibilities and his pleasures, too, with a good example how to enjoy them. Still lots and lots left to do in this world yet. So priest gonna excuse me, I'm sure if a little I change the Bible words he reads on the cemetery and say different way. In the midst of death still are in a life. Amen.


From Anything Can Happen by George & Helen Papashvily

*Uncle John

27 June 2008

How to amuse upper management

1. Be the very cute and intelligent 7-year-old daughter of one of our senior engineers;
2. Attend a day camp that gets out around 3:00 so that you need to come to Dad's office every day for the week that your Mom is at a conference;
3. Be charming and engaging when chatting with Dad's co-workers and gamely smile at the joke that almost everyone makes about how you're our new hire;
4. When asked by my Boss what you're doing right now, sigh, and say "Ohhhh, just waiting for 5:00."
5. Smile gamely again when told that you already sound like the other engineers.

My Boss and his Boss told this little anecdote to prett' near every other senior staffer they could find. I know that I heard it repeated at least three times in the hour after it happened. So if Matilda ever does wish to work for us, she's already got several people who'd be willing to hire her. Including me as she has commented more than once that I type very fast.

25 June 2008

How Not to Get Directing Assignments

I've got stuff going on these days. I inherited directing the July show at Silver Spring Stage; we're moving Mom to Very Assisted Living*; I have a cat who would like to see me. You know - stuff going on. So I have finally either grown a little backbone or - at long last - finally developed some tiny bit of common sense about my calendar.

As I can't seem to think more than a few days ahead right now (and sometimes it's hour to hour), I have started jettisoning projects that require any attention from me before the end of July. The lovely and wonderful Mary Ann let me out of directing a children's show in the fall; the equally lovely and wonderful John picked up that show slot for me; Susan was very understanding about my unwillingness to commit to her one act; and etc.

Back at the beginning of May, I went to see a show that some friends were doing in the theater where another friend, Dave, is the theater manager. They had announced their next season, so I asked who was directing each of the three shows and it turned out that they had directors chosen for the later two but not the first one.

I joked "Well, just get Dave fired** and have him do it."

"Actually, he suggested you."

At that point I was still attached to Mary Ann's children show which would run at the same time, which gave me a reasonable excuse to say no, although the discussion continued through the evening. A couple of times, the very persuasive Chip nearly had me agreeing to direct both the children's show and his mainstage production.

So from now on, I think I'll keep a copy of this webcomic in my purse. Just in case.

* Or, as I like to think of it, "Why is my Mother a prisoner in her room just because she uses a wheelchair? Living." More on that some time soon.

** Facility Conflict of Interest rules prevent him from working on shows while employed there.***

*** Which is, in itself, rather a pity, as he is a very good director.

(Note especially the text in the second frame, as Mary Ann once confirmed to me that she regards "No! Stop! Get away from me! I have a restraining order and a gun!" as a maybe. Producers for Children's Theater need to be that way.)

From Basic Instructions, Your all-inclusive guide to a life well-lived by Scott Meyer. (Used with permission - thanks, Scott!)

23 June 2008

NAVY stands for Never Again Volunteer Yourself

"Calling a show" is, in many ways, the easiest part of stage managing a show. (It's definitely much easier than taking blocking notes or being the the responsible adult no matter what that is also part of the job.) It largely consists of sitting in the tech booth (if there is one) and saying things like "Light Cue 2 - Ready"; "Light Cue 2 - Warning"; "Light Cue 2 - Go." "Ready" means that the cue is coming soon; "Warning" that it's about to happen, so have your finger hovering near the button; and "Go" means push the button. (Interestingly enough, the Rev War manual of arms has a similar process: "Poise --- firelock!" "Cock --- firelock!" "Take Aim!" "Fire!" I also remember hearing "Make ready" yelled a lot. Where art and real life collide indeed.)

In a really complicated tech show show - most musicals - some of those cues overlap so that the call sounds more like "Lights Cues 17 through 24 - Ready"; "17 through 24 - Warning"; "17 - go, 18 - go, 19 - go...."

I probably got some of that explanation wrong, by the way, but that's because I'm an oblivious, self-involved actor, not a stage manager.

The first show that I called was about 4 years ago at the Stage. Tammi, our Stage Manager (SM) for "Art" came in one night looking like death on a dessert plate, so in my role as Production Minion I sat her down so sh could rest and she talked me through the pre-show set up. We walked through her cued script so that there wouldn't be any horrible surprises and then I sent her home and I ran lights and called the show. It turned out fine. If memory serves the guys in the cast - Dave, Jeff, and Ted - were really lovely about the last minute staff change, thanked me a lot, and bought me a drink afterwards.

The second time was at the Eastern States festival a couple of years ago. Ted (previously mentioned "Art" castmember) was so hard up for someone to call his show that he was willing to talk me into it. I agreed and at least got to attend a couple of rehearsals before we (literally) took the show on the road. ESTA was in Pennsylvania that year. It turned out fine.

Here's the story of the third time. (Don't worry - it also turns out fine.)

My home team, Silver Spring Stage, submitted Mark Scharf's "Lizard Brains" for the NVTA one-act festival this year, partly because - due to illness - the team had to scratch from the Maryland festival in January.

Director Kendra and her husband, stage manager Jeff were to support actors McCall & Brian at the performance this past Saturday evening. However, Jeff got sick (bronchitis, I think), so Kendra was going to call the show in his place. Kendra is 7 or 8 months pregnant and last week the baby shifted into some kind of position that was pinching her sciatic nerve, rendering her hors de combat for the festival.

So "Lizard Brains" scratched at around what would have been their Tuesday tech time. I started teasing McCall that she and Brian are cursed to not quite performing the show every six months for the rest of their lives.

However, there were enough people at the festival - including the judges - asking that the show go on that Mac and Brian decided that they would step up and perform in their assigned slot. This decision got made around 10:30 on Friday night when I happened to be on the phone with one of the festival staff.

"Uhhhmmmmm." (pause) "Do they need any crew?" I asked. McCall was put on the phone and said, yes, please, please, please.

Not sure if I could be more of a help than a hindrance, I volunteered and the Doyles and I spent Saturday rounding up some substitute props (some of which were cheerfully lent by Mary Ann at the Elden Street Players, so thanks ESP!) such as, oh, a straight razor.

The festival staff (Zina, Deb, and timekeeper/Backstage Master Mary) were great and allowed us to do a timed tech during the 6:00 load in so that we would stay in compliance with the festival rules which are very specific about how much time each element can take. While McCall and Brian set up the stage, Dave (theater staffer, sound op for the festival, and previously mentioned cast member from "Art") and I wrote some easy lights up/lights down cues. He and McCall and I set music levels and the they did a semi-run through.

We were the 3rd show of the evening and the last of the 11 shows (including one original musical) of the festival. Our performance went smoothly with nice audience support. Mac and Brian performed with no sign of the last minute scramble in evidence. From start to finish they were smart, prepared, considerate, and helpful, especially to their last minute SM. I'd work with them again anytime, especially as they followed my most important festival rule: Give the audience a good show and don't be a pain in the ass. (Would that every company had remembered the second half of that advice.)

This year's adjudicators .... Well, the usual format for adjudication is to mix praise and constructive criticism and to remember that context is community, not professional, theater. This year's adjudicators did not quite follow that model. Most teams came out of the adjudication room (NVTA's adjudications are done in private, not public as others are) looking pretty glum and eventually the real competition at the festival became "who did the judges hate the most" with comparisons of comments received.

However, that being said, I am happy to announce that "Lizard Brains" took home the award for Best Original Production. The rest of the nominations and awards are listed below, but I would especially like to congratulate McCall and Brian, as they were involved in three shows, all of which receive recognition and McCall won the award for Best Lead Actress for "The Typists."

As Mac & Brian were rehearsing last night in our theater, I accepted the award on behalf of the team. I believe that the speech went something like this:

"Thank you very much. 'Lizard Brains' would like to thank the folks in this room - Zina, Deb, Mary, Dave, and Nancy - without whose help at the last minute, we could never have done this." Or something similar.

NVTA 27th Annual One-Play Play Festival
Nominations and Awards

Best Supporting Actor
Kevin Walker - The Open Meeting - Castaways (winner)
Creg Crowe - The Open Meeting - Castaways

Best Supporting Actress
Kelly Glyptis - Believing Ruth - Dominion Stage
Jennifer Lambert - Believing Ruth - Dominion Stage
Joanna Edie - The Art of Self Defense - Zoon Vader (winner)
Jennifer Speerstra - The Art of Self Defense - Zoon Vader

Best Actor
Teddy Gron - Solitaire - LTA
Greg Powell - See You on the Outside - Prince William Little Theater (winner)

Best Actress
McCall Doyle - The Typists - Fauquier (winner)
Ellen McKinstry - The Open Meeting - Castaways

Best Director
Liz Couchman - The Art of Self Defense - Zoon Vader
Sallie Willows - The Typists - Fauquier
Liz Owens - Solitaire - LTA (winner)

Best Production of an Original Play
See You on the Outside - Prince William
Lizard Brains - Silver Spring Stage (winner)
Solitaire - LTA

Best Overall Production
The Typists - Fauquier
The Open Meeting - Castaways (winner)
The Art of Self Defense - Zoon Vader

There were also three "Judge's Discretionary Awards":

Zoon Vader - The Art of Self Defense - received two awards for the Best Voice Over and and Best Ensemble
OutOftheBlackBox - Double Play - received a best Play Within a Play (or "Playlet") for the first play within Double Play entitled Then, Now, Me

15 June 2008

NVTA 2008

Michael Toscano in his role of Friend of Community Theater (instead of his role as Critic With Whom I Sometimes Agree and Sometimes Disagree But He Reviews Community Theater in a Major Daily So All the Saints Preserve Him and Here's a Toast to His Health) ran a nice preview piece in the Washington Post about this year's NVTA One-Act festival.

In many ways, he sums up why I like NVTA*: a chance to see companies try something outside of their comfort zone; a chance to see original plays that could be fabulous**; and the whole try-a-short-one sampler because no play runs longer than an hour and most about 30 - 40 minutes.

This year my pals over at the Providence Players of Fairfax are the lead-off team and Silver Spring Stage is the closer this coming Saturday night. So, please, follow the link, read the article, and come see some plays!

And -- thank you, Mr. Toscano.

*Although he skips the part I always mention about one-act festivals being a cross section of the good, the bad, and the amusingly terrible. I am grateful for this omission as the word "terrible" sells so few theater tickets.

**Or not....

14 June 2008

A Thunderstorm at Dolly Sods

My Mom was an active hiker, backpacker, and trail maintenance volunteer for many years and if it weren't for the MS, she'd still be on the trail as often as possible. She had dearly hoped to turn Sara and me into hikers as well, but our interests lay elsewhere*, espcially as I am happiest when near a good book and a hot cup of tea. (Or, well, in a theater.)

One of Mom's favorite places to hike was the Dolly Sods Wilderness. For several years running, Mom; her boyfriend, Paul, her sister, Dotty, and another friend would hike Dolly Sods every New Years Day. I described it as "jumping from ice-covered rock to ice-covered rock" but as usual, I didn't actually know what I was talking about and, as I always refused to go, I still don't.

As we get Mom ready for the move from Independent to Very Assisted Living, we have found and saved / found and discarded so many pieces of paper from Mom's life. Mom wrote this short essay in 1991 and I found it yesterday as we were going through some stuff. She agreed to let me post it, so today Mom is my "guest blogger."

* What fun it must have been to take two uninterested, complainers on her favorite activity! I'm sorry, Mom.

A Thunderstorm at Dolly Sods

by Ann Hall (1991)

It was hot and sticky in Washington and Cleveland the week before Labor Day. Four of us packed appropriately -- mostly light cotton clothing. Saturday afternoon at Dolly Sods, as we headed across the open spaces around Blackbird Knob a thunderstorm hit fast. Twenty minutes later it was gone, the air was cool and fresh, Dolly Sods was beautiful. The days were cool and bright, the nights were chilly and the the stars were incredible, and we were a little cool in our "light cotton clothing."

Back in Washington, I looked at my new Backpacker magazine where there is an article with suggestions for backpacers. On that page was "my" picture -- a girl sitting on a mountain in a open space in a thunderstorm. The paragraph about thunderstorms described us well. I think we did it right in this storm. Here's what we did being caught in an open field.

First we stopped at a spot that was near some small trees, not under them, and not the higest spot. We took off our packs, put on ponchos and rain suits and settled down (crouched, kneeled, sat on our foam sleeping pads). In a place like that make yourself as small as possible -- don't stand, don't lie down, don't wear a pack. Load your pack with sleeping pads, rain suits and a few large plastic bags near the top. You'll be able to cover up quickly.

The chances for being caught in a thunderstorm at Dolly Sods are good. Avoid these storms if possible. If, however, you are caught in one of these storms make yourself as unattractive to lightening as possible, stay as dry as possible, then enjoy what you see and hear (since you're already there). The lightening strikes in different directions as you watch the storm move fast across the sky. The thunder bounces off the mountains, echoes across Red Creek, echoes from Blackbird Knob and rolls across the flat places. If you're there, take care of yourself first, then don't miss the big event.

12 June 2008

Tool box is as tool box does!

Conversation on Wednesday with me boss:

"Okay, I'm off to the post office with my spiffy new purse."

"You know, women always do this. Now, if it were a spiffy new tool box you were showing me..."

"Uh, excuse me?" [Pulls out little "zip top bag" of cosmetics] "Tools." [Pulls out mobile phone] "Tool." [Pulls out keys.] "Tools."

He then conceded that I was, in fact, carrying a spiffy, black leather tool box. Good thing, too.

11 June 2008

Shout hello to someone and get naked

My spiffy new Jason Mraz CD (We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things) has the following quote from Rachel Corrie which (obviously) I really liked.
"I'm building the world myself and putting new hats on everybody one by one... Before I go out I'm gonna have people in tutus, cops wearing sombreros, stockbrokers with viking hats, priests with panties on their heads. In the world I'm building, everybody shouts hello to everybody else from their car windows. People have speakers attached to their chests that pour out music so you can tell from a distance what mood they're in, and they won't be too chicken to get naked when the rain comes."
David and I saw My Name is Rachel Corrie* at the CATF last year (his comments on the production here), so there was the tiny shock of recognition at seeing her name in the quote credit.**

*And, yes, I knew who she was before that. I don't actually get all of my information about the world from plays. Just most of it.

**Which, by the way, reads in part "From Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie by Rachel Corrie, edited with an introduction by the Corrie family."

10 June 2008

Find the theater people

Just as you can count the visiting Protestants in a Catholic church just by checking out who tries to go on to the "big finish" in the Lord's Prayer, you can count the theater people in your audience with this simple trick:

1. Slightly mistime the execution of a lighting cue thus:
- Penultimate line
- Go to black
- Last line
- Resume previous lighting as actors exit
- Go to black

2. Count the number of little "hmmmhs" you hear in the audience.

3. (Optional) Note the location of each "hmmmh."

09 June 2008

He just got my vote

Between the Electoral College (Americans are not smart enough to elect a president, so we'll do it for you) and Superdelegates (Americans didn't vote the right way, so we'll fix it), I have had less and less incentive to participate in the Potempkin Elections that we have. Yes, I know all the reasons to vote, but more and more they are overridden by the simple fact that my vote doesn't count. Never has. Never will.


If he could just keep this campaign promise, I'd write Denis Leary's name in on every ballot I got near. Forever. I still may.

Have you ever considered going into politics? (Jeroen Grouls, The Woodlands, Texas)

No. They wouldn't want me. I don't think they'd like my skinny-jeans squad. If I'm President, there are going to be government vans that drive around and pick up people who shouldn't be wearing certain clothing. Talk about lack of civil rights - I'm sorry, I'm pulling you right off the street, and we're giving you clothes that you're to be O.K. in. I don't know if hte country is ready for it yet.

10 Questions for Denis Leary, Time magazine, 9 June 08

Denis Leary for President - Freeing America from the Scourge of the Muffintop.

08 June 2008

On its way to the Pennyworth

I've never actually seen Mom wear this t-shirt and I know that I won't, so off to the Pennyworth it goes, but I enjoyed the list.

Top Ten Reasons for Being an Episcopalian (according to Robin Williams*, that is)

10. No snake handling.
9. You can believe in dinosaurs.
8. Male and female, God created them; male and female we ordain them.
7. You don't have to check your brains at the door. **
6. Pew aerobics.
5. Church year is color coded.
4. Free wine on Sunday.
3. All of the pageantry, none of the guilt.
2. You don't have to know how to swim to get baptized.
1. No matter what you believe, there's bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

And, of course, there is the very slight irony that I'm typing this on Sunday morning when the rest of the Frozen Chosen are at church. I'm not sure this counts as a devotional activity.

*Yep, the comedian. It's from an HBO special he did some years ago. Not Rowan Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury, although wouldn't that be interesting?

**If I could edit the list, I'd use the #7 I found as I was verifying which Robin Williams we were talking about here: "Instructions found in BCP" ***

***The Book of Common Prayer - it's more or less the Anglican Owner's Manual for the church.

06 June 2008

The power of a name

I keep a couple of laser pointers on hand for my Boss to use during presentations. Whenever I lend him one we have the same conversation as he is testing it about not blinding the accounting staff who work at the opposite end of the hall from me. The other day, however, we were playing the light along that wall and I started joking about seeing if we could make the accountants chase after it as my cat does.

Then I got a great idea.

"We need a kitten!"

"A what?"

"A kitten! If you have a laser pointer, you ought to have a cat around to chase the light dot. We could get a kitten and give it a really cool radar name!"

"There are no really cool radar names."

"Oh yeah? We could name it Swerling."

He thought. "That is a really cool radar name."

"I know!"

And then he thought - for the barest second - that maybe we should get a kitten for the office and name it Swerling. Common sense, tragically, prevailed.

But for that brief moment I nearly got to have a kitten at work solely because I thought up a good name for it.

03 June 2008


My Mom will be moving from the Independent Living section over to the more nursing home-like section that someone jokingly called "Dependent Living" in the Continum of Care Community where she lives.

The first and biggest part of this process was six or seven years ago when Mom moved out of the 3-bedroom house that she lived in for 30 years and into a one-bedroom apartment. Between my Aunt Dotty and Mom's friend Barbara, much stuff was wrestled away from her and given away, thrown away, left with unsuspecting friends and family, and probably mailed to random addresses. Mom, bless her heart, is a sentimental packrat. Had she time enough and space, she would keep everything that ever entered her life by way of another person, including phone messages and drive-through receipts. Deep in her heart, Mom thinks that the Collyer brothers were right.

When she first asked me what I wanted from the house in which Igrew up, I said the piano, the dollhouse, and the lamp she painted with two ceremic ladies on it who looked a little like Sara and me in that one was blond and the other brunet (known to us as "the Leta and Sara lamp"). I did get those three things and, oh sweet merciful heavens, so much more. So very much more.

Because when Mom is being forced to give things up, it's easier just to agree to take those things and pretend that they will be cherished forever as she would cherish them. It's rather like telling little children that their dog has gone to live on a farm because many, many of those things went to the Pennyworth some time ago.* Please don't tell Mom.

We are now deep into the second phase, from one-bedroom aparment to one room. Getting one's mother ready to move into Dependent Living is remarkably like sending her to camp for the rest of her life. She won't need furniture or dishes or anything like that, but she will need roughly two week's worth of clothes, which will be marked with her name, and toothpaste and a toothbrush. She won't have a lot of privacy, so valuables are coming to me or going into the safe deposit box. A lot of boxes of stuff are coming to me prett' near intact so that Mom and I can sort it after she makes the move in a couple of weeks.

Thank God for my aunt. She came in from Cleveland for a week and cajoled, bullied, and simply wore Mom down so that lots and lots and lots of stuff was given away. I'm too much of an enabler. I'd ask her book by book what she wanted to keep, whereas Dotty simply points to an entire shelf, announces that Mom won't need them any more and packs them up. We'd never be ready in time** if it weren't for the more Achtung side of Dotty's personality. Bless her.

So Saturday morning we three were going through Mom's jewelry. I asked for a few things, not much because I don't wear a lot of jewelry, mainly rings and earrings, but Mom doesn't have pierced ears and she wears a size 5 1/4 ring and I wear a 7.

But I did find something I wanted. Something I'd asked for more than once over the years that Mom could never remember if she still owned it and if so where it was. When I got cast in Agnes, I asked Mom if she still had her old Zippo lighter. The one that, I think, Daddy gave her when they were engaged. The one with her name on it.

We found it in the jewelry box. And now I have it. Dotty showed me how to fill the lighter fluid reservoir and it works a treat. It sounds like a Zippo, which is the first thing everyone notices when I show it to them in that "lookee what I got!" way - that it make that Zippo sound when you shut the lid.

Mom gave me her engraved cigarette case several years ago which I did use during Agnes but we didn't find the Zippo until the day before closing and introducing a new or different prop late in the run is just a bad idea. And the $1.79 electronic ignition lighters that I bought at the convenience store near the theater did the job just fine and it seemed sort of disloyal to stop using them. I still have one in my purse.***

So I'm very glad to have my new Zippo. And I'm also noticing that for a non-smoker, what with the Zippo, the cigarette case, and the ashtrays I seem to have more than my fair share of smoking paraphernalia. All of it given to me by Mom, who actually quit smoking the day she found out that she was pregnant with me.

* Even though it's very close to both my home and my office, I cannot ever volunteer at the Pennyworth and don't dare stick my nose in the door, lest I start buying back things I've managed to let go of. The packrat gene runs strong.

** And we still might not. The schedule was set by them not by us.

*** Another was given to our stage manager, Frank, as an informal present. He can't light it by snapping his fingers near it the way he can the Zippo,**** but he likes the little built-in flashlight it has.

**** Frank has several interesting talents. Most of them, as I like to point out, are a little useless and a little louche. I probably like to point this out because they are, each and every one, the sort of trick I find fascinating and will never be able to learn how to do.

02 June 2008

Like a swim in vinegar

Arthur, the Reference Librarian on Savoynet, found some letters by W.S. Gilbert published in UK periodicals. He gave us a sneak peak of two of as he transcribes them for the Archive. The second one was good, but the first one really captures that cranky old guy side Gilbert's personality that makes him one of my heroes. Somewhere up in heaven, Gilbert, John Adams, and Harry Truman have having a lovely time being acerbic with each other. One day I hope to join them, merely as a delighted auditor.

Gilbert’s letter to The Graphic, April 2, 1870, p. 427


To the Editor of The Graphic

SIR, -- I accept Mr. Burnand’s challenge to find a rhyme to “silver,” if he will allow me the license that he himself takes in finding a rhyme to “month.”
If Mr. Burnand is in earnest when he suggests “runn’th” as a legitimate rhyme to “month,” and really believes that when he is at a loss for a rhyme he is at liberty to dispense with any letter that may stand between himself and the fulfilment of his wishes, he will perhaps admit that I am liberty to say—

I have averred—indeed, I will ’ver—
That I have found a rhyme to “silver.”

But allowing, for the sake of argument, that Mr. Burnand is at liberty to rob “runneth” of its only e whenever it pleases him to do so, the fact remains that the u in “runn’th” is, in strictness, no rhyme to the o in “month.” To a careless ear there is, no doubt, a strong analogy between the two sounds, and in ordinary versification they might pass muster as fairly good rhyme; but in seriously discussing a question of nicety in rhyme, we are bound to look at it from a purist’s point of view, and form this point of view “runn’th” is no rhyme to “month.”
I still adhere to “millionth” as the best rhyme to “month,” and I have the authority of the greatest poets in the English language for treating it as a tri-syllable, if I feel disposed to do so. The termination “ion” in such words as “million,” “contagion,” “rapscallion,” “morion,” “pillion,” “vermilion,” has been used indifferently as one or two syllables by every poet in the English language from Chaucer to Tennyson:

Bring forth the parties of suspicion.
Rom. and Jul., Act v. Sc. 3.

--Woe, woe, woe to such communion.
BYRON’s Heaven and Earth, Part i. Sc. 2.

Here are some analogous cases:

And bear the work of Heaven with patience.
Rom. and Jul., Act v. Sc. 3.

And let mischance be slave to patience.
Rom. and Jul., Act v. Sc. 3.

I will do so; but look you, Cassius.
Jul. Caes., Act i. Sc. 2.

Would not Mr. Burnand consider himself justified in writing,

Put a pillion
This little filly on?

Inventors often give arbitrary and wholly irrational names to their inventions, in order to bring them more immediately into notice. Now these ingenious gentlemen would take rank as public benefactors if, in selecting these arbitrary names, they would be so good as to enrich the English language with rhymes to words that are at present rhymeless, or nearly rhymeless. If the inventor of the Rantoone had called it a “Ronth” (explaining in his specification that the o was to have the exact value of the o in “month”), this controversy would have been avoided, and the instrument, whatever it is, extensively advertised, for, as the only unimpeachable rhyme to “month” (except my “millionth”) it would be perpetually lugged into doggerel. I myself am engaged in perfecting an ingenious apparatus for the purpose of extracting sunbeams from the cucumber of commerce (cucumis communis of Linnaeus), and when it is completed I shall call it a “Chilver.” Perhaps my unconditional acceptance of Mr. Burnand’s challenge to find a disyllabic rhyme to “silver,” without the aid of a context, had better stand over until this instrument is completed.
Yours faithfully,
Junior Carlton Club, March 27

*Burnand = Most likely F.C. Burnand, humorist and editor of Punch.