18 November 2012

The Parable of my Talents

I am a woman of a few talents.  I can sing some, so I sang in the choir as a teenager and I'm warm and pleasant and very good at saying "Good morning!" while handing people things and "Thank you!" while accepting their money, so I've been an usher for the past several years.

Knowing of my peculiar obsession with interest in theater, I am sometimes approached to direct the Christmas pageant or some variation on it, but I usually get out of that one because Christmas pageant-type anythings usually have enough people in them to set off my conflict alarm.*

There were a couple of talents of mine that the church had left buried in the ground until recently:  I like to read and I like to talk, so certainly I like to read out loud.  The church name for the person who reads out loud is a "lector."**  So, in addition to ushering, I am now a lector, which makes me very happy.

Here's how it works:  Late in the week Steve, who coordinates the lectors, sends a reminder that one is scheduled to read on the coming Sunday.  The reminder includes what one is scheduled to read, with the first lector reading from the Old Testament and the second lector reading from the New.   Beth, the church secretary sends a preview copy of the bulletin and the "Synthesis," which provides context and commentary on the readings and the gospel.  Speaking as someone whose favorite part of the rehearsal process is tablework, I'm really glad to get those.  Makes the reading much less cold.

On the Sundays when I lector (when I lect?) I start the service seated with the Acolytes behind the choir on the Epistle side.  Before church I check that what I am reading has been flagged at the beginning and end of the reading and that my reading is continuous rather than, say, verses 1-3, 9-15, and 18-22.  The person reading Old Testament lesson goes up to the Large And Very Authoritative Looking Bible on the lectern, which also being rather large and authoritative, nearly completely masks the bible, but that's fine as it also masks the Post-It flags.  Anyway, the Old Testament reader, climbs up on the little step-stool (so as to be seen by the congregation over the Large and Authoritative Lectern), turns on the mic and the light, and says "A reading from ________."

We are asked not to bring our bulletins with us to the lectern because it should be clear that we are reading directly from the Bible.***

For some reason most things that have to do with theater do not make me nervous but microphones do.  Maybe it's because I can hear myself talking or maybe it's because everyone should have some odd thing that makes one nervous, but reading a long paragraph in church with the words in front of me to an audience that is mostly paying attention makes me more nervous than anything else I do "on stage."  I think if I'd been told to project to the back of the house and there was no mic I wouldn't be as nervous, but not's not the deal.

And because I am an actor I try to balance how I read.  I want to treat it like a cold reading at an audition and really embody the characters.  But this is not about me. So I don't.  On the other hand, people pay more attention if one doesn't, uhm, drone.

So I do add a little color to my voice here and there and I slightly set of quotes from narrative.  Today, for instance, I read the story of the conception of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:4-20, for those following along at home) and -- to make this a visual -- you can could say that I read it thus:

Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.  Her husband Elkanah said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep?  Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad?  Am I not more to you than ten sons?" After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord.

Rather than, say,

Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.  Her husband Elkanah said to her, 

"Hannah, why do you weep?  Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad?  Am I not more to you than ten sons?" 

After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. 

At the end of the reading, the button is "The Word of the Lord" to which the congregation responds "Thanks be to G-d." ****

After the Old Testament reader is finished, he or she (sometimes) turns off the light and (sometimes) turns the pages to the Epistle reading for the convenience of the Epistle reader.  And then one is free to return to one's seat in the congregation "with the satisfying feeling that one's duty has been done."*****

One day the church will figure out how to benefit from another of my talents:  my multi-gallon per day capacity for a nice, hot cups of tea.

*As the number of people in a cast grows, the likely number of times you'll have the entire cast together diminishes.  So I try never to direct anything with a cast larger than eight.

** The name for the kind of reading out loud that David does is called "being a volunteer."  He reads textbooks and such out loud for an organization that provides spoken versions of written material to the blind and others with reading challenges.  They are called Learning Ally and would happily accept a donation.

*** It is clear that most of the congregation is following along in their bulletins because of the page-turning noise that happens at some point in one of the day's readings.

**** One time I got up there and halfway through the reading, I suddenly couldn't remember the button, even though I have heard it and responded to it for decades and have said it as a lector several times.  But I am actor and so I told myself silently -- as I was reading out loud -- what I tell myself on stage when I start to worry about a line from another scene:  "Do not worry about that line.  Say your next line.  When it is time for that line, it will come to you."  And it did.

***** W.S. Gilbert, The Gondoliers.  Of course.

14 October 2012

It really comes in handy

I was at the quarterly meeting of my investment club today and our hostess is Orthodox Jewish.  The topic of carrying during the Sabbath ("what about your children?  Can you carry them?") came up and so my friend was explaining that some Jewish communities create what she described as a sort of fence to enclose, say a neighborhood, and make carrying acceptable within that space.

"Oh," I said, "an eruv?"

My friend's jaw dropped and she said "You know that?!"

Her equally stunned husband said "How do you know that?"

"Huh," said the husband, "maybe they shouldn't be defunded."

05 October 2012

Lucky Wil, Lucky Leta

Wil Wheaton captures pretty much exactly how I feel when I get to work on a good show which happens to me more often than is truly fair.  

I would get out of my car and nearly run in the door for rehearsals for August: Osage County this past spring and I am counting down the hours minutes until I can get back in "the room" for Farragut North.

"And I know I keep saying it, but I’ll say it again: this is awesome. I get to work with people I love making a show that I’m proud of ..."

04 October 2012

A sign

... that perhaps I've been spending too much time in pubs with my theater pals:  I got an email and the screen name was Bill W.

27 August 2012

My new role model

Herman Cain is largely incoherent and self-aggrandizing which makes him to great fun to read.  Okay, to very rarely read.  Like this one interview, which is all I've seen in a while.  For which I am grateful.

But anyway ...

Have you and Romney had contact since you suspended your campaign?We have chatted about, No. 1, what my interests are going forward [in terms of being part of his Administration]. And I said, “Governor Romney, with all due respect, I’m not lookin’ for a job. I don’t want to be your VP pick, and I don’t want to be a Cabinet member. Because I’ve got other things in my career that I’m interested in doing.”
Did he ask you about those posts in particular?No. I just volunteered that information. I don’t know what he was thinking … No 2., I gave him some advice on sharpening his message. And he has taken a lot of that advice. Last week he rolled out his energy policy. I loved it. It was a five-point plan. And he even said to me, “Notice, I’m starting to use a number-point plan.”

I love that Mr. Cain "answered" a question he hadn't been asked and then used that answer to self-promote. This is definitely something to try in the future and I suppose the answers have to be addressed to people to whom one could plausibly have spoken.



"And I said, 'Johnny Depp, although I am very flattered, I'm not running off to Geneva, Switzerland with you.  I have other things in my life that I'm interested in doing.' "


"And I said, '[name of director I like working with], although it is very tempting, I cannot let you give me first refusal on the best roles in all your future shows.  My calendar is pretty crowded as it is and we should allow others to think that they have a chance."

Note that the idea doesn't have to be plausible, just the supposed offerer.  

Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2012/08/27/qa-herman-cain-isnt-looking-for-a-job-from-romney-but-he-has-a-few-pointers/#ixzz24lUnvjTl

13 August 2012

For we are members of one another

We find in the Bible what we look for, I believe.  This week, because it was second lesson and because it's what I look for, I found this:  

25So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not make room for the devil. 28Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.31Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

(The Epistle to the Ephesians 4:25 - 32)

In Paul's text to the Ephesians, he shortened it to "try 2 get along, k?  Love and hugs!"

03 July 2012

A change to the menu

I took Pekoe into the shop because you're supposed to do that every so often.  And because he'll be 13 in January, thus making him officially an Old Guy Cat.  And because (hmmm ... how to put this delicately ...) I was seeing something in the litter box that looked not as solid as would be considered optimal.

He is generally good tempered, has a good appetite.  He's energetic and uses his litter box.  So I really had nothing to worry about, per se, but again, he's an senior cat* and I would hate to find out that he had something we could fix had I only brought him in in time.

So I got his fabulous cat carrier out of the closet and let him play with it** and took him in to see The Vet.

It turns out that Mr. Elderly Feline has -- depending on who you ask -- either Kidney Failure or Chronic Kidney Disease.  This is not uncommon for geezer cats.  (Which made it not one tiny bit less disconcerting for me to hear.  This guy has been my pal and companion for 12 years and I love him a lot.)  And no matter what you chose to call it, the short answer is that Pekoe has a medical situation that is serious but not acute and will need to be managed.

That's the bad news.  The good news is that "managing" his health situation will not require that I give him a pill every day.  He ... doesn't like pills.

We put him on a "bland diet," which means that instead of the crunchy dry cereal that he is so fond of, I now feed him baby food.  Pureed chicken or beef or turkey with broth.***  I wasn't sure how he'd feel about that because he does love his crunchy dry cereal and usually ignores most meat-based human food, but he loved it. Loved.  It.  You'd have thought I was feeding him chocolate covered donuts.  He greets me at the door, usually with a "Yay, you're home!  I missed you!" kind of attitude.  Now he greets me with "Yay, you're home!  Let's open another of those jars!"

The Vet gave (read = sold) me some new crunchy dry cereal that is made by Hills and is specially formulated for cats with kidney issues (K/D).  I mix some of that into the baby food which slightly reduces his laser-like focus on the baby food because with the cereal mixed in, he fills up faster and doesn't gulp it down like a 7-year old at a birthday party.  So it's more like plain donuts ...

I'll soon be buying K/D wet food from the internet.  (The internet delivers.  The vet does not.)  Soon Pekoe will get something like wet food for breakfast and dry food for dinner or some such and I don't anticipate any transition issues because his approach as a former stray has always been "You're feeding me?  Again today? How cool is that!"

However ... the subcutaneous hydration?  Not sure he's going to be such a fan. Stay tuned for Leta and Pekoe's adventures with needles.

*One chart I saw broke cat ages into four levels:  up to 1 year = kitten; 1 year + = adult; 7 years + = mature; and 11 years + = senior.

** He loves that carrier and treats it like his own personal clubhouse.  I may have to just put him in there every so often and walk him around just for fun so that he doesn't start to think of it as the Theme Park Ride That Only Goes to the Vet.

***Strong recommendation:  Beechnut.  It's the only baby food I found that was, in fact, meat and meat broth instead of meat and corn starch.  Because the vet, for some reason, didn't suggest that I give Pekoe a daily serving or two of corn starch.  He didn't say not to, but even so ...

30 April 2012

Just doing my bit to lower the product cost

Or, as I think of it, being filled with virtue.  And absinthe.

Over the past few years I've developed a fondness for cocktails, like, f'instance, the Wild Irish Rose that I had at Arena Stage when I went to see Ah, Wilderness! which is Irish whiskey and grenadine with a splash of lime juice and topped off with club soda.  And very, very yummy.*

My friends are patient with me and generally treat my fondness for antique beverages the way they do my fondness for referring to the clothes under my clothes as "underpinnings."***

But an article in the March 26 edition of Time magazine**** about mixing Victorian-era cocktails with molecular gastronomy caught my eye with this:

For all the suspenders-wearing, Bettie Page worshipping, retro-countercultural aspects of these bars, the cocktail renaissance was started not by a whiskered young idealist but by cost-conscious industry tycoons:  the late Joseph Baum and his partner Michael Whiteman, who created some of the world’s top-grossing restaurants (including Windows on the World) and took fast food courts to Europe and Japan. In 1985, when they were mulling the relaunch of the legendary Rainbow Room, they started looking into 19th and early 20th century drinks, in part because they knew the modern value of a good cocktaiL “It makes a festive beginning for the guest and for the owner carries a product cost of between 15% and 18% [of the menu price] with close to zippo labor cost,” Whiteman says. “This compares with food that typically has a product cost of around 27% to 33% and labor cost of another 30% to 35%." While you may need only one bartender, the kitchen has to have an army of dishwashers, busboys servers and cooks. “A really good cocktail,” Whiteman says, “will marry well with a restaurant’s first courses so people will order a second rather than automatically shifting to lower-margin wines.”  Those kinds of calculations help explain why most good restaurants have a bar—and why many of them work up a bar menu just to feed drinkers and dawdlers. 

I certainly realized that all the fun libations were not suddenly all over menus just to please me (they could please me more simply by not adding flour to dishes I could otherwise order...) and I certainly knew that the mark up on booze is never far from the owner's thoughts, but I didn't realize exactly how much I was helping the bottom line by asking for a Side Car.  

* Of course, when I'm part of a group and want to order something that requires no explanation, my go-to drinks remain Scotch (or whiskey) up with rocks on the side; gin & tonic; a Tom Collins; a Martini; or a Shirley Temple.**

** No, not all in the same evening.  Of course not.  Don't be silly.

****I would link to the article, especially as it has a video of a rather steampunk device (a "balancier") that makes "teeter-totter tea," but their website is a pain and a half, so no.

**** And I was rather touched to see that Eddie Bauer had named their new line of sheer tops "underpinnings."*****

**** Yes, of course, I bought some.  Darn cute they are.

06 April 2012


Charlie's before-the-dinner blessing in Act II of August: Osage County always warms my heart.  There are a couple of points where I look up at Randall, who is playing Charlie and just smile.

But then I have a bit of a crush on Uncle Charlie.  So does Ivy.

(Uncle Charlie reminds me of my Uncle Bill.  I had a crush on him, too.)

Charlie:  Dear Lord ...

We ask that you watch over this family in this sad time, O Lord ... that you bless this good woman and keep her in your, in your ... grace.

We ask that you watch over Beverly, too, as he, as he ... as he, as he, as he makes his journey.*

We thank thee, O Lord, that we are able to join together to pay tribute to this fine man, in his house, with his beautiful family, his three beautiful daughters.  We are truly blessed in our, our fellowship, our togetherness, our ... fellowship.

Thank thee for the food, O Lord, that we can share this food and replenish our bodies with ... with nourishment. We ask that you help us ... get better.  Be better.  Be better people.  We recognize, now more than ever, the power, the, the ... joy of family.  And we ask that you bless and watch over this family.  Amen.

*Yes, he really says "as he" five times.  I've got him beat, though.  Ivy says "Charles and I" six times in a row in my last scene in Act III.

28 March 2012

Tasty, tasty virtue

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata*) is an aggressive non-native herbaceous plant that was originally brought to the US as a culinary herb.   Now, sort of like Norwegian grey squirrels and ... well, my ancestors ... it's relatively attractive stuff that elbows out the natives and hogs resources.  

So garlic mustard is fair game for the urban/backyard conservationist.  Or forager.  I spent a day with the Friends of Sligo Creek a year or so ago pulling and bagging the stuff.  You have to bag it up, rather than let it compost in place because as soon as you turn your back on it, it drops seeds or sends out new shoots and is back in residence faster than a graduating senior with no solid job prospects.

The goal of the FOSC RIP ("Remove Invasive Plants") that day was to get as much of the garlic mustard out of the park as possible, so all we did was pull it out of the ground completely, stuff it in the bag, and move on.

It was afterwards that I found recipes using garlic mustard.**  Somehow knowing that I can turn an invasive plant into a yummy sauce to drizzle on pasta makes pulling weeds much more fun.  And yet, still so very virtuous.  I will save my beloved Maryland from this alien herb *and* adding a locally grown ingredient in my dinner!

There is garlic mustard growing on the hillside behind my apartment building.  So after I walk home tonight, I'll go collect enough to give me "3 cups Garlic Mustard leaves, washed, patted dry, and packed in a measuring cup."  I would collect it from Sligo Creek Park, except that I understand that one needs permission to do remove plants from the Park and I'd lose a fair bit of my sense of virtue if I get busted for poaching during the harvest.

And, just to save you that one one more click, here's the recipe I'll be using:

Garlic Mustard Pesto
  • 3 cups Garlic Mustard leaves, washed, patted dry, and packed in a measuring cup
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
  • 1 cup Walnuts
  • 1 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano Cheese (or more Parmesan)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
Combine Garlic Mustard leaves, garlic and walnuts in food processor and chop. Or divide recipe in half and use a blender. With motor running, add olive oil slowly. Shut off motor. Add cheeses, salt & pepper. Process briefly to combine.
Serve warm over pasta or spread on crackers as a appetizer. It also makes a great topping for baked fish.


* Okay, that's really for David.  He loves proper scientific names.

** Oh.  You'd like them, too? Is this what you're looking for?  I thought it might be ...

*** Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta, natch!  It's my favorite gluten-free pasta.

18 March 2012

Make a Wish!

Let me start this by saying that I don't think I have ever prayed for a physical object.

I've wished for plenty of them ...*

When I was in college, my friend Erika would notice if the catch on my necklace had worked its way down to the bottom and she would move it back behind my neck and say "Make a wish!"

Over the years, I wished for various things but always only made positive wishes.  Wishing misfortune on another person is just bad karma.  How can I ask the universe to be kind to me if I ask it to be cruel to others? So I won't wish that people who trouble me come to a bad end but I might wish that they'd change their minds about doing what troubles me. 

But over the past several years when it felt as though I was living too hand-to-mouth, my wishes settled on one word:  money.**  Because pretty much everything I didn't like about my life related to two numbers:  my weight and my bank balance.  Because I have a lovely boyfriend, a great and loving family, a good job, wonderful friends, the Finest Kind cat, and a hobby that is truly my happy place.

I lost about 30 pounds a few years ago so that number bothered me less.***  But my bank balance was always scary, so whenever I was prompted for any reason to "Make a wish!" I'd wish for money.  Just that abstract concept:  money. 

After Mom left me a bunch of money, I paid my debts, better funded my retirement, and replaced my old car.  I pick up the check or donate to good causes more often because I can.

Which means that I no longer wish for money.  It would just seem churlish and ungrateful.

But that left me in wish void. Wishing for money was such a habit that I really had no idea what to wish for.  And I guess that I could have just not wished for anything but, I dunno, that just seems like a waste.

I tried wishing for World Peace but I guess I'm too cynical.  I couldn't believe in that wish.  The lyric is not "when you wish upon a star, it don't matter who you are, 'cause when you wish upon a star ... your brain whispers 'yeah, right, that's gonna happen.' "

Hmmmmm.  What to do ....

So I thought.  And thought.

And now I have a new wish.  I wish for "the best."  Literally "the best."  As I pull the clasp back up to the top, or sight the first star of the evening, or what-have-you, I close my eyes and think "The best.  I wish for the best."

Human beings to not always long-sighted enough to see the full-play out of every action but sometimes things that seem bad to begin with turn out better than the original plan.  For example, if an old friend had gotten pregnant rather than going though the heartbreak of not being able to conceive and then deciding to adopt and having to jump through a bunch of foreign adoption hoop medical tests, the usually undetectable until it's too late cancer would not have been found in time to save her life. 

Wishing for "the best" seems like a vote for the positive.  It means hoping that the result of the things my friends and I struggle with will make us happy and keep us safe in the long run; it means understanding that not every dream deferred is a dream denied; it means trying to listen to a voice other than my own.

I wish for the best.

Make a wish!

* Because prayers are for things you are truly asking for.  Prayers are "please."  Wishes are "wouldn't it be nice if ..."

** Although I did stop wishing that I'd find money in the street some time ago when it occurred to me that for me to find it, someone else would have to lose it. 

*** Bothered me less, not "doesn't bother me."  But that's partly because the number that I regard as the magical, perfect weight is -- according to my doctor -- inappropriate for me.  So I will never, ever weigh the magical, perfect number again.****

**** I was too skinny until college and too heavy after.  I weighed the magical, perfect number for about three years.  And it's too low of a number.  Really.

02 March 2012

Not green

I once mentioned that as far as I could tell, red is the only color that doesn't have a pastel partner.  One hears people talk about "pale blue" or "soft yellow" or such, but I've never heard anyone talk about "pastel red" because "pastel red" has it's own identity:  pink.

Sure, in some ways that's more a quirk of language, rather than spectrum, but I dunno.  When you make red darker it looks blacker.  When you make pink look darker, it looks ... bluer.

I was, of course, mocked for this and generally kept down by The Man.  And as I'm neither a lighting designer nor a painter,* I don't have the background to make a better argument, so I let it drop.

But ...

But ...

Thanks to Alice, Facebook, and NPR, this little tidbit has fallen into my lap.

I'm probably still wrong, but somehow I feel --- less wrong.

There is no blue food.  There is no pink light.

*Because colors in light and colors in pigment are two separate things.  The former is additive color and the later is subtractive color.**

**A fact I'll be able to retain until just after I post this, of course.