Friday, November 30, 2007

a sharp intake of breath

I was driving home from rehearsal Thursday night, keeping myself awake as I crossed the 24 mile long (very boring!) bridge alone (no high school students to chauffeur in this cast) by getting down to some old school Prince. Seriously. Singing and, as much as possible while buckled into the seat of my minivan, dancing. And I looked out the window and gasped. The moon was just a bit over the water, a shocking orange against the night sky. It was stunning. And I nearly missed it while breaking down to Sexy MF.

Then tonight it happened again. I was driving on the bridge, this time on my way to rehearsal, and I gasped. The car in front of me? It's license plate? Had a SHARK on it. I may have to move to Florida just so I can get me one of those.

Don't forget that this upcoming Monday Mission is to write a post in the style of a High School note. See if you can pass it to me without the teacher seeing it, OK?

And rehearsals are going pretty well. Everyone was very impressed when I did my first scene and said all my lines in all the right places and in the proper British accent. You would think these people had never met a real actress before. No, I jest. Anyhow, they love me, it's fabulous. Everyone has been very nice to me, and I think it's going to be a fun run.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Once more unto the breach...

or at least once more onto the boards.

Today I accepted a small part in the play that is always done this time of year with the curmudgeonly old man who hates everything. Yes, that one. The theatre apparently fired an actress at rehearsal last night, and called me in a bit of a panic today. Thursday night will be my first rehearsal. Tuesday we have our first performance. All plans I had for the next week and a half (except for taking The May Queen to the Nutcracker on Sunday, which I told them was a make or break deal- I couldn't be at rehearsal until after that) have basically been waylaid for this (and then we'll settle into a more reasonable 3 shows a weekend schedule). Fortunately it is quite a small part, so learning the lines won't be a big deal. But there are several people working on this show that I will be pleased to have the opportunity to meet, and as I said to my husband "I get to enjoy the performances and cut out 5 weeks of rehearsing. It's perfect." Not that I don't love the rehearsing part, too.

And... perhaps once more into kitty bathing.

Tonight at dinner The May Queen mentioned she wanted to go "pet shopping." "You mean with your stuffed animals, pretend to go pet shopping?" "No," she said, "a real kitty."

I nearly spit my food all over the table, my husband was smiling a huge grin, and I could barely form any words. So, um... we'll see about this whole pet thing. Ack. Do you think yesterday's post brought me some bad pet karma or something? Actually, The May Queen LOVES animals, and so I am surprised it has taken her this long to figure out that she could ask to have one of her very own.

So... you will probably see a bit less of me for the next 10 days or so. But hopefully I will have more fun stories, even if I don't sing in a foreign language, kiss a girl or have an Italian director.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bathing Multiple Cats

When I married my husband he had 5 cats. Yes, 5. Indoor cats. I am allergic to cats. Yes, I deserve a medal. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED those cats, but for the 9 years that they were a part of our home I endured shots and pills to try to deal with the itching that they caused me. In addition to cleaning up cat puke, vacuuming up cat hair, emptying the litter box AND being the primary giver of all medicines (which got to be a daily thing as several of them aged). And the bathing. Oh, the bathing.

For yesterday's Monday Mission Rose Daughter wrote a post about bathing her children. Which made me think of the plan my husband and I concocted for bathing the cats. Mind you, we never actually did this, as it would involve building a series of pulleys and such, but we are sure that it would have been much better than the way we did it, which usually ended up with a lot of yowling (the cats, mostly) a fair amount of swearing (us, although the yowling of the cats could probably be pretty well interpreted as "what the H**l do you f***ing think you're doing, @$$holes!?!?") and some bleeding (again, us, usually followed by more swearing).

And so, I give you our plan for bathing multiple cats.

*To properly bathe cats in this fashion you need a bathtub/shower with a sliding glass door, and a fancy set of pulleys and such. You'll have to engineer the pulley system yourself. I am not the engineer, just the idea girl

- fill bathtub with warm soapy water
- close the sliding glass door
- pick up your beloved kitties and drop them into the tub, over the glass door
- as the multiple kitties scramble to get out of the tub, they will essentially scrub each other clean
- use one of your fancy pulley doohickeys to pull the plug and empty the tub
- use another pulley to turn on the shower, rinsing off the cats
- rinsing of the cats may also be aided by the pouring of jugs of water over the top of the tub (from the safety of the other side of the glass door, of course)
- when the cats are good and rinsed, stop the water.
- line the bathroom with lots and lots of soft, dry towels. Leave nothing of value out in the bathroom.
- if you have a bathroom heater, turn that on as well.
- exit the bathroom and CLOSE THE DOOR
- (if you have cats, like some of ours, who can open simple doorknobs, you may need to install an exterior lock)
- use another pulley system to slide open the glass doors. The cats will scramble out of the tub
- leave the cats in the bathroom for a while to dry off via their frantic rubbing on the towels and the heat from the heater
- while the cats are drying themselves put away anything breakable or shreddable in your home. Be sure to leave a nice full dish of food and some brand new cat nip toys closely outside of the bathroom to distract/bribe them before they can wreck too much havoc on the rest of your home in righteous revenge
- exit your home
- use another pulley system to open the bathroom door, letting the cats out into the house
- allow the cats to become sufficiently high on the catnip before reentering your home

See. Isn't that easier than bathing them yourself?

This public service announcement has been brought to you by the letter C and the number 5.

for the record, when we got married my husband had had these cats for 6-7 years already. Pets are like family members, I firmly believe. My husband was gracious enough to say that if I was unable to live with the cats, that we would get rid of them. (We also made a deal that we would not get any new cats. Who knew that 2 of them would live to be 16?) We did keep them out of the bedroom for a while, until the doorknob broke in our old home and the door was so old and of an odd thickness that we couldn't find one that fit, and then the cats could just push the door open, and so much for that. I was also told I would never change a litter box. Which lasted for about 2 years. (but I'm not bitter about that part at all. OK, yes, I am). We bathed the cats because doctors told me that would help cut down on the allergens. Admittedly, the longer we were married the less we bathed the cats. The trade off just did not seem worth it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

So you want to be an Opera Singer? - Monday Mission

How to get a part in the chorus of an opera.
(non-traditional method. May not work for everyone)

1 - notice that a local theatre company is having their general auditions
2 - take note of all the shows they are doing, and spend days trying to track down the music and scripts to the obscure musicals
3 - completely disregard the operas they are doing
4 - read the scripts and listen to the music
5 - choose a song with which to audition(going nontraditional and humorous like several of the musicals they will be producing. Find a song in your vocal range that shows off your acting abilities. for example, the Kate Monster portion of It Sucks to Be Me from Avenue Q)
6 - practice the 16 bars you will be singing. a lot
7 - scandalize entertain the rest of your praise team when you practice the song with the pianist one night at praise team practice. In your church sanctuary. (we do not recommend that you actually yell out the word "F*ck" at this juncture, just note its place in the song with a stomp of your foot.)
8 - practice an extra song to sing in case you are asked for a second piece, preferably something contrasting to the first piece. (such as Heaven Help My Heart, from Chess)
9 - attend the audition. Dress nicely
10 - on your audition sheet put down several of the characters you are interested in from the musicals, being sure to make it obvious that you are familiar with the less known pieces. Again, ignore the operas
11 - be nice to the pianist. He can make or break your audition
12 - get on stage. Introduce yourself confidently
13 - sing with gusto
14 - when the artistic director asks you if you have another song, reply "of course" and sing your second selection
15 - say thank you, exit the stage
16 - if, as you are leaving, the director asks you how your Italian is, be honest ("nonexistent")
17 - drive home and wait for a phone call
18 - when the call comes and you are offered a role in the chorus of 2 operas, stammer a bit, then agree to do the one which fits into your schedule

These Oh-So-Useful directions are provided for your benefit via Monday Missions. If you have some instructions that simply MUST be shared with the rest of the blogosphere, then please, put a link to your post in the widget below. And be sure to check out all the links to learn a few new things.

What are Monday Missions, you ask? Well. Monday Missions are a weekly (every Monday! Imagine that! Although I usually get mine up on Sunday to get the ball rolling...) carnival designed to encourage us to post in a certain style. I have found them to be very fun, and I usually use them humorously, but they don't have to be funny. They are basically a jumping off point for your imagination; encouragement for you to think outside of the the box; a chance to try writing in a different style. You are welcome to play along for any and all, or none at all, as your fancy strikes you.

The upcoming Missions for December are:

12/3 - High School note (the kind you would pass in class)

12/10 - Photoshop Extravaganza (you've read posts where others use photoshop to add humor or make a point. Now is your chance to try your hand at this.)

12/17 - Holiday List

12/24 - Family Holiday Letter (year in review...)

12/31 - New Year's Resolutions

***added bonus. For those of you with small children who follow that "It sucks to be me" link you will recognize the voice of at least one Sesame Street muppeteer (who I went to college with), and see John Tartaglia, known to your Playhouse Disney watching toddlers as Johnny (and the sprites!)

Friday, November 23, 2007

from Grumpies to Gratitude

On Thanksgiving Day The May Queen and I journeyed with a rather large group of people from my church to a shelter in the city. This shelter flooded during Katrina, and our congregation has been working hard to help them reopen their doors, which they did just about a month ago. The shelter takes in homeless women and their children, and works to help them get a job and a home. They provide childcare, education, job training, classes in cooking and parenting and money management. It is a small shelter, with strict restrictions on the residents. They expect a lot from those who use their services, but give a lot in return.

We had an embarrassing amount of people who wanted to go and help. It was a clear indicator that we need to provide more opportunities like this one. But no one minded that there were too many of us to fit in the kitchen. We played with the children in the nursery. We helped sort donations of clothes. We visited with the women and their children. Sometimes we just stood around, lost in our own thoughts. What would it be like to not have a home? To live in a place where you are at the mercy of others? To need the sort of help that these women need? What happens that these women and their children, these women with their pregnant bellies... what did life bring them that they now don't have anywhere else to go?

I felt so thankful for all that I have... even the money stresses and the husband out of town for the holiday.

Yet I got home and got the grumpies. I was lonely. I miss the holidays of my youth with lots of family, lots of laughter, a jigsaw puzzle on one table and a board game on another. The TV showing the parade and later football, but no one really watching. I was lonely in my house with just The May Queen and I. The blessings I had felt that morning were in my mind, but not so much in my heart.

So I decided to turn it around. If I'm thankful for it, I need to live that gratitude, right? So I announced that we would be eating dinner as a picnic in the living room. I spread out a blanket, turned on the gas fireplace (oh, how I miss real burning wood! but no, I would not dwell on the negative!), left the movie playing on the televison, and served leftovers on the floor. The May Queen thought this was delightful. Then I announced we would go for a walk. We bundled up and took the flashlight. The poor neighbors must have thought a drunk monkey was trying to shine a light in their windows as The May Queen pointed the flashlight at all the homes looking for the first signs of Christmas decorations. Then we held hands and skipped down the street. "This thanksgiving walk was a GREAT idea, Mama," she said. Perhaps the best compliment she has ever given me. I looked around and thanked God that I lived in a neighborhood where I felt safe taking my 5 year old for a skip around the block after dark. When we returned home we returned to the blanket in the living room for not one, but TWO servings of hot chocolate. "This hot chocolate was a GREAT idea, Mama," the May Queen enthused.

Two GREAT ideas in one night? Be still my heart.

It's amazing what a change in (gr)attitude will do. I didn't have a bustling family around me. I had a quiet evening with my lovely daughter. And I knew to be thankful for it, and acted like I was. And by the time I kissed her goodnight? Goodbye grumpies.

Your Monday Mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write a post in the form of directions:
Step 1 - Curse Painted Maypole for keeping up this dratted Monday Mission thing
Step 2 - remember that you wanted to play along at some point
Step 3 - decide this week is just as good as any other lame Mission PM puts forth
Step 4 - Write a brilliant post
Step 5 - come back here on Monday and post a link to your brilliant post
Step 6 - Mission Accomplished

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Living Thankfully

Last week I was leading a chapel for 60 or so preschool kids, talking about being thankful. I told them that being thankful is more than just saying "Thank You," although those are important words to say. I told them that we show our thankfulness by how we USE and TREAT what we've been given. That we show our gratitude for our hands when we use them to help someone or create art, but not when we hit. That we show our gratitude for our mouths and our voices when we sing songs or say nice things, but not when we call someone else a name.

As I was talking to these 3 and 4 year olds it hit me, as it often does when I'm teaching children, that these are lessons I need to learn as well. And so, here, a brief examination of some of the things that I am thankful for, and how I can show my gratitude in how I use and treat them.

I am thankful for my home - that it keeps me warm and dry (or cool and dry in the summer!), that it gives me a space to call my own and create a life with my family. I can show my gratitude for my home by creating in it an environment that is restful for my whole family, that provides space for playing and learning and loving. (this includes keeping it clean enough that I don't spend every moment in every room looking around in disgust, but too tired to do anything about it. I am working on this problem this week) I can take care of it,and fix the things that need fixing. I can show gratitude for my home by gladly welcoming others into it, for the afternoon or an extended stay.

I am grateful for my family, for my husband and child. I can show my gratitude for these gifts by carving out time for them, by enjoying who they are and not who I want them to be, by always assuming the best of them, by encouraging them and loving them unconditionally.

I am thankful for my body, for the amazing things that it does. I can show my gratitude for my physical being by putting foods into it that nourish it, rather than drain it. By exercising I can increase my health and my abilities, and thereby show my gratitude and my desire to keep this physical form. I can stop looking in the mirror and sighing in disgust at the imperfections I see, but rather marvel at my ability to pick up my child, skip through the sand, and dance to the music. By doing these things more often I show my thankfulness.

I am thankful for my God and my faith. I can show my gratitude for them by spending time deepening my relationship with God, and in trying to understand what He is calling me to do with my life. I can share my thankfulness with others, so that they might see the joy that I have in Him.

I am thankful for the gifts I have of performing - singing and acting. I can use these gifts humbly, without downplaying them and without making them to be more than they are. I can use them in the service of telling stories that connect us as human beings - that lift our spirit and challenge our thinking and help us find a common ground. I can sing praises and sing sorrow and sing comfort and sing joy. I can bring my gifts to the table in a spirit of unity and hope, and create art.

Oh... I could go on, but I don't want to bore you. Basically, though, I am trying to apply this to all areas of my life - if I am thankful for it, I need to LIVE out that gratitude. And if I am not thankful for it? Find a way to eliminate it, or find a way to be thankful for it.

What are YOU thankful for today, and how can you show your gratitude?

oh, quanto peni - Wordless Wednesday

(end of Act 2, scene 2. I am in the brown dress, just left of center. Soprano #3 on the floor.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Something lost, something gained

The May Queen and her friends were ready to leave the boat I had been rocking to run off and play on another part of the playground. I headed back to the book I had left sitting on the bench. On the other end of the bench sat a mother with a baby in a front carrier. As I sat down she apologized.

"For what? It's a public bench."

"My shoulders needed a break," she said, rocking the swinging bench with one foot.

"I remember those days," I said, admiring her baby.

"I just said to my husband 'Look at that mom over there. READING. With four water bottles at her feet. She must have a whole crew here.'"

I laughed. "I only have one, so I invited the neighbors along so I could sit and read. I remember when my daughter was little watching the moms with magazines sitting on benches with a great deal of longing."

She laughed.

"But I was just watching your daughter there with your husband, as they bounced on that platform. The way they giggled. I miss that."

She nodded. Her baby fussed. Too much stillness. "Time to get moving" she said as she got up and bounced her way over to join her older child and her husband at the swing set.

And I went back to my book.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I think, but I still need to eat - Monday Mission

They are poor. They are neglected. They are mocked and occasionally pitied. They are considered irrelevant, their field of study dead. They are locked away in towers and thought of as eccentric and unable to contribute to modern society.

They need your help.

Philosophers have families, too. Children that need to eat, regardless of whether their parents sit around all day pondering the first principals of Being.

Please make a donation to
The Unemployed Philosophers Guild. Maybe their children will be able to forge a better life for themselves.

This post is my contribution, as it were, to the Monday Missions, this week's mission being to write a post as a spiel for a real or imaginary charity. If you would like to play along write a post that fulfills the mission and post a link in the widget below.

The Unemployed Philosophers Guild is not actually a charity. They are, however, my Christmas tip to you if you are looking for a gift for your smart, fun and witty friend who does not need another scented candle. Instead may I recommend one of many finger puppets including Jane Austen and Hegel (or get the complete Axis of Evil set) , a giggling Mona Lisa pillow, the John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes T-shirt, or the naughty Shakespeare pillow. I have bought several presents from this site in the past, and now pass on my fabulous find to you. Just browsing through their site is a treat. And every gift I've given from them has been given rave reviews. It is owned by a bunch of philosophers, and they do give to charitable causes; you can read more about it here. I get no kickbacks from this little plug, I don't even know these people. But their catalog came the other day in the mail, and made me smile.

OK... now go read some other spiels...

the curtain closes

Today was our last performance for L@ Tr@viat@. I felt like I was just getting into the groove of it and really enjoying the performances (instead of stressing out about remembering it all) and they are over. I will likely never sing that beautiful music again. Except in the shower. Or my car.

Our soprano had not yet recovered, and our previous replacement couldn't do this show, so we had yet ANOTHER Violett@. This one was also phenomenal, and just nice as can be. However, I do think the musical soprano game was stressing out our director just a tad.

I'm sad to see it end, but ever so glad I had the opportunity to do it. How many people get to say they sang in a professional opera? Precious few. Too few. I never would have dreamed I would end up there. I auditioned for the theatre's season with a song from Avenue Q. Um... one of these things is not like the other! And yet here I am, singing Italian Opera and enjoying it. Sometimes I surprise even myself.

Speaking of surprising myself I will be surprised if I can come up with anything worthwhile for this Monday's Mission(how is that for a segue? Poor, I know, but it is 1:35 in the morning. Give me a break), which is to write a post as a spiel for a (real or imaginary) charity. But please, think of your own brilliant post and come back here on Monday and share it with everyone. I will be wracking my own brain over the next 20 hours or so. After I sleep. Ah... sleep....

Buona notte

Friday, November 16, 2007

The One that is like an Episode of Friends

Several of you seemed to enjoy the beginning of my engagement story, so I thought I'd share with you the rest of the story.

I was a junior in college, and The Big Guy and I had met the previous summer at the summer camp where I worked (He was on the board of directors. Technically he was my boss. It was a little too late by the time we realized this). It was February when his house burned. I think it was March when I came down with Mono, and April when he did. He managed to pass out a convention, and ended up in the hospital. He took several weeks off of work, and stayed for a time with his parents. He and his dad went shopping for what would be my engagement ring (of course, I didn't know that part of the story).

The Big Guy came out and stayed with me for a long weekend. It was May 12, a Saturday, I believe, and we spent the afternoon shopping for new clothes for him (as he had lost everything in the fire). We ate dinner at a Ruby Tuesday's and then shopped around the mall. At dinner I was cold, and asked to wear his jacket. He was reluctant to give it to me, wondering why I hadn't brought a sweater as he had suggested earlier. I didn't get his reluctance. Turns out the ring was in the pocket (and yes, yes, I know this happened on an episode of Friends many years after it happened to me in my real life. I should have copyrighted it!) We walked all around the mall, me wearing that jacket, and The Big Guy terrified to let go of my hand. I couldn't figure out why I couldn't go look at something on the other side of the store, but he kept me right by his side. He assumed I had found the ring, and was very nervous about it.

We then went and saw a play on campus (Nine) and then he asked me to go for a walk on the beach of Lake Michigan. We have a wee bit of history on that beach, as before we were dating he had to rescue my drunken self from a lifeguard chair I had climbed up but couldn't figure out how to climb back down.

I, however, thought it was too chilly out and wanted to go back to my apartment for a jacket before the walk. Reluctantly, he agreed. Once inside my cozy home I didn't feel like going back out. Can you imagine the frustration he was feeling by this point? Regardless, he forged ahead. We were sitting on my bed, talking, and suddenly he was down on one knee asking me if I knew that he loved me. I quickly figured out what was going on and felt so badly that I had ruined his plans. The beach would have been the perfect spot for such a proposal!

But as it turns out the situation was perfect. Because, as he will tell you, I've been ruining his surprises ever since.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Into the light

As I'm sure you have gleaned from my posts over the last several weeks, I love being in the theatre. It brings out the total geek in me as I do all sorts of research, and I get a lot of my energy from the dark of the wings and the light of the stage and the discovery of a character and the joking of friends and the watching of creative people at work.

But these past few days, I have really enjoyed being at home. I have enjoyed dinner with my family, curling up with a blanket and a book on the back porch, sitting in a lawn chair as my daughter and our neighbor rode bikes, the slanting late afternoon sun shining on their laughing faces. I've enjoyed crawling into bed at night (and, erm... late morning) next to my husband and not being beat tired. I've enjoyed seeing no new items in my Google Reader (for one brief, glorious moment two days ago). I've enjoyed going through the pictures my brother sent me from our time in England. I've caught up with friends on the phone. I've found that I do indeed have a kitchen counter and a dining room table. I have gloried in days with no where to be and no music to learn. I've started working out again. I am revelling in all this extra time, enjoying what I don't appreciate when I have it in abundance.

But I know I'll be glad to be back in the dark of the theatre come Saturday. And that is the balance that I have to find in my life. My focus is now on my family: since The May Queen was born I put her and my husband first. For YEARS I would put everything else on hold to do a show. I wouldn't plan a vacation for fear that I would miss an opportunity. I auditioned for everything. I turned nothing down. I'm happy to not be doing that anymore. But I need to find the balance. I can't go a full year between shows, because that part of me needs to be fed, too. Just as the sunlight through the trees lights up my daughter's hair and warms my heart, so the light from a fresnel awakes a part in me that laughs and cries and sings.

I need them both.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Unique Opportunity to Start Over

Years ago, when my husband and I were dating, he had a house fire. He awoke in the middle of the night, confused as to what the terrible noise was. He managed to clear the haze from his mind to realize that the haze in his bedroom was smoke. Lots of it. The noise was the smoke alarm. His 5 kitties had all passed out on his bed, unconscious from the smoke inhalation. He gathered them up in his comforter, dumped the whole thing in a laundry basket, and ran for the door. His home was next door to the church where he worked, so he dashed across the parking lot and into his office. He managed to save himself, his cats, that comforter, a few articles of clothing that were in the laundry basket, and the snow boots and winter coat he threw on for the dash across the snowy expanse between the building that burned, and the building that didn't.

The fire had started in the basement. The weather had been very cold and the heater had been running nonstop, and there was a nail that went through one vent and into the wooden beam inside a wall. The nail heated up, dried out that wood, and eventually, it took flame. By the time the alarm woke my husband up, the fire was inside every wall of his home (balloon construction... those beams went all through the house with air all around them, so the walls were burning from the inside). The next day as he and a friend stood looking at the house, or rather, what little was left of it (the staircase was there, but led to nothing...) his friend said

Think of this as a unique opportunity to start over.

It's a statement we still laugh about to this day, and trot out whenever something is lost. But truly, it was a unique opportunity. My husband was divorced, and the fire burned away much of what was left from that previous relationship. It also took away boxes of memorabilia that his mother had recently passed on from his childhood home.

He managed to salvage a few boxes of things from his office... all of it smoke and water damaged. A few CDs, some books, his baby book, some yearbooks. But that's it.

My husband has never been one to put much stock in THINGS, and so this wasn't as hard for him as it might have been for other people. Like me, for instance. But having this happen once made it easier to contemplate it happening again. As Hurricane Katrina drew nearer to our home and I watched its progress from a television in Kentucky, I knew that I might lose everything. And it didn't matter very much, as long as I had the people I cared about. When it comes down to the wire, that is all just stuff.

My heart broke a thousand times over as I watched friends and strangers shift through the detritus the storm had left behind. Although we were spared, many we know were not. I often said "I would rather the storm take EVERYTHING than to have to shift through and decide what to try to save from a pile of dirty and mouldy and rotten things." I do have a strong attachment to things and the memories that I associate with them.

But to have all your things gone, wiped clean. It is a unique opportunity to start over. To start only keeping the things you want to keep. That you love. That matter to you. And to always know that they are fleeting, and just things. It's a unique opportunity to turn your focus on to the other things in your life.

Shortly after my husband's house fire, he proposed to me.

A unique opportunity to start over, indeed.

This post is part of Julie's Hump Day Hmmm... Today's topic was to "think about loss, what we value, and potential gain. Let's write about that. Imagine losing all your material possessions (except the few you can carry)... Or, tell us a story about some sort of loss. If you can inspire through hope, and tell us about something you gained from it, and real value, please definitely do that."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Show Must Go On

Are you tired of all opera, all the time? Sorry. I'm sure this is not what you thought you were signing up for when you started reading my blog. Now that the show is no longer in rehearsals, and we only have one more performance, we will soon be returning to our regularly scheduled program of... um... what is my regularly scheduled programming?

Our performances this weekend were a perfect example of the term "the show must go on." I mentioned that our lead soprano came down with laryngitis. She did not recover. So a lovely lady from our a local opera company stepped up to do the part. She was phenomenal. She had performed the role before... about a DECADE before. Seriously. Our chorus master stood in the wings with a score and spoke the Italian lines to her before she sang them. She did beautifully. Sure, there were a few dead spaces, and a spot where she grinned knowingly at the conductor while she sang words from a different part of the song, clearly unable to recall what exactly she was supposed to be singing at that moment. And probably lots of other moments that I missed because I was tucked away backstage. But it was stunning. She was kind and gracious to the whole cast, and I, for one, am so grateful for her, because otherwise the show would have been cancelled, and after the hours I spent working on it I would have been rather sore about that point.

On Saturday night, opening night, my husband drove down from the conference he was attending to see the show. I think I owe him a lot for that one. The supertitles(projected English translation) weren't working and there was no synopsis of the plot in the program (he said "I've been to Shakespeare plays where they give you more information, and those are done in English!") so he basically had no idea what was going on. When anyone asks him how it was he responds "It was three hours of singing in Italian." He did tell me, rather graciously, that we sounded great, the orchestra was great, I looked great, and that he wasn't bored. I'm not sure I believe all of it, but I'll take it! I spent the drive home explaining to him what had happened. And he made no comment at all about my kissing a woman on stage.

The next night the supertitles were working... sort of. There were none for the final scene, and apparently sometimes they flew by so fast that you couldn't read them. My friends who came to see it took to making up their own story lines. I haven't gotten the whole scoop on their imaginings yet, but I do know that the lead was not dying of TB, but rather a venereal disease, and the father of her lover managed to catch it as well (ahem). I think the rest will be just as fun to learn about.

The audiences seemed very appreciative regardless, and we had a good time. The cast party was fun (although I think I may have actually AVOIDED the director, since I had already written my previous post and couldn't see him without thinking about it), and I left as people were gathering around the piano singing beautiful Italian songs. Can I impress upon you how much talent was in that small room? It was astonishing.

Rumors have it that someone was videotaping the performance, but it hasn't shown up on youtube yet. Next weekend I should be getting some pictures from our dress rehearsal, but in the meantime, here is one of me in costume taken backstage:

Monday, November 12, 2007

A New Life? - Monday Mission

Scene: A cast party. The sounds of laughter and glasses clinking in the background. Chorus Member sits next to a pool filled with floating candles shaped like Camellias. Sexy Italian Director approaches and sits next to her.

Sexy Italian Director: Chorus Member. You are so fun to watch on the stage. You are so good at the acting.

Chorus Member: Grazie.

Sexy Italian Director: And your kissing of the other girl. It is very sexy.

Chorus Member: Umm... thank you.

Sexy Italian Director looks Chorus Member intensely in the eyes, and leans in for a kiss. Chorus Member stops him.

Chorus Member: This is not a good idea.

Sexy Italian Director: Why not? Two beautiful people? What could be more, how do you say, natural?

Chorus Member: I'm married.

Sexy Italian Director: He does not have to know.

Chorus Member: I would know.

Sexy Italian Director: I see.

Pause. Sexy Italian Director backs off, but then grabs Chorus Member passionately.

Sexy Italian Director: Run away with me.

Chorus Member: What?

Sexy Italian Director: I will buy you a ticket to come back with me to Milan.

Chorus Member is stunned into silence.

Sexy Italian Director: We can live together. You do not need to pack. I will take you shopping when we arrive. I will sing to you Italian love songs, and you will say to me the Shakespeare. We will make love all day and all night.

Chorus Member's jaw hangs open like a dead fish.

Sexy Italian Director: Say yes.

Chorus Member: No.

Sexy Italian Director: No? Why no?

Chorus Member: I'm married. I'm a mother. I have floors to wash and laundry to do and bills to pay and dinners to cook and noses to wipe and toys to trip over and....

Her voice trails off.

Chorus Member: When can we leave?

Sexy Italian Director grabs Chorus Member and they kiss. Lights fade to black.

This in no way represents any cast party I have actually attended this weekend. Nor does it represent any actual conversation had between any theoretical chorus member or director of an opera (except as already stated). Nor does it in any way indicate that said chorus member would leave her husband and child for a life of luxurious Italian living. No, it is simply a Monday Mission post. If you wish to play along write your own post as script/dialogue and come back here and leave a link to your post in the widget below.

And pray that today is not the day my husband decides to start reading my blog. Hi honey! Or that anyone in my show finds this blog. Particularly the director.

Friday, November 9, 2007

An actual stage direction I've been given

Scene: The chorus members for an opera have assembled on stage, getting ready for the beginning of Act 2, Scene 2 of L@ Travi@ta. The curtain is closed. Cast members stand about, fidgeting with their costumes, smoothing down their hair. Two women are sitting center stage, one leaning into the other's arms. The director is bustling about, giving last minute directions at this final rehearsal. He is about to leave the stage when he pauses, and looks intensely at the 2 women center stage.

Director: SEX!!

The director dashes out through the curtain. The orchestra begins to play and the curtain opens. The two women center stage are trying hard not to laugh.

This is a friendly reminder to start thinking about your Monday Mission post. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write a post as a script/dialogue. Use your imagination. Come back here on Monday and leave a link to your post. And read the post I am working on for that day, which, if I am brave enough, will have a similar cast of characters.

Generation Gap

So many of you dear readers have asked how my car trips with the teens are going. How very sweet of you to even remember.

One specific question was how they are taking my having to kiss a girl in the show. LOTS OF GIGGLING would be the answer to that. In one very awkward moment it nearly ended up being me and ONE OF THE GIRLS I DRIVE, until I expressed to the director that she was a teenager, and he immediately backed off. I've tried to not make a big deal about it at all, and they are beginning to relax about it.

As I said, driving 3 teenagers back and forth to rehearsals for L@ Travi@ta has been an education. High school feels both like yesterday and also worlds away to me, which was brought home when a song that was a favorite of mine when I was a senior came on the radio the other day and I thought "oooh! cool song!" and realized it was released THE YEAR THESE KIDS WERE BORN.

The world is very different now, in a lot of ways. Often all three of them have their cell phones out (who had cell phones when I was in high school? Um... no one). One evening I was fairly certain they were texting back and forth to EACH OTHER (and of course felt all "high school" myself in my insecurity. Were they texting about me?) One of them wrote a paper on his cell phone, then e-mailed it to himself to print out when he got home. (I got my first e-mail account in college. I had to go to the computer lab at the library to check it. Once a week.) At least he was making good use of the drive time!

As time has passed we've become mutually more comfortable around each other, and will talk and laugh together. Sometimes. Sometimes I still just listen. I've been pretty good about keeping my opinion to myself when they are just being teenagers, although I have made a point to give them a bit of insight about how you behave professionally in a theatre (nicely, I hope. As in "The Stage Manager is the one you need to talk to about that. It's the stage manager's job to......") The only time I spoke up was in regards to Halloween costumes. The two girls were discussing what to wear to their costumed dance, and one said "I want to get the Mile High Captain costume." Calmly, although perhaps the white knuckles on the steering wheel gave me away, I said "Please, don't dress like strippers for Halloween." She replied "The Mile High Captain costume isn't really that bad." I calmly repeated "Please don't dress like a stripper." I did not go into a tirade about how we are only encouraging boys to think of us as sex objects, or even ask her if she knew what "Mile High Captain" meant. I think my tongue may have been bleeding.

I am surprised by the changing technology... the cell phones and ipods and e-mail and internet access... all of these things that both expand their world and limit it.

And yet there are some things that haven't changed. One day the girls talked quietly in the backseat about heartbreak: a surprising turn from a whole group of friends that has left one of them feeling lonely and confused, crying each day after school. And that could have been me at 15. It WAS me at 15. I didn't understand it and I felt all alone and like nothing so horrible had ever happened to anyone, ever. I felt I would never have friends again.

And I kept my mouth shut. Because they were talking quietly. Not to me. They were not looking for grown-up advice, for words for someone who is in a different stage of life. But my heart cracked open a bit wider, as my old self cried with her, silently, inside. The generation gap isn't so big, after all.

L@ Tr@vi@ta opens tomorrow, and at our rehearsal last night our soprano lip synched the whole show. She has laryngitis. So any prayers or good thoughts you can send our way will be much appreciated.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Kiss is Just a Kiss...

... particularly when it is a stage kiss.

My husband, in our 11 years of marriage, has had to witness me kissing at minimum 8 other men. Which is actually fairly low, for an actress of my age, but I am not exactly the ingenue type.

When we first got married he needed to know ALL the details of any kissing in a play. I would have to outline every move so that he would know what to expect. I learned this, and respected it. I tried to be completely upfront with him about EVERYTHING, so there would be no surprises when he came to see the show.

I ran into problems with this in our second year of marriage. I did a show where in one scene I had to take off a fair amount of my clothes, as well as a fair amount of my partner's clothes (in great kudos to the costume designer and the director they dressed us and directed us in such a way that a lot of clothes ended up on the floor and yet we were still quite decent) push him onto a bed, kiss all the way up his stomach and on to his lips (while describing a lawsuit our characters were working on). I described this scene to my husband in painstaking detail. Yet after the show he was upset with me. But, as he told it, not about that scene. No, he was upset about another scene where our characters appeared in flashback. We were playing ourselves at 8, and I was wearing overalls and my hair was in pigtails. I pecked my partner quickly on the lips and SKIPPED offstage. My husband was ANGRY that I left that kiss out when I told him about the play.

At first I was bewildered. Was he really bothered by that peck and skip? And what I realized was that no, he was not. He was bothered by the other scene. But, because I had told him about it, he could not openly be upset with me about it. I had forgotten all about the peck and skip, because it seemed so irrelevant. Yet because I had failed to warn him, he could be upset about it.

I honestly can't imagine what it would be like to watch him kiss another woman. He's not an actor, so I will never be put in that position. And I think, because I am an actress, that if he were an actor I would see it for what it is - playing a part - and not worry about it. But it still must be really weird. So once I realized what was behind the anger at the peck and skip, I simply apologized and let it go.

My husband has relaxed about the stage kisses I have quite a bit over the years, although there was one show where he came opening night and then again at our closing 6 weeks later. When I asked him how the show had changed and grown his only comment was "You guys kissed a lot more." Which, when I thought about it, was true. As we as actors got more comfortable with each other we became more playful on stage.

But a stage kiss is truly JUST that... a stage kiss. When you're working in a small theatre, or in interactive theatre where you are sharing a dance floor with the audience, you have to actually KISS the other person. No hand over the mouth as you dip them back nonsense they teach you in high school. The first time it has to be done is rehearsal is usually terribly awkward, since you often don't know the other person very well. You feel a really strange pressure to both really impress, but not impress TOO much so that they think YOU are kissing them and not your character. You worry about whether the director thinks it is believable or not. Is there "chemistry"?

I did a commercial that had me lying in bed with another man, both of us looking miserable from our colds. More people asked me if my husband was bothered by this. I laughed at them. Laying in bed in flannel pajamas next to another man was one of the most innocent things I've had to do in my acting career. And what the viewer doesn't see are the 20 technicians in the room with us and the camera on a crane hovering over our heads. It was not a romantic moment to say the least, particularly since it was an ad for cold medicine and not, say, K-Y Jelly.

But this weekend will be a first for both of us. My first stage kiss with a girl. He seemed completely unconcerned when I told him (in the long learned spirit of full disclosure). To be honest, it's a real STAGE kiss, in that we don't actually kiss. It's not quite the hand over the mouth trick, but it is a bit of hide and seek. And for me, honestly, it's not a big deal. First of all, I have no problems with women kissing each other, even if it's not MY orientation. Secondly, I'm an actress. If I can kiss a man I don't love on stage, what is any different about kissing a woman? Nothing. Except the fact that we were the ONLY two women in the cast willing to do it. And now my fellow actress is convinced the director thinks we are lesbians. Which I disagree with COMPLETELY, but even if he does, so what?

One of the joys of any kiss on the stage is that I get to relive that sort of giddy first kiss moment, or play out a romance that is just not part of my real life. And, if my husband is like the media likes to portray most men, perhaps this will play out a bit of his own fantasy. At the very least, I feel certain he won't be angry about it this time around.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Don't throw roses, throw CASH

Tuesdays are turning out to be rather rough days for us. And if bad things come in three, I think I may just have a nervous breakdown next Tuesday.

You may recall that last Tuesday our computer went up in smoke. A large purchase on the credit card followed.

Today, I had to take my car to the shop. Yesterday a nice dad in the carline indicated that my front right tire was low on air. Since I just had it filled 2 weeks ago, I knew something must be wrong, so this morning we took it in. Two new tires and an alignment later... a slightly smaller but still larger than we can afford purchase on the credit card.


On a way better note: At rehearsal last night (our first with the orchestra! it was awesome!) the director came up to me backstage, and said to me in his lovely Italian accent "You are very good at the acting. I watch the whole stage..." (insert lots of hand motions here)"... and you are very good. Bravo."

It doesn't quite pay the credit card bill, but it was priceless.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bloggers Protest NaBloPoMo - Monday Mission

Protesters descended on the mall today holding aloft signs that read "NaBloPoMo BLOWS" and "Stop the Posting: Stop the Insanity." Several speakers took the microphone and spoke of not being able to get their Google Reader lists down below 100. "Everytime I read a blog and hit "Mark all as Read" the Reader refreshes and the number is HIGHER. They're posting faster than I can read!" Another speaker complained that she had no time to write her own posts. One weary protester had leaned her sign against a tree and sat down with her laptop. "I don't have time for this protest," she protested under her breath, "I have blogs to read!" The blogger known as Painted Maypole stepped up to the microphone. She clutched a nearly empty Mountain Dew bottle in one hand, and sported a stunning set of undereye circles. "Please. We love you. We want to read your posts. But every day? We need a break. Some of us have lives. Some of us need SLEEP. Some of us are fighting off colds. Some of us are preparing to embarrass ourselves by singing in a foreign language on stage this very weekend. We can't keep up. Please, if you must post each day, please, please, for the love of all things bloggy, keep them SHORT!" She paused to take a swig of her Mountain Dew, and looked up to see a group of counter protestors arriving. Their signs read "It's not about YOU reading, it's about ME posting" "I post everyday. You don't have to." Many of the counter protestors came bearing trays of coffee, which they began passing out to the crowd. One kind person offered up a fresh bottle of Mountain Dew to Painted Maypole and asked for a chance to speak into the microphone. Painted Maypole aqueisced (or fell off the platform) "We love you. Read us when you can. You don't have to comment every day. It's OK" Signs were lowered as hugs were given all around. Groups began moving off into local bars and coffee shops for conversation. Some people were live blogging from their i-phones. One lone protester was left leaning against a tree, asleep, her laptop screen casting an eerie glow onto her restful form. 250 unread items.

This post is part of the Monday Missions. All are welcome to write their own posts. This week's Mission is to write a post in the style of a news article. If you accept the mission, please enter the link to your post in the widget below! Next week's mission is to write a post as a script/dialogue.

And I am still in the midst of opera craziness, cold fighting (a losing battle) and less computers in the house... so please, please be patient with me if I am not reading and commenting as often. I love you. Even if you are posting everyday, you crazy people.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Opera Musings

This week we have finally begun staging for L@ Tr@viat@ (I do all those crazy symbols so that someone doing a google search for our local production won't come up with this blog. Hopefully) Monday we had our first rehearsals with our principals (so far we've just been meeting as a chorus) and when I first heard the tenor sing, 2 words in the midst of us singing, I nearly fell to the floor. He is amazing. His voice just fills the whole auditorium, and when he sings you can hear it echo off the back wall. With no microphones. THAT is singing. I just want to lay down on the floor and listen to him sing. But instead I have to try to remember my notes. In Italian.

Our tenor, our baritone, and our director have been flown in from Italy. This makes me more than a wee bit nervous about my awful pronunciation. As if worrying about hitting the right note was not enough stress in my life.

The staging, however, is fun, and the combination of the lights, and the amazing talent, and the energy of creative people on a stage is invigorating. The director speaks mostly Italian, and others translate for him. Sometimes. Sometimes we are left to try to figure out exactly what he means. He is very expressive, and uses his hands a lot, and so if you pay attention you can get the general gist of most of it. At one point when he was showing me where to stand (by snapping and pointing, apparently this is a universal sign) he paused, looked at me and said "How do you understand Italian?" I repeated "How do I understand Italian?" (to make sure I had it right) and he nodded and I said,very simply "I don't" There was much general laughter. But I took it as a compliment, that I am paying attention enough that I can figure out what is going on. The same can not be said for everyone.

I have always thought that being in the chorus is a hard and often thankless job. Harder than having a lead, in fact. For me, acting wise, there is very little worse than having to fake a conversation with some other chorus person while the real action happens elsewhere. Not for vain reasons, nor for a want to be the center of attention, but for the want of DIRECTION. Give me a character and some lines, and a wee bit of background and I will tell you what my character wants and her relationship to everyone in the play and how she goes about achieving her goals, etc, etc, etc. But tell me "you're a partygoer" and make me fend for myself, while mouthing words to someone who is equally as lost as I am, and frequently far more disinterested, and it's not much fun. Then try to carry on a fake conversation in something that looks like Italian in the late 1800s. It's not easy. But I'm trying. Hard. Yesterday our lead soprano complimented me, saying I was so "cute" and that it was really fun to watch me because I had expression while everyone else was just singing with a bored look on their face. So maybe all those years at acting school have paid off.

This has been truly a learning experience, which is what I knew it would be when I signed up for it. I don't think that I will ever do an opera again. I have enjoyed this, although I find it much less satisfying than a play, and it is very time consuming for something I am not passionate about while not getting me much closer to my own career goals. But fascinating it has been, and I have a much deeper appreciation for a style of music I was, before this, nearly ignorant of. And I am hitting notes I have never hit in my whole life. And I have my first stage kiss with a girl. But that's another post.

**REMINDER FOR MONDAY MISSION** Monday's Mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write a post in the style of a News Article

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!

Well, golly, who would have thought that so many of you would want to see my polka dot bathroom? But here it is, by popular demand:
I got very tired of living in homes with white walls, and although a lot of my friends have homes that are just lovely in shades of beige and offwhite, I like a little color in my world. OK, a lot of color. We have painted nearly every room in this house since moving in. So while we're at it, let me take you for a little tour of the Crayola box that is my home. This purple is the playroom. The walls are decorated with a poster from our first Mardi Gras here (2005) and feathered masks bought cheaply in the French Quarter. I love it.Our living room and kitchen are this shade of green. (the painting was also bought in the French Quarter. We couldn't quite afford a Michalopoulous but this imitation I bought off the fence of Jackson Square makes me happy all the same) I wanted red, but my husband voted green, and he won. I hated it when I started painting it, but love it now. It's very relaxing, and goes very nicely with the navy blue wall we have by our fire place:

This yellow is our kitchen nook... bright and sunny for the grumpy Mommy in the morning. (the polka dot bathroom is off of the kitchen, and the dots are the blue, green and yellow that are found in the living/eating areas of the house)We get tons of compliments on the red in our guest bedroom. Hot Apple Spice. Yummy.Forest Green for our office. It can get a bit cave like in there at night. My husband likes it that way.MQ's bedroom was this pale yellow when we moved in. I stuck these little wooden bugs to the wall with poster putty. I bought them for a quarter each. The room also has dragonflies and butterflies, and when I want to redecorate, I'll just pull them down. My husband says I'm going to be known as the lady who sticks strange things to her walls. I'm OK with that.MQ's bathroom - blue with brightly colored fish. Oh, and sharks.
Our bedroom is the same color blue (I just used the leftovers for MQ's bath!) Along the ceiling I attached a wave of stones with poster putty - interspersing them with dried sea stars. It looks really cool, if I do say so myself.

The master bathroom continues the theme, only in green.
So there you have it, a tour of most of my home. Well, the paint, anyways.