You Never Know…

Attending the wedding of Nancy’s cousin, Audrey, on Saturday November 12th, I was approached by the lead singer of the 8-piece dance band that played the reception. As it turned out the woman, named Marci Klontz, went to high school with me and actually did several shows with me back in that era. She was at least a year behind me in school and spent much of her time in the chorus, which is why I don’t recall her all that well. (Our high school ensembles could sometimes stretch to 70+ people.) But nowadays, after going to college for music, she fronts a dance band, going all over the eastern corridor, playing high-profile, lucrative gigs for major players.

I am very happy for her. You never know how people will turn out nor what success will befall the least likely to succeed.  I mean that as no reflection on Marci, but only to suggest that there was no way of knowing that she would be so successful in a career that she displayed no immediate aptitude for. People grow and change over many years just as flowers bloom when they are ready. Never write people off or just assume that you know who they are and what they can do. Life is long, people change and grow, and you can never tell…

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Time Well-Spent

So I’m really happy to report that on November 11th around 6:15 PM I finished listening to the 24th and final lecture in my Great Courses Emerson, Thoreau and the American Transcendental Movement lecture series purchased through the Teaching Company. I’ve obviously learned a lot about Emerson, Thoreau and Bronson Alcott. But in addition, I listened to lectures on Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Utopian communities such as the Shakers and the Oneidans, as well as less well-known participants in the movement such as Theodore Parker, Margaret Fuller and Moncure Conway. I have been exposed to a ton of information, and the bottom line for me is that this was time very well-spent. Now that I’ve run through the course once I’m looking forward to listening to it again in the near future at a more relaxed pace in hopes of gaining a deeper understanding of the material and better basic retention of the information.

The American Transcendental Movement seems to dovetail nicely with what the course professor refers to as the American Renaissance in art, music, and literature. Major figures such as Melville, Poe and Hawthorne were active during this period, roughly defined as 1830 through 1880. I’m hoping that as my understanding of the Am. Tran. Period deepens I will gain greater insight into the lives of these other artists as well. Time will tell.

Giving Thanks

Today, I just want to remind myself of the occasional little blessings that fall my way. All too often life is saturated with big, difficult things that take my entire focus of attention to surmount. Whether it’s battling with set designers or fatigue, being shocked at unprofessional or duplicitous behavior, being stiffed by a patron or cleaning cat pee off the floor, life sure has its share of downs.

But then there are days like today: peaceful, quiet, gently paced and filled with alone time without feeling lonesome. Today we received a new refrigerator after waiting eight months for our landlord to agree that our old one was broken. Today I was able to listen to several lectures on Transcendentalism via The Great Courses DVD program. I made the bed, took a bath, ordered a new course, took a picture of our house surrounded by fall foliage, and had a nice lunch. I cleaned the kitchen, folded laundry, took trash to the dump, and petted the cats for longer than normal.

Sure on the horizon there are still set and set designer problems. The house is only barely passable and I have a long drive looming at the end of the day. But for this one moment I just want to be at peace, to remind myself that not everything is bad, and that joy and relaxation can be found in the mundane. And I just want to give thanks for that. That’s not too much to ask is it?

Director’s Note for White Christmas

This is an advance draft of my Director’s Note for the upcoming production of White Christmas I have been working on. Enjoy!

May I have your attention please?

This production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas carries a rating of NC-10. That’s “Nice and Christmas-y,” hopefully making you feel like a child of ten again. A word of caution: there is nothing new, edgy, or overly profound in White Christmas. It’s strictly boy meets girl, boy loses girl (Well, I’ll stop there so as to not spoil the ending). Along the way we are introduced to a whole host of colorful characters, pretty girls in pretty costumes, minor misunderstandings, and lots of Irving Berlin standards that have become staples of folksy Americana out of a bygone era. Now, if it sounds like I’m being disrespectful to this stalwart holiday classic, well think again. In the fifty-seven years since White Christmas appeared at the box office, its simplicity, grace, tunefulness, and gentle humor have charmed generations of audiences. Simultaneously, those same qualities have become increasingly scarce in our lives, replaced by complication, harshness of manner and musical style, and comedy that is all too often “in your face” and at someone’s expense. And dare I even mention the commercialization of Christmas or the struggle to share anything as a family anymore?

Well, White Christmas, the new stage musical, with its hit-parade approach to Berlin’s music and its family-friendly romanticized depiction of the 1950s, turns the clock back a moment on all of that, sweeping us into an era of post WW-II optimism, where anything was possible as long as you had love, a barn, lots of passion, and some crazy kids to follow your lead. It reminds us that we as Americans have always been dreamers and optimists, focused more on what should have been and what could be than what really is. White Christmas lets us tweak our past for a moment, wrapping it in a bit of tinsel, showmanship, and falling snow. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that at all. Maybe things weren’t perfect back then either. So what? Together if we wish hard enough, right now, today, I bet we can make these few shared moments as simple, as beautiful, and as magical as a white Christmas. And if that happens, who knows what else we can do…

And lest I forget the true magic makers at this theatre, I just want to take a moment to thank Dennis (choreography), Gaye and Nancy (costumes), Phil (lights), Robert (audio), Kylie (props), Dave, Matt and Curtis (set), Sharon and Ben (management), and all their respective staffs. And special consideration to the men who make it all happen, Patrick and Ron, for all their hard work and dedication not only on this production but for all the theatrical magic that occurs here year round.

Happy Holidays and enjoy the show!

Teamwork

Every so often I get a not so gentle reminder that not all people are team players. Today was a double whammy. Due to car trouble, one of the actors in the current production I am in was unable to make it for Act One. Although several well-intentioned suggestions were made as to how to get the curtain up on time minus the unfortunately held up actor, a core of our best paid leads protested all solutions leveling charges of racism and lack of artistic care upon our administrative leadership. The result was a ten minute shouting contest, a delayed curtain for over 90 minutes, lots of hurt feelings and disenfranchised performers and tech hands. Not to mention the 125 people that had come to see the show, only 25 of which ultimately chose to stay. When you are an employee of an organization you have a responsibility to sometimes go along with decisions that are not to your liking. That or quit. While I don’t wish these people who forced a bad call on the organization ill, I do believe that there was no respect shown for the decision-making process at work at this theatre, and I believe they were collectively out of line and perhaps should be censured. And don’t even get me started on the unprepared understudy that also failed to do his job.

Unrelated to this incident, I continue to find that the set designer on the other show I am directing is still dragging his feet on finalizing plans for some aspects of our set. This is an attempt to back us into a corner so that I have to adjust my vision of our production to accommodate his overworked schedule and bullying temperament. Clearly, from these several incidents I needed a reminder that in my line of work not all people are either good or collaborative. I tend to be an optimist and an idealist but constant exposure to this kind of selfish, self-serving and underhanded behavior wears me down and makes me very bitter towards all but a handful of altruistic individuals.

On Work Ethics

There always seems to be drama in the Theatre. I just found out that a former student of mine who I advocated for to be in Dreamgirls with me was very disrespectful to our employer regarding an unscheduled absence. I don’t know why it is so difficult for people to take theatrical employment, especially acting jobs, seriously. Acting is a job like any other with its fair share of positives and negatives. And despite what many “civilians” think it is not all fun and games, and there are many, many days when I don’t feel like doing it! That said, if you accept employment in the Theatre, and are being paid for your efforts, it is your responsibility to treat it with the same seriousness as any other vocation. If you can’t do that then you do not belong in the business!. And if you are sick and need time off get a note. Botton line: treat the job with respect, get a note in the event of an illness, and just in general cover your ass. Anything less is a disservice to all parties involved.

Siegfried

There is no denying that life for me since moving to Virginia is never full enough of exciting and unique experiences. And since  turning forty I have had even fewer moments of lasting life significance. It’s something that desperately needs changing. Today I am happy to report one such positive occurrence. Yesterday, Nancy and I attended the MetOpera production of Siegfried at the Muvico 14 across from Town Center in Fredericksburg. Starting at noon, the performance came down at 5:30 PM with two well-placed and much-needed intermissions. This third installment of Robert Lepage’s re-imagined Ring Cycle is perhaps the best of the lot to date. Sumptuous visuals (waterfalls, fire pyres, and three-dimensional wildlife) coupled with excellent performances by Jay Hunter Morris asSiegfried,” Deborah Voigt asBrunnhilde,” Bryn Terfel as The Wanderer,” and Gerhard Siegel as “Mime” made for a thoroughly enjoyable, if daunting afternoon. In my daily grind, the unenjoyable, the mundane, and the repetitive are the norm. Yesterday it was nice to break with that and experience high art at its finest.