All in a day’s work…

Some of my achievements at work in the past two days of tech rehearsals:

1) Survived a 5.1 earthquake hitting four theatres -two in tech, two in performance. And a 4.1 aftershock while in the basement of the Shrine Auditorium. Got down in the space between the seats in the theatre and then resumed tech within five minutes. The show must go on people! That’s why they make safety chains for crying out loud! I remember when I was stage managing On Borrowed Time at the Pasadena Playhouse when the Whittier Narrows quake happened. We were in the last ten minutes of the play. Wren Brown, the actor who was playing the character named Brink,  the embodiment of death, was in his spot up in a large oak tree on stage. The quake began to rumble, and I got on the god mic and announced in my own quakey voice, “Laides and Gentlemen, please evacuate the theatre in an orderly line.” Now, of course, we know not to go outside during an earthquake, but then I didn’t.   I gathered the cast and crew in the alley to the east of the building, and we had a brief company meeting before deciding that we would continue the show. We decided unanimously to finish the performance, and did so, to most of the audience. It was only after the show came down that I was informed that the theatre did not own safety cables for its lighting. I got a lot of grief from the operators in the booth, too, for my reedy thin terror-crusted announcement. They ridiculed me for weeks for how I sounded in my announcement. The theatre now has safety chains, I trust.

2) Successfully negotiated regular price on eight dozen donuts for tech rehearsals. I tried to help out by calling the donut shop to let them know I would be cleaning them out on Saturday morning this week, due to simultaneous tech rehearsals.The not-regular person I deal with asked me to drive over there that night to put a down payment on the donuts. “I am your best customer!” I found myself saying in an atypically aggressive way. “No, I can’t come over there to put a down payment on donuts. Are you kidding me? ”

3) Survived watching the most laborious and unproductive tech ever. Can people really not understand an opening sequence as described? It took two hours to tech the following opening sequence:

Preset and preshow music are playing with house lights at full.

house lights go to half

actor is cued onstage from up left.

Lights up  on stage center as house lights and music go out. Actor pauses to give preshow speech.

Actor crosses down right. Lights come up down right as actor removes card from easel. And begins to exit through door down right.

Second actor enters from HR and leans against SL wall of theatre.

Cue actor on from UR. Scene light up.  I am not kidding. It took two hours. Made me want to give up the theatre. It was really discouraging. And dear reader, do not blame yourself. It was the perfect storm of  theatre malfeasance.

4) Had to take a student to the ER tonight who injured herself laughing. Yes. I know it sounds like the punch line of some really bad joke, but she really bunged herself up during a conversation in the wings. Threw her head back mid chortle and thwacked it on a scenic column. That will  teach you to not talk in the wings.  Thankfully, she is all right.

 

August Osage County

I finally got around to watching August Osage County (the film) tonight and I have to say, it had much more humor than the play. When we attended the play last year at the Ahmanson Theatre,  I had an urge that wasn’t completely ignored to fall asleep every time someone raised his or her voice. So, if you are familiar with the play, I spent a lot of time with my eyes closed and my head lolling over my chest. Spittle running out of my agape mouth. The five hours flew by and I was restored by the end.

It took me three months to convince my husband that we should watch the screener they sent him prior to the SAG awards. I’m surprised it still worked and they haven’t found a way to make them self destruct like the tapes on the TV show “Mission Impossible” when I was a kid. It’s probably just a matter of time.

So when I popped it into the DVD player and discovered there were no sub-titles, I thought I’d be watching it alone. But Jimmie hung in there and we watched it together to the very  bitter end.

Meryl Streep was amazing in the film, as was Julia Roberts. Both incredibly courageous performances – neither afraid to look as ugly as their roles demanded.  And it is a Greek tragedy, that story. Suicide, drugs, racism, incest, molestation, cancer – it had it all. A veritable cornucopia of psychotic melodrama. Very entertaining, right?

Seeing that large snake pit of a dinner scene took me right back to my childhood – not. No matter how dis-functional my family was at the time of the disintegration of my parents’ marriage, we never came close to the level of venom in that dinner scene. Watching it made me feel bad for Tracy Letts. What must his childhood have been like? And didn’t we all have  beautiful childhoods next to that?

I guess when you finish watching a movie like that, you are supposed to feel cleansed, singed by the cancer-encrusted profanities of Violet, vulnerable as her daughter, Ivy, who flees from her filial duties, and hope-filled, as Julia Roberts  drives off in her pickup truck in her pajamas – that’s always how I escape emotionally climactic scenes- in my pjs and in my Ford pickup.

Makes you just feel so lucky to be in a strong and solid relationship with family members who are glad to see you when they see you. I think I’ll stay where I am, as appealing as those plains were. And, by the way, it’s okay to self-destruct that CD now…

 

Happy Days Are Here Again

I was in the kitchen filling my water bottle this morning after a particularly arduous spin class when I heard something that lightened my heart and lifted my spirits.  The TV in the living room played  the light-hearted jocularity of two sportscasters schmoozing over a relatively quiet and velvet green diamond of a field full of anticipation. The gentle thwack of bat against ball followed by a slight build in the crowd’s expectancy,  and the quickening of the sportscaster’s voice as he called the play, burst into a crescendo as the ball was caught and the crowd clapped and cheered. Spring training in Fort Myers, Florida, has begun.

The other night, leaving campus after rehearsal, I used the Uber app to get a ride home.  Jeff picked me up in his white BMW SUV. (Nicest uber ride I’ve had, by the way.) As we chatted on the 5-10 minute ride home, I inquired what he did when he wasn’t Ubering. I’m a Baseball sports agent, he said. He said he represented a few players, a Cardinal, and a few others. As we neared my block, I confessed my Red Sox-by-marriage-affiliation, and learned, not surprisingly, that Jeff was also a Red Sox fan. We shared our enthusiasm about the spring training game that day, the Red Sox’s first win of the season, and he told me he was heading down to Florida next week to see some spring training games. And then, as quick as a chat on FB, Jeff was gone, and I was home.

When we lived on the upper west side of Manhattan in the early 80s, my least favorite time of the year was February, where the streets met the icy curbs via a dirty slushy river of indeterminate depth,  one always deeper than the height of the shoes I was wearing. The gray days reflected my moods for about 6 weeks, and only now, with twenty plus years of California  living behind me, I know that I had S.A.D., or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

We have something akin to S.A.D. in our house from about November 1st until March 15th. Let’s call it B.A.D., or Baseball Absence Disorder. Things are just a little less cheery,  even after clinching the pennant and the World Series (three times in the last ten years, so take that Babe Ruth!) when “our heroes” aren’t at work. That’s what we call them in our house – “our heroes.”

“How did our heroes do today?” is my daily question to Jimmie when I get home after work. We subscribe to the massively expensive MLB plan through Time Warner Cable (Comwarner?) so that we can not only watch our heroes, but also the anti-heroes, the Yankees.

Years ago, Jimmie shared a dressing room with an actor who was a Yankee fan; they were discussing a recent game where a fight had broken out in the dugout and the Yankee pitcher had broken his thumb. Cupping his mouth with his hand to hide his grin,  Jimmie said to this actor, “What a shame about that injury – he’s such a good pitcher.” The gesture of course didn’t cover the merriment in his eyes, and a rich tradition of vaguely disguised baseball schadenfreude was born.  Jimmie still periodically gives me the DL report about the Yankees – cupping his mouth to hide his grin. Our son, Chris, carries on the tradition even now.  We spent a lot of time talking behind our hands about Yankees players A-Rod and Mark Teixeira.

So, it was with a quickening pulse that I heard the sounds of the early days of baseball. I know when we have 130 games behind us sometime in July or August, I will feel less glad,  but like daylight savings and spring cleaning,  the arrival of baseball season is a harbinger of happy days ahead.

“People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” —Rogers Hornsby from the Boston Red Sox Spring Training website

Tonight my blog flatlined………………………………….

You know it’s time to tart things up when your blog flatlines.

This is evidenced by a line of dots and no jogs in the line of dots next to the name of your blog………………………………………….sort of like that.

This is when you pull out the big guns – steamy innuendo-ridden prose. Stories of crime sprees and police chases, or like the Carl’s Junior ads on tv, commercials showing anorexic women in string bikinis gyrating while they eat gloppy, disgusting burgers. What is that about? What could make me want to watch TV more than two or three of those ads between news reports of the Missing Malaysian Flight 370 and tomorrow’s ever sunny weather forecast? Not much, I’m thinking…………………………………………………………………

Well, it is time to get out the paddles and wake this puppy up.

But before we do, I think I’ll get some sleep and dream of disastrous tech rehearsals. That’s what I dream about when I’m stressed out. Maybe it’s caused by too many late night Fritos, or too much sparkling water – these are my remaining vices – those and the occasional ice cream. ……………………………………………………………………..

Sleep tight! zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…………………………….

 

Rules to a Long and Happy Life

 I have had the privilege of viewing what it will be like to get old through the prism of my husband’s experience. Getting old is a challenge and largely ain’t pretty; these are the things I have learned through osmosis that I would like to share with you.

1) Consolidate your doctors in a geographic area that suits you and minimizes travel.  When you ask for a referral and the doctor says “So and So” check whether “So and So” still practices in the vicinity of the referring doctor. If he has moved to West Hills, say, ask for another referral. Better yet, start by asking for a referral near your home. If they don’t know anyone downtown, for example, do some research and make a suggestion back before accepting the original referral. This is crucial for your sanity.

2) When you move, seriously weigh the advantages of staying with your old doctor vs. the amount of time you will spend traveling to and from your old doctor and your new home.

3) If you go to a doctor and the doctor makes you wait an hour to be seen, change doctors.

4) When you start to not be able to hear people when they talk to you with their back to you, investigate hearing aids. The first round of hearing aids may not work well. Don’t lose hope. Get another set. If they work it will change your life and your spouse’s and children’s lives for the better.

5) Don’t be ashamed if you find you need a cane. Consider it a badge of honor. Carry and use it confidently knowing that you look just a little more dapper and feel a whole lot more comfortable about walking.

6) Keep walking and exercising as much as possible.

7) If you are a runner, consider adding other sports like swimming of cycling to keep your knees working.

8) Take naps as often as your life will allow.

9) Get out to see theatre and movies whenever you can. It is good to get out and about, and exposure to cultural events keeps your mind engaged and your heart full.

10) Read the paper(s) every day and do the crossword puzzles and sudokus. These will keep your brain agile and keep you informed as to what is going on in the world.

Follow these rules and based on my limited exposure to one who has, you will live a long and happy life.

WWFBD?

I don’t begin to flatter myself that I know all the answers when it comes to choreographing complex sequences during tech rehearsals. I had the luxury, as did many of my Los Angeles stage management colleagues, of having a supportive TDs, technicians and production managers  to back me up when I was in tech while I was “growing up” as a stage manager. Collectively, they taught me how to approach a shift, be prepared with a preliminary plan of attack, and then work it to make it faster and cleaner.

And there were some doozies of techs. The opening sequence of “The Royal Family” at the Ahmanson, was one such tech. The director, Tom Moore, was in the house cracking the whip and calling me out for the time it was taking to get through one of the sequences of cues. I can’t remember specifically whether  he was on stage or I was at the time that he called me out for my slowness, but I do remember thinking that anyone in the complex could see me on the closed circuit TVs which sit in all the stage manager  and crew offices all over the complex. Anyone can dial up the stage video monitor at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, the Taper Stage, or the Ahmanson, and there I was getting it from Tom in every crew office throughout the complex. Humiliating, yes; instructive, absolutely.

That’s why I was always grateful for the presence of the Taper and Ahmanson Production Supervisor, Frank Bayer. He was a master at choreographing shifts. This may have come from his early days as an actor with the APLA Phoenix Repertory Company. Working with Ellis Rabb, he might have developed a heightened sense of style and appreciation for the elegance of a well-crafted scene shifts. Or it might have been from his years of experience as a stage manager. At any rate,  he brought it backstage to every tech, humbly and with his wry sense of humor, advising on the deck with the Taper and Ahmanson crews and ASMs to ensure that there was purpose and flow and economy to complex theatrical shifts.

Honestly, I kind of hated how his way was always better than what I had come up with – he just had an amazing grace in making things that were ungraceful better. And he always let you know that we were in it together. He never took credit for the flow; he just made it happen. Seemingly effortlessly. Ultimately, when he moved to New York, I grew to really appreciate what he had brought to the turntable.

So this weekend, when we were teching Pericles at the Bing Theatre, there were two sequences that we were working through. One involved a 12′ round wrestling mat, divided into 2′ wide segments, which folds in accordian style to center and is brought out by two students on the crew for Act II, sc. 2. The crew members were wrestling (ho ho ho) with it and the shift was going longer than the director, Rob Clare, wanted it to go. The stage manager, Summer, Rob, Hazel, the set designer and I approached the stage to gaze at the purple and black mat and will it into submission.

“WWFBD?” I asked myself, and suddenly knew the solution to the mat problem. Fold in from the sides to center, then  have both crew members go to one side and pick up one half to waist height, knee the center and fold it on top of itself. Hardly elegant, but a different way to think about approaching it. Thanks, Frank!

Shift two – in order to suggest the ship scenes, Rob had requested  four spans of rope which clips with caribiners to the upstage walls and then to the DS side of the top platform of the set. The sailors emerge through the upper level doors of the stage and clip the caribiners to clips, then drop the ropes for the sailors on deck, who run them down to the DS clips.

That shift is beautiful and needed no intervention. But the removal of the ropes, when we reversed the action, caused the heavy knots to bounce their way up the walls with a loud clunking sound as they were pulled into the doorways.

“WWFBD?” Unclip the caribiners at the top and hand that end of the rope down to the sailors on deck, who had unclipped their positions and walked back upstage to receive the hook. The crew carried the ropes offstage left and right, quietly and quickly.

Thanks, Frank.