Complete Works

Complete WorksLast night I decided to stay after work to attend  a screening of a web series conceived and executed by three former USC School of Dramatic Arts students, Lili Fuller, Adam North, and Joe Sofranko. Entitled “Complete Works”, the five episode series charts the foibles of a Midwestern college student (Sofranko)  whose life long love affair with all things Shakespearean takes him on an international voyage of self-realization as an actor and person.

You can see these on Hulu if you didn’t make it to the screening last night. Here’s their facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/completeworkstv

When I heard about the project two years ago, I knew that many students and SDA faculty were participating in the filming. But what I hadn’t expected to see last night  was the sophistication and comic subtlety of the script, and the film’s elegance. I knew that Adam North had stayed beyond his four years as an SDA student to attend the School of Cinematic Arts. I knew that Lili was an accomplished choreographer who is even now working with our BFA Junior class on their Bing production of Dark Of The Moon. Joe and Lili and Lili’s wonderful parents have a non-profit called ETC which produces powerful theatre and dance collaborations. Joe and Adam recently finished in the top 200 Of the Greenlight Project.

So what is it that surprised me last night? Why did I not expect to be wowed by this powerhouse trio?

I think it came down to the fact that each of them is so humble and hardworking that their mastery and aptitude in a completely new arena outside of that which I knew them from came as a shock.

I thrilled last night to their humor and good taste, the lengths that each of their cast members was willing to go to tell their collective story. They used the many pieces of their education to assemble the multifaceted webisodes. Put to use were their critical studies, their acting training, their ironic lampooning of both good and bad training. They took aim at both actors and academics with oversized egos, both with skill and deadly accuracy. I was just so incredibly proud of them.

Afterwards we came out of the theatre to find cookies and juice set out on the bar in and the Bing Lobby was full of the squeals and laughter of returning alums greeting each other and celebrating their friends’ success.

These three created this project by using their training, skills, entrepreneurial spirit and the alchemy of their friendship.

Today I spent all day talking with current students, former students, and soon-to-be-former students. The theme  was “what is possible to accomplish?” How can we stretch reinvent, rebrand ourselves to make our way in the world as artists and collaborators and teams?  Thanks to my detour on the way home last night,  I realized again that there are a refreshing number of ways. The way you define yourself today, say by the degree you are earning in college, may be far far away from who you are even three or four years from now.  Make and keep good friends who support your growth as artists and whom you can trust to have your back. The Complete Works,  are never really Complete. It’s all a work in progress.

http://dramaticarts.usc.edu

Happy Days

HappyDaysBrookeAdamsThis afternoon, escaping for a few hours from the 104 degree temperatures of Pasadena, California, I had a life affirming experience in the theatre that reminded me why it has such a profound importance in my life.

In the Theatre at Boston Court, I watched this afternoon as Brooke Adams played Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s “Happy Days,” with her husband, Tony Shalhoub as Willie, in a beautiful production directed by Andrei Belgrader.

First, a disclaimer. I have a personal and historic connection with this play.  Back in high school, at the age of  seventeen or eighteen, Bob Edgar, my teacher and my theatre mentor, encouraged me to do the role of Winnie. Fellow student and friend,  Will Schwalbe, played Willie; he was sixteen or seventeen.

We  learned all 60 plus pages of lines, which was not easy, and we rehearsed the play and performed it in Memorial Hall,  a 500 seat auditorium. Who came? Can’t remember. Who decided this would be a good idea? Bob or I?  Don’t remember. How long did we rehearse? Not a clue. What was the nature of our conversation about the play when Will and I had no relevant life experience? How did we discuss the sexual innuendo in the play while knowing nothing about it? What were we all thinking?!

I remember learning by failing – how weak and reedy my voice was, what it took  to sustain what was basically a  monologue while buried up to my waist or neck in a mound of dirt. It took vocal variety, which I did not yet have, but strove to acquire in the four weeks of the rehearsals.  Laughable now. It took physical endurance and extreme mental agility to find connections where there didn’t seem  any connecting the text from the end of one beat to the beginning of the next. I remember the pride of being able to learn the lines and the fear of not being able to remember them when I needed to. I remember the joy of taking on a project for which I was monumentally ill-suited. The warm feeling that my teacher, a smart, witty, and well-read adult, had enough faith in my abilities to try something so that we could have “a positive learning outcome.” Hell, it was like winning the educational lottery.

Flash forward to Los Angeles, 36 years later. I sat in the theatre, next to my husband, felt the usual frisson when the house lights faded before the play began, listened to the sounds of someone getting into the beautifully designed and painted mound. (Takeshi Kata did the set.) Lights up, (thank you Tom Ontiveros!) , and there she was, Winnie, in all her glory. Brooke Adams seemed illuminated from within. Her 150-watt smile and can-do attitude was inspiring. What made the play so moving was  simple. She made it plausible that even though buried to her waist in dirt, she would survive and happily so. The simple daily objects she pulled from her bag were talismans of her optimism. Willie was still there, within range of her voice; talking to someone who occasionally responded brought her joy.

And though I can’t remember what “Happy Days” meant to me as a seventeen or eighteen-year-old,  today, the play was about aging. Beckett’s  portrayal of a powerful woman freeing herself from  prison of a mound of dirt with just her mind and her love was moving and funny and familiar. We take for granted our bodies when we are young, and our worlds become more closely circumscribed as our anatomy ages and fails. And in spite of that, our humanity affords us the ability to greet each day generously and with love and joy just as Winnie does.

I thought  today about our niece who lost her husband of 44 years a week ago and  in a week’s time. I thought about how Winnie would be able to go on without Willie. I thought about how someday I will have to go on without my darling husband. And on stage, we saw that terror and uncertainty and fear in Winnie’s eyes.  And we saw her recover again and again.

Ah yes, if only I could bear to be alone, I mean prattle away with not a soul to hear.
Not that I flatter myself you hear much, no Willie, God forbid.
Days perhaps when you hear nothing. But days too when you answer.
So that I may say at all times (even when you do not answer and perhaps hear
nothing) something of this is being heard. I am not merely talking to myself.
That is, in the wilderness. Something I could never bear to do – for any length of time.
That is what enables me to go on, go on talking that is.
Whereas, if you were to die – or go away and leave me, then what would I do, what
could I do all day long?
Simply gaze before me with compressed lips.
Or a brief… gale of laughter, should I happen to see the old joke again.

 Winnie, “Happy Days” by Samuel Beckett

Winnie is a survivor. And while we are on this mound we call earth, we love our stuff for the comfort it brings us, and we love the other inhabitants of the mound. And if the mound and its inhabitants change, we can still survive and find  a way to express our love and joy.

Go see “Happy Days” at the Theatre at Boston Court

The Pink Lady

Several years ago, an old friend of my husband’s from back in his “Greenwich Village days,” in the 1950s, Peter Harvey, notified us that he would be coming to town for an exhibition of his paintings at a little gallery on Melrose, just west of La Cienega. Did we want to attend? This was in about 2008, I think.

Peter is an accomplished painter, as well as a very experienced theatrical scenic designer, and Jimmie had worked with Peter and known him well socially back in New York.

Of course we wanted to go to the show, and before going, we had discussed rather seriously that we would  buy one of his works at the gallery to support him.

We arrived at the gallery at about 7pm, I from work, and Jimmie from home.  I went to park the car nearby, returning to the small gallery, which was filled with jovial friends of Peter’s – mostly gay men, but there were some women there as well. I found Jimmie, and we began to circulate around the room, enjoying the colorful, large-scale paintings on display.

Text/Eros was the name of the show

It soon became clear to us – I don’t know, call me provincial, prudish, too straight, narrow-minded – that we were unlikely to find a painting for our living room among the canvases in front of us.  However, one painting was really lovely and G-rated enough for our lives.

IMG_4090There were many paintings in the gallery with text incorporated into the body of the painting, and this one, though inherently a bit sad, had a warmth and theatricality to it that caused us to gravitate to it.

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I sent this photo to Peter because he said he liked to see where his paintings had gone to live

We made the deal and after the show closed a few weeks later, picked up the painting and hung it in our dining room. I actually painted the walls of the dining room to better show it off.

While we were at the gallery, I also thumbed through a portfolio of water colors, and stumbled upon a lovely and saucy watercolor of a “woman of a certain age” flaunting her zoftig body with insouciance  on a coverlet splashed with bright pink flowers and Peter’s jaunty signature at the bottom of the blanket. I fell in love with the Pink Lady. After the show closed and Peter went back to New York, I thought about her.

My 50th birthday was coming up and Jimmie asked me if there was anything I wanted for my birthday. I said wistfully, “I can’t stop thinking about the Pink Lady. She is just the epitome of what I feel like 50 is about. Take it or leave it.”

And so, the Pink Lady came to live with us. She graces the wall above my desk at home, and I can glance up at her when we are reading in bed before turning out the light.

And as I lay on the couch tonight in the living room, I was looking up at the Ode On Melancholy painting that we had bought originally, and decided to look up the ode which inspired it.

Ode on Melancholy

BY JOHN KEATS

No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
       Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss’d
       By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
               Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
       Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
               Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries;
       For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
               And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.
But when the melancholy fit shall fall
       Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
       And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
       Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
               Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
       Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
               And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.
She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
       And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
       Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
       Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
               Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
       Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,
               And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

 

Poked by Death

IMG_2274As I shared with you, in previous posts,  last weekend was one of the happiest in recent memory, as my husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary at the Disneyland for Debutantes, the 5 Star Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena (celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2014).

Amidst these happy celebrations, we were coming to grips with the demise of our niece’s husband of 44 years and ultimately, his extremely untimely and sudden death on Wednesday of this past week.

These events which were sandwiched into a period of about 10 days have served to remind me that there is nothing so precious as our loved ones – and that the  shocks of the end of life are always present in our lives, or in the periphery of our lives, however happy and full they seem at the moment.

IMG_1958This dark and unsettling reminder is just a poke, like a “poke” on FB (I have never really understood what that is, but have enthusiastically poked the poker back in response). “Hey, I’m here. Don’t stop what you are doing, but just know that I’m out here and I think of you occasionally, and I’m letting you know that I can reach you when I need to.”

Having been poked by death this week has been instructive. Devastating, but instructive.   I have learned this week to:

1.  Live your life with the intention of making every day count. Remove obstacles that get in the way of each day’s mattering to you.

2. Let your loved ones know you are thinking of them before tragedy strikes, or even begins to circle them. Letters, postcards, hugs when possible are recommended.

3. Plan ahead. Get your affairs in order. No matter how young you are, it is critical that you share your end of life intentions with your loved ones, parents, children, whoever will be in charge should something unexpected happen to you.

4. Bring as much joy into your life as is possible.  Do this in whatever way makes you the happiest – attending cultural events, watching a football game, going for a long walk and talking over important things with a friend, eating chocolates and watching the Foresyte Saga. (yes, that’s what we did last night.)

5. Breathe. Laugh. Cry. Frequently and with gusto.

 

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The Time to Start Measuring Up is Now

Events in the past three weeks have been shocking and have smacked me upside the head. On the macro level, more young black men were gunned down in the streets, more cops assassinated. Every time I turned on the TV it seems like ISIS or some wannabe fringe extremist has killed another 125 people.  I’ve become de-sensitized to random acts of terrorism, both international and national. And it’s not because I don’t care about my fellow human beings. It’s just not possible to be in a constant state of shock or rage or worry or grief. Especially if you’re a “there-must-be-a-pony-here-somewhere” type of person like I am. Unfortunately, events like these have hardened me enough  that I don’t have to curl up in a corner 24-7. Because if there were no auto-protective features, that’s where we’d all be, right?

But on Monday,  when I received a call from Virginia, our guiding Senior Business Officer about the recent and sudden death of one of my faculty colleagues, Paul Backer, I cried out. “What?” So shocking was the loss of someone so integral to our work place, and ostensibly so healthy, that the news reached out of the phone and punched me in the gut. “I wanted you to know before you heard it from someone else,” she said.

Paul Backer, tall, with boyish good looks, a large head filled with facts about the theatre, and the broadest spectrum of interests, was a fixture of the School of Dramatic Arts at USC since 1984 when he began teaching there. He attend all the productions, both those that were curricular, as well as all the Independent Student Productions. As the production manager, I am the last person to sign off on the ISP contracts, and Paul was the faculty advisor for 99.9% of them. He was a sterling director, directing the first show of each fall semester in the McClintock Theatre. This was a tight rehearsal period, four weeks to tech, one which required exquisite preparation. The plays were challenging contemporary, open-ended types of plays, and Paul somehow found the time to sit with the play, conceptualize his approach, get the research done, and send off no less than 30 pages of analysis with research images, with metaphors for what he wanted to achieve in his/our production. thumb_IMG_5149 3_1024His production last fall, Love and Information, was a huge learning experience for our production and design students. A few weeks ago, I received his first ideas about how  he wanted to stage Julie Jensen’s Mockingbird, with the casual tag line, “details to follow. Pb.” That made me smile, typically understated.

To get an idea of how ecumenically Paul approached his productions you only have to read a little about the subject of his dissertation, to quote SDA’s website: 

“Shakespeare, Alchemy and Dao: The Inner Alchemical Theatre. It was an interdisciplinary and cross cultural analysis of Shakespeare and the Renaissance esoteric traditions as seen through the lens of classical Chinese Daoism, particularly the philosophy and practice of “Inner Alchemy” or neidan.

USC School of Dramatic Arts

Paul slipped off this mortal coil in his sleep, at 59 years of youth, sometime before Monday when I heard about it from Virginia. And as I processed the news, even before the official email came telling his SDA family about our tragic loss, the ripple effect among Paul’s “children,” his former and current students, was immediate, tsunamic.  I saw Paul’s last post on FB honored an alum, who passed away July 2nd. Paul attended his memorial just last Tuesday, spending an hour  after the memorial in the parking lot chatting with one of his former students. She called me to commiserate that afternoon. She shared that she had asked Paul about what to say to a parent who demands “when are you going to give up this theatre stuff and get a real job?” They’d talked about how hard it must be for a parent to bury their child, and how attending services like these felt terrible in the same way.

Paul was there for his students. He was there for his colleagues, picking up the role of interim chair of Critical Studies when his supervisor had to step away to deal with her own tragedy.

Paul’s death has got me thinking a lot about legacy. As we watched Paul’s legacy unfurl through the devastated testimonies from former students, I thought that Paul probably never ever thought about what his legacy would be. He just built it one relationship at a time. He showed up. He witnessed the work. He demonstrated how he cared, one conversation, one hug at a time. And then he was gone. One of my colleagues said in a recent emotional email,

The time to start measuring up is now.

My tribute to Paul on FB garnered 270 views. That’s a whole lot for me, like by a multiple of ten. We are Paul’s family, vast and interesting and varied, just like his mind, his theatre practice, and his life.

I am and I know the rest of the SDA/SOT community are in a stunned state of grief about the loss of Paul Backer. There is a significant hole in the fabric of the universe. Paul was always there, always supportive, always creative and collaborative. He attended all the shows, was witness to people’s important life events. He gave all of himself to us. Thank you for your calls today to talk about Paul Backer and to cry a little about our loss. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the posts from students and alumni about the impact Paul had on your lives. It really helps to try to understand this loss. I took this photo last September during tech of Love and Information. I wish I’d waited until he turned around.

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Love and Information, Fall 2015: Scenic Design, Projections and Lighting by G. Austin Allen

Rest in peace, dear Paul.

reasons to be pretty (with apologies to neil labute)

This has been an exciting week – full of visitations from my teenage self in the midst of my current grown-up life. On Wednesday, one of my friends with whom I attended both boarding school and college came to visit me at work, with two poised, articulate, artistically inclined daughters in tow. Her younger daughter is looking at colleges, and her older daughter attends one, back on the east coast. But both are creatures after my heart, theatrically scalloped, with strong outside interests in history, english lit, and languages. My friend and her husband have done very well, obviously. They are confident, affectionate with their mom, and excited about their learning paths and lives – sponges about everything that surrounds them. Well done, Holly!

We met on campus in my office, currently without an A/C unit, the previous one having died a loud and horrible death, and we walked together to the center of campus to the Tudor Campus Center, where we had lunch out in what I want to call the piazza, in front of the campus center – I swear that if I were to take more advantage of that space, I would never be stressed out, because a half hour sitting under an umbrella there takes me back to sipping un cappuccio in Campo Santo Stefano in Venice. 

SantoStefano

Well, almost.

 But with Holly and the girls, it was as close to that state of blissful youth as I am likely to encounter at my job site.

But first, a wonderful thing happened, that I promise will eventually tie back into Neil LaBute.

I was chatting with one of my professorial colleagues, there in the hopefully temporary swelter of my upstairs office, when she turned her head and began beaming at the airspace outside my door. I could hear the steps of several people coming up, and sure enough, it was Holly and her girls coming up the stairs. Introductions were made and then we left my colleague there and went to our lunch.IMG_4028

Later, after having left Holly and the girls to take a tour of the program, I came back, and my colleague said to me – “Your friend is lovely. She walked up those stairs beaming at me even though she didn’t know me from Adam and it would have been a great example for one of my students to see about how to be in the world.” People really do like to see a pleasant person coming toward them. Opportunities will open for someone who brings light with them into the room.

You know that, right? Another of my colleagues (I work with amazing people) once put the converse principle even more succinctly. “You don’t want to be one of those people who people see coming toward them and they duck away from or try to avoid them.” And no, I don’t. So it was especially nice to have Mary Joan see that Holly is such a light bearer. As she herself is. Maybe most of us tend to gravitate toward those types of people.

IMG_2601 Later that evening, as I sat and watched four distinctly not-light-bearing characters on stage in “reasons to be pretty” at the Geffen Playhouse, I struggled to embrace the play. After all, I like to be challenged when I go to the theatre, right? I thought it was extremely well-acted. The setting was beautifully realized by Takeshi Kata, another of my colleagues at USC. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the show by talking too much about it – suffice it to say that Tak accomplished a lot with what was ostensibly quite simple at the beginning of the show. Endlessly unfolding into new scenes, each more expertly arrived at than the last. The lighting was lovely, the sound terrific, the costumes perfect. The direction was bold, as was required by the script. These were no shrinking violets on stage. They were each frankly, terrifying in two or three distinctly fascinating ways.

But I didn’t like any of them. And my take away was that the reasons to be pretty are that if you aren’t, things can go pretty badly for you. And it is possible to say nice things to the people around us and god knows we should because time moves apace and you can lose everything if you don’t. And it isn’t the outside, transient things that matter, but how we treat each other as we pass through this world.

I’m sorry, Neil LaBute – I think, just on the basis of seeing several of your plays, that you have had a life filled with very dark-souled people. You are an artist – a powerful one at that. Please forgive me if I have difficulty living within your dramatic world. There is so much darkness in the world that if I have a choice, and I think I do, to minimize the darkness in my life to the extent that I am able, I will choose light-bearing over not. I guess probably that’s exactly what I am supposed to take away.  

Dinner With Friends

Since moving from our home in the Valley to our downtown condo, we haven’t done a lot of entertaining. Our condo is plenty big for us, but we can’t handle more than two other couples for dinner and only then if we are strategic to the point of military precision about our movements from the living room to the dining area, because you need to file in in the prescribed seating order and then stay there; there is no room for gracious serving from the left and clearing to the right.

“Hey, can you pass me jImmie’s plate and the salad bowl” – it’s more like that.

But I have tried to get these two couples of friends together to meet for years. A few other times we have been able to wrangle half of one couple but never all four of them. Tonight we finally succeeded.

My menu was from The Sprouted Kitchen, my favorite cookbook ever. Wild cod with a lemon, shallot caper relish, a zesty quinoa and black bean salad, a green salad, and roasted asparagus with mustard thyme bread crumbs, lemon zest, hard-boiled eggs and Parmesan cheese. I know. It sounds like a lot of things that wouldn’t necessarily go well together, right? Wrong!

And for dessert, this beautiful almond meal gluten-free cake with whipped cream with mascarpone in it and mashed strawberries in top. I must say it was a spectacular meal. (I know. Overwhelming modesty.)

The Sprouted Kitchen website

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I used to entertain a lot-huge parties in our big house with the newly renovated kitchen big enough to do a cooking show. (Theoretically. I never trotted it out on an real cooking show.) Anything under 25 people wouldn’t cause me to break a sweat. I remember on my fortieth birthday, I was ASMing on August Wilson’s “Jitney” at The Mark Taper Forum, and I decided I would have a party for forty friends: 20 old and 20 new. My brother in SF, the commercial fisherman, sent me 10 dungenous crabs in a cooler for the party, and I ordered a Honey-baked Ham with all that that entailed  to serve as well.

It was Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, a holiday; I love that about my birthday, because it ensures a three-day weekend and when I had ordered the ham, I had asked two times about the fact that it was a holiday and both times they assured me that they would be open. That Monday, which was my birthday, I drove over the hill to pick up the ham only to find the store closed and half of my dinner was not accessible. In my disbelief, I stood, both hands above my head leaning against the door with it’s infuriating sign: “Closed for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday.”   But it’s my birthday, toooooo!

So I whipped up two trays of lasagna instead: one veggie, one regular. Then when the 40 people showed up for dinner, it was all ready. No sweat. Really no sweat beyond my first rage and disbelief that they would have sold me a ham to pick up on a day when the store was closed.

So then,  why is it that it took me the entire time from 7:30Am to 6:00pm yesterday  to get ready for dinner for six?  Let me look at what I did yesterday. Got up at 7:30, made the cake. Went to the Citadel Outlet stores at 10:00AM to return the suit I had bought for my husband last week. Drove to Fish King in Glendale to get good enough fish to serve to my friends.  Stopped in to visit Tina and Michael at their house which was nearby, then promptly left the fish in their refrigerator. Off to Trader Joe’s for a few essentials. Got home and realized I had forgotten the shallots and capers and limes. So I went to Ralph’s. Hmm. Note to self – need to apply same military precision to the prep…. Probably the difference is that I just don’t have a good enough memory to remember what it is that I needed at each of these stores. So I rushed around wasting time. That sounds and is moronic. Even armed with my lists.

Anyway, lest I completely squash my good feelings about last night’s party, I will just say it was a great success. Our friends hit it off and after dinner we watched the video I made about our recent trip to Alaska. I have officially become my maternal grandparents, who used to set up the slide carousel and show photos from their trips to various European cities after dinner. I secretly thrilled to these shows because I had a taste for adventure and imagined what it would be like to visit those places as a new  and sophisticated grown up.

I don’t know. Last night’s dinner went so well I may even try it again soon.  Maybe without the “home movies.”

Wet Hair at the Hollywood Bowl

photo 1Last night we headed out to go to the Hollywood Bowl because I had been given comps to see “Hair” by the sound designer, my colleague Phil Allen.  All day it had been kind of overcast and cloudy, but really really hot.

I knew that the Hollywood bowl was going to be like Mount Everest for my 87-year-old husband. But karmically, things seemed to be falling together neatly. On Friday, at work I had to call a student to find out if he had the units to do a lighting design this fall. Kevin has been working as a parking attendant at the Hollywood Bowl since the age of 14. Please don’t think less of me because honestly, I didn’t call him to take advantage of this fact.

But when I did reach him, he told me that he could help me out with parking. He said he would put my name on the list, and that I should drive up the hill to Lot A and look for him.

We left the apartment at 6:00. I had a beautiful basket full of poached Salmon, a lovely quinoa salad, and for dessert, berries and some brownie bites from Smart and Final. I was feeling very, very Martha Stewart.

We got to the Hollywood Bowl and it was a complete cluster f–k. I didn’t know what lane to get into, because I literally hadn’t come to the Hollywood Bowl in five years, and the cop was pointing me to turn left when I need to go straight ahead. I said to him “My names on the list” and he waved me into the right lane, after admonishing me with a good natured retort: “We can’t read minds, here! Have a nice evening!”

I got to the bottom of the hill.  I said “My name’s on the list.” (Surely the sweetest words in the history of theatre.) Sure enough, miraculously, it was. We drove up the hill and Kevin was there and  said “Park right here,” pointing to his left to an area which was clearly not a parking spot. 

I unloaded my husband’s  walker, and gave the keys to Kevin and we walked into the bowl. 

We were now standing in front of the black macadam  Mount Everest. A rise which is probably 50° and my husband turned to me with woeful eyes and said, “How far is it?”

I looked down at the tickets and I could see that we needed to go about hundred feet further up the hill to the entrance. People were walking by shooting me dirty looks for bringing somebody with a walker on this hill.

Some kind Bowl usher helped us and pointed us to the elevator which eliminated 20 steps up. We took the elevator up and went our way up the longest handicap ramp in history. Now were on the flat area between the seating heading towards our seats. It was still  really early and the boxes in the Bowl were full of happy picnickers but the upper levels were still pretty empty.

We got to the entrance to the seating area where we needed to leave the walker and my husband looked up and said “What row are we in?” Again, woeful eyes.

I was thinking, ” Yeah,  it’s a great idea to come to the Hollywood Bowl as the last event in one’s life.”

We climbed, my husband holding onto the backs of the benches and we finally got to row 11. We sat down on our Hollywood Bowl blanket  and I opened the basket for dinner. Things were looking up.

Two pretty girls were sitting in front of us who asked us to take their picture. I did and they then took our picture, too.

photo 2It was only about 6:30 and the show was scheduled to start at 8:00. Two other people I knew came to sit down next to us because they, too,  had been given tickets by our friend. We were very jolly. The show began. It was magical. We were having a great time.

After intermission, I felt the first drops of rain. The chatter amongst the audience as these drops began to fall and intensify in frequency and weight rolled through the audience so  that the show could have stopped for all we were aware. 

I was trying to cover us up with the little blue cotton shawl that I had brought to put across our laps so that we wouldn’t get salmon on  our pants.

Pretty soon, one of the actors came out and said-“Don’t leave! “We’re bringing you ponchos!”

Keep in mind that here were 17,000 of us sitting in the audience. I thought, Yeah, and I have some swamp property in Florida….

My husband’s  hat was drenched.

I couldn’t stop laughing with Annie Wareham who was sitting to my right, her hair beginning to plaster itself to her head. The irony of being in the middle of a 3 year drought in Southern California on the one time in 5 years  we had attended a show at the Bowl in the midst of what was becoming an enthusiastic episode of rain was too much. Show? What show?

I think it was somewhere around this time that the purportedly naked people came onstage, because I completely missed them. 

One of the girls to my left, a former student USC,  was wearing a USC poncho. Good planning, Sara! Her friend got up and offered to bring us ponchos and disappeared. 10 minutes later  this goddess of mercy came back with the ponchos and handed me a flat packet with two inside. And just like were instructed to do on the aircraft, I helped my husband on with his poncho before putting mine on.  Oh no, it’s the opposite, right?

Now Annie and I were taking selfies to text to the sound mixing area which we could see was tented with a poncho or clear tarp under which Phil had a flashlight and was mixing the show. Which, miraculously, was proceeding apace. Those poor  wet actors. To their credit, they used this event to unify the audience so that by the final number, “Let the Sunshine In!” we were all singing at the tops of our lungs. The audience filed out of the bowl, chatting amiably with each other, in love with the performers, each other, the rain.

It was the best time I’ve had at the Hollywood Bowl in years.  After the show, we waited for a lot of the people to leave and then we made our way back to the car.  Kevin was waiting and pulled the car around right to us. I gave him 20 bucks. And that, I think, was our last trip to the Hollywood bowl.

Good Friends But Not Forgotten

Earlier this week, my phone rang and the name of one of my long lost tennis buddies was on the display.  I used to play tennis at least once a week with a group of moms from my son’s private school in the San Fernando Valley. We took group tennis instruction from another child’s mom, and we would also play doubles about once a week.

It was a great way to exercise, and to share the joys and exasperations of being parents. I loved my tennis pals, and working the tennis into my schedule as a free lance stage manager was pretty easy, since I didn’t have to go to the theatre most days until after noon or early evening. Win win.

However, when I became a production manager at a university,  my days became filled with work, and along with the commute, my tennis hours waned, my happy hours with “the girls” diminishing  until finally they ceased all together.  I just couldn’t seem to organize the time.

So many times in our lives, we form tribes of close friends based on our needs and availabilities, and the proximity of people whose needs and goals are similar to ours. This happens so frequently as parents. We are thrown together with others because of our children, and frequently find new friends as a result.

BeemanParkSignWhen our son was about four, we joined the Beeman Park Tribe, where assorted parents spent hours socializing on the hard concrete benches while our kids ran around the park like little maniacs and only reported back to us that Albert, the ice cream truck driver had arrived. Hint, hint.  My butt still bears the indentations of those benches and our family increased by one when we adopted a dog, whom we named Molly Dogg, from one of the other Beeman Park tribe members.

Later, when our son was about 10,  my tennis tribe was formed which provided so many hours of fun. Suzanne’s invitation to dinner on Saturday was well timed,  and it had been a long time since I had had a happy social occasion with them. Initially, when I saw Suzanne’s name on the phone, I went to the dark place – “Oh no! Something has happened to one of my friends.” And yet, the minute I answered the phone, Suzanne reassured me that all was well and she was organizing  a “Girls’ Night Out” at her home. This is 6 years out from the last time we played tennis – or maybe even 7 years out. I was so pleased to be invited.

Suzanne hadn’t told the others that she had invited me and that I had agreed to come, so when I rang the doorbell, and fellow tribe member Susie opened the door, she shrieked, and I shrieked, and we did a happy hug before going in to surprise Shelley, my doubles partner. It was truly joyous to see them. This is one strong group of women. In the past seven years each one has been through  life events that would bring the less strong  to their knees, and they remain so strong and so loyal to each other and, happily, I realized, even in my absence, to me.

It was exhilarating to know that though I had “left my tribe” that they had remained in tact and had continued on, and now welcomed me back to their loving midst. Two of their daughters were there, both accomplished young women in their own rights, and it was great to hear how their lives are shaping up. The others, whose children weren’t there, had happy tales to tell of their accomplishments and the table was littered with happy pictures of them on our phones.

So, join me in making a pledge to make someone’s day by picking up the phone as Suzanne did, and reminding someone of the tribe they once belonged to. Let them know how much they are missed.

GirlsNightOut