Letters to Holly

Friday, August 31

Second Night Audition

Your Sis is still under the weather, and we may not go anywhere this weekend after all.

I did find ABBA interview clips on YouTube, and here's what I learned about the two guys from the group: They sound like they could hail from Illinois. They have nothing like the stereotypical Nordic sing-song dialect. They extend double-vowels like they're from Canada, and they really hit the hard consonants. But otherwise, they seem to mix Britain and Germany. If we do the cartoony Swedish accent in the play, we'd need to also exaggerate everyone else's accent to keep it fair.

But I may not need to worry about it: I didn't read the part tonight. In fact, only one person did, and he was the lone new person to show up.

We had six people there tonight, not including the director and her crew. I'm one of the first to show up, and it's obvious at 7:15 that it will be a light night. Doc is back, as is a former student of my wife and another of the actresses. The latter is a ball of energy; she clearly knows the folks in charge, and she's joking around with them the whole way. The stage manager is also directing another production somewhere else (maybe the local college), and they discuss casting for that show. It appears that show may take away some people from this production. I can't be sure. I'm busy reading the script pages to remind myself what notes to hit for each character if I'm asked to read.

The two actresses take turns reading for two parts: a socialite and the newlywed wife. I read for both attorneys in one of these readings. I try to be cold for the DA, and sympathetic for the defense attorney. The director suggests we treat the nonparticipating actors as the jury, and it does give us somewhere to look. It gives both the actors and the characters an audience to play to. I don't like to worry about physical acting at this stage. I want to focus on vocal acting. But I do work in a facial gesture here and some lawyer-like posturing there.

And I can't say strongly enough how much fun it is to play a lawyer. The wife and I watch L&O:SVU reruns religiously, and my favorite play is Inherit the Wind, another courtroom drama. You don't read the attorney questions as questions; you read them as buoys for the witnesses. What the attorneys say is irrelevant until they start to build their cases, and that happens only after the various witnesses have their moments in the sun. So they're not as flashy as the PI or the gangster or the stripper or the shady Swede, but they continuously prowl the courtroom.

As the stage manager and actress discuss roles, the latter suggests she call up a guy she worked with before to be the gangster. He has a Long Island accent, which would be perfect. He's worked with the theatres in the area, and he may have his weeknights free. And before she says the name, I know she's talking about Brick from Cat. But would they really bring him in to read for only the one part? Is it possible I could lose one of the good roles to him again? It's too early to think like that, and he's not here. Also, the producer of the show has called dibs on the role of the judge.

Doc gets to read for both attorneys, and I think all three of us guys who showed up get to. The guy who comes in later, like I said, reads for the Swede, and he, well, he kinda mangles it. But he had no preparation that I know of. I do get a few director laughs when I read my parts, especially right at the end of the night. And that comes at about the hour mark, just like last night. We're reminded that the next round is in two weeks, and that wraps up this round.

Doc and I say goodnight. He's not sure if he'll make the commute for both nights of the next auditions. I don't know if he's concerned about role availability, but I don't blame him for wanting to cut out a night of driving. The roundtrip commute is longer than each audition. I did virtually the same drive for the Cat auditions, but those were a few blocks away from my office. Still, I know I'll see him in two weeks. At least for one night.

Picture of the Day
She's optimistic. And fond of Six Flags.

In the News
The WWE is, to be blunt, fucked. When they lost Eddy Guerrero to drug-related heart failure, they instituted a Wellness Policy to control their in-house drug dependency. The concern is two-fold: guys doing illegally prescribed steroids to achieve a marketable size and guys stoned to the gills on illegally prescribed painkillers. The policy states that each infraction earns a cumulatively higher penalty, including firing of the third offense. The first discovered offense gets a monthlong suspension. That means, the wrestler is sent home with no pay.

Yesterday, ten guys were tagged for breaking the policy by shopping for drugs through a disreputable source, and their departures means the WWE has to almost completely rewrite their shows for the next month. They lose three main-event guys for the Monday show alone, including the evil title contender to whom they gave a significant push. The announcement of these names comes on the same day Congress voted to push ahead with investigations into the WWE following the recent deaths of Chris Benoit and Bryan Adams. I don't see how the WWE can dodge a Congressional standoff unless it fires people who significantly break the policy. And those pink slips have to go to people with major profiles. The company has to prove it will put honor health over ticket sales, and that hasn't happened yet.

Thursday, August 30

First Night Audition

I found a rather swank t-shirt in my mailbox yesterday. Is that a PC printer iron-on? I thought about doing some of those for my designs before. Your Sis seems to have picked up a bug from the students and lacks a voice. She thinks it's allergies. If that's true, the kayak trip may be off.

The theatre's default headquarters is a warehouse space on loan from a local manufacturing company. It's tucked away from the road, and I initially went to the wrong building. I figured it wasn't the place when I realized there was no way we could rehearse over the noise of the equipment. I drove down the road and notice the collection of cars outside a building that wouldn't be used at 7 p.m. normally and then found the theatre sign taped to the door.

As I walk in, I see a woman having her mugshot taken by a man with a Polaroid. I miss those cameras. Not enough to ditch my digital camera, but I used my old 600 model for years. Behind them is a table with a banner listing the name of the play. I hear the photographer explain why Witness is a no-go, a point my wife says is silly. Why not just go black box style of the scenes away from the courtroom, she wonders?

I have my callsheet in hand to turn over to the organizers, and they take it and attach my fresh mugshot to it. The girl signing up at the table was a student of my wife, and she asks me to pass along her hello. As I grab a stack of xeroxed pages from the script, I see another callsheet on the table. It's apparently been left there mistakenly. I read the name. It's the doctor from Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. The guy with memory trouble. The guy who swiped my socks.

I walk into a cobbled-together room space with two sections of chairs and a director's table facing space for the actors to stand while reading. And theres the doc. We catch up on what we've done since Cat. He's done a few other plays and played another doctor role. I'm introduced to the stage manager, a young gal of about 25. I also meet the director, who I talked to on the phone last week. She takes her place at the table and walks us through the play. The doc knows it and gives me a quick run-through. We're getting long fine. There's about five men here, including me (the youngest by decades), and three women hoping for roles.

The doc and I are first to be called up. It's a scene between the prosecutor and the medical examiner. He asks to read the attorney, and I'm fine with that. I don't get a chance to read the scene before we stand up there so I'm focused on projecting and reading at a slow, steady pace. After about six lines each, the director stops us to switch roles. Doc doesn't like that, but we read on.

The audition lasts about an hour, and it seems to be focusing on the male characters. I read for both attorneys and the shady Swedish accountant. I don't have a Swedish dialect handy, so I German my way through it. I have had time to read this scene, and I know where to add the arrogance. It goes over well. Doc is called up to read for the ME almost exclusively. He does not glow with joy. When he gets a chance to read an attorney role, he's asked halfway through to give it a New York edge. He has a substantial, warm Southern drawl, and a Yankee accent is tricky for him. I don't have an accent unless I'm around my family, so I apparently read OK.

We are told that there will be two audition batches: today and tomorrow and two weeks from now to give the folks performing Fiddler a chance. The rehearsals will start on Sept. 18, giving the cast (whoever they might be) just over a month to learn a 110+ page script. It should be pretty easy for everyone except the attorneys; most of the characters are answering questions on the stand.

Because of the short rehearsal time, I assume they will give the attorney roles to people they know. I'm a bit surprised by everyone else's lack of projection; they're talking very low, so low that they can't give inflection to the dialogue. And it's good dialogue. Flat-out noir stuff. I'm having too much fun working the lines to be nervous. I'm told that if I work on the Swedish accent, that character is essentially mine. I can live with that. A questionable character giving pointed testimony will be fun. But I've got three more nights to angle for the bigger roles.

When I go in tonight, and if I get the chance to read for the DA, I'll give it a little De Niro edge. I'm hoping I can find some Abba documentary videos on YouTube to help me pad out the Swedish. The only other reference I have on hand is Uula from The Producers, but that's a caricature accent. After that, it's mimicking Lake Woebegone or the Swedish Chef ("I didn't keel heem ya, bork bork bork.")

Picture of the Day
I assume I won't be asked to dress like this.

Wednesday, August 29

Entering Stage Left

Tonight is the first audition night. I have the barest trace of excitement for it. The latest paper article states the play needs 12 men and 11 women. That's a huge cast for a small community theatre play (a musical could get that many people easier). Since I don't know the play nor do I have any particular character to focus on, all I can do is go in and read the text aloud as best I can. This is a distinction from the Romeo & Juliet audition where I studied the play and practiced delivery. The articles describes the play as similar to the original planned production, and I do hope I get the chance to participate in a murder trial. This is the closest I'll get to being on Law and Order: SVU. I have my updated callsheet ready to hand to the director tonight.

Your Sis and I have postponed pre-breakfast gym visits for the time being. She needs to get acclimated to the school pace again, and she's dragging as it is when she gets home. I, on the other hand, have to stay up longer at night so I don't wake up too early in the morning. Her new batch of kids took much easier to the assignment of dissecting song lyrics, although one tried to pass off Pink Floyd verses as commentary on American foreign policy.

Picture of the Day
That's, um, an interesting ad there.

Tuesday, August 28


Your Sis had a thoroughly average first day at work. Seems she prepared to the point where she lost her frenetic edge, and she feels she short-changed her students. The AP kids had an essay test on the first day of school. Harsh. She was right tired by the time I got home.

Kathy and Travis leave for Deutscheland this week, and last night's wings n'rasslin was a temporary farewell.

We've made reservations for a Labor Day kayak trip, and we might catch the Montford Players this weekend for Much Ado. I've also signed up to provide a page in an online jam comic even if I do get a part in the play.

Picture of the Day
Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader from Electric Company.

Monday, August 27

Back to School

Your Sis got home at a decent hour last night, and we had a light supper. She got her clothes in order and made sure she packed everything she needed for work and went to bed early. It was almost solemn, like a ceremonial preparation for the new year. She's ready. She's spent all summer getting ready. There's nothing more she can do. The last school-related activity she tackled was to fold the last of brochures. This she did while watching taped horse racing and eventually the preseason Philadelphia-Pittsburgh game.

The fantasy league draft went better than I expected, even though I wasn't there. My team managed to snag Tom Brady and last year's Heismann-winning running back. I even go the kicker I wanted. My wide receivers are weak but had they been better, I would have developed unrealistic hopes for winning the league.

Your Sister's wrestling character turned out very well. She can compete against the male wrestlers, and I designed a championship belt for her to defend. Your Sis likes it. She also competes alongside my wrestling character to defend the Debacle World Championship. She has teaching names for the wrestling holds like the detention, suspension and expulsion (where she actually throws the opponent out of the ring by the belt and collar).

Picture of the Day
The latest mix CD for Your Sis. Here's the track list:

Eruption Van Halen
You Really Got Me Van Halen
Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy) Big & Rich
Icky Thump The White Stripes
Da Sound of Da Irish Band KRS-One/House of Pain
Here It Goes Again Ok Go
I Will Survive Gloria Gaynor
Girlfriend Avril Lavigne
Candyman Christina Aguilera
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B) The Puppini Sisters
Amie Pure Prairie League
Lord Is It Mine Supertramp
Russians Sting
Tongue REM
John Allyn Smith Sails Okkervil River
Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald Gordon Lightfoot

In the News
The attorney general quit Friday and will announce it today. The first analysis I heard about this on the radio said the Democrats won by cruelly treeing Gonzales and pressuring him to resign. This ignores what Gonzales did to hang himself and growing Republican panic that the administration's tone will lead to greater Democrat gains in Congressional elections. The administration has a little over a year to bolster the reputation its party, and the departures of Rove and Gonzales can only help. Even the press secretary said he wouldn't last until January of 2009.

+ + +

Also facing the music is Michael Vick, and I can't remember a more prominent active athlete dropping so hard from a lofty perch. He was in the top ten of NFL quarterbacks every year he played. This isn't the biggest scandal for an active NFL player. Carolina had a wide receiver who plotted the death of his significant other, and Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis was found not guilty of manslaughter during the offseason a few years back.