Letters to Holly

Friday, September 14

Fourth Audition Night

First Night
Second Night
Third Night

Tonight is ostensibly for the benefit of the actors in Fiddler, but they have a dress rehearsal tonight. So they can't be there. How does that work? Were they gonna show up to audition before the rehearsal? Oh and here's a tidbit from an actor in that show: The weekend rehearsal lasted 11 hours. Eleven. The older actors had trouble with their lines. I know, you're shocked.

I arrive at the warehouse at 7 and am greeted by the stage manager. Inside is Doc, and we talk about choice of clothes and work dress codes. We're killing time because no other applicant is there. It's the two folks working the sign-up table, the director, the stage manager, another theatre figure, and the two of us. We hover in the "lobby" outside the audition room before slipping inside to grab a few Xeroxed pages to study. The director and others are talking about who is cast in what part, and Doc whispers that we should leave the room so they can talk about us. I argue that we should eavesdrop to find learn where we stand. But leave we do and chat a bit.

Very quickly, the director calls for me, and I go back into the room. And then she says it: "I'd like for you to be Flint (the DA)," This is the part I wanted. I smile a bit and say "I'd be glad to." And there we have it. Lead role. The aggressive DA in the noir play. The director says Lynn will play "the stripper" as a result of her audition last night. She continues to talk aloud about who is cast in what role, and then realizes she hasn't informed Doc yet. "Oh, well I'd like you to be the defense attorney." Doc is pleased as punch (he's not playing a doctor again), and we exchange proud smiles. I offer my hand, we shake, and talk shit.

"You're going down, sir."
"So you get to be Gooper again, right?"
"Oh no, this time I'm win."

Lynn arrives a little bit later, and the director tells Lynn the good news. We three applicants congratulate each other. A new arrival is known to the director and Doc, and he quickly reads for the part of Whitfield, the rich father-in-law of the deceased. Doc and I read our parts against him, and as we finish, the director says, "well, I think we have our Whitfield." Would anyone else get a role if they walked off the street? I don't think so. The theatre folks seem to be plugging cast holes now, and they discuss who to get for very small roles. We also learn one character originally written as a black maid character will be re-written. They're removing the stereotypical "oh lawdy, I don't knows anythang, suh" stuff.

We're also told that the jury in the play will be chosen from audience volunteers and will indeed be allowed to decide guilt. We'll perform the very end of the play based on that. That's cool. Now, I have to make my case as best I can. Another element of reality I look forward to.

No one else arrives, and we kill time thumbing through the full script until the theatre folks decide to close shop. We'll meet on Tuesday to start rehearsals. We'll have seven weeks to mount a 90-page script. No problem.

So long as Doc doesn't forget his lines again.

I met Your Sis at a Mexican restaurant to join Kathy and Travis for Anna Claire's birthday party. Because I get there so later after the start time, I can only eat a piece of cake. No din-din for me. We watch her open presents before going home so I can, ironically, eat. I give her the story of the audition and some rather dramatic doings at the office today. Here's the gossip-free version: Today was a very good day all for me.

Picture of the Day

Thursday, September 13

Third Audition Night

First Night
Second Night

It's been two weeks later, and this week's auditions are for the benefit of those performing in Fiddler. They are also open to the public. I stop by the house between work and auditions to dress up in lawyer-ish duds. I show up at the warehouse, and the guy working the sign-up table calls me on the outfit. I say I had to dress up for work anyway (lie) and laugh it off. The Doc from Cat On a Hot Tin Roof is at the table, and he also jokes about me dressing for the role.

I normally don't do something like this, but I also normally don't go through four audition nights for a show. Since I will be seen so often, there's no harm in dressing up at least once for a reading. I'm the only one decked out to this degree, but some of the womenfolk are nattily attired. I can't tell if this is their everyday wear or special for the audition. I haven't witnessed people going to absurd lengths for a period play. No one, say, in the Shakespeare audition strolled in wearing leotards or Elizabethan collars. No one came to the Sound of Music readings in lederhosen.

We have about 15 people auditioning, a big bump from the previous nights. Most of them look younger than me. There is an older gent and three guys, one of whom announces he's 30. A baby-faced 30, I should note. There are equally younger gals, and a few older women. One of them nails a part on her first sit-down. The 30-year-old guy reads the PI role in a top-notch "Nu Yok" accent.

Me, I'm there for the DA role. I've practiced my shady Swede accent and delivery, but the DA is the one that I seem to be the right age for in this group. Luckily, I get to read for it more than five times. The director tells all of us to read the DA with an edge, combative, and aggressive. About halfway through my chances, she stops me to say she needs a louder volume and more animation for me. No problem. I imagine myself heavier and older, almost angry and read the lines. It's comfortable and fun. I also read for the defense attorney once, and I add a bit more charm to that. The other people reading the roles have soft voices and high pitches which seem to work better for the defense attorney. When the director asks if anyone wants to try the Swede, even though I've practiced the dialect, I don't volunteer. I don't want to lose focus on the DA.

As the night progresses, the director is clearly reading certain applicants for certain roles. One kid reads for the rookie cop twice. Doc reads for the defense attorney twice. There are two women presumably reading for the same role, and at one point the director has them stand side-by-side to compare heights and builds. They know each other, and they joke through the slow removal of shows and the jostling. Lynn, a former student of Your Sis, blushes as everyone jokes about her reading for the "stripper" role. We learn through whispers that some roles are already cast, but I can't find out which ones. They sound like random, smaller roles though.

Most of this crowd seems to know each other. Doc knows some of them from previous plays. I know him and Lynn, and that's it. I sit toward the back next to Doc, who offered a chair, and watch the group pre-read the Xeroxed pages and share war stories. I'm clearly not a part of the group, and I'm aware of group dynamics each time I'm asked to read the DA. I admit to feeling a mix of sheepishness and pride that I''m trying this role so much. I avoid consciously admitting that I want a role, even to Your Sis; it's jinxed me in the past.

But I really want this role. Especially after thumbing through a Xeroxed copy of the whole script and seeing the DA's opening and closing arguments. Lordy, it's the good lawyer speak. It's the meat of a courtroom drama, and it's pages of monologue. We wants it.

After we're dismissed, some applicants introduce themselves to me, and it feels like being welcomed into the group. One woman, I learn, works at the college I attended, and we trade notes on Homecoming and theatre. It's great ending to what felt like a successful audition.

There's one more audition tonight, and I'll dress down a tad (read: no tie), and polish up on my giddy attempt to get this very desirable role with a theatre group I've consistently shunned since I moved here. I didn't think I've be so invested in this effort a few weeks ago. And I continue to imagine myself performing the lines in my Sunday best in a real, live courtroom.

I try not to giggle.

Picture of the Day
Some assembly required.

Wednesday, September 12

Twenty-Year Glee

Back around 1988, I found myself at home alone for the night, a first for me. I was two years away from graduating high school. I, of course, did the responsible thing and stayed up all night watching movies on cable TV. The horror movie on Cinemax around 3 a.m. was From Beyond, a film I had never heard of, and this was odd. I read about movies from an early age, and I was deeply invested in horror movies at this age. Also, the TV Guide movie index noted the movie was "not for the squeamish," a warning I likewise had never seen before. There could be no question then; I was going to see this movie.

And it was crap. I mean, this is what Grindhouse tried to recreate. The script was laughable (really, where does a psychiatrist escaping shock treatment and brain-eating physicists find dynamite in the middle of the night?), but the effects were mind-blowing for the obvious budget limits. It was based on H.P. Lovecraft, an early 1900s writer heavily touted by Stephen King, whose books I was inhaling. This wasn't a horror movie to be scared by, unlike all the ones I had seen previously. This was a film to laugh with, to lose one's standards to. It was the first bad movie I enjoyed for being what is. I had found my first trash film. Combine my age + the material + the joy of running loose in the house, and this became my favorite movie.

It stayed that way. I rented the film from Blockbuster (thankfully, the parents didn't use the option to block me from renting R-rated videos), and eventually bought my own copy. Blockbuster, back in the day, would order you copies of the films they rented. It was a little-known service. When DVDs came along, the film had gone out of print. It managed the small leap to laserdisc but not to DVD in an official version. At the time, you could only get it on DVD by ordering a Honk Kong bootleg from eBay. I did that. It was only mildly better than the VHS quality. A few years back, a German edition was released, but it wasn't much better (I bought that too). Eventually, MGM purchased the film rights and looked into releasing a domestic, official DVD. And then the incredible happened: The studio found footage edited out to appease the ratings board. The DVD would be the director's cut with as much as five added minutes, including an infamously excised scene of brain eating.

It came out yesterday, and I spent almost all of last night watching the entire DVD material, including the commentary track. The film was spruced up digitally to air on Monsters HD, a premium satellite station, and the print is pristine. And letterboxed, for the first time. It's like watching a new film. It's a beautiful, sterling release of what remains a gooey, trashy movie. I'm glowing with joy, but my eyes are shot to hell.

I almost couldn't find it. Best Buy didn't have it on their new-release wall, and the guy rolling a cart of DVDs didn't know of it. He went to check on a store-hub computer, and I glanced over his cart load to pass the time. And there it was. I grabbed one of their two copies and told the guy I found it after all. No, it's never easy.

Before I sat myself down to watch it, I went back to the school to work with the paper staff. This time, I suggested some design tricks to their layout officer. I don't know how much, if anything, stuck, but I told them all to contact me if they need help throughout the year. The paper already looks good; it just needs tweaking.

Tuesday, September 11

Six Years

Reflecting on 9/11 also sparks recognition of what's changed personally. Since that day, the following has happened to me:

+ Lost a wife
+ Reconnected to, wooed, and married Your Sister
+ Reconnected to my parents
+ Held two jobs (technically, my first full day at the weekly paper was 9/11)
+ Moved back to my first college town
+ Bought a house
+ Inherited two cats
+ Inherited a new family
+ Started running
+ Created a handful of short comic stories
+ Worked in a half-dozen theatre shows
+ Visited Boston twice and Washington, DC once
+ Grew potatoes
+ Married off my high-school friends

A lot.

Distracting NFL Babble
I officially lost my first week of Fantasy Football League action. Our league is set up so players' drafted rosters compete against each other for statistical supremacy. My team was outdone 89.8 to 78.35. Tom Brady's passing skill saved my ass, but my running backs didn't gain enough yardage to eek out a win for me. Also, the Saints sputtered against the Colts. I was close. I don't regret my picks this early in the season, and the stats make me pay attention to more games each weekend. It's anxious fun.

Picture of the Day
Doll's eyes.

Monday, September 10

You Killed My Fantasy Team. Prepare to Die.

How long can a cold last anyway? Your Sis is out of the sick bed but feeling utterly raggedy. She went to bed without supper Friday night and left me to my own geeky devices.

I woke up early Saturday and worked on the garden. I hacked down or pulled up the biggest weeds. We still have a pile of sticks where the blackberry bush used to be, and I'm looking into shredding them in a wood chipper to make mulch. She took an afternoon nap before we drove down to Greenville to see Mandy Patinkin.

That man is a showman. Two solid hours of him performing, not simply singing. Just him and the piano player. He has the stamina of someone with lots of stamina. It's exhausting just to watch him.

He performed on a bare stage with his piano player facing the back of the theatre. He wore a headset plugged in with a hundred-foot wire and used some props through the show.

Among his songs:
It's Not Easy Being Green
Send in the Clowns
Broadway Baby
Alexander's Ragtime Band
Dixie Medley
Bring Him Home
You Must Be Carefully taught
The Hokey Pokey, God Bless America, and Take Me Out to the Ballgame
in yiddish
Pennies From Heaven

As he took his bow, he said "let me leave you with these words," and his made the Inigo stance and said "Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Crowd went nuts.

We hit my old, favorite head shop to buy incense by the metric ton, and I was momentarily dazzled by a men's belt decorated with the New York subway map. We drove back home at night with the moonroof open and the stars escorting us home.

And I spent Sunday being a Sports Schlub. I watched a TiFauxed broadcast of ultimate fighting (my new interest), followed by almost 12 hours of glorious football.

The NFL Contest
NFC: New Orleans (0-1), St. Louis (0-1)
AFC: Indianapolis (1-0), New England (1-0)

NFC: New Orleans (0-1), Carolina (1-0)
AFC: New England (1-0), San Diego (1-0)

The Panthers rolled over the Rams, the Chargers took advantage of Bears' bumbling, and the patriots had no trouble with the Jets. A Buffalo Bill took a shot to the head and faces paralysis.

Picture of the Day
The alleged title and logo for the upcoming movie planned for next year.