Letters to Holly

Friday, August 8

We're En Route

Right after I leave work. We packed last night and led a neighbor through the care of the cats and garden. I have four books and a sketchbook, and we overpacked the clothes for fear of sand invasion. I'd like to take at least one run along the beach. I intend to swim in the ocean every day we're in the Outer Banks. I'll carry brass knuckles in case I have to punch a shark.

Mark is eager to catch the new Star Wars movie, and a post-film conversation about the franchise can go on for days.

Picture of the Day
Countdown to launch.

Thursday, August 7

In Through the Out Door (Out Door)

I picked up what will hopefully be the last script last night: the musical version of It's A Wonderful Life.

It was written in 1993, and it demands you know the story before you watch the show. Significant things don't happen onstage, and the cardinal sin of "telling, not showing" happens often. The near-drowning, the near-poisoning, the high school dance, every heartbreaking moment where George doesn't get to leave town -- we miss the good stuff.

The play then is a thin scaffolding for the new songs, and the lyrics ain't nothing to write home about. It's been a while since I read a full-length musical script (probably when I was in Sound of Music) but this sucker feels awkwardly designed. The first act is 60 pages long; the second act is 30. That's a LONG first act for an audience that doesn't know the songs, and the songs don't tell the story either. They are Greek choruses of emotional definition.

I like musicals. Good musicals. Without hearing the songs, I can't vouch for this one. It seems like a bad idea. Why not do the straight play? Because a local theatre already does a radio-staging of the play. It doesn't seem smart to compete with that, especially when we have The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge, a sterling comedy version of Christmas Carol.

We are preparing the Big Trip at home. Your Sis cooked out again, and the dinner was delish. But as I was helping her carrying food outside the house, I kinda sorta tackled the screen door. It's stuck and stubbornly moved for a while now, and last night we had to take it off the house entirely to fix it. We managed that, and now it works better than before.

We watched new Mythbusters and some Daily Show and Colbert.

I also rigged up the garden hoses for the gal housesitting for us. I attached a timer to the spigot and attached a double spout to that. That attaches to two hoses and two sprinklers. But we don't have enough pressure to power two hoses simultaneously. The timer will be useless for her, but she can flip the spout control knobs to switch from one hose to another. This will water the whole garden without her moving one sprinkler to cover the plants.

I found a great belt buckle online for my saior costume. I still need a parrot.

Picture of the Day
I can't decide if these are lame or cool.

Wednesday, August 6

Grab a Lunch. I'm Babbling.

We held what was supposed to be the very absolute, no-matter-what final script meeting last night, and, of course, things aren’t finished.

The problem revolves around the Christmas show, a show we were told initially we didn’t have to worry about. In the standard season for this company, there is one musical in the summer designed to include the kids between school semesters. This dovetails at times with the theatre’s youth “camp.” Also in the season is the Christmas show, and it was specifically not in our catalog of open slots to fill with our chosen scripts. Until about a month ago.

Amongst the committee members is the woman who is nominally in charge of both the annual kids’ show and the Christmas shows. The kids' show also takes place during the summer as a sort of community babysitting project. They just did Velveteen Rabbit wherein the talking horse commands the audience to chant “find the rabbit.” Your Sister and I, however, chanted “find Bob Cratchitt” and “find Bob Saget.” If either of them had appeared onstage, the show would have won 1 million cool points. Alas.

But again, we’re back to the Christmas show. About a month ago, she decided she couldn’t make the decision by herself, and the committee was passively drafted to help. This added another show and the accompanying round of reading for each script to consider. The first was The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s a fun play and, if we can get the rights, a lock to run this year or next. The other holiday script was The Christmas Bus which I read this past week. It’s strictly for a young audience, and I am too old and bitter to embrace it. Two Christmas scripts. Two Christmas slots to fill for this year and next. Seems like a no-brainer.


Because Bus is a musical, the Christmas director said she didn’t like the idea of director two youth-centered musicals in one year, including the youth show that would run the preceding summer. This is what she said, and I have to couch it this way because what she said changed as the meeting went on, which is why I want to punch a horse.

We’re trying to mount the best season possible. We need money to renovate the new building. We want to grab the largest audience we can. That means we need shows with name power. As one of our brainstorms, we suggested that, instead of a traditional Christmas show, we instead present a show that has Christmas in it, but isn’t about the holiday. That would include Bell, Book and Candle (a witchcraft comedy), My Three Angels (a kinder Marx Brothers-style comedy), or Annie.

Now, Annie is a show that draws a crowd both onstage and off. Little girls love the show. They love to be in the show. The show is so popular that there’s an Annie Junior show designed to be easier for kids who aren’t quite ready to star in a full-fledged stage show. I know of no other show with an official tyke-friendly version. We’re talking a popular franchise here.

But the Christmas director said that the bylaws demanded a Christmas show be a Christmas show. It has to center on the holiday, she says. That drops the above three shows. But she so likes the idea of doing Annie that she’s willing to junk the summer youth show if we can do Annie for the Christmas show. She was almost giddy at the notion. But what about that bylaw? Well, that could be ignored, she supposes. Conveniently, I might add. So what about the other two plays, Candle and Angels? She doesn’t like them. Says they’re not family–friendly. I agree on Angels; it involves murder by snake. And Candle is a show for adults but hardly vulgar or shocking. It’s just not a show that will placate the children. We even considered moving The Rainmaker to Christmas. Rename it The Reindeer Maker. The Snowmaker. No, she wants Annie as the Christmas show, and we’ll shrug off the bylaw (if it exists; a quick read of regulations didn’t produce it).

But the committee chair isn’t convinced we can do that. Instead, we are now reading a third Christmas play, the musical version of It’s A Wonderful Life. No, I didn’t know one existed either. There is a problem here. One of the Asheville theatres has staged a radio version of that play for two consecutive years, and I am 80 percent positive it has become their annual tradition. Script publishers restrict the distribution of their plays. If there is one publisher of the Life script and this other show has it annually, we can’t do it. We’re too close to them geographically.

Despite this very significant hang-up, we are passing around the script. Because I leave for vacation in two days, I get first crack. I pick it up from the theatre warehouse tonight, read the whole thing by Thursday evening, and drop it off before we leave town Friday morning. I’m not happy about this. This will be my thirty-ninth script this summer. It’s a play we probably can’t get the rights for, and we already have two Christmas plays in hand to cover this year and next. We’re doing someone else’s job because she doesn’t like the regulations she agreed to nor can she be definitive about her preferences about the shows we already have.

I suspect she’s mad because her favorite show didn’t make the cut. Early on, she espoused A Perfect Wedding, a wedding farce which just happens to be dull and aggravating. It’s written by the same man who wrote Don’t Dress for Dinner, a much stronger farce, and the one I vocally advocated. She and I butted heads about this in previous meetings. But the committee consensus agreed with me, and Wedding is out.

Here’s what we picked, and this is all tentative to location, director, and rights granted by the publishers. We picked alternates for those reasons:

October: Night Watch, a fairly contemporary thriller. It would be presented around Halloween. The Mousetrap would be the back-up. Both plays have simple sets, convenient for our pre-renovation stage space. There’s concern about what shows our pool of directors will agree to, and I was asked if I wanted to direct this show if need be. I again cited my rookie status to this theatre, and there’s no fucking way I’m helming a show in a new space so desperate for repairs. This would be a situation I can write a farce around. And I might.

December: Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge or Christmas Bus or It’s A Wonderful Life. Again, all this is in the air until we either settle the bylaw debate or secure rights for two of the plays. And again, this wasn't part of our job to begin wth.

January: This would run in the gated community where we presented the spring murder show. Apparently, that audience loves farces in winter and can be depended on to buy lots of tickets. Don’t Dress for Dinner is our first choice, followed by Home Free (an affair-juggler with the rare female lead).

March: The same stage would have a mystery/thriller. The Premature Corpse (the modern-day noir) or Murder By Natural Causes would get the nod.

May: The theatre holds an annual new play competition and presents the world premiere of the winning script. Another committee handles that honor.

July: Either the youth show, the annual musical, or neither depending on what happens with the #!%@ Christmas show.

August: The Rainmaker or My Three Angels. I was told flat out that I can’t direct Rainmaker because I need to be in the show. I’m cool with that. Starbuck is a great role.

October: Bell, Book & Candle or Critic’s Choice (a sharp marriage/career comedy). This would be the first show in the completed new building. We need a show to flaunt the new digs. These would do that.

December: To be decided later.

A lot of good shows didn’t make the cut. We have been told that we’ll catch shit for shows that were promised for this year’s season by the previous committee. That’s outside their purview, but I’m sure some vocal folks will want Glass Menagerie or a similar dour drama that allows hams to yell and cry onstage. But the shows we picked have enough meat to them to satisfy open-minded actors.

We’re mostly done. We should be completely done. I’d like to start my vacation with this all behind me. That’s not going to happen now. Therefore, I shall drink a lot.

EDIT: Forgot to mention. I was asked about attending Board of Director meetings at noon (could I get off work to meet?) and becoming the new publicity director. I said I had to mull them over.

Picture of the Day
I have to cram my mouth full to keep from yelling.

Tuesday, August 5

Don't Take Your Guns to Town

I drove all through downtown Asheville to find costume props. The old reliable costume-rental shop under the interstate on-ramp is no more, replaced by The Daily Planet. That would be a fantastic paper name if it weren't a weekly. Which it is.

Also, the nature store in the Grove Arcade is gone. I need to find a parrot stand-in. Something that isn't obviously a sleeptime snuggle toy. I realized that we can use paintball and pellet-gun holsters, and they are both available at large department stores. K-mart gave us one holster, and I need another of the same kind for my musket. We're a bit worried about the weapons regulations for the city and the convention. We've seen hundreds of folks carrying weapons in years passed. The online rules say this:
Please abide by our weapons policy: All weapons must be non-working and peace bonded. No functioning projectile weapons includes water pistols, silly-string guns, and ping-pong pistols. Bladed weapons must be cased or sheathed at all times. No clowning around or showing off in the common areas. Any weapon used in an offensive manner will be confiscated and rule #7 enforced [roughly: don't be a jerk or we'll chuck you]. We expect you to use good judgment; with your help, we can continue to allow peace-bonded weapons - thanks!
We have an obvious toy gun for her and an orange-barreled musket for me. I don't think we'll have to adapt them. Also, we don't have to wield them. So long as they fill the holsters. I still need a leg-holster as the toy design commands. And of course, the parrot. We'll bury the toys in our backpacks as we move through the Atlanta subway system. We have seen Klingons carrying their cardboard swords. But they're Klingons. You don't ef' with Klingons.

Speaking of which: the Great Debate has emerged. Who would win in an all-out fight: Starfleet or The Empire? I say Empire. Bureaucracy would stymie Starfleet. Also, one borg ship almost wiped out humanity, and the Empire can make Death Stars.

The giant national comic convention a few weekends back featured some women dressed as the same character, but they half-assed it. Behold:

The gals in green are close, but they together might make a decent costume. They are both wearing jumpsuits. Your Sister, however, has a flight suit. BIG difference. She has the hat, has the pilot pin, has the holster and gloves and boots. She's going to embarrass any other Lady Jayne who might dare approach us. Also, she looks like the character. That's the superior playing card. Too many gals go to conventions dressed as vampy versions of characters. They are infidels. Hot, trashy infidels.

+ + +

I mowed the lawn yesterday in this hair-melting heat. The garden is still OK, and I'll need to stake the tomato plants before we leave for vacation. I have a splinter from a squash plant. Some varieties are packing nasty thorns for the vines to cling.

Picture of the Day
I'm eager to swim on vacation. I haven't swum since the Washington bed-and-breakfast. A year ago.

Monday, August 4

Hauling and Dolling

I rented a U-Haul truck to pick up the Granny piano on Saturday. When one calls to make the truck reservation, one supposes the truck will be at that dialed location. No. I was called Friday and told where the truck would be. This is only a problem because U-Haul charges by the mile when you surpass the initial allowed distance. The place I called was much closer to Louis's house. This new location was a few exits up the interstate.

I've driven their trucks before when I went to ECU and from houses to apartments and vice versa. It's easy once you gets used to the mirrors. And how they handle in wind. Otherwise, a cake of piece.

Mom was running the Louis yard sale, and we arrived midway through the festivities. The garage and its (literal) pile of tools was very popular, but folks were milling in the house to bid for whatever was available. We dragged out the piano with the help of some very big guys, and I spent about 20 minutes lashing it to the truck interior with cords and tarps.

Louis had a stack of great 33 rpm albums, ranging from gospel to Bill Cosby to Johnny Cash Fulsom Prison disc to music for strip-tease parties. I'm not kidding. I hovered over the albums with mom's cousin, and we tried to tell her they would sell. Sure enough, the very next guy to look at the records carried the Cash album in his hand. Louis's record-player wasn't working right or I might have nabbed that contraption.

We left the truck at his house and hit the military surplus stores in our Greenville for the DragonCon cotumes. We hit paydirt. Your Sis picked up a flightsuit and leather boots; the latter can be used with her scooter. I picked up the sailor hat. At another store, we found my navy shirt and pants and some sleeve patches we'll modify to match the toy. At yet another store, we found a pilot pin and more patches. We drove back to my hometown to meet Mom for dinner. We fetched the truck and drove back up the mountain.

Now we knew handling a piano ourselves was a big job. A huge job. But we gots the brains, and we have yet to fail at a project. Until now. We almost almost had it in the garage entrance to the house, but the garage wall angle was harsh enough to block it. I mean, we had it up the makeshift ramp, and the front wheels were tasting the conditioned air. That close. We tried to get it up the front stoop, but the angle is too high. We stopped before we hurt ourselves, either through exercise or butting heads. The piano now sits in our storage room, and we're hiring piano movers to master the last 50 feet of this project. I moved a bookcase away from the proposed piano space last night.

While I was doing that, Your Sis made alterations to the costume pieces. She tightened the large flight suit and hemmed the Navy pants. She put a lot of time into that last night while I watched the first exhibition game of the NFL season. She spent the earlier chunk of the day at school while I worked on my feeble tan.

She left home early today to sign up for the motorcycle training class, and she got in. She's giddy. She bought her helmet a week ago in preparation.

I think it's a hot look.