Letters to Holly

Monday, May 18

Sudden Hopes

I drove down to Spartanburg Friday to help Mom rearrange Dad's bank accounts. We hit two credit unions and a bank, and it took much too long. One bank used a dot-matrix printer, and we were seated in the manager's chairs for ninety minutes. It didn't help our moods; we were already a bit tense. Mom was upset that we were removing Dad's name from the accounts. No, you can't leave the name on them as it implies legal control.

It didn't help that S-Burg imported swamp air, and we melted each time we entered and exited our nation's sterling financial institutions. The lunch at Olive Garden did more than help. I am now eager for more of their tasty vittles, and I am ignoring the siren song from the Garden just down the road.

I fixed my lawnmower and garden fence Saturday. It's rained often, and the plants are sprouting right nice. But we have a frost warning for tonight, and we'll have to cover the plants before my audition.

Yes, I'm auditioning again. I agreed to read for Rainmaker last year when we picked it for the theatre season. I advocated it strongly. Here's what I said online:

We're considering The Rainmaker specifically because we have a "drama quota" to fill. We can't just offer wacky hijinx and English murders. Or worse, English hijinx. Ever hear a dozen retired Floridians attempt Cockney for three hours? Imagine someone raising generations of Michael Caine clones. These people sound like Artificial Caine Batch Number 17 when we replaced some DNA with airplane glue.

But the problem with drama is the universal assumption that "drama" will deliver nothing but dour gloominess. Grapes of Wrath. Red Pony. Glass fucking Menagerie. Doll's House. People forget that most popular TV shows are dramas and entertain beyond the meaty thoughtfulness of stymied characters. I've laughed my ass off with West Wing, and it's assuredly a dramatic drama. Desperate Housewives is technically a drama.

The Rainmaker is labeled on the script as a romantic comedy. Those of us on the committee who know anything about the show vehemently deny this. This is a drama. But reading it, I can see why it might be packaged otherwise. The Midwest ranchers veer toward stereotype. They either predate or copy outright the leads from Bonanza. We've got the affable dad, the dimwit giant, and the crafty bedrock son. But we also have Lizzie, the plain-jane who can't get a husband. She'd rather be alone than be rejected.

And if you have read Moon for the Misbegotten or Ballad of the Sad Cafe -- a REAL drama that pummels you to dust -- you know where this is going. A stranger comes to town and commences to wooing, but it's too good to be true. Starbuck promises rain and charges $100 for it. The boys try to hook Lizzie up with the local deputy, a man whose wife abandoned him. He would rather be alone too.

Starbuck is selling happiness to everybody and starts to believe the woo he's tossing at Lizzie. He wants to be liked. She wants to be loved. Her eagerness spooks him, and he wants to leave town even before the sheriff comes looking for this cross-country con man.

It does have laughs. The dimwit snags the local hussy, and his post-engagement celebration is warm and fun. He turns into Frasier, basically, and it's done right. Most important, Lizzie develops a genuine acceptance of who she is and what she needs to do to find love. It's not cheap, and it's not simple. We get to watch her evolve, and everyone really has such an arc. It's a play about people escaping dismay. We see it happen, and we leave happy.

You can get that with a comedy, yeah, but good drama, like The Rainmaker, gives you more than afterglow. You get a lighter heart through catharsis. Sometimes, anyway.

We can do this show, and I think we should.

And we are. But I was cynical about the turnout of actors. The play needs six men. We canceled the sex farce after the theatre couldn't draft three. I wasn't enthused, and I debated taking a dive at the auditions.

But I'm competitive. As soon as I saw four guys reading various parts, I wanted in. I wanted to win a role. Also, the director is someone I haven't worked with before, and he clearly has his shit together. The audition paperwork alone surpasses what I've seen in other community theatres, and the whole presentation suggests a realy-o, truly-o theatrical effort. Yes, I want in on this.

I read for three parts: Starbuck, the lonely deputy, and the bitter older brother. The director cut the auditions short for the day becuase none of the hoped-for Lizzies arrived, and he wanted to try out scenes with them. I'm going back again tonight and maybe tomorrow. I have hopes for this, and I may be a sucker.

For instance, we watched the DVD of the Scrooge play on Friday. This was the first time I had seen it. Holy wow, is it bad. I should pay back your family for seeing it. Your Sister saw it live three times. That's spousal abuse. I chuckled at a few things (mostly me, but I had the best comic lines), but I relived the horror of the crumbling ending. This is a tape from the first weekend, maybe the first performance, and the lawyers go off the rails just as spectacularly as I thought they did as I sweated under a ghost robe and nervously twiddled my skeleton fingers.

Rainmaker has to be better than this, regardless of who they cast.

We saw Star Trek again, scurried to the Krispy Kreme again, and chatted up the film for the entire drive back. We also watched a filly conquer the Preakness for the second time in 80 years.

Picture of the Day
Here's my cast in rehearsal. The mother rules the birthday party with a Burger King crown and a flyswatter sceptre.

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