Letters to Holly

Friday, May 1

One Step Back

The actor prospect declined to join the show, citing scheduling conflicts and passively admitting he didn't like it. I've put out the call for an actor, and I dread the likelihood that I'll play the part.

This makes two consecutive shows that had casting issues with guys. The previous show was supposed to be a sex farce, and I was called about four times about it. I was even petitioned by the theatre president to audition. I did my anthology comic instead. But if I had auditioned the show still would have needed two other guys. That show was replaced by a cemetery comedy for women, and nothing better encapsulates the theatre's problem: There is no young blood, and the majority of willing actors are women.

The next show scheduled is Rainmaker. That requires, I think, seven guys. I was hopeful that a casting campaign could reel in enough actors. Now, that show is in deep jeopardy. I don't know how the theatre can feasibly continue without cutting the number of shows in half and spreading them throughout a year. That way, the few willing actors can avoid burnout.

I was hoping this show could salvage my theatre joy after the Scrooge disaster. This beginning is troubling.

Picture of the Day
The first show of the fall is scheduled to be Bell Book and Candle, a romantic witchcraft comedy. The script calls for a live cat onstage. We can't even get HUMANS onstage.

Also? Those eyebrows are worthy of an alien overlord.

Thursday, April 30

Back on Track

Lest my previous post makes you think Your Sister married a crazy person, I assure you that I'm fine. We're fine. I got rattled, and I'm sorting it out.

I wrote a comic a few years back that included this panel:

Sometimes things stick in my head, and I have to fumigate. That's what happened here. I aired out the skull room. As the panel states, I rearrange the brain cabinetry and get back on track. Also, if I never make another comic, I'm proud as hell of that panel.

It also may have sounded yesterday like I have an attack of resurgent love. No. Hokey smoke, no. Your Sister is my love even after I turn to dust.

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I parked myself at the local bookstore and blocked half of the play. Stage action should flow naturally, both from my head and between the actors. But it's an equation. To get Actor A to place Prop B while moving to Spot C so Actor F can pick up the prop while moving to Spot K requires lots of script page flipping. I only did 20 pages, but, again, that's half the script, and I think it really makes sense.

In the olden days, scripts were incredibly detailed. They told you where everyone moved to. They also provided stage maps and lists for sound effects and props. Not so anymore. This script has few stage directions, and I'm going to follow them as closely as possible. But there are sometimes a dozen pages between those few directions, and I can't allow my actors to stand still for that long.

I might dust off my Star wars figures and move them around while I read the script aloud. I should invent a theatre playset with figures and the usual props for parlor plays -- a gun, a bottle of scotch, and an ashtray. The Fisher Price Theatre Set could be the Broadway Voltron.
Go Go Power Thespians!
By the Power of Barrymore!
I find your lack of memorization disturbing [force choke].

(Speaking of "by the power of Grayskull," it popped up on this week's House in what turned into an astonishing episode. Also, it seemed House was mirroring my above brain dysfunction. )

I've worked with directors who knew where each actor was going to go before the first readthrough, and I've worked with directors who blocked as we stood around and waited. The latter takes much too long and annoys the cast, particularly when the director changes his mind three times in a half page. I want to make this -- my first such project -- a smooth one. Again, the question of props remain. Some are necessary, some can be pantomimed. But I will bake a birthday cake for the performance. I have a plan for that cake.

Moving Picture of the Day
1979 Star wars drunk driving PSA

Wednesday, April 29

My Brain is Dumb.

I heard from the actor prospect yesterday morning and asked him to read the script before he agreed to anything. That surprised him, I think. I dropped off the script at the warehouse. I'll start basic blocking today. I'm tempted to use PowerPoint to map the movements, and it this were a full-scale production, I'd try it simply for novelty's sake.

I ran again and managed a 30-minute 5k.

I've had some weirdness over the past few days. Nothing physical, at least nothing beyond synaptic misfiring. Random Facebook networking led to someone I hadn't seen in years and years, and it threw me. I didn't expect that reaction, and it's taking its sweet time dissipating. It's holdover stuff from high-school -- notions I thought I've outgrown -- and this resurgence makes me want to remove my brain and throttle it. I'm embarrassed by it.

I worry I'm so distracted by this muck that I'm neglecting Your Sister. When I pulled her aside last night to say I want to be the best husband I can be, she grabbed my head, started me in the eye (the one looking straight ahead anyway), and said "get out of your head." My frustration did make for a strong run, though, so maybe I should hold onto it until after May's 5k race.

Picture of the Day
This would make a nifty scarecrow for the garden.

Tuesday, April 28

Making the Call

I gave the lawn such a mow. Never before has a lawn needed mow.

I called my actresses and assigned the roles. They took the news well, I think, although they all wanted the mother role. I left a message for the one actress I couldn't cast. A new actress called Monday to see if any roles were still available. I called her back with the bad news.

We worked out rehearsal times, and I assured them we would not have rehearsal longer than two hours and probably not past ninety minutes. I was nervous about calling. Jittery, in fact. I had never done this before, assigning roles and cutting an actress. I was scared that I'd call an actress and assign her the wrong role. I'm also trying to call the playwright to inform her we're changing her language. I did ask an actress if she "would play the part of" and then I said her name. When I heard silence on the line, I realized what I did, said "oops, I'm reading the wrong sheet," and quietly hit my head with a giant Nerf hammer.

We're performing in a church; we have to soften the cursing. I'll ask her if she has preferred substitute words, and if not, I'll try to make it at least more sensible than "monkeyfighting snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane."

I still have no actor. I called a prospect suggested to me, and he said he'd think about it and call me back. I'm still waiting. I have just under a week to find a guy, and I really, really don't want to do that role. I've thrown aside the criteria for age-appropriate actors; I don't have the luxury now. I need a guy who's not working for one hour on a Friday.

P.S. The prospect just called me back and agreed to do the part. I'm dropping off the script for him to read tonight. He's clear for that performance day and the rehearsals.

Picture of the Day
I want a broken arm now just so I can do this to my cast. I've been studying anatomy charts for back muscles. Its the area of the body that I am the weakest at drawing.

Monday, April 27


Your Sister visited Your Parents Saturday, possibly to escape the temptation to sweep into the auditions in a Sunset Boulevard draping evening gown and demanding to be made THE STAR.

Or maybe she couldn't stand the sight of me with a monocle and jodhpurs.

I prepared the script copies with Post-It notes of the "scenes" we could read during auditions. I also read through the play again to make notes and nail down the character types. On Saturday, I arrived half and hour early to set up the audition area: bio sheets, scripts, extra pens, and, of course, the casting couch:

The rehearsal warehouse has five couches , and I wonder just what kind of swinging club I've joined here.

My theatre liaison arrived about ten minutes before our posted start time, and the first actor arrived a few minutes later. She is an experienced actress of local theatres, and I showed her the set-up. She brought her resume of past shows and read the script for about ten minutes. I gave her small notes about the plot and action, and then she asked if we could get started. I had her read for the mom (and later realized I should have read her for the other female roles), and the liaison and I read other parts around her. We did about four scenes, and she was good. Very smooth and connecting with the style quickly. We talked about theatre stuff for a while, and she left half an hour later.

The liasion and I expected a small turnout, and we were right. No one else arrived. He did say two other actresses would drop in Sunday. I mentiond people I had spokien with through Facebook about posible auditoning. The midday performance time is a killer, I'm sure. I suspect we'll have an all-retiree cast because everyone else will be at work. I already arrnaged for teh time off with my boss.

We spent the rest of the alloted time talking about the theatre board of directors (the push to induct me has vanished) and movies and TV. There is much concern about the fundraising campaign, and he worries he'll lose the chance to direct the first fall play. It's Bell Book and Candle, a romantic witchcraft comedy, and he's practically vibrating with impatience.

I inquired about and was given a DVD copy of last year's reading theatre one-act and watched it Sunday. It is bad. It's a bad script. But I see now what they mean by reading theatre. I noticed the weak posture of the actors, and I'll remind my cast to stand straight without burying their faces in their scripts.

On Sunday, three other actresses arrived, and I had them take turns reading all the female roles. I now had to cut someone, and one actress saved me the trouble by admitting she'd be on vacation during the week I wanted to start rehearsals. I told them I didn't care about character accents or the date of the story; we'll focus on lines and delivery. We'll use few props. Everyone left with about 30 minutes left in the audition time. No one else showed up, and I killed time by reading a Neil Simon script.

We had no male actors, and I'm not surprised. I have the number of a theatre regular to ask him if he's available. The scheduled time of the performance -- 1 p.m. -- limits our available pool of performers to retirees or lottery winners. One of my daughter actresses may be older than the actress playing the mother.

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Have your teachers mentioned swine flu? Are they suggesting y'all follow the news about it?