Letters to Holly

Friday, July 10

Not My Job

I got confirmation that the traditional Wednesday open dress rehearsal will be moved to Thursday next week. One of the other one-act actors has a conflict and claims she mentioned this upfront. It is a bit unusual in that the theatre always has an open Wednesday rehearsal before a show opens on Friday. The Thursday is left open for the cast to rest up after a week of rehearsals or to add an additional rehearsal if the show is weak (we used our Thursday for Scrooge; didn't help.). This is a theatre tradition. I wouldn't expect the theatre to bump that for me if I had a conflict. I would not have signed up for the show in this case. It's yet another hiccup, but it does provide my cast with a possible extra night to rehearse if they want it. I'll let them decide. Unless next Monday and Tuesday are horrible, and I'll mandate it.

My theatre liaison called me to say he thinks he found a table and chairs set for us to use in the play. We've been using the generic aluminum trim folding table for practice and our reading-format performance. I won't see it until Saturday, and that doesn't give me much time to find a replacement if that doesn't work. I need a big table for all our props. Four people sit around this table for a number of pages; they need elbow room. The theatre has to consider future shows when it buys furniture, and our needs can't override that consideration.

When I got to the warehouse, the cast was seated and running the script. I sat off to the side to offer lines when needed. I pantomimed the lines to spark their memory. When the responsible daughter cried out that she loved her fiance, I clasped my hands under my chin and made moon eyes. I could do that for the whole show in a hidden box at the end of the stage. That's a noble tradition of the theatre we need to bring back.

I passed along the notes about the table and dress rehearsal to the cast, and they all wanted to know if the theatre had picked a stage manager yet. I said no. As we set up for a full rehearsal, my cell phone rang. It was a longtime backstage manager asking me to stage manage the one-acts. She said she already called Your Sister and learned she was out of town during the show. That's how desperate they are. Nothing against Your Sister, but she hasn't worked with this group at all.

Would I do it, the voice asked; we really need you to do it. I explained that I wouldn't do anything that would distract me from my cast, and I'm not confident about learning the sets and props for three other shows less than a week before we open. I gave her a "qualified maybe" only because we do need an overall stage manager, and my half-assed effort might be better than no one. But I can't be impartial. If a conflict arises backstage, I'm going to advocate my guys. That's my priority.

I again refer to the multitude of shows running in a short span. We have run out of people (why this voice couldn't do the job was never explained; she was supposed to stage manage Rainmaker for these exact same dates). I don't want to arrive at the theatre 90 minutes before the show starts. I don't want to be responsible for the other shows. I feel responsible for my one-act and its props. Why don't the other directors feel the same way about their shows? Why would they concede responsibility to me for these things? I'm stage managing my show. They have to manage theirs.

A stage manager traditionally shadows the director as soon as rehearsal starts, sometimes as early as the auditions. The stage manager learns the show as the actors do and makes sure they can do their jobs onstage. They rely on the stage manager. The position is crucial. You don't pick someone a week before the show starts. That handicaps their ability to understand what the cast needs during the performance.

I might still do it if only to make this goodbye to the stage more impeachable. After directing a show for four months -- four months! -- and buying all our props with my own money and possibly taking on stage manager duties for three other one-acts at the last second, my subsequent refusals to stick my neck in the lion's mouth will have more heft. Saying yes to this would seal the deal for me. The ultimate straw in a long line of crushing weights.

The rehearsal went OK. The cast have about a dozen lines they trip over, but they still have time to fix that up. We agreed to meet before Saturday's double-tech to run lines, and we could still assemble Wednesday before Thursday's open rehearsal. I got some nice comments about directing when I suggested tricks to remember lines. We compared the length of the table found by the liaison to the table we've rehearsed with for months. The new table sounds way too small, but I'll measure it tomorrow morning. If it's too small, we'll use a practice table and cover it in a table cloth. One of the actors offered four matching chairs for us to use, and we may, despite my reservations about using personal items for props. They'll break. Stage use is tough on props.

There's no rehearsal tonight, and I'll make another sound FX CD and rig our empty beer cans to keep them from falling over so easily. I'm not looking forward to tech, but it's one day closer to the beginning of the end.

+ + +

We continue to pluck squash and cucumber from the garden and gobble them in salads. I'm going to sneeze seeds soon.

In the News

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overruled a lower-court judge who said pharmacies can refuse to offer Plan B. The defendant pharmacies cited religious convictions that Plan B is too similar to abortion and couldn't prove it in good conscience. I can see that argument from a simple POV. Small-business owners shouldn't be required to carry wares they object to. In a broad hypothetical, no, the local gas station doesn't have to sell Toyotas. But, when pharmacies have to follow the state department of health that requires "the dispensation of legal medications, including Plan B, for any pharmacy," then the argument is over. The result is the proper conclusion, anyway.

It's not a new debate. Pharmacists have refused to full out orders for the Pill on the same objections. And that's retarded. Pharmacies don't prescribe and they can't un-prescribe. They literally follow the doctor's orders. If a pharmacist refused to fill out a doctor's slip, there should be repercussions. If a waitress objects to me ordering meat and refuses to carry the sirloin to my table, she's gone. No difference. You go into business for distributing medicine, you can't veto the doctor that prescribes the medicine. That's how the job works, and they knew that when they attended and graduated pharmacological schools. Get another job.

Also, I'd beta lot of money the objecting pharmacies sell condoms.

Picture of the Day
Obama on D-Day.

Thursday, July 9

Smoothing the Fur

I got to the warehouse just in time to start setting up the set for rehearsal. I bought a rear-view mirror from Target for the mom's walker. We still don't know when the open dress rehearsal will be nor do we know if we have real furniture for the play. If not, we'll use the folding table we've rehearsed with. We'll need a tablecloth for it anyway.

The rehearsal was much like Monday's. The mom actress doesn't have anyone to run lines with at home, and this is her only chance. She asked if we could add a practice, but the other actors have scheduled stuff on Friday. I suggested we meet before Saturday's double-tech and told them to think about it.

The cast realized they could meet before I came into town Thursday night, and they'll run lines without me. I'll show up, we'll run the whole play, and go back to tackle problem areas, like a normal rehearsal. We haven't been able to do this before because two of my actors rehearse their other one-act an hour after we start ours. But Thursday, they're meeting before us. That frees up the evening for our play.

There were some line problems, but again they know the meat of the play. They're fighting themselves over exact wording and delivering the line at the right time. I tried to hand them mnemonic devices, the kind of tricks I use. If an actor uses a word I use immediately after, I know my line is cued directly from theirs. I told them to consider the previous character's relationship to theirs. The basics of development and delivery. We haven't had the time to tighten these bolts until now what with holidays and summer vacations. I think we're in good shape to sharpen our play before we have an audience. We're clearly the most complicated one-act of the four; we have more people, more props, and more lines.

I don't feel the pressure they do. They'll be onstage. I'm not. I want them to feel as prepared as feasible, and I've offered to help them run lines over the weekend. I've tried to be a good-natured director. When I give them specific direction, I refer to them only by character name. I whisper "good" when they've successfully gotten through a tricky page. I assure them the play is in front of me, and that they need only worry about giving the other actors the correct cue lines. They're beating themselves up sometimes, as good actors will, and I calm them down with a one-liner. I try to keep the atmosphere light. We're not dealing with accents or tricky costume changes or complicated movements. It's a simple show that asks for a lot of props, but those props are visual cues for lines and behavior.

The mom character has so many scripted laughs. It's designed to be a mocking laugh, a punctuation of someone's misstep. When it's time for it and the mom has blanked, I use my opera voice and yell "LAUGH OF VICTORY!" and she gets it and uses it and they continue.

We have three rehearsals after Saturday. Saturday will allow us one on-stage rehearsal after we establish our light and sound cues. That shouldn't take long at all. I have my CD of sounds to hand the sound operator, and we have only two light cues. The other one-acts will mark their tech cues, and then we'll run the entire show. This shouldn't take the whole night, but I'm afraid it will.

Your Sister picked some cucumbers and offered them to the neighbors. They had no idea we had a garden, so they were a mite surprised when she walked up bearing veggies, a nutritious Lady of the Lake.

Today in Cattiness
You might remember last year when I posted about the school's new volleyball coaches.

I said this:
The school hired a team of spouses to handle both teams. I know the husband coaches local volleyball in the offseason, and I think she may as well. To the relief of many parents, the varsity team now has a male coach, a development thought to magically make them better in the toughest conference in the state. I assume he can use a shorthand developed in previous years, and that may help, but if this team doesn't win their division or the playoffs, this season will be seen as a failure. For the vocal parents to be satisfied, these coaches have to surpass what Your Sis and the other coach provided. And keep in mind, Your Sis ended her final season with a 4-1 winning ratio.
They lasted less than a year. The newspaper has run employment notices for two new coaches since school let out for the summer. Your Sister is practically vibrating in hopes that someone will slink back to her and ask her to coach the team. It will be like Rorschach's speech from Watchmen. "The world will look up to us and scream 'save us.' And I'll whisper, 'no.' "And she will. She won't go back to the dumb parents and pouty players. She's not proud to enjoy the tiny tenure of professional coaches in the school system, but enjoy it she does.

Picture of the Day
My new run regiment chart.

Wednesday, July 8

Brief Transmission

I slept in today and didn't run. I'll regret that. I took Your Sis out for a quick burrito dinner followed by a sundae at the soda shop. We were surrounded by camp kids from the local college. She picked up some ceramic knickknacks for the play, and I've almost taken care of the entire prop list.

My Mom gave us her old piano books, and Your Sis is starting to play again. I'll crack them open in a few weeks when Your Sister is in Maine.

By the way, Your Sister is going to Maine.

I played the online game again. My free demo ends Saturday, and I won't play it anymore. It's addictive. I can't sit for hours in front of the screen again and rush to bed. It wrecks the sleep patterns. I see why full-time gamers chug Red Bull while playing; it's exhausting.

Moving Picture of the Day
Cooking With Villainy was but a taste of the untapped hilarity within Dr. Doom.

Tuesday, July 7

Glee and Gratitude

I called the Broadway revue director and settled the rehearsal mess. We'll skip Tuesday and rehearse Wednesday and Thursday. We'll take Friday off and run our double tech Saturday. The cast was amenable. I had the majority of props together and showed them the new stuff. They approved. I had to set up everything and find props moved by the youth camp before we started. That and the schedule explanation got us started late, but once we started, they blew me away.

They have clearly worked on their lines. This was our first run without scripts, and it's the universal clumsy rehearsal. Everyone stumbles on this step. You don't know that you know the lines. But you do. You get in your own way. You second-guess.The new props helped a bit to cue their lines. They were getting frustrated early, and I called time out to soothe them and explain that I'd feed them lines if they asked, but they had to relax. We still have time to learn this stuff.

They chilled and rolled through. We stopped a few times to straighten out lines and movement, but my end notes consisted of lavishing them with praise and congratulating them for getting through the hardest rehearsal of every play. I tried to keep it light and fun, and we laughed through it. It was a fantastic feeling. I have a great cast who understand where they need to be and what they have to do to get there. I was elated driving back home. The off-stage stuff drives me to murder, but the play work is the polar opposite. It's dizzying. They even offered to bring in props from home, but I fear they'll break. It's inevitable. I can get the rest of the props cheap at secondhand stores. But I appreciate the offer. We are going to destroy the other one-acts. I am confident beyond confidence.

I spent the evening playing an online superhero game with people through the state. I think I blinked five times.

I hit my fastest run time so far for two miles, 17: 19. That's 9 seconds faster than my previous record. We went to the local lawyer to settle my legal papers. It's the same guy who helped us sign our house and officiated our formal wedding. Great guy.

In the News

NPR posted a story reacting to an editorial mandate that Supergirl wear shorts under the skirt.

The man in question: DC Comics editor Matt Idleson. The pronouncement he issued was just eight words long, but such is its paradigm-shattering power that it will surely stand one day in the annals of comic book history, alongside "With great power comes great responsibility," "Truth, Justice and the American Way," and "Shazam!"

Thus spake Idleson:

"I never want to see Supergirl's panties again."

About time too. Supergirl's a teenager, and artists use her for blatant cheesecake. This link brought to you by Curmudgeon Airlines.

Picture of the Day
This is Jessie, and we hung out with her at DragonCon last year. She loves Supergirl and understands that she's part of the Superfranchise and has to uphold a reputation.

Monday, July 6

A Working Holiday

The minicomic story is done and finished and completed and over.

After a rough-draft rant of memory, I made 6 x 7.5 boxes to sketch out the panels. I then jotted down loose text boxes on each panel to see how the comic would read. I made my comic pages, scanned them, and applied the letter boxes in Illustrator. I colored it in Photoshop and printed it for proofing. I had it done before Sunday afternoon, and it's remarkably close to my initial idea. I've never made a two-pager this quickly.

I emailed it to my publisher Sunday and found out today -- the deadline -- that it's sideways. Fuck.

Here's the cover of the comic. It will be distributed exclusively at the nation's biggest geek convention.

Mom drove up on Saturday. We took her to the college for the fireworks. Your Sister made a picnic, and we arrived two hours early to grab a good watching spot. Much conversation ensued, including the debate of Sinatra vs. Elvis as Entertainer of the Century. Mom also suggested Sammy Davis Jr, and I'd argue he's pound-for-pound the best entertainer in his weight class, but the other two are heavyweights. I made pancakes and bacon the next morning before she drove home.

Your Sis and I sat down to watch coverage of the Palin resignation (more below), and we turned to the Wimbledon men's final for just a few minutes. That turned into 90 minutes as the fifth set was a marathon. I'm no fan of Andy Roddick, but this was his best match yet. If he can build on it for the U.S. Open in August, he could win his second major. That night we watched the director's cut of Das Boot but stopped after two-and-a-half hours. We'll pick it up again soon. It's good. Your Sis remembers seeing it in Germany. This version is dubbed, badly, in English.

I was given sucky news about the plays. Because there are now five shows in rehearsal and there is no schedule coordinator, I was told my planned Tuesday rehearsal will have to relocate. The new Broadway revue needs our space; the theater's piano is in the warehouse now because that's where the annual summer youth camp will be held. My calendar, however, says it was to be held in the performing hall. I'm finding this out at 8 p.m. last night. We can move to the performing hall for one night, I suppose, but we won't have air conditioning or our furniture. Also, the camp's presence in the warehouse means we have to pack up our props after each rehearsal this week. That cuts into our practice time.

I called the titular production manager to see what the protocol is for this. I don't know what my options are. I was told, essentially, I can have no rehearsal Tuesday or move it to another location. I got no support. Our one-act got no support, I should say. We open next week. The review opens in three. Seems they are the secondary priority.

This might be my really and truly last straw. I may finish this show and never take that stage again. It's not worth this level of frustration to weave together basic competence and communication. I can do comics instead. I might stay on as publicity director, if that job is ever officially handed to me, because it takes relatively so little time.

I bought small props for the show but not the ceramic knickknacks. The local store for such stuff was right next to the theatre's street-festival booth this weekend, and I wanted to avoid it.

In the News
If anyone knows the real reason why Sarah Palin quit, they ain't saying. The conservatives have dismissed her as a "quitter" who can no longer even claim to be a on-term governor if she does try to run in 2012. Many rumors are flying about kickbacks regarding a local construction business. But that sounds like small potatoes compared to everything else that dogged her on the White House campaign.

My guess: She has for all intents starred in a reality show for over a year. She got more attention than she wanted or rather she got more bad attention that she wanted, and she's tired of it. it's not fun anymore. That's my most benevolent assumption. The worst assumption is that she actually signed to a new reality show to follow her large family.