::: I'd Like to Thank the Academy... :::

...and other delusions of grandeur

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::: Wednesday, May 26, 2004 :::

It's a no-go on the house hunt so far. The competition is absolutely brutal. Took a lunch break one day to go look at a condo. Got there to find out there'd been 17 showings the night before, and multiple contracts had already been offered. This week, timing and price did work out so I could offer a contract on another condo - but it didn't get accepted; in total, 25 people put contracts on that one condo which, let's face it, was really rather smallish compared to some of the others I've been looking at. But it was good to get at least that far in the process. My agent and I have decided it's time to start searching for another rental as well so that I won't get stuck. But my friends have been wonderful beyond words. Four different people have offered rooms in their houses, and a couple others have offered financial assistance. I won't be living out of a cardboard box on the side of the Beltway. Relatively speaking, I really haven't been searching for all that long yet. Thom is preaching patience; I am trying to be a good apostle.

Speaking of Thom, he set me up on a blind non-date last Saturday, the closing night of my show (which, by the way, had a simply fabulous run). What is a blind non-date? Well, as Thom put it, "I am bringing my good friend to see the show my other good friend directed, and I am going to introduce them. And beyond that, I'm not getting involved!" I think I'm probably not going to get involved, either, but the guy was extremely nice. Very nice. But I can't say there were any sparks. Still, maybe it's the start of a friendship. We'll see.

There are cicada carcasses everywhere, and the windshield of my car is a post-modern masterpiece of splattered bug guts from the highways where they've looped down in lazy-looking kamikaze arcs of futility and thudded gracelessly against the glass as if to say, "Oh, just forget the whole thing." But in my neighborhood the noise is deafening. Some places it's been registered at 90 decibels. I almost stepped on a pair mating on my front step yesterday. I let them alone. I figured if they're going to die soon anyway, who am I to thwart success at the penultimate moment after 17 years of waiting?

If it takes me 17 years to buy a house (to say nothing of having sex) I might splat myself on somebody's windshield, too.
::: C. A. 10:26 PM [+]

::: Friday, May 07, 2004 :::
Life in a few nutshells:
- House-hunting. At long last. How long have I wanted to do this?? Oh, only about 10 years or so... Real estate and mortgages are a complete mystery to me. It's frustrating. I also can't afford much because of the single income, which doubles the frustration because the competition among buyers is staggering. I'm trying to stay positive by starting to pack. I've done 10 boxes this week, but that's barely scratching the surface. My lease is up at the end of June. Hope I have somewhere to go.
- Directing. Have a show on the boards right now, and it's going well. Great reviews. Some performances selling out. Also got a show to direct next season which will be without question the toughest thing I've tackled to date. Goody. Planning and researching will easily fill the next six months until auditions.
- No raise at work for this coming year. The economy is improving?? Oh, is it really??? At least I still have my job.
- Looking forward to the one thing I've treated myself to in the past few months: a trip to NYC at the end of the month to see "Assassins" on Broadway.
- The cicadas are imminent. I see all the little holes opening up in the ground in the backyard. I was living here the last time they came around, which tells me it's way past time to move on with my life!
::: C. A. 11:58 PM [+]

::: Saturday, February 07, 2004 :::
Peekaboo Okay, okay, I've been a very bad boy, taking a long break from this. Guess I ran out of things to say for a while. That, and being so freakin' busy with other things. Seriously. S-t-r-e-s-s. I stopped eating Italian food for a while in the fall because I was fighting heartburn and anything with tomato sauce just aggravated it. Plus, I keep wrangling with this new Blogger format. My archives seem to have disappeared (yikes!)... I hope not forever. Plus a lot of those links to the left have changed, and I need to update them. *sigh* One more thing to add to the list... Have you ever felt so far behind in things that you'd like to just chuck it all and start over? Well, now I'm getting depressed. Time for some ice cream...
::: C. A. 11:47 PM [+]

::: Wednesday, September 03, 2003 :::
Paying It Forward With no new housemates yet, I will again be covering the entire amount of the monthly rent for the house. I have just enough to cover rent and bills, but it leaves me no money to live on for the next few weeks. With a little luck I hope to get some people moved in before the end of September and recoup some dough. Meanwhile, ever since I calculated those bills I've been bemoaning my fate, wondering how I'm going to squeak by. All spending except for food and gas is on hold until I get some roommates. I'm taking stock of how much spaghetti is in the cupboard and how many rolls of toilet paper are tucked away under the bathroom sink. I've certainly been enjoying the quiet and freedom of living alone (I vacuumed the house at 11 this evening and didn't have to think twice about disturbing anyone except the dog, who hates the vacuum cleaner no matter what time of day it is), but the financial reality is that if this is where I'm going to live, I need housemates.

When I left work this afternoon and walked across the parking lot to my car, I came upon a pile of dollar bills on the ground. They were soggy because it was raining, but I picked them up anyway. I got to my car and saw a white strip of paper tucked into them. It was a receipt for a bottle of spring water from the Whole Foods Market in Tysons. The bills were obviously the change from the purchase and had gone astray from their owner, who, judging by a trip to the Whole Foods Market just for spring water, wasn't going to miss them too much, so I was very happy to adopt them. I put the wet bills on the passenger seat and drove off. As I reached the edge of campus and waited to make my left turn at the traffic light, I saw a homeless man standing in the median, and I knew immediately that this money was not meant to stay in my hands. I rolled down the window, held out those few limp dollars to the man and completed my own version of trickle-down economics. "God bless you," he said, and I drove off, feeling very lucky to have a monthly rent coming due and a dirty rug that needed vacuuming.
::: C. A. 1:22 AM [+]

::: Tuesday, August 26, 2003 :::
Sunrise, Sunset The man who cast me in my first show is dying from lung cancer. Even as I write this I feel his spirit around me, though his body lies a thousand miles away. Both actor and director, with a legendary personality that projects to the back wall of any theater, Roland figures in many memorable moments from those "2nd Chorus Boy from the Left" years of my theatrical life.

My first show was "Fiddler on the Roof." It ran for 13 hot, sweaty summer weeks in a dinner theater with the world's worst air conditioning system and a chef who would likely scream at you just for looking at him - because dinner theater's all about the food, you know. I waited tables. I earned tips. I sang, I danced, I stretched muscles I didn't know existed. I bought a dance belt. I had about three lines, plus that damn bottle-on-the-head dance in the wedding scene. I was in heaven.

But I was clueless about acting. During one rehearsal the assistant director, who was something of a holy terror, was running the scene I was in because Roland was busy with something else. The A.D. began hollering at me that I was playing my part all wrong, and made me change it in a way that felt very uncomfortable. We did it over and over, and he yelled and yelled. Then we ran the scene for Roland. I was embarrassed and crestfallen - and the part just didn't feel right anymore.

That evening of the cast went out for drinks. At one point Roland pulled me aside and sat me down next to him. "Let's talk," he said, and proceeded to ask me all about my character and what I thought of him, what I thought his life was like and how he acted and what he thought about and so on. This was for three lines, remember. And then he asked me if I was comfortable doing what the A.D. had told me to do. I said no. Roland then asked me how I thought I should play it. We talked about it for a while, and then he said, "It has to feel right to you or you won't be able to make it convincing. You were doing that before and now you're not - and besides, I think your instincts were right on. So just remember that I'm the director and I'm telling you to forget what the assistant director told you." I felt better immediately. The whole conversation lasted only 10 or 15 minutes - which is about 10 or 15 times longer than I was onstage - but I will never forget him making the effort to take aside a new actor and make him feel comfortable.

After that he cast me in four other shows - three of which I never even auditioned for. It seemed like I was getting into more shows that I hadn't auditioned for than shows I had.

A few years later, while I was wrapped up in grief over the death of my friend and housemate Harriet, he called me up out of the blue and asked me to join the cast of a show he was directing which required a lot of men. "I don't know," I said, "I'm just not much in the mood to think about doing theater right now. I don't know if I could handle it."

"Well, it's not a big role," he said offhandedly, "but it's a fun role and you could do it in your sleep. It would be something to do for the summer, and you'd be doing me a huge favor." I couldn't say no - and I'm glad, because it turned out to be the last time we worked together.

A few years after that he attended the opening night for the first show I directed, and again in his inimitable way he exhorted and encouraged me. I haven't seen him since.

I don't think he felt comfortable in Annapolis these past years. Too much legend to live up to, maybe. (His performance as Salieri in "Amadeus" is still talked about some 15 years later.) I know he could be a pain in the ass - difficult, arrogant, demanding - and I can guess that he may have made as many enemies as friends, but he was always kind to me. I never sucked up to him, but I did treat him with respect and worked hard and did my best - and so I earned his trust, and, I think, a bit of respect in return. I prize that. My life is much the richer for knowing him, most importantly for teaching me to trust my gut and not to let the bastards get me down.

Thank you, Roland. Take a bow.
::: C. A. 2:45 AM [+]

::: Thursday, August 07, 2003 :::
Denial Was it really June when I posted last? Where the heck did the summer go? I guess the blogging has been shunted aside while other things clamor for my attention. I haven't even seen one sequel, I mean movie, this summer.

Try repeating this with a straight face: "Governor Schwarzenegger." I just can't do it, at least not yet. It's like saying "Governor Seagal" or "Governor Van Damme" - or "Senator Jerry Springer," but at least we know that's not gonna happen - yet.

This is life for me at the moment:

- Auditions began last night for "The Heiress," but I am still in denial. I have not accepted in my mind that this show is actually getting underway. Too soon! Not ready! Too busy! Anyway, lots of women last night. I had about 800 Aunts, two Catherines, only two fathers, and not a single Morris. Okay, the 800 is an exaggeration, but still...it was a lot. Think there are many acting opportunities out there for women over 40? Ha. And there better be some men at the auditions tonight or I'll be up a creek. Where is my Montgomery Clift??? Rehearsals begin next week, three nights a week. I haven't finalized the set design yet, we haven't found the furniture we need yet, and so I haven't done any blocking yet. Set design or no, I've got to get blocking ready this weekend. I have most of the music in mind but I need to finalize that, too and get it to the sound tech guy, who is the same guy who'll be designing the lights and helping me finalize the set design. That's the way this theater is; everyone does 16 different jobs. Except for the woman who was going to be the stage manager - she backed out last night, but the producer will handle finding a replacement.

- I'm observing rehearsals once a week for the show I'm consulting for in Annapolis. I'm also designing the poster and program cover for this show; I finished them yesterday. As the play consultant I'm trying to boost the director's confidence, and I'd really like her to focus on getting the characterizations she wants. She keeps picking apart the blocking, making changes, and she's been saying the actors aren't doing the lines the way she wants, but I think that's because the characters are still very nebulous and the actors aren't emotionally connected to the material yet. If she can build more of those two things, the blocking and the lines will come out naturally through the characters. She's got three more weeks until opening, so there's time, but she's got to get moving now.

- The play selection committee for the theater in Annapolis has been working hard. Our third meeting is this Sunday afternoon. We've got more than 40 plays on our list already. As chairman, I did get the letter out to our directors this week asking for suggestions, so we'll see how many more titles get added to the list. We'll be reading scripts right on through September, and then I hope to have a lot of discussion and debate in October, followed by deliberations in November, after which we are supposed to present the slate for approval in December.

- As soon as that's over I'll be getting ready to direct "Rebecca." I do have a set designer for that, and he's got a lot of plans already in place. I still need to fill several other staff positions for that show, but I'll be in denial about that for months, probably. Governor Schwarzenegger, Governor Schwarzenegger, Governor Schwarzenegger... Nope. In denial.

P.S. It turned out that "Arcadia" did not win anything at the Ruby Griffith Awards in July, but we did receive an excellent critique. They really only picked on a few things, some of which was justified, some of which was their own ignorance. But overall they loved the production, especially the acting, so I can't complain.
::: C. A. 12:14 PM [+]

::: Wednesday, June 11, 2003 :::
This is not the huge post I have been promising, but I've gotten amazingly busy lately. So here are some select items from the past few months - in no particular order...

- I found out that the play I directed last fall was entered by the theater into the Ruby Griffith Awards competition. This is an annual amateur event in the DC/MD/VA region. Each group can enter one play from their season into the competition. Adjudicators come and critique everything from the moment they walk in the door - not just the production, but the box office, the display in the lobby, the look of the program, etc, etc. This particular theater keeps its entry secret each year; no one knows which play was entered until the season is over, which is why I just found out. This year the awards will be presented on July 13 at a reception at the British Embassy in Washington. I've been to a couple of these receptions. Nice but low-key and purposely not highbrow. I think we've got a decent chance to bring home an award, but you never can tell. Keep your fingers crossed for us! As an aside: I've been told that because of the close proximity of the embassy to the U.S. Vice President's compound I should expect my car to be searched as I arrive for the reception and that I need not only a ticket but also a photo ID to get in. The world we live in now...

- Speaking of theater, I've got two shows to direct in the coming season, one this fall in Bowie and one next spring in Annapolis. And as if that wouldn't keep me busy enough, I'm the consulting director (which is a sort of advice guru for the director) for a production that's currently in auditions, and I've been appointed chairman of the play selection committee for the theater group I volunteer at in Annapolis. I have to select a committee and then we will choose which plays will be produced for the 2004-05 season. This is a sticky business. Actors and directors tend to push plays they're personally interested in, our gradually graying audiences tell us they want to be entertained without being too taxed intellectually or emotionally, and at the same time theaters everywhere are trying to attract newer, younger audiences. Older people are mostly the ones who go to see theater, and they are getting older by the minute. But they are used to it; that's what people did before watching cable TV, surfing the net, and driving minivans to soccer practice. How do you get younger crowds interested without alienating your core audience? This is the conundrum I must unravel these next few months. (Hint: the answer is - you can't!)

- I bought the following items with my income tax refund: a new cell phone, a Palm Pilot, and a recumbent bike. I could never ride my old stationary bike for long. Maybe I just have an oversensitive tush, etc, but it would all go numb down there (and I mean all of it - and not in a good way) after only 15 minutes of pedaling. No more! And I love my new gadgetry. About time I started catching up with the digital age.

- Currently in the DVD player: About a Boy, The Pianist, Gosford Park, Blazing Saddles, The Bourne Identity.

- On the nightstand: "Notes on Directing" by Frank Hauser and Russell Reich, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (which I'm rereading so I'm ready for the new installment later this month), and pile after pile of scripts.

- There has been so much rain here the past six weeks or so that my dog at times refused to go into the backyard to do her business. Granted, it's gotten pretty muddy out there, but she would just stand at the gate, holding it all in, and bark and cry to be let back in the house. I had to start taking her out on the leash in the front yard, which is not as muddy, to make sure she would do what she needed to.

- And speaking of rain... Went to a bat mitzvah this past weekend, which was a first for me. It was an interesting experience, though I never could adjust to reading right to left, instead of left to right. And so much of the service was in Hebrew that I pretty much had no idea what was happening most of the time. Still, this temple had an absolutely amazing cantor, and when he sang his voice was so full and rich it was like listening to some ancient opera. The bat mitzvah girl was a family friend (my old housemate Harriet's niece), and I got to see a lot of people in that family who I hadn't seen in quite a while. They all said that me being there made them feel that Harriet (if you didn't know - she died nine years ago from cancer at the age of 31) was there, too, which made me feel all warm inside, which was a good thing because after the delicious luncheon (note to self: gotta learn to make kugel; on second thought, not a good idea - I'd sit down and eat the whole pan) I went outside in the pouring rain and discovered that not only had I left my headlights on, but my car battery was dead. So the father of the bat mitzvah girl (which would make him Harriet's brother-in-law, if you're confused) came outside with me and gave me a jumpstart. We were terrified we were going to electrocute ourselves because the jumper cables were so wet. While we waited for my battery to charge we took our umbrellas and performed an impromptu "Singin' in the Rain" across the parking lot. We were already soaked, so stamping through a couple more puddles didn't hurt. It was a very Harriet type of moment.
::: C. A. 1:01 AM [+]

::: Thursday, May 22, 2003 :::
You are Balder! His name means "The
Glorious". He was also called the
"god of tears" and the "white
as". Balder, the son of Odin and Frigg,
was described as a very handsome and wise god.
Some consider him to be a god of light since he
was so bright, light shined from him.

Balder's wife was Nanna and they had a son named
Forseti. Balder and Nanna lived in Breidablik
[The Broad-Gleaming], where nothing unclean
could be and there were "fewest baneful
Balder is loved and respected by everyone, he
believes in justice and what's right above
everything else.

Which Norse Mythology character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

::: C. A. 11:08 AM [+]

::: Tuesday, May 20, 2003 :::
Am working on the Mother of All Posts to bring everyone up to date on what's been happening in my life the past couple of months - and there is much to report. Meanwhile, we've changed over to "summer hours" at the office. My day now begins at the leisurely hour of 10 a.m. Woo-hoo! One of the little perks that keeps me here...

Have been having a bunch of long, vivid dreams this past week. The first was about moving, packing up things, childhood memories, my childhood home, etc. The second one was about a big party I was having at my house, and all my dogs, past and present, were running around the house and the yard together. In the third dream I was a spy for the government and we were on a perilous, nail-biting mission to rescue another spy in China - from a crowded shopping mall full of armed and deadly double agents all disguised as tourists. And the fourth dream - I'm having a brain block at the moment and can't remember exactly what was in it, but it was something theater-related. They all make some sense to me except the spy one, which really kind of threw me. Perhaps I'm secretly craving something dangerous or adventurous. Or maybe I just want to go shopping...
::: C. A. 12:33 PM [+]

::: Monday, May 05, 2003 :::
Yes, I've been taking a break from blogging.

Yes, I will be getting back to it again, in about two weeks. With some changes, most likely. I'm rethinking how I want to use this blog; it's been so much of a mish-mash this past year. More to come...

::: C. A. 10:15 PM [+]


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