Sometimes it’s a Wednesday matinee

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As you may or may not know, Wednesday matinees in the theatre world are the preferential performance for those above seventy years old to attend.
The confluence of three hundred bodies on their way out of this world is something to behold.
This proves for memorable (and ridiculous) conversations for me, whose job it is to deal with them.

Here is one such conversation. Everything below is 100% true. Nothing has been falsified for effect. I’ll set the stage, as it were:
The show is going. We’re about a half-hour in.
I hear a cellphone ring. The ringtone is MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This.”
I begin my survey of the audience. Where is it coming from? Is anyone reaching to turn it off?
I follow the sound to the center of the back row. Easy. It’s one of two white-haired people. They look to be a couple, so I kneel behind them and speak to them both.
Me: Please turn off your cell phone.
Man (loudly): What?!
Me: Please turn off your cell phone.
Woman: He doesn’t have a cell phone.
Me: Then please turn off your cell phone.
Woman: My cell phone’s not on.
Me: I hear a cell phone ring coming from your purse. (on her lap)
Woman: That’s not my cell phone.
Me: Ma’am, it’s coming from your purse. I see the light and can see it vibrating. (it was even jingling the clasp on the purse)
Woman: You’re wrong. That’s not my ring.
Man: I’m trying to watch the show! Be quiet!
Woman: Don’t yell at me – your phone is on!
Man: I don’t have a cell phone!
Woman: Oh right. Well, it’s not mine.
(the cell phone ring ends and starts up again – still MC Hammer)
Me: Ma’am, turn off your cell phone.
Woman: That’s not my phone! I don’t have a young person song as my ring!
Me: Ma’am, please could you check to make sure?
Woman: This is ludicrous! You’re bothering my husband with all this.
Me: Please just check.
Woman: Alright, if you want to look a fool. (Takes the phone from her purse. It is vibrating lighting up, and playing MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This”)
Me: Please turn it off, Ma’am.
Woman: Someone changed my ring! I don’t even know this song! I turned my phone off when I sat down!
Me: Please turn it off, Ma’am.

This is my job.

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Sometimes my cat reviews Broadway musicals.

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http://frannysfelinefilmforum.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/big-fish-on-broadway/

Also, do you follow her blog yet? Franny’s Feline Film Forum, y’all!  Get on it!

Sometimes Connecticut is the best place. PART TWO

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We awoke with a wandering song singing in our hearts (Or something like that).  Vacation Day number two was our traveling day, and travel we certainly did.

Setting out early in the morning, we drove northward to Gillette Castle State Park, which is somewhere in between East Haddam and Old Lyme.  Here we purchased admission to the park’s main attraction, Gillette Castle.

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In 1914, William Gillette, the actor most famous for being the first Sherlock Holmes, built a huge frickin’ castle.  Out of stone.  He custom-made all the doors in the thing.  He created a secret passageway where he could spy on guests to decide if he wanted to come down to greet them.  He created a trick bar that only he knew how to open.  And he built a train.  And a railroad station.  And a track.  Just for fun.  He was a really cool, funny, fun dude.

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After eating lunch on the edge of a swamp (much prettier than you’re envisioning right now in your heads), we set off in search of more fun.  It wasn’t more than a half-hour before we stumbled upon The Goodspeed Opera House.  Of course, I said.  This is where it is!  I’ve never been.  Nor have I, said Becca.

On a whim, we thought we’d see if there were any seats left for that evening’s performance of “Hello, Dolly!”  Lo and behold, there were!  With a quick swipe of the Visa, we were the proud occupants of balcony seats.  Serendipity.  Sometimes you drive past a regional theater and just pop in for a show.  It happens.

With the afternoon still free, we drove into Hartford to the Mark Twain House.  Right next door?  The Harriet Beecher Stowe House!  Why tour one when you can tour both?  On that beautiful afternoon, we saw where two of the century’s pre-eminent authors wrote some of their best work.  We saw the actual desk where Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn sprang to life.  Pretty neat, if I do say so myself.

But we musn’t tarry too long, we said.  We found – again, thanks to Siri – a nice little Mexican restaurant on the way back to East Haddam where we satiated our appetites.  Then, with a quick trip to an ice cream parlor, we were set to see some theatre!

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The Goodspeed Opera House, for those of you who haven’t been, is lovely.  Gorgeous architecture and a really neat history.  The production featured the Australian Tony Sheldon as Horace Vandergelder, whom you may recall from his Tony-nominated performance in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”  After living in NYC and watching productions with such a jaded eye, it was glorious to be in a theater with hundreds of people who came in that night specifically to enjoy themselves and who succeeded marvelously.  A riotous good time.

Pooped from another long day, we made our way back to the house in Fairfield.

The next day was BEACH DAY (Take Two).  There’s not much to say about Beach Day except that it was perfect.  The weather was perfect – sunny and warm, but with a nice little breeze every now and then.  The beach was perfect – not too crowded, but not awkwardly vacant, either.  The water was perfect – the ocean was cool and refreshing and not as dirty as the more populated commercial beaches.  We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.  After a lobster roll for Becca and a chicken sandwich for me, we even squeezed in another movie.

Sunburnt and happy, we prepared ourselves for our next and last day of vacation, which was better than either of us could have dreamed.

Stay tuned for PART THREE, the final exciting chapter in the amazing Connecticut vacation!

Sometimes people act crazy when you give them free things.

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At my theater company’s smaller space, we handle mostly new works by new slash unknown playwrights.  Our first week of previews for every show have what are called “Talk ‘n’ Taste” nights, where we hold a post-show discussion with members of the creative team so they can gauge the audience’s reaction and figure out what works and what doesn’t.  That’s the “Talk” part.  The “Taste” part is free pizza and wine in the lobby for those that participated in the discussion.

The ten most frequent types of Free-Pizza people:

  1. The person who walks up, looks at the offering, makes a face as if to say, ‘That’s it?’ and then walks away without partaking.
  1. The person who may or may not be homeless based on their hoarding of three or four pieces of pizza in their bag, after which they make a quick getaway to seemingly eat on the street.
  1. The person who walks up and talks a lot about the pizza – ‘Where did it come from?’, ‘Do you have a different kind not on display here?’, ‘Have you ever had this other kind of pizza?’, ‘Maybe you should get that kind next time.’
  1. The person who walks up and doesn’t talk about the pizza at all, but still talks a lot – ‘So you work for the theater?’, ‘How long have you worked here?’, ‘Have you seen this show?’, ‘Is this a new building?’, ‘Can I buy a ticket from you for the next show?’, ‘Is it still raining outside?’
  1. The person who makes you decide what they like.  ‘What’s your favorite kind of pizza here?  The zucchini?  Do you think I’ll actually like that?’
  1. The person who tries to return the pizza.  ‘This isn’t what I thought it would be and I don’t want to throw it away.  Do you think anybody else would eat this piece that I took a bite out of?  There’s still a lot of it left.’
  1. The person who stands by the pizza table so they can immediately reach in and get another piece when their current one is gone, crowding the table and making it impossible for anyone else to get in and grab a slice.  Because obviously the second they walk away it will all disappear.
  1. The person who asks for the ingredients.  Or if it’s gluten-free.  It’s free pizza, lady.  I don’t know.
  1. The person who sets up camp on one of the benches in the lobby with their pizza and sits for a half-hour after the event ends.  You put away the table and take out the trash and they’re still there.  Everyone else is gone and they’re still there.  You fade the lobby lights down to half and they’re still there.  So you literally have to go up to the person and tell them that you need to close up the lobby.  It’s at that point they say they have to go to the bathroom first.  So now you have to wait for all that to happen before you can lock up and leave.
  1. Finally, the person who just takes a piece of pizza and a glass of wine and says “Thanks!” and goes off to one side to chat with their friends.  They finish their pizza and leave quietly.  These are my favorite.

Can you name any other types of Free-Pizza People?

 

Sometimes people are the worst.

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Imagine, if you will, a typical night at the theatre.  On the job, I stand at the back of the house, as is my usual position, keeping watch over the flock of theatre-goers who are watching an Off-Broadway musical.  All is well.

A gentleman in the front of the house gets up and leaves through the side aisle.  No problem.  I radio to my co-worker downstairs, informing her that someone has left the house.  She confirms and several minutes pass.  She radios that the gentleman used the restroom and is now on his way back up to me in the elevator.  (Due to the odd configuration of the house, everyone who arrives late or leaves their seat and comes back in has to go through the back of the house – it’s too distracting otherwise.)

I greet the gentleman as he exits the elevator.  He is in his mid-thirties, nicely dressed in a linen shirt and trendy jeans.  He has dark curly hair and is not Caucasian.  I inform him he will not be able to return to his actual seat, he says that’s ok, and I put him in a seat in the second-to-last row.

The performance continues.

About fifteen minutes later, a woman gets up from the front of the house and stands in the side aisle.  She must have to use the restroom, I think to myself, but wants to wait for the current song to end.  Unfortunately, we can’t have anyone standing there – fire hazard.  I radio down to my co-worker and inform her of the problem.  She confirms and retrieves the woman from the side aisle, taking her downstairs and out of sight.

Shortly thereafter, she radios up to say that the woman is coming back up in the elevator to me.  She was apparently concerned when the previous gentleman left his bag.  Ahh, I think.  She was with him and brought his bag.  (Not uncommon when a member of a couple leaves to use the restroom and magically never returns to their actual seat – the other party comes looking for them.)

When she gets off the elevator, I see she is much older than the gentleman.  White-haired, Caucasian, obviously wealthy.  I doubt they are a couple.  She also has no bag with her.  Curious, I think.  I give my speech about how she, unfortunately, won’t be able to return to her actual seat.  She says that’s fine, as long as she can sit somewhere in the back.

Of course, I say.  I direct her to the row in which I had placed the gentleman, still thinking they must still be of the same party.  She balks.  Her eyes go wide and she shakes her head vehemently left and right.  I remind her in whisper that I cannot get her to her actual seat.

“I’m not sitting next to him,” she hisses. 

Confused, I place her in another row and the show concludes.  They were not together.

I found out later the rest of the story to which I was not privy:  The woman left her seat because the “Middle-Eastern-looking man” left his bag in his seat and then disappeared.  When my co-worker downstairs assured her that nothing was amiss, she did not believe her and said that we (the theater) should “do something, like call the police.”

When my co-worker asked if the woman would like to leave, the woman replied, “No I want to see the show I paid for.” 

So the compromise was her sitting far enough away that if it was a bomb, the shrapnel would have definitely cut her up a bit. 

The icing on the cake with all of this is that apparently she left her husband right next to the bag.  He was apparently not convinced anything was wrong and didn’t want to cause a fuss or give up his good seats.

Needless to say, nothing happened with the bag and all three hundred people safely left the house at the end of the performance.

Oh, the people you meet in the theatre…

Sometimes you list all the things that this post isn’t about. Like community theatre, Hershey Park, Frances Ha, hiking on the Hudson River, hating interpersonal communication with strangers, and loving your family to death.

This post is not about any of these things:

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1. I took a trip home to small-town America to watch a community theatre production of THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE that featured several friends and family members.  It was a ridiculously good time and the show was super fun.  Also I learned how to spell “floxinoxinihilipilification.”  For all those times I need to remember how to spell it.

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2. During said trip to small-town America we spent a day in Hershey Park, where I have gone almost every summer of my entire life to ride roller coasters and eat chocolate in the Sweetest Place On Earth.  It rained thrice during the day, but only for about fifteen minutes each time, so by the end of the day everyone had been scared away and we had the run of the place.  I think the best way to experience roller coasters is to walk off them and walk back on three times in a row.

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3. The trip to Hershey Park included admission to ZooAmerica, which only has animals that exist in North America.  (So really – only animals you can already see outside your back door.)  But my brothers are fun.  We were bears.  Which is helpful.  When you need to be bears.

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4. I saw FRANCES HA last night.  It was quite good.  I’m totally on board with this burgeoning genre of showing how awful and terrible and wonderful and frightened and crazy and ridiculous and amazing young people actually are as they haphazardly make their way through their poverty-stricken twenties.  Good on you, Lena Dunham.  Good on you, Greta Gerwig.

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5. My girlfriend and I went on a kick-ass hike today.  North of the city is Mount Taurus in the Hudson Highlands region.  1400 feet elevation, 7.5 miles roundtrip.  Sometimes more rock-climbing than hiking.  Gorgeous views.  Also the ruins of an early twentieth-century estate by a former president of the National Lead Company (which sounds like a super fun job, by the way).  So that was amazing, completely un-ironically.

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6. I learned (or rather, verified) that I hate communicating with other hikers as they walk past me.  No sir, I do not want to discuss the difficulty of the trail.  I do not want to speak about the weather.  I left the city to get away from people.  Let me live in my I’m-living-two-hundred-years-ago-and-there’s-only-deer-and-badgers-and-raccoon-and-slugs-and-birds-and-squirrels-and-newts-hiding-behind-all-that-nature fantasy.  

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7. Apparently my family went hiking today too.  Because they’re awesome and we all think alike.  We were hike buddies from two hundred miles apart.  I love them.

8. Also, this post is 100% NOT about how sometimes you just can’t think of enough about one subject for a weblog post, so you just detail several things that come into your head.  Not at all.

Instead, this post is about Independence Day.
Happy Fourth of July everyone.  🙂

Sometimes you start a story at 16. And finish it at 26.

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Ah, high school.  Those ripe and rare salad days.  The virgin landscape of yesteryear.  That delightful time when anything can – and does – occur.  When all roads are open to you, and everything is possible.

It was during this impressionable time in my life that I explored every creative outlet I had in my body.  I acted, I sang, I danced, I composed music, I wrote plays, and of course – I wrote fiction.  Although recently undertaken as a solid professional goal, the urge to write was bred in me long before a whisker showed its face on my chin.  Now, there have been little stories swimming through the river of my mind for as long as I’ve been a sentient being, but it was in high school that the idea of THE NOVEL first reared its head. 

THE NOVEL came to me one day after watching a performance of Puccini’s La Boheme at a waterfront amphitheater.  It was a beautiful evening, and Rodolfo and Mimi sang of their love as the sun set behind them.  I was with my first love, and I had never felt more alive before.  I went home and immediately knew what I was meant to do with my life.
Well, not really.  That never happened.

Really, I have no idea where or how I got the idea for THE NOVEL in the first place.  But it appeared one day and I said, “Hey, that’d be a cool book.”  So I sketched out some ideas and wrote a chapter or two in a journal and promptly forgot about it.

Cut to my sophomore year of college four years later.  Going to school in Philadelphia, I was working part-time at Adventure Aquarium across the Delaware River in Camden, NJ (which, at the time, was considered the most dangerous city in America – fun fact).  Every day I had to get on the PATCO train which connected the two cities and ride it across the Ben Franklin Bridge.  While on this commute one day, I suddenly remembered THE NOVEL.  (I should mention I was going to school for musical theatre at this time, so I had entertained no intention of writing.  Ever.  Not that I was against it – it had just never occurred to me.)

Being an ambitious lad with an hour of nothing to do every day while commuting, and not being one of those silly bookworms who read on the train, and not being one of those crazy teenagers who listen to music on the train, I decided I liked the romance of writing a novel on the train.  I found my old red notebook and set to work with a serious mind.

I plotted out THE NOVEL and created a map of the world (Yes, it was an epic fantasy.  Of course.).  I wrote a few chapters and was so pleased with the novelty of it all.  This was so different than going to voice lessons and dance class and crying in Meisner studio and dealing with hot girls who were actually crazy.  Alas, all good things end, however, and my time at the aquarium drew to a close.  I typed out what I had written and saved it on my computer.  And promptly forgot about it again.

So it went for the next few years – I graduated and got my first professional acting gigs.  I fell in love, fell out of love, moved in with people, moved away from people, had other day jobs, and eventually moved to New York.  During all of this, THE NOVEL would stop by my head to say hello every now and then.  I wrote a couple of chapters between acting gigs, I rearranged a bit of dialogue when going through a breakup, I edited the map anytime I saw a cooler map in another epic fantasy book.

I actually got a lot of writing in during Army basic training.  After the day was over and our drill sergeants released us for the night, I’d sit up in bed with my little notebook, scribbling away about fairies and magic with my M-16 semi-automatic rifle by my side.

Anyway, there came a point when I realized I had finished the darn thing.  So I said, “Neat!” and promptly forgot about it.

Cue me making the decision that I’d like to start writing fo’ realsies.  THE NOVEL is ecstatic.  Happily, I read through it, prepared to start the editing process.  I am appalled.

Here is the problem with beginning a novel at 16 and finishing it at 26:  it was written by at least ten different people. 

I could point out exactly what section each author wrote.  And not because I remembered when I wrote what.  It was because it was so blatantly obvious.  I will highlight a few of these authors:

The 16-year-old wrote like Tolkein or Dickens:  long, luxuriating sentences that carried such weight of import that you wanted to take a nap after every period.  You lost track of the subject of the sentence after hearing how beautiful it was in the moonlight.

The 21-year-old wrote like David Mamet:  whole chapters filled with dialogue.  Occasionally there’d be a “he said” in there, but that was about it.  Otherwise, it was action-action-action.

The 26-year-old wrote with a sense of motivation: whole pages where we followed the characters’ thoughts and feelings, their wants and desires, and then a little blip about what them doing something to get it.

It was like somebody with multiple personality disorder wanted to write a book.

So here we are, a year later, and my agent suggests (not wrongly) that I give it yet another go-through to clarify some points.  Sigh.  How much longer shall I continue to edit, trying desperately to unify these many voices into one?  Only time will tell. 

Hopefully it’s not another ten years.