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Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Louisiana...

I has a great evening last night. It was surreal some of the time, but I really enjoyed the show. The casting and choices were very different from the production that I was in, that I was able to see them uniquely and I could appreciate each for what they were. It is so very cool to see this show with a different but totally legitimate ensemble work, but work in ways different from how my show worked. It was also fun to sit outside the action and laugh at the things I couldn't before. The changes surprised and delighted me. It was well-paced and honest and that is what you need to do to bring that show to life.

A funny thing happened in the second act that totally caught me off guard. After the 3rd scene I suddenly went to the head space I was in while doing the show. I guess the patterns of dialogue and situation sent me back there and before the lights came up on the 4th scene I was crying and emotionally distraught. I am sure the people on either side of me couldn't figure out what was up because let's face it, we didn't even know that Shelby had died yet. For that entire scene I rode those familiar achy emotions from 3 years ago. After the show I was glad to get out and decompress a little because it was weird.

After the show we struck the set (very smooth and very quick) and headed to Chez Marsh for festivities. Usually I don't go to cast parties for shows I am not involved in but I felt right at home. It was nice to see the gang from Sky and others that I have worked with in the past. A really fun evening, and a very late night!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Deja Vu

Tonight I am going to see Steel Magnolias in Spruce Grove at Horizon Stage. It is the closing night of a three show run and they have been sold out or close to that for all the shows. It was directed by my bf AM and I know most of the cast. It is going to be weird. I am hoping that I can separate my experience from being in the show a few years ago from the experience of watching this new production. I will do my best to do so, but don't hate me if I am not able to! I am sure I will enjoy the evening, it's just going to be weird because I know ALL the words!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Where did the week go?

Okay, I did stuff this week, but I didn't get everything done and that makes me feel like it just flew by. I had some interpersonal angst at the beginning of the week and that caused a lot of unnecessary stress that sucked up oodles of my mental time and brought up all the stress from a month ago that I thought I had pushed into the void. Oliver was sick and stayed home Tuesday, so that day was a write-off. On Thursday, I touched base at the theatre and Theatre Alberta on Thursday and ran into people I hadn't seen for a while so I spent a few hours that day just talking to people. I can't even remember what I did on Wednesday. Oh, where does the time go?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different...

A discussion on a friend's blog lead to this blog post:

The idea that this happens really bothers me. It makes me think that maybe we shouldn't tell if this is what people are going to do with the information. A baby is a baby and to use gender/sex as determinate for it's validity is horrific to me. I have always had trouble with pro-choice, pro-life - trouble with both sides. They both seem so extreme. One justifies abortion in all cases and one does not recognise that there are situations where that is the best course of action. I am a moderate on this and am glad that I never had to face the decision. I hope I never have to and I hope that if any of my friends come to me for comfort and advice facing that kind of decision that I can be a good friend and give them the support they need regardless of the outcome.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cat Update #2

I got a phone call from the vet today. Smeep's lump was benign and with the type of tumor it was excision is curative. Yay! So we should keep an eye (or hand) out for future lumps, but she is fine for now. In a week the stitches should come out and then it is just wait for her next shot. I am quite relieved.

Monday, November 23, 2009

No Tinsel, No Lights, No Tree for Me... Not Until December

I have read several updates on Facebook this week about people decorating for Christmas already. I am not there. It shakes me when there are Christmas things in the stores before Halloween is done. Decorating this early for a festival that occurs on December 24th/25th seems ridiculous to me. I know, some of you out there might decorate this early. That's your prerogative. But this is the nature of our society of excess. We take a 12 day Festival that is supposed to START on Dec 25 (I Believe - possibly the 24th, but Christmas kicks off the 12 days of Christmas, not ends it) and then we start the festival atmosphere on November 15th or earlier and then we lose the specialness of the actual holiday. What makes Christmas special if we celebrate it for a month and a half? I can see the coordinated holiday parties occurring prior to the day, but I just think that we live such spoiled lives in our society as it is, that to demand the lengthening of the Christmas holiday just 'cause we can seems self-indulgent and kind of misses the point. I don't want to be a scrooge, 'cause that's not what is motivating this. I love the holidays, especially Christmas, I just think that all this early decorating and celebrating dilutes it and it loses it's meaning (whatever that is for you).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cat Update

Smeep is home. She seems to be doing well and we will find out in a week or so about the results from the lab. She is leaving the sutures alone and is a bit clingy, but that is expected. Hopefully all will be well.

It strikes me as strange compared to how we dealt with our pets as children. I am pretty sure we did not take any of our cats for yearly shots. We let them run around outside and the only time they went to the vet was to get fixed or if they were visibly injured. If the repair cost a significant amount of money I am pretty sure that my parents went the way of euthanasia. But Smeep is a part of our family. She's been here longer than the boys have. I couldn't see not getting the lump removed and tested, although I was relieved that it cost less than the $500 the doctor originally quoted. Who knows, down the line it may cost more.

When I was picking her up there was an elderly gentlemen leaving the back room alone who looked quite shook up as though he'd been crying. The vet came out and said "sorry for your loss" and it struck me how gentle all the staff was with him. He looked like a weathered farmer type of guy. I really liked the way the staff was behaving and it made me feel that we have a good doctor for our Smeep.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Kitty Cat Woes...

My cat Smeep is at the vet today. She had a small lump on her back and they are removing it and testing it. The Vet says it looks like melanoma. We will not know what it is until next week and I am hoping it is benign. She's a really nice cat.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rock N' Roll

I had a lovely night out yesterday. Rock n' Roll by Tom Stoppard is playing at the Citadel and my University roommate from waaaaaaay back is in it. I was so excited to see her head shot on the Citadel's website as I have not seen her onstage for 9 years (Stratford in Summer 2000). She primarily works in the East since she lives in Toronto and Stratford, but this co-pro with The Canadian Stage Company was a nice opportunity for her to come back to Edmonton for a stint. When I wrote her she did reply "you realize I am only in about 8 minutes in the latter half of Act Two". Didn't matter. I wanted to see her and the show as it sounded like a show that involved thinking and wasn't necessarily predictable. We met for a nice dinner and visit before the show and then I met up with Mark and friends to see the show. Following the show we met up with her in the lobby and she introduced us to some of the cast (including Fiona Reid who played the female lead). So great to see her again. She has not aged a single day. And it was so nice to feel that despite almost 10 years it does still feel like we know each other.

The show was interesting. I would have liked a little cleaner set-up in the first act and it could have stood some judicious editing (but who is going to tell Stoppard to cut a line?). A couple of the actors were the 'wrong ages' but that is a challenge when the play spans 30 years and Stoppard himself demands doubling in the script so where an actor might be right for the age of the character in the first act, there is a shift in act two that doesn't necessarily read right. There are a couple of characters that seem unimportant to the play in function (Magda? what was the point of her?) but it was nice to see a professional show that reached beyond a cast of 4. I am still thinking about the play and I think I would like to read it. Not knowing the history of the music of Czechoslovakia I was a little lost in some places. But I liked it for it's aesthetic and it's reach.

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Addendum...

I have been thinking about this since last night. One of the responses that I got from the Team when I asked why they hadn't come to me for help was that "they didn't want me to burn out". This has been expressed to me in the past, but I really don't know why. I always ask, "Do I look like I'm burning out?" and the responses is usually "no, but so and so did and we don't want to lose good people by wearing them out". I understand the concern, but I am very good about only taking on what I can handle. I have learned to say "no" when needed and I only take on what I really want to or need to. There is a point when the same people keep getting asked and I think we need to expand the pool that we pick from and talk to different people so we don't over tax certain people, but as AD I certainly want the membership to come to me if needed.

A Long Day Devoted to Walterdale...

Yesterday I spent from 9-3 at Walterdale working with the Board on Policy and Procedures. That was good but I was very tired from being out the night before (A Chorus Line). Then I scooted off to the Post Mortem for Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. That took a little longer than I thought it would, but I am glad we got it done. The major complaints/issues were with one particular person and that will need to be addressed. There are other issues to be looked after, and I will get on starting those in motion today. 90% of all issues that happen in our organization (and in most) have to do with communication. There were many things that came up to which I said "How come I didn't know about this when it was happening - I would've helped" but the perception was that it wasn't my job to help in those cases. I believe that if you aren't getting the help you need then come to me. I may not be able to help directly, but I can usually get the ball rolling... if I know. Oh well. This happens in a changing organization where people approach roles differently - the membership is unclear about who can do what or who will do what. I am trying to change that. Anyhow, after that I headed back to the theatre to watch a bit of the Lend Me a Tenor rehearsal. They were doing the curtain call which is a riot and I had fun watching different parts each time they ran it. It was a bit of a marathon for those in the cast. It was good to check in with the Team on this one as with Sweeney and illness I have really only checked in via email. They seem to be rolling along and it looks like a lot of fun!

Friday, November 13, 2009

In the Lull...

I am in between projects right now - not really, but it feels like it. I do have a script I need to work on for New Works, but the time to work on that is flexible, not scheduled like when you are in rehearsal. Soon I will be in rehearsal and that will shift my work schedule on that, but for right now, 2 weeks after Sweeney and a week before New Works auditions, I am in a lull. The worst thing about lull time is that I eat more. It is strictly boredom and because it's there eating, but it happens and that sucks.

So, to try and make the lull work for me, today I finally wrote several drafts for the Handbook we are putting together at Walterdale. I wrote about Theatre Etiquette for Audiences and Actors (and Production Teams as a whole) and I wrote about Rehearsals (for the Director and the Actor) and the Previews and Late-Comers Policies. There was a whole lot of writing. I think at the end I got kind of snippy, because some of the stuff I shouldn't have to spell out, but clearly we need to because people are frequently late to rehearsals and give notes to other actors and eat in costume. You know, that sort of stuff. But the drafts are done and all I have left is the Welcome Letter (from the AD) and the Chain of Communication Flow Chart (which I will hand draw and get a better computer person than I to make it digital!). I should be able to pull that off tonight.

I do have some rewrites on two plays that I need to get to work on, and I need to got through Much Ado, The Seagull and Hedda Gabler to find a good scene or scene(s) from each to sell them at the Donor Voted Show Gala Evening in January. Better get on that, I suppose!

So much for the lull...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Policies and Procedures... a.k.a. Best Practices...

This weekend the Walterdale Theatre Board of Directors will be meeting to work on our policies and procedures. This is something we have been loosely working on for the past 3 years and in the last year we became much more focused and directed in terms of getting it all together. My hope is that we will produce a document that can be a good guide for the various teams that come through the building and that it will offer assistance but will still be flexible to allow for a variety of personalities. Because this is the challenge. Every team that comes through the theatre is unique and has it's own style of communication and ways of doing things. There are some people that might be the same from team to team, but change one designer, one ASM and you get a slightly different dynamics. And I have noticed that because these teams come from different levels of training and experience there are plenty of people who break the rules. Here are two extremes that I have seen that make me cringe and make me wish for a usable document.

1. The "Director is God" school of thought - in this dynamic the Director dictates everything. This Director confuses design with concept and dictates ever element of the show to all their designers instead of letting them design. This Director often steps outside their areas of concern, dictating set/costume design, the sound design, the program design, the media for the show and how the theatre as a whole is run and operated. Sometimes this Director will interfere in the middle of the construction process because the set/costumes do not look like they want and they will throw tantrums and yell. I get scared of this type of process as an actor and an AD. Where is the collaboration? Have you ever been in a show where the director literally tells you to say this line, take 3 steps and on the word shampoo, turn and wink? If this happens, it can really obliterate anything organic within the production. Everything feels orchestrated. What bothers me about this model is that all those other people who have something to bring to the production are stifled. It becomes about one opinion, one point of view, and the discoveries that could be made by listening and sharing are lost.

2. The other extreme - "Everyone Can Have a Say' school of thought - In this model everyone offers their opinions willy-nilly to everyone else. There is no guiding concept, but rather every decision is based on a discussion that everyone can chime in on. I have been in shows as Director where it was clear to me that I was working with people (actors, stage managers, musical directors, production managers) who thought that it was perfectly appropriate to give me note a about things that were part of my artistic vision. These same people would think nothing about giving actors notes and directing the costume designer to change their design. This drives me crazy. I am sure to them I looked like a real diva when I excused myself to calm down, but that is the only way I know how to deal with that other than yelling at them for insulting me and the process. The majority of people like this, but not exclusively so, have come from a less formal training background. They often do have valuable input, but by sharing it inappropriately it adds to frustration and distress within the production. They may not always understand the layers of process going on. As a director I am hardly going to give line notes the first week of rehearsal, nor am I going to be a stickler about blocking when we are working on the relationships. I will give those notes when it is the right time, and sometimes the actors just needs time to figure it out and own it themselves. There are very good reasons for Assigned Roles with dictated areas of responsibilities. First it means someone is looking after a specific area and you shouldn't have to worry about it and second it means that if everyone knows what is going on, no body's toes are going to be stepped on. Now wait you say, what about collaboration? Didn't you just say that was a good thing? Of course, but there are lines of responsibility and it is not the Stage Manager's job to design the costumes, nor the actor's job to pick the chairs for the set. There is a time and place for discussion and sharing, just make sure you are not over-stepping your boundaries.

Anyhow, those are two of the extremes that make me hungry for this document to be finished and hopefully used. I know I cannot break other people's bad habits for them, but I just hope that people in the theatre take it for what it is meant to be - a helpful tool that will hopefully make it easier and less stressful to get things done.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

I Love Hosting Parties!

Last night was my 3rd Annual 40th Birthday Party. I do not have it to prolong my youth, but rather because the 1st one was so fun, I decided to keep having that party, once a year, every year, until I hit 50! I was a month off the actual birth date, but Sweeney kind of ate up the month of October, so no worries! In any case, it was so much fun. I am blessed to know so many wonderful, fun and talented people. They kept the karaoke machine running all night long from 7:20 p.m. until 3:15 a.m. (I was pretty good in my assessment that the party would go to 3:00 a.m.). We had people ranging in age from 3 1/2 months to older than me (I am not outing anyone's age!). We had the Fuss Cupcakes that I love (I think I will invest in more minis and less full size ones next year - that way you can try more than one and not feel like a piggy!). I missed a few people that couldn't make it, or forgot, or got ill at the last minute, but the BEST was that my sister surprised me by flying in from Toronto for the party. Only my Mom knew she was coming. She was in the city for approximately 24 hours! How cool is that!?! I am pretty sure she had fun, so hopefully it was worth it for her - I definitely appreciated it!

Next year it will be just as much fun! I promise!