Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Valhalla - First Glimpses

We had our first technical rehearsal last night. Funny how so many things can go wrong during these things, very dispiriting.

But then I look at these pictures I shot, and I have to wonder: was it that bad? We're still missing two costumes, two horses, and two dressers. Anybody got a pony?









Sunday, October 28, 2007

Feelin' Groovy

Just got a call from the producer. He's having someone emailing me the file of the program they used for the dick sow - I mean "show". The reason is so that I can pull some of the ad graphics for use in the program for Valhalla.

Oh, did I mention I'm doing the program? I forget. Things are moving so fast. I haven't multi-tasked this much since I was an assistant manager at my old job. Being manager was easy. I didn't have to do shit by then, just delegate.

Anyway, he mentioned he would bring me the rest of the ad information at rehearsal today.

And I thought, Oh, shit, I didn't tell him ...

I gave the actors the weekend off. They need a rest. They need to soak in a few hot tubs where they can soak up a few white russians.

They need to learn their lines.

Other than that, they're ready.

The sound is set. Yesterday, we set the lights. We should be ready to meet our first audiences this weekend.

Besides, the Classical Theatre of Harlem is opening its production of Waiting for Godot, featuring Wendell Pierce, the same time we open.

Who's going to come and see us?

Life is looking up.

----------------
Now playing: Edith Piaf - Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

Running on Fumes

Have I been sounding negative about Valhalla? That's just me being me as another deadline approaches.

The show will be good. The script is funny and touching. The actors are the best a buck-a-ticket could buy. The costumes are overwhelming.

We have lights! Sound! Dancing!

What I sense missing is enthusiasm from the producing side. I think they're all really tired from having endured the dick sow - I mean "show". Lately, when I ask for something, the answer comes back, "No."

"Can we paint that chair blue?"

"No."

"Can we have black fabric panels to cover the wings?"

"No."

"Can we paint over the yellow chorus-line numbers painted on the apron of the stage from the last show?"

"No."

Last night while I was standing outside the theatre having a smoke before rehearsal, the venue's owner came out and saw me and said jokingly, "You don't belong here."

I'm beginning to think I agree. I'm glimpsing a chasm between my idea of theatre and theirs. That's sad.

So Tired ... Too Tired

A real toe-sucking rehearsal tonight. Suddenly half the cast decided to "act".

Bad sign.

Thinking more seriously about driving out of town next weekend.

For a long time.

Hello, Topeka?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Recovering

This week's rehearsal schedule has been one of late nights, frantic days, and little sleep. After spending the last four days combing the city and da parishes for props and shit, both the producer, Donnie Jay, and I have decided - in the immortal words of a certain Broadway belter - "Call me Miss Birdseye, this show is frozen."

I have finally squeezed in a short nap and am feeling the difference. As God is my witness, the next show I do will only call for a single pair of slacks and shirts for the men and your-all-around basic little black dress for the women. Valhalla has as many costume changes as a Metropolitan Opera production of La Traviata. And they're not finished yet!

Did I mention we perform for the public one week from tonight?

I may have to leave town when this thing opens.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

This Is What I Get for Letting Bob Go Scrounging Through My Stuff

An old Polaroid of a sweet, sainted lady and some guy I don't know.

Monday, October 22, 2007

First Glimpse

Here are three shots of my phoenix tattoo in its third stage. The outlines will be filled in with flames in another couple of weeks. If the money holds out.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ultimate Quote of the Day

"Well we are fucked for another four years. The last four found us with a woman guv'nor with no damn ovaries, and now we are saddled with an unproven sycophant of the Bushite crowd. (Hey Bobby! What's it taste like? *wink, wink*)"

The rest of this formidable lady's post is just as totally kick-ass as this opening. Read it.

Morning Wood

Okay, now that I've got your attention, let's take the Right Brain vs Left Brain test from PerthNow. Do it. It's fun.

Do it now.

The Antichrist Lifts His Heavy Head and Smiles


Bobby Jindal wins the Louisiana governor's race. Jackie Clarkson is in the runoffs opposite Cynthia Willard-Lewis for Councilperson-at-Large.

The end times are at hand.

But rum is good. Lots of rum.

----------------
Now playing: Bernadette Peters - Raining In My Heart (From "Dames At Sea")
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Life Is Good

I can't rest. I can't sleep.

Throughout most of the day I was tense and quick to snap. Went out to vote against the Antichrist, Bobby Jindal (for Governor), and the nincompoop, Charley Foti (for Attorney General - that he even holds the office now is breathtakingly funny, as it is - anyway ...). From there, it was off to an afternoon rehearsal which wasn't much of a rehearsal, after all.

There's not much you can do when one of your two principal actors is in New York for the weekend. Good thing there were new costumes to try on and a new set to position. Finally, we got going after an hour of these preliminaries.

Wound up rehearsing only one scene, though, for about 90 minutes: the gym scene in which the character of James rips off the towel covering the "character" of Henry Lee. I seem to be losing my touch in getting my actors comfortable standing onstage in the altogether. It doesn't seem to work anymore, my just telling the kid to drop trou and relax.

Something about the kid, though - his name is Chris - reminds me of my nephew, Goose. His face, I think. His facial expressions. I feel kind of guilty telling him to strip naked. But he's game and should be able to get past the present difficulty with his head held high. He shows a lot of promise. Especially when he's focused on his most frequent partner Keith.

As an actor, I mean.

After all that, Bobby and I went out and dropped off posters at various locations in the Marigny.

One of our stops was at Cutter's Bar where I have a couple of photographs hanging up for a charity auction. Can you imagine my reaction when my eyes locked on a vintage poster of Eleonora Duse hanging on the wall with an asking price of $50.00?

I bought it on the spot.

Once home, I put it to Bob that I was going out, and I did. The night was nice, and the other people who were out were even nicer. Now I'm home, feeling copacetic and content - even special.

Life is good.

Yeah.

----------------
Now playing: Chita Rivera - All That Jazz
via FoxyTunes

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Deed Is - Practically - Done

The outline of the flames surrounding my phoenix is now embedded in the flesh of my right arm. Next come the colors. Henry estimates another six hours or so.

I can handle that. Yeah.

Leonardo, get ready.

Feeling Nostalgic

This past Tuesday, I went to a matinee (eat your hearts out, you corporate drones!) of Elizabeth, the Golden Girls - whatever it's called. Cate Blanchette plays ole Bess again, although her main-squeeze lady-in-waiting is named Bess, too, so it could have gotten confusing. But the other Bess has a round, full, really ripe face, while Blanchette has a Garbo face you can't take your eyes off of.

But I'm not writing this to talk about the chicks. I want to talk about Clive Owen playing Errol Flynn. During the course of the Spanish Armada scene, the camera pans across the screen and, all of a sudden you're watching Captain Blood for a few seconds. That one scene has more of a movie in it than the rest of the film. Well, that scene and another one where this white horse sports a perm that would have had Joan Crawford calling for the glue truck.

That Errol Flynn scene has had me meditating on the old rake for several days. Not the man himself, but the movie star. And a certain song.

Several years ago, I picked up a CD called Barbara Cook - Live from London. In the course of this concert recording she sings a song called Errol Flynn. The first time I heard it, I bawled like a penniless whore about to meet up with her pimp at five in the morning - and this was when I was on Prozac, for chrissakes.

Today, I've just found out the song was written by Gordon Hunt and Amanda McBroom. McBroom also wrote The Rose. On top of that, she's one of the great cabaret singers today. Errol Flynn has a sweet melody to go with these lyrics:
In a hall, on a wall, in a house in Rosita
There's a poster held up by two nails and a pin
It's my Daddy, the actor, 'bout to die with his boots on
He's the man standing up there, beside Errol Flynn

He got third or fourth billing at the end of each picture
"But that don't mean much", he would say with a grin
But he'd hold my hand tight as he pointed his name out
Only four or five names down below Errol Flynn

Now, fame, it is fleeting and stars, they keep falling
And staying right up there, that's the business of art
And luck kisses some and she passes by others
Disappointment and bourbon are hard on the heart

Now, the women and beers, and the years with old Errol
They took their toll, they took me from his side
He kissed me goodbye at the old Union Station
That's the last time I saw him, the last time I cried

Now I'm sitting alone in a house in Rosita
Watchin' the Late Show as the moonlight shines in
And up on the screen, well, here comes my Daddy
It's a sad, funny feeling, now I'm older than him

So, you daddies and daughters, you sons and you mothers
Remember life's over before it begins
So love one another and stand close together
As close as my Dad did to old Errol Flynn
So, I'm sorry, Clive. Even though this might be the first movie you've ever made where you actually smiled (and you smiled really good, you know), you're still not the kind of movie star who can inspire this kind of meditation.

But that white stallion with the curly mane ... now, he's putting words in my mouth.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Relaxing from Valhalla

No rehearsal tonight, none tomorrow, so I finished setting up my sound cues for the show and chilled the rest of the night by playing with some of my photo files. here's another Lady of the Night.

I've set up an appointment for tomorrow evening to have some more work done on my Phoenix tat. I'll be adding flames. Soon I'll get some more black ink buried into my original, flawed fleur de lis. I'm also thinking of another, more traditional fleur de lis for my right wrist.

After that, Leonardo's Vitruvian Man down my back! Still later, something - don't know what yet - between my belly button and my pubes.

That leaves the legs for another day. I've got thick thighs and calves. Maybe a few Rembrandts.

And perhaps The Creation of Adam across my butt.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Taking Baby Steps

I think I may be near to completing the sound-design for Valhalla.

Do you have any idea what it's like to be buried under Wagner for a couple of weeks?

Two weeks!

That's almost as long as the whole Ring Cycle, for cryin' out loud.

Did I mention this play is a comedy?

Or that I don't have any idea how you're supposed to edit a music track?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Remembering Memories

I've never forgotten why I walked away from the theatre some twenty-odd years ago and devoted myself, like a monk, to my real-job career. It had to do with the knowledge that most people who involve themselves in the theatre world are goldfish-brained barracudas.

Twenty-odd years ago, that was hard for me to deal with.

I don't intend to sound mean or spiteful or derogatory. Laurence Olivier was one of those barracudas. So was John Gielgud on a cloudy day. The Divine Sarah used to sharpen her teeth with her emery board. Good actors can be bastards even though they never need to be.

But then - back then - when I was young and twenty - I took the road more traveled by; and that has made all the difference.

I devoted myself to a vocation.

That vocation rewarded me with a sensitive psyche and a very thick hide. So I'll always be okay in the choppy waters of the theatre.

But sometimes one casts a young and inexperienced actor in a certain role because that actor exhibits a certain quality - a charisma - or ... I don't know - it might be a look or a sound or some other undefinable thing - that intrigues one. Whatever. One knows that that actor is the right choice.

Then it is that the barracudas begin to nibble.

"He's slow."

"No, that's his own rhythm. It suits the context of the script."

"I hear he takes cold medicine."

"Only that one night, and only when he had a sore, scratchy throat. Otherwise, what are you implying?"

Envious gossip ...

But, on the other hand, there are other - giving, caring - actors who will take these inexperienced actors under their wings and help them to grow. And these younger actors, in their turn, will later mentor other more inexperienced actors.

Meanwhile, the barracudas will swim in circles, round and round, in their slow-current waters and, after many a trial and error, learn to sing patter songs ad infinitum.

Does any of this make any sense to anyone other than me and one other person?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Night to Remember

I forced myself to join the living last night and went to a gallery opening of Michael Alago's Rough Gods at the Farrington Smith Gallery. The gallery is only five blocks up from Cowpokes so it was a nice walk in yesterday's weather. I got there a little after six and, walking in, confronted one of Mr. Alago's models wearing only a pair of jockey briefs. I don't know why he was only wearing underwear, except, I guess, for the fact that he could get away with it.

The models all look intimidating in their photographs. They are gym-built and covered with heavy-duty ink and are photographed to show off their towering, um, aspects. Several were there besides Mister Micro Brief. Fortunately, in person, they were not so fearsome. Instead, they turned out to be kind of short and sported manicured nails. I guess it's a New York thing?

I bumped into a dapper little man who introduced himself as the photographer. We had a nice conversation, and I decided he was really real and sort of sweet.

I bought his monograph, and one of the gallery's owners insisted he come over and autograph it. He wrote several notes on several pages of the book. I haven't read them all. Maybe he did that so I would look at all the pictures in his monograph, but I'd have done that anyway.

When I turned to leave, I bumped into him again. He remembered my name (imagine that), and we talked some more.

Talk about a feel-good feeling.

On my way home, I looked at my watch and saw it was only approaching seven as I was approaching the corner of Saint Claude where the Marigny Theatre and the Hi Ho Lounge stand facing each other to form New Orleans' own off-off-Broadway theatre district. Just then Bobby called. I told him how much I had enjoyed the photo show and mentioned that it looked as though Brian Sands' play Love at the Lounge hadn't started yet and could I try and catch it? He said sure, so I went on in.

L @ the L turned out to be really good, and I had a ball there. At intermission I got myself an introduction to Brian Sands who turned out to be another sweet guy. Two in one night, and both creative.

The show is composed of two one-act plays and feature only four actors. I've worked with two of them before, Frederick and Lisa. I'd like to work with the other two, as well, so I made a point of swallowing my shyness and spoke to them after the performance.

I have to take a moment, though, to really compliment Lisa. She pulled a character and a performance out of herself that she should be proud of. It broke my heart.

(And, Lisa - if you're reading this - about the boy you were with after the show ... I liked him. I approve. Treat him right.)

I finally pulled myself away and started off toward the Latrine where I expected to find Bobby. He wasn't there, but home instead. He never leaves home any more. But the bar was sparse and comfortable, so I sat there for a little while with my thoughts and a couple of rums.

Sitting there, I think I solved two problems I'm having with Valhalla: the "Gavotte" scene and the "Sailors and Seamen" song. Who needs choreographers and musical directors? Feh!

Then, this morning, I discovered I'd been living in the wrong week. Last week wasn't next week, as I'd been thinking. That means I have one more week to pull the show together.

Oh, and if you're curious about the dreams I've been having, last night's involved Elizabeth Taylor ...

And it wasn't a nightmare.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Succubi Are Descending Upon Me

About a week ago, I ran out of Paxil. When I re-ordered it via touch tone, Walgreen's IVR responded with its smug digital voice that their pharmacist would have to contact my doctor to approve a new prescription. Since then, I've been waiting to hear from the pharmacy to tell me it's ready.

Of course, I could always find out for myself. But a part of me doesn't like being under the influence of a medication that prevents another part of me from functioning - even if that other part is depressive. Call me crazy, that's how I am.

In the meantime, I seem to have been experiencing withdrawal symptoms. How else to explain the dreams I've been having lately every time I fall asleep.

In each of these dreams, I encounter - and attract - a different high-powered woman of the theatre. In each dream, the woman is facing a dilemma and appeals to me for assistance. I manage to resolve her problem. In return, the high-powered woman of the theatre offers herself to me. (I won't begin to try to tell you what Angela Lansbury wanted me to do to her this morning.) I spend the rest of the dream trying to figure out how I'm going to accomplish this ultimate feat - or how I'm going to get myself out of having to do it.

I finally wake up, arms flailing, chest tight, sweaty, with a booming boner - and an irrational sense of my own incompetence.

I believe all this has to do with the stress I'm feeling about trying to mount (pardon my French) a production of Paul Rudnick's Valhalla within what is turning out to be less than three weeks of real rehearsal time.

Last year, when I first came back to directing, I managed to get six weeks of rehearsal for Take Me Out. It was the perfect length of time. I've asked for that amount of time with every subsequent production I've directed, and I've never gotten it again. I've always managed to present a good show, but this time ...

Three weeks is terrifying me.

Friday, October 12, 2007

We Interrupt Your Regularly-Scheduled Programming...

Gore and UN share Nobel peace prize.

About Last Night

There's a new little outfit in town called the New Orleans Playwrights' Alliance. It affords playwrights the opportunity to present their works in a staged-reading format before an audience that will critique the work in a constructive way. Last night was the first one, and it was at the Marigny Theatre. After it was over, I stayed behind with friends who had also attended. Around 10:30, I left to go home.

I started off by cutting through the parking lot behind the back of the old Schwegmann's Supermarket. Only the outer walls still exist. Surging mobs of people had broken into it and looted it of all its food and product two years ago. Surging winds and rains soon finished it off. But it still stands there on the corner of Saint Claude and Elysian Fields.

Once at Elysian Fields, I turned left and headed in the direction of the river. This is always the part of my walk home that frightens my local friends and never fails to cripple and terrify my two brothers. "You'll get your head blown off!" But nothing ever happens to me on this lonely avenue.

It's only a few blocks to the corner of Royal Street where I turned right and walk a single block alongside Washington Square Park and then a left onto Frenchmen Street.

Everybody thinks they know about Bourbon Street. But Frenchmen Street is where the local people go to hear music any night of the week and all night long.

The weather was just right, comfortable and dry, not steamy and thick with sticky damp. Their were breezes all around as people sauntered happily up and down the street.

As I walked down Frenchmen Street toward home, I heard a trumpet sliding around the melody of St. James Infirmary, and I stopped. I felt my self being carried on breezes backwards through time as my body, simultaneously, stood rooted in the myth that is New Orleans.

Although I wasn't born here, this is my home. There is no other place in the world like this place. Nowhere, no way, no how. I belong here. I'm alive here. We all are.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Today's Mood

No reason, really. Just wrong-side-of-the-bed stuff, I guess.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Why Americans Should Eat More Shit

Hey, I'm just telling you what you don't want to know:
Our struggle to purify food and water has been ongoing for thousands of years. Ask any expert to name mankind's greatest public-health advance, and the answer will be not vaccines, or antibiotics, or disposable diapers, or refrigeration, or mosquito netting. Though wondrous, each is dwarfed by the greatest invention of them all: plumbing. Why did the Romans successfully rule the world? The Cloaca Maxima, ancient Rome's elaborate sewer system, a structure so effective that Pliny the Elder considered it the "most noteworthy" accomplishment of the empire. And why does the West still run economic circles around the developing world? Because we don't ingest each other's excrement. At least not that often.

The triumph of Western civilization is, first and foremost, a triumph of pipes and valves and the fact that water runs downhill. Aqueducts bring fresh water in, cobblestoned underground tunnels move used water out, and, presto, our world is clean.

But here is the problem: We have become victims of our own success. Ever wonder why your dog can gobble, lick, and gnaw all he wants along the glorious buffet of a city street and (almost) never get sick? Your dog is used to eating shit. Americans, on the other hand, grow up eating almost no shit at all. Our food is hosed and boiled and rinsed and detoxified and frozen and salted and preserved. Recently, we have begun to irradiate it, too—just in case. As a result, when our bodies encounter the occasional inevitable bug, they're unhappy. Our centuries-long program of winnowing out all the muck has turned us into sissies and withered the substantial part of the immune system mediated by our intestinal tract.

So there.

Good First Rehearsal Last Night ...

... So why am I a grumbly bear this morning? I don't know. Yeah, I do.

Scheduling rehearsals is going to be a bitch. That's really a shame because this cast is wild. As a group, they're the kind of people I'd like to be around for an extended tryout period. They have so much to offer, and there's just not enough time to fully explore what they've got.

Damn that dick sow - I mean, "show".

Then this morning I get an email from the local theatre bulletin board that auditions for the Marigny Theatre's Christmas show are going to be held this coming Monday and Tuesday. No one told me ahead of time. On those two days, I'll be rehearsing Valhalla. I imagine I'm not being expected to direct this second show. Was it something I said? Am I out at the Marigny?

Sometimes a good imagination is not a good thing.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Selections for Cutter's

I think these are the photos I'll be donating to Cutter's charity art sale:



Busy Times Begin

Today's a freakin' holiday, and what am I doin'? Workin'.

Got a call late last week from Mack down at Cutter's bar. Every October, Cutter's presents an art show where all proceeds from sales go to charity. The little otter was wondering if I would like to donate a photograph or two. Of course, I would. He also wants to talk to me about presenting another photo chow during the coming year. Of course, I want to. Cutter's has been good for my "art". And Mack has been really good for my self-esteem, what with his affirmative - let's just call them ... "ministrations". So I'll be working on a couple of selections today before trying to get them over to Cutter's tomorrow around noon when the bar is closed and Mack is there alone.

Tonight, we have our first read-through rehearsal for Valhalla. I should be enduring panic attacks at the thought of mounting this play in the ridiculously small amount of time I have; but I'm pretty calm about the prospect. I have an excellent cast who should be able to carry this thing off. They're all pretty young, so they should be able to work fast. I want them off book by early next week. Of course, if we are going to open by November 1st, we will be working weekends and maybe some weekday afternoons as well.

Did I mention the cast? They include Cammie West, Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Weaver, Keith Launey, Liz Mills, and Shannon Williams. Anyone who knows these people knows they're up for this challenge.

If the show flops, it's their fault.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Bobby Loves Holidays, and Bobby Loves to Decorate





What can I say? What can I do?

Proper Envy

Yesterday was Li'l Pisser's last day at his regular job. He has resigned to pursue a dream. I can't express the breadth of my admiration for - and envy of - the kind of courage he has shown by breaking free of his bonds and taking a blind leap of faith. He has refused to buckle. He has trumpeted a defiant "NO!" to the soul-sucking corporate world and lustily shouted a mighty "YES!" to his destiny.

I sure hope he saved up enough money to carry him through to his graduation in December when he can finally land himself a gig working the graveyard shift in the ER at University Hospital.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

We Have Cast Valhalla, Part Deux

I just got this email from one of the people I asked to be in the show:
I read the play and I love it. I am in the unfortunate position of trying to juggle two jobs and I am studying for the LSATs that take place on Dec 1. I want to work with your company, but the only way I am going to be able to arrange it financially and responsibly is after Dec 1st. The role is wonderful and it would be my pleasure to perform it, I am just unable to make it work at present. Please keep me in mind for any projects that occur in the future. Best of luck with Valhalla, it is a great play.
Why'd you audition? Just wonderin'.

And can I have the script back now?

I'm certainly glad (and damned lucky) that the actor who was my first choice for the role before you came to read was still willing to accept the part.

Try a light musical next time. See you around. Take care.

Actors. Feh.

We Have Cast Valhalla

And our producer couldn't be happier. The actors who auditioned were out of this world. They had to really work to make the cut. The final cast is awesome. I have contacted those selected few to offer them roles. Now if they would only listen to their messages and call me back to accept, I could get some sleep.

Wake up, people. We open in less than a month.

Actors. Feh.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Another Half-Moon Photograph

Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I've got two nights of auditions for Valhalla under my belt and one more to go. I have to say some talented people have come out for this show, hence the title of this post. Now I have to start the process of winnowing the actors down to the best choices for the available roles. The cast calls for only two women and four men; and I've had three really good women and some choice men come in to audition. I hate turning down talented actors. It's depressing.

Plus, they never come back to audition for you ever again.

And - plus + - they spread nasty stories about you.

But, hey, ya gotta roll.

Now I have to worry about the rehearsal schedule. With New Orleans on a theatrical thrill ride, most actors are working two and three shows at a time. So the time available to work with them is scarce; and there's so little time to mount this play as it is.

But, hey, ya gotta ... well, you know the rest.

Let's all break a leg.
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