Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Vagina Dialogues

Gertrude Stein officially opened last night, and there were many, so many, a multitude of sisters of Sappho present that it seemed more like a ladies' soccer game than a simple chamber play. A few members of the male persuasion were there for the curtain, but they crept away during intermission, never to return. A legion of lesbians in one enclosed space can be a formidable force.

But they loved the show. They participated in it. For one thing, they enthusiastically encouraged Gertrude to dump her brother Leo and take up with simple Alice. And when the ladies spoke of riding a train, some in the audience provided train-whistle sound effects. But it was whenever Gertrude spoke of her "dear pussy" that I thought the ceiling tiles would crash down on us all.

I loved them. They relished the story with its humor and heartbreak. And none of them came at me afterwards for my lighting glitches.

So it seems the play works.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Don't Think of It as an Unmitigated Disaster ...

... Think of it as an opportunity.

Gertrude Stein faced an audience last night, and the ladies did themselves proud.

The unmitigated disaster I'm talking about hadn't to do with them, but rather with the clown who ran the lights. He screwed up at least four cues, actually leaving the ladies in the dark for a few excruciating moments a couple of times. Everyone in the theatre could hear him hissing for help whenever a mishap occurred. If it were up to me, I'd never work with the fool again.

Dumb bastard.


But it wasn't my fault, okay. The light board in that theatre is too puny for the hands of a fully-grown man. And there are too many buttons that are all too easy to press by accident. And the sound equipment is too far away to be able to do both sound and lights simultaneously. And the floor creaks.

So it wasn't my fault.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Women

Back cleavage.

Kyklops has already come through. So have Dave and Bud. But ... um ... guys ... when I said "women", I meant ... oh, never mind.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Don't look for me much today. Far too busy.

Oh, not the special preview tonight of Gertrude Stein. Not the fact that I have to print, collate, and staple together a few hundred programs for the show. Nor the fact that I will have to be on the lookout for the maintenance men, to let them in to fix the cold-water faucet in the bathtub while, at the same time, watching out for the FedEx man who won't be able to ring our doorbell because it's purely decorative, never having worked since a few days after its initial installation sometime pre-Katrina.

No, not for all that.

I will be largely unavailable because I will be waiting on Bobby on bended knee, cajoling, stroking, catering to him, fetching him any and everything he has a whim to have.

It's his birthday.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

As Promised

A preview of the set.

One More Day

This morning, I plan to laze and graze. This afternoon, I want to slip into the theatre to take some shots of the set for Gertrude Stein. There are moments in the play when it's simplicity is beautiful. And then tonight, back to the theatre where we run the final dress rehearsal before ...

We present a preview tomorrow evening for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

The ladies are where they need to be, even though they may be frightened. That's my fault. I try not to overdirect. I want them to be able to respond to their audiences in a fresh way each time they perform.

This isn't a movie or a Broadway musical, after all.

But it means they have questions and doubts about themselves and their work, and it doesn't help when I say something like "It's reading fine from the house" or "I don't have a problem with your doing that".

Why am I unable to assuage them? Is it because I'm just not quick on my feet, not verbal? I'm neither of those things, it's true, but am I neglectful?

I'm certainly experiencing some doubts after the low turnout for Calme au Blanc, the shameful production of Tuesdays with Morrie, in which I tried to recuse myself as director, and my resignation from, and the subsequent cancellation of, Regrets Only.

I'm thinking I might be working the wrong gig and should be concentrating on some solid journeyman work as a headshot photographer.

This isn't like me.

Happy Birthday, Bubba!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Proud to Crawl Home

The Louisiana Legislature - nouveau riche all - have declared the Sazerac the official cocktail of New Orleans! It's a law, y'all.

I'll drink to that.

Now riddle me this: how many New Orleans high school seniors can spell the name of that cocktail?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

An Old Dog and Some New Tricks

All right, so now I'm getting nervous. Gertrude Stein plays before an audience in four days, a preview this Thursday for the Cancer Fund. And what's got me skittish?

Alice B. Toklas doesn't have any shoes, and neither she nor Gertrude have luggage to take with them to America nor paintings to hang in the famous salon.

And it appears that I, I am to run the lights and sound.

This is not a good thing. I will have to confront a computerized light board and push the buttons that will trigger the glow upon the stage. And I am not efficient nor sufficient to operate such a thing. I know this. I know it from my past. But there is no one else.

Today we hung the lights. But we cannot program the light cues until tomorrow. Why? Because the man who has the knowledge to do this is away. Away.

It is his perfect right to be away, but in his absence we must suffer.

Tomorrow morning - not tonight - tonight, I have to rest, my mind is teeming so - I will have to comb the scrip to find and set the proper moments for the lights to change. This should not be my responsibility, this writing down of cues. On every show I do it seems I must learn one new lesson, and the lesson Gertrude Stein is teaching me is this: A stage manager is a needed thing, a needed thing necessary to be present to record my thoughts, my blocking, and the public things I say to my actors about what they are doing and how they are doing these things they are doing. I cannot do these things myself if I am to watch and listen and imagine.

Oh, well. Shit. Get some sleep. Tomorrow, get cracking.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Shameless Self-Promotion

Lisa and Karen in Gertrude Stein and a Companion.

Next Week's Photo Challenge

Since I've been working for the past month on a two-character play involving only two women, I've found myself paying more and closer attention to these strange, exotic creatures.

I've decided that the theme for next week's photo challenge will be an hommage to them: Women.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Have I Mentioned This Wig I Had to Buy?

Me, I can't get over the resemblance. Or the way it wafts us back in time to the period of the play.

Aw, Man!

They put this in the paper?! Then they put it on the news??!!

I just puked my Cheerios.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Poison

Boy, I sure let this one get away from me.

My first thought was, Wow, I know just what I want to do. I want to post a picture of these two people I know. Truly poisonous people they are, you know? But then I thought, Do I really want to do that? And I thought, Yeah. What else could they do to me and some people I care about that they haven't already done?

It could be kind of dangerous, though. Get me on their wrong side again. Goad them into some new unspeakable action.

Okay, maybe I could draw one of those little black rectangles over their eyes so nobody would know who they were. But you know what? If you know who they are to begin with, you're going to know who they are with their eyes bandaided over. And I'm not here to make any enemies. I'm not the kind of person who's into doing the ugly on anybody. Well, not so's you'd know it was me doing the ugly.

Besides, everybody I know knows who they are anyway, so plastering their pictures - even with the bandaids - would have been obvious and redundant.

So then I figured, Okay, I know. I'll post a picture of a tomato. They're not getting good press lately, and, besides, how're you going to offend a tomato? The only problem is, since Katrina, we still have a shortage of supermarkets here, and I didn't have a tomato handy. And if I could have gotten my hands on a tomato, it would have been a local Louisiana tomato, and they don't have that salmonella shit coursing through their veins. That's what the CDC is telling us, anyway.

And have I mentioned how busy I've been this week?

To make a long story short, I don't have a picture to go with this week's theme.


Dave does, though. He would. So does Kyklops who took the easy way out.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Okay, About that Wig

Dear Dave,

Since you asked - and considering you're one of the few and only people I would trust with something so personal - I will tell you.

This all has to do with the Gertrude Stein play and Lisa.

As you know, since Lisa has very long and really red hair, which she will neither cut nor color for any price or any man, we decided she should wear a wig for her role as Alice B. Toklas. Unfortunately, she has a job (!) that would prevent her from getting to a wig shop on any day before Saturday this week. And Donnie Jay really wanted to shoot dome publicity pictures last night for the Times Picayune. So, being the kind of wishy-washy doormat type that I am, I decided I would go ahead and get her one - a wig, that is.

Now, I've never owned, purchased, or worn a wig. I know nothing about them. I simply assumed that when I walked up the steps and through the door into Fifi Mahoney's, the sales clerk would, in her own turn, assume I was purchasing the item for myself.

That would not do. You know I've never worn a wig. My own coif is quite sufficient. Besides, in a wig I would look like a hairy-headed Kate Smith instead of a Keira Knightley or, at the least, a Carmen Electra.

I just figured I would have to stand up and fight, demanding that said clerk should defer to my wishes and give me a classy little pageboy bob that fit Lisa's tiny head and not come at me with a tape measure.

Well, the visit turned out to be painless. I found an appropriate wig at an appropriate price within an appropriate duration. And I have to confess it makes Lisa look really hot. You know, put a woman you've known into a wig and suddenly there's that frisson of just enough difference to skew the relationship towards new and unexpected realms ...

What am I saying? Never mind.

Anyway, that's the story. I trust you'll keep it close to your chest. I wouldn't want people to know how silly and foolish - not to mention, downright dumb - I can be sometimes. Thanks.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

First Shots of Gertrude Stein

I Hate Being Busy

I should be living out my days like an old lion, dozing in the shade.

But no.

I have to run to the post office, then buy a wig (don't ask) when I've never bought a wig - so I don't know how I'm going to do that, work on the program for Gertrude Stein and a Companion, pick up medicines for Bobby, and God knows what else. I can't remember all this shit.

Update, 4:37 PM:

I made it to the post office. No small feat since the one I went to was this little boutiquey one newly nestled above a tiny bank in a building on North Peters Street. I'll use this one again cause there was nobody in line - since there was nobody there.

I managed to con the people at the drugstore into selling me Bobby's medicines since he's too lazy to get them for himself.

I even got the wig. It's beautiful. (Please don't ask.)

Finally, I managed a nap.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Okay, Now They're Getting Pushy

So I'm on my way home from a rehearsal - a Big-Easy-Award-Nominated-Director - (okay, not a winner, but still - I got a nomination, all right?) and some flunky rent-a-cop stops me and tells me I can't walk home down the street where I live ... ?

'Scuse me?

I get all Gielgud in my voice and all and I start to tell him where to get off.

Suddenly, there are hands grabbing my arms from behind. Pieces of iron being squeezed over my wrists. My shoulders being pulled up and out and out of their sockets. My body being thrown down onto the top of the concrete sidewalks. Strangers stepping over me and laughing.

This is a direct-to-DVD-movie, right?

The walls in here are an ugly, dingy, smoke-stained yellow. The fluorescent lights never go off. There are people near me telling stories that are really scary, like a killing here or there across the country.

Anybody know a good lawyer?

One with connections?

In the movie industry, maybe?

Carmen Electra is really sweet, you know, ... and lovely ...

Cyd Chrisse ... Gone

Tula Ellice Finklea
March 8, 1922 - June 17, 2008

Cyd Charisse has died today. They say she was five feet, six inches tall. Hell, she was six feet, twelve!

Monday, June 16, 2008

If Life Is Not a Cabaret ...

... It can always be a movie set.

See, there's this movie company in town working on a Carmen Electra vehicle. In this movie, Miz Electra watches a Mardi Gras parade from an ornate second-story balcony, which you can see in the first photo.

By the way, that lovely Spanish ironwork is painted plywood, topped with tin.

The ground floor is actually my lawyer/landlord's office, and beyond that, Miz Kim's grocery and deli. Only in New Orleans.

The second photo shows a carpenter - or best boy or something - hard at work.

Tonight is supposed to be the first night of filming here. We'll see how close they come to approximating an actual Mardi Gras, which, I have to say, does not occur in this little corner of my world.

Thank God.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Why Be Surprised?

A friend tells me had cause to phone our city's traffic court today.

It seems that when you do this, a recording responds to your call and tells you to leave a message. This voice of authority then mentions that if no one responds to your message within two days, write a letter.

When I was working for the state, if I didn't answer my phone, the caller would likely telephone the Office of the Governor.

A representative of the governor's office would then telephone the Secretary of Labor who would jump all over one of the Assistant Secretaries of Labor who, in turn, would track me down and want to know who the fuck I thought I was not to be answering my phone.

Our city government answers to no one. It listens to no one. It speaks only to itself. It is a monolith sitting on a barren plain.

Wait. I'm hearing that music again ...

Weekly Photo Challenge: Tawdry

While Lower Decatur Street is being transformed into a newly-painted and pristine Mardi Gras movie set, one little doorway refuses to surrender its grasp on NOLA™ tastelessness.

The li'l bastard beat me to it.

However, Kyklops has put the T and A in Tawdry.

Bud's up and awake now. And Bryan has submitted a gruesome example, definitely NSFW.

It seems the day is still young. NOLA Cleophatra shares some pics of a Florida parade and wonders if they might not be more gaudy than tawdry. It's a parade, dear. It's Florida. "Christmas over the Rainbow"? It's tawdry, it's tawdry.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

An Audition Notice

This is a public service announcement.
Reply to:
Date: 2008-06-12, 5:54PM CDT

Cripple Creek Theatre Company is seeking actors of all ages to participate in its production of Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People. The show runs from July 24 to August 16 with performances Thurs-Sun at 8pm. The auditions will take place on June 21 and 22 from 3-7 pm. They will be held at the Convergence Center for the Arts located at 2134 Magazine St. Sides will be available at the audition. To schedule an audition please reply to this email with the date and time that you would like to be seen.
This has been a public service announcement.

Door on Esplanade Avenue

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pride of Barbados

Window Shutter Hinge

The Mouth Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Yesterday afternoon, Southern Rep held a marathon open audition and invited a group of local theatre companies to attend. It began at four and went into the night. I remember leaving around 8:45 AL (After Liz - she was the last person to audition). By then, most of the other company representatives had long ago left.

I'm not trying to sound noble by saying I stayed the course. I mean, what else do I have to do? But I did want to show some respect to all those people - all. those. people. - who were laying it on the line.

I'll probably change in time.

We people who make up the theatre community here are always saying New Orleans is bursting at the seams - like a post-Katrina dumpster - with talented performers. We people who make up the theatre community here are also always saying we have to educate our dwindling audiences to appreciate the glories of live theatre as opposed to television and movies and local productions of Cabaret.

After yesterday, I'm afraid I'd have to say, "Define what you mean by 'talented'." And, perhaps, I'd have to timidly suggest that we all need to consider that maybe we need to be educated by our dwindling audiences. There is raw talent, for sure, but most of it - maybe 95% of what I saw yesterday - is not buttressed by any technique. I don't mean to sound like some old theatre fart, always going on about the past and the grand, dead days of "The Actor's Art". And I certainly don't wish to banish myself from a community I love, but maybe, just maybe, we're losing our audiences because they cannot figure out what our actors are saying or doing in all those three-quarter-empty houses we call home.

I mean, there we were, sitting in a small Equity theatre, a major venue in the city, and I found myself unable to hear what many of the actors were saying. When I could hear them, their words were often unintelligible.

If any of them have seriously studied acting at all - and lots of actors never do - they've studied the esoterica, how to feel and things like that. I'd bet you a C-note they've never studied physical technique in any meaningful way. Very few of the actors we saw yesterday knew how to stand still without projecting a sense that their arms and hands were heavy elephant trunks they hadn't learned to manipulate yet. And certainly no one had taught them the mechanics of speech.

In the theatre, words are projected by breath support from the diaphragm. These words are formed by use of the mouth, specifically, the tongue, teeth, and lips. And when you are clearly enunciating the words, projection is no longer a matter of speaking loudly or shouting. A whisper can carry as far as to the back of the house, no matter how large.

All of this takes time. And practice. Time was that was how you got to Carnegie Hall. Practice, practice, practice. But what doesn't take practice? Doing it in the back seat of your dad's car at fifteen or sixteen doesn't make you an expert lover, does it? Wouldn't you agree you have to do it over and over again? Same with this.

Please don't think I'm denigrating any of the actors I saw. I plan on adding many of them to my mailing lists for casting calls of my own. I sincerely hope I get to work with them. But I know a chunk of our rehearsal time will be devoted to an education process I don't particularly relish. But, hey, that's how it goes.

If they can only incorporate a little of that, they will be all the better for it.

But then again maybe I'm just blowing hot air, and my time has passed, another forgotten old Gus.

Leaded, Stained-Glass Tchotchkes

Friday, June 6, 2008

Weekly Photo Challenge: Anything Goes

Medical Center Corridor

Sorry I'm late. Dave, Kyklops, Bud, and Bryan are way up since this morning.

Next week's challenge: Tawdry.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

New Plumeria

This Week's Photo Challenge

Dave liked last week's freestyle opportunity, so that is what we're doing again this week. No one, nothing is safe. The sky's the limit. Anything goes.

Dappled Clouds

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Monday, June 2, 2008

Playing Well Together

We took Gertrude Stein, propped her up on her feet yesterday, and started the blocking process. This is always a frightening moment for me.

"Frightening moment." That's rich. Every rehearsal is filled with frightening moments, especially for somebody like me. You see, I'm crazy about actors. I love them. And when they're good actors, I become recessive, and I take my cues from them. I don't slap a concept onto them. I don't block on paper. I let the actors show me. I let the production reveal itself to me as it progresses. This is scary.

It's like letting your life unfold. And that is some scary shit.

Here's what happened yesterday.

The play begins with the ghost of Gertrude Stein sitting alone in her famous salon at 27 Rue de Fleurus. Soon, Alice B. Toklas enters and begns to tell the audience that Gertrude had died this day. Gertrude picks up the theme and begins to sketch their life together.

I begin to notice Lisa listening to Karen. Watching Lisa listen is one of the supreme joys of the New Orleans theatre experience. The first time I ever saw her, the first thing I ever noticed was her listening, and it was the first compliment I ever paid to her when I first introduced myself to her, that she listened in a way I'd rarely seen anyone on our stages listen. She made me think of what Duse must have been like.

This only caused Lisa to give me one of her patented panic looks before skittering away from me to seek safety in the numbers of her friends from the crazy, grizzled old dude who was probably going to start stalking her.

But, anyway, yesterday, I'm watching Lisa listen, and a thought occurs to me. It seems that this is what it's like when someone loses a partner of many years - a husband, a wife, a partner. One returns to an empty home, a home once lit by the presence of the other, but now dark and vacant. What else is there to do but to conjure up the missing one to fill the void, to summon back and repossess the dead, so one might never be alone, not really alone, not ever again alone?

And there was the play for me, or rather there was my doorway into the world of this little chamber work.

Other insights I've received while watching these two women:
  • There are three characters in this two-person play, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Gertrude/Alice, who is the actual protagonist.
  • Gertrude Stein was probably a shameless flirt for her time and very feminine beneath her Caesar/Buddha appearance. Certainly, she was not without doubts and fears and insecurities, psychic tears which Alice spent their lifetime stitching back together.
  • Alice, like oh so many recessive, background partners was the dominant one, the driving force propelling the other one on to her accomplishments.
I think this production will be sweet. We'll be panned, for sure, by one, at least. But that's his problem, not mine.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Yves Saint Laurent Dead

The publicity couldn't be better for Sex and the City!
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