Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Good-Bye for Now

I'm putting Ought-Eight to bed. See you next year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kennedy Center Honors

We just got home from a lovely visit with Will and David and their little friends and turned on the TV (that's "Television" for you older folk).

The Kennedy Center Honors were on. That's a show we do nowadays in the United States to show the rest of the world that we care about the performing arts and shit like that - and where we honor those people in the arts that we can no longer ignore. It's a lovely event and a delightfully embarrassing one when, for instance, a president, like, say, George W. Bush has to honor a Mississippi Delta actor like Morgan Freeman, a crazy dancer woman like Twyla Tharp, and a flaming liberal Jewess like Barbra Streisand for their "contributions to the arts".

By the time we got home, I had missed everything except the Streisand part, which I chose to sit and watch, right then.

Suddenly, there, all of a sudden, there she was, on the television screen, sitting in an upper balcony, but also down there - onstage - onscreen, in various filmed excerpts of scenes she'd performed in and songs she'd sung. Interspersed with these images were close-ups of the current Ms. Streisand in that balcony of the Kennedy Center, in front her her husband, James Brolin, enduring her past incarnations through the ages.

It was a lovely hommage.

But not enough, it seems, for the powers that be had decreed that today's descendants should perform as supplicants and reveal the debt they owed to a supreme artist of song.

Tough shit.

First up was Idina Menzel, embarrassing herself trying to replicate Streisand's astonishing Don't Rain on My Parade. She wore a black gown too tight to allow her to move - unfortunate, since the song should require the singer to run, march, and strut - not strike poses and exhibit booty. Her voice revealed the influence of the honoree with none of the originality or the power or the truth or any immediacy of the now-ness.

The legendary(!) Beyonce followed with her rendition of The Way We Were, showing that a beautiful young woman fondling a microphone can stand tall in a simple gown and look ravishing while revealing nothing.

There were three other performers on hand hand to offer obeisance later on, but, through it all, the camera kept returning to that upper balcony where Ms. Streisand sat and watched, aged and wrinkled - steady- and beady-eyed - like an eagle, high atop a promontory, overlooking the scurrying menu choices below her.

I can't wait to watch the rest of what I TiVo'ed.

Twyla Tharp should be such a Bitch Divina.

Stocking Up

Today dawned bright and warm, so Bobby decided it was the perfect kind of day to brave the traffic and meander out to the far marshy reaches of Saint Bernard to visit Tag's, a meat market on Judge Perez Drive in Chalmette. Luckily for us, Tag's survived Katrina. At least, I think it did. If, in fact, it didn't, somebody sure rebuilt it to look exactly as it did before the hurricane.

Tag's is where Bobby likes to go on a semi-annual basis to stock up on cow, and today was the second and final day of this annual thing to go and get his cow. Well, his part of the cow, at least - the rib eye part.

Of course, nowadays down here, there is no longer such a thing as a pleasant jaunt to the outskirts of anywhere. No matter what route you take, that route will take you through rubble and areas of waste and desolation.

We drove up Saint Claude Avenue until the road became the Saint Bernard Highway. We finally turned off the highway where Peoples Bank had once stood, but was now a grassy lot, in order to get to Jones Drive.

Bobby had a wish, beyond reason and health, to see Jones Drive.

There at 77 Jones Drive was where Bobby's parents had lived for so many years - even through the flooding of Hurricane Betsy - first the two of them, then only Mrs. E. after Mr. E. had passed away.

What we saw there today was just a concrete slab and the remnants of a short, squat hurricane fence outlining what had once been the Engelhorn backyard ...

There was more to what unfolded throughout our day, but, as it stands right now, what I remember of the afternoon is Bobby's face as we drove back into town: worn, weary, eyes set deep into their sockets, mouth agape, exhausted, wondering why and how and who-can-comprehend-what-else ...

There's nothing more to say.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Another Nice Mention

Dalt Wonk at Gambit Weekly has published his year-end review of local theatre and had this to say about two of my productions:
Marigny Theatre presented a couple of notable plays about relationships at opposite extremes. ... Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story, a look at the men behind a notorious and not-so-perfect murder scheme. ... [and] Gertrude Stein and a Companion, drawing a portrait of the private lives of early modernism's most celebrated lesbian couple, Stein and Alice B. Toklas.
If you look for this blurb in the print edition, it's in the right-hand column towards the bottom - but it's there.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Purging the Toxins

Weighing the ups and downs of this past year, I find myself coming down hard on the downs. In spite of the highlights of the past twelve months, there seemed to be far more of the kinds of times that tried this old man's soul.
  • Bobby's health, which prompted five (or was it six?) stays in the hospital.
  • Bouts of depression.
  • Feelings of worthlessness in the face of overwork.
  • Toxic people insinuating themselves into my life.
I'm grateful for the good things this year has brought me, but, damn, the negatives have been overwhelming.

May 2009 be the upswing of the seesaw.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Nice Little Present

In the midst of his going on and on - and on, ad infinitum - about the glories of the big prestige theatres' overwhelmingly out-of-this-world, not-to-be-missed presentations, David Cuthbert of the Times-Picayune, found space to write:
... Thrill Me at the Marigny Theatre was an unexpectedly outstanding musical based on the Leopold and Loeb murder case. ...
and
... Deep bows to: ... Karen Shields and Lisa Davis in Gertrude Stein and a Companion at the Marigny. ...
Although I remain unmentioned, I helped.

What's that I've been saying lately? "Take 'em where you find 'em"?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas

For some reason, I'm thinking of the time when I was six or seven years old and my dad presented me with a Magnus Chord Organ. He gave me this organ to make me feel better because I was sick. I'm not so sure now that I was really sick. I might only have been pretending to be sick because I hated going to school. Too many people there - I never liked crowds.

But daddy would do anything to make me happy and to help me feel better. I, of course, was a little ungrateful prick of a brat, always wanting more, more, more. And he was always there, doing everything he could to try to content me and meet my demands.

How many fathers do you know who actually presented their offspring with the proverbial, oft-requested pony? Mine did, albeit a homicidal Shetland pony that did its best to inflict grievous bodily harm on me. Daddy could never have foreseen that, could he? Could he?

My parents were neither well-educated nor highly-placed in our little rural community, but daddy had managed to get his GED and a good job as a policeman. Their three sons did well in turn with their own lives.

I'm pretty sure we surpassed their dreams for us, for how can anyone's dreams encompass or comprehend the true features of the future? But dream for us and hold out hopes they certainly did with a fierceness like tigers.

Is that love and hope, I wonder, or just Darwin? Does it matter if it be only instinct or some gene, secreted away in our DNA, so long as we can give it metaphor and meaning? Probably not.

I believe it's in the the nature of generations to dream dreams and hope for better things, to pass on lessons we have learned as guideposts to those who follow.

I have no offspring, but there are people who have entered my life and who look up to me for reasons I cannot wholly comprehend, and I know I must treat them with care. I find myself dreaming dreams for them, wishing them happiness and contentment like I have never known, and hoping they accomplish things in their lives the likes of which I cannot imagine. Yet all I can offer are the meager lessons I have learned and pray they serve some purpose.

And so it passes on, and on.

And I accept my place as my father's son.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pssst ...

You ... yeah, you, c'mere ... check it out ... come on, you know you wanna ... yeah, you do ... go on.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Vittoriosa, Salve! *

Or, "Do You Mean to Tell Me Every Time I Blow Another Dude's Wood, a Tree Falls in the Forest?"

Dear Il Papa, courting irrelevancy to both the present and the future, is making news again, oh boy.
Pope Benedict XVI has said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behavior is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

He explained that defending God's creation is not limited to saving the environment, but also protecting man from self-destruction.

The pope was delivering his end-of-year address to senior Vatican staff.

His words, later released to the media, emphasized his total rejection of gender theory.
Hm, sounds like the beginnings of a blue print for a final solution.

Later, in an attempt to prove he could still "git down", the pope criticized "the tendency to depict the Catholic Church's World Youth Day, which he attended in Sydney earlier this year, as mere spectacle".
He stressed that the event should not be considered a "variant of modern youth culture, as a kind of ecclesiastical rock festival with the Pope as the star," but as the fruition of a "long exterior and interior path".
No doubt he got all misty-eyed, remembering those long-ago rallies of his own youth.

Meanwhile, on the local front, a little gossip ...

You ready? Okay.

What diminutive Prince of the Church was recently overheard asking a certain (ecclesiastically-acceptable homosexual) member of the musicians' union if he would talk to a (certain) well-known local songstress/diva/star about covering up her massive rack of bazooms for the annual Caroling in the Square? Seems said (well-known) boobies were becoming too much of an attraction - I mean, a distraction - to the menfolk, keeping them from a proper edification of the cabbage-patch birth of baby Jesus, who, being the Son of God, certainly had no need of Mary's immaculate breasts.

I wonder, did Jewish ladies have pumps back then?

Oh, well, I guess there really are two classes of people in the world. Those who can have their cake and eat it, too, and the rest of us who can't.

Good night for now.

* Oops, I almost forgot ... That title up there, "Vittoriosa, Salve!" Sounds pretty, no? It's Italian for "Sieg Heil".

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Knuckleheadedness

The New York Times is running a - what? survey? poll? - whatever - inspired by a book called Knucklehead. They are asking their readers to contribute stories of their own childhood misadventures, felonies, and misdemeanors for the edification of their readers, knowing full well that people will gladly reveal their deepest secrets to the wide world, as long as they can do it from under cover of the Grey Lady's dress.

Since I would never do something so public, rash, and, well, knuckleheaded today, I've decided to share some of my own idiocies here where far fewer people will find them. So without further ado, may I present a sampling of the kind of foolish things I did while growing up which pretty much make my presence on the planet today a miracle of sorts.
  • As a beginning toddler, I am told I toddled over to an electric socket and plugged a metal fork into it. Shortly after all the lights and appliances went out, I toddled over to my mother and spoke two of my first words, "Hand gone."
  • Some time not too much later, my mother and my older brother Jimmy found me in the bathroom on a chair I had pulled up to the medicine cabinet where I had proceeded to gleefully stuff my mouth with loose razor blades. As my mom ran screaming from the room, Jimmy had to carefully remove the metal slivers from my gummy orifice.
  • Against all odds, I made it to the age of five when I was privileged to be among the millions of other children to see the first television presentation of Mary Martin's Peter Pan. So convincing to me was this feat of Broadway magic that the next morning found me on the roof of our house, my head filled with happy thoughts, as I leapt into space. Alas, not having had on hand the required fairy dust, I "flew" straight into the sod. Nevertheless, I lay there, convinced I had, in fact, flown, even if I could not, just then, stand.
There were other knuckleheaded things still left for me to accomplish as I wended my way to adulthood ...

I remember the trapeze I strung up in the old pecan tree out back, off of which I continuously plummeted, learning the meaning of the phrase "to knock the wind out of".

And I won't even mention the fires I used to start in the chicken coop.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Maddow Manages to Point Out the Obvious


"Meh"

My life right now is meh. That's supposedly a spanking-new word only recently entering the lexicon, although it sounds awfully similar to an expression I used to hear dripping from the lips of the Cajuns of my youth, accompanied by an indifferent shrug.

But - meh, that's how I feel.

The Christmas season is trudging along joylessly down here where there seems to be an attitude of "Why bother?". Nobody is spending money, the mayor - more full of himself than usual - is feuding with the City Council, the cops are still thugs in need of the Guard to do their work while they take their scheduled breaks, the national economy doesn't seem to exist anymore, and Bobby's laid up again in Touro Hospital.

I know, "second verse, same as the first". He's going through another bout of dehydration and getting another round of fluid infusion. At least, this time, his cardiologist decided he needed a new primary care physician since the original one was proving to be unreachable, unapproachable and, thus, unaccountable.

We like the new guy he found us, an Italian who kind of lopes like an ape [not being derogatory here - remember, I'm half-Sicilian and kind of apelike, too], but who asks questions and then listens to Bobby's rambling responses. He explained to us last night that Bobby is responding well to the fluids, but this is causing a decrease in his blood count, so did we have any objections to a possible blood transfusion? Bobby's had a transfusion before, but we never knew he could object. I guess it's nice to know.

(One question about doctors, though: why do they dismiss my observation that these incidences seem to recur whenever Bobby treats himself to a hearty meal of boiled shrimp, crabs, or crawfish? Just asking.)

Probably, the hardest part of this is that it's happening at a time when I have nothing else to do to divert my attention. That means, when I'm not at the hospital, worrying about the outcome, I'm sitting alone here in the apartment, worrying even more since I can't look at Bobby lying in his hospital bed looking better and better and clearly recovering.

At least, when I woke up this morning around 3:30, the neighbors were asleep so I was able to walk out in the courtyard - nekkid.

Hey, you take your perks where you can find 'em.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Pardon My Absence

Sorry to have been away for so long. But with all the shows that I've been working on having now been put to bed, I've been resting this week and looking after Bob. What am I saying? What rest is there in looking after Bob?

Hell, I've been really busy.

I would like to take a moment, though, to share an email I received just a couple of days ago from Stephen Dolginoff.

Stephen is the writer, composer, lyricist of Thrill Me: The Story of Leopold and Loeb, which we presented at the Marigny Theatre this past September, in between hurricane evacuations.

Stephen had long requested an archival video of the show, and I was finally able to send him one early this month.

He very kindly wrote back:
Hi Glenn and Donnie,

I wanted to let you both know I have watched the video of your production of THRILL ME and I thought it was excellent.

It is amazing what you were able to create in such a small space.

Some of the things I always brace myself for, such as the music being played too fast, were wonderfully not there!!!!! I would say the tempos were spot on perfect!

The actors created very clear and distinct characters (you would be surprised what I have seen in the past! LOL!) and I think they both did a great job and had nice chemistry.

There have been small and large productions of THRILL ME over the past five years, and as far as the smaller "black-box" versions go, I would say yours ranks as one of the VERY BEST.

As a writer, it was gratifying to see my intentions clearly up there on your stage (again, you would be SHOCKED at some of the versions I have seen that were less than one would like them to be!)

Thank you again for your belief in THRILL ME - my, god - even through a HURRICANE!

I hope the theatre gods bring us all together again someday.

Best regards,
Stephen
Now, isn't that nice? Hyperbolic, perhaps, but I'll take it. And be grateful, too.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bastard

He would be good at something ... dodging, that is.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Streetlamps in the Snow


Snow on Decatur Street



The Blizzard of Ought-Eight

Even though there was a blizzard raging outdoors, I still had to get Bobby uptown for his regular doctor's appointment. Here we are traveling up Royal Street about to cross Canal Street.

At Washington Square Park on Saint Charles Avenue, I pulled over to catch this shot of the statue dedicated to John McDonaugh.

Soon we passed Lee Circle on our way to Touro Medical Center.

I'll have more pictures going up as the day progresses. Keep checking back.

Dude! Wake Up! It's Snowing Outside!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Passing Youth

Forrest J. Ackerman passed away peacefully this weekend at the age of 92 (good for you, pops). That's him a little off center in the collage above.

When I was a kid back in my old hometown, before I could be considered legal or anything, there were only two places where I could explore who and what I was becoming. You see, I didn't quite fit in back in my hometown. There's a photograph of me floating around somewhere - wearing a baseball uniform that my big brother Jimmy had bought for me - bawling like some pre-k Medea because what I really wanted to be wearing was a white tee-shirt, black tights, and a pair of pristine, white Capezio's. But, of course, my family would have none of that back then.

But, oh, the public library became a wonder-filled world for me when I discovered its existence. Here I could find the portals that I longed for and needed. By eight, I had a passable knowledge of theatre history and the touchstone stars who marked the miles on that road. By eleven, I could have discoursed on Ulanova, Plisetskaya, Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, even though I could not have pronounced their names. Running alongside these threads was my exploration of the visual arts and music. How many kids that age do you know who are aquainted with Leonardo, Michelangelo, Titian, or Velazquez?

No, I did not belong in a football-playing farming village, but I did have the sense to keep quiet about it.

The other place that opened my soul was Toler's Newsstand up on Main Street. Toler's became the goal of my weekly Saturday trek to splurge my allowance. Before I was big enought to sneak out of the store past Miss Joyce at the checkout counter with copies of Demi-Gods or Golden Boys stuffed down the front of my pants, I would spend what change I had on Superman and Batman, Mad, and my most amazing and enduring discovery, Famous Monsters of Filmland.

I would entually discard my old comics, but I hoarded my FMF's. At least, I hoarded them until that early morning when I woke from a nightmare and glanced at a particular issue's gruesome cover art and took the entire collection out into my back yard and burned them all.

I know what you're thinking. Fucktard. I have researched their current value, and I am a major fucktard. But that nightmare and that cover scared the shit out of me that morning, and there was no holding me back. Like everyone, I have made some poor decisions in my life. Like everyone, I live with them.

But I have the memories of their pleasures and the strange knowledge they imparted to me, and I will always be grateful.

Rest in pieces, Mr. Ackerman.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Another Picture from Wednesday Night

This is Cammie West in Christmas with the Crawfords, the holiday offering at the Marigny Theatre. Isn't she lovely? She's playing Judy Garland. Whereas I once thought Cammie could not take a bad picture, I now believe she will not take a bad one. Damn her!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Who Am I?

This morning, in my news feeder, I stumbled across an article from the New York Times. I can't recall now what it was that intrigued me enough to click my mouse and read it, but when I did, it left an impression with me that is not altogether comfortable.
On Tuesday evening at 5:05, Henry Gustav Molaison — known worldwide only as H. M., to protect his privacy — died of respiratory failure at a nursing home in Windsor Locks, Conn. His death was confirmed by Suzanne Corkin, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who had worked closely with him for decades. Henry Molaison was 82.
Not much there, but why is someone from M I T confirming this man's passing? Here's why:
He knew his name. That much he could remember.

He knew that his father’s family came from Thibodaux, La., and his mother was from Ireland, and he knew about the 1929 stock market crash and World War II and life in the 1940s.

But he could remember almost nothing after that.

In 1953, he underwent an experimental brain operation in Hartford to correct a seizure disorder, only to emerge from it fundamentally and irreparably changed. He developed a syndrome neurologists call profound amnesia. He had lost the ability to form new memories.

For the next 55 years, each time he met a friend, each time he ate a meal, each time he walked in the woods, it was as if for the first time. And for those five decades, he was recognized as the most important patient in the history of brain science. As a participant in hundreds of studies, he helped scientists understand the biology of learning, memory and physical dexterity, as well as the fragile nature of human identity.
Talk about losing your psychic balance. And I'm talking about myself here, not Mr. Molaison. I cannot conceive of a life with no memory or memories.

On my good days, those days when I'm feeling in possession of all my faculties and experiencing a sense of my own self-worth, I take pride in my ability to empathize with others. I can imaginatively insinuate myself into another's experience and participate in his - and even, to some degree, her - reality.

When I am producing what I call my work - my craft - I like to think I willingly submit myself to a state of emptiness, a tabula rasa upon which some vague muse of inspiration can inscribe the thoughts and notions I will take and shape into a new and finished ... thing.

But I also know all this is nothing but metaphor. I know that I am really, if only, like a slab of marble being gashed by some sculptor's chisel, the sum of all my memories, my present state of being, and my future hopes and fears. Just as I know I do not have the means to begin to conceive of a construct of God because the very concept of God is beyond my rational comprehension, so I also know I can never consciously erase the contents of that tablet upon which my life is being written.

I am struck by the fragility of identity, and I am terrified.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What I Did Last Night

The picture! I took the picture.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

And Now, a Little Social Justice

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Jesus looks awfully familiar. Could it be ... ?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Odetta, 12/31/1930 - 12/02/2008


Speaking of Kabuki

My Canadian cyber-buddy, Kyklops, from the Land of the Rising Sun, just wrote me this:
So you'll be able to direct and choreograph (in Japanese) that kabuki production (here in Miyazaki) we talked about. You know, the one where the guy runs himself through because he can't live up to his obligations...
It reminded me of a play I did a couple of generations ago when I still acted. It was a little one-acter about an American who travels to Japan and has tea with a Japanese gentleman who proceeds to tell him, naturally, some Japanese stories.

We did this little show at the New Orleans Museum of Art in honor, I believe, of some kind of traveling Japanese art show. I had the good fortune of playing the Japanese gentleman which meant, naturally, I had all the lines - or nearly all of them. Luckily, this was also during the time when I still had my memory.

Therefore, armed with the recollection of having watched so many American film actors who had portrayed Japanese, Okinawan, or Korean characters; buttressed by my recent viewing of Shogun on television; and fortified with the makeup tips found in the Richard Corson book, I set out to conquer the masses. And, if memory [sic] serves me, conquer them I did.

One event stands out from that experience, though.

Since the museum did not have an entirely suitable backstage area, I had to apply my makeup in the public men's room. Of course, this was not a problem in New Orleans, since public men's rooms are often the sites where men apply their makeup or, at least, dab on their touch-ups.

However, one afternoon before a performance, while I was diligently pasting to my face the little cut-out eyelids I had made from surgical tape, who should scamper into my sanctum but a jalopy load of little Japanese tourist-men. Being new to the city, they were slightly startled at seeing another man preparing to powder his face, but I put them at ease by bowing in the mirror and greeting them with, "Surabaya-san."

That's Japanese for, "Good afternoon, my little friends. Welcome to the land up over."

They smiled and bowed in turn then made their way to the nearby urinals to stand on tiptoe and relieve themselves (just like us - ah, the American Dream!), all the while, glancing surreptitiously - but politely - in my direction to take in my technique.

After washing their myriad little hands, they bowed good bye and made their way out of the room, complimenting me in Japanese. I could tell that they were complimenting me because in the midst of their giggles, I could plainly hear them murmur admiringly, "Miki Luni", which is Japanese for, "That is really some outstanding grease-paint job that dude's applying, i'n't it, bra?"

So, yeah, K! Send me that plane ticket, buddy. I am ready now to tackle me some Ka-bu-ke!

The Weirdest Thing Happened to Me Last Night

I got sick.

Not doubled-over, feverish, puking-across-the-living-room sick. Just wiped-out sick. So sick I couldn't bring myself to go to the Marigny Theatre's rehearsal for the next show opening there.

What's that you say? What the fuck am I doing closing a show one day, then rehearsing another one the next? Can't help it. I'm weak. A wuss. Somebody caught me in one of my "moments" and asked if I'd run lights and sound for his show, and I said, "Yes." But then I couldn't. So I didn't.

I realize now that I'd almost forgotten the guilty pleasure of calling in sick to work. It's so bittersweet and so worthwhile, one of the great perks of the working class. It's positively rejuvenating, especially when utilized sparingly. When I was one of those people who had to make a living, I was a member of that bunch who rarely opted for playing hooky. I was superstitious about it. What would happen if I really got sick, you know what I mean? So I usually saved it up for those days of cold or flu or hangover.

But last night I was drained - today, much better. In fact, I'm feeling downright frisky and feisty. Watch out.
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