Theatrical Me

It’s no surprise I have flirted with the theatre since I was young enough to come up with my own stories. I used to corral my sisters and cousins into putting on plays in the basement of our grandparents’ house. We charged 5¢ per person per performance, and spent the money on penny candy. Sugar rush!

I was too shy and backward to audition for the two plays that were put on in my elementary school, and while my high school had a drama department, they only offered classes; there were no extra-curricular plays or anything. My only real contact with theatre outside that basement was as a spectator, until I volunteered with Fringe. Then, my only involvement was in the front of house. Front of House is a very different animal than Production. Their job is to look after the audience, collect ticket money and clean the auditorium. It’s not dissimilar to the divide between a server and a line cook.

However, it never occurred to me to attach myself to the community theatre in London. Most of the people I met from that organisation through the Fringe didn’t talk about it widely. Despite being very successful, they were almost a secret. I just figured they didn’t want new blood.

It took me three years to decide to get involved with the community theatre here in the Atom Mill Town. My first year was both awesome and awful. My earliest involvement saw me as Assistant Stage Manager, a very intensive role which (for the uninitiated) required me to attend every rehearsal, take meticulous notes, learn every actor’s name, and be on stage for every performance, sending props and people on and off. I was very good at it, and my Stage Manager wanted to keep me.

However, for the second and third productions last season, I ended up in the Lighting department. Lighting is essential, yet no one seems to know how it works or is willing to learn this technical set of skills. I actually don’t think I’m very good at it, yet, and I am learning it all entirely on my own. If I’m totally honest, my natural talents shine more in roles of organisation and structure.

To that end, I volunteered to help produce our fall musical this year, and my co-producer and I have been very busy this summer. She and I make a good team. However, since I decided to produce, there has been no one with experience in Lighting, so I have been forced to take this role on as well.

I find this task rather daunting, and I don’t really want to do it. However, there is LITERALLY no one who wants to take on the whole role and relieve me of the confusion. I have someone who will help me figure out a light concept for the show, but she won’t learn the computer program that controls the lights. Similarly, I have someone who will go up the ladders and help me physically move, tilt, pan and re-arrange the lights, but he has a part in the production, so he can’t be both on stage and in the booth at the same time. I finally managed to get a student interested in helping me program and run the show from the computer, but it was a close shave.

I’m starting to worry that I’m going to get stuck with lighting for the rest of my tenure with the theatre company. If so, that tenure is going to be very short, indeed.

 

You Can Never Go Home Again

In 2013, I took a year off from the Fringe to go to London, UK. Esso and I had a blast, and we even came home with money in our pocket (and savings account). We want to go back, but I’m going to be careful about what time of year we go next time, because I missed Fringe.

This year, I volunteered again, and had a mixed result. Oh, I loved every show I saw, and got a chance to see A LOT more than I usually do. I just found that staying with my Mom was a pain in the rear end, especially because I failed my driver’s test, and still couldn’t drive anywhere on my own. Plus my mother’s cooking chops are rusty. She was never very creative, but I was shocked to see how bad her attention to food safety is these days. One day, she thawed frozen chicken (in a storage bag) in very warm water, and then left it on the counter for over an hour and a half. Salmonella, anyone? I started to find excuses for leaving earlier and grabbing food in town before or during my shifts. She wouldn’t let me do my own laundry or clean anything for her. She said I should relax and enjoy being her guest. What alien abducted my mother?

I also found a very different vibe from the volunteer co-ordinator–who I had been told was amazing, organised, enthusiastic, etc. Instead, what I experienced was a woman who was severely overwhelmed. For a second-year veteran in the position, this is shocking. She literally let her two student interns do most of the work with the volunteers. I wasn’t surprised when she announced after Fringe was over that she wouldn’t be doing this job again.

Another person moving on started her Fringe journey the same year I did, only she did it as staff, and she was MARVELOUS. I am really, really going to miss her upbeat attitude, smile, and warm, caring nature. But she has a little boy now, and the constant super-late nights of Fringe are not good when you’re trying to raise children (or so I imagine, I have no experience at that).

Then, I found out that the reason the Techies were so surly this year is because, as of last year, they are hired by the venues, NOT the Fringe. They literally had to answer to another organisation which had/has different goals and expectations of the artists, volunteers and audiences. One wore a shirt that said, “No Joe? No Show,” which telegraphed his sense of importance loud and clear. Hey, having done lighting for our local production of ‘Noises Off,’ I can tell you it’s a lot of thankless work. No one notices when you do a great job, but boy do they notice when you screw up. I don’t want to denigrate these technicians (artists in their own rights), I just feel that when the Fringe hired the technicians, those people were more understanding and helpful. They wanted to be there, and they wanted to be social.

In the end, knowing so much is going to be different next year, and knowing that my Mom and I really shouldn’t live together for more than a couple of days, I’m trying to figure out how best to approach my commitment to 2015′s Fringe.

Option One: Same as this year. Will probably end with same result.

Option Two: Don’t be a Venue Manager, just volunteer for three or four days and stay in a hotel. Expensive, but worth it.

Option Three: Venue Manager, but double up on my commitment so I get my 6 shifts done in 3 or 4 days, and stay in a hotel.

Option Four: Find another place to live for 11 days. Someone suggested I consider asking the Producer to find me a billet, as she does for the out-of-town performers. Another long-term volunteer said, worse-case scenario, she has a couch.

Option Five: Stay at my sister’s. NOT ideal. I love my sister, and because I grew up with her, I know her house is full of drama at the best of times. In a way, it would be the opposite of staying at Mom’s: I would feel obligated to help out with cleaning and cooking.

I really need to figure this out, but at least I have at least seven months to do so.

The Opposite of Glee

I have a confession to make: I just finished binge-watching all four seasons of “Glee.”

When the show first aired, I was in my last year of university, and didn’t have cable. I had interest in the show, but couldn’t convince myself to download it illegally. Esso and I weren’t sure we were going to get cable when I moved to this town, so there wasn’t any point getting into a series, even if it seemed like a fun premise.

I always meant to check it out on Netflix, and just…didn’t. That is, until I heard of Cory Monteith’s death last week of a mixed drug toxicity (why don’t they call it “death by misadventure,” as with Jason Rae?). I realised, if I wanted to have an informed opinion on Monteith’s talent, I needed to watch the show.

Reader, I can tell you now that I am SO ANGRY with Cory Monteith.

That baby face hid a lot of pain and demons, and he managed to channel them into something pure and noble and good and joyous through his work in Glee. Now he’s gone, and it’s his own fault. There is no one else to blame.

He slid back into a lifestyle that he had worked so hard to escape over a decade ago. His work family and his real family worried about him so much, they kept an eye on him when they could…but he knew exactly where to go and who to talk to when he wanted the poisons that killed him.

So much potential. So much to live for and to do. All thrown away for yet another high, another escape. I can’t understand what happened, what made him relapse?

For me, the scary thing is that there are more kids like Cory (although how you can call a grown-ass 31-year old man a kid, I don’t know) than like Finn—and there are a lot of kids like Finn.

I have more thoughts on the show, itself, but I wanted to separate them from my thoughts on Mr. Monteith. Stay tuned.

 

Some Things That I’ve Learned

Time to do the Janus face: look back and reflect, look forward and plan.

As part of the reflection phase, I present a handful of truths I have learned, in no particular order.

1. Be More Than Just a Pretty Face.

Develop your character more than you develop your physical appearance. The most interesting, intelligent and worthy people I know aren’t necessarily the most attractive; they are the people who have the most thoughtful insight into our world.

This isn’t to suggest that all beautiful people are shallow; more that the people of substance are more interesting, vibrant and alive.

2. Take Care of Your Body.

I know this is going to sound contradictory, but your physical body does need to be taken care of as much as your intellect. I mean this as a health care issue. I learned, almost too late, that a sedentary lifestyle is not good.

If you want to live to an old age, and your family history suggests a preponderance for chronic diseases, do your best to head them off before they make your life difficult.

3. Be Generous.

Being generous starts with the desire to impact someone else in a positive way. It could be regular donations to an organization you support, and yet, generosity is more than monetary.

Every year, I participate as a volunteer with the London Fringe because I believe in their principles. The creativity and passion behind the performing arts is important, and I believe artists should not have to jump through a lot of money-obsessed bureaucratic hoops to get their messages heard.

Everyone has a story; every person is creative and has the right to express their creativity. The Fringe circuit in Canada and the U.S. offers just that opportunity. I don’t go to the fundraisers for the festival, and I have rarely been able to donate financially, but I give 12-13 days of my time every summer to help the artists who put themselves out there.

4. Learn to Say “NO.”

Again with the contradictions! Be as generous as you want to be, but remember, all your effort has to come from somewhere.If you don’t stop and give your own batteries a chance to recharge and realize goals independent from any other person or cause, something will burn out.

The word “no” has the power to change any situation, any circumstance, and you owe it to yourself to hitch onto that power once in a while.

5. Fiction Is Not Reality.

You cannot live in a fictional world. I read a lot of paranormal mystery and romance novels, and I am aware they are escapist fantasies.

For awhile, I wished I was Jane Eyre, or Clary Fray, but I’m not. I’m glad I’m not, really, because those girls had a lot of freaky stuff to worry about.

The problems of life are rarely solved in under 44 minutes. Real CSI police detectives don’t solve cases in less than a week—often, the cases take months, even years to be satisfactorily completed.

Brilliant people make serious mistakes—as a real-life doctor, Gregory House would probably kill a lot of his patients before his team could figure out what’s wrong with them.

Pre-teen girls are not secret rock stars or actresses, and there are NO SUCH THINGS as vampires, werewolves, ghosts, or magical beings.

Life is hard sometimes, and it’s better to take strength from the lessons you learn from the stories you see and read and hear than it is to try to actually live them.

6. It’s Good to Have an Imagination.

A healthy imagination helps you learn to solve problems. If you can never conceive of alternate way of fixing something, or figuring out a puzzle, if everything goes from point A to point B in your life, you will never be successful.

Life is about making choices, and about the randomness of choice. Take out the random, the imaginative path, and you remove some of the magic and beauty of Life. I hate the phrase, “Think Outside the Box,” but the spirit of the message is sound. Don’t be afraid to daydream a new idea into reality.

My favourite Edgar Allan Poe quote is, “It will be found, in fact, that the ingenious are always fanciful, and the truly imaginative never otherwise than analytic.” Be fanciful, be analytic, be imaginative.

7. Forget Lemonade, make Lemon Sorbet

There is no situation in life which cannot be improved by a calm attitude, and sometimes, that means finding your inner cool. Take a walk, leave the room, put your headphones on and listen to music you love, distract yourself for a few minutes (or hours), then look at things again.

Sometimes, it may seem this is not possible, but it is. It’s not just for task-oriented problem solving.

I come from a family of hotheads. My bio. father and my sister use snark and vicious tones to attack and put their target on the defensive. What they haven’t learned is, you can never take something back once you’ve said it.

The person they say nasty things to may forgive them—he or she may even forget exactly what was said—but that person will always remember how that conversation made them feel, and it will scar them.

I’m learning (emphasis on the present, active tense) to curb my own tongue, to step back and cool off. It will take awhile, but I have faith in me. Life gives you lemons, etc….

Okay, so I’ve learned other stuff, but these are, in my opinion, the most important.

Some Thoughts On Loss

In a recent panel at the Fertility Planit conference, the contributors discussed how and when to consider letting go of the dream of having your own genetic child.

One of the panelists, a psychotherapist, suggested that when you finally choose to move forward without having a baby, you experience not only the current loss of your dream, but every other loss you have experienced.

I have personally found this to be true.

One of the other panelists said it reminded her of losing her grandmother, and that her grief process in coming to terms with her loss in this regard was helpful in letting go of the grief of her childlessness.

I did not find this to be true in my own grieving process.

I’ve written before about my grandmother; how attached I was to her from a very early age, how she and my grandfather formed the base elements of my personality and guided me, through their unconditional love, to some sense of self-acceptance.

While my grandmother lay dying, I was daily, hourly, minutely reminded of the strength of our bond, and the importance of it in my life.

I was also reminded that I won’t be passing down a similar bond to children of my own. The buck stops here.

I won’t be passing down the family stories or recipes to a new generation. At some point in the near future, there will be no children at our family Christmas—or perhaps even a family Christmas at all. These thoughts make me sad.

It’s the continuity, and my part in it, which I mourn the loss of. I’m the twig that doesn’t grow a fruit on our family tree—a tree that was heretofore strong and healthy.

I worry what that says about me as a human being.

30 Days of Film #3 The Film I Watch to Feel Good, and #4 The Film I Watch to Feel Bad

It’s an anathema to me to choose films to provoke a response in me. I’m more likely to gravitate to certain films when I’m already experiencing an emotion. So, these two are films that best express my good or bad feelings. As much as this entire list is subjective, these are probably the most personal categories. And be warned, the films change from time to time, so in a week, I might have a different answer.

#3 Good Roman Holiday (dir. William Wyler, 1953)

roman holiday vespa

 

A princess, tired of her royal duties while on a European tour, escapes from her palatial rooms after taking a sleeping pill. She is found on the street, half asleep, by the worst possible Samaritan: an American journalist who needs a hot story to stay in good with his boss. So begins this lighthearted tale of romance.

Why do I like this film? Why does it exemplify my happy world view?

1. We all long to escape our lives at some point, to experience a different perspective; that’s what vacations are for. Princess Anya gets her vacation after all.

2. Joe does the right thing, in the end. He is tempted to expose Anya, but changes his mind when he comes to know her.

3. It’s an unconventional ending to an otherwise conventional romance. I don’t want to ruin it for people who haven’t seen the film, and those of you who have seen it will know what happens. Suffice to say, in a conventional romance, there are certain “beats” which make the story a romance. Roman Holiday hits <i>almost</i> all of them, and it’s the ending, the beat that is missed that is the most satisfying to me. I love genre films, but I get bored when they slavishly follow the beats—without variation, what was the point in making another genre film? (Except for the money, perhaps, never a satisfactory reason to make a film in my opinion).

 

#4 Bad Bob Roberts (dir. Tim Robbins, 1992)

Some would say that cynicism is a cancer which erodes our willingness to change things that we perceive to be wrong. I can see that. However, I also see it as the flipside to blind optimism. This film has both. The followers of Bob Roberts are willfully ignorant of his corruption. They see the smiling, folksy guy who promises a return to a simpler time, and they believe him. The film, as a whole, pokes fun at this idealism by showing just how blind these people are.

When I think of the state of the world (as I know it) today, I think of this film. I don’t love this film, but I appreciate it for reminding me that there is a fine line between realism and cynicism. I try not to be the latter.

Where the Hell Have I Been?

For my readers who found me through Wonders in the Dark: I apologize for not keeping up with the 30 Days of Film list. The truth is, I got stuck on the “film I watch to feel good,” and “film I watch to feel bad,” and rather than go on to the next one, I just kept putting it off. Look for a combined post soon.

So, Where the Hell Have I Been?

Short answer: Here. I’ve been at home, as usual.

Longer answer? I’ve been planning our trip for next year (you can see some of my thoughts on the process at my London 2013 blog here), getting my Christmas plans sorted out, writing a little, and watching TV. Oh, and my driving lessons. I have one lesson left, and then I’m on my own to learn how to drive in the snow. Urgh.

We visited our friends R-dot and Deesh and had an anniversary dinner and then helped R-dot’s Mom celebrate a milestone birthday. Grin!

We started up our bi-weekly D&D game again, only to have it cancelled after one session because a bunch of us got sick one week, and half the group became suddenly unavailable. Sigh.

The other day, our Property Manager came over to have me sign some cheques and asked me if I had seen any movies lately. I had to wrack my brain to answer him, because the truth is, if it’s not on Netflix or TV, I don’t get to watch movies I haven’t seen before anymore.

Our local movie theatre only shows films in the summer, and then only ones in wide circulation that you could catch anywhere. Of course, this is nothing to the fact that Esso and I rarely agree on movies. My taste is a bit more wide-ranging than his, but there are only so many sci-fi and action films I can watch before I feel my brain melting. (I should point out two of my favourite films are Dark City and Blade Runner.)

My sister and I seem to have patched things up. My mother and her sisters, on the other hand…. I suppose it’s good to know Mom and I are more alike than we are different in this regard.

Another important relationship I have is wobbly, and I’m starting to question just how important it is for me in the first place. I often find myself on the other side of the fence from a past situation with another person, and I’m coming to grips with some uncomfortable truths about myself.

Anyway, that’s where I am.