🎼Hold On My Heart, Throw Me A Lifeline; I’ll Keep A Place For You Somewhere Deep Inside…🎶

Hello Gentle Reader!

It has been a bit, hasn’t it?

I hope you are well and healthy and had a lovely weekend.

Sadly, I found out about two people passing away. Each dear to me in their own way and neither in the same relation circle so it’s like which ever way I turn to face, I have to look at sadness. 😒

On Sunday, I found out that my cousin, Scott, but we always called him Scotty, had passed after he’d been hospitalized and a friend from the theatre, Mike, had passed on Saturday.

If there was one great regret that I have about stepping away from family functions and such it would be because of missing my cousin Scotty. He was fearless. A little reckless, but always willing to try dares, and especially gross food mixing stuff. I remember my aunt always yelling at him for doing something but one of the main things was reaching over and honking the horn while she drove under an overpass near their home. He did it every time, so I don’t know why it always surprised her, but it did.

One of my most favorite memories was when my dad took us and my little brother to see 101 Dalmatians in the small movie theater in the neighborhood. I remember there weren’t many people in the auditorium but we were up near the front. Then the scene came on where Cruella DeVil is driving furiously to catch the large truck the dogs were in and she has to miss the bridge and drive down an embankment and into a pile of snow. As she is driving the embankment, she is bouncing all around in her car and Scotty lets out his crazy laugh that has a sort of Pee Wee Herman quality to it. It sounds to old to be a child’s laugh if that makes any sense. Think Ricky Ricardo having a belly laugh. Any how, he lets out this big “HA HA” that is so loud it makes us laugh. Then, after Cruella has got back on the road, there is a point where her hair is all crazy and there is a close up on her red eyes and they have that spiral going on in them.

For some reason, that just makes him laugh more. This in turn makes us laugh and all the way through the rest of the scene up to the crash, we are laughing so hard because of his goofy laugh.

I am gonna miss that crazy kid, but so thankful that he showed me what being fearless looked like.

Mike was a different kind of cat. He was an excellent lighting designer. His credits are in the hundreds, easily. Maybe even more but I know he worked on many of the same projects that I did. I do believe that the first show I had met him on was Gypsy. I didn’t really get a chance to know him until I was in Smokey Joe’s Cafe.

We would talk about his love of dance, the shows that he saw in New York, the show he was going to see on his next trip and sometimes about when he had done shows. I used to think that he was a grumpy man, but I came to realize that he just had a very serious face unless he was smiling or laughing.

I had never seen this happen ever, but once, I think it was during the opening weekend or maybe after the Friday night show of a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, somehow, all of the lighting cues were deleted. All of them. There was nothing and Mike came in and overnight recreated the entire show. When the cast came in for our call, we had no idea until the stage manager had mentioned it. Insane!

I think my favorite thing that I will remember with Mike was working on the lighting for my directorial projects. As a cast member to meet and interact with the lighting designer is fun and cool but as a director your interactions are much more intense. I always would give him so much sass about having to use a fog element in his designs and once he explained it to me, I couldn’t unsee how much it helped.

On Jesus Christ Superstar, not the aforementioned, at the start of the 39 lashes, the lights were much less red and you could see the faces of the upstage cast. As the lashes continued, so did the deepening of the red and we thought pulling the light from the incredible upstage cast would make a kind of hellish looking landscape as they would show as silhouettes and could bring more to the contrast in their position as encouraging the punishment versus when they had supported him. I wish I had a picture from the actual production. This is from tech week.

On Smokey Joe’s Cafe, above is probably my most favorite shot I have of the entire process. Not that I didn’t absolutely adore the cast, but sitting side by side and trying to find the most perfect hue of various lights in the different areas was the most unexpectedly fun part of directing. The back record neon isn’t on and this little moment before we added any color felt like making magic.

Thanks for piquing my curiosity in lighting design and teaching me other ways of thinking about how storytelling can be fascinating and wondrous. Thanks for sharing your stories and ideas.

So pull up a chair and until our paths cross again, my friend, I shall always remember you at your “desk”

🎼 Tell Me A Piece Of Your History That You’re Proud To Call Your Own… 🎶

My dad and his brothers and someone that one is dating

Hello Gentle Reader!

I hope you had a really fun Halloween!

It is my most favorite time of the year! Rehearsal time! 😂😂😂 I am sorta kidding.

I know it has been a while, but I wanted to write a post tying in my recent trip to see family with my latest project. First though, I had to make sure that my day job was staying on track and we had a lot to do! I am learning a TON of stuff and sometimes my head swims with all the information but then my brain dries out and I have to refill it again. LOL. It is a pretty great problem to have.

Early October, I took my dad to go and see his siblings. It was a really fun road trip! I hadn’t seen him so animated and smiley in a really long time. His memory is going and he is totally aware of it. I think that makes it harder when you know you aren’t going to remember what you used to know. I stress about that all the time. Seriously, I worry because I forget stuff more often than I think I should. If it happens to be important, it will stick. Everything else? Slides away like it was on a non-stick pan.

My dad was worried that he wouldn’t get to see his brothers and sisters before he couldn’t remember them anymore. I had the time and I haven’t seen them myself in over 35+ years so I planned it out with my mom; and off we went!

My Dear Reader, I cannot express how incredible the transformation in him was. His walking pace quickened and he used his cane a little less. His speech was less halted. He literally brightened. I don’t know if it was because he was smiling all the time or what, but it was contagious. He still fumbled on his words because sometimes he forgets what things are called, or he can’t get the word to travel from his brain to his mouth.

One of the things that I noticed was that he had a lot of stories to share and he was a Talkie Thomas (I hate that only women’s names were used for talkative people.) Even when he couldn’t get right words out or he repeated phrases, my aunts and uncles paid attention. He is a natural born story teller, and to be honest, my whole family is. I learned so many things in that one weekend that I never knew. It wasn’t because I had forgotten them, which was shocking. I laughed so much hearing about parties they had while they were young. I was saddened learning about those that have passed not only recently, due to Covid-19 but in the past.

It wasn’t just the stories they told, but how they told them. The pitch in the voice when something funny was supposed to land. The sighs that broke through sentences that showed how deeply they still hurt or the senselessness for the loss. The excitement they had sharing something that was unbelievable.

I think that is a lot of what my dad is missing now. With everyone working and him being stuck at home because he might get lost or have a seizure or something, he doesn’t have someone to talk to or do things with. I try to go over when I can but I forgot how much time you surrender to rehearsals and research for shows.

The other thing I noticed was how similar the communication dynamics are at my immediate family functions as well as extended. Did my siblings and I learn this from our parents and their siblings?

In my current project, A Nice family Christmas by Phil Olson, this family unit is all about avoiding emotions, and their communication skills are pretty terrible. Is it a learned thing handed down from parents to children? I don’t think it is just about them wanting to avoid issues, but the complexities of life and time that prevents them from communicating and bonding more.

My character is the oldest and favorite son, a doctor, self sabotages, loves his mother but keeps her at an arm’s length so she doesn’t see his faults, has an addictive personality, 5 months sober after 2 stints in rehab, prone to emotional outbursts, in the middle of a separation and may or may not have OCD.

He’s has a lot going on, AND this is a comedy, so finding out how to bring all of that together has been challenging! It is a great challenge but I am struggling to find that perfect balance of being able to be funny while maintaining all of those other layers bubbling under just enough to show through. So, as you can imagine, writing this all out had to sit on the back burner for a hot week or six. 😳😳

So, My Lovely Reader, I look back on that family visit and try to recall all that my dad was working through. Joy, camaraderie, excitement, sadness, forgetfulness, hope, love, avoidance, and anger. He went through so many feelings but it always came back to that happiness and contentment.

Our opening night is the Friday after Thanksgiving! I just hope I found the right formula for this character by then. He is the most complicated character whose story I have the privilege of sharing. I don’t want to look back at him and say, “sorry buddy, you were not as fully realized as I wanted to make you.” That would make me really stop and question my skills as a storyteller…😔I would wonder if it was just because this was the first show back after so long. Or could it be that there were issues of my own that I haven’t resolved yet, so it is preventing me from accessing those feelings out of self preservation.

But to dwell on that now may only solidify the future and bring that to fruition. So I banish those thoughts and say bring me my challenge!

Until the next time, Kind Reader, stay safe and alert. Treat your self and other with kindness… AND WISH ME LUCK!!! 😂😂😂

Super 8 is a big fat…

I am always filled with amazement when things in the world are actually kept secret!  It’s like a trust that doesn’t seem to exist anymore.  Whoever J.J. Abrams collaborates with are a very rare breed.  I finally got myself to the theaters to see Super 8 today with the Bestie and the Munster.

I have heard nothing but vague good things about this film, so I went in with my own preconceived ideas about what I was about to witness. So many people said it was good, but they mentioned that they couldn’t describe why.

I had the expectations that the acting in this film would be so so.  I haven’t seen too many kids that excel at making me believe wholeheartedly in what they are going through.  Call me a harsh critic, if you want.  I mean the first Harry Potter flicks were only about the story and the effects, not so big on the acting was Mr. Radcliffe.  Although, he has certainly come into his own.  I do respect him especially now after seeing his performances on the Tonys and Jay Leno.  So I was expecting the adults to handle most of the heavy acting and the kids to do most of the running and screaming.  I was happily proven wrong when the movie began to take off after the opening scene of the movie.

Elle Fanning is incredible in the scene with Joel Courtney when they watch the film featuring his mother and she tells her confession.  That entire scene was so heartfelt and honest that you have to have a heart of coal to not be moved by it.  I don’t mean you have to cry like a baby, but to feel something.  All the younger cast in the film were incredible.  They really held their own against film veterans Kyle Chandler and Ron Eldard.  I loved the scene with the kids in the restaurant and the back and forth that ensues.

But the acting wasn’t the only thing that made Super 8 super.  Abrams is a master storyteller.  There were so many unexpected moments that got a reaction from me that I felt like I’d been on a very long roller coaster ride when I left the theater.  The story had such a powerful message about how our government would go through great lengths to cover up anything they deem classified.  Not that we didn’t know this already, but it’s always nice to be reminded every once in a while.  The other theme that I loved was how our species always tries to destroy things that it fears.

The misunderstood “creature” is a big confusing mass, though.  I still can’t figure out what all of it’s parts were exactly.  It had tentacles, and I think 8 legs, but I thought I saw claws when it first gets out of the train.

I did find one thing that was weird though.  At the end, when Deputy Lamb and Joe were brought back together, Joe’s necklace is a focal point.  While I can clearly see that Joe is looking at it, I thought that the Deputy would be looking at it also.  But he is obviously looking at something else completely.  I wonder if it’s the monster or what, but it’s not the necklace.

All in all, Super 8 is a big fat 10!!  Now, I know what my friends meant when they say it’s hard to explain why it’s so good.  Just know that on every level, Abrams and team have crafted a solid story that is nearly perfect in all facets of movie making magic.