Monday, June 30, 2008

Letters from a Bristol P.O.W.

Is that title offensive? I can never tell…. Whilst it chills me to think that the last time I thought to write anything was almost two solid months ago, to dwell on the reasons would only be a waste of time: I have no reasons. Life got in the way of my sometimes weekly updates and it wasn’t until now that I felt compelled enough to actually take fingertips to keyboard once again. If this paltry reason alone does not satisfy, … suck one. Hey, I’m sorry but there are only so many hours in the day and I am not disciplined enough to force words to come pouring from my brain ala cool crisp air through an HVAC system anytime I want. That analogy sucked. I’ll need a little time to warm up. Go with me on this …

Okay, … Lemme s’plain. No. There is too much. Lemme sum up: There are a ton of things to tell about but I will not be bulleting them this time. Bullets bore me today (plus the formatting nightmare that was importing onto blooger has gotten so spiritually draining I simply cannot continue the practice, enjoying to read though it may have been).

I suppose the most important of all phenomenon of the past two months is that I’ve managed to fall in love again. And before you ask the question: Yes, it is just as clichéd and romantically nauseating as you might expect it to be. It seems I never learn.

Truth be told, I had almost given up. Dating here in Bristol was just short of a reoccurring nightmare where you spend a lot of money and waste a lot of time and have nothing to show for it but an empty wallet and a fervent wish to find zen-quality peace with becoming asexual. This is not a quality distinct to Bristol alone, mind you. I’ve always hated dating. Hate is a kind word. Despised with the blazing passion of a thousand dying suns…. That’s a little closer. C’mon, I’m going to go out to a restaurant I’ve never been to to sit across from a person I’ve never really met to try and talk about myself in such a way as to not sound self-depraving but not ego-centric at the same time to vainly hope I don’t hate the person and wonder if I’ll fall asleep alone in my bed wishing I’d’ve just spent the evening blowing away zombies with a .45 magnum…. Sound about right? I can think of half a dozen medieval tortures right off the bat that sound more fun than that. The whip, the Rack, the Iron Maiden, the Spanish Tickler, Water Torture & the Judas Cradle…. Okay, maybe not the Judas Cradle; that thing was above & beyond inhumane. [shudder]

So I’ve no doubt that I would find myself hating modern courtship were I here north of Philly or back home in DC or on the moon. (Fact was, three months ago I would have thought my chances actually were better on the moon.) And perhaps what was even more frightening was that I was becoming more and more okay with that idea. Being single and zen held a kind of appeal. I could become some sort of Bristol-based Shaolin monk; above such earthly desires. Seriously. I thought that.

That’s when it hit me. Not from whatever girl I had just been going out with; but from the girl I didn’t even know was there…. That was a Jurassic Park reference …

So no, I don’t know what happened. Suffice it to say that the adage of good friends can make great lovers (or something like that) holds more truth for me now than perhaps ever before. All of a sudden, feelings I had been suppressing and had been telling myself for close to nine months didn’t (& couldn’t) exist were so forcefully present, ignoring them simply wasn’t an option. It was literally like someone tripped me. One minute I’m up and walking just fine on my own, the next the ground is rushing up to meet my nose with a speed usually reserved for time-traveling Delorians. It was like a mugging. “Except the only thing stolen was my heart … Sigh, …”

Please don’t mistake my cynicism here to mean I’m not happy. Boy howdy am I. It’s just that I’ve been sarcastic about Love for so long now, it’s hard for me to break out of that habit, even when talking about myself.

There’s a kind of undeniable truth about Stef & I. (… THIS is going to be the cliché paragraph; you’ve been warned.…) It’s like that perfect object you’re shopping for; when you try & convince yourself the first place you stopped couldn’t possibly be right because it was too easy; it can’t be right because of all these reasons you try and justify to yourself. But eventually you can’t deny how it fits perfectly. All along, there was something in your subconscious that knew it was what you’d buy, even if you never knew it otherwise. Look, that’s an absolutely terrible analogy for basically saying that somewhere in my brain I know Stefi’s right for me; even if I can’t put into words the reasons why. I want to do everything with this girl and the usual part of me that tells of danger & of how THIS particular relationship will fail & is bad & a waste of time … is strangely quiet. Whilst I might have wondered at this as recently as a few months ago, I’m just going with it this time. We are but shadows and dust and I’ve no more desire to waste my time trying to protect myself from an endless onslaught of potential failures.

Fuck it. If I’ve learned anything from my one season here North of Philly, it is to trust my instincts. And though I cannot explain why my instincts are so content & insanely attracted to this girl, I’m going to do just that: Trust them.

Sigh; … Onward!

I have actually started kung fu. Hell yeah. My first class was at the beginning of June. I could spend hours telling you the rationale behind the decision to start; but I’d just be wasting those hours of yours. It was time. I had been given the means and I had the time. No other reasons were necessary.

And I’m loving it. Oh, it’s difficult, make no mistake. Spirit Fist Kung Fu (or Than Vo Dao in Vietnamese … even though it’s a Chinese style… I dunno) is HARD. Especially after coming in with thirteen years of TaeKwonDo under my belt (pun intended).

Think of it as learning to write in a basic block script: Here’re your letters, here’re your numbers, add them together to form hundreds upon thousands of words and eventually even sentences. This will serve your purposes for years, nay decades. With constant practice, your ability to communicate will be ideal; and not only that, but you will grow faster and more fluent and the complexity of your sentence structure will also grow. Now, you have gotten so good with these blocks letters, you don’t even need to think about writing some of them: You just do. Now, you’ve used this handwriting for over a decade and it has become practically engrained into your mind: It is a part of your person and your personality; a vivid part of who you are. Am I going too far with this analogy?

Now, imagine someone handing you a pen and saying, “Now write in cursive.” Is one better than the other? Is one faster? More stable? Easier to communicate your message? Maybe. But in essence, you’re still writing in the same language; simply with a different style.

Hear me now and believe me later, the word, “Punch” written in block letters hurts as just much as in cursive. But the cursive “Punch” is a HELL of a lot more difficult to write well. Especially when you’ve been writing in block letters for so long.

But with the difficulty also comes the challenge. I haven’t felt like a true STUDENT – someone who is absorbing on an almost constant basis – in years. I’m not going to say I had mastered TaeKwonDo (oooh boy, far from it) but I was growing bored with it; even before I quit KCA. Nevermind moving up to Bristol, my school had changed into something lesser than it was since I had begun. I had grown disillusioned with it. For my own sake as a martial artist, I needed to move on. Seven Mountains seems like a great place to do just that. There is a reverence placed on the spirituality of the martial art that had no place in TaeKwonDo and yet was always something I have been fascinated with. There’s a camaraderie at this school that was found lacking in the latter years at KCA which I missed a great deal. My hetero-Lifemate is here. What more could I ask for?

Yeah, the commute sucks. I leave Bristol at five to get into the city by six-thirty for a seven o’clock class that lasts an hour and a quarter to catch an eight-forty train back home, which gets in around nine-thirty. But that honestly isn’t much longer than it was back when I was working Virginia, driving through DC to karate class in Maryland and then back home somewhere in the middle afterwards. All in all, the time to & fro is a wash. I plan on getting a lot of reading done.

Oh yeah and I suppose I should talk about my job. It’s a good time here in Bristol. The main season is over and although there is steady work to be done over the course of the following summer season – what with a half dozen or so Summer Musicales (the number gets bigger in my head every time I talk about them; it’s really something like three [and Musicale means something silly like, “An evening with music and friends,” and is a completely ‘tarded way of saying, “Summer Concert” without sounding like a Steely Dan reunion tour…]) and a couple of rentals here & there – there isn’t nearly the kind of workload as during the regular season.

This is called fun.

It means we all get to relax. It means I can get some shop projects done (the dangerous joke that is my vertical lumber rack near the top of the list, I think; not to mention shopping for “Nora” …). I’m throwing more stuff away and I’m organizing like a sonofabitch. It’s all kinds of awesome.

And that’s sort of that. Doesn’t much seem worth waiting two months for, does it?

That’s word. Good night. And good luck.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Nothing Spectacular

Nothing Spectacular

My friends, it is with an obligated heart that I take up pen once more (well, take up keyboard, let’s be honest). It’s interesting how this season started out with so much sturm & drang in which I had no end of things to say on the matters. My stack of soapboxes knew no number and I could rail with the best of them. Funny how much can actually change in under nine months. Now, as the final show of the season is, I almost hesitate to say, going in with little to no insurmountable obstacles on the horizon I feel I have nothing to write about. Angst, it seems, is my muse. In fact, with a few small exceptions, I have but good news to report. I know, right?!

Dear World is huge, I won’t lie to you. Even if the scenery for the show itself wasn’t gigantic (the concept is a world made of stained glass; we’re using fabric on thin wooden frames to suggest a kind of Art Deco kind of Paris circa 1910 or so – it’ll look AWESOME, if it doesn’t fall over and kill somebody …), the show has a thirteen person cast, is using EVERY lighting instrument we own (nevermind what works) and involves reconfiguring almost the entire theatre … Again. Apparently, “subtle” isn’t a word used too often around here.

But here’s the thing: It’s cool, man. I mean, concept and production meetings for this monster started back in mid January. At this point, yeah there’s a lot of work to do but I really feel like we’ve got it covered. “That’s usually when the ground falls out from beneath your feet.” Yeah, I know! But my project leader’s not missing, there’s no secret Brotherhood of the Crucifix Screwgun sworn to protect the works of Jerry Herman trying to push my production van into a giant whirling propeller and although my managing producer does look like she chose poorly even I would hesitate in calling her a Nazi.

We’re all fine. Here. Now. Thank you. How are you?

I can’t (and won’t) take all the credit. EVERYONE’S been pulling their weight on this one, I feel like, thus far. And even some of us who wouldn’t normally have to. I’ve had some help. The weekend before actors took stage I had two good friends come up and help put some stuff together and whilst it was efficient it was also a blast to work with them again. But even with having to call in some cavalry, I’d say the longest day Anna, Scoot & I’ve put in was MAYBE a twelve hour day. Not fun, by any stretch, but c’mon. After The Show That Shall Not Be Named, that ain’t much to bitch about. I’m trying really hard to watch for that inevitable other shoe to drop and don’t mistake my optimism for blindness: There’s a LOT left to get done before opening but the thing I have to keep reminding myself is that Opening Night is still TWO WEEKS AWAY. I mean, FUCK man.

(Speaking of which: As an important, yet brief, aside, very recently I called one of my crew “kid” and was lambasted for demeaning and insulting them by calling someone under my supervision “kid;” to which my response was something like, “Fuck off, Junior. Don’t talk down to your elders.” Dammit, if you get to call me “old” then I get to call you “kid” …).

But WAIT! THERE’S MORE!!! That’s right! To top Loadin going so well, about a week or so ago I got called into the main office and was told that someone had made an anonymous donation to BRT of no less than $3000 SPECIFICALLY to be used to buy a new table saw.

I’ll let that sink in.

If ever I thought I might have a guardian angel, now’s that time. See, the donation was anonymous, yes; but don’t doubt for a second that this monumental event wasn’t set into motion if only slightly by way of this blog. I am verbose and I am loud and I have some VERY VERY VERY good friends who have a LOT more influence with important (reads: Rich) people than I ever will. I’ve been asked to keep our benevolent benefactor somewhat of a secret (at least from the kind folk at BRT) but let’s just say that our new Delta 5HP Left Tilt Single Phase Cabinet Saw will be nicknamed, “Nora.”

Honestly, about the only thing I really have to bitch about this past and this coming week is that JB Dawson’s fucked me out of a hundred dollars. It’s a long and stupid story; let’s just leave it at that when answering the carnivore-calling for dead cow one evening after work recently I had meant to pay for exactly one half the bill whilst my compatriots coughed up the other half in cash. Upon balancing my checkbook this afternoon I discovered that JB Dawson’s had withdrawn the ENTIRE BILL from my account. On top of that, at the time the $70 charge would have been covered but the $145 charge overdrew my account and Bank of America hit me with a $35 overdraft charge. Fuckers. This either came about by a mistake of my own or some waiter is sitting on a PHAT tip. Normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal as the issue could be rectified easily with a phone call and a display of my credit card receipt … This same receipt that I can’t find. Yeah. All in all, I lose. Bank of America could give a shyte about how much SHOULD have been taken out and what was demanded by an otherwise reputable restaurant (and they’ll be damned if they care enough to give me back the subsequent overdraft charge) and JB Dawson’s’ll just say, “I’m sorry Senator, I have no recollection of that.” unless I’ve the receipt to prove I’ve been screwed. I mean, the steak was good. But FUCK it was $145 good.

I usually keep my receipts until I balance my checkbook at home but of course Murphy would rear his ugly head the one time I apparently don’t. Stupid …

And I mean, although losing a hundred bucks isn’t cool, … Man, if I’m still able to get a good night’s sleep because I’m managing to not only do my job but do it well – I’ll take it.

That’s word. Good night. And good luck.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Good Leeching

Lately, a lot of little things have been really getting to me. On their own, these tiny things are nothing I couldn’t normally deal with. Together, they are a force to be reckoned with. I had a revelation tonight that in order for me to focus on what’s actually important in my life and not let these little things continue to affect me, I have to get them out of my system. Vent the cargo hold entirely and hope that bitch of a Xenomorph Queen can’t hold on for long, cause otherwise I might snap.

That means it’s time to purge some poison, kids. Strap in, this might suck. …

Dear Modern English and Every Other 80s Pop Band That’s Sold Out,

I understand you’ve been basically out of work for the past eighteen to twenty-five years. I’m truly sorry for this. I am. But I swear if I have to listen your once-beloved song “Melt With You” accompany one more fast food restaurant selling SOMETHING with lots of cheese, I might have to hunt you down and break your fingers. It was bad enough when I had to listen to you COMPLETELY abandon all sense of decency and musical integrity THE FIRST TIME when Burger King bought that song. Now that Taco Bell has the rights to it only sickens me worse.

STOP RAPING MY CHILDHOOD, YOU SONS OF MOTHERLESS GOATS!!! Or, at least, if you MUST sell out, pick a restaurant that doesn’t peddle horse manure and call it food! They serve “Grade F” beef at Taco Bell, for the love of fuck! “Grade F!!!” Categorized as, “edible!!!” EDIBLE!?! This is okay? For serious?!

Dear the Cock-Eating Douche-Rockets Who Park Their Cars on the Sidewalk Outside Our Shop,

Okay, I know the Pennsylvania State Driving Test requires reading aptitude. I know it does. So explain to me how you can park your gargantuan pickup trucks and your iddle-bitty-widdle penis hotrod cars on the fucking sidewalk and in front of NO LESS than THREE TO FIVE No Parking signs! Are they in French? Are they written in a type of ink that only people who are NOT inbred can read? Is there a required number of teeth for which to comprehend them? I don’t understand. Please explain this to me. How is this okay?

Dear Julie Taymor,

Let me start by saying I loved what you did with Titus Andronicus and The Lion King. It did my heart such wonders to see someone who not only COULD do and serve Art so vividly but also DID so without sacrificing artistic honesty. For those efforts, I applaud you.

But then I watched, Across the Universe and suddenly I feel less & less like clapping; unless the clapping involves only one of my hands and the side of your face. I know how this movie must have looked on paper. Beloved theatre and movie artist and beloved, iconic rock band’s songs together in a story about young, innocent love. What could be sweeter? But something got lost, Julie. I think it was the script. I think it was the plot. I think it was a cast of characters with even one redeemable quality amongst them. I think it was a cohesive link between what was a beautiful concept and an actually terrifyingly god-fucking-awful film.

Don’t mistake me, Julie. I TRIED to like this movie. I wanted to like this movie. So much so that I assumed I would. It never really occurred to me that I wouldn’t. Every fiber in my artistic body screamed at me that I should love and live this film. I tried; great Jebus but I tried. It started as an itch in the back of my head, right around when all the Ivy League kids sang, “With a Little Help From My Friends” while firing golf balls at dorm room windows. A little cliché, I thought, but I let it go. Then the itch became an ache when I realized not only was the main character’s name Jude but his love interest’s was Lucy (… If there’s a way to be more contrived, I would LOVE to hear it, Miss Taymor). But I definitely think it was right around the time Eddie Izzard sang “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” that I felt my apprehensions solidify into pure hatred.

I HATED this movie, Julie. And I’m floored by that realization. Not only did you, on more than just a few occasions, murder a veritable slew of iconic Beatles songs (some of which I will never be able to hear again without throwing up just a little bit in my mouth) but the whole thing just struck me as so manufactured and (there-by) vacuous that I can’t help but wonder if you didn’t lose interest somewhere along the way. No amount of deep color-saturation & synchronized dancing can save a movie with despicable characters and an empty void where there should be a plot. I mean FUCK, even Bono couldn’t save this film! FUCKING BONO! SINGING “I AM THE WALRUS!” HOW DO YOU LET THAT HAPPEN?!?!

In a way, you’ve only helped us, the small folk, Julie. You were well on your way to becoming an Art Scene GOD; you had all the makings. All it would have taken was for this movie not to have inspired me to put my foot through the television and you would have been sling-shot into eternal stardom. Across the Universe has saved you from the burden of such responsibility. My heart sulks at it, but in a perverted way, I’m happy for you. Welcome to mediocrity, Miss Taymor.

Oh, and on a small side note: Jim Sturgess is NOT Ewan McGregor. He will NEVER be Ewan McGregor. Only by striking deals with the ilk of Mephistopheles will he ever have a SNOWBALL’S CHANCE of attaining Ewan McGregorhood. I know if you squint they do KIND of look alike but don’t mistake the brooding Scottish guy for the brooding English one. I’m sorry you couldn’t afford Mr McGregor but thinly-veiled attempts at fooling us will only insult us. Stick to reinventing other people’s stories.

Dear the Very I-Tralian Barber Across the Street From My Theatre,

You have GOT to be one of the creepiest men I have EVER seen living on this planet. I don’t know how you do it. It’s almost a work of art on it’s own. Seriously. The level of Creep to which you’ve attained is nigh-unfathomable to us lesser mortals. I’m almost saying, “Well done!” Not to judge BUT gold chains worn with the pencil-thin mustache only serve to creep us out all the further.

You frighten us, Mr Barber. I’m certain one day we’ll read about the crop of coeds you’ve buried in your backyard but until that day, please keep away from me and my own. You’re seriously creeping us out. Please. Seriously. PLEASE.

Dear My Artistic Director, Edward Keith Baker,

Stop casting yourself in productions. Stop picking shows for a season purely so you can cast yourself. Stop directing every other show you can’t act in yourself. Stop trying to find ways to put yourself in every aspect of just about every show I have to put up on your stage AND stop paying yourself on top of it all. I get one paycheck. Anna, my master carpenter AND your sound technician, gets one paycheck. Stefi, my painter AND your props artisan, gets one paycheck. I can’t even list all the fucking hats Scotty wears in the span of one production and he only gets one paycheck. That’s the way it works. If you MUST perform in a show (and I’m not necessarily saying you shouldn’t EVER act, I’m just saying not constantly, goddammit), or feel the pulsating urge to direct or compose a show, do so – but waive the fucking fee. EVERY OTHER ARTISTIC DIRECTOR ON THE PLANET DOES EXACTLY THAT. Or if they don’t, they’re as unethical and dishonest as you are.

I suppose I might feel differently about your practices if I felt you were a talented actor and director. As it happens, I don’t really. Maybe you were twenty years ago. Yes, you must have been. I find it impossible to believe you’ve risen to where you are today JUST by sleeping with Susan. Somewhere in there, they MUST be a talented bone. But please do not mistake good diction for good acting. I’m glad Douglas and Moira have been given a chance to perform on this stage again, but Copenhagen is just an excuse for you to prance about the stage vocally masturbating for the all the world to see. And frankly Keith, it’s revolting. Every actor I see you block looks forced or contrived and every word that comes out of your mouth on stage sounds over-enunciated and unnatural.

Maybe you’re unclear on the concept of Artistic Director. I understand, many things here at BRT seem to be VERY unclear to a lot of people. Hopefully, this will help. Your job isn’t to take away work for other actors and directors and composers and musical directors and singers in a sad attempt to uplift your failing and deflated ego. Your job is to go out and FIND those people and convince them that BRT is the place they should be brilliant at next. Find plays that are interesting to people other than yourself. Of course we should keep favorite actors and musicals; that’s as much a part of a local theatre as anything. And neither am I saying necessarily to cast from out of town. But stop hiring the same six people all the time and give some of the new kids in town a chance. Take a fucking chance and stop living under the same artistic rock. It’s not only getting stale but it’s getting more and more transparent. Someday soon, someone braver than I am’s going to stand up and shout out, “Mr Baker’s got no clothes on!” and you’ll quickly find yourself just where you’ve put yourself: In the spotlight with nothing and no one to protect you except your deflated ego and your over-enunciated words.

Fuck Keith, we could be so much more. Stop creating in fear. It’s sickening. You know “what I want to be?” Not shit.

Dear Zelda,

Kitten, you must come to accept that if I haven’t left you for good sometime over the past four and a half years, I’m not going to now. When I get up in the morning and leave the house, rest assured that I WILL RETURN TO YOU. Please stop yelling at me when I first walk in the door. Please? Why is it that you can be sitting BETWEEN two girls who want nothing more than to laude attention and petting upon you in droves, and yet the first thing you feel you must do when I come home at night is LEAVE those same girls to come out and cry at me??? Riddle me that, Kitten?!

Huh, I do actually feel a lot better now. Thanks for that. I realize that some of the above is harsh. Shit, some of it’s downright cruel in places. But this is my blog, fuckdammit, and here my opinion rules. There was a time when I wouldn’t even think about putting some of these thoughts into words for fear someone who shouldn’t know them suddenly would but my first season here has done an amazing thing to me: It irrevocably broke my spirit but then, almost simultaneously, left it stripped of all its fear. “I [sit] before you now, truthfully unafraid. Why? Because I believe something you do not? No! I [sit] here without fear because I remember. I remember that for onehundredyeeeaaaaarrrs …” Ah, nevermind. Look, the phoenix from the ashes has not only risen but it is DAMN tired of putting up with bullshit. I learned a lesson whilst on Tour what seems like eons ago to call people on their douche-baggery that I’ve lost sight of in recent years. Strangely enough, the longer I stay here, the less filter I care to keep in place. Geez, I hope that doesn’t make me bitter and jaded …

That’s word.

Good night. And good luck.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


“Science and technology! Men [& women] building things! Putting screwdrivers into things! And adjusting them!”

“Outstanding. [Now] all we need's a deck of cards. All right, let's move like we got a purpose.”

“That wasn’t so hard.” “… We neutronized it! Do you know what that means? A complete particle reversal …” “And we had the tools! We had the talent!” “It’s Miller time!”

“Hello! …” “Hi! … Look at the silly little humans!” “Do you think they have any idea what’s about to happen to them?” “Not a clue … Bye bye …”

I fully admit I’m feeling VERY self-satisfied right now. One may even say, “Full of myself.” And you would be fairly on track. This feeling comes as a direct result of me kicking my last load-in’s ass. You heard me: I am a tech director GOD. Believe it. That’s right, Show: Suck it.

Here’s how it’s all gone down so far: After the abhorrent debacle of The Show That Shall Not Be Named and the fallout that ensued post, my production manager and I (with the ENTIRE production staff behind us) went into Sue’s office and demanded things start not sucking. Officially. This actually wasn’t all that hard an argument to convince her with on account of it being well thought-out and organized. Scott begged, I yelled, Stefi cried, and I seem to recall Anna sitting in the corner quietly rocking herself back & forth whispering, “No cry for Nell. No cry for Nell.”

Show #3 (Welcome Home, Marian Anderson/Clouds/”That Black Show” [I won’t say who called the show “That Black Show” but I’ll give you a hint: Her initials are Susan D. Atkinson]) was a much-needed break and although it was certainly an easy show to put up, it was more by virtue of it being an already-produced remount. This show was basically done and had been touring for something like nine years already and we just kind of … made it fit on BRT’s stage. We did that. And it was miraculous. There was much rejoicing …

I know you made the little cheering sound. Don’t bother denying it.

But it was not the remolding of the system that we clamoured for and demanded help in bringing about.

Copenhagen, then, was the real test. We railed. We cried out. We bitched. We moaned. Scott, Stefi, Anna, Mike, Blair, Kate & I all yelled at the top of our lungs that things like designers finishing designs on time were not luxuries but essentials. That the days of great scenery magically appearing onstage with seemingly little to no effort were over. No longer were we, the Prod Staff, going to let directors and managing producers and actors work in blissful ignorance as to how the things that help them look not stupid on stage get there. Oh you’re going to know, dammit. In fact, some of us went so far as to say that we not only couldn’t do our jobs without some of these things but that we wouldn’t (that might have been me, I can’t recall that, Senator).

I’m getting off-task. Lemme refocus here. …

Greg Mitchell (you douche canoe) was once again returning to BRT to not only design some scenery but ALSO to put together the lighting. To most of us here, this seemed like the logical theatrical equivalent of inviting a convicted child rapist over for dinner to meet your daughter … again; and then asking her to invite her brownie troupe friends over, too. In short, a bad, BAD idea.

Nevertheless, he was signed on a second time. Admittedly with the inclusion in his contract that January 4th was the deadline for FINISHED final design plates and each day late was a 2x4 to the face (thanks to Scott for pushing on that front for us). I give T-Dub credit, he came through and although it was one hell of a convoluted design, it was done (mostly) and it was on time (mostly). Regardless of its slights, it was light years ahead of his last nightmare and I, for one, was hopeful; if not downright impressed he did his job at all. To a great degree, this should be attributed to the fact that Greg Mitchell fears us. Oh, he does. He’s afraid. I can see it in his eyes. He’s fucking terrified of each and every one of us. And frankly, I’d be lying if I told you that most of us were not only okay with that but a little happy about it, too. Go ahead and judge, if you must, but contempt leaves little room for amnesty and he had something to prove to us. Namely, that he wasn’t a barnacle on the underside of Art. The jury’s still out on that but he’s at least ON the boat of Art now. I lost myself again, hang on …

The design that did show up was … Well, it was straight-forward and concise, I’ll give it that. You know, the way that first three hundred foot drop on a roller coaster called, “The Widow Maker” is straightforward and concise.

Ellipses. The floor is covered with ‘em. All of differing sizes and positions; some so large that only a portion of them is even seen; as little as a third in some cases.

For those of you fuzzy on your geometric shapes, the term “ellipse” is from the Greek for “absence” and is defined as being the “locus of points on a plane where the sum of the distances from any point on the curve to two fixed points is constant.” Unlike a circle, which has one, constant radius that never changes on any X or Y axis, the ellipse has two very distinct axis’s; a major and a minor and its radiuses are ALWAYS changing. It is the “cross section of a cone seen at any angle but a right angle with its axis.” Try noodling THAT one out …

Look, just think oval like we all did at first and you’ll be fine. (Actually, if you look at a drawing of an ellipse whilst you read the above definitions, I think they make a lot more sense than I’ll otherwise admit)

I was fuzzy on the whole ellipse thing as recently as two months ago. I’m a veritable fucking savant on the subject now …

Here’s the main thing about ellipses you need to realize in order to grasp the foci of this load-in (and subsequently, why I kick so much damn ass): To accurately draw an ellipse, you need to locate its two foci points along its major axis and draw its circumference’s constants from them. In small scales (like on a coffee table), this is fairly easy with a little math, two nails and a string. On larger scales it become difficult to locate these foci and keep constant the distance between them (string, even tie-line, stretches and even aircraft cable wants to sag over a distance of sixty feet). As these distances grow larger, so does the difficulty in keeping the geometry uniform.

Let me put it this way: Try finding a point two thirds along a ninety foot line when you’re standing in a room only forty feet wide. Yeah.

And that’s just the floor. They START at sixteen feet along the minor axis and go upwards to something like forty-two feet. And that’s along the SMALLER of the axis, for the love Jiminy! And there are six of these fuckers! Seven, if you count the one on the Wall.

Oh yeah, … The Wall. The Wall is a 24’x36’ faceted masonite (hard board; think tempered cardboard) wall that CURVES; FOLLOWING ONE OF THE ELLIPSES ON THE FLOOR across stage. The surface isn’t solid in the manner of most other walls, either. Along with the faceting aspect it is also split every 4’x8’ so that lighting instruments hung from behind it will shine through the seams. Because of the steep angles of the lighting instruments, the Wall itself needs to be very thin. Less than four inches thick. Look, it’s difficult to describe truly in words.

Originally, the Wall was spec’d by T-Dub as constructed out of wood. This seemed cagey, in my opinion, as I doubted 2x4 pine’s ability to stay straight over 24 feet and to hold itself upright without a TON of cross-bracing that he had deemed unacceptable for his lighting purposes. Wood really wants to bend under its own weight. Think trees in hurricanes. The Wall had to be steel but the big issue with that is BRT just wasn’t equipped to weld structurally properly. That and no one but me and Stefi had done any real MIG welding less than a year ago. We managed to fix that. We bought a welding conversion kit to make the fluxcore-piece-of-stinky-shyte welder we DID have into a MIGlet (also known as Barbie’s First Welder) and I even managed to teach just about everybody in production how to MIG weld. And most everybody does it now REALLY WELL. I mean, to look at the assistant stage manager, kate, is to look upon an innocent. But “Best Welder in the Shop,” I wouldn’t. But she’s awesome at it. You should see her beads; jesus …

I only go into this kind of depth here because not only did I teach myself a HELL of a lot about geometry in general and elliptical shapes and how to conjure them from the very air around me and not only did my crew make a pile of steel into a wall twenty-four feet high by an inch and three-quarters thick but we managed to do it all TWO SOLID WEEKS BEFORE TECH EVEN STARTS.

We are gods. Okay no, we’re not gods. But given the first half of this season, it sure feels like we’re gods. Yes fine, we’re simple mortals. But we’re mortals given the time to have explored our options and given the time to check and recheck and build things right the first time. That’s what’s important to realize here. You especially need to recognize that to understand why this show frightened the pants off of me just prior to getting started on it.

Putting this show up scared me not only because it was new ground for me technically speaking (I mean, … ELLIPSES!!), but precisely because we WERE given the time to noodle everything out. I won’t say we were given carte blanche, but we were given a lot more support than I feel like the Scene Shop’s been given in the past twenty years. Shyte. If we couldn’t pull this one off, it was no one’s fault but my own. That’s a kind of pressure I actually wasn’t prepared for. If for no other reason than I was putting pressure on myself not to fuck up. I admit I am my own worst critic.

So you wonder why I feel like walkin’ on sunshine? Cause for the first time in a long time I feel like not only did I do my job but I did my job well. My karate instructor used to say, “You’re only as good as your last fight.” Tomorrow’s fight with Dear World might suck and I might lose it (the pictures of THAT model frighten me a little bit), but in today’s I kicked ass, despite being all out of bubblegum. Forgive me if I feel a little pride from that. Or don’t; that’s cool, too.

That’s word. Good night. And good luck.

PS- Bonus points to the first person who can identify the four quotes at top. See? My blog is not only entertaining, but challenging!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Will Wonders Ever Start?

One of my major themes during the entirety of this blog has concerned the constant and Rebellion-V-Empire-scale struggle of getting my theatre company to listen to us little people and convincing them that improvements are not always easy but necessary. To try and work into their minds that you may not like some of the ideas we have, but sometimes (especially when we all can agree on them) they are ABSOLUTELY essential.

I bring this up because last Wednesday there occurred an event that which few have witnessed here at BRT before. Are you ready? Drums, please.

A Pre-Production Meeting.

Oh yeah, I’m not making that up to make myself feel better. This really happened. The director, the choreographer, the scenic, lighting and costume designers all met in a room and started talking about Dear World, the final show of the season. Then, approximately an hour later, my production manager, myself, my master carp, my scenic painter and BOTH stage managers joined them and we all talked about the VERY SAME PRODUCTION. Where Nels (yes, of I Do, I Do fame) wants to go with the set, what problems may arise from it, where I might have some input, how building a two-story circular staircase might fuck the Scott’s ability to light anything, etc. What colors are we thinking of so that Lisa can incorporate them into what people are wearing and vice versa. Do the columns living here give Greg (not TW, the good one) enough room to stage the Dungeon Tap Dance (no, not making that one up, either) in this musical . . . You know, the little things.

Nothing concrete was really decided during this meeting; that, of course, wasn’t the point. But some elements were decided, if not in final form then at the very least in their ethereal one. Everyone, and I don’t exaggerate here, felt something in the air during those two hours. There was an air of professionalism about all of us that no one, I think, was truly prepared to feel amoung the same design team from which the nightmare that ended up being I Do, I Do; the first of two shows that almost killed us. To be frankly honest, everything at this meeting could change tomorrow but the idea that we all talked about a show that doesn’t open until May 1st (for those of you keeping track, that’s over four months away) is astounding. Simply astounding.

I know this is what I’ve been asking for since I got here. This is one of the benchmarks of improvement we all, not just myself, have been aching for since long before I brought my kitten to this lil town and started clamoring for change. Still, when the miracles do occur, I think you’re allowed a little “wow” time to bask in the light of them. You can spend half your life training a bear to ride a unicycle but when you actually GET that bear to ride a fucking unicycle, I think you’re allowed a moment of, “There’s a fucking bear riding a unicycle in front of me!” . . . Unintentionally, that analogy is more apt than you can possibly imagine.

I can only pray this practice of PREPARING for upcoming productions (how’s THAT for alliteration?) continues. I know that everyone made such a point of stating how good they felt afterwards that I’m just so damned surprised no one thought to have these things years ago (I couldn’t actually say that with my tongue inserted ANY FIRMER into my cheek …). I also can’t, in good conscious, take any real credit for making this happen. Sure, I added my voice to its demand, but no one really asks, “How high?” when I shout, “Jump!” around here. Usually the response is, “Why the hell are you shouting at me, Jake?!” Still, through the voices of the many (and the threats of the many, now that I think about it) there arose a precedent. From this precedent there had BETTER arise a tradition, that’s all I’m saying for now.

Also in the news, at my behest we’re building a tool cabinet for the shop. For any of you who’re keeping track, that’s the third I’ve built in my career. Eventually I hope it will look something like this but for the time-being it looks something like this. Baby steps, my friends, baby steps. It’s times like these that I wish I had had the forethought to take a bunch of pictures of places like the shop and backstage BEFORE we started going through them with vacuums and the organizing stick. Without comparison when I sit with the Powers at my contract renewal meeting, asking for the raise I plan on asking for, I’d love to be able to say, “Here’s how I found it. And here’s how I’ve left it. Which do YOU prefer?” Ah well, such is life and my lack of forethought. That is all for now. More actual photos and news as events warrant.

That’s word. Good night. And good luck.

PS – Oh, and “TW” stands for “Twat Waffle”. That’s Greg Mitchell’s (you fuck) new nickname. I know it’s a little crude but it just seems to fit him. You can’t argue providence when it happens so cleanly. I don’t really like the word “twat” very much at all because of its crudeness and because it sounds like its true calling is to be an onomatopoeia (which is NOT spelled phonetically, by the way) of ten pounds of raw cookie-dough hitting a linoleum kitchen floor (I’ll give you a second to work that out in your head and then say it out loud – go ahead, no one’s listening). But when you add the word “waffle” to the end of it, it seems to lighten the repulsiveness somehow. Together, they role off the tongue (like jell-o after novocain).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I haven’t updated this blog in a while. I could go into details as to why, but none of us has time for that. Let’s skip it. It’s not important and all that really matters is that I haven’t completely given up on this thing yet. Yet.

Happy New Year. If it is a Happy New Year. Which I doubt.

I’ve discovered something: The time to become introspective towards your own life and accomplishments (or lack there-of) is not when listening to Tom Waits. But dammit, I just can’t help it. I once read a critic describe Tom Waits’ music as an glimpse into a rainy, filthy world as infested with jazz as with cock-roaches that never quite exists but the romantic in us fervently wished did. I don’t know about that but after listening to the man gargle caltrops, I still manage to feel like being drunk, broken-hearted and soaking wet would be cool.

I’m not going to dwell on this too much cause luckily I’m past the worst of the holiday-induced depression but every year around this time (not so much Christmas, it seems, as New Year’s), when for one literal moment in time the most important thing to everyone around you is to have someone to kiss as a glowing, pulsing orb of Doom descends to a “0” and we all fervently wish Dick Clark would just RETIRE FOR FUCK’S SAKE! (we love you, Dick Clark – for the love of honor, go to bed! you look like a prune sitting in tepid water and you make us all sad! Stop making us sad, Dick Clark!); meanwhile, I sit there alone and most definitely kissless. I hope I put on a pretty good show to the contrary, but I’d be lying if I said this didn’t get to me every year. It’s not that I’ve been single forever, I just usually find myself alone on New Year’s. Enough so that I’m beginning to hate the freaking holiday as much as Valentine’s Day (don’t get me started).

The alternative is not that alluring either, I have to admit. I am not in a rush to date someone. I’m not so alone and desperate as to think that anyone is better than no one but being amoung even my good friends on New Year’s, the combination of champagne, kissing, Tom Waits and Wii was enough to make me want to crawl into a closet for a good long time (what? all the good games are two-player; you think I didn’t notice that?!). That and nothing inspires run-on sentences like despair (see above).

Like I said, I don’t know that I’m desperate yet but the time up here in Bristol has been, for the most part, lonely. Sometimes it gets the better of me. Sometimes Tom Waits makes me want to leave it all behind and go jump freight cars. Sometimes the fact that the only woman who wants to sleep with me is an insistent kitten makes me want to find the bottom of a bottle really, REALLY quickly. And just as often, I realize none of that really matters. Things as fickle and fleeting as Love happen when some power wiser and grander than myself deem it timely to happen. I realize that all my past relationships have consequently ruined me for girls lesser than the ones that have already broken my heart and every ruined love affair is another mistake I won’t make again and I’m done wasting my time on women I know I want nothing to do with. Until those stars align again, I’ll bide my time. Zelda’s a covers hog, but she takes up less of the bed and she doesn’t care if I snore.

And of course, the preceding thought leads me directly to the proceeding thought ...

My House Sits Upon a Hell Mouth.

You laugh like I’m making this up. I submit the following proof:

Exhibit A: The Gateway Mirror. In the massive cavern that passes for my living room, above the tectonic shelf that passes as a fireplace mantle, sits a mirror vaguely the size of a stargate. The thing must be six feet wide and eight feet tall. It’s huge. Zelda has a tendency to sit on the back of the couch whilst the rest of us eat dinner and watch TV. She just sits there and stares at it. I’m convinced she sees the spirits of some past Age floating from it into our world. There are times when she starts staring at that mirror and trills like she does (my kitten never begins by meowing, it’s usually preempted by a kind of kitten clearing-of-the-throat) and then intently follows absolutely nothing across the room like Claude Rains is dangling Swarovski Crystal tied to dental floss. . . . See, it’s very hard to see . . . Ah, nevermind. Regardless, if something’s there, it is not visible by human eyes. And unless Zelda’s having acid flashbacks, I’d swear she was watching something float around the room. Not to mention that it can get cold as my ex-girlfriend’s sexual desire for me in front of that fireplace (which, I have it on pretty decent authority, is VERY cold, indeed . . .). Oh sure, it COULD be the chimney’s flu that’s not properly closed but I know better: Spirits. From a bygone era. Mark my words.

Exhibit B: My Zombie Basement. You know how some people have finished basements with carpets and widescreen TVs and a half-bath? Some people have unfinished basements with concrete floors and a washer/dryer? Some have wine cellars? But then again, some people have dirt holes in the ground where they throw captives and force more-than-must-be-healthy amounts of lotion into their skin (or else they get the hose again)? The basement in my house is a damn cellar. The floor is compacted dirt, for Pete’s sake. The walls are cinderblock that have been painted a hundred different colors over the years, each peeling away to reveal yet another carcass of latex below it. There is the odd assortment of work tables and yet more plastic-wrapped furniture stored by BRT (I swear, the day we decide to have a yard sale we’ll be able to mount Les Mis and Cats. . .); but what’s really creepy are the nooks & crannies.

No, no, no. Follow me on this. Picture this in your mind’s eye. There is one single, naked light bulb down there (the fucker’s on a chain that swings; it’s STRAIGHT out of Psycho . . .). It sits relatively in the middle of the cellar, which runs pretty much the length of the house. But what with all the support columns and the corners, perhaps half of the basement is actually ever lit at a given time. Just like childhood, nothing says unadulterated, unfettered Fear like the dark. My Zombie Basement has it in spades. There’s a crawl space, for fuck’s sake. Towards the back of the house (under the kitchen, I believe) there’s a built-up section that may have resembled a wall at one point. Behind this section, Zombie Basement continues WHERE NO LIGHT DARE ITSELF GO. Only now, you’ve only got half the normal Zombie Basement height. Keep in mind that I’m 6’1” (all leg) and can barely stand up straight down there as it is.

For now, I have not actually seen any zombies. Good thing, too. I’ve got a chair propped up against the doorknob, just in case we’re asleep when they decide to show up. But I know that won’t hold them forever. I plan on borrowing Mike Russo’s 20-gauge shotgun soon; just to be prepared.

You laugh, but when the zombies rise, they will first come from my basement. And I’ll be ready.

Exhibit 3: The Fucking Demon Living in the Radiators! Now, I’m not one prone to panic. Part of my job is keep a level head and reign with Logos in the face of Chaos. Still, as I try to convince my body to fall into blissful ignorant sleep at night, I can’t help but hear that . . . Thing’s rasping breath I can only describe it as the first half of Darth Vader’s breathing, just the inhalation. Like the thing’s constantly only sucking in air (and probably souls to boot). Now, Anna swears to me that it’s only the heated water of the radiator system being pumped up through the pipes and into the respective rooms, making a WHOOSHING sound. But I know better. Convenient, don’t we think, that this very same sound just happens to sound like a Balor demon waiting to devour my very soul? I don’t know if words can express the terror that fills my heart when I hear this sound. It’s truly too terrible for words to describe. So, . . . I won’t. Suffice it to say that every time I walk by a radiator I feel the need to mumble protection spells, chalk out the Evil Eye (traditionally diagrams meant to shield the inscriber from Darkness), or at the very least find my +2 Longsword of Demon-Slaying (I might have traded it for my Boots of Escaping, which would work in a pinch, too). I’m sure the creature has red eyes and I’m sure it’s the reason the heat seems to go so randomly from fanTAStically hot to fucking freezing.

Exhibit 4: Nothing Truly Survives This Place. Truth be told, I don’t know if this signifies Evil, per se, or not. When I first arrived in Bristol, I found just about every object made of metal to be affected by rust. Some in small amounts, some in so large a state of disintegration that I expected them to turn to dust at my touch. In my five-odd months here since then, I have seen two of my own tools break and continued to be exposed on a daily basis to objects which should be relatively well-maintained break and break down because of some unknown air-born sickness. At first I just blamed the closeness of the river, but soon I realized the truth: It’s the Evil.

You mock. But someday soon the powers of Darkness will attempt to rise and take control of our world and unless one of my three roommates happens to be a Slayer, my paranoia will be our last bastion of defense. Then again, I don’t know that I’d be all that surprised to see Anna or Stefi turn around one day and sidekick a vampire through a window. I don’t hold out much hope for Kate but then again it is always the quiet ones, isn’t it?

In the First Week of February, My Kung Fu Once Again Grows Strong.

This isn’t much, but it’s the simple things that sometimes can be the biggest turning points in our lives. I’ve been feeling lost recently. I find myself drinking more and more and of course I don’t feel any better about anything for it. I find myself dwelling on exgirlfriends and lost family members and people I’ve left behind and wondering (albeit not for the first time) whether or not moving up here was the best decision I’ve made in recent years. In short, I’ve felt lost and found myself feeling small (for lack of a better term) more than I’ve ever felt before. Then I realized not too long ago one thing that has been missing from my life for over a year now. No, it’s not sex; although that hasn’t exactly been falling from the sky recently, either.

This January marks eighteen months that I’ve officially been out of training. Martial arts have been a serious part of my life since I was a junior in high school. The discipline and the activity helped sculpt me into the person I am today. A year ago and a half ago, I found myself growing more and more dissatisfied with my TaeKwonDo dojann and with my training in general. A year ago, I found myself carless and completely unable to get myself to class at all. Indistinctly and without fanfare, I unceremoniously quit. I tried to keep myself in shape on my own but sit-ups and push-ups in my bedroom and a few-and-far-between stretching and combination sessions in the backyard just weren’t cutting it. I have little to no discipline when it comes to keeping myself in shape. I’m not proud of that, but when you’re used to being motivated by a room full of other like-minded people, it’s hard to muster that inspiration all on your own. That doesn’t excuse my abandonment of the past thirteen years of what, I now realize, was one of the cornerstones of myself, but it may help explain it. In short, I miss training. I miss the way I felt after working out, I miss kicking and jumping and teaching and even miss getting kicked in the head.

My hetero-lifemate Jesse lives in Philly and has been training with a dojo in Center City for almost four years now. He’s doing a style of kung fu known as Than Vo Dao or “Seven Mountains Spirit Fist” which just sounds silly when translated into English. Not as silly as Lok Hup Ba Fa, which loosely translates to “Six Harmonies of Water Boxing” (which must be something like Water Ballet, right?) but I admit it’s close. In any case, I’ve seen the school and it has as good a karma to it as I remember my school having when I first started there in high school. And don’t snicker so loudly at the karma comment. You might laugh but we all knew that the school in Karate Kid had a bad karma to it even if we didn’t understand at the time how or why. The overall attitude of a classroom (or anything, really) is dictated by the instructor and the students. Positive vibe equal positive learning. I don’t want to waste my time with some nut who tried ton convince me his style of whatever is the best out there ever. I don’t care. I’ve seen karate kick kung fu and I’ve seen a wushu master kick the living bejesus out of a judo master so don’t start that nonsense with me. “The best martial art is the one you practice.” Jackie Chan said that and if you’d like to fuck with Jackie Chan, be my guest. You’ll lose. Just trust me on this. You will. Even if you manage to beat him up (you won’t), then you’ll have to live with having beaten up someone as positive and inspiring as Jackie Chan. I mean, who really wants to beat up Jackie Chan?! The Terrorists. Do you want to be a Terrorist?

. . . I digress. Anyways, I start classes in a week or two. I don’t know if I can afford it (money’s not just tight, it’s taut) but I know I have to try. A part of me is missing and I hope kicking other people in the face will help me find it again. . . . That came out wrong. Ah, nevermind.

That’s word.