Just around the corner from the theatre is... well... nothing... or everything depending on how you look at it.

War Stories

The first few days of summer stock always falls into a familiar pattern. The theatre staff is assembled from disparate parts, people from the four corners of the country, different backgrounds, different levels of experience, different styles of working. Usually the only person who has met everyone is the producer, or artistic director, whoever did the staffing. So as people arrive and start trying to fit into their assigned roles a series of things begin to happen.

First is the Question Round. Where have you worked? Where did you go to school? What was the shop like there? What city are you working in now? Have you ever done a tour? Have you ever done stock? Have you ever worked with a hemp fly system? The goal here is the feel out the other employees, to see where they'll fit in the hierarchy, and whether they have the appropriate experience for the place where you are currently working.

After that come the One-ups-manship Round. You have a basic idea of who the people are, but now it's time to test the limits of their abilities. This usually takes the form of several hours of stories about the best or worse places you ever worked. I once designed a show with only a $50 budget. I used to work in a place that used nails instead of screws. I once had to hang from the fly loft on a bungee in order to install a portal. I had to make a car out of tin cans and rubber cement. I worked with a props person so bad she didn't know what an ice-pick was. This round is also usually accompanied by beer. It bonds the crew, like an army platoon that has all fought on different fronts of a war, and now must fight together.

Then comes the "Right Stuff" Round. This is usually performed mainly by the returning staff, spoken to the new people. The goal of this round is to tell them the things that weren't in the brochure, and that the producer would never tell you for fear you wouldn't show up. In a place like I am now there are some severe limitations on how shows are produced. The scale of the production, the methods of building, the effort put forth, are drastically different from a large portion of other theatres. If someone comes in expecting the world's best stocked scene shop for instance... it's best to bring them around to reality quickly. Carpenters used to working with steel, or pneumatic tools need to know that we don't do that here. They have to understand that we can't use tools while a show is underway because the electrical pull would be too much. They need to be told that they will probably have to spend quite a while in the fly loft during shows, and exactly how hot it gets up there. This is a test performed by the returnees to see if the new guys have what it's going to take.

After that the real work begins and everyone gets tested in the forge, with the real heat turned up. The rest of the summer staff starts arriving today. The forge is already starting to get warm. By tomorrow morning we'll all have gone through these steps, and we'll see how everyone stacks up.

Let the Fun Begin!

I haven't even gotten out of town yet and the hit parade has already started. I arrived home tonight to be greeted by an email from the director of the second show of the season... which is just a bit more than two weeks away in case you are keeping track... has dropped out. Of the 7 shows this season I tried very hard to get the first 5, (the musicals) fully designed before leaving for the summer. That goal fell by the wayside just a bit. I've designed the first three, and have solid ideas in place for the last two. Now I have to worry that a new director may not like the conception of the show as I worked it out with the previous designer. In fact I have to worry that I will have a director at all... but I'm sure that will work it out, even if one of the producers has to step in as I'm sure will be the case at this point. I doubt they could get anyone completely new given the timeframe.

Oh bad, bad, bad.

Hopefully a big stumble at the beginning will mean a smooth run later in the season though, right?

Subway Sketches: METAPOST

Well, I thought I'd get a sketch or two in today to round out the year, but frankly I was more interested in the most recent issue of 52 from DC and so I got a bit distracted on the train. So... it looks like the trio of sketches I posted yesterday will be my last for a while. As you know if you have been reading for any period of time I usually spend the summers doing summer stock theatre, so that means I'll be out of the city and away from my beloved subways for the next three months. I'll still be posting art and sketches but subways will not be the topic for a while.

Of course you'll also be treated to three months of behind the scenes gossip about summer stock and theatre in general. It should be quite the summer! I have to build a working elevator, 6 carousel horses, a 14 foot tall castle, figure out some way to burn paper without flames, and magically make a fully decorated 12' tall christmas tree appear on stage. You don't want to miss those stories do you?

Subway Sketches Part CXXXXIII

Subway Sketches Part CXXXXII

Subway Sketches Part CXXXXI


A 10 piece chicken nugget at McD's in NYC costs $3.98.

You can get a 4 piece chicken nugget from the dollar menu though.

So for the same $4 you can get 16 nuggets by ordering in smaller increments.


(Fuck off! I had a craving!)

34 Most Heard Songs: List 15

Continuing, (yes, STILL) my 34 lists of 34 things (I'll finish someday) I present the 34 songs most played on my iPod or iTunes, with links to the songs at the iTunes store, where I can. (If you don't have iTunes software on your computer the links won't do you any good, sorry...).

1. Cornbread and Butterbeans, by the Carolina Sunshine Trio
Carolina Sunshine Trio - WPAQ - The Voice of the Blue Ridge Mountains - Cornbread and Butterbeans

2. Boots Like Emmylou's, by Janis Ian
(Not available on iTunes)

3. My Winding Wheel, by Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker - My Winding Wheel

4. Soul City, by Southern Culture on the Skids
Southern Culture On the Skids - Dirt Track Date - Soul City

5. Jane, by Dan Bern
Dan Bern - Fleeting Days - Jane

6. Soldier, Soldier, by Natalie Merchant
(Not available on iTunes)

7. Pink Moon, by Nick Drake
Nick Drake - Pink Moon - Pink Moon

8. Island, by The Ben Taylor Band
The Ben Taylor Band - Famous Among the Barns - Island

9. Waiting For My Real Life to Begin, by Colin Hay
Colin Hay - Man @ Work - Waiting for My Real Life to Begin

10. Black Eyed Dog, by Nick Drake
Nick Drake - Made to Love Magic - Black Eyed Dog

11. Granddaddy, by A.J. Roach
AJ Roach - Dogwood Winter - Granddaddy

12. You and I Both, by Jason Mraz
Jason Mraz - Waiting for My Rocket to Come - You and I Both

13. Harper Valley P.T.A, by Jeannie C. Riley
Jeannie C. Riley - Country Story Songs - Harper Valley P.T.A.

14. Comfortable, by John Mayer
John Mayer - Inside Wants Out - EP - Comfortable

15. Hotel Chelsea Night, by Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams - Love Is Hell, Pt. 2 - Hotel Chelsea Nights

16. Queen of the Slipstream, by Van Morrison
(Not available on iTunes)

17. Yesterday, by the Beatles
(Not available on iTunes)

18. Close the Door, by Clem Snide
Clem Snide - Soft Spot - Close the Door

19. Supersucker, by Dan Mckenzie
Dan Mackenzie - Good Things - Supersucker

20. The Pearl, by Emmylou Harris
Emmylou Harris - Red Dirt Girl - The Pearl

21. Sweet Baby James, by James Taylor
James Taylor - Sweet Baby James - Sweet Baby James

22. Harder to Breathe, by Maroon 5
Maroon 5 - Songs About Jane - Harder to Breathe

23. Through With You, by Maroon 5
Maroon 5 - Songs About Jane - Through with You

24. Oh My Sweet Carolina, by Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker - Oh My Sweet Carolina

25. The Man From God Knows Where, by Tom Russell
Tom Russell - The Man from God Knows Where - The Man from God Knows Where

26. Save the Day, by Train
Train - My Private Nation - Save the Day

27. Spaceship, by Angie Aparo
(Not available on iTunes)

28. I Feel Fine, by the Beatles
(Not available on iTunes)

29. But You Know I Love You, by Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton - The Essential Dolly Parton - But You Know I Love You

30. Hand Me Downs, by The Indigo Girls
Indigo Girls - Nomads Indians Saints - Hand Me Downs

31. Love Soon, by John Mayer
John Mayer - Inside Wants Out - EP - Love Soon

32. True Companion, by Marc Cohn
Marc Cohn - Marc Cohn - True Companion

33. Drag Queens in Limousines, by Mary Gauthier
Mary Gauthier - Drag Queens in Limousines - Drag Queens in Limousines

34. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, by Paul Simon
Paul Simon - Graceland - Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes

Redneck Cookin'

I love Paula Deen. I love her because her voice is a little piece of home. I love her because she looks like, and her voice sounds an awful lot like BFE Michelle's mother. I love her because, like a lot of southerners, she has pretensions of grandeur but if you just barely scratch the surface you'll find a pure redneck. In other words she gets a bit "above her raisin' " but in an endearing way. Don't believe me? Watch her show and see how many of her recipes use mayonnaise, canned fruit, or.. and this is the ultimate... canned biscuits.

Canned biscuits go into an odd category of life's adventures: the necessary evil. Canned biscuits, like instant grits and powdered tea mix are something that no true southerner would consume if the real thing was nearby. But they do in a pinch.

Last week Ms. Paula made a coffee cake that I thought would have to be either the best thing I ever tasted, or a culinary train wreck. The main ingredient? Canned biscuits.

While I was in Connecticut I mentioned the recipe to Michelle, and she agreed with me that this was a culinary experiment that had to be tried. The recipe is pretty simple, canned biscuits formed into a ball around a teaspoon of cream cheese, and rolled in a mixture of orange zest, nuts, sugar and butter. The biscuits are then shoved into a bundt pan and cooked as a mass. (You can find the actual recipe here.)

Our product looked like this:

And let me tell you that it was DELICIOUS. It was sweet without being overpowering, the cream cheese was perfect, and the combo of nuts and oranges is fabulous. If you are looking for a quick, fun, tasty recipe, this is the one I recommend. Get in your kitchen, get your redneck ingredients out, and get cookin'!!

I Hate Technology


Okay... After nearly 12 hours of starting and restarting my modem, my router, and my computer, reading the manual for the router cover to cover, calling customer support for both the router and the cable company, downloading patches and firmware updates... and just generally pulling my hair and gnashing my teeth... I have wireless net access again. What did I do you ask?

I bought a new router.

That's right, my third in a month. Roughly a month ago my old router, which had served me faithfully for nearly two years decided to quit working. I wasn't heart broken as it was old, and only 802.11b, (not g as the newer models are) so I happily replaced it. The new router worked beautifully for approximately two weeks now but about a week ago started running slowly and needing frequent reboots. Coming home to find Mark with his laptop hardwired to the modem was the end. I could not even get the router to work directly with my ethernet using wires, so that means that we are down to one net port for the whole house. Unfortunately I had already disposed of the packaging of the new router so there's not much I can do about it. And so... off to the store for a replacement. We'll see how long this one lasts.

A Momentary Breakdown

Bear with me folks, I'm having some technical difficulties. I went to Connecticut for a few days only to discover that I had neglected to take my power cord. I return home to discover that the new wireless router I purchased a few weeks ago has mysteriously stopped working. I hope to be back on the horse in a day or two.

Subway Sketches Part CXXXX

12 of 12

Chad Darnell has started an interesting project over on his blog. The idea is that on the twelfth of each month people around the world take 12 photographs of their day to day activities and post them to the web. He keeps a collection of links to the various entries here. Earlier this week I invested in a brand spanking new digital camera in preparation for taking portfolio shots while I'm away this summer, so I decided to participate.

Here's a little of what my day looked like.

I pass this every morning on my way to the subway. I've always been attracted to the colors of it, the sign and the old shoe shine stand. As soon as I decided to do this project I knew that this would be one of the first things I'd shoot.

This week I'm working on a series of illustrations for a theatre in Connecticut's season brochure. This photo will be reworked as part of a computer collage for the show "Restoration Comedy." I borrowed the costume, (and the girl!) from the costume shop of a theatre that I've worked for here in the city.

I took a walk down 8th avenue after the photo shoot in the costume shop.

I stopped off at one of my favorite Japanese stores for a snack. (Not these fish, but I thought they made an interesting photo!)

Waiting for the A train at 42nd street. There's always half a dozen E's before an A shows up.

Isn't my street pretty with the leaves on the trees? All of these had white flowers on them a week or so ago.

Home again, home again.

Not exactly the healthiest of meals, I know, but it was tasty, and it was what I was craving.

A little work on the brochure's cover. See Chad's blog on the window underneath photoshop?

Roommate M and I settle in for an evening of DVDs. The laptops are never very far away.

The sun goes down on my neighborhood. Sorry for the blurriness, I'm still learning how this camera responds.

My last act of the night, getting the sketchbook out to scan today's Subway Sketch and get it ready for posting.

34 Things of Importance: List 14

Continuing my 34 lists of 34 things I offer what might seem like a random list, but are actually very important to me. 34 things that evoke some emotion in me, or trigger a memory, or remind me of someone specific. They are pretty innocuous things, some of which I experience frequently, some of which I haven't encountered in years, but they all hold some special power for me. I've limited this list to things I might see out in the everyday world, rather than objects I own.

1. Denim shirts
2. Maypops
3. Vegetables preserved in Mason jars
4. Amaretto liqueur
5. Gold spray paint
6. White peaches
7. Biscuits
8. June bugs
9. Orange soda
10. Saccharine tablets
11. Zero bars
12. The smell of honeysuckle
13. Tin roofs
14. Blue Christmas bulbs
15. The novel "Interview With A Vampire"
16. Pralines
17. The smell of a tent
18. Quartz crystals
19. Irish spring soap
20. Gum tree balls
21. Tadpoles
22. Green apples (the not-ripe kind, not the Granny Smith kind)
23. Playing cards
24. A Kamikaze
25. Woodsmoke
26. Kermit
27. Melamine dishes
28. Cans of Vienna sausages
29. Pinkie rings
30. Spanish moss
31. Stargazer lilies
32. The smell of freshly poured concrete
33. Carl Budding Beef
34. Hematite

An Open Letter to American Idol Voters

Dear America,
Are you serious? I know that Ryan says every week that you can't bitch if you don't vote, and I didn't vote but I'm going to bitch anyway. I forgave you for the fiasco of a final vote last year when you chose Carrie over Bo. Mainly because Bo would be better off without the win around his neck.

But I thought we had an understanding about this year's final four. As far as I was concerned it was "Chris Daughtry and the losers." You clearly had another understanding. Katherine? She seriously should have gone out three weeks ago, right after Ace. Yes, as I get reminded every week, by someone who will remain nameless, she has "great tits" but there has to be some other criteria for this contest doesn't there? If she wins she'll be an even weaker winner than Carrie Underwood. Taylor? I've been wondering what the hell was going on with this doofus for weeks now. Really. The only reason I'd buy an album from this guy was because it would mean that I wouldn't have to look at him as he performs. I'd rather see Kevin Covais in the final three than this jackass. He's bad America. Bad. Bad! BAD! His novelty act should have worn off by now. Stick him in a time machine and send him back to the Borscht Belt performers where he belongs. Elliot? Well... Elliot I don't mind so much. He would have made a great runner up for Chris.

Look... Yes, he has had some weak songs. Yes, he should have given Live! credit for the Johnny Cash thing. But he should also have been the winner of this year. What's going on America? Have you lost your ability to pick winners? First it was President Bush and then things just sort of went to hell everywhere. I thought at least I could trust you with this responsibility, even if you do get the politics wrong.


Next year I stop watching after the auditions. I can't take the heartbreak.

Subway Sketches Part CXXXIX


Last week BFE Michelle called me to share the news that one of her friends had discovered he was HIV positive. She and I had a long talk about responsibility and the things that led him to this point in his life and that sort of thing. Afterwards I was feeling a bit guilty about it all because I was pretty oblivious to my own HIV status.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not really a high risk sort of individual. I do not participate in the types of activities that this gentleman does, and I practice safe sex, etc. but safe sex includes being tested on a regular basis, just in case. I had fallen down on that part of my responsibilities. I went in being pretty sure of the results already, but there's always those moments of nagging doubt. A cold that lingers for more than a week. A virus that I catch far too easily and the thought always crosses my mind. The last time I was tested was in my first year of grad school, which, though it seems like last week to me, was actually four years ago. It was time.

Discussing it with Roommate M he decided that perhaps he should be tested as well. He's straight, but he's sexually active and that means he's at risk, just like the rest of us, so he agreed to join me. At about 2:30 this afternoon we arrived at the NY Dept. of Health in Chelsea, ready to discover our fate.

My counselor was an interesting woman, asking me the pre-scripted questions in provocative ways. She walked a fine line between being friendly, acting as a counsellor and laying on a small guilt trip about the amount of time I have allowed to pass between tests. It was an interesting experience. M's counsellor sounded much more mechanical and by the script in comparison. I think I lucked out.

The NYCDOH uses an oral test based on saliva rather than blood, (though they still drew a vacutainer full of blood for some reason). The oral test means that my results would be ready in 45 minutes. 45 minutes! That's vastly different from the last time I was tested when I had to wait a week for the results and so was treated to the joy of living with my own thoughts and worries, amplified by the act of having performed the test of course. Today I passed my period of worry by listening to my iPod and watching Montel on the waiting room television.

As I expected the results were fine. I'm negative. (As was M in case you wondered.) It's a nice feeling to know though. It's a nice feeling to be responsibly aware again.

So what about you? Do you know?

Subway Sketches Part CXXXVIII

34 Worst Movies Ever: List 13

Inspired by my recent brush with #1 on this list I decided to comile the 34 worst crimes ever committed against celluloid. (At least in my opinion.) While it's tempting to throw in obvious crap like Baby Geniuses and Look Who's Talking Now I've limited this to movies that I actually paid good money to see.

1. An American Haunting
2. Dungeons and Dragons
3. Batman and Robin
4. Armageddon
5. Sleep Hollow
6. Must Love Dogs
7. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
8. Reign of Fire
9. Van Helsing
10. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
11. Forest Gump
12. Identity
13. Blair Witch 2
14. The Village
15. Catwoman
16. Tommy Boy
17. Three to Tango
18. Ocean's 12
19. The Core
20. A.I. Artificial Intelligence
21. Star Trek: Generations
22. Waiting
23. Mr. Wrong
24. A Night at the Roxbury
25. It's Pat
26. Queen of the Damned
27. The Skulls
28. Species 2
29. Bad News Bears
30. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
31. Gothika
32. The Haunting
33. Alex and Emma
34. City of Angels

Attack of the Reality Girls

I can't seem to avoid the women of reality TV these days. Yesterday at Starbucks I saw Stacie J from The Apprentice. I must say that she is gorgeous in person. This evening it was Yaya from cycle 3 of America's Next Top Model. She was with an older woman, (I'd guess her mother or grandmother) and she was decked out in a beautiful purple dashiki. Maybe tomorrow I'll be in line at McDonalds behind my favorite reality girl ever: Jim Morrison from Season one of The Mole.

Awwww.... now that just ain't right.

Meme Day

Saw this little meme in another blog and thought I'd try it. After I saw the first answer I knew I'd have to post it. Some make sense, some don't and others... a bit spooky.

Here's the rules: Set your preffered music player to "shuffle/random" and answer these questions with the song titles that come up. Don't cheat!

1. How does the world see you? "Riding On A Subway" by Jesse Malin (Well... that was obvious.)
2. Will I have a happy life? "Life is Sweet" by Natalie Merchant (Nice to hear.)
3. What do my friends think of me? "Atlanta and Birmingham" by Deana Carter (Birmingham being where my best friend is from, Atlanta being where my other best friend lives.)
4. Do people secretly lust after me? "The Devil's Haircut" by Beck (Is being bald the devil's haircut?)
5. How can I make myself happy? "Let it Be" by The Beatles (Good advice for anyone.)
6. What should I do with my life? "Note to Self: Don't Die" by Ryan Adams (More good advice!)
7. Will I ever have children? "For What It's Worth" by the Cardigans
8. What is some good advice for me? "Cowboys are Frequently Secretly (Fond of each Other)" by Willie Nelson (Uhm... thanks?)
9. How will I be remembered? "Ghost in This House" by Alison Krauss and Union Station (Who's ready to be haunted?)
10. What's my signature dancing song? "Walking After Midnight" by Patsy Cline (Cause I DO dance like a white boy.)
11. What's my current theme song? "Sunday Morning Song" by Howie Day
12. What do others think is my current theme song? "Kiss Me" by Shelly Fairchild
13. What shall they play at my funeral? "The Long Day Is Over" by Norah Jones (Sweet.)
14. What type of men do I like? "Loose String" by Son Volt (So many interpretations....)
15. How's my love life? "Back to You" by John Mayer (No, no... please, no more going backwards.)

Subway Sketches Part CXXXVII