Subway Sketches Part LXCIII

Subway Sketches Part LXCII

Adventures in Small Town Theatre

Everyone who has ever worked in theatre can watch the movie Waiting for Guffman and recognize some part of themselves, or of someone they have worked with or for in the past. (For the uninitiated Guffman is a hilarious mockumentary about a small town putting on a play about their history.) The saddest part is that doing theatre out in the "real world" away from New York or Chicago, or Boston where theatre is frequently performed, is an awful lot like being in Guffman. The people don't really understand what it takes to mount a production sometimes. The audience may not fully get the conceptualization of the idea. But I have to say... it's not all bad.

My current situation is this: I'm working in a TINY town in Connecticut, designing an opera. The company is great, has a great reputation among the people in the area and has resources that I would kill for in the city. The budget is great, in fact I am so used to having smaller budgets and producing shows in the city that I am hard pressed to imagine how I'd ever spend the budget they gave me without hiring an entire phalanx of carpenters, or sending the set out to a shop to be built. The people are incredibly nice. I am staying with a patron of the theatre who owns a largish house, and has been gracious enough to allow the opera to house me there. In fact all of the singers and tech crew are staying with various patrons around the city, as well as borrowing cars from them in many cases. The town though, is so small that everyone here knows who we are.

The town is a small tourist community, right on the ocean. It is situated on a peninsula about three blocks wide and twenty blocks or so long. It's a lovely historic community where every house was built before the revolution, and if you tore up the sidewalks and street paving it would probably look about the same ass it did back then. During the summer I imagine that the place is teeming with tourists, but now there's just the locals, and the people working for the opera. Twice now I've been recognized as being "Not One Of Us" and asked about the production. The full time residents of the town are all, it seems, fairly wealthy, as you'd have to be to live in houses like this and a town like this. One of the benefits of this is that they all have the latest tech gadgetry and there are open wireless networks all over the place, which allows me to post here, while sitting in a gazebo on the edge of the ocean watching the boats rock in the harbor. A fringe benefit of small town theatre that I don't often get, I'll admit.

The theatre was kind enough to hire me a carpenter to help with the build. He's been amazing, but since he's a real carpenter, used to building cabinetry, and has never done theatrical carpentry before it took me a while to convince him that I didn't need things to be measured in 64ths of inches.

The patrons have also been very generous with their belongings. A few days ago I spent the afternoon going to various homes and looking through their furniture to see if there was anything that I needed to borrow for the show. "Oh, you need a 19th century dressing screen? What color? I have three." Never have I had such a wealth of antiques available that people were wiling to allow me to put on stage.

I have three more days of sitting in parks to check my email, and building theatre in Small Town, USA, then it's back to reality in the big city and back to doing theatre the way I've grown used to doing it: cheaply, with unskilled volunteer help, and almost no resources. Sounds like fun, huh?

Losing Work

One of the worst things that happens to me as a freelancer is that I occasionally lose work because I already have work. That was the situation today. A theatre that I have worked for quite a bit in the past called me to check my availability. They usually have their schedule down to within an inch of its life so I was expecting that the work would be for October or November, but today that wasn't the case. They need a design for a show that went into rehearsal... yesterday! Since I am out of town for the next 6 days they regrettably said that they would probably have to look elsewhere, but that they would look at the schedule and see if it would be possible. I extended the only solution that I have, which would be for me to take a train back to the city on Saturday to meet with the director, since I have Sunday off here. It remains to be seen if that will happen. The frustration of knowing that there is a job going undone (by me at least), because I am already working elsewhere is killing me!

Subway Sketches Part LXCI

Almost Like Being In Love: A REVIEW

Click here and go order this books. (Just trust me, it will only cost you $1.54 if you buy it used!)

Sometimes I just feel like reading something fluffy, and sometimes I just feel like reading something with gay protagonists (do you know how tired I get of reading about straight romances? I mean... really... I can sympathize only SO much). And sometimes I just feel like reading both. That quest led me here. After reading the back of the book (A high school jock and nerd fall in love senior year...) I was expecting a light romp without much substance and maybe a few salacious chapters to make me blush on the subway. What I got was a great romantic comedy that had me alternatively laughing and crying (I hate crying when I read on the subway).

The story is told through diary excerpts, inter-office memos, emails, lists, court transcripts and more. It really gets moving in chapter two when the plot jumps forward 20 years to find the two boys both living happy lives on separate coasts, until one of them decides to change all that. The result is comparable to "Forget Paris" or "My Best Friend's Wedding" and the best of cinematic romantic comedy.

If you've ever wondered what happened to your first true love, or if you ever had a first true love, then this is the book for you. If you've ever travelled even a few hours to show up on the doorstep of your first true love (which I have and don't really recommend unless you ARE a character in a book) then this book is REALLY for you.

Now my biggest problem is that the book that was supposed to last me through my train ride to Connecticut (to work on the opera) has in actuality lasted me less than two days and has left me bookless for my journey. The good news is that I have a new favorite book to re-read whenever I'm feeling depressed or lonely.

I loved it so much in fact that I just ordered it for BFE Michelle, and though he doesn't know it yet Mark will be reading it this week. (Let's see how a straight guy feels about being on the other side of my romance coin! Ha!)

The Perfect Sweet Tea

Every family has a way of making it. Everyone has their preferred method. Their perfect amount of sugar. Just the right number of tea bags. Here's mine:

First: Lipton Tea bags. This is important. None of that Tetley bullshit. Not the "cold brew" kind (more on that in a minute). And none of those single tea bags that are supposed to make whole pitchers. You'll need 8 tea bags.

Second: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Now... do I measure out two quarts? No, of course not. I fill my medium sized pot, (and yes I only have one medium sized pot, I'm not that gay) about halfway. I'm guessing that it's about two quarts. It's important that the water be boiling before you put the tea bags in. I hope it goes without saying but pull all the little papers tags off the tea bags. Some people go to the trouble of tying all the strings together so that the bags make a little bundle... I find this unnecessary but if you're feeling bored while you are waiting for the water to boil, go ahead. After the water boils, drop the tea bags in. You can drop the heat a bit, but keep the water at a boil.

A note about so called "cold brews:" Someone came up with the brilliant notion off dropping several tea bags into a cold pitcher of water and letting it "steep" for a long period. This, along with "sun tea" has to be some weird Yankee method of making iced tea. The resulting tea is weak, and flavorless, and has no place on the table of a southern home. Avoid it!

Third: In a gallon sized pitcher place 1 cup of sugar. One. ONE! I know people who put up to three cups of sugar in a gallon of tea. That's overkill. We're making a beverage here, not some sort of iced tea syrup.

Fourth: Here's where the real art comes in. I prefer a nice dark tea. Some people prefer a lighter tea. I usually let my tea boil for 3 minutes or so. Up to 5. The tea should be a deep mahogany color in the pot, in it's undiluted form.

Fifth: Pour the hot tea into the pitcher with the sugar. Use a spoon to keep the bags from falling into the pitcher. Gently squeeze the remaining tea out of the bags. Be careful not to rip or burst one of the tea bags or you'll end up with tea leaves in your tea. Stir the hot tea and sugar allowing the sugar to dissolve completely.

Sixth: Fill pitcher with cold water, stir, and refrigerate. The resultant tea should be a dark red-brown.

Seventh: Enjoy!

Advanced Preparations: Fresh lemon is a time honored tradition to southern iced tea, as is a mint leaf as a garnish. Either are acceptable. Raspberries are to be avoided. They do not grow in the south and are not an acceptable ingredient. Raspberries are a leftover holdout from the 90's. Remember when everything came in a raspberry flavor? If you are simply dying for a berry flavor go with blackberries. Lipton makes a variety of flavored black teas. Mint, blackberry, orange spice, or honey lemon would make decent additions to southern style sweet tea. Simply replace on or two of the tea bags with the flavored type, depending on how strong a flavor you desire. One is usually enough for me. Do NOT be fooled by Lipton's raspberry flavor. Ignore it. Every company makes mistakes. For further proof of their mistakes check the mixes and powders that they also make. Avoid these at all cost.

Enjoy your tea, and if you are not normally an iced tea drinker but you try it based on my instructions, let me know!

Cache in the City

Yesterday afternoon on the way to my weekly VS. card game I decided to swing by a public plaza in the area and check out a geocache, I looked for one earlier this week in a park near my neighborhood but couldn't find it. This one though was in a city street area rather than a wooded area. The truth is I didn't even need my GPS unit, which might be "cheating" but I figured it would attract more attention seeing me stumbling around looking at a bright yellow hand held device than it would for me to just look at the map and figure out where I was headed. To be in the public and a highly visible area it was pretty ingeniously hidden tucked behind a metal post and held up with magnets. The plaza itself was tucked between a couple buildings, one of those great NYC places that you'd only ever really know about if you lived or worked in the neighborhood and looked in just the right direction as you walked by.

I'm surprised by how many caches there are in Manhattan really. Several dozen, and most of them hidden in very public areas, not in the parks or the few wild areas as I expected. It's a different style of geocaching than what I was doing this summer, but fun in its own way. It's weird sometimes to think of all the things in the city, in the world really, that you might walk by every day and be completely unaware of because you just didn't know where to look.

Big or Little

At this point I am figuring that the job in PA is a no-go. I'm not sure why, but since I should be several days into the design period at this point and I'm not... well... one has to assume. So, my fabulous several months of not having to worry about job hunting won't be quite as long as I believed. On the plus side finding work right now doesn't seem to be a problem. For instance I spent the last few days in Brooklyn painting miniature buildings for the set of this movie. It's been quite fun actually as it combines two of my favorite things- painting distressed materials and model making. There's a good ten feet of buildings, both sides of the street with a lot of detail. The movie is a stop-motion animation piece so the cameras and the lenses are tiny and will pick up every little piece of information. I can't wait to see! The rest of this week will be spent doing the exact opposite and making giant or oversized replicas of everything from a powder box to a milk carton to a bog of cotton balls. All of this has to be built to the scale of a mouse. Again, kind of fun, don'tcha think?

Subway Sketches Part LXC

Commenting Problems?

Several of you have emailed to say that you are having trouble leaving comments for me. Here's the deal: Blogger has been sold to Google. Google has added some new features that you can only use if you merge your Blogger account with your Google account. I have done that.

Here's the wrinkle though: people who have not upgraded their Blogger accounts cannot post comments on blogs that have been upgraded, and vice versa. Blogger has added the option of logging in as "Other" to the comments box so that you can still comment, and you can link your comment to your blog.

So if you are a Blogger user who has not upgraded please use the "Other" option to leave comments for me until Blogger gets all this ironed out! Thanks!

Subway Sketches Part LXXXIX: The Return!

Growing Pains

You may have noticed that I've changed templates... well... Blogger changed so I had to as well. Blogger was recently purchased by Google and implemented some nifty new features that I wanted to take advantage of. (Mainly the subject labels) In order to do that I had to change to one of their new templates. The result has been a bit rocky and I apologize for any weirdness you may have experienced. First the flash based flickr badge no longer works, so I had to switch to the far less cool html one that now graces my sidebar. Then I freaked out because my hit counter dropped to almost zero for the last two days until I realized that switching templates stripped out the code for the counter. Today I was looking at some old posts and discovered that one of the new features (backtracking–which shows you if anyone has linked to a specific post) works fine for the current posts but causes the old posts to splash up an html warning, (at least in Safari, the browser I use). If there are any other bugs that I'm not seeing in some other browser please let me know so I can work it out for all our sakes! In the coming days I'll be doing some more site maintenance shifting the stock html of the template into something a nit more... me.