Doc

October 28, 2015

This year is a big one for me, for I will see my first full length musical produced on stage. Southeastern Louisiana University is producing High and Mighty November 17-21. Consequently, I feel like a woman waiting to give birth. It is the strangest/most exciting/scariest/most intimidating thing I have ever experienced. The good news is that the script is in the hands of a master. Jim Winter was kind enough to read my script, as a favor, about two years ago with the goal of offering me guidance to either

a) keep going, but revise

or

b) stop writing and learn to paint instead.

What happened was unexpected. He took the script under his wing and mentored me through the revision process. At the same time, he orchestrated a series of readings and workshops to support the development process. He confided to me that new play development was his favorite aspect of theatre. This process was exhilarating for him. The crowning touch for me came the day he asked me for permission to produce it on stage. Wow.

That was over a year ago, and we are now into the home stretch of rehearsals. Jim has treated the script as a doctor would a healthy pregnancy. He is positive, capable and gentle with the mother. Still, he is firm regarding the final stages (no pun intended) of this journey. Observing him at rehearsals has been one of my favorite pieces of this pie. The man exudes the patience (again-no pun) of Job as he sets actors free to discover their characters. Never once have I seen him spoon feed an actor a motivation, a movement or a line. He Socratically offers fodder for development, then stands back and lets them find their way. It is the most generous thing a director can do for an actor, no matter how seasoned, no matter how green.

How did this cast, crew and I get so lucky to have Jim as our leader? Hmmmm. It was just in the stars, I guess. All I know is that my due date is November 17, and I am certain that this baby is in the best of hands.

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Honey, I’m Home!

October 22, 2015

Honey, I’m Home!

A man in my neighborhood is extremely enamored with Halloween. The obsession is growing each year, too. A few years ago, this person, who shall remain nameless, decided to dress up in a vampire costume to hand out candy to the little children who rang our..I mean HIS… bell on October 31. Cute, huh? He also hired a student to repeatedly drop a bloody, ghostly dummy out the window of the second floor of the house as little Trick or Treaters walked up the front steps of the house to retrieve their annual stash of bite sized preservative, fat and sugar delivery systems. The children, and some of the adults who ushered them around town that night, were horrified as they were not expecting a ghoul to drop in front of their faces without warning. Witnessing their fear and terror was manna to this…person. And so it began. The annual challenge to out do last year’s efforts at horror. Every year, more bones, gravestones, spirits and special effects have been added to the menagerie of fright.

A few years ago, late one October night after a meeting in the city, I drove into my driveway….I mean MY NEIGHBORHOOD…I saw that THIS PERSON…had removed all the light bulbs from lighting outside the house as well as inside the house and replaced them with RED light bulbs. I assume that was to emphasize the whole blood and guts orgy that was to come in a few days. After all, the anticipation of the big event is half the fun, right? For days prior to Halloween, I….I mean THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE INSIDE THAT HOUSE…had to step over **#!&#! lamp shades that had been removed, special lights that had been installed, and miles of extension cords that were the lifeblood (sorry, no pun intended) of the entire show.

The year after that addition, I….I mean THESE PEOPLE IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD, had hired a carpenter to complete some of the odd jobs that regularly come with owning an old house. Rotten wood, chipping paint, minor leaks. You get the idea. And actually, I am sure it was THE WIFE who had carefully budgeted and planned for the carpenter’s projects. This was probably not something she enjoyed doing, but she had done it, done it well and had even created a timeline for completion. Now, this is the crazy part. Without a word, the NAMELESS PERSON had sidetracked the carpenter into building a CASKET instead of plugging the damn roof leak! That way, THE MAN IN VAMPIRE COSTUME would have a casket in which to lie down. The children would have to pass right by it if they wanted any treats. Seriously. And yes by the way, this PERSON is an adult. He is an adult with lots of education. Go figure. Sooooo, as the wood remained rotten and the paint remained chipped, the LIFE SIZED, HEVY DUTY, TASSLE TRIMMED CASKET was constructed without a flaw. Hours and hours of labor. And the carpenter seemed thrilled! And neither the carpenter or THE OTHER PERSON found this to be odd at all!

This year, THIS PERSON WHO RESIDES IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD agreed to let his wife design the spookiness, as he realized that perhaps his efforts had grown somewhat out of control. She did a splendid job, for clearly the woman has good taste, draping the house with simple, yet elegant spider webs and giant black spiders. It looks as dignified as possible under the circumstances. And still, THE PERSON waits until she is going to be away from the house for several hours, and he begins tweaking. He cannot stop himself. Like Jack Nickolson in The Shining, he daily roams the grounds seeking targets for improvement. So, as of two nights ago, there are now ghostly, moving blue floodlights gracing the house. This is in addition to all the other lights in and on the house. Blue lights. Red is sooooo last year. And I must say, the effect is not horrible. It looks as though the house is surrounded by a moat and the moonlight is casting a hazy glow on the sloshing water. I have no idea what is coming next, but it will be something. How do I know this? Because we still have over a week to go before the big day. There is plenty of time for improvement. And apparently, THIS PERSON is always thinking about his next reign of terror. Also, this sort of curse never stops giving. Fine. Whatever. I am just saying that before this is all over, THIS PERSON’s wife may start to think that, actually, he looks pretty good in that casket. That is still to be seen, but I am NOT NAMING NAMES.

Booked

October 3, 2015

Do you remember the first full length chapter book you ever read? I do. It was The Hidden Staircase, number two in the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene. My mother gave it to me as a Christmas gift, and I think I was about ten years old. I started reading that book the day she gave it to me and couldn’t put it down. I read it as I walked around the house, stepping over wrapping paper and ribbon. I read it in the bathtub, a joyful indulgence to this day. I read it until I fell asleep and picked it back up the minute I awoke. I read it straight through until I finished. That was my first torrid affair with a book, and the beginning of a lifelong habit that has brought me peace when I felt overwhelmed, and quiet when the world got too noisy. Books have been lifelong companions to me; the family that never gives me a hard time. Books have transported me to lands I will never visit, and introduced me to people I still yearn to meet. Books have taught me about food, weather, plants, addictions and loneliness. Books have taught me about anger and gentleness, love and hate, hunger and sex. Books are the thing that I love most about many of my friends. To this day, when I enter a person’s home for the first time, my eyes scan the rooms for two things; the artwork they choose as daily companions, and the books that they are reading. You can learn more about people by perusing their home for those two things than you can from hours of conversation. Books and artwork speak volumes in their silence. The absence of them speaks too. That is why I dislike electronic reading devices. They rob us of the chance to get to know someone before we have even spoken. Books are the backdrop of a person’s interests. The only thing better than a good book is a friend who loves the same book you love, or hates the same one you hate, or loves the one you hate. My friend Cecily regularly sends me text messages that contain nothing but the title of a book and the name of the author. That simple communication is one of my favorite elements of the friendship.

My first official book club developed while I was living in New York in my twenties. There were a few of us from Hammond who had moved there within the span of a few years. Some of us knew each other fairly well, some of us knew of each other, and some of us thought we remembered each other, but weren’t quite sure. Ironically, some of our mothers had even been in a book club together at approximately the same time in their lives, so we decided that New York needed a Hammond Book Club. That is how she was born, the HBC. The truth was, we probably needed each other, and the books brought us together as divine intervention.

Once a month, we would gather in each other’s apartments, scattered around the city. Some of the apartments were spacious and inviting; a Hammond living room transported to the Big A. Some of them (ok, mine) were tiny and bustling with roommates and collages of furniture left behind by former roommates. Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Mid Town, Brooklyn. We shared meals, wine, opinions and stories from home. We talked about the book of the month and argued over whether the characters were noble or spineless. Uncle Tom, Frankie, Antonia. The list of names goes on and on. Those gatherings were like getting a strong dose of Louisiana when we were sick from the lack of heat and humidity. It was marvelous, and I miss those monthly gatherings with ladies who impacted my life more than they will ever know. You see, I was the youngest of them all, therefore grateful to be given a seat at such a sophisticated table. They wrapped me up in words and settings, with a glass of wine on the side. It seems like a lifetime ago. Still, if I close my eyes I can picture the setting. There is a tray of shrimp mousse and crackers, sitting on a cocktail table, just as our mothers would have taught us. I can see Ricki tossing her head back as she laughs with gusto. I can see Laura and Kit shaking their heads at something foolish I had just said. I can see Claire listening intently to an opposing opinion, knowing she is growing inside just by listening.

Soon after the HBC began, we started inviting other women to join us. You know, yankee women. And they slid right in there adding yet another flavor to the group. Throughout those years, we attended each other’s weddings, gave parties together, went to church side by side-ok, sometimes-, and cried on each other’s shoulders…sometimes. But mostly, we loved our books together. Loving books together is a powerful bond. Trust me, it is. I miss those days and that combinations of people. Sometimes, I think about trying to get all of us together again to talk about a book but, these days, we are all scattered around the country. Sadly, it probably won’t ever happen. Still, there are times, when I pick up a new book, that I wonder what those ladies are reading. I know that they are reading something good. Or bad. Or controversial. But you can bet that they are reading something, because that piece of you just doesn’t go away.