Monthly Archives: September 2008

>Last Performance

>
9/29/08
I had to change the date on this posting, I thought I’d come home from the final performance and write, on Sunday night. Right as I came in; I would sit and write. Well I am a fool. I was wrung out, a puddle. Not tired, but done.

During the run of this show, at all 15 performances, we were all tested by heat, lack of working machinery, and nearly every cast member was so late on at least one occasion that it gave me palpitations. And I kept saying, OK so who can fill in for the clarinet? Or can we cover for Troy until he gets here? And they always slipped in right as I was about to call the Deep Lunatic Ward at Belleview, for myself. On top of that, we had endless and constantly morphing technical challenges in the near to ancient LaMama theater. On the final night, the lights went dark for a scene and a half as the cast and musicians kept playing while the less than competent electrician attempted to jiggle wires and reply things.

My frustration level was tip-top.

9/30 08
OK starting again.
It seems I am having trouble writing this.
It is the end; the end for now folks keep saying,
but I know it is the end of this artistic moment.

I have done no other work since March nearly seven months, a long time.
And for now it is over.

I’d love to, mount it again; but for this moment it is over.
And the ground swell and I had wanted, OH DON”T GET ME WRONG the press, the love, the applause, all were wonderful, but I felt it would be life changing.
I felt, or fantasized that I would be hired, or lauded to the point of being saved and that we would most definitely know where we going after this. My book would be picked up by a publisher and I would stop asking, begging, requesting things from others to help me or those I loved, respected and wanted on my team.

I felt I would raise or earn funds to pay people more that the tad they received. Hell, I didn’t think I’d be here attempting to figure out if we made enough to pay the violinist, the choreographer and the press woman. These three, the best sports, who have still not gotten their promised amounts. UUGH. Or that neither Doug nor I would be paid a cent, and would, in fact, be out of pocket. Not a fortune but now, what is a fortune? Grocery money, certainly, and where else will that come from? OK that is too dramatic, even for me.

As the country melts down financially, I await the word on REAL JOB.

I had my phone interview with the LA shrink hired to deconstruct the personality, aptitude test I took in haste last Thursday. Dr. Whoever was nice enough and we had some interesting off topic conversations about cooking, but still he did tell me there were others in the running. I said, “Well, I hope so as it is a plum job.” I didn’t say ‘and in a shrinking job market.’ I answered what he asked; I stayed on topic; I was friendly and open hearted–meaning I was a portion of who I am. I checked my fear in the hall closet and only occasionally gave the finger to the phone. That felt good, and let me stay calm and happy. I was. As I knew one way or the other, this was moving me steps closer to the decision.

The show is so vibrantly present in my front and back brain that when I can’t sleep, I sing the words and music constantly to myself.
“Nothing to do but breathe,
Nothing but sweet air.
Sweet air, in and out.”

Or when Zac leaves for work I sing, “Quick trip there and back. Quick trip.”

Silly.

I love this show and I feel like a bit of a failure, as I wish we were signed up to go to Festivals across the globe and across the country.

I loved, and was challenged by so much of this. I was dubbed a hot head by composer Doug, and I am sure I was, but I feel I got things done, I did light fires and made so many calls, wrote emails and sent actual mail. But there is this huge let down, a post partum, if you will, where I can’t help seeing and thinking of all the other things I coulda, shoulda done, felt, said . . .

This is no different than the culmination of a relationship, or job or maybe it is, because this is exacerbated by the fact that we are also living in terrifying times. And once again I am moving funds from here to there attempting to pay bills and not scare myself or those around me.

Today I cleaned, I straightened books, papers, magazines, scripts, invitations and I found all the back bills. I began to catalog the papers for CALLING to be able to retrieve and redo at a moment’s notice. And I attempted to feel the spirit of the Jewish New Year as it slipped quietly into New York City.

A few months ago, I made a promise to come here often to chronicle the making of this opera and I did that somewhat. I couldn’t be totally honest; as there were often so many emotionally frustrating and crazy occurrences and I felt it would have compromised the production to be an unflinching scribe. But now it is closed and I am exhausted and want to read, or eat apples and ride my bike to nowhere.

I went back to the gym yesterday and in my mind I screamed for the entire hour,
“RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!!”

It was horrible to stick with the difficult Pilates class, and to see the slippage of my corpus and my resolve. I am attempting to eat no sugar and drink no alcohol, but as we watched the news about Wall Street last night, I thought, the sky is falling better finish my birthday cake and have a glass of wine. And so I did. Getting back in shape is always a test, finding a slimmer, not slim mind you, me and ending the sugar highs that have kept me awake and functioning at all.

I’d like to visit here often, but I am making no more promises for a while.

>The Day After

>I had a big flowery birthday, with the cast giving me a bouquet on stage and they sang to me, I HAVE NEVER HEARD HAPPY BIRTHDAY SUNG LIKE THAT. And Henry was there and came on stage with me and later over a great dinner at the local Japanese place Zutto, he told me loved the piece and further so surprised me with his attention to details to discuss. My friend Susan flew in from SF (OK on her way to hike in Morocco, but still I got a drive by)

After dinner we went home to the loft where Zac, who I now call my big Keebler Elf, had baked the biggest, out of control cake–must have been 4 times the recipe and he had tivo’d the debate. We had cake to sweeten the distaste of this horrible political season in our country.

When I work up this morning, with a terrible sugar hang-over, nothing to do but give in and have a little hair of the dog, sugar style, but after Monday, I am going cold turkey healthy-wise. Nice to have Henry here, and Susan rushing off to a next engagement before her real jaunt.

I ran off to pottery, hoping to see some of the pottery gaggle that came and clapped and brought a beautiful orchid for me last night. Of course the little plastic pot fit like a glove into one of the nicer pots I had thrown and glazed.

Tonight, it is roast chicken mashed potatoes before the show, and the big cast party at Michael and Liz Pappas, they call parties at their house PAPPAS HOUSE OF PAIN.
I hope I am up to it, as I know I am a lightweight when it comes to booze and party hearty. I am bringing Henry, who can party til dawn and still make the 8a.m. train back to college. Zac wants to pack him up with cake for the apartment mates but Henry seems reluctant to travel with cake. I know we can find takers.

Tonight is the penultimate evening show and I am both a little melancholy and excited to attempt to get on with a better financial version of my life, although the entire country seems to be suffering from a deep financial malaise. I suppose I am with my girl Willi wanting to know where I stand if the REAL JOB is on or off. And then I jump back in, but can anyone really be going on “go-sees” for work after they have had four interviews and a test on the computer and is awaiting the hour-long virtual talk with the shrink on Monday.

The timing could be good, but then again I just read that Mercury went into retrograde. Scary as I thought it had been there all long and I happily blamed interplanetary discord for the ills of my life and the world.

Oh well, I will have to find other reasons, but the harmony on birthday DAY was healing, heartening and totally wonderful.

>58 in 08

>Okay, disorganized, but here goes. It’s my birthday and raining. I remember that for 20 years it rained every year on my birthday. Then I met this man, my love, to whom I am now married, and it stopped raining. So now when it occasionally rains, that is fine by me.

A great good friend Susan Burks jetted in from SF on her way to trek in Morocco and my lovely big son, all lank and sleepy eyes, trained in from the foothills of the Adirondacks and college. Susan is off at tea and Henry has been sleeping happily in his childhood bed, on a soft rainy day. He will eat copious amounts of fancy cheese bought by my love and his dad before he jaunts off to the theater with Susan to see the show.

Zac is staying home to secretly, like an elf, bake a giant birthday cake, although I can see all the fixin’s on the table arrayed like gifts themselves. And my daughter called from the south of France and we got to gab at length this morning while Zac brought me a strong dark cup of excellent coffee to wake me up.

Yesterday was a horrible though. I had to do the battery of tests for the potential “Real Job” and they were math and crazy spelling where you had to find the opposite, the antonym, of the word presented and they gave you the word jumbled, and then you had to pick the final letter in the word. So for a dyslexic it was:
Opposites
Reordering letters
And spelling finding the last letter

It was awful, and they had wanted me to do it in a chartreuse room with no natural light and no windows or air on a PC computer I had never used before and–lo and behold–I had a major panic attack. My therapist friend says this had happened to me because of PST from 9/11. Perfect that it happens while I am mounting this opera that I hope provides some assuagement from all the panic. But in that little dark, airless room, boy did I get super scared with my heart threatening to leap from my body.

I did finally get permission to take the computer to my house to do the test. Endless personality questions.

TRUE or FALSE
I have never had any hair on my head?
I can look at rivers for hours?
Wait, do I have hours or am I being a slacker?

Many of the questions begin with
I NEVER or
I ALWAYS and really, is there anything much that one can say never or always to other than for most of us at some point we have had hair on our heads.

I often feel as if I am being watched.
I know what others are thinking before they say anything.

Kind of an acid test for aliens.

But the test is over and now on Monday I have to speak to a shrink via phone from LA. As the therapist friend said, “You can just scream on Ninth Street in Manhattan and a shrink will step out the door.” But they had to hire one to talk by phone.

But I divert, this should be about me having the opportunity to celebrate my 58th birthday with a show I conceived, wrote, directed and produced, thank god I found someone to write the music, a great collaboration. I am overjoyed at the timing and the marvelous, magical friends I have been seeing at the shows.

It makes me see how rich my life is, how varied, and how lucky I am.

>Birthday Week/Country Blog

>In my family, we attempt to celebrate what we call a birthday-week. Mine started this past Friday, and it ends this Friday with my actual birthday, a show and a party given by child-wonder Madison Pappas’ equally wonderful mother, Liz.

But for the next two days, I am celebrating in quiet fall splendor in the country. Right now my celebration consists of sitting in a café waiting for my car to be serviced, for new brakes to be added and a tune-up to be administered to my old station wagon so that it can keep going until my kid is done with college.

I am also walking while looking in windows thinking about buying a new flannel nightie, mine is 15 years old this year, a pretty good run. I read the things I write sometimes and I think, they make me seem so crazy, or cheap or both but. . . any private behavior we have when exposed to the light of public scrutiny makes us look wacky, right?

I think that is what so much of the political season is about–taking small private things, or big ones, and exposing them to bright light in an attempt to discredit the ideas or experiences. For me, now it is beyond the “silly season” in American politics, a phrase I heard Obama use during an interview. But this is the dangerously silly season and it has me very unquiet in my mind.

The political climate has me missing some of my moments of happiness with this incredible operatic endeavor, or my personal silly season: a birthday. What I don’t miss is the happiness in the moment of unexpected people showing up at CALLING. I have jokingly said that it feels akin to the experience of a back-in-the-day show, called This Is Your Life. A quick recap for youth of America, as I remember the show, hapless folks came on with the pretense of some other show and instead the show trotted out an array of acquaintances and key players from the constantly weeping “stars” life. So far in my version of the show appearances have been made by teachers, former bosses, ex-boyfriends, neighbors and co-workers, whose support is unexpected and so heartening.

So here is my disjointed post , typed at the noisy café in Rhinebeck NY. The one cup of coffee has stretched and lasted for 2 hours now, while I added and sent the final payroll to the LaMama office in the hopes that after this final weekend we may have enough money to cover the tiny amounts we promised to pay the incredible artists who have populated this opera.

I am off to pick up my car, buy a big round pumpkin and maybe the flannel nightgown in the window of the poky store in town.

>Small House. Big Hearts.

>Today Saturday, a gorgeous perfect fall day.

And I was stuck attempting to continue to take this mechanized assessment test for the REAL JOB, a series of endless computer screens and math questions.

Oh my god — math and me. Bad in high school, worse as I got older. The lowest math score ever registered by anyone applying to the Yale School Of Management. I mean, a monkey would have gotten higher. So for this test, if the choice is “NOT ENOUGH INFORMATION TO ANSWER THE QUESTION,” you can bet I check that. And in fact, that is the truth; as it is not enough information for ME to answer the question. How much information would be enough? Well, if they laid it out like paint by numbers chart, maybe I could plug them in. But honestly, still not a sure thing.

Then you have to write what your most ardent admirer would say about you and your most vehement critic. I asked my husband, and he said it didn’t mean what any of your ex’s would say WHEW.

So I worked away at it for a while, going through the 350 first questions and slugging through the logic and other stuff until I excitedly came to the language skills part. I like those kind of questions, but it was not to be. My computer froze–well, the screen for the test froze. I tried all manner of things to get it back on track and then I wrote this email to the headhunter and the test administrators.

So, it is the most beautiful fall day ever and I am being a good sport taking this test. And it crashes and I
A) Call the help line
B) Attempt to reset the browser
C) Printout the time and error type #2050
D) Send an email detailing all attempts to restart said test
E) ALL OF THE ABOVE

ANSWER E

Now to the logical progression of this glitch. In frustration I
A) Beat the computer to a pulp
B) Go outside on my bike to have some fun
C) Call a tech friend and ask them to finish the test
D) Decide that this would be a good moment to take a nap

ANSWER B

I thought it was funny and if they don’t, I guess that is what in BIZ School they would call DATA. So see? I did learn something.

Now to the opera. Last night the show was kick-ass, super good. I was slack-jawed as I thought I had gotten inured to the good and the bad, I was sort of floating in the audience, and then bang wow. It was so good.

Tough because our audiences have been tiny, this week but last night just as I was about to call places, in walked my two first bosses from over 3 decades ago at the Off-Off Broadway Alliance OOBA, Marnie Mueller and Karin Bacon. There they were, still beautiful and stylish, and I near to cried from their kindness at coming down to see this show. And tonight, I had a call telling me that two teachers from High School are in the car, caught in traffic near Yankee Stadium and I should meet them outside LaMama at 6:30. Well, of course I will.

So the house may be small, but the shows, the singers, musicians and the rest are increasing in prowess and every night there seems to be a blast from my past that warms me incredibly.

>Rocky Racoon

>Last night was so rocky that what I said to composer Doug when the lights finally went out and the 3 people in the audience (OK that is an exaggeration but sparse yes) finally left was “WHEW…that was Rocky Raccoon!!!!!”

It was awful to watch for me, not because the cast was so bad, but the energy to get the show going was flat and scary at the same time.

Here we go.

I get a call that there has been a fire in the dimmer board, the thing that runs the lights.

All the programming is gone.

Then they say ”Oh, we think we can fix, it don’t worry.” But when I arrive it is bad and the poor tech director is in the hospital attending to a dying friend. Hard to say, “Hey fix our lights, friendship be damned.” I didn’t say that. I hugged him and let him cry.

Lights can go on and off. And believe me, last night they seemed to flicker in a random not good way, leaving the cast in darkness in the middle of one aria. Even LaMama is not that experimental.

There is a very sparse crowd expected for the rest of the weekend, I think sometimes folks think, “Oh a good review in the Times we won’t be able to get tickets,” and then no one comes.

So last night tonight. Let me not list the things that went wrong, but for the rest of the weekend hardly a soul is on the books.

And more about last night, the stage manager again at 5 minutes before the show is to start. That’s what happens when you pay nothing, again really nothing, when they are paying to transport themselves even.

We had an understudy who did super well, but still it was a different energy.

And that was me today unable to get my ass to the gym, although I promised, unable to go to pottery. I thought that might make a good diversion. A little phone time trying to get a manager for the future of this show and butts in seats or a recording.

And then the tasks to secure the REAL JOB, the biggest something called, Assessment Testing. It is supposed to take between five and eight hours. I did the one part, 350 questions where you either AGREE or DISAGREE. Crazy stuff like:

* I like to re-measure my rulers to make sure they are correct.
* I feel everyone is out to get me
* I always want to eat ice cream
* I am never depressed

Sp weird, so I just motored through them. At first, I tried to read them out loud to Zac, to say look this could be fun right? But he was mad I was putting myself through this and left for a walk. In his words, what manager would do this?

I don’t know that I am in my good sport phase, wanting this job for tons of reasons: it is a very cool job and it would allow me to contribute to my neighborhood AND the economy is tanking and we have no health insurance. So from broad-based to specific, needs based stuff.

I have lots of other parts to tackle, but for now I am one foot in front of the other. Eat an egg, get some soup, go back do more test. Go to the show; take a fabulous shower, AHHHHHHHH clean hair… so fluffy.

More to come.

>Keeping the Beauty in Mind

>Today I had to ride to the dentist for the third attempt at a root canal. I was not in the best mood, still tired, wrung out from an encounter with a former friend who is trying to keep his aged mother, who is suffering form dementia, away from all her friends, as a means of control. It was ugly yesterday and made me cry torrents. I always feel depleted the next day, which is today.

I woke up late, hoping against hope that the dentist would be an another hour, but instead I had to gulp coffee and hop on the pony. I could see I was still groggy and my mind kept me going back to the fight and the sadness I felt and saw in my friend’s eyes when we were separated. I thought about all the people who hadn’t come to see the opera, of all the pushing and conniving, of the wheedling and cajoling to develop an audience for this lovely opera. The level of disregard for a project like this given the economy tanking and the craziness surrounding the political climate leaves me feeling often scared and certainly anxious.

But on this ride, on the first ten minutes of this ride, I gave myself a strict talking to.

DO NOT MISS THIS DAY, I intoned over and over again.

DO NOT MISS THIS DAY.

It was crystal, soft air, feint breeze, and my legs and arms felt strong and I was happy to ride my nice old bike, tires full of air, up to 50th Street. My mind roiled back to sadness, missed calls, people I want to see or hold and still I pushed to return to the immediacy of the day. It was warm, I was healthy and I had work to return to this evening.

I had to keep seeing that.

And I did keep trying as I called the bigwig producers who turned me down for one thing or another, and I persevered to get names of other folks to call. Hang up, email, make a package, call another person, hang up send information. Keep sounding as if I believed and not as if I was flagging, and losing heart.

Did they know, this little cast and crew how much goes into turning on the lights and having butts in seats. Do they know how I fret over getting this last payroll to them on the 28th of September and how much I feel like a failure because I can’t and clearly see now that I won’t be offering them big money for all the miraculous stuff they have achieved.

I have to run now, shower, maybe more email, maybe more Advil OK definitely more Advil.

Here we go: week two.