Category Archives: calling the opera

>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.

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>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.

>The Ides of Everything

>Okay, today is the 15th of September. I had an article due, I had a Guggenheim grant due and this is my first day off in three weeks.

Whew, the market, the stock market, took a giant dive, while I typed, and edited and talked to potential grant recommenders. It seemed all around me swirled craziness and I attempted to keep my head down and write a very large grant.

Although I have received grants, I have never written a grant for myself. Asking or telling or wanting for myself has always been difficult and today exhausted and over wrought it seemed I could only get engaged in long phone calls, calls I wanted, but I had trouble jumping back on the writing pony. But I kept going back.

I finished the story for the TriBeCa Tib and by the help of magic fairies; it must have been that, I rode up to the Mail Box place just as the last Fed Ex guy was about to roll out.

“Hey, wait please,” I hollered.

The cute Fed Ex guy stood while I wrote out the labels to myself required by Guggenheim.

“So if you get this grant, what will you give me?”

“I will take you out for drinks.”

“OK, but I am planning on winning the lottery first.”

“Well, you better take my number then in case I don’t win, then I will need a drink.”

AHHH sometimes I just love humans, the ones who get that a little extra time won’t kill you and it might even help a fellow traveler.

Yesterday at the theater, the show was the best ever, nice because we were video taping it. I joked with the cast saying that if they did a great job, I’d be overjoyed, as we wouldn’t have to re-tape. A joke perhaps but they were flawless, inspired, amazing.

I really loved the show yesterday afternoon and that was a great treat.

I am taking Tuesday and a part of Wednesday off and running away to the country to dig dirt and smell the roses, literally.

>The Day After Opening/ Lucky 13

>Last night was beyond astounding. Packed house, really full, me telling the box office to sell tickets that were not there–I mean not printed, and we used programs as tickets.

People sitting on folding chairs on a balcony or stair. The New York Times photographer snapping as folks arrived and the reviewer sitting in the aisle.

FINGERS STILL CROSSED.

Energy through the roof. The singers hit the notes, the highs and lows, somehow they found consonant and vowels. Who knew that vowels are easy in opera, but words like GLUE turn into GOO. Or PILE becomes PIE. Since I have no idea what goes into an opera and I just blurted out LET’S MAKE AN OPERA, this entire process has been a hapless wonder to me.

And fair warning readers , my house guests from the South, who got up at 11am, to find me at work on my Guggenheim grant application, due Monday, (oh the universe has a sense of humor), asked, “Can we take you to a wonderful lunch?”

“How wonderful?” I asked.

“Whatever you want.”

So I called Chanterelle, really the best anywhere, but it is around the block from me and they have helped so much with Calling. You know they took us right away and treated us royalty. We had champagne and wine. This is in the middle of the day, mind you. I came home at 3:30 believing I had missed the Sunday matinee; please recall that it is Saturday… oh my god, that lunch seemed really long and magical.

Oh the discussion among a Jungian mother and her daughter with me as the interloper when weaving between marital sex, an opera about September 11 and how to promote healing, the distancing that sons MUST DO WITH THEIR MOTHERS, and food, travel, art, literature and jewelry. That’s really all I can recall and it was marvelous. After lunch they went to buy champagne for after the show and then jumped into a cab to run to the Guggenheim before it closed. I asked them to bring back good luck from there for my grant and I hugged the couch and cat and took a well-deserved nap.

Why was last night so wonderful? Because the cast had gelled, the fear subsided, (before last night we had run the show only twice, really) and with this diminution of fear came boldness, not recklessness but the confidence of professionals. The stage manager was on time, the lead little girl had pigtails and not a salon “do”, and the light board operator ran the lights, not the designer. The fans that click and clack were turned off. And although the theater must have been 500 degrees (okay 90) it was calm, save the late comers seated and wedged with children into the balcony. But that is, as my mother used to say, “an upscale problem.” I wish us too many in the audience every night.

My roommate from college, Nina, was there with her sister, Deb, and we hugged, acknowledging our 40th anniversary. The very pregnant and gorgeous Rebecca Asher Walsh, tan from the summer in East Hampton, was prettier pregnant than her normal radiant self and was squired by Dr. Chuck, who is the cutest soon to be dad in our circle. Christine and Carter came–bigwig music and art couple, and I believe they really did love it. Neighbors came, the friends whom I met in Morocco last summer came from Birmingham and Pensacola to support and fete me.

At the curtain call everyone who worked on this baby from any point on came to the stage and we held hands and bowed. And my teary eyes saw my husband who had begged off coming as he had work and a biz trip this morning. But there he was in the back of the theater, smiling and clapping for me the second night in a row. He had even ridden his bike in the rain, He does not like rain the way I do.

So Zac and I didn’t go out with anyone. We biked home to snuggle and wait for guests and I just wanted my “normal life.” On occasion now when I find myself uttering, par hazard, phrases that crop up in the opera, I feel like a parody of myself, but I need to remember no one sees this but me so I need to relax.

Oh wait, that’s another line.

Ok back on the bike, (another line) and off to the theater.

Break a leg.