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I'm currently in transit. Good-bye to my beloved Austin, hello next adventure. Come along for the ride!

30 August 2016

Teaser Tuesday #45

My reading this month... erm... yeah. Not so much, which is bumming me out. So! This one is a bit of an unusual Teaser Tuesday, since it's a photo book and I can't share the usual teaser sentences.

New York Then and Now, Marcia Reiss and Evan Joseph

This was my Strand Bookstore purchase on my most recent New York visit. They didn't have the Much Ado About Nothing that I was hoping to get, so I decided to get something New York-y instead.




Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books And A Beat.

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers

29 August 2016

No Doubt in Our Hearts

I have about five pics
of this phrase as a
result of (unsuccessfully)
trying to get a pic of
John Owen-Jones
on the marquee. FINE.
Les Misérables post #2! (Here's #1, aka "things you can see/hear from the front row.") I was in full-on hey-look-there-goes-my-adrenaline-without-me mode even more so than usual when I arrived at the Imperial Theatre, especially since I'd just gotten tweets back from some of the cast in response to my queries about whether they would be doing stage door that night. It's kind of amazing I was even able to walk in a straightish line.

The first usher I met inside looked at my ticket, sighed with happiness, and said, "That is a very good seat." It's a good sign when the ushers are happy just seeing where you'll be sitting. All the folks sitting around me were grinning as much as I was, because we were IN THE FRONT ROW AT LES MISÉRABLES, Y'ALL.

There have been a bunch of cast changes since the last time I saw the show, and all of the principal cast members apart from Marius were ones I hadn't seen before. They've also tweaked a few things here and there in the staging, and some of the actors have changed up how they deliver some lines. So it was kind of like seeing old friends who'd redecorated the living room since I last visited.

The curtain over the stage before the show starts. 
A few highlights (not nearly all of them, because OMG this show):

John Owen-Jones (Jean Valjean): I knew he was going to be amazing, having seen him on my TV often enough, but it's always extra-special to see someone in person after having been a fan from a distance.

Hayden Tee (Javert): I have a Twitter friend who's worked with him in Australia and speaks of him quite highly, so I had serious expectations going in. Y'all, I may have a new favourite Javert. First time I've ever listened to "Stars" without wanting the actor to hurry it up a bit.

Alison Luff (Fantine): I gotta say, they do get through the Fantines at Les Mis. But when they're all this spectacular, well, who's complaining? Her "I Dreamed a Dream" is gorgeous, of course, but watching her downward spiral during "Lovely Ladies" was what tore me apart. Hearts lying on the floor in pieces just shouldn't be allowed that early in any show.

Rachel Izen (Madame Thénardier): I loathe the Thénardiers. A lot. Every time I see the show or read the book, I hate the Thénardiers a bit more, comic relief or not. However! Rachel Izen is absolutely perfect, and so delightful to watch, so I was totally giggling through my hate. A confusing combination of emotions, to be sure, but that's basically my life now anyway.

Mark Uhre (Enjolras): Every time I see a new-to-me person as Enjolras, I think, "This one. This one is the best." Enjolras is my favourite Les Mis character, and that's unlikely to change anytime soon, and certainly not as long as such talented gents keep playing him. Loved, loved, loved Mr. Uhre's "Do You Hear the People Sing?" (I follow him on Instagram, and you should too, because his illustrations are fantastic.)

The Entire Freaking Ensemble: This visit to Les Misérables was all about the ensemble for me, because most of my favourite folks in the show are in the ensemble rather than the principal cast, so that's who I was really watching. Y'all, I tried counting their costume changes. I tried counting how many different characters a couple of them played. Could not do it. I don't know how long it is from the start of the show to the Paris scenes--an hour, maybe?--but for that entire early part of the show, ensemble members are onstage for about two minutes, leave, change clothes in about 30 seconds, come back on stage for another two minutes, rinse and repeat. It's a huge cast, but it seems even huger when the wings practically have revolving doors installed. No wonder they're all always so tired once the show is over.

And speaking of some of my favourites:

The playbill before these lovely
people signed it. Stage door pics
did not come out well at all, alas,
so those photos are buried
in a folder labeled "bitter regret."
Beth Kirkpatrick: I've now seen her twice, because she was on the 25th anniversary tour that came through Austin, but of course my seats in Austin are so far from the stage that the actors may as well not have faces. It would be more fair to say that I'm a Twitter fan of Ms. Kirkpatrick, but since I do follow her, she was one of the few ladies in the ensemble who I recognized on sight. And she's fantastic. Can't wait to see her in whatever she does next.

Joe Spieldenner: I did a ton of gushing about his Grantaire last week and basically every other time I've mentioned Grantaire in the past year, but I would be remiss not to say that his Major Domo is fantastically hilarious and I wish he had more than about five minutes on stage. Major Domo also hates the Thénardiers, which here in Su-Land is just a bonus. I've now seen Mr. Spieldenner as Major Domo three times and didn't even realise it the first two times. Front row FTW!

Jason Forbach: I was totally counting how many times he came on stage carrying a torch in the first 30 minutes. I would tell you, except that I eventually lost count and had to let it go. Maybe there's a different torch for every costume. Anyway, his Factory Foreman is so excellent that he fills me with a deep loathing. It's slightly terrifying that someone who is otherwise so engaging on stage incites these feelings of rage and murder so early in the show.

Joshua Morgan: Another person I'm technically a Twitter fan of, but he had me giggling through the whole show. He plays Joly, for whom I have a considerable soft spot in my heart (thank you, fanfiction!), but Mr. Morgan is also one of the ones I was watching in awe as he went from one character to the next at what is surely superhuman speed. Unbelievable, and yet totally believable every time he came on stage.

Two trips to NYC, three attempts to
get a decent pic of these billboards
in Times Square. I'm REALLY not so
great with the picture-taking.
"One Day More": Why on earth they can't sing this song more than once I'll never understand. One thing I love about this song is that it's great for listening to, but about 24601% better when you see it performed. It wasn't my favourite Les Mis song until the first time I saw the whole show live, and I'm not exaggerating when I say my mouth was hanging open the entire time (this was back in the days of the turntable, which I admit I miss a lot when this song comes up). When the lights went up for intermission that first time, I turned to Chadwick and asked, "Did you see that?? It was incredible!" and he of course said something like, "Yeah, honey, I was sitting right here." It just gets better every time I see it, although I'd swear it also gets shorter every time. Love, love, love.

Okay, okay, I'll stop! For today. But one more thing before I go: I really want to see a genderbent Les Mis someday just so I have more gushing to do about the women in the cast, who are harder to remember since they mostly don't have character names. That's the thing I really dislike about this show.

Post title is one of Enjolras' lines, just before "Do You Hear the People Sing?" begins. Because Enjolras.

28 August 2016

What Not to Wear

Hello there, yes, it's the rare Sunday Cheeky post about church-y things. If that's not your thing, I will not be offended if you skip this one. (Be warned-- tomorrow is more Les Misérables. You may like today better.)

The churchy blogosphere has kindly spilled thousands of pixels telling us all* what's appropriate attire† when we go to church on Sunday morning. I'm not going to link to them all, or indeed any of them, because how exhausting is that? I wasn't planning to add my voice to the cacophony, either, until a chance conversation with my grandmother reminded me that even my nearest and dearest can get a bit caught up in the minutia of life, and since I have this space for words, here goes.

Somebody took a picture of my feet
walking to church! Source: sanja
 gjenero on freeimages.com.
So here's a little story. I've worn jeans and t-shirts to church basically since the day I moved out of my parents' house and was no longer subject to their rules.** Sometimes I wear a skirt. Often I wear a nice shirt with my jeans instead of a t-shirt. In the summer, I usually wear shorts, because I get to church via bike/bus/my own feet and it's hot outside. 

Many, many years ago, I decided one week to dress up a little bit nicer than usual for church and wore a dress. That very Sunday, we had visitors sitting near us wearing t-shirts and shorts, and fortunately my husband's attire kept them from being the only ones in our vicinity dressed like that. The next week, I wore a dress again, and once again visitors (not the same ones) wearing more casual clothes sat nearby. When we got home that afternoon, I said to Chadwick, "Never again," and he agreed that twice in a row was as good a sign as we were going to get that we who feel comfortable dressing down should do it, if only for the sake of others who might be uncomfortable otherwise.

Now, I've heard the sermons and the lectures and the "but you shoulds" about why dressing up for church is giving our best to God, to which I say: baloney. If the best I have to offer God is a dress instead of a clean pair of shorts when I go visit him on Sunday morning, then my Christian walk is a sad story indeed. There's a lot more to me and my relationship with God than what I put on my body (or, indeed, than just Sunday mornings).

Do I have a problem with people who choose to dress up for church? Of course not. My grandmother, for instance, is from a generation that would never think of even wearing slacks to church, never mind jeans or shorts. It's never bothered me, nor do I plan to let it start. 

Here's my personal bottom line: wear what makes you feel comfortable worshipping God with your church family. If you need to dress up to feel like you're properly approaching Jesus, on you go. If you need to wear a t-shirt so you can concentrate on why you're there instead of what you're wearing, please do that. If you're so focused on what other people are wearing that you just can't pay attention to anything happening in the church service, take yourself out to the hall, put yourself in time out, and spend some time refocusing your thoughts on why you're in the building. If you're an adult and you're that distracted, your own thoughts are the problem, not what everyone else is doing. YOU are in charge of your mind. No, seriously. You are. 

Let's remember what our gathering together is about, y'all.

*women

†basically neck-high, floor-length, shapeless sacks that are as unattractive as possible‡

‡unless you're a married woman, because your husband needs you to be attractive for him in public so he can brag about his hot wife§

§no, not that attractive, you're making other men lust; don't you have any respect for your husband at all? (I wish I were making these up. As it is, I'm not even exaggerating.)

**A reminder for the potentially confused, from a dear friend who is also a parent: Rebellion would have been refusing to follow the rules when I lived at home, not making my own once I was out. Keep that in mind if you have a kid who's just moved out and is forging his or her own identity right now.

26 August 2016

Travelling While Green

No, not *that* kind of travelling while green. Source.
I've done way more travelling in the last few weeks that I've done in years, and you'd think someone as dedicated to reducing and reusing as me would have great tips for travelling earth-friendly, yes?

Erm, no.

I got nothing. Well, not quite. I have lots of horror for how much trash I produced just from eating on the go in the last month. In New York there are at least recycle bins at regular intervals along the street, so it's not quite as bad as it could have been, but it's still bad. Between fast food and grab-and-go sandwiches, I feel like I've turned into a trash comet lately.

In hindsight, I'm not even sure what I would do differently. Perhaps some research to find compostable grab-and-go containers with bins on site (as they do at Whole Foods) ahead of time. Less fast food and more dine-in options, perhaps. At least this weekend in Cincinnati I took advantage of the nearby Kroger and the kitchen in my hotel room, which I haven't done anywhere else. Or maybe, the best thing I could have done was try a bit harder to find recycling bins instead of just chucking everything.

Then there's that minor detail that getting on an airplane is about the least earth-friendly thing I've done in recent weeks.

Why bother thinking through this? Because nobody is perfect. Because maybe this is an opportunity. Maybe travelling is a time to remember why I do this all the rest of the time--because that is a lot of rubbish for one person to produce in a short space of time. And maybe reflecting on a recent trip will generate ideas for next time.

What I won't do is throw up my hands and say, "Who cares, it's a vacation!" That probably works for some folks, but it's not an approach for me. What works for me is to open my eyes a bit wider and see what other options are out there.

Because I have been changed for good.

25 August 2016

The Music of Angels, the Light of the Sun

Y'all, in the final week of July I went to the theatre three times in 24 hours. Here's a little #protip: That is a terrible, terrible idea. In this era of bingewatching everything on Netflix, it may not sound so bad, but theatre done well is emotionally exhausting for the audience. It's happening right in front of you, it's raw, it's extraordinary, it carries you away with it, and may well leave you in pieces. Paying someone to do that to you three times in one day sounds fun (and it was!), but eventually your mind and heart will present the bill.

So if you're going to do it, make sure it's worth it. With a combination of Something Rotten, Fiddler on the Roof, and Les Misérables, it was so worth it I'd happily do it again and again, despite the hours I spent crying in a public library a few days later. Because when it comes to screwing with one's emotions, no one is a slower learner than I am.

The curtain over the stage after the show. (Before the show, it's the same
background but minus the title and plus Victor Hugo's name in
the lower right-hand corner.)
I've written about Les Mis so many times you'd think I'd left myself with nothing to say. Hahaha! No, this is going to be at least three blog posts before I'm done. I'm kind of in love with this current cast (thank you, Twitter!), so when I went to get the ticket and saw there was one lonely seat on the front row still available, I put in my credit card number so fast my keyboard started smoking.

Y'all. I can never not sit on the front row ever again. I am ruined for life. First of all, I made so much eye contact with the actors (possibly because I was wearing my big scary grin the whole time and they were just checking to see if that was really a human down there) and I got an extra jolt of happiness every time it was an actor who I recognized--which, due to my stalking intense research, is most of them. Pretty sure Will Ray is the one I made eye contact with most. He's at the front of the stage a lot.

Basically this is exactly how it looked from my seat. Not all of them are
the same folks I saw; this is a pic from early in the revival. I was a bit
distracted during this scene trying to identify who among them I recognized.
Secondly, and even more fun: the actors talk to each other, in character, throughout the show but in the barricade scenes especially, but unless you're very close to the stage you can't hear them since their mics are off. Naturally, local drunkard and part-time comic relief Grantaire (Joe Spieldenner) says some of the funniest stuff, and I told him at stage door that he had me laughing so hard at such inappropriate moments. I've forgotten most of them (I waited way too long to blog about this!) and may have heard them wrong to begin with, so this is one of those times I really hope they don't all have Google alerts on their names.

The company of Les Misérables.
Enjolras (Mark Uhre): "Don't like the wine go to your brains!"
Grantaire: "It's going to my stomach."
Feuilly (Jason Forbach): *to Grantaire* "I told you so."

Enjolras: "We need a sign, to rally the people... ."
Grantaire: "Why don't we just make some signs?"

During "Drink With Me," Joly (Joshua Morgan) cozies up a bit with the woman next to him on the bench during his line "Here's to pretty girls who went to our beds." She shoves him to get him away (unfortunately, I don't recognize most of the women in costume, so I don't know who she was), which knocks him into I think Devin Ilaw, who nearly falls off the bench. She says to him, "Are you okay? (to Joly) Not you. Nobody cares about you. (to the other guy) Are you okay?" I was laughing so hard at this exchange that I missed Grantaire's first "Drink With Me" line, but all the good stuff comes after the first line anyway.

For those of us who enjoy sadness: When Enjolras realizes their situation is hopeless and says "Let the women and fathers of children go from here!" Grantaire tells Gavroche to go and they argue about it before Gavroche pretends to leave, only to come right back once Grantaire's back is turned and be killed before the battle even begins. I can't even describe how heartbreaking that scene is, as Grantaire takes Gavroche's body from the barricade, screams in agony, and then lays Gavroche down so he can go die beside Enjolras. I didn't take my eyes off Grantaire for the entire scene. (Not that that's anything new. I'm quite a fan, in case you hadn't guessed.)

And finally, "Valjean's Confession." Marius' (Chris McCarrell) facial expressions are fantastic through this song-- he starts off looking very "uh-oh, I'm in trouble," then kind of relaxes as he realizes that he's in the clear, and then the moment when it dawns on him what Valjean is saying shows so clearly on his face. It's perfect. Better than Eddie Redmayne.

What I tried to see but didn't: When Fantine bites Bambatabois' face. A previous Fantine described biting into a capsule of red stuff & spitting it onto his face in an interview once. I was on the front row and watching for it and still didn't see it. They cover it really well.

What I saw happen but still didn't believe my eyes: During "Bring Him Home," everyone finds a place to sleep. Apparently the nooks and crannies on the barricade are huge, because hardly any actors were actually visible onstage, only for them to come tumbling out from all directions when dawn breaks and Enjolras starts speaking again.

What I saw but pretended not to notice: Two of the barricade boys breathing when they were dead. Can't blame them for having trouble keeping it hidden--they're racing around the stage fighting for the whole scene leading up to them laying there dead, and it has to be nearly impossible to keep your breaths small enough to not be seen, especially for the guys who are sprawled right there on the barricade in full view of the audience. One of them was trying so hard to control his breathing that I started to worry that he was going to pass out, but the barricade rolled off the stage and carried away the dead guys before that could happen. (You know who didn't show any signs of breathing? Enjolras. Maybe he practices holding his breath for long stretches of time.)

If that's not enough glorious detail about Les Misérables for you, don't worry; I have more ready for next week.

Post title is a line from the song "In My Life." Not my favourite song in Les Mis, but a good descriptor for the show as a whole.

24 August 2016

Sounds Strange, No?

I should probably get my New-York-related posting done before an entire month goes by since I've been there, yes? My plan for Wednesday in New York was to see all the free things I could cram in before heading to Les Miserables in the evening, but on a whim, I skipped down to the theatre district as soon as I was awake to see if there were any rush tickets available for the Fiddler on the Roof matinee.

Billboard outside the theatre. All the hype & good reviews
of this show are not exaggerating. It really is that good.
There were. And my goodness, if you want a single rush ticket on Broadway (unless you're hoping to see Hamilton, of course) you may end up as the luckiest person on the planet: I got a seat in the third row orchestra on the house-left side. Holy. Freaking. Cow. I texted my mother right after I left the box office to say, "If I'm reading this ticket right, I just got an incredible seat." And I did. I still can't believe my good luck.

Anyway, if you aren't familiar with the plot of Fiddler, do yourself a favor and visit a local high school show. It's a story that's 100 years old but that resonates through the ages, and is no less applicable today than it was when it was written. See it. Take your kids to see it. Bring your neighbors. Talk about how important the message is.

And so this beautiful and critical story is currently on Broadway eight times a week until December 31, and it's gorgeous and incredible and is indeed laden with happiness and tears. As much as I would like to gush about every actor in the cast, I'll try to keep it to just a few, so that you stick with me:

Pre-show. Yep, that's how close
I was to the stage. Yep, it starts
off empty & sets fly in and out.
And incidentally, so does the
Fiddler himself.
Danny Burstein (Tevya): You'd swear he was born to play Tevya. This is a particularly demanding role (or so it seems to me as an audience member), as Tevya is barely offstage for the entire three hours, but the energy and life that Mr. Burstein brings to Tevya is spectacular. Unfortunately for matinee-goers, on two-show days he takes a nap between shows (or so the security officer at the door told us), so I didn't get to meet him at stage door.

Jessica Hecht (Golde): So, I've seen her before. So have you. She was Susan on Friends. Did I notice this during the show? I did not, because as Golde she absolutely shines and there's no way the audience can imagine her as anyone else. When she staggered on stage to tell Tevya that Chava had eloped, I couldn't even see what was happening on stage because of all the tears. Had Golde passed out right there, I wouldn't have been surprised--that's how broken she looked.

Melanie Moore (Chava): Chava has been my favourite Fiddler character since the first time I saw the show at age 10. (She's basically everybody's favourite, right?) Ms. Moore is absolute perfection as Chava. Every line, every look, every moment she was on stage-- perfect. I was so happy to get to tell her so at stage door. (Also, I'm still kind of amazed that I even recognized her at stage door, because she looks completely different in character than she does in person. Theatre is magical.)

Ben Rappaport (Perchik): Perchik is my favourite of the boys who wander in to win the hearts of Tevya's daughters. In his first scene, I thought, "Why is Perchik so angry?" But it didn't take a lot of stage time for me to realise that Mr. Rappaport's emotional levels were consistently perfect for a character with so much going on under the surface. In his final scene, when Hodel agrees to marry Perchik, his oh-so-deadpan "I am very happy, Hodel," had the audience giggling, but it was absolutely brilliant and just the right touch.

Alix Korey (Yente): "Of course, right." Who doesn't love Yente?

Adam Kantor (Motel): Gets a special mention because Motel is kind of goofy and awkward for his first couple of scenes onstage, only to go through a tremendous amount of growth in that first act, and then--here's the important part--sustain grownup-Motel for the rest of the show when it would be easy to slip back into the lovelorn guy with no self-confidence that so delights the audience at the beginning. Adam Kantor does it beautifully.

Okay, okay, I'm stopping! No stage door pics for this show, because my phone's battery was on its last legs at that point, but the cast were all wonderful at stage door and I was delighted to give the signed playbill to my mother--it's been her favourite show her whole life. In fact, I'm hoping to take her to NYC in a couple months' time to see the show before it closes. And if you possibly can make it to New York before December 31, I urge you to do the same.

19 August 2016

Overstuffed Drawers

There are two things I hate about clothes: 1) When one of my favourite things wears out, and 2) Having too many to know what to do with.

As far as the first one goes, well, nothing lasts forever. I mend (in defiance of Brave New World), I treat stains carefully, I line dry to keep the tumble dryer from wreaking its havoc. In the end, if I really like it, I might add it to a quilt or a pillow, or dust rags for the not-quite-as-well-loved items.

I have this thing for turning Chadwick's clothes
into soft furnishings, it seems.
One of my favourite Chadwick stories happened in our first year of marriage, when he had a t-shirt that he had loved almost to death, and for the sake of his own modesty I asked him to make it an at-home-only shirt. Of course he forgot and wore it to class one day. Sigh... so one weekend I took that shirt and an equally problematic pair of shorts and made them into throw pillows. He was so delighted, he told all his friends (and IIRC, they all agreed that that shirt was well past its usefulness as a body covering).

I know this is not something everyone can, or is willing, to do. No worries! The good news about green living is that there is room for a lot of things that work. Being a sewing person, I mostly can only thing of uses for old clothes that require a needle and thread, but people more imaginative than I can probably list a few more.

Which brings us to the second, and probably a lot more common, problem: What to do with the clothes spilling out of every available crevice of the house? A t-shirt quilt is not the solution to everything, unless you just really need a lot of blankets. Thrift stores are an obvious answer, although as a green solution it merely kicks the can down the road a bit, because then the thrift store has to get rid of any unsold clothes. (Some of them have really good solutions for this that don't involve the word "landfill." Ask before donating if the end use matters to you!)

In most places that I've lived, I've ended up amassing a group of friends who willingly swap clothes back and forth between us, which has been a great solution for me. My other solution is to refuse: say no to the free t-shirts that come flowing my way at every event I go to. Unless it's a shirt that's so great it knocks my socks off (and dangit, races have gotten a lot better at this), I leave it on the table.

Because especially for many of us in the U.S., the best solution to crammed closets is probably not to cram anything else into them.

What do you do about clothes?

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