Getting Back…

May 20, 2012

A few issues have been taking up some time in my life, so I thank everyone who was asking when I would blog again.  So much has happened that I wish I had been writing about — like the closing of the Algonquin, great shows by Ron Squeri, Matt Howe, and Christy Trapp, a terrific master class by friend-of-this-blog Sally Mayes.

But there’s more to discuss.  So, onward!

The Republic is Safe for Another Day…

October 29, 2011

I’m currently on a jaunt to the West Coast.

When I checked in to the DC / Phoenix portion of my flight yesterday I have to admit I was disappointed I didn’t score an upgrade to first class.  Until…  I noticed that John McCain was on the flight,evidently travelling home to Arizona by himself.  The thought of being sat next to him for four hours would have been a little overwhelming.  I mean, everybody on the flight owed him a debt, because there would be no DCA/West Coast flights if it weren’t for legislation he rammed through totally going against the plans of the regional airport authority so he (and we) could have the convenience of a direct flight home to Phoenix without going via Dulles or BWI.  But then the conversation might have gotten more pointed and I would probably have been met by the Secret Service in Phoenix.

So the moral — things work out.

An Irene Playlist

August 27, 2011

Everyone, please be safe.  But here are some song ideas while you’re keeping safe and sound…

  • Gonna Be Another Hot Day — 110 in the Shade Cast
  • Soon It’s Gonna Rain — Mandy Patinkin, Kristen Chenoweth
  • Hurry, Here Comes The Hurricane — Phillip Melancon
  • Tryin’ To Reason With Hurricane Season — Jimmy Buffett
  • Little Drops Of Rain — Judy Garland
  • Irene — Lazy Lester
  • No Time At All — Irene Ryan
  • Stormy Weather — Lina Koutrakos
  • Hurricane Eye — Paul Simon
  • Singing In The Rain — Cliff Edwards
  • Ride Out the Storm — Seesaw Original Cast
  • Down at the Twist and Shout — Mary Chapin Carpenter
  • It’s Raining Men — The Weathergirls
  • When the Sun Comes Out — Eileen Farrell
  • When It Dries — Two By Two Cast
  • Goodnight Irene — The Weavers

(Yes, Over the Rainbow really should be on this.)

Agreeing with Michelle Bachman

August 12, 2011

Michele BachmannForget the crazy Newsweek cover.  There’s a terrific profile of our next Vice President by Ryan Lizza in the current issue of the New Yorker.  And shockingly there’s a quote by Michelle Bachman on same-sex marriage that I have to totally agree with: “that, if same-sex marriage were legalized, “little children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal and natural and that perhaps they should try it.” “

A Project Runway Lesson

August 6, 2011

OK, I’ll admit that I’m psyched about a new season of Project Runway.  And the first episode even provided a life lesson that’s I keep learning over and over.

(Spoiler Alert — Info about the episode’s outcome follows.  Oh, and Rosebud is his sled.)

The challenge of the episode was for the designers to fashion an outfit out of what they wore to bed and a sheet.  One designer didn’t want to incorporate the colorful headscarf he was wearing into his garments because he didn’t want his hair to look bad on TV.  He held to this even when warned by Tim that his standing with the judges was precarious.  And of course, he was the one eliminated.

Now, I’m not exactly a “whatever it takes to win” person, but I think this is a valuable lesson on how easy it is to be distracted by a tangent that one loses the main point.  It’s like doing a song and being so concerned about a highnote that you forget to tell the story of a song and communicate with the audience. 

A work cubicle neighbor once had the saying “A ship in a harbor is safe, but it’s not a ship’s job to be safe” prominently posted.  Fifteen years ago I used to tease her about it.  But today I find it a more and more useful reminder.

A useful reminder…

July 15, 2011

I feel I’m constantly re-learning certain lessons…

I was at Bob Smith’s always-terrific open mic at the Morrison house last week when I was approached by someone at the bar.  She said that she was visitng from Florida and that the last time she had been there, I sang Danny Boy and it was so moving, would I sing it again.  It seems that the lovely woman was there the only time I had sung Danny Boy in my life.  I remember that it was a night when no one seemed to be paying attention to what was going on at the piano, so I thought, What the heck, I’ve always wondered if I could sell the story of this song.  After that one performance I decided to let the Irish tenors* have this one and concentrate my energies on other repertoire.

So the yin and yang of this, as I see it:

  • You never know who’s watching at any given time when you’re performing, no matter how un-interested an audience may seem.
  • Often a tepid audience will contain one or more person who really appreciated what you did (in a quiet way).  

*Thanks to my maternal grandmother Elizabeth O’Laughlin, I’m not abondoning the Irish part; it’s the tenor part I’ll never claim.

The Music Man… OK?

July 8, 2011

Well, that production of Oklahoma has returned to Arena Stage.  I still admit that it’s charms were lost on me, but whenever I’m in the Waterfront metro station and see people leaving the theater, someone’s turning cartwheels over it, so what do I know?

Arena has announced The Music Man for next season.  And in the totally unfounded rumor department*, reports are that the production will be recycling more than the prairie dresses and barn (to be painted white) from Oklahoma.  Having had such success displaying the diversity of settlers in the Oklahoma territories, Molly Smith is said to be thinking about making The Music Man about the Asian immigrant experience.  Reportedly Marion, Winthrop and Mrs. Paroo will be portrayed as Asian — which given the piano lessons and librarianship seems somewhat appropriate.  Reportedly, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother author Amy Chua will be coming in to script a scene where Marion rehearses the children’s band and berates them for not practicing and living up to their potential, causing them to play flawlessly in the final scene.  And Shipoopi will be re-orchestrated from a polka to a dragon dance.  The seriousness will be leavened with Mrs. Paroo’s constant exasperation with Winthrop’s speech defect, making her constantly chide, “Winsrop, stop risping!”  And of course we discover that the town’s male foursome are actually on the downlow.    

*Needless to say, I’ve made this all up.  But when I floated this notion to two people involved with the production of Oklahoma, they didn’t know whether to believe me or not.

Great Song, Terrible Idea — Part I

June 14, 2011

At one point during what you might call a heated discussion, Ron said to me, “One of the main reasons you have a unique ability to regurgitate lyrics is because you’re one of the few people who listen to them in the first place.”  It was a point that I couldn’t argue with.

And one thing that happens when you listen to a lyric is that you actully listen to what a song says.  And it occurs to me that there are a lot of songs I love that give really, really dicey advice when you think about it.  Here’s the first in an occasional series.  (And please, feel free to add your choices in the comments below.)

Make Someone Happy — “Make someone happy and you will be happy, too.”  First of all, there are some people who will never be happy.  So if you’re making your happiness rely on them getting to happy you’re totally wasting your time.  And I can think of a number of occasions where I’ve given a lot of happiness to others and I’ve certainly received satisfaction — but happiness???

Marry the Man Today — “…and change his ways tomorrow.”  This seems like an instant road to divorce court. (BTW, great quote from a NYTimes article about a man taking a family trip to Disney — “…which prove again a useful principle for all couples: don’t try to change each other. Study and subvert each other. “)

Don’t Cry Out Loud — “…just keep it inside and learn how to hide your feelings.”  And then pay for years of therapy.

I’d Rather Leave While I’m In Love — Does that mean you’d rather stay when it’s bad?

When In Rome I Do as the Romans Do — FYI, whenever I’m out of town I cheat.  As Dr. Phil might say, “How’s knowin’ that workin’ out for you?”

Words of wisdom from Mark Waldrop

June 11, 2011

Mark Waldrop who directed Sutton Foster’s cabaret act had this passage in the CD’s album notes — words many, many performers need to take to heart:

“Pulling off a really great club act is one of the toughest feats in show business — even for a Broadway star like Sutton.  It takes so much more than assembling a list of songs and knocking them out of the part (which pretty much defines a really bad club act).  For the entertainers who elevate this intimate art form, the song list becomes a vehicle for delivering a distillation of their own unique personalities.  A friend of mine once said that the tricky thing about doing cabaret is that you have to be yourself on purpose.  This seemingly simple requirement has tripped up a surprising number of otherwise brilliant performers.  There’s no character to hide behind.  It’s just you up there.  To thrive in this setting, you have to be comfortable in your own skin.”

Did you like it?

June 11, 2011

Until one has really found one’s footing as a person or an artist, it can be difficult to know what to say to someone whose work you’ve just seen and found deeply flawed.

The terrific advice columnist Cary Tennis answered that question in one of his Since You Asked columns in Salon.  He quotes a story Jason Robert Brown told about being young and being invited with a friend by Stephen Sondheim to see Passion in previews and dinner afterward.

“They try to disguise their opinions but it is clear to Sondheim that they didn’t like the show, and it makes things very uncomfortable. Sometime after this very awkward dinner, one of them calls Sondheim to patch things up and this is what Sondheim reportedly said:

“”Nobody cares what you think. Once a creation has been put into the world, you have only one responsibility to its creator: Be supportive. Support is not about showing how clever you are, how observant of some flaw, how incisive in your criticism. There are other people whose job it is to guide the creation, to make it work, to make it live, but that is not your problem.

“”If you come to my show and see me afterwards, say only this: ‘I loved it.’ It doesn’t matter if that’s what you really felt. What I need at that moment is to know that you care enough about me and the work I do to tell me that you loved it … If you can’t say that, don’t come backstage or lean over the pit to see me. Just go home … Say all the catty, bitchy things you want to your friend, your neighbor, the Internet …

“”Maybe someday down the line I’ll be ready to hear what you have to say, but at that moment, that face-to-face moment after I have unveiled some part of my soul, however small, to you: That is the most vulnerable moment in any artist’s life. If I beg you, plead with you to tell me what you really thought … then you must tell me, ‘I loved it.’ That moment must be respected.””

Also a great article from the NYTimes on what to say / not to say to someone going through severe health isssues.