Friday, December 31, 2010

Birthday Bliss

Here are some photos from Jarrah's sixth birthday. She'll have you know that she'll only be "Final Six" when she has her birthday party (we always wait until school is back in session, so kids are back from vacation), but we had a glorious time on the actual day.

First, there was some serious present-opening, a lot of it courtesy of Nana and Granddad in Perth. You may observe that she had a hairstyle and costume change mid-way through, since we couldn't see her face but the camera kept capturing her undies. The biggest thrill was a stunning satin and tulle ballerina skirt with matching top and hair ornament, which she insisted on putting on immediately. Since it was her birthday, I refrained from my typical Jewish mother speech along the lines of "Oy, it's positively ARCTIC out there; put on a sweat-uh before I faint!"

The first stop was lunch at Smashburger with BFF Joy. I was a bit mystified by the choice of Smashburger, since I told Jarrah she could eat anywhere in the world she wanted, and she doesn't actually eat burgers. But her decision never wavered with multiple queries, so Smashburger it was. Here you can see the girls getting their groove on to "Poker Face" with a shared iPod.

Next stop was Build-A-Bear in Fashion Valley, which really shows how much we love that girl, since the traffic getting in and out of the mall was legend. We made it, though, and I even gave in to the purchase of a dog bed for new Jack Russell friend, Alexandra. Joy got Sparkle Kitty, and--oh, happy day!--the dog and cat got along just fine.

At this point, I would like a moment of appreciation for carrying on with the rest of our glorious plans when I felt like Hell on Toast and wanted nothing more than to curl up with a blanket and some tea back at home. A big shout-out to Mary, for helping me through. She took Jarrah and Joy back to their place for some play time while I hightailed it home for a big bag of Warm Things and a loooong drive in rush-hour traffic to meet them and other Dear Ones Steph, Shaun and Nathan at Quail Botanical Gardens for holiday lights and--bliss!--SNOW!

Here's where I learned another of those glorious Lessons We Can Only Learn From Children, because all the adults were properly crestfallen when we saw that all that remained of "several tons of real snow" was a single dirty, icy ramp-like hill for sledding purposes. But were the kids disappointed? Um, see for yourself, Readers. There was surprisingly swift and frequent sledding for nearly two hours, resulting in three sopping-wet but happy and unfrozen cherubs who were eager to go find the promised S'Mores. Paul (also sick) was a champ and drove over with dry things so they could be warm and toasty standing around the fire with their marshmallow sticks (most of them did not make it to the toasted stage before consumption.) There was some glorious running and screaming amidst the twinkly lights (that place is just gorgeous this time of year) and a Cuban band that Stephanie bewitched into playing "Happy Birthday" for Jarrah, and just when all the adults were ready to keel over (all of us pretending it was actually the kids who were tired) we retired to a nearby Coco's for Kids Eat Free Tuesday and the pie Jarrah had requested instead of cake.

Yes, Friends, it was a big day in Birthday World.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Zing Zang Zoom--Now We Are Six!

Tomorrow is Jarrah's sixth birthday. Six! That is just crazy. I'm thinking about A.A. Milne's Now We Are Six. I should get that for her. I have no idea what happened to my copy.

I just went in to say good night. "I wanted to tuck in my five-year-old for the last time," I told her. "Tomorrow I'll be tucking in my six-year-old."

"But why is it sad?" she asked. Sad? Sad? That doesn't seem quite right. But she was picking up on something, and I couldn't think of the right word to put in sad's place.

She asked for a Zimbo story. That's pretty typical. I've been telling her Zimbo stories for years. Zimbos come from Candy Land and, well, they're my rip-off of the Oompa-Loompas, if you must know. She'll figure it out soon enough, and her childhood dreams will be crushed, just like the time that It's a Small World broke down and I had to get out and walk through the dolls (I think I was 29 at the time, so I had a good run.)

In Zimbo stories, the Zimbos are invited to go somewhere with Jarrah, which they happily do, but mishaps ensue and they "accidentally" turn everyday objects into candy. Slides become sour gummy ribbons, monkey bars become licorice, rocks become giant marshmallows, picnic tables turn into slabs of chocolate. Which just will not do because a) everything will be too sticky to use and b) the kids will eat them, causing potential hazards. (Sorry if this all sounds kind of grimly practical; I was pretty brain-dead in the days I dreamed it up.)

Tonight, Jarrah said she was going to tell me a Zimbo story. That was new. And even more surprising, she told a pretty spot-on version, with all the appropriate flourishes, that went something like this:

Jarrah invited the Zimbos to Butterfly Land. But they turned the trees to chocolate! We said "Zimbos!" They said "sorrysorrysorry" and "Zing Zang Zoom!" And the trees were back to normal. But then they turned the whole playground to jello! Which was dangerous! We said "Zimbos!" They said "sorrysorrysorry" and "Zing Zang Zoom!" And the playground was back to normal. But then we saw, on a picnic table, a giant chocolate cake!

The story always ends with a giant chocolate cake for everyone to share. Just so she doesn't get disappointed by things turning out TOO normal. As in, without any candy left. But today, the story didn't end there.

And Jarrah's mommy and daddy were pretty relieved because they'd forgotten to pack a picnic and they didn't want everyone to starve! But then they tripped on the cake and got cake all over their faces. And the kids went up to them and licked their eyeballs. And their teeth. Then they were all clean, and everyone ate cake and was happy. The End!

I was a little worried because it seemed we were heading down Walking Dead way with the pack of swarming kids and the eyeball-licking. That's what you get for leaving your Entertainment Weekly around when it has zombies on the cover. But it all worked out.

But I think my baby is growing up. I better step up my game.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Boast Post

Got a card in the mail from Jarrah's teacher (oddly, the card was addressed to "Jerred," but we'll just assume that was the handiwork of her helper elves.) Wanted to share these two photos she included.

The framed birthday-with-crown pose was the cover of the card, and the classic "plush draidel beauty shot" (haven't you heard? this one is required of all Jews annually) was inside.

First of all, I think these are lovely pics, and really show how grown up our little Miss J is getting. She looks ready for prom in the draidel one (though hopefully she won't be holding a large stuffed top in that photo. Not that I know anything about it--I didn't go to prom--so who knows? Maybe that's what the girls are carrying these days, instead of rhinestone clutches.)

And I also think it's so sweet for Mrs. R to send cards to her students with special photos inside. I mean, what a great idea! Right? We feel really lucky to have her this year, especially since Jarrah was able to read us the note inside all by herself.

P.S. How weird is it that Jarrah has lost two teeth and two more magically appeared in their place only days later? It's like it never happened.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Meeting Smile After Smile

Much as I love a rainy day, I think I'm over it. Just finished three straight days of storm with one more promised, and this San Diegan is calling foul play.

Maybe if it wasn't, um, crimping my style so much. The much-anticipated trip to the OC to register for baby things with my sis has been postponed until better weather. This is the week we usually like to take postprandial drives around the neighborhood to admire the lights--that will have to wait. And today I had the perfectly absurd experience of being trapped at a nearby shopping center for over three hours when all the traffic lights around the single exit went out and people decided it would be fun to start crashing into each other as a result. I couldn't move my car and had to wait wanly in the bookstore and then a coffee shop (well, I did have a consolation cupcake) for an opportunity to free it. David had to leave work early to fetch Jarrah from theatre camp, while I lolled ineffectually in a chilly window seat, watching the waves of water batter the parking lot.

When I finally got in the car, it still took me 30 minutes to move at all, and for some reason I succumbed to melancholy over the song "Silver Bells:" "It's Christmas the city..." I warbled to the accompaniment of cheerful car horns. I got rather weepy when I hit those high notes.

Maybe I was just wishing all that rain would turn white and fluffy. Love and peace, y'all.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bowing Out

Sitting in Twiggs Coffeehouse on a misty, rainy SoCal December Monday. It's so cozy in here, sipping my aesthetically pleasing hot chocolate with the perfect swirl of cream, nibbling a crunchy sprinkle-covered star, listening to Sam Cooke and Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra. Amazingly, not Christmas standards. Just standards.

Something about this place gives me a hankerin' to blog, perhaps to make up for the many hours and days I spent in here grading 10 years ago when there were no blogs to help one procrastinate.

Feeling a bit wrecked today--went to bed at 10:00, unable to keep my eyes open another second, and then popped awake at 1:00. And that was it for the night, somehow. This morning I went for a massage, which would have been entirely wonderful if not for the last 10 minutes, when my shoulders started to sting and burn and cramp from the inside out. Lactic acid in my muscles? Who knows.

So, the show is done. And I am proud to say I got through it without a single dropped line, a single pitchy shriek. The biggest compliment I got was that my backup singers on my big number--despite threats from Director D--whispered yesterday that they didn't plan to sing at all because it sounded better when I did it alone. Which is to say, they trusted me not to @#$%&* up the show that their relatives were paying to see, which meant a lot.

Doing the show was incredibly bonding for the ten of us, which is saying something because since September D has made every effort to keep us apart. Until this week, for instance, we didn't even know each other's last names. Each night, we warmed up together with scales and vocal games, and just before show time, we closed our eyes and joined hands and called up the blessings of the theater gods. And then we went out and--in D's words--"totally killed it." Really, it's nothing short of a miracle how polished we were, since we never even managed a dress rehearsal.

For some reason, maybe because there's now no reason to hold back, I'm feeling a lot of anger towards D and our "stage manager" still. Last night, he couldn't even bring himself to hold my hand during the curtain call like everyone else, but kept flinging it back to my side like he'd found it damp and nasty on the sidewalk. And that was in front of the entire audience. There's certainly no love lost between us. He didn't speak to me or look me in the eye for the entire run. And I almost lost my temper yesterday when D--for the fourth day in a row--shoved a ridiculous clipboard into my hand backstage and reminded me that it was "my responsibility" to get all the release forms for David's video. A video that she owns and will solely profit from. Like I have nothing else to do except, hello, put on a two-hour show in her name. Not only did she make an interminable "welcome speech," but we had to wait for our bows until she came on stage and stood in the center and we clapped for her magnificence. And last night, the stage manager presented her with a framed "award" just for being her before we could take our bows! The best example of what she's like came on opening night, when I was in full character, doing a monologue and waving my feather boa around, and she shouted from the audience, "Sam! Fix your dress!" Like I was giving everyone a peep show, in my opaque black leggings. Forget the possibility of distracting me--doesn't the audience deserve to watch the scene without wondering "Who the hell is Sam?"

So you can see I have a bit of bitterness to work through. The cast kept saying "I'm just so grateful she gave me the opportunity to be in the show." Yeah, yeah. But it goes both ways. I worked hard for her, and the occasional compliment thrown my way would have gone a long way toward securing my loyalty and goodwill. The night before opening night, I blanked on my solo and she stood up and started screaming and screaming. I don't even know what she was saying--it was just roaring in my ears. I went to my next scene with my heart pounding, feeling like I might throw up. I did my stage fall and busted open my knee, blood everywhere. Backstage before notes, I burst into tears, so suddenly that two of my castmates asked "Sam? Are you just acting?" We were called to notes and I snuffled quietly, embarrassed and miserable. D and C stood up there and gave notes and simply pretended that I was not crying. That kind of did it for me.

I need a few days to recover, but I would do it all over again for the joy of the audience.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wherein I Am A Great, Big Diva Baby

We are rehearsing in the theater now, and it's beautiful. John and I were talking about the magic of an empty theater; that if you just sit still you can almost hear the many, many shows that came before you, and smell the makeup, the paint, the sweat. Moxie is really lovely. We have a dressing room with honest-to-goodness stumpy bulbs surrounding the mirrors (I'll overlook that the men and women have to share) and black velvet curtains to enter and exit through. The house seats are green velvet and the stage is deep and black. The stage lights shine in my eyes and warm me to the bones, like theater lights are supposed to. Our show is listed on the marquee above the front door, and (glee!) our head shots are displayed on the wall near the theater entrance. Our band is in the house and sounding awesome.

I have been feeling cooperative and cheerful and tamping down my existential despair so that I don't miss a moment of this rare feeling, where I am an important cog in the theater machine.

Until late last night. I didn't quite make it. Our stage manager (who is now performing in the closing number and thinks it's oh-so-hilarious to change his line--directed at me--from "she asked me" to "that bitch asked me") asked us to stay late so he could finally--FINALLY--spike the stage with fluorescent tape for our placements. My big solo is the second-to-last number. Our director, who was guiding this task, instructed him to spike the tape for my solo in the farthest left corner upstage. I am not exaggerating, Readers. If I take one step back, I'll be behind the curtain.

Let me further explain. In this number, I am the only person who sings. Even the band doesn't play. I have two "back-up singers" who repeat a single word at the end of each line. Here is how the stage is arranged:

--The entire cast is on stage, for no reason I can discern.
--My "back-up singers" are standing downstage center, with as much freedom to move as they want.
--I am standing in the back left corner, BEHIND A TABLE WITH TWO BIG GUYS SITTING AT IT. Another burly guy stands flanking my left hip, stoic and unmoving. I have been instructed to "dance, work the audience, tease my man and generally act a vixen" while belting my lungs out from the back left corner of the stage. When this command came down (my director was not even sitting in the theater seats at the time, but on the far left steps, on the floor, folding programs,) I shrieked:

"I am having a terrible, horrible, no-good very-bad day!!!!"

And just like with Alexander, "No one even answered."

Only what I actually shrieked was "Why don't you just have me sing it from behind the curtain???"

The result was the same.

They excused us shortly after. I ran blindly to the exit without saying goodbye to anyone. As I started the car, the tears were already rolling. I sobbed, hiccuping, the whole way home, the traffic lights blurry. I sobbed for the four months I've been putting up with this crap. I sobbed for the fact that my friends and family won't get to see me have my moment. I sobbed because I am so afraid that I'm just not good enough, and bottom line: that's why she has to hide me.

When I got home and David opened the door to my raccoon face, he was livid. "You are quitting right now!" I lay awake most of the night, heart pounding. But I'm not going to quit. I'm just going to hope there's some kind of theater karma and that someday, somehow, I'll feel like I'm doing myself, my director and everyone else proud out there.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm Gonna Go Eat Some Worms

If I still had my Hello Kitty diary with the brass lock on it I would fill several pages with:


Just like I used to when I was thirteen. I'm so mad right now. And upset. Feel like I've been kicked in the gut. Despair. Whatever. Some stomach-churning combination of all those things.

Just received the cast list for Last of the Red Hot Lovers. It was, like, a POSTER, with everyone's headshots, for crying out loud. Gorgeous. I was not on it.

He wasn't supposed to let us know until tomorrow. I haven't told you this story yet.

Sunday night I auditioned for LofRHL. I was actually going to go Monday, but Sunday freed up, and I decided that I deserved Monday to spend in my pajamas since the rest of the week I'd be at the theater. I made myself pretty, printed my headshot, headed out with Google maps. The usual.

The audition was in Chula Vista, in a place called Fredericka Manor. Silly me, I thought it was going to be a castle. It was a senior home. A nice one, with lots of cottages. The audition room was hard to find, but when I got there, I felt instantly at ease. For one thing, everyone seemed really nice, and for another, it was a senior home. Also, there were exactly nine people at the audition. Eight women, one man ("you'll be working for your supper," the director remarked.) The play has three women and one man. Some of the people seemed inappropriate on sight. I relaxed even more.

Even better, there had been nothing to memorize, and hence, nothing to forget. The director was a jovial older guy who reminisced amusingly about a play he directed in '69. We were given sides and, after some monologues, commenced a couple hours of cold reads with the guy. (Poor guy. He worked really hard that night, and he wasn't cast, either.) Readers, I had a really good time. Cold reads don't make me nervous, because hello, I can read. I can read like nobody's business. Because I had read the play recently, I totally got the characters. And the characters are my peeps. New York Jews, neurotic and sarcastic. The play is in three acts--in each act, the main guy brings a woman to his apartment and tries to woo her. The middle one is described as "twenty-ish actress." That was not going to be me. But the other two were right in my age range.

I felt great about my readings. I thought I was really funny. Plus, I got to read four or five times, so he really got a good look at me. He was calling me "Sam" right from the beginning. I thought I was golden.

At the end, he said we were "welcome to come back the next night, but it's not necessary." I didn't know what this meant. We didn't have appointments, and wouldn't he be doing the same things the next night, with new people? I dared to hope that only a few would show up on Monday, and he'd have no chance to forget me. I left there with hope in my heart and a song on my lips. At the first light, I thought to myself : Sam, you rock. You just did four auditions in two weeks. You are brave. Good for you.

And though I didn't want to get too excited, I thought: there's no way I'm not getting this. Or at least sealing the deal with a callback. I was already juggling the very full holiday rehearsal schedule in my mind.

There were no callbacks. I didn't worry too much, because he said he might not do them. But he said everyone would hear from him by Thursday.

It's Wednesday. He sent a very nice note. With the poster I mentioned. Only one of the Sunday crew is in the show, a very young babe who did her audition in tippy stilettos. She is playing one of the women described as my age. The twenty-ish actress looks older than she does. The guy is being played by the guy I was in Sylvia with. No surprise--he is perfect for the part. The other woman described in the script as my age looks waaaaay older than me. I don't get it. But then, I'm not the director.

I don't know why I'm so devastated. When I didn't get cast in VM or The Crucible, I was disappointed, but it didn't feel so big. I guess I just really felt like I was in the zone this time, and I thought it was obvious to everyone. I guess not. Plus I'm second-guessing myself for not going back Monday. Would that have made the difference? Who knows? I guess I can't live with regrets.

I told David this feels like it, no more, I can't take this kind of life. But even as I said it, I could tell that while I mean it today, I probably won't mean it tomorrow.

We'll see. I'm going to take two weeks off from even thinking about it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Curtain In Five

My last night off before three dress rehearsal nights and three performance nights. It will be a looooong week, but I bet it will also be a lot of fun. It's hard to believe this show is finally here--I've been rehearsing since September! I went straight from Twelfth Night into this one without a break, so I feel like I could probably use one now. Two weeks of holiday cheer should leave me right as rain.

The day after the show ends I'm going to help my littlest sister assemble her baby registry. I can't wait to get my hands on that gun! It's been way too long. Not that I'm profligate about it. I feel like I've learned a thing or two in the past five years about what she's actually going to need and want (though I'll have to be excused for my love of all things fruity, man, do I miss that stuff.)

Jarrah has been sick the past few days with a fever/coughing/malaise type of ailment, and has been refusing all food. In classic Jewish mother fashion, I rushed to the store and procured ice cream, Popsicles, Scooby Doo-shaped mac and cheese, fruit leather and chicken nuggets (hey, they were organic!) in the hope of changing her mind. The nuggies got both thumbs down--"the ones at school are much better"--but the rest has been popular. When she woke this morning, her first words were "I think I'll start breakfast with a bowl of ice cream." I think maybe I'm being played.

Today I did all the normal things I won't do for another week now. Swept. Washed dishes. Three loads of laundry. Folded clothes. Made dinner for my family. I wanted Jarrah to have a bit of air so I dragged her on my errands, and perhaps it wasn't business as usual when she told the clerk in CVS "My mommy needs this makeup for her play" or when she modeled a bra for the mile-long line at Marshall's by telling her reflection, "Thank you, mirror!"

Tonight we'll catch up on some bad TV, loll on the couch, go to bed early. I'll continue with Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life and feel pretty normal, if all goes well. And in the morning, if Jarrah goes back to school, I'll go shopping for a gold tooth to cover one of mine, because true artistry is never vain.

And pray that I don't get sick before I have to belt solos to a lovely little dimly lit theater audience in Rolando. It's so close now.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

OMG, I can't believe I'm starting a blog post "OMG." I just don't have the words, unless they are: I think my head is going to explode.

A while back, I wrote this post about my existential crisis: is I is or is I ain't an actor? I had been to a couple auditions with only a blank "thank you" for my troubles, and wasn't really sure what that was about.

Though I am busy rehearsing my current show, I couldn't help noticing three upcoming auditions that piqued my interest. All of them had something that appealed to me personally. There was:

1. The Vagina Monologues. I'd seen it a few times, and thought I wanted to be in it someday.
2. The Crucible. High school classic, great literature, juicy roles.
3. Last of the Red-Hot Lovers. I've never seen it, but it's Neil Simon, and I really dig that New York angsty thing.

Based on my previous experience, I figured these would all be practice, practice, practice, and I worked on making my peace with that. Only the second one required a prepared monologue, so that was good, too.

Last Wednesday I went to the VM auditions with my friend Jessica. I was offered a choice of two monologues, but knew right away I would do the funny one. It just so happened to be a sort of rant about a naughty, naughty word I never use. That's all I'm saying about that, because I don't have to audition for YOU, Dear Readers. I figured I'd just go for it. There were two women and one man in the room, very friendly. I launched into my reading, surprised to find my voice quavering a bit, but I didn't stumble over the 87 repetitions of the naughty word. Then I got this stage direction: (long high-pitched 'n.') I was in the middle of that when one of the directors raised her hand and said "Thank you."

Tears almost sprang to my eyes. I'd never been interrupted before. It must have really been wretched if they couldn't bear to hear another word. I thought I was leaving, but then they asked me what I knew about V-Day. All my audition books tell me not to babble in auditions, under any circumstances. Answer questions with "yes" and "no" whenever possible. But I had already blown it, so I decided to whip out a little of the 'ol Sam Sparkle. I told them I'd been involved with V-Day before, but:

"Not acting. Selling chocolate vaginas." They nodded and smiled. "You know, doing the Lord's work."

They laughed. I mean, really laughed. Like that kind of surprised laugh when you really weren't expecting something to be funny. Score! And then I left.

I was hot and embarrassed on the way to the car, and told Jessica it did NOT go well. She didn't feel good about hers, either. When I got home, I was just starting to tell David the details, when an e-mail popped up with the subject "V-Day Callbacks." Silly me, I didn't think anything of it. I figured it was the usual e-mail that would say something like "As in, you didn't get one. But thanks for coming out!'' But they were asking me to come for a callback. OMG. OMG. OMG.

The callback was the next night. When I had rehearsal. I was in agony. I don't lie. Was I going to have to turn it down? I asked around. Finally, I got my answer: I would tell my director the truth and ask for the time off. And she said yes!

I raced downtown for my rehearsal, singing and dancing and sweating, then raced back across town for the callback. The place was packed. Everyone seemed to know each other. I tried to just smile and drink in the moment. I'm here because someone asked me to be. That's never happened before.

The directors talked to us about the show, and then called our names for pre-assigned groups. We gathered around tables with butcher paper, turned the paper over and found a writing prompt. We had 30 minutes to write a play about the prompt, then perform it for the group. It was intense. I can write under pressure, but I can't write by committee under pressure. I have no idea how I was behaving. Our little play was pretty funny, though not as emotional as some of the others. Overall, it was a pretty cool activity. They told us they'd let us know about casting by Saturday.

Saturday came and went. No e-mail. I checked it obsessively. Meanwhile, I had to rehearse five hours on Saturday. Even my skin was tired. Sunday I was still checking, in increasing desperation. And now a new problem was brewing. I had an appointment to audition for The Crucible the next night--Monday. I needed something memorized for that one. Two weeks before, I'd chosen a monologue from Harold Pinter's Old Times. I was chatting with my friend Grace and told her I was having trouble with it: "I sound fake." "Everyone sounds fake when they recite Pinter," she said, and she knows these things--she's a playwright.

I had been second-guessing my choice all week. I'd been to the library a half-dozen times, checking out everything from Chekhov to John Patrick Shanley. Now it was Monday, and distracted by my VM experience, I hadn't learned anything. I hadn't even CHOSEN anything. After all, if I got VM, I couldn't do any other auditions for a while, right? (It never even occurred to me that they might have meant NEXT Saturday.)

Over Thanksgiving, I'd run a monologue by David from Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession. At the time, he'd found it a bit cold. Now I realized that cold might be right for The Crucible, and that it was sensible enough to memorize easily, and that...well, that I didn't have any more time to agonize. I spent a large chunk of Monday at Jarrah's school, but when I wasn't there, I was feverishly repeating Vivie's denouncement of her mother over and over. Wait a moment: I'm not done. No. I am my mother's daughter. I am like you.

My audition wasn't until 8:10, so I was able to eat dinner with the fam and do my monologue for them a couple times before I left. I could tell a few things very clearly. I could tell that I hadn't done justice to the character yet. I could tell that I didn't have just the right tone. But most of all, I could tell that my memorization was the kind of tenuous that would dissolve like cotton candy under a hot toddler tongue as soon as any pressure was applied. Like the kind of pressure that comes of standing in a strange place having to recite something for strangers. That kind of pressure.

The place was packed, and they were running a half-hour behind. Plenty of time to stew about how I was going to forget my lines. I walked to the bathroom and ran them in there. I walked back and muttered them under my breath. Finally, they were sending me down the stairs. I'm going to forget my lines, I knew with certainty. I was mad at myself.

The three directors seemed incredibly nice. I launched into Vivie's monologue, and yup, there it was, barely three sentences in: To tell the truth, I rather admire him for...(what do I admire him for? damn, damn, damn, something...I struggled on finally getting to) not the usual hunting, shooting, dining out, tailoring, loafing (here's where I should have said "life of his set" and got on with it. Instead, I was in an endless loop, "swimming, fishing, golfing, fencing, kayaking...") Stop listing random activities! my brain screamed. Stop it, stop it, stop it! But I was determined not to have any silence. If I had to list recreational options of the 19th century upper class all night, by gum, I was going to do it.

I pulled it together by that powerful last paragraph. I really sold it. I figured I had to sell something. The rest I'd already given away. I bit into it lustily, savoring the moment, that final moment before I was getting the "thank you" and the boot.

"Very nice," the middle director said. Very nice? Really? So polite! There was some talk about my upcoming show, and I volunteered, "a little singing, a little dancing, you know, just like this one." He laughed and said, "Oh, you haven't seen my interpretation. Jazz hands and everything. "I've got mine ready!" I yelped, demonstrating. Great. Shut up, Sam.

I left cheerfully, striding out of the church into the cold night. I couldn't wait to get home and into my pajamas and forget about the whole sorry business. And that's what I did. David met me at the door. "How was it?" he asked. "A trainwreck," I replied, flipping off my heels and making a beeline for my mukluks.

This morning, I was working at Jarrah's school when Jessica texted me: "So hard to wait!" For what? I wondered briefly. Oh, right. Today's the day. Whatever. An hour later another text: "I got a callback!" I was squee-ing for her. She suggested I might have one, too. I was getting my hair done and wouldn't have e-mail access for a couple hours. I wondered a bit. Just a bit.

I got home, and there was the e-mail: Callbacks! Saturday from 10-2, bring snacks. (I thought that was so sweet.) I have rehearsal from 9-3. I cant, can't, CANNOT ask for any time off. It's our last rehearsal before cue-to-cue tech. There is no way I can even ask. No way. Not this time.

I savored the few minutes of being someone who'd gotten two callbacks in one week, and then I sadly wrote a beautiful and touching e-mail to the producer, expressing my regret. With the tiny hopeful addition of requesting an alternative callback time. But it ain't gonna happen. It's a big cast; it will be a big callback with lots to do. No time for some unknown entity like me. Soon, an e-mail will arrive, no doubt friendly, saying thanks and maybe next time.

And I will be sad. Because this audition business? It's a freakin' rollercoaster. The kind where you totally get hit by waves when you least expect it.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Little Child Will Lead Them

Last week felt like two. And I don't think I sat down this weekend. Not that things will get restful for a while yet. My show opens December 17th, and we have tech dress three nights before that. This week we will probably exceed the eleven (!) hours of rehearsal we clocked last week.

It's Hanukkah, which means cooking, and parties, and eating very, very well. I've also managed to do two visits to Jarrah's school--one a Nia class, and the other a Hanukkah presentation. Thanks to my dear friend Robyn's efforts, I had homemade latkes to hand out, and thanks to me, I forgot a menorah, candles, and the gelt and dreidls I bought specially for the occasion. I still think I scored extreme points with the class, judging by how Lord of the Flies things got when I called out "Anyone for a second latke? Or donut?" They began moving forward en masse chanting "More! More! More!" Somehow the teacher had her back turned and I actually got a bit nervous. Eesh. Then I was a total rock star at lunchtime, with every kid trying to squeeze their tray in next to me so they could sit with "Jarrah's mom."

I've had a bunch of auditions lately, but I'm saving those stories for another day. I think most of my creative energies are being funneled towards my current show, not that my creative energies are exactly peaking. But, as someone I know is fond of saying, it is what it is. Gotta find a way to stay focused for a couple more weeks, and hopefully have some fun when I actually get under that spotlight.

I do have a cute Jarrah story to share with you, Readers. Right now at her school, they're doing an annual fundraiser called the Holiday Bazaar. We were asked to send money in an envelope for her to "shop" in the Teachers Lounge for gifts for friends and family. Since we are new to the school, we weren't all that clear on what they'd be shopping for, and how much money was considered appropriate. I heard someone at Daisies murmuring about sending $80. Eighty dollars! Were all the gifts going to be encased in platinum? I told David we should send $40, and he said $30, and that's what we sent. Jarrah came home Monday afternoon with a large, sealed paper bag and no change. She said she'd forgotten to get something for herself, even though we'd signed the note that said she could. Oh well. Speaks to her generous nature.

We waited until tonight to open the bag, because I was at rehearsal last night, and tonight is the last night of Chanukah. After candle-lighting and dinner and some gifts for me (my favorite lotion and a super-duper-deluxe cast-iron soup pot!) Jarrah was eager for us to open the bag. Whoever was working the Bazaar (tomorrow it will be me, since I volunteered for the Thursday shift) had cutely stapled each gift into a snowman bag with a name label. Jarrah gave us the ones marked "Dad" and "Mom." David's contained a squishy key holder that said "Number One Dad."

Mine contained a ballpoint pen that read "Number One Aunt."

"David. Did you see the special message on my pen?" I inquired sweetly, holding it up, and if the energy it took not to laugh myself silly isn't considered acting, I don't know what is.

He was duly impressed. Then I spotted an envelope at the bottom of the bag. It jangled when I picked it up. Oh, I thought. How nice. Change. There was a receipt stapled to the envelope with a list of figures on it, culminating in the sum "$4.25." Wow, I thought. Savvy shopper. That's a lot of change.

Then I opened the envelope. Three quarters fell out. And twenty-five dollars. I held up the wad of bills and looked wordlessly at David.

"Jarrah," he said. "How did you decide how much money to spend on the gifts?"

"I just bought what I wanted," she shrugged.

And there you have it. The lone member of our clan with any money sense. The thrifty soul who managed to stretch seven gifts out of $4.25. This bodes well for saving her allowance, and what she decides to do with the proceeds from her summers serving lemonade at Hotdog on a Stick. Doesn't it?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

High Tea: The 5-Year-Old Perspective

1. Cool hats! And beads! I'm wearing all of them! Oh no, wait. I'm wearing this giant white bow on my head. I look like a million bucks in this bow.

2. Why is my tea cup smaller than everybody else's? Oooh, there's apple juice in it. Yum.

3. Oh my freaking stars. Please say those are actually pink, heart-shaped sugar cubes in that bowl. I'm eating all of them. Now.

4. The lady just asked me not to bang my knife and fork together over and over. Something about them being "old."

5. The food is on a tower! My ham sandwich is shaped like a flower! Why is it only one bite? Oh, all four of my sandwiches are only one bite. That's okay--I'll just eat Mommy's, too.

6. There is no point to the middle section. It seems to have some sort of fruit on it.

7. The clotted cream and lemon curd are in suspiciously tiny bowls. But I'll just lick them and then no one else will want them.

8. What's that you say? Break the scone into bite-size pieces? There you go. Bite-size pieces. Twenty-seven of them.

9. Mommy got a cupcake. I didn't. I'll just eat hers. She won't mind. Bet she'll hand over her truffle and her sugar cookie, too. Sweet! She did.

10. I want to go upstairs. I think there's something good up there. Possibly candy. Mommy says no. I'll just keep asking every few seconds.

11. Mommy says no every time I volunteer to eat the rest of the sugar cubes. Sensing a theme here?

12. I asked Mommy if we could go now. We've already been here 47 minutes. She said I could eat the rest of the sugar cubes.

13. Sugar cubes are gone. Can we go now?

14. The lady let me go upstairs. Mommy won't buy me a ceramic garden frog. She is no fun at all.

15. I'm starving! Can I eat the sugar cubes on the other tables?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pies Cooling On The Windowsill

Thankful day. Spent it entirely at home with the little one, cozy because it was in the mid-'50s outside and cloudy (brrrr for San Diego!) except for a brief foray to the park (alas, the tricycle really is embarrassingly too small now--what kind of mother am I that I haven't gotten my sporty child a bike?) She played circus with a freckle-faced redhead (referred to as "Red" by parent, gender indeterminate) while I chilled my buns on a bench reading Ibsen and Shaw (don't I sound erudite? Searching for monologues.)

At home, we undertook some edible projects. She found a candy-making caper in her Things to Do on a Rainy Day book, and I humored her by buying peppermint extract and "glace" (known by Jarrah as "glossum") cherries and dipping a whole lot of things in melted chocolate. I also came very close to plunging the whole marzipan project into the sink when I couldn't get the "ball" off my @#$%&* hands and started to panic. But all was well and the resulting treats did look suspiciously like the photos in the big, shiny book.

I also made my Famous Fudge Recipe, culled from the archives of a cherished aunt on the, erm, internet, and some Thai Cucumber Salad because, well, because it travels well? And so does fudge? And neither has to be reheated, which makes my mom freak out when she's dealing with turkey? Strictly speaking, I don't have to bring anything, because my mom makes enough to feed us all for a week, but I decided to wanted to contribute something this year. Everyone likes fudge (don't they?) and while they probably didn't have Thai Cucumber Salad at the first Thanksgiving, they might have wished they did, as a palate cleanser for all that maize. I am already craving my mom's apple stuffing and--especially, as it comes but once a year--the pearl onions baked in crumbs and cream. And did I mention the desserts?

Today I am thankful for a cozy home, and especially thankful that my girl is almost six. Truly, she is a joy these days, happy and funny and whip-quick and--amazingly--compassionate towards the world at large. She is even developing a bit of a flair for conversation. These sorts of observations might sound like standard Mommy Blog boilerplate, but the fact is, if there's anything I've learned in the past year, it's that I was right about not being a baby person. While I find them cute from a distance, I don't do well all day with someone whose face is perpetually wet and can only communicate by pointing and grunting. Or--argh--crying. But recently, I actually find her--wow!--fun. Fun, Readers! It's a revelation to me, and one I'm extremely grateful for.

(A funny aside. As I'm writing this, her dad, who's been gone all day, is attempting to get her to brush her teeth while she sobs and screams "I'm just having a really bad day!"

Yeah. A really bad day when she got to lick about a dozen spatulas.)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! I am grateful for YOU, too!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Yet knowing how way leads on to way..."

My mother told me I probably wouldn't make any new friends after college. She said that living on campus is conducive to meeting people, and that situations like that wouldn't come up much when college was over.

My mother has been right about almost everything, but I'm happy to say, she was wrong about that. I have been blissfully making friends ever since--in graduate school (so much like college, without the campus living), jobs I've had (lots of them) groups I've joined, Nia training, Jarrah's preschool, the theater, and the list goes on. Some of the people who are dearest to me, I've met in the last 10 years.

But my mother was right in a way. The friends I made in college will always be close to my heart, even if I don't talk to them every day, or even every year. Knowing they are there makes the world better, and when we get together, it's like no time has passed at all.

This past week, I reconnected with my friend Joe on Facebook. I'd been searching for him for a couple of years, but he was the one who finally found me. Seeing his little message--"Hi Sam! Call me! xoxoxo, Joe"--was enough to bring tears to my eyes. I have missed him so. I don't think we've been in touch since 1993, but he's never been far from my thoughts.

Joe and I met in England, where we were both studying Junior Year Abroad. He was from New York; me from California. We bonded instantly, because Joe is a tall, blond, bubbly glass of champagne in the form of a man, and who wouldn't like that? We gossiped and drank G&Ts at the pub, shopped on Bond St., managed to cook delectable meals on the dormitory hot plate. We were usually with our friend, Beth, so it was no surprise when those two ended up roommates after we all graduated. And--happy days!--we all ended up in Boston.

Their basement flat on Marlborough St. was my second home. A bracing walk through the Back Bay got me there in 20 minutes, where it was always warm and something was bubbling on the stove. I was living with Smith friends, and they all loved Joe, too. What wasn't to love? The guy had a huge heart, was always in a good mood, and was funny as hell. Whenever I had one of those days, Joe was there with a cocktail and a bitchy story to cheer me right up.

He and I were a bit slower than our Boston friends to get gainfully employed. So there was a swatch of time when we'd hang out during business hours to keep each other entertained. We didn't have any money, so our shopping was of the window variety, as well as our dreams of High Tea at the Ritz, new clothes from the boutiques on Newbury St., theater tickets in Charles Square. We settled for long walks in our thrift-store overcoats through the fall beauty of the Public Gardens, and the late afternoon glint off the gold dome of the Statehouse.

One afternoon we splurged on a shared order of chocolate crepes at The Magic Pan (known affectionately as The Tragic Pan) and then laughed ourselves silly at what was placed before us: a bowl of hot chocolate and a plate of toasted crepe "nachos" for dipping. It was awful, and we made jokes about the awfulness until I couldn't breathe.

When we finally connected on the phone last week, Joe reminded me of the nacho crepes right away. "Can you believe we paid for that, and didn't say anything?" Yes, I can. We were too busy laughing to complain. I love that we both have fond memories of that day--I told Joe I wrote a poem about it for my MFA thesis, even. I said I'd send it to him. I'm so happy we're back in touch.

With Thanksgiving upon us, I'm thinking about friends, old and new. How grateful I am to have both. And about the expansive blessing--really, what else can anyone hope for in this life?--of knowing friends are there, year after year, a part of our history, and with any luck, a part of our future, too. And this is truly magic--not tragic--indeed.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Despair. Stop. Send Help. Stop.

Haven't been around much. I've been missing the blog but feeling too overwhelmed to write. That's rare for me. Hope you, my Dear Readers, have been well.

There have been some really nice things. I went to the So You Think You Can Dance live show last weekend, and had amazing seats, and if there has ever been a show worth the price of admission, man, this is it. I was mesmerized from start to finish. It was especially thrilling to see Mia Michaels's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" with all the guys and only one girl--Lauren--in her pink tutu, on a chair on top of a chessboard table. (Here's the link with Alison playing the girl.) Much better without the camera dollying around them the whole time. The other one that had me leaping to my feet was Billy and Ade in "Mad World." (Who choreographed this?) It has me near tears every time.

Speaking of near tears, it was a rough week on the parenting front. I could have used a stiff drink, but I never got one. Now that Jarrah is getting older, I'm trying to be a bit more conscientious about her privacy, so I'm not going to tell the whole story here. Suffice to say, a situation has been developing that really came to a crisis point, and I ended up rushing Jarrah to the doctor without an appointment, without even calling first, and sort of getting down on my knees and begging them to see us immediately. We were there most of the day, with tests and x-rays and a really amazing doctor who spent nearly an hour with us asking lots of questions and actually listening to my answers as if I were a smart person who knows my own daughter. A big shout-out to El Camino Pediatrics in Encinitas--it's a long drive, and it's worth it.

I thank my lucky stars that the problem--while definitely significant--can be treated non-invasively, and we are well into that treatment now. We probably won't know for sure if it's working for about a month, but I'm feeling hopeful. And relieved.

In the middle of all this, Jarrah had her final performance for her junior theater group, and while there was a flurry of last-minute scrambling to prepare, it was a smash hit. See for yourself! The little girl who sings the solo about how parents are going to miss their children when they grow up had me snuffling like a baby. And Jarrah's dance moves are totally dope.

Also in the middle of all this, we had our first-ever parent-teacher conference at Dailard, and I'm happy to say that--medical troubles aside--Jarrah seems to be thriving in kindergarten. Her teacher described her as "a delight to have in class" and really, what more could we ask? The other day, she read us Green Eggs and Ham in its entirety, which was so exciting (though damn, that's a repetitive book.)

When I run out of material late at night fretting about my child, I have plenty more worries waiting about my show. Seriously, Readers, I'm surprised I haven't been fired. I have been so frustrated, nay, LIVID, with how things are being run these days that I am physically incapable of suppressing full-blown tantrums that spring up like twisters in my heart and wreak havoc all over the room. I've been yelling at the director, stage manager, other castmates, basically everyone except our genius musician, who is like an island of sense and logic in a roiling sea of crazy. Unfortunately, he's hardly ever there, but when he is, he really helps me work my range and find the notes I so desperately need to ingrain. Everyone else, though, just spends their time yelling at me and less-than-obliquely suggesting someone else could do better. It all started when our director advertised for an "understudy" about three weeks ago, and this girl is clearly poised to swoop in and take our parts whenever we show the slightest signs of sucking. Think I'm being paranoid? It's already happened three times. The ironic result is that I suck all the time, because each time I'm "on" (and this is just for rehearsal!) I start getting all sweaty and shaky and instantly forget all my lines, knowing that the vulture awaits. Not that I dislike this girl, but unfortunately, that's her role. The last two rehearsals I've been unable to keep my mouth shut: "When do I get to practice this WITHOUT BEING YELLED AT? NEVER? IS THAT WHEN?" "You wanna know why I'm forgetting my lines? Because you've changed the @#$%&* choreography every single time, and I can't remember both. And because every time I put a foot wrong you threaten to replace me." "Oh, I see. I'm doing it wrong because I'm on the LEFT. Which is how I was doing it for a MONTH before an hour ago, when you told me to change it to the RIGHT." My new champion is my castmate John, who is a sweet, quiet former Marine who's been comforting me between scenes. "Where did you get all these New Age-y affirmations?" I teased him. "I thought you were in the military for 10 years." "That's exactly where I got them," he told me. "When everyone is trying to make you fail, and you haven't slept, and people are making you puke your guts out, is when you need to find inner strength, because no one's going to find it for you."

Well, I need to take this advice. I lie awake nights not because my director and stage manager are mean to me, but because I can't freakin' take it, apparently. I can't suck it up and get on with my bad self. I lash out like a petulant child and then I hate myself for not being stronger. And worse that that, Readers? I hate myself for not being BETTER. Because if I were better, then they wouldn't be yelling at me in the first place.

Sigh. I'm learning and growing from all of this, right?


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dirty Politics

Some of my out-of-state friends have been asking what it's like to have Jerry Brown as the governor of California again. And I reply "It makes me feel seven." Which could be perceived as a good thing--the freshness and optimism of youth, the innocent lack of disillusionment with government, etc. But there is a dark side to my response which is not superficially apparent. You see, I have a bit of a history with Governor Jerry Brown, a history that a wiser and more discreet person would not share here. But when have I ever been accused of wisdom or discretion?

It was early in '74, Dear Readers, and I was in second grade. I had recently been tapped for some suspect niche programming at my elementary school called MGM--Mentally Gifted Minors. (I ask you--what genius came up with this name?) Because of this "honor," I was obligated to spend time with these evil people on a weekly basis, vile and abusive boys who would grow up to own companies, gimlet-eyed girls who snickered every time I mumbled into my Peter Pan collar (I was powerful shy) and--the worst of them all--The Dread Mrs. Cohen, our teacher, she of the Mondrian-print mini-dresses and swingy blunt-cut blond hair parted in the middle who openly rolled her eyes (rolled her eyes, Readers! My tender heart!) whenever I spoke.

So maybe I wasn't meant for the MGM crowd. If that had been in doubt before, it was made abundantly clear on this fateful day. The day that we were taken on a "special" field trip to visit the campaign offices of gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown. I had seen pictures of this Jerry Brown, and he was a good-looking chap, if very, very old--I'm talking Dad old. I was excited to go somewhere on a bus in the middle of a school day, and had dressed up for the occasion in my thick, white polyester shirt dress bedecked in giant strawberries, finished with a fabric-covered buckle belt. On my feet, a rare treat: shiny, white patent leather Mary Janes with lacy socks.

I remember very little of the field trip, and probably wouldn't remember it at all if it weren't for what I'm about to share with you. We disembarked at a nondescript warehouse in downtown SomewhereorOther and toured a blue-carpeted lobby adorned with a massive portrait of the man in question. A cheery lady welcomed us and told us a bunch of things which meant nothing to me. I couldn't get my mind around what a governor was for, let alone what it meant to "run" for one. It was a baffling morning which I spent in solitary, an island of childhood lonely in a sea of whispering and giggling cliques, all enjoying their furlough from the pen. I sat alone listening to the speeches, and I walked alone pretending to read maps and time lines tacked to the walls.

The place was not pretty, and felt temporary in a way I wouldn't have been able to describe then. The second floor had echoing concrete floors and walls, and the stuff on the walls was hung crookedly and seemed about to fall off. It was boring to the nth degree. I didn't want to look stupid, but when the guide asked if we had questions, I wouldn't have known what to ask even if I hadn't been pathologically shy about hearing my voice in public. I could hear my tummy growling and thought longingly of my American cheese sandwich back at school. And now I could feel another urge, becoming more pressing by the moment. I needed to pee.

At first it was just a vague desire, and I thought about asking The Dread Mrs. Cohen if there was a bathroom around. But something told me that it wouldn't be appropriate to ask. I had no idea what a "governor" was, much less a "candidate," but whatever faulty interior adviser I had on retainer that morning told me in no uncertain terms that--whatever they were--they didn't go to the bathroom.

And so I kept quiet. I strolled around, pretending to study blueprints, feeling increasingly miserable. At first I was uncomfortable. Then I was agonized. My back teeth ached. I crossed my legs so tightly I almost fell over. Time passed. It seemed like a lot of time. Hours, possibly. The cheery campaign flunkie gathered us into a little group so she could explain yet another excruciatingly dull aspect of something. And it was there that my agony passed over into desperation, which always leads to some sort of rationalization. But instead of deciding to saw my own arm off, I reasoned that I should just go ahead and pee. After all, who would notice? The floor was cement. And maybe governors have dogs! That's it--everyone will blame it on the dog.

So I peed. Oh, the relief. I felt it run into my lacy socks and pool in my Mary Janes. And then there was the puddle on the floor. Oh well. The dog. The Dread Mrs. Cohen was many things, but dumb was not one of them. Almost instantly, she started moving the other children away from the puddle, whispering "Don't step in the..." She trailed off. Since I was the puddle, I was left alone. She looked at me sadly, then looked away.

On the bus, I did not have a bus buddy. No one mentioned it. While we often have delusional memories of our childhood, I honestly think no one noticed except The Dread Mrs. Cohen, and she kept everyone away from me. Children are so wonderfully narcissistic at that age. But I still blame The Dread Mrs. Cohen for ignoring me completely. Not offering me one smidgen of comfort or reassurance. The closest she came to acknowledging my suffering was the announcement, right before we boarded the bus: "If anyone needs to use the restroom, I can show you where it is." Now you tell me that governors pee like the rest of us.

When I got back to school, I stepped off the bus and started walking, and didn't stop until I was home. Either no one noticed or no one cared. My mother made me a grilled cheese while I was in the bath. When I got back to school, no one asked why my dress was now blue.

Later, I heard that Jerry Brown was elected governor. That wasn't too interesting, but then he started dating Linda Ronstadt, which was. I loved her, and used to sing "You're No Good" out the window with my friends to a boy we liked who lived in the cul-de-sac. So I guess Jerry Brown was alright.

So when people ask me, what's it like? Having him around again? I want to say: it makes me reflect on the human condition. Ah, they might say, nodding. The youngest California governor ever, and the oldest, too. Of course.

Only that's not what I mean at all.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

And Soon I'll Hear Old Winter's Song

I don't really have anything to say. But that's never stopped me.

We turned the clocks back. So did you, I'd wager. I remember how much harder this week was when I lived on the East coast. It got really, really stupid cold the same week that it got dark at like 4 p.m. And that always sent me into a spiral of something-or-other. I guess a spiral of curling up in my mukluks in the Antique Gold arm chair I'd found on someone's lawn with a juicy book until spring. I was a lot more literary before the internet came along.

It was Joy's birthday this weekend. We saw Megamind and went to Sammy's to celebrate. The girls' minds were blown by the Messy Sundae--it's like every year they forget they exist and then suddenly, YOWZA! You mean the fudge is not confined to the insides of the glass??? Megamind was good, I thought. I don't usually like Will Ferrell but he was sort of sweet. And Brad Pitt, Tiny Fey, Jonah Hill and David Cross were dependably hilarious. I have noticed a disturbing trend of all these animated kids films having some serious daddy and mama drama going on. Someone is always needing redemption or vindication from some sort of familial crisis. I guess it's the universal story.

Today I took Jarrah to her preschool friend Jacqueline's house for a surprise birthday party. Jacqueline didn't seem all that stoked to be surprised. And distinctly unstoked to have noisemakers aimed at her brain. I collected them as discreetly as possible. But she was very happy to have brunch and cake and crafts with her friends, and I had a nice time because it was a small crowd and, well, there were mimosas. It's very civilized to start a Sunday morning with champagne, I think. It made me a tiny bit sad that Jarrah hasn't seen Jacqueline since June, and they will probably soon forget each other. I'm a bit negative about childhood friendships because none of mine lasted. Which I guess is not that unusual.

We rushed out of there because we had tickets to Willa Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at the Junior Theater. The theater is awesome, and they were really on in this one. The 14- and 13-year-old Willy and Charlie were total stars. But the actor who really got me in standing o mood played Augustus Gloop. He knocked my socks right off with his voice like an angel and the way he danced in lederhosen while belting "I Eat More." I mean, what a genius song. Who ever thought Augustus Gloop could steal the show?

Jarrah is still enjoying school, except for the five minutes each morning she spends moaning "Why do you always wake me up in the middle of the night?" Please record those questions on the pink and goldenrod forms and file with the appropriate authorities, Jarrah. Because I'd like some answers, too. She has been doing some "environmental spelling" (I love these early childhood pedagogical terms I'm picking up) when we drive around and still loves reading us books. I haven't heard a peep about her behavior from anyone and I'm guessing that's a good thing. She seems very fond of everyone in her class and knows all their names, first and last. She's also told me several times how bats use "echo location." I guess she thinks I might understand it eventually.

My play has been fraught with drama. Last week we had to rehearse in a closet-sized room with the doors and windows sealed and no A/C when it had been in the '90s all day. For several hours. The room also had about 20 people in it and my nose was practically touching the wall when I had to go "downstage." Tensions are high and the director and her "stage manager" have been screaming at us a lot. I mean, we kind of suck right now, sure, but I don't think the screaming is helping. Instead it's making me really nervous and I keep forgetting my lines. I told David I am sad because it's official now--I will appear in exactly half the numbers in the show. Meaning I wish I had more stage time. And David said I should choose to be pleased that I am in half the numbers. I guess it's a classic Cosmopolitan is half-full or half-empty kind of scenario. But I know that I could have been in more numbers if I wasn't such a stress case the last couple of weeks and blowing my lines all the time. I guess the only thing to do now is buck up and try to be the best I can be.

Not that anyone is going to see it. First of all, I don't fully understand the ticketing system. Second, the part that I do understand sounds so complicated that I can't imagine even David is going to brave it. Getting a ticket involves driving to a 7-11 about 50 miles from here and giving the secret password to the guy behind the counter, who will staple the tail of a rare North American Red Fox to a fake ticket, which must then be exchanged for a real ticket at the box office on the night of the show. I really wish I were kidding. So if you have any inclination to come see me, please let me know now, as we will need to secure your Fish and Game license.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

And Tell Snowball I Said Hi

You know what I can't stand? When I'm on the phone and the other person says:

"Well, I'm going to let you go."

I'm not that much of a phone person, so I don't hear it often, and I certainly don't know a lot of people who say it. But when they do say it, they always say it the same way. And it sounds like this:

"Well, I sure am tired of talking to you. I don't actually need to do anything right now, have nowhere to be, nothing is boiling over on the stove, my kids are not trying to kill each other, no cop is giving me the stink eye because I forgot my Blu-Tooth, but...the fact remains that this call is done for me. So...I'm going to go and make it look like I'm doing you a favor. Just out of the goodness of my heart. That way, it's a win-win. I get to stop having this boring conversation, and you think I'm keenly aware of your needs, so much so that I can sense them without you saying a word."

And are people really thinking/implying all that when they use those seven (eight if you don't want a contraction) little words? I don't know. But that's what it always seems like to me. Interestingly, the people who say this are never the ones I've been gabbing with for an hour. No, we've just had a three-minute exchange that involved some sort of time and place negotiation, and a couple pleasantries about the family. Now we are finished, apparently.

So what's my problem? It kinda hurts my feelings. Because it feels so disingenuous. It makes me feel like we don't really know each other very well. Because if we did, I think they would say:

"I gotta go. I really need to go watch Gossip Girl and eat Halloween candy. Talk to you soon. By the way? You're the best."

Now that's more like it.

Readers, how about you? Which little turns of phrase, posing as social niceties (or not!) drive you batty?

Friday, November 05, 2010

Party On, Garth

Last week was amazing. I felt like the luckiest birthday girl in the world. I've already told you about my Thursday at Glen Ivy, and my fancy ladies lunch on Tuesday. But there was more! Oh, my jewel-encrusted goblet runneth over.

And a huge shout-out to all you dear ones who called, texted and or FBed me on or near the big day. You can't know how loved you make me feel. I am truly grateful.

Wednesday night I was invited to tea at Reds in Point Loma (this place has become to our theater group what Sardi's once was to Broadway) and Calvin and Lisa had baked homemade Whoopie Pies--both chocolate and orange-coconut varieties--to surprise me. Do you know what Whoopie Pies are, Readers? They are like little sandwiches, if the bread were cake and the filling were the most delectable marshmallow cream. I ask you, is that not the most original birthday baked good ever? (It is, though suddenly they seem to be the latest sliders and make-your-own fro-yo--I'm seeing them everywhere!) Anyway, they were awesome, as are the bakers. I always call them my theater peeps, but really, after two years they don't need a category anymore. Twoof.

Because I wasn't home to celebrate with David and Jarrah on my actual birthday, the former planned a celebratory dinner--and invited Mary, Paul and Joy!--the day after. He chose the Cosmopolitan, because we had so much fun there back in September. You can read my review here, if you haven't seen it. I was supposed to meet everyone there after Nia, but for the first time in history I canceled my class because no one showed up! WTH? Never mind. I had plenty of time to get ready for my big evening out, and we had a gorgeous time. Even Jarrah and Joy enjoyed themselves, which wasn't a given after we found out that Magician Boy had the night off. The girls put on a show for everyone, enlisting the help of the piano player for accompaniment. Which we didn't see much of, because we were too busy drinking (my margarita on the rocks had me a little slow and slurry in minutes) and dragging piping-hot churros through a lake of Mexican hot chocolate. There might have been some fajitas with "Autumn Succotash" in between, but I wouldn't put money on it. A beautiful evening--I love you guys!

Saturday night I had grand plans that I almost canceled after a four hour morning rehearsal where I did NOT shine my light, and three hours in the afternoon working/memorizing a scary, angry monologue with Jessica for an upcoming audition. I did squeeze a nap in there, but I still felt tres bizarre climbing into a black lace witchy dress, fishnets, fingerless gloves and cat-eye makeup to meet up with Lisa, Will and Jill in downtown Chula Vista for OnStage Playhouse's midnight The Rocky Horror Show. I am not a morning person, but I'm not a club kid, either. (Never was, even when I was a kid who lived near clubs.) But I rallied, and I'm so glad I did. First, we headed to a bar called Dock's, which seems to have been established in 1954 and never renovated, and I think maybe its first patrons are still in there, too. Saturday night is karaoke night, and after nabbing ourselves a big, round, red naugahyde booth, I wasted no time bringing some slips to the KJ. Readers, I have always loved the idea of karaoke, but until my theater experience, I would get up there and literally be paralyzed with terror, every extremity buzzing as the blood raced to my heart to keep me alive. I could never really open my mouth and just sing. This time, I chose "Cabaret" and spent the opening bars doing the Charleston. That seemed to put everyone in a good mood, so I just went for it, belting the song to the stars. I got a lot of clapping and hootin' and hollerin' (and one guy who just wanted to touch me when I was done) and may I say that is the biggest freakin' high in the world? Singing into a microphone for a roomful of strangers? If you've never done it, I encourage you to try it sometime.

And then the show was all kinds of awesome. The Phantoms met us in the lobby, and I got a big lipstick "V" on my head since I'd never seen Rocky Horror before. There were six of us, and we had to stand up and be whipped before the show. One of the gals even offered me her electronic cigarette, which somehow smelled like apple pie, but I demurred. We did a lot of shouting and singing and only once did I wonder if something was wrong with me because I felt like I was on Xanax. Oh right, I realized. It's like two in the morning and I woke up at 7:00. But it was totally worth it. The show is up through the end of November--I highly recommend it.

Though I was out until 3:00, I made it to the gym the next day by 11:00 because I rock. Then I got to hang out a bit and even sneak in a bit of a nap before we went to trick-or-treat with Stephanie and Co. She made us a lovely dinner beforehand, and then we were off through the nabe with what seemed like most of its residents. One guy had thoughtfully brought a little red wagon in case some of the children got tired, or so I thought until I squinted in the darkness and noticed that the little red wagon was chock full of a big ol' bucket of ice. And beer. Who knew that this was the grown-up secret to Halloween? If only I liked the stuff. A little red wagon that dispensed Cosmos--now that I could get behind. (Or in front of? If they made me pull it?)

Jarrah was lovin' her some Halloween like never before, and she and Nathan sprinted from house to house, amassing so many pounds of candy that she resorted to having me carry her bag. Which is all good for us, since we can walk right over to her stash and swipe something with impunity--much more where that came from. Sigh. I think we'll be eating tiny Milky Ways through New Year's.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

I've Always Depended Upon The Kindness Of Strangers

So, I need some advice. I mean, it's going to sound like I need a "no, really, you're awesome!" pat on the shoulder (and certainly I would never turn that down) but really I want some objective opinions. As objective as you can be about me, which will vary depending on who you are. :)

I mentioned a while back that rather than quit community theater in a blaze of melodramatic glory when I had a major casting disappointment, I had decided to go full-out in the other direction: audition for everything that appeared on my radar, rejection be damned.

And I'm pleased to say that I've made good on that vow. I've had three big auditions in the past two months. The first one, you've heard about--a lot--because I was cast. It's been a balm to my wounded soul to have people appreciate what I can do, and I'm having fun and being challenged, too. to explain this? The show is not part of an established theater, with a long history and a season of plays lined up. It's a one-off from an independent production company, and as such, I don't think I was competing against the classically-trained community theater denizens who usually come out for these things.

But the other two auditions, I was. Two theaters, on opposite sides of the county, with a full season of shows on the bill. One comedy, and one drama. One paid, one not. I went for it because both of the plays interested me, and because both have juicy roles for women. I also figured that I'm not going in totally cold anymore--I have seven shows under my belt from the past two years.

Readers, I do think I am brave for having done these auditions. Both of them required me to memorize a monologue and perform it for a roomful of strangers in a space I'd never seen before. Even though I'm getting used to it, I recognize that for most of the world, that little activity description would be a deal-breaker right there. Memorize? Perform? Strangers? Hell, no. So, yay for me! I was brave.

But I didn't get a callback either time. The first one--the comedy--I chose my own monologue and thought I kind of killed it, Southern accent and all. I knew it cold, and really felt almost relaxed when I performed it. And, in the immortal words of Diana Morales, "I felt nothing." But I'm not talking about me. I felt all kinds of things. But I felt nothing from THEM. It was like performing for a force-field. I had a strong sense that I'd lost the part the second I walked in the room and they saw me. Gulp. That is hard to take. But probably true.

The second time (this was just last night) felt different. For one thing, I'd been asked to memorize the same monologue as every other woman. And I could tell it was tough. Just reading it was hard for me. I had the sense every time I did it that I could be making a hundred different choices. I even read the whole play, so I would have context. I had this weird sense that I just didn't have the formal training I needed for this kind of intensity. Maybe that sounds like an excuse. But I felt out of my element.

But the audition was different. I was a lot more nervous, for one thing, and didn't feel as confident about the material. I have never done drama before (well, Ibsen, but that has no profanity or physical violence--emotional, yes) and worried I would look like a shrill hack for two minutes. But I went for it. I don't think I forgot anything, and I didn't hold back. And when I was done, I didn't feel nothing. I felt like at least a couple of them were reacting. I felt a molecular change in the room, as I'm fond of saying. And then I got a surprise when the director said:

"Thank you. Can I ask you something?" (Um, sure. Of course. Absolutely.) "Would you be willing to try it again, but this time...really frantic?" (I had been the picture of intense calm. But sure. Of course. Yes.)

No one has ever asked me to do it again. A different way. I was kind of encouraged by this--maybe I shouldn't have been, but I was. And I went for it, and I was definitely frantic. Partly because I started pacing around. Partly because I was now forgetting big swatches of the monologue, though I didn't stop at all, I just kept going. But I did it. It was definitely different.

Afterward, I couldn't tell if it was a train wreck or what. It might have been. I felt hot and hoarse. They asked if I was free for callbacks, my schedule, yada yada, and I was on my way. I have gotten skilled enough to remember to thank everyone with a smile, walk with confidence, shake everyone's hand firmly. That much I can manage.

So I just got the e-mail saying they saw a lot of talent and unfortunately and thank you and try again. Really, it's mighty nice of them to even send an e-mail, and so soon. I do appreciate that.

But here's where I need the advice. Is it enough now? I mean, I'm not saying that I should give up my girlish dreams of being a real actor, but is it time to admit that I'm just not very skilled and go take some classes or something? Pay my dues some more? Or, decide to write and direct, both of which I think come more naturally to me?

The fact is, though, that I'm a performer. Of some kind. I may not be good at this, but I WANT to be. Is that enough? Or, if I keep going and keep getting rejected, will it just leak into my system like slow-release arsenic that I'm chasing a foolish dream, and then I'll be disillusioned for life? Is it better to stop now and just imagine that I might have gotten somewhere, someday?

I truly don't know. What do you think?

Monday, November 01, 2010

They Say It's My Birthday

I had such a dreamy birthday. On the actual day, I woke up really excited because I was going on an adventure. I was off to Glen Ivy Hot Springs in Corona with my dear friend, Mary, and my sister, Lindsey.

Bright and early, Mary and I hit the road. It was one of those dazzling days that we get in late October, but without the accompanying scorch of Santa Ana Winds, and a perfect 75 degrees. (Thank you, Birthday Goddess!) First, Starbucks stop for road trip sustenance. I got a frappucino with several pounds of whipped cream cuz it was my birthday. Soon we were sailing up the I-15, an otherworldly landscape of giant boulders in every direction. The hour passed in a flash because of the rare treat of an uninterrupted gab session with Mary--normally we have our kids with us.

Because it was a weekday in the off-season, Glen Ivy was having a killer special with a very cheap day rate. I, of course, got in free because it was my actual birthday. Both of us were signed up for massages but on the spur of the moment she added a pedicure and I got a facial. Those of you who read this post will be wondering why I dared, but it turned out to be a great decision.

Lindsey was still in traffic, so we headed for the locker room and got into our suits and robes--this is how we would remain all day. I was never fully dry, but I didn't get cold because of my robe (courtesy of Mary on my last birthday!) and the glorious weather. Glen Ivy is such a casual place--I never spotted a cell phone, and there was nary a French pedicure or designer swim suit in sight. It's not that kind of spa. I did flout convention and hide my phone--set to silent--in my was my birthday, after all, and I didn't want to miss any calls.

We waded into the saline pool, sheltered by a Romanesque pergola with grand columns lacking only tendrils of ivy to complete the look. Sitting in the steam and admiring the lush greenery all around us, I knew I'd made a good decision for this little field trip. Too soon, Mary was off to her pedicure, but I was able to greet Lindsey when she arrived and show her around before I was whisked off to my facial.

Linda was adorable in her cat-eye specs and Louise Brooks bangs, and put me at ease instantly. Noticing my suit was wet, she suggested I get naked and cuddle under the blankets and she would put it in the oven to be warm when I was done. Nice! Before long, her cool fingers were massaging something that smelled like lemongrass into my cheeks and I'm happy to say that not only didn't she shove anything into my eyeballs, she was meticulously careful to avoid that scenario. She seemed very knowledgeable and said something I haven't heard at a facial in years: "Actually, your skin is pretty clear." Wow, maybe I am getting old. She applied something with a big, fluffy brush at the end and offered me a mirror when we reached the lobby. Not sure how she did it but I looked like I'd just had a week's vacation and lost 10 years. That usually doesn't happen after a facial.

I was just in time to meet Lindsey and Mary at Cafe Sole for a cafeteria-style lunch of salad, soup and paninis, which we enjoyed under an umbrella poolside. The food wasn't that great, but it was filling, and we didn't have time to linger anyway since all three of us had massages right after. Strangely, my massage therapist was also named Linda, and she was great. I did have to ask her for a blanket after the first 10 minutes--I was just under a sheet, and I get very chilly during massages. Other than that, I was drooling the whole time. Afterward, I saw that I had a few birthday texts and felt deliciously naughty texting back "Thank you so much! Just had a massage and am about to get in the pool." What a day!

Met up with Lindsey at Club Mudd, where one quickly puts aside one's squeamishness and is glad one did. We waded into the warm, red-hued pool with a shiny mountain in the center, and slathered each others' backs with the smooth, slippery mud the consistency of potter's clay. Then we waded out to a dry-land mountain that we could squish onto our legs and bellies and feet. When we were completely caked from head to toe, we warmed ourselves in the Wafa, and then stretched out on muddy lounges to dry. The mud itches a bit as it dries, but it leaves a wonderful, rosy glow as it sucks all the toxins from your body, or so they claim. Soon Mary joined us and I waded back in with her and started the process all over again.

After a very long outdoor shower with some delicious hibiscus body wash to scrub off all the dirty bits, we headed to the mineral baths, which were the original Glen Ivy claim to fame. They are small and reek of sulfur, but they feel great. Mary and I soaked while Lindsey just dunked her toes to avoid baking her baby.

Then it was on to the Lounge Pool, a simple concept but one of my favorite spots at Glen Ivy. It's a big pool only a foot or so deep, filled with cushy blue lounges for floating. We glided and bobbed for the better part of an hour, feeling the gentle roll of the warm water and the sun warming our faces. When I opened my eyes, there was a canopy of palms and bougainvillea overhead, and I was so peaceful and relaxed. I wanted it to last forever, but alas, suddenly they were announcing over the P.A. that they'd be closing in a half-hour. Next time I'll get there earlier.

After a hot shower under a rainfall head and a little time for prettying ourselves, it was time to say goodbye to Lindsey (who was heading home in the opposite direction) and head to Temecula--30 miles away--for dinner. Even though it was rush hour, we didn't hit even one minute of traffic (thank you, Birthday Goddess) and sailed into Old Town just as the twinkle lights were starting to illuminate the wooden facades. I had chosen a new-to-me gastropub called Public House for dinner--it looked simple but yummy. Turns out I chose well. We were seated on the back terrace next to a combination fire pit/water feature in cushy lounges and minutes later were being called "luvs" by our decidedly not British waiter/chef. Because I am a low culture kind of gal, I was tickled pink by the "house-made rootbeer and cream soda on draught," and one sip of the latter (resplendent with crushed vanilla beans!) and I was announcing "Now that is liquid crack." Because it was homemade, it was sweet, but not corn-syrup-sweet; real-vanilla-sweet. I sucked back the whole glass in minutes.

Soon, we were spreading some kind of local cheese cured in "vegetable ash" (didn't catch what that involved) onto triangular toasts along with spoonfuls of cherry confit and an arugula salad with some kind of addictive dressing (maybe it had cream soda in it?) Between the cheese and the salt-and-vinegar chips in family-sized portions, we were pretty full by the time our main courses arrived--she had the "Vegetable Menage-a-Trois" with tomato basil bisque, salad and portabello sliders, and I had the Kobe meatloaf with ridiculous potatoes, crisp on the outside and melting in the middle. I had one bite of meatloaf and one of potato and then the whole thing had to go in a box. Never mind--it was my birthday. David enjoyed it for lunch the next day.

Barely able to keep our eyes open after having been massaged, soaked, sunned and sauced with mud all day, we headed home, now sated from a fabulous dinner. Even the drive back was a massive treat, cruising down the freeway reliving all the fine points of our fabulous day.

Lindsey had brought us a beautiful pink, be-ribboned box of cupcakes from Susiecakes, which we carried from place to place all day but were never un-full enough to eat. With apologies to Mary, David and I enjoyed them in front of the Rocky Horror episode of "Glee" when I got home that night. Imagine our delight when we discovered that the frosting (cream cheese for the pumpkin, chocolate for the chocolate) tunneled through to the bottom of the cupcake! Genius!

A quick peek at Facebook (wonder of wonders, I'd been offline all day!) to get a little teary over the sweet b-day greetings, and I fell asleep with a smile on my face. Lucky me--the celebration wasn't done yet. More birthday news in the next post.