White-Hot Greasefire of Entertainment

Pippin-Anxiety
Josh Darnell as Pippin, with The Players

Pippin opens on Friday.

If you’ve been wondering why the blog has been so quiet — here’s your answer. I’ve been directing a production of this musical at our Friendly Neighborhood Theater, the Town & Gown Players.

Here’s the part — were I a normal human being — where I would gush about the show. Partly from genuine excitement and pride;  partly in a cynical, manipulative attempt to convince you to come see the show.

But as this blog provides ample evidence, I am not a normal human being. I have a complicated relationship with positivity. Most evident in creative projects where I am invested. I have a, shall we say, extreme reluctance to speak without restraint, to truly commit to the excitement. How about a list of your neuroses related to this, I hear you all shouting with animation and curiosity at your computer screens. Okay!

1. Pure superstition. If I say that the show is good, amazing, colossal, etc. etc. I’m calling down the attention of the gods. I live in Athens and hubris-smiting is most definitely on the menu. A musical is a super-complicated, involved creative endeavor with thousands of moving parts. Everything has to gel – the music, the movement, the acting, the vocals. Layered on top of that is the spiritual mumbo-jumbo of any community – you want every person’s chi to align just so. I do not need Hermes to start

This doesn't happen in the show. Only in my heart.
This doesn’t happen in the show. Only in my heart.

feeling capricious or mercurial[HAR HAR HAR] and throw  a wrench up in my show, just for giggle-shits.

2. Cynical Directing Style. I’m not quite sure where I picked this up — but I truly believe that if I tell an actor that what they are doing is good, they will immediately get worse.  As an actor myself, fear is the best motivator. If you believe that you are doing a good job, you will stop working to get better – you will relax, get comfortable. It’s a short trip to Craptown. Every rehearsal, every performance you should be striving to exceed your previous attempt.  Add to that the weird parental aspect of being a director — actor-children work much harder when they are unsure of Daddy’s approval. It’s cynical, but it works. Most of us performers have some sort of approval-need or bone-deep insecurity, as a director you might as well plug in to that and use it to get them to do sharper pirouettes. I’ve actually made a point to get better about this one, giving GRUDGING positive notes. Baby steps!

3. First Impressions. The beginning of a play is a holy moment. The moment when the lights go down — it’s pure, unbridled potential. Anything could happen — a whole new world is being born right in front of you. I treasure that moment, and I hate to pollute it. Especially with generic ‘Rah-Rah Show’s SO AWESOME’ posturing. So, if I started rambling on about how great the show is, or how much I like X scene, or Y song — then I’ve put things in your head. Expectations, judgement, etc. The less said the better. Come to the temple with your eyes unclouded.

So, what can I say about the show – through the net of my psychosis?

The set looks amazing. My designers really outdid themselves – I can comfortably say that it is unlike anything we’ve put on that stage in the past 10 years, easy.

The light design is also excellent. My bacon was Epic Level saved by the last minute addition of our Light Designer.

The choreography is excellent, thanks to my crack Choreography Squadron.

The band is crisp, and the musical director’s re-scoring of several key moments is inspired.

Pictured: The Cast of Pippin
Pictured: The Cast of Pippin

The cast? Solid. I know that sounds like faint praise — but I’ll double-down. This cast is Solid Snake.

I won’t say anything more, due to neuroses listed above. But when the curtain opens Friday night, that’s where you want to be.  I want you to see what the cast has accomplished, has earned through months of hard work.  I believe you are going to see something exceptional.

If you are anywhere within a 50 mile radius of Athens, GA – you should make a point of attending.

Click on the image up top to buy tickets. You can pick your seat and everything, through the magic of the internet.

 

The Fourth Wall Diner

Haskeer stepped through the steel door, and onto cracked linoleum. Red blaze of neon filtered through glass windows onto a crowded diner. The booths were crammed with humans laughing and talking. A long glass display case bisected the room, filled to the brim with faded toys and garish errata – twin rows of wide black booths down either side, with a long counter in the very back of the diner. A tall stool with a red-leather seat at the counter  seemed to beckon, and the paladin moved towards it.

The humans seated at the booths were dressed strangely, somehow too simple and too elaborate — as if they were dressed both for work in the fields, and a journey across the tundra of the Northlands.. They paid little attention to his passing, or his gleaming silver armor.

A blonde man with a square jaw, sat with a baby in his lap – their eyes both wide and blue. A blonde woman at his side wiped the child’s face with a damp napkin and a certain elan. On the opposite side another couple, a man with a preposterous mustache fork-deep into a plate of fried potatoes and a dark-haired woman with a beautiful smile. The dark-haired woman was pregnant, and the man and his mustache nearly vibrated with concern and pride,  each motion of his hands a prayer.

Two young men sat hip to hip in a booth, poring over a stack of brightly colored pages. They argued bitterly jabbing the page with pointed fingers, and gesticulating wildly as their argument crested into a familiar plateau. Across from them a woman rolled her eyes with exasperation, spreading cream cheese on a grilled bagel.

In the corner of the diner was a jukebox, glowing green and yellow. A man with glasses and a ponytail leaned against it, making a selection – his head bobbing unconsciously to the song already spooling through the air.

Are you sorry we drifted apart?
Does your memory stray to a brighter summer day
When I kissed you and called you sweetheart?
Do the chairs in your parlor seem empty and bare?
Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there?
Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?

A tall, gangly man stumbled through the door behind Haskeer, and moved to the jukebox — hands already spread in mute apology.

In a back booth, three men sat hunched close together. A pile of tiny figures were arrayed on the table before them – small soldiers, goblins, knights, even a fierce looking black dragon. The tallest and shortest examined each figure with animated fixation, while the third stared at something glowing in his hand with boredom. A large man with a fierce tattoo of a squid-demon stumped over and flopped down a large sketchbook. Haskeer caught a glimpse of men and women holding swords of fire.

There were others in the diner, every seat was full. A curly-haired man stuffing lemon after lemon into his water, a thin man with his hands steepled, a balding man laughing and pointing across the restaurant. The faces began to run together as the paladin moved forward, his steel boots clanking on the floor.

Haskeer sat down at the counter, his back to the rest of the diner patrons. A warm fog of steam billowed out of the kitchen, accompanied by the wonderful smells of fried potato and seared meat. A man approached, pulling a well-worn jotter out of his pocket and the nub of a pencil. He wore thick spectacles, and a thick mop of hair pushed up into a white paper cap.

The man greeted the paladin, barely looking up from his notepad.

“Sup, Big Green. What’ll you have?”

Aufero

Aufero is a strange place.

Almost, but not quite, sensible. Approaching, but never meeting, sane.

So many pieces that don’t fit. Words, names, places, people, gods, colors, music. A world on the edge

Artist: W. Heath Robinson

of things, a Grand Central Station of the cosmos. A quiet shore where many lost things wash up and begin again.

What brings them there? What keeps them there?

The Lost named it, when they stepped from their silver ships. In the old tongue, it means “to steal”. As if the world itself was a bandit, reaching into the pockets of more respectable universes and grabbing everything that jingles, everything that shines. Aufero piles up its treasure, little caring for organization or thrift. Rubies bang against pennies, coarse granite against opal.

History wanders, and logic gets lost. Civilizations rise by whim, and the unlikely and strange gad about in the common streets as if protected by royal decree.

Dinosaurs moan about philosophy, while living skeletons make a proper Old Fashioned at the bar. Swaggering bravos, kings and titans of industry all plot and battle in the streets of a city where it is always night, for no particular reason at all. A patient prince of Hell lays waste to all who oppose him, cheating the laws of the universe with deadpan glee. Minotaurs play chess. Gnomes sing the blues.  Friendship is real, and love is real and death is real  — side by side with a thousand quiet absurdities and the hallowed mundane.

George Washington wearing a clown nose.

Do you want to go?

[Just some navel-gazing about my main story-world.]

Guest Bloggery – Town and Gown Players

I wrote an article for my theatre’s new blog — I think the plan is for me to do so every couple of weeks. At least until the mob with torches and pitch coalesce.

Out theatre is a big family, so most of the jokes won’t read — but if you’re a fan of theatre, you may find a chuckle.

Town and Gown Players – Pupate

I promise to actually write something for THIS blog in the near future, assuming this train quits chasing me down while I’m still laying rail.