Thursday, July 24, 2014

In Love With Shakespeare

When I was in the 9th grade, we read "Romeo and Juliet" in English class.  It was my first real exposure to Shakespeare.  When I look back on it, I'm not sure that I really did enjoy studying "Romeo and Juliet".  But at the time, I thought I did.  Shakespeare was certainly something that I thought I was supposed to love, so, I set out to love it in spite of myself.

The edition we were taught did not contain Juliet's monologue that begins "Gallop apace you fiery footed steeds . . . "  This monologue is Juliet wishing for night so she can have sex with Romeo.  I might have truly fallen in love with Shakespeare sooner if they hadn't cut that.

No, I didn't really fall for the Bard until my senior year when we read "Hamlet".  You don't realize how much of "Hamlet" you know until you read it for the first time.  Sure, we all say "To be or not to be" when we're trying to prove we know something about literature or Shakespeare or theater or Laurence Olivier, but there are so many familiar phrases in "Hamlet" that hit you with the stark realization that not only do you quote Shakespeare everyday but everyone else does too.  The English language wouldn't be the same without him. It's enough to justify every high school senior reading "Hamlet" in English class.

This spring, I got to fulfill a dream, literally, as I worked as the assistant director on a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream".  I've been involved in theater now for nearly 20 years and it's the first Shakespeare production I've been a part of.  I want to do it again.  Soon.  Everyone was just lovely on this production and the show we put up was well worth the price of admission if there had been a price.  You don't have to take my word for it!

Other than it being my first Shakespeare, it's hard to put my finger on why this production was among the personally most treasured of any I've been a part of.  I've been with amiable, hard-working actors and crew before.  Was it because the finished product was so good?  Was it because everyone involved wore more than one hat?  There was certainly a "Hey, let's put on a show!" vibe.  There was something magical going on, maybe the King and Queen of the Fairies, hand in hand, with fairy grace, did sing for us and bless the place.

New project/goal - figure out a way to get the money to keep this theater company going.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

One More Race, One Less Yarn Store

What's on the menu today?  Running and knitting

Last weekend I ran the "Run for the Woods" in Stow.  Proceeds from the race benefit the Stow Conservation Trust.  It was probably the smallest race I've participated in.  There were at most 500 runners which is probably a generous estimate, I didn't see any race numbers above 400.  It was a bit hotter than I expected and I regretted wearing my running pants, shorts would have been better but at least I didn't opt for a long-sleeved running shirt.  The course was fairly hilly with the worst being the last hill leading up to the finish line.  I knew it was coming because the race starts at the top of the same hill.  I'll admit to not pushing myself very hard but it wasn't my worst effort.  No t-shirt but I did get a finishers' medal. 

In some sad news, Wild 'N Woolly in Lexington is going out of business.  I'm heartbroken.  It's the second of my three favorite yarn stores to close this year.  This comes on top of 2 others in my top 5 to close in the past 2 years.  Of the four closings (all of them due to rising rents/lease expirations), two of the storefronts remain empty.  Landlords, is an empty storefront really better than a yarn store?  I made my last trek to the store yesterday and basically I bought anything I liked.  I didn't "need" any of it, but Wild 'N Woolly has always been the best place to buy Rowan yarn and I'm a sucker for Rowan yarns.  I figured out what to knit out of the 20 skeins of Rowan Scottish Tweed dk Shade 018 Thatch.  I'm going to finally tackle an Alice Starmore sweater - this one  Yes, it's for me! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Latest Crazy Idea

What's on the menu today?  Running

Last fall, one afternoon as I was heading home from my knitting group, I decided to get off the highway for awhile.  There was a back-up and I was in no hurry to get home, so I took an exit with a Route number that looked familiar and kept heading roughly south.  How lost could I get, really?  On this gorgeous autumn day I passed many runners out on the backroads of the North Shore.  And that's when I wondered if that town had an annual 5K race.  If it did, I'd sure like to run in it.  You know what might be fun - running a 5K race in every town in Massachusetts.

Yes, that right there, is my latest crazy idea.  I'm planning to run at least a 5K in every city and town in Massachusetts.  There are 351.  It's going to take awhile.

I have set up some rules.

1) I get credit for any town I've already run in.*
2) If a race starts in one town and ends in another or even just passes through another, I get credit for both.
3) Races must be official races - I can't just take a jog through and count it.
4) If I cannot find an official race in a town, I get credit if I run in a town that borders it.

* Undecided on what to do about towns on the Marathon route.  If I run another one, which I plan to do in 2014, I will count Hopkinton since the start is there.  I already have Wellesley, Newton, and Boston through other races.  We shall see.  If I'm still working on it 20 years from now and I haven't done Ashland?  I'll count it.

Since I had the idea I have run in Boston - Tufts Health Plan 10K, Cambridge - also the Tufts Health Plan 10K, Newton - Paddy's Road Race (on my birthday!)


The Turkey 5 on Thanksgiving Day


The Jingle Bell Jaunt - the finisher's medal is a bottle opener.

and Salisbury

The 32nd Annual Hangover Classic

One thing I'm sure of, by the end of all this I will have a lot of t-shirts.  Quick review, Wellesley - hilly, Somerville - hilly, Salisbury - nice and flat.  No, I did not jump in the water in Salisbury.  I had an hour drive home, I wasn't doing that wet.  But I did finish every race with a cartwheel.  Someday I'll get a picture to prove it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Unsolicited Advice for Playwrights

What's on the menu today?  Writing.

There are a few things I've learned along the way about writing plays.  So recently when a friend asked me if I had any advice for a newbie I gave him my standard answers as well as some new ones.

First, write that angst-filled autobiographical first play, get it out of your system, and put it in a drawer.  It sucks and nobody wants to have to read it.  Your coming of age story is probably not unique and even if it is, it is still true that nobody wants to read it, let alone produce it.  And let's be frank, who could ever possible play you on stage?

Second, if you really do have to show that autobiographical first play to other people or if you really do want to try to get it produced, do not make yourself the protagonist. If you must tell the story, tell it from somebody else's point of view.  Typically the protagonists in autobiographical coming of age first plays are just a bit too good to be true.  Often it's more than just a bit.  It's what makes those autobiographical first plays so easy to spot and so hard to read.  Also, anytime you catch yourself defending the script with "but that's what really happened!", that's also probably the part where I would say "but that's not good drama". 

Third, do not be discouraged if nobody wants to read it or produce it.  Try to get a staged reading, listen, really listen, and find the scenes which work.  There will probably be some moments that do.  Save them for another play.  Now, finally, put that autobiographical first play with the good parts ripped out into a drawer and really, leave it there.  By all means, keep it.  It's your first baby and it deserves to be kept safe.  Just don't ever let it out of the drawer again.

Lastly, know your exposition.  Anytime characters have a conversation purely for the audience's benefit, it's exposition.  Anytime you find your characters speaking for page after page in the past tense "Remember when . . . ", it's exposition.  Anytime one character tells another something the second character already knows, it's exposition.  It's boring.  Get rid of it.  You say, "But the audience needs that information to understand what's going on in the play."  If the audience needs that much exposition, write a novel.  In plays, the here and the now are what matter, not what happened yesterday or last week or 30 years ago.  Audiences are amazingly good at filling in the holes.  If you find you must have a two page monologue telling the story of how the characters met, put it in the present tense.  (I don't believe you but I love "The forgeries of jealousy" speech in Shakespeare, so, go for it.  Just be that good when you do.)


Wednesday, February 29, 2012


What's on the menu? Theater, running, and the U2 report

Happy Leap Year! Happy Leap Day? Either way a fitting day to start this up again.

Tonight I rehearsed with Tommy, Rosa, and Whitney for the world premiere of Middle School Fairy Tale. Tommy was both a grumpy old man and a game actor. He comes through but he's gonna complain. It's all part of the package. Elsewhere, Patrick rehearsed with the fabulous and fabulously diverse cast of Heartbreak Hill. He even posted a rehearsal picture on Facebook so, triple win. I've been in touch with the Exquisite Corps folks so that's done. I just need a stage manager and somebody to run the lights. Oh, and find the baton. Getting there but still stressed.

Running? I ran 10 miles on Sunday in a reasonable time and now I seem to be resting on my laurels. I need a kick in the ass, again. Rehearsals and kid stuff, cutting into my running time. Not good. But, as always, there is tomorrow.

What is the U2 report? I maintain that it is always possible to find U2 on the radio in Boston. Everyday that I spend time in the car, I flip around until I hear a U2. Today I didn't really spend time in the car, alas, so instead I'll sum up for February. The only two days where I didn't hear a U2 song on the radio were Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine's Day. Only love and football can supercede U2? Nah, but TPTB of local radio were distracted. Yesterday's U2 song of the day? We scored a double - 'With or Without You' and 'Mysterious Ways'.