Monday, October 31, 2005

The Gathering Gloom - 10/31/05

Natick, MA
"Breathe deep the gathering gloom.
Watch lights fade from every room"
-Graeme Edge, The Moody Blues
Of all the times of the year, this is the time of year that is hardest for me to handle. The changing from Daylight Savings to Standard time brings the darkness by 5:30 PM, and from now until mid-February the days seem grey, cold and cheerless. Several things happen at once:
  • A mentioned, standard time returns. It seems now I feel that change to more darkness physically as well as psychologically; energy levels weaken, and it's hard to resist the urge to hunker down.
  • Baseball season ends. The World Series is completed (congratulations White Sox!) and the sports scene holds only the glum violence of football, the stupid violence of hockey, and the non-contact violence of basketball. The world of sports descends into a spiral of violent play, and the pastoral beauty of baseball disappears until mid-February, when pitchers and catchers report.
  • The brilliance and splendor of autumn's colors give way to the grey barrenness of naked trees.
  • Cold, wind and snow are lurking on the horizon, ready to strike.
  • The holiday shopping season and all that madness is not far behind.
This particular end-of-October came with a double whammy: three shows and the load-out from Canton in less than 24 hours on top of the above. We did a Sat. 7:30 show of R3, a midnight show of Planet, and a 1:30 Sunday matinee of Planet followed by loading out and getting on the road heading for Lee, MA. To say that I was tired by the time I got into the van and we took off would be an understatement. The shows were good, but I think that by the time I got to the final rendition of Monster Mash on Sunday afternoon I was running on fumes. The shows were good - particularly, it seemed, the Richard III performance - but certainly by the end of it all I think not just myself but everyone in the company was feeling the energy drain.

The ride from Canton to Lee was almost surreal in a sense. The other 7 people in the van with me hardly seemed as if they were there; just a collection of more shadows in the dark. We took a route which took us through the Adirondacks, but since it got dark by 5:30 there was nothing to see. My body felt tired like it was 11:30 PM, and when I looked out the window into the gloom outside, it looked like it was 11:30, but my watch said 6:30 PM. I tuned into my XM satellite radio (this thing is a little marvel, by the way, and makes van rides so much more pleasant) and listened to a program of "new music" called "Hearts of Space," which played a collection of music especially for Halloween called "The Gathering Gloom." That music and the show brought everything about this time of the year together, and I sat there quite zoned out in the back of the van, just letting the music soothe me. I think after listening and breathing through that music I must learn to make better acquaintance with the shades and essences of the night. There is some poetic irony in all this, because having been in theatre all my life - a business which is a night business and which takes place mostly in darkened spaces - you would think I'd be used to the dark. Perhaps all this "doing it with the lights on" business has begun to subliminally change my perspective.

We got to Lee MA last night about 11:00 or so and spent the night in a somewhat low-brow motel. This morning I got up to a beautiful morning, and walked down the road to Lee for my exercise. I crossed the Housatonic River and got some good coffee and a bagel with low-fat veggie cream cheese, and walked back to the motel. Then we packed up again for the short ride to Framingham MA, and the Best Western is a decided upgrade. We had the rest of the day off.

Now it just so happens that my oldest daughter Jenna lives in the next town over, Natick (hence the dateline), and so right now I'm in her apartment writing this post. She came to get me shortly after I got in, and we spent the rest of the afternoon (temperature 70 degrees) walking through downtown Natick (which is very nice), going to dinner at an Indian restaurant, and chatting over tea in her apartment. She and her boyfriend Gabe are coming to the show tomorrow night, so I'm looking forward to that. She also took me shopping, and I bought a lot of stuff: a pair of gloves (lost mine in Canton), a new hat (mine got stolen in Canton), a micro-light for my keychain, a smaller Nalgene bottle, and a new pair of Ecco all-purpose shoes, which was a big splurge, but I could not resist as my current pair were beginning to wear out and I was feeling pain in the ball of my right foot as I walked. These are cross-trainer style with a Gore-Tex exterior, so they should last awhile and be far more comfortable. If you've never worn Ecco shoes, google them on the web and check them out - they are great! Most comfortable shoes I've ever owned.

The week in Canton, after a rocky start, ended up OK. My host family, Bruce and Karen Weimer, were great people. Bruce is a St. Lawrence English professor specializing in 18th and 19th century American Literature, with a special emphasis on Poe. Karen teaches at Potsdam and has spent the past 21 years studying the Amish in New York State. We had a nice conversation about the Amish the morning I left. Perhaps most disappointing were the size of the crowds. The vets in the troupe seemed surprised at the small turnouts (although the second Much Ado was SRO), especially at the midnight show. Most of our troubles could be directly attributed to our contact, who really turned out to be IMHO a flake. From talking with Karen I came to find out that the usual contact, a man named Tom, was not available this year, so Lyle got the job. Even the house stay people were put off, as many of them heard very little until the Sunday we showed up. But once we got better settled and the weather improved the rest of the stay was good. It is nice to be able to stay in a venue for a few days, and we stayed in Canton a week. We've been in Vermont, New Hampshire and upstate New York since I got back, with very few signs of "mall America" in evidence in any of those locales, so when we got to Framingham this afternoon it was something of a culture shock all of a sudden to be dumped into the heart of "mall America." And our next few days are hectic, making up for the four days in New London and the week in Canton. From Framingham to Cape Cod to West Hartford CT to Augusta ME by the time the week is out. Whew!

Perhaps that's a sign to cash it in for tonight and get some sleep in preparation for tomorrow. And commune with the midnight spirits. -TWL

Thursday, October 27, 2005

New Stuff 10/27/05

Group Photo Lebanon NHCanton, NY - Just a quick note to let you know that there's some new photos and pictures up at their respective locations. Clicking the sidebars on the right will take you to my Yahoo! photo site and my streaming video page. Remember, the videos are large files, so make sure you're ramped up with high speed before viewing. And also make sure you have the latest Quicktime software loaded up on your computer for best viewing. -TWL

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Highs and Lows - 10/26/05

Group Photo ConcordCanton, NY - It's been a wild and wacky two days since last I wrote. Often the tour is a great deal of fun, but sometimes it has its down sides. For all the wonderful times I had while in New London, the first few days in Canton have been dreary.

First off, the weather. Beginning with the drive out of New London, the weather has been pretty miserable. Yesterday, which was our day off, was nothing but temperatures in the upper 30s and rain, rain, rain. Cold and rain. I hate that. But I have bought myself a lightweight polar fleece to wear under my windbreaker, and that has helped a great deal to stave off the rain. There was little to do yesterday but seek shelter from the storm, which I did in the St. Lawrence library. The student center is also a very nice building, but can of course become noisy. I also spent yesterday moving from my original location 2 miles outside of town (where I was sleeping on a couch) to a home in Canton, where Alyssa also has a bedroom. So now I have a bed and bedroom within a nice house, a much better situation. The housing and scheduling situation her has caused much stress, but it appears things are settling down now. Chris and Greg originally had housing that had Chris on a couch and Greg on the floor, but they also have been moved to a better location. Our contact person here just wasn't on the ball, but after many calls to Staunton we appear to have everything under control. There is still no actual schedule but we do know when all the shows are to be performed, and Dan and Olivia are doing a great job keeping our workshops on time and functioning. We did Much Ado on Monday night, which went very well (except our discovery space curtain got sopping wet in the U-Haul and was unusable). Tonight is Planet followed by Richard III on Thursday. We have not done R3 since i've returned, so it will be my first go at that show. The troupe hasn't done R3 since Maryland, I think, and before all the wackiness there was talk of scheduling rehearsal for a few scenes, but I've no idea if that will still happen - maybe tomorrow afternoon. With all that Carie has had to deal with these past few days, I think rehearsals have been the furthest thing from her mind, even though she'd want them to be foremost. So the week is full of performances up to Sunday's matinee, and then to Massachusetts, where I will get a chance to meet up with my daughter in Framingham.

I haven't said much about the time in New Hampshire, because I've sort of lacked the opportunity to write and post, but I must say it was a splendid five days up there. Our host, Andy, was a very nice man who owns 118 acres in the New London area, and lives in something of a recreation of a castle. He has bear and moose on his property as well (we never got to see his place). He escorted us to every venue, and apparently he is one of a few people trying to build up the New England Shakespeare Ensemble. We were part of their marketing effort, and attempt to showcase high-quality Shakespeare to the area and get them excited about having WS in their region. My New London Inn roomThe New London Inn was a very nice place, with extremely comfortable beds and large DVD/TV players. The downstairs had a restaurant and two fireplaces where you could relax and read, play chess, etc. All of the venues were very nice, with the one in Lebanon NH being the most modern and easy to perform in. They were all converted opera houses, and one could readily see how touring all these turn-of-the-century opera houses used to be a good gig. The towns - Lebanon (home to Dartmouth, I believe), Concord (the state capital) and Newport - were all pretty classic New England towns, with lots of old houses and buildings and stoneworks. Most of the audiences in these venues were seniors, with some of the high school students from our workshops in attendance as well.Like always, it's tough to bring in those 30/40somethings you'd like to attract as well. I was sort of surprised at how few New England accents I actually heard!

The time off was great as well, because the weather while in New London was perfect. Kevin and I took a hike to Lake Pleasant on Thursday last, about 2 miles from the New London Inn, and then Jessica and I unexpectedly climbed Mt. Sunapee on Friday, a hike of a little less than five miles with an ascent of about 1400 feet. We were hoping to find more of a ridge trail for even hiking but found only the one trail up to the top. I am in the process of trying to get theKevin in Autumn movies to my personal web site so you can view them, but it is taking a bit more time than I thought because the St. Lawrence network is rather slow, whether wired or wireless. The two shows Saturday proved challenging after that hike. but I got through them with the help of a little Ibuprofen. All the craziness broke out on Saturday when the cargo van crashed, and Sunday through yesterday proved to be quite wild. I'm sort of OK with everything myself, actually; not feeling too stressed at all. But of course I did not have to deal directly with any of the hassles between the van and the dysfunctional Canton contact.

So now I'm in Canton, and at the moment all is well except for the weather. St. Lawrence in a nice campus, and the ASC has a following here, having played here for at least 10 years I think it's really nice to be able to watch as the veterans of the troupe greet people they have seen over the past three years as if they were old friends. Alyssa stayed with the family we're with last year, and when we arrived late Sunday night it was as if she never left, just walking to the back door of the house and letting herself in. I got to talk with a guy who runs a nursery, and he came dressed in his work clothes, long grey beard flowing, and his clippers attached to his belt in a leather case. He gave us a mini-lecture on the plants that appear in Shakespeare's plays, with particular attention to a European fruit whose name at the moment escapes me. A lot of "North Country" types coming to these shows, with one older couple - early 70s - who have been coming for 10 years. As I say, kind of nice.

As for myself personally, I did receive a clean bill of health from my doctor last Sunday. All my test results came back normal with one small exception, and even that was only minimally high. All that's left now is to get the MRCP, which is essentially an MRI of the liver and pancreatic area. This will take the place of the ERCP (thankfully). So when I finish this leg of the tour, I am immediately getting into the car and heading up to NY. It will be Thanksgiving dinner at home, which I will definitely enjoy. Then back to Staunton to do Christmas Carol.

Seems as if this catches everyone up for the moment. Oh yeah, the World Series! I stayed up last night to watch almost all of Game 3. After the Sox scored their final runs in the 14th I went to bed, risking that Houston would not score 2 or 3 runs in the bottom half. They threatened, but no runs scored. That got me up late this morning (10:00 AM), too late to join the gym crowd. Ah well, I'll get back on that treadmill soon. The walk from the house to the campus is a good stretch, and all the walking around during the day should make up for it. No booze and the low-fat diet still in order, although last night I blew that because the dining hall had a baseball special night. Hot dogs of all sorts (New York deli, brats, Michican foot-longs, Chicago whites) and all the fixings and trimmings; onions, relish, Cleveland brown mustard, sauerkraut, red onions, chili topping, beer nuts, crackerjacks. I could not resist. Still alive today, having eaten a baked chicken breast, brown rice, cold beans and a banana for lunch (no breakfast). I mean, ya gotta live!

So before I sign off, here's the new game spreading around the troupe (try this at home): Wanted (name); settled for (name); got (name). Here's an example: Wanted Wilford Brimley; settled for Christopher Lloyd; got Tom Loughlin. Everyone in the troupe has had their shot, and we all get a big laugh out of this game. Another example: wanted Julia-Louise Dreyfuss; settled for Janeanne Garofolo; got Alyssa Wilmot. Wanted Tom Hanks; settled for Leonardo DiCaprio; got Greg Phelps. You can all play: use the comment section below to send us your examples! Go wild!


Monday, October 24, 2005

The Sum of All - 10/24/05

Canton, NY - I do not think that any short summary of the past few days can do them justice, but I will make the attempt. Herewith is a "brief and tedious" summary of the actions since I last had the opportunity to write:
  • Performed Much Ado About Nothing four times in three locations: Lebanon (NH) Opera House, the Concord (NH) City Auditorium, and twice at the Newport (NH) Opera House. All three venues very much like the 1891 Fredonia Opera House. Resided at the New London (NH) Inn, a very nice hotel in a rather remote area of the state. Although they have wireless internet, their service went down sometime Friday, leaving us all unconnected (unless we went down to Jack's, a local cafe).
  • During my time off I essentially took a walk down to Pleasant Lake with Kevin on Thursday and hiked to the top of Mt. Sunapee on Friday with Jessica. Maybe that was a bit too much physical activity, because I was pretty tired by the end of Saturday night. Also refreshed my memory on how to play euchre with Tyler, Andrew and Sarah Friday night after the show.
  • The cargo van broke down on the way to the Newport venue Saturday morning. At one point we had to push it down the street, and we esssentially coasted into Newport and the venue. My GPS came in handy as with it, we found an auto repair shop in Concord and had the van towed to that location. Carie had to accompany the tow truck driver and returned for the evening performance.
  • We rented a U-Haul truck for the drive Sunday 10/23 to Canton. Apparently making all the necessary arrangements in Canton has been extraordinary difficult. Greg and I drove Carie back down to Concord, where she stayed in a motel overnight in order to pick up the van today and re-join us in Canton. Greg and I drove back to New London to re-join the troupe and we all took off for Canton, arriving about 6:15 PM to the contact's house (which is actually in Potsdam). The drive went through some lousy weather, including snow in the higher elevations of the mountains of Vermont.
  • We had a very nice dinner at Lyle Little's house (our host), and then we took off to drive each troupe member to their respective guest house. In Canton we are being housed by families or other interested parties, so we are scattered across the city. Most of us are in walking distance. I ended up in a one-bedroom efficiency apartment hosted by an adjunct member of the English department, sleeping on a couch, about 2 miles outside of Canton. The GPS again came in handy as we had to find each host house one-by-one at night.
  • We are in residence at St. Lawrence University for the rest of the week, performing each show twice, with one midnight production of Planet on Friday, I believe.
So I guess you could say it's been a bit hectic over the past few days. Tomorrow (Tuesday) is a day off, and I will probably spend the time doing laundry, researching some plays for the 06-07 season at Fredonia, and writing a bit more on the blog. I will also try to update the video pages so you can see some of the video I took while doing those hikes. Quite astounding.

One thing I really have to do more is, when I get a good idea for something to write here, to make a note of it on my memo pad. Sometimes I find I come to the keyboard, and my head is so crammed with things that have been going on that I can't even start to type. I would bet that if I took the time to note the good ideas and referred to them while writing I might get more accomplished.

I do know I'm going to be spending a lot of time on the St. Lawrence campus. They have a pretty good student center and library, and although the library is not wireless, you can easily plug in and go. They also have a great gym, so this week I think it's back to the treadmill. The weather is lousy - cold, rainy, low 40s - my absolutely least favorite weather conditions. I finally now believe summer is over.

More tomorrow, with some finer details. -TWL

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Friday, October 21, 2005

From the Summit of Sunappe

this is an audio post - click to play

Recorded from the summit of Mt. Sunapee, NH

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

And now - Audio!

this is an audio post - click to play

Up and Running - 10/19/05

Group Photo St. Mike'sSouth on I-89, VT - The gig at St. Michael's is complete, and we're on our way to New London, NH, where we will be performing at the New Hampshire Shakespeare Festival. It seems to be a gig where a lot of Shakespeare companies and/or people get together and enjoy Will's works. We are doing Much Ado in several different locations in the immediate area, and then after that on to Canton NY and St. Lawrence University for a week-long residence.

Getting back on stage after the two+ week layoff was simultaneously easy and hard. The first night was Much Ado, and the timing for the call was very tight. The space itself was a recital hall, which was a bit cramped and had no way for us to use the discovery space as an upstage exit. So we had to re-map all the exits and entrances and do the dance calls and fight calls and music call. I had asked to run over a few scenes but by the time all the calls were done there was no time left before house opened, so I had to go on cold, having only looked at the script beforehand. Not a problem - all the lines and movements came back quite easily, and I fell right into the flow of the play. I think what was most interesting to observe were the reactions of the rest of the company, and how they once again had to re-adjust to my presence on the stage. So many of them backstage during the run just said how nice it was to have me back on the stage with them. The feeling, of course, was mutual; it was great to be back performing. The show went very well, the gulling scene got many big laughs (Tyler had some wild moments ouot in the audience), and the wedding scene and following scenes created a hush in the crowd that caused only few people to laugh at some of the following humorous scenes. It took them awhile to restore their sense of fun, which I think they got back while Benedick tried to write his sonnet.

St. Michael's CampusFor me, though, it was kind of like opening night all over again. I was worried about having to jump right back into my most taxing role right away, and especially without any sort of walk-through. After the run I felt tired and my voice felt a bit ragged and weak. I know I am going to have to re-build my stamina once again. After the three months in Staunton and the first two weeks on tour I was feeling pretty good, but I think the two week rest has reduced my stamina a bit. Tyler had offered to do my second watch scene for me to save me some energy, but it turned out that given the exits and entrances we had to re-work, he wouldn't be able to make the change, so I just did the scene. No somersault, though - I think that's out for good at this point. Last night we did Planet, and that went just as well. The space was good for the music, and there were just no total crashes at all. Very smooth, and again the audience had a great deal of fun. But it turned out to be a very dry space, and not just me, but several of the company noticed that when they went to open their mouths there was no moisture to be had. I drank a ton of water inbetween acts and still it was hard to sing and speak. It's funny, but that wasn't noticeable during mucis call, only during the show. But still, my voice is just a bit weak and tired, so I am keeping very quiet today, getting a day's rest, drinking mucho water, and getting set for tomorrow.

I really wanted to make this St. Michael's gig because the daughter of a very old and good friend, Red Shuttleworth (poet, playwright and cowboy, a genuine voice Jessi and Meof the American West) attends St. Michael's College, and I wanted to say hello and perform for her. I did get a chance to meet her, and she attended the shows and loved them. We had a great time catching up. She's a theatre major herself and plans to audition for all the top graduate programs in the country. She attended American Conservatory Theatre's summer training program last summer, and really wants to attend that school. We toured downtown Burlington and took a bunch of photos, and I got a first-rate tour of the college. Nice to be able to have someone you know at the venue.

The scenery down I-89 this morning is fabulous. That's another reason for wanting to get back on the road at this time - the fall colors. The weather has been positively awful - wet, soggy, raining, and I hear it's been like this for two weeks now. There are very few reds out in the foliage, and some of the trees are still sporting green, but nonetheless the colors are spectacular. I tried to take some movies and stills of the colors while on the road. You can view them on my video page if you'd like. The quality is as it is because of the moving van and shooting through a window. But it is one simply gorgeous drive, crossing the Winooski River and the White River and passing through the mountain ranges. Yellows and golds dominate this year, and the ponds and rivers a full, clear and fresh-flowing. Can't be beat. I do regret having missed Bar Harbor ME, because I love Acadia National Park, but this is, at the moment, making up for it. I keep putting my camera away, writing something here, seeing a beautiful sight, and grabbing my camera to get the next great photo. You can, of course, click on My Yahoo! Photos Page over on the sidebar to see some of these pictures. I have a lot to post, so check back over the next few days to see the many photos coming up, starting from Ohio and working their way to today.

Autumn TreeNew London, NH - Arrived in New London after a very short ride. This is clearly a small township with nothing but small craft shops and the like. The day is finally beautiful and perhaps I can get some better foliage pictures around town. The New London Inn is a quaint old-fashioned inn, and everybody in the troupe gets their own room during this gig. Wow. I have a four-poster bed, a DVD/VHS/TV player, some antique furniture, a balcony view. I got back just in time! :-) Had a delightful lunch in the sun outside a charming cafe. Oh yeah!

LunchtimeTonight there's a reception and dinner for us, but i think it's been scaled back somewhat. Just dinner in the the local college's cafeteria with our contact. No show tonight, but one for the following three nights in three different locations, which means loading in and loading out each night.

The one small bump in the road at the moment is the number of people who seem to be coming down with colds. Carie is very under the weather, Olivia has a bug, Kevin has some sort of issue with his neck, a bruise or node or something, and Alyssa says she feels she's coming down with something. Colds seem to be making the rounds. Time to take preventative measures. I'll have to look into some sort of health food place around here for some Wellness tablets to keep away the cold demons.

So much for this post. Spur hard for the Bard! -TWL

Monday, October 17, 2005

Back in the Saddle Again - 10/16/05

ReturningColchester, VT - I am back with the troupe, having arrived here yesterday evening. I managed to rent a car out of Erie PA one-way to the Burlington VT airport and then get picked up from there. It was so exciting to be back. I got a nice warm reception from everyone when I walked into the dining hall at St. Michael's College, and we probably turned a few heads given our mutually enthusiastic greetings. Sat down for a low-fat meal of turkeyburger and turkey sandwich and ministrone soup. When we got back to the Days Inn people stopped by to visit. I brought back with me a "taste of NY" - about seven bottles of NY wine, and we had a little (not me - no drinking for me for a long time). I was so excited that by 12:30 PM I wasn't a bit tired, having also rooted the White Sox on to their smashing victory for the AL Pennant. Four starters, four complete games. What a series. The only down side was finding Tyler a little under the weather, nursing a cold, but other than that the rest of the troupe seems hale and hearty. Haven't picked up any other news so far other than the adjustments were handled well. Andrew was just about off-book for Leonato, and Chris only had to do two performances of Planet. And I think there were no more than two performances of R3 as well. Jim Warren, the AD of S2, says everyone is entitled to one "Tom is my bitch" day for having to cover for me while I was out. Egad.

Got to admit I'm a bit nervous about tonight. There will be some pick-up rehearsals this afternoon as I asked for a few scenes to go through in Much Ado, but other than that I think I should be fine. Do some music rehearsal tomorrow and clean off all the rust that's been building up.

The drive up to Burlington was superb, but a bit windy and some rain. The trees were changing color, but this year there seems to be an apparent lack of red in the trees. Some of the hillsides along the Mohawk River valley and into the Lake George area still were green, in fact. Seems late for them not to have turned. The road along Lake George - 9N - is incredibly scenic, and was a treat to drive. I had to force myself to keep going rather than stop along the way at every scenic view. I was desperately wishing for a good camera. I tried to take some pictures while home but the lousy camera I had there took rotten shots.

New England has been under a deluge apparently during the past week - rain everywhere, with roads flooding out and such. Some of the drives were apparently a but treacherous according to Kevin, but then again he's a tiny bit paranoid. He told me last night about two accidents he was in while touring with his band way back when, so he has some reason. He got into both those accidents in one day in bad weather.

I've already been out this morning to look up the daughter of a good friend of mine from my Nebraska days. Red Shuttleworth's daughter Jesse goes to school here and I hope to get a chance to meet her. I went to her first class but she did not show up on time. I will try to look her up later.

Before I left on Sunday I attended Bess Brown's funeral in Buffalo on Saturday morning. It was both a sad and beautiful affair. The general tone was low-keyed and dignified, and the priest who gave the homily was very good - best sermon I've heard in years. He had known Bess for many years starting when she grew up on Buffalo's south side. There was applause at the end, a fitting tribute. The Diva by Diva ensemble, which Bess had worked with many times, did the music. About the saddest and yet most wonderful part of the whole event was to see Ariel, and to see in her the spitting image of Bess. Very haunting and moving. Bess' beauty and vivacity will be sorely missed by all. -TWL

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Potpourri - 10/13/05

Dunkirk, NY - A collection of random news and thoughts in no particular order.

Bess and II learned of the passing yesterday of another Buffalo theatre colleague and friend, Bess Brown Kregal. Bess played Mistress Quickly for me in 1999 in Shakespeare in Delaware Park's production of Henry IV Part 2, and I also was Boyet to her Princess of France in Love's Labour's Lost way back in 1994 (pictured to the right). She appeared in many Buffalo theatres and was always a delight to watch on stage. She brought to her roles not only beauty, but sincerity and deep emotions. She was a kind, gentle and wonderful person with not a harsh word for anyone. She leaves behind her husband Jesse, who is a member of the Buffalo Philharmonic, and her young daughter Ariel. Her passing saddens me deeply and is a tragic loss to the Buffalo theatre community. She will be greatly missed.

August WilsonEarlier this month August Wilson passed away as well. I loved his work. His style, to me, was in the grand tradition of a theatre now gone, a theatre where the trials and tribulations of the ordinary people in life - the poor, the downtrodden, the struggling - found their voice on the American stage. From Odetts to Williams to Miller to Wilson, these playwrights found universal truths in the lives of working folks. Their style was lyrical and poetical, and Wilson was one of the best. No one in the past 30 years in American theatre sought to do the type of work he did, with his 10-play sweep of the African-American experience in 20th century America. He thought on a grand, epic scale, and wrote accordingly. And you have to admire a man who faced his death with such reality. No special treatment, no "I'll beat this liver cancer" phoniness; just a calm and assured acceptance that he had accomplished what he set out to do and would let life take its natural course. His passing truly marks an end to an era, for no one will write like that again in my lifetime and see their works produced on the Broadway stage.

When Fences was running on Broadway I managed to get a ticket, and I was so looking forward to seeing that production, which originally starred James Earl Jones in the title role of Troy Maxon. However, when I got to see the show, three days earlier they had replaced JEJ with Billy Dee "F$%&ing" Williams, who sucked so hard he practically created a vacuum on the stage. He was fed his lines on stage more than once by his fellow actors, and clearly was not ready to go on. One of the major diappointments in my playgoing experience.

Fortunately I did get to see a fine production of Joe Turner's Come and Gone at Studio Arena in Buffalo, featuring Stephen Henderson, who teaches at UB and has performed in many of Wilson's plays, among them Jitney on Broadway in 2000. A most powerful experience to be sure.

Harold PinterThis morning comes news that Harold Pinter has won this year's Nobel Prize for Literature. Congratulation to him. Well-deserved. He's turning more to poetry these days, and according to the Time article he's quite an outspoken critic of Tony Blair and the Iraq war. Maybe they should add the Peace Prize to the Literature prize as well.

Trivia - only one American playwright has ever won the Nobel Prize for literature. Name that person.

Recuperating is a drag, but I hope it's almost over. I go to the gastro guy tomorrow for a check-up and to decide when the ERCP will happen. I've rented a car for Sunday and hope to be driving to Burlington VT to join Atomic Fission that evening and get back to touring. Yay!

I've also received three get-well cards; two from AF and one from the Resident troupe back in Staunton. They were very welcome and very funny.

With all my idle time I've finally managed to post some more videos I shot while on tour, and I think I have a few more to go. I've sort of given up on the idea of vodcasts, and for now am just resorting to putting up some raw footage. You can take a look at them here, but please be sure to have intalled Quicktime for either Mac or PC. It will just make it easier on you and your computer.

The Yankees suck. Mel Stottlemyre is already gone, and I suspect many others will leave as well before the month is out. Torre is a mystery, but in my gut I think he's had it. This season may finally have convinced him that he's not going to win the WS with this group of guys, and he might just be ready to pass it on to the next iteration of the Yankees. Cashman will surely go, as will Girardi. I'd be surprised to see Bernie return, but not surprised to see him sign with some other team. My prediction/ideal scenario: Cashman becomes GM of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, signs Joe Girardi as manager, and signs Bernie to a two-year contract to DH and help out with the young guys. D-Rays win the AL East in two years. You heard it here first.

William SaroyanWhen I first considered blogging, I recalled a small scene from The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan written in 1939. It's a play about a collection of individuals - ordinary working people - who inhabit a small dive along the San Francisco waterfront. The scene takes place between Krupp, a beat cop, and his friend McCarthy, an intellectual working as a longshoreman. McCarthy has a monologue about writers which goes like this:

They all wanted to be writers. Every maniac in the world that ever brought about the murder of people through war started out in an attic or basement writing poetry. It stank. So they got even by becoming important heels. And it's still going on. Right now on Telegraph Hill is some punk who is trying to be Shakespeare. Ten years from now he'll be a Senator. Or a communist.

The thing to do is to have more magazines. Hundreds of them.
Thousands. Print everything they write, so they'll believe they're immortal. That will keep them from going haywire.
And here we are in the early part of the 21st century, with hundreds of blogs. Thousands of them. I thought I saw a headline somewhere that claimed a new blog was created every second of the day. Saroyan's prediction and McCarthy's hope has finally come true.

A final quote from Saroyan, who wrote in the foreshadow of WW2:

In a time of war, if art abandons its labor, war wins its victory, and cheap history tells the fable of the world. If it is impossible for art to reach the soldier who is on the verge of killing or being killed, it can get ready for the soldier's son. If art cannot improve the tone and meaning of the statesman's radio speech, it can anticipate his burial and be ready for his successor. If the world is amuck and there is no one for art to talk to, it can prepare itself for the next generation. War is tentative. Aberration is tentative. Art is not tentative.

It is true that as long as there are poets in the world, war can kill nothing.

The world now provides art new and more difficult material. Art has no alternative but to accept this material and to remove from it all foolishness, all feebleness, and all foolish and feeble fantasy.

Let's get cracking. -TWL

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Waiting Game - 10/10/05

Jolly Old OxfordDunkirk, NY - I told myself that I did not want to write anything in the blog until such time as I had something positive to write. So today at the very least I got word from my doctor that I can return to Atomic Fission at any time. The only complication is that I still have to come back at some point to visit the specialist and find out about whether or not I need that ERCP (I find it hard to believe I won't get it. Doctors do not like mysteries). Scheduling this is something of a fluid situation. I have an appointment for 10/17 with a gastroenterologist, but am trying to get that moved up by letting his office know I will take a cancellation at a moment's notice. Hopefully with persistence I can get in this week. The sooner I can get in, the sooner I can get back to AF. Of course, there's still the matter of scheduling the actual ERCP. Get this - I am seeing one doctor who's only going to pass me off to another doctor for the actual exam. Why can I not just eliminate the middleman?? Maddening. Blood work still shows some elevated enzyme levels, but slowly coming down.

In the meantime, not much else is happening. I will say this - being a homeowner is one of the dullest, mind-numbing things to be on the planet. Don't get me wrong - I like having my own home. It's just that as you look around there is always something to do or fix or improve. And I have always disliked home maintenance and repair. It's just not interesting at all to me. Necessary, but tedious and dull. And of course it all costs money. The phrase "money pit" is pretty apt. My two rooms in Staunton this summer look so good! Here's just a small list of things I could/should do while I am waiting but probably won't:
  • Clean out gutters. Actually, I have about half this done, off a small section of flat roof. I can get to some others but most of my gutters are too high for me to reach.
  • Bring hose to basement.
  • Swap out screens for storm windows.
  • Rake around front bushes (actually, I would like to tear the fuckers out, but that means having some plan for landscaping the front of the house, which I don't have)
  • Get a weedwhacker and trim around house and fence. Another tool you keep and use mayber three times a year.
  • Find out why the hot water pressure to the second floor is so poor. That means calling a plumber. $$$
  • Clean out basement
  • Clean out attic
  • Build a windbreaker for the back porch area so as to reduce draft in the kitchen
It isn't that any of these things aren't useless or unnecessary. They are just dull and uninteresting, and frankly, I'm not much of a handyman. Something I did get accomplished was tacking up "POSTED" signs on my woods before hunting season gets started. That's enjoyable, since I got to go tromping around my acreage. Boy, did I wish I had a camera with me to take pictures of the leaves and the view. I think I have an old film camera in the house somewhere, so you may have hope in seeing some pictures.

Eric came home from UB to visit this weekend and watch sports with me. We watched the Braves/Astros marathon and were happy to see the Astros win, and then the Yankee game as well. Having him around is fun. But the time passes slowly some days. I need to find a project real soon that I can accomplish to take my mind off the waiting. Saturday was a pretty depressing day, and the weather is not helping. It is not obnoxiously cold, but it is starting to turn that horrible upstate NY grey that can really bring you down. There was some sunshine today, a blessing to be sure.

I think that will do for now. Game 5 tonight Yanks/Angels. The fan says Yanks, the realist says Angels. I actually think Angels/White Soxs will make a better Championship series, and I'm glad to see Houston/St. Louis. Prediction? St. Louis/White Sox in World Series, St. Louis in 6. Hope? Yanks/Astros in WS, Yanks in 5. Much better than housework. -TWL

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Stranger in My House - 10/06/05

Dunkirk, NY - It is an absolutely gorgeous day. The temperature is 75 degrees, with a bold blue sky and a few puffy white clouds floating by. I am sitting under my magnolia tree in my back yard, listening to my XM radio, phones at the ready, sipping on my ginger ale/cranberry juice spritzer. My wireless network allows me to work outside, soaking in the unusual October warmth. The weather has been this good for the entire week. The Major League Baseball playoffs are in full swing. You would have to be completely mad not to be in the best possible mood given all these conditions.

Oh yes, it's beautiful out, and I am indeed trying to make myself as comfortable as possible. But in spite of all this, I can't really, truly relax. I don't belong here; as of this writing I belong on the campus of Loyola College in Fredericksville MD either doing a workshop or getting ready to perform Much Ado tonight. No doubt about it; I'm somewhat bummed out. Depressed. Anxious. Sitting here on the shelf, in a holding pattern, half packed, half un-packed, waiting to get on some sort of public transportation and re-join Atomic Fission. And at the moment, I have no timetable for returning.

Physically, I am fine. I went to my doctor's yesterday, and all my blood test indicate that there's no sign of any sort of viral infection, no hepatitis, or anything like that. The upshot of everything is that it is clear I had an "event" which attacked my liver, but the cause of this attack is at the moment undetermined. I've been referred to a gastroenterologist and am waiting for an appointment to have an ERCP exam done, but who knows when? An ERCP is essentially an exam where they knock you out and put a camera down your throat, through your stomach, and down into the duodenum to look around your liver ducts, pancreatic ducts and gall bladder ducts (my gall bladder is gone) for any stones, polyps, obstructions, etc. Until that test is performed I can't leave the area. But as I say, physically I am fine. My yellow jaundiced look is now gone, my energy level feels good and I feel as if I could perform at any time. So this is all very frustrating.

And it's so odd to have your existence scattered in three places. I am sitting in my own house, so I have my computer and entertainment systems at my disposal. But some of my stuff, like my car and my bicycle, is down in Staunton, and other things, like my camera, are still with the troupe. Nothing like being trifurcated.

But I am doing my best to stay positive and take everything one step at a time. Given that there's still Christmas Carol to do, the spring leg of the tour, and the 10-week resident run to do, missing a couple of weeks now is not so bad. I can't help feeling like a slug and that I've given everyone extra work to do, but of course the troupe is taking it all in stride, wishing me well, and rolling with the punches. And I now have unofficial understudies: Andrew is playing Leonato and enjoying the opportunity, Chris I believe is taking up Prospero (after having understudied Cookie while Daniel had the chickenpox), and Jessica has picked up Hastings as well as the Friar in Much Ado.

So how do I pass my time at home? An assortment of trivial activities for the moment. I am behaving as if I'm getting back soon, so I am resisting taking up any household projects or stepping onto the Fredonia college campus. I've tried not to use the clothes in my tiny travel suitcase, but I did run out of socks this morning. I have been watching a lot of baseball, staying up last night to watch all of the Yankee loss to the pesky Angels (A-Rod better start hitting!!) as well as delighting in watching the White Sox stick it to the Red Sox (I will become a big White Sox fan if they get into the World Series). I've been catching up on some blogs, notably Carolyn Castiglia (baby due pretty soon), Paul Fidalgo (and check out his new side project - A Damn Shame )and Jessica Dunton. Paul and Jessica compose the acting team that will performing Greater Tuna in January at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton. Jessica is one funny woman (Carolyn and Jessica ought to meet each other, I think), and Paul is a fine, fine musician/songwriter. I am sure his somewhat offbeat and droll sense of humor combined with Jessica's broad, brassy style (she told a story at the actor's house in Staunton which would have had me on the floor with laughter had I not been so tired that night coming back from the Veritas gig) will be a hoot on the stage.

Other activities: small household chores, napping, converting some video I have into compressed video, reading web sites of the troupe's upcoming venues, shaving, trimming my goatee and ear hair, snacking. That's about it. I should do more writing, but it gets in the way of watching baseball (2 or 3 games a day during the divisional playoffs). No matter what the situation, you must hang on to your priorities.

This gives a great deal of time for thought, random daydreaming, and assorted idle ruminations. Without any concrete activities to report, there's not much else to write about on a daily basis except these inchoate items, so you may be subjected to some of these as the days drift by during this compelled exile. Here's an example:

Young people blog differently than I do. I tend to want to write in complete, grammatically correct sentences. I edit and censor myself. I write longer posts for the most part, as well as longer sentences. Stylistically, I've chosen the letter form, having my blog mostly take the form of a letter to friends and family. I shun self-promotion whenever possible. But bloggers of the younger sort tend to write short posts and entries, shooting from the linguistic hip. They are unafraid to express opinion, no matter how outlandish. Sentences are short and punchy. There is almost always an attempt to sound hip, modern and current. Self-promotion seems to be the primary defining reason to blog.

That's just one example of some random observations I had while parsing and exploring several blogs. These are the things that will be coming your way as I watch the world pass by from the quiet of my Dunkirk domicile.

I also apologize for the lack of pictures. I don't have my camera, and there's not much to take pictures of out here. Nor can I update the photo page at My Yahoo! site. So you'll just have to use your imagination. I will soon be updating the video page, however, so stay tuned for that. Perhaps I might even take it upon myself to wholly re-design my own website. It could use some refreshing after using the same design for 10 years.

Anyway, that's about it for now. I am well, resting comfortably if quite anxiously, keeping busy with small items, and waiting for the medical profession to have its way with me. Many thanks to everyone who has sent me well wishes. They are most welcome and help to make me smile and keep me happy! Best to everyone! -TWL

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Simple Twist of Fate - 10/01/05

Dunkirk NY - Those of you with quick minds and a keen eye will immediately notice the dateline is not what it should be. Some of you may also have noticed that in my previous post I noted a had a stomach ache. Well, there's no easy way to put this: the stomach ache turned into a trip to the emergency room upon arriving at Orrville, OH, an overnight stay at Dunlap Memorial Hospital, and today a trip home to Dunkirk with Ann Marie. I'm here for probably a week of rest, and then hopefully returning to the troupe sometime next week if I get the OK from my home doctor.

The final diagnosis was that I had some fatty tissue building up in my liver, causing a rise in some enzyme numbers, and irritation of the stomach. However, the doctor at Orrville could not tell me why this was happening. His best guess was that the Prilosec I was taking to prevent my laryngeal reflux condition might have contributed over time to this situation. But by this morning all my numbers had been coming down substantially, so since they really weren't treating me for anything specific, they decided that the best thing to do was to send me home, rest up, and see what my own doctor had to say about the matter. And that's that.

In the meantime, the troupe has adjusted. Andrew has taken over Leonato (did two performances yesterday on book), Chris has taken over Prospero (I don't know who's doing the Bosun) and Jessica is handling Hastings and my Oxford lines in the last part of Richard 3. Once thing about Atomic Fission - with all the mishaps we've had through the course of our run, we've learned to roll with the punches.

You'll forgive me if I don't write much more at the moment. It's been a hectic day or two and when I get a bit more rest I'll provide a bit more detail. Suffice to say the van ride from Murray to Orrville was one of the worst rides in a car I have ever had! I will continue the blog in some fashion, and when I return to the troupe (and I will) I'll get right back to giving you the news on the road. -TWL