Saturday, April 29, 2006

Transformation II - 4/29/06

Staunton, VA - Well, there went another week without writing. How time gets away from me so fast, I cannot explain. I can tell you that some of that time went towards driving home to surprise Ann Marie on her birthday, which was this past Monday. That was a complete success. I walked into her office while she was finishing up a meeting with an accrediting visitor, and I think "stunned" is perhaps the best phrase to describe the look on her face before she burst into tears. We had a nice day together, going out to lunch and then having Eric home while I made her birthday dinner. A wonderful carrot cake from her good friend Peg topped the festivities. Then back here on Tuesday.

This week's collection of shows were pretty much without incident. We had an extra morning show on Thursday, and it caused a bit of pre-show concern, as these students from Albermarle High School (which I presume is in Charlottesville) had a reputation which preceded them. Apparently there had been a spitball incident and some other rowdy behavior from this school in the past, so we were on our guard. But I thought they were a fine audience in the end. Interestingly enough, they enjoyed the music and the comedy, and when the play turned dark, they were quite hushed; it was as silent a house as we've ever had. In fact, there was one young man sitting on the stage right stools, and right after the moment where I throw Sarah to the floor and stagger away, he flinched and cried out, thinking I was going to crash into him. That's when I knew I had him. It was also nice to have a culturally diverse crown in the theatre for a change. It's a great feeling to know you did have some effect on kids from different backgrounds.

The two-show combination Wed. and Thurs, wore me out a bit, so I loosened up a bit (maybe a bit too much) on Thursday night while watching a basketball game up in 605. I've been doing a lot of computer repair lately, and I've been working on the barter system - beer for repair work. First Tyler, then Andrew, and earlier this evening, Chris. So Friday I had to take it slow, but I did manage to go out to lunch with Jessica, where we got some good hamburgers and Cajun fries at 5 Guys. It's a chain in this area that makes fresh hamburgers and fries their potatoes in peanut oil. They were quite good. I took a nap and then went to the theatre to begin the weekend of shows. Today we had a workshop called Teaching Shakespeare before our R3 matinee, but I had no workshop responsibilities. So an R3 and then a Planet this evening, which was another audience of baby boomers who had a great time. During the encore they got up and danced in the theatre, a pretty amazing sight. As I search through my memory I think there have been no other incidents of note for the week.

But now I have to backtrack a little and go to this theme of transformation (if you did not read the previous post, you might want to do that first). Last week I took a hike up in Shenandoah National Park, and it was during this hike that w few thoughts came to me. The first thought that came was how much I was enjoying the hike. The simple act of walking in the woods alone with my thoughts these days gives me a great deal of pleasure. I really think I would like to take up hiking as a hobby of sorts, with an eye towards doing the Appalachian Trail or some other major route. This particular hike I planned as a lunch hike, and when I got to Calvary Rocks, I sat and had lunch, enjoying the 360-degree view around me.

It was while I was enjoying this experience that the thought came to my mind that I would rather be doing this sort of thing more than anything I could think of at that moment. And it also occurred to me how many summers I had given up over the years to act in theatres. It was at that moment that I had that sense of transformation - that I could see a life for myself which was one other than this life. I saw it pretty clearly: a life out in nature, walking, maybe canoeing or kayaking, but one where the outdoors became dominant, not the dim backstage light of the theatre. I asked myself at that moment - what is left for me to achieve in the theatre? What's left to accomplish? And the answer came back - nothing much. At that moment it seemed to me that finally, there was nothing more I needed from the theatre itself. I have performed or directed in over 100 shows, I have now toured, I've done numerous Shakespearean roles, and I could think of nothing at all left that I was really desirous to achieve. I really don't care whether or not I get into Actor's Equity, because even if I did, it's not much good to me now. I've no intention of turning fully professional. There are still roles I'd like to play out there, yes, but somehow it no longer seems so pressing or urgent that I do so. I'd rather hike, I think. You see, it's the need that has begun to fade. And this is where the transforming process is happening. I sense other needs that have to take more prominence - like hiking, and writing.

Does this mean I would never do theatre again? No, I don't think so - but it does mean I no longer feel that urgent need to do theatre again, and if I never did anything else in theatre again, it wouldn't matter to me at all. I can see another life I can live, one a bit more introspective and quiet, one away from all the hustle and anxiety that theatre seems to produce in people. And I also feel a need to begin to do something that truly matters. When I look at the state of American theatre, I realize that it's fun, some of it is good, but little of it seems to truly matter. Perhaps by seizing the opportunity that this transforming moment is offering, I can begin to find my way to that place where I can do something that matters to me.

One thing that's critical to understand about transformation, both in the theatre game itself and in life, is that a transforming moment does not reveal the entire nature of what you're about to enter. You can only see possibilities, but it remains up to you to leap in and begin the exploration and creation of those possibilities. And amazingly enough, as I began to continue my hike, this idea was enhanced by nature itself as it presented a metaphorical journey for me. At one point in the hike I began a steep descent into a valley, I knew that the trail eventually led up to some sort of river, but I was not sure how far that was. As I got to the bottom of the valley, it was apparent that the formations around me spoke to the existence of a stream somewhere, but it looked dried up, no more than a path for rainfall or snowmelt run-off to follow. But I kept on walking, remembering that the trail map did indicate a blue line. I kept my eyes open, and finally I saw some rocks which appeared moss-covered, a sign of moisture. I went off-trail and down into the stream bed, poking about until I found a small underground stream bubbling to the surface. Within about 25 yards it became a small flowing stream, and the water was cold and refreshing on this 80-degree day. I took off my shoes at a convenient spot and sat a bit with my feet dangling in the stream. I wet my hat and put it on my head for the natural air-conditioning it provided.

I was about ready to go and return the way I came, when a fellow hiker and her dog came up the trail from the opposite end. The dog took a bit of a drink, and as she saw me soaking my feet, she mentioned there was a good swimming hole ahead. I put my socks and shoes back on and continued to follow the trail a bit more. As I did so, the stream became wider, more varied in its path, and stronger in its flow. When I came to the swimming hole, I found much more than a swimming hole; it was a beautiful canyon of rocks and trees amidst this cascading waterfall. I stood at the top of the falls, surveying the scenery around me. I had gone from a hot, dry descent into a small valley, followed a dry stream bed until I found its source, and witnessed it as it grew and expanded into this magnificent waterfall, a view I assume very few people who visit the park actually see. And there I sat for about 20 minutes, just sort of entranced in it all. Transformation does not take much to reveal itself, and often looks like nothing at all, like a dry runoff bed. But if you have the wisdom to follow where it will take you, the payoff can be well worth the journey.

It would have been better has I been able to follow the trail in its circuitous path, but I was getting pressed for time and found it more prudent to return the way I came. The metaphoric sense of that decision did not escape my attention, however, as I found that reversing my journey and going back the way I came was not as rewarding. I had to go back to do a show, and knew at that moment I did not want to. But it was quite an experience, liberating and exhausting, heady and physically taxing. And I think this transforming experience is going to make a difference once I finish this contract. It has already begun to make a difference, as I now seem to find all the things that people around me take so seriously to be just so much foolishness. While there is a great deal of foolishness and pettiness in the world of theatre, it's no less so in academia (or probably in any other workplace in America). But what I have come to realize is that I may finally have hit a place where I do not have to endure the foolishness because I have some other need to fulfill; I can simply walk away from it, figuratively and literally. Come mid-June, I think I'll begin to do more walking than I ever have before. -TWL

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Transformation I - 4/22/06

Staunton VA - It's Saturday evening, and Saturday is always a long day. With my parents in town, it was a little longer today than most, as I got up to meet them at 9:00 AM for breakfast. That generally isn't so bad, except when you don't get as much sleep as you'd like the night before. I'm running a little short on sleep this weekend, and so having to get up at 9 when I probably did not get to sleep any earlier than 3:30 AM was a little rough. But I do know that I was fast asleep at 6:30 AM, because everyone in the troupe except me heard a massive thunderstorm go through town at that hour, while I heard nothing. It has been nice to have my parents in town to see the shows. I took them out to dinner last night for their 55th wedding anniversary. They both like the baby back ribs at the Mill Street Grill, while I had a seafood pasta, which was pretty tasty and generous. They saw the Friday night Much Ado and then the two shows today. Tomorrow they head back to Long Island, and for me another bit of time off.

This week has been a Richard week, with back-to-back R3s on Wed. and Thurs. night, and again tonight. We also had an added performance at Veritas Winery, the same place where we started our tour back in September. Apparently we were a little out of practice in traveling, because we sort of forgot a few things. I forgot to "dress up" for the affair, and had to go back home to get my dress clothes on. WHen I got back I assumed, because everything was sitting on the sidewalk by the van, that my garment bag with my costume had been grabbed by someone and packed. Wrong. I did not discover this until about 90 minutes before showtime, so I had to drive back to Staunton (approx. 20 minutes away) and get it. Greg had made the same mistake, so I grabbed his as well. Tyler thought he had forgotten the thundercan, but it was packed. And Carie forgot the tentacle, having taken it home to do some repair work on it. They also shifted the schedule on us here and there. First we thought dinner was going to be after the show, but it turned out they served dinner before the show. Confusion reigned as to when the troupe would eat. I ended up eating after the show, because I was driving when dinner was served. Cold chicken, cheese and grapes was my dinner. And we got a bit of a late start because the patrons we lingering over their dessert and wine. The crowd had fun, I think, but it was not a re-creation of the September event, where people were slightly tipsy. The crowd felt like a mid-60s and up crowd, a bit older than baby boomers, and they were nowhere near as raucous. And there was no event after the show. So we didn't really need to dress after all because there was no mingling. But aside from all these small mishaps, the show was OK. Hopefully Veritas thought so, and will continue to sponsor the Center.

The R3 crowds this week were sparse, although tonight was a healthy crowd. I think it was Thursday when the count was 39 people. I would expect weekday crowds for Richard will be small. One very happy thing to report - the Richard pre-show is new and vastly improved. I have always been very embarrassed with the R3 pre-show, which Greg and I had been charged with creating. Our original idea back in September proved to be unworkable, so during the tour we did nothing but a straight delivery of the information. But someone (I forget who) gave me the idea of writing pre-show catches, and so I did. I took tunes from three of the catches I sing with the Fredonia Catch Club (Mac Nelson is our kappelmeister and catch guru), wrote new lyrics for them, and what we now do is create a small skit where I am introduced to get the Blackfriars Catch Club to perform, even though we aren't quite ready. Daniel, Greg, Kevin and I constitute this erstwhile Catch Club, and it's been fun to create, much more along the spirit of what pre-shows for the ASC should be. So now I am very happy to do the R3 pre-show, whereas before I was always embarrassed at the lack of anything interesting.

I was scheduled to do a tour Wed. PM but no one showed. We have only done one Planet this week in the Blackfriars, which was today's matinee. Not as large a crowd as we have had, but respectable. There was a group of giggly girls for Friday night's Much Ado and they got the crowd going as much as we did. And it feels good to report that everyone is again healthy, suffering only from the usual wear and tear of long runs.

Thursday afternoon was a gorgeous day, with temperatures reaching into the low 80s by the afternoon. I took the opportunity to take a hike in Shenandoah National Park, along the RipRap Trail. I packed up a lunch to eat at the Calvary Rocks area. While on the hike, I really had the feeling of having a transforming experience. Nothing deep or profound, mind you; only a sort of coming-together of a lot of seemingly unrelated thoughts and events which seemed to coalesce as I walked through the woods. Now, in order to get some sort of understanding of what I mean by this, I'll tell you about a theatre game that, when I teach aspiring students, I usually play as a culmination of a lot of other smaller games that lead up to it.

The game is called "Transformation," and the rules are simple enough. Two players start an improvised scene. As they play the scene, they must stay alert for the possibility that the scene will have a "transforming moment," and become a completely different scene. The scene will present itself as an opportunity to the players; the players cannot do anything to force a change of scene. Both players must sense the possibility of transformation together; one cannot sense it and force his/her partner into the new scene. The game is designed to train the actor to be aware, not only of him/herself, but of their partner in the scene. The rules may be simple, but the game itself is very difficult. Often very seemingly disparate elements will signal a transformation - a physical gesture, a vocal inflection, a particular physical relationship the partners find themselves in. The trick is to recognize the transforming moment and be prepared to leave everything about the former scene in the past and plunge fully into the new scene.

Even though I was hiking by myself, the feeling of transformation came through thinking about many disparate elements which I've been mulling over in my mind and heart these past few weeks. I have, however, decided to post these things in parts, because I do not want to write one big long convoluted post. Rather, smaller bits I think will be easier to read. It may also be easier to mix shorter posts along with the general company news, which I know some readers like to get. And hopefully it will let me post a bit more often. Rather than trying to write one long post in one sitting, I can write a little bit here and there to make the total over time. So for now I'll leave you with what's here, and sometime next week take you into Part II. -TWL

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Long Run - 4/17/06

Staunton, VA - So, I was walking back from yesterday's matinee and M.Litt. dinner party, and as I approached the front door if the BevHouse, a woman walking across the street in the opposite direction saw me and said, "I loved your performance, and I love your blog. Get some rest!" I told her I was on my way to do just that. Today happens to be an excellent day for blogging; rainy, fairly chilly, a day which encourages you to stay indoors and lounge around. I've now made my second cup of coffee, and so on to this entry. I do regret that I cannot seem to muster the energy to blog more than once a week. I realized in getting set to write that it's been a week since the last entry. But the week went fast, I think, and if it continues to go as fast this one went, I'll wake up one morning and bam! - someone will be telling me I have to move out.

I think I'll start this morning by thanking the Mary Baldwin M.Litt/MFA students for their wonderful Easter dinner party. They invited us to a pot-luck Easter feast, and all the food was very good. There was a wonderful leg of lamb with fruit compote, ham, chicken, pot roast, salads, veggies, baked beans, green bean salad, and a strawberry cake shaped in an Easter bunny, which was pretty much half-eaten by the time I got there. This same group of people did a nice Twelfth Night last week as their M.Litt project, and it was a very convivial atmosphere. So hats off and thanks to the M.Litt crew! You've been very supportive of our company, and we appreciate it.

The next order of business should be to give a health update. All last week a good two-thirds of the troupe was suffering from some sort of ailment. Alyssa, who gets the Super-Trouper Award for last week, fought off her broken toe and bronchitis to keep performing on the stage. We did make some alterations in the shows to take as much stress off her as possible, such as going with only two members of The Watch in Much Ado (I adopted her character and Tyler and I split the lines between us), and eliminating Mr. Spaceman and modifying Robot Man in Planet. By Saturday, thought, she was pretty much up to speed, and did Much Ado without her cane, sang all her songs in Planet, and returned as the mighty George Seacoal, leader of the Watch. The remainder of the sick list slowly but surely got back up to speed, although Andrew still has a somewhat sore back, which I assume he is resting today. Kevin's back is better, Olivia seems up to speed, Jessica is doing OK, Chris and Tyler seem fine. I think only Greg, Daniel, Sarah and myself got away with not getting sick, so knock on any wood you can find for us. The bug also found its way through the resident troupe, as Matt Sincell, Rene Thornton and others seemed to pick up the bronchitis bug to some degree. Better now than in June.

Apart from doing the shows all week, we are now beginning to work on other projects. I did my first playhouse tour on Wednesday, which went just fine. We are preparing for Shakespeare's Birthday celebration, an annual event held here on the Sunday closest to his birthday (April 23 this year, which is the day he is assumed to have been born). We also have to prepare something for Jamestown 2007, the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown VA, but as of now I have no clear idea what that means. And tomorrow we take another trip to the Veritas vineyard and Winery to do a performance of Planet once again, same as we did in September.

A couple of reviews have come in for Much Ado. You can read them here and here. They're really not much to speak of in the way of reviews. Both are positive, and will serve to attract audiences, but in terms of good theatre review writing they leave a lot to be desired. The state of theatre reviewing at most newspapers tends to be abysmal outside major cities like Chicago or New York, as often the people picked to do reviews are staffers with no particular credentials in the arts at all. But at the last podcast I did, Ralph showed is a copy of Theatre Week from Washington DC and said some people from that publication might be coming down to check us out. I'll be interested to see what shows up in there, if anything.

Apart from all this news-y stuff, there's been a lot on my mind in terms of how I'm adapting to running the shows at the Blackfriars. In some ways. I've begun to think of this whole gig in relation to a long run of a show, and interestingly enough, I am not sure I like long runs. This is by far the longest amount of time I have ever committed to a set of shows, and often I find myself during the day thinking that I should be in rehearsal or something for another production. My brother Jim, who plays in the jam band moe., always has side projects going, because he says after touring for some time and playing the same songs from venue to venue, you have to have something else to keep your creative juices flowing. I understand that now, because keeping up the commitment to a long run is difficult. Of course, the days are pretty much gone when great stars actually do perform long runs on the Broadway stage. Usually you get a name star for a limited run, and then hope the replacements can keep the thing going long enough to make a profit. And most regional theatres today have a definitive season where the shows run only a set amount of time. But it's deceiving to do a tour, because you tend to see all the various venues you get to play at, but what's a little hidden from sight is the fact that the shows remain the same for the entire year. Of course, to the Blackfriars audiences these shows are all new; it's the spring season of shows after the Renaissance Season. And that's the way you have to play it, even though you've been at these shows for nine months now.

The shows themselves have now settled into a good place at the theatre. We have gotten Planet down to a place where the sound is good in the space without being overpowering. The audience reaction to Planet I think has been off the scale; it's like nothing I've ever seen in a theatre. The mood of the show actually runs from a sort of polite and enthusiastic initial response to something more resembling a rock concert by the end. When the audience is filled with baby-boomers who recognize all the songs, it's really fun, because they groan and laugh within the first three bars or so. Encores have become commonplace, and people get up and dance and sing along and everything. It is such a wild and intense sight to see all these people sitting in a recreation of a Renaissance indoor theatre behaving like they are in a concert venue. And every time it happens I find myself surprised that it's actually happening. It's both fun and incongruous at the same time. Maybe one of these nights I will bring my camera out on stage and record some of this for you to see. The other shows do just as well. Much Ado still gets that same reaction of a fun comedy which all of a sudden turns tragic only to resolve back into a fun time at the end. And Richard III I think has benefitted the most from returning to the Blackfriars. The words seem to fit best in that space of any place we have played, and I think playing this piece in the Blackfriars gives it an authority and presence that all the other venues on the road lacked. When that magnificent language bounces around the walls of the Blackfriars, it just seems right and proper, much more so than in a transformed gymnasium.

Well, that's enough for this morning. It's still raining, so maybe this afternoon I will get on to doing some movies and uploading stuff on the movie page for you. I keep promising but I keep failing. So please forgive me, because I've been trying to get as much rest as possible to stay in shape - for the long run. -TWL

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Open and Running - 4/11/06

Staunton VA - It's Tuesday evening, and after these past two days off I'm feeling OK. By Sunday evening, after our official opening weekend, I was pretty beat and my throat was a little weak, but two days of rest has been good. Monday I took a road trip into the Alleghany Mountains from Lewisburg, WV up to Cass, WV, and then back across to Staunton VA. I got a look at the Greenbrier River Valley, and there is a nice 60-mile trail which runs along it, good for bicycling or hiking. And you can also rent river tubes for a day of tubing down the river. May have do some of that before long. I also caught a sunset over the Appalachians, while the moon rose in the east. Some beautiful scenery. Today I finished my taxes, wrote out my index cards for doing the Blackfriars Playhouse tours, and am set for the catches we'll be doing in the R3 pre-show. Then I spent the afternoon listening to the opening day game at Yankee Stadium against the KC Royals. The temperature was in the low 70s. Very, very good for the soul.

The opening weekend at Blackfriars went well overall. There wasn't much of an "opening weekend" atmosphere around, but that seemed to trouble other people more than it troubled me. It somehow seemed anticlimactic to me to think of shows we have been doing since September as "opening." So I did not concern myself too much with that issue. Planet seems to be a show which really has gotten people going. We have learned to play the show with more restraint out of necessity at the Blackfriars, because that space is just so acoustically alive. Nevertheless, audiences large and small so far have really enjoyed the show tremendously. Much Ado went off well on Saturday evening, and the Sat. matinee of Richard III also went very well. I have noticed particularly with R3 that it plays so much better in the Blackfriars. Perhaps it's just the atmosphere, but the words seem more natural and alive there, making the show more accessible, I think. Anyway, I think it all went very well. The Sunday matinee of Planet had a small but no less enthusiastic audience. There was a row of middle-aged women in the rear of the gallery that were just rocking with every song. That's how it seems to go.

It's also been a good week for my children. My daughter Jenna just bought a house in Framingham MA and moved in over the weekend. My oldest son Brian won a playwriting contest at Oswego which came with a $100 prize for a play he wrote. And Eric, who is rehearsing the role of Bill from The Hot L Baltimore up at the University of Buffalo, was put on the wait list for Carnegie Mellon's BFA Acting program as well as being accepted to University of Northern Illinois. He had to write an essay for CMU and got that done and sent in. So we shall see.

I have a funny feeling that a lot of my posts from here on in might be a bit shorter. Since there is no new locale to report about every other day, there is nothing much to write about but the shows. Since the shows are now in rep, they probably won't change too much over time. Being located in the actor housing complex, there may be more to report there, but I tend to doubt I'll be so much in the mix that there will be anything to report. And I find that I am not taking as many pictures as I have been. So this blog may either become quite boring, or it may begin to turn into what it will eventually become once my contract ends; just general musings I have about theatre in general, and events and situations at SUNY Fredonia once I return there in the fall.

I can say that talk has already begun about what people will be doing once they complete their contracts: where they will live, where they will work, etc. Often I tend to forget that this gig is the sum total of my colleagues' lives, and once it's done they have to go back and find the next thing to do with their lives. Some people have plans set: Alyssa will be joining a company doing Oklahoma, Chris is going to a gig in Ohio doing Our Town, Greg will be joining another touring group similar to S2 run by his friend Dennis (an alum of ShenShakes), Tyler will be doing the Tragical Mirth tour next year as Cyrano, Puck and Casca. Kevin, Jessica, Sarah, Olivia, Daniel and Andrew have less certain plans, although I think Jessica and Andrew will be doing the Philadelphia consolidated auditions two days after we close here (both have connections in Philly). So they are all in the process of finding "the next thing." I plan to take the rest of the summer off and perhaps do a little traveling before I return to teaching.

Finally, the Blackfriars Backstage Podcast for Planet came out the other day, so if you want to get it, follow the instructions from the last post. It's pretty good, and I'm on it! -TWL

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Germs A'Plenty - 4/6/06

Staunton, VA - Well, now that we are back and all settled in, everybody, it seems appears to be getting sick. Chris first came down with bronchitis, and now Tyler has a cough, Jessica has something going on, Kevin threw out his back, Andrew has a sore throat and has trouble talking, and Alyssa, on top of still recovering from (and performing on) her broken toe, is lying in her room sounding miserable. I am a little nervous trying not to catch any of this. While I have pretty much recovered from my general soreness, I find each show saps some energy from me, and I have to make sure to get full rest to get ready for the next day. Chris actually brought masks into the men's dressing room to help us avoid catching any germs. I think I may start to upgrade my daily dose of Vitamin C and get some of that wellness stuff my wife likes from the health food store.

The past week has been sort of hectic. We are scrambling a bit to get our interlude stuff together, which includes music in between acts (our intermissions are called "interludes"). We're learning new stuff, and we are trying to squeeze it into 30-minute rehearsal blocks before call for each show. I'm playing percussion (which is cymbal and snare) on some MA music, and I am also trying to put together a R3 pre-show composed of catches. I am using catches I already know, and writing new words for them. We're a little behind in it because the other shows have taken precedence, and today I am missing Kevin(sick) and Greg (nursing Alyssa), so I canceled a scheduled rehearsal and am waiting until tomorrow. I don't feel too much of a rush, as we still have more than 2 months to do pre-shows, but I would like to get it over and done with ASAP. The current R3 pre-show, which Greg and I do, is a boring, straightforward announcement type of preshow, and is rather dull. So the sooner I can get something there that's more clever, the better I will feel. We don't officially open until this weekend (starting Friday night), so there is still time.

The past week of shows has been great. The first weekend home the audiences were loving the shows. Adjusting to the space has been the hardest thing. The Blackfriars Playhouse is so live that modulating sound can be very difficult.My high-frequency hearing impairment has made it even more difficult for me. Our first Planet performance was too loud, so we adjusted by bringing everything way down instrumentally, and that made the situation better. It doesn't feel like you're rocking out too much in restraining the instrument, but it does give a better sound. So it has been for the other shows, trying to find adjustments as needed both vocally and in the pacing. I must admit, being back on the Blackfriars stage is a good feeling, although it did seem a little unreal at first. I caught myself a few times in a sort of surreal trance on the stage, thinking maybe I was dreaming, and that at any minute it would all turn back to some auditorium or conference room. it's interesting how everything feels more at home here than it ever did on the road.

I am also now mostly settled in my room, and I have had visitors come to my window and admire my set-up. My XM radio gets great reception with the antenna set right between the houses. I still have my microwave and hot plate from my Belle Grae place, but I mostly use the kitchen for cooking. I did indulge in one splurge and bought a very small electric car cooler so that I can have cold drinks and keep my half-and-half downstairs. I can make coffee in the morning either from my Belle Grae drip pot or my French press. I have an electric water kettle for tea, and I bought a few crates and storage tubs for storing things. So it's not too bad at that. They still have to fix my window, which I can take right out of the sill and which won't go up on the track. Good luck getting that fixed in a timely manner. The landlord of these Bev houses is not exactly swift in terms of repair. The one thing still missing is a solid internet connection. I can use my modem, but hopefully the houses will be getting together to get a cable connection into the house. At least Paul Fidalgo will be getting internet into his place, which is right next door to me, so within the next week I hope I can get some sort of cable connection. Otherwise I'll be spending a lot of money down on Coffee at the Corner.

This past Monday was a day off, as well as most of Tuesday, so I did find the time to relax. On Monday I traveled to the Natural Bridge, which is exactly what its name implies. It is a huge rock structure which rises from the Cedar Creek valley straight up over 200' on either side, and has a bridge spanning the top. Cedar Creek flows under it. The height of the structure is taller that the drop from the top of Niagara Falls to the bottom. it's actually pretty imposing when you get right down to see it. I took a number of pictures and a small movie (I know I'm behind in updating my movie page), so you can check them out under the April set on my Flickr site (click the badge on the right sidebar). I had lunch at a small cafe in Natural Bridge Station, VA (not to be confused with Natural Bridge, VA), and the cook there kep trying to push the ice cream on me (I did give in to the peach cobbler). On the way back home I drove the Blue Ridge Parkway, and man, what a great drive! I had the parkway pretty much all to myself, seeing maybe one car every 45 minutes or so. The views were incredible, and towards the end I got caught in some passing thunderstorms. It was cool seeing the clouds roll in from all across the mountains. By the time I got home, though, I was pretty tired, having drunk a bit too much wine the night before (thanks, Olivia!), so I took a nap at 5:30, got up at 8PM and listened to the opening game of the NY Yankees, who are out in Oakland (lost 2 of 3). Tuesday I was supposed to go on a practice tour with Greg, but no one showed up to tour around. Then I rehearsed some music with Olivia and Kevin for MA, and the night was free. Wednesday we had an MA matinee, after which I did the Q&A with Tyler, followed by an evening R3. And today (Thursday) I have spent getting a lot of busy work and personal errands done. So that about catches you up on events here.

Tomorrow I will be doing a podcast for the ASC on Planet. These podcasts are new, and you can subscribe to them through Apple iTunes. Open up iTunes and click on the Music Store. Then go to podcasts and seach for American Shakespeare. You should get a search return with the ASC podcast on it. Hit the "subscribe" button and you should be all set. If you don't have iTunes, to go to the American Shakespeare website and get them directly by clicking right here. iTunes is availabe free for Windows and Mac. Give us a listen and let me know what you think! -TWL