Thursday, December 29, 2011

London, Thanksgving, Christmas, etc.

Hello! I haven't really been feeling terribly motivated to write in my blog. The other day I heard someone say "blogs are dead!" so I wondered if I would be the worlds biggest geek if I made another entry. But that's not why I haven't written lately. Chalk it up to only having nine followers and feeling pretty depressed over the state of our lunatic, deadlocked government and the world in general. It makes me very anxious and depressed. I clearly need to find something to focus that energy on.

That being said, there is a lot going on or a lot that is going to be going on which is all very exciting. I had a very encouraging week back in mid-December. My pottery made a nice chunk of change at the annual Craft Guild sale and then I sold a lot of bird bottles and coffee mugs that very same week! Needless to say I feel very encouraged and can't wait to get back into the studio! Of course, it's closed for two weeks which makes me FURIOUS! I am jonesin' for some clay studio time! What is wrong with you people!!!!!! Other good news on the clay front is that some of my pottery is currently being sold at Unpotted Gardening Solutions in Oak Cliff. Fantastic all organic gardening center! Check it out!

James and my mom and I had a great trip to London back before Christmas. We saw A LOT of theater. (Or do the Brits say theatRE?) The highlights were:

The National Theater's transfer to the West End of One Man, Two Guv'nors. FANTASTIC! HYSTERICALLY FUNNY! Amazingly talented cast and I don't think there was a microphone anywhere in the room! Highlights of the show were the audience participation, especially the very game young woman recruited out of the front row to help James Cordon "Serve" dinner and the 87 year-old waiter who was continually falling into an unseen abyss!

Matilda: the Musical was very smart, very funny, had an excellent score and amazing, and I mean AMAZING cast! I laughed! I cried! One of the best musicals I've seen in years! I hope it comes to the USA soon!

The Menier Chocolate Factory's production of Pippin. AMAZING! The Menier is a tiny black box space seating 100 or so with no backstage space but they make the most of what they have. It was an amazing re-imagining of a show that seems to cause a lot of eye-rolling. Gone were the silly comedia del arte costumes and clown make up. This version takes place inside a video game being played by Pippin who is dressed in a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. In fact, the entire production is either modern dress or futuristic in its concept. Lots of projections, LOTS of surprises and only minimal changes to the script. Frances Rufelle, famous for being the first Eponine in Les Miserable, played Fastrada. It was a revelation to see what is truly possible in such a small space! Very inspiring!

Things are inching along where the theater company is concerned. We are on the cusp of filing our non-profit status and we have the dates set for our first season but we haven't signed the contract yet. It's exciting and scary. There are so many possibilities! There are so many things we want to do. We have a list of shows we want to produce. We want to start a cabaret/concert series. We want to offer classes and lectures. On and on and on. The hardest part is waiting! Patience!!!! ARGH!!!

Anyhoo, that's about it. I hope all nine of you are having a lovely holiday season! Stay well!

Jay in Dalals

Saturday, November 19, 2011

And the days dwindle down to a precious few!

Hello! It's been ages since I have posted but I don't feel as though a lot has been going on that I'd call "news worthy". there's mostly a lot that hasn't happened yet but as it does I'll talk about it. It's all very exciting but I don't feel I can talk about it yet. In time!

What HAS been happening is that I finally set up a booth at a farmers market last week with my lovely new friend from the Craft Guild, Rachel Wright. we took our maiden voyage at the Four Seasons Market. ( This market takes place on Saturdays and Sundays at two locations in Richardson. It is meant to be like those in Europe that occur in town squares on saturday mornings and are a mix of produce vendors, artisan craftsmen, etc. We didn't have much to show for our first day but there are some Christmas markets coming up and I'll be sending out an invite for those. I am also producing some work for a garden center in Oak Cliff. I'll have more info about that as it develops.

I don't usually talk about politics but I Feel I need to make some sort of statement here. I have to so that I'm deeply concerned about what is going on in our country right now. Our government is ineffectual, there seems to be more and more hate and anger everywhere you look and everyone seems to be very edgy, angry, anxious, nervous, furious, disdainful, vindictive, etc. etc. etc. The list goes on and on and on. We all need to stop and remember that we all live on this Earth together and must find a way to get along despite our differences. I don't know the answer, I don't think anyone does, I just want to ask everyone to treat each other with love, respect and understanding.

That is all!

P.S. I am posting some pictures of work in progress! Enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Thoughts and feelings on summer and new beginnings

There are lots of reasons for why I haven't made a blog entry lately. The reasons are too numerous to go into point by point in a blog but suffice it say there has been a lot going on and a lot on my mind. Those of you who read this blog, and you are a small but well formed group, will remember that I said I was going to Prague this summer and later, in August, to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Then I was going to direct a couple of musicals but I decided that I had so much else going on in my life and so much else on my mind, it would be a good idea to bow out of that. So here I am, getting the house in order bit by bit, working in the pottery studio a lot and thinking about the fall.

The big news is that we have some forward motion where Front Line Productions is concerned. We sent in our paperwork to Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts and they are filing our application for nonprofit status. As soon as that comes through, we can open a bank account, solicit donations toward our first production and basically do all the things a fledgling theater company does to get it's head above water.

One of the big questions I keep asking myself is what do James and I want this company to be? We joke that our slogan will be "Front Line Productions: Shows That Don't Suck" but I don't think the folks that give out grants would go for that.

I know this: on the whole we want to produce smaller, chamber style musicals, plays with music and shows that bridge the gap between what we think of as musical theater and opera. We want to present a concert series/cabaret series in alternative venues. for myself, I want to start an off-shoot from the main company to present an art song series not unlike the New York Festival of Song which does not draw a line between classical art song and popular song. James loves teaching and would like to present song interpretation workshops/audition workshops and sponsor masterclasses.

We also want this to be a company where actors, creatives are treated fairly, allowed to be creative, allowed to take chances, and where we assume our audiences are intelligent, intuitive and open to our mission.

Most importantly we want it to be fun. As a local director once said, we should be embarrassed to take a paycheck for what we do. That's what I want this to be. I want our company to be a place where we play, communicate and enlighten. I want the shows we produce to be events that move our audiences. Is that too much to ask?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer is coming upon us! (Double entendre intended.)

June 1 is fast approaching as is HOT, HOT weather, crappy tv (oh, wait. Tv is already crappy.) and lots of summer slash and burn guerilla theater!

First on the horizon is a recital up to the UNT with my friend Sarah Daniels. We are performing scenes from Cavalleria Rusticana and Samson et Dalilah. It's the first time I've sung them and NO, you cannot come see it! It's nice to have a break from opera chorus. I was going to sit out a production next season but we're going to have a huge break from mid-November until the end of January so I don't think it will be necessary. And quite frankly, I need the money. I'm planning on FINALLY finishing up my DMA by next May so keep your fingers crossed! It will be a major push.

This summer I'm going to be directing two shows for Ohlook Performing Arts out in Grapevine. Little Women (musical) and The Who's Tommy. as usual with Ohlook there are limited resources and a very small black box space. Where many would panic and not know what to do, I see this as a wonderful challenge. I have a real issue with those people, and I'm talking about people in and around Dallas, who try to do a big budget, high tech Broadway show on a shoestring in a space not equipped to do big, fancy broadway musicals. The results are NEVER good and it just makes the actors, director/choreographer/designers/artistic director look foolish. The question I am asking myself as I approach these two shows is this: How do you tell a clear, moving story when you have a tiny budget and a performance space with no back stage and no storage for sets? Certainly not by trying to cram a lot of scenery and a cast of thousands onto a postage stamp size stage! Do you need a large cast because that's how they did it on The Broadway? Do you need lots of big, fancy costumes like they had on The Broadway? For that matter, do you need a set like they had on The Broadway? I say no! I have some interesting ideas for both shows so if you want to see what I have cooked up I suggest you trek out to Grapevine and take in Little Women and Tommy at Ohlook!

Things in the garden are going well. In the dark of the night last night I planted seeds for two kinds of pumpkins, two kinds of melons, both red and green okra and fancy french egg plants! The cucumbers and zuccini have poked their heads above the soil and the squash plant that mysteriously started growing out of the compost has overtaken half the garden and is putting on squash! We are also picking blackberries on almost a daily basis. It's great fun and always change and NO, it's not a lot of work when you love doing it.

James is tickling the ivories at a gig in Branson, MO until the end of June and then will be working with me at Ohlook as well as music directing Little Shop of Horrors at Water Tower Theater in Dallas. It will be a full summer for all!

That's about it. Nothing earth shaking to report. Maybe next time.

Remember: Do what you love!


Saturday, April 2, 2011

oh sleep, why dost thou leave me!!!!

It's 6am right now. SIX A.M.! I am NEVER up this early. EVER!!!! But I cannot sleep! I'm exhausted, I haven't gotten much sleep over the last two days, I desperately want to sleep, BUT I CAN'T!!!!! So, I decided to write a blog entry and then I'll give it one last shot. (Dear God, I am so TIRED!!!!!)

Anyway, it's been a whirlwind couple of days. We had our dress rehearsals for Boris early in the week and opened last night. I can't help thinking it must be really boring. At least the middle section must be really boring. It just seems not a lot happens for a long time. There were a lot of empty seats last night and the audience gave it a very un enthusiastic reception. Opening night is not our best audience and rumor has it the other performances are selling well so we shall see. I am waiting to find out what idiotic drivel Scott Can't-tell is going to write.

Between the final dress and opening night I hopped on a plane at 7am and went to NYC to audition for St Petersburg Opera. NO, not the one in Russia! The one in Florida. Not nearly as exciting but you do what you gotta do. My audition time was 9pm which struck me as very odd, indeed. I went to an address on west 48th street I wasn't familiar with. It's a very non-descript building in the middle of the block. The "lobby", and I use the word loosely, is just a big, no-frills hallway leading to a VERY industrial-esque elevator. There were "studios" on the second floor that people could rent for rehearsals, lessons or auditions like the one I was there for. Lots of folks were standing around in the hallway all wearing dark suits and ties, the women were wearing their best sunday dresses. There is a sort of banter that singers engage in at these auditions. They act very friendly, and overly effusive with each other but it all seems to be an act and comes off as very fake. I was not wearing a suit, I was not engaging in banter. I found a chair in a corner and just sat quietly playing Scrabble on my phone and trying not to let the adrenalin rush we call nerves get to me.

So finally I went in and sang. There were three people behind the table. I little, mousy fellow who is apparently a bassoonist turned conductor, a rather large, lesbionic woman and a man who was working hard at wanting me to think he was pretty (he wasn't). None of them introduced themselves which isn't uncommon. I sang Recondita Armonia which wasn't bad. The room was very live and I am, by nature, a loud singer so in a way a live room is stacking the deck against me. It's easy to push in such a ringing space but I think I handled it well. I then sang about half of the Flower Song which went well but they stopped me before I got to the hard/high part. The only conversation we had was when the puny guy asked me when I'd been at the Crested Butte Music Festival. Apparently, he was there too but didn't remember our group. Oh, well.

I have no idea if they liked me or not. They had a sort of pokerface response. Maybe I scared them with my lack of a black suit and my nonchalant attitude toward the whole thing. Maybe they thought I wasn't serious? Who knows. I was actually very serious about this audition and while it was expensive to go do it, I'm glad I did. Auditions are such an excellent gage of where one is in one's development and how one does in a high pressure situation. They are always a learning experience.

I have another audition in NYC next week. I'll report on it, as well.

Now I'm going to try to get some sleep. See you soon!

Of course, they were running late

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring, moving, and all that jazz

It's been months since I posted a blog. A lot has been going on and I just haven't had the time or the inclination to sit down and write about it. Today promises to be busy so I will give you the highlights version. If you want details you'll have to email or call me.

The big news is that we have FINALLY moved all of our crap into the house! For those of you who don't know, this is the house in Plano that James grew up in for the most part. We've remodeled the master bathroom, put down wood floors in almost the entire house, and done LOTS of painting. It really looks amazing and feels almost as if we've moved into a new house!

Of course we are still overwhelmed by all the moving boxes. When we moved in, the house was already full of furniture so we've made the living room the temporary storage extra furniture and a place to stack all the boxes. Eventually we'll mix our furniture in with what's already here and take whatever is left over to the Salvation Army. Many of the boxes are full of books (James and I have decided we don't read NEARLY enough!) and we can't unpack them until we get our bookshelves set up back in the game room/office. That's going to be our library and office. I keep saying it's not as bad as it looks but I think James is feeling overwhelmed.

That's the biggest news. The opera season is almost over. Boris Godunov opens April 1 then the season is done. The garden looks great. A few plants survived the freeze and are now flourishing. We have planted parsley, cilantro, two or three kinds of peas, fennel, a few flowers, beats and some lettuces that we hope mature before it gets too hot. The figs and grapevines are waking up. The lemon trees are doing their thing, putting out LOTS of blossoms so we're hoping to have lemons someday. James still wants chickens and I keep trying to change his mind.

That's about it. I have a couple of auditions coming up and a recital or two. Staying busy and trying to keep my head above water!

More to come!

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Years: New Beginnings or the same old sh_t?

It's the third day of 2011 and I'm sitting here wondering what I'm going to do differently this year. My thoughts go first to what needs to be finished that wasn't finished in 2010.

This damn doctorate comes to mind. Other students have begun and finished their doctorates while I have dragged my feet. I think I've taken my time for a lot of reasons. One, this last phase is the most nerve wracking. My course work is mostly done, now I have one more recital to do, then the infamous lecture recital, then writtens and orals. (This last part seems a little redundant seeing as you also write a thesis but no one asked me.)

Two, what I want to do when I grow up has changed. Now, I'm less interested in opera and more interested in musicals, concerts, cabaret, directing and starting a theater company. Opera seems for the most part to be interested in being a living museum. A place where they trot out all the old standards with the same old sets and costumes. The artistic directors, stage directors and performers aren't interested in presenting exciting, living theater set to beautiful music. And most importantly, for me anyway, is that in my experience there is no sense of the company in the opera world. In opera we are not a group of talented, like-minded individuals coming together to create a production. This may just be at Dallas Opera (I hear this is the case.) but it takes the fun away from something that should make us feel like we did when we played dress up as kids. It's all very discouraging and makes me wish I wasn't there.

Three, and this is a big one, I honesty I think I started this degree for the wrong reason. At the time I was working at American Airlines and very, very unhappy but I knew if I left American I had to have something to go to, so I decided to go back to school. I didn't really have an overwhelming desire to be a college professor, I still don't, and in my time at UNT I've been relatively bored. I haven't felt challenged by the course work. In fact, I have discovered that in most cases if you just show up for class you're going to get an A. So much for the challenges of Doctoral programs, at least this one. I have entertained the idea of not finishing but I'm so close I need to just buckle down and get it done.

Now to more positive things! What am I looking forward to in 2011? James and I still talk about starting the theater company and I'm sure this year it will happen. Part of the problem is having the time to do it! Our schedules fill up so quickly. My summer is already filling up as is James'. I'm going back to the Czech Republic and James is going to be working with the Three Redneck Tenors in Branson. Also, we're getting our feet wet on the administration side by working with Ohlook Performing Arts Center. James is now on their board and I want to be on the board, as well. It gives us a good opportunity to learn about running a company and what happens behind the scenes. I think we are getting involved at a good time as they are getting ready to move into a new building. There will be fund-raising to do and new shows to mount. I think this will be a learning experience for both of us.

Also a learning experience is taking our production of [title of show] to the Edinburgh Fringe. So far it's been mostly talk but now things are about to ramp up. We are going to a Fringe Roadshow in NYC this weekend and we're about to start our fund-raising in earnest. We are planning some benefit performances in the next couple of months. My biggest fear is that we'll plan the event, send out the invitations and no one will come. James says it's just a vampire giving me trouble. It stresses me out so I just keep telling myself it will all work out. You just have to stay organized and have faith!

Ok, that's it for now. MOre to come!