Friday, June 30, 2006

happy birthday to me...

the birthday girl
here i am in a booth at kemia with my friend. (he's the one that took the picture.) he says he's the luckiest guy in the world. the truth is, i think i'm the lucky one. no, not lucky. blessed.

remarkably, i didn't wake up today thinking, wow, i'm a year older. (that ended when i was nine.) i woke up thinking, thank God for another day, another birthday, another year on this planet. thank You for my life, my health, my strength. thank You for keeping me in my right mind and able to take care of myself. i woke up feeling grateful to be alive, to be here. later, when everyone started calling with birthday greetings (my father laughing and screaming my age into the phone repeatedly over my mother's shoulder is definitely one for the books), other things came to mind.

in a perfect world, i want any one that meets me to meet me -- not my gender or my race or my age. or my hair. but the fact of the matter is, people are so ageist and sexist and racist that usually that's as far as they extend themselves: what they see. it's some kind of a small miracle that anyone gets past any of that and gets to know the person that's encased in all of that detail, detail that's supposed to be a point of departure in exploring who this person is, not some kind of a cultural/social life sentence that decides who they are and keeps them there against their will. in this business of music and entertainment especially, introductions are like that in a more obvious way. someone meets me, likes my art and immediately wants to know how old i am. but it's like that all the way across the board. when i go home, everyone looks at me funny because i'm a college graduate, i've never been married and i don't have any kids.

in my opinion, nothing ages a woman quite like the act of telling her age. i never tell mine for that very reason. i stopped when i was a little kid. i suppose i figured that with so many details seemingly giving me away at a glance, i didn't want my age to be one of them. of course, everyone knew how old i was but i instinctively knew that not telling was a good habit to develop. and i was right.

hardly anyone ever asks me how old i am, probably because it's quite rude. not that being rude has ever stopped anyone from doing anything, so yeah, i get asked that question. then again in my telling my age they have to tell theirs -- and usually they don't want to do that, even when they say that they do. it's kind of like telling everyone how much you weigh. everyone thinks it's less than it actually is. especially women. and that's another thing. no one cares how old men are. it's not a negative thing for a man to be fifty, with grey hair, a lot of wrinkles and a strong body. its changing for women because what 40+ looks like now is demi moore and madonna and iman and ann curry and beverly johnson and halle berry and rosanna arquette and on and on it goes. women over 40 nowadays look as good as women under 30. those women are already famous, though. they have a team on staff to help them look that way permanently. wouldn't we all look that great if we could make weekly visits to spas and have our own nutritionist and personal chef and personal trainer and life coach and yoga instructor/pilates instructor? and stylist and make-up artist? and hair stylist? who wouldn't look spectacular with all that help? but i digress.

another reason why they probably don't ask how old i am is because they think they already know. i remember my mother telling me a long time ago that i shouldn't get upset when people presume things about me that aren't true because it makes them easier to manipulate. and she was right.

that reminds me of one of my favorite stories about dolly parton. (if i could have anyone's career in the entertainment industry, it would be hers.) back in the 70's, an interview said to her -- "doesn't it bother you that everyone in the whole wide world thinks you're a dumb blonde?" to which she replied, "i know i'm not dumb." and then she said, "i also know i'm not blonde."

i care very much how old i am physically. i care a great deal about how old i look. i don't care at all how old i am chronologically. somewhere in my mid twenties when i was living in austin texas and running around with pot smoking vegan hippies and musicians, "look younger/live longer" became my motto. i decided that i didn't want to get any older physically. according to, i'm not. how did i do it? no smoking (anything), no alcohol, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and keeping myself lean and my cholesterol low with lots of excercise and laying off of stuff like bacon and butter, and making it a habit to drink things like wheatgrass on a regular basis. sometimes i fall off of my routine but i always get right back on it.

the fountain of youth is no fountain at all. it's good nutrition, the gym and a low stress life -- not necessarily in that order.

photos coming soon. (too tired for flikr.)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

the day before

i'd love to be with my entire family for my birthday -- my parents, my brothers, my grandmother and my aunts and uncles and cousins. when i was a little kid, that was the way every birthday ever was and ever would be. it was fun but the predictablity about all of this made the event a non-event. now that my grandfather is gone and my father is 89, having all of us all together feels like something that happened in a dream, or rather, an idealized world that i could only have imagined because saying it now sounds like someone else's invention. how green was my valley? no one would ever believe it.

in a perfect world that is now, i'd celebrate my birthday by going to the beautiful fiji islands for a week or so with my friend. we would wander around doing as little as possible, wearing as much sunscreen as possible. there would be exotic foods to eat and perhaps a spa visit here and there, i suppose, because he really needs a massage and i can always use a facial. i'm not sure about all of the details, except one: at the appointed hour, i would straddle the international date line and stand in yesterday and today simultaneously. and my friend would take my picture as i did so, to prove it to the world. i would frame it elaborately to remind myself of what it felt like to be in two places at once.

oh, well. maybe next year.

i knew that i would have gigs today and tomorrow at swing 46 awhile ago but i decided to make the best of it and celebrate anyway. my friend has to work on friday night so tonight he took me to one of my favorite places, a moroccan tapas bar called kemia conveniently located two blocks away from the gig. i found this place because of renee, who had her going away party there when she went on the road with thoroughly modern millie for more than a year. we've been coming back fairly often ever since, in part because of jamal, the algerian who runs it. renee says he showers us with cocktails whenever we show up because i look so african but i think it's because he's such a charmer. he makes me wish i could speak french. whenever i tell him that, he laughs and says i will someday. i hope he's right.

it was sunny when i left the house but i took the umbrella anyway as an afterthought. when i stepped out of the subway, it was pouring rain. my friend was already there, of course. strangely, our outfits matched -- i wore a white wrap dress with small black polka-dots and cap sleeves, and he wore a white shirt and black pants. it made us look visually coordinated in a strangely appropriate way that pleased us both. it's nice when such moments happen so spontaneously.

jamal was his usual charming self. he had a friend with him, a pretty african woman named eli from togo who was about to relocate to denmark in a month, to be with her boyfriend. friendly introductions were made all around. later, she remarked that my friend looked scandanavian, to which i remarked that he was part norweigan but that he was definitely from america. you can't get more american than new jersey. how interesting that anyone from the other side of the pond can pick him off so effortlessly -- but that's what happens when you travel and are used to looking at people from countries other than your own. actually, eli assumed that i was african as well -- she said that as we chatted, she was waiting for me to tell her where in west africa i was from, and was genuinely surprised that i was american. that's a high compliment in my world. eli invited me back the following thursday -- a haitian friend was having what she called a modern baby shower and she wanted me to come. jamal made a point of inviting me back the next night, to have a drink before my gig. great idea. i made a mental note to bring ralph and jack.

my friend had never been to kemia before and really seemed to like it a lot. he doesn't like to go to bars because he works in one -- but maybe this will turn into a spot for us.

the gig with jc was painless and fun because the band is such a good time and everyone gets along so famously. lots of goofing off and inside jokes and soloing and riffing and such. it was over before midnight, which made me giddy. the next thing i knew, i was one year older -- at least, technically. not surprisingly, i was born at lunchtime.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

my perspective

what i saw

this is the way things looked for me in my makeshift booth at excello recording studio in billyburg as i laid out scratch vocals for "the harlem experiment" -- the latest effort from producer aaron levinson for ropeadope records.

at work on

in the room -- ruben rodriguez on bass, aaron the producer, steve (whose last name escapes me) on percussion and the one and only carlos alomar on guitar. i had way too much fun with this one. more details to follow here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

some birthday stuff

My birthday is June 30th. Here’s what I’m giving myself this year.
  1. A clean bill of health
  2. the AAA Voiceover package
  3. Hardback books for my personal library -- the musician’s handbook: a practical guide to understanding the music business; the cool girl’s guide to knitting; Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock, Sheryl Crow: No Fool To This Game, Goodbye Little Rock and Roller, 100 strokes of the brush before bed and last but not least a hardback edition of la princessa: Machiavelli for women, to replace the one in paperback that I wore out sometime last year.
  4. A basic facial from Mario Badescu
  5. A day at the beach with my friend – a bikini, a long walk, a picnic. the works.
  6. A hard shell case for my baby taylor guitar
  7. five new dresses
  8. two Enid Collins box purses
  9. a comprehensive mailing to jingle houses in NYC
  10. this one won’t happen by my birthday but I want it nonetheless – a MAC endorsement.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

flotsam and jetsam

  1. they say that for an artist, record labels are obsolete. unless you're going to sing disco for a living (or whatever else they stick in front of you), you have to do your own thing. start your own label. release your own cd on your own nickel with no distribution. blah, blah, blah. of course, if you're independent and unsigned, the real money -- and exposure -- is in licensing. but nobody explains how to pull it off.
  2. one thing is for sure: if you are a record label of one like i am, the worldwide web is your very best friend. if corporations take control of the internet, that would mean pure disaster to d.i.y. rock 'n roll folks like me. stay tuned.
  3. if i could have gone to willie mae rock camp for girls for the summer instead of the state of georgia's governor's honors program for theater when i was a kid, i probably would have taken the guitar seriously a lot sooner.
  4. better late than never!
  5. just because black folks don't frequent broadway plays and musicals doesn't mean that they don't go to the theater in droves. just ask tyler perry.
  6. the chitlin circuit is in the black (pardon the pun) but broadway has been hemmoraging money for years. so everybody's running to put up musicals in las vegas and corporations are producing them on both coasts. (las vegas?! ew.)
  7. oprah says she doesn't have a beef with hip-hop. she makes some interesting points, though. everybody's got an opinion about it. (i think she's right.)
  8. africa is ready for a black jesus. the rest of the world probably is, too. it's middle america that's going to have a cow about it.
  9. here's a bit of insight from i just had a thought that made me have a few thoughts of my own. and last but not least...
  10. in the article "what i wish i'd known about marriage," here's what lance armstrong's ex-wife kristin has to say -- "Here is the truth as I see it: Marriage has the potential to erode the very fiber of your identity. If you aren't careful, it can tempt you to become a "yes woman" for the sake of salvaging your romantic dream. It can lure you into a pattern of pleasing that will turn you into someone you'll hardly recognize and probably won't like. I am warning you because I only wish someone had warned me."
  11. ...and in the article "first comes baby then comes marriage?" marianne reid says -- "The attitude that marriage is not necessary to nurture and raise our children is actually a new one in the black community. Historically, blacks have valued the institution of marriage and the traditional two- parent household. In 1890, 80 percent of African-American families were headed by two parents, even though many had started life in forced family separation under slavery. Even in the 1960s, when black Americans were in the height of civil rights strife, 23 percent of black babies were born out of wedlock, a modest figure compared with 70 percent today. And today's single moms aren't just welfare teens, either. Most out-of-wedlock black babies are being born to women in their 20s and 30s across the economic spectrum." Interesting stuff.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

back in the saddle again

After a pit stop at Wegman’s for some vittles, a mandatory greasy lunch stop at Wendy’s (that's what you do on the road, isn't it?) which was remarkably good (like they made it that very minute just for us) and a gas tank fill-up somewhere in the bowels of New Jersey, Mark and I drove back to NYC in 4 hours, sans traffic, accompanied by lots of talk and advice, and Heart’s greatest hits. (My personal favorite: Dog and Butterfly. I haven't heard that since grade school.) All of that cement and noise and so many buildings coming at me all at once as we crossed the George Washington Bridge was a shock to my system. I love this city but when I think of what I left behind in Auburn – which looks a lot like my childhood environs in Atlanta and Charleston, respectively – it’s a bit of a let-down to be back.

See what I mean?

Having a roommate after living alone for so long was truly stultifying. My next big goal: to live alone.

My friend met me uptown and I told him stories as I unpacked – and boy did I have a lot of stuff. Thank God Mark had a truck! Later, we went down the hall to Paul and Chad’s apartment to get my mail. Their place is absolutely cavernous – two bedrooms, one full bathroom, a formal spacious living/dining room that overlooks the street and a side room and kitchen. When I told him how much they paid for rent (less than he does), his eyes glazed over. Harlem living. It seriously can’t be beat.

The very next day, I hit the ground running with an important meeting for my performance piece. thankfully, it went smashingly well.

Interesting news: I’ve got an audition on Friday for a part in an AEA showcase that’s a musical/cabaret act called “at least it’s pink” (don’t even go there). I’ve never heard of the singer Bridget Mellman but Kenny Mellman is Herb of Kiki and Herb fame. Love him. My manager is excited because the director also directed many episodes of Sex and the City, so in all likelihood as the saying goes, the show has legs.

I also hit the ground running, literally. I’m in the gym every morning, doing hard labor. And you know what? I don’t see any progress. I’m not giving up, though. What’s next? Studio work and gigs, lots of writing for the performance piece. Practicing guitar and piano a lot. Writing songs.

one sidenote: i guess the air conditioner i had in auburn was too good to me because as soon as the heat hit me on my first night back in my hotter 'n hell apartment, i surprised myself and bought an air conditioner. later, i remembered that i took both of my fans to the salvation army last fall because i knew that it would force me to buy one. i knew that getting it would be worth the sacrifice. and it is.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

a few parting shots

the finished product
this is what i look like when i'm ready to do my big "apollo" number. and no, i couldn't really walk in it. it felt as though my knees were roped together and i had to wobble everywhere. sitting down was never a good idea. and whenever i raised my arms, i felt as though i was about to flash someone.

by the time this picture was taken, i had lost about 10 pounds. i'm not there yet physically but at least i'm on my way. amazing, what a little make-up and a corset can do.

kim cool, hiding in my clothes!
this is kim cool, hiding in my costumes. all of 20 years old, from auburn, never been anywhere, way too much fun -- and she's a really good little stitcher. i am going to miss this girl. we didn't hang out enough. she is a hoot and a holler.

celeste breaks into song (
this is celeste sayles (whom i called celestial seasonings) as she bursts into song in the dressing room with "i will survive." celestial is a panic and a caution. we kept having beautiful moments onstage that had absolutely nothing to do with what was going on around us. it's always some other kind of wonderful when things like that happen out of nowhere. those moments made us jump for joy inside ourselves. actually, something in me still jumps whenever i think about it.

andrea, hard at work
this is andrea, who's always on her gig. she'll be there for most of the summer, in two more productions i think. they don't call it summer stock for nothing.

this is tristan, the drummer that everyone called "slick" -- probably because he's so wonderfully sweet and quiet and not like that at all.

before the show
this is what it looks like before the show as i step out of my dressing room.

and this is what it looks like as i round the corner...

the ciao cake
when i saw this cake, it actually made me a little sad...

of course, "strike" happened immediately after they cleared the house. all of the non-union actors attacked the set like their lives depended on it -- probably because they couldn't wait to get to the bar and get trashed. alcohol is overrated. mineral baths are not. i couldn't wait to get to my oversized tub for a nice long soak. believe it or not, it took about an hour or so to unhinge everything. they had 4 days to put in the next show.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

thank you, delphine

everyone is required to be in the theater 30 minutes before curtain and sign in on a call sheet but we can show up anytime before what everyone calls "half-hour" -- to stretch, to vocalize, to do whatever we need to do so we can perform at our best.

in film and tv, there's always someone sitting around ready to put your make-up on you and touch it up as the work day goes along. in theater, you do your own make-up. you have your professional brushes, your rice powder and everything else you need. it's one of those things you have to show up knowing how to do, or run the risk of looking mighty busted. it only takes me 15 minutes to put mine on. and no, i'm not exaggerating by a long shot. i know my face and i know what i'm doing, thanks to delphine mantz -- an equity performer that took me under her wing on my first non-union bus and truck tour. when she saw that i didn't have a clue, she took it upon herself to show me everything. we even took a trip to the local mall, to make essential cosmetic purchases. i can remember her leaning over my shoulder and telling me where to apply the color and how and how much. she did that every night for weeks until i could hear her voice on my shoulder, telling me what to do.

whenever i'm doing theater and i see anyone struggling with their make-up, i help them wholeheartedly. because once upon a time, that was me. and whenever i put on make-up, i send her a tiny heartfelt thank-you because she didn't have to help me at all. i mean, really. she could have sat back and laughed at me like everyone else did. but she didn't. so thank you, delphine.

one thing is for sure: nothing says "rank amateur" on this end of the business like not being able to beat your own face.

before i start
here's what i start with -- a bare, clean, well-moisturized face, warts and all. frankly, i'm very proud of the fact that i have clear skin. i was born with it and i've worked hard to maintain it. unfortunately when i gain weight, it happens in my face first, so i get a round look. more on that later.

first the base
the next step is foundation, of course.

eyebrows second
the first thing i'm going to do when i get back to nyc is pay my eyebrowist a little visit. i know you can hardly see them but they've grown in completely and are totally unmanagable. i've had to draw them in every night.

this is always a good idea. gives shape, definition. suddenly, my face isn't so round...

coloring in
this is a fun step. that reminds me -- i have to get some green eyeshadow when i get home.

this is sort of the homestretch.

silver lame eyeshadow
this stuff makes my eyes pop.

...and then ralph called
and then of course ralph called and we chatted while i finished up.

almost finished!
this doesn't look like i've got on any make-up at all! and i'm wearing gobs of it.

wig attachment
this looks like my hair from a distance. well. maybe up close, too. by the way, the body mic is inside of the wig.

almost done...
this band matches the dress and the flower ties it all together.

finished from the neck up!
..and here i am, ready to put on my gown.

i squeeze into my costume at the last possible minute because it's so tight, i can barely sit in it. hard to believe it was even tighter a few weeks ago. i wonder how much weight i've lost. i should check that at the Y tomorrow. i'm in the last half of each act, so i can sort of take it easy. sort of. more on that gown later.

interestingly enough, my goal this summer is to get an endorsement from MAC. (please pray for me!)

i don't wear make-up every day. only when i have to perform or audition for something. for some guys, if you're not wearing make-up, they don't think that you should leave the house. thankfully, my friend thinks i'm pretty without it but i really would like to learn how to put it on for daytime. i suppose that's oxymoronic -- putting on make-up to look like you're not wearing any make-up. hm. maybe i should stick to my clear skin routine and leave it alone...

Monday, June 12, 2006

the last week

doing this show has been fun (we've been sold out for the entire run for the last week or so and the audiences have been great) but i'm ready to go back to the city. there's a lot that's waiting for me: the meeting, the recording session, the birthday gig and the gig the night before the birthday gig -- all of that before the end of the month. so far, i've worked hard on a treatment for the performance piece and the opening monologue, and i've made an information packet that i think i'll mail to each of them tomorrow -- a few articles i found on the great migration north and the recent phenomena of the great migration south, along with a booklist and some interesting graphs -- so they can pore over it now and we can all begin on the same page. i'm working hard to do as much as i can for the meeting before i get there because it happens the day after i arrive and i really want to be ready for it.

besides, my friend is coming over to have mexican food and watch adult swim with me the day that i get back. (he loves squidbillies. i love robot chicken.) if i work this hard now, i'll feel that i'll deserve that downtime. he says he misses me and to tell you the truth, i'm starting to believe him.

funny but in this last week, i can feel myself stepping everything up a few notches. i work out in the morning and again in the afternoon (i read somewhere that missy elliot worked out that way to lose weight) and then i walk several miles to the theater. when i come home from work, i draw myself a nice, hot bath -- partly because i know i won't be able to do that at home, thanks to my roommate situation, and i want to bask in that small slight luxury for as long as i can. and i make sure that i eat really well -- lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, lots of water, and no junk whatsoever. well. i have been stopping for coffee at this gas station that sits across the park from the theater, on the circular road. my friend says it's his bad influence. he's definitely a coffee achiever. maybe he's right.

i think i'm pushing this hard because i've got a great routine going and because i'm seeing such wonderful results. that's why a part of me doesn't want to let go of my life here. i want to get as much out of this as i possibly can. i'll probably get up early on the morning we return to the city, just so i can get in a nice hard sweat one last time at the ywca before we hit the road. boy howdy, nothing motivates like progress.

this small town has been good to me -- but really, i've been good to me, by using this opportunity to help myself in the best way possible. it's been a great jump start. but hey -- isn't this what famous people do? if i were famous and loaded (because a lot of famous people aren't), wouldn't i have done something like this? go away somewhere for a month or so, decompress, detox, spend time with a life coach to refocus and work out with a trainer to get lean? famous fat people and how they lose weight is what i read about in the trashy celeb magazines while i'm sweating on the stairmaster. there's irony in there somewhere but i'm too exhausted to find it.

spectacular news!

i finally! finally! finally! scheduled a meeting with ken roberson and vernon reid about working with me on an idea i've got for a performance piece. no easy feat, believe me. when ken called me back, he was in london. and vernon returns his phone calls but he's always away or in transit. finally, we're going to get together at this restaurant up the street from my place and talk about all this. i'm making information packets for both of them, filled with reading lists/suggestions, articles, links and a few graphs -- if it's one thing i do believe in as an actor/writer, it's research.

this is something i've wanted to do for a long time. it basically grew out of conversations that ken and i had in the middle of harlem song's tech rehearsals, an article that i'd read in the new york times about the great migration in reverse and some things that had i'd been thinking, about the south and my personal family history, for a long time. and of course, everytime i ran into ken, i'd insist that i was working on an idea and he'd encourage me. one night at joe's pub, i ended up running into vernon and ken at the same time -- i had just seen stew's performance and they were turning the house over for some broadway cabaret act, so vernon and i bumped into each other as we were making an exit and then we almost collided with kenny at the door. interestingly enough, they had never met. after introductions were made, ken had a moment of kismet and blurted, we all have to work together. i pitched this to brad, the director of programming at aaron davis hall a few months before i came up here -- kenny and i always had the understanding that i'd put his name on whatever proposals i was working on -- and he was "intrigued."

so far i'm batting a thousand but there's a lot of work to be done. i have to flesh out the proposal on paper but most importantly i have to attach the names of people who'll commit to being involved with its development. i want kenny to direct it and vernon to be the music director. whoever kenny feels is appropriate for choreographer is fine by me. i'd want my friend renee to do it but i think she might be on the road when this happens. kenny feels that his recent forays into blues music -- especially with the last few albums that he's produced -- make him an ideal candidate. the meeting happens the day after i get back to nyc, so i have to hit the ground running when i get there. brad says that they can put it in their new work series next spring. pretty exciting stuff.

this is what i've been working on in my alone time here, while everyone else gets loaded and chases each other around. wow. this has been a fat farm and a writer's retreat. who knew?

Friday, June 09, 2006

what i did on my day off

last week, there was some talk of going to a drive-in somewhere in the area. what a great idea! it seemed to good to be true -- but why wouldn't it be, especially in a small town like this? eventually we talked about it for so long, somebody came up with a plan, made the phone calls for times and directions, and all of a sudden, it was our day off and all the particulars were in order. it was becky the wig lady and sam the dresser and i, and then tristan the drummer and michael who plays hipockets came along, too. that's only two cars -- an important detail if you don't want to sit in the back seat to watch the flick.

becky and sam had never been to a drive-in. i don't think tristan had, either but michael probably did. i hadn't been to a drive-in since my uncles took me and my brothers to see blacula when i was a little kid. after that, i was terrified of vampires and of being left alone in the dark until my uncle jackie explained that it was mathmatically impossible for vampires to exist. by his guesstimation, everybody would end up biting everyone in the whole wide world on the neck in a matter of weeks. that number included babies, too. and really, how plausible is that? (he's kind of brilliant, my uncle jackie.) after he sat me down and broke that down to me, i wasn't afraid of bela lugosi or william marshall or of being left alone in the dark any more. later, i remember seeing blacula on pee-wee's playhouse as the king of cartoons and i was a little scared but only for a second. i loved him, really. he was so beautiful and elegant and obviously he was a shakespearean actor in his prime.

i wasn't really interested in over the hedge. i wanted to see the da vinci code. as it turns out, the first movie was quite wonderful and the last one was a real clunker. more on that later.

it was cold and rainy (in june!!) but they said they'd show the movie after dusk no matter what. two movies and only $7 to get in. wow. a cute little old man took our money and gave us chocolate covered mint discs a la peppermint patties but thinner, along with our ticket stubs. in the darkness, we thought that they were some kind of token to start the machine for the sound thingy that hangs onto the window but he told us to tune our car radios to a certain channel if we didn't want to use it. there was a collective "aaaaaaawwww!" in the car when we all realized they were candy.

i didn't know what kind of food they'd have, so i brought along a gigantic bag of chee-tos and a bottle of organic berry juice. i shouldn't have bothered. they had hot dogs, hamburgers, onion rings, french fries, bushels of popcorn (the big one was $4 with free refills all night) and all kinds of candy and soda pop and what-not. it was very mom & pop in there, like someone was cooking all this stuff out of their kitchen. and the girls who worked there wore these really cute outfits. i had to have a very good hot dog with german mustard (they're real big on hot dogs/sausages and german mustards up here, for some reason) to get me in the mood for the double-feature.

imagine -- this place had been in business for more than 50 years. i completely and utterly loved it. we slowly drove through the mud and sludge until we found the just-right spot and we got there early enough to park next to each other. the little refreshment stand fit snugly below the screen and was completely unobtrusive. surprising, because there was so much stuff in it and it was actually bigger than it looked.

becky had brought something to sit on the grass with and a small blanket but it was all too muddy for that. thankfully there were picnic tables on either side of the refreshment stand. she and michael sat at one of them through most of the first flick but it was all too cold for me. unfortunately, i left my parka at home. i took my sandals off and let my feet thaw out in tristan's car. he was sweet enough to keep turning the heat on and off. sam bounced back and forth between the car and the picnic table, finally settling comfortably in the backseat. somewhere after the first flick, it got too cold for michael and becky and they retreated to his car during intermission. tristan was so sweet. when we all settled in at the beginning of the night in our different locales, he felt badly that all of us couldn't be in one big car, all together.

this is what it looked like when we first got there but pretty soon it was dark and we were surrounded by cars. (i know it doesn't look like it but the screen is massive.)

i have to admit it: as we reclined in our seats and i ate yet another cheese puff, i couldn't help but look over at tristan and wish that he were my friend, who was probably working his brains out in the lower east side at that very moment. he would probably love to go to a drive-in with me. i could make really good things to eat and we could go somewhere in jersey, far enough away from the city to make it colorful and interesting. i did a little research when all of this talk about drive-ins was flying through the air backstage and found the coolest website that gave me so much detail and history. (i love the internet!) apparently, there's been a revival of drive-ins all over the country. and why not? it should be the fun cool cheap kitchy thing to do in the summertime. maybe if i learn how to drive before the end of the summer, i could surprise my friend one day by renting a car and taking him to a driveway somewhere in the middle of jersey. i wouldn't tell him where we were going, of course.

of course ralph would love this, too.

in the meantime, maybe we'll all go back to the drive-in before i leave for nyc. if we do, here's what will be playing.

and about the movies i saw.

i thought that over the hedge was going to be a little too cutesy and play itself out like a one-note samba but in spite of the well-worn plotline it was actually funny, with some pretty bizarre unexpected moments that were a real hoot. a kiddie movie that can entertain the adults. i love animation, anyway. thumbs up.

the da vinci code had a great premise and there were moments of real intrigue but it was looooong and wordy and cerebral and although most (if not all) of what they said about jesus and mary magdalene and how the Bible came to be was complete rubbish, it's especially annoying to watch because people are seeing it in the movie, reading it in the book and taking it as fact. people aren't interested in the truth. they're interested in a truth that they're comfortable with, one that justifies whatever they want to believe and makes them feel good. still and all, i'm glad i saw it. now i'm going to read the book. isn't the book always better than the movie? i'm giving this a thumbs down -- but only if you have to pay $12 to see it. hey -- i only paid $3.50.

it was soooo nice, to sit there in the darkness, laughing and whispering and all. the cool of the night was genuinely enjoyable on a whole other level when my bare feet were so toasty-warm. i remember thinking: there really are some things that new york city can't give me. this is definitely one of them. and i love this. for some reason, that made me love it even more.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

a few candid shots

just thought you'd like to see what my work day world looks like these days.

i'm starting to have a lot of fun but that's usually when everything comes to a crashing halt and the show closes and its time to go home. the truth is, this is the vacation i really needed. and there's more work waiting for me when i get back to the city. thank God. more on that later. in the meantime...

this is my station. it's very very basic. thankfully, i don't need much -- in part because i know what i'm doing when i put on make-up.

this is what i look like when i'm almost finished. the dress i wear is strapless. i bundle up until i have to go on because it's always freezing backstage.

here's a glimpse of the guy's dressing room, about 20 minutes before the show starts. that's ryan with the mandolin, by the way. he plays the big bopper, amongst several other parts. in the opening, he's in "the hayriders" a country band that plays on a live broadcast out of lubbock, tx.

this is buddy holly and the crickets : (from l to r) devon on bass, chris on drums and eric as buddy on guitar.

this is lauren, the wardrobe mistress.

this is becky, the wig mistress.

this is lisa, the wig/hair designer.

this is sam, the dresser who lives under my skirt. my strapless gown has a petticoat that has to be readjusted when i put it on, so she gets down there and yanks it into position. what a gal!

the costumes get mended and cleaned constantly. needless to say, there's no food or drink allowed in the dressing rooms and there's no eating anything while you're wearing one. not even gum.

this is me and jermaine, noshing on oatmeal chocolate chip cookies at intermission in our underwear. he has got to be one of the funniest people i've ever met. we were on the bridge with carl for the top of act 2 (the three of us do a jingle for astoria cigarettes, which is apparently where buddy holly got the melody for "that'll be the day") and the stage managers kept flashing a light on us, to make sure that we were all there. so out of nowhere, jermaine blurts out, can't you see that we're all up here? what do you want us to do, open our eyes wider and smile? there was a pause, and then we couldn't stop laughing. i told him that he must've had a side of fruit of islam with his black power cereal that morning. trippy.

earlier today, he and mario gave me a bottle of newfangled strawberry gatorade that said "fierce!" on it. (i love strawberries!) needless to say, i have no intentions of ever opening it. speaking of mario...

here he is, working his magic. believe it or not, he looks exactly like john leguizamo. or fred ward. i can't decide which. he plays ritchie valens so well, the little old ladies have been calling the office asking about him. he says if there's a hot meal in it for him, he's down. i promised the local lady librarian that i would bring him into the library to sign her program. she's seen the show at least three times and i know she doesn't believe me. when i told him about it, i said oh -- i should have told her to bake you something! and for a moment he looked genuinely sad and said yeah, you should have.

this is daryl, the choreographer. she just graduated from nyu's tisch school of the arts with a musical theater major. i don't know how she puts up with my two left feet.

this is me and my friend, sitting inside green shutters cafe.

and last but not least: this is my favorite lunch (l) from the green shutters cafe (r) (that's what it looks like as you turn the corner to enter from parking) -- the most perfect cobb salad imaginable. everything is fresh, crisp and delicious. the cold things are cold and the hot things (the chicken, the bacon) are hot. yum.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

this is where i work

the theater i'll be performing in sits snugly in emerson park, on the edge of lake oswego. all of it is breathtakingly gorgeous. the river that runs through the city takes you all the way to canada, which is surprisingly nearby. when the sun is shining, this is a lovely place. no wonder this was a stop on the underground railroad. no wonder harriett tubman went to canada, retrieved her parents and brought them back to live here, in a house that's right up the street from where i stay.

auburn is a weird place. wierd, wierd, wierd.

there's a 24 hour wal-mart, there's a taco bell and a wendy's and a mall with a food court and a bass pro-shop. there's even a 24 hour wegman's for good measure, to give wal-mart a little competition. rite-aid. mc donald's. lots of stuff i glimpse and recognize from someplace else. that kind of stuff carries it own sadness, for the way that it's destroying communities and the general health and welfare of the populace. mostly, there are a neverending parade of old buildings and houses that i've never seen before, with their bay windows and turrets and elaborate verandas and massive back and front yards, that make everything seem worn and strange. and haunted. if it's true that things carry the energy of the person or the thing that was there before, these edifices are weighed down with so much history, they practically glow with an ethereal presence that shimmers with otherworldliness. and so i am fascinated. and because i love history as much as i do, i am intrigued and entralled and genuinely curious about this little town and every victorian house i see. but there is a lot of sadness here, the kind that permeates you from the inside out. it feels like somebody died.

welcome to the northeast, my friend wisecracked.

he arrived on monday to see wednesday's opening night performance. although i was at the theater most of the time doing ten out of twelves (scheduled for two days in a row), we managed to spend some quality time together at emerson park where the theater is located, walking around oswego lake and sitting and taking in the day. he said that i sounded like a five year old because everytime i saw a bird, i thought it was a duck.

Funny thing. There were inmates from the local prison tending to the grounds at the entrance to the theater when we were on our way to the lake. I forgot my camera and went inside to retrieve it. One of them said hello to me as I passed by. I smiled at him and spoke. He was smaller than the others and brown skinned, with long kinky brown hair. I expected him to say something. why shouldn't he? it's our black thing.

As i exited the theater, another one pulled his shades down to the tip of his nose with one finger as he held a weed trimmer in his other hand. I had shades on, so I could watch him watching me. He looked like the kind of hayseed I’d seen a million times over: skinny legs stuck underneath a round belly that made him look like a bullfrog standing up; greasy hair that was a little too black, with the kind of white skin that tans a little too easily; rolled up sleeves, an upturned collar and a tilt in his walk. Prison wasn’t going to kill his style. Oh, no. He gave me a long slow stare, like i had him hypnotized, just to let me know that he was looking and he liked what he saw. When I got within 3 feet of him, he said hello politely, and I smiled and greeted him. All of the prisoners stopped working to watch this exchange. Even the guard in the car was paying attention. I had absolutely no idea why.

My friend says they’re from jail, not prison, for stuff like bounced checks -- but there is no jail here. I guess he was taking the bite out of us walking through the park with them drifting around and tending the grounds, and the strong possibility that I would see them again. As it turns out, Becky the wig lady told me that when she got here, she was told that she'd probably never see an inmate because most of them are in prison for life. I couldn’t help but wonder what each of the inmates that I saw working quietly in the sun did to end up there.

My friend and I can't seem to agree as to whether or not we're in the suburbs. he thinks we are because the countryside to him is when you have to drive for two or three hours to get to a grocery store and you shop knowing that you're stocking up for the next month or two. he cites his favorite locations in new mexico as examples. i think we're in the countryside because although there are houses and backyards and such, there is farmland and farm equipment everywhere, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and space. i cite my uncle's place in walterboro as an example of what i mean. semi-rural? semi-suburban? i can't tell from here. when i think i'm in the suburbs, something around me feels like the countryside and vice versa. Back and forth.

my friend was trying to say that this was our first visit to the suburbs together, the suburbs being a bastion of normalcy and decorum that we don't have in the city and certainly not a city like our fair metropolis. the truth is, new york city is basically a monochromatic strip mall, filled with college students, fashion victims and dilletantes posing as musicians and actors, almost all of them anglo and almost all of them from somewhere else. there is no multicultural explosion of ideas and politics and cool. take a walk through the lower east side on a saturday night. it's like a portal from somewhere in the midwest opened up at the corner of stanton and ludlow and let out all these screaming drunken white twentysomethings that are living the new york city that they saw on sex and the city. not that there's anything wrong with that but who else could possibly afford it?

auburn feels wierder than new york city ever did. more authentically wierd. new york city is where people go to affect the kind of wierdness that's in a place like auburn on an ordinary day. i used to believe that the real freaks and wierdos lived in new york city but now my theory is that they've either retreated to small towns like auburn because they know how bogus new york city really is or they’ve never left those places to check any of it out because the new york city that they’re imagining is way more dangerous and edgy than the one that actually exists. That’s the reason why a lot of people I know never left home to do their art. They were completely intimidated by everything they’d seen in the movies or heard from the people who returned home because they couldn’t cut it.

my friend says that sometimes he wants to disappear to a town like this and live in a big cool house and do his art. i think that's the right idea. famous people do it all the time, mostly because once you establish yourself with what you do, you can live where ever you want. when carole king was at the height of her fame with the album tapestry, she moved to idaho with her second husband and raised her two kids. oleta adams lives in kansas city. julia roberts lives on a ranch in new mexico. and everybody knows where demi moore lives.

i would love to live in a big old victorian house here but my friend says if i can't take the cold weather in the city, i definitely couldn't take the snow upstate.

Today is another 12 hour tech rehearsal – noon to midnight – but hopefully we’ll wander through emerson park again and then to green shutters cafĂ© for a cobb salad. My friend is convinced that they make the best food in town. He's right, so far.

So many ducks, so little time.

the rehearsal space

the rehearsal space
Originally uploaded by queenesther.
this has been the largest room of my work space for the initial 12 days of rehearsal in auburn, new york for "the buddy holly story." it's a gym on the 2nd floor of westminster presbyterian church, a stone's throw away from where i live -- a place called king's court, interestingly enough. right next door is queen's court. i think they're both haunted. actually, i think everything here is haunted -- but that's another conversation.

there are two other spaces in the church to flesh out movement and vocals respectively -- the loft and the junior room, where we all first met -- but this is the one where the rock and roll happens. and it needs to be. a part of what makes this show so wonderful is the fact that the music comes alive right in front of you -- not with any of the traditional trappings of musical theater like an orchestra pit but with guitar, drums and upright bass. really simple, straightforward stuff.

it's all been kind of refreshing for me, actually. listening to these three chord rock songs that are on the radio all the time, recorded by everyone. i first heard "it's so easy" by linda rondstadt when the eagles were her backing band. and i first heard james taylor singing "everyday" -- it still blows me away that buddy holly wrote that song. it has me rethinking my songwriting and song structure. not that it needed an overhaul but i'd like to give that three chord magic a try. there's something fresh and uncomplicated about it. maybe my ears needed a vacation. i know i did.

no one can figure out my part in the show when i tell them that i'm in it. here's a big fat clue: buddy holly and the crickets were the first all white act to play the apollo theater in harlem. i play the singer that shares the bill with them. i get to look beautiful and sing two or three songs with this massively huge showstopping moment in a gorgeous strapless gown. it's an unexpected moment and it ends the first act, so it's got to be action-packed. and it is.

my part is called "the apollo singer." go figure.