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Wrist to Forehead Sunday: Oscar Edition

Like I know anything about the Oscars.  My husband, Steven, has always been a big Oscar fan and is quite knowledgeable about The Academy.  As regular readers know, I am more enamored of old cheesy horror movies.  Oh, I like some Oscar movies.  In fact, of recent movies, I certainly like Oscar movies better than huge, effects-heavy actioners or superhero movies, or asinine comedies replete with toilet humor.  I can’t say I’m a snob, given my love of William Castle and Roger Corman.  Let’s say my tastes are.. not mainstream.

All that said, when we had a chance to see all or most of the main Oscar nominees, we did.  Ever since we returned to the Mohawk Valley, however, it has not been so easy.  Sometimes it just seems such an effort to get to the area cinemas, even when they show the films we want to see.  Munson Williams shows movies, but even getting to Utica can be problematic, especially given Steven’s work hours.

Oh, don’t accuse me of whining. I suppose I am whining, but I don’t mean to be. After all, one does not whine on Wrist to Forehead Sunday.  One swoons, in a dramatic fashion, the back of one’s wrist against one’s forehead, because life has become too much to be borne.  Alas!  Alack the day! You call that whining?  I call that an honest, if slightly exaggerated, response to the trauma of life.

So, on the brighter side, I get to stay up and watch the Oscars, because I have tomorrow off.  Normally I go to bed early on Sunday, to recruit my energies for the week ahead.  Additionally, I have taken two short naps today.  I feel in fine, TV-viewing fettle.  On the dimmer side, I have not seen any of the moves nominated, and I don’t even know most of the stars, especially since we let our subscription to Entertainment Weekly lapse (we found ourselves increasingly less entertained by it).

Back on the brighter side, I hear Steven washing the dishes, so I don’t have to do it.  That’s pretty nice of him on his Fabulous Four-Day Birthday Weekend.  That’s more on the brighter side than on the dimmer.  Maybe I should peel my wrist off my forehead and get back to enjoying my Sunday.  In the meantime, how about an Oscar nomination for that swoon?

 

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Not Necessarily a Dramatic Post

I went running this morning, thinking I could do a Sunday Running Commentary.  It did not go well.  I went for a walk with my husband a little while ago, thinking I could do a Pedestrian Post.  It was a lovely walk, but that’s about all I can say about it.  Next time I’ll go when it isn’t so close to sundown, bring my tablet along, and get some pictures.  That’s always fun.  Well, this cannot be the day I do not make a blog post.  This is a daily blog, dammit, and I post daily.

Oh dear, that is quite the wrong attitude for Wrist to Forehead Sunday.  I must be pose dramatically, about to swoon, and moan, “The blog must go on!”

This is not me, but I have been known to get this dramatic for the flimsiest of reasons.

I just spent an inordinate amount of time searching for a photo I could use for illustration.  This is not quite what I wanted, but I think it will do.  It is from The Great American Melodrama.  I found it in a group of public photos after searching Facebook for “melodramatic poses.”  I was in a melodrama once and enjoyed it quite a bit.  My husband directed.

I’m the one in the fur.

Here is one of me in a melodrama: Dirty Work at the Crossroads at Ilion Little Theatre, back in 2013, if I remember correctly (don’t expect me to look it up on Wrist to Forehead Sunday).  This is not my most dramatic scene, but apparently nobody photographed that one.  I actually did put my wrist to my forehead to declaim, “Oh shame! Oh degradation!”  It was one of my favorite moments on stage ever.

Well, what a silly post this is turning out to be.  I’ve blathered on for some 300 words, shared a couple of pictures, and not said a whole heck of a lot.  Well, what can you do on a Sunday?  I’ll try to do something better that I can write about tomorrow.  In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying the end of your weekend.  I am

 

Lame Post Before Drama

My life for the foreseeable future is going to be DRAMA!  No, I’m not going to be continually having Wrist-to-Forehead whatever day it is (although I suppose it could happen).  I mean my life is going to be theatre, Theatre, THEATRE!   (Yes, I must spell it with with “re”.)  I led with the first sentence for the sake of being, obviously, dramatic.  Who could blame me?

First, however, I shall make my weekly Friday Lame Post.

Earlier today I met with a lady from the Morningstar Methodist Church regarding a murder mystery dinner theatre fundraiser they are presenting in conjunction with Ilion Little Theatre.  Guess who’s writing and directing?  No, I’m not starring as well, although I expect I shall play a small but pivotal role.  It is very exciting for me.  I haven’t done a murder mystery in a long time, although we did them quite frequently in the North Country during the 1990s.

I shall write more blog posts on that project as I continue to work on it.

Additionally, auditions approach for Leading Ladies, Ilion Little Theatre’s spring production, which I am directing.  I must talk with the fellow who promised to build my set and with the lady who agreed to work on costumes.  I must pick out scenes for actors to read at auditions.  I must come up with a sheet for auditioners to fill out, including contact information, availability, etc etc.  And that is only a few of the things I have to think about.

Again, more blog posts will be forthcoming.

I think the first, most important thing I ought to do is to get my act together.  Yeah, I know, good luck with that.   That would be worth a blog post!  In the meantime, happy Friday, everybody.

 

“Dirty” Update

I seriously intended to write an update on how our play is coming along. Well, theatre people know, when you are working on a play, things get real busy, real fast. I spent my blog-writing time this morning working on a press release that Steven (the director and my husband, in case you didn’t know) started but got stuck on (see previous post about Writer’s Block, I suppose). In lieu of a regular post, I offer that release.

Enjoy an evening of romance, intrigue, music and mayhem when the Ilion Little Theatre (ILT) presents Dirty Work at the Crossroads, a gay ‘90s melodrama by Bill Johnson May 10, 11, 12, 17 and 18. Performances are at 8 p.m. May 10, 11, 17 and 18 with a 2 p.m. matinee on Mother’s Day. Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for students.

Audiences can cheer the hero and boo the villain during a tear-jerking story in which, after many vicissitudes, good triumphs over evil. Like all 1890s melodramas, Dirty Work features extreme situations and an exaggerated acting style. At times the characters address the audience in an “aside,” unheard by others on stage. According to notes in the script, the play was adapted from a melodrama written in 1867. The original script featured many scene changes and far more actors.

“This script makes for a more ‘doable’ production without losing the flavor of an old melodrama,” says director Steven Quackenbush. “This kind of play is just a lot of fun to do and to watch.”

The production features several newcomers to the ILT stage as well as old favorites. Newcomers Stephanie Chimento and Chuck Carr play the innocent country lass and stalwart blacksmith’s son, whose idyllic romance is threatened by the machinations of the villainous Munro Murgatroyd, played by ILT veteran Ron Creighton. Murgatroyd is assisted by the viperish and vampish Ida Rhinegold, played by Julianne Allen, another ILT favorite. Newcomers to ILT also include Penny Zugner as the Widow Lovelace, Kayla Morrell as Leonie Asterbilt, Olivia Klein as Little Nell, and pianist Caroline Gardner. Jim Mills as Mookie Maguggins and Cynthia Quackenbush as Mrs. Upson Asterbilt round out the cast.

For more information on Ilion Little Theatre, you can visit their website at www.ilionlittletheatre.org.

More Dirty Work

I believe I’ve mentioned some of drama surrounding Dirty Work at the Crossroads, the play my husband is directing for Ilion Little Theatre (drama in the theatre? Say it ain’t so!). Well, the latest update includes good news and bad news and good news.

The good news is we have a hero. A young man was referred to us by a former president of the group (who, by the way, would have made a dandy hero himself but is too busy with work and family commitments). So far our new hero has been at one rehearsal (which I was not at), and Steven thinks he’s going to work out just fine.

I’ve heard good reports about him from others, too. My friend Phyllis says he’s a real nice guy. She told me her son said there was just one thing against him. I thought, “What? He can’t take direction. He’s a know-it-all. He says ‘um’ a lot.”

“He’s a Washington Redskins fan,” Phyllis said.

“The whole thing comes to a grinding halt,” I declared, with gestures. I was just kidding. I don’t even know what sport they were talking about.

I don’t know if any of your civilians know what it is like trying to cast a community theatre play when not enough people show up at auditions. It is stressful. Some people are very helpful with suggestions. But then you have to contact the people they suggested. And wait for them to get back to you. And get them the script. And let them read it. And think about it. And then they have to get back to you. All the while you are in suspense. The clock is ticking. Rehearsals have started. Opening night is imminent. What will happen?

So it was a great load off our shoulders when we got our hero.

And then we lost our French Maid. A very short time before Tuesday’s rehearsal, Steven got the email. Another disaster!

I actually had a few helpful suggestions right away, but Steven was not in the mood for helpful suggestions. Sometimes one just needs a little space to throw one’s hands in the hair and say, “This really sucks!” I continued my activities of getting dressed and making my blog post.

Eventually Steven said to me, “Can we just write the character out?”

It is a small part. Two little scenes, one of which I am in. I looked at my script.

“Sure,” I said. “Instead of, ‘Fleurette, inquire of that yokel yonder,’ I’ll say, ‘I shall inquire of that yokel yonder.'” I showed him a couple other small changes. “I can totally rock this.”

The other scene was a little more complicated. It is just Fleurette and Mookie (the aforementioned yokel).

“We’ll make it Mookie and Leonie,” I suggested. “I’ll write a few lines. This can work.”

We went to rehearsal feeling better. We had some time at the theatre before rehearsal started (a good director always gets there early), so I sat down and whipped off the Mookie/Leonie scene. Of course, I was all kinds of pleased with myself after that.

So we began rehearsal with me verbally coaching Mookie and Leonie through the modified scene. We intended to skip the new scene. I would email the actors their lines before the next rehearsal.

Then we realized Fleurette has another little scene we had forgotten about. Oops! This turned out to be less of a problem than it seemed at first, due largely to the fact that the play is a melodrama. It is completely acceptable for actors to address the audience, themselves, or the ambient air. It was easy to change the dialogue into a monologue, and not too long a one for the actor to learn.

So that was our week in Dirty Work. We solved one problem, confronted another, solved that one. Bring on the next problem! I’ll write about it here.

Holding Out for a Hero

What drama! The suspense is killing me! And the play hasn’t even started.

Last September I wrote about how Dirty Work at the Crossroads, the play which my husband Steven was directing for Ilion Little Theatre (lengthy subordinate clause), had to be postponed, due to the leading lady dropping out. At that time, the full cast was committed to doing the play in the spring.

Of course, things happen (some people use a more vulgar expression). By February we had lost the heroine, the hero and two supporting characters. Yikes! Last night (Monday) we held auditions to try to fill those parts.

The folks that had already been cast and were keeping their parts (including me) were all on hand to read with newcomers. Once Steve and I had figured out how to turn the stage lights on, we waited in anticipation.

And we got some new people! Some talented, nice, fun people! We added four ladies to the cast. I know my previous list only included three females, but we were also able to undouble a previous double casting. Woo hoo!

Now here’s the bad part: new new men showed up. We need a hero!

People re making phone calls, sending emails and asking around. Some really good-sounding possibilities have already been eliminated. Rats!

So this may be it for Dirty Work at the Crossroads (say it ain’t so!). Steven can’t take the part and we can’t double cast. Like I said, DRAMA! I remain in suspense. So, I fear, must my readers. Expect further posts as events warrant.

Sorry About the Bunnies

I DVR’d What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971) from TCM because it starred Shelley Winters and Debbie Reynolds, and the description included the word “murder.” I thought no further of it till last Sunday. Steven and I had watched a distinctly non-cheesy movie (which I may yet write about), and Steven suggested that Helen might contain some amount of cheese.

In pre-show commentary, Ben Mankiewicz tells us the movie was one of a few horror movies featuring middle-aged female protagonists which followed the success of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Jane was based on a novel by Henry Farrell. Farrell wrote the screenplay to Helen as well as the one to Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (which, incidentally, was originally titled Whatever Happened to Cousin Charlotte? I sense a pattern here).

Shelley Winters plays Helen, the one with some something wrong with her. Debbie Reynolds plays Adele, the proprietress of a young ladies’ dance academy. It is a testament to the ladies’ acting ability that as I watched the movie and as I write about it, I see the characters as Helen and Adele, not Shelley and Debbie, nor yet Crazy One and Tap Dance Lady (as you know two less talented, unknown actresses would have ended up). For the purposes of this post, though, I will refer to them as Shelley and Debbie, to aid my readers’ mental imagery.

Shelley and Debbie play two women who are drawn together because their sons have committed a murder. The movie, which takes place in the 1930s, opens with a Hearst newsreel showing the two of them fighting a crowd to get to a taxi after sentencing. Life in prison, not the death penalty, which has caused some outrage. Shelley gets cut by someone in the crowd and receives a death threat over the phone from “somebody with athsma” (Debbie’s description).

I have to hand it to a movie that gets right into things and doesn’t waste a lot of time on boring flashbacks. Still, I could have used a little more backstory. Then too, after the promising start the movie bogs down a little. Debbie decides they will change their names and move to Hollywood, where hopeful mothers will pay good money to Adele in hopes she will turn their little darlings into the next Shirley Temple. Helen, it transpires, is the accompanist.

The most ominous foreshadowing to me was the collection of big white rabbits Shelley keeps in the back yard. She picks one up, caresses her, calls her beautiful, and I said, “Oh NOOO!” I spent the next hour or so saying, “Nothing bad better happen to those bunnies!” but not really holding out much hope that the poor things would make it to “The End” with skins intact.

The movie does create suspense, offering us several characters who may or may not be up to no good. Has the Texas millionaire who romances Debbie honorable or evil intentions? Why is the mysterious Englishman who enters without knocking so intent on teaching diction in this rinky dink school? And how about that stranger across the street, smoking a cigarette and watching Texas and Debbie “smooch” (Shelley’s word)? What is he up to? For that matter, are Shelley and Debbie what they seem, two innocent women caught up in bad circumstances?

I must sadly report that the ending did not justify all the suspense. Oh, I suppose it is shocking and creepy. To tell you more might ruin it for you and I am loathe to do that, because it is a pretty fun watch. I realize I did not include my usual Spoiler Alert, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of not spoiling anything. Except perhaps for the bunnies, and I consider that more in the nature of a warning, if such a thing is needed. I think anyone who’s watched a horror movie knows: don’t get too attached to small, cute animals.