Ho Ho Ho.Well I'm sure you can guess what my New Years resolution is going to be! More blogging. I promise.
We've just finished upwrapping gifts and my super-awesome main gift from the pack leader is exactly what I wanted. I asked Santa for a smaller little pocket camera which I could carry around in my...um... pocket so that I can have something really portable to take more pictures with. I LOVVVVEE my big camera but it's not the easiest thing to drag around with you all the time... and this one I can just keep with me 90% of the time! Yay.
So the Xmas show is over... 34 performances later. Something tells me the one thing Jean Anne is NOT cooking for Xmas is turkey - since she's probably served about 1,000 plates of the stuff in the past month!
So, like I said, last time we spoke, I owe you a fun description of the latest addition to the building. THE BAR!!! Rich, along with some help from Doc "Paul Bunyan" Dyer, managed to get 90% of the bar finished before we opened... which was yet another Huntington Miracle. He originally had anticipated having about a month for this project - which due to all the additional extensions - was reduced down to like a week and a half. And it HAD to be operational before we opened or we were skeee-rewed. By the time the actors arrived it was little more than the 2x4 skeleton which you saw in the last blog. We had FINALLY after five hundred different permutations (including decoupage playbill bar counters and sheet music-wallpapered ceilings) settled on a gorgeous reddy brown formica. Rich was gonna try and piece all this stuff together himself - but as time ran out - Derek hooked us up with an amazing guy named Joe, who came in and measured everything and looked at Rich's plans...and had the stuff ordered for as at a really reasonable price. When the cast arrived it spent several days just sitting in the middle of the lobby on the carpet - waiting for its moment to arrive.
While the actors and I rehearsed Rich worked constantly on the bar, and every night the Big D would come and help out (and poke him to keep him from falling asleep). I don't even remember if I told you how the final solution for the bar design developed - but I'm sure you won't be shocked to know it came out Larry's Barn (what doesn't?). Margaret arrived one day with these beat up old wooden doors. And they were really cool. Rich and Madge figured that they were originally train cabin doors - solid wood with a long rounded rectangular window in them. And there were a bunch in Larry's barn. So Rich came up with a design to utilize them... stripped and sanded them... stained them...and came up with a plan to light up the window as glowing panels. They came out beautifully and it was really really fun to watch the bar come together so quickly... Like QUICKLY. (I actually don't have some of these pictures on my laptop here in Ohio....so I'll share those next time).
But it wasn't just the bar that had to be functional - this time round the whole room was going to be in full view - so the walls... and everything else had to be finished too. The walls got a new (darker) red wall treatment. And Rich was planning on having a series of stained wood panelled half-walls for people to lean against and put drinks on surrounding. We also needed a really BIG curtain - that would totally block out all the light from that giant oval window - so that during the day when we were doing matinees, the light wouldn't stream in from the bar. To this end the Pack Leader ordered a couple bolts of chocolate brown velvet - with enough extra to do full curtains in the outer lobby alcove walls (the ones Madge painted brown). BUT when this fabric arrived Rich was NOT pleased to discover that the bolts were different dye lots. So they couldn't be used side by side because they weren't the same color. So Madge and Janice - never wasteful - got their noggins churnin'. And rather than just do the big drape in the bar - they uphoulstered the half-walls too.
The walls actually give the bar a real warmth and opulence. And the only thing that didn't get done on them was the moulding which will mask the seams beetween the bolts - which should be taken care of now that the shows are over pretty soon.
The curtain was GINORMOUS. And Madge did an insanely amazing job on the thing... It's soooo heavy that Larry had to put HUGE bolts into the wall to hold the thing up. Claire was concerned about how complex of a project it would be for Margaret to do alone (a black-out curtain is apparently quite complicated) but it looks absolutely perfect - and is sooooo full and gorgeous. And the black-out fabric is a really nice clean white which looks great from outside looking in.
Of course the most exciting thing about having our own bar... Having our own SODA FOUNTAIN. This was extremely extremely extremely big news for the Jo Jo. I calculated that if I drink two liters of diet soda a day... with the savings of using the soda fountain versus buying bottles, we are saving enough money to buy...well...France. And it's cold. And it won't go flat sitting around...and...and..wheeeeeeeeeee! I love it. Love it. Love it.
We are getting faster and faster at teching the shows - largely cuz Rich is so good at lighting the darn show, that I just leave him be and we speed along. The real hurdle was that all the lights were now in a totally new position. This summer all the fixtures were on lighting trees in the outer lobby. This time Rich put up (some very sexy) permanent pipes in the inner lobby for a grid. The challenge was that now the lights were much closer - and at a more oblique angle. So it took more instruments to light the same width of area - and since there are audiences on all sides of the stage - it's tricky to make sure that people aren't ever in total darkness from one side (when they might be brightly lit from the other side). Rich did a great job compensating - and the new grid means we don't lose any floor area with a good view of the stage (for tables rather than lights!). I'm trying to talk him into upgrading the lighting package for April so he'll have some more toys.
It took us longer this time to have everything ready to tech - we were about three days behind the summer schedule. So the sing-through for Rich was later than usual
In case you're wondering why my butt looks big in that picture it's because JEAN ANNE dropped off that brown box on the table which was filled with goodies from Cookie Cottage. Which is basically makes a Mrs. Fields cookie look like a four day old stale oreo :)
But we only changed a few things. One song got cut and another was reassigned. The delay in the schedule meant that unfortunately Delia didn't have an awful lot of time to practice. But considering how many buttons and levers she had to pull and press at once - she did a fantastic job with a killer learning curve. We thought when we started she was going to get about five chances to run the show before we opened - she only ended up with two...and she flew by the seat of her pants really well.
And the ten days sped by like lighting and the time came... Anyway - we did manage to get some nice pictures of Janice's decorative handiwork:
(Derek actually took this pic... I think it's awesome!)
It's tough to see - but make sure you note the greenery around all the chandeliers - and the palm lights...and anything that stands still for longer than four seconds. AND SO WE OPENED... RICH SIGNS HIS LIFE AWAY...AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN...
And I have to say - it was probably the most confident opening night we've had as a cast... Sure there were bumps and hiccupps and it was nerve wracking - but compared to the wack-a-doodle opening of Over There, for instance, it was pretty smooth sailing. And as a special treat to thank everybody who had worked so hard to help us get ready Janice made meatball subs and we had a great big opening night marinara-bread-fest.
By the way - that black painted plywood is the 10% of the bar that isn't yet completed. It's going to be sexy panelling that goes up in January!
Of course - what are the holidays about more than eating.... and so soo after it was time for Thanksgiving. Actually the only show we really had a tough time selling out was the night before Thanksgiving... We had originally not planned on even doing shows before that traditional 'christmas season starter' marker but the demand dictated otherwise. The first part of the week filled up really nicely - but the night before Thanksgiving was tough because a) people thought we were already sold out b) people are travelling c) it's the night before freakin' Thanksgiving - who wants to eat Turkey or Ham???? So that was our only night that wasn't pretty packed and we ended up doing the show for 15 people. But it was actually REALLY interesting for all of the actors and I - because with a group that small...and the entire audience seated like three feet away from you...you can't be disingenuous, you can't cheat, you can't fake honesty. So it was a fantastic exercise and it was a really great experience and then it was time for thanksgiving dinner at Jean Anne's house.
It was a fabu-tastic culinary effort between Jean Anne and Bob and Janice.
Stephanie also made her 'famous' christmas day traditional marshmellow dish which we all stared at and went...um... Apparently when she was talking to her mom on the phone she said: Steph: "I'm making them 'christmas salad' that everyone loves at home that I make every year, ((that's as important a tradition as putting cookies out for Santa or Rudolph getting fresh nose batteries on Christmas eve.))" Steph's Mom: "Honey don't make too much. No-one likes it but you".
It turns out, actually, that this indescribable concoction was simply what the rest of the world knows as Ambrosia - and it was quite tasty. So take that Mrs. Joiner.
Of course, far MORE important than the actual Thanksgiving holiday, to the Najuch's, is the most important Najuch Holiday of the Year: Black Friday. This particular event invovles more strategy and organization than most military operations. In fact, if Meijer printed a circular that said "Osama Bin Laden - 50% off plus additional $20 rebate, plus free power surger with every purchase. Only one available." Janice and Rich would have found him by 4:10 am.
While the turkey is roasting, Rich and Janice scour all the newspaper flyers and circle. And circle.
And then cross compare anything circled. Then they go back over the lists and strategise the order of importance. Then they make lists of the item...it's location...it's original price....it's savings...it's sale price and the need for any rebate. THEN they make a spreadsheet (I'm so not kidding) and THEN they get up at 2:00am. Normally I am part of this insanity (in the form of 'stand here in the check out line and don't move while we get anything...I said don't move...no you can't look at the stuffed bunny...put that down...no we don't need cheese... stay...stay joel stay. STAYYYYY".
I apparently have a very hard time with the "you are not allowed to look at anything that is not on the list or on sale" rule. Largely becaue this is the only time of the year I get to go into a store OTHER than Lowes. Go figure.
Somehow Jean Anne decided that every person at Thanksgiving needed to have at least two desserts TO THEMSELVES. There was carrot cake, pumpkin cheesecake (HOOORRRRAAAYYY), pumpkin pie, apple crumble, peanut butter pie and more and more and more. It was MADNESS. I ate four different desserts. I haven't been so sugar-shocked and felt so fat since Eckert's fourth of July carb-o-palooza.
Thanksgiving also involved a spirited marathon of a game called Apples to Apples which I think should simply be used by psychiatrists as a Rorshack test for sociapaths. Basically each person takes turns and chooses a card which lists some sort of object or person... like "Big Foot", and each player has a handful of cards which have an adjective on it, like "yummy" or "mean" or "extravagant." And then everyone else picks one of there cards and presents it to the person who announced the title. And it's basically a test of how well you can gauge a person's warped sense of humor. And it's fun. And mildly disturbing. And Rich apparently has an uncanny ability to read people's MINDS!!! Not that this is news.
Right after the show opened I had to start seriously working on my next hair-brained outing. I had finally, finally convinced Rich that it was an ok idea for me to do a dramatic reading of 'A Christmas Carol' - something I'd always wanted to do - and had actually wanted to do the year before but we weren't really established enough in the community for it to interest people. Now, having hosted the Supper Club, and us hosting enough events like Miss Huntington and the Arts Council Fashion Show, people had a general idea that I could be occasionally entertaining. Rich was only convinced after he happened to order this book about town festivals and parades from Amazon - and he learned that a one-man Christmas Carol was actually an event in many towns around the country. So - he looked at the calendar and decided that it would be ok if I could do it during the Christmas in the City events which took place downtown right after Thanksgiving.
Delia saved my butt with this... Rich didn't really have time to give me feedback or to do any tech for this thing - so she did three rehearsals with me... The one I did the first half of the play, the next time the second half, and then the third time we added lights in. And that was it. The biggest discovery was how much better it was when I held the microphone rather than keeping it in the mic stand - I was much more liberated and able to communicate a lot freer with the audience. I also had to be really careful not to rush through descriptive sections - either I invested them with time and importance or they had to be cut (when I zipped through them it just seemed like I THOUGHT they weren't interesting - so why pay attention).
There was some discussion about exactly how to let people know about the event - and how to do admission. Rich and I both thought it should be free - I wanted to do it as a thank you to community for supporting us so much. But if it was free - and the weather was so crappy - I was nervous about first-come first-serve seating which would mean people (especially older people - our core audience) might be waiting outside before the doors opened....OR they might make the effort to come and there wouldn't be room for them. Of course - if we had THAT problem it would be great. We also decided that after the performance we would take donations for Arts Council that Derek's Mom, Debbie, does such a fantastic job heading. So she sent out an email about it - and the Herald Press did a really nice article about it as well. So I just HOPED that someone or at least two someones would show up. I was actually really excited to do it - but so nervous - because it's not exactly something that's high-octane visual entertainment - so in the age of the television 'commercial every two minutes' attention span, I was worried that people might not be that interested... There was also some question about kids - and whether or not they would like it...and frankly I really had no idea. Delia, luckily, had worked on A Christmas Carol at Indiana Rep Theatre (they do a HUGE production of it every year)...so she was not only familiar with the story - but had seen a VERY active stage version of it. So, if she wasn't bored to death - I figured we'd be ok. She kept telling me it was fine. And Rich, having seen a few moments of it, passing back and forth with linens, had stopped looking QUITE so terrified of impending embarrassment.
It actually turned out to be soooooo great. We had standing room only... we had to bring our own kitchen chairs down for people to sit it... Kids sat at the foot of the stage. Debbie spent the entire hour and a half grinning from ear to ear. I didn't screw anything up to much...I only got lost once (which was actually kind of funny) - I had tears in my eyes when Tiny Tim died... it was all pretty fun. By intermission I was drenched in sweat and had to change my undershirt and blow dry my shirt. After the show people were so wonderful and complimentary... The word of mouth was great...people during the Supper Club run kept telling me either how much they loved it, or how sorry they were to have missed it. People were so generous in their donations - some leaving tens and twenties - and we raised $200 for the Arts Council - which was awesome.
So since people liked it - we have a plan. I'm going to do it twice next year. One time I'll do it as a free special event for our season subscribers that they can reserve a seat for...and then I'll do it again as a free event with first-come-first seating as part of Christmas in the City again. And yes, Mom, next time we'll get someone to tape it. Jeeesh.
Back to the main event: The interesting thing about the show for all of us was that we were doing it for a LONG time. Unless you're in a Broadway show or a national tour, you don't normally don't do a show for five weeks. Or if you do you're only doing like three shows a week. We were doing seven or eight - and it was a long time with ONLY three days off the entire run (including turkey day). The really super nice thing was that I got really familiar with my script. The bad thing...was that I got familiar with my script! Because when I was confident and comfortable with what i was supposed to say - my brain thought of stuff to ad-lib...which is known to be dangerous. I'll tell you about that later!
And the performances kept on a-comin'...
We were actually extremely fortunate with everyone's health. I pretty much lost the entire upper half of my register after 'Christmas Carol' (probably from the strain of practicing during the day and doing the show at night - plus a cold-ish thing)...Janice got big time sick for a few days...but luckily the actors stayed pretty solid. And although nobody got sick - the unfamiliar climate for some of them (like poor Steph from Austin) wasn't the easiest thing for their vocal chords to adjust to. So next time when we audition the Christmas show I'm gonna probably actually ask people where they're from or where they went to school - and anybody from Boca who went to Jamaica University might have to wait for the Summer shows!
Before the show every night - upstairs in our glamours dressing room/offices/apartment/Po Pen, they would arrive forty five minutes before the show and run through some of the most complicated harmony material just to make sure it was tight every night before the show...
And after that, I'd be running through my script and the actors would... crochet. No really. The boys (not the girls, I might add) got very seriously into scarf production for the holidays... it was like having my very own Korean sweatshop in our apartment!
Anyway - this was an awful lot at once - and I still have more fun-ness to catchup on. But i'm sad to say...