Lydia, poetry, quotes

as if to mock

my mockery of his statements about lyrics being better off simpler, some of Sondheim’s simplest lyrics have been haunting my head for the past few days. Particularly those from “Ever After.” Happy now and happy hence / And happy ever after!

I have been auditing an undergraduate music theory course this semester, and if I can bring myself to dispel the mystery, I will eventually know why that one particular chord change is so good. I think it will only make me like it more to know what he is doing.

But chords aside, we’re here to talk about lyrics, right? I have been thinking of INTO THE WOODS for poetic purposes, wanting to write about it, and this is the song that says the most to me at the moment. Here is the last stanza, narrative aside, when the poet sums up, when the poem expands, when the lyrics inflate to their most “statemental.” And I cannot, at present, wish them more complicated. It’s a great song. Risks vulnerability, risks sentimentality, probably achieves both. But it’s a great song.

Herewith, last stanza of I KNOW THINGS NOW (from Into The Woods)


And I know things now,
Many valuable things,
That I hadn’t known before:
Do not put your faith
In a cape and a hood,
They will not protect you
The way that they should.
And take extra care with strangers,
Even flowers have their dangers.
And though scary is exciting,
Nice is different than good.

Now I know:
Don’t be scared.
Granny is right,
Just be prepared.
Isn’t it nice to know a lot!

And a little bit –

– Stephen Sondheim

Whatever else I may or may not have done, I have lived while he is still living. Sondheim is alive, somewhere. In New York. I could get on a bus and be there in four hours, right? I feel so strongly about his work that it reminds me of Matthew’s play, the speech where Androcles says that he rejoices in Syntyche’s existence regardless of what else may happen for him. I am glad to have been alive in an age of theater he helped make. When I think of it that way, I ought never to complain about theater again. Ever.

You say honestly. Rest you merry. Or, as the Germans would say, “noch ein mal,” which means, one more time. Better luck tomorrow, RRH. See you then. Gentlemen: let us repair to The Coal Hole in the Strand.

family, Lydia, politics, travel

turn the page

I’m packing – tomorrow I fly to NYC, after the evening’s preview, on a red-eye. I’ve been in Denver since Dec 6th, the longest I’ve been anywhere since Ashland.

Today I met my great-aunt and great-uncle by marriage, Rose and Floyd, who have been in Denver since 1944. We had a really great conversation over dinner at Hotel Teatro Cafe on 14th before they came to LYDIA this evening – we talked about WWII, Japan, Hawaii, the 100th Battalion, the segregated units, the internment camps, the GI Bill, the US, Israel, the concept of apikoros (non-practicing believer), Judaism, Unitarianism, theater, city planning, architecture, and our families. And borders. And the meaning of global citizenship. And my brother Zack, who they haven’t seen since Lew and Susan’s wedding – fifteen years ago? – playing the piano. It was a conversation of memory and history and I’m still spinning around from the ideas in it.

Looking over the past few blog entries I can smell homesickness, longing for LA, even second-guessing my decision to spend this year running around the country like a chicken with its head cut off. But meeting people like this, even if it’s briefly, makes the entire project seem worthwhile. I never would have known them if I hadn’t come to Denver.

I hope they enjoyed the play – well, as I was saying to a departing audience member, enjoyed isn’t the right word – but I hope they were moved by it. I sat four rows from the stage tonight, and it was amazing how O.R. could make her eyes look like a brain-damaged person. Her portrayal is naturalistic in detail but theatrical in scale.

I also had a phone work session with Tony on Oedipus today, and with Amina on Medea yesterday, and the Convergence proceeds inexorably.

It’s a disjointed life I’m leading, but a full one. If there doesn’t seem to be a plot right now, maybe that’s all right. Maybe this part of my existence is more of a montage. Or an overture to an unwritten opera.


Lydia, countdown

Last night, the director hosted a party for the L. cast, featuring chicken mole with sauce flown in from a restaurant in Los Angeles, by one of her friends. We watched a slideshow of production photos and ate 3 different kinds of cakes. I’ve been exposed to some of the best vegan baking ever on this show.

We preview tonight and tomorrow, and open on Thursday, but I fly to New York tomorrow for auditions – this will be my first time leaving a show before it opens.


Quite right – Ibsen forever!

After second preview, the director and I spent some time talking to one of the house managers tonight, who, before becoming a head usher and SM had other lives as a paramedic, a firefighter, a ranger, and 30 years as a flight attendant. He went from managing audiences in airplanes to audiences in theaters. And he wants to become an Equity membership candidate and stage manager.

I’m so amazed by all the people who have to come together to make theater possible, from such different walks of life. For someone to take up house management after retiring from a long career in a stressful job – that makes me want to work even harder, to make the shows better and the process more open, for the sake of everyone who loves this stuff more than eating, sleeping, or breathing. Because it certainly interferes with all three, more often than not. It’s not a relaxing profession or an easy one.

But when, as I did tonight, I heard a roomful of audience members gasping as an actress onstage moved her eyes from one object to another – when I hear grown adults forget themselves and actually begin talking to the characters onstage – “No!” “Stop!” – when I hear people breathlessly explaining the show to each other, translating the Spanish for their dates, debating the mysteries at intermission and weeping at the end-

I think that if I had ten lives to give to the theater I would willingly give all of them and still think it wasn’t enough.

This play shocks people. It deals with adult material. It’s poetic and brutal and honest and funny. It’s O’Neill and Williams and Wilson all wrapped into one. And it leaves you wrecked, like your heart’s been smashed on the stage.
When I watch audiences reacting to this play, I feel like I know what it was like to watch audiences at A DOLL’S HOUSE, before anyone knew that Nora was going to leave her husband at the end. This play has an equivalent emotional impact.

I can’t say anything more about it in case anyone is going to see it. But God, it’s a good show. And it leaves the possibility of hope open. No more than life does, but no less, either.

As one of the characters says, “There is no why. It just happened.”

a propos of nothing, Lydia


Today is the anniversary of the Northridge earthquake. My father, who’s a professor at Cal State-Northridge, was almost certainly saved by the earthquake happening as early in the morning as it did (4:30 am) since that campus was devastated by the quake. January 17 never passes without me thinking about it.

Our house, which had an enormous stone chimney in the front, had its entire front wall crumble. Bookcases came out from walls, turned around in midair, and sat back down on the other wall. The kitchen was a collage of glass, and every surface was covered in books.

Today is also our first preview. I invited some local friends and students to see our dress rehearsal yesterday, and they were thrilled after intermission and crying after the 2nd act.

The director did something interesting with scheduling yesterday – we had our dress run in the morning and worked in the evening, and now we have another work session this afternoon before our evening preview, which ensures that we have 8 hours of rehearsal between dress and previews.


It’s the last day of tech

and I’ve only just now discovered the tea in the wardrobe department. Better late than never.

Wardrobe here is really fun – there’s a sign on the door that says “We Are The People Your Parents Warned You About.”

a propos of nothing, family, film, Lydia, theater

Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be…

It’s been a busy week – not only did I see Sweeney Todd again, (just as bloody, just as good), watch an open dress of Theresa Rebeck’s OUR HOUSE (vitriolic sendup of reality TV, pools of blood, writer-strike humor), have teleconferences with almost all the confirmed Convergence participants, and just finish 3 days of LYDIA tech, but I managed to overhear this conversation in the elevator, not five minutes ago:

Woman: My mother always wanted me to marry a cowboy, and I said, hell no.
Man: I’m not a cowboy?
Woman: Well, you do fix the fence sometimes. You’re sort of a cowboy.
Man: I could be a cowboy.
Woman: You do have those outfits. (To her companion) He has some cowboy outfits.

But back to what’s really important, which is the Sweeney Todd movie – I went to see it again on Tuesday despite the impending tech and my unfinished rewrite. I had Phil’s observation in mind that it was too clean of a London for him, and it certainly is a very clean propscape. Every object that’s introduced is used. Every reference is followed up on. It’s a spare staging.

It’s like a play in that way, and I think it’s Burton’s homage both to the material’s theatrical origins and to the single-minded focus of Sweeney’s mind. There may be other things in his world, but he doesn’t see them. And Sondheim approves – ArtsJournal led me to a piece in the Lebrecht Weekly where the composer said “This (ST) is the first musical that has ever transferred successfully to the screen.”

In conclusion, January 12 is my mother’s birthday. Happy birthday, Mom.


Lydia, Week 3, Day 4-6

Day 4:
The playwright returns and we do a runthrough for him, followed by 2 hours of intense script notes.

Day 5:
We spend a day focusing on one character’s arc in particular – running all his scenes and making major changes in them. It’s as if every person in the room, from the director to the ASM to the actors not in his scenes, are bringing their energies to bear on that one character, on helping him grow in the play.

The actor works extraordinarily hard, and we make a huge breakthrough, which reminds me of Amina and Meisner. The initial script draft with this scene had him performing an action, eating, which we cut because he wasn’t doing it. In the third hour of intense discussion of one rewrite, someone suggests that he return to eating – and suddenly the scene opens up like a key being turned in a door. Those actions are so simple, and so powerful.

I have to keep principles like that in mind when I get to Indy in February and start getting all experimental with the choruses. There has to be a way to learn from it – to let the choruses have actions too, and all those same tricks of single characters.

Day 6:
We begin working through Act 1 again, and end with a run of the first act. (Pleasantly, we lose nine minutes off the first act in said run.) This plays up tensions in a different character’s act, and the playwright and that actor spend the evening working together, in preparation for more changes.

We go into tech on Jan 10th, so the changes are coming fast and furious now, while they can.

directing, Lydia

LYDIA, Week 3, Day 3

We finished our second pass through Act 2 and then ran the second act of the play. We ended with an hour of fight choreography.

My perspective on what fight choreography is has changed from watching this work. After ROMEO & JULIET, where every “fight” was actually a battle with weapons, I wasn’t expecting to see a fight choreographer come in to show us how to drag a woman off stage. There are no blows exchanged, and my instinct would have been to just wing it and see what happened. Don’t we all know how to drag people already?

But the FC was there telling one actor how to drag the other without injuring her, blocking beats for specific escape struggles and how he’d recapture her, addressing issues of shoulder joints and legs and knees and feet getting stepped on.

I could see that he was both essential for safety and actually, through his expertise, made the struggle seem more violent than would have otherwise been possible. That was what got me excited. I often assume that maximum violence is achieved through a little more improv, but sometimes that’s not the case.

It’s as if every force in my theatrical life is driving me back into the arms of choreography.