Thursday, December 31, 2009

525,600 Minutes

"How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets,
In midnights, in cups of coffee,
In inches, in miles,
In laughter, in strife."
Jonathan Larson

DAY 83:  Although this blog has started to give me a somewhat positive slant on my day-to-day life, I am GRATEFUL to be seeing the back end of 2009.  Not a horrid year (I've had worse), but not particularly wonderful.  I've tried to keep this blog as positive as possible (no easy task for me), and this post might sound a little negative, but I'd like to think it's still positive since it's all about what's BEHIND me now.

2009 ... sigh ... Two big theatre projects, each with their own challenges, both final onstage products successful and memorable, but both EXTREMELY stressful.  The end of a difficult school 2008-2009 school year with a particularly trying and time-consuming schedule of my own making.  A personal and dating life that seemed to start the year with great promise, but was ultimately filled with disappointment, frustration, and hurt.  All of this leading to packing back on a bit of the weight I had lost.

It wasn't all bad, though ... a new puppy, a new gratitude blog, GREAT new friends (three of whom follow this blog daily), another terrific annual trip to NYC, no major medical issues (unlike 2008!), and a MUCH better start (and schedule) to the 2009-2010 school year.

So, come on in, 2010 ... GREAT to see you, take a load off, make yourself at home.  2009, old buddy ... don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Red-Letter Day

"How can they conspire
To make life so miserable,
And so effectively ...
In so many ways?"
Clark Gesner

DAY 82:  It was bound to happen ... after two weeks of looking at the pile of Algebra II tests begging to be graded, I finally sat down and got them OUT OF THE WAY!!  What am I grateful for?  Four final days of vacation with NO work to do!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Be Italian

"Learning more,
Knowing less,
Simple words,
Tenderness ...
Part of getting tall."
Maury Yeston

DAY 81: Well, I'm going to steal a play from Susan and Judy's "playbooks," but I HAD to write this evening about the film Nine.  Long story short ... I ADORED every frame of this film.  I've been familiar with the show ... and played the Original Cast LP continuously at the time ... since it first opened on Broadway in 1982 (my senior year in college) and I had the pleasure of seeing the Antonio Banderas revival on Broadway in 2003.  I am also a HUGE fan of the work of Maury Yeston, who wrote the music and lyrics, and who penned other wonderful pieces such as Grand Hotel, Phantom (the better, NON-Webber version), and Titanic (not to mention a BEAUTIFUL song cycle called December Songs, and some minor works, including a lovely Off-Broadway score called In the Beginning).
This is going to be hard to explain to non-theatre people ... there are times as I'm watching a show (particularly a musical) when something is directed or choreographed SO perfectly that it makes me teary-eyed and I have to catch my breath.  As a director, I'm very attuned to "stage pictures" - the placement of people and other visual elements in a scene - and there were some STUNNING ones in Nine.  This movie literally took my breath away MANY times.  This doesn't happen frequently and lots of folks don't "get it" when I try to describe the feeling - but it's VERY powerful and it reaffirms my love for this art form every time it happens (it also happened last year sitting in performances of Billy Elliot and Next to Normal on Broadway).
And where do I start with the performances?  Marion Cotillard was STUNNING ... Oscar-worthy, in my opinion - I was close to sobbing during "My Husband Makes Movies" and many of her heart-breaking scenes.  Judi Dench can do NO wrong in my book - she is, in my opinion, our greatest living actress.  And can we talk about Sophia Loren ... the woman, at 75, is still ASTOUNDINGLY BEAUTIFUL and really moved me as Guido's mother.  I was also unfamiliar with Fergie's work with the Black Eyed Peas, but what a voice and what a presence in the most popular song from Nine, "Be Italian."  As Guido himself, Daniel Day-Lewis, did a remarkable job in a VERY unlikable role, eliciting more than his share of sympathy for the character.
My only concern is that the film will have limited appeal (for theatre/musical theatre folk or foreign film buffs), and your "average" American moviegoer might not appreciate it.  I was disappointed in the absence of my FAVORITE song in the show "Getting Tall" (which is sung by Little Guido to "Big" Guido at the end of the musical, and some of whose lyrics start this post).  But the ending was moving and well-executed even without the song I love so much, and my disappointment at its omission is NOTHING compared to how delighted I felt about the film as a whole, and I'm certainly grateful to Rob Marshall, the crew, and all the wonderful performers of this dazzling film.

Monday, December 28, 2009

One Night in Bangkok

"If I say that I wrote this song for you,
Would you believe me?
It might not be as well-written or beautiful like other songs.
I want you to know that a love song
Can't be written if you're not in love.
But for you, I can write this song so easily."
Witwisit Hiranyawongkul 

DAY 80:  I am SO INCREDIBLY grateful for foreign film.  Tonight, I watched a beautfully touching coming-of-age film called The Love of Siam, which apparently was a smash hit in Thailand a couple of years ago. What struck me most was that a quiet, gentle, and unassuming film such as this would never have even been PRODUCED, let alone succeed in the United States.

Along with honest, remarkable acting from many foreign actors that puts American "acting" to shame, what typically impresses me about the quality of foreign screenplays is the use of SILENCE (which I have rarely seen in any American product ... the only recent example that I can think of is Mad Men, which I discussed in a previous post).  I suspect this movie would BORE the general American moviegoer - I was transfixed.  No explosions, no comic book, videogame, or fast-food tie-ins, no big name stars (though apparently a number of the actors have become stars in Thailand from this film), no crotch-grabbing humor, no CGI ... just HONEST and GENUINE emotion, a heart-wrenching story of love and loss. 

If you haven't experienced foreign film, I BEG you to give it a try.  But be warned, for as unassuming (many might call it "slow" ... I don't) and nonjudgemental as foreign film can be, it can also be BRUTALLY UNFORGIVING in its portrayal of man's mistreatment of his fellow man.  Hopefully, you will also find the experience fulfilling as you immerse yourself in another culture, while recognizing the universality of human experience REGARDLESS of geographic location.  We all feel the same things, and there was certainly NOTHING "foreign" in what these residents of Bangkok were experiencing in the film I watched this evening.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bosom Buddies

"Remember that
Who else but a bosom buddy
Will sit down and level,
Will give you the devil,
Will sit down and tell you the truth?"
Jerry Herman

DAYS 78-79:  Oops ... I just realized I forgot to post yesterday ... oh well ...  Instead of "fibbing" and changing the date on this post, I'll just let this one cover two days.

Anyway, I'm grateful for the time I've been able to spend the last two days with two of my closest friends, Marcia and Martin.  I'm afraid I've had the (probably well-earned) reputation of being rather aloof and unapproachable.  It's not a reputation I'm fond of and it's something I try to work on daily - being more open and available.  Despite what some may think, I'm extremely introverted and not terribly "good" around people I don't know very well.  It does take quite some time for me to "warm up" to new friends, but I'd like to think that once I do, I'm an open, generous, available, and "faithful-to-the-end" friend.  The end result is that there's a very small handful of BEST friends in my rather large group of friends (through school, theatre, and music) who have seen "the real me."  These are the people I will call when I'm at my lowest (and also at my highest) - the "emotional mess" part that most people don't see behind the typically calm and cool exterior.

I've known Marcia and Martin each for over twenty years.  I met Marcia not only because her daughter, Brooke, was one of my first students at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, but also because I've done quite a few community theatre productions with her both onstage and as a director during those two decades.  I met Martin through a student at Douglas Anderson and he's really the only MALE "best friend" I have.  When he lived in Jacksonville, he was the person I would most likely go out to grab a bite or see a movie with.  Unfortunately, he now lives in Atlanta, so we only see each other when he comes home to visit his family, usually over the holidays.

I'm posting about the two of them at once because there are some distinct similarities.  First, we have REMARKABLY similar tastes.  When it comes to music, movies, and books, what I like, Marcia and Martin typically like, and vice-versa.  The second, and probably more important, similarity is that Martin and Marcia are my cynical (and I mean that in the best possible way, believe it or not) realists who will tell me EXACTLY what they think when they get one of "those" calls from me.  It's not necessarily about sparing my feelings or telling me what I want to hear, but telling me what I NEED to hear.  They are my hard-liners.  In that handful of friends, I also have the comforters and supporters who tend to be a little more optimistic.  Between the two, it gives me that "happy medium" of advice.

I've been very fortunate this weekend to spend substantial time with Marcia and Martin.  I went to the movies with Marcia and dinner with Martin yesterday and to the movies with Martin today.  As I've said in previous posts, this has been a really terrific vacation with LOTS of time with friends and family - and there's still another full week to go!!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Half Full

"I'd rather have fifty percent of vacation,
Or any percent of vacation,
Than all of anything else at all."
with apologies to Alan and Marilyn Bergman

DAY 77:  So ... nine days of vacation down, nine to go.  And ... since this blog is dedicated to gratitude and positivity, I will choose to look at this glass as being half FULL.  Meaning - there's STILL HALF OF THE VACATION LEFT!  It's been a really wonderful break so far - my social calendar has been very busy with LOTS of "happenings" to attend and tons of time with family and friends.  It's taken my mind almost completely off being single for yet ANOTHER holiday ... something which typically gets me more than a little down.  Plans for the rest of the break?  A little more reading, a little more writing, a lot more exercise, a BUNCH more movies, and hopefully ... a lot LESS eating!  ;-)  Happy Holidays to everyone!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Better Than Drugs

"Squeeze me and squeeze me again ...
Don't stop till I tell you when."
Fats Waller

DAY 76:  An evening of hugs ... the best ... a Christmas Eve filled with friends, warmth, and happiness.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Misty Watercolor Memories

"Can it be that it was all so simple then,
Or has time rewritten every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again,
Tell me - Would we? Could we?"
Alan and Marilyn Bergman

DAY 75:  I'm grateful for a lovely evening spent reminiscing with a group of Douglas Anderson graduates from the late 80's and early 90's. Those were the days, my friends ...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Little Christmas

"And so I'm offering this simple phrase,
To kids from one to ninety-two.
Although it's been said many times, many ways ... 
Merry Christmas to you."
Mel Torme and Bob Wells 

DAY 74:  Well, it wasn't EXACTLY Norman Rockwell, but I just spent the evening with my brother (in from South Carolina for a couple of days) and my Mom.  Though our one dinner together as a family over the holidays was just Mom's spaghetti (followed by a rousing game of dominoes with some friends of my mom), it was wonderful to just sit and share the time with them.  We don't get to do it too often and we don't really make that big a deal out of Christmas (no presents change hands ... only on birthdays).  It's been only the three of us for nearly 25 years now (since my dad passed in 1985), but it's a treasure to be part of a blissfully NORMAL, average, everyday small-town New England family without any issues or fireworks.  I'm truly grateful for and love them both very much.  No ... it wasn't Norman Rockwell, but the feeling is the same.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Those Good and Crazy People

"Late nights,
Quick bites,
Party games,
Deep talks,
Long walks,
Telephone calls ..."
Stephen Sondheim

DAY 73:  Today I'm grateful to all my friends who are slowly but surely filling up my dance card for the holidays.  It sure does keep away those "single-once-again-during-the-holidays-sad-and-lonelies."  There's not a day this week that I don't have some meal or evening plans ... actually last night was the FIRST night of the vacation that I was actually home.  And NEXT week is filling up pretty quickly, too, so if you want to spend time with me, you better hurry and make your plans!  ;-) 

"And that's what it's all about, isn't it?"

(PS ... I'll leave you to figure out why I chose that picture.  :-)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Whole New World

"A whole new world ... 
Every turn a surprise,
With new horizons to pursue.
Every moment red-letter. 
I'll chase them anywhere.
There's time to spare.
Let me share this whole new world with you."
Tim Rice

DAY 72: OK ... so about a week ago, I admitted to being a videogame fan.  With that admission out of the way, I can now guiltily confess to spending MANY hours of my spare time (usually during vacations like this one) in the enormous World of WarcraftWoW is a MMORPG ... for those not in the know, that's a "massively multiplayer online role-playing game."  Over 10 million subscribers travel and fight in a HUGE 3-continent world called Azeroth. 

Simply put, you travel and fulfill "quests" solo or cooperate with other people online as one of a number of different races - the good guys (like humans, dwarves, and gnomes) or bad buys (like undead, orcs, and trolls).  Within each type of character, you can also choose to play as a different class - hunters (who travel with pets that do the up-close fighting while you shoot from a distance ... my favorite), warlocks, mages (extremely powerful wizards), warriors, rogues, priests, shaman, and druids, for example.  This offers an enormous array of possible roles and you can play on and off with any number of different characters or "avatars."  The longer you play, the more "quests" you fulfill, evil creatures you kill, and places you visit, the higher your experience and level.  The higher your level, the more powerful your talents, spells, and equipment can get.

It's really difficult to describe the game or its appeal without using a lot of MMORPG-speak, a language all of its own - though I managed to slip a few special words in there.  If you're a gamer, and haven't played WoW, I'd recommend it ... unless you have an easily-addicted personality.  It's not affectionately called World of Warcrack for nothing!

I go for VERY VERY long periods of time without playing, but when I get quite a bit of free time (like the next two weeks), I find myself traveling the continents of Azeroth into the wee wee hours of the morning.  It's a lot of fun ... if you're into this sort of thing ...

PS ... The picture above is one of my avatars/characters - a hunter from a good-guy race called the Draenei (they're aliens, by the way).  In the picture, I'm visiting Greatfather Winter (this fantasy world's version of Santa Claus) who makes an appearance only at this time of year (called the Feast of the Winter Veil) in the game.  The big tiger next to my character is my pet, who's a pretty mean fightin' kitty ... wouldn't quest without him :-)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Remember My Name

"Sometimes I wonder where I've been ... 
Who I am,
Do I fit in.
I may not win,
But I can't be thrown - 
Out here on my own."
Dean Pitchford

DAY 71: The holidays are not a particularly happy time for me, in fact, they often make me feel more than a bit lonely ... and finding something positive is often quite difficult.  Fortunately, on my way to a Christmas party tonight with my wonderful Math colleagues, I put on my newest CD ... the original movie soundtrack to the 1980 film, Fame.  My well-worn vinyl LP has been sitting dusty in my closet (with HUNDREDS of other now nearly-useless LPs), and I've never gotten around to replacing it.  I belong to an online Sondheim bulletin board and my online friends (many of whom I've had the pleasure to meet in person over the years) have an annual "Secret Sondheim" gift exchange across the miles.  My gift this year (from WALES!) contained this CD.

Fame was a defining movie for me, though to put that "definition" into words isn't easy.  The movie was released during my sophomore-to-junior years of college, a time when I was really starting to explore and understand who I was (which still continues to this day).  It's a story of students discovering their talent, being individuals, and taking risks.  It was also the first movie I had seen with a young male character who JUST HAPPENED to be gay ... an ordinary looking, soft-spoken, unassuming, AVERAGE but lonely young man.  It's also kind of ironic, and perhaps a bit of destiny, that I now teach in a school not unlike the High School of Performing Arts in NYC.

And WHAT a score ... "Out Here On My Own" continues to be one of my all-time favorite songs (as sung by Irene Cara, of course) - it still breaks my heart every time I listen to it.  That infectious title track ... it's pretty unbeatable.  I've also had a blast revisiting the upbeat-dance-on-lunch-tables-and-taxi-cabs "Hot Lunch Jam," "Red Light," and the joyous Gospel chorus of "Never Alone."  It's topped by the finale, "I Sing the Body Electric," featuring words by one of my favorite poets, Walt Whitman, and it's even been the ring tone on my cell phone!  What touches me the most, though, are the songs sung by the gay character I mentioned earlier (played by Paul McCrane) - "Dogs in the Yard," "Is It OK If I Call You Mine?" (a song that can bring me to tears ... I've copied the lyrics below), and now a previously unreleased track from the film (on this remastered CD) called "Miles from Here" whose lyrics are just beautiful.  I don't remember it from the original film, but it's certain to become a new favorite.

Which reminds me ... I don't even have the film on DVD.  I'm going to buy it or order it online TOMORROW!!

Is it okay if I call you mine?
Just for a time ... 
And I will be just fine
If I know that you know that I'm
Wanting, needing your love. 

If I ask of you, is it all right.
If I ask you to hold me tight
Through a cold, dark night.
'Cause there may be a cloudy day in sight
And I need to let you know that I might
Be needing your love.

And what I'm trying to say isn't really new.
It's just the things that happen to me
When I'm reminded of you.

Like when I hear your name,
Or see a place that you've been,
Or see a picture of your grin,
Or pass a house that you've been in
At one time or another.

It sets off something in me I can't explain.
And I can't wait to see you again.
Oh, babe, I love your love

And what I'm trying to say isn't really new ... 
It's just the things that happen to me,
When I'm reminded of you.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Young and Healthy

"I'm young and healthy,
And so are you;
When the moon is in the sky
Tell me what am I to do?"
Al Dubin

DAY 70: This time last week I was suffering through a dreadful cold that had me pretty miserable.  The typical progression of a cold for me is straight into the chest with a hacking cough that can sometimes linger for weeks.  With vacation and the holiday right around the corner, you can imagine how happy this made me.  The good news ... that cold went away SUPER fast!  By the beginning of this week, it was nearly completely gone and there is NO residual coughing ... how great is that?  You can bet I'm grateful for my hearty immune system ...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lush Life

"I feel like I'm not out of bed yet.
Oh, the sun is warm,
But my blanket's warmer."
Betty Comden and Adolph Green

DAY 69:  Ah, a life of leisure ... it was a lovely relaxed first day of vacation.  I am now quickly back into my "vacation sleep schedule" ... to bed early in the morning (usually about 2 a.m.) and sleep until LATE morning (translated, ALMOST afternoon).  Today, I stayed in bed OBSCENELY late and didn't shower or get out of my bed clothes until about 3 p.m. or so.  The weather, almost right on cue, has turned decidedly seasonal, if a little gray and dreary (were I still in Connecticut and the temperature were 30 degrees cooler, I'd say it looked like snow).  Since I was heading out at 6 p.m. to meet friends for dinner and some entertainment, I didn't do a heck of a lot.  Watched my new Harry Potter Blu-Ray, played some video games, drank a lovely cup of Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa (a gift from a fellow teacher :-), and just LOUNGED.  I could SO get used to this, but admit that I tire of this "lush life" quickly.  My brother and my buddy, Martin, will be in town soon and I've got a list of about ten movies to see over the next couple of weeks.  Tomorrow night, I'm going to see an original musical and Saturday night is a Math Department Christmas party.  So ... off to play a little World of Warcraft, then bed ... ahhhhhh.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Never Fully Dressed Without

"Who cares what they're wearing from Main Street to Saville Row?"
Martin Charnin

DAY 68:  I never thought I'd create such a stir simply by wearing flannel.  The weekend after Thanksgiving, I went to my favorite shopping emporium, Target (pronounced "Tar-JAY," by those of proper breeding), and bought myself four flannel shirts.  Now, you have to understand ... I LIVED in flannel shirts when I was a Connecticut Yankee - my closet was FULL of them!  Apparently down here in sunny Florida, you're either a redneck or a lumberjack if you wear flannel. 

Well, too bad, folks, I LOVE my flannel - I love the feel, the nostalgia, and, surprisingly enough, an almost holiday-seasonal warmth that comes from wearing these shirts.  TOTAL comfort - tucked in, untucked, open with a colored tee, closed.  I'm grateful for my flannel and I'm even MORE grateful that the weather is apparently going to stay chilly-ish (upper 50's to low 60's) all the way through Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Me Everybody Knows

"Why is my reflection someone I don't know?
Somehow I cannot hide who I am, though I tried.
When will my reflection show who I am inside?"
David Zippel

DAY 67:  What one thinks of oneself is often VERY different from how others view you.  On a whim today, I tried a little Facebook status experiment that asked friends to leave a one-word description of you as a comment (in return for you leaving one on their status).  I was blown away by the response ... nearly 40 people replied, and clearly my friends think a lot more of me than I typically give myself credit for.  I'm often afraid that the person they see doesn't quite match what I see in the mirror, but self-esteem has never been my strong suit.  I'm grateful for all the wonderful comments left by my friends ... thanks for the boost!  Here's what they said and I hope I can live up to all of it ...

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Games I Play

"We've got to think about the game,
The game, the game!"
Richard Adler and Jerry Ross

DAY 66:  OK, so it should come as no great surprise that I'm a nerd.  A gadget-lovin', computer-addicted, math and science learnin', scifi-spoutin' geek.  It follows, therefore, that I'm also a fan of videogames, and I'm grateful for some of the great times that I've had playing them since my family's very first TV-set version of Pong.  I suppose I enjoy videogames for some of the same reasons that I enjoy acting (which is a subject for a later blog, I suppose) ... it's an opportunity to become someone else for a little while and escape what sometimes seems like a rather ordinary existence.  I can immerse myself in a fantastic world where anything is possible and where I'm the HERO who can save the day.
A few nights ago, I bought my second "console system" ... for those not "in the know," that's a new "brand" of videogame machine.  I'm now a proud owner of a Wii system (made by Nintendo) to go along with my PlayStation 3 (made by Sony).  In addition to my desktop computer, that makes three places to go for a quick jaunt (or, as is often the case, a late-night-into-early-morning journey) as any number of different characters - a curvaceous Tomb Raider named Lara, a Lego C3PO using a Lego control panel on a Lego spaceship, a survivor of an airplane crash caught in a nightmarish and deserted underwater city filled with zombies and evil robots, a crazy little guy named Mario collecting coins and powerups, Darth Vader blasting away Wookies with a killer "force push," a whimsical little purple dragon named Spyro, or any one of a whole world of heros and villains in the HUGE online world of Azeroth (yet another topic for a later blog).
Sue me ... I love 'em.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Monday, Monday

"Monday, Monday, so good to me ...
Monday, Monday, it was all I hoped it would be."
John Phillips

DAY 65:  Usually around this time on a Sunday night, I'd typically start moaning over going to bed and waking up to another work week.  Not so tonight!  I've been sick the past couple of days, but have started to feel MUCH better and I'm incredibly grateful for the THREE-DAY work week coming up (followed by the EIGHTEEN-DAY VACATION).  Getting up on THIS Monday morning won't be quite so bad ...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Liza's at the Palace

"Somebody loses and somebody wins
And one day it's kicks, then it's kicks in the shins,
But the planet spins, and the world goes 'round ..."
Fred Ebb

DAY 64:  I'm still not feeling very well, but I just had the time of my life watching "Liza at the Palace," which I recorded on my DVR Thursday night.  There's nobody quite like Liza.  True, her voice isn't what it used to be, and she can't hoof quite as nimbly as she used to, but at 63 there's nothing quite so electrifying as watching her light up the stage.  From those fabulous standards that we expect from her, mostly Kander and Ebb ("Cabaret," "Maybe This Time," "And The World Goes 'Round," and the incomparable "New York, New York"), to some new tunes I didn't recognize, each turn elicited an immediate standing ovation ... EVERY SONG!  Tell me which other performer can produce that kind of reaction.

It's all about that "connection" with the audience that all of us performers strive to create ... you feel as if you're Liza's best pal, she's singing to you, and there's NOT A DROP of insincerity in her unabashed joy in performing.  Her closing number "New York, New York" had me crying from the simple unadorned piano notes that start the song until the very end ... and the Vegas audience was on their feet the ENTIRE time.

What also struck me about the concert was how simply staged it was ... no lavish costumes, no pyrotechnics or special effects, a nearly bare stage with glitter curtain, and a terrific jazz band.  Most of the performance was Liza standing or sitting at a lone microphone on a stand down center ... that's it ... and that's ALL that was necessary.  She's often imitated, but nothing can match her.  Everytime she mentions "Mamma" or lets the audience in on some self-referential humor (a HUGE pause and wry look after "well, that's what comes from too much pills and liquor"), you're right there with her.

Can't wait to get it on DVD ...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Michael's Lament

"A person can develop la grippe,
La grippe.
La post nasal drip.
With the wheezes
And the sneezes
And a sinus that's really a pip!"
Frank Loesser

DAY 63:  Sick as dog, but COMPLETELY grateful for the wonder that is NyQuil.  Goodnight, one and all! 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Final Countdown

"For we need a little music,
Need a little laughter,
Need a little singing
Ringing through the rafter,
And we need a little snappy
'Happy ever after,'
Need a little Christmas now."
Jerry Herman

DAY 62:  The final countdown to Winter Break has begun ... only FIVE DAYS to go and, BOY, am I GRATEFUL!!  I tend to be a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to holidays (most single people tend to be a little bitter around this time of year and around February 14), but I can really use a good two-plus week BREAK!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

She's Called Sunshine

"Hold on,
Hold on to someone standing by.
Hold on.
Don't even ask how long or why!
Child, hold on to what you know is true,
Hold on 'til you get through.
Child, oh child!
Hold on!"
Marsha Norman

DAY 61: I spent this evening with a dear friend of mine as she started to move into the new condo she just purchased.  A number of days ago, I wrote a post in this blog about the friends I have who used to be students.  Staci was a student of mine ALL FOUR YEARS of  her high school career, if you can believe it.  Now I count her among the four or five people in my life who truly "get me" ... and that's kind of a hard thing to do.  I know I'm pretty inaccessible to most people and it's something I try to work on, and I don't often let people "in." 

Staci is one of those who's gotten to me ... I absolutely don't think of her as a past student of mine, and she's ABSOLUTELY one of those people I will call in a heartbeat when I need advice on a personal matter or a good reality-check kick in the pants.  We have a number of things in common, as well ... we're both a bit unlucky in love and have both had (I hope she won't have trouble with my saying this) battles with weight.  One of the most significant things we say to each other is ... "That's the fat Michael/Staci talking."

On top of all that, she's one of the most hard-working and HONEST performers I know.  I've directed her a number of times (including her remarkable turn as Martha in The Secret Garden, pictured above), I've shared the stage with her, and I just LOVE working with her.  She's immensely talented, insightful, innovative, thoughtful, extraordinarily focused, and generous on stage.  And, not too long ago, I had the pleasure to be directed BY her ... which was an equally wonderful experience!

So, Staci is the first of my friends who's getting her very own post in My OhGeeJay ... with many other friends to follow.  I have lots of TERRIFIC people in my life and each one of them deserves a full post of gratitude ...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

"Everyone hates his parents,
But I confess,
You grow up,
You get old,
You hate less."
William Finn

DAY 60:  Today I'm grateful that a particularly confrontational parent seems pleased with my help since her child was transferred to my class a couple of weeks ago ...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Heart and Music

"You gotta have heart and music.
Heart and music make a song."
William Finn

DAY 59:  Well, yesterday was a grateful tribute to theatre ... today it's my other great love, music.  I'm hyper-critical ... I know I am.  If I had a dime for all the times I've heard, "Well, what DO you like?" I'd have ... oh, you know the rest.  I've been listening to a choral "Agnus Dei" based on my absolute favorite piece of music, Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings," for the past couple of days.  I'd like to think that my outspoken, sometimes unwelcome, dislike for music that LOTS of people seem to like is tempered by the depth of my ADORATION for certain pieces of music that move me to the core, like Barber's evocative work of genius.  So here's a short list in no particular order (and I know I'm forgetting MANY other pieces that I'll post later when I remember them!) of the music and songs that literally stir my soul.  They're not all showtunes, either!  Thanks to all the composers and songwriters ...

Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings"
Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" and "The Firebird"
Anything WHATSOEVER sung by Audra McDonald
"Someone to Fall Back On" by Stephen Schwartz
"Candle on the Water" from Pete's Dragon
"When I Look In Your Eyes" from the original Dr. Dolittle
"Make Our Garden Grow" from Candide (the greatest musical theatre song EVER written)
"Love to Me" from The Light in the Piazza (well, heck, pretty much ALL of that score ;-)
"How Can I Win?" from The Goodbye Girl
"And So It Goes" by Billy Joel
"I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton
"A Quiet Thing" from Flora, the Red Menace
"Endless Night" from The Lion King
"I'll Cover You Reprise" from Rent
"It Don't Make Sense" from Parade
"Losing My Mind" from Follies
"Little Lamb" from Gypsy
"No More" from Into the Woods
"Not a Day Goes By" from Merrily We Roll Along
"Time Heals Everything" and "I Won't Send Roses" from Mack and Mabel
Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring"
"Alone" from Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris
"Brave Enough for Love" from Jane Eyre
"How Could I Ever Know" and "Lily's Eyes" from The Secret Garden
"Finishing the Hat" and "Move On" from Sunday in the Park with George
"Getting Tall" and "Unusual Way" from Nine
"Heaven Help My Heart" and "Someone Else's Story" from Chess
"Come What May" from Moulin Rouge
"Easy to Be Hard" from Hair
"Funeral for a Friend" by Elton John
Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony
"Gethsemane" from Jesus Christ Superstar
"Hushabye Mountain" from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
"I Remember" from Evening Primrose
The Score to the film October Sky
"You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel
"This Nearly Was Mine" from South Pacific
"I Think It's Gonna Rain Today" by Randy Newman
"Not While I'm Around" from Sweeney Todd
"If I Sing" from Closer Than Ever
"Pretty Lies" from Taboo
"Love Who You Love" from A Man of No Importance
"New Words" from In the Beginning
"Since You Stayed Here" from Brownstone
"Tell Me It's Not True" from Blood Brothers
"Time Stands Still" and "I Never Danced With You" from Lunch
"Vincent" by Don McLean
"What I Did For Love" from A Chorus Line
"Louder Than Words" from tick tick BOOM!
"Winter" by Tori Amos
"You Walk With Me" from The Full Monty
"All By Myself" by Eric Carmen
"Colors/Dance," "Longing/Love," "January Stars," and "Peace" by George Winston
"A Simple Song" from Bernstein's Mass
Dvorak's "New World Symphony"
"Out Here On My Own" from Fame
"Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music
"I'll Imagine You a Song," "Museums," and "The House That I Grew Up In" by Steven Lutvak
"I Believe My Own Eyes" from Tommy
"How Do I Live" by Diane Warren
"Papa, Can You Hear Me?" from Yentl
"Do You Know What It's Like?" from Zanna, Don't!
"I Don't Believe In Heroes Anymore" from 3 Guys Naked from the Waist Down
"What Would I Do?" and "Father to Son" from Falsettos
"I Won't Mind" by Jeff Blumenkrantz
"Unexpressed" by John Bucchino

And now YOU know that answer to "Well, what DO you like?"

Time to go make a new playlist in iTunes ...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Telling Stories

"Life is why ... we tell the story
Pain is why ... we tell the story
Love is why ... we tell the story
Grief is why ... we tell the story
Hope is why ... we tell the story
Faith is why ... we tell the story
You are why ... we tell the story ..."
Lynn Ahrens

DAY 58:  So yesterday I spent a large part of my Saturday doing some additional preparatory work on three of the four directing projects I have for 2010, and it struck me what an incredible opportunity I have in presenting such a variety of plays and musicals.  In January, I begin work on two simultaneous projects which both open in early to mid-March.  First, I am directing/staging an evening of Gilbert and Sullivan songs from The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, and H.M.S. Pinafore for the Orange Park Chorale.  At the same time, I will be directing a blisteringly-sharp dark comedy by Charles Busch about the company that was performing onstage the evening Abraham Lincoln was shot.  The play is called Our Leading Lady and it will be performed at Theatre Jacksonville. 

Shortly after Our Leading Lady opens, I will be holding auditions for a HUGE production of the astounding Jason Robert Brown musical, Parade, which opens in July at Players by-the-Sea.  It is a thrilling work centered on the early 20th century trial and lynching of a Jewish man in Atlanta unjustly accused of murdering a 14-year-old girl who worked in his pencil factory.  FINALLY, just before THAT show opens, I'll be starting my final directing project for 2010, the hysterical musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, opening in September at Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre.  Three theatres, an evening of witty operetta, a small-cast dark comedy, a moving epic musical tragedy, and a gut-busting (and somewhat naughty) chamber musical comedy.

Theatre is all about telling stories, and I'm grateful that 2010 will provide me four wonderfully-varied opportunities to tell some amazing stories.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Spreadin' the News

"These vagabond shoes are longing to stray
And step around the heart of it ..."
Fred Ebb

DAY 57:  My annual trip to The City with Carole is still four months away, but we've already gotten some terrific news.  I recently met an amazing woman (a lifelong friend of my friend, Marcia) who owns a home in midtown Manhattan.  This generous, classy woman offered her home to Carole and me should she be out of town the weekend we were there.  The GREAT news is that she has offered her home to us for the long weekend in April, saving us each about $500 for a hotel room for our vacation!  I am SO grateful to my new friend whose gracious hospitality is unbelievable - opening her home to someone she barely knows.  Oh ... and did I mention she lives across the street from Stephen Sondheim?  Thank you, Ann!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

A New Banner

DAY 56:  I've left off the picture and the quote today, because the picture I want you to see is the great new custom title banner that my brother, Chris, made for my blog and surprised me with today.  Chris is a very talented website designer, in addition to being a terrific teacher, and I'm grateful that he took some time to make this graphic for My OhGeeJay!!  Thanks, bro, you're the best!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Teach Your Children Well

"Mr. Lipp, it's really weird ...
I never understood ANYTHING in Algebra,
but I understand EVERYTHING in Pre-Calculus.
I've NEVER done this well in math ...
you HAVE to teach Calculus next year!"

DAY 55:  The last student out of my room after my final class today shared this with me.  'Nuff said ...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Circle of Life

"Till we find our place on the path unwinding ..."
Tim Rice

DAY 54:  At first, the idea of having taught long enough to be teaching children of past students was a little distressing.  It began a few years ago, and now it's not out of the ordinary for a student to say "You taught my dad" or "You taught my mom."  I was only 23 when I started teaching, after all.  There's a certain sense of completion and fulfillment that comes from that "circle of life."  I rarely ever admit it, discuss it, or even like to think about it much, but there's a wistful part of me that regrets never having children.  I joke about not liking small children, but I do think I would've made a hell of a dad.  And I sometimes get a bit down when I see a father playing with his children, like my cousin with his two young boys last week.  I am grateful, however, that I can have my own impact on successive generations. 

A student of mine (one of those who told me from day one, "You taught my mom") was called out of class this afternoon to go down to the office and she returned with her mom.  I was BEYOND THRILLED to see her ... she was one of my favorite students from one of my earliest years of teaching, and although she's nearly 40 (can you believe it?), she looked EXACTLY the same.  She wore the same memorable smile that could light up an entire city and had the same effervescent personality over 20 years later.  After a big hug, she pointed at me and told my class, "Best teacher EVER!"

Thank you, Carmen ... you're the best, too ...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A State ... of Mind

"Freedom ain't a state like Maine or Virginia ..."
Peter Udell

DAY 53:  Every once in a while, the stars align ... well, my schedules align ... to give me FREE time away from music and theatre.  This is one of those times and I tell you, there ain't NOTHIN' like leaving work and coming home knowing that I don't HAVE to be ANYPLACE ... for rehearsal, performance, WHATEVER.  I'm grateful for this time, but I'm sure I'll be bored and ready to get back to work (on TWO simultaneous directing jobs) in mid-January!!