Sunday Lowdown #3

This Week at the Theatre Job

While there were no performances this week, I did lead several teams as they work through various stages of production! Because I got this job in the middle of several shows (for there are always shows in process), it’s been a long wait to finally take over that process for all the shows in the theatre. I’ve been organizing and leading and resolving conflict, and I feel good about it. The next show that opens is Fahrenheit 451, which is cast entirely with young people (I think all under 18). The purpose is to get schools to do a field trip to see a play. Did you ever do that when you were a kid? We’d go to the local college and see performances, and it just blew my mind!

My husband is both the sound designer and mentor for Fahrenheit 451. He’s taken two young people under his wing to show them the ropes on finding and implementing sound effects, and also how to record foley effects! One young person has gone giddy about playing all sound effects in reverse, which I think is fun, and I enjoy seeing these kids thrive while learning new skills under a mentor.

This Week in Reading: Finished Books

Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison by Shaka Senghor: When a nineteen-year-old young black man named James White murders someone during a drug deal, he’s sent to prison for 19 years. Senghor describes what led up to that murder and his time in prison, and how he laid to rest James White to become Shaka Senghor. The memoir could have done without some hyperbolic cliffhangers, and I was skeptical when he argued he hadn’t done anything violent in prison for ten years despite paying to have an inmate beat up.

Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey: The first book in The Last Herald Mage trilogy introduces us to Vanyel. Unlike The Heralds of Valdemar trilogy, Vanyel is not Chosen until near the very end, giving more time for background on him as a person before life as a Herald. Though Lackey doesn’t clarify the time period in Magic’s Pawn, we know it’s hundreds of years before The Heralds of Valdemar trilogy because Vanyel is a legend in the books Talia reads. My review is coming on Monday!

Soft in the Middle by Shelby Eileen: Right away, I could tell this collection of poems was not for me. The speaker goes through a gamut of emotions after a break up, and I was both overwhelmed by the number of poems about pining away and underwhelmed by the lack of attention to basic poetry tools, like imagery and alliteration.

This Week in Reading: Books in Progress

Roots by Alex Haley: On Saturday, Shell @ Books by the Cup and I discussed chapters 41-60 of Roots by Alex Haley. It was a tumultuous 20 chapters! Kunta Kinte arrives in Virginia, is sold at auction, makes several attempts to escape, is physically punished within an inch of his life, sold again, and is creeping toward forty. He seems content, which makes me uncomfortable.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood: Thanks to the Netflix version of Alias Grace capturing my attention, I decided to add the novel to my Feb-March reading schedule. I want to know more about the ending, and several of you mentioned that the book is wonderful. I didn’t realize it’s so long, about 550 pages, so I’m spreading it out over about 5-6 weeks. I may do this more often instead of trying to fit all books I read into one month.

Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall: This is the book I’m reading aloud to my husband. Okay, something weird is going on. These are not only zombies, but they develop a third eye that can get into your head and make you do things! The book is oh-so funny. One woman dressed as Princess Leia (at a Trekkie convention!) was left without shoes and has to make do with some puffy novelty slippers shaped like the Enterprise that are described as being the size of shoe boxes. And she’s running around the hotel, killing zombies in that outfit. Currently, the main character, Jim, and Leia are headed toward a hotel room in which Jim’s sister is trapped.

Next Week in Reading

I’m starting a few books over the next week. First, the second book in The Last Herald Mage trilogy, Magic’s Promise by Mercedes Lackey. Vanyel went through more in the first book than Talia did in her whole trilogy, so I cant wait to see what happens next. Also, I’ll begin This Much Space by K.K. Hendin for my reading fat women challenge. The cover says it is book two in a series, but from what I’ve read I don’t need to backtrack. The fat woman on the cover makes me heart soar!

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34 comments

  1. I actually went to my local theatre this week – I even got to see a play about local history, The Shadow Factory. The Spitfire was built in my city during WWII, and the play is about the aftermath of the factory being bombed (and more generally the effects of the Blitz on the city). At the end of the play, the director came out to talk about the work they do in local schools talking about the story – it was really interesting.

    (I was really impressed with how affecting the play was – it’s a small theatre with a very stripped down set, but they really made the most of it).

    • I think some of the more interesting plays I’ve seen at my work place have totally stripped down sets. They ask readers to think conceptually or suspend disbelief, and then the focus is totally on the story itself. Not everyone feels that way, though. Currently, we’re building a large set for a musical called Caroline or Change that opens March 15th. One really popular play our right now is based on a book of the same title, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. It mainly uses a few cubes and ACTORS as the set. It’s super cool. Have you read that book?

    • Did you ever go on a field trip to a theatre and see a play when you were a child? I grew up in a college town, so my elementary school would go to the college where they would usually have a musical that we would watch. It was so cool, but even as a little kid, I remember thinking, “Why do they have to sing everything?!” I’m still more of a straight play kind of person 😀

      The plays we saw, though, were all college students. At my theatre it’s people under 18. The tech aspects are handled by adult designers, but as I mentioned, my husband is mentoring two kids, so they’re trying to get young people interested in more than just being on stage. I know that college theatre programs make actors take classes that cover all aspects of theatre so they come away with an appreciation of the other roles that make the performance magic. Essentially, it’s like taking actors down a peg so they work better with everyone.

      • I can remember going on a class trip to the theatre a couple of times, but I would have loved to do it more often! I go as often as I can now, and I’ve noticed at quite a few recent matinees that there have been groups of high school kids there, so hopefully it’s becoming more common to actively engage young people.

        And that’s great that they’re introducing them to behind the scenes roles too. The more accessible theatre is made, the better! 😊

  2. We didn’t have field trips to see local theater productions (there being nothing but school productions in my little town on the prairie), but we did have small theater-like events hosted by the high school Thespian group, which I became a part of when I got to high school. Those little events were always fun to see, even if they weren’t terribly formal.

    • Kim, I just adore that description: “my little town on the prairie.” To be honest, I instantly pictured you’re entire town just living in a musical. Of course, this is thanks to all those Golden Age musicals about prairies and wind on plains. Do you remember any of the plays you were in?

      • There was one day in high school when I said, “musicals are weird. People don’t just break out into song in real life”, and through that day, three different people randomly broke into song…

        I was usually on the stage crew, as I quickly discovered that I do not enjoy acting. I remember most of our plays. We often did a fall play, spring musical, and a competitive one-act. We performed The Odd Couple, Fiddler on the Roof, and Moliere’s The Miser (one-act), Charley’s Aunt, Guys and Dolls, Our Hearts Were Young and Gay, and a few more I can’t remember off the top of my head.

        • We always had a spring musical (Guys & Dolls, Mame, Fiddler on the Root) and a fall play that was part of the drama class (these were chosen by students and often odd scripts the names of which I cannot remember).

  3. Heheh Night of the Living Trekkies sounds like an awesome readaloud readalong! And I am nodding along in agreement with the permission-to-take-a-little-longer-with-a-book philosophy. Allowing yourself the time you need (especially with such a layered work as Alias Grace – one of my faves) is bound to make for a more rewarding experience. And there’s enough to stress about in life – we don’t need to make reading stressy too. Enjoy!

    • Thank you! I still have the standard four that I read in a month (one per week), but I’ve added these misc. works throughout the month that cross time borders. I’m glad I watched the Netflix version of Alias Grace first. There are so many names right away, and an odd tone that Grace uses, so I’m glad I experienced it visually and audibly first.

  4. My AP English class got season tickets to a local theatre and we saw (I think) four plays there. I’d never seen professional theatre before and I still remember how amazing it seemed to me.

    • The only professional theatre I’ve seen was Phantom of the Opera in Toronto (and then again in Lansing). The theatre where I work is community theatre, so it’s all volunteer actors, directors, etc. We have a really high standard, so it feels more polished.

  5. Your theatre job sounds wonderful and I am rather envious. Now that I’ve retired I’ve discovered that I don’t miss work as such (especially the bureaucracy) but I do miss the feeling of being involved in a shared endeavour. Theatre productions are very much the kind of collaborative activity I love

  6. Fahrenheit 451 was a book I remember enjoying more at my book club when I read it many years ago. I hope all goes well with the play and the kids enjoy themselves.

    I finished zero books last week but that’s OK too. I had a fun week all the same.

    • I love that you’re taking on all these projects with longer books. Because you take on longer reads, it seems like keeping people updated monthly or weekly is even more important. Readers like a personal touch on blogs.

  7. I haven’t been to a play for years – The Tempest was the last, 20 years ago. Good luck with Fahrenheit 451; it’s a great book. I hope you put up a video of Nick’s TV walls, I suppose you could do it with 3 or 4 projectors. Hey, I should patent that!

    • I believe the TV walls are a blue light that is shined into the actors’ faces from the perspective of the audience. Then, there is a recording of what’s on the TV, which was all created by Nick and the kids in the show. I’ve been told one kid really knocked it out of the park with a great combo of creepy and TV host!

  8. I loved loved loved going to theatre shows in high school-in fact, I was a drama nerd myself, acting in many plays. My claim to fame is earning the ‘most likely to win an oscar’ nod when I graduated 🙂 It was voted on by my peers which meant alot. I quickly dropped drama when I went to university and hated every single person in my drama classes. They were all way too dramatic! LOL

  9. How on earth do you read so much?! I have no idea. Are you loving Roots? I have never even considered reading it. Does that make me a bad bookworm? I kinda feel like it does… O_o

    When I was younger, we never went to the college to see plays. We went to the high school! The high school theatre program put on 12-16 shows a year and always at least one children’s show which did performances for the elementary school kids during the day. I loved it, both as an observer and a performer.

    I’m excited that Nick is mentoring! I hope he loves it. I’ve never recorded foley sounds — I’d love to try it. Like drying bacon is often used for rain. Brilliant. I mean. Not that I eat bacon…

    • For each book I only read like 15-20 pages per day. So, total, I’m reading about 45 pages per day. Sometimes I cram things all together and end up reading closer to 75. I once met a writer who read a novel per day. He was also a professor at Brown. He is also lowkey famous. He was raised Mormon, and I’m not sure if that had anything to do with it, but he said his family all read like that.

      I think Roots would have a super negative effect on you. There is a lot of graphic brutality that made me feel mildly nauseated for many chapters. I think because Alex Haley wrote an epic, it’s easier to think about Kunta Kinte differently and see his behaviors and thoughts compared to people born slaves. It really gets the wheels in my head going.

      • Still. 15-20 pages per day across multiple books… I’m super impressed. I listen to books for about 30-45 minutes a day during doggo walks and working out. I probably only sit down and truly read pages of books 4 times a week. My brain has really struggled to see reading as decompression time lately.

        Ah. That’s a valid point. Perhaps Roots should stay out of my TBR, then? 😉

        • I think so. You know slavery is bad and wrong. Getting sick over it won’t change that.

          I’d like to hear more about your new job. I noticed you’ve written a few times about how it’s a bit overwhelming. What did they add to your plate? Is it more hours, too?

          • It’s not so much that they added stuff to my plate, so much as they changed all the things on it. So, I technically have a similar workload, only I am learning how to do all of these things brand new. Plus, the group of people I’m working with (~9 people across two major projects) are all people I’ve never worked with before. Which means I’m building entirely new emotional relationships. It’s a lot of learning and trying to win people over. It’s just exhausting!

            • Oh, man! I hear you! As project manager at the theatre, every new play or musical is a new team of people. I have to get to know how each person operates, which can be challenging. If I have someone who has worked on a team before, it interesting (and hard) trying to figure out how to move that person even closer to best practices without suggesting they did something “wrong” on a previous show. Relationship building! Ack!

  10. Glad to hear work’s been going so well! I never had the chance to see a play in high school, but my college offered free/reduced admission to certain shows throughout the season. I remember seeing Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf my first year, and the experience definitely instilled a love of theatre in me.

      • I’m more of a show-goer, though I have a lot of respect for the people who work on productions. Having just moved, I’ve recently made a few contacts who work(ed) in local theatre, and I’ve enjoyed hearing about their experiences and what goes into a show.

        • Nice! If you ever had the spare time and want to volunteer, I know a community theatre would love to have you. Simply entry jobs are running the light or sound board or being a backstage crew runner.

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