Sunday Lowdown #6

This Week at the Theatre Job

We finally opened our first musical of 2019, Caroline or Change! It’s been a hectic, stressful process, but on opening night the audience sure looked like they were having a good time. Set in the early 1960s, the musical is about a maid who works in a basement doing laundry in Louisiana. There is nothing underground in Louisiana, the theme repeats; you’re just drowning. Caroline’s employers are a white Jewish family with a young son whose mother died from cancer after smoking her whole life. His step-mother tries to teach him a lesson about fiscal responsibility when she says Caroline can keep any change that remains in the boy’s pockets come laundry time.

The music is beautiful, especially a high soprano character called The Moon. Many of the characters in the script are representations of objects: the radio becomes three Diana Ross-type women, the dryer is a lusty James Brown sort of character (who almost stole the show!), and the bus for which our Caroline waits after work each evening is a man with a deep, soulful sound who delivers the news that Kennedy was assassinated.

In a previous Sunday Lowdown, I shared a picture of one set piece in process, Caroline’s busted-up old house. I love how they made these wooden steps look like poured concrete. Here is the comparison:

We also had to use several corrugated solutions, including the washer and dryer (finding real appliances from the 1960s proved fruitless) and the Louisiana trees:


This Week in Reading: Finished Books

Magic’s Promise by Mercedes Lackey: the best book in the #ReadingValdemar challenge so far, we get more action, some mystery, new characters, and the growth of old characters. I’m getting sad that Vanyel’s story will end soon.

The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories by Alisa Surkis and Monica Nolan: short stories that were largely a miss for me, with the exception of one in which we have a lesbian who wears boys clothes to get an economic advantage.

Roots by Alex Haley: We did it! Shell @ Books by the Cup and I finished our Roots read-along! We’ve agreed that we’re going to read more books together in the future, though I think I’m going to lay off the door stoppers for a while, especially sagas.


The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar: A must-have collection to get the full range of PLD’s talents. You get love poems and seasons, music and slave life. You get dialect and standard English. You get funny and sad. It took me ages to get through the whole book because I would take breaks, not because this isn’t a highly-readable work. To get a free copy, click the hyperlinked title above.

This Week in Reading: Books in Progress

Magic’s Price by Mercedes Lackey: the third book in Vanyel’s trilogy, one that will end sadly. It has to; he’s the LAST herald-mage. One thing I hadn’t thought of the first time I read this trilogy back in 2001 is Vanyel’s genes being passed down, and what that means for future novels.

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith: this is the novel I’m currently reading aloud to my husband before bed. He doesn’t seem to like it so far, mostly due to the pacing. But now Miriam is dead (no surprise) and Bruno is trying to get a hold of Guy. . .and Guy starts lying to everyone! #Guilty. Highsmith is ramping up the tension, I would say.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood: I’m reaching the last chapters of the novel. Grace has told her whole story to Dr. Jordan, but she can’t remember the parts everyone wants to know — when the murders are committed. Some things she thinks suggests she’s making the story more “colorful” because that’s what she believes Dr. Jordan likes. The more I read, the more I realize the Netflix show is so masterfully done that I could have skipped the book.

Next Week in Reading:

I’ll finish Alias Grace early in the week, enjoy Magic’s Price, and begin Fahrenheit 451 and a new book I just got from the library called On Edge: A Journey through Anxiety by Andera Petersen. I did have more Dunbar on the schedule (his plays and short stories), but I’m going to hold off. What are you reading this coming week?

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29 comments

  1. The musical sounds really good and the dryer that is James Brown almost stole the show. That sounds like James Brown alright, he was a showman for sure! What was done with the set for the musical (the front of Caroline’s house) looks phenomenonal.

    I’m so glad we had a chance to read Roots together. I was thinking about mentioning our plans for future reads on my blog too. Thanks for the link to PLD. I think I’d like to read those since I want to read more poetry and short stories this year.

    That’s interesting that you say that about Alias Grace. I have a similar book finished this week that I enjoyed but felt like I should have looked for season 1 on Amazon Prime. I’ll try to explain it when I post.

    And you’re reading Fahrenheit 451 this week? That’s one I think I’ll re-read in the future

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  2. That set looks great! I love the trees in the background. They really help provide a sense of the atmosphere of the place. It reminds me of the multi-layered set we had for Fiddler on the Roof. I wish I had a picture of it, but it was before I really had a camera, and it was definitely before digital cameras were readily available.

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    • And there’s nothing like using a camera with film, getting the pictures back, and realizing none of them are great. Doh! Thanks for your kind words, Kim. I was a giant group effort to get that set done in time, and I’m really proud of everyone.

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  3. I’m glad you’re getting so much enjoyment out of your job in show biz. In relation to Farenheit 451 I listened to it (again) recently. My memory is that the reader was the author. I might be wrong, Bradbury died a few years ago in his 90s, but either way it’s a terrific book to listen to.

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  4. Really loving the set design! Interesting to compare what the house looked like before/after being finished. I’ll likely skip Alias Grace now, knowing it’s not one of Atwood’s best, but I’m definitely interested in the Netflix show. I’m about to start the audio of James Baldwin’s debut, Go Tell It On The Mountain. My commute’s extremely long, so I’m getting back into audiobooks again.

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    • Oh, no! Alias Grace IS a good book, but I watched the show right before I read the book, back-to-back, and they are similar enough that you don’t have to do both.

      Thanks for your kind words about the set. I can’t believe it all came together, but it always all comes together.

      Are you going to review Baldwin’s book? I’d love to comment on that review, as I don’t review books written by men on my blog.

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      • Ahh, I understand – I might just watch the show, then, since I already have so many books sitting in my home TBR.

        I’d really like to hear your thoughts on Baldwin’s novel, so I might have to review it now! I also recently finished If Beale Street Could Talk, so I might group the two together.

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        • I read Beale Street a few years ago and loved it. I enjoyed the movie, but I think I liked the book better simply because Baldwin affects me so deeply.

          Baldwin can do so much in a small space. He’s also incredibly talented at getting into the minds of his characters. If you want to be traumatized, read Baldwin’s short story Going to Meet the Man.

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  5. Wishing you lots of luck with Caroline or Change! I see your husband isn’t really feeling Strangers on a Train, how are you enjoying it? I am starting a backlist book this week, but am kind of panicking because so many sequels are coming out and I promised myself I’d do some rereads. Ahh! Hope you are having a good week so far.

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    • Hi, Alicia! Welcome back from your hiatus. I love Strangers on a Train. I’ve read it before, including when for a semester when I taught the book. My students were freaked out by the slow, creeping, creepy plot! Caroline or Change is doing okay, though we’re having some microphone issues. We’ll get it fixed! The songs are really catchy and get stuck in your head easily.

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  6. Wow! The set looks incredible! I hope the production went well! It sounds like opening night went well at least.

    I am super impressed that you’ve read roots! It has always been on my bookish bucket list of books to eventually read, but have been putting off since the audiobook is over 30 hours long… I will get to it some day. Did you enjoy it? I assume you won’t be doing a full review on your blog.

    I read Fahrenheit 451 last year and enjoyed the story & how timeless and relevant it felt, BUT I am not a big fan of Bradbury’s writing.

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    • I think my mom was just listening to the audio book and said it’s something like 36 hours to get through Roots? It’s lengthy! I enjoyed it, although the later generations felt rushed, which has been a problem with sags for as long as sagas have been written. If you click on the links I’ve been adding on Roots in my Sunday Lowdown posts, you can follow the conversation Shell and I had (20 chapters at a time).

      That’s the thing with Bradbury: his ideas are intriguing, but I think the writing suffers from being overwrought.

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