Wednesday, September 29, 2004

 
I went blog surfing last night and came actoss this 200 item survey at a couple of different sites. Who makes these things up and makes these choices? Anyway, I have just over 100 highlighted--those are the ones I've actually done--so I don't feel as if I have missed too much in life.

01. Bought everyone in the pub a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain (it was a very small Alp but there's no size restriction on this thing)
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula.
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said ‘I love you’ and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Done a striptease
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Stayed up all night long, and watch the sun rise
15. Seen the Northern Lights
16. Gone to a huge sports game
17. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa

18. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
19. Touched an iceberg
20. Slept under the stars
21. Changed a baby’s diaper
22. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
23. Watched a meteor shower
24. Gotten drunk on champagne
25. Given more than you can afford to charity
26. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
27. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
28. Had a food fight
29. Bet on a winning horse
30. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
31. Asked out a stranger (and then asked him in!)
32. Had a snowball fight
33. Photocopied your bottom on the office photocopier
34. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
35. Held a lamb
36. Enacted a favorite fantasy
37. Taken a midnight skinny dip
38. Taken an ice cold bath (cold plunge after a sauna in Russia)
39. Had a meaningful conversation with a beggar
40. Seen a total eclipse
41. Ridden a roller coaster

42. Hit a home run
43. Fit three weeks miraculously into three days
44. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
45. Adopted an accent for an entire day

46. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
47. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
48. Had two hard drives for your computer
49. Visited all 50 states
50. Loved your job for all accounts
51. Taken care of someone who was shit faced
52. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
53. Had amazing friends (still do!)
54. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
55. Watched wild whales
56. Stolen a sign
57. Backpacked in Europe
58. Taken a road-trip
59. Rock climbing
60. Lied to foreign government’s official in that country to avoid notice
61. Midnight walk on the beach
62. Sky diving
63. Visited Ireland
64. Been heartbroken longer then you were actually in love
65. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
66. Visited Japan
67. Benchpressed your own weight
68. Milked a cow
69. Alphabetized your records
70. Pretended to be a superhero
71. Sung karaoke
72. Lounged around in bed all day
73. Posed nude in front of strangers

74. Scuba diving
75. Got it on to “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye
76. Kissed in the rain
77. Played in the mud
78. Played in the rain
79. Gone to a drive-in theater
80. Done something you should regret, but don’t regret it (and did it a lot)
81. Visited the Great Wall of China
82. Discovered that someone who’s not supposed to have known about your blog has discovered your blog
83. Dropped Windows in favor of something better
84. Started a business
85. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
86. Toured ancient sites
87. Taken a martial arts class
88. Swordfought for the honor of a woman
89. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
90. Gotten married (to a woman, now to a man)
91. Been in a movie (a TV docu-drama)
92. Crashed a party
93. Loved someone you shouldn’t have
94. Kissed someone so passionately it made them dizzy
95. Gotten divorced

96. Had sex at the office
97. Gone without food for 5 days
98. Made cookies from scratch
99. Won first prize in a costume contest (as a pornographic satyr)
100. Ridden a gondola in Venice
101. Gotten a tattoo (a LOT of tattoos)
102. Found that the texture of some materials can turn you on
103. Rafted the Snake River (will the Rio Grande do?)
104. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
105. Got flowers for no reason
106. Masturbated in a public place (does the New York state Thruway while driving qualify? It’s SUCH a dull road, you have to do something)
107. Got so drunk you don’t remember anything
108. Been addicted to some form of illegal drug
109. Performed on stage
110. Been to Las Vegas
111. Recorded music
112. Eaten shark
113. Had a one-night stand (and more than one)
114. Gone to Thailand
115. Seen Siouxsie live
116. Bought a house
117. Been in a combat zone (Boston’s Combat Zone. Not what they had in mind, probably, but that’s what it was called)
118. Buried one/both of your parents
119. Shaved or waxed your pubic hair off (shaved)
120. Been on a cruise ship
121. Spoken more than one language fluently
122. Gotten into a fight while attempting to defend someone
123. Bounced a check
124. Performed in Rocky Horror
125. Read - and understood - your credit report
126. Raised children
127. Recently bought and played with a favorite childhood toy
128. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour (only for a summer though)
129. Created and named your own constellation of stars
130. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
131. Found out something significant that your ancestors did
132. Called or written your Congress person
133. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
134. …more than once? - More than thrice?
135. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
136. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
137. Had an abortion or your female partner did
138. Had plastic surgery
139. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived.
140. Wrote articles for a large publication
141. Lost over 100 pounds
142. Held someone while they were having a flashback
143. Piloted an airplane
144. Petted a stingray
145. Broken someone’s heart
146. Helped an animal give birth
147. Been fired or laid off from a job (a free-lance design gig)
148. Won something on a T.V. game show
149. Broken a bone
150. Killed a human being
151. Gone on an African photo safari
152. Ridden a motorcycle (does a Vespa count?)
153. Driven any land vehicle at a speed of greater than 100mph
154. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced (left nipple)
155. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
156. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
157. Ridden a horse
158. Had major surgery
159. Had sex on a moving train
160. Had a snake as a pet
161. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
162. Slept through an entire flight: takeoff, flight, and landing
163. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
164. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
165. Visited all 7 continents
166. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
167. Eaten kangaroo meat
168. Fallen in love at an ancient Mayan burial ground
169. Been a sperm or egg donor
170. Eaten sushi
171. Had your picture in the newspaper
172. Had 2 (or more) healthy romantic relationships for over a year in your lifetime
173. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
174. Gotten someone fired for their actions
175. Gone back to school
176. Parasailed
177. Changed your name
178. Petted a cockroach

179. Eaten fried green tomatoes
180. Read The Iliad
181. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read something by him/her.
182. Dined in a restaurant and stolen silverware, plates, cups because your apartment needed them
183. …and gotten 86′ed from the restaurant because you did it so many times, they figured out it was you
184. Taught yourself an art from scratch
185. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (do fish count? I think so)
186. Apologized to someone years after inflicting the hurt
187. Skipped all your school reunions (so far, yeah..)
188. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
189. Been elected to public office
190. Written your own computer language
191. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream (his name is Fritz)
192. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
193. Built your own PC from parts
194. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
195. Had a booth at a street fair
196: Dyed your hair
197: Been a DJ (an opera program on a college radio station, but they were Ds and I Jd them)
198: Found out someone was going to dump you via LiveJournal
199: Written your own role playing game
200: Been arrested

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

 
Speaker of the Massachusetts House Tom Finneran is leaving his position and, by implication, politics forever. He's accepted the presidency of a private sector company. The subtext is his impending Federal prosecution for rigging district lines to prevent minority voters from gaining a fair share of elected representatives. In this and in his opposition to gay marriage, he is a very strange sort of Democrat. However, he did work to kill attempts to remove Chief Justice Margaret Marshall and other Justices who voted for gay marriage, and he has also acted against other favorite Mitt Romney initiatives like the Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the state, so he can't be all bad. But he's hardly all good and his succssor as Speaker, an avowed liberal from the Italian North End, will come as a breath of fresh air.

Another European Country is moving to defy the Catholic Church and institute gay marriage:

Spain Church blasts gay marriage
By Robert Piggott BBC religious affairs correspondent

Spain could join other European countries in allowing same-sex unions. The Roman Catholic Church has attacked the Spanish government's plans to introduce gay marriage, comparing them to releasing a virus into society.

The government says it expects homosexual people to be able to marry as early as next year.
The legislation highlights the steep decline in the power and authority of the Church in Western Europe.
This is especially the case in Spain - which was until recently one of Europe's most devout countries.

'Counterfeit'
The bill allowing same sex marriage - expected to be passed by the Spanish cabinet this week - has prompted a harsh response from Roman Catholic bishops. Their spokesman likened gay marriages to a counterfeit currency. "It would impose on society a virus, something false, which will have negative consequences for social life," Juan Antonio Martinez Camino said.

Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero took office in April, intending to remove what he called the Church's undeniable advantages and create a secular state with streamlined divorce and relaxations in abortion law. The changes have distressed and outraged the Church, whose influence on Spaniards has declined precipitously since the death in 1975 of the dictator General Francisco Franco. His regime was closely linked to the Church. Opinion polls suggest that nearly half of Spaniards now almost never go to mass."

We had a marvelous couple of days in Ogunquit with golden fall weather, a lot of walking on the beach and around the coastline, some shopping and museum-going, great dinners, and sweet wake-up sex. The rain from the latest hurricane held off until this morning when it was time for us to return to the normal routine.

Friday, September 24, 2004

 
I can't remember ever being hammered by so much work at the beginning of the academic year as this year. There are a large number of things I do that aren't on the job description--we all have this problem as we're understaffed for what we have to do, and particularly for what we WANT to do. We remain without our own facilities, performing in spaces where we have to compete with the entire Institute for time, and the rehearsal space situation is even worse. As I do the performance and rehearsal scheduling, it is a continuing and complicated drain on my time and energy. Every now and again, the situation becomes very discouraging.

By the end of this academic year, I will have finished thirty years working and teaching in theater at MIT. For at least twenty of those years we have actively been working to develop one faciltiy or another for theater and music rehearsals and performances, space that our department would own and be able to schedule as we need to schedule it. One by one, they've all fallen through. The current project is a fine one but it's stalled badly as the flagship donor, the one who would get his name on the building and attract other gifts to complete the financing, has withdrawn his offer.

Fritz and I are getting away this weekend until Tuesday at noon. His last graduating class gave him a gift certificate to a sea-side inn and resort in Ogunquit, the Maine coast's version of Provincetown. The weather should hold, and we both badly need some time off by ourselves. Cape Cod and the Maine coast are really spectacular after "the season," in the early fall when the tourists have gone, the color is just beginning to come into the trees, prices in the shops are knocked way down, but the really good restaurants are still open. I'll be back with you guys sometime early Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

 
Surveying the mess this morning: I had hoped and prayed (as much as a gay athiest can pray) that some scandal or major mistake on George Bush's part would bring him down in the coming election. The documents revealed on CBS about Bush's military record (or lack of same) certainly looked promising but it's obvious now that CBS and Dan Rather screwed up big time. As it happens, I am no fan of Dan Rather and neither is Fritz. In terms of style we both find him pompous and pretentious. Regarding substance, he has two big former strikes against him: his mid-telecastcast walk-out during the first George Bush's presidency and his mismanagement of the Florida election returns during the 2000 presidential election.

Politics, however, makes strange bedfellows and I was more than willing to slip between the sheets with Rather if only he could deliver a knockout punch. And he has--to his own credibility, CBS's credibility and perhaps to the Kerry campaign. Comment is building that Bush's enemies will resort to everything including fraud, and the Bush campaign is already pinning the affair on Kerry. The blow has fallen on the Democrats instead of where it belongs. Local media and communications leaders are saying that Rather's career is finished, certainly as anchor and possibly with CBS in any capacity.

With thanks to Bill of Bill and Kent's blog, I've learned that will be unleashing a new weapon in Iraq--a microwave gun. This is a personal weapon, a gun for our soldiers to use in close fighting in towns and cities as our military and government have apparently finally caught on that the number of civilians we're slaughtering is doing us no good in capturing the hearts and minds of Iraq's population. So instead of spraying bullets around and hitting many, many innocents in the process, we will cook people to death where they stand (the official statement indicates that there is intense pain involved). Why our soldiers' aim should be any better with microwaves than automatic weapons isn't clear to me. And if this thing falls into the hands of those who think it hip and fun to torture Iraqis in detention, we're in very deep trouble.

Finally, last night I did something I perhaps should not have, but I sought out the Eugene Anderson beheading video on the web. I thought I should see at least one of these incidents if I was to continue airing opinions in public. I had seen video of legal executions by beheading in Saudi Arabia in the past. A tall, powerfully built executioner has a large, heavy, very well sharpened sword and the blow is a quick, clean one that strikes the head off with minimun suffering. I am NOT defending the practice, merely noting that it is part of Islamic culture and perfectly legal under their system. However what abduction victims who are beheaded by the militants undergo is not that. A smallish knife is used and the killing takes an agonizing amount of time. It's deeply disturbing to watch and I don't recommend it. I particularly don't recommend watching it with the sound on.

I'm going to be working out my thoughts on this for some time, but I do remind myself that we are at war with a people whose country we invaded on false charges and that when a country goes to war, it has to take what it gets from the enemy. We've gotten ourselves into an unthinkable mess, and I'm deeply fearful that the administration that got us there will be with us for the next four years.




Sunday, September 19, 2004

 
I just saw Tony Kushner win the Emmy award for ANGELS IN AMERICA as best mini-series of the year. He made a nice acceptance speech, giving huge credit to director Mike Nichols and the producer, and then capped it with "and to my wonderful husband Mark--someday soon we can get a legal marriage and you can make an honest homosexual out of me!" Great stuff. I saw ANGELS here in Boston many years ago, doing the one day marathon of both halves with dinner in between. But I have had two lovely and much closer connections to Tony Kushner.

Four years ago we did his adaptation of Pierre Corneille's seventeenth century play THE ILLUSION.at MIT. There was a very cordial exchange of emails between him and us over terms of doing the play and some minor cuts our director wanted to make. And a couple of years before that again my younger daughter who was studying at Hamilton College attended Tony Kushner's appearance there. She had purchased a copy of the first half of ANGELS, "Millenium Approaches," and approached him when his talk concluded. She told him that her father had finally met an incredible man named Fritz and asked if he would autograph the book to us. He wrote a very sweet dedication and the fact that she had thought to do this meant a lot to both of us.

The operas I had designed for the Hackmatack Playhouse came to MIT today and were a huge success, particularly the one with music and libretto by my MIT colleagues. The acoustics were vastly better in our intimate Little Theater than they had been in the atmospheric but too sound absorptive barn in Maine, so words came through with much greater clarity. And we had a real piano rather than what musicians call "an appliance," which is to say an electric piano, so much more detail and color came through in the accompaniment. I had a great student crew to work with me on the lighting and, in a difficult space to light (ceiling too low and virtually no side light positions), we managed to do some really good work. Since time was very restricted in the theater, we had to pull what almost amounted to an all-nighter on Friday night into Saturday morning and then run tech and dress rehearsals all day on Saturday. But everyone involved was focused on what was really important, which was to present the material with the highest standards possible and we all worked beautifully together. When you're lucky enough in theater or opera to work under such conditions, the inevitable difficulties and inconveniences pale in comparison to the joy of being able to do your best work together.


Saturday, September 18, 2004

 
Just before the first meeting of the academic year that included the faculties of both Music and Theater convened yesterday, one of the "star" professors asked if she might announce my marriage to Fritz to the group. I said yes, of course. When she stood to say she had good news, she also announced that our departmental administrator John had married his partner John (we refer to the boys as "the Johns") the previous weekend. There was a prolonged burst of applause and congratulation. I understand the reaction might have been far more muted had such an announcement been made in the flagship, far more conservative departments like Physics, Engineering or Math where it is more difficult to be out. But I'm in the performing arts where there are a large number of out gay men and lesbians, and the noisy reception for John and me was a delightful way to start the year.

Fritz and I were talking about the first episode of "Will and Grace" where Grace broke up her marriage to Leo over his infidelity, a single incident, while he was out of the country on medical assignment. Fritz commented on the standard heterosexual trauma of one strike and you're out versus the many models of how to deal with extra marital/relationship sexual contact in gay culture from the couple occasionally playing around together to open promiscuity within (or without) certain pre-agreed guidelines. He thought it a shame the issue could not have been explored in more depth, and I replied that to do so would necessitate Will's being involved in precisely the kind of established relationship the producers and writers have been avoiding so hard for so long.

Will has dated (Fritz and I were pulling hard for the adorable Dan Futterman) but no guy has lasted for more than three or four episodes if that. There is a hint from the producers that the cute/hunky New York cop and Will may actually connect long term this season but it is awfully late in the game. Head writer Max Muchnik has actually stated in public that it's preferable to deny Will a normal, healthy romantic and sexual relationship with another man in order to keep the show on the air. I'm not the type to condemn W&G out of hand for being a trival showcase for all the standard stereotypes--too many barriers have been broken including Grace's interracial affair with Gregory Hines, male-male kissing, etc. But it would be nice to see two men on a mainstream network show portrayed in a viable relationship and dealing with real-life issues of making it all work. Those areas of the country that "aren't quite ready to deal with that sort of thing" might just learn some valuable lessons.


Friday, September 17, 2004

 
One of the joys of my job is the chance occasionally to work with other departments, most of which have no obvious connection with theater, in realizing special projects. Architecture, environmental science, admissions, and alumni relations are among the groups I've designed or organized for and earth sciences was on the phone yesterday.

The departmental administator called and asked if I would be interested in a research project that required the design and fabrication of a 13' x 13' x 11'6" tent made of completely lightproof material in which a battery of lights that replicate all the frequencies and qualities of natural sunlight would be focused on samples of architectural glass. The goal is to develop new types of windows,
skylights and other uses for architectural glass panels. She had seen the specs provided by the chief researcher and thought to herself that a theatrical designer might be just the right person.

I met with the researcher both in her office and in the basement space where the tent is to be installed. I brought up several issues she had not considered, safety code issues included, particularly ventilation. She's looking for a space sealed shut so tightly that absolutely no ambient light can penetrate. But two or three people will be in the tent, along with a battery of powerful lights, for up to two hours at a time--without ventilation the space will become overpowering very quickly. Also, and not the least of my concerns, she has only three thousand dollars for design, materials and fabrication.

It's a good challlenge that will make use of all the problem-solving skills theater designers develop from working in unsuitable spaces, with unreasonable schedules and unrealistic budgets. Should be fun!


Thursday, September 16, 2004

 
Every so often I cull out my blog links to eliminate blogs that have officially shut down or gone silent for over three or four months. Then I add a couple of new ones that have caught my attention and seem likely to keep it. One such is really a new name for an old friend. “Holding the man” is the new incarnation of Dalai Banana, a very good and interesting gay writer from Darwin, Australia. I somehow missed his shutdown/new site notice and found him again unexpectedly yesterday evening. Welcome back!

Cosmoblog is another real writer with a good sense of humor. He discovered this site: www.dribbleglass.com/Jokes/town-names.htm that’s full of odd, mostly single-entendre names for actual cities and towns. He listed his fifteen favorites:
1. Long Dong (Guangxi, China)

2. Weener (Germany)
3. Bobbin Head (Australia)
4. Mount Mee (Australia)
5. Tittie Ho (England)
6. Yocumtown (Pennsylvania)
7. Big Cockup and Little Cockup (England)
8. Cocktown (Ireland)
9. Sandy Balls (England)
10. Cockland (Ohio)
11. Handcock Town (North Carolina)
12. Fukum (Yemen)
13. Hookersville (West Virginia)
14. Cocksgag (Ohio)
15. Pecker's Point (Newfoundland, Canada)

How or why he omitted Bloody Dick, Montana, Dildo, Newfoundland or Mt. Buggery, Australia escapes me but tastes differ in humor this subtle, no? The site has many more examples—something for everyone.

With Ivan the Hurricane heading generally toward New Orleans, best wishes go out to Richard (sturtle) and his boyfriend John (the once--and, hopefully, future--blogger Jonno). They've elected to ride Ivan out in the heart of the city and take “vertical evacuation” refuge in a high-rise hotel in case of flooding.


And speaking of flooding, although on a far more modest scale, The Big Dig sprang another leak yesterday afternoon when water began pouring into the main tunnel. After all those billions of dollars spent on this project, all the massive upheaval the city has been subjected to, it turns out that shoddy workmanship in the form of a large pocket of clay and sand never properly mixed together with water and concrete was able to give way and bring the city’s traffic to a halt.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

 
It's a great Stephen Sondheim year here in the Northeast. In New York alone there are new productions of PACIFIC OVERTURES and the freshly expanded THE FROGS, developed by Sondheim and Nathan Lane from the now-legendary production that played in the pool at Yale University decades ago. Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver were in the chorus for that(!) The original lasted for only something like forty five minutes but the new one is closer to a full-length musical. Here in Boston we're going to have a new production of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at the Lyric Stage and a new COMPANY done at another theater.

Playbill has special offers on Broadway shows and I ordered tickets today for FROGS for Fritz and me on October 10, the last day of the run at big savings. And I have a single for PACIFIC OVERTURES in December. Combined with the really wonderful ASSASSINS revival last spring, it's a bumper crop of wonderful Sondheim material, because SWEENEY TODD was at New York City Opera just a year ago as well.

My fall is going to be filled with designing for dance events that open in mid-October and early December, while starting to prepare productions for January and April. Unfortunately, I always do a great deal better when I have way too much to do than when I have less than a "normal" load and a relaxed schedule. When I'm overwhelmed, everything gets done because I instinctively swing into overdrive, work like a demon, and the ideas just flow. When it's more liesurely, I risk missing deadlines because there's no sense of urgency and my brain gets lazy. So, it should be a good year for me, too.


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

 
Kitty Kelly's new book made the front page of the Boston Herald today with a typically lurid Herald-style headline about the Bush family's involvement in extra-marital sex, drugs and all manner of sin. I loved it. Couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch of right wingers. I don't have all that much respect for Kitty; she's probably an opportunistic muckraker, but if she can help bring down the House of Bush in the public's estimation, she's my girl.

I've been thinking long and hard about the Republican National Convention. I think it was one big bait and switch routine. There were all those social moderates, like the popular actor-turned-governor who married a Kennedy relative and is willing to consider same sex marriage, the great hero of 911 who lived with gay men during the crisis, a couple of others and even Cheney for whom I have no use but who finally acknowledged his daughter's sexuality in public and got himself branded a traitor by some of the far-right hate groups. But that's not who who's really calling the shots and the fundamentalist homophobes will be resuming business as usual with an even stronger edge should Bush be elected this time.


Saturday, September 11, 2004

 
Summer seems to have ended here in the Boston area--it's getting on to mid-September and the nights are becoming much cooler, even chilly. I usually hate summer and find it bearable only because I get a chance to garden. But this one just ending had maybe eight days where the heat and humidity got past my personal comfort zone and it was pretty good.

Autumn is my favorite season, partly because it brings relief from summer, but also because I'm in the academic world where everything starts up in the fall and new projects begin. I was asked in July to be an evaluator for a colleague at a top level local college who was standing for tenure. She's a scenic designer like me and there are many parallels in our careers. We have both straddled the academic and professional theater scenes, have both been responsible for rebuilding and re-energizing sluggish design operations at various colleges and universities, both have had highly varied careers where we found ourselves doing things with seemingly no connection to our "official" jobs that enriched our art and lives in valuable if totally unexpected ways. The tenure review part was a pleasure--she's a first-rate designer, has a great reputation among her peers and her recommendations and student evaluations are right up there. I also loved her teaching philosophy and technique, not least because we are esentially working off the same page.

Part of the deal was that they wanted me to include my own current curriculum vitae along with her package of materials when I returned it with my written evaluation of her work. I have to admit to some lazyness here, because when I settled into MIT and the job kept expanding, it was obvious that as long as I didn't disgrace myself with some hunky undergraduate (and there HAVE been temptations, all manfully resisted) I wasn't going to have to look for work for the foreseeable future. So, I spent the last days of August and right up to the middle of last week updating and gathering information from various scattered files, scrapbooks of programs and reviews, etc. and the new document is finished.

My first reaction when I read it over was "Holy s--t! When did I have the time to DO all this while raising two children solo?" I'm blessed with an excellent memory and could recall maybe 85 percent of everything, but there were some real surprises:

I apparently designed a whole arts festival for the city of Boston in 1972, getting a exhibition of my own work as part of the compensation package. I have a program for one of the theater productions and a letter from the Mayor's Office for Cultural Affairs thanking me for a highly successful event and complimenting my efforts to help keep Boston's smaller theaters alive. I have absolutely no recollection of what this event looked like. I had forgotten I designed it. No, it WASN'T 1970s drugs. I didn't even try pot for the first time until eight years later.

I had vague memories of doing art and design for some rock tours but had forgotten the particulars:
A painted backdrop of the Rocky Mountains for Dan Fogelberg; an enormous rose in full bloom painted onto the flooring material of Natalie Cole's stage--she sang several numbers standing right inthe middle of it; a logo, graphics and publicity art for The Joe Perry Project during a period in Aerosmith's history when Joe was testing out going solo. Interestingly, you can google Joe Perry and see pictures of this band. Then it all started coming back--design meetings in Joe's huge suburban Boston home with his wife, dressed in boutique chic all white mini-fashion with her all white mini-poodle, rushing around the place. The poodle would throw itself all over everybody looking for attention, Joe would ask her to "speak with the dog" about not doing that and she replied, standing very theatrically with her hands on her hips saying, "Just WHAT would you like me to SAY to her, JOSEPH???"

A travelling Theraputic Brain Scan Exhibit for Winchester Hospital. Don't ask, I have no idea. But it was two years after the pot, so . . .

There's more, like the fact that I arranged locations for--and actually appeared in--a TV dramatization of Lee Harvey Oswald's years in Russia. Going on last minute for an actor who didn't show up, I am seen only from the back, a Soviet bureaucrat endlessly shuffling papers and stamping forms in one of the offices Oswald cooled his heels in for months searching for work before returning disillusioned to the U.S. and his eventual destiny as John Kennedy's assassin. As I symbolized all the waste, inefficiency and dysfunction of the Soviet system that drove Oswald back to the U.S., I consider my silent, faceless role in the movie to have been absolutely pivotal.


Friday, September 10, 2004

 
The humidity here eased during the night and today has cooler, clearer air. The last couple of days have been awful for those of us who don't like saturated air. I spent my at home time naked, the only way I can manage not to feel claustrophobic when the air clings like a shroud.

The first week of the academic year ends today, and not a moment too soon. Each year has a strongly different profile and this one has begun with a huge rush of work. Two of our directors will be spending significant amounts of time out of country working with foreign theater companies, one in England developing new material with the Royal Shakespeare Company and one in Budapest, Berlin or New York--he's heavily connected. The concept and design work for their productions has to be done now so we'll be prepared to start construction and finishing details at the proper time. Then yesterday I was asked (given the job) to facilitate bringing an Asian drag show to campus for National Coming Out Day that's in something like three and a half weeks. As I always say, this is why I'm making the medium sized bucks. :-)

A lot of our friends, family and colleagues chose to make contributions to GLAD or other groups working for freedom to marry and other gay and lesbian rights as wedding gifts to us. Fritz and I are very happy about this and will be writing more thank you notes this weekend as GLAD sent some more acknowledgements this week. As for the presidential campaign, I'm trying to remain calm and keep Harry Truman's surprise victory over the heavily favored Thomas Dewey the morning after the 1948 election in my mind at all times. I'm not in denial--anything but. Things aren't looking good.


Wednesday, September 08, 2004

 
Yesterday was the first day of the new academic year at MIT. It always runs around 14 hours, from 7:30am to 9:30pm or thereabouts. The day is capped by an open house here at the design/production facility to greet returning students and give the newcomers info on all we do and what we are up to this year in particular.

On the docket: THE INTERNATIONALIST by Anna Washburn, a play so new we are working on it from the manuscript. Maybe ten or fifteen percent of it takes place in a made up foreign language somewhat like eastern European mixed with Norwegian. It deals with issues of culture shock and opportunism in international corporate espionage. There is also sexual betrayal and a fair amount of humor, not necessarily in that order.

The short list for our other big production includes THE DESTRUCTION DOWNTOWN by Tennessee Williams, a very obscure one act by a writer who is not done as often any more as he should be, and two plays by Odon von Horvath. OvH was a Hungarian working in Germany during the heady days of the Weimar Republic. He was a well-recieved colleague of Brecht and Wedekind. He was also very anti-Nazi. The Nazi's were very anti-Horvath. He fled (not far enough) to Vienna and when Austria fell to the Germans, to Paris. He died prematurely before they could catch up with him there, having made the classic mistake of running under a tall tree for shelter in a storm. None of us has ever encountered his work here in the U.S., but he is done a lot in England, germany and Austria.

We passed the thousand mark yesterday in deaths of Americans in Iraq. We aren't given the number of normal Iraqi citizens, men, women and children who have been killed and/or lost everything they have in this bloody (in both the literal and the British sense) war, but it is probably much higher. These numbers may seem slender compared to Viet-Nam, Korea or WWII, but they represent thousands of families
affected, thousands of children left without a mother or father, a pitiful and outrageous slaughter of vibrant human beings for a pack of lies and unbearable arrogance. While their pain and struggle is over, those who are left behind have to cope as they can.

Why is America so violent? We are having a huge spike in gang-related murders here in Boston this summer and we seem, as a nation, to be energized by violent confrontation in every forum from the local hockey rink (where parents of schoolchildren attack coaches or, in one local instance, kill each other over an incident on the ice) to foreign battlefields where diplomacy and/or more rational approaches to international conflict aren't explored before the carpet bombing begins. Sad, and a terrible waste in human terms.


Saturday, September 04, 2004

 
This will be a short entry, but the opening went off without a hitch in front of a nice-sized audience who were demonstratively positive at the courtain calls for both operas. The first one was from the company's past repertory, Leonard Bernstein's TROUBLE IN TAHITI, a one act written in the early 1950s looking with some cynicism at the newly-developing life of suburbia in the U.S. Sam and Dinah have marriage problems brought on by the pressures of modern life in an atmosphere where unless you are perfect and decorative you just don't fit into the American Dream. Some of it is highly prescient--Sam misses his son's high school play because he just has to be at the gym--and gyms in 1953 were nothing like the obsession they are today. I did only the lights for this as only a few pieces of furniture and some props were actually required.

A QUESTION OF LOVE was excellently received, gay theme and all, and looked gorgeous. Big hit with the audience in spite of a rather harmonically advanced form of late romanticism in which the score is written. My MIT colleagues who wrote the libretto and composed the music were thrilled and told me how much what I had contributed meant to them. We bring it to the MIT campus on the third weekend of this month.

Nicest thing of all--Fritz came with me to the opening and seemed genuinely to enjoy both operas. That they were in English helped and that they were both short works with serious themes and performed with excellent production standards meant a great deal to him. He particularly liked the honey-voiced Dinah in TAHITI and was most impressed by J. the founder and artistic director--and lead baritone--of the company. J. is a tall, handsome, really a nice guy, a real trooper when it comes to working through any difficulties (see the last entry--he was with me every minute of the way). What's not to like? :-)




Friday, September 03, 2004

 
Friday already--time flies even when you're not having a great deal of fun. The operas are going well, finally, but I discovered all over again just why I did one year of summer stock and then said "never again." Mark W., this is one you will understand very well, I think.

The Playhouse in Berwick, Maine is a converted barn with a nice warm wood and open beam interior. The stage area is thoroughly adequate and the backstage facilities, while not lavish, are better by far than a lot of similar summer theaters. The lighting system turned out to be terminally screwed up and cost us untold hours of grief, combined with the fact that the last show in there, the 1950s nostalgia review "Forever Plaid," didn't strike their stuff and left the place in a chaotic situation. The set and props look just fine but the lighting was won by a hard-fought battle against close deadlines and unwilling equipment.

For those who aren't aware how a theater works, each lighting instrument has a number and has to be plugged into a circuit outlet above or on the side of the stage. Each circuit has its own number and the off-stage end of each curcuit then gets plugged into a dimmer that generally has enough capacity to control three or four lighting instruments. The dimmers each have THEIR own number and are controlled by a lighting board with slider switches. Given all these separate numbers, it can be pretty confusing but works well if everything is as it should be.

Now, our problem was two-fold, and was caused by one of the productions that had come into the theater late in the summer. Someone had removed the tags from many of the circuit cables coming from the stage so that we could plug in an instrument into, say, circuit 42 on stage but have no concept of which of the many, many circuit ends we were supposed to plug into the dimmers. But the real problem was that he or she had also rewired the dimmer connections to the control board so that if you plugged Circuit 42 into dimmer 5, nothing would happen when you brought the control slider up to full power. This stumped us for an hour or so until we discovered that what we had plugged into dimmer 5 came up on dimmer 27, what we plugged into dimmer 8 came up on dimmer 17, etc. Over the range of 42 dimmers it took a long time and lots of trial and error to find each of our instruments and it meant completely rewriting all the production's paperwork and lighting cues that I had carefully prepared in advance since we supposedly only had five hours on Wednesday to gel and focus lights and be ready for technical and dress rehearsals on Thursday afternoon.

What happened, of course, is that we stayed late on Wednesday and started at 8am on Thursday and finished with most but not all of our lights in operation for the tech rehearsal that limped along surprisingly well under the circumstances. The dress was even a bit better and I finished my notes and clean-up this morning with some sense of pride in what I had managed. We open tonight at 8pm. I'm hoping for the best.

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