Monday, April 09, 2007

As an academic I get a lot of University Press catalogs and as a voracious reader I usually go through all of them in detail, not just the sections that pertain to my particular discipline (not that a theatrical designer and opera lover/closet historian my discipline can be that easily defined). In the most recent University of Chicago catalog, there appears this irresistible item:

Headless Males Make Great Lovers; and other unusual natural histories

Marty Crump, with illustrations by Alan Crump

"Who would believe that hedgehogs anoint themselves with toad venom as a defense? That rabbits eat their own dung? Or that sea slugs like group sex? This book grosses out, but also educates. Not for Intelligent Design proponents."

Hey, how about this: we start a writing campaign to inform right-wing religious groups that there's a massive amount of group sex going on among sea slugs, and maybe they'll turn their attention to eliminating slug orgies, and get off OUR backs. You think?


I wasn't actually missing in action, just involved in too much action. Friday's one day guest appearance by the Paul Taylor 2 touring dance company went superbly--better than anything has a right to that involves creating a theater in an empty hall beginning at 8 am, rehearsing the entire performance as of 2pm, performing at 8pm, and striking a couple of tons of theatrical stage and lighting equipment by midnight so the hall's crew can set up a sit-down banquet for 400 for the next day.

There was praise for my getting it all to coordinate so smoothly but I have a built-in advantage--I'm a Myers-Briggs type J, meaning that I'm a natural organizer. I also multi-task well. And I thrive on only five hours of sleep a night. Thus have I been employed (and sometimes exploited) by theater and opera companies all over Boston and near-by New England.

There were some delightful episodes during the day. Two of the Taylor company's major financial patrons showed up as the lighting booms were being erected and a thousand feet electric cable being laid all through the hall. These guys have big careers, are probably richer than god, and the wife of one of them has just become MIT's Treasurer. They were playing hooky for the afternoon to hang with the members of the company they love to support. They turned out to be incredibly charming, up on everything and up for anything.

As Producer for the event, I was involved with and responsible for every aspect of the production. As these guys wandered through the organized chaos, I was sitting at a technical table folding the evening's programs by hand--I know, working in theater is SO glamorous. Introductions all around. They found out I'm scenic designer and technical coordinator for the Theater Section. One of them says that they'd be interested in my opinion of the single most horrible Post-Modern, Euro-trashy production they'd ever seen in their lives the night before.

This is my meat. I was in my element. I knew exactly where they had been and what they were talking about. "Gentlemen, we are, of course discussing the new production of Richard Strauss's 'The Egyptian Helen' at the Metropolitan opera." And faster than Kevin Bacon's Six Degrees of Separation TV commercial, we're practically brothers. Chairs were pulled up in a close circle and one of them comments to the other that he bets they can fold programs as well as I do.

So there we were, two CEOs and me talking theory of contemporary production styles, collating and folding three sheet programs and having a great time together.

The performance went very well. Because of the Boston Globe and Herald ads we had more than the 200 people that the hall is usually rated to hold in a stage performance configuration but because we had laid things out very economically, we were allowed to put out sixty more seats and didn't have to turn anyone away.

Saturday afternoon I drove down to New York City for the evening performance of the aforementioned "most horrible Post-Modern, Euro-trashy production" of "The Egyptian Helen" (the set models seen here) and found it stylish, quite appropriate for the material and extremely well performed. The original productions in Germany and Austria in 1928 were clearly based on Hollywood spectacles; the accompanying pictures of the Metropolitan Opera's production show a 1930s Hollywood musical influence. I loved it, and so did a near-capacity audience. And German tenor Thorsten Kerl made a good-sounding, great looking leading man.


Today was a BIG day. I spent it with Fritz and we got immense amounts accomplished. First and foremost, today officially saw the transition from planning the house to beginning the construction. The excavator came by to collect an advance for grading and laying gravel on the road up to the house and digging the trench for the electric and communication cables. He begins the work tomorrow morning.

We ordered and paid for all the cable conduit that's going into the trench, to be delivered Friday. In the afternoon we met with M, who's doing all the construction drawings, and chose the style and material for all our interior doors. We turned over the info on our choices for toilets and the upstairs shower enclosure and went over a lot of details needed to complete the drawings and get them ready to go out to bid with the two prospective general contractors. We're on our way!

In my next life, I want to be a sea slug. Yes I know, it sounds gross, but...

Good luck with the construction. When we had our home built, there was a time that I was called to the site from work to break up a fist fight between the electrician and the foreman (from two different companies). It was tough since I didn't have a lot of breaking-up-fight material. So, I got between them and recited what Annie Oakley used to say when I watched her in my childhood, "Don't you boys know that fighting never solves anything!?!!?" (in the most butch voice I could muster without breaking out in a rash and having a panic attack). It worked!
If you enjoyed HEadless Males Make Great Lovers, you might also enjoy Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to all Creation by Olivia Judson. I'd a natural history of sex, written in the style of a sex advice column. Funny and well written, it concentrates on species whose sexual proclivities are notably different from our own.
I never cease to marvel at all you do and read.
i digested this post, trying to decide how to comment...


Wow, were the real sets as beautiful as those models? Looking at those pics, i'm taken immediately in my internal hardrive/rolodex of design memories to the Salvador Dali dream sequences in Hitchcock's Spellbound.

Congratulations on another move from dream to reality on the house. Looking forward to reading and seeing more in the coming weeks and months.
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