Sunday, January 31, 2010

f-u-n: Twin City Stage's 'Spelling Bee' is charming

By Mary Martin Niepold
Published: January 31, 2010
There's little wrong and so much right in Twin City Stage's latest offering -- the charming, award-winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee that opened Friday night, despite the snow.

As improbable as it sounds, a spelling bee made up of misfit, terribly bright 12-year-olds has the ability to steal our hearts. Such is the stuff of good theater.

Under Gene Johnson's nimble direction, all of the actors -- six contestants, the bee's hostess, a vice principal and a counselor -- bring heart as well as neuroses, brains, raging puberty and a whole lot of talent to the annual bee where we witness the pursuit and questioning of what winning really means.

The play won two Tony awards in 2005, and its songs are as inventive as they are complex.

Four-part harmonies that would challenge the best of singers seem easy for this skilled ensemble of actors, several of whom are making Twin City debuts and one in particular is showing us what teenage talent looks like.

Savannah Lee Mumford, a sophomore at Mount Airy High School, has already appeared in more than 20 musicals and dramas.

In her Twin City debut, she received much applause, particularly for her trio with two other new actors to the company, Justin C. Hall and Sheri Masters, both of whom have radiant voices, as well.

The show included a cameo appearance by local television anchorman Cameron Kent, who became one of four audience members tapped at each performance to come on stage as other contestants in the bee.

Rounding out the talented cast are area favorites Chad Edwards, Brad Stephenson and Carlos Luis Nieto.

Nieto as Barfee, a neurotic contestant who can spell because of a "magic foot," brings to mind the body and facial pyrotechnics of comic Jerry Lewis.

In the end, how can you not love a bumbler or a girl with two fathers for a mother?

Spelling, after all, is what makes them feel normal.
Stephen and I were supposed to work concessions last night and I was soooo looking forward to seeing the show. Unfortunately Stephen was in Phoenix visiting his boyfriend and the snowstorm canceled the performance. I could have gone to this afternoon's matinee but the call canceling my own tech rehearsal for The Nerd came too late.

I've only heard good things about this show, so if you can catch it, please let me know, so I can live it vicariously through you.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Comedy Opens Feb. 5th At HCT’s Fireman’s Kitchen

Hickory - The Hickory Community Theatre production of The Nerd features a ‘family’ of friends who experience funny and bizarre difficulties when an unexpected guest (the nerd of the title) parks himself on the couch. Lacking in even the most basic social skills, Rick Steadman (played by Daniel Breuer) often practices the tambourine at night, till he feels sleepy. This is the second production in the HCT Firemen’s Kitchen this season, and it opens on Friday, February 5.

Performances are at 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, February 5-27 and 7:30pm on Thursday, February 11 in the Firemen’s Kitchen at HCT. All seats are $12 and are now on sale.

HCT is a Funded Affiliate of the United Arts Council of Catawba County. “The Nerd” is produced by Robert Abbey, Inc. and Two on the Aisle.

Photo at right: Tansy McGinnis (Cheryl Ann Roberts) is amazed to find that Clelia Waldgrave (Delene Huggins) has a special way of relieving the stress of being a wife and mother.

Also appearing in the farce are Chris Honsaker (Willum Cubbert), Anthony Liguori (Axel), John Gann (Warnock Waldgrave) and Preston Gann (Thor Waldgrave).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Dramatic Hideaway in a Rainforest Wonderland

I soooooo want to vacation here. Who wants to join me?

In the early 1980s, Francis Ford Coppola visited Belize, immediately fell in love with the location, and purchased the abandoned Blancaneaux Lodge. For more than a decade the resort was used as a family retreat before Francis opened his tropical paradise to the public in 1993.

Tucked away in a pocket of the Maya Mountains, Blancaneaux Lodge is a 20-room luxury resort where waterfalls tumble into turquoise pools above the jungle canopy. Its remote mountain setting makes it a perfect place to relax, rejuvenate and enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

Guests can also explore the ancient civilization of the Maya, which still endures in the sacred sites throughout this magical region. From the ceremonial caves along the white-water rivers of the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve to stalactite caverns and the vast ruins of Caracol deep within the lush rainforest, Blancaneaux is your window into the world of natural and archaeological wonders.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Bro

This picture cracks me up - my brother trying to act all dark and brooding...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SETC Road Trip, Day Two

We began today at 8:30a meeting up with Bond Jacobs, Director of Services for the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau, who acted as our cruise director. Outside it was snowing. Accumulation wasn't supposed to be but about an inch. The snowfall was beautiful.

First up was a tour of the Hyatt facilities with Senior Convention Services Manager Amy Lett. We viewed the ball, board and meeting rooms where we will hold our numerous workshops in March. Amy also took us through their Presidential Suite, which may be the week's home to Beth Harvey, SETC's current President. While the suite had a nice comfy, homey feel to it, it also smelled. There was not bar area per se, which is important since the President's Reception will take place in her suite.

Bond next took us over to the Lexington Convention Center where we met Natasha Stamper the Event Manager. The LCC is where I will be spending 90% of my convention time - Thursday and Friday I'll be working Pro-Auditions as Assistant Director and on Saturday I'll be working Graduate Auditions as the Director. The Commercial exhibits and Education Expo, one of my current responsibilities, will also be in the LCC. Chris' registration desk, April's Job Contact Services and Hardy's Undergraduate Auditions will also be at the LCC. It is wonderful to be able to experience the spaces before we hit the ground running at Convention. We've got a month to visualize the layouts and work out any potential problems before hand.

Around noon Bond introduced us to Erik Maikkula, Director of Catering and Convention Services for the Hilton. He took us on a tour of the Hilton facilities where we will hold more workshops. Chris and I like their Presidential Suite much, much better. It does have a bar area and, once again, the bathroom is spa quality. We took pictures and Beth will have to decide.

For lunch we were treated to a taste-testing. Our job was to determine the menu for the State Luncheon on Friday. After completing stuffing ourselves we settled on a mixed salad, almond seared chicken with red pepper risotto and green beans, and white/dark chocolate mousse for dessert. (I personally adored the raspberry chocolate cake, but others felt it was too heavy for lunch. I was able to snag an extra piece as a takeaway.)

After the glorious lunch we walked to the Lexington Opera House, which is where the High School Festival will take place. I was awed by its beauty. The house was recently renovated and the red velvet seats are not only gorgeous but comfortable. They have a portrait gallery in which hangs pictures of famous people who have played at the Opera House. Downstairs is Pardy's Pub and a rumored ghost or two. April and I both agreed that the Community Theatre Festival should have been located here. While High School kids would dig the ghost stories they simply won't appreciate the space like community theatre folks would.

Our last meeting was with Dave Steinmetz, the TD for the University of Kentucky. UK will host the Community Theatre Festival. He's hosted the KTA State Conference so Dave will help make our jobs very easy.

After a two hour nap we all met and walked to Natasha's Bistro and Bar for dinner. (Yes, we walked, 6 blocks, in freezing cold weather.) I ordered the Pesto Bascilico, which was much better than the burger I had last night. While we were enjoying our meals we were treated to Jazz Pianist and composer Kokichi Tagawa and then Tom Green performed. Thoroughly stuffed from our earlier lunch and a great dinner we walked the 6 blocks back to the hotels. (It was still just as freezing.)

And now I will spend some time reviewing my lines for The Nerd.

Monday, January 25, 2010

SETC Road Trip, Day One

For the first time in SETC history, the staff (as opposed to the Executive Board) is going for a pre-con visit, where we'll meet the hotel and Convention Center folks we'll be working closely with in March. More importantly we will get to see the specific sites for our 61st Annual Spring Convention.

This morning April, Hardy, Chris and I piled into a 6-person van destined for Lexington, Kentucky. (Betsey and Quiana were already there.)We had a very pleasant trip through NC and VA. We stopped at Bob Evans in Beckley, WV for lunch and discussed with our waitress the corporate policy change of biscuits to the table before the yeast rolls. I had the new Border Scramble Biscuit Bowl, which wasn't as appetizing as it sounded. Back on the road we hit some rain and snow patches; the latter resulting in some minor tense driving. We finally arrived in Lexington a bit after 5pm.

Hardy, Chris and I chose to check into our Hilton rooms before our 6p meeting. (April, Betsey and Quiana were at the Hyatt.) Now, I love my job for many reasons - getting to stay in nice hotels is one. My room is awesome! I have a king sized sleep bed (my sleep number, by the way, is 35) with 5 fluffy pillows. The bathroom looked like one you'd find at a spa. The towels were big, fluffy and absorbent. I love the big screen TV (though it took me a bit to figure out how to access the local channels).

The Hilton, Hyatt, Lexington Convention Center and some downtown areas are connected by a pedway. So, if it should rain (or snow) during our Convention, with little exception, you won't have to step one foot outside. Most of you who know me are aware of my concern with bridges, and that concern now apparently extends to pedways. The only pedway I had a problem with was the one from the Hyatt to the Hilton. While enclosed (except for the side openings along the floor that were covered with the thinnest of chicken wires) it was directly over a high trafficked street. Seeing the cracks in the concreted walkway and hearing the cars pass underneath - well, it was all I could do not to run screaming for my life from one end to the other.

We used the pedways to meet Larry Snipes, the Producing Director for the Lexington Children's Theatre. (Sidenote: Lexington Children's Theatre was a finalist in the Chase Community Giving contest on Facebook. They did not get the $1MM, but they were the top theatre in the contest.) LCT is one of our festival sites and will host Titus Burgess Midnight Concert. Larry is an absolute joy, and I've no doubt everything will run smoothly under his watchful and experienced eye.

Around 7:45p we all piled in the van and headed to dinner at Ramsey's Diner. Quiana went to UK and used to work at this American soul food restaurant. I had a hamburger which was meh. I did get to try, for the first time in my life, fried green tomatoes. Those were delish! For dessert I had a slice of Mayday pie from Missy's Pie Shop. The quarter sized slice was full of pecans and chocolate chips. It was sheer Heaven!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Quote of the Day

Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater.

If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby.
If you give her a house, she'll give you a home.
If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal.
If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart.

She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her. So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Book Report

Completing babyville also means I've read all of Jane Green's novels. I must say that I like her earlier books much better.

I enjoyed Julia's and Maeve's stories, but it was Sam's, in the last third of the book, that was the most poignant. Exhausted and insecure following the birth of her son, Sam becomes enamored with a new friend's husband. Convinced she is married to the wrong man, she fantasizes about Dan - if she doesn't see any red cars for the next 20 seconds, she is sure Dan loves her. While comical, I recognized Sam's decent into postpartum depression. There was no friend's husband for me to swoon over, but I struggled with my own bout of postpartum depression after the birth of Cade. Sam and I both had friends who suggested seeing someone, but like Sam, I discounted their concern. Luckily Sam realizes the worth of her marriage. I wasn't necessarily as lucky.

Jane Green owns the chick lit genre, and with very good reason. If you haven't experienced her yet, pick up one, or all, of her 11 books.

Rehearsal, The Nerd

This afternoon we ran Act One, not only off book for the first time, but with temporary props. The run went surprisingly well.

I've been a bit nervous about the "Shoes and Socks" scene. "Shoes and Socks" is a game that Rick introduces. Not only are we in bare feet, we also have paper bags over our heads. I was worried that I'd tear my eye hole too high or too low and I wouldn't be able to see. I was also concerned I wouldn't be able to hear cue lines.

All that worry was for nothing. My eye hole was perfect and, while a bit muffled, I could hear my cues. It was, however, unexpectedly hot under the paper bag.

After the run I was helping the stage manager replace props and our director called me over. He wanted to call attention to what he called "thigh slaps". He thought it was a subconscious movement on my part, akin apparently to picking one's nose. I do make a conscious choice to raise/drop my arms against my side during a particular moment of frustration with Willum and I told our director so. He seemed a bit surprised, claimed that that wasn't the moment, but he couldn't give me specific instances.

As I hopped in my car for the trek home I couldn't get one of Axel's lines off my brain - "Dipstick."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Usually the 70 minute drive home from rehearsals calms me so that I'm ready for a nice night's sleep. Not so last night. Nope, last night I had a raging, nauseating stress headache born of complete and utter frustration with our director. I now understand why actors depart productions due to "creative differences".

I first became concerned about our director when he told us the playwright had made a mistake with a particular scene between Axel and Tansy. He felt Tansy was talking about her relationship with Willum (as opposed to one with Axel). As such our lines were duly modified. I was shocked at his interpretation, and the expression on my face was a pure WTF?! moment. Larry Shue clearly references the prior relationship between Axel and Tansy - they almost got married! And it is this prior relationship that sets up the premise of the play. Thankfully Anthony, who plays Axel, was on the same page Larry Shue. After further discussion our director acquiesced and we're doing the scene as written.

Last week I was directed to play a particular scene as if it was the most normal thing in the world; that everyone does it and that it's an every day occurrence. I didn't completely agree with his direction (it's not a "normal" thing nor something "everyone" does every day) but I decided to go with it. He is, after all, our director. After many more stops and starts (some with barely getting two words out of my mouth!), it was becoming apparent to me that we had two different ideas of Tansy. I left rehearsal a bit frustrated, questioning my acting abilities and wondering if I was reading the same script as the director. After talking with Anthony I felt better and affirmed renewed focus.

Alas, last night was worse. With nary a sound out of my mouth or movement, our director frequently stopped me. While complimenting me on my instincts (uh huh, sure) I was told to tone down volume, increase volume, walk with no purpose, slow the pace, pick up the pace, react more, overact less, don't telegraph, do indicate. Basically I was being directed to not only ignore punctuation and italics in Shue's script but the intent of the words themselves! By the end of the Act I felt Tansy wasn't much more than a Stepford wife.

I wasn't the only one singled out. He gave direction to Chris and Dan to tighten up stutters and pauses during a scene which is supposed to be painfully boring. Chris questioned the director at one point, but gave in like I did. After last night's rehearsal I am convinced that our director has no clue about this play.

I'll be the first one to admit that I've had it relatively easy the last couple of years. Many of the area directors are familiar with my work. They know what I can do and, more importantly, they trust me to do it. One of the reasons I decided to audition for The Nerd was for the challenge of working with a new group. No kidding that you've got to be careful what you ask for.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pink With Black Lace...

Last week I was asked to post the color of the bra I was wearing to my Facebook status. I was also directed to keep the reason secret from my male friends. The purpose of the status update was supposedly to promote Breast Cancer Awareness.

I couldn't understand how titillating updates would truly support the promotion. And to not tell men why colors were suddenly appearing in multitudes of updates? How exactly does that promote Breast Cancer Awareness?

I deleted the request and refrained from updating my status. It wasn't because that very morning I had passed over my zebra stripped push-up Wonderbra for the more comfortable 18-hour bra in basic black. No, it was simply because I found the request ridiculous.

Apparently I wasn't alone. I ran across Donna Trussell's article this morning, and found it very interesting.

My Bra? Color Me Furious
Donna Trussell
Posted: Politics Daily

The bra-color meme that's sweeping Facebook and allegedly raising awareness of breast cancer got a nice one-two punch from my colleague Frances Tobin.

Allow me to pile on.

Not for myself, but for friends I've watched face this beast. Many of them aren't wearing bras of any color because their breasts are long gone. Instead they might be wearing a lymphedema sleeve on their arms, sometimes for the rest of their lives.

As a member of the all-too-exclusive club of long-term ovarian cancer survivors, let me first say I used to resent the enormous amount of attention breast cancer got over other cancers. Breast Cancer Awareness Month (also known as "pink nausea" by certain folks) seemed to begin in late July and end in late November, totally eclipsing the far more lethal (per capita) cancers of ovarian and pancreatic.

Where's all the teal in September? I realize fountains are not so good for awareness, since they're always teal. But where are the endless rows of candy bars and other products sporting teal?

Where's all the purple in November? If you're a playwright and you want your main character to die, you choose ovarian if it's a woman and pancreatic if it's a guy. So where's the love for pancreatic cancer patients?

Cancer envy – wishing you could trade in your bad-stat cancer for a more benign variety – is known only to those with personal experience with this dreadful disease.

Like it was yesterday, I remember lunch with my friend Sherri. One year after my diagnosis with ovarian cancer, she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer. She gazed out the window and said, "This is going to kill me."

"How can you say that," I replied. "I'd give anything to trade my statistics for yours."

"Don't ask me how I know," she said. "I just know."

Sherri was earlier stage than me. She was younger than me. I thought about that when, six years later, I attended her funeral.

For a while I went to a support group for cancer survivors of all types. That was my light-bulb moment. The breast cancer patients in that group began detailing the experiences – waking up from surgery, the day after surgery, going home with drainage tubes attached to their armpits.

"Tubes?" I shuddered. "I guess every kind of cancer is its own version of hell."


In spring of 2008, another friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. If only I had a dollar for every time I said: My tumor was 11 centimeters. When was the last time you heard of an 11-centimeter breast tumor?

"No, Donna, it's not early stage," my friend said. "The tumor is nine centimeters." My friend had lobular breast cancer, which can grow into the chest instead of outward.

A few months later she got a bonus -- a second primary of lung cancer, the kind nonsmokers get. She's had more surgery in 18 months than I've had in my whole life.

My friend is ten years younger than me. Her husband is a doctor. She's always been trim and fit, and she has not a mean bone in her body.

Color me educated.

But don't color me pink. Or teal. I want a new color. I want a rainbow. We use the word "cancer" for what is probably a thousand different diseases. The segregation and disparity in funding between types of cancer is absurd. Name any cell in your body, and you've just named a chance for mutation and cancer – at any time, for any person.

Even so, I suspect women are especially vulnerable. Their bodies are designed to grow things. Like babies. And, it turns out, cancer, even if they don't smoke, and they eat healthy, and breast-feed their children. While men can get male-specific cancers, women's cancers seem to be more adept at hiding til it's too late.

Which brings us back to bra colors. Yes, awareness is good – unless people think awareness is as good as action. Think before you pink, says Breast Cancer Action.

Last night on the Facebook wall of Matthew Zachary, founder of I'm Too Young for This (aka Stupid Cancer), the bra-color meme was topic one for the evening. "Awareness," Matthew wrote, "is the same as rhetoric. Like propaganda without the marketing. It's air. I welcome any cultural anthropologist to demonstrate successful awareness without action."

Years ago I attended a lunch gathering of cancer survivors and medical professionals. The event was supposed to end with some kind of hilarious musical spoof on the subject of "boobs," written by a surgeon. At the last moment, the song got spiked. Through the grapevine I heard that a patient facing mastectomy found the subject not one bit funny.

After walking a mile in the shoes of my friends, I have to say I agree. I would find no comfort in Facebook games about colored lingerie that my new body no longer needed, or tight tee-shirts with cute slogans about saving "second base" or the "ta-tas."

Or any other campaign that emphasized the womanliness, the beauty, the importance of breasts. Never mind the breasts. Save the women.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Gorgeous Morning Sky

This morning as Cade and I sat in my car waiting for his bus we marveled at the brilliant morning sky. Flaming orange melded into a neon pink hue with just a touch of lavender. Colors that made me wish for the talent of a painter; a gorgeous sky that made me wish for the talent of a photographer.

Cade's singing from the back seat brought me out of my reverie.
Pink sky at night, sailors delight
Pink sky in morning, sailors take warning

Even though we might be in for some bad weather, if you believe those salty sailors, I truly felt blessed to bear witness.

Monday, January 04, 2010

New Look for 2010

So I thought I'd redo my blog to kick start the New Year. The design is called "Tired Girl" which, for the moment, definitely fits me.

What do you think?