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THE NEW PALS CLUB WEB-LOG
improbable-looking limestone karsts in Guilin

Thursday, June 07, 2007

My Object All Sublime


In 2000, I decided that the theatre program at Christopher Newport University was a class act, and determined that, over the hill as I was, I would use my position as a faculty spouse to justify trying out for shows. I auditioned (using "The Girl Friend of the Whirling Dervish" as my song) , and was offered a part in the Chorus, which I accepted, knowing full well it would be harder than any part I'd ever done. And it was, but it was so worth it. I got to work with director George Hillow, who not only brought out humorous scenes and situations I never suspected were in the original script, but who also created fantastic sets.

(In the photo, I'm the really pale one. My character was called "Honorable Third-From-Left".)

Early in rehearsals, George put out a call for new lyrics in two of the show's numbers, "I've Got A Little List," and "A More Humane Mikado." Though most of the show's lyrics have aged well, the social offenders on whom the characters were wishing death and humiliation have been replaced by much newer annoyances to revile. It turned out quite soon that he was happy enough with a set of lyrics for the little list that had been used in another production, and I turned my attention to the Mikado's number.

One or two verses I initially wrote were axed and replaced by better ones (also by me). In the course of rehearsal, bits of business were added in.

It was just wonderful, hearing my lyrics sung by a soloist with chorus and orchestra for a live audience that gave the impression they were enjoying it. (The highest compliment the show received, in my opinion, was a student sitting behind my wife, who remarked to his chum, "This is more fun than getting wrecked!")



Allow me to set the stage. The Mikado of Japan, feared by all for his jovial enjoyment of torture, comes to the town of Titipu, where he is greeted by all the other principals and the chorus. The laughter heard in the opening lines of his song comes because the factotums have brought a huge box out onto the stage, and the Mikado has just popped out of it like a mikado-in-a-box. (Jon, our Mikado, carried this off with hauteur and aplomb, despite being claustrophobic.)

By way of introduction, he sings the words of W.S. Gilbert (which I will put asterisks in front of, just in case anyone thinks I'm trying to pass off his lyrics as more of my work):

Mikado:
*A more humane Mikado never did in Japan exist!
*To nobody second, I'm certainly reckoned a true philanthopist.
*It is my very humane endeavor to make, to some extent,
*Each evil liver a running river of harmless merriment.

*My object all sublime, I shall achieve in time--
*To let the punishment fit the crime, the punishment fit the crime--
*And make each prisoner pent
*Unwillingly represent
*A source of innocent merriment, of innocent merriment!

The boring breadwinner who rings you at dinner
To change long-distance plans;
We'll let this annoyer try calling his lawyer
With string and two tin cans.

The dowager old, who makes so bold
As to 'lift' her form and face --
When she has healed, 'twill be revealed
Her nose they did misplace.

The chip-eating chap in his easy chair's lap
Who's wild for spectator sport
Will play them all from inside the ball
Being bounced around the court!

The lout who enjoys his musical noise
And shares it with you on the street;
We shall make a drum of his bum-bum-bum
And kick it on every beat...

*My object all sublime, I shall achieve in time
*To let the punishment fit the crime, the punishment fit the crime,
*And make each prisoner pent
*Unwillingly represent
*A source of innocent merriment, of innocent merriment.

Chorus:
*His object all sublime, he shall achieve in time (etc)

Mikado:
The caliginous creep with his cell-phone's beep
In crowded concert halls;
His number we'll lend to the Psychic Friends
And let them receive his calls!

The lawyers who...

At this point, a cell phone is heard. Jon stops singing. The orchestra stops playing. The chorus and everyone else on stage starts digging frantically through their costumes, looking for the phone. A Gentleman of Japan, who is somehow third from right at this point, triumphantly comes up with the chirping instrument, opens it up and says, "Moshi-moshi? ... hai... hai... " Sudden realization that the call is for the Big Guy himself, who regards me with royal impatience. I knee-walk over and hand him my phone. "Mikado," says Jon. "Sorry, I'm in the middle of a number. Yes... Yes, I love you too, Mumsy." He clicks off and puts the phone in his pocket. I grovel back to my place.

Mikado:
...The lawyers who race and ambulance chase
As a business strategem
Will see how they like to pedal a bike
While the ambulance chases them.

The mentalities small, who write on a wall
That "So and So is a Jerk" --
We'll see to it these'll be everyone's easel
Of calli-o-graphic work!

The playgoer loud, so exceedingly proud
To announce how the show comes out
Will be condemned to announce the end
Of himself; quite soon, no doubt.

*My object all sublime, I shall achieve in time (etc)

Chorus:
*His object all sublime, he shall achieve in time (etc)

(We moved from Virginia in 2005, but for as long as we were there, George was telling people that the biggest laugh ever was when I said "Moshi-moshi." I believe it was Jackie who provided me with this standard telephone greeting. Nowadays I think I should have turned out as the reaction was dying down and shushed the audience, but we only think of these things when it's twelve years too late. Edited to add an audio file, and I think I might be able to provide video of it in the near-ish future.)

15 Nov 2013: I was thinking about the show again today, wearily working out at the Y, and the remarkable talents we had. Fred, our Ko-Ko, has been working steadily on stages in New York City and around, since he graduated. Erik, our Pooh-Bah, has been a fixture on professional stages farther south. When Erik and Fred and Chad performed the trio, "I Am So Proud," the star power on that stage was downright scary. And Jon, who popped out of a box as The Mikado, did so with grace and confidence each night, notwithstanding his nigh-overpowering claustrophobia. The things we are able to do in front of an audience! (My back had gone out, and as I stepped away from the stage, I'd sag more and more until I had to crawl to a couch until my next entrance. I remember seeing Mike doze on the same couch, and when a stagehand gave us the customary alert, "Five minutes," he replied "Thank you five" without waking up.)

What I wanted to say was that I still admire Erik, not just for his virtuoso performance (without changing a word of dialog, he made the scene where he advises Ko-Ko as a variety of functionaries into a cadenza of celebrity impersonations) but for his curtain call. All through the show, he was stern and unbending. As he took his bow, he glared at the audience one last time, raised his fan to his face, and when the fan came down, he was smiling broadly. He had dropped the mask with a wonderful gesture I will steal if I ever get the chance, facing the audience for the last time as himself.

The closest I came to an inspired curtain call was for "Where's Charley?", a show in which I spent my time trying to woo a wealthy widow, never suspecting it was Charley. The real widow, played by Angela, was to my left as we came out. Every night, I gallantly offered her my arm, and every night, she didn't even see me, turning to the gentleman who had won her affection in the last act, at which I would turn away and pretend not to mind. Angela didn't even know I was doing it. Somebody told her, and she said it made her feel so sorry for me! Or rather, for Simon Sylvester Salsonberry Spettigue, I suppose.

Monday, June 04, 2007

For Geckoman
It might have been me that warned you about pocket change and batteries. When I was at McDonald, I was standing back in the production area and my thigh felt warm. A second later, it was hot, and I jumped. The culprit was a couple of AAs and some jingly money, burning a hole in my pocket, or trying to. Since then, I've been very careful about it. I even thought about it as recently as this week.

{This comment is here because LiveJournal is rejecting almost all my attempts to reply to the journals of my friends, or even post anything on my own journal longer than a line.}

Our Hero Treads Some Boards

After almost two solid years, it finally happens. I got my audition at the Majestic Theater in West Springfield. If I can get into the upcoming season of shows, in any part whatever, I'll get to hang out with theatre people and (I fully expect) will show them that I'm capable of good things.

I think it went well. I rehearsed my prepared cutting for weeks, and practiced my chosen musical number, "The Girl Friend of the Whirling Dervish." I practiced vocals and accompaniment, and a few nights before time to put it on a CD, I had a wondrous thought: I could edit a good performance in SoundForge! So, instead of settling for a relatively decent single take, I worked on getting each part just right and stitched them together. The result was seamless. I had to laugh like a mad scientist. It worked so well! MWAHAHA! (Wait, that's Blinky the Clown's laugh. Let's move along.)

Still there was a touch of uncertainty about the CD. As I took the disk out, JukeBox told me that was my last free sample of CD burning -- I didn't know these were samples! -- and after that they'd be slower. Wasn't that already the slow kind? Oh well. I tried the disk in the old boom box I used to use at work, and it wouldn't play. I tried it in the DVD player and it worked.

So yesterday I finally quit goofing around and went in to make my 2:45 appointment, printing out new copies of my theatre resume and head shot. It takes less than ten minutes to get from here to there. I love convenient venues! I filled out a form (neatly) and pulled out the head shot. Interesting -- the details of my appearance had been replaced by solid black areas. Good thing I printed more than one. I was given three cuttings to look at and some time to prepare.

Cutting number one was from "Guys On Ice -- The Ice-Fishing Musical." Number two was from "The Taming of the Shrew," and the third was from "The Full Monty." The director's assistant talked to me some, and was happy to hear that I have relatives in Escanaba (and thus might have some insight into da You Pee accent for "Guys On Ice"). I asked how to pronounce "satiety." Nobody was really sure, but we decided on a pronunciation anyway. After a while, it was my turn to go in.

On the way, she asked what I'd be singing. She knew "The Girl Friend of the Whirling Dervish," which is apparently a big number in For The Boys. Maybe I'll see that some time. They said, why not sing first and get it over with, so I watched with some feeling of suspense as the disk was loaded into their boom box and the button was pressed. Nothing happened. She pressed it again and it started playing, so there was one obstacle out of the way. I read the three scenes, after which they gave me a couple of others to read, which I hope was a good sign. I had time to prepare a bit, as before.

Then they thanked me, and I went out to the car. I was just a little unhappy that I never got to deliver my speech (a compilation of Slanthead Elder's words from Mister Zip by H. Allen Smith), and almost went back in to do it. Prudence won out. Thanks, Pru!

Now I'm wondering what happens if I get in. To I have to shake my thang if I get into "The Full Monty"? If I get into the cast of "Guys On Ice," will I have to sweat under hot lights for a month of performances wearing a heavy coat and a cap with flaps?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Hello, LJ Friends. Here's the post LJ won't let me put up.

Last week, we took Sarah to see the Wiggles at Six Flags New England. When we got home, the camera was gone, and their Lost & Found doesn't have it. So somebody somewhere is looking at my camera, trying to use it, deciding it's a piece of junk and throwing it away, and I'm without a camera.

Yesterday, Cathy was going to go with me to drop my car off at the Saturn place to get the AC fixed, and then we were going to go places. Maybe look at cameras. Instead, Sarah swallowed a coin, so Cathy went to the hospital with her while I waited a couple of hours to find out that my car will cost another thousand to fix (in addition to what it cost to find that out). When I got to the hospital, they couldn't find them and said they must not be there, but as I was leaving the parking garage, I saw Cathy's car, so I went back in and located them in the X-ray department. Then we ate at Friendly's, and I burned the roof of my mouth on my first bite of clam chowder (which was otherwise tasty).

This morning, Sarah was up bright and early for no good reason. I asked her if she wanted to take a walk to the park with me, and she did, riding on her scooter, which I carried halfway there and all the way home. She played on the swings. We had the place to ourselves until we were about to leave, when suddenly two or three other families showed up. It was thundering, though, so we decided to head on home. After that, we went to Friendly's for breakfast (not the same one as yesterday -- that was a cafe-style mini-Friendly's at the hospital) and walked home in the rain, carrying our umbrellas. I carried mine right-side-up, over my head. Sarah swung hers and then asked me to carry it for her.

Later today, Cathy & Sarah might be at a picnic (depending on the weather) while I go audition for the Majestic's upcoming season. I have prepared a CD with the accompaniment to "The Girl Friend of the Whirling Dervish," which I recorded, using Sound Forge to edit together a more-or-less adequate version. (It plays on our DVD player, not on the boom box. I wonder what they'll have. I can't try burning it again because the program says it won't do any more for free.)

Tomorrow I'll get back to the book I'm working on for my sister's layout business. When completed, it will pay almost enough to fix the car's air conditioning, if everything goes as it's supposed to go. I also have the option of calling salvage yards to see if they have a used compressor, but caveat emptor if I do.

After six attempts to post this at LJ, including breaking it up, I've given up and am posting it here.