Curiosity is terminal

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Be Still My Little Set Carpenter Heart

Time lapse of the construction of the Yashida estate set on Wolverine. 

It would be so fun to build a set like this with a team. 

I spent a lot of time by myself on the construction of my two sets. A team is nice.   On both of the shows, there were actors who would peek in on the construction every day to see how it was progressing.  Those who were interested in the process were always so delighted by the changes each day. It was tremendously gratifying to build those little worlds for them.  I wonder if Hugh Jackman walks onto his sets and thinks about who made them for him? 

Monday, 30 April 2018

Closing Night

Yesterday was the 20th and closing performance for our last MainStage play of the season.  We presented The Best Brothers by Daniel McIvor.

I loved this play.  It is about two very different  men, brothers, dealing with the aftermath of the death of their mother in a freak accident.  It doesn't sound like it should be funny, but it is. Life is funny and there are funny moments and things to laugh at, even in death.  One of the brothers, Hamilton, is quite straight-laced; an architect, married, he has very little sense of humour or play and his relationship with his mother is strained. He carries a lot of hurt and frustration and he takes it out on his brother.  Kyle is openly gay, a realtor with an ebullient light-hearted character. His relationship with his mother is easy, accepting and his ability to "let her go," as he advises Hamilton in one scene is not hampered by unexpressed needs or wishes.

In the first act, the men learn separately (but in the same scene) of their mother's death, and then are together to write her obituary (yes, it would be wrong to put your business website in the obituary), plan a visitation (blue fancy sandwiches are not fancy, they are weird), host the visitation (where Kyle and Hamilton's grief are never more starkly contrasted) and then eulogize her at the funeral (where all of Hamilton's regrets and frustrations are finally made known, and publicly).  These scenes are separated by each actor donning Mother's Hat, becoming Mother and illuminating the past. Mother is neither watching nor commenting on the current goings on.

There are two actors in this play, but there are four characters.  Each actor plays a brother, but also the mother. And while the fourth character is central, he does not appear: he is the mother's dog.  The dog is hinted at in the obituary scene and then mentioned and discussed in all other scenes, including Mother's scenes. The dog becomes pivotal at the end of the funeral and is then the subject of the play in Act 2.  Hamilton and Kyle come together again to compose thanks to the people who sent grief (and wishes and prayers), and to read the will. Mother has two more appearances, and Hamilton has a long monologue.  The second act has fewer funny moments than the first, but more growth and catharsis.  We are left feeling hopeful, and maybe, somewhat transformed?

Between the scenes, the lights dim and music plays and the actors themselves move the set around. I think these moments are kind of brilliant; the actors have slight, but telling interactions, and these are the places where their body language says so much.

While I admire all theatre actors to start with, I was astounded by these two men. Hamilton was played by Toronto actor Aidan DeSalaiz and Kyle by Winnipeg actor Ryan James Miller. Watching DeSalaiz work through Hamilton's grief and anger and frustration and hurt, and then to find some release was truly a journey, every single night.  Miller, in the more comic role of Kyle is flamboyantly expressive and  has wonderful timing. He  was hilarious and exasperating, especially when viewed through Hamilton's eyes, but heartbreakingly poignant in gestures, facial expressions and posture.   This was a play, acted by two men from different parts of the country who had not met before the company came together to rehearse. But night after night they were brothers, united in their love for an interesting, adventurous and loving mother, and working through their feelings for her and each other in conversations and monologues. I never once caught a whiff of "acting."  They were saying the things that came to their minds and responding to one another.  That I watched them do it, night after night, and deliver perfect long monologues every performance awed me over and over. I am trying to figure out how to afford to just follow these actors around the country to see everything they do, because I am sure I have only seen the tip of the iceberg that is their immense talent.  

I was their tech, and I am almost old enough to be their mother, and I have to say (though it is not my place) I was proud of them every single performance.  For the first three productions this year, I knit in the booth between cues, but I didn't bother for this one - I wanted to catch every word, every gesture, every time.

The Best Brothers was a co-production with Western Canada Theatre in Kamloops, where it debuted and ran back in September. The production (and the actors, with their wonderful stage manager, Christine) is heading back to Kamloops for 4 performances May 3-5  at the Pavillion Theatre and then on to Vancouver to the Kay Meek Theatre for 14 performances from May 8 to 19.  If you are nearby these venues, go.  And if you get a chance, say hello from karen.  Tell them I miss them.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Caturday Thomas

Thomas joined our family in the spring of 2007.  He was the last of a litter of stray kittens hanging around a house where a bunch of The Offspring's friends lived. The friends all moved out and the mom cat and other kittens had found homes, but Thomas was still at the house when it became empty.  So the kid made me go and get him.  He was adorable and playful and loved us all, especially The Offspring.  He loved the dogs too, and Kodi the shepherd/rottweiler became his adoptive mom.  I don't seem to have a picture of this but it was common to find Thomas sleeping between Kodi's front paws. Bandit, on the other hand was afraid of Thomas and Thomas used to like to sneak up on Bandit and hide around corners and ambush the poor dog. Thomas did like Bandit, despite Bandit's terror, and tried to treat him affectionately sometimes. He would often wind around the dog's front legs and rub under their chests affectionately. Kodi liked this display quite well, but the look of abject fear on poor Bandit's face while Thomas did this was pretty sad.  

Thomas is a pretty easy going cat. He is not overly demanding, except when a door cannot be left open all the time for him.  In his younger days he was more snuggly, but he is mad at us for getting all these other cats and he is less affectionate.  Years ago, if you were sitting at the table reading, and you put your arms out in a circle, he would climb into the circle and lay down and purr.  He hasn't done that for a long time.  

Thomas was bereft when The Offspring moved out the first time, and he has never entirely forgiven her. Shorty after she moved out, my first partner and I broke up and he moved out. He worked away for a few months after that and so the dogs stayed with me and Thomas, but eventually even the dogs moved out. Thomas seemed quite lonesome. In The fall of 2013, we decided to get him a kitten.  I think that kitten (Meili, in fact) would have been fine, except that we made the decision to adopt the kitten's mom, Maggie at the same time. Meili was about 8 weeks old when we brought them home and Thomas was curious, but respectful of her, and they were getting to know one another after a few days of different rooms, when Meili's mom realized there was another cat sniffing her baby. Maggie attacked Thomas and from then on they could not be in the same room.  Thomas found places to hide until spring and in the spring he moved into the greenhouse.  He stayed outside all summer in 2014, coming in only briefly to eat a few times a day.

We found another home for Maggie, but Thomas has never entirely trusted Meili, try though she might to make friends.  

Thomas found the move from the little old house to our new house four blocks away very unhappy. Most advice tells you to keep a cat inside a new home for three weeks. Thomas paced and yowled for a week before we gave in and took him outside. He gave us the slip as soon as it was dark, and we found him at the old house the next day. We brought him home, and this was the routine for three months: Thomas would mope and yowl for days, we would let him out, and he would go to the old house.  The neighbours all knew him and would let us know when he was back.  We took to leaving him there for a few days at a time to see if he would come home on his own. He never did. We would go and get him and he would eat and sleep at the new house and then leave again as soon as he could.  The house sat unsold for a month after we left, and then the new owners let it sit for another month after that, so the greenhouse was still there for shelter and there were raspberry bushes and bishop's weed and other shrubs to hide in. Once the new owners took over, they tore down the greenhouse and ripped up everything green but the two trees and a lilac. Thomas left us the evening that all of that had happened, and was back before it was light out, calling under the bedroom window to be let in. It was the first time he had come home on his own, and the last time he ever left.  

He seldom gets on a lap anymore, but he will snuggle up if we lay down for a nap or go to bed.  He will occasionally go and get Beloved and tell him it is time for a nap. 

Thomas hates winter, has a foul mouth and likes to put his toys in the water dish. I often think he should have his own blog.  

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Tree Time Machine

The buds are just barely beginning to show on the trees here in Atmon, but show they do, which means spring is coming.  There will be days when I am not working 12 hours and all of the daylight, and when they come, I will venture forth with a camera and get some current pictures. 

Fall was quite pretty here, as it mostly is when it is a sunny one.  I have mountain ash trees in my back yard and I am so glad I took this photo on October 30.

I was heading to work and I realized that the yard seemed bathed in golden light. I turned and saw the sun in the leaves of this tree.  It was kind of breathtaking.  

And then, the very next morning, I went out to this:

I don't remember hearing a thump in the night, but surely there must have been one.  

There is still snow around the tree, although the patio is clear now and the swing is accessible. The garden behind the swing has about a foot and a half of snow in it. At it's height, I think we had nearly four feet of snow just lying in the yard.  If it had snowed one more time this winter I don't know where I would have put the snow I shovelled off the driveway, the shovelled pile was about six feet high.  

But the buds are just barely beginning to show on the trees. It will be spring. 

Sunday, 8 April 2018

And So Begins Tech Week

(Which is a terrible excuse for missing Caturday yet again, but there you are.)

Performance number 4 this season is a travelling show.  It comes with a pre-constructed set and dressings and all we have to do is install and focus the lights and set up the stage. It is a pretty simple set. 

The curtains at the back are tied up to wash and paint the stage, and there will be some furniture once all the painting and light focus is done.  

Tech week is hell.  The lights get hung and focussed, which we have to do from scaffold and extension ladder, and then the sound and lights all have to be programmed. Then there are rehearsals in which the lights and sounds have to be synced to the action and dialogue of the play. Then there are rehearsals with full sound and lights and then full sound, lights and costume.  There are two rehearsals a day and all kinds of miscellaneous bits and pieces and details to take care of between rehearsals. Because I am the carpenter and the light and sound tech, I have to be there to run sound and lights with the actors, but have to do the bits and pieces during the actors' breaks. The days are 10 to 12 hours long.   Saturday is day one of tech week for me. We will not go to performance schedule until next Saturday.  

The lights are absolutely my least favourite thing to install.  Big modern theatres have light bars on hydraulics that can be dropped to a height where the lights can be installed from the floor.  Our theatre was carved on the cheap out of an old bakery and its light bars (called LX) are chained to the trusses.  If we are lucky, we get a preliminary light plan before the set is built and the lights can be installed by scaffold. If not, we have to monkey around with ladders on the set and it is precarious and scary. That is our shaky scaffold in the back. It is my least favourite kind of scaffold because it is always shaky, even with all of its proper pieces installed properly.  So I get 15 feet in the air, drop a rope, pull up a light, and then clamp it to an LX.  Then it had to be panned (turned) and tilted to face whatever it is going to illuminate. Then it needs to plugged into one of the many power cables I have brought along via the scaffold from the roof at far stage left.  These cables need to be secured to the LX as we go. We use a ton of electrical tape.  

I love the effect of lights. I love what light does in a show. But man, I hate putting lights up and focussing them. 

This post has been brought to you by anxiety and stress. Thanks for listening.  There will be better days (and posts!) ahead.  

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Caturday in the Giant Metropolis

Last weekend I had a small holiday. Beloved was working on the Capital Island, in a city where I don't really know anyone. So he left me with the Offspring for two days in the Giant Metropolis. After two days  I took the ferry to the Capital Island and Beloved and I drove north to a small city where we have friends. We came home again last Tuesday.

When we are together, the Offspring and I generally make things, talk about making things and look at tools and supplies for making things.  We also eat, and sometimes cook. Last weekend we also attended a play directed by someone I met through my theatre. When the offspring and I are at her house, though, we are attended by the handsome and clever Stanley.

Stanley chose the Offspring at a rescue in Halifax when she was a student. She went to the rescue intending to get a kitten, but the adult, worldly and adventurous Stanley climbed into her open backpack and her heart. He was 2 or 3 when she got him and they've been together for 5 or 6 years now.  While in university, the Offspring made her summer living by cooking for tree planters. She would leave great suitcases of clothes and books and sewing and knitting projects at my house and go off to the bush for 4 months.  One summer Stanley stayed with a friend in Halifax because the schoolyear apartment was to be given up, but after that, lodgings, and more importantly, roommates were kept over the summers and Stanley did not need to be uprooted.  Which is not to say there were no moves. Stanley is a veteran mover.  The offspring stayed in Halifax for a year after graduation, but then decided to come west and settle for a while in the Great Metropolis to the South. Before she did, however, she worked one last long season in the bush. She and Stanley flew out with everything they could get on a plane and they both stayed with us until the home in the GM was found. The Offspring actually left Stanley with us for nearly a year while she got established in the Great Metropolis, and also until she could manage to fly him home rather than subject him to a 9 hour drive. 

Stanley was a fine addition to our collection of cats.  He was utterly indifferent to the three cats we had, eschewing all overtures completely.  But he liked human company and would sit nearby and purr and accept any and all pets and scratches. He is the only cat I know who tolerates, and even seems to  like belly rubs.  He also likes to converse. 

We missed him a lot when he finally moved south to live with The Offspring again, but Stanley remembers us and when we go to visit The Offspring, he comes to the door to greet us and behaves affectionately. He has excellent manners and also comes to see us off. It is very endearing.  

Next Saturday: Cat Number One.  

Monday, 12 March 2018

No, It's Not Caturday (or: Everyday is Caturday!)

I haven't felt much like writing. I haven't felt like much of anything.

Lucy is cat number 3. But really she is my favourite cat (don't tell the other cats, they all think they are the favourite). Lucy is two now and these are kitten photos.  She is very cute in them, but in reality she was kind of weird looking.  When she first woke up from a nap she looked very like Sid the sloth from the Ice Age movies. (sorry, you have to look that up, I don't feel like looking for permission to post Disney pictures)

I am cute and you are in the kitchen. Why are you not giving me all the good things?

Lucy is always hungry. And she is up to try anything you are eating. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, meat, veggies, fruit, whatever; Give her some! Once she has tried stuff she leaves you alone. Except for ham and Doritos. She always wants more ham or Doritos. And she is smart.  If I don't get up shortly after the coffee pot starts doing its thing in the mornings she will either get up on my dresser and start chucking stuff on the floor or go in the bathroom and knock over the stainless steel wastebasket (why do we have a stainless steel wastebasket?).  

Lucy taught me to play fetch.  When she was a kitten, what she really wanted was to learn to knit. When I was knitting, she wanted, nay, she NEEDED to inspect yarn, needles, tools, knitting bag; NEEDED to be on my lap (she is not usually otherwise a lap cat),  NEEDED  to read the pattern, taste it, sit on it. She was an impediment to a relaxing pastime, frankly.  One of her toys is a plastic  spring coil from a coil bound book. It happened to be nearby one early morning when I was trying to knit and so I tossed it across the room. She launched after it, and damned if she didn't bring it back on the run.  So I threw it about a dozen times. She raced after it and brought it back to me lickety split and looked eager and expectant each time. After a dozen times she walked the spring back to the couch.  And after another half dozen throws she dropped it on the floor out of my reach and curled up on the cushion beside me and went to sleep. It was a bedtime routine for months. Now she brings me the spring in the middle of the night or the early morning, and occasionally when I am feeling blue. 

Meili was 2 when we got Lucy.  We thought Meili and cat number 1 would be companions but cat number 1 wanted nothing to do with Meili and we thought she was lonely. So we got her a kitten.  Poor Lucy. She was fascinated by the big cats, but cat number 1 ignored her completely and Meili followed Lucy around and made threatening noises at her constantly. For two weeks. Then, one evening Lucy was playing in a nylon tunnel toy, amusing herself, and Meili came flying across the basement, tumbled Lucy through the tunnel and they have been friends ever since.  

We think the addition was ultimately successful. This nap will eventually turn into a bath(ing each other) and then it will turn into a wrestling match, back into a bath and then back into a nap.  They are pretty amusing. Which is a good thing. I seem not to be much amused lately, but I am trying.