a little something extra

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

RIP and Thanks to Ann

Ann Richards, the former Governer of Texas, died last week of esophageal cancer. I didn't have time to blog about her then, but I have 30 minutes to spare and think I'll do it now.

In the summer of 1988, when the Democratic National Convention was happening in Atlanta, I was enrolled at Emory but was not in Atlanta at that moment. Instead, I was in Washington DC, working (volunteering) at the American Legion Auxiliary's Girls Nation program. I had participated in Delaware Girls State when I was in high school, and went on to the Girls Nation program. A couple of years later they asked me to come back and work, so I spent a couple of weeks there, and during that time caught Gov. Richards' keynote speech on television.

Ann's famous quote from that speech, of course, was, "Poor George [Sr.]. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

Well, Ann had me right then and there. This was the first national election in which I was eligible to vote, and I had some strong opinions about whom I would vote for and why. But like many young voters, I voiced my opinions stridently, loudly and often. Ann taught me something about the use of humor as a persuasive device, and Lord knows she was a master at that.

I recommend reading the whole speech, by the way. The "foot in his mouth" thing is funny, but there are many more serious points in that speech that are worth refreshing ourselves on 20 years later.

A few years later, I moved to Texas myself. I hadn't seen that coming. But when I got there, Ann was governor. For the first few years, while I was buried up to my eyeballs in the demands of grad school, I had only the haziest awareness of what was going on in the city of Austin, let alone the state. But any time something did penetrate, I was reminded of what an impressive woman Ann Richards was. She came into the Governor's Mansion with some HUGE messes to deal with. And one by one, by persuading the unwilling, skilfully shaming the unwise or dishonest, and standing for what she believed the people of Texas had called her to do, she cleaned them up.

By the time I graduated in 1994, Ann had only a few months left in office. That year, she lost her reelection campaign to You Know Who.

So the next time I saw Ann, it wasn't in public life. She attended the funeral of my friend Juan Javier, who had been a very young rising star in Texas politics. I happened to arrive at the church just as Ann finished climbing the steps. She stood there in her perfect suit, white hair coiffed and handkerchief ready, and took a moment by herself before she went inside. I slowed down my progress up the sidewalk, and waited till she'd gone through the doors before I started up the steps. I didn't want to disturb whatever she might have been thinking.

Only last week as I read the L.A. Times obituary of Ann Richards, did I find out about the tremendous commitment she had to Alcoholics Anonymous. The more people I know who work that program, the more regard I have for its effectiveness, and especially for the way it creates a deliberate community that can catch and support individual people who may slip on their way up a very steep and rocky road.

So now I want to say two things: Ann, I salute you for everything you accomplished in your life. And I would give a lot to be a fly on the wall for the first conversation Ann Richards and Barbara Jordan have in Heaven.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Runaway sword!

The play I'm working on right now has a six-man swordfight in the second-to-last scene. If this were a musical, the swordfight would be the 11:00 number.

Yesterday, in our first preview (first performance with an audience, but the press isn't allowed in yet), one of the actors lost his grip on his sword. It went skittering across the raked (tilted) stage surface and smacked an audience member in the face.


Now, the swords are blunted on all surfaces. The edges are not sharpened, the point is dull and rounded off. But the first row of the audience is just three or four feet from the edge of the stage -- just far enough to satisfy the fire codes -- so the audience member didn't have enough time to react, throw his hands up or protect his face.

So he got a skinned nose. As best we can tell, it was the sword's handle that made contact, and scraped rather than cutting. The theatre's Big Boss was watching the preview, so as the audience member got up to leave the house, the Big Boss accompanied him out and stayed with him during the last few minutes of the show. Ultimately the audience member decided to go to an urgent care facility, just to make sure he didn't need any stitches. (We're pretty sure he didn't.)

I was surprised that the house manager didn't respond to this event. The ushers are volunteers, but the house manager is a paid position and should be expected to take more responsibility. We'll see how that plays out.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

one down, one to go

Same town, but one more show. Last night's inaugural performance at the Renee & Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall went very well, despite our operations director's near-panic over some confusion regarding what sections of the chorus would enter through which doors (we spent what felt like nine or ten years rehearsing the Glass, but did we rehearse entering and exiting the space? Not once.) Also despite late entrants into a box walking in talking at full voice, then scraping their chairs all over creation on the terrazzo floors -- all while the musicians were playing, singing, etc. Some people ain't got no cultchah.

Here is the Los Angeles Times' coverage of the evening

And here is the Orange County Register's trio of articles

Actual reviews of the music will cover tonight's performance as well, and will be published in Monday's papers. So for now, it's all about the architecture, the general sound of the hall, the famous people who were here, and the catering.

We ran through the world premiere for Philip Glass this afternoon. He was very unassuming and very quiet, though he remarked that the first time a composer hears a piece out loud is always very special -- he can't keep it all in his head when he's composing, he says. I think he's pleased, even with the fourth section (out of five) which I think he just delivered earlier this week. The instrumentalists aren't as comfortable with it yet as we all are with the rest of the piece. Ah well, we'll see how it flies!

Friday, September 15, 2006


The tenants moved into my townhouse yesterday.

This is all.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

music! music! music!

Put another nickel in
In the nickelodeon
All I want is lovin' you and...

There's nothing like a maternal request to motivate an offspring into action again. I received email from Yo Mama this week, asking for my blog address again so she could save it in the bookmarks of the new computer she and Fa were forced to purchase after the sudden, catastrophic failure of their machine a couple of weeks ago. (Mom, I will answer your email after I make this post, so you'll have something to read when you get here!)

Most of what's going on with me at the moment revolves around the countdown to the opening of the wonderful new Renee & Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The concert hall sits right behind the theatre where I work, so I have watched it grow over the year I've been here. Now, the serenade of construction noise is about to give way to musical bedazzlement.

The Pacific Chorale is taking part in Friday's opening concert, headlined by none other than Maestro Placido Domingo. The Chorale doesn't have to do much -- the opening "number," which is our conductor's a cappella arrangement of the National Anthem, and a rendition of "The Promise of Living" from Aaron Copland's opera The Tender Land. I'm not sure where the Copland appears on the program, but I have a sneaking suspicion it's last. If it is so, then that will mean we have to wait through the rest of the concert -- probably offstage -- god, I hope offstage...

Then on Saturday evening we sing at the Pacific Symphony's first solo concert in the space. The Symphony and the Chorale are separate organizations. Both are in residence at the new concert hall, so it will be the "home" performance space for both of us. Whenever the Symphony programs a piece with a choral component, they borrow us. It's a very friendly relationship.

On Saturday we will all perform together the world premiere of a new work by composer Philip Glass. He's coming to our rehearsal tonight, starting in about 40 minutes, so I'm going to give you a couple of links to other news and then go get ready for rehearsal. Despite the fact that I have a head cold. Ah, timing is everything.

In other news...

Connor started school this week

Tripp Really Has His New Job, There's No Getting Out Of It Now

The Companion Bloggers have set out on a new adventure

This is the play I'm working on right now