Tuesday, March 2, 2010

wonderful bright.

Listening To: Mr. Gray by Jennifer Knapp
Line Obsession: Emily: Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? -- every every minute? Stage Manager: No. {pause} The saints and poets maybe. They do some. - from Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Big feathery snowflakes are spinning past my window again. While I am ready for spring, this is possibly my favorite snowday yet. The feathery snowflakes are the prettiest, I think. Lucky for me, I don't have to go anywhere and have a ton of work to do. And the work has so much snow in it. It's like I'm method writing. My trusty assistant, Biscuit, is being her usual helpful self:

Also, I'm drinking delicious coffee and chatting with you. All of that pretty much makes it a perfect afternoon. :) I have several things on my mind today:

*I'll start with the most awesome thing. Jerica (a faithful blog reader *waves to Jerica!* :) sent me a super sweet email along a picture of her holding her copy of Paperdoll:

How cute is that?! It made my week. Hearing how different parts of the book connect with readers always makes me feel like my heart is doing backflips. Thanks Jerica! :)

* Do you remember on my birthday blog post, when I casually mentioned The Great Balloon Surprise that happened a few years ago? On my birthday, my friends Kay and Jill (who had a spare key in the likely event I lost mine), went into my apartment and filled my bathroom with balloons. It was the sweetest surprise ever. There were hundreds of them (that Kay blew up herself ... no artificial air was used in the making of the balloons!). I thought you would like to see the infamous picture:
Also funny, I had to use the bathroom in a bad way, which involved fighting my way through the balloons.

* Have you read about the sequel to Phantom of the Opera? Necessary backstory: Phantom of the Opera was the first play I saw on the West End. I was taking a Shakespeare class in London that summer and my professor, a dapper older gentleman from Missouri, was a hardcore thespian. That said, he loathed musicals with all that was inside him and he looked like he wanted to jab his eyeballs out with a dull pencil every time we started talking about some big swingy production we'd seen.

Shakespeare was his idea of true theater. If there was a Shakespeare performance in London that summer, there is a good chance I saw it (most for class, some just for kicks). I saw traditional performances - where men played every role. I saw classic performances. I saw a production of Much Ado About Nothing set in World War II Italy (the best Shakespeare play I've seen). I saw plays in random, run-down warehouses and well-known theaters. And once in the park in the pouring rain (I'll blog about that some other time). It was all incredible. I don't know if I've mentioned this a few hundred times or not, but I'm bananas about theater.

I went with some of my flatmates to see Phantom and thought it was fabulous, fog machines and all. Sometimes I wonder if it's the actual play I love or just the way I attach it to such a special experience. Regardless, I was excited, albeit surprised, to read that Andrew Lloyd Webber was writing a sequel. The play, Love Never Dies, opened on preview in February with Ramin Karimloo in the lead. This casting choice makes more sense to me, btw. Deep down in my heart of hearts, I always thought it just a bit unlikely that Christine would follow an old pervy masked murderer down to the basement of the opera house. A young handsome pervy masked murderer? I can buy that. Sierra Boggess, who originated The Little Mermaid on Broadway, will play Christine. This play takes place several years after the first Phantom. Christine is married to Raoul. She's on her way to perform at Coney Island (the Vegas of the day, according to the producers). She's quite famous at this point and everybody is eager to hear her sing, especially a certain dark, lonesome someone who never truly stopped loving her. *sound of chandelier crashing* *or maybe sound of Ferris Wheel crashing*

I heard "Till I Hear You Sing Once More" last week and I like it a lot. I'm still not convinced Phantom needs a sequel, but I so hope it tours in the states someday so I can see it. :) A warning before you click through: the video they made for the song ... it's a bit over the top. My brother likes Phantom too, and thought the new song was cool, but he finds the video far too corny. You've been warned.

* I've been reading about a fairly new book (new on this side of the ocean, at least) called Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. I know I'm gong to break down and buy it before it comes to the library. Let me tell you why, courtesy of the synopsis on Catherine Fisher's website:

Imagine a living prison so vast that it contains corridors and forests, cities and seas. Imagine a prisoner with no memory, who is sure he came from Outside, even though the prison has been sealed for centuries and only one man, half real, half legend, has ever escaped. Imagine a girl in a manor house in a society where time has been forbidden, where everyone is held in a seventeenth century world run by computers, doomed to an arranged marriage that appals her, tangled in an assassination plot she both dreads and desires. One inside, one outside. But both imprisoned. Imagine a war that has hollowed the moon, seven skullrings that contain souls, a flying ship and a wall at the world's end. Imagine the unimaginable. Imagine Incarceron.

Doesn't that sound magical?!

Here's the book trailer:

And the good news is that I'm pretty sure this book is only a two book set. The second book, Sapphique (I this is the name legend-man who escaped Incarceron), is already out in the UK. So maybe if Incarceron is cliffy, I won't have to wait months for the resolution. Speaking of cliffy books ... have you seen the cover of the third Hunger Games Book?

The pretty, bright mockingjay gives me hope! Hope that the story ends well for Katniss. And that she ends up with Peeta. And that Gale doesn't get killed off. That always irks me in a book when a character dies conveniently. I'd rather she make a choice and stick with it, proves she's as tough on the inside as she is on the outside. Anywho. I'm not reading Catching Fire until the week Mockingjay comes out. I can't take the cliffy. It makes me manic.

* True confession: I got on an elevator last week at the same time a super nice guy got on the elevator. He asked what floor. I told him and he pushed the button for me. We started talking. Then the door opened to my floor. And I realized after I got out that I'd pushed Level 1 instead of Ground. However, I got off on Level 1 anyway and took the stairs b/c I didn't want him to think I was an idiot.

* I went to see Valentine's Day. I thought it was fun. The reviews are pretty stinky but I think if you go knowing: 1.) a fun story that is 2.) not a great feat of American cinematography, it's enjoyable. The story line with Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner was my favorite. The story with Taylor&Taylor ... was my least favorite, which makes me sad. I'm a big Taylor Swift fan. Those scenes, however, were pretty darn annoying. Is it because I'm old and jaded? I understand the idea was to show love at all these different stages at a person's life. That scene, I think, was meant to reflect the giggly, giddy, very sweet first love. Or something. In real life, I think that experience is sweet, but the scenes they were in ... they kept making me want to back further away from the screen. Did you see it? Your thoughts?

* I went to see Our Town at my local theater. Actors at the theater here are all volunteers. Some of them have serious acting chops - lists of companies they've been part of, degrees from excellent programs. Others are just locals who love to act. All the plays I've seen there have been good, but Our Town is the first play that made me almost cry. It was the best play I've seen there. It was the best performance of Our Town I've seen anywhere. The acting was incredible. I wish I'd gone sooner so I could have dragged more people along to see it with me.

There is a slight bias at work here because Our Town is my favorite play. Thornton Wilder wrote it as sort of an antithesis to modern theater. Much like my fabulous Shakespeare professor, Wilder thought all the loud hype was taking away the heart of a story ("Our claim, our hope, our despair are in the mind," he wrote, "not in scenery."). Our Town barely has any scenery at all. It stars with a light in the center of the stage and that's mostly it. But then the stage manager comes out and starts describing the layout of Grover's Corners and it's magical how you see it, feel it, hear it. And weirder still, the play focuses on nothing. Or what most of us think is nothing - just daily conversations. Just dreaming big dreams that might not come true. Just falling in love.

Sometimes I wonder if people who dislike the play, or think it's too simplistic, feel that way because they read it (or saw it performed) at a point in their lives when it didn't matter as much. I love the foreword in the version I have, written by Donald Margulies. He talks about not liking the play when he was younger. Then he writes about seeing it as an adult. He writes: "... I had entered my thirties and had a foothold on life; I had buried both my parents; I had protested a devastating war, and I had fallen in love. In other words, I had lived enough of a life to finally understand what was so great about Our Town." I can relate in this way: I think I read Our Town for the first time in middle school and just thought it was okay. When I re-read it a few years ago, after experiencing a long season of grief, I couldn't get the play out of my mind.

Near the beginning of the play, just before you settle into the main story, the stage manager points to the back of the auditorium (except, already, you know he's pointing to the sky). He says, "The morning star always gets wonderful bright the minute before it has to go, -- doesn't it?"

And in the famous final scene, when George** falls down on his knees at Emily's grave, one of the dead is mumbling about stars in the background ("And my boy, Joel, who knew the stars -- he used to say it took millions of years for that speck o' light to git to the earth..."). As Emily says her final line, "They don't understand, do they?" ... I understand. That there are no ordinary moments. That props mean zilch in the end. That even without fog machines, music, or flashy lights, life is so beautiful.

My Shakespeare professor would agree.

Here's hoping your week is wonderful bright :)

* I wish I could find my program so I could tell you the name of the actor who played George. I hope he does more theater here! Or somewhere. George was only in the final scene for seconds but the audience was completely silent when he came on stage. It's like everybody was holding their breath, watching him.


  1. Love Our Town, haven't read that in far too long.

    Also, I have watched the video for "Til I Hear You Sing" WAAAAYYYYY too many times, thanks for linking to that on Facebook. ;) I cannot WAIT to hear the whole score. And yes, the video is over-the-top but I loved every second of it. :)

    Love the elevator story, I would so do the same thing! LOL

  2. I stayed up until like 2 in the morning on Saturday night reading Hunger Games. (And slept through church.) I didn't know it was a trilogy because I've been living in a hole. And when I got to the end I almost threw the book across the room. I want resolution!!! I'm not planning on reading Catching Fire at least until Mockingjay is in my hands. I may have to take a day off work to read through them both. True story.

  3. I have Incarceron checked out from the library-I just hope I can read it before I have to bring it back. It sounds amazing. And I can't wait for Mockingjay! I'm totally Team Peeta!:)

  4. I laughed when I read the part about the elevator. I would have done that, too, LOL. It makes my day when a stranger is polite like that. This morning, at the day care where I have classes, there was a young man waiting with his little boy for someone to open the door. When they did, he held it open for me and told his son (who was headed in), "Let her go in first." After the past week or so, I needed a reminder that there are chivalrous guys out there (who are teaching their sons to be that way, too!).

    I haven't really read a lot of plays, but I love musicals and like going to local theater stuff. A few months ago, me and my mom went to the local university for a Broadway evening thing (as a fine arts requirement). They did all sorts of Broadway songs-old and new, and it was awesome. This month, we're going to hear the city symphony (another fine arts thing) and an oldies/Broadway night (for fun) that's also a Haiti fundraiser. The last one is at this old movie theater in a run-down part of town that's been renovated. They're always putting on plays or musical shows, and sometimes on Sunday evenings, they show old classic movies (which I would really like to go to but haven't got the chance to yet). It's so cool. =)


  5. I think I almost had an unconscious spell when I saw the third Hunger Games cover.. :) I cannot wait. You will like Catching Fire. I am so excited that you are going to read it. My boyfriend's little bro just started reading the Hunger Games Book 1 and he, who has simialr book taste to me, loves it. I am getting him Catching Fire for his b-day.

    Incarceron looks amazing! I will have to check that series out :) I never saw Valentine's Day but I was too preoccupied with The Lightning Thief. It came out that same weekend, so I chose that one. Love the balloon picture :)

    Have a good week and weekend!


  6. I so would've done the elevator thing.
    Much Ado About Nothing is my favorite piece of literature, though I am not a huge Shakespeare fan on the whole. (But I prob like him more than I do certain author named Jane.)

    I didn't love Phantom. I took about 20 kids to NYC one spring break. I dont know if it really wasn't my thing, if I couldn't suspend disbelief that a chick would go after a masked guy (just pull it off already!), or if I was too worried my kids (including a handful of boys) would be bored. They loved it. (though they later all fell asleep in Lion King.)

  7. My first West End experience was Les Miserables. Worth every penny and tear. My second West End experience... Reduced Shakespeare Company's "Complete Works of William Shakespeare... Abridged." Highly entertaining. A local university did a performance of it once a few years ago and I got to be the lucky audience member selected to be Ophelia and scream (ironically, they unknowingly selected my ex-boyfriend to run back and forth as my id). Shakespeare will never be the same for me.

    I did, however, get to see "Measure for Measure" at the Globe. THAT was cool. The woman who played Claudia was the same lady that played Mrs. Bates in the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma... and I had no idea until I had gotten home from London and popped the movie in my DVD player. She looked familiar, so I grabbed my programme and, sure enough, there she was.

    If you had the skills, and if you could select any character from any play or musical, which one would you play?

  8. I aboslutely LOVE Phantom of the Opera! I agree, though, I definitely don't think it needs a sequel. I mean, what's the point of having an imagination? You can't even wonder and dream about what came after if there was a sequel!
    Ah! One day I hope to see it on Broadway. I bet it's amazing :)

  9. Ruth, I think the over-the-top element of that play is what makes it fun. It's very 80's, don't you think? Which is kind of fabulous. You'll probably get the CD before I do so let me know what you think!!

    Ashley, so so so with you. I can't handle cliffy endings on series books. Waiting a whole year?! Inconceivable. :) I'm so glad I didn't get into Harry Potter until it was almost over.

    GBTQ, Yay Team Peeta! :) I broke down and bought Incarceron. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on it! :)

    Kristen, I bet the old movies would so be your thing :) That sounds wonderful. I love little community artsy spots like that. Really, I just love community theater. I know seeing it in NYC and London are amazing experiences but it makes me even happier when communities embrace the arts. When they do it all just because they love it. I'm so jealous of your symphony trip! (And so glad you can relate to my elevator woes.)

    Steffanie, I owe my mom a trip to The Lightening Thief but I still haven't read the book. (She insists I read it before we go see it ;). I've heard good things. You're a true fan for keeping up with the Hunger Games. My cousin Michelle told me just to suck it up and read book 2 but I can't bring myself to do it. At least I know I'll have something fun to look forward to this summer.

    JBJ, I think Much Ado influences way more modern love stories than people realize. Everybody credits Jane, but sursly. I think the Beatrice/Benedict pairing is what makes so many great books and movies sizzle. I totally see that in your books. And in Susan Phillips. And in most romantic pairings I like. Your Phantom comment cracked me up! My friend Sarah is that way too. It was fun watching the movie with her. (Also fun because the guy who plays the phantom in the movie really, really can't sing.)

    Ashley, what a cool story! :) I would have paused the film too, and checked my programme, then I would have told everyone come and look at who I saw at The Globe. Your question is such a good one. My answer is kind of lame though. I would pick Elphaba. I liked Les Mis more than Wicked, but Elphaba might be my favorite character in a musical. It's sad how much I listen to Defying Gravity. My second choice would be Eponine. I knew her song before I saw Les Mis (I saw it on the West End too! And you're so right - worth every tear.) but when I saw her sing it live, wow. I think she's a very unique character, but one most women can probably relate to at some point in their lives. Who would you pick? (The ex-boyfriend run in sounds like something straight out of a movie! That made me laugh.)

    Lady-in-Waitin, you summed up what I couldn't figure out how to stay. For a story that big, a sequel could definitely suck all the fun out of imagining. Thanks for your comment! :)

  10. I love seeing Shakespeare plays set in different time periods. I saw "A Midsummer Night's Dream" set during the 50's - all of the fairies were dressed as greasers. It was breathtaking and surprisingly perfect! I don't think I'll ever be able to think of that play the same way again.

  11. Yippee! I'm on the blog! :)
    Thank's Natalie!

  12. (:

    haha it always makes my day when im feeling kinda blah, and i can come read one of your blogs and a huge smile slowly creeps on my face.

    I skipped out on Valentine's day and went to go see Alice in Wonderland (: *squeel* i love that movie, and johnny depp of course (:

    that soo happened to me once, i also got off and after waiting a good ten minutes... i got back on (: lol

    fun times.

  13. I can't wait to read Incarceron AND (especially) Mockingjay. August can't come soon enough!

  14. Okay: Valentine's Day. I sat there in sheer amazement at the end all because of Julia Roberts' role. Oh My WORD.