Write on Wednesday – Countdown – October 31, 2018

A FaceBook post from a cast member in the new play, A Christmas Wedding, that blocking for the play was complete got me thinking about how playwrights turn their babies over to directors, cast and crew.  It’s an open adoption of Laura’s and my work. We’ll get to see how the baby is raised but someone else is now doing the heavy lifting. Getting the show on its feet and ready for the curtain to go up. It’s a thousand details and, I expect, some sleepless nights for the director.

dancing kids

When I think about those details a wave of anxiety (okay a small tsunami) washes over me before I remind myself that every single one of the people involved in the new show and the original want each performance to be the best it can be.

We, the playwrights, have a vision and the words we’ve written must stay the same. That’s in the contract.  But that’s where any control we might have ends. Each director has a vision, an interpretation of our words and how they instruct the actors to say them. The blocking can make a difference and put a slightly different spin on the characters. The set and costumes are part of that spin. Every production is different and that makes each unique.

Of course my writing partner, Laura Ambler, and I are going to see the shows. We have a busy December planned. On Friday, November 30 we fly to Indiana. That night we’ll see the opening performance of The Santa Diaries in Crawfordsville, Indiana produced by the Sugar Creek Players and performed in the Vanity Theater. Directed by Keith Strain  and produced by Kym Bushong.

On Friday, December 7 we fly to Faribault, Minnesota and that night will see the premier of A Christmas Wedding: Santa Diaries Two performed by the Merlin Players at the Paradise Center for the Arts. Julianna Skluzacek is the director.

And on Friday, December 14 we fly to Bath, Maine to see Chocolate Church Arts Center’s opening performance of The Santa Diaries, directed by Dennis St. Pierre.

At each venue we’ll see two performances. It will be exciting to see our babies all grown up. Laura and I are filled with gratitude to all the people involved in producing our plays, and humbled by the dedication of time and talent that goes into each production.

To paraphrase Tiny Tim, “God bless you, every one. You are awesome!”

 

Six on Saturday – Another One Bites the Dust – October 27, 2018

The trees in the neighborhood are beginning to show subdued color, but nothing like the riotous hues of some years.  I’ll enjoy the show before the leaves are on the ground and need to be raked.

On Friday I had a garden helper with a chain saw. We took down the remaining River Birches. This is before.

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This is after. There are three crepe myrtles in this area which will now have room to expand and I get the borrowed landscape of the back of my neighbhor’s yard. See those two metal rings in the front of the picture? I have four of these hoops that came from half whisky barrels that disintegrated. I previously used them filled with gravel as stepping stones but took them up when I got chips in the spring. Now I’m thinking I may be able to make some sort of sculpture out of the hoops to put on top of the birch trunks. Of course I’ll have to keep after the suckers and use an herbicide or I’ll have another huge tree in that spot. I originally thought I could put the top of a blue birdbath on the stumps but the scale of the birdbath to the stump wasn’t right. I’ll look at it for awhile before I decide. I can always have the stumps cut to the ground in the spring.

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2. In late October there are only a few welcome pops of color in the garden. The Sheffield mums are now fully open .

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3. The Aronia arbutifolia ‘Brilliantissima’ (Red Chokeberry) leaves are just starting to color and there are small red berries that entice the birds.

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4. The hostas are on the way out but provide some needed color in another area of the garden.

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5. The Limelight hydrangea is lovely with soft pinks and greens.

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6. Not a garden photo but a bit of bragging about winning first place for a traditional pumpkin pie in the St. Michaels Community Center’s pumpkin pie contest last weekend. I hadn’t intended to enter and was just baking two pumpkin pies to be sold by the slice. They turned out so pretty (I forgot to take a photo) that I entered one.  And won!!!

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That’s my six for this week, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. I learn something every week from the participating gardeners. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

 

Write on Wednesday – What You See Is What You Get – October 24, 2018

An establishing shot in a movie or teleplay script tells where the subsequent action takes place. What you see is what you get. The New York City skyline shown at the beginning of Blue Bloods lets the viewer know the action takes place in New York City. Because I watch this show, I also know that when I see a shot of the brick facade of a traditional style home in an upscale neighborhood, the subsequent action is taking place inside Frank Reagan’s home in an unnamed suburb of the city.

NYC skyline

In a novel, if there is a Welcome mat and a wreath on the front door, you must tell the reader. Is the door painted an unusual color? Is the mat clean and new or ready for the trash bin? Is the wreath on the door seasonal, letting the reader know it’s Christmas or Halloween or Spring?  Does the shrubbery outside the front door indicate Spring while the wreath on the door says Christmas?

In narrative fiction you tell or show the reader where the action is taking place. If you don’t the reader gets confused and readers don’t like that. If they get confused too many times they’ll give you a bad review on Amazon.

In the revisions of my novel this is coming up over and over again. Apparently when I wrote the novel draft I was in screen play mode. I knew where the action was taking place — in my head. But sometimes I forgot to tell the reader.

In a screen play or teleplay you write in the words Establishing Shot: New York City and you’re all set. The viewer will get visual cues.

In narrative fiction you establish the setting with words. The visual cues are in the authors mind and must be put into words. This also provides an opportunity to expand information about your characters. Here’s an example:

“Martie wrestled a bag of groceries from the back seat of her vintage Candy Apple red Beetle–an expensive custom paint job she had come to regret. As she headed for the suburban home’s front door she noted the weeds in the flower beds along the brick walkway and realized she needed to call the gardening service in her sister’s address book. She opened the door with the key Julie gave her six months ago. Just three days before her sister disappeared.”

In a screen play the director figures out how to show the information in this paragraph or the writer puts it in dialogue. Phone dialogue between Martie and the detective assigned to her sister’s case could fill in some details. There could be a close-up shot of a calendar with the date of Julie’s disapearance circled in red.

As I revise my novel I have to keep reminding myself that what the reader reads is what the reader gets. It’s my job to make sure they have enough, but not too much. Enough so they can be in the scene, but not so much that it makes the writing ponderous.

If the paragraph above was the beginning of a novel I’d better make sure that a Candy Apple red beetle is important to the story. As I reread what I wrote I immediately began spinning off into another story. Focus your squirrel brain, Mala. Focus! You have a Caribbean novel to finish.

 

 

Six on Saturday – A Retrospective – October 20, 2018

We still have no fall colors on the trees. The asters are blooming and the Sheffield mums are beginning to open. It has seemed like such an odd year in terms of weather that I thought I would go back through previous years to see what was happening in the garden during the third week in October.

1. 2018  The confused Vitex at the end of the drive is blooming AGAIN.

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2. 2017 – zebra grass in the early morning light.

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3. 2016  A good year for tomatoes and this was the last of them. I spread them out in the garage and processed them as they ripened. This year my tomotoes were okay, but nothing like this so I pulled the plants at the end of August and seeded fall crops.

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4. 2015   This photo was taken on 10-12-15 so a little earlier. The plant in the lower left is artemesia in shadow — turned blue by the morning light.

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5.  2014   – I’ve been complaining that the asters are late this year, but it turns out they are right on schedule. They bloomed the same week in 2014.

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6.  2013   This photo was taken on October 9, 2013. I have no idea why I would have covered the raised beds this early unless a frost was expected. Or perhaps it was to keep the leaves out of the beds although I doubt I would have been that industrious. There appear to be plants underneath the row covers.

The Brown Turkey fig tree in the background didn’t survive a subsequent winter. A shame as it was just getting to a size that would permit the squirrels to share with the gardener.

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It’s interesting to look back on the gardens as things fill in. Just to the left of the Direct TV antennae is a small red cedar. It is now 15 feet tall and fills that part of the garden bed along the fence.

That’s my six for this week, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

 

Write on Wednesday – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – October 17, 2018

The 2018-2019 season at Baltimore Center Stage started with a stellar production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams. I hadn’t see it in years. The show was directed by actress Judith Ivy who has recently added directing to her resume.

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The Pearlstone Theater doesn’t have a traditional stage. There is no curtain so when you enter you and wait for the show to start you get to examine the set. And it never disappoints. This show takes place in the opulent bedroom/sitting room of Big Daddy Pollitt’s home situated on his 28,000 thousand acre plantation. At the back of the stage double doors open to an unseen outside terrace and on stage right there is a door that opens to a small room seen through a scrim. Actors enter stage right, stage left and through the back of the bedroom.

Here’s how the playbill summarizes the play.

In this enduring American classic, family ties and layers of lies collide over the course of one simmering Southern summer night. Themes of morality, greed, and desire play across the stage in this explosive drama about what can happen when illusions begin to unravel. Brick, racked with guilt over his best friend’s death, numbs his pain with drink. Maggie, his wife, is determined to win even fleeting attention from her neglectful husband. But when three generations come together to celebrate a birthday—and discuss a will—all of the players start to crack under the pressure and the heat. How long can tensions build in a house boiling over with uncertainty, secrets, and maybe even love?

Director Judith Ivy commented on what she wanted the audience to experience.
“I certainly want to honor much about the traditional interpretation of this play. But I guess if I were to put my own interpretation within that tradition, I see it as a love story. In some of the productions I’ve seen, the focus has seemed to be on how much these  people hated other, but I think they really love each other. It may be hard or complicated or even unspoken, but I think there’s real love in this play.”

Under her direction, the actors succeeded in showing us a glimmer of that love. You left the theater hoping, but I suspect that if we could have seen the story further unfold, we would have seen the secrets and the money win.

 

 

Six on Saturday – Where There’s a Will… – October 13, 2018

It is 55 degrees outside this morning and the furnace is running. Just a couple of dasy ago it was in the mid 80’s. I think fall is finally here although we are still waiting for the trees to show color.

Today there are five photos from my garden and one from Friday’s tour of a nearby commercial cucumber farm.

  1. I thought we would have to hire a crew of studly men to move the Jan Kirsh avocado sculpture, but my husband and I accomplished the feat in forty-five minutes with a mover’s dolly. I had been watching the track of Hurricane Michael and knew that if we got significant rain it would be weeks or months until we had an opportunity to move this heavy concrete sculpture. When it was installed the artist brought a crew of three men. Kirsh now makes these avocados out of resin so they are not so heavy. On the left, still wrapped for winter is the avocado sitting in the mud last May. On the right is the new location.

 

We’d originally installed it in the garden with the best view from the deck. But that is the garden that is increasingly full of water after heavy rains. And eight years later the sculpture had subsided and the red twig dogwood I planted as a backdrop had encroached. It needed to be moved.

I thought I knew where I wanted it to go, but after removing the river birch several weeks ago that open spot seemed perfect. It is a little higher and doesn’t stay soggy. The spot was thirty feet from where the sculpture had been placed and I was resigned to paying a crew to move it.

However, my mind is always in problem solving mode. I realized if we could get the avocado off the base and on to a mover’s dolly we might be able to pull it across the lawn. And on Tuesday morning we had a window. We’d had no rain for a week. The main piece of sculpture was gently rocked off the base onto a bag of unopened potting soil. We didn’t want to break it. We then moved the base and the large piece of bluestone the sculpture sat on to the new location. The avocado was trickier since it had one end that was heavier than the other. We padded the dolly, and levered the avocado on. My husband pulled and I steadied. And we were able to reasemble it in the new location. Yay for septuagenarians!

2. The heavy rains on Thursday night, the remnants of Hurricane Michael, filled the avocado. Before we have freezing temperatures I’ll need to empty it and wrap it for winter. The rain and wind brought down alot of branches from the silver maples. Lawn clean-up is in my future.

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3. I went out on Wednesday to take some photos before the predicted rain and saw at least six Monarch butterflies. They liked the remaining zinnias.

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4. Monarchs liked the tall asters, too.

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5.  A post-it note on a kitchen cupboard had been reminding me of a garden task. I wanted to put some small ferns in the area where the Naked Lady lilies come up so I would remember where they are. I’d flagged the area when the foliage died down and finally got  the ferns planted. I managed to damage some bulbs in the process. Oh, well. I don’t know where these ferns came from but they handle quite a bit of sun, don’t get too tall, but spread nicely.

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6. On Friday I traveled with a garden group to see a local cucumber farming operation which has two enormous greenhouses where they grow seedless English cucumbers. The flowers don’t need to be fertilized to produce fruit. The greenhouses were previously used to grow cut flowers but when the recession hit, people stopped buying cut flowers and the farmers had to find a new crop. These long cukes have very fragile skin and must be hand picked as do the grapes on another part of this farm. Commercial farming is hard work and expensive. This greenhouse is on a farm which has been in the same  family for five generations.

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That’s my six for this week, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Write on Wednesday – How My Writing Time Gets Sucked Up – October10, 2018

Today was the one day this week I had blocked out to work on the revision of my novel. All day!  Other days had room for an hour here, an hour there. Today was all day with the exception of an hour to go to a WW meeting and the grocery store.

The writing Gods did not cooperate, but it’s my fault.

Santa Diaries Project screenshot

I knew I had a blog for The Santa Diaries. I just couldn’t find it. I hadn’t posted on it last year because there was no new production in 2017. Had it gotten archived or something? So I started a new blog using the same URL. And then pointed the URL to the new WordPress blog.  Big mistake. Now I had two blogs with the same URL and I only wanted the one pictured above. It has all the blog posts about previous productions of the play.

In the middle of last night I woke up and realized that I had a bunch of Rolodex cards clipped together for my WordPress accounts. And there was one for The Santa Diaries Project. Somehow this blog was opened with a different username and password than the account that holds my other blogs which was why I couldn’t find it.

I spent the morning on WordPress Chat with their Happiness Engineers. From around 9 a.m. to quarter to 11. First it took a long time for someone to respond to me. Then partway through the Chat I lost the page that had the Chat on it. That happened twice. At least the new helpers could read the thread, but they couldn’t find the original blog for The Santa Diaries Project. Could I send them a screenshot? Okay, I took a screenshot of the original blog but it wouldn’t load on the Chat function. I was instructed to turn it into a jpg. At that point it was time for me to leave the house for my WW meeting, so I told Denys, who was helping me, that I would try again later.

There is now a fork in the road. Continue to pursue fixing my WordPress mess or work on the novel revisions. Tomorrow and Friday are filled with away from the house appointments so nothing can happen with WordPress until next Monday.

I’m going to clip my WordPress Rolodex cards together and take the novel revision fork.