Six on Saturday – Should We Buy a Boat? – December 29, 2018

Yesterday it rained all day. It was so dark and gloomy, I had to push myself to get anything on my list accomplished (see #4). I reminded myself to be grateful that the inches of rain were not 30″ of snow.  Temperatures were in the fifties, so no chance of that, but the back of our property continues to be underwater. Getting to the shed requires tall waterproof boots.

  1. The garden is so wet and bedraggled that I wondered if there would be anything to photograph. When I stepped onto the deck and looked up at the lace of the leafless trees early this morning the moon was still visible, so that’s #1.

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2. The lake behind the house continues to grow. I have no idea what supports the shed next to this wet area. When the ground dries out I need to get down on my belly and take a look. It’s not in the water, but whatever it’s resting on has been wet for months. My gardeners’ heart hopes that any bunny litters under the shed do not survive.

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3. A tree limb, covered with lichens, came down in the storm. They are always so beautiful after a rain.

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4. I managed to accomplish one thing on my “to do” list. I planted the coleus that had rooted in a clear vase on my kitchen counter.

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5. I promised a photo of the dwarf Alberta spruce with the Christmas lights. The lights will stay on until April. Not from laziness, but because they give me pleasure in the evening.

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6. Despite the wet and dark days the wildlife in the garden is active. Out my office window this morning I saw a Northern flicker, a bluejay, a nuthatch, sparrows and two squirrels playing tag in the silver maples.  They know spring is coming as does the sedum Autumn Joy. No lenten roses blooming yet, but I’ll keep checking.

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The days are getting longer, bit by bit, and the garden (and this gardener) is resting. Just for a little while, however, as the garden catalogues are arriving.

May 2019 bring you sunshine, rain and fertile soil…all in just the right amounts.

That’s my Six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. There’s always something interesting in the garden if you just stop to look. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Write on Wednesday – Maine Welcomes The Santa Diaries – December 18, 2018

Maine wasn’t as cold as we expected, but it does get dark early. It was a short flight from Baltimore and by the time Laura Ambler and I landed at the Portland airport and were in the rental car (complete with ice scraper) it was getting dark. It was an hour drive to Bath. We checked into our hotel, found a place to eat dinner and walked to the theater to see the opening night show at the Chocolate Church Center for the Arts.

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Thom Watson, the producter, told us before the show that the light board had gone out that afternoon and they were using dimmers and spots. The show must go on and it did to a full house. We were entranced.

Chocolate Church Center for the Arts is a wonderful theater space. The bones of the original church are still there, and it has great acoustics. We were told that on Friday afternoon two hundred school children kids had attended a performance of The Santa Diaries, many of them seeing their first live stage performance. The photo below was taken before Saturday’s matinee. The light board was back up.

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The director of the show was Dennis St. Pierre, an Actors Equity  and Screen Actors Guild member with 20 years of professional work in the theater, tv and music industry as an actor, singer, director and producer.  He is currently the interim Executive Director for the Chocolate Church Performing Arts Center and recently created an Arts Education program that allows for collaboration with local school programs. It was that program that brought all those school kids to see The Santa Diaries. What a wonderful gift to the students.

In the opening scene of the show, cute elves deliver packages to Sandy Hawes who believes he has a calling… to be Santa.

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The large cast exemplifies a line in the play…”It’s community theater. Anyone who wants a part, gets a part.” The photo below doesn’t show all the adorable elves who occasionally escaped their wranglers backstage and made an early entrance!

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Chocolate Church did something clever to facilitate scene changes. They created three wheeled set pieces: a left and right window and a center piece that was the fireplace in Sandy’s living room (not seen in photo above). Each of these set pieces could be turned around to show something different on the other side. And for the finale (the community theater renovated after a fire) Christmas lights were turned on to show decorations in the actual theater. The audience went, “Awwww.” It was beautiful.

Before the show on Friday night we walked around the quaint main street of Bath. There was  a snowman with a fire in his belly and kids were roasting marshmallows. With lots of adult supervision, of course. The only thing missing was lightly falling snow.

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If we had stayed longer we would have attended the free community carol sing at Chocolate Church, a tradition on the last Monday evening before Christmas. And we would have spent more time at the Maritime Museum where the Christmas tree was made out of lobster pots.

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At home, on the Chesapeake Bay, we have crab pot Christmas trees .

After three traveling weekends it was lovely to be home and put away my suitcase. Requests for perusal scripts have been coming in from theaters around the country, so it will be interesting to see where The Santa Diaries finds community theater homes in 2019. We already know one production will be in Tennessee.

 

 

Write on Wednesday – A Christmas Wedding in Minnesota – December 12, 2018

You know you are in Minnesota in December when the windshield washer fluid freezes on the windshield.

Laura and I flew into Minneapolis late Friday afternoon with an entourage … our husbands, Laura’s mother and a friend.  It was cold. I don’t think the day time temperature ever got above 20 degrees Farenheit the whole time we were there. Fortunately there was no wind, but there was still snow on the ground from the previous weekend and icy spots on sidewalks.

We checked into the house we’d rented and headed to town to check out the marquis at the Paradise Center for the Arts. World Premier! TMP stands for The Merlin Players.

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That night we were honored on stage…

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…and presented with a fabulous gift basket which included a handmade ornament created by Stephanie Weiss who plays Martha in the show.

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The show was more than we could have hoped for. Laura and I had not reread it before we went and kept wondering what was coming next. It was lovely to see it that way — almost with fresh eyes.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at Bernie’s Grill, a local institution with terrific food. My husband commented that it was breakfast that tasted the way he remembered breakfast tasting when he was a kid. Bernie’s had A Christmas Wedding poster by the cash register. They were all over town. This is Cary (Laura’s husband), Laura and her mother, Mary.

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I don’t have the show photos yet, but will soon. Then I’ll do another post.

On Saturday toured the Faribault Woolen Mills, explored the Shattuck-St. Mary’s (a coed prep school) campus, had lunch at the Cheese Cave, and then the ladies explored a consignment shop which had been a Catholic Church. We were told there were three Catholic churches in Faribault and the powers that be decided to build a new church south of town and sell the old churches and rectories. The house we rented had been the rectory. It was full of gorgeous oak woodwork.

Saturday night we ordered take out and ate around the dining table at our rental property before we went to the show. During intermission the sound operator, Shelley Wold, came around to introduce herself. She’s a panda lover and there’s a mention of pandas in the show. Great job, Shelley! We owe so much to the behind the scene folks. There wouldn’t be a show without them.

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After the show we got some photos with the cast. Left to right: Michael Lambert (Will Hawes), Heidi Nelson (Jessica), Mala Burt (playwright), Matt Drenth (Josh), Laura Ambler (playwright), Mandie Siems (Brandeee), Stephanie Weiss (Martha) and Jerry Fox (Sandy Hawes). Honestly, we couldn’t have had a more talented cast for the first production of A Christmas Wedding. Accoustics were excellent and everyone knew their lines and where they were supposed to be. What was superb was how the actors stayed in character even when they weren’t speaking. That’s hard to do. (Thanks to Stephanie who had posted some of these photos on her FaceBook page.)

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This is Jerry Fox (Sandy Hawes) with Thomas Drenth (Tim).

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Stephanie Weiss (Martha) in her foxy post make-over Mrs. Santa costume, complete with bull whip. Embrace the crazy! A shout out here to Mary Butler Fraser for costume design.

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Two weeks before opening night the director, Juliana Skluzacek, had a heart attack and triple bypass surgery. She came home Friday, the day the show opened. Her hard work shone in every scene. It wouldn’t have been the same play without Julianna’s vision. But we would be remiss if we didn’t applaud the cast and crew who rose to the occasion and brought the show home. Laura and I were in awe.

Several people asked us if there will be another in the Santa Diaries saga. We’ll have to give that some thought. If we fast forward too much we’d have to kill off Sandy and Martha and that would be unforgiveable. Faribault would never let us come back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six on Saturday – Surprising Color – December 8, 2018

I wandered in my garden on Wednesday to see what I could find for Saturday’s post. I’m going to be out of town so needed to get something written. I was surprised at the color I found.

  1. The little maple I grew from a seedling finally put on a show.

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2. Several azaleas showed color, but some stay green. I have lost a number of azaleas due to all the rain and wet areas in some garden beds.

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3. Despite the killing frosts, I was surprised to see a few Sheffield mum blooms.

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4. The red twig dogwood (Arctic Fire) is now on full view. If we get a little snow to cover up the mess in that bed, it will be dramatic.

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5.  I noticed that impatient daffodils are coming up. This is a variety that proliferates like crazy. I started with one clump and now have them all over the yard in the spring.

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6. The Sunpatiens in the front window boxes succumbed to a frost. I pulled them out several weeks ago. This week I stuck pieces of everygreen cuttings into the potting soil. That anchors them and only a few end up in my neighbors lawn when we get a strong wind. It’s such a fast and easy solution to dressing the boxes for winter.

I have some red bows to add to the boxes, but that involves wiring them to something I can stick in the soil. I might get that done. ..or maybe not. If I had an electrical outlet on the front of the house, I’d add some twinkle lights. If you are wondering what the white piping is, it’s the drip irrigation llines to those beds. I put it in white pvc as the drip lines are black.

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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 – The Sugar Creek Players Do Us Proud – December 5, 2018

You know you are in Indiana when your rental car comes with an ice scraper, but the weather Gods smiled on Laura Ambler and me the first weekend in December 2018. We never needed the scraper, but I was glad I’d packed an umbrella.

We flew into Indianapolis and drove to Crawfordsville. An hour on the interstate led us right to the Vanity Theater.

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It’s a thrill to see our play in marquis lights.

On opening night the house was full and we were escorted to our seats by two of the cast members who play volunteer firemen in the show.

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After welcoming remarks by Director Keith Strain, the firemen escorted us to the stage where Crawfordsville Mayor, Todd Barton,  presented us with a proclamation announcing this week as The Santa Diaries week.

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The stage at the Vanity Theater is tight…just 22 feet wide. It’s deep however, and the director made use of several levels including a scrim (you can see it on the photo above with a photo projected on it) and a small raised area which served as Timmy’s bedroom.

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Sandy, Will, Martha, Brandeee and Josh. Then the Casserole Ladies begin to arrive.

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When most of the cast is on stage, it’s crowded, but risers in the back help.

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Adorable elves help Sandy read letters to Santa.

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Marley Dog, Timmy and Will.

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There was an after party on Friday night where all the cast and crew gathered.

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On Saturday Director Keith Strain and his wife, Betsy, took us to lunch. And in the afternoon a local cooperative art gallery hosted a reception for us. Laura and I supported the local ecomomy and bought jewelry and met people from this vibrant community.

On Saturday night we saw the show again. The staging of every production is unique and every actor interprets his/her character differently. It’s why we travel to see productions. Sometimes there’s a bit of business that we want to keep. This time it was a reprise of At Christmas I Believe (an original song in the show written by Laura Ambler) sung by Will’s mother’s ghost. It was a nice touch. It would give a director an option for the character of Alice.

Community theaters across America provide a cultural venue for their communities. Sometimes they serve as the focal point for the revitalization of a small town. And for some, they are a place where people come together — regardless of politics, religion, gender or sexual orientation — to put on a show. And that’s just what the Sugar Creek Players did at the Vanity Theater last weekend. They put on a great show and did us proud.

 

 

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.

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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 – August 4, 2018 – Successes and a Flop

It’s been raining…a lot. The lake is back in the back yard, but I’m not complaining except about the mosquitos. The second 6 cubic yards of mulch was put down before the rain started and there is no longer a blue tarp covered pile in the drive. Our neighbors must be happy. That will change in a few days, however, when I get a load of free chips from our local tree people. Most of that will go in the back of the property once it dries out back there.

Here are my six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

  1. Helenium (Sneezeweed). I didn’t really appreciate this flower until I downloaded the photos from my phone. The actual flower is small and on a very tall stem. Someone gave me one and it’s not yet a large clump. It would be easy to overlook.  It reminds me of a fantasy chapeau designed by a French milliner in the 1920’s. Or possibly an inspiration for a Kentucky Derby fantasy. It might be too overstated for the Queen. I need to save seeds and see if I can get a clump going. I can’t stop looking at this photo. IMG_6947

2.  The garden beds are producing. Tomatoes Amish Paste and Sungold cherry), green beans, carrots (purple and orange), beets, and spring onions. I found a recipe for a puff pastry tomato and cheese tart on-line. I added some ham because I had some in the fridge that needed to be used. It was a little complicated to make despite the fact that I bought frozen puff pastry, but it was delicious. I had a leftover piece for breakfast the next morning.

 

3.  Kinshi Uri or Somen Kabocha squash. Kinshi means golden threads. This is the original Japanese version of spaghetti squash. Burpee picked up this seed and began selling it as Vegetable Spaghetti in 1936. My seeds for Kinshi Uri came from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. I planted some seeds at the end of one of my community garden beds about six weeks ago where I had pulled up lettuces. The squash began sprawling so I put in some upright cages trying to keep them contained until I can pull out the rest of the beets. The plants have been setting fruit but I’ve had problems with borers in the past, so I’m not holding my breath that I will get mature squash. For the moment I’m enjoying the healthy plants with lots of female flowers. That great looking mulch between the raised beds is wood chips from our local tree company, Bartlett Tree Services. The fine mesh around the bed keeps the rabbits out and is tall enough to keep the deer from browsing.

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4. The verbena in two big pots had stopped blooming. I gave them a serious haircut and within a week had new blooms. I need to pay more attention to deadheading. The variagated liriope was dug from another spot in the garden. Soon there will be purple flower stalks which will look lovely with the lavendar and pink cleome and play off the bright cherry red verbena flowers.

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5. This mum is a favorite. It makes a compact plant that doesn’t need to be cut back and has come back every spring for probably eight years. It will soon be covered with bright yellow flowers but I don’t know why it is starting to bloom at the beginning of August. Isn’t this too early? I wish I knew where I had gotten this variety so I could buy more. I’ve taken pieces from the edge of this plant and put them in the ground, but they have not survived. I’ll try again by putting the starts in small pots so I have better control over watering.

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6. I am giving up on hollyhocks. I don’t buy alot of things for the garden but I bought these from a catalog last fall.  I think they were called something like Farmhouse Medley. How could I resist.

They looked fine this spring until the rust took them. I guess it’s just too humid in the Mid-Atlantic. Then the rabbits did in the rest, chomping off remaining green leaves. I remember Hollyhocks as a child in Indiana and thought they would look great against the lattice which would also provide support. Too bad.

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This was not my first attempt at hollyhocks, but it will probably be my last. (Notice the equivocation from my beginning sentence.) Of course  I say that about squash every year and I keep buying new varieties to try. Which brings to mind the saying about the triumph of hope over experience…  Either I am a slow learner, or a fast forgetter… or perhaps an eternally optimistic person. I think I’ll stick with the latter.

I hope you have enjoyed the photos of some successes and one total (but not totally unexpected) failure in my garden.  Until next week.