Friday, December 22, 2006

And He Crosses the Finish Line...!

I'm finally done Christmas shopping. *PANT PANT* Excuse me--I think I need a plasma injection now. I spent the afternoon up and down the length of Touhy Avenue, buying presents I can ill afford for people who probably won't even use them. But they asked for them, and that's that.

What a traffic nightmare. Everything was fine until I got to about Crawford Avenue (which is Pulaski when it's in Chicago). From then on, it was gridlock, thanks to the Edens Expressway exchange and the several mall entrances in the vicinity. I managed to find my aunt's gifts at Wal-Mart (I know, *boo hiss*, but it's the only place in the area or anywhere that carries these things--I looked them up!), as well as a few DVD's for the nieces and nephews. Hope they like 'em. But frankly, if they don't, it's not like I'll crumble.

My mom had asked for a step-stool with three steps for her apartment (to reach things in her cupboard). The only one I could find that wasn't flimsy as hell was at Lowe's. I could barely get it in my car. Good luck to me taking it all the way to Peoria Sunday! (I always spend more on her than on anyone, which is as it should be, to my mind. She always does the same for me.)

I stopped at Dominick's on the way home and bought the ingredients for gingerbread cookie dough, which I made when I got home. It's chilling in the fridge now, ready to be rolled out and baked tomorrow for the "Rudolph" crew. It'll have to wait until morning, because I realized when I got home that I forgot cookie cutters. Fuck! Oh, well, I'll stop at Walgreen's tonight on my way to the theatre or something.

Why am I writing about all this banal shit? Why, to prove to everyone (myself, mostly) that I DO have holiday spirit--I DO...

Tonight's show is at 10:00. I'm remembering to make my entrances early! :-) There's still time--come and see us!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Perez vs. the Photo Trolls

I'm not a big fan of vacuous celebrity-stalking bloggers, but I have to say, my sympathies sort of lie with Perez on this one.

I particularly love the quote from the X17 spokeswoman that says that Perez Hilton's been getting a free ride off their photographers' work after they've been roaming around all night to get these pictures.

Oh, yeah, what a noble pursuit that is--how dare Perez try to capitalize on their toil and sweat? And oh, what a product! This is like accusing someone of stealing turds from a sewer worker. Who will win this war of the classless idiots, I wonder? Frankly, I'd get a hearty laugh out of it if Perez wins...photographers are always squealing about their "First Amendment rights" whenever someone tries to stifle them. I'd love to see how they take it when someone else twists a stupid rule against them.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

North Pole Visitors and Naughty Children

This weekend marks weekend number three for "Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer." We've been selling out and playing to packed houses, which is great for obvious reasons, although somewhat treacherous, since the theatre puts out extra chairs for sold-out performances, and several of us make entrances and exits through the house. This means we have to start our entrances extra early before our lines so as not to have to run and trip over someone's feet and fall on our faces (and let's face it, THIS face can't stand any extra injuries!).

But it's been lots of fun, and this weekend, my mother attended, along with several of my friends. They all enjoyed it immensely. My own performance could have been a little better, but when is it ever perfect? This time, I kept forgetting to snatch the booze bottle out of the way when Ed Jones (Mrs. Claus) lunges for it. There's only one time when I actually have to, and that's at the very beginning of our scene--the rest of the time, Mrs. Claus wheedles and cajoles for it, but only gets it after she--er--"performs" for Santa. Other than that, the scene went swell--still no more splashes from the bottle! The cork is holding.

I also fucked up a line during a scene with Rudolph when I tell him "Christmas is coming and without your father, I don't have enough reindeer to pull my sleigh." For some reason, I couldn't get hold of the word "reindeer," and hemmed and hawed through the whole fucking line. I exited through the house as usual and mouthed the word "fuck" to Dan Hickey (Herbie the Elf) on my way into the dressing room. My flopsweat was for good and real after that scene--and not just from the acrylic-fur costume!

Nevertheless, it's still running smoothly, and we have two more weekends left. Come and see us! (Here's a tip: the Friday shows are a little easier to get tickets for since the Saturday ones sell out faster.)

Today, I went to see "The Children's Hour" at Timeline Theatre. One of my bosses is a board member, and normally, we find a night that several of us from the office can go and make an evening of it. This time, I couldn't go with the folks from the office, since I had "Rudolph" tech, so I got a ticket for today, which was the very last performance. My friend Michael, who's done a few shows with them (and turned in very strong performances, too!) was there, so we sat together.

All I can say is that the show, like all Timeline shows, was stellar. There are several child actors in the show (since it takes place in a girls' boarding school), and the two principal child actresses were amazing. A-maz-ing. And of course, the actresses playing Karen Wright and Martha Dobie were beyond incredible. The gentleman who plays Joe Cardin (Karen's fiance) was one I've seen in several Chicago shows this year, and is a terrific actor (not to mention damned easy on the eyes). Timeline shows are always very serious (no comedies, although they do some musicals), and leave me feeling like I've been punched in the gut--they're that powerful. This one left me feeling like I'd been kicked in the balls, too. It was mesmerizing. I never saw the entire movie with Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn, but the bits that I did see weren't any better (or even as good) as the ones I saw today. I left in tears.

And what better way for a gay boy to salve his psyche than with shopping? I went to Target afterwards to do a little Christmas shopping and got one present bought, then went for a drink at Touche. (I hardly need an excuse.)

Now I'll finish watching my DVD of "Twister" (not the Helen Hunt movie, but an independent comedy from 1989 starring Harry Dean Stanton and Crispin Glover). So far, it's more "independent" than "comedic." If they'd released it today under a different name, it would have been a much bigger hit...

That's all for boring my life would be if it weren't for other people's events...!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Another Sad Passing

Another of my favorite older male character actors has departed. Isn't it funny how over the last few years all these seem to be hitting right around Christmas? I always marveled at this guy...especially once I started watching "Everybody Loves Raymond," and realized that Ray's acid-tongued father was the big hulk from "Young Frankenstein," without the make-up. His physical comedy in "YF" was impeccable. He will be missed...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"Iran is your home and is the home of all freedom seekers of the world..."

...on Bizarro Planet.

I heard this guy got booed yesterday by a bunch of Iranian students. I know everyone realizes what a whack job this guy is, but really--how many seasons should his little sitcom be allowed?

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Lost Weekend

This weekend wasn't really a weekend for me...between shows and rehearsals, I barely got any sleep, and was quite punchy and exhausted the whole time.

Nevertheless, it was quite smooth "Rudolph" wise...all the cues were right on, and our pacing was better. Saturday sold out, and was so packed that we were all trying not to step on audience members' feet--there were chairs on the main floor. I remembered the cork for the booze bottle, incidentally, and Ed Jones didn't end up getting wet again. "Bare Naked Lads Save Christmas" has now opened, so we're sharing the performance space with them. This means we have to pack up and change extra fast on Saturday night so they can get in the dressing room (for naked guys, they sure have a lot of costumes! :-)). Fortunately, I'm a quick change and Jason, the assistant stage manager, kindly hung the costume up for me.

It was a crazy fucking weekend. Tracy, the lead singer of my band, called Friday night just before I left the theatre. The booking person at Lilly's Pub called her and asked if we'd be available to play the late slot the next night. From 1:00 AM to 3:00 AM. I wasn't really excited about it, but since I'm doing "Rudolph," I'm not available for many gigs, and I don't want to deprive the band of opportunities to play.

But 1:00 to 3:00 AM? On one day's notice? I knew I was just going to grit my teeth and bear this one.

So Saturday, I drove my fully-packed car to Lincoln Park at 5:00 PM, found a sweet parking spot right around the corner from Lilly's, and walked back to the theatre for our 6:00 PM call. "Rudolph" ended around 8:30 (we started just a teeny bit late, since there were so many people on the books), and I walked back down to Lincoln Park (actually a pretty enjoyable walk, especially with all the decorations up). I still had four hours to kill. I went to this punk bar called Delilah's near Lincoln and Diversey, where they always show death movies and have cool drink specials. Tonight they were showing "Girl on a Motorcycle" with Marianne Faithfull. Even if I didn't worship Ms. M, I would love the movie for its scenery alone--Germany and Switzerland are gorgeous. I got to Lilly's about 11:00 and there was a "bongo blues" band playing. They were pretty decent.

We actually got to start around 12:30, since that band finished early. The set went OK, but it was not our most shining hour. Tracy always does this audience-participation thing during one of the numbers, and this time it went haywire. One of the guys was drunk off his skeevy little ass and kept screaming into the microphone like a football hooligan. Tracy finally had to tell him to sit down.

This place attracts mainly college kids, situated as it is near DePaul University. I pegged this guy right off as some pre-law, pre-medicine (God help us) or business student who's being totally subsidized by Mommy and Daddy, and has a large supply of disposable income, a cabinet full of liquor, and a shelf full of "Girls Gone Wild" videotapes at home. We simply must stop playing places like this! As atmospheric as it is, it's not our demographic.

Our favorite venue (so far!) is the one we'll be playing New Year's Eve, Gallery Cabaret in Bucktown...Baby Kage, another awesome Chicago band, will be opening for us. Prize drawings, contests and rock and roll! Join the fun...

2020 N. OAKLEY

Show starts at 10:00PM

This weekend, more "Rudolph!" My mom is coming this Saturday, along with a few friends, so this ought to be interesting...

Sitting Ducks

Look! Every asshole in the world (except Augusto Pinochet, who'd just croaked) was at this gala event. Sadly, I and my slingshot missed it...

Friday, December 08, 2006

I'm So Complex!

(Or is that herpes simplex? I get so confused...)

I nicked this quiz from David Cerda's MySpace page. I think everyone should take it!

Which Blondie Album Best Suits You?

A little bit of this and that. Well-rounded and balanced. You are Blonde and Beyond.
Take this quiz!

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| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Celebrity Homophobes

With the world in such a screwed-up state--with war going on, with Britney flashing her cooter, Madonna adopting a baby, George Bush STILL in office, and George Ryan out on bail--its only natural that a gay boy's thoughts this Christmas season should flash to what's most important:

Which doddering celebrity is denouncing us now? (You thought I was going to say "sugarplums," didn't you? No, I like dried figs better.)

Speaking of dried things, what about that crazy Carol Channing? A few months ago, she did a telephone interview with some gay rag in Springfield, OH. During the course of the interview, she was asked about her large gay following. She seemed genuinely blindsided by the question, and appeared to be completely surprised by the fact that she has gay fans. She was quoted as saying she was "grateful" that they seem to love her so much, but that she's "knee deep in the Bible right now and you know what it says about that."

Then her publicist did a quick patch-up job, saying that Carol was quoted out of context (could be, since the reporter doesn't seem to have a recording of the conversation). Which led to a flurry of speculation on several blogs and message boards about whether Carol is really a born-again homophobe or just an old lady with declining mental faculties.

My own theory is, it's a bit of both. She's certainly a little forgetful, which is only natural when you reach 85, but she probably also sees herself within spitting distance of St. Peter, so to speak, so she's doing that thing that some people do when they get old--gettin' right with the Lord. Sometimes, that involves painful self-examination of all one's principles and beliefs, and leads one to question the things they may have believed when they were (in their own eyes) younger and more foolish.

Do I think Carol Channing hates gays? Of course not! This is a woman who has embraced everybody fully and lovingly for her entire life. She's also given lots of her time for AIDs-related charities and other causes that are close to the gay community. Frankly, I think she's just getting senile. What her comments meant, anybody can guess. I'm certainly not ready to throw rocks at her house.

The newest "buzz-maker" is Jennifer Hudson, the former "American Idol" contestant garnering rave reviews for her performance as Effie in the motion picture "Dreamgirls." People are absolutely gushing over her, so of course, there has to be a "hand that taketh away" so to speak, and this particular hand comes in the form of comments she'd made earlier about the gay lifestyle being "sinful."

Now she's allegedly backpedaling, saying that while the Bible does say it's a sin, it also exhorts us not to judge other people.

Sounds reasonable to me. As much as I want to identify with people who are my idols, I realize that my chances of meeting and getting to know them are slim to none, so it doesn't really matter what they think of my life or my sexuality. (And quite frankly, this girl isn't even on my extra-long list of "people I want to meet before I die." So I really don't give a shit what she thinks.

And since I hardly ever go to the movies, I probably won't see "Dreamgirls," either.

Yes, that's right (oh, God, I can't resist this): I'm telling you I'm not going.

So back to the important thing: where are the holiday sales this weekend?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Enjoy the Silence

Why is it that people are so uncomfortable with silence?

Seriously, I wanna know. What the fuck is the problem with a little peace and quiet? I realize we live in a big city and all, but ya know, sometimes silence is necessary for reflection. It helps recharge the batteries of the brain. (Of course, that would explain a lot about most people's thought processes--or lack thereof--these days.)

Without at least a little silence every so often, I become frazzled and irritable. And most unlikeable. I don't expect the entire world to fall into a hush on my account, but there are things that I, like many people, often do to tune out noise in a noisy environment--headphones, earplugs, etc. They can be great buffers.

Until people stop respecting them. And that's the problem: some brain-dead folksters (who haven't had enough silence in their life, I guess) are so self-absorbed by their need for attention and their stupid phobias about silence that they have to violate this barrier, and come up and start talking. It never fails. Standing on the L platform, at the bus stop, in a line at a grocery store, some Benny or Joon inevitably shambles up to me and starts yabbering. About absolutely nothing. Ignoring the VERY CLEAR signals I'm sending that I DO NOT WANT TO TALK. If I have headphones in, they'll tap me on the arm or something to get my attention.

Sometimes they have a question. Fair enough. I'll answer it. Sadly, that's never enough--then they have ANOTHER question. And another. And another. They are usually unnecessary questions, since there are FUCKING SIGNS EVERYWHERE GIVING THEM THE INFORMATION THEY'RE ASKING ME FOR.

For instance: "Where can I go to catch the #36 bus?"

"You just follow that sign over there in plain view that says 'This way to #36 bus.'"

"Where does it go?"

"I'm not sure." (I do know, but I'm not about to spend a half hour explaining it to some lazy dolt.) "There's a map of the route on the sign."

"Where do babies come from?" "What is one plus one?" "Why don't cows fly?" The list goes on and on.

Which leads me to believe that these people don't really need answers, they just want to fill up the void left by silence. Why? What's the matter with them? Why are they so frightened by it? Does it remind them of the cemetery or something? Well, not me--I need it sometimes. And those who interrupt it had better be suffering a heart attack, or one of us better be on fire.

I've noticed that CTA itself (which treats us like schoolchildren, except that schoolbuses are usually on time) has fallen prey to this horrible phenomenon. When it's not some damned hen party in the back, it's those stupid recorded voice announcements. I noticed again this morning as I was riding the bus (not the #36) that every time it got silent, those stupid fucking recordings would start playing. I'm sorry, but how many times do we have to be told to keep our bags off the seats, to report vandalism or suspicious behavior, to give up our seats for elderly people and preggos? Here's a news flash: the people who don't observe good CTA etiquette are assholes, and they're not going to change their ways because Mr. Roboto tells them to. There's absolutely NO reason to play this shit over and over again. Add this annoyance to the half hour waiting for the bus in the freezing fucking cold and you needn't wonder why we're all so grumpy in the morning.

Perhaps I should go and live in the library. Books, peace and quiet--and somebody on staff to shut the teenagers up! My kind of environment...

Conversely, I could just start carrying a taser. Oh, the satisfaction...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

My First Dash Through the Snow...

Did I ever mention that I haven't acted onstage in a play since my freshman year in college? It's true. That was in 1986. 20 years ago. I did forensics (speech and oral interp) in college, but I was far from great. I had lots of potential, but was distracted by part-time jobs, study and of course, music, the biggest distractor of all! (Only back then I just listened to it and collected it rather than playing it.)

But I've been onstage hundreds of times since then in Chicago Gay Men's Chorus, in which I used to sing for 8 years. That was sort of different, though--I was one of the stalwart "chorus" members, who just propped up the back wall, didn't have a solo, wasn't usually part of a small group ensemble, and (thankfully) didn't have to dance.

So imagine my trepidation Friday night as Jodi the Stage Manager called "places" for the opening of "Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer." I had been fine before that--David Cerda asked me "aren't you nervous?" I replied that I wasn't, really. For some reason, I felt comfortable in the environment. I'd been playing in the pit band for "Caged Dames" and was practically IN the audience, while performing, for the whole run. The actors at least have a buffer of about 3 1/2 feet from the audience. Any crazed fan would have to run up the stage stairs to knife them. As for me, they could have just shivved me in the back with a nail file right there on the floor and nobody'd have been any the wiser.

Nevertheless, I felt the familiar butterflies Friday night at 10:00 as the blizzard sound effects came up and the cute young elf actors stood next to me delivering offstage lines. By the time I came onstage to berate Elfano (Terry McCarthy), I was experiencing that "tunnel vision" you adopt so that you don't have to see audience members in your peripheral vision. It helped, since I only had to look directly at Terry, utter my two lines and chase him off the stage. My next entrance was at the end of the "Christmastown" song, when I chase all the other cast members offstage for my scene with Mrs. Claus (Ed Jones). By then, I was calmed down a bit.

The entire show Friday went great. The house was packed (even with the weather), I didn't miss any lines (although I was less than pleased with my diction in a few places) and all the cues were right on.

Last night was a little rougher. A few of the sound cues were off a little bit (they'd recently been split in a few places and were reorganized), Ed was quite under the weather (although he still performed wonderfully), and the booze bottle that I use to coerce him into doing a lewd striptease in our first scene together (yes, folks, you MUST see this show!) lost its cap and splashed its contents over him. (We never did find the cap--I must have loosened it so much during my lines that it fell off or something. I told him I'd bring a cork for the next performance to stop it up.) All in all, though, it's been going well.

Another thing I'd forgotten about was the culture of the dressing room between scenes. In college, our theatre dressing room was pretty huge (well, it was a prop room, too). Not the Bailiwick! Space is very limited. We're sharing all the space with Bare Naked Lads, so we have to pack everything very carefully and last night, many things were missing right before the show since Jodi and Ed had had to pack all the props in boxes at the end of the night.

We also have one cast member who shall remain nameless, but sadly, not voiceless. I'm thinking of bringing a stash of Willy Wonka's Everlasting Gobstoppers to keep this particular gob busy until it's needed onstage. Or perhaps a small dose of morphia. For me.

But, on reflection, this was all part of my original theatre experience in the 80s, too, so this has been sort of a homecoming for me. It's almost like I just started my adulthood over. And I'm seriously thinking about using this experience to examine my life and change it. I think it's time. I made some really dumb choices during and after college because I was too timid and lacked confidence. I thought, stupidly, that silence would save me, and by being nondescript I could find some measure of happiness and security.

Well, I didn't. So fuck it. I have a feeling 2007 is going to be a year of big changes (hopefully for the better). Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I will take you all on my "Rudolph" journey with me! Come see the show! Details at Hell in a Handbag's website.

Friday, December 01, 2006

We Have Liftoff...!

And coming from a team of eight reindeer, it should be much more environmentally friendly than those gas-and-fire-spewing rockets at Cape Canaveral...

So, tonight's the night: "Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer" opens at 10:00 PM at Bailiwick. I'm borderline excited/stressed/so-exhausted-I-could-lie-down-and-never get-up-again. We had our dress rehearsal last night, and it went really well. There are a few sound cues that need to be split, so Jodi (our stage manager) can set them more easily, but she and Heath (the lighting designer) did SUCH an amazing job last night. The set looks really cute, won't require a huge strike, and the lighting is great (it looks like Bailiwick FINALLY fixed that frigging flood spot, which had been shorted out and was crackling during "Caged Dames"). The lighting effect for the big snowfall at the beginning really looks beautiful.

I finally found a Santa costume that looks decent. I had bought a very inexpensive one from a Major Pharmacy Retailer Which Will Remain Unnamed, but is located right across the street from my office. I noticed Wednesday night how shitty it looked (it was made entirely of felt), so I bought a different (less inexpensive) one last night before rehearsal. This one's much nicer, and the jacket actually zips, so I can take if off between scenes if I want. It's made of acrylic fur, so it looks more authentic, too.

I didn't miss any cues or forget any lines last night, and the entrances all went pretty well. They ran a few of the dances several times last night, and it really seemed to pay off. The pacing was great, and we were out of there at 10:30.

Then came the adventure of driving home. It had started sleeting pretty heavily while we were in rehearsal (we could hear it on the roof) and it hadn't stopped when we left the theatre. So I scraped the car off and slowly made my way home (it still only took 20 minutes, not including my stop at Jewel to buy juice). I kept hoping against hope that this morning's weather would prove not to be as dire as predicted.

My rude awakening came at 7:00 AM this morning as I walked (or rather "sloshed") to my parking spot two blocks away to clean my car off. Still snowing, and cars were spinning their tires in the street. However, I started the car without a hitch, cleaned it off quickly, and hit the road (not spinning my tires at all--take THAT, SUV drivers!). Traffic was not bad at all--I left at 7:10 AM and got to work at 7:45. Lots of people are out of the office today. One boss called and said he's working from home. Another one has to stay home until her nanny gets there (and I'm sure she'll have quite a job getting here even after that). So I'm getting lots done and have even more time to waste--er, spare--writing this!

I drove to work because we have a 7:00 PM theatre call tonight, and I knew I didn't have time to go home and get my car and come back (and I don't want to be standing around waiting for the L tonight at midnight when we're done). It's still snowing pretty heavily, so hopefully it will clear up at least a little by 4:30.

Wish me luck!