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Summer Stock: A Fictitious Journey

Summer Stock: Drama in Drama

Working through an idea….part one

 

There’s always more drama off-stage than on, when working in theatre.  Why not have a little fun with it…..  I’m building a smarmy, perhaps snarky little script….maybe you’d like to join me on the journey?  I know that many of you recognize the characters….I can’t wait to see how they evolve into Murder! Mystery! Mahem! Or just another blog post.

 

Cast of Characters:

Katie: A potentially lovely person who wants attention, love, and acceptance. Her mean-girl moments are largely secret: not inviting certain members of the “crew” to an all-nighter at her house, cuddling up to the “hot at the moment” newbie for love and adoration, then forgetting they exist when they’ve served their purpose to her ego. She’s talented, but one-note. She’s not overly ambitious, posing no threat to most of the theatre world in which she dwells.  She can be seen literally walking from group to group gossiping. She will harvest information from group”A”, then saunter to group “B” and dish it all.  By the time she arrives at group “C”, she’s chock-full of tidbits to use as power and gain acceptance.  

Regina: The self-appointed queen bee of the Summer of 2017, she dazzles with bullshit. She’s not particularly talented, but she keeps showing up, so many are legitimately convinced.  I mean, you can’t get a job if you don’t have the chops, right?  Wrong. Telling outright lies for personal gain is her MO, and when backed into a corner about said falsehoods, she places the blame elsewhere. There’s always someone to blame so she always comes up smelling like a rose. She’s cognizant of the fact that people talk about her, but it fuels her in a near Shakespearean way. She may actually view herself as Coriolanus.  

Taylor: Legitimately talented and seemingly nice, this young girl takes zero responsibility for the chaos around her. She’s always the victim, she’s always put-upon. She views herself as hardworking, but those around her feel as though they need the proverbial kid gloves. Her product is lovely; her process is tiresome. Perhaps she’s capable of greatness, but we’ll never know: her ego is in her way at every turn.  

Justin: A young man with infectious enthusiasm, he also believes that he is more talented than he actually is. His base-knowledge of theatre is sophomoric, but he’s male. He continues to get gigs for that fact alone. Desperately lacking in self-esteem, this player needs to be loved. He needs to have a large group around him. Even if this group doesn’t know his name, they are THERE.  They are HIS.  Proximity is everything. The superficial nature of his relationships makes him utterly average.   

Paul: A two-faced hack: hugs and kisses you, compliments your dress, then turns to the next person and makes fun of your fashion, rolling his eyes. Claims to love theatre, but never goes to see anything. Has great ideas, but does not execute them. He relies on others to do hard, good work so he can reap glory and credit. His working knowledge of theatre and resume are both strong, particularly given his age. Stunting his growth and success, however, is profound laziness. He will actually start a sentence with the most endearing, intelligent quip and lose it halfway through, ending the sentiment with, “Or something like that. Fuck it.” He relies on charm and after-party schmoozing to pad his circle of friends. He commands attention and generally speaking gets people to respond. “Phoning it in” is his default mode. His tunnel vision is dangerous, and once you’ve been sworn as his enemy, you’re marked for life.   

Kim: The most pathetic, and probably most poisonous person during summer of 2017. Kim is emotionally needy, untrustworthy, and a complete opportunist. She complains, she manipulates, she cheats. A compulsive liar, most of the time she’s convinced of her own fabrications. The greatest lie she tells is that of her moral fiber. [Spoiler alert: she doesn’t have one.] Watch carefully when you’re around her: she will coerce you into offering sympathy, use your moment of weakness to get what she wants, and then accuse you of murder. That’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight. She’s trash.

Gary: Also a liar, but not as superficially as Kim. Gary is sociopathic. Gary often boasts about being a “chameleon” or having a “heightened ability to empathize” when in fact Gary does not possess a personality of his own. Gary is usually morphing into whatever an opportunity calls for:  doting boyfriend, concerned friend, talented actor, zealous set-mover, novice mediator. Gary longs for respect, talks about all the reasons folks should respect him, but never actually does anything to earn respect. Gary is a master of disguises, usually donning a mask of concern and care when he’s trying to figure out if your pockets can be picked.   

Flying Monkeys: These ten or so folks are the backup singers of Summer 2017. They are, on the surface, doing their jobs happily. They like the shows, the space, the casts, the crew. They march along chanting their pleasure but then, one-on-one, confide a desperate need to be rescued. They, with tears in their eyes, beg, “Is this really what it’s like?” The Monkeys don’t want to make waves, but they don’t like the ocean either. They hope for a change and are the undercurrent to others’ wave-making. They never go as far as standing up for themselves or others, but they also don’t buy the nonsense of the crazy-makers.

 

This might be fun……

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I challenge you to…

 

Come see a show this weekend.  I’m closing Noel Coward’s Private Lives at The Shawnee Playhouse.  After twenty-two performances, there are just three left. So often in my 32 years of performing (do you like how I start the count in kindergarten?), I hear, “We’d love to see you in a show!” I’m flattered and I hope that everyone gets the chance to come to a show.  Participating in the performing arts- whether on stage, back stage, or in the audience- is one of the single most important cultural contributions we can make.

With that, I offer up some common excuses about NOT attending a show and my rebuttals.

  1. I hate theatre.”

Oh, do you now? I have observed your drama; it’s very theatrical. I’m kidding. How do you know you HATE theatre? Have you been very often? What did you see? Substantiate your claim and I will never again ask you to attend.

  1. There’s a game on.”

DVR it.  Truly. There will always be something “on.”

  1. “It won’t be as good as Broadway.”

How will you know if you don’t see it?  It is a fallacy that only The Great White Way offers quality theatre. I’ve seen some really bad stuff in New York. I’ve seen some really spectacular stuff in community theatre in the middle of a cornfield in Topeka. I’ve seen everything in between all over the country. There is good theatre happening all over. You won’t know the good from the bad unless you see lots of it.

  1. It’s too expensive.”

How much is a ticket to Cinemark? Even the small screen movie house gets $10 for a seat. Did you know that not only can you see a terrific show for less than Cinemark, but many playhouses offer free tickets to volunteers. Usher, build a set, strike a set…stuff you know how to do is rewarded with free admission.  

  1. “I don’t like [so and so] and he/she is in it.”

This drives me wild. I have a friend who hates an area actress for personal reasons. Their friendship fell apart several years ago and they’ve been unable to cross the social chasm of their breakup. The difficulty lies in that my friend fancies herself a theatre person (as a supporter/audience/critic). She refuses to attend any show that this particular actress is involved in. The kicker is that this actress is one of the finest thespians in our area. She’s delightful on stage. My friend denies herself a truly wonderful experience for a dumb grudge. For me, she also voids her claim to be a “theatre person” by boycotting one single performer. Isn’t it supposed to be about the craft overall? So, my friend and friends, how much interaction are you really going to have? The actor is on stage. You are in the house. In most scenarios, you aren’t even visible to each other. Heaven forbid the show has a meet and greet, scoot out quickly.  Or, better yet, just act like grownups. Pass with civility and appreciate the art for the set, the script, the costumes, the acting, the singing. Leave your fight in the past and outside the theatre. Need I mention that everyone seems to hate Anne Hathaway but we all went to see Les Mis anyway?

  1. It’s boring.”

You don’t know this to be true of each and every show. I beg you to trust my judgement as it relates to Private Lives. You will laugh. You will shudder. You will think, “Huh. That’s sad.” You will see yourself and people you love in the moments playing out before your eyes. You will get a glimpse into fashion and social issues of 1930 and embrace how timeless they really are. You will NOT be bored.

  1. “I’m too busy.”

This is a tricky one. Busy is relative. When I’m glib my reply is, “If you’re busier than me you are likely the leader of the free world.” When I’m sarcastic my reply is, “How much time do you spend sending me Candy Crush invites on Facebook?” When I’m sincere my reply is, “This is important. This is nourishment to a part of your brain and your soul that isn’t met with any other activity.” I am confident that in six weeks of performances, two hours can be found.

  1. It’s not my thing.”

No, it isn’t. But you are my friend. Having kids wasn’t my thing, but I have celebrated and contributed to each of yours. Getting married isn’t my thing, but I willingly attend showers and weddings, celebrating your choices and even gifting. Sitting in a bar all afternoon isn’t my thing, but I meet you for drinks.  These aren’t scores being kept, I offer examples of how in life we do things that might represent a compromise, a key element to successful relationships. I won’t repeatedly ask you to do something that makes you uncomfortable. I’d love for you to share just one show with me.  

  1. “I’d rather stay home and binge-watch Netflix.”

I appreciate your honesty. It makes me sad, though. We’ve increasingly become so  isolated. Society overall would prefer to sit alone, eyes glued to their small screens, having an experience that isn’t shared with anyone. Later, perhaps, you’ll chat about the most recent series you’ve devoured, but from start to finish you’re alone. When was the last time you experienced something moving, something funny, something poignant with 50 other people? 100? 15? When was the last time the energy of a group of people shaped your enjoyment of it?

 

  1. Watching a movie or TV show is the same thing.”

Wrong. There are so many unique elements to stage work, but the crux of the genre boils down so easily for even the least seasoned audience member among us. Come see actors who have to get it right in one take. Watch their physicality that has to hit the mark every single time, not get chances to fix it in editing. Listen to their words, knowing they’ve memorized every bit of dialogue, no teleprompter in sight. Maybe you’ll marvel at the capacity of the human body to achieve these feats, perhaps you’ll witness a dropped line covered by another performer. What you will see is real.

 

 
Joe frequently reminds me, “Not everyone likes theatre, babe. You need to get over it. They’re not coming.” I won’t give up that easily.Come to the show.  You can score half price tickets if you ask me for the coupon code.

Restaurant Week- Stops 1, 4, and 8

jube exterior

VanGilder’s Jubilee is located on PA Rt. 940 in Pocono Pines, PA.

The Official Pocono Mountains Restaurant Week 2014 was a hit! This week of enthusiasm for local eateries was held April 24th- 30th in the Pocono Mountains. I loved every day of the event, even if my wallet and waistline were less than thrilled.  An important consideration: I don’t eat out on a regular basis.  I’m someone who calculates what I’ve spent on a restaurant meal and immediately knows what I could have procured in the grocery store.  I love to cook!  I love to put on music, pour some wine, and figure out the best end result for the ingredients before me.  The flip side is that I adore socializing.  Having an excuse to hit 16 restaurants in 7 days was this social butterfly’s dream come true.  Logistically, only 12 establishments could enjoy my fabulousness.

Stop one, first thing on Thursday, April 24th on my way to work: VanGilder’s Jubilee Restaurant in Pocono Pines, PA. I invited the Cute Boy to join me for breakfast, knowing that he would not be partaking in the RW prix fixe menu.  He orders the same thing every time we have breakfast at the Jub (which I generally spell JUBE), “The Favorite.”  I, however, had my eye on the specials.  Stop four during RW was also the Jubilee, since I was CRAVING one particular prix fixe menu choice on a Saturday.  I dined solo for breakfast (and have no regrets).  My third visit to VanGilder’s during RW was Sunday for take-out.  I was too tired to cook, slightly hung-over, and my fridge had no real food, just boxes of left-overs.  I sat at the bar and ordered from the Restaurant Week special menu, enjoying a glass of wine while everything was prepared.

No matter when you go to the Jub(e), you’re going to have great food.  The atmosphere is perfect, no matter who is in your group.  You can dine alone without judgment or anxiety.  You can be on a date.  You can drag your kids and their friends and not fear scorn from other diners.  The food is consistently delicious, the staff ‘normal,’ and prices fair.

“What is ‘normal?'” you ask?  Normal for me, in the greater Pocono area, is not terribly difficult to achieve but not implemented in the majority.  ‘Normal’ restaurant staffs do the following things:

*Greet you when you arrive

*Treat you nicely, but are not falsely intimate.  There’s no ‘doll,’ ‘darlin’,’ ‘honey,’ or ‘sugar’ needed in the mountains. Additionally, strangers and regulars are treated equally.  You won’t feel like an outsider on your first visit, even if the “Norm” walks into this “Cheers.”

*Know their job and don’t tell you how flustered they are to have  four top.

*Know the establishment:  Don’t tell me what pinot grigio will pair nicely with my grilled ham and cheese at noon on Monday.

*Are honest.  If you won’t remember my order, it’s okay to write it down!

*Get their job done.  I like clean silverware, cold water, hot coffee, and the food that I ordered.

 

That being said…..menu selections were the paramount consideration for Restaurant Week.  Had I been blogging in real-time, I would include the full prix fixe menus and then my selections.  Why rub it in?  If you missed RW2014, you need only know how fantastic everything was.  If you’re able to join me next year, you’ll have completely different options to view in 2015.

Here’s what I ate:

 

Stop 1: Breakfast Tostadas

I really wanted the Surf and Turf Benedict Sampler, but there’s no way I would be work- ready after such a decadent “vacation” meal.    The tostadas entree was wonderful.  HUGE portion, pork was tender and perfect, and accompaniments delightful.  I hoped Joe would have the Keilbasa Scrambler, but he can’t eat onions!  Ack!

 

Stop 4:  Jelly Doughnut French Toast

I dreamed about this meal and had to stop on my way to run errands on Saturday morning.  The battered Challah bread was transformed into sandwiches featuring a perfect sweet/sour combo fruit jam.  The strawberry filling and dusting of  confectioner’s sugar made for a very sweet breakfast treat.  More sugar you say?  Yes please (next time)! Here’s where the rebel in me comes out:  I ordered bacon.  You read me.  BACON.  I never order bacon “out” anymore because I hate rubbery bacon, loathe greasy bacon, and adore my sliced cured pig product so crispy you almost burn it.  How on earth did the Jub(e) read my mind and desires?????  Perfect.

 

Stop 8:  Hawaiian BBQ Chicken Flatbread Pizza, Napa Valley Salad, Meatloaf Wellington, Lobster Mac & Cheese, Chocolate Caramel Turtle Pie, Glazed Vanilla Cherry Bundt Cake

This is where the Jubilee is miles above other casual eateries in the Poconos.  They (a wonderful family I’m honored to know) provide classics, comfort classics, and pub fare standards, but always keep up on trends.

The Flatbread:  perfect size to share.  BBQ sauce was mild, not too spicy.  Fair amount of chicken.  Good value.

Salad:  All mine.  I will never know if it could have been shared.  Delicious, fresh, crip.  Dressing on the side without request.

Mac & Cheese:  An abundance of lobster!  Huge portion!  I literally served three portions out of it and it re-heated well.

Meatloaf Wellington:  Please, please, please put this on the menu.  Billy?  Vicki?  Who do I need to beg?  The Jub(e) has always had a lovely meatloaf entree; they upped the proverbial ante by wrapping it in a flaky pastry.

Turtle Pie:  Shortbread crust was a nice balance- walnuts and caramel between crust and filling was a nice surprise.

Bundt Cake:  More topping for me, please!  Alas, it was baked it.  Neat dessert- would totally order it again.

 

Go here.  Order specials.  Enjoy it all.  The folks running this restaurant go to trade shows, attend food expos, experiment with flavors and ingredients, and never rest on their laurels. When the VanGilders travel and find something they love, they bring it home.  They share their knowledge and passion for food with everyone they host in their family business.  Don’t mistake the Jub(e) as breakfast and wings only…geography may be my excuse for excessive visits, but I’d frequent VanGilder’s Jubilee no matter their zip code.

 

And so……there are nine more RW reports with which to regale you!

 

Cheers!