Monday, January 22, 2018

Pondering High Maintenance and Low Maintenance

My favorite movie is When Harry Met Sally. Among the many conversations in that movie that make me laugh a bit self-consciously is the conversation where Harry is explaining high maintenance and low maintenance women to Sally. He concludes by telling her she's "the worst kind. You're high maintenance, but you think you're low maintenance." She responds by telling him she just wants things the way she wants them.

Yep. Totally agree.

I've spent the last month and a half rehearsing and performing Neil Simon's Plaza Suite. It's been a wonderful experience, but it's also gotten me thinking about high maintenance and low maintenance.

When it comes to my performance, I'm pretty high maintenance. I want my lines, my expressions and my embodiment of the character to be just right. A missed or misspoken line or even just the sense that I'm not bringing my A game to the performance bugs me. A lot.

Over time, I've learned how to keep moving, to get past the momentary blips in the interest of making the overall performance as good as it can be. I still don't like imperfect lines and B+ performances, but I recognize that they're a fact of life and that letting them get to me is counterproductive.

While none of this is news to me, the fact that I have a low maintenance side did come as a surprise. Having found the things I love to do in life, I'm impatient with almost anything that interrupts time doing those things. I've long known that cooking and household responsibilities fell into that "in the way" category but, until I did this show, I didn't quite realize how low maintenance I am when it comes to my "beauty routine," such as it is.

Set in 1968, this play required a look that aligned with its times. A costume did part of the work, but hair (a wig, in my case) and makeup completed the look. This meant spending a fair amount of time in a chair being transformed from Lisa Hess to Karen Nash -- more time than I spent getting ready for my own wedding, in fact. Then again, in that case, I was only going from Lisa Lawmaster to Lisa Hess.

Maureen Stapleton as Karen Nash
movieclips via YouTube
Most of the women loved the makeup, especially the false eyelashes. I, on the other hand, was happier to peel them off than put them on. It's not that I don't care how I look; it's just that the combined effects of motherhood, allergies and impatience have pared my makeup routine down to five steps that can be completed in less than five minutes. Taking ten times that long to get ready was hard for me to reconcile. Instead of feeling pampered, I felt imprisoned, and more than a little grouchy.

Over the past two weeks, I've learned to live with it, accepting what I can't change (the wig, which looks a lot like the photo above) and changing what I can (some of the makeup). I've loved playing Karen and, as with every other role I've played, she's become a part of me. A little bit of her will stick with me for a long time to come.

But her false eyelashes?

Too high maintenance for me.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday Feature: National Popcorn Day

Happy National Popcorn Day! Did you ever wonder how popcorn became the snack of choice at movie theatres? For a brief history of popcorn at the movies (and a bit of the history of movie theaters themselves), check out this article from Smithsonian Magazine.

Happy snacking!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Back to Work I Go

Wokandapix via Pixabay
Today, I met my first group of new students for a class that's also brand new to me this semester. It's been a busy month -- almost exactly a month, as a matter of fact, since I gave my last final -- and it hardly seems time for a new semester to start. But, I spent yesterday putting the final perfectionistic touches on my first day plan: pursuing a just-right syllabus, a clear online interface and an engaging kick-off of the plan for the semester.

Today started with snow as icing on the cake of nerves that always accompanies the first day back to class. My husband had trouble getting to work in his all-wheel drive vehicle, leaving me to fret over what my trip to school would be like. Although most of the county's schools, along with some businesses, were either closed or opening late, my school maintained its start time for the first day of the new semester. Luckily, as the morning wore on, the snow stopped and the plow made passes up and down the street, assuring that my drive would be on wet roads rather than snow-covered ones.

Before I left, I ran through my brief slide show one last time. Sure, I could riff on the syllabus without slides, but I thought my students deserved a visual.

Yeah, so much for that.

I arrived early, but the class before mine still occupied the classroom. Not entirely bad, as I got to catch up with a student who, much to my delight, was on my roster for the third time (three different classes -- she's an excellent student).

Once inside, I took out my laptop and set it on the podium, where there was no HTMI cable to be found.

No problem. I logged on to the desktop computer and prepared to download my slides.


Long story short (too late, I know), I ditched the slides, riffed on my syllabus and delayed the TED Talk I'd planned on showing -- all responses that would have freaked me out a few semesters ago. After class, a new group of students filtered in behind their professor, ruling out the tech trouble-shooting I'd hoped to do after class. From my car, I composed an e-mail to IT on my phone and summoned my optimism for better technological cooperation on Friday.

congerdesign via Pixabay
Bad first day? Not at all.

My students were a treat. Awake, alert (it's an 11:00 class, after all) and there by choice rather than because they had a requirement to fulfill, they spoke, they smiled, they shared. The class might not have gone as planned, but the main ingredient was just right, and I think we're all excited to explore what comes next.

And so a new semester begins. Nothing like a little flexibility to get the ball rolling.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Time to Play
Last Friday, I celebrated my first opening night for a scripted show in seventeen years (if memory serves. It doesn't always). The last time I remember having to learn lines, my daughter was three and I was not quite 40.

On Saturday, I got to go to a basketball game with my daughter and her friend (both high school basketball players) to watch one of their friends play. It was a tough game. Tougher than learning lines, though it took less time.

I had no aptitude for sports in high school (still don't) and my daughter, although possessed of more talent onstage than I have on the basketball court, had no desire to do theatre. But each of us found a niche in the thing we loved. Along the way, we put all we had into it -- persisting when things didn't go the way we'd hoped, accepting responsibility, putting in the time, and learning about a lot more than theatre or basketball along the way.

It's easy to say that our high school activities inspire lifelong friendships but, like most blanket statements, it's not entirely true. As with anything else, our activities are the vehicle for all kinds of friends -- ranging from those whose company we tolerate because we have the same end goal to those whose company we continue to seek out long after the play, game or season is over.

But the fact that connections are made is undeniable. The show I'm doing now is a different sort of animal -- a three-act play cast as three one-acts, each act revolving around a different couple. We met at the read-through, then went our separate ways, each act rehearsing separately, only to reunite during tech week to put together a show in which we are all invested. Next weekend, we perform again, then go back to our disparate lives.

My daughter's experience with basketball is quite similar. The girls practice intensely and play hard for a season, forming bonds and getting on each other's nerves. They celebrate together, mourn losses together and forge connections (or don't) of all kinds. Saturday's friends -- the young lady who met us at the game and the young lady we went to watch -- represent two of the friendships that have endured, two of the people my daughter still counts as close friends even though high school basketball has ended and college has taken them in separate directions.

Last night, as we left the theatre, I realized that although I was ready for the break between weekends, I was also looking forward to coming back in a few days. Sure, the performing is fun (why else would I overturn my life for a month and a half?), but the people make it worthwhile. Once again, I'm part of a cast where parting is bittersweet and the reunion is something to look forward to.

Last Friday, as I celebrated my first opening night without my mom to cheer me on, I realized that theatre was, not for the first time, a kind of therapy -- solitary and personal, yet communal and public. Like anything worth doing -- whether artistic, athletic or something else entirely -- it challenges us to bring our best selves to the floor, selves that are shaped and refined through our interaction with words on a page, plays on a white board and those who play with us.

From the outside, theatre and basketball are quite different. But play by play, the game is much the same. Last night, after the show, I got to have dinner with a long-time friend, someone I wouldn't have known were it not for York Little Theatre. Like my daughter and her friends, we picked up right where we left off, feeding the friendship in person before heading back to lives that have gone in different directions. This particular friendship has spanned close to thirty years, if memory serves and my math is right.

Fortunately friendship forgives lapses in memory and math, no matter the path it's forged on.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday Feature: Is Stress Contagious?

Have you ever been around someone whose stress level was so high it made you wonder if you should be stressed out too? Or perhaps someone who insisted on seeing the glass as half empty when you were determined to see it as half full?

While empathy is usually a good thing, absorbing someone else's stress isn't helpful. Yet, I'm not sure I ever really thought much about it until I read this article at Unstuck. Although it's holiday-themed, it offers good suggestions for maintaining empathy while keeping yourself calm.

Because after all, who needs to invite more stress?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Desks with Character, Part 2

Keila Hötzel via Pixabay
On Monday, I mined my desk for material for a blog post. After I wrote that post, I got to thinking about what my characters' desks might hold.

Angel's desk is, as my friend and loyal reader Barb predicted, well-organized with plenty of  clear space. The only interesting find is a new  (and neatly organized) bullet journal, a reflection of her New Year's resolution to keep track of all the lists that make her feel as though she's outgrown her planner.

Marita hasn't yet carved out a space in her house for a desk, and mostly uses the island in her kitchen, which is where she keeps her laptop. Bills and mail occupy a basket on the bottom shelf of the island and, mixed in among them is a cocktail napkin from the bar where Trevor works. On the back of the napkin is a cell phone number, and tucked into the napkin is Gregory Daniels' business card.

Bets's desk is actually the one pictured in yesterday's post and is as haphazard as Angel's is neat. A mix of menus and brochures, its contents give the impression that she's planning a party. There's a highlighted script atop the pile, so perhaps a cast party is in her future.

Charli's desk is almost as neat as Angel's, but it's not difficult to figure out that it belongs to a thirteen-year-old girl. An empty candy wrapper and a note from Anna sit on top of Charli's school books and notebooks. A note from Zander is tucked into her English notebook and, on the left hand corner of her desk, a bowling pass (from the night youth group went bowling -- the first night Todd kissed her) is tucked into a heart-shaped note holder.

This nosiness business is fun! I wonder what my characters would think of my revelations....

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Getting Nosy

Helen1965 via Pixabay

Yesterday, I wrote about the tales some of the items on my desk tell about me. Tomorrow, I'm going to take a peek at my characters' desks. What do you think I might find?