MOMENTARY THOUGHTS OR THOUGHTS ON THE MOMENT (August 18-August 20)

August 18, 2017

The slow hiss and purr of the air conditioner overwhelms the room. A sound of dripping water in the background. The air is vaguely cool. The light is that of dim sunshine trying to poke through a sky full of clouds. Though I can’t see outside I sense it is puddle filled. Will there be more rain? I fold myself in half facing the wrong way on my bed. It was comfortable but now quiet aches are growing louder in multiple places. My stomach and head want me to stop writing but I’m telling them no for now. A low dull pressure starts at the base of my skull.

August 19, 2017

I sit just one speck on a giant stage usually packed with people. Warm leather beneath me, a smell of old dusty curtains, a low hum of energy constant above me and yet it feels quiet. Three people chatter in the distance and the sound comes to me in waves. Sounds of children even more distant. The set is resting. It worked hard to impress those who inhabited (temporarily) its home and now gets a moment of respite. Empty chairs (and empty tables) still cooling from the bodies which were recently attached to them.

August 20, 2017

I lay uncomfortably sprawled across my bed. The things we did as kids aren’t as comfortable anymore. The shower water runs in the other room, another human’s presence. Music plays in another room. A quiet comfortable lazy day. Home. I am not too warm and not too cool. The soft bedspread beneath me not yet plagued with copious amounts of cat fur. My belly pleasantly satiated and a lemony aftertaste lingers in my mouth.

MOMENTARY THOUGHTS OR THOUGHTS ON THIS MOMENT (August 12-August 17)

Lately, I’ve noticed that I spend most of my days thinking about the past or considering the future rather than keeping myself present in the moment. I’ve been trying to ground myself more and really observe what is going on around me in an effort to stay more present. I’ve attempted to write in a journal daily and when I do that, I usually take a moment to describe exactly what is going on around me. I write down what I see, feel, hear, and smell. I don’t edit what I write or attempt to sound any particular way. I’ve really enjoyed going back and reading these excerpts and thought I’d share them here in hopes that they might inspire you to stay more present as well. Or maybe you’ll just get a good laugh. I’ll also try to include a photo taken on one of the days I’ve written about just for funsies.

Saturday, August 12th

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Ceramic bowl crusted with a sugary thick layer of milk, not the color it started out as. The AC purrs beside me blowing a slightly too chilled draft across my face. Toes separated from one another resting on a metal pipe. Coffee in a sweating glass, caramel colored, not quite as milky as I’d like. The cat wanders around the house and around me, circling her prey. Clouds gather outside, the sky is a thick hazy gray which looks pregnant with rain water. I can feel the ache in my body pre-emptively as if preparing me for the long day ahead.

Wednesday, August 16th

I sit in a tiny room high above a completely empty Broadway stage. The fast hum of a fan above me and an otherwise silent mass of space. The air feels empty, lonely even, having just experienced an exodus of the masses. I try to fold myself comfortably onto the rug, I am not as nimble as I once was.

Thursday, August 17th

A small shallow hallway which I’ve spent months loitering in. The dull hum of an air conditioner and an icy draft which only hits the right side of my body. The walls talk a bit, a bump here and a groan there. A vague sound of the city street. The carpet I sit on does not provide any cushioning but yet some sense of comfort. Soon these walls will be filled with bodies. Happy, hopeful, disappointed, bored, anticipatory bodies. Moving knowingly through the space. Every step calculated and every direction pre-determined.

SO AFRAID TO FAIL THAT YOU CAN’T EVEN START

I haven’t been blogging much recently. I’ve been trying to unpack the reasons for that because it is something that brings me great joy and I’d like to continue doing it. One of the perpetual themes in my life is a crippling fear of failure. This fear rears it’s ugly head in the most unwanted places and leaves me feeling like I can’t even start something because what if it sucks and everyone hates it, and everyone thinks I’m stupid, and I think I’m stupid, and why did I even think I could do this anyway?

The funny thing about this thought process is you usually have to suck before you can be good at something. You also do in fact have to do something in order to become good at it.

People often ask: “if you could do anything in the world, what would it be?” If I could do anything in the world, I would be a singer-songwriter. I’ve dreamt about it for decades (all 2.8 of them). Do you want to know what I do about that dream? Nothing. I don’t write songs, I don’t practice guitar or any instrument regularly, I don’t even sing all that often. I’m intensely afraid that if I wholeheartedly pursued this dream, I would be terrible at it. And what’s more heartbreaking than being terrible at something you love?

Could it be never having done it at all?

Yeah, I know.

Thoughts? Helpful tips? Sympathy? A good slap in the face? Anyone?

 

THINGS DON’T ALWAYS GO AS PLANNED

Picture this: the little girl who sat behind the audition table with her mom doodling on the audition notes, grows up to be EMPLOYED behind the audition table… ideally not doodling on the audition notes but in fact taking actual notes. Cute right?

It’s adorable for the plot of a film but it hasn’t turned out to be the long-term trajectory of my life.

After the revival of Cabaret announced it’s closing, I knew I had to start looking for what was going to come next. I had previously interviewed at a Broadway casting office and had been offered an internship, so I decided it was time to go for it. In May of 2015, I started my 3 month, 5 day-a-week, 8 hour-a-day internship. It was SO COOL. Very shortly after starting at the office I felt like I had possibly found my “passion”. I got to work with and learn from the most talented and hard working casting directors in the industry. Not only that but I got to be in the room while some of the most talented and hard working actors in the industry auditioned for us.

I lived in constant fear of what would happen post-internship. What if I couldn’t find another job in casting and I didn’t get to do this anymore? I desperately wanted a job at the office to open up. And then it did. A week before my internship ended, a job became available…and a more qualified person got it. I’m not going to say I was devastated because that’s a little dramatic (who me?) but I was disappointed. Jobs in casting, particularly casting for theater, are difficult to come by. One became available and I didn’t get it. There was no hope for me.

The weekend after my internship ended, I went on a two-week vacation to Europe. When we landed in Italy I had a text from my boss at the casting office asking me to call her. Let me tell you, I was shakin’ in my proverbial boots (except they were flip flops because it was summer and I was in Rome). I was convinced I had done something wrong in my last few days at the office and she was calling to tell me how disappointed she was.

Of course, I was in Rome with no data plan and no way to call the US without incurring a hefty AT&T bill. So Roman and I hurried to our AirBnB, dropped off our luggage and searched for the closest phone store that would sell me a sim card which would allow calls the U.S. We got on the train and headed for the store. In true Italian fashion, the sales associates moved at a glacial pace. They very kindly helped out their customers, taking the time to chat and joke…didn’t they know I had a very important call to make?

Once we had the sim card, I made the call to the office. I was met with the familiar greeting “casting” and asked for the boss. Naturally, she wasn’t available so I was given the infamous gloss-over phrase “I don’t have her at the moment”, meaning I’d have to call back later.

Roman and I walked the streets of Rome, visiting the Vatican just before sunset and stopping for Cacio e Pepe and a bottle of wine on a tiny cobblestone side street. When we got back to our apartment I tried the office once more before bed. I was shocked when my boss answered and told me another assistant was going to be leaving. If I wanted it, the job was mine. I was in Rome on the first of a twelve-day vacation and had just been offered my dream job. What?

I lived on a constant high for a few months after that. I was so excited to go to work every day and assist on these incredible projects with such a wonderful group of people.

I guess this is the part where you expect me to say that the s-h-i-t hit the fan. You think I’m going to tell you that everyone was horribly mean and I cried myself to sleep every night. The thing is, that’s not what happened at all. Everyone stayed as wonderfully kind and patient and hard-working, the projects were still fascinating, and I was still employed at one of the top Broadway Casting offices in the city (maybe even the world).

So why did I leave? (“So what happens now?” “Why did I do it? What did it get me?”) My feelings had been maddeningly inexplicable for a few months. I can only describe it as feeling a pit in my stomach. It was a combination of stress and the realization that this possibly wasn’t the job for me. I feel silly saying this, but casting is stressful. I have a friend who’s an ER nurse, a friend who’s one of the top back surgeons in the country, and my cousin is a Naval officer. But yes, casting Broadway musicals is stressful. It’s the kind of stress that I didn’t see ever going away and I couldn’t imagine that I’d grow accustomed to it.

I was initially disappointed in myself. I had an incredible job in an aspect of the industry that was very difficult to break into. And yet I couldn’t seem to figure out why I wasn’t happy.

Here’s the thing though, the gift of that incredible experience is not lost on me. I am a big believer in following your gut instincts and my gut was telling me I wasn’t made for casting. Still, I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to give it a try. It may not have been right for me in the long term, but I learned and experienced so much. In my time in casting, I assisted on four Broadway shows, two of which I got to do with my mom, worked on countless off-Broadway/regional plays and musicals and learned from the best casting directors in the industry. It was an incredible journey, and I am forever grateful for it.

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THE ‘CAREER’ VS. ‘JOB’ CONUNDRUM

“Gemini traits: Expressive and quick-witted, Gemini represents two different sides of and you will never be sure with whom you will face. Gemini can be sociable, communicative and ready for fun, while on the other hand it can be very serious, thoughtful, restless and even indecisive.”

I am not a big believer in Astrological Signs or horoscopes but I am truly the epitome of a Gemini. One day I will have a very strong opinion leading me to believe one thing, and the next I will have the opposite opinion. This doesn’t generally apply to very important things, but more so the little things in life or things that really only affect me.

As a kid I constantly struggled with what my “look” was. I wanted to represent myself accurately and in a consistent way by identifying with a certain style, but I could never figure out what that style was. Was I a hippy at heart? When I decided I was, I’d buy moccasins, wear long flowing skirts, and braid my hair. When I got tired of that, I decided that was wrong all along and I was actually preppy. The preppy thing didn’t work well for me because I’ve never been able to look perfectly put together for very long. My hair is usually a mess and my mom makes fun of me because I spill food/coffee on most of my clothes.

I have always had this conundrum about my work life as well. A part of me feels that I should strive to be a successful career woman, perhaps a big Broadway producer or Production Stage Manager. On the other hand, so far I haven’t found something that I’m so passionate about that I’d be willing to make it my life’s focus. Then I think, perhaps I should get a job that supports the kind of life I want to live. Should I manage a yoga studio? Work at a small bookstore in Maine? Make jewelry in a hole in the wall jewelry store in Brooklyn?

Are you bored yet or do you identify with these feelings?

When you grew up with a mom who knew what she wanted to do when she was 5 and proceeded to do it quite successfully, it’s hard to not know what your passion is. She didn’t have to sacrifice her life for work because she LOVED her work. So what do you do when you can’t find the thing that you love. What percentage of the time do people who are passionate about their jobs, love their jobs. Am I being a big baby and this is actually how everyone feels? Why should I settle for something I only enjoy 50% of the time?

Seriously though, can you give me some answers?

‘UNCLE’ MIKE

 

The alternate title for this blog post was “Mom’s homosexual ex- husband”. If that sounds like a subject that would interest you, please read on.

My mom’s first love was Mike. According to her, they were married for ten years (I never quite know if she embellishes the truth but I think this one is factual). For nine of those 10 years, both my mother and Mike knew that Mike liked men.

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My mom describes it like this: they were madly in love and were best friends. Mike loved Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland just as much as she did. In fact, as a wedding gift to my mother, he decorated their entire bedroom with Barbra Streisand posters.


After a year of marriage, Mike realized he was gay and came out to my mother. They were still very much in love and couldn’t find the reason nor the strength to separate. My mother eventually decided she needed to find love with someone who could love her and only her. And so ended the decade-long ‘Will and Grace’ style love affair. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Two people challenging the norms of sexual orientation in order to be with the one they love. How very radical of mama Blodgette!

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As a kid, Uncle Mike was always a part of my life. He lived in the south and was working as a very successful Opera director. He was in a relationship with a wonderful man named Gary and the two of them came to visit now and then. I believe Mike’s mother was convinced I was his child, an error which neither my mother nor Mike ever had the heart to correct. In 2011 when my grandfather passed away, Uncle Mike was one of four men to carry his coffin down the church aisle.

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All this to say, Uncle Mike has always been a member of my family. I never quite knew if he felt as organically attached to me as I felt to him until recently.


This year on my 27th birthday, he composed an essay about the day I was born and its effect on him. Its message is truly beautiful. I certainly can not do it justice, but the gist of it is that there are ripple effects in life. The ripples of a child being born impact not only the immediate family but also those you never knew to consider family. This “family” is sometimes people gathered for a dress rehearsal of “Don Giovanni” in another state. Sometimes it’s people who spoke to your mother once. Sometimes it’s people who worked with your father once. Sometimes it’s even people who met your mother’s ex-husband at a summer theater. These people’s days can be changed by good news. There is a constellation of people all around the globe who know you by however many degrees of separation. This net of people cares for you, if only because you are similarly human. You are living in a parallel world, possibly having met someone that has or will have crossed both of your paths. And just the fact of your existence can create a ripple in these people’s lives.

Namaste and please see below.

 

 

ON THE OCCASION OF EMMA’S BIRTHDAY, 16 June, 2016

Dear Emma,

Twenty-seven years ago last week on your actual birthday, June 16th , I was called out of a DON GIOVANNI dress rehearsal at the Cleveland Institute of Music to take a telephone call that would announce that you, Baby Emma, had stepped across the threshold from the nether to the human, arriving healthy and beautiful into the World.

After that call, excited, no, elated, I raced back into the theater, where it should have been my intention to put the information of the jubilant phone call aside so that I could return my full attention to the progress of this final DON GIOVANNI run-through without orchestra. Indeed, to allow the rehearsal to continue uninterrupted was my conscious intention, and for the first several seconds back in the hall, I stuck with it. But the news I had just received was so enormously happy that, like the peppy, busy, effervescent bubbles we have all seen work on countless sinks full of greasy dishes in myriad soap commercials, my excitement, that is, my ELATION quickly bubbled away at any focus I had managed to hold onto. Further, it sent swirling and whirling down the drain my conviction that the only time the word ‘stop’ could be applied to a dress rehearsal was on the rare occasion during which NOT to use it would almost certainly result in disfigurement or death.

Thus ecstatic over the news of your arrival, and having lost not only my resolve to focus on the rehearsal but also my commitment not to stop it, I was ripe to experience a startling moment of blind impetuosity, which lead, several seconds later, to the recognition of the ‘S Word’ as it flew from my mouth. Understand that to shout the ‘S Word’ in a conventional staging rehearsal is not something I have difficulty over. But, as was drummed from Day #1 into my understanding of the methods and techniques of staging a show, run-throughs and dress rehearsals are sacred events whose secrets are revealed in full via the continuity that can only come when they are allowed to proceed uninterrupted.

In other words (and if I have not yet completely made my point): to stop a dress rehearsal is a BFD.

It never occurred to me that, should the time ever come in which I had to curtail a dress rehearsal that it would an easy thing to do. But when, on your birthdate, I found myself doing exactly that, I was shocked that it happened with an effortlessness that had, no doubt, for centuries, inspired comparisons to everything from falling from atop a log, to the baking of a pie, to the recitation of the first three letters of the English alphabet. Unthinking, I had executed the unthinkable action, and it was an endeavor of such simplicity, that I entirely failed to be surprised by the result, which was, of course, that it worked: rehearsal stopped.

DON GIOVANNI is a magnificent work of art, and within the somewhat limited scope of the resources available to us at Lyric Opera Cleveland on that June afternoon, we (performers, Donald Sherrill, Connie Dykstra, Jody Peterson, Hillary Nicholson, John Vergilii, Dale Ganz and Richard Lewis; designers, Rusty Smith and Michael Baumgarten; conductor, Steve Larsen; chorus master, Marti Bein; a really good bunch of Apprentice Artists and myself) were doing our best to honor that magnificence. No doubt, the passing years have, to some extent, artificially magnified the degree to which true brilliance was achieved during the course of the production, but I think it is entirely possible that we were succeeding, at least to the extent that made stopping this dress rehearsal especially questionable. Under the circumstances, however, and as the seconds following my use of the ‘S Word’ piled up, it grew ever-clearer to me that I had made the right decision for some very important reasons.

In the first place, stopping the rehearsal was important because as soon as the news of your birth had seeped into the common knowledge (which, knowing me, would probably have happened before the next break), there would be no way to stay focused on the show. At least if I made an announcement, the event could be openly if briefly celebrated, discussed and digested, following which, we stood a much better chance of getting some work done.

Secondly, there was no better way to set up the GIOVANNI people (my intended audience) to receive a certain devastatingly clever, ha-ha funny, special, silly, thought-it- up-myself announcement that, given the occasion, I was dying to deliver. In other words, by stopping the rehearsal, I had created the perfect set up for a very silly announcement I had wanted to make since the day I found out that your Mother was pregnant. Here’s how it worked: I run out of rehearsal, take the phone call, ooh and aah appropriately, hang up, run back into rehearsal, call it to a screeching halt, muster up as much self-satisfied legitimacy as possible, then take my moment and intone to the entire company of Lyric Opera Cleveland’s DON GIOVANNI that, based on information from the phone call I had just received, I was proud to announce that:

 You had been born

 You and Kristen were doing well, and

 I, at last, was a Fairy Godfather.

The third excellent reason for stopping the rehearsal was, in actuality, the only legitimate, serious one, and it revolved around the concepts of family and shared energy, and it celebrated the belief that anything is possible because everything in the Universe is not just connected to everything else, but is dependent for its survival upon that connection. I don’t know when this rather profound thought occurred to me, but I do know that sometime between the time I walked out of Kulas Hall to receive that phone call and the moment I invoked the ‘S Word, it occurred to me that probably every performing and design artist, technician and administrative staffer involved in my rehearsal that day; that is, everyone currently expending gobs of creative energy on Lyric Opera Cleveland’s DON GIOVANNI knew and loved your Mother; probably knew Peter as well. In addition, the vast majority of that group was surely aware not only of the fact of my graft- like existence upon your family tree, but also of a great number if not all of the details of exactly how, when, where and why I had gotten there.

So the main reason that I had to stop that rehearsal was, clearly, because even though I might have been the person most primed to receive the phone call that announced your arrival; and the one closest in relationship terms to the key personnel, it stood to reason that if I was, by extension, a part of the Blodgette-Atherton family, the same rights and privileges should extend, logically, to everyone currently in the room with me. I mean . . . it was a no-brainer. We were all beneficiaries not only of the news of Emma as blessed event, but also of the blessed event itself. It occurred to me that you, Baby Emma, had pockets of family not just in however many Blodgettes and Athertons were, at that moment crowded around your tiny self in Manhattan, but also in whomever was holding down the fort in Fairview Park, and among my family in Charlotte and elsewhere, and wherever else those in the know were tuned in to the pulse of your imminent arrival. Pondering the steady rise of the sheer number of connections that day brought me back to myself, and I realized all over again, that there was a whole stage-full of DON GIOVANNI participants, and, by further extension, most of the entire Lyric Opera Cleveland family from whom heartfelt offers of “Happy Birthday, Baby Girl” and “Congratulations, Kristen” were bursting to issue forth.

So, rehearsal definitely stopped, my ‘hilarious’ Fairy Godfather thing said (and greatly appreciated), the group excitement and an interlude of well-wishing and breathless questions began:

 How was Kristen?

 Boy or girl? What did they name the baby?

 Does the baby have red hair?

 Did she emerge wearing a PHANTOM OF THE OPERA SHOW show jacket?

 Did she emerge wearing tap shoes and a straw boater?

 Did she emerge singing ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’?

 Did she emerge wearing tap shoes and a straw boater, and singing ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’?

There was much congratulatory hand shaking, many hugs, some misty eyes. Every little conversational group generated outbursts of laughter inspired in one cluster by the retelling of some of the great Kristen stories of the past:

 Remember Schoenberg’s ‘Gorilla Eater’?

 Remember the three-day/three ounce Ratatouille?

 Does this SOUND like the Family Owl??

 Remember ‘Allegro agitato, allegro agitato?’

 Remember her sharing the keyboard with a very famous Broadway composer who, suffering a panic attack smack in the middle of a gala, public tribute to himself, deserted her onstage to finish it solo?

. . . and, in another cluster, speculations, now that Kristen would have a baby in tow, of the great Kristen stories that were yet to come:

 Will Kristen take the baby to auditions?

 Will she consult with the baby when she takes her to auditions?

 Will Kristen have the baby in the pit with her?

 Will NY State child labor laws apply if the baby’s only activity in the pit is to sleep? What if she sings? Plays the piano? Conducts? And what if she isn’t in the pit at all because she prefers Field Hockey, poor Kristen!

The interlude, happy, full of good wishes, of questions, and speculation and story telling was brief. There was work to be done, and everyone knew it. And so, as informative as the break had been, and as energetic and animated, it didn’t have the effect upon the resumed rehearsal that another, more typical unscheduled interruption might. I remember, as we returned to GIOVANNI mode, that the work energy had been strongly maintained, the group focus was sharp, and rehearsal resumed as if there had been no interruption in the first place. The whole rehearsal seemed, in fact, to be several clicks more advanced toward opening night readiness than it had been an hour earlier.

Then, several days later, when the Lyric Opera Cleveland DON GIOVANNI opened to enthusiastic reviews and great audience response, I remember thinking back to the phone call that interrupted dress rehearsal, of the joyous news shared, of the elevated levels of focus and energy that it triggered, and I also remembered the unshakable sense that the growth experienced that day was disproportionately high and had a far greater significance than one would imagine possible given the fact that the group population had increased in number by only one, tiny baby.

Given the identity of that baby, it could be argued, of course, that I might be just a tiny bit predisposed to read more cosmic significance into your arrival than might otherwise be noted under the scrutiny of a less biased evaluator. But it is not in the nature of a Fairy Godfather to be unbiased. It is, in fact, part of my job description to notice, in the case of certain, special people, certain special qualities. The GIOVANNI production was to be, in the course of things, one of Lyric Opera Cleveland’s proudest achievements, but to point that out in connection with the interrupting phone call would be to reduce your place in the story to merely that of, say, a favorable omen, and I think it is so much more than that.

From the day of the Emma phone call, let’s fast-forward twenty-seven years. Rusty Smith’s remarkable color set rendering for the Lyric Opera Cleveland DON GIOVANNI hangs on the wall above me to the left, and, at my right, on the desk, is a framed copy of the logo I derived from one of your baby pictures, years ago when I needed a presence behind the name of the baker/cater company I founded in Atlanta and called . . . well, you know, EMMA.

So, what does all of this mean, these thoughts and memories, these connected images, repeated themes and discernable patterns? And, really . . . these entities, are they really connected. Are there repeated patterns to be found among all that is random? Are images discernable amid incoherent streams of thought? Are they, these entities, in actuality, simply a collection of the great unconnected, pieces of a giant, disparate collage, globs and bits of the cosmic random onto which our brains, desperate to find a shred of logic here, a relationship there, or a clue (any clue) that will help project a big (bigger, biggest) picture in which, somehow, it all means . . . something.

Well, I certainly don’t know about all of that. I mean, not in the deepest, most cosmic of meanings. Life, I know, presents events and ideas and feelings, all of which we weigh in, categorize and assess in degrees ranging from those of most insignificance to heaviest profundity. Those things we deem most profound are those to which we attach the greatest significance. They get our attention and our energy, and, as a result, they have the greatest influence on our lives, or so it would seem. I mean . . . they exert the most gravity.

We are told not to sweat the small stuff, and, further, that it is all small stuff. But, on the other hand, is it not the small stuff, the wrong number, the missed train, the detail overlooked, the clue barely glimpsed, the almost perceived, the whispered, the misty, the random flash upon which we are most likely to obsess. Are these not the things in life that most populate our dreams, our hidden compulsions, our strange and inexplicable actions? So, I say, no, don’t sweat the small stuff, but don’t ignore it either. Acknowledge it as much as possible, and celebrate it when appropriate. Flout the common wisdom. Refuse to see yourself as one of many. Embrace your significance, understanding that your smallest actions are capable of generating reactions that reverberate unto the profound. We are all cause and effect. Just because we do not seem to have the capacity to track the affects of our energy doesn’t release of from the responsibility of acknowledging its power.

Our amazing, seemingly effortless capacity to generate connections, to form families, to exert influence should be one of our greatest qualities. Our embarrassing tendency to discount our own, individual worth, downplay the significance of our singularity, deflect attention away from our strengths reduces us to a population of unwitting saboteurs of the human condition. Yours, I think, is the first generation who can begin to save us the seemingly endless trend that focuses us more and more upon our selves and results in the Catch-22 of polarization we see all around us. You, by understanding the positive effect that the individual can have upon the greater good can start to make a change, to reverse our spiral into the relentlessly selfish before we all become, in sum total, our own Facebook page incarnate.

But finally (finally), if there is anything I think that you (and, while we’re at it, I) might benefit from having taken away from this philosophical ramble on the occasion of a birthdate remembered, it would be on the important, actually vital subject of family. I know that for you, at age 27, having grown up bombarded from all sides by the enormous amount of love and support that came to you from your immediate family, ever to wonder about or question the presence of family in your life must seem a ludicrous, highly hypothetical situation. And so should it seem that way. That, in a way, is my point. But, the notion of family, as I’m sure you must realize, can possibly extend way beyond attributes like genealogy and DNA. Family is also shared connections and history, the ability of one side to bring out the best in another. It is learning from and teaching to. It is about knowing that somewhere, somehow, you will always be a part of a bigger something whose every fiber resonates with you. It is the drawing out of inspiration and the ability to motivate the better parts of ourselves—all attributes of that day, just over 27 years ago when I got called out of a DON GIOVANNI rehearsal because I had received a phone call from which I was about to receive the most exciting news.

Happy Birthday, Emma, and much love from your Fairy Godfather.

 

 

EMMA’S TOP 5 WAYS TO SEE THEATER INEXPENSIVELY

One of the topics I am most frequently asked about by non-New Yorkers is getting theater tickets. First, they ask if I can get them free tickets. The answer is no. There is almost no one in the industry who can get you free tickets unless they are 1) really famous 2) really important or 3) have it in their contract. The only tickets I can get are house seats which are great seats but are quite expensive.

So, here are the best ways to get inexpensive theater tickets according to moi. This is how I get mine and how I generally advise others to get their’s. Got it? Get it? Good. Here we go…

1) TDF- This is my favorite way to get tickets because it is usually the least expensive. However, you don’t get to pick your seats and it can often be hit-or-miss. The other problem here is you have to be a member. You can either 1) sign up or 2) phone a friend (who’s a TDF member). I am a TDF member so if you need me… “I’ll be there…”

2) TKTS- Tickets at TKTS are only available for the day of the show. They are generally 40-50% off the original price of the ticket. That can still be quite a lot of Benjamins but it’s better than paying full price. Be ready to tell them what show you are looking to see once you get up to the window and be sure you are standing in the correct line as one is for plays and one is for musicals.

3) TodayTix- This app is pretty great. It lists discounts for various on and off-Broadway shows and also has lotteries. You don’t get to pick your seats but you do get to choose the general seating area. Then you get to meet a stranger in a TodayTix outfit outside the theater’s marquis who will give you your tickets and that is kind of fun.

4) Rush- Many shows have a rush option. You show up when the box office opens (or a bit before to be sure you’re in the front of the line) and you get any last-minute tickets they haven’t sold/cancellations. You can find out about rush and lottery on broadwayforbrokepeople.com or playbill.com. 

5) Lottery- A lot of shows have digital and in-person lotteries. The in-person lottery is generally two hours before the show, outside of the theater and is only for two tickets maximum. You have to have your ID with you to pick up the tickets and can’t have someone pick them up for you if you have put your name in the lottery. This can be a good option before heading to TKTS for last-minute tickets.

There are a ton of great ways to get tickets to the theater. These are my top five. How do you get yours? What have I missed? Let me know!

A LIFE IN THE WINGS

My mom conducted Phantom of the Opera for the first time when she was 7 months pregnant with me. My dad was in various productions of the show as a performer throughout my infancy and early childhood. Needless to say, I heard Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music and felt the warmth of theater lights from inside the womb. It’s not a lifestyle that I ever thought was odd or different, but over the years, I’ve discovered that some people find it to be quite interesting. It’s difficult to summarize what my childhood in the theater was like but here are a few of the most memorable moments.

When my mom was pregnant with me, the cast and crew of the LA production of Phantom had a bet going on when I would be born. Michael Crawford was in the LA production at that time. His guess was the closest to my actual birth time and, therefore, HE won the pool of money. With this money, he bought me a baby-sized bracelet with my name engraved on it and wrote me (my mom) a beautiful letter welcoming me into the world. I’ve seen him since and reminded him of this story, which neither of us really remember. 

The "Phantot of the Opera".
The “Phantot of the Opera”.

As Phantom gained popularity, it started opening in various cities and countries around the world. My mom was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to put together and maintain many of the European productions, one of which was in Hamburg, Germany. The production there ran for 10 years and she would often take me with her when she went for auditions, rehearsals or to check in on the production. Many of my favorite memories are from various visits to the Neue Flora theater in Hamburg. Among these are taking my first steps in Hal Prince’s hotel room at the Four Seasons, and (much later) singing in German with the offstage singers during the show.

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The first memory needs no more explanation than I was in Hal’s hotel room, I walked and everyone was excited. Here’s more on the second: I often found it more exciting to hang out with the performers during the show rather than staying with my mother who was purely business when at work. There was a canteen at the Neue Flora which was open throughout the show and served food, drinks, candy, etc. I often planted myself there, waiting for the actors to come in and spend time with me. On one occasion, they were leaving the canteen to do the offstage singing in the second act of the show. I somehow convinced them that I knew the German lyrics and could sing it with them. Much to my mother’s chagrin, they brought me along and I sang the words loud and clear. I was no longer allowed to leave the canteen during the performances after that.

In the Christine Wig and Crown.
In the Christine Wig and Crown.

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly mischievous child but in hindsight, it seems I caused my mom a bit of trouble now and then. One thing she LOVED was when I walked around giving actors notes on their performance. I’m told I went up to a Raoul following the show and told him he did a great job but his voice was a bit too dark for the role. I’d like to see how my mom dug herself out of that hole. Evidently, this is one of many inappropriate notes I gave to actors throughout my childhood. I’m hoping that with age I’ve gained at least a bit of diplomacy when speaking with actors.

"Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."
“Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

At a certain point, I think around age 4, I became very frightened of the Phantom and was unable to watch the show. When the touring production went to Cleveland, my mom’s family went to see the show and brought me along with them. As soon as it started, I began to cry and insisted that I couldn’t watch. My aunt took me into the theater lobby where I performed the duration of the show for the ushers. 

In addition to working on Phantom, my mom worked on various other shows including Sunset Boulevard. As I mentioned in a previous post, she would often take me out of school to go on business trips with her. This time, she took me with her when they were rehearsing and opening the Sunset Boulevard tour. The production was still in previews and on one particular night, they were having to start and stop the show many times due to technical difficulties. On the third or fourth time stopping, the production stage manager went to make an announcement to the audience, grabbed my hand and pulled me up on stage. I stood there sheepishly in shorts and Birkenstocks (with socks) while he said “you can’t be mad at me when I have this cute little girl next to me, but we are going to have to stop the show once again. We will resume shortly”. 

Peter Lawrence and I trying to calm the audience.
Peter Lawrence and I trying to calm the audience.

One evening, my mom and I had settled in for a night of take-out and movies. We were lying on the couch in our PJs relaxing when at around 7:55 she got a call from the stage manager at Phantom. They didn’t have a conductor for the 8:00 performance and needed her to come conduct as fast as possible. We hopped in a cab and rode down 9th avenue. We lived at Columbus Circle and what should have been a 5-10 minute cab ride at most took forever due to unexpected traffic. We got out a few blocks from the theater and started running. I sat in the front house left box in my pajamas and watched my mom conduct the show that night.

Another day watching rehearsal.
Another day watching rehearsal.

When I tell people that I grew up in the theater, it’s hard to express how much it truly runs in my veins. I’d say this is partly by choice and partly due to my upbringing. I tried for years to extract myself from the world of musical theater but felt a constant pull to return. The swell of the music, the excitement backstage, the corny/cliché/magical drama of it all, it’s intoxicating to me.

STEPHEN SONDHEIM HATES ME

OK I’m exaggerating, he wouldn’t know me if I walked right into him, which I did once. But one particular summer I managed to inadvertently agitate him continuously on a few different occasions.

In the summer of 2003, my mom traveled to Chicago to work on a new musical called Bounce (which has since been re-named, Road Show). It was the world premiere of the musical which was written by Stephen Sondheim and directed by Hal Prince.

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Can we just soak up these pictures for a minute though?

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I was between years of high school with little to do in New York City since I wasn’t a summer-camp-going kid, so I ended up spending a month with my mom in Chicago. As I was a bit too young to explore the city on my own, I spent most days sitting with her in rehearsals and watching the performances in the evening. 

The first occasion when I managed to get in the way of one of the greatest composers of all time began with me riding up in the elevator of the theater to go into the house to watch the show. As the doors opened, I was looking down and didn’t see that He was standing in front of me trying to enter the elevator. I walked right into him nearly knocking him over and was too shocked to vocalize anything resembling an apology. I’m pretty sure I heard him mumble a few obscenities under his breath but I could have made that up in my mind as I tend to be pretty sensitive. This was the least horrible of the three events. 

On another occasion, I was sitting in one of the first few rows of the house watching a rehearsal. Most of the creative team was scattered in various seats around the theater behind me. While I was watching, I noticed that one of the conductor monitors behind me wasn’t on and I looked to the other side of the mezzanine to see if that monitor was turned on. I suppose I wasn’t aware that I was being disruptive to the people seated behind me. I quickly learned that I was when I heard Sondheim’s voice loudly lamenting to his colleague “who is that girl and why does she keep moving around? She’s distracting me!” I did my best to stay very still from then on whenever I was in his holiness’s presence.

The final event that really solidified his dislike for me was during one of the evening performances at the Goodman. I got too distracted in my mom’s dressing room to get to the house before the first act started. I decided I would go up at intermission and find an open seat to watch the second act. I went into the theater and found a seat in the last row and sat down. Just as the second act started, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a man behind me standing against the wall. He spoke with an usher briefly and continued to stand. I didn’t realize until the lights came up at the end of the show that it was Sondheim. I later found out that I had taken his seat, leaving him with no choice but to stand for the duration of the second act. Why he didn’t use his royal status to get me to move, I’m not sure. That is truthfully how it went down… at least in my memory of it. 

I really like to say that Sondheim hates me ’cause, as they say, it’s better than indifference. The truth is, he has no idea that I exist. For him, I am a blip on the screen that is his fabulous life. For me, he’ll always be one of the greatest lyricists/composers of all time. Nearly 15 years later, I still like to bask in the glory of our less-than-desirable interactions. 

“Any moment, big or small,
Is a moment, after all.
Seize the moment, skies may fall
Any moment.”