Words of Wisdom

"What's the good of knowing if you don't tell anyone?"
P.L. Travers

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Am Dram Revisited

It's been a very long time since I was involved in the world of amateur theatre and these past few days have been like dipping into the chapters of a most beloved book from my past entitled: The Art of Coarse Acting. 
Coarse actors are described as those who 'know all their lines, just not the order in which they come'. Their  talent is for enthusiasm and ingenuity rather than any ability to perform adequately. There are also coarse backstage crew, and sadly, I am one of them.

Coarse backstage crew like to reminisce constantly about shows they have worked. They like to describe in intricate technical detail the lighting/sound set up they have utilised for any one of a number of productions. They have Channel Envy (I have 3 x 14 channel dimmers at home, you know) and Wattage Envy (We bought 8 x 1000watt globes for the last show, you know) and Delusions of Indispensability.  They have pet names for each actor based upon characteristics (we call her Terry because she dances like a bird of prey...a pterodactyl) or former failures (we call him Mr Bouncy Bouncy because he couldn't keep the follow spot still) or previous hi-jinks (I call her the BN, Bunny Napper, because she stole my two authentic Spamalot Bunnies).

Which is another thing. There are a lot of sci-fi/comedy/cult nuts in am-dram. Star Wars, Monty Python and Dr Who
T-shirts abound and conversations skew wildly from Comic Con to the latest Medieval Re-enactment get together. In jokes fly thick and fast and everyone has a favourite one-liner. ("Ooooooo, I SAY Duchess!")

And gossip! Everyone seems to know everyone else and many of the local am-dram theatre types come to see the 'opposition' at work:
"Lovely show dear! No, reeeeeally! Mwah, mwah..." etc etc
 One director is known as Voldemort because he has such a bad temper that no one likes to mention him by name anymore.
There are hierarchies. Lesser types like to list the well known directors/actors/companies they have worked for, while the superior types roll their eyes at the very mention of lesser types and are loathe to admit ever having worked with them. And don't even start me on who's sleeping with who!

Another fascination, is the fiscal difference between cast and crew. Way back in 'my' day, when we were co-opted into the ranks of chorus and eventually speaking roles, by the directors of a drama school I attended, we received a book token at the end of each performance season. As we got older, we may have received $20.00 for the run and, when I was 17,  I was elated to find a cheque for $100 in my little brown envelope!!!! Now, the actors pay for the privilege of being in the show (it's called a performance fee) but, weirdly, the crew get paid. I find this most perplexing. I suppose back then, the company I worked with was professional, whereas these companies are am-dram; but even so, this qualitative difference between the backstage crew and onstage cast amuses  me. I protested loudly that I didn't want any remuneration for my efforts but was quickly squashed as the other crew  pointed out I would be setting a dangerous precedent!

How strange that the performers doing all the hard work are not rewarded financially, whilst backstage crew are....

But now, The Student Prince has finished its run. I learned a lot about painting sets; I learned a lot I had forgotten about amateur theatre and I had a fair bit of fun. I have a whole new bunch of facebook friends and more invites to social events than I have had since I was married.

Next, I'm crewing again, this time on a production of 'Cats'. After attending rehearsals tonight, I can already see that this company is of a different ilk. Mind you, after a brief chat to some of the management I can see that the 'gossip' factor still applies :-D

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Shadows Are Harder Than They Look!

So I'd been working on the sets for a week or so when I suddenly realised I had no idea what I was doing!

We got the framework of the palace ballroom into place and then I was left with the job of creating 3D looking columns.....

I asked the art teacher at school where I was going wrong and she cautiously said, "Well, you have to decide where your light source is coming from. At the moment you have shadows on both sides of the column..."

Of course!

Back to the drawing board.

Me: They're still not right....
Her: Yes, well, you now seem to have light coming from the floor, resulting in those shadows above the middle ring...."
Me: Curses....
I tried a number of methods....

But all in all it was looking pretty rough. The next one is where I stopped even trying to do anything with the columns and the bottom one is the 'finished' palace set....

Because in the end you can go on and on and on trying to get things looking right...and the audience won't even notice.

Last weekend I had a professional join me to complete the garden scene and the interior of the inn. This guy is AWESOME!!!! I learned so much just from watching him and following his instructions Here he is fixing my sad attempt at a window seat cushion...

And LOOK at what he did to the foliage in the garden scene!!!!

He let me finish the wall and the bushes underneath........I am not worthy.

Here's where I got up to with the inn interior....

 And here it is as finished as it will ever be. I would have loved to do a bit more decoration, photos on the wall, horse brass thingies, maybe some curtains...
Also, the wooden beams on the right need to be thicker but again,  you've got to know when to stop...

On a completely different note, the school musical has been announced. We're doing 'The Jungle Book'! Happily, my director does not want to do cutsie animal onesies but wants to go with suggestions of animals, in human clothing. Here are some ideas off the web. They have built upon the Indian setting and focused on fabric to create the characters.

This is Shere Khan and Kaa, the snake.

This is Mowgli and Bagheera.

I absolutely adore the idea of 'human' animals and I'm looking forward to getting creative with fabrics and Indian traditional costume.

Meanwhile, I've been co-opted to manhandle my sets for The Student Prince (ie be a part of the backstage crew). It seems there are not enough divas in the Light Opera Society already!!

Monday, 6 April 2015

An Old Post I Discovered, Entitled: Rollercoaster

I recently discovered a folder on my blogger Posts page, entitled 'Drafts'. As I was looking for something, I opened it, obviously for the first time ever, because it contained 25 drafts! Most were one or two lines, penned late at night and somehow never completed, but I did find one or two meaty entries which took me back to a time, not so long ago, but when things were very different. Here's one from 2012.


I find myself in a wild and interesting time of life. My Baby Angel, that long streak of misery that towers over me (with delight), is in her final year at school and, just like the old days, I'm on the ride with her.

Year 11, the lead up to this 'final showdown', was a crap year all around and for that I have to take a fair bit of the blame. She had seemed to be doing so well. She had seemed to be so well balanced and so capable; I totally overestimated her capacity to cope with multiple focus pullers.

Firstly there was the trauma of Alma Mater. I know there are friends and family out there who felt strongly that we had done the wrong thing by supporting the school and returning in the face of 'the inevitable' but many lovely and wonderful things took place in that first, and last, semester; were they worth it?

Then there was work. McDonalds certainly gave her a thorough grounding in the drudgery of the workplace. She obviously did a good job as the shifts came thick and fast. Saturday night, all of Sunday and the occasional weeknight shift if someone couldn't make it; the money was good.

In the meantime she had been preparing for the discipleship mission trip to Vanuatu. There were weekends away, regular meetings with mentors and reflections to be submitted to our pastor.

But wait! There's more! On top of all that (and netball) she was taking part in the Scotch College production of 'the Wizard of Oz'. Being a theatre lover myself and knowing what joyful distraction a production can provide, I had encouraged her to audition. Was it the right thing to do? I don't know. She certainly enjoyed the experience.....

All up we had to admit there was too much going on. After her first failure to hand something up, we canned the job. The musical had a limited life and Vanuatu came and went. And then we learned that there was no future for the school as we knew it.


Through a series of amazingly blessed connections and circumstances we got the BA enrolled at another welcoming and accommodating school. Of course she spent the next 4 weeks getting to know people and meeting her future boyfriend. Huh. I don't remember that being in the sign up package!!!!

And that's where I abandoned the post. In retrospect, I think it was a time where blogging was being replaced by facebook and where life itself became so stressful that I was finding it difficult to write. That was the year I had the Big Falling Out with the Small Boy and my marriage began to slowly but surely rip apart at the seams.

Interestingly, I feel like we are right at the end of that same Rollercoaster ride, even now. The BA  took some time to sort herself out after finishing school and doing that world travelling thing. Now, after a disastrous first attempt at Uni, she seems interested and motivated this year. Although I am far from finished with the process of separating from Himself, he is at least physically removed from the scene which makes things a lot less stressful on a day to day basis. There are still a few corkscrew finales to work through. Will this house ever sell? If not, what then? Where will I end up living and what other changes will I invite into my life as I rediscover some of my lost passions?

Join me on this ride if you will folks! I could do with the company....

Saturday, 21 March 2015

This Must Be A Whole New Meaning of the Word 'Paint'...

.....of which I was previously unaware.

As part of my new, husband free life, I had promised myself that I would get back into theatre. I spent a great part of my teen years and early adult hood working in professional or semi professional theatre and I miss it badly (that's me as Rabbit in 'Winnie The Pooh', aged 17).
I know my professional (and probably onstage) days are over, but I am happy to be involved in any way so when an ex-pupil let me know that there was a local group who wanted help painting sets, I jumped at the chance.

I contacted the gentleman to offer my services and was slightly confused when he messaged to ask me if I had any 'sketches'. Now not only was this not what I was expecting,  at that point I didn't even know what the production was! Turns out it is 'The Student Prince' and through some miracle of misunderstanding, I was being asked to design and execute scenery for the whole thing!

I quickly got onto Youtube and had a look at a few clips from the movie. Then I discovered the 1929 silent, black and white version of the operetta! I sketched a few things and sent them off to Mr Director. These are ideas for the ballroom.

Apparently, the theatre they're using only has room for 'flats' at the back, no side flats on a slant, so I was looking for ways to draw the eye back into an apparently bigger space.

I really like the last one which was stolen unashamedly from 'Beauty and The Beast' so I was confused when the director fellow replied that he thought it might be too high for the space they had. I had to wait until Saturday when I saw the flats they had to work with. There were sets of 5 of them and they measured 8 ft x 20ft! The whole ratio of the drawings was wrong.

24 hours later and I had redrawn them to reflect this long narrow shape. Below is the interior of the Inn and beneath that...the Grand ball room.

Down I went with an ancient  OHP, expecting to be working in the theatre space, only to find we were in a tin shed, with skylights, in broad daylight. One set of flats had been readied, flat on the ground, in the carpark in the blazing sunlight, and half a dozen willing volunteers were looking at me with expectant eyes.

Now, as I am currently meant to be cleaning the house ready for the open inspections this afternoon, and being picked up in 90 minutes for a winery tour, I will just hint at the chaos that has followed.
  • not enough space in the shed to stand all 5 flats side by side for drawing purposes
  • obviously very little chance to use the OHP to project the designs onto the flats, due to the light
  • asking a group of volunteers to paint over a previous backdrop on one set of flats...and finding they had painted over it in sky blue.
  • the perspective confusion caused by more than one person tracing extremely faint lines from an OHP onto the flats (took two hours to work out why it didn't look right)
  • the perspective confusion caused by an off centre OHP, resulting in the whole design being sideshortened
  • the blown bulb last night which resulted in a mercy dash back to school to borrow the one remaining OHP I knew of (you should SEE the lamp bulb! It must be 50 years old!!!!)
  • being unavailable to supervise the kids who painted the block background colours onto one set of flats on the Sunday, see below.... (that is meant to be a warm, cream background...)

 This is as far as we've progressed on the inn interior, and this

is the beginning of the beer garden. Apparently only the section up to the black line is visible to the audience. I know. Don't ask me.....

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Valley Week

Yeah it's been a valley week. None of us get through these with out our 'peeps'.

Started off when I went to a Quilt Meeting to find the 'Kidzone' design I had been working on was too modern, unrepresentative of Sunday School through the ages, and would need to be re-thought. They were nice about it and it isn't the most world stopping design, but....

Then I had an email from the agent saying there'd been no enquiries so he wasn't going to do an open this weekend. And then I opened some work emails late one night to be flooded with cries of "when are you going to see me/have that meeting/take that child out of my class/ provide me with the answers to life the universe and everything...?" and suddenly I feel a little overwhelmed.

Last night I attended the 21st birthday of a young lady who has known the BA since 2003. It was a Disney party. I had to cobble together a costume.

"When did Disney do chimney sweeps?" demanded the hostess's brother.
"Mary Poppins!" said his exasperated girlfriend.
"Ohhhhh,"the light bulb flickered, "and you've made the broken umbrella and everything!"

Now given that he could not remember the chimney sweeps, I was amazed that he could remember what the bankers did to Mr Banks' umbrella! Nevertheless I informed him,"It's not an umbrella, it's a chimney sweep's broom!!!!!"
"Since when did Mary Poppins sweep chimneys?" insisted my inebriated friend....
Oh never mind, have another drink.....

Today I went into a local amateur theatre group's headquarters to start painting some sets, only to find they expected me to run the whole thing. This was fine except that I was not expecting a 20 foot by 8 foot backdrop and all my sketches were in the wrong ratio.

Cue redraw, cue OHP in a brightly lit shed at 30C+. Cue fail.
By 4.30 we had sketched up one out of three scenes and everyone had a dehydration headache.

Tomorrow I have a Kidzone (Sunday School) meeting with our new minister and the gang, during which we need to discuss the lead up to our centenary celebrations and our role in that context. Pretty sure it will be high-jacked by the new guy. Oh well! Such is life.

My Baby Angel, my work colleagues and my church friends, not to mention my Bestie and the family via Skype, have all been upholding me.

This too shall pass.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Another Week Down...

...and no progress. But we do have nice sunsets.

I am trying to focus on enjoying where I am right now rather than obsessing over the fact that I'm still stuck in this house. Recently  the deaths of two lovely people, both sudden and unexpected, has reminded me to 'live in the moment', so that's what I'm trying to do.

For example, this weekend we didn't have an open inspection (long weekend and to tell the truth, I think the agent is just a bit fed up with driving all the way down here....) so I have been getting stuck into the garden. There is nothing like pruning when you feel you have no control over anything in your life. Pruning is all about control. Not happy with this bit? Chop it off!!

Having built up quite a sweat from my efforts, I went for a swim in that bane of my life, the pool.
It is that moment, when you plunge into water at the perfect temperature, washing the sweat from your face as you surface smoothly to glide towards the warm rocks; it is at that moment that it all seems worthwhile. All the topping up; the vacuuming;  washing the filter out; emptying the skimmer box; removing the leaves, palm blossom and never ending gumnuts; all the associated bills: water, electricity, bags of salt and algaecide, all this fades from your consciousness as you scull on your back, looking up at the afternoon sky.

I will be glad when it's someone else's job though.

I'm also keeping a few promises I made to myself. I'm going to get back into amateur theatre. I've reconnected with an old friend who is a local choreographer and she has asked me to do backstage, dressing room supervision and quick changes etc for a season of 'Cats'. It's a start! Plus I might be painting sets for another group and.... it's senior school musical year (oh boy oh boy)!! After the excitement of running the Primary School musical last year, I return to the realm of costumes alone for the secondary school.

Here's a bit of last year's fun and games:

Modest costumes for 10 year old 'harem dancers'.

A Babylonian crown. Of course.

The only picture I took of the set! And this was as we were bumping out.

Ever since my SLR camera died and I was forced to replace it with a point and shoot digital (with no view finder :-(.... ), I have kind of lost my photo mojo. During the production of this show, I was so flat out I didn't even think of it until the last night. Since then I have packed the camera away along with everything else in my office but, hopefully, I will have moved house and unpacked all my boxes before the next show, ensuring a more faithful reporting of all our endeavours. The whisper right now is that we will be doing 'The Jungle Book'.

The other exciting thing in my otherwise limbo-like life, is the Church Centenary Quilt...I mean Banner.

When I was invited to be on the Centenary Committee, I was asked to think of a way to decorate one of the halls for the celebration lunch. One thing lead to another and I suggested that we see about making a banner for the chapel, to commemorate the event. I approached another two ladies whom I knew were crafty and keen and we have been plotting and planning ever since. We've now got our basic design (and guess what...it will be two banners) and we've started handing out squares for people to create upon. This is to be a community effort, with 24 squares representing the many ministries of our church surrounding two central panels, one the old church and one the new, and linked like chains. Hard to picture I know. Don't worry. I'll post progress reports.

Finally, I have hired a personal trainer and I'm trying to get my body back. As often happens in times of stress, I allowed myself to put on a lot of weight last year, and more importantly, to become very unfit. Now, with my twice weekly training, I was able to comfortably lift a 25kg bag of salt yesterday, as well as cart 6 boxes of books downstairs for the Bestie, who is in her own 'moving, selling and building a new house', hell.

So there you are. Living in the moment, doing what I love to do.

What have you done with yourselves this past week? I'd love to hear.

Monday, 2 March 2015

The Great Boulevard Sewing Bee

 So I thought I'd do a sewing post as I am sick of thinking about my house failing to sell.....

Back on Australia Day (26th Jan), Kindergarten Friend and his wife (The Divine Miss M) asked me to accompany them to the Fashion Icons Exhibition at the City Art Gallery. This was an extraordinary treat for those of us with a love of fabric and sewing. The original pieces by designers such as Chanel, Christian Dior, Yves St Laurent and Dolce & Gabbana were so displayed that you could walk right up to them and peer at the stitching! We marvelled at the metres of delicately folded fabrics and intricate beading.

 In the Art Gallery Shop, they were typically profiting from all items (cough:TAT) that could be remotely related to sewing or fashion. I fell for the old 'simple pattern for a skirt' trick, encouraged by a demo model on a mannequin in a striking African print. The Divine Miss M , who claimed not to be able to sew for $%#@, agreed to purchase some IKEA fabric and let me make her a skirt. I have yet to see this fabric.

BUT.... several days later I had cause to visit Local Cheap Material Superstore, let's call it Floodlight, and spotted some cheap and cheerful African print which I thought I could probably use

That's it on the left. The skirt was ludicrously simple and I quickly decided to make the skirt reversible, finding this other pleasant ethnic fabric in my stash.

Buoyed by my success, I quickly made this skirt:

(not really enhanced by my long tailed black shirt)
And this one, opting for a tie and 'wrap around' effect for the final version.
(please forgive bathers and megafat arms)

 So 3 skirts (4 if you count the reversible) from the one pattern....and I'm NOT DONE!!!!!

Meanwhile, I have been sewing plastic storage bags for the 'Kidsboxes' at church, and was rewarded by the sight of two young children playing with toys that had been in the box for ages, but never used.

Also whilst at the Exhibition, I succumbed to a 'sew your own' scarf kit which is basically a piece of fabric and a skein of thick thread for you to do a running stitch along the edge of it. Pics of that 'gem' when I've completed it :-)
The whole sewing 'simple and quick' has been very cathartic mind you, particularly in the face of my current woes.

Viva La Fashion!!