Tuesday, July 29, 2008

OGF 2nd reading

My rock opera/play, Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy, is scheduled for its 2nd workshop reading on August 25 at the Thistle Dew.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Going Somewhere?

Let me first qualify this by saying I'm not a theatre critic, but I do enjoy a night out for good theatre. Friday, July 25, 2008 qualified as such an event.

The overall title of the evening was "Going Somewhere?" and featured three short plays by fellow Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre Playwrights Workshop member Julie Greene. I had the incredible opportunity to be involved in the original readings of these plays during our Monday night workshops. Even early on, I knew they would make great productions, and I knew I was not alone in that assessment.

The first half of the evening opened with the two shorter pieces, "Higher Learning" and "Subway." Jeff Webster brought a convincing presence to Professor K and April Maylene as the student, Alina. The subtle, yet important, set and costume changes between the scenes only added to the authenticity of the piece.

Subway, the second piece, was even more spare in its set design and costuming. A simple "Parkview" sign on the black wall, a bench, a newspaper and briefcase were the only props, yet the story unfolded and kept a grip on the audience throughout. Paul Hauck as Andy delivered a fine performance, and in her second role of the evening, April Maylene provided Tiffany with the not-quite-open demeanor called for by the script. Forgetting it was the same actress, her first two appearances couldn't have been more different.

After an intermission of delicious dessert (or decadent, as the Thistle Dew's publicity likes to call it) we were treated to the jewel of the evening, "Flying to Santa Barbara." The story opens with four strangers at an airport trying to fly from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara's airport is fogged in and the previously night's flight had been returned. Schedules were at risk, and each character had their own reasons for getting to their destination.

Lynette Blaney played Linda, Gay Cooper played Trudy, Jeff Webster returned as Connor and Dougie Pieper played Bryan. Casting was impeccable, and each character was totally believable, reacting to the situation expertly. But for me, the standout of the play was again April Maylene, who played five minor roles, each one requiring a costume change, and a complete personality shift. Her non-verbal acting as the stewardess was especially hilarious.

First time director Gail Hensley, also a member of the Playwrights Workshop, is to be commended on such a fine production. While I don't know where the dividing line between the actors and the director was, it's evident that her direction made the plays all the more enjoyable, exceeding my own expectations immeasurably.

Thanks go the cast, crew, Tom and Ellie and especially Julie for this work. While it was my first time seeing a play at Thistle Dew, it won't be my last.

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I must reveal that I had a small recorded part in the final play, making it altogether more pleasurable to be part of this production.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Music Will Be My Life

Part 2 - The Collecting Years (early on)

When I was a kid at the turn of the 1960s my grandparents had a fancy console TV with a built-in radio and stereo turntable with automatic changer. My parents had a old radio with a turntable and a collection of 78s. My younger brother and I owned a portable record player which played records at four speeds: 78, 45, 33, and 16. The earliest recordings we owned were children's songs, pressed on yellow vinyl that played at the 78 speed.

My first LP was Professor Ludwig von Drake which came out in 1961. Being it was my only album, I listened to it a lot. I think my favorite track was "All About Sound Recording" which, looking back, could have been a precursor to Todd Rundgren's "Sounds of the Studio."

I may have had one or two others at the time, and I know I listened to my parents' Christmas albums a lot as well. But it wasn't until after The Beatles' appearance on Ed Sullivan in February 1964 that I finally got my first "rock" album, a gift from my parents: The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles' Hits. Well, it wasn't quite a "rock" album, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, and discovered that by playing it on the record player at 16 speed, it sounds like real people singing slowly.

Eventually, I did get my first "real" album: Meet The Beatles. My mother really liked the song "Till There Was You" and I transcribed the lyrics for her by using that same "16" speed so I could write while listening. The Beatles' Second Album soon followed. I was in fifth grade, and was the biggest Beatles fan, memorizing all of the lyrics. Then for what seemed an eternity, I didn't get any albums. Radio was pretty much the only option for hearing any new music, and I listened to my Candle-brand transistor radio. As often as not, I also listened to Giants baseball games, especially when I made my crystal radio set for Cub Scouts, as the only station I could receive was KFBK, which pretty much only carried baseball games. My music collection was in a sad state. I received Yesterday ... and Today as a gift. At some point I noticed that it looked like there might be some kind of other cover underneath, and even attempted to peel off the original, but stopped before ruining it. I still suspect to this day that the infamous baby/butcher cover is under there somewhere.

Fortunately, my cousin Mark had a bunch of Beatles records and I would often go over to his house after school to listen. Plus, he had a few singles as well, such as "This Diamond Ring" by Gary Lewis and the Playboys, which was a big favorite of mine.

My passion at the time for collecting was plastic models. With every cent of my allowance I would buy cars, airplanes and especially those people models: TV stars, superheroes and movie monsters. I had airplanes hanging from the ceiling of my bedroom, cars on shelves that my dad built, and probably a dozen or more of the people variety, including Frankenstein's Monster, Dracula, The Wolfman, Superman, Batman and the Men from Uncle (sold individually but made to fit together as a complete scene) spread about my bedroom. It seemed I worked on them constantly, and so did many of the other kids in our neighborhood. We loved to see each other's work, and I was often jealous of my friends' skills in creating perfect paint jobs, and sneered in dismay at the ones who didn't even bother to paint the models at all.

Around the same time I also dealt in more educational collecting as well, including postage stamps and US pennies. My stamp collection gave me an interest in the world, as well as its languages. My coin collection provided an appreciation for age and a bit of history.

My brother and I also started a more esoteric collection: Pop bottle caps, and a few beer bottle caps. We weren't necessarily interested in variety, though we managed to have quite a few different ones. We wanted quantity and we managed to fill at least three three-pound coffee cans with them. We had no plan for the collection, but we did use them occasionally to make such useful items as a shoe scraper by nailing them to a board and sometimes just dumped them out to look at them. We were easily entertained.

But one day, the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself. A local radio station announced that Tower Records was accepting RC bottle caps in exchange for 45s. Ten caps got you a single. We dumped the cans and sorted out the RC bottle caps. We had 450 of them. Simple math = 45 45s. Jackpot!

We took our can of RC bottle caps to the Tower Records on Watt Avenue. They trusted our count and told us we could get 45s, or an LP for each 100 caps. We opted for 4 LPs and 5 singles. My brother selected the Best of the Beach Boys both Vol 1. and Vol 2. I opted for a couple of Beatles albums, Something New and Beatles '65. As for the singles, "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron", [and others]. Suddenly, my record collection had mushroomed! And not a cent spent! My neighbor Ritchie took advantage of the same deal, collecting his caps from discards at the local Nu-Way Market (where we would both eventually work.) He opted for 45s and amassed a great collection as well. But more importantly, I had become a record collector.

The memory blurs a bit as I try to recall which albums followed in the late 1960s. Among them The Best of Herman's Hermits, Both Sides Of Herman's Hermits, The Monkees, More of the Monkees, Help!, Beatles VI, The Early Beatles (do you see a trend here?) Some were gifts, some bought with allowance, but I never had a big budget. My collection was growing, albeit slowly.

In 1967, I was finally acquiring some income. I had a paper route with The Sacramento Bee, and it paid me about $30 per month. At last, a bit of pocket change, and it allowed me to buy a portable black and white TV for my bedroom, an Icee or soda when I was thirsty, and the occasional album or single. I was still listening to my albums on that old multi-speed record player which only gave Mono sound and threatened to ruin stereo records. I finally gave in and bought myself an all-in-one stereo with a fold down turntable and attached speakers. It didn't have a headphone jack, so I would listen to it at night with the volume turned way down. I could stack six records and listen to them as I went to sleep.

Now I could really start on that collection.

Next Up: Building the collection