Saturday, May 14, 2016

Prism (Or Preparing for a Role)

Not a very clear shot, but I can replace it, once we get our show shots.

This will be common knowledge to anyone who is a student of theatre, or a participant thereof, but I never had a theatre class in my life, so had to learn this stuff on my own.

The first thing I do is read up on the period in which the play is set, to learn how people interacted, what they wore, what they read, ate, saw and heard.  Prism is a governess, and I learned that a governess was in a very ambiguous position in the household.  She was above the servants, but not a member of the family (even if she were related to the family).  She ate most of her meals alone, and the servants resented looking after her...delivering her meals to her room or the nursery, doing her laundry and keeping the fire lit in her room, etc.  In a small household such as the Worthing estate, she might dine with the family on occasion.  She was expected to have impeccable upper class dialect and diction, because she is the example to the children.  She had maybe half a day off per week.  The rest of her time was spent looking after privileged brats (read, spoiled).  Relationships were few and far between.

There are many clues in Oscar Wilde's script.  We see that Prism started out as minor gentry, but some reversal of fortunes sent her out into the world to make her own way.  She might well be a minister's daughter.  She mentions better times, "younger and happier days," more than once.  She tells us quite a lot about herself, actually.  We know she is incredibly resilient...having hit the road after that little incident with the baby and the handbag, she has recovered to the point that, 28 years later, she is back where she started.  At the time the play is set, a governess would not be employable (by anyone who was anyone) without a reference, and she certainly would not get one from the Moncriefs after losing their son and heir.  For her to have been Cecily's governess for three years speaks very loudly of Prism's resilience.  We don't know what she was doing in those 25 years, but she must have been clawing her way back up. Maybe she taught in a school, or was governess to children of a slightly lower class.

However, life is moving along for her, and Cecily is about to come out in society, at which point, Prism's job will be done.  She sees Chasuble as her only way out.  She must marry, or it's all downhill from here.  That, plus her spinster heart (and nether region) clamours for fulfillment.

She does her hair in the same way she has for at least 40 years, hence my little curls at the sides.  We all know people like this...

She is not all that smart, but she can write, and was willing to give up her sleep for her creative endeavours.  She probably hoped the three volume novel would put her on easy street, or at least supply an ongoing income.  What a terrible disappointment that it wound up in a remote corner of Bayswater!

If she can't snag Chasuble, she is destined to find another position.  I'm sure Jack would give her a good reference.  However, she is getting up there, as they say.  There was no retirement except what she might have saved out of her princely salary of around 25 pounds a year.

Typically they were unmarried daughters of gentlemen who for one reason or another had to go into service to support themselves. Because they officially
belonged to the genteel class it would be unspeakable for them
to accept service as a maid. As a governess they were able
to make use of their education and in theory retain a little of
their dignity. In reality their lives were miserable. They were looked
down on by the house's family as being from a failed family. Equally, the
staff looked down on them because they represented hypocrisy: they
worked for wages like any servant yet were supposed to be genteel.
Their job was to care for the family's teenage girls. (Teenage males
were sent off to boarding school.) Their salaries were 25 pounds
($2,700) per year. I found no references that clearly stated whether
they were considered upper or lower staff. Movies that show governesses
walking through the front door and assuming a status high above that of
house servants are not consistent with the lives described in my references.
This quote is from, one of my references.

When you look at Prism in this context, there is much more depth to her than just being low comic relief in a sophisticated drawing room comedy.  This last is the way I saw her when I refused the role in a production some 15-20 years ago.

So, you see, I have learned a few things.  Not the least of which is to take the roles that come my way and do the best I can with them.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Happy Birthday All Three of Y'all

It's hard to figure out what to get for Things One, Two and Three.  Three always wants what One and Two have, but she may have Celiac disease, so she can't have a lot of simple things like modelling clay...and she's not going to be happy with a doll or something, if they've got something squishy and disgusting...

So Happy Birthday to Ethan, Jan 15th, Addy, Feb 17th and Eli, today!

No one has played in it yet, because I'm tired and sore from setting it up all by myself (it involved beating a hose bib with a hammer), and Vanessa is hurting worse than I am...

Maybe we can let them in it for a bit before bedtime.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Olden Times (When I Was Young)

When you talk to a young person about pretty much any item in daily use now, and that item was in daily use years ago, it's important to realize that you and that young person are not seeing the same thing in your minds' eyes.

Many things that come in plastic bags nowadays didn't.  Bread came wrapped in waxed paper, which could be reused for wrapping sandwiches in school lunches.  Because we didn't have baggies.  People who weren't poor had brand new waxed paper from a roll, but, at our house, the bread wrapper sufficed.  And the waxed paper came home to be reused all week.  We had lunch boxes...plain metal ones, with no superheroes or cartoon characters on them, and the thermoses were metal and lined with glass.

Tubes for toothpaste and hand cream and such were metal.  Lead, probably.  They were very flexible, and stayed rolled up when we were trying to get that last little bit of stuff out of the bottom...

Milk cartons were waxed cardboard, and they didn't have that little screw cap on top...we had to open them by hand.  Hardly any such containers were resealable in any secure way.

Butter didn't come in sticks, it was one solid block, and you cut off part of it to put it in a butter dish, which was usually square or round rather than the stick of butter shape we see today.  If we bought margarine, it was white and looked like lard.  It came with a little packet of colour than could be mixed in so it looked more like butter.  That was because the gubmint thought people were too stupid to read the package and tell the difference, so manufacturers were not allowed to make it look like butter.  Stores were not allowed to display it next to butter, either, for the same reason, I guess.

Cigarettes came in two sizes:  regular and king.  The king sized ones are the ones we refer to as short ones today.  We didn't have those 100s.  A lot of people smoked plain end cigarettes, without so much as a filter in sight.  Many more rolled their own than do today.  Most people used matches, as there were no butane lighters, let alone disposable ones.  The zippo was extant, as were "table lighters," which frequently were made of silver and quite expensive.

Plastic bottles were all glass.  Even shampoo and other slippery shower items.  We didn't have conditioner...there was something called cream rinse, which did the same thing.  Most of us rinsed our hair with vinegar.

I don't know if there was dish detergent, because, if it was available, my parents didn't buy it.  We used a bit of laundry soap powder in the dishwater.

The first deodorant my mom bought for me was a cream in a jar, like cold cream.  I remember roll-on deodorant, but it was sticky and I didn't like it.  There were no antiperspirants.

There also were no baby wipes, makeup wipes or cleaning wipes.  We used rags and washed them.

No disposable diapers, though we did have disposable menstrual pads.  Hallelujah...complete with belts and hooks and pins...

No pantyhose, either; just stockings and garter belts.  No proper running shoes.

No velcro, no microfiber, no headphones or earbuds.  No pop-top cans, no screw top soda bottles. No blow dryers.

It really seems odd to think back on it now...

Friday, April 22, 2016


OK, Dearly Beloved, now that I have your attention, I have a question for those who don't like abortion and don't like birth control...

While y'all are pushing abstinence as the only proper sort of birth control and disease prevention, are you abstinent?  Are you planning a life of "passionate celibacy?"  Last I heard, a lot of you didn't like masturbation either...and we all know how you feel about gay sex.

So, here's the thing:  unless you, yourselves, are willing to eschew the delights of the flesh, what, exactly, is the program, here?

We have plenty of people on earth already.

Sex is, as far as I can remember, a rollicking good time.

Birth control makes it possible to have sex without making babies.

Babies, while often a joy, are always a financial burden, and should never, EVER, be borne as a punishment for sex.  It's hard enough to raise the delightful little things when you want them, love them, and plan them, never mind when you don't want them, can't love them and they arrive by accident.

We now have this wonderful technology that permits us the joy of sex without the risk of babies; why not promote its use?

I think it is a human trait to enjoy sex; thus, I can only conclude that you are either a) not human to begin with, or b) willfully denying your humanity and attempting to coerce the rest of us into that same denial.

You do realize that those high school kids that you refuse to properly educate grow up to be adults who are woefully ignorant of reproduction, relationships, and anything else having to do with sex, right?

This leads to a population that doesn't trust birth control, feels guilty about masturbating, knows nothing of the finer points of making love, and inevitably gives birth to more babies than they want.

It also leads to politicians who wonder why a woman can't swallow a pill with a camera in it to take pictures of her ignorance of anatomy.  Most know where our lungs are, and our hearts, but many have no idea of the location of our's just part of that internal mish-mash of organs that are all jumbled together below the heart and above "down there."

Why the hell is knowing that in fourteen hundred and ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue more important than learning what is going on inside our own bodies?

I haven't even touched on the possibility that a woman can be forced to have sex without even wanting to, let alone wanting a baby...because some men who like to control what a woman can do with her own body also like to make free of that same body with or without her consent.  The rules about not having sex unless you want to make a baby don't seem to apply equally to men.

Why is that?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, April 03, 2016


Isolationism isn't just a political philosophy, it's a way of life.

More and more people seem to be embracing it.  I think it might have something to do with the way we (as in, my generation) have raised our kids. We have convinced them that they are "special" and "unique," and "deserve" to have everything their way.  So many things can be tailored to individual tastes these days...and I'm not sure it's a Good Thing.

No, I'm not mourning the days when everyone got their wardrobe from the Sears catalogue, and there were only three channels on the TV.  I am nostalgic for Community with a capital C.

I saw an article this morning asking, "Is fragrance today's second-hand smoke?"  I've always complained about people loaded up with so much perfume that you can smell them half a block before they arrive, and five minutes after they leave.  Complained about it.  Not attempted to get it declared a health hazard and thus, illegal.  I know it can be unpleasant.  I know it can aggravate your asthma.  My point is that you should not expect the rest of the world to curb its behaviour to accommodate your asthma or your sense of "good taste."

When I was a kid, the pop radio station I listened to played old rock, new rock, rhythm and blues, soul, folk, country, calypso (look it up), and jazz.  Nowadays, you pick a genre, and there's a station that plays only that type of music.  Hell, you can even make your own radio station, where some computer algorithm selects music it thinks you will like, based on what you've told it you like.  Keep that up, and eventually, you won't hear anything new and exciting...just the same old same old, round and round.

Don't get me started on walking around with earbuds in all the time.  Shutting yourself off from the sounds of the world around you can be detrimental to your mental and physical health.  Especially if you're out jogging, and car horns and approaching footsteps are drowned out by your dubstep.

If we are going to ban second-hand smoke and fragrance, can we take a crack at diesel exhaust?  That stuff smells worth than "three dollars worth of that bathroom Polo."  While we are at it, perhaps there should be a ban on pooping in a public toilet...that smells pretty bad, too.

We are attempting to tailor the world to our own individual tastes.

"I don't like perfume, so you shouldn't wear it near me."
"I don't like rap, so you shouldn't play it where I can hear it."
"I'm teaching my children to sit still, so you shouldn't let yours run around shrieking."

In my (possibly) humble opinion, the world is a better place for its diversity, and we will all be better people when we can bend a little and accept what it has to offer, rather than trying to remake it in our own image.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


The role of Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest has been a bucket role for me for several years, and I'll tell you why.

When Sam Bass last did the show, Lynn Beaver and I were running head to head at auditions.  We both wanted Lady Bracknell.  We read over and over on the first day of auditions, digging for our best upper class Brit accents.  We went home, exhausted but exhilarated; ready to hit it again the next day.

On the second day of auditions, a stranger approached.  Someone who had never worked at Sam Bass, but had been attracted by the audition notice in the Austin newspapers.  Dearly Beloved, I have to tell you that the character of Lady Bracknell, that Lynn and I had been working for and digging for, flowed out of this actress effortlessly.  It was like in Amadeus, when Mozart takes Salieri's welcome march and turns it into the catchy little thing he did.  Lynn and I could really relate to Salieri.

I had written on my audition form that I was interested only in Lady Bracknell.  As I was leaving, the director asked me if I really meant it.  Kyle Evans, the director, had been a friend for a while.  I took a chance and stuck to my guns.

It was the biggest theatre mistake I ever made.

I could have played Prism to Lynn's Bracknell; indeed, that was the way I thought it would go, and,if he had cast her, I could have played Prism then.  I just couldn't take the disappointment of losing my bucket role to a stranger.  Talk about thin-skinned!

A couple of years ago, I shared one of those "describe me in one word" things on Facebook, and Kyle answered, "Bracknell."  Seeing that was somehow liberating, and I suddenly realized that I really would like to play Prism.  I'm pretty sure I'm too old for Lady Brack at this point, so here I am.

Fate and the theatre gods have given me another chance.

I still don't know how to water ski, but I am playing Prism!