Sunday, December 08, 2019

Lifetime Achievement Award

And a very special thank you to

Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient 
Frank Benge
for his twenty plus years with Sam Bass in various capacities.
He served on the SBTA Board both as President and Marketing for numerous productions. He directed the countless shows and acted in many more. 

This is what the Sam Bass Theatre posted on its website to honour Frank Benge.  It's sort of a tag, under a joyous paean to their Volunteer of the Year.  I certainly don't mean to denigrate the recipient of that recognition, because I know that Sam Bass runs on volunteers, and will not exist without them.  

But about Frank:  could their statement be any more generic?

Even I don't remember exactly when Frank landed at Sam Bass, but it was somewhere in the early to mid 1990s.  The first show I recall him directing was Hot L Baltimore, which endeared him to me right away.  I had never heard of the show, but it was edgy and dark and brilliant, and I loved it.

The first show I costumed for him was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  He told me, "Each of these characters represents one of the seven deadly sins, and I need them dressed accordingly."  I had never costumed like that before. Usually, it was our practice to scrounge up whatever would fit (or could be made to fit), look period, and not clash with the set.  Here was an entirely new concept.  His vision for this show was absolutely stunning!  He designed his own set.  Brick and Cat's bedroom became a cage.  It was brilliant, and only a taste of what would follow.

Like the authors of the tribute above, I can't list all the shows he has directed or acted in, but I can name a few highlights.  He directed Table Settings twice, and it was excellent both times.  His Chalk Garden was beautiful and moving.  He was never afraid to tackle plays that should have been impossible on the tiny stage at Sam Bass.  The Women was one such, and Harold and Maude, another.  They succeeded brilliantly, and they are still discussed by those who acted in them and those who saw them, to this day.

As to his acting...who can forget his Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner, or his Judge/Caiaphas in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot?  Never mind Teddy in Arsenic and Old Lace, or Dottore in A Company of Wayward Saints.  He has the depth to do the hard roles, such as Roberto Miranda in Death and the Maiden, and the comedic timing to absolutely kill Inspector Pratt in Murdered to Death.

He guided the Board of Directors at Sam Bass through some perilous times, and his work in publicity put our tiny theater on the map.  Sam Bass had always been respected for doing good theatre, but he was the one who got the greater public and critics to notice us.

Frank has been through a lot with his health in the past couple of years, and some issues are still ongoing.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but he is currently in hospital, and will be for some time to come.

I certainly hope that, when they finally get around to actually presenting him with his Lifetime Achievement Award, it will come with a better summary of his lifetime achievement than that posted on the website.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Oh, Yes--Gluttony

I am, without doubt, a glutton for punishment.

Once again, I am embarking on the Journey...I am directing The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, again!  For the fifth time.  The first time was 26 years ago.

All of my kids and half of my grandchildren have been in this show, over the years, and the last two will be in this one.  It's like a rite of passage for my family.

If you're local and would like to play, show up at the theater October 12th and 13th, 7:30-9:00 PM.

I'll be there.  Again.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend

As often happens at this time of year, I am thinking about grief.  Thinking back to the first time I met this powerful adversary-slash-friend.

I was 19.

I had got married at 18, to an 18-year-old.  It had seemed like a good idea at the time.  We got married on the 23rd of November, and by Christmas Eve, I knew I was pregnant.  It was a miserable pregnancy, beset by nausea, poverty, and fear.  Things were so dire, we were obliged to ask my parents for help.  That relieved the poverty, but brought a new set of problems.  We had to try and get on our feet and away from them before they found out I was pregnant.  We were not exactly embracing impending parenthood.  About 5 months into the pregnancy, my mother walked in on me in the bathroom, and that was the end of that.  Without the concealment of my baggy clothes, my condition was obvious.

My husband was dispatched to the big city, where his father lived, to find work and a home for us, and to prepare for the coming joy.  I was put to work in the old fashioned way, stitching baby clothes to prepare for the coming joy.

The problem was, we were both 19, and Husband had an ultimatum for me:  if I insisted on keeping the baby, he was gone.  History.  Pasado.  I would be on my own, with a baby and no safety net, except my parents who never would have been able to shut up about the irresponsible lout who couldn't shoulder the responsibility for another life.  I knew he was right, and that neither of us was ready for this.  But I vacillated, because I really wanted to be ready for this, and I wanted him to be ready, as well.

Eventually, he found us an apartment in an old Victorian house in Vancouver's West End, and the pregnancy progressed.  The decision to put the baby up for adoption was made.  Tentatively, on my part, and positively, on Husband's.

I found out later that, somewhere during this part of the adventure, Husband had approached my parents to see if they would "take the baby."  They refused, hoping that their answer would spur him to a sense of responsibility.  This was something I never would have consented to--they were old enough to be my grandparents, and the idea of dumping a helpless infant on them when they were in their 60s would have been unfair both to them and the child.

So we visited the adoption agency.  They browbeat me unmercifully, in an attempt to make sure I really wanted to give the baby up.  "Do you want your child to grow up in foster care?"  "How can you do this?  What kind of human are you?"  I was adamant.  Having made the decision, I wasn't about to be talked out of it, no matter how guilty they made me feel, or how hard I cried.

Suddenly, one night, I started to get an unpleasant backache.  It sort of came and went, but, according to the doctor at the clinic where I had been getting prenatal care, it was a signal to call the hospital.  We called the hospital from a phone booth, and they told us to come in.

The labour was bad.  It was in the dark ages of hospital delivery, when women were left alone to labour, drugged to the max, in a ward with only curtains separating us.  I remember snatches of conversation from the next bed...something about the wages of sin and such, between the moans of a woman who was a bit farther into the process than I.  I remember thinking that at least she had a woman with her, even though there didn't seem to be much encouragement there.  Husband had been run off already, and, of course, my parents hadn't been notified (and couldn't have got there on such short notice, anyway, as their trip would have involved a ferry ride).

One way or another, both baby and I survived.  The maternity ward was an odd place, in those days, with at least 12 beds, separated by the ubiquitous curtains.  I sat there with my baby (brought to me at visiting hours), so we could sit alone while the other new mothers had family and friends come to gush over their accomplishments.  Some of my friends did come, and so did Husband, but he made sure to come to see me when the baby was safely tucked away in the nursery.  It wasn't until the last day of my hospital stay that I finally managed to bring him and his son together for a look-see.  I guess I was hoping he would be overwhelmed with fatherhood, and change his mind.  He had more sense, even though he was probably afraid of the very thing I was hoping for.

The day came when I left the hospital without my/not my baby.  I don't remember the trip home, except for hearing Janis singing "Piece of My Heart" on the radio.  I understood Janis, and felt that she understood me.  I don't remember Husband and I ever discussing the situation.  I don't even remember how long it was until we had to go in to the office of the adoption agency and sign the papers, relinquishing our baby to the fate chosen for him by the social workers there.

And that was when it hit me.  The grief.  The overwhelming, horrific pain that I had never before experienced or even known of.  The shaking, sweating, ugly-crying agony, so much worse than the labour that brought him out of me.  Husband seemed embarrassed by it, but I was beyond caring, in the throes of something so vast that there was nothing else but to let it take me.  I don't remember it stopping, but eventually, we got on a bus and went home.  It came back over and over when I was in the bath.

I also don't remember ever talking about it with Husband.  There was no counselling, no reading material on how to cope, no friend who had "been there," and could sympathize.  I was completely alone.

I did hear from my mother.  It took a week or so after Husband had notified my parents of the birth and adoption; I guess she had to take some time to process her feelings.  What I got was a letter, castigating me for giving up my child.  Abrogating my responsibility.  Of course, they would have helped, had I only asked.  Of course.  I was selfish, shallow, inconsiderate, and a total failure at human-ness.

From the depths of my depression, I screwed my courage to the sticking place and wrote back, saying that if she wanted to have any sort of relationship with me going forward, she was to never ever, bring up the subject again.  And she didn't.

The courage to say that to her came from the absolute knowledge that nothing she said or did to me could touch me after what I went through signing those papers.  I had felt the most terrible and terrifying thing possible, and I had survived.

So, yes.  Grief can be a gift.  And a friend.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019


So this happened.

I haven't been able to write about the death of Loretta, because it just seems so unreal.

She was the author of Stone Cold Guilty, and I was there, on her blog, when she wrote it.  She wrote it daily during the investigation and trial of Scott Peterson for the murder of his wife, Laci. I think there was no one more knowledgeable about the case.  Her blog was called Observations of a Misfit, and it didn't start out to be a murder blog, but murder blog it became, and it was the go-to site for facts and incisive commentary.  The book is a great read; the investigation and trial unfolding day by day in real time. 

She brought together a diverse group of people who learned to support each other, joined by our outrage at a man who could cold-bloodedly murder his pregnant wife and then try to brazen it out.  He is still brazening, but now he's doing it from Death Row.  Many of the people who happily called themselves "Misfits" are still friends, and some of us are friends for life.

She was also my blogging inspiration.  I had been blogging for a couple of months before I had the nerve to post a link to mine at hers.  I was nervous, because of all the characteristics she possessed, brutal honesty was at the fore.  I knew if my blog were boring, badly written or irrelevant, she would tell me.  I might have kept writing anyway, but I'm not sure.  I am sure that, if not for her, I never would have started.

To hear that she died, and at such a young age, kicked some of the support out from under my world.  There was somehow a bit of security, knowing she was up there in Cleveland, writing, playing the flute, playing tennis, raising kids and ready to go to bat for the victims of spousal murder.

Goodbye, my friend. You will be remembered with love as long as I live.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

First, I drink the Coffee...

But which stuff do I start with? There's the do-the-dishes stuff, and the clean-up-after-the-kittens stuff...not to mention the go-to-the-store stuff.

Better have another cup of coffee and figure it out.  Make a list.  Make another list.  Make a master list...

Hey...I got my name in the Statesman...I costumed a play called Doubt, A Parable, at City Theatre, and it got a nice review from Andrew J. Friedenthal, which made my day. Here's the text, as I have learned these links don't work forever:

Before it was adapted into the award-winning 2008 film of the same name, playwright John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt: A Parable” was an award-winning 2004 stage play (specifically, it won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for best play). The straightforward, naturalist drama explores the struggle between Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the head nun and principal at the fictional St. Nicholas Church School in the Bronx, and Father Flynn, the progressive parish priest whom Aloysius suspects of sexual misconduct with one of the school’s boys.
Set in 1964, “Doubt” explores a time where the abuses of the Catholic Church were unseen and unheard by the public, kept quiet by a paternalistic theocratic system that was more interested in protecting its members than its parishioners. Though the rash of sexual abuse within the church has since been revealed (and was public knowledge at the time the play was written), the larger problems the play underscores resonate more than ever in the #MeToo era, as a dynamic new production of “Doubt” from the City Theatre shows us.
In many ways, “Doubt” is an exploration of female resistance to an abusive male power structure, utilizing informal networks and outside-the-system tactics in order to get around a set of rules designed to keep men unaccountable to women who see them do harm. It is also, however, a look at one man and one woman who are rock-solid in their beliefs about right and wrong, and what happens when those two conflicting belief systems meet.

Roemer knows that the caliber of actor here is what makes the production, and so he keeps everything else simple (with impressively natural lighting design from Andy Berkovsky and Kari Perez, and time-and-place-setting costumes by Ronni Prior and scenic design by Desiderio Roybal). The scenes of confrontation between George and Gross are positively electric, creating an immense aura of frightening tension simply through the skilled performances, bereft of any fancy stage tricks. Similarly, the clearly expressed internal agony of Brooke Culbertson as Sister James, a young nun torn between these two authority figures and unsure of whom to believe, provides the perfect surrogate for the audience, equally eager to escape from the room as we are to get to the truth.

Ultimately, “Doubt” intentionally leaves us with more questions than it does answers, as regards both the events of the play and the larger culture this parable is discussing. In a year in which we hear impassioned pleas in defense of the victims of sexual assault as well as in consideration of those who might be falsely accused of abuse (a rare occurrence for the level of concern it evinces), “Doubt” resonates perhaps even more today than it did 15 years ago. The only thing not in doubt is the high quality and stunning performances of City Theatre’s production.

Many thanks to Austin 360, The Statesman and Andrew J. Friedenthal!

So yea.  Despite fluctuating font sizes, here it is!  I'm chuffed.

Now, procrastination time is over, and I have stuff to do...

Monday, August 20, 2018

Catch the Wind

Catch the Wind

Jim and I never had an "our song."  We were around 50 when we got married, so it would have seemed a little silly...not that we ever had a real objection to being silly, but there are limits...

I've been sitting here this morning, stuck in YouTube, listening to version after version of this song, which I adopted shortly after he died, because it says how I feel.  That's the thing with music, isn't it?

Donovan confines the grief to "the chilly hours and minutes of uncertainty."  That way, it's not so overwhelming, and I can deal with it.  "When sundown pales the sky" is another time I can deal.  Jim and I watched a lot of sunsets.  "When rain has hung the leaves with tears" is absolutely the perfect time to think about Jim, who liked to stand out in the rain.

It seems odd, really, that I can listen to this song, and cry, and move on.

James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" is about a friend who died by her own hand, or so I've been told.  I can't listen to it at all, and, by extension, I can't listen to any James Taylor, and he used to be a favourite.  But the grief in the song is so all-encompassing, and there's too much Jesus for me, I guess.  Every time I hear it, I have to leave.  Or sit down and ugly cry.  Those are the two things.  There is no third choice.  I don't go there.

So today I'm sad.  Tomorrow I'll be OK.  Maybe next year I'll be better.  I have an idea that the year I can sit down and listen to "Fire and Rain" will be a milestone of healing.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Another Day, Another Scumbag Family Murderer

Here we go again.  Chris Watts  has reportedly confessed to killing his pregnant wife and two daughters.

There are a few clues in this interview with him.

"I want her back so bad...I want those kids back so bad..."  with a smile on his face and that little breathy voice guys use to convince you they are sincere when they have no idea what sincerity sounds like. 

"Every friend I have has called every friend Shanann has that maybe I didn't know about..."  Just a hint of control issue there...

"This is earth-shattering..."  He doesn't LOOK or sound as if it's "earth-shattering."  Quite matter of fact in his tone.

"Bella WAS going to start kindergarten.."  At this point, they were missing, and he has no reason to put his daughter in the past tense.

When you watch, bear in mind that this is a man who thinks he is smarter than the police, and quite safe going on video for an interview about his family's disappearance. 

She was pregnant and they had declared bankruptcy a couple of years ago.  They had also moved to Colorado from North Carolina, and spent holidays with they had no family nearby.   The bodies have been found on the grounds of his workplace.

He looks more slick in the interview than Josh Powell did, but Josh never did confess and this guy  confessed the next day.

I hope more of the story comes out in spite of his confession, as I'd like to know if any more of my favourite clues are there.

Here is a psychologist's take on the above interview.  He may not have confessed at the time of his arrest.

Here we go:  this article states she was planning to leave him, having spent 6 weeks with her family in North Carolina, and taken off on a business trip to Arizona two days after she got home.  He had said he had "an emotional conversation" with her after she got home from AZ in the wee hours of Sunday night/Monday morning.  "Emotional conversation" sounds like "fight" to me.  What do you think?  It didn't take her friend very long to report her missing, so I bet Shanann had confided in her that she had fears.

Also, all his talk that the house seemed like "a ghost town" is just silly, given that Shanann and the girls had been in NC for six empty did it seem then?  Or did he have "company?"  Pure speculation on my part, but remember, I was the one who called the fact that Stephen Grant was boinking the au pair...

This article has a gem: Shanann Watts was concerned that her husband may have been unfaithful..."she said it came to mind that he possibly could have been cheating," is the quote from her friend.

This article has an interesting bit: "(Judge Marcelo) Kopcow also issued two protection orders: One preventing Watts from harassing or communicating with any witnesses in the case and another only allowing him to communicate with his attorney, law enforcement and other support staff." Unusual, as far as I know.

A few oddities about the search began to leak out that day. Shanann’s friends said her phone, keys and wallet had all been found in the house, ABC11 reported. Her car was still in the garage, per NBC News. No one who knew her said she was the type to just pick up and leave.

So we have
   ~possible controlling behaviour on the part of the husband
   ~possible financial difficulties (impending medical bills due to hit in less than 6 months)
   ~marital difficulties.
   ~possible infidelity by the husband.

Seems like the only missing bit is if there was life insurance.  And confirmation of all these "possibles," of course.