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Posts Tagged ‘Musicals’

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Six — The Old Firehouse

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 22, 2017 at 11:52 am

(Your confusion has a cure! Start here.)

Day Six, The Old Firehouse: Sunday, 23 July 2017

Fire has a way of finding you.

After the 1906 earthquake, there was a lot of rapid real estate development in North Berkeley. Some of those homes are still there. But not many. Because by 1923 the development had outgrown the water supply, and when a fire started in the dry grass and chaparral of Wildcat Canyon just east of Berkeley, the water mains were not up to the task of keeping it at bay. Dry and gusty northeasterly winds — the Diablo Winds — blew the fire up over the ridge and into the neighborhoods of La Loma Park and Northside. The Berkeley Fire Department found that the hydrants in that area only hissed their emptiness, and 640 structures – most of them homes – went up in possibly the first firestorm to devastate the area in recorded history.

The second – and far worse – firestorm was in 1991. I worked at the Lake Merritt Hotel at the time. By night, from the roof of the hotel, the hills above Oakland and Berkeley were a wall of fire. It looked like it was a mile away. I was standing there next to my brother, Rob, who had gotten me the job of Houseman at the hotel. (A Houseman – at least at the Lake Merritt Hotel in 1991 – is a Bellhop who cleans toilets. Or a janitor in a nice shirt who carries bags.) Rob told me that the fire’s apparent proximity was an illusion – it was still about seven miles away. According to my calculations (Google), he was correct: it’s 6.5 miles from the Lake Merritt Hotel to the neighborhoods behind the Claremont Hotel. And it was in those neighborhoods that our noble firefighters made their last stand, valiantly fighting back the hellfire breath of the Diablo Winds, saving the Claremont and – in all likelihood – much of the rest of Berkeley.

Skipping back to 1923, there are newsreels and photographs of entire neighborhoods in the smoking aftermath: chimneys and fireplaces stand like gravestones, mute sentinels broadcasting their ironic survival – while those occupants whose hands these fireplaces  once warmed in winter may well have added their own unwitting ashes to the surrounding devastation.

After the fire in 1991, driving the neighborhoods near my grandparents’ house on Proctor Avenue in the Oakland hills, I saw the same thing: a cemetery of chimneys. How many times must fires devastate these hills before adequate precautions are the norm? Certainly this question echos many voices from the time, but I’m delighted to say that my grandparents’ voices were not among them – their house was saved. This happened because of a firefighter who chose to disobey orders, staying with his team and truck to save this one house – which had caught fire near …

… wait for it …

… the chimney.

The last name of the fireman who saved their house: Burns. I kid you not.

As a result of the 1923 fire, Eldred E. Edwards of the Oakland Public Works Department designed a storybook masterpiece of a firehouse for the Montclair District. It was built on Moraga Avenue in 1927 and served the Montclair District for over 60 years – until it was closed in the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Not because it was damaged in any way, but because it sits on or very close to the Hayward Fault – a fault which did not move in the quake that caused the firehouse to be shuttered. (It should be noted that the Loma Prieta quake also got a lot of attention for snapping the Bay Bridge in half, but got no attention whatsoever for leveling much of Watsonville and Santa Cruz.)

Standing just north of the Old Firehouse on Moraga Avenue, I was deeply saddened by its state of disrepair. That the City of Oakland would allow this architectural masterpiece to fall apart simply because it sits on the Hayward Fault makes me wonder what they will choose to save instead. Because it is a choice. And history is important. Highway 13 also sits on the Hayward Fault – it goes right past the Old Firehouse. They’re upgrading 13 as I write this. It’s just a road. It’s not a masterpiece. Sure, more people use it. But how many people “use” the paintings hanging in the de Young? Their only “use” is the artists’ expression of … whatever. And would anyone go anywhere near those paintings if they were left to the mercies of the elements on Moraga Avenue? Probably not. Hence the protection and restoration of great art and architecture.

Gazing at the sad building with its jolly flames at the peaks of the roofs, I was struck by the feeling that this building is also a temple, like Woodminster. It’s a temple of protection, a municipal temple where locals tithed through taxes to keep the breath of Diablo at bay. And the same could be said of any firehouse. But this one feels different. It feels special. These thoughts lead me to the following observation: between 1923 and 1991, there were no devastating fires in the Berkeley or Oakland hills. There were a couple in the 70’s and 80’s that started right around where the 1991 fire started – but they were contained in time. Only after this Old Firehouse was shut down did the Diablo Winds blow sparks to a storm of devastation again. I believe that if Montclair is to stay protected, the Old Firehouse must be restored.

If I had the money, I’d buy and restore it myself.

With that thought in mind, I bounced up street, meaning to head right up the front steps and circle the building. As I approached, I noticed that a car was parked very close to the front of the building – right in front of the firetruck garage door – three words that sound best when said in the voice of a four-year old boy. It was, if I’m not mistaken, a 1968 Citroen DS21 Pallas III. Maroon. Leather seats. A car worth getting arrested for licking.

I moved in for a closer inspection – and a possible tasting – when nearby voices distracted me.

“He shouldn’t be looking around at all, Bill!” This voice sounded familiar. Older, gravelly, female.

“It was just one poem, Louella – ” Could that be … Weedbeard? Who the hell was Louella, and why did I recognize her voice?

It sounded like they were coming down the weathered stone steps on the other side of the Old Firehouse. I hopped up the front steps, leaning back in the shade under the overgrown cypress tree.

Louella appeared – it was Aughra! She of the Very Confusing Anagram Suggestion. Weedbeard followed, slouching like a kid caught smoking weed next to the propane tank.

“Do you remember what happened last time, Bill?” Louella was near shouting, short but mighty. “The girl in the show? Her eyes, Bill. Remember her fucking eyes the next time you think about leaving clues in anyone’s coffee!”

Bill Weedbeard was fiddling with something in his right hand. His fingers were all black; it looked like a burned stick. “I just thought that maybe someone else should know about the danger before we’re all gone,” he said.

“How the almighty fuck did he find out about the Historical Society to begin with, Bill? Loose lips sink ships. We need to circle the wagons or get the hell out of Dodge!” Louella stumped around to the driver’s side of the car. “Get in, I don’t want to risk you leaving any more messages,” she said.

Bill Weedbeard dropped the stick as he opened the passenger door, saying, “Will we really be back in ten minutes?”

Five, Bill. I said five. What is wrong with you – too many blood thinners, or not enough?” Louella said.

Bill Weedbeard took out a handkerchief to wipe his fingers, and I could swear he looked right at me, winking and pointing at the stick as they drove away. When they were gone, I went down to the curb and picked up the stick.

It looked like hardwood charcoal. I sniffed it. Possibly mesquite.

What did she mean about leaving more messages?

I sprinted up the steps, turning on the flashlight on my phone the better to scan the side of the building, the front door, then ran around the back and down the other side. There wasn’t a card or note anywhere. I saw a piece of white paper sticking out of a shrub. It was an old receipt, unrelated and useless.

My fingers, black from the stick, left dark smudges on the paper.

messages … did he write messages in charcoal?

I ran up the front steps and stopped before getting halfway. There was something scrawled back down on the sidewalk to the left of the stairs. I returned to see three words, half covered by dry oak leaves; the leaves were old, the writing was new:

was my purpose

What the fuck does that mean? And why did he point at the stick?

they’ll be back in five minutes …

I wrote the phrase in my notebook and took a picture of it just in case, then did one final circuit of the Old Firehouse. Nothing.

I headed off to find a solid brunch and do some thinking, then run my lines for rehearsal.

As I was finishing my brunch, I wrote this in my notebook: Fire has a mind of its own, and fire has a way of finding you. But what of the Firehouse? Did I find it, or did it call to me, like Bali Ha’i? If I continue down this path, will I get burned? Or will I find enlightenment?

When the check came, I was thinking about another storybook house I fell in love with back in 1991, a house that burned in the fire. I lifted the check off the little plastic tray, and beneath was a note that read:

Beware the fog. Beware the night. She is coming for you.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Six — Shepherd Canyon, Part II

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 21, 2017 at 11:52 am

(Do you have nipples, but no idea what’s going on in this story? Start here.)

Day Six, Shepherd Canyon: Sunday, 23 July 2017 — Part II

Returning to Fire Station No. 24 twenty-three years later, it hasn’t changed at all. It looks like a life-sized model of a child’s vintage-style firehouse, from the future. Hasbro, circa 2086.

I wasn’t quite sure how to get into the parking lot, so I drove up Shepherd Canyon a ways, safe and sane behind the wheel. Unlike my jaunt down this road all those years ago.

When I turned around to head back toward the fire station, I took a look at that now notorious embankment.

I remember the sense, back in 1994, that if I braked it would result in destruction. I saw back then that the embankment got steeper ahead; it would launch the car up, either to the left across the road or into the trees above, then back down onto its roof. Time was running out.

I don’t know where I got the presence of mind; I was only 21 at the time — but I took my foot from the accelerator and — locking my arms — firmly eased the car to the left, down onto the road. The firetruck charged past us on our left, sudden and deafening. I braked, gently, for the curve ahead. Everything was fine.

It was as I drove past that very spot today that I remembered saying to Scott, “Hey, have you ever seen the old storybook firehouse?”

I was braking to turn into the parking lot of Fire Station No. 24 when it struck me:

If storms do blow we build a pyre
Inside our vintage firehouse

I was so shocked at the revelation that I sat there like an idiot, my left-turn signal blinking, until some asstongue in a Lexus honked at me. I turned off my blinker and headed for one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen in my life:

The Old Montclair Firehouse.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Six — Shepherd Canyon

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 20, 2017 at 12:06 pm

(Don’t get burned by spoilers! Start here.)

Day Six, Shepherd Canyon: Sunday, 23 July 2017

Fire has a mind of its own.

I headed out to Montclair early today, arriving around 9:00 am, heading to the fire station whose location I knew offhand: Oak Fire Station No. 24, on Shepherd Canyon Road. Why do I know where this specific fire station is? Simple: I like winding roads, and in my early 20’s, I liked to drive on them at dangerous speeds, blasting the James Bond theme on the stereo.

My friend Scott and I thought we were writing a musical. We were meeting Elsa, Scott’s girlfriend, for dinner at her sister’s house in Montclair that evening. This was … 1993? 1994? Anyway, I decided it would be fun to drive Scott up Shepherd Canyon Road at about 80 mph, blasting a special driving mix tape on the stereo: James Bond, Peter Gunn, Mission Impossible and … the Overture from Candide. One of these things is not like the others …

Scott was not at all certain that this was a good idea, but – galvanized with the armor of youthful ignorance – I rocketed up the canyon in my sister’s blue Saturn. Because of course, the best way to risk life, limb and property is in a borrowed car.

It was as we were coming back down Shepherd Canyon toward Snake road, in the last long curve to the right, that the car began to run up onto the embankment. I think we were doing 85 mph. Scott raked the air with his hands, right-left-right-left, like a cat; mouth agape, teeth bared, a grotesque sculpture: silent, the intensity of his hands increasing as we edged up toward certain doom. The car antenna whipped weeds off the embankment above us.

Sirens and the blaring horn of a firetruck: there, ahead of us, Fire Station No. 24 was being called to action.

I was not certain we could stop in time.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Five

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 17, 2017 at 5:04 pm

(Spoiler alert! If you prefer a fresh approach, start here.)

Day Five: Saturday, 22 July 2017

I was late to rehearsal.

Which is rare. It has no bearing on what follows, but I feel I should touch upon it in the interest of forthright documentarian whatsiwhosies: fact is, I was a total fuck-up in my early theatre days, always late and unprepared. Then, in college, one of my professors said, “You will notice that actors who are consistently late have no grasp of reality.” (Those of you who attended The Boston Conservatory will recognize the words and tone of Steve McConnell, the man who deserves the most – and wants the least – credit for the actor I am today.) I looked around the room at the people who were always late, realizing that I did not want to be counted among that group. I began to change this habit, and have learned – owing to my tendency to procrastinate – that the only way to be certain I’m on time is to always be at least one hour early. (Ladies, for the record, I’m never early in … shall we say … intimate situations. If you take my meaning. Ahem. Le wink. Flip and flutter of the fan. Bat-bat-bat of my manly eyelashes. Also, sex.)

We finished blocking Act I, then ran it. I was off book here and there. We were released at 5 pm.

It was nice to be off early, so I decided to scope out the Historical Society. Get the lay of the land in the light of day, before I go to the mysterious meeting dictated by the card I found in my pocket last night:

Montclair Historical Society.
Monday, 3 pm.
Come alone.

So I went out to my car – always parked in the same spot because of internet access; my phone gets no service in the theatre unless I’m on the roof or in the middle of the breezeway over the fountains. So I did a search for the location of the Montclair Historical Society. I sat there searching for maybe forty-five minutes, frustration increasing by the second. Because unless I want to drive to Montclair, New Jersey, I’m out of luck: there is no Montclair Historical Society in the Montclair District of Oakland, CA.

I headed down to Peet’s to ask an old, wealthy hippie. That is to say, a local.

I found a group of them sitting on the bench outside Peet’s: beards and long hair, four guys and a woman in their seventies looking like denim-clad variations on Obi-Wan Kenobi or Aughra.

“Excuse me, gentlemen and lady. I’m wondering if any of you know where I can find the Montclair Historical Society,” I said.

The one who looked more like Gandalf said, “Montclair, New Jersey.”

The rest of them chuckled. Aughra grunted.

Pulling the card from my wallet, I said, “This note was left for me. Any thoughts?”

The one who looked more like Obi-Wan said, “Good Lord – ”

“That’s probably a Parker 51 Special,” said the Gandalfy fellow, with a large silencing glance at Obi-Wan-point-five.

“I would have said Montblanc Meisterstück 136, 1938,” said the guy who looked like Treebeard’s more stoned brother. Weedbeard.

“You always think it’s a Montblanc Meisterstück 136, 1938, Bill,” said Dumbledore.

“You’re obsessed,” said Obi-Wan-point-five.

“So what if I am?” said Bill Weedbeard. “I’ve been searching for the Montblanc Meisterstück 136, 1938 for 40 years.”

“I think there’s one on E-Bay,” said Gandalf.

“It doesn’t have any value if I pay full price,” said Bill Weedbeard.

“I have to agree,” I said. “The delight of a find in a thrift store far outweighs anything I could purchase for full price.”

“Damn right!” said Bill Weedbeard. “I’m buying your coffee, young gallant. How do you take it?”

“Small, black, no room, thank you kindly,” I said.

To think I’ve walked by these guys for three summers and never stopped to talk before now.

Aughra had not yet spoken. She’d been sipping her coffee, frowning into the middle distance. Mayhaps brooding on revenges or ruminating on ingredients for potions. Vengeful potions. Vengeful, brooding potions.

“It’s an anagram,” she said, then heaved herself off the bench and stumped away down the street.

The old wizards stared after her.

“More words than she’s said in three weeks,” Obi-Wan-point-five said to the group.

Then, to me, Gandalf said, “I’d take it to heart if I were you.”

Bill Weedbeard returned with a large black coffee, no room, handing it to me with a crisp military salute, which I returned out of rehearsal habit.

Why is he saluting me? I’m not military, we’re not in uniform, does he know about the show? Social status alone would dictate that I salute him. Also, Billis is just a Seabee. So even if he does know, it doesn’t make sense.

All of the above went through my head in an instant. Obi-Wan-point-five was saying, “Well, it’s about that time.”

They all shook hands, then they shook my hand. Bill Weedbeard was the last.

“Enjoy that coffee,” he said, smiling. His eyes said, Enjoy it here, in Montclair.

They departed in separate directions. I went into Peet’s and sat with my notebook, making notes on what has happened so far, trying to pull anagrams out of Montclair Historical Society.

The first ones I did were just for Montclair; these were the most interesting:
Clam Nitro – interesting because of exploding clams.
Carol Mint – interesting because my Mom grew up very close to Montclair, and her name is Carol.
Talc Minor – interesting because Highway 13 is the Hayward Fault, and the fault is in Serpentine, a rock that when subjected to heat and friction becomes talc, which is also asbestos, which is why we don’t go into the basement at Woodminster. And when it finally moves, it will not be minor.
Actor Limn – that which highlights the actor.
Normal Tic – is there any such thing?
Cram In Lot – funny because after the 1991 fire, people who rebuilt tried to fit as much house as they could into the tiniest of lots.
Lam Tic Nor – just sounds fun to shout in a Scottish dialect. This applies to every anagram of Montclair, truth be told.
Ram Colt In – because it carries a sexual connotation I find inappropriately amusing.
Can It Lo Mr – because this seems like the best response to the last one.

Could any of these be the first part of a clue?

The anagrams for Historical Society are weirder; here are a few of the less nutty:
Chocolatey Iris Tis
Calico Shittier Soy
Socialistic Rye Tho
Achier Colitis Toys

I’m not sure I want to solve the mystery these might illuminate.

I started putting the weirdest ones together, they make for some disturbing images:
Talc Minor Theocratic Oily Sis – a polygamist initiation ritual?
Lam Tic Nor Ascetic History Oil – effete Scottish scholars avoiding Lyme Disease.
Can It Lo Mr Thoracic Yeti Soils – your Chiropractor doesn’t like Abominable Snowman poop.
Ram Colt In Achiest Clitoris Yo – seek medical attention immediately.
Normal Tic Socialise Itchy Rot – you should have sought medical attention when you had the achiest clitoris.
Cram In Lot Erotica Cosily Shit – there’s a hidden German porn enclave in Montclair.

I gave up on the anagrams and finished my coffee. Something tapped the inside of the lid of my disposable cup. I opened it. A tiny ziploc bag fell out. The kind one sees crack dealers offering on gritty crime dramas. Grimacing at the notion of icky, I picked it up.

There was a piece of paper inside. I unfolded it. Printed in neat, near-architectural letters was the following:

We do not seek the jaunting grouse
We do not taunt the dragon’s ire
Instead we joust the dragon’s heart
Before we light a jaunty fire
While there it roasts we raise a glass
Before the rains our flames can douse
If storms do blow we build a pyre
Inside our vintage

It ended there, nothing was written on the back. I looked in the cup again. Nothing beyond the final drips of Major Dickason. (You’re welcome.)

Inside their vintage … what? Wine barrels? Cars? Fountain pens?

I stared at it for a while, then headed for my car, and home. Food and comfort can unlock the brain.

In the middle of the night I sat bolt upright and wrote something on the notepad I keep on my bedside table, then fell back asleep. I completely forgot about it until I glanced at my notebook while making the bed Sunday morning. There, scrawled diagonally across the page was one word:

Firehouse.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Four — Part II

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 12, 2017 at 2:33 pm

(If you don’t like spoilers, start here.)

Day Four: Friday, 21 July 2017 – Part II

“There you are!”

I jumped the jump of the guilty explorer. Judy was right outside the door to the basement stairs.

When the hell did she get there?

“What are you doing in here?” Judy stepped in and stood next to me, looking down at the basement door.

“Did you hear that?” I said.

“Hear what?” she said.

“That sound, like a broken baby doll crying,” I said.

“A broken babydoll? Reminiscing about our ex girlfriends, are we, Edward?”

“Ha! No, I mean a doll, like a doll that looks like a baby. The kind that go, ma-ma, and cry and stuff.”

Judy was silent a second. Then she said, “You heard that from down there?”

“Yep,” I said.

“That’s not good, Ed. I think you should stay away from this door. You might be tempted to go down there. That’s dangerous.”

“Why?”

“Asbestos. We never go down there anymore. That door down there’s supposed to be closed,” she said. Her voice echoed back from the darkness below. “Baby dolls in the dark. That’s creepy. Whew. Anyway Ed, Allison has something for you to try on. Let’s get away from painful death,” and she tugged at my right shoulder, pulling me out into the light.

The theatre was alive with sounds and conversation.

Where was everybody two minutes ago?

I followed Judy across the stage to the ladies’ dressing room / costume shop. Allison was there with pants, shirt and boots for me to try. “These need to be worn up at the level of the navel,” she said.

“The naval navel,” I said. “Zing!”

I glanced at my phone and all jokes left my mind.

It was 5:17.

When I arrived, it was 4:30 (4:32, to be precise). My explorations of the theatre and its environs didn’t take more that fifteen minutes, but let’s say sixteen minutes in case I’m wrong. So that means it was 4:48 when I found those stairs to the basement, when I heard the broken, mechanized cry of the baby doll.

I lost time.

As far as I know, Judy spoke to me a couple seconds after I found the stairs. There’s no way I was standing there for roughly half an hour. I felt a daze settle over me as I began to gauge inner processes.

I was in a bad car accident in 2015. Whiplash plus head bang = multiple concussion points. It affected some things in my brain. I’ll keep the details to myself for now, but I can assure you: loss of time is entirely new. If anything, I’ve been more vigilant about time since the accident: I want to make sure I’m spending it in every best way after coming so close to breaking my hourglass.

“Edward? You okay? You look like you just remembered your funeral,” Allison was saying.

I laughed. “My coffin has cleared up, now all I’ve got is a runny nose.”

With a wave and a smile, I headed off to try on the pieces. They fit. I kept the boots on for rehearsal. I studied my lines, I had conversations, but all of it from a place of detached analysis.

As the evening progressed, I began to feel more normal. It was very simple: I spent more time exploring than I’d thought. It’s easy to lose track of time when engaged in mysteriousness. Nothing more than that.

As for the sound from the basement and the various sightings of Dolly Lurker, I have a clear explanation now: because I am the only one who has seen these things, I think these are random hallucinations, phantoms conjured by my brain as it’s healing. Add to that a bout of ghostly childhood trauma, and it’s quite possible that this is nothing more than a subconscious gas bubble rumbling up from the bog of my past. It will burst, it will stink, it will make me gag, but the air will clear.

I felt so relieved; I kept thinking, It’s a good thing I haven’t mentioned this to anyone.

We ran what we’d staged in Act I, continuing up to just past Younger Than Springtime.

I was getting ready to leave at the end of the night, putting my phone in my back right pocket, when I found it.

A card, high quality stock, slightly larger than a business card. A Celtic pattern embossed around the edges. A message in exquisite penmanship, from a fountain pen, in deepest indigo:

Montclair Historical Society.
Monday, 3 pm.
Come alone.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Four — Part I

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 11, 2017 at 12:54 pm

(If you care about continuity, start here.)

Day Four: Friday, 21 July 2017 – Part I

Everything looks different in daylight.

A thought occurred to me today as I drove in to Woodminster: If Dolly Lurker could be all of those places outside the theatre, couldn’t Dolly Lurker also get inside the theatre? I decided I should check the perimeter for potential points of entry.

I arrived at 4:30, two and a half hours before rehearsal, and parked in the same spot, all bright hot sunshine burning away any lingering alarm. Looking at the slope in front of my car, I was surprised anyone could get up it easily, especially if they were waggling a baby doll as they walked. It’s near vertical in some spots.

I got down there and looked for footprints, signs that the earth had been disturbed as someone struggled up the slope. There was nothing I could see. Perhaps if I’d mastered the Tracking merit badge, but – alas – I chose Theatre over Scouting in 1989, and I’m pretty pleased with the results so far. (I had a choice at the time: spend my time in tents with boys my age, or spend my time in the dark with girls my age. Then get applause for what I was doing in the light. Cue dopamine flood, ignite validation and … commence addiction.)

I headed inside, enjoying the welcome buzz of varied activity that floats in the soundscape of any active theatre. I dropped my stuff in my dressing room and headed out to take pictures of anything of interest. The back gate – where I’d first seen Dolly lurk her doll at me – was fully locked, as secure as it was two days ago. The front gate, next to the box office, was open at that time, but staff and crew were in the area, and everyone is vigilant about intruders. I headed down the path through the redwoods to the lowest parking lot, then down the steps beyond.

Four terraced fountain pools grace the back of the theatre, with lovely stone steps leading up from a fountain plaza far below. Above the fountains is the back breezeway of the theatre, which is how most of us get from Stage Left to Stage Right, and vice-versa, unless we’ve got to get there quickly and the upstage crossover is our only option. Additional steps lead to the theatre itself, ending at solid steel double doors that look like they haven’t been opened in decades, one set on each side of the fountains.

Just for shits and giggles, I tried each set of doors. Locked, possibly rusted shut. So unless Dolly Lurker has magical door-opening abilities, Dolly Lurker isn’t getting in that way.

Another set of steps leads up away from the main steps, toward the left side of the theatre. I followed these and found myself outside the men’s dressing room, beneath the terrace from which I’d seen the mask among the branches on Day One. Another door in that wall – where does it go? The basement? I’m craving a look at the original blueprints. And behind me as I faced that door, about 25 feet away: the location of the first sighting.

I headed toward it, very aware of the shade of the trees around me: my first two (potential) sightings of Dolly Lurker were during daylight, in heavy shade. Within seconds I saw that I’d made an error: there was no thicket. There was a chain link fence blocking access to a small square patch of ground, and several tree branches and trunks right around and behind it. So what I’d taken for a thicket was an illusion created by the branches through which I’d made the sighting, the light at the time of day, and perhaps the chain link fence itself. Which now makes me doubt everything I’ve seen.

Along with that doubt, new questions are presented: 1) What is this chain link fence protecting? 2) Looking back at the building, how did Dolly Lurker get the baby doll to the window – a stick? A ladder? It’s too far for me, even on tip-toe, and I’m six feet tall.

I was pondering this when I heard voices nearby. I glanced around, but they were muffled. Following my ears, I came to that single steel door in that wall. The voices were coming from behind it. This is what I heard:

A) … it’s too risky. Why would you want him to know about that?

B) What it is, is too late. If you didn’t want anyone to know, you never should have left a trail of breadcrumbs.

A) You’re as much to blame as I am – it was your bread.

B) You never said what it was for –

“Edward!?”

I jumped, certain I’d been caught eavesdropping. But the call was echoing from the amphitheatre itself. Maybe someone was looking for me on the stage? The conversation behind the door had stopped, so before whoever was in there could open it and maybe look outside for me, I headed back down to the steps and around to the stage door on the other side of the building.

Something felt odd when I reached the stage door. The theatre felt deserted. There was no hammering, no music, no conversation. I paused in the doorway, saying, “Hello?”

No response came, and I stepped inside. I had the distinct feeling I was being watched. The office was empty. Knocking on the door to the ladies’ dressing room / costume shop, I peeked inside. Allison was not there. The clang of a dropped tool echoed from the region of the shop followed by what I could swear was Judy saying what sounded like, “It should never have happened in the first place!” I headed in that direction.

Distance and architecture can change things. Acoustics are mysterious. When I got to the shop, it, too, was empty. I walked onto the stage and looked out at the house. Empty. I headed back into the stage left loading bay between the shop and the stage, listening.

A groan. From the men’s dressing room. Low, but getting louder. Goosebumps flared up the back of my legs to my neck – until I recognized the sound. Old, groaning water pipes. The men’s restroom, in the men’s dressing room. I looked inside – I might have even used the facilities, briefly. By the time I was washing my hands, I’d accepted the notion that everyone was on break at once. I decided to head to Peet’s.

Grabbing my keys, I headed through the stage left loading bay. Before I could set foot on the stage, I heard it.

Echoing, distant, “Ma-MA … Ma-MA …”

She’s inside. She killed everyone.

Fight-or-flight. I couldn’t move.

Silence.

Where the hell did it come from?

Curiosity overcame fear.

I looked in the shop. Still empty. Standing outside it, I surveyed my surroundings. To my right, the door to the men’s dressing room, the door to the Production Office. Around a corner beyond that, technical and prop storage closets. The door to the breezeway over there, too. Ahead of me, the door of the stage left loading bay. To my left, a dark and cluttered storage closet, the door standing open. Behind me, the shop.

Of all of these, the only one I’ve never looked in is the storage closet to my left. It’s always been there, the door standing open, full of random, dusty stuff.

Turning on the flashlight on my phone, I headed in. A couple mannequins, a bunch of boxes with labels like, GARLANDS and BANNERS. I turned to my right.

A flight of dusty steps lead down to an open steel door, inky darkness beyond. And from that darkness, echoing,

“Ma-MA … Ma-MA …”

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Three

In Theatre, Writing on August 10, 2017 at 11:52 am

(If you are confused, start here.)

Day Three: Thursday, 20 July 2017

When I returned to Woodminster from the Trevarno District of Livermore, Admiral Judy called me into her office. It’s just off the main office backstage, near the stage door. She said, “Here’s your paycheck, Ed. Don’t lose it on the slippery slope of curiosity.” She waved her hand in the general direction of stage left, the men’s dressing room … and the slope. Her eyes came to rest, I remember, on an old newspaper clipping pinned to the bulletin board behind me.

“Some people like to look for mysteries where there are none, Ed. When they do, they write conversations that never happened. Look: this conversation, right now, never happened. You’re making it up. And that’s exactly what I’ll tell anyone who asks. You’re a talented writer. Not an investigative reporter. Go. No. Further.” With each of those last three words, Judy thumped her index finger on the yellowed, faded article. Then she stared at me, silent, for a full ten seconds before leaving the office.

I took a picture; the article is transcribed below:

July 6, 1952
Montclair, CA

Local Girls Missing
by Ginger Trancas

A missing persons report has been filed for Louise Archer and Bess Tremaine, both Sophomores at Piedmont High. They were last seen on Castle Drive in Montclair on the evening of July 4, wearing shorts and sneakers and matching blue gingham tops. Anyone with information should call Officer Bill Whiting with the Piedmont Police Detectives [faded to a smudge here]

It is not known at this time whether sightings of a lone figure among the trees of Joaquin Miller Park are in any way related to the girls’ disappearance. Most residents in the neighborhood attribute these sightings to high school pranksters, but local florist Betsy Hillebrandt tells another story. “I saw it clear as day,” says Hillebrandt. “I was gathering eucalyptus for my arrangements. [faded into a smudge here, too] about fifteen yards away from me. Just watching. Gave me the chills.” When asked what it looked like, the flighty florist fumbles. “Well, it was tall,” she says. “Its face looked pale, but I couldn’t see clearly. It was almost dark. But it was holding some[faded, smudged]

“Nothing to be concerned about,” says Officer Whiting. “Mysterious figures in the trees could be shadows, could be hobos. There’s no definitive proof that the girls went anywhere near any ‘mysterious [faded, smudged] saw what Mrs. Hillebrandt describes, wouldn’t they just run away and holler at the top of their lungs?”

That’s one thing everybody who lives near the park can agree upon: for the first time in years, Joaquin Miller Park was silent on the 4th of July. “Not a single firecracker,” says Ed Proust, whose backyard is separated from the park by a low picket fence. First time I haven’t [smudged] hose ready for a fire in a decade. If those girls were screaming in there, we’d have heard them.”

“The girls could be at a friend’s house, and they both have cousins in Reno. There’s no knowing what they might get up to,” says Officer Whiting. “Speculation only fans the flames. We expect them home any time now.”

For the sake of the friends and families of Louise Archer and Bess Tremaine, we hope it’s sooner than later.

Setting aside the rampant editorializing and somewhat egregious alliteration, it was an informative article. A little too informative, in fact. I began to suspect I was being pranked. So convenient, this article — just sitting there, coincidentally tacked to the bulletin board in her office. I went in search of Judy, but every time I got close to her, she was called – or simply went – away.

Call me paranoid. I started watching everyone very closely. Did I see a hint of mischief behind Linnea’s smile? Was Joel intentionally not looking in my direction because he might laugh if we made eye contact? Was Johann laughing at me, or at something Bryan said? That seems unlikely – Bryan’s what we call, “destined for hammers.”

Retreating into my work, I doubled down on memorization. We ran what we’d staged, then continued staging the show to just after I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair – the only song in the R&H canon dedicated to cum.

I allowed my questions about the figure, the doll – and now, the disappearing girls – to be subsumed by the need to master my lines. By the end of the night, I’d concluded that it was all an ornate hazing ritual. This is my third year at Woodminster, perhaps this is how they test us at the end of a probationary period. Frankly, that’s what I would do if I had a theatre company. Which is why it’s probably better that I don’t.

With a lighter heart and a far less suspicious cloud hovering at the edges of my vision, I left rehearsal that night determined to get them all back. Something really clever, but simple. I chatted with Amanda for a bit before getting into my car, then sat listening to NPR and waiting for my phone to recharge enough to listen to Aaron Mahnke’s LORE podcast on the way home.

Charging my dead phone to 5% takes about five minutes. Someone back at the stage door was laughing. Occasional cars would pass my spot – the last on the right in the lower lot, if you’re looking at the lot from the stage door – as the remaining actors and staff went home. The laughter at the stage door continued intermittently – like someone was going, “Ha-Aa! Aaaaaahhhh,” every thirty seconds or so.

I saw the lights turn off, and Judy left about one minute afterward. My phone was at 4%.

There were still people laughing back at the stage door, so I decided I’d drive over there in a second to mock them for their late-night caterwauling. There was a pause on the radio, and in that silence, the laughter came again.

It sounded wrong. Like someone in pain.

I glanced back through the hatchback on my Prius, but the glass is tinted – it’s hard to see details that far away.

I rolled down both front windows to see my driver and passenger rear view mirrors better, putting the car in reverse, which starts it beeping. The radio was still on.

The laughter was much closer to my car now.

I turned the radio down, put the car in drive to stop the beeping, and turned to look back at the stage door, rolling down my back windows, too. I could see the stage door clearly now.

It was locked. There was nobody over there.

From the trees on the dark slope in front of my car came, “Ma-ma! Ma-MA! Ahhhahhhhhhhghhhhhssssss …”

I froze. I didn’t want to look.

“Ma-MA! Ma-MA! Ahhhahhaaahhhhhghlllllhhhhssssss …”

It was louder.

Closer.

I turned front.

It stood in the shadows, just down the slope from the front of my car, baby doll held out into the glow of the streetlights, tilting side to side.

My windows are down.

It took a step forward. More of its arm was exposed. Pale white flesh. I did not turn my headlights on. I didn’t want to see.

Throwing the car into reverse, I tried to speed backward. My emergency brake was still on. I slammed my foot into it – unlocking and re-locking the brake three times before it released.

Another step forward.

I zipped backward, braking to avoid slamming into the curb separating the lot from the slope. The figure turned toward me.

I tried to roll up the windows. They wouldn’t move. I looked at the control panel. I’d engaged the driver lock. In my car, it stops even me from rolling the windows up or down. Also, the cruise control has stopped working. Unrelated. Moving on:

I’d like to say I tossed a few witty bon mots before I got the windows up. Something like, “How’s this for a glass ceiling?” Or, “You know what they say, when the Lord closes a window …” Too wordy. Maybe, “Glass half full me once, shame on you!” Or maybe, “Listen, Precious, I don’t have the ring.

What I think I said was, “Holy fuck FUCK! Get the fuck, get the FUCK, GET THE FUCK –”

Giving up on the windows, I threw the car into drive and hit the gas, slamming into every pothole on the road out. I think Oakland Parks and Rec is aiming for a record. There are more holes in that road than in my plots. And that’s saying something.

I remembered to turn on my headlights as I was passing the Ranger Station at the top of the hill. I wondered if the rangers know anything about Dolly Lurker. Regardless, I didn’t get much sleep that night, my thoughts returning to the same image for hours:

I could be wrong. It was dark. I never turned on my headlights while it was in front of me.

I thought the figure was wearing blue gingham.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Two

In Theatre on August 9, 2017 at 11:56 am

(If you don’t know what happened, start here.)

Day Two: Wednesday, 19 July 2017

I’m always astonished when a Bay Area native says, “Woodminster? Where is that? I never heard of Woodminster.” Believe me, actors, singers and dancers know all about it. The shows we’ve done there attain a burnished glow in the memories of those bold souls who braved the cold, foggy summer nights to see us perform. There’s something special about Woodminster.

My first direct experience of Woodminster was seeing Ken Ross as Mayor Shinn in The Music Man sometime in the early 90’s – probably summer of 1993. Ken was one of my instructors at Las Positas College in Livermore, and had directed me in my first musical (Into The Woods, 1993, I was Cinderella’s Prince), so seeing him onstage was a treat. Things that stood out for me in that production: Ken, tall to begin with, looked even taller from the back of a 2,000 seat amphitheatre. There was a live pony or horse pulling the Wells Fargo Wagon, and it seemed to be disturbed – perhaps by the loud music – and had to be removed, kicking and screaming, from the stage. The third thing that stood out to me was the girl who played Zaneeta, Mayor Shinn’s daughter. There was something disturbing about her eyes, even from the back of the house. She smiled and stuff, but there was a strangeness to her. Little did I know how that strangeness would come to affect me.

The second time I saw a show at Woodminster was years later, after attaining my BFA at The Boston Conservatory and stumbling into a teaching job in Dublin, California – just down the road from Livermore. One of my students ended up in a production of Annie at Woodminster, and I went to see it. Veronica and I sat in sleeping bags on the hard plastic seats, we ate cheese and crackers and meats, we drank a few bottles of wine. The cold did not affect us, and the show was lovely.

I missed the auditions for Les Mis in 2014 because I was in a state of deep mental and emotional distress, teetering on the brink of self-destruction. I would have aimed for Javert or Valjean. I suspect I might have been a contender for Thenardier.

It’s always fascinating to experience the stage of a theatre where you’ve seen big shows. In this case, the warped boards of the stage itself, the occasional coffee can light hanging from what appears to be a cloth-wrapped wire with a single incandescent bulb glowing inside. The logo of the can is barely discernible beneath decades of rust. But it works. So it stays. Not unlike Woodminster itself.

This, our second night of rehearsal, consisted of reviewing the blocking of the previous night and continuing from where we’d left off. I’m obsessively early, so I arrived around 6 pm to find Josh Marx about to work on his music for the show in the men’s dressing room – which is where Daniel holds all of his small or individual music rehearsals. They roll a small piano into and then back out of the dressing room for this purpose. When we’re running the show, this piano is rolled to the stage. During the day, Daniel gets a large umbrella over him. Now that the orchestra has been moved to the stage, it seems we will need to keep large umbrellas on hand at night as well, for the freak thunderstorms that plague the occasional opening weekend.

When I saw Josh Marx, I demanded to know where Engels was. He got the joke, and I dropped my stuff on a couch before heading back up to the terrace above the men’s dressing room. I stood in the same spot and peered out at the thicket where I’d seen the mask. It was a hot day, barely a breeze. The branches didn’t move at all. I saw a trail running up the slope, right next to the theatre. Two ways to get there: down to the stage door entrance and down around the fountains on the back of the theatre, then up the slope – or up the steps to the top of the seats where the audience makes their entrance. I headed up because it looked easier.

Two tall, barbed-wire topped chain link gates stood between me and the trail beyond. I walked closer to see if perhaps the locks on the gates were not fully fastened, but – perhaps luckily for all of us – there was no way through.

I was about to head back down to the stage and take the long way when I saw something up the trail, almost out of sight around the corner. In a patch of deep shadow beneath tall trees stood a lone figure. Its exact features and shape were indistinct, as it was clad in a color which blended well with the inky blue of hot evening shade. It appeared to be tall, of that I felt certain. I wouldn’t have noticed it at all were it not for the object it held in its left hand, thrust out of shadow into bright golden sunlight.

It was a baby doll.

It had a cloth body and realistic plastic head, arms and legs. From that distance there appeared to be markings on its face. I wished I’d had my backpack with me, as I keep a pair of birding binoculars handy. The eyes of the doll appeared to be missing, and the cloth body was stained a deep rust brown. As though it had been doused with chocolate milk.

Or blood.

The hand holding the doll tilted it from side to side. A sound came from the figure, panting – only more rhythmic. I realized it was singing – or keening – a chant. I caught these words:

“Mister Place, Mister Place, [something something] get your face.

Mister guts, spilled in ruts, [something something something] butts …”

I reached for my phone to zoom in and get video.

From behind me a voice: “Edward?”

I damn near jumped out of my skin, whirling and fumbling for my phone before catching it.

It was a member of the build crew. He seemed amused at my jumpiness. “Judy’s looking for you. She’s got a note about props.”

I pointed back through the gates. “Do you see anything over there?”

We both peered at the darkness beneath the trees.

The figure was gone.

I fully intended to head down around the fountains and up the trail to that spot, but social and theatrical necessities took my attention. The next time I thought about it was well after dark. We were nearing a break, the ideal time to explore the darkened hillside. Several ensemble men had just bolted to the stage, late for their entrance on a second run of Bloody Mary. I was the only one in the men’s dressing room.

A noise came from outside the window in the wall farthest from the door. The window, frosted wire mesh glass, was open a crack. The noise sounded like a dying, asthmatic calf. I moved closer and listened. The noise came again, something familiar in its rhythm.

I tried to crank the window open further, but it wouldn’t budge.

The noise came again and I recognized it: a broken, distorted toy voice box was saying, “Ma-ma, Ma-ma …,” trailing off into a wheezing moan.

I leaned close to the window to see if there was anything discernible in the darkness below.

Something slammed against the glass. I leapt back, knocking over chairs and falling over an old leather couch. Struggling to my feet, I saw it through the frosted glass: the baby doll, its face stitched like a crazy quilt baseball.

From the darkness beyond came the same rhythmic keening I’d heard from the trees up the trail. In spite of the evening’s heat – it was 72 degrees outside – I was chilled to the bone.

I left the dressing room. Better to be near people – even if they were onstage and I was just off, just out of the light, trying to drown in music the memory of the keening voice and the wheezing baby doll.

We were released at 9:35. I walked straight to my car and turned on the heater. Loud jazz all the way home.

I’m not so sure I want to explore that slope anymore.

Woodminster: South Pacific

In Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on August 8, 2017 at 4:57 pm

Day One: Tuesday, 18 July 2017*

[*Note: This entry and the next few are a direct homage to James A. Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, upon which the musical South Pacific is based. If you read that novel — and you should — you will see that I have based the first few entries of this series on his first few chapters.

This was originally something I had intended to continue throughout, but as certain other elements of the story took over, I elected to abandon Michener in favor of Hightower. I hope it brings an uptic in urgency, in spite of any detriment to quality.

With apologies to the ghost of James A. Michener,

— Edward Hightower]

I wish I could tell you about Woodminster Amphitheatre. The way it actually is. The sparkling bay. The infinite specks of light after sundown. Redwood and Eucalyptus swaying gracefully toward the east, as if gesturing actors to springboard to New York. The mountainside upon which clouds are torn apart each night by our sets and lights, whirling around actors to embrace us in surprise ambiance, lovely beyond description. I wish I could tell you about the sweating tech rehearsals, the full moon shining over a full house, and the waiting. The waiting. The timeless, repetitive waiting.

But whenever I start to talk about Woodminster, people intervene. I try to tell somebody what the blistering afternoon heat is like, and the first thing I know I’m telling them about the first time I auditioned at Woodminster and Harriet Schlader took me back out onstage before I could leave, insisting that they sing me for a role that matched my type. “Would you sing him for the Pirate King, for the love of Pete?!”

Or somebody asks me, “What is playing a 2,000-seat amphitheatre really like?” And before I can describe the tidal wave of terror that fuels my every entrance, I’m rambling on about Rod Voltaire Edora, man of ten thousand talents, who willingly designs and sometimes – as in the case of Honey Bun in this production – applies specialized makeup for me. May his success ever increase.

I love working at Woodminster. It’s a temple to the arts in the middle of a redwood forest. It was built by the WPA. It has a bomb shelter underneath it that is sealed off because, I surmise, cleaning it out would be prohibitively expensive for the city of Oakland. All of these things conspire to make me love the place itself.

The people are generally splendid and specifically delightful; I believe this is because the powers that be recognize that hiring talented people who are also easy to work with leads to an overall positive experience for all involved. When the cast is having a good time together, the show works that much better.

We’re rehearsing South Pacific. I’m playing Luther Billis. My call today was 5:35, and the first order of business today was to learn my music with Daniel Thomas, who was also music director on my first two shows at Woodminster: The Producers (2015) and Shrek (2016). Daniel works fast, he’s efficient and succinct. I have a total of about ten sung lines in the show. And I’ve played this part before (The Willows Theatre, 2003). So it took all of five minutes to nail down and record my material. After that I was free to wander the theatre until rehearsal with the full cast.

I chatted for a while with Chris Vettel and Amanda Johnson (Emile De Becque and Nellie Forbush, respectively), until we were given an official hour’s break between 6:00 and 7:00. They headed off on individual errands, and I went up to the roof of the theatre.

There are picnic tables all over the top of Woodminster. You can reserve them for a picnic before the show. During rehearsal, they’re a great area to go run lines, work dance steps, or fart. There’s a whole unspoken theatrical etiquette around farting. As a gentleman, I prefer releasing flati away from the sensitive palates of my fellow thespians. Where better than a deserted theatrical rooftop?

Smuggling what felt like an angry octopus in my intestines, I made my way to the roof from the stage left stairs. An array of symmetrically-placed rat shit dotted a two-foot radius around trash cans near the top of the stairs (thanks so much for your attention, City of Oakland.) The rooftop picnic terrace above the men’s dressing room, being farthest from the stage door and any sparse chatter I could hear, became my immediate goal: a nice shady spot to study my lines. And fart.

From the distant corner of that terrace, you can lean over to look at the slope below: clad in dry, golden grass, it craves goats to crop it even as it tempts the gods of fire. Occasionally I see goats on these slopes, but not often enough, and never this far into the park. From this corner one could rappel the short distance to one of three or four exterior windows on the dressing room. Glancing around to make sure I wasn’t going to offend a napping soprano, I let fly the gaseous demon trapped in my bowels.

Oh, the glory! How she spread her wings and with what guttural joy she warbled! Like a wet latex umbrella being forced from the deepest recesses of a pipe organ. Hail Mary, full of Bass. Thus relieved, I turned to sit and study my lines.

As I did so, I caught a glimpse of something through the branches of a nearby pine. In a thicket about twenty-five yards away, a face: white, expressionless, with empty eyes. A mask? Leaning out over the edge, I pulled my glasses on. Whatever it was, if anything, had gone. The branches where it might have been were wiggling. Against the wind.

I wanted to go explore that spot, but was accosted upon my return to the stage by the charming Amanda Johnson, whose kindness and talent I hold in very high regard. I confess that, until documenting today, I was thereafter distracted by the necessities of staging.

We blocked Act One, until the middle of Scene 3, ending right after There Is Nothing Like A Dame. Men were released from rehearsal at 9:33, women were kept to work vocals.

I can’t stop thinking about that mask.

Jobs I Didn’t Get, Part II: Sam the Snowman

In Employment, Theatre on January 20, 2015 at 9:03 pm

In late September I got a text message from Television’s Drew Boudreau; Drew played Max Detweiler in The Sound of Music with me at Sierra Rep in Summer of 2014; he’s a lovely guy and a brilliant improvisor — if you’re lucky, you’ll see his work with Improv Shmimprov. If you’re even luckier, you’ll get to work with him: he’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. Drew was texting me to make sure I knew about an audition for a non-AEA tour of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. They were looking for Sam the Snowman — specifically someone who could impersonate Burl Ives.

I know I’m pudgy, but Burl Ives? Wowsers. Guess it’s time to go full Paleo. Still, given enough time (and the right motivation) I can impersonate just about anybody.

Except the casting directors needed the audition video asap.

So much for time.

Motivation? $700+ per week. Boom! Motivated. But what to focus on more: mastering the material or mastering the impersonation?

I chose to focus on the material, as I could nail down the voice later on. (Besides, said the logical part of my actor brain, if they’re smart, they’re already searching for actual Burl Ives lookalikes / impersonators. I’ll master the material and at the very least I’ll have a solid audition reel … for a very, very specific role.)

Sides and sheet music were provided digitally, but accompaniment was up to me. I had one day in which to prepare  and shoot and edit and upload and submit my audition video, so I found karaoke tracks for the relevant songs. Guess what? They weren’t necessarily in the right key. So, in order to make sure that I had all my ducks in a row, I also each song a cappella as well.

Fully memorized, I donned an appropriately Christmasy tie and cozy vest. However, there was a problem: none of my nice pants were clean and pressed. Could I risk shooting this video in my underwear? Tricky: the lighting was provided naturally from a window situated camera left, and as a favor to my neighbors I generally avoid the windows when traipsing about in me skivvies. In the interest of time, I chose a nice and relatively new pair of jeans (purchased, as it happens, in the company of the affable and aforementioned Drew Boudreau in Summer of 2014), and commenced shooting.

It always takes longer to shoot, edit and upload than one thinks. And, by the time one has assembled and honed and polished everything, a degree of deadline-drunk hypnosis sets in: eyes on the clock, one foot in front of the other, nothing’s-gonna-stop-me-now!

Except it’s a good idea to share the video with other people in the business in advance. Looking back, I feel that I should have taken a little extra time to hit up Carla Spindt, Dyan McBride, Allen Fitzpatrick, Ken Sonkin, Brian Herndon, David Studwell, Mark Booher and George Maguire (and anyone else I might have neglected to include in this list) for their thoughts before sending the video to the casting directors.

Since that time, a friend who watched the video has told me that the jeans pretty much destroy any chance of awesomeness. I would have thought that haunted dollhouse + modern art + cluttered bookshelf did more than the jeans to distract, but perhaps they collaborate on a one-two punch to knock the viewer firmly into the land of Meh.

Here, then, is the video:

Within three hours, one of the casting directors accidentally hit Reply All in an e-mail, so I was treated to this:

“He is really lovely. Not an exact Burl Ives impersonation, but he is very good.”

Followed by,

“Ha, well, that wasn’t supposed to go to you, but I’m glad I had nice things to say. I loved what you did with the material.”

As I had been holed up in my house pounding out audition videos for a variety of projects since returning to the Bay Area, I was craving interaction and, most dreaded need of the actor, validation. Intoxicated by the endorphin rush that follows praise, I was perhaps too festively ebullient in my response to her, thus jinxing and ostracizing myself in one fell swoop.

I did not get the job.