Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Poor Madeleine

I live in a household of two humans, two pure-bred Bouvier dogs, four in-and-out cats, and a couple recent cat arrivals who nap on our porch. Today my favorite died, a long-haired Himalayan/Siamese blend with regal face and plushy hair, wavy on her belly. I loved that cat. She slept on my bed, was affectionate without being needy, and did not make me sneeze much.

Poor Madeleine.

This morning a young neighbor knocked at the door and asked if a long-haired black cat who was super nice lived here? "She's dead under our truck." Not squashed, just dead and rough-looking, like she'd been through a heavy rain storm. But I don't think there was anything like that last night. Her new blue collar was several feet away. We don't know what happened. They found her on their departure for work.

I feel sad now, although at the time I felt sad and vomitous.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Crab Mornay

We eat pretty well over here. Between me and my housemate, Gloria, we cook up a storm. For lunch she made us crab mornay: crab, cream, butter, cheese, green onions, and magic. On toast with spinach salad. Lovely. Tomatoes are ripening in the garden, and I've got my eye on my pet eggplant, trying to keep it caterpillar-free. Fuzzy caterpillars ate most of the collard greens. I'd step out to pick dinner, and find only leaf skeletons. We've since planted summer greens, hoping caterpillars move on to the moth stage and fly away.

Saw Kennedy's Children yesterday. Five monologues reminiscing the 1960s. Engaging performances by a solid cast, but two hours of monologue is too long. Interaction would help bring it more to life and sustain energy. Ignore the cheap joke I made on Saturday about the 4th wall. What if instead the actors talked to one another, or talked to the audience, or the director-as-bartender, Michael Martin? Cut down the running time and build in some interaction. FYI, I think it's extended another weekend. If you want to see Kennedy's Children, it's worth $13, and definitely worth the zero I paid.

Joking aside, all of the performances were entertaining. Personal favorites:

* Bridget Erin, founder of NOLA Playback Theatre, as a jaded actress, drinking and screwing herself to death.

* Michael Aaron Santos, of Michael Aaron Santos fame, as a flaming homosexual actor. He was the most comedic, and the tallest.

* Kathryn Talbot, the most ripened performer in the cast. Petula Clark at 50. I wanted her to sing Don't Sleep in the Subway so bad.

I left Hi-Ho Lounge, and directly across the street the actors of Marigny Theatre were assembling for their final show of Nighthawks. I debated a second play in five hours, but had a headache, and went home instead. I partially regret that choice. I would have liked to compare Opening Night with Closing Night. Around 9pm I recovered from my headache, rode my bike up to Frenchmen street, and caught some live, local music.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

My Southern Charm

My second date with the man from Mobile went well. Lasted 24 hours. One of those lay-around-all-day-naked, eating toast, talking, et cetera kinda dates. Won't see him again for 3 weeks. Could stand to catch my breath while he's out of the region. I showed him the Kung Fu Evangelist DVD. He's trying to talk me into doing a fund raiser for the Mobile Gay Chorus. Hmmm...I could imagine a choir busting onstage in the final act. I like a big musical finish.

Rode my bike to the Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo this morning, just to catch a couple bands. It's another free, all-day neighborhood fest that features local bands, a much smaller version of French Quarter Festival. Heard the Soul Rebels and also walked through the Mid-City Art Market. Saw several friends. My friend Daniela Rible is visiting from San Francisco, and we met on Bayou St. Jean, close to where she volunteers for Common Ground.

I like visitors who volunteer, or make the effort to have a deep experience of New Orleans. The last friends who visited ate only twice in four days, as far as I can tell. They fell into a French Quarter blow job bar. They're lucky they came up for air long enough to see my last performance in Tennessee Williams. If they had missed me, I would have lost my Southern charm.

Tomorrow I see the closing performance of Kennedy's Children at the Hi-Ho Lounge. Directed by Michael Martin, it's performed in a bar. As I understand it, the actors mingle with other bar patrons cum audience. I seriously hope it is not participatory theater. The 4th wall is for everybody's protection.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Permanently Punished?

Think I've been punished for being public about my theatre opinions. One thing to know about my writing, if I feel passionate, I will often over-state the case in my first post. Check back. I edit as I go, refining what I originally wrote to better represent my feelings. The art of writing is in re-writing. No dis to any other New Orleans productions. I feel passionate about Gem of the Ocean, iz'all.

In fact, Harold X. Evans, from the cast, is sitting in my livingroom right now, talking to my housemate, Gloria Powers. Sounds like I might have a paid job this winter with the Living History Theatre Company, pending budget approval. Wonder which historical character I get to portray. Napoleon? What! Pretentious, Moi?

Got another hot date with the man from Mobile tonight! Guess I'll put out. I mean, he's driving all that way...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Gem of the Ocean

Only one weekend left for the August Wilson play, Gem of the Ocean at Anthony Bean Theatre. Since I became a member of the nominating committee for Big Easy theatre awards, this is the first play I've seen that I feel passionate about. I see much good work and will make other recommendations of course, but Gem of the Ocean I'll go to bat for. Best Drama. Best Actress, Adella "the Storyteller" Gautier. Best Supporting Actor, Harold X. Evans. Discussion and voting happen in January. A lot more work yet to see and compare.

Funny thing. I was looking at the wall of celebrities with a friend during intermission, and pointed out a photo of Irma Thomas, who won the Grammy this year for best contemporary Blues album. I said something about "just heard Irma Thomas at the Big Easy Music awards" when I heard a woman behind me say "pardon?" It was Irma Thomas.

I'm looking for a new theatre project, something meaty I can sink my teeth into. I was talking earlier this week with a local director about a possible one-man show he wants to direct me in, as a fundraiser for the Pride Foundation. Doesn't sound like it's going to happen. I see the same audition notices as everybody else. Nothing that grabs me, yet. If anyone knows of un-announced casting or upcoming projects yet to be announced, yo! Hook a brother up!


Although I'm still wrapping up chapter 10, I'm also beginning chapter 11, about Bobby, the younger brother in the family who is now in the hospital. This chapter is a long time in coming, because Bobby has been a mystery to me all along. What part of myself does he represent? What is his function in this story? Gradually, these answers are coming to me. But much is still vague, and the writing shows it.

I typically write two chapters at a time. The current chapter in the sequence, and the one immediately after. They have to be connected, and this is the best way for me to connect them, by writing them in tandem. As one chapter comes to a close, the next comes into focus. So today it's been Bobby's chapter.

He's a mystical child. He talks to an imaginary friend, Goodfriend, who is the actual narrator of the novel and not imaginary at all. Bobby's family marvels at his storytelling abilities and the breadth of his knowledge for a six year old. Bobby is a budding artist. His challenge will be to remain one. An encounter with death will close his mind, which panics the narrator. I believe that in the end, Bobby will emerge as a prototype for me, the writer, the person capable of telling this story, with the suggestion that he will eventually work through his darkness and re-open his mind.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hot Date!

While in Tennessee, I met a nice man, a bit older than me but in better physical shape. He lives in Mobile, and drove all the way from Alabama to have dinner and hold hands with yours truly. Ain't that sweet?

Dinner at Adolpho's, one of my faves. Nicely tucked away above a bar on Frenchmen street, hardly known about, which is ideal. Total mom-and-pop, Cajun-Italian, which means pasta drowned in seafood. Order ANYTHING smothered with Ocean sauce: cream, crab, shrimp! My date had the veal with Ocean sauce, classic surf-and-turf combo. I had crawfish alfredo. OH FRACKIN YEAH!

Table by the window, with a breeze blowing through and live jazz wafting up to us from Frenchmen street below. We held hands. When's the last time I held hands on a date? Oh yeah, I remember...ex boyfriend. Well, I'm not signing anyone up to be my next ex boyfriend, but it sure was wonderful to go on an honest to goodness date.

Afterwards, walked around Frenchmen a bit, heard some music spilling from DBA and Spotted Cat. Ducked into the gay bookstore, which inspired me to invite him home. I told him he's got a 25 year old's body, and he held it against me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Know What It Means

Saw the Ricky Graham show at Le Chat Noir, I Know What It Means, which is in answer to Louis Armstrong's question, "Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?", the anthem of post-Katrina New Orleans. Ricky Graham claims that he does.

What can I say? It's a cabaret show. Jokes, costumes, songs. Ricky Graham's a talented performer and comic. A boy-man who sings like Carol Channing. But I gotta say, I don't love musical theatre. And unless you are a local or have lived some portion of time in New Orleans, you won't get much of the show, reminiscences of the way things used to be.

I remember some things. I did live in New Orleans in the early 80s. There were still Maison Blanche and D.H. Holmes department stores, the Macy's and Gimbel's of New Orleans. The World Expo was here. I remember the Rosenburg's jingle and Becky Allen on the radio doing the Time Saver commercials. I made a Mardi Gras float out of a shoebox in elementary school. My family frequented a chain of Chinese restaurants called "Takee Outee". I know who Morgus the Magnificent is/was and Mister Bingle. So I got a lot of the jokes, but pity any tourists who saw the show.

Ricky Graham does come up with some entertaining characters. The black, Uptown blues singer who pronounces "Orleans" like "onions". Miss Yvonne. I did not care for Louis XIV. But I always enjoy a slide show, and have used them in my own comedy.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Dream Boy

Just finished reading Jim Grimsley's novel, Dream Boy. My heart is broken. I asked him, "of your own works, which is your favorite?" I met Jim Grimsley at the Saints and Sinners festival on Friday, and finished the novel Sunday. Mmm... fondly reminiscing my own high school dream boy, Daniel Parker.

A few years ago, Dorothy Allison, my writing mentor, strongly urged me to read his first novel, Winter Birds, which may be next, or second to next because I could stand something NOT tragic to read. Eagerly awaiting Dorothy's new novel, She Who, to come out in 2008. I heard her read from it in Portland, Oregon last year. Had to walk it off. Her first novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, is in my top 4, as follows:

* The Glass Bead Game (aka Magister Ludi) by Hermann Hesse.
* Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata
* Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
* Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Regarding my own novel, I'm closing in on chapter 10. It's about the Pastor's daughter, who is fast becoming my hero. I came back from Short Mountain charged up for writing. Making Write Club appointments every other day since I've been home. Cafe Envie in the French Quarter tonight.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


I met the playwright of Nighthawks, the new play at Marigny Theatre. Evan Guilford-Blake won the playwright competition for Saints and Sinners last year, and attended the festival this year, where I met him. He's a long-hair, a wizard-like gay man. We attended a lecture on television writing, and then spoke about Nighhawks in the lobby of the Bourbon Orleans hotel. He's going to see his play staged for the first time at the Marigny Theatre, this Saturday night. I look forward to discussing it with him after he's seen it.

I saw Nighthawks Thursday night, at a preview dress rehearsal. The second act is obviously the play, the first act is related, but not as focused or emotionally cohesive. The scope is broad: racism, loneliness, love. The two pieces together travel a broad emotional terrain.

This is a very strong cast, the strongest I've seen yet in Marigny productions. All of my favorites, Lisa Davis, Mandi Turner, Don McCoy, Carlos Gonzales (amigo!), and Keith Launey (big respect, buddy). Two actors who are new to me, one I know only by reputation, fierce additions to a cast I know, much needed energy in a somewhat low-energy rehearsal.

Couple technical glitches, one that would be very embarrassing during the regular run. Glad they worked it out in rehearsal. I only point it out because it was *the* problem, the only problem as far as the audience knows, and frankly, Marigny Theatre needs to address its tech. Too many glitches of this kind occur for such high quality work. Apparently there was a missed sound cue. I know because I read the director's blog, but the actors gave it away also. There was a long pause, something was obviously supposed to happen, and the actors all furtively looked at one another, the dead give-away. Next time that happens, somebody start talking.

Don, bring more barrel-chested virility to the role. Expand your chest, for starters, and project that operatic voice you have. Mid-way through first act, we find out you're a loud-mouthed racist and bully. That should be obvious from your first line. It also deepens the conflict your girlfriend has about staying with you.

Lisa, no notes. You chew up scenes. I really like seeing you play against type. The Not Vixen.

Mandi, you have the best outfit, hands down, which was my gripe about our last play together. You're perfect for this role, the right age and physical type, with a fresh innocence. I don't think your character comes across retarded. I think she's slow, physically and emotionally damaged, and yet trusting and innocent. Hardly retarded. You bring a complex Rhonda to life. No worries.

Keith Launey, go into fey territory. You're convincing as a dissipated, ego-centric actor with intimacy problems. Hmmm... Experiment with gay now, especially in the scenes with the also-not-so-gay Carlos. When gay men are alone together, without straight people, we take off the straight world like a coat, and relax into gayness.

Carlos, you bring two interpretations to roles that serve essentially the same function in both acts, yet are different people. You're the unifying element between the pieces. In the first act, you're clearly trying to differentiate through accent and mannerism, but the accent is inconsistent, and unclear. Is it yokel? The discussion you have about why you stay at the diner is when I see your character most clearly. In the second act, I don't see the internal conflict your character has over Keith's presence, former best friend and romantic rival. For Keith's emotional break down scene to ring true, your tension needs to be palpable through out, not just in that scene.

Tim Bellow and Derrick Deal I would not presume to give you notes. You're obviously both very experienced, confident actors. These folks above are my friends, and we've all worked together. I know they're coming here, and wanna make sure everybody gets their 02 cents worth.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Fires of Beltane

Hot shower, my own bed, and hamburger! Three things I missed most while in Tennessee. I missed email too. But otherwise, I was happy to camp, eat vegetarian meals, and sauna for 9 days. Went to the Beltane gathering of the Radical Faeries, at Short Mountain Sanctuary near Nashville (near-ish). 9 days and 9 nights. Was challenging at times, a lot of fun, sexy, and refreshing. A lot happens in 9 days.

A curious coincidence: There's a Bible camp on Short Mountain, at the summit. When I was 14, I attended that Bible camp, the very same one. Our drums and shouting every night must have scared the be-jeesus out of those Christian kids and their adult counselors. I know it would have scared me at 14. What a strange journey to come full circle 25 years later, to a very gay, very pagan sanctuary just 100 yards downhill from my old Bible camp. I got to tell the story several times to the Faeries. Some thought it was humorous. Some were touched.

Beltane was overwhelming at first. The strange-ness of the culture, the concentration of gay men (about 500) together with our emotional baggage. Frustrated sexual energy was a common topic in heart circles. There was Circuit Party energy. I preferred that sex not be an issue during my stay, but it was an issue. I felt alone in a crowd at times, but also felt crowded by intimacy. I kept to myself the first few days, worried over my appearance and cool-ness, felt like an alien; and yet, I also had a few sweet, low-effort romances and made dear friends. I spoke in heart circles (a Faerie tool for personal growth similar to a 12-step meeting or Quaker gathering) about coming home. I felt warmly received. I teared up. A Faerie gathering is also emotional work.

Thought a lot about friendship up there. Been in New Orleans six months now. Miss my San Francisco and Seattle friends. And although I do feel connected here and rewarded for the decision to move, I can't say I have many bosom friends in New Orleans yet. That was apparent to me at Short Mountain. Six other New Orleans Faeries attended, but they were strangers to me. I was on my own most of the time, and made all new friends. Thought I'd bond with the New Orleans boys, but it didn't go that way at all. Kiss kiss in passing. After six months, the New Orleans Faeries are warm acquaintances. I'd like to change that. Not a criticism or complaint, but a reminder to check my expectations. And to step up effort where effort proves fruitful.

There were shows on the knoll, with the goat barn (where I slept twice) as the stage wall. Project Faerie Runway had 3 episodes. And The No Talent Show lived up to its name. Actually, there was some break-out talent, and more strange-ness.

The big event at Beltane is dancing around the May pole, which I expected to be hokey. Instead, it was a wonderful ritual about community building, free expression, and joy. I danced a tightening spiral, gripping my burgundy ribbon beneath a canopy of ribbons, all rotating toward the center. I wore a pink summer frock I bought for a show but never wore. My matching chiffon scarf is wrapped around the May pole.

There were other rituals too, drumming around the nightly bon fire, and a deep respect for the land. That's what appealed to me most about the gathering. Short Mountain is over-the-top beautiful, especially after 9 days of intimacy with the landscape. The stewards do a wonderful job of using the land for everybody's benefit, while maintaining its beauty and sustainability.