Travel Thursday: A Quick Recap of the Weekend

I always thought the best definition of serendipity was one used on the Max Headroom TV series: “Digging for worms and striking oil.”
But here’s an even better one: “Serendipity means looking for a needle in a haystack and finding the farmer’s daughter.”
Oh yes, please. . .

Okay, Saturday found me in Pasadena’s imposing main library. Thankfully all I had to do was walk two blocks to catch the bus that left me right in front of the library, which was good because as usual it was late and I got there just before Marina V went on stage, barely enough time to get my camera out and hope the new faster lens could deal with the strange lighting behind her. . . though obviously it did well enough, as you saw from the photos two blogs ago. . . yeah, go to the bottom of this one, skip the poem, and there they are.
Set list:
1 Ghost Wandering This Earth
2 I’ll Be All Right
3 You Make Me Beautiful
4 Run
5 Neil Diamond in Russian
6 Say Hello
7 Stand
8 Light Up the Dark
9 Speak

1 Ghost Wandering This Earth
Haven’t heard this one in years, seemed longer than usual. Marina teased Nick about being a blonde with a master’s degree. “You don’t see that often.” To which he promptly replied, “You didn’t say what it was in!”
2 I’ll Be All Right
I don’t remember now why she mentioned it, but she did say she was wearing sports shorts under her relatively short blue dress. No further comment necessary.
3 You Make Me Beautiful
This usta be my fave, before the next one came along.
4 Run
Yay for little cameras with video capabilities and relatively steady hands!

5 Neil Diamond in Russian
Not a fan of his in any language. Nuff said.
6 Say Hello
This one took a while to start, as they were confused as to location of the tambourine, which was supposed to be in the bag. . . except Nick had already taken it out and put it under the piano. And conveniently forgotten. Marina also mentioned how cushy the seats were, “like grandma’s couch.”
7 Stand
For being overly dramatic I still like this one.
8 Light Up the Dark
Pretty sure this is my first time hearing this one live.
9 Speak
I think this has become her official closer.
Didn’t stay long, still having stamina troubles after the nose surgery.

Sunday
Just like the last time I attended a performance at A Noise Within, the bus came late and I actually arrived at the back door after it was scheduled to start. On the other hand, going to previews, which are a lot more relaxed as far as time is concerned, mitigate that a little, so I had time to go to the front and pick up my ticket and even go to the restroom. . .
Today was Julius Caesar day. . . as in the play I was going to see, not the Ides of March. Despite being a Shakespeare fan, I don’t think I’ve seen this since we performed it in English class my junior year of high school; I still remember how a friend had written “Assinated” instead of “assassinated” in his notes. Good times. . .
The opening music was so overly dramatic I instantly hated it. Here it was a little justified as people walked around the stage handing each other cardboard signs, which at a predetermined point where placed before chests, bearing the names of the characters. This description was hardly worth how amazingly cool that moment was, but on the other hand the music did not get better. The industrial design, with plenty of scaffolding, didn’t do much for me either, though as the play went on I saw how ingeniously they used it and decided it was okay. The costuming left me mystified, though; those long fur coats weren’t enough for me to know exactly what time period this was supposed to be set in. . . and as usual I’m gonna keep on going to keep that participle from dangling off the cliff, since it’s afraid of heights.
Took a while for me to get into it; hesitate to admit it, but I might have nodded off for a few moments there. But at the assassination scene things picked up, and I didn’t lose interest from them on. As much as I had against the design and music, the lighting was incredibly effective, especially the handheld lamps. Another effective part was their use of the open area atop the seats, as well as the ramps between sections; this is the fifth work I’ve seen here, and all have featured actors walking or running through the audience, but this time it worked even better.
As expected, but even more so here with the acting, Mark Antony’s speech was the highlight. Later in the Q&A a lady mentioned she was a Brutus fan, but this performance put her squarely in Marcus’s camp. {The actor did seem to appreciate it.}
One thing I noticed all the more here than in other performances: the actors help move the scenery. No divas here; even in high school productions you don’t usually see that. I think it’s a nice touch for a company I have rapidly grown fond of, for much more than just the quality acting.
This being the first preview there was an after-show discussion, from which I remember these tidbits:
Iambic pentameter allows you to memorize easier, like when you listen to a song over and over and suddenly realize you know the words, or as I like to call it, osmosis.
This play brings out the absurdity of politics, even more relevant now. And this production’s based on Mean Girls, according to the chiefs’ daughter.
The best way to memorize lines, according to one of the actors, is to whisper them, so you don’t get any inflection on them when you haven’t yet decided how you’re going to play it. But the most important acting point is you have to love your character. . .
All topped off by a very late lunch/early dinner at Hook Burger. Yummy!

;o)

Marina V Pasadena Library photos

For the third time I can remember my musical buddy Marina V played the Pasadena Library. While the lighting wasn’t nearly the same as the outdoor show last year, she did mention how the seats are cushy–“like your grandmother’s couch” which beat the coffeeshop’s chairs by a few country miles.

Hmmm, she looks suspicious. . .

Hmmm, she looks suspicious. . .

!IMG_2511 !IMG_2592

Yay!

Yay!

!IMG_2622

Oh oh, she spotted me.

Oh oh, she spotted me.

!IMG_2635

Pretending the tam is a cell phone

Pretending the tam is a cell phone

!IMG_2679

Like you just don't care

Like you just don’t care

!IMG_2760-1 !IMG_2790

{BTW–400th blog. I feel old. . .}

;o)

Mozart non-opera and opera

Despite severe exhaustion from the volleyball day at Northridge, I valiantly headed out to A Noise Within for Figaro; it helped that all I had to do was cross the street to catch the bus. It also helped that I’d already paid for the ticket, otherwise I might not have tried it. Bus almost zoomed by me, maybe because it wasn’t expecting to pick anyone up, considering there was only one person aboard. Very rare. Driver told me I shoulda used my flashlight, but it wasn’t until walking back that I remembered I had a flashlight with me. Two actually, but why quibble? After that a couple got on, she Indian with a British accent, he hippie from South Philly, and on an almost-empty bus they sit right behind me and subject me to such inanities. . .
Okay. Off the bus, I walk down the length of the bus station, then cross the small road, and I’m at the back door of the venue, first one there. Unfortunately there’s a late rehearsal, so the audience is dark and they’re not letting anyone in just yet for fear of someone going splat. By the time they open there’s a dozen people and I don’t feel special anymore. Also didn’t feel special when I had the row all to myself and someone else came by, but oh well.
Tonight’s production of Figaro is the same plot as the famous Mozart opera, just no singing. And it’s in English. The only music we get is during scene changes, and it’s a rock version–heavy on electric guitar–of Mozart’s music. The main characters are on first, Figaro and Suzanne, but it isn’t till the Count comes out–dressed in what a stylish 70s rocker type might be sporting–that things really take off. Later there’s a scene where he takes off the long wig, and yeah, definitely changed not just the actor’s appearance but his whole mojo; we would not have believed all that bombastic entitlement from the meek accountant-like guy underneath.
Though the play is witty and sarcastic, what really sells the comedy is the body language, particularly by Suzanne. The character doesn’t have much grace, sitting with her legs spread and shoulders slumped, especially opposed to the mincing high-heeled steps of the Countess. But later in the play, when the roles are reversed, the maid has to fix the countess’s body language, slumping her shoulders and spreading her legs rather forcibly. All small touches, but add up to a lot of funny, the best being when Figaro has to describe what’s in a letter and Suzanne is behind the count giving him huge pantomime hints. . .
If you’re at all familiar with the plot, you know it’s about Figaro coming up with grandiose schemes and not realizing how clueless he is; Suzanne’s gonna be the one wearing the pants in that family. Everyone’s got their own ploys and scams, and for a while it’s hard to keep all the tangles clear in your head, but of course since it’s a comedy everything will work out fine in the end. . .
I had told myself that if I wasn’t having fun by halftime I would leave, thereby catching the last bus home. But it was so good I stayed, and then had to walk for an hour, as I said already exhausted from the previous day. Strangely enough, only one person passed me, and that was outside the Taco Bell. Two bikes overtook me, but other than that it was actually a pleasant solitary walk which left me with plenty of time to think. . . except with my senses attuned to the extra dangers darkness brings, I didn’t think of much anyway.

Sorry, UCLA gymnastics. Far too exhausted to trudge across town on Saturday. Gonna miss you and your amazing smile, Elette.

Still a bit tired–losing an hour made it worse–but more than game Sunday morning to head out to real opera, if you can call it that. As usual went early, and as it turned out the bus downtown had to take not just one but two detours, missing Union Station, heading off a block away from the house–probably no longer there–where I spent the first seven years of my life. Ended up at the central library after another detour, due to some gathering in front of City Hall, then had to wait some minutes for it to open so I could hit the restroom. Not only that, but the little old Asian lady sitting next to me on the bus stole my water bottle! What is the world coming to?
At least I catch the subway right in step, and even with the detours I’m pretty early when I step into the sun of North Hollywood. Earlier I’d googled–can’t believe that’s a real verb–restaurants but couldn’t find anything that my taste buds and allergies could take. There was some diner nearby, but it was closed. After catching a pure vanilla at Coffee Bean, I set off down Lankersheim toward Universal, walking and walking and kept walking till I finally found a burger place about a half hour later. Had thought about eating there in the air conditioning, but instead figured I’d eat while waiting for the bus. Nope, something ornery in my mind said go ahead and walk by while eating, which is difficult when you have a burger, fries, and a drink to deal with and only two hands. If they’re right about evolution, how come we don’t have an extra hand sticking out of the chest or something? (old joke)
Finished off the fries just in time to get in line for theater, where my ticket was found with no problem, once the guy realized my last name wasn’t Franklin. A cute Orion slave girl handed me a program, then I gave my ticket and was led–not just given directions–to a small hutch on the left side, where there were five seats in two rows–combined. Instantly the two ladies in the three-seat row, Portland and Ruth, pronounced me their new best friend, so there was a little bit of chatter as I tried not to listen to their conversation when they weren’t including me. At the last moment two guys, one in an original pilot command shirt, sat in the two-seat row in front of us, so no leg-stretching allowed after all.
Finally it gets going, with the Star Trek theme, including “these are the voyages,” played by the orchestra in the pit. . . but just when you think they’re gonna launch into the main song it instead turns to the Mozart, which got a chuckle.
Instantly we get Captain Belmonte, played with relish, ham AND cheese, by Brian Cheney. His credits show he is indeed an operatic tenor, but I doubt he’s ever done anything like this. Not that the singing is out of his wheelhouse, but the sheer. . . Shatner-ness cubed of his performance. . . it’s actually shocking that anyone could out-Shatner Shatner, but then his many aside glances to the audience proves this is well past anything that pretends not to be farce. . . and I mean that in a good way! Later on he plays a certain “Scottish mechanic,” and that accent is, again, something he’s never done in his opera career before. . . I hope. But the contenders for his biggest laugh are the barrel rolls and when he works in an “Oh my!”
Once the Klingons come out he hides in front of a rock to spy on them, which is good because the Klingons are singing in. . . well, Klingon! Even the supertitles say “Some Klingon. . . more Klingon.” At this point Belmonte calls for the Universal Translator, and order, such as it is, is restored. Nice touch.
The Spock is named, just like in Mozart’s version, Pedrillo, which makes it fun when the bimbo pronounces it wrong later. Constanza–a name as close to the original as you can get without actually using it–is the Uhura, whom Belmonte has fallen in love with; not something we ever saw in the show or the movies, though considering Kirk’s reputation, not out of the question. But easily my favorite character is the Orion slave girl; in the original the character was simply called Blonde, so it makes sense here she’s Blondie. Her Brooklyn bimbo accent is so perfect; she plays ditzy so well that when she sings operatically it’s almost shocking. She gets a great stealth joke where she complains that people are trying to get the “slave” part of the name out, but traditionalists back in Orion–most of them below the belt, in the South part–are resisting. I think the only reason they made the Orion Slave girl a major character was for the obvious–saw it coming a kilometer away–“It’s not easy being green” line.
Gotta say, these are some wimpy Klingons, though to be fair they were wimpy Ottomans in the original too. The chancellor is easily toyed with, and even the cruel Osmin gets played with by Pedrillo, Blondie, and even the captain. He does have a really funny chuckle, though. It didn’t occur to me that these are Next Generation Klingons interfacing with original series Federation until the end. But then, considering even the laser burn effects were cheesy–I’m hoping purposefully so–everything just fit together in an outrageous and hilarious way.
And nothing was more out there than the recreation of Kirk’s battle with the Gorn! Even the conductor in the orchestra put got into it, throwing Belmonte a rock as a weapon in the middle of battle. But since we didn’t have time for him to rediscover gunpowder, Belmonte pulls out his phaser and Indiana Jones’s the Gorn to oblivion. BeeTeeDubya, as I was walking out of the place I saw that the Gorn was actually a pretty brunette, without the Gorn head that is.
Can’t have the thing end without a redshirt showing up! And of course getting his head chopped off right away. No rescue there. Then we get the main four singing about how they should be escaping, not singing, and of course get captured. Those of you familiar with the Mozart, it ends the same way here; those who don’t, find out by going to see it somewhere.
The whole thing was so over-the-top they needed oxygen masks and Sherpas, but again, it was all in good fun with only a couple of eye rolls.
After all the bows we get a tribute to Leonard Nimoy, as it should be.
Well, that was simply awesome, though my own pleasure was somewhat mitigated by my eyes going watery throughout. Thought it was due to the darkness and my still-new glasses, but once outside on the way to the subway–just two blocks away, convenient–the nose went runny too, so I took an allergy pill with a Gatorade I had to buy off the street, since you might recall my water bottle was stolen earlier. Yeah, like Chekov’s gun. . . and not the Star Trek Chekov!
Three nights ago, after the Northridge day, I was thinking how dark it got coming back from North Hollywood; this time the sun is still high, thanks to daylight savings. Too bad, I like the dark. . .

;o)