Thursday, May 20, 2004
Charlie Zablowski is getting his own novel. That’s the only way I can keep him from hijacking Periwinkle. He’s very necessary to the chapter(s) he inhabits in Periwinkle, but I can’t have him take over the book. And he has so much to say, he needs a book of his own. As he says, “I earn my happiness.”
I got into Manhattan yesterday early enough to wander through Coliseum Books. Coliseum is one of my favorite bookstores. When I worked on Miss Saigon at the Broadway Theatre, it was located on W. 57th St. I used to go in there on my dinner break on two show days, wander around and buy books. I was heartbroken when it closed, and delighted when it reopened on W. 42 St. I’ve spent many hours in the café, reading and writing. In fact, when I worked semi-regularly at Rent, I would purposely come in an hour early simply to have time to hang out in Coliseum.
I can get lost in their “Belles Lettres” section and their “Travel” section for days.
One of my favorite stops is the $1 remainder table. And today I hit the jackpot – three novels, one of which is by one of my favorite British poets, Jackie Kay.
I had a wonderful time at Gypsy last night. Not only did I run into one of my closest friends, P – someone to whom I’ve owed a phone call for about a month and put it off due to guilt from not calling promptly, which continued to escalate – but it was great to see the company one last time. P – who is one of my most Trusted Readers – is going to be traveling for work over the next month or so. When he gets back, there’ll be plenty of material for him to read. And it was fun to catch up with friends and colleagues. I’ve worked with some of these people over the course of several shows by this point. And I’ve met some new people who are wonderful and have made a positive difference in my life. These are people I will always think of with affection. They matter to me. I am delighted I had the opportunity to catch up and say hello and goodbye to everyone before the show closes on the 30th. I also find it interesting how many of my theatre friends are preparing for a career change.
In addition to simple exhaustion and knowing that my life’s work is leading me elsewhere, I am unhappy at the direction in which the business is headed. Producers and general managers rarely work their way up in the business anymore. They don’t understand how a show runs backstage, night after night. Most importantly, many of them don’t care. You’re not dealing simply with numbers here. It’s about people and the dynamic not only between cast and crew backstage, but between cast and audience. Without a genuine love of the art and craft and without caring to learn it, one cannot be a truly successful theatre entrepreneur – no matter how the numbers are rearranged to make you look good. And, of course, there are always labor issues. Bluntly, I believe it is more important to make sure your company has excellent health care than to spend thousands of dollars redecorating a star’s dressing room. Management blames the unions for the high cost of running a show, but, during the musician’s negotiations last year, the numbers were run and, if I remember correctly, salaries add up to only 13% of a show’s budget (not counting overpriced stars). The attitude of management during our last contract negotiations disgusted me. They truly think we should be paying them for the privilege of working in dusty basements through holidays, bad weather, and illness. It’s out of balance. Perhaps it always was, but I’m more aware of it now. I love the art and craft of the theatre, but I don’t love the internal politics and management issues. By serving on my union’s negotiating committee, and genuinely trying to work to help the entire union (which is quite a different negotiating skill from the type I use to negotiate a personal contract), I feel I’ve made a contribution, and I’ve given thanks for everything the union has done for me. I haven’t just shown up for the calls and cashed the checks. I fulfilled a responsibility. Now, as I make the career transition out of it, I’ve left something positive behind. And, because I can’t change the entire industry (nor should a single individual do so), it’s time for me to remove myself from a situation where I am no longer overwhelmingly happy.
Yes, I do believe we have the right to be overwhelmingly happy in our work. And I don’t think we need to stay in the same line of work for our entire lives. Mary Catherine Bateson, in her book Composing a Life, compares life to a symphony, with different sections that build on each other to create the whole. I think it’s a beautiful analogy.
An argument today with a friend left me feeling blue. I want to make sure I’ve really listened to the other person’s side of the issue and am not merely reacting out of anger or misunderstanding. I have to watch my tongue, remembering this is a Venus retrograde, and navigating relationships is more difficult than usual. It’s a complicated situation – and inappropriate to discuss here, but it’s left me feeling out of sorts and not particularly in the mood to write.
Which is too damn bad, because there are still deadlines to meet.
Calgary beat San Jose and will travel to the Final. I didn’t make it home in time to catch any of the game, but I’m pleased for Calgary. I have a great deal of respect for Daryl Sutter, and he’s more than earned this trip in quest of the Cup.
Re-reading Dixie Dust Rumours to see if it needs another rewrite – since I’m sending out queries, it needs to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. I actually like it better now than when I finished the last rewrite. There’s some good work in there. The characters and situations stand, and I hope I can generate a publisher’s interest.
Tapestry will start its life on the radio on July 13, and my interview is scheduled for July 27. Hopefully, this weekend, I can figure out how to work the darned voice mechanism on the computer so I can record the CDs. Guess I won’t be sending in a resume to work on Dracula – it starts in June, and I wouldn’t be able to do the interview in July.
I decided to rework yesterday’s rejected article away from the “how-to” aspect and focus more on the anecdotal side of it and submit it elsewhere. I have a few ideas – all of which pay much more than the original market would have – so hopefully, I can pull it off.
I saw an ad for a Writer’s Ezine that wants columnists – regular columnists who “don’t need to be reminded by editors about deadlines” -- I might be somewhat paraphrasing here, in spite of the quote marks – they want a decent word count – and they don’t pay a damn thing. Do they actually think a professional writer is going to do something like that for free? Ads like that are just insulting.
I’m reading a lovely novel (one of the ones from yesterday’s Coliseum score). It’s called The Journal of Mrs. Pepys: Portrait of a Marriage by Sara George. It’s a novel about Elizabeth Pepys’s side of the marriage. As someone who loved Clare Tomalin’s Pepys biography, someone who’s both read and taught Samuel Pepys’s journals, I was eager to read this novel. And it’s lovely. It’s rather ridiculous to find it on the remainder table (although I’m glad I did). It’s a beautiful, beautiful piece and makes me want to read more of Ms. George’s writing.
Good books are so exciting!
It was such a lovely day that I walked through town and spent a few hours sitting under an oak tree on the Village Green in front of the Library. The architects did a good job with the library expansion – it fits in with the original building seamlessly. The smell of recently cut grass cleared my head, and it was just warm enough to be comfortable, but cool enough to need a light jacket. I like to read outside the library as much as I do inside.
Because I was such a waste of food, creatively, I decided to cook a good meal. I love to cook – some of my best ideas come to me when I’m chopping vegetables or stirring a good, pungent pasta sauce. Plus, a good meal with a nice glass of wine always makes me feel better about both myself and the world.
I need to write more food articles. I’m terrible at restaurant reviews – they come out sounding like soft-core pornography – but I love to cook and I ought to be able to communicate that properly. Plus, I’m a good cook.
Did some intense work on the material for the Devon Ellington website. I want to get that thing launched – soon! Writing up the notes and sources for The Widow’s Chamber is what’s taking a lot of time. I wish the damn Site Builder hadn’t dumped all the notes I made as I wrote the thing.
Retiring now to watch hockey.
Of course, that means tomorrow I have to write two chapters of Periwinkle, or I’ll be behind again.