D-1 (Day 272/365)

More swan dress, more netting. More gathering of dozens of yards of material. More dirty words under my breath. But it’s getting closer.

However, I had begun to suspect that I was not being told the entire story on the Relay for Life drag show, so I did some emailing around to find out the whole truth. It was as I suspected: there is a talent portion. I have tracked down a karaoke version of “Sempre libera” from La Traviata, but whether I can get it transposed in time for me to learn it is another story.

I tracked down a green cummerbund for the Rabbit (and a gold bowtie for the King of Cats), so that’s my last stab at getting ready for tomorrow night.

Bette copied me on email to the Cultural Arts Commission, outlining all the food quotes she’s pulled from the book to decorate the refreshments table with. I forwarded it to Nancy; I think we amuse her.

And finally, huzzah! Tonight’s rehearsal was great! All of us were there, and what a difference that makes: the music sounded as good as it ever has. And the staging is startlingly good. I think people are going to be surprised, delighted, and impressed.

93 days to go.

More craft, and some art (Day 254/365)

The only thing of value I accomplished today was to nail down the layout of the invitation for the backers audition. Some of that was creative, in that I used ArtRage to sketch out a good-looking sunflower to screen in behind the invitation. But the stem and flowers were really crappy looking, no matter what tool I used. The other problem was that ArtRage doesn’t seem to export transparency, even though that’s what the little checkerboards stand for in its layers.

I lost patience and used clip art instead, manipulating it in Illustrator. It doesn’t look bad at all, especially at 35% opacity behind the text. So that’s done. If only my Epson 1520 still responded to my Intel MacBook. Don’t know what that’s about, and I didn’t have time to figure it out. I’ll print it out on the big printer at school on Monday.

Most of the day we spent in Atlanta. We got tickets to the 2:00 admission of the new Louvre exhibit at the High Museum, and drove up for that. This was a special event, because I had emailed all the people on my “we need to get together” list, Atlanta edition, and suggested we do the High then go out for drinks and dinner.

The Louvre exhibit was gorgeous, as usual, and for me, exhausting: any single object (and these were decorative things) in the exhibit represents more concentrated design and execution that I can imagine. One caveat for everyone: as the Louvre exhibit changes, be aware that only the second floor changes. The first floor is still the display of busts, and the third floor is still the paintings collected by the three Louis’s. A bit of a rip-off, but if you know that going in, I think most of us can deal with it.

We made it to some of the other exhibits this time, including a “Romantic Vision” exhibit of drawings from the Romantic period, and yes, there was one William Blake in the exhibit. Not a very outstanding one, but there it was.

Drinks and dinner were fabulous fun. Carol Rogers “Roget” Reiser, whom I don’t think I’ve seen in 30 years, was there, and we had a good time catching up. Stella Lang and her husband Charlie came for drinks, but then had to skip out for a gala in support of the Museum of Contemporary Art. They were in good spirits. And Rick and Rebecca Rakosczy joined us for drinks and dinner, and we had a good time sharing clueless-college-age-children stories.

All in all a good evening. I feel sure that I shall absolutely without question get Make Way finished tomorrow. I just know it.

Craft (Day 253/365)

I had hoped to get further into Make Way tonight, but I got sucked into a social engagement that I should have declined. Good friends, good times, but at some point the work has to be done.

At least I did get the official invitation to the backers audition mocked up in InDesign. It needs its explanatory copy and a sunflower graphic, and then I can get it printed and into the hands of the members of the Cultural Arts Commission.

So I crafted today; no art.

New York, Day 3 (Day 242/365)

Nothing is open before 10:00 in NYC, and MOMA is the only art museum on Mondays. Plus, if you have a lunch engagement at 11:45 down on 3rd Avenue, what can you really do between 10:00 and 11:00? So the coolest plan for us all, we thought, was to get up and go to the Empire State Building, which is open seven days a week and opens at 8:00 a.m. We could do that in plenty of time to walk over to the restaurant to meet Nancy Willard.

We were therefore surprised and disappointed to waken to a great NYC fog which obscured even the tops of the more lowly buildings up in Times Square. What to do?

The Honeas decided to go squeeze in MOMA, which opened at 9:30. We decided to walk back down 8th Avenue to a hattery that Ginny and Carol Lee had discovered on their way to Hell’s Kitchen yesterday, because they had… wait for it… hats. And they did: bowlers, homburgs, porkpies, knit caps, mukluks, Stetsons, even boaters, for pete’s sake.

We were there because Grayson, having worn a bowler in Beauty & the Beast last year, had expressed an interest in owning one. We had called him yesterday to get him to measure his head, and not only had he done so, he had done so with astounding accuracy: 22 and 13/16 inches. A little too precise for hats, but hey, it demonstrated an enthusiasm one sometimes does not sense from the young when you’re trying to do them a favor.

We got him the black bowler (as opposed to the more pimperific purple, green, red, or baby blue), and threw in a madras patchwork driving cap. I myself picked up a nice tan straw Panama for my car rider duties in the afternoon. Of course, I don’t know how we’re getting these nicely packed boxes back home, but hey, it’s fun walking down the Avenue with your hat boxes. I would wear mine here, but it’s really not warm enough yet.

Soon it was time to hop the train to our lunch date.

This was the most exciting part of our entire trip: we were going to meet Nancy Willard. Heck, forget everyone else. I was going to meet Nancy Willard. One of the world’s most gifted children’s authors has allowed me to use her work as the basis of my piece, and I get to meet her in person.

We arrived at Docks, seafood restaurant corner of 41st and 3rd, right after they opened at 11:30. We were shown our table, a nice large round one in a corner by the front window. We had just divested ourselves of coats and stuff when I saw Nancy and her husband Eric coming down 41st and getting ready to cross the street. It was a thrill to look out the window and recognize her.

Nancy Willard is a total delight. Everything I thought I knew about her from the video, from her poetry, from my correspondence, is more than true. Conversation was far-ranging and fun. I even got her to acknowledge that we did have business to discuss at some point, although that’s all we got, an acknowledgment. I told her I’d mail her (and her agent) some contracts, and in her case, the Grippo book she’d need to understand them.

We talked about the creative process a lot. She was surprised to find that I am completely untrained as a composer, although I’m sure I’ve confessed that at some point. Both she and I work out of order, and both of us have been known to write the equivalent of “abortive attempts” at the top of a blank page, to forestall the perfection demons.

Many of her “creatures” and the Inn itself are now at Ann Arbor, at the University’s Rare Books Collection, which amuses Nancy. She and Erik both thought that they would be more than willing to arrange a loan for an exhibit for the premiere. Cool!

(Not to cheat Eric out of his due: he was as charming as she, and it is easy to see why they are a match.)

When it was finally time to go, we presented her with our gifts: Carol Lee had brought a sunflower to give her, and she was of course delighted with that. Ginny and I had Coweta County books to share: Herb Bridges’ postcards book, and of course A Taste of Georgia.

Carol Lee presents Nancy Willard with a sunflower

She in turn had brought me a copy of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, which she had covered in a nice music score fabric, and The Ballad of Biddy Early, illustrated by the same artist (Barry Moser), and a collection of poetry that is denser than William Blake’s Inn.

Finally, I pulled out my copies of William Blake’s Inn and asked if she would autograph them. Ah, she said, she would have to take them with her. That kind of thing couldn’t be done on the spot. She would have to paint something. Oh. My. God.

Oh, and she said, she thought Alice Provensen was at home; she’d get her to sign it as well. OH. MY. GOD. Alice (and her late husband Martin) not only illustrated William Blake’s Inn, they also illustrated my favorite book as a child, The Color Kittens. Oh. My. God. Those of you who know me know that I am not easily rattled, shocked, or impressed. But Oh. My. God.

Well, what can top this? Nothing. We could go home right now and this would be the greatest trip ever. Nancy Willard and Dale Lyles

But not until Ginny had her hair appointment at Nick “What Not To Wear” Arrojo Studios in Chelsea. Off we went, finally switching from subway to cab to make sure we got there in time.

I had no such appointment, and of course galleries are closed on Mondays, so I asked if there were a spa in the neighborhood which offered massages. There was, so I walked over and got a massage. Not the best I’ve had, at all, but a massage is always relaxing. Ginny was waiting for me when I got out, and we hurried back to the hotel to change for dinner.

We were meeting our friend Robyn Ice and her husband at the Algonquin. Yes, Round Table, and all that. I thought we were meeting for drinks at 5:30, but Robyn and Donnie didn’t show up until 6:30, which was absolutely fine. We had our drinks in the lobby with Mathilda the Algonquin cat and just relaxed for a while.

Robyn is our friend from the old days at UGA, we had reconnected back in February out in L.A. and had agreed to get together on this trip. She started as a puppeteer at the Center for Puppetry Arts, but left to become a lawyer after a couple of years. She worked for Alston & Byrd in Atlanta and then in New York, but now is with a different firm. Last year, she married Donnie Kisselbach, bassist with The Turtles, and he’s a really neat guy. We had a lovely dinner and great conversation.

They live in Connecticut, so we let them go early, and we walked down Fifth Avenue to the Apple Store. {cue: hosannas}

Dale at the Apple Store

This was a pilgrimage, pure and simple, because there is not a thing I need. I played with the Apple TV display, but it’s not something I want at this time. If I were actually exercising, I would want a new Shuffle, but I know myself well enough to know that buying one as a bribe to start working out is a false hope. My promise to myself is that if I actually exercise for a week, I’ll reward myself with a Shuffle.

We caught a cab back to the hotel and hit the sack. What an incredible day!

New York, Day 2 (Day 241/365)

The shower is pretty weak. But we persevere.

Ginny is off to the flea market in Hell’s Kitchen. I’m off to find coffee downstairs, see if the wireless signal is stronger in the lobby, and wait for Barbara Petzen to call.

Barb Petzen was a student of mine way back in the 1980s. She hooked up with NCTC, and I taught her both AP Art History and AP English. She was probably the most brilliant student I’ve ever had. She was State STAR Student in 1983, and I was her STAR Teacher.

She went on to Columbia, then became a Rhodes Scholar, ending up at Harvard for her doctoral studies (women in the late Ottoman Empire). She married the online editor of the Christian Science Monitor, I was her matron of honor, and now she and Tom live in Boston with their four beautiful children.

So I really haven’t seen Barb since, what, her wedding? And she hasn’t changed a bit. Still the wonderful, funny, supersmart woman that we knew and loved since high school. We caught up on her insane siblings, were saddened to hear of her mother’s death last fall (also Barbara, aka Bobbie, and a fabulous broad), and figured out exactly what it is she does. (She’s newly hired to an educational outreach position of an Islamic studies group in DC; Tom is now in charge of blogs for NPR.)

And here’s Barb:

Barb and us

We all headed off to the Museum of Modern Art. MOMA has built a new wing since we were there last, and it’s a beaut. Of course, it’s the collection that counts, and it’s like walking through your art history textbook to tour the museum.

So many beautiful works, so many glorious successive approximations. I hesitated to take photos, well, because I have all these works in books one way or the other. But there was one: “Broadway Boogie-Woogie” by Piet Mondrian. I use this painting in my information skills training for the third grade. One of the teams is challenged to answer the question, “What does the painting “Broadway Boogie-Woogie” by Piet Mondrian look like?”

And so:

Dale and the Mondrian

We sent Barb off to catch her bus back to Boston, then we walked back to the hotel, scouting restaurants along the way. We stopped for a quick restorative at Louis’ Café on 53rd, then had time for a quick rest before heading out for supper. We ended up at Thalia, a nice André’s style restaurant on 8th Avenue. Good food, great décor.

Spring Awakening was right around the corner at the O’Neill Theatre, one of those wonderful older theatres in which all the seats are great. The set is bare brick, plastered with frames and ladders and lights and photos. Very pomo.

I liked the show, a fact which is fairly bizarre, since the score is totally alternative rock. But the harmonies are very interesting, very complex, and the orchestration is unexpected, with a string quartet in addition to the guitars and basses.

I was also sucked in by the teen-angst theme, which is also unexpected. I empathized for those poor children, and yes, they’re ridiculous, but we forget at our peril that it’s not ridiculous for them.

The main thing that we all find to admire is the staging. Very stripped down, direct to audience, great use of rock concert energy and movement. This is where the disjoint between the 19th century costumes and 21st century attitudes works best for me: the gracefulness and innocence of what the children are wearing contrasted with the sexual anxieties and alternative rock sounds of today make for a compelling mise-en-scene.

Even more blog (Day 239/365)

Today I really got going on the 100 Book Club blog. I tested out two browsers that are still being maintained for the old PPC Macs (iMacs and G3s), running OS 9.2, but which will display the CSS/PHP of the Drupal software correctly.

A beautiful thing, indeed, when those 10-year-old computers rise to the occasion and still outclass the 3-year-old Dells sitting next them. (The Dells are running M%&$%soft Internet Explorer, and bless their hearts, nothing about Explorer is standards-compliant.)

The kids are beginning to get sucked into the whole blog thing, although I think the overwhelming majority of them still don’t get the process. That’s OK. I have time.

Other than that, I’ve been plotting courses to and from the hotel to all the places we need to go and engraving them in my Moleskine NYC notebook. God help us if any of the subway lines are closed.

We fly out tomorrow morning. I’ll try to blog while we’re away, but who knows what the internet situation will be like.

In the meantime, go look at PuppetBuilding.com and steal some ideas.

More blog (Day 238/365)

My creativity today was again of the minimal technical kind, in digging deeper into Drupal, the open source software that runs the 100 Book Club blog. I have become increasingly less fond of it, because it’s clunky, especially on the older browsers we’re having to use.

However, I am nothing if not a perseverer, so I went back to the book that our IT guy Mike sent me to read, and I found much to interest me over pizza at Fabiano’s. When I applied some of what I learned, the blog looked a lot better and may even work better.

I also set about trying to find browsers for our old Macs that might translate the CSS/PHP a little better. I found a couple, so I’ll try them out in the morning.

Yes, this might just work. Turn, turn, kick, turn!

Sun & Moon Circus (Day 237/365)

I revisited the music for Sun & Moon Circus tonight. Now you would think that I had fixed everything there was to fix with that, but no. There was the passage where the Child rings the bell above his head so loud he thought he’d wake the dead, only it was still just the English horn over pizzicato celli. Not very loud at all.

I played with several options, first adding a French horn at “‘Rabbit,’ I called, ‘come here.'” Very nice. Then I tried doubling the English horn in the first part of the phrase with the French horn, but it was too much. I doubled the celli with the horn. Icky.

Finally I doubled the celli with the violins in the second octave. Not too shrill, and just enough to make us notice that it’s “louder.” And then the French horn comes in at the end of the phrase, leading us into the lovely “No need to cry and quake…”

So that’s done.

Mostly tonight, I played with my new Moleskine New York City notebook. What a fiercely wonderful thing! I’ve written in all our theatres, the hotel, the restaurants, the museums, that’s addresses, phone numbers, and subway lines/stops. I’ve marked everything on the detailed street maps. I’ve used the translucent sticky notes to draw actual routes on the maps. I’ve used the blank pages to plan our itinerary, including travel times, a deadly omission that beginners often make.

And it all fits in my pocket. I love it.

Bits & pieces (Day 230/365)

Nothing truly creative today; just a lot of craftsmanship.

Continued blog training for the kids at school. I am increasingly un-fond of Drupal, the software we’re using to run this multi-blog site.

I’ve begun shooting a video for the kindergarten department, showing how a kindergartener would go about taking an Accelerated Reader™ quiz. The kid we’re using is quite the natural, generally getting it in one take. He was a bit stiff in his first shot, struggling to remember his lines. I explained that instead of trying to remember the words, remember what he wanted: “I need an AR™ book. Can you help me find one?” His very next reading was dead-on. He’s already talking the lingo: shots, angles, and today, after I shot three scenes with him wearing different clothes from yesterday (doh!), continuity.

I’ve updated the Unexpurgated Guide to GHP, and the GHP Wiki for Newbies.

I even pulled up the script to A Christmas Carol, I was amazed that InDesign CS2 could even open a PageMaker file that old, updated the fonts and layout, exported to PDF, and sent it off to Mike Funt, who for some reason wants me to spend my time modernizing all my archives (Green Eggs & Ham, anyone?) and sending them to him for his archives. But then he’s always been a selfish bastard.

Now I’m off to peruse my two new books on theatre business, both by Charles Grippo. Very clearly explained, and very scary. I did not know before, but now I do, that there is a contract for actors who have to do nude scenes.