Category Archives: General

General subjects of interest.

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Well, the show went up and has had wonderful audiences and feedback. Many patrons came back to see the show who came last year. I’m sorry to say that if you’ve waited to the last minute to get your tickets, you are out of luck.  I’ve just learned that the final weekend (including the added Sunday evening performance) is sold out!

Here is a link to the article written by Holly Beretto about the bumper crop of Jane Austen inspired theater offerings this season in Houston. Check it out.

https://www.houstoniamag.com/articles/2018/11/28/mst-4th-wall-jane-austen-pride-and-pejudice-miss-bennet

 

Miss Bennet Thanksgiving!

As many of you know, I’ve been asked by Main Street Theater to remount Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley by Lauren Gunderson (our favorite playwright) and Margot Melcon. A huge success last year, we are offering this heart-warming play for the holiday season once again. With most of the same cast and the same brilliant set, we hope it will continue to thrill lovers of Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice fans, and families looking for an alternative to Dickens and The Nutcracker.

We have one new cast member that injects a new chemistry into certain scenes, and an infusion of wonderful new costumes that add to the already polished production.

If you missed the show last year because we were sold out, I would encourage you to buy your tickets early. If you saw the show and want to share it with someone, we’re thrilled to see you come back. But know that the run is slightly shorter than last year. We open tonight, the day after Thanksgiving and run Thursdays – Sundays until December 23, 2018. For ticket information call 713-524-6706 or go online to MainStreetTheater.com.

Do come join us for the fun, and have a wonderful holiday season.

Claire Hart-Palumbo

 

 

Miss Bennet Reprise

As many of you know, I directed Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon’s Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley last year at Main Street Theater.  It was an unequivocal success, despite tepid enthusiasm from the new Houston Chronicle reviewer. We sold out the run and the extension. Such was the response, and the disappointment from some people who were turned away, that we are remounting it for the holiday season again this year. It opens on Friday after Thanksgiving.

I’m delighted to announce that all but one of our original cast is returning, including Chaney Moore, Brock Hatton, Laura Kaldis, Heidi Hinkel, Blake Weir, Skyler Sinclair, and Lyndsay Ehrhardt. Alas, Spencer Plachy, who played Darcy last year has been cast as Scar in the national tour of Lion King. But we are very fortunate to have Alan Brincks taking his place. The cast is rounded out by two new interns from Sam Houston State University, Lyndsay Craven and Tyler Mahler.

We have the same fabulous design team and the look and feel of the show will be as lovely as it was last year.

To learn more, and hopefully secure your tickets in advance, go to the Main Street Theater’s web link:

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
Look forward to seeing you all there.
Claire Hart-Palumbo

Mortification

The dictionary has three definitions for mortify. Interestingly, the first and most common is ‘to cause to experience shame, humiliation, or wounded pride.’ The second harkens back to the aesthetes and stoics who mortified their appetites through denial and austerity. Thirdly, and perhaps most tellingly, ‘to cause (a bodily part) to die, as by gangrene’.

Obviously, shame is more widely recognized than self-denial. But both definitions derive from the idea of ‘the little death’.

Well, I am seriously mortified, in every sense of the word at the moment.

Because I seem to always overbook myself in March and April, I invariably sit down to  the arduous task of sifting through statements, receipts, checkbooks, etc. in August and September to prepare my taxes. My accountant will take the worksheets I give him up until three weeks before the deadline. This year, I managed to push that off until the very last minute. A slight embarrassment. So I decided to be disciplined and closet myself in the guest bedroom and push through the task this last weekend. I skipped meals, but got almost all of it done. Unfortunately, I became so focused I forgot an important appointment, for an audition. Not me auditioning, but one I was holding for a replacement for one of the roles in Miss Bennett.

My cast members, the auditionees, and the Artistic Director showed up–but not me. People tried to call, but I was ignoring phones, whether deliberately or not. So Becky Udden, ever resourceful woman that she is, taped the auditions rather than waste everyone else’s time.

She finally reached me by text later when I had a late dinner cooking and I sat down to check my class email. The cell phone was charging beside my computer, and so I saw it light up and was mystified when she asked, “Are you okay?”

Bless her heart, she was probably passed annoyed and angry and had arrived at considering sending the police to my house to check on me. So I’m sure my blithe response, “Sure, why?” was not the right note to hit. Nevertheless, she seemed genuinely relieved to find me alive. She may have reconsidered that later.

Once I realized the enormity of my faux pas, I could only respond. “I am mortified.” It seems appropriate in retrospect, as one of the more archaic meanings is to self-flagelate, or quite literally to beat yourself up.

My most sincere apologies to all those involved in my missed appointment. My only excuse is seven straight hours of peering at numbers will shrivel anyone’s brain. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa!

I will review the tapes with Becky and try to come to a timely decision without further inconveniencing anyone.

Time Flies

I know it’s a cliche, but the truth of the saying ‘time flies’ seems never more evident than right now.

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m trying to impose some order in preparation for the fall semester, which starts tomorrow. I only turned in my grades for summer school last Tuesday! I spent every spare moment this week rebuilding my classes, because the beginning of school completely caught me by surprise. No, seriously. I thought it started Wednesday after Labor Day. Imagine my astonishment. But both versions of the online classes are updated and in place for a new semester.

In the past, I’ve spent the week before school organizing paperwork and closets so I could feel we were starting with a clean slate. I’m doing my best, but the boxes from the farmhouse, small pieces of furniture from various rooms, and the paperwork from my 2016 taxes are still cluttering the living room. I will just have to continue cleaning around them until some things get back to normal.

Why 2016 taxes, you ask? I always seem to be busy in April and file an extension. Then I do my tax worksheets in the heated torpor of August-September and get them to my accountant in October.

The left-over paperwork from last year is still spread out on my dining table because I haven’t been able to get to the table over the furniture and boxes from two ongoing remediation projects in my life.

Today is almost exactly the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, which wreaked havoc and mayhem in all our lives. It doesn’t seem possible that it was a year ago. But there it is. And while the damage to my house was relatively minor, my adventures with contractors were hugely intimidating. The furniture is finally back in my master bedroom and the guest room, and my bathroom is completely overhauled. But the confusion and disorganization wrought by the storm lingers in the corners of most every room of the house, and the chaos imposed on my psyche sometimes resembles PTSD.

Complicating matters, Harvey hit just as I had begun tearing down part of the Lexington farmhouse where I grew up, in order to save the rest of it. That was interrupted by my Houston repairs. The farmhouse still has a huge gaping wound plugged with plywood on one side of the structure, tarps on the roof, and piles of rubble all around. I’ve made some headway in cleaning and stacking the antique brick from the chimney. The house has been leveled, and repairs made to the damaged wood on the west side of the house, where a new set of French doors are now covered with weather sheeting until I can address new siding. Boxes of my parents accumulated treasures are part of the ongoing clutter in my living room. The house and its contents haunt my dreams and drain my bank account and still there seems to be little progress.

Time seems to trickle away in every direction. While I stayed busy with school and theatre projects this year, my two cats have increasingly begun to show their age. They sleep a great deal, but I’ve noticed that it is harder for them to jump onto the furniture recently. When Christabel started throwing up and peeing everywhere, I took her in for tests. Hundreds of dollars later, she is being treated for a urinary tract infection and I have medication to sooth her stomach. But the evidence is overwhelming that her kidneys are progressively failing and sometime soon, I will have to face the fact that the quality of her life is slipping away as well. My vet has chosen this time to retire, but assures me that when the time comes, he will come into the office to be with me and Christabel.

And through all this whirlwind, I’ve found blessed little time to write anything new. I cranked out a number of short stories the beginning of this year, and I’ve reworked two on my novels yet again, but I have yet to finish the third novel which I started for NaNoWriMo in 2016.

Increasingly, I want the freedom of retirement. But I don’t see how I can afford to quit my full-time job, even though I could work from anywhere. I have directing assignments coming up, and the short film I did in January is premiering in Austin in September. But it’s been four years since I’ve been onstage as an actor.

Moving back to Lexington to be close to my sister and brother and their families sounds increasingly more appealing. But updating the farmhouse is going to require me to sell my Houston house and put the proceeds into renovations. Where will I live and how can I continue to work remotely in the interim? These are all questions I know I must face soon. And maybe it is for the best that Christabel will not be subjected to that upheaval.

Meanwhile, I drift from project to project, semester to semester, production to production, and time disappears without my noticing or adequately preparing for it. When will moving and rebuilding become too much for me to physically face? Will I wait too long? While I hesitate, time continues to evaporate. I’m reminded of John Lennon’s lyric, “Life is what happens while we’re making other plans.”

 

Theater 2018

This past twelve months has been very exciting, theater-wise. Last fall I directed the Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon play Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. It was a great success with Main Street Theater audiences, selling out the original run and the extension.

I directed several readings, including a play by Arthur Smiley, The Lady Demands Satisfaction, for Wordsmyth and Christopher Hampton’s translation of Florian Zeller’s The Father for Luciole International Theatre. Clara Ploux is pursuing the rights for a full production in the 2018-2019 season.

For eight months I worked intermittently with Gwen Flager and Queensbury Theatre on her award winning play Girls Who Sing in the Choir, which became Shakin’ the Blue Flamingo. We began with a public reading where Gwen and I worked with a professional cast of my choosing to give voice to the characters. The feedback she received from me, the cast, and the audience was valuable in her rewrite process. Then in February of this year, we rehearsed for a week to put the play on its feet and did a ‘staged reading’ of the play with scripts in hand. We began to discover the rhythm and movement of the play. Our public reading was sold out, with people being turned away. That experience helped Gwen to hone the shape of the play and rewrite the ending. In June we went into full rehearsal and opened in July to several sold out houses. While the overall attendance did not warrant an extension, it was generally considered a great success by everyone who participated.

My involvement with Wordsmyth led me to volunteer to usher and help support the Texas Playwright’s Festival of readings by Wordsmyth at Stages. Three plays get a public reading, a brief chance for rewrites and a second reading over the course of a weekend.

Later this year, I go into rehearsal at MST for the remounting of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. The majority of my original cast have again signed on for that lovely holiday play. We get to play together once again!

Until then, I’m open to suggestions.

Claire HP

No More Shakin’ Goin’ On

Well, as is the way with all good things, the production of Shakin’ the Blue Flamingo is at an end. It was an exciting and rewarding journey. We had some sold out houses and some modest houses. While not necessarily a financial boon to Queensbury Theatre, it was a noble and groundbreaking endeavor. I think it drew audience members that would not normally have ventured outside the loop for their theater fare.

I attended the last performance and stayed after for pictures with the cast. (The one above is courtesy of Jan Johnson, our production photographer.)

There was the usual melancholy task of retrieving all the costume pieces and props that I personally  provided to the effort; then the hugs, kisses, and general thanks to each member of the cast and crew who made this a special time. And of course, adieu to our playwright Gwen Flager and her partner Ruth Ann.  But I suspect from our conversation there will be more projects in the future.

Now we each go on to the next project, closer friends, but no longer to see each other on an almost daily basis. As is the way with theater friends, we will share email announcements of current projects, see each other on Facebook and on the ‘boards’, and for a few moments after a performance, but probably not spend significant time with each other for months or even years. At some point, I will work with many of these women again and we will pick up our friendships where we left them—still dear and with the measure of trust we have earned.