"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dickens Diary 4....Being Uriah Heep

It's getting close to Dickens Festival time, just two days I guess, and I'm finding myself nervous. I'm not worried about anything to do with the Fezziwig's Ball part, though it's much more important to many more people. We had another vocal rehearsal Sunday and I left more confused than I arrived, but that doesn't bother me. These are a very talented group of people and it'll come together and sound good once we get there and moving along. For my part, I feel fine singing along with the group now and there are plenty of people there who DO know what they are doing so I don't feel any personal pressure. The dance part will be great, I'm certain. This isn't a recital, either vocal or dance, it's an attempt to portray a workplace Christmas party in Victorian times. We aren't supposed to look like professional dancers or even Victorian-era socialites who dance every weekend.  We are Mr. Fezziwig's employees and employees' families. We are bookkeepers and salesman and stay at home moms and bratty little kids. We are people who may at most do this kind of dance maybe once a year, at Old Man Fezziwig's party. We are out for the night having fun with our friends and blowing off a little steam. We've all probably had a little too much punch, even the kids. So if we miss steps or turn the wrong way in the dance, it isn't a bad thing, it's part of the show. The songs are more important to get right because they are going to lead to a judgement of Brunswick Little Theatre in the eyes of many visitors (oops, "dance guests"), but I'm not worried. We'll sound fine. And our last song is Oom Pah Pah (watch a video here so you can learn the chorus before you come, it's easy) and will certainly be a crowd pleaser and have everyone leaving singing. I am sure of that one. The logistics of putting this thing together have been frustrating and the rules of the game have been annoyingly fluid, but it's nothing we can't deal with and have a show that works and everyone enjoys. No worries from me about Fezziwig's Ball.

Uriah from the movie I watched. Yep, cheated :)
Love this guy's expression. I need to practice a good sneer
I am finding myself getting very nervous about portraying Uriah Heep as a wandering character actor. I've said I love a costume and they tend to lend me confidence; I've said it'll be like a murder mystery party; I've said I'm anxious to open new doors and try my hand at something new. All these things are true, but they only go so far towards allaying my fear of leaving my comfort zone. They call it a comfort zone for a reason; outside of it may be rewarding in the end, but it's by definition uncomfortable getting there. From what I understand the other actors are actually practicing actors, even if amateur. The guy playing  Marley's ghost turned in a performance as Uncle Henry in Wizard of Oz last summer that was simply fabulous. Even the children will largely have done this sort of thing before, I think. I get that this isn't a contest, but I don't want to embarrass myself in comparison to these other people.

I won't have nearly as much red hair as this Uriah, if I go that route :)
I don't know how you learn how to act. I know there are acting classes, and lots of them, but I haven't a clue what might go on there. I'm thinking it's pretty much pretending to be someone else well enough that what's in your own imagination transfers to the audience. Costuming is a tool to help with that, and I guess a really important one for the amateur like me. I'm fortunate to have a really good looking outfit, complete with top hat (I love hats). I just bought black shoes and socks today, so I think I'm complete. I learned how to tie the neck cloth correctly, too. It's funny, but this costume has been torturing me. I'm having a hard time knowing it's in the closet and not wearing it around. I'm weird that way, but rest assured since I got the shoes and the whole ensemble is together now, I'll be putting it on tonight. I am seriously thinking I'm going to try to dye my hair red as well. Uriah has red hair as a sort of trademark. I don't have the complexion for red hair, too dark, but Uriah is supposed to be ugly, so maybe that will work in my favor. I'm also going to sport a fine set of mutton chops. I've been growing a beard for a month now and it's satisfyingly thick, so I'm thinking the chops will be a nice addition. Funny thing, today, after a month, was only the second time a person (other than Lisa) mentioned my new beard to me. I wasn't expecting compliments, I don't get those on my looks, but I was sort of expecting at least some ribbing about it from friends and co-workers. Nuthin'. Odd, that.

I think that this being Victorian England, I should have some sort of accent. The problem with that is I fear an accent done horribly bad may be worse than none at all. On the other hand, Dick Van Dyke's in Mary Poppins is hilariously bad and it works just fine. This is one area where my inexperience will show. I think "doing" accents just takes practice. I've been listening to podcasts of the BBC RadioOne morning show and hoping that an accent will sort of accrue to me through some sort of audio osmosis. Hey, stranger things have happened. Worst comes to worst, I just drop all my H's :)

It would help to pretend believably to be someone else if you understand who that person is. There's a term for trying to "be" another person when you act, but I don't remember it. This will be an exercise in improvisation, I'm thinking, more than anything else. The "script" I have isn't so much lines to memorize as a rough outline of what makes Uriah tick written in the first person. I think I understand Uriah. He's a caricature, which makes things easier. Uriah, to me, is the Victorian equivalent of the Occupy Wall Street crowd in modern times. He had a rough time growing up and so he feels perfectly entitled to the fruits of other people's labor. He doesn't see what he does by way of embezzling or blackmail as morally wrong because he is simply taking what should be his in what he deems "fairness." His chosen weapon to help steal his way to what is his rightful station is insincere humility backed by extreme nastiness when he is confronted. He is created to be over the top with his humility and over the top with his venom when backed into a corner. He hates those better off than himself and really resents David Copperfield for becoming what he wishes to be and doing it within the rules of society and morality. I don't think you can over-act either his insincerity or his hate, which makes things easy on me. I'm not ready to act subtlety. Hell, I can't handle that  in real life.

So wish me luck in this new adventure. Give me the benefit of the doubt and a little extra help from your own imagination if you run across me this weekend. I'm hoping last night was the last anxiety dream I have about this, but I'm not counting on it ;)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dickens Diary 3....Great Expectations

I've never had them.

Ta Da. This stupid thing has caused untold confustication :(
Have I had high hopes? Yes. Dreams? Surely. I dream and hope and fantasize and wish as much or more than anyone I know, but expectations are a different matter. That's not to say I'm a slacker. I feel I've had a pretty good idea of what I'm capable of and have done very well with my skill set. I knew very well I could move here from PA and set up a life. I had Lisa with me and she makes me feel very confident. I knew we could have a forever marriage and raise a family. We're a great team and we both had very good role models in that regard. I took a job based 100% on commission because I've always known I will do what I have to do to bring home a paycheck. The big things I know I have under control and I am narcissistic enough to rarely ever doubt that I always will. Maybe it's because I'm so fortunate in the things that matter most that I don't expect much "icing on the cake."

 Great Expectations can lead to disappointments. One thing I'm NOT good at is sports. I tried a lot of them growing up with no success. My Little League baseball team never won a game, may not have scored, and the coach made fun of the way I ran. Our soccer team lost all of its games and I do remember we did score one goal in one game. I remember because I didn't even know it had happened until I asked what all the excitement was about. I tried basketball thinking my height would be an asset, but again, we never won a game and I sat on the bench most all the time. Not surprisingly, I was pretty much the last picked in gym class or the playground. It didn't really bother me, I'd just learned not to expect any different. I didn't expect my team to win, or score. I didn't expect to make any sort of contribution. Sports just wasn't my thing. I did still know what I COULD do, though, I was perfectly comfortable in the water. I was a fully certified SCUBA diver before I was old enough the drive.

The arts were another area I never developed any expectations of success. We had a downright evil art teacher in the latter part of elementary school that made sure I knew I had zero talent in that area. But it wasn't a disappointment because I had no expectations there. From the earliest days I was no good with the visual arts thing. My friends didn't want me using their coloring books because I scribbled. I couldn't stay in the lines with my crayon like the other kids, so I didn't even try. Playdough was for making snakes. Period. And I hate snakes. I was in the church children's choir but in the back and off to the side where I couldn't do any damage. I even joined the bell choir, but ended up being entrusted with only one bell and even then the director had to pause in her conducting and point at me when she wanted me to bong the thing; I was lost.  I took up the trombone in 4th grade after the band guy came in and gave an assembly showing us all the different instruments we could learn. I had meant trumpet, but wrote trombone. Whatever, I didn't expect to be able to do it, so what difference did it make? I was in a small class with two of us, me and Doug Miller. Doug was a musical prodigy. I struggled for about four months trying to learn three notes and then gave up. I eventually took a photography class in high school and that's been my "artistic" outlet ever since. Recently I've started mucking about with Photoshop and fooling myself that THAT is "art."

I don't mean to be complaining here, I have been perfectly happy living within what I know I can do and do well. Controlling expectations leads to minimizing disappointment, right? I don't get jealous of the people who can hit a baseball at the picnic (I struck out at wiffleball at a work picnic once), or sing or dance or play golf once in a blue moon and still score less than 120. I enjoy them for what they are and remain happy with what I am, in my comfort zone. That is until this year.

Munchkin Houses :)
I've written before about how our involvement with the Brunswick Little Theatre has opened new doors for our whole family. For the first time ever I am participating in "the arts." It's not a new thing for the rest of my family, Lisa sings in the church choir and John plays trombone (how fitting, huh?) in the school band, but it's new to me and definitely moving away from my comfort zone.  Whether it was on purpose or not I'll never know, but Jen couldn't have drawn me out more expertly. She played to what I knew I could do with the stage manager job. She was very vague about her expectations at the start and let me grow and learn my way into the role. It worked. On opening night she gave her director's pep talk and announced she was turning it over to her stage managers. She sat in the audience during shows, watching her creation in the hands of others. I was one of three stage managers, the other two much more experienced than myself. On that opening night, after Jen had taken her place out in the house, one of the other stage managers came to me and asked if Jen really wasn't going to be back stage, was this show REALLY all up to us now? She was terrified by the idea, and she has a degree in Theatre Arts and has stage managed many, many shows. And there I was, totally new and inexperienced, waiting to see a curtain open from the stage side of things for the first time in my whole life, and I was well within my comfort zone. That comfort zone had actually grown. I had grown. I had broken rules I had for myself for years and years. It's a small thing, a very small thing, but I had painted two of the three munchkin house roofs. Mrs. Dunleavey, the art teacher witch at North Wales Elementary, would have had a coronary. I had learned how to paint a set piece, not like a pro for sure, but well enough to be proud of, I think, because Jen's expectations are greater than mine. The houses started out as a part of our parade float. Jen wasn't at all happy with them. I thought they were fine, not because I'd helped paint them and was happy with my work, but because I figured it was an amateur production, it was a set for a scene full of little kids and I was as usual willing to settle for what was easy and quick and already done. Jen wasn't. She said we re-paint the Munchkin houses because they didn't look as they should. I took a deep breath, shut my mouth and tried again with the thatch roofs. Jen watched and corrected and watched and judged and set me to it again. She taught me like no one in my life had done before. She could have done it herself a thousand times better and much faster, but she didn't. She asked, well demanded, that I begin to learn how to use three colors of paint on plywood to make an audience see a thatched roof. It was the closest thing to "real art" I've ever done, and I am proud of it because it was finally good enough. It could have been better, but because Jen has real expectations, good enough is a compliment. There's a real lesson for me there, if my thick skull will let it in.

Now we come to the Charles Dickens Festival. After telling Jen I was happy to be involved with the theatre, but couldn't act, sing or dance, I find myself preparing to portray Uriah Heep, dance in front of an audience and help sing showtunes from Oliver! Once again, Jen drew me out of my happy place gently. She told me the character acting wasn't that much different than the murder mystery parties we'd done a few years back. She told me the dance was more walking around and clapping then really dancing. She just bluntly told me that I was going to join in the singing. A few years ago I'd have had no part in these things, especially trying to sing in front of people, but something's changed. I'm wondering if I don't set my bar too low. I'm wondering if I'm not just lazy. I'm wondering how much of a disservice I've done to myself allowing that laziness. It's been on my mind a lot this week.

I love having people in my life who accept me as I am. I try to be that to others, to remind them that they are great just as they are. But lately I've been challenged to be more than I was. It isn't always comfortable and I fight it sometimes. I have dismissed high standards people hold for themselves and others as "perfectionism," and that was wrong. Comfort zones are for lazy people and I'm going to try to break that habit. And I promise to try to help others do the same in the future. It's a big switch for me, but I have every idea that given time and maybe a few reminders I can maybe bring others the gift Great Expectations.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday.....Mickey Mouse

I'll keep it wordless in case my favorite blog/Facebook policewoman is watching ;)

Today's subject is Mickey Mouse, in honor of his birthday this week. Be sure to check out the other Mickey pics at Focused on the Magic's Wordless Wednesday page.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Our Sad Attempt To Find Hidden Mickeys

We aren't the best Hidden Mickey hunters in the world. We love the idea, love that the Imagineers stuck little hidden tributes to Mickey Mouse all over the parks and resorts. We got the Hidden Mickey Field Guide for our friends last Christmas and I had a hard time not reading the whole thing myself before I gave it to them. They were heading to Disney World early this year and I thought they might have fun looking for Hidden Mickeys together. When they got they got back, Jen reported that they hadn't really looked much at all, everything just sort of got in the way and they really didn't have the chance. I got my own copy of the field guide and was sure we would use it; we were only three, we weren't chasing a two-year-old, and we could do this! Why not? Wrong-o. Just like Jen and family, we brought the book along, but always forgot to pack it into the parks. Sometimes I'd read up on the places we were headed and try to remember where the Mickeys were, but I usually forgot to even look in all the excitement of whatever we were doing.

I'm not too disappointed, it's one more thing to try to concentrate on  more next time. We did find a few, though, on this trip. I got pictures of most of them, and here they are. It won't take long to see them all :)

This is by far my favorite. This wasn't in the guide book, we just stumbled upon him in Rafiki's Planet Watch's petting zoo. It kind of made up for there not being any llamas. Almost.
This was probably in the book, but we hadn't checked it this day. This is pretty obvious, but we still felt proud of ourselves for spotting it, and the next one, in The Living Seas aquarium in Epcot. I waited for a shark to swim by because as we all know, sharks make photos better.
The other Living Seas aquarium Mickey. Without the shark. See, it's not as cool.
This one was done "by the book." I knew we'd ride the Rockin' Roller Coaster this day and checked the guide and remembered where the Mickey was. We waited for everyone to clear out so we could get a good look and there he was!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wordless Wednesday--Disney Letter "G"

Today's Wordless Wednesday is all about the letter "G". I'll not label my pictures in the interest of "Wordlessness", but they're all "G" pics. Somehow ;)

Check out all the other submissions on Focused on the Magic's Wordless Wednesday page.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Oh, The Places You'll Go

The Oak Island Geohound
We Stiteses are wanderers, goers, doers, seekers. One hobby we indulge in that plays to all those traits is Geocaching. If you've never heard of it, geocaching involves hiding and seeking containers of various sizes all over the world using a GPS enabled device and the geocaching.com web site. There is a great video right here explaining it all, if you are interested.

Geocaching has given us an excuse to wander more times than I can count, and when we are in new places, we always check for caches and often end up finding spots we would never have seen otherwise. I can go on and on about the joys and rewards of seeking tupperwares in the woods, but today I wanted to talk about my Geohound, who has been places I've never been even close to. Yet.

Not only do we geocachers travel from cache to cache ourselves, we also send proxies out to travel the world, called travel bugs. Soon after I found the hobby of geocaching, I ordered my first travel bug dog tag, that's the metal tag you see on the chain in the above picture. The tag has a number unique to itself that is used to track the item, in this case a Happy Meal toy my son gave me to keep me company in my car at work, as it is discovered by geocachers and moved by them from one cache to another. Cachers log the number on the geocaching web site and the tag's movements are recorded, along with comments and often pictures, on its very own web page (the Oak Island Geohound can be found here, complete with a map of his travels). Trackable items often disappear and get lost, it's just the nature of the game, but I really lucked out with the Geohound. I set him into the world on May 29, 2007 and he is still active and traveling today. I got an update on him just this morning, in fact, from Germany.

Skijorring outside Fairbanks
The Geohound was charmed from the start. His first trip was a long one, from Oak Island, North Carolina to Fairbanks, Alaska. He spent some time skijorring, which I had never heard of. Apparently, skijorring involves putting cross country skis on and tying yourself to a few sled dogs. It's like dog sledding without the sled. I can't wait to try it next time we get enough snow. Or not.

He went with the cacher who found him to St. Paul and then back to Alaska before being picked up and moved to Maine, where he traveled a bit before once again going cross-country and ending up in Washington State. He seemed to be having a fine time. He moved back and forth between Washington and Oregon for a bit then headed south for California. I started getting a few pictures from the beautiful Los Padres National Forest and watching him tour all over the greater Los Angeles area.
The North Fork in Los Padres NF

The Smallest Post Office in Wheeler, CA

This morning, I got word that my little Geohound had left the bounds of the good old US of A and landed himself in Germany, Niedersachsen, Germany to be exact. It's near Hannover. I think I have some extedned, in-law-type family there. 

In 5 1/2 years, this little stuffed dog has traveled 23,600 miles. I'm frankly shocked a Happy Meal toy has held up for that long. Following his travels, we've learned new things and been put in contact with new people from all over the country and now the world. I've checked out the places he's visited and added to my own "bucket list." Now I'm using Google translator to read the logs. As an educational experience, this really can't be beat. As a bit of arm chair globe-trotting, it is perfect. Even when we're sitting still, there's no reason to stay at home after all.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Dickens Diary 2....Fancy Dress

I sometimes listen to a pop station from England on Sirius, BBC RadioOne. I love to hear the differences between England English and American English, and one of them struck me as perfect for today's Dickens Diary. In England, apparently, putting on a costume for a party, such as at Halloween, is called getting into "fancy dress." I imagine this could cause all sorts of confusion, as in the newcomer from London asking if he should wear "fancy dress" to an American party and showing up to a formal decked out in full zombie glory. That's something that could very well happen to me.

Yesterday was Fancy Dress Day at our Fezziwig's Ball rehearsal, in both the American and English senses of the term. Jen brought piles of costumes from the Brunswick Little Theatre stockpile (as an aside, I REALLY want to tag along on one of Jen's trips to the BLT storage units. It sounds like an awesome place), and everyone sort of shopped around until they found something they liked that fit reasonably well. It was loud and chaotic and lots of fun. And we look GOOOOOOOOD!!!!!!!

Lisa told me I had to smile. Uriah wouldn't smile like that
I love dressing up in costume and always have. I guess maybe it's the Halloween birthday thing manifesting. I've been very shy for most of my life, and even now am much more shy than most people realize. I don't enjoy large groups of people I don't know where I'm expected to socialize. But put me in a costume, and it's a whole different story, always has been. I'll say anything to anyone with no problem, because it isn't me doing it, so there's no pressure. If I screw it up, so what, it's someone else who gets the blame or the shame or whatever. That may not be actually the way it really is, I mean who doesn't know who it is under the costume, but in my head it works. I am confident when I'm pretending to be someone else. A psychologist could have a field day with that one.

I was really excited to see my outfit which will serve both for the ball and Uriah Heep. Jen told me she picked something out that was........."special" I think she finally came up with. It's an undertaker's costume from who knows what show, I forgot to ask. It has a jacket with ridiculously long tails and a white button- down shirt and a vest and a neck cloth (which I need to learn how to tie) and I found a huge top hat to top it off. I'm very pleased. I look good. Really good. In a serpentine, undulating, loathsome sort of way. Perfect.

Everyone else pretty much found something they liked. It was fun helping. One friend, Carolyn, just HAD to have a cape she saw hanging from a rack near the ceiling. That's where On My Toes keeps their costumes and we were welcomed to use them. I used a big stick to get it down and we found it came with a sword! Carolyn loved it even more knowing that. We found hoop skirts and pirate vests and magician capes and all manner of fantasical garments. I find I'm not the only one who likes playing dress up. The more I am around these theatre people, the more at home I feel. Even without a costume on.

For some pictures of rehearsal featuring costumes and dancing, but not at the same time, check out Pooh Stick's album