"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

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pop Century Is Totally Rad

If this appeals to you, Pop Century may be a good choice
We consider ourselves "moderate people" when it comes to Disney resorts. Our favorite is Port Orleans French Quarter, but we've loved stays at Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs as well. We'll likely stick to the moderates for a week-long trip, but we were really and truly impressed with Pop Century on our recent weekend adults only, no parks Disney weekend.

A few years ago we spent one night in the All Star Movies Resort and thought it was great for a value resort. This time I wanted to try Pop Century because it looked somehow different. Better. And it certainly was. Pop isn't nice for a value resort, it's a wonderful resort in its own right. I can't quite put my finger on WHY it seemed in a different class from the All Stars, but it really did. I think maybe it was the trees. There seemed to be more and larger trees at Pop. It felt more like it was MEANT to be there. The All Stars seemed a bit like they were Disney's answer to lower cost accommodations, which of course both they and Pop and the adjacent Art of Animation are. It's just that Pop doesn't FEEL that way., It feels very Disney, very themed on purpose, very much like it is a true part of the
We were as far from the center as you could get. And that was fine :-)
magic. All Star Movies just didn't give us that.

Pop Century is big. Very big. When we received our room assignment in the 80s building way off to one side, I was a tad disappointed. On the map it's as far from the center (where the food court and bus stop are) as you can get. I figured we'd have a hike. We drove around and settled in and then walked to the bus stop and I was pleasantly surprised to find it wasn't a long walk at all. And we walked though so much cool stuff! I mean it reads like a garage sale almost. Take a right past giant Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, walk through the giant Foosball game and past the (once again giant) Big Wheel, bear right at Goofy and the Corvette Stingray and you're there! I don't know if it was the distraction of all the cool stuff to look at or what, but we never felt like the walk was long at all, even
coming back from a 1:00 am bus.
How can you NOT smile when THIS greets you on your way back to your room?

So, how about all the stuff you hope to read in a review? Ok, the room was really nice. It was Disney without being over the top. We had a queen bed (with comfy pillows) and what appeared to be a handicapped accessible room, though it wasn't labeled as such. The shower was huge with no ledge at all, it was all on a level with the rest of the bathroom. It had a bench in the shower. All very cool and comfortable and spacious. There is a refrigerator in the room which we never used, but we we thought would certainly come in handy for milk for in-room breakfast.

It's a Pop Tart breakfast sandwich. Don't judge.
Speaking of breakfast, how about those Pop Tart sandwiches? Yep, the Pop Century food court offers a breakfast sandwich made of eggs, bacon and cheeses baked in between two strawberry Pop Tarts. It's just what it sounds like, if it sounds good to you, you'll love it (I did), but if not, don't try it. The food court was fairly chaotic, even with as few people staying at the resort as was the case. I can imagine it being a nightmare during more busy times. We didn't have a bad experience at all, but we saw how it easily could have gone downhill fast. But to be fair, I've never seen a Disney resort food court to which that wouldn't apply, so.......

Actually, the fact that this place was pretty thin is an over-riding caveat to this entire review. Add a few thousand souls and the bus situation, the food courts, the pools, the walks to and from....it could
View from the 4th floor elevator lobby.
all be very different and much less pleasant. But on the mid-September weekend we visited Pop Century was just great.

For a whole bunch more photos (they are really cool) check this out :-)

Especially uncrowded in the morning before it opens.... ;-)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Disney Springs: Love What You've Done With The Place!!

Here's the new logo and all :-)
We've always loved to use Downtown Disney as a first/last stop as we come and go from Walt Disney World. On the way in it's a toe in the water. On the way out it's a sort of decompression stop. This past trip we didn't stop on the way in because we were anxious to begin the Monorail Bar tour, but on the way out we got to be some of the last visitors to Downtown Disney.

As of Wednesday, Downtown Disney officially became Disney Springs, complete with a spiffy new website. While the name and the website are new, the changes that come along with the new moniker have been in the works for a while and will continue for a few years. It's a work in progress to be sure, there are construction walls everywhere, but it is coming along nicely and the newest additions are absolutely right up this guy's alley.

First off, the practical side. I LOVE the new parking garage. Parking was always a hassle here and this was a much needed addition. The garage is easy to get into and out of and looks to be big enough for most times of the year. You exit the garage in the West Side area, right next to Splittsville, which is sort of away from the more traditional shops we enjoy more, but also very close to the water taxi, so no big deal.

Under Construction, from the water taxi
Much of the new development is happening over on the West Side. It's largely not our thing. There are a lot "name," upscale stores that hold little interest for the Stites Fam, but the design tends to draw the people attracted to these stores over to that side, so it's kind of a good thing. In a little bit of a sick way.

In the middle, between Marketplace and West Side, are The Boat House and Jock Lindsey's Hanger Bar, two new additions. If this is the direction Disney Springs is taking, sign us up. We didn't try out The Boathouse, but it looks terrific both from a menu standpoint and the outside themeing. I'm a sucker for wooden sport boats and there is quite a collection tied up to the Boathouse docks. Also, it is home base to the Amphicars. These are four-seat completely amphibious vehicles that look just like the old early 60s commercial models. They drive down the ramp into the water and back up with not even a pause while they tour passengers around the lake/lagoon/whatever that body of water is called. When we first heard of the Amphicars I assumed they'd be rentals like the water sprites. Turns out they are a chauffeured experience, which opens what I desperately hope to make my next career move  as an Amphicar driver. Man's gotta have goals, right?

These Amphicars are too cool
Then there's Jack Lindsey's Hanger Bar. This one warrants and will get its own blog post later, but for now let's just say it met and exceeded some very high expectations. The Hanger Bar is themed as the bar Jock Lindsey, Indiana Jones' favorite pilot, opened in his retirement to Central Florida. It's full, and I mean FULL, of.......stuff. You could spend hours just pouring over the posters, artifacts, trophies, books, newspaper clippings and all sorts of assorted bric-a-brac in this place. It's large enough to serve plenty of people but small enough to seem authentic. It has a big outdoor deck and also a Jungle Cruise-esque river boat hanging in dry dock that serves as seating as well. We sat on the boat (of course) and felt fully enveloped in the story. The menu is simply drinks and apps, it IS a bar and not a restaurant. That's a bit new for Disney, but in this case it works very well. The drinks we had were unique and delicious and the food was the same. I have been wracking my brain for some sort of word of criticism for the place, so I don't come off as a complete fan boy here, but I got nuthin'. Jock Lindesy's Hanger Bar is the best. Period.

Best. Bar. Ever.

It doesn't seem as if much if anything of the "old" Downtown Disney had to go to make room for the new, and Disney is doing a good job of hitting all sorts of interests and tastes in its new development. This is making Disney Springs into a destination in itself, which I'm sure was the idea. And I'm all for it. We'll be back for another no-parks trip and Disney Springs will figure huge into our plans. We can't wait to try the new Morimoto Asia restaurant that just opened a few days ago.

Always something new........

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Just Us, No Parks, No Schedule 20th Anniversary 2015 Disney World Trip

This trip was just for us. For my sweety and me. Go ahead, gag, It's ok. She's my sweety though and I'm happy to say so. After 20 years of marriage, we are still very much in love, still enjoy each other's company over others', still giggle over stupid stuff, still love simply being around each other. And where better to be around each other than Walt Disney World?
Spoiler Alert! I got my mug

We even enjoy the car ride. It's a chance to talk :-)
This trip came about in classic Lisa and Jeffrey fashion. I was seeing photos from the newly opened Trader Sam's Grog Grotto and they included a souvenir mug shaped like the Nautilus. I HAD TO have one. We had some friends heading down to Disney World in November so I asked them to try to pick one up for me. But when I told Lisa, she was all like, "Hey, why don't WE go down for our anniversary and get one for you?" The boy told us since it was our anniversary trip, we should go without him. And so the Just Us, No Parks, No Schedule Disney Anniversary Weekend 2015 was born.

We always leave the driving to Disney
Lisa and I grew up in Pennsylvania, so the novelty of being able to leave home at breakfast time and eat dinner in Disney World has never worn off. And probably it won't ever, to be honest. We packed up, took the boy to the bus stop (it was raining) and left the island by 7:00. After a new-GPS-inspired detour to the Kissimmee DMV office, we found Pop Century Resort and were walking in the front doors by about 5:00. We had a plan to do the monorail bar tour Friday night, bum around the pool Saturday morning then hit the brand spanking new Jack Lindsey's Hanger Bar for lunch and cocktails, then have a look around Wilderness Lodge before our 7:30 Artist's Point ADRs and hopefully catching the electrical water pageant from the Wilderness Lodge beach. That was the extent of our plans. They included no parks and only one dining reservation, and that only because we wanted to make sure of a table at a nice place for a sort of anniversary celebration dinner. And this all
worked out PERFECTLY!

Having the window seat meant Lisa was on photo duty
We're on a boat!!!!!!
In the coming days and weeks I'll be blogging about all the different aspects of our trip. For now the short version is this--we completed the monorail bar tour including drinking with a retired Imagineer and experiencing Trader Sam's complete with Nautilus mug, we chilled at the pool reading books, we explored the new Hanger Bar, we loved Wilderness Lodge and Artist Point, we saw both the fireworks and water parade from the beach, and we got some very relaxed shopping time in at Downtown Disney before leaving in time to arrive home by 10:00 pm Sunday night.

We spent about 20 hours driving and pretty much exactly 46 on Disney property. There are those who
Jock Lindsey's Hanger Bar is PERFECT
would think that nuts. But for us it was a dream. We relaxed and unwound after a crazy summer, we enjoyed each other's company talking and laughing our way from doorstep to doorstep, we took a ton of photos, we people watched, we ate and drank without worrying about a DD, we rode the monorail and several different boats, we tried out a new resort and quite a few new bars and restaurants. We simply had a ball doing what WE wanted to do when we wanted to do it.....together.

People can decide to celebrate a big milestone anniversary many ways.

We chose wisely.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Stiteses In The Swamp, Part 3: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

That was my mantra for this show. From being asked to participate as an actor/singer/dancer on top of stage managing to losing our tech director to heart troubles during tech week, from watching the list of costumes grow to seeing the size of our set pieces. At every turn, there seemed to be another.....challenge. And go wrong things did. But that's live theatre, ya know? That's what makes this fun and challenging and interesting and worthwhile. The show was great. The audience loved it, every night. The cast had a ball. The crew had fun. All the newbies want to do it again. The actors new to BLT are anxious to be or already are back involved in other shows with us. The whole sha-bang is something for everyone involved to be very proud of. But holy cow was it a wild ride!

I'll be the first to admit I bit off more than I could chew. I said it before in my blog about Lisa and I'll say it again---without her I'd have not survived this with my sanity intact, and the show would not have been nearly as good. She was a port in the storm, and not just for me either. Director Cal pulled her right into his circle and kept her close during rehearsals and after. She was a Godsend. But there were things she couldn't help with. Like the singing and dancing.

I'm not sure I can express this correctly, so I'll start with the simplest statement: I had no idea how HARD performing musical theatre was. I don't want to give the impression I thought it was easy by any means. It was just one of those things I knew I'd never do so I was just content to really admire those I saw doing it and that was that. Until I tried to learn to sing and dance at the same time. It doesn't help that I have no experience or talent in either one. But even so, I was completely blown away by how difficult it is to make one's brain do two things at once. It requires concentration like I've not needed in I don't know how long. I just don't challenge myself that way, which is sad, I guess.

The concentration thing got me. I could "get it" if I was thinking about what I was doing and only what I was doing. My friend Adrian told me in the very beginning that would be the case, at least it was for him. It was what he enjoyed about the exercise; it was a way for him to force himself not to think about his law practice. Everything he said turned out to be true. It was an escape. Rehearsals were so far from what turned out to be a really stressful summer at work that I grew to really look forward to them. Work troubles completely faded away while I tried to remember which foot was supposed to be stepping forward first. It was great.

My problem, and the reason I think I bit off too much, was that I couldn't do the same thing with show concerns. I couldn't force them from my mind during rehearsals....or shows. I guess it's because the two were too close. It's easy to forget routing of a delivery truck when you're in a kick line, but less so to not wonder if the kid a few people down will return to rehearsals in time to learn the choreography. I was too involved in things outside of performance to get the full enjoyment out of singing and dancing away. Cal called me his producer, which I don't like as it connotes some financial oversight, and I neither had nor wanted any of that. But he did include me in about all the decisions during production, from casting to staging to sets and costumes and tech. I love all that stuff, but I wish now I'd have either done that or performed, not both.

I'm sure there are those who could do it all, but I kept getting "Squirrel-ed!!". Even during shows. I remember during our closing number one night, a really fun combo of a bunch of 60s dances, I turned around (as we were supposed to) and happened to see a backdrop that had been giving us trouble and thinking to myself "Hmmmm, now why is that thing getting caught on the way down?". Then totally forgetting what I was supposed to be doing. That happened a lot. I'd be bopping along all fine and dandy then my stupid brain would step in and wonder why the costume chick was walking by ranting just before we went on stage. Or try to look to see if the stagehands needed for the next set change were at the ready (one tended to wander off). Or try to count heads in the audience and do some math to see if ticket sales would pay for this extravaganza. I just could not FOCUS sometimes.

Now, sometimes I could and did and those were the most fun parts of the show for me. When I could just play my little part and know I was doing it right and that it fit in with everyone else and together we were making magic for the audience, that was magic for ME. I just wish, both for my sake and the show's, that I could have done that all the time.

But all in all, Shrek was my favorite theatre experience so far. Having my family so deeply involved in production, having them as fellow parts of a wonderful creative team, made this one truly special. And as exhausted as I felt, and kind of still feel, with the show over, I'm jumping in again. Already. Cal has a plan and I'm back riding shotgun and bringing the family along.

Stay tuned :-)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Stiteses In The Swamp Pt. 2: Full Moon Friday

Lisa was my life-saver during the entire production of this show. I tend to over-promise myself and set a new record for that this time. Lisa was like a little Guardian Angel floating around and taking care of everything I wasn't. I told Director Cal that sure, I'd find someone to do props. That "someone" turned out to be Lisa, who stepped into completely new territory and rocked it. And then there's the publicity. Lisa took it upon herself to get Shrek in the local newspapers, and I don't think any BLT show has been represented better in the press, a big factor in the over 1500 people we had turn out to see the show. One article she wrote, a huge piece in Southport Magazine, is truly not only the best article about a show we've ever had but also a spectacular representation of what ALL community theatres do in putting together a major production. Whatever needed to be done, Lisa was right there either helping do it or totally taking it upon herself. I couldn't have survived without her.

But the el numero uno, very biggest, thank the Lord above for Lisa factor in this show was her debut as a stage manager. I signed on as stage manager for this show early on, then got talked into actually taking a small on stage role as well. I had no idea how much work a small role would be, the dancing and singing was way out of my comfort zone and the work involved in learning to do even that small amount of choreography blew me away. I agreed to the on stage stuff knowing I couldn't stage manage by myself if I was going to be otherwise occupied. Lisa had already agreed to help me stage manage Shrek, but my acting debut would place a whole lot more on her shoulders. On top of the props, she knew she'd be busy, but leapt right into the role with both feet. And she rocked it.

Stage management is a huge job. I'm still learning myself and this show taught me its share of lessons. Lisa soaked it up like a sponge, organizing a crew to execute set changes as well as anyone could have. That's a pretty big deal for someone learning on the job. I could go on and on about all she learned and all she did over a week of tech rehearsals and two weekends of performances, but this particular show offers up one night that pretty much encapsulates everything. It was the Friday of our second weekend, the night of a full moon. I'm not usually superstitious about such things, but may be changing my mind after this one.

Much of stage management involves dealing with "Backstage Drama." Everyone says "leave the drama on stage," but it never happens. It couldn't, really, given you are looking at dozens of naturally dramatic people attempting the near impossible over and over again. Drama happens, and takes one of two forms. The first is caused by, to put it simply, things breaking. Equipment breaks. Electronics fail. Sets break. Costumes fall apart. People are injured. You can count on ALL of those things happening on every show. Some of these things rise to the level of actual emergency. The second, which you can also count on every show, is drama created by people being, well, dramatic about things. Everyone is under a lot of pressure and sometimes what would be nothing in real life makes otherwise sane people lose their minds during a show. Though it can't be ignored, this kind of drama is almost never an emergency and can't be allowed to distract when one crops up. Our Full Moon Friday offers a great comparison of the two, and why Lisa was a great asset to Shrek the Musical.

Some backstage emergencies are actually pretty hilarious. Full Moon Friday offered one of these in the form of the Greatest Costume Malfunction Ever, otherwise known as The Donkey Dong Incident. During one of Donkey's big song and dance scenes, a piece of his costume became unattched at one end causing a strip of costume to dangle between his legs. Yes, it looked just as you are imagining. Dan, our awesome Donkey, could do nothing else but carry on, dancing around with a swinging......thing. Audience members were texting Lisa saying basically, "uhhhh, we have children here...." So much for no one noticing. Some things just can't be fixed until the scene is over, ya know? It was, by the way, fixed by the Donkey's wife. Insert your own Donkey dong joke here.

I wrote in my tribute to John the Sound Tech about our trouble with microphones. Full Moon Friday saw our lead's mic fail, in the middle of a song. Does Lisa freak out? Nope. And thus no one else does. Charles Patton, our Shrek, can project like no one's business, so he did. By the time he had a brief moment off stage, a spare mic had been procured and was hurriedly attached to the ogre. Lisa told John on headset about the new mic, John fired it up and when he went back out, all was well. Emergency dealt with.

Those two are the sorts of happens-every-show things a stage manager has to deal with. Staying calm is essential, something Lisa is very good at. But every now and then a REAL emergency crops up. Staying calm THEN is even more important. On this night there was an equipment malfunction in the tech booth area that escalated to involving the auditorium's two paid managers, then the Brunswick Community College's public safety personnel. It was touch and go for a while and we came very close to evacuating the building. This is NOT the sort of thing that happens every show, I never had anything like this happen on my watch. I never even knew this was happening until after the fact. Thing is no one not on headset had any idea. Lisa handled it like a pro, responding to a scary situation without freaking out, without blowing up and without letting it affect the show or the performances of any actors. She preserved not only the magic of the performance for the audience, but shielded all the actors (who would have not been as calm, I can assure you) from potentially distracting "drama."

So what of the other type of drama? In point of comparison, pretty much simultaneous to the tech booth situation, there were folks behaving much less calmly than Lisa over which of several available dressers were going to help with a costume change later in the show. It wasn't a question of if there was going to be help (which would have been a real problem), that was never in doubt, just who was going to be involved or not. It got needlessly dramatic. Lisa was as ignorant of this......situation.....as those involved were of what was going on in the tech booth. Thankfully.

I can't say enough how thankful I am it was Lisa and her calm professionalism in the wings keeping things under control. She spent the last two musicals in the dressing room dealing with that sort of drama, but she is much more suited for a stage management role. And BLT is lucky she is the one who was filling that role on that Full Moon Friday.

Stiteses In The Swamp Pt 1: J5, the Unsung Hero

I haven't written a word on here about Shrek the Musical. This is strange because because it was such a huge part of the Stites Family Summer 2015, but it's also precisely BECAUSE it was such a huge part of the Stites Family Summer 2015. I've not had time to write much.

My own experience was overwhelming, in terms of what I learned and what I did. But more importantly, and so firstly, I have to blather on about how proud I am of Lisa and John. These two followed me into this whole theatre thing like Tonto follows the Lone Ranger. Two finer companions couldn't be wished for. Let's talk about John first.

John has embraced the role of Sound Tech. The wonderful Katie Deese took him under her wing and taught him the basics on Wizard of Oz three years ago (and stepped up this year to help John with sound checks and teaching him even more about the finer points of sound engineering) and he handled Into The Woods pretty much on his own last summer, so he was a shoe-in for sound guy for Shrek. Turns out we ask a lot from the guy. Hannah Funderburke, John's newest mentor and friend in theatre tech (and source of his J5 moniker), was pretty horrified that we expected John to handle over 20 actors being mic'ed. She said pros would refuse to do that, it was just too difficult. John took it in stride, he had that many in Into the Woods last year after all. This time he had 24 actors (give or take, the equipment was constantly breaking down) with microphones, three choral mics hung from the flies and a reverb effect to deal with. In addition, he played the fart machine during one song, something that sounds funny but required him to basically play a percussion instrument along with the pit orchestra but do so from the tech booth. It was a great gag as long as it was perfect. The actors made body motions along with the sound effects so the timing had to be spot on to work. If it did, it was hilarious, if not, it would have shown. It WAS perfect. Every night. Oh, and I, in my wisdom, saddled the kid with sound effects and a video projector on top of everything else.

John realized what I didn't realize, or didn't want to think about. He had too much to do himself. Now, he was not the only one to be stretched too thin on this show. Our tech director had a heart problem and missed tech week and the first weekend of performances, throwing Hannah and I into the roles of co-acting-tech directors, and both myself and Jen were trying to fill simultaneous production and stage roles. John, I must say, handled it best, far better than Jen and I anyhow. He saw he was in the weeds and asked if he could ask for help from the director, the wonderful Cal Chiang, who was already in the booth watching the show each night. John recruited Cal to run sound and video effects, but had to cue him. But hey, it at least allowed him to keep his hands on the sound board, right? Cal, by the way, claimed John was "bullying" him (and saying so with a HUGE smile on his face). John said Cal kept "leaving his post" and needed to be called back. John is 15 and taking it upon himself to tell the director to keep to his work. Many adults in community theatre wouldn't do that.

John put a tremendous amount of time into this show, showing up two hours before call each day to try to make the sound work with whatever equipment was functioning that night. The mics were old and the replacements cheap. We had some very intense movement on the part of some actors and that was tough on the wires. Every time a mic was replaced, that meant a new place for that mic's actor on the soundboard. So with 24 actors' mics to keep track of, John could never count on all of them being on the same buttons two nights in a row. They never were, not once. And yet, John had the correct mics on and off when they needed to be and kept everything in balance throughout trios, duets, solos and big ensemble numbers. I have no idea how he didn't lose his mind, but not did he not, he was having fun.

John is looking at a career in sound design/engineering. The experience he's gotten has been wonderful, but what I think will serve him best is his attitude. The guy is rock solid. You can't teach that. And I couldn't be more proud of him :-)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Cross One Off The Bucket List-- Thalian Hall Edition

I'm fascinated by the old, the historic and the grand. When we first saw Wilmington some 22 years ago, one of the places that stuck out to us was Thalian Hall, Wilmington's combination city hall and performing arts venue. The idea that it's both amuses me to no end, by the way. Anyhow, it's a century and a half old and looks from the outside much like an antebellum theater should look. Lisa and I were dying to get inside.

It's funny how "bucket list" stuff changes with our experience. Back then, the idea of going to see a community theater production in Thalian Hall never really occurred to us. We were new to town, and only lived in Wilmington for one year, and just never connected to that world. Our first visit inside Thalian was for a showing of Gone With The Wind, and while it was a great experience and a perfect place to see that particular film, we didn't experience Thalian as a live theater venue until late last year.

Our friend Jen was stage managing the Thalian Association's production of Peter Pan and it was a chance to see a real live show inside this piece of history. We had lots of reasons to be excited for this one-- Peter Pan is one of my favorite stories, the show involves tricky backstage fly work to fly the characters around, and we had several friends in the cast, including Jen's son Max as Slightly Soiled the Lost Boy. AND we finally got to see Thalian's stage put to use.
All old theaters have ghosts, why not skeletons?

So my bucket list entry had changed from getting a look inside Thalian to seeing a show there. But then it changed again. After working backstage on a few shows, I was interested in more than the audience section of the hall. I asked Jen if, after the show, she could show us around backstage. That never would have occurred to me 20 years ago. I mean, if offered, I'd have gladly gone and loved it and appreciated it, but I would never have thought to seek it out.

We loved our backstage tour, the place is everything you would want it to be. There's the historic to appreciate and the modern to be jealous of. I'm glad I didn't get the tour until recently as I had the experience to see things and understand things that I never would have at 25. Getting "backstage" anywhere is a fun thing, and we felt really cool and special to be walking around behind the scenes at such a grand old place. It was a check this off the bucket list moment and I truly felt my Thalian Hall fascination was satisfied.

Sometimes our bucket lists change as we add new knowledge and open new doors. Sometimes, though, those who know us well can add to our list in ways we'd not have presumed to. A few months ago, Jen told me she was stage managing a charity event at Thalian Hall and asked if I'd like to serve as stage hand. The idea of WORKING a show at Thalian Hall had honestly not really seemed like a serious possibility. It's usually a two-three week commitment and my schedule and distance from Wilmington made it not something I ever considered, and besides, that's a REAL theatre and I'm, well, me. But this was something I could do. Except that I couldn't. We were scheduled to go to to a wedding in Pennsylvania that weekend. But I've learned that once a door is opened, if you really want to, you can find a way to walk through. This particular chance wasn't going to pan out, but another item had just been added to the bucket list.

Then our PA plans changed and we decided to sit out the wedding because of work and time concerns, and ones brought up by Lisa out of consideration for me, which touched my heart. It took me a little while, but it finally dawned on me that if I was going to be home, maybe Jen's offer still stood. It did, and came to include the boy as well. He, too, has been dying to see something in Thalian Hall and when I told Jen he wanted to come see the event we were working (a lip sync contest), she asked if he'd like to see it from backstage as she had one stagehand slot open. Uhhh, yes please!
There are some big names on that wall.

Jen has been opening new doors for us a lot the last few years. Without getting all sappy, let me just say that the experiences my family has enjoyed because of the influence and love of her and her extended family have been positively life-changing.

John wants one or two of these for Shrek this summer
Ok, so John and I got to be stagehands, and professional ones at that as we actually got PAID for this, at a theater featured in Architectural Digest as one of America's treasures. The experience itself was hard to describe, I'm still processing it. I mean, for me, just being back there was surreal and sublime. I truly do LOVE being in and around spaces like that, they affect me on a basic level I find hard to explain. But while all that is happening in my soul, the real-world Jeffrey was hauling things on and off stage, putting mole skin on a drunk woman's stinky feet and hollering at a bunch of well-lubricated patrons to get the heck out of the lobby and back to their seats so we could begin the second half of the show. Very normal stage crew stuff made special because it all happened in a place that is anything but run of the mill.

Oh yeah, we got to work with Dolly Parton, too :-)
I've only scraped the surface of the awesomeness of the experience, really. John had an adventure and made some valuable contacts, we met a lot of really cool people, the show was a blast to watch, Lisa got to sit in an opera booth, and I got to work with Jen as stage crew. There was not one negative in the entire experience, really. Which is how, in an ideal world, all bucket list stuff would be.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

I'm Going Far, Far Away This Summer

It's been a rough year so far. A work situation has left me running a route since early January and I'm about worn out. You can trust I'm not really being a whiner here because my boss (and mind you I work at a company where sarcasm and abuse is the rule) actually sincerely apologized to me last week. Never happens. But things are looking up. It's spring and I have a new project to delve into. Shrek the Musical.

I'm stage managing once again, this time for a director other than Jen, which is both exciting and a bit scary, but it's going swimmingly so far. The director, Cal, is new to the area and to Brunswick Little Theatre, so a few of us have been really helping him with recruiting cast and crew. It's already been a lot of fun. Once again, Lisa and John will be joining the crew, John on the sound board and Lisa as an assistant stage manager.

See, I needed to find someone to take charge back stage a few times while I'm otherwise occupied. For the first time in forever, I'm going to be on stage performing in a few scenes. It's a small part as one of seven guards. I'm not trying to make a huge deal out of it, it's kind of like being a tree in the elementary school show (if your school's trees were dressed up like The Gimp). But, the role DOES appear in the Shrek Wiki. It's not much, but heck, it's there :-)

The guards are on stage with Lord Farquaad and are sort of his posse, or, if you prefer (and I do), his S1W. I'm told there is a bit of back-up singing as part of this group (shudder) and some dancing. On our knees.

This knee dancing part is the reason I am making my stage debut. Myself, Cal and Michael, the musical director, were standing around late one night after an audition discussing how we could find enough able bodied males to be guards when Michael suggested me. Cal jumped on it and when the cast list appeared, there I was. I wasn't recruited for my talent, I was recruited by virtue of being male and ambulatory enough to dance around on my knees and still stand up afterwards without requiring medical assistance.

That, and the fact that I will clearly look fabulous in pleather.

Black, I hope. That way I won't need to change to return to stage manager detail :-)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Have Courage and Be Kind

That was the message in the new live-action Cinderella movie. They said it a lot, so you'd be sure to know. But you know what? That's OK. Because it needs to be said. A lot. We've lost something of the magic and joy and simplicity and goodness of the earlier Disney movies. And this one brought it all back in a most wonderful way.

It's telling that I went into this movie with the lowest of expectations but the highest hopes. Despite all I'd read about it that never said so, I was convinced this would be another "re-telling" of a classic story. You know, the kind where they turn it into a movie about environmentalism or feminism or racism or anti-capitalism or industrialism or any number of -isms. People can't help making a story "theirs" even it means losing the timelessness that makes it a classic by injecting it with the quasi-political cause du jour.  I was sure they had done that to Cinderella, but couldn't have been more wrong. This is a simple live-action version of the film that has become a classic. Sure, they add some back story and focus on different things a bit (it's not a word for word, scene by scene re-creation of the animated film), but they stayed completely true to the story and the themes and the feeling of the original. Kudos to the director and producers and Disney itself for that, and THANK YOU!!!!!

The acting is superb and the casting is genius. Cate Blanchett is my favorite. She plays the wicked step mother as a mean person (a foil to Cinderella's "be kind" motif) without any apologies or humanizing or excuses. She's just mean and bitter and cruel, to everyone. You know, like a villain should be. The step sisters get some great lines and carry them off with gusto. The chemistry between them is terrific. The Prince is charming and lovable and good and kind and heroic (and his ball turns out much better than Rob Stark's wedding). Lily James owns Cinderella. She really shows that being kind in the face of meanness is not weakness, but rather strength. She is the bigger person and knows it and no matter how mean (I keep using that simplistic word because it's the best one. Mean is real and it's cool seeing a movie admit that) the step mother and step sisters act toward her, she stubbornly remains good and kind and forgiving. And it infuriates them, which is both awesome to see and completely realistic. Our children (and us parents) need to learn that lesson, and Lily is courageously and convincingly putting it out there. Helena Bonham Carter only has about ten minutes of screen time, but seems a much bigger part of the film because she fills those minutes to the brim with awesome. The supporting actors, from the animals turned into humans to the king's staff to Cinderella's mom and dad, are also spectacular. The acting is a joy to watch.

And the costumes. Wow. I could fill this blog with screen shots of costumes, but you really need to see them on the big screen. It's simply amazing what they've done. I'm a guy who can barely dress himself and *I* got how wonderful the costuming was. That's saying something.

I simply loved the message of courage and kindness, though. All the pretty clothes and scenery and acting in the world doesn't move me unless there is a real message at a film's heart. And I know there will be those who think think this one is trite. I mean it's not about social justice or lifting up the poor or downtrodden. Except that it really is exactly that. It's a fairy tale about real life feelings and attitudes and behaviors. Being kind is always right but often it's not easy. There is a lot of meanness in the world and in our social interactions, sadly even sometimes between friends and family. But when it's hard, even when sarcasm and snark and returning what you are getting are very tempting, kindness really should win out. And that's where the courage comes in. Two simple words, two simple concepts, but they are really at the heart of living a happy life. I am in love with this film for having the courage and the kindness to say so.

We were really moved by this movie, Lisa and I. We saw it on our way home from an indoor percussion event outside of Raleigh, sort of a date. Yeah, we've been married almost 20 years and we've rediscovered dating. Cinderella is, aside from the lessons of kindness and courage, a love story. And talk about tempting the sneers and sarcasm of the cynics out there, I'm going to go ahead and say it......Lisa and I have a fairy tale romance kind of love. It's been built over a LONG time, but we have gotten to the place where the old trite ideas of honesty and trust and basic kindness are just built into the DNA of the relationship. We felt all the feels at the same times and for the same reasons. I KNEW when the squeeze of the hand was coming, when the sniffle was coming. I felt the same things Lisa did and for the same reasons. It's so nice to have that level of comfort, of assurance. We have the kind of love that makes it easier for us to have the courage to carry kindness out into the world.

So, yeah, we loved it. It's a fairy tale. It's beautiful. It's simply GOOD in so many ways. If you have any magic in your heart, or need to find some, go see this movie.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Long Time Coming

Once Upon A Time.....

There was a woman fond of directing large, all-ages cast community theater musicals. This woman also happened to be a mom, a home schooling mom, of two young boys, the older of whom was already showing signs of serious theatrical talent and interest. When choosing her musicals, she had to take into account the difficulty in finding tween and teen boys willing and interested to act in a show. She had an idea that she hoped would introduce more children to live theatre at an earlier age than was the current norm in her theatrical home. She hoped to bring in children, and hopefully a good, solid number of boys, and allow them to experience theater from an actor's perspective without the pressure of auditions. These children would grow in skill in a supportive, safe, non-judgmental environment and would perhaps be more likely to remain involved into their teenage years. This idea was called Let's PLAY!.

The Let's PLAY! Children's Theatre Workshop was proposed as a series of weekend classroom sessions for children from 4-12 years old exploring song, dance, acting, improvisation and theatrical terminology and traditions through the vehicle of fun exercises and games. The workshop was to utilize older children in technical and backstage roles such as assistant director, stage manger, light and sound tech and set and costume design and construction. At the end of the series of classes, the children would mount a short "KIDS" show, a one act performance designed for young actors. "Aladdin, KIDS" was included in the original proposal with the intent to charge minimal admission and ask for food donations in honor of the "street rat" main character.

The theater mom director, fresh off the heels of a hugely successful summer production of The Wizard of Oz, brought her idea to her theater home's board of directors. They listened politely and told her they'd discuss it later in the meeting and let her know. She left. Also at this meeting was a man very green to the world of theater, having been introduced into it during the aforementioned Wizard of Oz production. This was the final board meeting of the year and he was to become a board member the following month and was attending to observe and get up to speed on board business. When discussion of the Let's PLAY! workshop began, he was shocked to find it centered around the fear that the workshop, and its director, would reflect poorly on the theater organization. The scope of the workshop was questioned and more surprising to the meeting's observer, the director's credentials were questioned. In the end he couldn't remain a quiet observer and when it looked as though the proposal would die, he broke protocol and prevailed upon the board to table the decision until the next meeting when they could address their concerns to the director in person. And so they did.

During the next month's meeting these concerns, including the questioning of the mom/director's credentials as a theater instructor, were voiced and discussed and argued with all interested parties present. Voices were sometimes raised, eyes were rolled, feelings were hurt, but in the end the Let's PLAY! Children's Theatre Workshop was approved. But it had been changed during discussion to win the eventual unanimous vote of approval. The teen technical and support training was dropped entirely and the license of a show to culminate the workshop experience was replaced with a "showcase" performance to be designed by the director along the lines of a recital. But the door had been opened and Let's PLAY! began.

The first session was a huge success, with a full roster of children, many boys, of varying experience levels. The classes were fun, the showcase was terrific and everyone walked away happy. More sessions followed, and a summer camp version was added. Registration day began to resemble a rock concert opening ticket sales, with people lining up in cyberspace for slots that filled within hours. It also became clear that without a license to purchase and a specific show set to build and costumes to procure, there was little on which to spend tuition money. The board, which had been chilly to the point of virtually ignoring the program, began to take notice and value it as a revenue source. This was frustrating to the director and others who truly loved and supported Let's PLAY! on its merits as theater education and the joy it brought to its students. But Let's PLAY! chugged along.

After a time, it came to pass that the observer at that first meeting found himself president of the board. And so it also came to pass that the director came to the board with what was essentially her original proposal, a workshop to include teen assistants helping on a production of a licensed musical. The first Let's PLAY! session of 2015, exactly two years after the very first session, would be the Let's PLAY! Production of Winnie the Pooh, KIDS.

Today was the final of four shows capping off that workshop experience. Every one sold more seats than we had available (we had floor seating, so everyone got in, seat or no seat). That means close to 400 people watched these 30 children sing and dance their way through the Hundred Acre Wood. The children are itching to carry the show over into NEXT weekend. We can't, another show is moving in, but we could have, I'm sure, sold another 400 tickets.

I'm a very happy guy tonight. I'm happy and proud of the children and teens and the adult leadership of Let's PLAY!. I can't put into words the respect and admiration I have for the talent and work ethic and simple love for these children and the theatrical arts embodied by Let's PLAY!'s founder and director, Jen Iapalucci. But my joy is tempered by frustration that it took two years for such an obviously needed and valuable idea to finally come into full bloom. There is no rational excuse for that, it's simply a matter of silly intra-group politics and run-away egos. This session made much more money than any previous session, but MUCH more importantly, it gave 30 children and a handful of teen leaders an experience they will never forget.

I'd love to hear some apologies, but Hell freezing over is more likely. What I can and do expect, though, is a recognition of the value of Let's PLAY! in lives affected and hearts warmed and lessons learned. Here's hoping it doesn't take any more raised voices.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Presto Change-O

I had the absolute best time last weekend. We had a great murder mystery party Saturday night, but for me the afternoons before and after the party, when we transformed the space twice, were just as much fun. I'm endlessly amused and intrigued by the way Brunswick Little Theatre's theater space can be used. It began as an empty church sanctuary.

Then it was transformed into a theater for the first show, a showcase performance culminating a week of Let's PLAY! summer theatre camp. It was still basic, but featured a for reals stage and comfy seats.

Then Steel Magnolias moved in and a beauty shop appeared.

I have to admit I find the colors of this set nauseating, but it IS impressive

Then the Big Dawgs moved in and our beauty shop became the sandy point at the end of Pleasure Island for a production of Hermit of Fort Fisher.

I was amazed how much of the previous set remained and yet looked entirely different
Then the Best Christmas Pageant Ever arrived and it was back to a church.

Since then, Winnie The Pooh has been moving in, but first we had that murder mystery. It was a fairy tale themed thing, so Jen decided to go with an Enchanted Forest look seeing as we had the Hundred Acre Wood taking shape in the space. It worked out nicely. Owl needed a tree so we brought in the giant tree from last summer's Into The Woods and made it a part of the forest for both events. You can't tell from my photos, but Adrian had the brilliant idea to light the tree up from the inside and it looked super-cool. The Hundred Acre Wood will feature a few cut-out trees, so we just hung "fairy lights" on and between them as well. We hung a bunch of Chinese paper lanterns from the ceiling, brought in tables and table clothes, and all of a sudden our theater was a dinner party venue.

I wish I had a decent photo of the place with the lights out and lit with the lanterns and fairy lights, but you'll have to trust me, it looked spectacular.

Now it's being turned back into a Pooh set. The tree had to be trimmed a bit and turned and shifted stage left, but a few of us handled that easily Sunday. The seats are back, but set up with an open space in front so the littlest guests can sit on blankets and get an up close view of the show without squirming on mom or dad's lap.

Today some stairs are being added to the tree so Owl can come get in and out. The trees will be painted. Who knows what else? But rest assured I can't await to see :-)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Impressions from a Pretty Nice Weekend

I spent a lot of last year using this space to vent frustrations. I have dedicated myself to making this year different; not just trying to ignore the bad and focus on the good, that's mumbo-jumbo, I mean changing circumstances to lessen the bad and create more good. So far, so good, as evidenced by my weekend. I started out Friday getting all my work done that I wanted to while also visiting the BLT prop and costume storage and figuring out some geeky stuff on my new GPS. Saturday was a great day spent with Lisa while John was at band Districts Auditions (he didn't make it, but had a good time). So to celebrate, I'm going to share highlights :-)

The Crazy Uncle's Attic -- I always liken the Brunswick Little Theatre storage units to the crazy uncle's attic. I've loved digging through old stuff since forever (hence the anthropology minor) and BLT has lots of old stuff. Looking through this stuff for props and costumes for use in our upcoming Once Upon A Murder mystery party (buy tickets today, it's going to be great) and the Winnie-the-Pooh Let's PLAY! show was every bit as fun as I expected it to be. Well, digging through this stuff with Jen was every bit as fun as I expected it to be. She's like having your crazy uncle (aunt?) around to ID the stuff you find. Max or I would hold up a kimono or a jacket or an urn or a crystal ball or a plumy hat or a giant fake joint and ask "Hey, what was THIS used in?" and Jen would rattle it off. Great fun! For Max and I at least. And just having time to chat with a pal is always good for the soul. Better than any medicine when you've been feeling blah.

My New Toy -- OK, so I recently came into a little bit of money from my grandfather's estate, long story. Anyhow, I used a small bit of it on myself and bought a brand new handheld GPS to replace one that had died about a year or so ago. This new one looks much the same but it's color and has much more memory and new capabilities for geocaching. One feature is its ability to accept map downloads to augment its internal maps (which suck). I spent some time Friday tinkering around and found a great site full of free maps for download, and also figured out how to get them on my new toy. It's pretty damned cool, trust me. I just bought a micro SD card so I can find MORE free maps. I have a thing for maps.

Big Retail Sucks -- Ok, it's hip to hate on Walmart and "big box" stores and all, but I resist that as much out of my distaste for group-think as anything else. Saturday, though, really brought the failures of major retail outlets to my attention. We went to Kohl's so Lisa could spend a gift card that has been burning a hole in her pocket. While we were there and she was looking around, I was tasked with finding a few long-sleeved shirts and a jacket for the boy. Turns out almost all the clothing that is even remotely fit for the weather we are actually experiencing outside has been thoroughly picked over with the residual inventory on a collection of 70% off clearance racks. Really? No long sleeved shirts in January? I'm too much of a realist to get all choked up about the clothing being produced by 5 year old Bangladeshis, but at least have the freaking little slave kids churn out some sleeves for sale in January, ok?

Next stop is Target, where they carry everything. Everyhting, it turns out, except the two things I wanted to buy. I wasn't looking for anyhting exotic, just some tupperwares to hide in the woods (see Geocaching above) and a micro SD card for my new toy. I batted zero, so today I placed orders on Amazon.com that will be at my house Wednesday. Easy peasy. Screw driving to Wilmington.

But Local Kinda Rules --  I love the "Buy Local" movement in theory. In practice, if you define local as really close to home, the SE Brunswick County area, it only really works if you're in the market for weird artwork, quasi-locally grown produce, or other people's discarded items. The retail options in the Southport-Oak Island area aren't exactly expansive. But Wilmington, now there is some cool stuff. We went to a camera shop on the advice of an ex-reporter friend and camera aficionado and I can't wait to go back. The place was a little like the Crazy Uncle's Attic of photographic......stuff. They had all sorts of new and shiny things, but also loads of old and funky things. I can't wait to go back and browse for, like, ever.

We Regress -- Lately, Lisa and I have been able to have more "couple time" than we've been accustomed to having. John's involvement with marching band and indoor percussion have him busy all day on a bunch of Saturday's, leaving Lisa and I up to our own devices. John's having fun and we have discovered that we still have as much fun together, just the two of us, as we did when we were dating. In fact, we kind of tend to regress to those days a bit. This is great for our mental health, sometimes not so much for our physical health. Yesterday, for example, we had hamburgers with Marianna sauce and fried mozzarella sticks on top of them for lunch. Then, since we decided we had eaten so much and weren't hungry for a "real dinner," we had Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and popcorn for supper while sitting on the couch watching Penny Dreadful on Blu-ray. Good times :)

Museum Book Stores Are Nirvana -- Even small museums have them and they are ALL awesome. The one at Brunswick Town-Fort Anderson is no exception. I found so much worth buying I need to go back. They have Stamp Act Defiance t-shirts (if you don't think THAT'S cool, you were probably the kind of person the opposite sex talked to in high school). None in my size yesterday, so darn, I need to check later. I did declare that since Lisa made me leave the house before my coffee I was buying myself a book. A Big Book. With lots of maps. So there!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sunday Morning Random Thoughts After One Cup of Coffee

I saw this morning that I wrote ten more posts to Pooh Sticks in 2014 than I did in 2013, hooray me. But it was half of what I wrote in 2012, so I can do better. There are a few pretty unrelated things bouncing around my head this morning so instead of picking one I'm going to share them all. Aren't you the lucky one!

Into The Woods is a good movie. It was. Really. I highly recommend it to everyone, even those not inclined towards musical theatre. It has ethos and pathos and it's visually gorgeous. The acting is top-notch and the singing is very good. I'm not a fan of Meryl Streep the person (from what I can tell of her at least), but as an actress, she deserves the huge salary she pulls down. Wow, just wow. The choices they made as far as what to leave in in and what to cut out will grate on the nerves of theatre aficionados, but they make the movie work well in its own right rather than a screen version of the stage show. I do hope, though, that this movie's popularity will drive tons of people to see their local theater's stage versions. Live theatre trumps movies. Period.

My "Moment In The Woods" had zero to do with the show. One of the themes of this show is "moments" and people like to draw one that especially speaks to them. Despite watching BLT's performance many many times and enjoying it from start to finish, I realized watching the film version that I wasn't particularly married to any one part of the show or song or line. My moment came after the show was over, after all the audience had left, after all the actors and crew had left. My moment was, as we were leaving at the end of the night, seeing the glow around Jen, the director, that came from those nights when what she had just seen on stage matched up with the vision that she had been carrying around in her head for who knows how long. Her happiness some nights was almost palpable and seeing that in a very close friend was worth all the effort.

Galavant is on tonight. I can't wait. This thing looks absolutely awesome. It's a musical comedy that looks to be going completely over the top in a delightful way. Kind of Monty Python-ish, I'm hoping. AND this is my chance to do something completely frivolous and watch this show from start to end, for however many weeks it runs, no matter what I am "supposed" to be doing. So there! :)

The Winnie-the-Pooh Workshop kicks off this afternoon. I'm headed to the theatre this afternoon for an hour or so to help wrangle parents and paperwork as almost 30 children prepare to venture into The Hundred Acre Wood. I loved Pooh growing up, I shared it with my sister when she was young, John's first stuffed animal (you know, the one you buy him before he's born?) was Pooh Bear and he came home in a Winnie-the-Pooh onesie. If it's windy I always announce that it's a blustery day. If it's cloudy I say "Tut tut, it looks like rain". I play Pooh Sticks. A piece of me has always and will always reside in the Hundred Acre Wood. This Let's PLAY! session is making me very happy.

It's time to take the Christmas stuff down and I'm OK with that. Usually this day depresses me. Not this year. It's not that I didn't like Christmas this year, it was actually one of the best ever. But I am happy. Lisa and I are happy with life and the way it's developing for us. John is happy and growing into a wonderful man-child. My family is happy. Life is GOOD. I'm just happy and satisfied and fine with moving forward into a really cool 2015. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

I don't do these. Never have. I don't have a good reason, it's never been my thing and I'm kind of generally opposed to doing what you're "supposed to do" in pretty much any case. But this year I'm giving it a try and hoping to take it seriously. But they aren't going to be the kind of self-improvement, make the world a better place resolutions that are called for in politically correct society. Nope, tried that, not the resolutions, but the branching out into new things and giving of one's self to the benefit of others thing this year and it's left a sour taste in my mouth.

I started out all hopeful and ready to jump into it, as evidenced by this first post of 2014. By August the stress was getting to me. We'd just put on a show that drained our resources to almost nothing and didn't attract the ticket sales we hoped it would and then began the lease of a new facility that threw us into totally uncharted waters. My complaint at the time was purely personal, that it was changing me in ways I didn't like and causing me to run past roses I normally would have been smelling. That sentiment only grew the rest of the year. And it is the basis for this year's resolutions. I would normally feel bad about resolving to do LESS good for others, but not this time. Others frankly don't appreciate it.

That sounds incredibly self-serving, self-centered, self-everything, but damn it, it's true, so sue me. I never wanted a parade or any sort of recognition for the work I did as BLT president, I know that in the performing arts it's the artists who seek and get that, and that's perfectly fine by me. I'm not a spotlight kind of guy and am not out to impress strangers. But I do feel I am entitled to a little respect and the benefit of the doubt, and I got neither. I got the required "thank you's" and "good jobs" and all from the people who have to say such things, but even the people closest to what was happening all year never actually grew to trust me. Despite guiding this organization through some very difficult times and leaving it in rather better shape than I found it, if there is a negative conclusion to leap to, it's leapt to. And if anyone says "B" after I've said "A" a hundred times, "B" is what even those who should know better believe. That really hurts. It makes me feel like I've wasted a lot of time that would have been better spent on family and job and even self.

So that's what I'm resolving to do. I'm going to spend more time watching TV. It sounds like an anti-resolution, doesn't it? But it's symbolic of how this year will be different from last. I'm not a huge television guy, but there are amusing things on there I'd like to enjoy, things friends watch that I'd like to be able to discuss, things our whole family can sit and get into together, things Lisa and I can experience as a couple. It starts Sunday night with ABC's Galavant, which looks hilarious and Lisa and John have both expressed interest in. No more writing press releases or answering a dozen inane emails or updating the website or editing and sharing photos or balancing the BLT checkbook as first priority. I'll get around to the things I agree to continue to do, but it won't be as fast or as consistent. It won't be first on the list, and I regret that it ever was.

The television thing is just a start, an example. I'm also going to read. I am partway through about 8 books and I'm going to finish them all. Stephen King's "Revival" is gripping me right now, and I've devoted time to it the last week or so, so I have a head start on that one. I'm going to buy a new handheld GPS and begin geocaching again. It gets us out of the house together, it shows us the world and it leads to paths full of roses to smell. I'm going to walk on the beach again. I'm going to play our new Disney Infinity game. I'm going to take naps, dig out the computer room and plan weekend or day trips to new places. I'm going to write on this blog much more.

I'll keep up my involvement with the theatre, I have one more year on the board, though as 1 of 9 I am going to point out to everyone as often as I can. But I'm going to pick and choose. There are things about BLT I enjoy and things I don't. I'm done with the things I don't. I'm looking forward to helping plan and put on another murder mystery the end of this month. I'm really excited about the Winnie-the-Pooh workshop and show. I'm trying to cajole the board into scheduling a show I will help produce for the fall. I may stage manage this summer. All things I have found I love.

It's all a part of the new year for Jeffrey, do the things that make me and my family happy. Self-improvement without sweating and pain, baby, that's me in 2015 :)