Stage-Building Madness

My friend Craig just posted this insider-look at how the stage for The Who’s Tommy came together. Head on over there if you want to see them go from this:

Tommy Stage Model. Photo by Craig Orsinger for Burien Little Theatre

To this:

Tommy Dress Rehersal. Photos by Craig Orsinger for Burien Little Theatre.

I’m still boggled. And I’m starting to believe Burien Little Theatre is going to have to strike the “little” from its name. Read the whole thing and see if you don’t agree with me.

Aside: I actually watched a concert recording of Tommy the other night. I must be of a youngish generation. It was bizarre seeing Roger Daltrey being the lead singer of The Who. The first time I’d seen him (as opposed to merely hearing him) was as Fitzcairn on the Highlander tv series. Bizarre, but I liked. His stage presence is awesome. I loves me some Roger Daltrey, whether dressed as an immortal or a rock star. He’s one of the most awesome people who’s ever lived.

But, and no offense to The Who, I actually liked BLT’s production better than the concert.

I know, I know. I’m an ungrateful young whippersnapper who don’t appreciate the greats of rock-n-roll properly and all that. But, damn it, BLT did one hell of a job. However, as I haven’t seen the actual movie, I can’t compare that to the theatre production. I still think BLT would come out on top. I’m probably a bit partial.

You can see for yourself every weekend through March 25th. And remember: discounted tix if you wear tie-dye!

Go See Tommy. I Mean It.

The Who's Tommy Poster, Courtesy Burien Little Theatre

My jaw aches. It’s been hanging open most of the night, dragging on the floor. Burien Little Theatre is known for pulling off productions that it shouldn’t be capable of, but this one takes them all.

The Who’s Tommy is a tremendously complicated show on all fronts, and they made it all come together. They built a new stage out into the middle of the auditorium, with the seats moved to either side, so you feel like you’re in the middle of the production rather than merely watching it. This sensation is justified as, at one point, the actors grabbed audience members and took them onstage to become part of the show. There’s a rock band, an excellent one, playing on the main stage – no canned music, this is all live. The whole place thunders with the music. And they found immensely talented people who could not only act, but sing. The Tommys are fabulous. The older Tommy, especially, has a fantastic voice and plays the role with just the right sense of gravitas. Lovely! And a little haunting.

Every piece of the set is on wheels, and there are no pauses to restage things – everything’s wheeled around as the music goes on, and it adds a dizzy sort of feel that’s perfect for a play about a catatonic kid who becomes a famous pinball wizard.

The costumes, too, evoke the time and place so well that an older audience member felt she was reliving the periods portrayed. My friend Craig’s hard work with the images and clips running on screens in the background enhances that. He did an amazing job, and I’m hoping he’ll come by to tell us about it, because it wasn’t easy. The poor man’s been a shadow of himself for weeks. But it was worth it. It came together beautifully.

A few trigger warnings: there’s sexual abuse, which, while not graphic or extensive, could still be uncomfortable for those who have been through it. Also, anyone who lived through World War II might find occasion to flash back a bit. With those caveats, though, I have no qualms about asking anyone in the Seattle area to please make time to see this musical. It’s one of the best things BLT has done, and they’ve done some pretty amazing things in the past.

The Who’s Tommy’s running through March 25th. Wear tie-dye, and you can get $5 off your ticket. Sit within a few rows of the stage, and you could become part of the show for a time. If you like community theatre, if you like musicals, if you like classic rock, if you like productions that make you wonder just how the hell they did what they did with a tiny budget and an even smaller theatre, this is a show you shouldn’t miss. Go. Now. And have fun!

 

Right. You Asked For It. Flowers and Geology Are Served

And here I was afraid it wasn’t nice to torment readers with pictures of unidentified flowers that subsequently drive them mad as they chase through botanical clues… Well, you say you don’t mind. I’ll take you at your word. I disavow any responsibility for subsequent therapy bills.

These shouldn’t be difficult, anyway. If I wasn’t looking for something to brighten up your night twenty minutes before I have to go see Tommy, and if I wasn’t alternating between turn-of-the-last-century mystery literature and Geology of Oregon in my free time, I could probably manage these myself. They were snapped on the Trail of the Molten Land at Lava Butte, Lava Lands Visitor Center.

Mystery Lava Flowers

Aren’t they bonza? Something in the sage family, I should think. Totally fearless on baking hot, black, blasted terrain.

Mystery Flowers and Mountains

Here we have an utterly marvelous view of our mystery flowers across the lava flow toward some fine examples of Cascades volcanoes. The Sisters are in there, and I believe the one standing off by hisself is Bachelor, although I wouldn’t swear to it. Lockwood can specify for us.

The views from Bend, Oregon are, quite frankly, spectacular enough to make me want to move there. Sweeping vistas of lava fields and forests, with peaks in the background, and ponderosa forests giving the whole place that dry-land pine savor that makes you breathe deep and stand tall. It’s gorgeous. And I’d wax lyrical about it, only I’ve got a musical to get my arse to, now that the cat’s decided to make her own way out of my lap rather than make me court death getting free.

Enjoy, my darlings, and I shall return to regale you with tales of Tommy.

My Readers Triumph

The unidentified flower which tormented so many for so long torments no more. Ann drilled down to the exact species, with help from Achrachno, with Adrian and F hot on her heels. And here it is, the Mount Hood Pussypaws, Cistanthe umbellata.

Mount Hood Pussypaws, image credit Walter Siegmund, Wikimedia Commons

That is indubitably it. Excellent job, my botanical detectives! I’ll be keeping a special eye out for specimens this summer: it’s become our flower, and your triumph.

The question now becomes, do I show you a kindness and only post stuff I’ve (roughly) identified? Or was this exercise in botanical mystery solving something you care to repeat again in the future?

Mother’s Little Helper and Other Stories

I’ve got nothing, really. I was supposed to be watching a movie with a friend who’s in from out of town, but his family kidnapped him. I’ve spent the time finishing The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rhinehart, who has somewhat restored my faith in mystery novels written by late 19th – early 20th century women. I still prefer British authors, but how can I fail to love the woman who inspired Batman?

As a fake excuse for why I haven’t yet written about Darwin and geology, I present photographic evidence that my help was hindering:

Mother's Little Helper

You see that nice, fresh, shiny white notebook she’s lying on? I’d put that down not two seconds before, preparatory to picking up the Kindle and furiously taking notes. I know you can take notes on the Kindle, but it’s slow. Not quite as slow, though, as trying to take notes upon a notebook the cat has claimed.

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The Flower Which Is Driving My Readers Mad

Poor F and Adrian. I didn’t mean for my little photo gallery of Oregon flowers to torture them so. I’ve been watching their exchange with an eye to collaring a park ranger next time I’m down that way and demanding an identification, but Adrian’s asked for more pictures, and added “pretty please,” and seeing as how the damned thing intrigued me enough to shoot several photos of it which I haven’t yet posted, I’m in a position to oblige.

Here goes:

Mystery Flower 1

I hope no one’s expecting witty, clever and insightful commentary from me on these photos. What can I say, really? It’s a flower. It’s this big and it’s pink. I’m not even sure it’s properly a flower, because from what little I know about botany, the flower heads look like modified bracts to me. But what the hell do I know? I can’t even identify the damned thing, and it’s stumped some of my most resourceful readers.

Mystery Flower 2

Also, I have cramps. And my computer has taken a pathological dislike to the idea of uploading lots of photos. I tried shaming it by showing it how the Kindle Fire was playing Pandora and loading web pages with zip and zing, but it wasn’t impressed, so I rebooted its arse. I wish I could reboot my uterus, or even just boot it, but it’s hard to get at without medical help. Right now, flowers are making me think about reproduction, and reproduction reminds me that I hate my reproductive system. Perhaps my computer has picked up on this mood.

Mystery Flower 3

It seems that as these flowers age, they get whiter, sort of like my cat. My cat has got a lot of gray, where she’s not going bald. She is, however, still spry enough to shove her dear face in mine in the ay-em and wail like a banshee until she’s started me awake believing there’s some terrible calamity. Upon investigation, I discover her food bowl’s full, her water likewise, and her litter box accessible. She’s just decided to wake me early on a morning when I’m trying to sleep in. So the next day, as she’s snoring on the pillow beside me, I retaliate by tickling her nose and crooning “You’re so cute!” until she’s wide awake.  There follows a state of truce for one day, and then she gets her vengeance by shitting on the sofa.

I love my cat. I love my cat. I love my cat.

Mystery Flower 4

There you go. Nice up-close view of the aged flower head. Speaking of aged, did I mention what I’m listening to on Pandora? New Wave. I’m living the 80s, baby, yeah. And contemplating how certain eras have a certain sound. In the 80s, it was synthesizers and lisps. I have uneasy flashbacks to leg warmers and poofy hair. I remember taping songs off the radio and hoping that eventually the DJ would tell me what they were, but he almost never did. The DJ was a 13 year-old with a fantastic radio voice, total geek, one of my favorite friends. I could have asked him, I suppose, but he was always vaguely embarrassed about his job, so we tried not to mention it. I have no idea why.

And I’m thinking of Suzanne, who had her surgery today.  Successful, thankfully, done by a top-notch surgeon. I’m thinking of my other friend, whose news I haven’t heard yet. It’s the wait-and-see-how-bad-it-is game. I hope it ends up being the least worst news.

Think happy thoughts. Think of flowers and butterflies and rocks with wonderful inclusions and phenocrysts and suchlike. Happily, we can end with a photo that has got all three.

Mystery Flower Finale

Hopefully, one of these photos will lead through a breakthrough. If not, there’s always Oregon park rangers and the Kindle Fire. I shall pull up these posts and shove these photos in faces until an identification is accomplished, for the sake of F and Adrian.

Love and hugs, my darlings. I’m off to bury myself in New Wave and 19th century mystery novels again, but I’ll be popping up to post more photos (probably not of unidentified flowers so much, because one mystery at a time is enough), and there’s the super-late Darwin Day post, and possibly a new trip to Oregon if we don’t get rained out…

Darwin Day Delayed Due to Delightful Detectives

I truly did mean to get a wonderful post up on Darwin and his geological researches. Had a goodly amount of research done and everything. Then I made a serious mistake – I started Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone as a bit of light reading over lunch on Saturday.

I’ve meant to read it for a long time, ever since I saw it mentioned by John Douglas in Mindhunter. It’s one of the first – arguably the first – English-language detective novel. Its Sergent Cuff, brilliant member of the Detective Police, is based on Inspector Jonathan Whicher, a Scotland Yard detective whose obsession over a nightgown seems to have made something in Wilkie’s imagination go ping.

I figured it would be worth reading for strictly historical interest. If I’d known I’d become as obsessed by the story as Wilkie was over nightgowns, I’d have waited until after Darwin Day.

It’s a sign of genius when, although the narrators either annoy or infuriate you, you still can’t stop reading. Between the Robinson Crusoe addict who couldn’t stay on topic and the religious fanatic who made me wish fervently for a handy murderer, there should have been plenty of reason to put the book down and do up Darwin. This was, alas, impossible. I wanted to strangle certain characters too much, for one, and got too involved with the puzzle, for another. Then came folks I genuinely liked, some I even came to love. And, every time it seemed Wilkie was gonna weasel and do something weak, lame or both, he’d do something brilliant instead. The constant threat of the paranormal, amnesia and sleepwalking hang over your head. But he’s not a crude writer. He doesn’t choose the easy way out. He’s clever. I like that in a writer, especially a Victorian-era one.

In the end, I finished satisfied, if a bit stunned by the lack of bodies – I’ve read so much Agatha Christie that I automatically assume that the morgue should be filled to bursting by the end of the book, and winced every time someone delayed in telling somebody something, sure this meant their imminent demise. Wilkie however, manages a ripping good tale with few fatalities. It’s a refreshing change.

Anyway. I swear to you, I’ll have ye olde belated Darwin Day post up soonish. In the meantime, if you’re desperate for something to read, go hunt up a copy of The Moonstone. It’s free at the Kindle store, or available through Project Gutenberg. There’s even some geology in it – very nice use of some suspect sand on the Yorkshire coast. Not to mention an enormous chunk of carbon at the heart of everything. It’s amazing the shenanigans people get up to when enormous chunks of crystalized carbon are involved. Atheists in the audience will appreciate the treatment of the above-mentioned religious fanatic and other sundry fanatics. Writers will thrill to the fancy literary footwork in which, even in the first person, the author manages to get across things about the narrator that the narrator doesn’t realize about him-or-herself, allowing the audience to snigger behind their hands without feeling ill-used. And fans of Robinson Crusoe will find their adoration shared by a venerable old gentleman who swears that book holds all the answers one could ever need in life.

I’m not willing to go quite that far with The Moonstone. But I will avow it’s a book that any person interested in detective fiction or the art of writing should certainly read at least once. Even if it does mean that some prior obligations must be punked off due to the unfortunate fact that the bloody thing’s impossible to put down once fairly underway.

Lilies for a Friend

2012 is not being kind to kith and kin. Suzanne’s fractured her poor leg and knee. Another friend just sent me rather distressing news. I won’t reveal anything about it until I have her leave, but I figured another installment of flowers was in order. She and Suzanne both could use a little beauty right now.

We’ll have some lovely lilies, accompanied by one of the most beautiful piano pieces I’ve heard lately, “Tip-Toe Dancer” by Karen Marie Garrett.

The lilies are from the North Creek area. This first one reminds me very much of my friend: its near-translucent purple looks delicate, but it’s tough as well as gorgeous.

Purple lily

This white lily is an early spring delight. I love how the little bits of green in its petals give it some pizazz.

White Lily

In the summer, orange lilies bloom nearly everywhere. Sometimes, it’s just a bloom or two on a single stalk; elsewhere, banks of them blaze out. They seem to pick up where the rhododendrons leave off, and leaven the endless green quite admirably.

Orange lilies

These scarlet lilies are from a park near the river. Not a common color, and all the more gorgeous for that.

Scarlet lilies

We’ll finish with flowers found in the blast zone at Mt. St. Helens. They’re a wonderful reminder that no matter how bad the damage, given a bit of time, beauty can return.

Beauty in the Blast Zone

And now, I’d like a word with 2012: stop fucking with my friends, or I will hurt you in the face. Well, I would, if you had a face, which you don’t. You’re not even a you. Bugger. Still, you’re on notice, 2012. Behave.

Secret Gardens, Crater Lake

Two things at least a few of you have asked for: new music, and moar flowerz. You shall have both, my darlings.

I’ve been using Pandora quite a bit now I own the Kindle Fire, and discovered quite a lot of new music that gets right down to the root of me. One of my favorites so far is Secret Garden. It’s Irish-Norwegian sheer delight. Piano and violin and, sometimes, voices that sweep a person right out of this ordinary world.

It’s the sort of music that goes well with dramatic but serene landscapes, and flowers in same. So why don’t we combine said melodies with wildflowers from Crater Lake, which is nothing if not a dramatic but often serene landscape.

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