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1. The Multifandom Drabble Exchange is running again this year. Admin posts are on Dreamwidth at [community profile] multifandomdrabble. The nomination period for fandoms has just started. I did it last year and enjoyed it; it's a nice low-pressure fic exchange where all you have to write is 100 words. Simple, right? (This is of course a trick question: it's often very difficult to fit everything you want to say into 100 words. But I did enjoy it.)


2. Our production of The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society production of The Mikado opens this week. I was worried about it for a while (Four weeks, you rehearse and rehearse / Three weeks, and it couldn't be worse), but it's been really coming together over the last few rehearsals, so I think we'll survive.


3. I didn't mention that while our production was in rehearsals, the club also put on its annual season of one-act plays. There were two this year, titled "Harry's Bounty" and "Kayak", which were both excellent. (Though I did think that "Harry's Bounty" was one scene too long; the final scene doesn't say anything new, just repeat explicitly things that had been strongly implied already, and loses the strong ending the play would have had if it had finished on what is currently the second-last scene.) Both plays were built around relationships of parents and children, and the director of "Harry's Bounty" is the mother of the director of "Kayak"; they were planning at one point to advertise the season under the title "Mother and Son", but they got a lot of feedback that people were getting confused and thinking that meant there would be a stage version of the popular sitcom.


4. This year's big production by the local high school that does a big annual production was Disney's Beauty and the Beast. The actor playing Belle was also the lead in last year's Hairspray; she and the actor playing the Beast were also the duo who took top honours at the drama eisteddfod last year. They both did very well in the roles, although I felt that the actor playing the Beast did better at bringing out the Beast's hidden humanity than at portraying his surface beastliness. In this he was not being given much assistance by his costume, which tended toward the minimal for logistical reasons. The actors playing Gaston and Lefou were also very good. Seeing how the stage version was adapted from the animated film was interesting; I liked how the animated furniture was handled. The songs added for the stage version are a mixed bunch; "Home" is excellent, others are good, and I cordially detest "A Change in Me": it has a nice enough tune but rubbish lyrics that lean too heavily on vague generalities and when it does get specific they're the wrong specifics. (Wikipedia informs me that it was added to the show late and in a hurry, which perhaps explains it.)


5. I'm finally filling a gap in my fannish experience and reading The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, the final collection of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. It's not as easy to come by as the earlier books, because it's still covered by copyright so there isn't the same plenitude of cheap editions, and its reputation suggested that it wasn't particularly worth much effort in seeking out, so up until recently I'd only read a few of the stories that were reprinted in anthologies. (In fact I think "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", which was in a horror-themed anthology I read as a child, may have been the first actual Holmes story I ever read.) The stories aren't ACD's best work, and some of them give a distinct air of having been dashed off without much effort, but there are some good moments in there. (And some terrible ones: "The Adventure of the Creeping Man", which has a solution based on what I presume was cutting-edge scientific theory at the time, really hasn't aged well.) Of the ones I've got through so far, I think my favourite is "The Problem of Thor Bridge", which has some proper detectoring, some nice character work (including a character who is of a familiar type but turns out to be more complicated than he might have been in an earlier ACD story), and a solution I didn't already know and didn't find too easy to guess.
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Terry Pratchett. The Fifth Elephant (e) (re-read)

In progress
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes (e)
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. The Gathering Edge (e)
Terry Pratchett. The Truth (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books in progress
Michael Troughton. Patrick Troughton

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Kai Ashante Wilson. A Taste of Honey
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. The short play season has been and gone. This year there were two plays, with a set of song-and-dance numbers in between; I was in the song-and-dance section, and got to sing the lead part on "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" while the rest of the troupe did their best to upstage me. The other songs we did were "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "Friends", both ensemble numbers, and "Otto Titzling", in which I made a brief and mostly mimed appearance as the villainous Phillippe de Brassiere, wearing a villainous top hat and villainous false moustache over my insufficiently villainous real moustache.

Next up is The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.


2. My facial hair has gone through some variations this year. I grew out a full beard for Fagin, pruned it back to a moustache for the short play season, and am now going clean-shaven for Jekyll & Hyde. As an intermediate stage between the full beard and the moustache, just for the fun of it, I spent a week going about with Edwardian-style friendly muttonchops. I got a notable number of complimentary remarks about the look suiting me, so I may have to revisit it in future.


3. A few weeks ago, I went to the city to catch the touring professional production of Little Shop of Horrors. I found it somewhat disappointing, although I'm saying this as someone with multiple other productions to compare it to. The set design was amazing, and the whole thing was very impressive on the technical side, but a lot of the time I wasn't really feeling it on the emotional level. I think the size of the theatre was working against it; every other time I've seen Little Shop live has been in the kind of little shoebox theatre where even the back row isn't all that far from the stage. I'm also inclined to think most of the actors were struggling under the weight of the accents, which tended toward being so far over the top several of the characters were basically accents with people attached. The actor playing Seymour somehow got away with a reasonably-sized accent, and his performance did a great deal toward salvaging the whole thing.


4. I apparently didn't mention that after catching up with Now You See Me on home video, I went to see Now You See Me 2 in the cinema. It's probably not an objectively good movie, but I found it entertaining enough, even if I didn't quite believe it when the plot forced the protagonists to create in a matter of days the kind of stunt it took them months to set up in the first movie. Interestingly, it at least made some attempt to address some of the things that didn't quite make sense in the first movie regarding character motivations and such, which I appreciated even if some of the answers were also among the parts of the movie I didn't quite believe. One of the comments I made about the first movie has become quite amusing in retrospect, for reasons I can't really describe without massive spoilers.


5. This week we had the drama section of the annual performing arts festival. As usual, it was mostly students, but this year there was an actual adult entrant. (From Toastmasters -- he did a poetry recital and a monologue -- not from either of the theatre groups. Although we did hear from an adult Rep Club member who hadn't seen any promotional material until after the entry deadline had already passed. We really need to work on our outreach to the theatre groups.) The student entries included a collection of short group pieces the students had created themselves as part of their coursework, which tended to be dealing with Issues like self-esteem and coping with loss and so on. One of the highlights of the evening was a transgender coming-of-age story where the protagonist was represented by two performers, one playing his image of himself and the other playing his parents' image of him. Which sounds a bit weird, but the execution was really impressive. One of the actors involved, who also did a stand-out monologue, took out the top prize at the end of the evening.
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Janet Kagan. Hellspark (e) (re-read)
Janet Kagan. Mirabile (e)
Terry Pratchett. Interesting Times (e) (re-read)
Noah Smith. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

In progress
Diane Duane. Deep Wizardry (e) (re-read)
Terry Pratchett. Maskerade (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books In progress
Adrian Goldsworthy. Augustus (e)

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
William Shakespeare. Hamlet
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Last night (Friday) we had a showcase night at the Rep Club, with members performing songs from various musicals -- ending, of course, with a couple from the upcoming production of Oliver!. I got called on to perform "Reviewing the Situation", which was a bit nerve-wracking, particularly since at the point where it was added to the program we hadn't actually got up to it in rehearsals. I'd been practicing it at home, but never with someone else accompanying, and it's the kind of song where that can make a difference. I did manage to get in some practice with the showcase night's accompanist, and in the event it went off well. The other performances were also good, and all in all it was a fun night.


2. Three weeks until Oliver! opens, which puts us into the traditional period for worrying about whether the whole thing will come together in time. We still haven't had any rehearsals with the pit orchestra yet, for one thing. I suspect the big test might be in about a week, when we start doing the head-to-tail run-throughs, and we find out how much the children still remember of Act One.


3. My current favorite author of DC superhero fanfic strikes again. The title of this one is Arm Candy, and the summary is: Where Bruce Wayne goes, models follow. It's almost a joke, the way he wears them like watches, girls too young for him hanging off his arms. It's a wonder he can even tell them apart. Both are ironic.


4. I did a piece of adulting recently that I was quite proud of. The venetian blinds on one of my windows weren't staying up, and I figured out that some of the brackets that held them in place had been twisted out of shape. I found a shop that sold replacement brackets, installed them, and re-hung the blinds all by myself. I even dealt calmly and collectedly with the part where I learned why the original installer had drilled two holes for one of the brackets, which I did by inadvertantly screwing the bracket into the wrong hole first and discovering, as the original installer presumably had, that when it was placed there it got in the way of the mechanism for raising and lowering the blinds.


5. The local high school's big production of the year was the musical Hairspray. I went along, and it was one of the most entertaining nights out I've had in a while.

(One thing I was a bit worried about going in was how they were going to handle the fact that a significant subset of the characters are African-American, a group that isn't represented in large numbers in these parts. Apparently, this is not an uncommon problem; there was actually a message in the show programme from the authors of the show saying that they encouraged high school productions to find creative solutions to it -- ie., absolutely not blackface -- and asked the audience to get into the spirit of the thing. In the event, what this production did was have all the white characters played by white actors and all characters who are people of colour played by actors who are people of colour, if not necessarily the colour originally intended. That seemed like a reasonable compromise.)
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. In July of 2013, I set out to re-read all the novels and short stories by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller set in the Liaden universe (sixteen novels, and considerably more short stories), one chapter at a time in chronological order, blogging my progress as a way to keep myself on track. I have now achieved that goal, but the blog will be continuing for a bit longer while I read the new novel that came out while I was re-reading the old ones. (That also buys me some time to finish up the concluding post on Lessons From This Project, or What You Can Learn From My Mistakes.)


2. For reasons that I may get around to talking about later, I have started studying German through Duolingo. (I did German for three years in high school, but most of it has leaked away since; what I usually say is that I can reliably manage "Hello", "Goodbye", and "I'll have a slice of the black forest cake, please".)

I was amused when one of the example sentences in the first lesson on nominative pronouns was "Ist das deine Kuh?" ("Das ist nicht meine Kuh. Es spreche Neigh. Das ist ein Pferd.")


3. The annual local performing arts festival is over for another year. Once again, I emceed all of it except for the session where I was playing with the brass band. I was pretty wrung out by Sunday evening. (The music section of the festival runs for three whole days, from Friday through Sunday. The drama section fluctuates a lot, depending on how many of the schools have active drama programs and choose to enter that year, but this year we had enough for a drama evening on the Monday, with some pretty impressive work entered. It strikes me that there is perhaps more outreach needed when the city has two theatre groups and neither ever produces any entries.)


4. I completed NaArMaMo this year, and found it very friendly and encouraging. I have posted my daily artworks on my Tumblr. (See if you can spot which one I did on Sunday night after the performing arts festival.)


5. Signal boosting: Humble Bundle offers bundles of games, ebooks, and other electronic products for special prices with proceeds going to charity. They're currently, but not for much longer, offering a bundle of Star Wars audio books which includes, if you pay at least $15, all three parts of the Star Wars radio series.
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Ellis Peters. Black is the Colour of My True Love's Heart (re-read)
Ellis Peters. Flight of a Witch
Ellis Peters. The Grass Widow's Tale
Ellis Peters. A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs (re-read)
Ellis Peters. The Piper on the Mountain
Terry Pratchett. Snuff
Anthony Price. War Game

In progress
Murray Leinster. The Forgotten Planet

Non-fiction books
Verlyn Flieger. Interrupted Music: The Making of Tolkien's Mythology

In progress
Barbara Sher, Barbara Smith. I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Ellis Peters. The House of Green Turf
pedanther: (Default)
1. I will be in Perth this weekend for the State Band Festival. (At UWA on Saturday afternoon, all day Sunday, and Monday morning. We will be playing in the 8.30am session on Sunday.) Normally, that doesn't leave me any significant amount of free time, but this year there appears to be a Saturday-morning-shaped gap in the schedule. Anybody have a suggestion of what to fill it with?

2. Last Saturday, I went to see a local high school's production of The Taming of the Shrew. On the whole I found it to be a satisfying night's entertainment. I don't think they entirely succeeded in establishing a persuasive arc for the relationship between Petruchio and Katherina, but then a lot of productions don't, and it gave me several new things to think about. Being a school production, there was a certain amount of trouble with young people unconvincingly playing old people, and some actors not having the ear for the language (and a lack of consensus about how to pronounce some of the foreign words). The actors playing Katherina and Petruchio were good. (They were the same two who took out the top honours in the drama section of the Performing Arts Festival last year. The guy who came third was also in this, as Petruchio's comic-relief sidekick, and was another highlight.) An interesting production thing: The sets and costumes were colour-coded - Baptista's household in red, Petruchio's in blue, Vincentio's in green, and so on. Bianca wore pink; Katherina started out in a lady-in-red dress, and after the wedding to Petruchio appeared what appeared to be the same dress but now coloured a more muted purple.

3. Speaking of colours and clothing, I appear to be developing rudiments of colour coordination in my dress sense, to the point that I recently bought a new jacket, despite already owning several quite serviceable jackets, because none of the ones I already owned were colours that went particularly well with the blue section of my wardrobe. I'm finding this oddly disconcerting.

4. And speaking of The Taming of the Shrew, about eight years ago I was in a production of Kiss Me Kate, which, being one of Broadway's many shows about itself, has an opening number which is about the opening of a new show. There's a verse in there that counts down the last four weeks of the rehearsal period, which I have often found myself singing during the last four weeks of a rehearsal period on subsequent shows, especially when they're musicals. Chicago opens in two and a half weeks.

5. Last Friday there was a revue night, with songs and comic sketches and so on. Included in the program was a preview of our production of Chicago, with three songs, including my solo. It was the first time I've performed it in front of a proper audience; I was more nervous than I usually am on stage (then again, I don't normally get solos!), but apparently it went over well. I got a lot of compliments afterward.
pedanther: (Default)
This evening there was a concert to showcase the arts centre and the various local musical groups and activities. The line-up included a couple of bands, a couple of choirs, a music teacher solo and in a duet with one of her students, and various other solos, duets, etc. (I was in the brass band.)

It was nice enough, but I'm not sure how successful it was as a showcase - subtract the performers and their relatives, and there wasn't very much audience left over.

***

This reminds me that I haven't written the entry I was planning to about the annual performing arts festival.
Read more... )
The main part of the performing arts festival is the music sections, which take up a whole weekend, but there's also a drama section, which takes one evening a few weeks later.
Read more... )
One of the reasons I went to the drama night this year was that the adjudicator was Raymond Omodei, who was Director-in-Residence at the Repertory Club for a few months this year. Adjudicating the drama night was one of the incidental things he did as Director-in-Residence. The main thing was directing a play, The Playboy of the Western World.

And there's a whole 'nother entry I could write about that, but I don't think I'll do it right now. This is long enough already.
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Len Brown, Wally Wood, et al. THUNDER Agents Archives volume 1
Anthony Price. Colonel Butler's Wolf
Kelley Puckett, Martin Pasko, et al. Batman: The Collected Adventures volume 1 (re-read)
Jeff Smith. Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil
James White. The Secret Visitors
Greg Weisman, Karine Charlebois. Gargoyles: Bad Guys
Margaret Wild, Ron Brooks. Fox

In progress
Louisa May Alcott. Little Women
Leo Tolstoy. War and Peace

Non-fiction books
(none)

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Ludwig Bemelmans. Madeline
pedanther: (Default)
Back from the play. The programme booklet contains nothing I recognise as an official endorsement, and the adaptation-for-stage is credited to the director, so I continue to speculate nervously about the prospect of lurking intellectual property lawyers.

It was one of those school plays where the props, costumes, sets, and cast are all assembled out of what was available, and one is expected to politely overlook any consequent shortcomings - except when they're pointed out for the humour value. There was an official announcement regretting that due to the present shortage, the role of the giant would not be played by somebody of appropriate stature and we would all just have to pretend; enter the giant, immediately apparent as the shortest member of the cast. (The fact that the tallest member of the cast was playing the dwarf, on the other hand, passed without comment, since they were able to trim all the references to his height without affecting the plot and rely for the rest on the goodwill of anyone who knew better.) The climbing scene played at a 90-degree angle for health & safety reasons was also amusing, and the sock-puppet eels were downright cute.

I should say that it wasn't all shortcomings. There was some excellent acting, and a couple of very clever sight gags. All in all it was a fun night out, for reasons which were largely orthogonal to the success or otherwise of the adaptation.

I don't want to say too much about the adaptation, since much of it can be summed up by noting that it was a school production, better than one might have feared, and probably no worse than one might reasonably have hoped. There was, however, one strikingly odd thing, in a way that "it was a school production" completely fails to cover, and it has to do with the framing device.

They left out the frame story from the film, which wasn't the odd thing: one may regret it, but given the logistical challenges involved it's understandable. There was instead a prologue and epilogue in which the narrator addressed the audience directly to provide context; this wasn't the strikingly odd thing either, although it did seem rather pointless, since without the rest of the frame story it didn't connect to anything and could safely have been left out entirely. The strikingly odd thing was that the prologue and epilogue were condensed versions, not of the frame story from the movie, but of the other frame story, the world-weary one that only appeared in the original novel and got left out of the movie because it was too depressing. The depressingness was toned down somewhat (which, again, what was the point?), and the ending was given a different emphasis, but it still sat strangely with the youth of the narrator and the generally cheerful tone of the production.
pedanther: (Default)
A local secondary school's upper year drama students are putting on a stage adaptation of one of my favourite movies. (I am not sure I should say which in a public forum, as I am not certain how official an adaptation it is, and the Morgenstern estate is notoriously unforgiving about people taking liberties.) I was going to go see it tonight, but it was booked out, so I'm going to see it tomorrow night instead.

So what I did do this evening was put up some bookshelves. They're from IKEA, and didn't come with instructions since assembly was a straightforward matter of plugging bits into other bits... up to a point. Figuring out how to attach the crossbraces took a while (and a bit longer to make the little voice insisting there would be disaster if I'd got it wrong shut up). They look quite nice, but in the end there's fewer actual shelves than I would like. They're modular, though, so I'm hoping I'll be able to get more shelves without having to buy a whole new bookcase.

I listened to some radio while I was figuring out the bookshelves, including a program about the world's oldest surviving joke book, "Philogelos", from the third or fourth century AD. It includes a version of this old chestnut (which is therefore officially one of the oldest chestnuts going):

"Doctor, can you help me? Every morning when I wake up, I feel dizzy for half an hour; then I'm all right for the rest of the day."
"The solution is simple: Just wake up half an hour later."


(By the way, by "this evening" I mean Friday, and "tomorrow night" means Saturday, even though I'm writing this after midnight and some people would say that it's therefore Saturday already. The way I see it, it's not tomorrow until I've been to sleep and woken up again. Being smart, you ask: "What if you don't go to sleep at all?" I don't know; it hasn't come up since I adopted this viewpoint. And it's not going to come up tonight, either. *yawn* G'night.)

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