Friday, January 31, 2014

Hump Day

From the 2011 SFB production
Wednesdays are usually referred to as “hump day” but this last Tuesday evening (1/28/2014) it was Hump Day on stage at the San Francisco Ballet. The company was performing the classically romantic story ballet, “Giselle.” This tragic dance of seduction and betrayal is about a peasant girl named Giselle who dies of a broken heart after discovering her lover is betrothed to another. The Wilis, a group of supernatural women who dance men to death, summon Giselle from her grave. They target her lover for death, but Giselle's love frees him from their grasp. Overall, the performance was just about as perfect as one could imagine.

EXCEPT >>> Halfway through the first act, a hunting party of noblemen and women arrive on stage seeking refreshments and entertainment. The group includes the betrothed princess, Bathilde, the female rival to Giselle. Bathilde enters with two beautiful, full-size white Russian Wolfhounds (or Borzois).

As she sits down amidst a stage full of dancers, villagers and the royal entourage, one dog mounts the other and starts to VIGOROUSLY humping it.  All focus is now on the dog-on-dog action. The orchestra begins playing some 'pause' music. The stage full of dancers and actors are doing all they can to 1) not lose character and roll on stage in laughter, 2) get the dogs apart, and then 3) finally drag the still-humping dogs off stage. The audience members, in the meantime, were rolling in the aisles in laughter. What a scene to be remembered!

Three year-old twin Borzois, Roman and Genesis.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Word of the Day

I learned a new word for an old term. It is a $10 medical expression for fainting.
Vasovagal. \ˌvā-zō-ˈvā-gəl\

I never heard this before. But I sure heard a lot of it during my last medical procedure. That is because I fainted half way through a diagnostic procedure. I was having a lung needle biopsy done. I am being tested to see if I have developed lung cancer.

My husband heard of my vasovagal episode while sitting in the waiting room. He heard the hospital speaker announcement of “Code Blue in CT room.” [Code Blue is generally used to indicate a patient requiring resuscitation or otherwise in need of immediate medical attention.] The emergency code was quickly cancelled. Hubby said he wasn't worried or too concerned. He just assumed it was just me fainting again.

Needles have always troubled me. Ever since I can remember I have swooned and passed out when confronted with them. I have fainted in the doctor's office, dentist chair, blood lab, etc. Over time I have acclimated to most needle usage. I no longer have a “vasovagal episode” with injections, blood work or IVs. But a needle through the chest did me in this time.

According to Wikipedia: A vasovagal episode or vasovagal response or vasovagal attack is a malaise mediated by the vagus nerve. When it leads to syncope or "fainting", it is called a vasovagal syncope, which is the most common type of fainting.
Some typical triggers for vasovagal episodes that work on me:

  • The sight of blood or blood drawing (a big one for me. I always avoid looking.)
  • Any painful or unpleasant stimuli, such as watching or experiencing medical procedures 
  • Stress (Needles stress me!)
  • Sudden onset of extreme emotions
  • Lack of sleep 
  • Dehydration (can be triggered by fasting that the procedure requires.)
  • Hunger (also result of fasting.)

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Another Year, Another Birthday

It may be cold outside, but I am going to celebrate with my shirt off. And so will several other guys that share my birthday on January 9.

1913 Richard Nixon, was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974, when he became the only president to resign the office. Nixon had previously served as a Republican U.S. Representative and Senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. Have you checked out last year's post about Tricky Dick's secret love?

1915 Fernando Lamas, a film, TV actor and director from Argentina. Father of Lorenzo Lamas. Was married to Esther Williams. He was the inspiration for Billy Crystal’s “Fernando” character on Saturday Night Live ("You look marvelous!") and the Dos Equis Beer's “Most Interesting Man in the World” character.

1925 Lee Van Cleef, a film actor who appeared mostly in Westerns and action pictures. His best know rolls include: Kansas City Confidential, High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

1935 Bob Denver, comedic actor known for his roles as Gilligan on the TV series Gilligan's Island and the beatnik Maynard G. Krebs on the TV show The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.

1944 Jimmy Page, an English musician, songwriter and record producer who achieved international success as the guitarist and leader of the rock band Led ZeppelinLed Zeppelin are widely considered one of the most successful, innovative and influential rock groups in history.

1950 David Johansen (pictured with singer Morrissey), a singer, songwriter and actor. He is best known as a member of the seminal protopunk band The New York Dolls. He is also known for his work under the pseudonym Buster Poindexter.

1967 Dave Matthews, a singer-songwriter, musician and actor, best known as the lead vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist for the Dave Matthews Band. During the period from 2000 to 2010, his band sold more tickets and earned more money than any other act in North America.

1967 Steve Harwell, the lead vocalist and a songwriter for the band Smash Mouth. The band is known for such songs as "Walkin' on the Sun" and "All Star" as well as covering of popular songs such as The Monkees' "I'm a Believer".

1978 A.J. McLean, a singer, songwriter, actor and a member of the boy band, Backstreet Boys. The Backstreet Boys have sold over 130 million records worldwide, making them the best-selling boy band in history, and one of the world's best-selling music artists.

To be fair, here are several GPOY shots of me hiking or running on recent vacations.

Florida 2012
Canada 2012
France 2013
Scotland 2011

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The golden fruit of hospitality: Pineapple Point

The front gate of Pineapple Point
What an amazing two week holiday we had at Pineapple Point Guesthouse & Resort and in Fort Lauderdale area during our annual visit. Usually when we travel, we have a full agenda of cultural, tourist and physical activities such as hiking and biking. But our Florida vacation is always centered on socializing with several dozen friends and hanging around the resort.

We went to 6 great parties with old & new friends;
Went out to 10 dinners and lunches with long-term, local friends;
Noshed at the nightly wine & cheese social gatherings at the resort pool;
Partook in a huge Christmas Day feast catered around the pool,
Attended 4 current movies at the nearby Gateway Theater (Philomena, American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, and Nebraska);
Read at least 3 books each while sitting around the pool;
Went out dancing twice in Wilton Manors;
And wandered around the Las Olas Art Fair.
In addition, we ran 5.5 miles to and on the beach for at least 10 of the days we were there.
Hmmm, for a relaxing two weeks, we still did a lot!

We are sending lots of love and hugs to all our Ft. Lauderdale friends, all the dear friends who (like us) come year after year to Pineapple Point, and to all the staff at the resort who are there every December to welcome us back like long-lost relatives.

How can we wait until December 2014?

BTW, I learned something new about pineapples:
In the Caribbean, Europe and North America, the pineapple became associated with the return of ships from extended voyages, and an emblem of welcome and hospitality that made its way into contemporary art. The fruit came to symbolize the high spirits of social events; the image of the pineapple expressed the sense of welcome, good cheer, human warmth and family affection inherent to such gracious gatherings.

Local movie theatre

Our room at Pineapple Point

Christmas tree in the breakfast sun room

Lunch around the pool Christmas day

Ed dancing at Village Pub in Wilton Manors

Eddie dancing at Village Pub

Holiday decorations in nearby Wilton Manors

Monday, January 06, 2014

New Year's Resolution: A Healthier Perspective

I ended 2013 with several health challenges that are going to make the new year a trying one. In the next several weeks I will undertake several medical procedures and tests to determine the next course of treatment.
I want to affirm how I am going to handle myself during these times.

  • I want to be a good patient and avoid being too cranky, negative and mean.
  • I will focus on being positive about the prognosis. 
  • Engaged about my health and course of treatment.
  • Be grateful and thankful for the support of my husband. Don't take him for granted. Cherish his support. Love and embrace all that he gives me.
  • Appreciate the concerns and well wishes from friends and family.
  • Eat healthy, stay as active as I can, and get enough sleep.
  • Take responsibility for my situation and illness/condition and how I emotionally respond to it.
  • Consciously create courage to actively confront and experience my illness/condition head on.
  • Be willing to acknowledge the fact that recovery isn't the same as returning to pre-sickness health levels. Things change and adaptation is part of life. 
  • Don't give up.
  • Don't despair if recovery comes... and then goes.
  • Visualize being well.
  • Stop frightening myself with scary terminology. Know it but don't abuse it and beat myself up with it.
  • I will remember that a body has an amazing ability to adapt to physical changes.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Our Top Rated Plays and Musicals for 2013

In 2013, we saw 90 staged performances of plays, musicals, and operas.  (For complete list see here.) This was an exceptional year, in our opinion for plays.  Narrowing our top-rated plays to the Top Ten was very difficult.  Musicals, at least those produced in the Bay Area, seemed to have an overall weaker year.  We list only the Top Seven in that category this year.  (There were many excellent touring musicals this year; but since we had seen all/most of them on Broadway in earlier years, we did not see most of them among our 2013 ninety.)

Among Bay Areas theatre companies, we gave the most “5” ratings (the top of our scale) to SF Playhouse (5 of their productions).  Right behind them was TheatreWorks with four “5”-ratings.  Altogether, 17 local companies had at least one production we rated “5,” a testament to the amazing theatre scene of the SF Bay Area.  (We attended plays and musicals at 31 different Bay Area companies in 2013.)

Our Top Ten SF Bay Plays of 2013

10.  “Abigail’s Party” - Mike Leigh, San Francisco Playhouse
[A biting, disco infused satire of British suburbia in the 70's is a party. Beverly and Laurence host a drinks party for neighbors. The guests: new couple Angela and Tony, Sue, a divorcee whose daughter Abigail is having a rowdy party. After a series of awkward silences and arguments about music and art, Laurence, tense from the outset, dies of a heart attack.]

9.  “Ideation” - Aaron Loeb, San Francisco Playhouse
[A group of corporate consultants work together on a mysterious and ethically ambiguous project. They are brainstorming a new assignment: to design a system for disposal of dead bodies. Millions of them. Some of them not dead - yet.]

8.  “Wild with Happy” - Colman Domingo, TheatreWorks
[Mom passed away—now where to put her? A struggling black actor rejects the rituals of grief, opting instead for a rapturous road trip to the happiest place on earth.]

7.  “Black Watch” - Gregory Burke, A.C.T. (National Theatre of Scotland)
[Based on interviews with former soldiers, it portrays soldiers in the Black Watch regiment of the British Army serving on Operation TELIC in Iraq during 2004, prior to the amalgamation into the Royal Regiment of Scotland.]

6.  “Other Desert Cities” - Jon Robin Baitz, TheatreWorks
[A Hollywood star’s desert estate glows with Christmas cheer. But home for the holidays is daughter Brooke, a novelist whose tell-all memoir is sure to rip the politically-divided clan apart.]

5.  “The Whipping Man” - Matthew Lopez, Marin Theatre Company
[At the end of the Civil War, a Jewish Confederate soldier returns to find his once-grand home in ruins, occupied only by two of his family’s former slaves. The three men must grapple with their responsibility toward each other and the secrets they hold while celebrating Passover.]

4.  “The Chairs” - Eugène Ionesco, The Cutting Ball Theater
[An elderly couple who pass their time telling each other half-remembered stories. The Old Man resolves to convey his wisdom to a lifetime of friends, while the Old Woman frantically sets out chairs.]

3.  “The Pianist of Willesden Lane” - Mona Golabek, Hershey Felder, Berkeley Repertory Theatre
[Set in Vienna in 1938 and London during the Blitzkrieg, this one hander tells the true story of Mona Golabek's mother, Lisa Jura. As a young Jewish pianist, Lisa dreams of a concert debut at Musikverein concert hall. When Lisa is swept up in the Kindertransport to London in an attempt to protect her from the Nazi regime, everything about her life is upended -- except her love of music.]

2.  “The Mountaintop” - Katori Hall, TheatreWorks
[A Memphis motel, 1968. First night for a sassy maid and the last for an icon of our time, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fresh from the speech of a lifetime. Show re-imagines the night before the tragedy.]

1.  “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” - Christopher Durang, Berkeley Repertory Theatre
[Chekhov is turned on his head in this new farce for our modern hyperconnected world. In bucolic Bucks County, PA, Vanya and Sonia have frittered their lives away in their family’s farmhouse full of regret, angst and the alarmingly ambiguous prophecies of their addled housecleaner Cassandra. Enter their sister, self-absorbed movie star Masha, with her prized 20-something boy toy Spike.]

Our Top 7 SF Bay Musicals of 2013

7.   “Camelot “- Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe, San Francisco Playhouse
[A widescreen, punk-inspired look at the creaky musical of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.]

6.  “Little Women” - Allan Knee, Jason Howland, Mindi Dickstein, TheatreWorks
[Musical based on novel by Louisa May Alcott. Four precocious New England sisters come of age in this 1860s story. It follows independent Jo, traditional Meg, soft-spoken Beth, and vivacious Amy on their journey of personal discovery, romance, heartbreak, and enduring sisterhood.]

5.  “Being Earnest” - Paul Gordon, Jay Gruska, Oscar Wilde, TheatreWorks
[London,1965. This romantic pop musical moves Wilde’s comic masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnest to a Carnaby Street flat, where mod music and morality inspire young love, but outrage Lady Bracknell, the keeper of tradition’s flame.]

4.  “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” - John Cameron Mitchell, Stephen Trask, Boxcar Theatre
[A musical of botched sex-change surgeries, historical ironies, worthless lovers, defiant anthems and showbiz injustice. Includes a roster of 8 different Hedwigs.]

3.  “The Fourth Messenger” - Tanya Shaffer, Vienna Teng, Ashby Theatre
[Musical loosely inspired by the life of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. Here the "awakened one" is a woman guru with a mysterious past. A crusading journalist finds more than she expected when pursuing an expose of the spiritual leader.]

2.  “Carrie The Musical” - Michael Gore, Dean Pitchford, Lawrence D. Cohen, Ray of Light Theatre
[Based on Stephen King’s novel. Musical reworked and re-imagined from B'way flop. Carrie White is a misfit. At school, she’s an outcast who’s bullied by the popular crowd. At home, she’s at the mercy of her loving yet cruelly over-protective mother. But Carrie’s just discovered she’s got a special power. And if pushed too far, she’s not afraid to use it.]

1.  “Beautiful The Carole King Musical” - Douglas McGrath, Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, SHN (pre-Broadway world premiere)
[Tells the inspiring true story of King’s rise to stardom, alongside husband and co-writer Gerry Goffin and fellow song writers Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil]

Our Top 3 Operas of 2013

3.  “Dolores Claiborne” - Tobias Picker, J.D. McClathy, San Francisco Opera
[Based on Steven King novel. When housekeeper Dolores Claiborne is questioned in the death of her wealthy employer, a long-hidden dark secret from her past is revealed- how and why she killed her husband, Joe, 30 years ago.]

2.  “The Flying Dutchman” - Richard Wagner, San Francisco Opera
[A ship's captain is condemned to endlessly travel the seas in search of true love. Once every seven years he may leave his ship in search of a woman who will redeem him from his deathless wandering if she gives him faithful, absolute love. Enter the lovely Senta.]

1.  “The Barber of Seville” - Gicachino Rossini, Pierre Beaumorchais, San Francisco Opera
[Count Almaviva loves the beautiful Rosina, who is kept a virtual prisoner in the house of her lecherous guardian Dr. Bartolo. Almaviva hires jack-of-all-trades Figaro to liberate her.]

Our Top 6 “Outside the Bay Area” Plays of 2013

6.  “The Explorers Club” - Nell Benjamin, Manhattan Theatre Club, New York
[London, 1879. The prestigious Explorers Club is in crisis: their acting president wants to admit a woman, and their bartender is terrible. True, this female candidate is brilliant, beautiful, and has discovered a legendary Lost City, but the decision to let in a woman could shake the very foundation of the British Empire, and how do you make such a decision without a decent drink? Prepare for a farce of mad science involving deadly cobras, a guinea pig, irate Irishmen and the occasional airship.]

5.  “Trip to Bountiful” - Horton Foote, Stephen Sondheim Theatre, New York Cuba Gooding, Jr., Vanessa Williams, Cecely Tyson)
[The play involves a "woman who has to live with a daughter-in-law who hates her and a son who does not dare take her side." While the unhappy family lives in a Houston apartment, Carrie Watts dreams of returning to Bountiful, where she was raised. She eventually runs away and embarks by bus to her destination. She meets several people along the way and upon her arrival, she is wisked back to Houston by her son and daughter-in-law.]

4.  “Choir Boy” - Tarrell Alvin McCraney, Manhattan Theatre Club, New York
[The all-black Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys is the setting for this play with music that provides sometimes direct, sometimes allusive commentary in a coming-of-age work that explores the tug between tradition and self-expression in young black men. The effeminate Pharus wants nothing more than to take his rightful place as leader of the school's legendary gospel choir. Can he find his way inside the hallowed halls of this institution if he sings in his own key?]

3.  “The Nance” - Douglas Carter Beane, Lyceum (Nathan Lane)
[In 1937 Chauncey Miles is a star in a burlesque theatre in NYC, playing a "nance" or the stock character of an effeminate homosexual. Chauncey is gay and looks for men at an automat, but he must be careful or he could be arrested. There he meets younger Ned and they become romantically involved. Mayor La Guardia is trying to end burlesque, in part by persecuting the gay population. Chauncey, in court, defends burlesque and free expression. He also comes to understand that he cannot be monogamous with Ned.]

2.  “The Assembled Parties” - Richard Greenberg, Manhattan Theatre Club, New York (Jessica Hecht, Judith Light)
[The story of a Jewish family living on the Upper West Side of New York City told in 2 acts over a twenty-year period, 1980 to 2000. Set on two Christmas Days, it charts the decline of the Bascov family. It contemplate the legacies we leave to our families and friends when we do things that we know are wrong.]

1.  “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” - Mark Haddon, Simon Stephens, Apollo Theatre, London
[The fifteen-year-old narrator, Christopher, discovers the slain body of his neighbor’s poodle on the neighbor’s front lawn one evening and sets out to uncover the murderer. His investigation is at times aided, and at other times hampered, by the mild form of autism he lives with.]

Our Top 4 “Outside the Bay Area” Musicals of 2013

4.  “Cinderella” - Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Douglas Carter Beane, The Broadway, New York
[Orginally written for TV, Cinderella opens Prince Topher's eyes to the injustice in the kingdom. The prince's parents have died, leaving the kingdom in the hands of a villainous prime minister, who has been the prince's mentor and has duped his young charge into approving oppressive legislation. The rebel Jean-Michel, a new character, and stepsister Gabrielle are in love and seeking to overthrow the government.]

3.  “Top Hat” - Irving Berlin, Matthew White, Howard Jacques, Aldwych Theatre, London.
[Musical based on 1935 Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers move. An American dancer comes to London to star in a show where he meets and attempts to impress a woman in a hotle room below him and to win her affection.]

2.  “Kinky Boots” - HarveyFierstein, Cindi Lauper, Al Hirschfield Theater, New York (Billy Porter)
[Based on the 2005 British film about a struggling, family-owned English shoe factory that avoids bankruptcy when its young boss, Charlie, develops a plan to produce custom fetish-type footwear for drag artists rather than the men's dress shoes. In order to save his workers from losing their source of income, Charlie partners with Lola, a drag queen, to save the business he inherited.]

1.  “Pippin” - Roger O. Hirson, Stephen Schwartz, The Music Box/American Repertory Theater, New York (Patina Miller, Andrea Martin)
[A mysterious performance troupe, led by a Leading Player, tells the story of Pippin, a young prince on his search for meaning and significance.]

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...