Sunday, October 23, 2011

Loving a Character, Hating a Character

I may have stated before that I have become a fan of Glee.  That doesn't mean I'm going to go "like" it on facebook or get a t-shirt or anything like that.  I may buy a CD at some point.  Certainly I have the DVDs but that's how I get my TV viewing done.

Glee's resident airhead Brittany Pierce is as innocent as they come.  Naive and gullible, she is a feather in the wind, blown from one thing to another.  She is manipulated by bad guy Coach Sue, devastated by a stray offense from boyfriend Artie, and frankly suspicious her cat Mr. Tubbykins has started smoking again.  And she is an inherently good person.  If someone wants something, it's probably for a good reason.  So Brittany tries to make that happen - whether it's a good thing or not.  Introduced in the series as a mindless minion for the bad guys, Brittany has become a good guy as the character of the people around her improves.

Watching her on the screen, it's easy to love Brittany.  She's like the endearingly charming moppet that sits in front of you in church.  That this endearingly charming moppet is a tall, attractive blonde is beside the point.  Like your favorite niece, you don't want to see her hurt for anything.

In contrast, the character I'm portraying for the play The Foreigner is the polar opposite of Brittany.  Owen Musser is mean and completely comfortable with being mean.  He hates and revels in hate.  He's selfish and demeaning, mocking and rude.  And he's dumb as a post.

You might think you know who the idiot is in The Foreigner.  But if you don't think it's Owen, you're wrong.

So I recall every hateful sneer in the hallways, every flipped bird in traffic, pull all those to the forefront and wear them on my face for a couple of hours.  I've almost got all my lines nailed down and once we've finished building the set (we've raised the stage three feet for the sake of the production, I hope everyone can see okay) I'll be able to hammer down my blocking as well.

Becoming Tom Rogers for And Then There Were None was tough enough, bringing to life the worst moments of that poor guy.  That left me emotionally drained, just wrung out.  But pulling Owen out of the recesses leaves me wearing thoughts and attitudes that I'd rather never have.

I'm putting myself through all this stress for the sake of entertaining people, and I'm doing it for free.  I think I might be crazy.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Becoming Another

It's been about six months since I stepped on stage for the first time, which means it's about time for Norris Little Theatre to put on another production.

This time it's The Foreigner by Larry Shue.  According to some, it's a little...controversial.  There's a couple of bad guys, a stack of good guys, a couple of deliberate misdirections that run smack headlong into each other.  And that's where the excitement begins.

I read somewhere - darned if I can find it now, dangitall there's no browsing history in my head - that Shue came up with the idea for The Foreigner either as a result of or during a visit to Japan, where the very polite people regarded Shue's own inept handling of the culture shock with amusement and patience.  From such humble beginnings spring creativity's children.

Shall I tell you my character?  I can't see why not.  The play is out there, of course.  Shue, poor fellow, didn't live long enough to see it become the success that it was.  The Foreigner played Broadway for over 600 performances, but Shue had died by the time that run was over.

My character's name is Owen Musser.  He's a bad guy.  He knows he's a bad guy and is totally okay with it, because he's certain the conviction of his beliefs is right and good.  In one spot, Owen tells another character, "I can't see how you're plannin' to take anything over 'thout raisin' a little hell."  Owen is willing, maybe even eager, to be that hellraiser.  He's a bully, he's cheerfully hateful, he's threatening and overbearing.  And he is totally okay with it.

And I reach into myself, find every awful person who sat behind me and kicked my chair in French class, threw the dodgeball at my head in gym, even cut me off in traffic, and I have another piece of Owen to put in front of an audience.

How well will that work out?  We'll see.

Curtain goes up November 4, 5 and 6.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Saving energy, expending energy

At work, we've been working hard to turn the wick down on our utility bills.  It appears to be working.

Part of what made such a big difference was receiving a large and welcome donation from a supporter.  Now usually a donation is in the form of a check, and that's great.  Sometimes however, the donation takes the form of goods.  Sometimes those donations fall a little flat - do we really need this many admittedly cute hand-knitted wool hats?

Not this time.  This guy's donation was off the charts.  Several boxes of Sylvania fluorescent tubes in the new and relatively unnoticed 25-watt size.  Occupancy sensors.  LED bulbs that, among other things, are rated for about double my very (very) best incandescent bulbs can do.  Am I installing those in the very peak of the chapel?  Oh yes.  I hate changing those bulbs, and if these LED floodlights last even half as long as their package copy says, I won't have to think about them again until 2015.

So what I have here is over $3000 worth of lighting products.  The fluorescent tubes are hard to come by, and not carried by the vendors that I have accounts with which makes them even tougher to acquire for work.  I always knew they'd make a tangible dent if I could just get hold of them.  And now here they are.

In their first month, our utility bill took a dip.  In spite of our electric rate going up 10% over the same period last year, our bill went down 10% due to decreased usage.  That's some serious progress.  And that was the first month, when I hadn't gotten everything installed.

The second month, more stuff is installed.  Not all of it, still - there's a lot of equipment and consumables here, it's a big job and some of it I've gotten done with volunteer crews - but we're getting closer.  In the first month our dollar savings was $1800.  In the second month, $2200.

Not bad by any stretch.  I've never seen our utility bill go down from one year to the next.  In two months, it's dropped like a stone.

It just takes an awful lot of work to make it happen.  Chapel lights, like I said, require a lift.  Thirty-five feet or more from floor to peak, those lights aren't something you just reach up and grab.  Fortunately this time another volunteer crew was installing some audio-visual gear and brought their own scissor lift.  Hey presto, job's done and I didn't die of vertigo.

In one room there's 192 fluorescent tubes to replace.  I counted.  In the dining room, another 158.  In another room, 96.  Each tube replaced represents a 7-watt savings over the old installation.  That represents over 3000 watts of electricity we're not using anymore and if you don't think that's much, well, maybe it isn't in the grand scheme of things.  But every hour we can avoid that 3000 watts is an hour we save about 45 cents.  There's over 600 hours in a month, and some of those lights are on all the time.  Getting the message across about turning lights off has made a big difference too, and setback thermostats.  It's finally all coming together.  It's take a huge effort on the parts of way more than just me, but it's finally coming together.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs and Why America Needs More Jobs

"This was the closest I've been to facing death, and hopefully it's the closest I get for a few more decades."  Steve Jobs on his original bout with pancreatic cancer, in the commencement speech to Stanford University's graduating class of 2005.

That's all I have at this moment, but there will be more presently.