Sunset

Posted 1 year, 9 months ago ago on October 7th, 2012

I keep telling myself I’ll get around to updating this blog, and I’ve evidently been kidding myself. Time to acknowledge the evidence and admit that I’m just not keeping up with this thing anymore, and start planning for the eventual sunset of it entirely. Which feels like a shame… I’ve been blogging fairly regularly for 8 years, and I like having a record of what I’ve been up to, so it’s difficult to give up on it entirely. But between trying to spend time with my fiancée and everything else going on in my life both work and play, there really just isn’t room for journaling anymore.

Thank you to those of you who took an interest in my adventures. I’ll do my best to continue to keep you informed one way or another. Let’s hang out some time.

Dan.

A snowstorm effect

Posted 2 years, 6 months ago ago on January 22nd, 2012

Well, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way: if you’re one of the few people who ever actually read this blog, you probably are already aware that I returned from my Florida vacation engaged to one Miss Elizabeth Richmond. I proposed in a parking lot adjoining the beach on an unseasonably frosty night. I might not be the most conventionally romantic kind of guy, but I like to think I make up for it by dispensing with the pretentiousness.

We’re planning a Seattle wedding sometime in the late summer of 2013. I thought this was the perfect amount of time to allow for some peace and relaxation (you know, before we get married and have to start planning the next stages of our lives together), but apparently I don’t understand much about how these things work and instead appear to have signed on for an extended marathon of planning… a planathon, I suppose. Elizabeth has been mostly patient with my bewilderment at all this, but I guess for most women the engagement period is more like the final, critical stage of planning that began sometime shortly after they were shown their first Disney movie.

So it’s had something of a snowstorm effect on our lives already, and every day we are discovering anew what kind of give-and-take between us will satisfy both her desire to get things arranged and my desire to play Skyrim instead.

In the midst of all of this a much more literal snowstorm incapacitated most of Seattle last week, as three-to-five inches of snow will easily do over here. So we’ve been hunkering down for the most part and going just a bit stir-crazy, although this one has probably been more benign than the blizzards we’ve had in the past couple of years. We were actually both out and about a fair bit this weekend, and unless another storm hits it looks like this one was not too much of a problem.

The weather hasn’t helped me get back into the swing of things after returning from vacation. I had planned to start attending Broadway Fit regularly, and that hasn’t happened. I also haven’t been back in an improv show yet (at least that hasn’t been cancelled). Hopefully this week will start to see the remedy of those things, as I’m afraid of becoming listless. My next theatrical project will be assistant-directing Amadeus at SecondStory, but that doesn’t go on until April and I’m not sure when production will start on it.

Speaking of productions, I was hoping to have photos of Joseph and my vacation posted before making this update, but I suppose it will have to wait until I’ve fixed that listlessness problem.

Dan.

More of an adventure

Posted 2 years, 7 months ago ago on December 23rd, 2011

‘Twas the day before the night before Christmas and seeing as I had the day off of work, I thought I would finally get around to posting an update.

Joseph came and went, oh so quickly like such shows tend to do. I don’t think I really had much of an emotional response to it until it was over, when I suddenly felt the loss of it all. I didn’t really get a chance to bond with this cast the way I have some others… perhaps we were all just too busy, or too aloof or something. All I know is that as we finished striking and people started saying their good-byes I all of a sudden felt the absence and regret for not having made more of it… I suppose this show had to end for me to properly appreciate it.

It’s one that I personally struggled with quite a bit, initially just with the mechanics of it (as the dancing and singing were both extremely challenging), but later more with the acting side. By the end of it I could do the choreography in my sleep, but was still fighting a constant, uphill battle with my portrayal of Potiphar and trying to make him both comic and believable. At the end of the day I feel like my performances were pretty uneven, and if I were to go by the audience responses (which I generally try to avoid, but in the end I suppose they have the final say), then they definitely ran the gamut. It was nervewracking, knowing that I was cast primarily for my acting and comedy skills and clearly not my singing and dancing skills, I felt all the more pressure to prove myself and demonstrate that whatever I lacked in the latter I could make up for in the former. You never want anyone to regret trusting you with a role.

It didn’t help matters that a cold was circulating around the cast and I naturally picked it up just in time for our final three shows. It’s been making itself at home in my chest and lungs since the beginning of the week, and it wound up impeding my performance a lot more than I’d hoped. Even little things I’d never anticipated, like bowing down with your head touching the ground for a minute or so is difficult when you can feel your sinuses draining towards your eyes the entire time. I got through it, though, and while perhaps not outstandingly I like to think I still kept it respectable.

I do think I’ll keep going back to Broadway Fit in the new year. It was great exercise and a relatively inexpensive way to keep improving at my stage movement, even if only marginally.

As if life wasn’t busy enough with work and Joseph, Elizabeth and I took a whirlwind trip to New York City with our travel buddies, Colin and Ashley (with whom we’d previously gone to Las Vegas). It was very much an impulsive splurge in response to a sale by Alaska Airlines where tickets from Seattle to NYC were $100 each direction, easily the lowest I’ve seen them in years. As a group, we decided it was too good an opportunity to pass on, especially with the shows currently on Broadway that we’d all wanted to see. We worked it so that we flew into Newark at midnight, were there for Tuesday and Wednesday (enough time to see two evening shows and one matinée) and then were gone the next morning.

It was less of a vacation and more of an adventure, as we were going on a shoestring budget, with no time to rest and the entire city to see. We dragged ourselves around the bulk of Manhattan both days, before schlepping back to the airport Howard Johnson’s in New Jersey, one of the trashiest and noisiest hotels I have stayed in but marginally functional as a base camp. Our primary targets were to see The Book of Mormon and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Book of Mormon had been such a notorious hit (it cleaned up at the Tony’s) that tickets were only available through “resellers” (basically scalpers with a legitimate-looking storefront), and cost us an arm and a leg. Elizabeth wanted to see How to Succeed because it was starring Daniel Radcliffe (of Harry Potter fame), and it was a rare opportunity as he was leaving the show at the end of the month (along with John Larroquette, who piqued my interest).

Perhaps the biggest theatrical treat came in our third show, however. Elizabeth had wanted to see War Horse, but our contact for tickets didn’t come through for us. I jumped at the chance to see the original cast of Venus in Fur, a new play by David Ives, who is one of my favourite contemporary playwrights, but there were almost no cancellations at the box office. It happened that we were meandering around Times Square when someone noticed the marquee for Follies, a revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical featuring Bernadette Peters. We figured a chance to see (living legend) Bernadette Peters was as worthwhile a way to spend our time on Broadway as anything, so we went to the box office and were relieved to discover they still had tickets. After some discussion we dished out the extra for tenth row orchestra seats, which as it turns out was probably the best decision we could have made for a show like that.

Despite my general familiarity with Sondheim I didn’t know Follies at all, and didn’t really know what to expect. What I got was probably the best show I’ve ever seen on Broadway. There were no weak links: all triple-threats, with some of the best singing, dancing and acting I’ve seen in my life. Bernadette may be the star, but she was hardly the stand-out, with all four of the leads just spectacular, and the rest of the ensemble knocking it out of the park. As the play went on we found ourselves increasingly dumbfounded as they would surprise us with something more impressive than anything we’d seen so far, and then proceed to top it with something new. I’m personally not used to seeing someone nail a passion-fueled, emotionally wrenching scene and then perform a song-and-dance number that rivals the best I’ve seen. We were told afterward that there were seven generations of Broadway performers on that stage, and it was truly a sight to behold.

Book of Mormon and How to Succeed were also a grand time, Book of Mormon in particular was hysterical and a real treat to get to see with the originating cast. They were great experiences, although I won’t remember being moved by them the way I was by Follies.

In other news, I turned 32 just four days ago. (It may not seem like a very significant age, but for computer scientists it’s a milestone.) Elizabeth surprised me with an overnight stay at the Willows Lodge, conveniently located in Woodinville, about a fifteen minute drive from us. Comparing it to the Howard Johnson we stayed at in Newark would be like comparing a Cadillac to a bicycle. We had a delightful time and (importantly) a relaxing time, with dinner at the Barking Frog that was some of the best food I’ve had in ages, hot-tubbing and jacuzzi time as well as just lying around and resting in a five-star environment. Unfortunately it was also when my cold started to kick in, so that was some unwelcome timing. It was still a great little retreat for both of us, though.

Now with the Christmas holiday around the corner, I finally have some time off, and we’ll be off to Florida in just a week. A welcome change, for sure!

Dan.

Look like a real champ

Posted 2 years, 8 months ago ago on November 24th, 2011

Ack… it’s American Thanksgiving, and the first time in over a month that I’ve felt relaxed enough to post an update to this thing.

There isn’t an awful lot of news to report on. I’ve been working like crazy on both the dancing and singing for Joseph, which opens in only a couple of weeks. It’s terribly difficult but I’m doing okay, at least when I’m not actually in the moment where we’re performing the scene. It will get to where it needs to be in time, but it’s still nervewracking. There are a lot of men and women in this show who are more “pro” than I am (or at least vastly better equipped with the necessary skills to be in the chorus of a show like this) and it’s hard not to feel like the odd man out.

Combine that with work suddenly getting extremely busy. I’d been assigned to a different project and was suddenly crunching in a way I hadn’t for months. It seems like the worst of that is over, but I should be careful about jinxing it.

The good news is that my replacement green card finally arrived. The previous one had arrived about five months earlier, but had the incorrect date of birth on it. It took longer than the average posted time (3.5 months) and I was getting quite stressed about it. When it finally arrived, everything correct this time, I was more relieved than anything else. Now my biggest dilemma is that I’m required by law to carry it with me everywhere I go, but I now have first-hand knowledge of how painful they are to replace if lost or stolen ($450 fee, the forms and biometrics appointment, and up to 6 months of waiting where you’re in a tough spot if you need to travel internationally). Conversely, the fine if you’re “caught” without it is a maximum of $100 and 30 days in jail. The jailtime wouldn’t be cool (although I can’t imagine anyone has ever had to serve such a term) and I wouldn’t want a misdemeanor on my record, but it seems absurd to me that the fine is less than a quarter of the replacement fee. I’ve decided to carry it with me in spite of what seems like poor reasoning. After all, the odds of my wallet getting lost or stolen (just recently there was a rash of personal effects stolen from improvisers at Theatresports while they were performing) are immeasurably greater than the odds of any local authorities asking to see my card. There is a huge divergence of opinion on the Internet regarding this matter. Some people carry a color photocopy in their wallet, but this is still clearly agains the law and the typical response to that is to see how effective it is if you’re pulled over carrying a photocopy of your driver’s license. I wish I had a good solution to this.

I had a little adventure in home-ownership the other day: my kitchen faucet has always been somewhat leaky, and even though I successfully repaired it back in March it recently began leaking again, even worse than it had before. Since I was evidently unable to do anything long-term to fix it, I decided to run over to Home Depot and just pony up for a new faucet. It seemed almost like poor judgment that I hadn’t done so the first time: sure, it was more expensive, but installing a new faucet is actually a pretty straightforward process, a whole lot less mysterious and error-prone than repairing a thirty-year-old existing faucet.

I estimated it would take less than an hour of work, but it wound up being over seven hours total, accounted for over an afternoon/evening and the following morning. All because I had no idea what I was getting into trying to remove the existing faucet. It’s difficult enough when you’re crammed into a 1-foot-by-2.5-foot opening underneath the cabinet, and the furthest bolt holding the sink in place is about three feet away from you, and there are two sink basins, a garbage disposal and drainage pipes blocking both your arms and vision. The nuts on these bolts were rusted in place, and the majority of my time was spent just getting them to move. I’d already bought a basin wrench to help reach the nut, but I wound up having to buy an even larger one to get sufficient leverage. I had to let them soak in WD-40 multiple times and strike them with a hammer before I could finally summon up enough strength to get them to turn, even the tiniest bit. Even after that, removing the first was a slow, laborious and painful chore. The second one – the further away of the two – proved even more difficult, though: when I finally applied enough force to free the nut, I also disconnected the bolt from whatever was holding it in place, so it would now spin freely when I tried to turn the nut. This meant the only way I could get it to move was by holding the bolt still somehow, which was nearly impossible to do.

I finally managed to get a large and strong enough pair of pliers in there with my other arm to hold the bolt steady (a feat enough in itself, as getting both my arms near the bolt with all of those obstacles was nearly impossible) while I twisted the nut off with the basin wrench. It took multiple tries and multiple bursts of strength, until I finally was able to pull the faucet out enough to jam the pliers in place from above while I twisted the nut the rest of the way off.

Even that wasn’t the end of my difficulties. After putting the new faucet in, I was dismayed to realize that the old inlet valve on the hot water had a built-in tube that didn’t match the new faucet line… and as I tried manipulating the thirty-year-old tube, it snapped off. So the next morning I needed to return to Home Depot and get a new inlet valve, which meant shutting off the water supply to the condo… of course, water still leaks from the pipes after you shut off the source, so I was dealing with the constant dripping and spilling of water as I attempted to install the new valve. I got really anxious when Elizabeth first turned the water back on and it started leaking out the end of the valve… it was already very tightly installed, and they caution you about over-tightening. Still, I tightened it some more and the leak went away, and after all that I finally have a shiny new faucet with a removable spray head that most importantly doesn’t leak and had better not for the remaining days I live in this condo.

My entire body is still sore and tender from the experience. Next to going into the crawl space it’s easily the most difficult task I’ve undertaken in this field. I was a total wreck at rehearsal that night as well, and the dirt that wouldn’t come off my hands or out from under my nails must have made me look like a real champ. At least it’s done, though, and next time if it’s going down this sort of road I’ll know to call a plumber.

Dan.

A busy winter

Posted 2 years, 9 months ago ago on October 8th, 2011

While I normally begrudge a medical professional attempting to sell me on a product that they clearly receive sponsorship for, we were able to find a deal at Costco, so Elizabeth and I bought a pair of Sonicare toothbrushes. I’ve had electric toothbrushes before so wasn’t expecting much, but it’s exceeded my expectations so far. It’s comfortable to use and has made flossing much easier, but what I especially like about it is that it operates on a four-cycle system that I know has me brushing far more effectively than I was before. So I’ve been advocating it, only to hear from other users of it that they’re susceptible to mold growth if you don’t remove the head after every use, and that the rubber casing can deteriorate to the point where water will damage it. That reminded me of my initial experience with the device, and its infuriating instruction manual that wouldn’t say what the flashing light on the front meant (I eventually had to look it up on the Internet). So: good R&D; problems with the execution and manufacturing. I’d still recommend the product, but they’re good caveats to be aware of.

Build Your Own Musical has its closing night tonight, following which I’ll be playing in Theatresports. The casts for BYOM have been smaller (especially for this extension of the run) and I got to play a more prominent role in the show last night, which was nice, although I let myself down in my big solo number. It’s a fun format for a show, though, and a great payoff for the audience in the second half. I hope I’ll be able to do it again.

In response to the insane dance call for Joseph, I sought out my director/choreographer’s advice on how to best prepare for the show. He told me about a drop-in class he teaches for the 5th Avenue Theatre called “Broadway Fit” and suggested I attend. It’s twice a week at a time that’s really hard to get into the city, but I decided to take a shot at it and it wound up being terribly fun, as well as thoroughly exhausting. The class is basically him teaching us extremely difficult choreography to a musical theatre number at breakneck pace. I am definitely at the bottom rung of skill level in attendance, but it’s also really go-at-your-own-pace and terribly non-judgmental (the choreography is difficult for everyone, including him). I don’t predict that I’ll get measurably better by the time we get into rehearsals next month, but it’s a great workout and a good chance for me to get to know what kind of things to expect from him in the show.

I’m looking forward to some of the new video games coming out next month as well. Arkham City, Zelda: Skyward Sword, Skyrim, and Final Fantasy XIII-2 are all on the list. It’s been at least a year since I’ve found a video game that interested me enough to purchase it. Between that list, Joseph, and Theatresports, it’s gonna be a busy winter.

Dan.