learning, music biz, self-acceptance

Gaslit* at the Gaslight

*gaslit = freaked outscaredunnerved into questioning ones own sanity (Oxford).

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While I was hardly “born in a trunk”, both of my parents were theater-folk; they’d met doing shows at Syracuse University and continued to perform in plays and revues throughout my childhood. My sisters and I would “run lines” for them when they prepared for a performance, type copies of my dad’s plays for 10¢/page (pre-Xerox!) and be an enthusiastic audience while they rehearsed and performed at tiny theaters around CT.  My father had a number of his one-act plays published and even had an off-Broadway show produced in NYC in 1965. The Fourth Pig

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My first (unpaid) theater gig was playing for an awards ceremony for the Mark Twain Masquers in Hartford when I was 15, and I later earned a few shekels accompanying dance classes while at UConn. I always liked actors personally but grew impatient with the number of rehearsals they wanted to do. (we jazz musicians like to “wing it” more than some other performers!)  When I participated in the terrific ASCAP, BMI and ASK workshops, I also discovered I wasn’t too thrilled with the degree of compromise required with working in the musical theater – the endless rewrites for non-musical reasons, for example. While it can be exciting to collaborate with other talented people, the old adage of “too many cooks” DOES come into play at a certain point – usually, for me, earlier than anyone else. (Which is ironic, since I truly love musicals – I’m just not crazy about the process of creating them, I guess!?)

So I’ve resisted involvement in many theatrical endeavors, despite my high regard for most thespians. In 2008, however, I agreed to sub for the pianist at a musical melodrama theater – an extremely underpaid gig that extended almost 2 years before I had enough financial wherewithal to walk away… umm, make that RUN away! For years afterwards I told myself that it was the unreasonable demands of the music director, some of the actors and staff that had made me so miserable during that period, when every single day for 7 days a week I would dread the one or two performances I’d have to play each Sunday. It was only after I’d subbed at another musical melodrama theater that I realized that, crabby and unappreciative as the cast might have been, they hadn’t been the problem – for me, it was the job itself! Juggling last-minute changes while responding to what’s happening on the stage and always being “on!” is nerve-rattling and I just don’t have the constitution to sustain that for 2+ hours. When it comes together, you might feel like Superman…

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but when something goes wrong (as it frequently can!), there’s hell to pay, whether it’s actually your fault or not!

Technological advances and shrunken production budgets have had a dreadful impact on the current state of musical theater; to be filed under “Spinning Straw Into Gold”,

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the last gig I was hired to play seemed easy enough when I checked out the songs via YouTube videos; the score was non-challengingly melodious and traditionally orchestrated, like musicals in the 1940s-60s. When I got to the first rehearsal, it was revealed that ALL of that orchestral music, (save a solo cello, solo flute and the music director’s piano) would be MY responsibility, courtesy of a jury-rigged computer-keyboard setup with multiple pedals, sampled sounds and sheet music indicating multiple instrument changes within 2 bars – an impossible scenario for low-tech me.  I knew that there was no way I’d ever be able to perform, let alone master this part, no matter how much I practiced, so I bowed out that afternoon. I later learned that playing this particular show had reduced more than one highly skilled professional pianist to tears.

My cap is off to theater musicians – especially music directors – who are able to run the show AND make superb music doing so. They create unique magic for an audience, and they are more-often-than-not ill-compensated for their alchemy.

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…… after all, fingers take a beating, doing this sort of thing!!

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The Best of Us

“We are all failures – at least the best of us are.” – J.M. Barrie

“When the life you dreamed of and expected does not materialize, it isn’t over and your existence is not a failure. It is simply a different life.” – Alexander Khenkin

I really like this post re. rewriting our story as a Hero’s Quest – by Rev. Gerry – kinda turns “failure” into “success” without too much fuss and DEFINITELY without any dishonesty – thanks, Gerry!



‘Zine Femineen

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 7.01.28 PMMy folks were frugal by necessity when we were growing up; Dad habitually traded in his paperbacks at the used bookstore and Mom shopped rummage sales when not sewing her own and our clothes. When I was 10, my mother took me along to a rummage sale in a church basement in East Hartford, CT where I came across stacks of 1950s-60s issues of Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Glamour and Seventeen magazines. What a find!  At last, definitive instructions on how to navigate my soon-to-be membership in the grown-up female world!  My mother hadn’t gone into much detail about such things, other than to assert how wonderful sex was going to be, but be sure to never get pregnant. Watching the changes in my girlfriends at school, I suspected there was much more to being an adult female than that – fortunately I now had additional resources from which to learn.

All the magazines were priced 10¢ each, but since it was the end of the day, the good ladies running the rummage sale let me have them for a nickel apiece, so I bought at least 20 of them, and then they threw in the remaining issues for free.  Seventeen proved to be too juvenile – much like American Girl – and Glamour dealt only with matters of appearance, which didn’t interest me much. In the 1960s, Cosmo still had short stories, but only Redbook could be relied on for full-length novellas. I got a lot more info from reading these tales than any editorial content which usually involved cosmetics I didn’t need and couldn’t afford.

I was reminded of my magazine addiction by this interesting blog post:


While the changing covers don’t tell the complete story, it’s obvious how each periodical’s value-set has intensified over the decades. In the 70s I wound up actually subscribing to Cosmo, and then to Ms, and more recently to More – but as the years pass, I find less and less of interest in what American journalism has to offer specifically to women, especially since so much of it seems to be blatantly or obtusely slanted towards increasing one’s sex appeal. There has to be more to life than that!?!!

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 UPDATE: September 2016 – I guess the younger generation isn’t ready for anything substantial to change in the magazine messaging… (slightly different skew for Girls’Life vs. Boys’Life!?)  :-/
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September 14, 2016:  HERE we go!!  🙂
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UPDATE – 9/24/16 – dig THIS!!  🙂