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Like Falling Off a Bike

There was a minute — one full, sixty-second interval –when I had that fish out of water "what the heck am I doing here?!?" feeling. I filled out the "Noises Off" audition application with my name and address….and nothing else. It asked for us to list the last three productions we’d been in, and in what capacity. What WAS the last play we did in High School? The Diviners? No…it was something else, I’m sure of it, but  I wasn’t about to ask Patrick and have the rest of them laugh at me. So under Previous Experience I wrote on the top line in big letters: "NOT FOR A REEEEEEALLY LONG TIME."

For other 149 minutes of the audition, I was strangely at ease. Maybe because it was Patrick directing, so I didn’t feel like I was being judged. Maybe because it was community theatre and not Carnegie Hall. But I’ve shaken like a leaf in front of friends and high school audiences in the past. Maybe it’s because I’ve been rejected by so many magazines I don’t feel threatened anymore. Maybe it’s because I’ve done massive amounts of public speaking in the past few years and I no longer have any fear of addressing an audience of 20…or 200. (Did you see that the "Hour With Sherrilyn Kenyon" at Dragon*Con is being held in one of the Centennial Ballrooms? Holy CRAP! I’ve made it to Main Programming!!)

I SUSPECT I spent the evening in a happy Zen place because if any of my friends had said, "Hey, Lee, wanna come over tonight and read a bunch of scenes in over-the-top British accents?" My answer would have been an emphatic "Hell, yes! I’ll bring the Red Rose tea."

I had SO MUCH FUN. Possibly way too much fun, if that’s possible. Patrick had said he wanted over the top…so that’s exactly what he got. Most of the time, I didn’t even feel like i was auditioning. I introduced myself to the actors both on and off the stage — I felt like I was there to keep everyone happy and excited, and to read a few scenes as a favor for a friend.

I made it to the second round — call backs are tonight at 7pm. I brought make-up and different shoes with me to work and I have no idea what the heck I’m going to eat for dinner…which probably means either nothing or this handful of dark chocolate-covered espresso beans I happen to have here in my bag. I’m fine either way. I can’t wait!!

Oh — and people have asked me if I have my eye on any particular part. Are you kidding? Of course not! Once Upon a Time I stole the entire Duchess scene in Alice in Wonderland as the Cook with one line ("Pepper!"). There are no small parts, only silly people.

A special thanks to all my blog-reading peeps, my Facebook friends, and the Twitterverse for the constant stream of good wishes and support. This is so much easier to do with you guys behind me. I have the best friends ever. xox

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Discovery Night Launch

Yesterday morning on the radio I heard that the Discovery shuttle launch had been postponed until 11pm or midnight that night, and I seriously debated getting online to see if I could book a quick ticket to see my folks in Titusville. I’ve seen a shuttle launch live now so it’s officially crossed off my list, but a night launch is something special to experience.

Happily, my parents (who now get ringside seats to all the launches) experienced it first hand for those of us who could not be there, and Dad snapped a few great pics.

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All The World’s a Stage

You may remember my friend Patrick Kramer as a big-time winner on the television show Don’t Forget the Lyrics. I remember Patrick from my first day of first grade at Forest Lake Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina. I was six years old and fresh off the boat from Vermont — very much a stranger in a strange land. Patrick sat right beside me (Kontis, Kramer) and acted as my translator until I learned the language of my new homeland. Most importantly, he explained what "y’all" meant.

I was only at Forest Lake for half a school year before my parents moved and I started second grade at North Springs. Guess who was in my homeroom class? Kontis, Kramer, once again. This time I was down with the lingo. We ran the school, participating in the Art Club, Chorus, and all the major school productions from "We’re All Stars, Charlie Brown" to "The Music Man" to "The Dream Maker." 

After graduating fifth grade, Patrick went on to do lots more community theatre. I did one stint as little Kim in "Showboat" and starred in a miniseries for SC ETV. I didn’t act again till high school.  Apart from some bit parts in college student films, I haven’t acted since.

Me & James Steed as Marcie &
Pig Pen, circa 1983

Fast forward to 1998–my parents moved to Tennessee…and then asked me to move with them. I got an email from Patrick…guess where he was living? Not half an hour away and acting in a local troupe. We’re just following each other around the globe. Kontis, Kramer. As always.

I try to keep up on what Patrick’s doing and go see him in every show I possibly can. I get this overwhelming sense of pride and nostalgia every time he steps on the stage. It’s a beautiful feeling–a red-faced mash-up of nervous and wistful.

It was only a matter of time before he became a director.

Coming off a successful run of "Urinetown" and various Children’s Theatre productions, Patrick will now be directing "Noises Off" for the Circle Players. Interested and live inthe Nashville area? Auditions are this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, from 6-9pm at the Circle Players’ rehearsal space in Madison. Details and directions can be found on the website.

So the questions I have for you guys is…should I do it? Should I audition for the play?

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Inglorious Moments

I got out of my Meeting Marathon at work last night just in time to hightail it to the lovely Malco theatre we have here in Smyrna, Tennessee. I missed all the trailers, but I didn’t miss a second of Inglorious Basterds.

Quentin Tarantino is the movie geek’s movie geek. I was raised at the movie theatre (literally, as my big sister dated the son of the local movie mogul — they now own The Bijou in Morrisville VT), dated a film student in college (earning me my first credit on IMDB), and managed a movie theatre of my own (the Movies at Polo in Columbia, SC – 1991-1998), so I definitely qualify for Movie Geek status. While I’m not big into violence, I fully appreciate Tarantino’s dialogue and sense of drama. So when I heard Inglorious Basterds was phenomenal, I dropped everything and saw it immediately.

The film was indeed amazing. Christoph Waltz steals the show. That’s all the review I’m going to give. Go see it or not; you may love it or hate it — that’s not for me to decide. But the best part of my movie-watching experience is something you won’t get anywhere else…and that’s what I’m here to share with you.

The film is set in Nazi-occupied France and most of the dialogue is either French or German (I’d guess about 75% of the film is subtitled). Accents are a minor deal — there is mention more than once of a character’s accent betraying their origin.

Now, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’re familiar with the horrendously awesome accent of Brad Pitt’s character Aldo "The Apache" Raine. Early in the film he mentions that he hails from the Smokies — I placed his accent as mountain region North Carolina and didn’t think anything else about it. (Troy aside, Brad Pitt is fairy wonderful at accents — his performance in Snatch being one of my favorites.) Closer to the end of the film, he mentions he’s from a small town in East Tennessee. (The name of which eludes me now — shout out if you know it.) The 10 or 15 of us watching in Smyrna giggled at the prospect, but one incredulous woman in the back exclaimed, in an honest-to-god Tennessee accent: "YER KIDDIN‘!"

Everybody in the theatre cracked up. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time.

***************************

PS: This is what the world outside looked like when I left the theatre. I felt like I had walked right into a painting. We have really had the most amazing skies this summer.

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Books On the Bed: They Call Me Boober Fraggle

I was thinking about it the other day — I can’t actually remember a time when I didn’t know how to read. I knew the alphabet at eighteen months. At three, I was reading the TV Guide. Mom got me into Kindergarten at four, where a teacher’s assistant told my father, “Alethea can spell words I don’t even know.” By the time I was five I was reading myself sick. There’s photographic evidence.

My library card was smoking. I never checked out less than 20 books every two weeks (20 was the limit) — I started at the Juvenile section of the Richland County Public Library and worked my way through. My parents went to almost every single Friends of the Library book sale they could find…in every town we ever visited.

So, yeah. I read a lot. I read some really good books that are still around and some really obscure books you might never have heard of that are long out of print. Every time I think of one of these books I don’t have, I send it to my mother to add to her list. Every holiday I receive a blast from the past, as my mother pieces together the favorite library of my childhood. Some books, the cherished ones, I’ve kept from way back when.

So what am I going to do with all these books?

Well, I’ve decided to start a new section on this blog called BOOKS ON THE┬áBED (an homage to that 5-year-old with one serious addiction). I hope to remind you of some old books and possibly introduce you to some gems you’ve never heard of to keep an eye out for at your next Friends of the Library book sale. If you have kids, they’ll thank you. If you are still a kid like me…you’re welcome.

Title: They Call me Boober Fraggle
Author: Michaela Muntean
Pub date: 1983
Status: Out of Print

Boober was always my favorite. He was the Eeyore of Fraggle Rock, always worrying about this thing or that. In this little hardcover given to me in 1984 and inscribed by my grandmother, Boober worries about what exactly makes him special. All of his friends have something special: Gobo is adventurous, Wembley is happy and easygoing (and essentially Wash from Firefly), Mokey is the poet, and Red is the life of the party. But what–other than socks and laundry–is Boober good for?

I have a special place in my heart for books that force kids to do a little soul searching. What exactly is it that makes YOU unique? Because you are, you know. Unique and special and awesome. Just like Boober.

[Edit: Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s realized this. But it’s Wembley pictured here, not Boober.]

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The New Phone Books Are Here!

Well, it’s about as THICK as a phone book — the Dragon*Con Pocket Program and Schedule Grids are now online. These are your most valuable treasure maps for the convention. Once upon a time I used to grab two of the pocket program — one to read in the hotel room and one to tear into shreds so I could put each day’s grid and a map of the Hyatt on my person. (That map of the Hyatt is still worth it — after 13 years I still don’t remember the names of all the rooms, which floor they’re on, or which side of the lobby. But I have a pretty good idea.)

Also be sure to check out the Daily Dragon every day — in print and online — for up-to-the-minute schedule changes, fun interviews, and award winners (because *I* have to know who won the Miss Klingon pageant…if they still do the Miss Klingon pageant…).

Always carry a water bottle and granola bar with you at all times, get in the elevator as soon as it opens no matter which direction it’s headed, and be nice to the Fire Marshall when they shut down the Hyatt….they’re only doing their jobs. You can usually sneak in through the food court anyway.

PRINCESS ALETHEA’S TRAVELING SIDESHOW will be held on Friday at 5:30, (wherever it says my reading is on the schedule). Guest stars include Leanna Renee Hieber, Mike Lee, J. K. Lee, Ada Brown, Chris McCormick, and more! Bubbles, books, and mayhem will ensue! There will be swag bags for the first 50 people, filled with tattoos, buttons, signed books, magnets, and more! Come one, come all, and tell your friends!!

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Window Shopping

Shiny things make me happy. I have no excuse. Then again, I’m a princess — I don’t need one.

Know what else makes me happy? Clicking through Dixie Dunbar Studio’s brand-spanking new website and checking out all the pretties. The details of the necklaces, bracelets and earrings will tell you what each piece is made of — elements like raw silk, wire, and rubber right alongside precious gems, Austrian crystals, and biwah pearls. I’ll always be amazed at how my sister can put all these strange things together and make them look stylish. But I like that about her.

And if you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, join the Dixie Dunbar Studio Official Facebook Fan Page. Check out new items, pictures of the shop, and fan photos of beautiful people wearing beautiful jewelry. Own a piece of Dixie Dunbar jewelry yourself? Post a pic!

Keep an eye out on Facebook — and here — for an announcement about a Dixie Dunbar Christmas Eve party…I hear there will be wassail. And possibly baklava.

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Fake Eyelashes Are Cool

I am so ready for Dragon*Con.

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Own your very own piece of Small Town USA!

Note: The contest ends August 25th, 10 p.m. EST.
Click the book (or this link) to preorder!

Win a piece of Harlan County! This doesn’t mean we’re giving away Miss Harlan County, Mari Adkins (or her enthusiastic suggestion of coal mine slurry water). No, we’re talking about actual Harlan County memorabilia!

What can you win?

*A Harlan County Horrors poster signed by the editor, Mari Adkins, the cover artist, Billy Tackett, and the mayor of Harlan, KY, Danny Howard

*An authentic Harlan County High School Black Bears T-shirt

*An authentic Harlan County postcard signed by Mari Adkins and Mayor Danny Howard

*The Criterion Collection copy of Barbara Kopple’s famous documentary, Harlan County, U.S.A.

It is easy.

1) Just link to the Harlan County Horrors book page (http://www.apexbookstore.com/products/harlan-county-horrors) from your blog, Facebook, website, or Myspace page.

2) Be sure to mention the contest with the link.

3) Bring your linkage to our attention via a comment on this post or via an email so that we know to enter you for the drawing. If you link AND pre-order* the book, you get two chances.

By the time this book comes out, Mari Adkins wants Harlan, KY, to be the most recognizable city name in the world. Let’s make that happen!

*If you’ve already pre-ordered, you will automatically be entered in the drawing.

Publication date: October 1st, 2009

Table of Contents:

“The Witch of Black Mountain” – Alethea Kontis
“The Power of Moonlight” – Debbie Kuhn
“Hiding Mountain: Our Future in Apples” – Earl Dean
“Psychomachia” – Geoffrey Girard
“Yellow Warbler” – Jason Sizemore
“Kingdom Come” – Jeremy C. Shipp
“Trouble Among the Yearlings” – Maurice Broaddus
“Spirit Fire” – Robby Sparks
“The Thing at the Side of the Road” – Ronald Kelly
“Inheritance” – Stephanie Lenz
“Greater of Two Evils” – Steven Shrewsbury
“Harlan Moon” – TL Trevaskis

Cover art by Billy Tackett

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Headache – 1, Lee – 0

I’ve had migraines since high school. Every kind of migraine you can imagine–from the brain freeze you get drinking an Icee too fast to the "I’m seeing spots and now I’m gonna throw up for a while" versions. My triggers are the unavoidable ones: barometric pressure, lack of sleep, hormones, and stress. Number one is the reason planes still make me sick. Number four is how I’ve achieved the unique Zen-like point of view I have about the universe that you have all come to love.

I about lost my Zen this morning.

I wrote a whole big post about it and just deleted it because it was rambly and kind of pointless. I don’t like to whine. But I do like to share with my friends amusing tidbits of information…like when my GP, after realizing I had a handle on the whole migraine situation, asked me if my current vision problems were "something I could live with." Yes. She really did.

It was one of those moments where I realize the stupidity of the world and just lean back in my chair and let it whiz by. Only it didn’t whiz by. It hung around.

"Okay," said the doctor. "Well, I’ll get the nurse in here to take your temperature since you said you had a fever last week, and I’ll refer you to an opthamologist."

I grit my teeth. I’d said I had a fever two months ago, when I had food poisoning. I had a temperature of 102 and was effectively blind for a whole day. It was part of the reason I was there.  I don’t have a fever now. Know how I know? Because I can see you. But whatever. Take my temperature. Fine. And while you’re at it…

"Is someone going to take some blood?" I asked before she got all the way out the door. There was a banana burning a hole in my purse, and the thought of it was burning a hole in my stomach. "I was told to fast this morning so you could take a blood sugar test."

"Why would we do that?" she asked.

Mmm-hmm.

I told Gail Vinett I liked seeing this doctor because everybody there knows who I am. "You want people to know who you are at church," she said. "You want your doctor to be smart."

Guess I’ll be finding a new GP.

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