Status Report

Been way too long since I’ve posted much here. I have been insanely busy for months — pretty much since March, with just a couple of short breaks from the stress, not really enough to get unwound. This whole summer seems to have whooshed past in a blur of too much work, too much stress, and not enough sleep.

Some recent and important events, which I will try to write about in greater detail later:

The Lamplighters will be performing my new English-language version of the operetta Die Fledermaus, titled Die Fledermaus, or The Bat Bites Back, in late January and early February. I have been at work on this intermittently since last year, but when The Lamplighters expressed interest in mid-August, I still had a fair amount of work to do on it, and they needed to have a finished script by mid-October. Not enough time. But I have not worked with The Lamplighters before, and I very much wanted to, so I pushed myself to crank up the speed in order to finish in just two months. I finished the last remaining pieces of third act a couple days ago, a week later than planned but not too bad. (And there were reasons for the week’s delay; see next paragraph.) There will undoubtedly be some tinkering needed in rehearsal, too, but we have a good, complete script to start from. This is a somewhat free adaptation, rather than a close translation of the original, but it isn’t an updating or reimagining as some of my opera adaptations have been; it follows the original story and characters. I’ll write more about it later.

My father died in mid-September. Dave and I rented a car and drove to Phoenix for the funeral service. We tented in Joshua Tree National Park on the way there, stayed two nights in Phoenix with my brother and sister-in-law, and tented one night in Joshua Tree on the way back as well. My childhood was an unhappy one, but stopping in Joshua Tree was a lovely way to revisit a few good things about my relationship with my father, as certainly I got my love of the desert from him, and whatever knowledge of the constellations and planets I’ve managed to retain originated with him. (One of the wonderful things about nighttime in the desert is the reminder of how full of stars the sky really is. It’s always startling to me, no matter how well I think I remember from the last time. When you live in an urban area, you just don’t see very many stars at night.)

This year’s edition (the 14th) of Thrillpeddlers’ annual Shocktoberfest is terrific, and it plays through the weekend before Thanksgiving so there’s plenty of time to go see it. This is very intimate (and low-budget) theater in the Grand Guignol style, and it won’t be for everyone, but it’s good and effective stuff. The legendary Grand Guignol Theater in Paris specialized in evenings of short one-act plays, alternating between bawdy farces and gruesome horror plays. The centerpiece of this year’s Shocktoberfest is a one-act play about Jack the Ripper that was actually written for and performed at the Grand Guignol Theater. Very creepy — this was written by the Grand Guignol’s most prolific writer of short horror plays, and he clearly knew what he was doing. There’s a certain meandering quality to the play that comes across in the early scenes as perhaps carelessness in plotting and characterization, but it gradually creates the disturbing sense that the play could twist in any direction at any moment and that any character might suddenly decide do something horrifying. This uncertainty about where everything is heading heightens the suspense enormously while we’re waiting in the fog for the Ripper to strike again. A genuinely unsettling play.

Dave was in the aisle seat in the second row, and during a gruesome murder by the Ripper, he got spattered with some of the stage blood. (Yes, the theater is that small!) He received profuse apologies during intermission, and assurances that the staging would be adjusted so that this wouldn’t happen again. But really, Dave was delighted by the accident, and I expect his stage-blood-spattered program is going to end up framed on the wall somewhere. (Still, it might be prudent to wear machine-washable clothing!)

Butterfield 8’s evening of Gothic ghost stories and poems, Gaslight and Ghosts, was also terrific, but unfortunately it only played for two nights, and Dave and I attended the second night, so if you didn’t catch it, oh well. A cast of six actors read and performed four scary stories and two poems for us. Like Thrillpeddlers, this is a good company doing inventive stuff on a shoestring. Coming up are the company’s own adaptation of A Christmas Carol and an adaptation of The Maltese Falcon.

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