inspiration found

The Tuesday morning note from the universe:

The one thing all famous authors, world-class athletes, business tycoons, singers, actors and celebrated achievers in any field have in common is that they all began their journeys when they were none of these things. Yet, they still began their journeys.

A graceful hawk swooped from the morning crystalline sky and perched upon a naked branch. That was my view this morning as I sat in the hot tub. My inner voice harshly harangued me about being a lazy slug and starting my morning chores late. (stick it where the sun never shines, inner voice!)

The proud hawk buoyed my heart to new heights. Made me want to share with you where I’m finding inspiration these days.

I’ve been involved in rehearsals for Amarillo Opera’s upcoming production of Les Misera….bluh. Don’t think I’m going to be able to continue with the grueling schedule, but allow me to describe my uber-talented cast mates. Like the regal hawk, they provide plenty of reasons to look up in wonderment.

The Principles.

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You may describe them as our stars. These are the dedicated professionals who have spent their lives honing their craft. They are exactly as you would expect….off-the-charts-talented. They can blow the roof off a building with the air rushing through their vocal cords. Their acting ability can spike the stock price of Kleenex on the Dow. They are wonderful to behold. The path they travel is never easy and it’s brimming with rejection. I would enthusiastically storm the Bastille with them.

The ensemble. The community members. The rest of us. This is the group I’m treasuring today.  Let’s consider:

The community children/youth. They could be home in front of their computer screens, they could be texting, they could be involved in any number of things. Instead, they schlep to long rehearsals with school books in hand. They study between scenes and their parents run a continual carpool rivaling the busiest taxi service. They want to be involved in something bigger than themselves. I glimpse the future in their eyes. Let’s blast a rousing strain of Do you Hear the People Sing? in their honor!

The college students/young adults. This group packs tons of talent. Many of them are vocal/music students trying to learn about life in the business. They could be studying, dating, dragging the bars….but they bless us by being enthusiastically present. One of my favorite students is a young man who is working toward his master’s degree in choral conducting. He’s the age of one of my kids. I notice him not only because of his heavenly voice, but because he comes to every scene, every note, with 100% dedication and passion. I believe every measure he sings. I swear, if I touched him while he was acting I would scald my hand. He’s that red-hot! Let’s toss our berets in the air in celebration of this hard-working group!

The olders.

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This group includes those who sport graying hair, slipped discs, sore feet and hemorrhoids. They stubbornly refuse to believe the best days are in the past. The olders juggle grandkids, aging parents, day jobs and diminishing stamina. Consider one of our treasured olders; a lovely lady who lives in an outlying community. She makes the almost-hour commute every day. I worry about her lonely late-night drives home. During a break in last Sunday’s long rehearsal schedule, she took a nap in her car. Consider the construction worker who makes 300 mile+ work trips during the day. He attends rehearsal like he just woke up from a refreshing nap. I’m awestuck in the presence of these castmates. Let’s hoist the banner high for them!!

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You’re sure of my bias now, aren’t you? I admire-the-hell out of those who make their living in the humdrum and sometimes grayscale real-world, yet contribute colorful and uniquely textured yarn to our community tapestry. This is the cumulative art we call Les Misera-bluh.

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Your efforts enrich my One Day More immeasurably. Don’t ever give up on your art.

Amarillo Opera is proud to provide a mechanism and framework in which these noble artistic efforts can occur. Bravo!

Beyond-the-barricade love to all.

tickets for Les Mis-panhandletickets.com

sacred

I know this thirst will not last long for it will soon drown in a song not sung in vain,

I feel the thunder in the sky, I see the sky about to rain, and I hear the prairies calling out Your name.

Rich Mullins, Calling Out Your Name

 

The view from my window took a decidedly interesting turn last week.

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One week I’m playing a brothel whore in The Threepenny Opera.

threepennyandhannah 011aThe next week I’m guiding Amarillo artist Andrew DeJesse through the petroglyph cave at the ranch. Go ahead, reward yourself. Take a minute to peek at his art.

Andrew provided the interesting art gracing the cover of Amarillo Opera’s program last season. Seems our executive director, David O’Dell, wants Andrew to provide his unique viewpoint to our cover again this year. David thought viewing some ranch scenery and crawling through the petroglyph cave could fuel Andrew’s imagination. I became the chief tour guide.

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Contemporary artist face-to-face with prehistoric artist.

Andrew was an excellent sport.

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On top of the art cave.

I enjoyed talking all things ‘art’ and ‘great plains’ with Andrew and his gracious wife, Elizabeth.

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In the midst of a three-year drought, browns are the predominant color in northern New Mexico. What could the artist possibly see in this stark environment?

Maybe I’ve enjoyed a day more.…but I simply can’t think of one right now.

We stopped at all my favorite places. Looking for inspiration on the Great Plains is not an activity for sissies.

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Rock pen.

Looking at the old rock pens, we spoke of wondering about the family who once lived here.
ranchesandrewdejesse 123aAt times I felt as if I should reimburse Andrew for the art lesson, as we discussed the many sources of inspiration for texture.

ranchesandrewdejesse 124aHe pointed out the inspiration for shape scattered around our feet.

ranchesandrewdejesse 129aHe helped me see how a jumble of rocks could be just as stunning as a beautiful bouquet of carefully arranged flowers.

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Nature’s bouquet.

I confided in Andrew and Elizabeth of how I like to have my camera slung around my neck as it forces me to see. To observe and not rush by.

Elizabeth and Andrew weren’t even the slightest bit irritated when I chirped,

Let’s go see the graveside. It’s just a five-minute walk!

ranchesandrewdejesse 178aAfter 30 minutes walking uphill in the wind and scaling a rock basket for a barbed wire fence, they remained unflappable. They possess the true wonderment of explorers.

Andrew explained he has a passion for this area of the country (he was born in New Jersey) and he wanted to move here. His muse is this land.

Come again, Andrew?? Were you out of town for the entire dust-bowl month of March?

Old rock storage shed on table-top pasture land. If you squint you can spot Rabbit Ear mountain.
Old rock storage shed on table-top pasture land. If you squint you can spot Rabbit Ear mountain.

Andrew’s knowledge of the history of this area is impressive. I prayed he wouldn’t ask me any ‘New Jersey’ questions. Garden state!!

I’m no art critic (a-men), but when I ponder Andrew’s art I see an artist with a profound talent for elevating the ordinary to the sacred. He never overtly sentimentalizes his subject matter. In fact, he says he tries to ‘stay out of it’. Much of his subject matter deals with the harsh realities of life on the Great Plains, but I think his art reveals his reverence for the area and the land’s hardy inhabitants.

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Swallow (mud dauber) nests along the creek bed.

To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Thanks Elizabeth and Andrew for the holy day. I’m grateful.

Hope you discover your muse this week, dear reader.

Sacred love to all.

pondering play

‘All brothel whores to the stage in five minutes. This is a five-minute call for the brothel whores to the stage, please.’

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Two of the brothel lovelies.

Welcome to my weekend with the Threepenny Opera.

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The brazens.

Some lessons learned:

The addition of a stage cigarette can morph a character from mild-mannered to desperate with just one puff.

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An uplifting bra (with added padding), eyelash glue, and safety pins are an absolute necessity when playing a hooker. A lack of normal modesty comes in handy, too. I had to crop the photo above. My bloomers were too big and dropped down embarrassingly low. Oops. Sorry, cast-mates. Accidents happen.

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Kath and Nath.

Whores can be annoyed by beggars. Mainly because their ‘make-up application time’ is considerably less.

threepennyandhannah 004aMy ensemble-friends are a fun and talented bunch. Love them.

Play-acting is an imagination-stretcher. It allows you to inhabit a body/person you would never be in real-life. It’s fun. Sure hope the audience thought so, anyway.

Stomping out my stage cigarette and returning to my blessedly smoke-free real life.

Hope you embrace your opportunities to explore and play.

Threepenny-love to all.

 

pondering sexy

What makes something/someone sexy?

Defining sexy is like trying to hold a handful of jello. It’s one of those I know it when I see it kinds of things. Trying to explain sexy, or trying hard to be sexy decreases the sexiness component exponentially.

So without comment, I’ll show you some sexy, not-sexy things.

Sexy.

steve mcqueenNot sexy.

justin-bieberSexy song.

 

Not sexy song.

Sexy.

 

bb-s4-posterNot sexy.

miley cyrus

There’s a particular character trait I find unabashedly sexy. I’m attracted to people who possess this quality. Sexiness in a person (for me, anyway) has absolutely nothing to do with appearance and absolutely everything to do with being comfortable in one’s own skin.

Wanna hear the sexiest name I’ve heard in a while? This name even rivals the grandma/stripper monikers I wrote about in a previous post.

Ready?

Amber Smoke. She’s a real person. And I KNOW her!

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photo courtesy of ambersmoke.com

Amber is one of our visiting artists featured in Amarillo Opera’s Threepenny Opera this weekend. She exemplifies being comfortable in your own skin and I love her for it!

In fact, I think each of our visiting artists brings his own unique and oh-so-sexy style to our production.

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A sexy group, for sure.

What does the term sexy mean to you? I’d love to hear. Keep it clean for KK (my granny-name)!

Let’s-stay-together love to all.

 

 

 

pondering art

I’ve been holding out on you. I’ve failed to mention I’m set-dressing in another Amarillo Opera production.

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Even though the title contains the word opera, it feels like musical theater to me. There’s a storyline with spoken dialogue. Musical numbers are interspersed.

We had our first meeting of cast and ensemble last week.

indexAs usual, Amarillo Opera has brought in some fantastic pros who will sing the principle roles. It’s great fun to watch them apply their craft. They serve to inspire us locals. The talent will not disappoint those who come see the show.

I’ve been wrestling with how to describe this quirky work to you chicken-wingers. First things first. One of the most recognizable jazz standards of all time…..Mack the Knife.…is in Threepenny Opera. The song opens and closes the show.

Guess what? There really is a Suki Tawdry. And she’s in this show!

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THE Suki Tawdry.

And I KNOW her! There’s also Mack the Knife, Lucy Brown, Jenny Diver, Polly Peachum and all the cast of miscreants mentioned in the song.

Threepenny Opera’s plot involves the criminal underbelly of London around 1838…during the time of Queen Victoria’s coronation. Think Oliver! only lots seedier with gang members, crimes and prostitution.

Here’s my best way to describe this 20th century work to you.

Let’s look at two photos, shall we?

hwithglasssesPhoto number one is a yucca plant in bloom.

yucca1We quickly recognize the elements in the photo: the soft blooms, the barbed-wire background, the rough fence post, the grass and sky. These are pretty familiar images to the West Texas eye. Most of us would describe this photo as pretty, or maybe even beautiful.…depending upon one’s perspective. It feels comfortable and we don’t have to expend much effort to understand the picture or to interpret the elements contained within it.

Is the photo art?

What do you think of photo number two?

yucca2I hear you….it is the same photo. It might be a little harder to recognize the blooming plant as a yucca. Is that a fencepost? Is the barbed-wire still there? Why is the sky funky-colored with the crazy texture? Is that really the sky?? Hard to tell. Even though this photo has the same elements as the first one, it feels more ominous, shady, and perhaps even confusing to some of us. Confounding, perhaps?

Is the photo art?

Threepenny Opera feels like the second photo. I like it and I’m understanding it more every day, but it’s definitely the second photo for me.

My favorite line from the Opera is spoken by Mack after a particularly dramatic song by his love (one of MANY!), Polly. After her song, the uncouth gang members are offering comments on what they think of Polly’s song. Mack exclaims, “It’s ART, and art isn’t NICE!’

‘Bout sums it up for me.

I’ll show you some bits and pieces as we work toward opening night, April 5th.

‘Oh, the shark has pretty teeth, dear’-love to all.

 

Candide: epilogue

I STILL don’t understand why cast and crew were excitedly whispering ‘toy, toy, toy’ and patting me on the back before the opening curtain. The mysteries of the Opera, I guess.

The remnants of Candide on my dressing table Monday morning.

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Thought you guys would get a giggle from seeing the crinkled list I carried in my bra during the show.

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My road map for Act I. Written instructions, front and back!

I had another equally descriptive list for Act II. Thought I was Mrs. Alzheimers for needing these reminders UNTIL I bumped into the experienced and talented Robert Orth (our Voltaire/Pangloss) backstage doing the exact same thing. He told me I was smart. Thanks, Bob!

The shows were wonderfully received and every person involved deserves the highest commendation. Bravi tutti or thanks all y’all. Each of the performances had its own small share of glitches. It’s LIVE theater for goodness’ sake. Hopefully, the soaring music and fun heart of the show will be what patrons remember.

My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. I will forever remember my talented cast mates and the majestic closing strains of Make Our Garden Grow. Pure bliss.

Monday morning finds me tripping the footlights in a local retirement home.

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Our group, the STARS, singing at Plemons Court.

The joys of music are universal and ageless, aren’t they?

Scott wowing the crowd with a beautiful solo.
Scott wow-ing the crowd with a beautiful solo.

I’m grateful for this transition from Candide back to normal life.

If Candide taught me anything, it’s that we gain joy and happiness from our work. Happiness comes from tilling our own soil; from laboring in the garden of our own backyard.

Amarillo Opera's chorus master, George Biffle and chorus member moi, singing Ivory Palaces.
Amarillo Opera’s chorus master, George Biffle and chorus member moi, singing Ivory Palaces at the retirement home.

The vantage point from my garden looks mighty heavenly this morning.

Let’s keep tilling.

Verdant love to all.

backstage pass: Candide

” A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher.

Note by note, bar by bar, page by page the expedition has begun. I’m grabbing your hand and pulling you alongside. Join me?

Candide

I’ve been up to something. I’m singing in the chorus/ensemble of Amarillo Opera’s Spring production……CANDIDE. Our first rehearsal was last evening. You guessed right! I’m gonna blog this adventure’s every jagged twist and turn. You’re gonna inhale the musky waft of grease paint and hear every backstage squeeze of the corset on our expedition together. My role may be as a potted palm tree stage right, but you will be privy to the inside scoop of how this massive musical undertaking makes it to opening night.

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The first read-through of CANDIDE.

We have an abundance of intoxicating topics to discuss:  Leonard Bernstein, Voltaire, satire, history and music. Lots and lots of gorgeous music.

We’ll start at the beginning…..the audition. Be very relieved I don’t have a photo (or recording) to share with you. Don’t think I could post my pale face and breathless, shaky attempts at singing. Knees knocking in utter terror and a voice cracking at the high notes are not the makings of a fun blog photo or a great audition. This is a big chorus show…..so somehow, I made it. Guess they needed a few Clydesdales of the female vocal range.

Who knew my horsemanship skills could be used in the opera?
Who knew my horsemanship skills could be used in the opera?

This Candide is Bernstein’s musical adaptation of Voltaire’s novel Candide, and yes, I read the novel. The book was in-ter-est-ing. The plot? It’s outrageous, ludicrous, racy….we’ll talk more later.

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We’ll be counting down the days until opening night, April 6th. I’ve tried putting a countdown clock on the right sidebar of this blog to help us as the anticipation builds. We’ll see how that works. Sure, I’ll be blogging about other things along the way, but this series will continue until CANDIDE opens. Bloggy pay dirt!

Learning this music makes my spirit soar. I’m grateful to have such a sparkling jewel in my life right now. How lucky am I? I’m taking your ticket. Welcome aboard. Let’s have some fun.

Traveling-mercy love to all.

Disclaimer: I am a Board member of Amarillo Opera. I want you to come to this production. I’m extremely biased. Read this series at the risk of learning to love CANDIDE.