Friday, July 18, 2008

The Perks

There are days when I absolutely LOVE my job. Tuesday was one of those days.

I had talked with Derrick (my editor) about doing a feature story on the Winters Community Theatre, a very small venue in a very small town, but one of my favorite places to go. Their productions aren't spectacular, but they just love what they're doing so much. They have no pretentions to be anything but what they are, which is a bunch of amateurs doing shows because they love doing shows. Sometimes they are not very good, sometimes they are good, but I never, ever have once left their theatre (well--it's a community center, really, not a theatre) without feeling uplifted by what I saw, and without a smile on my face. (And it's not just because they give me free cheesecake, either!)

I happened to run into one of the founders of the company, which is now the oldest continuously running community theatre in Yolo County, at the supermarket a week or so ago and as we chatted, I suddenly thought that I really should do a feature article about the company.

So I checked with Derrick and he agreed, gave me a deadline and I set up an interview with Harold Hupe and his wife Germaine.

We agreed on meeting at 9 a.m. at their house and I drove out through the bushes that hide the house from the street and found myself in this little oasis kind of separated from the rest of the world.

We settled ourselves in their screened-in porch to enjoy the morning cool air, watch the humming birds, and listen to the other nature noises as we talked.

Now these are people I have been aware of for years. I may see them once a year or sometimes less, and occasionally, like last week, I may run into Howard unexpectedly. I had absolutely NO idea what a fascinating life they'd had before coming to Davis in the early 1970s. They met in Monterey when Howard was studying Arabic in preparation for his Army station in Iran. They lived in Iran for 3 years, in the waning years of the Shah's reign. Germaine taught school, learned Farsi, and began writing a textbook history of Iran because there was no such thing for the children in the school. (Alas, it was destroyed when the Shah was ousted, and never got published)

The two of them talked on and on and at one point apologized because we'd been talking for so long and hadn't talked about theatre at all, but I was positively mesmerized by their reminiscences. It made me realize what makes Morning Stories such a special show...everybody has a story. And most people don't think their stories are particularly interesting because it was "just the life they led." But when you take the time to probe, you just never know what gold mines you might uncover!

My very favorite part of the interview (and I'm trying to figure out how I can work this into a feature article about community theatre) is this charming snippet. Germaine is talking about an experience Howard had with his interpreter in Saudi Arabia.

This interpreter came in one Monday morning just smiling and Howard said "you look very happy" and he said "I am. I have just come back from a second honeymoon." Howard said "Oh, that's a lovely custom...we do that, too, in our country after several years, we take off with our wife" and the interpreter said "No--this is my new wife. She's 14 and my mother just arranged her and she's absolutely wonderful." And he said, "I'd be very happy to have my mother find someone for you." Howard said no, he had a fiancee back in the states. This guy said "do you have a picture of her?" -- this 'old bat' of 22 -- so Howard hauled out a picture of me and he just shook his head and said, "tsk tsk...her father must have many sheep and goats" !!

The interview lasted over 2 hours, much longer than my usual, and I don't regret one moment of it. I left the house on a real high and, in fact, came home to transfer the recording of the interview to my iPod so I could play it for Walt as we drove to Sacramento. He was as mesmerized as I had been.

But that was only the first half of my day. In the evening we went to opening night of Gypsy at Sacramento's Music Circus. I will never attend a performance of Gypsy without thinking about Jim Brochu's grandmother who, as reported in The Big Voice told her grandson that if he saw Gypsy, which had been condemned by the Catholic Church, he would burn in hell.

So I have now condemned my soul to burn in hell (several times), but it was definitely worthwhile. What a great show. Mama Rose was played by Vicki Lewis, whom some may remember as playing Beth on Newsradio for six seasons, as well as guest starring in most of the big names shows from Seinfeld to Gray's Anatomy. She was just excellent.

Interestingly, I was sitting next to a critic from some other small local paper. I had attempted to talk with her at a previous show last year and she made it apparent that she did not fraternize with fellow critics, especially me, because she had "loads" of experience and rolling her eyes with a bored expression, told me she had been doing this "forever" (and obviously at a mere 8 years, I was a Johnny come lately and not worth her attention.)

At intermission, her companion, who obviously did not attend theatre much, asked her what she thought of the show.

"It's tedious," she said. "It takes them too long to get into the story."

Uh. Is that she fault of the production? Or is that the fault of the script? She admitted she had never seen this show before (Ms. Experience had never seen Gypsy?) and that she had seen neither the stage show nor the movie of the next production, coming next week, Sweeney Todd. She knew that it was "about some guy who gets revenge."

We sit in different spots each week, so I probably won't see her at Sweeney Todd, but I'd sure like to eavesdrop on her intermission comments for THAT show!

2 comments:

Harriet V said...

For some reason I can't access FunnytheWorld this morning; good thing you've got a backup!

The critic you mention reminds me of some stuff I wrote about people who don't know their business. Not to mention the network programmer who didn't think it was necessary to mention, let along run, "Roots" on its 25th anniversary.

Bev Sykes said...

Interesting that you mention that. I couldn't access it myself last night, though it comes up just fine this morning. But, as you say, it's good I have this back-up. God forbid a single word of my deathless prose should go unread! LOL.