It's a beautiful day in Arizona. I'm sitting out in the back yard listening to the birds chatter as Baby sits across the yard staring at me the way she does. She's always waiting for a word, or a clap, or ball that whizzes and bounces off the back wall in the corner. This morning we went down to the corner to get a cup of coffee, (she always goes with me) and even though it’s a short trip, she always has the same excitement to go, as if we might suddenly head down the highway to some new town. Its always a wonder to be driving along and try to figure out just your dog is thinking. Lately, as we get ready to get some sleep, she's got in the habit of lying in the middle of the bed. When I get under the covers and push her over to the side of the bed, she let's out this little sigh as if to say, "Hey, I need my space too!" We spend so much time together its got so we know every nuance of each other with a little movement or a word. Last night, before rehearsal, I cooked some chicken. When I got home, I put a piece of it in a bowl and brought it back to the bedroom. I let her in from the window and went back to the kitchen for some water. While I was gone, she climbed up on the chair and ate the whole piece in the time it took me to get back. She had never done that before. I can have any food anywhere and she will not touch it unless I tell her she can have it, but last night, she ate a whole chicken breast in the time it took me to walk in the kitchen and back. As soon as I walked in, I knew what she had done, and so did she. That was a sight, she and I discussing the error of her ways. She started negotiating before I had time to say anything, especially the two words she hates to hear, 'Bad Dog," only I don't usually say it that way. I usually speak to her in a general conversation, whether it's good or bad. The wonder of it all is that even this morning, I said to her, "Why did you eat that piece of chicken?" And she still knew what I meant. Now you tell me dogs don't have a brain that they can think and reason with and I'll tell you you're nuts. I honestly have to say, lately, the hardest part of my day is when I have to head out for rehearsal without her. That's a negotiation as well. And we do talk about it. And she does talk back, even though she knows she can't go. When I get home, she's waiting at the back gate and as I get out of the truck, she let's out one little howl to say hello. When I'm writing or playing guitar, she lays right at my feet, as if this is her job, and that is muse enough.
Last night was four weeks until we preview this latest play I'm directing, Lorca in a Green Dress. And even though I'm not worried, (I have a terrific cast) it was the night I laid in bed with the lights off going through every possible production detail. I'm also designing the set, (which I think when you are directing is an advantage) but it's also a second big job. Imagine a large square space 40' by 40' and imagine having to fill that space with a giant installation piece. That will give you a semi-understanding of how much goes into a set. I'm designing the Lorca Room, where Federico Lorca goes immediately after he dies-where actors playing different aspects of himself help him adjust to his death and also decide on his options. The gypsies and some sects of Islam believe that you have such a room for forty days after you die to prep you for what is to come. So, its not really purgatory, (purgatory would be easy to design) it’s a room that's befitting of each individual, in this case Lorca, the poet, the playwright, the artist, contemporary of Picasso, friend of Salvadore Dali, and someone who was murdered for being a communist sympathizer. So, it's both daunting and exciting. Because the design is not complete, I have to block the play, (the physical composition) semi-knowing what the set pieces will be.
Last night, I had a vision of a giant hanging door, (upside down) from the ceiling, (the ceilings are very high) to define the back wall, with a miniature of the same door painted on the wall on the opposite side of the Lorca Room and somehow tie them together. I had a vision of the two side walls defined by hanging windows, on one side, a stained glass window with a outline of the moon fixed within it, and defining the other side a rusted prison window, with two chains to hold it in place from the bottom and the top. I also imagined all of the furniture pieces designed as ammunition boxes from the Spanish Civil War. Tonight, as I lay in bed with the lights out, all of that will probably change, or at least be rearranged. So, the job is not only to build or find the objects, but to also decide on the hardware and fixtures, and project a giant semi-Daliesque mural on the extreme back wall, 18' X 40', the paint and details of the design, install it in a couple of days, and you will have an idea of what my job for that part of the production involves. It's irritating as hell to have some people infer that as a hobby. There are years and years of training your brain to think this way.
On the directing side, I am interpreting the literary work of a Pulitzer prize winning playwright, and for me, a Latino playwright, so I have to wrap my brain around the Spanish and the period. (Spanish Civil War, 1936). I have to know his history, (both playwright and subject) his life, his art, his plays, and his poetry. Which means reading, thinking about it, and seeing it all in motion. (Thank God for the internet!) Which gives me lots of information with the ease of a search. In this particular play, there are nine people on stage at all times, including a flamenco dancer. (So there is Spanish guitar throughout with dancing) In that regard, the directing is much like choreography, because the actors are constantly moving. I can never really stop to even think that its an impossible job, I just have to move forward at lightning speed, so that the play is completely on its feet in the next two weeks so that I will be able to find the interior of the play in the last two weeks. (We have been in rehearsal for two and a half weeks) Trust me, however, in all of this, I am thankful every day for what I do, it is an interesting job, and there are many spirits to help me go about the business of bringing this beautiful play to life.
As for other elements of my life, there is the music which happens every Saturday night, and as I've said many times before, I'm always excited to go into a place where people are having dinner, get up on a tiny stage and see if I can add to what they are already experiencing. Last Saturday, I had a break through in the music, which happens maybe once or twice a year, where an epiphany happens in regard to what you are doing. Last week, it was a vocal epiphany, a spiritual connection between the words and the meaning of the songs. My theory on this break through has to do with the directing job, which as I said, is a very focused concentration on what things mean. So, at this particular time, the music and the theatre are symbiotic, in that one is informing the other. If you are interpreting a song as though it is the poetry of Lorca, the rendition of the song changes quite drastically. The funny part of it was having this epiphany while people where eating and going about their business, however, on that night, instead of the music being just ambient music, it did turn into a performance, which is always an added bonus, but rare in this particular kind of gig. (It's not a concert, but it turned into one). Doing this kind of gig requires that you find your table. Finding your table is what I use when I play in a restaurant/bar, where I look for the table that is having the best reaction to what I'm doing. I focus on what I think will be their kind of music, and I change up my set to fit them. Then, as I'm playing, I find the most resistant table, and try to figure out a song that will bring them on board maybe just a little bit. All of this is done with watching body language, making eye contact, or making conversation with them without being intrusive. Then, there is the money hour. That's the hour you are going to make the most money from the customer. It's when busyness, alcohol consumption, and just the right song all culminate to get that five or ten bucks before they leave. If I can get tens or twenties, I know I've had a good night. In this particular restaurant, it's mostly a five or ten tops, but lately I've been pulling in some twenties. Lastly, if you do have a good night when it is turning into more of a concert, or there is some special guest, (last week there was a Thai musician I let play on my set) you take advantage of it and turn up the volume. Oh, one last thing. I usually never say, "This is a song that I wrote…blah, blah, blah…" rather, I may tell a story about the song, but I slip original songs in between great covers, because that's (in my opinion) where I'm going to get the best reaction. Lately, I have had people come up and ask, "Whose song was that?" Like maybe they'd heard it but couldn't remember the artist. That's when you know your song is working, because they are asking about it. Yesterday morning, I worked on a song I wrote at the beginning of the summer. I usually work on songs for this year that I actually wrote last year. For some reason, a song is better with some age. I do have those songs that I will do fairly immediately after I write them, but a song will get better if you write it and then wait for it. A song that I didn't think was very good turned into something else entirely from what it was when I wrote it. I'll do one more really good rehearsal of it, and then sing it tomorrow night. Again, I never really tell that story yet, instead, no one will know that this song is getting its first public performance. To go along with the story, I have a song that I wrote seven or eight years ago, that required me to have seven or eight more years of guitar playing before I could sing it! That’s always a surprise, to learn that you wrote a song that was really too difficult for you to do. Okay, I got the bulk of the writing done for today, and now its back to Lorca. Have a great day, it feels good to be working on things I love, even though the pay check for it comes later, I will survive. Thanks to good friends and these little jobs, I always seem to have a five or a ten on my desk in my room…