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The Hobbit–A Musical is officially underway (and really, shouldn’t it just be Hobbit! ? Everyone knows that the exclamation point implies musical.  So much more economical.  And funny).  We’ve gotten through two of the EIGHT performances.  I’ve done rather a lot of theater in my time and I don’t think I ever had eight performances, even of the good shows.  By show seven, I expect energy to be in the toilet (not literally, although that might be cool, too) and the kids reciting their lines as if under duress.  The Hobbit–A Court-Ordered Musical.

We’ve been slogging up to Thurmont 4 or 5 days a week since late May.  It’s a 30 minute trip, so I think gas costs have just about off-set the appeal of a “free” theater experience.  Julianna was desperate to do a show, the drama bug having bitten her hard.   Drama “camps” run 300-400 bucks per kid AND you have to buy tix at the end so you can see the performance.  (And yes of course I have considered opening the Braddock Heights Center for the Performing Arts.  Instead, let’s just assume I’ve worked it all out, gotten a plan, chosen a show, lined up some kids, and then got bored with it.  Because we know that’s what happens.)  This program is free, and all kids who audition get a role.  56 tried out, 48 remain.  The show is double cast and everyone has roles in both casts, usually a big role in one cast and minor in the other.  It really would be a terrific program IF the folks running it weren’t so damned negative.  The yelling!  Lord knows I am far from the calm and reasonable mother I wish I were.  I’m a yeller (no Old Yeller jokes.  thank you), I’m afraid.  But these people make me look medicated.  Early on, I’d have to assure the kids (Ben mostly) that the director wasn’t really angry, she just says everything angrily.  “Take out the tone,” I’d tell him, “and you’ll see the words aren’t angry.”  As we’ve gotten closer to opening, the shaming has started.  “You are going to be SO embarrassed when you are standing there not knowing your lines in front of the audience!”  “These people have worked so hard to make it so that your show looks good and you are letting them down.”  And the belittling, “Do you even KNOW what ‘be quiet’ MEANS?”  I’m honestly a bit saddened that more kids don’t seem freaked out by this.  But seriously, if someone was treating ME that way?  I’d be so out of there.  We’ve only hung in b/c it means so much to Julianna and to keep from stranding the other kids w/yet another drop-out.

On the whole, yelling aside, the kids have had fun.  They’ve made new friends and it’s been a new experience.  The production is pretty good.  The sets are far more impressive than they are used to with school performances, real lighting, stage crew, all the luxuries of community theater.  I think it’s good for kids to learn to memorize, but I’m too lazy to just institute poem memorizing or some such, so this has filled that gap, as well.  We will all be SO glad when it’s over, though.  Well, Julianna probably won’t be.  She’d be happy in a dungeon if they were putting on a show.

Some photos!  In Cast One, Julianna is The Great Goblin and Galion the Elf.  Ben is Tom the Troll.  Lily is Kili the Dwarf.  Ben and Julianna can also come back at the end as Extra Hobbits.

The Great Goblin and her Standard Bearer

The Great Goblin and her Standard Bearer

The Horrible Tom the Troll

The Horrible Tom the Troll

Messing around backstage with a dwarf and a Goblin.  You can see his hump.  (what hump?)

Messing around backstage with a dwarf and a Goblin. You can see his hump. (what hump?)

We grow full, luxurious beards in this family

We grow full, luxurious beards in this family

Kili the Dwarf

Kili the Dwarf

In Cast Two, Julianna is Tom the Troll (yes, same part as Ben), Ben is Ori the Dwarf, and Lily is an Elven Huntsman.  Julianna and Lily can come back as Hobbits at the end.

my lovely daughter

my lovely daughter

AUGH!  I look like one of Snow Whites dwarves!  Grumpy, Im thinking.

"AUGH! I look like one of Snow White's dwarves!" Grumpy, I'm thinking.

sparkly elf

sparkly elf

Dwarf song

Dwarf song

The trolls grill some mutton

The trolls grill some mutton

The Trolls killed last night.  Well, they always kill, they’re trolls, but the audience really enjoyed them.  The older kids are, not surprisingly, better on stage–more energy, better timing–so scenes with a concentration of older kids really sparkle.  Especially–and I say this with no prejudice at all–if one of the kids is Julianna.  The younger kids, Ben and Lily included, are doing a good job.  The younger kids with big roles are really impressive.  But the older kids are having more fun at it, they’re more relaxed.  I imagine that will come, somewhat, to the others as we trudge through these performances, if they don’t all crap out from exhaustion.

The elven jailers hit the Elf Kings wine

The elven jailers hit the Elf King's wine

Bilbo battling Smaug–none of my kids are in it, I just thought it was a clever idea for the dragon:

I’ve been assistant costume lady here.  I made all the dwarf tunics and hoods (most too small, it seems. oops), the spider hoods, many goblin and hobbit vests, pink satin hobbit mobcaps, the elf collars, hats, headbands, and spats.  Last night, we were missing a dwarf hood and I had to whip up another 30 min. before showtime.  At intermission, a spider hood was missing, so I made her a cap out of a pair of tights.  My trusty swiss army knife made several extra holes in belts.  The kids tend to just drop costume bits as they go, so there’s a lot of ferreting around trying to find spats and hoods and gloves.  And, of course, kids complaining that this belt is not Mine!  I had a gold one!  Show business!

Two down, six to go…

I’ve been meaning to post these for a while.  To spare Tash from having to see cake any longer, I shall give you these images instead.   I was a very talented author at a very young age.  I liberated these early works from my mom’s house.  And now, you may enjoy them.  If you know an agent, have him/her call me.

First up, dated March 14, 1975 (I was 7 1/2 years old.  So that’s second grade…Mrs. Pochas?):

The text:

Once upon a time a leprechaun changed me into a one inch girl.  Boy! Was I angry! (I was using really thick triangles and circles for exclamation points.  Seems extra emphatic) I stopped my haf inch foot and SCREMED!  Oh I could have killed him if I wasn’t small! I sqeked for help.  No one heard me but a mouse.  So now I live with a mouse.  He is so kind and good.  One day I married him. (I am untroubled by tense.  Roll with it)We had a baby boy! BOY! was he ugly!  He had mouse ears, a person face, a mouse tail, person feet, mouse hands, a person body, and was furry like a mouse!  We ate him.  In later days, my love dide.  I went to seach for food and I was steppet on.


Screen rights are up for bid.  I think this story has everything: magic, love, horror, and a moral comeuppance with an ending that isn’t all blockbuster feel-good.  I smell a Palm d’Or.

Here’s a close up of my storyboard:

The dialogue says: “If you were small I would kill you!”  “Oh no you don’t!”   I see Reese Witherspoon and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Prefer non-fiction? How about a memoir?

Dated May 7, 1975 and written in cursive:

My Mother

My mother has brown eyes and hair.  She is middle sized.  She love to eat, here is what she eats: Everything that is food!  She is also pregnet.  Half of the fat on her is food the other haf is baby.  She is a house wife.  She hates are dog.  That is all I can think of.

close ups of the panels:

1) Stylin pregnant mum with her swing top, capris, and sandals.  2) Get out of my way dog! ouch! My rear!

1) Stylin' pregnant mum with her swing top, capris, and sandals. 2) "Get out of my way dog!" "ouch! My rear!"

3) Piza, Diet 7-up; pikles, a hot dog  Standard pregnant lady diet. 4) Im drawing a blank

3) Piza, Diet 7-up; pikles, a hot dog Standard pregnant lady diet. 4) I'm drawing a blank

I wonder if she really ate pickles or if I just knew that was what pregnant ladies were supposed to eat.  Was Brent really made of diet 7-up, pizza, hot dogs, pickles, and dog hate?

What mother wouldn’t be flattered by that portrait?  She probably cried from happiness.  Or something.

Is it sad that this is recognizable as my work even then?

Yesterday was Ringo Starr’s birthday, as you no doubt surmised from all the fireworks, the bank holiday, and close-out prices at jewelry stores.

Julianna baked him a cake:

birtday?  Apparently the Long Island accent skips a generation.

"birtday"? Apparently the Long Island accent skips a generation.

He didn’t show.  Apparently he and Elijah use the same DayPlanner.   So we ate it anyway–more for us!  She made it from scratch using my old 1956 Betty Crocker Picture cookbook.  “One Egg Marble Cake–for times when eggs are scarce!”  or for when the cake is in honor of cranky old men who won’t eat it anyway.

Okay kids, it’s cool enough that I don’t gripe every time I have to move farther than from the computer to the water pitcher–let’s go hiking!

Traditionally, we have hiked the Cliff Trail to the falls and then take the Low Trail back.  I just noticed in the Catoctin Mountain trail guide that the Cliff Trail is listed as difficult, and Lily’s been hiking it since she was 5, so I figure we can tackle ANYthing.  I keep in mind, however, that it’s also pretty short, and decide we’ll take the Falls Trail from the Catoctin Forest national Park visitor’s center to Cunningham Falls and back.  I love my plan b/c a) the Nat’l park is free, but if we start in the State Park it costs money.  b)I think this will bring us in at the top of the falls.

When we first moved to Frederick, Steve and I hiked to the Falls and we came out at the top.  I have not done so again.  When we come in at the bottom, there are all these signs asking us to stay out of the “fragile” area down there and on the boardwalk provided.  But who wants to do THAT?  there are big ol’ rocks and waterfalls.  So I end up feeling guilty (I know, as I should) and also shoving my kids up the big rocks by their butts.  This goes against my usual principal of “if you can’t’ get there yourself, you shouldn’t be there.” The converse, however, is not necessarily true (I’m looking at you, Hazel).  So we set off from the parking lot for our 3 mile hike.

It was a reasonably steep climb, filled with speculation about angles of ascent and why people carve beech trees.  Lily was kept moving with the promise of being able to stick her feet in the water at the falls.  She’d even brought along extra socks.  We reached the end of the climby part of the trail and crossed the highway to the path that leads to the falls.  A pause for a rebellious photo:

the Man cant tell US where to stop or stand!

the Man can't tell US where to stop or stand!

And off down the boardwalk.  I realized quickly (’cause I’m smaht) that we were going to be at the bottom of the stupid falls again.  And shortly after I realized that we were going to be on an enclosed walk that wouldn’t even let us disobediently climb down onto the rocks.  Lily was…disappointed.  I cajoled/consoled/snarled her onto the path again to head back, assuring her that we could play in the stream at the trailhead.  Along the way, nature lessons!

“what kind of bug is that?”

“I don’t know, but soon there’ll be more of them.”

Lily started crabbing about sore ankles near the end, but otherwise made it just fine, encouraging me to try a slightly longer trail next time, if it involves a bit less steep climbing.  And, as promised, there was the stream:

and pretty mushrooms:

We were already in Thurmont, so we ate dinner at a local restaurant and went to play practice afterward.  And, as usual,  was far more tired than they.  Is there some sort of equilibrium at play?  Mom gets as tired as all kids combined?

So the bathroom in the church where the kids have play practice has this can:

In case you can’t quite make it out–shiny!–it says “Disinfects HIV-1 (AIDS virus), Polio virus Types 1 and 2,  Influenza A2/ Hong Kong Virus, Mycobacterium Tuberculosis (TB),  and Herpes Simplex 1 and 2…

Seems like sprayin’ folks down would be easier than all these vaccines…  And further, what kind of nasty-ass church IS this?  I was a little skeeved, frankly.

The neighbors are going camping!  For seven days!  That means seven days without my having to scream “Ben!  Tatiana!  Get AWAY from each other!”  Our neighbors are, ostensibly, childless, but they are certainly child friendly as there are usually anywhere from 2-6 children staying with them.  Tatiana and Fatima are over here frequently to play with Lily, but we also sometimes get Mark, Demoni (seriously?  you named a child Demoni?), Summer, and Shania.  This in addition to our usual load of Maeve, Fiona, Taro, and Haley (yes, that IS quite the UN register of names.  But the kids just fall into our two standard racial categories, nothing exciting at all).

In theory, I am in favor of great bands of children, roaming from one house to another, revelling in summer freedom.  In practice, I am in favor of quiet and–more importantly–peace.  And we do not get peace if Ben and Tatiana are in the same place.  Never have I seen more Oil and Water personalities.  Ben, we know, is sensitive to slights (real and imaginary) and prone to take offense.  Tatiana is a bit of a bossyboots and loooooves to get Ben’s goat.  Which, since he puts his goat out by the curb with a “Free Goat” sign around its neck, is not hard.  I have had the “You have GOT to learn to let it go” conversation about a gazillion times.  I have also had he “You have GOT to leave Ben alone” conversation with Miss T.  Yesterday, we had the “Okay, everyone but Ben and Lily–Thank you for coming, please go home, we’ll see you tomorrow” conversation.

I was all prepared to have a powwow today, to sit the two of them down together.  But now I don’t have to!  yay!  My favorite outcome.  For now.


July 2009