Time to Remember
The rain was coming down in sheets making it nearly impossible to see. It was nearly eight o'clock and Jarrod was starting to worrry he was going to be late. Other movies he had worked on frowned heavily on tardiness and even had gone so far as turning folks away if they were late. He slapped his dash clock. "SHIT! MOTHERFUCKING SON OF A BITCH!" He was flying nearly blind- he had no idea where he was save for his trusty GPS on his phone. Winston was booney-ville with not much besides the encroaching green canopy of trees. and the occasional house. The light in the sky had all but disappeared and the torrential downpour made visibility impossible. He was looking for a driveway with a yellow sign posted reading "Samhain" and he prayed to God he could see it in the rain. Google maps said he was only five miles away, but the rain was making him drive slower, especially on the curvy road.
He wondered if Richard had made it to Orlando yet. He pictured him cautiously making his way through the Exorcist house, screaming at the Linda Blair dummy spinning her head and spewing pea soup everywhere. He's such a pussy. Jerrod pondered the unlikely thought of them actually keeping the puke bit in and caught himself chuckling at the idea of Richard's sympathy puke response when he heard a loud pop and he lost control of the car in a skid. "What the....FUCK!???"
He turned into the spin as the car skidded towards the shoulder, straightened the wheel and pulled safely to the side of the road. The unmistakeable tha-thump of a flat tire echoed in the pit of his stomach, and he screamed at the top of his lungs." Dammit!!!!" The rain was not abating and there was no light along the road. He sat there for a few minutes, weighing his options. He checked the GPS on his phone and it said he was .2 miles away from his destination. Jerrod had a spare in his trunk and could easily change the tire, but it was almost pitch black out and, of course, rain. Or he could hike the short distance in the rain and just come back and fix it in the morning after the shoot was over and the sun was up. It was ten after eight. He was already late, but they still might give him a break if he got there soon and explained the situation. "FUCK!"
He hopped out of the car and went over to the passenger side, using his phone's flashlight as his guide. His front right tire was shredded, steel-belt strands frayed and sticking out wildly from the carcass of his Goodyear radial. Definitely no patching that. The rain seemed to get more intense at that very second and the brisk October air was starting to seep into his bones. He sighed in resignation and after locking up his car, began his hike.
Luckily for Jerrod the yellow handmade sign for the production wasn't too far ahead- the letters were bleeding and growing illegible from rain and the markers they were written in , but obviously this was the place. The driveway was long and deep as was the case for most of these places out in the country. Rivers of red mud cut through the unpaved drive and Jerrod prayed that he would be provided with dry shoes along with his costume or it was going to be a miserable night.
There was an ramshackle house about three hundred yards in- it looked like it had been abandoned for many years. Jerrod could see a soft glow sneaking through the boarded up windows. Vines had overtaken the sides of the house and snaked through the cracks in the porch. Lightning flashed and Jerrod caught a glimpse of the dilapidated barn that was situated to the right of the house as well as the grey Chevy van with it's side door open parked between the two buildings . Something didn't feel right to Jerrod, but this could be the transport pickup spot to take them to set.
A figure opened the door of the house and Jerrod could make out the shape of a short squat woman whose outline gave Jerrod the slight impression of a hobbit. The light was behind her so he couldn't make out her face. She looked down at her watch and barked, "You're late." The red embers of her cigarette briefly illuminated her face as she took a drag and he saw her sizing him up. Finally she said, "You look like a drowned rat. " she sniggered . "Well, come on in! Got yer costume and paperwork.It's gonna be a late one." She took another drag and smiled at him. "When you finish, we'll getcha to the set pronto." She turned towards the door and waved her arm towards the entrance of the house.
With that, he followed her in.
end part 2
**** CASTING NOTICE - Samhain ****LOCATION: Winston, GA
WORK DATE: Tues 10/31 Rate: $88/10
Currently casting for MEN! Males who appear in their 20's-40's, any size, with no aversion to face being covered. Any ethnicity welcome to apply!
This will be a late evening call Must be available all night! Please submit to firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line VICTIM.
Jerrod had been scrolling through his facebook page when his phone pinged with the message alert. He quickly swiped over to his text messages and found the notice. The number was unknown but he had signed up to so many casting websites recently it didn't surprise him. He got at least three to six notices daily and could usually pick up a couple gigs a week as an extra. Georgia's film market was booming and there was ALWAYS something going on. Lately pickings had been a bit slim - he had done pretty much all of the TV shows filmed in the area and had to wait a few weeks before resubmitting- lot's of calls for "fresh Faces" had been filling his feed recently.
This little beauty came as a godsend-by the time the check from the gig rolled in his phone bill would be due. That's how he eked out his meager existence with blind luck- through a variety of random background roles . He definitely had what you called "a look" that pigeonholed him as the working class type .He was a burly fella with a bit of a gut, buzzed short dark hair and ruddy complexion from drinking too much cheap beer, so he had played a construction worker, an orderly, homeless, a cop, and a cable guy and so on.All of which he found a little boring, but hey,it paid the bills.
This would be the first time he played the "victim".
" A fucking horror movie! Fuck yeah! " he muttered under his breath. He couldn't believe his luck.
The call time ended up being eight o'clock on Halloween night which totally sucked- it was Jerrod's favorite holiday- but he wasn't going to complain. Money was money and every little bit counted. Besides, his buddy Richard had gone down to Universal Studios in Orlando for Halloween Horror Nights and Jerrod had no plans without him. Richard had called him earlier that day on his way down to rub it in. Richard was a dork, but Jerrod didn't have that many friends in Atlanta. He had only moved there six months earlier and the fact he was broke most of the time limited his social life or rather killed it altogether Richard lived next door to him at his shitty apartment complex and they had met in the dingy laundry room. It smelled of wet feet and clorox, and they bonded over trying to kill the same cockroach that had skittered between them. Later they realized they also shared a love of gory slasher films and anything by George Romero and Lucio Fulci.
Richard exuded a general air of creepiness- in high school he could possibly be voted "person most likely to become a serial killer" and he'd wear it as a badge of honor. His bald head was speckled with sores and nicks from his razor and his eyes were bulging and exaggerated by his thick black rimmed glasses. He tended to find humor in the most random and strange things (like extremely gory horror movies or nudie pics of fat chicks that he said wanted to fuck him or rather "diddle me", as he says) and was extremely socially awkward in front of just about everyone else. All in all, he was a big dorky mess who made Jerrod laugh and had a great DVD collection filled with hard to find Italian splatter flicks.
"They have a frakkin' Exorcist house this year, man! It is gonna be sick! I watched the walk through on YouTube. " Richard sounded like he was practically salivating. Jerrod could hear traffic in the background on the phone.
Jerrod rolled his eyes. "YouTube? You already watched it on fucking YouTube? Why'd ya do that, dickweed? Now you've spoiled it." He fingered the notepad next to him with the address of the shoot later that night. He tore the paper off and stuffed it in his shirt pocket. Over the phone line he could hear the bleat of someone slamming on their horn and he then heard Richard scream, "Stay in your lane, jerkface! " Jerrod shook his head and grinned at his friends idea of name calling. "You tell him, my friend! Don't fuck with dick!"
"Don't call me that. Anyway, you know that demon stuff freaks me out. I just wanted to be prepared for the house. I'll be fine. HEY! WATCH WHERE YOU"RE GOING!! Listen Jerrod, I've got to let you go. There's some dingleberry trying to run me off the road. Have fun tonight! I know I will. Laterz! HEYYY_" the phone clicked off as Richard hung up.
Jerrod slipped his phone into his pocket and went into the bedroom. Luckily, it seemed, wardrobe was being provided for the shoot so he didn't have to worry about grabbing a bag with changes of clothes. He decided since it was an all nighter he should try to grab a little shut eye before he went to set. It was supposed to be a ten hour shoot but they always had the possibility of going over time, which was cool with him. Overtime was time and a half, and he could use the dough. He lay on top of his covers and soon fell to sleep. He dreamt of Richard in his car, rolled over in a ditch, blood streaming down his face, his eyes sightless and glassy, his mouth agape, and the sound of someone chanting "Jerkface! Jerkface! Jerkface" over and over and over...
end part 0ne
As I looked around the sold out Saturday night audience at Emerald Coast Theatre's first foray into musicals, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change!, I felt affirmed in what I had always suspected- Walton County is hungry for musical theatre. To be sure , there are a myriad of reasons this particular production is filling seats- from the careful growth and steady building of reputation of excellence from this burgeoning theatre company (now in it's fifth season) to the positive word of mouth from patrons- but this is an under represented art form in our area that is the bread and butter of larger cities . Simply put, people crave escapism, and music has a way of transporting in a way that is universal. (Okay, yes I am a musical theatre nerd, but I stand by my statements.)
Director Nathanael Fisher smartly chose this cozy off-Broadway hit (about the stages of relationships from dating to marriage to dating again) and cast it with young, appealing actors with powerful vocal prowess (Led by musical director Mary Jeter and accompanied-perfectly balanced-by pianist Celia Villacres).The staging is uncomplicated (it is not the type of show that calls for elaborate dance numbers) and polished. In fact, polished is a word that I would say perfectly sums up this well paced gem.
The four person ensemble is uniformly strong- there is not one weak link. Marcellis Cutler has charisma to spare, and his voice is rich and inviting. The winsome Hope Golds has a lovely emotional take on the moving I Will Be Loved Tonight. Brian Hilario plays the put upon straight man for well earned laughs and blends beautifully in harmonies with Mckenzie Pollock who is a comic revelation with Always a Bridesmaid.
The characters are broad, the timing impeccable, but the thing that puts it over the top are the voices. I definitely look forward into this theatre's future endeavors in musicals. What a lovely addition to this already strong repertoire .
It definitely left me hungry for more.
Stephen LaDow is an actor , author, blogger, and reviewer living outside of Atlanta, GA. Follow him on his website, unfiltered-ness.com
I have always had an uncomfortable relationship with cars. Their siren call of freedom fell upon deaf ears due to an underlying irrational fear of...well, I was never quite sure of what. I just knew driving could induce anxiety, irritability, not-so-subtle tourettes, road rage, , hysteria, nausea, panic attacks, and general unease. (Yes, it reads like the warning label on the side of prescription labels.) Woe unto you if ever I was put into the position of driving you anywhere as my heightened emotional state would be turned against my passengers.In retrospect I offer my apologies to all who had to endure my mania. You were brave.
Lately I have been trying to piece together a road map to the infancy of my phobia. Memories from my teens are spotty, but I do recall at the age of fifteen attending Driver's Ed class taught by an intimidatingly gruff football coach who was prone to glowering scowls and high waisted yet tiny shorts. In class, he really didn't teach us anything. He relied on the Alabama Drivers' handbook and the films designed specifically to terrify you of the dangers of reckless driving. (the next semester, that very same coach taught the sex-ed class with very similar scary movies designed to terrify you about the dangers of sex before marriage. ) His name escapes me, but I do recall his "teaching" style, which I assumed was very similar to his coaching style. Stern admonitions and barking orders designed to keep us motivated were his fall backs but I found his methods less than inspiring.
All of this culminated in the actual driving in the class car which was equipped with dual steering wheels and foot petals. My journey at the wheel was brief . Coach gave a series of gutteral commands ("Turn here", "Straight ahead", etc., etc.) until his booming voice became increasingly frantic ("Slow down for a complete stop. Slow down. SLOW DOWN!! NOW! NOW!NOW! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!") He finally slammed on his brake and took control of the car while intermittently shooting disapproving looks my way., his thick uni-brow knitted in arched disdain.Our ride back to school was deafeningly silent as I mentally pictured myself anywhere but there, trapped in the stifling confines of the car . It was our only venture out of the classroom.
Amazingly, I passed the class with a B.
It was probably another year before I got in another car to even attempt to drive. My Mother took it upon herself to give me driving lessons. Now my Mother was a fairly soft-spoken and gentle lady, so in theory all should have been hunky dory. She would take me to the high school parking lot or to the local mall lot on Sunday mornings. Even in those vast empty expanses, the coach's voice rang in my ears and my jangly nerves were shot before even sitting behind the wheel. "We're gonna DIE!!" repeated on and endless loop in my brain and I would take my anxiety out on my hapless mother ,yelling at her while pushing myself to the brink of hysteria while she gently tried to soothe me. I won't say she had the patience of a saint, but we did eventually get to a point where I could drive around in circles comfortably. Nothing short of miraculous, if you ask me.
After two attempts,I received my drivers license a year later.
Meanwhile,the mother of one of my Mom's co-workers was selling her car- a 1974 Chevy Bel Aire. This was about 1983 and the car only had around 10,000 miles on it. The owner was a little old lady who only drove it to the grocery store and church. I had recently inherited a thousand bucks from the passing of my Grandmother and my parents both decided this was how I was going to spend it. If you are not familiar with that particular make and model, it was approximately the size of a Sherman Tank (or at least I imagined it to be.). It also was an opalescent shade of pale green, which further colored my perception of it's likeness to a tank.Well, that is if tanks were glittery and shiny and slightly gay, but still. None of this enticed me to wanting to drive it, as for some reason my spatial awareness seemed broken and I had trouble judging where the front of the car ended or how close I was to other cars while driving, or, more crucially when parking the beast next to other vehicles. My first solo journey in that land yacht by myself was to that very same High School my Mother had patiently taught me to drive and park in the empty lot. It bears repeating. In the empty lot. Pulling between two cars- well, let's just say, I misjudged. Sadly for the innocent Toyota whose only crime was being next to an open space, my monstrous vehicle came out unscathed whereas the victim had a seven inch gash across it's door. The expense of repairs turned me off of driving to school (or anywhere for that matter) for a while. The tank sat in our driveway for a good year before I decide to drive again.
At seventeen I finally felt the urge to flee my hermetic existence and explore the world in my land cruiser. Suddenly the prospect of having a choice of where and when I were to venture out in the world dazzled me and my latent fears of driving be damned, I was finally FREE! I traveled to the far reaches of the big city of Birmingham , Alabama (I currently resided in an unincorperated subdivision outside of Trussville about 40 minutes away) . It was a glorious time and I relished every opportunity that arose from being so self sufficient. I thought I finally understood what the fuss was all about. I could do anything I wanted!
Sadly either no one told me or (more realistically) I never paid attention to the fact that one has to do maintenance to one's car (i.e. oil change, anti-freeze, etc.). I drove and drove , blissfully ignorant of the fact that I was killing my grand beast of a vehicle, ignoring the groans and squeals ,until one fateful evening on my way into the city, I smelled smoke. Puzzled, as I was not yet a smoker, I opened my window and thought nothing more of it. I continued forward, radio blasting, singing at the top of my lungs, until I choked out a garbled note- spasmodically coughing, for now smoke was billowing into the front seat. I Glanced in the rearview mirror and let out a small scream -my back seat was on fire!!
I quickly turned onto the nearest road and onto the shoulder, skidding into the gravel, turned off the car, and leapt out. I peered into the back seat and saw the barest hint of flames but noxious smoke was emanating from the spot.. Luckily, I had a big gulp from the gas station in the car and I grabbed it and was able to douse the flames.
I left my car and walked about 5 miles down the road to the nearest gas station. I sent them to tow the beast, and called a friend to come pick me up. Convinced that my car had become possessed and obviously something did not want me to drive (in the retelling of the story, I might have embellished a disembodied voice saying, "Get OUT!! ") . I ended up abandoning the car at the gas station for 6 months.
I eventually went back and grudgingly got the old battle-axe fixed, but our relationship status had been marred. Those few fleeting months of glory before the fire disappeared quickly into the distance- the arranged marriage of circumstantial convenience shattered beyond repair. My failed relationship with this green hulk of an automobile infected every vehicular relationship to come. My uneasy alliance with modes of transportation sullied, the tenuous bonds between my love of getting away stretched to their ends as I inwardly decided that I was a much more suitable passenger than driver. At this point, my love/hate relationship with cars and driving seemed pretty much unbalanced on the hate side.
I wasn't even 19 yet.
End of (possible) part one. Let me know if I should continue in the comments.
Stephen LaDow is an actor, blogger,singer,writer, thinker,dreamer, supporter of the arts and former non-driver. Follow his blog at Unfiltered-ness.com.
I think just about everyone of dating age can relate to an awkward first date- in fact, I'm quite sure that "awkward" and "first date" are synonymous terms . A perfect storm of nerves, (sometimes) liquor, expectations, jadedness, ghosts of relationships past, and forced conversations can be a recipe for disaster. It's almost like going on a job interview but the reward being a relationship or sex- it's a hit or miss prospect with no guarantee of a happy ending.
You pretty much know that there will be a happy ending in Kaleidoscope Theatre's current season opener First Date, but that doesn't spoil a thing. That's the joy of this frothy concoction of a musical. It's light and airy , playing on well tread themes, but the brisk pacing and the snappy dialogue succeed on the strengths of the adroit direction of Harley Benner and Bunnie Hibbard and their committed cast. The formidable directing duo excel at this type of musical comedy and wisely choose to not over complicate things by tailoring the staging and choreography to their performers strengths.
Christian Becerra (Aaron) and Malia Sylvester (Casey) are the awkward first daters, and the duo have a lovely chemistry. Christian conveys Aaron's uptight and fussy demeanor without spilling over into caricature and has some lovely moments. Malia's Casey is perfectly jaded and grounded and soars on her heartfelt rendition of "Safer".
The small ensemble plays a multitude of characters and all have their moments to shine-from Hillary McAlindens's feisty Jewish mother, Michael Hunter's aged homosexual waiter who desperately tries to dazzle with jazzhands , Emma Grace Hunter's vocal solos , and Robin Gibson-Grubs earnest take on the runaway bride. Standout performances from Anthony Powiliatis as Aaron's loutish buddy Gabe and Robert Sharp (Reggie)- Casey's gay best friend whose hilarious "Bailout Song" (Casey's backup if the date was heading south , Reggie would call her to give her an out) brought the house down with uproarious laughter. Sharp and Powiliatis also shine in a duo as edgy ex-boyfriends with the rocking "That's why you love me." Lastly, Sharon Carroll in a triumphant return to the Kaleidoscope stage after many years appears as Aaron's mother in the heartwrenching duet with Becerra, "The Things I Never Said".
The set was simple and perfectly evocative of a New York restaurant, highlighted by a beautifully rendered glowing Manhatten skyline. The tight four piece stage band brought much excitement and energy to the show though sometimes they would overpower the vocals- a balance issue I am sure will be worked out.
This production perfectly charmed me- I realized I had a smile plastered on my face from start to finish and judging from the audience's reaction, this was a first date with a happy ending for everyone involved.
#theatre , #review
Stephen LaDow is an actor, blogger,singe #r,writer, thinker,dreamer, and supporter of the arts. Follow his blog at Unfiltered-ness.com.
Underage drinking, sex, drugs, bullying, homophobia, teen suicide, and rabies??? Good grief!! Times definitely have changed in playwright Bert V. Royals skewed modern take on the classic "Peanuts" characters, and the kids have grown into the scariest possible incarnations of themselves: TEENAGERS!! They're all here-C.B.(Charlie Brown), Van (Linus Van Pelt), CB's Sister (Sally) Beethoven(Schroeder), and the rest of the gang in this satirical take on toxic youth with relevant themes for modern audiences.
CB is still a bit of a loser and is mourning the tragic loss of his dog who had contracted rabies and ate his sidekick bird. CB's sister is lost, flitting from persona to persona( Goth chick, hippy, etc.) in search of her identity.Van is a horny stoner who is surprisingly wise. Matt (Pig Pen) is a homophobic germophobe with tendencies towards brutality and misogyny. Tricia (Peppermint Patty) and Marcie are cheerleaders who spike their drinks at lunch and sit in judgement of their peers as the popular party girls on campus. Van's sis (Lucy) is institutionalized for setting the little red haired girls hair on fire. And Beethoven is the molestation surviving sensitive artist who is bullied by Matt and , in the past, by CB.
Whoa! Sounds a bit much, doesn't it. But sensitively directed by Ray Stanley, the cast ably brings a grounded reality and genuine pathos to their characters. This definitely could have been broad caricatures of monsterous adolescent extremes, but the youthful cast served a heavy dose of humanity and relatability to their work. Tyler Kent as CB has found the perfect character for his hangdog looks and has an ease of delivery that sets the tone of the performance nicely. Macy Davis wrings deeply felt emotion to the role of CB's Sis and Ian Bingham's Van has finely attuned comic timing that buoys the serious material with much needed laughter. Robert Gasperson transforms physically into the outcast Beethoven and always impresses with his willingness to "Go there" emotionally. David Holland's Matt brings a raw brutality to the role, culminating in a shockingly violent moment that gave me chills. Alexis Master's Tricia and her constant companion Marcy (played by Cassidy Cobb) have great chemistry and play off each other well. And Leah Blais gives a delightfully unhinged take on the locked-in-the-looney-bin sister, still sitting in front of a handmade "the Dr, is in" sign, though this time she the patient.
This is the kind of show I like. I laughed, I felt, I thought. The cleverness with attaching current and relevant issues of the day with cartoon characters I loved as a child made it more impactful to me. If I had one complaint about the production, it would be I saw too many scenes with just a back of an actors head as my only view of their performance. Doing theatre in the semi round is difficult at best, and I mistakenly sat too close to the stage so the scenes that took place center were lost to me. So , sit directly in front for the best view. More to the point, go see this show.
Presented by the GCSC Players at the Amelia Center Theatre Lab July 21-30 , 7;30 Friday and Saturday, Sundays at 2.
Stephen LaDow is an actor, blogger,singer, barista , and supporter of the arts. He lives on the West End of Panama City. Follow his blog at Unfiltered-ness.com.
It's funny how sometimes you forget who you are- or more, who you were when you thought possibilities were endless.In my youth, I thought that ANYTHING was possible. I would blindly dive in head first without a doubt or thought in my head telling me otherwise. Dumb luck was my saving grace and fearlessness my blind guide. I miss those days of youth, long forgotten and buried in boxes filled with old scripts, piles of sheet music and yellowed clippings from newspapers. Proof that I lived a life.
Tonight I spent the better part of the evening sifting through plastic tubs filled with memories in search of some sheet music for an upcoming audition. It took an hour or so- it has been many a year since I had used this particular song and my papers are in no logical order, besides the fact I have scripts and scores for just about every show I have done, and there have been many. Along the way I got sidetracked reading old reviews and notes from directors and castmates. And I remembered something.
I was pretty damn good.
Now, I'm sure you're thinking I am full of myself or have an incredible ego, but sadly that is not the case. I am incredibly insecure. These days, I have brief moments of surety and confidence, but my life has taken me far from where I was going, and I am slowly trying to get back on track. This place (*Florida) has been weird for me. It's easy to lose your identity here. Or at least I have found it to be true.
I don't bemoan my fate- there are choices I've made that led me to where I am now that I would not change for anything. I needed my family, and they have needed me. But I think it's man in the mirror time. -Time to make a change.
Reviews are a funny thing. I used to be so excited when the review of a show came out, to get that feedback, that affirmation. I couldn't wait to rush out to get the paper the next day, just to see what it said.Reading them tonight, I had forgotten that I predominantly got strong notices. Even the ones that were bad weren't scathing, and I treasured them as well. I held on to them all. I was noticed. That seemed pretty cool.
Now I occasionally write reviews, notice people, recognize their talent and give them props. Because I know how good it feels. How important it is to be recognized, acknowledged. To be appreciated.
I miss that.
In the piles of papers I also found about a hundred pages of a book that I had started writing years ago about New Orleans. It was far better than I would have imagined.I don't know why I stopped writing (besides the fact that I have issues with completion, evidently), but there are parts that seem like they could be salvaged into a decent short story. They spoke of a particular time in my youth in New Orleans. I am not sure what I can dredge up from the depths of my fractured memory about that time, but I think it might be worth it.
The other day at work I drew a cartoon sign to illustrate a new rule. I showed it to my co-workers who smiled appreciatively and one chimed in, "That's good! didn't know you were an artist too!"
Yeah, sometimes I forget as well.
Sometimes you just need a reminder.
And affirmation, even if it's from within, does a world of good.
I work in a coffee shop. I wear a uniform. I am so much more than what my wrapping intimates. I believe that when you wear a uniform, you lose your identity.And the older you get, the more complacent you get, and you start to forget who you are. Uniforms are soul sucking, personality draining, mind-numbing aspects of society that I think should be banned.
Because for a while, I forgot I was an artist.
. A singer.
And I was pretty damn good.
Stephen LaDow is an actor, blogger,singer, barista , and supporter of the arts. He lives on the West End of Panama City. Follow his blog at Unfiltered-ness.com.
I am a non smoker. That is a phrase I never thought I would utter anytime soon, at least not at this point in my life. Sure, maybe when I'm a doddering old man, attached to an oxygen tank and getting winded as I shuffle to the toilet, but certainly not now. But here I am, wondering how the fuck I got here.
Let me explain.
I didn't start out a smoker- nay, as a youth I was much better than that. Both my parents were smokers , as well as most of my extended family. Between the forced inhalation at home and family gatherings not to mention 10 hour car rides to visit relatives trapped in the back seat of my fathers car with his window barely cracked to allow slivers of oxygen to enter the smoke filled car- well, let's just say the idea just didn't appeal to my pre-asthmatic self.
Cut to years later-my early twenties, Living in the French Quarter, doing a dinner theatre production of Grease playing Kenicke. I decided my character was a smoker (I think he was in the movie) and decided I needed to practice smoking to do it realistically. A smoker can always tell when someone is faking it- the awkward way the imposter holds the cigarette, the quick expulsion of a billowy cloud of smoke because of not actually inhaling, and of course, the inexperienced tend to hack and sputter like a backfiring engine. So I would practice, usually paired with copious amounts of alcohol , inexorably linking the two. I had a great excuse to do it as well- for my art. Sadly, I never actually smoked as Kenicke on stage, just held the cigarette in my mouth, dangling, trying to evoke a coolness that I pictured as a smoking leather jacket wearing greaser would have. But the die was cast and my fate , signed.
Soon I wasn't acting anymore. I was an actual, bonafide, 100% smoker. And I loved it! Initially, it was the head rush you get as your oxygen supply is interfered with or hampered with -that, mixed with the chemical additives that make them addictive. But it was more than that. It was something to do. I am more than sure I was subliminally affected by Hollywood and it's romanticizing of and glorification of smokers, but something about the act of smoking felt so right. Cigarettes became my constant companion. They gave me a pleasureable task that never seemed to get old, like watching t.v. or masturbating.
For many years, I could see no downsides. Sure, most people I knew did not smoke and I had to sneak outside to catch a few puffs, even in harsh weather. Neither rain nor sleet nor snow nor extreme temperatures could dissuade me from my task. I was the fucking US post office of smokers. Sure, I smelled of stale smoke and sometimes my fingers were yellowed- stained from nicotine. Yes, sometimes I would hack and cough for no reason, but that seemed such a small price for those 2 and 1/2 minutes of lovely time-wasting fun. The best thing about smoking was the time I wasted doing it. It was a great excuse for a break at work, a perfect filler for the silence that surrounded me whenever I ventured out by myself. It was the literal smoke and mirrors at a bar that gave the illusion that instead of chatting up strangers (my social anxiety didn't allow for much of that unless I had quite a few drinks) I was perfectly content by myself, clutching a cocktail in one hand and dragging on a cigarette .
I was a smoker, and I wore that badge of shame defiantly with honor. I could give a rats ass what other people thought. My fellow smokers had become an ever shrinking circle, but that didn't even shrink my resolve. More and more cities banned smoking in public places, yet that failed to deter me from seeking places to light up.
I tried a few times to quit over the years, but finally reached the conclusion that all of the upsides of being a non-smoker meant nothing to me. I just didn't care. The money spent, the isolation, the stigma- none of that really mattered. Besides, I really hated holier than thou non-smokers and former smokers. Somehow the non-smokers decided they had the moral high ground in choosing a smoke free existence. Some would treat it as a sin of biblical proportions, something God himself had declared a commandment (the 11th , I guess.) . This made me want to smoke more than ever. Fuck 'em! The looks of pity, the revulsion, the dewy eyes as they claimed their concern for my health all propel my self destructive rebelllion. Like somehow they were better human beings for not choosing to shorten their lives by inhaling the cancer sticks.
Former smokers were the worst. That whole, "If I can do it, so can you!" just made me even more determined. I always felt like they were traitors somehow, as if choosing their own health and well being was a slap in my face. How dare they chose breathing over looking this cool?
So what changed now? Well, my father recently went to the hospital for respiratory failure. Before he allowed me to take him (it took repeated questioning and talking) , he had to smoke a couple of cigarettes even though (we found out later) his pulse-ox was at 70.
They kept him there 3 nights, trying to get his levels to normalize. The Dr. told him he HAD to quit smoking. Period. He told her absolutely not. He was 73, he wasn't going to change, he'd lived enough. Fuck 'em!
She asked if I smoked and he said yes. "Well, maybe you should quit and be a role model for your son..."
He replied, "Maybe HE should quit and be a role model for ME."
Something inside me snapped and I did just that. I fucking quit. Just like that. 26 years and now, no more. I didn't do it for me, I didn't even do it for him.It literally felt like a switch was pulled and it just ...stopped. I was- am done. No excuses. No explanation. Just finished. I wish I could explain it.
I feel like I lost a big part of my life that day and I miss the action of it, the process, the time spent. Just another chapter of my life, closed. I don't know why I did it and sometimes I regret it. In the grand scheme of things, it still doesn't mean anything to me. It doesn't make me a better human being.
But this I swear- I will never become one of those holier than thou motherfucking-cocksucking-son-of-a-bitching ex-smokers.
#comedy , #memories, #Family
Stephen LaDow is a non-smoking local actor, blogger,singer, barista , and supporter of the arts. He lives on the West End of Panama City. Follow his blog at Unfiltered-ness.com.
Homer's The Iliad has been transformed into a 90 minute tour de force by a riveting performance by local actor Allen Walker. On a nearly empty stage, Walker plays the narrator who evokes the entire cast of characters with zesty brio. Cloaked in a dark topcoat, knitted gloves worn with holes, and slacks with tattered hems, the narrator transforms with voice and specific physicality to represent everyone from the great warrior Achilles to his sworn rival Hector to his best friend Perocles . Walker mesmerizes with his vocal prowess and his laser sighted focus, never faltering or stumbling in this dialogue rich piece. Author Dennis O'hare painted the battles vividly with words, and Walker delivers them with exciting and visceral intensity, punctuating action with a stomping lunge and keen mimed action that bring them to vivid life. If I have to nit pick, it's really that the play itself is about 20 minutes too long, but that is not the fault of Walker or his director. The pace was brisk and driving, but after the battle scenes, the material struggles to maintain the intensity without beating you over the head. The show is about the Trojan War, but really it is about all wars and the endless cycle of violence throughout human history. At one point, the narrator reels off every war throughout history to present day and Walker manages to make mere listing interesting. That's power, folks. Walker continually proves he is one of the areas top actors time and again.Directed unfussily by Rachel Eiland-Hall, this production is a fantastic calling card for the fledgling production company 9Muses, and a feather in the cap for the Northwest Florida Theatre Festival. You have one more chance to see this show on May 20th at 3:00.
You'd be doing yourself a favor by going to Gulf Coast State College's latest production of Cabaret . Utterly entertaining and enjoyable, peppered with strong performances and a live onstage band, this is a strong showing from GCSC's theatre program.
Garret Poladian brings strong dancing skills and bold sexuality to the role of the Emcee and has some lovely moments especially at the finale but I wish the choreography throughout matched his skill set. His emcee is prettier than most, a casting choice that undermines the seediness of the character, but it still works well. High school student Ben Whitmer gives a sturdy if slightly stiff performance in the role of the Yank writer Cliff which is one of the more difficult roles- the character itself is written rather blandly. Mr. Whitmer lends a nice strength to the role and a very resonant speaking voice. I look forward to his future endeavors. Savannah Wambo - the lovely young actress who plays Sally - has a sturdy set of pipes and a sweet disposition onstage. Unfortunately, I think this talented ingenue would be better suited for a character that lets that innate goodness sing through. Sally is a pill poppin' , booze swillin', life of the party girl with loose morality. Ms. Wambo is just too nice to convincingly play that.
One of my favorite performances came from Jessica St. Hill as Fraulein Schneider, the boardinghouse owner. Strong voice and lovely nuanced acting, her portrayal brings poignance and heart to Schneider and has a sweet chemistry with Christian Sullivan as Herr Schultz. Kaitlynn Millsap gives a nice turn as the bawdy prostitute Fraulein Kost, and Jason Betz brings humor and scary sweetness to the role of Ernst (I say scary because the reveal mid show that he is a Natzi officer chills even more so because Betz plays him with so much charm.)
The stage expanded over the orchestra pit was uneccessarily large. Mostly it created an alienating distance in the generally cramped and intimate settings of the Kit Kat Klub (The telephone song was like watching a tennis match as you pinged back and forth from either side of the stage to follow the song.) Actually , any time scenes took place at the tables in the club, I found it hard to follow where the dialogue was taking place. The boarding house sets were nice, but instead of doing a huge hallway , I would have preferred a unit representing Herr Shultz's fruit stand/shop.
The biggest thing missing was dirt. The overall feel of the production from the performances to the set was clean and safe. The show could have used a heavy slathering of sleaze- from the club to the , you know, Nazis. This is disturbing material that felt a bit sanitized. The chilling "Tomorrow belongs to me" loses impact with the vastness of the set. The distances made it feel safe, and Caberet should never feel safe.
Director Jason Heddon does a fine job at bringing strong performances from his talented cast. He has chosen to focus mainly on the original script of the show, forgoing the revisions of the revivals. In this he loses two very good numbers , "Maybe This Time" and "The Money Song". Energywise, these additions were sorely missed as the last half of the first act tends to drag.
I was not a fan of the choreography, but I know it is hard with mostly untrained dancers. The thing I would have love to have seen differently was the approach. The Kit Kat girls work in a seedy decadent dump of a club. Their dancining doesn't have to be chorine polished- this ain't 42nd Street- but make it looser, fill the measures with movement, and have the girls commit to the 4th rate style of the club. Glory in the ineptness. Embrace the awkwardness, That would have played better, in my opinion.
These are my nit picky quibbles for an overall strong show. Just next time, please leave the grime.
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