Life Upon The Wicked, Wicked Stage
Greetings, my billion-eyed audience, to yet another in a as-the-spirit-moves addition to the tales from the Blue Raccoon; of said establishment more later, but first, some meditations and reflections of public and private note.
The above image was taken by Amie in 2003 during the Firehouse Theatre Project's "Red, Hot and 10" anniversary event. The primary organizer of the festivities, my pal Donna pictured, is, yes, posing with the brass fire pole. That pole was removed by the Richmond Fire Department round about 1993 when Engine Company #10 moved out of its almost century-old home. Through the years, when I was up front greeting visitors, the invariable question was, "Where's your fire pole?"
It was retrieved 10 years later through the good offices of Councilman Bill Pantele. Both of the Firehouse's poles were found lashed to the ceiling of a station in Highland Park, a north Richmond neighborhood, where they'd been taken for safe keeping from vandals. Now, when I'm up front greeting visitors, the invariable question is, yes, "Where's your fire pole?" Guess it gets lost there in the corner.
This image is of me, a firefighter mannequin which is in fact a novelty fountain that our resourceful office manager Pamela Wilson procured from my design and antique place up the street. On the right is another Firehouse co-founder and my immediate predecessor as president, Bill Gordon.
When people ask us, "What exactly is theatrical black tie?" for the upcoming "Hearts On Fire" event, February 11, this is what they should be thinking about. There's still tickets, constant reader, $100 gets you the catered repast, ice sculpture, live jazz, art auction, wine auction, cabaret entertainment--such as song stylings by our very own Ms. Amy Wight--
--even a martini bar -- and me presiding in my famous fire pants, as seen below.
You will not, however, on February 11, 2006, be subjected to me trying to dance to Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life" as has been known to occur from time to time.
No, whatever dancing occurs will be left to the audience, which should be interesting, depending on how many martinis people have enjoyed.
Well, by the way, I wanted to tell you--as the suspense must've been causing you to pause at your workplace and stare in a morose manner out the window--that the winner of the Fourth Annual Firehouse Theatre Project Festival of New American Plays was Frawley Becker's Tiger By The Tail. We learned that the piece is getting produced Off Broadway at the Wings Theater in New York City's Christopher Street, March 24-April 22.
Wish I had some images from this event, but I don't have a disc camera, and as I'm always busy officiating, and in this case, performing, I never think to bring my 35mm.
To be on stage, even in a staged reading, was quite fun--actually, more enjoyable for me because it was a reading--I wasn't required to memorize much--one major reason why I don't insist on taking to the Firehouse stage more often. Since 1993, I've appeared in only four formal Firehouse productions, including this one. Another reason is: acting is a major consumption of time. I need those hours to use at work, conducting whatever undertakings needed to further the Firehouse mission, and creative writing, or, well, I guess in this instance, spinning a narrative that few people will ever read. Unlike some who've trod the boards at 1609 W. Broad St., I don't yearn and burn to act. If I possessed such feelings, I would've--and perhaps should've--gone to New York City when I was 20-something--instead I was acting in 18th century plays in Colonial Williaimsburg--where in the audience of the Play Booth (see http://www.history.org/Almanack/places/hb/hbplay.cfm) we'd get the occasional Actual Actor. And I'd pish-posh my role in this Revolutionary War Disneyworld, and the Actual Actor would shrug and say, "You're working. I'm not," or a variation.
While there, I met David Ogden Stiers and Kitty Carlisle Hart--the latter swept across Palace Green wearing this black cloak and she approached the Play Booth like some great friendly phantom of Thee-at-uh--which she is. As for Stiers, one of my fellow players, Pat --where is she now? -- wondered where she would've seen him, and he replied, trying not to be surprised--that most people knew him from his recurring role as Charles Emerson Winchester in M*A*S*H. Pat hadn't seen a television program in years. Stiers seemed to admire that quality and replied that he was most proud of his work on stage.
I can see myself in a one-man performance, a quasi-stand-up, quasi-monologist piece. I'm thinking about developing such a thing (Amie has wondered why I've not).
I also derive great pleasure in watching others who are much more talented than me working at their best; and further, being a founder of a theater where they can come, work and improve, and even get paid. And it is my sincere wish that a few them go off, get famous and rich and remember this little non-profit well come tax time.
A pleasure of mine during this past weekend was sitting backstage with the actors waiting to go on. I would tilt back the chair and gaze up at the ligh and shadow on the relief of the pressed tin ceiling, this example of municipal practicality coupled to aesthetic conscientiousness. The way the stage lights caused the edges to brighten closest to the audience, and retreat into darkness when overhead. The excercise of experiencing the Firehouse from an actor's point of view was instructive: too many objects cluttering back stage, and a wobbly pair of entrance steps. Must get all this fixed.
I have often wished for some for of precognition, that I could gander ahead five or ten years, just to see how the efforts today on the Firehouse's behalf bear fruit, and the programs just now beginning may evolve--as I hope they will.