June 1, 2022

It’s late. It’s been a sixteen hour day so far beginning with a 7 am breakfast meeting, extending through a relatively average UAB clinic day, a voice lesson, a doctor’s appointment (yes, even physicians of a certain age need to take care of their health), some household chores, and second dress of The Merry Widow. I have now returned home from the Paris of 1905 and its embassy balls, garden parties, and hoopla nights at Maxims (where all of Parisian society seems to wear the same clothes evening after evening). The cat is demanding attention and keeps crawling over my keyboard much to my consternation. Please forgive me if there are more typos than usual. I guess I’m pretty much back in prepandemic mode in regards to life patterns, at least this week. I have one more theatrical venture after this before my season ends for the summer – a Broadway Backwards fund raising concert for which I am acting as MC which happens in mid June. Then, there’s nothing until after Labor Day allowing me time to make all the final edits and decisions for volume II of these Accidental Plague Diaries.

My patterns may be prepandemic this week, but I have a feeling it’s a bit of a case of gather ye rosebuds while ye may. There’s another surge abrewing – it just remains to be seen how quickly it will spread and what it might mean for our beleaguered public health and hospital systems. The culprits are new variants of omicron, dubbed BA 4 and 5 by WHO which, like the original omicron originated in South Africa over the past month. South Africa was so hard hit by the original omicron that something like 97% of the population has Covid immunity either from vaccine or prior infection. Despite that, these new variants are causing a surge there, which has spread to several other countries, notably Portugal which has one of the highest vaccine rates in the world. It’s believed that these new variants are quite good at evading antibodies and the immune system and at causing reinfection in those who had the original omicron strain back during the holidays and those who have been vaxxed and boosted. It’s definitely in the US and the numbers have been rising. How fast and where are a bit debatable as so many localities have wound down their public health surveillance programs due to lack of manpower and funding and because so much of the testing is now home based without good abilities to collect and follow up on that data.

Alabama, which has been at a low point with Covid over the last month, is rapidly going back up with the number of cases doubling over the last ten days or so. Double of a very low number is still a low number but if it continues to do this, exponential math will start to work its magic and it will go from nowhere to everywhere in a few short weeks similar to the original omicron wave of December and January. I just know that a number of friends have had Covid infections in the last few weeks, caught in the community. All of them have been vaccinated and had at least one booster. None has become ill enough to require hospital treatment but their need to quarantine has disrupted plans. My advice at this point? The usual litany. Hand washing, avoid crowds of unvaccinated people in tightly enclosed spaces. Mask up if in doubt. Not a bad idea to get that second booster, especially if you’re over fifty or have either a disease or medication that can affect your underlying immune system.

Merry Widow rehearsals have been giving me a backache. This is not usual for me and the show is not particularly strenuous so I’ve been trying to figure out why this should be going on. I’ve finally decided that the flooring of the stage deck, which contains a large revolve, is just springy enough to cause me to have to tighten and loosen my low back muscles constantly to keep myself in good balance and my low back muscles are complaining. It’s not keeping me from doing everything I need to do onstage but when I come off, I claim seniority and make sure I get one of the chairs in the wings. Pretty much every show I’ve ever done has left some sort of mark on me and I guess this one will go down in personal history as the lumbago show.

Technical and dress rehearsals on this production have gone smoothly. The set is uncomplicated, I’m wearing my own personal formal wear so everything fits more or less, and the most complicated thing I have to do is some ballroom waltzing which I’ve been able to do since Ed Long’s ballroom classes for 7th-9th grade at St. Stephen’s Church in Laurelhurst. With a 6 PM call, we’re out of the theater, even with notes, by 10 PM and I can handle that, even at my advanced age. I am reminded of some other shows I spent time on in my misbegotten youth, perhaps most infamously, a production of Three Penny Opera put on by the Drama Department at Stanford my sophomore year. It was on the mainstage of Memorial Auditorium, featured a four level set, a raked stage, a flying carousel horse, a cast of fifty, and a design based on George Grosz. I was one of three stage managers and the production was so huge that tech week, I had to be there by five and we weren’t out until after midnight, on top of all my regular schoolwork. I had at least two nervous breakdowns that week trying to fit everything in on top of sleep deprivation. It was good training for internship that would hit me a half dozen years later.

The only picture I could find off hand of that Stanford Three Penny Opera

At one point in the show, Mack the Knife’s gang, who have stolen a bunch of valuable furniture, are supposed to ‘saw’ the legs off of a harpsichord to turn it into a bench. I’m not exactly sure what Brecht meant by that piece of business, but it did mean the props department had to build a fake harpsichord and fit it with breakaway legs that could be sawed off on cue. At one performance, the breakaway legs broke away a few minutes too early and the harpsichord came crashing down shortly after being carried on stage to the mortification of the actors. I seem to remember being blamed for that one as the harpsichord was one of my presets. I also remember having to climb up to the top level with an ailing actor with a basin just in case he had to throw up before he made his entrance. I was also on the fly crew for the carousel horse which had to ascend fifty feet up into the wings before making a graceful descent onto an upper platform. That always went correctly which was just as well or the actor playing Tiger Brown could have been seriously hurt. Audiences have no idea how dangerous stages can be what with running around in the dark with all sorts of not to code platforms and staircases. I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve had a couple of noninjury falls on platforms, fell off the stage apron once into the first row, and had the Anatevka train station flown onto my head during a performance of Fiddler on the Roof. None caused any major disruptions.

Midnight, not a sound from the pavement. Time to roll over onto the cat and get some sleep.

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