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I'm still reading my LJ friends page, but since so many folks have either jumped ship entirely or have partially moved over to Dreamwidth, I'll be mirroring posts over here. If you're switching to Dreamwidth or building a profile there, I'm here: http://tytaniastrange.dreamwidth.org/ Please feel free to friend or add or whatever it is we do on Dreamwidth. Or just leave a link to your account there and I'll friend/add/pin/bludgeon you.

I have no plans to bring my entire LJ contents over to Dreamwidth. I'm figuring that I'll clean up the good stuff to repost and the rest will probably stay where it is until the site shuts down. Most of it will be friendslocked and I may end up locking everything so that LJ will be a space where friends can comment privately if they so choose as opposed to Dreamwidth which I plan to keep public. I will probably kill/hide one of my websites and I'll decide what's to be done with the other. I'm just thinking that I could be spending my webhosting money on shoes. I like shoes.

Moving on.

My pick for Worst Musical: Narnia the Musical

Lately, there's been a meme going around my Facebook where people list off musicals they love or hate or worship like creepy weirdos or think are "gamechangers" which makes me want to say "Okay, give me three paragraphs explaining how and why this show was a "gamechanger" and before you start, just be aware that "I was in this show and it was awesome!" or "I want to do this show" are not acceptable answers. I'm a horrible person. Also, some people have been getting upset when people put a show they love in the "worst" or "hate" category.

Personally, I am not qualified to tell you what the worst musical ever might be. I have not seen all the Broadway musicals never mind the Off-Broadway stuff and the touring shows and the regional shows and the shows that never even made it out of previews. I've also seen tons of "Broadway Jr" shows and shows written for youth theatre of varying quality. If I had to name the worst show I've seen, the one that had the least redeeming value and probably shouldn't even exist and will make you really embarrassed for everyone involved in it, I'd go with Narnia the Musical, a musical adaptation of C.S. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Here's some bad news, I am not going to link any videos of Narnia the Musical's more, ummm, ill-conceived musical offerings, because this thing seems to be mostly performed by kids and college students. Usually, I wouldn't snark on a show that's written for kids but this thing began life as a for reals professional show that premiered in 1986 and toured until 1993. Alas, that was before youtube so I doubt we will ever see footage of a cast of professional Equity actors singing The Turkish Delight Song.

Now, I am not going to tell you that I hate Narnia The Musical. I don't hate it. I think it's terribly misconceived but it isn't a show that makes me want to hack my true love to pieces with a meat cleaver. Oh trust me, we'll get to that show, oh yes we will. Narnia's tone is just too darn goofy to build up any real rage. I mean, yeah, it might have ticked me off if I was a huge fan of the book, but even so, it isn't as if this thing is an unavoidable smash hit. It isn't as if people who have seen some godawful version of this are going to sing it at you in the street. It isn't as if you'd say "Oh I enjoy fantasy novels" and anyone will immediately answer, "Oh yeah, me too! I love Narnia the Musical!" Not happening.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe does not adapt easily for the live stage. The movie version is probably about as good as it gets and I know a couple of fans of the book who weren't all that thrilled with the film, but even they didn't think it was awful. Yeah, it was meant to be a Lord of the Rings clone and they may have pumped up the battles but the acting was decent and a CGI lion will never look anywhere near as ridiculous as an actor in a fuzzy lion suit trying to sound like feline Jesus. I have seen multiple productions of at least two Narnia play adaptations in addition to the musical and thus far no one has found a way to make this thing work. The material is serious but the actors are all wearing furry suits. In the best productions, the actors seem to be having fun and in the worst ones, it's a slog. Luckily, whoever wrote the musical decided that if the show is going to look silly anyway, why not just run with it? Why not make this thing as stupid as it possibly can be. Why not have the White Witch sing "Hot and Bothered" because it will be funny because she's an ice witch and she's singing about being hot. Get it? You get it, right?

I have seen some awkward shows. You would not believe the number of Disney knockoff kids shows that are out there, but those things were never performed by professional actors. Those shows are written for kids. The subject material is light. None of the main characters get tortured and killed on a stone table. When I was a kid, Narnia was my nightmare fuel. I saw some version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe on TV and I was horrendously upset by it. I didn't even make it to the part where Aslan returns as a Christ allegory. I was out of there as soon as I realized that the whole death thing was actually going to happen and what the hell is wrong with people? Who would write this? Who would think this up? What a sicko! So, clearly, you can imagine how well this fits in with a goofy show where you're supposed to giggle at the villains until it's death time. It simply does not work.

Even worse, Narnia the Musical doesn't sell itself as a farce. If you see the show, you'll notice that all the performers are trying to take their roles seriously. This show is not a commentary on fantasy tropes or what happens when we try to put something fantastical on a live stage. It's what would happen if The Lion King suddenly decided that when Mufasa's spirit appears in the clouds, the actor playing the role should be flown in from the ceiling wearing a furry lion suit. That's how Narnia operates. You want to laugh. The show is daring you to laugh at it. The show seems to want you to laugh with it, but you can't because Mufasa is flying in wearing furry lion PJs from Target and oh dear lord, what am I watching? All I want to do is watch videos of this on youtube so I don't have to feel like such a horrible person for wanting to laugh at this poor man in a lion suit trying to pretend to die with dignity.

Narnia's songs probably aren't all that terrible but they aren't good either. Trust me, I have a lot to say about bad shows with good songs. There are also plenty of goofy shows with good songs or shows that aren't all that great except the songs are okay. The problem here is that, once you're done making fun of The Turkish Delight song, you're not going to remember it. There's nothing that makes you say "Well, the show wasn't all that good, but I did like that one song." There is no one song. All the songs are okay, but not especially good. They're just there, trying to entertain you and to somehow make a serious story that's going to look stupid no matter what you do seem as if it's stupid on purpose.

So, Narnia the Musical is the worst musical I've ever seen. I don't hate it. I can't say there are parts of it that didn't entertain me. I can't even say that it could have been better because I think the writer and composer did as well as you possibly can when you're writing a stage show that stars a bunch of animal characters, one of whom is a Jesus metaphor who will be horribly murdered by your nightmare fueling villain that is going to have to appeal to kids. If some intrepid theatre company in your area decides to stage this show to appeal to a "family audience", be sure to buy a ticket because this one doesn't come around often. Luckily, you can watch the entire thing on youtube. You're welcome.

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This is my subconscious life. I was dreaming that I was staying at the Overlook Hotel from The Shining which was in California for some reason. I was annoyed that it was looking pretty shabby and also, the bartender was bitching about bringing me a refill for my Diet Coke which really annoys me when I'm dreaming that I'm paying $400 a night for a crappy room, or, possibly, hallucinating in an empty hotel. So, I finally get my drink and decide to go upstairs where OH MY CRAP it's that suicidal old lady ghost and she's going to kill... oh wait, never mind, it's only Lady Gaga without any makeup on. And this is why I had to quit drinking Diet Coke before bed.

I was going to continue reviewing Hush, Hush chapter by chapter, but I have run into some snags. Firstly, this book is so dull that even making fun of it really isn't all that entertaining. Secondly, today the studio was full of flies (yes, it was really gross) and my copy of Hush, Hush proved to be the best fly-killing weapon available. There are now 7-8 dead flies squashed against the window, where I have left them as a warning to all of their little fly friends. The covers of Hush, Hush are now covered in fly guts and the book is looking even more unappealing than it was when I bought it. So, having read the entire book, I will do my best to sum up. At length.

I don't remember the narrator of The Great Gatsby ever describing his own looks. We don't need him to tell us what he looks like. We learn enough about his character to imagine him for ourselves. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout talks about wearing overalls rather than dresses but she doesn't tell us what color hair she has or whether she has freckles. We don't need to know. The overalls tell us enough. In fact, great authors tend to limit physical descriptions to characters that we won't ever know well enough to build a clear image of who they are. We hear more about what Gatsby's near anonymous guests are wearing than about Daisy's wardrobe. At one point, she wears a white dress which is meant to express more about the setting than the people involved.

So, when Nora, the heroine of the book tells me that she is smart or that she has curly hair and long legs or is wearing a navy blue sweater, I am left bored and uninterested. Who cares if Nora's hair is curly? The narrator of Rebecca doesn't even share her name, and yet we can imagine her pretty easily. Why do we need to know about Nora's hair? We need to know because Nora is meant to be just like Becca Fitzpatrick, whose picture is on the dust jacket with the exact same auburn-ish curly hair as her heroine. In fact, Nora is so like the author that she doesn't act at all like the high school kid that she's meant to be and I'm left wondering if this story was meant to be about college students or twenty-somethings and some editor said "Put 'em in high school because teen girls will eat that crap up!"

Nora lives in Maine. Maine would actually be a cool location for a supernatural mystery. You have harsh New England weather, sparse population, and communities that are primarily maritime which would be a fertile ground for ghost stories, lovers lost at sea and the like. Sadly, that's not the Maine where the author has set her book. Nora lives in an 18th century farmhouse, you know, because of all the farming in Maine. In fact, the environment up there was so harsh that the first colonists couldn't survive most likely because they couldn't make farming work. Not unless you're planning on farming pine trees and blueberries. That's not to say that an 18th century farmhouse couldn't exist, it would just be quite a rarity. An 18th century sea captain's house would make more sense, but what the heck. I think Nora goes to a restaurant that has a lobster roll special, and that's about as much New England atmosphere as you get. This Maine is foggy like the Pacific Northwest with no mention of Maine's harsh weather. There's also a Mexican restaurant that serves actual Mexican food which is amazing given that I can't get decent Mexican food in New York City much less Boston or places further north. Know what you can get in New England? Clam chowder. Every frickin' restaurant serves clam chowder every single day of the week. Even the franchised places like Chili's and TGI Friday's have clam chowder. If there's a Mexican restaurant in Maine, you can bet your ass that they have clam chowder.

So Nora of the curly hair in not New England is a high school student. Despite being a minor, she is almost completely unsupervised because her mother is constantly going out of town for her work. Her mother cannot take a job closer to home because then she would not be able to afford the payments on the 18th century farmhouse. My god, what a materialistic asshat. It's only a damn house. What kind of person loses a husband and then neglects her only daughter for the sake of holding onto prime real estate? A mother who needs to be kept conveniently out of the way so her teen daughter can live like an independent twenty something, duh! Nora doesn't appear to have a job or an income of her own but she can afford to eat out constantly and to shop at Victoria's Secret. Another teenaged character was providing an apartment for his girlfriend until her untimely death. The hero hangs out in bars. I could buy it if they were all college students, but it seems pretty far-fetched for high school kids.

The story begins in biology class which for some inexplicable reason is being taught by a coach rather than a professor. Yes, it's almost exactly like Twilight, only with a heavy dose of sexual harassment. The hero is a total creeper by the name of "Patch." Oh the names in this book, the hideously misguided names. There's a 16th century nobleman named "Chauncey" which seems rather unlikely given that a quick Google search will tell you that Chauncey is a Middle English name. Oops. So, Patch harasses Nora for a while and Coach allows it because, as we discover much later, Patch worked his fallen angel mojo to set that up. It doesn't speak well of Patch, but not one single thing Patch does in the entire book ever speaks well of Patch. Patch is a complete ass clown. Nevertheless, Nora drives out to some dive bar in the middle of the night to track Patch down because if you have to choose between being potentially raped and murdered versus failing one Biology assignment, you should definitely go with getting yourself violated or perished. They banter and Patch is still an asshole.

The secondary characters include Nora's friend Vee who is described as fat over and over, only in more polite terms. This is done so that Nora can emphasize over and over how slim she is compared to Vee who is tall, blonde and constantly overeating. Nora and Vee have some sort of sick, passive-aggressive relationship where Vee embarrasses Nora by ham-handedly pushing her at men, while Nora lets Vee act as a decoy so she can be almost murdered by Nora's spectacularly inept enemies. Seriously, these people make Voldemort look competent. There's a "nice guy" love interest named Elliot who is less nice than he seems and considerably more interesting than Patch. Elliot has a friend named Jules who is tall. In fact, the amazing tallness of Jules is emphasized over and over but means nothing to us because tallness is not a personality trait and no one else is especially tall. Frankly, you might as well suspect that Jules is the spawn of Galadriel and Elrond because those elves are all pretty tall.

Of course, no teen girl's fantasy is complete without female antagonists because we all know how much other women suck. So, outside of Vee who really should have reason to hate Nora's stupid, self-centered ass, there's Marcy, the cheerleader. Cheerleading- perpetuating pure evil since the 1950's. There's also Patch's ex-girlfriend who shows up pretending to be the high school shrink. Seriously, I will never understand why the psycho ex is considered romantic. Men who have psycho exes are men who have such crappy taste in romantic partners that they gravitate to psychos. It doesn't exactly speak well of your heroine when she's next on that list, yanno?

I can't really explain how pointless the plot is without giving it all away. Granted, you have to be an idiot to miss the fallen angel image on the cover of the book and that is the only clue you need. Patch fell from grace because he had a relationship with a mortal woman. Yes, that should not bode well for his future with Nora but no one ever points it out. Angels don't feel or something like that, so Patch finds Chauncey, the improbably named Nephilim and possesses his body for two weeks during the Hebrew month of something or other. Oh yes, Chauncey the French guy from 1565 knows the Hebrew calendar because they were so culturally inclusive back then. Whatever Patch does in Chauncey's body is so incredibly unpleasant that he's out for revenge. His revenge plot is to murder Nora before Patch can do it because if Patch kills her, he gets a human body... or something.

Look, it makes no sense. In a way, it's all a big pile of unfortunate implications. Patch fell for getting it on with a mortal chick. Chauncey is half angel. Nora has a birthmark that matches a mark that Patch has. So, is she Patch's descendant? Well, the book only says that Patch has to kill a descendant of his Nephilim vassal, but that's retarded. Or has Chauncey been protecting his descendants from Patch for years, but if that's the case, why is he trying to kill Nora? And why doesn't he say so? There's an interesting plot somewhere in the background that we never ever see because the author is so busy boring us to death with Patch and Nora's boring as Hell antics.

It's very obvious that either Jules or Elliot must be Chauncey, otherwise the third person prologue would be pointless. Since Jules hides every time Patch is around, the answer to that one is obvious. in the meantime, Elliot turns out to have the spectacularly improbable back story of having been a high school kid basically supporting some chick in an apartment. And where are the parents? I can buy that Jules is on his own and probably has the resources to fake a history but the Elliot doesn't. That's the whole point of Elliot's involvement with Jules- he's doing it to get money and power that he doesn't have. So, again, where are the parents slaving away to send Elliot to this prep school full of rich kids? What do they have to say when his girlfriend turns up dead? How do they feel about Elliot's out of the blue transfer to Nora's school? Did they notice that their kid was providing an apartment for his girlfriend?

The angels all have the power to mess with people's heads. They use this power to gaslight Nora. That's pretty much it. They also kind of suck at using their powers. I mean, why make someone think you just tried to kill them? What's the point of that? Why make someone think you trashed their bedroom when it would be more interesting to trash the room and then make people think that you didn't. And why does the room get trashed? So they can steal an article that Nora printed off the internet. You know, because she can't just go print another copy. These people are morons. Jules is planning to kill Nora but despite having a scrillion chances, he just messes with her. What is wrong with this dumbass? Patch needs Nora to love him enough to want to die for him, so he makes her think that he's trying to kill her? Then he says that he was trying to kill because, what, he read the instructions on his curse wrong? "Oh crap, I thought it said she has to die unwillingly instead of willingly. Dammit!!!"

So, for twenty eight out of thirty chapters, Nora keeps getting almost murdered by the moron twins. Patch's angel ex-girlfriend ends up nearly beating Vee to death because she, like the characters in most operas, is immediately fooled when Vee and Nora switched jackets. If only they'd had a couple of tiny masks, they could have convinced them all that they'd both disappeared completely and been replaced by wacky mask-wearing foreigners. Patch keeps inviting Nora to dangerous places and she keeps going because creepy stalkers are so hot.

Then, at long last, Jules and Elliot actually kidnap Vee and Nora ends up following them into the high school. You know, like the ending of Twilight only it's a high school rather than a ballet school. Jules messes with Nora's mind and she finally decides to kill herself, more to spite Jules than to save Patch. Well, let's face it, all the options suck. I'm going to kill you so that you can't kill yourself? Great. Just. Great.

Then Nora wakes up in the hospital, just like Bella. Patch has refused to accept her sacrifice. I'm a little unclear on how that one works. I mean, either she was fatally injured or she wasn't. Or are we supposed to believe that some higher power stepped in and fixed things in which case, where the heck was a higher power back in chapter one? Why didn't it step in and fix things earlier? Why did innocent people have to die so that Patch and Nora could get their shit together? Why are they okay with this?

Elliot also survives because he was such a gosh darn nice guy despite letting Jules kill his girlfriend and then letting her family think it was a suicide and being complicit in the murder of some random homeless woman.

Since Patch refused to become human, he has been turned into a guardian angel. So, let's get this straight, Patch falls from grace for getting jiggy with some mortal chick. Then he manages to get his wings back... so he can get jiggy with some other mortal chick. So, how does this work exactly? It doesn't. It's completely lame. I don't know what the hell is wrong with the people who keep claiming that the mythology of this book is all cool. None of it makes sense. NO. SENSE. AT. ALL.

I could make a better case for the bad guys to be the heroes of this book. Maybe Jules is so horrified by the naughty things that Patch does in his body that he is willing to sacrifice his own relative to stop the horror. Maybe Jules is, in some way, trying to protect Nora from some far worse fate that might befall her for snogging around with the spawn of hell. It would make way more sense than "He's a complete asshole who is alternately trying to kill me and trying to molest me, but true love makes it okay!!!" Look at me, I'm practically read to fanfic this damn thing just to inject some kind of logic.

So, my advice to you is, don't bother reading Hush, Hush. if you really want to be bored to tears by some YA fiction just buy a copy of Twilight. Sure, Twilight sucks, but at least it's the first of it's genre. Stephenie Meyer's world is a lame, teen fantasy but that's miles better than being a poorly conceived ripoff of someone else's teen fantasy.
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The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Festival was yesterday.

I am still exhausted.

Also, I have horrible blisters from getting lost and wandering all over the place. I was literally pouring blood out of my shoes. It was like being in dancing without the fun part where you dance. Seriously. There are blood stains inside my beloved patent leather pumps.

I was supposed to be giving a workshop on the business of singing, which only sort of happened because they kept shifting the room around and didn't, yanno, tell anyone that I was doing a workshop. Oops. So, I chatted with some of my students and one of my teacher's students.

On the plus side, I will not need to plan out a new talk if I agree to do this next year. I'll just go back in with my old notes.

Oh, and next year, I will be judging. You would not believe how much I learned from sitting in at one audition. We should all have the opportunity to do this- with the caveat that no, it is not okay to bring a university class to observe auditions because it is disrespectful to the performers. They are not a lab experiment. Fear not, there are lots of jobs in theater (director's assistant, production assistant, admin) that will give you a legitimate entree into the sacred halls of the audition. Get one of those jobs. Get it RIGHT NOW. Do it the second you get out of college BEFORE you go out and audition for anyone. You will be very glad that you did. Seriously, the last thing I want is to give up evenings or wake up at some ungodly hour on a weekend to adjudicate, but I would suck it up every day for the rest of the month because that is how valuable the experience is.

After my chat, I stuck around to see the rest of the division results posted because I was already there, so what the heck. Just so you know, I don't actually care if my students place. I just want them to have this experience and to enjoy singing. Everyone I talked to had fun, so mission accomplished. I should also say that when someone from my studio does place, it reflects on all my students. They all share their talents and experience with each other during recitals and studio classes, so none of them are operating in a vacuum. When one of them succeeds, it's because they've had the benefit of working with the entire group and it makes a huge difference. Three of my students placed because all of my students have put in the effort and heart to make my entire studio awesome. I'm just here to help them channel their coolness. I wouldn't want it any other way.

My professional student won fourth in her art song and third in musical theater. Then, in the youngest musical theater group, one of my students won third and... one of my very youngest students took first place. I'd seen the first place girl not that long ago. I'd coached her that her job in the audition was to get the audition panel to smile and she caught up with me to say "Tytania, good news! I got all three smiles!" Her mom was thrilled and so was I and they left because they weren't there thinking they could win it. I don't know if anyone was able to reach them for the winner's concert. I know that a lot of the winners were long gone, so I don't know which people actually ended up singing. That's the problem with having a final round on the same day. The people who have the best audition skills are the ones least likely to stick around.

The number one audition skill is not caring about anything other than doing a great audition. It's the only way to keep focused on the audition rather than on the results or the competition. It's not easy. I'm not going to conceal my auditions from my friends and family, but it's hard to keep focused when everyone is asking how they went and if I got something. I get more of that now than I ever did, because the assumption seems to be that I am awesome enough that I'll always have good news. From my end of things, once the audition is over, I'm done with it. I'm not waiting for a callback. I am not waiting to get cast. I tend to be busy scheduling another audition. That's how I roll. If I did things any differently, I'd be three times crazier than I am now.

During my best auditions season, I got called back and/or cast at every single audition I did. I was really picky about the auditions I did and I really kept my head in the game. I was smart about my repertoire and my limitations. I also won or placed in every competition I did. Nor did I have my teacher holding my hand. I was calling all the shots on where I sang and what I offered and the them for that season was "Tytania doesn't really make an effort." No, I'm really not kidding. I never listed anything that was a stretch. If an aria wasn't feeling good that day, I took it out of my book. Sometimes my audition list looked like this: Durch Zartlichkeit, Deh vieni, Batti batti, In uomini and Fair Robin I Love. I knew them all inside out. I could act the heck out of them, so I had a fail-safe if my voice wasn't behaving. Yes, I was that lazy and everyone ate it up. I was also about as calm and cool as I could be, because there was literally nothing that could go wrong. I could sing those pieces in my sleep. I honestly didn't care if I got cast. The pianist could have started banging on the keys with a brick and I'd still have been able to keep going. There wasn't a tempo that would throw me. With no nerves whatsoever to deal with, all my energy and attention was focused on giving a fantastic performance. And I did. Every. Single. Time.

I get so pissed at myself when my head isn't in the game. Sometimes, there's a role that I want really badly and I think I have such a great shot at getting it. So, I take aim and... boom. I shoot a torpedo into my own knee. Nice one, Tytania. There are some people that I never seem to be able to please, so I go in thinking I have something to prove... and I end up proving that I'm still the same loser that they rejected last year. From time to time, the situation is just against me. After sitting for hours in a freezing cold room with thirty other hopefuls, it's like a parade of suck when we all stand up to sing and there's nothing any of us can do short of announcing "Look, I'm not going to be happy with my performance in this situation, so I'm removing myself from consideration. Toodles!" Well, you know that's never ever gonna happen. And then there are the days when I just plain suck. It happens.

So, getting back to the talk that I never really gave. I was going to share what I had learned about preparing for auditions, getting auditions and doing auditions. Since I didn't share it yesterday, I thought I'd talk about it here.

If you haven't noticed, the first lesson is that you have to stop focusing on the results of auditions and start focusing on the audition itself. Imagine that the audition is the performance. There's not much we can do about the results. Half the Met roster might show up to audition, or the part we wanted is already cast or the director is determined to have someone taller or shorter or a fluent Klingon speaker. You just never know. You have to accept that winning a prize or getting cast is something completely separate from the audition itself. You can do an audition of fail and still get cast. You can sing your best without getting a callback. That's how it is. There's nothing anyone can do about audition results. You have to focus on having an amazing audition. Yes, when you do amazing auditions, you are more likely to succeed. Yes, it's like a zen puzzle- If you want to succeed, you must cease to care about success.

Personally, I think of it this way- if I give an amazing audition, I will feel great about myself. If, I can also fail to get cast, then I will have all the pleasure of doing an amazing performance, I'll probably be allowed to come back and give another amazing performance next year and I won't have to deal with all the hassle of attending rehearsals or showing up for the finals round. If I play my mental cards right, I can blame the whole thing on my outfit (they loved my singing but they hated my shoes, clearly, I need new shoes) and I'll have an excuse to shop. This is what I tell myself. I am so shallow that it usually works. I honestly do love doing auditions. I choose what I wear. I choose what I will sing. I have this one shining moment to share whatever I feel like sharing at that moment in time.

Plus, good technique requires muscle work which releases endorphins that give me a natural high, assuming I've done my job right.

Just to keep my mind organized, I'm thinking that I'll talk about preparing for auditions (what you need to know, choosing music, blocking your stage action and what works), the audition package (what to wear, what to bring), finding auditions, choosing appropriate auditions and putting it all together. Somewhere in there, I'll fit in some talk about vocal technique, but that's really something that fits into every category.

And then, I'll get annoyed and disillusioned and I'll stop writing, but we'll see how far I get.

Also, I will review the next chapters of Hush, Hush. I've read the whole book and I cannot emphasize enough how boring it is and how much I did not care about any of the characters. Hence, I can't even invest that much in making fun of it because it was just that blech.

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On Wednesday, I was asking my students if I had failed somehow because I try to teach them to be fabulous people as well as fabulous performers but somehow they missed that memo. Then behold, on Thursday they were complete angels. There was kindness and sharing. There was joy over costumes and love all around. The show went well and they were amazingly cute and did a fantastic job and the world is as it should be. I have no idea if this is because I did something right or Wednesday was just a miserable, hot and crabby day. All I can say is that once the kids had made peace, they absolutely glowed together. Mission accomplished.

Next week will be the last in the current 4-week session. We start up a new session after that, which will be sparse for me, but that's okay. I'll live. I'm planning next year's camps with more lead time, so we can actually advertise this time around. As everyone keeps saying "ZOMG if I had known about this awesomeness, I'd have signed up!!" Well, it's time for them to know. 

This evening, I went to a performance of Aladdin which featured two of my students. No, this isn't Disney's Aladdin. This is a play for kids with different music and more characters, although the Disney influence is in there. My students were the villain and one of the featured ladies in waiting to the princess. They were both awesome and their singing was some of the best in the show. I was very very pleased.

Next week, I'll see another student in Oklahoma. I bought tickets today, after putting it off for a week because between seeing shows and rehearsing a show, and directing a show, I have no life. I angst over whether I will end up with conflicts between my schedule and the kids' events, since it would not be the first time I've been too overbooked to see them. Trouble is, it means a lot to them if I show up, so that means I have to make the effort and put off Harry Potter for another weekend.

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I have three kids in camp. Two are my private students. One is not. My two private students are outgoing kids. The third kid isn't. My two private students catch on to everything right away and rock everything I give them. The other hasn't spent enough time working with me to know how my mind works. So, the end result is two kids paying attention to each other and ignoring the third. This is not how I teach my kids to act. This is not the kind of teacher I want to be. Right now, all three of these kids are my students and I owe them all the same consideration and attention. Period.

Now the two are saying that the third is being mean to them. I don't see it. I see kid number three breaking into smiles during the few times when she is blocked to actually interact with the others and the rest of the time they ignore her. Is she lashing out now? Probably. If she is, it's because the other two helped create a dynamic where the third feels attacked almost all the time so what they see as "helpful" she sees as "aggressive."

Me? I am ready to fucking cry. I am ready to scrap the whole thing. I don't want to make costumes tonight.

I recognize that my two private students are far ahead of the third kid. I also recognize that they have advantages that she doesn't and I refuse to be the teacher who chooses pets. I think that teachers who do that are lazy, pathetic cop-outs who have no business "teaching" anything to anyone. I demand better from myself.

And I demand better from my students. ALL of my students.

So, tomorrow, it's as if none of this ever happened BUT if the behavior happens again, I will let 'er rip with the tantrum and the tears because they need to know JUST HOW NOT COOL THIS IS.
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Dog found. The neighbors took him in for the night and then brought him to the vet whose number was on his tags. The vet called my sister and now the baby is home safe and crazy.
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My sister just called to say that her dog got out while she was at the theater. Now she's desperately searching the neighborhood for him. Oh lord, you guys, I just didn't need this. I really didn't. I just keep praying that she'll call in the next 30 minutes to say that she found him. That way, I can get some sleep. There's only so much freaking out that I can do.

Meanwhile dad is complaining of chest pain but won't call the doctor because he doesn't want to be told that he needs to go to the emergency room.

Seriously, this is more than I can handle. It really is.
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At this moment in time, my mother is not speaking to my sister. My sister has no idea that mom isn't speaking to her, because it isn't as if you can call a person up to tell them that you aren't speaking to them. This means that Mom can't answer the phone, just in case it's my sister calling because she'd have to hand the phone over to one of us right away, so that we could explain to my sister that Mom isn't speaking to her. I think psycho-sis may have some clue that something is up, because she had her hubby call in earlier to give us a status report on their return home. He called around 4pm, about the time when they were supposed to get home from their Disneyland trip, to tell us that they were about to have dinner and then they would be driving back home. You see the rule is that you have to bring someone into this world in order to take them out, so brother-in-law is safe from our parents. My folks won't be looking for an iPhone app that will make his phone detonate mid-conversation, likely blowing off his ear. So, now we get to wait for her to call, so I can tell her that Mom isn't speaking to her, with Mom standing over me, telling me all the reasons why she isn't speaking to my sister, which my sister will hear because Mom will be yelling. Yeah. Can't. Wait. "Hi Psyco-sis... no, you can't talk to Mom, because she's not speaking to you... yeah, well she would have called and told you herself, but she's not speaking to you. I'm sure you can understand her difficulty in this matter..."
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ZOMG, you guys, the Titanic is sinking!

Why is everyone so negative? We shouldn't dwell on things like sinking! The Carpathia is still afloat!

Hey, how would you guys arrange these deck chairs?

These deck chairs are all wrong for this deck!

I prefer blue deck chairs on this deck.

Only a moron would say that. Everyone knows that this deck is for red chairs only!

Like it matters. There haven't been any decent deck chairs since 1953.

Actually, I saw a really great deck chair last year.

You don't know what you're talking about. That deck chair doesn't come close to living up to all the hype.

Look, nobody asked you about the quality of the deck chairs. We were just talking about arranging them.

Who gave you the right to tell us whether or not we can talk about deck chairs?

Given the fact that we're all about to drown, who gives a shit about deck chairs anyway?

I think we should all pull together and donate for some new deck chairs!

Why should we pay for deck chairs? The Titanic should supply us with the chairs.

I like the chairs on the Carpathia better anyway. I'm going to buy them more chairs. They're not sinking, after all.

You should be grateful for the Titanic! You're really mean!

I think we should have both red and blue deck chairs on this deck.

I've always hated this deck.

I like coming to this deck, but I don't arrange chairs here. My chair-arranging skills are better suited to another deck.

Ummm... guys, have you noticed that all the chairs are kinda sliding to the other side of the deck...

Duh, didn't I tell you that these deck chairs suck? If they were better chairs, they wouldn't be sliding!

People don't appreciate good deck chairs anymore. There's no emphasis on chairs in the schools.

I blame recliners. Recliners made people stop appreciating deck chairs.

I'm going over to the Lusitania, see ya suckers!

The Lusitania sucks. I'd rather be on the Titanic.

OMG did you see the way they arranged the deck chairs on the upper deck?

The upper deck sucks.

I hate those chairs.

I love those chairs!

The lower deck has better quality chairs.

I think the lower deck is underwater right about now.

Why do we have to talk about being underwater? It's depressing!

We're all going to be underwater because we're freaking sinking, you guys! I'm getting in a lifeboat.

Good! More chairs left for me!

I'm getting a purple chair!

There are no purple chairs. Chairs are always blue or red.

Actually, I heard that the important chairs can be purple, but you have to be on the upper deck for that.

I think we just lost some chairs, guys.

You can't lose chairs! Deck chairs are supposed to be on the deck! You can't take deck chairs off the deck!

Has anyone else noticed that this deck has gotten really crowded? I don't think we have room for more chairs.

That's because half this deck is covered in water. There's less deck to put chairs on.

Which school is the best for arranging deck chairs?

Did you see who won the deck chair competition?

It's rigged. They always pick the same deck chairs.

Holy crap, one of the smoke stacks just fell over and crushed the upper deck!

Well, that deck was mismanaged, They shouldn't have been so close to the smokestacks!

Does anyone remember what happened to the person with the purple chair? I don't see them around anymore.

They messed up their deck chair by arranging it wrong.

No has arranged deck chairs properly since the 1970's. I remember that one chair...

Remember the green chair? There will never be another green chair!

Holy crap you guys, our deck is going under! This is it! We're finished!

Well, it wouldn't have gone under if we had that green chair.

No, the green chair ruined it for the blue chairs.

No one asked you for your opinion about the green chair.

So, how should we arrange these deck chairs?

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And then I listen to my recital recordings and realize that I am what I am.

And I really need to do another demo recording.

This is dedicated to the lovely and talented suntop who sent me the music for this song. Behold, I bring you Cupid's Couplet de Baisers with bonus high F#'s and a sustained E because I have no taste.


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Dear neighbor:

Believe me, when my dog barks like a maniac, it annoys me as much as it does you. I don't relish having to chase my dog down every ten minutes. I'd actually be feeling sorry about the dog being such a pain if you hadn't called me "sweetheart" informed me that I could "kiss your ass" or said that my dog "wasn't long for this world." This would be me documenting the exchange, by the way. As for telling me to "go to law school" I'm assuming that you aren't aware that my dad, the owner of said dog, is a lawyer and I actually did study pre-law for two years.

Sadly, I'm afraid that going to law school would be rather time consuming and expensive, but I did take your advice to heart. I decided to look up the noise regulations in my area. According to the law, my dog is allowed to bark non-stop for up to ten minutes or intermittently for up to thirty minutes but, and here's the kicker, if someone is trespassing, threatening to trespass or otherwise provoking the dog, then the dog can bark her head off forever. So, all those times you've yelled and threatened would count as provoking the dog which pretty much negates any claim you can make about the noise. It also means that I can report you to the police without having to worry about my dog getting into trouble.

Needless to say, I will be letting my dog out for nine minutes at a time or so. When I have you dragged off, I want to make sure there's a minimum of fuss on my end.

So, thanks for the advice and I'm looking forward to our next chat!


Tytania Strange
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I actually managed to somehow have all the music for yesterday's recital learned and, where appropriate, memorized. I challenged myself to do a new aria along with the tricky duet (I still don't know how I learned it) and the new translation and cuts for the Impresario trio. I figure there's a lesson in this somewhere, namely that learning music isn't a problem if I make it a priority. This stuff only becomes an issue when I decide that goofing off should be my focus in life. They really need to sit everyone down at their music school auditions to say "You know how everyone has time for family and fun and just sitting back and chillin'? You won't be having that. You won't be having that ever. Consider yourself lucky if you see one episode of the latest TV show over a six month period because if you are actually in your house, sitting in a chair during prime time then your career just hit the crapper. Sorry about that." Even if I'm not at rehearsal in the evening, I know that I have shit to do that will keep me away from the latest episode of (fill in whatever people watch these days since I haven't watched actual normal television in well over three years... maybe longer... oh crap... not since Buffy was on Tuesdays. I have no life.)

Today, I did the last edit on the recital dialogue. I lost my Sarastro and had to move a couple songs because the pacing was bugging me. The pages are now printed and ready to go into the binder. Then I entered "I am the captain of the Pinafore" into Finale so that I could move all the voices into treble and then I dropped the key from A to G to save myself the whining about the high As which aren't even that high. Seriously.

Tomorrow, I am entering my little bit of "A British Tar is a soaring soul" into Finale and putting together a hat for Cousin Pheobe. I also need to find the captain's hat. Then I'll fix a typo or three in the Pinafore music, re-print the messed up pages and we're ready to go with Pinafore. If I have time, I'll start in on the bits of the Flute Quintet that need to be fixed and I'm expecting that the book for the accompanist will be ready on Tuesday.

Tuesday night, I'll be making the lock for Papagena's mouth and assembling the Papageno/Papagena hats. I'll most like get the queen's crown and the ladies hairpieces done then as well. The ship's wheel may or may not get put together on Wednesday morning. By Thursday afternoon, everything will be complete and loaded into the car. Then all I have to do is rehearse for the next couple of days until we perform on Sunday.

After that, I can start planning out the program for my own recital in October and thinking about recording a CD.
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I am working on the revision of  The Mary Sue of the Opera. I will probably take the original down and post the revised edition when I have more of it completed. The story went through multiple solutions as I was writing and it shows from time to time. I am making some cosmetic changes and some pretty significant changes in order to improve the pacing and overall quality of the story. When I am finished I will most likely remove the old version of the story. Since I don't want to delete the old version on FFN just yet, I'm going to update here until I'm comfortable deleting the old version. Right now, it's easier to copy chapters from there rather than finding the current versions on my computer. Anyone who feels like volunteering themselves as a "beta" is welcome to offer input. I'm just happy if anyone reads this stuff.

Read on, MacDuff! )
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I'd write a real entry but after 4,000 words of editing MarySue of the Opera and about 2500 words of recital dialogue, I am so done expressing myself with text.

Wow, you really aren't very original are you, Tytania... )

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I honestly cannot tell you whether I love this like woah or hate it with the burning hatred of a thousand hate filled suns that are feeling very very angry indeed?

On the one side, Jude Law is the perfect Watson. He's actually like the Watson from the books, rather than the loser Watson we usually see in the movies. You can believe him romancing the occasional damsel in distress. I can also see Robert Downey Jr. in his role, even if he is channeling Johnny Depp's performance in From Hell. But then there's... everything else...

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It makes me want to film my German Shepherd chowing down on her "doggie lollypop" or possibly on my shoes...

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We have the video from this year's ice skating recital. As one of my students pointed out, everything is crazier when there's ice skating involved. Kids dressed up as monsters? Not so crazy. Kids dressed up as monsters wearing ice skates and attempting to skate in a straight line? Wackier than Walter the Wackjob winner of the Worldwide Wacko award.

There are also moments when the kids pull it together and rock their icy little world. The Harry Potter drill team was totally awesome. The finale torch-wielding mob scene in Frankenstein on ice looked really cool. That being said, the crazy moments are more fun to talk about.

Back in the day, my sister and I both figure skated. Mom forced us. We were dragged kicking and screaming and plopped onto the ice, not because Mom thought we had any talent at all or harbored any hopes of us being any good at it, but because she was sick of seeing us sitting in front of "the boob tube" all day long. As far as she was concerned, all the kids' programming was nothing but ads for toys and crap (and she was right about that, hello Rainbow Brite Show, My Little Pony Show and ZOMG Gummi Bears!!!) So, we get shoved into skating lessons. Eventually, we even sort of practiced because you had to pass the tests in order to get onto the skating teams that all your friends were on or to get a SOLO IN THE YEAR END RECITAL.

Today, the solos are more planned out and set. That doesn't mean you don't occasionally end up with a teenager dressed as a sexy sexy monk skating to a song about getting high because that still totally happens and did totally happen. Oh, ice skating, never stop being that insane. These days you have to be a Freestyle level 7 or 8 or something to get a solo and they only give out a few. When we skated as kids, you only had to be a level 4 and they had different solos every night for 3-4 shows. Yes, the skating recital was so long that it took 3 or 4 nights. It was like Lord of the Rings only with skating and sparkles and pop music.

When my sister finally was eligible for her very own solo, she decided that she wanted to skate to music from the Disneyland Electric Parade. She had this super cool Mickey Mouse outfit that a costumer had made for her (she had helped out on a show and she got a custom made costume in lieu of pay.) Then either she or Mom came up with this brilliant idea that it would be super cool if she came out of a light parade float. Nevermind that none of us had any experience making any kind of a float, not even a float that you pull along in a wagon. We'd all seen behind the scenes specials and it was all about chicken wire right? So my sister or my mother or both of them decided to make a giant mushroom float.

When you think about it, a giant mushroom is not the ideal project for a first time builder of electrical parade floats. Those things are complicated. They have engineering and stuff. We had chicken wire and Christmas lights. My dad flat out refused to be involved, which only made my mom more determined to make the thing work. So she assembled fabric and lights and chicken wire into... you have to know where this is going... a giant, glowing penis.

I said nothing about the penis because I am not crazy. I already knew that you do not get in between Mom and her figure skating stuff. Believe me, I tried. I bruised my freakin' tailbone and she sent me right back out onto the ice because that's how hardcore Mom is. You don't leave practice for anything that doesn't require an immediate trip to the emergency room. The more Dad talked about the giant penis, the more Mom insisted that it looked like a mushroom and we were just being mean. It was a MUSHROOM dammit.

And that, my friends, is how my sister ended up dressed as an ice-skating Mickey Mouse birthed from a giant, skating, glowing penis.

About three years later, Mom watched the home video (for old time's sake) and face-palmed.

Only in an ice skating recital, guys, only in an ice skating recital. If the performances didn't always hit during my busiest seasons, I would go to that recital every year in the hopes of watching a team of teenaged Dr. Frankenfurters performing a tribute to The Rocky Horror Picture or my own contribution, a skating Horatio Caine using the sunglasses of justice to track down the reindeer who ran over grandma. Only in an ice skating recital, you guys, only in an an ice skating recital.
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I would totally go to see this. It's actually good. Even having the cast carrying on the prop ships looks kind of brilliant. Why can't all modern opera look like this?

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In response to this bit of chicken soup for the musician's soul:

Yes, music is about as close as we can get to real magic. It has power that is hard to explain, but it's there nonetheless.

The power of music does not, however, put food on the table. Hence, I'll add:

As your children are sitting on the street corner, playing for tips because they are so far above mere entertainers who get paid, they can take comfort in their higher purpose. When they go home to their tiny studio apartments, which they share with roommates, and ponder whether cockroaches can be used as a source of low-cost protein, they will be filled with the inner joy that comes of knowing that they are better than everyone else in the whole world... even if no one else in the whole world is inclined to agree. So, don't think for one  minute that the armloads of cash you will be forking over to us for the next four or more years will be a waste. Always remember that delusional is special because they both end in "al." Thank you.

I'm an entertainer. Entertainment is a glorious thing. Entertainment is the thing that takes us to another, better place for a few seconds or a few minutes or a few hours. Entertainment is such a powerful force that people are practically willing to worship those who provide it and that's why everyone and their siblings is trying to squeeze into the field.

But I don't believe for one second that I'm special or magical or higher than thou because mine is the butt in front of the audience. Entertainment is all about the communion between the performer(s) and the people out there experiencing the performance. The magic only happens when we reach out to them and connect with them. The magic only happens when we're willing to strip our souls bare so that the world can see what we're made of and can experience what we're creating. Anything less and we're a bunch of  assholes making a spectacle of ourselves, no matter how much we're getting paid to do it. Know what's even worse? No one is fooled by our bullshit, not for one single second. It's everyone's worst nightmare, standing buck naked in front of a jeering crowd... a jeering crowd armed with iphones so they can share photos and comments in real time. Welcome to the internet age.

So, if you are driven to give of yourself for the sake of bringing a little brightness into people's lives for a second or a moment or an hour, then you're one of the blessed. You will come away feeling full every time you share your talent.

Professional music, it's like joining the Peace Corps only there's no health plan and you don't get nearly as much credit.

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