November 1st, 2007

RKO Radio Pictures

The apple juice

this post was interrupted last night and subsequently finished this afternoon. see if you can spot where that happened.

Nearly two decades ago, I was sitting alone at the kitchen table around 11:00 at night, quite late for a ninth-grader. I had just finished the first performance of the first full-length play I'd ever been in, You Can't Take It With You. (I played young Tony Kirby in that production, which was my first -- and last -- romantic lead.)

I was thirsty, I'd been talking all night and then I'd been hollerin and whatnot with my fellow castmembers afterwards, so I ransacked the fridge for a beverage. The only thing that looked appealing to me was some apple juice. So I sat down at the table by myself, cold glass of apple juice in hand, and reflected proudly on what I'd just done. It felt good, and it felt like the right thing to do. Apple juice never tasted better.

Other shows followed during junior high and high school and during each and every run I sat down at least once by myself after a performance, in the quiet of the kitchen or dining room or what have you, drinking ice cold apple juice and thinking about it all.

I still do. It's a quiet thing; it's a personal thing. It's my little tradition, something of my very own devising, and a ritual which I keep quite close to me. (I don't think I've ever really told anybody about it until tonight, since nobody ever really needed to know.) A cold plastic bottle of apple juice is right here next to me (as is that bottle of dry red I started after Game 4, but pay it no heed) and I'm reflecting on the run of Tomes of Terror II. If you went, I hope you sure had a good time and if you didn't, well, there'll be other shows so start saving your airfare now.

We closed tonight after three nights of live radio re-creations, with live sound effects and a cast and crew of dozens, the culmination of a project that Neil, Renee and I had begun planning back in April. Since auditions in August the show has taken up most of my creative energy -- hell, it's taken up nearly most of my energy, period, and there've been times where there's just not been any energy. One must soldier on, and grimly soldier on one must. I got a production assistant this year; Calliope stepped up to help. At first, I kept wondering a production assistant? What could I need one for? I don't want her hanging around doing nothing, and I don't wanna be all "YES FETCH US COFFEE POST-HASTE AND SHARPEN THESE PENCILS WHILE YOU'RE AT IT." But just as Neil learned last year between Tomes 1 and Red Shift at Arisia, I learned you gotta have a team. You gotta have someone who's got your back. That way when you're falling over, you're not gonna crash and risk considerable damage to the spine. Calliope was always there, taking care of the little bits, keeping track of costumery and leading rehearsals when I was sick like dog. Some of her observations and influence helped pick the cast up and lifted the entire show up as a result. We got bigger, we got bigger laughs, and I felt so much better knowing there was someone who was here to help. gf7gf7gf7gf7gf7gf7gf7gf7gf7gfgf7fgf7gf7gf7gff7gfgf7gf7fgf7g7gfg7

I had a great cast. Every voice was well-placed so that from the first table read, I knew full well all the work would be less on learning how to use the voices and more on the comic timing, the scene interpretations, and the levels of energy. I was so proud of what they'd accomplished up on stage -- like a mama duck, you can only lead your ducklings around so far and then they go off across the street on their own and you hope for the best. The best happened. They were hilarious. They got different laughs every night. I heard of -- and saw -- older couples in the audience, beaming to hear Miss Brooks, Walter Denton, Mr. Conklin and the other beloved characters once again. I loved working with and fooling around with my cast: on opening night, I gave them all "break a leg" Report Cards; on closing night, they gave me a "thank-you" bag containing Colgate Dental Creme and Lustre-Creme Shampoo. (The two products were the sponsors of the program, so I hope it was all a clever tie-in, and not a comment on personal hygiene.)

Renee's Carmilla proved to be the most evocative and powerful piece of the evening. Everybody I've talked to could not stop raving about just how amazing it went over. It definitely was the one you should have listened to with your eyes closed... if you could have. We had a fainter on Monday, even, who -- while the show is not bloody, not gory, not disgusting in the least -- was so overcome by the mood, the atmosphere, the imagery and the voices, that, well, she fainted. After the initial PERFECTLY HUMAN reactions of "Oh my god! Is she all right? What can we do?" and after we learned she'd been revived, was all right, and actually stayed to see Neil's The Stone Ship, our reactions were more along the lines of "Oh, WOW. We had someone FAINT. We must be doing SOMETHING right!"

The Stone Ship was probably the most complicated show technical-wise, but Neil and Shaunna got the Foley team together and created, among other things, an actual rowboat sound effect and Jell-O (again with the Jell-O) to simulate the sound of writhing red tentacles. (The innovation Our Miss Brooks found was that stepping on a pile of Pop Rocks does sound like a pair of glasses breaking, and if you put them in a soda bottle and hold it close to the mic, it sounds like rain.) Dante was a perfect storyteller, and did a great job of spinning the tale.

And now we're done. We don't have a 6:00 / 6:30 pm call tonight. The mics aren't set up anymore. The fx equipment have been put away or disposed of. The cast and crew have moved on to other projects, even if those projects involve Getting Some Sleep For Once. It's all over except for (possibly) some MP3s that may find their way online at some point. The end-of-show high is a powerful uplifter, and the crash afterwards is difficult sometimes to work through. It's always sad to realize that what you just had there for a few nights really was ephemeral, and while you always had a thought in the back of your mind that it'd go on forever, but it turns out it won't.

That's where the apple juice comes in. The accomplishment tastes wonderful.

There's also more projects to work on. We've got three RED SHIFT projects in the future: one, the actual release of the very first serial; two, a brand-new live production for Arisia 2008, and three, production and release of the very second serial. The Post-Meridian Radio Players really have come a long way in two years and every time we come out and present something for the nice people, we find more fans and more friends and more folks who want to step up and help, new voices, creative forces, technical help, it just keeps snowballing and snowballing. We're a red-hot locomotive heading towards Radio Junction, baby, and you best watch us go by or hop on the caboose. And then write me a better metaphor than that one.