Today in My History
2001:Standing in the Shadows
2002: Moving Day
2003: Think of Me Fondly
2005: Grief Work
2006: The Rest of the Story
2007: Being Inadequate Again
2008: Do I have to Join the NRA?
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Gem of the Ocean Books Read in 2008
"The Black Echo"
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THE ART (AND FRUSTRATION) OF THE INTERVIEW10 February 2009
I'm running in full tilt this month, it seems. I've already written one feature article about an upcoming production of the university's "The Winter's Tale," which featured an interview with the director, and then I went to rehearsal and interviewed several of the actors.
This week I'm writing a feature article about an upcoming fund-raising concert for Citizens Who Care, an advocacy group for the frail elderly. This is their 17th annual concert and this year it will feature the music of Frank Sinatra (previous shows have featured the likes of Rodgers and Hart, Harold Arlen, Oscar Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, etc.). This is the first year they are featuring the music of a recording artist rather than a composer and/or lyricist.
But all the people involved have been friends of ours forever.
The guy in the left in the hat is Bob Bowen, who cast our kids in the very first Davis Children's Nutcracker, when David was 5. He later hired first Jeri, and then Paul to be the manager of the Varsity Theatre here in town, so we have a long, long history together.
The lady in red is Gwyneth Bruch, who was the choreograher for the high school jazz choir when Paul, Tom and David were in it. The lady standing is Martha Dickman, who gave Paul voice lessons for a brief time when he was having some vocal problems at the start of the Lawsuit decade.
The guy in front on the right is Stephen Peithman, about whom I just did a feature article last month about the ending of his long-running radio show, "Musical Stages," and the start of his next radio show, "Connections" for the local public radio station.
I'm also doing interviews with the producer of a theatre company in Sacramento and with a guy who used to have a kids' show called "Captain Mitch" when our kids were watching kids' shows on television. He's 85 now and still acting, and starring in Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The interview with Captain Mitch will either fascinating or a real dud. You never know how these things are going to go.
When you're going to do an interview, you pray for someone like Steve Peithman, who speaks as if he's dictating the article for you. I interviewed David Gerrold a couple of years ago when the movie based on his bookThe Martian Child was about to be released and David is the same way. Say "tell me all about yourself" and all you have to do is type the resulting answer and your article is pretty much written. These are guys who know how to help a reporter.
Then there are people like Rinde Eckert, a brilliant actor / dancer / singer / jack of all trades who is so fascinating and such a brainiac that he hurls a library full of information at you. And he's just delightful to talk to. It's a bit more work to write an article because you have to sift through a mountain of information and bon mots to weed out the very best, but it's such fun and you learn so much in the process.
But occasionally you come across a person who makes you groan, as I have done this month. The interview went something like this:
When did you get involved in the project.
How did they happen to find you?
What is it like working on this project?
It reminded me of a comment I heard made by San Francisco talk show host Ronn Owens (I think it was Owens), who was reminiscing about the thousands of people he had interviewed over the years and he mentioned that one of the members of The Kingston Trio (I believe it was Bob Shane, but I could be wrong) was THE worst interview ever. They had scheduled him for an hour interview and he sat there giving mono-syllabic answers to every question. It was apparently excruciating.
That's how I felt about this particular interview. Fortunately when I do a feature article, I try to include several people involved and so I had much more than just this one interview from which to draw...and I was even able to pick out a quote from this interview to incorporate into the article, though it wasn't without a lot of padding on my part to make it a bit more interesting than the answer was originally!
Cousin's day tomorrow
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