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29 July, 2011
Lemme tell you, if you want to be treated royally while you are doing an interview, you gotta go to Kathy's house. (hi, Kathy)
We have conducted more than 100 interviews for the 3 Lamplighters books and we have been offered everything from...nothing (try doing a 2+ interview without so much as the offer of a glass of water!) to lunch at a local restaurant. Well, lunch was pretty good, but for an in-home interview, specialty gourmet teas (roasted almond and pomegranate, to name two) and a choice of not one but three gourmet desserts from a local bakery and offer to host other interviews there...well, that ranks right up there!
Today was my chance to sit down and talk about the orchestra. Alison and I have done all of the interviews so far together, but she's cavorting on the east coast at the moment, so I took this one on myself.
I figure surely this is our last chance at writing part of the Lamplighters history and there are some specific omissions in the previous two books that I want to rectify in this book. They aren't so much omissions so much as recognizing groups within the company who came into prominence as cohesive groups since we wrote Book 2 and I want to make sure that they are given their due on this book.
The Lamplighters began in 1952 and for the first nearly 20 years of its existence, the actors on stage were accompanied by two pianos. In our first book, we wrote one chapter which quoted something a reviewer said once, "someone should buy the Lamplighters an orchestra." Well, in 1971, thanks to an agreement with the musicians' union, someone essentially did buy the Lamplighters an orchestra, or at least make it financially possible to include a small orchestra.
Over the years, there has been more money to pay the musicians, to hire additional musicians (I am told that the addition of a 3rd violinist made all the difference in the world) and began to turn the Lamplighters from a very good community theatre to a "technically not professional, but professional quality" theater.
The unique thing about the Lamplighters orchestra is that so many members have been with the group for more than twenty years. Their loyalty is amazing, which I suspect may be unique among theatre groups like the Lamplighters (if there are any theatre groups like the Lamplighters). Not only do they play for all the shows, but they have volunteered to play for sing-alongs and have worked fund-raising events when invited to do so. That's so NOT like a typical band!
I asked both Cathy and Diane, and later Lucy, who called in on the phone) why they have stayed around for so long and all three of them said the same thing -- it's their family. In many ways it reminds me of the Pinata group. They socialize together, go to each other's concerts, take interest in each other's children (those who have children), attend funerals of each other's families, and all the things that have made the Pinata group a family as well.
It's the same with the old tech crew, whom I will interview next month. When the company had to start playing in union houses, it meant that the tech crew which had worked together for so many years could no longer work on shows, since San Francisco is a very strong union town and if you are in a union house you can only use union technicians.
But the technicians had developed a very close relationship and strong friendships and they still get together socially at least two or three times a year. I look forward to gathering a handful of them to interview them about what kept them around so long, and what keeps them coming back year after year when there is no show to work on any more. I suspect they, too, stick around because they became "family" long ago.
I always love getting together with people from "my" era with the Lamplighters and looking back, reminiscing about the people and the events that I remember well. Diana and Cathy are two of my favorite Lamplighters people and it was just fun hanging out with them this afternoon...the bread pudding and red velvet cupcakes didn't hurt either.
I tried to leave before 4 p.m. and did...but just barely. I was too late to miss rush hour traffic.
Ahead of me and behind me was bumper to bumper, stop and go traffic as far as the eye could see. It turned an hour and a half trip home into more than 2 hours, but that was OK because it gave me time to finish listening to my latest audio book!
Tomorrow I head for San Diego for a long-anticipated weekend with my friend Lynn. This time it's Walt's turn to stay home and keep the dogs from bugging Mr. McCoy!
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You know you've hit the big time when you get to be