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10 October 2006
Some time ago, I wrote an entry about how I like to be invisible at shows that I review, how I don't like the "schmoozing" after the show, how we don't stay for the "meet and greet" that so many community theatres have on opening night.
The one exception to this rule for me is the Sacramento Theatre Company, a regional professional theatre company, which I had never attended until I became a critic. It is one of the real perks of this job. The shows are almost always excellent and they throw a hell of an opening night party, with lots of desserts, free wine, and always ending with chocolate fondue.
I'm willing to do a little schmoozing if there is chocolate involved.
On Saturday night, we attended opening night of To Kill a Mockingbird. I'm not too clear on the chronology of things, but I believe Harper Lee's award winning book came first, then the classic movie starring Gregory Peck, and after the movie, the stage adaptation by Christophere Sergel. I was unsure how I would like a stage version because, let's face it, Atticus Finch is as connected to Gregory Peck as Dorothy is to Judy Garland. It's just difficult to see anybody else in that role, no matter how good the actor may be.
I was pleased to see that actor Mark Standriff made the role his own. He was no Gregory Peck, but he was believably Atticus Finch and once I saw that, I was free to relax and enjoy the rest of the show.
Another surprise was finding Katie Rubin playing the role of Mayella Ewell, the girl who (falsely) accuses the negro Tom Robinson of rape.
I first encountered Katie when I interviewed her for a feature article I was writing about a university production of The Laramie Project. Next, I learned she was doing an autobiographical one-woman show, at Sacramento Theatre Company, called Insides Out. When I went to review that show, I was surprised to find myself sitting across the aisle from our daughter-in-law. Marta and Katie had been good friends for a long time, I learned. I was glad that I was able to legitimately give that show a glowing review.
Now Katie was appearing in this show and so not only did I want to stick around for the chocolate, but also to congratulate her on being part of what was truly a fabulous production.
I'm not as outgoing as my colleague, Jeff Hudson, who has a radio program doing reviews, who writes for the Sacramento News and Review (for which he is paid significantly more money than I am!), and who occasionally will cover a show for me if I'm not going to be in town. Jeff knows everybody and everything. He talks to everybody and I'm always somewhat in awe of him when we carpool because he always makes me realize how I am to theatre critics as Jon Stewart, who continually refers to The Daily Show as "faux news," is to the evening news anchor. I realize I'm a poseur and wonder when I'm going to be caught.
But, that said, I have been around long enough to be recognized (of course, at my size, I do kind of stick out in a crowd, much like the Sacramento Bee's Marcus Crowder, who is not only black, but who is about 6'8" tall).
I was greeted warmly by company artistic director, Peggy Shannon. I like Peggy a lot, though we had a rocky beginning, 6 years ago, when there was a misunderstanding. I had been trying to encourage STC to produce Steve & Jimmy's first show,The Last Session, figuring it met all the criteria for the kinds of innovative theatre the company said it wanted to do in its smaller venue. Between the time I made my first contact with Peggy Shannon and the time I dropped off a videotape for her to watch the show, I was asked if I wanted to write for The Davis Enterprise. Peggy felt it was highly unprofessional for a critic to be touting a play to a producer...but I wasn't a critic when I first suggested it and had no clue that I would be invited to become one.
Anyway, we've gotten past that and I'm sure she has totally forgotten it. But she now recognizes me and greets me.
I feel comfortable asking for specific seats in the theatre there, since the leg room is minimal in most rows and I am in agony if I have to sit with my bum knee bent throughout an entire show, so I always ask for Row J, which has the most leg room, and they are nice enough to accommodate me.
And I recognize some of the other critics, specifically the aforementioned Marcus Crowder and Jeff Hudson, but also "Walter," who does radio reviews on Ned's radio station and so always talks with us about Ned whenever we meet him and his wife at a show.
STC also has a stage manager who worked with Walt for several shows at the Davis Comic Opera Company, so Walt has his own schmoozing to do.
It was a good night. A great show, lots of chocolate, and just enough schmoozing.
...and for a change of pace, be sure to check "How to Subvert American Democracy"
PHOTO OF THE DAY
This is Journal entry #2385