October 05, 2007

A memo from the drafting desk

We may be undergrads who don't posess the same deep and meaningful understanding of and appreciation for Shakespeare that you obviously have. But we're only three blocks up the hill from the American Shakespeare Center, which tells me that a production of Romeo and Juliet would be a tad redundant. And we may hold our productions in a blackbox; we may allow freshman to be in our casts and crews; we may take advantage of our own gender so we can borrow furniture from creepy, horny septuogenarian men; but we do a damn good production with what we've got.

Henceforth, any Shakespeare snobs caught asking me or anyone else in the theatre department if it is worth your precious time to come see the culmination of our hard work, you will be dragged to the prop shop, where your scrotum will  be torn off...and, conversely, any offender without a scrotum will have one permanently attached to her.

This is a theatre --not a god damn high school drama club, and any educated person who feels he/she can not abide by this concept or these new regulations had better get out, NOW.

There will be no second warning. Copies of this notice will be posted in every corridor and they SHALL NOT BE DEFACED.

I give you the Cheap Art Manifesto:

"People have been thinking too long that art is a privilege of the museums and the rich. Art is not business! It does not belong to the banks and fancy investors. Art is food. You can't eat it but it feeds you. Art has to be cheap and available to everybody. It needs to be everywhere because it is the inside of the world. Art soothes pain! Art wakes up sleepers! Art fights against war and stupidity! Art sings Halleluja! Art is for kitchens! Art is like good bread! Art is like green trees! Art is like white clouds in blue sky! Art is cheap! Hurrah!"


Sammy Samuel,

Lighting Designer/Master Electrician



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July 14, 2007


Since yesterday was my last day working at the kennel for the summer, here's something to comemmorate working there. Brought to you in 3-D Retrovision, here is a list of my favorite jobs to do at work:

Park Walks
Park walks are given to various dogs at the request of their owner, who pays a few extra bucks to have their dog walked about 15 minutes on certain dogs. I like doing this because I get a lot of excersize doing it. And, since no one else likes the route I take the dogs on, I'm usually walking alone and can think clearly out in the (mostly) fresh air.

Washing Dishes
We always have a lot of dishes to wash in the morning and at night. I like doing it because the sink we use to wash dishes is in a room with dogs, and not in the loud crowded bathing room. So once again, aside from the dogs, I am solitary when I wash dishes, and I can sing out loud or talk to myself.

Scooping the yard
Hopefully, this sounds like exactly what it is- I scoop dog poop out of the gravel yards where we let dogs out to use the bathroom. I know it seems weird, but I enjoy scooping poop out of the yard because I'm also alone when I do it. It's a relaxing job because it's so repetetive. Also, if anyone threatens me when I take the trash out to the dumpster, I feel confident knowing I can defend myself if I simply lift my big bag full of dog poop and gravel in a menacing way.

Spraying the waybacks
Behind the section of the kennel called the runs (so called because there is an inside half of the kennel and an outside half, so the dog can run back and forth) are the waybacks. They are a stretch of concrete with drains running down the center. This job involves using a hose to spray old dog poop from the outside part of the runs and then using a squeegee to send all the poop and water into the drains. It's a tedious and smelly job but it's one of my favorites.

As much as I enjoy those jobs, some parts of working there (like doing a split shift...) were not fun, especially on hot days. Still, I'll miss working there and I'll miss the people I worked with- Tracy and Mo specifically...and the puppies!

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May 23, 2007

Instant Fame- Just Add Water!

A few nights ago, I watched the first episode of On the Lot. It's a new reality TV series in which aspiring film directors compete to make a new short film every week. The winner is awarded with a contract and their own office at Dreamworks.

I'm normally not one for reality TV shows. I couldn't care less about Survivor; I think the only time I would be interested in it is if one season was set in the Tundra, but I know they'll never do that because there would be no opportunities to show off scantily clad skinny women. American Idol drives me up the wall and America's Next Top Model is just a cat fight waiting to happen.

But there's something more to all reality TV shows in general that I object to on principle. If part of the "American dream" is to make money and/or be happy by achieving your dreams, whether your dream is making blockbuster films or singing pop hits, reality TV shows always seem to take the joy out of working hard to get what you want. By winning these shows, instead of working crappy jobs and going to school and trying and failing and trying again, fame and fortune and greatness are simply handed to you. None of my idols had people like Paula Abdul and Simon to say, "Yes, you are a good singer, here is a record contract". All of the Beatles were born to working class families in Liverpool, during World War Two. And in the 1950's, while they were learning to play their guitars and drums and singing the songs of their own idols (who, I might add, also started out in the working class), they were also working part time jobs and going to school with very little expectation of becoming world wide idols who would remain popular for over forty years after they got started. Do that, Clay Aiken! (Who?)

Another aspect of reality TV that bothers me is the sheer number of people who get rejected from a show in the course of the season. I understand all too well from my own experience that rejection is part of life, but that doesn't mean I've let rejection keep me from pursuing my goals. But when I see people get rejected from these reality shows, as I did last night, I can just see in some of these people's faces the heartbreak, and I can tell that this rejection is what will keep them from pursuing their own dreams. Some of these people are strong and value the experience and the rejection as a lesson and continue to work for what they want. Others of them will give up on their dream, believing that their rejection from a TV show determines their worth and potential, and they'll continue to make excuses for themselves and what they see as failure. To me, that's what is heartbreaking, because it means that more and more Americans are pursuing this instant gratification that they think fame will bring. But if, in our obsession with celebrities, we have only glittery people who have in reality earned nothing, who will we have to admire?

Perhaps this is why most of the people I admire are people with less than glittery backgrounds and tarnished reputations- Bob Dylan, along with his music, is also known for, at least in the 60's, having been a general ass hole and a womanizer. Miles Davis was a heroin addict who occaisionally assaulted his band members. But both of them worked hard in their own ways to achieve what they wanted, and that is part of what makes them so admirable.

I have a good friend who is in NCSA film school right now; he wants to direct and he's good at it. He's creative and intelligent and hard working and I hope I never see him on a show like On the Lot.

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May 19, 2007

Don't let them die in vain

I seem to recall that when the shooting happened at Virginia Tech, people all over the news were labelling it as one of the worst massacres in American History. It falls at the top of a particularly infuriating list provided by MSNBC1 .

That label struck me as more than odd and it recently occurred to me why I was so perplexed...and angered by it: Off the top of my head, I can think of three other massacres in American History that were just as bad (dare I say it...worse) than the shooting at VATech.

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May 14, 2007

Kelly Clarkson is not Sentimental

I have a terrific relationship with my dad. We do a hell of a lot of great stuff together: Go to the library, peruse yard sales and hobby shops, we sit in the basement and make things and shoot the breeze and listen to good music. We have a similar sense of humor and a love of cooking.
Sharing all that with him always makes me thankful that I have him for a dad.

So why do I have to prove that to the rest of my graduating class with a Father Daughter dance? I'm not saying that I'm against Junior Dads and Family Weekend, which I will likely be attending this coming fall semester.
I can understand wanting to have a nice time with your father or your family all together...but why do we have to do it to music by Kelly Clarkson, John Mayer or (this one makes me cringe) Lee Anne Womack? Frank Sinatra might be acceptable, depending on the song, but...if I'm going to slow dance with my dad, I'd rather do it to When the Deal Goes Down, or Brand New Tennessee Waltz.
Granted, my taste in music is ecclectic and anything but mainstream. I guess all I'm saying is I'd rather dance with my dad to something more meaningful (at least to me) than "Mothers be good to your daughters too" or "I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly".

Oh, and along with having to go to jail, Paris Hilton is visiting Staunton. Whoop dee doo. I'm trying to live up to that motto emblazoned at the top of my page: Don't criticize what you can't understand. But maybe today I'm just feeling extra cynical?

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May 08, 2007

A Revolution Inside-out

The fantasy of revolution

Tickles inside and out

Like a butterfly in my stomach

An ant in my pant



A feeling

State of being

Way of seeing

Line of thinking

                        That I never fully






What do we want?

Whatever it is, THEY don’t want us to have it

Don’t want us to want it

So we dream, we wet our pants at the thought

Freedom, YES YES YES!

This and that or Death!


But when the shots ring out,

Where’s your

                     Vive la revolucion now?


I mean, THEY

Are at work in the hotels, playing piano and serving you drinks

And in the garages fixing your cars

THEY are inside me, waiting for

The needle to


Waiting for that


The soft crackle

Of the vinyl

Waiting for the table to turn

Within me, we all yearn.

Televised or not,

The fantasy of revolution pulls like a knot,

A moon on tides

On my insides,

And out.

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May 06, 2007

Revved up like a deuce

Phipps' show, Second Beam, makes me think a lot. Mostly about light. It's something I'd like to know more about...seeing as I'm interested in Lighting Design as a possible career.

Go ahead, click play:

I definitely prefer the Manfred Mann's Earth Band version to Bruce Springsteen's. I think it's partially that chord progression on the synthesizer that I like. It makes me think of focusing lights, because when you do it, you're at the top of a ladder with gloves on, working with an instrument that can get really hot very quickly, especially if it's got dark blue or purple gels with high opacity. But when you're up there and the light is shining half in your eyes at 5000 watts and you're sweaty and itchy from fiberglass and the hairs on your arms are illuminated bluish while you fiddle with the pan and tilt until the light is in the right place...Or you're standing on an empty stage with both arms pointing up and out at 45 degrees as you squint into the lense of an ellipsoidal spotlight...I don't know where I was going with that. But that's an idea of what my job is usually like in the theatre.

The Lighting Designer's anthem? Maybe not. But this song does give me chills every time I hear it, even if its lyrics are stream of consciousness and have little to do with lighting design.
Oh, and Phipps? Shae's monologues about the second beam of light really do give me chills, more so than this song. Good choice of plays, luv. They're both going to be great.

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April 23, 2007

Homo improbus

I read in the most recent Adbusters a blurb accompanying a photograph. The blurb was a quote from a biologist or population analyst, or some other equally qualified specialist. And the quote was, to the best of my memory, this specialist explaining how, because people are becoming so much more careful about how they breed (that is to say, seeking mates with certain features to ensure a greater likelihood that their offspring will also have those features), the human population would eventually split into two separate but genetically similar species. One of these would be superior in that they would be more attractive, taller, with fair skin and hair and fewer health problems. The other species would be inferior, having all of the "problems" that the superior species have tried to get rid of.
The theory inspired me so much that I started writing a story about it.


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April 18, 2007

Ain't the power of transcendence the greatest one we can employ?

Disclaimer: Please do not take this as a scholarly examination of, say, "mainstream music among marginalized people". I began writing this as I was studying for my final exam in African American Philosophy; it is a very casual essay written merely as a reaction to and attempt to understand the last two lectures of the semester for that class. (Dr. Scott, by the way, is the name of my professor). Some of what I state here is taken directly from my notes and has no specific source except in the wisdom and experience of Dr. Scott.

I've been considering this a lot lately, mostly because the heart of the lectures that inspire these thoughts is that music is a cosmic connection for all humans, possibly even all living things. Music has always been incredibly important to me. So many activities and moments in my life are backed by a soundtrack that never really ends. I grew up with certain kinds of music (classical and bluegrass in particular) that I know have had and continue to have a strong influence in my life. And I find that my taste in music has gained such a wide, multi dimensional range that it's hard for me to legitimately say that I dislike a certain genre of music because that genre undoubtedly has noticable influence on a genre that I do like. (For example, I've always held the theory that the best Rock 'n Roll has its roots in other kinds of music. Think about it). So it's no wonder that when Dr. Scott starts talking about music in his lectures, I get chills. Read on...


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Oh, Mama, can this really be the end?


My favorite play in the world, so far, is called On the Verge, or The Geography of Yearning by Eric Overmeyer. I was the props master when we produced it during my senior year of high school, but that is not why it's my favorite play. Some of the props included grappling hooks, an inflatable banana, three old fashioned egg beaters, an Esso gas pump, music box, I Like Ike campaign buttons, snowballs, lanterns that light up without the use of live flame, and the right side view mirror of a car, among many other things. Technological nightmare? Not exactly. Technological challenge? Yes. That is one reason that it is my favorite play.

Another reason that I love it so is because of the vast number of pop culture, historical and literary references it makes. Every time I re-read it I find out something new. Sometimes I see/hear/read something and realize that I've heard of it before without knowing what it was because it was referenced in On the Verge.

Anyway, my main point here is I'm a pretty serious fan of the following: Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson, New York City, London, History, Theatre, Anthropology, DIY, Steampunk, Lighting Design, Ani DiFranco, Jazz, Mythology, Feminism...

While my love and appreciation for these things does not necessarily make me an expert on them, I must admit that I, much like On the Verge will undoubtedly and unashamedly make references to them...because...I can. And also because sometimes, certain people who I admire are better at putting into words the things that reside within me. So I'll write what is important to me and I'll use the words of others to reinforce what I'm saying.

Anyway, it is almost the end of the semester. (Which is why I chose to reference the refrain from a Bob Dylan song in the title of my first post). Actually, I think the semester officially ended last Friday. But this is exam week, and to me, it isn't over until I've finished my last exam. Which I will take either tomorrow afternoon or Friday morning depending on how prepared I feel. We'll see. When I finish my exams, though, I will officially be a Junior in college. In May, I will be acting on stage for the first time in six years. I play Jason in a one act spoof of Medea. I have six lines and by the end of the play I (that is to say, Jason) have been lobotomized. I'm also for the first time ever stage managing two other one-acts. I prefer dogs to cats. And I took the time to write this to take a small break from studying. That's all I have to say today.


Sammy Samuel

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