When The Morning Light Comes Streaming In, We'll Get Up And Do It Again
I'm feeling like a wrung-out dishrag today. I don't think I realized, until I tried to lay down to sleep last night, how much the events of the past few days have affected me. Standing helplessly by while so many friends and colleagues dealt with the pain of their friend's death, sharing only their feeling of inadequacy. In the same way they've been struggling with their sense of powerlessness, with their inability to affect the outcome of a truly horrible situation, so conversely I've been engaged in a similar struggle, but one focused on my own inability to relieve them of the grieving that comes from such a loss.
We held a memorial party for Nicole last night at one of the theatres near where I live. About 11:00 a.m. yesterday I got a call from Amy, the PR Director there, asking if I'd be willing to act as a media coordinator for the event, as several of the local TV news departments and the print dailies were going to be sending reporters, photographers and camera crews, and someone was needed to answer questions, get them set up in a designated "media room", and generally do whatever was needed to keep them out of where the event was taking place. It seems that everyone in Seattle whose name showed up next to Nicole's in a Google search had been getting phone calls all weekend, not only from the local press, but from the New York Times, The Post, network news departments, etc., etc. We were now part of the story, and the press suddenly wanted to "cover" us. Given that it's literally impossible to get the broadcast media to cover theatre in this town, let alone fringe theatre, needless to say, no one was looking forward to turning what was intended as a private celebration of Nicole's life into some sort of circus. Plus, Scott and Mary Jane were flying in from New York. They've been through enough already, and it was important to give them some peace and privacy.
Naturally, I said, "yes", and after spending the afternoon baking some cookies to take along, I went over to the CHAC at around 6:30 to help set up. Things were quiet for the first hour or so, until the TV trucks started showing up around 7:30. But, by then we'd already put out signage, established a game plan, and were pretty much prepared for whatever was thrown at us.
All-in-all, the newshounds were respectful of our desire for privacy, and weren't nearly as pushy as I'd been led to expect based on a conversation I'd had earlier in the day with one of the local TV news directors. They got their shots of people out on the sidewalk, greeting, hugging, smoking and commiserating. They got their handful of interviews and sound bites. They didn't try to crash the party. And they'd already pulled their gear and left by the time Scott and Mary Jane arrived at around 9:15. So, my end of things went fairly smoothly.
Most of the people there hadn't been aware they were coming, so it was quite a shock when they walked in. Very emotional. It stayed that way through the remainder of the evening. People laughed, cried, hugged a lot, and spoke about their friend.
I didn't know Nicole personally, aside from having had the pleasure of seeing some of her work while she lived here. But, from the reminiscences I got a pretty good picture of how those closest to her saw her: a woman who had overcome personal tragedy, with an indomitable spirit, fierce committment and courage, unbridled enthusiasm, and selfless generosity. Someone who illuminated the world around her. The kind of person anyone would be proud to know.
Afterwards, after all the hugging and sobbing and talking had ended, I helped tidy up, then joined a couple of friends for a nightcap at a bar around the corner from the theatre. The mood was more upbeat, and for a few brief minutes the conversation turned away from death, and regret, and sorrow, and we were just another group of guys out for a night of socializing.
I got home at around 2:15, and tried to put something down summarizing how I felt about the events of the past several days, but it just wasn't happening. Finally, after about 15 minutes of fruitless effort, I decided to call it a night.
And then, it hit me. Suddenly, all the pain, and sadness I'd been absorbing from everyone around me started coming out. Since Thursday I'd been soaking up all the psychic and emotional spillage around me, not realizing that I'd become a human sponge, and now the sponge was finally full, and needed squeezing out.
So, I let it squeeze for a while, in the dark, finally having some small understanding of what it must have been like for all those others these past few days.
This morning, the sun was shining through my bedroom window, but despite waking up at the relatively late hour of 9:30, I just couldn't gather up the energy to get out of bed. I felt, dry, empty -- wrung out. By the time I finally did manage to drag myself up, it was 11:30. I've been going through the motions since then, searching the classified job listings, checking emails, reading online newspapers.
According to this morning's New York Times, a 19-year-old Staten Island man has been charged with Nicole's murder, and as many as six others, ranging in age as young as 15 and including two teenaged girls, have either been charged as accomplices or questioned regarding the killing. Police recovered a .357 Magnum pistol that has been identified as the murder weapon. According to the article, the group was identified from a public survelance camera that had recorded them attempting a similar robbery about an hour and a-half before, at approximately the same location on Manhattan's Lower East Side. As of this morning, the alleged killer, Rudy Fleming, 19 of Staten Island was still at large.
Outside my window, the sun is overhead, like a giant yellow beachball bouncing on the foaming crest of Mt. Rainier. Birds flitter by. Squirrels scamper across the wooden fence separating my neighbor's yard, while two cats nap in the square of sunlight framing a corner of my bed.
Violent death, especially when it's someone young, worse when it's someone you know or with whom you have some sort of acquaintence is just so hard to deal with.
As I looked through this morning's online version of the local newspaper, I was confronted with this headline:"Aspiring Actress Shot And Killed In NYC". On first glance, nothing there to indicate this was anyone I might know, but regardless, it's someone in my larger community, a fellow artist, so it was natural to check.
Nicole duFresne wasn't someone I knew personally, but she lived here in Seattle for several years, and I had seen her in a couple of fringe productions during that time. She knew a lot of my friends and colleagues in the community, and naturally, there's a lot of shock and emotional turmoil going on right now. She was incredibly talented, both as an actress and as a fledgling playwright, and at age 28 seemed to have a bright future ahead of her.
Her murder is shocking and pointless, a brutal and unneccesary waste of a beautiful life. And as horrible as it is, I'm also upset by the fact that two of the people with Nicole when she was killed are friends of mine, people I've known for a number of years, and what is truly frightening is that given the described circumstances, Scott and Mary Jane could have been the ones shot, or shot in addition to Nicole, or all four, including her fiance Jeffrey could have been shot. And all for nothing. A few dollars in a purse. Is that the going price for destroying not just one life, but for permanently damaging the lives of so many others? The price for making the world a bit uglier and sadder?
I feel angry, and hurt, and sad, and helpless. They're 2500 miles away. And all I can offer in the way of comfort are a few paltry words of support and condolence.
I can only hope, that in the larger scheme of things that will be of some small help.
Another gloriously sunny day here in the Upper Lefthand -- 60 degrees, but it felt a bit warmer than that. Bulbs are sprouting, flowers are blooming (Crocuses, I think), Canadian Geese are heading north. Neighbors are out working in yards. Sales of sunglasses are spiking.
Took a walk down the hill and through the Aboretum all the way up to the tip of Foster Island, where it overlooks Union Bay. then across Marsh Island to the Montlake Cut, and over to the Seattle Yacht Club, and finally up the back side of CapHill to home. All-in-all roughly 3 hours and probably 10+ miles, not bad considering I haven't been out all that much the past several weeks.
Of course, the rain returns tomorrow, but on a day like today, you just can't complain.
On the job search front: I started applying with temp agencies starting last week, and have gone through one set of interviews, with another later this week, and a third agency scheduled for the week following. So far, no actual work yet, but Agency #1 thought they had some good prospects, and I even got a call from a recruiter this morning checking about my availability for a 3 month gig at a local digital imaging company. I was pretty insistent on wanting jobs close in to Seattle and at a level commensurate to what I had been doing at WestFarm, so hopefully whatever turns up will pay reasonably close to my old salary.
(On an ironic note: Agency #1 also recruits temps for WestFarm, so there is at least a possibility that I could end up temping at my old workplace -- I told them, "I don't mind if they don't", so who knows?).
Thanks to a little wintertime weather phenomenon colloquially known around these parts as The Pineapple Express, our daytime temps shot up today, hitting a record-breaking 60 degrees F. Keep in mind, just a couple of days ago, our daytime highs were in the upper 30's, so in the space of about 48 hours, we've seen our temperatures increase by more than 20 degrees.
Talk about livin' in the banana belt.
The downside is that this weather pattern also drags along a huge amount of moisture from the warm, tropical systems out in the central Pacific, and dumps it all on us here in a relatively short span -- it's not unusual to get 2 - 3 inches in a 24 hour period (we broke the precip record for the date yesterday with 2.39"), which means although it may be blissfully warm, it's also almost unbearably wet. Not just our typical soggy, drizzly PNW wet; we're talking incessant, soak you to the skin, make you think about gathering the animals two-by-two levels of precip.
My friend Sarah who's from Hawaii occasionally talks about the joy of being able to go swimming during summer rainstorms there, when the water is 70 degrees, the air temp is in the 80's, and it feels like you're taking a warm shower out-of-doors. Well, at this time of year, in these parts wet is just plain miserable regardless of how warm it feels.
Even so, it didn't stop me from getting out for a couple of hours this afternoon. What with being ill and all the projects on my plate for the past couple of weeks, I haven't spent much time outside, and this seems to have been an instance where cabin fever overwhelmed any inherent reluctance to venture into the inclemency.
And it wasn't all that bad. My leather jacket eventually turned the color of a wet paper sack, and my wool felt hat must have quadrupled in weight from the absorbed moisture, but in general I stayed reasonably comfy for the two plus hours of wandering around the neighborhood. Most people of course, were scurrying beneath umbrellas or with downturned heads, as if they somehow felt a bit guilty being caught out sans the proper gear. A few hardy souls seemed completely unfazed -- so long as the rain wasn't completely damping down their several pounds of hair gel or causing their racoon-heavy eyeliner to smear, they seemed perfectly content to saunter up Broadway, exuding attitude like it was some sort of psychic water-repellent, treating the weather just like any other "norm" trying to cramp their style.
I will say, however, that I was quite glad to get back to the warm snuggary of my little below ground-level abode, where within a few minutes, I was drying out with a big bowl squash, carrot and ginger soup. Nothing like a little homemade creamy goodness to take the edge off the clinging dampness.
Remember a couple of posts ago, when I mentioned what a crazy week I'd been having? Well, I couldn't tell you the entire story of why it was as crazy as it was -- yes, even crazier than I described.
But, now that the press releases have gone out, I can spill the beans. In addition to being about as sick as I've ever been, and whilst working on all those other projects previously mentioned ,at the same time (starting on Saturday at any rate) I was also in the thick of what will probably be for my unionat least, one of the fastest contract negotiation processes on record.
I'm not going to go into a huge amount of detail here, because frankly probably only people in the Seattle Theater Community would really be interested in the nitty-gritties anyway, but suffice to say, it had all the emotional turmoil of some prime-time soap. I'll just let the actual press release do the talking, and those of you with a taste for intrigue, or who know how to read between the lines of these types of announcements can draw your own conclusions.
For Immediate Release
Actors’ Equity To Assist Tacoma Actors’ Guild With New Agreement
Actors’ Union Partners with TAG, Bellevue Civic Theatre to Keep Theatre Alive
New York, N.Y. Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - Actors’ Equity Association (Equity), the Union representing professional stage actors and stage managers in the United States, has agreed to assist the Tacoma Actors Guild (TAG) in the theatre’s battle to remain open. The venerable theatre has been in operation for over 20 years and faced closing its doors permanently.
Approached by TAG and Bellevue Civic Theatre (BCT), which took the lead in the theatrical community to assist TAG, the Union has made major concessions to its Collective Bargaining Agreement with TAG, allowing them to remain open. A new agreement has been developed to allow BCT to produce shows for TAG, giving the TAG Board much needed time to restructure its operations and pay back their debt to the community. Equity will be protecting union jobs while at the same time allowing TAG and BCT to produce shows at reduced costs.
“TAG has been one of the Pacific Northwest’s most important Equity theatres, employing hundreds of local Equity actors and stage managers,” said Equity Regional Director John Holly. “Equity is committed to working with the two organizations so that TAG can rebuild for the future and remain an important and vital component of the Tacoma theatrical community.”
David Lotz / Communications Director
Maria Somma / Spokesperson
Needless to say, I'm spending today doing absolutely nothing of importance -- except laundry.
Got our first snowfall of the year sometime overnight, about an inch here on the back side of CapHill, most of which was gone by mid afternoon (although I still have lingering patches in my front yard). I would have missed it completely, had I not been roused about 10:30 this morning by a racking coughing fit, and decided that I might as well feed the cats while expectorating viscuous gobs of whatever my sinuses were producing.
It's been a tough week, friends. What with contracting "the SARS" or whatever the bug-of-the-season is, while at the same time trying to maintain a full schedule of helping out with various and sundry theatrical events, I pretty well pushed myself to the limits. Over-the-counter pharmaceuticals are wonderous things, but you can only go so many days suppressing the symptoms, before the symptoms rebel and refuse to be further surpressed. What with "Heaven & Hell" last weekend, two fundraisers for Empty Space Theatre all day/evening Thursday and Friday evening, plus helping design shows for 14/48 on Friday and Saturday, I've pretty much been burning the candle at both ends, and today it all finally caught up to me.
So, after about 14 hours of somewhat fitful, but nevertheless recouperative sleep, I'm feeling somewhat better, good enough to keep my date to see Teatro Zinzanni, and frankly, I'm glad I did. It's a marvelous (albeit expensive) evening of cabaret, cirque, and generally frivolous mayhem, and certainly worth rousing oneself from ones sick bed to attend.
But, now I'm back to sucking more Nyquil, and hoping that I'll get enough sleep tonight to feel somewhat on the mend tomorrow.
Well, I can't say that the start of '05 is so far any major improvement over the end of'04: I'm still jobless, the temperature has plummetted into the low 30's by day/20's by night, and I'm coming down with some sort of bug.
Still, I'm plugging away at the job applications, and am hoping some calls for interviews start to trickle in pretty darned soon. I've told myself that if no prospects are forthcoming by the middle of the month (about 2 weeks from today), I'll schlep myself down to the temp agencies and get the ball rolling on some sort of gainful employment.
In the meantime, this week is going to be rather Hellish (aside from whatever bug I'm fighting), as by Sunday, I'll have worked on three major theatrical events: Consolidated Works "Heaven & Hell" New Years party & fundraiser, which I've been helping break down the past couple of days; Empty Space Theatre's"S.O.S. Cabaret" fundraiser on Thursday and Friday night; and then back to ConWorks on Friday, and all day Saturday for 14/48, "the world's quickest theatre festival".
Mind you, this is all volunteer labor on my part, which is perfectly fine with me, just don't come expecting to see me onstage or anything. In these situations, I'm usually somewhere behind the scenes, hanging or unhanging lights, moving furniture, cooking pasta, and generally trying my best to make things easier for the people who are doing the show.
Fortunately, these are all good causes, worthy organizations, and since I've got the free time right now, it just makes sense to pitch in and lend a hand. It helps fill my day, it helps them get some valuable work done, I usually get to hang out with really great people, and I have the satisfaction of knowing I'm doing something positive for my community.
Some people might suggest I'm putting deposits into some sort of Karma bank, that all this good will and selfless activity will be returned to me in some fashion, but really, that's not why I do it. I genuinely enjoy being able to contribute. As I get older the need to be the center of attention, the one in the spotlight getting the applause, just seems to be of less importance than it used to. It's a great feeling, don't get me wrong, but so is the one you get for example, when 75 hungry actors, directors, technicians and musicians walk away from the Paul Bunyan-sized stack of pancakes and scrambled eggs you've spent all morning preparing, feeling full and warm and re-energized, and ready to throw themselves into whatever madness has been created out of the fevered mind of some playwright who's agonized through a long night under the pressure of having to come up with 10 minutes worth of blazingly insightful and funny material, because it's gotta get done by 9:00 a.m. or else literally everybody is up the proverbial creek without a canoe, let alone a paddle. And so, you do what you can to make everyone feel just a little less cold, a little more awake, a little less cranky, and a little more appreciated, because believe me, nobody involved is making a dime off this endeavor, not even the people who organize the whole thing; they're lucky just to break even. But, you do it anyway, because you love it, despite the insane schedule, the impossible deadlines, and the sheer terror of having to make it all work in the span of 24 hours -- then turn around and repeat the entire process all over again the next day.
The really crazy part is, far more often than anyone has any right to imagine, these things turn out to be pretty bloody brilliant.
And being a part of that experience is great, no matter how you're involved.