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Sing out Louise! 2.15.2008 |

It’s not about hitting the right notes – not for me at least.
It’s about mouthing the lyrics convincingly.
I take a great risk in telling you all this.
When I’m on stage, I’m not really singing. I’m mouthing. And smiling. And nodding to the beat. And praying, praying, praying that nobody notices.

Not that choral director Traci Aderholt would mind. In fact, she’s kind of endorsed it. I don’t think the cast would mind either. But now, every one of you knows to look for my lip-syncing. Well, I plan on it being seamless, so there.

And besides, after seeing my costume, it’s so loud no one could hear me over it anyway.
Mere words, I assure you, cannot do it justice, but I’ll do my best.

Allow me to start off by saying it is a finely made dress and in another era, I’m sure it would have been the height of fashion — a couture tour de force. But on me, in the here and now, this dress turns into a punch line. It weighs eight pounds. It has a pattern that brings to mind a couch in your stuffy great aunt’s sitting parlor…you know, the one you weren’t allowed to sit on that was in the room with all the breakables.
It has these epic puffy shoulder caps that would dwarf Brian Urlacher’s shoulder pads. It has more lace and ruffles than my entire regular wardrobe.

The best part though is it’s not the only one. I’m not the only girl that will be wearing a dress straight out of bizarre-o-Little House on the Prairie world. And that’s a comfort.
And as the play approaches, comfort is in short supply.

The idea of being up on stage, in front of everyone, in costume is exhilarating…for about two minutes. Then I get the overwhelming sense that I’m going to trip on my skirt, tumble into the orchestra pit and break my fall with a cello player. I think that’s the definition for stage fright.

At any rate, it’s nice to know that even if I make a dent in a cello, my vocal inadequacies won’t make a dent in the production. There are some absolutely fantastic voices. Allison Cummings, who plays Aunt Eller ("An old lady. Like always," she will tell you) belts it out. And this isn’t choir, kids. She’s singing with personality.
And unlike me, she’s singing with sound.

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Green IS the color of money, after all... 2.09.2008 |

I’ve found the best way to promote the virtue of a green lifestyle is to promote the value of a green lifestyle.
Not everybody cares about ‘saving the earth’ but nearly everyone cares about saving a buck.
It’s been a small triumph in my home that we’ve lowered our heating bill this winter – it’s been a challenge.
My home is an interesting mix. Two-thirds of the house was built in the 1950s and the other third is an addition that’s only a few years old. What results is a house that will be two-thirds freezing and one-third toasty…or vice-versa. Why the differing climates in one house? The newer part is insulated and sealed-up within an inch of airtight Tupperware and the older part of the house leaks like a sieve.
Lie on your belly in the living room, directly in front of the door, and you would be able to see my neighbor’s well-manicured lawn through the sliver of space between the front door and doorjamb.
It may seem like just a crack but during the coldest or hottest parts of the year, enough of those little gaps can cost you an arm and a leg.
It’s doing the earth no favor either when you compensate by jacking the heat or the AC up to counteract the leaks.
That gap…if it’s one-eighth of an inch wide the whole way round…is equivalent to having a six-inch square hole in the middle of you door.
Weather-stripping is by far one of the easiest ways to make your home more energy efficient — and one of the cheapest.
The cheapest of the cheap is to take a rolled up towel — or one of the knick-knacky rolls made for this very purpose — put it front of the gap that air is flowing through. Voilà! No more drafty door. (Or make your own like this blogger did.)
For something more permanent, but only a little more pricey, there pressure-sensitive adhesive-backed foam. It comes in rubber and plastic and in rolls of varying lengths and thicknesses. It’s not a forever fix but it’ll last around two years.
There are other types, too, and they run from cheap-o to high dollar. Whichever you chose, you’re making the right choice.
If you’re not sure where to start, the guys at Lowe’s were helpful with answering questions I had about weather-stripping (and I’m sure all home improvement stores around the area will be more than willing to educate about the advantages of weather-stripping). Local heating and air technicians can also give you a hand.
Check in next week to see which items are pulling double-duty in my house as we examine one of the three Rs of environmentalism “reuse”.

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Me and my bench in Oklahoma! 2.08.2008 |

This week, on my journey through Oklahoma! at Shelby High School, I’ve been to rehearsals and gotten in on “blocking.”
Blocking is the term used to indicate what movements an actor makes on stage. So far, my blocking consist of sitting on a bench, sitting on a bench while laughing and sitting on a bench while gasping in fear.
I’m not complaining. Seriously, you should see what everyone else is doing. A good chunk of the cast is being ‘blocked’ in a rather intricate square dance. Shame on Hollywood and television for fueling the misconception that dance numbers can be spontaneous responses to stimuli. Random groups of people never break out into song and dancing, folks, just isn’t as easy as it looks.
That’s not to say the students aren’t doing a stellar job, because they are.
Another set of actors just ‘blocked’ a fight scene. I won’t ruin the details for you but after a few hiccups, the whole scene really does look like somebody just got their lights punched out.
Sometimes it’s easy for me to forget this is a high school musical. The acting can blow you away…the affected accents can be dead on…choreography can be perfect.
But, at the end of the day, it is a bunch of high school students.
And that’s where Steve Padgett comes in. Padgett exerts just the right amount authority when handing down instruction. He is not an iron hammer but an oracle of sorts. People listen because he’s just so often right.
The students themselves seem to respond to his temperament. From my perch on my trusty, familiar bench, I’ve watched student-actors take instruction, heads bent in conference with Padgett. When they emerge from this huddle, each take their places ready to do what has to be done. The dedication and the delight are already apparent.
By Thursday, we had done blocking for the entire second act. (I’m happy to report I have sitting on a bench down to an art. A very subtle art.) Though I’m still not up on the music — that starts next week, for me — I feel less like an interloper.
All the students have been welcoming. Perhaps it isn’t unique to the ‘drama crowd’ but there is always someone ready to make you laugh. Funny voices, clever comebacks, elaborate pratfalls — all are available in the arsenals of these students. And they’re not afraid to use them.
Just don’t get caught laughing on stage…
Check out video of rehearsals (dancing and fighting!) under video section of shelbystar.com.

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Think Green Kick-off 2.04.2008 |

No doubt most of you have heard about “going green”. It’s a movement that has people exchanging their incandescent light bulbs for the squat and swirly CFL bulbs, carpooling with co-workers and looking at their thermostats with more critical eyes.

In my house, the “going green” trend was a passing notion until we took a look at just what was filling up our trash bin.

We’re addicted to Coca-Cola…and we’re always on the run. We’re not fans of two-liter bottles. They aren’t very portable and the tasty Coke tends to go flat. For us, aluminum cans are the only way to go — they chill down quick and fit right in your hand. We buy the 12- or 24- can packs with regularity. And we go through them at a breakneck pace that would cause any self-respecting kidney to shudder.

The empty cans were taking up precious space in the trashcans and, since aluminum is one of the materials that is touted as infinitely recyclable, it seemed a shame to waste so many.

To top it all off, the health department said recycling aluminum uses 95 percent less energy than producing aluminum products from raw materials.

So…

We took a cheap plastic tub container — one that came with a sticker warning I shouldn’t try storing any toddlers in it — slung it under one of our kitchen counters and started collecting.

I learned a few things rather quickly. Rinse the cans or risk the horror of congealed Coke at the bottom of your bin that, at least to me, appeared to have many similarities to the acidy spit from “Alien.”

Crush the cans. It’s easier said than done for me. I couldn’t possibly get by stomping them on our hardwood floor but I’m embarrassingly weak when it comes to crushing them with my hands. (I won’t even entertain crushing them on my forehead.) And, before you say it, we’ve yet to invest in one of the can crushers that would solve all of that.

I just rinse them out, leave them on the counter until someone masculine comes along and handles the crushing and throws them in. It’s a good system.

That bin of cans, it seems, was our first step toward taking a closer look at green living. Along the way, we’ve found our efforts not only make us feel like better residents of Earth but we’ve also saved a little money in the process.

From reducing, reusing and recycling we’ve found some things work and some things are a complete hassle. Check back next week to see how we fare with weather stripping to eliminate drafts, getting rid of other heat-stealers and, fingers crossed, lowering our heating bill.

Link of the week...
The Green Guide
Brought to you by our friends at National Geographic -- or NatGeo for you hipsters -- this site gives you good resources and practical tips. My favorite? The article by Emily Main about Greener Guitars.

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