Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Holiday Updates

It's been almost two weeks since I updated, so I am starting to feel overwhelmed at the idea of it.

Let's see. Aunt Trudy made it back in time for the final performance of "A Christmas Carol." Aimée, Craig, and Ethan were all home for Christmas. Michael was up from Florida, and of course Uncle Dave, Uncle Frank, and Aunt Amy were there too. Mom, Jack, and I were in attendance, naturally. Everyone was at Grandma's house. The Ashley's (Ray, Cheryl, and Todd) came on Christmas day to share opening of gifts and the big meal.

And by big meal, I do mean big meal. I think mom made four different types of pie. At least, I know we had peach, pecan, pumpkin, and pudding pies. I spied a fruit/tart type pie in the fridge the next day too. There was turkey (Craig did the carving honors), ham, potato bake (family tradition, practically), sweet potatoes (so very sweet), green bean casserole, mashed potatoes & gravy, homemade whipped cream for the pies, jello salad, cranberries, homemade rolls, scalloped corn, and I think more if that's even possible. So much food!

The boys had a good time opening presents, and I think they liked everything for the most part. It was even more of a blur this year because Jack was tearing through his presents so quickly, and I had the video camera at one point so Mom could open some of her things. I got Buffy Season 3 DVDs, Stephen King's new book, Audioslave CD, some clothes, calendars, photo albums, and some other things. Jack got clothes, books, some airplane toys, many dogs, a flashlight (such a good gift for him, lol), and a few other things. Actually, the big hit was the walkie-talkie set Uncle Frank (I think) got for Michael. He and Jack had a pretty good time going around the house using them. It was very amusing to the adults because Jack almost never let go of the "talk" button, and they would say something to eachother only to walk to the other room where the other person was just to make sure they heard them.

The next day Amy had to work, so we spent the day not doing much waiting for 6pm to roll around. Since everyone was home this year, we were having a big family picture done. A friend of Grandma's is a photographer, so she had agreed to come to her house to take the photos. We rearranged the livingroom furniture a bit, and then managed to get everyone positioned for a solid ten minutes of pictures. Ethan was great about it, as he was determined to get to the big fire truck when we were done. I hope they come out well. The last family photo was done when Michael was a baby. So that would've been Christmas of 1992. The side by side comparison of the two pictures will be interesting for certain. I was a sophomore in high school, and Aimée had just started college at Bradley I believe. She and Craig weren't even engaged.

We headed home straight after the pictures so we could get back to the cats. Thankfully, they hadn't done any damage to the decorations. Decorations which are all gone now. I went ahead and took them all apart and put them away yesterday. Need to fill these days with something. I am still off work while Jack is out of school. I've actually gone into the office twice this week though to finesse that report. Today it was doing more odd things, but not as a result of my changes. It seems like some data has gotten mish-mashed or something.

I guess that's it. Nothing very exciting has been happening. I bought a metal garbage can, even though I think it will look kind of tacky, because the crazy squirrels in my yard has chewed through my Rubbermaid garbage can to get to the garbage. Freaky squirrels, I tell you. We don't even have that much garbage to get to, yet they did this, so instead of replacing it with another plastic one for them to chew up, I just got a metal one.

Tonight is the last night of 2003. I don't usually make resolutions, and I don't think I will start.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Other Pictures

I finally had a free minute to scan these two pictures in that I have been meaning to for a while now. I had them on a roll of film from September or October, but when I dropped off the film (to get developed and a CD), the kid told me they could do a CD in 1-hour. However, we came back after an hour to find out that the machine for APS film was broken. Funny, two weeks ago I asked him if it was fixed, and he told me it didn't even do CDs from APS film. Argh.

These are from outside of my building at work. I had my camera with me that day, and I felt like taking some pictures of the fall as I left. You can click on them to see the full sized versions in my galleries.

alt="Tree and sunset outside of work."

alt="Bike rack and leaves outside of work."

Anyway, work has been fun today. I am battling with a Crystal report and Kronos. Kronos is a time-keeping server software/hardware monster. I can get the report to work beautifully within Crystal, but you move it to Kronos and it breaks. Lovely. This wouldn't be such a big deal if it wasn't an absolute necessity for our payroll department. There's a major transition happening on campus with data, and this is a part of how we are going to make sure our employees get paid. But hey, no one really wants to get paid on time (or at all), right?

Monday, December 15, 2003

She Sang

"A Christmas Carol" is over, and it went great! I am going to repost the review that Larry sent out to the group messageboard. In all, Jack remembered his costume adjustments every time but once. He was in three scenes, and I was in two. The market scene went well for us all but two nights when Christmas present stepped on my dress, but that's okay it's (the dress) a huge thing! Not to mention there just wasn't a lot of room in front of the curtain. We had lots of fun doing this one. We got to spend time with a number of people from "Aurora," and we met lots of new people who have been in the RTG before us as well.

Last night, after the show, we broke down all the sets and put things away. The kids got to have a little pizza party and go crazy dancing on the stage. Some of the kids had fun chasing me around the theater until another mom-type said to quit. Oops. ;-) Now that it is all over, we are ready for another one even though we were moaning about all the driving and late nights along the way. It really is so much fun.

Larry's review:
Review: Charles Dickens' Classic Tale Retold

In 1843 Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol" to describe the disparity of life in Victorian England. He addressed social issues of hardship, injustice, and unrest between the working class and lower class. He showed that in spite of overwhelming poverty good will toward one's fellow man can survive, as well as faith, love, and humanity; and, that no amount of money can buy happiness or character, as Ebenezer Scrooge was about to find out.

As for the play, it's hard to present as a stage play a tale so well known to the Western World where so many have read the book and have seen the many movie adaptations.

However, director Michael Clay Nelson hit upon the right formula for his own adaptation written expressly for the Rantoul Theatre Group. Mr. Nelson reasoned that by furnishing scenes with as much representative furniture of the period and having multiple scene changes he could vividly make the scenes appear true to life. This is a monumental tasking for an 800 square foot stage to display.

Additionally, by selecting a large cast with different players to appear in even the smallest of roles, he could keep from overusing actors, thus reserving his principal players to the key characters excepted to be seen by the audience while appearing in their characteristic costumes.

Nelson carefully selected 22 distinct scenes from this Christmas classic which in essence tells the whole story. He and his crew constructed from scratch enough furniture and set backgrounds to make it all seem like a movie set. Three different fireplaces had to be constructed as well as Scrooge's office furniture and his bedroom with the well-known four-poster bed.

The movies show the Spirit of Jacob Marley coming through a closed door into Scrooge's bedroom. A workable Victorian door and frame was constructed so that Marley, bound in chains, and played with uncommon skill and agony by Jonathan Daniels, could make the bolt appear to open itself as the audience looked at Scrooge in amazement as the ghastly spirit of Marley entered the bedroom glowing under black light as he proclaimed Scrooge's only remaining hope for salvation.

When the Ghost of Christmas Past, played by Janice Moore, arrives in Scrooge's bedroom, Nelson bathed the spirit with intense light to make her white costume glow with extreme brightness blinding the eyes of Scrooge. As everyone knows, she takes him back in time to see himself as young Ebenezer, played by young Jack, at the boarding school who then transforms into Teen Scrooge, played by Jacob Porter. Relying on teenage actors, Nelson matches Anne Moore as Scrooge's intended, Belle, as they solo dance to the high kicking Riverdance at the Fezziwegg Christmas party where 23 adults and children make merry dancing.

The poor home of Bob Cratchit family, with James Hatchel, Tracy Cooper-Nelson, Tiny Tim and his five brothers and sisters, was created on a split stage complete with kitchen table and 8 chairs and working entrance door. Nelson directed the Cratchit children to sing a ditty and dance around the table to celebrate their meager supper meal of a "goose" and real mashed potatoes. A fresh baked chicken each night substituted for the goose and the children actually ate it while making supper small talk as Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present (Larry Smith) looked in on the poor family which survives on the meager pay of "15 bob a week" which is only 10% of what clerks usually made in England at that time. Tiny Tim, portrayed by young Kenny Miller, took to the part by realistically using his wooden crutch pole and relying on his siblings to help him move around the set.

On the other half of the stage, alternately in darkness, Scrooge's nephew Fred Haliwell, played with a distinct English air by Steve Fogle, and his wife Julia Haliwell, played by Venus Fuller, have a lively and merry game of "Similes" with their party guests while the Spirit and Scrooge are unheard and unseen onlookers.

A sympathetic scene involved the skillfully applied makeup for the sad and emaciated faces of Blake Quinlan as "Ignorance" and Katie Ely alternating with Jennah Hogan as "Want" as they hid under the impressive embossed green velvet robe of the almost 7 foot tall Ghost of Christmas Present.

One of the most dramatic moments came when Joe Porter as Ebenezer Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Future Yet to Come in the graveyard scene. Todd Issacs was hidden behind an eerie and full skull mask and hands-of-bones gloves while cloaked in a black cape and hood. Not speaking, true to the story, he points to the events as he bewilders Scrooge with his ominous predictions of the future events which may or may not happen depending upon the course that Scrooge will select. With tombstones, smoke, lightning sounds, and strobe lighting, director Nelson created a realistic setting. Joe Porter gives a moving portrayal as he sees his own name bathed in eerie orange light on the tombstone and breaks down before the audience with real tears flowing from his eyes as he realizes that his life was all for naught unless he shows compassion for his fellow man.

Another standout scene is when Old Joe the pawnbroker, played in Bowler hat by Curt Moore, and Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge's housekeeper played by Karon Seib, both bring believability to the story utilizing well delivered English accents as they bicker on how much money Scrooge's bed curtains, watch, and other death bed effects will bring as an infuriated Scrooge looks on and threatens to bring them before a Magistrate.

Never done in movies before, Joe Porter wrote and delivered an eloquent, yet poignant, summation of the entire philosophy of the play while he holds a one way discourse with the Ghost of Christmas Future during one of the final transitional scenes.

As Ebenezer Scrooge awakens in his bed on Christmas morning he realizes that he has been reclaimed and is willing to become the new man who can love others and receive love and joy from others. Scrooge hysterically reenacts the game of "Similes" and proclaims that he is "as light as an angel" with the burden of his doom lifted from his shoulders.

Over 60 cast members contributed to this unique and well directed production. The making of most costumes was skillfully designed by the costume crew of Karon Seib, Rochelle Weber, Shawn Porter, Sharon Maulding-Hale, and Janice Moore and was an essential part of the authenticity of the play. Men's traditional top hats, tie/scarfs, waistcoat jackets made the men seem to jump right out of the story book. Ladies were specially outfitted with bonnets and wide skirted dresses. The Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company helped with some of the costumes. Ashleigh Nelson supervised the makeup designs to make the characters faces reflect either happiness or sorrow.

The most difficult tasking other than acting was handled aptly by the back stage crew of Jeff Ogle, Curt Moore, Derrick Fuller, and Shawn Porter. Their job was to quickly move on stage the numerous pieces of heavy furniture while director Nelson used a technique of conducting transitional scenes to keep the acting on going in front of the closed theatre curtain while the stage crew moved pieces into place behind the curtain. Each actor coming on stage for the next scene had to carry on a piece of furniture and remove it when their scene ended. This became a monumental job requiring some set pieces to be rebuilt or redesigned during rehearsals so that weight could be reduced without sacrificing the functionality of the set piece. Scenes such as Scrooge's office had to be set up taken down twice and the Cratchit's household had to be brought on and off stage three times.

Helping to entertain the audience with song during transitions, street carolers were employed to sing well-known Christmas carols of that era. The singing talents of Janice Moore, Kristy Shreves, Anne Moore, Stacey Moore, and Rochelle Weber served to first be rejected by Scrooge as "humbug" and later praised and rewarded with coin by a redeemed Ebenezer Scrooge.

Such is the pivotal tale of Ebenezer Scrooge's enlightenment that director Nelson brought to his script as he directed his full cast, child and adult, to contribute to the reclamation of the soul of Ebenezer Scrooge.

As the two hour play closes, the narrator relates that Ebenezer Scrooge became known as the "man who knew how to keep Christmas well." In the end, Scrooge embraces a recovered Tiny Tim who blesses the audience with that well-known phrase, "And God bless us all, everyone."

For reservations for upcoming plays patrons may call 892- 1121 and visit the website at

Thursday, December 11, 2003

3 More Shows

Well, we had the run through rehearsal tonight. Boy, that was interesting, lol. *Everyone* was goofing off. I don't know that Clay (director) appreciated it too much since he is stressed with his dad being sick and all, but he didn't get outwardly angry either.

The adults were the ones who started it too. ;-)

The first weekend of shows went great. Jack remembered all of his costumes changes between scenes. He entered and exited right when he was supposed to, and my scenes went fine too.

The kids brought some colds to the show though, so we've both been fighting something this week. I stayed home yesterday, missed the holiday party at work, but was back today. I have some pretty big report deadlines this week/Monday, so I really can't afford to be gone. I think I feel a bit better now though. Sometimes just getting moving again is the better thing.

On Saturday, we are going to get to see "The Nutcracker Ballet" with Jack's school. It will be at the Krannert Center on campus. We went to the "Emporer's New Clothes" last week with Rose and Chuck. That was very interesting. It was an opera, which I had never seen it done like that before. A lot of the kids thought it was very weird when the Emporer came out w/ almost nothing on, lol. He was covered decently, but still. I guess they aren't very familiar with the story, so they didn't know to anticipate that.

Rose and Chuck arrived late on Thursday and then had to go home on Monday. We woke up to a light snow on Friday morning, but it was all gone by that night. It was very cool because it was thick, heavy snow. I have some pictures online now. There are some shots there from NYC, family, and home.

Thankfully, the cats are no longer knocking down the tree. Despite breaking a few of the connectors on the train, Jack and Chuck were able to hook it up and put in the batteries. It is actually pretty neat when it's running. A bit loud, but not too obnoxious.

Jack's holiday assembly is the 16th. It's at night, and his class is performing. He told me today that I missed his beautiful singing. So, I know they are singing, but not much else, lol. Poor Ms. C is sick too, so she is going to be out tomorrow. She told me this afternoon that there will be a substitute. I hope it's someone good.

Not a lot else has been happening. It was nice to have a few nights off of rehearsal, and now it is almost over. Of course, at the beginning and in the middle, I was ready for it to be done. Now that it's almost done, I am ready for something else. :-)

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Late Nights

Well, we got home at 10:30pm last night. Ugh.

Jack says this morning, "I didn't sing or jump on my bed. I was so tired, I just went 'kaboom!' to sleep." I thought it was cute. :-)

He has an assembly to honor good test scores and perfect attendance on Friday, so I took the afternoon off to go to that. He also got an invitation to "The Emporer's New Clothes" as a part of the Enrichment Center's monthly program they had. That's on Friday morning. I guess I should've taken the whole day off. I still might. They want chaperones, and I don't have anything scheduled for the morning. We'll see.

The cats have managed to leave the tree alone for a whole 24-hour period now. Ha! I guess they learned. :-)

Meetings, meetings, meetings.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Yep - They knocked it Down.

I knew it would happen. Thank goodness Jack didn't get upset over it though. I was particularly stressed out this morning though, as a result. Uck. They broke the train too. The tree fell right on top of the cars and caused the connectors to snap in two. Grrr. Maybe I can fix them when we get home tonight, but with everything else going on, I just don't need more things to fix or get done.

Tonight starts the full dress/makeup play rehearsals. Only four days until the first show, and 13 days until we are done. I am going to be very tired this week, that's for sure.

Time for meetings at work.