Thanks, NBC for playing my parents’ music.

Thanks, NBC, for featuring The Joneses’ songs, recorded 60 years ago. And thanks A P Bio producers, Seth Myers and Lorne Michaels and the show’s music supervisors. Credit is due also to the team that keeps The Joneses’ music playing.  Numero Group, Bankrobber Music, and Secretly Distribution.  Two albums are now combined into one package called The Glory Road.

We started watching A P Bio because it’s clever.  When the first episode began, we were surprised to hear Mother (Fern Jones) singing her rowdy version of  “I Am A Pilgrim And A Stranger.”  Click the album cover to hear the song.

 

 

 

 

The most recent episode featured a duet from my parents’ 1958 album, “The Joneses Sing,”  especially poignant because it features Daddy’s hill country tenor on “I Don’t Care What The World May Do.”  He didn’t record often.  Both songs were a perfect fit for the show –  says their daughter, without a lick of prejudice.

Click the album cover below to hear the song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The contrarian teacher is played by Glenn Howerton, the principal is Patton Oswalt and the classroom is populated with talented, quirky students.

 

Bacon has magic in it.

 

Bacon has magic in it.  The aroma.  The sizzle.  The taste.  The grease.  Bacon grease is a staple for Southern-born cooks.  We put it in cornbread and biscuits and a good gravy roux isn’t possible without it. Sometimes it’s butter and bacon grease creamed together, but only one of those is crucial.

Gramma kept a grease can like this near her stove.  It had a strainer inside because some people filter out the chunky bits.

 

 

Here’s my jar.  Layers of delicious bits are in here. I scoop them up and they go right into my cooking.  When the jar runs low, I render bacon just to refill it. Put bacon on to cook and every creature in the house gravitates to the source. Two times lately I’ve been cooking up a couple of pounds of bacon while repair people were here working. The refrigerator service person and the pilot light fixer both left with slices of bacon and paper towels.

I come from a family of gospel gypsies, led through life on the road in the Deep South by a preacher and a singer. Our big sedan was filled with musical instruments and Daddy’s cooking implements. A cast iron skillet went everywhere with us, providing suppers from hot plates in motor court kitchenettes. A jar of bacon grease made every trip.  Sometimes supper was only cream gravy, featuring fresh milk from a nearby dairy, poured over anything – rice, potatoes, or leftover biscuits, and in a pinch, over white bread we picked up at our last stop.

If we stayed at a tent revival site for a couple of weeks, we’d get fresh churned butter nearby, which of course, didn’t go on the road with us when we left, but the bacon grease jar, refreshed, emptied and cleaned, was the constant companion.

A sale on thick-cut bacon is still cause for celebration around here.  There’s always room in the freezer.

– – – –  –

Music this week is “Tea For Two” from our friend, Colin Tribe, in England.

 

 

 

Kinky Boots

Listen to this blog here.

I love to tell this story. It’s about generous performers, actors and singers, and four degrees of separation.  Greg (North) Zerkle directed a reading of my musical, The Glory Road in Los Angeles.

At the last minute, one of our actors had to drop out to take another role.  


Brent Schindele  said, “An actor I know is in town right now appearing in The Lion King at the Pantages.  Let’s see if he can do it.”

Brent Schindele

Brent contacted Eugene Ware-Hill, who came over from The Lion King and without rehearsal, performed at our reading.  He was magnificent.

                                                             Eugene Ware-Hill

Fast forward. Eugene is in Kinky Boots on Broadway. The Grand has a crush on a rock star, Brendon Urie  who sang a lead role in the show this summer. Her girlfriend was traveling to New York and would get to see the show.  The Grand couldn’t go. Heartbreak.

I asked Eugene if he could please get her an autograph. He did even more. He sent a Kinky Boots playbill with a personal note from Brendon addressed to the Grand. This treasure occupies the place of honor in her room.

              Playbill from Kinky Boots

I think about how these four degrees of gorgeous proved what our grammas used to say, “Pretty is as pretty does.”

And wait  – one more.

The musician playing this ukulele version of Lullaby of Broadway is Colin Tribe. Colin lives in England where he teaches, arranges and performs.

                                           Edward and his grandpa, Colin Tribe

Colin’s YouTube channel is linked below.

Or reach him here:

colinrtribe@btinternet.com

Putting On A Show

Getting a play onstage is taking a lot longer than I thought, even though I’d been warned repeatedly that it’s generally years from genesis of idea to actual performance.  Colleagues tell stories about the development process, about rewrites and readings and workshops and more rewrites.  But it’s my first play and I’m only now feeling the truth of their words. 

 

Add into our process the fact that both parties involved are also working on other things at the same time – and I can see now how a a play could hang around for years before debuting onstage. 

 

Since mounting this play occupies so many of my thoughts and nags me constantly, even when I’m doing something else, it seems like a good time to chronicle some of the “making of.”

 

The play is called “The Glory Road” and it’s recently been revised (again.)  We’ve whittled down the cast size and focused the action on just one main story (You don’t even want to know how many storylines were woven through earlier versions) and now we’re talking with theatres about moving forward to an opening date.

 

The “we” in this story is me and the director, Greg Zerkle, who’s been with this project for years and is responsible for urging me (I’m the playwright) to trim and focus and simplify staging and timelines and make all manner of efficient, dramatic changes.  I only follow his advice when I agree with him (it is my story after all) but it’s surprising how often, after arguing my point for hours, I do eventually agree and we come up with a compromise that we both think enhances the play.  This is no accident.  This happens because Greg is, I believe, a genius with a vision.

 

Greg’s a multi-faceted theatre talent.  He acts and sings and directs and is performing right now in a show at Laguna Playhouse.  A few days ago he closed in a revival of South Pacific in southern California.  So we work between his rehearsals and the rest of our endeavors.

 

Greg’s wife, Cindy Marty, another multi-talented actor and singer, is gracious about the amount of time Greg spends on The Glory Road. Cindy performed at our most recent reading in Los Angeles and knocked our collective socks off.

 

So far the “making of” is fascinating.  I never thought something as painful as editing could prove to be so satisfying.  Maybe I’ll post as we progress, and we’ll all find out together whether the end result was worth all these years. I’m hopeful. 

 

In the meantime, if you’re interested in background information on our subject matter, see www.thegloryroad.com.

 

Ó Anita Garner

 

 

 

Genius In The Details

I’ve just spent a week in Los Angeles working with Greg North, (Zerkle) the director of my play, The Glory Road. I’m back home with a notebook filled with changes.  Gramma K, an expert tailor, used to say “It’s easier to make a new one than to alter the original.”  But for many reasons, altering is often the chosen route to completion of a creative project.

The computer isn’t the best thinking place for me anymore.  I think elsewhere and come back to the keyboard to type.   The real work happens while I’m walking around the village or on the ferry going into the city, or cooking or folding laundry.  But when inspiration continues to avoid me, I have another plan.  

I go in search of genius, hoping that the trip will start ideas flowing again.  In the same way that reading biographies of overcomers opens a new window, so do these field trips.  It’s uplifting to walk where genius walked and talked and worked.  There’s always the possibility that if I stand where they stood, something might rub off.

I visit the workplaces of two undeniably brilliant individuals, at the Charles Schulz Museum, an homage to everything Peanuts, and the Luther Burbank Cottage, Mecca for garden lovers.  Both are in Santa Rosa, California, about an hour north of where I live.  Tours are a good way to begin, but guides by necessity deal mostly with the overview.  They speak of awards won, of the subject’s ties to other famous people, of the place where he was born.

I’m looking for more.  I want to see how they endured the days that were spectacularly nonproductive.  After the tour groups disperse, I look for the minutiae that tethered each of these famous men to earth.  Was he an early riser?  How many hours a day did he work?  What did he eat?  Did he have hobbies?  Who did he love?  Who loved him?

I want to know, did the realization of his goals offer even a small degree of immunity from strife?  Or did he bump into his own saboteurs; the insecurities and loneliness and even the near-crippling fears many of us encounter on the path to making something.

When we look at a creative icon who’s now departed, we’re always looking backward.  We see a whole lifetime of output, an entire body of work.  I want to know how he handled the chunks of time when things didn’t go right.  So I ask about the dry spells.

Charles Schulz used ice skating and long walks to cheer himself.  He built a rink near his studio and his visits there were a vital part of his routine.  Every day he sat at the same table in the snack bar, ate the same food, and watched the skaters.  Merchants at the nearby mall report that Schulz was a frequent visitor, not so much a shopper as an ambler.  They grew accustomed to the lone figure walking around, deep in thought.

Luther Burbank grew himself an escape route.  He took leave of his greenhouse in Santa Rosa and traveled the bumpy road to his experimental farm in Sebastopol to work and sleep in the modest cabin at the site.  He walked and thought and wrote in his notebooks and on his way to developing the Shasta daisy and the Burbank potato, he also documented some of the days when nothing bloomed the way he had planned.

Charles Schulz said he was driven to make cartoons because it was all he was good at.  It was his primary form of self-expression.  Charlie Brown, he said, was the manifestation of his own vulnerability.  At the museum, my favorite spot is the replica of his office.  The renowned storyteller’s drawing board shows the physical effects of his labor and I am more heartened by its worn wood than by the rooms filled with acclaim.

Luther Burbank didn’t consider himself a visionary, but rather a hard-working scientist who kept experimenting until something good came of it.  The museum in the carriage house adjacent to Burbank’s cottage is suitably informative, but I return to the tiny room at the rear of the greenhouse and to the desk where he kept his notes.

Both Schulz and Burbank fit my definition of genius.  I can feel it when I’m in the places they once were.  It’s comforting, on my own tedious workdays, to know that in the midst of lives filled with so many accomplishments, each of these men put great store by the one trait they prized above all others – discipline.  They kept showing up.  I can do that.

Ó By Anita Garner