Who Wants to Feel *Real* Old? (29 July 2014)

Standard

Good Evening:

I caught the tail end of the conversation between these two women when I walked into the break room to refresh my tea.

“…I had no idea how old I felt, like I had just gotten old without knowing it, but now I feel–so–free! I have not felt so independent in so long! Great job, great living situation, making money, I swear, I have not felt this free and independent, I have not felt so young since I was fifteen-and-a-half years old!”

The old lady in question? She’s a college student working on a summer internship. A college-aged college student. But if she used to feel old, then how old should I feel today?

Wondering Where I Misplaced My Gallon of Geritol This Time, I Remain,

Yours Truly,

Vonn Scott Bair–the old man.

PS–Yes, she did say “fifteen-and-a-half.” Which interests me. Why that age? She was too young to drive.

Friday Afternoon @ Work, San Francisco Style

Standard

Good Evening:

My prediction that San Francisco would experience a drastic epidemic of The Friday Flu proved a tad overblown, at least during the morning. During the afternoon, the telltale lethargy of the flu began to set in, but perhaps that’s a good thing. I don’t know if people really need to work hard all week long. My fellow San Franciscans seem to do all right taking Friday afternoons off.

Unless this was a working ice cream networking brainstorming strategizing meeting outside Uber HQ. But I don’t think so:

DSCN3681

Some people took an early commute home:

DSCN3683

Others indulged in their artistic passions:

DSCN3676

However, I saw two City employees engaged in actual work, reviving a dead electric bus:

DSCN3689

It’s always us City employees who have to keep working on Friday afternoon.

Vonn Scott Bair

Puppy Love in Duboce Park (Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin’)

Standard

Good Evening:

A warm summer’s late afternoon in San Francisco, when the evening breezes have just awoken, always presents a wonderful opportunity to take your best friend or friends to the dog park at Duboce.

DSCN3777 DSCN3780

Of course, humans have their own version of puppies (known by the scientific term rugrats), and a few of these also got the chance to enjoy the fine weather, their two- and four-legged friends, and try a few new things.

DSCN3784 DSCN3789

Vonn Scott Bair

Casual Thursday in San Francisco, 24 July 2014

Standard

Good Evening:

Friday afternoon seemed to come 26 hours early today, as the entire Civic Center area simultaneously decided that 3:00 p.m. Thursday afternoon marked the ideal moment to start the weekend.

DSCN3743 DSCN3746 DSCN3748 DSCN3738 DSCN3735 DSCN3756

I have a funny feeling tomorrow will witness one of the most serious outbreaks of The Friday Flu to hit San Francisco in a long time.

Vonn Scott Bair

White & Blue Series, 24 July 2014

Standard

Good Evening:

San Francisco almost never experiences rain in July, but the night sky opened late Tuesday evening/early Wednesday morning yielding a brief rainstorm. When I walked to work, the sky had started to clear, producing some impressive effects. John Constable, eat your heart out.

DSCN3715 DSCN3719 DSCN3720

Can’t take credit for these shots; not my doing at all.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Leftover Memories of Venue 222 (Weekly Photo Challenge: Container)

Standard

Good Evening:

This ugly little dump contains some of my happiest memories in the theater.

IMG_6193

During the 1960s and 1970s, City College of San Francisco’s enrollment grew so much so quickly that the buildings could not hold all of the students, and the administration could not build new classrooms quickly enough. Therefore, the college threw up these pre-fab cabins for use as ad hoc temporary classrooms. However, ad hoc temporary solutions have a way of becoming ad hoc permanent solutions. Cabin 222, notwithstanding its leaky confines, lack of heating, and air conditioning, became the home of theater majors getting rained on or freezing or cooking in its confines depending upon the season.

A few decades ago, a drama professor named Ann Shay had a bright idea: double-purposing the cabin as both classroom and a 49-seat black box theater. She created her own company, the California Travel Troupe, so named because they usually travelled to Edinburgh, Scotland to participate in the grandfather of all fringe festivals. In between trips, she would produce shows in what was no longer cabin 222; it had become Venue 222.

I met Ann when one fine day, totally out of the blue, the at the time complete stranger emailed me and offered me a directing job for her next evening of one-act plays. My first directing job? No problem! I didn’t even ask her how she got my name. What I did not know was that everyone else she asked had declined the offer because everyone else–including the playwright!–thought the little ten minute script was garbage. So she offered me the leftovers. I didn’t know the play was garbage, numbskull that I am, but because I didn’t know how to evaluate scripts, took this opportunity seriously and to the surprise of Ann and the cast, and the shock of the playwright, directed a, well, um, pretty good play.

Ann Shay producing her last show, another evening of one acts, at about the time when her friends suspected, and she knew, that she would not win her final battle with cancer.

Ann Shay producing her last show, another evening of one acts, at about the time when her friends suspected, and she knew, that she would not win her final battle with cancer.

Ann felt grateful enough for my salvage job that when time came to produce another evening of one acts, she invited me to submit one of my own scripts. I had just finished a 20-pager called Starvation, an experiment in the horror genre to see if it was still possible to scare a theater audience in this day and age.

She accepted it into the show, which was great, not telling me that on paper she thought that Starvation looked like a piece of s— (one of her favorite words). She needed one more play to fill out the evening and would have accepted anything. Much to the surprise of the director and cast (and playwright), and much to the shock of Ann, the 20 page horror play that looked like a piece of s— on paper worked astoundingly well when performed, and was in fact the best play of the show. On the night of the world premiere, I snuck into the audience to gauge reactions. The play describes an encounter between two women, both monsters; Mrs. Essex is a sexual predator and Melody–nah, no spoilers here. I sat next to a young couple on a date. At the climax of the play, the young lady of the couple shrieked “Omigod, she’s a ____!” wrapped her arms around her date, and buried her face into her young man’s chest.

I think I made his night.

My leftover script turned out rather well.

The Former Dressing Room at Venue 222.

The Former Dressing Room at Venue 222.

In 2004, I had built up a curious acting resume; lead roles in a few feature films (none of which went anywhere), and zero leads in full-length stage plays. So when Ann emailed me out of the blue and offered me the title role in a masque production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, yes, of course I took it. Incidentally, for all of my gigs with the California Travel Troupe I received the combined grand total of $0 in payment. What Ann did not tell me at the time was that she couldn’t find anyone else for the job. Once again, the leftovers ended up on my plate.

DSCN0275

The show did very erratically in terms of attendance, alternating sellout crowds with near-empty houses. One performance had exactly one audience member, and the only reason we had that one person is that a woman in the cast was juggling two boyfriends at the time. Still, Hunchback remains one of my happiest memories; the above moment, from the final scene between Quasimodo and Esmeralda, generally elicited audible sniffles and crying from the people who did see the show. Ann herself told me after the last performance that she sometimes cried. This was right before she told me that she only picked me because she couldn’t find anyone else. Just another leftover.

Today, Venue 222 is every bit as decrepit as it looks, and when Ann died, the California Travel Troupe died with her. As I passed the cabin on my way to my date with destiny and a beer can in Almost, Maine, I took a few pictures with my iPhone.

And wondered how something so ugly could contain such beautiful memories.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Brief But Curious Theatrical History Contained Within a Can of Beer (Weekly Photo Challenge: Container)

Standard

Good Evening:

A still life, inexpensive-American-beer-can-style:

DSCN3657

How this can and I came to make our acquaintance–therein lies a tale.

Once upon a time, a brewery filled this newly manufactured can with newly manufactured beer. Another human being purchased this can containing inexpensive American beer, emptied its contents (presumably in the usual fashion), cleaned it thoroughly with soap and water, and brought it to the Diego Rivera Theater on the campus of the City College of San Francisco for use as a prop in a production of John Cariani’s Almost, Maine, one of the most beloved new plays in American theater. Since I knew two of the actors in the cast and had heard a lot of good things about the play, I attended last Saturday night’s performance.

Shortly before the play began, a crew member filled the can with water. Halfway through the show, an actor grabbed this can containing San Francisco Public Utilities Commission tap water and a second one also containing water and carried them with him onstage.

Thus fate decreed that your correspondent and this can would become one.

For having finished drinking the two cans of “beer,” the actor crumpled both of them and then hurled the first can and the second can over the heads of the audience to the offstage area.

Well, that was the idea.

The first can flew directly into the audience.

Specifically, my left shoulder.

Of course I suffered no injury; modern beer cans are so lightweight that if I hadn’t watched it hit my shoulder I never would have felt it. But no way did I intend to part with this can. You and I have seen multiple cartoons and comedies where an audience will throw rotten tomatoes and other vegetables at the actors. I have never seen an actor throw anything at an audience. I have seen the cast booing the audience before the show even began (one of Monty Python’s Secret Policeman Balls) yet there I was, participating in theatrical history as the first audience recipient of an actor-thrown projectile in theatrical history.

So of course I kept the can that once contained beer, then contained water, and now contains theatrical history.

Please–try to contain your envy.

Vonn Scott Bair