Archive for November, 2011

Everything In Its Time

Monday, November 28th, 2011

An earring, a murder, a legend…

Years ago while vacationing in Scotland, Katherine St. Claire believed she’d found the love of her life. She shared a night of passion with a stranger, in a hotel castle called Duncreag. But come morning, her lover had disappeared. And she has spent the last eight years trying to convince herself it was all a dream…

Living in the 15th century, Iain Mackintosh remains haunted by the memory of his greatest love. Eight years ago, she disappeared, leaving behind a cairngorm earring as the only evidence of her existence. Iain’s family wants him to stop pining for this fantasy woman and submit to a sensible marriage. But Katherine suddenly returns to him and reveals to him where—and when she’s from…

I’m so excited to announce the re-release of my very first novel, Everything In Its Time.   First published in 2000, it has been out of print for almost ten years.  So whether it’s for the first time or the tenth, I hope you enjoy reading Katherine and Iain’s story!  Buy it now from:  KindleNookSmashwords And check out www.deedavis.com for reviews, excerpts and more.



Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21st, 2011

The first Thanksgiving after I was married, I cooked dinner for my brother-in-law and my new husband.  I was so excited and determined to put on a great feast.  Everything that could possibly have gone wrong with that meal—did.  The rolls never rose.  The piecrust literally dripped off of the pan and onto the bottom of the oven.  Having carefully secured cherished family recipes, I proceeded to make them as written even though they’d been intended for crowds of 10 to 12 people.  There were just three of us, and as you can imagine a mountain of food—most of it with something desperately wrong.

And then as if it couldn’t possibly get worse, we poured the wine into our new crystal goblets and toasted our “feast”.  My brother-in-law lifted the glass to his lips and promptly dripped wine on his shirt.  We all laughed and then he did it again.  This time much worse.  And it was then that we realized that it wasn’t my brother-in-law, it was the glass—the beautiful Waterford glass.  The glass had been cut through in several places, making it probably one of the world’s most expensive dribble glasses.

That was over twenty years ago, and I have since learned to make Thanksgiving dinner in proper proportion.  Everything usually comes out as it’s supposed to be.  And none of the crystal dribbles wine on anyone.   Much more civilized, but I will always remember that first Thanksgiving with fondness.  My brother-in-law is probably just glad we exchanged the glass.

This is the time of year, as we gear up for the holiday season, to stop and remember all the wonderful things we have in our lives.  No matter how challenging things may be, there’s always something to be grateful for.   We just have to stop long enough to look around and see it.

 

Here’s wishing you and yours a magnificent Thanksgiving with your family and friends!



Godspell

Monday, November 14th, 2011

When I was young I got the album to a new musical in New York—Godspell.  At the time I about as far away from the big city lights as a girl can get.  But I fell in love with the music and the message.  And played that album (cassette if we want to be technical) over and over and over.  And finally, got to see a performance in Oklahoma City as well as the movie version with a very young Victor Garber (who’d I’d see some thirty years later on Broadway last year in Present Laughter).

The words and music are literally etched upon my heart.  So it was with great anticipation that I went to the Circle on the Square (where I fell in love with The Putnam County Spelling Bee and Jesse Tyler Ferguson) to see the newest incarnation of Godspell.  And while I had a lovely evening and totally enjoyed my blast from the past, I’m afraid I can’t tell you that the new and supposedly improved version lived up to my expectations.

My love affair with Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell runs deep, so maybe I was bound to be disappointed.  (However, as an aside, the first show I ever saw on Broadway was A Chorus Line, in 1977, and when I took my daughter to see the revival a few years back, it was everything I remembered it to be.  Pure magic.)

Anyway, for me in many ways, Godspell, was a spiritual awakening.  And I not only knew all the words to all the songs, I could perform most of them on my guitar and quite often did  (I still have the sheet music in my closet).   I grew up with the advent of folk masses and the initial movement of more popular music sharing space with standard (and quite beautiful) hymns and liturgical music.  It was new and exciting.  And the music from Godspell played a role in all of that.

Telly Leung and Lindsey Mendez

So heading out for Circle on the Square I was ready to be taken back.  To a more innocent time in my life when the music and movement were fresh.  And to be fair, in certain moments, I still felt the magic.  But a lot of the time I felt like I’d wandered in to a Gleeified (and I’m a Gleek, or at least I was until this season) version of my show.

The opening, while definitely attuned to a modern world, seemed out of place somehow with the rest of the show.  As did a lot of the modern day references (although I did laugh at several and the cast’s ability to mimic certain personalities was certainly up to Saturday Night Live standards) which seemed to overshadow the message at certain points.  In fact, that would be my most overriding critique—the message was lost amidst attempts to modernize.  The power, except in a few places, was diluted so that the heart of the piece was lost amidst the constantly moving patter.

Telly Leung

As I said, there were exceptions.  And they were powerful.  Lindsey Mendez, singing Oh Bless the Lord My Soul, was absolutely flawless.  She not only has an amazing singing voice but a magnificent stage presence.  And Telly Leung’s version of All Good Gifts was simply spell-binding.  (One of the best moments of the night was a revival of  Learn Your Lessons Well, with a little bit of Pippin thrown in for good measure, just before the beginning of the second act, with Leung on piano singing with Mendez.)  Uzo Aduba gave a much more earthy delivery to By My Side, the result giving it more depth than the original (and as it’s one of my favorite songs, that actually is saying a lot).

Wallace Smith, playing both John the Baptist and Judas was more of a mixed bag.  His opening Prepare Ye gave me goose bumps, his voice powerful and sure.  And the setting with the baptismal “river” was wonderful.  But I never really felt his indecision and pain in betraying Jesus and since that is the pivotal moment between the light-hearted beginning and the dark turn of the ending—it’s a crucial note to hit.   Day by Day, sung by Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, was lost in the choreography and business of the staging.  What is a moving and simple song became overrun by too many other things, although Ms. Parez de Tagle was charming.  Julia Mattison, coming in as an understudy, was also good singing Turn Back Oh Man, but again I just felt as if some of the power of the piece (the dichotomy between her vamp and Parrish’s wistful singing) was lacking.

Hunter Parrish

Which leaves us with Hunter Parrish playing Jesus.  To be fair, I must say that both Stephen Nathan and Victor Garber played Jesus with  soft spoken words and fly-away voices.   So Parrish is following in the same vein.  But the difference for me lies in the fact that both of the former cast members were able to make the transition from the soft-sung folksiness of God Save the People (re-orchestrated in the new version to its detriment, I might add) to the unbridled  power of Alas for You.   There is anger in the latter song.  And we see Jesus as he begins to transform from gentle teacher to the man who will sacrifice all.   And in Parrish’s version we never saw any of that.  In fact, the musicians (placed amongst the audience) overwhelmed him at times.  And without the power of that song, the second act felt flat.

Costuming, by Miranda Hoffman, echoed the original (but without the clown face for Jesus), and overall it enhanced the performances rather than detracting.  There was a funny bit in the opening where Parrish is choosing a shirt and rejecting, among other choices, the Superman T-shirt.

Circle in the Square is a small theatre with seats surrounding the stage.  It provides an intimacy that can’t be obtained on a standard Broadway stage.  And a word should be said about the innovative staging, some that worked (the baptistery river), some that did not (trampolines?).  Overall, I thought it was an innovative use of space, and never once did I feel as if I was behind the action so to speak.  It was constantly on the move and mostly captivating.  The newly added song Beautiful City fit seamlessly although the reprise at the end was frustrating for those of us used to the original and waiting for the reintroduction of Prepare Ye into Long Live God  (it was there just muted by the addition of the new song).

Overall, I think that the power of the musical was lost a little in the attempt to add modern patter and Twitteresque humor.   But the cast was sparkling, with some of them out-singing, or at least equaling the originals.  And I defy anyone not to feel their spirits rise as they’re reminded of the exuberance of youth and the power of believing. 

Godspell, Circle-on-the-Square Theatre, 1633 Broadway, (212) 239-6200, www.telecharge.com .



Long Ago and not so Far Away

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

So on Monday we went to the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side.  Spurred on by visiting friends, (isn’t that always the way), we decided to tag along with their plans, and all met up in time for the 1:45 tour.

The Museum, founded around 1988 by Ruth Abrams and Anita Jacobson, owns the now partially restored tenement at 97 Orchard Street.  Built in 1863, the tenement (actually just a common word for apartment, despite negative connotations) had over 7000 occupants in the fifty years that it was open for business.  After sitting idle for almost as long, the building was discovered, and the museum’s journey begun.

Helping visitors understand life in working class New York at the end of the nineteenth century is the goal of the museum.  By taking museum patrons on a journey through the life of one of four different families, the tours open a specific window into lives that were difficult by modern standards, and yet surprisingly parallel to experiences some immigrants still have today.

We chose the newest tour, the Moores, a family of Irish immigrants that were part of the wave of Irish people coming to the US in the 1860’s.   The Moores lived briefly at 97 Orchard Street starting in 1869.  A primarily German area at the time, the Moores would have been out of place in the building, isolated because of language.  But the building itself had certain amenities that would have meant a “step-up” from other more Irish neighborhoods.  Certainly nothing to speak of now, the building’s underground sewage system meant that waste was carried away from outhouses located in the back “yard” of the building, and that running water in the form of a tap out back (next to the outhouses) was available.

Inside the apartments, however, there was no water and no indoor plumbing.  Because there were no city health ordnances yet, there was no protection for renters. Diseae ran rampant.  So  much so that infant mortality was exceedingly high–as Bridget and John Moore found out when their five and a half month old passed away.

Wages at the time (if you could find a job—racism was at an all-time high—especially where immigrants were involved), were something like $20 a month.  To put it in perspective, rent at 97 Orchard at that time was $10.   So the Moores were paying half their income for a three room walk up on the fourth floor with five of them, including the baby, in residence at the time.

The apartment itself, had a large (for New York) living area, a smallish kitchen/workroom and a tiny bedroom.   Only one room had windows, and while it might have afforded a breeze, the rest of the apartment would have been stifling in the summer and probably except for the kitchen with its iron stove, freezing in the winter.   Living just below subsistence level, families were malnourished, which lead often times to disease and early death.

In addition immigrants also delt with isolation, due to in part to prejudice and in larger part to the fact that often one’s entire family had been left in the “old country”. And yet, many of these people not only survived but triumphed, their children moving up and onward, finding their place as Americans in New York.

The Museum, open every day except holidays, can be contacted through their website at http://www.tenement.org/tours.php   or by phone, 866-606-7232.  Tour reservations are recommended.    Other tours include different decades and immigrants, so I suspect repeat visits would be equally interesting.  All in all I highly recommend taking the time to get to know a little bit more about New York’s immigrant communities.  There are also two walking tours of the area available.

Photographs are not allowed, so all pictures used here are from Flickr and the Tenement Museum website.