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May 15, 2017:

COUGHING

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, there is a phenomenon and I am going to talk about it. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, there is a phenomenon and I am going to talk about it. In fact, I am damn well going to talk about it. I speak of the phenomenon of audience coughing at classical concerts. I bring this up because in the latest box of Shostakovich symphonies there are several live performances of varying interest. And there is one thing common to each and every live performance: Coughing. Endless coughing. Until the music gets loud. Then you can hear a pin drop – or not, since the music is loud. But quiet music? Coughing. I do not believe any of the coughers seriously has the need to cough. I don’t know why it happens and especially at classical music concerts (it doesn’t happen a lot in musical theater or even theater, unless the show is a complete dog, and then the coughs come out). It is so irritating to be listening to these interesting live concerts and then have to hear this eruption of stupid coughing throughout. It’s like an epidemic of coughs – one person coughs for no reason, then that’s the cue for another person and another person and I simply do not GET it. I have never EVER coughed in a theater or concert hall. So, why does it happen? Why is it so prevalent? I’m looking for any and all theories, so have at it, dear readers.

I just Googled this phenomenon and four years ago a study was done and the person doing the study came up with interesting notions. “Coughing in concerts occurs more frequently than elsewhere, implying a widespread and intentional breach of concert etiquette,” states Wagener, who is inclined to see something deliberate in it. “Concert coughs, thus, must be regarded as willful and voluntary to a substantial degree.” Yes, you read that right – coughers do it on purpose and also purposely build on other cougher’s coughs. One famous pianist famously scolded his audience, “Either you stop coughing or I stop playing.” It’s a little nutty.

Yesterday (cough, cough) was supposedly a day of rest for me, and I suppose it met that criteria part of the time. But I did spend about five hours working on the Sherman Brothers script, making sense out of scenes, rearranging and writing quite a bit of new dialogue in the style of the show’s writer. I smoothed a lot of stuff out, added a nice ending to a scene, and am now a mere seventeen pages from the end, so I can absolutely wrap this up before I begin doing double duty directing. The sequence I’m about to do I was ready to cut – he had a ballet about a historic and quite racist event that happened in San Francisco at the time in which the show takes place, around 1865 at that point in the show. It practically caused me to vomit on the ground, the thought of an Agnes De Mille ballet out of nowhere. But as I thought about it I came up with a really neat way to do it – still involving movement but very organic to the race that’s involved in the racism – the race is Chinese, and my idea is to do this entire sequence as if it were Chinese theater of the time – presentational, shadow play, extreme makeup – I think it could be really cool.

I got about eight-and-a-half hours of sleep, I answered e-mails, did some work on the computer, had some low-calorie no-fat hot dogs for my meal o’ the day, a little ice cream, and then I finally sat on my couch like so much fish, just after telling the lyricist of the musical I saw yesterday my thoughts.

Yesterday, I finished watching The Loved One. You cannot imagine what seeing this film was like back when it came out. Advertised as “the movie with something to offend everyone” there had never been anything quite like it. I loved it and saw it many times and howled with laughter. Many in the audience didn’t know HOW to react to it – some in stunned silence, some went with it and “got” its irreverence, and some walked out of the theater. I last saw it when the DVD came out and thought it held up reasonably well – but seeing it on this splendid new Blu and Ray was a whole lot of pleasure. First of all, the cast. I mean, where on Earth could you ever have a cast like that today? Rod Steiger gives one of his all-time best performances as Mr. Joyboy, and Ayllene Gibbons as “Mom” is surely a one-off kind of performance the likes of which you’ve never seen. They are brilliantly funny. Robert Morse is the lead and is excellent. Apparently he had a lot of trouble with his English accent during the shoot, so literally every line of his was looped in post production, with a coach sitting with him going line by line. And his accent is fine. Jonathan Winters in a dual role is fantastic, and so is everyone else. Highly recommended by the likes of me.

Then I watched Rogue One. I really didn’t know much about it, and it had a few enjoyable moments. I know some folks LOVED it and some folks HATED it. I felt neither emotion. But it was very wrongheaded in certain ways. First of all, we had a plucky young female heroine in The Force Awakens, so it seems a rather blatant attempt to capture the tween girl audience by having another right after it. There’s simply too many action scenes so that when the final big ending action scene happens I was kind of done already. And the director’s odd choice of shooting the battle scenes as a cross between a James Cameron BIG GUN thing and something that looked like one of those Middle East war movies, well, it didn’t work at all. There are a couple of cute lines. Whether you like or don’t like the fact that they made CGI performances from two dead actors – Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher – it’s pretty disconcerting to watch. The music, which uses some John Williams themes is not John Williams and I don’t mean that in any flattering way. It obviously looks fine and the Blu-ray is exemplary, but I’m not sure it’s anything I’ll ever need to revisit.

Then I did all that work on the Sherman Brothers script, took a shower, and that was that. My throat has been feeling very weird since the night I only got three or four hours of sleep – so send excellent vibes and xylophones for no sickness, because I simply have no time for such things.

Today, I’ll certainly be up by ten, and then the entire day will be spent finishing the prep work on the script for the musical I’m directing. I will, of course, eat at some point, hopefully pick up some packages, and then if time permits I’ll go back to the Sherman Brothers script. And then no more really late nights for me for the next four weeks.

Tomorrow we begin our little adventure on the musical I’m directing. I’m really looking forward to it. The first day will be split evenly between learning music and staging. I would actually like to stage in order – I think that will give me and all the actors a real sense of how we need to pace the show and how all the transitions will work. After rehearsal, I’ll have an hour to grab a bit nearby, then we have a production meeting for Dial ‘M’ for Murder followed by whatever auditions we’re having, if any. Wednesday will also be auditions after I finish rehearsal, but that’s the end of that, so the rest of the week through Sunday, my evenings are free and that’s a good thing because I also have to prep my Dial ‘M’ script.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, prep my script, eat, hopefully pick up packages, and then we shall see what’s what. Today’s topic of discussion: You already know – coughing. Why? Theories. Stories. The whole kit and caboodle, baby.

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