Always In The Way – The Musical Hit

I am in rehearsals, as Assistant Director, for a new play at TheatreWorks, the World Premiere “Upright Grand”, written by Laura Schellhardt and directed by Meredith McDonough. The story involves two pianists, father and daughter, and a lot of music. The multi-talented Brett Ryback – actor, pianist, playwright, composer – plays the piano throughout the show while Renata Friedman and Dan Hiatt portray the father and daughter team.

Since much of the show is about piano music, we are inundated – in a good way – with sheet music of all kinds, new and old, classical and show tunes, anthologies and singles, all coming from the TheatreWorks prop stock. The sheets of music are spread on the floor, stacked in boxes, balancing on piano benches, pinned to a wall, and sticking out of a suitcase. As we rehearse, whenever a character needs to hold a piece of music in their hand, the actors pick up whatever sheet of music happens to be handy at the moment.

This is how we discovered this gem, with its hilariously inappropriate imagery, written, composed, and published by Chas K. Harris in the anciently looking year MCMIII (which is the still recent 1903), and first performed by the sepia beauty Rena Aubrey:

Always In The Way

Please, Mister, take me in your car, I want to see Mamma,
They say she lives in Heaven, is it very, very far?
My new Mamma is very cross, and scolds me every day,
I guess she does not love me, for I’m always in the way.

Always in the way
So they always say,
I wonder why they don’t kiss me,
Just the same as sister May,
Always in the way,
I can never play,
My own Mamma would never say
I’m always in the way.

The ride it ended all too soon, she toddled off alone,
A light shone from a window, and she peeped into the room,
Please tell me is this Heave, Ma’am, and will they let me stay?
Forever, child, for this is home, and you’re not in the way.

Always in the way
So they always say,
I wonder why they don’t kiss me,
Just the same as sister May,
Always in the way,
I can never play,
My own Mamma would never say
I’m always in the way.

Not surprisingly, this highly visual song inspired a 1915 silent film with the same title, directed by J. Searle Dawley. I love that the film poster credits the song for its existence: ”A picturization of the song classic”.

After this wonderful find in rehearsal, we couldn’t leave the rest of the discovery to chance. We went through all the boxes and the stacks looking for treasure. I leave you with the crème de la crème of all the titles we found:

  • Any Little Girl, That’s A Nice Little Girl, Is The Right Little Girl For Me
  • H-a-s-h, Dat Am De Word I Love
  • Heaven Is Like Dixie After All
  • Alas! Poor Yorick
  • Aber Nit
  • Blame It On Father And Mother
  • Boilers To Mend
  • Everything’s Funny To Me
  • The Boy Who Stuttered And The Girl Who Lisped
  • Don’t You Want A Pussy-Wussy Cat?
  • Dr. Tinkle Tinker
  • I’d Rather Have Folks Say, How He Did Run, Than There He Lies
  • I Wasn’t Scared But I Thought I’d Better Go
  • I Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down
  • I’ve Heard About The Knights Of Columbus But Where Did He Spend His Days
  • McCarty (What Else Could You Expect From A Man Named McCarty)
  • Mama, I Gave Away The Baby
  • Ooh! Maybe It’s a Robber
  • Plant a Watermelon On My Grave And Let The Juice Soak Through
  • Please Don’t Call Me Honey, ‘Cause Honey Only Gathers Flies
  • Since Ma Is Playing Mah Jong
  • There Ought To Be Music In Every Home Except The One Next Door To Me
  • We’ll All Go Home When There’s No Place Else To Go
  • When Father Rode The Goat
  • When He’s All Dolled Up He’s The Best Dressed Rube In Town
  • He Looks At Her And Then He Goes Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha
Posted in Music, Theatre | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lightning in a Sippy Cup

Lightning in a Bottle is an outdoor camping and music festival that takes place once a year near Irvine Lake in Silverado, CA. It’s a green festival that focuses on sustainability, recycling, and leaving your environment in the same or better shape than when you arrived. It was our first experience camping with our daughters, and we expected it to be similar to Burning Man, but a lot more child-friendly. (I know that people take their kids to Burning Man, but I don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s life while I’m there).

Child-friendly it was indeed. Family camp was on grass, unlike most of the other camps which were on rocky dirt. It was also on the other side of a big hill from any of the loud music stages, so it was quiet at night, except for the occasional small group of silly 20-something-year-olds who snuck into Family Camp and forgot, briefly, to behave. There were family-designated porta-potties, which was much appreciated. There were over 50 families, so there was no end to new friends, play time, running around, role playing, singing, and dancing. There was a Kids Zone where we got our face painted, watched a magic show and ventriloquist, hula-hooped, played with blocks and danced with fairies.

All the food was organic, natural, healthy, including things that my girls would eat. Anecdotally, one of the food vendors, Cajun Queen, trying to be different, was offering Cajun Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. We asked if they could make a couple without the Cajun spices, for our girls. Hearing this, other people in line asked for the same. The next day, when we came back, they had changed their menu to Regular Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, because everybody asked to skip the spices. Ha! The same vendor made the BEST crab cakes I have ever had!

There were many artists set up throughout the festival, with their easels and mediums, and we felt like good parents exposing our girls to art in progress. There was also interactive art! Our favorite was a piece by Jay Fedoruk, a light wall full of colorful recycled water bottles. The Lighting in a Bottle website calls it a giant Light Bright! We spent a good half hour there, while the girls rearranged the bottles over and over again. Thank you to photographer Dan Krauss for documenting our experience.

Cosima and Saskia at Jay Fedoruk's Light Wall. Both are wearing heavy-duty headphones and ID tape on the back; photo

We even had a close encounter with fame, when film-maker Teddy Saunders showed up in our camp looking for kids to be in his new documentary. Teddy created the now-famous video “Oh, the Places You’ll Go at Burning Man!” and was hired to make a similar video for Lightning in a Bottle. He needed a 3-year-old to say into the camera “When I grow up I am going to follow my dreams!” He asked Cosima, my youngest – who is only 2 but looks older – if she could say that. She looked at him like he was being extra silly and giggled loudly “Nooooo…”

He then needed a 5-year-old to say “When I grow up I wanna be a doctor.” So he asked Saskia, my oldest, if she could say that. Saskia was shy, being put on the spot, so Teddy’s female assistant said “I have my makeup kit with me. If you say that into the camera, I will do your make up really pretty!” That sounded perfect to the little drama queen in her soul, so she agreed. But when we tried a test run and she was – literally – faced with the camera, like Ferdinand the Bull in front of the Matador, she was absolutely, categorically, and irrevocably not interested. I am sure she could feel that I was trying really hard to not push her, because I really wanted her to do it. And I am sure that made her feel even more insecure about it.

Teddy, alas, was not able to find his future stars in our camp, but he did find them in our neighbors. I really look forward to seeing his video. After he left, for the rest of the evening, all the little kids in our camp were running around shouting out loud: “When I grow up I am going to follow my DREAMS! When I grow UP, I am going to follow my doctor!”

Cosima playing with her fairy wings

My favorite part about the entire weekend is that we were all, parents and children, exposed to a vastly positive atmosphere. Everybody we met smiled; people complimented the girls constantly on their dancing, or their wings, or their modern haircuts (whereas at preschool, the kids make fun of their “boy” haircuts); spontaneous conversations and hugs with strangers were the norm; there was music everywhere, sometimes up-beat, sometimes relaxing (in the temple, or the yoga tent); everybody shared their food, their drinks, their toys, their glow sticks; love was in the air.

Since we returned, we all seem happier. Both girls – who can be stubborn, whiny, shrieking pterodactyls when they don’t get their way – are kinder, softer, more loving toward each other. The usual morning grumpiness has been replaced by morning smiles and hugs. I – usually on the go until I crash and start snapping at everybody – have somehow found my patience. I am able to focus on the moment, and enjoy it, whereas in the past I seemed to only focus on the future as a task, what do I have to do next.

I don’t know that Lightning in a Bottle has this affect on everybody, but it did on us, and I chalk this up as a successful first camping experience. I wonder, when we go camping in a more traditional setting, say in a forest, will the girls be expecting three concert stages, dance music, feather-wearing yoga masters and magic shows?

Posted in Art, Music, Observations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments