31 May, 2020

'Hope' By Langston Hughes

Sometimes when I’m lonely,
Don’t know why,
Keep thinkin’ I won’t be lonely
By and by.

Art from Trees at Night by Art Young, 1926. (Available as a print.)

30 May, 2020

Books I read in May: a list

books I read (or re-read) in may:

Severence by Ling Ma

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver

Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Hebrew for Dummies

So Sad Today by Melissa Broder

Wayyyyyy too many articles about the Corona Virus thankyouverymuchandgoodnight

18 May, 2020

Things I'm Absolutely NOT Interested in: a List

- Your detailed story about your ‘problematic journey’ here. Just say you are sorry you were late. Maybe mention train delays or traffic but move on. NO ONE cares about the minutia. Literally no one.

- Your birth video. (Put it away, Karen)

- Small talk. (Oh my God. My version of hell is an endless cocktail party of small talk and no alcohol to ease the burdens of said small talk and also, it’s so so hot in this windowless cocktail party room, and also there’s no ice in the non-alcoholic drinks because it’s hell)

- Racism / Fascism / Hate / Violence. (Obviously)

- The episodes of Murder She Wrote that Angela Lansbury introduces, but is not in. (Sorry Dennis Stanton, I like you, but not enough.)

- Hallmark (specifically, Christmas) movies.

- Curated Instagram feeds

- Perfection

- Cancel culture.

- Green peppers. (Life is too short and listen to me: I’m not disgusted by them, this isn’t cottage cheese, but I will not eat a pepper so stop putting them in literally everything)

- BUFFETS. (Especially post COVID? I mean OHMYGOD. I know I just said I’m against Cancel Culture but can we agree that buffets are now canceled?)

- How much you did or did not pay for [INSERT THING HERE] you now own.

- Photos of sourdough starter

- Karaoke.

- Discussing mine OR your dietary restrictions at length (meaning, for longer than the 60 seconds it takes to prevent either one of us from dying), and certainly with any level of sincerity. (LET ME LIVE, KAREN!!)

- Going on a cruise. As a passenger. As a performer. As a HUMAN.     

    Don’t ask me. Don’t come for me. It’s never going to happen.
    In fact, my mother and I have code language for emergencies— meaning, say, we have been kidnapped. Or we are “ready to check out of this life” and would like the other to casually “look away.” (I know this sounds a little ghoulish but honestly, everyone should have emergency and end-of-life conversations way before it’s a reality but I digress…)
    ANYWAY, my mother’s code phrase is “AL? I AM GOING ON A CRUISE!” And why is that her code phrase? Because there is NO UNIVERSE in which my mother or my sane self would EVER willingly go on a cruise without being held at gunpoint, and thus, the declaration of her going on a cruise MUST be an indicator of an emergency.

- What you think of me.


10 May, 2020

Things I want to remember about this week 5/3 - 5/10: a list

 - Two little kids in masks, looking longingly at the playground that was locked up.


- New growth on my plants

- Alec learning all about how to cook with salt. Adorable.  

- Sunday, a gorgeous day by the river

- Monday, a miserable day by the river in which I kept saying “MISERY” out loud until Alec relented and agreed to go home

- A reunion of our London Indecent company for what would have been our final

performance. Ale Brider.

- Tati asleep in the middle of the bed LIKE SHE OWNED THE PLACE

- A woman, kissing her partner in a nurse uniform, as he boards the ferry to manhattan from Astoria dock…

07 May, 2020

WhatsOnStage Q & A: Pandemic Edition

1) Who are you locked down with?

My extremely fabulous and famous cat— Tatiana Angela Lansbury Romanov, who is a “great teacher” in this time of self-isolation. She leads by example, you see, for Tati has been practicing social-distancing and an excessive amount of permissive self-love, every day of her fabulous life.

Tati is not a “doing” she is a “being.” In times of anxiety I will gaze over at Tati and ask: “Tati, what would YOU do?” And her forthright little face will silently say “Why yes Hooman, you MAY take a fifth nap. Now scratch my cheeks and give me a treat, if you please.”

Like I said: she is my teacher. She’s basically The Buddha. Or Miss Piggy. Or a divine mixture of both.

Oh and right right right: Alec — my lovely partner (also an actor, of the classical variety). He’s here too.

The cast of Indecent, on ZOOM!
2) What are you missing most during lockdown?
I miss the gratification of firm handshakes, warm embraces, pub quizzes, dinner parties, the holy coming-together experienced in a theatre, sitting without anxiety beside a stranger, lipstick that doesn’t get smudged by a protective mask,  a stranger’s smile across the full view of their face, sharing a meal at a bustling restaurant.

I am missing the cast and production of Indecent at the Menier Chocolate Factory. It was special.

Ya know: life itself.

3) What's your default Pick-Me-Up show tune?
Oh, this one is easy: Run Freedom, Run.

Now. It is very important that I tell you how I do NOT regularly have show tunes on my playlists (it kind of feels like “work” now that it is, well, my work.)

The point is this: ONE SONG ALWAYS REMAINS EASILY ACCESSIBLE… and that, my friends, is "Run Freedom, Run..."

In the Original Broadway Cast recording, Hunter Foster sings the main thrust of the song as protagonist Bobby Strong, with epic contributions from the entire cast.

A few years ago I shared a dressing room "area" with Hunter Foster (we bonded doing “Extremely Downtown New York Artsy Theatre”). I felt a bit sheepish because I didn't know how to accurately express to him JUST how often “Run Freedom, Run” had gotten me out of bed in the morning, or how many times it had turned a bad day around. Oh! The status it held on my mid-Naughties iPod! The glory of it!

Has it made an appearance or five throughout the Pandemic? Naturally.

4) Favourite box-set binge?

This is the easiest answer in all the world for you see, I am Dame Angela Lansbury’s biggest fan. She is my only idol. And thus, I own the entire 12 season box set of Murder, She Wrote and it has gotten EXTENSIVE use during this pandemic.

Murder, She Wrote is camp, yes and dated, sure sure. But it is also soothing, calming, non-violent, and excuse me: the entire premise is the very definition of a strong, independent woman, who happens to be in the third act of her life, kicking ass and taking names across the globe, in glamorous 90s attire, while answering to no one but her own values and New England horse sense.

I love this show.

I can name the episodes by actual title and recall their season and episode number. I WILL beat you at a trivia contest about it for my love for “The Lans” and this iconic television program is the Iconic Comfort TV hill I will die on.

5) What's the When-I-Get-Some-Time project that you are hoping to tackle during lockdown?

- I am journaling, embracing Quiet, and writingwritingwriting more for myself (and less for the publishers) than ever.
- I am also taking such luxurious, indulgent periods writing some very exciting things, for publishers.
- And I’ve installed a shelf
- …and maybe I’ll re-paint the foyer.

But listen: productivity does not a “better” Pandemic experience make. Don’t compare and despair your Quarantine with someone else’s projection of their quarantine on social media. The world is aching. It’s okay to just be.

I am allowing myself permission to not “achieve” a thing, to truly face and embrace The Quiet, and I am trying to learn from it.
I cook nourishing things.
I care for Tatiana and my lovely house plants (and taking great joy in caring for living things within the walls of my apartment).
I contact friends
    and teach online.
I sleep.
I think a lot about what this all “means” for humanity and our planet…

All this to say, dear readers: in times like these, your best is more than enough.

6) What are you currently reading?

I am reading voraciously (one of my very favourite activities!)

I’d be remiss to not humbly suggest reading one of my books After Anatevka or White Hot Grief Parade (or, perhaps you’d like me to read them to you, on Audible?)

But I love getting lost in a book, and here are some of my suggestions for Quarantine Books:

- Part 1. Books about Plague! 
- Part 2. Books for The Quiet
- Part 3. Memoirs: make some “new friends!"

7) Have you cleaned out your kitchen cupboards? If so, what's the oldest thing you found?

Oh man: you don’t wanna know. But trust me when I tell you it was akin to unearthing that crayon I ate in kindergarten.

8) If you could take a virtual tour of any building in the world which one would it be?

Well, luckily we all already got a Twitter tour of Patti Lupone’s house.
So. There’s that.

But truthfully: if I could spend my entire life, on or offline, in the Tate Modern, I would.

9) How many loo rolls do you really have in your house?

Before the crisis, I had a pretty nice stash! I think I have 12 left of an 18 pack and let’s be real: if anyone needs more than that in a fortnight, they’d need to call a doctor for the much bigger problem they clearly have…

10) If you decided to learn a new language during lockdown, which one would it be and why?

I actually spent the last year learning and becoming more familiar with Hebrew because I had an adult Bat Mitzvah in December!

I’ve been getting more and more in touch with the historical, ancestral and spiritual side of my experience of Judaism in the last few years, the Bat Mitzvah experience really marking that “officially,” so why not extend it linguistically as well?

I thought this would be an ideal time to take that learning to the next level and try to improve my modern conversational Hebrew (seeing as Biblical Hebrew is a lot like the difference between modern English and Shakespeare, for example—technically the “same” but syntactically very different). It’s been a joy and a great mental challenge.

It’s going well. Shalom, all!

11) Which board game would you choose to while away an evening?

So my partner Alec is so into board games it is a *thing* in our household.  He watches YouTube channels of these complex games with live-action gameplay. He reports back.

I’ll enter a room and he’ll be on a video call with his best friend in Chicago saying things like
    “Well, as the leader of the Hills and Plains, I declare war on thee!”
    “If we can take Irkutsk we can take the East!”
    “Lords, ladies, we must face the ogre and steal back our MEAD!”
And other such profoundly committed, intensely nerdy things about cards or trolls… or espionage.
I dunno.
It’s a lot.
But adorable enough to be in a committed relationship with.
Wine O' Clock!

Before COVID19 my favorite game was if you can believe it, called Pandemic. “Pandemic" is “one of the best cooperative board games out there,” says Alec, emphatically (and also, I guess… the gaming internet?) It’s about coming together to stop a Global Pandemic. Needless to say, we have NOT indulged in it, ya know: recently.

We’ve enjoyed "Ticket to Ride," “Arboretum" and good old fashioned gin rummy. Alec wins almost all the games (to his great delight, for he is a Capricorn, and though a good sport, quite competitive) except gin rummy for which I am undefeated thankyouverymuch.

12) What time is Wine-O'Clock in your house?
 It’s noon *somewhere* you guys.

04 May, 2020

Almost-free things that bring me joy: a List

- New growth in my potted plants

- A perfectly smooth duvet on a perfectly made bed

- [The rush of love I feel] watching Tati lounging luxuriously in the sun

- The sound of rain on the windows

- Long white pillar candles 

- Spring

- Hand-written postcards and letters from friends

- The smell of a freshly cleaned apartment

- An Epsom salt bath 

- Podcasts

- Tati’s sweet little meow

- The smell of a fresh pot of coffee

- The majesty of a raw amethyst

- Sunlight through the leaves 

- New growth on a houseplant (esepcially if you were 100% certain you had murdered it with your black thumb of death)  
- The sensation of accomplishment, however modest

- Sprigs of herbs in glass jars

- Fresh air in the form of breeze through the open windows 

- Clearing out a closet/shelf

- A local outdoor black cat who roams all of Astoria I affectionately call “Midnight Cat.” Midnight Cat is gutsy and sweet and has the most beautiful expressive tail! I love you, Midnight cat!

- That feeling of fully releasing into relaxation into bed...

- Sleeping in 


- Waking with the dawn ...

- The smell of a new season in the air

- Finding old doodles on the backs of envelopes, scrap papers

- Phone calls, FaceTime, and old-fashioned visits with friends old, new, and potential.

© hula seventy

03 May, 2020

Dressed by Jess!

When I met wardrobe professional, dresser extraordinaire, smart, cool, genius human Jess Kenyon at Chiacgo Shakespeare Theater in 2018 into 2019, I told her she needed her own TV SHOW.


CUE: JESS MADE A SHOW! "Dressed By Jess" is a conversation with Jess herself discussing the unparalleled power of costumes and clothing: the visual storytelling, the creativity, and the collaboration. These are not just "costumes" these are the characters' clothes.

On her show Jess discusses the relationship between artist and costumer, the ideas each creative brings to the eventual outcome, the backstage stories that make what we see onstage in the audience happen, and much more.

Jess is one of the greatest costume professionals I've ever worked with, and if she weren't married with a couple of cats I'd force her to come all over the world with me.

I was honored to be among her first interviews and it was such a joy to discuss some of the creative realities that don't get discussed very often!

"Al Silber and Jess discuss Fiddler on the Roof and Camelot. Al Tells amazing backstage stories! Costumes mentioned are designed by: Ana Kuzmanic, Fabio Toblini, Kendra Rai, and Catherine Zuber. Photos shown are taken by: Liz Lauren, Scott Suchman, and Stan Barouh."

01 May, 2020

On this, the First day of May: a List

- Blossoms, noted

- Long days [of soft, Impressionist-painting-like] light, noted

- The heart-crushing need to control my pandemic experience, relaxed

- Spring, sprung

- Grain-free loaves of bread, made

- Values, re-assessed

- Murder, She Wrote, [all of it, all twelve seasons, I’m not kidding,] watched. 

- Zoom, mastered.

- Hallway, living room AND kitchen, re-painted [for the first time since 2010]

- Plants, purchased [and the outside, brought in]

- Other [quite splendid] DIY, underway

- The sobriety of the loss-of-life, fear, economic toll, inanity of our non-leader, ABSORBED

- Alec, adored

- Tati, worshipped 

- It's been raining nonstop here in New York the entire week [on this, what feels like March 57th, in the year of our Lord, 2020] so we are still consuming warm foods and drinks because, pandemic. Because, comforting. 

-  The realization that April 2020 was singular in its shared global lockdown. In March, the reality of COVID was still creeping up on the Western world. Here in May, certain parts of the planet are on the other side and easing restrictions. For all its horrors, April was singular in its shared Quieting across the world. It somehow felt special that every citizen of the planet was in this Pandemic experience together, and however harrowing, sharing something.

- Tra-la, it's May my loves. 



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