Sunday, October 22, 2006

15th National Perinatal Bereavement Conference - Final Word

It's been a week. Everything I had been holding back came busting through in a highly physical fashion. My skin has broken out, and I have been developing a nasty, big cough. I am almost done, but not quite. This mid-life crisis, or whatever it is I have felt comeplled to put myself through is only in a holding pattern.

I married my brother and his wife in August, siumltaneously directed GLTF actor-teachers and a production of Hamlet, went to Chicago and London to perform I HATE THIS, and have been training from the NY Marathon (put in 15 yesterday) which I will run - oh, yes, the plane tickets are paid for - in two weeks. After that I just need to marry a Catholic and a Jew and I can call it quits.

I am picturing myself, sitting in a stuffed chair in Athens, Ohio after polishing off a sizable amount of Thanksgiving dinner with a large alcoholic beverage in my hand, plotting exactly how many pounds I will enjoy gaining over the winter.

The last two perfs of IHT were so satisfying, I cannot tell you. There are already proposals in the works for future performances, but nothing on the calendar yet. It has been a long time since I haven't had on in writing. It is my hope that what I learned, felt, came away with the past two weekends will stick with no me, no matter who is in the audience. The last few medical conferences, I wasn't sure if I was an educator, a survivor, or just a pro making a couple bucks off the worst experience of my life. It's places like SANDS and at the conference that I felt like something else, not quite a missionary, not just another victim. I crafted something immediate out of the askes of awfulness - I couldn't have written this piece now, I wouldn't have the nerve to. But I can still play it, and it's that bridge between the raw anger of then and the distance of now that has turned it into something better than it was even when I started.

Enough analysis. I write too much about my own work, I start sounding like Arthur Miller.

Friday, October 20, 2006

15th National Perinatal Bereavement Conference - Part Five

• Is there in stillbirth, no humor?

A recurring comment from the many people who came up to Toni and I following Friday's performance was how much they appreciated the use of humor in the play. Now, I know there are funny moments, but I had forgotten how many of them I intended to actually be funny, like expecting laughter, because quite often there is no laughter and I have just come to accept that.

Except for Friday, when there was a lot of laughter. In fact, I was was in such harmony with the audience, things that never got laughed at, ever, were being received with that kind of knowledgeable laughter that can only come from what you might call a survivor.

"My wife does not consent to this examination," in the second Nurse Evil scene is usually the set-up for the admission, that," No, I didn't say that," which gets the laughs from the medical practitioners. The bereaved parents thought the first sentence, and how I delivered it was hilarious, and the follow-up only funnier still.

• Misunderstandings

1. The first nurse, the one who comes in doing everything and throwing a lot of questions our way is the best nurse in the world. She had the odious task of being "first contact" and having her whisk around the room only illustrates the state of confusion we were put into by her arrival.

He took care of us for an entire shift. She sat. She was quiet. She listened. She made it possible for us to make it through.

2. They whisked the boy away the moment he was born because we asked him to, it was not a thoughtless act on their part. They warned us he would be in sad shape (he had been dead for almost two weeks) and that, though we could hold him right after birth, it would be very upsetting. They offered to clean him up first, and we agreed. Some people gasp when I say what happens, as though it were thoughtless, and there was thought in it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Word up. Fran Heller's review of HAMLET in Backstage.com. If you read the J-News review, you've already seen this one.

UPDATE: CSU Caludron review. "A Traditional, Yet Modern, Take On An Old Classic"

Old classic?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Review in the Lakewood Observer. (Thanks, Brian.)

"Sleek and canny." All right!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Free Is Good

All available tickets to Thursday night's performance of HAMLET, as part of the nationwide Free Night of Theater have been taken. The houses have been good during the entire run, but this is the first real "sell" out.

I am looking forward to hearing how the event goes over, across the city and across the country. Technically only people who have never been to Beck Center (or at least, not in the past five years) qualified for the tickets. Will they enjoy the show? Have some of them never been to any theater, ever? Will we convince them that Hamlet really was a woman? The mind fairly reels.

15th National Perinatal Bereavement Conference - Part Four

• Would You Like Bread With That?

When lunch was through, we stayed at the table to speak with the woman sitting nearest us. She had seen the play - everyone saw the play, I didn't need to introduce myself to anyone, people were just walking up to us to talk, it took a lot of pressure off introductions - and spoke to us about the baby girl they had lost some thirty years earlier. No, it never goes away. Never.

We had just enough time to jump to the one seminar I made all weekend, Companioning: A Breath of Fresh Air in a World of Chaos, presented by Jane Heustis. When it began, I wasn't sure if I was in the right room. I worried it might be directed to caregivers only, nurses and midwives, and doctors. And then I remembered I am a caregiver, or at least I realized it perhaps for the first time listening to Jane speak.

Put simply, companioning is simply being there, though there's more to it than that. But listening, and surrendering to the idea that there is nothing to "fix" the situation, those are difficult things to learn. You need to unlearn everything Western civilization has told you is appropriate - looking on the bright side, shunning darkness, not crying. A companion doesn't make excuses, nor takes on any guilt for not being able to perform miracles. The world can wait, the world must be told to wait, and a companion reassures the bereaved that the world will wait, as long as it takes.

Toni and I have become defacto companions, if unlicensed. Hospitals, chaplains contact us when someone has asked for someone to speak to - me, especially, when there are guys involved. It was only a year and a half ago when I met Justin and Laura at the Great Lakes Brewing Co., just a few weeks after they lost Hans. I think I was wearing a tie, I'd just come from visiting one of our actors in a school, I must have looked too professional by half, some kind of fraud. but I knew what I was doing there and I did it. We just talked, for as long as it took.

Monday, October 16, 2006

15th National Perinatal Bereavement Conference - Part Three

• Brick

Having missed most of the conference events (I hadn't even made the bookstore before they started tearing it down) I limped into Dr. Silver's lunchtime keynote address, Sillbirth: Where are We and Where are We Going? A highly technical examination of stillbirth and its many diverse causes (fortunately our plates were cleared before his Power Point presentation began to include what we in the community refer to as "road accident pictures") it was nevertheless fascinating ... and there was something else.

Maybe it was that particular Q&A from the night before, the one Toni was involved in. Maybe it was my physical state. Maybe it was just the repetition of factors and the result of these factors that put me in mind of the brick. The brick outside CPT, just one of those commemorative bricks organizations use to pave the outside of their venue for fund-raising purposes. In CPT's case, we are lucky Calvin's brick is close to the street and away from the door, the ones that are most traveled, or are most likely to have salt on them during the winter months aren't for the ages, and Calvin's probably isn't either.

But what gravestone is? And that's what it is, his stone, it's the only one he gets that's only his. And I saw for the first time in perhaps ever, or certainly with any perspective or distance (as I have done this show for four years now) the shape of my story. From terrifying loss, to this one commitment to finality. Something killed my first child, and one day I had to find out that was true - and one year later I was laying flowers at a brick with his name on it.

The enormity of that year, what I tell in my play, what I hit people over the head with when I tell it, it all came back to me, sitting there, my head bowed, listening to statistics. I forget who I was prior to all of that happening. I do not remember what it was like to expect that first child, only everything that came after. But that afternoon I felt closer to him than I have in a very long time.

15th National Perinatal Bereavement Conference - Part Two

Subjects yet to be addressed:

• Would you like bread with that?
• Bereaved Father, Superstar
• Author, Author
• FAQ
• Brick
• The Castro Sisters
• Is there in stillbirth, no humor?


• FAQ

Recently I have been contemplating support materials - before and after mats that can surround the performance. The post-show Q&A is helpful (when Toni participates, it's much more valuable - I feel I just repeat myself) but if I am going to continue this, I need to work with someone to create a richer program.

To that end, I want to create a FAQ for those questions which are frequently asked following performances.

Someday I need to ask someone what FAQ means.

1. Is it difficult to perform this play? To relivethese events over and over again?
2. How has your family responded to this work?
3. Do you have any plans to record this on video?
4. Did you encounter any good nurses during your experience?
5. What does Toni think of you presenting this play?
6. Did you ever get any response from a certain baby food company?

There are others (you can help, send in yours) ... most of them I do not want people to read until after the performance. It's like, I do not like to have Calvin named before the show, or at least not just before the show, it's something I always ask the person who introduces me, because his names, whether he even gets one, is a mystery - and then I get to name him at the end of the play. I also do not want anyone to know if we have subsequent children beforehand, so they aren't allowed to reassure themselves during the show - to detach themsleves from what they are watching by saying, "well, it's all okay, he has living children now."

• The Castro Sisters

We could not have survived the weekend, or in fact much of the rest of our lives, without Kelly, about whom I will speak more eventually. However, it was the special contributions of the Christine and Aimee that made our involvement in the conference itself at all possible.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, Aimee and Christine. Aimee spent the evening with kids Friday night, so Christine and Toni could see the show - and make Toni available for the post-show Q&A.

Funny story: Aimee was handed Orson. And whenever she put him down, he would stand there and cry, arms stretched up to her, opening and closing his hands for her to pick him up again. So she thought he couldn't walk. For two hours she carried him all over the hotel. When Christine came out after the show to help while we did the Q&A, she offered to take O. from her sister's trembling arms (O.'s a big little boy) but he didn't want to be held by Christine and pushed her away. She set him down - and he promptly toddled away.

We had made plans for C. & A. to look after the kids on Saturday afternoon, which became even more vital as I was useless, curled up in bed. They took the kids to Navy Pier, to the Children's Museum - and Z. got to ride on the ferris wheel, something we had promised her when we were last in Chicago in March but had to skip because of th weather. She hadn't forgotten the promise, and finally had her wish fulfilled this weekend.

Christine and Aimee joined us for that dinner at Ed Debevic's on Saturday - Toni's the only one of us who got sick. Was it ... the chili? Or is it actually ... the flu ..?

Will I actually adress the substance of the conference? Yes, I will - wait for it, it's all taken a while to digest. In the meanwhile, here is this new article on HAMLET in artistscahir.com.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

15th National Perinatal Bereavement Conference - Part One

Chicago, Illinois October 12 - 13, 2006

An extremely moving, exhilarating and difficult weekend, and not for the reasons you would expect. I don't even know where to begin, and whether or not I can cover everything. However, if I were to make a laundry list of subjects I would like to cover - in no particular order - they would include:

• General Props
• Would you like bread with that?
• Bereaved Father, Superstar
• Author, Author
• FAQ
• Boy, does this hotel suck
• Migraines & Prison Pillows
• Brick
• The Castro Sisters


And I am sure there will be others to come ...

• General Props

The conference began on Thursday, but we could not get away until Friday. There were seminars we wanted to attend on Friday afternoon, and made a concentrated effort to arrive by noon. We aimed for a 5am departure time, and I was impressed we actually left by 6, but even with an extra hour afforded us by a time change we actually forgot until we were halfway there, you just can't make a car trip with two small children without tacking on two extra hours - and then there's the Dan Ryan Expressway.

So we actually got there around two, and still had to unpack and eat. At the very least Toni hoped to get to the keynote address she thought was at five - but was actually at three-thirty. Luckily we ran into Kathie Kobler just as we got back from sushi and soba noodles in the Merchandise Mart Food Court. Kathie was the conference chair, and delightfully helpful. She told us the address was beginning right then, at 3:30 - and I waved off Toni and took the kids with me back up to the room.

Kathie K. and the entire planning committee did a dynamite job. We thought the entire weekend was well organized, and there was a very positive atmopshere throughout.

So, as I said, I went up to the room with Z. & O. And just like the fun-filled dad I am, I asked if they wouldn't help me schlep my set down to the performance space. We were quite a picture, me lifting a cardboard box with props in it, a small table, stool and stepladder, while a three year-old and one year-old dutifully followed after - into the elevator from the 23rd to the 15th floor, across the lobby, and down a different elevator. They were also super-gracious when we found the cookies I promised on the 14th floor had already been taken away.

There I met Todd Hochberg in person, another of the planning committee, and the man responsible for, among so many other things, all the technical aspects of my show. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Todd. There was a gimungous screen off to one side, and I had a platform so people in the back could see. It was to be held in the Sauganash East Ballroom and so I needed to be mic'ed (well, I didn't need to be, but it helped) and though there were a number of technical difficulties, which I may or may not go into later, Todd was instrumental in surmounting them.

Also, I wanted to mention Alana Roush, a founding member of the Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Alliance (PLIDA) who introduced the performance. Apparently she found me by Googling "plays about dead babies" or something to that effect - and whoa, amazing, she found my website. "Isn't the internet incredible?" she said.

There are others I want to acknowledge, and I will hopefully get to them by and by.

• Boy, does this hotel suck.

You know, when Toni and the rest of us visited last spring to check out a school for her, the difference between the hotel we stayed in this weekend, the Holdiay Inn Chicago - Mart Plaza and the Holiday Inn we chose to stay in a few blocks away, was only ten bucks. That place was ten dollars more expensive a night than the Mart Plaza, and it's amazing how much more ten dollars will get you.

We waited out front for a long while before a valet parking attendant showed up.

The concierge was rude, unhelpful, and really didn't know where anything was.

They had one hapless waiter in the hotel restaurant on Friday night - I had a show to do, and it took an hour to get our dinner. I would have just left, but Kelly, my stage manager, was enduring a terrible cold, and I needed her to sit and eat. By the time we got back to the performance space, I discovered that whatever the hotel liason had done to the sound, it was hideous and we had fifteen minutes to get it right. Todd H., again, had my back.

Breakfast the next moning (which I missed, for reasons I will explain) almost gave Toni a nervous breakdown.

The iron in our room didn't work. Must I go on?

The view from our room, however, was stunning. It's like we were on a 23 story high boat in the middle of the Chicago River, facing the El, the Sears Tower, everything. Almost worth it.

• Migraines & Prison Pillows

The accumulated stress of four hours of sleep, on the road for eight hours, the dinner fiasco and pre-performance stress, coupled with an unfamiliar bed, the general dehydration that you get in any hotel room, and my pillow led to a horrorshow of a migraine.

Let me explain the pillow. I prefer a flat, usually very old pillow (that's the only way they get so flat.) Toni calls them my prison pillows. I can't sleep without a pillow, and a sheet of paper is a little too thin, but any real thickness at all and I am terrible uncomfortable. And I will get a headache.

So we already missed Thursday and Friday's events (well, I did - Toni got to see one adress and everyone got to see me, but I didn't) and then I missed three blocks Saturday morning because I was immovable and weeping in my hotel bed. I did take my meds before dawn, and again several hours later, and they just weren't going to take. I needed to ride this one out. I was able to join Toni for lunch ... and more on that later.

This is the bad stuff. After this it all gets good ... except for Toni getting food poisoning at Ed Debevic's. I will post more tomorrow, I promise.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Let us now sing the praises of Todd Hochberg.

The 15th Perinatal Bereavement Conference is two days away. They have already sold 180 tickets for a venue that seats 300. It promises to be the largest single audience I have performed for, the last being roughly 200 two days after Orson was born.

Todd H. has done an amazing job of promoting the event in whole, as well as my performance in specific. There are listsings on the Theatre in Chicago, Metromix, and Time Out Chicago websites.

Toni and I are just now figuring out which other events we want to attend, switching off in some cases to look after the kids - though a big hello the Christine and her sister Amy for helping to pitch in!

Look over the full schedule and give me some ideas of what we should attend. As it is, Toni wants us to leave Thursday night, stop somewhere halfway and continue on so she can make Jessica Rose's Saying Goodbye: Making Memories During and After the Death of a Baby workshop at 12:15 on Friday.

Me, I would like to take in Todd H.'s own presentation, In Your Eyes: Caregivers’ Role in Bereavement Photography.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Stateside

I neglected to mention the guys. There were a large number of men there, many more than I normally play to. When your audience is made up of nurses, that usually means nothing but women. I haven't seen so many men in the audience since playing the NY Fringe, when I had nothing but five guys sitting right in front of me. And that was more like a firing squad.

They were pretty stone-faced through the production, as guys tend to be when watching theater. It was only the occasional nod I would receive in return from a comment said directly to one of them that I realized they were listening, affirming ("Oh yes, I know.") and that they were, in fact, with me.

A number came up afterwards to thank me for speaking for the fathers. I guess that's what I do best.

After taking a morning run, Kelly and I went strolling. It was a bright and beautiful day in London. I got some excellent trinkets for the family, we spent far too much time in Lush in Covent Garden, and saw some delightful human statuary.

Flying home I overdosed on Virgin's tv-on-demand feature. I always get a migraine traveling home from Britian - the length of the flight? The dehydration? The light in the cabin? The turbulence? Well, everyone had their blinds down, it was the smoothest Trans-Atlantic flight I've ever been on, and as for the length of time, WOO! I have eaten so much tee vee in years. Watched The Notorious Bettie Page, the third X-Men movie, an episode of Little Britain and one of Green Wing. My time. All mine.

Green Wing is hysterical. Gotta find that one on DVD.

UPDATE: The best synopsis of HAMLET ever written. Sometimes, vandalism is fun.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Life on Mars

Well fed and delirious in Britain. The accommodations provided by SANDS are very stylish, and I only feel marginally very dumb for blowing £4 so I could drop a blog entry from their coffee bar.

But it was a great, great day. Sure, I despaired in the middle of the night, trying desperately to sleep sitting up (eyeshades and earplugs notwithstanding) sweat running down both sides, it was so fricking hot. I hit the call button in the middle of the night, two stewards ran to my attention as I croaked "...water..?" And bless them, one foresaw my need, a tiny cup of H2O in their dainty hand.

Henrik and Lydia got us from Heathrow and took us to our hotel ... there were technical glitches every step of the way, it should be said. We were booked into the same seat (just an error in printing, it turned out, Kelly did not need to sit in my lap) and when we got to the hotel, for some reason they just cancelled one of our rooms.

Once straightened I showered and shaved (I am not an animal!) and we headed over to what was supposed to be a quick tech and then lunch. It was along tech, though it must be said that ALbert, our man at the International Students House, was very helpful, getting everything we were lacking together. So was Erica S. from SANDS, who was our guiding force from the moment we hit the place.

The show was one of my favorites in a long time - because for the first time in a long time, I was performing for fellow bereaved parents, and not medical practitioners. It helps when you know from the get-go that the crowd is with you and most likely not to turn.

What is hard is maintaining a sense of casualness when I perform the show once every six months. No one cares, I think, that I get a word or two wrong - how do they know? The playwright might know, but he'll just have to suck it. But it is hard to feel entirely comfortable, even when I know every word.

Today was much more loose. I wasn't educating anyone, if anything I was reflecting back to a sympathetic crowd things they already knew too well. It alters the delivery. Like we're all on the inside of a bad joke.

One question I got after (and there were many great questions) was whether British audiences receive it differently than American ones. Honestly, other than thinking the "much, much ... smaller" joke is funnier than Americans (there's that British self-deprecation) I said there really wasn't. Between types of people - parents vs. professionals, yes, or radical fringe theater goers, but not nationalities.

Erica, Neal L., Kelly and I had champagne in plastic cups back at SANDS headquarters to celebrate a successful day (they had many more things on their agenda than just this show, though it was, apparently, a capper) and spoke of the future, the past, and what Kelly and I might do tonight.

Fish, chips, bitters and Guinness, a walk down and up Oxford Street, and an early night, that's what.

Private to Toni: If you see this tonight, tell the kids I miss and love them very much, and I'll look in on them after bedtime tomorrow night. I miss and love you, too.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Cellphone entry

Gate 53 Newark Kelly and I have had an uneventful time We have had a few beers between here and Cleveland and she has been wonderfully tolerant of my stories Thanks to Justin for putting my mind at rest when we found our Virgin flight had us booked into the same seat

Tour de Dave

Cleveland Jewish News Review here. Exactly what I wanted to read before leaving town.

Why does that read as sarcasm, it's not. "Sarah Morton's heroic performance adds dignity and nobility to the portrait of the troubled Hamlet." See, that's what I thought.

I shouldn't have been surprised by the hot & cold responses the production has brought. As if I imagined the theater world would have said, "A woman playing Hamlet? Yay, just what we've been waiting for!" My own father said something to the effect of, "I liked it ... I'm not sure I agreed with it ..."

Agreed with it? I don't remember making a political argument, I was just putting on a show.

Today I am juggling my work with last-minute packing - all the packing, last minute. I have swung from dread to intrigue as those around me have reminded me what I am in for. Quiet. No one needing anything from me. I get to sit on an airplane for eight hours and, what? Read? Watch tee vee? Sleep, hopefully. No one needing me to take them to the bathroom, read to them, cut up their food, no one to take care of.

I do hate to be alone, which is why it's nice that Kelly will be with me - a full-grown adult who could just as soon ignore me for several hours. And I am very attached to being needed. But for forty-eight hours, it's the Dave Show, all Dave, all the time.

Of course, maybe that's every day and I just don't realize it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Digs

The Free Times review. I am "experienced and demonstrably astute." But in a good way.

The Cleveland Scene review. I am "supremely talented." But in a bad way.

The weather in London this weekend should be 63ยบ and partly cloudy. Loverly. Finally found out where Kelly and I will be staying - the Thistle Marble Arch. This is a relief as I was not looking forward to telling customs I didn't know where I was to be sleeping Saturday night. Expect a report on my jog around Hyde Park.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Predator

Since Z. was born I have posted a large page of photos of her, and then she and Orson, every three months, like clockwork. Some have scrapbooking, I have that. I should be working on one now, for July - September, but I haven't had time. Now I am not sure I will be making time for that.

Last night I suddenly decided to take down all of those pages. I just got spooked. This isn't a thought which is only coming to me now, but recent events have just made it seem stupid to be advertising my children in that way, where they are, what they do, what they look like, what their names are. These are things someone could find out on their own, but I've made it too easy for them.

Acts of child rape, murder and pedophilia perpetrated across the nation in the past week, in Colorado, Pennsylvania, California and Washington D.C. have simply freaked this parent out. And to top it all off, I was informed yesterday that there is, in fact, an individual with a history of sexual abuse of children who, to their mind, has innocently been looking over photos of my family.

Maybe I will share more descreet pages of photos (nothing including "zelda.html" in the address) with friends and family, but right now I am not sure it's worth the risk.

From the Cool Cleveland review by Linda E.:

"Oozing misery and nerves, Morton plays a Hamlet pierced by grief and drunk on death. She handles the language flawlessly, and several of her scenes are the best I've ever seen -- her death, and the "nunnery" scene with Ophelia (a sensitive Rachel Lee Kolis). "


Man, did you have to give the ending away?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

'Tis brief, my lord.

This is the PD review. So much for "positive buzz." He's probably still upset that I assaulted him in the rotunda.

Today, I am ill. Toni predicated this, she knew as soon as the show opened everything I'd been holding back would come out and by the end of the night Sunday I had what I thought was just serious allergies which blew into a nasty cold by yesterday afternoon. My diet has been awful, and then there's the running thing (no, no running today.)

Regardless, I have to get otu to Kent Roosevelt to see our actor-teachers. Tim and Kelly are working on the HAMLET residency (ironic? yeah i really do think) for the first time and I want to observe that, doesn't matter how I am feeling.

Kelly, who is my SM, finshes classes a little after 1pm. On Friday, I will be picking her up to head straight to the airport for our 48 hour trans-Atlantic event. The week is feeling a little too short right about now.

UPDATE: The British Department for Transportation website informs me that I can take my migraine meds on-board, thank heavens for that. They even hve a perscription on them to show they are mine. I had several doozies when I was last in London, and air travel is a contributing factor. For some reason, traveling west always gives me one. I used to think it was because I drank, but I didn't at all on the last trip and it didn't save me from misery. I think it's just stress.

Still, I will not be able to bring my hair gel aboard, which puts me in dutch with all the Prince Hals who qualify as attendants on Virgin these days.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Art!

Please take a moment (or two) and fill out the Neo-Futurists' You Asked For It! survey on theater and the arts.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

This man will set me packing.

Performance in London in six days. I need to find out what the new regulations are for overseas travel. Thank goodness we're going Virgin, they give you toothpaste when you get on board.

Not sure yet what our accommodations will be. The big question is whether or not I have easy access to the river, and if I can get 12 miles (or something close to that) in along the Thames. For more tedious questions about running, visit the other blog.

This is the first time in some time that I have had no next gig. There's talk of returning to the British Isles next spring, but we'll wait and see what happens this weekend. And then there's Chicago, the culmination of four years. IHT was still a rough draft when I heard there was such a thing as a "perinatal bereavement conference." And it's taken this long for us all to get together.

In fact, and here's another thing I haven't had the chance to touch on in the past two months - all that business about the 5th anniversary of 9/11. As far as Toni and I are concerned, it's the fifth anniversary of everything. Of Calvin's death, and everything that followed that year. Sept. 11 was just a part of that. It's the fifth anniversary of my job with Great Lakes, we started making a Day of the Dead altar five years ago, and so on.

I've got two very special performance coming up. That's something to be excited about.

Oh, and we've gotten our first review for Hamlet. "On-key" and "off-setting," indeed.

UPDATE: Hey, we got another non-professional review this morning - read it only if you do not mind having certain surprise twists to be boldly spelled out for you.