Ushering opens up the arts in Columbus, Ohio, for me.




I am an usher at several Columbus, Ohio, theaters. I am one of those people wearing black pants, jacket, white shirt and name badge. Many of us are past our prime. In other words, we’re elderly; maybe, it’s because we have the time to spare. Occasionally, young people on a budget usher too. I wish I would’ve started earlier because there are many cultural and artistic events occurring in Columbus, Ohio.

The theaters are beautiful: The Ohio Theater, The Palace, The Southern, The Lincoln, and The newer Riffe Center. Someone, I don’t know who, had the foresight not to demolish these grand old theaters. I’m grateful that they are still standing, and most have been beautifully refurbished. There are amazing chandeliers, wall decorations, velvety curtains, big stages, and cushy seats.

Many times, I will watch the show sitting in the last row of the upper balcony because ushers aren’t permitted to sit in front of paying patrons. I have stood up in the back of the theater while watching “The Lion King”, Le Miz” and “Phantom of the Opera.” I love the arts, and am in good health so I don’t mind. The voices and dancing of the Broadway series is astounding.

Once in a while if attendance is down, I’ll get a nice seat on the main floor. I also have the option of standing in the back of the main floor. Ushers also can choose to sit in the lobby, and watch the performance on a big TV. I would rather stand because there is nothing like watching a live performance.

Earning a free performance and parking

Getting to the theater and parking before the performance is one of the first requirements. Often, that is  an hour and a half before the show. There is a meeting before the show, so you can know how long it runs, when you let it late patrons, if beverages and candy are allowed, etc.

Being an usher is fun and good exercise, and I do get to talk to many people. If there is a hot act or play, I quickly walk up and down the rows to seat people. There is a captain to direct us –whether to seat people on the right or the left. I do appreciate this, since it saves time.

I have done concessions, selling candy, drinks, etc,  but that is not my first choice. There is not much time to get people fed and watered, before the show, and at intermission  If you like being on the edge, and handling money, you might enjoy this.  It does go very fast.

I like to see people’s faces before they are attending an event. They look excited because they know they are about to be entertained. Also, some people get dressed up for certain events, and that’s fun. It’s enjoyable to be part of someone’s special experience.

One of the major questions asked by patrons is: Where is the bathroom? It might not seem like an important questions, but it is!

I know I’m getting older when I’ve never heard of the act that is performing. I signed up to usher at Gabriel Inglesias performance because I figured he was Enrique Inglesias’s brother.  He was pretty funny, and his humor was clean. (However, the guys before him were funny, but a little more risqué.) If I stay the whole time, I know it’s pretty good, and I did. I try to be open and nonjudgmental.

Dressing up for the theater: Not so much in the 21st Century

I do miss the days when people really looked nice for certain events. A few people will still dress up, but it’s mostly nice casual, and sometimes just ordinary casual. I get really excited when I see an attractive couple dressed up for each other. It happens every once in a while.

When they have “The Nutcracker” at Christmas time, the moms dress their little girls up like dolls. It’s absolutely adorable: little dresses with fancy ballet skirts, or just princess type dresses, patent leather shoes and little crowns they buy at the Nutcracker concessions. If there are little boys, they’re dressed up in nice pants and shirts. Truthfully, the princes are really outnumbered by the princesses. Once in a while you’ll see a brave dad accompanying the ladies.

I’ve also gotten to see other performances of Columbus Balletmet which is fantastic. I would’ve never known I would enjoy ballet if I hadn’t seen performances after ushering. If you get a chance, go see them perform. They are first-class, innovative, creative and entertaining. I really enjoyed their version of “Dracula.”

There are many first-class children’s performances too: Children’s Hospital Pleasure Guild, Children’s Theater, etc. I think there are a lot of opportunities to watch the arts that people are unaware of, and I don’t think they’re that expensive.

Sometimes, I feel like I’d rather be in the audience, but you can’t have everything. I’ve seen a lot of things I wouldn’t ordinarily see, so it’s a good way to get out of the house. When I do buy a ticket to something I do feel like a queen when I am seated by the ushers.

The Columbus Symphony is also terrific. Last night, they had a woman conductor, something you don’t see every day. They played some Beethoven and it really touched my emotions.

If you’re thinking of signing up for ushering, don’t hesitate. It’s not everyone, but it is for me.

A Valentine’s letter to my mother

Dearest Mom,

Happy Valentine's Day...

Happy Valentine’s Day… (Photo credit: Јerry)

I wish you were here. It’s almost Valentine’s day, and I still think about you. I thought you would live forever and you almost did. At ninety-one you finally gave in. I feel slightly guilty that I made you sign the paper giving the doctor permission to do that hip operation. I didn’t know you’d be signing your death certificate. I know you would never want me to blame myself. I do believe it was your “time to go.”

I figured you’d come through that like you did everything. You’d had a couple of  really bad breaks. You were a strong woman. You weren’t the type to feel sorry for yourself. Going blind at the end was very hard on you, but you “did the best you could.”

Things were starting to slip. Sometimes, you’d get things confused. One time, when we were listening to the radio, you asked me who was singing. It was Perry Como, your life-long crush.

[Portrait of Perry Como, New York, N.Y., ca. O...

[Portrait of Perry Como, New York, N.Y., ca. Oct. 1946] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

You didn’t remember much about my childhood. That you’d nursed me through a staff infection for two years, that when I broke my shoulder, you’d made slings out of Cleveland Indian scarves. You couldn’t remember our family trip to Washington D.C. when I was 12.  It was like that part of our lives together never happened.

You rarely talked about my father. Not unless I brought it up. Remembering him was just too painful. I know you were hoping to see him after you died. But being the practical person you were, you didn’t believe that was going to really happen. Even though I’m just as practical, I like to imagine that you are together.

When I came to visit, we stuck with the tasks at hand. Walking down to the dining hall, taking a walk outside, and listening to that old radio station where they played all your favorites: Eddie Fisher, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and all those singers from the 1940’s.

You still loved to go out to eat. It was almost like you were escaping from that independent living facility every time I came to visit. It was almost like we were partners in crime.

You loved to go to the beauty shop, and listen to the hair-stylists talk to their customers. It was the last place where you could feel like one of the girls.

In your old age you still cared more about me than you did yourself. You asked me if I wanted that extra dinner you’d ordered from the kitchen of the independent living facility where you lived. You asked me if I was comfortable sleeping on the couch overnight. You offered me sheets and a pillow. You tried your very best to be a good hostess.

You dearly loved all your grandchildren ( and great-grandchildren) and gave what you could to all of them. They were your hope for the future. Maybe your exterior seemed a little tough, but inside you were all mushy. You just didn’t let anyone know it.

When we went through your apartment, we found evidence of this secretive side: saved birthday cards, our old school report cards, photographs, engagement and wedding announcements and  programs from college graduations.

So, on Valentines Day I think of the one woman who loved me the most. When you died, you took my nickname with you. It isn’t the same if someone else calls me “Barbie.”  So, a part of me went with you. But, I’ll never forget you.

Happy Valentine’s Day mom.

Les Miserable : Review A+ The movie lives up to expectations

Sometimes, it’s really worth your time, money and energy to attend the movies. If you want to see something you’ll really enjoy, go see Les Miserable.

Although nothing can trump seeing the live musical, this comes close. Unlike the play, you can see some unbelievable  scenery and powerful  camera shots.   The costumes are realistic, and the makeup makes everyone look pretty miserable (the pathetic crowd).  Since the movie is so up close, you get a better idea of the characters and their relationships to each other. You get to see the nuances of expression, and  feel the characters emotions.  I could lose myself in this movie, and I was unaware of the time it took to watch. (It is over 2 hours).

There’s been much made out of the fact that the director made the actors actually sing their parts instead of using recorded soundtracks. He also uses a lot of closeups. . You can actually see every mark on their faces, and some of their neglected looking teeth. I liked the fact that they were really singing when it was filmed.

Anne Hathaway plays Fantine  to perfection, and her singing doesn’t disappoint. It doesn’t take her long to turn into a prostitute. It’s almost painful to watch her go through her misery. Although she isn’t on screen that long, her part leaves a lasting impression.

Hugh Jackman  makes a good  Jean Valjean, our hero and makes  a good transformation from a convict (stealing bread) to a moral person. He certainly looks pathetic in the beginning of the movie, and looks like a dashing hero for the rest of it.  His voice is fairly strong, and his acting is excellent.  If he doesn’t deserve an Oscar, I don’t know who does.

Russell Crowe has the least powerful voice in the production, but I think it’s adequate.( It seems hard to believe the director couldn’t find someone with a bigger voice to play the role.)  He plays the villain, Javert convincingly I had heard he was inadequate in the part, so I was pleasantly surprised. I managed to hate him during the movie.

I think Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the slimy innkeepers steal the show when they’re on screen. They both have a lot of charisma that comes through even though their characters are unsympathetic.  All the children in the production also do a terrific job, especially the little boy who plays a rebel.

My favorite female in this production was Samantha Brooks as Eponine. When she sings “On My own” in the rain, I loved it. She’s beautiful and has the voice we’ve come to expect when we see a live production of this show.

Amanda Seyfried as the adult Cosette was very believable. She looks the part and her voice is sweet.

If you’re looking for the biggest voices you’ve  ever heard in this production, you might be disappointed, but the group choral numbers are quite strong, and Eddie Redmay as Marius lives up to expectations.   If you’re looking for a moving story, fantastic scenery, a great reprieve, and something that will bring a tear to your eye, go see this movie.

I would give this production an A!

Listen to Roma music and Arkadiy Gips: This gives me joy

Through my singing activities, I found an inspirational artist, Arkadiy Gips. He calls Columbus, Ohio, home. He originally came from the Ukraine and studied at all the prestigious universities in Russia. He was also well-known in Eastern Europe before he came to America seeking freedom.

He plays all types of music: classics, jazz, and he even toured with Madonna. (Yes, that Madonna.)

This is an example of a group he leads. They play Roma music. Although, you may not be familiar with it, listen. Watch this all the way to the end. You get a taste of something different. All of these artists are fantastic!



The Harmony Project Singing as One Voice

The Harmony Project.  We are singing Beth Neilson Chapman's "There is no darkness."  Photo by Paul Feeney

The Harmony Project. We are singing Beth Neilson Chapman’s
“There is no darkness.” Photo by Paul Feeney

I’ve been in choirs all my life. I remember how happy I was the first time I officially belonged to a choir. I was in the 5th grade at Rowland Elementary school. I even remember some of the songs we sang for our program.  Miss Titus, our devoted teacher, would probably be thrilled that I remember the words to “The Erie Canal.”

I’ve been in many choirs since then. Singing makes me feel good. I like the social aspects of it too. It’s just plain fun. The Harmony Project, one of the choirs I sing in,  is something special. It’s a philanthropic group that sings and shares. Good works have been done in Columbus, Ohio, under the banner of the “Harmony Project.” We raise money, and get to give concerts too.

Choir Directors always talk about “singing with one voice.”  That is a hard thing to achieve. Sometimes, you have some frustrated singers, with better than average voices, over-singing. At times, what you end up with is  different voices, not blending at all. Sometimes, it reminds me of a competition.  If you have a skillful musical director, they won’t allow this to happen.

Last night at the Harmony Project, everyone was singing enthusiastically while they followed Musical director,  David Brown. In the middle of it all, I said to myself. Wow, this is a once in a lifetime moment. Stay  in the present, listen, to your neighbor, blend in and forget yourself.

It was one of those magical moments. One I’ll always remember. We were all one voice.

Members of The Harmony Project singing with heart and soul!  From the Bill Pearsol album

Members of The Harmony Project singing with heart and soul! From the Bill Pearsol album

The Harmony Project Pays it Back Today : another Harmony Project Post

Teenagers sharing with People from the Unison Project and Harmony Project

Today the teenage group from South High School met with the Unison Project (people who live at the Commons of Buckingham) and the Harmony Project members.

I approached the building, and saw all the teenagers congregated outside. A Unison Project member was outside with them. “I wanted to feel all that energy,” she said. I know what she meant. If you haven’t been around kids for a while , it’s nice to feel their enthusiasm.

City Year, a college group that  works with the students, was in attendance.  They explained that they are assigned schools, and help out the kids with mentoring, tutoring, and all those good things.

David Brown, our director, ushered us inside where all the adults were congregated.The kids had a couple of pieces of Donato’s Pizza. (Some things never change, kids and pizza is one of them.) They came up in an orderly fashion, and were extremely polite.

The kids made a circle around us, and sang the song they are singing in our concerts December 19, and 20th. There is nothing like the sound of kids singing in harmony. Take my word for it, you won’t want to miss them at The Southern Theater. I think they are going to bring the house down.

A few of the kids explained what they were doing at South High School to prepare for the concert. The ones who spoke were very poised.  It includes singing and talking about the same things that Harmony Project talks about. Sharing with each other, and giving back  These might be old ideas, but they work.  David Brown, had them repeat “we’re paying back.”

The rest of us sang our song to them. They gave us a rousing reception.

David asked some of the members of the Unison Project to talk to the kids.One person told them not to give up, and that education is so important.  Another member told them not to let anyone tell them “they can’t do anything, and to reach for the stars.” Member of the Unison Project are people who have worked their way out of homelessness or very tough circumstances. That is a true testament of people who aren’t afraid to make new lives for themselves and want to pass on their knowledge to the younger

He had the kids come up to all of the adults, and introduce themselves. They all followed directions, and were so friendly and engaging.

All in all it was a very inspiring afternoon. Going and singing with the Unison Project is one of my favorite things to do.

All the adults left, and the kids went on to decorate Buckingham Commons, where a great Thanksgiving Celebration is going to take place on Thanksgiving Day. All the members of the Harmony Project want to help, and there will be no shortage of servers or guests.

Everyone starts feeling charitable this time of year. I am proud that The Harmony Project does it all year round.

You can still get tickets for our performance December 19 and 20. Don’t miss a great show! You can get tickets through Capa or me!