Sports and theater: The similarities might surprise you

Anne Montgomery Referee copy

A career in the sports world as both a reporter and an amateur official made me leave the theater behind.

When I was a teenager, I was in school and community theater productions. But as I got older, I left that part of my life behind, and focused instead on a career in sports reporting. I have also officiated amateur athletics for almost four decades. The world of the stage seemed to no longer fit in my life.

Last weekend, more than 40 years after leaving the theater, I performed in Starlight Community Theater’s production of the musical comedy Company.

What I learned might astonish you. Sports and theater have a surprising number of commonalities. Really.

Actors spend much of their time back stage, waiting to go on. The area is chaotic and a bit messy, strewn with props and makeup, costumes and odd bits of scenery. But it wasn’t until I was applying lipstick above the actors’ cubbies that I smelled a familiar odor, the aroma emanating from a pair of well-used taps. Sweaty shoes. The comparison to a locker room was unmistakable. Don’t think me strange, but I smiled.

Before the play begins, the actors gather for what, in my mind, is a pre-game pep talk. The director discusses what we did well in the last show and what we can improve upon in the next. Actors and stage-crew members who have gone above and beyond are singled out for praise. Then we give a rousing cheer and wait for kickoff … um … curtain.

As anyone who’s ever acted in a play surely knows things don’t always go as planned. Just like a running back who lets the ball slip through his hands, actors occasionally fumble their lines. And that is where teamwork comes in. The other performers step up, grab those dropped words, and get things back on track. In fact, by definition, a play is nothing but teamwork. Just as in football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, basketball and any other team sport, one player is simply not enough. All the components in a performance – actors, stage managers, costume and make-up designers, director, and producer – must work together, if the play is to succeed.

And then there are the heroes. Don’t scoff. I witnessed a hero 24 hours before opening night. One actor was felled by an emergency appendectomy, and another, with no knowledge of the play, appeared for Thursday night’s rehearsal. Company would open the next evening. If anyone deserves a Most Valuable Player Award it’s Andrew Driggers who got off the bench and saved the show.

I’ll be honest. This sports/theater connection never occurred to me before. But the comparisons are hard to miss. There is one thing, however, that I wish would happen when I referee football. Backstage at intermission, actors are sometimes presented with small trinkets attached to handwritten cards, notes penned by audience members saying what a great job we’re doing. I’d really like to get one of those at halftime. One from a coach would be especially nice.

A girl can dream.

 

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s production of Company.

Come out and join us.

Company

https://www.starlightcommunitytheater.com/tickets

 

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Anne Montgomery’s latest novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold. 

Chaney: Lessons from the sea

St. Croix 2018

Yes, teachers go on vacation, and mine recently took me to St. Croix. But we always have our eyes open for things we can share with our students.

Sometimes, we teachers feel a little bit guilty about our long summer break. Though I sense that some of my students may think we just curl up under our desks to hibernate, waiting for their return, we do take vacations.

I’m going to guess here that many of my brethren continue to look for learning opportunities, even when they’re off sipping iced rum and lounging by the sea reading naughty novels. Searching for things we can share with our students is just part of a teacher’s DNA.

I had just such an educational opportunity recently during a trip to St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. I’m a scuba diver, and while there is much to learn from the sea and its creatures, for me it is a place of peace and serenity, baring the sometimes off-kilter dives when we lose the boat or must maneuver in swift currents or water with little in the way of visibility.

On a previous trip to the island, we learned about chaney, small pieces of pottery that can be found on land and in the sea. There are several explanations for the fragments, most centering around the fact that when plates and cups and teapots broke, they served no further use and were simply thrown away. As archeologists know from studying ancient pottery, the stuff is pretty hard to destroy. Sure, it breaks into smaller pieces, but the firing of clay makes it one of the most durable substances on the planet. In fact, fragments of ceramics found in southern China have been dated back 20,000 years.

We were diving under the Fredriksted Pier, which, despite the ravages of last fall’s Hurricane Maria, is teeming with interesting and beautiful sea life. While the original structure was destroyed and rebuilt after Hurricane Hugo in 1988, the area has been welcoming passenger and merchant ships for hundreds of years.

Fredrikstad Pier

The Fredrikstad Pier in St Croix juts almost a half mile into the sea.

My sweetie pie swam over to me holding out a piece of plate, which he later said he found sticking up out of the sand. I could see the delicate pink and white design swirling on the rim. But I had no idea how old the fragment was until we visited the Chaney Chicks. The shop, and yes, it’s called Chaney Chicks, is on the other side of the island in Christiansted.

“Oh! That was made in the 1500s,” said Denise, one of the Chicks.

She would explain that sea chaney is rarer than land chaney, and doesn’t hold up quite as well as the pieces that are found in the soil. The fact that the pink design on our chunk was still clearly visible after centuries in the ocean was shocking.

A quick glance around the shop showed chaney of all sizes and colors, many delightfully wrapped in silver and gold wire for dangling in one’s ears or about the neck. And, of course, I couldn’t resist.

1500s Chaney

I know there’s a lesson in all of this somewhere. I’m working on it.

 

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Anne Montgomery’s latest novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold. 

 

 

Book Review: The Weight of Ink

The Weight of Ink

Rachel Kadish

Mariner Books

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Weight of Ink Cover

Four stars out of 5

The Weight of Ink, by Rachel Kadish, tells two stories. One is the fish-out-of-water tale of a 17th century Jewish orphan who is taken in by a rabbi in London following the horrific persecution of the Jews in Portugal during the Inquisition. The young woman, Ester Velasquez, is the unfortunate victim of an insatiable intellect. Unfortunate solely because scholarly women were frowned upon. A woman’s place, as in most cultures until relatively recently, was in the home making babies. There simply were no other options for a “normal” woman.

A modern-day counterpart to Ester’s tale is that of Helen Watt, an ill, bitter historian who has spent much of her life buried in musty libraries, forever wondering if she made the right choice in leaving the brooding Israeli she once loved.

The two women are united by a cache of documents found hidden under a stairwell, papers that Helen and Aaron Levy, a self-centered, American doctoral student, begin translating, an endeavor that leads them to the mysterious scribe who appears to be dutifully documenting the teachings and letters of the blind Rabbi HaCoen Mendes, but who soon begins sharing her own thoughts with the great religious philosophers of her time under assumed names.

Kadish does an admirable job of relating the frustration of Ester’s world where there are no half-way options, and the life of those in the nascent Jewish London community where members often wore crucifixes to hide their true religious leanings. Her descriptions of the city during and after the Great Plague are both evocative and chilling.

It’s clear Kadish spent a great deal of time researching the beliefs of 17th century religious scholars, especially in regard to man’s relationship with God. Often, these opinions are presented as letters. I did struggle at times with the depth of the concepts presented and perhaps should reread some sections, as I probably did not get the gist of all the philosophic discussions. Also, I struggled to understand the connection Kadish was trying to make between Helen and Esther, aside from their similar approaches to marriage and domesticity. But that is probably no fault of the author’s.

Clearly, The Weight of Ink is no summer beach novel. However, it is a worthy, though challenging, read.

 

About Reviews: Since I have asked so many people to review my books, I thought it only fair that I do a few myself. As I am a slow reader, my reviews will be sporadic. Also, I will review books, movies, and TV shows of my own choosing and will not take requests.

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Anne Montgomery’s latest novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold. 

In the company of tap shoes

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I have mentioned, lately, that I’m in a play. My first real foray onto the stage in over 40 years. The day I auditioned for the Starlight Community Theater production of Company, my first task was to fill out a form. Question 1: Rate your tap-dancing skills on a scale of one to ten. The fact that there wasn’t a zero option had me seriously overstating said abilities, when I was forced to circle one.

I have managed to avoid the tap-dancing issue over the last few months of rehearsals, but with opening night approaching, I could no longer put off the issue. I needed shoes.

I was directed to Nathalie & Co. Dancewear and Little Things for my theater shoes – strappy-heeled numbers that prevent the noisy clomping inherent with regular heels – and tap shoes. It was, as one might expect, a shop awash in pink and ruffles and leotards. The frilly atmosphere jarred me, at first. As those who know me can attest, I am confident and secure on a football field or a baseball diamond, but in a ballet/dance store not so much. I flashed on one of those unfortunate moments long past when my mother forced me to take ballet. Following a performance, the phrase, “bull in a china shop,” was bandied about. My lessons were, mercifully, curtailed after that.

But my fears were quickly allayed by the lovely Miss Nathalie herself. After a brief look at my bare feet, she produced the perfect sizes on the first try. Though I argued with her, initially, saying the shoes would never fit.

“I’ve been doing this a long time,” she said, smiling brightly.

Tpe Shoes

Now I have my tap shoes, but the thought of actually putting them on is a bit daunting.

Though I’m apprehensive, I will bring my tap shoes to rehearsal tonight. I consider that the director has deftly placed me near fabulous singers throughout the staging, which, well, makes me sound great. But I don’t think the same strategy will work for tap dancing. Then again, in a brilliant move, the choreographer has given me exactly six beats of tap. Six. That’s it. However, as Albert Einstien proved, time is relative. Thirty seconds of a massage are vastly different than thirty seconds of root-canal surgery.

How will my tap-dancing stint go? I have no idea. Either way, opening night looms. If you want to see how it all turns out, join me and the rest of the Company cast members for two-weekends of performances beginning on July 20.

https://www.starlightcommunitytheater.com/

 

the-scent-of-rain-cover-200x300-copy

Anne Montgomery’s novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.

What we hold on to

Metal Art

This odd collection of rusted metal  has hung on my porch wall for almost 25 years.

The older I get, the less stuff I want. With that in mind, I have been purging my closets and drawers and cupboards. As anyone who has ever tried downsizing can attest, sometimes it’s hard to part with possessions. And, so, I found myself staring at the strange conglomeration of rusted metal that perches precariously on my porch wall.

It’s hard to call the haphazard collection of desert junk art. The arrangement has hung in that exact spot for close to 25 years. Its purpose, once upon a time, was to hide a stain, the source of which I never determined. I recall staring at the mark and, unable to afford a can of paint to cover the blemish, I began hanging bits of rusted metal I’d found on past rock collecting trips to conceal it. Each piece supports another without the benefit of glue or nails or screws. At its heart is a turquoise-colored piece of chrysocholla.

When I started the project, I had few possessions. I came to this house nine months after a knock on the door changed my life. I was a sportscaster at ESPN and my contract had not been renewed, so I was out of a job. I should not have been shocked, I suppose, when a sheriff’s deputy appeared and announced we were being evicted. The owner of the home had failed to pay the mortgage. We had 48-hours to vacate the premises.

Luckily, kind friends helped us stow our belongings in a storage facility, and one was generous enough to let us stay with him for a while. But, with two large dogs and three cats, $33,000 in debt, and my marriage crumbling, the situation was a stopgap.

It was my dear friend Abby who came to my rescue. “Come back to Phoenix,” she insisted. “You can stay with me.”

“But the animals…” The thought of parting with them broke my heart.

“Bring them.”

“Abby, you live in a condo.”

“See you soon.”

I packed some clothes and my pets into a Geo Prism and drove across the country alone.

I’d like to tell you that my situation turned around instantly. But like those dealing with grief of any kind, there are steps in the adjustment process: denial, anger and resentment, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance.

I would come to this house as a renter. It would not be until years later, after going back to school to become a teacher, that I would own this home.

I remember the day I finally had the porch painted. I stared at my collection of metal and removed the assemblage from the wall piece by piece. But when the paint dried and the stain was gone, I could not bring myself to discard my sculpture. And, so, I placed the pieces back on the wall one at a time.

Now you’d think I would want to forget the events that brought me here. Push the bleak times out of my mind. Strangely, that is not the case. I find a great sense of elation in knowing I had friends who reached out to help me when I felt utterly lost. And I delight in the successes I’ve enjoyed since that low point.

Perhaps, then, you’ll understand why my metal collection remains perched on my porch wall, a remembrance of the winding road I traveled to this spot.

 

the-scent-of-rain-cover-200x300-copy

Anne Montgomery’s latest novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.