Daily Archives: February 12, 2018

Darkest Hour

Rose and I went to see the move Darkest Hour yesterday afternoon. I seem to remember Sarah telling me she had seen it a couple of weeks ago. I told her then of Herman Wouk’s paragraph about Winston Churchill in his book The Winds of War.

I have a few quibbles about the actual history the movie depicts, but of course the essential story is true and I enjoyed the retelling.

Here is Wouk’s paragraph:

Winston Churchill, today an idealized hero of history, was in his time variously considered a bombastic blunderer, an unstable politician, an intermittently inspired orator, a reckless self-dramatizer, a voluminous able writer in an old-fashioned vein, and a warmongering drunkard. Through most of his long life he cut an antic, brilliant, occasionally absurd figure in British affairs. He never won the trust of the people until 1940, when he was sixty-six years old, and before the war ended they dismissed him. But in his hour he grasped the nature of Hitler, and sensed the way to beat him: that is, by holding fast and pushing him to the assault of the whole world . . . He read his man and he read the strategic situation, and with the words of his mouth he inspired the British people to share his vision. . . . [He] acted toughly, wisely, and ungallantly; and he turned the course of the war to the course that ended five long years later, when Hitler killed himself and Nazi Germany fell apart. This deed put Winston Churchill in the company of the rare saviors of countries and perhaps of civilizations.


The cycles of emotion are strange. I know I’m more likely to get weepy when I’m tired but it still comes on me at times when I do not expect it.

Friday morning I came into Davies Hall to go to work. Past the guard station and down the hallway by the orchestra managers’ offices are the bulletin boards with the lists of who is playing what in the weeks to come. I almost always stop and look to see if Sarah’s name is on the lists. I knew she was playing this week.

Her name was on for the next two sets and as I walked alone down the backstage hallway I found I was tearing up. Why now? She’s been working pretty regularly so it’s not really a huge surprise. It just happened.

Sometimes when I’m talking with Jeremy and he tells me about how busy he is trying to establish himself in a new home and still be a good husband and father I get choked up. Not all the time, just sometimes. Strange are the cycles of emotion.

The SoundBox set last week included a group of short compositions that were pretty unstructured. For the dress rehearsal Friday, the last piece had the 20 or so orchestra members scattered around the SoundBox space. There were a few moments of silence and then they started to play slowly, each musician listening to the space around them and contributing their feelings in sound. For no reason I could identify, I began crying. Although I was sitting off to the side I wondered if people were looking at me. I didn’t move but I tried not to make a sound. I kept saying to myself, ‘Oh, Zach. Oh, my Z.’ over and over. I wanted to let the emotions flow but I was also a professional on the clock. The ethereal music went on for three or four minutes then morphed into a louder, more rhythmic pattern. By the time it ended, I was still teary but under control and I went back to work. No one said anything to me about it.

sea change

‘Sea change.’ That’s the phrase that kept coming to me last week. Now that I put it down in black and white, I find I’m thinking about what it really means. I’ve been in boats but I’m not a sailor. I live by the ocean and every time I drive by the beach I look at the waves and think about what it must be like out there. Some days it’s flat and some days it’s wild.

But to imply that the difference between flat and wild signifies something important is kind of a stretch. The ocean is changeable. End of story.

But to me, the phrase means an important change and I feel that an important change has happened in me over the last few weeks. Part of it was my trip to Louisiana. Even though I haven’t done anything yet to follow up on my data gathering, I’ve found myself more able to look forward in a positive way. It’s hard to explain.

SoundBox was a professional opportunity that came my way in 2014. It was a tremendous challenge and has been on the whole tremendously satisfying. I’ve always thought of my career as being in live theatre. A live performance – music, drama, dance – has for me a power like no other art form. And, although we as stagehands are rarely visible, it’s a communal effort that has great meaning to me.

My colleague and friend Denise has been working with me in SoundBox as my assistant for over two years now. She ran the floor, moved the microphones and speakers around, kept track of the myriad details of every show. She’s taken classes and studied and for last week’s production she was in the ‘hot seat’. My original intention was just to let her gain more experience by participating in the pre-production meetings along with actually running the show, which she had done before but as I started the week as her assistant, I found that I was happy in my role. Far from being jealous of her position, I found that I was relieved that someone was there who could handle everything.

Although I had imagined telling her this in a serious heart to heart talk, in the event, it happened on our way out Saturday night in a rather casual way. I told her that I wanted her to continue in the ‘hot seat’ for the April set and furthermore, I wanted her to think about finding someone else to train in the system so that I could step aside completely.

This is my ‘sea change.’ That I have a challenging and exciting job in theatre and I’m ready to walk away from it. The prospect of playing music more, of having more time to help Mom and Dad, of being able to visit new (and old) places is beckoning stronger and stronger. I know it’s called retirement and many people do these things but it always seemed unrealistic. Now it seems less so.

post SoundBox post

I had a lot of ideas for posts last week as I was working SoundBox. My schedule wasn’t even that onerous. I had every night off except Friday and Saturday and Saturday I had the day free. Wednesday night I had a union meeting so I got home late.

But no posts got written. Sorry about that. Now I have a week (mostly) off so I’m hoping to catch up here. At the moment the well is dry, however. I’ll be back shortly . . .