Friday, January 28, 2011

I'm a Tale chaser...

So, my BFF Jon and I went to the theater last night to see what turned out to be a FANTASTIC production of Bruce Norris's play Clybourne Park at the American Conservatory Theater (ACT).  Little known fact:  I'm actually as passionate about theater as I am about books.  This post is an opportunity to indulge two of my loves at once.  What inspired today's post was a first sighting of the artwork above, the logo for the new Tales of the City musical on a poster outside the theater.  So exciting! 

It occurs to me that I never blogged about my encounters with Armisted Maupin and his husband Christopher Turner this past fall.  The first time I ran into them was at a concert of crooner Spencer Day, of whom I'm a huge fan.  Jon wasn't available that night, so, somewhat lethargically, I schlepped out to the Palace of Fine Arts Theater on my own.  After the concert, people were sort of milling around in the lobby, many of them waiting to see if Spencer would be coming out to sign discs, greet fans, etc.  I was about to leave when I spotted a man who looked just like Armisted Maupin.  I wanted to approach him, but I was embarrassed.  I mean, what if I was wrong?  However, observing the man, I noticed that he and I were the only two people carrying books at a concert.  That made up my mind.

I asked, "Are you Armisted?"  Of course, it was him, and he was as friendly as could be.  A few minutes into our conversation his husband Christopher walked up and Armisted introduced us.  Christopher was equally warm and friendly, and the three of us had an unhurried conversation.  The timing was perfect! I got to open with, "I just read Mary Ann in Autumn (his then forthcoming Tales of the City novel) and I loved it! In fact, I currently have the number one review on Amazon."  He had totally read the review, and was delighted with it. (Yay!) So we talked about his books, other books, and the weekend he'd just spent in New Mexico with about 40 other "storytellers" at the invitation of Jeff Bezos. A few other guests he mentioned were Neil Gaiman, Temple Grandin, and Gloria Steinem. He said it wasn't a business thing, Bezos just wanted to get all these people together and have them interact. I said, "It's like that game people play when they make guest lists for imaginary dinner parties. Bezos actually threw the party!"

The other reason the timing of this conversation was perfect was that there was currently a private workshop production of the Tales musical going on that month at ACT, and the casting of the fabulous Betty Buckley as Mrs. Madrigal had just been announced.  It's a toss-up whether Armisted or I was more excited by the news.  It's just one of those rare instances in life of absolutely perfect casting.  I think it was crystal clear to both Armisted and Christopher that I was as much a theater geek as a book geek, but well-informed on both counts.  So, I peppered them with behind the scenes questions about the musical.  Armisted was so pleased and excited with the work in progress.  He specifically commented on how much he loved the score, noting that it was very much character-driven more than plot driven.  He and Christopher were planning on attending the first run-through with Ms. Buckley the following night.

I didn't want to overstay my welcome, so I left them after about 15 minutes of friendly chat.  However, I saw both of them a week later at Amisted's book signing for Mary Ann in Autumn.  After only a week, they both remembered me well, and again I had the opportunity to chat with each of them.  In reference to the review I had written, Armisted signed my novel, "Keep pulling a Mary Ann."  I also had a chance to ask a Tales-related question that I hadn't gotten around to last time.  I told him that I hoped he'd continue writing the resumed Tales series for years to come and asked, "Now that you've written a Michael-centric novel and a Mary Ann-centric novel, do you think there's a Brian-centric story to look forward to?  I think he needs one."  Amisted responded, "It's interesting you said that. I've been thinking about it. We're the same age now." So, fingers crossed.

For now, Jon and I have been looking forward to seeing the musical for over a year, and it's finally beginning to feel imminent.  At $250 a pop for the cheapest seats and $1,250 for orchestra tickets, I can't afford a ticket to the black-tie Gala Opening Night events on June 1st.  We've settled for the next best thing:  We've got 5th row orchestra seats for the very first preview on May 19, 2011--the true world premiere performance.  I'll be looking for Armisted at the theater, and , yes, I'll be blogging about it the next day!


  1. Hey, Susan! What fun encounters y'all had! Sometimes I wish I had your gift of gab. Jim & I went to hear him at the Sacramento Library event and were both pretty tongue-tied. He was kind enough to sign our books (he should have been signing stock at the time). I'd brought my original copy of Tales of the City for signing. He held it up and said, "Wouldn't this make the BEST poster for the play?" And there it is - an adaptation of the original cover as the poster. Nice.

  2. Hey Penny,

    Thanks for stopping by. As for gab, you *definitely* have the gift.

    Approaching Armisted was a leap of faith, and it really was the fact that he was holding a book that decided it. As we talked, I admitted that I feared the humiliation of it not being him. He laughed and told me a story that he'd heard about Gypsy Rose Lee. She was shopping in the supermarket, and there was a woman who kept peering shyly at her. Finally the woman gathered her courage and approached. "Excuse me, are you Gypsy Rose Lee?" Ms. Lee confirmed her identity and asked why it had taken the woman so long to approach her. The lady responded, "What if you HADN'T been her!" LOL.

    BTW, your friend Jeff Carlson cracks me up. I think we've only met face-to-face once, but we correspond occasionally. Such a lovely guy.

  3. Yo, Su-Tu! Jeff is a hoot! Last fall I went with a friend to a fancy library event in Solano County. Jeff was a speaker; I didn't tell him I was coming. The time & effort to get there were worth it just to see the look on his face. ;)

    There's a lot of relaxed, Southern charm to Armistead - and his anecdotes are wonderful. I'd love to have a mental library full of them to whip out at the perfect time. Sigh.