Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Fairly Odd Halloween

Another year, another girls choice Halloween Dance. This year Julianne took her BFF Jordan who lives a few houses down the street. The two of them brainstormed for quite awhile, really wanting to come up with costumes that were really unique and fun. Lots of ideas were considered and tossed out, finally deciding upon Wanda and Cosmo from The Fairly OddParents. Have you seen this cartoon on Nickelodeon? We used to watch it somewhat frequently when the kids were younger. It's silly, of course. The main plot revolving around a young boy named Timmy who has two fairy god parents who grant wishes. As you would expect, these wishes never go the way they are meant to and Wanda and Cosmo tend to cause more problems than they fix. But that's where the hilarity comes from.

Anyhow, putting these costumes together was a group effort for Julianne and Jordan. They went shopping for wands, put together their floating crowns and practiced their hair dye...together. I think they enjoyed the prep and build-up to the big day as much as they loved actually wearing the costumes. And they looked fabulous! They got compliment after many people stopping to look more closely at their hair, their floating crowns. Random people they didn't even know asking to take pictures with them. Even one of the school administrators stopping them and saying something along the lines of, "I've been here all evening and yours is the best costumes I've seen. You're the winner of the night!" Clearly they were a hit. They did indeed look really awesome...but I think it had to do in large part with the fact that the idea was so unique.

Dinner was at our house the night of the dance. Nothing too fancy....the other girls were bringing side dishes and we provided the main course which was soup. (We made three for variety.) Soups, rolls and salads...a traditional fall sort of meal. It was fun decorating the table all Halloween like. But since the five couples were already meeting here for dinner, Julianne asked if I would also be their official photographer. I may have a nice camera, but an professional (or even amateur) photographer I am not. So I was a little nervous, hoping the pictures would turn out well. I took them up to the walking trail that runs behind our neighborhood where there are lots of trees, thinking that the changing colors of the leaves would make a fun back drop. And yay for Mother Nature because the pictures did turn out rather nicely!
(One of my favorites: we're done taking pics and they're all heading back off the trail and towards our house for dinner...but Julianne and Jordan are still being silly together. And Jaden's photobomb!)

Julianne came home smiling and happy at the end of the night. Check off one more Halloween Dance as a success.
Just for kicks and giggles....Halloween Dances of the past:

Geriatrics: Julianne and Jackson. 2014

 Tinker Bell and Peter Pan: Rebekah and Trevor. 2013

Cowboys: Rebekah and Tyler. 2012

Monday, October 26, 2015

A chicken in a haunted house

Let's just get this out of the way right now. I am a chicken. So it will probably not surprise you to learn that the last time I went to a haunted house was when I was a senior in high school. And if I'm being entirely truthful, it was the first and only time I visited a haunted house. And I wouldn't have even gone then, but I had incentive. It was the weekend leading up to Halloween and the high school group of friends I hung with decided that we should go scare ourselves silly in honor of the holiday. But that wasn't why I went. I had no qualms about begging off...but my incentive? The reason I went? Bryan was working at the haunted house. Inside the house. As some ninja warrior, jumping out and scaring people. Yes, this was the boy I was dating. I was a chicken girl who was in love with a boy who adored any and all things scary, freaky and horror. So I took a major leap out of my comfort zone and quaking in my shoes, I walked inside.

There were maybe ten of us in the group walking through together, wondering where we would find Bryan. We had laughed earlier while walking up towards the haunted house, when we overheard a group of kids coming out saying, "Holy crap, did you see that ninja guy drop down from the rafters like that? Scared me so bad!" Clearly Bryan was good at his job.

But once inside, I was ridiculously scared. Beyond terrified, even. We walked through single file all holding onto each other in a chain. Behind me, Shauna had her hands gripping my shoulders. I had my face completely buried in David's jacket in front of me...the two of them making a little Sarah sandwich. With my eyes screwed shut, my other senses were all the more terrifyingly in tune....I could hear every creepy noise and all the screams, the ones nearby and further ahead and behind. I could feel the cool, clammy air from the fog machines. I was ever more aware of every flinch and jump of my friends around me as we shuffled along, connected together as we were. But regardless of being so aware of my surroundings and really not wanting to see anything creepy, every now and again I would risk a peek to the side. At one point we slowed way down, coming nearly to a full stop. Curious as to what the hold up was, I carefully turned my head to the side and opened my eyes...only to find myself locking glances with some gory monster inches from my face, clearly trying to get a rise out of me. I screamed long and loud. Goal achieved!

Towards the middle of our haunted tour, we slowed down again and I felt someone pulling my arm. I tightened my grip on David's jacket, but then was comforted to hear Bryan's voice and realized that he was the one trying to get me to let go. I opened my eyes and though I was happy to see him, it became clear that his plan was to have me break off from our larger group and go off somewhere with him. I was hesitant to do so because, in numbers, right? Relative as that safety actually was. He practically had to pry my fingers from David's jacket, with me offering up pitiless concerns and protests.

Looking at the situation from a guy's point of view: taking your girlfriend through a haunted house, a place in which she is likely to be scared at least to some varying degree and will probably snuggle in your shoulder while you protect her from the haunted scariness...well, slam dunk, right?

Bryan ushered me through a side door into some back tunnels meant to allow the haunted monster workers to make their way from room to room unseen by the regular patrons. In this I was somewhat comforted, thinking that though we were passing some truly creepy characters, they weren't trying to jump out at me. We made our way out of the back employee hallways and into a room with three witches. Bryan deposited me there and told me he'd be right back, that he needed to tell his supervisor he was leaving for the night. And there I was. Staring at three witches who were very curiously staring back at me. No words were spoken. Me very literally trembling from head to toe, wondering what gory creature would come walking around the corner at any moment only to find a prime target standing there very alone and very obviously terrified.

No monster came. But after a few minutes, Bryan did. He was off for the rest of the evening, he said. I was relieved thinking that this meant we could duck into some back hallway again and make our way out of the haunted house. That relief was short lived as Bryan obviously was now planning to enjoy the haunted house in the more normal way....a boy walking through with a girl, taking pleasure in the fun and laughter that many people get from being scared at Halloween time. Except Bryan wasn't with just any girl. He was with a chicken. An extremely frightened one. One that immediately started begging to be taken out of the haunted house. I don't think he took me seriously at first...thinking it was normal girly fear. But I kept up my requests to leave which became more and more hysterical the further we walked. Finally he stopped and looked at me and said with a bit of incredulity in his voice, "You really want to leave?" Maybe it was the terror in my eyes or the fact that I probably looked like I was about to pee my pants. When I answered "YES!!!" to his question, he pulled me into another side hallway and we made our way outside.

Bryan was good natured about it, even if a bit baffled as to why I was so terrified of a perfectly harmless haunted house. Luckily my chicken-ness did not put a damper on our relationship and he decided he loved me regardless. We got married a few years later and he has never suggested we go to a haunted house again. He does still tend to enjoy watching horror movies during the month of October. On those nights I try to find other things to occupy my time in another room. Because the one time I watched a scary horror movie with him when we were dating in high school I had nightmares for weeks. But that is another story....

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Say cheese!

We had to cram a lot of things into that two and a half weeks between Rebekah's moving home from college and leaving for the MTC. Getting family pictures taken was high on the priority list before Rebekah left for 18 months...especially seeing as we had originally intended to get them taken the summer before she left for college and never did. We did a combo family portraits and missionary pictures in one evening with our favorite Jon Woodbury. The last time we did family shots we went to the International Peace Gardens in Salt Lake and did a whole reading theme. This time we decided to go more cityscape...especially since that meant we'd also be close to Temple Square for Rebekah's mission pics. I was worried it would be a crazy evening trying to fit everything in...but ever the professional, Jon got all the amazing shots he needed and we had a great time doing it.

Obviously I think they are all fabulous and had the hardest time narrowing it down to just a few...but here are some favorites.
I printed out a few and sent them to Rebekah on her mission. She says she loves this one of us all laughing and keeps it in her scriptures where she can see it easily when she is missing us.

Because I couldn't bring myself to replace our family shots from four years ago, I left those in their frames and ordered one of my favorites canvas wrapped and hung it over the table in the front hall. I'm so pleased with how it all turned out!

Go check out Jon's website...he's fantastic!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Silver Lake

I was hankering for a hike. Or maybe just the idea of being up in the canyons during the leaf color change that happens spectacularly around here every fall. We decided to head up to Silver Lake. Which isn't really much of a hike if you stick to the boardwalk trail that makes its way around the lake. More of a scenic walk. Which is still all good in the revel-in-nature-and-enjoy-the-fall-leaves sort of option. There was a break off trail that hikes you to another lake higher up the side of the mountain. And that sounded like a mighty good plan to me...except we were pretty sure we'd be hiking back down in the dark if we got all impulsive right then and there. So we put it on the bucket list and decided we'd have to come back another day. But the scenic walk around Silver Lake did indeed fix that bit of hankering inside me, so goal achieved.

 "You better hold onto my hand Lilian, so you don't fall off the trail...."

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Filming Saturday's Warrior

You remember "Saturday's Warrior," right? It's kind of iconic in LDS circles. Written by Lex de Azevedo and Doug Stewart, it came out first as a stage play in 1974. Hugely popular, it played to sold out audiences for a few years and then became the stuff of stake plays here and there throughout the mormonsphere. It made a recurrence in 1989 when a VHS video was released...still in stage play form but filmed directly for video rather than just a video of a performance to a live audience. Though I was already familiar with the soundtrack, the video is where I really got to know "Saturday's Warrior." And that video was pretty cheesy...but fun and ultimately very popular.

Then in 1998 I auditioned for and was chosen to sing in Lex de Azevedo's Millennium Choir. For the past 17 years I've worked with Lex and had the opportunity to get to know him fairly well. I've heard the makings of and behind the scenes stories of "Saturday's Warrior" many times. One thing that maybe not too many people know...Lex had nothing to do with that 1989 video other than giving the rights. In fact, he wasn't super excited with how it turned out. His vision had already been realized in the original stage play back in the 70's.

A few summers ago we performed in a Up Close and Personal with Lex de Azevedo  type concert which had Lex playing, performing and talking about music from throughout his long and varied career. Millennium Choir was there to sing selections from "Gloria," "Hosanna," "Hymn to America" and other projects we have recorded, but also to sing back up for the finale which was a bunch of music from "Saturday's Warrior." Many of the original cast from that 1974 stage play and soundtrack came to the concert to share their own memories and sing their character's songs. It was a great concert from start to finish but the highlight was clearly "Saturday's Warrior."

For years people have asked Lex if he'd ever consider making "Saturday's Warrior" into a movie. He always told them no. He felt like "Saturday's Warrior" had seen its day. In an interview with a local magazine Lex said this about it:
Saturday’s Warrior is kind of hallowed ground. It is hallowed by the lives that it has changed and for 40 years hardly a week has passed when someone hasn’t come up to me and expressed with great emotion how it has changed their life.
I’ve always thought I’d rather let it rest in peace than do something less than it deserved.
Then, we were living in Brazil last year and we were on a “mission.” We had sold our house in Utah and we thought we’d be there for about three years. One night I heard a voice in the middle of the night. It prompted me and said, “Go home and make Saturday’s Warrior.”
During this time that Lex was living in Brazil, he was commuting to Utah once a month to work on other projects...."Signing Times" with his daughter and also recording "Alleluia" with us. We started hearing of his plans for making "Saturday's Warrior" into a movie and shortly after, he and his wife moved back to Utah permanently. Soon I got a call to come record the title track. We were all kinds of I said, "Saturday's Warrior" is somewhat iconic, and to be on the soundtrack for the movie? Super cool!

But it soon became a bit more than that. A few weeks later I received an email asking if I wanted to be an extra in a big production number for the movie with Jimmy (Kenny Holland) and Todd (Mason Davis) and The Piano Guys! It was kind of last minute and was a long call time 7:00 AM-7:00 PM but Katie and I jumped at the opportunity. And then scrambled to make arrangements with our family responsibilities and find appropriate Hippie wear for our costumes. It was worth it!  Once my name was on the extras list, I received many emails about various shoots. I couldn't make it to all of them but was able to be part of the Heavenly (gospel) Choir with Alex Boye and also be a concert go-er for a scene where Jimmy's band plays a big rock concert. Each time Lex would come over and give me a big hug and I could see the excitement in his face. 
The line to be approved by wardrobe was really long that morning at Liberty Park (aka Golden Gate Park in San Francisco...for the day at least). If what we brought wasn't hippie appropriate enough they had wardrobe items to loan us. The wardrobe lady looked me over and declared me hippie perfect from head to toe. Score!

At one point in the song/scene Katie and I ended up right behind Jon Schmidt from The Piano Guys so we ended up talking with him a lot seeing as we repeated things over and over and over again to get all the various camera angles. He and Steven Sharp Nelson were both absolutely hilarious...keeping us all laughing despite how hot is was and how tired we were all getting.
And though this guitar is actually mine and not just a prop I was given, no...I don't actually know how to play it, as evidenced by my crazy hand positions. One of these days I'll learn...or at least that's what I've been telling myself for the past nine years! 

The movie is a more fleshed out version of the original story. You get to know the characters in more depth...back stories and more personality, there are four new songs added to the show (and a few old ones taken out). Also, according to Lex when asked if this movie would appeal to more than just a Mormon audience:
 We have made it less churchy, less religious, although it is set with an LDS family. “Fiddler on the Roof” is a Jewish story, but it’s for everybody and “Schindler’s List” is for everybody and “Witness” was set in Amish community. It’s more about there’s just more to life than just this life. It is less preachy, less in your face than the original Saturday’s Warrior.

The Heavenly Choir and dancers, Heavenly Guide (Alex Boye), Julie and Todd...and then in the bottom picture adding the director (Michael Buster), Lex and various camera, wardrobe, choreography and sound crew. We filmed this big production number at Union Station in Ogden and it was an overnight shoot...4:30 PM-4:30 AM. I was thankful when just past midnight we finished up our big number and were sent home even as they continued to work on with Todd and Julie filming "The Circle of Our Love."

Neither Katie nor Melissa were able to make it to this overnight shoot so I hung out with Todd and Seth, both members of Millennium Choir and we kept each other awake and entertained throughout the long evening.  

Julie and Todd filming the dialogue that comes right before "The Circle of Our Love."

Can I just say....Alex Boye is not only tremendously talented but also seriously funny! He kept us in stitches all night!

It was fascinating to be behind the see just exactly what goes in to making a movie. Learning choreography and lyrics (to lip sync) within a space of just a few minutes. Quick rehearsals and then doing the scene over and over and over again to get all different camera angles. There were hand held cameras, cameras on cranes, heck...even a camera on a drone above us for one scene. So much crazy equipment from lights and fog machines and sound systems and microphones and just wow, you know? And that doesn't even count all the craziness that goes on over in the wardrobe and make-up areas and at the food tables (meals were catered and there were always snacks). 
Melissa was able to take the day off work and do this concert scene with me. We filmed at Azevedo Studios...a building we know incredibly well seeing as this is where we've been recording and rehearsing for most of our 17 years working with Lex.

 Yes, they really do use those clapperboards before each shoot. 

When posting this picture on Instagram Melissa and I decided we needed to use a filter reminiscent of photos from the 70's...seeing as we were jazzed up in our 70's wear. And my hair was much more Farrah Fawcett-ish before spending all of our downtime waiting outside in the heat which made it go limp. Sigh. And one final lesson learned...never wear platform shoes to a concert, whether it be real or just on set. Jumping up and down, dancing, etc....oh our poor aching feet!  

It really was a tremendous experience. I wish I could've made it to a few more scenes...not because I even care overly much about being seen in the movie (although, bragging rights, yes? I'm an extra in "Saturday's Warrior!!") but because it was just such a fun experience to be part of it all. Filming is now complete. Time now to put all those camera shots together. I have been hugely impressed with the professionalism of the cast and crew and the bits and pieces I've seen of what they are doing with it. The movie comes out in Spring of 2016 and I really think it's going to be good!