STRAND spotlight

By Liz McLeod

Again Your House Manager

 

“Whew!” I gusted as I flung my jacket in the general direction of a kitchen chair. “I need HELP!”

“Indeed,” observed Miss Carol T. Cat, gazing at my jacket as it overshot the chair and fluttered gently to the floor. “I have been aware for some time that you require considerable assistance with the basic functions of daily life. The uncouth condition of this sad shanty in which we dwell gives every indication that an intervention is necessary. Allow me to be the first to…”

“Not that kind of help,” I growled, rummaging inside the refrigerator for my customary slice of evening cheese. “I need help at the Strand!”

“As I have repeatedly advised you,” Miss Carol continued, her voice taking on just a slightly hectoring tone.

“Yeah, who is Hector, anyway,” I mumbled thru a mouthful of Kraft Single, “and why doesn’t he learn to watch his tone? I ask you. Oh wait, did I say that out loud? Sorry, it’s been a long day, and I need help.”

“AS I HAVE REPEATEDLY ADVISED YOU,” repeated Miss Carol, and this time Hector was gone, supplanted by Impatient J. Irritated. I know him pretty well too. “AS I HAVE REPEATEDLY ADVISED YOU, the installation of a qualified feline supervisor would do much to enhance theatre operations. Permit me to submit the name of a qualified candidate for this position.”

“I can’t hire a cat,” I protested, tossing the cellophane cheese wrapper in the general direction of the garbage can. Miss Carol observed as this too fluttered gently to the floor, and her frown deepened. “The Board of Health has a thing about that. I got nothing to do with it, go fight them. No, a cat won’t solve my problem, I need a person. Or two. We’re short staffed right now, and I need a couple more people to work the concession stand. Especially since we’re getting close to September, and that’s when we’re going to have a lot more demands on the operations crew. Live concerts will be coming back. The Camden International Film Festival is coming. And all sorts of other stuff is on the horizon. And not that you’d know anything about this, but help is hard to get right now.”

Miss Carol gazed, in a marked manner, at her empty food bowl, and then fixed her bright green eyes upon me in accusation. I took the hint and deployed a bowl of Turkey with Giblet Gravy pate. Miss Carol had a toothache this week, and she prefers that her meals now receive a head start, and who am I to fail to meet her needs?

But as for the Strand needs, it’s like this. As we expand out our schedule I need at least one and possibly two new people to work the concession stand. That means learning how to operate the popcorn popper and soda fountain efficiently and safely, being able to carry supplies weighing up to 35 pounds up and down the stairs to and from the storeroom to the lobby, being able to move very fast and very accurately in filling orders from patrons, and being able to clean and maintain the concession area, the lobby, and the theatre auditorium, in accord with Covid-safe policies before, during, and after shows. It’ll usually run between 5 and 10 hours a week at $13 an hour, and you keep all your tips. Hours can start as early as 2pm and run as late as 9 PM at present, evenings and weekends required, but as we get into concerts, more hours will be available during those events. And we require that applicants be at least 17 years old so they can legally sell alcohol when we get back into doing concerts where beer and wine will be sold.  And we require reliability above all else – in show business “the show must go on” is the absolute rule, and everyone working in the theatre has a role to play in making that show happen, no matter if it’s a movie, a concert, an opera, or an educational feature. It’s a great setup for someone looking for a fun after-school job, or to build an employment history, or for someone who doesn’t like to work while sitting in a chair.

“Your recruiting pitch is irresistible,” declared Miss Carol, flicking a bit of pate to the floor, since she isn’t the one who has to bend over and clean it up, I’m just sayin’. “Were I in need of employment I should demand that you consider my application at once. But since I do not require employment at the present time, I shall permit this opportunity to be seized by one who no doubt would find it pleasant and beneficial. Altruism is a defining trait of we felids. Now, remove that debris from the floor at once, before it attracts flies.”

“Ridiculous fat barrel cat.”

Miss Carol scowled. “You will receive poor Glassdoor reviews with such an attitude. I suggest that you comply with my request immediately, thereby setting a positive example for your future hires.”

Like I said. I need help.

By Liz McLeod

Again Your House Manager

 

“The time has come,” declared Miss Carol T. Cat, “to discuss the future.”

I rolled over in bed, squinted, failed to make out the hands of the clock in the pre-dawn gloom, and strongly disagreed with Miss Carol’s expressed opinion.

“Nevertheless,” Miss Carol continued, sinking her claws into my cheek for emphasis, “the time has come. I have prepared a number of suggestions for future theatre program which you will no doubt find stimulating.”

“I don’t do programming,” I moaned, attempting to release claws from cheek. “I can’t even program you. Leemeelone an’ lemmesleep.”

“I have reviewed the Strand Theatre’s programming since reopening,” she continued, “and I find much worthy of praise. "In The Heights" and "Summer of Soul" brought the joy of music to a populace weary from months of pandemic ennui. These programming selections are to be commended. I also found “Dream Horse” to have been a heartwarming and wholesome motion picture experience – but with one significant shortcoming.”

I knew what was coming, and, since I lay flat on my back with a large, ferocious felid atop my chest, I was in no position to protest.

“There were, in that film,” she continued, in a voice almost as sharp as the claw now shifted to a place just northeast of my jugular vein, “a number of species depicted. Equines were of course, prominently featured – but conspicuous by their absence were felines. Do you have an explanation for this?”

“Cats don’t race,” I mumbled. “They hardly even move. Except at 4 in the morning.”

“I find, in fact, that none of the motion pictures featured at the Strand over the past month have in any way featured felines. I find this unacceptable, and I direct you to take steps to remedy this shortcoming at once. To aid you in accomplishing this goal, have prepared a series of selections for consideration.”

I groaned, because what else can I do?

“Number One. ‘Cat People.’ I imagine that a motion picture depicting hew-mons happy in their service to their feline supervisors would prove quite successful with your patrons.”

“We showed that in 2005,” I sighed.   “It’s not about that at all. It’s a horror picture. You wouldn’t like it. Cats don’t come off too well.”

“Hmph,” growled Miss Carol. “Then I direct that you have all existing prints collected and burned at once. Such propaganda can only harm feline/hew-mon relations. In any event, consider then selection number 2. ‘Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.’ As all felines know, much rest and relaxation can be obtained upon a comfortably-heated surface, and doubtless the film would prove educational for hew-mons desiring to provide their supervisors with a pleasant and edifying home environment.”

“That’s not what it’s about,” I moaned. “It’s – well, never mind what it’s about. There’s no cats actually in it."

“Then I direct that you file litigation at once against the producers of this sham for false and misleading advertising. Such practices delude the patron and degrade the profession.”

“Look,” I exhaled, attempting to sit up. “We’ve got a lot of great stuff coming up in the weeks ahead that everyone is really sure to like, OK? Our next film is a documentary about the life and career of Anthony Bourdain. It’s produced by Morgan Neville, the same filmmaker responsible for that Mr. Rogers documentary a few years back, OK? So you know it’s going to be interesting, illuminating, and memorable. And then after that we’ve got a really interesting science documentary about the search for a previously-unknown species of whale identified only by its call.”

“I approve of films dealing with aquatic creatures,” declared Miss Carol. “I find them most flavorful. I would suggest, however, that a film dealing with a large yellowfin tuna may prove to be more to my taste. Preferably served with a rich, savory sauce.”

“Look,” I began, but my pointed reply slipped away like a blanket on a hot night.

“Upcoming film choices are satisfactory,” Miss Carol continued. “I shall await your report on patron response to these features with great interest. However, I call to your attention a film released in 2019 that I recommend for consideration. It is entitled, with gracious simplicity, “CATS.”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

By Liz McLeod
Again Your House Manager
 
“These climactic oscillations must end!” roared Miss Carol T. Cat as I shuffled thru the back door. Scarcely waiting for me to toss my jacket aside, she planted herself before me, and fixed me in a steely gaze. “I AM COLD,” she declared. “COMFORT ME AT ONCE.”
 
“Wow,” I replied. “Not even food first. You really *must* be cold.” I dropped my jacket over her. “Happy?” I snorted.
 
From beneath the jacket, I could hear a growl. “Impudent puppy!” she grumbled. “I direct that you turn on the heating system at once.”
 
“Now wait a minute,” I retorted. “It’s the middle of July! Turn on the furnace in the middle of July? You think I’m made of money?”
 
“No doubt soft currency,” sneered Miss Carol, not so chilled that her wit was dulled, “if the sponginess of your middle avoirdupois provides any indication.”
 
I disregarded the thrust. “Don’t worry about it,” I replied, reaching inside the refrigerator for my lavish supper of the evening, three slices of cheese. “Tomorrow it’s s’posed to be hot again. Gonna get back up into the 80s, an’ we’ll be back in the 90s again before you know it.”
 
“Monstrous!” hissed Miss Carol, making no effort to emerge from beneath the jacket. It’s a very comfortable jacket, after all, and what is a cat if not an eternal seeker of comfort? “I direct that you make preparations for this intolerable heat wave at once. Prepare several cold, wet washcloths with which you may gently soothe me as I struggle with the heat. Or, alternately, purchase adequate home air conditioning for this stagnant hovel.”
 
We’d been over the “whatta you think I am,  made of money?” schtick before, so I let that one pass. But I did pause to reflect on how fortunate we are at the Strand to have such an impressive air-conditioning and air-exchanging system.  During the worst of any heat wave, you know that when you visit us at the Strand you’ll be relaxing in solid comfort for the entire duration of your visit. And especially since the upgrade of our temperature control module, you’ll notice that conditions are much more level than they used to be. We all remember the days when veteran Strand patrons knew to bring along a sweater on hot days, because the old control system tended at times to overcompensate –but our new module maintains the theatre temperature much more evenly. There are fewer “cold spots” in the house than there used to be, and while it’s still a bit warmer in the balcony than it is on the main floor, the difference is usually less pronounced.  We’re happy that we were, thanks to the outstanding community support of our members and donors, able to pay for the not-insubstantial cost of this long-deferred upgrade project, and we know you’re going to enjoy it as well – not just to ease your concerns about air quality during the pandemic, but as a permanent, long-term improvement designed to enhance your every visit to our theatre.
 
Just don’t expect me, though, to come around to gently soothe you with a damp washcloth on a hot day. I regret that I must reserve that level of service only for Ridiculous Fat Barrel Cats.

By Liz McLeod

Again Your House Manager

 

“Whew!” I whewed, flinging my jacket over the newel post. I whewed I whew, and I really meant it.

Miss Carol T. Cat, however, was not impressed. “In future,” she sniffed, “I advise that you provide my evening meal immediately upon your entry into the house. Doffing your outer raiment is of lower priority, and to do so before my meal has been provided suggests certain inefficiencies in the performances of your duties that must be remedied at once if you are to retain your position in this household.”

I shot Miss Carol a glare, or as much of a glare as I dared to glare. I know my place.

“It’s been a long day,” I replied. “And the kind of a long day I’ve really missed! The Strand is open again,and I’m back on my old schedule! Suppertime’s at 9:30 PM, and you just gotta get used to it.”

“Do you intend to say that this late hour shall hereafter be the norm? This is monstrous!”

“Hey, you lived with it fine for eight years before the pandemic,” I retorted. “You’ll just have to adjust. Things are getting back to normal, at long last, and I’ve got a lot more to deal with than feeding you every five minutes.”

Miss Carol’s eyes narrowed. “A ridiculous exaggeration. My feeding schedule is entirely appropriate and well-regulated. Although,” and here she paused to lick an imaginary speck of dust from her immaculate paw, “since you raise the possibility, a five-minute feeding schedule might prove salubrious. I direct that you implement such a schedule at once.”

I sighed again. Life at the Strand is certainly getting back to a reasonable facsimile of normal. Sure, we’ve got reduced seating capacity for the time being, and masks are still in order for patrons entering, exiting, and moving around the theatre, but the important thing is that people are back – actual paying ticket-holding patrons, come to sit back in communal comfort to enjoy a feature picture on the big screen. That’s what “the movies” are all about, and that’s what the Strand was built for in the first place. And now we’re doing it again, and it’s just like riding a bicycle – you never forget how to do it, how to enjoy entertainment as part of a group again, the way entertainment works best. We of the Strand haven’t forgotten either. All the thousands of shows we’ve hosted since the grand reopening in 2005 taught us the best way and the right way to make our patrons happy – and it’s been rather amazing to see how smoothly we’ve been able to pick again right where we were interrupted fifteen months ago. 

“Ahem,” ahemed Miss Carol. I bet you didn’t know a cat can ahem, but Miss Carol has advanced abilities you could not likely comphrehend. A mere ahem is nothing.

“Ahem,” she ahemed again. “If you are finished with your digression, the matter of my evening meal remains at hand. I should like the turkey with giblet gravy this evening.”

“Large, medium or small?” I responded out of reflexive habit, and immediately regretted doing so. This is going to take some adjustment.

For the month of June 2021, Friends of the Strand Theatre will receive a $1 donation from each purchase of the $2.50 reusable Community Bag at the Hannaford store located at 75 Maverick Street, Rockland. We're back to using reusable shopping bags again, so now's a great time to refresh your stash (and support the Strand)!

Our thanks to Hannaford for selecting us to be this month's recipient!

My Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager

 

“Your face!” exhaled Miss Carol T. Cat, her bright green eyes dilated with shock and horror. “What have you DONE to it?”

I frowned. That’s what I did with it. And then I rolled my own eyes and I replied “I took my mask off, all right?”

“Is this – advisable?” demanded Miss Carol, expressing the caution which has become her byword over this long, excruciating year. “The world has become accustomed to – not viewing your sagging mien. Are you certain that you wish to inflict it again upon an unwitting population?”

“Things are changin’ fast,” I replied. “Pretty soon everybody will be able to show their faces again. Well, I can think of a few prominent figures on the global stage who probably shouldn’t ever show their faces again, but we won’t dwell on that, will we? The thing is, we’re finally gettin’ back closer to normal than we’ve been since this mess started. Normality, ya might say, is Just Around The Corner!”

Miss Carol regarded me with disdain. She’s been doing so for ten years now, so you think she should change?   “You have said that,” she intoned, “on many occasions over the past several months. And yet, the corner has shown a distressing ability to recede toward the horizon as if a fleeting mirage. Be certain, this time, that you do not merely speculate.”

“I do NOT merely speculate,” I countered. “I have it on the best of authority that, in fact, Normality Is Just Around The Corner. Do you know what I did today?”

“My mind reels with sarcastic replies,” Miss Carol shot back.

“I took delivery of half a ton of popcorn. HALF A TON!” I rubbed my shoulder at the memory of it. “Do you think I’d be doin’ such as that if NORMALITY WAS NOT JUST AROUND THE CORNER? An’ on toppa that, I ordered CANDY. Do you think I’d trust myself alone in a buildin’ with two cases of Milk Duds if NORMALITY WAS NOT JUST AROUND THE CORNER? It’s not just “around the corner,” you can hear it jake-braking down the hill as it rolls triumphantly into town! IT WON’T BE LONG NOW!”

Miss Carol’s features settled into a concerned scowl. Well, wait, what settle? She always scowls, but I guess if you squint you can maybe kinda see some concern. Or maybe that Tuna and Chicken with Gravy isn’t sitting well. Who knows?

“Does this mean,” she began, in careful measured tones, “that my feeding schedule will again be disrupted? I advise you in advance that I shall find this entirely unacceptable.”

“So you’ll get your supper at 9 instead of 7,” I countered. “Look, everybody’s had to make sacrifices to get thru this pandemic, right? We’ve all had to deal with things we didn’t want to deal with, and accept changes we didn’t like, and face realities that we never wanted to face – but you know what, we’ve come thru it. What if I told you when I get home at 9, you’ll get the best supper you ever got? Extra gravy, even!”

“You would be capable of delivering on this promise?” she queried. “Because I must warn you, I do not respond well to ‘bait and switch’ methods. If you make such a bargain, I shall most certainly hold you to it.” She flourished her claws to emphasize the point, and I instinctively pulled the sleeves of my sweater down to protect my  slash-marked forearms.

“I will. I’ll be just like old times. I’ll even rub your belly on the kitchen floor.”

“I require that you mop it first.”

“Yep,” I nodded. “Just like old times.”

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