Saturday, October 11, 2003

A very good performance at the Walker Center. It was well attended, I think, I hope Ellen thinks so, too. Different crowd - I was nervous at first, so many health care professionals and their spouses, it seemed like a much older, more uptight (possibly, this was a prejudgement) crowd, but as Toni pointed out, they were much morelikely than most of my audiences to have ahad children, in addition to their intimate knowledge of what someone goes through in a hospital. They laughed more, they were with me more than most other audience have been. It was great.

Toni says she thinks it was the best she’s seen. I found this odd because I stumbled on a number of lines and felt an odd disconnect in places, but it was a different situation - no light changes, just sound to take me from one place to another. Toni says she liked that better, it was more me telling stories than having this "theatrical" thing imposed on it.

Already there are a number of people who want me to perform this in other places. And perhaps I shall.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Tomorrow night I will be performing at the W.O. Walker Center on the Cleveland Clinic campus, as a benefit for the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the College of Nurse Midwifery. Ellen asked me to do this, and so I have agreed. I hadn’t given it much thought, and then at the beginning of this week I got nervous.

But I still know the show, and space will work for me. It is a lecture hall, but we are using a PowerPoint program for the slides, and the music works the normal way. Only the lights are absent, it’s all one big lights up. I am looking forward to it, actually.

Monday, August 25, 2003

For the Record
Got the "payout" for the Fringe today - I won't go into the money, the money goes without saying (insert comment here.) But I will revise my attendance numbers. We actually had an accumulated audience of 162, which is a few people more than our own count.

Damn, these people are organized, their breakout of attendance is delightfully detailed. The more I have heard about this year's NYC Fringe (blackout notwithstanding) the happier I am I was in Minnesota.

And I HATE THIS lives. One more performance, in Cleveland, on October 10 at the Cleveland Clinic. I think I won't be persuing any additional performances ... for the time being.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Perspective

Home, again. And, of course, in hindsight, that Fringe Festival KICKED ASS! I promised myself I would keep whining to a minimum on this very public journal, but the insecurities and desperation of the last few days leaked out, and perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Apparently it made for some good reading back home.

I did get one more online write up, in Matthew Everett’s blog. It’s critical! And after all, how much unqualified praise can one man take. I have been intensely grateful for all of the attention, and we did get a lot (just not in the newspapers, blah blah blah.)

And now, back to the day to day business of housework, preparing for my third year at Great Lakes, reading script offers, considering the future (how about sending something to the Minnesota Fringe with tits in it ...) and acting like the father of a tiny - but not that tiny - living baby girl.

Monday, August 11, 2003

... and another thing ...

HERETIC. HERETIC, HERETIC, HERETIC. I saw one more show and it had to be HERETIC. It was wonderful, thank you, Niki, so much. I cried, too, although not until the drive back to Denny's. It's been a long day, and you gave me a lot to think about.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Thank you, Minneapolis, and Good Night

Nick is on the road for Cleveland, Denny and I are going to see HERETIC this evening at 6. Toni got to see STAGGERING this afternoon ... and I did my last performance. Forty people in the house, a strong Sunday afternoon showing - Clayton the ONE-MAN HAMLET man was in the house, and his lovely wife. Our widwife's daughter made the show! And there were rumors ... maybe Matthew Everett made it (and his mom) and apparently David Mann was there. Maybe he heard we dissed the cantaloupe. I am grateful for the attention.

I had the opportunity to introduce 156 more people to Calvin over the course of ten days. I had a major crisis of spirit last night, walking a very wide awake Zelda up and down the hall in the stroller at four am. What did I think I was doing with this show? In spite of my delight in telling it, it is not the feel-good hit of the summer. And I took box office poison and made it the cult following of the Fringe. The fringe of the Fringe. Beyond the Fringe. We had everything stacked against us. And they came and saw it, anyway.

I am looking forward to getting back to Cleveland, getting back to work with Great Lakes ... and maybe acting in something dumb and funny.

Last Day of Camp

Yep, it's hard to shake that metaphor, even when you are your mid-30s. Yesterday was an act of pure desperation - went to see SABOTAGE: IN FINE FORM at Hey City (okay, all you pikers, now that's comedy) and then rushed my butt up and down Hennepin (in Denny's black Mustang convertible, which would have been funny if you could have seen me make it stall a few dozen times) driving in the bus lane (no one told me about the bus lane) so that I could get lost running around the MCTC campus in 80 degree heat trying to get to THE ART OF RUTH DRAPER, which I also enjoyed. I may not have made time for that yesterday, except the actress in question came to see IHT on Thursday.

... with, apparently, everyone else. Okay, that's not fair, I did have 35 people last night. And I thank all of them. But I have to admit this has been disappointing, especially with "Fringe attendance up!" as they say, and "Lots of shows selling out during the final weekend!" as they say.

My show is just this bastard step-child of the Fringe. I could blame the lack of print media - I have seen the dumbest shows getting reviewed, shows you would just look at the description of and say, hmn, no, I wouldn't see that even if I were getting paid to write about it, even if the kid's father is an editor at my paper - but that isn't correct. I'll tell you why. I will tell you in no uncertain terms why people have avoided this show, in spite of very strong word-of-mouth, w-o-m I couldn't have bribed myself into getting, and in spite of mine and Nick's hardcore meet-n-greet campaign. I will tell you why, despite of all of this, I expect to get (I hope) twenty people at today's matinee and closing performance.

Duh, you already know why, don't you? The show is about STILLBIRTH. Who wants to see that?

That and the crowd that did join us (oh, another influential member of the Twin Cities media was on hand, too little, too late) was another one like opening night. It's very hard to do this show when I make some kind of amusing comment and everyone sighs a little, like "ooh, yah, that's so sad." But at least the show goes faster.

Afterwards Nick, Denny and I went to see ONE-MAN HAMLET at Bryant-Lake. That kicked ass, the man is a FREAK, and not only that, but a CANADIAN freak and we sat in the dark eating cheeseburgers and drinking pints of Summit and watching this guy charge around the stage with music stands with balloons on them representing all the different characters, it was a whoot.

One of the two closing night parties was last night, and it was really great. I only got to chat with a few people ... one conversation was with a Fringer artist, who had seen my show that night - the conversation was very personal and I won't write about it here. But she was torn up about a review she received in the weekly paper, and I think I said all the rights things for her to put it in perspective. I mean, the show isn't for the CP's readership, that and the style of the day of being a complete smart-ass in as few words as possible, a trend which is also popular among the local papers, gives writers the chance to vent all kinds of prejudices, against content, against experience, against, well, absolutely everything. "Your show isn't hip," I said, "my show isn't hip. You know people like your show, they've told you, and that's what matters, when you come down to it."

Well, Amen.

Amy Salloway says she's coming today. I write this in my blog to shame her if she doesn't. ;)

What I Will Take With Me
I asked Leah Cooper via email some time ago how many programs I should bring. She said, how big is your house and I said 110 and she said think positive, bring 500. I thought realistically and brought 100. I thought, if I get 20 people a show, I will be doing all right. I have already beaten that, and today will be a bonus. I had to print more programs.

I met a midwife last night, who came because she read about it and had to see what I said and how, and she and her friend loved it, she said she is so glad to hear I will be performing it for a conference of Nurse Midwives this fall in Cleveland.

I will never forget the spontaneous ovation I got when I walked out onto the sidewalk in front of the Red Eye on Thursday. That's never hapened to me, and it is apparently not some kind of tradition.

Hearing Rik Reppe pimp my show hard after his near-sold out perf. of STAGGERING TOWARD AMERICA earlier in the week. That man is a hair's breadth from signing some kind of deal with HBO or something with hiw show, I am not kidding, he has to be, and here he is shedding light on me. Very cool.

Watching Zelda push herself onto her knees the other day. She's trying so hard to crawl, we can all taste it.

The kids from MXTW. Their director, Jim Hamilton, wrote me a very kind email, thanking me for the support I had given the students - and apologizing for the fact that they weren't able to fir my show into their schedule. I can't say I wasn't disappointed. But it must be difficult to wrangle over a dozen teenagers to even half a dozen shows. They were just amazing, and I am glad I caught their work. After years with the Night Kitchen, I know how much disrespect teenage actors can get, especially when they are attempting work with substance (can we all say "hey kids, let's put on a show!") Those people were just great.

I'll get more thoughts and memories down, I hope. Right now ... well, hell, the Fringe isn't even over yet. And I got a show to do.

Friday, August 08, 2003

And now that I have gotten past last night, it appears we are truly in the home-stretch. This is kind of sad. I HATE THIS has been (and will continue to be) such a bittersweet journey. The fact is, I love this show. I never dread performing it - the way I inevitably end up dreading to perform everything else. It is difficult, but not really, not difficult in the way I love telling it, the way I love sharing our story, mine, Toni and Calvin's, with so many people. It's a mission, I suppose. Is it hard to watch? Sure, but not hard like going-to-church-hard, I have been stunned at the way this show opens people up, it turns people on, it has destroyed a few, but they all have such amazing things to say about it - especially the destroyed ones.

I HATE THIS SCRIPT - a brief history

I began conceiving of it as early as August, 2001 - driving home from the New York Fringe.
I told myself I wouldn't begin writing until 2001 was OVER.
I began writing in January, 2002, and had a first draft before Calvin's first birthday - which I revised shortly after his birthday.
The staged reading was at Dobama in August, 2002. This is where I discovered that the play isn't mere self-abuse, but a good play people enjoyed hearing. And that I could play it.
The reading was attended by the artistic director of CPT, who invited me to participate in BIG BOX at the end of February.
In December, 2002 I get accepted into this festival.
February 28 - March 1 & 2 we do the BIG BOX run.
The rest is pretty much covered from the beginning of this blog.

So how long does it take to create a play? Two years? One? A couple weeks? I wonder how long I will be producing this.

One show I neglected mentioning was TYRANNOUS REX which was stunning. Not only the extent to which diminutive Nicola Gunn is a freakish changeling, but the use of music and lights is nothing short of miraculous. The woman jumps in and out of characters - and thoughts and time and space. It was fabulous.

Today we saw Laura Park in PARK N RIDE at the Brave New Workshop. I was a little nervous at first, we had been looking forward to her show after meeting her first at the end of the out-of-towner showcase last Thursday (oh so long ago) and then again the next night at VOICE-IN-HEAD. The beginning of the show was a little slow for me, I coudn't tell if this were a story or just stand-up, and she is a tremendous physical performer, I fretted we would be bogged down in Wisconsin jokes.

Shortly after that the ride really took off and I was delighted. The characters - her bizarre roommate Jen (I think her name was Jen) that was an excellent turn, and the Gap business, the truck driver ... very good, a very talented performer - and she's got a HUGE face! I am very glad I saw that.

Then Denny and Nick and I saw CRITTERS, we'd seen a bit of that at Balls last Saturday. I liked most of it, especially the subway part. This was my only dance show this week - people have been carping about the lack of dance coverage in the media ... but then people have started to carp about everything. I think they're all just afraid to say good-bye. I know I am.
Damn. Matthew Foster just wrote one of the most eloquent, complimentary, and funny write-ups I have ever received. Thanks, man ... and sorry I ruined your night.

"This show kicked my ass"

There was a lot riding on last night, it was like Opening Night all over again. The last several days have been very hard, I was close to completely wigging out on Tuesday ... I was able to deal with it by rushing around town, dropping off more postcards, I needed to feel like I was doing something. Yes, the word of mouth has been very strong, I have handed postcards to all kinds of folks and I have had other artists from all kinds of shows saying I was at the top of their list. But I had no idea whether or not that would translate into a decent house.

By yesterday, I was a walking ball of nerves. Toni, Denny, Z. and I had a lovely picnic by one of Minnesota's many lakes - the weather, which has been so cool, has turned hot again, but we had grocery store sushi (Kowalski's!) in the shade and just lazed about. Later I announced I was going to see MEDEA, by myself, right before my performance (that was supposed to produce a laugh) which I did. Two women performing the entire show in an hour, female actors from the past, one Chorus and one Medea, with thick Manchestrian accents (they are, indeed, from Manchester) with the actress chosen to play Medea protesting having to play this most villainous of women for so long I thought there was no way they could bring it back and produce the desired, tragic effect. You will be happy to know they did - and that was no mean feat with my mind wandering to my own, imminent performance from time to time.

To cut to the chase, we had 55 people last night. (Oh, and Nick did make his flight.) I fulfilled my mandate to double the house every night ... can't do that again unless we sell-out and though I am optimistic, I don't see that happening. But it was great to see so many people there.

There were friends, Ben and Pam drove all the way from Chicago, I was surprised to see them after the show. We didn't get to talk too much, they needed to head right back, we'll see them again the drive home. And Tim Perfect, late of the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival and now of Minneapolis' Pig's Eye Theatre. And Denny brought his friends from the other night, including the certain member of the local media establishment.

And then came the Fringe Elite! Yes, MN Fringe Executive Director Leah Cooper was in the house! I got Leah! And Fringe web designer, Ministry of Cultural Warfare artistic director and all-around cynical bastard (or so he says) Matthew Foster, and members of his company! Fringe Aide de Camp Andrew Cleveland was there, and he laughed in the weirdest places. And Rik Reppe (whose name I completely mangled during my post-show spiel) was in attendance ... afterwards he gave me the low-down on how moved all the aforementioned, hardened theater types were by the show.

I now have (to date) five audience reviews and a collective rating of five stars. You can read them at the above link. I am very fortunate, I am very grateful ... and I also fell a little weird. I was so strung out yesterday, I didn't feel I did a very good job. Or maybe I did, the reaction was quite strong. Sometimes I feel my show is like pizza - when it's bad, it's still pretty good.

And so things have progressed. It feels like we have been here forever, and I still have two performances left, but we are at the weekend, the second weekend, the last weekend, and the four of us are scrambling to figure out how to see as many shows as possible and juggle Zelda. It will all be done before we know it. I think I can spend out remaining days not being a total neurotic freak.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Finding Gabriel

In my Sat., Aug. 2 post I mentioned that I had been tipped off to a book written by a local professor about his experiences with stillbirth. This was inaccurate, but I am very glad for the tip.

The book in question, Waiting With Gabriel: A Story of Cherishing a Baby's Brief Life was written by Amy Kuebelbeck, the huband of a professor at St. Thomas, Mark Neuzil - a search for the book under his name was fruitless (you can sit in this rocking chair, Mr. Thayer) though that was one of the titles I looked over when trying to find it. A brief email exchange with him put me on the right track. The Internet is an amazing thing.

Also, their boy wasn't still born, they discovered during pregnancy that he has HLHS, hydroplastic left heart syndrome. Which is to say, no left side of his heart. After birth they could either choose for him an infancy and childhood and life full of high-risk and debilitating surgeries, or to die in the warm care of his parents arms in relatively less anguish.

No, we cannot compare our tragedies. Or maybe we can. Yes, I wish I could have looked down on Calvin's smiling face, just once, or to feel him grasp my finger. And sometimes I think of how relieved I am that he just died and I never had to make a decision like that one.

I am enjoying the book ... you know, the way people enjoy my play.

Learning to Crawl

Zelda has been learning how to push herself up on her knees, it's amazing to watch. I made a prediction that she would begin crawling here in Minnesota. We have a few days for that to come true.

Gossip
Last night the Vox Fringe board greeted us with this cry in the wilderness: "Who Do I Have To Blow To Get A Mainstream Review?" Ah, yes. The question of the ages. This person went on to lament the fact that all the papers have covered the same dozen shows (this is not true) and goes along with the accusation of local critics ignoring the out-of-town acts (they haven't.) But there is something to be said for the media concentrating on established performers and writers and up-and-coming companies which have already made waves at previous Fringes.

The other night I was having dinner with a certain influential member of the Minnesota media establishment. And this person recounted an encounter they had had the night before with an area theater critic at a solo performance written and performed by an established Twin Cities theater artist. The Fringe show in question is actually a revival from a few years earlier, a piece the artist had chosen to remount because they felt it hadn't gotten enough attention the first time around.

Well. The member of the local media establishment asked the critic, "what are you doing reviewing this, there's over 160 shows and you wrote this up three years ago," and the critic just smiled and said, "yeah, but it's just so good."

See, that story set me into a minor spasm of jealousy - my review was being wasted on a show that had already been covered just because the artist has a local critic in the palm of their hand!

And then I had to back up and say, hey dummy, if the tables were turned and this was your city and you were reviving a show you thought got short shrift and a local reviewer decided to give it another look-see, wouldn't you think that was your right, that you had earned that extra attention? The answer is, of course it would be.

The "sour grapes" conclusion to this barely interesting tale of envious rage is that Toni and Denny went to see the show in question yesterday afternoon. And they said it really isn't that great. The artist is a good actor, to be sure, but it's not a very cohesive or well-written play. Not even the bit about the cantaloupe.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Separated At Birth?

Amy Salloway and Curtis Proctor need to do a brother/sister act. While watching DTMMMLF? I was struck by her uncanny similarities to Curtis - not in appearance necessarily, though they do have a resemblance, but her voice, her gestures, her comic timing, it was stunning. I tried to figure it out, I thought perhaps it was the apparent inspiration Ms. Salloway has received from (among many others) David Sedaris, but that doesn't explain the performance. Anyway, I now have this urgent desire to bring them together - from far-flung Minneapolis and Wichita, to good old Cleveland, Ohio - and direct them in something. Maybe a trans-gendered production of True West or a seriously bent version of Virginia Woolf.

... hmn ... must contact James Mango ...

* * * * * * * * * *

Sweet! I got mentioned in City Pages! Not reviewed, mind you, but mentioned, and mentioned prominently. As Skip used to say, "every little bit hurts ..."

Solo Performance, Spoken Word, What Have You ...

This evening Denny had some friends over for dinner, and I found myself in the position of trying to describe the differences between the style of performance in my show and STAGGERING TOWARD AMERICA. I play characters, but then so does Rik - but he's not really acting, only, well, what are we doing when we impersonate someone else and tell something from their point of view, I mean, isn't that what acting is? But I have black-outs and music, so it's more theatrical, whatever that means.

And then, on the way home from seeing Amy Salloway in DOES THIS MONOLOGUE MAKE ME LOOK FAT? (rock on, Amy - we enjoyed your show a lot) I was struck by all of these deep thoughts about solo performance, and not just solo perf. but spoken word perf., and not just that, but the entire stripped-of-artifice thing - as can be illustrated by the work of the Neo-Futurists. Denny and I saw three of them do a final dress of DRINKING & WRITING at the Bryant-Lake Bowl, which will open tomorrow at Grumpy's. They do the show in a bar, the three of them drink the entire time (well, the two guys do) and talk about drinking and its effect on writing and great, American writers ... or visa versa. That's another show I enjoyed a great deal.

Now, I heard once that the whole solo performance movement sprung from the dire economic straits the arts have been in for the past twenty. They are cheap to produce, to transport ... and actors love them for a host of self-involved reasons.

And some of them are crap, as 98% of anything is crap (or so they say.) But I have been struck by a number of no-frills shows at this Fringe, shows that have a great deal of honesty and heart, without being self-indulgent. Shows that really communicate something, told by people who I am actually happy to listen to. I only hope I can count myself among those people.

By the way, DTMMMLF? was Toni and my first real night out, alone, since we started this trip. Z. was in the care of Uncle Denny tonight.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

My review of EATING DREAMS

Get It - Get It
The dichotomy of writing about adolescence is that if you are an adult you have forgotten most of the really bad stuff and end up producing something sweet and hazy or "edgy" and trite. And if you are a teenager, then you probably do not have the tools or artistic experience to communicate what you are going through without using extremely familiar and predictable language. God bless Jim Hamilton and the MXTW - they use the stylistic methods of the heroes of the avant-garde to produce an urgent and immediate reflection of what they (and every young person) is going through RIGHT NOW. If we all had their creativity, sense of humor, anger, outrage and (sigh) energy, this Fringe festival would fricking explode.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Vox of the Obsessed

The link above* will take you to "Vox Fringe" which is the message board for the Fringe Fest. We are a pathetic group. I think some of us are taking the online reviews (written largely, it would appear, by other Fringers - not that there's anything wrong with that) a little too seriously ... but that's coming from a guy with a solid FOUR AND A HALF STAR RATING!

Cheese.

So ... how do you maintain "buzz" - if I got buzz, and they tell me I do - through four long days between performances, with Nick out of town? Yes, Nick has gone home for a gig (flying back into the Twin Cities three hours before curtain on Thursday - stay tuned for how that one pans out) and he promotes our show much better than I do. When we walk into a theater, everyone recognizes him.

Tonight I did a pretty good job, I saw two shows at the Pillsbury, ZOMBIE MANIA and EATING DREAMS, and zipped into the lobby, like a whore, to hand our cards to everyone who came out. If everyone who says they already have my card and have me on their schedule actually shows up, I am going to do very well this weekend. But it is, as I say, a long time from now - Fringe days are like dog years.

ZOMBIE MANIA ... Nick really wants to see that. I hate to burst his bubble - it's fun in it's awfulness, the acting is wonderfully bad, the script is great in its badness, and there is some really awesome gore, but not enough! I am sorry, I wanted a big old splatter-fest, I was warned audience members were going to get messy, I wanted zombies in the audience - please forgive me for transfering my own desires onto someone else's show, but MAN they could have taken that much further.

EATING DREAMS was as good as I hoped it would be, I am going to think it over a little, probably write a review for the Fringe site.

I was debating staying late to see I GOT A REPUBLICAN UP MY ASS, which Nick and Denny saw last night, they said it was very funny, and unapologetically in-your-face about the people running our country. This afternoon Toni and Denny saw CHARLIE BETHEL'S BEOWULF, which they also said was very good.

We have people coming over for dinner tomorrow, so our Fringe going may be limited ... or perhaps not, we'll see how it pans out. Jesus, I have two more full days without a performance.

Tom
Thomas Whitely Cullinan is my guy. He's directed both of my full-length works. Who can I trust to direct my new play about the worst year of my life? Tom. Can he tell me what doesn't work, what rings false, what sounds too harsh, what will make people dislike my "character" - and sit back most of the time and just let Dave be Dave? Oh my yes. I was so happy he could come into town for the weekend, see one of our performances and Balls Cabaret, hang out all Sunday, checking out other shows - we had a great time.

Tom went to school at Macalester, which is literally up the street from Denny's apartment, on Grand Avenue. Macalester was the only other school I applied to. I went to the one that accepted me. I think I would have gone insane at Mac (as they call it) but the place means a lot to him. He took me and Zelda for a little tour on Saturday afternoon, that was really great. Denny had taken Toni and I around the grounds once, but Tom was able to fill the place in properly - "I staged a show here ... this little pig-ride was here ten years ago ... I lived here, and here - and here ..."

I wish he could have stayed with us for the week. It was a great couple of days.

* long dead - 7/13/2007

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Why We Tell Stories

Before I saw STAGGERING TOWARD AMERICA today, Rik told me I was really brave to do what I am doing with my show - this actually happened to me, and he was "only telling other people's stories."

Well, that's one way of looking at it. It's nonsense, of course, STA is very definitely his story, told through everyone else's story, and the fact that he is daring to travel such well-trodden ground (What is America?) and such sorely-abused ground (What is Patriotism?) and over, excuse the extended past the point of breaking metaphor, such hallowed ground (9/11) what he has accomplished is all the more stunning.

I was right there with him every step of his journey because I felt exactly the same way he did. Sure, we felt horror and sadness for all the pain and death, but all the "United We Stand" stuff? I didn't get that, either. And maybe I still don't. But I greatly appreciated the point of view he is sharing.

And that BARSTOOL he uses for his set? Man, that is one amazing barstool.

Other People's Stories
STA was the only show I caught today. Toni has been so helpful, doing double-duty on the childcare so I could spend three nights in a row, out late, not just doing my show, but doing those other gigs. I wanted to do them not only to raise awareness for my show, but because, you know, it's a festival, and I am glad I have had the chance to be a visible part of it. And so Toni went out with Nick, Tom and Denny and caught three shows, all in a row; THE GERMAN SOCIALITIES, GWEN HAIRY GWEN GLOSS and SABOTAGE: IN FINE FORM. Apparently they went from bad to excellent ... in that order. Which is the way I'd prefer them, if it were up to me.

Caught some of the SABOTAGE act last night at Balls, those guys are brilliant. If I don't catch them here, I may see them on tee vee someday.

Don't Fear The Topic
My pitch has really picked up, thanks to Nick. I listen to him talk about my show, he's better at it than I am. I approached a number of people after Rik's show, handing out cards, one said, "I've heard good things about this," and another, "what is it about?" And I said, "Two years ago my wife and I had a child who was stillborn and this is about the year I spent coping with it. Now, whatever you think a show like that might be like, forget it." Then someone asked (no kidding) "Is it a good show?" and I said, "It's a great show - your friend here already heard good things about it."

Big change in three days, huh?
Man, is it late. I have become an old man, and the idea of going to bed at three (central time) is just nutty. Of course, the circumstances are strange, the week should even out from here.

What Am I Talking About?
I woke with something like a hangover this morning, good ol' David "Two Beers" Hansen. Too much activity, too much running around in big heavy coats in other people's shows. Toni suggested bagging seeing any shows this afternoon in lieu of relaxing, and I was all for it - even if that meant not going to see THE HOBBIT with Denny and Nick. Their report made me feel I had made the right choice, and that is all I will say about that.

Zelda has learned to shriek like a dinosaur, in just the last two days. We got some rude looks at Cafe Latte.

Director Tom
Tommy has arrived, and we have been having a good time. I am happy to say that not only did tonight's audience more than double last night's attendance (you do the math) but Nick called it the best he has seen me do thus far. It did feel very good, indeed.

I am working on the post-show speech - the one where you thank everyone for coming, urge them to tell their friends - AND mention some other shows for them to see. I have only seen a few, I haven't known what to say. The fact is, you don't have to have seen a show to recommend it. Rik Reppe reportedly (because I have heard it from a number of sources) blew the doors off the Bryant-Lake telling people to see my show - and he hasn't seen it yet! So I will try something like that.

Blogrolling
One show I can recommend is TEECHERS, we caught that right after my gig. Man, that is uplifting. It is a familiar tale, an inspirational high school teacher with a number of delinquent kids. The small ensemble is wildly talented, and tell the story with great enthusiasm - I can't single out any of the performers, they all work together very well.

And then we did the Balls Cabaret thing at the Southern. The host, Leslie Ball, is utterly charming and gave the proceeding a great atmosphere. I did my bit, the "Father's Day" scene (I think it went all right) and saw bits from several shows that have moved to the top of my list, not least of which is EATING DREAMS, an ensemble of 16 high school students from Manhattan, Kansas. They were incredible. They did this Futurist manifesto ... I have to see the show again to describe it, it was their own bit, the words were theirs ... Jesus, it's too late for this, I am doing a crappy job of describing anything. But I am telling you, I am going to make that show.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

The Fringe Is Now Open

Damn, what a long day. It began much too early, shortly after midnight, with Zelda waking up, and thinking it was playtime. I spent an hour or so walking her up and down Denny's long, hardwood hallways, or pushing her around the apartment in the stroller.

So we slept in a little, had muffins and the NY Times and tried to nap a little before Denny, Ncik and Toni went off to see our first show of the week, HELEN GURLEY BROWN'S SEX AND THE OFFICE, which they said they enjoyed all right. You will notice I was not with them, I had a full night and so spent the afternoon with Z., walking up and down Grand, getting smiles from everyone.

Nick has taught me to be a bold promoter - there was the crowd of "young people" standing in a circle, talking, outside the Grand Old Ice Cream Shop. I went up to one of them, the one who looked like the leader (becuase he looked like he was my age) to begin handing out postcards, and when he found what the show was about, he told me about a professor at St. Thomas up the street who has written a book about his experiences when he and his wife lost a child through stillbirth. I have tried to contact this man already.

Opening Night
Our house was very, very small. It was a difficult show for me - I have never performed it without at least a few audience members who know who I am. No one laughed much, The tiny house contributed to this, I am sure, but I just couldn't tell if it was flying.

Afterwards I just sat in the dressing room a few minutes, trying to pull it together. I mean, tonight's show was one of the hardest things I have ever done, ever. Ron, the lighting guy for Red Eye (wait, isn't that the name of that new make-over show on Bravo?) came in and told me how great the show was - he'd only seen fragments during the cue-to-cue. He said I was really "articulate" which made me laugh because that was my biggest problem tonight, articulation, but that's not what he meant. I told him how I felt about the audience not laughing ever and he said, "Oh, that's just a Minnesota thing, you don't laugh at someone else's problems" and that just cracked me up, he totally brought me out of my funk.

And most of the audience, a small crowd, was waiting for me outside when I emerged. They were all very taken by the show. It felt great. We will spread the word about Calvin and this show, a person at a time. And more ...

Industrials
Nick, Denny and I then went to see one of the most-hyped shows in the Fringe. INDUSTRIALS are the scripts from five personal health/propaganda films from the 50s, perfomed by actors. It was oversold, they couldn't fit enough extra chairs in the space. And it was quite funny. And yet, I kep thinking it would be funnier to watch the original movies, which is usually the case when some theater company chooses to reenact something from film or tee vee on-stage. That's just my opinion. But parts of it were very, very funny, and I can see why it is going to be a big hit.

Nick and I ripped out of there when it was over and handed postcards to everyone in this sold-out crowd. People really dig the cards.

Voice-In-Head
Then up the street to perform in VOICE-IN-HEAD, which was WAY better than I thought it was going to be! First off, it wasn't just me, some others who were signed up dropped out, and so not only did they enlist Nick, but Denny, to perform. We all put on silly costumes, and our headsets. I was crowned with a hat made of dangerously arranged drinking straws - and I got a malicious hand-puppet, which freaking rocked.

The fifteen performers did what ever was told of us on our headsets - and we were each given 90 seconds to plug our shows. I did one of the phone bits, and some "crappy Shakespeare." And Nick gave some sincere speech about me, who I am, what my show is, and why you should come -or at least I think that was what he was doing, I was getting detailed instructions on the next act (a witchhunt) and so missed the entire thing. Denny surprised me no-end by doing a very funny monologue about the differences between Minnesotans and people from Ohio.

And we handed out more cards. Tomorrow's show is at 8 PM, on a Saturday. It goes without saying I hope the word is spreading .. and of course, I am praying against hope for a critic. This show is good, it's very good, and I know that better than I know most things. Some attention in the press would be a real coup.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Red Eye Rocks

What a great, long day. The plan was to drop postcards and/or bumper stickersin as many places as possible. Someone I met through the Fringe website sent me a big, long list of places to leave them - I don't know what I would have done without either that list nor my brother's help. Where to go and how to get there, that's what it's all about.

Pretty much every single place we went already had stacks of cards for other shows, I was proud of ours. They are color, they feature the sitting pose - one person said I look like Stanley Tucci in them (Toni will be so pleased) and a hostess at the Bryant-Lake Bowl said, "Oh! Can I have one?" so brightly when I showed them to her, I was wildly flattered.

The list features over 100 places. Denny and I hit over 30, not bad. And driving around Minneapolis on a beautiful day in Denny's Mustang convertible doesn't suck, either.

Nick arrived a little after three, Toni had made dinner, and the five of us got caught up before Nick and I had to endure Twin Cities rush hour traffic to get to tech by five ... or so.

Red Eye Rocks
The Red Eye Collaborative is a great space. It's not as large as I thought it might be based on the floorplan, but it is certainly larger in scope than either CPT and Dobama - and yet more intimate than both. The seating units are wider there than in the other spaces - so they do not go back very far, I am not very far from anyone. The floor is often used for dance companies, which explains why it is so wide and deep.

Thanks to John and Ron, our technical assistants. And the slides are going to look HUGE. We got all the cues down, but did not run the show, we hadn't planned to. Nick knows the show very well, I am in good hands. Now if I would only stop talking so much so my voice is well rested for tomorrow night.

Big Pimping
After tech Nick and I went to the Bryant Lake Bowl to try and chat up people after the "Out-of-Towner" showcase, the one we missed because I was dumb and scheduled our tech during it. We showed up just as everyone was leaving and stood as part of this narrow, receiving line, one of a number of other Fringers handing out cards: "Hi, I'm from out of town, too ... My name's Dave, come see my show ... thank you so much for attending, come see my show ... this is Nick, he's from Cleveland, too ..." It was quite a coup, and excellent timing.

Oh, and this is good - earlier I ran into some people outside Red Eye, showing up to drop off postcards. They asked what my show was, and I said, "I Hate This" and as they looked at my card one asked, "Oh? And what do you hate?" and I said, "oh ... uh, I, ah, my wife and I had a stillborn child, and,uh, this is about that." "Oh," he said kindly and I said, "Yeah, I really gotta work on the pitch."

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Welcome to Minnesota

Okay, I was looking to avoid basking in my insecurities. Besides, so many go without saying - not only am I doing a show about stillbirth but this is not my town, I don't have any contacts, no following, I've got both hands tied behind my back when it comes to dragging an audience in to see our show.

So Toni, Z. and I had just rolled into town after driving for two days (baby's first road trip - memo to myself: don't just add a few hours, take the estimated driving time and double it) and we were excited and a little punchy. My brother Denny helped schlep everything up to his apartment, we're all sitting down to order Thai from this great new place up the street ... but I have to dash to the bookstore to get a copy of City Pages and check out my listing.

This is a big deal, people - the weekly newspaper, the only weekly newspaper, the one "our crowd" reads, you know - who knows which people will see more of, the website or this paper. As a matter of fact, no, this is not just the City Pages listing, in fact, CP has their own abbreviated listings of the Fringe (and I ain't in 'em) this is the official Fringe guide, included in CP as a supplement.

They took my photo, the sitting one, and cut off my head and my feet. No Dave face, no little shoes. Just big Dave crotch. Welcome to the Fringe.

Okay, that's it, it all goes up from here. The bumper stickers arrived (thanks, Brian, they look GREAT) and tomorrow Denny and I and maybe another Fringer will drive around town and drop them and the postcards as many places as humanly possible. Nick arrives around 3 PM. We're off.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Remember to pack costume, press kits, contact lenses, publicity materials, barstool for Rik Reppe (“Staggering Toward America”), programs, fresh fruit, sandwiches, mix tapes and CDs, digital camera, cellphone, Nick’s phone number, wife, baby, sunglasses, wallet ...

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Why Nick Koesters Is A Genius

We had an intimate, receptive audience last night. Is that putting too nice of a spin on it? Yes, the audience was small, and what followed began more as a reception than as a party. My old high school drama coach, Mr. Siller and his wife were there, which was very nice - he hasn’t seen anything I have produced since I graduated high school. Someone came from somewhere between here and Toledo. Christine’s folks came.

Now, after 9:30 the party crowd came rolling in. And the games Nick had put together were just amazing. I had my doubts. Why? Because I am a stick in the mud. But he went around, signing people up, I don’t know how many arms he twisted, but every game had a lot of participants.

Nick is one of those delightful people who have no shame. Nick kept the energy up, got every one real excited about playing “Pin the Hair on Hansen” (a poster-sized, cartoon headshot of me, drawn by a friend of ours, with a variety of hairstyles to pin on it - mohawk, Klingon head, Marge Simpson, Jesus Christ) as well as the Marathon “Twister” game. There was also the “Siñata” which was a large high-hell shoe with toys and candy and condoms and small bottles of liquor in it.

Ever since the “Sin” benefit in 1999, Nick has been invaluable at the benefits. He turned our gag phone sex line into a real one. In 2001, at the Mardi Gras benefit, it was his idea to sell the beads for money (don’t ask me why this was a sticking point) and raised hundreds of dollars on his own, charging around the place, sporting a massive racks of fake tits, getting everyone to buy far more beads than they might have otherwise.

It was a great party last night, there was more than enough food - good food, too - and alcohol. I didn’t drink much at all, but I was up later than I have been for perhaps a year, getting in around two.

What was most disappointing was that Toni could not attend. Zelda has not been very helpful when it comes to taking naps during the day lately, and so Toni needed to stay home with her. This is also going to be an issue in Minnesota, I am sure.

More party photos.

Barry
When I got home, Barry was still up - we have a few house guests this weekend, Barry, Harris, his new girlfriend Elizabeth who is simply wonderful, they all came to see the show last night. What I hadn’t noticed was that the show left Barry almost entirely destroyed. He says he spent large parts of it just weeping, I didn’t notice this, in spite of the fact that he was sitting in the front row. I think I thought he was laughing or something.

So I was exhausted, but he is a nocturnal creature, the kind of guy who can sit up coding until four in the morning. And he has always been more of Toni’s friend, anyway, though I like him just great. We had a super conversation in the kitchen for about a half-hour. He says my play is one of the best plays ever written - I just kind of laughed uncomfortably for a few moments saying, “Well, geez, ah,” and then just said thanks. Just so you understand, Barry reads a lot, a whole lot - more than you, I can guarantee it - so I was not underwhelmed by such a statement. As he says, he can hack apart Chekhov and Shakespeare, so I shouldn’t have felt too bad when he gave me some criticism of the show.

And I didn’t. He said some very good things, things others had not bothered to mention yet, like the transition from “Cloisters” into “Nurse Evil 2” - it rings false, he said, and last night, more than any other night, I agreed. I need to change that sound cue - in my defense, I never thought it fit anywhere in the show, but Tom and Dennis wanted to keep it in. He was also taken aback by the “Members of different clubs” line ... for all of the aforementioned reasons (see July 17.)

I finally had the opportunity to ask how he has been doing through his divorce - after all this business about pointing fingers at people who do not inquire about others’ emotional well-being, I really needed to do this before the weekend is over. That was a large part of the reason he found the play so hard to take. It reminded me of my bit about 9/11 - new traumas revive old traumas.

Anyway ... Jesus, so much to do and not very much time left. We have today and tomorrow to pack everything, pick up the house, and well, that’s enough, isn’t it? My work here is done. The show is more than ready. I am more than ready. It’s onto the Fringe.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Happy birthday to me. I share my birthdate with Mick Jagger and George Bernard Shaw. Not bad company.

Today’s matinee was hard ... well, you know, parts of it were superior to last night, but the bits that weren’t - I mean, I was messing up all kinds of lines, but you know, they’re my lines, aren’t they? I can mess them up if I like.

The real problem is my head. I have this thing, I call it a “Dave Hangover” - I can pretty much assume that any day I have the chance to sleep in (I am talking, oh, 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning) I am going to get an unhappy headache, right behind one eye. The only logical explanation is that, given my daily intake of dangerous amounts of caffeine beginning at 6 or so, it doesn’t matter how much coffee I drink when I do wake up, the damage is done.

So doing a 3 PM show wasn’t something I was looking forward to. That and I knew the house would be smaller than last night’s. But the first thing I encountered when I came to the theater was a very nice card from someone who saw the show last night, along with a very kind check. So things started looking up almost immediately.

Of the twenty or so people who were in attendance was a critic from the Plain Dealer, and one of this show’s benefactors, who chooses to remain anonymous. He’s a local businessman and one-time congressman and I don’t imagine we share many political opinions but he has been supportive of our work, and of this show in particular. I was relieved to see him nodding and laughing at key points. Does that make me a whore?

Several theater people who are currently in other shows attended ... pretty much the only people left from the Cleveland theater community who hadn’t seen it yet.

At this very moment there are friends and supporters scurrying around Dobama, setting up everything for the big post-show birthday party. Though reservations for the show are slight, a number of people have announced they will be coming afterwards for the soiree. I hope they do, and not because we need to money, though that’s important, too. There’s over a dozen people who have worked really hard to throw me a party, and they deserve a crowd more than I do.
One down, two to go (not counting Fringe.) Reservations have been low - I could write a few pages on my theories regarding attendance, I am a p.r. guy, after all, but I am too sleepy. Suffice to say, given the reservations, I was pleased at the turn-out - thirty people, perhaps?

And they were prepared. Almost a year ago I first shared this show with an audience, with a staged reading right in that very space, Dobama. And at that point in time, my question was, “Is this a play, or is this just me acting out my journal?” I am sure the audience’s questions were starker than that. We were all relieved to discover this is not only a real play, but a good one.

Then, at CPT, I was confident, but the audience was probably still on edge. Is this going to be ugly? Is this going to hurt? They were relieved as well.

Now the show is established, can we say that? And people have a good idea of what to expect, though I believe they are still pretty surprised.

So they were ready for the humor - all of the humor, I had people laughing at things they had never laughed at before ... and that was good - and kind of weird. It seemed harsher than usual, maybe because I continue to gain distance from that time, from that place (I always will) and so I really can play up some moments, I am not as afraid to go all out, but I don’t want to be a DICK or anything.

Playing the first “Julie” scene I never heard so many audible gasps. And that was fun. But by the time I got to my parents, I felt like I was beating people up. But they were with me. And it felt good.

The response following the show was good, too. People made additional donations for the trip to MN. People stayed to talk to me - Susanna, and old friend from school, asked me a question no one had asked before; how were we able to try again so soon, after all this? It was a great question. And I didn’t have a firm answer. “‘Cause we had to.” That’s all I could say.

By the way, the Dobama dressing room SMELLS.

Ode to Brian Pedaci
Our managing director, our co-founder, our man in the ticket booth, Brian. He takes on the hard work, the acquiring of concessions, the wrangling of house staff, he makes the contracts with the theaters, he writes the checks, now he is the one who copies the programs.

Brian’s artistic contributions have also been invaluable, acting in Hamlet, The Alchemist, directing SantaLand one year, and The Censor. But he also does the less glamorous stuff, and the more important stuff, the stuff hat makes the company continue to exist. As I have scaled back the hours I spend running this company, the more he puts in - and he has a wife and two very young daughters. And puts in a ridiculous amount of time at his paying job.

Why? I do not know. Does he feel his time is well spent? I cannot say. But I can say his dedication to Bad Epitaph is unquestionable, his efforts are invaluable, and his friendship means a great deal to me.

Here’s to you, Brian Pedaci. You fucking rock.

Friday, July 25, 2003

A successful final “dress” - that is in quotes because I wasn’t wearing my costume. Fortunately the weather has been cool this week and today’s heat has not made it down into Dobama, but I still wear a sweater in the damn thing. We shall see whether or not I pass out tonight. Have I asked whether or not the Red Eye is air-conditioned? No, that would have been smart.

Biffed a couple lines, I should have known better. Tommy has been taking very good care of me. It will be fine. I’ll just keep telling myself that. I got no idea how many people are showing up to any of these performances, I will be happy to see any or all of them.

It seems Nick is going to be flying home to do an industrial during the four day break we have between the Saturday and Thursday performances. I was looking forward to hanging out more with him, but I think we’ll get enough face-time in St. Paul as it is.

And hey, my new contacts arrived today. Disposable!

Nick is supposed to pick me up in couple of minutes and we will go get our refurbished rocking chair.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

My, what an exciting day. We had our first technical run-through this morning beginning at 10 am - and it was virtually flawless. Kudos to my men Tommy & Nick, they had everything so perfect from the get-go I was able to get a complete, uninterrupted rehearsal in. We’ll do another tomorrow and be good to go for tomorrow night.

I have gotten so comfortable with the show I was really able to play around today. Unfortunately, a lot of it sounded flip or arch, a little too funny and not very sincere. And you know what they say about sincerity ...

I was in the middle of one bit, and I hear someone enter the stage behind me. I mean, Tom is the only person in the house, sitting right in front of me, and he looks a little concerned, but not enough. I almost stopped it was very distracting - but it was only a rehearsal, and I chose to plunge through.

Afterwards I asked Tom if there was a gremlin onstage during the show, and he confirmed that yes there was, and the only gremlin he would not choose to get outraged about - it was the Fire Marshall. You know, the guy who lets theaters exist sometimes in spite of the million violations that are apparent to the lay electrician.

Toni, Z. and I then went to fill my new contact lens prescription, and to get new sunglasses. I lost my old pair at Blossom a few weeks back, and I will be damned if I am driving six hours a day, two days in a row without sunglasses.

So I needed my eyes dilated. They still are, I am wearing my new sunglasses in lieu of my real glasses, because I am still to blinded by bright lights to look at a computer screen. Am digging these new frames - Toni says I look like a hit-man.
´

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Yep. We’re gonna need all three hours of tech in Mpls. Today we began cue to cue at 8:30 - conflicts required us to break by 11:30. I thought it went very smoothly, for a show that has already been done. Tommy and I knew where and when things were supposed to happen, and Nick had a pretty well organized book, which was only missing a few cues we had to reimagine. As I said, it was all smooth, we got along great, no headaches, no confusion. And it took three hours.

I am losing my voice. My supervisor at Great Lakes and I talked for hours the other night about next year, it was very exciting and when it was all through I thought my, is my throat tired. Trying to match Lisa in conversation will do that to you. And after this morning ... I just need to force fluids and shut up.

* * * * * * * * * *

Got the cards from Hotcards, they are AWESOME! I am dropping these puppies off in every square corner of the Minneapolis AND St. Paul - I better make sure to keep some archive copies because I ain’t bringing any home.

* * * * * * * * * *

Got mojo plug-a-rama action in Cool Cleveland today - Mr. Mulready’s arts e-zine is the hot new place to be mentioned, and I, for one, am digging the attention.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Things are looking up - that place on Mayfield (hey, isn’t that a restaurant - sorry, dumb east side joke) will do the work by Friday! So I have the rocking chair. Guy says the chair must be a hundred years old, I don’t believe him. Didn’t keep him fro m making the repair expensive, but I don’t have much of a choice. Besides, we have wanted it fixed since March, anyway.

This morning I couldn’t get my head on straight - Nick and Tom were setting light cues and I was running around, chauffeuring rocking chairs and then I forgot to bring the slides and CD of music.

We cleared the stage (it still hasn’t been painted black) hung the slide projector, stripped the last noticeable remnants of the kids’ playwriting festival from the upstage facade. So now we have three more mornings to whip this show back into shape, beginning with our first cue-to-cue tomorrow. I continue to run through lines in my head and out loud whenever possible.

Toni is at the bookstore this afternoon and I have Zelda. Now I know w hat Toni has been talking about, this girl is not to be pleased these days. Must be the teeth or something.

I finished the program design last night, looks good. One sheet. Way to go! We’ll be using the same one at Dobama that we are taking to the Fringe.

Oh, and Brian got the postcards yesterday, he says they look good. And with the mad promoiton money we saved on the cards, he has suggested getting bumper stickers. The original gag was the paste them over other Fringe shows - just a big sticker saying I HATE THIS!

Ha ha ha - of course we wouldn’t do that.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Okay, this stuff is just getting dumb ...

First off, someone on the Dobama staff (who shall remain nameless ... let’s just say she is blonde and short) scheduled an audition during our tech this morning. A 10 o’clock tech is strange enough in this neighborhood, but an audition is simply ridiculous.

The guys were creating the light plot, a simple affair that we can count on replicating in Minneapolis. Meanwhile I have forgotten to tend to the furniture. The Wolf family rocking chair, which was damaged during the last run of IHT has not been repaired. The place Nick suggested on Mayfield takes “three to four weeks” to do the job ... I’d feel bad about putting it off, but Nick made the suggestion last week.

So I need a rocking chair. And a hospital stool. I went to four resale shops this afternoon and came up empty. Oh, and I need new contacts, the last pair ripped on me before that audition last week. They were supposed to be good for six months, I have been using them for four years, so I can’t complain.

Yes, I am procrastination boy. Always something.
There’s a party going on, only I haven’t arrived yet ...

I was reading Brian’s “Vox Fringe” run-down on the showcase at Balls’ Cabaret on Saturday night. Sounds like a gas. The Fringe has begun and we won’t be leaving for a week. Feels weird.

I am physically pathetic this summer. I worked like hell to get back on schedule, I ran every day through the month of June - making time for personal exercise just hasn’t seemed a priority since the baby was born - and that was really, really hard. I never seemed to enjoy it, I was simply exhausted all the time.

Did the five mile run on July 4th, beat my personal best time ... and I haven’t been running a day since. I dropped dead with a cold right after that, and I just haven’t gotten back into it.

Why is that relevant to this journal? I am not sure, but I think it is. IHT isn’t the most physically demanding show I have ever done (sit back, children, and I will tell you about when I played the Elephant Man) but it does require a great deal of mental stamina, these things work together, you know.

* * * * * * * * * *

Yesterday was the final birthday benefit meeting. This thing is going to be a gas. Everyone has done a tremendous job, we’ve got food and drinks and decorations and music and games and I think everyone is going to have a great time. Like all other benefits, we have NO IDEA how many people will attend (no one RSVPs anymore) but as usual I am expecting we will be surprised.

That’s an oxymoron, isn’t it?

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Hey! Matthew A. Everett just fingered my show!

Friday, July 18, 2003

Toni just threatened to kick my ass if I ever again use the word “journal” as a verb.

Oh sure, the rest of the United States uses the word “impact” as a verb, and I get my ass kicked.

So today has been non-traditional. Actually, the morning started the way it has most days this week - with the door of the theater still locked at 10 AM. We had gotten used to running lines in the coffee shop until whenever the skeleton crew that runs Dobama during the summer gets in, but today we just said the hell with it and I did scenes out in the Courtyard, in front of the former Arabica.

Man, that place used to be so nice. Now it isn’t. Maybe the Grog Shop relocation will help things, but I doubt it.

Anyway, actually moving around makes it easier to get the lines perfect. Later I ran into someone downtown who saw me there, acting. Cool!

So anyway, downtown they were having some kind of arts fair near Playhouse Square. There were vendors outside where E. 14th and Hudson meet Euclid, and then the Cleveland Theater Collective had set up a place they were calling the “Rehearsal Room” in the Halle Building - a little trivia for those who don’t live here, the Halle Building, in particular the Wyndham Hotel facade part of the Halle Building, is the establishing shot for Drew Carey’s department store, whatever that place is called.

The “Rehearsal Room” was a former men’s store or something, and they set up a stage in front of the window on Euclid, with folding chairs facing it, and of course, the street. Anyone standing on the stage, facing the audience, gave Cleveland’s busiest thoroughfare a great view of their ass. For a half-hour today, that would be me.

Yes, I had agreed to do part of IHT for the event. Greg Vovos’ directed a piece that came before me, Michael Sepesy was doing bits from his play “Loserville” (which he is taking to FringeNYC this summer) and I got what was supposed to be twenty minutes, which was expanded at the last minute to a half-hour.

At first I was kind of cheesed, but then I thought, well, that’s half the show - and why not? It may be good promotion for the Dobama gig next weekend.

And it didn’t go badly. No lights, sound, slides, props, nothing, just me and a half dozen people who wandered off the street - and they stayed! They watched the whole thing, it was very nice. We were all nervous at first, it was awkward, I had to introduce myself, and then I didn’t know where to look, at them (seated below me) or above their heads ... but as it went along we all got more comfortable.

I can do this play anywhere, any place, any time. Bring it on!

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Interesting discussion at rehearsal this morning - when is the narrator? Is he speaking during the events in question, just after them, when I wrote the play or as I am performing it. This was easily answered last August (the narrator was speaking at that point in time) and last March (the narrator was speaking from that point in time) but what of this August? What about the future?

The words do not change, but the point of view certainly does. Case in point - “... but they are different clubs.” My friend has a child with Downs Syndrome. I have a child that died before birth. She says we are members of a club we never wanted to join, I agree - but observe that they are different clubs.

In August, I was harsh. It was as if I were saying “at least your child lives.” That was not what I was thinking, I was really thinking, “you have your situation, I have mine, we should accept that we do not understand each other” or something to that effect. But everyone thought I meant “at least your child lives.” You can see how that interpretation might seem a tad, oh, unsympathetic. But there I was, and I was not apologizing for voicing my thoughts at the time.

In March, things had changed. I had visited my friend, and met her beautiful daughter. The fact that our own, healthy daughter had recently been born did not really enter into it (well, okay, she must have, but I didn’t realize how) and the line was much more “Zen”. You have your club. I have my club. They are different. And we may, someday, understand each other, if we do not at this moment.

And today? Today I look at my own, healthy daughter - super healthy, uberhealthy, a monolith of an infant. And I see my friend, loving her child, cheering her child’s accomplishments, and I think, I have had my tragedy, and I live with it every day, and I think I am strong ... but I will never know if I could be strong like that.

And so the delivery is different - if I am speaking from today. And though I do a lot of acting here, it is a play after all, it is hard to be the narrator and not be me, the real me, the me that is standing on stage right now and talking to you.

I got hided by some members of the pre-natal death community in March for something I was quoted for in the paper. I said Zelda had changed my play. They thought I meant I had changed the play, the words, because I now had a living, healthy child. This is not true. But I could not articulate what I did mean by that comment. And now I just have.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

An unfortunate work conflict kept Tommy from rehearsal again today. Nick was assisting me in running lines though we did spend most of the time chatting about theater in general, the show he is doing out at Porthouse in specific, and just about really anything to keep us from work. This is all right - I mean, all right for him, I was not able to look at my lines at all since yesterday, so the work we were doing seemed a bit perfunctory. I need to make time today to really do my homework.

Ad in the Free Times today. Thank you, Sponsor, my Print Sponsor. I was a little cheesed when they said an advance article was not a possibility - they said this a month or so ago, the theater critic sheepishly informing me there is a bizarre amount of theater at the end of July. I thought he was full of it, but it turns out he is absolutely right, I know of three shows that opened last week that didn’t get reviewed this week, in addition to the two that did.
Lot of talk on the “official” Fringe blogs about the value, or lack thereof, inherent in autobiographical one-man shows. And I am here to weigh in - I, too, would encourage people to stay away from them.

Ha ha, funny funny, I am doing a solo performance I wrote about my own deeply personal experiences, I am joking. I joke. Only I am not joking.

I have seen a lot of solo performances in the past few years, they are the thing, aren’t they? Their cheap for theaters to produce, and easy for artists to d o - I write! I act! I can make a show for me and take it absolutely anywhere!

Some of the best are based on historical material, and I am not just talking about your Hal Holbrooks of the world doing Mark Twain (though I have seen that - there’s some le gendary theater for you) but the ones where people find some obscure but important figure and tell their story. It’s hard work - how much exposition, how much “playing the scene.” Playing the scene can be so cheesy, but exposition, direct address - I me an, why not just give a lecture? But I dig history, so it helps. I want to enjoy those shows.

It’s the ones that are based on personal experience which can be difficult - though, man, there was this one at FringeNYC two years ago about this guy who did puppet ministry, he was dynamite. Very funny.

And that’s the thing, if you are funny, then you can’t lose, right? It’s the overwrought stuff ... I have seen no less than two one-man shows that were not only all about coming-out, but also about how messed up their mothers were AND they both included really, really bad, middle-of-the-road ballads at all the “emotional highpoints.” They sang. They sang their own original, really bad songs.

There is no singing in my show. That’s not true - I sing one verse of one song, and it’s very, very brief. And I didn’t write the song, Bob Dorough wrote the song, so you know it is a very cool song.

So, I guess what I am saying is there are enough very bad, autobiographical solo performances out there to make th e average audience member wary, especially if they feel their time is limited and want to make the right choice.

But then, that is entirely not what a fringe festival is about. It is about taking a risk - go see the show you know is going to be excellen t and you may very well be let down. And if you walk into the solo performance about the guy’s personal experiences losing his first child, well, you may be surprised there, too.

* * * * * * * * * *

Can you feel the love? I’m feeling it.

Not only did Amy send me a very kind message (Amy's Blog) reassuring me that I am not a complete loser because I didn’t get a spot in a showcase. That was really cool.

But then - I got offered a spot in the showcase! Just this morning! So I will be there at the Balls (what?) sometime after midnight on Saturday, August 2nd.

It’s a great morning, already, and we haven’t even taken Zelda swimming yet.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Note to Brian at Shortened Coffin: at least you have two chins, I do not have any.

Shortened Coffin's Blog ˇ
Adventures in P.R. They say I am very good at p.r., but trying to promote my show in a different city, a city where I have no contacts (well, that’s not exactly true) is proving a major challenge. Especially when you are one of 160 shows. Especially when yours in from out-of-town. And perhaps even because the show is about stillbirth - but what do I know?

In addition, I do not help matters when I shoot myself in the foot. I did not get my application for the “out-of-town” showcases in soon enough, and as a result I am in neither of them. This is really disappointing, but oh well, regardless, I will attend them. Just another misstep. I will still take the opportunity to meet people and hand out postcards.

We missed Tommy this morning, he was at work until the wee hours last night, and feeling ill this morning. Nick helped me cram lines - I know them, but I need to get them perfect, again. Nick said he wouldn’t quibble with a small word change here or there, but I asked him to anyway. Yes, I wrote it, but when I start paraphrasing my own work, I get “mushy” - add “y’knows” and “I means” and there are enough of those in the script already.

It’s nice hanging out with Nick, he’s really funny and he’s all about the work.

Got an audition this afternoon for a film they’ll be shooting in town in September. Wish me luck.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Back into rehearsal. Tommy, Nick and I met at Dobama at 10 this morning (God, rehearsing in the morning is a great thing ... must be nice to be a professional) and discussed technical matters, pertaining more to the Cleveland performances than the Minneapolis ones; what set pieces do we have, do we need to get from the Salvation Army, what is Denny finding me in the Twin Cities ...

... is anyone reading this ..?

... and then I did a speed-through of the entire show. Strange, I haven’t performed it since March, just crammed lines the past few days, didn’t even block it at home, and most of it is still right there. The brain is a tremendous thing. My brain, anyway.

Tommy, the director and Nick, the technical coordinator. It’s fun to watch them work together. Tom keeps suggestions what additional stuff we might be able to add once we get to the Fringe, and Nick plays the hard realist, “we didn’t ask for that, we can’t have that.” They are both important roles. Tom is just trying to make sure the show looks the best it can, and not all of his suggestions sound like they will be challenged at the festival - it’s hard to say, really, because we haven’t been provided with a light plot. So they each make up all of these theories for how it might work, once we get there.

Meanwhile, I have been fiddling with a few lines in the show - the ones I mentioned earlier, about “Nurse Evil,” they felt undercut the strength of the piece, but we changed it a little and made it stronger ... I think. We’ll see how it plays tomorrow.

Right now I am challenged to see how much time I can spend running trouble spots - I don’t want to walk in tomorrow with the same errors I had today. That’s the worst thing an actor can do - the director gives you a number of helpful comments and notes, and then you show up at the next rehearsal and make it painfully obvious you haven’t thought about the show at all since you left the building the day before.

See, this is why I tell people being a director has made me a better actor.

Now the big question is ... Cedar Point or Six Flags? Cedar Point or Six Flags? Cedar Point sounds funnier ... but do the people in Minnesota know what it is?

Sunday, July 13, 2003

The “birthday benefit committee” met today at the Juniper Street Arabica. I am extremely grateful so many have signed on to help, everyone is so enthusiastic. I try not to think too hard about it - this is a benefit to help send a show we are producing to a theater festival. It is also a birthday party being thrown for me (my idea) to send me to a theater festival to present a show I wrote starring me.

Me, me, me.

The Bad Epitaph board initially balked at the idea of having a post-show birthday party (balked is a strong word - they had reservations) because it might be seen as kind of weird. And I thought of that, too. A birthday party for me, after a show about how my son doesn’t get any birthdays. That’s not accurate either - it ends with his birth, and his first birthday, and arrrrrrrgh - anyway, it’s odd. Seems kind of selfish.

But then, we wanted to have a party, a fund-raiser, a celebration - were we supposed to all wear black crepe and sing hymns?

Several weeks back Nick (who is on the board, too) talked us back into treating it like a real birthday party, with games, adult games - there will be a pinata with little bottles of alcohol in it, and “Pin the Hair on Hansen” (yes, love that one) and a Twister tournament with rules I cannot begin to fathom.

I am glad it’s going this way. I think it is going to be an excellent and joyful send-off.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

In a different life, I would be taking this show to a number of festivals this summer. I think back to my work with DNK, or Guerrilla, and I had no idea what was going on in the larger theater community. There were so many of those shows which would have made excellent fringe material.

It wasn’t until 2000, when Toni and I happened to be in NYC when their fringe was going on. I was like, what the hell is this? And that led to Toni’s show, ANGST:84 getting into the ‘01 FringeNYC.

Of course, we had already lost Calvin then. It was a difficult trip for Toni - she had a great time, to be sure, but it was all a little overwhelming for her. I have to admit I had the time of my life, I was “only” running sound, but that was great because I wasn’t nearly as exhausted as everyone else (though it was pretty damn hot in that booth) and took the time to see thirteen different shows. And almost all of them were really good, if not really, really good.

But my choices were somewhat limited as to what festivals I could take this to, because at the beginning of the year we still didn’t know where we would be in the fall, if we would be selling the house or what. I was relieved to discover the Minnesota festival fit into our schedule (such as it was at the time) because I love the Twin Cities, and because my brother lives there, which has made planning for it much, much easier.

So, as I was saying, in a different life, I may have attempted an entire Fringe Circuit for myself, running all over North America this summer ... but then, in a different life, I wouldn’t have had to write this show. We’ll see if I can take it anywhere else next summer.

Friday, July 11, 2003

No one has asked me so far if I have done any revisions, and I really haven’t, not since February ... well, that’s not true, a word creeps in here or there, or a phrase is added or eliminated, as it was during the run at CPT.

The piece I think I am least happy with in the entire show is the final “Nurse Evil” segment, which just kind of ends. Well, it used to just kind of end, and then I tacked on a little, conspiratorial laugh between David & Toni ... but I still feel something is missing. I came up with something that plays up my impotence in the situation, and brings up issues such as “informed consent” ... that and I am replacing “Cedar Point” with “Six Flags” - it didn’t get a laugh as Cedar Point, anyway.

On a different note, I am disappointed to learn I cannot participate in the night-before-opening “Out Of Towners” showcase on the 31st. We’ll still be in tech when that is going on. Oops. And scheduling tech last minute on Thursday was our first choice. I guess we didn’t know how soon we would be ready to go after arriving ... Toni and I will get there the day before, so I guess it didn’t make any difference.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Oh Jesus. Nike is acquiring Converse. I am pretty lame when it comes to sticking to an altruistic lifestyle (do I eat at MacDonald’s? Not as much as I used to ... but yes, of course I do) and as it happens, Converse was purchased by an independent company a year or so ago, and they were the ones who ended Converse’s reign as the last American company to make tennis shoes. Since then I have looked the other way as I bought my beloved Chuck Taylors, aware that the “Made In Indonesia” tag meant they were made by little hands at pennies an hour.

But this I cannot abide. I will not buy products that go to make money for Nike until the change their methods of production. So my world-famous collection of sneakers has reached its end.

Now, the really difficult question ... do I continue to wear the Chuck’s I already have?

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Welcome to my blog, created specifically to chronicle my experience with the Minnesota Fringe Festival. This is an experiment, I do not really approve of these things, as I try to avoid one-sided conversations and, evidence to the contrary, do not like posting my inner-most thoughts where just anyone can see them.

Having said that ...

I am spending way too much time clocking the MN Fringe website (fringefestival.org) and it's making my eyes hurt. Perhaps I should be spending that time busy rehearsing, or promoting my show - not just in Minneapolis (although that wouldn't hurt) but here as well. I have less than three weeks to get IHT back on its feet for a weekend at Dobama Theatre (dobama.org) before packing up for the Twin Cities.

Toni is participating in a big writers' conference this week, and so I am spending more time alone with Zelda than I have ever done before. Today we went swimming and then I took Lady Z to the art museum, which she enjoyed an awful lot. People all smile when they see her.ˇˇ