Thursday, June 30, 2005

And now: I get to talk about ME!

Answers to Lauralu's Questions!

1. you’ve received numerous recognitions for “i hate this” - in your heart of hearts, which one do you secretly find most flattering?

Flattering? That's tough. Flatter: To please or gratify the vanity of: “What really flatters a man is that you think him worth flattering” (George Bernard Shaw). Cleveland Scene qualified their "Best Actor" nod by noting 2003 was "a year with surpisingly few stellar performances by male actors." In calling the show one of the "Top Ten of 2003" the Plain Dealer credited it for being "never soupy or exploitative" - true, but icky to read. And the New York Times said I have "the somber, cavernous face of an old man."

Like how I denigrate myself while simultaneously taking the opportunity to detail all these honors? Shaw may well have said, "What really flatters Dave is Dave."

The most flattering was probably the Poets & Writers Event last year. My work was featured in the company of many of Cleveland's great writers, and in that way I was recognized as one of them. I don't believe I am actually anywhere near as good a writer of any of them, but I can't deny it's a good feeling.

Having said all that, I have to acknowledge how uncomfortable I feel being "flattered" by the attention, the success this show has achieved. Generally, I have taken each award or special notice as a chance to further promote the show - to get more performances, to take it to more audiences. Kind criticsm feels good, to be sure, but that's never been why I do this show, which I am sure you all know and understand.

A large number of people stayed to speak with me following that last gig at MetroHealth. What they said to me made me feel the best way I can about performing this show again and again. And that's not appealing to my vanity. That's knowing I did something good for someone else, that it was worth it, and letting people know they aren't alone in their grief.

And I get to talk about Calvin.

2. which of your birthday compatriots would you rather be: mick jagger or george bernard shaw? do tell.

Would I rather be? I'd rather be Jagger because he's Mick Frigging Jagger, because in spite of any artistic pretentions I might have, being blindingly rich and violating Marianne Faithful with Mars bar trumps pretty much everything. I'd even apologize for doing that cover version of "Dancing in the Streets" with David Bowie (though I would not apologize for doing Bowie.)

Okay, seriously, I'd rather be Shaw. As a playwright who can't seem to write more than two plays, however, I will never be as profilic as Shaw. On the other hand, I do not have a pathological fear of the female sex organ, so I have that over him. I wish I wrote letters to the editor, I admire his music criticism, I share his view of spiritualism and politics ... maybe that just means I am more like him than Jagger.

And there's that cool quote about flattery.

There's finally something to be said for longevity. The man died at the age of ninety - when he fell from a ladder while fixing his house. But then, isn't Mick celebrating his eightieth with this tour?

3. you’ve created/acted in/seen more theater than most of the rest of us. if you were to recommend one show i should see if i ever had the chance (besides yours, which i’d like to see again), what would it be?

My first impulse is to say Hamlet, because it's the best play ever written, and the one open to the most interpretation. If you can't see it onstage, see Gibson's version, see Branagh's version, find the video of Richard Burton performing it, see the one with Ethan Hawke in it, watch Bob & Doug McKenzie's "Strange Brew."

But that's not it. The play you should see, this or any weekend you happen to be in Chicago, is Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind (an attempt to perform 30 plays in sixty minutes) by the Neo Futurists. I first saw that show in 1991, on the drive home from an aborted attempt to live in Los Angeles (think of it as a three-day walk-of-shame, that drive) and the show literally changed my life.

Apart from being a tremednously exciting experience, and always very funny, TML dares to respect the intelligence of its audience and offer up insightful, original, and politically and emotionally charged material every single week (since 1988.). And unlike so many other movements of its kind, they never fail to make the audience feel like they are part of the joke.

Their philosophy of presenting the actor as themself, with a minimum of artifice and a maximum of honesty, has found its way into pretty much everything I have done since - including, and especially IHT, which, you might notice, is also an attempt to perform thirty plays in sixty minutes.

4. if we were going to take a cross-country trip tomorrow, what route should we take to see the best of ordinary america? what would the must-stop stops be?

"Ordinary America" is everywhere, only rarely any of us see it. When I was 20 I spent spring break driving to see a dying grandfather (the other one - he only lived to be 94) and an estranged girlfriend, both of whom lived in Florida at the time. I took Interstates the entire journey, which I regret to this day. Everything looks the same from an Interstate, the way it does from any of the chain restaurants I ate at on that trip.

Eating alone in a Denny's. How depressing is that? And to think I had only just read William Least Heat Moon's Blue Highways. I read it, I didn't get it.

Take the two-laners, whenever it is practical, and sometimes when it is not. I would not have visited Twain's gravesite last year if we had not, and we never would have seen the Mummies of the Insane.

And if there is a law we live by when taking long road trips, even when on the Interstate, it is absolutely no chain restaurants. This is not simply some anti-corporate decision - but if you just drive five minutes or less past the clutch of familiar national restaurants, gas stations and hotels, you will more than likely find the city that it grew up next to, and they will have a main street and on that main street there will be a local establishment that has been there for decades where all the locals eat, and you know, it is a very good chance the food and atmosphere is much more enjoyable there. And you will learn something about somewhere you didn't know existed.

Now, as to your original question, I will be downright dull and suggest the original Route 66, or as much of it as still exists. Starting in Chicago, it goes to St. Louis, down to Missouri - Oklahoma City looks oh, so pretty - you’ll see Amarillo; Gallup, New Mexico; Flagstaff, Arizona (don’t forget Wynonna) Kingman, Barstow, blah blah blah.

Seriously, however, two-laning it through the Midwest, and then down through the desert for several days is some Real America I'd like to check out.

5. you take your music pretty seriously. is there a frustrated musician in there?

To think I have never joined a band. Sometimes I think my life is The Truman Show and everything is going to happen to me just once, you know, to keep the ratings. Sure, I've been reviewed in the New York Times, and had a role as a featured extra on a national sit-com. I've also been divorced and lost a child.

But no, there isn't part of me that has ever even seriously fantisized about being a musician.

I am a frustrated club kid. I fantasize about smoking cigarettes, taking E and Viagara, going to clubs and dancing and screwing until daylight.

Just so you know who you're dealing with. In these fantasies, I am also gay.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Not On the Road

We love road trips. Ten years ago this summer Toni and I took off on our first great drive. The destination was my brother's place in St. Paul, but this was the first time the journey itself was the experience.

Above: "The Mikado" a giant, coin-operated music machine.
Below: The Infinity Room, a cantilevered glass room that extends 156 feet above Wyoming Valley - it scared me.


We stopped in to see Ben and Pam in Chicago for a weekend - the weekend before the famous heatwave that killed 500 people there - and continued onto Milwaukee, Madison and (as the temperature rose) finally Spring Green, WI where we took in not only Taliesin, but also the House on the Rock where we not only realized our deep and hitherto unspoken adoration for kitsch, but Toni developed mild heatstroke.

I can't freaking believe that was a decade ago.

If we did not have a newborn, we still would be prevented from making even a brief excursion this summer, as I have secured a job acting, yay oh me. I have been taking in the plans of others, trying to suggest great places to go next year, or even in the middle of the winter when I have a big break.

The summer of 2000 was supposed to be our last big road trip "before we have kids." That first kid never came, and we have already discovered that we can drive long distances with Zelda (we went to Maine and back - on two-laners) without any of us going crazy.

Our first stop in 2000 was Cave City to see Mammoth Caves. Toni made a special effort to find unusual places to stay, and so our first night out was spent in a cement "tee pee" at Wigwam Village #2. A relic from the old Route 66, the places was owned (at the time) by, ironically or not, a Native American named John Ivan (isn't that redundant?)

The ring of small, cone-shaped buildings - each one is a single unit, some for two, some family-sized - surrounds a grassy impression with a humble playground set. We sat on the bench situated outside our room, made friends with a very pregnant and friendly dog, and watched other people's kids run like hell all over the little playground.

And that was six years ago.

This weekend This American Life rebroadcast their Notes On Camp show, from 1998. The closing music is that fin de siecle, one-hit wonder "Mmmm-Bop" by, you know, that band. Won't that make you feel old.

So, in order to imagine I am on the road, while in actuality I am polishing swords (for my job at GLTF) or running laundry (also for GLTF) I have been checking out some of my favorite road-oriented episodes of TAL:

Road Trip! Self-explanatory.
Conventions Perhaps the first TAL episode I ever heard.
Welcome to America Because I love New York.

Ironically, while I am spending time creating this elaborate entry, I really should be working on a travel piece for Cleve Mag. Maybe I should get to that. Have a lovely Fourth of July weekend, yo.

Friday, June 24, 2005

What's On David's iPod?

Winners
7 Seconds of Love
(See the video!)

So here it is, the image you have all been waiting for. This is how I broke my heel, and took myself out of the "running", so to speak. It's a promotion from Great Lakes Theater Fest., Cleveland Opera and Ohio Ballet. The ballerina is superimposed, I am not, that man is really fat.

Yes, I am dressed like Shakespeare. That's Mr. Shakespeare to you.

But I did try running today. Gently. Very, very gently. I was dressed like a normal person.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Ohio Excellence in Journalism

Sponsored by the Press Club of Cleveland
Friday, June 17, 2005

Radio: Use of Sound
First Place: Around Noon: The Naked Truth: Spencer Tunick in Cleveland
David Hansen, Toni K. Thayer, Dave DeOreo, WCPN 90.3 FM
"A visual story told well with on the scene audio recording. You felt that you were with David and Toni experiencing their feelings and emotion."

The question was: Do you take a four-week old baby to an awards banquet attended by everyone in the Ohio media establishment? The answer is, of course, yes. Orson was extremely well-behaved (unlike, say, the staff of Cleveland Scene) and when he finally did lose patience near the end, it helped that emcee Jack Hourigan had already met him and assured everyone he is a beautiful baby with great parents.

Thank, Jack. Hope I pronounced your name right.

If you have never heard our Tunick audio diary, you can still find it here. You can also find that link on my own Spencer Tunick Page, which, for some odd reason, gets more hits than any other page on my site.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Sanctuary

(Be sure to read all the way through for some big news.)

Is it Thursday? I woke up a week ago today feeling first as though I had stomach poisoning, and then realized I had a flu bug. Since Zelda had been writhing in unhappiness the week before with some nasty virus, our schedules had been entirely boofed. Then I spent all day last Thursday sweating and in pain.

Friday I felt much better, only now it was Toni's turn. Our trip to Athens to introduce Orson to her family had to be put off another day.

We did get out on Saturday morning, our first long car trip for four, and everyone was in good spirits. I hope this is a trend.

My in-laws place in Athens has long been a sanctuary for me, really dating back to late 1994 when they took me in, no questions asked, even though the situations surrounding the origins of mine and Toni's relationship were ... awkward. Yes, let's say awkward and leave it there.

The Wolfs have an old farm house, which dates back to the Civil War (or at least the very core of the building does) which has a decor you would expect from old hippies/bikers. It's cozy and funky and I've always felt welcome there.

It has been disappointing of late that I have been stressed out the past few times we have visited. In September, at Toni's grandfather Calvin's memorial service, our diaper bag was swiped, in which we had placed wallets, sunglasses, a digital camera. At the holidays, Toni was ill and we had to stay a day or so longer than planned - and I had nothing to read. I was a cranky boy.

Toni's mom, Connie, is probably (okay, not probably) the person closest to us in our grief over Calvin's death. She has shown this in a remarkable number of ways over the years. Bringing our bags in on Saturday, I noticed a special arrangment under the staircase.

There was a mirror, and the little rocking chair - perfect for tiny butts like Zelda's and before hers Toni's and Connie's - and a little altar. A clock. An otter. And Grandfather Calvin's ashes.

What a sweet, sweet little arrangement. Thank you, Con. We love you so much.

This trip was very, very relaxing. And I read an entire book, Forever by Pete Hamill (not to be confused with the one by Judy Blume.) Many, I have just be eating books this year. I think I am trying to intimidate myself into writing something. In fact, I know that's what I am doing.

I really enjoyed this book. Weird, I don't want to say anything about it at all, because I don't want anyone else to know what happens in it the way I did. I heard about it when it came out and finally got around to reading it. I was driven to complete it in a short period of time the way I rarely am, probably because knowing (in a way) how it ends, or more precisely, when it ends, filled everything that came before with a poignancy (there's that word) that would have otherwise been missing.

Hmn. That's a reason to tell people what happens in the book. I am perplexed.

But, unlike, say, That Davinci Book, Hamill's novel is filled with interesting characters, and a story that is compelling and a message that I respond to. "More life," as they say.

And it is a novel that doesn't make me despise all things Irish, which is truly a feat.

What is up with Alanis Morrisette releasing a tenth anniversary, acoustic version of Ragged Little Pill? Can you think of a more pathetic admission of defeat?

Anyhow,it was a lovely, extended weekend. Zelda got to run around naked pretty much 24/7, and everyone got to meet the newbie. There's about a million things I need to cover at work before summer camp starts on Monday, and no one in the house is sick, in what feels like a very long time.

Oh, and here's the big news: I HATE THIS will be featured as part of the 2006 Perinatal Bereavement Conference, October 12 - 15, 2006 in Chicago, IL. I first heard there was such a thing shortly after performing the staged reading in Aug., 2002. It is bi-annual, and I biffed the chance to be in the 2004 conference in Las Vegas. It's very exciting to finally have this opportunity.

And Chicago? I love Chicago!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Psalms 23

Anne Bancroft's death prompted me to read the origial NY Times review of The Elephant Man. I have long thought of this movie as one of my favorite films ever, but what surprised me what how reading a movie review of it brought up a flush of emotion.

The most amusing part of Vincent Canby's review is this passage: The Elephant Man ... is the first major commercial film to be directed by Mr. Lynch, whose only previous feature is Eraserhead, a cult movie I've not seen but which, apparently, is also about an outsider.

Yes. Aren't they all.

It was also shocking to remember that this was Lynch's first commercial release. Though I have enjoyed subsequent work of his, it also makes me scratch my head and wonder what happened.

I am glad I had the opportunity to perform the part of John Merrick in the play version (which is an entirely different beast than the film) back in 1992 at Willoughby Fine Arts. My first real chance to act after graduating from college, and luckily it was in an out-of-the-way venue that was devoid of media scrutiny. Just theater patrons who were stunned to see something other than Annie.

The story of John Merrick, used or abused as a metaphor, is the perfect tale for for a Christian society. Just because you are a physical monstrosity, abandoned by your family, hated by society, beaten, laughed at, screamed at, brought to a state of entire degeneration, with faith and hope you can still find peace, grace and forgiveness.

It helps if someone with lots of money takes care of you. And you die young before you can really become bitter. But that's just being cynical.

Having said that, there is something about this story, about this man, which just makes me freeze, just stop and contemplate. How horrible. How wonderful. Yes, I aspire to be like that. To be able to forgive anything. To be entirely selfless. To be able to find that kind of peace. That faith. That hope. That God.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Curtain Call on Coventry

Cleveland Magazine - June, 2005
There Goes the Neighborhood
Coventry loses Dobama Theatre this month, but what does it gain?
by David Hansen

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Calvin's Playlist

For the discerning IHT fan.

Composer extraordinaire Dennis Yurich and I have been working together since the first Vampyres gig back in 1997. I didn't know him except to have seen his band Queue Up play, and was a little nervous about telling him what I wanted. There were two songs requiring original music, I wrote the lyrics and he was to write the music.

In theater, as in a lot of art forms, you have to be very careful about flat-out telling someone what you want something to be like. "Say it like this ..." is considered the worst form of direction. It is usually the form my own direction takes, but I never said I was actor-friendly.

So I was talking around the "feeling" I wanted the first song, COME, to sound like. I wanted it to be, uh, dark ... edgy, uhm ...

"Is there any particular artist you want it to sound like?" Dennis asked, a very patient man.

"Oh," I said. "Yeah. Nine Inch Nails."

"Any particular song?"

I hesitated.

"Closer?" I said, weakly.

"Okay."

Dennis is really cool.

When the time came to compose the music for IHT, I gave Dennis a CD with everything I had going on in my head. These are songs that just made sense at the time, some that have associations that pre-date Calvin's birth, and some that don't. Seeing as I have a lot of free-time today, looking after a two year-old with a stomach flu, I thought I would share.

Purchases made through available links to amazon.com will benefit me.

Calvin's Theme (free mp3 download!)

Dennis created a short tune that is repeated a few times throughout the show, first as a distorted "voice" - to me it sounds like Calvin singing through one of the many machines Toni was hooked up to while in the hospital. The same melody is presented on guitar for moments like his memorial, and the closing, "curtain-call" music.

Hospital Themes

For all themes taking place in the hospital, I wanted electronic music. Something suggesting a fast heartbeat.

1. Everything In Its Right Place Radiohead Kid A
2. Idioteque Radiohead Kid A
3. Blame Everything But the Girl Temperamental
4. Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box Radiohead Amnesiac

Released in 2000, I listened to Kid A a lot when driving back and forth from Tri-C during Bad Epitaph's production of Cloud 9. That was when Toni was first pregnant.

"Blame" is included for obvious reasons. Temperamental was released in 1999.

During fringenyc 2001 there was a coffee house in Harris' neighborhood (it was a DT-UT; Harris' old apartment was UT) I visited every morning. It seemed like all they played were Radiohead albums, all of them. The Amnesiac track was also on a mix that a co-worker played for me in New Knoxville that fall - a CD that featured the King Britt remix found below.

Kid A is also my chosen pre-show music for when IHT is performed in theaters.

Brazilian Guitar Themes

5. August Day Song Bebel Gilberto Tanto Tempo
6. August Day Song (King Britt remix) Bebel Gilberto Tanto Tempo Remixes
7. Fragile Sting Nothing Like the Sun
8. Fragilidad Sting Nada Como el Sol ...

There is a song ... it won't be included here ... I make reference to it in the scene "the Dream" ... and the very first time I heard it, in April, 2001, i just split wide open. It so entirely captured my imaginary summer of 2001, the summer I was going to have with my first-born child, the one I had not allowed myself to daydream of, and yet, it was captured there. I have listened to that song only 12 times since.

The closest thing to this theme that I could bear sharing with anyone is the King Britt remix of Bebel Gilberto's "August Day Song." I was washing dishes on a night in December, 2001 at the aforementioned housing in West Central Ohio, listening to this mix CD, and was caught entirely off-guard by the tune, I knew it but couldn't remember what it was. Toni had actually gotten me the original Tanto Tempo disc when it was released in 2000 but I hadn't listened to it that much at the time.

The Sting tracks were played at the memorial in late May. I like the Portuguese version because sometimes it's good not to hear certain things in English.

Those 70s Themes

9. Three Is a Magic Number Bob Dorough Schoolhouse Rock
10. Lonely Boy Andrew Gold What's Wrong With This Picture
11. Cat's In The Cradle Harry Chapin Verities and Balderdash

Yes, ha ha, funny. Thoughtless hold-music from a certain baby food company. A joke done much better on The Simpsons. Theses ditties in particular were chosen because of their resonance with someone who may have been a small boy between the years of 1974 and 1976.

For more piercing insight on the songs themselves, visit the IHT glossary.

Music for Crying Out Loud

12. Gymnopedie No 1/Var.1 Jacques Loussier Trio Satie: Gymnopédies Gnossiennes
13. Gymnopedie No 1/Var.3 Jacques Loussier Trio Satie: Gymnopédies Gnossiennes
14. Gnossienne No 6 Jacques Loussier Trio Satie: Gymnopédies Gnossiennes
15. Tales from the Far Side Bill Frisell Bill Frisell Quartet
16. Gutaris Breeze (6000km To Amsterdam) John Beltram Late Night Beats: the Post-Club Sound of Britain

Discovered in a shower around 4 am in late 1998 (yes, I heard it on NPR) the Loussier themes were among those that carried me through that bizarre depression I had in early 1999. Odd, that, because 1999 was one of the most successful years of my life. The other pieces are also discoveries I made that year.

The Frisell track figured heavily on the Last Words episode of This American Life, which remains my favorite episode ever. I strongly recommend anyone to check it out - you can still listen to it free with Real Audio.

The Jacques Loussier album was used as pre-show music for the original staged reading at Dobama in August, 2002. Though no more depressing than listening to Kid A before a show (how many people hear the pre-show music, think "uh-oh" and leave?) the Satie themes are too ... I don't know, they suggest something a bit too Hallmark. I wanted a sense of unease to hit people as they came in, not the sense they were about to see a staged performance of something from the Lifetime network.

And Finally...

17. Happy Families XTC She's Having a Baby

Have you got Miss Carriage?
She's the girl who wants a baby that
she cannot find.
Strange, the ones who want to
win the race are usually the ones
who fall behind.


Complete lyrics. A British card game for kids. Sometimes you don't even care what the lyrics of certain songs mean ... until they start making sense.