Sunday, October 22, 2006

15th National Perinatal Bereavement Conference - Final Word

It's been a week. Everything I had been holding back came busting through in a highly physical fashion. My skin has broken out, and I have been developing a nasty, big cough. I am almost done, but not quite. This mid-life crisis, or whatever it is I have felt comeplled to put myself through is only in a holding pattern.

I married my brother and his wife in August, siumltaneously directed GLTF actor-teachers and a production of Hamlet, went to Chicago and London to perform I HATE THIS, and have been training from the NY Marathon (put in 15 yesterday) which I will run - oh, yes, the plane tickets are paid for - in two weeks. After that I just need to marry a Catholic and a Jew and I can call it quits.

I am picturing myself, sitting in a stuffed chair in Athens, Ohio after polishing off a sizable amount of Thanksgiving dinner with a large alcoholic beverage in my hand, plotting exactly how many pounds I will enjoy gaining over the winter.

The last two perfs of IHT were so satisfying, I cannot tell you. There are already proposals in the works for future performances, but nothing on the calendar yet. It has been a long time since I haven't had on in writing. It is my hope that what I learned, felt, came away with the past two weekends will stick with no me, no matter who is in the audience. The last few medical conferences, I wasn't sure if I was an educator, a survivor, or just a pro making a couple bucks off the worst experience of my life. It's places like SANDS and at the conference that I felt like something else, not quite a missionary, not just another victim. I crafted something immediate out of the askes of awfulness - I couldn't have written this piece now, I wouldn't have the nerve to. But I can still play it, and it's that bridge between the raw anger of then and the distance of now that has turned it into something better than it was even when I started.

Enough analysis. I write too much about my own work, I start sounding like Arthur Miller.

Friday, October 20, 2006

15th National Perinatal Bereavement Conference - Part Five

• Is there in stillbirth, no humor?

A recurring comment from the many people who came up to Toni and I following Friday's performance was how much they appreciated the use of humor in the play. Now, I know there are funny moments, but I had forgotten how many of them I intended to actually be funny, like expecting laughter, because quite often there is no laughter and I have just come to accept that.

Except for Friday, when there was a lot of laughter. In fact, I was was in such harmony with the audience, things that never got laughed at, ever, were being received with that kind of knowledgeable laughter that can only come from what you might call a survivor.

"My wife does not consent to this examination," in the second Nurse Evil scene is usually the set-up for the admission, that," No, I didn't say that," which gets the laughs from the medical practitioners. The bereaved parents thought the first sentence, and how I delivered it was hilarious, and the follow-up only funnier still.

• Misunderstandings

1. The first nurse, the one who comes in doing everything and throwing a lot of questions our way is the best nurse in the world. She had the odious task of being "first contact" and having her whisk around the room only illustrates the state of confusion we were put into by her arrival.

He took care of us for an entire shift. She sat. She was quiet. She listened. She made it possible for us to make it through.

2. They whisked the boy away the moment he was born because we asked him to, it was not a thoughtless act on their part. They warned us he would be in sad shape (he had been dead for almost two weeks) and that, though we could hold him right after birth, it would be very upsetting. They offered to clean him up first, and we agreed. Some people gasp when I say what happens, as though it were thoughtless, and there was thought in it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Word up. Fran Heller's review of HAMLET in Backstage.com. If you read the J-News review, you've already seen this one.

UPDATE: CSU Caludron review. "A Traditional, Yet Modern, Take On An Old Classic"

Old classic?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Review in the Lakewood Observer. (Thanks, Brian.)

"Sleek and canny." All right!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Free Is Good

All available tickets to Thursday night's performance of HAMLET, as part of the nationwide Free Night of Theater have been taken. The houses have been good during the entire run, but this is the first real "sell" out.

I am looking forward to hearing how the event goes over, across the city and across the country. Technically only people who have never been to Beck Center (or at least, not in the past five years) qualified for the tickets. Will they enjoy the show? Have some of them never been to any theater, ever? Will we convince them that Hamlet really was a woman? The mind fairly reels.

15th National Perinatal Bereavement Conference - Part Four

• Would You Like Bread With That?

When lunch was through, we stayed at the table to speak with the woman sitting nearest us. She had seen the play - everyone saw the play, I didn't need to introduce myself to anyone, people were just walking up to us to talk, it took a lot of pressure off introductions - and spoke to us about the baby girl they had lost some thirty years earlier. No, it never goes away. Never.

We had just enough time to jump to the one seminar I made all weekend, Companioning: A Breath of Fresh Air in a World of Chaos, presented by Jane Heustis. When it began, I wasn't sure if I was in the right room. I worried it might be directed to caregivers only, nurses and midwives, and doctors. And then I remembered I am a caregiver, or at least I realized it perhaps for the first time listening to Jane speak.

Put simply, companioning is simply being there, though there's more to it than that. But listening, and surrendering to the idea that there is nothing to "fix" the situation, those are difficult things to learn. You need to unlearn everything Western civilization has told you is appropriate - looking on the bright side, shunning darkness, not crying. A companion doesn't make excuses, nor takes on any guilt for not being able to perform miracles. The world can wait, the world must be told to wait, and a companion reassures the bereaved that the world will wait, as long as it takes.

Toni and I have become defacto companions, if unlicensed. Hospitals, chaplains contact us when someone has asked for someone to speak to - me, especially, when there are guys involved. It was only a year and a half ago when I met Justin and Laura at the Great Lakes Brewing Co., just a few weeks after they lost Hans. I think I was wearing a tie, I'd just come from visiting one of our actors in a school, I must have looked too professional by half, some kind of fraud. but I knew what I was doing there and I did it. We just talked, for as long as it took.

Monday, October 16, 2006

15th National Perinatal Bereavement Conference - Part Three

• Brick

Having missed most of the conference events (I hadn't even made the bookstore before they started tearing it down) I limped into Dr. Silver's lunchtime keynote address, Sillbirth: Where are We and Where are We Going? A highly technical examination of stillbirth and its many diverse causes (fortunately our plates were cleared before his Power Point presentation began to include what we in the community refer to as "road accident pictures") it was nevertheless fascinating ... and there was something else.

Maybe it was that particular Q&A from the night before, the one Toni was involved in. Maybe it was my physical state. Maybe it was just the repetition of factors and the result of these factors that put me in mind of the brick. The brick outside CPT, just one of those commemorative bricks organizations use to pave the outside of their venue for fund-raising purposes. In CPT's case, we are lucky Calvin's brick is close to the street and away from the door, the ones that are most traveled, or are most likely to have salt on them during the winter months aren't for the ages, and Calvin's probably isn't either.

But what gravestone is? And that's what it is, his stone, it's the only one he gets that's only his. And I saw for the first time in perhaps ever, or certainly with any perspective or distance (as I have done this show for four years now) the shape of my story. From terrifying loss, to this one commitment to finality. Something killed my first child, and one day I had to find out that was true - and one year later I was laying flowers at a brick with his name on it.

The enormity of that year, what I tell in my play, what I hit people over the head with when I tell it, it all came back to me, sitting there, my head bowed, listening to statistics. I forget who I was prior to all of that happening. I do not remember what it was like to expect that first child, only everything that came after. But that afternoon I felt closer to him than I have in a very long time.

15th National Perinatal Bereavement Conference - Part Two

Subjects yet to be addressed:

• Would you like bread with that?
• Bereaved Father, Superstar
• Author, Author
• FAQ
• Brick
• The Castro Sisters
• Is there in stillbirth, no humor?


• FAQ

Recently I have been contemplating support materials - before and after mats that can surround the performance. The post-show Q&A is helpful (when Toni participates, it's much more valuable - I feel I just repeat myself) but if I am going to continue this, I need to work with someone to create a richer program.

To that end, I want to create a FAQ for those questions which are frequently asked following performances.

Someday I need to ask someone what FAQ means.

1. Is it difficult to perform this play? To relivethese events over and over again?
2. How has your family responded to this work?
3. Do you have any plans to record this on video?
4. Did you encounter any good nurses during your experience?
5. What does Toni think of you presenting this play?
6. Did you ever get any response from a certain baby food company?

There are others (you can help, send in yours) ... most of them I do not want people to read until after the performance. It's like, I do not like to have Calvin named before the show, or at least not just before the show, it's something I always ask the person who introduces me, because his names, whether he even gets one, is a mystery - and then I get to name him at the end of the play. I also do not want anyone to know if we have subsequent children beforehand, so they aren't allowed to reassure themselves during the show - to detach themsleves from what they are watching by saying, "well, it's all okay, he has living children now."

• The Castro Sisters

We could not have survived the weekend, or in fact much of the rest of our lives, without Kelly, about whom I will speak more eventually. However, it was the special contributions of the Christine and Aimee that made our involvement in the conference itself at all possible.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, Aimee and Christine. Aimee spent the evening with kids Friday night, so Christine and Toni could see the show - and make Toni available for the post-show Q&A.

Funny story: Aimee was handed Orson. And whenever she put him down, he would stand there and cry, arms stretched up to her, opening and closing his hands for her to pick him up again. So she thought he couldn't walk. For two hours she carried him all over the hotel. When Christine came out after the show to help while we did the Q&A, she offered to take O. from her sister's trembling arms (O.'s a big little boy) but he didn't want to be held by Christine and pushed her away. She set him down - and he promptly toddled away.

We had made plans for C. & A. to look after the kids on Saturday afternoon, which became even more vital as I was useless, curled up in bed. They took the kids to Navy Pier, to the Children's Museum - and Z. got to ride on the ferris wheel, something we had promised her when we were last in Chicago in March but had to skip because of th weather. She hadn't forgotten the promise, and finally had her wish fulfilled this weekend.

Christine and Aimee joined us for that dinner at Ed Debevic's on Saturday - Toni's the only one of us who got sick. Was it ... the chili? Or is it actually ... the flu ..?

Will I actually adress the substance of the conference? Yes, I will - wait for it, it's all taken a while to digest. In the meanwhile, here is this new article on HAMLET in artistscahir.com.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

15th National Perinatal Bereavement Conference - Part One

Chicago, Illinois October 12 - 13, 2006

An extremely moving, exhilarating and difficult weekend, and not for the reasons you would expect. I don't even know where to begin, and whether or not I can cover everything. However, if I were to make a laundry list of subjects I would like to cover - in no particular order - they would include:

• General Props
• Would you like bread with that?
• Bereaved Father, Superstar
• Author, Author
• FAQ
• Boy, does this hotel suck
• Migraines & Prison Pillows
• Brick
• The Castro Sisters


And I am sure there will be others to come ...

• General Props

The conference began on Thursday, but we could not get away until Friday. There were seminars we wanted to attend on Friday afternoon, and made a concentrated effort to arrive by noon. We aimed for a 5am departure time, and I was impressed we actually left by 6, but even with an extra hour afforded us by a time change we actually forgot until we were halfway there, you just can't make a car trip with two small children without tacking on two extra hours - and then there's the Dan Ryan Expressway.

So we actually got there around two, and still had to unpack and eat. At the very least Toni hoped to get to the keynote address she thought was at five - but was actually at three-thirty. Luckily we ran into Kathie Kobler just as we got back from sushi and soba noodles in the Merchandise Mart Food Court. Kathie was the conference chair, and delightfully helpful. She told us the address was beginning right then, at 3:30 - and I waved off Toni and took the kids with me back up to the room.

Kathie K. and the entire planning committee did a dynamite job. We thought the entire weekend was well organized, and there was a very positive atmopshere throughout.

So, as I said, I went up to the room with Z. & O. And just like the fun-filled dad I am, I asked if they wouldn't help me schlep my set down to the performance space. We were quite a picture, me lifting a cardboard box with props in it, a small table, stool and stepladder, while a three year-old and one year-old dutifully followed after - into the elevator from the 23rd to the 15th floor, across the lobby, and down a different elevator. They were also super-gracious when we found the cookies I promised on the 14th floor had already been taken away.

There I met Todd Hochberg in person, another of the planning committee, and the man responsible for, among so many other things, all the technical aspects of my show. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Todd. There was a gimungous screen off to one side, and I had a platform so people in the back could see. It was to be held in the Sauganash East Ballroom and so I needed to be mic'ed (well, I didn't need to be, but it helped) and though there were a number of technical difficulties, which I may or may not go into later, Todd was instrumental in surmounting them.

Also, I wanted to mention Alana Roush, a founding member of the Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Alliance (PLIDA) who introduced the performance. Apparently she found me by Googling "plays about dead babies" or something to that effect - and whoa, amazing, she found my website. "Isn't the internet incredible?" she said.

There are others I want to acknowledge, and I will hopefully get to them by and by.

• Boy, does this hotel suck.

You know, when Toni and the rest of us visited last spring to check out a school for her, the difference between the hotel we stayed in this weekend, the Holdiay Inn Chicago - Mart Plaza and the Holiday Inn we chose to stay in a few blocks away, was only ten bucks. That place was ten dollars more expensive a night than the Mart Plaza, and it's amazing how much more ten dollars will get you.

We waited out front for a long while before a valet parking attendant showed up.

The concierge was rude, unhelpful, and really didn't know where anything was.

They had one hapless waiter in the hotel restaurant on Friday night - I had a show to do, and it took an hour to get our dinner. I would have just left, but Kelly, my stage manager, was enduring a terrible cold, and I needed her to sit and eat. By the time we got back to the performance space, I discovered that whatever the hotel liason had done to the sound, it was hideous and we had fifteen minutes to get it right. Todd H., again, had my back.

Breakfast the next moning (which I missed, for reasons I will explain) almost gave Toni a nervous breakdown.

The iron in our room didn't work. Must I go on?

The view from our room, however, was stunning. It's like we were on a 23 story high boat in the middle of the Chicago River, facing the El, the Sears Tower, everything. Almost worth it.

• Migraines & Prison Pillows

The accumulated stress of four hours of sleep, on the road for eight hours, the dinner fiasco and pre-performance stress, coupled with an unfamiliar bed, the general dehydration that you get in any hotel room, and my pillow led to a horrorshow of a migraine.

Let me explain the pillow. I prefer a flat, usually very old pillow (that's the only way they get so flat.) Toni calls them my prison pillows. I can't sleep without a pillow, and a sheet of paper is a little too thin, but any real thickness at all and I am terrible uncomfortable. And I will get a headache.

So we already missed Thursday and Friday's events (well, I did - Toni got to see one adress and everyone got to see me, but I didn't) and then I missed three blocks Saturday morning because I was immovable and weeping in my hotel bed. I did take my meds before dawn, and again several hours later, and they just weren't going to take. I needed to ride this one out. I was able to join Toni for lunch ... and more on that later.

This is the bad stuff. After this it all gets good ... except for Toni getting food poisoning at Ed Debevic's. I will post more tomorrow, I promise.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Let us now sing the praises of Todd Hochberg.

The 15th Perinatal Bereavement Conference is two days away. They have already sold 180 tickets for a venue that seats 300. It promises to be the largest single audience I have performed for, the last being roughly 200 two days after Orson was born.

Todd H. has done an amazing job of promoting the event in whole, as well as my performance in specific. There are listsings on the Theatre in Chicago, Metromix, and Time Out Chicago websites.

Toni and I are just now figuring out which other events we want to attend, switching off in some cases to look after the kids - though a big hello the Christine and her sister Amy for helping to pitch in!

Look over the full schedule and give me some ideas of what we should attend. As it is, Toni wants us to leave Thursday night, stop somewhere halfway and continue on so she can make Jessica Rose's Saying Goodbye: Making Memories During and After the Death of a Baby workshop at 12:15 on Friday.

Me, I would like to take in Todd H.'s own presentation, In Your Eyes: Caregivers’ Role in Bereavement Photography.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Stateside

I neglected to mention the guys. There were a large number of men there, many more than I normally play to. When your audience is made up of nurses, that usually means nothing but women. I haven't seen so many men in the audience since playing the NY Fringe, when I had nothing but five guys sitting right in front of me. And that was more like a firing squad.

They were pretty stone-faced through the production, as guys tend to be when watching theater. It was only the occasional nod I would receive in return from a comment said directly to one of them that I realized they were listening, affirming ("Oh yes, I know.") and that they were, in fact, with me.

A number came up afterwards to thank me for speaking for the fathers. I guess that's what I do best.

After taking a morning run, Kelly and I went strolling. It was a bright and beautiful day in London. I got some excellent trinkets for the family, we spent far too much time in Lush in Covent Garden, and saw some delightful human statuary.

Flying home I overdosed on Virgin's tv-on-demand feature. I always get a migraine traveling home from Britian - the length of the flight? The dehydration? The light in the cabin? The turbulence? Well, everyone had their blinds down, it was the smoothest Trans-Atlantic flight I've ever been on, and as for the length of time, WOO! I have eaten so much tee vee in years. Watched The Notorious Bettie Page, the third X-Men movie, an episode of Little Britain and one of Green Wing. My time. All mine.

Green Wing is hysterical. Gotta find that one on DVD.

UPDATE: The best synopsis of HAMLET ever written. Sometimes, vandalism is fun.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Life on Mars

Well fed and delirious in Britain. The accommodations provided by SANDS are very stylish, and I only feel marginally very dumb for blowing £4 so I could drop a blog entry from their coffee bar.

But it was a great, great day. Sure, I despaired in the middle of the night, trying desperately to sleep sitting up (eyeshades and earplugs notwithstanding) sweat running down both sides, it was so fricking hot. I hit the call button in the middle of the night, two stewards ran to my attention as I croaked "...water..?" And bless them, one foresaw my need, a tiny cup of H2O in their dainty hand.

Henrik and Lydia got us from Heathrow and took us to our hotel ... there were technical glitches every step of the way, it should be said. We were booked into the same seat (just an error in printing, it turned out, Kelly did not need to sit in my lap) and when we got to the hotel, for some reason they just cancelled one of our rooms.

Once straightened I showered and shaved (I am not an animal!) and we headed over to what was supposed to be a quick tech and then lunch. It was along tech, though it must be said that ALbert, our man at the International Students House, was very helpful, getting everything we were lacking together. So was Erica S. from SANDS, who was our guiding force from the moment we hit the place.

The show was one of my favorites in a long time - because for the first time in a long time, I was performing for fellow bereaved parents, and not medical practitioners. It helps when you know from the get-go that the crowd is with you and most likely not to turn.

What is hard is maintaining a sense of casualness when I perform the show once every six months. No one cares, I think, that I get a word or two wrong - how do they know? The playwright might know, but he'll just have to suck it. But it is hard to feel entirely comfortable, even when I know every word.

Today was much more loose. I wasn't educating anyone, if anything I was reflecting back to a sympathetic crowd things they already knew too well. It alters the delivery. Like we're all on the inside of a bad joke.

One question I got after (and there were many great questions) was whether British audiences receive it differently than American ones. Honestly, other than thinking the "much, much ... smaller" joke is funnier than Americans (there's that British self-deprecation) I said there really wasn't. Between types of people - parents vs. professionals, yes, or radical fringe theater goers, but not nationalities.

Erica, Neal L., Kelly and I had champagne in plastic cups back at SANDS headquarters to celebrate a successful day (they had many more things on their agenda than just this show, though it was, apparently, a capper) and spoke of the future, the past, and what Kelly and I might do tonight.

Fish, chips, bitters and Guinness, a walk down and up Oxford Street, and an early night, that's what.

Private to Toni: If you see this tonight, tell the kids I miss and love them very much, and I'll look in on them after bedtime tomorrow night. I miss and love you, too.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Cellphone entry

Gate 53 Newark Kelly and I have had an uneventful time We have had a few beers between here and Cleveland and she has been wonderfully tolerant of my stories Thanks to Justin for putting my mind at rest when we found our Virgin flight had us booked into the same seat

Tour de Dave

Cleveland Jewish News Review here. Exactly what I wanted to read before leaving town.

Why does that read as sarcasm, it's not. "Sarah Morton's heroic performance adds dignity and nobility to the portrait of the troubled Hamlet." See, that's what I thought.

I shouldn't have been surprised by the hot & cold responses the production has brought. As if I imagined the theater world would have said, "A woman playing Hamlet? Yay, just what we've been waiting for!" My own father said something to the effect of, "I liked it ... I'm not sure I agreed with it ..."

Agreed with it? I don't remember making a political argument, I was just putting on a show.

Today I am juggling my work with last-minute packing - all the packing, last minute. I have swung from dread to intrigue as those around me have reminded me what I am in for. Quiet. No one needing anything from me. I get to sit on an airplane for eight hours and, what? Read? Watch tee vee? Sleep, hopefully. No one needing me to take them to the bathroom, read to them, cut up their food, no one to take care of.

I do hate to be alone, which is why it's nice that Kelly will be with me - a full-grown adult who could just as soon ignore me for several hours. And I am very attached to being needed. But for forty-eight hours, it's the Dave Show, all Dave, all the time.

Of course, maybe that's every day and I just don't realize it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Digs

The Free Times review. I am "experienced and demonstrably astute." But in a good way.

The Cleveland Scene review. I am "supremely talented." But in a bad way.

The weather in London this weekend should be 63ยบ and partly cloudy. Loverly. Finally found out where Kelly and I will be staying - the Thistle Marble Arch. This is a relief as I was not looking forward to telling customs I didn't know where I was to be sleeping Saturday night. Expect a report on my jog around Hyde Park.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Predator

Since Z. was born I have posted a large page of photos of her, and then she and Orson, every three months, like clockwork. Some have scrapbooking, I have that. I should be working on one now, for July - September, but I haven't had time. Now I am not sure I will be making time for that.

Last night I suddenly decided to take down all of those pages. I just got spooked. This isn't a thought which is only coming to me now, but recent events have just made it seem stupid to be advertising my children in that way, where they are, what they do, what they look like, what their names are. These are things someone could find out on their own, but I've made it too easy for them.

Acts of child rape, murder and pedophilia perpetrated across the nation in the past week, in Colorado, Pennsylvania, California and Washington D.C. have simply freaked this parent out. And to top it all off, I was informed yesterday that there is, in fact, an individual with a history of sexual abuse of children who, to their mind, has innocently been looking over photos of my family.

Maybe I will share more descreet pages of photos (nothing including "zelda.html" in the address) with friends and family, but right now I am not sure it's worth the risk.

From the Cool Cleveland review by Linda E.:

"Oozing misery and nerves, Morton plays a Hamlet pierced by grief and drunk on death. She handles the language flawlessly, and several of her scenes are the best I've ever seen -- her death, and the "nunnery" scene with Ophelia (a sensitive Rachel Lee Kolis). "


Man, did you have to give the ending away?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

'Tis brief, my lord.

This is the PD review. So much for "positive buzz." He's probably still upset that I assaulted him in the rotunda.

Today, I am ill. Toni predicated this, she knew as soon as the show opened everything I'd been holding back would come out and by the end of the night Sunday I had what I thought was just serious allergies which blew into a nasty cold by yesterday afternoon. My diet has been awful, and then there's the running thing (no, no running today.)

Regardless, I have to get otu to Kent Roosevelt to see our actor-teachers. Tim and Kelly are working on the HAMLET residency (ironic? yeah i really do think) for the first time and I want to observe that, doesn't matter how I am feeling.

Kelly, who is my SM, finshes classes a little after 1pm. On Friday, I will be picking her up to head straight to the airport for our 48 hour trans-Atlantic event. The week is feeling a little too short right about now.

UPDATE: The British Department for Transportation website informs me that I can take my migraine meds on-board, thank heavens for that. They even hve a perscription on them to show they are mine. I had several doozies when I was last in London, and air travel is a contributing factor. For some reason, traveling west always gives me one. I used to think it was because I drank, but I didn't at all on the last trip and it didn't save me from misery. I think it's just stress.

Still, I will not be able to bring my hair gel aboard, which puts me in dutch with all the Prince Hals who qualify as attendants on Virgin these days.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Art!

Please take a moment (or two) and fill out the Neo-Futurists' You Asked For It! survey on theater and the arts.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

This man will set me packing.

Performance in London in six days. I need to find out what the new regulations are for overseas travel. Thank goodness we're going Virgin, they give you toothpaste when you get on board.

Not sure yet what our accommodations will be. The big question is whether or not I have easy access to the river, and if I can get 12 miles (or something close to that) in along the Thames. For more tedious questions about running, visit the other blog.

This is the first time in some time that I have had no next gig. There's talk of returning to the British Isles next spring, but we'll wait and see what happens this weekend. And then there's Chicago, the culmination of four years. IHT was still a rough draft when I heard there was such a thing as a "perinatal bereavement conference." And it's taken this long for us all to get together.

In fact, and here's another thing I haven't had the chance to touch on in the past two months - all that business about the 5th anniversary of 9/11. As far as Toni and I are concerned, it's the fifth anniversary of everything. Of Calvin's death, and everything that followed that year. Sept. 11 was just a part of that. It's the fifth anniversary of my job with Great Lakes, we started making a Day of the Dead altar five years ago, and so on.

I've got two very special performance coming up. That's something to be excited about.

Oh, and we've gotten our first review for Hamlet. "On-key" and "off-setting," indeed.

UPDATE: Hey, we got another non-professional review this morning - read it only if you do not mind having certain surprise twists to be boldly spelled out for you.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Men as women, woman as a man: Local theaters recast Shakespeare
Tony Brown, Plain Dealer Theater Critic
Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday, September 29, 2006

Cute headline

Hamlet With Eggs
Shakespeare's prince gets a sex change.
By Marge Perko
Cleveland Scene, 9/28/06

What if Shakespeare's most famous brooding prince were actually a princess? That is the question posed by David Hansen, who directs the gender-bending production of Hamlet that opens at the Beck Center tonight. "What if [Hamlet's mom] gave birth to a girl, and to insure the succession for the safety of the state, raises Hamlet as a boy?" asks Hansen.

Playwright Sarah Morton plays the titular role on a dark and sparse set, its design influenced by German expressionism as well as Hansen's desire for maximum impact and function. "I hate furniture," he says. "I hate it when people have to come in and take away a chair."

Props aren't the only thing receiving the director's cut: Don't expect any girl-on-girl action between Hamlet and Ophelia, because Hansen deleted references to their physical relationship from the script. "My editing creates a seamless whole," he says. "I want people to follow the story the way we're telling it."


It's true. I hate, hate hate furniture. Just last week I attacked a couch.

No more be done.

My work is through. The show opens tomorrow, and so whatever it was I have been trying to do, is done. And so ends the longest month of my life.

Rising at 5 most mornings to take a run, I would depart for work at roughly 7.30, and conduct rehearsals for the Great Lakes education dept. until 5.30. These rehearsals were in Lakewood, during rush hour (both ways) it would take an hour to get from Cleveland Heights to there, or back. Rehearsals for Hamlet were also in Lakewood, at the Beck. So I would stay in Lakewood - where my parents live, and were generous enough to host my entire family two nights a week so I might actually see my children awake. Some nights I just ate on my own.

Zelda was very patient throughout, though she obviously misses me. This last week the actor-teachers have been in schools and my schedule had a little more give. I am relieved my work at Beck is through. It helps that I have been working with such wonderful people.

The Reunion That Wasn't

It has been more than a month since the Bay High Class of '86 20 Year Reunion. At the same time that I enjoyed it better than the 10 year (I am mellower with much less to prove) it was also kind of a downer. For two reasons I can think of right off the bat.

The first, as I have recounted elsewhere, is the music. No, it doesn't have to be an 80s revival party, but get a clue. Either its period or contemporaru - or both, I will settle for both. But it was alsways either the wrong song or the wrong era - Hooters or Hootie, take your pick. Yes, we listened to Glass Tiger, but we don't need to be reminded of it. Why is it only in movies like Grosse Point Blank that they have music that was cool then and now playing at their party? I don't think I heard a single new wave tune that night, only middle-of-the-road rock.

The other, more personal reason, is that my best friend did not show up. I have never complained about his absence, and never expect his attendance at anything. It makes it all the more thrilling whenever he arrives. I last saw him in November, 2003 - he came to the final dress rehearsal of the last show I directed at the Beck ... funny I should remember that tonight.

But he had written us a message, that he might attend. He wasn't at the last one. People kept asking me where he was. When the DVD "slide" show came on, how many of those picures of either of us didn't have the other one in it? And that's where it kind of sunk in. He was my high school.

I was surprised at the interesting little conversations I got into that night with people I had never had a conversation with, ever, let alone just in the past twenty years. I even got to share one of my favorite stories to the guy who was in it, to his face. He knew the story, and so did Toni, but it was a joy to tell it to both of them, and his wife, at the same time.

But I've never really allowed myself to miss my friend. Until that night. And I am shocked to learn that it hurts.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Promise

Pre-eclampsia breakthrough hope

Scientists are claiming a breakthrough which could lead to a test and cure for the pregnancy disorder pre-eclampsia.

"The US National Institutes of Health team found women with pre-eclampsia had high levels of two proteins several months before developing the condition. The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was compiled after analysing blood tests from 4,500 pregnant women. Experts said a cure and early test was still likely to be a long time away ..." (more)

Apologies for my absence, it has been a jam-pakced month. I will get back soon and report on a number of issues, including but not limited to my high school reunion, my brother's wedding, Hamlet, forensic competitions on the West Coast, IHT performance updates and all the rest ... maybe.

Thanks to Brian for the link. Nice, generic photo, guys.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

K!

During my all-too-brief residency in Los Angeles, I learned two things. Yes, only two things. 1) The value of dark coffee and 2) bananas are high in potassium, which is a natural anxiety reliever. What I was too stupid to realize was that the two cancel each other out, but stupidity was the order of the day when I lived in L.A., so there you go.

I am currently sitting in Phoenix Coffee on Lee, procrastinating. I have a cup of strong, half-caff coffee, a glass of water, and a banana. And what is it about the song Brown Eyed Girl that compels everyone to sing at least one verse out loud, in public?

The Push has already begun. It started with last Friday's performance, and Saturday's reunion. No, I haven't written about the reunion. This Friday I will officiate my brother Denny's wedding in St. Paul. That's why I am here, to complete (HA HA HA) my remarks and to go over the itinerary.

We have a read-through of Hamlet on Monday night, I resume work at Great Lakes on Tuesday, rehearsals for Hamlet and actor-teachers begin two weeks later. Then the Push is truly on. I will see my kids at dinner, if I am lucky, for about three weeks.

Hamlet opens September 29.
I fly to London and back the following week.
We travel to Chicago the week after that.

I get two weeks off to reaquaint myself with my children, who will have recently completed college, before visiting New York and having a little run.

You're right, I love it. If only I could stop blogging and get to work. Have a banana.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

You will see. You can get used to anything.

Listening to this tonight ...

This American Life, episode 144
Where Words Fail
first broadcast 11/5/1999
Act One. The Disappearance. Genevieve Jurgensen and her husband Laurent lost their two daughters, Elise and Mathilde, at the ages of 4 and 7. Actress Felicity Jones reads from Jurgensen's book, The Disappearance: A Memoir of Loss, in which Jurgensen tries to explain her childrens' lives and their deaths to a friend through a series of letters.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Dropping the F-Bomb

Click on for larger image.

Today's performance at the Ohio AWHONN Conference was exceptional for a number of reasons, all of them cause for celebration.

First off, it was just a really good experience. There was no time to hold a Q&A afterwards, so Kelly and I just hung out around the food, ate fruit cocktail and an awful lot of nurses came up to me to talk. I was only planning to stay maybe a half hour before we hit the road for home, but too many people wanted to talk, and that was really great.

My contact, Jennifer D. was remarkably helpful in getting everything set up, making sure the rocking chair arrived, etc. I owe her a lot for bringing the show there, and talking it up so well prior to our arrival.

The real Nurse Angel, Carrie C. was in attendance - this was the first time she would ever see the show. This made me even more nervous than usual, the idea of performing her in front of her (that usually does) but I was a little distracted by the fact that I had to use a lav mic, and so while I was moving around the "hospital room," check the pulse on her wrist (though nurses don't need to do that anymore) or manually pumping the bloo dpressure guage (though nurses don't need to do that anymore) I was also swinging a mic cable over and around the stoll in the middle of the performance space. Considering this was done without practicing it once, it wasn't a problem, nor something I worried too much about.

One major change in this performance was my dropping of all offensive language (unless you count one use of the word "suck" as offensive.) Before all of my champions start crying foul, I have to explain. I always thought the swear words appropriate, and most who have walked this walk agree. And four-letter words and blaspehmies are entirely acceptable at fringe festivals and to those who perform midwifery, it would seem. But after my last experience in front of an audience made up entirely of nurses ... I mean it was hot that afternoon anyway, and the air conditioning was on the fritz, but the moment I let fly with the c-bomb, I could feel the crowd get chilly.

Colorful language had been removed from the radio drama, for obvious reasons. And when I performed in London, I was in a church hall, and chose to respect the space and also altered the langauge accordingly. But I had already decided to just keep it that way even before Jennifer gently requested that I take it easy on the effers. I got so many negative remarks from that event based soley on the talk, I just don't want it to be an issue anymore.

Once we checked into the hotel last night, Kelly and I went out with Julie - the real Julie, my girlfriend from college who figures so heavily in the performance. Unfortuntely, she was not able to attend today, though she did listen to the radio version the day before. She thought it was very odd hearing someone reading her own thoughts ... but I think it would have been weirder to watch me. At least Magdalyn didn't perform her with a speech impediment.

It was beautiful catching up with Julie, we went to this wine & tapas place after walking some fifteen blocks from where we parked - great walk, great wine, great talk.

And I am very glad to be home.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Book signing

Hannah Stone will be signing her new book, Forever Our Angels this Sunday, August 6 at the Barnes & Noble in Woodmere from 1-2:30. I don't know if I will be able to get out there myself, my 20 year high school reunion is the night before and if it's anything like the parties I went to back in the 80s, then WOO ...

... I'll be in bed reading by midnight.

This evening Kelly and I head off for the First Annual Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (Ohio Section) Conference in Columbus. The performance is at the University Plaza Hotel and Conference Center - and so are our rooms! I cannot tell you how convenient that is. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Welcome, Milo.

Milo Zinan Jelinek
b. 8:30am, August 1, 2006
7 lbs. 6 oz. 19 in.

Our friends Laura & Justin lost their boy Johannes at full-term early last year. One of the folks at Metro introduced me to them, and since then we have been some of their many cheerleaders as they have worked through their grief, and worked to become parents of a living child. I cannot express how thrilling it is that this day has arrived. Mother and son are resting happily at Metro, and Father is making lots of cellphone calls.

Give them some love.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Back to Britain

NEW PERFORMANCE DATE:

Saturday, 7 October 2006 - 2.30pm
SANDS UK Annual General Meeting

Presented by the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society
Site TBA
London, UK

Since meeting with the folks at SANDS last March, we have maintained contact and we are discussing the possibility of a tour of the British Isles slated for late next spring. First, however, they felt the need to convince me to return for one performance this October. It's their annual conference, and in order to sell the production to the rest of the organisation, they wanted to show me off.

Did I write organisation? I meant organization.

But I do have a job. So I will be boarding a plane Friday evening, arriving Saturday morning, doing the show that afternoon, and getting on another plane Sunday afternoon so I can arrive home ... Sunday afternoon.

But first I have to direct Hamlet. At least I get to rest up for a month before running a marathon. How did this happen, I really need to keep a better calendar.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Happy Birthday, D*ckhead.

I have already celebrated 37 birthdays, and by my count eleven of them were spent either rehearsing a play or performing in one. That doesn't count the night I just went to see a play.

Tomorrow I turn thirty-eight, and I will strive to put on a happy face. The five-inch long stitch on the back of my son's head makes me want to shoot myself.

Wednesday, July 26, 1972
Fourth Birthday. One of my earliest memories. We were in Maine, staying that year, for the only time, in The Log Cabin.

Wednesday, July 26, 1978
Tenth Birthday. Saw the In-Laws at a movie theater.

Thursday, July 26, 1979
Eleventh Birthday. I had a birthday party in my house in Bay Village. Mom made spaghetti.

Monday, July 26, 1982
Fourteenth Birthday. We were in Maine. My parents surprise my with an Apple II+. Brand loyalty is a powerful thing.

Tuesday, July 26,1983
Fifteenth Birthday. We were in Maine.

Thursday, July 26, 1984
Sixteenth Birthday. Lugo, Spain, a long and painful exchange student experience. On my birthday, however, I receive a fat letter from my best friend. I get kisses from the girls and yanks on the ears from everyone. Arden gave me a cigar. That night Mary and her boyfriend Mario take me to his sister's where we talk and drink and eat sausages. Late, late at night (early next morning) I dance pirouettes in the square in front of the Cathedral.

Friday, July 26, 1985
Seventeenth Birthday. Neither my best friend, nor my girlfriend were in town. I had dinner at Don's River City Cafe with Mom, maybe Denny, probably Grandfather.

Saturday, July 26, 1986
Eighteenth Birthday. Can't remember. Might have been a party (not thrown for me) at Lynn and Laura’s where my girlfriend and Erin gave me lacy underpants. It was a private joke.

Sunday, July 26, 1987
Nineteenth Birthday. Had a performance of Singing In The Rain that night at Huntington. Erin borrowed the key to my parents house and made the place up for a "surprise" party, though I knew she was doing it. It was cool ~ a bunch of people, younger people, came for the beginning of the party, which was over by 12:30. I was about to pack it in when a larger group of people, the older members of the cast and crew, showed up with bottles in hand, asking if the party was still going, and my birthday party stretched well into the rest of the night.

Tuesday, July 26, 1988
Twentieth Birthday. We had rehearsal for Eden on the River. My roommate and I were already beginning to not speak to each other, but she was honestly upset when she discovered she forgot it was my birthday. "Oh No, Major F*ck Up!" I believe she cried, and got my a Hostess Cupcake with a candle in it from Super America.

Wednesday, July 26, 1989
Twenty-First Birthday. Must have had rehearsal that night for Eden on the River. Spent the day making daquiris for anyone who dropped by using the huge bottle of Bacardi I had bought that day at the State Liquor Store and my new blender my mom got me.

Thursday, July 26, 1990
Twenty-Second Birthday. Second night of big hot tub party in Athens. My girlfriend and I had birthdays on consecutive days (hers is today, akshodry.)

Friday, July 26, 1991
Twenty-Third Birthday. Dinner at Friday's in The Flats with my girlfriend, Scott T. and at least one other person. Afterwards we found the new, not yet Grand Opened Metropolis nightclub, which was very cool then.

Sunday, July 26, 1992
Twenty-Fourth Birthday. Was in NYC visiting Toni and Harris, and my car had been stolen. This night we saw Blue Man Group.

Monday, July 26, 1993
Twenty-Fifth Birthday. Dinner at Friday's in The Flats. A friend of my wife’s took our picture in the center of an apartment building in Little Italy.

Tuesday, July 26, 1994
Twenty-Sixth Birthday. I had kind of blown off my wife and she was angry at me for it. Or maybe it was that I had just started sleeping with Toni the weekend before. I had a rehearsal for Romeo & Juliet that night and didn't tell anyone it was my birthday until after rehearsal when everyone had left.

Wednesday, July 26, 1995
Twenty-Seventh Birthday. Again, a rehearsal. Okay, not a rehearsal, a photo shoot, for the first Night Kitchen production Bummer. Again, there were beers at Edison’s in Tremont, without telling anyone it was my birthday.

Friday, July 26, 1996
Twenty-Eighth Birthday. A post-show party for the Realistic World 3 turned into a skanky "Truth or Dare" game. I really pissed off Trish, and Dan tried to have sex with me.

Saturday, July 26, 1997
Twenty-Ninth Birthday. Toni, Con and the kids go to the Rock Hall (I Wanna Take You Higher exhibit), the Great Lakes Science Center (Star Trek exhibit) and have dinner at Friday’s. Balloons, yay!

Sunday, July 26, 1998
Thirtieth Birthday. Attended a reading of Cole Cuts, and dinner at Gamekeeper’s Lodge. Sauteed Ostrich. Delicious.

Monday, July 26, 1999
Thirty-First Birthday. I have no idea.

Wednesday, July 26, 2000
Thirty-Second Birthday. The culmination of a three-week swing through the South. We visit the Mummies of the Insane in Phillipi, WV and arrive in Athens for an extended weekend.

Thursday, July 26, 2001
Thirty-Third Birthday. Rehearsal for the NY Fringe production of Toni’s play, Angst:84. I was assistant directing.

Friday, July 26, 2002
Thirty-Fourth Birthday. Toni surprised me with tickets to the Cuyahoga Valley Railroad, and tea at the Ritz Carlton. That night there was a performance of Henry IV at Tri-C West, and drinks at BW3s (though I wasn’t drinking.)

Saturday, July 26, 2003
Thirty-Fifth Birthday. The I Hate This 35th Birthday Party.

Monday, July 26, 2004
Thirty-Sixth Birthday. No record of festivities. Preparing to leave for Maine.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Thirty-Seventh Birthday. Breakfast with the family at the Inn on Coventry, then a 12-hour technical rehearsal of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Beers at Becky’s followed.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Home

Will try and get photos up soon, and a more detailed entry, but for now let me tell everyone that Orson is just fine. He's safe in bed, at home. The swelling has gone down and, except for the 5 inch stitch down the back of his head, he looks entirely like himself. Now, if I could only keep his sister away from him, I wouldn't worry so much.

UPDATE: Here's a photo - Saturday morning, a visit from Z.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

"The Disease of Theories"

THE PREECLAMPSIA PUZZLE
Making sense of a mysterious pregnancy disorder.
by Jerome Groopman
New Yorker, July 24, 2006

... After just two months of work, Karumanchi had a promising result. “I was sifting through all of these data, and I said to myself, ‘It can’t be this obvious,’ ” he recalled. “ ‘It can’t be the predominant factor in preeclampsia, because people would have discovered it by now.’ This couldn’t be just waiting for me.” (more)

Friday, July 21, 2006

The second-worst time in my life.

Yesterday Orson and I were having a late-breakfast. He was buckled into his booster-seat. I went into the kitchen for a moment. Orson pushed himself away from the table, fell over backwards, and hit his head on the metal floor-lock of the rear sliding door of our house.

He screamed, I panicked and felt his head. There was a soft-spot. I called 911 (never done that before) and the guys arrived shortly thereafter. Paramedics are, apparently, schooled in making you think there is nothing wrong at all, and that you may be overreacting. That soft spot? Just the bruise. And about that part, they were right.

"Is he bleeding from his nose?" one asked. No, I said, that was plum juice. He laughed. "And we're supposed to be professionals." They asked if we wanted to go in the ambulance, though they would have left me there if I had asked them to. I guess that's their job. By the time we were ready to go, Toni had returned from an interrupted yoga class and she went in the ambulance and I followed in the car, loudly cursing myself and trying not to say out loud that I had killed my own child.

Friday morning, pre-op.

It was a long day in a thankfully empty E.R. at University Hospitals. Toni stayed with Orson - who seemed fine. He hadn't passed out or vomitted (a fact we would recount a million times, always with the same surprised reaction from whoever was asking this time) and was smiling and generally being himself. The paramedics thought he would just have a large bump. The folks at the E.R. thought he may have a slight dent, but nothing serious. I particiapted in the harrowing act of strapping Orson down to take X-rays, then left to pick Zelda up from school.

I stayed with Z. all afternoon, an afternoon that went from sunshine to dreary storm clouds and back again, until Kelly came over. Meanwhile the reports from Toni went from, "you were overreacting" to stomach-churning horror. Yes, there may be a dent, but it's nothing serious (and the X-ray computers shut down for awhile for good measure) then they decided there was a slight fracture but he may be able to go home - but they'd need to run a CAT scan - and finally the diagnosis that he had a depression fracture, which may or may not be pressing against his brain, and they would need to operate.

I broke my son's head and now he requires surgery. There's no more delicate way to put that.

Returning to the E.R. I met the team. The best pediatric neurosurgeons at Rainbow Babies' and Children's Hospital, which is to say, the best pediatric neurosurgeons in the world. It was at this time that I remembered to say I was grateful I was living in Cleveland, and not, say, in Baghdad, or Baalbek. Or Chicago.

Friday morning, pre-op. Parents attempt to put on a brave face.

They would make an incision, try to "pop-out" the fractured skull if they could, or remove it if they couldn't, repair it with absorbing plates and pins and put it back. There would be no dent, the plates and pins would eventually disolve. And they would check the membrane around the skull to be sure it is intact, repair it if not, so there would be no complications as he grows older.

That was announced in the late afternoon. And hearing it described that way, by those people, I felt a slight relief to the anxiety I had been enduring since ten that morning. Knowing something could be done was better than any fear of what it was they were actually saying to me.

Toni spent the night with O. I went home to take care of Zelda. This morning we visited both of them before taking Zelda to school, and then I returned to the hospital for the surgery, scheduled for ten, though they didn't get to him until twelve-thirty. A two-hour operation was predicted.

After sobbing silently for maybe half a minute, I pressed everything back down again and we were free to have lunch together while the operation took place.

Friday afternoon, post-op.

Toni was a bit delirious. She'd had lunches at the cafeteria at U.H. many times before, usually on our way out of midwife appointments at MacDonald. But this was different. I didn't rush her, I told her not to get addled, to decide what she wanted first, then pick it up (there are several counters offering a wide variety of food, from healthy to not) and buy whatever she wanted. We sat at a table and I said, "Welcome to my world."

Sitting in that atrium, anxiously stuffing my face is something I have been doing on and off for five years. But I'd never done it with her. First when she was in labor with Calvin, then a few times after Zelda was born (that was all right) and then when Orson's delivery had stalled. I am sick of eating in the atrium at University Hospitals. But at least this time she was sitting there with me.

We went to the waiting room, where we made cellphone calls and were generally miserable. As two-thirty approached, I commented that they would certainly not be getting us right at two-thirty.

I was wrong. The doctor walked in right at two-thirty. Everything went according to plan, the fracture was bigger than they thought, and pressing down on the brain a lot, so it was a very good thing they went in. The membrane was intact. The surgery was successful. Orson was going to be fine.

We caught sight of him a they wheeled him by. He was awake! He was himself. He is Orson.

The rest of the day we took turns holding him, trying to comfort him when the morphine waned. Toni and Orson are there now. I am home with Zelda and her MP (Con.)

Accidents happen, they say. But this was stupid. The one thing I did right was call 911, everyone else who has kids and has commented on it admits they wouldn't have. Even Toni - though if she'd been there, I don't believe she'd say the same thing. But if awful, stupid accidents like this must happen, I am intensely grateful everything else went right.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Help

Time Piece (1965)
Directed by Jim Henson

This has been going around (thanks, Brian) and I just wanted to share. A surprisingly clever short film, I can't get it out of my head. If you are a real geek, and admire the work of Ernie Kovaks, you will dig this, daddy-o. That Jim Henson, what a beatnik. Wow.

God, I miss him.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Excitable Boy

An Active ‘Hamlet’ at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass.
NY Times, 07/15/06

LENOX, Mass., July 12 — So is he or isn’t he — mad, that is? In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” that’s what everybody asks everybody else about its title character, and scholars and theatergoers have continued to pose the question for more than 400 years. But for the folks at Shakespeare & Company, the invaluable and indefatigable 28-year-old troupe that prides itself on clarity in interpreting the canon, the answer is obvious: Of course, Hamlet is mad — but mad as a hornet, not as a hatter ... (more)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Happy birthday to me (a few years late.)

I turn 38 in a couple weeks. So it was a belated thrill to discover photos from my 35th birthday, pictures I've never really looked at. I was trying to make some sense out of my office and happened upon the disk - they were from Mark C.'s camera, but he didn't get me the disk for another year or so. Better late than not at all.

It wasn't just a party, it was a fund-raiser. I thought I knew how to throw one of those, but apparently not. We needed to raise money for the first Fringe tour of I Hate This, this was the first outing of the show following its premiere at CPT back in 2003. I figured throngs of people would be lining up to drop fifteen bucks on three special benefit performances held at Dobama Theatre before moving onto Minneapolis. A small crowd actually did.

What was worse was the idea that - since the scond day of performances was my birthday - we would throw an actual birthday party for me, following the show. Kinda gross, I know, celebrating my 35th birthday after a show about a boy who never really got one.

It was Nick who pushed me into taking it seriously, as in serious fun. He planned an awesome, adult party. I blogged it way back when. That part worked, what didn't was stictly tying the two events together - $25 to see both the show and the party afterwards. The actual performance got the lowest turnout of all three perfs that weekend ... but a bunch of theater types showed up in time for the party, and we let them all in for $10 each.

We got it straight the following year - one benefit performance only (more special that way) and it was free. THEN I hit people up for cash after bows, reminding them we needed money to eat and live in New York City for ten days. Ask people for $15 up front, and they stay away. Get a crowd to come for free, and they give you $20 as they leave.

Seeing those photos was a treat, though. That was like the beginning of the journey this play has taken me on. I am glad it still has a life, every situation I have had the chance to perform it has come with its own unique after-effects. The CPT run was nearly sold-out, it was a bit of a reality-check when few people attended these benefit shows. But the party afterwards was a reminder of how many folks I have supporting me, how many great friends I have, the different theaters which have done so much to contribute to making this all possible.

David's 35th Birthday Party Photo Gallery

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Blog Jump

Okay, here goes. I have been keeping another blog. A running blog.

Part of training for a marathon is letting everyone know you plan on running one. I would have preferred to keep the other blog secret, mostly because I may or may not have to disclose certain intimate physical details (don't read it if you don't want to hear about big, ugly plantar warts) but I could use the encouragement. This morning was extremely troubling. So I'm putting it out there.

This is a photo of my cousin J.T. (actually my cousin's son J.T., but they're all cousins to me) running the NYC Marathon in 2004. When I turned 35 in 2003, I made a public announcement that I would go 26.2 miles some time before I turned 40, but seeing pictures of J.T. in New York clinched it for me.

J.T. is a strong, young man. I am a goof with an iPod. But it's something I have to attempt. Er, you're not supposed to say attempt - It's something I have to do.

As long as I don't completely damage my legs before I get there.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

FREE SHAKESPEARE ON COVENTRY!

The Dirty Shakespeare Company lives!

Not even a natural disaster can stop us!

Due to the heavy flooding of the Susquehanna River, the Dirty Shakespeare Company's debut production of A Midsummer Night's Dream was postponed. Company founders Joshua Brown and Kelly Elliott are thrilled to announce that the production will be seen in Cleveland for a limited engagement of two performances only! The DSC will perform this fast-paced, stripped-down, rollicking version of one of the Bard's most popular comedies at the Coventry Elementary School Yard in Cleveland Heights, on the corner of Coventry Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard. Performances are free and open to the public. Lawn chairs and blankets are welcome.

The mission of the Dirty Shakespeare Company is to produce Shakespeare's works as simply and faithfully as possible, with a strong focus on the language, poetry and story. The company's debut production of Midsummer was rehearsed over the course of one week while the Cleveland-based actors were in residence at the Splash Magic Campground. For more information on the Dirty Shakespeare Company and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, contact producer Joshua Brown at 216-246-2855 or joshdbrownATadelphiaDOTnet.

Who: The Dirty Shakespeare Company
What: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Where: Coventry Elementary School, Coventry Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard
When: Saturday, July 8 @ 7:30 PM
Sunday, July 9 @ 1:00 PM
How much: FREE!
Why: Free Shakespeare! Do you need another reason?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Cleveland, America!

An exhibit of 120 platinum portraits of odd, interesting and unusual characters living in Greater Cleveland by Herbert Ascherman, Jr.

Western Reserve Historical Society
July 8, 2006 - May 31, 2007


On a summer morning last year I was called to Herb's studio to have my portrait taken as Mr. Shakespeare on behalf of Great Lakes. They had been nominated for (and would win) an award in Northen Ohio Live last fall, and one of the studio shots ended up on the cover.

Herb has been taking pictures of interesting Clevelanders for two years. He asked me to walk out onto Coventry for a few snaps, and what you see here is what will be on display through next Memorial Day. Not sure if I can make the opening reception. If I do, I will be wearing pants.

Clifton Hill

For the record:
From 25 Great Escapes
Cleveland Magazine, September 2005

Clifton Hill
Niagara Falls, Canada


So you’ve done Niagara Falls. You took some pictures, walked through the gardens, and wondered if it’s a coincidence the statue of King George V resembles Sen. George Voinovich. But you haven’t truly had fun at Niagara Falls, Ontario, until you’ve hiked up Clifton Hill.

A tourist trap on steroids, this strip features family-friendly and truly tasteless attractions. One of the most notorious is the Criminals Hall of Fame Wax Museum. Once content with displaying Bonnie and Clyde’s (reputed) “Death Car,” visitors are now introduced to life-size figures of mass murderers, such as Richfield’s own Jeffrey Dahmer peering into a fridge.

Clifton Hill is littered with haunted houses, such as Nightmares Fear Factory and the curiously named The Haunted House, but the “X-Files”-inspired Alien Encounter recently closed, and is now the site of the Classic Iron Motorcycle Museum. Dedicated to true motorcycle enthusiasts, look for rare Harleys on display, including the “hog” Dan Aykroyd rode to lead John Belushi’s funeral procession.

Scarier than all of the haunted houses and waxworks put together is the Niagara Falls IMAX Theatre, which features an informative history of the falls — and then sends you over the falls in a barrel.

From the unusual to the bizarre; Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Museum manages to feel a lot less pre-fab than the Guinness World Record Museum up the street, though each commemorates Robert Wadlow — the tallest man who ever lived — as a life-sized figure. Ripley’s dedicates more space to regional oddities and Niagara lore.

If all this leaves you and the kids feeling stressed, unwind at Dinosaur Park Miniature Golf, located behind the Ripley’s Museum, where you can play 18 tiny holes surrounded by growling, stationary dinosaurs.

— David Hansen

Clifton Hill
4960 Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls, Ontario. (905) 358-3676
www.cliftonhill.com


See also: Niagara Falls: U.S. vs. Canada - Roadside America

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

God bless America

In 1996, ten years ago, Toni and I took our second great road trip. We were headed to Maine, but decided to traverse through Canada instead of up New England ("Up New England!" I guess that's also how I'm feeling right about now.)

First night, Niagara Falls. Young lovers, Niagara Falls. Cool. I'd only ever been to the Canadian side, twice before, with my family. Mom was big on taking visitors there, people from other countries for example, and my participation would be an after-thought.

In fact, the first time I ever glimpsed Niagara Falls was the last time we took Canada to Maine, in 1976. We drove past it. Dad was trying to make time to Toronto and figured we could just spot it through the windows and keep going. I'm not making this up.

Mom's excursions were day trips, with garden tours and lunch at the Skylon. Big fun for a twelve year-old. So picture this - I'm 28 years old, Toni and I walk from our B&B up to the Falls after dark. It's all lit up in that tacky way they do that, with the changing colors. But I'd never seen that, so approaching it, by foot, after walking by all these houses, and seeing the Falls at night all lit up, pretty impressive. We watching it for a while, talk, and then she asks if I want to head up Clifton Hill. I say, "what's that?"

And she leads me up the Hill from the Falls, and it's a freaking carnival! A toursit-trappy, haunted housey, putt-putt golfy fun yard! I thought Niagara was all natural wonder and clocks made out of flowers, but now - it was like one of those dreams where you open a door in your house, and there's this part of your house you didn't even know was there, and there's gumball and pinball machines, and there's a party going on and it's all really, really fun!

So Niagara was stunning beautiful, and now it was also stupid fun, too. We had a late dinner in a family restauarant and then went into their Ripley's or something. It was a gas.

Then we celebrated New Year's 2001 there. You know about that. Calvin was with us, he was very with us. It was bitterly cold, but we took him on a horsey ride, and watched the Falls and we were happy and in love and going to have our first baby. We went to the aviary and I made a wish in a fountain that didn't f*cking come true. We haven't had occasion to be back.

I occured to Toni that we could be here for the Fourth on our way home. I naturally thought, great! Canadian side! But because Justin made me feel so God damn guilty - okay, no, because they've gotten serious about pre-existing border crossing laws - and with make them stricter on January 1, 2007, now you need "proof of citizenship", a driver's license not good enough, next year you must have a passport - we decided not to risk and wasted time or hassle and just see it from the American side.

I'd always heard bad things about the American side. I mean, you can tell from the Canadian side that the view must blow. And one of my favorite episodes of This American Life is all about Niagara Falls, NY, and what a ghost town it is. Now there's a big casino ... in the middle of a ghost town.

Well. Goat Island is also a state park. "The oldest state park in the U.S.," they say. And it is, a nice, American state park. Just as there is on the Canadian side, there's alot of dumb stuff here, too. But it isn't within viewing distance of the Falls. There's picnic benches and large lawns and a great pedestrian track, and you can't get a car near the Falls (not like the Canadian side, where you can drive right past it.) Sure there's a restauarant and a gift shop, but only one of each. And a big-ass statue of Nikolai Tesla, I had no idea that was there.

America did right by the Falls there. What is so totally unfair, is that not only do the Canadians get the better view (though some sights on the American side are still grotesquely beautiful) but they totally f*cked up ours with all their sh*t. I swear, there are five new high rises on the far side of the Falls, and certain old ones, the Motorola tower and the Skylon look really dated and hideous. And you see the cars over there, right by the Falls. I used to look at the poor old Americans on the other side and think, there isn't much there there. Just trees and bushes and tourists.

And wouldn't that be nice?

Friday, June 30, 2006

Brushes with playwriting greatness ...

FYI: Full-color brochure for the 15th Perinatal Bereavement Conference.

In the mess hall this afternoon I made eye-contact with Nilo Cruz (Anna in the Tropics) but alas, I do not get to hear him speak. I am the spouse, not the writer.

Oh, and this morning we had breakfast at the Red River Restaurant, a joint they say is frequented by near-Plainfield resident David Mamet (Shut Your $%&*@, You Lousy @$#%&).

Mister Mom

One great advantage of going somewhere new is that everything you find there is new. This, at first blush, seems obvious. But as it is usually Toni who drafts our itinerary when we travel, and it is also Toni who traditionally has to find satisfying diversions for the children on a daily basis - Toni or Kelly - I have found myself, over the past few days, simplifying what was at first a mad attempt to have something wildly entertaining to do every single moment of the day.

Such mania led me, on Tuesday, to drive over an hour with the kids to South Burlington for some childrens' theater. This wasn't a waste of time (though I could, like Sedaris did in Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol rather trollishly critique the young actors' work) but I did find myself, in the interests of time, settling for a rather sad pizza joint for lunch, and then drag the sleeping children to the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, where Orson remained asleep and Zelda was terrorized by the sight (and loud sound) of stuffing being injected into a bear carcass.

We've been staying closer to home since. This is just fine, as the Monpelier/Plainfield area offer a number of swell sights. After discovering the Kellogg-Hubbard Children's Library yesterday, today we returned for what is possibly the best storytime anywhere. Not only did it last an hour, Zelda lasted an hour enjoying the back and forth engagement of books and songs, and it concluded with a craft. Thanks, Megan!

Only Orson was bored, because lately he simply wants whatever looks interesting which is out of his reach. A fish hanging from the ceiling? Well, nothing else will do, then.

Yesterday it was the Cabot Creamery. Tell me, when exactly did sites of in terest begin their presentation by offering a thuddingly boring video? People used to tell us the history of a place as we went along (which was great) now we get an A&E style documentary about cooperatively owned Vermont dairies and darnit, I got out of the house so they kids wouldn't be watching tee vee.

Of course, for the two minutes they sat for it, it was the only tee vee my kids have seen all week. So that's been a plus. Also a handicap, at least when I have the desire to go to the bathroom alone or something.

The tour of the creamery, by the way, was a hit - though, again, we had an issue with big, scary machines. That crate cheese.

My off-time has been rigorously enjoyed. I have been rising at 5 or 6 to take in a run, today the woman from the help desk and I ran together, and she led me through an old trail I never would have found myself. The evenings have been spent desecrating Shakespeare or, as was the case last night, I had been asked to participate in one of the informal readings that happen every evening, just a hodge-podge of whatever everyone else is working on. It was different to feel involved.

It has been odd, being the guy with the kids. I have no idea how my presence has been received by the other young women in this dorm. I have been the only man living in the building, and that's been kind of weird, frankly. And if you were a young Grad student working in a high-intensity writing environment, you might resent having to deal with little kids running around or having tantrums in the middle of the night. But the women in their 30s or older treat me like some kind of saint when they learn who I am and what I'm doing here.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Writers' Camp

If I have any followers of this blog left, you might be wondering just where in the hell I have been. Sorry. It's been a difficult two weeks, and by difficult I mean heavy-lifting, annoying illness, preparing for two weeks out of town, dressing up like Shakespeare difficult.

The garage sale would have been a complete bust if it weren't for this one young woman and her new house. She took the Nortons' bed, the Turners' big-ass chair, our neighbors' armoire, futon and grill, and our three-piece set of cabinets. I also got rid of all the Bad Epitaph chairs and other odd set pieces that had accumulated in my basement and sat there for seven years. (And yes, I pocketed the money, call it storage fees.) Other than that virtually no one showed up.

And where the hell were you, anyway?

So after schlepping tables and chairs up and down three flights (and even down the street) with only the big, strong arms of David Hansen to help me, I was a little whipped. Then came the cough and the cold (which I still have) three tons of laundry and generally trying to predict what we may or may not need here in Vermont.

Yes, I am in Vermont. Plainfield, Vermont, home of Goddard College. It's funny, the way they use the word "college" because it's really a summer camp for total geeks over the age of thirty-five.

Toni is persuing her MFA in creative writing, and I am Mr. Mom for ten days, which is more than fair. At the moment it is raining like hell, which is has done since the middle of the night last night, and will continue to do for the rest of the time we are here.

Which is where? Toni was right, Plainfield is like Friendship, ME, only without the ocean. Which means, there's just a lot of trees here. Trees and rain. And unshaven men in their forties in shorts and Tivas who make me feel good about my sex appeal. And women who are predisposed not to notice if I even have any. It's VERMONT.

So. What to do? Yes. What to do ...

Well, while I am trying to figure that out (I do have a script of Hamlet here I am working furiously to f*ck up) here's a little news:

2006 Ohio Society for Professional Journalists Awards
Best Radio Documentary

First Place: I Hate This WCPN Cleveland

This prize is awarded to the best radio documentary produced. The documentary must be devoted to a single topic and be at least one-half hour in length.

Very nice. Thank you. For everyone's information, there are no "best radio drama" categories for these things, because no one makes those. So they put it up for Best Doc, which is weird, but hey, we won.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Own a Piece of Dave

MULTI-FAMILY GARAGE SALE
SATURDAY, JUNE 17 9am - 3pm


Cleveland Heights, 1194 Castleton Road

IKEA bed & shelf unit; baby toys, equipment & clothes, strollers, car seats; matching stereo cabinet & corner shelves; kitchen appliances & decorative items; guitar; posters; books & videos ­ and much, much more.

Come by, say hi, walk away with a gigantic Lichtenstein or possibly a Bad Epitaph Theater Company coffee mug.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Unbelievable

Earlier this week, I was sitting on a wall on Coventry, waiting for Zelda & Toni to come out of the custard place. Orson was zonked out in the stroller. It occured to me that it was on a June day, like this one, fifteen years ago, that I met up with my friend Rich to check out an apartment on Mayfield, right around the corner from Coventry.

Not counting a 12-month lease spent in Broadview Hts., I have been an East Sider for fifteen years.

Crazy. That building, the one I was facing, hadn't even been there fifteen years earlier, that was where the Cleveland Shop was, and Hunan's was in that building instead of up the street.

A frined of mine once told me, with glee, about the fire in 1992 that destroyed that building. She worked in the (former) Arabica next door, and as the firemen were doing their job, she and some fellow employees tore through the water-soaked basement and ripped off as much non-perishable coffeeshop items as possible.

Scott T. and I used to do a gig every week that summer at Chuck Mosbrook's Open Mic nights, right out there in "The Yard." We must have been terrible.

I can't say I miss those times. I didn't fit well, as a person, in my early twenties. Part of my job this time of year is interviewing new candidates for actor-teachers at GLTF, and I am always impressed with new graduates who actually have a clue as to what they eventually want to accomplish - or better yet, have no idea and more humility and awareness than I did at that stage in my life.

That, and the clothes were just awful.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Oh, that's right. Sh*t.

A hookah bar opened up downstairs in the lobby of the Bulkley Building. We call it, affectionately, The Hookah. You can sit in the window, watching the destruction on Euclid Avenue, and smoke a hookah while enjoying bab sandwiches and listening to Egyptian movies on tee vee. Word is some of the tenants have complained about the smell (it doesn't smell like cigarette or cigar smoke, it smells like very strong incense) and Otto's got on their case for selling corned beef. I guess that's in the lease, only Otto sells corned beef in the lobby of the Bulkley Building.

The best thing is not I don't have to go across the street to Star*ucks to get overpriced, burned coffee anymore. At least not until this place closes, as every other business that has held the space has done for the past two years.

Anyway, it is June. For me that means feeling really logey and a little bit lost. It's the weather, and the sore throat I have been nursing since last weekend, the end of the school year, the end of the show, cleaning up and putting everything away - it's the end of things, and there's a little lag-time before anything new begins.

That and I have not been running since Friday. Just hasn't happened. Then I get this in my email:

Dear David Hansen,

Congratulations! You're in for the experience of a lifetime, the ING New York City Marathon 2006! We are thrilled that you will be joining us on Sunday, November 5 ...


Oh that's right. Forgot about that. Hmn.

Monday, June 05, 2006

This Is My Job

The year-end Great Lakes Theater Festival actor-teacher party was this evening. I am still a little woozy - it has been a very long week. Jumping back into Night Bloomers after our dizzying replacement weekend was disorienting enough. There's little pressure in jumping into a few surprise roles, but after one weekend, people expect you to be good at them.

It just never let up during that show. It was intense enough, just doing it. But when there's someone with Tourette's in the front row, or the moon hits a quadriplegic in the face, or a cast member bugs on you, or you have to put the moon on a stick, or (finally) you get a drop-dead case of some twenty-hour something that hits you with the shivers for your final two performances ... I just wanted to say, can I just do this fricking show once, without all the drama?

And then, still a little under the weather, we put together this evening's event, which was funny because I spent a good part of the afternoon fixing up the house, and then we didn't spend any time in it. Not complaining, it was beautiful outside, the whole crew just camped out front and never left.

It hasn't been since 2003 that all of the actor-teachers have been present for this wrap-up get-together. And that's been a shame. I have great affection for the people I work with every year, but I don't think it's a coincidence. The reason people have been missing generally reflected interests which are larger than the job itself, and sometimes that's hard to take. I almost went off on one of our company for wanting to attend a callback instead of come, but he was here, and apparently it's a conflict he was able to work around.

It's an intense job. These people go into unfamiliar schools every week, just two people with the lessons we have given them, and they strive to make young people appreciate classic drama. Sometimes the partnerships are strong, and sometimes they aren't. Sometimes the respect cuts across all the actor-teachers and sometimes it doesn't. I wish, regardless of how any one of them feels about the way others work in specific, the fact that they are out there, somewhere else on any given week, is understood and appreciated just for the very fact that they are out there doing it, too.

Does that make any sense at all?

It was a great, successful year. All four teams got so many great notices from the schools this year, it was truly amazing. We must be doing something right.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Seamless

`Night Bloomers' shines in adversity
Post-apocalyptic themes onstage, some turmoil off don't stop actors, piece from having impact
- Akron Beacon Journal, 05/31/06

... Dobama's artistic director, Joyce Casey, who called the situation ``an actor emergency,'' had playwright Morton assume two of Holloway's roles and David Hansen assume two others. Both the Thursday and Friday shows were canceled, which allowed the revised cast to rehearse Friday evening and all through Saturday before reopening ... (more)

photo from Cleveland Jewish News website.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Summer Bummer

Lost Summer
Thirteen years after "My Summer Story" was filmed here and forgotten, one of the movie's extras rediscovers a so-so sequel in the shadow of its famous forerunner.
Cleveland Magazine, June 2006

photo from Flick Lives.com

If you get the chance, check out this piece in CleveMag I wrote about the sequel to A Christmas Story. Let me know if it sucks. While I appreciate they had to cut a lot out of it, of everything I have written for the magazine, this one is the first edited by someone who doesn't think I write very clearly. There's an awful lot of "my voice" (as they say) which has been flattened out or oversimplified.

That, and they cut out the bit about Grodin's hairpiece.

I should be used to this by now, especially as I insist on turning everything in a week late and five hundred words over. But please, I am an artist (cue fart noise.)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

How I Spent My Memorial Day Weekend.

Okay, so yesterday's post was not exactly a coincidence. The fact is we lost one of our company members (literally "lost", as in, we could not find him) on Thursday night, and in the 36 hours since I composed yesterday's post I accepted the offer to play some of his roles, memorized and performed them. Sarah stepped in to play the others.

Thursday night's show was cancelled due to the emergency, as was last night's so we could rehearse, something we did all afternoon today as well. Tonight I went on, playing six roles instead of four. That's also six costumes instead of four, I had quite a pile of swiftly discarded uniforms backstage at the end of the night. There were a few bobbled lines as I remembered I had left a somewhat but not entirely necessary prop off-stage, otherwise we survived. I am working with a dynamite crew of extremely supportive people.

I am exhausted, but otherwise content with the work. I am bitter about missing out on a beautiful day outside with my kids. Unplanned time away from them can fill me with rage. I had promised Z. a trip to the zoo. I will make it up to her in the next two days.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Happy Birthday, Roger!

Roger turns 43 today. He has been my friend since 1987 (okay, that jerked me sideways - I've been friends with Roger for almost twenty years? Jesus.) when he began the MFA Directing program at O.U. I was a sophomore, and during the next three years we would do a number of shows together.

photo: Sarah & Nick in Bad Epitaph's production of Wendy MacLeod's Sin.

He spent a brief period living in Cleveland, directing shows for mostly Dobama or Beck Center, before returning to his native Chicago. We got to spend a lovely afternoon with him last month when he showed us around his neighborhood, Andersonville. I regret he was one of the last people we informed that we are not moving to Chicago, a fact he got to confront me with in typical Roger fashion when he came into town to see Night Bloomers last weekend.

photo: Ali, Diane and me in Bad Epitaph's production of Caryl Churchill's Cloud 9.

I got to work with Roger on three shows while he was living here, two were both Bad Epitaph shows; Sin and Cloud 9. He's simply amazing to work with, and he gets such great performances out of people. I credit Roger with turning Nick into an actor. As a result of his performance in T.I.D.Y. last holiday season at the Beck Center, Nick has now officially tied me as the actor Roger has worked with the most. Rather than attempt to break that record, I would be content to work with both of them again on the same show, and just keep the tie going.

For his thesis production in 1990, Roger directed Michael Frayn's Wild Honey adapted from an unfinished work by Anton Chekhov. Man, it feels like the whole school was in that show, the cast was quite large. Peter was in it, he performs regularly for Actors' Summit now, and our dear friend Carol. Dawn is a director in Chicago who has been working with my friend Christine on various productions. Ryan, a former classmate of Sarah's, was the only good thing in GLTF's recent production of Romeo & Juliet. Ben, even Julie - God, almost everyone from O.U. who is important to me was in that show.

All these seriously talented people, and at the helm was Roger. Aggressively sensitive, delightfully neurotic Roger.

photo: Nick, Al and me in Beck Center's The Compleat Wks of Wllm Shkspr (abridged), also directed by Roger.

We had two dress previews before the opening night. That means we have a paying audience, but we haven't "opened," we haven't declared the work "finished" which mostly means there's no party yet and the critics aren't allowed to come.

The first preview went off fine. But then, just before the second dress preview was about the begin there was a problem. We were ready for curtain, I was playing the old man (I played a lot of old men in college, and I still had hair) in a linen suit and with ridiculous mutton-chop sideburns pasted to my face. The stage manager said we would be holding the house, and then again, the house would be held.

Actors began to talk. One of our members couldn't go on. The doctor, the love-struck doctor (it was, after all, Chekhov, there had to be a love-struck doctor) was having a difficult time sorting out the difference between his own life, which apparently a mess right then, and his character's, whose life he was preferring. As this was Chekhov, you can imagine how messed up that meant his actual life really was.

The performance was cancelled. I expected to see Roger in tears, or going through some kind of breakdown of his own. He wasn't. He was calm, he told us all to go home. One of the other actors, Steve W., who had just completed a run of Tooth of Crime was brought in to play the doctor. We'd be called for blocking rehearsals on and off the following day and open on-time Friday night.

Steve was amazing. He stayed up all night memorizing lines. Currently sporting a closely cropped scalp for his role in Shepard's rock n' roll nightmare of a play, he put on a rather unflattering wig and pasted on a mustache for this play, set in turn-of-the-century Russia. And he did the job. His lines were only a little sloppy at first - until he tore off his poorly attached mustache in the middle of one of the first scenes and then he was word-perfect - though he famously slaughtered my character's name. It's bad enough memorizing a large part in less than 24 hours, without having to learn a dozen or so Russian names.

The house opening night, largely theater students, was very generous with their applause when the show was through.

Roger has heard me tell this story too many times, but it remains a favorite of mine. After the emergency had passed (and the troubled actor who had caused this crisis had been sent safely home) I told Roger honestly that I had expected him to fall apart, and That I was stunned at his confident, commanding demeanor in the face of a very difficult situation. We'd spent weeks creating a beautiful, delicate piece of theater, and then we suddenly had to slap together this new production.

He told me you can't help but get entirely obsessed with the details, you can fret yourself sick over getting every little thing just right. In fact, you should. But when big things happen to you that you simply cannot control, you have to just say, "Well. I didn't expect that." And then deal with them as best you can. It's one of the best lessons I have ever learned in my entire life.

Funny I should remember that story today.