Wednesday, May 31, 2006


`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

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.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

More than kin and less than kind.

Just announced: Beck Center's 75th Anniversary Season

By William Shakespeare
Opens September 29, 2006
Beck Center Studio Theatre

Directed by David Hansen
Featuring Sarah Morton as Hamlet

Director Hansen takes his inspiration from Danish actress Asta Nielsen's 1921 silent film where Hamlet is actually a female posing as the Prince.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

"Morton's best work to date."

‘Night Bloomers' blossoms in Dobama world première
- The Cleveland Jewish News, 05/19/05

For Cleveland playwright Sarah Morton, the future is now ... (more)

In a related story:

"You have no civil liberties if you are dead." - Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) 05/19/2006

"Give me liberty or give me death." - Patrick Henry, 03/23/1775

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Search String

You would think that the longer a list of words in a search string, the less likely you are to find a site that has little or nothing to do with what you are looking for. And yet, yesterday the following two phrases brought two people to my website at

"i want to take wedding pictures at fort tryon park" and "the little boy that died on mother's day in camden"

By the way, this has to be the least flattering picture of me ever to appear in print. And I've been naked.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Quirky, Desolate & Riveting

Morton plants a rare specimen to cultivate post-9/11 thought
- The Plain Dealer, 05/16/06
It's quirky and lyrical, funny and moving, intimate and expansive, smart and silly. And did we mention quirky? (more)

Gift of a Flower: Morton's Premiere Blooms At Play House
(Spoiler Warning)
- The Free Times, 05/17/06
In Night Bloomers, Sarah Morton conjures up a desolate, not-so-distant world, peopled by desperately plucky survivors of some apocalyptic cataclysm. Like most futuristic fabrications, however, this substantial one-act is really set in the hyperbolic present. Its depiction of a secretive, paranoid government, for example, bullying and bumbling along in a disastrous attempt to totally monitor and micromanage its citizenry, brands the author less a modern-day Cassandra than a fanciful Maureen Dowd ... (more)

Nocturnal Missions
Hope sprouts amid the chaos of Dobama's Night Bloomers

- Cleveland Scene, 05/17/06
Now that a few years' worth of salve has been layered over the wounds of 9-11, more artistic interpretations of that day are finding their way into production. Flicks such as United 93 and Oliver Stone's upcoming World Trade Center tackle the horrendous morning minute by minute, attempting to forge some understanding. Meanwhile, our dear leader and his administration continue their efforts to militarize the CIA and shred most of the Bill of Rights while shoveling chum to the yahoos by igniting old fears and hatreds. (Fashion note: Mexican illegals are the new gay newlyweds for '06.) If you think this situation is miserable, you'll have to get in line behind Sarah Morton, the talented playwright behind the riveting and thought-provoking Night Bloomers, now at Dobama Theatre. ... (more)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I'm bald!

Every few months I get an unsolicited email from a hair replacement company. This came today:

From: MHR <>
To: pengo (at) davidhansen (dot) org
Subject: Finally, The Answer to Hair Loss

Then it just included the address for the MHR Corporate Office. That's Medical Hair Restoration. Plugs. This is what I get for having my face on my website.

Of course, there are a few lurkers to this site who could also this information, so please feel free to write them at the address above.

Magdalyn Donnelly Is Such a Freaking Hottie

From the DARK LADY tour. Photo by Toddy "also-a-hottie" Krispinsky.


Friday, May 12, 2006

Bay Village (blank).

What an exciting day. They think they know what causes my headaches. It's all in my nose. Seriously, it's like an allergy, sinus thing. Got a great big baggie of nasal steroids and all kinds of free, new, migraine meds. Next stop: eBay.

Also, there's the opening. Last night was crazy, all kinds of little things went weird with our first, preview audience. You know what they say, bad dress rehearsal ... and so on. I just hope I don't forget to zip my fly. That's what I am always worried about.

And I have received a detailed invitation to my Bay High School 20 Year Reunion. (Cue Mirror in the Bathroom.) Yes. Time to take stock of my life. Which of these things have I accomplished since 1986:

a) Chief of Staff for the Mayor of Cleveland.
b) Toured the world with David Copperfield.
c) Produced several Broadway musicals.
d) Dissed by Robert Fripp.

Apparently the proceedings have been retooled since the last time around, but only slightly. In 1996 we spent Friday night at a bar - no schedule of events, just a keg, fried food and a lot of chat. Saturday night was catered, a sit-down dinner at a party center downtown with speeches and a slide show. Friday was fun, Saturday was not. Oh, and there was a golf outing on Saturday morning just to remind us all that no matter where we've gone, we're all from Bay Village.

This year there will be a Friday night event at a bar with a keg and fried food, but Saturday will be an informal catered affair at a party center downtown with speeches and a slide show. No mention of golf, yet.

What's up with those slides, anyway? You'd think they'd have a database by now, it's not as though we have been taking new pictures of our high school years or anything.

My job has taken me in and out of Bay High the past several years, first as an actor-teacher, then as a supervisor. What started out as odd has become familiar, especially as virtually none of my old teachers work there anymore. It's not the same school, it just takes up the same space.

I picked up a copy of the Bay Window (the last weekly high school newspaper in Ohio until 1985, now something that comes out once a semester if the mood hits them) last year to find a page dedicated to mocking alumni. Nothing too clever, just old photos with snarky captions. It's too easy to take a shot of Joe K. (a very important teacher to me, he's till there teaching English) from the mid-70s and make some hippie reference. But then I spotted a picture of Laura N. and some other guy, circa 1985. Not a remarkable shot, they're in study hall or something, it's an ordinary day.

The caption read, "Are you trying out for The Breakfast Club, too???"

I don't get it.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The need to see something beautiful, right now.

Get a copy of the May issue of Cleveland Magazine, or log onto their site (registration req.) to read this article Sarah M. wrote about Night Bloomers.

Last Sunday the PD featured an article by one of their play reviewers in which he interviewed Sarah about what the play means and then just typed out what she said, pretty much verbatim. My father told me he found it very confusing to read, and I agree with him.

In fact, I think asking a writer to describe their work is a pretty useless endeavor. If they are any good at what they do, the playwright said what they meant as best they could in the play, and having to then sum it up themselves can be awkward and difficult. Besides, I thought that's what critics were for.

Arthur Miller wrote books explaining what he meant in his plays, and I wish he hadn't. Shaw's own introductions to his one-acts are often ten times longer than the plays themselves.

But that's not what Sarah is doing in her piece for Cleve Mag. It is a brief "diary" of how she came to write this piece, and it is powerful in its brevity.

Time and again (and for the rest of my life) I will be hit in the face with how Calvin's death and Sept. 11 are inextricably entwined in my memory. In spite of my ongoing mission, performing I HATE THIS whenever and wherever I can, there are aspects of NB which surprise and cut me ... well, you will have to see the show, it's a little obvious. Loss is loss.

I had made plans to see the show Sarah describes in New York in October, 2001. While I was disappointed when she cancelled her show, I was thinking more of myself than her. Another distraction! Another trip! And I wanted to see New York again, like visiting a friend in the hospital. Or at a funeral.

"I know why Lilia needs to find the persinnium," Sarah writes, "why she needs to see something beautiful, right now." That's what Toni said in the hospital, she wanted to leave right away, to go to the zoo or the botanical garden or the art museum, to see something beautiful right away.

We have a preview performance tonight. Show opens tomorrow night, 8pm. Please come and see.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Performance in Columbus

First Annual AWHONN Ohio Section Conference
(Assoc. of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses)
Sizzlin' Subjects for a Hot Summer's Day!
August 4, 2006

I HATE THIS @ 9:30am

I love the disclaimer on the brochure: "Participants are encouraged to dress in layers for comfort." Our contact, Jennifer D., remembers too well how the event went over in Akron when the air conditioning went out. I recommend arriving in shorts and a tank top, covered by an oomingmok track suit.

On a different note, our friends Catherine and Steve suffered a loss this weekend, at 20 weeks. Knowing there are people who care, or are aware are what you are going through can help. Consider visiting their site and offering a kind word.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Long day

Just completed the Heights 11th annual run/walk. Did 22:37 on the 5 K, not my best time but I'm okay with it considering a) I have a murderous shin splint that was neatly bound and b) the awkward, uphill-for-a-mile-at-the-end course. Zelda and I also did 20:02 on the one mile. There was a little stopping for flowers and a bit of carrying during the last quarter, but she still placed second in her age division. So did I.

We have two perfs of DARK LADY, in Oberlin at 3 and again for a book club at 7, which I need to split as soon as its over for a run-through of NIGHT BLOOMERS at the Play House. You can find a hastily written and difficult to read advance piece on the show here.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

I Think I Voted Today

So it's only a primary election. The new DIEBOLD electronic voting machines don't scare me, so much as they depress me. As in, "I give up."

It's not just that they are DIEBOLD "I will deliver you the state of Ohio" brand voting machines. It's not that Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell (who I hope wins the primary today because we need to see how he would do in the election for governor - either he loses, yay, the Democrat wins or he wins, the people of Ohio really are that awful and boy-howdy will we rethink our decision to stay here) did everything he could to get the DIEBOLD electronic voting machines in place - and he owns stock in the company.

No, it's the printing sounds.

You use the touch screen to vote. You are given the chance to review which ballots you cast. And then the machine "prints" them (though you receive no receipt or proof) and makes a "printing noise" and the machine vibrates to suggest there is actual printint going on.

What kind of a**hole do you think I am? Why does it need to print what I know is being recorded electronically (or not)? And since shen has a printer made a rumbling or crunching sound? Since I bought my last dot-matirix printer in 1990, all printers use heat in the 21st century, from your laser printer to the ATM machine to the cop writing you a traffic ticket.

There is a little machine in there that makes noise and makes the DIEBOLD electronic voting machine vibrate to ease your mind and make you think there is a printed record in there. Even if there is a printed record, the machine is there to provide reassuring, sensory proof to the nervous human. Even though it isn't.

Maybe I have nothing to worry about. But anything false that is provided by the government to ease my troubled mind makes me troubled.

UPDATE: Several polling locations took a couple of hours to fire up any of their machines, according to county elections official Cheryl Ellis. Voters should have been offered paper ballots meanwhile, but (some voters were) told just to try again later.

Meanwhile, the machines for counting absentee ballots were shut down after bad trial runs. Michael Vu, Cuyahoga elections director, said he would ask his board to authorize a hand count of the county's roughly 16,000 absentee ballots. -

I live in a third-world country.