Sunday, April 29, 2007

What are we supposed to say?

Working backwards, let me say the performance went over very well. Most appearances get planned maybe ssix months to a year in advance. Many of my appearances have been for medical health professionals, nurses, midwives and doctors. This was one of those.

My appearance at this conference in Warrensville Heights this past Friday was arranged by Carrie C. - the original Nurse Angel. She is the first nurse I portray in the show (as opposed to the resident and midwife, who were present when we got the news) the one who breezes in like a whirlwind, rattles off a list of awful decisions we need to make, and then breezes out again.

Her role is sometimes misunderstood. She's not meant to come off as callous, but she did have the unevniable job of telling us everything we needed to know and what we needed to think about. I like to think she is presented as efficient, direct and compassionate - in less than thirty seconds.

She was present for the performance. She brought her mom. Toni and I love Carrie.


I could tell the performance had gone well, because there was applause, and a lot of crying. And honestly, I was surprised. It is always difficult to reconnect with this play after a long break. Seven months, in this case. Afterwards someone remarked on how I can remember all those lines. I said it's easier than memorizing a play, because it's my story, I can make stuff up if I want to (more on that later.)

Anyway, I was surprised. The performance was in one of those big, corporate dining facilities, with state-of-the-art sound and video. Last year, both performances in London and even the one if Chicago were marred by hours of tech beforehand where Kelly and I were just trying to figure out some of the most basic stuff. Something was not compatible, and either the sound or PowerPoint would not work until maybe fifteen minutes before curtain.

For the first time since 2003 Nick was on the case. He has merged the sound into the PowerPoint (the way it always should have been, I guess) and our tech on Thursday lasted about five minutes. I was able to waltz into the space a scant thirty minutes befor the show on Friday.

However, as is usually the case in such facilities, it's lights up the whole time. Which means I can see everyone. And it's not a happy happy show. People look sad. Or maybe even bored, it happens. Or ... hostile. I've encountered that before. Feeling insecure already, I simply couldn't tell how the show was going over. There are funny parts, and usually that's my only gauge. If they laugh when they are supposed to, then I know they are with me.

Very few laughs. There was one table, down left, that seemed to have everyone under the age of thirty at it. They laughed. They were my anchor when I thought I was truly sucking, I looked at them.

Apparently this was all in my head, however (and there's a good reason for that, wait for it) maybe I had simply forgotten the difference between the medical practitioner audience and the bereaved parents audience. The bereaved parents - they laugh. Because they know where the jokes are. Heck, sometimes they know when the jokes are coming.

One day, however, I do need to get down to business and write that FAQ for after the performance. I like the Q&A that follows, but we could save some time if I headed off some of the questions beforehand. Because, as sure as an actor is going to be asked, "how do you memorize all those lines," the first question a nurse is going to ask is this:

"What are we supposed to say?"

One time, a few years ago, it was truly aggressive. I opened the floor to questions, there was an icy silence (which was a neat trick, as it was about ninety degrees in the room) and then someone said, "Well, you told us everything we've ever done wrong, what are we supposed to say?"

That's not what I got on Friday. What was asked was concerned and direct - but it was the same question. I truly believe I answer that question in the course of the play, though I am very interested in how readers of this blog would answer that question; "What are we supposed to say?"


Here's the thing. I work very hard to get this story back up to speed after a long break. But it's very hard. I get surprised sometimes by things that I have forgotten, things that are second-nature. And sometimes I feel I have done it so many times I have locked up a little, and that I am missing out on an opportunity here, to let the play grow with repetition.

And I thought I was doing all right. And sometimes I miss something, like when I didn't mention that my brother lives in London in the first sentence of that scene - I just said it a moment later, where it made sense to include that information. That was odd, but no one could tell.

But then there's the second "Julie" scene, where she calls to apologize for the first phone call. It was all right. I bobbled a line, forgot where I was a little bit, which is odd, that scene is usually solid. But I thought I got it out right. Just felt strange.

Very strange. And as I hung up the phone it occured to me (no, wait, that song comes later) but as I hung up I thought, what is the point of that scene? She just called to apologize? That's it? That felt a little flat ... and I put the phone back in its cradle, and I think, SH*T! I didn't say she was pregnant!

So I spend most of the rest scene flying on automatic, trying to say my lines at the same time I am trying to figure out exactly how much I have destroyed this performance. It took about a minute to realize (this is while I am playing one of the more difficult scenes for me in the entire play) it will just come up at Christmas, it will be a surprise then, but no less significant, and that's all that can be done about it. Can't go back, must move forward.

"Two households, both alike in Verona, in fair ... I'll come in again."


This past weekend we were in Athens, and checked out a package of short subjects at the Athens Video + Film Festival. Some were good, some were not. The worst piece was The Girls of Elizabeth Street (the promo mats claim it was inspired by Truffant's "Les Mistons" but who gives a f*ck) which wasn't merely pedestrian and poorly made, but was prefaced by a rolling list of all the places it had won awards and all the numerous festivals it had been accepted to.

We just watched as the list went on and on, and I couldn't help but saying out loud, "Well. It better be good."

I don't know what bothered me more. The fact that it was set in 1976 and yet the kid had Star Wars figures, or the fact that there was narration AND numerous title cards, or the fact that the filmmaker had absolutely nothing original or interesting to say about being a pre-adolescent boy. None of these things would have bothered me nearly as much, however, if it hadn't been prefaced by a list of major awards.

Which is how I was feeling right before I went on, when Carrie graciously mentioned to the audience that I HATE THIS had been recongized by the Plain Dealer, the New York Times and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists.

Well. It better be good.

And so I stepped out, feeling like I had set myself up for mediocrity. And I neglected to mention Julie was pregnant.

I have more to say about this, much more. But it's taken forty-five minutes to get this much out. Excuse me if I sound churlish. As performances of I HATE THIS go, it went very well, all around. Everyone was extremely kind, and I did give them (mostly) the same performance everyone gets. I believe this is more than I have ever said about what goes on in my brain when putting on one of these shows, and I am simply hoping it doesn't reflect too poorly on what I'm doing.

And, oh yeah - "What are we supposed to say?"

My vain struggle for hipness and relevance

Yes I should take a moment and record my reflections on last Friday's performance. They are myriad and dark.

First, however - you know, it has been a few years since a friend of mine suggested I listen to Modest Mouse. I got a good ten years on this person and I respect her taste in music it scares me to touch one of her mix CDs. She was into Death Cab for Cutie before the Postal Service. Woo.

So this new MM album comes out and what do I do, I sample it on iTunes (because that's what you do) and there's one track I respond to, Dashboard and when I listen to the entire thing all I can think it, this isn't just emulating XTC, this is XTC, from the staccato guitar riffs to the descending choruses of "OH! OH! OH! OH! OH!" The lyrics are even Partridge in their extreme.

Thought about getting the rest of the record as part of their "complete your album" promotion ... but I don't want to. The rest of it just sounds like Death Cab.

Friday, April 27, 2007

MR. JAMES HENKE in The Dark Room

Cleveland Public Theatre and the Cleveland Theatre Collective present The Dark Room

Join The Dark Room for a special evening featuring

From the Seriously Messed Up Stash of Mr. James Henke
by area writer David Hansen
Tuesday, May 1
Cleveland Public Theatre
6415 Detroit Ave., Cleveland, OH  44102

7:30pm - Writers sign-up for open session
8:00pm - Presentation of featured writer David Hansen

Suggested donation of $5 is welcomed at the door, but not required.

From the Seriously Messed Up Stash of Mr. James Henke by David Hansen
Directed by Kelly Elliott

Featuring Camden Stacey, Ariel Gilbert and George Roth* as Mr. James Henke  - Member, AEA

About the play:
Two children, each looking for answers about their families, are locked in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame overnight. There, in the dark halls of the museum, they uncover mysteries of rock and roll, urban legends, and find a mysterious man who may hold the key to what they are looking for. 
In addition to the featured writer, there will be readings of In Rep, a new screenplay by Larry Nehring and Fairy Tale Romance, a one-act play by Pat Stansbury
The Dark Room is a co-production of Cleveland Public Theatre ( and The Cleveland Theatre Collective ( The Dark Room affords emerging and veteran playwrights the space and resources to develop new works. It offers a venue to workshop plays, novels, poems, or any other written work in a supportive, yet critical environment.

The Dark Room continues on the first Tuesday of each month.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

POW !!!

Waiting for the other shoe to drop, I have otherwise been enjoying the fact that, pretty much since January, I have not suffered a single debilitating headache. There have been mild ones that I have either dealt with or made go away with ordinary, over-the-counter pain medication. But nothing serious.

Yesterday afternoon was entirely normal, until I started driving home and began feeling tired. I had a stressful phone call with my brother in London, and then proceeded to discuss arrangements with the folks in Louisville about the May 11th event.

Prior to these calls, I was feeling presser between my eyes. My elelids where feeeling heavy and sore. By the time I got off the phone with Rev. M. in KY, I was feeling sick to my stomach, and needed to lie down.

Brief, relevant side-comment: In THE TEMPEST, Andrew wanted to avoid the normal "gee, I'm awfully sleepy" acting that usually goes into those scenes when eithe Prospero or Ariel puts someone to sleep. It was like WHAM, people would say they were "wonderous heavy" and then just collapse. Not that anyone was watching me, but my little trick was, you guessed it, I would get a migraine. We'd hear little bells, and my fingers would go to the bridge of my nose, my vision would blur (not really, that was acting) my stomach would clench, and then BOOM, I'd slump on the ground.

It only added injury to insult that a moment later D.A. would use my head as a bongo, but I didn't tell him that.

My question, as always, is this: WHY? Barometric pressure? Familial concern? Or, what I am increasingly beginning to fret - is it this show?

I had to perform with a headache In November, 2004. The day after the perf at the conference in Chicago last year I was socked in bed all morning and part of the afternoon. Last night, totally wasted, for me and for Toni, who did her best to keep the children away from me. These are just three examples, but it makes me wonder.

It was hideous. It lasted all night. Even now I feel hung-over.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Performance Friday

Shaping the Future of Women & Children’s Health 2007
Sponsored by University Hospitals of Cleveland
Corporate College East, Warrensville Heights, OH
Friday, April 27, 2007 - 3:40 pm

Haven't performed live since October, since Chicago. Friday's perf and the one in Louisville in two weeks come at a good time, I can get reacquainted with the material before all of the necessary tearing my hair out in preparation for the UK tour.

This, of course, is the first time I have performed the show since I began having "the doubts." I used to revisit 2001 with a certain amount of satisfaction, like visiting a wounded old friend. I am uncertain what this will feel like. Just as well, I used to be troubled with other kinds of neuroses before an IHT perf, now I have a new one.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Recommendation to the Recording and Broadcast Industries: A Statement by Russell Simmons and Dr. Benjamin Chavis on behalf of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network:

... HSAN reaffirms, therefore, that there should not be any government regulation or public policy that should ever violate the First Amendment. With freedom of expression, however, comes responsibility. With that said, HSAN is concerned about the growing public outrage concerning the use of the words "xxxxx," "xx," and "xxxxxx." We recommend that the recording and broadcast industries voluntarily remove/bleep/delete the misogynistic words "xxxxx" and "xx" and the racially ofensive word "xxxxxx." (Read the words yourself here.)

Self-censorship. Always been popular in my family.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Miller Time

"Memory inevitably romanticizes, pressing reality to recede like pain."
- Arthur Miller, Timebends

I have been tossing two books back and forth for several weeks now. My resolve to read for no less than 30 minutes a day was working out pretty well, until the performances began getting to me (I stopped running a week ago Friday) but then illness and a new project kept Miller's autobiography in my hands pretty much exclusively and at all times for the entire weekend.

I still don't know what I have or had, but I feel it finally draining out of me, leaving a hideous sore throat. Regardless, my big revelation is that I no longer hold Arthur Miller in contempt. I am sure this would be a major relief to him were he still alive. In any event, the irritation I developed during a seminar in college, one devoted to Miller, where I was once so looking forward to reading so many of his works, only to discover each one an increasingly pale copy of the one before it ... and all of his commentary ... endless commentary ...

I think that's what bothered me the most, and left me feeling I had a right to judge him not on his plays but on his edirotials and essays, defending his work, explaining his work, as though the work did not explain itself, or that we couldn't get it, and if we didn't like it, we were wrong.

Well. That was part of my problem right there, too much commentary. I should have skipped the commentary and paid more attention to the work.

In any case, I am readiing his autobiography, which I got for Christmas from Daniel. And why did Daniel give me a copy of Timebends for Christmas? Because I asked for it (it was a Secret Santa thing.) So why would I ask for a biography I wouldn't possibly want?

Uhm. I don't know. The line on the form said, "The book I would most like to read but don't own is ..?" Maybe I thought it said "least" but that doesn't make any sense. Anyway, I think I was trying to break something inside of myself, and just wrote it down. Two days before Christmas, and I had a copy.

Recently GLTF announced they would, for the first time, produce The Crucible. The work I have always felt stands out as Miller's true classic. The exception. I still doubt Salesman will be performed in another hundred years, but Crucible? They will be performing that play on Mars.

And so I had reason to research. So I have read. And I have kept reading. This guy's life is fascinating.

Another work Daniel opened up to me was To Kill a Mockingbird. "You don't really know a person till you put on their shoes and walk around in their skin for a while."

Once the season was announced, I was reminded again how much my father claims he hates Arthur Miller. I will get around to asking him why (I think I can guess) but before that day, I think I needed to see if my own distrust of him was misplaced.

Miller, not my dad.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Let the backlash begin!

"This American Life" Completes Documentation Of Liberal, Upper-Middle-Class Existence
- The Onion, 4/20/2007

"We've done it," said senior producer Julie Snyder, "There is not a single existential crisis or self-congratulatory epiphany that has been or could be experienced by a left-leaning agnostic that we have not exhaustively documented and grouped by theme."

Added Snyder, "We here at public radio couldn't be more pleased with ourselves."

Bam! Could've ended the article right there. Of course, this comes from The Onion which Tony Kushner referred to as "used to be funny," in one of his more understated remarks.

It is true, however, that though I have still been enjoying the program - finding it actually politically relevant on many occasions, entirely since 9/11 by no small coincidence - the emergence of the t.v. show, which I can't watch because I don't have Showtime, and yet I truly believe I wouldn't watch anyway, because, having seen the clips, I have been freshly reminded of that feeling I had in the pit of my stomach the very first time I heard Ira's voice in a promo way back in the mid-90s, promising me that I would, oh yes, me, actually sit in my car, to wait for one of their stories to end.

True, perhaps. And so smug.

Jealous, churlish, what have you, Nancy Franklin puts it so much better in her review of the t.v. show in the New Yorker:

"One is so reluctant to express any degree of dislike for “This American Life,” th popular public-radio storytelling progra created by Ira Glass twelve years ago, an featuring such stars as David Sedaris, Sara Vowell, and John Hodgman, that one’ inclination is to avoid the use of the first-person pronoun for as long as possible in order not to be identified with any reservations concerning the show. On wants deniability; in fact, one wants to hide."

In fact, one goes on.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"Good" grief

What a successful week for death.

Tuesday night, we were in the audience for a Writers Center Stage discssion with playwright Tony Kushner and director George C. Wolfe. Moderator (if he can be called that, as he did a painfully poor job of moderating the Q&A) Earl Pike got the evening off on a clumsy note by asking the creators of (among other things) Angels In America to comment on the shooting deaths of 33 people at Virgina Tech the day before.

Well, maybe not so clumsy. The man who wrote Angels is not a man who shies away from the subject of death, nor grief, and his response was, his verbal tics nothwithstanding, refreshingly direct. Yes, he said the Second Amendment should be repealed, a highly controversial suggestion which I have heard more than once in the past five days, but went to comment on the reaction in the media, the common refrains of "closure" and "getting past this" as if anyone who was there, whose family members were killed or wounded, ever will. They won't, but we live in a culture that is so hideously bad at coping with loss, we try and hopscotch over it, to jump as swiftly as possible to neat summations about loss without ever dealing with the loss itself.

Discussing his work as a director, Wolfe said that anything you try and skip during the process, you are just going to have to come back to eventually, so you might as well deal with it right away. Later he said the same thing about coping with grief. Deal with it now, because you are going to have to deal with it eventually.

Meanwhile, it's business as usual in Iraq. 33 dead? That's a good day in Baghdad.

"It's impossible to make sense of such violence and suffering. Those whose lives were taken did nothing to deserve their fate. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now they're gone -- and they leave behind grieving families, and grieving classmates, and a grieving nation."

That's the President, who attended a memorial in Blacksburg, Virginia the same day we saw Kushner and Wolfe speak. Bush doesn't attend soldiers' funerals. And yet, he could make that same speech every single day for the war he started.

And while we are on the subject of the President (this President, as politicans are increasingly referring to him) this President's Supreme Court have succeeded in putting a wedge into Roe v. Wade, setting the stage for a horror-host of restrictions on access to abortion.

For years Democrats have employed the euphemism a women's right to choose when what they really mean is a woman's right to choose an abortion. Only people don't like to use that word, which sucks for them because that's what we are talking about. And there shouldn't be any shame in it. Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that women need to be protected from having to choose what is admittedly a grisly surgical procedure. Well, isn't that manly of him. Protection for a woman whose life is at risk and may, in a particular situation, require this procedure was not strong enough of an argument for these men who, you have to admit, I mean we knew this, would never and will never protect the right to abortion no matter what the facts are.

(Big sigh. I have been nursing a hideous cold for the last three days, and keeping up two performances a day. Forgive me, it's been a tough week.)

On a lighter note, the NY Times ran this classy memorial for Kitty Carlisle Hart who died Tuesday at the age of 96.

I read that they expected her to lip-synch someone else singing Alone for this scene from A Night at the Opera and her agent stonewalled the producers for three days until she got the chance to sing it herself. Ciao, Rosa.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

For the love of Trent

"i have a hard time laughing at nine inch nails. trent reznor is not one to be laughed at. keep in mind."
- a fanboy objecting to this NIN vs. Britney mashup

I haven't bought a Nine Inch Nails album since The Downward Spiral. True, I "purchased" a single or two from his last album, but that was as far as it went. And why is this? His first three albums - loved them. In fact, I feel TDS was seared into my psyche, there are parts of that record I still can't listen to.

Timing is everything. I was 26 (26 years - on my way to Hell*) and the album provided the soundtrack to the disintegration of my first marriage, my first theater company, and was the backdrop to a host of unsavory social behavior.

So ... how do you follow that up? If you've been truly, deeply feeling something so wretched and low, and make a connection to some piece of music that so entirelt expresses what you are feeling at that time ... what happens when you no longer feel those things? What if you become, say, happy?

I'm not saying I can't listen to that album, or Pretty Hate Machine. What I'm saying is that I an't listen to anything he's recorded since. Because Trent was so successful at expressing those dark and ugly things, what am I supposed to do with SHINY, BRAND NEW ANGST?

Maybe I'm missing out on something. They said The Fragile was the best album of 1999. Some liked With Teeth, but I just find it difficult to take Trent seriously anymore (fanboy notwithstanding.) He's this muscle-bound, joyless, metal-thug, like Rollins only devoid of any humor.

So I was not a little amused by Kelefa Sanneh's positive but ultimately condescending review of NIN's latest album, Year Zero in the NY Times. If I felt buying a NIN album would be like trying to connect to some part of my life that doesn't exist anymore, apparently recording it was much the same.

* Actually, a lyric from the Broken EP.

Friday, April 13, 2007

31 Runs for 31 Years

Last fall I ran the New York Marathon. Yay for me. Then, around Thanksgiving, I entirely ceased running. Let's eat, drink and sleep for a change. By January I was feeling puffy and sluggish and really, really depressed. But the weather was miserable, worse than miserable, and so was I. So by early February I was inspired to finally get back out there, sub-freezing temps be damned.

I had gotten used to listening to PODRUNNER, which I still subscribe to ... but I knew I would need shorter workouts if I was going to maintain any kind of regularity in my runs. No more hour-plus runs, that's too much time, and besides, I needed to get back into shape.

So instead I crafted thirty to forty-five minute playlists - and each one would be from a different year. I didn't put them together in any particular order, but I found I could go back as far as 1977 - before that I don't have enough music in my library with enough punch. Actually, they didn't make music with punch before then.

As it also turns out, 1977 was the year I came into awareness of the larger world. Star Wars, Three Mile Island, President Carter, Saturday Night Live - and Top 40 radio, I started consuming culture that year. I cannot claim to have actually listened to everything on my 31 years worth of playlists when they were released, but if I made playlists of what I was listening to at that time, well, I would probably be doing a lot of strolling, not running.

So, for those of you who don't already following my other blog, Daddy Runs Fast, here's the run-down:

  • 1977 Daddy likes men
  • 1978 Ja tvoi sluga. Ja tvoi rabotnik.
  • 1979 Flying like a cement kite
  • 1980 Here we go again
  • 1981 The engine's thumpin' like a disco
  • 1982 Fingerpaint the sun on you
  • 1983 Did you know you had this power?
  • 1984 It's a lot like life
  • 1985 No one move a muscle as the dead come home
  • 1986 The sun. More beautiful.
  • 1987 My whole life flashed before I crashed
  • 1988 It's a physical thing but not hard to do
  • 1989 O brave new world
  • 1990 Just a minute let me slip something on
  • 1991 The sun struggles up another beautiful day
  • 1992 Just words and so much skin
  • 1993 We are such stuff ...
  • 1994 The only thing that works for me
  • 1995 Stop f*cking with me
  • 1996 And I'll need a kiss for my head that's aching
  • 1997 My blood wants to say hello to you
  • 1998 Perfect solution to the stress and the strain
  • 1999 Full fathom five
  • 2000 I drank too much last night, got bills to pay
  • 2001 I can go for miles if you know what I mean
  • 2002 It's like St. John said
  • 2003 How much do you commit yourself
  • 2004 I'm fit (but I know it)
  • 2005 You're lucky, lucky, you're so lucky!
  • 2006 Beware of the dork
  • 2007 Tomorrow there's no school so let's go drink some more Red Bull
  • Thursday, April 12, 2007

    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    No damn cat, and no damn cradle.

    "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be."

    - Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night
    1922 - 2007

    Sunday, April 08, 2007

    Open letter to NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday

    I find it interesting that you would choose Easter Sunday to discuss our current fascination with torture and extreme violence in the movies - and yet neglect to mention The Passion of the Christ, unquestionably the most popular snuff film of all time.

    Thursday, April 05, 2007

    "What's past is prologue."
    - The Tempest, II.i

    "It's something you learn after your first theme party - it's all been done before."
    - Angels in America

    Tuesday, April 03, 2007


    Silly me, I have been so preoccupied with the opening of TEMPEST that I entirely forgot that it's thatt ime of year again. Time for EGGSHELLAND!

    Fifty Years! That's incredible, I want to have done anything for fifty years, I don't care if it is making mosaics of cartoon characters out of blown eggshells sprayed with car enamel, that's an achievement, dammit.

    You haven't heard of Eggshelland? Of course you have, you read my blog. But if you're new, here's an old post of mine about it or you can just visit their website* - and then get your butt to Lyndhurst before Easter Monday, when they pack all the eggs up in crates and put them away for another year.

    * Turn the volume way up.

    Sunday, April 01, 2007

    OH MY GOD !!!


    (Thanks, Christine.)