Sunday, April 24, 2011

Eulogy


My expectations for this production were very high. And in some manner, they were met. Shaping this piece to match the marathon play was a delicate balance, Ali built on the previous direction, leading me to be less ponderous, and more immediate. To wit; go faster.

This was disorienting at first, I was used to presenting it a very specific way. It led to discovery, and wonderful surprises. Also, in the interest of keeping it short, I used the same edit we used for the radio adaptation. Last night, the last night, I HATE THIS ran one hour.

One of the less pleasant surprises was audience reaction. I won't get into the disappointment I felt at there being small houses. I have done that an awful lot ... for years. Last night I was slapped in the face with a rather obvious revelation:

It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter how well written it is. It doesn't matter how well I perform it. It doesn't matter, as Jess so kindly reported, that I take care of my audience, and make them feel safe. It doesn't matter that there are all kinds of plays about serial killers, pedophile priests, and men who treat every woman they meet like trash and get away with it which attract vast, sold-out audiences.

Some people cannot handle this.

There is a critic in town whose job, ostensibly, would anyone actually pay him for it, would arguably have a responsibility to come see this award-winning production and grant his opinion. Arriving late to a performance on Insomnia (no late seating) he was offered a ticket to I HATE THIS. He said he wouldn't be able to handle it.

You fucking pussy.

Last night, however ... there were these two people in the front row. About ten minutes in I noticed they were whispering. And I was standing right next to them. I was acting, I was trying not to pay attention, but I was in the far downstage corner of the space, I was right next to them, and they were having an urgent conversation. This was during Becky's/Julie's first phone call.

By the middle of the next scene, "Blame" - the harshest, angriest part of the show - they got up and made their way out. She was weeping, copiously.

Ah. I got it.

After the show, Becca said she spoke to them out on the sidewalk. The woman said what I had written was perfect, exact, and that she couldn't take it. She was very complimentary, but you know, bereft.

At the bar my friends, upon hearing the story, wanted to know how she couldn't know what she was in for. I suggested there is a difference between a story about dealing with grief, and being plunged deep into the experience from the beginning. She told Becca she regretted not reading any reviews or anything, she might have been prepared - or most likely not have come at all.

And that, as they say, is the rub. It made me feel like this entire exercise has been insane. The play found a home in hospitals and church basements - even sanctuaries. Presenting it as entertainment, in a theater, for the first time in years, I was expecting a similar reaction. And I expected a crowd. But young people do not care. And old people cannot take it.

I generalize. I hope you take my meaning.

Where do I go from here, I do not know. I may be done. It has been ten years, I have wanted a run of this show - a public, Cleveland, professional run - and for my efforts, I got one. Previous I had performed I HATE THIS a total of 36 times, with at most five performances in the same space. Now I have added eleven more, all at the Storefront. It was animated, swift, lively, an education ... I could repackage this, and resume my trek across the country, visiting clinics and parish halls. I don't know. It's a good show. It's a good story. And it has its place, as a cautionary tale, as a promise of recovery, of healing, of reconstruction, of rebirth. Of the possibility of change.

Right now I am tired and sore. And I want to concentrate on newer works. It's time for rest and reflection.

Happy Easter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Homily


Reverend James R. McGonegal used each of my plays as the basis for his Palm Sunday homily at St. Ignatius of Antioch. I called him on Monday to ask ... what the dillio?

He explained that, much like I HATE THIS, the events of Palm Sunday begin in expectation and exultation, and end tragically with the Passion. Well. He saw right through me. I have explained before how the structure my play was a puzzle for me to figure out; how I could explain moments that happened weeks and months following the birth of my first son, and yet end with the birth of my first son. I am holding my child, like "a new Pieta" (the title of a drawing I found in a book on bereavement for fathers) or holding nothing at all, depending on how you look at it.

But the good Reverend also remarked on AND THEN YOU DIE, using it as a metaphor for how we sometimes run from our pain, suffering and responsibilities. In our phone conversation he hesitated for a moment and asked if he'd gotten that right. I said he nailed it.

Three more shows, schmoes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Life is but a dream.


So I went to see the Kids in the Hall last night. That’s my little joke. I have been sharing the make-up room with the cast of Fever/Dream which is playing the Gordon Square. I work with these people, or have done, or I just met them. Most are well-younger than I am, except for the two really old guys.

An adaptation of Calderon’s Life Is A Dream, it’s a contemporary office comedy where the heir in the dungeon is the heir in the basement taking over for the king/corporate president in a series of nutty vignettes. Honestly, the story itself doesn’t amount to much, except it provided the opportunity for some of my favorite people to create remarkable characters that I was delighted to be in the same room with for two hours.

Nathan was just dynamite as a young turk who doesn’t have much turk in him. My beloved Annie was outrageous and sympathetic in a role my wife tells me is quite the tedious stock clown character in Calderon’s original. Faye presented some of the best work I have ever seen her do. What most excited me was the supporting characters, the kids who play “slacker” characters whose lives appear to have dead ends … except for all of the awesome choreography director Beth and her crew put into the segues between scenes …

… you know, I hate half-assed choreography to mask scene changes. It’s fucking awful, because it usually is awful, an after-thought to make a set change “entertaining.” Not here, this show is a big awesome dance party I was glad to be witness to. Point one to the hipsters.

Dig It


That person from my youth takes credit for my achievements thorugh the arrogant statement, “I told you you could.”

Well. Four years ago Jeremy Paul asked me to lunch to ask how to start a theater company. Everything I recommended he do, he has done. And now he is the hottest shit in Cleveland.

Get your own space, create your own material, be a happening. That’s it in a nutshell. No, I am not seriously taking credit for his achievement. But yes, well, look at it, that's exactly what I am doing.

I thought Inoculations was good. The Excavation is … well, it is hard to hurdle the bar set by Nick Koesters. The major difference is, this production is truly interactive, a choose-your-own-adventure kind of ordeal. And while it is meaningful, it is mostly hilarious.

If you have the opportunity to witness the sexually tense clown show that is the duo of Renee Schilling and Lew Wallace, run, do not walk, to that entrance. Hey, you know what, they need to play Nick and Honey in someone’s production of Virgina Woolf.

Can I ask, what is up with hipsters and fucking terrible beer? And don’t tell me it’s money. Last week it was PBR, today t’s Busch. Tomorrow, what, a Tasty Schaeff?

Speaking of tragic hipsters, at the Fever Dream after party this dude in funky hair, skinny 80s tie and big blocky glasses made a grand gesture to Jeremy, intoning, "Cleveland Theatre Today ..." and then gestured to me, "... and here we have ..."

Yes, all right. Fuck you.

Three Gents


I have to look at this picture a lot.

There’s lots of plays going on, Excuse me for whining about lackluster ticket sales. I always do that. It comes with performing plays about stillbirth. I had a co-worker tell me to my face, “I can’t see your show.” I said I understand, we’re all busy. She emphasized, “No … I can’t see it.”

A number of the shows which opened with mine are closing at the same time. Last week I caught a matinee of The Two Gentlemen of Verona. It’s not regarded as one of Shakespeare’s greater works, but the production at Great Lakes this month has been something to see.

The last time - the only time I have ever seen it was at school. It was not a well-produced production. The costumes looked like the designer said, “hey, I’ve got an idea, let’s go through the stock and choose the outfit that best represents your character!” Honestly, I think that was the design. Matt Glave, he of The Wedding Singer and Baby’s Day Out played Proteus. That’s about all I remember about the production.*


Matthew Glave

At GLTF that part is legendary because it’s the one that we like to remind everyone started Tom Hanks career. He won an award from the local critics for the performance. I have no doubt it was a memorable performance.

There was a scheduling conflict with the man playing Proteus this season, and as a result my boyfriend Eric Perusek was in the right place and right time to be assigned the role for three matinees in the middle of the run. I caught it last week. If I didn’t know him, or that he was an understudy, I wouldn’t have been able to tell, he walked in so seamlessly. It’s a lovely rendition of a slight story … Proteus loves Julia. His friend Valentine meets Silvia, falls for Silvia. Proteus meets Silvia, becomes obsessed with Silvia, conspires to ruin Valentine so he can have her … and in the end he realizes he’s been an idiot, Julia takes him back, everyone is happy.

What? Oh, nothing. All right, carry on.


Eric Perusek as Proteus. Feel the burn.

This production was bolsetered by what it did not do, which was try to explain away Proteus’s actions. He is smitten, stupidly so, and gets over it. Eric did that very well. And for the high school audience I watched it with, one pop in the nose from Valentine was all it took to snap Proteus out of it -- and also send shockwaves of reaction through a very tense and worried crowd of teenagers.

Then there’s the singing and the music. It’s a big, heartsick lovesong, this production. I was very happy with it. It made me happy.


*Sounds like I am dissing Mr. Glave, doesn't it. That's wrong, I am not, it was Shakespeare's script and an uninteresting production concept. Before he left O.U. I entirely fell in love with Mr. Glave as Betty/Gerry and the entire company of "Cloud 9". (Glave, seated on the floor.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Crumbling

This morning a man in a coffee shop said something very positive to me. He seemed like a positive guy. I got in my car with my cup of coffee, placed in the cup holder, sat back and a large muscle in my back flared up.

I wasn’t doing anything. I wasn’t reaching or flexing, I just had a thought and my back seized up. I must be under a lot of stress. Maybe weeping uncontrollably in the car last night for ten solid minutes had something to do with it. I haven’t had a stress-induced back spasm in years. I also have not cried like that in some time.

It has been a challenging weekend.

You know, strange of strange, it felt like the closing weekend to me, like things had come to an end. I have been disappointed with turnout. I take this too personally. There are a lot of shows going on right now. But they aren’t this show. I wrote this. I lived this. And I never thought I would perform I Hate This ever again – and I am very happy that I am. The text is legend to me, my old story, made new by sound and light and space. I feel so un-alone in it, it’s not just me and Kelly anymore, it’s Josh and Christopher and the house management people, and even the cast across the hall.

The running play is fractured, less labored, more prismic. It is also something to see. I do not believe I will have the opportunity to perform these shows ever again. I have three more performances. I have enjoyed ever single one (that's not true ... performing before my peers last Monday was a little intimidating) and mean to enjoy the hell out the final three.

I feel like bits of my life have been thrown up into the air, at work, at home, in my personal life … this weekend someone came to the show I did not want to see, someone I was hoping never to see again. I did not know who they were during the performance, and thank God for that. They stayed after to say hi, and to ask why I had blocked them on Facebook. Honestly, people who are so arrogantly clueless need to fucking die.

I hurt someone once. I didn’t realize it at the time, people can be ignorant in that way. But that’s the point, I thought about them as though they were just another chapter in my life, to be shelved forever. Until the Internet made it possible to unlock our past and walk right through. And this was in 1999. I fecklessly used a search engine and found their email address. I wrote her, “Hi, how are you?”

She responded, “How wonderful. My father had a stroke last week, my boyfriend wrapped his car around a tree, and now I hear from you.”

I had the opportunity to learn something a long time ago. If you live a normal life, there are people who will hate you. And there is nothing you can do about that. Live with it.

I hate myself for being so goddamn polite to this unwanted audience member. I don’t usually care about the personal stuff I throw up onstage. That’s what I do. But this interloper knew these people I love, from my life, who I speak about. Knowing that they were sitting there, secretly listening, laughing knowingly at these memories, I feel violated. I have never felt like that before, performing my work.

Are you reading this? Here you go. You hurt my brother. And then he left me. You messed with my head. You say you always knew I had it in me, that you told me when I was I kid that I would accomplish great things. Well. From where I am sitting, I would have conquered the world, if it hadn’t been for fucked up people like you.

Don’t contact me, stop trying to “friend” me, don’t “follow my tweets.” Do not respond to this post, stop reading my blogs, do not communicate with me. If you have any respect for me, leave me and my family alone.

As Renee would say, “Moving on …”

Speaking of family, my folks were the audience yesterday. That was awesome. I do not believe my mother has ever seen I Hate This. During Big Box (back in 2003) she was there, in the theater, but she didn’t watch. She sat behind the seating unit, with my infant girl, so my wife could watch – and because, as she related, because she couldn’t. Not because she felt I was unfair to her, but because she didn’t like to see me relive such pain.

It was great fun to hear them and the party they came with explode with laughter when I call him “fat.” I had to stop and say, “… what?” Good timing. Kelly kept an eye on Mom, she says she laughed every time I dropped and F-bomb.

The audiences have been wonderful to me. I have been working to sense where they come from to watch these two shows. I can spot fellow travelers pretty easily. There are key moments during the performance where I will watch a man put his hand on the hand of the woman he is with, and I know. And then there are the runners, who love all the running minutiae.

And then there are the American Greetings employees, they are a special segment of the audience.

On Saturday night I was joined by friends I wouldn’t even know if it weren’t for the loss of our children. We went to XYZ afterwards and indulged in war stories. It’s been so long since I have felt liberated enough to do that. Nothing changes. Couldn’t talk about it then, can’t talk about it now. It was a welcome release.

Okay, so I have been emotional, for obvious reasons. A little to close to the skin this weekend. Then I get home and find this message from Michael Heaton, entitled "jim mcgonagle pastor at St. Ignatius of Antioch ...":

So. I’m a rock star. Most people would be overjoyed. I collapsed on the couch and whimpered for a little longer.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Theater Professionals Night

7:11 PM

A few years ago Cleveland joined the ranks of those theater communities that provide Monday night performances for the benefit of those actors who are busy every other night of the week. Monday is Actors' Equity day off. It's also a good way of adding a "cheap night" to the run. Tickets tonight are only $10.

Pre-sale for this evening's performance exceeded the attendance of any single show I have had so far. That's a good thing. I expect co-workers, cast members from FEVER/DREAM, and from Two Gents.

I already hear Tim out there. That by itself is a good sign.

7:22 PM

Good Lord, it's like the GLTF Actor-Teacher retirement home out there.

8:42 PM

Oh my GOD! An audience of my peers scares the hell out of me -- what is up with THAT!?

11:08 PM

Sitting in the parking lot of CPT. Going out after a show on Monday night, probably not a good idea. Especially if I have to sub for one of our actor-teachers tomorrow. Couldn't help it -- I had friends in from out of town for this one, and so many others. Good times at XYZ, Lauren had so many questions about the show she needed cleared up, it probably sounded like I was performing a third show there at the table.

Thanks for coming, Magdalyn. You are the best.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

BRILLIANT! ENGAGING! MUDDLED! Wait ... what?


Good Lord, this is an old picture.

Ah HA! I was a little confused when I saw that a review had appeared on cleveland.com. Tony hadn't come to see my show, how could he review it?

He hadn't. Christine Howey was in the audience on Thursday night to write for them, and not for SCENE or for her own blog.

I am trying to figure out the whole "preview" thing here in Cleveland. All kinds of houses have previews, big ones and small ones. What does that mean? In New York, for example, it means the show hasn't "opened" yet, and that it is a grace period where the actors can get accustomed to an audience before being appraised by a critic.

But critics in Cleveland don't play that. I don't care, I treated Thursday night as an opening, anyway. The problem, as I see it, is that it means critics are taking in the show in a room with a small number of people in it. Granted, they should judge the work on its own merit, and not whether everyone else is having a good time.

Anyway. The review did not surprise nor disturb me. The basis of Howey's review is correct -- the subject matter of AND THEN YOU DIE "pales" in comparison to the subject matter of I HATE THIS. You can take the rest of the review as you like.

Me, I treasure another comparison to Spalding Gray, and value Ali's work being appraised as "adroit" and that I am a "talented writer and an engaging performer." And she does call I HATE THIS "brilliant."

So I'm thrilled. A review! I didn't know if I was going to receive a high-profile review. It helps. It can't hurt. And I'm sharing all of this because I don't want you to think I am the kind of actor who says he doesn't read his reviews.

It's like what they say about masturbation. 95% of men masturbate. 5% lie about it.

OPENING! TONIGHT! BE THERE!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

First Preview

7:05 PM

There are openings all over town. Two here, one at Theater Ninjas, Great Lakes opens Two Gents on Saturday. Tonight is a "preview" for all of us ... but for some, really. It's an opening. There will be critics here. What does "preview" even mean anymore? Is it just that "opening" means that's when the party is?

I hope someone comes to see my play.

I HATE THIS has had a lot of openings. In Minnesota. In New York. In Carlisle.

If they all have one thing in common, it is small houses.

8:40 PM

Eleven audience members. Well ... ten people and one critic. ALmost all of them over the age of fifty ... of course, that means they "get it" more than a lot of youngsters might. There were a number of good-hearted laughs in the right places.

I really have done this show a long time.

11:22 PM

Sitting in the parking lot of CPT, next to the Fellowship Hall. Wifi is amazing.

Just left XYZ for a post-performance beverage with friends and admirers, Dan & Eddie, Josh & Kelly ... Beth sits with usm the folks from Ninjas roll in, we've ll had out "previews." I shouldn't fret, while eleven is on the low end, none of us had audiences above twenty. That's a Thursday Night Preview for you.

It's been a good night. I need to go to work in the morning. Time to drive home blasting some techno.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Curse of the solo show.


My Little Kelly

6:50 PM

Once the house opens I will need to use the bathroom beneath Fefu's Kitchen (don't make me explain what that means, exactly.) So tonight I stick my head in Fefu's to check out whether or not they had, in fact, put the door on that bathroom. Kelly said I would be sharing it with the cast of FEVER/DREAM, and that is a normal sized cast.

I open the door, and there are ladies in there -- so I shut the door, embarrassed. WTF? Is F/D using that as a women's' dressing room? Carrie had seen me, and came out to say hi, and explain it's just hair and make-up.

A hair and make-up room? Damn. CPT is going all kinds of legit. Good on 'em. I head back in to see everyone, there's three GLTF actor-teachers in the cast, and a lot of other favorite people. They are all putting their hair up, dressed in very nice business office costumes ...

And I felt like I was back at the Fringe. This is always the case with me, surrounded by large casts of giddy, excited, nervous, glamorous, interesting theater people, and then there's me, by myself in street clothes.

We are holding for the second dress ... technical issues. Trying to get the right computer. Good thing, I am exhausted. Really, tonight more than any other rehearsal night for weeks. I'm gonna get down on the floor and stretch.

7:03 PM

Denis walks in with another computer.

9:56 PM

Act One: 1 hour, 2 minutes
Act Two: 1 hour, 8 minutes

Daddy runs fast. Damn. That show makes me hungry.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Everything in its right place.


Backstage

6:50 PM

The year 2000 Radiohead album Kid A included many themes I shared with Dennis to compose to original music for I HATE THIS. And we used it for pre-show at Big Box, in Minnesota, in New York. Since then there has been no call for "pre-show," not in conference halls and hospitals and church basements.

It is playing now. We are five minutes from our first run-through. Takes a person back.

9:59 PM

Act One: Hour Five
Act Two: Hour Eleven

Not so heartbreaking, I have not run these in several days. I know we will rip some out tomorrow night.

During notes Ali got a little sheepish, pointing out the proximity of the lights and how I might need to ... powder my head. I reassured her I was going to do that, anyway. But then Christopher whispered to Kelly, "Oh no! At the beginning of Act Two, that's the only way I can see him!"

Good run. Two more to go. Gotta pick up some milk.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Teching Doughnuts


11:11 AM

Cue-to-cue begins.

Good God. Ali provied a table of food and drink ... bagels, cream cheese, strawberries, Cheetos, orange juice, Coke, doughnuts -- f*cking doughnuts?

That's a line from the show, by the way.

12:22 PM

We just finished doing to cue-to-cue for I HATE THIS.

THESE PEOPLE ARE AWESOME. I BOW DOWN TO THEIR ULTIMATE INCREDIBLENESS.

I have not performed this show with anything approximating light cues for seven years. It looks beautiful. Well, I think it looks beautiful, I can't see it from where I am sitting.

I can't wait to discover what the second act looks like.

1:25 PM

First snag. Everyone laughs. It is taken care of in less than five minutes. That is how this crew rolls.

2:15 PM

And we are done. Hear that? Done. Tech in three.

Now, three nights of run-throughs and we open on Thursday. Or Preview. Whatever Raymond says.

Memo to myself: Ali's medal, extra music.

Friday, April 01, 2011

KEEP UP

AND THEN YOU DIE run-through: 1 hour, seven minutes. Hells, YEAH!

Whew.

You can peruse my running blog to get a grasp of my silly preoccupation with my weight. You can also check out HOW LITTLE I HAVE BEEN RUNNING THIS YEAR. Damn.

But you know what? This was the first time running through ATYD has been fun. Just pure fun. Ali mentioned this, I was discovering new things all over the place tonight, with more sympathy for others, more self-effacement for myself, it all had a lighter touch.

Because, you know ... after performing I HATE THIS, doing a play about relationships and training for a marathon just can't hold up. So it won't. It is the digestif. Having realized that, it takes a lot of WEIGHT off the shoulders of this piece.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

6-Step

Tonight is night off from rehearsal. And this is how I will be spending it.



NOTE:
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RUSH THIS MOVE, IT IS THE FOUNDATION OF DOWNROCK AND YOU SHOULD PERFECT IT BEFORE SPEEDING IT UP.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Josh.


6:39 PM

Yay! Tonight is not about me!

Josh (multimedia) and Joshhawk (light) are present, we are working tech tonight. They are currently trying to get the video projector set, I am getting a few glimpses of Josh's animations ... and OOOH! I am getting excited. Looking good.

7:56 PM

Rolling through the slides of I HATE THIS. The music of Dennis Yurich.

9:03 PM

Finished setting cues for I HATE THIS. We are a happy family. So happy with Josh's work. Christopher is our tech booth guy, taking over for Josh when he runs FEVER DREAM.

9:37 PM

I have been dismissed, we skated through slides from AND THEN YOU DIE in short order so I could see the changes -- this multimedia rom this piece will largely resemble the 2009 production. Well, no that's not true, either, there are some great additions to clear things up ... good gravy we will be going much faster this time.

More flab on me, but much less on the show.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Speed The Play

7:50 PM

We are not tech'ing this evening. Poor Josh. So excited about being to ask to design multimedia for three shows ... only they all are happening at once. My show requires some deceptively not-simple tricks (a speedometer? that's easy ... right ..?)

So ... yesterday I had asked for a speed through for Wednesday ... so Kelly announced today we'd be having one tonight.

Okay. Not prepared for that. I should be, no one's fault but my own. And here we are, during the first break.

I sped through I HATE THIS in 38 minutes.

8:50 PM

AND THEN YOU DIE in 45 minutes. Whew. That means Josh & Josh get 15 minutes to mess around.

(Ha ha ha.)

Ali says I can go home.

Okay. Tomorrow we tech.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Her story


Herstory. Get it?

Spent the evening at Arts Collinwood for the Sunday Roast, featuring writers Lee Chilcote, Catherine Donnelly and Toni K. Thayer. I like Lee and Catherine's work, but I was really there to see my wife. You know how it is.

When I first presented the staged reading in August 2002, someone, I think it was Faye, said it is a long-standing belief that it takes ten years to be able to grapple with and present a major life trauma as a piece of writing. I had done it in less than two. I don't know if it was the right thing to do or not, but that's the way I swing.

When Christine Howey reviewed I HATE THIS after the 2003 Big Box run, she had one little thing to quibble about, and that was that Toni didn't get much of a voice. This is true, but I also think it is only correct. This is about the father, the guy on the outside. Her story, her voice, is hers. If she weren't a writer, maybe I would try to tell that story for her, but I knew I did not have to, that her story is hers, and that she would tell it.

Eventually.

It has taken ten years.

Tonight she told the story, her story, in person. She has incorporated aspects of her experience into other works, but not THE STORY. Calvin's story, as told by the mother.

She'd written this some time ago, and it has sat. It needed work. Her peers had several extremely helpful notes about elements of it which led her story in different directions which strayed from this story. This time. What happened, to her. And she spent a great deal of the day today finishing. She never let it rest - not even when I told her just to let it go, that what she had was fine, that the crowd tonight would eat it up, that she needed distance, and that she could polish it afterward.

Shame on me.

Thankfully, she did not rest. And she got it right. And she read it, out loud. And now her story is ready to reach a larger world.

Someone should publish this.

I do not want to die.

Sunday Run-Through

2:25 PM


I HATE THIS 1 hour 6 minutes. This will change, we are used to holding for music, this will change. I am delighted to be more animated in this production. We are sharing. We are getting close to the audiences. We need to stop writing in first person plural.

Broke out the sweater for today's run. Ten year-old Land's End sweater. Pale green, iconic. I feel comfortable in it. The sweater acts for me in places. I hold the sleeves every now and then, and connect with my 32 year-old hipster self.

4:01 PM

AND THEN YOU DIE 1 hour 23 minutes???!! How the hell did that work? The show was 1:20 BEFORE I CUT ALL THESE LINES AND ALL THE COSTUME CHANGES ...

Something has got to give.

4:41 PM

After notes. I am feeling a little sore. I need to hammer down these lines and have a speed through. One day. Not yet. We do have time, a lot of time. In fact, we are teching tomorrow. I will have sound and video and light by Wednesday, I will be running with full technical elements a full week before we open, how awesome is that?

So. If it is all too much, we have time, to cut, to shape. To make it work.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cut it now.


I would bemoan the fact that my current schedule still makes it very challenging to get a run in ... except we worked AND THEN YOU DIE tonight, from 6:30 to almost ten. Bouncing up and down on my toes for three and a half hours, leaping onto and off of cubes and platforms, running circles around you sooner than you know. ... and dancing. Don't forget the dancing.

Exhausted and hungry, my throat very tired -- my neck even hurts, why does my neck hurt? And then there are my knees. They are both very sore. This is going to be a joy.

At a little after eight, Ali asked if I wanted to "run" it again. And I said ... yes.

That's how I said it. "...yes."

I have been working, in my so-called spare time, on running lines. New lines, to be sure, and old lines. It's just not all in there for me, yet. I keep changing things -- cutting things, mostly. There was a lot of stop-and-start but hearing the first run took an hour twenty was disheartening. I mean, yes, I stopped and started a lot but I have to know, to believe it will be an hour. I cut more. Do I hate saying that? It's out. Have I made my point? It's out.

I had more ideas for revisions before I had even left the parking lot.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chalkhills and children



Chalk hills and children anchor my feet.
Chalk hills and children. Oddly complete.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Process. Or whatever.

What comes through? Repetition, comfort, knowledge ... this play is not, actually in my bones. The words can surprise me. "It has been so long since he died." How do you say that when what you mean is that it has been two months when you also know it has been ten years. Which do you play? You must play two months, only that is a lie, and I hate lying.

The joy emerges, the joy of telling. It has been hard to feel joy. I am just too tired. And busy. Distracted. This is nothing new.

And then there's Ali and Kelly over there, commenting on my blogging. This is my ten minute break, yo.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dammit.


Jesus. Will you look at this?

Working AND THEN YOU DIE in the Storefront tonight. First night in the Storefront, first night with actual space to move, to run ... and something hurts in my left knee. Kelly, the stage managerest with the mostest had ICY HOT and an ace bandage, and so it feels better, but come on. Major suckage.

UPDATE: My knee is fine, actually. But ever since ... well, ever since my knee was first damaged in 2008 I have worried about re-injuring it. Or the other knee. Or anything. I first performed ATYD four months after knee surgery. It's been over two years. But only two years. I just stepped off to jog to my right tonight, and the knee hurt. No popping. Nothing odd. Just couldn't put much weight on it any more. Really dragged down my mood. But we reblocked the entire act.

Tomorrow, Kelly and I crunch lines. Wednesday a run of IHT in the space, Friday ATYD. And Sunday -- run-through. I am looking forward to that.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

"Run" Through (Get it?)

Oh my God what was I thinking.

We had a "run-through" tonight for the benefit of our video sound guy, Josh, and the lighting designer, Josh. They are two different guys named Josh. The LD has a mohawk so Ali calls him Joshhawk, but that is confusing to Josh because it makes him think there's an actual bird in the room.

Act One (I HATE THIS) went not so piss-poorly. There was a performance of DARWINII going on nearby in the storefront, so I have not been speaking full-out ... which means I cannot "bring" much to the performance (as the kids say) but at least it makes sense. It has been sketched out in blocking, I have an idea of where to be. And the lines are, well ... okay, let's not talk about the lines. They exist. They are simply not accurate.

As for Act Two (AND THEN YOU DIE) well, crap. The running, all the running ... the truth is, my ass is bouncing in the most unpleasant way. This is not where I wanted to be right now. Oh well. Let's see what I can pull together in the next few weeks.

Then there's the text, thing. I mean, even that is not so horrid. We only attempted it so the designers, especially Joshhawk could get the gist of everything and have something to work with. Tomorrow afternoon, Monday, we will get this sucker into some blocking order.

Plans are coming together for Sunday's festivities. Need to go grocery shopping tomorrow, make arrangements with Mom and Dad, we may see them on Sunday, too. Weather suggest 50 degrees and partly sunny. I'd like it to be warmer, but as long as there is no snow or rain, I should be satisfied. I'd like to run around the zoo with the children.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Celebration

I am supposed to be off-book my next Tuesday. This was an arbitrary date arrived at Monday night when it was decided that rehearsal would proceed even though my director needs to be absent. Kelly and I will read lines, I must be off-book. This worried me ... until the past two nights when I discovered exactly how valuable to human mind is and how much can be retained through sheer repetition. So much, locked up there, waiting to re-emerge.

Ali has cut my tethers. So much of the original I HATE THIS was static. Sitting. Telling stories. Until I suddenly leap into action, bolting around the hospital bed in order to hit the intercom, movement is pretty slow and measured. These things will change. Working in Fefu's Kitchen, a tiny room but pretty much the dimensions of the stage in the Storefront, I am encouraged to address everyone, on all four sides, in close. This is new. Turning around, putting my back to the corners, using the entire space. We have been playing, I have been speaking low -- so as not to interrupt performances of DARWINII, but also because I am reserving strength, I am very tired from work, and am aware of how much energy the ATYD rehearsals will take out of me.

Bounce on your toes for three hours. It's a little trying.

We play with gestures, those I was aping for ATYD, get folded back into IHT. Reflection. Memory.

My family is making plans for Sunday. Calvin would be ten. Calvin is ten. How do you fill a decade? With words, to be sure. The girl is looking forward to visiting the zoo. The boy ... has been invited to someone else's birthday party. How do you tell a five year-old he can't go to a birthday party for his schoolmate so you can commemorate a dead sibling? That's easy -- you don't. You take him there. You make it work. It's all a celebration.

Monday, March 14, 2011

First Read-Through ... Again.


CPT Poster!

No, I have not read these plays out loud, back to back, at one time. Ever. Until tonight. The rehearsals begin, Ali, Kelly and I huddled in Fefu's Kitchen, listening to me read the complete script of I HATE THIS/AND THEN YOU DIE.

First act (IHT): 50 minutes
Second Act (ATYD): 53 minutes

Hey, what? Really? Well, that's good news already. I mean, that's not run time, no way, we'll tack ten minutes onto each, I am sure. But IHT used to be 1:07 and ATYD was at least 1:20. Cutting is good. Cutting is very good.

Ali set some of my fears to rest tonight. She says they have the same voice, even if they have different energy. Her concern, if I understand it correctly, was whether these pieces are realistically about the same "character." Can we believe David in the first act is Pengo is the second.

She wanted Pengo to be called "David" once during the second act. I think I put it in the right place. Doesn't matter to me, neither of them are my proper name, anyway.

My voice is tired. I need water near to me at all times. I must be careful.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Evolution

Seated in the Storefront Studio Theatre at CPT. IHT/ATYD opens here in what, four weeks? I am here to see Brett Keyser in the solo performance Darwinii. The family is out of town for roughly 36 hours so they can visit Toni's ailing grandmother. I take this freedom of responsibility to check out theater and later, to fold laundry.

Went to the bathroom. It is a little jarring. This bathroom. It is comfortable. I mean, it is warm. My earliest memories of this bathroom are cold, the coldest kind of bathroom. Cold toilet seat. Hateful thing, a cold toilet seat. As a performer I subjected myself to that seat numerous times, practicing for Junk Bonds, for Love In Pieces. Before CPT bought the building this was an appliance store called Giant Elephant or White Elephant or something. In the mid-to-late 90s it was a frigid rehearsal space, later an independent bookstore. Now it is a proper black box-type space. The Storefront. This is a keeper. This makes me happy.

I would be happier with beer. No beer for this show, just self-serve soda, water and candy. I neglected to have dinner. I trust that will sharpen my attention on the show.

I understand all 50 seats for Darwinii are sold tonight. The reviews have been very good. I'd see it even if they hadn't been, Brett is an immensely watchable performer. The show lasts 70 minutes, I am sure I could watch him sit still without speaking for three hours.

We begin rehearsals this weekend. I have a production meeting this Sunday morning. I go over lines in my head. I will be in this space. I open my mouth, running lines, in the car, and I am surprised by the sound of my voice. Less insecure, unsure. I told myself, and everyone else, that I play a character in I HATE THIS, but I was so much closer then. I sound authoritative, to myself. Expert. Deep-throated. Wizened. Is that a good thing?

I am 42. I was 32. Which do I play?

The show starts in five. I must put away my laptop. I am looking forward to this. All of this.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Who am I?

Investigating my 2001 journals has not been an emotional journey. And I have felt bad about that. I mean, they are interesting, to me anyway. They make me feel kind of sad, wistful, what have you. I know these things, and there have been a few surprises but largely I see a callow youth, walking blindly into a dark forest.

At least, that was how I had been until I began peeking ahead. The last entry before we learn the truth will be that of March 18. The next day we go the hospital, and emerge five days later. My next journal entry is several pages long, detailing our experience. If you know I Hate This, you know that part. And you would think I know it, too. But I was surprised.

Surprised because, up until this point, reading about the expectancy, the planning, such as it was, for this first child, I have been reading the words of a stranger. I am no longer that guy, and have not been since March 19, 2001. When I pick up the story after, then the words I am reading are mine. That's me, ten years ago. When I was born into this new world. I know who that guy is.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fail

Have You Seen Me?
Male - Answers to the name "TIGER"
Last seen on Castleton Road Thursday night 2/17/11

Look at that photo. In the upper left corner you can see my girl's smile. She loves this cat. She sleeps with this cat, or did so, until Thursday when it got out the side door and has not come back. It was in the upper 50s that night. Today there is a blanket of snow on the ground. He has been sighted in various parts of the neighborhood, or at least he was until a few nights ago.

My daughter's cat disappeared. The next night my wife was informed at a pizza party being thrown by one of the school mom's that not one, but three of my daughter's friends will be attending different schools -- not at the beginning of the school year, but starting next week. A month ago she learned another of her friends will be moving at the end of the school year. Two of her friends she made last year in first grade are in different schools now, or have moved away entirely.

I pray God that I or my wife do not get hit by a truck in the near future, I am seriously concerned about my eight year-old developing a deep fear of commitment.

Where did I go wrong? Why do I not have a higher paying job, why am I not more successful in my chosen career?

Why did I not choose a different career?

I would like to think I send my kids to public school for altruistic reasons. I believe deeply in public education, especially now when it is so severely under attack. And I like the school she goes to. But the truth of the matter is I could not afford to send my children to a private school if I wanted to. That is the fact.

I cannot protect my children's pets, cannot find them, cannot keep them from running away. I have no illusions about finding this animal. An indoor cat, we have read all of the information about how far afield they may or may not roam, and heard apocryphal stories about how cats just come back, sometimes after days and days. I do not believe this. Tiger is miles away, or dead, or seriously injured, or freezing in someone's garage. I cannot save him. And it is my fault.

I allowed my son to have a horrible domestic accident which broke his skull and has left him with a long, dramatic scar on the back of his head. He likes having his hair cut very short, so it is there all the time, a constant reminder to me of my utter failure to be vigilant. It was not an accident. It was a lack of responsibility.

And this takes us back to my original sin, not knowing the signs. My first child died because I was ignorant, feckless, full of guile, stepping into a dangerous and unknown world like I was walking into a bar or a department store. Just looking around.

I have no idea what I am doing. I never have.

UPDATE: 2/23 Cat came back last night, safe and sound and none the worse for wear. He actually keeps trying to get outside, I think he had quite an adventure and is ready for more. We are still stressed at home, but for now there was a little more to celebrate, and a cloud has lifted from over my girl.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Details


Last Sunday I botched my first production meeting. Scheduled for 11 AM at CPT, I wrote it down as 1 PM. Alas. Beth and Ali were able to work out the most important elements in my absence, but still. Oops. This is not how I want to start.

My stage manager, my graphic designer, my director, want some kind of clean copy of the script. Kelly was generous enough to give me a deadline of MARCH 9. Seriously? You are too kind. That's a scant month before opening. Who knows, maybe, perhaps, I will complete it this weekend. Maybe fireworks will spring from my tits.

It has been unseasonably mild the past few days. It feels like Spring. I cover the moments I recorded ten years ago. I remember so much, but I had forgotten even more. March 3 is a significant entry. A horrifying entry. The true beginning of the end, in spite of the fact that ... nothing happens. But uncertainty is not merely present, it is concrete.

As for this moment in time, ten years ago, things are still all right. They are just all right. And we sing.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Source Material


Meta, meta, meta ...

So, while exploring evidence of crises developing ten years ago, I am also reading over journal entries from the Dobama's Night Kitchen rehearsal process for The Gulf, a play about the Persian Gulf War, which occurred ten years before that.

On midnight, January 16, 1991 I and a few dozen others participated in a performance art piece called Desert Scream, which took place next to Mem Aud. The director/creator of the project stated he was not commenting on this war (which had not yet begun, but would start the following evening, Eastern Time) but about war in general. When war happens, people die. Lots and lots of people. Horrors occur, people are displaced, there is great confusion and the loss of hope. That was the point.

Hundreds witnessed the event. A small number turned out with American flags to protest the protest, but they stood silently and watched, because there were no words to argue with, just images. And, you know, Peter Gabriel, because at that point in history, anybody staging a movement piece used that soundtrack. Everybody.

When the event was over, we the performers left, and the hippies took over. They started singing Give Peace a Chance and, I don't know, Kumbaya.

Okay, that was trite. They didn't sing Kumbaya. Sorry.

Speeches were made. And words failed.


Desert Scream
1991 Version



Desert Scream
2001 "The Gulf" Version

Sunday, January 09, 2011

It's a mystery

There exists a spotty paper trail of our pregnancy with Calvin. Nothing like the weight of evidence of our pregnancy with the girl almost two years later -- we watched that pregnancy with a vengeance, ourselves and our medical team.

No, we have a few "growing belly" photos, and my sporadic journal entries -- nothing like the outpouring of writing that came after. But having never delved into them until now, I am shocked and saddened by what I am finding. There's no magic bullet, no "a-ha" moment. It sounds like a typical pregnancy, if one of the more unpleasant ones.

The AFP blood tests indicated abnormalities -- but couldn't say what they were. The ultrasounds were excellent. And my wife would suddenly take to her bed, in great discomfort and pain and illness, unable to sleep or relax. And I was deeply troubled.

She had pre-eclampsia. That's it. It's vague, but it's true and we didn't know. Re-experiencing it in this day-to-day fashion is disturbing. And sad. It's was a mystery and we had no clue as to what was at stake.