31 January 2007

Car! . . . Game on!

Five bucks to the first person who can name the movie quote.

I'm here today, folks, to talk about an addiction. My usual methods of coping with an addiction are two-fold:
  1. Keep all resources and enablement as far away from me as possible; or
  2. Indulge it.
The first is what I do with cookies and ice cream. Most of the time. The second is what I do with things like theatre, circus, etc., which, though legal, are often more difficult to attain than certain controlled substances. I practice "TYPE 1" coping with a number of things, not the least of which is television. I have no cable service, and a roommate who is okay with that. I've never attached an antenna to my TV. The only thing attached to it is my DVD player, and I'm seriously considering locking my DVDs in a time-sensitive safe that only opens on weekend evenings. This may seem excessive to you, but I assure you, it comes of self-awareness. And it always surprises me when I am praised for my discipline; for anything, really. Because it ain't discipline.

Nosce te ipsum. That's my only "discipline." If I am successful in working out regularly, it has more to do with circumstances that I can manipulate to make it easier for me than it does with any great, internal control. If I am at all impressive in my dedication to pursuing acting, it is as much because I have made my life so it's harder without the theatre, as it is because I feel theatre on a deeper level than some. It's choices, hopefully wise ones. I suppose maybe that's all discipline really is--a series of helpful choices.

My point? I have no point. (Haven't you been reading my 'blog long enough to know that?) But my purpose is to reveal that I have accidentally tripped over TYPE 1 into TYPE 2 on an old addiction. My circumstance became less helpful, I wasn't vigilant enough, and one thing led to another. Thus, I am indulging, once again, in that most insidious addiction:


More specifically:

Video games.

I know. I know. Therein does not lie the most productive use of my time! In point of fact, it is an astonishingly effective time-sucker. If you play, you know what I mean. You sit to play, maybe an hour, and when you look blearily up from your electronic pursuit, it's dawn. Someone is poking you in the head, making sure you aren't in a reflexive coma. Your survival instinct has been channeled into a screen for half a day, in which time your Mom has called saying she's fallen and she can't get up, and you didn't hear it because you thought it was the aliens firing plasma at your sidekick. The last time I was this plugged-in to the gaming world was when I was about 14, playing a D&D game in the basement (you flew dragons; it was really cool) while listening to Nirvana on my grandfather's single-speaker cassette player.

How did I come to this prepubescent nexus? A variety of factors are involved:
  1. Friend D. Younce started emailing me about a year ago about game theory.
  2. I gave unto myself a chemical epiditymitus (see 12/31/06), rendering me unable to exercise with purpose for months.
  3. Friend Heather loaned me "Catch-22" to read.
  4. Friend Adam got an XBox 360.
  5. Friend Mark started playing "City of Heroes" again, and had my account reactivated so we could play together.
  6. Friend D. Younce got his own "CoH" account and created a character to sidekick my own.
Perhaps you're wondering what Joseph Heller's immortal classic of war-time bureaucracy "Catch-22" has to do with my current plight. Well, I hate it. I am not enjoying it at all. This must be my problem, for it is widely acknowledged as hysterically funny. My feeling is that it excels with great vigor at telling the same joke ad nauseum. War doesn't make sense, and neither do people, and we'll never, ever, stop. I know: It doesn't even have a fart in it. Nevertheless, I am compelled to finish it. I only have 100 more pages to go. One hundred unrelenting pages, just sitting there, getting read four or five pages at a time. But oh, here's that GameBoy Advance dear Megan got me two years ago. So portable. So full of colored light patterns bent on my destruction...

So here I am, visiting Adam way up in Washington Heights to play "Gears of War," coming back home to sit at my laptop to play "City of Heroes," and during the subway ride I make Luke Skywalker my avatar for our journey through the only three Star Wars movies that matter. I am the addicted. I am the damned.

But it will pass (God, please make it pass). Because when all's said and done, I'd much rather be rehearsing a play or bettering my handstand, which is why the guilt. If I were "normal," and had a 9-5 job, and after I paid the bills could afford sections of time to save the virtual world, I doubt I would have this complex. But mine is not the "normal" life, and my "free" time is needed for a variety of pursuits, such as mailing resumes/headshots/cover letters, rehearsing audition pieces, networking and learning at long last how to do a kip-up. Hence: guilt.

But it's not rewardless. Sure, it's easy and artificial and time-consuming, but the game(s) has changed since I started wondering what it would be like to kiss a girl. Last night, for example, I signed on to "CoH" and discovered Youncey online. He lives in NoVa, and I see him maybe twice a year, if I'm lucky. And last night our heroic personae, Peppah (yours truly) and Salt Shakah (his, truly) got their asses whupped together for a couple of hours. Having a reason to see Adam more frequently than whenever the latest kung fu movie comes out is also great, and we end up talking about his stand-up comedy and my commedia dell'arte more than we might otherwise.

So all that remains (when my "discipline" kicks back in) is to sell my GameBoy on eBay. Maybe with the funds I can afford the Cliffs Notes on "Catch-22" . . .

30 January 2007

Promise Keeping

My friends, I promised you fart jokes, WAY back when I started this thing in 2006, and today I intend to deliver. It is particularly timely, I should think, because my last entry was so very, very serious, and personal, and philosophical, and boring. I even talked about my Dad. I talked about my Dad in my 'blog. Are you my therapist? No. (Unless you are, of course.) So now I make amends.


. . .

. . .

. . . um. Okay. So, this guy walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "Sorry, we don't serve guys here," and the guy says, "Pppbbrrrt!" and the bartender says, "gross, dude," and the guy says "Hhhnnttpop!" and the bartender says, "seriously, dude," and the guy says, "HonkhonkawOOgaawOOga!" and the bartender, he . . . .

Okay: I got nuthin'. The thing is, it is hard to make fart jokes over a computer. That, my friends, is a definite limitation still inhibitting the progress of our glorious technology. Have you ever heard one of those recorded, electric whoopie cushions? Not funny. Simply unfunny. Same goes for typing a fart joke. There's no life to it, even if you add farting emoticons: }{v| --> >poomf!< --> =vD. And, I mean, I can link you to a video demonstrating fart humor, but that doesn't really capture the full sensory experience, does it? No, here I am forced to admit that even the live theatre is a bit lacking, apart from a few avante garde pieces no one really would want to see anyway. You can experience the aroma vicariously, though characters' reactions, but it's just not the same, is it? 'Tisn't. Dare I say: 'Tain't.

But I needs must deliver! I can't leave it at a non-fart joke! That would be like when you successfully hold in a fart for over an hour, because you're at the MoMA or on a first date or something, then, when you are finally granted a moment of solitude and sweet release, IT'S GONE. Where do they go? Are they absorbed back into your body? Do they retreat back up the digestive channels and demand re-entrance to the stomach? No one knows and, at that particular kind of moment, no one cares. What matters is that you still have abdominal pressure that could have been so sweetly resolved, and now you have to go wondering when the thing will rear its noisesome head again. Probably on the crowded subway, on your way home. And you're pretty good at the ol' S.B.D., but there are no guarantees in this life, as you were reminded by your date ending with a rapid handshake, or by Picasso's Guernica, and such a gamble might just come back to bite you in the ass.

So to speak.

I'm actually not a great fan of scatalogical humor in any vein, as you have guessed from steeping my "fart humor" in human-behavior stories. In fact, I kind of hate it when a movie goes that way. The "coffee" scene in Austin Powers 2, for example. A notable exception to this preference of mine is the wrestling/chase scene in Borat . . . but that may simply be because it was the first time in the movie in which the victims of the humor were the actors rather than unsuspecting (albeit admittedly dim-witted) bystanders. By and large, I can do without the gross.

A confession: I just wrote the "fart jokes" thing into my 'blog heading to knock down the pretention a notch or two. It's similar to the delivery of this entry. I got a little too heavy, or theoretical, or what-have-you, to begin with and I use the humor--and some shock--to distract you from how my mind works. It's a great tactic. The only problem with it is that it works a little too well. Occasionally, one ends up losing track of one's own priorities amidst all this duck-and-cover. It's good to relax, take it easy for a moment and have a good, balanced evaluation of one's life.

. . . >BAMF!<

29 January 2007

The Food of Love

Still buzzing from my musical experiences this weekend past. I listen to music so much, I take it for granted. Silence becomes deafening, like a presence rather than an absence. Yet listening to my iPod any time I'm in travel, or alone . . . or breathing . . . has rather blunted my musical appreciation. Seeing live shows this weekend reawoke that sensibility in me a good bit. Obviously music is more emotionally affective when it's performed live (assuming it's performed competently [remind me to tell you about my one and only experience seeing Smashing Pumpkins perform]) but somehow I lose more and more sight of that connection the longer I spend not attending a live show. Which is ridiculous, because the exact same thing occurs in the theatre, so you'd think little ol' me could keep the notion in his little ol' brain long enough to remember to get out and see more live music. {I and Me are going to have to have a talk to figure out exactly what My glitch is.} It's cheaper than a movie, and there's all that wonderful subculture begging to be coolly appreciated.

Back when I was still in school, at Virginia Commonwealth University (V.C.U. ... unt V. haf vays of meking U. tok!), I realized one day that I hadn't thought very hard about why I was doing what I was doing with my life. Which was funny, because I'm generally a pretty thoughtful kind of guy, and moreso back when I didn't have a head crammed with bills, taxes, health issues and pressing social concerns. Specifically, I recognized that a lot of what I was getting out of my practice of acting was therapeutic satisfaction and, while that's all fine and good and all, I didn't judge that to be a very good basis for a (potentially) life-long pursuit. So I thought about it a bit, which led me to question what good theatre itself specifically accomplished. I mean, what is its particular value? I thought that if I could figure that out to my satisfaction, I could judge if it was worth doing. Because I didn't want to be doing something for my whole life that was only for me. If all I was accomplishing was a little much-needed venting and personal exploration, I may as well have hung up my aspirations and become an accountant who occasionally performs in community theatre productions. {A noble occupation, of course. Dad. If you're reading this.}

So I thought about it, backstage, in my dorm, in English classes, etc. And what I came up with has carried me through a lot of questioning times in my career. And I was reminded of it last night, when I was out way too late for a school night, listening to friends play music in a downtown basement.

My perspective of contemporary, western society is that we are all becoming dehumanized by little bits. Pixels. Zeroes and ones. Tiny squares. Great, big flat squares. All of them windows, all look, no touch. I don't hold myself above this, nor do I rail against the mediums. (I mean, I'm writing you from a weblog here, and it's not like I'm turning down Spielberg when he calls. Yes: When.) Rather, I see my stage work as restoring some of that sense of humanity, of actual connection. If you get coaxed to see a play, regardless of its artistic merit or content you are connecting in actual space with that pair of round windows most of us have attached to the fronts of our faces. And it matters. Moreover, theatre allows us the experience of being lifted into this experience rather than forcing it upon us. You go to be entertained, to ostensibly receive similar entertainment to movies and television, in that a fictional performance with some emphasis on verisimilitude is going to occur. A story will be told. In this way, we relax into a familiar arrangement. But theatre, and only theatre, takes this journey through its window. Anything can happen, in real time with real people, and if it succeeds a play leaves us feeling more human, more connected. Awakened instead of subdued.

I have a lot of short-term gigs coming up (including one in film), so it was good to be reminded of the personal value of this work from an unexpected source. Go out and support the lively arts, folks. I acknowledge that it can be expensive and risky. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Play on.

27 January 2007

We've come for the Festival

This weekend is full of the kind of plans I never could have imagined myself having during my first year in New York. Nothing fancy, just particular to my life and the people who I've ended up on the same path with. (That was awful; "people with whom the same path I have ended upon"? No. Gimme a minute...) In a matter of minutes I'm off to Port Authority (Ah, Grand ol' P.A., how I love thy grandeur!) to catch the Martz bus out to Scranton, PA. There will dear John Beck pick me up, feed me lunch, then we'll catch my friend Billy Rogan's concert at The Northeast Theatre, after which will come dinner and the main event, Almost, Maine, with a cast of people with whom I've worked with on different shows. (Grammar lobe broken is. Resist must I joke of Yoda.) Afterwards, there will probably be much rejoicing, I'll spend the night at John's, then after a leisurely breakfast with said John, catch the bus back here in time to rehearse for a reading that night at The Knitting Factory.

Now, let's see how the events described above surprise us...

Man. Let me just say, the genius of my friends astounds and humbles me. It was a very musical weekend. Billy Rogan is a genius of technique. GET his album, if for nothing else than to get on the cultural ground floor of a guy who is on his way to gifted reinvention of guitar music. Honestly, his current effort is a bit beyond my capacity for complete appreciation. He's so freaking good at his self-proclaimed "two-hand" approach that I can't quite keep up with its versatility, but nevertheless, he is good and good. Give a listen: Billy G.D. Rogan, Ya'll.

So I attended his debut concert, and it was wonderful. Part of what's great about Billy (name-dropping, I assure you, because this guy's going places) and his craft is that the practice of it is so lofty, yet his personal demeanor is so unassuming. He almost apologized for performing his unique and demanding art, yet revelled in it and shared his joy for it with all of us mere mortals. The music sounds like a whole rock band at times, replete with lead guitar, bass, and drum set, yet all performed on Billy's lone acoustic guitar. When he just relaxes a bit, and performs for individual connection more than virtuosity, he will take every audience by storm. And that's not a critique of his concert; just a perspective on where this impressive and unlimited young artist will be headed. The concert was still beautiful and surprisingly magnificent. (Hi Guillermo. This is your shamelessly unabashed plug.)

Reeling from that, I caught The Northeast Theatre's production of Almost, Maine, by John Cariani. I must admit here that I am horribly biased about this production, having worked with all of the four-member cast in one capacity or another. Nevertheless, I must say that I believe this production was leagues beyond the accomplishment of the New York debut, which I took in about a year or more ago. When I saw that production, I thought it was enjoyable, but largely ineffective. I don't know what to attribute it to specifically, but that show left me a little cold. Technically proficient, but a little "below" the actors in some respect. TNT's show, however, made me care about the characters so much I didn't want to leave them. Brilliant. Heather Stuart, Duane Noch, Conor McGuigan and Amber Irvin, my hat's off to you. It might have been simple romantic entertainment, but you guys made it more. Significant. True. Lovely.

Following that, festivities ensued at John Beck's house, and they were lovely. Beer, wine, snack food...what more could we ask? I stayed up too late, and when 8:00 AM rolled around, I wanted to stay in bed in John's guest room (replete with a walnut-veneer work desk) for a few hours more. I left, however, treading boot prints in the shallow snowfall on my way to the Martz Bus station.

Upon arriving back in The Big Apple, it was off to perform in Nat Cassidy's reading at The Knitting Factory. It was my first time at TKF, and it was great fun. Three floors of entertainment, that place is. Oddly enough, though I didn't catch them, one of the few local bands I know, Nakatomi Plaza (Ya'll get the reference, right? Die Hard? If you don't get that--get out.), was playing there that night as well. The reading went well, and was even well-attended. Nat hopes to succeed in submitting the play to the NYC Fringe Festival. We'll see how that turns out, but the reading itself got nothing but positive reactions. Afterward, there was much brew-ha-ha, and bands. Nat's girlfriend, Alexis, performed, and I was duly impressed with her folky glory. Then Nat (Cassidy and the Nines) took stage, and was wonderful. I heard Nat's first NYC demo when we met, working in New Hampshire, and liked it, but had no idea how great his live show would be until I saw it tonight. It was like watching Dylan with a sense of humor. That able, and that entertaining. The crowd had a ball. That final act contained a member of the reading, and the band was Stephanie Podunk and Ghost Town. They were great too, with dual female vocals and rock sensibility, though they suffered a bit from classic sound-mixing issues in live performance.

It was surprising and musical weekend. I had many moments of lament for how little work I was actually doing (though the audience of "The Exiled" was very complimentary of my reading) but I can't help but grin at the abundancy of creation. It was inspiring.

And Patrick: Somehow I had pancakes both Saturday and Sunday. Miraculous pancakes...

26 January 2007

It's kind of Cold Here

Understatement is an unheralded art form. Because it would defeat the purpose of the form, wouldn't it? Ironic. Actually, that's not ironic. It's somewhat self-fulfilling and wry, but irony, strictly speaking, is the statement of meaning opposite of the words one uses. The vilest form being emoticon irony, i.e. "I freaking hate you, you bastard. ;D " Actually, the emoti-wink eviscerates the irony too, making it more of an aside. It would be more apt to follow up the statement with something like " =D " Statements that are merely apt are often swiftly categorized as ironic nowadays. It makes me sad. It wish it were a more remarkable occurrence. Alas, it merits only the amount of remarks I have made prior to the period at the end of this sentence.


That emoticon's tongue is actually stuck there, frozen to the exclamation point, because it is SO FREAKING COLD HERE. Friend Adam made a good call a couple of months ago, when he predicted we would reap the whirlwind following the balmy start of our winter here in sunny Manhattan. Me, I've ceased to make weather predictions beyond that it will rain whenever I'm feeling depressed. And no, there's nothing Sophistic about that. Why do you ask?

I still remember my first winter in New York. I moved here on the second of January, 2000, an eager-eyed little 22-year-old whipper-snapper, and hardly realized what I was in for . . . in so many ways. One of those ways concerned the effects of a northern city wind. At that time I had visited Chicago, and so thought I knew wind, but the consistency of the winds in Chicago is part of their mythos. Not so with NYC's zephyrs. There should be traffic lights and crossing signals for the gusts that bide their time in The Big Apple during the colder months. I've turned onto avenues before and been mind-numbed by the sudden drop in temperature. It's fun to watch tourists do as I did that first January here, namely walk the steps up from the subway and run up the last three because a powerful gale has hit their backs.

When I first arrived here, I was still clinging to this notion that there was virtue in being colder than I had to be. In part, this was to justify the wearing of my grandfather's fall coat nine months out of the year. (The other part was that mentality so many of us come at a significant challenge with: "I am going to do this no matter how hard it is, and it better be pretty hard, so I know my efforts are justified!") I loved that coat. Love, I should say, because it still hangs forlornly in my closet, never again worn. It has, to be kind, seen better days. A light, gray-brown tweed coat that comes to knee length, it was actually refurbished by my father (paid for it--not a tailor) one Christmas, and still I've worn it into the ground. There are holes in the lining, and a one developing through the tweed itself in the seat. The button holes are ragged, and the tweed is also wearing away around the collar fold and seam. Yes, I am ridiculously sentimental. Or rather, I used to be. Few things I've acquired since about 2001 have held enough intrinsic reminiscence for me to think thrice about tossing them. Still, I consider it an act of great callousness on my part not to wear the coat anymore, so giving or (NEVER) throwing it away is not an option.

I started wearing the coat in my junior or senior year of high school. I can't remember why exactly, and it was an odd choice for me, since at the time I placed a very high priority on my clothing being as jet-black as possible. (Yeah: That guy. And you're reading his 'blog.) I remember I wore it in a show, which may have been the start of it. I also remember my girlfriend at the time asking me if she could have it to wear, and my deftly giving her another of my grandfather's coats, as though that would settle the issue. (And that one was the heavier of the two; see my supposed IQ in entry 1/6/07.) It rode across my back for years, and every year I would be eager for the temperature to dip so I had an excuse to wear it, regardless of how ineffective it was as a winter coat. That paragon of tweed traveled with me through quite a lot; more than I can reasonably sum up here.

I've shed a lot over the years since arriving here. It's an important and continuous life lesson--letting go--and nothing brings it to the pragmatic forefront quite like living in a city in which you're expected to change apartments bi-annually. Sometimes I wonder if anyone ever actually learns that lesson, or if we just go through times when we're forced to accept its necessity, or choose insanity. That's a regular theme in shows I've contributed to the creation of here in the city, and with little wonder. In the resonance of 9/11, it was natural for Kirkos to create Awake, My Heart and Requiem, and for Joint Stock Theatre Alliance to continue work on The Torture Project. We've had to honor so much passing (though not the passage of irony from vogue, as so many were eager to report) that to say we're still grieving is an understatement. I know that I'm still learning about the effects that day continues to have on me as I continue to survive (and occasionally even thrive) through the losses then and since. And the lesson that keeps challenging me is how and when to let go. Because eventually, you have to. Life is growth and movement, and you can't move while clinging to one point, object, person, belief, etc....

Someday I'll give up my grandfather's coat entirely. I've already replaced it with something more suited to me as I am now (I swear to you, on my life, that I didn't intend that pun). My winter coat now is calf-length, and black, of course. It's still not the heaviest thing in the world, but I've learned to layer. I've had it a couple of years now, and the lining in the back has gotten torn at the seams (which I consider apt). For now, I continue to keep my grandfather's coat in my little New York closet. I still need it, somehow. Some part of me identifies with it more intimately than I do with anything I've worn since.

But I'm not really sentimental anymore. ;)

25 January 2007

Whine with your Cheese?

One of the ways in which I'm assured I belong in my quest to create theatre full-time is that, after a certain period of no long-term work ("long-term" in an acting context being about the span of a month) I begin to exhibit symptoms of depression and desperation. I crave the stage, or at least a studio, a script, or at least a scenario and a scene partner, or at least a director. To put a finer point on it, I suffer from withdrawal. (This of course is also how I know that I'm meant to drink and smoke. My logic is an impenetrable fortress. Or will be, until I die of heart, lung and/or kidney disease.) And guess what, my fine, feathered friends? Today I have the shakes.

Of course, I always have "the shakes" to some degree or another. As those of you who know me (I mean, really know me) are aware, I have a mysterious condition that causes my hands to tremor at times. It ain't Parkinson's, it ain't MS. Frankly, the doctors are stumped, and in being thusly stump'ed (that's with an accent on the "ed" for best scansion) they have theorized that I suffer from Essential Tremors, or E.T. The humor of this acronym doesn't fail to escape me. Neither does the humor of our medical science's tendency to name a condition when they can recognize it, yet have little idea about what causes it.

What I am referring to, however, has naught to do with my ability to hold a glass of water in a relaxed manner. No, rather, I refer to that incomparable feeling I get when it's been a while since I've tread the boards. It's glorious. Appetite, insecurity and aggressive temper all rolled into one glorious experience. I love it almost as much as I love my day job. Almost.

Perhaps I've seemed busy. I have been, but with all manner of things ancillary to playing a role on stage or film. I've been teaching workshops. I've been traveling. I've been teaching high-schoolers. I've been helping people get divorced. I've been designing brochures. I've been networking with other actors and the occasional producer. I've been participating in readings, discussions and revisions, website consultations and typing in this here 'blog. None of it really feeds the urge. It just stems it a very little bit.

Notice I did not say, "I've been auditioning." Dagger, thy pointe is for me. No. I haven't. I tried last Friday (for The Irish Repertory Theatre) but one thing led to another and I had to choose a little in-flow of money over it. And, I'm terrible at cold auditions. It's a sad fact. Those supposed E.T.s are linked to nervous energy, and nothing makes me more nervous than standard audition procedure, so the two compound one another. (I'm nervous about auditioning, my hands shake, I'm nervous about my hands shaking, etc.) I don't have stage fright, but I have audition fright.

Jeez, Louise.

But really, what could they have done to make a cold audition more terrifying? Anything at all, short of hanging eviscerated cadavers from the ceiling and jumping from a corner shouting "Boo!" when you walk in? You get up at Stupid O'clock in the morning in order to stand in a line of your fellow aspirant actors for at least an hour in order to get the audition slot you need to fit the thing into your day. Then you're either called to wait in line again (This time: sitting!) or go away and come back in time for your slot. As you wait, you get to watch carbon copies of yourself, only with better (Choose three [3]: hair / bone structure / physique / voice / height / experience / charisma) prepare and go through The Room. You shuffle your stuff from seat to seat as you move down the line, calculating where you'll put it all while you're in there, and trying to make sure you don't go up on at least the first line of your monologue. Finally it's down to you, and two minutes stretches into a lifetime....

Then the door to The Room opens. You pause to calculate that indeterminate amount of time they need to breathe between applicants, hoping you didn't rush them but aren't wasting their time, either. In you go, and The Room is always 1) small, 2) stuffy, 3) lit with fluorescents, 4) white. (Ever had a friend run you through that verbal "psychological" test that always ends with you providing three words about how you would feel in a windowless, doorless white room with a giant white armadillo in the center? That's The Room.) There are 1 to 10 people waiting for you inside (yes, 10--it's happened to me) at the far end, seated behind a table. You introduce yourself, your piece, and go. You have at most a minute-and-a-half to blow them away.

Then it's over. You're outside The Room again, a flush of heat rising to your face as you relax from all the adrenaline. At some point, there was a "thank you" that ushered you from The Room, but that doesn't matter now. What matters is that you've just realized that the person behind the desk was about 20 years old. Which means s/he was a casting assistant. Which means they have no authority or respect. Which means you didn't actually audition for the theatre, but helped fulfill their "audition process" required by Actors' Equity Association. So you go to work, and for two days try to convince yourself that you're not hoping to hear from them again.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. I also know there are plenty of people who don't feel this way, and who weather these things regularly just fine. Have I only myself to blame for my lack of work recently? Possibly. All right: Probably. The two regional theatres I work for regularly (The Northeast Theatre and Signal & Noise Productions), for different sorts of compounded reasons, haven't hired me this season. My crutches fell. My suppliers ran dry. The corner bodega is out of Newcastle and American Spirits. So I must rally, and walk a few harrowing blocks to the bodega that doesn't know me by name. So be it!

But does somebody want to hold my trembling hand?

24 January 2007

Laughing in the Face of [BLANK]

So I have this theory. Well, I can't actually claim the theory for myself. Neither can I cite it specifically. I think I either read it in college or heard somebody espouse it on The Actor's Studio. Or I made it up, but I doubt that. So I subscribe to this theory, and "this theory" is thus:

Laughter--and its shy cousin, smiling--comes from a sublimated fear reaction. In the process of our intellectual development, an aspect of our fight-or-flight instinct evolved into an instrument that responds not only to immediate environmental threats, but to words and ideas, and in which we have learned to take pleasure.

The theory kind of hinges on the idea that most, if not all, of what we regard as "emotions" evolved from survival instincts. Ergo, the theory relies on you, dear reader, not being an adamant Creationist. So all adamant Creationists, please leave the room now. Go ahead; go. It's okay. We're not excluding you, we're just being considerate of your feelings and your God(s). We'll call you in again when we're back to discussing Kinko's and comic book characters.

...Are they gone? Thank God. Now we can start throwing feces at each other again.

I believe there's something to evolution. You got me there. I recognize it still as being a theory, yes, but it's a sound one in my opinion, and getting sounder all the time (like Radiohead). Me, I think if God is responsible for Creation, s/he/it is a pretty smart cookie and wanted to watch some changes over time. Like Sea Monkeys. And anyway, that's the beauty of a "theory" by the scientific definition. It's useful until it's contradicted by something better.

So: Laughter. Most studies into it, behaviorally speaking, find a strong connection between the response and being in a "play" environment. That goes for man and ape. For apes, "laughter" is more like a kind of involuntary heavy, rapid breathing. Tracing laughter through other animals is more speculative, because, well...they're other animals. Rats, for example, exhibit a behavior that might be laughter: a kind of high-pitched, rapid squeaking. But it might be that all rats share a predilection for singing Prince { O(+> } songs at karaoke. Hard to say. Hyenas are well-documented as laughers, but it doesn't accompany their play. Rather, it accompanies the threat of a food source being taken away from them, so many argue that this isn't laughter per se.

Au contraire, say I, in my snootiest French accent. I consider the definition of laughter, as science would have it, as being a bit too narrow. (That's the way it is with science--one day your friend, the next your nemesis.) Combine it with the feature of the smile (which seems a pretty acceptable association to me) and you've got more to consider as to its origins and relationship to our environment. Specifically, when else do we bare our teeth? When we are threatened.

Apes do this as well. Just about any animal that is willing to bite its way out of a problem will bare its teeth in a social interaction in which violence is imminent. In just such situations, the pulse quickens and the breathing becomes quicker and deeper. Tension mounts, and in an instant is released in one of two directions: fight, or flight. Moreover, there is one overriding fear that dictates this response. It comes with an awareness of the possibility of death.

We have to laugh in the face of death. It is the ultimate ungovernable aspect of our lives, and what else can we do with it? Religion provides answers to our minds, and hopefully our hearts, yet our bodies are still somehow aware of death's finality. And we don't get to face death in absolute scenarios anymore. Even our soldiers tend to be fighting amidst chaos and invisible forces of annihilation, such as falling bombs and super-sonic bullets. Without the possibility of high-stake, fight-or-flight scenarios, a peculiar catharsis is missing from our lives. It's provided for by comedy.

I'm losing some of you, I realize. Sure, there's plenty that we laugh at that has nothing to do with the threat of death. Puns, for example. (Though some are truly deadly.) Also, funny faces, or cartoons.

There will I ask you to hold the phone. Please: hold this phone. Thank you.

Perhaps you can understand the connection between a fear of death and watching a Buster Keaton pratfall. We vicariously experience the possibility of finality when Keaton falls two stories. Maybe it’s only subconsciously. Maybe the pratfall is just a trip. The point is that it introduces a moment of uncertainty into our assumptions, and the mother of all uncertainties, or unknowns, is The Great Beyond. Cartoons continue in this tradition, making the stakes two-dimensional (in most cases) but the threat astronomical. But what of someone making a funny face? Still the unknown, I argue. The more unidentifiable or unexpected the face is, the better the laugh. Because for a moment, we don’t understand. There’s that taste of death, the “little death” of French fame.

I have no explanation for puns.

We don’t laugh only because of fear, but I’m certain it plays a larger role than is immediately apparent. Certainly accessing this fear is the most direct way to make people laugh. The laughter that arises from tickling, or from just enjoying being with someone, that might have other explanations. Then again, tickling takes control of our body away from us; a singularly unnerving experience, that requires one to acknowledge that he or she isn’t absolute. And good friends? Avoiding shock humor, or pratfalls, and still yucking it up? It’s play. It’s why we play games, intentionally and unintentionally. Games simulate the need to make decisions. The tiny or grand oscillations we make toward and away from people, even with people we have no conscious desire to ever be apart from, are tests of our connection: to others, to ourselves, to the world at large. The stakes are there. We are playing with death.

There you have it. Jeff explains it all. No applause, please; just throw money. And hey, disagree with me! I’d love to argue this out. Though I should warn you:

I may just laugh it off.

23 January 2007

This Pigeon, She Limps

If you get no other lesson or nugget of wit'sdom from this here entry, please let it be this:
The FedEx/Kinko's at Astor Place is the devil.
I am not joking. "Ha ha," you think with private, interior laughter, "He is calling a location the ultimate creature of evil, which is a hyperbolic impossibility and therefore meant to induce laughter. Ha ha." Or perhaps, "Ah yes, the righteous artist, rebelling against the establishment and insidious corporations that are dug into our society like bedbugs attracted to the heat of our commerce. Rail on, my scrupulous-yet-ultimately-doomed-to-failure savant. Rail on." Or just maybe: "Dude. Chill. So they screwed up your order. It happens."

WELL THAT'S WHERE YOU'D BE WRONG! 'Cause they didn't just "screw up my order" (and don't use that tone of typography with me, mister) once or twice, but yesterday would represent the double-digit rite of passage as they rocketed from 7 to 10 incidents of humping the dignity out of me. I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that yesterday was the final straw for me and ol' Astor Place FE/K's, regardless of the convenience of their location, and I encourage everyone to find a local place--where they'll learn your name, like on Cheers--for all your copying and shipping needs. Though the fine people at the 52nd Street FE/K's are quite awesome, I must admit.

Anyway. So yesterday I'm holding up the wall (and holding in my Hulk-like rage ["Don't neglect the manufacture of my brochures...you wouldn't like me when the manufacture of my brochures has been neglected...."]) outside said Kinko's establishment-o'-evil, and I espy me another injured pigeon (see 1/8/07), this one fully legged but limping. Again I'm confronted with the question of how exactly this pigeon (or any pigeon) comes to be limping, exactly. But again, too, I'm given hope by the image. The pigeon flies perfectly well, and does so to escape an oncoming minivan. For our younger readers, a "minivan" is what "SUVs" were before Americans started playing the I'm-taller-No-I'm-taller game. See also "station wagon" and "Hummer" for further extrapolations in both directions.

Speaking of cars, Heather ended up with a red PT Cruiser for a rental, so we headed down to Philly in style (and I did not crush the dashboard with FedUp/Killyouse frustration) and got there in good time.

To discover that no one came to our workshop.

So, maybe the Gods of Copies knew something I didn't. Maybe I used up all my attendance karma at KCACTF (see 1/17/07). Maybe it was just the "Blue Monday" factor. Apparently, January 22nd has been deemed, for a variety of factors, the most depressing day of the year (this seems wrong somehow; it's the kind of thing I'd expect to be kept track of by a lunar calendar, and thereby float over the Gregorian days, like Hanukkah; anyway:) and had Heather and I but known, we might have scheduled our workshop for another time. Instead, we taught Heather's friend Kelly some acrobalance, discussed methods of creating physical characterizations, and joked profusely over the lack of attendance. It was a good excuse to spend three hours training, and we took it. We stayed at Kelly and Diane's last night, amidst their menagerie of catsandonedog, and this morning drove back into Brooklyn, whereupon I caught the train into work here.

What's my point? I have no point. Feel free to make observations of the events herein and interpret them as you will. This is a twenty-four-hour period in the life of an actor/teacher/artist doing something related to their craft(s). But perhaps this doesn't pique your attention, blunted as it is by constant in-streaming of advertising and appetite-driven media. Very well. A dream I had...a nightmare, actually:

This was Saturday night, amidst my gloriously care-free weekend (it always is, isn't it?). It was part of a larger dream, but this is the only part I can remember:

Wait for it:


I'm walking up a sidewalk in the Bronx. I'm on my way to some kind of party, possibly a barbecue, and I was supposed to bring meat. Ahead of me, his leash tied to a radiator outside a store front (what's a radiator doing outside?), is a medium-sized black dog. Not sure of the breed. Possibly an Australian Kelpie mix. (This from looking up breeds; I don't know them instinctively.) So it's suddenly imperative to me to get out my Ginsu knife and cut the dog into four even pieces down its back. Which I do. The dog is now held together by I know not what, and just looks at me, very sadly, ever-so-slightly whimpering. Now I'm in trouble deep, I know, because the owner is probably just inside the store. So I scoop up the severed dog, rather like how one holds a few boxes together by applying inward pressure in a two-sided grip, and run him around the corner. Now I'm in a neighborhood much more suburban looking, and possibly a cul-de-sac I knew not far from where I grew up. I put the dog down and sort of lay down with it (him, I know it's a him) in a nook of curb, semi-obstructed by trees, and think to myself "Oh man. Now I have to kill it." To put it out of its misery and so I have something to bring to the party, presumably. I decide slitting its throat is what needs to happen. (Why that's going to succeed where full-body amputations didn't, ask not me.) So I prepare to cut him...

And wake up. It might be angst over allowing the film to be cut (see 1/21/07, "Film Debuts"). It may be about a metric tonne of guilt over some of the seemingly brutal decisions I've made in my life of late. It may just be I was hungry that night, and couldn't summon the creativity to imagine a Royale w/ Cheese. All in all, however, I would rather have the kind of dreams my friend Dave has: Dave's dream.

Eva Green: Call me. We'll do lunch. I know this great place in the medieval quarter of Orvieto...

21 January 2007

A quote (several times over):

“In the face of such shape and weight of present misfortune, the voice of the individual artist may seem perhaps of no more consequence than the whirring of a cricket in the grass, but the arts do live continuously, and they live literally by faith; their names and their shapes and their uses and their basic meanings survive unchanged in all that matters through times of interruption, diminishment, neglect; they outlive governments and creeds and the societies, even the very civilizations that produced them. They cannot be destroyed altogether because they represent the substance of faith and the only reality. They are what we find again when the ruins are cleared away. And even the smallest and most incomplete offering at this time can be a proud act in defense of that faith.”

- Katherine Anne Porter
Flowering Judas, 1940
(quoted in Bridgett Ane Lawrence’s program for “Open Windows”)

Film Debuts and Saving the World

I am having myself a lazy weekend, people. How lazy, you ask? Two words, people, two words:
  1. Pan.
  2. Cakes.
Oh yeah. That bad. If I have the presence of mind and heartiness of spirit to invest time and eggs in making (baking?) pancakes, it is a time-taking weekend indeed.

This may simply be fall-out from the end of my week, and energy-storing for the start of the next. Monday Heather and I are driving off to Philadelphia to teach a three-hour workshop in physical theatre to actual, really-real professional actors like ourselves. (Possibly entirely unlike ourselves, potentially higher-earning, better-looking professional actors...but I'm trying not to linger on such possibilities.) All this is to serve the goal of In Bocca al Lupo and its endless hunger for virgin souls. Our students always think it's a joke, or some Suzuki-inspired training technique ("I saw Bogart make her actors do this once!") when we tie them to a giant stake and run away. Oh no. When we say "into the mouth of the wolf," we're being more literal than you imagine, and we don't want to be around when the beast emerges to slake its thirst for actor sanguine...

And, of course, Friday was the last day of my classes up at Validus Preparatory Academy, in the Bronx. Our film-making students showed their work (well, their film...Alex and I [and ultimately: Alex] ended up editing their work together) to the rest of their school and visiting parents and funders. My bosses, Wingspan Arts, were there as well. All-in-all, it went well, though it went long. Every "community class" showed something, from karate, to poetry, to fiction, to hip-hop, African drumming, capoeira, etc. We sort of kicked it off, though, and I think got everyone into a good mood for the rest. During the semester, Alex divided the class into two groups--fiction and documentary--since I was there for coverage. Her group of four documentarians showed their film first, an interview piece about the decision to have sex. Next was my group of anywhere-from-six-to-ten, depending-on-who-managed-to-slip-out-of-their-other-community-class, who made a "feature" (read: random capturing of celebrated moments) about sports; specifically basketball and football. It was a hit, I'd judge. Five minutes of hero-worship and good-natured foppery. Yes, my Freshmen managed to get comfortable enough in their own skins to even fop a bit, and have it shown to their peers.

But it was five minutes. The movie, when it left my hands at 9:00pm Wednesday night, was about fifteen minutes long. I knew it was going to be cut down drastically. Alex informed me earlier in that week that we didn't have the time for the whole thing. She also told me that the administrator of Wingspan wanted her to do the final edit so the two would be "stylistically consistent." I buy this for one minute not, says I, but I'm new here and frankly already worked on the film harder than someone getting paid $35 a week ought. So I complied, simultaneously informing Alex that I didn't believe the excuse of stylistic consistency. What's done is done. I tried to make my film about conflict resolution, including a real fight between two boys in my class (with the participants' consent) and ending in their playing happily with a whole other school. What was shown on Friday was probably more what everyone wanted: a playful sampling of boys at play.

And so this weekend I did work, but honestly, played more. This past week my City of Heroes account was reactivated (thanks be to you, Hubbardses) and, though I'm now sharing it with a person or two, that means I have yet another fantasy world to escape into when I'm at home amidst all my facilities. Which isn't necessarily a helpful thing (and rarely ever productive) but this weekend I just didn't care. For the un-indoctrinated, City of Heroes is an online game in which one creates a superhero and busts heads (you can also make a character who heals heads and guides heads but...come on), all amidst a very realistically rendered world (apart from all the freaky superheroes running about) and in time with other players. It's a geek's paradise. I don't even get all the various game controls and menus. It's that geek chic.

Incidentally, did you know the word, "superhero," is shared under joint copyright by DC and Marvel comics? No joke. So whatever you do, don't pay me for this article.

Perhaps there's a certain hypocrisy to my intentions of making a student video about conflict resolution, and then going home and giddily blasting the snot out of "criminals." In CoH (you are in on one more useless web abbreviation), the generic criminals at large are designated by wearing hats and orange/red signature clothing. You don't have to find probable cause, you don't have to read them their rights or understand their feelings, you just find them and ambush them. But the relationship is simple in this way, and that can be refreshing at times. Neither of you is trying to get money from the other without being direct about it. Neither of you is circumventing notorious artistic temperament with excuses steeped in aesthetic issues. Neither of you wants anything more than to kill the other. Okay. Go.

Speaking of which, I have to go. I have to return the hard drive I bought for the film project to Circuit City. (Store motto: "We won't call it 'renting' so we feel better about it.") I've burned a DVD of my original film; there is a record. Then I have to get to Kinko's to place the order for brochures for our workshop in Philadelphia.

Then I've got a date with Adam to kill lots and lots of aliens.

19 January 2007

Wallace Shawn: Call Me

Hi there, Wallace. How've you been? You're certainly looking well. I like those pants. Really I do. I'm thinking about getting some myself. Where did you get them? Oh yeah? That's part of what I love about you: stylish, yet down-to-earth. It's great. It's just great. Oh, and Wally, while I have your ear, about The Hotel Play...


And, if I may pose a follow-up question:


For those of you, avid readers, who are ignorant of The Hotel Play, it is a work of unparalleled...er...work by the actor probably most widely known for his portrayal of Vezzini in "The Princess Bride." And to apply a little intellectual CO2 to the burning question of how this play exploded across my horizons, see my entry dated 1/12/07. It is a play requiring no less than 70-80 actors, covering the events of twenty-four hours in a tropical hotel. It has a ton of characters about whom we learn only a little from selected moments of their day, and who are designated only by certain demographic information, such as "Middle Aged Couple" and "Man Who Listens to Fish Story." The only character representing a through-line in this forty-two-page epic is the clerk.

At the end we learn that said clerk is a ruthless murderer. Possibly by accident. (It turns out "ruth" is an archaic word meaning "pity." So to be "ruthless" really does mean "lacking in pity." I am not smart enough to know this, just lucky enough to have a friend who does.)

Now, I will concede that I may have missed the point entirely. I did only read the play once, and certainly that is not enough to grasp the brilliant interconnectedness of the dramaturgical likes of Shakespeare, Beckett or Lewis Carroll (his adaptation of "The Illiad" for the stage--words can not describe), but I still have trouble shaking the feeling that The Hotel Play just doesn't quite matter. Or inform. Or entertain. Like I say: I may have missed the point. But I quote here the final line of the clerk, whilst steeped in the remains of his quasi-sadistic act:

"The pumpkins--the pumpkins, tumbling down the road..."

A line worthy even of my translation of the lyrics of Paolo Conte (1/10/07).

On an entirely different note, let me announce to you that I saw (solo, which seems to be a very successful formula for my enjoying the hell out of a film) on Thursday "Children of Men." It is the rare day when I actually need a rest that I get it, and Thursday was such a day. I had plenty I could have gotten done--what aspirant actor doesn't?--but found myself wallowing at home, unable even to compel myself to do laundry, much less write the great American novel. So out I went, in the finally-wintry weather. The best thing, the only good thing, in fact, that I can say about the way cinemas are packaging their viewing experiences these days is that even if you are running dreadfully late for a film you stand a good chance of only missing the first seventeen previews. I got in, in other words, and had one of the most satisfying movie-watching experiences I've had in a year.

The Times review does a fair job of summing up some of the quality of this film. I think Manohla Dargis is surprisingly narrow-minded in the connections she draws between "Children of Men" and current events, relating the thing wholesale to the situation in Iraq. That's hard to trace to an explanation. She started writing for The Village Voice, and both papers have reputations for waging war on the current wars, but perhaps it was a matter of having only so much column space to devote. And World War II parallels may indeed be over-worked by this time. At any rate, the climax of the movie may indeed be a sneak-peek at battles in Baghdad, but the connection I drew over and over again was to documentaries I've seen on the subject of the Gaza Strip.

The movie is a drastic, yet to me entirely credible, supposition on where all the evil in the world may have us heading. It's a time-honored tradition in the science fiction genre, but rarely have I seen it so intelligently, effectively and (dare we hope) humorously done. The movie is in this sense more of what I had hoped for in "V for Vendetta," and achieves some of the seemingly magical prognostication of "Minority Report"...sans the guilty aftertaste and empty calories. Its stabs at modern society are acute and undeniable. As Michael Caine's character says, we live in a society that endorses drugs for potency and assisted suicide, but marijuana is still illegal. There's even a running joke (beautifully, subtly crafted) in which different people admonish our hero for smoking, reminding him that it will kill him (thankfully, Owen is never given a line in response to this advice [and, hey, uber-geeks: the cigarettes are manufactured in similar fashion to those smoked by Willis in "The 5th Element"--all filter, an inch of tobacco; it's never stated, that's just the prop used]). The best joke, of course, is that even after the world goes to diarrhetic shit and all the children are gone, Julianne Moore will still look ethereal.

I will go on, if ever I get talking about this movie with someone for whom I will not spoil it. Sadly, it seems to be getting ripped for all the wrong reasons. People are trying to understand it as a science fiction movie, as an action movie (and the action sequences are amazing, exciting but terrible with consequence), as a well-funded art film, and so keep pegging it as being flawed for various reasons. It's not, folks. Yes, the ending is unnecessarily conclusive for a story that dares you to accept ideas about the coexistence of chance and faith that no one's been able to quite get around in the course of human history. It should have ended merely with lights approaching through the fog. Remember I said that when you see it.

The meaning to it all, here? Don't let chance trick you into visiting The Hotel Play. Have a little faith in the "Children of Men."

17 January 2007

I Am a Banana!

Dewds: Oh my dewds: What a day have had I.

Today was the suspect KCACTF workshop, and I must say I am SO glad I didn't bail (for fear of not being on their program: 12/15/07). Patrick and I drove up bright and early, and spent some hours strolling the seemingly desolate campus, pinning up fliers for In Bocca al Lupo. Scavenging push-pins was fun . . . especially when we were done, landed in the check-in area just in time to hear one of the student volunteers walk in a demand to know why she couldn't find any unused push-pins on any bulletin boards. I worried (I'm a worrier) that there would be no students, for we saw so few on our lengthy back-and-forth over the campus. So many attempts at promotion have ended in disappointment for the theatre in the past, I've learned to brace myself for the worst possible outcome.

I needn't have worried.

We had nearly 50 students for the class.

I thank God:
  1. They gave us a plenty-big room.
  2. Patrick was there.
  3. No one fell on his or her head.
Seriously: It was a liability nightmare. I suppose I should have kicked some people out, but I was just so surprised that I went straight into problem-solving mode. Five minutes before we were supposed to begin, Patrick and I quickly conferred amidst all the quasi-nervous college actors and agreed the best way to proceed would be to have them break into groups of three, see if there was enough space, then proceed in the hope that the spotters (those assigned to catch anyone who might fall) took to their jobs with grim determination.

We had them make a circle, shoulder-to-shoulder, and they essentially filled the 40x50 dance studio. To warm up, I had them count of one-two-one-two, and the twos step forward. Now we had two concentric circles, and we warmed up for about a half an hour. They were very responsive to my (cheesy, gratuitous) humor, and it wasn't too long before we were all warm in body and buzzing on the joy of being together and active. Great energy. And we did it all. In two hours, we learned the acrobalance poses of Angel(Superman) and Front Thigh Stand, worked on the dollar-bill exercise (teaching threes, separate and specific beats, listening) twice, and even covered some ground regarding building commedia characters from their appetites. And it ended with them almost unanimously hungry for more, which was great for In Bocca al Lupo. Hopefully students for that will come from this, but honestly, right now I'm just thrilled with how well it went.

That's about it, folks. I close the day, safely returned to my Brooklyn apartment now, gratefully exhausted from travel and real work. It was the kind of day to remember, when your work proved valuable and you feel useful and eager for more. There's a wonderful series of cartoons called "Rejected," by Don Hertzfeldt, that springs to my mind whenever I get in a situation that's potentially awkward or disappointing. It's a way of lightening my own mood and getting my mind off of worry. ("My SPOON is too BIG.") Some days, those same sheltering chants become victory shouts.

15 January 2007

"You've got to...get...that...dirt off your shoulder."

Trying to type Jay-Z lyrics, something is lost in the translation, and it comes out all Captain-Kirk-esque.

That was a haiku:

Trying to type Jay
Z lyrics, something is lost
in the translation . . .

Word, Basho. Word. It's funny, the similarities between feudal Japanese poetry and contemporary rap. Both arise from strong oral traditions, are observational and are generally more measured by rhythm than rhyme. The adoption of a haigo, common for haiku poets of the era, is not dissimilar from rap artists changing their name to something catchy, or expressive of what their music is about to them. And, they're all killing each other all the time. So there's that.

That Basho. He really got it, man:
toshi kurenu / kasa kite waraji / hakingara
another year is gone / a traveller's shade on my head, / straw sandals at my feet [1685]

Snaps to him. Replete with emo-girl poetry slashes.

//day break, as in a break between days, such as occurs when the author spends a whole day in front of a computer, editing legal documents, has hads all he can stands and he cants stands no more//

I am in high prep-mode for another bit of travel myself, though this time the road and I will be together only for a day. Tomorrow I (and my good [and skilled and beneficent] friend Patrick) will drive a rental up to New Paltz, New York, for to teach a workshop enthusiastically entitled "Commedia dell'Acro" at the KC/ACT Festival. All this in the hopes of raising awareness for In Bocca al Lupo, the soon-to-be-annual trip to Italy that Zuppa del Giorno will be taking in May . . . assuming we goad enough adventure-seeking college students into it.

//mental break, as in the kind one has when one makes an unwitting discovery//

God bless technology, and, though I'm still reserving judgment, possibly God damn the good people at the KCACTF. In linking to the website, I just discovered we are not listed in the program. Ergo, no one will know we're there. Ergo, $70 for the car rental, $160 for the brochure printing (yes--that costs more than RENTING A CAR) and roughly 30 hours of preparation time = priceless. A few flurried calls to David Zarko and we're hopefully discovering as we speak that the website program of events is way out-of-date . . . because if not, I'll be feeling a little less Basho and a little more bash-heads for a week or so.

//oh good, Heather called, spoke to Debra Otte, mistress of all things awesome, we are on current festival schedule and I don't have to bash heads unless I really want to//

In about a week, on the 22nd, Heather and I will be conducting another workshop, this one in Philadelphia: "Learn How to Fall and Fly." We have until mid-February to secure enough students for the trip. Otherwise, it doesn't happen. Strange to have that kind of necessity hinging entirely upon one. Somehow, busting ass to get to Italy again doesn't stress me out nearly as much as, say, auditioning for one lousy show. I suppose it's something to do with the security of a long-term goal and the immediacy of a short-term one. For example, I will be very sad if Italy does not happen (of course), yet having days and days to do little things toward it make me feel better about what efforts I'm making. And if it doesn't happen, well, I've got weeks to deal and find new occupations. Whereas, with an audition, it all hangs on your two minutes with a stranger or two, and the job is yours or it isn't. There's no progress, no portfolio being built. Simply fly . . . or fall.

On Sunday I had a great conversation with friend Patrick, and he asked me how important it was to me that an aspect of The Third Life(ign') seemed to involve travel and transition. Patrick's good at questions like that. (And he reads the 'blog. And he's saving Zuppa's ass tomorrow. I owe Patrick big.) My answer, when I finally got through the hemming and hawing stages--with a brief sojourn into an apprehensive stuttering stage--was that for me, just now, life is a search, a quest. So it's pretty natural for me to have so much travel in my Third Life(c). Maybe it will always be that way. Maybe not.

For now I travel
six months of ever'y year.
Italy or bust.

14 January 2007

Signs and Portents

I just returned home from a great day of friends and conversation. I'm so grateful to have had a day like today. Tomorrow it's back to the day job (in spite of MLK Jr. Day) and probably a more involved 'blog entry, simply because I will be ensnared by a willing computer monitor for most of the day.

But today, just now, I had the strangest experience. I was in front of my apartment, which is in one of those less-residential areas of Brooklyn, taking in the view of a shipping products warehouse and Greenwood Cemetery (and the sky, which is conspicuous here simply because you can see a good deal of it compared to neighborhoods in which the buildings are taller) when I was visited. Well, more evaded than visited. The fattest raccoon I have ever seen ran West-to-East down the street, in the non-space between the parked cars and the sidewalk.

I stood and stared, amazed. The only explanation I can conceive of is that this little guy (assumption of sex) lives in Greenwood, from which he was venturing out, and got robust of figure from such ventures out to feast upon the MSG-rich dumpsters or various Chinese and Mexican restaurant dumpsters within a particular radius.

Raccoons live in Greenwood Cemetery. The city fosters all sorts of unlikely forms of life.

12 January 2007

Seeking M&F Actors, Singers, Dancers, Stunt People, Accountants, War Criminals, et al...

Who here hasn't seen "The Princess Bride"?

Okay. Get the hell out. Yes: Right now. Don't look at me like that. I'm completely serious. I'm going to need you to go out and not come back until you've seen the film. It's a simple request. Go on. Go....

Thank God they're finally gone. Okay, all we normal human beings, this movie has been a rather continuous presence in my life ever since it came onto video. (For my younger readers, video:DVD::cassettes:CDs. What's a cassette? Medieval torture device. Never mind. Go back to your Sidekick/PSP/iHat.) I'm sure most people of my generation will concur, unless of course they were too busy outside playing sports during their childhoods. (Childrenhood?) Just recently, however, the movie has been insisting upon my attention. I got the DVD (See? I know what's hip.) for Christmas, as well as the 25th anniversary edition of the novel, and it's being quoted to me left-right-and-center. This morning my friend texted (I hate that as a verb, by the way: texted.) me at 8:00 am (his friend status thereby endangered) to inform me of this self-same movie playing a midnight show at the Sunshine Landmark theater tonight (friend status re-assured).

And two days ago I received an email from someone whom I can pretty confidently call a former, or lost, friend, referring me to this play: The Hotel Play. It included instructions to be cast as the lead in it and then call her.

The play is by Wallace Shawn, or as most of us would know him, "Vezzini," the Sicilian, red-herring mastermind of Prince Humperdinck's malicious ploy. (That sentence should root out any non-P.B.-seeing bastards. Get OUT of here!) I can't claim to be a devoted fan of Mr. Shawn's, but I have enjoyed him in everything I've seen him do. The play is enormously appealing. The porter sound like he's right in line with a lot of the kinds of characters I've created and played for Zuppa del Giorno. The glitch, of course, and the thing that puts such a sardonic twist on this potential reunion of at least email contact with an old friend, is that the play literally calls for 70-80 actors. Wallace seems to feel part of the point is to have each of a huge cast of characters played by an individual, rather than by, say, a dozen character actors. It would be fascinating to see produced. And it's an ingenious ploy (what else from "Vezzini"?) for never, ever getting your play produced.

List of things Not To Do:
  1. Never get involved in a land war in Asia;
  2. Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line; and
  3. Never attempt to get over 10 actors in a room together without serving alcohol.
I haven't had the pleasure of reading the play yet, but I'm going out to look for it today. Hopefully I'll remember to update the adoring fans of this here 'blog with a Pulitzer-worthy review. Hopefully it exists in print.

But above all, I hope that my former friend and I have, well, hope for being friends once again. I have a nasty habit of severing relationships that I really didn't want to do so to. Sometimes it's the choice of the other, sometimes it's the unconscious act of neglecting them for other (usually obsessively artistic) priorities. Sometimes it's even a conscious act, when I come to find I've developed an unhealthy sort of interaction with someone. Overall, I wonder if these severings don't come about in part owing to the transitory nature of the theatre work.

It shouldn't be difficult, in this day and age of constant contact--of the attainability of everyone by one means or another--to remain friends with your friends in spite of constant travel. Regardless of how dehumanizing email and telephone interaction may or may not be, it still facilitates keeping with someone's head-space (and, I dare say, heart-space) marvelously. Imagine your first girl/boyfriend leaving to sail the world and make her/his fortune, the only means of communication being the happenstance of crossing paths with another ship bound for home, and all the circumstances that may involve. Madness, the faith it would entail. (Yes, I am stealing wantonly from "The Princess Bride") Yet it is difficult for me to keep my friendships alive even in our contemporary context. And it's not just the travel, though that makes it significantly easier to become neglectful of people. It's also the struggle to live without too much routine, without too much assumption. The adventure itself of an examined life becomes a sort of friend, following you everywhere, so long as you make honest choices that allow for unpredictable possibility. That's hard for a lot of people to understand and, frankly, easy for such people to judge harshly. And more than keeping one away from regular contact with one's friends, such a life also creates a turbulence or resonance that some people can't abide.

I have a real love/hate relationship with that turbulence.

I had a dinner/acrobalance/planning session with my dear friend Patrick last night in preparation for a workshop we're teaching together at KC/ACTF next week, and our conversation turned to this subject, somewhat. As he is wont to do, Patrick reminded me that it's entirely possible to live The Third Life[patent pending] with all the stability and security of a First or Second one (this in response to my entry 12/31/06), one just has to avoid viewing it as an impossibility. I have to decide if that's the way I want it.

And I don't know if this former friend really wants to reunite, if enough water has passed under enough bridges. I think she felt, when we rather unofficially bid one another adieu years ago, that I had at worst manipulated her life, and at best had a profoundly unhelpful impact upon it. In the face of such a problem, in light of my lifestyle having gotten no less adventurous, is it possible to heal a friendship?

It's just conceivable.

11 January 2007


A Guy I used to know (and I don't mean Jesus by my all-caps action; his name was actually "Guy [pronounced like 'dye,' not 'dee']" had this character he would pull out on occasion, named Philo [pronounced "Fie-low"][sp?]. Philo was famous for boisterously proclaiming inanities and absurdities, usually of the fairly offensive variety, and then seeking consensus from the room. Usually the room was full of strangers, and usually Philo received little-to-no seconds of his motions. I.e.:
"I say, cute as they may be, baby seals were put on this earth for our carnal pleasure, and, ultimately, for us to club to death. WHO'S WITH ME?!"
That was the format. "I say, [insert shocking statement here]. WHO'S WITH ME?!" But don't get the wrong impression about Philo. I rather loathe discomfort humor (Ali G. et al, shock-jokes, etc.) but found Philo hysterical, mostly because he was so impotent. There was no fear of him fulfilling any of his plans, or investing in diabolical real estate (Evil Mastermind Headquarters, for example) unless someone--just once--would back him up. He just made these shocking proclamations and stood there, expectantly looking around him for raised hands.

Well, I have since adopted the jokes for those moments in my life that need levity. It breaks tension well. Just recently, however, I have discovered that more and more I might be just a little Philo. I might be suffering from a mild form of Philo-itis. Hence the subject of today's entry, kiddies:

I sure wish I could stop checking out the ass of every woman I notice.


Oh. Okay. Fair enough. But my point is: I want to stop. This is exactly the kind of behaviour I dislike in "men." When I catch my dad at such antics (or, really, anything that indicates he still has blood flow from the navel down) I think, "Don't be that guy, dude. Don't be that guy." It's gotten astonishingly automatic, though. I am beginning to wonder if ending this behaviour is actually an option for me. And not just because I feel helpless against my primal urges (though I rather do and am), but because those urges have been so neatly integrated into my supposedly more sublime aspirations.

Witness this morning. After more video editing (thank God for removable hard drives) and on my way in to work, coffee in hand, I did me espy a woman crossing Park Avenue with a child who was presumably her own. She was not too terribly New York; active and vibrant, but not dressed to the nines, made-up prettily, but not beyond a comfortable degree. Maybe mid-thirties (alright: "thirtysomething"), and there was something about her smile, her interaction with the child and traffic that made me think to myself, "I'll bet she's making someone very happy."


(It was nice enough. The jeans obscured detailed observation, but seemed well supported by a reasonably firm, round infrastructure.)

WHAT the HELL? Am I doomed to emulate the fourteen-year-olds I'm presently teaching? Shall I revert to finding something entertaining just because it's crudely put? Will I forever be a hunter-gatherer of the junk to be found in trunks? And can Batman and Robin possibly escape the umbrella factory alive?

The answer to all of the above is probably: Yes. It's useless to fight primal urges, expending energy that would be better used to focus those appetites toward valuable ambitions, like learning how to decoupage. Which is to say, the primal urges fuel all our endeavors, even those that end up approaching the sublime (though I can't quite bring myself to categorize decoupage as sublime--such artistic snobbery on my part). I say we just accept it, all we guileless guys who have a conscience about this sort of thing, and just try to be as subtle as possible about it.


10 January 2007

Chips, Chips

Perhaps you've never even heard of Paolo Conte. (Prior to today, I certainly hadn't.) But I can almost guarantee you that you've heard one of his songs. I did this morning, in a Starbucks(r) (please, God, somebody incorporate a coffee shop called "Ishmaels" into your fiction--I've done, but no one will ever read it) and I thought, "This song is so funny. A clown piece should definitely be done to this song."

Via, via, vieni via di qui, niente pi
ti lega a questi luoghi, neanche questi fiori azzurri...
via, via, neanche questo tempo grigio
pieno di musiche e di uomini che ti son piacuti, (rit.)
It's wonderful, it's wonderful, it's wonderful
good luck my babe, it's wonderful, it's wonderful,
it's wonderful
I dream of you... chips, chips, du-du-du-du-du
Via, via, vieni via con me, entra in questo amore buio,
non perderti per niente al mondo...
via, via, non perderti per niente al mondo
lo spettacolo d'arte varia di uno innamorato di te...

(What? What? You don't read Italian? Poor baby!)

This way, this way, you come this way, nothing here
devout you alloy to these places, neanche these blue flowers...
this way, this way, neanche this time full
gray of musics and men who son appealed to you, (rit.)
It' s wonderful, it' s wonderful, it' s wonderful
good luck my babe, it' s wonderful, it' s wonderful,
it' s wonderful
dream of you... chips, chips, du-du-du-du-du
This way, this way, you come this waywith me, enters in this love buio,
not to lose for nothing the world to you...
this way, this way, not to lose for nothing to the world
the show to you of varied art of one in love of you...

Well. That should clear it up for you.

The trouble is, I'm quite certain someone already did a little show or two to this diddy. Shout out if you know for certain, folks. Meanwhile, I'll contact Paolo about reserving rights...WOW him with my Italian...

Ooops! Almost forgot. Here:

"Your day is past, plush toy. I'ma squish your head and use your synthetic stuffing material to buff my exterior shell to an even higher sheen!"