31 March 2008


This morning I received an email from the playwright UnCommon Cause Theatre had been collaborating with to create As Far As We Know, informing those of us who did not yet know that the remains of Staff Sergeant Keith "Matt" Maupin had been recovered and identified. For those of you who don't know, the events resulting from the disappearance of Matt -- in 2004 -- were the inspiration for that show. For years, in spite of a video purportedly exhibiting his execution, his status remained active as far as the military was concerned, and his family kept faith that it could be true. That was the real subject of our play, what really kept our interest in it: keeping that faith and what we may have to lose by keeping it.

I had decided at some point in the process that most likely Sgt. Maupin had died. I had no details, and vacillated frequently on this position, but ultimately it was the idea I came to embrace. He was gone. That was my luxury, that perception. If I learned nothing else working on As Far As We Know, I learned that the perspective I was afforded by my distance from the situation was absolutely a luxury. No one who knew Matt, none of his family or the people living in his hometown, no one who had loved ones involved in this war could afford that luxury. I could. I had the distance to decide for myself, regardless of the hopes of others, that the best thing for all involved would be to grieve now, to try to say goodbye.

What I've discovered, with the arrival of this official news, is that my decision to say goodbye never reached my heart. It was just a decision. Now, this morning, I discover that all this comfortable time of mine I had been keeping a candle of faith going in my heart for Matt and his family. I've discovered that I wasn't comforted by my perspective at all. My perspective merely quieted my mind. What gave me comfort was that unconscious lick of flame, that nearly unjustifiable hope, which is now just as quietly extinguished. Matt is gone now. He has been missing, potentially and finally actually deceased for years, but now he is truly gone.

I can't compare my grief to his parents', his brother's, his friends'. I can't even compare my grief to my fellow players' and collaborators', some of whom have been to Matt's home and met the people there. It would be ridiculous to conceive of it. I'm just a guy who followed the news, studied the situation and tried to imagine the lives inside it. Yet I'm in tears to learn that he is gone. What was Matt to me? I'm not sure. Probably, figuring that out for myself will be what allows me to let him go. He represented a lot for me -- patriotism, ambition, discipline, the commingling of faith and love -- but representation doesn't tear at emotion this way. No, in some way, without ever meeting him, I came to love Matt for myself. And there is nothing right in this, in his death. No matter what peace it brings, no matter the resolution. His death is wrong.

In one of the introductory classes we were required to take as freshmen in the BFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University they tried to help us understand the nature of tragedy. Actually, of capital-t Tragedy. That is to say, as a form, not simply a vocabulary word. One more colorful teacher asked us, "What is it when a busload of nuns dies?" Someone naturally responded, "A tragedy." (That someone: probably a young guy with a bit of something to prove who valued very highly his own ability to know the "right" answer, and obviously in no way was that someone, nor could he ever have been, me.) "Wrong. When a busload of nuns arbitrarily kicks it, that's a travesty. Now, if it's a king, and we can see it coming from a mile off, but nothing we say or do can change it, and we just have to watch it unfurl into its ultimate conclusion ... that, my friends, is Tragedy."

The circumstances of Staff Sgt. Keith "Matt" Maupin's capture, torment and murder add up to a travesty. Even accepting that Arthur Miller made us see the possibility of a salesman experiencing a tragedy normally reserved for kings, there's too much that's arbitrary about Maupin's story to leave it room in the parameters of tragic action. He was not in combat, but escorting fuel trucks, and they weren't meant to be on the route they took when he was captured. He lied about his personal details on the hostage video that was released, presumably because he felt he had to, and even now news agencies are reporting those, misunderstood as facts. The government had to do everything they could to avoid looking like they were flailing helplessly, owing to how little they knew. It's a travesty.

But. But. Part of what makes Tragedy work is the way in which we come to resist the inevitable outcome. The tragic hero could be someone we would never get along with in life, yet through the journey of the story we come to intimately identify with a commonality: the will to live. "Rage against the dying of the light." We do. We always will, be that light our life or hope for others'. Ultimately, Matt's situation would not turn out well. The more time that passed, the more certain his fate became. We would have been smart to let our hope go, to will it to pass. And yet. And yet.

I -- little me -- will miss you, Matt Maupin. I wish I could hold you and your family up. I hope you all find peace and the space of breath to grieve. The tragedy of this outcome devastates me, but the years of your faith . . . our faith . . . inspire me. May you never lay down, may you always believe.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-Dylan Thomas

27 March 2008

Nobody Nose the Trouble I Seen

Remember way back in the day (which was 10/26/07 [in which I also first shared Zuppa del Giorno's idea for a clown R&J]), when I mentioned wanting to script a clown film? Well, thanks to the gracious support of my fellow Exploding Yurts and Friend Davey, I've actually made a really strong start on it. As with most projects, I'm finding that actually working on it (as opposed to just going on and on about it as an idea I once had) is teaching me a lot and raising interesting questions. I thought I'd share some of these questions with you, Dear Reader, and solicit your opinions. Don't be shy if you're new to the Aviary. I'm an actor. The only thing I crave over approval is attention.
  • Why is it so flim-flammed important to me to make something involving a red-nose clown? (This might be a bit rhetorical to start out with, but it's come up for me lately.) As I write, I see that more and more what I'm writing is something like a silent film, full of visual (physical) behavior and sight gags. And the silent film clowns pretty much proved that no nose is good nose. (Sorry, sorry. That...I really couldn't help it.) And everyone I talk to seems to respect that, from performers to non. Yet for some reason apart even from a clever plot device, I find the nose necessary.

  • Is it important for me to track a specific learning curve for my character? In a conventional story, I would be inclined to quickly reply: Yes. This one, however.... In many of the silent films of yesteryear, the storytellers didn't so much worry about that, and many of such as these films are the funniest and most memorable. Buster Keaton was fond of saying that a good movie should be able to be summarized on the back of a postcard, and then extrapolated upon. That would certainly describe my conceit. It's just possible that the key is to tie it all together in the end in a satisfying way, and make the journey there as unpredictable as possible.

  • Am I screwing myself by planning almost everything to be shot in public places?

  • Should I start filming it as an episodic web series? I'm a little sick of these; everyone I know seems to be doing them, but few do them well (Friend Jason has a good one: Three Percent Enemies) and frankly it seems to me the market is a bit glutted. Still, I understand the appeal. Low budget, near-instant product and feedback, not to mention the ability to disguise oneself as a tourist whilst filming in public places. The outline I'm developing definitely lends itself to this format, too, divided as it is into segments comprised of short incidents of action. Still and all, I have my reservations.

I continue to write on it when I can. The trimming -- which is always the tricky part for me -- will be arduous, but perhaps made slightly easier by the constraints of time and money. Just like at the beginning of a collaborative process, I find myself relishing right now, when all is possible and the ideas fly about willy-nilly.

Update--4/2/08: Friend Davey seems to think that my movie is going to be optioned, taken over by mindless Hollywood moguls with warped priorities, and recast. At least I have to assume that's what he meant when he sent me this link. Thanks, Fuzzy.

25 March 2008


Wait. Er.... Oh shoot!

24 March 2008

The Courage to Collaborate

Not too long ago (though and hey: where the heck did March go already?) I was writing about my disillusionment with the collaborative work I had been doing of late (see 1/18/08). Now I am suffused anew with the natural light of a hard-won, worthwhile collaborative experience. Am I fooling myself? Does this gratitude spring more from my frustration over the lately lack of long-term work in my life, or is it genuine and in response to reclaiming the better bits of collaboration?

I was gone last week. Did you miss me? (<--rhetorical) I was in Pennsylvania once again, working. Whilst there I taught various workshops, thanks in large part to the efforts of Friend Heather, and worked with The Northeast Theatre and Zuppa del Giorno in initial efforts and training for a new original show. Well, somewhat original, at any rate. You may notice a new link to the left under the "Hugin" heading. Zuppa del Giorno is taking on Romeo & Juliet.

So last June the gang (gang this time: David Zarko, Heather Stuart, Todd d'Amour and yours truly) was sitting around the breakfast table in Italy, pondering a perfect project for collaboration with Italian artists as we sipped our espresso, munched our Nutella(R) plastered bread and peered out at the castle on the opposite peak. Thus encumbered by effort, we managed to mention R&J, and it tickled our fancy. (Fancy tickling being perfectly legal---nay, encouraged--in Europe.) Romeo & Juliet had, in a way, haunted us from our first trip to Italy, when we visited Civita di Bagnoregio by night and discovered that all those seemingly over-wrought R&J set designs, full of giant boulders and myriad irregular balconies, were in fact quite accurate. David said to me, "You're into Shakespeare, right?" I thought, I am? Oh yeah! I am! It had been so long for me, I had literally forgotten how much I loved studying and acting in Shakespeare's plays.

I can't recall who first suggested it be a clown show. (See 3/14/08, paragraph 2.)

Cut to last week, and six Zuppianni, local actor Conor McGuigan, Italian actor Andrea Brugnera, and clown director Mark McKenna, playing at different times in the conveniently inactive space on Spruce Street. It was amazing. Sure, there were times when we couldn't communicate well, both due to linguistic differences and differences of vocabulary within the same language. There were many moments of being on stage and thinking/praying, "Dear God...send me an idea, please." There were even mornings when we arrived at the theatre and the consensus was that it was the last place we wanted to be. But every time we played, if we played long enough, we made beautiful discoveries. Commedia lazzi hundreds of years old surprised us with laughter. Clowns telling us a story we knew by heart, even while inserting punchlines, made us cry. And through all of it was a sense that we were somehow being reunited, even with those people with whom we had never played before.

I have often said that the beginning of a collaboration is my favorite part, the part when all the possibility seems most present. It's when the show still has the luxury of existing in your mind just as you want it to be, before any compromises, before anyone really knows anything, before argument, ego and expectation pressurize the palate. In the past year I've been forced--forced, because it's quite against my will--to accept the possibility that any collaboration may end in tears or, worse, sighs of resignation. But hope springs eternal, I suppose. Especially when one is so surrounded by brilliant friends.

15 March 2008

Learing Glances

I was walking down the street the other day, on my way to il dayjobo, when I noticed a woman wearing boots with the kind of impossibly narrow and tall heel I see in anime, and believe to be a physical impossibility. She was having no trouble with them, and I considered asking her if she'd stilt with me some time, but then I noticed that the boots were black leather and patterned somewhere between a musketeer's and some kind of glam paratrooper. Aggressive boots. Which got me thinking.

Generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of concept-heavy theatre. There's a great temptation to do it with Shakespeare, and many arguments for and against such approaches. I like my concepts light, and with little-to-no discernible influence on the dramatic action of the play, especially when it comes to The Bard. After all, the play's the thing. Don't change the ending of Hamlet. Face my wrath. That having been said, and in honor of beginning work on a clown version of the Romeo & Juliet story, I decided to share what this woman's boots got me thinking on.

A lot's been done with King Lear. I was in a Suzuki-styled production set in a sanitarium (molto originale), there was a recent movie called A Thousand Acres that set the story in rural America of the 90s, and of course there's Ran, Akiro Kurosawa's feudal-Japan take on the thing. It's been done to death. Still, these things get done to death because they resonate. It's a play about the anguish of youthful ambition and oncoming mortality, and that don't ever go away for we humans. So it may be done to death, and my ideas may fall far short of being original, but a strong idea benefits from expression.

I wonder how the play would change if it were the love of sons rather than daughters that incited the action? Lear has so many family relationships through it that in many ways it's all about family, so I got to wondering about that. Suppose Cordelia, Regan and Goneril were -- I don't know -- Corey, Ronald and Gary. They act completely the same, but have wives (or an imagined future bride, in Corey's case) they involve, and their possession of the inheritance is more assured. Not sure if Lear should be a father or mother in this case, and not sure if that altogether matters.

Once I'm imagining the story this way, I immediately want to set it in an urban, contemporary environment. Perhaps amongst some entitled New York family. There is a film version of Hamlet that does this (with Ethan Hawke) and, in my opinion, fails spectacularly to play past the adaptation, but I feel the idea can be done well. In this environment, the sons can be fairly underspoken, manipulative and cruel and it seems quite normal to us; masterminds of business, or media. Their wives take more direct action, but this is fitting in a contemporary environment as well. I can also see Lear (be he or she) as descended to a homeless state very clearly in this setting, and wonder how all the nature imagery might translate to an urban environment.

From here I wonder what else I can alter without getting in the way of the story. Suppose Corey is gay, and that contributes to his estrangement from Lear. It would have to be done without issue; the idea would be to avoid making a statement not found in the original story, to just have it proceed as you expect, but this son is gay. Suppose, too, that Edgar and Edmund are the same person.

WHAT?! I know. I start to doubt myself here, too, but I want to play it out; to play with it. So deal.
Without having read the text in years, I wonder if it could be played in such a way that the E.s are one guy with a personality disorder. I imagine him vaguely as a guy taking prescription medication, young and volatile, freshly returned from treatment. Gloucester, his father, is thereby a bit more justified in his ineffectiveness. He's been through a lot with this kid, who has his good days and his bad, and Gloucester finds him, on his bad days, to be a different sort of bastard. Gloucester also must humor E. in his dual personas, in the hopes of bringing him through to sanity, but everyone around him doesn't know how to respond to this, because it isn't clear how much is his humoring and how much he's come to believe his son is divided in two.

If you're still with me now: Let's go produce, because you are a rare creature.

Gloucester, of course, has his eyes dashed out for him by Cornwall, Regan's husband. Or Caroline, Ronald's wife, in this case. It was the glimpse of those boots that got me thinking about it all. In the production I participated in, I played Cornwall, and we stamped out Gloucester's eyes with my heel. Those boots would make that choice far more ... shall we say, effective. The rest of the ideas rolled out from there.

Violence. Such a potent aphrodisiac for romancing the id.

By this point, of course, I have to imagine the show out of the context of the language. You can subvert some lines here and there to justify cross-casting genders, but combining two characters into one? Introducing contemporary psychological understanding to Mr. Bill Shake-Off-Subtext? No, no. I imagine it now as a contemporary retelling, rest assured. Still and all, William had some unshakable lines. There's no escaping, in the end:

"Howl howl howl howl howl! Oh, you are men of stones! Had I your tongues and eyes I should use them so the heaven's vaults should crack! She is gone, forever..."

14 March 2008

Balancing Act{ing}

Rewind to 2001, before the towers fell; months before, in the spring. Shortly after my one-year anniversary of having moved to New York, I got two jobs that have fundamentally affected every bit of acting work I've had in the seven years since. The first was that I actually found enough bravery (or naivety) to attend an open call for a touring company that required singing. The result was a production of Der Talisman -- a flippin' MUSICAL, of all things -- which happened to be directed by some dude named David Zarko. This dude wasn't even at my audition or callback. He was a freelance hire. David, of course, went on to become the producing artistic director of The Northeast Theatre, where I have gone on to do the lion's share of my professional theatre work to date.

The other formative gig was a show I've mentioned here before, Significant Circus, directed by Kate Magram. In the years since, Kate and I have shared other collaborative efforts and developed a pretty rad friendship to boot. Amidst all this work and play, it can be easy to lose track of who did and said what and when, and how we got to where we find ourselves at any given moment. (That's how it is when you are involved in a true collaboration to create a play, too. Someone will ask you, "Whose idea was it, the dancing donkey in Act Four?" and you'll reply, with great conviction, "I have absolutely no idea.") What amazes me, when I stop for a moment to consider it, is this one thing Kate contributed to my life. I can point to it, which is part of what makes it so remarkable. Look! Right there, it is!

In a word: acrobalance.

(In a compound word, I suppose I should say.)

Yeah. That stuff that has gotten me work, and that all the actors I've worked with in the past five years know me for? Kate's fault. All about Kate. Didn't know a thing about its existence prior to knowing Kate. Furthermore, because I learned it from Kate, I have loved it more than I otherwise would have, and it has had more influence over the rest of my life than it likely would had I learned it from someone else. Some of the most amazing things I've done on stage, some of the best, most interesting ideas I've come up with, never ever would have had a chance of existing in real life without Mz. Magram. It baffles me a little. She has changed me as an actor and person. Let me explain.

I have never been an athlete. In fact, and spent a good portion of my earlier years as a portly chap. When I was around 16, grandpa's genes kicked in with a vengeance and I lost 40 pounds in a few months. Suddenly I could move easier, and looked more the part for more central roles in plays. In college, I realized I did truly dig incorporating my whole body into parts as much as possible (and, still occasionally, more than is necessarily called for). I also realized that I didn't have any particular technique(s) for doing so. In college, and after graduation, I tried different things, and they were all good -- stage combat, Suzuki, Viewpoints -- but none of them thrilled me. I wanted something I didn't know. Ever feel that way?

I was lucky enough to find it. As I recall, part of what won me the part in Significant Circus was that I did a diving forward roll on a concrete floor in my audition. (A similar move cemented my audition for d'Artagnon in college; apparently a willingness to risk debilitating injury is like catnip to directors.) Then I got to my first rehearsal, and Kate asked me to balance myself against the feet of a beautiful woman while we lowered me down to kiss said beautiful woman.


Acro-balance, partner balancing, however you want to term it, has some basics. These are what Kate taught me, and what I teach all over the place now as part of workshops for Zuppa del Giorno, and to sort of pay forward all the free training she gave me.

  1. Shared responsibility. The name "partner balance" is in a way more apt, because the essence of all the postures and moves is to distribute weight between two or more people in a way that looks impressive and/or beautiful, and uses one another's weight and effort in tandem. It requires a great deal of communication between partners, verbal and physical, which can be tricky to learn. In fact, there's no way to take responsibility entirely on one's self for any aspect of it. More significantly, there's no occasion in which you can blame the other for anything. There is always something more you can be doing to help your partner(s). This is shared responsibility.

  2. Half the ability lies in trust. Never mind all those trust games you played in high school, or at the team-building workshop you were subjected to on some three-day "weekend." In acrobalance, generally speaking, the base needs to be responsible for making the pose balanced, and the flier needs to be responsible for maintaining a strong shape (and both are responsible for communicating [see above]). Control freaks beware: Nothing wrecks a balance faster than a flier trying to change the balance, except maybe a base who refuses to adjust. And you'll be doing it again and again with this person, which as we know is long-term trust which, as we know, is as challenging as it is rewarding.

  3. Drawing straight lines into the ground. There's no defying gravity. Maybe you can make it look like there is, but there ain't. There are moves that require enormous strength and control, but the most important basic skill one can learn is to create a benevolent relationship to gravity. Get that down, and any move is open to you with a little effort. So straight lines. Straight limbs can hold weight by grounding it into the ... uh ... ground, and angles that direct weight toward the ground are more stable and architecturally sound.

  4. Always be spotting. We get tired, and we are used to having to fight for our own time to relax, so it's not surprising that people tend to let down their guard when they're not in the spotlight. Acrobalance, though, is high stakes. You're working as a group to achieve something, and trust is a twenty-four-hour necessity. Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, be ready to catch someone else when they fall. Not if; when.

  5. Down. Things go wrong. People are fallible. Physics is complex. When something is flirting with F.U.B.A.R. -- and more so when you're intentionally, repeatedly approaching that something -- you need to have an agreed-upon vocabulary. When the fit hits the shan, we say "Down!", and that's what we do. Safely. Together.

Pretty simple stuff, but as with any simple, broadly applicable ideas, they make for a good regular practice. I have been practicing these with some regularity for years now, and teaching them to others. These "others" probably promptly go out and try the same moves whilst blithely forgetting these five concepts behind them, but, I don't know; I've found that the harder I work on moves, the more I need to remember these guide points. I need reminding of them, but I'll never forget them, because Kate taught them to me so well. Especially the first one.

I think it's pretty obvious how these concepts apply to life in general, and acting in particular (keep them in mind; explore the possibilities; from Kate to me to you, gratis [you're welcome]) so I won't spin on much longer here. This is just to say thanks to Kate (and to her friend, Leah) for reminding me once again of important keys to finding balance.

11 March 2008

Pleasure Reading

Despite my recent ire vented vis-a-vis the "staged reading" (see 2/27/08) I have had a lot of good opportunities and experiences with staged readings lately. (It's just that man can not live by bread alone, you understand.) NYU's "First Look" acting company has been keeping me busy with involvement in their Steinberg Lab, and tomorrow I perform the second and final reading of Riding a Rocket Ship Into the Sun, by Alex Davidson (sorry Alex--couldn't find a better link) of their graduate play writing group. Last week I did a reading completely separate of NYU, too, for a person I regard as a promising playwright, Josh Sohn. Readings are interesting practice. They have a strange combination of elements from things like straight playing, improvisation, public speaking and occasionally musical chairs. They are short-lived, and the attention is invariably more on the text than on the acting. Which, in a way, makes them a kind of odd perversion of conventional theatre. Conventional theatre, in this context, defined as theatre that says, "Hey everybody; this is really happening and you want to feel it happening as much as possible so we'll all happen to pretend it's really happening okay? okay."

But anyway. All the irksome details aside (bound to a chair or stool, ultra-brief rehearsal time, no money in it), it's the gray areas of a staged reading that can make it really fun for an actor. For example, you don't get terribly specific notes from your director (if, indeed, there is a director; last Thursday's had none) which means one's compulsion toward perfectionism (see 2/29/08) doesn't get tweaked too badly. A staged reading, assuming it adheres to certain standards, can be a wonderfully relaxing experience for an actor. It is what it is, as a former boss of mine is fond of saying. Also, a staged reading has the benefit of being very direct in its relationship to its audience. This is hard to describe; it's as though because no one's expecting to entirely believe in the verity of moments on stage, the actors have more permission to listen to the audience's responses and adjust accordingly. Within reason, of course.

The script I've been reading most in the Steinberg Lab is one in which I play a would-be private detective from upstate. It's great for exercising my deadpan and drawing in little nods to types like Bogart's Spade, and other fast-talking PIs. The writer (who shall remain nameless until she decides to present the work for public consumption) has a good sense of comedy that she's still learning about, which is pretty fascinating to explore in conjunction with her development of this play. The only downside of the whole thing is that -- cripes and jimminy -- it can be freaking tough to spit-fire dialogue one's reading for the first time. The class has suffered through more than a few incidents of stumbled pronunciation or cracked character on my part, which kills me, given the specificity of the style.

Riding a Rocket Ship into the Sun has actually been surprisingly beneficial for me. It reunited me with the director I worked with on my very first project at First Look, Kathryn Long, and who frankly spoiled me for many of my experiences following that. It's also a piece in which I play a "heavy," which I haven't done for years and find challenging. It's generally not what people see when they look at me, so I'm not overly upset by the rarity of that type of role. I do enjoy playing those characters, however I often find it difficult to fill out such roles without a lot of posturing and BS. RRSS has let me explore ways of just being in that capacity and, it appears, with some success. The responses to my reading have been wonderfully positive. I would guess that this ability came about simply from age and experience, save that I felt the discovery in rehearsal. If I hadn't worked on this script, it might have been years before I had another opportunity to figure out how to convincingly play a bad dude.

Working with Josh was the definition of brief. I got an email two Tuesdays back, rehearsed at his apartment Sunday night and performed Thursday. It was part of a play-writing group of which he is a member, so the event was informal and full of comrades. There was no director, and Josh's notes were naturally playwright-erly in nature, so "informal" really sums it up pretty neatly. I participated in two out of three pieces. In one, Errand, I played a jilted husband confronted with his best friend/business partner's return (his BF being the one what run oft wid his wife). In the other, entitled Dry Run (see Josh's link--Josh: this play from a short story of yours?), I played an interesting younger character in an interesting relationship, dealing with his significant other, who was rather freshly returned from a mental hospital. Both pieces took fairly standard scenarios and did some interesting things with them. Errand left room between the lines to show the confusion of a character who was used to forcing his life around, and discovering finally that it doesn't ultimately work. But it was Dry Run that was really interesting to me, and a real challenge. In it, I found a real parallel to follow between a typical male/female conflict of philosophies, and a struggle with mental illness. It was, in other words, not wholly alien to me. Plus there was a great, strong inner conflict for my character. That invariably sparks my enthusiasm as an actor. Not a lot's changed for me in that regard since my college days.

So staged readings: Not all bad. Don't let my cynicism fool you. It's just frustration over not having a show-show at present. Actually, I have another staged reading potentially coming up, this one for the Steinberg play mentioned above. It should lend itself well to the medium.

I only hope they give us chairs with backs for this one.

10 March 2008

I Never Kid About My Work

Jeff Wills

is generally more friendly and easier to remember than

Jeffrey Wills

which reminds me of my mother and my day job, unlike

Jeffrey Allen Wills

which reminds me solely of my mother, at particular times of distress.

Jeffrey A. Wills

was what I used to designate my writing, until I realized it didn't really matter.


is what I went by for a whole year in elementary school, thinking


, which means roughly "bringer of peace" (though it's descended from





) and


-- which presumably means the same, only less so -- were somehow childish.


is used by itself in sarcasm and in gym classes, which are not mutually exclusive concepts.

J. A. Wills

is what I use on my return-address labels, because it's distinguished and mysterious. I never use

J. Allen Wills

because that's just pretentious and wrong.

J. Wills

isn't so much, but I don't really use it anyway.


, as was pointed out to me for the first time by a woman (Ms. Rice) who worked in my kindergarten, is an acronym that spells something, which is rad.


also tends to imply a certain intimacy, and often gets used by folks trying to be more formal, or who like playing status games, or who don't actually know me. I've had many nicknames based on my given name:




("Hef-feh," or "chief")


(dawg, bone, luv...); just as I've had quite a few with nothing at all to do with my actual name:






Nicknames are casually intimate things, at turns silly and profound, and I dig them. I was very nearly

Grant Allen Wills, Jr.

and think that might have been okay. I could be a Grant.

That's enough of that, I think. This whole thing is actually a bit of an experiment to see if/how it influences web searches for my name in the coming months. When I want to Google myself (not that I do that over-much, mind) I have to enter '"Jeff Wills'+actor" or some such, lest I get a stream of Willsians accomplished in other fields. If I've got this right, technically my name being all over one entry of the 'blog in different forms shouldn't do much, however the more people click on the link to here, the more prominent my standing. So it stands to reason that having an entry with different forms of "Jeff Wills" all over it should, ah, make the...thing...do that thing, where it...erm.... Yeah. I got nothing.

Names are cool.