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This month has felt a bit like a dream.

 

I got to work on a great show with a wonderful group of bipeds.  We had some crazy hot weather in California and I hate the sun, so we all know how I feel about that. I actually was able to begin building my savings account again, even with extra bills to pay!  That’s a big one.      

🎭🎭🎭🎭🎭

 I had so much fun working on Assassins for Los Altos Stage Company!  The show got such great reviews.  I had no idea what the show was about and I wasn’t planning on auditioning.  Then I got a call from Lee Ann Payne saying, “hey I am directing a show. You should come and audition.” Of course, that wasn’t how she said it, but it was very casual. Then, a coworker explained the whole show to me. It was at that point that I thought “hell yeah! I have to do that show.” So I do owe them both credit for prompting me to audition.  As often as I could, I watched all the scenes when I was off stage during the rehearsal process, seeing how the director and actors built up their characters and told their stories.  I loved hearing the crazy things that are only said in theatre like “you’re giving the ‘fuck’ too much.” Once the show opened, I loved to listen to the scenes (especially the Fromme and Moore scenes) and chuckled at every joke that was found throughout the show.  For those of you who haven’t seen or heard of Sondheim’s Assassins you can do a Youtube search, but here’s a description from MTI:

A multiple Tony Award-winning theatrical tour-de-force, Assassinscombines Sondheim’s signature blend of intelligently stunning lyrics and beautiful music with a panoramic story of our nation’s culture of celebrity and the violent means some will use to obtain it, embodied by America’s four successful and five would-be presidential assassins. Bold, original, disturbing and alarmingly funny, Assassins is perhaps the most controversial musical ever written.

Assassins lays bare the lives of nine individuals who assassinated or tried to assassinate the President of the United States, in a one-act historical “revusical” that explores the dark side of the American experience. From John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, writers, Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, bend the rules of time and space, taking us on a nightmarish roller coaster ride in which assassins and would-be assassins from different historical periods meet, interact and inspire each other to harrowing acts in the name of the American Dream.

Assassins requires skilled singers who are also versatile actors. This is an ideal choice for mature audiences and will challenge your designers as they try to recreate famous moments and people in America’s history.

So you see, it is something that many people don’t want to be “entertained” with, especially in light of Donald Trump’s statements about 2nd Amendment-ers “taking care” of Hillary Clinton. So some people didn’t really like the material of the show, but they did appreciate the performances though it seems like the audience is  “rooting” 👏 for Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wilkes Booth, and the others during show, particularly at the end of each either completing their jobs or being executed themselves. The all performances were so good, from the top down the entire cast was so solid!  Some were mesmerizing like Ken Boswell as Charles Guiteau, Philomena Block as Sarah Jane Moore, Alea Selburn as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, and Todd Wright as Sam Byke.  It was a great show to be a part of and I am grateful for the chance to play with this group of actors, even if the unexpected heat did put a damper on the run.  But this is one to remember, thanks to the timeliness of it as well as its own greatness

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MY STARS!!!  It is September! Why are we having this 90+ degree weather when global warming isn’t real!? (I totally believe in global warming. That was just a joke.) Yes, yes, I know that summer ended on the 21st, and can potentially stay warm through October.  I know this academically, but I don’t wanna!  LOL. I want it to stay like it was when I was a kid. Summer was only June thru August! I have made mention many times that I don’t enjoy being in the heat, so this felt like a slow painful Wicked Witch of the West type murder. 💀 What a world! What a world. Mercifully, the costumes weren’t too heavy, and considering one of my castmates had a suit that was made out of material that felt like the heaviest grade of wool cloth a person can find, I shouldn’t really complain. The important thing is we survived! And my beard and moustache stayed on when I needed it to!  That is the real miracle here. Even if I did look a little like Mario.  Special thanks to the Assassins cast for always singing the Super Mario music when I passed by… 😜😉

   $$$$$

You know, here in the Bay Area, it takes a lot of solid, steady, well paying work in order to pay the rent/mortgage if you are an actor.  Out of all the actors I know (and that is a TON of them) I believe all of us have survival jobs.  Some of us like those jobs.  Some of us don’t. Personally, I tend to vacillate between the two.  Currently, I am grateful to have them as I know some people aren’t so fortunate.  Now this month has been rife with extra bills to pay.  Some expected, some not so much. For example, I decided I wanted to work out my brain with an anthropology class. Since I love to people watch, I figured this would be a good fit. I wasn’t expecting to cough up almost $400 bucks for it and that’s without the books. But it worked out.  Then, stupid me got a parking ticket.  $50. 💩! Then a smog and my car registration, which I was planning for.  But then, to have to fix the exhaust pipe on the car on top of all that?  Oh, I thought I was doomed. 😱 DOOMED, I tell you.  Somehow, looking at my statements, everything did work out really well, and for the first time in a long time my savings account has funds flowing back into it.  👀  I never thought I would see that day again.

That has been my September in a oven roasted nut shell.  Did you have a good month?  Or was it like Green Day’s September, where you just want to hide out until it is over? Just like with the survival job, I went back and forth on this, too.  I hated the weather. Loved the show. Hated the extra bills. Loved that I have done a bit of growing up.  Hate that I just said that.  Love that I am learning new things.  Hate that I don’t write as much. BUT Love that you, dear reader, take the time to give this the once over.  Thank you!

Tell me about your month! Did you learn something new about yourself?  Did you do anything fun relating to theatre?  I am all ears… er… eyes, I guess it would be.

Until next time!

💖

 

Brushes and Bars

This is a view from one of the windows in the Gilroy Arts Alliance.  Wonderful little place and home to the fabulous Limelight Actor’s Theater.

Dear Gentle Reader,

I have been trying to write this post for the last week and couldn’t quite figure out how to say what I want to in the shortest way.  So “Delete” has been my BFF for a while now.  😄 In a way, I felt a prisoner to my desire to live in the world of theatre as much as possible. I spent hours upon hours in commutes up and down the Bay Area from San Francisco to Hollister and many places in between.

At the beginning of the year, I was tapped to do the “Tango Tragique” for She Loves Me at Foothill Music Theatre, which opened in February.  I ain’t never done a tango before.  Not only that, my partner and I had to build this S & M-esque relationship with each other and the music for the number to be seen in the right way.  Luckily, I had a wonderful partner and choreographer to show me all of the movement, but creating that relationship was a little more challenging because the two of us dancing this number were big ol’ goofballs. There was so much giggling or “oh, shit! Sorry”s cuz one of us would do something that wasn’t quite right. It was way fun, but too short. LOL! Of course it didn’t hurt that the show has some great numbers brought to life by a fabulous cast.

In March, I opened The Subject Is Love, and I wrote all about that here, so if you’d like to read more about that one, just click the link. I will say that I loved that little show and thought we could have easily went on to do another 2 weekends.

In April, I was asked to jump into a role for the western regional premier of The Boy From Oz as Chris Allen.  He was the other half of The Allen Brothers with Peter Allen.  I had to destroy an Australian accent.  Wait, I had to use an accent.  Destroy is just what ended up happening to it.  HA! It was an interesting experience? There were some good things but many things that didn’t go as planned. The first was being added to many numbers that I wasn’t originally supposed to do. Not that I minded, but I had to add those things on top of the stuff I was supposed to learn.  I had 5, (5!) rehearsals to get everything down, and never actually got to run the entire show until preview, which started 2 hours late because that theatre was friggin’ haunted.  That’s my story and I am stickin’ to it. There were a LOT of unfortunate mishaps during the run of the production, but the cast was always solid.  I will say that the one thing I learned from the experience was to look into the company.  See what the reputation is before jumping in.  It is a lesson I wish I had learned sooner, but had that been the case, I would not be friends with some truly amazing performers.

May brought the opening of Cahoots!  I know, I know.  WTF is Cahoots? Trust, kids, I said the same thing. It is the story of a dinner party gone wrong.  For the first time, I got to play someone that wasn’t cheery or upbeat. My character (Al) was on a mission at trying to get people to buy into what some would call a paranoid mindset because his brother was murdered nearly a year ago.  Al has this huge monologue addressing this perceived threat and baits the others into a debate that ends badly for poor Al.  I loved the audience’s response to Al.  They wanted to hate him, but couldn’t completely because they understood that under this need was still unresolved sorrow and his desperation stems from the belief that no one is taking him seriously. In an unexpected turn, the company’s season ticket holders voted Al Best Supporting Character.  So (according to one theatre goer) “this charming A-hole” was totally worth playing. Bonus points: no accent.  😂

So, this brings us to good old June!  The beginning of Summer, my least favorite season.  I am sure that I mentioned somewhere that the Sun and I have a hate/hate relationship. But… let’s talk about that some other time.

June… I open as Max in Lend Me A Tenor! This was the craziest part of the whole ride.  Not only was it a wonderful feeling to be a part of a fundraiser for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, but it was incredibly challenging.  I mean incredibly. Now bear in mind: this is just my ego talking here.  Every show an actor goes into requires preparation. Who is this person you are portraying? Why are they doing that (pretty much every action they do in the show)? What is underneath that reason? As the rehearsals progressed, I found myself becoming frustrated.  I felt like my prep was pointless as I kept hearing “don’t do that” or “say it like this” more than I thought was possible. Now, this was just because the directors had a very clear idea of what they wanted and I was off the mark. I try to be as trusting as possible with all the people I work on a project with, because A. you are all striving to create the best thing; and B. no one likes creating in an uncomfortable environment. Besides, it is always the right thing to do.  After the third or fourth week though, I had to simply stop saying, “sure, no problem” or “sounds good” so that I can ask “why.”  It wasn’t just that I needed clarification of why I wasn’t allowed to do something, but so I had a chance to explain why I was and if my motivation wasn’t clear then maybe I would be offered suggestions.  Everyone does something for a reason, now let me explain why I think Max would do this motion.  Now, every person has a different interpretation of a role based on their life.  My Max wasn’t going to be the same as anyone else’s and I kept feeling like I was being allowed less and less to be my Max.  By opening night, I just wanted to complete my job then go straight home. While I had time to sort through all of the events leading up to that night, I realized that I was failing to do my best for these wonderful people with whom I get to share the stage.  So the next performance, I said “fuck it all” and let go of all the personal feelings I was having and just focus on playing with the cast.  I did what I was asked to do. That’s when the show began to solidify for me. I was disappointed in myself that it took so long for me to be able to understand this.  No show was ever the same exactly.  New small things were tried every night, mostly in the line delivery. Not only was the cast a heaping ton of fun on stage but they were just as awesome backstage too.  The overall experience was great as usual, but it was still a challenge.  And of course, one only grows by such challenges. Behind the scenes, the producers were spectacular. By the way, Italian accent needed and it was ok.  Not great, but ok.  And I was ok with that.  Because Max wasn’t Italian, just pretending to be.

Having thrown myself into so many productions that were constantly overlapping, I found it exhilarating. Now that things have calmed back down, I feel that the realization of being able to juggle this number of projects has opened me up to new ideas about myself.  I will have to think on them a bit more before I can fully write about them.

In the mean time, I still have one more show to complete before the year is out:  ASSASSINS.

Have you ever pushed yourself further than you thought you could?  Was it something you loved?  What did you find out? Maybe you can help me put into words what I am feeling.

Until next time, dear reader, I hope you continue to find things that you enjoy and do them with love.  I promise I won’t forget to write much sooner next time.

 

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As the world knows, the incredible artist known as Prince died on April 21. Like everyone else, I was a fan.  It was a very sad day when this news was released. 

During the past weekend’s performances of Boy From Oz in San Francisco, there was a sadness that came over me as the cast stood in the wings waiting for the final number of the show “I Go To Rio.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, BFO is essentially the life of Peter Allen.  Mostly known for writing the songs “The Best That You Can Do” (AKA Theme Song from the movie, Arthur, which starred Dudley Moore and Liza Minelli) and “I Honestly Love You” sung by Olivia Newton John.  He is also known for being the first husband of Liza Minelli, who has had the tragic luck of picking gay men to marry.  

The show covers not only his meeting of Liza, but first, her mother, the amazing Judy Garland. It progresses through his parting ways with Liza and falling in love with Greg Connell, who, like Allen died from AIDS.

But back to the show…

The song just before the finale is “Once Before I Go” in which Peter sings a beautiful good bye to the audience.  The song was actually written for Allen’s friend, Ann Margaret, when her husband had passed away, but I am sure that once Greg died the song became even more personal. As our Peter, played by the incredible Dan Seda, was performing the hell out of this song, it made me think of some of the other musicians that have passed away. Not only that they had passed, but that they had a chance to in a sense “finish” their work.  I know that isn’t the right word for it, but they did get the opportunity to say goodbye in a way. 

  1. David Bowie released one final album, Blackstar. This work feels very much like a goodbye, in my opinion.  Sure, there are some upbeat tunes on this record, like “Tis A Pity She Was A Whore,” but that one has me wondering if he was talking about a person or cancer or even life. There is a John Ford story of the same name that is of incestuous siblings that ends in one’s death.  It may be that he is singing about it.  Personally, I think it is just a coincidence.
  2. Freddie Mercury recorded one last song called “Mother Love.”  It was released on the Made in Heaven album after his passing.  In it, he sings bits about what may be himself: “My body’s aching, but I can’t sleep/My dreams are all the company I keep/ Got such a feeling as the sun goes down/I’m coming home to my sweet/Mother love.” Even in his final video, (These Are The Days of Our Lives) it is easy to see that he wasn’t well.  
  3. Howard Ashman, of Disney fame and the Little Shop Of Horrors musical, was able to give the world incredible songs for not only a beauty called Belle but a scrappy diamond in the rough named Aladdin. Both films were released posthumously and the world accepted these bright and shining gifts from the talented lyricist. 

But what about the people that left us unexpectedly?

What would they have created if they knew their lives would be taking that big final curtain call soon? People like Micheal Jackson, who was in the midst of planning his comeback concert.  I love MJ, but would it have worked? Did he have some new tricks up his sleeve?  Or how about Aaliyah and Notorious B.I.G?  What would be the last thing they want the fans or family to know?  

I seriously would love to know…

What would the Artist known as Prince have done

 

 

The Love Of Money

HI Gentle Reader!

Can you believe this is the first post of 2016? Would you believe it if I told you I am working on completing 4 different shows in the next 5 months?  It’s true.  I will get to some of that in a second.

Going back to the question at hand… are they paying you?

I have had a number of people ask me this question in regards to my next project.  My current project is just a little dance number in “She Loves Me” at Foothill Musical Theatre, which is playing its last weekend beginning Thursday.  The next project in the works requires that I commute to Hollister which is about an hour outside of the San Jose area, if the traffic is not too bad.  I don’t mind the drive at all. I enjoy any car ride as long as I have something to shamelessly sing to/with.  Currently, it is a toss up between Hamilton and Something Rotten.

While I do need to take some time away from the survival jobs to make it to rehearsals on time and pay for plenty of fuel, it isn’t an unreasonable question to ask. When I tell them the answer is no, I am given the “oh damn!” look.  You know the one.  It looks kind of like a combination of smelling something bad and sucking on a lemon.

I am glad my friends are looking out for me, but I do have my reasons on this project.

I call this a “gotta do it” project. Think of it like facing your fear.  My next project is with the San Benito Stage Company’s Sidecar production.  It is a cabaret style show in a quaint little bar in a building called The Vault. The show itself is called “The Subject is Love.”

I have always loved to sing, dance, and act. My preferences of the three disciplines are in the exact opposite order than what I just listed them.  For some reason that I didn’t understand, I would always get in the most trouble for singing.

Both my parents were big popular music lovers. So of course, I grew up listening and loving the radio’s top 40.  Once I was introduced to musicals (Thanks, Tawni!), my interest in the regular music that the rest of the people around me listened to waned. I began to collect as many cast recordings as I could get my hands on via the local libraries.  I loved to sing along with these magnificent songs that held so much story and emotion.  I didn’t just sing though, I belted out these songs.  I was constantly told by my family to shut up. I was a terrible singer.  I could never do something like that (be in a musical).

This negativity was around me every day for years, because I couldn’t help it that I loved these songs so much.  Subconsciously, it made me believe that I couldn’t sing and that I would never get to be a part of something so incredible. Now I could be bitter at this mental block I have been given by my family, but I realized, oddly from watching America’s Funniest Videos*, that it wasn’t because I was bad at it.  It was because I was maybe a tad loud, but mostly because it wasn’t the style of music that my family was used to. Since they weren’t, they believed it was terrible music and wouldn’t stop to really listen to it.

To this day, I have this anxiety of singing in front of others, especially at auditions.  It is one thing to be in a role and embodying a character as one sings, but it is a whole different show when it is just you as yourself singing a song for a group of strangers.  ‘But there’s the whole karaoke thing, you can’t forget that!’ one dear reader exclaims. I reply, “Yes, but there’s the whole alcohol thing , you can’t forget about that.”  I think somewhere in the back of my mind there is that cluster of voices from long ago echoing those negative phrases still. For those that have known me a long time, they could mention Smokey Joe’s Cafe, but even then our director created a story arc for the show which gave way to creating characters.

Yet, I have this crazy idea that I would love to perform a solo cabaret show sprinkled with a couple of friends  and with this mental block I don’t see how I can make that a reality. I have had the opening number all staged for the last 5 years.  Maybe it is 6. By facing down this insecurity of mine, maybe I will finally scale this seemingly insurmountable wall that I put up when it comes to singing and get my ass in gear to complete this goal.  And who knows, maybe my other auditions will level up! Let’s keep our collective fingers crossed. Until then, I shall continue to sing with whichever great cast recordings I have on the road with me.

Do you have any favorite songs that you like to sing along to when you are driving down the road?  If you were only allowed to belt out one really good number, what would you choose? Let me know! Maybe we can post videos of us doing just that.

Take care, Gentle Reader.

*I tried to find the video but finally gave up. In it, there is a young boy singing a show tune.  I can’t remember if it is from Cats or Annie but his older sister is screaming for him to be quiet.  The boy was actually on pitch and singing pretty well.  So the video brought back a lot of memories.

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Dear gentle reader,

It has been 10 days since the final curtain was brought down on Guys and Dolls.

I have been struggling with a way to reflect on my experience with the Jewel Theatre Company.  As of late, being able to sit down to write has been a bit difficult as time does not always allow for such simple requests. However, when I got a little Facebook notice that it was a particular person’s birthday and that same day I opened my mailbox to find a card from that very same person, then the stars are saying I have to do it now!

This is gonna be a bit nuts, but bear with me, k? This post is gonna be wonky…

The Thursday night of our closing weekend, I had a dream. At the time it made no sense, but once I started organizing my thoughts for this post, the lightbulb finally went on.

The Dream:  I woke up in the middle of the night because I couldn’t sleep.  I pulled up my Facebook account and immediately I get an IM from the one and only Lee Ann Payne, the choreographer for Guys and Dolls. The curious thing was that the message was a video message.  She was so excited because she was the proud owner of a violin. Not only that but she can actually play something on it.  She says, I am going to send you a video! Then she is gone.  I get a link for a video that is titled “I Just Want It To Quack.” I hit play, and sure enough there is Ms. Payne playing her violin and literally making it quack.  Like a duck. The video consists of many jump cuts as she joyfully plays her mallard fiddle and everything is lit with purple lights. (Think 80’s dance video if the description isn’t working for you.) This goes on for a brief chunk of time. Even though it is just quacks, I get a  complete story; beginning, middle, and end.  Then the dream is over.  So random! So nonsensical, but very very joyful.

I recall waking up and being full of smiles because it was such a kooky dream. Not only that, it had one of my favorite theatre people of all time in it!

I am sure that I have mentioned this a million times, but it is because of Ms. Payne that I was lucky enough to be a part of the G&D family.

This past year, I have been focused on trying to work with as many new theatre companies as possible and I can say happily that I got to work with 3 plus an independent production team that put on a world premiere opera.  Along with new theatre companies, I have harbored the secret wish of actually learning to play the violin which is my favorite instrument.

So now this is how the dream begins to morph into meaning for me.  A brilliant choreographer has in her hands something that I want, but don’t own and yet is familiar because of my love for the object which I  interpretation as that she hands me a wonderful opportunity doing something I love with with something new (people and places)!

The jump cuts seem to resemble how those 9 weeks of my life were.  Flashes of the things I needed to do at the time; work at job 1, go to rehearsal, work job 2, work job 1, go to rehearsal, etc…

I know that purple is the color of royalty, but I also associate it with magic.  There is nothing more magical to me than theatre and books.  Both take you on journeys that others have imagined, and to be  lucky enough to be able to bring those characters to life? Fuhgetaboutit!

The quacking I don’t quite get, I will admit.  I’d like to believe that it is for the phrase “lucky duck.” I always consider getting gigs like this to be sheer luck.  As I seem to have mentioned above… It could even mean something like “like a duck to water,” because from that very first rehearsal, everyone was friendly and helpful and it was just fun to be around them.  So yeah, maybe it does stand for lucky duck.

As this was a whole new group of people that I was going to work with, I was much quieter during this process than my usual self.  I had never worked with Linda Piccone, our sassy and funny, but unknown to me, director.  I couldn’t tell at first a lot of the time if she was joking or not because she has a really good poker face. Once we moved into the theatre, I finally realized that she was joking the whole time. LOL!

Taking the image of a happy lady playing a violin that literally sounds like a duck quacking automatically puts a laugh in my heart and a smile on my soul.  That, dear reader, is what the cast of G&D for Jewel Theatre did for me.  Through all the hard work, there were so many laughs.  So many times that I had tears in my eyes from all the funny that was happening.

If I were to name all the good things about the show, I could easily write a post this size for every day for the rest of the year and still not touch all of them. So I will tell you every bad thing… you ready?

 

Nothing
There was not a single thing that I would ask to change or do different.  Does that mean I never had a mistake during the show?  Oh, I did.  Plenty. Someone accidentally made me break character during the sewer scene after Sky Masterson says “… the air in the mission smells better than the air down here.” To which in the background mumbling was heard “Oh that’s my cologne, uh, my colon.”   I know! I know! I am still a 10 year old when people make poop jokes. But there was nothing bad; no divas, no drama, no problems. Just a wonderful group of hard working actors that I respect so much.

I will, however, say there are things that I will miss more:

  • The improv moments that happened nearly every night in the dressing room between two of the funniest men ever, Kurt and Chris!
  • The men’s dressing room in unity meowing Star Wars music and the exit music for G&D
  • DTK mic check performances, especially the joke about the bell!
  • Jordan’s incredible song library brain
  • Bryan’s silly funny corny jokes
  • Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat!!!!
  • The impromptu backstage interpretive dance performance by Lucas and Kurt during Adelaide’s Lament
  • Corie’s drunken stumble at the end of the “If I Were A Bell” scene. It is one of my favorite perfect moments of the show.
  • Domonic, DTK, and Lucas’ ending of the fugue.  Another perfect moment in the show.
  • David singing “Luck Be A Lady”
  • The amazing ladies performing “Take Back Your Mink”
  • Phil serving FACE during the song above.  Like serving it UP!
  • Domonic and Lucas’ nightly bantering which was always oddly inappropriate (more like naughty) but innocent in a way as only BFF’s can be and hilarious
  • Chris as Nathan Detroit!
  • Julie’s rendition of Adelaide’s Lament Reprise
  • Judith’s movie star entrance at the top of the show.  Another perfect moment, IMHO.

Speaking of Julie, when describing the owner of Jewel Theatre Company, inspiring is the word that comes to mind when you have the chance to work with her. She works so incredibly hard and at 100% 100% of the time.  How she balanced moving her company into a brand spanking new theater as well as performing such a big role at the same time, all while maintaining her sanity and her kindness, I will never know. Her drive to push Jewel forward reminds me a lot of another theatre owner down in Gilroy that I know…

Just like the name implies, Jewel Theatre Company was a gem to work for and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  To Julie James and the rest of the JTC family, thank you for the experience. It will always be a precious memory for me.