🎼Is This The Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy? 🎶

Happy Holiday Season, Gentle Reader!

Oooooooowwweeeeee!

I hope your Turkey Day was wonderful, if you celebrate. If you are one of amazing Readers outside of the US, I hope your week was magnificent. But to be clear, this post isn’t about the recent holiday.

As we head into the weekend, and I return to grown up Ralph Parker, I wanted to share why I am enjoying this production so much. And it isn’t because it is Christmas themed. LOL. I don’t really celebrate it as I had mentioned before despite the fact that I worked on a Christmas show last year and in White Christmas many years ago.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to be a part of this production was the shear fact that I have never had the opportunity to work with this many youngsters before. I wanted to have this experience because it was not only new, but the energy that they bring is incomparable. My past experiences were as a choreographer of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for a youth production and the shows where I was cast that did have younger persons, really only had one or two. To share a stage with 10 of them is a wholly different experience and I am enjoying it immensely.

Another reason I have cherished this process is because of the director. Allie Bailey is one of my favorite people and director to collaborate with during the process. The first time I met her was at auditions for her production of Pippin. What a blast that was! This is my 3rd time working with her. I have absolute trust in her. I appreciate that I can offer my ideas on the character and she asks questions to force me to dive even deeper than what I thought was deep enough. Sometimes instead of confirming my ideas, she counters knowing that it can do one of two things, guide me into a different point of view OR ensure that my view as the character has an answer in their backstory for every potential question that the script may present. I trust that if I am not presenting anything clearly, she will catch it and let me know so that I can make stronger choices. I also like to think that she trusts me and is fully ok with the time I take to work through building my character. She also knows how much I change delivery of lines to try and find my truth in the moment. Sometimes, directors have wanted me to make my choices and stick to them midway through the rehearsal process so the scene is “set” but that stresses me out because if a line gets delivered differently on accident and I give my response like we had “set” then the truth of the moment is lost and will be seen as forced by the audience.

It has been so incredible to take this journey, Dear Reader. The A Christmas Story movie is brilliant in its mix of realism and hyper camp thanks largely to the filming style by director Bob Clark. Not to detract from the acting because I thought all of that was well done too with special nod to Darren McGavin. But aside from the lamp, the filming visual are what stick with me. Like the zoomed in perspective of the kids on Santa and the elves when they are angry or the over dramatic grading by Miss Shields. That is hard to replicate on a stage. Yet, our director had the solution.

When I step back and take a macro look at the staged version, I can see at least 3 levels of style, for lack of a better term. In the first ring, this is the most true to life. My version of Ralph lives here. Yeah, he gets caught up in explaining some of the moments of his memories, but think about when you are recounting something to others. It is a normal reaction. Not only can you get caught up in the storytelling, but those emotions can well up within you again. Like the bullying scene. It is sad to recall, but man, those are some of the easiest feelings to recall from my past. It is painful and scary and embarrassing but the mix is easy to find when I need them.

In the next ring, the memory is stored there. I know that the potential for expanding upon your story is highly likely, Sweet Reader. While Ralph recalls this Christmas memory, obviously some parts are over the top. This is the ring that Mother, The Old Man and Randy, Santa as well as Ralphie’s classmates and Teacher live. Slightly larger than life yet rooted in complete truth but a little more exaggerated than Ring One.

In the final ring, Raphie’s imaginative fantasies reside. This is the overblown moments in the show. This is the home of Black Bart and his gang, Shakespeare and the fan girling Miss Shields, and Red Ryder.

The real trick was knowing where to blur the lines and have those rings bleed into one another and I think our director must be a fricking magician because she has managed to do that very thing spectacularly.

I say it every day in real life, I am a lucky duck. I cannot tell you enough what a wonderful time I am having getting to know these little artists as well as making friends with peers that I had not worked with before. And now, it is off to the theater!

Thank you for once again taking a moment out of your lives, Gentle Reader, to read the musings of a vagabond actor just looking for new ways to explore emotion and view life through the stories of others.

Until the next time our paths cross, Dear Reader, stay safe and alert. Be sure to care for yourself and those around you.

❤️

🎼Heaven Knows I Was Just A Young Boy, Didn’t Know What I Wanted To Be…🎶

Hello Dear Reader!

I trust these last three weeks of the new year have been better than the first, no? I hope they have been. Things around here have been a cavalcade of emotions, I tells ya! What a first week of the year! Not only did we still have regular COVID to worry about, but now there are new strains? We lost 3 members of our family. There was an attempt at preventing the confirmation of a real leader-like president. There were happy moments with yummy dinners. Online visits with friends. Text message conversations with besties. Video messages with besties.

After that first week, things seem to have started looking better. Something that I have come to really enjoy lately, while talking with my longest friend from childhood, is the revelation of things that I had long forgotten.

The first high school that I had attended didn’t really have a theatre department. It was barely a class at best when I first started going there. I believe that the three years that I attended, it had 3 different teachers. But that is something that I can’t stand behind 100%. 😂😂

Each one had their good and bad, but I can only remember that last one had said the words “there’s no reason why you couldn’t be on that stage doing that too.” The day previous we had gone to the school performance of Pippin, which was life changing for me. I had never been able to sit so close to the stage where I felt like I could feel the Leading Player’s energy. I was in awe as I watched him charm his way through the show. I had never wanted to do something so bad. I feel horrible that I can’t remember her name, but I can see her face when I stop and think about her. No WAIT!!! Her name was Mrs. Current!!!! 👍👍 Woot!

I also recall that the first teacher claimed he was a working actor, but he didn’t really teach us anything that I can say was impactful. He definitely gave the impression that he didn’t want to help people become better at acting and I was really mad about that. This was the first time that I was able to take a “class” to learn how to be better at something I was doing since grade school. I couldn’t afford to go to any real acting classes, so I had to wait until high school. The only critiques that I can recall him saying are “You need to know what you’re talking about” or “How much time did you spend on this?” Each of those were usually directed at the other students. To my friends and I, it would be a “that was nice” or the occasional “good job.” I mean, that’s nice and all, but he never broke it down to say what was good, or how he came to the conclusion that the piece was ‘nice.’ Ugh, to say he irked me is an understatement.

Finally, in senior year of high school, I transferred to a school that had a whole department dedicated to performing arts and it was where I met John Healy. I learned so much in that one year than the entire previous three. When I think back on those years, I may not have learned much from those teachers, but I remember being allowed to perform pretty much anything I wanted during the first three years. I did a John Leguizamo piece that was SO not high school appropriate. 😳😳 My friends and I acted out the entire first scene of Hocus Pocus and we were the Sanderson Sisters, harmonies and all. WERK!🤌 I can’t remember any sort of “fun” feelings like that during my final year of high school with those new friends, so I guess that was where the trade-off was.

I used to believe that if I stopped and looked at the past, it wouldn’t do much to help me get ahead, so I rarely looked back. However, I am finding that this abstract portrait of my life that I am painting can’t be really seen or fully enjoyed if I continue to work with my nose pressed up against the canvas focusing on the details of only the right now. What I am learning from this is that while it is nice to have a certain color in one spot of your painting, maybe by adding it to another area of the canvas it can make your work of art all the more beautiful.

When my uncle, aunt and cousin passed away earlier this year from COVID-19, my sister texted me pictures of them and while the memories are super fuzzy, they made me smile. Hold your loved ones close, Gentle Reader, and step back from your paintings every once in a while to see if there are any colors missing from spots.

I hope the start of 2021 is proving to be better than last year. Mine may have started rocky, but things are looking up. Thanks for letting me bend your ear once again.

Until next time, Kind Reader, stay safe and aware. Don’t forget to create. ❤️❤️❤️

🎼Every Time I See You, Oh I Try To Hide Away 🎶…

Happy New Year, Gentle Reader!

I hope your celebration was great and you are looking forward to what 2021 has to offer. 

In my last post, I mentioned that I had purposely recorded a video to help me get over this block I have about being filmed or photographed. I am by no means shy but I am cautious when I meet new people. But still, not shy. An introvert at times, but again, not shy.

As I was lying in bed this morning, I had a thought pop in my head. 

You know how your brain can do incredible things? I began to wonder why I didn’t remember things and events that happened in my life.  There are people in my family that I have no idea who they are and how they are related to me. It could be that we never met, or we only spent a few hours together and it left no impression on me. Terrible to say, I know, but could that be the case? 

If so, what about when I think about the shows I have done? Yes, I have a hard time recalling those. Part of me used to think it was because I had done so many. The thing that currently makes me doubt that idea is that I can remember a lot of the people in the casts, so why didn’t I forget them? 

Dear Reader, the thought that I had this morning was “what if I downplayed my life’s events so much that my brain filed them away in the toilet bowl of memories and flushed them away?”

You see, as odd as this is coming from me at this exact moment and off the page, I don’t like to talk about myself. It isn’t because I am shy. We’ve established that already. I just don’t think I am anything interesting or special. When I am talking to people and they ask “what I am working on?” or “what have I been up to?” I tend to offer a quick mumbled reply with not much emotion behind it.  By doing this, it alleviates their curiosity and I can quickly ask something about them to keep the “conversation” going. 

Consider this, what if this is/was a form of subconscious self talk? What if I had been telling myself, unintentionally, all those years that those shows weren’t important or significant or memorable to me?   

I can’t recall why this was something that popped in my head but now it is all that I can think about. While thinking about this, I recalled that I felt this way for a really long time, at least since elementary school. Is it a coincidence that this was when I had my first role? I began to think about school in general and up until high school, I was a really good student.  Honor roll and perfect attendance most of the time. I recall it being boring. I would finish the work quickly and talk a lot in class. This always got me in trouble.  Every day. Name on the board and at least 4 check marks after it, that was me. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I was always in trouble. It never seemed to matter that I had great grades and that my social marks were good, nothing ever seemed to matter to my parents. Finally, in high school I realized that there didn’t seem to be any reason to try so hard.  So I didn’t. 

I think maybe that’s why I feel like everything I do is not really interesting. 

We all know how powerful intention is and the power of thought.  Why couldn’t this be the reason I don’t recall as well as I would like? 


This now begs the question, Kind Reader, what will I do now? Ummm, obvious I need to come up with an experiment! But, I don’t know what it is yet. 😂😂😂

Do you have any suggestions, Gentle Reader? Any thoughts on whether you think you can accidentally force amnesia upon yourself without a traumatic experience? Let me know if you have any suggestions in the comments or if you think this isn’t even something that is possible. I’d love to know what you think. 

Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe and alert.  See you next post and thanks for letting me bend your ear. 

P.S. Someone asked if the titles of the post are actual songs and the answer is no. They are lyrics in songs but not song titles themselves, usually.

No One Is An Island…

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Hello Gentle Reader!

I have two very strong beliefs that I like to live by.  The first is that I believe that the most important thing worth fighting for is love. I don’t mean physical love exclusively.  I mean, anything that you love with your entire being. ANYTHING.

The second is a more recent belief that hit me about five or six years ago. I believe that a life worth living is made up of the connections you create.

Something happened last week that reaffirmed that belief. I was working the #survivaljob when I happened to greet a very kind older Middle Eastern Indian woman. She was absolutely lovely and she spoke of India as though she were homesick. I could see the tears welling up in her eyes as she told me how she missed the custom of welcoming all visitors into the home to talk as that doesn’t happen here in America. We chatted for about 20 minutes and I could tell she was needing to talk to someone other than her family. That conversation affected me the whole day and I couldn’t get that image of her eyes out of my head. I felt like I needed that interaction to happen too, as a reminder that I needed to put the work into strengthening my connections and bonds to something more than just passing hellos or sporadic meet ups.

Then, on Sunday, a friend of mine lost her year long fight with cancer. She wasn’t a very touchy feely person, but we spoke about how she felt about it. The last time we spoke she said that the latest round of treatment was tough but she was tougher and she wasn’t ready to stop fighting. I wouldn’t expect anything else from her. She didn’t suffer fools and put up with no nonsense, and even as this was in her personality, we had some amazing and wonderful bouts of laughter.  The kinds that make you feel like you spent 4 hours in the gym working on your abs. People would walk into the museum and we would just wave them in because we didn’t have the breath to say hi.

My Dear Reader, these connections are important, I think, because they build a person into someone sympathetic and empathetic and more humane to others. The impact you leave on this world can be bigger than you know.

The thing about those connections, though, is that they don’t just move forward.  They move in all directions.  Music that you listen to can connect you backward through memories. Sharing a group experience (maybe like good theatre or concert or movie) can create a connection that spiderwebs out like a crack on a mirror.

No one is an island.  Even a deserted island is altered by the sea and wind and sun. I really hope Smokey Joe’s Cafe has an effect on the viewer to help them recall things that happened in their lives and I hope with all my heart that they are all good things.

Monday night, the full cast was together again and I got to hear “Stand By Me” and I almost broke down.  I did keep it together but I really just wanted to go home and knit (which is something my friend and I would talk about.)

Anyway, I am SO happy to report that #smojos is going REALLY well. I have 3 numbers to stage which are just ballads, but other than that, we are cleaning up numbers for the next two weeks.  After that, it is all run thru for nearly 4 weeks before we open.  We will be ready.

Oh, Kindest Reader, I look forward to connecting with you. What do you believe about connecting with others?

Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time!