Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Should I tell?

I've been keeping my new blog address secret, but I'm sort of starting to be proud of it. It's a little wonky and silly, and nothing much really happens, but it sure sounds like my life, so I'm gonna go with it.

A diary, of sorts. Enjoy.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Bad Hair Day

There’s no real way of knowing what might make for a “bad” day on the stage. You might not have had enough sleep. Or too much. Or just the right amount. There may be something going on in your life that screws your concentration. You might get some news right before going on stage, or maybe there’s some someone in the audience you’re particularly eager to impress. Maybe you’ve had a few days off. Or maybe the tides are wrong, or the phase of the moon. Whatever it is, you feel it. And you speak the lines and hit your marks and yet you can feel a part of you is somewhere else, watching you. “Ah, you’re not really here, are you?” says this part. And this part is correct, you’re not here, but you just have to keep going, because people paid to see this, and theatre only goes in one direction.

And you have about as much control over this as the days that you have a bad hair day. You smile, and style, and tell yourself that maybe people aren’t paying too close attention tonight, and you use your best techniques (because that is, after all, all you have to fall back on), and hope.

This is where (at this point, still based on an incomplete reading) Grotowski’s theories and my experiences converge. There is a trance that one must achieve (that is the word that Grotowski uses, and I think it is apt) in order to allow a character to speak, to move, to “live and breathe”. Voudon practitioners, when they achieve union with whatever God they happen to be invoking, call the experience being “ridden”. The God “rides” the priest, the priestess, speaks through him or her to the gathered tribe, the community at large, and offers advice, instruction. Maybe the God stirs up the pot for his own amusement, maybe he tries to help with the crisis of the moment. The village, the community, offers what it has in trade: food, drink, tobacco, women, boys.

Roberto Calasso speaks of encounters with the divine in a similar way, but he uses the term “rape”. A much harsher word, but none the less accurate, bringing as it does the innuendo of the Voudon term to the fore. All encounters with the divine have an aura of compulsion, beginning as they do with the overpowering brightness of the divine and the grudging assent of the ego, and ending in the (to the ego) horrifying dissolving of barriers and complete immersion. “Good fences make good neighbors” says the ego, and the divine sweeps down laughing like a storm and wrecks the fences, tears up the stones, leaves the land disheveled and ravished, the ego reeling from the blow.

In Grotowski, he speaks of a humility, a “holiness” that is not the “doing” of an action, but a removal of barriers of not doing. A subtractive discipline, that allows the character to speak through one by the dissolving of the restrictions on action and voice and movement, that gives the slightest impulse immediate expression. This may be why he speaks of an ascetic aesthetic (to coin a ridiculous phrase). There is a monastic quality to the whole thing that stems from negation. Negation of the “self” in service to the character. Negation of the habitual constrictions of muscle armor and ways of speaking and breathing. When the ego sees these things disappearing, since death, non-existence, above all, is the terror of the ego, it freaks out.

I remember during my days at school, no classes were more fraught with emotional breakdowns and freakouts than the voice and speech classes. Inevitably, as people were forced to confront and attempt to change their speaking patterns and their muscular tensions, someone would completely meltdown. Crying, shaking, hysterical (I must admit to a few breakdowns of my own in that class. In a side note, my voice and speech teacher also inspired a huge crush when I was in school, which I figure is also only appropriate. Transference and all that…).

This would seem to be why acting was so closely aligned to the sacred in Greece, and why the church always frowned upon it. There was something unwholesome about these people, these actors, going into their trance. Something unhealthy about those who were not themselves for a good portion of their day. Almost like prostitution, the way they opened themselves and let the “other” live through them, and all for a few coins. In a world that prizes the hard edged, the clearly defined, the actor seems altogether too… squishy. Too easily penetrated. This may also explain the homosexual panic that many people seem to have when they encounter male actors, as well. And why the actors that we love the most are the movie star celebrities, the ones that play only themselves, over and over and over.

So, basically what I’m saying with all of the above, was that I was off last night. I was thinking about how fucked my life was and I lost my edge. When it’s there, though, that brilliant edge of concentration is really something to feel. It makes the bad hair days worth it, I’m telling you.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Towards a Poor (and miserable) Theatre

On the recommendations of a friend I worked with at Cortland Repertory Theatre this summer, I bought a copy of Jerzy Grotowski’s Towards a Poor Theatre, from which I realized I stole some, if not all of my ideas for my last post. I’ve been reading it with some interest.

So, not one to let close reading or analysis stand in the way of putting my foot in my mouth, here are some initial thoughts.

It sure seems dour. This is theatre of the hairshirt and the flail. He constantly speaks of a “holy theatre” that requires sacrifice and self-immolation (that phrase “self-immolation” may actually be a quote. Can’t be bothered to look it up right now). A digging into the psyche and laying bare of the roots of action and emotion. My God. How many more times do we have to go through this? Perhaps, as so often happens with gurus (and especially acting gurus) there is a slight disconnect between the technique and the practice, but it sure sounds like he is a patriarch daddy-type who practices psychology without a license, putting his actors through the wringer in an effort to wrest great performances out of them. I have had teachers like this and I find them reprehensible. If Grotowski is of that stripe, I have no use for this technique of his. Good DAY, sir!

Well, this may be my own daddy-complex (often wounded by imperfect men and women who have experimented on me in their well-intentioned attempts to “mould” me) complaining. He may have aught to teach me, so I will keep reading, but I read with a skepticism that I did not possess when I was younger.

I have read about the great British actors, Olivier, Gielgud, and Guinness for example, and they had no recourse to such techniques, no need to put themselves through such fresh hell with every performance. The texts were tough enough, the physical demands plenty to engage and leave them worn out and frazzled. Perhaps that is what Grotowski speaks of, that the great Brits did unconsciously. Perhaps what helps to make the greats great is an emptying out. An engagement with the audience, with their fellow actors, and with the material that exhausts the mind and body, leaving a certain purity to shine through.

Regardless, when I was a Christian (or rather, when I was religious-mad), I would have taken to Grotowski’s theories like a drowning man takes to water. I loved the idea of sacrificing myself. I was all about that, and especially for art, love, “God”, or whatever. Now, I look on theories like this one with a certain distaste.

One of the things I love about theatre is that it is fun. Not fun in the sense of “Ha-ha, ho-ho, hee-hee, aren’t we having a wonderful time.” Fun in the sense of play, a concentrated engagement with the subject at hand that allows one to push oneself to the fullest. The way children play. Not forced, not straining and painful and “intense” but fun! I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun.

Now, I know that, in many of the circles I run with, when I’m at work, I tend to be the less-fun guy. When everybody is getting goofy, starting to get slappy, I am the one saying “C’mon, guys, let’s just get through this!” Yeah, I’m that guy. Always have been. So when I say I’m having fun in theatre, to me that means doing the work as best I can, and being totally engaged and trying to become more than I am right now. Always striving. Even the failures and mistakes and wrong turns are part of the fun, for me. Everything else is just sorta distraction.

So perhaps there is something to the Grotowski fellow’s theories. I’ll keep reading and find out, but truthfully, what I’m looking for is something that treats the process, not as pain and suffering, but as play. It can be painful, of course, in much the same way that an athlete is in pain when he pushes himself in training, but pain is not the same as hurt, i.e. aches are not injuries, and hitting the wall and going on is not the same as vomiting up blood. Acting should not be an assault on the psyche of the actor. We’re not strip-mining. We’re panning. The river will bring us what we need.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

but is it art?

Based on a discussion I had with Patrick the other day, I thought I should post this. I’m not under any illusions that I’m widely read (unlike some of the folks that I’ll be discussing in this post), but I thought I’d put in my two cents.

I was perusing my list of theatre blogs on bloglines, and a thought struck me. Of the theatre blogs I read on a regular basis, there were none by actors. Directors, yes. Playwrights, yes. No actors.

Now this got me thinking yet further. The discussion on most of the blogs often revolves around what makes for good theatre. A recent discussion, for example, had folks from all over the New York scene weighing in on the relative merits of “production values” and what the term meant. It was an interesting discussion, to be sure, and one near and dear to my heart. A lot of times, people will be talking about theatre’s place in society, declining audiences, relevancy to other media, etc. And sometimes the question is as simple as: what is theatre, really?

Well, what is it? A friend of mine recently expressed interest in getting involved in the extensive performance poetry scene in New York, and asked me to sort of introduce him to some of the better venues and groups working in them. I’ve had some experience with these groups, and I knew some of the folks pretty well, so of course I agreed. The angle of the performance of poetry interested me pretty intensely for a while a few years back, but I found I didn’t cotton to it as much as I enjoyed traditional theatre. But if you really think about it, aside from the conventions (verse instead of “natural” speech (though not always!), physicality based on gesture rather than full expression with the body (again, not always!), roots in hip-hop and its culture) what’s performance poetry but a different kind of theatre? At its essence, it’s a person using their voice and body to tell a story.

Is anything else necessary? Not costumes, not lights, not microphones, not sets, not pre-written, naturalistic (or otherwise) texts, not directors, not props, not musicians, not really even a stage. Nothing but someone with an audience telling a story using their voice and body.

The voice distinguishes it from dance, the body distinguishes it from radio. Other than that, it’s fair game. Anything else is convention. That gives a lot of leeway. TV shows and movies could be considered a subset of theatre, since the story is told using broadcast images of people telling stories. Animation could (I suppose) also be considered a subset, since representations of bodies are used… though one would have to argue about the more surreal elements of, say, Looney Tunes, and I don’t intend to do that here.

Performance poetry, is, obviously under this definition, another subset. The text is verse, the gestures have their own conventions, but the story is still told (or even only evoked) by a person using their body and voice.

I love working with directors. I love to take direction and work in collaboration with people who have differing visions than I. But under the definition I’ve posited directors are definitely non-essential. Witness the phenomenon of the “actor-manager” in British (and, I’m presuming American) theatre up until very recently.

Playwrights (and, in fact plays as conventionally understood, as in: stage directions, so-and-so speaks, such-and-such also speaks, they are told to do things, all as words on a page) are also not essential. Which is not to say I don’t like reading plays. I LOVE reading plays. I’m just trying to peel things down to essentials, here, and by this definition, not so much.

So that begs the question. Why is theatre being defined online by people who are, as far as I can tell, non-essential to the matter? This is also not to say that they shouldn’t. On the contrary, everyone should come up with their own definitions, and I love a good debate over ideas, even ones I agree with. But why are they the face of theatre? Where my actors at?

Well, I talked to both Stephanie and Patrick about this matter, and they both pointed out the same thing. Most actors are not writers. That’s all. In fact, many actors I know could be considered by some definition to be functionally illiterate. And lazy.

When I count the number of plays I’ve heard and seen ruined by an actor who couldn’t be bothered to speak the words of the play as the author wrote them, or who blazed past the meaning of the lines by completely ignoring such elementary considerations as punctuation, I’ll admit to becoming a little steamed.

Well, I can write (somewhat), and I can read (a bit), and so I guess I’m gonna write a little about that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What's all this, then?

Why did I start a new blog?

Because I wasn't posting here, and sometimes it takes a new enterprise to reinvigorate my enthusiasm for a form.

Because I was reading this compulsively at work and thought, "Man, that looks like fun, but I can't draw."

Because I'm thinking that, if I do it every day, I might do some posting here by accident.

Because I know that if I have a form that is constrained, I will inevitably think of things that don't fit in the form, and then I'll write them here, and that will be nice.

Because I think I'm just crazy enough to do something ridiculous and have it work out OK.

Because some people have more than one creative outlet, and some of them end up being kind of interesting.

Because little steps are just as valid as big steps.

Because I wanted to notice and appreciate things more.

Because in noticing and appreciating things more, I hope to become more grateful for my life, and therefore more in love with it.

Because I am trying to save my life from time, but I am restricted by my own laziness and so therefore must make arbitrary games in order to trick myself into enlightenment.

Because I am trying to save my life, period.

Because I am afraid that things are going to get much, much worse before they get better.

Because I will stem the tide of fear with humor and lighthearted-ness.

Because I still believe that life is worth living.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Lest we forget...

62 years ago today, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. About 105,000 people were killed in Hiroshima or died from injuries and radiation afterwards. The woman pictured above was waiting for medical attention after the bomb nick-named "Fat Man" destroyed her city. The baby, too weak to suckle, died 10 days later.

I spent years afraid that I would get out of class, look southeast and see a mushroom cloud rising over Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. I used to spend hours pouring over maps and thinking about blast-radii and wind currents. I actually woke up one morning, in the grip of some mania I could not name, and said goodbye to everyone I knew, convinced that today, out of a clear blue sky, today the bombs would fall.

The fact that this failed to happen has not reduced my fear by much. We still live beneath the shadows of terrible wings. The world must destroy all nuclear weapons, though this may be a sad exemplar of Pandora's Box.

At least we should remember those who have already died as a result of these weapons, and pray to whatever Gods you please to save us from the flames.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Who is it that you say I am?

You Are The Chariot

You represent a difficult battle, and a well-deserved victory.
You tend to struggle to get what you want, both internally and externally.
You excel at controlling opposing forces, getting down the same path.
In the end, you bring glory and success - using pure will to move forward.

Your fortune:

There is great conflict in your life right now, either with yourself or others.
You must find a solution to this conflict, which is likely to be a "middle road" between the two forces.
You posses the skills to triumph over these struggles, as long as your will is strong.
You are transforming your inner self, building a better foundation for future successes.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

best new song (of the moment)

This is goodbooks, and this song makes me cry.

'Course, I cry at phone commercials, so don't take my word for it. This just rocks.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Music Giggity - Save the Date! July 29th, 2007

I have another show! This one's a singer songwriter gig, just me, no band (though I am now officially looking for a band, man - gotta start it with a positive jam). I'm really excited to do this show, since it'll be my first gig playing my tunes since, like, 2000? 2001? Something like that.

I'll be playing at Otto's Shrunken Head on July 29th. You'll have plenty of opportunities to hear about it (I've already posted the date on my MYSPACE MUSIC PAGE), 'cuz I'm sure I'll be mentioning it ad nauseum. Just put aside the date, don't plan on doing anything, I want to see you there. Yes, you!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Wisdom of the streets

Recently, I reinstituted a long-standing policy I had to take any flyer handed to me on the street. There are two reasons for this, both of them quite cool. The first reason is that, when these poor schmucks are out on the street, they are often just trying to earn a buck or two. They don't get paid unless they hand out all the flyers, and since it doesn't take any effort for me to throw them away, I figure I can help a guy put food on his table.

The second reason is more selfish. Sometimes, the grinning fellow handing out the flyers in Times Square or outside the theatre is a genuine nutjob. Truly crazy. And he's printed up all these flyers himself, and he is going to save you from hellfire, which is cool, and very nice of him. And sometimes, amidst the usual "Dear heavenly Father, I am a sinner. By the grace of your son, Jesus... etc., etc., etc.", you can find a gem of weirdness.

I recieved a pamphlet from Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. Mr. Alamo, is, no doubt, quite sincere in his faith. But there is something very interesting going on here that he may not be aware of. I'm going to reproduce some large portions, here, but trust me when I say it's worth the effort.

A few years after I was born again of the Spirit, I saw the Lord Jesus Christ with my eyes wide open. Sue was asleep, and I was wide awake. The room was pitch dark when a Spirit resembling a three to four-foot fluorescent light appeared in the room. It came into the room with a hissing sound, and with another hissing sound it formed itself into an oval-shaped mirror with a gold frame around it. Jesus was sitting in the mirror. He sat upon a purple throne-like chair that was trimmed in gold. The purple fabric looked like velvet. The back of the chair came up almost to the top of His head.

Jesus is not blonde and blue-eyed with long, stringy hair. He had the same skin color as myself, olive, which everyone in my life calls Caucasian. Again, He had black, bushy hair and a gold crown, which was about a half inch thick. It sat right on the top of His head and it looked like it was supposed to be there. And again, I wondered why no one ever thinks to wear a crown because it looks so good. His eyes were dark brown or black, and He was very handsome, better looking than any man I’ve ever seen. He was looking directly at me. By the way He looked at me, I could tell that He knew all about me and that He liked me as a person.

In this vision that I saw of Jesus there was a look of concern in His eyes, like He wanted to give me some urgent warning. I didn’t know what it was. He began talking to me but His voice was broken. It was like He was on radio, on the air, and somebody was quickly turning His voice on and off, on and off, all the time He was talking to me so that I couldn’t get anything He was saying. Later, I found out that His concern was that I wasn’t communicating with Him much at all.

I was astonished to read in the book of James that the Word of God, again, which is Jesus, is the mirror, the looking glass for us to look at to see if our reflection in it is like Jesus.

Now, if you're familiar at all with South American shamanistic practices (or have read Grant Morrison's The Invisibles) you know that, in the trance state, the shaman is able to extrude a substance from his orifices which could be called a liquid mirror. This magic liquid mirror allows the shaman to communicate with entities outside of this dimension, and to learn things to bring back to this world about curing diseases, increasing peace between tribe members, and maintaining good realtions with the dead. I would say that Mr. Alamo's mirror bears at least a passing resemblence to this "magic mirror" and that he is experiencing, albeit with a heavy Christian cultural overlay, a very sophisticated shamanistic experience. An experience that, for all it's crazy christian vibe, is still psychologically valid.

The one thing about these experiences is that, as any acid casualty will tell you, it's all in how you interpret the thing whether or not your vision has anything to teach you. The old-school shamen always brought back the visions with their own cultural overlay, so there's no shame in that. Mr. Alamo's cultural reality tunnel is Christian, and therefore, he saw Jesus. Makes sense.

The other thing is that there is one thing that Mr. Alamo may be missing, and that is the understanding of what he is truly seeing. It's in plain sight, so he is forgiven for missing it. Can you see it?

(I'll give you a second).

That's right. He is looking in a mirror. Mirrors don't work by reflecting partly back. Mirrors are at their best when they reflect back perfectly, without distortion.

Mr. Alamos was seeing a vision of his truest self, and the thing he may never know is that he is seeing himself. (in dreams, all things are YOU!). His vision is telling him - he is Jesus!

All the major religions tell us this, but here is Mr. Alamo's *proof*. He has been granted an insight of a major order, but, sadly, it slips away from him. He doesn't dream big enough, and doesn't have the cultural support (as he would in, say, a Hindu culture) to see what a gift he has been given.

And look what else: "I found out that His concern was that I wasn’t communicating with Him much at all." His innermost self, his soul that is identical with God, is telling him that he is missed. His soul misses him and wants him to come home. Truly beautiful.

Mr. Alamo, for better or worse, is the real deal. He may be all kinds of crazy christian, but he is a real visionary. I wish that the psychological lexicon for him to interpret his visions was more widely available, and was more grounded in our culture, so that, instead of dividing us, and making us feel that we are separate and alone and far from our God, we could realize how close heaven is, how near our God. "He is closer than your heart," says the Quran of God, and here's hoping we all see.

Update: I also posted on my music blog over here at my Myspace music page. It has nothing to do with this, I've just had a lot on my mind, lately. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Random 5

Where we plumb the depths of a man’s iPod with unblinking eyes. Remember, when you stare into the playlist, it stares back into you (what?).

1. Marcus Garvey – Sinead O’Connor
This is off her amazing album of reggae covers Throw Down Your Arms, which was one of my favorite albums last year. The arrangements are very traditional, with some of the top session players from that style, very authentic, and she sings her heart out. There’s very little of the whispery, shattered sounding Sinead of old on this record. She’s just singing songs she loves. She is a serious one though, isn’t she? Most of the songs on this collection emphasize reggae’s political bent, rather than its party frat-boy, light up a spliff and relax aspect. Which, one might say, is a balance, but still.

2. There is a Light that Never Goes Out – The Smiths
Morrissey, god love you. This may be my favorite Smiths song of all time. The lyrics are heartfelt, with a sly wit to the mopery (“And if a ten ton truck/ crashes into us/ to die by your side/ what a heavenly way to die”). and the music. When the strings kick in on the chorus, I feel like crying a little. So beautiful. I want to cover this song so much.

3. La Costa Brava – Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
I went through a Ted Leo phase in 2005 and listened to Shake the Sheets until I couldn’t stand it anymore. As I am wont to do, I foisted my obsession of the moment on everyone that I knew, and got, to my surprise, mixed reactions. One listener complained that “all the songs started to sound the same.” What? How could they? But in listening to the new Ted Leo album, I understand what they meant. On this album, anyway, the songs do sound remarkably similar, if they make an impression at all. Shake the Sheets still rules, though, but this one, not so much.

4. There is a Reason – Alison Krauss and Union Station
This one’s the gospel tune she does on every Union Station album, usually penned by her banjo player, Ron Block. A very pretty tune, foreswearing the world and its treasures for the rewards of heaven. When I was rocking Christianity pretty hard, this tune moved me deeply. It’s still very pretty, but it’s almost as if I’m looking at a TV show I used to enjoy when I was a kid. There’s a certain nostalgia (one of my most damning vices) to the whole thing, a wistful longing, remembering the simplicity of belief. I mean, I still believe, I just believe a whole lot of other things, too...

5. Sitting in Limbo – Jimmy Cliff
Must be reggae day on Scott’s iPod, right? Love this one, too. Jimmy Cliff has a very pure singing voice, with uplifting lyrics and a sense of redemption in even the saddest lyrics. One of the reasons I admire reggae so much is that it is a music of belief, without neglecting the earthier aspects of being a human. I’m very attracted to strong belief of any kind, but I’ve found that belief only works through a certain amount of exclusion. Which is all well and good. Magic works as much by what we exclude as what we include. Then it’s just a question of finding a good set of included vs. excluded things, a set that suits you, that you can really get behind. Reggae has some things that I can relate to (earthiness, a connection to the land, to the oppressed, a sense of social justice, use of shamanic plants) and some things I most assuredly cannot (Hallie Sallasie is the Messiah? Really? Oh, and the fact that a number of sects in Rastafarianism believe white men to be the devil. Yeah, there is that).

On a side note, I'm pretty sure that nobody but me really cares about the History of Plunge, so if you're interested, leave a comment, and I'll hook you up.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

New blog post on Myspace

I'm keeping a separate little music blog over at my myspace music page. If'n you're interested, there's a new post on the blog that you can read by clicking here.

Love you, too.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Don't write about using drugs in yr blog

Turns out the good Canadian doctor used LSD 40 years ago and was denied admission to the US based on this. Apparently "drug users" and those accused of crimes of "moral turpitude" are not eligible to cross the United States borders.

I may have to take some posts off-line...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Giggity - Gig!

I know I promised a brief history of Plunge in my next installment, but I wanted to crow a bit. I booked a show for the summer! Huzzah!

I'll be performing at Cortland Rep in their production of Ten Little Indians opening July 4Th. I'll be playing the part of Philip Lombard. After I'd told a few people about getting the job, I mentioned to Katie how no one seems particularly surprised. "Except you!" she replied.

It's always funny, talking about booking a gig. There's an urge to celebrate, and, at the same time, I often feel slightly subdued. I'm reminded of the story of the football coach who frowned on his players doing celebratory dances in the end zone after a touchdown. "Act like you've been there before," was all he said.

So, I say, awesome! I've got a gig! Apparently I am, once again, a working actor. And yes, I do occasionally feel some surprise at that.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

You oughta know...

Two things. Firstly, I wrote a song for my friends at Stone Soup for their new show The Maguffin. They're doing that show in conjunction with another, called Stone, the next two weekends, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, at 8 pm. From their website:

Stone, a chilling fairy tale, explores the power and the risks of finding one's own place in the world as a young man is asked to deliver a seemingly ordinary stone to a mason's house. The puppet character elements in this production will be the first of such re-imagining for Stone, originally commissioned by England's Gay Sweatshop Theatre during the 1970’s.

featuring Seiko Carter, Caroline Reck, Ben Trawick-Smith and Chris Wild

The Maguffin by Adam Hunault and Stone Soup
This original farce speculates what happens when the gay marriage movement dies, creating a frenzied attempt by the Republican Party to preserve their mainstream identity. In order to perpetuate their struggle against the agenda of the liberal left, they attempt to revitalize the gay marriage platform. The Maguffin takes a decidedly modern look at how contemporary political issues are exploited by sound-bite politician's need for media control and re-election.

featuring Lauren Birriel, David Bryant, DR Hanson, Jacques Laurent, Marsha Martinez, Rachel Rhodes and Maria Schirmer

I got to sit in on some of the rehearsals, as well as a reading, and this is a terrific show. Please do try and come out and see these excellent performers in two great shows for the price of one (plus, you can here one of my songs as performed by someone else). You can buy tickets online here.

These guys asking me to write a song really meant a lot to me, and they sort of spurred a recent burst of creativity that has led to some really great breakthroughs. I'm very grateful to them, and I want to do my best to support. See this show.


Also, those crazy Nosedive kids are doing a show about the dark underbelly of Suburban complacency, the seething, poisoned heart of the American Dream, the violent, animalistic rage that lurks beneath every banal water-cooler conversation at the office. You know... a comedy. Come see their take on it... I saw it and it reminded me of Blue Velvet meets Kids in the Hall. It's kinda ridiculous. It's called Suburban Peepshow, and it's also playing the next two weekends. Check it out, mang. Buy tix here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The MySpace-ness Music Stuff and a Brief History of My Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy

So, if you're on MySpace (and I've "Friended" you there) then you probably know that I've got a new music page up (haven't seen it yet? go to and check it out). I had the idea while I was on tour, to just sort of start putting stuff out there, see if there was any response. So far, and admitedly it's only been like, 12 hours at the most, but the response has been kind of nice. The people that I wanted to hear the music are hearing it. Since I do a lot of things in a small way (theatre, poetry, saxophone) most people don't know that there's this entirely other side of me that actually has been around and doing stuff for a lot longer than the theatre or the poetry (well, almost as long as the poetry)...

When I was 3 I wanted to be a drummer. When I was 8, I wanted to be in KISS (I wanted to be Gene Simmons (a.k.a. "Dragon") because he had the coolest makeup and spit blood). When I was 13 (and already starting to become the effete geek I was for most of high school), during lunchhour I would hide from bullies in the library and listen to the Beatles or my sister's Pat Benetar tapes. I would dream of being a rockstar. By the time I was 14, I had Queen's "Night At the Opera" completely memorized and was starting to look to my friends to start bands.

Mark Lancaster, Tim Lang, and Tony Gomez all had instruments (bongos, a Casio Keyboard, a 5 stringed guitar) and I coralled them on weekends and we made music, including a cover of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young's "Find the Cost of Freedom", and a song that involved slowing down the "Samba" setting on the keyboard until the rhythms were almost unrecognizable. We called ourselves "E%" and made our friends listen our Radio Shack Dictophone tape until the writing wore off. Nowadays, they'd call it low-fi, and if we had lived in Brooklyn we'd have had a three album deal on K Records and would be huge in Belgium, but since it was Tucson, we languished in obscurity.

When I was 15, a bunch of my friends who played band instruments and I (I had picked saxophone through some wilful perversity that made me not want to be predicatable and play drums) started a band for a talent show. We called ourselves 909D (after the rehearsal room we practiced in) and, when then talent show was over, the bass player, the drummer, and I tried to put together a rock band. We called our selves (after much debate, and mostly because of me) HarborcOat (yes, with the capitalized "O" and everything) after my favorite song off the R.E.M. album Reckoning, even though we sounded exactly nothing like R.E.M. We recorded three songs at a real recording studio (Westwood Studios in Tucson, for those who keep track of such things), and promptly broke up because I had to go to a swim meet.

I did a couple of bands after that, and then went to college where I played saxophone with a pop-punk band called Dennis Mitchell and the Wilsons. The band was good but I really wanted to sing and write the tunes. I met a guitarist named Chris Kaufmann, and we ended up forming a band called (after much debate and mostly because of me) Plunge. My record for choosing band names poorly continued unabated. But we were cool because we had two awesome drummers and were the loudest local band in Tucson - we were measured at 125 decibels on stage, with no soundsystem, just the instruments. I got vocal nodes from singing in that band (actually "pre-nodular formations" but whatever).

Then our bass player left and we couldn't find another one (always had a problem keeping bass players in that band, probably because Chris and I were always telling them what to play), so the band sort of fell apart. Then I moved to New York, started doing the singer-songwriter thing around town, had to quit because I had no friends and nobody to come to my shows, and got back into theater.

What's the point of all this non-sense (and congratulations if you've read this far through what is, I'm fairly certain, my most rambling, incoherent post yet)? Just to say that, while all this was going on, I was also: acting in shows, writing scads of poetry, and playing saxophone all over the place. And some of you know parts of this (my theatre friends know one part, my poet friends know another, friends who have known me since college know another), and none of the parts really seem to overlap, you know? But I love the music. That's, in some ways, the part that has the least compromise, the part that is the most self-directed.

So I'm starting to come back to it... maybe I'll do some open mics and see if there's any interest, maybe get a show. Baby steps. Just to see what happens. Suffice to say, if you've listened to the music (and, again, you can find it here at: let me know what you think. Do you like it? Hate it? Want to make babies to it? I'm interested. If I get a good response, I'll start posting other new songs. I've been writing a lot, and I've got a bunch of songs to share. Let me know!

Next time, more about the sordid history of PLUNGE!

The coolest thing EVER

Seriously. This shit makes me so happy I think I'm gonna burst.

Not for the faint of heart. So strange it might make you want to be normal again.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007

one more thing I'm obsessing over

The great John Crowley, whose books Aegypt, Little, Big, and Love and Sleep have changed my life in many ways, is putting out the final book in the Aegypt series this month. So I've been re-reading the entire series with more attention to detail than usual. I tend to read books the way a third-grader drinks water after recess: in huge gulps, with lots of gasping breaths in between swallows, as if my life depended upon the next mouthful. I'm forcing myself to slow down a little, take my time and really feel the details and "stars, stones, and roses" that populate Crowley's books. If you haven't read this series, it is, amongst other things: an alternate history of the world (for the world has more than one history), a book about angels and gods, a story of John Dee and Giordano Bruno, a gnostic fable, an astrological allegory, and a story about a historian trying to write a book. It's about heartbreak, the webs we weave out of love, and a love note to the 16th and 17th centuries. It is one of the best sets of books I've ever read, by one of America's greatest authors.

Enough hyperbole (all true, though. Every word). Go read and enjoy.

I'll post links to his books shortly. The browser I'm on won't let me do more than one window at a time.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What I'm currently obsessing over

1. The Mountain Goats

While I was in Boston rehearsing for the life-disrupting upheaveal that was to be my first (and, as of this writing, so far my only tour), I was riding in a van with some co-workers. The radio was on, and I heard a song that stopped me dead. Those who know me well, know that I have, at the best of times, difficulty staying focused when there are good songs playing. I should say, rather, songs of any kind. Any music at all, actually. Muzak. Somebody whistling as they wander past. But really good music, and I am worthless. I tune out everything else, and listen only to the sound. So this song came on, a voice that sounded like it came from the depths of the past, lyrics that resonated perfectly with what I was going through. The song was "Going to Georgia" by a fellow named John Darnielle, who recorded under the name of The Mountain Goats, and the lyrics went like this:

The most remarkable thing about coming home to you is the feeling of being in motion again.
It's the most extraordinary thing in the world.
I have two big hands and a heart pumping blood and a
1967 Colt 45 with a busted saftey catch

The world shines
as I cross the Macon county line
Going to Georgia

The most remarkable thing about you standing in the doorway is that it's you
and that you are standing in the doorway
and you smile as you ease the gun from my hands
and I'm frozen with joy, right where I stand
The world throws it's light underneath your hair
40 miles from Atlanta this is
Going to Georgia.

The world shines
as I cross the Macon County line
Going to Georgia.

I wrote down as many words as I could remember in my notebook, driving through Boston on that rainy day in August, and waited through a good half-dozen indie-rock songs (something by blonde-redhead that didn't suck, a Billy Bragg tune that was actually Phranc), buy I couldn't care less because all I wanted to know was Who? Sang? That? Song? And finally the DJ came on and went through the list of the last 10 songs he played and I got incredibly worried because what if the title didn't match the words, and I couldn't figure out where in the play list it came? But of course the title exactly matched the word, and I went out and found every single recording of the Mountain Goats I could. He sounds like an appalachian meth-head crossed with Cormac McCarthy or something. I love the Mountain Goats, and over the last few (difficult, struggle-filled, brilliant, complicated, unhappy, aching-with-happiness) months, they have been one of a handful of things that have been my solace and my salve, calming me when I am too wound up with whatever crisis or disaster that seems to be on the horizon, getting me amped up and ready to face the next challenge. Thank you, Mountain Goats.

Truthfully, everything else has been a distant second in terms of obsession (that I'm going to talk about here, anyway), but there have been a few other things.

2. Writing songs about other people

When I found out that the majority of songs that The Mountain Goats wrote were not from his own life, but fictional, I freaked out a little. For one thing, I was actually very happy, because that meant that the man who wrote songs like "No Children" or "Family Happiness" was not (as I for a short while thought) a crazy mo-fo, but a gifted, imaginative lyricist and performer. It also meant that one didn't have to write about one's own life to write emotional, heartfelt, powerful lyrics. This was quite the revelation. Given that I had no desire to talk about my current situation until it was sorted out, both in my mind/heart and in the lives of those affected, it gave me something else to talk about. And it was much easier. The attempt to make something that spoke directly to my experience was difficult, and, in some ways, a little stifling. I mean, I've got enough experiences in the past year to make a whole mess of songs, but I don't know that I really am ready to do that, yet.

So when I was in Phoenix, ditching one of my closest friend's weddings to be with my father as he recovered from heart surgery, there was a book sale at the state fairgrounds. I went there early to get good deals, walking through residential Phoenix in the early February morning, thinking about things, feeling sorry for myself, pity for my father, etc. Finally made it to the state fairgrounds, and the book sale was in the animal exhibition hall, which, in spite of it's name, did not smell of animals at all. It was the size of an airplane hanger, and filled with tables full of books. Unfortunately, most of the good ones had been picked over the day before, but I manfully found a few books I wanted. Then, at the reference table, I found the treasures: a book of anecdotes, a dictionary of unusual and archaic words, and a book called The Book of A Thousand Things. Now, the anecdote book was simply interesting, paragraph long stories about various famous and somewhat-famous people, but the Book of a Thousand Things was even cooler. This book, written in 1943, purported to answer all sorts of questions about the world. And it was written exactly that way, in question and answer form. "What was the year without a summer?" "Does lightning make natural glass?" and crazier questions that I don't remember right now. So I've been reading these books and writing songs based on whatever I happen to find interesting in them. As it turns out, writing songs ostensibly NOT about yourself is actually a great way to talk about things that you're thinking about. I hope to have a whole album worth of material by the summer.... I'll keep you posted.

3. Boxing

Man, I don't know names, or titles, or any of that, but I am digging on watching guys beat the crap outta other guys. While I was on tour I watched, while sick as a dog, the movie Cinderella Man. The boxing sequences really got me going, and I realized I wanted to see more. It was exciting - none of this team player stuff, none of this running or dribbling or passing or excessive body armor and end zones and free throws and foul balls (most of which I really enjoy watching live, but which on TV just bores me to tears). No, this is just two guys circling a roped-in square, trying to knock each other down (but not kill - the aggression is carefully monitored. The idea is not to permanently damage each other - that wouldn't be cool at all, just cruel). Boxing is international, too, so that means when somebody says they're world champion, they're not just making it up ("World Series"? When a Japanese team is in the running with a Cuban team for the pennant, then we can call it a "World Series").

There's a couple of TV shows, too (Rome, Lost, The Tudors, BBC's Robin Hood), but you know, maybe some other time I'll obsess about that. So, back to work (yes, I'm temping again, after a brutal three months of beating my head against the audition wall looking for paid work as an actor). Enjoy.

Thursday, March 8, 2007


In John Crowley's excellent (and, in my case, life-changing) book, Aegypt, the word "hiraeth" is defined thusly:

"...he knew well that burden of feeling the Welsh call hiraeth, something neither hope nor regret, neither revelation nor memory, but a compund of all of these, a yearining that could fill the heart as with warm rain."

I have suffered under the weight of this feeling, this hiraeth, for what feels like most of my life. Most of the major decisions of my life have come at it's urging, most of my mistakes and almost every one of my triumphs through it's counsel.

This excuses nothing. I am responsible, to paraphrase the Gourds song, for the stupid things I do. There is no way to avoid it, though - I am, at heart, not a rational person, moving through life making decisions the way that most people seem to do, thinking things through. I long for something, and I keep longing, casting about as best I can to try to find it, without even truly knowing what it is.

I hope that the people who love me understand. I do many things that seem willful, or destructive, or completely unintelligble.

I'm trying. As are we all. I hope we shall arrive soon.


So what's going ahn? I spend most of my days auditioning for work. Since I was laid off of my job a year ago, I have been focusing on my acting career. I use the word "career" with some degree of accuracy, since I did, in fact, work as an actor for about 6 months last year, on a tour which precipitated a great deal of upheaval in my life. I'll write about that some other (much later) time.

Right now I'm working on a new show: Menaechmi Twins by Plautus, put on by Theater Ludicrum. It's another kid's show, but the translation is terrific, it's a fun show, and I'm really looking forward to working.

I'm also writing a new song for Stone Soup Theatre Arts new show The Maguffin. It's gonna be fun.

So that's that. I'm making it through, and I hope you're doing OK, too...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Random 5

In which we plumb the depths of the unconcious using the divination tool of the first 5 random songs on the Ipod. Behold the Mystery!

1. Imogen Heep - Sweet Religion

Discovered this little chantuse on tour. Very English sounding, lots of looped vocals and overdubs over electronic beats. The song she did for Chronic(what?)cles of Narnia ('Can't Take it In') makes me cry. Like a less shrill Kate Bush, but way more beautiful than that description makes it sound.

2. Queen - You're my Best Friend

Off "The Game". A genuinely sweet song, but I'm not sure if this was during the phase when he was lining boys up outside his dressing room after his show for orgies. I wonder how his partner felt about that...? Not to cast aspersions on his character, but I wonder at his sincerity...

3. My Vien Ilin - Ted Leo & the Pharmacists

A very repetitive song - the lyrics rock, though: "And when I was 17/I declared myself a DMZ/but they continued bombing me/hot and steadily". and then it freaks out about midway through and gets super heavy. Ted Leo makes me feel better when days go shitty. Hope, spitfire, music to make me want to keep on fighting. He's a rockstar in my world.

4. Roll to Me - Del Amitri

"Look around your world pretty baby/is it everything you'd hope it'd be/the wrong guy, the wrong situation/the right time to roll to me." A perfect gem of late 90's pop. Would be perfect on a "Friends" soundtrack (and I think they were), but that's not really an insult. Jangly guitars, tighttight harmonies, under three minutes. Just the right thing to put a smile on my face.

5. Hey Julie - Fountains of Wayne

It's like the music gods took pity on me today. I needed good, sweet, uplifting music, and three songs that make me feel better, right in a row. "Hours on the phone making pointless calls/I got a desk full of papers that means nothing at all/sometimes I catch myself staring into space/counting down the hours till I get to see your face." I don't have a fucking desk job, and frankly, that's enough to make me feel like the hours of pounding the pavement, getting rejected, humiliating myself at dance calls (for REAL, that sucks), it's all worth it. I don't go to an office every morning. HAH! Fucking right on!!!!!

Friday, February 23, 2007

My New Year

I'm gonna get myself in fighting trim
Scope out every angle of unfair advantage
I'm gonna bribe the officials
I'm gonna kill all the judges
It's gonna take you people years to recover from all of the damage

Our mother has been absent
Ever since we founded Rome
But there's gonna be a party when the wolf comes home

- Up the Wolves, The Mountain Goats

Friday, January 5, 2007


I've actually been watching this little meme for a while and hoping that it would come to me, but when it does... all I got was a rock.

The meme goes:
1) Find the nearest book
2) Open to page 123
3) Type lines 6-8 of said book
4) Tag three others.

So the book nearest to me is not cool, nor is it particularly interesting. Over where I usually sit with the 'puter, I'm reading a copy of "Undoing Yourself With Energized Meditation", which is kinda interesting, and makes me look like a freak, which I always am into. But here, in living room central, I'm working on audition stuff, and here I have a copy of "The Ultimate Audition Book: 222 monologues 2 Minutes & Under".

The lines are:

"Sir Epicure Mammon: a foolish nobleman, 40-50

Sir Epicure Mammon has been conned by Subtle into
believe he possesses a stone that can cure all disease."

Does this tell me something about myself (or rather, something I didn't know already)? Does this exercise in bibliomancy reveal some hidden wisdom by which I might guide my life, or a path down roads heretofore veiled?

No, it does not. Ah, well.

So tag, Rich, Oscar, and, oh hell, let's say Danielle.

Plus, go here for one of the freakiest things I've ever seen. Enjoy, and happy new year!