Archive for August, 2003

A whole nother show

Friday, August 29th, 2003

So, the thing with a career in the theataah is basically just maintaining momentum. I wrote some time ago about a terrible audition I had to go to for a piece in the Estrogenius festival. The show was good but the part was basically just this guy in a play.

The audition was horrible, but I knew I had the Lucretia Jones gig ( and I didn’t really get too down about it. I went back and auditioned for a different piece in the Estro fest. The show was good and the part was great, nice and broad and sarcastic and tasty. I had a phone call during rehearsal last night from the director and, despite my terrible schedule and the fact that I have a show opening three weeks before this one, I was cast in the show.

I feel like you gotta just keep doing. It’s possible that my career will continue to develop like Mac’s has, just always having something on a burner somewhere, curious if anything is every going to bubble over. I know that all of what I’m doing will fly under the radar, but… I don’t know. I feel like I gotta keep doing it.

And, in case my head starts getting too big, I can always look at this;

Monday, August 25th, 2003

There is a new blog for a show I am creating with my producing partners. Hopefully, the two blogs will be separate, and this will be the only crossover.

I’ll try to keep up with both, but, y’know, I suck. So, maybe you’ll get both, maybe not.

The new piece

Thursday, August 21st, 2003

The Lucretia Jones Mysteries has begun. We started rehearsals two nights ago, and immediately blocked the first half of the piece. Last night we went at a slower pace, but got another twenty pages down.

Theater gets broken down a lot into styles of acting and styles of performance, and, like anything I guess, it can get broken down to the point where each individual show has its own style named the name of the show. Some of these are periphery enough to become complete styles themselves. If you are doing a “Urinetown” kind of show, it means the show is largely Po-mo and self-referential. If you are doing a “Rent” kind of show, it means you are writing pop music and you think you have street cred.

I’m not quite sure where Lucretia fits. It is a Mac Rogers show, which is starting to mean less and less the more prolific Mac gets. In college he repeated some of the same ways of making characters, even the same characters at times, and much of his work was centered around the college experience at a suspiciously familiar southern state school called “Meridian College”.

But each time Mac tries something new that works, he branches out again. For “Role” (now twice produced here in New York City), Mac had the actors assume characters on stage in front of the audience and in front of each other, and it worked. In this piece, we have gone a step further, with three actors and forty some odd characters changing constantly in front of each other and the audience. Even the one actor who plays Lucretia changes into another character for the benefit of a different character within the story. It works, believe me.

In a way, it’s a long-running satire of both Noir films and theater conventions, and it is broadly comic. But it is beginning to dawn on me that there is actually a really painful, really beautiful story underneath. These hard-boiled characters and caricatures actually seem to be figments of Lucretia’s mind, we see each one of them through her eyes and only as the refer to her. And if the caricatures are funny, they are also sad because Lucretia almost never sees them as more than that herself.

Anyway, I’m sure none of that will be apparent, people will just laugh when I get kicked in the nuts. But I love the script and, unlike most projects, I am loving it more the further I get into it.

To The Perfect World

Tuesday, August 19th, 2003

My brother Ian has a head like a pumpkin. In shape only, it should be said. He has the head that Charles Shultz was envisioning when he created a kid with a big round head. He also has medical problems that have plagued him since childbirth.

He also said to me once, when I was talking shit about a friend’s girlfriend, ‘there is no way to understand the mysteries and passions of another person’s heart’. He also said, when I was describing an ugly girl as ugly, ‘I don’t think she’s all that attractive, but I would never say anyone was ugly.’ He also pulled me up by my bootstraps when I was at my lowest, he gave me many of my best friends, he brought me my fiance, he has given me everything he has ever had, and has done so willingly and without a thought about being paid back.

My sister Michelle is fatter than she wants to be. She seems to have inherited that pioneer stock that puts away calories as fat, even when she’s burning a couple thousand a day. She is very pretty otherwise, but you couldn’t describe her as thin.

She also marched down to the rubble of the Twin Towers and spent six straight days giving firemen socks and water. She learned to be an EMT soon after and volunteered for the Red Cross. She is an avid vegetarian, a person dedicated to the preservation of animals and people who can’t protect themselves. She is taking French classes right now to be better prepared for the peace corps that she is entering in November. The Peace Corps, where she will be going to Africa to fight AIDs and teach about better ways of farming.

My fiance has a large nose, a great big honking Jewish nose with even a slight bend right below her eyes. Her skin is so pale that I can pick her out of a crowd by looking for a light source. She is five foot ten, and walks as if her legs are owned by two separate men, both of whom are trying to move in independent directions and, at the same time, trying to kill ants.

She is also the kindest woman I know. Her intelligence is matched only by her ability to implement her talents. She is a person who immediately dissects a system and then succeeds within it. She gave me her whole life without knowing what I would do with it, and she continues to give to each person who comes along, again with no guarantees, with no thought or conscience about how she will be re-paid.

She and I will have children. I am shaped like a pear. In fact, my head is shaped like a pear on top of my body that is shaped like a pear. I look like a series of Russian dolls stacked not inside each other, but on top. When we have Joker and Klea, they will probably be awkward, they will probably be kind, and they will probably be harassed by petty jealous assholes out there.

When that happens, I will sit them on my knee and ask them, ‘What do you say? What do you say when someone says your shirt is stupid, or your shoes are gay?’ They will mumble and look down, not sure if they are supposed to repeat what I’ve told them. “C’mon, Joker. Klea, what should your brother say when other kids tell him his skin is too pale or that he’s fat? What do you say when kids tell you that you’re clumsy or ugly? What do you tell them when they say you aren’t cool or hip or street or pretty or rich enough?”

“Go fuck yourself?” she’ll say, remembering.

“Go fuck yourself,” Joker will repeat, now that Klea has said it.

“That’s right my sweets,” I’ll say hugging them. “Just tell them, go fuck yourself.

Go fuck yourself.”

Jobs suck

Monday, August 18th, 2003

Jobs are hard, that’s why people are paid money to do them. I have an acquaintance who is losing her job after twenty years and she is blaming it on inter-office personality problems and reverse racism and anti-semitism, and I can’t imagine working at a job that I hate and having to deal with all that bullshit as well. Of course, she isn’t a very pleasant woman, and it seems to me that only unpleasant people get reverse racism, but whatever, there is still a lot of bullshit at every job.

But, just for the annals, let me tell you about this audition I had yesterday. I was invited to come in and read for a show. The part was written by a dear very close friend of mine and directed by someone I had worked with before who requested that I come in. The role is that of a thirty-something guy in a long term relationship that talks like my friends and I do, so it was almost cheating in my favor.

The first thing I read was okay, then the director gave me an adjustment and I did a really good job, as did the girl who was reading with me. I left for a bit and then was called in with another girl. This somewhat less talented girl did the reading with me and we were fine and when the director gave me my cue, I directed the last line of it straight to her. She was a little stunned and when she said ‘thank you’, the girl I was reading with said, ‘Oh, wow. I thought you guys were just talking, I didn’t realize that was the script…’

I mean, I don’t do stuff very well over all, but this particular character for this particular writer, I’m pretty damn good at.

So, I left and waited to be bunched together with other women. The director came out and called together everyone who had been auditioning and said, ‘God, I hate casting. Listen. Secret Ballot time. I want everyone to pull out a piece of paper and write down the name of the person you most want to do. Girls write down one of the guys’ names, Guys, do the same for the girls.’ And then she disappeared.

I assumed that she was joking, of course, you never go to a job interview and are asked by your co-applicants to decide who in the room is the hottest. That’s a world that we just don’t live in. But no, the other actors started pulling out pieces of paper and ripping them up and writing down names.

I stood up and said, ‘Listen, I know you all want to write down my name, but you should know, I have a burning horrible case of VD that is highly contagious.’ No-one laughed, no-one even looked at me. Of course they weren’t going to write down my name. ‘Seriously, it goes from my knees to the middle of my chest- just this horrible cracked scabby thing, so keep that in mind when deciding who you’d do…’

After deciding that I didn’t want to actually make a scene, I left.

A little plea…

Monday, August 18th, 2003

None of us are leaving, so just keep that in mind. I understand that we had our largest two buildings taken right out of the sky, and that definitely got us down. I understand that our economy went to shit, that our taxes went up just as our income and property value plummeted, and that certainly gave us pause. I know that we had a winter that seemed to last from mid September 2002 to mid May 2003, and my boots and I were pretty pissed off about that. I know that harsh winter ended just as swampy-ass summer started, and that might have been my biggest disappointment. And sure, I know that you shut down the power on a night when the air wouldn’t move and the temperature would drop from 88 to 87, then back to 88 with 70% humidity…

But, we aren’t leaving.

I’m not trying to be brave here or yell in the face of my tormentor because I have run out of options, and I know I’m not in an action movie. I’m just saying, we can’t leave. Those of us who are here, are here because we can’t do our thing anywhere else. Everyone who can be somewhere else is gone by now. But what you have now are all the poor people who can’t afford to move, all the rats and the cockroaches, and all the artists who can’t do our thing anywhere but here.

I know that I can put on a show in any city in the country. If I can do it in Carrboro, I can certainly do it in, say, Des Moines. But I can’t walk down the street in Des Moines with the same freedom from judgement that I can here. I could shave a smiley face into my back hair and walk shirtless for six blocks down 6th avenue at 5:30, and people would just roll their eyes and move past me. I can put on a play that is two sumu wrestlers throwing pies at each other for half an hour, and people would ask why I wasn’t taking any narrative chances.

People say what they want to here. And they say it loud. I have all the social conventions well documented in the back of my head. But here, they are optional. If a crazy person starts being too crazy, some New Yorker is gonna tell him to shut up. Everywhere else, there would be this enormous lag time while the crazy guy just keeps getting crazier and crazier and everyone around him will hope that the police will show up.

So, in any case, we can’t leave. We would if we could, but we would be less happy. So, do me a favor. Let’s say you have driven off everyone you are going to. Let’s say that the people who need that social structure and nicer weather have all moved to Florida or Connecticut or, God help them, Los Angeles. They’re all gone. So give us a really nice long autumn. Give us a fall with the colors and the sweaters and the rosey cheeked girls that I remember from high school in New Jersey. Give us three months of gorgeous weather and lazy heroes who aren’t on call. We’re gonna fight all winter, we’re gonna fight the next attack, and we are going to fight all next year. So, just a few months of peace as a present to those staying, please?

Either way, we’re not leaving.

Yoga, the new Yoga

Wednesday, August 13th, 2003

I did Yoga today for the first time. I’ll say this for Yoga, it sure is hard and boring. And if there’s anything perfectly matched to my personality, it’s something that is boring, hard and has no immediate benefit.

I made it about fifteen minutes, then I did two hundred bad situps and burned another 1000 calories with guilt.

My Mom

Monday, August 11th, 2003

My mom is about five foot two. She has been taller most of her life and she would probably claim to be closer to five foot four now, but she sort of disappears when you put your arm around her. She has become short enough to me that I need to keep her a few feet in front of me, or she simply flies under the radar.

To know my mom, you have to see her in her natural setting, which is anywhere that chaos is allowed to swirl. It isn’t possible to set her up in a pre-ordained situation and have her succeed the way she can if she is allowed to blaze a path directly through swampland. Schedules? Don’t talk to her about schedules. She understands just how flexible a schedule can be. Deadlines? Ha. Deadlines are for the dead, she is for the living.

Can she fold a napkin into a duck? No. Actually, maybe she can. But napkins are for cleaning up spills, and wherever she will be, there will be spills. So it doesn’t matter if it’s a duck or a crane or a goose, that napkin will soon be sopping up diet coke or coffee.

Does she clean up well? Sure. You can wrangle her into a suit or a nice dress. You can smooth down her rope thick chunk of horse’s main hair into a french braid and put her in a suit. But you should know that she doesn’t give a shit. There is no-one who cares less about her goddam hair in the world, and if she dresses in something even remotely fancy, you should know that she is doing it because she loves you, not because she cares at all.

Ian’s wedding this weekend was so many beautiful things. When I watched Ian and Tessa dancing and Rick sang, ‘and if a ten ton truck kills the both of us… to die by your side, well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine…’ it was heart breaking. The love Ian felt this weekend may finally convince him that his life is blessed, not cursed, that this feud with God has been won decisively in his favor. There were too many moments to dwell on any one, it was a weekend of love and joy.

But earlier, I walked in to where my mom had slipped on a beautiful dress and a gorgeous necklace and had wrestled her hair into an amazing braid and she just looked so sad. I asked her what was wrong and she said, ‘Ah, nothing… I just don’t look like the other girls. I feel frumpy.’

What a world we live in. You can talk about how teachers salaries should be NBA salaries and you can talk about how wrong the war is and how stupid our president is, but honestly, none of that breaks my heart. My mom is a giant intellect, a talent unmatched in anyone I have ever known. My mom measures with the inside of her hand, she listens with the bones in her breast, she experiences all of us, not just people but everything, with an eardrum that constantly beats in time with God’s vision of the world.

I have been there when she has said, ‘change that to a B flat’ or ‘let it bake for five more minutes’, or ‘she loved you as best she could, she just couldn’t love you very well, and you’ll be okay- you will be okay.’ I have been there for those moments and a million more that suddenly changed not only the small things in our lives into perfection, but smoothed my savage breast and made the entirety of my life livable.

We have the things that we remember to honor and celebrate. And with my mom, she may be standing too close for us to remember, she might just simply be too short to be in our eyesight all the time. But the timetable of my life has a clock next to it that is the timetable of hers, her view of anything is the view I measure mine against, and, if she were to ever sit down at my table she would hold the seat of honor.

Until, of course, she got up, grabbed her machete, and started blazing a new trail for me to be blown away by and hopefully follow.


Tuesday, August 5th, 2003

The Food Network is just genius. There are only two or three things we can actually do with our lives and since sex is legislated, shelter is being covered by whichever channel hosts all the stupid redo-your-house shows, the Food Network seems to be an excuse to print money. I know that I registered for awesome All-Clad pans and Le Creuset pots because they look so awesome on TV.

That being said, I would like to give a shout-out to the best show on FTV, Mario Batali’s show, Molto Mario. The Barefoot Contessa and Nigella Bites shows are just fine, and I especially like that Nigella, but seriously, whoever decided that stomach churning close-ups of battered covered hands was a good idea for a food show are not doing the math.

Mario’s show is shot in a studio made up to look like an Italian grandmother’s kitchen, and there are, I think, four total cameras. Three of these cameras are set up sit-com style, and then a fourth is hung over the stove-top, showing pork fat and vegetables sizzling. Each day, Mario invites three friends to sit in with him and then he starts putting plate after plate of amazing food in front of them.

He is an artist and a scientist as much as a cook. He knows the reasons for each ingredient, he knows the history of each recipe. Yesterday, as he was putting sugar and vinegar together for a sauce, he described the arrival of sugar in southern Italy in 851 and the long-standing romance the people have had with it. There are some areas where there are more trees and less goats or cattle, and when he cooks from those areas, he uses Olive Oil and never butter.

For him, it is never an exact science. There are some things he holds on to, you can always add cheese, you never speak in French, etc. But he just knows when to stop salting, he tells you when to add the fat and how long to cook the vegetables. Most importantly, he wants you to modify his recipes based on what is freshest, what fish has just been caught, what meat has just arrived at the butcher. He gets these not non-stick pans up to about 400 degrees and then shoots olive oil on them, they start smoking and lighting on fire and he just cooks straight through it.

When I direct, I have a habit of talking a mile a minute between takes. I am always worried that the one piece of information I didn’t tell someone is the piece that person will need in order to do it right. Mario feeds right in to this. You don’t walk away with recipes, you walk away with an understanding of why the recipes exist the way they do. There is a masculinity to his bravado combined with a maternal attention to detail that just thrills me to watch.