Archive for April, 2004

The night before

Friday, April 30th, 2004

I have never done this before. I’ve never sat down with my computer and started writing a blog with little or nothing to say.

I have a list of stuff to do in the morning, starting nice and early. If I get everything done, we’ll be on schedule, but there really isn’t enough time to do everything.

I’ll say this for that. I started my theater career at Citrus College, and they knew how to wring every moment out of a young man’s schedule. I have no idea how they pull it off, the adults, year after year. The kids are elastic, they just don’t ever sleep and they power through. I have the feeling that I am going to sleep for about fifteen hours after the wedding.

Steve said to me today that he doesn’t think they should have to come out the week before the wedding because they’ll have everything under control. And it’s true, if we don’t do all the printing of stuff ourselves and all the centerpieces ourselves, etc, then it would all be easier. But I can’t wait to pull up this blog the week before his wedding when Deb cancels work and flies out because everything is falling apart.

Mac is sweating the best man speech. Jordana called me in tears because she couldn’t relax. Kent just called to say he was overnighting the trombone because it doesn’t fit in his carry-on. Ian and Michelle are rehearsing their song tomorrow morning.

That’s just how it goes. And I love all these people, they’re making me a tiny bit nuts, but the truth is, for the most part, we’re getting it done the best way we know how. Tomorrow night is the rehearsal dinner, then’s the wedding, and then Lucretia and auditions and work. I feel like I gotta try to be here now, or I’m gonna loose this time, but it’s really easy to just try to get everything done while holding my breath. I gotta remember to breathe a little.

Wasting Time

Wednesday, April 28th, 2004

If I am posting a blog in the next two days, it’s because I’m not doing something else that I am supposed to be doing. I just spent an hour on a train in order to spend an hour going over the service, which will take ten minutes. It’s that kind of thing.

Again, and as always, I know that’s part of the deal when you’re producing, and I’m starting to get excited about the finished product. I got a letter from the Shalom Orchestra, saying they are excited about our simcha and mazel tov. I don’t know what any of that means, but I know we saved five hundred dollars by not hiring another trombone player, which is fine because only I’m gonna miss him.

I got married once before, and it wasn’t nearly this cool and the girl wasn’t nearly this awesome, although she was awesome in her own way. There is a picture of me with Ian, and it looks like I’m laughing and rolling my eyes, but I distinctly remember trying not to cry when the picture was taken.

My family were not very cooperative, and that’s what bummed me out, but you know what? It was the photographer that was making me feel like a dick for not having the whole family in the same place. Fuck that asshole. We have a cool photographer this time, a cool wedding site, a really cool bridal party featuring all my brothers and nephews, and a really cool bride and bride’s family.

What’s weird is that I didn’t give a crap what anyone thought last time, probably because I didn’t really have any respect for anyone. Now, I love everyone and I’m scared they won’t have fun. The bigger a jerk I was, the better the wedding.

Anyway, one last picture of the dining room…

No Lie

Tuesday, April 27th, 2004

Yeah, Monday, yesterday that is, was the day you have with every show. That one day where you think it isn’t going to happen and even if it does it wasn’t worth it. It’s a crappy place to be, and since there are no rehearsals for this, I don’t get that rehearsal after the bad rehearsal feel in order to snap me out of it.

But I do find myself recommitted, and I realize now that I was hoping this would all be over because I’m actually really scared about what people will think. I’m scared of what they will think of the wedding, what they will think of each other.

I mean, the people who are coming are damn near stereotypes. They are so totally *them*, a lot of them. I was looking around the bachelor party weekend, and if I had skipped the conversation part of getting to know my friends and had simply picked people by hair loss and weight gain patterns, it still would have been roughly the same group.

If you want to find something to hate about each of the groups coming to the wedding, you’ll find it. My mom? Easy. My dad? Forget about it. Jordana’s folks? Fish in a barrel. If people want to hate this wedding, it’s gonna be really easy to hate it.

And I care much less than I am worried about how much Jordana will care. If someone drinks two glasses of wine, we’re gonna hear about how they have a problem. If someone speaks in Hebrew, it’ll be a joke for years to come. Someone’s dress is too low? Someone’s had work done? Someone is too fat? Someone’s anorexic?

And the bachelor weekend was exactly what I needed. These guys? Jesus Christ. I didn’t shower for four days and these guys didn’t *notice*.

So, there is a certain amount of hesitant optimism when I think about the wedding. Not dread, like yesterday, but a sort of balanced hopefullness.

I’ll tell you this. When I think about all the people, I get nervous. When I think about slipping a ring on that girl’s hand, I just about want to die of joy.

And when I see all of our awesome presents, I realize what I’m getting out of this is more than just a happy marriage, but also a brand new kitchen.

And new silverware…

Other People

Monday, April 26th, 2004

It’s a slippery slope, dealing with too many people over too much time. When you don’t have the time alone to yourself to clear out the cobwebs, it can be pretty rough for most people.

For me, I jsut had the bachelor party weekend that was *exactly* waht I wanted. My friends and I talked for three days. That’s it. Well, we bowled a little, ate some sandwiches, drank a lot, but mostly just talked.

My friends are really lovely. They are a group of kind and intelligent people who not only love me, but they seem to love each other so much. And they are really gentle people, kind and thoughtful with each other and with everyone. Cracking up these guys means something.

But for most people, and for me most times, you need time away from social demands just to let your internal compass spin around a few thousand times and then slowly come to a rest at true north. My marriage has already started, and I know this because the only way I can find true north is with Jordana’s help.

For the boys and girls who got together this weekend, I hope you find a time to be alone, and for people who feel alone right now, man, I hope you get a chance to have your friends around you.

To tell you the truth, I’m excited for the wedding, but I’m really excited to be on the other side of the wedding and to be back in rehearsal. This is a great show we’re gonna put on this coming Saturday, but I’m psyched to going back to creating the next new piece.


Sunday, April 25th, 2004

Originally published one year ago today…

This ought to be instructional. You can’t come here every five or six days and expect to simply be entertained or, more often, shocked at my level of self absorption. You ought to be able to learn something as well. So, here’s a little lesson for all you career actors out there. This is for all you people who fell in love with acting because you got cast in your high school production of Annie Get Your Gun, but to this day don’t realize that you were cast because the Drama Teacher needed a popular kid. I call it ‘Acting For The Effortlessly Attractive’.

Your job is acting. Your job is not writing, directing, costuming, producing, choreographing, lighting, set or sound designing or, most importantly, performing your stand up. You are going to want to do all these things, because deep down you know that you don’t know a fucking thing about acting and you want people to think you are smart and cool. But you need to remember that you don’t know a fucking thing about anything, so trying to help with everything else makes you an asshole.

a. The writing. Say what the playwright wrote. I don’t care if you think it’s your job to bring the funny, I don’t care if you think memorizing the lines too well make your performance wooden. Say the words. A person who considers his body to be his instrument has no right re-writing words from a guy who considers his mind to be his. As an actor, your job is to look at what is written, and make that into the character. If you decide who your character is, but the lines don’t match, then you are wrong.

b. The directing. If your director says ‘I need you stage left’, the only right answer is ‘Thank you.’ Among the large, long list of wrong answers is, ‘But why would my character move stage left?’ It’s your job to figure it out. Do it, and make it real, that’s why acting is hard, why it’s a discipline. It isn’t about being famous, it’s about thinking and being present all the time. Don’t suggest direction to the director. She or he is seeing more than you are. That, and, as a dumbshit, you don’t know anything anyway so just feel blessed that the hours of work you spend on your abs gave you the opportunity to even be a part of this.

(As a quick aside, when I started acting I was taught the ‘Christmas Wonderment Cross’. It is a sure fire way to follow the blocking without too much worry about motivating the motion. As a child entering a department store, when you see all the decorations and the giant tree, you can cross anywhere, even while talking to the guy behind you.)

(Also, one of my favorite directors, Dan Kois, always builds the entire set for you, fourth wall included, every imagined detail, so that even where the set is incomplete, you always have reasons to go to another part of the room.)

c. The costuming. If your costume looks dumb, then maybe you are supposed to look dumb. If you can’t move right in your costume, then find a new way to move. If it makes your ass look big, or if it gives you love handles, then guess what? Your character has a big ass and love handles. If you didn’t want your character to have them, you should quit eating ho-hos. Theater isn’t a vanity project, so shave off your fucking 90210 beard, take off your fucking wonderbra and try to pretend you’re a real human being.

d. Producing. Don’t make the staff come to you, begging for your free time. If acting is a priority, then switch shifts at work, apologize to your girlfriend about her birthday, give the cat too much food in the morning and do your goddam job. We are actors, that’s what we get to do all day, and there is no-one luckier in the world. I could give a shit if your cable gets turned off, let it go and read ‘An Actor Prepares’ with all your new free time.

e. Designing. As with everything else, you have no idea how things look to the audience. The design team wants you to be who they need you to be for the show, they don’t care if you look yellow in blue clothes or if you have trouble seeing because of the follow spot. The platform is too small for you to release your inner demons? Then try acting. There won’t always be room for you to do chin-ups before your five line walk-on, so the art better start being internal.

f. Your Goddam Stand-up. Sure, we laugh at some of your shit. Sure, it makes it harder to get furious at you for the rest of your staggering lack of efficiency and character. But if someone makes a joke about dogs licking their balls, you don’t have to say ‘If I could do that, I’d never leave the house.’ Remember when you used to walk around saying ‘You Look Mahvelous’ and then you stopped because everyone hated you? Your routine is better than that now, but no less stolen or offensive. Making fun of other guys in the cast when they look retarded is one step beyond the usual cruelty associated with this act, because looking retarded is the first step to an honest performance, and you are unable to even get that far.

Take this as lesson one. Just this much will make you ten times the actor you are now.


Friday, April 23rd, 2004

Making this wedding happen is turning into a production, just like any other piece of theater, except that it seems like there is nowhere near the panic.

When I produce, what I like to do is raise the money, or have the money, and then hire the right people to do all the right jobs and when they *really suck*, I’ll say something. That’s exactly what’s happened with this wedding, except no-one has ended up *really* sucking. There have been a few moments of suckage, but nothing too bad.

Of course, just like when you produce a show, there is one tiny detail that, if you want it to happen, you end up with a hacksaw, a tube of glue, some black fabric and a needle-n-thread in your living room, covered in sawdust and throwing something over your shoulder that you just spent hours making.

The cool thing is that I’ve been there before. I made a stand for a violin, it took me hours and when I got done I looked at it and tossed it over my shoulder and it shattered. Fine. I’ve tossed so much shit over my shoulder when I’m making set pieces.

But I can see this freaking someone out who hasn’t done theater before. And it’s theater specifically, I know a lot of people have produced recordings and movies and shit, but unless you’ve hung blacks it aint quite the same thing.

My Sweet Living Room, you can see the drill, the violin and the Star Wars action figures. You can also see some of the stands we built, and the box for the clarinet/flute stand we bought. You know how we do…

Hair Production

Wednesday, April 21st, 2004

I have spent a lot of my life doing very few things, and that is sort of upsetting. I’m more eclectic than most, if I was one of you guys I’d kill myself, but I wish that my interests were a little more varied. I am a pseudo Actor/Producer/Writer/Musician/Arts-Teacher/Etc. and all of that is actually in the same field. If I was a Producer/eXtreme-Sportsman then I would rock.

Whatever, the fact is the two things I have done more than anything else, and that is acting and getting my hair cut.

You thought you were getting off easy.

Here’s the thing- the most difficult haircut to get is the one where you really like the haircut you have, but it’s about a week too long right now and you just want them to trim the tiny little bits off so you look like you looked two thursdays ago. It’s impossible. Every single part of your head needs it’s own maintenence, it’s own moment with the barber, and it all has to come together as some sort of even idea.

Theater is the same way, I’ve seen it from the perspective of the director, the writer, the music director, the actor, and to everyone you can’t figure out why so much time and money is being wasted on the other parts of the show. Hours and hours are spent with guys holding gels up to their eyes, with people moving you or a set piece over two feet.

But the fact is that you have to do all of these things. It’s insane, but it’s like a bad haircut if you don’t.

Some guys can get away with any old haircut. Some guys are so damn good-looking that they can get a *bad* haircut, they can do it themselves with a hand mirror and kitchen sheers, and they still are very handsome. For some guys, the shittiness of the haircut is part of the charm.

These are the pieces of theater that I find really appealing. Our show “The Lucretia Jones Mysteries” is sort of like this, especially now that we’re touring the show. In its initial production, the props started out all over the stage tables and ended up all over the floor. Mac had a joke where in the middle of one scene he dropped character, checked the lights, moved spots on stage and became another character and the place exploded in laughter.

Doing this show reminds me of the two times I’ve shaved my head. I’m not a great looking guy, but I have a really nice shaped head, and both times I shaved my head I was surprized and pleased by how awesome my life suddenly became.

I really do love big theater with big sets and coordinated light and sound cues, but “The Fantasticks” and “Children of a Lesser God” and our little show give me a thrill in a way that the bigger shows can’t really. It might be just what I’m going through right now, trying to simplify my life, but I’ve been through Tech Week hell for shows that suck, and believe me, it’s like a perm, highlights, streaking, body wave, gel and hairspray on a fifty year old Times Square hooker. You wonder why anyone did all that work.

Most Important

Monday, April 19th, 2004

I’ve had several Blog ideas running around in my head for the last week or so, incredibly disparate things from biblical quotes on justice to the paranoid alienation of the Muslim world to the most recent Actor’s Nightmare I had about the wedding, but almost always, when my navel gazing gets too deep, something happens to shame me into perspective.

Jordana grew up with her cousins the way I grew up with my brothers and sisters. Her mom’s sister’s kids are almost like step siblings, they saw each other all the time, most of their memories as children feature one another. The family stories I tell are about Steve’s babysitting and Michelle helping me to the basement, for Jordana they are about battling affections and secret plots shared among the five cousins. In the same way that Jordana is getting the other ten people in my immediate family, I’m getting the ten others in hers, including the cousins.

Gabby is the oldest cousin, a great student who followed in her father’s footsteps and became a doctor. She is beautiful and tall, the most like Jordana in many ways (although a little less oddball), and the sense you get from the stories of their shared childhoods is that she was the one who was the most mature, most organized. There is always one in every family who is alphabatizing the crayons, and organizing the play time. For us it was Michelle and for them, I feel like it was Gabby. She was always the surrogate parent in the room.

She fell in love with and married a really awesome guy, Adam. During family dinners, Adam and I find a way to sit in a corner and crack each other up. He’s also a doctor, and he’s actually terribly shy, the only way we can talk shit is if we happen to be sitting next to each other. He took classes at UCB and really loved breaking out of his skin for a bit, but with the family he still barely talks above a mumble. The cool thing is that he and Gabby stick together with such affection and love, they’ve been married for four years, almost five now, and they stick together as close as Jordi and me.

A week after they got married, Adam’s father literally up and died. He hadn’t been sick, no-one saw it coming. My feeling is that the shock of that has made it difficult for Adam’s mother to be happy, and that’s made it really hard for the mothers-in-law to have any kind of a relationship, which is just a shame. But maybe that can start changing now.

Gabby learned last week, and let us know last night, that she is just barely pregnant. She’s less than six weeks along, but she couldn’t wait to tell us any longer. It’s the beginning of the next generation in this family, it’s the promise of a whole new life. A third generation doctor? This child’s grandmothers on both sides were heads of their temples. She could be. Or He could be. A comedian, a lawyer, maybe just a great cook who makes people laugh or a beautiful girl that breaks everyone’s hearts or… This is the beginning, again, all over again, one more time, another life learning all the same bullshit it takes all of us a lifetime to learn.

I can’t wait to see this baby. I can’t wait for Gabby to be the mom she’s been preparing to be for years and years. This kid couldn’t possibly ask to be born to better people, funny, smart, sensitive, beautiful people and this family that I’m joining a few months before he/she does is about as great a group of people as this kid could want.

I can’t even write about this very well… My affection for them is boundless and I’m so damned excited for this, for them. My wedding is important, but this is the good news.

Amy Mine

Monday, April 12th, 2004

Almost as significant as getting married is the fact that our long time room-mate Amy moved out today. It’s taken her a few days to haul her stuff ten blocks east, but last night she slept at her new place and today she took the last load.

When Jordana and I were moving out of the first place we lived together (which we call Deb’s place because, well, the place was Deb’s parents and it was never “Deb and Jordana’s place”), we were trying to find our own apartments. Jordana was willing to pay 12 or 13 hundred a month to stay in Manhattan, I was basically broke but was talking about moving in with my sister… the whole thing was ridiculous. None of our plans were *possible*, yet they were our plans.

Then Jordana suggested that we find a place, a two bedroom, and make it work for a year or so with a room-mate. The only person we could imagine living with was Amy, who was Jordi’s pot-luck suitemate at Carolina, and was a friend of mine from back at school. I had never known Amy when she wasn’t laughing and smiling and generally being really funny and fun, and if she had lived with 18 year old Jordana and didn’t kill her, she was way ahead on the “puttin’ up with bullshit”-ometer.

Amy has lived with us since August of 2000. That’s as long as I’ve lived with anyone. (In fact, it’s weird to me that I’ve lived in New York for four years and I still love it here). During that time, I’ve discovered that Amy and I have a lot in common, she isn’t actually the sweet fun, funny girl all the time, much of the time is very dark and very complicated for her. I’ve had lots of long discussions with Amy, not just about our frailties and shortcomings, but also our desperate need to embrace those aspects of ourselves that we are most ashamed of.

Look, I lived with her for four years. If you want a list of her faults, the things she does that could drive someone crazy, I could give them to you. But the truth is that the aspects of her that are maddening are motivated by the same things in her that are touching. She walks around with a physical and metaphorical barrier protecting her from the world, everywhere she goes she brings herself. A few moments…

The three of us were playing cards at two in the morning and Amy, 90% asleep, asked who was losing and I told her she was and she smacked her head and said “that’s *terrible* news”…

My mom had made orange rolls and Amy was slathering butter on one of these sticky sweet buns and she looked at me and said “what the fuck do I care?”…

New Year’s Eve party, Amy, miserable beyond recognition, made a brave face and kept serving drinks and food to everyone until it ran out and she ended up making trays of frozen french fries and passing them around as appetizers until she finally quietly retired to her room where she cried herself to sleep without anyone knowing…

Many, many mornings on weekends, Amy would ask, “um, Sean, is there, y’know, *breakfast* coming?” and I would, beside myself with excitement, make some kind of awesome breakfast…

But, when I think of Amy, her loyalty and dilligence come to mind. She is searching for metaphysical shortcuts in many ways, but she is willing to work ten times harder for them than anyone I know. Raised with deep-seated racist tendencies, Amy has embraced every other culture to the exclussion of none. She speaks Italian and Spanish, and has spent time in Italy and Mexico as a resident, not a tourist. And her battle against her own self hatred is one she shoulders every single day, and that she faces bravely.

She quit her sales job to take a 50% pay cut in order to teach school in Harlem. She did it because her sales job made her sad and teaching kids makes her happy. The financial concerns, the classist concerns, the racist concerns, nothing slowed her down. She is, without a doubt, a great woman, and I’m really proud to have her as my friend.


Thursday, April 8th, 2004

I ripped a CD of my dad’s on to Jordana’s hard drive the last time I was in Napa, and I listen to it constantly. It’s The Best of the Italian Sax Quartet, and there is much to be said musically about these guys, about Italians and about quartets in general, but there will be other days for those blogs, sad to say.

It is the pressure of other days that leads me to where I am right now, and a song on that CD called “Oblivion” that gives me the word for it. It’s hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t been in that moment, so bear with me.

Like Jesus and Love and everything else that means a great deal to people, I’m sure there is some sort of chemical explanation for the mental escapades you go through when you are a teen-ager and a twenty-something, but, also like those other passions, if it feels real, there isn’t much you can do but accept it.

When I was in those moments, when I had clearly had enough to drink but I drank more, when I was as full of drugs as I could possibly be and I did more, when my life was a car balanced on the edge of a cliff and I kept trying to shift my weight forward so it would fall off, when I was in these moments I never felt a lack of clarity. I wasn’t being perverse and my judgement wasn’t crippled. Oblivion, to me, wasn’t self destruction, it was more self actualization.

There was a passion in me that was jet fueled, and it led to crippling, staggering mistakes. I remember, even in to my twenties, my whole body would lock up, all my muscles tensed, curling up in a corner where no-one could see me or bother me, for ten minutes at a stretch, and I was doing it consciously, trying to exhasut myself so I wouldn’t continue on this path of total destruction. Failure and scorn worked as well as praise… that’s not true, they worked better. Getting hit in the face, looking in the eyes of someone who’s asked for very little and you’ve let them down, it was like a shower of melted chocolate. Pain, horror and disappointment were the only things that felt real to me, and it wasn’t for the sake of drama, they really were the only things that I could feel.

There was a time, as I was growing out of this, that I was afraid of what I might do to people that I was close to. This destructive impulse goes a long way to explaining the tortures I put myself through romantically, and why people’s disdain for my exes was actually reinforcement. There were a few years when I realized that decent people were becoming my closest freinds, and they didn’t know that I had this biological need for oblivion. I was scared that my love of torture meant that they might get some of it on them accidentally.

But, as time passed and I think I either matured, or learned… or maybe the chemical things I went through in adolescence finally calmed down to an actual adulthood, I began to get the same thrills from tiny things. Talking to Jordana, cracking up Mac or Steve, and, y’know, my acting, my writing music, *cooking*- oh man, cooking really does it for me, these things give me tiny little explosions. Making my friends laugh, making my family laugh… I don’t know how it is that these simple pleasures have taken the place of that full body flexed scream that was my life when I was younger.

But they have, and that’s why I’m getting married again. And this time, it’s for better or worse, it’s not for, y’know, hoping for the worst. I’m not afraid in any way, it’s like those demons are gone to such an extent that I don’t even recognize who I used to be.

Quartets, by the way, are just about my favorite way of making music. But there will be time to talk about that later.