Archive for August, 2004

Stave off the Fury

Friday, August 13th, 2004

I’m writing in the way that I least like to write this blog. I’m sitting down with only vague unrelated snippets of thought that don’t seem to coalesce into anything, so bear with me. I’m not going to make a list, but if these thoughts seem unrelated, please forgive me.

On the train three nights ago, coming home from rehearsal, a pretty girl got on and sat down across from me. Because it was the N and it was after eleven, the train was packed like a New York City train ought to be. Next to me were two young Arab guys with Backstreet Boys beards and tight dark t-shirts revealing their too-much-time-in-a-gym bodies and a fair dabbling of gold jewelry. I only knew they were Arab because they were reading a paper written in Arabic.

I was listening to my discman because my Ipod is at Ian’s, and the CD I burned (by selecting things are random in Itunes and hitting the “burn CD” button) had “Wicked Little Town” from Hedwig followed by “Ruby Baby” from Donald Fagan’s “The Nightfly” and that combination is so nice I’m gonna do it on purpose on my next mix.

Anyway, the pretty girl was by no means conventionally pretty. I like girls who are maybe just a little too thin, just a little too tall, just a little like my wife, and this girl was sort of like that, down to the long nose and weird shoes. She was holding a small bouquet of flowers and as she sat across from me, she had her eyes closed. Tired, but mostly, y’know, contented, it seemed to me.

And then I realized, it was Wednesday. Very possibly, at 11:50 on a Wednesday night, she had just opened a preview of her show. Or her show’s been running for a while, but someone special came to see her tonight and brought her flowers. She was definitely a dancer, as she sat across from me, her legs crossed at the knee, she kept making large circles with her dangling foot, the way you do when you’ve been dancing your whole life.

Mac says our neighborhood has changed a little bit since he moved here six years ago. It used to be that all the cute girls got off at the last stop in Manhattan, but now that is clearly not the case. Young hipsters are moving to our neighborhood, even out past the last stop, and although I’m not totally against that, I do believe that we have amazing Greek and Japanese and Middle Eastern restaraunts not because hipsters go to them, but because Greek and Japanese and Middle Eastern people do. Plus, the fewer hipsters, the lower the rent, so I’m fine with this place not getting any more posh.

Anyway, my dancer girl got off at Mac’s stop and it was just me sitting with the young polished Arab guys and the rest of the hoi polloi. As we got near my stop, I glanced over and the Arab guy sitting next to me was looking for a phone number on his picture phone. When he couldn’t find it, he went back to the default picture. I thought I had seen it wrong, and kept stealing looks to doube check and then I saw that, yes, for sure, it was a picture of the World Trade Center burning. The Arab guy had a picture on his phone from when the second plane hit.

I don’t know. I had a moment of twinge and thought maybe I ought to say something, and, y’know, maybe I should have. But I didn’t, and I didn’t for a couple of reasons.

One, I just didn’t feel threatened. When tigers walk past each other on the plains, they know which tiger smells like he’s trying to fuck shit up, and I think people feel the same. I’m sure I’ll get shit for this, but this guy is just another guy who probably likes to talk a big game, works out too much at a gym, but would run at the first sign of trouble.

Two, I’ve done a lot of stuff in my life just to try to shock people, to get a rise out of them. I’ve always talked a good game about destroying the power structure and fighting the dominant paradigm, but a lot of that was theoretical. The kind of leap from thought to action is a million miles wide. In fact, I think the war between Bin Laden and Bush is a war of two guys willing to act without thinking, and that has inspired the multitudes because mostly we just think and then talk. No-one ever does anything, and this guy wouldn’t either.

Three, and this is the real reason, this guy was on the train with me. Guys in my neighborhood walk around with pictures of the world trade center on fire and the words “Never Forget” underneath them. Shit, half the people in my neighborhood have offensive-ass crap on their bumper stickers and t-shirts. There are “Hillary, Go Home” and “I Didn’t Vote For Bush, Chances Are You Didn’t Either” stickers on every other car. (How droll, n’est pas? To drive around New York with a bumper sticker saying you didn’t vote for Bush. Wow, *that’s* telling ’em!)

I mean, this kid on the train lives in my neighborhood. I’ve got friends who are producing a play called “I’m Gonna Kill The President” and it’s going up, in New York, during the convention. Am I turning these guys in? Members of my own family have followed assassination jokes with “God willing”, Jordana’s mom said she would vote for a Kerry/McCain ticket if we could be promised that Kerry would be killed, friends have detailed the tiny assassination bug robots they want to develop to get rid of world leaders. I mean, we’re just talking here.

And plus, the long faced girl with the eyes-closed smile holding a batch of flowers and making circles with her foot reminded me that terrorists are trying to make terror, Bush is trying to breed dissent and fear, and that all that matters to me and my people is that we can have three squares a day, a roof over our heads and a chance to tell our stories. This beautiful awkward girl just danced for two hours and someone gave her flowers for it, a scene that could have happened fifty million years ago on the plains of the Serengeti. When that most basic interaction takes place, I just don’t care about anyone trying to scare me.

Mountain Goats

Wednesday, August 11th, 2004

It’s so nice to write something about goats that has nothing to do with acting.

(On the acting front, I am faced with a problem I never use to have; getting off book. The last four or five shows I’ve done I’ve had a hard time, and I don’t know why. Even with Lucretia Jones, there were a few scenes that I was always about 90% on, and that was despite actual work on them. For the one acts and the shows this summer, I’ve really sucked. I would be more than happy to hear about your experiences with getting off book, even if you think I know it. As I said to the young playwright of Suicide/Joke yesterday, “Don’t think you’re restating the obvious. You’re going to be dealing with actors for the rest of your life, and we have an average IQ of about 90.”)

I know very little about the guy who goes by the name “The Mountain Goats” except that he has seldom written a song that hasn’t really moved me. It is the best of a kind of music that I think of as “College Folk Music”, and I don’t call it that because that’s what it is, I call it that in my head because I’m talking to me, and I know what I mean.

See, at Carolina, there is a theory about acting, that I will only dare to talk about once I am done with this present show I’m doing, Suicide/Joke, but which I look forward to ranting about in great detail. There is also a musical aesthetic, best summed up in the words of Clay Boyer when he said to me, “I don’t want to practice too much for fear that I will get really good.”

There is a lo-fi thrill that comes from bands like Television and Velvet Underground that I really dig, but the replications of that sound now mean less to me than the guys who make music with the same sort of energy but do it alone, with very limited information from other people. Nick Drake (aleph a shalom) was the real master of this technique, but there are hundreds of guys and gals leaning back from microphones in dark studios across America making music that my friends adore and put on mix tapes for me.

The Mountain Goats is one dude named John Darnielle, and that’s about all I know about him, except for about fifteen songs. He covered Ace of Bace’s “The Sign” much to the mutual relief of both Mac and myself, who, at the conclusion of a three hour epic we produced, would have to have sung something else at the top of our lungs had he not. Also, if you go through my CD mix collection (about twenty or so CDs that my friends and I have made for each other) you will find the rest of the Mountain Goats songs I know.

Except for the one I received over email yesterday from Steve. He’s getting married to a mail order Taiwanese transexual, but they are still having this huge wedding in a few weeks and he asked me to sing “Idylls Of The King” by the Mountain Goats. Any of you who are familiar with the song might think it’s a weird song to sing at a wedding, even Steve is worried about the lyrics, but I think it is one of the most beautiful love songs I’ve ever heard. Yes there are mentions of vultures and ghosts and locusts, but only to say how these images might be scary and horrible to most people, but in this world where I’ve found love they “all line up.”

Check this out:

This place, with its old plantations,

These roads, leading out to the sea,

This day, full of promise and potential;

More clay pidgeons.

For you and me, oh

All of them, all of them, all of them, all of them…

All lined up!

Huge crows, loitering by the curb

Our shared past, unraveling behind us like ribbons

And I dreamed of vultures, in the trees around our house

And cicadas and locusts and

The shrieking of innumerable gibbons, oh

All of them, all of them, all of them, all of them…

All lined up!

How long will we ride this wave out?

How long till someone caves under the pressure?

My dreams are haunted by armies

Armies of ghosts.

Faces too blurry to make out

Numbers far too high to measure…

Your face, like a vision straight out of Holly Hobby

Late light, drizzling through your hair

Your eyes, twin volcanoes

Bad ideas, swimming around in there, oh

All of them, all of them, all of them, all of them…

All lined up!

Man, I know Steve wants me to change the “how long” section a bit, and I’ll give it a try, but seriously, y’all can take your fucking Peter Paul And Mary bullshit, this is a real wedding song.

Fringe Show

Sunday, August 8th, 2004

In an effort to try to add hits to the website for the company who has cast me in this Fringe Show I’m doing, I am adding a link to my blog here.

Inertia Box Theater presents Suicide/Joke

Now let me tell you what this show has going for it, in case you are Terry Teachout and you want to know why you should go see it.

For the fans of theater out there, I can tell you that it’s a story told in haunting strange flashbacks at the moment of the main character’s attempted suicide, so you’re going to go on a somewhat linear black comedy adventure through the mind of a 16 year old girl as she recalls her insane exploits with her father and mother, their crazy friends, her first time getting drunk, her loss of virginity and her loss of faith in the people around her. And the whole thing is set in a series of cars that will manifest themselves in bizarre ways on stage.

Seriously. I don’t know why none of the press material includes “a 16 year old girl’s first adventures with drinking and sex”, but that’s a big chunk of the play. Actually, I know why it isn’t in the press material, these kids making this play really believe in the magic of the story itself, and they should, but it means they really don’t want to demean the material.

For you pervs out there, here’s something. The girl? The one who plays my daughter? Hot. Tres Hot. The girl who plays my wife? Also hot. And in a totally different way.

The daughter’s boyfriend? Good looking as hell. I don’t know if they are taking their shirts off, maybe? Maybe not? You’ll have to come and find out.

For you fans of Sean and Matt Kinney, this is the first time we’ve been on stage together since October 2001, and we’re fucking hilarious. Seriously, if you’ve done a show with me before, or if you’ve done one with MK, you know what you’re getting, and I swear to God, I don’t lie on this blog, I swear our scenes together are the funniest shit we’ve done on stage together.

Now, when you’re picking your fringe shows, you’re gonna see a picture of a shaggy dog with a tiny little “suicide/joke” written on top of it and you’re gonna look at the name of the theater company (which contains the word “inertia” in it) and you’re gonna say, “Dude, it looks like these people don’t want me to see their show.” You’re wrong, they want you to come, I want you to come, it’ll be a ball.

A little over an hour. Air conditioning. Cute girls. Me being funny. Young playwright who’s as sweet as bougatsa. Give it a shot.

It’s always something

Friday, August 6th, 2004

After bowing out of rehearsal early tonight, I managed to take care of a little bit of business and then caught up with the cast of the last show I was in. They have secured a run of the show, which is absolutely wonderful because they are good people and they’ve done a good show. They are also basing the cast around me, which is a gift I really don’t deserve and will have to work hard in the future to have earned. It’s gonna run four shows a week for the month of February, and they said there is real money involved now.

So, that’s kind of wonderful. Apparently the feedback on the show was overwhelming and almost all of it centered around me. My friend Mac did a show that I directed some years ago where I called him to about six rehearsals, I let him screw around and do anything he wanted both on stage and off, and he got rave reviews and I remember him describing it as the highest ratio between fun achieved and work done in order to achieve that fun of any show he’s ever done. Every time he said it, he seemed embarassed and I couldn’t really tell why. Now, I know.

It’s tought to be celebrated for something that comes really easy. It’s like Atticus shooting the dog in To Kill A Mockingbird. But I’m not going to be too introspective about it, I’m just gonna try to remember it the next time I’m doing a trust exercise.

(Y’know, I don’t have spellcheck on this blog and last post I wanted to write “labour” and here I’m not sure if it’s exercise or exercize. The only year of school I really attended was second grade, and that was in England, so bear with me. Cheers!)

So, there’s that

Wednesday, August 4th, 2004

I called to reschedule my fitting for this show I’m doing and the girl I was talking to sorta made a joke about the terror alerts. I said, “Yeah, proud to be an American and all that…” just trying to go about my day, and she said, “I’m really starting to wonder, y’know.” I think I actually said something like, “Yeah, I don’t really give a shit about any of that, can I just reschedule my thing and get back to my life…”

I’m a prick, and the last blog I wrote about how prickly I’ve been might just be a harbinger of future manifestations. Anyway, I jumped on this poor girl who is simply lovely, and I need to figure out a way to apologize. I’ll make cookies for rehearsal, I guess.

I’m a little bit blocked on my music, which makes sense. I’ve written four songs in the last week, at a certain point you run out of runway, so to speak. But it’s making me anxious as hell. I’ve been wanting to get my music published for a long time and now that it’s starting to happen it’s not flowing like it usually is. I have three totally different things I could be writing for and I just want to listen to hip-hop.

I left my Ipod upstate.

There were several things I wanted to talk about, but the one thing I keep coming back to concerns “News”. For the days after September 11, everyone was staring at the TV watching the planes hit over and over and over again and in a way it was kinda funny. I mean, we would sleep five hours and then, first thing when we woke up, we turn on the TV to see if there are any developments.

At the end of a basketball game that I’ve just watched, I can’t wait for Sportscenter, to see the whole thing again. Same with the Democratic Convention, I wanted to know what everyone was saying and thinking.

The problem is, when it’s personal news. If you have a friend who’s getting married or, like, our cousin who is pregnant, I just want to call over there every twenty minutes and find out what’s going on. But nothing is going on, they’re still just pregnant. In fact, the only possible news is bad news. And I feel so stupid, I want to ask “How are you feeling now?” every thirty seconds, as if there is something new to know.

I think maybe the question, or the wanting to ask questions, is your way of having the news for you too. We watched the buildings go down a hundred thousand times because we couldn’t bear not to share it, we watch Sportscenter so we can hear Trey Wingo freak out about an alley oop the way we just did twenty minutes ago. But with your friends, you can’t just keep calling or hanging out or whatever. You just gotta accept that things smaller than the news are actually larger in many ways, and your only recourse is to sit and smile to yourself.

People give you shit

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004

If you don’t write for a week or so.

Here’s the thing. Over the last little bit, I’ve been like a giant bleeding nerve. Everything that people say bugs the crap out of me. I find myself wanting to jump down everyone’s throats for every little thing. When people say stuff that I agree with, I don’t even waste time nodding, I just start scanning around the room for the next thing someone *might* say that I can pick apart. It’s making me unpleasant to be around.

And that should make for good blogs, this is where I rant and get it all out. But the truth is, I know when the rants are justified (yes, I do, fuckers, I know you think half of what I say is bullshit, but that’s only about a tenth of what I think of saying) and I know when I’m just picking.

We had our first read through of the Fringe show last night and, when asked about it, I said that these producers suffer from “a serious case of the sweets”. I was bitching about the fact that these people are incredibly kind. That’s a bullshit blog that will eventually be found and make someone unhappy, so I can’t write it. I spent the weekend with my family and a couple of friends and every fourth thing someone said made me want to leave the room, until I thought about it for a second and was like, “Why did ‘so, when are we getting dinner’ piss me off so much, that’s just stupid.” I’m not writing a blog about that.

So, let’s take a look at how the next year is shaping up.

August- I act in Fringe show, no-one sees it or cares. Jordana directs Mac’s play, ditto.

September- Recordings for a product that I actually love. I will have five or six songs that I’ve written on the project, which means I will get royalties, to the tune of almost five hundred dollars a year!

October-November- Possible, and only just possible at this point, tour of Lucretia Jones Mysteries.

December-January- Preparations and rehearsal for “Fleet Week” written by Williams, Rogers and Williams, a musical born of frustration and disappointment.

February- Application to the Fringe festival, breeding more frustration and disappointment.

March-April- Second tour of Lucretia, only if first tour works.

May- After two barely successful tours, Jordana, Mac and I look at one another with the sudden realization that we are out of work, have just been turned down by the fringe for the third year in a row and having given up our day jobs. We all secretly blame one another, especially after being on the road together for four of the previous eight months. Jordana says she needs her own place “just to figure stuff out”, Mac says he’s moving back to Greensboro “maybe crash with my mom and dad for a while” and I sell my guitar and this computer to pay rent before moving in to the farm house upstate and drinking all of Ian’s scotch.

Or maybe…

August- I act in a Fringe show that is well received, Jordana directs Mac show and gets raves.

September- The new product gets advance orders of 50,000 units and the recordings end up paying gallons both in terms of directing and royalties. I get $1,000 reprint fee checks.

October-November- We do five shows a week for eight weeks and while we are driving, we write and finish both “Fleet Week’ and “Torch”, and we grow really fond of both.

December-January – While we are in pre-production, the next set of recordings for the last two products comes through. Gideon realizes we have two complete shows that we could do readings of, and either one could be a killing depending on what an audience is looking for, but more than that we love both of them.

February- We submit two shows to the Fringe, but we also have several other producing houses in New York take an interest in both plays. A small bidding war begins.

March-April- We let the bidding build while we go on a second wildly successful Lucretia tour, going out west. At one of the shows in LA, Rita Wilson thinks it might make a hilarious movie.

May- We don’t even check to see if we got in the Fringe because both shows have been sold to different production houses. All three of the recording projects I’ve worked on get Rock-n-Roll level orders coming in. We get an offer to put Lucretia into development for a feature film to begin shooting the following summer and we fight for and get to have Jordana play Lucretia, which works out perfectly because we discover she’s pregnant. Gideon is now solvent, all three of us are on salary and have health care, Mac is invited to move to LA and in a stunning reversal of his previous jokes, he doesn’t. That summer, we produce “License to Kim Jung-il” and it’s met with half the crowd thinking it’s self absorbed crap and the other half think it’s brilliant. The following November, we produce “King Fat Fights Lucretia Jones, or Lucretia Jones Journeys To The Center Of The Earth” and, in what can only be described as an ironic twist, people from the Fringe festival ask us to bring the show there because they like the title…

So, we’ll see. I would say that what will happen is probably somewhere in between, but if you know us, we’re pretty convinced it will be something worse than the first scenario. Like, it’ll be the first scenario, but on the first tour, we all get dysentery.