Archive for May, 2005

The musical dot com

Friday, May 27th, 2005

We’ve got a website up for Fleet Week.

If you’d like to listen to the MP3s from the show, they sound pretty bad due to crappy bit rate, but you can hear five of the tunes here

We’re very excited about the progress the show is going through. Our stripped down version of the play came in at 103 minutes, but that’s with no set changes or intermission. Also without the massive applause and laughs. We might need to cut out another five minutes to allow for spontaneous ovations.

Anyway, it’s what we’ve been up to. There’s a blog over there as well that I will write in occassionally, but it will be very dry in comparison to this. No posts on the benefit of plural marriage. No use of the word “Fuck”. I may even use it less here.

I wouldn’t fucking bet on it, of course.

Happy Birthday, Ian

Thursday, May 26th, 2005

This is Ian and Tessa walking down the aisle at my wedding. Ian was 36, I am currently 35. That’s how fast time passes.

Michelle saw this and said, “Jaysus, Ian is really handsome”. I said, “No, he’s not, he just knows how to hold his head in a picture.” Sibling rivalry, folks, is alive and well.

What’s wrong?

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

Why is it that there is such a gigantic chasm in American Theater between independent productions and legitimate productions? I understand that there is a choke-hold on the amount of money coming in to theater simply because the return on the investment is so low, you have one show going up in one theater and a certain number of seats a night so there is really a very limited amount of money you can make. That choke-hold means that the big shows take the big money and the scraps are available for everything else, and it’s really tough to make theater for no money at all…

But independent films are shot for less than it takes to produce an off-off run, they involve more people, more know-how, and they end up *beter* much of the time than these terrible runs going up all the time in New York.

The problem is that we have no self-respect. None. We assume that people don’t want to work with us, that people of any significant talent or noteriety want only to work with people who have significant money and fame. We don’t think we deserve to work, and we act like it.

We have no self-respect. We’re willing to do anything. Our mantras are horrible. Work begets work, your only job is to audition, be available for any angle, your job is self-promotion. It’s awful and it isn’t true. My whole life I’ve worked, and the level of work I’ve dragged myself through has only succeeded in providing me with more opportunities to drag myself through the same level of work. Being satisfied with showing up to an audition but *not* getting the job is setting the bar at “self-hatred” and barely jumping over it. Self-promotion is almost always desperate and dishonest.

And the truth is, I’m just not available for any angle.

Why do I spend an hour calling rehearsal spaces, only to have most of the phone numbers no longer in service? Why do people show up at interviews without reading any source material? Why do we involve ourselves in producing, which is essentially a combination of politics and book-keeping, when we are essentially all artists?

We have no self-respect. I have friends who are wonderful actors that know as much about getting their 501C3 status as they do about Meisner. And all of these guys who start out wanting to be directors that become stage managers or sound designers because they can make a tiny chunk of money are nothing compared to the comstume or lighting designers that become something else, something sexier, like “actors” or “directors”, because that tiny chunk of money isn’t worth the depression, and you are, basically, whatever you can sell that you are.

When you enter in to a meeting for a job you want, you bow and supplicate your way in, flirting and flattering these stone mountains of casting directors and choreographers, and then you find yourself on the other side of the table, smiling huge and desperate at name actors and major talents, hoping they will grace your piece with their presence. The pecking order is confused, the more an artist needs his community to rally around a specific voice or idea, the less likely everyone will be to follow suit.

Because we smell fear, we smell desperation. We smell it because we wake up covered in it after every sweat-bath night of pipe-dream dreams filled with the fruition of our indignations, the possible but impossible soaring we dream will happen if we just keep flapping our wingless arms, the delusional climax that *just might happen* after years of masturbating with sandpaper.

We just have no self-respect.

So, can we do this? Pay our cell-phone bills and refuse the sex-farce musical that isn’t funny. Don’t fake it ’till you make it, instead sit down and try making something. Throw out the bad scripts you write and don’t call yourself a writer until you’ve done it. We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard of *work*, not success. And go to the audition, but prepare yourself to refuse the job if it asks more from you than it gives. If every actor refused to work for a piece they don’t believe in, maybe the passion for the *work* would return.

God, actors sit around and, if they have any measure of self-knowledge, can rant about the terrible theater they’ve done for *way* longer than they can talk about the work they’ve done that has changed them. Gideon’s work may not have changed every audience member, and I don’t expect every audience member to think that our theater is good theater. It is simply passionate theater that we love.

If I offer you a role, and you think the show is dumb, then turn it *down*. But if you like the *piece*, not what the piece may be to the rest of the world, you genuinely like the piece, then sign on. I promise you, when the money comes in, you’ll get it. And if it doesn’t, you can go hungry knowing you did the piece you actually *loved*.


Friday, May 20th, 2005

I am an arrogant sonofabitch. I also just don’t get it.

I believe that the government knows better how to spend my money than the people do. I also don’t support faith-based initiatives.

I don’t care at all about human life from the moment it begins. I am also a bleeding heart softie on criminals.

I don’t understand that Americans overwhelmingly describe themselves as capitalist and Christian. I also can’t see the blinding liberal bias in the media.

I believe that science is more important than faith. I also don’t get my news from Fox Cable News or any of the Right Wing online news-zines.

I believe that homosexuality isn’t a sin, despite what Jesus said. I have also actually read the bible, and know that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.

I live in New York, completely out of touch with middle America. I also celebrate the fact that centers of higher learning, commerce and art overwhelmingly vote against middle America, because artists and teachers have infiltrated young minds and poisoned them against natural law.

I want restrictions on handguns and on energy consumption. I’m also totally out of touch with the fact that middle America has no interest in the inner cities or the haze over Hollywood.

I want to stop my government from being able to fully protect me by limiting its access to my sex life and my private thoughts. I also want to rely on government to solve all of society’s ills.

God help me. You don’t even *see* that you’re trying to have it both ways?

I guess the afore-mentioned leaps in logic are *mother’s milk* to anyone who thinks Carbon Dating is an inexact science.

Look, I’ve had enough, and any of my conservative friends know I’ve had enough. If you believe that the old testament is an acurate description of the beginnings of life on this earth, then I have no business with you. You’re an idiot. If you believe that Jesus Christ hated Jews and Arabs, then you are as stupid as people are made.

I don’t want stupid people in my life. I’ll go ahead and be in hell when I die, so long as you morons aren’t there.

If you’re a neo-con because you believe that re-shaping the middle east is the most important thing facing America today, and you believe in giant governmental and corporate intervention is the only way to ensure peace, then you are my friend. You can hang with me any time. I don’t agree, but I might be wrong. We don’t have the facts yet, this will all bear out in the future.

It could be that the social net we are spinning for the middle east won’t work. It could be that the social net that the left has fought for in America won’t work either. But if you believe that large groups of people can get together to further the good of the world, then we can talk. If you think that doing great evil to build future even greater good, then we can talk, we can hang. I might disagree, but it isn’t stupid.

But if you believe that you need to protect you and yours, that you need to be left alone to procreate and respirate, I got nothing to discuss with you. If you want the governement out of your life, then quit using our cops and our streets and our parks and our military and fucking fuck off. If you believe that the discovery of facts is dangerous, then you are too stupid to be my friend.

I am not that smart. You’re reading my blog, so, of course, I come across as a self involved asshole. I mean, it’s a blog, what the hell else am I supposed to write about. But I assure you, I read and study and cram before every meeting, before every task, before even social interactions. I’m not that smart, I am a guy who gets really excited about my friends and about the world around me, I’m a guy who acts always as if he is a step behind, as if he didn’t do the summer reading. I love people, I love being alive, I’m not particularly angry or verbose in regular social interactions.

But I’m way smarter than you if you want evolution not to be taught.

I mean, God, what the hell is wrong with *teaching*. Most of the people who are raised to hate America get here and realize they were lied to. One six pack of chicken McNuggets and communism fell. Even *jews* who WROTE the old testament, aren’t running around trying to stop the teaching of evolution.

I can’t talk about this well. But please know this, you know how your eyes glaze over the second I say “Um, Hillary Clinton is not a lesbian”? Please know that I started ignoring you *LOOOOOOONNNNGGGG* before we even got to that point. You’re just too stupid to even talk to.

And yeah, *I’m* the arrogant one. You’ve got a magic superhero in the sky who came back from the dead and answers your prayers and, because you turn your life over to him, you’re a much better person than I am, but… Sure. *I’m* the arrogant one.


Thursday, May 19th, 2005

So, I’ve been asked a couple of times to update my blog, and it’s worth wondering why I haven’t. The last few entries were cheap-ass, I know that, and so I have to ask myself, why haven’t I been able to work up a lather?

And so it comes to this, this admission that I don’t know how to deal with good fortune. I don’t think it’s that I am always waiting for the other shoe to fall, it really isn’t anything that supernatural. My wife comes from a long line of Jewish women who never speak their fears out loud for fear that they might be giving them power, I call it her “evil-eye-syndrome” and it isn’t that with me.

I think I need to actually admit that I can’t get the same kind of juices flowing for the good days as I can for the bad. Our show was turned down by the NYMTF, and I had a long rhapsody on the nature of my failure, we got accepted to the Fringe and I was like, “Yeah, that’s great… No, really. Awesome.”

I am perpetually surprised by the failures in my life, organically surprised. I am surprised right down to my heart. When my first marriage ended, I felt like I had let everyone down because I was sure everyone thought we were perfect together and that my ex-wife was a gift to us all, I was *STUNNED* to learn that my friends were tolerating her to hang around with me. Every time I don’t get cast in something after auditioning, I get an existential pang, as if there was a special curse that hung on me despite my clear dominance over everyone else who auditioned. It never occurs to me that, maybe, someone else was just a little bit better suited to the role.

Maybe that’s the thing. Maybe I assume that success should happen with every attempt and that’s why I don’t get juiced up about it enough.

I have to say that I am continually amazed by my good fortune in fiscal and marital matters. I have always been a terrible boyfriend, and all of the same skills I employed in making the loves in my life miserable applied to creditors as well. Credit card companies don’t like it when you cheat, lie and bounce checks any more than your girlfriends do. The fact that I have found a woman who inspires a certain level of decency in me says more about her than it does about me, and, not surprisingly, as I’ve learned to take care of another person and be a fucking *guy* when asked, my credit rating and fiscal life have improved a hundred fold. I still don’t always get the cell phone bill paid on time, but I do have about fifteen tenants and about fifteen monthly bills to care for, plus taxes and hand-holding, and I’m getting by okay. All of which is just pure luck.

But artistically, I’m always like, “Um, I’m here! Write me a check and make me famous, please.” And I’m always stunned when the response is, “Dude, you haven’t really done anything yet.”

So, we wrote a show, and we worked really fucking hard on it. After years of finding meaningful success hard to come by, and years of feeling like the fat girl at the prom, I guess I am sort of surprised, suddenly, that our work is being taken seriously. We’ve always *felt* it should be taken seriously, but to have this buzz swirling is a surprise that I don’t dare dwell on too much. I have come full circle, now I expect to be treated with respect by my creditors and friends, and I am sorta stunned when my artistic work generates excitement.

So, I’m gonna need to learn to rhapsodize the good things if I am ever going to enjoy them.

One thing I can say, working with Mac and Jordana has never been a greater joy. Re-writes are always painful, generating new material might be the worst part of that, and we are all three having to metaphorically take off the comfortable wet socks and get on new dry panty hose, artistically. And we know, wet socks are no good for us and look bad, panty hose will give us that nice hour glass figure we’ve been dying for.

But the trust we have is implicit. We throw out ideas and we know when we’ve hit on the right path because we can see it in the others’ faces. I was thinking that I should write some lyrics for one of the new pieces because I knew exactly what joke to make, and Jordana wrote lyrics for it that were eleven times funnier than anything I would have come up with. But more than that, for me, is I will get ideas I think are great and then play them for Mac and Jordana, and I can see on their faces, from the first note, that I’m wrong. I can see it because when I’m right, the energy in the room changes color.

All right. There. I’ve got two paragraphs about how great this all is. I will try to focus on that for a little while, see how it works for me.

Dan’s Losing

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

This is just to see if my programs and my hard drive have been resurrected, not a test of my sense of humor.

Here’s a picture called “Hair Contest.”

Hand To God

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

I was walking home from the train this morning and this is what I heard:

“I feel like I am *this close* to losing it, *this goddam close*… (pause)… What’s the difference? What’s the difference? The difference is that *TODAY* I’m walking down a public street in my bathrobe and thongs. *TODAY*. If I do it *every day from now on* then lock me up, because I swear to God I’m *this close*”

I turned to look across a somewhat busy street to see a woman in her fifties, wearing a bathrobe and, I’m glad to say, flip-flops on her feet (not a thong bottom), pushing a stroller with a five year old, too large for the stroller and nearly tipping the whole mess over, strapped in the lower half, and about fifty pounds of laundry balanced on the upper half. She was controlling the stroller with one hand and yelling into a cell phone with the other.

More later.


Thursday, May 12th, 2005

We are entering what many people think is the most unpleasant phase of making shows, and that’s the script doctoring. Fortunately, for us, much of what we wrote was on a deadline and could be made much better by a simple discussion of flaws and weaknesses. When a producer mentioned that at no point is anyone actually scared of the terrorists, and that our heroes don’t actually do anything to thwart them, we had to agree that this was a weakness in the show.

Except that it might not be. I saw Dirty Rotten Scoundrels last night, and it was amazing, magnificent, fun, awesome, one of the best nights I’ve had in the theater in a while. Mostly because it knew what it was, which was pure entertainment, and it knew how to stand up to a modern attention span. The following exchange actually took place.

M: You can wrap your legs around my face and squeeze until the juice of your lust pours out my eyes.

B: What?

M: They also have cheese.

Without any context at all, that’s funny and weird, with the context, it’s drop dead hilarious. I chose “M” and “B” so it wouldn’t wreck the joke for th eleven people who read this.

Holy shit, the music, the lyrics, it’s all so great. And it gives me faith that people will get the jokes in Fleet Week. There is a song that in DRS that sounds exactly like a David Foster hack job, and it’s *PERFECT* since the people singing the songs are full of as much crap as Celine Dion ever was. In Fleet Week, we made the song about self-actualization sound like a Dar Williams/Brave-To-Be-A-Girl/Allanis song, except the guy’s are singing about how it’s okay if they infect their community with AIDS.

That sounds bad, believe me, it’s funny.

Anyway, not to gush, but this show had absolutely no emotional value for me going in, it’s not something I knew growing up or anything, but it *will* have emotional value for me from now on because I’ll remember it from this birthday. It was that good.

On another note, speaking of edits, I managed to convince everyone that in musicals, you sit through the first act in order to learn what the journey is, the second act is usually the journey. By the time you get to the end of the first act of West Side Story, everyone is fucked and everything has been set in motion to its inevitable conclusion.

The first act is about learning the characters and learning their world, the second act is when the good guys win. Yesterday was my 35th Birthday, and I have taken the two acts as a metaphor for where I am. It’s possible that the first 35 years were a chance for me to learn the world I’ve inherited, to understand the characters I’m here with and to get a fully realized character for myself. The second act will be the actual journey.


Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

I grew up believing that an essentially unnatural act was not only perfectly natural, but necessary. The creation of a live performance is a dare, it’s thrilling for the same reason that ice skating and race car driving are thrilling. One watches because one wants to see just how close you can come to the crash without crashing.

As a child, I spent so much of my time around the preparation and execution of live performance that it just seemed natural to me. I’ve never had any performance anxiety, I’ve never had any stage fright (except for the natural jitters one might get when, for instance, it’s your turn to order at a crowded deli and everyone around you might pass judgement on your two sugars or extra mayo), I’ve always thought that to perform was a natural extension of existence.

But the truth is, performance is, mostly, a dare. Yeah, you sang that song last night, but can you pull it off again tonight? The brass section came in perfectly on cue, but will they again, as I sit here watching? Will you remember all your lines?

We’ve done what we could to make live performance a thing we can have any time we want. We’ve created movies, we’ve created recordings, we’ve got video tapes. And so now the gap between the creation of ideas and the locked down preservation of the performing of those ideas has been eliminated, which leaves live performance only the promise of the thrill of catastrophe.

At a certain point, Glenn Gould had to stop performing, the Beatles had to stop performing. You start to feel like a monkey with a squeeze box when you’re actually expected to be the spokesperson for an artistic ideal, and it just has to stop.

It seems to me that the artistic world, the world of expression, exists on a continuum. On one end are the two dimensional arts like painting and photography, which have, as an aspect of their design, a captured permanence and a portability which make them a very private communication between the artist and the audience. I have friends who have given me pictures that haunt me still when I look at them, and I don’t mean that they are drawings of friends or pictures of my wedding. I can look at a photograph all by myself and glean meaning directly from the artist, even if she or he is long dead.

Moving up the continuum are things like sculpture and landscape or architectural design. These are expressions which are inherently permanent in a way (in as much as anything is permanent), but they aren’t really portable. In order to actually know the power of the Statue of David, or The Empire State Building or Hancher Auditorium glittering off the river, you have to go to the places where these things are. My friend Nina’s working artistic partner, Glen Seator, created pieces like these, but I’ve only seen pictures and read about them online and now they are gone and he is gone and I won’t get to know the real power of his work.

It goes along, each form of expression being either movable or not, permanent or not, private or not. And on the far side, you get the performed arts, the three dimensional arts that include motion, action, sound plus visible and physical elements. Dance comes to mind, as does singing and acting in a play. One step back from these is singing on a recording or acting in a film, both of which are practically back on the two dimensional scale.

I’m sure you all see where I’m going with this.

You can’t read a musical or hear a recording or watch a video tape. It does nothing. Even the big musicals on film work best when they achieve something that can’t be done on stage, like American in Paris or Singing in the Rain. Fred Astaire knew how phony film was, it’s why his greatest routines (especially with Ginger Rogers) are shot wide out and without edits. He wants us to take part in the dare.

So, now we begin the dare. We had a meeting last week with a wonderful director, and if he says no we have a couple of other people in line. We had a wonderful meeting last night with our producer, and we all basically agreed on the re-writes. We actually took off running with re-write ideas.

We’re daring you every step of the way. What can we say and what can we mean? Do we have the guts to make the joke? Do we have the guts to put our characters in harm’s way even more? Do we have the guts to use the words that might make you cringe?

And this is the easy part. The actors, will they have the guts to commit? Will they drop lines and crack on high notes and fall down during dances? They really might. Will the orchestra screw up? Will the lightboard fail on us? And, most terrifying of all, will the story mean anything to you, will you sing the songs in your head later, will you want the characters to learn what they eventually learn *so bad* that it breaks your heart when they misunderstand?

It’s terrifying, for me, for us, for anyone involved. It’s a dare, flat out. What we’re doing is not cool, it isn’t sitting back and talking shit, it isn’t wearing jeans. We’re putting on an orange tux and it isn’t even prom. We’re just hoping someone else thinks orange tuxes are awesome and follows suit.


Friday, May 6th, 2005

So, there’s good news and bad news.

Bad news is that my hard drive melted and I’m writing from my wife’s computer.

Good news is that Ian, in a fit of mensch, saved every important file from my computer mere moments before the blue wall of death came down.

Bad news is that it will be some time before I can access either the written music files for the songs from Fleet Week, or the auditory files for the songs from Fleet Week because I have to get Applecare to come fix my poor computer.

Good news is that I need those files pretty soon because Fleet Week was accepted by the New York International Fringe Festival, and it will be produced this August.

Wow. There’s actually nothing but good news spiralling from there. We’re meeting with a potential director today, and also with our independent producer to make this whole thing happen. Insanely cool.

Anyway, more when I get my computer back.