Archive for August, 2005


Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Jordana: Do more!

Sean: I can’t remember any of the other ones.

Jordana: You suck at Puppetry of the Penis. None of your things looks like you say it will.

Sean: Wait, I think this is supposed to be a beating heart…

Jordana (laughing): It looks like gonzo

Sean: Dude.

Jordana: Seriously, you’re terrible at this.

Sean: Gimme just a sec… I think this one’s called “Diving Board”…


Jordana: Like I said, none of them look like you say they will.

Sean: Yeah, I don’t think this is happening…

I can’t explain

Friday, August 26th, 2005

I don’t know at what point people will find this blog. God knows there is no way for me to hide what I’ve written about in here, and there is also no explanation that will suffice. If there is anything I’ve learned over the last month it is that communication, actual communication with the written, spoken or sung word is basically useless. We are masters of deception, us humans, and we constantly talk out of both sides of our mouths.

One of the things that I take some pride in is knowing that my friends and family know that I am incapable of lying. I am definitely capable of saying things that aren’t true, but I won’t say much that I *know* isn’t true. Half the shit that comes out of my mouth is patently false, but I generally believe every word of what I’m saying, I’m just, y’know, ignorant.

My friend Mac is the greatest liar I know. He has a wonderful ability to somehow totally mishear what you’ve just said, or to miraculously miss something that he doesn’t want to hear, and yet, later, he will be able to recount *every single syllable* of what you’ve said back to you. He has invented this fantastic other-worldly persona that has you totally conned unless you’ve spent as much time with him as I have. He’s faking it. And he does it so well that I can blow his cover right here, right now, and you’ll still think he isn’t paying attention next time he tells you he missed what you just said.

Jordana is the worst liar I’ve ever known. Her contempt and her delight are both so transparent you’d swear her face was drawn by John Kricfalusi. As a matter of fact, if she is even slightly uncomfortable, you’ll swear she wants you dead, and if she’s even a little bit thrilled, she looks like she has fallen in love.

Between the two of them is me. I can hide what I feel, but only for a very short time. And it’s because I have no inner monologue. I have a blog, and on that blog, I just keep writing and writing until people I work with beg me to stop. I am a really good actor, but that’s because I can purposefully forget large quantities of information and replace it with fantasy, and I can do it fairly quickly. Maybe it came with moving so much, maybe it’s because as a musician my art has always been algebraic in nature and replacing loved ones and memories feels to me like switching keys or, more likely, I’m just a juvenile, obnoxious show off with mild retardation.

In any case, I probably should have handed out a sheet of paper with each program to our show, just to make sure nobody missed the salient points. Despite the fact that *all* of our press material promised a love affair with the statue of Liberty and the Captain of the Coast Guard as the fated duo, we still got reviews that claimed such a union was impossible, and, even worse, seemed to take a real leap in logic.

That’s right. We had people complaining about a leap in logic during a musical.

So, let me explain just a moment. The show isn’t about Coast Guard Spastics defeating terrorists. It is about assuming your identity, the one you actually have, not the one you have fashioned for yourself. We wanted to say something about lying, about living inside a lie and about the ways that we can live beyond them.

It’s a musical, and we live in an absurd world, so we chose to feature the relationship between the two as a counterpoint to the sailors. You know this because they sing about what they were like when they were young, and the mistakes they made, and they describe *exactly* the young sailors in the play.

Now, maybe we should have had the two of them watch the sailors and comment on the sailors directly. We didn’t, it didn’t even occur to us that it was necessary. Maybe we should have named the song “Back When We Were Like The Other Characters In The Play”. I think it would be a touch blatant, but it seems absurd to miss it.

No-one knows us from anyone in the world, so maybe it’s all right that people watch the play and assume there are mistakes instead of wondering *why* things are said the way they are. There isn’t a single person who is aware of the Statue of Liberty who doesn’t understand that she is very large, very old, and doesn’t actually date, so I don’t understand how someone could watch the show and think we didn’t know that.

We have a girl dressed as a man so she can fight in the Coast Guard. Why, that doesn’t make any sense. No, no, you’re right, it doesn’t make any sense at all. Every single person who is familiar with the Coast Guard knows that women can serve in the Coast Guard, so I don’t understand why someone would think we were the only ones who didn’t know this.

Let me explain. There is a woman dressed as a man to serve in the Coast Guard because there was a time when women were not allowed to be soldiers in the military, and in our minds this archaic idea is just as ludicrous as the denial of same-sex marriages now. We are going to look back on this time as only slightly ahead of post WW II America, the very American ideal that we are lampooning in our show.

We wanted to draw a direct corollation between the “good ol’ times”, which happened to be the height of the Hayes code and also the height of the American movie musical, the time in America that existed before Civil Rights, and we wanted to compare that with our current mindset. Now, it’s “terrorists” instead of “commies”. It’s “Arabs” instead of “Blacks”. It is the subjugation of gays in place of the subjugation of women. When we made the terrorists from Martinique, we felt sure people would think it was sardonic.

Now, virtually everything we tried to do with the play was designed for laughs and songs. There is a girl tied up for half an hour in the second act because we just thought that was horrible and funny. “Seaman Ravioli” is one of the most disgusting jokes anyone has ever come up with. (I found an earlier draft where one of the sailors was named “Seaman Sandwich”. I don’t know how that got lost…) And there are some huge mistakes in the play, mistakes that can be addressed with fresh eyes and a willingness to add eight minutes or so to the running time.

But if you think we are faking something, if you think we’re glossing something over because we want to get away with something, just think about it for a minute. We’re terrible liars, we really are. We said what we wanted to say here, it’s in the words and music if not in the production, and there’s a reason for any of it. If you want to know why something in the play is there, well… ask me. I’ll tell.

Debt. Of Gratitude

Friday, August 12th, 2005

I have spent a fair amount of time in the last few weeks bitching about people’s shortcomings. Don’t worry, if there has been a shortcoming and I’ve bitched about it, there’s a really good chance I bitched right at you about it, I have absolutely no ability to censor myself.

(Before I get into this, Mac and Jordana have taken to thinking of me as “the nuclear option”. I have no idea what the nuclear option is in politics (aside from the obvious meaning) but in our situation it’s a bit like they’re the pruning sheers and I’m the back-hoe)

But in an effort to try to stable my mental condition and also to repay the enormous kharmic debt I’m in for all the bitching I’ve been doing, I’d like to just say a word or two about my sister Michelle.

Michelle is a blue collar artist, and she always has been. She has always been a girl of callouses, the great irony being that she is so terribly sensitive at the same time. Whatever it is that she is working on, she absolutely never backs away from the understanding that great achievements only happen when dilligence, intelligence and inspiration are gathered in vast quantities.

Where there is no intelligence, she will provide it. She is simply one of the smartist artists I have ever worked with, especially in music, and even more especially as a singer. Where there might not be inspiration, she will provide it. If you think a thing is unachievable, go ask Michelle, she has eleven ways you haven’t even thought of. And where there is no dilligence, Michelle will create it. Even if you think there is dilligence, her example should shame you almost immediately. When you think you have something finished, you’ve got your smarts, your works and your muses all in a row, bring it to her. I bet you anything she’ll say, “let’s spend another hour on this, I think you’ve just started…”

Michelle and I wrote plays and songs together as little kids, of course. I’m fairly certain that every kid in the world put together plays featuring their dolls and such and then produced them for the family. The difference is that Michelle had such an incredible discipline to our combined imaginations. We played a game called “Candyland” (completely different from the board game) where we were creatures made out of candy. Initially, I was a lion made of, y’know, candy, but Michelle insisted that I find every possible joint and bone and define them all. To this day, I think back and I know that I had candy cane front legs joined with taffy at the elbows, I had a mane made of cotton candy, a trunk made of muscular twizzlers. I remember it to this day.

Our playpeople had vast towns made of cardboard, each family defined, each business creating transactions. This wasn’t me, it was the two of us together that made these things happen. I was creating drama with the characters and coming up with funny stuff while Michelle was making sure that orders placed at the pretend pharmacy were taking an actual hour to come through.

Years later, I would find myself going back to her inspired sense of detail. I remember, I was doing a Christmas show, and the director wanted my character to move downstage center. There was no other actor on stage, but I had established the entire fourth wall in my mind, I knew there was a window downstage, and I moved to be there, to look out the window, the way Michelle would have insisted in 1979 in London.

Two performances later, the director had added a gobo of a venetian blind window.

Last year I was in a show where I sat in the front seat of a car talking to someone in the back seat, and I knew every inch of the inside of that car, despite the fact that we never rehearsed it. My friends said it was the best thing I’d ever been in, almost like I get better the more a director leaves me alone and lets me pretend I’m following Michelle’s orders.

When we got older, we started doing actual plays together, and we started playing in a band. The plays were crap and Michelle shone, certainly, but she never had the patience for a high school era bullshit choreography boring ass nonsense. I was into it, man, I was shaking my money maker, Michelle almost endured it. But in the band, Jesus. She was the bass player, and she created these rhapsodies, these bizarre enigmatic bass lines that were pure profound counterpoint.

We would play gigs and Michelle would bounce in the corner, shock of blonde hair falling in her face, ignoring the audience. She’s essentially a private person, and even then she didn’t want her intimacies on display. To this day, she is a more diligent woman than any of her playboys, and a funnier and funner woman than any of her leftist disciples. She was always a mystery, an enigmatic figure – on stage but face invisible, beautiful blonde perm but one side of her head shaved, complete rebel and magna cum laude.

It’s hard, having a sister like her. I have found people who compare, but they are few and far between. Right now, she’s pushing and yanking and pulling an artistic community around on to their feet in Napa Valley, and it seems like she’s doing it with a plastic spade and bucket, moving sand around to stave off the incoming tide. There is a story of me, at 5, being told to get something out of the basement, and I disappeared upstairs. I came back down, braving the basement with Michelle, age 3, holding my hand, saying, “See? There’s nothing to be scared of…” She has set the benchmark, as much or more than my parents did. She is the inspiration for me to not give up hope that whatever I am working on has the chance to be better, to be brilliant.

I hate the ways in which she has been wasted. I hate that she can be given a job and it’s like focusing a laser, she simply isn’t going to stray from that job. Her talents are enormous, but her dilligence is even larger, and her passion is simply unimaginable. I don’t know how she sleeps, I really don’t. Except that I’ve seen it, she shuts down quickly and without warning, like a prison at lights out, but I almost imagine her asleep, mouth muttering instructions, hand moving with a pen or a bow or a fretboard in it.

I know if she was where I am, she would work twice as hard as I do. And she’d put up with 1/10th the bullshit. It seems amazing to say, but I can’t wait until I have earned enough cred to bring her back to New York so she can work with me. I can’t wait until I’m important enough to work for my little sister.

A decision

Thursday, August 11th, 2005

Every single artistic expression has two opposite and equally horrible ends. First, you are met with a blank piece of paper. There’s a blinking icon at the top of an empty file, there are five lines without so much as a clef, there is a giant piece of marble or a stack of bronze or a row of closed paints lying in wait, and though you’ve done this before, though you know those five lines or that blank page will soon be full, there is the horror of that blank page feeling.

(I should say, it isn’t the first blank page, because the first blank page is usually inspired. It’s the blank page for the song you know you have to write, but you don’t know what it is yet. It’s the blank page for the scene that takes the characters from one scene you’ve already written to the other scene you’ve already written, and you don’t know how they get there…)

The other horrible moment is when you’re done with the writing, there are hundreds of pages full of thousands of notes, and you put together the novel or the sonnet or whatever and you realize, you’ve said too much. This is its own kind of hell. Maybe some people are good at it. Maybe the guy who got done with the Venus de Milo said, “Y’know, this is good and all, and I spent more time on her hands than on the whole rest of the statue combined, but these have to go” and he took a mallet and whacked off her arms. But for most people it is hell.

I find myself looking at the play we wrote, and realizing the first act is 50 minutes at break-neck speed, and the second act is 54 minutes. The first act is fine, it’ll play like that and even if it’s a minute longer with applause and laughs and stuff, we can hammer through the whole thing.

The second act needs a cut, probably more than one. Something needs to go, and the time we need to shave off can’t be done with just dialogue or jokes or doing stuff faster. A song needs to be cut.

So, I’m staring back at those empty pages, those empty five line staves that have been coaxed into existence. We always tease Mac by saying “My words! My lovely WORDS!”, and so, in the same way, I have to laugh at myself taking this all so seriously. I’ve already had almost as many songs dropped from the show as were included initially, but now we are down to the kind of cuts that hurt.

I have a song in the second act that is sorta special. The lyrics are really amazing, just amazing, and the song is the most musically challenging song in the show. But this has turned out not to be the right show for this song.

We started in the spirit of contempt, it’s true, but over the months of crafting this show, we’ve fallen in love with the stories and the characters and, even though it’s a big ass broad comedy, we’ve still managed to add a lot of heart and a little bit of the subversive hostility that is our life-blood. (Jordana, although she would never admit it, has as much a sense of wanting to rip the world apart as Mac and me, she’s just terrified of what’ll happen if she gives in to it). All of the characters have wonderful stories, or at least have great jokes.

But we’ve run out of time, and we have to make a decision about who’s story is gonna be told, this time around, and who’s story will have to be told next time.

I heard an interview with Billy Joel from, like, 1981 and he was asked how he felt when he heard his songs on the radio. He said something like “it’s like each one of those songs is a kid. If it comes on after a great song and it just sorta falls flat, I cover my face and don’t admit to anyone that’s mine out there. If it comes on after a stupid song, and it’s one I’m really proud of, then I’m like a parent in the stands at a game…”

I feel the same way. This one song, right from the beginning everyone kept saying, “this kid is special”, but in that, y’know, “special olympics” kinda way. We’ve tried to keep him in school and the teacher has done everything with this kid that she can, but I think it’s time to get him out of this school and put him in a school where he can meet his potential.

The Honeymoon

Thursday, August 4th, 2005

The honeymoon I actually went on some 12 years ago now was actually a really uncomfortable thing. I was broke, the woman I was with was “not very good with money” and I actually find most vacations boring. I hate going places where there’s nothing to do. I mean, Jesus Christ, anyone who had my life would say I’m on vacation all the time. I almost never do anything I don’t want to do every single second of my life, so no wonder I find vacations boring as shit.

That being said, every cast I’ve ever been in has had a honeymoon. And then, after the honeymoon, the honeymoon is over. I would say, with this particular production, the honeymoon has ended. Every time I speak to Mac, we talk about nothing but the show, and the moments when we aren’t talking about the show, we talk as fast as we can to get the jokes and the news out of the way so we can get back to talking about the show.

Jordana and I talk about nothing but the show. Every once in a while we’ll talk about other stuff, but the show is basically it. And yes, in rehearsal, we’re ahead of schedule. It is alarming and lovely that the cast is basically off-book for the entire show right now, they know all the choreography and the blocking and they know all the music and their lines. And we don’t open until two weeks from tomorrow.

Holy CrapNuts. Two weeks from tomorrow…

But, we’re running on steam, the three of us, and we’re running out of steam. Lindsay came up with a relatively dumb idea the other night, but instead of just saying “that’s a relatively dumb idea” which is how we’ve all managed to speak to each other, I just flipped out like a drunk ninja and started in on my fucking routine, which fortunately I’m able to smother most of the time otherwise I would be one boring shithead.

Our days start with phone calls, with fires that need to either be put out or started, and our days end a few hours after rehearsal. So, when I’m in rehearsal and the actors are screwing around, I want to boil my own testicles. It’s infuriating.

That being said, they are actually ahead of schedule, the only sense of panic comes from the fact that the producers are behind schedule and we don’t really have any help. We have plenty of *advice*, we have lots of big ideas thrown at us, but each big idea requires twenty phone calls, and each one takes minutes, and at the end of the day, we’re all out of minutes, and we hang up the phones and keep going.

I’m sort of melancholy about all of this because my whole family is together in Utah. Not just my family, but every cousin who draws their breath because of my grandma, they are all getting together this weekend, and I’m the only one not there. Of course, if this was a play or a movie, and the main character had the following problem “Larry could spend three days in New York surrounded by artists, homsexuals and Jews, or he could spend three days in Utah with his Christian cousins and their babies”, then I would think it was pretty ham-handed, right down to the red-state/blue state obviousness of locale… but that was the decision that was facing me and I simply couldn’t find any way to do both.

Next time, we’ll have just a little bit more money. Next time the three of us will be able to say, “Call that woman from the New Yorker that Jordana spoke with, she seemed really sweet.” This time, the interns and the production staff, the gophers and the grips, the ASMs and the PR reps – they’re all just us.

I’m not bitching, I swear to God. I’m just saying, it’s like spending a day sailing and realizing, as you’re making your way back to shore, this would all be so much easier if there was an engine in the boat.


Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005

It seems that some people have found this blog.


Now, I don’t realy know what to say.

I mean…

Okay, here’s the thing.

Wait, that’s not what I wanted to say.

What I want to say is…

Okay, I know what I want to say.

There is a Kafka quote that I could, y’know, actually *quote* if I had eleven extra minutes and my pocket Kafka on hand, but it’s a letter to his friend or father or something, where he talks about his writing. He says that his writing mocks him, that it stands as a testimony to his inadequacy, mocking him. He likens it to an ink stain on the paper, leering up at him, refusing to be blotted or wiped up.

He writes it much better than I do. He’s maybe my favorite writer, although I didn’t realize that until I wrote that just now.

I’m not a good writer, despite what many of you think. Yes, you all think I’m a great writer, and you’re wrong. What I’m good at is writing in my own voice. I’m good at making these words sound exactly like what I’m thinking, misspellings and all.

But, what I’m thinking is very often unsavory. I have opinions that most people would disagree with. (I hate the political left, contantly embarrassed and humiliated by the intellectual rigidity and the emotional outbursts tied to aspects of the world that are actually deliberate and free of humor, but I absolutely *loathe* the political right because of its deliberate laziness and anti-intellectualism, combined with a selective bleeding heart and a blind unthinking committment to its leaders.

When I listen to the left using slogans that rhyme, or puns, or even anti-Right bashing posing as stand-up comedy, I just sort of lower my head and keep walking. “When Clinton Lied, Who Died?” is one of those things that simple minded fuckwads embrace as a political stance, and they just make it harder for the rest of us.

When I listen to the right explain why gay people shouldn’t marry, why civil liberties should be curtailed to prevent terrorism, why the death penalty helps society but abortion hurts it, I don’t lower my head. I stand agape and wonder why intelligent people don’t follow through to logical conclusions.)

But the problem is, I write this blog almost as an excretion. There have been times, like the zombie blog a few days ago, where I was honestly thinking about zombies late on night. We’ve been talking about producing a few horror plays in October, and I’ve been thinking about the nature of horror, and I had zombies on the mind. When I sat down to write my zombie treatise, I realized that it could be a very subtle dig at the Bush administration. Or a support of the Bush administration. You could read it either way.

But, more often than not, I write a blog about a) whatever play I’m doing b) how hard my life is or c) how great my life is. Very often, C comes out as a love ode to my wife or my friends or the weather or New York. B comes out as a rant about my work, or the weather or New York.

I’m not saying I’m gonna stop writing. I have a feeling that the people who find my blog and who love me will take the medicine with the sweet, and anyone who dislikes me isn’t gonna like me any less. But I do feel stymied by the idea that if I talk about headaches, I very well may get a call from Long Island reminding me to drink more water.

Speaking of which, I do have a headache. And I am gonna go drink more water.

Bar Called Therapy

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2005

I’m sure in every town around the country there is a bar called “Therapy”. It’s bound to happen, it’s too good an idea to pass up. However, I’m pretty sure that most of the other bars called “Therapy” don’t have a sweet struggling musical theater performer with a full beard wearing a sailor hat as a bouncer who’s passing out condoms at the door. They also probably don’t have a foul-mouthed host featuring works of new musicals every Monday.

I just don’t want to live anywhere else.

So, we had a little performance last night at this amazing bar, two stories, air-conditioned, drink specials and *totally* uptown. I’ve always been nervous in the downtown gay bars, the ones that look like they came straight out of “Police Academy: Back In Training”, because I don’t like being around people who think I’m fat and poorly dressed. But this bar last night were totally our people, professional people who love theater and happen to love sailors as well.

Originally, I pushed for us to do the opening number of the show “Fleet Week”, mostly because that way we would feature Tony Nominee Melissa Hart. But I was quickly convinced that “Queer At The Pier” was the right number, and man, that was a good call. Melissa would have been the biggest star in the joint, but our Chaplain was the Queen of the Homo-coming Dance, and that’s what the night really needed.

Rob Maitner, who should have a one man show running 365 days a year, went up as the representative of the show. He was, how do you say, already drunk. So when the foul-mouthed host of the evening (“Sailors make my pussy wet,” he said) asked him when the dates of the show were, Rob started on a rhapsody of all things “Fleet Week”. The host yanked the mic out of his hand and said, “okay, okay, you passed out postcards, we’ll figure it out…” suddenly Rob’s voice piped up, “I found the other microphone, BITCH…” and then he continued with his diatribe.

We have the best cast we could ask for. I’ve never produced a play where I didn’t think I should be playing every single role, I’ve almost never seen a show where I didn’t think I could do it better, and there isn’t a single person in this show that I could replace. It doesn’t even shame me to say that. Look, these pictures suck, but look how adorable our cast is:

That’s the middle of the song, where Sachs and Ravioli almost kiss for the first time. This will continue throughout the show.

Look at how cute everyone is! Jesus, Laura, the girl who plays Swallows, is so adorable that I will find myself just grinning ear to ear during rehearsal, and then I’ll look across the room and Jordana is watching her and grinning twice as big.

And Rob Maitner is a force of nature.

All right. One apology. I don’t have anything else to talk about but this play. When you call me, I will inevitably talk about this play. I’m really worried about my sister, I’m really excited for two of my brothers, and I’m anxious about my mom, but I can’t seem to talk about anything but this.


Here’s another picture.