Archive for February, 2009


Thursday, February 26th, 2009

You have to be very, very careful when you’re constructing the narrative of your life. I mentioned something about this in my last post, but I think there’s a lot more to it than just unintentional lies and misremembered circumstances. We need for the truth to match a path, our lives need to be somewhat linear (regardless of how often we see they aren’t) and where the dates and arcs don’t line up, we inadvertently add details and buttresses to give the whole thing meaning.

I got in touch with an old girl friend of mine named Erin. We never dated, we were far too close for that sort of thing, but we were like brother and sister. I sang at her wedding just before she transfered schools and went to the far side of the US, and soon after, we lost touch.

Her voice was singular and amazing, and her sense of humor was unparalleled. At least, for me. She was scrappy and vulgar at times, and she spent about two months homeless during the time that I knew her, although she always had a place to crash because of our network of friends. Erin made me laugh so goddam hard, all the time. She was shameless, she would make fun of me as quickly as she made fun of herself.

She was a peerless mimic. In a way, her vocal talent was off the charts because she could just decided to sound like someone, and then she sounded *exactly* like that person… and when you translate that into performance it’s really stunning. I remember her doing Patti Lupone in Evita, and it was scary it was so good, and then later, we were drinking beer and she sang “Still Crazy After All These Years”, and you would SWEAR it was Paul Simon. She was that good.

She had a pretty good appetite for dating, and she was the perfect combination of funny and funny looking to get most of the guys she was interested in. I was always wing-man, honestly, setting her up and letting her knock them down. And most of the time, she’d end up crashing at my place, sleeping on the floor next to my bunk bed while we criticized the partners du jour.

So, naturally, she showed up on Facebook. I jumped out of my skin, I was so excited. I’ve been in touch with a lot of people, and I’ve gotten a lot of joy out of it – the happiness WAY outweighs the mild discomfort I’ve had with some of the reconnections, but this woman was so dear to me, and I loved her so much, that I just freaked out.

Of course, I friended her, and of course I wrote to her. Gushing, a little, I guess, but not in any way that could be misinterpreted. I just wanted to let her know how much she had meant to me, and how much it would mean to me to be in touch with her again.

I got a response and… See, this is what is bound to happen. I can mock it all I want, but nobody remembers the past the way you do. On top of that, we’re not all in the same big forgiveness boat. We don’t all look at what we did when we were nineteen and laugh it off as the mistakes a child makes.

She tells me her story in two quick paragraphs. Fantastic college opportunity squandered because of a little too much pot and a move back to Los Angeles with her husband and kids. Then, a move from LA to Pheonix because of a sense of cultural discomfort… and the finding of religion.

What can I do? This woman will never be friends with me again because she sees the time we spent together as inhuman, non-divine. My vulgarity will never be funny to her, any time I spend with her from now on, even on-line, will be spent with a wall up between us. She looks back on the time she was friends with me and is appalled. She feels nothing but shame – her words, exactly.

She said she always thought I was “clever” and that it would be cool to maybe be in a band with me. Then.


I’m not mad at her at all, and I don’t think I’m better than her or have more insight or anything. It’s just heartbreaking. She’s found Jesus, and that’s pretty much it for me. I don’t know Jesus, I never will, and that is a wall that will always separate us. I had thought about writing back instantly, telling her that I had so much regret about that time that I lay awake some nights…

But I didn’t. I probably won’t. My regret isn’t about living outside the grace of God, I live utterly without God’s love right now and it isn’t a problem for me. My regret is how I treated people, how I behaved with people. The GOOD parts of that time for me were the times I spent with my friends laughing and loving and, sure, smoking pot. The times I regret are the times I was dismissive and superior, as if I knew something that I couldn’t possibly know.

Ahhch. I don’t know.

It’s so sad. I’ve thought about this person for at least fifteen years, I’ve thought about her once a month, wondered where she was, even tried to find her to cast her in a show I was doing a few years ago. I know now, she would have turned me down anyway, and she would have been uncomfortable with the show, with New York… with spending time with me.

I still love her deeply, this old friend. I know we were a kind of kindred spirits, curled up in my shit-ass apartment, counting our toothbrushes as one of our ten assets. I know that we deal with our own regrets in our own way, and she’s certainly found a better way than I did, I’m pretty sure she sleeps just fine at night. But it’s a painful and sad end to a friendship, and I wish she could have just remained a mystery.

Why Album Covers? Why Facebook?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

The meme is simple. You use wikipedia, and flickr to randomly give you words and images, and then you assemble them to make an album cover.

Really? I mean… that sounds both complicated and boring, why would I do that? Why would you do it, and tag me in it? Why do people who do it, then do it again three or four times?

About two years ago, Ian and I were talking about the different levels of intimacy that our modern world affords us, and particularly the amount of non-intimacy we can have. It used to be that if you wanted social interaction, you had to write letters informing people of visits, and then show up with several large trunks of stuff and stay for a month.

Then, a lot of this got replaced as we got phones. You don’t have to do your hair, you don’t have to wrestle into a bustle, you just call your friends, have a chat, then call someone else and make fun of whoever you just talked to. Then move on to a third and fourth person, talk shit about everyone, and try to pretend they aren’t doing the exact same thing.

Pretty soon, this gave way to email. Now, you don’t have to do your hair or your bustle, and you don’t even have to clear your throat. There’s no social pressure AT ALL, and *getting* email is even better than sending it. You just shove it into a folder and answer it when you want. Or don’t. Let it sit in your inbox for months until, too embarrassed to admit you never got around to it, you archive it or delete it and pretend you never got it.

So… cool. We’re all talking to each other, we still have some social standards set up, and we don’t have to deal with people we don’t want to.

Then… fucking Facebook.

See, all the people who are your friends now, both of you guys had friends earlier, and only one of you is still friends with those people. There was a girl you dated in high school, and her best friend ended up in college with a guy you’re still friends with. That guy who used to sexually harass the waitress when you were doing that show in Nebraska? You’re still friends with the artistic director…

One by one, you line up the people you WANT to be friends with on Facebook, and they accept your invitation and everything’s cool… and then that little “Friends You Might Know” dialogue box pops up at the bottom right. You see those people. Some of them invite you to be their friends.

It’s scary. It’s actually kind of awful. That one girl in high school who’s mom was super-hot and divorced? How did you end up being facebook friends with her twenty years later? Especially since that girl in high school now has three kids, and one is in junior high?

Well, if it really sucked, then Facebook would collapse. But it doesn’t. The truth is, most of the people who are friends with you remember you as a total prick as well, and they don’t actually want to be in touch with you. It’s really hilarious, there are people you would go out of your way to *AVOID* in person, if they were at a party or on the street, but you’ve INVITED them to be your friend on Facebook.

A close friend and I were talking about an old mutual friend, a guy who is extremely difficult but also really fun. She said, “I just wish I could be Facebook friends with him, y’know? So I could see that his profile was being updated and he’s still doing stuff, but I wouldn’t have to ever *talk* to him…” That’s what Facebook is about. If you’re on there, just throw up a new picture every once in a while, and comment on other people’s awesome shit.

So… why the albums?

Well, here’s the thing. Facebook was for college kids originally, but it has totally wiped the floor with crap like Friendster and and the rest of those assholes. Facebook is now for people like *me*. Creepy guys with slightly too much time on their hands who are always wondering whatever happened to 1986.

Well, 1986 was a fun year. There was a lot of drug use, a lot of hair, a lot of sex… it was a great time to be 16 because it seemed like AIDS was something old people got (people who were 23) and you could wear eyeliner and fishnet stockings to school and still get girls to like you. We were listening to the Cure, or maybe Ratt, but whoever we were listening to, they were having fun and feeling feelings. But mostly, we were listening to tapes that we had recorded off of albums.

The covers used to be your first introduction to the music. Would you like it? Man, the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind made me think I would like it. I still remember the cover of Prince’s Controversy, that image was burned into my eyes so bad that I can see it on the inside of my eyelids 25 years later.

Ours is the age of irony, and we do everything we can to make sure that these memories we hold so dear are actually a little bit absurd to us. The cover of the Fables of the Reconstruction album? Yeah, I know, it’s totally pretentious. Maybe the album was as well. We were retarded, we were ridiculous…

We walked through the woods. We-eee- walked…

Anyway. We’re always gonna kill and eat our own gods, and the album cover game is a public sacrifice of our most sacred cow, nostalgia. Album covers don’t even exist anymore, our introduction to music now is usually satellite radio or internet-streaming. Yes, there is cover art, but it’s not gonna end up any larger than a postage stamp next to the song on your ipod, or, at best, the size of a CD wallet. It isn’t worth investigating.

But your facebook friends don’t want to know who you are *now*, for the love of God. If the people you knew when you were 18 were introduced to the people you know when you’re 40, think of how many stories would get eradicated. You’d have to come up with an entirely new story of your life based on these OTHER assholes’ memories, instead of living the life based on the lies you’ve invented for yourself.

(Look, maybe you don’t know you’re lying, but you are. When you’re all “we played so much golf my junior year that I actually failed biology”, believe me, the guy you played with will be like, “What? Yeah, I mean, we played twice a week, which is a lot, but, um… I mean, I still ate lunch every day. I don’t think that’s why he failed biology…” Trust me, the people you tell your melancholy stories about don’t remember it the way you do.)

However, your Facebook friends *do* want you to continue to create nostalgia. And, by making the joke album cover, you’re essentially saying “remember when this meant so much to us? The cover of Houses of the Holy? The Banana Peal? Freeze Frame? Its’ funny that we can generate these randomly, right!”

I know this because I friggin’ love them too. I’ve looked at about 80. Every single one of them cracks me up.

A Few Scrapes

Friday, February 20th, 2009

We had a playdate this morning with many of our friends from the neighborhood. Almost all of us has a child near two years old, or a little older, and we’re all beginning to feel the same thing- that our children need to be with other children.

Oh, it’s awful. Harder for my friend Deb and her tender hearted cub, Augie, than it is for me, but for all of us it is just awful. The world is a cruel place, there’s no other word for it, and you have to figure out where the line is between education and disaster.

At the playdate this morning, Barnaby came running over to me with big tears in his eyes. It’s impossible to describe the desperate deep horror of your child showing up with an injury that you were in the room for, but didn’t see and didn’t bother to prevent. The guilt, the recrimination, the sheer torture you put yourself through, wondering what you should have done, wondering what your child will thinking of you… wondering what kind of monster he will turn in to since you’ve so obviously dropped the ball.

Barnaby, with big round wet tears, told me he needed a kiss and was holding his hand. In less than a second, really at first glance, I knew that he hadn’t been injured, he’d just been hurt. He said, “I touched it and it was really hot. You need to blow on it…” and I realized he had touched the radiator and had found it uncomfortably warm.

I was sitting right there and I reached over and hovered my hand above the radiator before touching it. It was warm, sure, but not too bad.

So what do you do? This is the question, and this is what you have to answer for the entirety of your child’s life. In Parenthood, Uncle Larry has asked his father for money to settle a gambling debt, otherwise he’s gonna be killed. Larry is in his thirties. This problem will never stop, these decisions have to be made, and the impact of the decision will resonate for the rest of your child’s life.

Should my parents have done more to steer me away from the mistakes I’ve made? I think so, yes. I think I was allowed too much freedom, I was allowed to destroy my life, and it really is mostly luck that I didn’t end up doing the kind of damage that one can’t return from. I never killed anyone, I was never arrested, I’m still alive and I’ve never declared bankruptcy or discovered a long lost child of mine. But, that’s just luck, I *DID* do things that could have caused any of these things to happen, and the right set of things just lined up to make sure none of it did.

But, I did marry poorly at first, and I did fail out of high school. I do find myself closing in on forty without many discernible skills, without employment or even the hope of it, and without a clear sense of what my obligations are to my family and to the world. The things that I’m very good at are, again, just luck. I have a lot of talent as an actor and a musician, but these ears are a genetic lottery, and my acting talent was never fostered by ANYONE, let alone my parents.

They weren’t bad parents, mind you. I don’t know anyone who loves their children more than my mom does, and I don’t know anyone, honestly, who wishes they were a better father than my dad. One of the reasons that he dislikes my mom so much, in my opinion, is because he wishes he could have been her, when it comes to us.

But neither of them could stop me from laying waste to my life. They didn’t want to have the fight with me. But, I can tell you, if they had, they would have won.

And now I face the same decisions with Barnaby. Hot things are hot, if you decide to touch them, then you will feel the discomfort. Obviously, he’s two, and he just touched a hot radiator, of course he should be comforted. And… of course, that’s what I did. I picked him up and kissed his hand, like he asked.

But the day wore on, and he kept coming back to me, saying he needed kisses. Because the other kids were running in to him, or taking toys, or knocking him over. And… I didn’t draw a line, but I just kinda tried to get him to tough it out. I asked him, “Are you hurt, or are your feelings hurt?” I said stuff like, “It’s okay, Barnaby, there are a lot of toys and you have to take turns…”

Ugh, it’s the very stuff I remember hearing when I was a little boy, and I remember it made me feel like I was alone in the world, abandoned. My first day of school in London, when I didn’t know where I was supposed to go, I made it all the way until lunch before I just fell apart. I have a memory, clear as day, of sitting in the cafeteria, sobbing and sobbing, while a teacher tried to cut up the boiled potatoes. I was alone, I didn’t know where my family was, and this woman, who spoke with the same strange language and accent as every other person here, was in my face trying to get me to eat food that made me gag. And I was hungry.

Today, I hated myself for saying these things to Barno. I don’t want it to be a battle, I don’t want to fight him to do what is right for himself. I don’t want him to have to stand up and suck it up and soldier through. I remember saying to my mom, “It isn’t fair” and being told that age-old parental cop-out “Life isn’t fair.”

Maybe it isn’t, for grown-ups. But is there a golden age when you get protected, when fairness is enforced by those greater in both stature and capacity? How old was I when I first learned that my older brothers couldn’t possible be punished for what they did to me, that there was no rule of law? How long did it take me to realize that I felt better about the tyranny of our house if I passed it on to my little sister?

So… Barnaby said he wanted to go home, and I told him I wanted to stay for ten more minutes. The moms at the play-group are my friends, and I don’t see my friends. I love these women a lot, and it’s incredibly reassuring to be able to talk with a large group of people who are going through the same thing you are.

But, a minute later, he asked to be picked up, and when I picked him up, he gave me an uncharacteristically strong hug. I walked with him into the other room, where it was just the two of us, and he said, “I want to go home and play with toys with Barnaby and toys and Daddy only…” and I knew what he meant. We put on our jackets and left.

Because, I wanted to be there, but maybe for another few months, the decisions need to be about him. Maybe another year. He’ll know soon enough that when he gets knocked down on the playground, his dad and mom won’t be there, and the teacher won’t care. In the same way that he’ll know that when he gets fired, his boss isn’t gonna sweat it, when his girlfriend leaves and steals his CDs, some of his friends will side with her. He’s gonna know these things soon enough.

So, maybe I’m making the same mistakes as my parents, maybe I’m not doing right by him. But, let’s say, he just gets until he’s three… it’s just three years. Maybe I can make it so that his first three years, it seems to him that everything IS fair. And maybe when he touched a warm radiator, his dad will just kiss it better and not try to teach him anything. Maybe he just gets a chunk of time to be a protected little boy, and the world can wait.

Universal Robots

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

If I’m going to tell you what I thought of Universal Robots, I should actually start with a list of caveats that essentially mean that my perspective on this show is utterly worthless. When I tell you what I thought of this show, I’m saying something that doesn’t mean anything to anyone because, although every person’s experience in every live performance is different, I’m bringing a giant bag of stuff to this thing.

At the root of any production of this play is the script, which deserves an entire rant exclusive to the production. The way that information is given to us is pitch perfect, and I think, if anything, is Mac’s real gift as a writer. The script unfolds like a continental drift, like magnificent plates pushing together an inch at a time and leaving you with craggy mountains. All the way through the first act, you get… I want to say hints, but they’re statements, they’re revelations without context, so that when you finally begin to piece together the history that Mac wrote, the intellectual thrill feels like your lungs filling with helium.

There is a meeting of self-congratulatory hyper intellectuals, not unlike my group of friends, and each is a critic of, and an ass to, and a lover of,each of the other members. There is an amazing moment where the playwright’s friends mock his play *As it is happening*, calling from across the room and being shushed. There’s an incredible vision as a poet communist verbally attacks the Christian democratically elected President, and the President notices, understands, and doesn’t really

It could be Mac’s commentary on us, but it isn’t. It takes a good stretch of the play to discover, but it’s a love letter from the Robots to their human creators, a paean to the very inessential things that the Robots revolt against later. Since the show, I find myself thinking – if irony is the mark of a weak man, then existentialism is the mark of an under-utilized mind. If you have time to ponder your place in the universe, there are probably dishes not being washed.

And, the first act of the play involves scattered scenes, disorganized factions who line up and don’t and miss their spot. At one point, in an argument, one character finds herself eloquently losing herself and ending up on the far side of her point of view, and another character says, “Who’s side are you on?”, an incredible little bomb that Mac drops on us, a little reminder of the difference between men and computers – that the beginning and end of our programming isn’t Ones and Zeros but shades of grey.

Rather quickly, the script begins dividing people into pairs, and even though those pairs shift and create different patterns, he’s laying the foundation for where we’re going. A brother and sister. A woman and a Barkeep. A daughter and a parent, the parent and the spouse. A man and a woman. A woman and a Robot. It’s amazing, and that motif continues. When the Robots gather for war, the main character needs a *partner*, needs another Robot to make the plan.

There is so much more. The investigation into our humanity is as scorching and stinky as digging shit out of your nails. Why make Robots look like humans if they really are machines? What’s wrong with a woman using the Robot sexually? What’s wrong with a man doing it? What if he wants a Robot that looks like a child? What is it worth to be good and right? What do you do with the moral implications of technology? How can a machine, incapable of independent thought be evil?

It’s thrilling. It’s invigorating. It’s what is supposed to happen when you go to the theater. Movies are made for explosions and boners, the theater is here for some CHURCH. You can watch Schindler’s List, but the showers just don’t get you WET. This is what theater CAN do, but seldom does, and in this case it does.

And then, the Moment That Mac Rogers KILLS You, which he just loves. I’m did a reading last night, and I know where the line is. This play has it – and it’s smaller than the end of Sky Over Ninevah, it’s better slight of hand than Second String, it’s more deadly than the end of Coffee Girl, it’s more breath-taking than Hail Satan, it’s a deeper drink than St. Ignatius.

Two Robots are faced with a choice, a life or death decision, and they choose love. I hate doing this, I’m going back to the top to write “SPOILERS” because I hate doing this, but I can’t talk about the play without saying it. The Robots are told that one of them must die, and each won’t allow the other. When asked why, they simply say, “We
belong to each other.”

These machines, these tools, these *slaves* understand what ownership is. And in that one moment, they transcend it, they discover, without prompting and without knowing it themselves, love. And the minute that they love each other, they cease to be Robots, they become Things With Souls. They become people.

That’s Mac’s answer. Mac’s answer is simply that the difference between an abacus and a person is love. The beating heart and the cell division isn’t the answer. I overheard Mac saying he wanted to explore the human soul in both this piece and in Hail Satan, and this answer is… Can I admit that I’m crying as I write this? When they say, “she belongs to me” and then “he belongs to me…” That’s my child, my
wife, all of you. That’s the truth.

The acting overall is far better now than it was in 2007. There’s a comfort and a truth to the moment-to-moment in this play in the acting that wasn’t there when Mac directed it. The main characters, played by David, Jason, Jennifer and Ben, are really sensational each. David’s character is self-satisfied to the point of almost losing charm, but he does the really tough thing and holds the line, never allowing his character to become something he isn’t fighting for.

Jason… I can’t talk about it. I’m too close to him.

Ben is so utterly *other* in this role, so befuddled and excitable and ego-less, when in real life he’s a wisecracking ass that drops nuts with the best of them.

Jennifer is a revelation. I didn’t think I was gonna make it through her performance, there are parts of watching her in this play, with David as her adorable asshole little brother, that make it physically painful to be there for.

But the real improvements are in the smaller roles. Tarantino and Ridley have both gone from being good, serviceable actors to honest, deep and true performers. Esther has lost all of her protections, she’s utterly in service to the play and Nancy remains wonderful.

That leads me to the problem I sometimes get in to. We begin seeing the same people pulling off the same miracles, and what they’ve done is created an atmosphere where expectations are so high that they can really only disappoint. Nancy Sirianni is so good in everything that one can’t possibly expect her to be a genius in everything. And yet… she is. Jason Howard is as powerful a force as I’ve ever witnessed on stage, he’s an AWEsome presence who’s very skill needs to be *blunted* for most of his performances, and in this piece he exceeds your wildest expectations.

The costumes and props were insanely cool. The President’s suit was so gorgeous that I just about didn’t care about his performance. Rossum, the scientist who creates the Robots, was downright alarming. The LOOK of the minutiae of the show was really articulate, and that’s note-worthy because you don’t usually get color-pallets and stuff on this level. The wall decorations came across to my asshole brain as really, really good first ideas. They were beautiful and articulate wall boards that look like computer circuitry, and I was like, “Cool. Cool. So… so, this play has Robots, huh?”

The play is breath-taking. I believe it’s a masterpiece, and I believe that Mac’s best work is still ahead of him. I haven’t read a book that affected me like this since, probably, Nine Stories when I was 17. Or Jonathan Livingston Seagull when I was 15.
Or Two Towers when I was 12. I haven’t felt this strongly about a work of art (that wasn’t music) since I was a *teenager*. I hugged Mac for an inappropriately long time at the end of the play, I gave the actors a standing ovation before anyone else did. I love Mac’s plays, and, not counting things I’ve been in, this is my favorite.

Why Blueprint?

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

This is gonna be a theater post.

Over at The Clyde Fitch Report Mr. Jacobs does a good new-asshole tearing, which is always fun to read, but even more so made me re-visit an inspiration we had last year.

It is really tough to go through the soul-searing craziness that goes into writing and then producing a piece of theater, and when you get to the end of it you have another bout of insane negotiation and buffalo-shuffling bullshit just to get *any* press at all to notice you. When they do, and they send someone who doesn’t know what his or her job is, it can make you tear your hair out. Reviews that list a plot summary and then talk about some of the other artists involved (usually limited to actors and directors)and each gets a one adjective qualifier… it can be really disheartening.

“The Big Balloon is a well-written comic drama set in the late 1950s. Sara, ably portrayed by Karen Actorress, is looking for the right man to help her overcome her past, and she thinks she might have found him in Doug, a charming but sometimes over-the-top Charles Actington. Things take a turn for the worse when they discover a secret about their fathers and their families… to say any more would spoil the ending. Kristin McDirector keeps the action crisp and Jonathan Sibelius’ music really sets the mood. The wonderful supporting cast includes Karen Older, Julia Younging, Charles Fatter, Arnold Shortish and Steve Blank.”

This review is obviously completely worthless. If anything, the only thing it *does* do is sort of spoil the ending of the play. Nothing is here, but you can imagine, right? Does it turn out they have the same father? Maybe their fathers were gay lovers? Who knows? I can tell you that the plot synopsis essentially makes MOST of the play a waste of time, if the plot is what you’re interested in.

I mean, it’s tough to tell stories in our medium. Ignore for a moment that when you submit yourself to live theater, you are making yourself a captive audience at a set time on a set day, and you’re putting yourself in one chair and agreeing that you will barely move, you will NOT cough or clear your throat, you will NOT eat a snack or pause the thing and get a drink. Ignore that, instead of stadium seating, you will either be in a folding chair, a painful off-broadway satin chair or, the VERY WORST, a chair on Broadway that you’ve paid 100 dollars for, and there isn’t room for your femurs. Ignore all of this, because it’s a given.

What you also have is the knowledge that many of the most exciting and exhilarating things you can do in storytelling are not really available to you in live theater. Violence? You can spend six months with a movement specialist, it will still look fake. Sex? At some point, quite quickly, it occurs to the audience that they’re on the edge of a peep-show. A crappy nap (and, honestly, have you ever seen a good one) or a nipple slip, and suddenly, we aren’t really telling a story anymore. We have our hands tied in so many ways.

So, go back to the review. They’re playing by other media rules. They are reviewing a TV show that has been produced live on stage. And that’s not fair, it really isn’t, a play, by its very nature, has something utterly other to offer an audience, and by failing to critique a play on its own terms, the critic is failing those who are searching for entertainment options.

((((((( Live theater gives you several unique things. One) a living person in front of you telling you a story. Two) A continuous immediacy, each thing that happens spontaneously follows from the thing that just happened and there is no turning back. Three) A Meta-level. Every play is a backstager, every play is survived every performance by every performer. Four) Synchronized Collaboration. I don’t believe there’s another art form that requires so much of so many, AT THE SAME TIME. Five) Unadulterated expression of talent. There’s no editing, no double-tracking, no stunt-doubles, no foley, no dubbing and no “let’s do one more to be safe”.

This parenthetical thing is not to argue any kind of superiority, I’m a studio musician and I know the value in getting it right with overdubs and editing. I’m just pointing out, live theater is different that TV or Film.))))))

So, I got to set up a straw man critic and then knock him down, but the fact is, it isn’t their fault. Our audience largely doesn’t know what they’re looking for, doesn’t know why they want to see live theater so badly. Or, rather, why they dread going when they feel like they have to.

We (as in Gideon Productions) felt like it was as much our fault as anyone’s. As much as we all love Pinter, it wasn’t like we were going out of our way, looking for a boiling psychological drama when we read reviews. I honestly look for shows that have hot girls not wearing much, that’s just how I roll. But we were always aware of the fact that we were trying to make sure that the plot and the pressure were as amped up as possible for the plays we were producing and supporting.

We also knew we had to produce an evening of one-acts. It’s simply what a production company does in New York. You get to work with a bunch of people, you get those bunch of people to invite their friends, so it’s totally a win/win. You get inspired by opening up your production company to a bunch of playwrights and directors and actors, and in turn you open up your company to a larger audience.

The problem is, we suck at making things happen for purely business reasons. If we aren’t inspired, we simply don’t do anything. So, when Mac came up with the idea of the Blueprint Project, we jumped at it. A paragraph that contained all the plot and the characters, given to four or five different playwrights, and then we produce the entire evening, one play after the other.

The success of the evening, for me, was that each play was seen as a live theater event. The plot and the characters were already given, they were even printed in the program… so how did each playwright design the show? How did each director handle the playwright and cast the actors? How did each actor create the character when other actors were doing a similar thing in the evening?

The conversations about the plays ended up being about the moments, the shared experience. We featured the meta-drama, we played up the synchronized collaboration… And we were pretty psyched about the whole thing. Now, we didn’t actually achieve anything, it’s not like we were teaching an audience how to see a play, and we certainly didn’t get any reviewers to re-think the way they critique a piece. But at least we know that we’re also part of the problem, and evenings like this are *our* attempt to remedy it.

We do want critics to come see our plays, and we do want them to talk about what they liked and disliked. But, it’s useless when they say “ably directed” or they say “well paced” or “beautifully acted”. None of that actually means anything. If you’re talking about “Lost”, you don’t need to tell me about your couch… but if you’re seeing “The Homecoming”, and the AC got turned on too high at the end – I mean, that could be amazing, just amazing. Think about that, how amazing would it be if the room kept getting colder and colder as that play headed towards its end. I would love for a critic to transport me to the theater, to let me know how it felt to be there. Even if it was agony, I’d be far better served with the description of the horror, than to be told is was “bad”.


Thursday, February 5th, 2009

I haven’t written in this blog for a long time, and although it would be best to avoid explanations, I think the fact that I’ve avoided writing about writing is the reason this place froze up.

It’s possible for some people at some points in their lives to point to a transitional moment and say, “that was the day that everything changed”. I certainly can do that, there was an interesting moment one day in the middle of my tenth grade when I got beat up badly enough to end up in the hospital, and responded by borrowing a tux and showing up at a formal dance with my face covered in stitches, and I would say that moment was a turning point in my life…

BUT. Most of the time, transitions happen slowly, your life spinning like a wet mug on a potter’s wheel. You don’t know what you’ve become until you’re pretty close to becoming it, and that’s kinda what’s been happening to me.

My artistic and professional lives have fallen completely off the rails. My passions are the same as they were four years ago, but my capacity to rally both myself and the troops has evaporated. It’s an interesting moment for me artistically, just as my internal mechanism for knowing what I like has become more refined and articulate, I’ve lost the clear path to production that I once had.

This is a good thing, I think. I pushed really hard for a couple of ideas that I’m not sure, in retrospect, that I totally understood. Right now, I am going through a Great Pause, a sort of inhalation, and I’m pretty sure that’s good. I’ve talked a lot over the years, and I’ve made a fool out of myself roughly twice as often as I’ve been either entertaining or insightful, so my silence is more than just a welcome recess for my friends and colleagues. It has to have been good for me.

What I’ve decided to do with this blog is to focus on two aspects of my life, and leave the rest to better informed and more entertaining people. I’m gonna do what I can to talk about the theater, and I hope to see more and to be involved in production more so that I can put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.

The other thing I’m gonna embrace a little more is the Daddy-n-Me aspect of this blog. I’m a full-time dad, and I don’t know how much longer I’ll be that. So, I’m gonna focus on telling the story as it’s happening, and hopefully that’ll help me figure out what I’m doing.

I’m sure this particular post will fall on deaf ears for a number of reasons. Nobody likes reading a post about writing posts, and also, I haven’t written in forever and I’m pretty sure everyone’s forgotten. Which is probably good, it’s gonna take me a while to get back in the saddle.

I’m not gonna talk about politics, unless it relates to theater. I’m not gonna talk about anything unless it relates to parenthood or art.