Friday, January 19, 2018


My Father, in a kind of wisdom a fourteen year old boy could in no way, shape or form admire, added certain chores to the Summer Vacation....

Yeah, there was mowing and raking and weeding and cleaning and all that stuff, of course, but to add to the physical exercise, there was mental exercise as well.

He assigned us books to read.  I cannot recall the whole list over several years, but several of them stick out.

Travels With Charley by Steinbeck.  Huckleberry Finn by Twain.  And The Hound Of The Baskervilles by Doyle.

For some reason, I never got all that caught up in Steinbeck.  I don't think it was the book he assigned, I think it was a high school run-in with The Grapes of Wrath which introduced a frustrating symbolism to my world, and an entire chapter of a turtle crossing a highway killed any love I might of had for Steinbeck.

Don't get me wrong:  I have a great respect for Steinbeck.  And I don't fill my library with him.

Well, except for The Short Reign of Pippin IV.  Dad made me read that one, too.

But I glommed onto Twain and Doyle like a Tyrannosaurus on...well, anything it wants to glom onto.

And you know all of this, if you've read anything I ever put on this page.

I have read pretty much everything Twain wrote, including several versions of his Autobiography; I have the three volumes of the latest version of his Autobiography, but have not waded through it.  And, I've read everything Doyle wrote about the Great Detective, as well as a lot of other things printed about Holmes and Watson written by others.

There have been precious few pastiches written on Twain's characters; I don't count the many versions of A Connecticut Yankee, and truly, the Further Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Greg Matthews was interesting and disappointing.  And don't get me started with the play, The Boys of Autumn by Bernard Sabath is interesting (I would like to direct it) and depressing (do we really need to know the adult versions of Huck and Tom?)

In the previous world I lived in, I wrote an adaptation of Tom Sawyer that played for about six weeks at the Great American Melodrama in Oceano CA, early in the '00s.  It's odd to consider that all those kids have kids of their own now.  I thought it was a good adaptation, but they have not, and probably never will revive it.

I also played Sherlock Holmes for the first time at that same theatre, in 1999.  I read of the role, and even though I was up against a guy who eventually won a Tony Award, I got the part and had a ball.  It gave me a love for the character above and beyond what I had previously, and ever since, I have desired to return to the character on the stage.

So, here we are.

Back in April of this year, an old friend from my college days, Ian Wesley, sent me a one-hander about Holmes at the end of his career.  It was touching, watching this fellow remember who he was, and attempt, with various levels of success, to reconcile that with who he has become.

Ian gave me the play with his blessing, to do what I wish with it.  So, I decided to produce it.

So, I gathered my team together: people I have known in the circle of artists that work around town; people I trust and people that make me laugh and think.  And together, we figured as long as we're in for a penny, why not go in for a pound?

So, the play, Sherlock Holmes At Twilight, by Ian Wesley and featuring John Clemo as the Great Detective, will be the first production of The TruNorth Theatre, based in Bismarck ND.

It will be performed at the High Prairie Arts and Science complex on Schafer St (just up the street from Bismarck State College) on February 21-24 at 7:30.

There will be a website and such next week, and posters and oh my GOD.

I am very excited to be walking on a stage again.

And exceptionally terrified.

Perhaps I'll see some of you there.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sitting by the Stream of Consciousness

The entertainments at The Cabin have always been 'old school.'

In my youth, it was the radio (mostly AM, and limited to old WJR and it's affiliates out of Detroit and the surrounding area...and mostly the voice of Ernie Harwell calling the Tiger games), and board games.  If you were truly bored, there were books.

And there were campfires, where the summer community of the River Road would gather, burn wood, and sing and tell stories.  The adults imbibed; the children s'mored.

But these are different days from the obviously gilded memories of my youth.

Books are still available, and I've been through a couple that have been sitting on the shelf for a bit:  a collection of stories by Stephen King published in 2015; and the latest from Michael Crichton, who continues to write great stories even while being dead since 2008.

But there are also DVDs.  My Father caved in the late part of the last decade, and introduced a television to the main room; simple, plain, and with the use of the antenna, he gets a couple of stations and he was fine with that.

I provided a small, no-frills DVD player.

And when I travel to this place, I bring a collection of things that I have purchased sometime in the past, or old favorites that will play into my feelings of nostalgia.

Among some of the choices on this trip.....some episodes of NIGHT GALLERY and FATHER TED, the HORATIO HORNBLOWER miniseries from A&E, Several BBC SHAKESPEARE comedies, and the ENTIRE run of SCTV NETWORK 90.

I'm watching some the last one now.

And mixed in with all the laughs (it holds up pretty well over the decades), and all the memories of sitting in a living room in the early 80's, with a pizza and a couple of friends, laughing our assess off and not missing Saturday Night Live AT ALL....there was a bit of sadness and anger.....

Twenty three years since John Candy's passing.

We have been deprived of that particular joy for over a generation.

Yes, by now, he'd be pushing 70; and who knows what kind of movies he'd have made....hopefully, they would have been better than CANADIAN BACON and WAGON'S EAST.

But I miss the John Candy from that old television program from the CBC and then, from NBC.  I miss Johnny LaRue and Dr. Tongue and The Guy With The Snake On His Face.  And all those spot-on impressions.  The brilliant quality of the scripts, at the time eclipsing that of the SNL.


I may actually miss the watching the program, rather than the program itself.  Those halcyon days of college with two guys named Michael and Pete, laughing our asses off over pizza and liquids...late into the night.

I miss those guys.

And I'll miss this place, this old cabin in the woods, when I pack up and leave.  But I'll be back; nothing ever keeps me away for very long from the cedars and the river and the silence.

But there are promises to keep.

And miles to go.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

See Any Resemblance?

A week or so ago, I was partaking in some concession at the ballpark (I have these really cool half-season tickets, that provide free food for the first five innings of the game) and I wound up riffing on a theme with one of the attendants, who was apparently impressed with my gift for the random gab.

"You remind me of Robin Williams, but I bet you've heard that before.  You kinda look like him."

I thanked him for the compliment; for it was a good one.  And I smiled, took my edible swag and headed to my seat behind home plate to watch the Bird Boys play host.

The thing is...the minute he said it, a wave of melancholy washed over me, and I was tossed upon the Sad Reflection Beach.

Aside from the apparent similarities in our delivery, which for the normal folk of the Capitol City of the Northern State must seem a bit wired-and-weird, there is one thing Robin Williams and I shared.

Our Birthdate.  His in 1951 and mine....several years after that.

I enjoyed his work immensely, even the stuff that didn't work for him.  Yes, I liked POPEYE, and I like GARP.  And I even liked BICENTENNIAL MAN.  The suspense stuff, I could take or leave....and some of my favorite moments of BARON MUNCHAUSEN were in his uncredited turn as the King of the Moon.

But I am haunted by BEING HUMAN.

It's a movie of slow moving vignettes; Williams plays a man in five different time periods, and as you continue to watch, you realize it's the same soul, moving through time, making the same mistakes as he tries to grow.  He once said that, "What's right is what's left after you doing everything else wrong."  I'm certain that is the prevailing theme of BEING HUMAN.

The guy could go on a frantic riff about anything you could name; his first album, REALITY.  WHAT A CONCEPT, made me laugh out loud when I was in college, and continues to do so to this day.  His mind worked differently than anybody I have ever seen or met, and he could make a stone laugh.

But the portrayal of a man who tries so hard to be brave, to do the right thing, and falls short each time is heartbreaking; and you see it in his performance.  It seeps from every pore.

To quote Shakespeare, specifically from JULIUS CAESAR,

His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, "This was a man."

I was sorry to see him go.

I believe that my actual online response to the news was, and I quote, "AHH, GODDAMN IT!"

So, let me take this opportunity, on the day after, so say, "Happy Birthday, Robin Williams."

You are missed.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Let us talk of uniformed men, and leather gloves, and straight white lines in brown dirt...and green grass under a yellow sun.

Before the world turned upside down back in December, and provided me with a few great stories but few good opportunities, my Brother-In-Law and one of my Nephews and I spoke of the new baseball team that was taking up residence here in the Capitol City of the Northern State.

The newest member of the Northwoods League; a conglomeration of teams from around an area stretching from Iowa to Michigan and up into the Great White North, which was named by contest as the Larks.

And of course, their playing field known as The Nest.

The three of us decided to participate in the form of Season Tickets; actually, Half-Season Tickets.  The season begins in late May, and runs until the middle of August....the teams are made up of college students, the crème de la crème of the Collegiate Baseball World, and based upon the schedule (the Larks, for example, have one day off in June) they must feel that they died and went to baseball heaven.

So...we bought five seats for seventeen games (half the home games) behind home plate; and in that deal comes all the food we can eat.  So, the Larks serve me dinner seventeen times this summer.

The first game was May 30, here at The Nest.  It was a pitcher's battle, with each one playing well into the late innings; the Larks pitcher (ironically named Byrd), gave up two hits, no runs and fanned 10 before they pulled him in the 7th Inning....they have a very strict pitch-count rule, apparently.

The Larks tied the game 1-1 in the late innings, and in the bottom of the 9th, a line shot just down the left field line, just out of the reach of the diving fielder, gave the Larks the win, 2-1.

The joy that erupted out of that dugout was infectious; the crowd stood and roared, clapping and stamping their feet, voices going hoarse as the final ray of sunlight disappeared into the western prairie.  Fireworks followed, filling the night sky with color and the crowd headed to the parking lot, in expectation of a successful summer.

They dropped the second game, and won the third.  We attended the third game, and it was back and forth, finally decided in the 7th inning by wonderful heads-up base-running; two runs score on a wild pitch, allowing the bullpen to throw enough smoke to seal the deal.

As of today, the team is 2-2, and playing tonight in a small town in Minnesota.  We attend again on Monday, and I may sending out more than is coming in, but by GOD I love this game.

And I especially love this game when it is played by young men that play simply for the love of it.  'Small-Ball' is the word:  Dying Quails, Ground Balls With Eyes, the Hit and Run and the Stolen Base.  And WOODEN BATS.

Runners on First and Third, One Out, One Run Down.....the infield is in and the count is full.  The pitcher kicks; the world turns and the ball flies. 

And the world holds its breath for the sound; the glorious sound.

Play Ball.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Taking on the Red Eye.

So, the temperature has been up and down, and that usually means one thing for me....

A person can develop a cold.

And when I say cold, I mean a stupefying, fill every cavity of your head and chest with crap, dizziness inducing monster that turns me into a freakin' baby.

So, I've been downing all manner of stuff in order to kill it.  No luck.

And yesterday, I arose to my right eye as red as the devil.

Now, for those of you who haven't been keeping up, six months ago I had a couple of surgeries on my eyes.  Cataracts had made it impossible for any prescription to work effectively, and with the really good government health care, I took advantage and had the lenses in both eyes replaced.  The first one, the right eye, was completed in early October, and in late October, the left eye was completed.

It's not a bad surgery, as they go....I was a bit leery of people putting needles and scalpels near my eyes, but I had a good surgeon and the surgeries went very well.

But the day after they completed the left eye, the right eye took a turn for the worse; I developed a staph infection in my eye, and it was dangerously close to the incision that they made to replace the lens, and if it had gotten in to that cut.....all sorts of bad could've happened.  Worst case.....I coulda done a remake of Columbo.

But my surgeon stepped up, and after a huge amount of antibiotic and several eye drops every hour of every day, the infection was defeated.

But I have nightmares of the morning I woke up with an eye as red as the devil, and the inability to see out of it...and the trip to the emergency room and all the gloom and doom that accompanied that early morning...before salvation was achieved.

So, waking up yesterday and seeing that eye like that again....well, it as all I could do not to vomit.

All is's a cold.  And the resulting stuff in the sinus cavities behind the eyes made for one seriously bloodshot eye.  But a liberal dose of eye drops and things are well.  And everything is functioning normally.

Well, my lungs are coughing up gunk.  And my nose is Rudolphian.  And I'm acting like a baby.

But other than that, things are cool.

How's your day going?

Monday, April 24, 2017

I have supped full of theatre, and theatre-like things.

I enjoy the weekends when I can involve myself with some theatre.

As I've mentioned on several occasions, there is theatre art in this Capitol city of the Northern State; mostly of the amateur variety, and I mean that in the specific definition of the word.  No money is changing hands, just a love for being in front of an audience.

Yeah, they do have a 'Broadway' season; touring programs.  I can't for the life of me figure out who's making the choices, of course....I would rather see a touring version of SOMETHING ROTTEN than another tired old re-run of ANNIE.  And I would prefer to see LA BOHEME than another tired re-run of RENT.

That aside, there is a lot of interesting things to see in the City-Squared, and though it's a bit of a drive, this past weekend was worth it.

I sat through a matinee performance of THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE WATSON INTELLINGENCE, performed at a very lovely space; in the same neighborhood as the famous Fitzgerald Theatre, home of the famous Prairie Home Companion.  The play is....well, it's a interesting piece; it transcends time, the line between fiction and reality, and just when you think it's going to fall flat, it comes together to make a kind of sense that doesn't necessarily resound, but haunts.

Also got a chance to sit in on an evening at ComedySportz; a fun little improv theatre.  Good house, some decent performers....laughed out loud a lot, which I rarely do when I'm alone.

I also got a chance to sit in on a performance from The Red Throated League, an off-shoot of the Sherlockian Society to which I belong; they do radio theatre with all the bells and whistles.  They do it regularly....once a year or so.  It was fun to watch the audience engage completely with this reader's theatre thing; the true visual entertainment is to watch the sound effects table.  Marvelous work.

And in an incredible lack of foresight, I neglected to check the Tigers' schedule, and failed to notice that they were playing in town this past weekend....I really need to keep my eyes more open to that kind of thing.

And I walked around a huge Mall, which is pretty interesting...from an overwhelming mercantile perspective.

And now, back to the work at hand....

Thursday, April 20, 2017

And when something is remembered, and you have nothing better to write about....

I remember this guy I worked with one summer at an outdoor drama in Kentucky.

Don't look for it; it's been gone for awhile now.

The outdoor drama; not Kentucky.  Kentucky is still there.  It's that lovely place you get to see after you leave Ohio.

That has to be the earliest digression in my history.  Moving on.

This was one of those guys...nice enough fellow, of course, but his level of friendliness walked right up to the sincerity line, and often he inadvertently stepped across the line, into creepyville.  He was a binary in the company; you liked him, or you didn't. 

He was, by far, the worst understudy I have ever seen in my life.

Understudies in the non-union, outdoor drama world are a reasonable necessity; every lead role had one, made up of one of the actors playing the supporting roles.  And usually, those minor roles are well prepared to take over on short notice, and look hopefully forward to the opportunity.

Well, a couple of times I had an understudy that would literally look stricken at the idea of going on for me...I've had my share of injuries, and if I ever twisted an ankle or accidently set my head on fire, that understudy was there to make sure I was alive, coherent, and ready to go back on the stage.

This guy I'm talking about?  He was understudy to the lead.  The lead was the guy who's freakin' NAME was in the freakin' TITLE of the freakin' PLAY.  Historical figure.  Big as life.  Absolutely necessary to the movement of the plot.

I don't think the guy could've found his understudy script for a regular rehearsal, let alone a last minute fill-in.

Last minute fill-ins are...exhilarating.

I was playing one of those minor roles, in the early days of my career, and earning extra money doing interpretation for the tourists in the fort that was right next to the theatre; a replica of the original fort, with all sorts of historical relevance...and I was in-between tourist groups when I heard a voice from over the wall between the fort and the theatre.

It was the stage manager.  There'd been an small accident, and I was going on.  That night.

And after that little bombshell, a copy of script came sailing over the wall.  Just to make sure.

I knew the role; I'd studied.  I was a professional.  Didn't covet the role, of course; I don't like actors to get hurt, or quit, or get fired.  But it was part of the job and I did it.  And when it's a one-shot, it's fun...for everybody.  The actors you're playing with get a different interpretation to play off of, and the other company members find places around the set and stage to watch, to see what you're gonna do. evening, as the sun is sinking, and Act I is closing with a battle-to-the-death between the good guy and the villain, a slight slip of the knee and good guy goes down with a very large cut in his forehead.  Pretty big.  You could see it from space.

He was a pro: he finished up, got off stage, came into the dressing room, all the time saying that it was nothing, it was a scratch, get him a butterfly bandage and he'll be fine....and then he looked in the mirror.  And immediately requested a ride to the hospital.

Head wounds realllllly bleed.

Anyway, he went off to the hospital, and the understudy was thrown into the costume, and anybody who had words with him went to quickly run them so that there would be a comfort level.

No comfort to be found; this guy knew almost nothing in the script.  I'll give him credit, he gave it the old college try, but pages of dialogue were being dropped.  He knew some of the pivotal stuff; the solo stuff...but there was very little of that.

So.  A bunch of actors, willing to murder this guy because they just made their jobs that much harder because they have to carry the lazy bastard through the second act....and we did.  Barely. 

We did a forty minute second act in 25.  I was the narrator character for that one, and I was doing a LOT of improvising dialogue to cover all the things that the lazy bastard dropped.

The crowning glory?  I remember this guy saying, 'well, that went pretty well, all things considered!'

I lost track of the guy after that summer; but I still have some very good friends from that cast, from those times.  I don't miss him at all, but wish him well.  I'm sure he's working some cool gig, teaching the up-and-coming actors the craft.

Which explains the occasionally sorry state of the American Theatre.

The weather is warmer now, the sun is setting later, summer is right around the corner, and my mind imagination returns to those halcyon days in the outdoor amphitheaters.

And I miss them.  Very much.