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.

So...one 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.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

I'm not sure if it's flying, or just a respite before the controlled crashing.

I remember hearing a story, somewhere...it may have been a story on a television show, it may have been one of the late night bar-ramblings...or it may have been at one of the many airports I've found myself in, from time to time.

The story is about pilots who are new to flying on instruments alone; and how, when they fly into the clouds, they have to rely upon that one instrument that will tell him/her that they are flying level.  And they make an adjustment.  And another adjustment.  Just a tweak here.  And a tweak there.

The number of pilots that come out the clouds completely upside down is astonishing, apparently.

I know how they feel.

I've written things in the past...I mean, besides here.  Little sketches, here and there.  The occasional radio script.  Usually adaptations of some other medium, which is like getting a push as you begin to roll.

This was different. 

Of course, the character is well established.  But putting that character into a new situation, and using all of the original material in that new situation...it seemed difficult.  It felt like I was juggling cats; you need to keep them all in the air, not hurt them, and not get hurt yourself.  Or, keep the story straight, do not destroy the integrity of the original character, and don't beat your head against the table so as to cause concussion.

At any rate, I finished a rough draft on the first of April.

And now, I feel a little like that first-time pilot on instruments.

Tweaking.

And upside down.

I gotta get this thing outta my hands for a while.

But in the midst of all the crap in the last four months....there's a victory in actually finishing it.  Good or bad, it's done.

I will rest for a bit, and start the DB Cooper thing.

And by the way, my admiration of the friends who have made a living doing this just exponentially grows.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Random Stuff....

Three months of unemployment.

A dozen applications; a couple of interviews; and a lot of....shall we say....skeptical glances.

I realize that my outside doesn't match my inside; my brain tells me that I'm still running with the wolves; but my outside reads like I'm sitting with the doughnuts.  And I can't get anybody to see that I'm not interested in what I've done; I'm trying to find something that I would find interesting to do; and that includes making coffee or sandwiches.

For those of you that know me, you know that I'm not overly proud in that regard; I do what comes up, without judgement and at the top of my game.  Doesn't matter if it's protecting the flying public or making a foot long meatball sub.

So....thing on hold there, temporarily. 

And yeah, I've come a long way from laying on the couch, bouncing back and forth between relief and terror.

By the way, speaking of terror:  we really need to stop using the word "Terrorism," or any of the variations; because in the words of Indigo Montoya, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Terrorism is violent, and seeks to coerce a group of people or a government to change a position.  But we as Americans tend to expand that definition to 'anybody that does something that we disagree with.' And, at the same time, we contract the definition to only include groups that don't look like a majority of the GOP (think in terms of a ream of copy paper).

A Pakistani shoots up a bar in Orlando and it's terrorism.
A white guy shoots up his place of employment, and it's a social tragedy.

And all it takes is somebody to say that somebody said, "Allahu Ackbar" and we're off to the races.

And just because ISIS claims responsibility doesn't make it true, or terrorism.  ISIS will claim responsibility for anything that gets them in the media; they're basically an Evil E Network.

ISIS makes shit up.  I always thought there was a guy sitting in Syria, with a cell phone that he knew was bugged by every security network in the free world, making up stories and calling people to share them, like some awful 21st Century Crank Call....basically to impress his buddies who are in the room, hanging out.....

This would be the only explanation for the idea of the 'body bomb.'  I'm pretty sure Ahmed watched a DVD of THE DARK KNIGHT, and called up a friend.  And then laughed and laughed and laughed as the Intelligence community and the media ate it up.

In other news...

BASEBALL.  It's hard to get fired up when snow is still falling, and I haven't had my taste of the live action this year as I've had in the past, but it all rolls out tomorrow and there's always something magical about it.  The sound of the bat on the ball....the rise of the sound from the crowd...the yells of the concession people......the organ music (I'm old school).....and the memories of the old Gods...

Kaline.  Cash.  McLain.  Lolich.  Horton.  And a manager named Mayo.

'Cuz I'm a Tiger fan.

So.

Work.
Terrorism.
Baseball.

Oh, and just remember....there is nothing that terrifies a political figure so much as a group of people chanting, "Your Last Term!"

It makes them start to see clowns in the sewer drains.

Cheery-bye!




Saturday, March 25, 2017

Blighter's Wrock

There's a line from a song by one of my favorite Folk singers, Stan Rogers; it's off of an album called TURNAROUND, and the title of the tune is called Try Like The Devil......

....demons on my shoulder,
Smiling to show me the way.....

There's one for ambition,
And another for greed;
Here's a big one,
He's a drunkard,
But the easiest to feed;
It takes a strong man to ignore them,
And a rich man to drive them away.....

We all have these, right?

Mine have been screaming at me, the closer I get to finishing a particular project.  I write, I edit, I rewrite, and I log off thinking that it's not bad, and a long back in the next day thinking it's a load of badly written crap.

I've never been able to wrangle the demon into silence; and I've never finished this project.

Sigh.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Dreaming of Baker Street on a drive to Minneapolis.

A year or so back, I found myself a member of a group in Minneapolis called The Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota.

No, it doesn't really have anything to do with exploring; and you don't have to be Norwegian.  But their meetings take place in Minnesota; usually in St. Paul.

It's a Sherlockian Society.

As most of you know, I'm a fan of Sherlock Holmes.  And have been since I was about 14.  The same year that Benadryl Cumbersmash was born.  And Johnny Lee Miller was only 4.

In the summer of 1976, my Father decided that I was going to do some reading*, and he assigned me a book, TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY, by John Steinbeck#.  I hated it as only a 14 year old boy could.  And so, after berating me a bit for my lack of patience, he assigned A STUDY IN SCARLET.

Cue the trumpets; I was hooked.

Of course, it had to a fandom kept mostly to myself; 14 year old boys that I knew had no interest in fictional characters, unless, of course, they were named Starsky or Hutch.  But that was okay; I had this thing to occupy my time, for here were more stories to read.

As I discovered as I moved on, there were movies with a guy named Basil, and a television series with a guy named Jeremy Brett, and eventually, pastiches written by everybody under the sun, and plays, from every time period you could name.....

Here was a guy who used his BRAIN.  Who could, simply by looking at someone, discern details that seemed like magic.  And he used these gifts to do right.

It's no wonder that a 14 year old geek, who had no physical gifts but a top-notch brain, become a life long fan.

I got to play the character in '00, in a theatre in California; it was a kind of heaven.  One review stated that I was, "embodying the character, rather than playing him."  I should have quit right then, called the career a success, and moved on to washing cars for a living.  Or something.  Because it was never going to get better than that for me, ever.

I have a large collection now, of books, and dvds and memorabilia; a signed photo of Jeremy Brett, a pipe inherited from my Father, a hat purchased in London at the only Museum dedicated to a fictional Character...and yes, I spent a glorious afternoon there......

But some people spend their afternoons as LEGOLAND and nobody bats an eyelash, so don't stare at me, buddy.

And my fandom of the Great Detective was like a gateway to others.....Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe, J J Marric's Inspector Gideon, Ellery Queen, Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael (as well as Umberto Eco's Friar William of Baskerville in THE NAME OF THE ROSE), and all the 'detective fiction' from Wilkie Collins (THE MOONSTONE) and Poe (RUE MORGUE) to Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta and Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone.

So, every so often, I go over to Minneapolis on a weekend and sit in a room and talk for several hours about a specific story with a group of like-minded individuals, and they marvel at the fact that I travel a long distance to do so.

I do it so I feel that sense of belonging that has long been missing.

Well, and the Mall of America.

And the Park Square Theatre.

But mostly the Norwegian Explorers.




*My Father insisted that he assigned me THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, but I'm sure it was SCARLET; he also assigned me Mark Twain's TOM SAWYER, though he swore it was HUCKLEBERRY FINN. 

#STILL haven't read this one yet.  But I did inherit it, so there's hope.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Spinning like a Random Top...ic.....

I cannot bring myself to write anything about the industrial strength swamp that is the current political situation.  I just can't.  I'd like to say that it is just too easy; the fact of the matter is, there's just too much on the social networking sites that to add to it seems redundant.

And I'm not all that interested in Awards shows, so that topic is out; except to say this:

Nate Parker, writer, director and star of BIRTH OF A NATION, was accused, arrested and acquitted of a sexual assault that allegedly took place in 1999.  He and his movie were vilified in the press, and social media, and a fine film disappeared.

Casey Affleck settled a sexual harassment lawsuit, where he physically coerced a woman to sleep with him, and when he didn't, verbally assaulted her and generally behaved like a privileged asshole, and was given an Oscar.

I don't see much of a difference between the two; except that one got hosed. 

And I didn't see any of the films nominated; I did notice that most of the films nominated were released after October.  And mostly in LA and NY.

 Baseball started this week.

I think fondly of those vacations I took to visit my old man down in Sarasota; and the arguments we would have about who's turn it was to buy the tickets, and who was supposed to supply the dogs and suds.  I would like to thank the Tigers, the Pirates, the Orioles, the Twins, the Braves, the Red Sox  and the Rays for the enormous fun.

Also, both the Pirates and the Orioles have top-notch Grapefruit League facilities.

I'm not going this year.

Still no job.  And no prospects.  It's been 69 days.  The longest I've ever been unemployed.

It was easier to find a job when I was forty.

It's hard now.

Apparently, I'm overqualified to make coffee.

And, that's about it.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

I wasn't meant for......

There's an old story about a man who goes to a doctor, claiming that he couldn't feel anything.

He found no joy in his life, his job was unfulfilling, and each day just plodded along.

The doctor said, "I've got just the thing for you!  The Greatest Show on Earth is in town, and they have this clown, Grimaldi...and Grimaldi could make a statue laugh!  If you're tired of Grimaldi, you are tired of life!

The man smiled a sad smile.

"You see doctor," he said, sadly, "I am Grimaldi."

I heard that story when I was fourteen.

And there have been, in my life, several quintessential moments that felt like the proverbial punch in the stomach.  Times when it seems like everything around you shifts suddenly to twelve inches left, and every single cell in your body screams.

I can actually remember the first time it happened.  The death of Charlotte, in E.B. White's terrific novel of friendship and acceptance.  My third grade teacher read it to the class through the winter into the spring.  That moment jarred me.  I felt it, keenly.

Standing in the middle of the Ripley's Museum, the world changed.  Or, more importantly, my perception of it changed.

And that's how my self-assessment as a Court Jester with a broken heart began.

I have served an important purpose, I think.  I learned from everything, I saw deeply, spoke passionately, cheered the world around me, tried to see all sides of a story, to get to the real story.

Became an alcoholic, became more introverted, and more often than not, went home alone.

Diogenes would be proud, I think.

Sun will come up in the morning, though, I bet.......