Sunday, December 30, 2012

Despite all logic, Happy New Year.

I would like to see people be less concerned with the resolutions of celebrities, and more interested in...well....just about ANYTHING ELSE.

I would like to see the NHL to start playing again, so I can boycott them.  Do they even REALIZE how difficult it is in DETROIT right now?  Tigers got smoked; Lions suck; Pistons are so far past sucking that the light from sucking won't reach them for a decade.....

I would consider my life fulfilled if I get the opportunity to make Tina Fey laugh.

I would like to finish just one writing project.  As I recall, I've written that before.  Last year at this time, and the year before that.

Does this count as a writing project?

Monday, December 24, 2012


It's Christmas Eve, and I just got off of work about an hour ago; when I left, the world was spinning on as usual, with nary an evil-doer in sight....and the USAF was reporting that The Claus has clearance to enter US airspace.

I remember as a kid, getting up far too early and turning on the tree lights, and enjoying that sensation of expectation...all those wonderfully wrapped boxes containing who knows what, illuminated by huge, ancient lights reflected off of gobs of tinsel and what seemed like hundreds of ornaments; like a road map to the family Christmas history.

And school was out for a week.

Well, I've seen Christmas from all angles, I think....I've played Scrooge on various stages over three hundred times, I've celebrated it with my family, other people's family, and alone a couple of times. Even did a Hanukkah in Chicago, once upon a time when I was younger and in love.....

And I've worked through the night, and I've cooked huge meals for dozens and a frozen dinner for one and I can remember one particular Christmas where I had a rapidly shrinking stack of books on one side of the comfy chair and a rapidly growing stack of empty pizza boxes on the other.....

But nothing will ever compare to those mornings, with the lights and the anticipation and the laughter.

So, in the words of Scrooge's nephew Fred, "Merry Christmas!  God Save You!"*

*Taken from a letter written recently to my Uncle....yeah, I double dipped; sue me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Landscape in white.

The last time I attended a winter in the Mitten, I walked about neighborhood of my youth with the usual state of wonder; how things had changed, and how some things hadn't.

There were a lot more houses; the fields that surrounded my home were long ago replaced by large McMansions, and hastily constructed and re-constructed condominiums.  Two lane roads have become four lane roads.  Even the schools I attended as a wee little Historiclemo have grown past their original boundaries to accommodate a rising influx of students.

Of course, everybody I once knew have long since departed this neighborhood, but I still see them, of course....

The cute blonde girl named Cathy who lived near the top of the hill; my first all-encompassing crush.  And I think she knew; but we flew with different flocks.  And in those halcyon days, the flocks did not fly anywhere near together.

Kurt, the fast talking kid three doors down and across the street; he had this huge backyard ringed with trees where we played baseball all through the summer, from sunrise to sunset.  The house remains, although a lot worse for wear; I don't think anybody lives there anymore.

The Marshall boys; tough guys, to be sure.  Dangerous enemies, but valuable friends.  They threw themselves into everything they did; they played baseball like Ty Cobb, touch football like full contact....and always rode the dangerous rides.

The trees are larger, of course, and the hills are smaller.

The pond where we played hockey through the winter is privatized now.  They built houses all around it and there's no longer any access.  And the last time I was there, there was no hockey played there, either.  The surrounding hills were bulldozed smooth, covered with crisscrossed streets with silly names, and implanted with large houses with no furniture in their living rooms.  Lifeless places that light their lawns and eaves with Christmas lights, but do not seem to glow.

When I went for a walk in the late afternoon, as the sun gives up early and goes to bed, I walked the street that grew up behind the elementary school (Meadowbrook Elementary....back in the day, there was both a meadow AND a brook), and discovered that one of the great sledding hills had not been plowed under, but still remained for that use...

We called it BOX CANYON.  There were three runs on that hill; one called Big Ben, one called Little Ben, and one called Dangerous.  Each had an element of risk.  There was always a story that a kid got killed while sledding on the Dangerous one.  Isn't that always the case when you're a kid?

We sledded that hill rotten; without helmets.  On metal-runner sleds.  We would build elaborate jumps three quarters of the way down, so as to get the best velocity before becoming airborne.  We sledded there until we couldn't feel our limbs, and then we trudged home for dinner...and then, we'd put up torches along the edges, and sled at night under a sky filled with stars.  And we wouldn't come home until Dad blew his horn.

Laughter of children.  Cheering, wheezing, boisterous laughter in the dark.

Even the memory of it warms my soul.  Adults seldom get to laugh that long, that loudly, or that freely.

So, I stood there in the gathering darkness, watching the kids I didn't know sled down a hill that now seemed remarkably tame now that I grew taller and less impressed by anything.  I stood apart, of course, because the world has moved on and strangers are bad, and adult strangers are worse, and adult male strangers are the worst.  I wanted to re-live a memory, not scare a bunch of children into leaving.

And I watched.  And I listened.  And I smiled.  And when I thought I'd stayed too long, I moved on down the street, back to life, back to home.

I hope they didn't see me crying.

Joy and sadness are linked together like madness and genius.

And that's all I'm going to say about that.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ain't that right, Kizzy?

I don't know if I've ever talked about this, but one of my favorite books about theatre is called THE ART OF COARSE ACTING by Michael Green.  Of course, I, AN ACTOR by Nicholas Craig is also very....instructive; but while Craig's book is from a autobiographical point of view, COARSE ACTING is about a whole sub-section of artists.

A "coarse actor" is one that remembers the lines, but not in the right order.
They remember the pauses better than the lines.
When cast as a sailor, the first question they ask the director is "which shoulder do you want the parrot sewn on?"

And such.

I'm just one matinee (or, for you dyslexics out there, manatee) away from the end of an eight show run of INSPECTING CAROL.  I've had a lot of fun doing it; it's nice to be able to work those muscles from time to time, to remember just how fun the job is, when you're not worried about keeping a job, or getting a job, or having your car repossessed.

And yes, the dressing room conversation is just as puzzling to me as it has always been.

There has been frustration, of course; you cannot work with the Coarse Actor without it.  Actors who think that they are far more creative than the script; who believe that "a reasonable amount of ad-libbing is acceptable" (an EXACT quote).  And the politics of the community theatre, and the casting in the face of a lack of viable candidates at auditions.....and people not showing up....and saving it for "the people."

It all goes away when the lights are up and the audience is waiting.

I had somebody ask me last night about the longest run I've ever been through of the same play...and I told them.  A year and a half.

How do you do it?

Well, certain things remain the same....the opening night is always ceremonial and fun and full of all that excitement and whimsy and such...and then, quite frankly, it becomes a job. 

But the thing is, you have to bring your A game every night.  You need to push through all the crap that life brings you, and bring all your energy to bear...because, in the long run, a professional does their job, even when they don't FEEL like doing their job.

And you don't have to be paid to be a professional.

Nobody wants to admit that their performance is sponsored by ATT or VERIZON.  Nobody will ever admit that they phoned it takes energy and engagement to listen and react. 

But's your job.  People are paying good money to see you do this thing.  They deserve your best.  Today's best.  100%.

And the next question, of course, do you do that?

And the answer is simple....what ELSE have you got to do today?

Yeah; I love this as a hobby; and I loved it when it was my job; and I loved it when I was attempting to teach other people to do it and love it.

Because I'm not old when I do it.  I'm ageless.

Because I looked behind me last night, as the lights were going down, and damned if I didn't have wings........

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I liked it better when I didn't know anything.

At this particular point in our Human History.....Misanthropy sounds like a desirable occupation.

Good night, good luck, and God bless.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


I've been walking down this road for a couple of days now, and although I believe it's run its course, I'll offer one more observation on the idea that what you do matters.....

I have a small group of close friends, scattered to the four winds throughout the country.  We met in various circumstances; from graduate school, back to college.  A few, oddly and wonderfully enough, from high school.  Dozens from theatres during the Acting Wars.  And some survivors of the days of my professorial persona.

Each time we get together (and some are more frequent than others), it's almost like time has stood still from one merry meeting to the next.  The conversation flows; the laughter fills the days like sunshine and the nights like a flaming comet; and though we are saddened by the parting (for parting is all we know of Heaven and all we need of Hell) we know that the next meeting will bring back the music and the magic....

It is the strangers, though, that'll shock you to tears.

I recently received an email from somebody I have never truly met....they are working around the Minneapolis/St. Paul theatre scene, and have been for several years, and by chance they came across my name on the Social Network and dropped me a line.

To thank me.

It seems when I was a young man, a college fella, struggling to find the voice of the actor and falling unflinchingly into the depths of drunkyness, I did a role.....John Merrick in THE ELEPHANT MAN.  I believe it was the last play I did in college....would have been the Fall of 1984.  And they saw this particular play as part of a High School field trip...and they stayed for a Q and A after the show.  And apparently I answered a couple of questions.

And I made enough of an impression that they pursued the craft.

You never know what fires you're going to light.

Because, in the long run, the people that walk, run or take up residence in your life may forget what you say, and forget what you did...but they will never forget the way you made them feel.