Wednesday, July 30, 2008


SlamBoston was last week, and I haven't written about it for two reasons. I've been so busy with The Boys of Winter (my God, that's alotta lines!) and I really have a problem with a lot of the actor types who go around going, me, me, me....

But it's worth talking about, I think, from an artistic standpoint, especially when you consider that one of the plays I was in, Robosaurus, won the Slam. And since I'm posting on Blogspot, I've got the backing of Google behind me. Anything I blogged about will come up pretty high on Google's search results. So, you might as well learn about all this from the horse's mouth, or at least one of the horses.

Let's get everyone up to speed. SlamBoston is a night of theater put on jointly by Another Country Productions and Company One in Boston. It's produced like a poetry slam, only with short plays instead of poems, with judges who score the plays like Olympic divers--9.8, 9.7, and the Russian judge gives a 5.3. The plays are all original, and are pretty much chosen based on their themes on diversity.

Let's get in the way-back machine. The Slam's auditions were the day before the StageSource auditions, so as much as anything I used the Slam auditions as a warmup for the next day. I knew the directors were going to be looking at me for Robosaurus because I had worked on that piece in Lyralen Kaye's Meisner class. Lyralen is creative director of Another Country. Robosaurus is about two straight guys who consider being gay so they can hang out together all the time and just do guy things. It is raucous and a bit profane and I thought it was funny as hell from the get-go.

I got cast in Robosaurus by Steve Kleinedler and IDWYT by Nora Long.

Jared Goldberg played Justin in Robo, and Christopher Lyons played the waiter in both plays. Juan Carlos Pinedo played Dale in IDWYT.

The names are important because everyone got along so well, especially the cast and director of IDWYT. We just clicked from the start. Christopher is just a fun, open kind of person, and Juan Carlos is a very fun, but serious person, exactly the kind of person for Bob, the character I played. Nora, in the funny, sort of coy way she has of being, suggested that the two were kind of like Bert and Ernie. None of us were afraid to do anything the other wanted to try, and that's so important in a cast. Acting is simply living realistically under imaginary circumstances, and even the best of actors have a hard time using that force we call an imagination.

IDWYT is maybe eight minutes long, but we did more table work for those eight minutes than I've done with some full-length plays. Table work is just that: Sitting around the table discussing the play, what it means, the characters, the imaginary world. And that's what I loved about both casts: Everyone was on the same page when it came to the process. And they all brought an incredible amount of talent to the process. And I think it showed in the end result with both plays.

Rehearsals for both plays were pretty loose. Steve didn't rehearse us very long for Robo. He said that Jared and I nailed the line of the play and the humor from the first read-through (well, I did get this one note about being too serious; it is a comedy, you know) and so we just took it from there, taking it further and further along. He was more worried about over-rehearsing us. There is this point that you can go past where everything just gets stale, and Steve was very aware of that point. He'd push us right before that, always leaving us with a bit more to chew on.

Rehearsals for IDWYT were longer, but that also had to do with conflicting schedules between Juan Carlos and me. But when we rehearsed, we took the whole time. I know for me it was because I loved the part, loved working with Juan Carlos and Christopher and Nora, and I swear, every time we did the play, including the night of the the Slam, we did it differently every time. That's a big reason I act: That feeling of being in the moment. That this is fresh, and also that it will never happen again. I love that temporal quality of the theater.

So...Tuesday, July 22. The Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts in the South End. A sold-out audience that's always loud and raucous. What's really to say. I guess I could go into detail, but...

I had a six o'clock call. Got to the theater, iPod still plugged into my ears, and headed straight back to the dressing room, nodding to the crew as I came in. I changed into costume and went out to get the feel of the space. When you do the Slam, you see the space for the first time the night before at tech, so I like to hardwire the physicality of the space in as much as possible. People not in the theater think...well, I'm not sure what they think, but for the Slam and the people in it, it's all pretty much matter of fact. Everyone prepares differently, and you just come in and do the job you're supposed to do.

Lyralen does have a group meeting, then a group warmup. The warmups are great. Lyralen's a pro who approaches the theater in a way that's constructive and prepares the actor.  I'm not into circles, which some groups, mainly community theaters, are big on. You stand in a circle and get all touchy feeley. I don't do touch, and I don't do feel. I don't need some emotional rot to get into character, and I really prefer if someone doesn't go emo on me.

IDWYT was the first show up. It was called the sacrificial lamb because it's not included in the voting, and is meant to warm up the audience and the judges. I had so much fun playing Bob. For such a small play, the character has a lot of latitude for the actor to play in, but again, it had a lot to do with all the incredible amount of table work we did and Nora's direction that let us I stood backstage behind Juan Carlos with a few butterflies in my stomach, but they went right away when the lights went down and I patted Juan Carlos on the shoulder. Dale was Bob's rock, and Juan Carlos was mine at that moment. That's just the way it works.

Then Robosaurus. We were about fourth up. I had already been on stage, so I was just itching to get out there. I knew the only way to perform that play was go balls to the wall. When you got lines like, "I've got a thick meaty ass and a big old floppy cock," you can't hold back. It's just hit the lines as hard as you can.

We rocked. We knew we were rocking. We grabbed the audience and didn't let go. I did things onstage with the character I hadn't done yet, didn't even know I was going to do them until they were happening. We listened to the scoring backstage, but truth be told I didn't care too much about winning. I honestly believe if you believe the good reviews, then you have to believe the bad ones, too. I figured that out a long time ago, so I set my standards and keep to them. It helps to keep you centered in something that can really be emotionally hard to take sometimes.

I changed out of my costume and into my street clothes and sat most of the time backstage talking to Juan Carlos and listening to my iPod. Then the curtain call, and the MC announced that we had won. Someone handed me an envelope, and that really was about it. I stayed a bit afterward to talk to some people. Sue was there, and another friend; that's all who came that night to see me. I typically don't announce when I'm performing with "Unabashed Self Promotion" emails. If you know me, you'll know what I'm doing. I also talked briefly to Larry Stark, who writes the TheaterMirror website, and Lyralen, and George Smart, who wrote IDWYT. And that's pretty much it.

American Catholic Biships: Stop the killing

From Baxter....

American Catholic Bishops:
Silence in the face of evil is evil.
End your silence.
Stop the lies.
Stop the killing.

On my knees I beg you to turn away from violence.
I say to you, with all the love I have for you, with all the trust I have in young people: Do not listen to voices which speak the language of hatred, revenge, retaliation. Do not follow any leaders who train you in the ways of inflicting death. Love life; respect life; in yourselves and in others. Give yourselves to the service of life, not the work of death.
--Pope John Paul II

The Boys of Winter Playbill

Playbill gave a nice writeup about The Boys of Winter.

It's a good story--one that needs to be told--and I'm very proud as an actor and an artist to be part of this project.

There are people in this world who need a voice. The Creator gave me a voice. I mean one I can really use. And this is the sort of thing I always want to do.

I mean, does the world really need another production of Little Shop of Horror or Fiddler on the Roof??

Friday, July 25, 2008

Randy Pausch died today

Thanks to Becky C, for this one...good ole Short Shorts...

Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch (Oct. 23, 1960 - July 25, 2008) gave his last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium. In his moving presentation, "...

Lost in Boston

Well, this is the idealistic Boston...and sometimes you just got to go into Dreamland because this city can be so...tough...

where would the human race be without hope and dreams and sometimes just overlooking the nasties?...

yes, this is Boston, and it's Friday and it's muggy and I'm tired as all get out so today I'll take the simple harmony and the lyrics that are so idealistic and even just a bit naive...

Return of the Grievous Angel

how come the good ones all seem so damn crazy...and how come they die so young?

Won't you scratch my itch sweet Annie Rich
And welcome me back to town
Come out on your porch or I'll step into your parlor
And I'll tell you how it all went down

Out with the truckers and the kickers and the cowboy angels
And a good saloon in every single town

Oh, and I remember something you once told me
And I'll be damned if it did not come true
Twenty thousand roads I went down, down, down
And they all lead me straight back home to you

`Cause I headed West to grow up with the country
Across those prairies with the waves of grain
And I saw my devil,
and I saw my deep blue sea
And I thought about a calico bonnet from
Cheyenne to Tennessee

We flew straight across that river bridge,
last night at half past two
The switchman wave his lantern goodbye and good day
as we went rolling through
Billboards and truckstops pass by the grievous angel
And now I know just what I have to do

And the man on the radio won't leave me alone
He wants to take my money for something
that I've never been shown

And I saw my devil,
and I saw my deep blue sea
And I thought about a calico bonnet from
Cheyenne to Tennessee

The news I could bring I met up with the king
On his head an amphetamine crown
He talked about unbuckling that old bible belt
And lit out for some desert town

Out with the truckers and the kickers and the cowboy angels
And a good saloon in every single town

Oh, but I remembered something you once told me
And I'll be damned if it did not come true
Twenty thousand roads I went down, down, down
And they all lead me straight back home to you

Twenty thousand roads I went down, down, down
And they all lead me straight back home to you

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Today's Libra

Travel, education, advertising and broadcasting may present difficulties for you today. Although you are still enjoying yourself, you may be in for a bit of a shock. Keep a firm grip on reality and avoid slipping into a world of fantasy. This is an excellent time to use your creativity to your advantage.

Well, that pretty much covers my world. Looks like my world is going be suffering from some astrological hemorrhoid today.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


This is kinda blatent self-promotion, which I hate, but I'll be in two plays in the Slam this Tuesday.

In the first play, the opener, I play the spouse of another man. We've been married ten years, and we are discussing what we can and cannot tell each other to do. The name of the play is IDWYT, which rhymes with idiot.

The second play is Robosaurus, and in that play I play a man who wishes he were gay so he could just hang out with his friend and drink and talk about sports. Of course, in order to be gay, you have to fuck another guy, and the play is about that discussion.

Combining the wild excitement of poetry slams with live theater, SLAMBoston is a unique ten-minute play festival. Six to seven plays compete for a cash prize in a night of raucous audience participation and celebration of diversity in America.

"SLAMBoston turned out to be the real Hit of the week. Eight brand new plays, none of them over fourteen-minutes long, were given the Olympic-Judging treatment, with five judges giving 9.3 - 8.95 scores and Lyralen Kaye acting as breakneck ringmaster for the evening,” wrote Larry Stark of Theatre Mirror. “…Acting, directing, playwriting… there was solid work everywhere. Another Country Productions has managed to make these into Must-See evenings of high-voltage theatrics. Don't miss their next one. (I won't!)”

"The Slam provides a fun, exciting and edgy platform for bringing together a broad spectrum of diverse plays and the audience that supports them,” says Lyralen Kaye, Artistic Director.

July 22, 2008 will all be at 8pm at the BCA Plaza Theatre.
Tickets are $17.
Call 617.933.8600 for tickets or for a subscription to all 3 slams call Another Country at 617.939.4846.

Love Letters

When photographer Rowland Scherman lived in London during the '70s, he saw an etching by Bracelli that showed angels flying around to create the alphabet. He wondered if humans could do that, and since his studio was located right next to the Covent Gardens Dance Centre, he asked the dancers if they thought it was possible.

That's how his Love Letters were born.

What's happening to my Downtown Crossing?

(images courtesy of Clueless in Boston)

What's happening to my Downtown Crossing?

They're tearing down Filene's. It's almost gone. It's like a mini ground zero. That's okay. Cities change. Department stores change hands. Sports arenas change names for The Gardens to TD North. (But the Gardens still sounds so much better.)

Now, a NYC firm is proposing a $200 million project catty-corner to the old Filene's site. Two hundred luxury apartments and three floors of retail space on the corner of Bromfield and Washington.

Frankly, the building they want to tear down is pretty groady. Aesthetically, it's the pits. But there are some really pretty old buildings on DTX, and I hope the long range plan for the street isn't to either tear them down or even do what seems to be the trend here in Boston: Keep the old facade and build a glass tower behind it with condos and offices and high-end stores that no one --meaning regular old working folks like me--can afford. Or else they just pile red bricks to the sky to make it fit in with the rest of the city.

DTX is such a gem. It's one of the only places in Boston (along with the subway) that's actually integrated and people are walking around. Every color skin, every language can be heard out there. Otherwise, in Boston, whites hang out in certain places, and "people of color" frequent other places. There are still carts out there that sell everything from hot dogs to shish kabob, and belts and scarves. Yeah, there's a Starbucks out there, but there's also an Army/Navy store and a FYE music store. While the developers are coming in from NYC and every other point on the compass, it would be nice if someone tried to turn DTX into a neighborhood with it's own flavor like the South End, JP, or Beacon Hill.

The great thing about Boston is it's manageable. On a nice day you can walk pretty much the length of the downtown area without resorting to cabs and the subway. And it's an enjoyable walk with lots to look at. You don't get the feeling your walking in steel and glass canyons.

The Boys of Winter

Half a world away from Vietnam three high school seniors are playing hockey...for their lives.

The year is 1966. The place is Minnesota. Upon graduation they will either go to college or end up in Vietnam. Watch the story of these boys and those around them as their chances dwindle and the miles to war become fewer.

This powerful story was written by three playwrights: Eric Small, Dean B. Kaner and, locally, Barry Brodsky who served in the Army during the Vietnam War and is currently the Director of the Veterans Upward Bound program at U.Mass-Boston

The Boys of Winter. The site pretty much tells it all. At least all the whos, whats, and whens.

I'm still too early in the process. Just reading and rereading the script. And I know that whatever I'm thinking now will bear absolutely no resemblance on what I do on the stage in September, but it's all part of the process.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Truth in Advertising

There's a panhandler out on Downtown Crossing today.

His sign says,

Why lie?
I need a beer.

The last I saw, some tourists were taking their picture with him. Maybe he's on to something...

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Boys of Winter

Whenever I take on a major role in a play, there almost always is one line that resonates within me, one that calls to me.

Sometimes it's someone else's line, as with, "He's my heart," Irma's line in Looking for Normal when she's speaking of her husband, Roy, who she loves so much she'd do anything for. If you've ever loved someone with your heart and soul, that line needs no explaining. And Kate delivered it to me with so much heartfelt meaning that it just about broke my heart each night.

Most of the time, though, I'm drawn to one of my own character's lines, as in, "I don't do well in town," so said Tilden in Buried Child. That pretty much sums up me in society in general, and it was one of the easiest lines I've ever delivered on the stage.

And in The Boys of Winter, the line jumps out early and hard for me. The Narrator (me) says, "And when the school year's up they'll either go to college (long beat) or to fucking 'Nam. That's the choice we had in 1966, 'cause we weren't rich and we didn't know shit about the world and there was a fucking draft."

Okay, that's more than one line, but you get the picture.

And the reason that line grabs me by the throat and won't let go is because that pretty much describes me in 1973, when I turned 18 and there was a war on and we still had a draft. That long beat the playwright inserts in there is, I think, to give the slower members of the audience time to realize there really wasn't a choice at all. These kids weren't going to go to college, and neither was I. (I didn't go to college full-time until I was 21. I worked and traveled and got my head screwed on straight first.)

So if I had been drafted I would have gone, because I wasn't rich and didn't know anyone, especially anyone in Canada. That was the kind of family I was raised in: you did what you were told, whether it was the nuns giving the orders or the federal government.

And because I never served in Vietnam or even in the military, I don't know anything about this story except what I've heard and read. But from reading the script I can see that it's a story that needs telling. And I'm honored (and scared out of my mind) that the director and producers chose me to help tell it.

I've gone through things in my life that other people just don't understand. There are a lot of things in life that we go through, and unless you actually go through them yourself, other people just don't get it. And there are a lot of people who just don't even try to understand how something affected someone. Or don't believe the other person.

Vietnam was a long time ago, and there are plenty of people who say, just like they say about the Holocaust or other terrible things that have happened to people, "That was a long time ago. For God's sake, get over it. Grow up. Shake it off. Time heals all wounds."

Guess what? Time does not heal all wounds. There are some wounds that never completely heal. Don't you think that they could "shake it off" they would? Do you honestly think people like suffering?

So they go through life, quietly, not talking about it because all they want is a little understanding. But they don't get it so they just shut up about it, but it all still comes out. They put away the fatigues and don't talk about what happened. The ones who really saw what happened, don't still wear their uniform or still talk army talk (0400 this and 1730 hours that) or show off or try to recapture the fun times they had in the military, because they didn't have a fun time. They served and they gave it up for their country. I met a guy out in the Utah desert who was in the 1st Army (the Big Red One) who went into Baghdad this second time around and, as they say, went over there a boy but came back a man. He didn't cut and run, he did what he signed up to do. He didn't want to talk about his time over there (not that I wanted to talk about but he didn't say--almost whispered--a few things) he just wanted to forget it--though he couldn't--and make a new life.

And that's what my character is trying to do. Trying, because I get the feeling not too many people can do it. Mainly because, as I said, one thing I've learned in this life is that time doesn't heal all.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Joseph Patrick Dwyer, Army medic, died of an apparent overdose

Joseph Patrick Dwyer, a U.S. Army medic who became famous when he was photographed in Iraq cradling a wounded Iraqi child, died on July 5 of an apparent drug overdose.

He joined up two days the 9/11 attacks. His brother was a NYC cop, and Dwyer worried that his brother had been killed in the attacks. His brother was fine, but Dwyer joined up, feeling the need to serve.

He came back after serving in Iraq with the 7th Cavalry with PTSD.

Maybe I wouldn't have noticed this tiny item in the paper if I didn't just take a role as a homeless Vietnam vet. The story needs to be told. This is just the sort of thing we're going to be dealing with for a generation now. George Bush's legacy.

Google his name to learn more.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Fourth in Boston

When it comes to patriotic holidays like the one we were just raked over, I'm more like a Jew at Christmas. I'd prefer to spend the time in a movie theater or Chinese restaurant.

It's not that I don't love my country. Albeit, I feel I'm patriotic in the same way I feel I'm spiritual: I don't have to wear either one on my sleeve by waving a flag or participating in organized religion.

It's just seems we do the dumbest things in the name of patriotism.

Because we did move nearer to Boston so we could just jump on the subway at a whim and do all things Boston, we did go to the Boston Pops Extravaganza on Friday night. The next day the Boston Globe declared it was the best Fourth ever, which gives you an idea of just how low that paper has sunk: It's now right on par with your weekly shopper.

The whole affair was pretty lame, and a big part of it was downright disorganized, but good lord, we can't actually say that, can we? Leaving that night in the crush of people (most of whom it seemed were young and white), I was thankful a crisis didn't occur. People would have been crushed. The exits were small and limiting for such a large number of people. It's just Boston's way, though. It's not New York, never was, never will be, as much as it tries.

They used to shoot off fireworks while the Boston Pops played the 1812 overture, which was so cool. The combination of the music and the fireworks really was awesome--in the true meaning of that word, and not the way it's been reduced to just a filler word.

Now, they fire some cannons and let off a few fireworks, take an intermission, then show the Boston Pops playing the 1812 overture on video.

The Pops still play a lot of the usual patriotic songs that you'd hear around bandstands of yore, like God Bless America and Take Me Out To The Ballgame. Take Me Out To The Ballgame? Don't ask me.

Rascal Flatts was the BIG DRAW, a band that I would actually cross the street to avoid. There were 50,000 people there, and 49, 998 were boogying to Life is a Highway. Sue and I were appalled.

We kept asking ourselves what our country has come to. From sea to shining sea we seem to have been reduced to people who can't wrap their heads around anything more complicated than the most base and simple concepts and arts.

The fireworks were cool, but since the last time I saw them, a few years ago, they've moved the barge farther upriver. Not a big deal, but halfway through the display the smoke from the explosives obscured a lot of the remaining fireworks. That was inadvertently kind of cool, though I heard a couple of people around me complain. I thought the fireworks began taking on the character of the pictures you see of galaxies in outer space, filled with smoke and stars and light.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Stone Soup Poetry

Saturday night Sue and I were making our way over to Atwoods to hang with a friend who came in from out of town and hear a little music.

We were walking past Out of the Blue art gallery and some guy was standing out front asking for donations for a poetry reading that was going on. What's ironic is just at that particular moment Sue and I were discussing our finances and trying to figure out exactly how we were going to make our dream happen without starving ourselves.

Anyway, we didn't dig into our pockets, but it did look like a pretty cool place, and the poetry reading turned out to be one of those gems of this city. After living here almost thirty years you see that you don't know everything.

If you're into the spoken word, Stone Soup Poetry seems to be serving up some good stuff. I don't know any of the people listed on their blog, but that doesn't mean anything for a couple of reasons.

I'm not into poetry (but still appreciate it; I even write it from time to time and am now finally learning the integral relationship between words and music) and it's always cool to learn new people, and especially find those little gems in the rough, the up and comers who you find at open mikes (comedy, music) or readings of this nature.

Joe Cocker: a birthday greeting--A Little Help From My Friends

So that's what he's saying...usually I post the lyrics, too, but this is captioned for the clear-headed....

Thanks, Karen....


Couldn't find an actual video of Tom Petty singing this himself, but did find this collage of images on Youtube with the notation: Tribute to Phyllis, my mom who passed away when I was one.

Kind of a pretty song. Sue came home with the chord chart from her class. Didn't know the song, but it's okay.

Kind of an interesting look into a very private world--white people, white families, Catholics, lots of Catholics. I wonder if this is the world that so many pine for? A simpler time? The world these images portray, quite frankly, scare the bejesus out of me. I feel trapped when I see images like this. But obviously, for someone else, they are sweet and kind and probably a bit soulful.

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free

Run away, find you a lover
Go away somewhere all bright and new
I have seen no other
Who compares with you

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with your love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free

Run away, go find a lover
Run away, let your heart be your guide
You deserve the deepest of cover
You belong in that home by and by

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worry
You belong somewhere you feel free
You belong somewhere you feel free

(Repeat Chorus)

Neil Young, the ranch, and sex

"Neil Young, meanwhile, was happy to be out of Los Angeles. Even Topanga hadn't been remote enough for him. "You never knew what was gonna be happening when you went home," he told Jimmy McDonough. Broken Arrow, his secluded ranch, made Young happier: "I like the country better," he said. "Somebody's comin' at ya, you can see 'em."
--from the book, Hotel California

Dang, I knew it and here's one more reason I liked Neil Young the best, out of CSNY, out of all that California/hippie stuff. I used to give that reason for wanting a boat: that when you're out in the middle of the ocean you can see them comin'. That's how I feel about the desert now. All that wide-open spaces gives you a good warning.

Hotel California is a lot of gossip. Think hippie/music People Magazine on cocaine. But it's a fun read, and if even half of this shit is true you can see why we are where we are today. The music industry has always been about money and greed, forget about peace and love. The artists were exploited to the max, but they all buried their collective snouts into each others' coke and crouches and in essence got what they deserved. David Bowie, Lou Reed, and the rise of punk makes so much sense after reading about these bunch of pampered navel gazers.

Okay, still, there were some really good songs. I didn't say they weren't talented. But it was a money-making machine, no different from Nashville or the New York music scene was. That's why I say good music is never made where there's money. Right now it's not NY or LA or Nashville or even Austin. A couple of friends are sitting on their front porch somewhere, maybe in Montana or North Carolina or Canada or somewhere, just having fun.

The joke goes like this about just about everything; you can just exchange the subject for whatever you feel like it, but: Music is like sex--first you do it by yourself, then with your friends, then for money.

It's that second part that makes it all worth it.
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