Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'll be playing and singing on stage this weekend at Club Passim

Okay, we've all heard the stories. Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads at midnight, and about four years ago Baxter came over to my apartment bearing a vintage Burns six-string guitar and told me to play it, even though at the time I only knew C and G7.

Johnson went on to become the world's greatest delta blues player, and me, well, I'm happy just to say I'm still walking the earth.

I fell in love with the guitar, so much so that I've actually said that, if given the chance to barter, I wouldn't give my soul, but would consider exchanging every bit of theater talent I have to be great guitar player. However, I would prefer to meet at a more sane hour--say 10:00 o'clock in the morning. Crossroads are fine, though.

There was someone who actually said I was too old to learn to play--a theater person by trade, no less--who I gently eased out of my life. And I think there were some who felt it might be considered a crime against humanity if I actually sang in public.

So, negative theater person aside, this Saturday I will be performing with the Americana Ensemble class at Club Passim at their annual campfire on the same stage from which the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Shawn Colvin and even my hero Chris Knight have been seen. I will be singing Guy Clarke's LA Freeway, and for two other songs I'll be playing Lulu, the 1963 Burns electric Baxter handed off to me and told me to cling to like the drowning man I was.

The simple lesson is this: You can do whatever you want. Never, never listen to negativity. Run like hell from it. You don't have to take it, or even bother with it in any way. It's your life you can do what you want. And you don't have to explain yourself either. Just simply live, and things should work out all right.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Historic walking tour of Boston theater; something new and different from New Exhibition Room

I love it when creative minds really click.

If you're looking for something interesting and new and a little different and kinda high-brow (hey, this is Boston, after all) New Exhibition Room is hosting an historic walking tour exploring more than 200 years of theatre in Boston.

Called Theatre in Everything but Name: An historic walking tour of Boston's theatre sites and spaces, all proceeds benefit NXR's summer production of Shh! at the New York International Fringe Festival.

The NXR tour, led by Artistic Director A. Nora Long and a few special guests, will explore Boston's rocky relationship with theatre, from its clandestine beginnings to its explosive present.

Beginning at the Theatre History marker behind the Boylston T-stop, the tour will wind its way through Boston's Theatre District as it was and as it stands now. The tour will conclude at the site where it all began the original New Exhibition Room.

Tours are scheduled for Saturday, June 26th at 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM. The 1:00 PM tour will be followed by a picnic reception in Boston Common. The tours will commence rain or shine. In the case of inclement weather the picnic reception will take place at 88 Tremont St.

Get your tickets here, and more info about NXR here.

Laughing while you sink

I never heard the expression before until I saw this video from ABC--the Australian Broadcasting Company, not the American version. It had to be Australian because only an Aussie could have come up with such biting, stare you right in the eye humor that beautifully explains the European Crisis--which is the name they colloquially use in Europe for this financial shit storm that is wreaking havoc all around the world and that is changing the face of the world as we've known it.

Ah, humor, that wonderful human defense mechanism that kicks in in the direst of circumstances. Have you ever seen another animal deploy it? Can you imagine a seal pup, right in the shadow of the club, bending over in side-splitting laughter at the abject hopelessness of the situation?

Nope, you can't. But we humans can. That's why we're on top in this world. And that's probably also why we're fucking things up so insanely as of late.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Check out these Boston theater productions: Farragut North, Family Stories, Betrayal, and Boston Theatre Marathon XII

Have been seeing some really good theater in the Boston area that I'd like to pass along to you.

Lately I've been sitting in the audience thinking back to my old days in school as a photography major. Back then--and this was just as this weird new technology called video was just on the rise--photography was the hip visual technology, and the people who majored in things like printmaking were sort of the anachronisms of the art world.

As a writer, I'm always curious about the structure of the different pieces I've been watching, and the subject matter, and I'm curious about theater's role in society, and if it currently has a real and important and persistent place.

That all aside, here are a few shows that are still up and running that I suggest you see.

I'll start with Farragut North, produced by Zeitgeist Stage Company, in its final week at the Plaza Black Box theater at the Boston Center for the Arts. At some point I heard someone describe Farragut North as The West Wing on crack. Farragut North is a very approachable show in terms of its topic, and mirroring a lot of characteristics of popular television: very fast pace, in your face drama, broadly defined characters facing extraordinary moral questions. It depicts the descent of a political press secretary during a modern presidential campaign, with hard-hitting Mametesque dialogue, and all the misplaced ambition, paranoia, and gluttony for power that we've all come to expect from our leaders. In short, its something we all can quickly identify. Right up to the end there's a moral battle that entices the audience. Always a good sign, after the production I found myself on the sidewalk talking about the story and the characters as if they were real. For someone in theater, to shuck your theater facade and actually become a participatory audience member is high compliments for a show. This is definitely a must-see.

Second on my list is Family Stories, produced by Whistler in the Dark and running for two more weeks at the Factory Theatre. After seeing the show I said to both director and Whistler artistic director Meg Taintor and actress Mellisa Barker that I have no idea what I had just seen, but I loved it. Set in Belgrade in 1998, the country is wracked by violence, civil war, paranoia, famine, and all the other accoutrements of war and civil strife that would plague the citizenry. Jarring emotions and actions play out on the stage, and Family Stories presents an abstract and fragmented view of what life was like during those times. A magnificent piece of theater that will challenge you, and answered the question I had halfway through the production: What kind of life caused someone to write all this? If you're curious about the world, outside of the safe little box most of us live within, go see this.

Last night Harold Pinter's Betrayal opened at the Calderwood Pavillion at the Boston Center for the Arts last night. I'm house manager for the first week (so if you come this weekend you'll get a cheery greeting from me; be sure to say hi), and last night I was lucky enough to be able to see the entire show from the second row. The kind of opening night that I saw last night, where all the tech comes off smoothly and the actors are connecting in a very deep and real way means that this show has nothing else to do but keep getting better and better. Of course, like the other shows I mentioned, I know a few of the actors and technical people. And sometimes that's a problem because you know the actors on stage as people in the "real world." That didn't happen last night watching Lyralen Kaye and Wayne Fritsche (and I'll also say the same for Victor Shopov in Farragut North and Melissa Barker in Family Stories.) Wayne tears your heart out as Robert, the culkhold husband of Lyralen's Emma. Lyralen is the founder and artistic director of Another Country Productions that espouses and promotes Meisner training. Quoting the promo piece, "It’s not about star power so much as it is about ensemble and connection. Betrayal, with its nuance and levels of emotional complication, could not be better served than by this technique." Good acting is simply about human relationships, that spark that jumps across the synapses that exist between all of us. This production of Betrayal is about that and so much more. Again, go see this one.

Finally, a heads up that Boston Playwrights' Theatre is presenting the Boston Theatre Marathon XII this Sunday, May 23 from 12 noon to 10 pm.

50 ten-minute plays by 50 New England playwrights presented by 50 New England theatre companies in 10 hours.

Plus, like last year the Boston Theater Marathon will include The Warm-Up Laps on May 22 featuring free staged readings. These readings are presented in association with the Boston Center for the Arts and their resident theatres.

All net proceeds benefit the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund, a non-profit organization that provides financial relief for theatre artists and organizations who face dire need and require financial assistance.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's time to legalize the world's dirty little secret

The New York Times reported that marijuana is a the bottom of a new haute cuisine the Times called haute stoner cuisine. You can read about it here, on my blog at Gather.

As I wrote in my Gather blog, if artsy, creative, and affluent aren't smoking pot, that would be news.

Still...nope, I don't smoke. I guess I'm not artsy and creative enough, and I'm sure as hell not affluent. Yet I know so many people who do smoke. It's the suburb's dirty little secret, that people who you would never guess indulge. Little grannies and so many white collar workers who I guess need something to get through their depressing existence.

I wish I did like it (it seems so hip and cool), but I think I smoked my share way back in high school. By the time I was in college (in my early twenties; I've always been a late bloomer) I pretty much had my fill. I'm totally useless stoned. I can't think, talk, and I have one of those personalities that gets very paranoid and eventually seriously depressed when he's high. So, I learned a long time ago that it's not a good idea for Johnny to be indulging.

As I said to a Rastafarian recently in Costa Rica who offered me some smoke: Yo tengo muy mucho anos por marijuana. Mi cabeza es loco.

Still, I think it's about time we legalized it. What it's going to take is for all those hypocrites who smoke but won't admit it to come forward and raise their hands. But we should legalize it for a number of reasons, even though I'm not so sure about the argument that it's not detrimental to mental health. I know quite a few people who can't get through the day without it, we all know or have seen stoners who just can't motivate. What's all that about?

1) So we can tax the hell out of it, just like alcohol and cigarettes and every other vice tax. There's a huge source of revenue.

3) It's so widely accepted by so many ages and social strata that, despite my reservations, if you're adult enough to make decisions about issues like voting for the president, if you want to risk your brain cells that's your business. See? I really am a Libertarian.

3) To save lives. Yep, you heard me. All you artsy, creative, affluent types: That weed you're smoking might have a few deaths attached to it somewhere along the time it was harvested and you bought it from your "medical marijuana prescriber." Drugs = organized crime, and life doesn't mean much to them.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wilco: California Stars

I know we won't be playing it this good, but this is one of the songs we (the Americana Ensemble group I'm playing with from Club Passim's School of Music) will be playing at the weekend campfire next weekend.

It was only a few minutes ago that I heard this song for the first time, so I guess I better get cracking, trying to figure out where I'll fit in in the rendition.

Oh, and it's written by Woody Guthrie.

I'd like to rest my heavy head tonight
On a bed of California stars
I'd like to lay my weary bones tonight
On a bed of California stars

I'd love to feel Your hand touching mine
And tell me why I must keep working on
Yes I'd give my life To lay my head tonight
On a bed Of California stars

I'd like to dream My troubles all away
On a bed of California stars
Jump up from my starbed, Make another day
Underneath my California stars

They hang like grapes On vines that shine
And warm the lovers' glass Like friendly wine
So I'd give this world Just to dream a dream with you
On our bed of California stars

I'd like to rest my heavy head tonight
On a bed of California stars
I'd like to lay my weary bones tonight
On a bed of California stars

I'd love to feel Your hand touching mine
And tell me why I must keep working on
Yes I'd give my life To lay my head tonight
On a bed Of California stars

I'd like to dream My troubles all away
On a bed of California stars
Jump up from my starbed
Make another day Underneath my
California stars

They hang like grapes On vines that shine
And warm the lovers' glass Like friendly wine

So I'd give this world Just to dream a dream with you
On our bed of California stars

So I'd give this world Just to dream a dream with you
On our bed of California stars

(Dream a dream with you)

Minivan rap song goes viral, and I just don't get it

If you want to see it, you have to go over to my blog on to see it, but a rap video has gone viral about a Toyota minivan.

Actually, it's a commercial for Toyota that I'm sure one of the many marketing/communications firms that have a finger stuck in the Toyota pie came up with and solidified the business relationship for at least the rest of this week. And I'm sure there's a producer or SVP of Creative who is feeling pretty darn cocky right about now.

But songs and videos trying to make very unhip people cool never have worked for me. And there's not getting around it: Minivans are not cool. Get it. They. Are. Not. Cool.

I wish white people who live in the suburbs with a bunch of kids in houses that are poorly decorated would just up and admit it: they cashed in the hopes and dreams they had as young people and there's no getting them back. You're wearing your Dockers and "fashions" from Talbots and you're all really nice, genuinely good people, but you ain't hip. Face it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pura Vida

We came home bleary-eyed last night around 2:00. The last train out of Boston was an Ashmont, so we had to ride to Fields Corner and pick up the 210 bus, which let us off at the base of Beal Street. We walked the deserted streets of Wollaston, hunched under our backpacks, wondering just how we got there, and where the monkeys were.

Coming back from a trip is never easy. Most times maybe I'm not happy, but at least resigned to coming back. This time, though there are a lot of good reason to be here, I could have spent an indefinite amount of time wandering Central America. Two days ago I would watch troops of monkeys cross the road on telephone wires. They tried to break into our hut. I'd pass a couple of easy minutes talking to Rastafarians, some of the nicest people I've ever met. The cranky Australian who ran the grocery store simply elicited my curiosity. What could possibly make you so cross? There's nothing in the world that important.

And the heat.

I understood why writers seclude themselves in the jungle, or on a beach, or in the case of Costa Rica, by both, to write in the early morning hours. You don't think in that heat. That particular intellectual pursuit transforms into a dream state. It just bubbles up. Oozes in your skull and runs out your ears. It makes perfect sense, until you try to explain it to someone or put it on paper, and you can't figure out how you made that leap.

So, four hours after coming home Sue was primed with coffee and off to court. A hot shower was a delight, as sweet as a Popcicle is in July. And I was back to my house husband routine, which I actually like. Washing three weeks of stink out of my clothes, picking up the mail, making bread, picking up our little boy who we both missed so much and still made the jokes with which we always tease him. Fart Blossom was the least of the name-calling.

Pura Vida is the life in Costa Rica. But it is here, too. You just have to look a little deeper.

Monday, May 3, 2010


we're in the middle of three, maybe more, weeks traveling...first it was just supposed to be costa rica, but somehow, funny how that works, we ended up in panama, in boca del toro...and life just slows down and changes, doesn't it...

but we're in our room, hiding from the unbelievable heat during the day, and suddenly we talk about home like it's so far away but we know it's there, waiting for us, work and school and money and our stupid little dog and how he's doing, but it's like i've always said and liked about soon as the plane's wheels leave the runway, there's no use worrying if you left the iron on or's out of your hands...i've always loved that feeling...i wonder if death is like that for some...just a relief...just a letting go...
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