Thursday, December 27, 2007

And now for something a little different....

While it is true that I make most of my (limited) income as an actor, I also make an occasional penny now and then by writing. And while visiting my grandmother for Christmas, I saw the following article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, titled "Classics on a Diet." It discusses the recent "abridged" classic editions publishing by Phoenix Press. Go check it out, and then come back to Script in Hand.

As a writer, performer, and English major, the whole idea behind these editions seems completely misguided. It reduces everything to the "narrative line," while eliminating everything that makes the books truly unique and special. A story about a whale hunt is just that, but Melville gives "Moby-Dick" (one of the books in this list) so much more than just a narrative line, and that is what makes it a truly epic masterpiece. In a very American urge to reduce books to the size that can be read during a commercial break, these editions are designed, I can only imagine, for people who want to say that they have read the book, but people who don't actually want to be bothered to actually read the entire book.

This does come around to my primary career, however, because I feel the same way about the cutting I just did of "Romeo and Juliet." The script was cut down very appropriately for school students, but it wasn't exactly the best cut for us actors to work on. Like Phoenix Press, it kept the entire flow of the plot and the "narrative line," but it took out a lot of the poetry, subtle nuance, and reflection that make Shakespeare's play so much more than just a teenage love story. I didn't feel that way when I did "Othello" or "Much Ado About Nothing." Either the poetry in those shows is more central to the plot, or perhaps the cuts were more sensitive to those issues. I'm excited to have a full script for my next show!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Treat at Christmastime

Last Saturday night, I attended the Workshop Theatre’s production of The Gift of the Magi and The Blue Carbuncle, a Christmas-themed pairing of one-act plays. The evening began with a series of Christmas carols sung by the company, from sincere to hilarious. After the singing session, the narrator took us through The Gift of the Magi. While the well-known story lacked any real dramatic tension, the three leading players delivered performances that outshone the predictable plot. The narrator added just the right touch of atmosphere and honesty to the play, although the act ended on an upbeat and optimistic note that I don’t recall from the O Henry short story. As a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, I was really hoping to enjoy the Holmes play. Unfortunately, the show did not quite live up to my expectations. The adaptation made the story quite clear, but unfortunately lacked any drama or drive. The actor playing Holmes also had a peculiar habit of delivering all his lines facing the audience, never looking any other actor in the eyes. While clearly a choice of either director or performer, it only served to distance Holmes from all the other characters. It also didn’t help the subplot of Watson trying to connect with Holmes, since Holmes refused to connect with anyone. I did like the performance of Dr Watson, however, as I felt he was honest and sincere, and there was nothing affected about his character. I also really liked the interpretation of Mrs. Hudson. The woman playing her was only in her thirties, and I liked the younger dynamic she brought to the role. Mrs. Hudson was not the elderly matron of Baker Street, but a contemporary of Holmes and Watson. She was a fantastic foil to a rather bland Sherlock Holmes. Ultimately, both plays were very cute and very "cuddly," but neither one really delivered dramatically.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

All done!

We finished up the tour a few days ago, and now I'm in Queens visiting a friend before I head home tomorrow for Christmas. This tour has been quite a wild ride. We travelled all across the country, with a final count of 15,850 miles. That's almost 2,000 more miles than I covered on my Cinderella tour, and it's more than any of us had thought. We took bets on our total mileage, and although I came in second with a guess around 12,000, Dennis hit the nail almost on the head with a guess around 15,700 miles. To be that close was incredibly impressive. After our show on Thursday, we drove back up to CT. We loaded all our stuff out at the company warehouse, and then we raced over to the Bridgeport train station to catch the early train back to NYC. We made it with only minutes to spare, and then we separated when we got to Grand Central. I rode the train out to Queens with some friends, and then we all went our separate ways. It's always strange for me to think about the fact that this group of people will probably never be together again. But I always feel that way when I leave shows, and any attempt to bring a cast back together always has an empty and hollow feel to it. Magic occurs when people come together for a brief time, and that magic is not something that one can simply create again.

I'll try to write more about the tour, but I'm glad to be home. It was a pretty long time to be gone, and a long time to be doing the same show for children. It'll be several weeks before I start on Spitfire Grill, which I am really looking forward to. But in the meantime, I need to find some sort of job to make some money. But I'm not so worried about that at the moment, since I'm really excited to spend the holidays with my family, my house, my cat, and my own bed(!) Tonight we're going to see a Sherlock Holmes play in New York, which I'm excited about. And then early on Sunday, I'm going home. The last time I was at home was October 2nd, when I left for CT to start rehearsing Romeo and Juliet. So I'm really excited to go home!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Delaware: Tax-free shopping and Wawa heaven

We drove up to Wilmington, DE today in preparation for our final show tomorrow morning. I'm really excited to be ending this tour. As much as I love the work, this idea of performing every morning for children is starting to wear thin. I have nothing but respect for actors who do touring theatre, but I know that it's not for me. At this point in my career, as well as my life, I'm more interested in working in one town, in the same theatre for several months in a row on the same show. Course, truth be told, I'm really interested in being a film and TV actor. I'm going to be doing Spitfire Grill in Allentown in the end of February, but I also need to go find some actual work to pay the bills. I've managed to save a good deal of money from this tour, but it's not enough for me to live a life of luxury for very long. My parents and friends are coming to see the show tomorrow, and then we have to drive up to CT again to go to the warehouse and unload our set, props, costumes, etc. Then we grab the train back to New York City, and I'm spending the weekend with a friend. We're looking to hit a museum on Friday, and then we're going to see a Sherlock Holmes play on Saturday night. The holiday season then starts for me in full force on Sunday, when I go home for the first time since early October. I'm very excited!

Monday, December 17, 2007

A game of f*ck your buddy, gone horribly horribly wrong

After driving through a storm and gale last night, we got lost on our way into Boston, arriving twenty minutes late for our load-in. Then we learned that we would only be performing for 17 students. We got set up really quickly, but then we were sorta goofing off while we waited for them to arrive, which they did precisely at 10:15 (show time.) We think we gave them a pretty good show, which they really enjoyed. They were very enthusiastic afterwards, asking a lot of questions. But the problem came because we were a little wild today. We were laughing onstage, and I took a few of the nurse's shouts to Juliet while she is on her balcony. It made the actors onstage smile and laugh, and, I'd say, enfused a little joy into the end of the scene. Our company manager, however, did not agree, and was pretty steamed at what we had done. The game "f*ck your buddy" is a well-respected game, one at which I happen to have a great deal of talent and skill. It's something that keeps the shows alive, and often needs to be played on rough days. I was sorry that it "crossed a line" with the work of the show, but I never saw anything wrong with it. It didn't ruin a scene (like laughing onstage), nor did it endanger another actor (like throwing a prop unsafely.) Unneccesary? Yes. Uncalled for? Probably. Unprofessional? No.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Best. Weekend. Ever.

So we're on the road again, after getting the show cancelled last Thursday and then spending the weekend away from each other. Since we were near New York City, most people went back to their homes, friends, and families, and I went down to Allentown to spend the weekend with a good friend and see her in A Christmas Carol. Indeed, I really meant to write some blog entries over the weekend, talking about what we had done on the way to Scranton, about sitting in the parking lot of the hotel trying to figure out what to do, and then the late night drive down to Allentown to drop me off before they all flew farther east to New York City. But it ended up that I was having so much fun over the weekend, I didn't ever want to sit down at my computer; that would have robbed me of so much of the fun! Briefly, I saw a lot of friends (including two from "Big Love), I ate a lot of great food (including a turkey burger at the Bethlehem BrewWorks), and I played a lot of games (including Bang!, Spite & Malice, The Settlers of Catan.) It was also kind of cool to be commuting into the city on Friday to do my show. Even though I had to get up crazy early (4am!), but because I was coming home to the same house after my work was done, it felt like a job. And I always love when acting can feel like a job, because it really makes me feel like a professional.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Blind as a bat

As I rode over to our show this morning, I discovered something rather disappointing. I had lost my contact lenses for the show, so I knew I would have to do the performance nearly-blind. Mercutio can't be wearing 21st century glasses, and I knew the only problem I would have would be the fighting scenes. But we ran it a few times (as always), and the stage lights in the space were excellent, and I didn't have any problems. I tried tracking it down at the last theatre, but they said they didn't find anything when they were working there after us. Maybe it fell out of my pocket in the van. Maybe it's in a pocket I'm forgetting about. Either way, it's only for the last week.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Feeling the Saginaw Spirit

Last night, we were watching the weather closely. They were calling for ice storms throughout the region, so there was the possibility that they might cancel the show. Turns out, the ice passed to the south and the west of Ann Arbor, so we could make it to the show in the morning. We got lost a little bit on the way to the school, but we eventually found our way. And then we almost slid the van and the trailer into a nearby lake when I hit a patch of black ice on the road behind the school. But that balanced out, because we played one of our largest crowds in one of our nicest spaces. There was an acoustic band shell in place on the stage, and we could be heard in the audience with barely a whisper on stage. Then a great Irish pub lunch in Ann Arbor, an all-too-brief visit to an excellent two-story comic and game shop, and then a brief drive a little farther north to Saginaw, Michigan. The town is the home of the Saginaw Spirit, the hockey team supported by Stephen Colbert, and their mascot Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle. We are, however, about half an hour away from our theatre, and we'll have to be on the road early tomorrow morning. Then we have a long-ass drive over to Scranton over the next few days.

But we only have 10 days left.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Ice storms

After the chance to grab some coffee and a sandwich in Chicago, we hit the road so we could reach Ann Arbor, Michigan for our show tomorrow morning. The travel and such went pretty well, even though I later learned that we were going in the wrong direction for about twenty minutes. But the real treat was the solid sheet of ice posing as the parking lot of the Super 8 where we currently sit. We ordered some pizza and subs for our dinner, and now we're just waiting out the weather. There is the slight chance that our performance in the morning will be cancelled due to school closings, and I'm honestly hoping that's the way it goes. This weather is miserable and dangerous, and I don't relish the idea of driving and working in this kind of weather in the early morning hours. I'd much rather enjoy my bitter coffee and stale donuts and sleep in and then drive even further north, even farther into the barren weather, toward another show in Bay City, MI.

Oh, and it's my birthday today. Walking into the hotel, stepping carefully across the snow and ice creating a wasteland, I had this image of ordering some pizza, getting a coke from the vending machine, and then I'd sit on my motel bed wearing a paper party hat, rock slowly back and forth singing happy birthday to me... So this is how 27 starts

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Chicago Symphony Adventure

I already mentioned last night that I went to the symphony last night, and now I'll tell a little bit more about that whole event. I was looking for something to do, and I passed by the Chicago Symphony. As I kept walking back toward the hotel, I turned around and decided to be that guy who goes to the symphony. So I checked it out, and they were offering student tickets for only $15. So I paid my money, got my seat, and listened to a very good program of music. They started with a good piece by Delius, but then played a great Symphony No. 6 by Sibelius. Apparently, Sibelius changed the way in which symphonies were conceived, making them free-flowing and organic as opposed to totally separate movements within the piece.

After the intermission, the next pieces by Webern, entitled "Five Pieces for Orchestra." Using a wide variety of instruments, these pieces were played in only four minutes. Before playing them, however, the conductor explained that a large concert hall wasn't the best venue for the hearing of such pieces, so the orchestra would play them again after the concert was concluded. But this second time, the audience would be invited up onto the platform to sit with the orchestra, side by side with the people and instruments actually making the notes. The final piece, one of the last concertos by Brahms, was played beautifully by the two soloists, and then there was a short break while the stagehands reset for the Webern pieces. Once the audience was settled, the conductor had the musicians demonstrate some of the qualities of their instruments, and then they played the Five Pieces again. Hearing the pieces again was really remarkable, especially as I was sitting only six feet from the woman playing the harp. The first time through, the pieces were interesting in their sparceness. Hearing them all together created a very interesting sound. But that second time, the sound curtain was even more remarkable. Instead of hearing all the sounds overlapping and coming together, I could hear each individual sound coming in and out, playing with the others, and creating more of a aural texture than a sequence of music. This picture to the right represents a sneaked photo of the composer and the orchestra, taking their bow after the second playing. You can see the harp and other instruments in front of me, and the conductor is the grey-haired man in the dark shirt, just over the left shoulder of the woman in front of me. Walking home, I was really happy that I had decided to go get some culture while I was here in Chicago.

More info: visit the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at

My kind of town, Chicago is

This photo represents the view of downtown Chicago from the window of my hotel room in the Travelodge. We had an early show this morning in Wisconsin, and then we drove to Chicago. We got into town around 4pm. And after relaxing in the hotel a little bit, I bundled up in my coat at hit the streets to explore. We are right in the middle of the city, and I could walk to the major shopping district, the theatre district, the Millenium Park near the river, and two different ice skating rinks. After finding something to eat, I grabbed apple cider and fried donuts at a Christkindlmarket, a block-long German street fair. There is also one in Bethlehem, PA, and they sell all kinds of food and drink, hand-crafted ornaments, German games and toys, etc. Those donuts were amazing, so much so that I've now included a picture of them on the blog. The outsides of them were so crispy and golden delicious, but insides were still warm and slightly gooey. The powdered sugar on top set the flavor off perfectly, and the apple cider warmed me just enough to keep me wandering around the city down over toward the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. And since they had student tickets, I sat myself down in the orchestra section and listened to their program for the night. Pretty cool way to get some culture while I'm in Chicago. I'll write more about the pieces later, as well as post a mini photo gallery from my walk around the city. But at the moment, it's pretty late, and I have some orange juice and Dunkin Donuts munchkins waiting for me before bed...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Pretty Cold...

We are in northern Wisconsin tonight, and it's pretty gorram cold! We have an early show tomorrow morning, and we'll be leaving before six o'clock in the morning so we can pack up our van before swinging by a Starbucks for our morning coffee constitutional. This is really the only early morning we have on the road, and the only time that we are going to be out of the hotel before the breakfast has been set up. But the rest of our days are pretty normal. We only have two more weeks after today, and we're spending the weekend in Chicago. Coming from only a three-day work week, the extended weekend seems rather pointless to me. I'd rather we compressed the time into half a week less as opposed to having all these weekends off. It's cool, though, cause I'll get to see friends next weekend in Allentown, as well as hopefully ditch some dirty laundry and no-longer-needed items.

Plus, I'm excited to have friends see my show! It's fun to say that I'm playing Mercutio, but I'm glad they will get a chance to see what I'm doing. Plus, it will make all the stories that much more real when they actually meet the people who are involved.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

No bueno!

[December 5, 2007. 2:26pm est]

Last night, after our visit to the vintage toy store, we went to have some Mexican food at a restaurant in the parking lot of the hotel. While the food was delicious, I was plagued by a stomachache not long after dinner, and I spent most of the night in and out of the bathroom, sick to my stomach. It means I didn’t really get a lot of sleep last night since I was unable to sleep, and I had to do the show this morning very weak and with a sore tummy. At the moment, we are hanging out at a rest stop on the Ohio interstate as we wait for one of our company members to conduct a radio interview over the phone. Then at 3pm, we’ll get back on the road for the rest of our six hour drive to the suburbs of Chicago for our show tomorrow. We’re watching it snow outside, and the next week also promises to be a cold one. We go through Chicago, Wisconsin, and Michigan before coming back to Pennsylvania and New York City, and then we only have a week left!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Cleveland rocks

We spent the day today in various places in and around Cleveland proper. We went down to the water on Lake Erie first, running through a crowd of nearly 800 seagulls that had gathered in a local park. As they flew into the air, it was literally a wall of birds that we saw coming down on us. Pretty amazing. From there, we went into the (lobby of) the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, at which we saw a lot of cool items from various music tours (Phish, U2, Wheezer, Moby.) We rode on the local trolley system, like something out of the not-too-distant future, and then we ended up in Tower City, a semi-large shopping mall area in downtown. We had some lunch, saw some stuff, and then drove back to the hotel.

Three guys went to see a movie, and then Tim and I went to the coolest toy store in the world! Not only did they have new toys for sale, but they had hundreds of the vintage ones. Old Mego action figures, old-fashioned Transformers, vintage GI Joe figures from the 80s, Star Trek, Star Wars, Flash Gordon, Superman, X-Men, Battlestar, The Black Hole, Simpsons, you name it. Tim and I each got a few things, but I'm sure that he'll have trouble fitting all of his into his luggage.

Now we're back at the hotel preparing for our show tomorrow, and I just don't want this vacation period of our tour to end. We only have three work days before another weekend off in Chicago, where I will get to see two friends of mine. And then there are only two more weeks before the tour is over. I'm very glad. I'm getting a little tired of being on the road so long without a break, and I miss spending more than two nights in the same bed. I'll also be very glad to have the room to myself again. I'm good about sharing, but soon I start to resent trying to sleep with very bad snorers, watching a lot of football and basketball, and, above all, sharing my computer. Checking email is fine, but when someone starts using it to search on Craig's List, that's a little much. How do I bring it up without sounding irrational? Any suggestions?

Of course, the most annoying thing of all is that my new camera has decided not to record any pictures. I turn it on, I take some pictures, and then the next time I turn the camera on, it has mysteriously erased all the pictures. Annoying to say the least, so I have nothing to share of the adventures today. Anyone want to buy me a camera?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Only as good as...

... your next project.

And to that end, my next project will be the musical "Spitfire Grill" at Cedar Crest College, the same place I did "Big Love" for those of you keeping score at home. It was produced off-Broadway in 2001, based on a film of the same name, and you can read all about it on The director sent me the CD while we were staying in Nashville this weekend, and I waited a entire 24 hours before breaking it out and devouring it. The music is fantastic. The composers blend broadway ballads with old-time folk sounds, making it a very unique score. The notes for my character go pretty high (!) but I'm confident that I'll get to them. I'll have to rehearse and really use the time well, but I'll get there. I've listened to it about four times in the last two days, and I'm already starting to learn all the words. I won't get to work on the show for another month yet, but I'm really excited for it. Tim challenged me so much when we were working on Big Love, I'm really excited to see what he can come up with for Spitfire Grill.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Night on the town

Last night, we went into Nashville for a night on the town. We started the adventure at Mulligan's Pub, where we had drinks and food, and played a very cutthroat game of Assassin. Now, we had two games going at the same time, and the four-player game was so well-balanced (for the most part), that it took almost three hours to finish! The other group of three managed to finish three or four different games in the same time that it took us to finish our first. So then we left one of our company to listen to the Irish band and flirt with the women there. We then went up and down Broadway, popping in and out of music cafes to hear various country and bluegrass bands. We settled in a cafe where a band was playing that combined bluegrass with Flock of Seagulls, and they were good. We ate and drank and stayed out until around 2am, at which point I came home, washed the smoke out of my hair, and then slept until 10am this morning. We don't often get the chance to sleep in like that, so we always take advantage of it when we can. I also popped into the Wildhorse Saloon and other places that I visited in Nashville a year ago with the Cinderella company, and it was pretty amazing to be back in the town. I honestly never thought I'd be back.

After a big breakfast at the Waffle House and a morning game of Settlers of Catan, we went out to the mall near the Grand Ole Opry this afternoon. I searched hard for a cowboy hat that would fit me, but I didn't have any luck. Mostly, the afternoon was spent finding cool things to do in the mall (like an Aquarium restaurant, a stingray tank, black light mini golf, etc), but then looking closer at them and decided that the memories they would create weren't quite worth the slightly inflated price that they cost. So now I'm at the hotel again, playing some online games, reading my newest book, and trying not to think about working in Hollywood...


A few days ago, I spoke to my friend Colleen back in Philadelphia. She was on my Cinderella tour with me last year, and now she's touring with Enchantment Theatre's production of "The Velveteen Rabbit," which is now touing the country as well. She told me that based on the conversations we had last year, their company is keeping a blog of their adventures on the road. So we traded information, and their blog, Fairies On a Tour, is now linked over on the right side of mine. Hopefully, they'll put my link up as well. We had talked about it last year, and I had kept Enchanting Journeys as an unofficial "secret" from them. I actually don't tell co-workers about this blog, but I tell them about it after I'm done working with them. The rehearsal process, while very collaborative, is ultimately a very personal thing for me; for that reason I don't like sharing my private and personal thoughts with people I'm working with. But after the fact, they can go back and look the entries up if they care to.

But it was awesome to learn that the Enchantment kids are keeping a blog! They can all post on it, and some of their entries reveal very different types of adventures. There is a book in here somewhere, I know. And if you visit their blog, click on one of the advertisements. That way, they'll get some money. And all actors love money...