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Showing posts from 2015

MUST BE BEAUTIFUL IN VERMONT THIS TIME OF YEAR...

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For many years, one of my holiday traditions was to watch the film White Christmas with my best friend Legume (also known as Brian, Honkey, the Judge, etc.). I've probably seen that film at least 50 times, because often I watch more than once per season. I can quote most of the lines- including the jazzy lingo supposedly improvised by Bing Crosby- and sing most of the songs. Not well, mind you- but so what? I love the movie, and it is inscribed in my brain. As such, I have avoided going to see any stage productions of Irving Berlin's White Christmas, mainly out of fear of comparing it in my head to the film and being sorely disappointed.



Happily, I decided to forgo that self-imposed rule and go see White Christmas at the Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs. This decision was based largely on their impressive track record of exciting and pertinent theatre. I have never seen a bad show there. Ever. I am very glad to report that the FAC has done it yet again with a heart-warming,…

WE MUST REJOICE OR WE WILL ALL GO MAD

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There's this scene in the film Jesus' Son, where Billy Cruddup's character, a heroin addict with the charming name "Shit head", witnesses a car crash. Shit head is completely lost, and seeing something terrible happen. Yet even so, he takes a step back, and looks around at the road and the surrounding trees and the shine on the rain covered asphalt- and says something about how beautiful it all is.  It all, as I interpreted it, meaning the world.

I get that.

I think the world is beautiful. I think people often suck, that death is a drag, and that too often we
human beings make unbelievably stupid choices that result in destruction. And I find the world magnificent. At almost every moment.

Maybe I'm crazy.

I've been working on several different shows the past few months. I just helped a group of teen agers at a high school for troubled youth produce a play they created out of nothing in just six weeks. Some of these teens have already been arrested, or…

KISS MY BUCKET LIST

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I have a long list of books to read, movies to watch, places to go. Things to do. Some are pretty easy to do, some will take a little more time. And yet, despite how simple or hard this things are, they all stay on that list, that Netflix queue of life. I have to read the third book in the Dark Materials series. I need to catch up on The Walking Dead. I must go to Macchu Picchu.

The longer I live, the longer the list gets. Sometimes this worries me. According to most, we humans are mortal and as such have to die someday.

I don't plan on doing that. But if I do, there will be way too many things on my list that I haven't gotten to, and that bugs me.

I can hear the many speakers at my funeral now. "He was a good man. Sadly, he never got through the first season of House of Cards. I mean, the first season! Not the third where things got a little too much, mind you, but the first! May we all learn from what could have been- what should have been but never was. Now let us pray.…

WAIT UNTIL DARK, THEN GET YOURSELF TO THE FAC

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The words that come to mind when I think of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's current production of Wait Until Dark: exciting, breath-taking, scary, macabre. Also insightful, dramatic, and smart. And funny. Creepy. Fast paced. Unrelenting. Cool.

Suffice to say, I liked it quite a bit. Wait Until Dark starts out full of tension and menace- and ratchets it up from there. After a beautiful opening image of a figure silhouetted in a doorway, we are plunged headlong into a world of mystery and intrigue and terror. I don't want to give too much of the plot away, so I won't tell you what happens. What I can tell you is that in the story, over the course of less than twenty-four hours, we witness a blind woman named Susan's harrowing encounters with malice, cruelty, and deceit. As she deals with a series of bizarre encounters, she is forced to find a strength and resilience that she doesn't seem to sure exists at the start of the play. What makes the play work- and oh…

FAC PUTS IT TOGETHER PERFECTLY

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Well, they've done it again. The Theatre at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, under the exceptional leadership of Artistic Director Scott RC Levy and the fantastic direction and choreography of FAC Associate Director of Performing Arts Nathan Halvorson, has mounted yet another outstanding show. This time, it's Stephen Sondheim's Putting It Together. My short review: It's freaking brilliant, and you need to see it. Get online and buy your tickets right now. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Putting It Together is a revue of around thirty songs by Stephen Sondheim, whom many consider to be the greatest living composer for musical theatre. Don't take my word for it.  “Stephen Sondheim has written some of the best musical theatre of the last 50 years,” says Performing Arts Director Scott RC Levy, “and will go down in history as one of the most important American composers of the 20th Century. The FAC has a strong history of producing his work, and when thinking of which sh…

TV MADE ME A CRYPTOZOOLOGIST

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When I was a kid, I wanted- more than anything else- to see something supernatural. A ghost, Bigfoot, a UFO. Something.  At night, I would scan the skies. When camping, I would listen keenly for something large lumbering through the Sierra Nevada.

I blame TV.

Every Friday night, on KTVU Channel 2- which at the time was what we used to call an independent station- there was a show called Creature Features, hosted by Bob Wilkins. Creature Features was a double feature of horror movies hosted by Mr. Wilkins; who always provided a mix of wry commentary and cool info, things to notice in whatever movie we watched, and so on. I saw all the classic horror flicks, along with lots of not-so-classic ones. A typical evening's fare would be Frankenstein, followed by House of Frankenstein. Or Them! followed by Tarantula. Usually there would be a thematic link between the two. The big goal when watching Creature Features was to stay awake to the end of the second feature, which would usually e…

BLINK TWICE AND IT'S GONE

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Up early, walking the dog, rearranging the garage, listening to the Drowsy Chaperone on my iPhone as I do all this, getting ready for two productions of this show I'll be directing in the Fall. And as I walk around my neighborhood in the cool, Autumn-is-on-it's-way air, I am struck by a thought- well, lots of thoughts, all bundled together in the colors of the leaves, the mist from sprinklers, the sound of a group of birds taking flight when I get to close. The thoughts, in no particular order: Life is infinitely long and shockingly short; this world is indeed full of beautiful things and we miss most of them most of the time; I have a lot of shows coming up (Little Mermaid at Reel Kids, Lend Me a Tenor at Inspire/Creative, Drowsy Chaperone at the JCC, Glee at StageDoor, a student created show at the Logan School, Honk! also at the Logan School, and another student created show at Englewood's Finest High School); I have a lot of writing to do (another pass on Ghostlight, B…

KEEP WRITING

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The best- the only- advice a writers needs. Keep writing. All other ideas, advice, changes, breakthroughs, innovations, edits- the whole enchilada, if you will- only happen when you take that first bit of advice.

Read others people's stuff. Write in a journal. Cut the first two lines and the last two lines of each scene. Make sure the character has a flaw. Keep the pace moving.

Whatever.

Just keep writing. Nothing else really matters.

Even when you don't want to.

Especially when you don't want to.

After you have gone through all your excuses, your other things that must be done- walking the dog, watering the plants, calling that friend you haven't spoken to in years, checking the scores, rearranging the refrigerator.

Keep writing.

After you have read what you've got so far at least fifty times. After you've stared at the screen and gone into a sort of coma and snap out of it not sure where in the story you are, or if it is worth anything to anyone, ever in the h…

A NUMINOUS BOOGIE MAN

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I'm working on a new script- a pilot for a tv series that for the moment I am calling Boogie Man. It's a  character driven paranormal show that examines America through our many myths and legends. Let's face it- we love horror. There is a reason that thrillers are the most greenlit movies out there. They make money! Hand over fist, day after day, year after year, we fork over our hard earned, meager wages to watch ghosts and ghouls and creepy dolls terrorize what we pretend are average Americans. It is what we do, for the most part.



Don't like scary movies- that's cool, but I hope you realize you are in the minority. And kind of un-American.

One of the things I like about being scared is the rush- the adrenaline ka-pow! feeling when the clown attacks from under the bed, or the decapitated head pops out of the boat. That immediate, in-the-moment realization that for a least this second, I am alive and fear for my life. And then I get the added bonus of realizing tha…

FINDING IS LOSING SOMETHING ELSE

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That's a quote from Richard Brautigan, who was this writer. My mom loved that particular quote. The whole line, which she said often, was "Finding is losing something else. I think about, perhaps even mourn, what I lost to gain this." I don't know if that is the actual quote. That's just how Mom said it. She also would often say "From the Mud Grows the Lotus." I think that might be the title of my autobiography. Of course, that implies that I have achieved lotushood, which is not really up to me to say. I, like Popeye, am what I am.


For those keeping score, you have no doubt noticed that I am writing on this blog a lot more. There are several reasons for this. First, I feel better when I write- in my journal, with my scripts, on this blog. It purifies my soul somehow. I often think of all these thoughts in my head as living beings, that if I don't get out of my head and onto the page/screen will die inside of me and poison my system. So I do it to s…

SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION

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So this morning, at the sort of early Eight-thirty call time, my young cast of Honk! at Reel Kids was looking bleary eyed, half-asleep, and in need of some energy. Usually, we start rehearsals with a quick physical and vocal warm up, followed with some improv. That way all three of our basic tools- voice, body, and mind- are ready to work. (Part of my training at San Jose State University, which we all had drilled into our brains, was that an actor's job is to "create a believable character in a given situation using their voice, body, and mind)

But this morning, it was clear something different was called for- something new and fun and that would knock us all out of ourselves. Too often in this life, I think we all sort of sleep walk our way through the day, barely aware of all the wonders that surround us. Yes, I know, there are plenty of mundane things out there, so try and keep your eye rolling to a minimum. There is magic in this world, numinous experiences patiently wai…

WORK WORK WORK

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So I am busy a lot. I direct shows all over, write as often as I can, teach in many places, and am actively pursuing selling my screenplays.


Right now, I am directing the musical Honk! at Reel Kids, and next week I start a production of Avenue Q there as well. (slots are still open, if you are a teen ager and want to do a show with dirty jokes, puppets, and awesome songs) I am also in pre-production for Lend Me a Tenor with Inspire/Creative in Parker. This is a show with adults, and my first full production down there and I am very excited. I am also gearing up for a production of the Drowsy Chaperone at the Wolf Theatre at the Denver JCC which starts in September.  I am also getting ready to create a brand new show with a group of young artists at the Logan School, where I will be teaching this coming year. And I will also be doing a Glee inspired show up at StageDoor in Conifer to round out my fall/winter session.

Writing wise, I am working on a new pilot called Boogie Man, a paranorm…

Poem I Wrote for Jack

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Sometimes, I think my brain is like that scene in Poltergeist when Craig T. Nelson takes the paranormal investigators to the kids room- the one where one of the investigators tells him that he once, on a time lapse video, got a sponge moving several inches- to which Nelson looks extremely unimpressed. Nelson then opens the door to the kids room, the room where Carol Ann disappeared, and the investigators see all sorts of debris flying around the room- books flapping like birds, a kids vinyl LP that connects with a writing compass and impossibly begins to play, a light bulb that flies into the socket of a lamp and turns itself on, and a Hulk doll riding a toy horse like he's a little Teddy Roosevelt on San Juan Hill.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=fntf6IpPOVI

That's my brain. All these disparate items, flying in a funky, magic, sort of malevolent vortex, creating crazy-logic that is both amusing and creepy.

Anyhow.

So Halpin me a poem the other da…

ROUGH WRITERS IN THE SPRINGS

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Well, the theatre at the Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs has given us yet another reason to get to the Springs. This time, it's their latest installation of Rough Writers, a play festival presenting staged readings of new works. This is a chance to see brand new work by playwrights at various stages in their careers, in a beautiful space in a wonderful town. There are many different plays you to see- one acts and full lengths, large and small casts- take your pick. And you can either buy one ticket to one reading, or for twenty dollars, see as many readings as you want. Twenty dollars. You know, the price of a couple of movie tickets, or a couple of drinks at Starbucks. And for that same twenty dollars, you can take part in the creation of a new show. How are you a part of it? Well, when the new plays are read, the playwright is there- listening to the audience and their reaction. For a playwright, this is a scary and wonderful experience- and vital to the process. When you …

LET'S HAVE A BAKE SALE!

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So, I got back on the horse, and am acting in a show. You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown to be exact. It's a benefit performance for Reel Kids, one of the many places in Colorado where I teach. I play Charlie Brown-  role I have always loved, and I must admit, it's pretty awesome being on stage again after over ten years. I've always loved this play, and we do a pretty damn good job with it.



It's a little tough to get through the song Happiness every performance. The song always makes me think of my mom- I was working on a children's production of the show when she died, and every time we do it, I feel the absence, the hole that only your mother can leave once she heads for parts unknown.

We have one more performance, tonight at 7 pm, so if you are anywhere near Superior, CO, come on over and check it out. There is a cocktail hour before the show, with drinks and treats. Proceeds from the show will go towards getting a new camera for the school, which we desperat…

DEMON WEED IN COLORADO SPRINGS!

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WARNING:Reefer Madness the Musical, now playing at the Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs, will get you high, baby. Can you dig it? High on life. High on great music, exciting choreography, brilliant design. High on watching amazing performers deliver with aplomb a fantastic, inventive show based on a hilariously out of whack cautionary movie from 1936 about the evils of the devil weed. Put simply, it will freak you out in the best way possible- and that ain't no jive.

The musical is presented as a mockumentary of sorts, complete with overly earnest narrator, or Lecturer, speaking directly to the audience about the terrible "facts" of marijuana and how the stuff is destroying the youth of America. The Lecturer tells us the infamous story of Jimmy Harper and Mary Lane, who of course have their lives turned upside down, irrevocably ruined, by the demon weed. When we meet Jimmy and Mary- played to perfection by Andrew Wilkes and Chelsea Ringer- they are your typical subur…

LOST SOULS

LOST SOULS

We used to call cricketts

Souls

My brother, sister, and I.

At night on a full Moon,
I would look out my window
and see silohuettes of
cats and trees
(and the red light
of a cigarette)

against the deep blue sky.

Whispers passed between us,
questions for my older brother to answer-

                                -which he always did.

Slowly the night would swallow us whole,
and for an
infinite moment,
I lost all sense

of up or down.

I was
(not flying but)
careening,
afraid I would never come back.

How long this lasted
I do not know.

Then I would hear the souls,
Singing in the night
Admiring the moon
Whispering to each other
Drawing me
Home

and I would sleep,
safe and content,
Protected by their music.

Now, I no longer need
To shut my eyes to lose
my senses.

Every day I am
(not careening but)
floundering.

Lost.

And I must listen,
must learn to hear again,

The Souls,

admiring the Moon,

I must learn again,
to let the living violins
carry me Home,

And caress my
Worried heart.