Monday, June 30, 2008

looking ahead

July is almost here, praise Gob and pass the hotdogs.

Saturday July 12th at 2:00 PM we're gathering at Barrow Street Theater.

And when I say we I'm probably talking about you.

Martin Denton is calling the second Indie Theater Convocation and if you're reading this blog you probably have some passing interest in the 99 seat theater world here in Rat City. At the Convocation we'll make the first official announcement of LIT and people and companies can sign up as charter members at some soon-to-be-determined discount.

The first convocation, two long years ago, was a very stirring and empowering afternoon, I got to tell you. Just to be in one room with an army of compadres, all talking about the same thing, you feel the very good chance of change.

That same Saturday Walsh and I climb under the hot lights for Nigromantia: A Slight Return at undergroundzero festival down at Collective Unconscious. Two nights only, July 12th and 13th.

The weekend after that, July 17th, 18th and 19th, Matt does The Event, also at the festival.

Today, however, my calendar is clear and I'm going to sit here in the air-conditioning and play my rock and roll music and maybe get some writing done and maybe not.

Speaking of the rock and roll:

Our MMMQ drops back to 1985, a time of big hair, Ron Reagan and a great crop of girl groups. The Bangles danced around in a different light for awhile there. Their big hit was unavoidable that summer, causing me to just about twist off the volume knob on the radio of the old Posthumous Pinto in an effort to turn that shit up.

According to Vicki and the girls, what do both the cops in the doughnut shops and the kids in the marketplace say just prior to walking like an Egyptian?

Extra points for correct spelling.

Friday, June 27, 2008

jettison the escape pod

We're loading up Car 220 and slipping out of town this morning, trying to blend in with the herd and slip free from the City's tractor beam. Get out on the Road where the Americans roam, where Gulps are Big and there's always a parking space.

I think it was Steinbeck:

The curious thing about Americans is we are only truly home when we are on the road.

Maybe it was Whitman.

Or Dean Koontz. Can't remember.

Great fun at P.S. 122 last night. The indomitable Jennifer Conley Darling is presenting the fifth annual solonova festival (that's not the right name, but Walsh is staring at me and time is running out) and last night I saw Aravind Enrique Advanthava (that can't be the right name, but again, Spitfire is starting to spit fire and I'm wasting time with these parenthetical remarks) perform his Prometheus Bound (probably the right name).

Holy laptop. Great gurgling postmodern mash-up.

He's working on something called "escrituro acto" which is the performance element of writing, sort of. Him and a laptop and a screen so we can see what he's typing and he's talking and typing at the same time but not always the same things, sometimes close, sometimes way off and he's kind of telling/writing the Prometheus story and how often do you walk out of a thing saying,

"Well, I've never seen that before."?

I've never seen that before.

And then I blow it.

I'm all set to see the second show of the night, Sally M.I.A.

There's a change-over, so I go over to the park, get a hot dog, hang out and listen to the I-Pod, watching people and dogs and fireflies, just killing time until 9:00. Stroll back to the theater around 8:55 and it's locked up tight as a drum. Weird. I look at the poster on 1st Avenue.

Sally M.I.A. starts at 8:30.

I walk home like a moron and vow to pay more attention to more things.

Apologies to Jen and Kristin DeNio.

All right. I'm getting the high-sign.

We're off to America.

Have a good weekend wherever you are.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

lovely day

Yesterday was one of those Rat City days that keep you addicted to the Big Beast. Sunny, not too hot and me with three appointments spread across the city and lots of time in-between.

Had a breakfast interview with Jackie McGlone for the Scotsman up at the Starlite Diner, 69th and 1st. Spitfire and me chomping down bacon and acting all profound.

After that I strolled through the chaos of the Upper East Side, cut across to the park and sat in the shade learning my lines for Golgotha, the Nigro piece I'm doing at the undergroundzero festival in a couple of weeks.

1:00 I meet up with Abby Marcus and Paul Bargetto at Yum Yum Bangkok, 9th and 44th, for a lunch LIT meeting. We quickly solve all the problems of the world and eat our Pad Thai.

Another stroll through Times Square and I'm wildly early for a 3:30 TCG meeting to talk about Free Night. Circle your calendars now, October 16, 2008 there's going to be a party going on in just about every theater in this town.

I'm early, so I go by Present Company, Elena Holy is there so we scheme away on all sorts of fronts.

Big schemer, Elena.

Then the entirely pleasant TCG meeting and I'm done for the day. F train down to the Lower East Side, walk through the Boho Parade and I'm home by 6:00, summer evening sun coming through the window, cat glad to see me and Nancy padding around asking if I'd like a cocktail.

Man. Some days just flow, don't they?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

more from the book

This is a long-ass post.

More from my acting textbook, Acting Like an Adult, or Lessons Learned, or Madame Bovary, unless someone's already used that title.

(thanks to Brian Parks for the Madame Bovary joke)


A performer has to be quicker, stronger and much more focused than a civilian. She has to be able to think on her feet. He needs to have a strong physical base and not say anything unnecessary. Sometimes he needs to become invisible while standing right there. She needs to know how to charm people without looking like she’s trying to do anything.

These are skills that can save your life out in the real world when you find yourselves alone with dangerous people. These are skills that will get you promoted when you find yourselves in some corporate culture where everyone else is learning how to be a master or a slave. These are skills that will get you laid when you’re out on the town and feeling lonely.

These are skills that anyone can learn. It takes time and discipline and desire. That’s it. Takes no talent, takes no luck.

If you read this book and do the exercises, all of them, and then read the book again, you’ll have a good chance to work in the theater or get a better job or survive a night in a holding cell. Or pick up that good-looking man who just walked in.

Good luck.


I’ve worked for about twenty years in theater in New York City as an actor, director, writer, producer and presenter. I was involved with Present Company, a non-profit off-off independent company and was one of the Founding Artistic Directors for The New York International Fringe Festival. Along with a small cadre of artists and administrators I renovated two spaces in Manhattan, turning them into performance and office spaces. I’ve been very lucky to work in many different areas of the theater for a little time now, so that’s why this book is worth buying. If you’re just borrowing this book or reading it in the library, then fuck you, you owe me sixteen bucks.

(Then it goes into the stuff I posted a few days ago, A Simple Test, The Audience Already Speaks English, etc. Then this part:

How to Think Quicker

Read everything. Read something new every day. Read non-fiction. Read The New York Times or the Guardian. Every day. Know the history of wherever it is you live and wherever you travel. It’s all been written down. And then ask an older person if what you’ve read is true. It’s usually close, but never completely accurate.
Then put yourself in difficult circumstances. Surround yourself with strangers and don’t advertise with your clothes or your language or your expensive watch that you’re just day-trippping. Play the anthropologist wherever you are. Study the customs, habits and behavior of people at the grocery store, people on the bus, people at a different church than the one you went to as a child.

How to Get Stronger

Exercise, you moron.

Strength is mostly just being flexible, so that’s just yoga. Look at how an old Vietnamese woman can move. That’s the ideal. Look at Irene Ryan as Granny in The Beverly Hillbillies. That’s a life in the theater moving around, pretending to be an old lady.

Actual Time, Actual Place

No character is more interesting than you, as you have the advantage of actually existing.

No moment you create in your head is going to be more compelling than the actual moment happening in the room, as it has the advantage of being shared by all.

Your job is to bring us into the actual moment and keep us there as long as you can. The only way to do this is for you to be in the actual moment, paying attention to it, listening to it, asking it what it is.

That’s your job.

Your job is not to pretend to be someone else.

Your job is to listen to the moment, intently and openly. It’s a much harder, much more interesting job than pretending to be somebody else.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

somebody better step up

George Carlin and Tim Russert are both gone.

We're losing some good people here.

The amount of truth being told and the number of tough questions being asked are both less and fewer today with these two men no longer walking around.

So somebody better get busy and pick up the slack.

Damn Ann, the Lampshade Queen, takes a victory lap this morning for knowing her Springsteen.

Ann wins the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, only catch is you have to go over there to collect.

Consolation prize is the heart and mind (such as it is) of the cat here at the Museum. Also have to come here to collect.

Monday, June 23, 2008

as real as real gets

Got the word from Robert Honeywell last night.

The League of Independent Theater, Off-Off Broadway's advocacy organization and business league, is as real and actual as this chair I'm sitting on.

We're a thing, y'all.

Now it's time to see what kind of thing we are.

Hilarious week-end with the sisters Schwartz and their Mom, Mama Mern.

Went to the Museum of Natural History yesterday, touched a lot of dinosaur bones, studied up on The Horse and saw a periwinkle the size of a football.

A very cool place.

Friday night I dragged myself off the couch and went over to Under Saint Marks to see elsewhere's The Honest To God True Story of the Atheist, written by Dan Trujillo, directed by Isaac Butler, featuring the lovely and talented Daryl Lathon, Jennifer Gordon Thomas and Big Abe Goldfarb.

Hugely entertaining.

An old-style revue/vaudeville that was actually about something with regular laughs and a hungry cast intent on burning down the house. Audience ate it up. Goldfarb balled up a piece of paper at one point and flung it right into my face, apologized and kept going without missing a beat. I told Butler afterwards that at one point it was like watching The Civilians' crazy, really smart little brother.

I think it's over, but if it comes back you should see it.

Pitching out a softball this morning for you MMMQ masters. It's officially summer and all, so no one should work too hard this week.

How many tracks are on Springsteen's Magic? And what's the last song on the album?

Doing a podcast for all the pod people this afternoon and meeting up with Omar Sangare a little later.

Looks like Fatboy is playing L.A. and Malta next season. I'll make a little money and offend people I don't even know.

Strange life, this.

Friday, June 20, 2008

great showing in Philly

Our little dance crew did us proud last night down here in the Brotherly Loving City. Much loving, much brotherhood.

Now we put it away until January. Melanie and I will conspire and scheme, work falls back onto us. Really going to miss these people.

Driving back up to the Big Dirty this morning.

Rat City. Gotham. The Sleepless Wonder.

New York Motherfucking City.

Going to see the nieces tomorrow, they're coming into town all cute and silly.

Thanks to Meghan and Scott and Les and Bethany and Carl and Meredith and Brandon on the drums.

Excellent work all.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

another book

I've been working on an Acting Textbook for awhile now. Thanks to the Riders of Rowan, I had some time in the trenches with young American actors last year.

Most of the training they were getting was the same confused, dishonest horse-shit I got 25 years ago.

Not the fault of their teachers, either. Just the lack of clarity and definition in the field.

Here's a section from the beginning of the book, any and all comment is welcome.

A Simple Test

You need a performance space for this test. So if you’re not in one right now, go find one before you read the rest of this. Ideally it’s an old proscenium space, raised stage, wings, etc. but any space will do.

Stand offstage left. Breathe a little bit with your eyes on the stage. Get a good base and walk to stage center. Stand there. Then walk stage right until you get into the wings.

What happened to you, physically, when you were out there? Did your spine lengthen, did your breath slow down, did you feel a tingle in your palms and on your thighs? Did your vision get sharper? Anything?

If you didn’t have a physical reaction, not a mental or emotional one, (this test isn’t about thoughts or feelings, it’s about what happened to your body when you were in the charged space of the stage), if you didn’t feel the charge, then you’re not an actor. Maybe you’re a director or a writer or a producer or a designer or an agent. We need everyone on this ship. Maybe you’re an architect who will go out and make money and come back and give it to the theater. But if you didn’t feel the clarity and the potential and the current that exists on the stage, then you’re not home. Actors need to be home when they’re standing there in front of folks. It’s the only way they’ll have the courage and humor and strength to do the work out there.

Serious People Doing Serious Jobs

Watch how a scientist moves in the laboratory. Watch the way a soldier patrols a street in Falluja. No wasted movements. No wavering focus. No sighing and flopping about. Now watch most actors on our stages.

You see the problem?

The three cancers of American stage acting are subtlety, informality and lack of courage. The last one is different from fear. Courage is not the opposite of fear, courage is what you wish for when you have fear. Courage isn’t possible without fear. I’m not saying that American stage actors need to get rid of their fear, on the contrary, they need to seek it out and dance with it every night. What they need is more courage.

Again, watch a professional doing a physical job. Watch a paramedic checking someone’s pulse. Watch a cop patting someone down. You’ll see focus, you’ll see efficiency, you’ll see no wasted energy. The important thing is, you’ll see no tension. They are relaxed and engaged. If you’re out there under the lights pretending to be Romeo in front of a bunch of silent strangers and you’re tense or worried or stiff, you need to stop right there and breathe. And then say the lines and listen to them while they come out of your mouth. And then eyeball whoever’s pretending to be Juliet and look at her or him, not at “Juliet”. Human to human, simple, two people doing a job.

Base and Pace

The Audience Already Speaks English (Your Job is Not to Express the Meaning of the Words, Your Job is to Say the Words)

Have you ever heard anyone say something like “this wine is delightful” and their voice gets all weird and high on “delightful”? Or “He was a horrid man.” And again, their voice gets all shuddery and low and weird on “horrid”? What do you think of these people? What’s your first, base reaction?

It’s probably something close to:

What a fucking phony. What a fake.

That’s what the audience feels when you get all emotive on a good play, or a bad play for that matter. Mamet calls it the school of Funny Voices. Stop emoting. You’re already “emoting” whatever that means, as soon as you speak. You’re an emotional being. We all are.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

celtics win

The Boston Celtics ran a training camp on Kobe and Company last night. Final score was something like 128 to 40.

Never a fan of the Lakers, it was fun to see Garnett and Pierce and Allen and Doc on the sidelines get their rings and hang another banner up in the rafters.

Go Celts.

Meanwhile, somewhere, someone is patiently explaining to the New York Knickerbockers that the round ball goes through the hoop.

Good. Again. The round ball...good...goes through...yes... the hoop! Very good. Now we're going to dribble. Drib-ble. Bounce bounce bounce. Good. Again.

Slow day at the Museum, catching up on paperwork, dusting off the displays, laying down some schemes for the fall.

Anyone catch the Times piece last Thursday about the NEA's nationwide census of artists? American professional artists' combined income was 70 billion in 2005. More people in this country identify themselves as artists than as lawyers, doctors, police officers or farm workers.


Let's get organized, folks. This is the way a so-called democracy works.

We've got the numbers, let's get the money, let's get the property, let's get the respect.

Let's run the same game the fundamentalist Christians did back in the 80s. Get organized on a local level, get artists on the school board, ask every candidate what their position is on arts funding, arts in the school system, the cultivation of local artists, etc.

If we don't make it part of the dialogue, if we don't insist that it's part of the dialogue, there's no reason for anyone else to talk or think about it.

We out-number the doctors and the lawyers.

And they seem to be doing all right.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

sunburnt and spiky

That's my face in the mirror this morning, a little red and four days of beard whiskering around a very wide grin.

Spent the majority of Monday on the beach with Spitfire and the sisters Schwartz. We did the swings, the slide, the little metal thing you climb on and push and it spins around and you get dizzy and, of course, we constructed one of the world's great sandcastles.

Nan and Elizabeth did most of the planning and construction of the castle, but we all claimed ownership at the end.

We'll be in litigation for years, I imagine.

We're going to meander our way back into Rat City this afternoon, loading up Car 220 with fresh strawberries and asparagus along the way, continuing our study of the seminal works of Three Dog Night and Humble Pie, courtesy of Car 220's four-speaker system, and just watch the world roll by.

Need to take these days when they're given. Gob only knows what's waiting up the road.

Couple of LIT meetings this week and Thursday we're back in Philadelphia for the showing of the Work.

Other than that, chasing paper and scheming for the fall.

Return to Forever's masterwork was Romantic Warrior, I reluctantly must announce. Sorry, Rosie.

The real shame is that the Mystery Prize was $7,000,000 this week.

Seven million dollars.

Thought we'd make it interesting, you know?

Ah. That's a shame.

I'll just put that money back into the imaginary Trust Fund and Museum Endowment account and let it generate some serious interest.

And next year we'll blow it all on hot dogs, T-shirts and candy.

How's that sound?

Enjoy the day, try to catch some sun between the thunderstorms.

Monday, June 16, 2008

monday laying low

Walsh and I are hiding out in the hidden Republic of Remsenberg for a few days, out here near the tip of Long Island, hard by the mansions and estates of the uber-rich, the ocean unseen but everywhere, always right around the bend.

My uncle Ambrose and my aunt Mary have a cottage out here and the cottage was rocking last night. Spirited discussions, as always, broke out between the four of us. Never that important what the original topic is, we range and shout and turn the music up and down. Drink is usually taken, bottles of red wine to complement Mary's world-class cooking.

Last night language itself seemed to be the issue, has it coarsened, is there a difference between written language and spoken language and does it even make sense to speak of "correct" or "incorrect" or "right" and "wrong" when it comes to Language?

Can't even begin to list all of the salient points made by the debators, so I'll just sum up by saying that I was right and Mary was wrong.

Way wrong.

And on Friday night Tim Russert dropped dead.

Can't believe I'm typing that. His is one of those deaths that I don't know what to do with in my mind. It's not sorrow, I didn't know the man, it's a strange, empty incomprehension. My little world makes less sense now. One of my guides is gone and I'm not sure I trust anyone who may step up to take his role.



Unthinkable, but true.

On Tim's last night here with us, me and mine were carousing it up proper at Deirdre M. Clancy and Brett Weatherton's wedding bash. My cousin got married and my aunt threw one hell of a soiree. We were out at the Brooklyn Navy Yards and I don't think any crew of sailors ever had more fun than we did Friday night.

Congrats, Brett and Deirdre, long life and happiness.

On Saturday morning Melanie Stewart and I led a wild, sweaty dance/theater workshop down in Philadelphia as part of the nEW Festival.

Good lord. Don't even know what to type about that one.

Dancers are a brave and flexible lot.

That will have to do until I wrap my sprained little mind around everything we're finding in that rehearsal room.

This morning's MMMQ comes from a poster I saw at Fergie's pub down in Philly last week.

The great Return to Forever has re-grouped and is out on tour. Remember these guys?

Al DiMeola, Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea and Lenny White.

So much talent on one stage it gets silly.

I was never a big fusion guy, most of it sounds like a soundtrack for some corporate industrial video:

How Telecommunication Changes the World and Your Role in This Exciting New Industry

with music by Pat Methany.

But Return to Forever caught groove after groove and laid it all down for the rest of us to marvel at.

Their masterpiece was:

1. Romantic Warrior

2. Mystic Warrior

3. Unsung Warrior

4. Reluctant Warrior

Winner gets a Mystery Prize, losers get mocked and scorned, just like real life.

Friday, June 13, 2008

coming attractions

Funny what happens when a window of time opens up.

You think,

"Well, good. Finally enough time to sit on the couch and stare at the beautiful, flickering light of the TV screen, eat a lot of chips and read all of those magazines that keep piling up."

And next thing you know you're busier than an aforementioned one-armed paper hanger named Junior from someone's dim and questionable past.

If you're in the greater Philadelphia area on Saturday the 14th, come on down to 211 Broad Street, 4th Floor at 10:00 AM and sign up for the workshop Melanie Stewart and I are leading. I can guarantee you'll laugh and get all sweaty.

Then on the 19th, in the evening, there's a series of open showings at the same address in the evening. We're one of them.

Love this dance lingo.

"Open showing".

What does that even mean?

Fast forward to July and Nan and I are performing two of Don Nigro's extraordinary monologues for the Underground Zero Festival at Collective Unconscious. Two nights only, July 12th and 13th at 7:30 PM. Don wrote Cincinnati, the one-woman piece Nancy's been doing all around the globe for the past four years or so. He writes like no one I know, making the terrifying funny and the very deep simple and human.

Just realized while typing the above paragraph that I still have to get the rights to piece I'm working on.

Someone get Sam French on the line.

The following weekend, July 17, 18 and 19, Matt Oberg speaks the words of The Event again, also as part of the Underground Zero Festival.

There's still some beach-combing and hot dog eating going on, but the Work starts cutting into the summer and soon it will be August and we'll be flying back to Edinburgh for the big Overlord reading.

And then the fall gets crazy.

No complaints, on the contrary, vast gratitude that there's an audience out there and that people keep giving us gigs.

My cousin Deirdre walks the aisle tonight with her boy Brett waiting at the end. They will make the impossible promises to each other and we'll all watch, loving them and thinking about the open bar.

Love these summer weddings.

Love, cherish and obey, folks.

Why not, right?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

impending nieces and an interview with the archbishop

The three of them are waking just about now out there in the flood plain of Missouri. With their little suitcases clutched in their hot, sticky little hands, they'll board the big Plane and fly through the air and, Gob willing, touch down safely in Rat City this afternoon.

They're all in the wedding as Flower People, so that's going to be pretty funny.

Quiet morning at the Museum yesterday, got a lot done. Great, long phone conversations with Melanie about our Dance Thing, Curtiss about The Postmen and Philip Gersten about his play This Isn't What It Looks Like.

Current conclusions:

Mel and I are not interested in making Another Damned Thing, no matter how funny or cool it may turn out to be. Goal is to create a social event, not an artwork. Goal is to make something that keeps changing, as soon as it becomes clear in the room what's going on, change it up. Build in a real element of chance and surprise without getting all flaily and chaotic. Create some strong characters or personas, have a strong structure everyone can play within, but keep the competition real, somehow. I can't wait to hear what happened in rehearsal yesterday.

Curtiss is still completely fucking crazy. You'd think he'd settle down, what with the house and the eleven kids, but no. Completely batshit. Always a pleasure to work with him.

Philip has a great play, going to do an informal apartment reading of it in a few weeks. Trick is scheduling, as the fall is beginning to fill up, praise Jebus.

Yesterday afternoon I had an interesting-bordering-on-surreal meeting with the CEO of Coldwell Banker Commercial up on Madison Avenue, David M. Michonski and his associate Blanche Baker Magill.

Now there's a great name. Blanche Baker Magill. A gangster's moll if ever I typed one.

I'm lining up some pieces and laying the groundwork for a big land grab to make sure that there are still some Art Spaces here in the Big Dirty when me and McGee are old and doddering and need some shelter from the Storm.

Mr. Michonski, an affable man from Greenwich, CT, filled page after page of his yellow legal pad with querolous scribbles as he sat across from me in the boardroom. After about twenty minutes of smiling, puzzled chit-chat, me saying things like:

"We have to identify twenty properties and secure six."


"I'm looking for around 20,000 square feet minimum."

he puts down his pen and asks,

"Where's your money coming from, John?"

and like he'd asked me the square root of 1,113 I reply quickly and simply,

"Oh, I have no idea, David. We have to get the property first. If we find the right property, we can get the money."

A moment of silence. He tries again.

"But...from where?"

"Don't know."

A moment. He smiles. I'm a witch doctor and he's an oncologist from Sloan Kettering. I'm a pagan painted blue and he's the Archbishop of Canterbury. We're just not going to get each other.

So he does a nice little switch-up and tries to sell me on 11 acres of vacant land in the middle of downtown Newark. I cooly reply that that would be giving up my chosen battlefield, the five blighted boroughs of Manhattan. He shows me the plans, they're going to build an art center to coax the white people back, there will be luxury condos with views of Emerald City across the waters, etc., etc. I tell him my buddy Norman might be interested, but not for me, thanks.

He gives me a full hour of his time, decently, shakes my hand, still smiling, and I ride the elevator car back down to reality.

And the whole time I'm thinking:

"You called the meeting, motherfucker. I don't know why, but you called me and said we should talk."

Hard sometimes when powerful people look at you like you're crazy when you're telling them the very simple truth.

Money is never first when you're trying to do something big. Money is just another resource. It's important, of course, but it's not the Primary Factor. The idea has to be solid, the time has to be right, the team has to be hungry and varied and the other resources (property, materials, etc.) have to be there. Then you add the money to the project. If you have the idea, if you're catching the wave of the times, if you've assembled the right team, then the Money has a thing to flow into.

It never starts with the Money.


Good LIT Website Task Force meeting last night. Love having Task Forces. Feels like we should have nicknames and assign someone to be in charge of Demolition.

Trying to get nine things done today so I can play hooky next week out on Long Island. Walking along the beach with Spitfire, screaming and goofing with the nieces, maybe even go fishing with my Dad.

Summertime, baby.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

dance-offs and the deluge

So I had two full days down in Philadelphia with Melanie Stewart and her hard-core crew of Philly dancers, working on this Ballroom Blitz/Time to Dance piece we're putting together for the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival.

You know you're on to something good when two and a half hours fly by and you spend most of the time laughing and every fifteen minutes or so the room gets taut and focused, all eyes on one thing, all mouths and eyes in the room open.

Yesterday we played a long-form improv game, basically. We did a dance competition with all of them assuming a competitor persona and when they got voted out they would cross the room and become a different judge persona. They had to create and perform a Dance of Desire or a Dance of Defeat, they had to pair up and do a duet using the text of Tom Paine's Rights of Man or Paul Aster's City of Glass, then they had to learn an insane combination dreamt up and taught by three of the judges.

All the way through, the "judges" in the room, which is anyone and everyone not competing kept babbling at them, evaluating and berating them with nonsense.

I kept telling them that we needed to see "the box". Walsh needed to see "the ingredients". We asked them to show us "the strawberry", since it's all about the strawberry. Just non-helpful bullshit to get them nodding and confused.

Bethanny's character Alice ended up beating out Les's character Dex for the Big Prize.

Hilarious stuff.

We're trying to go below the parody, since that's easy, and work around the ideas of judgement.

Who are we allowing to judge us and do we accept the judgement?

What are we competing for, exactly?

What is it to sit in judgement of an individual?

Questions like that.

We're showing something down in Philadelphia on the 19th and on Saturday we're doing an open workshop thing. My cousin's getting married out in Queens on Friday and I'm supposed to be leading a workshop thing with Melanie 10 AM Saturday morning.

That's going to go over well, I'm sure.

Big real estate meeting this afternoon with some uptown bigwigs and a LIT website task force gathering at the Dentons tonight. Trying to get a lot of things jump-started so we can take next week off and laze about on the beach out on Long Island with my family in from St. Louis.

Uncle John and Aunt Nan are getting ready to do their Dance of the Cuties with my sister's kids, Elizabeth, Nana and Ellie, collectively known as the Schwartz Family Players.

Huge storm last night might have chased the heat away for awhile, don't know, going to go stand on the roof and find out.

Careful out there, now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

night shift

We're thinking of shutting the Museum down during daylight hours until this Inferno blows over, working through the cool night.

Jebus Gob, y'all. Hot.

Lots of good stuff in Philly today, frankly, some amazing stuff, but I'm tired and hot and not drunk so I'll write about it later.

Paul's grandfather was a clean old man, indeed. Or at least he appeared to be one and claimed the adjective repeatedly.

Ice for the ladies, drinks for me.

Monday, June 09, 2008

a billion degrees and climbing

We're having a Heat Wave.

McGee hasn't left the house in three days and she's the more sensible one of the two of us. Keeping the AC cranked, lots of fluids and rock and roll, we'll ride through this. Have to drive down to Philly again today, spending the night and working down there again tomorrow.

Maybe it's thirty degrees cooler down there, somehow.

A man can dream.

Missed you all on Friday, no internet connection here at the Museum. Something to do with something I have no earthly understanding of.

So much of the modern world is complete magic to me. I'm a Borneo wild man, just trying to pass half the time.

Busy week leading up to my cousin Deirdre's wedding on Friday night. The entire St. Louis crew is coming out, my folks and sisters and nieces, and we're all planning on carousing on the beach out in Long Island next week.

Providing Long Island hasn't melted and dissolved into the ocean by then.

Hot out there, man.

Today's MMMQ comes from catching A Hard Day's Night on the TV last night. Nan had never seen it, so we giggled at the lads and sang along to all of the songs. Fun movie.

Paul's grandfather is:

1. A nice old man.

2. A clean old man.

3. A dirty old man.

4. A mean old man.

Winners get a block of ice, if I can deliver it before it melts.

If not, they have to give me a towel.

To Philadelphia and glory.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

here's something

Notes towards a book I'm working on, early title:

Notes to a Younger Artist

Came out of a conversation I was having with a younger director after he worked his ass off on a show, critics came in and his cast went hay-wire. He asked me how to assure that the work in rehearsal is carried on to the stage.

As far as creating consistent performances for the actors, I don't think it's possible, frankly. Once the lights go up and they're in front of other live humans, it's all them.

There are some wonderful actors, good friends, that I no longer work with because they regularly die out there. It's an individual thing that has nothing to do with talent, everything to do with courage and focus. Some people are performers. Nancy is calmer and more focused on stage than she is off and she's not unique. She's just a performer, it's where she lives. Other people, equally talented, are artists and they can get thrown off their game by random shit that neither you nor they have any control over.

And it breaks your heart when you see all of the months of work disappear.

All you can do is address it directly and play psychiatrist, ask the questions, get them to define what exactly happens when they feel it going off the rails and find some physical, easy thing they can do to get their shit back together.

Stop and stare at each other for ten seconds.

Walk over the other performer and hug them, then slap their ass.

Something that an audience will never recognize as a break in the action. If they know that it's not an abyss they're falling through but a job they're all doing together and they can stop and readjust, they may not panic as much.

Also, you can tell them straight and simply:

Look, some people are just not going to dig this no matter how well we do it. It's experimental. It's alternative. By the very definition, it's not easy to watch and understand. Lots of people turned off John Coltrane after the first two minutes.

What is that noise?



Wednesday, June 04, 2008

the rattle, the wriggle and the clinch

America turned a page last night.

Story is still the same, so far, we'll see what happens in November, but by Gob, that was a Moment.

A black couple smiling and waving on a stage in Denver while 17 thousand white people go crazy and no sports or music on anyone's mind.


Ms McGee and I were quite moved. The cat, an arch-Republican, wouldn't even look at the screen.

Evening started with Johnny Mac speaking to what appeared to be the graveyard shift of a Wal-Mart in Kenner, Louisiana.

About a hundred or so people stood awkwardly in some room. Johnny started his remarks with a naked plea to Clinton supporters, thanking her for expanding the opportunities his three daughters can now pursue.

He didn't mention that under his administration they will not be able to avail themselves of the opportunity to undergo a safe and legal abortion if such a terrible decision is ever there's to make, but what the hell.

Out on the road yesterday I saw a bumper sticker on a truck:

It's not a Choice, it's a Child.


My own response would be:

So it's not a Woman, it's a Womb.

You bastards.

But back to McCain.

How old is this man? He's starting to look like one of those animotronic Presidents down in Disneyland, moving weirdly and croaking out pre-recorded speeches. Last night he kept death-rattling:

"That's not change we can believe in."

And then flashing that tight, somehow inappropriate grin of his. If this is their big anti-Obama mantra, then I think we're going to be fine in November, because I got tired of it by the third rattle-croak.

He's looking a lot like a traveling version of a Hall of Presidents dummy and a little like the local mortician with a little too much rouge, lipstick and eye shadow.

He's just not looking good, is what I'm saying.

And then, in the middle of his speech, 9:00 PM EST, the anchors cut him off and announce that Obama is the presumptive nominee. All eyes switch to some bunker here in NYC, awaiting Clinton's words. In a scene you could never film because the symbolism is too obvious, Terry McAuliffe whips up a crowd of a couple of thousand, introduces Senator Clinton as the next President of the United States of America and...


She hadn't heard, or he missed the cue or something. He leaves the podium, wades through the confused but still cheering crowd, goes through a curtain and then...yes, there she is and Bill and Chelsea and the script goes back to normal. But for a few moments there, the podium was empty. The final missed cue of a campaign of missed cues.

Then Hillary steps up and gives the best speech of her career.

Everyone just watching and trying to read the tea leaves.

She can count, her advisers can count, right?

She's not sitting at the Big Desk this time around.

So what does she want?

Little Desk?

Next Desk?


What, for god's sake?

Just tell us so we can move on and start fighting the Mortician.

Please, god no, don't seriously ask for the VP post. Fucks up Obama's whole move. He needs some old, middle-of-the-road white governor or Congressman with military service to really seal the deal with middle America.

Spitfire likes Murtha. I'd go with that.

But Hillary, come home. We need you here in Rat City.

And after Hillary's beautiful speech, the bar was raised. Here's the greatest living orator in America accepting an historic mantle. He's got to do the Sermon on the Mount just to get a C.

And man, he knocked it out of the park. He and Michelle did a little knuckle bump before she stepped away and he opened his mouth and started saying "Thank you."

And that was it for me. The speech was amazing, but that moment was it. Obama is 46. He is my generation. He grew up in my world. And he's smart and dedicated and all like that.

Johnny is my Dad's cool friend. Obama is my high-school buddy.

I'm tired of my Dad's friends running the world. I want to see how we handle it.

Quite a televised evening.

Great day in Philly jumping around with a bunch of dancer-types. Deeply funny stuff. Meeting up with Eric Sanders today, talking about the Public Works Project and then back to Philadelphia on Friday.

Light week, thank ye, Jesus.

Well done to all behind Senator Obama.

Let's start dancing with the old guy.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

rowdy road

Going to aim the hood of Car 220, the Silver Bullet, at the bull's eye of 211 Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA this morning and see where we end up.

Never know what's going to happen when you leave your own home, to paraphrase Bilbo by way of Tolkien.

Big three hour LIT Steering Committee meeting last night. Great work but Christ, when will we get the nod from Albany and be a legal thing? Honeywell says any day now, but he's a lawyer, must remember, they have explicit instructions to lie at all times to the rest of us.

I mean, it's their sworn duty.

Can't blame the poor bastards.

Out of the office all day, sort of playing hooky, sort of going on a field trip.

Working the whole time, of course.

If working is cruising down the highway in some cold blue steel, blasting 70s rock and roll and watching the world fly by.

Which, I assure you, it is.

Every one of you motherfuckers cracked the MMMQ with ease, so I suspect widespread fraud and voter tampering and all other sorts of lemonade/watermelon intent to procure by illicit means.

You big cheaters.

I'm going to honor your winnings, but as you sip that lemonade or chew that watermelon you will taste, in your heart, your own mendacity.

Why didn't anyone ever name a town Menda City?

It's where most of us live, anyway.

See you out on the road.

Monday, June 02, 2008

country boy

Typing this quietly in the early Berkshire morning, holed up in Greenfield, MA. My wife and in-laws are asleep upstairs, me and the birds have been up for hours.

I see in the Greenfield Recorder that the Turners Falls Indians pummeled No. 9 seed Westfield Vocational-Technical High School, 23-0, in a five-inning mercy-rule win at Bourdeau Fields.

Twenty-three to zip.

Man. Them Indians are fierce.

Matt Oberg triumphed on Friday night with the debut of The Event. Thanks for all who came out. We're doing it again as part of the Underground Zero Festival in July and there might be something else going on with it, check this space as they say in the biz.

Big League of Independent Theater meeting tonight, getting our ducks in many rows for an official launch. Need to have the paperwork stamped and notarized and whatnotted until we can offically solicit members and that's pretty much the name of the game for a membership organization.

Tomorrow we wing down to Philly for a meeting with Melanie Stewart and a first casting session for our big Time to Dance piece. I'm writing something with Melanie that will be a dance show/contest, with judges and contestants and minor celebrities and the whole nine. We're trying to figure out how to create it and stage it so that it's more of a social event than an evening of art. Philadelphia Live Arts is interested, so we're going to build it slow and try to get it right.

Rest of the week is quiet, going to try to keep it that way.

It's summertime, man. Come on.

MMMQ inspired by a purchase at an antique/junk store down the road from here yesterday afternoon. Amid the water-logged cabinets and oil paintings of clowns, I found a stack of cassette tapes, someone's collection from the 80s. A-ha was there and the Go-Gos and the real prize, Terence Trent D'Arby's debut album, Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby.

Remember Wishing Well?

Still makes you move.

Wishing Well was the only song that ever got on the radio off the album, but it's not the lead-off. The first track on the first side of Mr. D'Arby's opus is

1. If You All Get to Heaven

2. If You Let Me Stay

3. As Yet Untitled

or, simply,

4. If, by Bread

Winner gets a glass of lemonade and/or a slice of watermelon, depending on supplies and availability. All prizes are non-transferable and subject to non-delivery and denial of ever having been offered, as is custom and tradition around these parts.

You prize-winning bastards.