Acting Up

My musings, thoughts, rants, and discoveries. - Scott Maddock

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Location: Redmond, Washington, U.S. Inc. (Formerly U.S.A.)

Back to Blogging

I haven't blogged here since 2012. Why am I making a stab at it again?

I realized two things about social media I wanted to get away from. First was that I was often using it as a journal, which is boring and maybe TMI for those platforms. Secondly I was using it too much for my taste, so that I felt like a tool for marketers rather than using social media as a tool for my ends.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

People watching

Did some people watching at the concert (Bela Fleck and the FleckTones).  Before the show started some people were making phone calls to pass the time.  I found it amusing to notice how many people stood up to talk on their cell phones.  One or two people were standing up looking around and waving while on their cell phones, trying join up with friends which seemed pretty normal.  The rest were standing in a sea of seated people, talking on their cell phones.  They looked a little loopy.

We found a great place to sit, Beth went on a food run to one of the vendors, and I watched our stuff.  One of the cell phone standers was several blankets over talking deliberately loud, "Okay, now this is kind of technical..."  He was funny for several reasons.  He sounded pretty slow-witted which made it seem he was the one who needed technical guidance.  He was condescending, and nasty to the person on the other end of the line.  About one hundred people heard his end of the conversation.  "Who cares?", you ask.  Well, it was a situation that will go into my writing toolbox.  He was obviously trying to communicate something about himself to his audience.  The difference between how people perceived him and what he believed he was projecting about himself would be a fun thing to investigate.  A series of short monologs and dialogs, starting and ending with his...  Or more likely, as part of a larger piece.

Another person cracked me up.  I chuckle at teens and very young men, posturing, or wearing goofy clothes or hairdos, trying to find ways to get attention from the ladies.  I remember the times I did the same, and even though the dorky fashions are different the spirit is the same, as well as the 'friends' who show you embarrassing pictures ten or twenty years later.  Is shaving my head the same sort of thing?  When you are laughing at yourself at the same time it makes things all the more enjoyable.  There was a teen girl, and I am horrible at guessing ages, but I'd say between 17 and 19, wearing a tight shirt showing all her contours.  Too young to be interesting to me now, though I still related to the proud strut as she walked all the way across the meadow between all the blankets and seats several times, in case anyone missed her.  I enjoyed the parade, and remembrances which created a one-sided camaraderie.  She was most probably getting a lot of leers from the younger fellas, and I just watched the dance.  Of course I'm not immune, one of the women I leered was probably her mom.

There was a huge cop there, I'd guess 300-350 pounds.  About my height, but much larger, and I ain't a small guy.  I noticed his face was very handsome, a very poster boy looking cop was under all that padding.  He seemed a good cop despite the weight problem, and it gave me something to work on for my role as a cop this Fall.

Beth got back, bringing me a barbecue sandwich.  Not bad at all, not quite tremendous either.  I was very hungry, which brought it much closer to the tremendous end of the scale.  It was a good show, though a several of the pieces were too long.  There wasn't enough contrast in the phrases, making it seem to drone after a while.  There were some very nice pieces, and their final piece was an over long bit of fusion jazz I think; something with a discordant jamming sound.  It was my least favorite song.  I know some really people like it, but it's like nails on a chalkboard for me.  Same with a lot of modern classical music.  The encore was wonderful, a pixieish whimsical piece which was my favorite of the evening.  It had a Dixieland energy to it, if not the sound.

I had a dream about my ex-wife early in the week.  Kind of weird, as I rarely think of her.  Even more unexpected, it was an amicable encounter.  The marriage was my most unhappy period and the divorce wasn't amicable.  Though it was ages ago, the amicable nature of the dream was surprising.  Don't remember anything of the dream beyond that.  As I recall she was very into music, especially the non-headliners.  That created my own bizarre experience at the concert.  Every time I saw a heavyset blonde I wondered if I would recognize her.  Glad it wasn't a precognitive dream.   ; )

I am looking forward to my next trip to the zoo.  I wish they had longer hours, though they are open an hour later in the Summer, 9:30 to 6PM.  So many of the animals are most active at dawn and dusk, it seems a shame to miss it.  Oh well, getting there at the crack of 9:30 will have to do.  That means I better finish reading the script again tonight or tomorrow if I want to go this weekend.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

It's a zoo out there

I'm heading to the Woodland Park Zoo this afternoon, not for character work this time, for Zoo Tunes.  I thought they supported a charity or the zoo itself, but I can't find any information.  I'll try to find out at the concert.

I am already looking forward to a trip or two to the zoo for my next character.  I'm wondering if I'll be as surprised as last time.  First, I need to at least finish my second read of the script and make some character notes so I have something churning in the subconscious before I go.

So, I am a big fellow, currently bald.  You'd think I'd be intimidating, but not to children.  When I meet the children of relatives, friends, or acquaintances I am usually their favorite toy in short order.  Often grown-ups are a little put off by my outward appearance, but kids seem to know I'm harmless.  Cat's too.  I'm a cat person, and sadly I am slightly allergic.  Cats have always tended to gravitate towards me, even more since I developed the allergy.  I guess that's part of why I like those independent contrary beasts so much.  There are usually a lot of children at Zoo Tunes.  Will their parents successfully keep them away from the scary looking bald guy?  Usually in these situations I just exchange a lot of grins which is a nice thing to take home.  If there are no grins I'll just give some lonely cat a quick scratch.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Stepping Back

I kept forgetting to upload my vacation journal, which puts some of my 'earlier' entries out of sequence.  They are after the dotted line.

Time at the Duckabush reminded me of my not so secret dream.  I'd like to set up a retreat ground in a place like that, for professional level arts training.  Theatre being my preferred venue I know the type of people I want to serve.  Community and fringe artists.  It disgusts me when I hear community theatre run down by other artists, especially actors and directors.  Admittedly you can see some awful performances, but community theatre certainly hasn't cornered that market.  On the other hand some of the best work I have seen was also at community theatres, and you tend to get a level of heart in the work which you also see at the fringe level, and not nearly so often at the great big professional level.

More importantly, community theatre is grass roots more than any other type of theatre.  The more people you draw into community theatre as participants and audience, the more that will go to fringe, low budget professional productions, and big fat professional productions.  Fringe runs quite a gamut too and I think needs the same sort of support, though you tend to get a lot more professionals, or at least artists with professional training.  Anyway those are the people I'd like to support.  A retreat to support and grow arts and appreciation at the grass roots level.  I like the idea of having cottages where professional artists could stay, either cheaply or as instructors.  I need to continue working on the ideas, then at some point letting it go or working out practical details.


19Jul04 :
I didn't realize it was my Mother's birthday until I checked my calendar so I could date this.  I no longer communicate with my Mother.  It is poignant in a comforting way that I am able to distance myself that way.

I am sitting on the old channel of the Duckabush River looking over the current channel, in front of the cabin which my Dad and brother have shares in with another dozen or so other families.  I have been coming here for thirty years and it has many levels of meaning.  It started out as a group of people in the self actualization workshops of the 70's who became very close and bought the cabin and property as a group.  My Dad was one of the original members, and I have been associated with the group since it's inception.  Back then I was the young kid who worked so hard it made everyone else tired just watching.

Aside from a full day of cooking on Saturday I have spent very little time in the cabin.  I've slept under the stars or in a tent.  This short vacation is wonderful, some time out of the office and theatre spaces.  An interesting place to be.  I don't resent my time spent working at Expedia or in theatre pursuits.  Spending time with nature is even more refreshing to the soul than when I did resent most everything everything in my life.  I think about time here with my family, and I've not a single memory of my Mother any further from the cabin than the fire pit a few paces from the cabin stoop.

Looking down the river enjoying the breeze while working on a script I am writing.  Perfect.  Should I win the lotto I'd treat myself to this a lot.  Looking up from the screen and down the shady green expanse of the river is a wonderful way to write.

I've been building a small fire on the beach every evening, and sitting.  Sometimes in silence, thinking or simply being still.  Sometimes reciting (manly) poetry or monologs, even singing to the river.  Last night my father joined me, as he has for a little while each evening.  This time it was a little longer, and I sang Brennan on the Moor, an old Irish ballad and recited My Friends, and we sang Abdul Abulbul Amir (one of many spellings).  When we were out backpacking when I was a kid he and my Uncle would recite the well-known Service poems (The Cremation of Sam McGee and The Shooting of Dan McGrew), Dad would sing Abdul, and Uncle Hal would recite Gunga Din or The Grave of the Hundred Head by Kipling.  A very nice little connection with each other and the past.

Last night Pop joined me at the fire again.  I was musing.  The times at the Duckabush were some of the best times of my life as a youth and young man.  I was rarely happy, and it is only in the last several years that my mood is good more often than not.  Never expected to think of myself as a happy person.  I was recalling how intense my enjoyment of the Duckabush escapes seemed to be.  Yesterday's journal entry got me thinking along those lines.  I was musing on why I don't experience the same thing now.  I am a different person.  Definitely in a better place now, though I know I wouldn't be where I am know without my life experience.  I now enjoy nature for it's own sake, rather than as an escape from my life.  A less intense, though richer experience.

Time to finish packing and head back to my every day world.  Wish I could stay longer, yet looking forward to getting back.  The best way to end up any excursion.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Beggar Scott

Thursday I chatted with my brother.  He is terribly excited with the jet ski he just got.  We joked about the Waterworld scene with the submerged jet skis ambushing by bursting through surface of the water.  Thought it was a good time to watch that bad movie again.  He figured they would be out until dark on Friday and Saturday and I would come over between 9:30 and 10:00.

On Friday I met my friend Beth for dinner an Namasthe in Redmond, a very nice vegetarian restaurant.  We had a great time catching up, and afterwards I was really bushed.  Long hot days seem to sap the energy, even when you spend eight or nine hours in the air conditioning.  You can't totally isolate yourself from the outside world.  Thank your God(s).

I called their house, and Tonia was the only one home and she sounded a bit beat herself.  So I begged off, to go catch up on shut eye.  And I did.  Got to sleep before 11 PM, and slept in wonderfully getting nearly ten hours rest.  It set me up for Saturday.

I dropped off some props from one of last year's shows for Susan Alotrico, who needed them back for some camping trips.  I was happy to oblige over to Ballard and dropped them off, then stopped by the shop and swapped bikes.  Have my preferred bike, the Moto Guzzi back, and have the old, old Suzuki in for a little maintenance.  Then over to the North Bend public library.

I was looking for an air conditioned coffee shop, and couldn't find one.  I understand there is a Starbucks just off the freeway by the outlet malls, but I was in a writing mood and that sort of a place is death for my creative juices.  The library in North Bend was just right.  Got a couple new scenes, though I think one is a throw-away.  The type that gives the writer some back story, but is a little more than an audience would want or need.  I am pushing forward.  I am interested in the story line, though I'm not delighted with the script.  I still think it has potential so once again, having something to work with and improve is a much better than having nothing at all written.

Then I went for a meal at Tweeds or Twin Peaks.  I really like the restaurant with two names, it has a big hamburger selection (40), of juicy burgers that eventually disintegrate the bun, so that you either finish up with a knife and fork, or look like a one year old after diving into that first birthday cake.  I even had a salad and dessert.  Very middle america type stuff, and I loved it.  Worked on the second read through of Rumors, the play I am working on for November.  This time through I'll start taking character notes when I get to the last ten pages or so where I enter and get to be the main character for a bit.

After dinner I went up to the (Unity) hall where Spolin Players work.  I run the lights for them when I have a chance.  I did regularly for over a year, and this year have whenever my schedule was free.  It is kind of fun to run the board for a improv show, as it is always a challenge to follow the show and have the lights appropriate.  There aren't any real good channels for areas, so I can't light the sides or middle of the stage, but I can still work moods a bit with intensity.  I'm no lighting tech, but I do what I can.  Last night I rarely brought the lights up full  because it was so damn hot.  Even at 70% the stage warmed up quite a bit, but it kept the circuit breakers for the spots in the back of the house and the two air conditioners for tripping all the time.

When the show was done a few of us met at a nice Italian place just a couple doors the other way from Tweed's.  Again I was pretty drained from all the heat, and called my brother's house again.  I figured they were tired in a similar way, or at least I hoped they were, as I begged off again.  I let the phone ring once or twice, then hung up.  Long enough for the caller id to catch my number.  They could call me if they really wanted company, and I could say, "Well I tried but nobody answered."  Here's hoping that was gracious.  I got home, thought about my script, didn't come up with anything new and eventually fell asleep for another long rest.  I feel all rested and refreshed and now have a couple parties to go to.  One with my group from Expedia, the other with the group of friends that started when we all worked at Microsoft around 1996.


Friday, July 23, 2004

Rage against the inevitable?

I read how Ann Coulter believes that Joseph McCarthy should be exonerated.  How she believes liberals are guilty of treason.  Only those who are as far to the right as she is can be patriotic and true to our democracy.  These reactionary tenets are so wacky one is tempted to laugh, until you realize they are being embraced by those who should be a bit more moderate.

The irony is sad.  Our founding fathers defined treason very narrowly to prevent the persecution and trampling of liberty they had witnessed in the name of treason.  To dismiss other opinions as treason denies the intent of our founding fathers.  It is all that is necessary to bring the force of the government to bear on those with different opinions.

We have seen this happen in the past, and it should make us more afraid today.  We are actually more petrified of terrorists, than we were of the USSR and it's nuclear arsenal.  How ridiculous can you get?  Though the menace may be self-fulfilling prophecy, as we are daily increasing our risk with ill-conceived actions.  This is not rational, and when a population starts to lose it's rationality, atrocities become possible, commonplace, even desirable.  We are at a crux, and I feel enraged and frightened.  The outcome of a presidential election has never meant a lot to me, and today it does, even though I don't have faith in the alternative.

I used to joke that if you had less than 100 million dollars you couldn't possibly be a real republican, you were either a lackey or minion.  It doesn't seem funny anymore with the cronyism and unjustified bloodshed that is going on.  At the same time privacy and liberties are being curtailed at home and abroad.

I often feel like I am being a boor.  Then I look at the stakes, and current events.  Granting our government a degree of power it has never before had and it's results should be a big issue.  Yet, it is not as important as the discount at WalMart or Costco.  The great equalizer, consumerism.  Responsibility, compassion, courage, and integrity all take a back seat to consumerism.  Liberal or conservative it doesn't much matter.  Those low prices come at the cost of your neighbor's jobs, and require working conditions in third world countries even Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter would not condone in our country.  It seems a bargain is the loftiest goal possible in our culture.

I write it down, it looks too ugly to be valid, yet I can't find any way to poke a hole in it.  The sacrifice of liberty, privacy, and courage for perceived temporary safety should be the biggest domestic issue today.  Whether you agree with me or not, this fundamental change, or loss of democracy, should be a very hot issue.  It is not; all indications show the price of a Big Mac or SUV is more important to the vast majority of our population.

Am I being alarmist, or realistic?  Obviously I don't view myself as alarmist.  Apathy is every bit as dangerous as donning a brown shirt and goose stepping with the mob.  Do we have to actually cross the line into fascism before eyes finally open to what is happening.

On the bright side.  I have found ways to deal with personal issues in my life to avoid rage, and have done it so well that it was hard to find anger in my theatrical work.  I went from suppressing all anger to dealing with it effectively.  Thanks to politics I have truly rediscovered my rage.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


Catching up at the office.  Whew!  Just got back from four days on the Duckabush River.  I wanted to 'fix' some of the signs, to read DuckaKerry.  For equal time and all, but nobody else was interested and I wanted a partner in crime.

I did some writing up there, both for this journal and my writing projects.  Not as much as I'd intended, but enough.  I have been mostly inside with work and theatre for such a long time, that taking time just to be outside in the woods was a somewhat novel experience.  It has been a couple years.

I set a folding chair on a sandy spot in the shade, with my laptop on a footstool serving as a small desk.  The channel has moved, and I was sitting where the river flowed only seven or so years back and looking down several hundred feet of river.  As I was finishing up for the afternoon my Dad walked by looking for his own quiet spot.  I commented, "This is what I would treat myself to on a frequent basis if I hit the lottery. "

I was working on a section of a script that was particularly hard for me.  A sensual scene, and to make it even worse a dysfunctional relationship -- physically and emotionally.  My own fault for choosing a story line needing those type of characters.  It was helpful to be really alone writing that.  Rewriting it will be easier, just letting those disturbing thoughts out for the first time was discomfiting.  I think I succeeded in setting up the the characters with a disturbing relationship that serves the story and has the potential to be believable and interesting.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

More Thoughts

The audition Tuesday, which sort of popped up unexpectedly through Rachel who is acting stage manager, at least for the audition process, has been on my mind more than I expected. Due to the differences I noted in myself, the enjoyment I had in working with other people including Rachel in the scene readings, the things I felt I did wrong, could have done better, wondering "Will I get cast?", etc.

Nothing unusual in all that. I was surprised to realize it has been quite a while since I auditioned. Two years, maybe a bit longer. Before I started the Meisner Progression, I had worked with Paula on several shows doing almost everything except directing and acting. In truth, I had small parts in the last two productions, and in effect did a little assistant directing simply because we worked together so much. Before all that I had learned to find enjoyment in auditions. I knew I was dreadful, so I looked on it as a chance to play, learn, and grow. Sometimes they weren't so fun, but usually I was able to let myself enjoy them on some level. Came back to that space on this audition.

It was like a job interview in many ways. When I interview for jobs I am in turn interviewing the prospective employer to see if I want to work there. Usually I come away with positives and negatives to think about. I have subtly torpedoed myself in a few interviews where I quickly came to the conclusion I didn't want the job. I hoped and attained -- I think -- a situation where they felt I'm not quite the fit they were looking for, but still very positive towards me. Partly a wish to be gracious, partly to avoid burning bridges.

In this case I was predisposed towards the director, because Rachel is working with him. A pretty good reference in my mind. I was a slightly put off by his denigration of "method" stuff in comedy. He stated characters in a comedy should be 2-dimensional. I disagree in principal with that view, both from having worked on shows and watching so many shows. (On average, I watch over 50 productions a year).

An actor doing a very good caricature can be good for a comedy, particularly the farcical shows. An actor doing an over the top character is generally much better, though the reason may not be obvious. I would guess to the average observer it appears to be a really good caricature. I don't know where the notion that a truthful character is only good for dramatic roles comes from, when in reality they also make for much funnier comedic characters. We see the same relationship at work in the other direction, where truly great comedians make outstanding dramatic performances. Living in and committing to the character adds richness and connection for the audience whether or not they are intended to be funny. I saw two or three productions of Scapin last year, and the funniest by far was at the Intiman. It wasn't because they were shallower characters without depth, quite the opposite.

I'm not worried about the outward difference in philosophy or semantics. I have been taught in so many classes, that it is the actor's responsibility to find a way to produce what the director wants - not the opposite. I don't have the knee-jerk disdain for caricature so common in theatre circles, rather it is a tool I have seen some people use to great advantage especially when it is not the final goal. It is not something I am good at, so I need to work my process in a way to get me to the desired point.

Most important to me in my evaluation was the playing and concise directing. It was totally enjoyable. I haven't worked with Next Step before, except as an usher or cashier for several productions, as they were temporarily imploding when I was interested before. The work I'd seen them do was all quite good. They are rejuvenated with a new board, and it seems like the workload is spread out better, and I am looking forward to seeing their new shows, maybe working with them on a show or two.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

On The Move

At the audition I confirmed the two things I need to work on the most for acting in the near/mid term are movement and voice. Movement has always been tough. Because of my size and who I am stillness works very well, and when I do move it needs to be decisive. No little fidgety stuff. I've also been dropping off of my voice lately. I don't really know if I am doing it more, or I am just more aware of it. Doesn't matter, I just know I want to work on it more.

In the short term I plan to start up tap and voice (singing) lessons in about two weeks, after I get back from vacation. I hope to find more advanced theatrical voice and movement classes in the Spring, though repeating the ones I've had at Freehold would not hurt. I also hope to take the audition lab, so I may have some choices to make. Especially if I hope to work in some shows in the mean time.

It was sure nice seeing Steve and Paula last night. We ate lots of sushi with their friend Jennifer, and then went back to their place for a beer. Gregory met up with us there. He is still recovering from being hit by a car. His memory is still spotty, and his circadian rhythms are out of whack. He sometimes sleeps too long, then is up for too long. It seems things are still trying to work themselves out.

He is working for the Seattle Opera as an actor. He suggested I send them my headshot and resume as they are always looking for big guys, and my height and girth are an asset. That is a cool thought. A little later it hit me as a Hell of a compliment. I view Gregory as a very accomplished professional actor, whose work has always impressed me. His casual suggestion made me feel pretty damn good.


The audition went alright. I think I may have seemed brusk when I was trying to put the director at ease. I'd intended to let him know I am familiar with theatre and the ethic, as he seemed to be experiencing the tedium of "here I go again", and I sounded more like "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all this." Not what I'd intended at all.

As always happens in an audition I had a litany of could haves and should haves. On the other hand I didn't feel like I gave a totally dull, flat read which I have always felt in the past. There wasn't a chance to read the script through at least once, yet I had fun playing with the characters and didn't have the tentative feeling I've had in the past. We always need more work. From my perspective I was very pleased, not with where I am, but where I have moved. The work of the last year paid off to an extent.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004


On Sunday I went to see a show with Rachel, called Shock Brigades. A study of women fighting in five different conflicts, Viet Nam, Nicaragua, WWII (USSR), WWII (Jewish ghetto), and South Africa. Outstanding performances, the script needs some workshopping -- the risk of being playwright and director was demonstrated. The lack of cogent or stand-alone story lines made it difficult to follow, and the high but level energy was soporific causing the attention to wander. I am still not sure what was intended to be the central theme(s). There was some proselytizing thrown in as well. A very nice work in progress, and with some tightening and focus a piece that could really capture and affect. It was enjoyable, and every time I watch a show I think about my writing projects, hoping to learn something for myself as well.

Afterwards we met up with two of the actors, at their house which is in the midst of an impressive refurbishment. Very nice people, lending a venerable old house a comfortable energy.

Last night Beth and her Mom (Peg) came over to watch Finding Nemo on my tv. I've a nice big screen and decent low-end theatre system I got 5 years ago. I hadn't seen the movie in quite a while, so that was very fun. They brought over homemade macaroni and cheese, and sausage. Grilled the sausage, warmed the macaroni, watched the movie, ate my homemade cookies. Aaron got home about half way through the movie and joined us. A nice little group, and Aaron was happy getting to show his recent wedding pictures to Peg.

Tonight I'll be meeting Paula and Steve after my chiropractor and an audition. The chiropractor will loosen me up, which is good because I'm not prepared for the audition. It will consist of reading sides, but I like to read the whole play ahead of time, and I've only read the first quarter or third. I expect to be in a good place as I'll have my get together with Steve and Paula to look forward to. I'll be paying close attention to the director, as I don't know yet if I want to do the show. I like the script thus far, Neil Simon's Rumors. The theatre company is under new management, which is good becasue I was put off by the old management. All the shows were well down, which is why I was interested in the first place. I also have little internal voices arguing "You should look more towards fringe theatre.", and "Don't be snooty, you very much like and believe in community theatre." I don't feel I am being snooty or taking a less risky path, but I do need to be aware of what I could fall into. I want to use what I have learned over the last year, and not waste it either.

It will certainly be good to see Steve and Paula without two or three active projects going on. Just take a moment to relax with two of my very best friends, and see if they have any projects in the works. It is Steve's 27th birthday today, and I am hoping for a minute at a Toy Store, to find a Rubik's Cube. Seems the perfect mathematical gift. A 3x3x3 cube, 27...

That is the best thing about the break so far. Three days of reconnecting with old friends.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Living Through Your Passion

With all the philosophical ideas and thoughts going through my being as I finished up Meisner and the play I had a small epiphany over the last few days. I am living life through my own passions. I lived my life vicariously from the time I was six or seven. I talked of my maternal uncles, the coolest a kid could have, and later of things I'd seen or people I knew. I experienced life directly a few times in flight school, and in college. Still, my life was defined as something outside of myself. All meaning came from my close friends and close relatives, of which there were not many.

When I took the risks which led me down the artistic and social paths I am now on I didn't expect this. I organize events, have groups over, rejoicing in those that can come rather than worrying about who doesn't show. Some people see me as outgoing and some respect me as an artist. Two profound and very surprising developments.

I love irony, especially as I experience it. The idea of focusing inward, finding your passions and living them out seemed an even smaller world until I 'indulged' my selfishness. I like to create and I like to act the host on occasion. In letting myself do it I suddenly started enjoying everything. More friendships; a greater number, more rich, meaningful, and important. For example, right now I am enjoying the sound of small children's voices outside my kitchen window. I love the tone and lilt of those little voices.

Living through your passions opens up the whole world. I feel pain about injustices, laugh with life, taking the bad with the good. Turning inward, finding the spark within, and the outside is finally let in and embraced. Therein lies the lovely irony. Turning inward in an open and truthful way brings the world in with you. I don't think this will make sense to anyone else.

I have learned I cannot live life through anyone else, and I don't want anyone else to live through me. A burden which weakens both. You get and receive more in any relationship when you can simply share without either serving as a life proxy.

The Long Way Around

It's been a long weekend already, and Sunday is just beginning. The State Route 520 bridge which is one of two bridges crossing Lake Washington is closed this weekend for regular maintenance, shunting most the cross-lake traffic to the Interstate 90 bridge. It probably would have been quicker to drive around the lake yesterday afternoon.

When I was came home after the show on Friday I had to take Interstate 90 which is several miles out of my way to the south. It was a pleasure. If I'd been able to zip home on my accustomed route I would have missed the fringe of the rainstorm. It has been dry the last few weeks, and there was the smell of new rain on parched land. It is an acrid smell, bordering on the point where it could be irritating to the sinuses. I love that smell. It brings up images of a dry earth slaking her thirst.

I was thinking of the show I saw at the Intiman, The Play's the Thing. A very enjoyable show, of the drawing room genre. I sat next to my Dad. It is his favorite genre, and he laughed uproariously, increasing my own laughter. I remember being embarrassed by his laughter as a kid, and somewhere around the line his laughter took on the power to heighten my enjoyment.

While I was laughing with my father I did notice L.B. who has an engaging, entertaining character. The problem is it is always the very same character, and after several productions it grows stale. It is still fun to watch, you just find yourself craving more from him. This was brought up in class several times as a trap to avoid in our work.

My increased ability to critique a show, and the ability to identify what is not quite right, reminded me of Meisner. Again. The top level is I have a keener eye when it comes to understanding what I like about a show I am watching or in, and what could make it better. I was worried being able to really critique productions would rob me of my enjoyment as an audience member. Luckily not, it just adds a new layer to the experience.

The lower level, or undercurrent of thinking of the Meisner Progressions is I have yet to deal with the grieving process. Easier to face and easier to avoid than the death of someone close, but a grieving just the same. I have kept myself busy every day since finishing the class, often enjoying one of my favorite drinks before going to sleep. Tonight is my night to celebrate and acknowledge the finish of the class. I'm going to do some deferred house work in a leisurely way today, then just sit outside in a nice lawn chair, and let the year soak in. It took me a while to let myself do this, but often the longer way around adds something I wouldn't have otherwise had. Like taking the long way around and smelling the earth's thirst for rain.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

When You're Stuck, Write Anything

One of my casual friends (or acquaintances), Lani Brockman, the artistic director for Studio-East, an acting studio for children and teens had a chance to read my script, The Lie. It is a 45 minute one act, and my first completed piece that long.

I wasn't happy with the final third of it, except that I finally had an ending. All the people who have read the script thus far have loved it, and I have been hoping for someone who is a theatre professional, and not acquainted with any of the people who initially inspired the characters to give me a little feedback. The problem is they are all as busy as I am, so I have been dropping off copies of the thing all over for the last six months.

Lani was very, very positive regarding most of the script, but found the end rushed and a bit contrived. Those were my primary concerns, and it is good to have my perception confirmed. She also asked if she could use one of the early scenes for one of her scene study classes. Now that was quite a compliment and makes me want to totally recraft the ending sooner rather than later. One of the things I'll do with my vacation weekend, 7/16-7/20, and free time in the next month or so.

It took me a long time to write the ending, as I let myself get stalled. Finally, one long afternoon at Cafe Vita's I charged through to the end. I finally took the advice so many writers gave us in the writing workshop I took, "It is better to write crap that you can fix, than to write nothing at all."

It is indeed easier for me to totally rewrite something than to write it in the first place. I'm sure it is a mental thing. Now that I finally have an ending, I can turn it from crap to something less odiferous, then maybe repeat the cycle a few times until it smells nice. The rest of the script has gone through seemingly countless revisions.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

It's a Wrap

Last night we had our final conferences with Robin, our instructor for the Meisner Progression. I saw Mark on the way in, waited with Kathy, saw Donna as I went in and again as I departed. I was so happy to see them. It had only been 5 days. I still ache whenever I think of them. One of these days I'll let myself totally relax in the evening and just deal with it.

Robin's comments and notes on the year and our last scene coincided with mine, in the voice, movement, and other work I need to expand on. We've been asking each other, "It is obvious when Robin says it, but how will we see or know it ourselves?" A result of the year is it now seems we know ourselves better than we thought. It is good to know I will be able to apply some of the process and tools to enhance and improve my work on my own when needed.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Parking It

I finally had a day of rest. The 4th was fun and relaxing. With the matinee and having fun at Eric and Tonia's it was still a long and busy day.

On the 5th, I met Rachel at a coffee shop at 10 AM. I knew it was going to seem insanely early after the previous night's activities, and fortunately we were both running a little late, arriving about 10:30 AM. We did a number of writing exercises, and chatted of our experiences and current goals. Her job search, her impending move to Denmark and the Odin Theatre, my completion of the Meisner Progression which feels like a big new starting point for me.

The writing exercises are at an exploratory phase. Learning each other's internal melody and harmony when writing, as well as where we tend to go. Now that we have developed some of that quiet intuition it'll be interesting to see where our writing goes. More of the same but deeper, or more towards creating worlds and ideas, then exploring and heightening them. Both seem worthwhile.

When we first started on the writing, Rachel said she wanted to make statues. Assuming and holding a physical shape that is meaningful. Then two or three cycles of allowing yourself to go deeper or more committed, and into a new place and holding again. I've done this in several classes, and in a number of rehearsals. Solo, with a partner, or as a group. As we were getting to the end of our writing productivity and freshness I picked up her earlier comment, and suggested we head for the park and make statues.

Grass Lawn Park is quite close to my house, maybe fifteen blocks away. I've only been there once before except to walk across it. We warmed up individually, then 'mooshed'. Massaging, mostly for the spine shoulders arms, and head. A good way to drop some tension, warm up and be present physically and emotionally/spiritually. Then we made statues as partners.

I have been doing this and similar exercises and warm ups for the last year, with an ensemble that bonded very early on. Somewhere in the back of my awareness I was curious how I would work out of that very close and safe environment. I have worked with Rachel in the past, have been in quite a few of her classes. There was already trust as a result.

I felt at ease, wasn't once distracted by the surroundings or feelings of being seen or watched by other folks at the park. While I was mooshing I only thought when I wanted to pay particular attention to what I was doing around joints, taking care of my partner. Otherwise I mostly followed impulses. When Rachel mooshed me, I could feel the focus of her attention. It was a realization, feeling that focus and knowing when it inevitably drifted momentarily. There was a memory of it from the past, but I wasn't aware of what I was feeling then. I felt it yesterday, realizing there was a much increased awareness since I'd taken Rachel's classes. Also an increased focus and awareness when I was the moosher.

It was a gift. Always is, but more so because it confirmed something I had taken away from Meisner. An increased facility to let go, and be present. There was a concern I wouldn't be able to attain the same level without a lot of work now that our class is done. To be able to give and receive attention on that level is very affirming, and conducive to taking risk.

We made four or five statues then made up a few exercises, some more interesting and opening than others. One in particular that I remember, was one I came up with that didn't do much for me, and didn't do much for Rachel either. The interesting thing is that when Rachel did it, basically a free form narrative from childhood with whatever physicality we were moved to use, she said she had wanted to do it without words, and for me watching, it was the words and pictures they painted which gave her whole exercise a texture that I as an observer was able to grasp. Changed it from something merely interesting to something that fully engaged me at the same time. I need to think on, and remember that. Engaging multiple centers, even if muted or subtle, makes for richer work. It seems people understand you need movement, truth, a story, etc. to engage an audience for a play. I have seen a number of movement pieces that are very interesting and evocative, but they usually fade as soon as they are done. The same marriage of multiple centers of perception, and ways of relating to the audience which is commonplace in good plays needs to be applied to experimental work too. Don't know why this seems important to me, as I've not done a lot of experimental work thus far.

I was happy. The writing, the mooshing, the explorations, the attention signaled a move from student/teacher to fellow traveler relationship. In many ways Rachel is much further along, having taken numerous huge risks, and many dedicated and extended learning situations. Though like myself, in the need of occasional grounding or encouragement from friends. So many relationships like that in the arts, people who help you when you need it, and whom you help, at many levels without hesitation or keeping accounts. That is perhaps the biggest gift for the artist that is present and open. The vast number of friendships you can have, each one enriching the others.

Afterwards I relaxed and read for a while at my house, nicely logy from the sun. And finally mowed my front lawn. I was so looking forward to that, and now the dandelions are no taller than the dried grass. Feeling even logier from mowing, I watched Men In Black, noting the respective acting skills of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. So Will could do a little better, though a good deal of it is the 'cute' or 'hip' lines they feed him. All in all, a perfect holiday weekend with a perfect wrap.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Two wheels, two evenings, two procrastinations

Yesterday, I left myself without an extra second. I popped down to the auto part store, they had neither spark plugs of the right size or chain lubricant. At least they had gas cans and WD-40. Then I made a quick stop at the liquor store to pick up little one shot bottles of Courvoisier cognac for the cast. Big cast, and I got one each for the stage manager, lighting designer, and artistic director too. I'd checked with John's dad two weeks ago, to be sure it was alright. I didn't want him to feel left out and would have thought of something else if Peter had reservations about sending his son home with a shot of brandy. I got one for Peter too. I like getting French products to thumb my nose at the whitehouse, and this was what I thought of for cast gifts for our French story. I borrowed the idea of Susan Altorico's gift of Irish Whiskey for a Synge piece (Riders on the Sea) we did this Winter.

Back at the house, I pulled the gas tank off the 1978 Suzuki 750. Set it on a platform to drain out the old gas. It didn't look bad at all. I didn't want to mess around, so I'm glad I did it. I'll pour it into the truck. Since I couldn't find new spark plugs I had to clean the existing ones. Next, I replaced the gas tank, and put two gallons of fresh supreme in it, from the new gas can I'd filled during my errands. Now for the messiest part. The gas in the tank was fresh, and the plugs were cleaned and sanded.

The gas sitting in the carburetor floats needed to be flushed. A leap of faith was required. I loosened the screw on the first float, and it dripped much too slowly. So I backed it all the way out. The fuel initially looked like coffee. It evaporates over time, and more gas from the tank replenishes it, making a concentrate the engine doesn't appreciate. Trying to start the engine with that fuel would instantly foul the plugs again, and I'd have to redo the cleaning step.

The gas ran clean in a second or two, then it was frantically trying to get the screw back in, around the quickly draining gas. I managed it, though it was a bit tense. Three more leaps of faith. I managed to get the three remaining screws out, and back in without losing too much fuel. I learned my lesson on the first, and started rethreading the screws as soon as I got them out.

Now for the moment of truth. I hadn't been able to start the bike for over a year. I tried last Fall, and it had been sitting long enough that the plugs were fouled by some concentrated gas, and it wouldn't start. With Meisner, the old bike never made it to the priority list. After such long neglect, the battery was weak, and I had to get out my jumper pack. Rr-rr-rr... It turned over several times then started up smoothly. I set the choke to let it idle a little fast and got showered and cleaned up. That took about thirty minutes, and the battery took enough charge, and was able to start on it's own.

Off to the theatre and there just in time, which for me is fifteen minutes before actor's call, or 75 minutes before curtain. I like to get there a whole hour early to just sit in the space and feel the energy I so love. I like it best in a silent empty house, but even when there are people working and talking to me I still get all I need and more. Something about sitting in the audience seats before a show... It makes me feel more energized, in tune and present.

I got to ride a bike again, and will have something I can park easily for the show today. Seattle Center is likely to be packed for 4th of July events.

It was good to get that bike running again, and the night before I had finally got to hang with the cast after the show. I had been missing that, with Meisner rehearsal obligations preventing me staying out too late every night thus far. Catching up on things I really wanted to do the last two days has softened the ache of being done with the Meisner ensemble.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

How about that? New beginnings.

A poignant coincidence. Marlon Brando who achieved fame in A Streetcar Named Desire, and in turn made it famous, died on July First. The day we had our performances for the Meisner Progression. The following morning I saw Brando had died, and was struck. It personalized Brando for me. There is a feeling of camaraderie when you see a show you have worked on performed elsewhere. Better, worse, or just different -- it doesn't matter. The feeling extends to all the characters, even the set and props. You do remember your role, even more, you remember the story you were working to share.

I have never seen A Streetcar Named Desire, and now that I am done with the scene I will be seeing it in the next week or so. I was moved (and instructed by Jack Lemmon) when I watched Glengarry Glen Ross after the first quarter. I am looking forward to seeing it, and what Karl Malden did with Mitch. I expect the added dimension of Brando's passing will add or deepen something for me.

I can't go in for too much analysis. On the other side, I can't dismiss the coincidence either. A big event in my life has received a deepened meaning from a current event. You can't belittle it, and over analyzing or deifying the coincidence rejects any possible spiritual meaning more than an out and out denial. It is a personal experience, even a gift, and meaningful to me. So, I'll just let it affect me. :)

I'm just finishing up my lunch, some left over chicken rice soup I sealed and froze. November 2001. Over 2-1/2 years ago, over halfway along the artistic journey I started Spring of 2000. It is still pretty damn good soup. I'll have to make some more batches of soup now that I have a little time. I like the chore, which becomes comfort food later on. I usually make at least a gallon and a half at a time. It just feels right, and the seasonings come out best given my style. I like hearty soups.

When I seal the soups, and I often label them so I know what is in the bag. It is fun to remember what I was doing at the time of the soup. This soup was two months after 9/11. I was seriously evaluating priorities in my life. Especially the day job versus theatre arena. I like programming, and it gives me a salary and all that goes with it. It is also a balancing social outlet, an important one, so I am not totally wrapped up in the theatre world. Theatre is my love affair. November of 2001 I owned that, and realized it was as important to me as my day job, as integral as breathing. And for now inextricably entwined. I work my theatre schedule around my job, my job schedule around theatre. Maybe I'm lucky, maybe up front in my priorities. I have not yet had to choose one over the other. A good thing, because they still feed each other. Maybe it is not so much picking one, as to pursuing both openly and honestly.

November 2001 was also the first of my small purgings. There's been two since, and getting ready to start another one with the little break I hope to take. My goal, whose progress has been small and fitful, is to reduce my possessions to the point where I could load my truck (or van) and a trailer and move. The idea is to be open to opportunity, as well as culling stuff which has lost it's meaning. Stuff you hold onto for it's own sake, turns to crap when life has meaning. I'm thinking there should be a fertilizer simile in there. I also started work on my first script project at that time, which I finally acheived a first complete draft this February. A nice time to finish that soup, now that I am at another stepping off point. Well, there's a little in the fridge I'll probably have Monday evening.

There is nothing special about the soup itself, aside from the fact I made it during a turning point in my life. I had been out of work for 2 months, and feeling the job pinch for the first time, and was about to apply for unemployment. Could I actually indulge in this theatre stuff? I asked myself that question from every angle and personal perspective I could think of. The answer was always the same, a precursor to where I am now. "How can I not?" I've heard people speak of callings, particularly preachers. You can see it in the truly good ones. I now understand what a calling is. It is a doing and urging you have to honor for the sake of your soul. Since that time I have been out of work several times, always at times that were good for me, and always for just the right amount of time.

My soup is finished for now, and my old motorcycle is calling for attention. I've got to ride before the Guzzi is fixed.

Happy 4th!

All Done -- For A Moment

Wow. I got home about 2:30 AM, after the Meisner Progression performances, wrote some notes, watched part of Dogma, and went to sleep. It was July 1st when I started, the 2nd when I got home.

An amazing day. Woke up pretty early in the morning, still muzzy from events of the night. I also had a couple shots of gin at our after show gathering. That was after the guests left, after our post show feedback and clean-up. Most, if not all of us overjoyed. Not about our individual work, rather what we saw everyone else do. Now that's an ensemble.

Most of us were on the verge of tears. Joyous, a new beginning, a wrap. God, I am going to miss them so goddamn much. We started drifting out after an hour or two. I walked to the smaller rehearsal room, officially named "Work Space", often referred to as the Meisner Room. It has that meaning for me, though this year we didn't spend that much of our time there. It somehow has more personality. Standing there the whole year landed on me. My heart felt overfilled. I started making my farewells, and left with a little less than half of the class still there. I got home and had last serene celebratory shot. Three shots is a lot for me. After waking early and having a large glass of water, and getting a few things out of my truck I went back to sleep until Noon.

One of the things I got out of my truck was a yellow rose Beth had left for me after the show. I haven't mentioned Beth in my Blog yet, a huge oversight or rare coincidence. We have been very good friends for five years. She has been a huge support for me throughout. I don't think I have never had as good a friend for as long, and certainly not since I was an adult.

Nobody has been to as many of my shows as Beth. She called before I woke, and after one round of tag she caught me. She was amazed by the show, and all the scenes she watched. She has become fairly knowledgeable about theatre, because of my activities and showgoing, and her being so impressed is very meaningful. I don't know how to explain this properly. Her being so impressed with the other scenes was as meaningful to me as anything else. She is one of my best friends, and maybe it indicated an insight into how we all got where we did with each others help and love. I hope to experience another ensemble like that, and wish the same for every one I love.

Upon waking up for good I found a wonderful E-mail from my stepmom, with an "everything she said" from my Dad. I think of them as my folks and introduce them that way. Joyce and I get on extremely well. It is nice to know she is touched that I think of them as my folks and not "Dad and Joyce", which is simply the way I address them.

I FINALLY got my motorcycle to the shop. I should have it back next week. Lovely! Now I am sitting here in the Seattle Center House, at a little table in the middle of the Food Court sniffling and tearing up. I don't give a rip.

Eric, my brother, was absolutely miffed with himself that for missing last night's show. I hadn't expected it meant that much to him. While, for me, it is without a doubt the most important performance I have been associated with in my life, I surely didn't expect it to be as meaningful for every one else, with the additional knowledge that I will have other such epic feeling events. As an artist you would make yourself crazy if you indulged in such a way. If you can't shed the expectation everyone you know should experience your journey first hand, you compromise your soul, your art.

I'd no clue it was important to him. I figured he wanted at a level, where you'd go happily if it worked out easily. I now feel a little sad I didn't remind him. His dismay made his missing the show a very affirming action. The sly fellow. I'll spend Independence Day at his house.

Paula called me. I have worked with Paula on at least four shows. She and Steve, her fiance, are two of my best friends. She and Gregory, another, friend came to the performance last night. They both did the Meisner Progression several years ago, and ETI (Ensemble Training Intensive) at Freehold. ETI is a 10 month, full time professional training program. I am thinking of applying for that program in a year or two, when it is available. It is a hard thought, as I'll have to give up my job, or try to get on half time for the duration. Either way it will be a financial adventure.

In the shows I've worked with Paula, I've built and designed sets, stage managed, tech directed, etc. In two of them I've had small roles. We've worked together a lot, she is a professional, and as I mentioned one of my best friends. Knowing she would be there was comforting. Her presence, because she is a professional had more likelihood to make me nervous than anything else. Gregory too. I've seen them both work as actors, and they are brilliant. Most of us did not experience nerves last night. The trust of the ensemble, which kept me from feeling nerves. Paula gave me the most wonderful hug after our scene. It was a best affirmation ever she could have given me.

Rachel, another very good friend was there. Another talented and professional director, as well as one of my former instructors. We also get together for writing sessions, and like Paula she is also a professional artist in every sense. She said something to me after the scene. I don't remember what it was exactly. She has seen me on most of my journey, from the first class I had from her, where I was nearly at the stage of rote recitation. The words did not stick, but the thought and support did. I remember my response, and I still mean it every bit as much, "Thank you, that means a lot coming from you."

I talked to Paula right after talking to Beth. Rachel called me while I was talking to Paula. So did Dad. I got to talk to everyone, sort of. Dad was driving so I talked mostly to Joyce, but will talk with him in a little while. The love, the acute and complimentary observations, and the ease the gave me over the phone. All these people. They are all my friends, and I wouldn't willingly give up a one of them for anything. I can't think of anyone more important and meaningful to have with me, and they were all there last night. Oh shit, I'm a bit sniffly again.

I am getting ready to start prepping for Les Liaisons Dangereuses. A lot of stress has lifted, and I am looking forward to this show more than I expected. I just realized all my same friends, and that category absolutely includes my folks, have or will come this show too. I am so, so blessed.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Hello, goodbye

I just got back from our class performances for the Meisner Progression. I struggled with the scene, and it didn't feel like I was making significant progress until the last rehearsal yesterday. It could have been better.

Still, it was great! I learned something very important. The process and homework for a role works. When we got out there in front of an audience all the work we had done paid off, and it went very well indeed. I would have liked a more rehearsals. What I carry away is the wonderful, stupendous energy we felt on stage and from the audience. I know I could have done so much better, and it makes me hungry. So what? It doesn't take away from the wonderful experience in any way. What a wonderful gift. Gifts. A great performance. Knowing how much better I can do. All of which is delightful.

Our class is over, and I love every one of my fellow travelers in that class so much. Excuse me while I go smile and cry myself to sleep.