Acting Up

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

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

Allie's Journey

For the next several months this will be dedicated to information pertinent to Allene M. Maddock. Her care has been assumed by Hospice as of 06Apr12.

Please feel free to call or write her. If you call be patient and take time to explain who you are. Currently she remembers, but you have to help her focus so she truly knows who she is talking to at the moment. We have to do this too, and I frequently say something like, "Yes this is Scott, your oldest."

Her phone is area code two-zero-six, and the number is 216 3816.

Her Address:
Allie Maddock
c/o Queen Ann Manor
100 Crockett Street
Seattle, Washington
    98109

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Gifts

On Thursday I had a free evening, and went to see Proof at the Bathhouse Theatre. I try to go to shows without expectation, but John was my first acting instructor, so I couldn't shed all expectation. Oh my God! I see what the mfa program at the University of Washington can do. I was floored and hope he gets the chance to do some more traditional theatre. He's great at improv, but it doesn't blow me away like his performance on Thursday. On Saturday I was at a matinee at Arts West (more later) and sat next to Joe Boling, a local theatre icon. He sees hundreds, yes hundreds, of shows a year and evaluates all of them. He had seen Proof the prior week and said it was the best production of the play he had ever seen, including the run at the Seattle Rep a number of years ago. People still talk about that show. I'm not in regular communications with John, but I will try to pass that on. Pretty high praise in this area.

Saturday morning I headed over for Rachel's improv class. I had "Moment of Beauty" this week, a kind of a show and tell for the soul. I was going to pack up the double-sided rolling bakery counter I'd made for The Nazi Nearest You. I got home late on Friday, and it was spitting rain and gales so I got out the camera instead. It is representative of a number of things for me. It is one of the results of all the work we put into the development and productions of the show. A very concrete memento. Currently my most constant partners in crime are Steve, Paula, and Gregory. We all worked on that show.

Oddly enough my meeting Paula goes back to the classes I took several years ago through Bellevue Community College's Continuing Education program. Several of us in one of Rachel's classes signed up for a directors/actors lab at Freehold, taught by Bart Sher the artistic director of the Intiman. I believe Bart to be the best director in the regions equity houses, and the associate artistic director Craig Lucas believes him to be the best in the world. Anyway as I mentioned several weeks ago, it is where I met Paula.

A construct of plywood, lattice, Plexiglas, and some creative painting. Not a deep object. The story behind it makes it deep for me, and I told of the evolution of the show and relationships. Later, as we were discussing exercises and what made impressions or hits I realized something. The less experienced folks tended to have much more raw and spiritual or ethereal comments. A striving for deepness. My sharing now tends to seem more mundane. I believe I have learned to live much deeper over the last few years. I asked myself a question. Am I more guarded around people I don't know as well? I don't think so, I don't trouble sharing. Have I moved to a point where I find profound beauty, depth, and meaning in things I once wrote off as mundane? It sounds too enlightened, though I'd like to think I'm moving that way. As is usually the case the truth lies on a tangent somewhere between those discrete possibilities. Something to think on and be aware of.

After class I went to Arts West and saw Romance Romance, a light musical with some surprising depths. Nick who I've seen in at least three other productions works at Expedia and we've traded a few E-mails. It was fun introducing ourselves. He was busy with several friends, so it was a little 20 or 30 second encounter, avoiding any awkwardness. Very nice. Following the show I went to Cafe Vita's and did a little writing on The Thai Getaway.

I met up with Paula and Gregory, and mentioned I'd been working on the script. Open your big mouth and things happen. Now I have to send it to Paula. Only fair I suppose, as she wants to direct the piece. I'm writing a new beginning for it, which is an adaptation of her suggestion. Then up to the fourth floor of the old Odd Fellows hall, to watch Akropolis. An amazing production, with physicality both challenging and fluid. I found myself wanting to do that kind of work, but I don't think my singing chops would cut it in that ensemble. Right now I don't have the time for that works, though I'll keep an eye out for their workshops. Besides, like GreenStage to whom I also made a donation I would feel weird auditioning. I wouldn't have expectations, I would be worrying the folks I was auditioning for would feel pressure or charity because of my donation. Bother. Who outside of my skin would really believe I don't get all bummed when I don't get cast?

We met Rachel in the lobby and she gave her extra ticket to Gregory. They opened the house while I was down the hall in the necessity room, and when I came back Rachel was sitting on one side of the stage, Paula and Gregory on the other. Decisions. Luckily I saw Rachel was meditating, so I sat with the others, who like me, jabber before a show. Kind of surprising as I think about it. I've been to enough shows with all of them I know our modus operandi at shows without having to think about it.

I don't know what to say about the show. I don't know much about Dostoevskii, but now I feel a personal connection to the man. It was based on one of his short stories, and in their own words "...it is not a dramatic adaptation of any single narrative but, rather, a theatrical poem forged from the major and minor works of Dostoevskii's entire canon." It felt like poetry. More evocative than descriptive or interpretive. I've seen a lot of this type of theatre, and usually it leaves me a little hungry afterwards, like I was cheated of something crucial. I felt fuller after the show than I did going in, that I took something important away with me, which I had not had before. In addition to poetry I would liken it to a painting that moves you deeply. You can often identify things you like, but what it is that moves you can be elusive in a way which defies definition.

After the show Rachel hooked up with the Akropolis folks, and Paula and Gregory were going to hang out and wait until Steve's gig with Jet City Improv was done and head out for a party in West Seattle. I was kind of tired and headed home. Paula and Gregory asked if I felt okay, and accepted my explanation of wanting to get home and getting a little rest before my headshot appointment. It is a wonderful chemistry. We all like getting together, and when one or more of us can't stay around we ask, and if something is troubling the other we trust them and ourselves, knowing they will tell us if anything is going on. With friends like these who needs therapists?

Steve and Paula may be moving, depending on education and career opportunities. Gregory may as well, and has his application in for several mfa programs. I'm considering career opportunities, theatre especially, and political ethics in whether or not I should stay in the area. Right now they are my most constant friends, yet one or all of us are likely to move on before long. There is something delicious about it. Like life, our current arrangement is temporary and deep. Much like the theatre world as I have experienced it, though more honed and refined. I will always love the friends I have now, and future friendships will not diminish what I have know, rather what I have know enhances those future relationships.

This morning I had my headshot taken. I have been at a stage where I should have one for a couple years, and have an amateur digital I've used a couple times. I have gone from show to show on reference or reputation, so I've not needed one. Well, now I want to strike out a bit, go for some bigger roles with different groups. On the way back I stopped to pick up my share of veggies from Kate who is one of the people in the co-op with me. Actually it is the other way around, I joined Kate and Wayne's group.

Kate is a PM at Microsoft, and as is the norm at Microsoft she is being burnt out. We talked for over an hour, and I really enjoyed myself. She is evaluating things, wondering what she should do. She is in a serious relationship with a pilot who lives in Ontario, and though I'd hate to see her leave, I'd be pleased if it meant getting her out of the poisonous work environment she currently deals with. When I first met Kate she was married, and I had a secret crush for a while. We've been good friends ever since, thanks in part to a number of mutual and close friends. I used to be very hesitant with friends that were very attractive and unattached. Still am a little I suppose.

I do not like what Microsoft is doing to her, and will be checking job listings at Expedia. Microsoft has a very ingrained glass ceiling, and being over forty (I don't believe Kate is yet), or female, (she still is ;) is a distinct disadvantage in most groups. I was in a large group which laid off three people, the only three in the group over 50. {{Just had my first trick or treaters; five year olds I think. Wonderful.}} Kate is a wonderful person, a wonderful friend, and I hope she finds more peace and joy. With flying back to England frequently to see a father with Alzheimer's, a nasty marriage behind her, and a cruel job I believe she is one of those people who deserve some light. I hope she can find it soon, and if not Jim better hurry up and take her to Ontario. Or I'll tell him to get a move on, using my best chewing out the troops voice from ten years in the Navy.

Kate has been a friendly ear for me as I was going through some tough times, and being an understanding listener for her today was no chore. I have a number of close friends through my years at Microsoft. Doug, Bob, Wayne, Dave, Kalon, and Kate. Every one of us has gone through major life changes, and remained a group of friends. All of us are people with multiple social circles, and respect for each other. We all have been on our journeys, often as fellow travelers or confidants, and frank commentators.

As I was driving over for the headshot this morning I was noticing how beautiful the day was. The trees are changing, the morning was bright and clear. After I got off the freeway I was traveling down Aloha Street and stopped for a pedestrian. I hadn't noticed the big white SUV was too close. She actually bumped me. Pushed me forward an inch, if that. Luckily she bumped the trunk, which is the same one which was on the bike two years ago for the 60mph bouncing down the freeway accident two years ago. It fell off and went sliding down the freeway last Spring which was even more damaging to the tough plastic trunk. The rack had broken in the accident, and spread just far enough at that moment in time to release the trunk.

I walked back to a woman about my age, in my bright yellow riding suit and white helmet. I think she felt rather small in the SUV at that moment -- after all I'm a giant! I said, "No problem, you hit a previously damaged part." I continued in a cheerful polite manner, "Anyway don't tailgate motorcycles anymore," I could see she wanted to object or apologize. I kept going with total sincerity, "and, you have a really nice day." To say the least, at that point she was stunned. I got back on the bike and drove off. We were going the same way and she stayed about a block behind me.

I nearly forgot the incident, though I hope she remembers when trailing the next motorcycle that we are closer than we appear to the sub-conscious. Coming back across the bridge to visit Kate I once again reveled in the Fall beauty. The thought of the motorcycle getting bumped intruded for a brief moment, and I remembered the rage I'd have been dealing with five, ten, or twenty years ago. Who has time for that on a beautiful day full of friends and warmth? I fucking love being 47.

Well, this was a long one. No worries. With rehearsals, class, and a show opening in 11 days I'll be absent or brief for a while.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Premeditation

I keep hearing of die hard republicans voting for Kerry, or an independent candidate. They simply can't stomach the thought of Bush representing them again in the Oval Office. Despite all the anecdotal evidence I'm not confident. On the other hand I tell my conservative Bushite friends to trust the polls reported on Fox. "Pay no attention to the multitudes behind the curtain."

-------------------------------------------------------

What is the World Court up to? Bush withdraws the U.S. from the World Court, only to start overseeing torture and other Geneva Convention violations. Not for one second can I buy the claim he is blameless. He is the Commander In Chief, and as supreme commander of the military he is accountable for everything that happens in his command. Just like an Admiral, Commander, or as I was held accountable for my crew as a Lieutenant.

Add to the military rules of accountability the fact he withdrew from the convention shortly before sponsoring the violations. I find it no different than someone grossly over insuring his failing business six months before it mysteriously burns to the ground. I don't think there is a rational conservative or liberal that would not see the connection and be suspicious of premeditated arson.

So, we have extremely compelling empirical evidence our administration planned to commit war crimes. Why isn't something being done? Is the World Court afraid to get our dander up, thereby pushing people to vote for Bush? Or do they not consider the atrocities carried out in our name to be all that bad? These people must be held accountable.

I keep reading self-satisfied pundits, liberal and conservative, writing about how we need to stop being polarized. It is not helpful, it undermines the president, deepens the divide in the country, blah, blah, blah. I read these and I cringe. My experience leads me to believe the people we have in power are truly criminal, and guilty of high crimes. Tens of thousands dead, massive corruption and influence peddling, etc. High crimes and perjury don't really compare with a blow job and perjury. More cynically, and sadly very likely, the slaughter and maiming of tens of thousands of dark skinned non-christians and thousands in our military doesn't seem to bother conservatives as much as fellatio. Where Kenneth Starr now? I thought his handlers were cowards four years ago, they don't look braver today.

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From Reuters:
Kerry said terrorists could use the explosives "to kill our troops, our people, blow up airplanes and level buildings." Bush called Kerry "a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts."
Great Balls of Fire! This from the man who oversaw the slanting and altering of intelligence reports so he could jump into the war without knowing the facts?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Halloween Heebie Georgies

380 tons of high explosives looted. This should be bothering all of us. There are two possibilities. One is U.S. forces had no clue while 760,000 pounds of high explosive was removed. This would require a largish convoy. The other possibility is we were aware the material was being moved.

The media seems to be buying option number one, which at best I find extremely hard to believe. I won't explore that option -- it's already been done. So, option number two is we were aware the material was being moved. I'd assume and hope if it was being removed by unfriendly forces action would have been taken immediately. If 'friendlies' took the high explosives were they Americans or others?

We trained Afghan Freedom Fighters, giving them the tactics and organizational skills to carry out 9/11. I received a military brief in 1990 or 1991 that our next big problem after the USSR would likely be those Freedom Fighters, who would turn on us if they ever felt abandoned. Rumsfeld, Cheney, Powell, etc. knew this, I can't believe a lowly Navy Lieutenant had access to analyses they did not, and which they were directly involved in. Even worse, it was feared the Afghan Freedom Fighters would use airliners as weapons, targeting things like sports stadiums or shopping malls. I pray the explosives weren't taken by the new allies of these guys.

Suppose Americans took the explosives. If so, were they civilians (e.g. mercenary folks from someone like Haliburton), or taken by military or intelligence personnel. In either case why do we want 380 tons of high explosives which are not inventoried or even accounted for?

The idea the explosives disappeared without anybody in the U.S. having a clue is more far-fetched than it is scary. Somehow I find all the slightly more plausible possibilities to be even more troubling. Either way, I expect the missing explosives to come back and haunt us like the weaponry we abandoned and is now being used against our troops, likely with far, far greater consequences. Nice little Halloween story, eh?

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Wow

The opera still wows me in a big way. I just saw Rigoletto, and it gets me like a wonderful play. I took Gregory, my friend who had been one of the (supernumerary) actors in Lohengrin. He's worked numerous operas, and this was his first time on this side of the stage for Grand Opera. He'd seen one University of Washington opera, and that was it. He enjoyed it immensely, and I was delighted to oblige.

A couple interesting things happened on the way out. They had some of the Lohengrin costumes on display, and he talked about how they had to go pick up pieces from Lohengrin's chain mail after the shows. They don't look loose, but several little links would fall off at regular intervals. I enjoy hearing those kind of production stories.

We said our farewells and I walked through Seattle Center to where I'd parked the motorcycle. I was carrying my full-face white helmet in one hand, my shoes in the other, and wearing my heavy riding boots. I did one of those little dances with a fellow coming the other way, where you both keep moving the same way as you approach. We gave each other a chuckling "Hi", and I overheard the following conversation between him and his excited young son who were coming back from a Key Arena.
Boy: Dad! Did you see him?
Father: Yeah.
Boy: He's one of those hockey guys!
Father: Think so?
Boy: He's a giant!!


I'm sure his father realized I was just a large fellow, much too old and out of shape to play hockey. That eight or nine year old boy was so excited I hope his father let him believe he'd just seen one of those hockey guys. His unfettered excitement made me feel very happy, and I'd like to think he got some joy out of the encounter too.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Who's Your Mommy?

Tuesday night was the worst rehearsal I've ever done. Hopefully it will hold that honor for years to come. Lines I knew cold on my feet for the last week were paraphrased or dropped way too much, I wasn't very present, and I felt crappy. My kidneys have been aching, and I've been feeling whoozy since the beginning of the week. Monday was the worst, but I'm still feeling pretty fuzzy.

Wednesday at work was a nightmare. I made a mistake in how I checked in updated code. A very small error most of the time, and of course it didn't come to light until the worst possible moment. Makes me feel even crappier.

Actually, I'm not all broken up about things, just smile and keep on plugging, eventually it will get better. Here's to hoping I've already hit the nadir. It could be worse...

Young Frankenstein

[Froederick and Igor are exhuming a dead criminal]
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein : What a filthy job.
Igor : Could be worse.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein : How?
Igor : Could be raining.
[it starts to pour]
I'm convinced we are the greatest arbiter when it comes to our own attitude. If you think your life sucks it's almost always your choice. If you're caught in a famine, or the crosshairs of weapon systems, you have some justification though all the survivors I know of those sort of extreme situations maintained a positive attitude when things were really bad. When I whine about not so dire things like a dead end job, I ask myself why did I take it, why am I not actively pursuing other possibilities? When I feel used by someone I ask, why am I giving them power? Etc. To me the underlying question is, "Why am I making myself miserable?"

It would be nice if I asked those questions at the earliest possible opportunity. That is my goal, ask why I'm making myself miserable as soon as I feel in the dumps. I can't blame my boss, my mom, Bush, Kerry, unless I am willing to admit I am entirely too feeble to assume responsibility for myself. And yes, I do talk rather harshly to myself on a regular basis. On the other hand, I get irritated by athletic style 'coaches'. "Kick it in! Push harder! No pain, no gain!" I say, "Bugger off!" That's my prerogative and responsibility.

Monday, October 18, 2004

When You're Feeling Down...

Last Thursday three of us got together for a writing workshop. Glenn Abe, myself, and Rich DeLorme. I hadn't met Rich who also works here at Expedia, and Glenn and I were treated to his story.

Between two and three years ago Rich was belatedly diagnosed with cancer, which had metastasized to his lungs and brain. Once it was finally determined to be cancer he was told it was stage three, which he believes was an attempted kindness, as the doctors would not make eye contact with him and pretty quickly refused further treatment. They were out of their depth. He did find some aggressive treatment through the folks who worked with Lance Armstrong, which ultimately was successful, and survived. This is a very, very brief account. While he was telling us the story I had a lump in my throat which kept me for speaking, though I'd no desire to do so.

He and the doctors believed he was going to die, and wanting his 18 month old child to be old enough to remember him was his motivation to fight. When he told us that, I recalled the picture of his now four year old daughter running full tilt with complete delight in circles around the coffee table working off some sugar a few minutes after I arrived at his house.

Rich shared two poems he wrote when he 'knew' he was dying. With his permission I am sharing them with you in the order in which I first read them.


My Garden
by Rich DeLorme

Is today the day
my garden wins the battle
and overgrows me?


Nothing but Necrosis
by Rich DeLorme

It's a strange and mutant feeling
To want to die a little inside

To battle a betrayal no body can imagine
Might take place inside one's self

As you grow stronger
It grows stronger

As you begin to falter
It grows stronger

Until you find the poisons
To kill enough of yourself
To begin to drive it away

Three's a Charm

I saw three plays this weekend. A very good show, and a couple outstanding shows. Friday was Kentucky Ghosts which I saw with Paula, Saturday was Rhinoceros with Paula and Steve, and Sunday was Our Town with my folks and my niece Anna.

Kentucky Ghosts was well done and terrifyingly enjoyable, though not terrifying. The staging reminded me of the stories heard as kids, which were taken as gospel truth, told by grown-up neighbors, aunts, uncles, cousins, and big kids. It actually left us thinking of ghostly stories and encounters of our own after the show.

Rhinoceros is an amazing script, and it was staged flawlessly. I'm still cogitating over the thoughts in my post on Friday, and this social commentary about people generally being nothing more than a member of the herd gave me even more to think about.

Our Town may end up being my favorite show of the year. It also investigated the notion of people generally being members of the herd, but it didn't make judgments. It depicted the beauty of community and social constructs. I also saw the ugliness of smothering dreams and creativity in those same constructs. Yin and Yang. It was this and so much more. One subplot, the main one, involved the joy of discovering love and getting married, the fear and grief of sacrificing dreams at the same time, followed by the devastation and indifference of an untimely death. And so much more. People were quiet leaving the theatre, as they needed time to digest what they had experienced and I think some didn't trust themselves to speak. After the standing ovation I commented to Anna and my folks, "I was waiting through the whole last act to get in a good sniffle." Anna started to say something with a laugh which turned into a good cry. We didn't really talk much until we'd walked to the restaurant.

It was fun seeing Tom Skerritt in Our Town yesterday. I don't know what I expected, but he came across as very human and someone I would like to know. He does a wonderful job on stage. Now I'm thinking of asking Kipley about working with Tom Skerritt in Poltergeist III, but likely won't. More likely I'll ask Rachel, who was there for the show with her mother yesterday, and was an observing director for the rehearsals.

Three winners in a row, and all three with friends or acquaintances in or associated with the shows. Definitely a good weekend.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Take It Or Leave It

In the blogs I read regularly, and friends I've talked to there are big thoughts and issues spinning around. People changing or dumping careers, contemplating big moves, what they are doing with their lives, what they should be doing with their lives. Speculating on why so many are exploring these thoughts right now is another topic.

There is the usual conflict between established norms of a tired, flat, mundane culture and higher callings. In most cases there seems a tension between higher callings, which I also think is a good thing. To simplify down to two foci I have perceived... "What will I leave behind?" --or-- "What will I take with me?"

At some level we'd like to think some essence or memory of ourselves will persist, whether it be an imprint on a coin or the shape of a child's nose. I'm thinking both larger and smaller. When I am distracted or angry and push my way past another person I affect them, and in turn how they behave to others. The same is true if I help someone pick up a bag of spilled groceries. It subtly and irreversibly alters the world. I am thinking a lifetime of the uncountable lasting changes we make to our universe, when wondering what I will leave behind.

We'd all like to take our good memories, glorious achievements, and heart warming relationships with us when we die. Again, it speaks to something under the surface for me. As we build up life experience, we define our souls. Did we serve the destitute in Calcutta or gas those who frightened us at Dachau? Those actions and experiences define our essential identity. I do not believe in deathbed confessions. A life of actions is more informative and definitive than a moment of possibly sincere remorse. It may be as I think, that evil stalls or atrophies the growth of the soul. Regardless it is your life which you take with you. No more, and no less.

In nailing down these thoughts as I write I have realized the two foci are not mutually exclusive in any way. I believe what I leave behind is exactly what I take with me. They are merely different aspects of the same thing. If I am worried whether I am concentrating on what I will leave behind versus what I will take with me, I am either looking at the issue wrong, or I don't understand it yet. Sounds like complexity in simplicity. It really is simple, and all the work lies in removing all the complications I've introduced into the mix.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Over the Horizon

On Tuesday I went over to meet Paula and Steve, to talk about one of my scripts and several projects we'll be working on in the coming year. I arrived in a very good mood and space.

I was riding west on Interstate 90 just after sunset. There was a miniscule hint of light in the sky, brightening to a very dim color reminiscent of well worn blue denims the horizon. The contours of the entire horizon, from trees and such a mile or two away to the distant Olympic mountain range was rimmed with a brownish orange, backlit by a sunset well beyond the horizon. The picture of the night sky above, the faint blue sky on the horizon, and the landscape outlined with the orange-ish glow was captivating.

My attention was split between the traffic and nature's breath stopping display. I nearly missed my exit. It was a fleeting bit of ethereal art, deep and profound. The sort of experience which makes emotions swell in your chest because you're appreciative of being there, seasoned with an ache because there was no one there to share it with.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Waiting

On the political discussion group at work I did a little experiment. I read the opening of Coulter's book Treason, and wondered what would happen if I spewed that sort of demagoguery back at the neocons. So, I initiated a couple threads linking the GOP to racism and sexism. (They would definitely lose the election without those votes.) I wrote the posts, then softened the language, and went through a second cycle of softening the language.

The neocons went through the roof, going off on tangents and indiscriminate personal attacks, even attacking people that weren't on the discussion thread. Pretty informative (and a good deal of material for my writing toolbox). I wanted to answer a question I had about my brother, and my decision not to talk to him until after the election.

It was my supposition that I could not respond with the same kind of language and arguments my brother, the neocons at work, or conservative talk show hosts use. I had the feeling if I retaliated in kind I would be estranged from him for years or decades, not something I want. My brother is not the people at work or those talking on the radio. Yet they all sound like carbon copies to my 'liberal' ear. Judging by the response at work, I'm not willing to risk my relationship with my brother, and I don't believe I have the forbearance I need to deal with him right now.

Good timing, as yesterday my sister-in-law suggested I give him a ring, as he was feeling sad about our set to. Paraphrasing, I told her I'd best wait until after the election as I wouldn't be good company because of my anger. I am close to my brother, don't want to lose that.

So if it was you, would you go ahead and have it out with your sibling, trusting any vitriolic arguments would not affect your relationship long-term? Would you go ahead and get together and keep your mouth shut, just putting up with inevitable personal and political barbs? Or would you simply walk away from it until you cooled off?

Monday, October 11, 2004

Get Over It Scott

Yesterday I just sent out a couple E-mails to a total of 70 people asking for their addresses, so I could send them promotional postcards for Rumors. I was hoping to get a 25% response rate, and already have. I have another 20 or so addresses I will use for the cards.

I stopped announcing the shows I was working on two years ago, because I'd burned everyone out. I didn't feel particularly upset people didn't respond. I learned what a lot of other actors before me learned. It is a rare pleasure when friends, family, and acquaintances come to shows. The love of art keeps us jazzed and fulfilled, making the appearance of people you know outside the artistic community an uncommon treat.

This is a different situation. For the first time in several years I have a substantial onstage role for a show with more than one performance, it's a farce, and I haven't pestered people in a while. Also, it is a self-produced show, meaning we are expected to play a major role in bringing in audience.

It would be fun to have lots of people I know at the show. It wasn't as big a sacrifice as I thought to set aside my worries of being a pest and my distaste of marketing.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Blythe Beginnings

A little more. A garrulous weekend, but I figure my posts will get shorter and less frequent as my schedule fills up again.

Saturday evening I met Gregory, Paula, and Steve for Sushi. Gregory had a call for 6:30, and we were grabbing a meal before going to see his show, The Trojan Women. After Gregory left for his call we headed up to Steve and Paula's apartment, watched a tape of the recent presidential debate and had gin and tonics. The president seemed on his game, though the seeming lucidity didn't cover his overwhelming lack of veracity and intellectual integrity or consistency. He blantantly and petulantly ignored the debate rules he and Kerry had agreed to, beat Kerry hands down in lack of scruples, and unfortunately I don't have much faith the average voter is willing to see through him.

Then we happily left that depressing reality for the theatre. Paula said a couple surprising things to me as we waited for the show to start. I sat in the seat Steve and Paula saved while I chatted with people I saw on the way in, sitting next to a woman, who very graciously slid over when she saw the breadth of my shoulders prevented me from leaning back comfortably in my seat. Broad shoulders are a pain in most theaters and stadiums. You have to lean forward, cross your arms tightly, or sit slightly sideways. I thanked the woman, thinking it was a very nice thing.

Paula chuckled at my "Blythe spirit." I'd no idea what she meant. She said I always think the best of people and situations. Maybe the woman was intimidated or put off by my size, but it didn't even occur to me she said. I didn't know how to respond, I found it humorous, so I laughingly replied, "Well it worked out well for all of us." Blythe spirit? Never a label or an attitude I would have attributed to myself.

While we're waiting for the show to start, in Freehold's East Hall (aka Rhino) Theatre, where we have worked so many times, including two of Freehold's Studio Series. Paula says she is getting ready to start multiple projects for the upcoming Studio Series. I asked what projects, she hesitated, and I said she had to tell me now she'd pricked my interested. The Alexandria Project which she is developing and directing, Gregory wants to work with her as an actor, and she was thinking of working on this show about a dead puppy. My short script, The Thai Getaway. Despite the build up I was very surprised and flattered. We'll be getting together to discuss projects in the next week or so.

Today, after sleeping in following a late night, and writing my two preceding posts I headed out for a walk with the script for Rumors. I memorized the first half or third of my lines, got in a five mile walk, giving my system a nice boost and getting more in touch with my character, Officer Ben Welch. A nice way to tie up the weekend and get started on my new projects.

In theatre, projects are ephemeral, consisting of very intense and personal work, suddenly over. It teaches the actor. It becomes progressively easier to give up the past and its trappings, simply letting them inform where it is you are now. You have to do it for every show, and it carries into 'real' life. The now really is a nice place to reside.

Now, sleep well, and have a great new week.

On The Boards Again

I'm not an especially gifted actor, I simply love theatre and acting to the core of my being. Most directors and instructors will tell you that is more important than any 'natural' talent, and with a typical actor's take and insecurity I think, "Well, aren't they kind?"

Saturday was a full day. I got up early, with plenty of time to get to Rachel's improv class. I was reminded of an incident in my Mask class on Wednesday. We were warming up with an exercise named ouroboro, after the mythical snake swallowing it's own tail. Everyone is in a line, following the leader, who is making some sort of movement. Each person does what the one in front of them did to the best of their ability, creating a constantly morphing wave going down the line. At some point the leader turns around, and everyone follows that movement. The person at the end becomes the new leader, and starts walking and singing with everyone following. The previous leader, now at the back of the line dashes and faces the leader, initiating a change of direction and a new person now leads with a movement. We were doing this and I was leading with a song (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star this time) and the person at the other end forgot they were supposed stop me. Without thinking about it I simply turned around, initiating the change. It was funny, because I was startled I had to sing again, and I burst back into the same song, but didn't even get out a full line before the person at the other end turned me around. It was huge fun, and kept things going. There was an added wrinkle to the exercise. We were supposed to go through the whole line, no more, no less, in a set period of time. Even with the hiccup it was the closest we'd gotten.

We were doing a warm-up in the improv class, and thanks to my schedule which has and will force me to leave the class half way through for the first three sessions, I wasn't familiar with Boom-chica-boom, which they did last week. It was fun, and when it came to my turn I simply went for it. I missed or mangled a middle phrase, the same for the last.

From class it was off to rehearsal for the scenes I was doing for Exchange Theatre's gala fund raiser. This is the professional theatre company for which I served on the Board of Directors for several years, and had the small Les Liaisons Dangereuses non-speaking role this Summer. All of the actors were uneasy, we were rehearsing for the first time off book, for scenes we were about to do before a paying audience. We all mangled lines and blocking, and kept running the scenes until the last moment. Then barely an hour later we ran the three scenes. I was in the first and last. In the last scene, The Cherry Orchard I was working off two other actors, with only five short lines. I was mostly a foil and ally for one, and a reaction character for the other. I was cut off on one line. I had to answer another line which the actor delivered to the wrong person, which I answered as an aside to her. I think I messed up a cue myself, but I can't recall what it was. Still, it worked very, very well. We all trusted each other.

The first scene was Playboy of the Western World, and it had all the same little challenges, though it went easier for me as I didn't miss any cues I was to give or receive. My character, Shawn, was intimidated by another character, Christy. I'm big and tall, and Christy was not. A little added humor, as I outweighed my tormenter by nearly 100 pounds. During our blocking rehearsal last week, I was trying to figure out physical details on how I would flee for my exit. Yesterday, I let myself be angry and afraid. Without a thought, I turned and ran off the stage down the aisle leaping down into the lobby at full tilt when Christy made his menacing jump towards me. The magic of stage adrenalin did it's work, and I was really moving, making the scene all the more humorous.

Those two exercises and two scenes were very informative and affirming for me. One of the hardest things for most actors is to commit. In all four instances I had to commit to an exercise or scene, staying in a moment and/or character. I was supporting my fellow actors, and more critically they were supporting me. I found it satisfying my training has taken me to a point where I can usually cover for other actors or myself without breaking stride, dropping out of character, or screwing up the other actors. And all through it was the knowledge that if the other actors weren't present and giving me full support in return I'd have been totally screwed, and looked the buffoon.

I made a point of telling all the actors I worked with in the scenes yesterday how much I enjoyed and appreciated the chance to work with professional actors. I don't think I was too sappy, I was utterly sincere, and sharing my joy in what we had done and pulled off together.

Honestly, I had a roaring good time, but I wasn't impressed with my performance. I was greatly heartened by all the compliments I received in return from the actors, and from the people in the audience, many of whom are actors I know and have seen or worked with before.

The gala tickets and silent auction were the money makers, and one of the popular items was a set scenes like we had just done, though longer with more of an ending, than teaser for coming attractions. People who are planning big parties or soirees bid on these for entertainment. They have proved to be wonderful fundraising and pr opportunities for Exchange Theatre. These are more critical than the scenes we just did, as they serve as outreach to people not familiar with Exchange Theatre. Vince asked if I would be interested in working on some of those scenes. Hell yes! The highest praise he could have given. After a year and a half of steady and committed training, I really am trying out my new chops as an actor for the first time. I sometimes feel all I've learned is how much more there is to learn. Compliments are of course warm and fuzzy, and even more importantly they serve as an indicator I am actually making a little progress.

Thinking Out Loud

In October of 1999 I started writing a weekly letter to my family. It started out as kind of a joke about arriving to a family and friend get together at the cabin on the Duckabush River. It was vacant, the whole group had gone for a walk. It wasn't a bit messy, but there was a feeling of everyone disappearing in the middle of what they were doing, and I wrote a Stephen King type account of the weekend. It evolved and for well over a year I wrote a weekly letter, mostly E-mail, though I actually mailed them to several people as well.

It was one of several things which came together, turning me into an artist. I started being active and doing things, so I'd actually have something to write about. Four months before the letters, I'd quit a heavy chewing tobacco habit of twenty years. It left me with excess energy I didn't ever remember having. Then, four months after I started the letters I enrolled in my first acting class, Acting for Non-Actors taught by John Hazlewood.

I stopped the letters abruptly for several reasons. I was writing them in hopes of encouraging community within my immediate family and paternal step family. Well, it didn't work as there were very small contingents on each side with profound senses of moral/ethical superiority which made them intolerable to, and intolerant of each other. I was once part of the superior contingent, and thought communicating would bridge the gap. I was wrong, it was my journey, not theirs.

When my maternal stepfather died, my mom's husband, I got support from some of my step siblings, but not the ones I grew up with. Jack was cantankerous, crass, teller of tall tails, a veteran, and I really like him and I was the only person he considered to be his family. At one level it was slightly hurtful, even though I understood my siblings did not care for Jack. Mostly because they don't care for mom -- something I relate to all to well. I felt more connected to a number of my step siblings, the letters did help with that, but the letters had served their purpose.

In hindsight it is obvious the letters were mostly for myself. A tool to help me grow and expand. Once I grew to a certain point, I didn't need them anymore. Basically they were a journal I let others read if they wanted, and I missed writing them. Then Rachel told me about her blog, and I was off and running again. Again, it is a journal for myself, though I still find I'm tickled when someone refers to something from my blog, or someone I don't know stumbles across it and makes a nice comment.

It is an honor to realize someone has read my thoughts and briefly shared them in reading them. I'm sometimes joyful, sometimes dark, sometimes lucid, sometimes Bush'ed up. It is a very human contact. In reading other blogs I find the ones I like the most are those who share vulnerability, thought processes, and life building events. It's on the World Wide Web, yet something very intimate and human. Sort of the high tech antithesis of dehumanizing things like reality shows, the botox culture, and our insular lifestyles. We can't face a cashier when buying gas, we can't expose ourselves to uncomfortable realities or politics, we must stay in antiseptic cocoons to avoid any possibility of danger or discomfiting passion.

When it comes right down to it even these blogs are not terribly dangerous, though we are opening our cocoons a fraction and giving the world a peek. To carry the analogy further, if we stay tightly wrapped in our cocoons how can we possibly spread our wings? I believe we are overly cautious and timid with ourselves and children. As we approach perfect safety, the cocoon is tighter, thicker, stronger. I can't believe it is better to be a culture of long lived paling grubbish little larvae, than allow steps which entail very small risks, and allow us to break out of our cocoons.

I feel like I have just emerged from my cocoon. The wings are still wet and curled tightly to my body, though relaxing. Would it have been easier and quicker to shrug off my shell had I done it a couple decades earlier? Who knows, who cares? I don't. Living in a world with color and life makes those pupal questions lose significance. Interesting to explore, but of no lasting personal value once you have found a path that works for you. A journey is the thing.

A fun comparison. When I go on vacation I like to switch modes abruptly. When I have to leave for the airport or ferry in an hour I say, "Time to pack." My Dad likes to make checklists, carefully pack well ahead of time. Then he adjusts, repacks, gets everything just perfect, over and over again. I almost always get to the airport first. I think he likes to plan, list, and repack to start savoring the vacation before he goes. I like to wait, grab hold of my nose, and jump into the water. We relax and enjoy our vacations equally.

Who's to say my late emergence into life is not as good as an earlier one? I bet I am as happy now as I would have been otherwise. I look back on the worst mistakes I made in my life choices, those which denied decades of life, and they are now academic. It is an incredibly freeing thing to find myself a little wistful wondering what different choices as a twenty year would have made in my life today, and to sincerely answer, "Who knows, Who cares?"

Friday, October 08, 2004

Timing

I was reading a friend's blog yesterday. She talks about time, and facilitating her class. What I found particularly interesting was an undercurrent I saw, of time as ally or foe. Brought up all sorts of philosophical thoughts for me.

Time Well Spent It is a familiar phrase with deep nuances most in our culture seem to miss.

I took my first leave in the navy after 9 months service. I used all three weeks I had accrued, and discovered it was a mistake. By the time it was over I was nearly as anxious to get back to work as I was to start the vacation. From that I learned it is best to ensure visits end before you want them to. The memories are better, you look forward to visiting again, are more welcome to return, and arrive back to your routine world before the enjoyment turns sour. I try to apply that lesson to many things in my life, not just vacation.

Time Spent Poorly Overstaying my leave was an example, and another common example in my world view is something I think of as dysfunctional martyrdom.

I got into the workaholic thing about nine years ago, for a year or two. I realized I was doing more stuff, accomplishing less, and making my general mood even darker. It wasn't impressing anyone either. I brought home a few more dollars, but didn't enjoy the cash or widgets.

Judging Time It's a quandary. Who judges "Time Well Spent?" Well, old dogs learn new tricks.

It's personal and subjective. I saw someone at work selling a pair of Seahawks tickets this week for $240, and thought what an incredible waste of time and money. Then I realized I spent $10 more for my pair of opera tickets and had another roaring good laugh at myself. I may not enjoy pro football any more than someone else enjoys theatre, but I now value them both.

Time Expansion/Contraction Remember how long time seemed to take as a child? What if it happened again?

The last five years of my life, time seems to have slowed down again. The previous fifteen or twenty years flashed by. What's the difference? Even as I write this, I'm pondering. Is it something to do with time well spent? I found theatre, and have immersed myself. Discovered a long-forgotten joy in life, and I am rarely, if ever, bored. Is feeling bored an indication of time ill spent? I don't mean feeling bored for ten minutes waiting on a tardy friend, but a feeling of continual and perpetual boredom. Is it time to seek out a shrink for some pills, or time to find your passion? For me it was the latter. Pills and doctors were out of the question thanks to a severely over-medicated mother. I suppose I should chat about her again before long.

Back to the point. I now keep my life quite full, and in the world. I was not a big tv addict, rather a bookworm, and reading hundreds of pages a day instead of watching tv still makes you a couch potato. You may prevent atrophy of the imagination, but you're still a freaking bump.

Like so many things I've discovered in my theatrical journey, I wasn't searching for a way to slow down the passage of time. In discovering and fully exploring the arts I simply found time was not passing me by any longer. Hope I don't sound boastful; I am trying to understand and promote the trend.

Time Well Spent Rachel's class expands and fills a 3 hour time slot with many more hours of life, but gets out early -- the opposite of my experience for an over-long vacation. Keeping my work day reasonable enables me to accomplish more tasks with better quality -- the opposite approach for most of my peers. I've experienced a reversal of time compression -- the opposite of what most people experience as they move further from childhood. There's some other thoughts in here, I just can't quite grasp them.

The childhood comment just gave me a mighty pause. Am I actually closer to my childhood? Is that a gift of following your heart?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Foot Work

I archived several of my recent entries, by changing the date to 2002. I didn't want to lose them, but I didn't like the tone. Not only was the tone wrong, it didn't jibe with my feelings. Sometimes you write like a nut, sometimes you don't. Which is best? (I'm not telling.)

I'm rolling along in two classes, improv with Rachel and Neutral Mask at Freehold. No homework in either class, both fun and worthwhile. I'm new to mask, and expect it to take me somewhere very interesting. It already has. I mentioned internal dialog in one of the archived entries, and how as a result of the Meisner training I am able to shut it off. Trying to learn how to shut off internal dialog is not something I could do volitionally. It had to be approached tangentially. It feels we are working towards an equivalent ability with our physicality. Pretty bold assertion after 2 classes, but the feeling is there. I don't have a clue where exactly the tangential approach will slide us. I believe it will be another tool which allows us to shed our personal artifacts in taking on a character. Exciting artistically and spiritually.

Tonight, I want to learn my lines for Saturday's gig, and do some more character work. I read Playboy of the Western World and am bummed I won't have a chance to read The Cherry Orchard. Luckily, in that scene my character doesn't change as much. Still, I'd prefer to read the script. I know, trust, and respect the actors. Otherwise it would have been pretty dicey to accept the parts with only a week, a full time job, two classes, etc, and only a few hours total rehearsal time.

If all goes well I'll do more character work tomorrow evening, including some line running while doing some fast-paced walking. I started learning lines on my feet, and like running them while doing something moderately strenuous to avoid "On Your Feet Syndrome". It's not a real name, but every actor knows it. You have lines down cold, recited them five times in the car on the drive, but when you're standing/moving with the other actors you can't remember a damn thing.

That's the great thing about a healthy desk job. You get home and try to recall your day, and happily you don't usually remember a damn thing. You get a better respite, and by the time you sit at your desk the next day things almost always look better.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Isn't that just great... Another challenge

I received a nice note from Paula this morning regarding a script I'd sent her a while back. She asked if I wanted her feedback (yes!) and had I done a workshop production yet. It was a well-timed bit of encouragement as I am getting back into things.

It also got me to thinking of the Freehold Studio Series, which I have worked on with Paula the last two years. She is collaborating on a new piece called the Alexandria Project, the last I heard. For a change she is going to work with a minimal set. Maybe it'll happen. It will be an all female cast, so there won't be much for me to do on this one, especially if she really goes with a minimal set.

So I'll have more time this year, and I am thinking of giving The Thai Getaway a whirl. It is a drama. I'd started out writing a dark comedy and it went off into personal territory, exploring how we dealt with the frequent deaths of friends and peers in Naval Aviation. I'll need to stew on it for a few days, to see if I have the time. My immediate inclination is to give it a pass because I'm busy, but that quick response begs the challenge. Am I really busy, or am I a afraid to put my work up on the boards? A couple other people have asked what I'm doing for the Studio Series this year, so I'm feeling a little cosmic push, or some friendly nagging. Just when I was feeling comfortable too... :p

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Theater and Theatre

I got to the BCC classroom early yesterday. I was meeting Rachel ahead of time for a coffee, chat, and to set up for her first class. I was the first to arrive, had a quick breakfast sandwich, and started collapsing tables and stacking chairs transforming a technical classroom into an artistic space. Afterwards, as I was leaving half-way through the class for rehearsal I was musing over it.

By nature I claim to be a slob. In a theater I clean up, set up, rearrange, strike items that could create a hazard, inspect the physical facility, and so on. A preflight. It feels natural.

I looked up the etymology and usage for theatre and theater. I had three preconceptions, and they all have their roots and proponents. The first being they are no more than variations of the same word. BORING!

The second assigns the 'coarse' German spelling "theater" to endeavors and places like movie houses and the 'refined' French spelling "theatre" for more artistic endeavours and places like opera, ballet, and drama. A pretentious distinction and not useful for real people. What would you call variety shows or vaudeville? Eighty years ago theater, but now theatre? When and where do you draw the line? Who cares besides shallow people feigning depth?

This leads to the distinction I prefer. More useful, and non-judgmental. Theater refers to the facility, and theatre refers to the art form or production company. Another thing I saw ascribed to theatre in this context really jazzed me. The facility, cast/crew, and audience. I believe good theatre to be a fusion.

When the audience forgets to silence phones and pagers is it because they're asses or because the house manager didn't remember or consider reminding them? If a show is dead is it because the audience is not present, or the cast is not present? If the lighting or sound is jarring is it because the audience is being judgmental, because the performance isn't drawing them in, or because the lights and sound cues are crappy? If the audience hates the show are they being close minded, did the marketing mislead them, or is the show itself hateful? Whether you're audience, cast, director, or usher, ask yourself these questions, because we are all essential to the magical creation. Real magic and creation on this scale are not solo efforts.

I remember a show which greatly impressed and disappointed me. Several years ago Peter Brook's Hamlet made it's American debut in Seattle. Brilliant performances and brilliant, sharp direction. The seats were exceedingly uncomfortable, there was no intermission, and the cuts were too deep. On the way out of the theater almost all the people I overheard were discussing how much the wretched folding chairs made their tails and backs hurt, or how they were upset Laertes speech to his son, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be;..." was cut.

A tremendous production in many ways. The international cast did a tremendous job, there was no doubt about their intentions, they knew, understood, and lived the text. So, despite many different accents I had no trouble understanding, and was drawn into the story immediately. I was angry and frustrated during the last 30-45 minutes of the play because the intense discomfort was demanding most of my attention -- it is my strongest memory of the production today. An incredible disservice to the cast as well. I would lay responsibility at the feet of the director, and possibly the production manager.

The whole idea of running a long show without break is incredibly arrogant and disrespectful to your audience. In Shakespeare's time theatre was like the cinema or a fair, so intermissions weren't needed -- people could come and go as they wanted. Thus dies the historical justification. The more popular rationalization is even worse. "It breaks the energy of the performance." You can't make the audience feel like they are in a torture chamber and expect it to be good for the energy and flow of the show. A few people will try to remember why they liked the first part of the show, the rest simply hating the whole. It is a specious argument at best. If an actor can't endure an intermission, it's time to recast.

I followed a tangent here, which went from respecting the theater, to respecting the audience, and honoring the cast and crew. Maybe it is what makes a very good show a transcendental experience, a multi-mutual effort tying all the strands into a web connecting everyone. It's a clumsy description, which for me starts from preparing the self and the space, all the way to thanking the audience. Too many thoughts for prose, so today's distillation...

Theatre

Weaving swelling hearts
infinite, mundane, magic
flashes etch the soul

Friday, October 01, 2004

Life!

Tomorrow morning I will go to Rachel's improv class at BCC. I hadn't planned on taking the class. A student or two more were needed to make the class a go. Well, regardless of where you are in your training or career an improv workout with new people is a gift, and if it would help make the class a go how could I resist?

Sadly, I need to leave the class half way through, at Noon. I don't want to, but neither do I want to miss the opportunity to rehearse a scene from The Cherry Orchard with professional actors and a classically trained (British) director.

I love it. Going straight from an improv workout taught by one of my best friends, to a rehearsal with a director who is another friend for whom I have a lot of respect. Art and friends, and more art and friends. I am happier than a pig rolling in mud. It's stressful, creates tension, makes me a touch over-extended, and I am feeling really alive again. Heck I could even be happy with Bush worshipers right now.

Vocabulary Work

I watched the last 20 minutes of the debate yesterday. Even though they couldn't ask questions, they discussed opponents in ways that couldn't go unanswered. When it was over I tried to listen to the pseudo-intellectual discussion of the debate, and after a minute or two went to finish my previous blog entry. I was pleased to see my current posts are not currently dominated by political diatribes. They'll be back I'm sure -- this may be one. It's an indication I'm finding my balance now that I'm getting back into rehearsals and classes.

Thanks to the debate, I did learn the meaning of a slang term. "Meat puppet" really clicked as I watched our president. While Kerry was talking Bush was making playground faces, rolling his eyes, smirking, and biting the inside of his cheek. Contradicted any notion of leadership, strong or otherwise. He'd respond with his worn out, usually off-topic sound bytes which made him look ridiculous. I thought he did more than hold his own with Gore -- he's had a serious indentity and intellectual break-down in the intervening four years. A picture came to my mind, of a puppet made out of hamburger and questionable cuts of meat left dangling in the breeze.

The meat's gone bad, yet it still looks like we're likely to reinstall him. The population of the most powerful country in the world is being effectively manipulated by a festering meat puppet. Maybe it's a good thing the GOP is intentionally bankrupting the country in hopes of getting budget and money for social services redirected to large corporations where it can do them the most good. While it is bad for us, it may be the best thing for the rest of the world. Much like the USSR collapsing under it's own weight served the rest of the world.