Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Big Picture

Time is precious and the older you get, the faster time flies.  I just left the decade of my 20's on April 13 2013 and entered into my 30's.  Often times, friends feel daunted by turning 30 but I look at it as a celebration!  Why not, after all?!  The way I see it, you have a choice to either accept it and be happy, or deny it and be miserable.

2012 was a pretty interesting and bumpy year.  As an actor, I worked at THEATRE BY THE SEA in Rhode Island playing JINX in FOREVER PLAID.  The show ended in the middle of June and I returned to New York.  I worked briefly at the Jackson Hole Playhouse returning to the role I originated in the original "The Ballad of Cat Ballou."

In October of 2012, I was booked to play Phil Davis in WHITE CHRISTMAS at Surflight Theatre in New Jersey.  At this time, my roommate's sister Lotus Lionheart (previously known as a male) was evicted from her apartment and needed to stay with us.  I was apprehensive to the situation but was leaving to begin work in New Jersey on November 4th... However, hurricane Sandy devastated the New York area causing great damage not only to many homes near the water, but also nearly destroying Surflight.  At the first rehearsal for White Christmas, it was announced that the show had to be cancelled.  I was devastated to loose a job.  I had already made arrangements for a sublet to rent out the apartment for 2 months.  He had paid me a lump sum for the 2 months for which I was to be gone... which I used to pay a few bills.  Upon the news of loosing my job, I had no money and nowhere to live since I couldn't pay back my sublet.  Meanwhile, Lotus (the dearly troubled) is reaching out for help by making suicide attempts.

Brendan Hahn, a new friend and miracle, offered me help and a couch to sleep on in his apartment in NJ.  Inevitably, it was through this strange event obstacle fiasco that dear friend and Artistic Director of the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine, Brad Kenney, reached out to me asking if I was willing and available to play a featured Counter Tenor in the staging of a new concert musical called THE CHRISTMAS ROSE, starring Jane Seymour.  I was thrilled and honored to solo with a 72 piece orchestra on the legendary Carnegie Hall Stage in New York City.

The universe is a strange place with adventure... We just have to be willing to role with the bunches and look at the big picture.  We must count all events as a benefit for our ultimate journey of understanding.  All good and bad experiences are for our good.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Back in New York

Well, we closed Annie at Pioneer, and I rode the holidays out by spending too much money on frivolous things like movies and chocolate, (now my waistline is paying for it, but who really cares?), laughing with my family and eating more chocolate. But now it's time to embrace the new year by going to the gym, drinking lots of water, eating arugula leaves (sparingly) and once and a while giving into the temptation to lick my lips to gain what little nutritional value there is (if any) from my cherry ice chap stick!

I've decided January in New York sends me right to the doldrums, what with it's cold weather and strong Arctic winds... but never mind because I'll just layer my clothes and wear oversized coats large enough to babysit Octi-mom's children. I may get snubbed for looking like a bum, but I'm warm never the less.

A few things have brightened the dark NY skies the past week... I got to see my dear friend Leah Horowitz play Young Heidi in Follies at the Maquis Theatre (which closes this weekend). I was privileged to join her and some other cast mates for lunch at Sardi's (which, for those of you that don't know, is known as a place where Broadway actors meet, eat, and tear apart or sing praises of other actors on the great stage).

I ended up telling outrageous NY stories at the dinner table to the lovely Erin Moore, Danielle Jordan (who turns out to be from SLC), and the dear Mary Beth Peil. Leah helped me realize that these stories MUST be blogged about... hopefully I can make that happen.

The next night, I went with dear friend Hilary Michael Thompson, to see some of our other actor friends in Anything Goes.

One of the greatest things about New York, is running into people. I literally ran into another dear friend and colleague Kaitlyn Davidson who just booked her first Broadway show, Nice Work If You Can Get It! She played Val in A Chorus Line at Pioneer Theatre Company in 2009 with me!

While I'm seeing some good shows and wonderful people, the audition scene can be a little rough when you've been out of town for 9 MONTHS........ but that is fine! Because I like to sing... and I get to do it every day, even if no one is listening! (Especially when the subway rushes by loudly... that's when I let it rip!)

Today, the most important thing is gratitude for life! Chew on that for a while! :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sunset Boulevard at Pioneer and A Chorus Line in St. Louis

It's been a while since I've posted but these days I have more time and always something to say!

I am playing in the chorus of Annie right now and that keeps me humbled and grateful to have a job around the holiday season! I love Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City because everyone involved in the theatrical process is wonderful! Jeffrey Williams is probably one of the absolute best stage managers I have worked with. Come understudy rehearsals, all the actors are scrambling to remember their blocking, but Jeff knows it all.

In the past few months, since The Marilyn Miller Musical, I ended up appearing first in Sunset Boulevard at Pioneer Theatre Company, where I had the pleasure of working with Lynne Wintersteller, who musical theatre fans will know from the Maltby and Shire musical "Closer Than Ever." I love Lynne, because she loving found a dopple-ganger for everyone in the cast. She says I'm her Val Kilmer (the younger version)... so now she calls me Val. I played the Wunderkind in Sunset and had one solo... I'm so glad I trained vocally for 15 years... :)

Following Sunset, I had 2 days before I flew to St. Louis and started rehearsals for A Chorus Line at STAGES, St. Louis. I was thrilled to be in this show for a number of reasons; it proved to myself that I am a capable dancer (a thing I have never believed and yet still something I have to work on), I had a big part, and I was going to work with my best friend Jeffrey Pew (Larry).
I played Al who is the married guy to Kristine, the girl that can't sing. The space on the actual performance stage was so limited they cut out the parts of Don and Connie; that proved to be a good thing for me because then I was given Don's material in the montage. That just meant I got to sing a little more which is really why I'm in this business to begin with.
Kristine was played by the statuesque Hilary Michael Thompson (a previous rocket who proved to be much taller than me), and was fantastic in the role. She had played Kristine on the National Tour of A Chorus Line so I was at first a little nervous but soon realized we were meant to be good friends and have remained so.
The run of the show was FUN and FANTASTIC! However, during the final dress rehearsal, some strange things began to happen: first, we had been rehearsing the end of the opening number and as a line, we all step down stage to the create the famous pose, when a large back drop, weighted down with a heavy bar came crashing down to our heads. The majority of the tall people were affected as well as myself but it didn't get me as bad because it had hit the tall people first. Poor Laura E. Taylor and Chris Rice. Some people didn't get hit at all. Perhaps someone had uttered MacBeth in the wings silently under their breathe, because that's not all that happened that day... During that evening preview, at the end of the Finale "One's," my back went completely out. I collapsed off-stage and had promptly been taken to the hospital in an ambulance... a thing I was not sure was necessary. Jeff Pew, being the wonderful friend that he is, rushed to my side backstage with my bags, the lovely Kim Shriver, our gifted choreographer, gave me a small cup with ibuprofen and the rest of the worried cast was standing around in shock - as if I had been the victim of a heart attack.
Jeff rode in the ambulance with me to the hospital where the filled me with morphine and other drugs to keep me relaxed. I don't remember much after that except that when our dear director Michael Hamilton came to the hospital, I was stroking his hand to tell him "Thank you" and proceeded to sing, (awkward for me and maybe for Michael).
I eventually spent the next day off and the following day on my back in capable of walking. The dear understudy (Tanner Lane) went on as Al in the second preview but I was determined to perform for the opening. Come opening night, I doped up heavily on Vicodin and Ibuprofen to ease the pain and sure enough, I did the opening. My only worry was that, because I was limited, I couldn't do the choreography to its fullest but thankfully the reviewer didn't say anything bad. WHEW!

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Marilyn Miller Mini-Musical Remount!

The Marilyn Miller Musical went "without a hitch," you might say if you were a working actor in the Ziegfeld Follies. Mark York was expecting only about 60 people and I think 130 showed up! The showcase mini-musical played at Grace's Lutheran Church on 123 West and 71st Street; apparently the show went well enough that there is talk of a remounting to happen within the next 2 weeks.

In the audience was Richard Maltby, who I previously mentioned would be in attendance, and Susan Birkenhead, who is also an acclaimed Tony Award nominated lyricist for shows like "Working" and "Jelly's Last Jam." Mark introduced me to Richard, who was very pleasant with a full head of white hair :) He didn't say much but it was clear that he and Mark have a very good relationship.

A few weeks ago, on Valentines Day, I went to sing at the popular Jazz club "Birdland." On Monday nights, there is an event called Jim Caruso's Cast Party, where people come in and sign up to sing, like an open mic, but a bit more high class. Jim hosted a musical event on Feb 28th with a line up of entertainers that include: Liza Minnelli, Chita Rivera, Christine Ebersole, and Billy Stritch, just to name a few. That night I sang "Cry," one of my favorite songs from Forever Plaid, and I went there all alone, just to check it out. There is an INCREDIBLE accompanist and bass player who back you up... and when Jim calls your name, you tell the pianist how you want it done and you just DO it cold turkey. (However, the accompanist makes you sound fantastic!) I tell this story because after we finished doing the Marilyn Miller show, some of us cast members went to have a hamburger at some fancy restaurant on Park Avenue. Now Jeff Pew and I ended up sitting with Merrill Grant (Marilyn Miller), and her lovely boyfriend David Garfinkle, who just happens to be... wait for it... one of the head producers on Spider-man the Musical. He says, "Jeff, Susan Birkenhead recognizes you... she says you sang somewhere recently..." I had to think forever before I occurred to me that she must have seen me sing at Birdland... what are the odds? And then he told me that she told him that I am perfect for the lead in a new musical that will hit Broadway next year and I'll will my first Tony!! HA HA! No... that is NOT what happened. These are just fun little details of my life... not that it means much of anything.

So I will keep anyone whose reading this blog up to date on when and where the Marilyn Miller Mini-Musical will appear next. And that is all for now :)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Marilyn Miller Musical

Today is the one and only performance of a new mini musical titled "The Marilyn Miller Musical." The musical was conceived by the brilliant Mark York, who is president of the Ziegfeld Society in New York. I was introduced to Mark about a year and a half ago by my dear friend Megan Opanlinski (who knows everyone). Mark works for Broadway's Jerry Herman and was Cy Coleman's right hand man before he passed in 2005. Mark was working on Sweet Charity with Christina Applegate as music coordinator when Mr. Coleman passed . (Its just fun to know these things).

The music director for the show is the lovely Aaron Gandy, and the choreographer is the diminutive David Auxier. These three gentlemen encompass creativity at its best! Mark, creates lead sheets for himself on the piano and plays like he is an entire orchestra; its a genuine thrill to be accompanied by Mark. Aaron will often stop Mark, and begin speaking "music theory" at its extreme, to improve something that sounds a little off. Mark takes his pencil, like a magic wand, makes and note and proceeds without flaw. When Auxier choreographs, he will notice that in order to effectively tell the story better, we need 2 more counts of eight; so he tells Mark to "add a little something that fits," and Mark does it. It's thoroughly enjoyable to see three great talents create something new. Often times, when putting up a show, the artistic team is just setting direction and choreography that has previously been staged once before.

Merrill Grant stars as Marilyn Miller. Merrill's unique ability to grasp the woman of the early 20th Century is astounding; with the vocal qualities of women vocalists of that time, and the stage presence that rarely exists in the theatre today, Merrill transforms beautifully into Marilyn Miller!

In the audience today will be Richard Maltby (Tony award winning director for Broadway's Ain't Misbehavin and Fosse. He also directed Bernadette Peters in Song and Dance and was co-lyricist on Miss Saigon, among many other credits. Now as an actor, this should make me very nervous, but I just try to not think about it at all. Something like this should not affect my performance in any way. I guess we'll see.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Idle Babblers

I have many wonderful friends in my life. Hopefully we can all relate to those few people who we can talk to about ANYTHING without fear of judgment or backbiting. I have been richly blessed with a few special friends who make the effort to get to know the real person that I am. I'm talking about friends that you KNOW will be a special part of your life until the day you die. But then there are "friends" that you discover often babble behind your back and "talk."

Recently I have discovered a new storm of "idle babblers" who find satisfaction in the activity of gossip. Like a fun game, these people get together and, without necessarily spreading false rumors, they plant the seed of suggestion, using phrases like, "Doesn't it seem fishy that so and so is doing this?" and "Have you noticed the way that so and so is acting lately?" and "Its just a matter of time before so and so does this..." or "Is it just me, or is so and so about to get a divorce?" What these "friends" don't realize is that the seeds they are planting, grow into weeds that overtake a good garden.

How often do we water these seeds in a conversation?

"Oh my gosh, are you serious? You really think so and so is gonna get a divorce?"
"I don't know for sure, but I just call it like I see it..."
"Oh my gosh, I had no idea..."

How often do we contribute in planting seeds ourselves? How often is anyone's relationship (married or not) affected when party A comes home and has had the seeds planted in their mind about party B?

"Honey, have you been seeing someone else?"
"No, why would you think that?"
"Well, I went to lunch with (so and so) and they said that it seems really odd that you have been behaving the way you do."

Why do people make it their business? Perhaps it satisfies their own pride. Perhaps the babbler feels validated for having the negative thoughts that they do when they find out its the truth?

I am sad to say that I have been a victim of this kind of gossip. I am becoming increasingly aware of people in my life that I thought knew me. They can't possibly have ever known me when they whore away MY good name and character to satisfy their uncontrollable urge to gossip. Like a plague, the disease of gossip and assumption spread like wildfire, and those that participate in this addictive habit are only fueling the flame. It has ruined many of my past relationships because people decide to BELIEVE the garbage being fed to them by unsupported sources.

A few years ago, my girlfriend at the time called me to discuss a break-up. She said that she should "stop listening to what everyone else is saying." (Everyone being a group of people that hardly knew me from Adam. I asked "What is 'everyone else' saying?" "They are saying that I should break up with you because... " And then a list.

I urge anyone who may have a loose tongue, to THINK before they give into the urge to gossip and defame a person's name. I can only hope that anyone who listens to the idle babblers will fight the fire in defense. It really doesn't matter what anyone thinks of you; anyone's standing opinion is only a matter of their small perception anyway. And a person is ultimately in control of how they react to lies told about them but if enough people believe the lies, it follows you and it hurts.

I don't have any problem weeding out the people in my life that engage in this activity, and I can only hope I don't fall victim to it, as I'm sure I can't entirely be caught guiltless of it in the past. Let's all just THINK about what we say when we're out to lunch with our "friends." You never know who you may have hurt.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Crazy world isn't it?

Today I am thrilled to be living the NYC life! Last year at this time I was auditioning like CRAZY! You begin to wonder if you are out of your mind and if you don't have a place in this entertainment industry, but when June rolled around, I decided to go to Jackson Hole Wyoming to do "Annie Get Your Gun" at the Jackson Hole Playhouse! The role was less than desirable but it was a temporary cover situation with some of my dearest friends! I played Buffalo Bill... Someday that will be right... maybe.

I was called by Dodger Theatricals, the casting company that hires for all the Broadway and Touring productions of "Jersey Boys," and asked to attend what they call "Frankie Camp." Frankie camp is a compensated 3 day camp in NYC to basically train you how to do Frankie Valli! Details to come about that experience. While I was in town for Frankie camp, I was called by some gentlemen from The Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine. I had auditioned for them in March without hearing any word from them until now. I had given them one of my BOLDEST auditions ever: I sang Martin Guerre like a knight in King Arthur's Court. And if that wasn't enough, I asked them if they wanted to hear my counter tenor operatic high B above high C because they were also doing Chicago... Mary Sunshine is in here somewhere.

So the call-back was for the role of "Patsy" in SPAMALOT. I almost didn't even go because I had already booked Chorus - u/s Freddy in "My Fair Lady" at the Engeman Theatre in Long Island. But I went because I thought "a good audition is never wasted and you never know who you're going to meet." The call-back went surprisingly well. I hardly knew the material but did it to the best of my ability. The director in the room was Scott Taylor - a DREAM of a man and a FANTASTIC director. I flew back to Jackson Hole Wyoming and got a call from Robert Levingston who offered me the part. The only trouble was that my sister's wedding was going to be on Aug 12 and the rehearsals for Spamalot began on Aug 3rd...only 2 days after I was finished in Jackson. After some deliberation, they decided to work with me and they let my fly home for the wedding and miss 1 rehearsal. Of coarse everything I made in Jackson went to pay for that last minute flight.

After the amazing run of Spamalot, I had made some incredible friends in Rachel York, Ayal Miodovnik, and Charles Shaughnessy. I spent NOV. and DEC. in South Carolina doing "Hello, Dolly" and went home for New Years. I got back to NY on Feb 1st and later that week I auditioned for "A Chorus Line" at STAGES, in St. Louis. My dear friend Jeff Pew also auditioned and as fate would have it, we ended up dancing together in the audition (they danced us in two's). Later I was offered the role of Al/Don (they combined the roles) and almost 2 weeks later Jeff got a call that he will be playing Larry in the same show! I am thrilled to say that I am going to do A Chorus Line with my buddy. We had both done the show together back in the fall of 2009 at Pioneer Theatre Company. Crazy world isn't it?