Looking over my shoulder

I probably shouldn’t compare years. It doesn’t seem fair. Some years are better than others for their own reasons, and one year can have great successes for me while others seem to have been nothing but wasted opportunities.

Odd numbered years seem to be important to me, more than even. This, of course, makes no sense either logically or in fact.

Good years = 1985, 1989, 1992, and 2009. (No, that’s not a 17 year dry stretch.) Bad years = 1985, 1999, 2008. See? No sense. But it’s generally how I feel.

2012 was a fine year.

So before moving on to the (odd) 2013 future, I’m pondering just a few highlights of the art in and around my life for the past year:

  • One day out of the blue I was contacted by a local theatre looking for other theatres and/or performers to produce a late night show during the run of their own play. My schedule allowed for it, or so I figured, and I was suddenly producing, adapting and directing a play, to go up in mere weeks. Four classic tales, unrelated and yet thematic, with a talented (and hard working!) ensemble were worked staged and presented. We called it And Things in the Walls and it came together beautifully. It was exhausting.
  • In the midst of that chaos, I squeezed in the best theatre experience once can have: Pillsbury House Theatre’s Chicago Avenue Project. Take a group of young, eager, energetic neighborhood kids, help them write their own plays, and bring in directors and actors and produce it for their families, friends and neighbors to see. This is the third time I’ve directed for this program, and it warms the inside of my sometimes jaded heart. We should never lose the playful imagination we used so easily when we were 8 years old. I think those kids teach us more than we teach them.
  • It was great to spend time as a real hired actor on multiple occasions and projects this year, but one stood out. Last spring I shot an anti-bullying video where I played a guy getting more than picked on at his work place. The piece was used by a national anti-bullying project, about which CNN did a story that included the video. My Facebook feed lit up and I had a voice message asking if I realized I was on the home page of CNN. (I later learned portions of it were aired as part of their broadcast story too.) It was a powerful video that garnered many, many comments for months from everyone I knew. At first I was just glad to get a gig, shooting a little video for a day. But it’s nice when art (acting) and work (paid gig!) combine to make an impact. It’s on YouTube, but you can see it on their site here.
  • I’m always taking pictures.
    ocean

    Crashing waves in Puerto Vallarta

    In 2012 both my cameras were stolen, although thankfully one was returned. And when I upgraded my cell phone to to the latest and greatest, the camera was a serious downgrade. (Thank goodness for Instagram, huh?) Still, I took this picture, one of my favorites, in one of my favorite places.

  • As always, I saw a lot of theatre. Some good, some…not so good. The Fringe Festival is always a mixed bag, but this year’s crop gave me two great inspirations. Make that three if you count the stuff I really didn’t like and would never want to emulate. But it’s always great acting that makes me most excited, as I wrote about back in May in what was likely my favorite production I saw in 2012: Compleat Female Stage Beauty.
  • And when it comes to pop culture meets drama: I fell in love with Downton Abbey. Well written, impeccably performed, beautiful to look at and compelling story lines. I mean, come on! Maggie Smith alone...”What is a ‘week-end’? Indeed.

That’s what’s over my shoulder back there, where I also was able to line up two productions to fill what’s in front me, thus getting me through the winter and well into spring, working with companies and people new to my resume. Not bad, 2012!

So far it’s looking like a lucky ’13.

Ruts and Other Distractions

What are you doing?


I’m currently “between projects.

The weather has quickly turned unseasonably warm and Spring-like.

Life has distracted me with new responsibilities and new challenges.

Today I wondered at the beauty of the day, but then noticed my to-do list.

I’m in a bit in a rut.

I need inspiration.

There’s writing to be done.

Projects to undertake.

Jobs to obtain.

I’d like to clear the list…..

but instead I think I’ll just take pictures of my dogs.

11 Things about 2011

It’s the last day of the year. We’ve been inundated with lists lately, so…..here’s a list of 11 highlights of 2011 for me:

  1. Street Scene: I was lucky enough to be a part of the (massive) ensemble that created a highly successful and beloved production of this Elmer Rice script. The cast included children and a dog and a couple dozen actors playing in an intimate (and, frankly, run down) theater. It was a huge show and we worked very hard to bring it together. Because of the the way in which we rehearsed, wherein many people watched other people’s scenes and we were mostly all there most of the time, we developed a great bond as a cast which went a long way to each of us individually, and collectively, owning this piece of theatre. I hope I’m lucky enough in 2012 to have a similar experience. I celebrated that show with several friends at the Ivey Awards where two statues were given out in relation to the production.
  2. The 3-Cent Stamp: I wrote, directed and edited a 1-minute “commercial” for inclusion in a local theatre’s mock production of Fargo. I had a blast putting this together and want to do more of this stuff in 2012.
  3. It’s not about the money: I got paid. Truthfully, it’s no one’s business but mine (and my agent’s) but a couple well paid gigs this year (primarily a single commercial) made 2011 one of the most profitable years for me as an actor. I’ve put it in savings for a rainy day. And while it’s never about money and there’s not a lot of it, especially in theatre, it’s nice to feel compensated for my time and talents.
  4. Testing my skills: I jumped in to a production of a full-length play that didn’t have a full-length rehearsal, and it tested most everything I know about acting, building a character and, in some instances, how to be a nice guy at rehearsals and not get bitchy. Next time I’ll be more prepared.
  5. Flexing my (imaginative) muscle: I once again joined a holiday show where in a single hour I had to play multiple characters, be funny, run my ass off and charm and ad lib a small group of strangers. And then do it all over again for the next group. And…once again for a third group. It was exhausting and exhilarating and fun, and made me enjoy performing.
  6. Inspirations: I was inspired by many things I saw this year on local stages, and one piece of theatre that keeps sticking with me in my head is Moving Company’s Come Hell and High Water. A beautiful, epic (true) story, done in bold imaginative ways and with the utmost attention to the minutiae of the characters’ lives and details. Steve Epp is one of the best actors I’ve ever seen work. This whole thing made me want to be a better, bolder theatre artist. I was also inspired by the depth of work that goes in to the making of a Scream Blue Murmur piece. I was fortunate to spend some time with these great folks whom I admire so much, and learned a bit more about their process. They’re not messing around. We should all be so diligent.
  7. The Silver Screen: I was twenty feet tall. The short film I shot last year was finished and had a sneak preview at the Twin Cities Film Festival. Seeing myself on the big screen was a bit surreal, especially since it focuses primarily on my character and I open and end the thing. It was exciting and makes me want to get to know the film community even better. (On a side note, the other day I discovered that the film is listed on IMDB, so subsequently I’m finally listed there too.)
  8. Disappointments: I wasn’t cast in many things, including one or two that I really wanted. But that’s to be expected. In one case I was sort of relieved to not be cast (even though I was a bit surprised.) I know this is all vague but why go into great details…I’m not naming names. Let’s just say that I was invited to audition for a play I hadn’t heard of but in researching it found it to be incredibly challenging and exciting. Done, for lack of a better word, correctly it could be an amazing and powerful piece of theatre. What I witnessed in the auditions and callbacks, particularly from the director and the choices she was making, was that this was not a stellar opportunity and in fact could be a complete train wreck. I debated for days whether I’d take the role when offered. I decided I wouldn’t because the “good enough” and lackluster approach I witnessed was…well, I guess it was challenging to my own standards and beliefs. (See Creed if you need to know more.) Yes, this probably makes me sound pompous. Of course, they didn’t cast me anyway. I unfortunately wasn’t able to see the show either due to my own work schedule, so I’m not sure how big that wreck may have been. I’m confident I made (or would’ve made) the right choice. It’s disappointing though because I think done right it could’ve made a huge splash on the theatre scene.
  9. 365 Images of 2011: I shot pictures. Lots and lot of pictures. I challenged myself to post a picture for each day (even if not posted every day.) I don’t think I’m going to make the goal, unless I take and choose another 30 or so in the next 5 hours. Nonetheless, I had fun doing it and found new and interesting images around me all the time. I think some even turned out to be good. I’ll probably add them here over the coming months.
  10. Nook: I read. A lot. Although I haven’t written about it I received a Nook for my birthday, and have subsequently doubled the number of books I’ve read. I never thought I’d have the capacity to read more than one book at a time, and keep things clear in my head about each one, but now…it’s only a matter of the mood I’m in when I crawl in to bed at night (that sounds so wrong, but it’s when I do most of my book reading) and I’ll have two or three different books going at a time. Super Sad True Love Story may have been my favorite of the year.
  11. What’s next: I imagined. I still have a small dream in the back of my head to make a film of The William Williams Effect. I know nothing about making a movie, truly, but I know some people who do. I’ve been thinking of taking a stab at putting together a film script version this winter. (Note to self: talk to co-writer.) Recently while driving through the rolling Iowa fields (strangely empty of snow for December) and listening to a Mumford and Sons album I was struck with some images of what the film might incorporate and how it might feel and flow. I think I’ll make it a longer term goal, but plan to find a project or two to write and shoot this coming year, as practice, as learning the craft of filmmaking, in preparation for what might come next with that story.

Picture in My Mind

This morning was another moment of me wishing I could have my camera with me at all times. Imagine along with me….

There’s the early sunlight on a very cold winter morning. White piles are everywhere after our record snow fall, and smoke drifts up from the car engines at the busy intersection.

The sky is almost perfectly clear but for the few wispy, high clouds that are slightly rippled, and a warm pink and orange sunrise is hitting them with brilliance, accenting their contours.

Almost silhouetted in this light is the last remnant of the Purina Mill, an eight-story tower, cut open and surrounded by the block-long rubble of destruction…while towering out in front of it is the demolition crane, with its wrecking ball tied up for the night, waiting to crank up for another day of smashing the concrete structure to bits.

It looked post-apocalyptic, and I wanted to capture it, that one moment that I know cannot ever be recreated. But the light changed and traffic moved on to take me away.