Frank Cwiklik Gets Wakki

May 28, 2008

Samantha Mason and Frank Cwiklik

If you’ve ever dreamt of visiting an island paradise with Amazon beauties, then dream no more – Frank Cwiklik will take you there. The theatrical visionary (he’s a writer, a director, a producer, a designer, and an actor) conjures such a world in his latest extravaganza The Wild, Wild Women of Wakki-Nunu. Produced by Frank’s theater company, Do What Now Media, and filled with many holdovers from the cast of his previous show – the dark and apocalyptic Bitch Macbeth Wakki-Nunu serves as yet another prime example of what Frank does best: create a totally immersive multimedia experience.

With the show successfully up and running at HorseTrade‘s The Red Room (down on East 4th Street), Frank took a minute to visit the ol’ blog and talk more about the show, his company, his background, and his aesthetic. Here’s what he told us…

Your new show like it’s quite a departure from your last one, Bitch Macbeth. What’s The Wild, Wild Women of Wakki-Nunu about, and where’d you get the idea for it?

It’s about a womanizing, over-the-hill TV actor who seeks to fake a voyage to a mythical island of Amazons, which turns out to be not so mythical, and not quite what he expected.  I had the idea a couple of years ago, and it was originally going to be a simpler burlesque show, but the idea grew and I realized the potential for a big, over-the-top sex farce and gender satire was more interesting than a simple gag show.  It also gives me an excuse to indulge my shameless love for old-fashioned comedy routines and general high-concept silliness.  The kernel of the idea was my amusement at the island-of-women concept, and how it relates to gender roles:  frankly, if there were an island of women, wouldn’t at least some, if not all of them, adopt male characteristics, including the worst of it?  There would certainly be Alpha Males — in this case, they’re basically all Alpha Males.

Was it a conscious decision on your part to do something so seemingly different from your last show?

Yes and no.  I wanted to do something lighter after Bitch Macbeth, as I never like to do the same thing twice in a row, but this show was originally slated for last year, until I bumped it in favor of Bitch, then came back to it.  It’s a party show, which I haven’t done in a while, and which are draining to do, but satisfying when they come off right.

This is your first original comedy since Sugarbaby! Why so long in-between new works?

I just didn’t have any ideas.  I wish I was the type to churn out stuff on a regular basis, but the concepts come to me, not the other way around.  I’ve had ideas for a couple of other original comedies between then and now, but nothing that I could get nailed down to any satisfying degree.  I also really, really hate the writing process — I hate sitting alone and staring at a blank screen trying to get words to come out, it bores the hell out of me, but I do it because, otherwise, I have no script.  Which can be a problem.

The Wild, Wild Women of Wakki-Nunu features two of your signature trademarks: sexual content and multimedia technology. What interests you about both?

I’ve always been girl-crazy and always will be because women are interesting and sexy and awesome, and we guys are, usually, kind of dorky and lame.  I also tend to be more comfortable writing for and working with women, which is why my male characters tend to be less interesting than the female characters.  I’m also fascinated by people’s response to and reaction to sex itself — cultural responses to the horizontal mambo tend to swing wildly in one direction or another, sometimes in rapid succession, and the level of hysteria, panic, and concern over it is something I find baffling and intriguing.  On the one hand, you have the pornofication of modern culture, where no one bats an eye at hooker-style tweener clothing being sold at the local Target (Bitch Macbeth was about this, to some extent);  while, on the other hand, you have the terrified, paranoid horror of sex pounded into us by both the puritanical, rigid right and the hysterical, paranoid left, with the real joy and pleasure of our sex being trampled in their wake.  I like pushing those buttons and exploring those ideas, because everyone can relate to them, and I don’t think any of us really have a grip on how something so simple can mess us up so badly.

As for multimedia, it’s another tool, like lighting, sound, performance, space, setting, even tickets and playbills — they’re all part of the experience, and I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t take full advantage of those tools to tell their story.  I love when place and mood can be set quickly and efficiently with the use of sound, lights, and video, freeing up the performers to concentrate solely on the emotional and story content, which is the meat of the thing.  People can see a lovely show or get a simple story on TV any night of the week — the entire point of theater should be immersion, being transported to another place, and anything less is a complete waste of potential.

You frequently collaborate with your wife, Michele Schlossberg. What’s your key to having both a successful personal and professional relationship together?

We both love entertaining audiences, and neither of us has any time for bullshit.

You are making a rare on-stage appearance in this show. To what do we owe the pleasure?

I couldn’t find anyone who was willing, capable and available to do the part, as it’s a monster.  Trust me, I’m looking forward to climbing back into my little tech booth and punching buttons on the next show.

You formerly helmed DMTheatrics, which disbanded several years ago, and have now started Do What Now Media. What led you to end one company and start another?

I got burnt out and needed a break — I thought I was done, but realized after a while that I just needed to make a change, rather than quit entirely.  The new company started when I got bored.  I am no longer bored, so it must have worked.  The name change is to reflect the fact that I was uncertain of what my next steps would be upon returning.  Now, it’s because it amuses me to think of a secretary or receptionist one day answering the phone, “Do What Now”, and confusing the hell out of people.

You’re back working at HorseTrade, which was DMTheatrics’ home base for many years. What keeps you coming back there?

They haven’t kicked me out yet.  Plus, the backrubs are awesome.

Also, The Red Room is a perfect room for what I do:  with a simple shift in lights, I can transform it from an intimate, tiny playing space into a huge, cavernous tunnel.  Those stairs are a bitch, though.

Any more plans once this show is finished?

I’m likely bringing back Nevada Territory, which is the spaghetti western for the stage we did some years ago.  I’m bringing it back because I was entertained by it and want to see it again.  There are also a few other projects I have in mind, but I’m trying to figure out which are most feasible and least likely to bankrupt me, as I have a hard time thinking in miniature anymore.  I do know that, now that I’ve started again, I have no intention of stopping.


Baby Lovin’ With Christen Clifford

May 16, 2008

Christen Clifford

First it started with an essay. Then it continued with a solo show that has played Europe and a variety of downtown venues here in New York. Now, actor-writer Christen Clifford tackles the big time with the Off-Broadway premiere of her show, BabyLove, in which she colorfully ruminates on what she calls “the eroticism of motherhood.” The show opened late last month at 45 Bleecker and runs until the first week of June. It is being presented by Hourglass Group, the producers of The Beebo Brinker Chronicles and the forthcoming Frequency Hopping.

With the show successfully up and running (and her son temporarily napping), Christen dropped by the ol’ blog to talk about the show, the Off-Broadway move, and what else she’s been up to since the last time I interviewed her. BabyLove director Julie Kramer (None of the Above, Mother Load) throws in a handy assist from time to time, as well.

When last we spoke, you were getting ready to open BabyLove at the very first FRIGID Festival. How did that run go?

The FRIGID was great for me: I got to work the show for seven performances instead of just of just one or two here and there. The other work in the festival was wild and wonderful. And it’s important to have a truly fringe festival in New York.

What have you been up to since then?
Well my son started PreK, only half days, but that’s been a big change since last year. Since I’m a stay at home and working mother (I just work when he’s asleep mostly!) his schedule is what dictates my schedule. Ummm..I got my MFA, won some writing awards (MFA New School Nonfiction Prize and a 2007 NYFA fellowship, woo-hoo!) I was supposed to be working on a book- if my agent is reading this I AM, I AM!!!

How has the show changed since then – or has it?
Christen: The show changes with my circumstances.  When I first started doing the show, I was still really caught up in many of the issues, still very confused about sex and motherhood.  Now I feel like I’ve gone over a mountain and am on the other side of it, so it has a different feel to it.  It used to be even more emotionally raw, it’s still pretty raw, but it used to be REALLY raw.  Now I have to act to access some of those emotions, when they used to just be there.
So that’s kind of a big difference.  After over two years, I am finally looking at the show as an actor!
Julie: The show has changed so much over the years that we’ve worked on it, though it’s probably changed the least between the Frigid Festival and now.  We’ve had the opportunity to do it so much out of town and it’s interesting to me how some things are pretty much exactly the same from when we first did it in Slovenia and other parts we have continued to refine.  Actually we changed some things for Frigid and this time we’ve gone back to how we did it before.  Also we brought Julie Atlas Muz back, and she expanded some of the dances, which is exciting. 
Mostly though, I think what’s changed has been Christen.  When we started Felix was two and everything was so raw and uncertain and frightening.  Now, he’s four.  Her marriage is strong and Felix is this really great little person.  So while the show is still unflinchingly honest and emotionally bare, I think we’re both able to achieve more clarity on what it’s about.

BabyLove originally came to life as an essay for What inspired you to write it, and then turn it into a solo show?
I was really confused sexually after having a baby.  I had identified myself sexually, and I felt like that part of my personality was gone, or not accessible.  Like I wanted to be a mother without losing myself, but I WAS fundamentally different.  But also unchanged in my basic desires and neurosis. 
So as a reader I turned to books, only to not find very much out there.  As a writer, studying with two great essayists at the time, Vivian Gornick and Phillip Lopate, I wrote from my own experience.  All of my solo work has developed out of a need to express something I didn’t find out in the world, some true bit of my experience that I hope has some universal truth in it.  It started from writing personal essays, on which I then collaborated with the fabulous director Julie Kramer to turn into performance texts.  Julie and I first met when I auditioned for her for a role in something for the American Living Room festival at HERE, a funny play about Elvis and a Russian woman and a pig:  I played the Russian. Julie has devoted a lot of time to my work and I am forever indebted to her.  I was very unhappy about feeling disconnected from my sexuality, and a lot of humor can come out of unhappiness.  Julie really uncovered the humor.
I am so grateful and lucky, this show has been supported by so many different companies- New Georges gave us discounted rehearsal space, so did the Interart Theatre.  The first time I did the show in New York was for the terraNOVA soloNova festival in 2006, and we did a lot of rewriting and rethinking during that run.  We’ve taken it on the road. And now this run at 45 Bleecker for Hourglass Group.

Christen Clifford & Family

Previously, you’ve said that the show is about “the eroticism of motherhood,” and that motherhood changed your ideas about sexuality and your body. How so?
Sex and love and intimacy overlap in romantic relationships.  My relationship with my newborn was the most intimate I’d ever had, and it was shocking to me.
Sexuality is so commodified these days, and motherhood is so commodified, and now there is the media-ization of the “sexy mommy” as if we have to look like Angelina Jolie when we are pregnant and be a stick six weeks afterward we give birth.
This doesn’t recognize the true experiences of many first time mothers: that your body is changed, often injured; that you are often completely in love with your newborns at the same that your relationship with your partners may be floundering, that your hormones are fluctuating.  So I really feel it’s important to talk about motherhood and sexuality together without it being part of a media trend that just makes most women feel badly about themselves. 
Principally, I’m interested in exploring the in-between moments, the grey areas between love and sex and intimacy.  Where we are all trying to connect.  And solo performance and storytelling has been a vibrant way to explore this: I love the shared experience of the theatre, to find community with an audience that might be shocked by my admissions.  Though I use sexuality as a way in, the work is always ultimately about love.
Maternal sexuality is actually an issue that involves us all, as children and women and men and parents. The director Julie Kramer always says it’s like the opposite of Phillip Roth romanticizing or fantasizing about his mother- now we get to see the mother’s point of view!

Let’s switch gears for a minute and talk about Hourglass Group. How’d you get hooked up with them?
I first met artistic director Elyse Singer at a party at our mutual friend Erica Gould’s in the early nineties. Erica had this huge Chinatown loft and always threw big parties that were lots of fun, and I met Elyse and I had seen her production of Love in the Void (  which was a one woman play in which Carolyn Baeumler did Courtney Love posting online just after Kurt Cobain died.  I was not a big Cobain fan but I fascinated by Courtney, and I LOVED that they had taken her posts and made them into a show.  It was so great.  And this was when the Internet was still fairly new, I remember I went to see it and I tried to get onto these message boards and couldn’t figure it out.
I did some readings and workshops with Hourglass.  When Felix was very young we did a two-week workshop of a very interesting play called 800 Words: the transmigration of Phillip K. Dick by Victoria Stewart and it felt so great being able to bring Felix to rehearsals with a babysitter.  Elyse had had her daughter a few months after I had my son, so there was an acknowledgement of motherhood.
And then in 2005 Elyse and I were taking about solo work and she had the idea for a Lab devoted to female writer /performers.  The Lab is the first of its kind, which is very cool and also just a super supportive group of creative and diverse women – together we avoid the vacuum of solo performance.
And Hourglass Group is all mothers now: in addition to Elyse, Nina Hellman and Carolyn Baeumler both gave birth in the last year.  And Carolyn was just in Beebo Brinker at 37 Arts, and Elyse is opening Frequency Hopping at 3LD, so I’m happy to be a part of this group of mothers making theatre.

How have you enjoyed prepping the show for Off-Broadway?
Christen: I loved it.  I was so happy to get back in a rehearsal room with Julie Kramer, who is just so smart and I love working with her.  We had some sessions with the amazing Julie Atlas Muz and re-did some choreography.  She asked me if I wanted to make it dirtier and I said, “YES!”  So we have even more fun with the dance sequences now.  And Elizabeth Rhodes came in to rework some sound.  Costume designer Melissa Schlachtmeyer met me at maternity stores to find the perfect pair of pants, and made me a new belly. I am so lucky to have such generous collaborators who have been helping me work and rework the show over the years; we’re all in this together.  And we brought in Graham Kindred to do our lights, and had a consultation with a great set designer, Lauren Helpern, and added a Mylar rain curtain.  I love shiny things!
Julie: It’s always great to be able to revisit something, to have that confidence that it works in front of all kinds of audiences, and just to be able to really hone in on those areas that we want to be perfect.  It’s the best kind of rehearsal situation really, because there are fewer variables in terms of how or whether something is going to work.  And it’s always the best to be able to move forward with a show and bring it to more and more people, especially when you really believe in what the show is about.

Part of the performance schedule includes “Mommy matinees.” What time of day is best for theatergoing mommies?
Well, Sunday afternoons are pretty easy to get out get out of the house, you leave the kid(s) with your partner or a friend.  It saves you from having to make a big deal of going to the theatre and getting a babysitter and coming home late and tired.  And the Wednesday matinees are early, at 1pm, so parents can get back to school for 3pm pick up, or see the show on their lunch hour. 

What are some of the challenges (and advantages) you face in balancing motherhood and performing?
Well, first of all, I don’t buy into the whole “opting in” and “opting out” of motherhood that makes headlines.  For me, it’s not a choice to work or not.  Personally, I don’t have the option of having a high-powered job and hiring a nanny.  I can’t not be a mother, I can’t not be a writer/performer – these are givens for me. I also just started teaching.  So it’s a challenge for me to make my way in the world and piece it together the only way I know how.
When I was getting my MFA I’d be up until 1am writing and still have to get up with my son.  So I stayed sleep deprived long after my son was sleeping through the night in order to do my own work.  It’s definitely a DIY business model.
That said, I think coming from downtown theatre makes me scrappy in a way that’s a good influence on being a mother – the whole beg, borrow, or steal mentality makes you flexible and I feel like we can always find fun wherever we are.
When Felix was little, he would just travel with me- well partly because I breastfed him for so long!  When Julie and I premiered the show in Ljubljana, the festival there put us all up in an apartment and even arranged childcare for me and paid for it! 
I like to bring him to tech rehearsals, he loves the lights and gels, he loves to come to the theatre and explore different spaces.  He loves it and I think it’s important to see me at work, since he can’t see the work.  BabyLove is for adults only; it even came with a warning label in Canada. My son is old enough to really know what theatre is now – I take him to children’s theatre – and he likes to give people the postcards for my show and tell them, “Here’s a postcard for my mommy’s show.  It’s not for children.  It’s only for grown ups.”  It’s so cute!

You’re expecting your second child later this year. Congratulations on that! Might we see BabyLove 2 sometime in the future?
Thank you. I’m excited and scared to bring another human being into the world.  I don’t see BabyLove 2 in the works; I’m not fond of sequels in general. But who knows: when the new baby comes everything will change again.
I’m actually looking at sex from the perspective of a daughter instead of a mother now.  My new solo is called (What I Know About) My Parents’ Sex Life and it explores elderly sexuality.  I’m looking at everything from my father’s Viagra prescription to my mother’s racy letters, from nursing homes to granny porn.  Daniel Fish will direct it, and it opens June 17th at P.S. 122 as part of terraNOVA’s soloNOVA festival and I got an equipment loan grant from Digital Performance Institute so we’ll be using video and I’m excited that it will be something I’m not used to.  So I have to get to work making a new show.  And it’s scary, because though it is still a solo with personal stories, I’m consciously moving away from the storytelling form that I’ve been working in for the past few years.  I’m excited to see what will happen.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses Review

May 15, 2008

Laura Linney and Ben Daniels

My review of Les Liaisons Dangereuses is up and running, as of today. Here’s a little sample:

With their new Broadway production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of the 1782 novel by Choderlos de Laclos, Roundabout Theatre Company once again proves that when it comes to high-end revivals no other company in town does them better. This classy production exhibits their trademark care, elegance, and good taste. Solid acting, striking design, and clear direction proliferate in this revival, which emerges as a worthy successor to both the original 1987 Broadway production and director Stephen Frears’s classic 1988 film version, Dangerous Liaisons.”

You can read the rest here.

Indiana Jones Denied Tenure

May 14, 2008

Dr. Henry \"Indiana\" Jones, Jr.

Here’s a little something from the annals of McSweeney’s: a letter from the Chair of the Marshall College Department of Anthropology explaining why Dr. Henry Jones, Jr. – better known to the world-at-large as Indiana Jones – was denied tenure. (Courtesy of my sister, Carla, who was awesome to send this to me. Thanks, Carla!) 

James Comtois Gets Colorful

May 5, 2008

James Comtois

The superhero genre is about to get re-defined – that is, if James Comtois has anything to say about it. The prolific author of such indie theater hits as The Adventures of Nervous-Boy and Suburban Peepshow returns with a brand new play, Colorful World, that aims to stand the world of caped crusaders on its ear while still getting in some kick-ass fights. The play, produced by Nosedive Productions (the company James co-helms with director Pete Boisvert), opens this week at the 78th Street Theater Lab. Amidst the flurry of pre-opening activity, James generously took some time to stop by the ol’ blog and chat about the play. Here’s what the man himself had to say…

Your new play is about superheroes but doesn’t sound like it’s your average superhero story. What made you go with superheroes this time around and how does differ from (or maybe even subvert) the superhero genre?

Well, I originally wanted to do a “riff” on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal comic Watchmen (which, if you haven’t read it, is a brilliant deconstructionist take on the superhero genre that ended up radically changing the mainstream comic book industry) in the way that Sheila Callaghan wrote Dead City as a riff on James Joyce’s Ulysses.  But of course, as I wrote the script, it slowly and steadily veered onto its own path and became its own story, although fans of Watchmen will definitely see several parallels, similarities and in-jokes.

The premise behind Colorful World is that, in the late-‘80s, a man who’s bulletproof and impervious to pain is revealed to the world.  No one knows why and no one knows how he became this way.  The existence of this invincible man (dubbed “Overman”) changes the world as we know it in both subtle and drastic ways; the biggest of which being a trend of people dressing up in flashy outfits to go beat people up in back alleys.

The bulk of the story takes place about a decade after the costumed crimefighting trend has fizzled, and centers around a few retired crimefighters who look back on their careers with more bitterness and embarrassment than pride. 

So, Colorful World differs from the superhero genre in that it’s more concerned with the cultural and political landscape and the bruised psyches of the retired crimefighters than with guys in tights beating each other up (although Qui Nguyen has made sure there are many ultra kick-ass fight scenes throughout).  I also suppose it’s a little more melancholy than your average superhero story, since it speculates that discovering the existence of a Superman-like being is ultimately depressing once the novelty wears off.

I have nothing against conventional superhero stories; I just don’t think I have it in me to write one.  Once I start writing about a superhero I start wondering what psychological problems he or she has (because, let’s face it, prowling the streets in a cape and mask is a bit…off) or what physical problems he or she would acquire (wouldn’t years of crime-fighting mess up your knees pretty badly?).  I know you’re not supposed to worry about these things when you’re reading a copy of Batman (and I usually don’t), but when I’m writing a story like that on my own, I just can’t help it.

Colorful World takes place in an alternate realty where the Twin Towers are still standing and the Iraq War is ending. Those two things have figured very prominently in the public consciousness for years now. What made you decide to include such a specific take on both?

Probably because those two things have figured very prominently in the public conscious for years now.  The show bombards the audience with a great deal of information in very a short period of time, so Pete [Boisvert, the show’s director] and I have been trying to find the right balance of not being too heavy-handed or overwhelming yet not being too obscure or confusing.  The best thing we came up with is to show at least one or two things from the get-go that are right on the nose — in this case, a big title card saying “2005” and an image of the World Trade Center and an advertisement for a “Welcome Home Troops” show — to help the audience find their bearings.  There are definitely other elements in the show that indicate this (and the in-tact WTC and ending of the Iraq War aren’t even the biggest changes, in my mind), but these two elements seemed to be the easiest to convey.

As for what the show’s take on these two events are, well, you’re just going to have to find out for yourself…

You’re a well-known fan of the fantasy, science fiction, and horror genres, all of which are massively popular in comic books, movies, television shows, and books. And yet you write plays which increasingly touch upon – and incorporate – all of these genres. How did first become interested in A) writing plays, and B) bringing these genres to the theater?

Yeah, I admit it.  I am very much a fan of those genres you’ve mentioned.  I grew up on Star Wars, Doctor Who, The Amazing Spider-Man, Isaac Asimov, and Stephen King.  I never outgrew them.  I know.  A real highbrow am I. 

I suppose it’s only natural that these genres have shaped my writing.  I actually started writing comic book scripts and screenplays in high school and college before moving on to playwriting.  Since I couldn’t — and can’t — draw, and couldn’t convince any of my artist friends to finish illustrating any of my scripts (mainly because I never understood how much faster and easier it was to write a 20-page comic than it was to pencil, ink, and letter one, so I’d scare away my artist friends by sending them five scripts when they were halfway through drawing the first page of issue #1), I gave up on writing comics.  The same problem went with movies, only worse (reasonably-priced high-definition digital video cameras weren’t immediately accessible in 1996).  So, I became interested in writing plays in college when I realized that writing scripts for comics or movies would never get any further than the printed page.

I guess I bring these genres to the theatre because, well, I like these genres, and I try to write plays that I would want to go see.  To be honest, very few of my creative influences are theatrical; most of them are from comics, movies, and prose fiction.  So yeah, it just makes sense that my scripts bear a closer resemblance to stories that are often found within those media than from other plays (which isn’t to say that I’m completely uninfluenced by other plays).

You and Colorful World director Pete Boisvert started Nosedive Productions in order for you to get your plays produced and for him to work as a director. Has it gotten easier over the years to be your own producers? And how has the indie theater landscape changed (if at all) since you guys started up?

In some ways, it’s become easier, since many of the nuts-and-bolts tasks and chores inherent to producing a play (finding a space, conducting rehearsals, sending out the press releases, filling out the insurance paperwork) have become second nature to us at this point.  But of course, it’s also become harder in some ways, since we always feel compelled to “step up” our game every time we produce a new show in some way or another.  You’re competing with a hell of a lot of options for how someone’s going to spend their night out, and that’s not really gotten any easier.  I don’t think it ever will. 

I have no idea how the indie theatre scene has changed; I only know how Nosedive’s involvement with the scene has changed.  We definitely feel more integrated within it, but that may be because we weren’t really integrated within it at all the first couple years we were producing (we didn’t really know anyone or interact with any other companies, aside from maybe a very small handful).  So that’s changed, but I’m not sure if that’s so much a reflection of the scene itself or Nosedive.

You and Pete have been collaborators for a long time now. What’s the connection between you two? What do you like about working together?

Yeah, it’s been about eight years now.  Good Lord! 

Oddly enough, we’re very different people with very different personalities and sensibilities, so that disparity may be a big contributing factor.  We also know each other’s styles pretty damn well (hell, after eight years, we better!), so if I give Pete a particularly oddball script, he’s not lost in the tall grass; he has a pretty decent idea of where it’s (I’m) coming from, if that makes any sense. 

He also comes up with pretty neat ideas for the stage that I could never come up with on my own.  That scene in The Adventures of Nervous-Boy where Nervous-Boy buys a bottle of rum and this giant monster paw comes from offstage to hand it to him?  Yeah, that’s all Pete.  There’s nothing in the script to indicate that the liquor store clerk is some monster/demon.  But it’s a really nice effect that worked like gangbusters with audiences.  So, stuff like that. 

Also, having Patrick Shearer on board since 2001 as actor, director, and/or sound designer (depending on what we need him to do; in the case of Colorful World, he’s acting and sound designing) has been pretty crucial in creating Nosedive’s aesthetic.  (Holy crap; did I seriously write the words “Nosedive’s aesthetic?”  I’m ashamed of me.)  For the most part, we all leave each other alone and trust each other to do our jobs. 

As for what Pete and Patrick like about working with me, you’d probably have to ask them.  I’m under the impression they’ve been politely putting up with me and my shenanigans and I’m slowly and steadily sapping them of their wills to live.

Dude, you’re a pretty prolific writer – how do you do it? And what have you got in store for us after Colorful World?

Well, heh, thank you for saying so, Michael, that’s very flattering.  I don’t think I am, since I only see all the projects I drop the ball on or complete substantially later than I was supposed to (i.e. I only see what I eff up), but that’s very nice of you to say so. 

How do I do it?  I’m not sure.  I mean…what else am I gonna do, man? There are a few possibilities for follow-ups.  We’re pretty sure there’ll be another Blood Brothers horror anthology show in October.  Then, Nosedive may either stage a full-length version of Pinkie, the serial western-noir play we staged for Vampire Cowboys’ “Saturday Night Saloon,” or I may work on this idea Qui gave me that sounds just too good to pass up (though I’m far from ready to reveal any details about that).  And although we can’t do it this summer, the ship hasn’t completely sailed on the idea of touring/remounting The Adventures of Nervous-Boy.  We shall see.

What a Difference a Year Makes

May 2, 2008

In the recent hoopla surrounding Babylon Babylon, I forgot to observe a momentous occasion last month: on April 10th this blog turned one year old.

Holy crap.

I honestly didn’t think I would make it that long. Considering that I was never a diligent diary keeper or journal writer, I thought that maybe I’d fire off a couple of entries and then let this thing languish in limbo for months at a time. But, for the most part, that hasn’t happened, and I’ve gotten into the spirit of blogging enough to maintain this thing on a semi-regular basis. Will wonders never cease?

As the blog’s birthday rolled around last month, I got to reminiscing about where I was a year ago when I started this whole enterprise. And, boy, lemme tell ya – I was not in a good way.

Last April I was reeling from the unexpected breakup of a relationship that left me devastated. The way I usually handle such things is to lock myself in my room and stay there for months on end. But this last time, I decided I didn’t want to do that. Sure, I was sad and depressed, but I didn’t want to turn that energy inward and eat myself alive with self-loathing (a familiar coping mechanism). No, I wanted to do something different – something that would turn my attentions outward, keep me optimistic, and maybe make me feel better.

I wanted to do something potentially unpredictable (at least, to me). And I think what I chose fit the bill perfectly.

I decided to revive my long-dormant acting career.

With one notable exception, I hadn’t really acted for the better part of the last seven years. So I didn’t know if this was going to work. Especially since all the theater people in my life knew me only as a reviewer, not as an artistic type. Reviewers are often looked upon as the enemy, so I thought I might be facing an uphill battle.

But, I had to do something. So, I got new headshots taken, spiffed up the ol’ resume, and started sending those puppies out.

And the universe responded. In spades.

I’ll spare you the play-by-play of what happened next. The short version is that I landed an audition a week after getting those headshots, landed the gig the week after that, and have thankfully been rolling pretty much ever since. Overnight, the numerous theater folks I’d met in various capacities over the past couple of years turned into an extensive network of contacts and advocates, all of whom helped me out in one way or another. The community opened its arms and embraced me wholeheartedly. I was in awe of the whole thing then, and am still in awe of it now. And massively grateful.

So, as I look at where I am now, compared to where I was this time last year, I see that I have come quite a long way.

In the past twelve months, I’ve acted in six shows (one of which was my Off-Broadway debut).

I actually got paid for one of them. Quite unexpectedly, I might add. It was the first time I’d ever been paid for acting in a play. Wow. What a feeling.

Depending on how things go, I’ve got my next four acting gigs already lined up.

On April 10th, the blog’s one-year birthday, I met with a commercial agent who agreed to take me on as a freelance client. Happy Birthday, indeed.

And, most importantly, I met The Companion. This month it’ll be six months since our first date. She is the light and the love of my life, and the greatest gift I could have possibly gotten. I cherish and treasure every day I have with her, and am so happy to have her in my life.

So, I’d like to take a moment to thank all the people who played some sort of major part (whether they knew it or not) in my personal and professional turnaround this past year. The friendship, support, and inspiration I got from all of you has meant the world to me, and I look forward to many more years of it.

(in alphabetical order…)

Gyda Arber, Melanie Armer, Aaron Baker, Pete Boisvert, Elizabeth Bunnell, Isaac Butler, Hope Cartelli, Maggie Cino, James Comtois, Stephanie Cox-Williams, the Criscuolo family (Mom, Pop, sister Carla, and brother Greg), Frank Cwiklik, Dominic D’Andrea, Amy Davidson, Martin Denton, Rochelle Denton, Kevin Doyle, Bryan Enk, Michael Gardner, Jessi Gotta, Ashlin Halfnight, Ian W. Hill, Robert Honeywell, Leonard Jacobs, Matt Johnston, Jeff Lewonczyk, Jeni Mahoney, Cathy McNelis, Debbi Morgan, Chance Muehleck, Robin Reed, Iracel Rivero, Mac Rogers, Trav S.D., Michele Schlossberg, Patrick Shearer, Gary Shrader, Christine Simpson, Alexis Sottile, Stephen Speights, Moira Stone, Melanie Sylvan, Daniel Talbott, Sara Thigpen, and Jordana Williams.

And since I owe you all a Random Friday Top 10 for both last week and today, here’s a special Random Friday Top 20 in honor of today’s post: Top 20 Songs/Cuts That Got Me Through the Year (courtesy of my iTunes library). Here we go (in alphabetical order)…

  • “7/4 Shoreline” – Broken Social Scene (Broken Social Scene)
  • “Fortress” – Pinback (Summer in Abaddon)
  • “Frank & Ava” – Suzanne Vega (Beauty & Crime)
  • “I Think it’s Going to Rain Today” – Randy Newman (Randy Newman: Live)
  • “Landed” – Ben Folds (Songs for Silverman)
  • “Let’s See Action” – Pete Townshend (Anthology
  • “Look Out Any Window” – Bruce Hornsby (Intersections: 1985-2005)
  • “Ludlow Street” – Suzanne Vega (Beauty & Crime)
  • “Ode to Divorce” – Regina Spektor (Soviet Kitsch)
  • “On the Radio” – Regina Spektor (Begin to Hope)
  • “Peace Attack” – Sonic Youth (Sonic Nurse)
  • “Revelations” – Superchunk (Foolish)
  • “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” – Robert Palmer (Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley)
  • “Take it Back” – Pink Floyd (The Division Bell)
  • “The Dream (from Total Recall)” – Jerry Goldsmith (Varese Sarabande: A 25th Anniversary Celebration)
  • “The Empty Page” – Sonic Youth (Murray Street)
  • “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” – The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (Bernard Herrmann – The Essential Film Music Collection)
  • “The Last Starfighter” – The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (The Science Fiction Album)
  • “The Pretender” – Jackson Browne (Solo Acoustic – Vol. 1)
  • “Turquoise Boy” – Sonic Youth (Rather Ripped)

And, for shits and giggles, here are some bonus tracks…

  • “California Soul” – Marlena Shaw (The Spice of Life)
  • “Crazy Mama” – The Rolling Stones (Black and Blue)
  • “Hand of Fate” – The Rolling Stones (Black and Blue)
  • “Main Theme (from Silverado)” – Bruce Broughton (The Wild West – The Essential Western Film Music Collection)
  • “The Shape is in a Trance” – Thurston Moore (Trees Outside the Academy)

Happy Friday, everybody. Have a great weekend. And count your blessings. You may find you have more of them than you thought.