Timothy Mooney, writes about life on the road, performing one-man plays, and sharing workshops and thoughts on acting, classical theatre, Shakespeare and Moliere! Tim is author/performer of BREAKNECK HAMLET, SHAKESPEARE'S HISTORIES; TEN EPIC PLAYS AT A BREAKNECK PACE!, MOLIERE THAN THOU, LOT O' SHAKESPEARE, THE GREATEST SPEECH OF ALL TIME and CRITERIA, A ONE-MAN COMIC SCI-FI THRILLER! He is also the author of 17 new Moliere adaptations, and the acting text, ACTING AT THE SPEED OF LIFE!
Tim Mooney is an Actor/ Author/Director, known for his hilarious rhymed versions of the plays of Moliere, his several books on acting and classical theatre, as well as his one-man shows, including BREAKNECK HAMLET, MOLIERE THAN THOU, LOT O' SHAKESPEARE, SHAKESPEARE'S HISTORIES and THE GREATEST SPEECH OF ALL TIME! He tours high schools and colleges, festivals and conferences through the year.
The Timothy Mooney Repertory Theatre is now under the fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas, a 501(c)3 organization! If you'd like to support our mission of "Inspiring, Informing, Enlightening, Educating and Entertaining through our Great Theatrical Thinkers," your contribution by way of THIS LINK is now deductible! (...to the extent permited by law). (This is our first step toward going not-for-profit under our own "umbrella.")
Southern Union State Community College is the first college ever to request “The Greatest Speech of All Time” and “Shakespeare’s Histories; Ten Epic Plays at a Breakneck Pace” as part of the same evening’s entertainment. Both of them trace a historical series of events in chronological order, with “Speech” spanning from 500 BC to 1968, and “Histories” spanning from 1066-1533, and it works, at least theoretically: We take a look at the macro and the micro in short order, spanning some 2500 years, and focusing in tighter on some 500 years. It was a combination that could bring history alive in a vivid way to folks who may know next to nothing about the people and events of those periods.
Through the glare you can see the seemingly incongruous juxtaposition of the "Shakespeare's Histories" graphic against the "Greatest Speech" graphic.
But mostly, this combination was the result of my host having seen me do both of these shows in past SETC conferences, and he knew, at least, that he liked them both.
And while I have had much more experience at pairing “Moliere” with “Lot o’ Shakespeare” or “Shakespeare’s Histories” with “Breakneck Hamlet” (or various permutations in-between), this combination felt different enough that preparation was a challenge. I got into town a couple of days early and walked about reciting each at least twice a day.
All of this is by way of saying that I screwed up my lines for “Greatest Speech” at least three times in the opening Socrates speech, and found myself playing “catch-up” through the night.
The screw-ups didn’t last long (though they seemed INTERMINABLE to me), and I got through the remainder of “Speech” and all of “Histories” without further mishap, but by that time I was already feeling like it was a lost cause.
Apparently the students and faculty did not have the same feeling, as they gave me a generous standing ovation afterwards. My favorite Alabama “groupie” was in the audience, as Jenny Moody (no relation/not a typo), who has seen me perform about 5 different times, sometimes traveling large distances, this time only had to travel from about an hour away. (Jenny is a history teacher, and corrected me on the fact that the hundred years war was NOT 114 years, but, in fact, 116 years long.)
I pushed on through Mississippi, Louisiana and well into Texas, where I did workshops at the Trinity School of Midland, Texas, and performed at the nearby community theatre. The father of one of the school’s students was the Artistic Director of the theatre, and we had a fun show for perhaps a hundred in a rather large auditorium (on the set of “The Little Mermaid”).
Pete & Betty
Happy Pete in Idyllwild
The plan had been to head on from there to another performance in Idyllwild, California. My good friend, Betty Ginsberg Anderson had arranged for a performance at a local restaurant, and I’d even done an interview with a local paper, but, sadly, days before the planned performance, Betty’s ex-husband Pete Pedro Anderson, who had been a good friend, a warm, appreciative supporter (and a huge talent in his own right) over the years, had died following a bout with pneumonia. Knowing that no one in town (least of all, Betty) would be in the mood for a play in the midst of the tributes and funeral preparations, I begged off, with plans to return to southern California the following fall. (Miss you, Pete!)
Babies R Delicious
I rerouted my passage from Texas on up to Kansas City, where Allan and Sandy once again provided me a shelter from the rough-and-tumble life on the road. The tour was off to a challenging start, with only three performances in the first month of travel, and I needed to limit gas and hotel expenses as much as possible. Before too long, I was heading out from Chicago, this time with April driving behind me, as we worked our way down to Carbondale, Illinois, where her daughter, Amber, who graduated last December, had given birth to a tiny baby girl, Charlotte Rae, a couple of weeks prior.
From Carbondale, we continued on to Greensboro, North Carolina, with three fun days at the Southeast Theatre Conference. Once again, I had an exhibit booth, with books and t-shirts for sale, and I would be appearing on a panel (aimed at encouraging actors toward entrepreneurship and creating their own theatre). There was lots of traffic this year, and many who have seen, and/or booked me over many years. All of the energy was focused on promoting “Breakneck Hamlet,” which I would be performing on the last morning of the event. All week long, April and I handed out flyers for the Saturday performance, inflated balloons, and gave away stickers. As usual, I put the “Lot o’ Shakespeare” bingo cage out front and welcomed curious passers-by to spin the balls... as it were.
I have learned, over the years, not to get my hopes up for a huge turn-out for performances at conferences. However much people might assure me of their plans to attend the show, I’m used to spare handfuls of good friends and past hosts, with perhaps a couple of dozen attendees that I don’t quite recognize.
This time they opened the doors to the huge ballroom in which I would be performing, and people poured in, including the usual friends and hosts, but this time it felt like the audience was at least 50% “newbies:” students and faculty who I may have only met in passing in the exhibit hall, or perhaps never before.
Perhaps 300 of the 800 seats in this large ballroom were quickly filled, and I welcomed them all into the space, passing out stickers and programs, while encouraging them to sit at the front of the hall. (Plays are always better when the audience sits in tight proximity to each other.) After about ten minutes of folks filing in, I slipped backstage, just long enough to pull my focus together, watch the lights go down, and start the show.
Which went great.
There’s a special pleasure to speaking without a microphone in a large space: feeling the “surround sound” of my voice fill the room and resonate back. And while at least 50% of that space was empty of audience, the acoustics of the room demanded that I “speak through” its entire cubic footage.
This is another of my secret super powers. Decades of performing have given me a hyper-awareness of the dimensions of the room, and the rhythm in which my voice reaches the far walls and bounces back at me. This becomes crucial when the echo of my voice overlaps with any new sound that might be coming out of my mouth, and something in me “knows” just how much space to leave between one word and the next, and “rides the wave” of that resonance. (I have spent so many hours sitting through so much incomprehensible dialogue, that I just wish that I could impart this special spidey sense with everyone.)
After the show, I returned to the exhibit hall for the one hour that remained, before packing up and heading west once again. Meanwhile, the following post showed up on my Facebook feed:
Guys, guys, guys! I just saw Tim Mooney's "Breakneck Hamlet" at SETC, and you GOTTA see it. It's going to be at Orlando Fringe this year. It's like Shakespeare, stand-up comedy and Shakespearean studies education had a baby. -- (Ashleigh Ann Gardner)
Four relentless days of driving from North Carolina to Fresno, California, followed, tweeting out pictures of state signs along the way, pulling into town just in time to do a tech rehearsal and a performance of “Breakneck Hamlet.” I didn’t have much publicity preceding me, but there was THIS ARTICLE that I had written for Kings River Life. I also managed to make it onto a couple of local television talk shows, though at least one of them seemed to be a scam to get me to pay money to get the clip on their YouTube channel.
The Rogue Theatre Festival is a two week affair which always manages to overlap one weekend with the Southeast Theatre Conference, and while, four years ago, I managed to perform one weekend of “Lot o’ Shakespeare” before racing off to do SETC the following weekend, this time I was running the other direction, catching them after the festival had been on for a week already.
And while last time, I had been sincerely impressed and excited by the attendance and support for my Weekend #1 performance, this time, the bloom seemed to be well off of the rose for a show that didn’t even start its run until Weekend #2, and my numbers were very low. I found myself questioning the urgency of racing across the country.
There were, however, still some terrific (some, less terrific) responses. Here’s what I clipped and saved:
Tonight I saw Tim Mooney's "Breakneck Hamlet". It is masterfully performed and written. You don't need to know Hamlet to enjoy the show and if you know Hamlet, well you'll find something new to the play you've never seen before. I've read this play more times than I can count and I still learned something new tonight I had never known. Mooney straddles the line between Shakespeare scholars and non-theatre goers. See this show!! - (Renee Elizabeth Newlove)
Much more grounded and true to the original material than its cartoonish counterparts… His face and body are expressive without being over-the-top (suggestion: watch his eyes). There are no goofy accents or costume changes, just one man’s talent, skill and enthusiasm. All the famous words are here and with Mooney’s recitation, they finally make sense… I never cared much for Hamlet… But tonight my opinion was changed in 45 minutes. It could happen to you, too. – (Mallory Moad, KingsRiverLife.com)
Photo by Bob Marcotte
A one-man performance… that entertained, educated, and established Mooney as a stalwart Bard actor… making his rendition one for the fringe festival ages. Mooney’s stellar commitment and fluid pacing was exhausting but pleasing to watch… This was a one-man Hamlet done right! -- (Marc Gonzalez, The Roadto 1000)
This one-hour soliloquy whirlwind was difficult to weather without a seatbelt... Mooney's explanation of the innuendos and history added something extra to a typical production... Overall it was a great performance -- perfect for anyone who loves Shakespeare and/or lacks the patience necessary to sit through a full production. - (Rory Appleton, FresnoBeehive)
Tim "that Shakespeare Guy" Mooney is undoubtedly a well-trained, well-versed Shakespearean actor. His diction is impeccable, his movements are clear and precise, his stage presence, friendly and engaging. Within seconds into his performance of "Breakneck Hamlet"... I knew I was in the hands of a professional; someone who is as familiar and fond of what is, perhaps the pinnacle English play as I am. By the time Mooney launched into Hamlet's first soliloquy, I found myself jealous I hadn't come up with the concept for his production myself. What a fun and rewarding idea, from an execution standpoint. Getting to perform all the best monologues from multiple characters in a great play, all at once? Sign me up! - (Haley White, "What's My Call Time")
The Breakneck Hamlet Companion, on display at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Tudor Guild Gift Shop
For this last review, I have limited myself to quoting the first paragraph. I always have a sense of a review which keeps you waiting for the other shoe to drop, in which the writer is then going to go on to tell you why those opening thoughts were less relevant than their ultimate opinion, and this certainly turned out to be one of those. But, I don't want to get defensive about what I think turns into a rather pedantic critique. You are welcome to read the entire thing, HERE, if you are curious, but I'm guessing that it's not this writer's best work. As briefly as I might, I'll simply say that clearly I didn't write the play that she (the woman who wishes she'd come up with this concept herself), would have written had she the chance.
The Astoria Bridge to Washington (from my hotel room)
Astoria Bridge at Sunset
I continued north once again, selling more books to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival gift shop, checking in with my brother, Pat in Salem, and performing for the the high school in Astoria, Oregon for the second time in the last six months. This time, they put me up in a terrific hotel, almost in the shadow of the bridge reaching across to Washington State, in a room so close to the water, I could practically touch it from the balcony of my room.
“Breakneck Hamlet” was a hit with this group (just as “Moliere than Thou” was last semester), and I spent a couple of days visiting friends in Portland, before heading back to the coast to work with the Coaster Theatre, which was hosting me for two days of childrens’ workshops, and a performance of “The Greatest Speech of All Time.” And I scored AGAIN, with an amazing hotel overlooking the water!
Racing off again, I had a very quick visit with Joe Proctor in Spokane (still waiting on his heart transplant!), and crossed the mountains into Idaho and Montana, just ahead of a winter storm that was threatening to slow me down amid the treacherous passages.
I crossed back to Chicago in record time, where I started the latest “mega-mailing,” emailing to 15,000 faculty around the country. Usually I don’t begin this process until the tour has wrapped up, but with a significant amount of down-time between performances, I figured that I might catch teachers BEFORE they left on vacation, while they might still have a chance to consult with colleagues. (It seems to have been a good move.)
Lou Ann and I
I headed for Angola, Indiana, where Lou Ann Holman was booking me to do “Breakneck Hamlet” for Trine University. Lou Ann was in the audience for the performance at the Indy Fringe Festival last summer (she was actually the one who I targeted as “Ophelia” in the front row during a notably hilarious scene). She was making a major Shakespeare event out of it, delivering sonnets on the town square every day in April (I showed up to do one). Unfortunately, the auditorium I wound up in had extremely limited lighting and an odd performing configuration with the lights on the auditorium floor (the 8 feet or so between the stage and the audience) much brighter than on the stage, itself.
The Trine Faculty & I
I improvised my way through, placing half of the performance on the stage and half on the auditorium floor, literally jumping down and back up, in the middle of scenes, and sometimes in the middle of lines, as the impulse carried me… creating, for instance, the Hamlet/Laertes fencing strip down in front of the audience, while King Claudius and Gertrude observed from above. It was exhausting, but very effective, and the hundred or so in the crowd laughed and applauded warmly. (Rebecca threw a party at her house afterwards, and I enjoyed being the center of attention… which seems to be my thing.)
Sonnet on the Square
From Indiana, I headed for Aston, Pennsylvania, with my second appearance at Newmann University. This time, the French teacher was bringing me in to do a show that would be mostly “Lot o’ Shakespeare,” with a little “Moliere than Thou” tacked on at the end. About 20 students showed up and seemed a little startled by the very energetic man with the loud voice and large memory. They were none too quick to volunteer when it came to the “Measure for Measure” sexual-harassment scene, but one of the teachers gladly stepped in and it worked.
I pushed on to Allentown, Pennsylvania that night, where I discovered that the hotel bar had karaoke, with a rotation of just three singers... Having sung Nilsson, Cocker, Ides of March, Billy Joel, Tokens and Bowie... my voice was pretty much shot for the rest of the week...
Providence, RI Courthouse
Providence, RI Statehouse
I spent a couple of days visiting my friend, and fellow playwright, Mike Folie, in Congers, New York, before heading for a performance at Brown University (my first “Ivy League” show!) as arranged by Mel Yoken, a very vocal advocate of my work who had booked me over a decade prior, at U-Massachusetts-Dartmouth. This was part of the annual “Mel and Cindy Yoken Lecture Series,” and another old friend, Joseph Scott (who’d also booked me back in 2004 at the Middlesex School), came out for the show and put me up at his home afterwards.
Mel was kind enough to take me to dinner (in exchange for having me autograph just about everything in sight), and offered this generous review:
Tim Mooney’s non-stop riveting "Moliere Than Thou" is a first-rate one-man show which is both hilarious and most impressive. All in attendance were extremely pleased by what they saw and heard. Succinctly, Mooney is an accomplished actor, and his production is truly sui generis. – (Mel Yoken)
(I had to look it up: Sui generis is essentially “In a class by itself.”)
Hanging with "The Squad" from the local Midland High School
Midland Community College Theatre Kids
I checked in for a couple of days with my sister Maureen, and her husband, Tim, in anticipation of a stop at Blake High School: yet ANOTHER venue I hadn’t performed at since the year 2004! (Perhaps they’re all on a 12-year turn-around!) About 250 students enjoyed the show, and by that night I was in Wheeling, West Virginia (visiting Meaghan Macey and her mom, Jennifer Irle). From there, it was on to Boomington, Indiana, Evansville, Indiana (visiting one of my favorite students from Texas, Julia Toney), Carbondale, Illinois (checking in again with Amber Peterson and Susan Patrick Benson, who was directing “Tartuffe” -- I sat in on a run-through), and Allan and Sandy in Kansas City (who have asked me to house sit for them next September when they head off for a month in Europe). Here, I managed to catch my breath long enough to finish the “Mega Mailing” campaign in record time, with a surprising number of affirmative responses coming back, and a lot of teachers making the move toward an event for the 2016-17 school year.
(Note to self: Do the huge mailings DURING the tour. The reason that’s the busy season for the tour is because the teachers are all in town at that time!)
I raced off for one more show in western Nebraska, as Clay Grizzle booked me (for the third time!), this time doing “Breakneck Hamlet” in a huge theatre with an equally huge banner out front, announcing my show with my name above the title, and Shakespeare’s name nowhere to be seen!
I raced back to Indianapolis, with two quick “Lot o’ Shakespeare” performances at the Indy Fringe Festival (this wasn’t part of the “Festival” per se: they manage their own space in town). Attendance was extremely light for the first performance, and during the daytime the following day, I dropped in on the venue where I’d be performing in just another week: The Linden House, which is essentially a vast and glorious mansion just north of the Indianapolis downtown.
The second Indy Fringe performance was a slight improvement, with about 15 people in the house, but was especially well received. It seemed that everyone at the theatre was a huge Shakespeare fan, and each monologue drew big laughs or applause at the end.
Me with Pharyne Stepney and Bridget Anderson
After the show was done, a couple of young women approached, explaining that they had met me some five years prior in Steubenville, Ohio. As Freshmen at Franciscan University, their first college play had been my version of “The Bourgeois Gentleman,” and I’d visited to work with the actors and to perform “Moliere than Thou.” The two had become good friends in the course of that experience, and in the years to follow, and were now enjoying a reunion in Indianapolis, and decided to see what was playing in town: when they saw that I was performing that night, they decided that they HAD to come and see me.
Next stop: Wayne State University PhD Program!
Once the dust had cleared and the car was packed up, I raced off once more, driving late into the night, and up early the following morning, heading to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for Isaac’s graduation from the University of Michigan. Even though I had only gotten a couple of hours of sleep, the morning chill seemed to keep me awake, although it became a bit more of a struggle when we got back to the post-graduation party. I was in much better shape once I’d managed to check into the hotel, catch a nap, and meet up for dinner with Isaac, Jo and Kevin & Sue, where we were proud to discover that Isaac had won the “C. Wilbur Peters Outstanding service Award” for his efforts toward increasing diversity in the Society of Physics Students, of which he was the President this past year.
The Linden House
I made yet another trip to Indy! Christel DeHaan, the President of the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation (the terrific benefactor who had seen “Breakneck Hamlet” last summer, and surprised me with a generous donation), was now bringing me in to perform “Moliere than Thou” for a salon, complete with cocktails, performance, panel discussion and dinner. It was held in the main hall of the glorious “Linden House,” with 45 people seated around four tables. I hid out during the cocktail hour, awaiting my introduction before springing out to present Moliere for an hour of raucous fun. Switching to my 21st century suit-and-tie ensemble afterwards, I joined a panel comprised of a Shakespeare scholar, a French/Moliere scholar, and a moderator. After an hour or so of Q&A, we enjoyed dinner, and I got the rare opportunity to mingle with my audience (which usually disappears before I get changed into my street clothes), enjoying their enthusiasm and encouragement.
Anybody out there know Timothy Mooney?
Checking my post office box back in Chicago, there was a package waiting from me from the Screen Actors Guild... which was odd. I cracked it open to realize that I had been given an award! I was a member of the cast of "Spotlight," which had won the award for Best Cast in a Motion Picture...
Except that, I wasn't in that cast...
Apparently "I" had played the role of "Bad Priest" (mom always wanted me to be a priest), who was apparently the non-speaking character who appears through a window in the opening frames of the film. And, apparently, THAT Timothy Mooney is not in the union. So, when the Screen Actors Guild had to distribute the award, they just looked up the address of the only Timothy Mooney in the union, and I was it. If anybody knows who the REAL Timothy Mooney (I sure don't), please put me in touch with him!
I had just a few days at home to sort out the maze of projects I
always seem to be juggling: Working on William Luce’s script for “Baptiste”
(which uses some of my Moliere dialogue), working through not-for profit
paperwork, and developing the next THREE “Breakneck Shakespeare” plays on my
list (“Breakneck Macbeth,” “Breakneck Romeo & Juliet” and “Breakneck Julius
Back on the road, I
drove to McGarvey’s Bar in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where a fellow who’d recently
taken over the space, was shifting the entertainment orientation from punk rock
to live theatre! He brought me in to perform “Lot o’ Shakespeare for a very
savvy theatre audience, mostly composed of a local community theatre group and
a fun improv team. (The Improv group was my opening act!) They were a very
“live” crowd, laughing hysterically at “Titus Andronicus” and really nailing
the crowd scene in “Julius Caesar,” while buying books and t-shirts
afterwards. (The bar owner wanted to pay me in cash, because that’s what the
bands usually demand. I realized that a lot of that money wouldn’t do me much
good once I hit Canada and Europe.)
Speaking of which,
the European leg of the tour is coming into clearer focus. There have been lots
of developments in the last couple of days, leading to two pending performances
in Wales, and a not-quite-ready to be announced Denmark performance in the
shadows of Elsinor Castle (Yes, THAT Elsinore Castle!). And just last night I
met up with a fellow with big connections in Edinburgh, so I may be doubling
back to this blog to add dates and info to the list very soon! For the moment,
though, I’m up to five confirmed performances scattered through Ireland,
England and Denmark!
Yorick is my Co-Pilot
From Pennsylvania, I
had less than two days to get down to Orlando for my tech/preview performance! (Taking and tweeting more pics of state lines along the way!) Even before I’d crossed the Florida line, the Orlando Sentinel review of my
show came out! You may recall that I did a living room performance of the show
last October, and the reviewer had been waiting to release his review ever
since! (It was his earliest-ever review of a fringe show!)
A tribute to the
great work… really hitting the highlights. … There are enough engrossing
moments to fill the whole hour… [a] fun reminder of the debt we owe
Shakespeare. (Matt Palm, Orlando Sentinel)
I probably won’t catch
significant time in Chicago again until next Thanksgiving! So, catch up with me
on the road! Come join me at a festival!
And then last night’s
rehearsal/performance felt like one of those magical evenings where everything
works. My technician, Carrie, created some gorgeous lighting effects, and
really felt the rhythm of how the cues should run, and the preview audience of
twenty or so were lively and responsive, to the point that I felt comfortable
in pushing some of the emotional moments of the show far beyond anything I’d
attempted before. It climaxed in a standing ovation (part of which I’m sure was
due to the fact that the audience had to race off to another preview that was
getting underway in a neighboring theatre). But my feeling about the show was
reinforced by a new friend who quickly posted on Facebook:
I’m sure it helps
that I’ve seen 3 different productions of HAMLET since February. But in one
hour solo performer Tim Mooney has grabbed its heart. (Kathleen Denny)
This year's "Breakneck Hamlet" finds [Mooney's] disposition at its most entertainingly antic. Mooney cleverly condenses the Bard's best and longest tragedy down to an airtight 60 minutes... Mooney is exhaustingly impressive... deep set eyes practically popping from his skull with dramatic passion. If your only exposure to this masterwork has been Mel Gibson and Ethan Hawke movies, do yourself a favor and see Mooney's take -- if nothing else, you'll finally get to enjoy Shakespeare's words with impeccable enunciation. (Seth Kubersky, Orlando Weekly)
And so, with the official first Orlando performance of "Breakneck Hamlet" tonight, I start the
most ambitious summer tour that I’ve ever attempted with good omens preceding
me, and following me around. See you on the road!
Discoveries: Decades of performing have given me a hyper-awareness of the dimensions of the room, and the rhythm in which my voice reaches the far walls and bounces back at me… something in me “knows” just how much space to leave between one word and the next, and “rides the wave” of that resonance. * Some reviewers are just going to review how close you came to the show that they wanted to see. * Do the huge mailings DURING the tour. The reason that’s the busy season is because the teachers all all in town at that time! * Perhaps many of my bookings are on a 12-year turn-around!