Saturday, February 03, 2007

The View From Here #120: Fayette, MO; Houston & Dallas, TX; Norman, OK

Is it February already? Is the Super Bowl upon us? Where have I been? Where has the time gone?

It was Thanksgiving the last time I gave an update, and I spent about a week downloading all my favorite songs onto my I-pod. I’m not here to give commercials for the I-pod people, but I now have about 3500 of my favorite songs on it, a few music videos, a bunch of podcasts (you’ll want to check out Tom X. Chao’s “Peculiar Utterance of the Day”) , and I’ve installed a new radio in my car, which links in both XM Satellite Radio (for Air America) and my i-pod, and sitting on my current kitchen counter is a Bose sound system that the i-pod plugs directly into.

I finished an edit of The View From Here just before December 1, in time to commit the month of December to chasing down an agent for my books. (Usually I take on writing projects in December; this year I realized all of these writing projects have collected un-sold on my computer.) I sent out at least one inquiry a day for 31 days, and have a couple of “very interested” agents, and at least one pending project to assemble a new book proposal that bundles three of my works (the acting text, the collection of Moliere Monologues and the Moliere Anthology) into a single proposal. I’ll be getting onto that as soon as I dig myself out from underneath a few other things I’ve got backed up.

Of course, I also got new publicity photos done, and they’ve been added to a website that will be sporting a splashy new look before long. Once those were done, I found I actually had a few weeks to grow my beard out, before trimming it in anticipation of another performance. If I get the chance, I’ll insert a photo of me with one of the pretty girls in a recent excursion to a karaoke joint. (Note new glasses ...)

Throughout this process, it was always the booking efforts that seemed to get pushed back, as that would put me back into the endless process of data-mining. I realized how rare it is that I get into the groove of circulating my materials, and actually following up with the interested parties, so I stuck with it through the month, and beyond, continuing to write proposals and another edit of The View From Here (now at 314 pages again). As such, there are still about 40 states that I need to send this year’s booking letter to (I lost my contact lists with the computer theft), and

I am again seeking people interested in helping me with data-mining (I pay 25 cents for every e-mail address), so if this appeals to your curiosity, drop me a note back ( and let’s talk.

Along the way, I re-did the family calendar (also lost with the computers last July), sending it out to more cousins, aunts and uncles this time around. Isaac came out for a visit for several days around Christmas (he turns 13 on Feb 19!). And I got a start on taxes.

We had a bit of a scare over mom during break. She lost a bit of weight that she couldn’t really afford to lose, and was confined to bed for a few days. She was showing some slight improvement just before I left, and I’m told she is doing much better now.

And there, amid the flurry of catching up, installing radios, buying new tires, changing my oil, sorting papers and packing, it was time to drive again.

I drove to Fayette, Missouri, about a half-hour west of Columbia, where they’d just survived an intense ice storm. (It could be worse; I could be in Winnipeg.) Central Methodist University was producing my Tartuffe. They put me up in a guest house, and I did an afternoon workshop, and an evening show. Between events at the school,

I was hurriedly preparing for the Texas Educational Theatre conference, labeling and sleeving new copies of my preview DVD, and plotting out a new workshop I’d be giving on Commedia dell’Arte.

After the show I was onto the road immediately, stopping just outside Kansas City and getting back on the road early to drop straight south to Houston. I had one more performance at Cy-Fair Community College just outside Houston at noon the following day (which rocked), before continuing in to the conference downtown.

I caught up with some old Texas friends, sat in on a monologue-writing workshop, and an old friend of my brother, Mike, who’d shown up for my show at Cy-Fair, took me out for a terrific dinner and catch-up on about 30+ years of water under the bridge.

The next morning, I set up my stuff in the conference room, but couldn’t get my computer to “talk to” the projector. This is a mistake I seem to make every time I’ve had a long layoff between doing a presentation like this. Next time, please remind me about the “F4” button.

The workshop went allright, I guess. Without the slideshow, I was left reading more material off of a page than I wanted to, and the “lecture” set-up of the conference room left little opportunity for class participation, but when in doubt I threw in a couple of my Moliere monologues, which seemed to offer context to my intended point.

More to the point, I collected a bunch of e-mail addresses from the attendees (an idea given me from one of the potential book agents) as part of a drawing, which means that I have another 40 people on my list who might have an interest in my book when I’m ready to report its publication.

I stuck around at the hotel bar for a few hours passing out a couple more DVDs and brochures. My Laredo booking had cancelled on me due to the recent ice storm, which would give me a couple extra days in Norman, and so I headed north. The stress and lack of sleep of the last few days caught up with me after I was on the road for just a couple of hours, so I pulled over, and continued on my way Sunday morning, pulling into town in time for a Sunday night run-through at the University of Oklahoma to start work on The Doctor in Spite of Himself and The Precious Young Maidens.

This time they were putting me up in an apartment just off of campus, and with four full weeks in town, I unloaded about half of my stuff from the car and moved in.

The rehearsals were very good; not perfect, but showing great potential, and the actors are incredibly committed to getting it right. I spent one evening taking notes before getting down to work learning my blocking and sharing the stage with the students.

The interesting thing about sharing the stage, after spending five years performing a one-man show … I feel much more apt to “take” the stage, and playing things “out” to the audience rather than making constant eye-contact with my fellow performers. Of course, that’s the message I’ve been preaching in my acting workshops these several years, but it’s a little strange to set the stylistic tone of the performance and hope that it catches on to the rest of the casts.

The style has caught on with some more than others, and certain scenes are hysterical. On the whole, the plays definitely work, and the climax of Precious Young Maidens is probably going to bring the house down. As per usual, my characters get away with murder in both shows, and I manage to pull off all of the delicious antics the law might allow.

On my first Friday after arriving, I made a run down to Dallas for a noon performance at Bishop Lynch High School, and zipping back north again in time for that night’s rehearsal.

While in town, I have been working with the director’s (Susan’s) Shakespeare class, playing in scenes from The Tempest, Othello and Measure for Measure. It’s good for me to reestablish my Shakespearean credentials, if only to have more concrete examples for my book, but it’s interesting to see that my casting seems to be leaning toward playing the villain, playing Iago and Angelo. Even Prospero, in The Tempest has a very dark side to him.

And so, between the lead role in two plays, rehearsing three scenes, that I’m performing with twelve different actors, doing two days of workshops and performances for the local high school, and arranging workshops with the French and Theatre Departments, I would categorize myself as somewhat “overcommitted” at the moment.

I did manage to get to a karaoke bar one night last week, and am looking forward to the Super Bowl, but we’ve got six days until opening, I’m still blowing lines here and there, and there are projects stacked up awaiting my attention. I’m fighting off a cold today, which happens to be our last day off before we go into full production week.

Last night, the crew came to see the show for the first time, and I was very tuned in to their laughs. They were enjoying it very much, but I was entirely conscious of where I wasn’t getting laughs, and continuously re-evaluating the balance of the style, trying to make sure that my world-of-the-play aligns with the world that will eventually be coming from the others on stage with me.

One more week and it will all be brilliant.

Temperature: Hovering around 30
Mileage: 217,000
In the I-pod: Everything.
Discoveries: F4 * Five years of one-man shows have left me much more confident with “taking the stage.” * My “Shakespeare” side finds me leaning toward the villain … at least when cast across from college-age performers.
Next Performances: Norman, OK: 2/9-18

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