Sunday, December 07, 2008

The View From Here #136: Buckhannon, WV; Roanoke, VA; St. Louis & Maryville, MO; Chicago, IL; Sarasota, FL; Green Bay, WI

Anonymous Feel Good comment on my last blog entry: “People like you that work hard to live their dream inspire many people to do the same. I love the fact that you dont only act because you love it but you act also to make people laugh and have fun!! I have yet found someone or have yet met anyone who can make me laugh as much as you did.”

Recent trend: My Moliere adaptations in competitions. My “Imaginary Invalid” will be at the Virginia High School League One-Act Play Competition, while my “Misanthrope” will be at the Massachusetts Drama Festival.

The folks at West Virginia Wesleyan had booked me once before, and brought me in at a discount, since I was nearby to do the West Virginia Theatre Conference. They put me up in the school’s guest house, which had about a half-dozen bedrooms to choose from, and I joked with my hosts that I was going to get up several times in the middle of the night, just to change beds.

I got a lot of work done, including updating these pages, from the guest house, while closely following the political race coming down to the wire. Of course no one knew, at that moment in time, just how close the vote might turn out to be, or how outrageously off the polls were. [FYI: proved to be the most accurate polling site.] And it looks like the state of Minnesota turned out to be this year’s Florida/Ohio, as even now, more than a month later, the votes continue to be counted.

The show went fairly well before a small audience, though without quite the dynamic that I’d felt in the Theatre Conference performance two nights before. Speaking of which, I have since received an e-mail from the Conference President with the following quotable quote:

"Mooney's performance is certainly energizing for a general audience, but if you put him in a room with about 90 theatre people, the event becomes electrifying. I've never seen young actors from different schools so mesmerized by a single performer." (Dennis Wemm, Glenville State University)

In addition to being election day, the next day was my birthday, and I’d planned a leisurely drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is one of the most beautiful drives I’ve stumbled across in my travels. Also, I figured that the leaves would be just about perfect for photos by then.

What I didn’t calculate was that it would take a good three hours just to get TO the Blue Ridge Parkway (crossing the West Virginia Appalacians into Virginia), and by the time I got there, I was driving through low clouds and drizzle most of the day. This, along with the fact that the speed limit was lower and the parkway would bend a mile laterally for every two miles it went forward, it all proved to be extremely slow-going. As I’d planned to watch election returns from a hotel near Boone, North Carolina, I eventually got back off the parkway and onto the Interstate, pushing on through.

I met my friend Sandra the Vegan in Boone, and we didn’t have to wait long to get the big election result. As soon as they called Ohio for Obama, I knew it was over, but that didn’t undercut the big emotional response when the polls closed on the west coast and the networks anointed Obama as the “President Elect.” Perhaps the most moving sight was the face of Jesse Jackson, who’d weathered the civil rights struggle over many decades, and whose face was awash in tears at the result.

The next day, I headed north once more, this time capturing good pics in better weather from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and listening to the celebratory radio broadcasts on Air America. And while most of the enthusiasm was good natured, I must admit that there are a few nyeah-nyeah liberals out there who are “bad winners.”

I checked into the hotel in Roanoake, where the next day, I performed for a good 400 or so students. About four years before, this school district had brought me in to perform to a crowd of 700 or so, and they were, in fact, the only venue over the years that had complained of not being able to hear me well enough. This time around, the numbers were lower, and I overworked my articulators to the point that they would understand everything.

They might have actually understood too much, as it turns out, for while the response from these high school students was fairly sensational, the teacher later called to not that she’d gotten some complaints from parents about just how risqué the event was. (Between focusing on my volume, and a series of recent performances for colleges and more liberal parts of the country, I think I let my guard down on this one.)

I had long weekend break, and swung through Chattanooga, Tennessee, visiting Sabra, along with her new husband, Paul, and headed out to a recent haunt, the Red Lantern, where the karaoke was jumping once again. I also managed to catch some photos of a sunset from a Chattnooga bridge.
Heading west once again, I worked my way to St. Louis, where I caught up with one of my old NIU students, Marty Stanberry, who is now running a small theatre company of his own.

I had a performance that day at the Priory School, at none other than the “Kevin Kline Theatre.” Unfortunately, no one informed me that Interstate 64 was entirely shut down for construction work, and what I thought would be a quick 10-minute ride to the theatre took longer than an hour, as the technicians awaited my arrival. (My lone contact was unreachable, as she’d left her cell phone at home with her husband.) Upon arrival we pulled the show together in less than an hour, and launched into the performance.

The place was packed and the hosts had added 100 folding seats to the 200 permanent seats. Unfortunately, the 100 extra seats had a bad view any time I got down off of the stage to approach the front row, so I stuck to the stage more than I generally tend to. My cousins, Peg and Jeff, and their son, Doug, were in attendance, and they’d never seen me perform before (this was my first show near St. Louis), and we had a quick visit afterwards. (I had a bunch of “fans” approaching me for photos and hugs throughout the visit, which always helps make me look like a Big Deal when old friends or relatives are around.)

The next morning, it was an early drive out to Northwest Missouri State, with a mid-afternoon acting workshop, and a fun performance in their large auditorium. The faculty, at least one of whom was a fellow U-Nebraska grad, were particularly responsive, and were hinting that they might be considering a full Moliere production in the coming years. This host wrote:

We thoroughly enjoyed your visit. The workshop received rave reviews from all participants, and I know what was learned will be put to great use. I've also heard wonderful responses to your show, and I personally loved it. It was an excellent experience all around and one I will certainly highly recommend.

Finally, I got to turn my car towards home, heading back for Chicago once more.

It was a brief stop, with a performance at North Park University, where they had me performing in the “chapel.” The professor was working to build her French program, inviting High Schools from all over the area, and there were 250 or so in the auditorium.

I decided to try something radically different this time, making my initial entrance from the organ loft, far above the stage, and then racing down the steps, out of sight of the audience, in the middle of the opening speech. Yet, when I opened my mouth for my first line, my voice croaked out the first couple of words, and I realized that this would be a vocal challenge throughout. Luckily, the chapel, itself, had good acoustics.

I jumped onto the highway for a quick run to Minneapolis. A group of students from University of St. Thomas, who were seeing the theatre program getting cut from their curriculum, decided to put on my 40-minute version of “Tartuffe” as a class project. While no one was actually able to “bring me in” for a paid appearance, I couldn’t resist the enthusiasm that this cast and director had obviously thrown into this effort, considering that I kept appearing on the blog of the woman who was playing Elmire.

I arrived at the theatre just in time, and the director and “Elmire,” tending the box office, reacted as if a rock star had just walked in. Somehow, even before the show got underway, she got on-line and broadcast:
Opening night!!
Tim Mooney, Tim Mooney! He's here, and I got to hug him! He's going to watch the play!

The show was lots of fun, and held together fairly well, considering that I’d cut about half the dialogue from this version to bring it in under 40 minutes. I was timing each act fairly carefully though, and ultimately it ran 44 minutes.

I met up with a couple Minnesota Fringe friends while I was in town, and caught wind that the recently closed Theatre de la Jeune Lune was selling its stock at a rummage sale the next morning. Given that Jeune Lune has produced a lot of Moliere over the years, I decided to see if there were a costume piece or two that I might use. I came across a vest or two that might work, and a pair of colorful baggy pants that I have since integrated into the Scapin scene.

The check out line in the theatre lobby was about a half hour long, so I struck up a brief conversation with the woman standing in front of me, who was apparently buying the hats she was carrying for personal use, rather than a show. I turned to the girls behind me who were buying a drape as a photographic backdrop. When they asked about my purchases, I explained that I was buying stuff for my one-man show about Moliere.

Overhearing this, the woman in front of me turned back around and asked: “Are you Tim Mooney?”

I was immediately impressed with myself for my seeming popularity, and assumed that this girl must have seen me at the Minnesota fringe in the past year or two, but as it turned out, she’d remembered me from having seen me perform in Denver four years ago! We traded e-mail addresses, and corresponding ever since, as she’s been reading through my acting textbook, and I have found myself wondering how many people like her, over the years, I might have had such an impact upon.

That night, I returned for the closing night of “Tartuffe,” and the show earned a standing ovation this time around. The cast called me up onstage to join the curtain call, and presented me with a University of St. Thomas teddy bear and blanket as thank you gifts. I returned the favor with “Moliere Than Thou” t-shirts for Callie, the director, and Cindy, the blogging dramaturg-turned-Elmire, who later blogged: "Today has been one of the most absolutely greatest days of my life. And I have photographic and video evidence that I met Tim Mooney. I can check that off of my "To Do Before I Die" list." [Curtain call photos by Craig VanDerShaegen.]

I headed home for about 24 hours, and left directly from the dentist’s chair for the next leg of my tour. With Novocain wearing off as I drove, my tongue compulsively tested out (and shredded itself on) the temporary crown in my mouth.

I stopped in northern Georgia to visit with Lori, one of my hosts from the second season of my tour (five years ago!). She, and her late husband, Marc, had been among my best supporters early on, and I hadn’t seen her since Marc had passed away four years ago.

Following a nice reunion, I continued south to Sarasota, a much longer drive than one might guess. The hotel was comfy, and the show was well-received, with five t-shirts sold. The New College of Florida had been built onto the campus of the former Ringling Brothers School. It was the French teacher that had brought me in, and the venue was essentially a conference room with a stage at the far end. A bunch of high school students actually sat on the floor in front of the stage, which gave me some terrific opportunities for interaction throughout. (This "Tartuffe" volunteer was eager enough to get up on stage, but looked like she occasionally wanted to crawl out of her skin to get away.)

I took a few side trips on my way home, stopping first in Orlando, where the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages were holding a conference. I snuck into the exhibit hall, and visited around a bit, handing out a couple of brochures. I hung out at the bar for a few hours, but found it nearly impossible to distinguish the French teachers from any of the other teachers in attendance.

The next day, I continued on to South Carolina, sharing plans with Bess Park, the Artistic Director of the Greenwood Community Theatre, which is bringing me in to direct and act in “The Misanthrope” later this Winter.

Following one more side trip to Georgia, I raced north to meet with Isaac in Chicago. He was out of school for Thanksgiving week, but I still had one more performance before the break. Lewis University had me in to do a workshop as well as a show in Chicago’s southern Suburbs, and while Isaac had seen me perform before, he’d never seen me teach, and it was good for him to see this other side of his dad’s professional life. (He ran the camera, below.)

The show itself was a bit of a struggle for me, as the audience seemed to be perhaps divided between students with a genuine interest in the subject matter (Theatre/French students) and General Studies students who were there to get a credit for a class. And while they were respectful and responsive throughout the show, as soon as Moliere starts to wrap things up (“I would like to thank each and every …”) the students started reaching for their book bags and their jackets, which always leaves the curtain call feeling a little pathetic.

And yet, there was these responses from the host, and a student:

I heard, with a great deal of excitement, from students that the masterclass was “[expletive] mindblowingly awsome” (as one put it). Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the workshop, but the show was fantastic. You actively engaged an audience that is difficult to win over. On a personal note, you inspired me to revisit some of my favorite Moliere plays! I’m confident you inspired others to do the same. Your show and masterclass is exactly what our Arts&Ideas program strives to offer our students and community. (Mike McFerron, Lewis University)

Thank you, sir, for taking the time to share your incredible talent and wisdom with us. Your presence was greatly appreciated and I am very glad to have made your acquaintance! And even though sharing the stage with you brought set my cheeks ablaze, I enjoyed myself immensely. : ) (Natalie, Lewis U)

Isaac and I enjoyed about four days of video-watching and ping-pong, before he and his mom headed back for Detroit, and I headed north for a show in Green Bay.

The Green Bay folks had brought me in almost exactly a year before, and the Tech Director had a good memory of the show, which made our rehearsal a breeze. Unfortunately, while the French department had good attendance, the theatre department had scheduled “callbacks” for the same evening, which meant that some of the students who might’ve gotten the most out of the show were not present.

Apparently the French Club president, who was part of the play’s anticipated introduction, was late getting to the theatre, and the show was at least ten minutes late getting underway. Given the antsiness of the most recent audience, I made a quick decision to drop one of the less playful monologues out of the show and “cut to the chase” as it were. The French teacher had encouraged students to sit closer to the stage during her introductory remarks, and thankfully, at the last second she’d gotten four students to shift into the front row (at least one of whom was surreptitiously “texting” during the first monologue).

A brief rant about texting:

It is silently beginning to kill the theatre-going experience.

We (speaking collectively as theatre artists) need to address the issue of texting with the same aggressive repudiation with which we took on cell phones going off in the middle of a show. No one thinks that their one little text message is going to disrupt the show at large, but frankly, we are not far from a time in which half of the audience is spending more time looking at their laps than looking at the stage. At that point, the theatre is no longer a collective forum, communally examining humanity in action, but a single window on the screen of the audience’s attention span, easily clicked in and out of existence with the interruption of a single message.

We can drop “pagers” from the list of items that the audience needs to turn off during the opening announcement, but if we don’t double down on “texting” big time in the coming year, we’re lost. People may still show up and sit in the seats, but they’ll find themselves rather flummoxed about exactly why this was ever considered such a profound or moving experience to begin with.

I drove back to Chicago, where we celebrated Mom and Dad’s birthdays. While Mom’s remains a closely guarded secret, Dad just enjoyed his 80th birthday, with my brother Pat flying in with nephew Ryan, and cousins Maryellen and Rob and their spouses dropping by for the celebration.

Finally, I am knuckling down on a writing project. The good folks at Playscripts, Inc. have informed me that they’re interested in getting a new version of Moliere’s “Love’s the Best Doctor” into their catalogue, and I’m determined to write one before Christmas break is over! And so, I’m going to try an experiment! I'm going to paste my first draft of the opening scene below. And I will offer up new scenes as I write them, to anyone who wants to follow the show in its development.

In other words, IF YOU WANT TO READ ALONG, PLEASE SEND AN E-MAIL to that says: "SUBSCRIBE: LBD", and I’ll send you new scenes in your e-mail!

I have discovered, in the past, that the best way to complete a project is to get as many people as I can interested in its my progress. The very publicness of this potential failure forbids me to sit idle on the project, but rather thrusts me into action. As long as I know that willing eyes are waiting to read the thing, I work more relentlessly to see the project through to fruition. Enjoy!

Love’s the Best Doctor
by Jean Baptiste Poquelin de Moliere

© December, 2008

Adaptation by:
Timothy Mooney
All Rights Reserved

LUCINDE, his daughter
CLITANDRE, her lover
AMINTE, a neighbor of Sganarelle
LUCRECE, niece to Sganarelle
LISETTE, servant to Lucinde
MONSIEUR GULLIAME, an upholsterer
CHAMPAGNE, Valet to Sganarelle


SCENEThe Scene is in Paris, in the home of Sganarelle


Leave off, I say leave off these reckless quarrels
No more dispute one talent over others;
As reaching solitary laurels
Can but diminish ‘mongst we brothers,
Let us, as one, let all three revels ring,
To serve the bliss of this world’s greatest King.

Let us, as one, let all three revels ring,
To serve the bliss of this world’s greatest King.

What greater conquest might we ever boast
Than to divert our king from stately cares?
Might greater honor quite come close?
Might there be any joy that dares?

Let us, as one, let all three revels ring,
To serve the bliss of this world’s greatest King.

Act One, Scene One

How strange life seems from in this head;
How right that great philosopher who said,
That with great having comes great grief
And woes come not alone, but in a sheaf.
I had but one wife, and now she is dead.

And how many would you wish to have wed?

My friend, she’s dead; I feel it as an ache;
The tears come when abed, or when awake.
And while, while she was still alive and strong,
There were times when we’d not quite get along,
And said some things one ought not quite pronounce,
She’s dead now, and death settles all accounts.
Good Heaven gave us children, yet, what’s more,
A single daughter’s all I’ve left in store;
One daughter, who’s the source of all vexation,
For some disturbance, some preoccupation,
Some melancholic source I can’t quite factor,
Holds her in bonds from which I can’t extract her.
And all my efforts to conceive the cause
But further hides the source as ‘neath a gauze.
And, as I’ve come up empty, on these questions,
I’ve brought you here, my friends, for your suggestions.
Lucrece, my niece, Aminte, my thoughtful neighbor;
You, sirs, are both my friends in trade and labor:
I ask you, please, to frankly share your view:
Advise me what you think I ought to do.

I find young women long for finer things
Like necklaces, or bracelets or for rings;
It’s this stuff with which you ought to surprise her:
She’ll lighten up if you accessorize her.

It’s her environment you must address;
Her very walls should stir her beating breast;
Give her some tapestries; give her a grand drape,
Adorned with figures, or perhaps a landscape.

Well, I’d take neither of these routes to please her,
I think it’s time that marriage ought to seize her,
And you could change her churlishness to cheer:
Give her that man that asked for her, last year.

To bear a child in her most fragile state
Would make her prey to some most fatal fate;
It’s death that waits a wedding to some suitor,
And I believe a convent better suits her.

All this advice suggests such earnest wishes,
And yet I can’t help be somewhat suspicious.
Such wary thoughts, we find, one quickly quells,
Were it not your advice so suits yourselves!
You are, yourself, a goldsmith, Monsieur Josse,
And your prescription seems a precious dose,
And yet your tone takes just a slightish ring
Of one with too much backstock of such … bling.
And Monsieur Gulliame, your tapestries
Are well designed to decorate and please;
All tell of how they’re stitched and draped and painted,
Although, I sense they leave your counsel tainted.
The lenses that you wear, neighbor Aminte,
I fear are likewise touched with selfish tint,
The man you sought now seems to want my daughter
And you’d prefer to see some other caught her.
And as you know, my niece, I haven’t planned
That anyone should win my daughter’s hand,
My reasons are but mine, and mine alone,
And yet your motives, if we’d have them known,
Are not so purely drawn from convent’s prayer,
As how that might leave you my only heir!
And so, dear ladies, and kind gentlemen,
I’ll hesitate to take advice you’ve sent till when
It doesn’t seem to so befit yourself,
And so, for now, I’ll keep it on the shelf.

Miles on the Vibe: 294,500

Temperature: 20 degrees-ish

Discoveries: I need to keep checking student age/maturity/community standards as I shape the level of my performance. * Double and triple check the route to the school, and make sure that all the roads still work! * “Texting” is killing the theatre-going experience. * I do better at the French-Teacher conferences than at the general Language Teacher conferences, as the French Teachers at these don’t quite walk around with badges identifying themselves as such.
On the DVD Player: Battlestar Glactica again (listening to the podcast commentaries this time)
Attendence: 60 + 300 + 320 + 30 + 100 + 250 + 120 + 20 + 100 + 75 = 1,375
Next shows: A residency at Augustana College (Moline, IL), Dec 11-16. North Central College (Naperville, IL), January 7.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The View From Here #135: Coeur d’Alene, ID; Overland Park, KS; Northbrook, IL; Washington, PA; Rochester, NY; Manchester, NH; Glenville, WV

... The Fall Colors Edition ...
Get out and vote, everybody! Take no state, nor district for granted! And then crack open a cold one to celebrate my birthday!

Twenty eight years ago my twenty-first birthday celebration was dampened. I look for the success of this year’s election to redeem those “lost years.”

Since the last computer crash … almost 8 months ago now, I never have gotten the chance to rebuild the document that captured my “Commedia del Arte” workshop. I have a hard copy of the material, but haven’t re-entered the stuff into a Microsoft Word or Power Point document. And since this is relatively new material, I continue to rearrange and reorder the lecture and exercises to improve the natural progression of the content.

Which means that I’m generally working by notes, by memory and by the seat of my pants. … Which actually helps, sometimes, since I’m not attached to a specific lecture, or a series of slides flashed up on a screen.

I gave this lecture in Coeur d’Alene, working and re-working the order, which seems to be settling into some sort of logical progression, and finding myself focusing more elaborately on the “What to do with the Dead Body?” lazzi, to which students seem to respond particularly well. (I do this one, along with the “Hiding the fingerprints” lazzi, and scenes from “The Misanthrope,” “The Flying Doctor” and “The Doctor in Spite of Himself” which are all fairly tried-and-true.

I said goodbye to Joe, my friend and host, as well as a couple of the students who I’ve now encountered over several visits to North Idaho College (where they’re producing my “Doctor in Spite of Himself” this winter), and raced off into Montana.

Stopping in Livingston, Montana, I awoke to find that an early Winter Storm had swept in during the night, with about five inches already on the ground and a total of twelve inches predicted.

I raced out as quickly as the conditions might allow, fighting snow and later rain most of the way through Wyoming, and pulling into Denver late that night.

In Denver, I camped out for about four days, visiting with my new friend, Trish, as well as Kelli, before pushing on to Overland Park, Kansas, where they had booked me for two workshops, a performance and a rehearsal of “The Comedy of Errors.”

While I’d done the usual preparation for the “Classical Acting” and the “Commedia/Lazzi” workshops (“what to do with the dead body” was way popular again), it was the “Comedy of Errors” rehearsal that I spent the most time getting ready for. I had no way of anticipating what kind of shape their show might be in, just how the director’s concept might impact my ability to contribute to the event, nor how far I might be able to get in boiling down my approach to the script in the context of my anticipated exploration.

I’d presented the idea for this rehearsal in the context of my projected “Shakespeare Monologues Project,” and pushed forward on the memorization of my Malvolio monologue as the assumed climax of the event.

But when I arrived, I found that Malvolio had only just been recast a couple of days before, and the actor now playing Malvolio wasn’t even going to be in attendance that night.

I improvised, covering much of the material in my “Classical Acting” workshop all over again (only two of the actors in this cast had attended the workshop the day before), and, with about an hour left, segueing into a deconstruction of the Malvolio letter speech. (In which he is tricked into believing that Olivia loves him.) We broke down the speech for words that were uncertain, and addressed what seem to be emerging as my most important steps in the rehearsal process: Answering “What is the essential transaction of the scene” and “How and when does the balance of power shift?”

I then finished off with a performance of the monologue: a 7 1/2 minute speech, which worked far and away, above my expectations. The actors were laughing at each little piece of the speech, and even the director was taking notes for bits she wanted to incorporate into the show (such as my arranging the prop letter in such a way that the postscript wound its way across the very bottom of the letter, up the right margin and across the top).

Afterwards the actors suggested that their biggest takeaway from this performance was that they could “go much farther” with their characters, “go way over the top” and “really take a chance with it.” I commented on how much more directors like to work with actors that they have to restrain, than actors that they have to drag more out of. About a dozen of the actors from my interaction with this group signed up for my blog, and three of them actually videotaped brief thank you’s following my show.

The next morning, I was up before dawn racing home. The Pathways Scholarship fundraiser was that night, and I was the emcee for the event.

I had no idea how this would go. I’d gotten a wild idea about a fundraiser where people get up to sing karaoke, and entice their friends to “vote” for them by tossing dollar bills into a bucket as “tips.” A small turn-out, or a limited willingness or ability to tip might dampen the success of the event. Meanwhile, I’d been out of town for a full month, and was entirely uncertain as to how complete the preparations would be. I walked in to find about 40 volunteers ready to go.

It was my job to share the “rules” of the game, and to encourage and incite the donation process, all the while making announcements about the ongoing silent auction, the availability of change at the back tables, the opening of the carving station, introducing the band, tallying and announcing the fundraising results. All of this had been predicated on the assumption that people would show up with money to spend … but would they get fired up with the enthusiasm I’d imagined?

Between event ticket sales (about 115 people), the silent auction and the tipping process (each of which brought in a roughly equivalent amount), the fundraiser essentially doubled our goals, bringing in about $10,000! When I was able to announce that we’d brought in $5,000, the crowd went wild. When we broke $7,500, they cheered even harder. We hadn’t quite tallied the final figure until the audience had gone home, but announcements were quickly circulated around the Pathways universe, and everyone was left satisfied that they’d made a significant contribution.

Briefly in town, I made a stop at the dentist, with a cleaning, x-rays and two fillings long overdue.

I pushed on to Washington, PA, where I did a workshop and a show for Washington & Jefferson College. There were only about four students in the workshop, so in some instances I had to get them to imagine what it might be like if there were many more voices contributing to the noise that this or that exercise was designed to create.

The show also went very well (clips, below, from the West Virginia performance), and I turned in early afterwards, with an early morning departure for Rochester the next day.

Somehow Mapquest had left me thinking that the trip to Rochester was about 7 hours, but in fact it was more like 5. Having gotten up at 4 am, the fatigue was getting the best of me, and though I arrived in time to meet the host for lunch, I begged off and checked into the hotel instead, catching a quick nap in advance of the events of the day.

That day I gave a quick “teaser” performance for a school assembly, followed by a workshop, a tech rehearsal and a performance. My grad-school friend, Lindsay was in attendance at the show, and though the audience was small, the attendees were very vocal, and a couple of strong gigglers kept the audience engaged.

The next morning, I was sitting in on a rehearsal of “Tartuffe”. They were performing my version of the script, and rehearsing Act V, when all of the excitement ratchets up to a fevered pitch. With permission of the director, I stopped the actors repeatedly, rearranging them on stage and placing the emphasis on the key speaker while encouraging them to take their responses higher into the emotional stratosphere. By the time we were done, I could feel a warm acceptance by the cast, and many of them have since “friended” me on my facebook page, with notes like ...

Hey Tim, I not only thought your show was cool but it was fun and you were hilarious lol. You made my day as soon as you walked on stage. … Your passion for what you do shined right through your eyes and it inspired me greatly to work harder on me being an actress as well. ... I miss you already and everytime i remeber being on stage with you i turn flush red lol it was my first time being on stage acting (Tartuffe is going to be my first play ever) and the fact i was on it with YOU made it a night i will never forget. …
And …
Monsieur Mooney, I just wanted to say thanks for the kick-ass show and workshop! … Thanks for bringing an entirely new creative force to our show, you really helped us a lot in the few hours we got to spend with you. Break legs the rest of your tour!
And …
… Thanks so much for everything you helped us with when you came to Rochester. The workshop was a great experience for me and all of my Tartuffe cast mates and we thank you very much!!
And …
I think your show was pretty darn great! People around harley are still talking about it, I'M still talking about it!! Thanks so much for the workshop/performing your show/helping us with act five of tartuffe (the chance to work with the writer of such a great piece of work really meant alot to me!)
And ...
I dont know how to put into words how happy i am to have met you!! ... I noticed every since you left i cant get the show "Moilere Than thou" out of my head. During rehersal or even when I walk with my friends through the hall ways at school I often stop and say "I contaplated here" and "Stop Theif"lol. I wish you never left :( ... Today I told my dad about when i went on stage with you but dont worry i made it clear you were acting lol... I went on youtube and showed my dad who you were and showed scenes from "Moilere than thou" and your other shows and he thought you were hilarious!!

I also got a really nice letter from a student’s mom:
This is Edith's mom, Laura, and I am thrilled that Edith had the wonderful opportunity to work with you...what a creative and alive and skilled and thoughtful person...the work last night was magnificent. Timely, as you said to the kids and Edith … went home and wrote everything she could remember you said down...she said you were fun to be with and were brilliant … and just in general it was magic for her… i hope you know that you make a difference in the lives of these kids...Edith was radiating ...

I stuck around until Monday, doing yet another variation on my "Commedia/Lazzi" workshop for Lindsay's stage movement class before pushing on, I headed for Southern New Hampshire University. I stopped in Boston, to pick up Martha, a friend who wanted to catch the show, and pulled in to the University just as a crowd was gathering to hear Hillary Clinton speak. (While all indicators point to a big Obama win, John McCain does seem to have a “ground game” in New Hampshire, as about 90% of the yard signs in the neighborhood were in favor of him. -- Right outside the university, some intrepid campaigner had lined up about twenty “Democrat for McCain” signs.)

It took a bit of time to find parking, and eventually, we found the performance space and the host, and loaded in the show. Nosing around, I couldn’t help noticing that there were no flyers promoting the show in evidence. As I’d seen nothing about the show on the school’s website, I started to predict a turnout of about 20 people. (Given that this school didn’t have a full Theatre Department or French Department, and that this event was sponsored by the History Club, I probably should have given them more input on how to promote the show to the rest of the campus.)

About a half hour before the show, though, a busload of twenty high school kids arrived, and I was reminded that a group that was working on a presentation of “The Doctor in Spite of Himself” had inquired about coming to see the show, and their enthusiasm (and ability to fill up the first two rows) kept the show lively.

The next day, I dropped Martha back off in Boston, and she proceeded to share a review with the “Playwright Binge” listserv:

He was absolutely wonderful! He is extremely talented and so funny as an actor, and his adaptations of the speeches of Moliere were unexceptionable. I had so much fun seeing this one-man show, during which he invites members of the audience onstage to read scenes with him. Best of all was his lusty Tartuffe, creeping sideways towards a young female victim, while licking his chops, in an attempt to seduce her.

Not all of my reviews have been such “raves”, unfortunately. An inquiry on the Dramaturgy Listserv, from a dramaturg wanting to know if it might be worth booking me, drew a response from a student who had a couple of disparaging remarks about my contribution, particularly feeling like I had been “talking down” to the students in my workshop. (No matter how many enthusiastic reactions I hear, it’s the complaints that stick with me, and leave me questioning whether all the effort is, indeed, worth it, or whether my time might be better spent by taking the bulls-eye off of my chest, and hiding amid larger casts.)

The next couple of days were filled with quick visits, dropping in on my ex-roommate, Deb, for lunch in Connecticut, on my new French-Teacher friend, Susie, who Isaac and I met last summer in Belgium, for dinner in New York, and Playwright Mike Folie, whose wife, Frances, booked me last spring. Mike took me to meet several of his playwright-companions for breakfast the following morning, and I pushed on to Baltimore to visit my sister Maureen, and her husband, Tim, who celebrated my birthday early by fixing pizza in the cool brick oven they’ve built out in back of their house.

The next day it was on to Glenville, West Virginia, with a day to relax (and work on my blog!) before a performance Saturday night at the West Virginia Theatre Association conference. I had a terrific feeling about this show, as, demographically, the audience would be similar to the theatre-heavy-crowd I'd had at the Colorado Thespian Association, which really rocked. It was a tiny lecture hall/performance space, with only 80 seats, but I knew right away that the intimacy would help the show.

It rocked. There were also some "bigwigs" in the audience from Southeast Theatre Conference, and the American Community Theatre Association who were later brainstorming, variously, about involving me in their next conferences. Again the volunteers were terrific, and the "Tartuffe" volunteer was especially charming (she looked a little like a young Angelina Jolie), and the audience was downright giddy in response.

I actually had to "pull the reins" on some of the humor as the high school students were so responsive that they threatened to get out of hand (and I can never tell how that might be going over with some of their teachers).

I finish up these notes in Buckhannon, West Virginia, where I'm performing Monday night, with Tuesday off to celebrate my birthday and a landslide win for Barack Obama. My plan is to enjoy a leisurely drive down the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway (taking more pictures like these), stopping in Blowing Rock, NC to watch election returns late into the night. Hey, give me a call and sing me a round of "Happy birthday!"


Discoveries: I actually do some of my best work when I don't have detailed notes telling me exactly what to say. * This Shakespeare material really ... you know ... works. * Students need the example of someone who can burst past limitations and take a risk. * As many rave reviews and grateful e-mails as I get, it's the negative responses that get to me, and I'll be fighting that fight until I decide that what people want to say about me, one way or another, can't add or lessen the value of what it is that I do. * I've gotten fairly accurate in predicting attendance, just based on flyers and web presence. I should probably find a way of communicating that understanding to upcoming hosts.

Miles on the Vibe: 286,500

Attendance: 15 + 10 + 15 + 15 + 6 + 60 + 200 + 20 + 50 + 15 + 15 + 35 + 65 = 521

Temperature: Back up to Lower 60s, and clear.

Next Shows: November 5 in Roanoke, VA; November 10 in St. Louis, MO

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The View From Here #134: Chicago, IL; Milwaukee, WI; Lake Forest, IL; Denver, CO; Galesburg, IL; Chickasha, OK; Kingsville, TX; Palo Alto, CA

My “month off” in Chicago zoomed by so fast I can barely remember it. Mostly, I remember editing scripts for publication. Playscripts has contacted me again, with news that they now want to publish my versions of “The Miser” and “The Schemings of Scapin,” in both full-length and 40-minute versions. This will bring me up to eleven plays published through Playscripts, including double versions (full-length & one-act) of “Tartuffe,” “Imaginary Invalid,” and Doctor in Spite of Himself,” as well as the Full-length “Misanthrope,” all of which may now be found at!

I spent some time working on a fundraiser for the Pathways Scholarship Fund, , which will find me racing back to Chicago on October 18 to perform as the Emcee at this Karaoke contest event. (Sign up and come join us!) Among the items available in the silent auction is a performance of the one-man play of your choice, at the venue of your choice! (Those of you who can’t afford my high, high prices, could get a bargain!)

Hurrying to get stuff done, I finally packed and set out on the road! None too soon! After a summer of earning nothing, I needed to start the income flowing in the opposite direction! This year I set out with 42 bookings already “on the books” which is more than I’ve ever started out the season with!

The first event was a local workshop at North Park College in Chicago, which is hosting me again on November 13 with a daytime performance of my show. The day after, I was off to Cardinal Stritch College, doing another workshop, where they’re also producing my versions of “Sganarelle” and “The Flying Doctor” October 10-19.

Back in Illinois the next day, I did two workshops with Lake Forest College, followed by a performance of “Moliere Than Thou” that evening. All went very well (the "Don Juan" scene, above, was interrupted by spontaneous applause), possibly with the exception of the “Doctor in Spite of Himself Scene,” in which the (prearranged) undergrad volunteer decided to play a very “heavy” response to the Doctor’s frisky advances. I could feel the audience “turning against me” and strove to win them back over with my affable innocence, and could sense that they were back on my side by the final monologue. Afterwards I sent a note to the hosts to reassure them that “No undergrads were harmed in the performing of this scene.”

Meanwhile, however, I got a delightful note from one of the other volunteers:

… After your performance last night, however, I was positively electrified. It was a thrill to watch (and to participate in) "Moliere Than Thou." Your energy and enthusiasm were contagious, and I left the theater absolutely elated. Not only did I laugh to the point where my cheeks ached, but I had a sort of refreshed excitement about theater, performance, and most especially, Moliere. I don't normally write to people I don't know, and letters like this are rare, but I felt I needed to tell you the effect your performance had on me. I had so much fun, and I felt so inspired. ...
Adrienne Peters

And then from the French teacher:

“I thought the performance was absolutely fabulous, and my students did too. I can't imagine how you were able to memorize so many lines! And the translation/adaptations are perfect. Bravo, bravo! Thanks for coming to class, students really enjoyed your insights and passion for what you do…”
Cynthia Hahn

I was left wondering whether the need to win them back over was just an imaginary voice in my head that sees everything that I do through hyper-critical lenses.

I caught a long weekend back at home with my sister, Maureen, in town for a visit (while Dad went to his high school reunion), and the skies opened up, pouring rain for three days and filling the back yard with a lake.

Monday, I set out for Denver, Colorado and, arriving with a couple of days to spare, visited with my friend, Kelli, and caught up with my new friend, Tricia, who I’d met at the outset of the Fall, 2007 tour, at the University of Denver, though I hadn’t managed to get back for another visit until now, a year later. We had a fine time, and even managed to squeeze in another date in advance of my performance at the Alliance for Colorado Theatres.

The ACT show went as well as any performance of “Moliere” that I can recall. There were about 70 theatre teachers squeezed into a small studio theatre, and they got everything! An old Nebraska friend, Mike Pearl, who has seen the show twice before, was in the audience, and I got him up onto the stage to do the Scapin scene with me.

This group burst with extended laughs at all of the theatre in-jokes, particularly on one, almost casual reference to a life in the theatre, as Moliere notes, at the end: “… and no one is happier than I to be able to carve a living out of this most unsavory vocation.”

Something in me suggested that I take an extra beat to pause at the end of that, and as I did, the audience responded with a nice little laugh. I held the pause for an extra moment, and the audience laughed more. As they did, I raised an eyebrow and smirked knowingly and the laughter grew even more. It was one of those shows where I could feel the audience “in the palm of my hand” as it were, getting everything, and going where I was directing them. (Unfortunately, I didn't capture this one on video, but here's a clip of that same speech at the Texas Educational Theatre Association conference last January.)

I followed the show with a workshop, and some thirty high school teachers showed up, enthusiastic about my work, and buying several t-shirts and scripts. (At one point, I was standing in the first floor hallway, and could actually overhear several people raving about my show who were passing by on the second floor, and who, due to the layout of the building, didn’t know that I was overhearing them.)

At least one theatre prof who I had been writing to for the past seven years was newly enthusiastic about bringing my show in, and a couple days later I got a note from the head of the “Colorado Thespians,” reporting that he’d gotten a “rousing recommendation” about my work.

That night, I drove to Kansas City, visiting with a new friend I'd made at a theatre workshop in Chicago (which started me writing on a new play). She and I went to a Sox/Royals game with her family, and the next day I pushed heading on to Galesburg, IL and two workshops and a performance at Knox College. They were preparing a performance of “Tartuffe”, and I had a fun show, followed by a visit to a rehearsal of “Tartuffe.” Even though they weren’t doing my version of the play, I was able to coach the actors into stagings that reflected some of the energies of my first production of the play, and brought out aspects of Moliere’s humor that were intrinsic to the situation, rhythms and action.

The only drawback to this show was that the check wasn’t ready when I was there, and it didn’t arrive for another several days. With bills pending, I was counting on each check arriving on time, and as busy as the coming semester promised to be, I was not quite yet “liquid”. Fortunately, the IRS is very slow about cashing their checks, and a quarterly payment that I’d sent them two weeks before had still not yet found its way to the bank.

Later, the professor sent me a link to the Knox school paper where the workshop and show were reviewed, complete with photos. ("Portraying one character can be difficult enough. However Tim Mooney, actor and playwright can perform a dozen with ease ...")

I dropped back south, this time to Chickasha (rhymes with “ricochet”), Oklahoma, where the theatre teacher at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma was trying to rebuild a program that had dwindled over recent years. She envisioned my show as a way to get students excited about the theatre, and I managed to set up a camera to capture some of the fun.

From Oklahoma, it was on south to Texas, and my third performance at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. The now-retired theatre teacher had brought me in to perform back in 2002, and the French teacher has brought me back twice since then. One of the students who was at that first performance (Michael) was now on the faculty, and he and I have continued to get together to celebrate after every show.

It so happens that I am signed up to receive “Google Alerts” every time particular words should appear on the internet. As such, I’ve indexed a lot of Moliere play titles, as well as my name. I then get an e-mail from “Google Alerts” to let me know when some relevant item is out there (such as news or reviews of someone presenting one of my plays), and so I was surprised when the following appeared in my mailbox, apparently entered into a blog by “Charlyn,” a student at TAMUK:

“I'm so excited tomorrow Timothy Mooney is coming to our campus to preform. My sister and I are going to go see him preform Moliere plays my french teachers says he's a really good performer and i think we'll enjoy it. ...”

This time around, the show was presented as a part of “Family Day” at TAMUK, which meant that this was a dinner-theatre event in one of the Student Center ballrooms, attended by a lot of people who had no interest in Moliere (they were there for the free spaghetti dinner), along with a few who did. Beyond this, I noticed that the student activities group had scheduled a free showing of “Kung Fu Panda” to begin an hour after my performance was scheduled to start! (“Oh, don’t worry about it,” they insisted. "We’ll just start the movie whenever you’re done, and they’ll just wait in the hallway when they arrive.” – I immediately started choosing which monologues to cut from the show.)

This performance was a major challenge, as I had to fill two ballrooms with my voice, and the second ballroom, off to my left was a continual annoyance, with servers clanking plates and dropping silverware, and others who assumed they were far enough out of the way to be able to chat casually without disturbing the event. As the show went on their disturbance increased, and I found myself shouting them down, particularly amid my performance of “Don Juan,” during which my host eventually took up the initiative to head over that way and shoo them off.

And while my focus was on overcoming the obstacles in the room, I must note that I am the only one who mentioned the issues surrounding the various disturbances and distractions. After the show, I got nothing but rave reviews from the audience, and some of the viewers cited “Don Juan” as their favorite monologue. Again, I was finding that the narrative going through my head did not necessarily jive with the perceptions of the people watching. While I was putting out every bit of energy that I might to outshout the disturbance, some people were actually listening for the content of the work, and all of the outshouting did, in fact overwhelm the disturbance.

During curtain call, the French club presented me with a bottle of French wine.

Michael and his friends joined myself and a couple of the students from the French club back at my guest apartment for a celebration, and a bunch of us finished off the evening at a local hangout.

The next morning, I was up early again, meeting up with cousins Kathy and Larry in San Antonio, before moving on west, with stops in Van Horn, Texas, and Silver City, New Mexico (visiting with a friend I met at the performance there last spring).

From Silver City, I pushed on west, with an extremely frustrating stay at a Motel 6 in Yuma, Arizona. (The wireless internet signal did not reach my room, and I wasted hours chasing around trying to get on line.) The Motel 6 folks put out absolutely no effort to help me get hooked up, nor did they refund any portion of the money I spent, so I have now, officially, sworn off of them for the remainder of this tour. (Avoid Motel 6!)

I dropped in on my friends Pete and Betty in San Diego, performing a couple of monologues for their daughter, Gemini, and her friends (Gemini still remembered my performance of “Stop Thief” from about three years ago, and was laughing so hard that her eyes were watering this time around.) I continued north for a visit with an old high school friend, Kirsten (who I had gotten reacquainted with due to one of those outrageous coincidences; mutual friends of friends), along with our mutual friend, Edwina. From there, I headed north to drop in on “Airplane Jayne” (with whom I enjoyed watching Joe Biden crush Sara Palin) before one further drive north to a show in Palo Alto.

The Palo Alto show came together at the last minute, with a church event that tied up the theatre until 90 minutes before showtime, and a technician who was another 15 minutes late. The audience was very, very quiet, and the teacher had requested the full 85-minute show, which meant that the very funny monologues wouldn’t kick in until about 15 minutes into the show. Little by little, the silence dissipated, and the audience figured out that this was, indeed, intended to be funny. And the way that I now have balanced the stage-scenes with the audience-participation scenes (my “Tartuffe” and “Scapin” volunteers were both adorably cute girls of eastern-Indian heritage) helps to build interest and keep the audience off balance, and enjoying the show more and more as it proceeds. By the time we reached “Stop Thief” I had won them over entirely, and they were laughing at everything.

From Palo Alto, it was on to Salem, Oregon, dropping in on my brother Pat, and family, and then further north, to North Idaho College, where I just lectured a couple of classes this morning, and am preparing a workshop on Commedia tomorrow.

Okay, so just as I was about to "publish" this view from here, another Google Alert came through my mail. This one may be my greatest review of all time. Since I don't have permission to reprint these words, I'll just refer you to the website: Live Journal. If I get permission later, I'll paste it in.

Ah! Permission arrived ... Here is as much of the posting as my ego will allow me to reprint:

The real truth:

Yes, I've said it before... and I will say it again:

I love Timothy Mooney.

Now, I hate translations of Molière. And I sure hate adaptations of Molière. And I hate abridged versions of Molière... But I love Mr. Mooney.

He is probably the only translator I've ever read who cares about Molière the man as well as Molière the playwright, plus the beauty of French language, some of which is inherently lost in translation. But this man? He gets it.

So when Roommate-the-Theatre-minor pitched to me the idea of being her stage manager for Tartuffe a few weeks ago, I almost winced. Almost. Then immediately did spring into my mind's eye the wonderful recollection of seeing clips of Tim Mooney performing scenes from Molière Than Thou on Youtube.

My heart skipped a beat. I gasped.

"CanwedoTimMooney'sversion?" tumbled the words from my mouth.

"Well," she said, "I was going to ask you, Miss French-Major-with-working-knowledge-and-three-semesters'-study-of-Tartuffe, to choose the best English translation."

I squeaked, "Tim Mooney!"

So we ordered the script for his 40 minute, shortened, English version of Tartuffe. Then I was cast as Elmire. So the more I read these lines, and not just the excerpts, the more I love his work.

Oh wait, but there is more! Our Orgon, my (Elmire's) husband, knows Tim Mooney. KNOWS HIM PERSONALLY! Possibly the only more exciting thing than knowing him would be knowing... .. . ... ... I.. .uh.... Adam West (yes yes, I am a Batman faaaaan. We already know this). And that's about it.

Wait. I don't actually think Adam West knows French, so never mind. ...


Discoveries: Perhaps I just imagine that I’m losing my audience from distractions or resentment, and that “voice in my head” has no connection to reality. … Or, perhaps it’s the energy that I put out to respond to the urgency of that voice in my head that is what makes me successful in countering the negativity that I imagine. * While I was putting out every bit of energy that I might to outshout the disturbance, some people were actually listening for the content of the work.

On TV: Lots of great shows these days: The Rachel Maddow Show has been amazing. Pushing Daisies is the best thing on TV this year, at least until Battlestar Gallatica comes back on. And the show SLINGS AND ARROWS (no longer on TV, but available on DVD) is maybe the best thing I've ever seen.

Temperature: 105 in southern Arizona, lower 50s in Idaho …

Attendance: 15 + 15 + 10 + 15 + 75 + 70 + 25 + 20 + 75 + 20 + 50 + 250 + 70 + 15 + 15 = 740

Next show: Johnson County Community College; Overland Park, KS, Oct 17, 7:30pm; Pathways Fundraiser: 7pm, Raddison Hotel, Northbrook, IL

Political Rant: The Obama offices are EVERYWHERE here on the west
coast, and late at night on Saturday night, it was as busy as a singles bar!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The View From Here #133: Liege, Belgium; Paris, France; Minneapolis, MN

Quick announcement: My long-time friend, accountant, board member of the Stage Two Theatre and Mensa member, Terry Hall, is running for Illinois State Senate! Wouldn't it be great to have someone who can balance a budget in there? Check her out at, and float a couple bucks her way!

Returning from Lincoln, Nebraska, I threw myself into editing of my Moliere scripts for submission. I would do one “pass” through a script per day, along with a rehearsal or two of “Karaoke Knights.” With each day’s rehearsal, I would re-introduce elements of the play into the mix, such as the video, the costumes or the projector. With each step I would remind myself of another layer of the play’s demands, and adjust my performance accordingly.

Finally, I videotaped myself performing the show in the basement, and virtually had to chain myself to the computer to watch the video. I am often very uncomfortable watching myself on tape, but I diverted my discomfort through my notepad, taking notes on any problems that I observed, as if I was the director, watching someone ELSE perform.

Of course, as my own worst/best critic, I had lots of notes. Most of them had to do with instances of seeing “Tim” pop up inside the five characters who were “not-Tim.” I realized all the gestures that I was doing which were so indicative of “me,” and began work on a method which would “get me out of myself,” fashioning a “psychological gesture” for each of my several characters, and using that gesture to remind me of the embodiment of each individual. (This will ultimately be yet another chapter in my eventual acting textbook.)

On July 15, I broke off from the rehearsal process and drove to Detroit, where I met Isaac and the two of us flew to Belgium, for the annual meeting of the American Association of Teachers of French.

The big box of flyers, discs, costumes and banners I wanted to ship to meet me there was weighing in at about 40 pounds, and the FedEx guy was estimating a cost of $400 to send it to Belgium.

I decided there was no way of justifying spending $800 to ship this (round trip), and so I stripped away all but the bare necessities and found a smaller box that I could check as baggage on the airplane. Since it was holding banners that were 31 inches wide, this made for a long box, which was still rather heavy, and unwieldy in airports and on the street.

Isaac and I arrived with no problems (other than lack of sleep), and unloaded our stuff in Belgium with nary a question being asked (other than the purpose of our trip). A couple of familiar faces from the airplane directed us toward the train station, and we took one train directly from the airport to the first stop. (We were redirected by the conductor, who informed us that we’d inadvertently sat in first class, which Isaac noted, looked like a compartment out of Harry Potter). We arrived at an extremely confusing terminal with a dozen train platforms, none of which seemed to be directed toward our ultimate destination (all the while maneuvering luggage and a clumsy, heavy box up and down stairs and ramps).

Eventually the nice guy at the information booth directed us to a train which was destined to a town with an unfamiliar name. Belgium is a multi-lingual nation, and they cannot even agree on single names for given cities. Thus “Liege” is actually known as “Luik” if you are in a Flemmish region of Belgium.

We pulled in to Liege around noon and walked the luggage and ourselves the two kilometers to the conference hall. (At this point, I was economizing on taxis.) When the struggle with the extra bag got to be too much, I relied on my strapping young son to maneuver it for a block or two, and we traded off for the remainder of the walk.

At the conference center, we dropped off the box and its contents, setting up the booth in record time, before working our way towards the hotel, which was yet another kilometer or so away. But this time, at least, we were only maneuvering our own luggage, SANS the box of display stuff, though it did choose that moment to begin raining.

We paused for a bite in a local pub, in a cobblestone alley that reminded me of New Orleans, and had our first difficulty with translation. The guy at the bar did not want to respond to English. (I had poked my head in asking “Are you open?” before realizing that even if I did have the right French words, “Are you open” was probably idiomatic to English, and he might not recognize my intent.) Meanwhile Isaac was digging for the exact French words, and I convinced the guy to respond to my awful mash of French and English phrases, enabling us to order sandwiches and cokes, before moving on to the hotel.

By the time we got to the hotel, I had learned to ask, first, “Parlez-vous Anglais?” before launching into a conversation, and we got on much better. Isaac was disappointed that this circumvented his role as the official “translator,” though he later admitted that, after three years of middle-school French, “You know, Dad, I’m learning that the French that they teach you in school is crap.”

We had a tiny hotel room, and the internet service was non-functional. I paid for 60 minutes of connectivity, and managed to download my messages in about thirty seconds, but was unable to hook up again until after we left Liege, three days later.

After a much-needed nap, we returned to the conference center, and I donned the white coat and wig for the course of the exhibit hall soiree, which is usually my best sales opportunity of this conference. (Since everyone has a ticket for a free glass of wine in the exhibit hall, just about everyone shows up and wanders past the various booths.) I caught up with lots of old friends, and folks who’d booked me and who were looking to book me in the future. I managed to hook potential hosts up with previous hosts to testify about the quality of the show, and over the course of three days, I collected info on about 40 potential bookers.

The exhibit hall soiree segued into a “walking dinner” (i.e., tall tables with no chairs, so that the attendees would continue to circulate), and we visited lots of folks, all of whom were impressed by Isaac, his French interests, his intelligence his height, his willingness to be dragged halfway around the world... Given that we were in Belgium (where 14 is an acceptable drinking age), I indulged him in a glass of wine. (In my opinion, there’s lots less binge drinking in Europe because people don’t make such a big deal about it.)

We headed back to the hotel, struggled with the internet connection for an hour or so, and slept very deeply. The next day, I got to the exhibit hall at 9 a.m., and Isaac stumbled in around noon. It was a mostly quiet day, and I was preparing for a performance the following morning.

That day I woke up at around 5 a.m., and strolled the streets of Liege, looking for a coffee shop, drilling my lines the whole time. Isaac hadn’t seen a performance of my show for perhaps four or five years, and he arrived at the conference center about five minutes before I went on, performing to an audience of twenty or so.

I chose a woman in the second row to deliver my “Tartuffe” monologue to, and as she kept a mostly straight face through the performance, I was surprised when she volunteered to play the scene across from me. She did very well, and later I invited her to join Isaac and I and some friends to dinner.

The exhibit hall closed at noon, and we packed up rather quickly, hauling the now-marginally lighter box (having given away a few dozen brochures and discs) back to the hotel. We were joined by my old friend, Jose (who has made previous appearances in these pages from the days he used to live in New York), and along with Susie (the woman from the “Tartuffe” scene), we walked through Liege, taking photos and finding a restaurant. Susie encouraged all of Isaac’s worst impulses, as he ordered the snails. Ewwww.

The next day Jose drove us to his home in Ghent, which is on the Flemish side of Belgium, a rather dark, gothic city (though the sun did manage to break through). It was a big day for some sort of a Ghent beer festival … or it was at least a festival where beer was a prominent component, and we found a table along the river overlooking tour boats that arrived and departed every couple of minutes.

The next day, Jose put Isaac and I on a train which bulleted us from Brussells to Paris in about 75 minutes (at estimated speeds of 130 mph.) This time I invested in a taxi to take us to the hotel, which was about a mile southeast of the center of Paris.

I gave Isaac the first choice of what to do, and he voted for the Eiffel Tower. We waited in line for about 45 minutes before taking the elevators all the way to the top (where the battery of my camera gave out). While my fear-of-heights was present, it wasn’t as bad as I’d recalled from the time we’d visited the Statue of Liberty, and from above I was actually able to get a feel for the layout of Paris, as we marked the several sites we wanted to visit in our three-day stop.

I had no desire to take the subway, and I think we learned the city fairly well in three days by walking everywhere. We probably walked ten miles a day (and my knee was starting to make noise once again), but the sights were amazing. It was a much lighter, aesthetically pleasing city than Ghent, and we started to feel very much at home. (Even though Isaac mistakenly attempted to order some sort of grocery store for dinner.)

Our second day in Paris, we set out for the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery. There is a marker for the grave of Moliere, which probably does not actually contain his remains (the cemetery was built in 1804, and Moliere died in 1673). We also visited the grave of Jim Morrison, which was littered not only with flowers, but cigarette butts and at least one beer can.

Jumping forward for a moment, on the very day that I returned to the U.S., I downloaded an e-mail from a Canadian theatre teacher who reported the following:

“I just want you to know that I read your translation of Moliere's 'Doctor in spite of Himself' with my Ontario students in France. The kicker is that we sat around Moliere's grave in the Pere Lachaise cemetery and read the whole thing aloud, to the amusement and bemusement of passers-by. Some stayed and listened. …”

I can only imagine the thrill that I would have felt if I had only stumbled across this group myself while I was touring the cemetery.

On our last full day in Paris, Isaac and I headed to the Comedie Francaise, where I had an appointment with the “Conservateur-archiviste de la Bibliothèque-Musée” to take a tour of the building. The fellow was extremely generous in showing me around the backstage areas, and I was amazed to see the many paintingsand busts that I had long been observing in books and on-line, in their original form. He even showed me the famous “Invalid chair” which Moliere himself had sat in as part of the production of “Le Malade Imaginaire” (The Imaginary Invalid) only hours before he died. (The chair, worn and splintering, is protected inside of a glass box.)

Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take photos, but the painting which most amazed me was a very large frescoe of the many characters of Moliere’s plays in various poses, as seen above.

By now, my Paris experience was complete, and we topped it off with a walk down the Champs Elysees that evening, to the Arc de Triomphe at the far end.

The next morning, we were up at 5 a.m. to catch the shuttle to the airport, and a flight directly to the Detroit Metro airport. The ticket clerk had gotten us seats by the exit door, which meant we had lots of leg room, and were much more comfortable on the flight home than we’d been going out. I said goodbye to Isaac in Detroit and continued the drive home.

Back home, I threw myself back into preparations for the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Some of the Chicago area actors who were touring to the festival had put together a Mini-Fringe, and we all did 20-30 minutes of our shows in a somewhat improvised space. Unfortunately, the space had a cement floor, and I think I AGAIN did a bit of damage to my knee during my brief performance.

I was writing and re-writing my DVD, cutting the karaoke interludes of my script entirely at one point, and while I’d been performing version 6.1 of the show for over two years, I quickly found myself drafting a new variation, almost on a daily basis, and was performing KK 10.0 by the time I arrived in Minnesota.

This time around, I’d arranged a BYOV (Bringe Your Own Venue) with the fringe, performing at an Irish Pub/Karaoke Bar called McMahon’s, which had the best stage of the venues I’d visited last December.

The negotiations with the bar had been somewhat strained and uncertain, and I never knew if the agreement would fall apart at any given hurdle. The “tech rehearsal” was a bit of a struggle as the handful of bar patrons seemed hostile to a play which was drowning out their jukebox.

The fringe Out-of-Towner Showcase was a lot of fun, visiting with lots of people that I’d met in recent years, and I was glad to be the second act performing out of some 15 theatre groups. Sitting backstage while other people are performing leads me to compare myself to them in all kinds of unhealthy ways, but when I got up early, I could feel that no one had quite depicted the style that I was performing in my song, “The Dreaming Tax” before I’d gotten up to take my turn.

The next night my stage manager, Andrea, and I set up at the bar, and did the show to about a dozen in the audience. Without the karaoke numbers, there was far less audience participation, as there were no cues for the audience to sing along. There were also patrons off to the side making their usual patron noise during the show itself, as well as waitresses working their way through the crowd, taking food and drink orders. During the last song, a bar patron with a VERY LOUD VOICE was holding forth on some topic while I was trying to perform.

Many in the audience seemed pleased with the show, but I was unsatisfied with the experience. I had a chat with the woman in charge, who promised to keep the bar patrons much quieter for future shows, and I decided to restore the karaoke numbers to the performance. This, of course, meant spending another full day with the DVD, returning to version 6.1 and reworking it into version 11.0, which would trim extraneous verses of the karaoke music, and fade them in more slowly, so I was only using about 15 seconds of material for the audience to sing along with, before cutting to my own, original stuff.

Meanwhile, the first review appeared on-line, suggesting:

“… And yet, he was a trooper. He sang and danced through it all anyway. Unfortunately, his dancing was campy, and his singing was mediocre. The premise of the show was interesting, but the execution left a lot to be desired. He tried too hard to be "deep" with the song lyrics; he tried too hard to be "funny" with the characters; he just tried too hard, and missed the mark as a result.” (Stef B)

It was about this time that I got a note from Playscripts, Inc., congratulating me on the opening of the show, and insisting that if I wanted my four latest script to go into their new cataologue, they would need the proofs by Monday. This proceeded to occupy the remainder of my weekend. (The plays are already published! Go here.)

Also, around this same time, I learned that my "Uncle Blanford" had died. Horace Blanford Mooney was my dad's older brother, and had always lived on the west coast (as long as I can remember), so I only rarely saw him, but his company was always warm, appreciative and encouraging.

More reviews were starting to come in, but after the first one went on at length about the venue, every subsequent reviewer seemed to need to argue this theme, pro and con. And thus, the “frame” of the discussion for this show had been drawn around the venue itself, which left very little room for commentary on the actual content of the play.

“Extraordinary character studies of karaoke contestants. Tim Mooney establishes characters in a few seconds so he can delve into the psyches of people you just met. Meanwhile, the karaoke teleprompter is kissin' cousins with "The Word" graphic on The Colbert Report. The karaoke contest is typical, but the songs that play inside Karaoke Knights are original and revealing. The venue is not ideal for the Fringe …” (Dave Romm)

“This is a good show in a tough location. Tim is great at delineating his five different characters through the original songs he gives them -- "Dreaming Tax" was a particular stand-out. I liked the karaoke machine's own comments on the songs …” (Delano duGarm)

“I'm kind of stunned that so many people are complaining about the venue, because I thought it was perfect -- public humiliation is the point of the show, and this wouldn't have anything like the same effect in a theatre space. Surprisingly vulnerable, and that's only wonderfully abetted by the bewilderment of the bar regulars. This is exactly the kind of bizarre experience I Fringe for.” (Phillip Low)

“Tim Mooney returns to the Fringe with 'Karaoke Knights', his most schizophrenic show yet. Tim, while adhering to the one-man show format, has decided that he needs a larger cast - and he's up to the task. 'Karaoke Knights' is a great ride, a journey through the minds of five contestants in a karaoke competition, delving into the reasons people go to bars, what they're hoping for on stage, and ultimately why they sing karaoke….” (Kale Ganann)

Meanwhile, the performances were improving (even as my knee was getting worse), and the reinsertion of the sing-along created the atmosphere of camaraderie I was looking for. Even so, the attendance remained very thin, with the audience numbers mostly fluctuating between ten and twenty. Late in the run, I had a performance with thirty in the house, and then for the final performance, there were 41 in the audience, which the box office workers declared to be our “sell-out” figure.

Knowing that this last show would be the best attended, I brought out my video camera, and enlisted my billeter’s brother (also in town from Chicago) to tape the show, proceeding thereafter to upload scene after scene to YouTube. (I was going to get my promotional fix out of this festival one way or another!) Considering that the most recent videotaping of this show was for an audience of only three people in Boulder, Colorado, 2005, this would prove to be an invaluable resource, demonstrating to potential bookers the style and quality of the work and the fun that the crowd was having in the process.

A fun alternative from the reviews were two on-line interviews that I did, both before and after the run of my show. You can find them at: Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine ... then proceed to click on the videos marked Minnesota Fringe Festival: Act I and Minnesota Fringe Festival: Act V.

Independent of the reception that the show was getting (by the end, I was hearing quite a number of people saying that they’d been hearing how good it was, which was validated by the final day’s attendance), I was enjoying the fringe society quite a bit. Every night, following an evening of show-going, a couple of hundred of us descended on “Fringe Central”, a theatre that had it’s own bar, including a rooftop patio, with a terrific view of downtown Minneapolis. I found myself circulating like a pinball, visiting people whose shows I’d liked, or who I’d met in previous years, or who I’d vaguely remembered from previous years.

Quite often it was they who remembered me, and there were several people who approached me to tell me how much they’d enjoyed “Criteria” which I’d performed at the Minneapolis Fringe back in 2006! It is perhaps the greatest satisfaction of what I do, to grasp the notion that some piece of who I am, or what I did, continues to mean something to people for years after I am gone. They may only come into contact with me for a single hour, but the memories of that hour make an impact that I will never quite be privy to.

Speaking of impact, my favorite production of the Minnesota Fringe this summer was a show called "The Pumpkin Pie Show," based on "Rest Area" by Clay McLeod Chapman (pictured right). Also fun were Shave & Reilly, who performed "The Department of Angels" (Caitlin Reilly is the volunteer that I grabbed for my "Bite My Tongue" video, above.")

The final night at the fringe found us partying, once more, at the First Avenue, the nightclub made somewhat famous by Prince and the movie “Purple Rain.” I managed to enjoy one last visit with friends, including the adorable stage manager from the show from "Red Tide," a show from Miami (pictured below). And while I had barely managed to get through the run of my show without damaging my knee, I couldn’t resist dancing a bit.

Monday, I was back on the road, and home in several hours. I now face a full month of time off between performances, and contemplate all the new projects that I will attempt to squeeze into that space: including three books about the theatre that are tossing around in my mind, particularly a study of Shakespeare’s most challenging soliloquies, which will also be occupying my time as I continue my attempt to memorize one monologue from each of Shakespeare’s plays! Then there’s editing more Moliere plays, possibly writing one more adaptation (of a very short one), and probably a few ventures to the karaoke bar.

Miles on the Vibe: 274,400

Temperature: A comfy 70 degrees.

Discoveries: I can make huge improvements if I can only get Tim-the-Actor to allow Tim-the-Director to contribute to the process. * While most of my acting efforts go towards unleashing my natural energy, the show grows just as much from efforts at restraint, keeping the Tim-gestures at bay, and enabling someone else to take over. * “Parlez-vous Anglais?” are probably the three most important words for a tourist to come armed with. * You can get to know a city better by walking through it than taking a taxi, or subway.* The “frame” that the first review or reviews put around your play becomes the prism through which subsequent viewers will perceive it, or at least find themselves forced to comment on someone else’s frame. * Some piece of who I am, or what I did, continues to mean something to people for years after I am gone.

Next performance: A workshop at North Park College (Sept 9), and another at Cardinal Stritch College (Sept 10), with a performance scheduled in Denver at the Alliance for Colorado Theatre Sept 19.

Political Rant: If the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything around you starts looking like a nail. Apparently the only thing that John McCain sees as a cure-all to the nation's ills is to bomb the crap out of anything that doesn't toe the shifting line that lives in his feeble imagination. His answer: "Bomb Iraq." "Bomb Iran." "Surge Iraq." "Surge the Economy." Scorn his opponent for actually having done well in school!