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!