Friday, June 19, 2009

The View From Here #139: Greenwood, SC, Wingate, NC, Geneva, IL, Minneapolis, MN, Moscow, ID, Los Angeles, CA, Boulder, CO, Crown Point, IN, Orlando,

Important Notices:
I’ll be group-leading once again for the Pathways Basic Seminar, later this month: June 25-28! If you’re up for “changing your life in a weekend,” please sign on and come join me! You can find info at www.pathwaysseminars.org .

I’m also emceeing the Pathways Scholarship Fundraiser, “Pathways Idol II” and recently recorded a brief promo video.


I’ve got one of my rare Chicago Area performances coming up: this time it’s a series of performances at the Skokie Theatre, Saturdays and Sundays, July 11-19. (Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm) I’ll be doing BOTH “Moliere Than Thou” and “Criteria” on each night, leading off with Moliere, taking an intermission and then moving from 300 years in the past to 300 years in the future with “Criteria!”

“The Misanthrope” was a big hit at Greenwood Community Theatre! While they’d planned for the show to take a bit of a loss, assuming that people were not that “into” classical theatre, we had great word of mouth from the outset. (Misanthrope photos, below, by Lynn Mcjunkin Photography.) In addition to the review (quoted in the last “View From Here”) , which, while positive, had one of the WORST headlines ever ("'Misanthrope' an unlikely candidate for entertaining evening, but is") there was an e-mail campaign, with Jean Park (Bess’ mom) circulating her own rave response, and others adding their own enthusiastic commentary. Jean circulated the following:
I have just watched a rehearsal of "The Misanthrope" by Moliere and … I am so afraid that the fact that it is a classic play will scare some people off---- BUT IT IS HILARIOUS!!!

Tim Mooney, the young playwright, has been in Greenwood directing the play and plays the leading role. HE IS ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL! You will not see acting such as his outside of the big cities----but here it is in Greenwood and I do pray you will take advantage of this once in a lifetime chance.

Our Greenwood actors and actresses have never done a play like this before, but he has created from our local talent a polished cast. They perform well, and they are having a ball doing it. He has written every line of dialogue in the play IN RHYME!!

I will tell you this. Do not go to the play with a lazy brain. You will want to listen to every word that is spoken to get the fun of those rhymes. It is a brilliant use of the English language and as witty as it can be. Please do not miss it.

This rave was further circulated by local bon vivant, Jack K. Jennings, who added his own two cents to Jean’s commentary:
Well, I have just gotten home and believe I must forward AGAIN the memo from Jean Park to encourage all of you to make an effort to enjoy this play! One patron, that has sufficient opportunity to visit and attend plays in New York City, told me after the play she was glad she had been in the Greenwood Community Theater TONIGHT.

If you don't think you'll be going to New York any time soon then treat yourselves for less than the cost of the taxi (in NYC) to enjoy one of the quality performances this weekend. Even the set design made me believe we were seeing a marbled garden in France--- and I won't be touring there this year either.

It was a delightful five days of performance, darkened only by my fears that my voice might give out at any moment. This 90-minute show featured about 45 minutes of the sound of my own voice, and my need to drill my lines about three times a day in preparation, in a dusty, moldy theatre, had my voice coming in and out of tune throughout the weekend.

I was particularly impressed (as was most of the audience) with the way that the four high-schoolers in the show, all of whom were handling substantial roles, stepped up in the course of the rehearsals and performances. Following the one bit of recasting we had to do (an actor who was chronically late and unmemorized), everyone seemed to realize that they were going to be held accountable for the quality of their work, and surpassed all of my expectations. The actor who joined the show with only two weeks remaining did a particularly outstanding job, and I pointed to his work repeatedly, as a challenge for those who had been cast way back in January.

An old friend from a performance that I gave back in Alabama in 2004 drove all the way out to see the show, and wrote the following:
Okay. Superlatives fail me. The production was outstanding, exceptional, superb. Marge and I could not stop talking about it and we agreed that it would have done any stage in the world proud. The final casting of the play was excellent, and the stage direction extremely pleasing to this non-professional. … The exaggerated posing done by the two marquis was also a deliciously funny commentary on the artificial facades created by polite society in Moliere's day. I loved every shift of pose! … I was transported back in time. I was no longer in the Greenwood Community Theatre but rather at the Palais Royal in the late 1660s. Tim and Isaac disappeared for a moment and Moliere and LaGrange reappeared in their place. … Your translations are magical. You somehow manage to capture not just the meaning of the original French but the joy, the energy and the outrageous FUN of the original French. (Jenny Moody)
I recruited Hollys, our understudy, to videotape the show, knowing that she would be the most familiar with where we moved, and when, and she showed up for Saturday’s show. While the show got off to a good start, I was a little frustrated with some gaffes I found myself making as the show went on, so I was relieved when she suggested she wanted to come back for Sunday’s show to take another shot at it.

Sunday’s show got off to a rough start (as we … okay, I, was still recovering from the cast party), but as we hit the second act we found our stride. Knowing that this was the last time I would have to put my voice through these particular paces, I was able to loosen the reins a bit more, and I could sense that we were turning in our best performance. And so, I spliced the two video recordings together, using Act I from Saturday and Acts II-V from Sunday.

I then proceeded to >post the entire play on YouTube!

Given that I was dealing with my own words, and the non-equity cast was happy to have their performances on-line, that meant that I could post what may be the only viewable full-length version of “The Misanthrope” on-line (in 10-minute increments, as demanded by the YouTube format).

Which means that this may well function as a teaching tool for Theatre and French students and faculty for years to come, and provide significant exposure to my version of the play. I spent about a week cutting and rendering and posting scenes from the show on-line, and if you want, you can watch the entire play here: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=BAF0FBB8A121B846 .


The next day I was off to a show at Wingate University in North Carolina.
Two months after the performance (aside from the fact that they were terrific hosts, with a really slick brochure, and that they asked me for an autographed headshot for their wall, there’s very little that I actually remember from the Wingate performance. Except I do remember the sequence in which Tartuffe approaches a woman in the front row of the audience for his first “seduction monologue.” The woman had a sly smile on her face, but she kept holding up her ring finger to indicate to either Tartuffe, or to Moliere, or to Tim, that she was in fact married. Tim and Moliere were, of course, fully buried inside Tartuffe’s character at that point, and no wedding ring was going to slow him down!

A couple days later I heard from the host of the show:
Once again, it was really nice to meet you, and you brought the stage to life with your protrayal of Moliere. I think some of the kids might have left that night thinking, "Man, I really need to read that more closely!"
With a few days in Chicago, I continued the video posting, and geared up for a performance at Geneva High School. The technician didn’t arrive until about 50 minutes before showtime. I did what I could to talk her through the show, or at least what cues might still be possible to set up in our limited working time.

The show was still well received, and a dozen or so theatre students lingered afterwards to ask me questions, and get me to sign autographs. One of the teachers bought a bunch of t-shirts to sell to her students after the fact, and I left feeling very good about the event.

The next day, I made an afternoon stop at Lake Forest College, where I had an interview with the Dean, who was offering me a position to direct “Tartuffe” next winter! I hadn’t actually interviewed for a “teaching” job for about 20 years, and I dug out my old “vitae” which detailed all of the courses I had taught. I haven’t actually checked it for about 20 years! (It was printed on a dot-matrix printer!)

Since I’m probably as familiar with “Tartuffe” as anyone in the United States, I wasn’t nervous about this interview, and we had a nice conversation. I was actually more concerned about the following appearance I had in the dramaturgy class, which had been researching “Tartuffe” all semester long, and wanted my input on the upcoming production. (As well as I know the show, I hadn’t had any down time to envision what my concept ought to be.) We did, however, have an informative conversation regarding what I felt was and was not a relevant approach for “Tartuffe” in this modern era.

Immediately afterwards, I was off to Minneapolis/St. Paul, where I was due to give a workshop and a performance the following day at St. Joseph’s/St. Catherine’s College. Driving straight through, I pulled into St. Paul around 10 pm, and had a brief visit with Alina, the Moliere fan I’d bumped into months before at the Theatre de Juene Lune rummage sale.

It was a theatre department fallen on hard times, as the St. Joseph's campus had just cut out their theatre department. (I was shocked that they still had funds to bring me in!) They’d requested an acting workshop focusing on Commedia performance, and I continued developing a thesis I’d been working on, that explored Moliere’s characters as caricatures, and examining how and why a playwright might more aptly use a caricature than a fully fleshed out, naturalistic character. It went over quite well, and I returned that evening to perform the show in a small recital hall. One of the most memorable moments of that performance may well have been when a group of tap-dancers, who were performing in a dance event in another part of the building opened the door to the backstage in the middle of the performance. This spooked Moliere, and while you can't quite see the tap dancers in this video, you can get a sense of Moliere's, and the audience's reaction.

Several of my Minnesota Fringe friends showed up for the performance, as well as Alina, and Cynthia, who’d played Elmire in the very first production of the shortened version of my “Tartuffe. (>Cynthia, the big fan mentioned several times in recent blogs, was quick to volunteer for Elmire.) There were also a couple of fellow playwrights who belonged, along with me, to the “playwright binge” listserv. Both reported generously on the show in subsequent days, with Claudia writing to the binge list, and James writing to both the list and his blog (quoting, below, from his blog):
"I had the good fortune to see Tim Mooney's MOLIERE THAN THOU. Was I ever pleased to be free when he was in town. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment - but the really happy thing is, my husband - who does not have a theatrical bent in his body (it makes our marriage work) also enjoyed it. So it's not just for theatricals! I've only had a few bites of Moliere and am used to the Richard Wilbur translation and I must say Tim's translation are so very accessible. And Tim just relishes the time onstage as I imagine Moilere would have!" Claudia Haas, Playwright

"The performance was brilliant. To start with the script was very well-done (a testament to Tim as a writer) with wonderful translations which gave evidence to Tim's deep knowledge of Moliere's works. As a performer Tim was filled with energy from start to finish, dashing around the stage and climbing around the theater as he moved from play to play. He reminded me of a young Hugh Laurie (from the likes of Jeeves and Wooster (especially in his facial movements; I've never seen someone act so much with their tongue). What held my attention the most was Tim's complete dedication to what he was doing. The script was enjoyable, the translations excellent, but it was the actor, throwing himself completely into the part, that pulled the whole show together. All in all it was a brilliant piece of work. I'm glad I was able to catch it, and it makes me sorry I've missed Tim's other shows at the Fringe." T. James Belich, Playwright

I joined several of my Fringe/St. Thomas friends for an evening at the karaoke bar before pushing on the next day, working my way west. I made better time than anticipated and had an evening in Missoula, MT to visit with my old prof, Joe Proctor, and even had a swing through Coeur d’alene, where I’ve lectured variously and where they’d produced my Doctor in Spite of Himselfearlier in the semester (cool photos if you follow the link). I got a chance to visit with the girl we casually refer to as my “Idaho Girlfriend” (I signed her “Moliere Than Thou” t-shirt a year back … while she was wearing it) who I usually pick on as the volunteer for many of my Moliere scenes.
Dropping south an hour or two, I arrived in Moscow… Moscow, Idaho, of course. In the school paper, the following preview awaited:
Timothy Mooney: keeping Moliere alive
Timothy Mooney is keeping Moliere alive and funny as ever. With his one-man performance, “Moliere Than Thou,” Mooney has travelled all over the U.S. and Europe to preserve Moliere’s wit and humor.

Mooney views Moliere as the second-best playwright to ever have lived, behind only Shakespeare, and has translated and re-written 15 Molière plays and incorporated them into his 90-minute one-man act.

Some of Moliere’s humor and wit had been lost in previous translations, but French professor Sarah Nelson said Mooney has managed to keep the humor and verse in his translation.

Last summer, Nelson attended the American Association of Teachers of French in Belgium where she saw Mooney’s performance and has since been the contact to bring him to University of Idaho.

…“I really want people to show up, because it’s a very entertaining show,” she said. “It’s well done, very entertaining and informative. It’s social commentary — funny criticism of Moliere’s society — but it works for today’s society, too.”

In the performance, Mooney appears as Moliere himself, adopting his complex language and witty commentary. “Moliere Than Thou” revives the age of Louis XIV and the beloved plays of the “French Shakespeare.” The play explores relations between man and woman, master and servant and pokes fun at the rich and the pompous.

“People generally find it much better than they thought it would be,” Nelson said.
And that evening, they threw a great dinner party for me, with several of the faculty welcoming me to town. The spring weather had turned gorgeous, and when I arrived on campus, I discovered quite a few of the students were more interested in sunning themselves than studying. The show itself, though, was really packed, and the responses were terrific. Driving south the next day, messages came in from the U of Idaho faculty:
Everywhere I go, people are exclaiming about how great the show was last night, Tim. Thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU! And thank you, also, for your willingness to meet and mingle with people all through your short stay here in Moscow--it's been lovely having the chance to get to know you a little, in addition to having the pleasure of your performance. Sarah Nelson, Associate Professor of French, University of Idaho

What a grand success the Runstad Lecture was last night! Congratulations. As you can see from the pictures we had a packed room for Moliere Than Thou. It was a delight! The spectacle was awe inspiring – one of our first sunny days of the year just a few weeks before the end of the semester and, rather than Frisbee throwing and skateboarding (and studying), UI students and Moscow/Pullman community members PACKED into the Admin Auditorium to laugh, applaud (and cavort!) for an hour and a half with a 17th century French playwright. He was hysterical. I went home laughing and repeating “stop – thief!” (nearly every one of them stayed the full time, skateboards idling in the aisles!). Sarah, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve copied our guest, the most memorable and magical Tim Mooney, on this note. Thank you monsieur! Jean M. Henscheid, Ph.D., Director, Core Curriculum

I was at the U of I performance (I was actually the volunteer for Elmire) and I just wanted to thank you for coming to the middle of nowhere to perform. I enjoyed it so much. I don't think that Moliere gets enough credit nowadays. Thanks again, Kristin
In quick order, I dropped down to Reno, Nevada, and then on to Fresno, visiting Airplane Jayne, and Santa Rosita with Kirsten (who wanted to watch the DVD of “The Misanthrope”). The next morning I went on to L.A. where I performed at Mount Saint Mary’s College (the school website refers to it as a "brilliant one man show"). I had a brief interview before the show, with Buzzine, which printed a very nice article about the show.
What could have been a daunting feat becomes an energetically engaging and enthralling event. Mooney ... seamlessly shifts from one character to another with an exchange of wig or waistcoat whilst maintaining an ongoing narration that keeps us so involved that we don’t even notice…until there’s a new character — until “he” starts to talk to us through the monologue. (Melissa Berry, Buzzine.com)

Kirsten ran the video camera, capturing some cool footage. (It was an all-girls school, which tends to amplify the giggling.)

The teacher took Kirsten and I out to eat at a fabulous restaurant, and we joked and told stories well into the night.

The next day I was on to Las Vegas, meeting up with Klee (who I’d just seen in Minneapolis several days before), before pushing through to Grand Junction, Colorado, where I caught up with one of my former hosts at a karaoke bar. Working my way through the Glenville Canyon, I pulled out my video camera to capture the shifting scenery of my favorite stretch of highway. The glare and the pock-marks on the windshield may have been a bit much to get a great view of the landscape, but I think you can still get a good sense of it from this. (I gave it a soundtrack of a couple of songs from “Karaoke Knights”.)

A friend of a friend brought me in for an event at the University of Colorado, which began with an acting workshop (I was late because I couldn’t find parking!), followed by fun performance. My friend, Tricia, from the University of Denver, who’d previously hosted my show, but never saw it, came up to catch it, and most of the DU faculty were present, laughing boisterously.

The next day I stopped in Lincoln, Nebraska, visiting Dave Landis and Bob Hall, and then pushed on home.

At home I dove in to work on a new Moliere script, “The Critique of the School for Wives,” and made one final stop out for a performance at Crown Point High School before declaring the semester officially complete.

After a week at home, I drove down to the Orlando Fringe Festival, where I was performing “Moliere Than Thou” once again. I’d done “MTT” at this festival back in 2003, and I keep getting asked when I was going to bring it back again. This time around I was staying with Al and Gale, who have a swimming pool out back. Alas, it rained nearly every day of the festival. I spent most of my time on completing “The Critique of the School for Wives.”

Attendance at the festival was pretty thin early on, with my first four shows averaging about 20 per performance. “Word of mouth” was good though, and I kept distributing flyers and meeting people in the halls, and attending a few shows here and there. I particularly enjoyed a one-man presentation of “The Seven Samaraui,” as well as “The Bridesmaid” and “Wanderlust.” My fellow billeter at Al & Gale’s house, Tommy Nugent had a fun show, “Burning Man and the Reverend Nuge,” and we hung out by the pool now and then. Also, my new friend, John Heffner had a show called “How Hefnerian,” and he was being escorted around the festival by a two-woman “entourage.” The three of them came to see my show twice through the course of the run, and I borrowed his “entourage” to be my volunteers for the performances they attended.

The reviews were slight while I was there, with the only quotable line from Elizabeth Maupin’s review suggesting that “Mooney goes from character to character by changing a coat, a vest or a wig, and the minimum of fuss with which he does it could be a lesson to some other Fringe performers.” Though there was a nice feature story in the Orlando Sentinel:
Fringe: The man who's mastering Moliere
By Dewayne Bevil | Sentinel Staff Writer

What brings a man to be so devoted to Moliere that his license plates are a shout-out to the 17th century actor/playwright?

Timothy Mooney, actor/playwright for "Moliere Than Thou" and owner of a MOLIERE plate, says it all started when he was running a theater company in the suburbs of Chicago. …

Like many one-man shows, it's wordy. But "Than Thou" also has a distinct meter and rhyme to it.

"In the Olympics, they would call it 'the level of difficulty,' " Mooney says. "It done by the syllable, what I'm doing. I can't improvise around it."
SIDENOTE: Who says Fringe isn't educational. According to the program for "Moliere Than Thou," the playwright died in 1673 after the fourth performance of his "The Imaginary Invalid." He collapsed during the show's finale, and no doctor would attend to him because he had skewered the medical profession in many instances. ("He really showed what a sham medicine was at that time," Mooney says).

So, he didn't exactly die for his craft, but it wasn't a great health plan, either.
By the end of the run, I was getting audiences of 35, 55 and 75 all told, and a local photographer (www.TisseArt.com) showed up for my final performance. Amid that show, a fuse blew, and the lights suddenly went out on me. Eventually, the technician flipped on the room’s fluorescent lighting, under which I finished the show’s final scenes.

The next day, I drove back to Greenwood, SC, getting a quick visit in with Bess and some of the cast and crew of Misanthrope before pushing on home.

At home I spent about four days cleaning up the hundreds of e-mails that had accumulated over recent months, and assessing the schools that were on my “maybe” list. I then restructured my schedule to accommodate where I thought I had the best chance of getting booked, before diving in to the “Big Promotional Campaign.” This is the BIG list that I send to twice a year, as I work my way, alphabetically, through the states, ultimately sending out about 5000 e-mails to Theatre, French, English and History Faculty. As I write this, I have made it through the state of Oregon, with 13 states left to go, trying to get them done before Pathways, this weekend.

And amid all of that, I’ve completed the final proofing on two versions of “The Miser” and two versions of “The Schemings of Scapin” which should be available via this website: http://www.playscripts.com/author.php3?authorid=451 any day now!

And while that's the good publishing news, word has come back to me that Ray Bradbury is not interested in having an adaptation of "All Summer in a Day" (which I rewrote as a musical) published. Airplane Jayne's high school students in Fresno have been doing some work on it, and were disappointed. And yet ... I met the Editor from Dramatic Publishing for dinner the other night, and she still thinks she might be able to get him to OK a single production. (we'll keep you posted on that...)

Miles on the Vibe: 299,999 plus 20,000

Temperature: 70s

Attendance: 50 + 50 + 100 + 150 + 350 + 50 + 300 + 200 + 70 + 75 + 20 + 20 + 20 + 20 + 35 + 55 + 75 = 1640

Discoveries: I work especially well directing students … which I haven’t done for a while now. * People don’t “expect” Moliere to be as immensely entertaining as he is, and I have largely ignored (or been offended by) the task of overcoming the inertia of people who assume it won’t be any good. Lines like "an unlikely candidate for entertaining evening, but is", “it might scare some people off” and “It’s not just for theatricals,” or “People generally find it much better than they thought it would be,” seem to be “condemning it with faint praise.” My fears of saying “It’s better than you think it is, may keep me from building as big an audience as I might. * There’s a connection between the art of the caricature and commedia del’ arte which really helps make sense of the style of Moliere. *

In heavy rotation: watching the previous night’s “Countdown,” “The Rachel Maddow Show”, “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” while sending out my thousands of e-mails.

Next Performances: July 2-5: American Association of Teachers of French (San Jose); July 11-19: Skokie Theatre, Double Feature: "Moliere" and "Criteria" (Skokie, IL)

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The View From Here #171: Summer, 2017

I began my summer heading south, with the last performance of the year’s “school tour” at the Christel House Academy in Indianapolis. ...