Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The View From Here #144: UT, MN, FL, FL, PA

Somewhere, in there, British Petroleum started spewing toxic sludge into the Gulf of Mexico, denying how much they were spewing, how easy it would be to stop, how incapable they were of protecting the shores, and proceeded to say a number of impolitic things which quickly found them amongst the most despised corporations on the planet. … Let’s enjoy a couple photos of the gulf, while we still might.

As usual, when I hit the west coast, there’s lots more driving per performance than in the east, and with time on my hands, I dropped in on my brother Pat, my old college friend, Cil, Jayne from the Rogue Performance Festival, and Kirsten from High School, before swinging back up to Utah for a show at Snow College.

The hosts at Snow College were a really charming couple who’d built their own ecologically-green house tucked back into the mountains, complete with horses, a pond and hay.

Snow College had decided to pick up “Lot o’ Shakespeare” for a daytime assembly. I was performing in a large auditorium, with perhaps 600 seats. The technicians were late in arriving, and the need to project my voice to fill this space limited some of the subtleties and textured characterizations that I had managed to get across in previous performances, and yet, the audience continued to respond, applauding with each completed monologue. As I approached the end of the performance, with about 3 minutes remaining, I had to skip performing the (8-minute) “Twelfth Night” (Malvolio) monologue, which is one of my favorites.

After the show, a handful of theatre students lingered to visit, and asked about the “Twelfth Night” piece. I offered to do it for them, and they responded enthusiastically. My host extended an invitation to these students to join us for lunch at the local Asian restaurant, and we had a great visit, before I hit the road once again.

Continuing east, I got a little lost in Western Colorado, as what I thought would be a “scenic route” turned into a dead end, delaying me a couple of hours. I pushed on ahead, dropping in on friends at U of Denver and, upon hitting Omaha, I realized that I was about an hour away from Northwest Missouri State U, where they were producing my version of “Tartuffe” that weekend. Steering south, I made a surprise drop in on the matinee performance, which was very well done. I continued on to Minneapolis, and eventually to Brainerd, MN, where I was performing Moliere at Central Lakes College.

Patrick, my host at Central Lakes was actually an old student of mine from NIU, and we caught lunch and caught up on 20+ years of water under the bridge. There were several folks coming up from Minneapolis to catch the show that night, and I had a good feeling about the performance. The feeling paid off, as I finished off the Spring tour with one of my best shows of the year, with the audience tuned in and responding to just about everything.

Patrick belatedly got the idea that it would be good to have me drop in on a class the next morning, but as that would delay my start for home by several hours, I begged off, and we agreed to take it up another time.

At home I “hit the ground running,” immediately starting up the big e-mail campaign for the 2010-2011 bookings. I had the new Shakespeare show to promote, and had begun collecting some enthusiastic quotes to promote it. I also had five Fringe Festivals and two Conferences coming up over the summer, and wanted to put the campaign behind me as early as I possibly could. In particular, I wanted to get the 15,000-plus e-mails (!) out to the various faculty before they all left for the summer.

And so, I worked my way through the states, and the inbox piled up, and my back cramped up, and I worked it off with exercise and massage and worked through more states, and gathered inquiries and questions in the inbox, and designed new stickers and new flyers and postcards for Fringe publicity, and worked through more states.

And I paused to do the Pathways weekend once again, once again getting jazzed for everything I intended to accomplish, and for whatever life might throw my way.

Somewhere in there, we discovered that Dad was rethinking his future.

With me on the road most of the time, Dad had been rattling around by himself in a big empty house.

And he decided that it was time to sell.

After almost fifty years in the same place, he was starting to throw out the old and pack up the stuff he wanted to keep. The place that I’d lived in, off and on, since I was two, was going up for sale.

Which meant that I had the need, and the opportunity, to find a between-trips place to settle down.

I started thinking about all of the cities that I’ve visited over recent years, with a new eye toward where I might actually want to settle in and stay. Chicago winters were not a necessary fact of life. Chicago cost-of-living was not a fait accompli. A fresh start in a new place began to spark my imagination… But where to go?

With this in mind, I headed off to the Orlando Fringe Festival.

Passing through Louisville … hmmm.

Stopping in Chattanooga … heyyyyy…

Pushing through Atlanta… nnnnnnn…

And, on to Orlando, where I stayed once again with Al and Gail. Only this year, there was no rain, and it was plenty warm enough to swim out back during the day.

This year, I had a new show… a new one that was more like stand-up comedy, and poetry and serious-but-funny monologues and dance. It was a risky new exploration, and it went over very well…

“A fun and candid romp… he has you laughing and nodding in agreement over certain moments that we can all relate to in one way or another. What helps is Mooney’s manic but fantastically timed performance, mixing up Suessian-like rhymes with engaging monologues. Kelly Fitzpatrick, Orlando Sentinel

“A high energy meditation... Using first person horror stories and poetic monologs, the show is filled with innuendo and clever word play... using the word “Circumnavigate” in a way even the OED doesn’t cover… Carl F. Gauze, Ink19.com

Captivating…. Delicacy, honesty and humility… The intimacy I felt was powerful, and will not be forgotten. Lisamarie Addams

It was eye-opening to say the least... I was not prepared however for the look into the mirror your performance created for me... The truths were undeniable and so real they filled the air around me... Thank you sincerely for... your creativeness, expression, and your ability to dance through it all. John Brockman

While I was there, a radio producer who’d seen my show decided he really liked my voice, and hired me, first to do a single character in a single commercial, and then to do the main voice for a 5-commercial series for a renegotiate-your-debt company. Supposedly, these commercials should be playing on the Sirius network by now.

Also, a photographer (Tisse, of TisseArt.com), who’d snapped some shots of my Moliere show last year, returned to take some photos of the new show, and set up a separate photo session for me on the last Sunday of Fringe, capturing some really nice shots. Between this and the voiceover session, and the nice reviews it seemed that the universe was really stepping up to take care of me on this trip.

I raced home, through Atlanta, Chattanooga and Louisville, once again. I discovered that Chattanooga has a special program, aimed at wooing artists to their city. Artists can, in fact, apply for a grant to underwrite the costs of moving to Chattanooga. Hmm.

Back at home, I pushed through the big 15,000 piece e-mailing, sending off that last e-mail at 5:30 pm on June 11, envisioning that as being the moment that every teacher in the country was packing up and knocking off for the summer.

And right about then I dove in on packing up… sorting papers, boxing up books, giving away clothing… lightening the load.

I did the math on my schedule. As of late July, I would be off to Fringe festivals for about 6 weeks, followed by about ten weeks of touring the country. I wouldn’t be back home for any appreciable time until Thanksgiving.

And by that time, for all I know, the old homestead would be sold.

There’d be little point to moving into a new space before July, given that I would be paying for, but not enjoying, a new place. Rather, I decided I would move out as much as I possibly could (storing stuff in April’s garage), until Thanksgiving presented itself with whatever new landscape life lay out in front of me.

I was about to head back down to Florida once more, with plans to maintain a table in the lobby at the American Association of Community Theatres festival happening in Venice. But the day before, a call came in from the festival coordinator: This being the International Festival, there were performers coming to Venice from all over the world, but in this case, the group from Zimbabwe were looking “iffy” about showing up. Would I make myself available to perform in their scheduled slots? “Of couuuuurrrrsssse!”

Back on the road once more! Stopping in Clarksville! In Chattanooga! In Calhoun! And on to Venice. Which was about 100 degrees the whole time I was there!

Almost immediately after arriving, I met a girl who’d seen “Moliere Than Thou” when I performed it in Sarasota a couple of years before. I immediately knew that she would be the perfect volunteer for the “Doctor” scene. Meanwhile, I set up my table in the lobby, and chatted with the neighboring vendors, visited with Linda from Dramatic Publishing, and dropped in to watch shows here and there.

By the time my performance came up on Friday afternoon, the audience had largely been through a half-dozen shows in foreign languages (including some brilliant performances, most notably the “Miracle Worker” from Russia), and they seemed ready for a little English.

Of course they got more than their share of English from me, and they laughed big time. So much that I think they added 10 minutes to the show. The volunteers were really talented, and we did it all again on Saturday, with standing ovations for both performances. Of course, I got about 100 times more exposure than I would have gotten had I only had the table in the lobby, and several community theatre folks were starting to talk about booking my show in their theatres.

Meanwhile, I was meeting folks from the local theatre, and from around the world (the Australians were a lot of fun), and the local Venice Moliere expert and I got into a big Moliere pow-wow on closing night.

The next to last night of the festival was punctuated with a lot of dancing at an outdoor bar by the gulf, and given that the temperature was still around 100 degrees, I was soon pretty drenched. (Photos are floating around on Facebook.) At the closing night banquet, they awarded me a certificate and I accepted it with a brief 2-sentence speech: “Your lovely eyes make me die of love,” and “Peace on Earth; good will towards men.”

A week or two later, a review of my performance showed up on “aislesay.com” from a woman I’d met at the festival:

When travel problems prevented a Zimbabwe Group from performing at the American Association of Community Theatres International "Festival in Paradise" 2010, Timothy Mooney moved from promoting to presenting his one-man comedy Moliere Than Thou. It's an anthology of Mooney's translated scenes from Moliere's classic, still very funny and relevant comedies introduced by Mooney. In typical 17th century curled wigs and costume he can change by adding a tie or shedding a jacket, Mooney gives the setting and "point" of each selected play before assuming its principal role. Moliere has never been more accessible.

With a white wig, Mooney becomes crusty old Arnolphe in School for Wives, who shielded his ward Agnes since the age of 4 from all men, so that he might eventually wed her without rivals. He speaks to Agnes as if in his audience of how contact with young men can lead to perdition. Talking of Satan, he gets (actually) carried away! Back on stage, duded up, he's the Bourgeoise Gentilhomme with his silly ways and pretentious language. As he pulls out his shirt over plain trousers, shedding embellishments of clothing and hair, Mooney becomes the religious hypocrite Tartuffe. As Moliere he explains his effort to make his villain "an independent charlatan" -that is, not one of any specific religion, then as Tartuffe launches into an attempted seduction of his patron's wife, Elmire. Using an audience member to read her part, Mooney makes the most out of the coughs by which she's supposed to expose Tartuffe. He proves very skilled at evoking audience participation (later it's by a man listening to Scapin) without making his participants act silly. When he romps through the audience as Scapin or solicits for a "theatrical curtain fund," he's quite acrobatic and appealing.

As Sgnarelle in Don Juan, as the title character in the still pertinent medical send-up The Doctor In Spite of Himself, and as an uninspired nobleman pretending to be clever before a group of ladies, Mooney varies his poetic, satirical, and vocal tones. He's truly what the French call an homme orchestre and, as Moliere and his characters, the "music" he produces most is laughter. Marie J. Kilker, www.aislesay.com

The next morning, I was headed home, making it back in two days, knowing that I had only about two days at home before heading off yet again.

I zipped off to pick Isaac up in Detroit (catching one of his swimming meets that night), continuing on to West Virginia, Washington D.C., Baltimore, and eventually, Philadelphia, and the conference of the American Association of Teachers of French. The temperatures were once again poking up towards 100 degrees (global warming anyone?), and I got a bit of a foot blister walking around the national mall in D.C.

The Philadelphia conference gave Moliere and I (and Isaac) a warm reception, and there were lots of old friends who’d booked the show in the past (some who remembered Isaac from the Belgium trip two years ago), along with new folks who hadn’t seen the show before. This time, rather than the truncated collection of my favorite monologues that I usually present at this conference, I opened the floor to whatever requests the audience might want to make, which enabled me to share a couple of pieces that I don’t usually get the chance to explore, including “The Learned Ladies” and “The Imaginary Cuckold.”

While Isaac and I managed to get out for dinner a couple of times, and caught some fireworks on July 4, along with our old friend Jenni, the heat was oppressive, and we got back on the road as soon as the exhibit hall closed that afternoon. We stayed in a cheap Youngstown, Ohio hotel that night, and I asked Isaac whether this was all as glamorous as he might have envisioned my life on the road. After dropping Isaac off in Detroit, I managed to check in with Tommy Nugent, a fellow performer who’d done the Orlando Fringe with me a year before (also staying at the famous Al & Gail place).

From there, it was on home. I spent several days working and reworking the 2010-11 schedule, and writing all of the folks who’d written back following the Big Mailing, trying to nail down particular dates. Some were writing back and following through, and as long as the bookings keep coming in through the summer, it looks like this will be a pretty good year.

Meanwhile, it’s back to rehearsing “Lot o’ Shakespeare,” which is enjoying its “Fringe Premiere” at the Kansas City Fringe at the end of this month. There’s a new costume in the works, new props (a sword and a dagger), Sonnets to add to the list of soliloquies, a reworked slide-show and “IAGO cards.” All the while packing up and touching base with more potential bookers. Given that I’m two months out from the beginning of the fall tour, I’m in pretty good shape.

And making one more editing pass on my Acting book, which I’m hoping to self-publish before the summer is done.

Miles on the Escape: 28,000
Attendance: 200 + 75 + 60 + 80 + 85 + 40 + 25 + 60 + 12 = 637
Temperatures: Up in the 90s and 100s, but finally settling down to the 80s in Chicago.
Discoveries: The universe sometimes steps up. * Need and opportunity are sometimes the same thing. * When you perform something with honesty, people will see themselves in it, whether or not the actual stories reflect their particular stories at all. * Sometimes life lays out a landscape for you to paint yourself into. And I have to trust that in that moment I will make the right decision, and be willing to wait for that moment to arrive. * Getting caught up in the day-to-day struggles of landing one more booking, I sometimes lose perspective on how many bookings are already landed. For once I can step back and say…I’m in good shape.
On the I-Pod: "Merry Happy" by Kate Nash
Next performances: “Lot o’ Shakespeare” at the Kansas City Fringe Festival, July 27-August 1