Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The View From Here #148: GA / TN / OK / TX / AR / MI

The book is out!

Front Cover
And it is totally amazing! I am astonished when I look at it and realize that this is something that more or less popped out of my head. (I suppose, considering the long build-up, this actually “seeped” out of my head.)

Nine years and 25 drafts later, I have followed through and followed through on every last detail of this project until I at last have copies in hand!

Here are some of reviews from colleagues who read advance copies of the manuscript:

Tim Mooney calls us back to the basics, and it's about time! Acting at the Speed of Life communicates with clarity, wisdom and practicality. This text belongs in every theatre artist's bookbag. Jeff Barker, Northwestern College Theatre Chair

I have been reading your text with unmatched enthusiasm. It unquestionably fills a niche that needs filling. As a product of "the 1950’s era Method,” I feel that this easily read text redresses some of the excesses of that Brando dominated era. How little attention was paid to the art of playing as so deftly defined by you in this book. You are right on in your analysis here. What you say is applicable to all manner of plays—modern as well as those from the classic past. Bravo! David Deacon, Theatre Professor, Texas A&M University-Kingsville

I really like your book. I can hear you speaking. All the examples from your own acting or teaching experiences really help to make it an easy read. I think this would go nicely into a classical acting class/ Acting Styles class. The advanced students are really hungry for this kind of information and can relate to what you are saying. I felt like I was sitting in one of your workshops again. NO other book I've read captures these simple tasks that are so important. I would recommend every acting student to have your book. Janice Fronczak, University of Nebraska-Kearney Theatre Chair

Thank You!!!!!!!!! I applied the acting advice in your book to an actual debate, and it worked! I was up against an opponent tonight with better name recognition, more experience in our union, and known as a good speaker. And I took him out! Your tips helped me feel prepared and more relaxed, and helped me keep the focus on the members, not on getting votes. Julie Blaha, Teachers Union Organizer, Minneapolis, MN

[It] shed a huge beam of light on some things in my life. You have a gift. You make acting accessible — hard work, yes, but quite within the realm of possibility. I definitely am no expert. However, I do know how much I'm reacting to your honesty. I don't think I'd be alone. Kelly Crandall, Theatre Student, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

The book for me is now a series of master-classes framed as a storyteller would relate them to me. In a way it reminded me of An Actor Prepares when I thought about how I use that book. I leaf through it [and] can read whatever chapter seems most compelling at the time. I see it as a sort of conversation with you, intended as much for directors as actors. Jim Ryan, Norman North High School Fine Arts Chair

Provocative… Many of its ideas are valuable for any one in or considering an acting career… What was striking was your errant disregard (shared by me) for psychology and the American Method! Sanford Robbins, U of Delaware Professional Actor Training Program Chair

I stayed up until 3 am yesterday reading your book! And I have a very short attention span. I just love how passionate you are about the craft and how human and sensitive and honest and funny your writing is. I am all inspired… also you have chosen some of my favorite monologues to prove a point and teach great lessons to actors. Alina Mostov, Actress

I have begun delving into the text [and] am anxious to get back to it... It seems like a important work that is what is needed to get back to storytelling in an effective way. Thank you so much

for the opportunity. Cameron Jackson, Florida State University, Theatre Chair
COPIES CAN ALREADY BE ORDERED via my newly retooled really fantastic website!

For this first week, it will take a little bit longer for distribution of books ordered through this website (until my first shipment o' books comes in). But, when you get them directly from me, you can also order them signed/inscribed however you like. The orders go through PayPal, which gives a little box to fill in stuff like:“Please autograph this ‘To Bobby! Thanks for the memories!’” (or somesuch…)

Or, if you prefer, you can order the book through my site at “CreateSpace,” which is https://www.createspace.com/3536617 . When you order through this site, $4 more of your purchase actually goes to the author (me), than would otherwise go to Amazon... whenever Amazon has it available to sell on their site.

Meanwhile! Rave reviews for The Misanthrope in Detroit! The Hilberry Repertory Theatre is performing my version of The Misanthrope, and here’s what I’ve been reading on-line:

Detroit Thetre Examiner: Directed by Jesse Merz, this show delights, visually, intellectually, and at the most basic comic levels. Merz uses the amazing translation by Tim Mooney – adapted for his own productions by Chicago’s Stage Two theatre – which delivers all Moliere’s mirth in the cleverest verse. The actors deliver the lines naturally enough, but at times pause significantly to allow the audience to anticipate and enjoy the inevitably crafty rhymes. (Patty Nolan)
Hillberry’s Misanthrope is a rhymed riot Why this send-up of manners has never lost its charm is plainly to have been seen and savored in the Hilberry Theatre production that opened Friday night. It’s a tour de force right down the line, from Moliere’s brilliant original to Timothy Mooney’s flavorful English adaptation to the spunky performances by the Hilberry company and director Jesse Merz. Lawrence B. Johnson, The Detroit News
Hillbery’s Misanthrope goes for the gold Timothy Mooney’s translation of Moliere’s wit survives the switch from the original French with wit intact. It is also wonderfully easy to understand – all while often rhyming, a feat in itself. The one-liners are wonderful, the wisdom both tongue-in-cheek and profound, and the dialogue quick and entertaining. Sue Suchyta, Dearborn Times-Herald Sunday Times
These may be the best reviews I’ve gotten for a show I had nothing to do with, other than having initially written the script… (actually, I did also write them a rhymed iambic pentameter pre-show announcement)… featuring lines like:
...we frown on such behavior. And as well
We must insist that you turn off your cell.
There's little in the theatre more vexing,
Unless it be some oafish type that's texting...


You ought to know this show has pyrotechnics,
And should some horrid fire ball here vex us
Or you should need to rush off to your Lexus,
Perhaps you should acquaint yourself with exits...

Where you last left me, I was moving down to Chattanooga… actually Chickamauga, about 20 miles south of Chattanooga, in an apartment on a horse farm, which gave me the kind of solitude I needed to crack down on the book, at the same time as I was working on my semi-annual 15,000 e-mail booking campaign.

The bookings were going significantly slower than in years past, and I finally made the decision to make a significant price cut, making up for the per-show losses by boosting the overall number of bookings. It seems to have rejuvenated the activity on-line… If you’re one of the many out there wanting to book a show one of these days, this may be the best opportunity for a long time!

The new price list can be downloaded via the fantistique new www.timmooneyrep.com website! I’m playing up the Twin-Titans of Theatre theme, with the combination of Moliere and Shakespeare in a single show. It feels a little more comic-booky, like those old Marvel or DC Comic book team-up issues where two superheros team up for one adventure.

With this new look, and the book I’ve been assembling, I finally broke down and bought a copy of Adobe Illustrator. I’ve been doing most of my posters either on Power Point, or on various test-versions of Illustrator. I would download Illustrator for a 30 day test period, and then try to get all of my flyers and posters for the year completed all at once. (Of course, when I return to flyer/poster mode a year later, the program has been upgraded, and I face another steep learning curve to bring myself up to speed on it.) (Much like the learning curve I face every time I want to put together a DVD… my immediate project.)

Somewhere around December 10 I realized that most of the teachers I was writing to were now off on holiday break, and so I shelved the e-mail campaign to do the excruciating detail work that the book seemed to demand. Poring over it a couple of more times, I was able to work out all of the occasional awkward phrasings, and made sense of the order of the thing, as well as the layout, ultimately uploading it to the printer’s website on Christmas morning!

I woke up Christmas morning to a gorgeous fluffy snow… reportedly the first Christmas snow this area has gotten since 1967.

I gave myself a teency bit off off-time, as April and Amber came down for a visit, and we did a little sightseeing on Lookout Mountain. A couple of days later, Isaac flew in to the Atlanta Airport, and more sightseeing ensued, as well as a DVD marathon, watching my favorite series of the last couple of years, “Pushing Daisies.”

With Isaac’s departure, I was back to work, juggling the e-mail marathon with a series of performances, I’d arranged with my good friend, Sabra, at the Barking Legs Theatre. Back in 2006, I’d performed the One-man Theatre Festival, performing three shows a night over the course of three nights, exhausting myself playing to tiny audiences. And yet, I’d gotten one fantastic review out of the event, which had eventually listed my shows at the top of the “Top 10 Events of 2006.” I thought I’d parley that publicity into a better attended “festival,” though this time I spread single performances of four shows over three days on subsequent weekends. And I did seem to be getting some good exposure… I bought an ad in the Alternative paper (The Pulse), which listed me as the “Best Bet” for the first weekend. I had an interview show up in the Times-Free Press and another interview on the local NPR affiliate.

Tiny houses.

Even after a huge, very positive review of Lot o’ Shakespeare showed up in The Pulse, the second weekend’s attendance showed barely a blip.

Some blamed the bad weather. (Tenneseeans don’t respond to snow very well.) Others speculated that it might be the theatre itself, which had built itself a reputation for hosting music and dance events, but not theatre. I, myself, questioned the ultimate viability of the multiple-play festival. Rather than getting 4-times the publicity and exposure, I wondered whether I was getting one-quarter of the attendance, as people were uncertain what was playing on any given night, or when to go to catch the one show that perhaps actually caught their eye among the flurry and blur surrounding four shows. Still, there was at least one terrific review:

Shakespeare a la Carte at Barking Legs Theater By Janis Hasche, Pulse Contributing Editor

As Tim Mooney cheerfully tells us during his one-man show, Lot o’ Shakespeare, it’s unlikely he’ll ever be cast as Macbeth. The lithe actor, with his mobile face and flexible, light voice, is made for comedy.

…So, when he energetically enters, in Elizabethan-style doublet, breeches and hose, this costume is topped by a jaunty jester’s hat, letting us know we are to be entertained. He’s devised several clever ways of involving his audience in the show: the monologues are selected by random, using a lottery-like rotating cage o’balls with numbers on them, and each audience member uses their “Iago Card”, given to them on admission, to cross off monologues, until, like bingo, someone gets four in a row and wins a Shakespeare T-shirt. (The Sweet Swan of Avon, a savvy businessman as well as a genius, would no doubt have approved heartily.)

… We also get to chime in with highlighted text on a screen when, in some cases, other characters have lines in the section Mooney is interpreting. He gives us a brief overview of each play’s plot before performing a section from it.

This approach adds lots of appeal to Mooney’s stated goal: accessibility. He wants those not immersed in Shakespeare’s sometimes convoluted verse to understand and enjoy the words and characters, and in this he succeeds admirably. That this sometimes comes at the expense of deep character actualization is a fair trade-off in a show such as this.

But when Mooney takes on characters that truly suit him, he shines. Standouts in the performance reviewed were one of the comically confused Antipholi from The Comedy of Errors, and Rosalind (as the boy Ganymede) in the famous speech from As You Like It in which she upbraids the shepherdess Phoebe. Others were his obsequious, brown-nosing Cranmer from Henry VIII and an excellent take on the completely self-deceived Malvolio from Twelfth Night, a character Mooney’s gifts make him a natural for. His preening and pauses as Malvolio tries to decipher the planted “letter” were hilarious… 
With the “festival” behind me, I geared back up to get onto the road once more. I had a big conference in Houston, and churned out three new flyers and a large banner to drape along the table of my exhibit booth. With my lines once again secure in my brain (for the moment at least I had lines from four shows secured in my brain), I hit the road, dropping in on Dave and Helga in Tulsa (I hadn’t seen them in about 3 years!), swinging out to Edmond, Oklahoma for a Tartuffe production meeting at the University of Central Oklahoma (where I’ll be directing, and playing the role of Tartuffe next fall!), followed by a trip to Durant, Oklahoma, and a performance of Moliere than Thou.

This was one of those performances that the teacher and I have been trying to arrange for years, and we had a great time. I found out that he was quite a Shakespeare aficionado, and we discussed further plans for me to double back with Lot o’ Shakespeare in the near future.

On to Houston… I hadn’t done the Texas Educational Theatre Association in perhaps three years, but was delighted to see how many of them remembered me, and the kind of traffic that was coming by my table. One woman who I’d never met came by to proclaim herself as my biggest fan. She explained that in researching Moliere on-line, she’d come across my YouTube site, and was thrilled with the scenes that were available there.

At one point, I got on an elevator at the hotel, and several high school students, turning around to read my name badge started screaming “It’s Tim Mooney!” ... All in all, a good conference.

I came away with about 75 new contacts who’d signed my list, and got enthusiastic interest from folks who’d booked me in the past. Rather than hanging out in Moliere costume and wigs all the time, I now had the new Shakespeare costume, and could twirl the Bingo cage for the passers by to demonstrate how the new show works.

Of course, I didn’t have actual copies of my books-in-hand to sell to folks at this event, but I made a flyer out of the cover design of the book that I could distribute, with an order form on the back.

From there it was on to Arkansas, with a show at Harding University.

Harding was a Christian college in a conservative town, and my rambunctious workshop may have made a number of the attendees more nervous than I’d realized. I toned down the material for the evening show, and found myself walking a thin line between the double entendres that the show lays out… resisting my usual tendency to gesture broadly in some of the more salacious moments. They seemed to have a particular concern over the word “damn,” which is perhaps the mildest of the curse words in my particular lexicon, and so I found myself replacing it, somewhat awkwardly with “condemn.”

This school had booked both the Moliere and the Shakespeare show, and so, after a brief break I returned for another round. Lot o’ Shakespeare got off to a great start, but about 20 minutes into the show, I took a request for Julius Caesar, and couldn’t resist letting my voice “rip” on Antony’s final line, “…would move the stones of Rome to rise and mutiny!”

The scene went extremely well, but my voice was a poor shadow of itself for the remaining 35 minutes of the performance.

Returning to Chattanooga, I finally got back on line to see just what was taking the printer so long with my book. I discovered that they were still waiting on a re-submission of the document from me, along with my official “Proof Order,” and so I took that one last chance to make a few more changes, and to submit the document one more time. This time, the book went through, and I could order the proof the following day.

The proof was GORGEOUS. Shiny... and Glossy... and Crisp and Clean. Printing on both front AND back sides of the pages!

I spent four days seeing it through Fresh Eyes (I hadn't re-read it since December), and trimming it down to "fighting weight" of 232 pages. I reworked the table of contents, the index, and stumbled across the early reviews cited above, adding them to the front of the book. And... submitted it for proofing again...

While it was gone, I finally followed up on the Library of Congress number. Which is not the same as the ISBN number, nor is it supplied when copyright is established! The government websites were suggesting that the several phases of this application could slow me down as much as a month! Yikes!

With April's help, we applied for the LCCN, and got it in less than 48 hours! Stuck it onto the copyright page, and submitted the proof one more time!

While waiting for that to come back, I worked on a video project, featuring one piece from each of my 44 Shakespeare monologues (still in development...). Meanwhile, I posted some more scenes from Southeast Oklahoma and Harding U.

And then, I was off for Detroit! Racing up in a single day, I got there in time to catch an evening performance of The Misanthrope, which was terrific. Along the way I received news that I was chosen as one of the performers for the "Green Show" at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for this coming summer! (More details in the next blog...)

The next day, was Parents Day at Isaac's school, and I found myself sitting through Advanced Placement classes in Chemistry, Calculus as well as French, History, Band and English... Stuff wayyyyy over my head.

Back once again the following night for dinner with the director, and another terrific performance of The Misanthrope.

The next morning was Isaac's 17th Birthday! (Where has the time gone?) BUT, he had to head off to swimming practice, and I was off on my way to Chicago, where Dad was finishing up on the closing of the old family home...

sold off after all of these years! It was kind of like the "8th Mooney". We enjoyed one final family reunion, before scattering to the four winds.

And then today, my book arrived!

Chattanooga from Point Lookout
Miles on the Escape: 56,000
On the I-Pod: Ben Folds
Discoveries: My seemingly absurd, pointless, relentless, stubborn project eventually manifested as something really amazing. * It's an amazing book! * The whole "writing thing" does seem to work well for me... * Trying to publicize four shows at once may get each individual show 1/4 of the publicity, rather than 4x the publicity. * Being 20 miles out of town on a horse farm was probably what enabled me to actually finish the book! * Much as I hate to drop my prices, it will probably do me better in the long run to have more performances where I can promote my book. * Any time I let a month go by between readings of my book, I see it through Fresh Eyes, which is dangerous. * It took a lot of faith to continue to follow-through every obstacle that came up (such as the LCCN), knowing that the way would smooth itself out for me, if I just continued to believe in the work.
Attendance: 50 + 200 + 45 + 250 + 15 = 560