Sunday, April 17, 2011

The View From Here, #149: GA, KY, IN, IL, PA, FL, WV, KS, MN

Life seems to be travelling at a blistering speed these days, especially since getting the book published… perhaps because it adds one more consideration and level of discussion or promotion between myself and everyone that I encounter on the road, or all of my various networks… or maybe it’s because life is actually going by especially fast these days, wth relentless driving, bookings evenly divided between two different shows, all seemingly scattered thousands of miles away from each other!

With a shipment of the first 100 books now in hand, I found my way down to the annual Southeast Theatre Conference, with April keeping relentless track of who was getting free copies of the book. I had already offered free copies to teachers who’d hosted me in the past, and some of them were at the conference (saving me a bit of mailing costs).
The booth at SETC (with book!)

It felt great to be able to give people something that they were so eager to get. Or perhaps, to know that they were so eager to get something that I had created. The feedback was almost immediate. I gave a copy to Kent Brown from the Dramatic Publishing booth (we seem to always end up across the aisle from each other at these conferences), and he was back at me almost immediately declaring that it “reads like a house afire!”

By the end of the first day, we’d given out over 30 books, and on the second day a fellow showed up at the booth asking for a copy. I was happy to give him one, but he insisted on paying for it. He explained that he’d been flipping through a friend’s copy the night before up in the hotel room, and that he had to have a copy for his own. By the end of the three day conference, we’d given away over 90 books, and I signed almost all of them. This conference was the first time I’d ended up immediately adjacent to the booth of my script publisher, Playscripts, Inc. (at least since they’d been publishing me), and whenever Noah, their marketing director, sold a copy of one of my scripts, he’d send the buyer next door to my booth to have me sign it for them.

Sign spotted in Chattanooga... not sure what caught my eye on this one...

I got back to Chickamauga with two days to finish packing up the apartment, waved goodbye to the horse farm and headed north. My first stop was just outside Cincinnati, at a high school where they were producing my “Tartuffe.” The students there were jazzed at meeting me (a couple of them were already fans of my work on-line), and asked a bunch of intelligent questions, before I took them through my usual acting workshop. As we wrapped things up, one girl got the idea to have me autograph her script, and then the rest of the cast grabbed their scripts and got in line.

I pushed on to Hammond, Indiana, with a performance at Perdue University at Calumet, which was booking both Moliere and Shakespeare for an afternoon performance, as well as a morning conversation with an acting class on “The Business” of theatre. Unfortunately, the shows were scheduled for the final day prior to their spring break, so the attendance was limited, though the teacher still seemed excited and enthused about the event.

I swung through Chicago, where another hundred books had been delivered to April’s house, and we spent a day or two signing, stuffing and shipping books to past hosts of my show who’d responded to an offer of a free book. Many of the book’s recipients had responded, mentioning that they “really ought to get [me] back in to perform again…” so it seemed that no matter how many books I might give away, I would likely end up making a profit on the deal, if only because “having a book” lended a special cachet to the idea of hiring me.

Monmouth College, where I’d performed perhaps four years prior, was my next stop. The teacher there had been using many of the techniques that I’d taught in my acting workshop previously, and was delighted to get a copy of the new book. And the show that night rocked! By the end of “Shakespeare,” the requests were flying in fast and furious, and with time for only one monologue left, I was struck by my remembrance that today was the Ides of March! I wrapped up the show with “Julius Caesar.”

Racing east once more, I was to perform at Penn State-Fayette, but had little contact with the teacher about the exact nature of what she was looking for. She’d booked me to do both “Moliere” and “Shakespeare”, but had seemingly only allotted an hour for the (lunch-hour) event. She was the French teacher, but didn’t think there’d be as much interest in the Moliere show as there would be for the Shakespeare show, so she wanted me to focus on that one, but to, perhaps, be able to squeeze in a Moliere monologue here or there. I decided that I could open the show in Shakespeare/Bingo mode, but once the prize had been won, I could open up the floor to requests from either Shakespeare or Moliere.

About a half hour before the show started, thirty or so audience members began walking in. Their early arrival seemed to surprise the host, and I ducked backstage. There was something odd about their appearance, but I put that out of my mind as I went into the act.

By show time, there may have been forty or fifty people present, and I was noticing that some of the jokes weren’t quite flying this time around. Some obvious laugh lines were going unnoticed, and I was trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Quite often, people would stand up and head to the bathroom, disrupting the row of people sitting next to them on their way to the aisle. There were a handful of very attentive audience members directly in front of me, and I found myself playing to them, and later found that they were part of the school’s Shakespeare performance troupe, and the English professor who had been their director.

The show stretched long, with at least one Moliere monologue (“Bourgeois Gentleman”), but at one point there was a disruption from the back of the house. One of the audience members coming back from the bathroom had fallen or passed out, apparently banging his or her head. (I don’t wear my glasses onstage, so I couldn’t tell.) We paused for a couple of minutes while 911 was contacted, before resuming for a few more monologues.

What I later discovered, of course, was that most of this audience was composed of a busload of mentally challenged folks who’d made a field trip of going to the local college to catch an event. My host seemed very pleased, though somewhat bewildered at how the show had gone. (She’d been operating the slide show from the first row of the audience, and the woman behind her apparently interrupted to let her know that she needed assistance in getting to the bathroom.)

Meanwhile, the very first review of the book showed up on-line! Charley Ault, who’d booked me in Denver perhaps 8 years ago, was the first to submit a review on Amazon!

(★★★★★) Fantastic!
After reading this book it dawned on me that this could be the modern manual for the Director and the Actor. This is written with the insight of Hagen, Adler, and Spolin but it is 100% Mooney. It is a fun romp through the life of Mooney but more than that, we the Director, we the Actor can take away so much from it. It truly is a must read!
Somewhere South of Fayette, PA

From Fayette, I swung south, through Harrisonburg, to drop in on my Costume Designer, Kathy, who’d finished a new shirt for the Shakespeare show. It was very billowing and flowing, with puffy sleeves… Not my usual style, but I must admit it looks very good in the video clips! From there it was on to Norfolk, to spend the weekend with Dad and Maureen and Tim, followed by a stop in South Carolina to drop in on my friends in Greenwood (Bess had recently broken her foot, so she didn’t have much time for visiting), and then a few more days down in Orlando, where my hosts Gale and Al were dealing with Gale having broken her arm a day or so before I arrived! (Disasters were leading the way ahead of me…)

Dad posing with Neptune... Virginia Beach, VA

With some significant down time, I was able to focus on moving my operations from one computer to another. Over the last 10 years, I I’ve replaced my laptop perhaps five or six times, either because it had been stolen (once), or because it had crashed or slowed to a crawl (the other four times). With a little extra money in my pocket, I decided that it was time to move into the Mac universe. It’s taken a lot of getting used to… mostly in terms of finding where the system has stashed my various files, and how I can dig them out, and it’s been a disorienting several weeks, but I think I’m finally back up to speed. The one realm where Mac is acknowledged as superior to PC is in the realm of video… and knowing that I had some serious video work coming my way, I wanted to get my stuff assembled in ways that I’d be able to make the best use of it.

You may remember that the PC had slowed to a crawl on the final days of publishing the book, but once I got the Mac, and began lightening some of the demands on the PC, it seemed to perk up enough to migrate things smoothly. I’m still dependent on it for flyers and posters, having bought Adobe Illustrator in PC format, but otherwise, I’m living in the Mac World… and mostly liking it.

One of my major tasks was to transfer my e-mail information from Microsoft Mail to Outlook, and while I could get Outlook to read the 6000+ e-mail addresses in my computer, it would not differentiate those addresses that had been added to the "View From Here" group. I spent a couple of days transferring my PC group list over to my Mac group list, and in the process seem to have gone from about 1200+ group members to about 1100+ group members. Somewhere along the way I lost 100 people. I also added back in a few names that I think had been mistakenly stricken from the group list, but if the notice for this  blog is arriving unwelcome to your inbox, please let me know!

While I was in Florida, three more reviews showed up on line, again, each five stars…!

★★★★★ “Success on the Stage of Life” Jennifer Hallenbeck
Timothy Mooney wowed our high school with his "Moliere Than Thou" performance a few years ago! Everyone wondered how he does it - great personal presence and an ability to communicate with people of all ages and interests. He reveals his techniques in this book - must for both educators and non-educators alike. You don't need to be interested in classical theater to learn how to be one of the great actors of our time on your own personal stage. I don't teach theater, but I have started using his exercises to help my students find their own voice in the world. Thank you Tim!
★★★★★ “A practical, informative, and entertaining read!” Aaron  
Tim Mooney's book combines his in-depth knowledge of performance and theatre history along with his years of experience touring shows to bring a very "nuts-and-bolts" approach to acting the Classics. His insight into the Shakespearean character alone is worth the price, but he provides useful and thoughtful analysis into Moliere, Chekhov, and other playwrights' works as well. I have and would recommend this to the casual or avid theatergoer, the theatre educator, and the performer who desires to know more about how characters are brought to life from an historical, stylistic, and practical approach.
★★★★★ “Not just your average acting book” Dennis
I've been acquainted with Tim and his performances for about five years now. I've been amazed by the personal intensity of his performances, by his intense yet relaxed style, and by the incredible attention to detail, no matter where he is performing. That led to my interest in this book. What Tim has brought to it is the length and breadth of his knowledge and experience.
The book combines a comprehensive understanding of modern "method" based performance styles with a reflection back to an older system that apprenticed young actors into a troupe, and gave them the basic skills needed to survive as a theatre professional. Powerful and empowering.
By looking elsewhere at Amazon, you can find any number of basic acting texts and professional advice guides. Both of these types are handy in their own way, but this book is unique. It's not afraid to call both to task for their limitations. One type concentrates on inner life and imagination, the other on survival. What Tim manages to do is to concentrate on a lifetime of acting, the skills needed and how to insure that the performance gets done (and pleases the audience-and gets you cast for the next show, too).
While the book is extremely readable, it's not limited to one or two "beginners" exercises, it is far more complex and necessary than that. I would probably not use it for a replacement to Benedetti or Cohen, but it's necessary for every serious actor's shelf.

This might be a good spot to mention that the book is available through my website,, and via Amazon.

Next up was a show at St. Johns Country Day School in Orange Park, Florida. They wanted the Shakespeare show, and knowing that the show went longer than their usual 45 minute assembly, they arranged for more time for my event, agreeing on a 75 minute program. The students were responsive and enthused, and I was keeping a close eye on my timer, but about 65 minutes into the event, I could feel the students getting restless, and see one of the teachers gesturing to me, but, again, without my glasses, I had no idea what he was saying. After the next monologue, they brought the lights down and retracted the projection screen. Having promised the students the Midsummer Night’s Dream monologue, I shifted immediately into that one, just to give a clean punctuation to the event.

I continued my zig-zagging, this time heading back north to West Virginia, where the West Virginia Thespians were holding their annual festival. With the support of the Kirsten Moomey Foundation, the thespians had scraped together enough money to host my show. It so happened that Morgantown, WV was just about an hour south of Penn State Fayette, so that the teacher who’d brought me in for that somewhat awkward performance two weeks before was able to drive down to catch the Thespians event, and actually ran the video camera from about a dozen or so rows back.

The thespian audience was awesome! There were, perhaps, 500 students, responding as if I was some kind of a rock star, from the very opening of the show on forward… Here’s the opening…

I quickly decided that Thespian high school groups are really “my people!” I have since begun scouting where all of these conferences are, as I begin to plot out my 2012-2013 schedule. I solicited an endorsement from the host of the West Virginia event and he responded with: 
“Tim has a particular talent to inspire students to explore the classics, leading them to learn in ways they never thought possible.  One performance with Tim equals a week of teaching and a lifetime of appreciation.” (Michael Stiles, Musselman High School)
I distributed a dozen or so books to teachers at this event, and one of them, who’d actually gotten her book at SETC a month before, quickly posted another review on-line:
Classical acting made accessible and dare I say… fun??? Celi Oliveto
Wow... what a great text. I would highly recommend this text to any teacher who wants to dip his or her toes into the (seemingly) intimidating world of classical theatre. I met Mr. Mooney and attended his workshop at the 2011 SETC conference where I was able to see one of his activities in action. What amazing results they produced! I participated in the exercise where Mr. Mooney took two young women from the audience and asked them to perform a short dialogue from a Moliere play. The two did well for a cold reading, but lacked subtext, active verbs, and basic characterization. After a slight adjustment from Mr. Mooney, which can be found as an activity in the textbook, the two performers literally lit the room on fire! It was amazing to see the transformation and improvement in the quality of the performance after participating in the simple game. The game involved active audience participation, which is great for high school students watching their peers perform and who can't seem to keep their minds or their hands off their cell phones. Mr. Mooney makes Shakespeare and Moliere fun, engaging, and most importantly [un]intimidating. This is probably the most accessible approach to classical style that I have ever seen and gives students a great base from which to create character, explore the language, and connect with the story.
I recently had the pleasure of watching Mr. Mooney's performance at the West Virginia State Thespian Conference and the reaction from my student's speaks to the quality of his work. One of the highest compliments came when I was sitting at dinner and my student said, "I hate Shakespeare, but I really liked that show. It was really funny and I understood him!" After I got over the urge to chastise her for berating poor William Shakespeare, I thought, "How amazing and fortunate that she was able to see a high quality/ energy performer who was able to open up Shakespeare in a new way and take the scary out of the story."

( That address again was

It so happened that the West Virginia event wrapped up the day before a matinee performance of “Tartuffe” outside of Cincinnatti, so I swung back through, enjoying a performance.

Somewhere in there, I got the news (just a month after my book’s publication) of the first school that would be adopting it as an official textbook for their classes! The Johnson County Community College (just outside of Kansas City), would be using it for their “Acting II” and “Acting III” courses! This pleased me even more than the occasional reviews, because, more than what might be flattery by friends, this represented an investment in the work as part of an educational program… and, of course, sales of multiple books… over the course of multiple semesters!

Zagging where I had previously zigged, I was now heading west, on my way to a show at Texas Wesleyan University in Salina, KS, which enabled me to make a stop at Johnson County Community College along the way, where they told me how much they’d enjoyed the book, noting that the major acting text now in use has gone up to $90!

The show in Salina was partially sponsored by a retired English & French teacher, who was convinced that my performance would be “rigged” in some way, and that the ping pong balls were perhaps “weighted,” so that I performed only the few monologues that I had actually memorized. He was also threatening to call out requests for “Tartuffe” as the show proceeded.

The folks at Kansas Wesleyan were very accommodating, taking me out to lunch, with very attractive technicians refocusing lights and figuring out the projection system. The show itself had a hundred or so in attendance (better than predicted), and they were very responsive, to the point that the skeptical professor never got a chance to shout out “Tartuffe!”

I stopped to visit my old friends, Jeff and Karen Barker at Northwestern College before settling in Minneapolis for a few days.

This city has climbed to the top of my likely places to stay list for the coming summer. Holed up in the hotel, I mostly divided my time between video work and composing a new Shakespeare Study Guide. I would write a page on each of Shakespeare’s plays, and then seek out my best video clips to assemble into a “Viral Video” I was envisioning (now posted at the top of this blog). I was trying to assemble the best 10-20 seconds I could find from each of the monologues that I perform, drawn from video of a half-dozen or so performances of varying qualities… with dissimilar lighting and a costume which seemed to evolve with each recorded performance.

I caught up with a handful of friends from the Fringe Festival, before heading up to St. Cloud for a show at St. John’s Prep School (the second “St. John’s” in less than a few weeks!) It was a gorgeous prep school set on a beautiful lake, where I spotted two bald eagles!

I was adding a lot of walking to my daily exercise routine. I have been doing my yoga/calesthenics daily, but added an extra half-hour of treadmill walking, as I struggled to work out the knots in my back before the western swing of my trip (which starts tomorrow). I have some long days of driving ahead of me, and with my back already seizing up, it could be a major struggle.

The show at St. John’s (Moliere) went great, although I was a little disconcerted when I emerged from the dressing room to discover that there was no one left in the auditorium. I later found that my host had to rush to catch a bus (he’s also the coach of the softball team), but I had spent most of the evening wondering if I’d executed some faux pas somewhere along the way.

Back for a couple more days in Minneapolis before the major push west, I was ready to take on the last phase of the video project… the part that had always intimidated me: working out the transitions from one clip to another, and creating the captions that would be crucial to making sense of this project. Since the soundtrack would be filled with Shakespearean dialogue, I didn’t want to add more voiceover, but rather attached on-screen captions for each monologue so that the viewer would be able to follow the transitions across Shakespeare’s canon. The Macintosh program (imovie), enabled me to drop these in so easily that I finished the video well ahead of when I’d anticipated, and was able to post it on line before beginning the last, huge, looming leg of the tour (during which I am counting on getting virtually nothing done).

So, check out the video at the top of this page... And, while you’re at it, the book is, as of this moment, #1,989,145 on the Amazon best seller list! (Your purchase can help me climb that 1,989,144 remaining!)

Other book responses that have been coming in via e-mail…:

“It’s really wonderful to have a solid approach to strictly attacking classical material.” (Celi Oliveto)
“I did some skimming and like what I saw. In fact, mentioned your advice today about the fundamental necessity of being heard to some students at a KCACTF response I did at FIU.” (Don Butler, Palm Beach Atlantic University)
“I browsed through it at first and have been reading it in earnest the past 2 days. Excellent ideas & practical information…(I can’t agree more with the idea of clarity, and your approach looks like it works.)” (Michael Hawley, Alabama State U)
“Its incredibly good, and an easy read… I’ve really savored how every point is backed up by some proof or example… you made your points easily understandable… so bluntly obvious.” (Haden York)
“Fascinating, entertaining and well-written. Mooney has the kind of fast-paced, quick wit acting that keeps Moliere alive and keeps the spectator riveted to him. Well, that’s exactly what he has done with his book. Succinctly, the masterful actor and the coruscating book are both sui generis. Bravo!” (Mel B. Yoken, Chancellor Professor Emeritus, U-Massachusetts-Dartmouth)
“What a delight! It is written with verve and refreshing common sense and concise economy. It will have an impact.” (Stanley Longman, U-Georgia)
“I was rather surprised and truthfully a bit disappointed when I reached the end of the book. Even though I’m not an actor, I kept finding things I knew, things I did… I am, in fact, using your ideas on how to memorize to help my students memorize their Victor Hugo poem.” (Jennifer J. Moody, Auburn University)

There’s less than three weeks left to the spring tour, but there’s about 8,000 miles of driving to go! And then, the fundraiser event once more: Pathways Idol! Here’s a scene from Pathways Idol II:


Miles on the Escape: 60,150

Temperature: From 90 degrees in Florida to 30 in Minnesota…

On the i-pod: “Has Been” by William Shatner with Ben Folds

Via Netflix: Old episodes of “Dead Like Me” (by the folks who brought you “Pushing Daisies” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

Discoveries: Layering in an entirely new aspect of my career, on top of, and within a career that was already fairly busy, transforms the work, generates a beehive of activity, and gives an added power to some things that I was already doing… like putting cork inside a baseball bat. * After 8 years of sitting on my manuscript, rewriting and rewriting, always looking for and finding the flaws that were hiding on each page, turning it loose to the world at large was an act of what felt like foolhardy bravery or arrogance or hubris, but the raging criticism that I thought I was throwing this book into the face of has not surfaced… in fact, quite the opposite. * I had about two weeks of not knowing why I was feeling somewhat lost and unfocused and a bit bewildered, almost as if I had lost my eyeglasses. I realized: “Hey, you just switched from PC to Mac! Which means that every single program you rely on to carve out your computer-generated existence is nothing like what it was. Cut yourself some slack!” (I’ve been better since that little conversation.) * The slightest implied or imagined bit of disapproval seems to lead me down a path of self-denial… in fact a denial of the success of what I myself witnessed. When the host was not around to commend my successful show, I immediately went to a place of “Oh, shit; what did I do wrong?” It seems to have been a lifetime of work to allow my own impressions to be valid, without turning to someone else for approval or affirmation. * Speaking of which, just to affirm for myself for a moment: It seems that I have written a really good book. In fact, I enjoy opening it to random pages and realizing… “That’s a really good insight… I’m glad I included that!”

Attendance: 25 + 15 + 100 + 200 + 50 + 300 + 500 +100 + 300 = 1,590

Next Performances: U-Denver (4/22), Idyllwild Arts Academy (4/25), Mount Hood Community College (4/27), U-Wisconsin Green Bay (5/2), maybe something at North Central College (Naperville, IL) (5/4-17)
Flyer for the Orlando Fringe, May 19-29!
Flyer for the Minnesota Fringe, August 4-14!