Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The View From Here #150: CO, CA, OR, WI, FL, NE



It’s the sesquicentennial “View From Here!”

Given that most of us have ten finges and ten toes, numbers such as five and ten, and their various mulitiples, are considered “round numbers” and given some sort of priority.

Or perhaps we are simply organized so that we insert meaning where no meaning actually exists.

Or maybe, as in my case, we like words with a “Q”.

I started these updates back in the Fall of 2002, and have since then written over 260,000 words over 419 pages… (actually, I’ve written more, but have edited heavily.) I’ve performed for an estimated 100,000+ people, memorizing and retaining, variously, over 55,000 words. I’ve driven over 415,000 miles in that time.

Where we left me last, I was headed from Minneapolis to Denver, with a performance of “Moliere than Thou” at the University of Denver, as sponsored by the French Department. The show was thinly attended, but well received, and although my host from the French department was on sabbatical, I was surprised to discover that she showed up at the show anyway, and that I’d used her as the unwilling volunteer in the “School for Wives” scene.

The next day’s drive was a long slog to California, where I had a performance of Moliere the following day, hosted by my good Fringe friend, Betty Anderson. Betty and her husband Pete had relocated from San Diego to Idyllwild, California when their adorable daughter, Gemini (pictured) was accepted into the Idyllwild Arts Academy. The crowd of a hundred or so kids loved the show, and I hung out for a brief Q&A afterwards, but by about 5:30 that afternoon, I was driving once again.

Avoiding the L.A. rush hour, I swung wide to the west of the city, eventually picking up Highway 99 well to the north, and getting a little bit past Fresno that night. The following day was a major push, through Northern California (dropping in on my old friend Cil in Medford, Oregon) and grabbing dinner with Pat and Kathy in Salem before finally pulling into my favorite hotel just east of Portland that night. The next day I performed both “Lot o’ Shakespeare” and “Moliere than Thou” at Mount Hood Community College. As in the two prior performances in this small auditorium, I had my technical challenges, largely because it is set up more for lectures and slide shows than Theatre. Regardless, the audience was rocking, and only a school car pool leaving five minutes before the end of Moliere dampened the spirit.

Back at the hotel, McMennamin’s Edgefield, I managed to enjoy the wine-sampling bar, satisfied at executing three performances all within five days, each separated by over a thousand miles from each other!

I soon found myself pressing forward relentlessly once again, this time with two thousand miles to cover before my next show in Green Bay, Wisconsin!

Usually, I assume I’m safe by the end of April, but driving out of eastern Montana, I discovered that Interstate 94 had been closed due to a blizzard! I sat down at a local diner for breakfast, but the projected 11am reopening of the highway did not manifest itself. The dirt roads I found myself on heading south kept winding their way back west, toward the highway that I had just been on. After an hour, I got back on the highway heading the opposite way… finding my way back to the city that I had left early that morning (now, six hours before) and picking up a road which would carry me to Interstate 90, through South Dakota, which had NOT been shut down by the blizzard.

Having already purchased my hotel room on-line, I was not willing to pull over and pay for a second hotel. And so I kept driving, pulling over in Southern Minnesota for a brief nap at a rest stop, and eventually arriving at my Minneapolis hotel at about 3am.

Fortunately, I had the entire next day to sleep in and recover before moving on to Green Bay.

The folks in Green Bay had me in a much more intimate auditorium than in previous visits… perhaps the result of the French Club taking over the arrangements. There may have been fifty or so in the audience, including the young boy/son of the French teacher who had volunteered for the Scapin scene in my two previous appearances. He seemed a little less dangerous this time around, less likely to ad lib at quite such great length.

Back, briefly to Chicago, I once again played MC (or as I call it “Minister of Hype”) to the Pathways Seminars Scholarship fundraiser, a very, very fun event we call Pathways Idol, where people donate money as “tips” to singers who win or lose the contest based on the audience donations. Every year, we up the ante on our financial goals, and while previous years have brought in $10,000 and $16,000, we assumed we were seriously overreaching when we set this year’s goal as $30,000. And yet, every time we got word of the financial progress, the figure seemed to have jumped outrageously from the previous number. When all was said and done, we discovered that our goofy little karaoke fundraiser had brought in about $29,000! One of our fundraising team quickly announced that he would make up the difference, leaving us with a total of $30,001 as the evening’s tally!

I had one final Chicago area performance at North Central College to wrap up the Spring Tour. It was well received, on a sort of a chapel-stage, and I captured some excellent video footage out of it (the scenes with lush wood paneling, below), but the audience was tiny.


Suddenly, it was time to shift into “Summer Mode.” I had some catching up to do on e-mails, offering book copies, while putting together my flyers for fringe season, and loaded up the car and headed south for Orlando.

Once again, I was camping out at the Pergandes’ house, where Gayle had significantly recovered from the broken arm she’d gotten the day before my previous visit in March! The Pergandes were also hosting two of my favorite performers, Tommy Nugent, and Bremner Duthie (and his wife, Lisa), who I hadn’t seen since my Canadian Fringe circuit days (“Karaoke Knights,” 2006!)

This year, I was in the outdoor Fringe venue, under a tent in the courtyard behind the Shakespeare Center. The setting up process was a constant rush, so I seemed to always have worked up a sweat already before my show got underway… at which point the sweat poured over me.

The audience seemed not to mind overmuch, and the attendance was good, and the response was enthusiastic. I got into the habit of buying a case of water during my late-afternoon performances, as a reward to my faithful audiences who braved the heat to see the show. The “buzz” for the show was great, and the reviews started coming in…
Takes highbrow art and mixes it with lowbrow fun… Mooney, an engaging presence… may not be as physically imposing as some actors to play Henry V, but his St. Crispan’s Day speech made me want to take up arms with him. Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel
When he recites Molière or Shakespeare he’s like a house afire (or, more accurately, like the fire truck racing to the scene)… If you’re familiar with Shakespeare, it’s fun to hear the standards again... And if you’re not, this is as good and quick a crash course as any.  Elizabeth Maupin, Orlandotheatre.wordpress.com
If Shakespearean were an official language, then Timothy Mooney would be fluent. Mooney moves effortlessly from Benedick to Richard III… Flat-out riveting. Sultana F. Ali, TheDailyCity.com

Hey, those are pretty good! I guess I’ve “buried the lead” for this blog entry!

When I wasn’t performing, or rehearsing my lines by the Pergande’s pool, I was, once again, working my way through the mega-e-mailing project, sending some 12,750 e-mails out to Theatre, English and French teachers. A project I didn’t finish until July 1!

This time around, I was offering of a free copy of my book to Acting, English and French teachers as the central thrust of my promotion, and I ended up giving out well over a hundred books. (Perhaps a quarter of these folks were responding with additional interest about booking the show, so the book giveaway was money well spent.)

I ended up selling out two of my shows at the Orlando Fringe, but was frustrated to see the attendance go from full to fifty percent without any discernable reason. I keep looking for justification to not give out any more flyers, and with great reviews coming in, or sold out shows, I would assume that I could kick back and coast for the rest of the week, only to face reality once again.

Back in Chattanooga, I rented a trailer and loaded it up with my worldly posessions from the storage facility, pushing my way on north, continuing this time to Minneapolis, where I was looking for an apartment for the summer.

I hadn’t managed to set up an apartment in advance, and many of the apartment buildings I was calling weren’t interested in renting for three month stays, but I had a couple of leads. The first was a small unfurnished efficiency, which had probably fairly nice at some point, but was run-down, dirty, and in a bad neighborhood. The landlord was willing, but insisted that he had to check my credit rating, and that he’d have to get that underway immediately, given that it was already a Friday afternoon (and rating agencies would be closed for the weekend). I had at least one more appointment waiting, and reluctantly said that I’d have to pass.

The second place was shared a house, in which I would have a couple of upstairs rooms to myself… it would be a tight squeeze, but it was still workable, even if it was in another bad neighborhood. This landlord was less concerned about the timing of my move in, and I was very interested.

I had received a response to an ad I put on Craigslist, which seemed to be in the neighborhood I was interested in, so I decided to check one more lead before making my decision.

The place was perfect. And amazing. It was a Victorian house, and while the landlord wanted to get other tenants to take over some of the FOUR other bedrooms, he hadn’t found anyone else whose schedule for moving out coordinated with the students who would be moving in at the end of August.

And so, for now at least, I’ve got this place to myself, complete with a front porch, back porch, hot tub and sauna in the basement! (Less expensive than the efficiency apartment was going to be.)

I bought a desk that fits nicely in the corner of the front parlour, and balanced my work on the mega-e-mailing with visiting with my Twin Cities friends, and one more pass through The Book! Somehow typos and ill-chosen words still seem to jump out at me when I re-read the book, and I never seem to run out of ideas for what I would like to include… And so, as of July 1, the new and improved book has been republished! (2% greater insight! 98% fewer typos!)

Last week, there were two conferences happening simultaneously, with the American Association of Community Theatres meeting in Rochester, New York, simultaneous to the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska. And while last year I’d made a good impression at the AACT event in Florida, my performance for the West Virginia Thespians made me realize that the Thespian groups were indeed my “people”… much more likely to book my show, and even more likely to need my book, or to incorporate it into the curriculum.

Having already paid for a booth at the Community Theatre festival, I didn’t want to give up on it entirely, and so I found a way to bifurcate my personality, by having my able assistant April (who has now made it through several of these conferences with me) take the books and banners and her daughter Amber to Rochester, while I headed off to Lincoln.

My plan had been to offer free books to teachers while selling copies to students, but all of my energy was devoted to getting them into the hands of the faculty, and I managed to give away about 120 of them, along with the new DVD that I’d managed to whip together on my new MacBook’s I-DVD program. It was a long five days of giving out books, but it had it’s fun surprises. (If anybody needs a copy of the promotional DVD, just let me know!)

On the first day of the festival, a few students drifted by my booth, attracted by the Moliere info that was on the table. They spoke up to say that they’d performed a shortened version of “The Learned Ladies” as part of their Ohio state competition, which had gone on to their state finals. Something about the way they described the show led me to ask questions: “Was the play in rhyming verse?”

“Yes, it was.”

“Do you remember who the adaptor or translator was?”

“Um… yeah… it was… um… Tim… Mooney.”

I looked at them. “I’m Tim Mooney.”

They totally flipped out.

I actually finished this blog entry about 5 days ago, but had no time to proof or upload with photos or the like. Since then I’ve gotten on the road, heading for the American Association of Teachers of French conference in Montreal, and have actually begun a VLOG about the process, which you can follow on my “Molierelover” channel on YouTube. Here’s a sample below. If you want more, hit “subscribe” on the YouTube channel! See you soon!

Love,
Tim

Miles on the Escape: 71,000
Attendance: 50 + 75 + 120 + 50 + 25 + 25 + 40 + 50 + 12 + 40 + 40 + 50 = 577
Discoveries: Words with a Q. * Fringe Festival attendance is never an exact science. * Fate smiles on those who listen to the little voice in their head… or perhaps the universe presents you with crappy options until you say “no” to the ones that you really don’t want. *
Playing on I-Tunes: Avenue Q
On Netflix: “Kick Ass” and “Buffy Season 5”
Next Performances: 7/8: Montreal, Quebec (American Assn of Teachers of French) and 7/`7 & 7/19 Ashland, Oregon (Oregon Shakespeare Festival) 

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