Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The View From Here #155: CA, TX, TN, SC, IL, NJ, MA, ME, NY, MN, FL

Photos by Tisse Mallon; Compilation by Marcus Fernando

4 Months and 20,000 Miles later…

This seems to be the longest span between View From Here releases, as the last official update came out on February 20, 2012 (just over four months ago… maybe longer by the time I actually publish this). I did put out a “Shakespeare’s Birthday” blog post in response to a website that was hosting greetings to Shakespeare, but my drive to assemble this posting has been curtailed by at least two influences:

1)    I’m busier than ever. As I’ve diversified my work into new plays, new books, more projects and desperate attempts to get booked, I generally don’t find myself with an extra day, or three, on my hands to assemble all of the goings-on of the past months, the website links, the photos and videos that will bring us fully up to date.

2)    I have an increasing number of outlets for expression. Social networking has almost made the publication of a blog beside the point, as I can upload info, updates, photos and videos almost instantaneously. I can now, often, simply flip through Facebook “history” to recapture where I was, what I was concerned about, or what I was accomplishing on a given day. Added to Facebook, we have the seldom-used Twitter account. And, now my Blogger account is patching into “Google+”, which is vying to be its own competition to Facebook… who needs to hear from me yet again? (If you’d like to tune in to Facebook updates, just “friend” me.)

And yet, reading back through my February post, I am reminded that this forum enables me to contemplate larger sweeps of decision-making processes, philosophical choices, nuanced, incremental developments of understanding, and resolve, once again… WTF.

In anticipation of the impending trip, I wrote a brief article for “King’s River Life” a Fresno-area paper where I would be performing at the coming Rogue Festival. It’s a kind of a speed reader’s introduction to the View From Here, so if you want to get caught up on what’s happened the last 10 years (!), you might check it out.

Packing up my stuff once again, and leaving a few extra boxes with the Pergandes in Orlando, I was back on the road, driving west, passing north of New Orleans on Mardi Gras, to Lafayette, LA, and then on to Fort Stockton, Texas, Phoenix, AZ (visiting with Kristen Barner, friend from Virginia, who has now moved to South Carolina), and Valencia, CA to Kirsten Moomey’s house. (Coast-to-coast in four days!)

At Kirsten’s house, I reunited with the “official” version of my new book, The Big Book of Moliere Monologues, which I had ordered to meet me along the road. There were still a couple of fixes I wanted to make to the cover design, but at least now I had copies to distribute.

The teacher at Oak Ridge High School was making my Acting book required summer reading for her students. I’d performed here, just outside Sacramento, CA, some seven years ago (simultaneous to the San Francisco Fringe). This was the school where my technical assistant asked if I would marry her as I was on my way out the door.  (This performance must have been back in the days when my dreams were more infectious, because two students who’d met me at that same performance showed up again this night after the show, noting how tempted they’d been to follow me around the country.)

Tim with Jayne Day
The Oak Ridge show went great, and I headed to Fresno, for the Rogue Theatre Festival. Jayne Day has been bugging me for years to do the Rogue Fest, and I’ve resisted, largely because it overlaps with the Southeast Theatre Conference, where I line up legit bookings for the coming year. This time around I plotted out a path whereby I could do the first weekend of the festival and then take off hell-for-leather for SETC. (Also, I’d assumed that the festival was not likely to be competitive with some of the better Fringes in the US: Minnesota and Orlando.)

Given that I was only around for a single weekend, they stacked me up with four performances in two days in what seemed to be their best venue, adjacent to the Starline Lounge, a regular fringe hangout.
My Saturday audiences went from 60 to 80, and the Sunday shows from 60 to 40. I made about as much as I do in the course of a 10-day fringe festival in just two days!

Balancing the Exit Sign
And the audience response was terrific. I’ll paste, below, all of the on-line reviews, even the one (anonymous) “blasé” one:
“I just saw Tim Mooney’s amazing tour de force show, Lot O’ Shakespeare. He was brilliant, a must-see for this year’s Rogue!” (Jennifer Hurd Peterson (of the Woodward Shakespeare Festival))
Brilliant show! Brilliant performance! We plan to go again and bring friends!! (Janette)
Saw show last night- FABULOUS! Timothy not only delivers a profoundly articulate selection of Shakespeare’s best but provides a context and the an interpretation through his performance that throws you into the scene in a flash. Brilliant and entertaining even if you are not a Shakespeare fan! (Laurie Tidyman-Jones)
 Amazingly fun and brilliant! Very entertaining and interactive. Love Shakespeare and he brings all the good quotes from so many stories! Shame he didn’t have time for them all, we had a blast! (RRogers31)
gosh, I feel awful saying I found his show to be kinda blase. His command of the language is terrific, but his acting skills and voice are mid-range and kinda off-putting. But he does really ‘get’ the language and makes all the right puns and double entendres work. I give this show a 6 on a 1-10 scale. (Guest)
I was amazed at Tim’s performance of Shakespeare. Tim’s acting, command of the tongue, and his instant recall to perform any and all of Shakespeare’s work at any given time, had me in awe. (Annette Ash)
One of the best this year. What energy! (Jessica Reedy)
Donald Munro of the Fresno Beehive reviewed the show:
There's a 'Lot o' Shakespeare' crammed into the crevasses of Timothy Mooney's brain. The wonderful part of his novel show is just how fun it is for the audience to take a guided tour.
Mooney has memorized one monologue from every Shakespeare play plus a bunch of sonnets, and he can spill them out on command. The Bard was a showman, and Mooney is, too, devising an ingenious structure for his one-man production: He sets it up as a bingo game -- each audience member gets an "Iago" card -- and he uses a bingo cage, filled with 44 ping-pong balls, to pick a monologue or sonnet at random. (Mooney wrote an article about his process for the local online publication kingsriverlife.com.)
Mooney, in period attire and jester hat, bounds onto the stage with an explosive energy that never lets up. He delivered almost 20 monologues and sonnets in the performance I saw -- no two are the same, obviously -- and it was fascinating to watch him slip in and out of character so briskly and thoroughly. From the stirring battlefield speech in "Henry V" to the sex-runneth-over monologue ("Virginity breeds mites, much like a cheese") by Parolles in "All's Well That Ends Well," the text and nuance was impeccable.
The Saturday afternoon show I attended also produced what's sure to be one of my favorite moments of this year's Rogue. When Mooney picked "Measure for Measure," he asked for a volunteer from the audience as a scene partner, and he picked local thespian Brooke Aiello. When she got on stage, he asked her name and if there was a show she wanted to plug.
Brooke Aiello volunteers...
"Yes," she said. " 'Hamlet,' opening April 13."
"Who are you playing?" he asked.
"Hamlet," she replied. Big laugh. (It's true. Aiello stars in the title role in the New Ensemble production at the Broken Leg Stage.)
Mooney and Aiello (reading cold!) then proceeded to offer a steamy version of the "Measure for Measure" scene, with Aiello playing up her character's sensuality to the hilt -- so much so that it put Mooney at a temporary loss for words. (He had to grab the script from Aiello to prompt his next line.) They ended in a close, torrid stance. It was a great moment.
Some shows at the Rogue get lots of buzz, and this is definitely one of them. But since Mooney is only here for the first weekend, there isn't much time left to see him. He has just two more performances. My advice: Get thee to the Starline.
Heather Parish of “King’s River Life” gave me one of my best reviews ever (even if it was too late to impact my attendance):
When a slightly built Tim Mooney comes out in Elizabethan puffy pants and a jester’s cap and bells, the audience has no real idea of what they’re in for. There is no way they can anticipate the whirlwind of emotion, voice, language and sweat that Mooney can deliver inside of one hour with Shakespeare. His Bingo-Game-o’-the-Bard is one of the simplest, but most effective Shakespeare themed shows I’ve seen.
His bingo game is actually a game of “Iago” where the audience plays along on cards marking off each monologue as it is randomly called from the bingo balls he draws. And yes, he even gives prizes for winners (always a way to win over audiences!). But truthfully, the prizes are just the cherry on this sundae of Shakespearean proportions.
But wait! There's more!
Mooney is obviously an accomplished actor. His expansiveness of language, use of structure, and sideways entries to the language of Shakespeare’s characters makes his monologues so clear and precise, after just an hour the audience finds they understand all of that Early Modern English like they’re listening to a Shel Silverstein poem.
The energy and verve Mooney brings to Shakespeare’s language obviously stems from a love of his craft and it is completely infectious to the audience. There’s something here for everyone: Shakespeare enthusiasts will love the variety and vivacity he brings to this muscular language; Shakespeare novices may discover that there is far more alive than dead about Shakespeare’s characters, right here at the Rogue Festival.
Now in a really good mood, I raced off for Texas!

The Texas Wesleyan Dean of Arts & Sciences was a French Professor at Auburn University-Montgomery, which had booked me a couple of times in the past. When he moved to Fort Worth, he brought me with him, this time to do an acting workshop and perform Lot o’ Shakespeare.

One of my old grade school friends, Bridget (Bossheart) MacGregor, now living in Dallas, came to see the show, and we caught up over a beer afterwards.

The next day, I was racing off again! The SETC exhibit hall was already open in Chattanooga, and April and Kirsten were watching over it for me while I was racing to the event. I pulled into town late that evening, and the next day featured my workshop and a performance of Lot o’ Shakespeare. In anticipation of the very busy conference, I had printed up postcards that April and Kirsten could hand out, which listed my show and my workshop information.

There seemed to be lots of interest, but when I got to my workshop, I was disappointed to find that there were only about four people in the audience. I plunged in anyway, and when it was over, I had to make an immediate transition into performance mode, loading in the show and getting into costume. Standing backstage, I was reminded of a phone call that came in while I was in the middle of my workshop (I had apologized to my audience and let it go into voicemail). Waiting to go on, I checked my voicemail out of curiosity, and discovered that the call was from the workshop coordinator who was wondering when (or whether) I was going to arrive to perform my workshop.

They had changed the location of my workshop to something other than the location I’d listed on my postcard, and I never doublechecked the location in the program.

Fortunately, the show went very well, with about 70 in the audience.

When the conference was done, I finally had an extra couple of days on the road to make a pass through Greenwood, SC, and visit a couple friends there, and amongst the flow of ideas, Bess Park (Director of the Greenwood Community Theatre) and I discussed the possibility of a performance of Twelfth Night at the GCT in the coming year. (during the actual “Twelfth Night” in January of 2013).

Charleston Bridge
On to Charleston, South Carolina, with a repeat performance of Moliere than Thou at the College of Charleston, once again as the guest of the French Department. Four years before, when I’d performed here, the show had been fun, but the attendance by the theatre folks was minimal. I dropped a note to the various professors, and decided to drop in at the theatre office. I poked my head in to the Theatre Chair’s office, apologizing for the interruption and introducing myself.

Charleston Volunteer scene with "Mary Grace"
Deadpan, the fellow behind the desk answered “Oh yes… I know who you are.”

“Great. Just wanted to say hi…” I remarked, drifting back out the door, and wondering whether I or he were the rude one in this odd exchange.

The show, itself, went well, and I worked my way back to Chicago.

Somewhere in here my son, Isaac, announced his decision to attend the University of Michigan! Whoo!
Thompson Lake at SIU
I had a long break, and while I was staying over with April and Amber, we got word that Amber had been accepted to my alma mater, Southern Illinois University (with a full scholarship!). She was trying to decide between SIU and a few other schools, and I was gearing up for a performance at the “other SIU” (SIU-Edwardsville), and so I suggested that I could go down early and give them a tour of the campus. A former design professor of mine, Darwin Payne, had a retrospective showing at the SIU Museum, and so it made for a good excuse to kill about three birds with one stone.

April & Amber in Giant City
As I had predicted, Amber immediately fell in love wth the SIU campus, and I showed off all of the places I rememberd from undergrad years: Thompson Point, Quatro’s Pizza, the Crab Orchard Spillway, Giant City. They returned home confident in their decision, and I continued on to SIU-E, giving a couple of workshops and performing Moliere than Thou to a fun crowd.

From there I raced on to a workshop at Rider University in New Jersey (they’ve already asked me to come back for a visit next year), a workshop at Cushing Academy in Massachusetts and a performance on “Shakespeare’s Birthday” at Mt. Desert Island High School in Maine.

On the way to Mt. Desert, I managed to stop for a couple days’ visit with Eric Peterson and Kristen Langilier, old friends from SIU. Eric had directed me in my first show at Southern (which Kristen was in), and we’d remained in touch on-and-off for the last thirty years, though we hadn’t seen each other at all. But when we met up again, it felt like there had been no time lost at all.

Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park
Mt. Desert Island was part of the Acadia National Park, a gorgeous area surrounded by tiny islands, although they were in the midst of a cold and rainy season, and it poured rain most of the time that I was there. The teacher and the students, however, had already performed one of my Moliere scripts, winning their regional competition with “Sganarelle.”

From Maine I raced over to Keuka College, in the midst of the Finger Lakes region of New York, performing Lot o’ Shakespeare for a fellow I’d been negotiating a visit with for practically the entire ten years that I’ve been on the road.

This presentation had been arranged last-minute, and the host had no idea how many people were likely to show up. When the set-up of the slide show was such that it could only be completely seen from the middle of the audience, my host pulled out the extra chairs that wouldn’t have a perfect view, leaving perhaps forty chairs in the midst of the audience platforms.

That evening, the curtain was delayed as people were coming in late, and my host noted that they had set up several more chairs, including an added row in the front of the audience.

The place was packed! There were at least a hundred chairs, all filled, with another several standing in the back. I felt completely in control. Following a very fun performance of Mercutio’s “Queen Mab” speech (from Romeo & Juliet), one woman sitting near the stage got up to make an early exit from the audience. I looked at her and asked, with regard to Mercutio’s naughty double entendre, “Was it the ‘dew dropping south’?”

The Spring Tour was not quite yet done, but I had already begun the “Summer E-mail Campaign.” Counting up the number of days that I had available to work my 12,000 e-mail mailing, I realized that the semester would run out very early, and teachers would go home for the summer well before they heard from me. And so, rather than wait, I decided to chip away at the project early this year.

Central Lakes College Poster
The final stop on the tour was a return visit to Central Lakes College in Minnesota, where another old friend, Patrick Spradlin, who’d had me in to perform two years before, was having me back to do Lot o’ Shakespeare this time around. Patrick’s assistant, Dwayna, had created a really cool flyer for the show.

The show was a blast, and Patrick and I got to visit a bit, talking about the possibility of getting me up to direct a show in the coming year or so.

I had been working up the new show, The Greatest Speech of All Time ongoingly through the spring tour, reciting speeches over and over and over again as I drove, pushing my voice to the edge of what I could manage between performances. In addition to the new show, which was slowly working toward fruition, I was also reviving four other shows!

Since I wasn’t entirely sure that Greatest Speech would be ready in time for full presentation at the Fringe, I decided to revisit the entire “Timothy Mooney Repertory” over the course of my first four fringe performances, and then do a “World Premiere” presentation of Greatest Speech to conclude my run.

At this point, I was finally working on the last speech of the series. It turns out that I had more than enough material to fill the hour, but was trying to determine how to approach Martin Luther King. 

Unlike most of my other speeches, Martin Luther King’s voice would be well known to my audience, and any attempt to replicate his sound felt flat and uninspired. I might capture a fraction of the tone of his voice, but imitation was, of necessity, a narrowing of the richness of Dr. King’s emotional palate (and perhaps a sign of disrespect). What was more important was that I work towards a belief in the words, and let the sound take care of itself.
Moliere arrives in Florida

I had put off studying the speech until every other speech had already been memorized. And while “I have a Dream” was the most popular, it felt too well known. I went, instead, for “I Have Been to the Mountaintop.” And while I’d heard the climax of that speech many times, I didn’t realize that Martin Luther King spent the opening of that speech entertaining a broad vision of history, touching on the periods, and even many of the individuals (Socrates, Lincoln, Roosevelt) whose speeches I had already memorized. (He even quotes Roosevelt’s “Fear itself!) In other words, without any added effort, Martin Luther King was taking my audience back through an overview of most of the history that they had just witnessed. It was the perfect conclusion.

Or so it seemed, and seems, to me, at least.

But for now, I was trying to store new words in my head. While trying to gain confidence with recently learned words from the rest of the show. (I had only tested out a couple of these speeches on trial audiences, and had no idea what quirks of performance energy might overtake me as I spoke something out loud for the first time to an audience which might actually REACT to my speaking.) Also, I was trying to revive two plays that I only tended to perform about once-a-year, if at all, along with reminding myself of the words of two other plays. The process of revival was one which found me reciting again and again, and there were several days that found me reciting words aloud for about eight hours.

Oh, and I was also trying to MARKET all five of these plays to an audience that had to be sold anew on each play, none of which would benefit from the “buzz” of the audience who saw the show and spread the word (unless they had, in fact, seen these shows years before).

Park in Orlando
I was staying with a new host in Orlando (Albear), who lived a bit farther from the Fringe site, given that the Pergandes were full-up with two performers who were without cars for the course of the festival. Albear lived near to a walking trail, and I found myself walking it on a daily basis, drilling lines as I went.

With good weather and a new Artistic Director, attendence was better than ever at the Orlando Fringe, though attendance at my shows seemed much more limited. Given that four of my five shows had been produced there before, even the fans of those particular shows had a greater commitment to “seeing the new stuff,” and I averaged about 40 people per performance (though there were a couple of people who did come to multiple shows this time around, and one fellow who was in attendance for all five)!

Book-signing at the Here Be Dragons Bookshoppe
I was doing substantially less partying at this fringe, given that I was doubling and tripling my preparation time prior to each performance. (While I’m glad that I managed to pull this off, if only to be able to say that I did it, this is clearly the last time I try to pull off this parlor trick!)

Eventually, on the last night of the festival, with the four established shows behind me, I performed The Greatest Speech of All Time.

I had no idea how this would go over. I had tested my Socrates and Frederick Douglass speeches for select friends, and the Mark Antony speech was a staple of my Shakespeare show, but Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Teddy Roosevelt’s “Speech after Having Been Shot,” FDR’s “Fear Itself,” Churchill’s three WWII speeches and Martin Luther King’s “Mountaintop” speech were all a blank slate for me. What’s more, the show was barely coming in under an hour in my rehearsals at home. I had no idea how much time playing to an audience might add.

Here’s how it went…

Pre show: The hoped-for YouTube link to the Phil Davison Campaign speech didn’t work, and was jettisoned as we (silently) let the audience in the door. (Attendance for this new show jumped to about 75 people!)

Introduction: The intro was rocking! The audience was laughing at my jokes and even applauded an especially lengthy sentence that I’d spiraled my way into, during which I explained (with reference to my Mark Antony and Henry V speeches):
“These were, of course, fictionalized versions of actual speeches, but there was something about the life-and-death stakes of the speech, the intense commitment of the speaker, and the rhetorical heights into which the speaker would spiral, using irony and hyperbole to tease and toy the attention of the audience, ripping them out of their passive indifference and whipping them into a state of fury and frenzy, grasping the shared goal that stood before them all, understanding its contextual significance and launching them into bold and decisive action.” (Applause.)
At that point, I knew that I “had them.” They were applauding sentence construction! If they liked what I was saying, personally, just wait until I moved into some of the greatest sentences ever constructed!
I did, however, make one crucial mistake: Having inserted one gratuitous joke into the narrative (because I just can’t resist saying that I have “ruthlessly cut some of these monologues down in length… Ruth not being available to make the cutting…”), the audience laughed at some length.

Hyper-aware of how little extra time I had built into my performance, I actually raised my hands to put the “brakes” on their laughter, noting that I had a lot to get through in our limited time. Immediately I knew this was a bad choice. Never chastise your audience for responding! (I could feel them going a little bit cold on me for the next speech or two.)

Death of Socrates
Socrates: My Socrates speech is probably the one that I’m now the most confident with, given that I’ve been working on him for about 10 months now. It comes out very naturally, and with a certain easy charm.

Mark Antony: While I’m exceptionally confident in this speech, I found that the slowdown in the intro to the show already had me behind the changing simultaneous slide show. The new introduction to this piece (different from the way I present it in Lot o’ Shakespeare) found me rattled, and a bit awkward. The speech itself went well, but I was trying to make up time, and resisting the full throated “MUTINY!” that usually ends this speech, given that I had much speakin’ yet to do.

Frederick Douglass: Here, I was hitting my stride again. This is a speech that almost no one knows, but which manipulates rhetorical devices in an astonishingly effective manner, and it, too, was established well enough in my delivery to come off very well.

Abraham Lincoln: “The Gettysburg Address” suffers from over-familiarity. Clearly, there are people in the audience who know this one very well, and even have it memorized already. And yet, this show could never quite work without it. (After the show, I received notes from one audience member who suggested several changes in emphasis, such as that “OF the people, BY the people and FOR the people” should go “of the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE and for the PEOPLE.” Another insisted that this speech should end the show, given it’s inherent popularity and power… even though that would break the chronological through-line of the piece.) People feel possessive of these things.

Teddy Roosevelt: This is the “comic relief” of the show, and it worked terrifically. The greatness of the speech itself is not its composition, but the fact of the speech, in light of his having gotten shot, moments before its delivery, and his repeated insistence on delivering the speech anyway. Roosevelt refuses to take his injury seriously, and neither do we. Late in the speech, I have the slides shift to a smug photo of Roosevelt I’d found on-line with the caption: “I don’t always get shot during the middle of a speech… But when I do, I finish the damn speech.” The timing of the slide shifts were pre-programmed, and I was focusing on remembering my lines, but I could tell that the slide had changed when I heard the audience laughing boisterously at an otherwise serious moment of the speech.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: This was another speech I feared would suffer from over-familiarity. I had made some recent cuts to the speech to tighten up the evening overall. This was the only speech in which I actually needed the podium. (Roosevelt had been stricken with polio nine years prior, and was holding himself up at the time.) To some degree, I was (uncomfortably) “cheating,” as I put the text on the podium before me, and glanced at it from time to time, if only to save myself “thinking time.” But while “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” resonated well, it was the late assertion that “There must be a strict supervision of all banking, credits and investments; There must be an end to speculation with OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY!” led the audience to break into spontaneous cheers and applause. In that moment the two worlds of Roosevelt’s audience and my audience overlapped, and it felt like theatre magic.

Winston Churchill: I do cuttings of three of Churchill’s best-known speeches: “Blood, toil, tears and sweat,” “We shall fight them on the beaches” and “This was their finest hour” in the course of about five minutes. They seemed to go well enough, and at least one audience member cited them as his favorite.

Martin Luther King: This was my last-memorized piece, and perhaps the most effective. I introduce this speech with the brief reminder that it was delivered on April 3, 1968, “the day before Dr. King was assassinated,” which created a level of irony surrounding what was to follow. This was an emotional (rather than comic) irony, as King describes a knife attack that he’d suffered in a brush with death years before, and moves on to his assertion that “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life; longevity has its place…” It was around this time that I’d instructed the technician to begin what was almost the only real “cue” in the course of the play, which was to slowly fade out the audience lights, which had remained on for the entire play. It had the effect of isolating King in space and riveting the attention of the audience on the climax of this particular speech. It doubled the awareness of the impending loss that was to follow. Afterwards, I heard from several people that this scene had brought them to tears. (People don’t usually report being brought to tears by my performances... this was a new experience for me.)

I had given the audience space in the program to comment on the show and, in addition to the notes on Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” and two requests for Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you…” were these:

“Thank you so much for your amazing performance. I’ve never been interested in speeches or memorization before, but watching you has made me want to read more speeches and learn more about the people who gave them.” (J.O.)
“Thank you for paying so much homage to language and to our history. Come to Valencia College and inspire our students…” (Tess Nater)
“This show moved me and you expressed such beautifuly said words by the original speaker, so well said by you.” (Anon)
“Amazing! It could be longer!” (Syreena)
“Fantastic! I would encourage you to continue promoting the great orators.” (Rob Orwiler)

Before the night was out, there was actually a review in the Orlando Sentinel. I had assumed that the Sentinel wouldn’t bother with a review this time, considering that there was only one performance being given, and no chance to promote the event to another audience. But…

Longtime Fringe performer Timothy Mooney took an unusual approach to the Orlando Fringe Festival this year. Under the umbrella title "The Compleat Repertory," he presented one performance each of his various shows from prior Fringes in his time slots.
Sunday night, though, he debuted his latest show, titled The Greatest Speech of All Time. Mooney knows something about great writing: Previous shows have seen him reciting Shakespearean monologues and the writings of playwright Moliere.
In The Greatest Speech… Mooney mines the words of great historical figures from Socrates to Winston Churchill. In other words, his source material is strong.
In a shrewd move, Mooney mixes in surprise offerings with the speeches we've all heard before. I realized to my chagrin I had never heard Frederick Douglass’s powerful 1852 anti-slavery speech. Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" may be much more commonplace, but how does one do a show about great speeches without it?
Also smartly, Mooney doesn't try to mimic the famous speakers — rather you get a hint of the speech's tone and inflections, a tinge of Southern drawl for Martin Luther King's "I've been to the mountaintop" speech, or that vaguely patrician accent for Franklin Roosevelt's "fear itself" speech.

You can tell it's a new work — the projected backgrounds weren't always in sync with the speaking, and Mooney uncharacteristically stumbled a few times. Yet he was always brought back on track by the power of those great words. (Matthew Palm, Orlando Sentinel)
Thankfully, I had my dear friend, Tisse Mallon (proprietor of the fantastic new “Spork Café”), at the show with camera in hand, taking a number of shots that came out looking great. I e-mailed my favorite photos on to Marcus Fernando in Croatia (who had done my Lot o’ Shakespeare photoshopping), and he responded with another terrific amalgamation. This one, which introduced this particular blog entry, repays close examination.

I gave myself one more day in town before I was off to the races once again… I headed straight back to Chicago, determined to finish the big e-mail campaign (now with new reviews to quote for the new show).

I had one quick pause to see Kirsten performing with the North Shore Chamber Music Festival. She performed the sign language interpretation to a violin/narrative interpretation of "Ferdinand the Bull," totally charming the audience, and leading me to dub her as "America's premiere sign language performer." After twenty years of raising her son (who is now off, studying in New York), Kirsten is ready to get back into performing in a big way. (The performance at the Chamber Music Festival has already won her invitations to perform in Spain and Croatia.) 

Tim, Isaac, Jim
I interrupted the project to make a side trip to Detroit with my Dad (newly moved back to Arlington Heights), where we attended my son, Isaac’s graduation from high school. While I suppose I should not have been surprised, I caught my breath a little when they read out his name at the graduation ceremony. Following the name “Isaac Arthur Mooney,” they announced, with weighty resonance “Diploma cum laude.”
The gold sticker: "Cum laude"

Subsequent to his graduation, Isaac has been named an “Academic All American!” 

A week after my return to Chicago (where I finally finished the mega e-mail campaign!), I was off again, this time with April to celebrate Sabra Steurmer’s 50th birthday in Chattanooga. (She’s a gorgeous 50!) We’d managed to keep secret from her that I was coming along on this trip, and I was delighted by the excitement that bubbled from her when I popped out from around the corner for the surprise! She may have been turning 50, but she was as ebullient as a little girl. Two days later, when April continued back to Chicago, I made one last dash to Edmond, Oklahoma to pick up the stuff that I’d left behind in storage (last October)!

In Chicago once more, I knuckled down to prepare for the coming conference season, drawing up new flyers that incorporated the new show, as well as another big banner, both of which prominently feature some of the great photoshopping that Marcus has done. I was also working with my webmaster, Bruce, on adding the new show to the website, which has had yet another facelift. 

Somewhere in there, I started this blog entry… and paused to race off to the International Thespian Fest in Lincoln, NE.

I was up at 4 am to make the drive, arriving early enough to adjudicate the individual events monologue competition, and settle in to my booth in the Leid Center lobby. Once again, I seemed to be in the middle of one of the more fun nooks in the lobby display area, as students were constantly drawn to the table past mine (which had great theatre chachkis for sale), and the tables across from me, which featured a couple of fellows who’d developed an improvisation app for the i-phone, and a booth which promoted an orchestra backup music program… a system which fills out your orchestra with the instrumental parts that they cannot cover (Realtime Music Solutions).

We all became fast friends in our corner, and I, once again, encouraged students to spin my bingo ball cage, performing whatever Shakespeare monologue came out.

The first night of the festival, I went to see the production of “Tarzan” that was happening in the Leid Center, the 2000+ seat venue filled with enthusiastic students. There are always announcements that delay the start of these shows, and this particular night they were showing a video, introducing the crowd to the Educational Theatre Association (the parent company of the Thespian Festival). And as they narrated over clips from past festivals, they ran major captions of the missions of the festival: “Advocacy,” “Teaching” and “Performance.” I was startled to see myself featured (twice) prominently over the caption of “Teaching,” in the midst of one of the workshops that I’d given the previous year. The video is not yet available on-line, but I’ll post a link to it on my Facebook page, and add it here, when it is ready. (My friend Linda, from Dramatic Publishing, may have been the only one in the crowd who actually recognized it as me... but I knew it was me from the Lot o' Shakespeare t-shirt I was wearing!) AND, I also got to grab coffee with Laurie (Martinez) Lessman, who has been living in Lincoln pretty much since I was in grad school there in the 80s! (I was extremely grateful to be caught up with news of other old school friends.)

The traffic was on-and-off, and there were long, dull, boring phases of manning the booth, but there was also some genuine interest. There were students who had seen me perform live at various points around the globe, and also people who had already read my book. One student's mom noted that her husband was also an actor, and when he was struggling with a role, her son had provided him with a list of ideas from my book to help him focus on his character. He now has those thoughts framed and hanging on his wall! (I've asked for a copy...) 

I currently estimate that the Festival appearance may lead to another half-dozen bookings in the coming year. Add this to the many bookings for the coming fall (about 11 confirmed, still two months out from the fall semester), and I should be doing pretty well in the coming year.

Miles on the Escape: 116,500

Temperature: 90s, more often than not

Tim with Arni Adler of Uncle Bonsai
On the I-pod: Uncle Bonsai: “The Grim Parade” (Saw them in Chicago this spring!) Here’s a picture of me with one of the bonsais! Anticipating the new disc from Producers (“Made in Basing Street”), featuring all-time favorites Lol Crème and Trevor Horn (getting rave advance reviews!)

On the night-table: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Discoveries: Social Media enables me to get the word out more quickly, but without the in depth contemplation and perspective that the blog allows me. * The growing diversity of my work (two books, three major shows…) leaves me with less time for the “extras” that I used to be able to dash off. * Ten years of touring seem to have curtailed the excitement around my tour. I inspire fewer people to run off and join the circus than I used to. * Part of what works about Lot o’ Shakespeare is the combination of “structure” with “sideways entries to the language of Shakespeare.” I pick up these monologues in the midst of what grabs my idiosyncratic sense of what intrigues me, but then I express them within a structured vision of how the monologues are built. * Double and triple-check every schedule! * The nature of my tour schedule is such that I end up doing most of my marketing when most of my potential clients are on vacation (Summer and Christmas breaks). The ability to get some of the work done during my “busy season” enables me to catch my best customers when they are “home.” * Sometimes it’s more important to focus on a belief in the words, and let the sound take care of itself. * Sometimes, it’s simply the ability to construct an elaborate sentence and make it work that lights the audience up. * Never chastise the audience for responding! * Occasionally the present world and the theatrical world overlap, resulting in theatre magic.

Attendance: 50 + 60 + 80 + 60 + 40 + 75 + 5 + 70 + 65 + 60 + 15 + 20 + 80 + 100 + 40 + 40 + 40 + 40 + 40 + 75 = 1,055

Next performance: Moliere than Thou at the American Association of Teachers of French (Chicago, IL), July 6, 2012 and The Greatest Speech of All Time at the Kansas City Fringe Festival, July 21-28!


Waterfall in Acadia National Park

"My Shelf" at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library

Orlando Fringe Protester

Skye Mooney Graduates First in Class!