Saturday, December 29, 2012

The View From Here, #157: OK, IN, IL, GA, MD, PA, CT, WI, IL, SD, OR, CA, NM, TX, NC, NH

Central Park

Happy Christmas, everybody! Or, Happy New Year’s... I’m starting this blog entry on Christmas Eve, but I’ve got a lot of ground to cover, and lots of pics and video to process…!

With the start of the Fall tour, I raced off to Oklahoma, with stops to visit Cousin Peggy in St. Louis and Dave & Helga in Tulsa. I performed “Lot o’ Shakespeare” at the University of Central Oklahoma, where I’d directed “Tartuffe” a year prior. I got a quick chance to drop in on a few old friends but, alas, they called a rehearsal of “Henry V” on the same night that I was performing the show (which included a performance of the “Saint Crispan’s Day” speech from the very show that they were producing), so the people who might have most benefitted from the show were the very people who could not attend.

With a brief stop in Kansas City (Hi, CAT, Alan and Sandy!), I headed back north to Valpairaso, Indiana with a performance of “Moliere than Thou” at Valpairaso University. They were terrific hosts, and in a very full day, I did a workshop, a lecture about my life on the road, a dinner with several of the faculty and a performance of “Moliere Than Thou.” A few days later, I got a nice note back from one of the teachers, suggesting that I come back again next year to do “Lot o’ Shakespeare,” and a nice article appeared in their paper, under the headline, “Moliere than VU,” which noted:
“Each character was different, ranging from a husband who believed his wife was having an affair, to a servant, to Don Juan himself. Each of Moliere’s plays reflected political commentary on the issues of the time, particularly the corrupt aristocrats or deceivingly ethical elite such as doctors, lawyers and priests. Mooney as Moliere transformed into each character by merely changing his wig, putting on a hat or making very small costume changes. With each minute change in detail, however, a new character stepped onto the stage.” (Colleen Bulow)
Next was a return to Lewis University, where a few years back I’d done, “Moliere than Thou.” This time: “Lot o’ Shakespeare,” and another workshop, where the teacher announced that they were going to start using my book, “Acting at the Speed of Life” (which continues to get great reviews on Amazon, by the way) as a text for their acting classes. Lewis U is just a short drive from Chicago, and several local friends: from grade school, from Stage Two, from a show I directed 20 years ago, from Pathways, and even my brother, Kevin, showed up to see the show (one that I almost never get to perform in the Chicago area). Fortunately, I didn’t know Kevin was in the audience until after the show (I have enough to be self-conscious about), which had been one of my better performances, with both “Henry V” and “Julius Caesar” coming out of the bingo cage.
And they make great presents, too...!

Speaking of book-success, it was around this time that Playscripts, Inc. agreed to carry "The Big Book of Moliere Monologues" in their catalogue, and "Acting at the Speed of Life" showed up as a "Recommendation" on the website of the American Association of Community Theatre. My old grad school buddy, Mike Pearl added yet another review for "Acting at the Speed of Life" on Amazon. And yet another teacher, who is using "Acting at the Speed of Life" for her acting classes, forwarded me a review:
"Acting at the Speed of Life is the next best thing to have Tim Mooney right there in the classroom with you! Because he had just done a live workshop with us, I could hear his voice in my head as my students worked through exercises in the book. His techniques energize performance with specific choices that bring words to life and connect with the audience."  (Rebecca Baker, Cedarville University)

I raced off immediately after the show, with a long day of driving to follow, pulling into Americus, Georgia late the next night. I was attending the Georgia Theatre Association conference, doing six workshops over two days. I always enjoy meeting theatre people at these things (and sharing copies of my books), and I got some great comments from the attendees, including (photographer, of the series above) William Searcy’s comment that: “The best workshops I attended this weekend were given by Tim Mooney.” (I also got to pose with Karan Kendrick, one of the performers from the highly successful “Hunger Games,” who happened to be a Georgia school success story.)

From Georgia, I headed up to Maryland, to catch my sister, Maureen and her husband Tim in their swank new home in Maryland (on the eastern coast of the Chesapeake). They just moved in a month prior to my arrival, and set up a performance of my latest show, “The Greatest Speech of All Time” at their community center. I was surprised to see a full house, and very excited to see how affected people are by this show. (I think it made for a nice ice-breaking event, introducing Maureen and and Tim to their new neighbors.)

From there, it was on to Millersville, Pennsylvania, with a return performance of “Moliere Than Thou” at Millersville University. It turned out to be a small audience of about 20 in a lecture hall/auditorium, but the teacher seemed very pleased once again, and the school paper even posted a review, headlined, “One man show ‘Moliere Than Thou’ is highly interactive and hilariously engaging.”

An anecdote from last summer: Some may recall that I attended the Association of Theatre in Higher Education conference in Washington D.C. in August. It was a fairly typical conference, but as I was unloading the car to set up my booth, I discovered a business card tucked into my driver’s-side window. A brief glance revealed it as the card of a lawyer, and, not needing a lawyer, I tossed it into the passenger seat without much thought. It wasn’t until several days later, on my way out of Wasington, that I looked closer, noticing that the name on the card was “John P. Moliere.”

It seems that a lawyer by the name of “Moliere” had noticed my “MOLIERE” license plate and perhaps thought he was introducing himself to some long-lost branch of the family tree. I dropped him a line introducing myself, and the particulars of my engagement with his great ancestor, and several days later, the phone rang, with JPM on the line: he was fascinated and excited. He had checked me out on line, and, surprise-surprise, he happened to be a big Moliere fan… which I suppose would be inevitable. He said something to the effect that my performances were “a F-ing riot,” and in gratitude, I sent him a copy of “The Big Book of Moliere Monologues.” He was gracious enough to write up a review. And so, here is what the actual J.P. Moliere had to say about my book:
“I like Shakespeare, but I love Molière much more because I believe that comedy, especially poking a stick in the eye of silliness by showing the absurdity of a given common issue known to all is marvelous relief. For those that do not read, speak and especially, understand French, Tim Mooney has created an elegantly simplistic highway of understanding from the basic description of iambs to the delivery of easily understood, and laughed out loud at, skillfully constructed verse.
“The key to excellent verse is the simultaneous application of cleverness in a most academic and streetwise manner. Tim does this expertly. Double entendre is a staple by which we all find ourselves thoughtfully smiling or laughing out loud. Merci, Jean-Baptiste.  Much of Tim’s experience shines through in a scholarly manner... The Big Book is a must read for any serious French teacher or student of French. To understand Molière is to reach down into our inner being so as to discover and understand ourselves when not fettered by silly political correctness...or assisted by a shrink!
 “Tim’s Big Book facilitates this in a very American, in your face way. If you don’t like Molière or Mooney when you have completed this book, you could not have liked Mad Magazine or the edginess of the old Saturday Night Live… So if you are of that ilk, I trust you have read this review before buying it, so my advice is, don’t bother, you are incorrigible and not worthy. If however, I’ve piqued your interest, dive into it...naked, with a glass of red wine and savor it. After you’ve done that it will be the morrow; so shower, don your clothes and read in earnest! You will be delighted, fulfilled and even a bit smarter in the timeless clever ingenuity of Molière and Mooney’s genius manner of bringing this genre to life!”
Pomperaug High School in Connecticut had previously produced my “Imaginary Invalid,” and were now working on my “Learned Ladies.” While the audience was relatively small for this Saturday morning show, they were packed in tightly to the small thrust theatre, and all seemed attuned for the intended tone of the humor. One particular gentleman with a raucous laugh infected all of the rest, making for a boisterous, lively event.

Isaac in front of "Hogwarts"

It was a quick race east afterwards, with a stop at the University of Michigan to check out my son, Isaac’s new dorm surroundings. I was due the next day in Green Bay, Wisconsin with my third performance at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. This was another small audience, and a much bigger challenge to win over, but by the time we got into the volunteer scenes I felt they were entirely on board. When it came time to bringing up a volunteer for the “Doctor in Spite of Himself” scene, the French professor started pointing at students in neighboring rows to encourage them, but I picked up on her gesture as if she, herself, were volunteering, and the audience got to enjoy their teacher in the hot-spot. (It looks like I’ve also recruited her to write a review of “The Big Book of Moliere Monologues” for the French Review!)

Back in Chicago, I had a performance of “Moliere” at DePaul the following day, along with a workshop for the French students. The professor had brought me in to perform perhaps six years previously, and once again, I would be presenting the show in a challenging lecture hall space. The good news was that the prof had recruited several students to usher, directing the 200 or so students up to the forward rows, and managing the lights and video camera. It turned out to be one of the best shows, as the students immediately “got the joke,” and the volunteers were excellent. A professor from the classics department came up to congratulate me, buying a copy of the “Big Book.”

Racing west again, I found myself finally getting my FIRST FLAT TIRE of the tour! Ironically, I had just replaced my first set of tires on the “new” Ford Escape, racking up perhaps 5000 miles on the new tires before a piece of plastic in the road poked a hole in the rear tire, just as the first snow storm of the year began to fall. I barely noticed any change in the ride, although the sound of the fluttering rubber finally got me to pull over. I was still about two hours away from my destination, in Bookings, SD, with about three hours before my scheduled workshop. I fumbled around, trying to figure out the whole spare-tire/jack thing, as the wind and snow swirled about me. I decided to let Triple-A handle it, and called to alert my host to the possible delay. Triple-A was out ahead of the promised “half-hour,” and I was back on my way with just one stop for gas, arriving at South Dakota State University with about 60 seconds to spare.

The SDSU booking was a workshop with a professor I’d met on a pass through Reno, but UN-Reno never had the money to bring me in. The South Dakota session was a big success with talk of scheduling a show in coming years, and reports of inspired students really “going for it” in their final performances this Fall. (She’s also adding my book to her Acting curriculum!)

NW Oregon

I continued West, with my third performance at Mount Hood Community College, and another stay at my favorite hotel, “McMenamin’s Edgefield.” Once again, Mount Hood was bringing me in to do both Shakespeare and “Moliere Than Thou,” but the audience seemed a little bigger this time. The hosts (French and English teachers) had also reached out to the Theatre Department for support, and brought in more lighting instruments to illuminate the otherwise dim lecture hall. I had one “fan” who’d discovered me through a mutual friend on Facebook, who raved unabashedly about the performance afterwards. Her review later that day started with “We’re still just thrilled about the event today…” and got more enthusiastic from there.

I headed south once more, dropping in on brother, Pat, in Salem, Oregon, and the coordinator of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival “Green Show.” (I also talked with the manager of the OSF gift shop, which is now adding 10 copies of "The Big Book of Moliere Monologues" to their shelves!) I pushed ahead to my next booking in Cupertino, California and, coincidentally, the I-Phone that I’d ordered while back in Chicago finally caught up with me on the road in Cupertino (home of everything Apple).

After Cupertino, I took a couple days off in Fresno, visiting "Airplane Jayne," responding to 130 or more Facebook messages, and attempting to learn my new phone. 

The workshops (“Acting” for the theatre students; “Moliere” for the French students) and the show “Moliere Than Thou” were all well received. The students presented me with a generous bag of goodies that I snacked on for about two weeks following the show, and a photographer stopped by to take some photos, both before and during the performance. I stumbled across them during one of my odd moments of “googling myself,” and found one that I really liked.

I continued down to Idylwild, California to perform, once again, in Betty & Pete’s living room! Betty and Pete had moved into a new house in their gorgeous Idylwild setting, about 6000 feet above sea level, and, sight unseen, invited a bunch of their neighbors to join us for a presentation of “The Greatest Speech of All Time.” (Coincidentally, a day in advance of the election!) It was a bit of a tight squeeze to perform the show, along with the slide show, with some 15-20 also squeezing into the living room, but it was well worth it. The intimate setting made the speeches feel incredibly immediate, and the slightest modulations of my voice were resonating through the crowd. While I could feel all of the speeches “landing” with this group, the FDR “Fear itself” speech was particularly poignant, and I could see people starting to cry almost from the moment I introduced Martin Luther King’s “Mountaintop” speech. Pete later wrote,  “The performance knocked us all orators of history standing before us in our living room, impassioned, ALIVE, and made come-to-life--it was so moving and timely that I'm surprised Obama won without most of the electorate having seen this performance...!”

Moving once again in the direction of the rising sun, I caught a few fun photos on my way down the mountain (this time with my new i-phone camera), stopped in Flagstaff to visit a former host from schools in Alabama AND Georgia (who was now teaching at Northern Arizona U.), and to watch the election returns. 

The one comment I "tweeted" after the election results came in was that "Four years from now, there will be 8-year-old children who will never have known of a white man being president. "You mean they let white men do that too?"

Moliere visits Area 51
Relieved, I continued on to New Mexico and my first-ever stop in beautiful Santa Fe, where Desert Academy was hosting a performance of “Lot o’ Shakespeare.”

The biggest problem with maintaining four shows in tight rotation is that I probably recite five or six passes through each play for every one time I perform them, and the whole working-the-thing-up-to-performance-readiness leaves me more and more conscious that my voice is not exactly where it could be. I enjoy the showing off that goes with the ability to fill a room with my voice, but I’m getting to think that it’s time to draw the line, and rely on a body-mic for “Lot o’ Shakespeare” and “Greatest Speech”. The Desert Academy crowd was packed and responsive (the whole school crowded into their central foyer), but my voice was operating on “fumes.”

From Santa Fe to Houston, I worked up my fourth of four consecutive plays (following Moliere, Shakespeare and Greatest Speech), as I prepped a rare college performance of “Criteria,” my one-man comic sci-fi thriller, and looked forward to a meet-up with a bunch of “Pathways” friends in the Houston area. Last summer, I’d been chatting with folks from Lone Star College about setting up a Moliere/Shakespeare event, but given the themes of their current semester, the professor asked if I had something touching on “Fear and Horror and Future.” I had the perfect piece for them, and while the lunchtime audience was thin, the reaction was terrific, and it got me thinking about finally publishing an edition of “Criteria” for sale on-line.

Criteria, the One-Man Comic Sci-Fi Thriller!
From Houston, it was a quick hop northwest to a performance at Texas State in San Marcos, where they’d brought me in for a show back in 2009. Again, I was back to do “Moliere Than Thou” for the French faculty, as well as a session with the French students who were presenting a series of French-language scenes in performance, giving them feedback and direction from a theatrical perspective.

The show itself went great, with a packed theatre, laughing raucously throughout. There was one group of jock-ish young men in the front row just off of stage left, who seemed reluctant to let go and enjoy the event, and during the “Don Juan” scene, I saw one of them texting on his smart phone. Without breaking character, as Sganarelle, I walked over and grabbed his phone out of his hands, shaking it in the air as Sganarelle says “And from the court the courtiers export the fashion, which is subject to caprice, which, of the soul is but the slightest piece!” (They paid better attention after that.) There was also a producer in the audience who’d come up all the way from Laredo, TX (about 5 hours south) with an interest in booking me for the coming year… which may have given me a little extra inspiration. (They’ve since booked me for January 22!)

The day after the show, I heard this from the teacher: “Thank you so much again Tim for a great show! I can't wait to see the result of your suggestions in the Acting French class and I would definitely be interested in transforming this brief session into a workshop of some kind!”
Hiding from Melanie in New Orleans... Shh...

It so happened that the New Orleans Fringe Festival was happening as I worked my way from Texas to Florida, and I made a swing through to visit with several good Fringe friends (Bremner, Melanie, Kurt…) and get a taste of Fringe spirit(s) in the midst of November.

In Orlando, I attended a district-area Thespian Festival, setting up a table in their exhibit area and encouraging students to give my Shakespeare cage a spin, performing the monologues that the machine spat out. It turned out that the folks at the table next to mine were from Seminole State College, and one of the teachers had seen (and loved) “Lot o’ Shakespeare” at the Orlando Fringe! We spent most of our time that day negotiating a series of performances at their school for December of 2013.

I had a couple of weeks of down-time spanning the Thanksgiving break and camped out for a week with the Pergandes and another week with Albear, both of whom have put me up at past Fringe Festivals, and I buckled down for two weeks of intense e-mail campaigning, writing to my huge list of 12,000 teachers across the country. (I’m still not quite done…!) Every time I do these mailings, I seem to have a new show or a new book to promote. This time, however, I’m steadfastly refusing to plot out any dates for the Spring of 2014. I’ve carved that time out of my schedule as a “sabbatical,” during which I’m hoping to get one or two Guest Artist gigs, and to spend significant down-time off of the road. I’m also hoping for the side benefit of schools squeezing a year of potential bookings into the single Fall semester, thus making more money in a shorter time.
Fill in your own caption here...

Also in Orlando, I met up with a friend from West Virginia, who read a manuscript copy of my "self-help" book, "Currency. She was so enthusiastic about it that I've now put it back on my "to-be-published" pile...!

Eventually, I packed up and jumped back on the road, with a workshop in Elon, NC – giving them the quick, one-hour explanation of “How I Came To Do What It Is That I Do,” before continuing on north, dropping in for a quick visit in NYC with Melanie Gall (from the fringe circuit), and catching up with Maureen and Tim for a walk around Central Park.  I took the terrific Central Park photo on our walk that's at the top of this blog entry, and Tim noted that he never seems to find his way into the pages of “The View From Here,” so here he is!

Tim & Maureen
The next show was my first performance of “The Greatest Speech of All Time” for a high school crowd, and the speech teacher at Proctor Academy noted that his sophomores all have to give a speech in the spring semester, so they had a motivated reason to pay attention. Here, I began the process of integrating a microphone into the performance, as the last three speeches (FDR, Churchill and ML King), were all originally performed at a podium with a microphone.

From my first entrance, I felt this would be a tough house. They were not going with the evident laugh-lines or applause moments with the instinctive spirit of fun that my previous crowds had, and several students were clearly distracted from the outset. (I watched with astonishment as a fellow in the third row seemed to be having an elaborate conversation about his shoes with somebody ten feet away.) I responded by pushing the intensity of my performance, and my volume, and gave what felt like an extremely impassioned performance. By the end of the show, I absolutely NEEDED that microphone in support of the Martin Luther King speech. Watching that show almost a month later on video (it took me several weeks to clear room for it on my computer), it came out much better than I remember it. The noise was minimal, and while the audience didn’t laugh in the “laughing places,” they did break into sharp, full applause at the end of each piece. Afterwards, we did a “Q&A” session, and they captured a bit of me “unscripted” on video:

I spent much of my drive back to Chicago making plans for a study guide, to help teachers prepare their students for “Greatest Speech.” What this performance had seemed to be missing, and what previous performances had, was an audience that was already attuned to the “tension implicit in the process of the speaking.” While contemporary high school students may have a working knowledge of Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, I can’t count on any common frame of reference about Socrates, Mark Antony, Frederick Douglass, the Roosevelts, or Winston Churchill.

And so, that’s added to the long list of many things on my to-do list… Those projects include:
  • Finishing the winter “booking campaign”
  • Editing Shakespeare’s Henry VI (Parts 1, 2, 3) and Richard III down to an hour apiece
  • Publishing “Criteria” and “Moliere Than Thou”
  • Doing “Kindle” versions of “Acting at the Speed of Life” and “Big Book of Moliere Monologues”
  • Recording an audio version of “Acting at the Speed of Life”
  • Memorize two more speeches for “The Greatest Speech of All Time”
  • Write and Memorize a new one-man Shakespeare show: “The History Cycle”
  • Edit and develop my self-help book, “Currency”
  • Finish the Shakespeare study guide, and the “Greatest Speech” study guide
  • And three other projects that aren't coming to mind at the moment… like cleaning out my e-mail inbox, or designing the “Moliere Than Thou” coffee mug…!
Tim, Dad, Sue & Kevin
Even if I had no other commitments… like driving around the country, and performing shows, these projects would take me over three years to complete all by themselves. But what I’ve got is about two weeks! Following a quick drop in on Isaac, I’m back in the Chicago area, squirreled away in April’s basement. It’s been good to visit with folks-from-home and celebrating Christmas while chipping away at the long list of projects. (We just had a reunion of a bunch of grade school comrades last night!) I race through the list for two weeks before jumping back on the highway mid-January.

In the meantime, I’ve got some great opportunities coming up:
  • I’m looking at performances at the Texas Educational Theatre Association, where I’ll be a Guest Artist.
  • I got a call from SETC, requesting a performance of “Greatest Speech” for their March conference.
  • I’m talking with the folks at the Oklahoma Shakespearean Fest about some extended Guest Artist work with them.
  • And I’ve renewed my conversation with the Oregon Shakespeare Fest about performing in their Green Show. (They’ve also renewed their order of the Acting text, and initiated a new order of “The Big Book of Moliere Monologues.)

Miles on the Escape: 136,436

Discoveries: Quite often, the people who would most benefit from my performance are the people who are tied up the day/night of the show with other activities; Somehow, I need to drive home the value that these performances deliver… * I keep forgetting that the people I interact with on a daily basis are my best source for reviews of my work (and it helps them bolster their publishing credentials, too). * Effective audience management (through volunteer ushers) can make up for any number of flaws in the auditorium itself. * As much as I like to demonstrate the power of unamplified speech, that particular lesson needs to take a back seat to the survival of my vocal cords. * While I work relentlessly to present “memorized performances” in each of my one-man shows, sometimes I come off even better when I just improvise in intereaction with students.

On the I-Pod: Ben Folds, “The Best Imitation of Myself”

On the Night-table: “Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare”

Upcoming Performances: “Greatest Speech” at Newberry College, Newberry, SC (1/15), “Moliere Than Thou” at Laredo Community College, Laredo, TX (1/22), “Greatest Speech” and “Moliere” at the Texas Educational Theatre Association, Houston, TX (1/24-27) and “Lot o’ Shakespeare” at Hill College, Hillsoro, TX (1/28)

Timothy Mooney Repertory Theatre Tour Schedule

(Available dates in CAPITAL LETTERS; Already-booked dates in GREEN; Pending bookings in PURPLE; Festival opportunities in REDMTT = “Moliere than Thou”; LoS = “Lot o’ Shakespeare

1/7-12  FLORIDA
1/15     Newberry College, Newberry, SC (GSAT)
1/22     Laredo Community College (MTT)
1/23    TEXAS                                                                       
1/24-27 TEXAS (TETA) (Houston) (MTT & GSAT)
1/28     Hill College, Hillsboro, TX (LoS)
1/29     N-TEXAS
2/1-2    NEVADA / S-IDAHO / UTAH
2/7       Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS
2/8       KANSAS
2/9       Newman University, Wichita, KS (LoS)
2/12     Geneva High School, Geneva, IL (MTT)
2/14-15 Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH
2/22     SUNY-Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY
2/26     Duke University, Durham, NC
3/7-9    SETC (GSAT)
3/9-12 Driving
3/13     Sacramento State, Sacramento, CA (MTT)
3/15     Snow College, Ephraim, UT (GSAT)
3/16-17 S. IDAHO
3/30-4/1 IOWA / MISSOURI
4/16-17 FLORIDA
4/18-21 World Health Organization: Croatia
4/25     TENNESSEE

SUMMER, 2013
Late May-Mid July (?) Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival
6/18-23 International Thespian Festival, Lincoln, NE
7/11-14 AATF, Providence, RI
7/18-28 KC Fringe Festival
8/1-4    ATHE, Orlando Florida
8/1-11  Minnesota Fringe Festival

FALL, 2013
9/15-19 NEW ENGLAND                                                                           
9/20     Harrison High School, Harrison NY (MTT)
9/26-30 EdTA Conference, Minneapolis, MN
10/16   Texas Wesleyan University, Ft. Worth, TX (GSAT)
10/17-21  TEXAS / OKLAHOMA
10/29-11/2  CALIFORNIA
12/5-7  Seminole State College, Orlando, FL (LoS?)
12/12-14 TEXAS / COLORADO (Available for Colorado Thespians)

SPRING, 2014

SUMMER, 2014
July:     International Community Theatre Festival, Venice, FL