Friday, December 27, 2013

The View From Here #160: Fall, 2013!

Sunset from Key West
Twelve thousand miles later… I’m back!

It’s been the busiest Fall that I can remember, and the coming spring is shaping up as the busiest Spring, ever, as well. Having announced that this is THE FINAL YEAR OF THE TOUR!, folks is coming out of the woodwork… some people I never knew had an interest in booking a show, are responding that the want to get me in while they still can.

Sure, I could whine about “Where have you guys been all this time?” but let’s just ride the wave and be grateful. At least I’m able to eat this year.

It’s impossible to know the impact that you are having on the world. Impressions that you make in passing may be received and transform people well beyond the circle that you encounter. Having a “Google-alert” and a “TalkWalkerAlert” set up in my name, occasionally information about me gets back to me. Last September a woman starting a theatre company in Kansas City mentioned on her blog...
Theatre is a communial art – nothing is done by one person (and when it is, it usually isn’t interesting – unless it’s Tim Mooney)… 
(Thanks for the shout-out, Amanda B.! I’ll be watching for the “No Name Theatre Company!”)

Likewise, following my last blog release, in September, I got lots of great feedback, notably this from Dave Landis in Lincoln:
Congratulations Tim for making your career up out of thin air, grit, talent, commitment and a genius for organizing and highway driving. In your wake are books, monologues, classes, shows, and inspired audiences and students. If that is what the last years have accomplished, I wonder and marvel what the future holds. It will be awesome, I expect.
View from Maryland's Eastern Shore
The Fall tour started out wth a New York booking at Harrison High School. I had met the French teacher, Susie,  at the French teacher’s conference in Belgium about four years back. We’d attempted to arrange a booking perhaps twice since then, and I’d pretty much given up, but this time it came together. We made the mistake of meeting up for margaritas the night before the performance, which was scheduled for 9 am the following morning, and my performance-readiness was touch-and-go for a while!

From New York, I zipped down to Maryland for yet another performance in my sister’s town hall, Claiborne, Maryland, and this time the place was packed for the second-ever performance of “Shakespeare’s Histories.” Again, the Claiborne folks received me very warmly, and their resident Artist, Renny Johnson, did more fun illustrations. One of the attendees, who had just reviewed my “Tartuffe” at the Annapolis Shakespeare Company, responded to “Histories:”
Seeing a true thespian like Mr. Mooney made me realize how often in this society we mistake counterfeits for the genuine. It is only when the genuine is set before you that you realize you have been fooled by the rest. 
It also happens that my sister, Maureen McHugh wrote a rave review in response to this performance, but given her obvious bias in my favor, I’ll resist quoting it. (Though you can read it for yourself at http://claibornemd.org/cc-general-2.php?issue=cc-2013-10.jpg&pdf=Clarion-Oct-2013.pdf)

I raced down to Asheville, North Carolina, for two shows at UNC-Ashville, but as I approached, I could feel my sinuses starting to react to the mold, or perhaps the pollen in the air. I went to bed early, and got up the next morning ready to hunt down some Benadril, but discovered that overnight my passenger-side car window had been smashed in. Someone had stolen the i-pod lying under my dashboard, and the handful of change that was in my cupholder… but had completely overlooked the video camera, the backup laptop, the new projector and several other valuable items. 

Fixing the window was going to cost me almost as much, in money and in bother, as replacing the i-pod! Given the number of screw-ups around Asheville, NC (more yet to come!), a lovely city where I was reassured that auto break-ins virtually NEVER happen, I simply accepted that this was the universe reminding me not to start re-thinking my decision to put an end to the tour. As much as I was enjoying the bookings, and making some good money, there were still plenty of aspects of the driving and living on the road that I would certainly NOT miss.

The New Book… with Shiny New Cover Design
That night I performed “Lot o’ Shakespeare” at the school, and was surprised to discover Kermit Brown, a fellow alum of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, who I hadn’t seen for perhaps thirty years(!) was in attendance! (We got together for lunch the following day, and I was able to show Kermit the latest proof of my new “Shakespeare’s Histories” book, in which, I just happened to have cited HIM, along with several of the other actors that I’d known in Alabama as being significant influences!)

After the show, I loaded out equipment, with the bingo cage, the costume, the books and t-shirts and the broadsword packing into the car, jammed in with all of the other props and costumes for other shows. “Lot o’ Shakespeare,” of course, has a simultaneous ­slide show, that, in this case, was being run off of my laptop. And so, as I out-loaded the show to my car, I brought out my laptop at the same time, setting it by the car along with all of the boxes.

And, while I made sure to pack all of my Shakespeare stuff into the car, I spaced out my computer, sitting by my now-passenger-side-window-less car. And as I pulled out of the parking spot, I felt a little bump, as if the car had passed over a low curb. And as the car continued backwards, I could see the computer bag still there, sitting on the pavement in front of me.

I took the computer back to the hotel, opened the bag, and turned it on… and it still worked.

The screen was cracked, but the computer still worked!

The screen wouldn’t even have cracked, had I not had the power adapter, which left a square indentation on the grey computer shell, packed in with the computer.

The next night, the show was “Moliere than Thou,” and Kermit Brown came back to see this one as well!

I headed on to Columbia, South Carolina, where the high school acting teacher had arranged a big event with the theatre students from at least a half-dozen schools. I love doing shows like this, with students who are already predisposed, and excited about live performances and Shakespeare. (We managed to capture scenes on video.) The teacher later responded, “It was GREAT… Talk about lighting up a room.”


I raced off to Florence, South Carolina for another show that same night at Francis Marion College. This time, my old friend, Jon Tuttle (author of “The Hammerstone”) was bringing me in to do “The Greatest Speech of All Time,” my fifth performance in a week, and the fourth entirely different show, having worked my way through “Shakesepeare’s Histories” in Maryland, “Lot o’ Shakespeare” in Asheville and Columbia, “Moliere than Thou” in Asheville and, now, “Greatest Speech.”

“Greatest Speech” got off to a bit of a shaky start, as my old belt broke about halfway into the first monologue of the night (“Socrates”). I could feel some adjustment to my clothing as I was performing, but didn’t dare look down at my pants through the six-minute speech. Given that Socrates was probably wearing a toga, fiddling with a belt would have been a significant break of character. Afterwards I saw that the point where the leather was clamped into the buckle simply pulled out, and was fairly self-evidently broken. Fortunately, my pants were still more or less at my waist (it’s a baggy suit), and I pulled the belt off and continued.

There was a diverse response to “Greatest Speech,” with perhaps half of the students highly engaged, and another half seeming fairly indifferent. (Of course, I usually only notice or remember the uninvolved students.) A month or so later, though, I heard from someone who had been in that audience…
I enjoyed your presentation-performance and was amazed at the amount of memorization. I have been toying for several year with taking some of the Old Testament prophets and take some of the best/dramatic verses and memorizing them for a live performance... Watching you pushed me to quit thinking about it and just do it. Thanks for the inspiration! (Thomas Wampler)
Dammit, Robin! I told you this was our exit!
I had a couple of extra days to get down to Milledgeville, Georgia for two shows at Georgia College and State University, where I had previously performed back in 2004 and 2006. Although I got there a couple of days early, I realized on Sunday that I had left the costume shirt for “Moliere than Thou” back in the hotel in Asheville five days prior! There was no time to ship it to Milledgeville in time for the show, so I spent that Sunday driving up to Asheville and back.

Somehow, I didn’t mind the driving so much. I knew that my “Moliere Shirt” had taken good care of me over the years, and racing back for it was simply part of the cost of doing business. (I was reminded of the passage from “The Hobbit” in which the archer vows to retrieve his favorite arrow from the heart of the dragon.)

Back in Milledgeville, I did three workshops and two performances of “Moliere than Thou.” The students had prepared a fun staged reading of my version of “Scapin” as a prelude to my performances. And three of the faculty e-mailed me with high praises after the show. I was feeling appreciated. 

We had a brief mixup about a videographer who had showed up at the theatre to record the show… a fact I didn't find out about until right before the performance got underway. I had to restrict their recording to ten minutes, given that they were going to have control of the material without my involvement, and there seemed to be a bit of a tiff between my host and the video guy, who ended up leaving in the middle of the show. They DID, however, send me a copy of their recording, which was EXTREMELY good. Between the clarity of the video, and the sometimes-squealing, giddy laughter of the crowd, it ranks among some of the best material I've captured (below).

I then retraced much of the driving that I had just done (about three times now!), to head back to northern Virginia for a show at the Blue Ridge School. They had hosted me about four years ago to perform “Criteria,” and this time were bringing me back to do “Lot o’ Shakespeare”. I had forgotten that they were an all-boy school and, fortunately, two of the female teachers were sitting in the front row, which was great for when I had speeches like “Are you meditating on virginity…?”

Just what I've been looking for...
South yet again! This time I was on to Fort Worth, Texas, making the trip in a single day, which gave me some extra time to relax in advance of my second visit to Texas Wesleyan (who hosted “Lot o’ Shakespeare” last year), hosting “Greatest Speech” this time around. They, too, were warmly receptive, and offered to keep their eyes open for any Texas jobs that might be right for me.  

I pushed on to Alberquerque, where I had ordered a replacement screen for my computer to meet up with me. I found a value-priced hotel in Alberquerque through Priceline, so I lingered there for four days, working my way through most of (the astonishing) “Breaking Bad” on Netflix. Given that the series is set in Alberquerque, I felt like I was in the perfect place to catch up on it.

It was about this time that I learned that the old homestead had finally been knocked down! We lived there for about 48 years, and now somebody was beginning work on putting up a McMansion on that lot!

Kathleen McGeever at Northern Arizona University was hosting me for a third show, this time at a third school! (I think that’s a record!) She had booked me on the first year of the tour to do “Moliere” at University of Montevallo in Alabama, and then again two years later when she was chair at Georgia College & State University, where she hosted me to do “Criteria”. It took her nine years to book me at her new school, but she was able to justify hosting “Greatest Speech of All Time,” given that it had “cross-curricular appeal.” As I approached, I saw that the school had tweeted out that 
The king of the 1-man show, @Molierelover, delivers "Greatest Speech of All Time" to NAU. bit.ly/1ibXfln. pic.twitter.com/qLAUXr7dV6
A promotion! I am now “The King of the 1-Man Show.”

The night before the performance, they had me addressing the theatre students on “Writing, Producing and Touring the One-Person Show.” Since I was speaking at night, there was no class schedule in conflict with it, and I started speaking at 7:00, and got onto a roll, not finishing until about 10:00 that night. The next day I had a workshop on “The Life of Moliere,” and that night I performed for a surprisingly full crowd.

Northern Arizona University Faculty
The biggest challenge of performing in Flagstaff was their elevation of 7,000 feet, with the thin air starting to grate on my throat. It got worse when the microphone set up for the two final monologues, FDR and Martin Luther King (both of the electronic amplification era), turned out to not be working. Which meant putting out even more sound, all the way through to the end of the play. After the show I went out with a couple of the teachers who touted the healing properties of whiskey on the throat.

I decided it was time to tally up the results of the last three performances of “Greatest Speech,” from South Carolina, Texas and Arizona. The results were as follows:
Winston Churchill: 2 votes
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: 6 Votes
Abraham Lincoln: 11 Votes
Frederick Douglass: 16 Votes
Socrates: 20 Votes
Mark Antony: 24 Votes
Teddy Roosevelt: 34 Votes
Martin Luther King: 70 Votes! 
Various comments submitted on the backside of the ballots included: "awesome," "phenomenal," "amazing," "I got chills," "a great experience" and "more thought provoking than watching it on YouTube."
From Flagstaff, I continued on to Idylwild, where Betty Anderson was hosting me for yet another performance in her living room, this one being “Shakespeare’s Histories.” This time around, I managed to get the timing of the show down to 65 minutes… Only five minutes left to trim to make it to the magic 60-minute mark, which is the cut-off time for most Fringe festivals. The audience was great, kicking in to the till for “gas money,” and one viewer later wrote to Betty:
I enjoyed Tim’s performance very much.  Yes, he is amazing and talented and has a huge knowledge indeed of Shakespeare;  most impressive!  I appreciated that although he  spoke quickly, each word was clearly understood.  Quite rare these days. 
Another friend of Betty's, Marshall James Smith II, called the show…"Brillant, funny and inspiring."

I cut back north to Las Vegas, performing “Lot o’ Shakespeare” at the Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts, where I’d performed Moliere, some eight years prior. That first time, it was the language arts people who had brought me in to perform, with almost no coordination with the theatre department… which was actually an irritation to the technical coordinator at the time, who wasn't ready to accommodate my rehearsal needs. But, the show, itself, sold them on my work, and this time, it was they who were bringing me back, and their tech coordinator, Rebekah, took terrific care of me for my two days in town.

I had a little time to kill, and rather than head straight north to my next event in Spokane, I decided to swing out to visit Kirsten in Santa Clarita, CA. She and I have been planning a website, which is being built by my web guy, Bruce in Portland. Kirsten is working on a performance of an almost-one-woman show (“Firecracker”), about life as a deaf woman in a hearing world, and being caught between those two worlds. The show, and the website, will be opening very soon!

Crossing Northern California...
I continued north, stopping in Redding, California for the night, where a “GoogleAlert” that I’d set to alert me of any appearance of the title “The Misanthrope” on the internet, popped up to cue me to a review of a performance of my adaptation of Moliere’s “Misanthrope” that was happening in Boise, Idaho that weekend. The review noted that the final performance was the following night.

 The trip from Redding to Boise was about 10 hours long, but the opportunity to surprise the director and actors was more important than the bother that the extra driving might present. (It was, of course, ironic that I had taken the long way through California, when I was going to swing all the way back to Boise, which had been almost directly north of my last appearance, in Las Vegas, in the first place.)

I arrived perhaps twenty minutes in advance of the show, buying a ticket at a table out in front of the high school’s auditorium. I asked them if the director was anywhere around, and they were certain she would be in attendance, but hadn’t seen her yet. They asked my name. I told them not to tell anyone else that I was there, and slipped them my business card to pass along, and proceeded in to sit down in the auditorium.

I enjoyed the first half of the show, a modernized version of my script, and when intermission arrived, one of the ushers came up to inform me that the director wanted to meet me. Apparently, the woman at the box office hadn’t recognized my name, but when the director saw my card, she understood immediately, and was “fan-girling” at the back of the auditorium. (Which is, I believe, a gesture in which you point your fingertips toward your cheeks and “fan” yourself… hyperventilation optional.)

We made plans for me to say a few words to the cast afterwards, and I watched the second half of the play. Afterwards, the word went out that the director wanted the casts (they had double-cast the roles with two distinct versions of the play) to come out to the auditorium afterwards. The 40 or so company members took seats in the auditorium, thinking that they were, perhaps, in trouble for some imagined misbehavior.

While I lingered in the wings, just barely in sight, the director explained that they had been treated to one of the greatest honors in the school history, as the adaptor, Timothy Mooney, had shown up to watch the play tonight…

I walked out on stage to what I think it might have felt like to be one of the Beatles in 1964. The cast was thrilled, with some glistening eyes. I took their questions for about forty-five minutes, and we took a group photo of the bunch of us. As we were exchanging hugs and handshakes, some member of the cast had the idea to get me to autograph their program, and pretty soon everyone had to have my autograph on a program, or script or poster. This went on for another half-hour, and after the cast had all gone their way, the director had me come backstage to sign the dressing room wall.
The next day I drove to Spokane. And, as I was driving, the director posted on her Facebook page:

This really happened: last night I was so surprised and honored to find out that the gentleman who wrote the adaptation of the play we were performing CAME TO OUR SHOW!! Tim Mooney drove hours out of his way to see our production of the script he wrote. He knew about the performance because of a review he read on Broadwayworld.com by Teresa Linson Rodrick. I didn't tell the kids he was in the audience. I only told them that they had a surprise after the show. We announced him, the kids went CRAZY (I cried... A bunch) and he stuck around for an hour and a half for a talk back, impromptu performances, and signed everything that we put in front of him (including the wall in the makeup room, next to Brianna Mae White). Rocky Drama is so honored to have him visit. I am beside myself, proud of my kids, honored to have this man's time and attention and happy to share it with all of you.
Not long after, I received this note from Laurel Rengo Lewis…
As a parent of one of the leads in the modern play, that drive you did to see the play made many many students LIVES!!! Such an awesome experience that will surely throw many of them into this career or continued experiences that only Drama can bring. What you did for the students/teachers and parents of the Drama department of Rocky Mountain high school will forever be remembered. I hope they also made a mark in your heart.
The casts of "The Misanthrope" at Rocky Mountain High School

Gonzaga University was bringing me in for a return visit (Eight of my visits this fall were return visits… nine, if you count Northern Arizona!), and this time, I would be performing both “Lot o’ Shakespeare” and “Moliere,” and giving two workshops as well. Long after booking the performance, and just a couple of weeks before the show, I learned that Gonzaga was also looking for an Acting/Directing teacher for the coming year, and the possibility of showcasing my work in advance of applying for a job was appealing.

I was getting into a rhythm of applying for about two jobs per week, and a couple of my references were gracious enough to share their generous recommendations of my work. To date, I have put out perhaps nineteen applications with three “passes” (we don’t call them “rejections”) coming back so far. Alas, I will not be Artistic Director of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. 

This visit featured the some of my higher highs and, also, some of the lower lows of my tour thus far. The morning of my first workshop, I arrived early, sitting off to the side to review my notes on Moliere’s life before working my way into my big “Life of Moliere” presentation. The department chair, a lovely woman who was incredibly supportive through the visit, came over to say hello and check in on plans before the workshop got started. As the time to start came up, I got back up, and just as I was heading for center stage, she noted sotto voce, “By the way… check your zipper.”

Yipes.

The workshop itself went great; the performance of “Lot o’ Shakespeare” that evening went great. Joe Jacoby from North Idaho College brought several students out to see the show, and he and I met up for a drink afterwards to celebrate my Birthday.

The next morning, I was back at it, with a presentation of “Acting in the Classical Theatre” for the theatre students. This, too, went well, and the Theatre Chair gave me a tour of the campus afterwards. (We also discussed the faculty opening that they had coming up.) We stopped out for lunch and, though we were having a great conversation, I made the mistake (that I sometimes make) of trying to talk and eat at the same time. I suffer from what seems to be an occasional acid-reflux reaction, which sometimes keeps me from swallowing completely, leading my stomach, sensing the obstruction, to send acid to attack the obstruction. Once it has started this process, it often will not stop until my stomach is completely empty.

This was one of those instances.

I headed back to the hotel, where I lay in bed, occasionally running to the bathroom to evacuate my stomach. The process had to conclude at some point, but every time my stomach seemed to have settled, there was further irritation. There was a tech rehearsal scheduled for 4 pm, during which I had to continuously break away for the bathroom. We made contingency plans for announcements, and pauses in the action which might enable me to leave the stage, and, around 5:30, I finally managed to relax in a darkened dressing room, which seemed to recover my sea-legs before the 6:00 show-time.

The department chair made a cautious introductory announcement requesting the audience’s indulgence, should the performer need to exit the stage at any time, and I started the show. While my voice, to me, sounded as ragged as Tom Waits, I was relieved that my heightened energy did not seem to have renewed my stomach upset. By the time I got through the first in-character monologue, I was fairly certain that the show would continue without a hitch… and found my voice losing its gravel as I proceeded.

The North Idaho College Acting Class
By the end, no one in the audience had realized the condition I was in, and assumed that the opening announcement had been a part of the prevailing joke of the performance, given that the central joke driving the action is Moliere’s cast having gotten food poisoning.

I returned to the hotel, having dodged another bullet, and the next day I dropped in on the Theatre Chair’s History class, in which they were discussing Moliere and Shakespeare. Afterwards, I continued to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where, the following day, I dropped in on one of Joe Jacoby’s acting classes, putting together an impromptu lecture-workshop.

Joe Proctor and I
Mary Linn (Snyder-Swanson) Crouse
I pushed, slowly, west, dropping in on Joe Proctor in Missoula, Montana and swinging through Helena, MT for the first time, to say hello to Mary Linn Crouse (Formerly Mary Linn Snyder-Swanson), a fellow SIU alum, who I hadn’t seen in some 30 years. (We had appeared together in “Diana, the Spartan Comedy.”)

Next stop: Jamestown, North Dakota, with a performance of “Moliere than Thou” at the University of Jamestown. It seemed to be a Convocations Committee that was bringing me in for this show, and my e-mail contact was not actually present when the show came about, which always throws me a bit off. The host wrote later to explain that “Everyone who was there told me it went great.” And the representative for the convocations committee wrote to send me the evaluation results, tabulated from audience responses filled out following the show.

The tabulation results themselves are always a bit humbling, as, even when there may be 20 respondents who rate my work as a “5” on one of the criteria, there are usually a couple of “1s” at the other end of the scale. The only criteria that was universally positive was the response to “I was able to hear and see the speakers/events.” (Nailed it.)

I worked my way back to Chicago, with a show at Geneva High School.

The French teachers at Geneva had brought me in about seven years ago for a performance, and were, actually, going to bring me in last year, but had to cancel, late in the process, due to some unanticipated conflict. They, did, however, go ahead and pay me for the performance, with the understanding that I would credit them for the performance this year. Which meant that, I would be receiving no check at the end of this particular performance, which can feel like a bit of a letdown.

Titus
The show went very well, and I caught about five days back in Chicago, launching into what I am hoping is my final e-mail booking campaign, with yet another 15,000 e-mails to go out in a very short window of time. (I wanted to catch as many teachers as possible before they headed off for Christmas vacation.)

Hamlet, with a "Sharpie" as dagger
I broke off the booking campaign to head on down to Texas, with a series of eighteen workshops in the three days of the Texas Thespians conference. These workshops were a mixed bag, with some very low attendance, and some crowded with 40 or 50 students. Two of them, which had been scheduled over the lunch and dinner hours, ended up with no students in attendance, and I gasped for a much needed breather.

I don’t really have an “off-switch” in these sessions, and the first day found me doing eight workshops, which left me at the point of borderline fatigue/illness by the end of the day.

The second day was much lighter, and that night I took a walk out to the “grassy knoll,” to absorb some of the energy from that day’s 50th anniversary remembrance of Kennedy’s assassination.

The third and last day found me back in the thick of performance, hoping that my voice would hold out, and one particular student, who, it seems, had attended four or five of my sessions, left me with a lovely note after my last workshop.

I truly enjoyed all of your classes (if you couldn’t tell). You had a very fun approach to Shakespeare, and I appreciate your sharing it. You also had a fun, magnetic personality, and your passion was clear. Truly, your passion was a breath of fresh air for me… [and more stuff that I can’t retype without getting overly embarrassed.]
Another student followed up with a very kind e-mail a few days later:
I just wanted to say thank you so much for coming down to Texas for the Thespian Festival! I really enjoyed your workshops and I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to work with me on my Shakespeare monologue. It helped so much! After going to your workshops, I have finally made the brave decision to focus on classical theatre next year in college. Thank you for helping make that decision. You are such an incredible inspiration and I am so blessed to have met and worked with you.
Mask shopping, with Kate Mura
I was reinvigorated with the notion that, however much it might take out of me to do it, I was having a positive impact, and, as seems to be my recurring theme this time around, I will only ever hear anecdotal evidence of what impact I may have, and here, in my last year, it’s starting to come back at me in a rush.

The next day I was off to New Orleans, to catch the final day of the New Orleans Fringe Festival, with a performance by Bremner Duthie, another performance by Facebook friend, Kate Mura, and the closing night party.

Sweet Crude
Bremner and Kate were both very good, and we met up at a bar at the end of the night for the Fringe closing night party. The conversation was lively, and I dreaded to see that there was a band setting up at this crowded, smoky bar. I figured on waiting them out through a single song before pushing on for the night.

But the band came on, not with roaring guitars, but with percussion, horns, and amazing vocals. The foot began to tap, the hips to sway, and I hung around for one more song, and another and another, through the rest of the performance. Standing back by the sound board, I was shocked to see that there was really no one running the board. Whatever they were doing, they were creating that sound live and in person. It was like watching the Talking Heads during their Funkadelics phase, (but before they had become famous).

I got the name of the band (“Sweet Crude”) and watched for their big upcoming release, “Super Vilaine,” a 5-track EP, which I recommend highly. (Available on “Bandcamp” at http://sweetcrudeband.bandcamp.com )

The Poster
After another day of visiting in New Orleans, I pushed on to Orlando, staying at the Pergande’s house while Al flew out to pick up Gale, and bring her back from her annual excursion to Maine.

I resumed the big e-mail campaign while working up “Lot o’ Shakespeare” for three performances at Seminole State University. The folks at Seminole State were enthusiastic. One of the teachers there had caught my show at the Orlando Fringe a few years back, and, bumping into me at a thespian festival, had the idea for booking me for a short run at the tail end of their semester.

The Outdoor Marquee
While the audiences were fun, they were pretty small, with perhaps 40 per night, as well as a lively workshop. Carl F. Gauze came out to see the show, and published his review: “This show may not improve your English lit grades but it’s a pleasant way to fill in the corners in your cultural education.” 

I finished off the e-mail campaign in record time, and the response to this “Final Tour” announcement was so good that I had to eliminate the Dakotas and the New England states from the campaign, knowing that the time available to divert into those areas had almost entirely evaporated. Making a booking work for those states would be almost double the work, and drain valuable energy which would be in short supply in the coming Winter/Spring semester.

Me & Aunt Evelyn
Somewhere in there, the Orlando Fringe Festival hosted their annual lottery for fringe performers, and I am “in” once again! And while I was working on yet another draft of “Shakespeare’s Histories,” I dropped a note to the Literary Manager at Samuel French Publishing, and she agreed to take a look at the book for possible publication and licensing! And, with a moment to actually concentrate, I went over to Healthcare.gov and arranged a really sweet deal on insurance for the coming year, which saves me over $300 per month!

I gave myself a few days “off.” As much territory as I had covered over the past year, I had never made it down to the southernmost point of the U.S. Mainland, and, hiding out from the winter weather that was waiting for me in Chicago, I ducked down to Key West, visiting my Aunt Evelyn (still going strong at 93!) along the way.

The farther south you go,
the smaller the people get...
The drive to Key West was sunny and in the 80s, but moments after my arrival, just as I went to unpack the car, the clouds opened up with pouring rain, the temperature dropped 10-20 degrees, and the island stayed cool and cloudy for the remainder of my visit. (The sun came out and the temperature rose, just as I was leaving!) I got more work done on my book.

I dawdled in Orlando for a few more precious days, starting up an e-mail campaign to find a literary agent (getting a subscription to writersmarket.com), and finally setting off north.
I visited with Sabra and Paul in Chattanooga on my way north, enjoying an impromptu party, before pushing on to Chicago the following day.

So, here I am back in Chicago, enjoying Christmas with Dad, Kevin, Sue, April, and the kids. I’ve got the seventh draft of “Shakespeare’s Histories” in transit from the printer. (#8 should be the last before I’m ready to publish). And, there are some sixteen job applications pending, with another five or six to send out in the coming days. The Winter/Spring tour will start up in the middle of the month, and keep me busy well into May. And, maybe I’ll pick up a few job interviews here and there… I’ve laid out a map of “places applied to so far…!” Are YOU in any of these neighborhoods?

And, finally, I'm looking to set up a Book Release Party for "Shakespeare's Histories; Ten Epic Plays at a Breakneck Pace," complete with a performance of the one-man show. We're looking for venues here in the Chicago suburbs for Monday January 13! Check back in with me if you'd like to attend!

Miles on the Escape: 178,662

On I-Tunes: Cara Emerald

On “Bandcamp”: “Sweet Crude”

Discoveries: Just ride the wave and be grateful. * It’s impossible to know the impact that you are having on the world. Impressions that you make in passing may be received and transform people well beyond the circle that you encounter. I will only ever hear anecdotal evidence of what impact I may have. * Limit one margarita on nights before early morning performances. * Rather than getting pissed off about all of the crappy stuff that might happen on the road, see it as a gift from the universe of a reminder of all of the things that you will not miss when this is done. * Some stressful crises are simply “the cost of doing business.” * What may be a burdensome extra few hours on the road to me may well mean the world to a young student. * If you do a good job the first time, quite often they will invite you back… and by the time twelve years have gone by, about half of my business is return business! * One area where I consistently excel: “I was able to see/hear the speaker.” *

Next performances: January 16 at Northwestern College, Orange City, IA; Jan 22-23 in Laredo, TX; Jan 27 at Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN…

Monday, September 23, 2013

The View From Here #159: The End of the Tour...?!


In the interest of not burying the lede (or "lead"): 
This is the LAST YEAR of the BIG TOUR! 
Info below...!

The previously-mentioned drawing of me performing at the Claiborne Community Center… Illustration by Renny Johnson... (Another Claiborne performance coming up September 27!)
My best laid plans have me living in a constant state of rewrite…

About half of the plans I was outlining in my last “View From Here” have shifted in the last several months, which’ll take some ‘splainin’…

From California last April, I flew back to Fort Worth and drove down to New Orleans, where I performed “Lot o’ Shakespeare at a little theatre not far from the French Quarter. It was my first performance in New Orleans, not counting Karaoke at the Cat’s Meow! Audiences were tiny, but the coverage was pretty good. I got a nice preview article on NOLA.com  (with video, from my tech rehearsal, embedded in the article). One audience member posted a brief review on his blog:
INCREDIBLE! The fact that he knows not only a monologue from EVERY. SINGLE. SHAKESPEARE. PLAY., but can perform them AT RANDOM, at the drop of a hat, is nothing less than spellbinding. Throw in some great crowd interaction and insane manic energy from Mooney, this show was absolutely unbelievable.
From New Orleans, on to Chattanooga with another terrific Pathways weekend, and then back to Chicago, performing “The Greatest Speech of All Time” at my dad’s retirement village, to an enthusiastic crowd of a hundred or so! Lots of friends and relations in the audience, so tension was high, but all went well. We captured perhaps my favorite picture of my brother Kevin and I after the show… 

I continued to finish up my Big E-Mail Campaign, and got word from Paul Doniger in Connecticut that his presentation of my “The Learned Ladies” at Pomperaug High School had won the “Halo Award” (“Celebrating the best of Connecticut High School Theatre”) for “Best Play!” A number of my shows have gone on to State Finals here and there, but this was, I believe, the first time one had actually won a top prize. (It also won for best original program design/artwork and best costume design!)

Other recognitions: Playscripts, Inc. is publishing one of my monologues from The Misanthrope as part of their Monologues for Women collection. And I just got a request from Cognella Academic Publishing to use ten pages of my The Big Book of Moliere Monologues (the section on Tartuffe) for an upcoming Intro to Theatre Text. Oh!  And Southern Illinois University ordered 122 copies of my Tartuffe for use in their Intro to Theatre class! (This was actually a key factor in the BIG decision made, below…)


With the semi-annual massive e-mail project complete, and my lines almost memorized for the new show, Shakespeare’s Histories: Ten Epic Plays at a Breakneck Pace I hit the road again, heading for the International Thespians Festival at the University of Nebraska. This time around, my display had 18 different books for sale, t-shirts and now: Moliere Coffee Mugs! I even bought a flat-screen TV and a bookcase to support it (which held more books below). Moliere coffee mugs have gone out to upcoming and potential bookers, and most of the porcelain cups arrive with the handle still attached! You can order them on the TMRT Website! (Click here to get your own mug!)

Here is why you should be a Facebook Friend of mine:

So, there I was in Lincoln, Nebraska, doing the Thespian Festival, and there’s a note on my Facebook page, from Jon Tuttle (from South Carolina): “Hey Tim, are you in Lincoln, Nebraska? Cause I’m in Lincoln, Nebraska!”

Jon was in town for an entirely DIFFERENT conference: Honors Program Coordinators, or somesuch, but noticed (from the photo I’d pasted on Facebook, above) that I was in Lincoln! So, we met up for drinks, at “Barrymore’s,” of course.

And Jon Tuttle arrives mentioning that there’s another fellow he met up with at his conference, from Windsor, Canada, who was an Actor-Professor, who’s coming to join us, and who he’s sure I’ll get along with very well. That guy turns out to have recognized me from my YouTube clips…! And while we’re a couple of drinks into the middle of a really fun conversation, a guy at the next table (the joint has by now filled up without us noticing), leans over to say “Are you Tim Mooney…?” It turns out that THIS guy hosted one of my performances about seven years ago at the Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts, and in the 30 seconds before we go back to our respective conversations, we agree that late October will work out great for another event in Las Vegas this fall!

So, there we are, four guys, from Chicago, South Carolina, Windsor, and Las Vegas, descended upon Lincoln, NE between two adjacent tables. (There’s a quote from mountain climber William Hutchinson Murray, that is often confused as a direct quote from Goethe, that sums up these “coincidences” that I find myself falling into time and again… Just in case you haven’t seen it before, here it is:)
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now."
[In other words, the decision to throw myself onto the road, and into the theatres of all of these teachers and professors along the way have put me into the vortex of a series of coincidences, alignments, and “good breaks” that, every once in a while, manifest themselves in ways that never would have come up, had I stayed back at home waiting for the phone to ring. ]

Betty Anderson... Burning the tortillas...
or is that a metaphor...?
From Lincoln, I was off to Kansas City (visiting Alan and Sandy), and angling down through Arizona (visiting Kathleen McGeever, who was booking “Greatest Speech” for this fall, and stopping in on Betty Anderson in Idyllwild, where once again, she hosted me in a living room performance, this time doing a really fun “Lot o’ Shakespeare.” (Betty & Pete are no longer an Ampersand-Connected-Couple, but I did get in a nice visit with Pete while I was in town, too.)

From there, it was on to Fresno, where my good friend Jayne Day (director of Fresno’s Rogue Festival) was going to host me in a combination of “Lot o’ Shakespeare” along with my first-ever attempt to perform “Shakespeare’s Histories” (mostly) off book!
The way it worked: I performed “Lot o’ Shakespeare”, but if a History Play came out of the bingo cage, the audience got to mark it off on their IAGO card, but had to wait for the second act to see it performed, as part of the full “Shakespeare’s Histories” program. I took an intermission and came back after to perform the narrative of the all ten Shakespeare History plays in what ended up taking 67 minutes!  (I am working to get it down to 60.)


Of course, to me the performance felt shaky, but the small audience found it fun and very educational. One young boy, who’d won a copy of one of my scripts was very happy.


Mt. Shasta, visible for 100 miles in either direction on the road to Oregon.
From Fresno I raced over to San Jose, where Isaac was spending the summer with his mom. I packed Isaac up in the car and we headed north to Ashland, Oregon, for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where I was presenting “Lot o’ Shakespeare.” This was my second time presenting “Lot o’ Shakespeare at OSF, and they were responsive once again. The Bookstore has been carrying “The Big Book of Moliere Monologues” as well as “Acting at the Speed of Life,” and while I was in town, I convinced them to add “Moliere than Thou” to their collection. The bookstore manager is always fun to visit with and she’s also expressed interest in the new “Shakespeare’s Histories” book, giving me added incentive to have the book version ready to release by the time I start presenting the show! (I’ve been pushing on the book all summer long: Proofs are now ordered!)


The show that night went well, and I got to hang out with my old UNL friend, Cil Stengel, again. She saw the show, snapped a photo and posted:
Tim Mooney on stage at the OSF green show tonight. This man's brain holds endless Shakespearean monologues and performs them as they are randomly picked from one of those spinning things used for Bingo. He was brilliant. We knew each other back in the day...


Isaac and I headed back to San Jose the next day and I swung up to catch the Marin Shakespeare Festival, while I was in the neighborhood.

Isaac, Tim & Cil
This has turned into a Shakespeare Festival summer for me: checking out the Nebraska Shakespeare Fest (where the director wants to book the new “Shakespeare’s Histories” show this November), the Heartland Shakespeare Fest, the Oregon Shakespeare Fest and the Marin Shakespeare Fest. I also saw the Annapolis Shakespeare Fest, but more about that in a moment…!

I pushed back across the country, having come to a sudden conclusion!

THIS IS THE LAST YEAR OF THE BIG TOUR!

I KNOW! Didn’t see that one coming!!

First of all, keep in mind that I had just driven about 8,000 miles in about three weeks.

But a number of other things had begun to come together in my thinking.

Having put over a half-million miles on the car since this tour began, I really have to count myself lucky. And I can’t count on that luck forever. I think I have one more year of luck in me. After that… I’m not so sure.

And, by the way, Moliere, himself, toured for 13 years total… before settling down in Paris and performing for the king.

I had resisted plotting out my Fall, 2014 tour. I had only just posted it on line, and as of yet, had only one booking.


I spotted a job notice at a school (where they know me and already like my work) that started up in Fall, 2014. (In fact, somebody from this school had only recently commended me on the Facebook posting that I’d put up regarding the sale of 122 books to SIU!)

Normally, I stumble across job notices that I like at a time in which I’m already booked up for that semester, but this was the perfect amount of lead time.
And, bookings for the coming year needed a boost. I could make a big hoopla out of announcing the “Farewell Tour” and benefit from a few last-chance bookings from people who have been waiting for the time to be right.

And so, when I got back to Chicago, I started sending out announcements: first to the people who were on my “maybe list.” Then to the “past performance list.” And then to the Mega-Mailing list: about 15,000 people. I had only barely finished the previous e-mail campaign in May, but here I was at it again…!

I finished the campaign in record time… Even as I was simultaneously…

The cast of "Tartuffe" at the Annapolis Shakespeare Co.
Driving out to the East Coast: I was attending the Alliance for Theatre and Education conference. But first, I raced out to Annapolis to see the Annapolis Shakespeare Company performing my “Tartuffe” in the courtyard of a tavern, with a tiny cast of six actors double-cast up to the hilt! (Tartuffe, himself, also played Madame Pernelle!) They were brilliant; the director had done a terrific job and were very receptive to me. [The Tuesday-only run has been extended through October 1! I’ll be in the audience for the September 24 show! Yipes! That’s tomorrow already!]

From there it was back through Chicago, and on up to Minneapolis for the Minnesota Fringe Festival. I had been on the Fringe “Waiting List” for months, and I had resigned myself to just performing my new 10-minute monologue (“Electric Eye”) as part of the “Fringe Orphans” lineup… But just in case, I threw my “Greatest Speech” suit into the car.

I was having a great time in Minneapolis, hanging with some old Fringe friends from Orlando, Indianapolis and Fresno, enjoying the light responsibility: working the e-mail campaign in the day and seeing shows (and pub-crawling) at night.

Day 5 of the Fringe, my phone rings. It’s the Executive Director, Robin Gillette. 

“Hey, this is crazy, but we just had somebody with a family emergency have to drop out of the Fringe at way past last second, and, well, we knew you were in town, and were still on the waiting list…?”

“I’ll do it.”

The first performance of this run was supposed to be that very night, but I did need about 24 hours to work the show back up in my head, and on my tongue, but suddenly, I had a challenge!

I am told that no show has ever been added to the Fringe line-up five days after the festival has already begun!

(That’s one of those things I appreciate doing, just because someday I know I’ll want a legit “war story” to tell about my days in the trenches of acting… like performing five entirely different one-man shows over the course of five performances at the Orlando Fringe Festival in 2012.)

And, following the first performance, which had thin attendance, either due to the last-minute nature of the show, or the sudden thunderstorm, the remaining performances actually had a decent audience of 50-60. Given that this was my sixth appearance at the Minnesota Fringe, I did have a few followers, who come to see all my stuff. (One, Kale Gannan, helped to set me up with a podium via the Geek Preservation Society! Thanks Kale!)

And, one of my favorite parts of Minnesota is the great on-line reviews:
Each One Was the Greatest Speech… A fantastic selection of eight speeches, brilliantly acted, with historical context provided. …Brilliant! Students of all ages and degrees need to hear these and other memorable speeches! Marie Cooney 
Brilliantly Done… I thought this was going to be boring. Boy, was I wrong! Tim, a master of his craft, does a phenomenal job of bringing these brilliant words to life, and showing us that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I definitely recommend checking this out. Angela Polk 
The Greatest Fringe Show of All Time… A consummate performer, delivering top-notch material with extraordinary energy and discipline... this is priceless. Dave Stagner 
You need to HEAR these… Great speeches - well chosen for our turbulent times.
It's not enough to read the text; see them presented Live, by a performer who loves every word. Memorable! Kay Kirscht 
Relevant and riveting! These are not just speeches that contain sound bytes we've heard before. Some are funny, some are meant to inspire the audience, some are intended to poke a sharp stick at them. Tim brings the words alive, lifts them from the history books and burns them into your mind. This is a great show, if you don't see it you're really missing out! Kelly Crandall 
Wow There is nothing quite like being mesmerized by a great orator, Tim plays 10 of them. I was astounded by how apropos the words of dead men were when spoken again by a true orator. Truly riveting. Nate Farley 
So THAT’S how that would have sounded. There are many historically relevant speeches that aren't even photographed, let alone recorded and filmed. After taking my high school history class this year, this one-man show really brought clarity and vision to what I have learned. William Bauer 
The guy loves the literature, and he performs with thought and passion, and both of those traits were on display in some of the great speeches in history. …A great show. Patrick Phundstein 
A perfect arc through history. The speeches resonate with todays society, often chillingly so. Tim performs with energy and enthusiasm and brings these words to life. Aisling Doherty
From the Minnesota Fringe it was on to the Indy Fringe, and while my reviews at this Fringe were the last ones to show up on-line, when they finally came, they were good, and I started to sell some decent tickets…
If you were fortunate, you had a teacher or professor who made learning delightful… Timothy Mooney achieved the rare feat of giving his audience a tour of the history of rhetoric while amply entertaining them. In his introduction, Mooney said his goal was to knock down the walls of time, “untangling the spaghetti of the speaker’s syntax.” …He manages to recreate the energy of these pieces, bringing them to life for a contemporary audience… Leaving the theater, I felt I’d had my cultural knowledge expanded, and there were no Cliff Notes required. Judy Kenninger, Indy Fringe Blogger 

A truly inspiring, reflective and enjoyable show that will lift your spirits and warm your heart. Wendy Carson, “PenGwenity”  
Informative, thought-provoking, and moving... with oratorical skill and presence. ...hearing them spoken live, in person, is hugely different from merely reading them or even listening to a recording of them. I cried during the recitation of Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” and during Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop.” …The speeches are presented in chronological order, so you really do get a sense of history passing as you listen. Hope Baugh, “Indy Theatre Habit” 
Mooney captures the context in which each speech was spoken and the character of each speaker. The program collectively highlights what makes a life worthwhile and what makes a worthwhile life... Mooney delivers on his intention "to give life to the words for emotional connections." Mark Antony is his most powerful presentation; Churchill most chilling in terms of its consequences. Rita Kohn, NUVO Alternative Weekly
There were even a few celebrities who came to the Indy shows… The Mayor of Indianapolis showed up for my opening night performance. For my second performance, a show that was happening in the Frank and Katrina Basile Stage, in the front row were none other than Frank and Katrina Basile! More than that, upstairs from the stage I was performing upon was the Lavinia and Steve Russell Stage, and sitting across the table from Frank and Katrina Basile were Lavina and Steve Russell! The four of them led the standing ovation at the end. (It was a really good show.)

I got a chance to catch up with the Basiles as well as the Russells after the show, and all expressed their enthusiasm: Steve Russell said: “I thought your show was F.A….! You know what that means?” [No…] “F*ckin’ Amazing!” [Can I quote you on that?] “Absolutely!”

There were a couple more shows after that, with great audiences (old friends, Alan and Betsy Cooprider-Bernstein), some video captured, and at least one really adorable little girl in the audience who came up to give me a hug after the show.

The Most Adorable Audient of
The Greatest Speech of All Time
And so, I was on back to Chicago, with a few more e-mails to get out before the end of August, and about 15 days to dig in to get some hardcore work done on “Shakespeare’s Histories; Ten Epic Plays at a Breakneck Pace!” I had the script written and memorized, but I’m doing something that I’ve always wanted to explore: I’m putting the script itself ONLY on the right hand pages, while filling up the left-hand side with notes, anecdotes, portraits of the various kings and the relevant family trees that have so much impact on the plays’ action. If anybody out there thinks of these things the way that I do, it should be kind of fascinating. And I think it’ll break some real ground in terms of making sense of these plays.

It’s taken some long days, but the first major phase of that work is done! I’m back on the road already, and the first wave of proof copies will meet me in a couple days!

The plan is to work and re-work this one quite a bit while now rotating four different shows through the course of this fall tour. I have lots of bookings lined up, for everything from “Moliere than Thou,” to “Lot o’ Shakespeare” to “The Greatest Speech of All Time” to “Shakespeare’s Histories”! And keeping them all in my head throughout the course of the semester will be a big challenge!
And so, I’ll do tweaks here and there through the course of the Fall semester, perhaps to actually publish them over the winter break… but if you can’t wait that long, let me know and I can arrange to send you an advance review copy of one of my proofs. I think this one’s going to be kind of important, and I want to make sure I get it right.

AND… as I was getting ready to hit the road, I made one last check of the post office box and notice that my copy of “Southern Theatre” has arrived… with a RAVE review of “Acting at the Speed of Life!” Here’s a couple of quick quotes to close out this edition…
A gem of a book that demystifies the acting process by mixing common-sense instruction with practical exercises. It ought to have a place on every actor's and director's bookshelf. Not that it ought to stay there. Keep it handy for audition preparation, classroom studies, rehearsals and sometimes simply for a good read.... There is much to discover in this book about the freedom that can be achieved through a disciplined approach to the craft and art of acting. It is clear that mooney is passionate about what he does. He inspires his readers with a clear common-sense approach, eye-opening analyses of familiar texts, and wise advice that encourages newcomers and veteran actors to grow into the best they can be.
Discoveries: When that moment arrives that leads me to upend my life as it has proceeded over the last 12 years and rewrite my future, I somehow just know it all at once. * “The moment that one definitely commits oneself, providence moves too.”

Miles on the Escape: 167,000

Next performances: Harrison High School, Harrison, NY; Claiborne Community Center, Claiborne, MD (Shakespeare’s Histories), UNC Asheville, Asheville, NC, LoS & MTT)

The View From Here #171: Summer, 2017

I began my summer heading south, with the last performance of the year’s “school tour” at the Christel House Academy in Indianapolis. ...