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)

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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. ...