Sunday, January 04, 2015

The View From Here #164: Fall, 2014

Somewhere in Colorado...
Happy New Year!

And now, flashing back to last year! September, 2014! There I was, getting back to the highway! 

This time around, it’s the “First and Last Month’s Rent Tour!”

Gearing up to tuck in with my own place to live, yes, in just ONE region of the U.S., I drew up one last full-country tour, and set out.

I met Winnie Wenglewick of The Dangerous Theatre during the Orlando Fringe Festival, and she brought me in to perform for two weekends in Denver. Given that it was the first two weekends of September, it was too early in the semester for most schools to bring me in, but I managed to get in seven performances over two weekends with a very warm audience response, along with a nice Colorado vacation.

Tim & Jorj & Babs & Bill in Seattle
Moving westward, I pushed on to a series of visits with a who’s who of Friends-On-The-Road: Brenda in Twin Falls, Joe Proctor in Missoula, Joe Jacoby in Coeur d’alene, David and Beth and Babs and Jorj and Patti and Lee in Seattle, Bill Luce in Portland, my brother Pat, and Brenda & Ty Marshall in Linfield, Oregon.

Somewhere in Utah...
Along the way, I did “Shakespeare’s Histories” at North Idaho College, to a fully packed crowd in a small auditorium. It was a hastily gathered performance, with only about a week’s notice to get the word out, but come show time people showed up, and showed up, and kept showing up… They quickly filled the 75-seat auditorium… and kept filling it. People started sitting on the steps, and on the floor in front of the first rows. (I’m guessing 120 people, but don’t tell the fire marshall.)

Seeing the great turnout, I took advantage and raced out to the car to grab a microphone to capture a recording of the event. The show really rocked, with great laughs in all the right places. There were some reactions in a few of the wrong places, as a couple of the crowd seemed to have indulged a bit in advance of the performance. Occasional audience participatory reactions may have screwed up the recording for full release as an audio-performance, but, oh, it sounded good!

For fun, I offered to do monologues-on-request for anyone who wanted to stick around, and did some Shakespeare as well as selections from “The Greatest Speech of All Time.”

A couple of weeks later, this review showed up on-line

Likewise, the Linfield College show went great. This time, not only did I get my brother Pat and sister-in-law Kathy out for the show, but I finally got Bill Luce out to see a performance. Bill (author of “The Belle of Amherst”) and I have been friends ever since he wrote a play about Moliere and used one of my adaptations for the scene that featured “The Bourgeois Gentleman.” And while we’ve met up on the Oregon coast a half dozen times over the years, I’ve never had a show in close proximity to him. This fall, however, Bill moved to Portland, about 90 minutes from Linfield College. Unwilling to miss this opportunity, I drove out to Portland to pick him up and drive him back to see the show at Linfield.

Again, it seemed to be a full house for “Shakespeare’s Histories”! It may have been as many people as were present at the North Idaho show, but the size of the auditorium allowed them all to have their own seat…

After the show, I met the woman who sponsors this series of shows at the college, who posted on her Facebook that night: 

Thank you to actor/explainer/ editor/ adapter /author Timothy Mooney for bringing almost all of Shakespeare's often impenetrable history plays and the history of the British Crown to the Linfield stage in a form that was so entertaining and easy to comprehend. One actor, a sword and a chair, one costume and 25 characters as well as an explainer's voice. Projected royal family trees. What a fun and educational evening of Shakespeare, and a full house of all ages to boot!

A cancellation in Arizona enabled me to push back directly east, dropping in on Brenda in Idaho once again, and slipping through Denver before dropping south to Fort Worth with yet another performance at Texas Wesleyan University. Steve Daniell at TWU had brought me in to perform Moliere at Auburn U-Montgomery in Alabama years ago, and when he relocated to Fort Worth, he continued to bring me in, and even though he’s originally a French Professor, as the Dean of the School of Arts and Letters, he’s brought me in to do “Lot o’ Shakespeare,” “Greatest Speech” and “Shakespeare’s Histories” in short order!

With a few extra days to spend, I swung through beautiful New Orleans, visiting with Bremner and Lisa for a few days, and taking a Haunted New Orleans tour from my friend Ashton (where I took this “Touchdown Jesus” pic) before pushing on east once again.

In Montgomery, Alabama, I got to visit with my Southeast Theatre Conference friend, Michael Howley (who wrote a great review for “Acting at the Speed of Life” for Southern Theatre Magazine). Michael showed me the sights of Montgomery before I had to push on to Georgia for another visit at the Georgia Theatre Conference. This year’s host of GTC, Steve Graver, had asked me to attend this 50th anniversary conference about two years ahead of time, and, wanting to find something that would appeal to the many high school students who would be attending, he asked me to perform “Criteria, a One-Man Comic Sci-Fi Thriller!”
I forget... where am I again...?

In past years, over the course of many conferences, I have often come away disappointed that we didn’t get more folks out to see whatever show I was performing, but Steve came up with an idea. He drew up the schedule in such a way that there would be NO OTHER EVENTS happening during my show! …not even a board or a committee meeting happening at that same time.

The result was the biggest audience ever for “Criteria,” with about 600 people in attendance, including “adults” who’d been good friends for several years (several of whom later admitted that they’d never actually caught one of my shows) and my friend Jenny Moody, a Moliere fan and friend from Alabama, who seems to never miss one of my shows within a two-state radius.

They picked a good one to see. I don’t tend to perform “Criteria” more than once a year these days, so I was a little bit tense about remembering all of my lines and keeping the audience’ attention throughout. As the show proceeded, there was very little laughter in the audience, so I was uncertain how well it was going over. All of the lights were focused on me, and aside from vague, dark shapes, I couldn’t make out anybody in the audience. All I could do was stay focused, recite my lines, run in place, shift from one scene to the next and hope it was working. At the end, my character walks off stage as the lights dim…

Jasmine Guy and I
I was still in the wings when I heard the audience come to life with a robust cheer. As I walked out on stage, I could see the entire crowd go immediately to their feet. Wow. There’s no better feeling in the world.

I did a few workshops through the course of the conference, and I got to meet Jasmine Guy, of “A Different World” fame, who was the keynote speaker at this conference. 

From Georgia, it was a long one-day race up to Valparaiso, Indiana, where they had to cancel last winter’s scheduled performance due to frigid weather. This time around it was “Lot o’ Shakespeare” and a workshop for a fun bunch of kids.

Paul & I
Three days later, I was back at DePaul University, for my third go-around with them, including another “Life of Moliere” workshop (I never get tired of telling the tale of Moliere’s life), lunch with the always-charming French profs, and a performance of “Moliere Than Thou.”

A week later, I’m off to Minnesota, with another third go-around: my third event at Central Lakes College for my old buddy, Patrick Spradlin, who was bringing me in for a performance of “The Greatest Speech of All Time.” This one completed the cycle of six entirely unique one-man shows performed over the course of about seven weeks! (The only show I did NOT perform on this go-around was “Karaoke Knights,” which I retired about seven years ago!)

Back to Chicago, with, at last, a little down time, another booking push, another draft (#5) of “The Servant of Two Masters” and a birthday celebration! Jeez, I’m getting old. I set up an “author page” on Amazon, 

I took a spin up to Delevan, Wisconsin for the life celebration of my friend Deb’s mom, who passed away a couple weeks before. They set off fireworks and scattered her ashes on the beautiful lake where she spent her final years.
Once again, on the road, I squeezed in a visit with Isaac in Michigan, before pushing on to a couple of workshops in Charlottesville, Virginia, where they put me up on the University of Virginia campus. I got to check out their outdoor auditorium the night before my event. (I can’t walk by a space like that without standing on the stage and testing the acoustics…) Not long thereafter, I kept seeing photos of this very same space on-line, as the stories surrounding scandals on campus continued to develop. The workshops themselves went very well. The students there compete in the Shakespeare speech competition, as run by the En
Isaac & I
glish Speaking Union, so they were very eager for my perspective. Afterwards, I heard from the teacher:

“The kids have had very positive, flattering responses to the workshops...they feel they learned a lot from you; even my most reticent, I'm-only-here-to-fulfill-my-arts-requirement kiddos enjoyed the second workshop immensely.”

Northward to Connecticut! The Connecticut chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) were bringing me in for a performance of “Moliere Than Thou.” I rarely get a show in the Northeast, and, ironically, I was performing in the same building (Pomperaug High School) that I’d performed in on my last pass through Connecticut (though the last time it was the theatre teacher who’d brought me in to perform in the studio theatre, just across the hall from the mainstage where I was performing this time around).

Performing for French students in Connecticut...!
This particular show may have demanded more back-and-forth correspondence in preparation than any previous performance. The host was a little concerned about making this more French-appropriate and age-appropriate, so there were loads of e-mails to help set up a French study packet, and to make sure that the naughty, naughty Moliere innuendo might be as nice as I might manage to make it.

For what it’s worth, they did manage to make it work (click here for review), with about 800 students buying tickets for the event in an auditorium which held just about 800. For a crowd of such size, they were amazingly well-behaved. 

The teachers took me out to lunch after the show, but I needed to race off before dessert, so that I might get through New York before rush hour hit, on my way back down to Maryland and my sister, Maureen.

Once again, Mo set me up with a show at the Claiborne Village Hall. This was the first time I would actually be repeating a show: They wanted another performance of “The Greatest Speech…” which I’d done here a couple of years ago. Even though I’d done it here before, there was a very nice turn-out, with some of Maureen’s new (St. Michael’s) friends now coming out for the Claiborne show. (They were good tippers, too.) After the show, I got in another visit with Rennie and the Claiborne crowd, at least one of whom seemed to have a line on an apartment for me, if I made it back to Annapolis this summer for “The Servant of Two Masters!”

Bay Bridge Outside Annapolis at Sunset
Speaking of which, I got in another visit with Sally at the Annapolis Shakespeare Company, and we read through the fifth draft of “Servant.” I hadn’t really “heard” the play aloud since we’d read the second draft back in June. I’m never sure whether any given draft is an actual improvement on the draft before it. Sometimes I wonder if within any given draft I have simply re-thunk all of my changes from the previous draft and changed it back to what I had in the first place. The changes are so incremental that I really don’t notice a difference. But hearing a variation of the play that is three drafts down the line, suddenly the improvements are much more vivid. The verbiage was economical, poetic, rhythmic, and very much “crafted.” It felt like a huge leap forward.

Back to Chicago!
And then back to Texas!

Texas Thespians Happened Here
The Texas Thespians Festival was happening in Dallas, and once again, I was presenting workshops! This time it was the 51st anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, and I made the pilgrimage in the rain to the grassy knoll along with Linda from Dramatic Publishing and Jim from Theatrical Rights Worldwide.

Again, I gave some dozen or fifteen workshops, and my work on Hamlet had given me a fun inroad to my “Shakespeare Spaghetti” workshop, which I now start off by deconstructing the monologue that begins: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

With all this behind me, I made tracks once more for Chicago, but this time, I was on a new mission. I was gearing up for another Pathways Weekend, January 15-18, 2015 (you should come join me!), and they always help me focus on my goals. Given my pending decisions around my career, I knew I’d need some Pathways right around this time, and the first challenge was to find myself an apartment.
Wisconsin Sunset

There was a Chicago Theatre People Housing group on Facebook, and before I even got back to Chicago, I’d found a month-to-month deal on an apartment in the neighborhood that I liked.

My other Pathways goal was to finalize the Kindle version of “Acting at the Speed of Life.” I met a woman in Denver who was a big fan of my Shakespeare show, who was also a big Kindle reader. I knew that turning the book into a Kindle would be a challenging endeavor, but would be a much harder lift if I attempted it myself, given that I’ve never even read a book on Kindle, and didn’t know how much flexibility to expect on the new platform. As she worked, I also made a new pass through the book. I hadn’t reread the whole thing since publishing the material back in 2011, and as I reread it, I was surprised at how my workshops had continued to evolve, even after I’d fixed them on paper. There were the occasional points that were implied in the text, but not stated as overtly as I’ve lately been expressing them. And so, while we put out this Kindle version, I simultaneously put out a “Revised Edition” of the book. I spent most of the Thanksgiving weekend trying to get the thing finalized. We didn’t quite get it finished in time for “Black Friday,” but after much adjusting, we did have it available for Cyber Monday! (If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, perhaps we’re in time for the January White Sales!)

McMinnville Air Museum
My new place has me living in a garden-level apartment, which is a kind of a nice word for a “basement”. But I’ve got room to exercise, and a desk, and shelves to have my books all unpacked and laid out. I haven’t re-read any of them yet, but I think they need to get some air every three years or so, just to feel needed and important.

Being on my own has kept me focused this past month. I get up and exercise most mornings, and then dive in to work on Hamlet. I’ve now written and memorized one-man versions of Act I and II, and Act III is well underway. The goal is to memorize Act IV in February, and Act V in March, and perhaps to have it worked up into performance mode no later than Fall, 2015.

Meanwhile, my goal-setting practice has me pushing on several fronts, sending out resumes and queries to Talent Agents, Literary Agents, Theatre Agents, Publishers and Jobs (at least seven times a week). I’ve had at least one agent respond to my query, so fingers crossed…!

And I have developed my home studio skills and technical abilities to be able to put out some decent voiceover material from my new place. It took me about two weeks of working and reworking to get my sound just right, but now I’m pushing to finish (I’m about halfway through) an Audiobook version of “Acting at the Speed of Life.” It’s a bit schizophrenic, playing myself in my book, as well as my classroom of “students” who feed me comments and questions, and play scenes within the book!

And then, to cap off most nights, I would push away from the desk and binge-watch old episodes of “House, M.D.”, all the while sending out e-mails to potential bookings for this spring.

Yes, I am, in fact, cutting way back on touring! This spring, there are 21 states where I am not even TRYING to schedule performances. (Mostly the West and Northeast.) I have restructured my prices to incentivize performances closer to home, with Chicago-area shows as low as $700! That incentive will get flipped on its head (or, perhaps its side) when I shift my base from Chicago to Annapolis.

Invalid in Annapolis
The plan is to go out to Annapolis in mid-April, and stay through the summer. Annapolis Shakespeare Company will be doing their fourth production of one of my adaptations! The third one, last summer’s “Imaginary Invalid” was just named as one of the “Best Plays in Professional Theatres” by .  

This time, it’s a specially commissioned new version of Goldoni’s “The Servant of Two Masters,” where I will likely be playing the role of Truffuldino! Which means that I’ll be available for shows in Maryland, D.C., Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York through the waning weeks of Spring, 2015! There’s still time to take advantages of the discounts on the east coast! (See schedule below…!)

Shakespeare's Histories at Linfield College
Oh, yeah, and somewhere in there was Christmas with family, a reunion with grade school buddies who were back in town, a nice review that will be coming out in a French teacher journal for the text version of “Moliere than Thou” (Preview: “In short, Mooney makes Moliere accessible to many in a most enjoyable manner."), and an acceptance to perform Shakespeare's Histories" at this year's SETC conference in Chattanooga, TN, March 5-6!

I think that pretty much catches us up to today! (January 4, 2014) See you soon, I hope!  

Temperature: A balmy 34 degrees for Chicago in January…!

On Netflix: “House, MD, Season 7”.
St. James School... Class of... I forget...

On the I-pod: Soundtrack to “One Man, Two Guv’nors” and “Kenny Rogers Tune” by “The Nerd Parade”

Discoveries:  The trick to getting people out to see my shows is to ensure that NO OTHER EVENTS are scheduled at the same time! * That sudden standing ovation is the best feeling in the world. * Those tiny, incremental improvements to the script eventually add up to vivid, exciting, quantum changes (once you’ve moved three or four rewrites down the line). *

Next performance: Georgia, January 22; Greenwood, SC Jan 23-24. For my Chicago friends, notice that I’ll be doing a show at Lewis University in Romeoville on March 10!

Timothy Mooney Repertory Theatre Tour Schedule

(Available dates in CAPITAL LETTERS; Already-booked dates in GREEN; Pending bookings in BLUE; Festival opportunities in RED)
MTT = “Moliere than Thou”; LoS = “Lot o’ Shakespeare; GSAT = “Greatest Speech of All Time”

1/1-16  ILLINOIS
1/22 (AM) Georgia Health Care Assn, Atlanta GA (GSAT)
1/22 (PM) HS Workshop, Stockbridge, GA
1/23-24 Greenwood Community Theatre, Greenwood, SC (Rehearsal, Workshop & MTT)
1/25-27 FLORIDA
1/30     VIRGINIA
2/7-21  ILLINOIS
2/26-28 TEXAS
3/4-7    SETC, Chattanooga, TN (SH)
3/10     Lewis University, Romeoville, IL
3/11-4/7 ILLINOIS