Jan 6, 2011

New Year, New Life

Considering the fact that June 22 was my last post, I'm sure you can imagine that much has happened since. Of course if I just started posting about where I am and what I'm doing, some important facts may be lost along the way and the millions of blog fans I don't have will be lost in a haze. Lucky for them, I feel the need for a blog post to segue into whatever will become of my new year. So here goes:

I had an absolute blast working on Curious George Live, but while we were in New Orleans (best stop of the tour, I miss it so much) I got a call from the casting director for Avenue Q, offering me my dream role as Princeton/Rod in the touring cast.

...I took it.

I jumped at the chance. No, seriously, I can ask my fellow cast member from CGL who was putting his makeup on in the dressing room when I checked my voice mail.

Anyway, I left N Avenue (that's where Curious George lives...for real, watch the show, it's actually quite good) to move to my new life on Avenue Q.

Right before rehearsals started, I was lucky enough to take a puppetry workshop lead by none other than John Tartaglia was fantastic and I hope very much to be able to study with him more when Q is through. Though he was not working with us on the show, I was able to visit him at his office after rehearsal one day, to talk through the show, the role, puppetry in general and so much more in so little time...he is as fantastic as you could ever have imagin(ocean)ed he'd be. (Oh puns that only a few people might get...)

We started Q with a 3 day puppet re-cap/boot camp type deal, lead by the puppeteer I actually credit for having been most responsible for my interest in puppetry, Peter Linz.

Fun fact: Because I didn't have cable growing up, I watched a lot of PBS, The Puzzle Place became a favorite of mine, and his character (Skye) was probably most responsible for my interest in puppets (I thought he looked so cool).

Unfortunately, Peter could not work with us for the entire rehearsal process because he had to go shoot the new Muppet movie, as the new lead puppet friend of Jason Segel...poor baby. I can't wait to see his work on the film. He's great and very patient. Thanks Peter.

Speaking of patience...We were very fortunate to receive Jennifer Barnhart as our rehearsal puppet coach in his absence. She had to deal with me for longer than Peter. Together they combated the poor habits I'd taught myself over the years. The main thing...simplicity and trusting in stillness. I'm still working to rid myself of said habits, but I've noticed a huge difference already thanks to them.

You can be sure that many a time in rehearsal, I stopped to look around and think to myself..."This is my life?"

I'm in awe everyday.

Rehearsals were good, but hard...I had a lot to learn and very little time to learn it. We played two previews in Charleston, SC then went on a MONTH break while the set was shipped to Japan for our opening.

Japan = cool. MONTH BREAK = SCARY!!!

We got to Japan, ran through the show once in the lobby the next day, then in front of a preview audience the next morning (the first time we'd been on stage on the set, with the puppets, in costumes and all that fun stuff - IN A MONTH!!!) and then we OPENED THAT NIGHT!!! Needless to say, it was not as polished an opening as one would hope for. Most of the cast has been part of the tour since last season...they were fantastic, but yours truly still has his work cut out for him...even after 16 performances in Tokyo. I'm getting much more comfortable, but I wish more than anything I could see what I look like with the puppet in my hand. It would help in the polishing process.

Now, we're on another break, waiting for the set to ship back to the States. We open in Anchorage, Alaska later this month and despite the cold temperatures and lack of day light...I can't wait to perform there for American audiences. While we fell in love with the Japanese audiences (beautiful beautiful people, so kind, wonderfully welcoming), I hear great things about the reactions we can get here in the states. As an actor who loves more than anything, the connection between actor and audience during a show, I can't wait to feel what I've been told can be one of the most exhilarating performance experiences ever.

That folks, is only a little bit on a whole lot...but there will be more.

Jun 22, 2010

Savannah Gardens Inn-festation

Today, we checked in to the fabulous Savannah Gardens Inn, in Savannah, GA...and by fabulous, I mean filthy-roach- infested-trash-ridden-protein-spill-on-the-sheets...dump.

Now before you say or think anything to the effect that I may be over reacting, please read this...

I am not the kind to exaggerate. I often make stories sound lame BECAUSE I lack the urge to blow things out of proportion. I am mellow, collected, and very, very patient.

Upon hearing of the first case of a cast member room infestation, I brushed it off. Bugs happen, I thought to myself. People exaggerate and will find anything to complain about with only three weeks left of tour. Also, included in the first dirty room report, was a protein stained bed sheet...which for those of you who never had to learn the family friendly theme park way to say it, means man juice (at least in this particular case). Again, I brushed it off. So someone forgot to change a sheet in one biggy...a little gross, but no reason to get your panties twisted up in knots.

Unfortunately though, panties hadn’t even begun to bunch.

Hours later, after spending the day with my girlfriend and her wonderful new friend who drove up for an impromptu visit to see TOY STORY 3...which was great by the way, I returned to the hotel to find my roommate holding a glass with a piece of cardboard over it. Inside was the newest member of our cast...a cockroach!

Oh...excuse me, the hotel calls them “palmetto bugs”...which are “not cockroaches”- even though they are.

This was the third reported creepy crawly friend found in the third room of my immediate friends on tour. In addition to this, and again, only in these few rooms thus far, we found trash under beds, black mold in the showers, holes in the walls, more bugs and spiders, and my two personal favorites when I lifted up my own bedding...protein spill #2: a dried pee stain on the blanket, and leaves between the mattress and box spring.

Yeah, the leaves threw me a little, gave me a chuckle, but helped to remind me how freakin’ good we’ve had it on this tour.

I knew this prior to working for them, but Vee Corporation does an exceptional job with hotel booking and I really am serious when I say this. Our Savannah situation is not a normal one...heck, we just came from a place in West Palm Beach where you could order ridiculously over priced poolside food and even alcoholic beverages if you felt like it.

I know tons of tours, traveling gigs, and even stationary stock theaters out there have more hellish horror stories than this. Of that, I am sure. They’d laugh at us for going to the front desk in hopes that something could actually be done within the time of our three night stay, to rid the rooms of unwanted “water bugs”. They’d point out the fact that I am still able to use free wireless internet to post this blog, that in the morning I can enjoy a free continental breakfast (though I may re-think that one considering the cleanliness of the rest of the hotel), and that in some rooms (though not in ours) people were even lucky enough to get a mini-fridge and microwave.

We had no way of actually knowing any of this before we got here. I’m assuming that the regular chain hotels we’ve stayed at, of which there are many right down the street, were unable to accommodate our group size. Really, the outside of the hotel looks great (except the hooligans in the parking lot at night) and the lobby must have just been refurbished because it looks like an entirely different hotel than the part with all the rooms.

This is just a little reminder...something to crawl up your shoulder and whisper in your ear, “Don’t take for granted all the good that has come your way.”

So now goodnight...woah, what was that?

Jun 11, 2010

The Power Blows!

Imagine powering along through a show, the second one of the day, having already performed early in the morning. You’ve done the show over a hundred times, and as much as you fight against it, things are becoming routine...and then-

-black out-

the power blows!

no lights. no sound.

oddly no scared, screaming children...

You blurt out what you hope to be some magnificent segue, a bit of improv in the moment, something that someone will hopefully take and run with in case the power comes back on, or at least something to justify leaving the stage...only it’s lost in the cavernous arena with families hundreds of feet away, starting to wonder out loud if the darkness is part of the show or not....

Thus was my night.

A night of confusion.

A night of lots of confusion.

A night of...even more confusion.

But a night I’m pretty glad to have had and I’ll tell you why.

See, despite the power outage, confusion as to whether the show would indeed GO ON, confirmation that the show would indeed NOT go on, the entire cast getting out of makeup and costume and the crew setting up for the top of the show the next morning, part of the cast almost reaching the cars to leave, the power kicking back on, conformation that the show would INDEED GO ON again, everybody getting back into costume and makeup, props and sets set back to a slightly later point in the show, and finally starting the show again at said slightly later point...I actually had one of the most enjoyable performance experiences I’ve ever had.

No lie. No Sarcasm.

I live for moments where I can feel as alive as I just did on stage, or heck, anywhere for that matter...After that power kicked back on I had what felt like one of my best shows ever.

Live theater happens-

-and when it does, it’s moments like that that remind you where you are, what you’re doing, and who you are doing it for.

Hundreds of families sat for an hour, hoping that the money they had saved and spent on the show, parking, food, t-shirts, hats, and more was not just wasted, hoping that the time they took off work to spend with their children or the one night a week they have custody of their kids was not spent in vein.

The moment I went back out on stage, it was like I knew the audience a little better. Even though we were backstage and they were in their seats during the darkness, we had just experienced something unexpected one knew it was going to happen and I’m not sure anyone even knows yet how or why it did (power actually went out in the whole town), but the connection was there.

That connection is what I love about live theater. It’s knowing that everyone is living in the moment together, and though I’m certain that most of my cast and crew mates would have preferred the early release, I for one am grateful that the show went on! It’s always nice to get a little unexpected jolt in the right direction every once in a while.

UPDATE: Apparently the power outage involved a blown transformer and a very unlucky squirrel...

May 26, 2010

My First Tour Mural!

Something I’ve noticed that I really like about touring, is seeing murals of other shows on the backstage walls. I’ve actually always wanted to create I did tonight!

What’s always fascinated me about show murals is what’s behind them. No, not the cinder block wall...what they mean, the fact that another cast, no matter the show, once toured through the same space, calling it home for a night, or a weekend, or even and entire rehearsal process before setting out across the country.

Each show has its own story, each cast and crew member who signs their name has an entire life and career be it for that one show, or for a lifetime after this first time out. It makes me think of something I’ve always imagined growing up...The idea that every song, every line, every dance move hangs in the air after it’s produced. That the energy of it never goes away, almost like a ghost...the theater collects these notes, words, and moves and hangs on to them forever.

You start a show with an empty stage, and leave the same way, but my theory is that that space is never really empty, nor is it ever the same again. It’s filled, so full in fact that’s you can actually feel the energy move through your body as you take the stage for the first time or take that last look after load’s the energy of what has been, what is now, and what will be thereafter.

May 18, 2010

Two Roads...

Earlier this week, I experienced what I like to call a “two roads” moment...a moment in time where you find yourself standing on your proverbial path, looking through the leaves and the trees to where the parallel path has led. The path, you could have taken had you not chosen the road less traveled.

...Graduation day...

A few months ago I was given the opportunity to choose between taking a national tour, or finishing up the last semester of my degree. At first, I looked at the decision as a no brainer...stay and complete the degree. I even had a thank-you-but-no-thank-you letter written, ready to be sent, when my dad called me. It was my assumption that because he had been working so hard, along with my mom, for so long to help me pay for school, that they would want me to finish. But after a very deep conversation, I realized I should reconsider.

Long story short, I decided to take the tour.

I was finally able to do what I’d always wanted to do, a touring musical. I had the opportunity to get on stage and perform the way I love to, in hopes of inspiring curiosity and discovery in the lives of the children and families who come to see us. I had the opportunity to travel the country, and take in the small towns, the big cities, and every other destination along the way. I had the chance to work with my best friend (who happens to be on the tour too) on a professional level, a dream we’d both shared for quite some time. So I took it, all the while, secretly wondering how I’d feel the day my friends all graduated.

To be honest, I did much better with it than I had thought I would. There’s actually a point in our show where we sing about how it feels to be in Rome. This is actually one of my favorite moments of the show, favorite song for sure, with lyrics that have meant a lot to me at different times along the way. This time, as I sang ”you’re in a strange new place and yet it feels like home”, I thought of myself, but also about how proud I was of my class. Flashes of future auditions and open calls flooded my thoughts, seeing my friends excited to be starting out their new lives. I saw what I’d been doing for months, and what I could have been doing instead, but I felt great knowing what path I chose. “...when hearts are a glow and life is magnifico, that’s how you know, you’re in Rome.” With the reassurance the song gave me, I had a great show, and really enjoyed living in the moment of it all.

So now I turn back to my path with a smile on my face, proud of my friends, and proud of myself...and I walk on...