Dear every teacher I've ever had,
I am sitting here, at my computer, a gainfully employed member of my chosen profession, and it is all thanks to you. Really, each and every one of you were not just helpful or instrumental, but pivotal in all my successes to date. 11 months ago, I had just graduated Ithaca College, and was preparing to head to my first post-graduate job at the Hackmatack Playhouse. That job lasted me a month, and I already had two more jobs lined up afterwards. All I could do was marvel at how well I had been taught and trained by those people who have dedicated themselves towards making the lives of children and young adults better.
From 1992 until 2008 I was wrapped in the protective, nurturing bubble of Waynflete School. There, the entire faculty and staff worked tirelessly with us to instill knowledge, values, morals, and an incredible thirst for learning. They were successful. Thanks to the efforts of the Lower, Middle, and Upper School Teams, all of my Homestation Teachers, and Advisors, I found myself instilled with self-discipline, and pushed to explore a wide variety of interests and subjects, and always given the time to listen to my (still annoying to this day) incessant chatter.
To those of you who scolded me, I learned the important lessons of humility, and embarrassment.
To those of you who praised me, I learned the ever-necessary lessons of self confidence, and celebration of accomplishment.
To those of you who challenged me to think and explore beyond my comfort zones, I learned the invaluable lessons of opening my mind to the world, challenging its mores, and inspiring others to reach together beyond what we ever could believe possible.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, THE BEATLES!"
Every performance, in his best Ed Sullivan impersonation, Dan Embree says those words, and I run out on stage with three other guys singing "She Loves You" for all I'm worth. In that first moment, the audience already has a smile on its face, and given how awesome this show is, those smiles never waver.
I am blessed to say I have spent the last 6 weeks (dear god, has it only been 6 weeks?) and have 2 more to go at this amazing theater in this lovely little town, with this AMAZING cast and crew of people I that I adore.
7 times a week, for two and a half hours a performance, I get to sing some of the greatest hits of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Roy Orbison, Procol Harum, The Troggs, and many many more. Along with the 7 other featured performers, 1 hilarious Emcee, and an unmatched 8 piece band led by my good friend Steve Watts.
This show is so fantastic, in every way, and if you have the chance to come out and see it, I highly recommend you do so. I'd never worked for The Fireside until this opportunity and I pray I get the chance many more times. This is one of the most interesting, beautiful, and downright different spaces I've ever performed in. First of all it's in the round, thereby making it different than 99% of the theaters I audition for. Secondly it's huge, with 700 seats, the audience can be massive, and yet since the audience is on four sides, no matter how many people are in there it always feels intimate. Third, they put on shows that I had never even considered for in the round staging. That is a testament to Ed Flesch's directing ability, and to the rest of the crew for their brilliant execution of what can be an extremely difficult style of theater. They do it simply, and easily, with a grace and calm that I am extremely envious of.
I'm rambling and just spouting praises at this point, but really, if you're in the Wisconsin Area, get your butt to The Fireside for this show. We run wednesday @130, Thursday @130 and 730, Saturday @130 and 730, and Sunday @115 and 5. Our last performance is Sunday the 24th of February.
Tell your friends, and if you have a chance to audition for, to see, or to recommend a Fireside show, do so, you will not regret it!
To learn more on the show, visit: http://www.firesidetheatre.com/2013_Season/Sizzlin_60s.aspx
Or check out some of the other cast members of this show!Bianca DenisMaggie McDowellJonathan Mouton
So guys, have you heard? Community is BACK!!!!
That's right! My favorite group of community college misfits will be back on our television screens on February 7th! I'm so excited I may poop. Or puke. Or something.
It is with great trepidation, however, that I approach February 7th, because something is amiss. I fear that the great and powerful 'Community' may be starting an uphill battle which is can't overcome.
This is not the first time the show has had to do this. Rumors surrounding the cancellation of Community have been circulating since the end of Season 2, and yet it came back and got itself a third season. And then just when everyone thought that was it, it's kaput for Community, they came out with an announcement of Season 4, premiering on October 19th, and the fan base breathed a collective sigh of relief. We then sucked all that air right back in when October 19th rolled around and there was no Community. Little did we know that it had been pushed back to the spring, we thought it was over, they had destroyed us, and we were left to wallow in our own tears. The light is back, and it is shining. But until that season premiere happens, we won't know just how bright that light shines.
Community is the brainchild of a brilliant television writer named Dan Harmon. Harmon has created an amazing piece of comedy which comments on just about everything possible, is self-effacing, self-aware (without being pretentious), and really too damn smart for its own good. This is all because Harmon is notoriously strict in his control of the show. The show has been sculpted, crafted, and given to us by Harmon, and he has held tight onto the reins the whole way. I am not sorry for that in the slightest. The show has so much heart because it doesn't apologize for what it is. It doesn't go out of its way to try and get a broader audience. It doesn't exist to appeal to anyone, it hopes that someone is willing to watch it, and it does what it wants. This is not the kind of show that Television Producers like to get behind, in other words. Where they wanted ratings and cash, Harmon wanted quality. He has been at odds with the producers since the first season, and so it is no surprise, that after three seasons, begging him to open it up to a wider audience base, they fired him
For the full text of the Dr. Martin Luther King "I Have a Dream" Speech, click here
On the occasion of today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birth, I listened to and read the I Have A Dream speech again. Every night here at The Fireside I have the honor of hearing a portion of the speech read aloud by the incomparable Bianca Denis
and every night I hear it as it applies today.
Because it still does.
Every night as she reads those ever powerful words, those words which truly go down as the spark behind the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's, those words which live in our history as one of the greatest moments America has ever known, I am reminded of today's Civil Rights Movement. Today there is a group of people demonized, and told they are less than. There is not segregation as there was in the 60's, but there is a group of people who live in constant fear of retribution. Who, in many states in this country, have to hide who they are so they don't have to worry about being fired over it. Who are told they are less than, are not worthy of equality to a group of people who are in the majority, and who have the historical superiority on their side.
The LGBT community is today's Civil Rights Movement.
Fifty years ago, a great American delivered a speech which stands as a great "beacon of light" in our Nation's history, and brought change and equality to millions of Americans who were told they were less than.
Fifty years later, our country is still pushing to fulfill the dream laid out by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However it has lost its way in its quest for recognizing what was at the heart of the dream he gave us. Freedom. Equality.
In my college directing class, a fellow student once said (in response to a question of what directors need to do to get a performance out of an actor),
"My high school teacher told me that being actor is being willing to stab your soul on stage in front of everyone day after day after day."
In response to this, our directing teacher (the absolutely incredible Wendy Dann
"Well be careful now, don't get cute with it, and certainly don't get romantic about it. Actors have a wonderful job, one that they are blessed to live every day and to be a part of, but it is a job. It is no more important than anyone else's, in theatre, or outside."
This was a very important moment for me. You see I love my job. I love everything about what I do. I wake up in the morning and I am proud to say that I am an actor. I am proud to say I am a member of the theatre community However in my experience, there is a love and praise for actors, but that love, and those praises are not extended to the millions of other members of the theatre community, the ones who aren't going out on stage every night. This offends me. There is an entire side of the theatre community that is happy to let themselves go unappreciated, and under-loved by most, and they do so with a smile, and with a passion for their job that I can only respect and feel admiration for.
During my time in a BFA Musical Theatre program, I was so surprised to see this problem perpetuating itself as soon as people arrived as freshmen. There were many who treated BFA Performance majors like they had a right to the school that the other theatre majors did not. I made it my mission to have the class of 2012 be a true community, with cross communication and love across majors, and I am proud to say that I was not the only one who worked hard at this goal. Our class worked as a whole to break this stereotype, and we truly loved each other, regardless of major, regardless of theatrical position, regardless of intended career goals. We came together as a community, not as a group of segregated theatre artists.
We all made it through High School, so we all know what it's like to be labelled. See what I did just there? I just labelled all of you as High School graduates, but it is at least possible that I have a reader who is as of yet not finished with High School. It's so second nature for human beings to look at someone and categorize them for easy reference. Why would someone want to meet "Adam" when they can simply shake Adam's hand and instinctively know all there is to know about "Preppy Math Kid". It is a vicious part of the human psyche and one that I've seen people eagerly try to change in this world, and also perpetuate on a day to day basis. It goes beyond calling someone "American", there are connotations that go with it. I would be that for a good majority of Americans if you say "Muslim" they're first instinct would be to think of an Islamic Radicalist. Why? Because somewhere along the way our culture decided that those two things were synonymous. That couldn't be farther from the truth. Adam's existence as a Preppy Math Kid might only come so far as his clothing, his interests, or even so far as how he carries himself and his books as he walks down the halls.
For me? It's pretty much an every day occurrence. In Theatre it's an unfortunate occupational hazard. A necessity of the trade. There are so many 23 year old Irish actors in New York, it's absurd, and if you're looking for ONLY 23 year old Irish actors, you better put in your casting notice that this is all you want. This lets those who are not 23 year old Irish actors that they need not apply. Yet in doing so I've been given a label, a designation by which I know I pass a test. Just like in High School. Except the difference is that I have made it a requirement of my life to exist beyond labels. You see, while I recognize labeling and typing as a necessary evil to the Theatre industry, it is an evil I don't mind. In order to fit a part, you must first, indeed, fit the part. Much of the theatre canon is written to make a point about a group of people, and you need someone from within that group to make the point, consciously or subconsciously.
In my own life, however, I have always been one happy to do what I want, enjoy what I want, know those who I want to know, and strive to continue to live that way. Just today I was remarked on as an "enigma" by a wonderful person who gave me so much joy at that description.
These people got it wrong.
Last night a friend of mine asked me for some advice on a relationship she's trying to get into. I won't say who she is so that I can say, publicly, that she had been making some stupid decisions regarding how she was going about this thing (sorry darlin' for when you read this!). In a nutshell she had created a relationship around a cute form of playacting, so that neither party had to fully commit to the relationship. This gave both of them an out when it started getting to serious by going "hahaha, isn't playacting fun, but it's all just for fun!" I've realized through self reflection and from reflection of conversations I've had with friends in my life, that many of us do this exact thing at the initial stage. We create a simple out in order to protect ourselves from actually feeling anything or from feeling any pain. The problem with creating this out, is that when one party really starts to feel more, the other is never sure if it's playacting or might possibly be really interested. That is a very very stressful place to be, it causes a lot of anxiety, and more often than not, causes the confused party to take the out to save themselves the possibility of being hurt and humiliated. I am very guilty of this same problem at times, but it's always easier to offer advice rather than follow it.
That being said, I was trying to find an analogy to help her understand an alternate method of approaching the situation, and how to solve the problem of the pesky "out". In my incoherent, very often nonsensical ramblings, I stumbled across what is absolutely the best analogy I've heard for how to live your love life to the fullest. I would like to share it with you all now, I call it "The New Englander's Guide to a Fulfilling Love Life".
I posted this on Facebook last night, but here I'll try and say it a little more eloquently and less from the hip.
Taking the step towards a real, honest, fulfilling relationship is like getting into a frigid, cold ocean in New England. Everyone in the world makes it at least initially up to their ankles. From here, the population of the earth splits into two types of people. The first type of person, everyone is guilty of considering. Absolutely everyone is tempted to wade in slowly. This makes the most logical sense. By slowly allowing your body to get used to the cold until you are all the way in you never have to experience the cold in an overwhelming way. It seems like a way to cheat your way into experiencing the full ocean without having to face the fear of the initial shock. There is one problem with this method, however, and itaffects 99.99% of people who choose this method. These people always make only halfway. As the cold spreads up their legs, a relatively non-sensitive part of the body, they are lulled into a false sense of security in that their body is easily capable of dealing with the cold water. However as soon as the rigid water reaches their crotch, and the ocean interacts with quite possibly the most sensitive part of the body, it's too sensitive for them. These people jump upwards and backwards, anything to avoid having to feel in the most sensitive parts of their body. They return to thigh level and announce that this is far enough, and that they never really wanted to go into the ocean in the first place, just "get their feet wet". They will continue to stand, content and proud in themselves that they went even this far with such a challenging feat. They will splash around, laugh, talk, and have a great time comforted in the fact that they are "in the ocean" even though they are less than halfway in. They will, at least a few times briefly submerge their sensitive crotchal region again just to prove that they can, that they are brave enough. They will scream, and laughingly run back to the safe depth, and tell their friends about how wonderful it is to go into the ocean. The problem is that they're submerging such a sensitive region for all the wrong reasons.
So I saw my good friend Amy
post a list of 50 things she's thankful for in 2012, and recommended that others do the same. I thought about it, and in light of everything going on in my life right now, I thought I'd take the opportunity to do the same.
So here we go, 50 things I'm thankful for, in no particular order (excepting the first two).
1.) First and foremost my unbelievably wonderful and supportive family. Without them I literally would have nothing, and they continue to give to me every single day.
2.) My network of friends, my second family. You are always there to pick me up and dust me off when I need it, and never hesitate to pick up the phone when I call. Thank you to everyone who is always there for me. I always will be in return.
3.) Ithaca College, for giving me an education that has been invaluable since I graduated in May, and for giving me some of the greatest memories I've ever had. I think on my time at IC every single day and think fondly on every person who ever influenced me there. I can not express enough how much that institution meant to me and how much it means to me now.
4.) Waynflete School, for much the same reasons as #3. 16 years felt like plenty when I graduated in 2008, and now I read about what's going on and I ache to be back with you. The faculty and staff, my fellow students, they all helped to shape who I am today. No one institution deserves more credit in that regard than Waynflete. I hold Waynflete dear to my heart, and I can't wait for the NYC alum get together next week!
5.) The Ithaca College Class of 2012, you guys inspire me every day. Thanks for being amazing and for continuing to raise the bar with how far you can go in this world.
6.) The Loveshack - the best group of college roommates a guy could ever ask for
7.) Evan Arbour and Taj Harvey, my two fantastic little brothers at IC
8.) Graham Stuart Allen for finding me my first NYC apartment
9.) Mary Corsaro and Brian Demaris for wholly prepping me for auditions in this city.
10.) Coffee...my lifeblood.
11.) Dreams, goals, and achievements
12.) The Hackmatack Playhouse, Ithaca Shakespeare Company, Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, and Theater at Monmouth - the professional theatre companies who this year have paid me to do what I love
13.) Au Bon Pain and The Hummus and Pita Company for giving me jobs when I was in desperate need.
14.) Ted Arcand and The Dogfish Company
15.) The freedom to pursue what I love
16.) Anyone who has granted me an audition, and given me positive feedback, or a callback
17.) actorsequity.org, backstage.com, playbill.com, and actorsaccess.com - literally the reason I can manage myself in this industry
18.) The New England Patriots - I dream about your season in the off-season and I live for it when football is here.
19.) Microsoft, for inventing the Xbox
20.) All the people who have responded when I've asked to get coffee with them, and have actually met with me. These amazing people take time out of their lives to help new, completely lost kids like myself, and they should be given an award for awesomeness.
21.) Sallie Mae for deferring my college loan payments by even a couple of months, though I'll be cursing her name soon enough.
22.) Good beer, may it ever continue to exist
23.) People and artists who truly work to better the arts industry as a whole, or are actively raising the bar within the industry. People like Stephen Sondheim, Michael John Lachiusa, Stew, Pentatonix, Ryan Adams, Angie Aparo, William Finn, Edward Norton, Dan Harmon, and so many more, you inspire me to keep working hard.
24.) Movies of all kinds, and those who agree to watch them with me.
25.) Apple, for inventing the iPhone. I would be completely screwed without it
26.) Jessica Swersey for housing me through the Sandy debacle when I was trapped on Manhattan
27.) The creators of Falling Skies - WHAT AN AWESOME SHOW!
31.) Bright and sunny days with a crisp, cool, Fall air
32.) Prospect Park for offering me a recluse away from the noise of the city
33.) Doug Brown, Orthopaedic Associates, and Orthopaedic Associates Physical Therapy for fixing my right knee so well that to this day it is much better than my left. I would be without a career if it wasn't for you. You gave me back my ability to dance and to be active, and I can never repay that debt.
35.) Having no regrets, only life lessons
36.) Pine Island Summer Camp, every time I see a post about you I get so happy.
37.) Mark Bedell and the training he imparted on me
39.) The Arts Community as a whole
40.) Sunshine and Rain
41.) Benkins and Jenson
42.) To always looking forward, and looking back fondly, but never living in the past
43.) Animals of all kinds that I can play with. Red Panda, I will play with you before I die
44.) Animals of all kinds that I can't play with, you're still awesome.
45.) Subtle reminders that life is more important than the bullshit.
46.) Personality Flaws, that I may always strive to correct them
47.) The Bungalow circa Fall 2010
48.) Delores and Charlene, two great cars that got me where I needed to go. RIP both of you.
49.) All loved ones who have died. Your lessons imparted and the impact of your presence will forever be a part of my soul. Rest in Peace, you've earned it. Some of you died too young, but all of you died having lived a life worth living for however long or short it may have been.
50.) Having far more than 50 things to be thankful for, and having to cut myself off when I could just keep going. For some people, 50 things to be thankful for might be hard, and I am forever thankful that my list is innumerable.
I highly recommend that in this month of Thanksgiving, and in light of recent events, you all make a list such as this for reflection and confirmation that there is more to life than the negatives that drag us down.
Why can't anyone write a full complete thought in song form anymore? I have a playlist on my iTunes that syncs to my iPhone which is all music that I haven't ever listened to in my iTunes library. Recently I've had a string of newer Hip-Hop, Alternative, Rock, and Pop and I'm a little annoyed with what I've been hearing.
It's not the quality of the songs, or the accompaniments, or the simplicity or intricacy of the musical writing, what has been annoying me specifically is what I call "Twitter" lyric writing. In other words, lyrics which serve only to be smart or clever to themselves. Lyrics which rhyme, and complete a thought short enough to be encapsulated in a twitter update. The more clever of these lyrics start with a very convoluted, dense, and undecipherable sentence, they then add a "because" or a "so" or a "when" or some other word meaning "check out what comes next to wrap up the phrase". They then end with a equally convoluted, but more decipherable sentence which helps to explain the last one. Afterward we move on to a completely new thought, and a completely new set of lyrics which also could be their own twitter status'.
Let me give you an example:
"Yeah I'll ride the range, and hide my loose change in my bedroom,
'Cause riding a dirtbike down a turnpike always takes it's toll on me"
- Own City "Cave In"
This means, literally nothing in relation to compared to the moral/meaning of the song, it is simply a clever lyric designed to make people impressed with Owl City's lyrical prowess.
There are some rules in my book about current art about what I will enjoy, in generalizations. I tend to not be a fan of what I call the "angsty" musicals, because when done well, with great storytelling, they can be fantastic, but generally the productions fall into the angst. I don't like shows where the message is more important than the story, I would rather see a show that has a profound message, but if all I wanted was to watch a story and not get it, I could. I am getting tired of plays/movies about the Holocaust. I tend to dislike child actors before I like them. (The exception to this, of course, being Henry Thomas' audition for E.T. for the role of Elliot. That is officially the greatest example of acting of all time, and since seeing this video I have considered dropping from the profession because I will never, ever be this good in my lifetime. Ever)
Jokes aside, all I knew about "And a Child Shall Lead" before I walked into HERE Arts Center on thursday, October 25th, was that it was a play about a Jewish Concentration camp, and it featured almost entirely a cast of children. Needless to say I was a bit nervous, because it broke two of my rules. I mainly was going to see it because a good portion of the production team are my good friends, and my dear friend Ethan Itzkow (one of the two actors over the age of 20) was playing one of the main characters.
I had no need to be nervous at all. The play was absolutely stunning from start to finish. Laura Luc's direction is just short of miraculous. I may not be giving these amazingly talented kids enough credit, but it is hard work as a director to create a play which relies heavily on children for the dramatic weight of the show and the forwarding of the plot, and she got some amazing work out of this cast.
The play takes place in Terezín Concentration Camp during the nazi reign in Europe. It takes place in two barracks, one of all girls, and one of all boys. We are greeted by a game of Hide and Seek to start, and this sets the stage for what this beautiful play is really about. It's not about the inhumane treatment of humanity by the nazis, we've seen those plays, they are in heavy abundance. What this play is about, is how can a child grow up in that environment, how fast do they grow up, and are they forced into an adulthood before they are ever really children? That story, is new, it is riveting, and it is utterly, utterly heartbreaking. As we meet these boys and girls, we are given a glimpse of their previous lives, and of the new ones they've created for themselves, together. The heads of this strange little family, are Miroslav Weiss (played stunningly by my dear friend Ethan Itzkow), and Eva Hellerova (a spell-binding Lilly Wilton). They are 15, and 14 respectively, and while Eva is mainly concerned with the safety and well-being of her sister, Jana (the youngest character and member of the cast, Mia Sinclair Jenness), they both work to keep the other kids' minds free of troubling thoughts, and always in a world of the future, of make-believe, of something better. I should mention, by the way, that Ms. Sinclair Jenness' character was six, she didn't look a day above it, and her focus, engagement with the text, and ability to deliver a very large amount of lines was phenomenal. As the play progresses, Luc's direction masterfully staged these children into a variety of experiences the whole audience could relate to (the first awkward kiss between two young kids in love, a young girl forcing a boy to play house, creating skits with a sheet for a curtain. All of these things had people smiling fondly as the children on stage played their way through this horrific life they were forced to live.