Sunday, December 30, 2007

Le Mot Juste

Christmas day was our last as the historic New Orleans characters. I came to really like John James Audubon by the end. He was passionately devoted to his artistic goal, at the expense of his safety, his personal fortune, and even his family's comfort. You could say Audubon was a neglectful husband and father, but his diaries and letters to his wife reveal how deeply he loved them. Regardless, he finished his epic project, "The Birds of America" and the companion book, "The Ornithological Biographies".

In front of Preservation Hall, I met an entire family descended from Audubon's business partner. Rozier is a significant character in the Audubon story, and of course his family knows the story well. It was magical to TELL the story to them, to see their nods of recognition, the occasional sparkle in the eye when I happened to say the mot juste: "So which of you will pay the money Rozier still owes me?"

Currently I'm at the Sound Cafe in the Bywater neighborhood, where I live, to work on my own writing. The novel calls. I'm in another rough spot, the beginning of a new chapter. I jab, perry, thrust with my pen, but have not yet gained any mastery. It's always this way. I have the goals in sight. I know what I need to portray. It's the "doing" that's challenging, at least until things pick up. In this chapter, my protagonist must ACT. He cannot be a victim of circumstance, but must choose and act, with the consequences evident to the reader.

I'm distracted by a new crush.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Listen Live!

I'm very proud of my radio play, ORIGIN. My cast was strong (and funny), the sound effects fun, and the music sufficiently eerie. You can listen to ORIGIN over the Web, from the link below. Sadly, only the first 20 minutes of the 40-minute performance was recorded. Sound quality improves after the intro song.

NOTE: References to partner radio stations and generous development grants from New Orleans arts organizations are purely wishful thinking on the part of the author.

Turn down your lights, snuggle up to your sweetheart, and prepare yourself for the journey...to ORIGIN.

You can also listen to our opening act, two 15-minute cliff-hangers from 1939, back-to-back episodes of Captain Midnight, episodes 167 and 168, originally aired October 17 & 18, 1939.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rara Avis

I've spent the entire month of November researching and rehearsing the role of John James Audubon, painter, naturalist, and business man. The more I research, the more I like this guy. He was truly an American original, a rare bird.

Audubon was consumed by a passion to create a monumental work of both science and art, The Birds of America, which made him famous. 435 paintings depicting 1000 birds native to North America. His genius was to paint his bird specimens "in the size of life." The pages of his double-elephant folio are 3 feet by 2 feet and require a special desk to display them properly; and yet the long-necked flamingo must still bend down to gobble-up some small animal, which is Audubon's other inspiration: to depict the real drama of life. In his paintings, birds protect their young, defend their food, and awaken in the morning to the fangs of a snake. He depicts birds astonished by his own rifle shot.

In Europe he promoted himself as the "American Woodsman" at the height of the Romantic Era's infatuation with the American frontier and "noble savages". Audubon was in fact an excellent marksman, and killed thousands of birds in pursuit of his ornithological studies. He ate, yes, many of the specimins, and documented their flavors as well as their physical and behavioral characteristics in his companion work, Ornithological Biographia, which made his fortune. He catalogued over 500 native American bird species, all from first-hand observation in the new frontier.

For the month of December, you may see me walking the French Quarter with a group of 14 other historical New Orleans personalities. Marie Laveau is quite convincing. So is Andrew Jackson and the Baroness Pontalba. We're a fun group of actors, all of whom really get nerdy on research. I've read 2 biographies, a National Geographic article, and much online material. I viewed an American Masters documentary about Birds of America, and also read his diary from 1820-21, a significant year in Audubon's aesthetic development, right here in New Orleans. There's a park and zoo here named in his honor.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Words and Music

I attended a literary conference last weekend, Words and Music, which has wrongly been called The Faulkner Festival because it's sponsored by the folks at the Faulkner House bookstore, an elegant but expensive and often pretentious bookstore in the French Quarter. I should not speak disparagingly about Faulkner House because they let me attend the conference for free, and were instrumental in setting up a meeting for me with a literary agent. Ostensibly I was a volunteer, but all I did was press Play on a tape recorder, and then half an hour later turned over the tape and pressed Play again. Then I was relieved by another volunteer, and spent the next 2 days drinking coffee and scoffing at the grandiose pronouncements of self-appointed literary pontiffs.

My least favorite pronouncement: "Poets make the best fiction writers because they are sensitive to language and understand the primacy of the image." But in my experience, poets make some of the WORST fiction writers because they are self-conscious about language and overdose on image, while neglecting to tell a STORY. The pontiff who made that pronouncement then read his own work, which made my case. All image, no story. All style, no substance. I would re-phrase that pronouncement as "Fiction writers should read poetry."

I did hear good content too, good as in useful. Pulitzer winner Robert Olen Butler spoke eloquently about the relationship of the artist to the unconscious, in particular, to dreaming. I met him about 3 years ago and had a similar conversation one on one. He can get pretty out there, but having recently read Carl Jung's essay, Approaching the Unconscious, I was in a better frame of mind to appreciate Butler's ideas.

Right now I'm reading his Pulitzer collection of short stories, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, most of which are set here in New Orleans in the Vietnamese refugee communities. The stories are moving and surprising in their emotional range. Three years ago he said to me "Don't worry about the particulars of culture. Just make sure the emotion is real. You can add the particulars later." Or something to that effect. I take his advice to heart, because I do believe and practice the primacy of CHARACTER in fiction. Story arises from character, as does resolution. At least in the kinds of stories I like and try to write.

The meeting with the agent went well, although honestly, I'm not looking for an agent right now. I'm not there yet. I need to finish my first draft, let it cool, then write the second draft. Jeff Kleinman and I agreed that I've still got a ways to go (about 2 years, I estimate), but when I'm ready he wants me to send him the first 3 chapters. He liked what I showed him. He even said "wow, you can really write!" But when he wanted to discuss copy edits, like commas and parallel sentence structure, I cut him short and asked him not to waste both of our times. So we dug into the technical aspects of my work, in particular, Point of View.

POV is the THE technical challenge of my novel. Check this out: I have a first person "I" narrator, who is effectively omniscient, yet restricts each chapter to a different character's experience, which is called "limited third person." Have I covered all the possible POV choices?
  • First person
  • Omniscience
  • Limited third person
Yup, that pretty much covers it.

Why did I set the bar so high for myself? I really didn't choose to, per se. It is the strategy that makes most sense for an angel to narrate a story about a family. Kleinman did not criticize my choice, but said merely to tread carefully, which I am. It's taken me 13 chapters to finally feel I have POV under control. In the end, you learn to write a novel by writing it. Today I'm confident in Goodfriend's storytelling ability, that he won't confuse readers or disrupt the flow of a story by interjecting some personal observation.

Kleinman also gave me some wrong-headed advice. Although he certainly understands craft, he is not a writer in his orientation. He's an agent, a sales guy. He cautioned me to be aware of market forces as I write, and to avoid comparison to such and such a popular novel. I told him I plan to ignore that advice. I actually do believe and practice the Romantic Era notion of the bohemian artist and Art for Art's sake. That doesn't make for marketable fiction, but I'm just conceited enough to believe that when I'm finished with my novel, someone will think it's publishable on its own aesthetic merits, and not because of some market trend 2 years out from now that I can't anticipate.

If I really wanted to get published rather than create meaningful art, I'd write a memoir, like all the 20-something MFA graduates who write the story of their childhood abuse or teenage angst. Aside from Arthur Rimbaud, what does a 20-year-old have to say about the world that I care to read? Augustin Burroughs (of Running with Scissors infamy) is coming out with his 8th memoir this year. Dude, get an imagination.

I heard a new term at the conference that tickled me, the "mom-oir".

Friday, November 23, 2007

That 3rd Voice from My Past

I've had 2 big loves in my life so far. David Roy Nash in Canada, who died. And Craig, an ostensibly "straight" boy in Minneapolis. Craig's the 3rd voice from my past who's come out of the woodwork recently. It's been 12 years. Our breakup was painful for a long time.

Now and then I’ve checked Google for mentions of him, maybe an email address. I found music reviews he’s written and other online references to him, but no way to contact until I signed up for MySpace.com. Craig has a profile online and I wrote that. Didn’t hear from him for several days and figured it was another blind alley or that he’d deleted me. But then I did hear back.

He sent me a short story, a coming-out story actually. And the name of the gay love interest rhymes with mine. I tartly mentioned this in my reply, but also gave him thoughtful feedback on his work, structure and character-development stuff. Didn't hear back for 2 weeks, and thought I may have embarrassed or intimidated him, or just plain put him off with the reminder that "Frederick gets his feelings easily hurt."

On further reflection, I don’t think Craig's trying to bait me with a coming-out story, for as much as I've wanted him to be gay over the years. I think instead he was trying to connect with me across the gap of 12 years by sending me a story that demonstrates he can write sensitively about a topic close to my heart, coming-out, the foundational gay experience. It needs work, his story. But I don’t see any deeper agenda other than a desire to impress and reconnect with me. Writing was our original connection. But Craig took a big risk in sending that story to me, the injured party, the one who got rejected over just that very issue, NOT coming out. Craig's not telling me he’s gay by sending that particular story. He never will.

I feel longing for him keenly and for the potent connection we used to share, but tempered now (fortunately) by experience of disappointment. At 40, I do know how to keep my expectations in check, just not my longing. He appears in my dreams, although in reality he couldn’t be farther away. Married with kids in Minneapolis. I’ve had very hard crushes before, but I felt truly connected to these 2 men, David and Craig. I speculate that Craig felt something similar, something strong that brings him back now. Or it's Autumn. He wrote me today to ask how the radio play went.

It would be a very good idea for me to be dating someone else right now. No strong prospects though. There's 1 fellow I'm attracted to, but he's mercurial and didn’t even respond to my last invitation, to be my date at my radio play. Not sure I should even bother contacting him again, but I’d like a date for my friend Michael Martin’s current one-man show, Bachelor in New Orleans.

Michael got a great write-up and his photo in the paper today. He’s a critic’s darling, and David Cuthbert can’t rave about him enough. Some of that favoritism rubbed off on me a little. I think Cuthbert’s been recently generous to me in his column because of my involvement with Michael. We make a compelling theatrical pairing I think. And we do share a preference for risky, far off-beat theatre.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Back to the Main Storyline

Ahh...finished the ancient China chapter. Printed 2 copies: 1 for the binder and 1 for my writing mentor.

Now back to the main storyline, set in the West Bank of New Orleans, on Pelican Avenue in Algiers. The villain publicly challenges my hero. Hero gains something, but loses something in the bargain.

Poked at Goodfriend for about an hour today, plus some time this morning re-reading the chapters I’ve already finished. Trying to get myself kick-started on the new chapter, and of course it feels slow. I’m in that wool-gathering phase that I’ve learned to respect as necessary to the process. Just have to be patient, and suddenly, movement happens.

To my surprise, I have 1400 words already, and the emergence of 3 major scenes. That’s a story. I know the arc. I see the beginning, middle, and end. I’m well upon the way. But as I said, it feels slow at this stage, and I’ve lost the patience to sit with it for now.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Voices from My Past

Voices from my past have materialized this week. 3, in fact.

Amar
Felix Freeman, who I knew as Amar, was 1 of my very few friends in Seattle when I was 19. I was deeply wounded then, fiercely independent, a loner. I needed a sweet friend like Amar. He was a gentle, British young man, 24, totally straight (alas) with madcap curly brown hair and a very kind heart, although he had good reason to be bitter, yet wasn't. Recently he'd left a cult:
    In 1984, the small county of Wasco, Oregon, became a household name when followers of the religious cult Rashneeshee introduced Salmonella bacteria into salad bars at ten restaurants and into a local water supply. Their plan was to infect the region’s voters so that cult members could outvote non-cultists, and thus take political power in the upcoming elections. Until discovered, the plan was a success and resulted in 751 individuals infected and 45 hospitalized. The Rashneeshee incident became the first confirmed bioterror attack in world history and the largest American attack to date.
During our friendship, Amar and I learned that their leader, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, had fled the country, leaving behind multiple Rolls Royces. Amar gave me his woolen Rajneeshee robe, a turtle-neck sweater that extends from neck to floor. I wear it on Halloween with an A on my chest. AL-VIN!

He goes by Tony now and sends me email from London. Amar was a lovely man and taught me watercolors.

Captain Midnight
Captain Midnight was better known as Daniel when we were nerd-league friends at Edna Karr Junior High. I'm embarrassed to say I was cruel to him back then. Yes, short, Bible-thumpin', nerdy, faggy 13-year-old me was cruel to Daniel. He was fat. Don't think he is so much now, and it doesn't even matter of course. But at the time, I know I lashed my barbed tongue his way now and then. I even wrote a mean comic book.

We were in the Gifted program, and took a LOT of field trips, including a week in Mexico. Daniel and I shared a hotel room in Merida, Mexico with a sort of boyfriend of mine at the time. Michael Loveless wasn't love-less in 8th grade. Us 3 being friends, and probably the 3 nerdiest of the nerd league, we were put together. We accidentally flooded our hotel room, letting the shower run over the bathroom step. The hotel's Artesian pool, directly below our room, was a little fuller in the morning. Oddly, all these years since Merida I've thought we went to Belize. Captain Midnight set me straight. He still lives in the New Orleans area. Hope he comes to see the radio play, ORIGIN. We're also performing a couple 15-minute Captain Midnight episodes.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

How to Dress for Radio

4 hours at Fair Grinds Coffee House today with Harriet Sheehey, a regular Write Club-ber. Made good progress on the ancient China chapter. To prepare for the re-entry into that difficult closing scene--where the mentor and the monk discuss the sacrifice of a friend--I read Thich Nhat Hanh, a contemporary Zen teacher from Vietnam. In his chapter entitled, "The 7 Factors of Awakening," I saw a way to depict a character transformation. I saw a pivot point and wrote around it. I'm almost done now. I'm ready to print a draft, read it aloud. Maybe 1 or 2 more passes, then the click. I print 2 copies, one for the binder, one to mail.

Had a nice promotional write-up of ORIGIN in the Living section of Saturday's Times-Picayune:
    I Want to Look My Best for the Radio Audience!
    Golden Age of Radio aficionado and veteran character actor John Barber has been cast as The Radio Announcer with the Hercules Audio Theater's production of ORIGIN, by Frederick Mead, live onstage Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. at the Marigny Theatre, 1030 Marigny St., one performance only.

    Mead's eclectic script is a comic homage to Orson Welles' infamous "War of the Worlds" broadcast and "Captain Midnight," with faux radio commercials, the comedy of Mike Nichols and Elaine May and more. Live sound effects will be the work of Cammie West, and the original music by "Uncle Wayne" Daigrepoint, who promises not to wear sock puppets while playing.

    Mead also directs, and actors involved include Mary Pauley, Molly Maginnis and Kevin Songy. Tickets $10. Come early and get a cocktail at the adjacent Cowpokes Bar.
Think I'll rent a tux.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

War of the Worlds

Last night, Oct 30, was the 69th anniversary of the original air-date for War of the Worlds by Mercury Theater on the Air, directed by my hero, Orson Welles. 69 years ago the world went mad over a radio show. What an auspicious night for our first read-thru of ORIGIN with the cast. Very much fun. I heard voice characterizations coming out, some good readings. We laughed a whole lot. I read for an Igor-like voice in a Captain Midnight melodrama.

In addition to ORIGIN, which is 30 minutes long, I'm adding two 15-minute serials of Captain Midnight, originally aired in 1938, the same year as War of the Worlds. Captain Midnight was a children's radio show that played for 15 minutes at 5 in the afternoon. It featured the hero, Captain Midnight, a good-guy pilot and smuggler, with his boy side-kick Chuck Ramsay. I love how perfectly dated these 2 episodes are, how they set the stage for what I'm attempting with ORIGIN, and provide a point of comparison. They're wacky! Way wacky melodrama.

Took my first reservations last night too.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

An Unselfconscious Breath

Taking a short break from the novel writing to organize my thoughts. I'm back in the ancient China chapter, and realize the ending needs work. In the hero's journey, as described by Joseph Campbell, after several trials or tests, the hero eventually gains the boon, the important self-realization that changes him. And incidentally gives him exceptional powers. The boon in this chapter is called an "unselfconscious breath", which Gu YuHuan experiences at the ending. This unselfconscious breath changes his awareness, and he sees the Pure Land (i.e. Heaven) all around him.

I'm trying to set up this transformation. In his case, Gu YuHuan's unselfconscious breath is more like a sigh. He realizes the profundity of his friend's sacrifice. He embraces his grief, and sees sorrow as the foreground of a wonder. These things are all stated or implied so far; now I'm trying to trigger that breath. He has a conversation with the head of the Gaomin order about his friend's sacrifice. And then using his meditative training described earlier in the chapter, Gu YuHuan breathes. It's that conversation that needs work.

Whenever I get stuck I switch gears and work on the next chapter in the sequence. I'm up to chapters 14 and 15 now. Chapter 15 returns to the main storyline, set just prior to Hurricane Katrina in Algiers, Louisiana, the West Bank of the Mississippi River, directly across from the French Quarter. Gu YuHuan, now called Goodfriend, picks up the main thread about the power struggle between 2 Baptist preachers. I'm glad to be back to the main storyline, taking definitive steps toward the final confrontation.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Radio Legend John Barber Joins ORIGIN

A legend of New Orleans radio theater, John Barber, lends his baritone to the role of Radio Announcer, the voice of the Golden Age. John Barber's theater resume is deep and long, including film, television, stage, and radio drama. I'm excited to have John bring his radio expertise and enthusiasm to ORIGIN. "It's a super script," John says. "We'll have a hell of a good time!" He's 74 and bright-eyed and chock full of suggestions.

The theater reviewer from the Times-Picayune called me late last night with questions about ORIGIN. I expect there will be some kind of short write-up in David Cuthbert's weekly column. He said he really enjoyed my performance in Love at the Lounge. I didn't mention the bitchy review he gave me for Tennessee Williams' And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens, which I still consider the best stage work I've done in New Orleans so far, or been involved with. But I'm glad for the positive attention.

On the phone, he asked, "Is this Frederick Mead, the actor and dramatist?" Dramatist? Moi? No one's ever called me a dramatist before, although I do write for the stage and direct. But I've just never thought of myself that way. In my mind, I'm a novelist who acts.

Does it matter? Aren't these all just labels? Yeah, but no. I think my reflection comes from a time in San Francisco, when I abandoned my very lucretive software career for art. I traveled the country for 5 years, couch surfing and housesitting, touching base every 6 months or so in SF, visiting New Orleans often. I wrote, went to writing conferences and workshops, and visited my people.

At the time, I clung to the title "writer" because it justified the privations I endured (still endure, but less so now). I sat up crying one night in a brown flop house, an SRO in SF. I've stayed in a few, but this one brought me to tears. People died in this place. That's not what I had signed on for when I decided to put writing first. So I fired up the laptop and wrote that night, almost an entire short story, about a Pastor's daughter and his wife. I love that story. I learned about conflict development in fiction. Can you imagine why that story's emotional journey wanders occasionally into the histrionic? Writer. It was something to cling to. And it led me here, to New Orleans, and to Goodfriend.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hercules Audio Theater presents...

...theater of the imagination! A new audio drama, Origin, directed and written by Frederick Mead.

Origin
is a comic science fiction tale of alien abduction and government cover-up, performed on stage with live sound effects by Foley artist Cammie West and original music by Uncle Wayne Daigrepont. Voice actors John Joly, Mary Pauley, Molly Maginnis, and Kevin Songy bring life to this classic form of entertainment. One night only that is sure to charm and delight.

1 Night Only!
Thursday, Nov 15
8pm
$10 Advance purchase advised.

Marigny Theatre.
1030 Marigny and St Claude.
Ample parking on Marigny and Rampart.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Counting in Gay Years

Ah, happy with some work I just did on the novel. It's another chapter in the 5 or 6 set in China, during the reign of Kubilai Kahn. A couple years ago, I read Marco Polo's travelogue, and was inspired. Today I made a second reference to Po Lo, who at this time would be a Magistrate and an apologist for the Kahn. It's a time of military occupation by a foreign power, and a time of rebellion. Today I wrote a kung fu fight, an escape, and a sacrifice. I depicted the main themes of my novel in a couple key transitional scenes, and connected the beginning and end. I feel this chapter coming into tight focus. There's more work to do, but I'm happy with the progress.

Only 2 shows left of Love at the Lounge. The show last night was a good one, very responsive audience who hung out afterwards to talk to us. The actors all agreed that it was a great show. We felt relaxed. A nice place to finally reach during a run. Everyone is more alive, more in their moments, communicating. We're having fun. And all of us have been offered other scripts to read. Yay!

Also happy with my poster for Origin, my radio play. Perfected a draft late last night after the show. I'm trying to get the green a nuclear green. Anyone know the CMYK or RGB values for nuclear green?

Today and probably tomorrow I'm auditioning voice actors over the phone for the main character of the radio play, Munchie, high-school stoner trapped inside a middle-aged body. Autobiography? Roman a clef? Probably. Except the part about middle-aged, unless you count in gay years.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Casting Origin

Only 1 role remains uncast for my radio play, Origin. The main character, Munchie, high school stoner trapped inside a middle-aged body. I invite both men and women to read for the role of Munchie.

The auditions themselves were a fun experience, all set up as conference calls. The actors read together in groups of 4 over my speaker phone, while I recorded over the Internet. I emailed recordings of the auditions to each of the actors. Damned if the recordings don't sound just like 6 mini radio shows!

Aside from Munchie, here are the folks I've cast, plus our live Foley artist and keyboardist. Very fun group:

Radio Announcer/Senator Guidry/Mike Nichols
John Joly, film, stage, and voiceover actor with an Earth-rumbling baritone.

Nell Arsdale/Mother/demented crone/Elaine May
Mary Pauley, deeply experienced stage actress, most recently seen at Rivertown Rep. Right out of the gate, Mary impressed me with her natural delivery, voice characterizations, and that ineffable "50s radio voice."

Katie Brown (the Nancy Drew)/Girl
Molly Maginnis, a young actress I am happily working with on another production at the Hi Ho Lounge.

Live Foley artist
Cammie West, Big Easy award winner, Storer Boone award winner, and theatre sweetheart. She's done exactly this kind of sound work for Southern Rep's "Cabinet of Dr Caligari" and while in college.

Keyboardist
Uncle Wayne Daigrepont, legendary character actor, director and puppeteer, composing original "Hercules Audio Theatre" theme music, segue music, and "suspense" music for the performance. He played with silent films in NY and various musical gigs in New Orleans.

Can you imagine how much fun I'm having?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Extending My Reach

So I guess my little blog has gotten me some attention. I'm now an "official" blogger for the Gambit Weekly newspaper's blogsite:
www.blogofneworleans.com.

I write the local theatre beat. No pay, but I'm extending my reach...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Auditions Scheduled

Phew. Trying to coordinate the schedules of 15 voice actors into groups of 4. Looks good so far. On Sunday afternoon, in half hour blocks, 2, 3, or 4 actors will call a conference line to audition for me over the telephone.

I'm using FreeConferenceCall.com, an online conferencing service that also lets me record the calls. How great. Afterwards, I can download an MP3 of the auditions and play them back. We could also record our rehearsals, and play them back as a cast. !

Next I need the sound effects person. I have contact info for a couple legends of local radio, Fred Kasten and Paul Yacich. Surely they can point me toward a Foley artist.

A few musicians have written me about playing keyboard, but I have not yet replied. Ok, that's my task for today. Then design a flyer, track down 40 chairs (help) and microphones and amps. Then I need to set up my online box office with TicketWeb.com. I have a lifetime account, which was set up for me back in San Francisco.

I'm on the fence about charging admission for the event. It's a staged reading, not a full-on play. BUT, it's more than actors sitting on stools. There's music, sound effects, and rehearsed actors on stools. More of a visual and auditory theatre experience, in a nice setting, the Terrance Sanders gallery. I'm thinking of charging, really to control the flow. Open admission could bring in any old random folks off the street, which is fine; but 40 seats fill up fast. In particular I want to get the radio folks in, the theatre critics, arts administrators, folks who can help me get the project on the air.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Full House on a Thursday

Well the Cuthbert review brought in a big house, full, for a THURSDAY! That bodes well for Friday and Saturday. Lots of Big Easy Theatre Award committee folks, plus actor friends (one who's oh so handsome but oh so closeted.)

We had a great show. A full audience will do that for you, give you feedback and energy to work with. I think my other male co-actor rushed a bit, ran over my lines and Lisa Davis' a few times. Adrenalin. Plus a couple more lighting flubs, but oh well.

The radio play is taking off. I've gotten an avalanche of good response. Not so many for the main character though, the teenage stoner, Munchie. All the men want to read for the resonant baritone, the Radio Announcer, even the college boys. I'm trying to direct the younger guys to nail the younger role. I even wrote cute young Andrew Larimer from the NOLA Project and asked him to audition for Munchie. He has a schedule conflict.

Today I posted the search for a keyboardist.

"Keyboardist needed to add a musical layer to a staged reading of a new radio play script. Have a flair for theatrical music plus commercial jingles of the 50s. Need you to compose a short (3 or 4 seconds) "Hercules Audio Theatre" theme, segue music between scenes, "suspense" music, and a jingle for a fake product called "Hormel brand Sloppy Seconds."

THEREMIN is a big PLUS. If you can approximate a spooky theremin sound on the keyboard, great. Also looking for a live Foley artist to create the sound effects layer."

I emailed a cousin in LA who's an Emmy nominated Foley artist. Long shot, I figured. She was excited by the project, but couldn't swing it. I told her she ought to consider moving to New Orleans. Film is boom right now in New Orleans. And most of the skilled labor comes from outside, shipped in for projects. She'd have her pick of work as a local.

So I'm feeling energized and confident. And now I'm getting stoned.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

First Review is In

I'm "endearing". David Cuthbert's review in the Times-Picayune. My face made the cover of the Living section!

"Eat Pudding" concerns the mating and dietary habits of ancient Egyptian vultures, scavengers that feasted not just on carrion, but the dung of dead animals, said to improve one's plumage and sexual attraction. "Eat pudding" is the euphemism a vulturess attaches to the practice of dining on this alleged savory.

Sands depicts his birds as swinging singles and shy, inhibited creatures meeting at a watering hole by the pyramids. Andrew de la Pena is the slick ladies' man Ramses giving macho advice to his awkward pal Thutmose, endearingly played by Frederick Mead. Lisa Davis is the exotic, experienced Hathar and Molly E. Maginnis is her demure gal pal Nefertari. Playing birds seems to free the actors, especially when they take wing in aerial choreography. All four players fulfill their roles amusingly, pointing up Sands' sly, entertaining and vulgar wordplay.

In "All Night Service," Mead is the jaded, sleep-deprived cashier at an all-night French Quarter deli, who simply wants to be left alone to read "Catch 22." Enter de la Pena as scruffy, roguishly handsome Johnny and Davis as his weary young girlfriend Taffy. It's cold and Johnny is full of, well, "pudding," bragging about luxury stays in warmer climes. Alas, they have no money (Mead moves his tip jar out of reach) and need a place to crash. Thus begins a series of phone calls to various "friends" who want no part of them due to past experiences.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

And...They're Off!

Phew! An avalanche of actors resumes are flooding my inbox, and it's not even been 24 hours. Yay! Some recognized names, some experienced radio actors, and an interesting offer for a theremin. There's definitely a place in this show for a theremin!

Today I secured the venue, the Terrance Sanders Gallery on the 900 block of Royal in the Quarter. He hosts a lot of spoken word events there and has an audience. Gave me a great deal, but I have to scare up 40 chairs. Ok, next task.

A couple radio stations are running PSAs of the audition call. Hopefully that will extend into promotion for the reading itself, and some interest on the parts of their radio personnel. Two stations are on my target list: WRBH Reader Radio for the Blind and WWNO, both of which have done audio drama, and both have the ability to stream over the Internet.

Need to find a keyboardist with a feel for theatrical music and fake commercial jingles of the 50s. And then of course, a sound effects person. A live foley artist would be a nice-to-have, but we'll proceed with the reading without sound effects if necessary.

Friday BEFORE Thanksgiving, NOV 16. 8pm.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

First Step

Going to post this soon on StageClick. It's about to become real...
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Radio drama has been called "theatre of the imagination", relying solely upon voice characterization, sound effects, silence, and music to "set the stage" and to move a story forward. In homage to Golden Age radio dramas, such as War of the Worlds and The Shadow, Hercules Audio Theatre and writer Frederick Mead invite actors interested in this classic form of entertainment to audition by telephone.

Four actors needed:
  • Female, teens to 20s, sweet, smart, Nancy Drew.
  • Female, 30s to 40s, low alto, sophisticated intellectual. Can also double as a demented crone.
  • Male, teens to 20s, nasally tenor, stoner.
  • Male, mature, resonant baritone, Golden Age radio announcer. Can also double as a Southern Senator a la Huey Long.

A one-time only staged reading of Origin, an original radio drama, is scheduled for the weekend before Thanksgiving at a gallery in the Quarter. If possible, a keyboardist and live foley artist will participate in the staged reading. The public is invited, especially radio personnel and arts administrators, to generate advance interest in a live radio production that is broadcast and live-streamed from New Orleans, and to secure a radio production partner.

Written by Frederick Mead, Origin is a comic science fiction story about alien abduction and government cover up. Classic radio drama with contemporary material, including swear words, Chaos Theory, and bong hits. Includes fake commercials and a tribute to the comedy duo Nichols and May. For sides from the script, send email to frederick_mead@yahoo.com. Indicate which role you will read for. Include your Stageclick link or attach theatre resume to email.

Email this posting to a friend.

Friday, October 5, 2007

A Puzzlement

Just heard from Tulane Shakespeare. Did not get the part. I'm a little sad, not too bad, but very puzzled. Stunned, in fact. I left that second audition confident I was in. I had really prepared. I have a natural feel for Shakespeare's language. And I'm the only actor he asked to read for the role of Hortensio. What could have been the director's reasoning for passing? There's no polite way to find out, to get feedback about an audition, so I'll have to chalk it up to, I don't know. Good first effort?

I'll be back. I do want to work for Tulane. And my foot is in the door now. But still, another actor, someone extremely prominent in New Orleans theatre, did get cast. But he just didn't get the material. We did scenes together, and he clearly did not understand the words he was saying. In fact, in the hallway he asked me to explain some of it to him. Hmm...a puzzlement.
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Actually, on further reflection, I think it may have been about scheduling. Tulane has a rigorous rehearsal schedule, and I have weekend conflicts all through the month of December. Thursday thru Sunday, I'll be dressed as a historic character, John James Audubon, and holding salon in hotel lobbies in the French Quarter. Been practicing my French accent and boning up on birds. Audubon's also the reason I'm growing out my hair.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Decent Opening Night

A very decent Opening Night of the 2 one-act plays I'm in at the Hi Ho Lounge. The producer, Michael Martin, told us yesterday to consider it a dress rehearsal, and not bother promoting too heavily. Too late. Being the shameless self-promoter that I am, I had already broadcast to the world. As it turned out, we had an audience to play to, and I claim the lion's share of credit for that. And they were with us. Laughed at the right times. Leaned forward in the dramatic moments.

I felt alive in it. I thought the other actors were too, moreso than any other rehearsal. A few line flubs, more than a few technical gaffs. But it was theatre.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A New Record

Taming of the Shrew
The second audition at Tulane Shakespeare went well. Today was the callback, a much smaller pool of actors, the most-likelies. Some prominent local actors in that room, and I'm grateful I was among them. I feel very good about my preparation and delivery. Pretty sure I'm in, probably the character Hortensio, which is not a large part in number of lines. But of course, there are no small parts, right? Whatevs. I'll accept just about any part in this production (almost any part) because I want to be inside the Tulane Shakespeare organization for future productions, foot in the door. Also, Tulane and Southern Rep are the only New Orleans theatre companies that earn an actor points toward Equity Union membership. I need 50 weeks, and Taming of the Shrew earns me 6. Gotta start somewhere.

Voices of the Big Easy
Sadly, I did not perform as well last night. I was in the line-up for a spoken word variety show, Voices of the Big Easy. Chuck Perkins, marine-turned-troubadour, invites accomplished performance poets and other writers to participate in his variety shows, usually in bars and cabarets. He also invites Jazz musicians and even an authentic Mardi Gras Indian. It's very "cool". Chuck is a break-out talent, humbling even (and a smokin' hottie). He travels with an over-the-top group of talent, and I'm honored to be included, even if I did die on stage last night.

Ok, maybe not "die", but I had a myocardial infarction. I rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed. It was my own material, and I'm happy with my delivery, except for the part where I FROZE. Completely blanked on the next line, had nothing in my head to grab onto, suffered an eternity of stage time clearly lost. Of course, the strategy should be, "Breath". But I was way too nervous. Instead, I whispered into my mic, "Uh, I gotta look at my script." But before the script was even out of my back pocket, there it was, the next line. Not my worst performance ever, but not the greatest either.

Sadly, my roommate and friend, Sean, had his ass handed to him. He also performed, actually, work very similar to mine in content (about Baptists). But the audience did not care for it (I didn't either, honestly). He asked me via email for feedback this morning, and while my instinct is to merely say "it just didn't work, Buddy," instead I'm sculpting a response, more along the lines of "how to make it work next time." He says he values my feedback, and I'll honor his respect.

Eat Pudding and All Night Service
Thursday night I appear on stage again, Opening Night of a couple one-act plays written by Brian Sands, a theatre reviewer for Ambush Magazine, and I think, a peer, if I may presume. We're both on the Big Easy Theatre Awards committee, both writers, and have both presented work this year at DramaRama, an annual performance art festival. Two plays, one a vignette about French Quarter hustlers and another a comedy about Egyptian vultures. Fun cast, especially Lisa Davis, a spritely vixen I've worked with twice before. I hope we have an audience. There's been zero promotion, and we open in 4 nights!

Valhalla
Before rehearsal tomorrow night, I also have an audition for Valhalla, a comedy written by Paul Rudnick about "Mad" King Ludwig of Bavaria, the castle builder, who built (among other confections) the fairy tale castle that Walt Disney used for Sleeping Beauty and the Disneyland theme park. It's a mightily "operatic" script, very funny. I'm going for Ludwig, but may also read another part if the director's interested. I very much like working with Glenn Meche; he's an "actor's director", and I expect a fun cast. I'm crossing my fingers that I get in, and that a couple other actors I know also get in.

Any wonder I blanked last night? Let's see, that's FIVE scripts in my head at once. That's a new record.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sopranos, the Opera

Had a breathless audition this weekend for Tulane Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. I say breathless because I was quite nervous, despite a great deal of preparation. I flubbed my first monologue, a comedic scene from Merchant of Venice. The director, Ron Gural, was basically dismissing me with a thank you when I asked to do my second monologue, a dramatic scene (THE dramatic scene) from Antony and Cleopatra. At the end of that monologue he clapped, and asked if I was available next weekend for callbacks. SNATCHED from the jaws of death! Not a certain part yet, but I'm in the running. And I do want to do Shakespeare again. Love the poetry. Growing up on the King James version of the Bible, I'm comfortable and enamored with the period language.

I've also got my eyes set on an audition next week, which I hear via the director's blog may not happen. He prefers another script, and seems to have already cast that one in his mind. I'll audition if I have the opportunity, and I'll prepare my little heart out as best I can.

Here are some recent productions I've seen:

The Breach
It's difficult to discuss The Breach without comparison to other hurricane Katrina-themed works, especially Rising Water, the other K-themed play commissioned by Southern Rep Theatre. We in New Orleans just had the 2 year anniversary, and a number of K works are being mounted. I've heard the complaint a few times already, "please, no more Katrina stuff!" But this is the time, I think, for Katrina works to surface. Writers have had this 2 years to develop some perspective, to find an entry point into this multi-layered, emotionally-charged topic. In fact, I had a near argument with a woman beside me during Intermission. She took offense to the depiction of New Orleans race relations, which I thought was dead-on.

The Breach will certainly get folks talking, and I'm sure it will travel as a cultural ambassador for New Orleans. I for one liked it. Three playwrights wrote separate short pieces that are interwoven. One of the pieces, described in the program as the most "human", was too long and ran out of steam. In my favorite piece, comedian Bob Edes truly rose to the occasion (pun intentional) as a paraplegic trapped by rising water, who swam to safety, nearly drowning numerous times while arguing with a female actress, the personification of Katrina. I cried every time Bob was on stage.

I especially liked the set, which was designed by the same person who did the clever roof-top set in Rising Water. Three quarters of the stage surface is under water, with only a tiny roof for actors to huddle on. An ingenious use of metal edges around the lip and black plastic lining made a reservoir for about 3 inches of water, through which the actors splashed, fell, and occasionally drowned.

The Beignet Plays
Produced by cute young, Andrew Larimer of NOLA Project fame, the Beignet Plays are 8 play-lets, all set in the famous Cafe du Monde. Most comical, some dramatic, the play-lets use the cafe as a springboard for their storylines. Most were very good. Even the weak ones were helped by the setting, a much loved local institution.

After the 8 play-lets, we saw 1 of 3 winners of Cabaret Le Chat Noir's one-act play competition. The winner I saw was a one-woman piece called The Shoebox Lounge. Jennifer Louise Pagan won big points with the local audience for the range of local accents she could imitate. The writing was solid, affecting, humorous. Would have been stronger for me if she'd memorized the entire script and worked off book. An actor holding a black binder on stage causes me to lose confidence. But that's a minor complaint compared to the strength of the work and her performance.

A Scandalous Affair
Did you know that American sweethearts Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy were real-life lovers? Hardly scandalous. But according to this musical review, the MacDonald-Eddys were prevented from marriage by MGM Studio mogul, Louis B. Mayer. Ok, I'm willing to go along with this thin excuse for a musical review, except that the man singing the part of fair-haired Nelson Eddy should be singing the part of Sal "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero in an operatic adaptation of The Sopranos. Now that's a musical I'd pay to see.

A Scandalous Affair is really a vehicle for husband-and-wife team Hallie Neil (who "wrote" the storyline) and Theodore Lambrinos, both aging opera singers in the twilights of their careers. She is a voluptuous coloratura, unlike Jeannette MacDonald, "the iron butterfly" of Hollywood.

I was BY FAR the youngest person in the audience. In fact, I was the only person with dark hair, other than "Nelson Eddy", whose hair was dyed so black it sucked light out of the universe. I choked on my butterscotch when Big Pussy came out wearing the red Canadian Mountie uniform for the famous duet, Indian Love Song. "When I'm calling you-hoo-hoo-hoo."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Semblance of Structure

Finally finished that difficult chapter of the novel. I've struggled for 5 and a half months on this one chapter alone. The novel writing always moves at a glacial pace, but this chapter was an Ice Age. I don't usually have this much trouble, but I started from scratch 3 times.

I struggled because I have a driving instinct for structure, and its structure eluded me. It may still. This chapter is told in memories, dreams, and hallucinatory visions. To write this chapter with any semblance of structure, I had to imagine an ivy growing up the rungs of a ladder.

I also struggled because of who the character is, and what he may represent in my psyche. This child-man, Bobby, the mystical child, is not only my aspiration to be an artist. He also represents my failure as an artist, as a man, or my fear of failure. He is not the hero of this novel, but its tragic character.

And I struggled because this chapter is the merging of the two main story threads, the Buchanan clan in pre-Katrina New Orleans and Gu YuHuan's search for wisdom in ancient China.

Tall order, huh? I don't never do nothin' easy.

Well I'm done with it. At least for now. Printing out my 2 copies, one for the black binder and another for my writing mentor. Dorothy's in Georgia now, teaching at Emory. She's the one who told me, "take the time it takes to write your novel." That advice requires a sort of Zen. But lately my Zen is challenged, and I'm dissatisfied by the pace of things, the writing, acting. Blah blah, bitch and moan. At least I finished the damn thing.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In a mood...

Not sure what's triggering it. Maybe because I'm out of pot, and craving. Or because I've had a summer cold all week. But feeling under-loved again, hypersensitive to slights, imaginary or otherwise. Bleh. Not a fun mood.

I'm wrapping up a writing session at Write Club. Just read somebody's comments on a chapter I showed him. Funny thing, I wasn't asking for comments, but he gave them anyway. Mostly questions. A big negative on my tendency toward preachiness. Ha. Preachy, me? The Kung Fu Evangelist?

Last night I read a different excerpt from the novel to a group of Radical Faeries. They responded favorably; some were surprised even, I suspect. I may read/perform the same excerpt in a couple weekends at Bacchanal, a wine store in the Bywater, the neighborhood where I live. Bacchanal has an outdoor cabaret in back.

Lately trying to re-plug into the local literary scene, especially since I'm not getting cast in any theatre roles. There are quite a lot of writers in New Orleans, but not much of a "scene". Writers don't tend to get together. The literary events here, as in most places, are not for writers per se, but lovers of writers. Could stand some external inspiration to keep writing, instead of always relying on my personal motivation.

Ugh, I'm feeling professional jealousy, wanting, grasping, craving. Hmm...
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Just got home from Soul Rebels Brass Band at Le Bon Temps Rouler. MUCH better mood.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bury the Dead

Bury the Dead is an exciting script, thoughtful, poetic, with a clear anti-war moral. I agree with novelist John Gardner that artistic work should have moral content, that is, work that actually has something to SAY. I do not mean "moralistic". Rather, I mean "substantial", "significant", "meaningful".

My 3 friends were good, one more than most in the cast. Keith Launey is always strong. Although I'm convinced he dislikes me, I admire the work.

As I've said before about Cripple Creek Theatre Company, they're well intentioned, but awkward. They work with large casts, many young actors, perhaps from UNO department of theatre, inconsistent in their development. There were other strong performances besides Keith, but some embarassing ones also. I always appreciate sincere intent, and Cripple Creek goes for the moral heart of matters. Kudos. But perhaps smaller casts, drawn from a more mature pool of talent. Regardless, they're definitely a theatre company to pay attention to, with something to say.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Dance with me big daddy...

I'm still sore from my first-ever ballet class this week. New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) and New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD), with a grant from HUD, offer free dance classes, mostly to low-income kids, but also offer a free adult ballet class once a week. I'm the only male. Every Thursday night from 6-7pm until Christmas, I'm taking ballet. Yay!

I love it, and especially loved the jaw drop at the end of class when I told the instructor this was my first-ever class. She said "if we had gotten ahold of you as a child, you'd have a career in dance today." And I replied, "yeah, 40 is a bit old to begin a dance career." I loved the second jaw drop when I mentioned my age. Hee hee.

But I do feel my age today, in my calves.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

30 Something White Guy

Had the strangest audition on Sunday. Strange for a few reasons. First, this audition was not for a play, but for new hire training. A man from Seattle uses Improv theatre techniques to stage workplace scenarious, sometimes with the participatioin of the new hires. Pays incredibly well, more like my daily rate for software training. The audition included 18 actors, about a third I know from New Orleans stages, and the rest were probably film hopefuls. The film hopefuls dressed to impress, heavy makeup (even the men), but the stage actors were dressed to move. After an impassioned 45-minute presentation, the man from Seattle grouped us into pairs, gave each pair a one-paragraph scene summary and 15 minutes to prepare. And then we all watched everybody's scenes. The scenes were actual training scenarios, most with highly charged emotions.

Emotions? In the workplace? Turns out, the new hires in this case are the brave folks who approach a grieving family within the first 24 hours after a death to request organ donation. Talk about emotionally charged work! Thankfully, the actors are not training how to collect organs, merely how to ask. Unfortunately, the consent rate is low. The man from Seattle claims that his Improv theatre training technique increases the consent rate from 2 or 3% to as much as 55%.

So we Improv'd scenes in which a dead person's ghost returns to thank a family member for consenting to donate their organs, ostensibly giving some meaning to their death. Or a person who received an organ thanks the family member who consented. In my case, my partner and I were a married couple who could not afford an expensive birthday gift for our child. The purpose of the exercise seemed to be about active listening or non-judgmental communication. I feel very happy about our scene work, in fact, think my partner and I were one of the strongest pairs. There were some other excellent performances by Randy Maggiore, who was compassionate and handsome in Ordinary People recently, and by Angie Joaquin, who I only know by reputation.

In the end, I did not get a "part" because the man from Seattle (director?) said he does not need my "particular demographic". (?) 30-something white guy? Do I mention that I'm actually half Filipino? He did hire my beautiful friend Eric Rosengren, who gave a heartfelt performance in his scene with Angie Joaquin but is also a 30-something white guy. Maybe man from Seattle only needs one. I don't know. He did RAVE about my performance, said I was "animated, sharp, real" and asked that I be on his list of actors for future trainings. I consented.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Continental Drift

So I think Striking Southern Gentleman and I are done. I write "think" because we have not actually talked about breaking up. Commmunication has really broken down. Recently, we had a difficult 2 week separation, and then he had surgery, so we've had no opportunity to really talk. Since the surgery, it's just been chit chat, how was your day, no ackowledgement on either part that we're drifting.

After 3 weeks of drifting, I think we've just drifted apart. I'm still up for occasional dating with him, but not if we don't talk about important stuff.

They're unrelated events, but Mobile Man drove into New Orleans for Decadance weekend, and stayed the night with me. We had a LOVELY Sunday morning. Our relationship is very much about friendship, affection, and sex, but not much more. He seemed disappointed when he left, but I'm not interested in a serious romantic relationship with Mobile Man. He's not a substitute for Striking Southern Gentleman, who when he was good, was wonderful. It was nice to host Mobile Man for the night. Helped me snap out of my funk over Striking Southern Gentleman.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Heavy Stuff for Child Actors

Ordinary People
Not sure who said it first, but I agree: Ordinary People was ordinary. I was rooting for the teenage actor, but I don't think he was quite up to the material. Ouch. I'm sure he has a long acting career ahead, and this role was a great break for him. But I wasn't buying the sincerity.

Tim Bellows as the wise-cracking psychologist is very good. I auditioned for that part, but have no complaint about director Rene Piazza's casting decision. Tim is funny, sobering, mildly authoritarian. Randy Maggiore as the father was also good, and handsome.


Soulville II
Written and directed by Anthony Bean and produced in conjunction with NORD (New Orleans Recreation Department) Summer Theatre, this VERY large-cast production (75 children!) covers a lot of emotional terrain. Written in vignettes that depict children calling a "teen talk" DJ.

The vingettes are affecting, disturbing occasiaonlly. The children describe scenes in the lives of post-Katrina black youth, many disillusioned, angry, grieving. Heavy stuff for child actors.

75 child actors, some tantalizingly good but then gone after a single vignette or song, if even that much. Hands down, the quality of the dancing and singing was better than other child productions I've seen in town.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Good and the Wincy

A Different Woman
Veronica Russell performed this one-woman piece at the NY Fringe Festival, to good review. Back in her hometown though, Katrina was blowing audiences away. Very few New Orleanians knew of Veronica's New York success. Those who do know, have waited with anticipation for Veronica's homecoming. A Different Woman, 30 Years of a Texas Girlhood, is strong material, performed with confidence.

As a storyteller, Veronica develops distinct voices for her various characters. She inhabits her entire space, moving continuously. At times her gestures did seem rehearsed, and the pacing was off. At hour one, I wondered why we were still in her character's childhood. But throughout, the original author's own cranky-wise voice speaks clearly through the material.


Lieutenant of Inishmore
Last week, a man in line at another theater warned me that by the end of Inishmore, the entire stage is covered in blood. He's right. Everybody and everything, a gleeful bloodbath such as I've never seen on a stage. During intermission I noticed the metal rail at the edge of the stage to catch the run-off.

This laugh-out-loud dark comedy by Martin McDonough, an Irish hunk of a playwright who's a current Broadway darling, makes a statement about senseless violence through senseless violence. That doesn't usually work for me. But I laughed out loud.


Pillowman
Also written by Martin McDonough, this play is slower-paced, moodier, and genuinely spooky.

Excellent set, if for no other reason than that it's different. Kudos to handsome carpenter, Chad Talkington, and kudos also to him or whoever else is responsible for the German Expressionistic design.

Brian Belu plays fear and anxiety well. He fades during the storytelling. I auditioned for his role, banking on my own storytelling ability. So of course I'm judging him from that particular prejudice. In storytelling, he did not seem to love his words, which are supposedly his character's own writing. He misses cadences, and needs to project. But there's no doubt Brian Belu's a fine actor, and easily passes as Leon Contrevesprie's smarter brother.


Cobalt Blue
There is a lot to like, but some things made me wince. Both the writing and the acting, both good and wincy. There are sparks of life, some solid scene-work, a lot of promise. The soliloquy at the end is Cobalt Blue's clearest appeal to the emotions of post-Katrina New Orleans, a message of sorrow, outrage, yearning, and a prayer for healing. Delivered from the lip of the stage under a single spotlight, it was actor Shannon Williams' shining moment. He was up to it.

At times however, the production was histrionic, a criticism I fear for my own writing, so I don't use it lightly. The over-the-topness of Act 1's situation combined with the over-the-topness of the lead actor (who plays anger in only one volume: rage). I think Williams is a better comedic actor, especially in the opening of Act 2. I could see him do sitcom.

Glenn Meche lit up the stage. Maybe it was my fondness for him, his bright eyes, or the red tie, but the play really began for me when Glenn entered, the mysterious stranger ala the Grim Reaper (or perhaps the voodoo deity Gedde.) Glenn and Lisa Davis were object lessons for the other actors on natural delivery, being in the moment, restraint, and nuance.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

OKC is OK by Me

I'm in Oklahoma City, teaching bankers how to use the new Office 2007 softwares, 2 days to cover Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook, then another 2 days with a second group. It's a great gig, not necessarily altruistic, but I like teaching, hell, I love it. The students are motivated to be here, and it pays me very well.

About frickin' time too, cuz I've been living under a financial state of siege since the day I arrived in New Orleans, small bits of cash floating my way from a combination of Web stuff, editing, temp office work, cleaning houses, performing, and oh...just about anything I can do for cash. Just ABOUT anything. I've never hustled for cash or joined the military, although I've seriously contemplated both in my lifetime. Fortunately, I'm now too old for both.

But the teaching gigs come at a much needed time, when my cell phone is about to be disconnected, with the constant threat of a lien against my property still in storage back in San Francisco. SO-O-O ready to get my stuff shipped down to New Orleans and really finish the move.

When I get back to New Orleans, I pick up some admin work at the Gambit Weekly newspaper, which will be on again/off again through Mardi Gras. And then of course, in the winter I portray John James Audubon with the Living History Theatre Company, historic characters who walk around the French Quarter between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and hold "salon" in hotel lobbies. I'll be in very good company, with some of the most-often employed actors in town, and it pays perty damn well. Let's just say it pays the most I EVER expect to make as an actor, since I have no interest in film. Not so much.

Next time I check in, I'll add my thoughts about 3 recent plays I saw: Cobalt Blue, Pillowman, and Lieutenant of Innishmore.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Where Y'At?

This is the longest I've gone without an entry since I started this blog. Haven't written much on the novel either, replied to emails or voicemails, or done laundry. Aside from sleeping with Striking Southern Gentleman, celebrating my 40th, and teaching a computer class, have not had much time to do anything else. Not complaining. I'm very happy. Had a great birthday, I have a sweet boyfriend, and got some good paying work. I have been busy.

Seattle was fun.
It rained the whole 4 days, but that was such a reprieve from 96 degree New Orleans heat that I did not complain. Had the birthday I asked for. Old friends at an old Seattle dive bar called Vito's. They gave me drugs, bought my drinks and meals, took me to see the Harry Potter movie, and gave me the new Harry Potter book for the return flight. Very fun, a page turner, especially on Vicodin.

The celebration in New Orleans was milder by comparison. Delighted for the few friends who showed, but disappointed by the folks who did not.

In the meantime, Striking Southern Gentleman and I formed our own clique. I look outside our bubble and realize I've been with him, dreamily, almost non-stop, except for the recent work and the occasional return home for clean underwear. I need to do laundry. We're very much in love, in a short time too. He practices piano all day, while I nap, or work on the computer, or play with the kitten, who I've renamed. We eat in the French Quarter, 2 or 3 meals a day (he never cooks or buys groceries other than bagels and bananas.) I adore him.

The computer job lasted only a week, plus a week's worth of prep, but I earned a couple month's rent. I taught Microsoft Word certification to school teachers. They actually already know Word, some even teach it. They came to my class for the certification exam, in order to get funding for their classrooms, and in some cases, a raise. Talk about motivated students. They kept me on my toes, but I had some wizardry to teach 'em, from deep in the bowels of Word where few ever venture. QUESTION: Why would anyone ever design Web pages in Word? Just cuz you can, doesn't mean you should.

I also did another revelling gig for Carl Mack Productions. Wore the giant king head again, and helped stage a mini-Mardi Gras parade for conventioneers, complete with high school marching band, confetti. Later that night, the conventioneers got fireworks over the Mississippi River. Not a bad little gig.

Tomorrow, back to Goodfriend. Frederick, you sit your ass down and write that novel. Thank you, Goodfriend.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Not Bad for 40

On Saturday I turn 40. Traveling to Seattle for the official day, but basically celebrating now thru the next 2 weeks. Feel pretty good about 40. Feels to me like my "powers" are coming together. Mental concentration, writing, confidence. I'm healthy, got a new boyfriend, theatre's treating me well. And I'm writing with more fluency than ever, especially on the novel. I'm very happy I moved to New Orleans, and I think I look pretty good for my age. At least Striking Southern Gentleman thinks so. Ok, I do too. My friend and occasional director, Glenn Meche, took this photo of me. I like it, and hope he knows how much his actors and models appreciate him.

Spent the last 48 hours with Striking Southern Gentleman at his home in the French Quarter. Sigh. We're pretty smitten. He asked me if I'd be his baby. I asked if I could call him Daddy. He's taking me to a birthday dinner at Muriel's on Jackson Square.

Here's some theatre news:

Out Comes Butch. Director Michael Martin and I met for lunch last week and decided to move forward with the production of Out Comes Butch, a one-man show written in the 70s (I think) by a writer in San Francisco. Over the course of a 45-minute monologue, I transform into five different characters, with cut-away costumes, wigs, etc, but mostly through changes of voice and physicality. Something I can sink my teeth into. There's more to discuss, but right now it looks like October at a theater near you.

Aunt Tilly Goes to Town. Went to Metarie with my friend Carlos Gonzales to see another friend in the play, Aunt Tilly Goes to Town. Can't say that I loved it, but I did like certain aspects, such as my friend Taryn Vinet, who is always good on stage. And despite the blatant racism of Wayne Daigrepont's "china man" character, he was utterly funny. Small budget production, in a high school gymnasium; but the set was impressive for their budget. Mixed bag of talent. One of the elder statesmen of local theater was clearly reading lines from his notebook, and at one time was rescued by a younger actor when he forgot a cue.

The Titanic Adventures of the Love Boat Poseidon. Also enjoyed this farce by Running With Scissors theater company. The Shelly Winters swim scene alone was worth the price of admission, which in my case, was free. They're funny folks, those Running With Scissors people. And they can pack a house. Comedy sells.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Wish Fulfillment

Did not get the lead in Pillowman. Ouch. Really wanted that one. It's wanting that fucks us up. Call that a Zen realization. God damn wish fulfillment. Oh well.

Striking Southern Gentleman gave me some straight talk on Sunday. He told me "you need to move on." Which is great advice and totally true. Although it was hard to move on without any definite word, when there was still the possibility, still the hope. Ugh. Hope. But I got the official word tonight. Ah well, I am moving on, but part of moving on is accepting the loss, feeling the grief, then waking up ok tomorrow.

I am going to appear on the Le Petit stage some day soon. Look how much progress I've already made in New Orleans. And I've only been here 8 months!

I just contacted another director, Michael Martin, to see if he'll still have me. I think he will, the question is when, either in August or late Fall. We're having drinks on Wednesday to talk. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Good to Have Goals

Closing Night of Sugar Babies. Been a fun ride, backstage pushing sets and pulling ropes. Mostly it's been work. I did meet Striking Southern Gentleman, who I'm obviously quite smitten with. I did talk with a couple people I admire, like Bob Edes, an actor I would enjoy working with on stage some day. And I made at least one new friend, Ed Bishop, a newbie in town like me, a director who's relocated from D.C. And it's been fun listening to crew gossip on the headset.

My earlier complaint about poor backstage behavior still stands though, slightly tempered. The principal actors have warmed up to the crew finally. They talk to us and some even address me by my formal name, Mister Mead. Somebody must have read my blog. Now it's only the hot, young male tap dancers who cringe at eye contact. I said hello directly to a boy last night, and he turned his face away, playing the "I don't hear you," game that used to push my buttons in Seattle. I repeated, "Hello! I said hello to you!" but he kept walking.

Tonight is my last time backstage with Dane Rhodes, who still says nada, nada, y pues nada about Pillowman, although posters have gone up. At this point I assume I did not get a role, but he says nothing, which is DRIVING ME CRAZY. Tonight I'm going to ask. Not letting this last opportunity to talk to the director pass without closing the loop. If I don't get a role, at least I'll know. I'm also curious to know how Dane can rehearse and play the lead in a Southern Rep production while also directing a Le Petit production simultaneously. And why 2 plays by the same playwright, over the same weeks?

Mark my words: I'm going to appear on the Le Petit stage some day. Soon! It's good to have goals.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Striking Southern Gentleman

Striking Southern gentleman invited me onto his friend's boat for the 4th of July. Lake Ponctchartrain with view of multiple firework shows around the rim, from Zephyr Stadium to Chalmette. I could see the "Dueling Barges" on the Mississippi River, which fired up synchronized explosions of identical colors and identical special effects. I like fireworks. I'm partial to "saturn" explosions, the sphere-within-a-sphere, and long golden tendrils. Plus I like the zig-zaggy spermatazoas.

Striking Southern gentleman's friends are very gracious, the owners of a famous landmark cafe in the French Quarter and a corner apartment in the Almonaster-Pontalba house on Jackson Square. They are not at all snooty. Not at all. The women offered me 7-layer dip and hot dogs to go with the 3rd degree. "How did ya'll meet? How long have you lived in New Orleans? Where did you go to high school? What do you do?"

Striking Southern gentleman took me to his French Quarter condo afterwards. We talked, and kissed, and had wine, but that's all. He asked if he was going too slow. "Are you used to having sex on the second date?"

What second date?

We have a third date set for next Tuesday, dinner at my date restaurant, Adolpho's on Frenchmen Street. But will probably see each other sooner, over the weekend at Le Petit Theatre, where we met. We've talked every day since. I don't think we're going too slow at all.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Stage Presence

I make it no secret that I'm no fan of musical theater. You'll rarely, if ever, hear a recommendation from me for a musical. But I do go to musicals often, as a member of the Big Easy Awards nominating committee. Ironically, my bias may lend me some "objectivity". I'm not star-struck by the personalities or enamored of the form.

Little Me. On Preview Night of Little Me at Tulane Summer Lyric, I saw most of the other committee members and a majority of the working stage actors in New Orleans. There were more actors in the audience than on stage, and it's a big cast. The committee members and actors I talked to afterwards RAVED about Little Me. But even factoring in my bias against musical theater, I do think RAVING is excessive. The second act is glacially slow. Ricky Graham's voice grates on my nerves after the first 2 songs. The production values are high (not as high as Sugar Babies at Le Petit), choreography was interesting and occasionally surprising. Aside from one lighting gag, repeated often, I don't remember the lighting other than a continuous wash of white. The ingenue was the true highlight, the true star of the production.

Toy Camp. It's children's theatre, produced by NORD, New Orleans Recreation Department. Since Katrina, NORD has become a summer "charter school" for theatrically inclined children. One boy stood out from the other 20-something young actors. At first I thought he was loud and overbearing, but then only in comparison to the clumsier kids. He had stage PRESENCE, could sing on key, had rhythm, and stayed in character the entire time. The kid with top billing and the shiniest costume had trouble staying in character whenever another actor was talking, and was obviously giving the other kids "notes" on their performances, during the performance. Definitely the highest production values I've ever seen in children's theater. And the kids do an entire run, 12 performances, more than most adult runs in New Orleans, which are usually 9. My hat's off to the kids and director Dennis Monn for rising to the challenge.

The Third Degrees of J.O. Breeze. Not a musical but a play. It's a difficult play, hard to form the phrase "I liked it." I did like it, but "like" is too weak a consideration for this work. What you notice most is the writing. The language is heady, the dialog emotionally contrived, both because of its highly-charged content but also because it challenged believability. To "like" this play, I had to suspend my disbelief, and accept that so-called desperate characters (who frankly, did not seem all that desperate to me) would tolerate verbal abuse from a midget clown and from a rapist. But I commend Michael Martin for taking risk, and for staging challenging, contemporary work. I did appreciate one very fine performance by the only woman in the cast, who was alive on stage, continuously in the moment.

Regarding my own acting career, I'm aching to hear back about my audition for Pillowman at Le Petit. I actually ran into director Dane Rhodes at the theater yesterday (I was meeting my afternoon date, the striking Southern gentleman I met backstage). Dane was still auditioning actors a week later, he said, out of "fairness" to other actors who could not audition on the Monday-during-standard-business-hours that I did. But I hear there's competition over scheduling dates at the theater, and suspect that's more likely the real delay. And in the meantime, Dane's continuing auditions with the hand-selected few he really wants to hear. That makes me nervous. I'm happy with my audition, but curious to know who else read.

Not a word from Actor's Theater of New Orleans about Ordinary People. I was excited about the project, but after I auditioned, less so. I don't see myself as the physical type for the psychologist, the "Judd Hirsch character" in the film. That's OK if I don't get cast. I'm confident I'll work at Actor's Theatre and with director Rene Piazza some day.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Blinded by Structure

I keep tapping from outside, tap tap, looking for an entry point. Circling around, tap tap, trying to gain access. But perhaps I'm anticipating structure too soon, in new material that needs a certain amount of incoherence to ring true. I may be blinded by my need for structure.

The Bobby chapter needs to satisfy two narrative criteria: dream-like, yet with a solid framework. There are 2 interwoven threads, told via scenes in dreams and the present. Scenes in the present form the framework, following an arc that advances the story of external events, and advances the overall plot of the novel. The dreams, however, tell an internal story. There is progression, but not necessarily an arc. Yet the dreams set the stakes for the point-of-view character for the rest of the novel.

Hmmm...something is offered in the Unconscious, but Bobby makes a Conscious choice. Tap tap.
_______________________________________________________________

Sometimes a single, 3-syllable word can be the golden key that opens many doors. A single word that hearkens back to a pivotal scene of an earlier chapter, reinforcing a major theme of the novel. A single word that clarifies the purpose of Bobby's chapter. A single word that also segues neatly into the very next scene. Tap tap. An entry point.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A New Muse

Spent the past couple days building a website for my housemate's business, A New Muse, LLC, in exchange for rent. Lot more to do, but pretty happy with the clean design. Plus, I managed to get a lot of her pictures in there, and cut down the wordiness of her source content. Maybe I should start making websites for money?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fingers Crossed

The Actor's Theater audition was over quicker than I'd like. "Read this scene. Thank you, we'll let you know." I think I did fine, although I'm unsure that I'm the right type to play the psychologist. Will just have to wait and see. If I'm offered a part, I'd need a ride to and from New Orleans to Metarie, which is probably workable. I would like to work with director, Rene Piazza, some day. If not "Ordinary People", then some future production.

I'd also very much like to work with director Michael Martin. We're discussing a script right now. The question is timing. He'd like to begin immediately and mount something by August, after which he leaves town for a month. I'd prefer to begin work now, but pick up again in the Fall when he returns from a Chicago gig. Because this script is a one-man show, it falls on me to give a bust-out performance, and I'd rather not rush it.

Plus, I have my fingers crossed for the lead in a production at Le Petit. Yes! Volunteering as a stagehand has been very practical in terms of contacts, making my face visible, and also hearing about opportunities. I also met a rather striking-looking Southern gentleman who gave me his phone number. The Le Petit production is directed by Dane Rhodes. I think I surprised them at the audition with my preparation, practically the entire two scenes memorized over night. One scene is really a short story told by my character, and I got to demonstrate storytelling, my strongest stage skill. I also think I'm the right age and physical type for this particular character. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Revelry

Had my first gig as a Reveller for Carl Mack Presents.They costumed me as a king, and I wore a giant head that rested on my shoulders. I looked out through the mouth. With 3 other Revellers, I led a short parade of microbiologists from the Hotel Monteleone, down Bourbon street, to Jackson Square (shown right), and delivered them to their dinner at Muriel's. The microbiologists had a lively time, dancing behind the second-line band and tossing beads to boozers on Bourbon.

Got a nice little check for a half-hour's work. Not too shabbby.

Curiocracy

My curiosity is all over the map lately, which is not unusual over the span of my entire intellectual life, but is especially concentrated right now. I have multiple books open on my floor and nightstand. Audio books in the CD player. Online topics bookmarked for further research. Plus a whole queue of new Southern novelists reserved at the library.

On my third read-thru of Carl Jung's, Man and His Symbols, specifically its 83-page introductory essay, Approaching the Unconscious. His essay corrected some prejudices I've held about Jung's theories of archetypes and dream interpretation. Today these things have become encyclopedic, dubiously codified in so-called Guides to Dream Interpretation. As though I could look up a particular symbol, and unlock the mystery of my life. Jung never intended this. While he argues there are common symbols and motifs that appear in mythologies throughout time and place, dream symbolism is entirely individual. We may all dream of Heaven, but its meaning for us, its textures are personal. Now I see the intellectual connection between Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, and with my favorite novelist, Hermann Hesse, especially to his novels, Demian and Steppenwolf. I'm no psychologist and cannot speak to Jung's methodology, but I'm reconciled to the notion of archetypes, and to the pursuit of the Unconscious.

Hate crimes legislation is on my mind. Probably because it's Gay Pride season. Been researching Pro and Con sites. I have not yet made up my mind, but currently I lean toward Con. I see no need to add punishments to crimes based upon a person's attitudes or belief at the time. I don't believe in legislating morality. And I don't accept the deterrence argument. Sadly, many of the Con arguments come from rightwing Evangelicals and are anti-gay in their language, which only fuels the defensively emotional nature of the Pro argument. Gay marriage is a much more progressive, impactful effort.

I'm reading a biography plus online research about John James Audubon. Pending budget approval, I will portray Audubon with the Living History Theater company in November and December. They are funded by the Tourism and Convention Bureau, and each historical character is actually a line item. Audubon is a significant local personality, with a park named after him, my favorite park in New Orleans. Also, I've signed on with an agency, Carl Mack Presents, who send costumed performers to conventions, parties, second-lines, and other one-time events. They could also sell John James Audubon for speaking engagements and tours.

Reading Professor Edward Tufte's, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. In other words, explaining things with pictures. Or as I see its application in art, the techniques of visual persuasion. Tufte is famous for lecturing about a map that depicts Napoleon's march on Moscow and his defeated retreat. It's a map that tells a potent story, in multiple dimensions, something I aspire to do in my novel, Goodfriend.