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


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.


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.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Cast and Crew

Stage crew are a distinct species from actors. They're tight knit (unlike actors), and express a lot of affection for one another (also unlike actors), even though tempers can flare. Tech crews are a rough and tumble group, prone to cussing at each other in crunch time. I try to let that roll off, but fact is, I hate to be cussed at. Tonight I pulled a Frederick special: I clammed up. Eventually I got over that, but still resent being shoved. But despite the cussing and the shoving, for the duration of this run, I'm in solidarity with the crew. They're fast, practical, and born again for theater. And they do really care about one another. I probably just need to toughen my skin and push back. I feel like an observer still, on the outside looking in. That's the writer in me.

Been noticing this curious cultural divide between cast and crew. The dancers, who are the youngest members of the cast, are always conscientious about thanking the crew, and they talk to us backstage. But the principals...does eye contact cause you pain? Does it burn? Because you make every effort to avoid eye contact. Avoidance takes more energy than a simple hello. It's strange to be invisible to people I KNOW. Shame on you, naughty musical theater actors.

Well, I continue to have a great deal of respect and admiration for tech crews. Moreso now. But still don't like being shoved.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sugar Babies

So I'm a stagehand for this musical, Sugar Babies, at Le Petit Theatre, the country's oldest community theater, right in the French Quarter facing Jackson Square. Stagehand is my foot in the door at Le Petit. I don't mind saying I'm ambitious, and want to perform in a Le Petit production some day soon-ish, and also Southern Rep. I think they're achievable.

Pushing sets and untying rope is real work, but I was thrilled to be backstage during such a large production. Sugar Babies is an old Mickey Rooney/Ann Miller vehicle, chock fulla vaudeville. I don't care for musicals. So I'm extra happy to be backstage, navigating all the moving parts, wearing a headset. I used a power drill.

Today I'm going swimming at a bar called "The Country Club", which is actually a large house with pool. Got a date with a real Sugar Baby, a hot HOT bartender I met after the show last night.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Afternoon Delight the house to myself. Housesmate's gone until tomorrow, house guest and other visiting friends have flown. But I'm still here, me, plus the cats. Doing yoga, maxin', relaxin'. Got some afternoon delight coming over.

Was good to host my friends. Seriously, I love to show people New Orleans. Daniela Rible made the most of her 3 weeks plus. Volunteered for both Habitat for Humanity (Yay! Jimmy Carter!) and Common Ground. Pursued 3 post-Katrina news stories. Saw the Mardi Gras Indians on Super Sunday, Bayou Boogaloo, free movies outdoors, and my old high school, Ben Franklin. She's a friend from San Francisco and has seen me perform there, Kung Fu Evangelist, Sloppy Seconds, et al. At Dragon's Den she got to see me perform in New Orleans too. She also saw Gem of the Ocean with me. She ate a muffaletta, po-boy, beignettes. She went to a crawfish boil on the North Shore, the Tulane graduation, and she drove me on River Road to visit the old plantations. And she dated. Ah Daniela, when will you realize, Vienna waits for you?

Jen Dalton-Fast gave moral support to her younger sister Mandi, who came to consider law schools. First we went to Jackson, MS, which Mandi liked. We also had a stimulating visit to Eudora Welty's house, but a disappointing diner meal. In all, older sister and I were rooting for New Orleans. Took the 3 ladies to Vaughn's on Thursday night for Kermit Ruffins, then Frenchmen street on Friday night. I think Jen wins the award for most types of food sampled per day: beignettes, crawfish etouffee (at Tujagues, yum), jambalaya (TWO bowl-sized servings at Coops!), crawfish sausage on a roll, broiled oysters, and a cup of gumbo. 3 nights! Her sister Mandi complained of stomach problems.

I think Mandi's struggling with her law school decision, torn between the better school in MS and richer quality of life in New Orleans. But things may be kinder to her in Mississippi. On her last night, her jewelry was stolen from her room. And yesterday, there was another murder close to home.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Risk is Energy

The Dragon's Den show was awesome, my small contribution notwithstanding. There was some seriously potent talent on that bill. The line-up included a Mardi Gras indian, several performance poets including Chuck Perkins, the MC, who I admire very much. He performed the poem I heard when I first met him, over dinner. A Thank You to All the Musicians Who've Returned. A jazz quintet, a drunk Russian guitarist, bawdy songs, and me. A good balance of spoken word and music. Packed house. Way too hot. I was drenched in sweat from heat and nervousness.

I'm delighted with the comedy piece I did, called Hormel-brand Sloppy Seconds. That's a crowd pleaser. Took a big risk with the second piece. I am glad I did the risky piece. Risk is energy. But feel post-performance bluesy over it now.

The story itself is a mystery to me. I wrote it a few years ago, in response to a friend's coming-out story. I combined it with another friend's coming-out, and several Biblical allusions. It's a complicated piece, perhaps fragmented but needs to be, for now. I'm feeling my way as I go. Performing it tonight pushed it forward. Next incarnation, who knows. But I think I'm onto something.

A 22-year-old cutie came to see me in the show. Wish he'd come around more often.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Dragon's Den

Performing tonight at the Dragon's Den, a bar on Esplanade Avenue near Frenchmen. I have 5-7 minutes to wow them. I'm performing a very personal piece, dedicated to all the boys I loved when I was closeted.

9pm Dragon's Den 425 Esplanade. $5 cover.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Turtle Soup

Turns out turtle is a white meat, as in tofu white. All the food was impressive at Commander's Palace last night; but for me, the turtle soup was the treat. I've never had turtle. The soup was rich, savory. The meat chopped very fine and slowly melted. Garnished at the table with a drizzle of sherry. Our apetizers came with garlic bread that I swear was marinated overnight in butter, then toasted.

A Pinot-like, Italian red.

For my entree, I had the Commander's Mixed Grill, four kinds of meat grilled and presented upon a pile of roasted onions, parsnips, potatoes, etc. Some sort of fruity sauce squirted around the plate.

Another Italian red, bolder and heartier.

And then dessert. Oh yum, dessert. Strawberry shortcake with chantilly cream. The shortcakes were light, delicate biscuits with added vanilla and sugar, the way I make shortcake at home. Chicory coffee.

Started the 3-hour dinner with a Sazerac cocktail, credited as the first-ever cocktail, invented here in New Orleans by Dr. Peychaud, of Peychaud's Bitters. I prefer my Sazerac with rye whiskey, rather than Bourbon. I'm a Bourbon fan, but not for the Sazerac. Rye. Commander's makes theirs with rye.

The interior was newly done since Katrina. Our walls had handpainted birds. One wall had gold tassels pinned in a diamond grid, a design idea I plan to "borrow" when I re-do my bedroom ala Marie Antoinette. Powder blue walls, fabric treatments, and gold-leaf. Won't the peasants be impressed when they see what I've done?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Commander's Palace

For a guy who's broke ALL the TIME, I manage to live richly. Tonight I'm being taken to Commander's Palace, the jewel in the crown of Brennan family restaurants in New Orleans. Commander's is equally famous for its interior, gardens, impeccable service, and the food. Ah, the food. A lovely young couple, Jessica and Nick, are taking me and my housemate Gloria out for dinner, a thank you. Gloria and I have helped Jessica and Nick in a variety of ways since they moved to New Orleans.

I barely scrape by financially, and yet manage to find myself in lavish circumstances very often. Plus, I take advantage of everything FREE that New Orleans has to offer, of which there is a-plenty. Last night I watched free movies outdoors in my neighborhood, the Bywater. A rather kooky found-object artist named Casey, in conjunction with our neighborhood bodega, the Mardi Gras Zone, organizes this weekly event. It's well-attended, and I see a lot of familiar faces. We watched Yellow Submarine, O Brother Where Art Thou, and some silent Laurel and Hardy's after midnight.

Yesterday, I also went for a ride on River Road and saw the Laura plantation, Evergreen, San Francisco plantation, and Oak Alley. FREE!

Wish I had more money. Wish I could afford yoga classes, cocktails with my friends, headshots. But I'm doing pretty well, all things considered.