The trailer above is for the screen version of David Harrower's stageplay,
Blackbird, the movie version titled after the female lead character,
You five regulars, and a few other Dayton local theatre people, will know
that in 2011, I and the talented Ms. Heather Atkinson,
as well as the talented young Ms. Melanie Engber, did Blackbird for
a one-week run as an extra production during the
Dayton Theatre Guild
2010/2011 season. Unfortunately, It was pretty much under-the-radar; I
believe we had a total attendance of 100 people spanning all three performances.
Nevertheless, it is one of my favorite experiences as an actor. I loved
playing the role of Ray; I loved working opposite Heather; I loved our
young co-star, Melanie; I loved the work of our director,
and, I loved bringing Harrower's brilliant script to life.
The non-actors in my life have mostly not understood why I would have been
so thrilled to have played the role of Ray, even some of my acting peers
weren't too sure why. But the role is ultimately compelling. He did something
very bad, but Harrower's ability to successfully paint him as clearly damaged
rather than patently evil is brilliant writing. The script's complexities
and it's ability to be neutral yet not shy away from the ugly conflicts are
a masterclass in story-telling. And, though "unhealthy" may be a
drastic understatement, as well as everything else it's about, it is a
love story -- though, granted, a love story that should not have happened
and should not be.
I do hope the movie lives up to the stage play. I'll know at some point soon.
I haven't found it streaming anywhere, except that it's available to
purchase or rent from iTunes.
So, I'll probably rent it through iTunes.
Yes, yes, the show's been around for a while now, and, in fact, is out of
production, after three seasons on HBO,
and I've been aware of it since before its debute. But, I cancelled my HBO
subscription long ago; I haven't even had a cable subscription for a few
years now, at all. But I have signed up for the one-month trail subscription to
with one of the perks, and the one that I am most interested in, being
the Prime Video streaming service.
The Newsroom is available through that. So, over my Christmas
break I binged on all three seasons -- twice.
I'll drop into the rehearsal tonight for
Stella and Lou
at The Guild to watch
their full run, which will help me
choose the brief moments I'll shoot for the promocast.
The plan is to shoot the DV movie footage this coming Sunday, which is, of
course, Tech Sunday for the production.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We
cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil
rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied
as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police
brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the
fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and
the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's
basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be
satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed
of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be
satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New
York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not
satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like
waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and
tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of
you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by
the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.
You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the
faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go
back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of
our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be
changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of
today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in
the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true
meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that
all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former
slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together
at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state
sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of
oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content
of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists,
with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition
and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and
black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white
girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and
mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the
crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be
revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With
this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of
hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of
our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will
be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to
jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be
free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a
new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee
I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every
mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom
ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from
the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening
Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every
mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring
from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we
will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and
white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to
join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at
last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Over the weekend I booked a gig for tonight playing prospective jurors to
help University of Dayton law students practice interviewing such to accept
or reject for trial juries.
There is a bit more freedom for the improv in these cases than we actors
usual have with UD Law school gigs. We usually have specific facts of a case
as well as profile facts about our characters to which we are obligated to
be faithful. However, in this case we actors are to create our own
characters and their attitudes and histories.
It will be such things as do I believe in harsh sentencing? Am I a racist?
Do I think cops and prosecutors are more interested in convictions than
justice? Have I or someone in my family been a victim of a similar crime
or offence as the one at hand? Yadda, yadda, yadda.....
This time though, none of that has been provided -- we invent it all. We have
been given the background of the cases, which a potential juror would really
not have been, but this is so we can formulate our characters in a
tailor-made fashion for each of the cases.
I got information about three different civil cases and I have derived
personnas for each, with names, professions/jobs, marital and family status,
and addresses. All three people are based on things somehow or another
close to me so I don't have to drill a lot of facts into my brain. I have,
of course, created histories for each that could be considered helpful or
detrimental to on of the plaintiff or the defendant.
Looking forward to it.
I got offered another gig later in the week but I had to turn it down due to
a scheduling conflict. Oh well.
ANOTHER ONE WRAPPED AND POSTED:
Sunday, which was Tech Sunday
for the show, I came in, as planned, in the afternoon, and shot the selected
footage from the script. It took no time at all. I didn't keep track of the
time, but I'd say it was about twenty minutes -- give or take.
I did not stay to watch their actual tech run,
and since I'm not otherwise directly connected to this production, I likely
won't see the full run until I am
in the audience. I will be there Opening Night,
but I'll be the house manager,
as is usually the case Opening Night, so I'll be busy with other things and
won't attend much to the performance.
Back to the DV movie, I did edit it to final cut
and then upload it to the DTG YouTUbe channel
yesterday. I actually had edited everything but the actual performance footage
before hand, on Saturday, both the open sequence and the closing credits,
so all I had to do yesterday was plug in the principal footage
and the undercore music.
The U.D. Law gig went well Tuesday night. It turned out this was the first
time for all the students to practice interviewing potential jurors, the
procedure know as voir dire. They did nicely for their virgin attempts at
There were four of us actors and then of the several students in the class
exercise, two of them filled in with us as others conducted the interviews
as either counsel for the plaintiff or for the defense.
I must say it was nice to not have to come in with provided facts about
the cases or my characters that needed committing to memory. Of course,
I came on with my own sets of vital information for my characters:
Education -- including what schools and what degrees, if any
Marital Status -- with wife's name and at least occupation
children -- names, ages, occupations
general attitudes germain to each case -- positive and negative
experiences from my life or from someone close that are or might
be relevant to the case
I kept my own age for all three characters but came up with different names
and background for each.
1) For the first case, a civil case of automobile negligence with personal
I was George Arthur, an English professor and the director of the Creative
Writing program at Wright State University. Dr. Author earned his BA in
English literature from Bowling Green University. He has an Masters in The
Humanities from University of Illinois, and his Ph.D in Creative Writing
from NYU. *(No, I did not bother to be sure these school offered these
degrees -- which I usually do). His wife, Sandra, teaches political
science at The University of Dayton. Their son Rick is an army staff
sergeant station in Heidelberg, Germany. Their other son, Cary, is a paramedic
for the Indianapolis fire department.
George is a liberal who usually aligns himself with the Democratic party.
He considers himself informed and fair minded and truly believes he can be
as impartial as possible in the trial.
His relevant experience is that his wife was involved in a serious accident
three years ago, and has a pin in one of her knees and now suffers from
on-going chronic lower back pain.
2) The second case was a medical malpractice civil suit. Relevant info is
that the defendant is a Jesuit Non-profit hospital and the plaintif is legal
immigrant from Mexico:
I was Leon Cooper, the second shift janitorial supervisor for the H.F. Group
Bindery Co. in Miamisburg, Ohio. Leon graduated from Stebbins High School,
with probably a 2.0 GPA, at best. He's coming up on 41 years at the plant
and is about to put in his retirement papers. He's divorced, for 15 years.
His ex is Barbara and they do not get along. She left him because he was
sleeping with a waitress at his favorite bar. Barbara was a house wife who
also worked as a cashier at Kroger. When they met, she was a topless
They married because she was pregnant with their first child, Debby, who is
a housewife working parttime at a Rite Aid drug store. She has two children,
Joyce and Marty. Their second daughter is Jeanine, who is an office assistant
at a doctors office. She has one boy, Sean. Their youngest is Jenna, who is
a waitress at Bob Evans and has no kids.
Leon is a hard-core, working-class Republican, who didn't so much vote
for Donald Trump as he voted against "Killery."
He's all for stiff prison sentences and the death penalty and though he's
very pro Law and Enforcement he's also big on no gun control and he sees
how the anti-government militia groups make a lot of good points. He is all
for kickin' all the illegals out and would rather there weren't so many
legal immigrants, especially from south of the border -- but the laws the
law, and if they're legal, that's that.
Leon had a heart attack and thusly underwent a quadruple bypass a couple
years ago. His operation was at the hospital named in this case. His heart
surgeon was from India, and his cardiologist is a muslim from one of the
muslim countries, he doesn't know which one. He must admit they are both
excellent doctors. He has nothing but good to say about his experience with
the hospital, including with the nursing staff in the cardiac unit. He still
nevertheless thinks that hospitals are a racket, the medical profession is
full of crooks, and that health insurance companies would rather let a
patient die than pay anything out.
3) The last case was a wrongful death civil suit where a driver hit and
killed a child:
My potential jurer was David Downing, the executive producer for The
Morning Magazine, a local feature news show on WHIO TV. David earned his
BA in Communication from Miami University. His wife, Justine, is the programing
manager at FM 108.3 WACI Radio. Their oldest is Byron, who is a recording
engineer for Columbia Records in L.A. Their middle child is Erick, who just
started as an assistant football coach for the Kettering School System. The
youngest, Aubrey, is pre-law at The University of Chicago.
David is a staunch Democrat. He totally supports the Black Lives Matters
movement, thinks the MeToo movement is long overdue, and is very worried
that the very fabric of American Democracy is in great jeopardy.
He is close to two relevant experiences to the case. The first is that 30
years ago, his mother hit and killed a pure-bred Irish Setter, and it upset
her deeply and made her skittish to drive for several years. Of more
significance, five years ago his wife, Justine, hit and killed a 4-year-old
boy who had bolted out in front of her from between two cars. Se wasn't
speeding, but the child was small enough the hit was unfortunate enough that
he died from head trauma at the scene. No charges were brought and blame was
never placed on her, yet it was a devastating event that she still sometimes
has bad dreams about and on occasion still feels the pangs of guilt and remorse.
She was in therapy for a few years to deal with her trauma from the tragedy.
All that information may look like it was hard to memorize, but, remember,
if you read my last post, I harvested the majority of it from own life
then tweaked most facts to suit the needs of the gig. So, recall was no
problem for me during each practice voir dire. Naturally, not all this
information could be bought out since each student only had a total of
twenty minutes to interview all six of us.
There was a bit of on-the-spot improvising, too, when questions were asked
that I hadn't anticipate or that gave me an opening for something. I'm sure
that's true of the others, too, at least the other three paid actors. For
instance, I related a story, as George Arthur, about getting a concussion in
a car accident as a teenager, when I and some friends were doing donuts in
a snow-covered grocery store parking lot and I crashed into a light pole.
Neither George nor David revealed the incidents of their wives automibile
mishaps, because none of the students asked the right questions. One of the
golden rules of doing these gigs for the law students is that our characters
are not to freely volunteer information. The students, in their capacities
as counsel are to probe and get the information. It's clearly true that in
real life there will be plenty of cases when clients or witnesses will
absolutely volunteer information, but we actors in these exercises are
charged to make the law students work for the information because they need
to know how to do that. A couple times, the other night, particular students
came close to getting this information about the wives but then they would
give me an out to keep it to myself.
In both cases we were asked if We had ever been involved in a car
accident or if We were ever injured in any sort of incidents similar
to the cases. Again, going with that golden rule stated above, I said
nothing since it was not my characters who had, but instead their wives. For
the wrongful death, one student came extremely close to getting the information
that my wife had killed a 4-year-old, by asking if any of us ourselves or
had anyone we knew been involved in any situations similar to the case; but
then the student made the error of qualifying it with, "that would
influence your decision in this case." As I stated in the talk back after
that interview, my character did not think that it would influence him, so
he did not speak up because of that qualifying bookend on the question. But
I told them that it seemed clear that the fact that a potential juror in a
civil suit involving a child killed by a car had a wife who had killed a child
with her car only five years earlier is information both the counsel for
the plaintiff and for the defense probably ought to know, regardless of the
juror's confidence in his objectivity.
All the potential jurors on each panel, actors and fellow students gave all
sorts of feedback after each session, including on presentation, deportment,
and style. We actors, especially, discussed such things as enunciation and
verbal speed (one student in particular spoke way too fast at first, until
the nerves settled a bit). There was as much positive as there was pointing
out places for improvement. So all in all, the students did well for doing
this for the first time -- and I believe we actors did our jobs quite
successfully, as well.
Can't report much about Opening Weekend, as I was only there
Opening Night, and was busy,
as is usually the case, being house manager.
So it's the same old song and dance: I don't know how it went except that
the Friday audience gave positive feedback and the director and cast all
seemed pleased. It was a good house size, too -- not quite, but in the
neighborhood of sold out.
In a small Alabama town in the year 1900, a southern family's selfish pursuit
of the American Dream ends up destroying them and those they love. Three
siblings -- the manipulative Regina, the cruel and arrogant Oscar, and the
possessive Benjamin -- have decided to partner together to increase their
already substantial, ill-gotten wealth. But Regina's terminally ill husband,
Horace, refuses to give them the money they need. In the end, blood and money
mix with money coming out on top, leaving a broken family behind.
Directed by Kathy Mola
Show runs Aug 17-Sep 2, 2018
Auditions will be held Mon & Tue, June 4 & 5, 2018*
This Random World
by Steven Dietz
We want to believe that serendipity brings us together, but how often do we
travel parallel paths through the world without noticing? From an ailing
woman who plans one final trip, to her daughter planning one great escape,
and her son falling prey to a prank gone wrong, this funny, intimate, and
heartbreaking play explores the lives that may be happening just out of
reach of our own. Following a web of characters whose interwoven lives
collide but never quite connect, This Random World shows us that,
through the power of chance, we might be closer to each other than we
Directed by Margie Strader
Show runs Oct 5-21, 2018
Auditions will be held Mon & Tue, Aug 20 & 21, 2018*
SEASON EXTRA: The Man Who Killed the Cure
by Luke Yankee
The Man Who Killed the Cure, a controversial new play by The Last
Lifeboat playwright Luke Yankee, is based on the life and death of Dr.
Max Gerson, one of the fathers of natural healing. Two doctors, who are
colleagues, friends, and men of science, survive Nazi Germany and make
their way to America. Dr. Max Gerson believes in natural healing techniques
while his former best friend and new adversary gets rich trying to stop him.
This play is about the times we live in, one man's betrayal of another, and
a timeless investigation of the hypocrisy that poisons the world of modern
Directed by Jeff Sams
Show runs Nov 16-25, 2018
The Shadow Box
by Michael Cristofer
The Shadow Box made its Broadway debut in 1977, winning both a Tony
Award for Best Play and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Joe, Brian, and Felicity
come from different walks of life, different parts of the country, and are
each dying of cancer. They are living their final days with friends and
family in a hospice cottage on the grounds of a large California hospital.
Joe's wife is in denial, Felicity awaits a visit from her daughter, and
Brian plays referee between his ex-wife and his male lover. Each day, the
patients are observed and counseled by an invisible Interviewer as they
talk candidly about their emotional and physical struggles.
Directed by David Shough
Show runs Jan 11-27, 2019
Auditions will be held Mon & Tue, Nov 19 & 20, 2018*
Our Mother's Brief Affair
by Richard Greenberg
Anna is in the hospital having the latest of her frequent deathbed scenes,
and this one looks like it may be the real deal. She makes a shocking
confession to her grown children about an affair from her past that just
might have resonance beyond the family. But how much of what she says is true?
While her children try to separate fact from fiction, Anna fights for a
legacy she can be proud of. With razor-sharp wit and extraordinary insight,
Our Mother's Brief Affair considers the sweeping, surprising impact
of indiscretions both large and small.
Directed by Patrick Allyn Hayes
Show runs Mar 1-17, 2019
Auditions will be held Mon & Tue, Jan 14 & 15, 2019*
by Melissa Ross
In suburban Massachusetts in 1984, thirty-seven-year-old Josephine Rosen has
a dead-end job as a secretary and still lives at home with her hypochondriac
mother. She started college but never finished, and has settled into a life
that doesn't offer much hope for the future. But when a new friendship at
work and a chance flirtation with an old classmate give her hope for the
possibility of change, she dusts off the Jane Fonda tapes and begins to take
tentative steps towards a new life. This is a play about the tragedy and joy
of figuring out who you are and letting go of who you were supposed to be.
Directed by Debra Kent
Show runs Apr 19-May 5, 2019
Auditions will be held Mon & Tue, Mar 4 & 5, 2019*
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
by Jethro Compton
Journey into the Wild West in the year 1890, in this classic story of good
versus evil, law versus the gun, one man versus Liberty Valance. When a young
scholar from New York City travels west in search of a new life, he arrives
beaten and half-dead on the dusty streets of Twotrees. Rescued from the plains,
the town soon becomes his home. A local girl gives him purpose in a broken
land, but is it enough to save him from the vicious outlaw who wants him dead?
He must make the choice to turn and run or to stand up for what he believes.
Directed by J. Gary Thompson
Show runs June 7-23, 2019
Auditions will be held Mon & Tue, Apr 22 & 23, 2019*
Sunday was Movie Day for me. Though technically I wasn't "at the
movies," i.e.: in a movie theater, I'll use this category whenever I
want to post about movies I have seen, regardless of the venue. I saw two
Sunday; both were cinematic versions of stories in which I have been
involved with stage-play productions of the same stories, two productions
for one of them.
Some may know that this past fall I was in the cast of the
Dayton Theatre Guild
mounting of Marjorie Prime, by
Jordon Harrison. I was Jon,
the son-in-law of the title character. Our show ran October 6 though 22 last
year. Our cast was Barb Jorgensen as Marjorie, Ryan Shannon as her husband,
Walter, Wendi Michael as their daughter, Tess, and myself as Tess' husband,
the aforementioned Jon. Our director was Jared Mola.
This movie is directly based on Harrison's play. We knew while we were
in rehearsal that the movie
existed. We mistakenly believed it would have its U.S. premiere on October
19, just before we closed. That date was actually the South Korean premiere;
as stated above, it had a limited run in U.S. theatres in August -- though
it had played
quite a few film festivals
over the course of 2017. The point of this being that toward the end of our
theatre run we were futilely on the lookout for a showing at one of the
local theatre venues that show smaller pictures. At some point, Ryan
realized it was now available to view on
Amazon Prime Video.
If my memory serves me correctly that was just before our production went
Actors and other theatre/movie production people out there who may read
this, especially directors, will likely understand that most of us wanted
to wait until we were done with our run before we saw the movie. By the
time we finally identified our avenue to see the movie the timing had pretty
much become a moot point, as there was no time to fit it in before we closed
our production, anyway.
We ended up with January 28 as the day we could finally get together and
screen the movie. Then there was a hitch, a gremlin.
We had technical problems accessing anyone's Amazon Prime account from the
smart TV at Barb's house, where the soiree was planned -- they have a big
flat screen in their entertainment room. The solution: the movie is
available at iTunes, so I
bought it. We ran it from my MacBook Pro
onto the big screen TV.
We all agreed that we liked the movie. There were, of course, many
differences between the play script and the screenplay, and I think we all
found some of the changes a bit jarring; I certainly did. The most jarring
for us is that the mood and tone of the movie is a bit darker than our
production was. There were also lines cut, changed, or switch around, even,
in few instances reassigned to different characters. There were also, new
lines, and added scenes -- some of those added scenes being flashbacks.
There were a couple characters added. In the play, also, Tess and Jon have
three children: two sons, Mitchel and Micah, and their daughter, Raina. They
only have Raina in the film, and just as she's off stage in the play, she's
off screen in the movie, only being referred to as Tess' estranged daughter
who only talks with Jon. My interpretation is that Raina is only referred
to and never seen either on stage or on screen because it emphasizes that
estrangement between Tess and Raina.
When you're talking Lois Smith, Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, and Tim Robbins,
it's not likely you'll be talking about poor performances. I liked all
their work, as I think we all did, at least that was what I heard at our
little post-production cast-&-crew party. Naturally, I paid the most
attention to the difference between Robbin's portrayal of Jon against mine.
His Jon borderlines on stoic as opposed to mine who was congenial. Both
Jons are nice guys, but his was burdened throughout in a manner that mine
was not. He did give one reading of a line the way I wanted to give it but
was directed away from, and I find that seeing his reading confirmed my
feeling that my instinct was correct: my Jon was far too big on the line,
which was what I always believed.
As an aspiring film director
(in theory, at least) I find the same lesson in this film as I did in
Joss Whedon's 2012
Much Ado About Nothing.
Like that Shakespeare adaptation, Marjorie Prime is shot
on location, primarily in
a house, most of the action taking place in the living room or the adjacent
dinning and kitchen areas. The house sits on a beach and there are other
locations in the film, like a bar on the beach, and the beach, itself, as
well as some exteriors of
the house. I have the impression that every location in the film was very
likely actually in walking distance of each other.
None of the movie seems to have been shot on a
sound stage, as was also the
case for the Whedon film. The lesson is that, I, too, could tell a good story
in a feature-length film in
a limited amount of locations (or just one), that is compelling and worth
an audience's time to watch. I also note, from its
IMDb trivia page,
that Marjorie Prime was shot in 13 days "with the actors working
12 of them."
A little voice in my head is whispering that I should be firing up my
Final Draft software and finally
deciding on what higher end HD movie camera I might want to rent -- or,
dare I say it?: buy.
When I got home in the early evening from my lovely afternoon with the
Marjorie Prime people, I decided I would watch another movie, and
that it should be one that also connects to a play I've done or been
involved with. My first thought was to watch the film
Una based on the play
by David Harrower,
which Heather Atkinson
and I appeared in at DTG
in April of 2011. The 2016 movie, which I purchased recently from
Rooney Mara and
Ben Mendelsohn. But, if
Marjorie Prime was a dark movie earlier in the day, Una was
most likely to prove darker -- based on the stage play anyway. I wasn't in
The screenplay is not directly based on the play script, rather they both
are based on the real
a New York socialite of the early 20th century, who was a great patron of
the arts and fancied herself an aspring operatic singer, despite that her
vocal ability was terrible. Both tell the story of events that led to
Florence's concert at Carnegie Hall, but where the stage play focuses on
the relationship between Florence and her accompanist, Cosmé
McMoon, the movie focuses on her relationship with her husband, actor St.
The movie stars Meryl Streep
as Florence and Hugh Grant
as St. Clair. Cosmé is in the film, just not as a lead character,
though not at all insignificant to the screen version. Where Charles
Larkowski took on the lead role of Cosmé on stage,
Simon Helberg has the
supporting role on screen. Of course, Ms. Streep, who could justifiably
get an Oscar nomination for reading pages of the phone book, is wonderful
as Florence. Grant, too, does a fine job. Helberg's performance as
Cosmé is so different from his work as Howard on
The Big Bang Theory,
as well as his work as Alex on
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,
that I have gained a new appreciation for his range as an actor.
Though the movie is the same story as the play, it's from a radically
different perspective and I did not find these acute differences as jarring
as I did those between the two Marjorie Primes. I think the reason
is that these aren't two different collies but rather a collie and a fox.
One thing both incarnations have in common is they both heavily touch on
the beauty of the spirit of the woman and her need to engulf herself in
music as an expresion of her soul. Though they use different compositions,
both end giving the audience a listen to what what Florence heard when she
sang, which are lovely performances by the respective actresses. The movie
ends with Jenkins on her death bed, her last words being words that are
attributed to the actual woman, toward the end of her life. It's not
absolutely confirmed that she actually said it, but it is a profound line
that illustrates the theme of the movie, the play, and the importance of
Mrs. Jenkin's story:
"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever
say I didn't sing."
For the record, with the exception of the first photo at
the top, which I took in the early 90's at a young peoples
conference in Indianapolis, I grabbed all the others from
Denny's facebook page. I do not know who took them, or the
when and where of each. But they all show the life lover
in him and his loving soul certainly glows from them. This
includes the bigger pic below.
This is not directly related to "artful things," but I am posting
this here anyway. Because, truthfully, this is about my friend Denny, a man
who played at least some roll in my being in any sort of artistic life
today, if for no other reason than he was part of the community of people who
enabled to me to actually be not dead today, whether that means quite
literally dead or it means spiritually dead. He was not only a part of that
community, he was, for me, a vital, important part of that community. He
became the most important mentor I have ever had in my life, as some of you
have seen me write previously.
On Tuesday I posted on facebook about Denny, who was in a coma and was not
long for this earth. At 8:29 Thursday evening (Feb 1, 2018) he died. I
discovered this yesterday at lunchtime when I visited his facebook page to
see if there was an update on his condition.
The news devastated me, despite that it was not unexpected. I did not go
back to work. I walked around the underground tunnel hallways on my campus
for a few minutes, fighting tears. Then I went to my boss' office and through
the start of sobbing, I said I had to go, that a very good friend had died.
I told my employee I was leaving for the day, gave him some probably vague
instructions and left, driving home with a gray pallor surrounding my
contenance and sobs escaping from my throat every now and then.
I started this composition when I got home, but only got two sentences down
before I decided I wasn't ready to write this. I watched a little TV, sent
some texts and some PMs to a few people who would want to know Denny had
passed, whose lives he had also touched, then went to bed.
I woke up at 6:00 last evening to see that I had some responses, a couple
people wanted to call. I, however, had decided to go out. I went to my home
theatre -- The Dayton Theatre Guild, of course -- to see our current
production of Stella and Lou. I told those who'd wanted to call that
I was going out for the night, that I had spent the afternoon in quiet grief,
and I now needed to be out among people. I needed to do a little living.
We'd talk later. Another friend, who doesn't know Denny, happened to be at
the show so we sat together then went out for a late dinner afterward. I
talked some about Denny, the same sorts of things I'm going to share here.
Some people reading this will know that I am what I call a recovered alcoholic
-- some people hate that phraseology, preferring "recovering"
alcoholic, and that's fine, and it's a debate for another time. Either way,
I have been continuously sober for over thirty-five years. I got sober in
my twenties. I went to that community of people that Denny was a member of.
It's, as some probably have guessed, a community of sober alcoholics (and
drug addicts) or those who are striving to achieve sobriety. Groups meet
frequently to support each other, to share experience, strength, and hope
with each other, to receive support when they each need it and to help others
achieve and maintain sobriety. In turn, through the act of helping others
with their sobriety, each receives the spiritual benefit of strengthening
their own sobriety -- one spiritual philosophy calls that karma, I believe.
Along with regular meetings, this community of sober alcoholics has
occasional special workshops and conferences (often annual events). Sometimes
these will focus on, but not be exclusive to, particular subgroups, the most
prominent of those being young people. One smaller annual conference, that
was more or less focused on younger members, used to happen in October every
year in Warren, Ohio, the other side of my state from me, a four-hour
drive. That's where I met Denny. I said the other day it was 1983, but it
might have been 1984 or 1985, I'm not sure, but it was one of the three. It
was called the Warren Round Up, and it became an annual trek for me, until
the event finally and unfortunately ceased.
That first time, and several afterward, I went with a newer friend who would
eventually become a very close friend, for a while I could call him my best
friend. We bonded through experiences like this as well as other adventures
and treks. At that first round up we met Denny, one of the founders of the
round up who was immediately charming, gregarious and intimately loving. In
fact, by the time the weekend was over we would find that his loving demeanor
could be most intense and intimidating, especially to those who were in their
shell, who were afraid of life, who thought nothing of themselves. He would
instantly target them and make sure they left feeling the overwhelming love,
not only from him, but more importantly, from the whole group of people who
were there. I came back year after year after that first time. That annual
weekend was one of the highlights of my year.
Denny and I did not spend an exorbitant amount of time together, he did live
some 250 miles away, but we saw each other several times every year, mostly
but not exclusively at young peoples conferences and events. As I wrote
recently about him, Denny was charismatic, passionate, compassionate, arrogant,
loving, affectionate, brilliant, and wise. He quickly became that most
important mentor to me.
He was an amazing orator, frequently sought after to speak at meetings and
conferences, sharing his story, his experience, strength and hope, his wisdom.
Every November, for quite a few years, I was the monthly chairperson for a
meeting called "Saturday Night Young Peoples," which was ran by
my home group in the fellowship. November was/is Gratitude month, which is
why I always volunteered to chair. I always had Denny come down to be the
speaker during one of those November Saturdays. Local friends of mine would
also ask him to speak in the south-west Ohio area. He was a trouble-maker
who hated dogma and confronted false heroes and usually spent time on those
subjects when he spoke from a podium. He did it one-on-one, too. Not everyone
was enthused with this. I think a lot of times it was because he was talking
about them or was challenging what they believe. I do believe he was a
profound believer in the philosophy that one should "comfort the
disturbed and disturb the comfortable."
A very close friend of mine whom I attempted poorly to play the same role
in his life as Denny had in mine, once asked him to speak at a meeting in
this area and gave him a coffee mug that read on it, "Everyone's entitled
to my opinion." He laughed and said there were a few meetings in his
area where not everyone liked to hear him speak, yet he was asked to speak
at them on occasion. He said he would be sure to always take that mug and
"sit it right on the front of the lectern with the words facing the
group." I don't know that he did, but it's a deliciously funny thought.
There were some in my home group who didn't like that I brought him in. One
in particular who made an almost effective attempt at stopping it. He made
sure I did not get the November chairperson position one year, specifically
to stop Denny, and also I think because he didn't approve of the fact that
I wanted to chair every November. Well, the person chairing that November
had one Saturday that he could not do it, so he asked me if I wanted to
fill in. I said yes -- guess who my speaker was? Funny how that worked out.
We lived far apart from each other but I still had many one-on-one encounters
with Denny over the years: in hotel rooms or lobbies, or nooks and crannies
in hotels or college campuses (wherever a particular conference or workshop
was happening), in cars where one of us was passenger with the other driving,
or in one of our homes where the other was a guest. And by the time I was
seven years sober, phone calls.
He was always patient, but was always honest, brutally honest if that seemed
necessary. He was rarely impressed with me, so when he was, I knew it was
real. There were those times when he would hold up his hand to tell me to
stop talking then he would say, "You're full of shit," then
confront me on whatever current dishonesty in which I was indulging. He
taught me to pay attention to the real lessons and tools of sobriety -- and
life. He taught me to not assume that someone was wise just because they came
off as wise, that a lot of people come to the sober fellowship as excellent
con artists, they don't lose that skill regardless of whether they grow
spiritually or not. There's a famous saying in the fellowship, "Pass
it on." Denny use to say, "I think we should change that to:
'Check it out, then pass it on.'" He challenged me and others
to also challenge him and his information as well as anyone else and theirs.
He very much believe and professed that recovery, all growth, actually, is
an inside job. I can remember calling him to run some current difficulty by
him. I'd ask what I should do. There'd be this deadly silence on the other
end of the phone. Finally I'd say, "So....I should write about
this." Then he'd chuckle and say, "Boy, you learn quick."
Other times his response, rather than silence would be an incredulous,
"Don't ask me that! How long have you been sober? You know damn well
what the solution is."
He wasn't a perfect man, because, you see, he was indeed still a member of
the human race. He had his flaws. That arrogance, for instance, sometimes
tipped the scale into a little too much. And he, himself, once told me that
he sucked at personal organization. Also, I remember that one time as I was
introducing him to speak at a meeting I said he was open-minded. When he got
up he said, "Open-minded? Not too. It takes a lot to change my mind.
I'll be open to what you have to say but you'd better be armed with good
information or I'm not listening long" -- now that I've written that
down, it doesn't seem like much of a flaw, more like some wisdom. With his
human failties he was still a mountain of love, strength, and wisdom.
Denny was an affectionate soul. He was a hugger. He loved to touch people
and he loved being touched. He took me dragging my feet into a better
understanding of intimacy among people, not just the physical but the
emotional and the intellectual. Not that I don't still often closely guard
my intimacy and find myself uncomfortable with intimacy. But because of
Denny and a few others, I'm much, much better at it than I would otherwise
be. One of Denny's heroes was Leo Buscaglia, aka: "Dr. Love," a
motivational speaker who professed to be the world's greatest hugger and did
seminars on intimacy and love.
Most importantly, Denny believed in the power of love and the power of a
spiritual life of action. He truly loved and most certainly was truly loved
by very many souls. I can't venture to guess how many people he has helped
over his 43 years of sober living -- certainly hundreds, perhaps thousands.
This is very personal writing, of course, and it deals with my relationship
with Denny. There's no question there are many, many others who had closer
and more frequent contact with him, people who saw him weekly or more frequently,
people who shared a closer bond with him. I'm not jealous of them, but I
do envy them. I just know that my life would have been lesser had he never
been a part of it. I must admit, the last few years we hadn't talked much.
And it had been quite a while since we'd seen each other, probably more
than ten years since we were in the same room together. But I did still call
on occasion, just to keep in touch and to check in. And we PM'd on facebook
on occasion. This virtual absence didn't diminish what had been before and
his importance in my life never wained.
I'll end now with a small portion of something written about Denny's passing
by his very close friend of a half-century, Dharl. Dharl, by-the-way, was
also prominent in the execution of that wonderful Warren Round Up each year
and is an absolutely beautiful soul in his own right:
....In his gratitude for the program that made his successful
reintegration into a sober lifestyle possible he was always willing
to be of service to his fellow alcoholics. In addition he was always
available for service to anyone who would accept his help. As a
meeting secretary, speaker and sponsor he helped hundreds of
struggling people find a new and acceptable way of life. He was very
active at the Lordstown Wednesday Night meeting at the UAW 1112 Hall
from 1973 until this past December only pausing because of his
On February 1st at 8:29 PM Denny finished the final leg of his
journey with the same determination and heart as he had exhibited
throughout these many years of service. He was loved by and will be
missed by many people. His final wishes for his friends was that
they continue to allow love and light in their lives....
In keeping with our tradition of closing with a reading...we would
offer the following.
"Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your
faults to him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of
your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall
be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely
meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny. May
God Bless you and keep you -- until then."
Dennis Carter (Denny) Lawrence
May 29, 1942 -- February 1, 2018
My dear Denny, my friend, my mentor, count me among the multitude who love
you and feel the great loss of your passing.
I added some passages to this later in the day, as I
realized I had something more to say.
Directed by J. Gary Thompson
Produced by Barbara Jorgensen
Lou's South Philadelphia bar is the kind of place where the same
faces sit on the same barstools seven nights a week, drowning their
sorrows into countless mugs of beer. Lou is happy to run the place
and enjoy time with Stella when she stops in. But Stella has decided
they need to take the next step in their relationship -- or she's
moving to Florida. This funny, wise, and tender story is a mid-life
portrait of friendship, and maybe more. At the play's premiere at
Chicago's Northlight Theatre in 2013, it was cheered by critics for
its humor and honesty.
Preproduction of the sound
design has officially begun in earnest. I have identified all the sound
cues that I need to pull from my sound library,
find and acquire, or Foley. I know
there are a couple instances where I am probably going to
build sound files.
I have also started curating the small amount of
production music there
will be. One piece of music will be a series of sound cues at one point in
the play, there which a particular composer, Gustav Mahler, is specifically
named -- though the composition is not named. There's also a spot where we
are probably going to underscore some dialogue; then there will be the
curtain call music. There
is some strong consideration that these will also be Mahler compositions,
but that is not carved in stone as of yet. Although, I am pretty sure I
have found a Mahler cello concerto with piano, that is highly likely to be
that underscore music: "Adagietto for Cello & Piano, Symphony No.5,
Pre-show will not be
classical music -- well, probably won't be. I have not yet started to curate
that. I have contacted the lead actress, Amy Askins, and asked her to give
me a list of her character, Juliana's, five favorite recording artists. I
did this for the three principals for Luna Gale, too. Though with
them, the artists carried over into the production music; Amy's (Juliana's)
list won't in this case. Just like then, too, I reserve the right to add
artists to the mix, but who those artists are will be informed by who is
on her list.
Preproduction of the sound
design continues. Amy Askins (Juliana) has given me her five choices as
Juliana's favorite musical artists, which I requested in order to inform me
while curating the pre-show music.
Four of her choices are now part of an extensive repertoire of songs that
will make up the pre-show, along with a few other artists I have chosen
because, in my opinon, they compliment her choices. As is always the case,
there will be far, far more than the necessary half-hour of music needed
for pre-show, and I will program the
Show Cue Systems software to
randomly chose from the probably four-plus hours of music -- so, there
will be a different pre-show music lineup before every performance, which
is my standard operational procedure.
One of Amy's choices is, rather than a contemporary recording artist, a
classical composer. I've pulled him from pre-show eligibility, but some
composition by him might contend for either that piece of underscore
music I mentioned last time, or the
curtain call music. It's
not a lock, but it's a possibility.
Now, on to trolling my sound library
and/or various other resources to get the production sound that is called
for. I am quite sure there are some elements I will have to create as
new Foley -- one in particular which
I have already thought about how I am going to record. There's also no
question that I will build some sound
for some moments.
I've also drafted an email to Craig Pospisil, the director of nonprofessional
licensing at DPS (Dramatists Play Service).
As I found out in December, DPS has started to involved itself in this sort
of copyright clearance -- they did not use to. I have Craig on the
back-burner if I do not hear back from Ms. Gurman.
I have heard back from an assistant to Susan Gurman,
Stephen Sachs' agent, about the
clearance to use script dialogue in the promocast
That response was that they will get back to me. At least I now know I am
on someones' radar about this.
I still have Craig Pospisil, the director of nonprofessional licensing at
DPS (Dramatists Play Service), on
the shelf as a next resort. But, it doesn't seem likely I would use him
unless Ms. Gurman's office either abdicates authority on this or actually
refers me to him. Neither turn of event is outside the realm of possibility.
I suppose, really, "production" had already started once I began
curating pre-show music. I
also, by the way, decided to cull the song list for pre-show by restricting
the number of songs by each artist to four songs from the artists Amy
Askins gave me as Juliana's favorites, and one each by the artists I then
brought in to complement Amy's list. The simplest way to do that was to
start over, which I did.
The new curation is a total of twenty-nine songs from seventeen total artists.
It comes to just about two hours of total music for the nightly thirty minutes
of pre-show music to be randomly havested from by the
Show Cue Systems software,
eliminating about half the previous four-hour repertoire. And just so you
know: when you restrict yourself to a certain amount of songs per artist
for pre-show, it can spark spirited debate in your head. I also decided to
process each song to even out the sound volume for at least a relatively
consistent playback level in the theatre.
Redoing the pre-show was the first thing I did over the weekend, but I did
more, directly toward the production sound and music. I'm 99% settled on
the production music,
allowing for a chance that I might change my mind, but thinking that the
concrete is likely hardening quickly around my choices. For
sound effects, I have
built a few unique
sound files, thus far only using prerecorded elements from my
Though I've pulled existing stuff from my library for many sound effects,
I also had to go out on the web and procure some, as well. I did not do any
Foley work over the weekend, and
I may find that I don't have to. I may be able to build the certain
sequences of sound -- children taking a bath -- without recording anything
new. Specifically, it was water swishing and splashing that presented as
the big possible need, and it was looking like I might be filling my
bathtub and turning my bathroom into a recording studio. But I found and
added quite a bit of such sound to my library over the weekend. I haven't
begun to build those sequences yet, but they clearly on the agenda for this
week There may be a couple other potential sound needs that require me to
do Foley work; I'll soon know for sure.
Right now the only "preproduction" is waiting for the response
from Stephen Sachs' agent,
Susan Gurman, about the clearance
to use dialogue from the
script in the promocast, and
whether it gets settled through her or whether I move on to Craig Pospisil
at DPS (Dramatists Play Service).
Really, until somewhere around late April, that's all there is in
preproduction for this promocast.
Preproduction for the promocast for
The Other Place
is technically up next; that which is the next promocast to be produced
and needs to meet final cut
on or before March 14.
Yesterday I worked some on buildingsound effects for the show.
I built all the new sound from sound files in my
sound library; I've not yet
had to do any Foley work. I have
more work during the week to do.
As per SOP, I'll attend at least one, and I hope, two, rehearsals this week
in prep for principal photography
of the promocast this coming Tech Sunday.
On one hand, it's to help me pick the moments I want to use, and it's best
to the script on its feet and a live through the actors to best choose the
moments; on the other, it's also to be familiar with the
blocking when shooting begins on
For various reasons I have a few plays to read. There are some upcoming
auditions; I'm designing sound for a couple productions coming up. I will
be AD for
This Random World
at The Guild next season.
I'll also be producing two others next season at The Guild,
The Shadow Box
There are a couple others I want to read, too, simply because I do. And,
of course, at some point the HRTC
18/19 season will be announced and I'll have to look to see for what roles
I could be the right type, and then
get ahold of whatever of those scripts I can.
NOVEL WORK & SCREENPLAY
WORK -- AND PLAY SCRIPT WORK....MAYBE:
Some may know that before I was back into the acting world I was focused on
writing. I actually had a few short stories and poems published in the 1990's
and in the early 2000's I wrote the early draft of a novel, titled
Starting for the Sun, which is planned to be the first in a series
of novels about the protagonist, L.D. Cooper, spanning from his childhood
(in which the first novel and the several chapters written of the second
novel are set) into his adulthood.
I haven't worked on any of the prose for any rewriting of the first novel
or any additional work on the second manuscript for a very long time. But
I have worked extensively, in spurts, on a few elements that I collectively
call the bible
material for all the potential novels for this character and his universe.
random Time Line entries sample
Addendum: I have discovered an error in one of the entries
above. The first one states that the supporting character,
Donald Richardson, was nominated for a Tony Award in 1943;
however I have learned that the first Tony Awards were
given out in 1947. I can't fix it in the static png image
above, but the original document has now been corrected.
Formost in that are a series of documents, which I am sure I have mentioned
here before, the "Time Line" documents. Most of these cover a two
year period, such as 1971 to 1972, but the first two and, at the moment,
the last few, cover longer periods.
The first one covers 1900 through 1957 and denote relevant births and events
that occurred before our L.D. is born. The second document covers his year
of birth, 1958, through to the end of 1970. As of 1971, the timeline documents
are then two-years each until the we hit the last several, which all cover
a decade each up to 2030.
See to the right, some innocuous, random entries from many of the time line
documents, each randomly chosen, yet with a triage approach in terms of
rejecting any for use if it revealed something I don't want shown.
As "1900-1958," they all denote the relevant events for the
universe of L.D. Cooper. The events (births, deaths, achievements, etc.,
ect.) are not always directly in his life but they are all relevant to
where i, at least at the moment, believe the series story arch will go.
And the time lines reach very far in the future, far past where I have thus
far been with the prose of the novel manuscripts. It's been a while but I
think in the second manuscript I stopped at, or just about into, the summer
of 1970. The first novel spans the spring of 1968 into December of 1969.
I very clearly have always known where I want to go with this series, from
the beginning when it all came to me whole while I was toward the end of my
college tenure and I started the draft of the original manuscript, which I
chucked and started back at zero with a new rendition, which is the present
one. So it was easy to get a lot of time line down quickly, in fact, some
of it was done early in the writing of the first good draft, perhaps some
beforehand, but I can't remember now.
But I definitely wanted the family histories and backgrounds of both his
parents, and his one aunt, who is a key player in the entire series, to
be solid when I wrote the first manuscript*. I also knew the exact story of
how his parents met, which is key to a particular scene in the first novel*
as well as important to the whole of the book.
*For the record, when I refer to the "first" manuscript or
novel, I mean the finished draft, titled, Starting for the Sun,
not the early draft that I discarded, incomplete.
As of late I've been back working on the time-line portion of the bible
material. The last week or so I have been adding car purchases -- see the
entry about his purchase of a Rolls Royce in 1977. I've gotten it up
through the spring of 1985,when he buys a 331 Jaguar XJS Cabriolet. I also
added the purchase of a 114-foot yacht for $16.5 million, when L.D. is 21.
There's also been a lot of more interpersonal plot development stuff like
a vignette of dialogue, which may or may not make into a future manuscript,
which I came up with weeks back the last time I got on a tear to work on
Therese calls back when the jet's about an hour from Chicago:
L.D.: "Hey. Well. You called back."
L.D.: "So? How about dinner tonight, or tomorrow, or both?"
T: "David, I--"
L.D.: "--Ah! L.D., remember?"
T: "....L.D. then. L.D., we've kind of gone over this before.
You're a really sweet guy, but, really, where's this supposed to go?"
L.D.: "Right now it's just me coming to see you and going to dinner,
L.D.: "Seriously. I like you. I think about you a lot. I want to
know you. It's clear to me you're worth knowing."
T: "That's very flattering. And....you're obviously worth knowing,
L.D.: "So, let's know each other. Uh, not in the biblical sense,
but you know."
L.D.: "We connect. We connected the moment we met. At least I did."
L.D.: "Listen, despite how it may seem, I'm not great at this stuff.
I'm not Mr. Charmer, or whatever. But, I just can't....I have to try to
be....to spend time with you. I just know you are so worth the effort."
T: "(Sigh), well...."
L.D.: "So? Dinner?"
T: "I know enough about your life to know that 'wherever' is not
L.D.: "Yeah. That's kinda right. But, there are lots of options in
your city that will work."
T: "So....dinner tonight?"
L.D.: "Dinner tonight."
L.D.: "We're going to land about 5:00. I'll head to my place then
I can pick you up about 7:30 or 8:00. Does that work?"
T: "Yeah. 7:30 or 8:00. Should I dress up or what?"
L.D.: "Just to go to dinner, not the Oscars or something."
T: "....7:30 or 8:00."
L.D.: "See you then."
Whether it makes it into a novel or not, that exchange takes place in
October of 1982. L.D. is 24 and a monstrously successful recording artist
who's now incredibly famous, and mega-wealthy. The young woman is a
twenty-three-year-old college student from Chicago whom he's met through
circumstances I won't reveal here. He's just finished a world concert tour
and is on his way to his townhouse, which he'd rented while he was doing a
play in Chicago (because he's also got a pretty successful acting career)
but decided to buy, mostly because the young woman is in Chicago.
Most of the entries in the time lines are career events for L.D., such as
when he's shooting episodes of a TV show, or when he's recording a new album,
or when an album or a single gets to a notable spot on the record charts,
or when some significant business move is made. Interspersed are those
personal events, not only for him, but for others in the universe: note
the mentions in the sample above of when Lisa Cooper (L.D.'s sister) begins
her Masters and Ph.D programs.
But even the things that are seemingly not about personal events have an
affect on the personal in the story arch that is ever-developing in my
head. What happens when you're one of the most famous people in the world
and you want to attend a relative's high school graduation ceremony? What's
it like to have a very famous relative or childhood friend? What if you're
a regular, middle-class person who often, or always, has to watch your
spending so you make your budget and don't miss paying your bills on time,
but you're close to someone who can drop $100 thousand, cash, on a whim, for
a new Ferrari? What if you're a teenager and other kids in your high school
are trying to befriend you because of a superstar family member?
What's it like to be so famous you have your privacy constantly invaded?
How does that impact it when you are pursuing a love interest? What's it
feel like to have family members and childhood friends resent your success
because of how it unfairly affects them? Does a guy who was worth $1
million when he was 16 have a solid memory of being a middle-class child?
And do memories of a middle-class childhood affect his attitude when he's
a twenty-something worth nine figures?
Not only have a beau coupe of plot events and conflicts occurred to me while
working on the time line, the sculpting of characters, in many case, the
further development and growth of them, have come to me. I am better
forming their personalities by considering what their reactions to things
I've worked on other things associated as well. Such as various different
excel spreadsheets that deal with all sorts of business things like income
from record sales, concert tours, music publishing, television residuals,
and other incomes. I also have Billboard record chart positions for
all his recordings, and I have the song lineups of all his albums, and
their titles, and the play lists his concert tours, that is up to a certain
point in time -- more will be added.
All the original songs made mention of, by the way, (such as in the sample
time-line above), are real. They are mostly songs I wrote in my late teens
and twenties, along with some written by my actual music partner from that
period, as well as a few from a mutual friend -- though I had to make up
names for those -- that fellow had either not titled the songs or was vague
about the titles.
I've also written a few music reviews for some of his his albums and concerts,
and I have a Playboy interview from 1979 almost finished. I believe
I shared some of these in an earlier post.
For whatever reason, I derive strong satisfaction from this support work,
this background work, this foundation work. At the moment, I feel no urge
to get to the actual prose. I think one thing is that I need to go back and
do a lot of repair work on the Starting for the Sun manuscript, and
that thought seems daunting to me. Also, and more importantly, I know once
I start the prose work, all other artistic ventures MUST take a back
seat, really probably need to be put on hold. When I was working on that
novel, and the several chapters of the sequel, I did nothing else but go
to the rent-payer, and eat
and sleep -- all other time in my waking hours was dedicated to the
manuscript. Right now I don't want that. Honestly, doing this foundation
work gets a tad obsessive for me; I put other artstic obligations aside --
ventures I'm doing in collaboration with others, things with real deadlines.
So, diving into the actual manuscript of a novel about L.D.'s world will
mean no other creative commitments.
However, I can say I am actually working on that universe, if not
on the novel proper.
For a while, several years, in fact, I had the first five chapters
of Starting for the Sun posted as one of the
at my slumbering literary website,
The WriteGallery Creative Writing Website,
which is the current host for this blog. But I pulled the material
down a few months back.
Also in my mind is a screenplay for a longer
short film, which I
wrote about a decade ago. That one is about a twelve-year-old girl and
her family. I have increasingly flirted with the idea of getting that to a
final draft and into
Also, over a year back, I wrote the first few scenes of a stageplay, and
my mind turns an eye toward that, too, or, if not that, a new stageplay.
However, I don't really have a strong idea for a stageplay, right now.
There's no notion I feel a passion for, no story in my heart that demands
I get it onto a stage. The one I started last year was based on an idea I
had for the first scene, but I really did not, and still do not, have a
whole story there, yet. I do want to write a play, or plays,
No word yet about clearance to use dialogue from the script in the
Of course, the show is now into Tech Week. Tech Sunday
went well. Due to circumstances in someone's schedule there was a delay that
put the kibosh on the planned dry tech,
and we did not do a cue-to-cue.
We ended up introducing the sound and light cues for the first time during
a full run, with some starts and
stops to work on specific cue timings, etc.
But the rehearsal was wrapped at 3:00, which is unprecedented. I did stay
and fix some sound levels as well as add two sound cues that I discovered
during the run I had missed in the script. I was still home by 6:00.
Due to other DTG business, I spent the whole day at the theatre last
Saturday, attending to the other business in the morning, going out for
lunch with several other board members, then back to the theatre to finish
off the sound design.
I still had to build sound for
a series of SFX of kids playing
in the bathtub and other kid sounds, as well as a few others. I brought
my 8-channel portable digital recorder in case I still found I needed to
do some Foley work, but I was able
to find all the sound I needed in my sound library.
I got to the point of programming the sound design plot into the
Show Cue Systems software at
maybe about 8:00 -- maybe a little later. I knew I would likely be there
into the evening, so I packed my dinner. You can see me and my low sodium
pasta in tomato sauce in the pic to the right. At that point I was camped
at the box office counter where I was building sound and marking up both
my sound designer's and
Sarah Saunder's sound tech
copies of the script.
Not only did I know I'd likely be at the theatre into the evening, I also
knew there was a strong likelihood -- I'd say a 95+% chance -- that I'd
observe my quasi-traditional practice of staying over in the theatre into
Tech Sunday; so, I brought my sleeping bag, a change of clothes, toiletries,
etc., etc; I did spend the night, by-the-way. I think I finished
the sound plot programming after 1:00 a.m.; it might have been 2:00.
The sound designer's & the sound tech's copies
of the script, behind the box office counter.
In the booth, late Saturday night, programming the
sound plot into Show Cue Systems.
Since I'm the sound designer for the production, I need to be at the
tech rehearsals this week,
which means I have no evenings to edit the DV movie. So, I did what I do
in this situation -- or when I am in the cast -- and I took a working
day yesterday to get the movie to
final cut, using
Final Cut Pro X. I got the
movie virtually to the locked edit by noon yesterday, there was only one
glitch. I was supposed to take the group cast photo on Tech Sunday but I
forgot about it, thus I didn't have it to edit in Monday morning. If I'd
had it, the promocast would have been on the
Dayton Theatre Guild YouTube channel
Monday afternoon. Instead I had to take the photo before yesterday
evening's rehearsal then process it and edit it into the movie last night.
The movie was rendered at about 10:45 and the upload was finished about
This is another mean, lean DV movie. With the end credits it comes to
3:26; the credits may be longer than the total of footage of the actors.
One thing that makes me happy, I have finally come across a legitimate
reason to do a split-screen sequence, as you can see in the screen shot,
just below, from the editing yesterday morning. Those are Amy Askins
(Juliana) and Mark Sharp (Richard) having a phone conversation.
The brilliance of the Universe is one soul less brilliant today,
and it was one brilliant soul. But as Dr. Hawking himself would
point out, the universe is, fortunately, incalculably massive and
Still, this little blue planet, less than a spec of a microbe on
the scale of the universe, has lost someone of great value.
And, of course, it's intersting that Dr. Hawking passed on
Pi Day. It certainly is an
irony that he would enjoy -- and maybe he did.
I made a few minor tweaks to sound levels after the Monday evening rehearsal,
and they proved good last night. I had to cover as
sound tech for the first half of
the run last night, as our tech
for this show, Sarah Saunders, is also the stage manager
for the forthcoming youth production by the
Undercroft Players, the
local theatre company founded by actress/director Teresa Connair. Sarah was
able to get to our rehearsal before the sounds with level changes were
cued, so I was able to abdicate the sound tech chair and go into the house
and judge those new levels. Again, they work.
I did a follow-up email to the Gurman Agency,
which represents Playwright Stephen Sachs,
to see if a decision was made about clearance to use dialogue from the play
in the promocast for
I am happy to report that I have been granted clearance.
OPENING WEEKEND -- BUT FIRST, WALTZING WITH THAT DAMNED
Didn't Mozart Compose a Waltz About a Gremlin?
-- For a while, now, that damned gremlin
has been screwing with the booth
computer on which we run the Show Cue Systems
software. Every now and then, that computer has, and somewhere around a
half-dozen times, suddenly flashed a message that a serious error has
occurred and the computer must restart. It thus far has not done this
during a performance, but, this past Friday,
Opening Night, it happened
about twenty minutes before the top of the show, so, it came pretty close.
I had already planned on replacing that computer and the event Friday
accelerated my time table. It didn't accelerate when I would buy the
replacement, but rather how quickly I'd get the new one into place.
The Lenovo Yoga 720 laptop setting in its spot in the
By Saturday's show, sound tech
Sarah Saunders, was running the Other Place sound cues from our new
Lenovo Yoga 720 solid-state laptop.
Getting a new sound-op computer was already in the New Business section of
the agenda for the monthly Dayton Theatre Guild
board meeting, which happened to be Saturday morning. Obviously the board
approved the purchase and, as I indicated above, I hastened, not the timing
of purchase, but the implementation of the new setup.
The coincidental happenstance on Friday was that before I went to the theatre,
I stopped by Best Buy to look at new
sound-op laptops, and had settled on one I was already going to pitch at the
meeting. The computer crashing during pre-show later Friday simply gave me
more ammunition. I left the theatre after the meeting Saturday and went
straight to Best Buy to get that laptop -- for which they no longer had in
stock. I would have put one on order, but the thing is, I found it important
that the current computer be decommissioned before the Saturday night show.
It was only going to be a matter of time before that current computer was
going to crash during a performance. The Best Buy sales people found me
a relatively comparable model, actually a smaller model of the same laptop.
I also bought a
Targus 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub
because we need four USB ports and the laptop only has two, which is
standard. But we need a port for the keyboard -- it's easier for the sound
tech to use a keyboard at closer reach than the laptop's keyboard, which is
setting on top of the power amps, and I didn't want to reconfigure the layout
of the space. We also need one for an external mouse, because they are
easier to work with than trackpads. We definitely need one for the
external, Vantec 7.1 Channel Audio Adapter sound card,
elsewise we would only have the two stereo channels on board the laptop to
work with. And, there needs to be one open port for thumb drives or other
external drives, for transport of sound files, and for backing up the show
cue files off of the laptop.
Naturally, the gremlin hadn't
filled its dance card quite yet. Once I had the Yoga up and running, I went
to the Vantec website and downloaded the driver for the audio adapter, then,
of course, I installed Show Cue Systems on the laptop. Then I migrated
all the show cue files from the old computer to the new one. Once I had
done all that, I opened the Vantec audio configuration software to check
to see of all the channels were sending -- they were. So, I have established
that the externtal sound card is functioning properly on the Yoga, right?
When I tried to open the sound cue file for The Other Place on the
Yoga, Show Cue Systems hit me with the message that there weren't enough
channels to run the show. The software didn't seem to recognize the Vantec
external card. I rechecked the 8 channels in the Vantec software, and,
indeed, sound signals were being sent to the speakers. The problem lay with
SCS. After some experimenting I finally decided to start a brand new test
production cue file -- that was able to access and utilize all 8 channels.
The explanation for the gremlin
shenanigans is that there must be information about the sound channels
embedded in the cue file that is unique to the computer its created on. I
attempted to investigate to see if there was some configuration I could,
a) locate, b) discern how to modify. No luck. So, guess what?: I had to
rebuild the whole sound cue file queue from scratch on the new machine.
There are also sound level differences on the new machine for which I needed
to compensate. One big one is that there is, at the moment, parity disparity
between the sound levels of different channels. Channels 1 & 2 have a
certain inherent level; 3 & 4 have a much lower level. So, to have the
same volume level coming from speakers in the front of the house (1 &
2) as the back of the house (3 & 4), I have to set the levels of 3 &
4 much higher than 1 & 2. I believe I know how to fix that, and I will
address it after this show has closed. I am pretty sure I can make some
adjustments in the Vantec software to deal with the discrepancies -- my
memory is that I did this a few years back, but not with such a big
difference in levels.
I finished rebuilding the sound cue file for the show around 5:00
Saturday. I wasn't sure that the levels were the same as they had been --
couldn't go with numbers on the mixer fader slides because now they represent
different levels than before. I had to go with my ears and my memory. I
figured I was close, but I wasn't sure how close and on which side of the
levels I might have erred. It was clear to me I had to sit in the audience
during the Saturday show and scrutinize the levels during the perfmance.
That's why I'm using the "In the Audience/Not in the Audience"
icon here; I was there as a designer not a passive audience member. So,
though I truly wasn't not in the audience, I did have a specific
agenda beyond entertainment. But let's be honest:
even when I am an audience member, if I designed the sound, I listen
critically for any adjustments I might decide need to be made.
There were a couple problems Saturday night and I can't blame them
on the gremlin. In the
afternoon, when I was rebuilding the sound files, for a couple very short
files, I set them on continual loop (i.e.: repeat) so I could step into
the house from the booth and hear their levels -- you don't, you see, get
an accurate idea of the house sound levels from the booth. Well, I forgot
to take those sounds off of loop when I finished. So, during the show, when
Sarah hit those cues, they repeated continuously until some maniac in the
audience rushed from his seat to the booth to shut them off. I did at least
take a seat close to the vom that leads to the booth, just in case.
So, what did I not do earllier in the day that I should have done? I didn't
run the cues after I had finished rebuilding the cue file. I actually had
planned on it, but then I went to get dinner and when I got back I was
distracted by other theatre related business I needed to attend to.
Running the cues slipped my mind, thus, Mr. Gremlin
is off the hook, though I am sure he was pleasantly amused.
There was also a particular set of sound cues that were just slightly too
loud during Saturday's show. I fixed those and the unintended loops after
that show. But, the next day, yesterday, I got paranoid that I had made some
other error in the rebuild, so I drove into Dayton in the morning and ran
the cues. They were all fine, though it might not come as a shock that I did
find a couple things to tweak. I shaved some lag time off the start of a cue
-- some music started about 1.5 seconds after the start of the sound file
so I fixed that so the music plays the instant the cue is hit. I also
elongated a fade on another music cue. Then I went home.
But then I got a text from Sarah about 45 minutes before the show. She had
also ran the cues and thought there might be a problem. I wasn't sure there
was, but, I still drove back in. There wasn't a problem, but I would have
gone crazy if I hadn't went in to check. I also decided that the level of
a subtle, background sound effect needs to be just a smidgen louder; I left
before the show was over yesterday, so I have not yet adjusted that subtle
one. It will be done by Friday's show.
I also will be in the audience again this Friday -- theoretically as
an audience member but the designer will be in attendance and scrutinizing.
The Targus USB hub
The Lenovo Yoga 720, at its perch again.
Opening Weekend -- As for the show itself, it had a
good opening weekend. It's the same old story for me as far as
Opening Night: I was
house manager so I paid little
attention to what was happening on stage since I was getting the lobby
ready for the Opening Night Gala.
My lack of attention notwithstanding, as is usually the case with our shows,
the audience responded well and gave good feedback to us all after the show.
I was enough of an audience member Saturday evening to be able to say that
the performances were good, some were excellent. I was only in and out
trouble-shooting on Sunday, so I can only guess that it went well then,
The big happenstance as far as Opening Weekend was that Saturday was
St. Paddy's Day
and since we are by the The Oregon District,
and more importantly, just two buildings away from The Dublin Pub,
we had to be sure to protect our parking for our patrons, since there would
be legions of honorary Irish swarming upon the area for planned festivities
at the O.D. bars -- the Dublin Pub, of course, being the focus of celebrations.
We started our protection of our parking after
Final Dress Rehearsal last
Thursday by chaining the entrance ways into the lot. They stayed chained up
until right before the Sunday afternoon performance, with the exception of
when we were receiving and releasing patrons for the Friday and Saturday
shows. Several of us board members took turns as gate keepers before both
shows, ticket reservation lists in hand, to ensure that only our patrons
parked in our lot. We stood guard afterward, too, to keep anyone from pulling
in as our people were pulling out. Let me tell you, there was a bit of a
chill out both nights, too, but, we survived and the show is doing great --
two weekends left, if you're close enough by and read this in time.
*For the record: No, Mozart did
NOT compose a waltze about a gremlin,
though it could be argued that he did compose a few pieces that would be
good underscores or theme music for our gremlin.
Got one audition coming up quickly. There is at least one other I am likely
to go for. Then I'm waiting to see what the 18/19 season at
Human Race will be, even
though I am likely to do that
general audition, anyway.
There will, as summer approaches, also be
auditions, and I am probable for them, too. I've also been keeping an eye
peeled for movie auditions, but nothing has come to my attention for which
I am a decent type.