Friday, May 5, 2023

Noises Off: The Super Bowl of Farce

First of all, before you read any further, if you haven't already purchased your tickets for the 2023 WYO/CTG co-production "Noises Off," go to immediately and get them.  Advance tickets are selling very well, and once people see this production, they WILL want to see it again and again.  Don't miss your opportunity!

That being said, the show opens next week, and I guarantee we'll be ready for you.  However, right before it opens is a period among the cast and crew of adding a lot of new technical elements that make the show even more real.  Costumes start getting tested.  Rehearsal props are exchanged for the props we'll use in the show.  Growing pains are stretched out as we go from the rehearsal space to the actual set.   Soon lighting and sound will be added, and we'll all have to adjust to the glare of the lights and how to control our voices with microphone packs and little devices on our faces.  

All of this means one undeniable thing: this thing is actually happening.  We're actually going to do this incredibly difficult play for an audience.  While often this can test an actor's faith in the health of the production, it also can be used as turbo fuel into the next phase. It kind of feels like athletes prepping for a major sporting event.

Over the last several years, I've become a fan of professional hockey in addition to being a fan of professional basketball.  Both the NHL and NBA seasons are in their playoffs, and it's been interesting to note the parallels.

An idea that I remember from my studies is the element of creating a theatre event that makes an audience have the same feeling as watching a live sporting event.  The stakes are high, lines have been drawn, and no one knows what the outcome will be.  Needless to say, tensions are high.

Where this applies in this play is just how a farce is constructed.  As I've said on my podcast several times, Comedy is about watching someone (or several someones) be given a set of potentially unbeatable circumstances and watching to see if they can set the world right again to hilarious effect; maybe they will, maybe they won't

But, as it relates to team sports, generally the audience is all cheering for the same team.  Secretly, the audience wants the actors to set the world right again, but have no idea if it will happen.  What they know is that they'll enjoy watching it, and if the actors get themselves out of their unbeatable circumstances, the effect should be similar to when your team wins!  Hoorah!

In some cases, I've actually seen audiences not just applaud and laugh, but cheer when a cast finishes a show, just like a sports crowd would when a game is won at the buzzer.

We hope that's what you find when you sit in the audience for the next two weeks at the WYO.  We'll bring our A-Game and our A-Team.  You get to sit out there and see if we win.

I'll see you at intermission!

Thursday, February 23, 2023

On the Creation of a Role

Not that it’s ever really left me, but since re-catching the acting bug performing in “First Date" last spring, I have been steaming out the wrinkles on my character creation abilities, post-COVID.  For “First Date,” most of us in the cast had to play several characters, albeit each individual character was somewhat one-dimensional at best.  My new challenge is the upcoming CTG/WYO Co-Production of “Noises Off” that will be on Sophie’s Stage at the WYO this coming May.

For those of you unfamiliar, “Noises Off” by playwright Michael Frayn is a satirical look at the creation of a play, and the many personalities that can show up in a production.  It uses the playwriting tactic of a play-within-a-play that allows us to see the actors not only be characters, but people, too, and the many different amusing, and often toxic mixtures when put together in a sterile environment.  On top of all that, the play they’re doing is a fake British bedroom farce, which has its own salacious implications, all designed for patrons to have something of a clean but naughty night out.

Much like the stock characters in Commedia dell’Arte, Frayn’s play shows us a number of recognizable stereotypes as well.  There’s the once-celebrity actress who’s trying to have one last hit before she realizes she might be washed up.  There’s the blustering leading man who is brilliant on stage, but can’t put two thoughts together offstage. And many, many more.

My character, though?  I play the director.  If you have seen the 1992 film adaptation, this is the part that Michael Caine played.  So, this then becomes something of a challenge for any actor: How do I make my performance my own, and do I need to worry about the shadow cast by such a great performance in this role?  Having directed this at SHS in 2008 with high school students, I’ve been very eager to be in a production.

The creation of a role is different for every actor, and there is no one-size-fits-all methodology for creating a character.  For me, I usually start with what I bring to the role, so there is something of an honest inventory of character that needs to be run through.  When I teach acting, I ask students: “What is the one thing that is the same about every character you play?  YOU.”  Out of all the people who auditioned, the director chose me to play this specific part because he believed that my set of characteristics was the best at playing specifically this part, as was everyone else in their specific roles.

So, what do I bring to this role?  This is where I sometimes fall into a dangerous trap, as I start to think about what I CAN bring to this role as opposed to what I SHOULD bring to this role.  Our director, Dan Cole, asked me to apply a British accent to the character, which solved a lot of problems for me.  That’s because another adage that has stuck with me throughout the years is this: “Everything you need to know about your character is in the script.”  This is also problematic for me, because sometimes there are things in the script I don’t understand, so I have to go look them up.

Here’s what I knew about Lloyd. He’s British (due to director’s choice). He has a reputation for the quality of his shows, since as soon as this play is on its feet, he already has another job lined up.  Plus, this is a British professional touring company, so Lloyd is no amateur.  But, if things were to go wrong with this one, his stance as a credible director could affect his future employment.  Now, I can’t directly relate to much of that, but that’s the whole thing about acting isn’t it?  We’re imagining.  That’s basically what the great Stanislavsky taught us with the Magic ‘if:’ “What if I was this person in these circumstances?  How would I behave?”

To me, those elements about Lloyd were all I had to know.  Going into our first rehearsals, with all that in mind, I had some great ideas to play off my stage partners and really dig into this role.  However, I have found that those fundamentals were really all I needed.  At the end of the day, a British bedroom farce is a well-constructed recipe, and if it’s not done just right, it really leaves a bad taste in the audience’s mouth.  So, my Lloyd is now someone with those fundamental characteristics, but I realized that he’s simply trying to keep the lid on the pot, while everyone else is determined to blow it off.  That’s the joke, as one of my fellow actors says several times.

And, somewhere in there, yes, we learn all those lines.

I hope to see you in the audience in May, and I’ll see you at intermission (or rather for this production, at the Stage Door.) 

Saturday, December 24, 2022

A Good Quarter

  It’s been a good quarter for Trident Theatre ... and the child in me says, “Gross,” to the fact that I made that statement. I struggled with exactly how to word that, since I don’t really consider myself much of a business person, but I needed to more accurately describe the recent months I’ve had doing theatre or theatrical events in Sheridan. Period? No ... “the last little while?” No .... 4 month of the year equals a quarter? Okay, I guess so. A quarter it is, then. And, it HAS been a great one.

I personally reserve Christmas as a day to be thankful for what I have that makes my life special, rather than what is being added to it from under a tree. Make no mistake, I enjoy that, too. But, I often find myself around my loved ones just taking a day to enjoy them, all our own little traditions, possibly making new traditions, and just taking stock of the positive in my inventory.

2022 was a pretty rough year again (how did we survive 2020? Or 2021 for that matter?), and not to get too personal, it was especially tough for me. I had a lot of loss this year, and I don’t know if I still fully realize the impact it had on my creativity. But, I knew that something felt off.

So, to counteract that, I’m so glad for the opportunities I’ve had to drag me out of that slump that gave Trident some good direction.

In October, Trident hosted Full Moon Fort at Fort Phil Kearney, in which we stripped down the story to its grisly core, and focused more specifically on the terror that was life at the fort. Each tour culminated in an actual campfire story recounting the Fetterman Battle, and all the fear-inducing and gory details therein. This helped me so much in that it reminded me that fundamentally what we are as theatre artists are storytellers. Frankly, it helped me begin to build my creativity again from the ground

 up. During the drive home after the event concluded, my frequent Trident co- collaborator, Jenni Reed and I were awash with new ideas.

Also in October, Trident presented “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the WYO, for its second year on the MainStage. This was the 10th time in a row it has been performed annually in Sheridan, my 6th time directly involved, and my 2nd time directing. Recently, I was the guest on The History of European Theatre podcast, in which the host asked me why we keep doing it annually, which actually tied into the topic for that show. I responded that this year’s production solidified just what theatre meant to the audience, and how that experience was something for them to look forward to every year, much in the same way I look at Christmas. We can be around people who are looking out for us, enjoying the same things we enjoy. It just happens to be around a campy sci-fi burlesque romp. That episode drops on Dec. 24th by the way, wherever you get your podcasts.

But, speaking of podcasts, I’m reminded that I just released episode 50 of my podcast, “Euripides, Eumenides: A Theatre History Podcast.” This project has been an absolute labor of love, and I don’t see anything that will prevent me from continuing. The fact that I still have a returning audience after 2 years of researching, writing, recording, editing, and publishing episodes helps me remember that maybe I do have something unique to offer this world, something that people want to consume. As artists, we often doubt that. So, it’s good to know that I still have something to contribute.

Here’s to hoping 2023 will be just as profitable, even if I only present work in one quarter of the year.

 I’ll see you at intermission!

Friday, October 14, 2022

A Wide Range

    In the middle of a rehearsal on a Sunday evening, my mother texted me to update me

about the Kansas City Chiefs game she was watching, and how exciting it was. I texted her

once I was done with rehearsal to let her know I was done, and that I didn't respond right away

because I was in rehearsal. She responded, "... that's a bit of a shift, huh?"

    She was referring to the fact that I just got out of a rehearsal for this year's production

of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," but for the previous two nights, Trident Theatre led the

storytelling tours at Fort Phil Kearny for their "Full Moon Fort" event. Quite the shift indeed.

    While this year's Full Moon Fort tours told the story of the Fetterman Battle with intense

description of life in the post-civil war frontier and frozen and mutilated bodies, the tours were

nonetheless intended for a more general audience (although families were warned that ONLY

the first tours of the evening would be scaled down for kids to enjoy). So jumping from a

detailed theatrical retelling of history to a niche cult classic with strong sexual themes told in a

hilarious campy format ... perhaps my mother was surprised I didn't get whiplash.

    At the time she said it, I guess I didn't think much of it, other than counting my lucky

stars that I was able to land two great theatre gigs in one season. But, once she said it, my

introspective gears started turning. On one hand, being the head of a theatre production

company allows for the sovereignty to choose projects that would be interesting to pursue. On

the other hand, it's hard to turn down a job.

    But, upon reflection, I think it's an absolutely wise thing for artists to be able to have a

breadth of diversity to their product. For the photographer, it must have been quite the shock

to switch from film to digital, to not actually need a darkroom anymore, and just how that

change made photographers view the world. And still, there are photographers who still prefer

film over digital, but again, I think it's fascinating to have such versatility within a single art


    I also realize that not every show can please every audience. Try to name a play that

meets all needs. I'll debate anyone on any play, even my favorites. I know I've been guilty of

thinking, "How can anyone like THAT?" But yet they do, which I believe speaks to the diversity

of tastes that are out there. There is something for everyone.

    But all in all, I do appreciate the fact that since its inception, Trident has evolved into

something that can offer a variety of not only types of plays and productions, but also delivery

methods by which it entertains its audiences.

    For those of you who attended Full Moon Fort, I sincerely appreciate your patronage.

And, if you think it might be for you, I encourage you to give "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"

a shot. I've got a lot of high-minded reasons about why the experience is still a valuable part

of collective culture. But, you could just come and let your inhibitions loose for a night, and

have a crazy fun time. It plays ONE NIGHT ONLY on October 29, 2022 at 7p at the WYO.

Oh, and by the way, the Chiefs eventually won that game. I personally am not all that

entertained by football, but I'm glad mom has that to rely on each week.

    I'll see you at intermission! 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Theatre for Grown-Ups

  On July 29th of this year, I presented the first episode of my podcast in which the episode was recorded in front of a live audience. I was quite careful to remind potential ticket buyers that the show would most likely include adult language, and I knew the topic was going to be fairly scandalous. So, I made sure to help people understand that the show was rated "R."

While discussing this with a fellow Sheridanite one evening, he commented about the "R" Rating by simply saying: "That's good." This led to a conversation about how frequently entertainment in Sheridan is marketed as family-friendly, or otherwise non-offensive. While neither of us disparaged relatively clean entertainment, this conversation delved deeper into respecting diversity of tastes, and addressing specific entertainment needs in the community. My friend said that it was nice to know that there was something that maybe didn't have to edit itself for more mass consumption; that maybe it was okay for adults to go out and hear some dirty jokes on stage.

At this point, I could continue this tangent, in which I would probably end up soliciting people to "let their hair down," and "enjoy themselves more." But, that's not always the best thing for everyone. I think we have to remind ourselves that there is almost no stage performance that will please everyone, or be suitable to everyone. It's virtually impossible. However, on the other side of that coin, we do have to understand that there are a variety of entertainment needs that need to be addressed.

But, I think more than anything, its been fun to see how Sheridan has accepted a little more grown-up entertainment recently. I'm still seeing people who saw my friends and I in "First Date" in April, and they're still lighting up just talking about it. On the other hand, if you look at that show from a certain angle, it more or less forced two

 adults to air their dirty linens in public amidst a pretty heavy amount of adult language. And people loved it.

I'm reminded of Shakespeare's Puck in the closing monologue of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in response to people who may not be seeking more adult content, but accidentally find themselves in a show that contains something they find objectionable: "If we shadows have offended/ Think but this and all is mended/ That you have but slumbered here/ while these visions did appear ..." Mainly to say, what you just saw on stage wasn't really real. So maybe try not to take it too hard.

In that vein, I guess I'm one theatre artist who doesn't mind telling a few naughty jokes and doing more prurient stuff on stage, just as long as people have a good time. I guess I'll just keep serving that need a little bit, since people are happily buying tickets for these shows.

Speaking of which, don't forget - The WYO and Trident Theatre will be partnering up again around Halloween to present "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." It was an amazing time last year, with a big crowd. This year, let's make it even bigger! If you're interested in getting involved, just drop me a line at!

I'll see you at intermission!


Thursday, June 9, 2022


 In a few episodes of my podcast, "Euripides, Eumenides: A Theatre History Podcast," I talk about the "Burned-Over District" of upstate New York in the first half of the 1800s.  This is in reference to the fact that virtually everyone in that region had firmly committed themselves to a religious institution.  So, anyone trying to recruit new members to a church didn't have a lot of luck there.  At times, being the host of a podcast that isn't even two years old yet, I can empathize with those ministers looking for new parishioners in the "Burned-Over" District.

One thing you learn pretty quickly in the podcasting game is that you have to find your audience.  A statistic I heard earlier this year is that 99% of people polled watch videos on YouTube, whereas only 36% of people listen to podcasts.  But, those who do listen to podcasts consume them voraciously.  So, it's basically a matter of putting your show in front of people who would find the content interesting, and they'll devour it.  While I've been fairly successful with that - I do love seeing how many countries my episodes get played in - I want to give myself even more of a challenge, and try to convert that other 64% of people who don't listen to podcasts.

I've learned a lot about what listeners like as far as podcasts are concerned, which make it easy for first-time listeners to engage.  I've learned the pace that will keep an audience listening.  My episodes generally range from about 45-75 minutes in length, and I consistently release them every two weeks on Wednesdays.  A new episode will be out this Wednesday, in fact.

But, in order to get new listeners, fresh tactics become necessary.  So, I'm taking another approach this summer.  At the end of July, I'll be recording a live episode of my podcast at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center.

Here are somethings you can expect:

You don't need to be an expert in theatre.  I make my shows quite accessible.  More than anything, you need to be someone who loves to hear juicy gossipy stories, or just truly baffling "oh wow" stories.  The ones I tell just all happen to be about theatre history.

Often, my shows are a little more grown-up in nature.  So, they may not be the best for kids.  For those of you who saw me and my colleagues in "First Date," it's more like that: some good adult humor.  We'll probably have some adult language and talking about adult things.  So again - probably best to consider it rated "R," or "E," for the podcast lovers out there.

We'll probably also have drinks for the show, so if that isn't incentive....

PLUS!!  By purchasing a ticket, you could have the chance to win 1 of 4 gift cards to Frackelton's, valued at $50 each!  I'd like to here and publicly now thank Frackelton's for sponsoring the show in this way!

My guests for this episode will be Photojournalist Matt Gaston from The Sheridan Press and past guest and Theatre Instructor Dustin Hebert from Casper, Wyoming.

Finally, if you've listened to my show before, you know that I don't tell my guests what topic we'll be discussing for the episode.  So, just to keep your curiosity bubbling, I won't tell you either.  But, I will tell you that it's a story from recent theatre history, you'll most definitely be familiar with the people involved, and that I giggle and blush a bit every time I think about it.

So, that's it!  A live episode of "Euripides, Eumenides: A Theatre History Podcast" will be at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center on Friday, July 29.  Tickets will be available soon.

I'll see you at intermission ... or after the show in this case!

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Silver Linings

"You've no dough, so relax. / You don't have to pay an income tax."

"When your car runs out of gas, then no red lights can you pass!"

These are some of the lyrics from the song "Sunny Side to Every Situation," from the Musical "42nd St." This show played a huge part in my development as an actor, and I keep getting struck with epiphanies from its words even decades after I was in it.

I'll give you a little set up.  The play takes place in the Great Depression, and the lyrics above are sung by a company of actors and dancers who have just found out that the play they were getting ready to take to Broadway has been cancelled.  Thus, they are all now unemployed in an absolutely dismal job market.

But, they take the time to remind themselves of what they actually still have going for them with the song "Sunny Side to Every Situation."  Not that their fortunes changed all that much, but they at least feel better about their current circumstances.

I'm thinking of this song while writing this, as I'm in the cast for the WYO/CTG's co-production of "First Date," which opens April 8th in the Mars Theater at the WYO.  When I was contacted by the directors to come audition, I didn't really know the play.  It took me about 10 minutes of listening to some of the songs to say, "Absolutely yes - I will audition."

I made my decision based on just what the play is reminding us.  Even earlier in my development as an actor and theatre artist, I was told that theatre must be for the community in which it is being performed, meaning it must relate to them, or connect them with something beautiful in this world, and here "beautiful" can have a multitude of definitions.  Overall, the theatre must connect an audience with feelings they haven't felt in a while, and get a chance to exercise them.

I know we're probably all tired of hearing about the pandemic.  Those of us who got through it fought some pretty tough battles, and the world often looked pretty bleak.  I would suggest that for the better part of two years, we all got to experience just about as many negative feelings as we can.  Not that I'm suggesting that we aren't still feeling those now that the surge of the pandemic has subsided.  But rather, I'm saying now that it has, and we can start living in a post-COVID world, we get a chance to take stock of what we DIDN'T lose during the pandemic.

Here's some feelings you may have forgotten: the anxiety of meeting someone for the first time, with the mutual intent of determining the feasibility of being life partners, all determined over this initial meal or drink.  The flashes of terror as red flags start to wave, and at any moment it could all end in disaster!

I'll also remind you of what humor is on stage: it's pain happening to someone else at that exact moment.  It's the pain of being insufferably human against a personal expectation of perfection. It's watching the groom's pants fall down on his wedding day.  It's the bucket of water poured over someone else's head.  Or, it's watching two people stumble through a blind date.

Without spoiling too much, there isn't too much heavy with "First Date."  It's a fun night to leave the kids at home and have some good grown-up comedy.  But, deeper than that, it's just the kind of show we need right now.  We need to be reminded that somewhere deep in us, we have things we didn't lose during COVID, things that weren't necessarily altered by COVID.  We do have delight and joy, and we get to come into contact with them again.  So, I invite you to come share a date with us, and go home sufficiently connected with things you thought might be gone ... but they're not.

I'll see you at intermission (just kidding, we don't have an intermission for this show)!