Wednesday, April 29, 2009

picture day 04.29.09

I've actually been thinking more about green related issues this week than I did on Earth Day. In fact, I think the Bernard Court Ladies Auxiliary might be signing up to support local farmers.

Baby roo judges you.
Or, he might want to chew on your skull. Hard to discern.

I would like to throw out a fist bump to our President for making it through these rocky first 100 days. Nobody said it was going to be a cake walk. Actually, someone may have said that. Keep on trucking, POTUS!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Get Up On This: Spelling Bee

Okay, this one is slightly self-serving.
The gents who are producing THEMS are throwing this shindig. And I'll be there.
And I believe it's BYOB, so let's get a sixer and spell our brains out!
It's a Winner Take All Spelling Bee at the Playground Theater on May 2nd. Pay $15.00 and enter the Bee, or pay just $5 and watch!
The winner will take the money from gathered from the entrants!
So, the more people who play, the bigger the pot!
Doesn't this sound like fun? You can watch or play...and isn't there a part of you that's always wanted to try your skills in a Bee...but discovered that you can't go back to 5th grade?
I'm a decent speller, but a horrible who knows if I'll make it past the first round.
10pm - this Saturday night @ the Playground
$5 to Watch, $15 to Play!
For those of you who will be too far from Halsted to participate, I'll recommend a viewing of Spellbound which was the documentary of the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Think of it as a warm-up to the 82nd Scripps National Spelling Bee which is coming in about a month.
Last night I caught a bit of one of the early Harry Potter movies. Chamber of Secrets, methinks. Anyway, what struck me is how beautiful and descriptive the english language can be when you use it...correctly. Damn Brits always sounding so high falootin'!
I'm as guilty of buffoonery as the next guy, when it comes to the grunts and mutterings that fall out of my pie-hole. I think that's why I love the idea of spelling bees. It's not just about the ability to retain correct spellings and meanings of words. It's about WORDS. The noble building blocks for novels, poems, songs, conversations, philosophies, jokes, eulogies...hell. Even blogs.

Monday, April 27, 2009

de plane

I suppose there's history to be found just about everywhere you go in the world, but as I've mentioned before, I really enjoy the seemingly unlimited histories of Chicago.

Last week, a marine salvage company, working with the naval aviation museum, hauled this out of Lake Michigan, about 30 miles from shore:

The aircraft went down during WWII training operations when naval pilots were being trained off Navy Pier for takeoffs and landings on aircraft carriers.

The plane was lost Nov. 24, 1944, as Ensign Joseph Lokites, a pilot with 380 flight hours, tried his third of about six required landings on the USS Wolverine.

"It just crashed. I guess it ran out of gas or something. I took over from another pilot," Lokites, 86, said in a phone interview from his Des Moines home. He landed in frigid water, and the right wing dipped under, but he was still able to jump out.

"It's not cold when you're fighting for life or death," he said, chuckling. "I was lucky."

A handful of pilots died, and more than 100 planes were lost to the lake. About 40 have been recovered, restored and spotlighted in Naval collections, museums and airport terminals.

While there are still about 60 planes hidden beneath the surface of the lake, chances of recovering them are getting slimmer due to the invasion of deep water quagga mussels (seen covering the plane.) Post restoration, this aircraft will be put on display in the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

Man! I'm just thinking of all the Postmortem monologues I could have done if I read this ten years ago!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

don't look behind you

My internet was wonky last night, so I couldn't get online in time for a Wed post. Dagnabit.

We are 5 rehearsals away from opening this puppy.

Tonight's my first night off since Friday. I'm sure this rehearsal process is making the cast roll it's eyes at me every now and then, but I really think there is a method to the madness I'm inflicting upon them.

This is such a fun mesh of improv and stagecraft, I really can't wait for it to be ready for folks to see! The base for the crew costumes arrived this week and they look HAWESOME. We need to spruce them up a bit, make them look a little more lived in. I won't name names, but there's at least one crew member who doesn't want to take his off. That's how swank they are.

The cast/crew is so right on track it kills me. They really have gone above and beyond in creating folks with depth, personality and humor. For me, the devil is in the details. Delicious, delicious details.

At this point, it's all about running the show and tweaking the show. Tweaking costume, prop and tech details and helping the performers get comfortable enough to "oh yeah, go there!"

Also, did I's hysterical? They are hysterical. And so much fun.

I really owe the boys for bringing me onboard.
This show is makes me six kinds of giddy, yo!

Opening Night...May 9th.
Tickets $20 (worth every penny, son.)
Reserve your seat at:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Get Up On This: Public Libraries

I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to be really honest with yourself...

When's the last time you went to your public library?

Dude. That's too long.

Now, granted, I live in a swinging metropolis and our public library system isn't too shabby, but no matter where you live, supporting your public library is one of the best things you can do for your brain, your wallet and your community.

My nearest library is the Kimball branch and it's kinda like your grandma's basement. It's not pretty or bright or architectually interesting like some branches, but it's got books and stuff!

They have the usual on tap - books, audio books, DVDs, free wifi - but, once you get your library card, you can also get a TON of stuff online via their downloadable media site! Ebooks, audio books, mp3s, video.

Did I mention the free downloads of mp3s and audio books? In mere minutes you could be listening to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Ender's Game or The Art of War...or jamming to Mavis Staples, Schubert or Skinny Puppy.

Most branches have book clubs and many offer additional educational programming - such as this program teaching kids about being smart with money.

But even in spots like Elkton, Maryland or Cocoa, Florida...your local public library is worth checking out, yo!

Monday, April 20, 2009

city-fied town

Photo Credit: Sarah-Ji

So, it's kind of an old cliche that Chicago is more like a midwestern town than a world class metropolis. For me, it's more like they co-exist in the same plane.
I've borrowed Sarah-Ji's pix (that's a shot of Phyllis' Musical Inn, btw), one, because it looks like an amazing set that she designed and lit just for that picture...but in reality, she just walked into the bar and took that shot. The lady's got the most amazing eye, I tell you! And two, because I seemed to spend a goodly part of my weekend socializing in bars.
That shot is what Chicago looks like in my mind.
A very simple everyday scene that, if you look at it closer, seems to hold a bit of magic.
And better still, a fully stocked bar.

Friday, April 17, 2009

my own worst enemy

My brain is not functioning within established parameters.

1) I woke up this morning and was convinced it was Saturday. Not that "oh, I kinda wish it were Saturday" or "for the 10 seconds between sleeping and waking I thought it was Saturday." I literally had to sit there and think about what day it was.

For 20 minutes.

2) I love broccoli. I read the best way to prepare it is to nuke it (otherwise, you lose all the nutrients or something.) Last night I baked the perfect pork chop (so tender and juicy) and nuked an entire head of broccoli. I took about 1/4 of the broccoli out of the dish and left the rest in the microwave, since I figured I might want a bit more and figured it might stay warmer if I left the dish in there.

And then I went to bed.

I just this instant remembered that I have this huge amount of broccoli just sitting in my microwave.

3) My brain continues to self-implode. Even though my smarts kicked in enough to realise it's Friday and got my ass to the office? While it was willing to concede that today is Friday? Somewhere it decided that it's now Friday the 24th, instead of Friday the 17th.

I sent an email out to a bunch of folks about a rehearsal that will happen next week, but instead made reference to it being tomorrow. I lost count at how many red flags got tossed within 2 minutes of hitting "send."

4) We have a "temp" (who has been here for nearly a year) who was given her notice on Wednesday that today is her last day. Our office didn't even send out any kind of message to our team, since she's a temp and not salaried, which is all kinds of fucked up.

This morning, someone brought in donuts for her last day here. Donuts that were on the other side of our office. Donuts that I didn't know existed, until an email alerted me to both her leaving and the fact that there were donuts.

I've successfully avoided the donuts, but I have to admit, for about 15 minutes, even though I wasn't hungry, I felt like I was having physical reaction - much like a junkie going through DTs. I literally had to force myself to stay in my chair and say, "Pinata Leg. Pinata Leg. Exploding Heart. Pinata Leg." Over and over until it passed.

I'm fine now. But, man, that was viceral.
Especially when I'm not that really into donuts.

5) I have a little scab on the corner of my mouth and another just to the right of my chin. The six year old in my can't stop scratching them or touching them 1,000 times an hour.

You know, if it was my knee or my elbow, I wouldn't be so annoyed, but it's my face, asshat! Stop touching them! You would think that the idea of having a couple tiny scars on my face might deter me...but my hands! Won't stop!

Who will win this test of wills?!!

Dammit. I just scratched at it again.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


The other thing I'm working on is my skewering of a School House Rock be performed LIVE at Timber Lanes tomorrow night...around 10:30pm.

All in an effort to raise money for WNEP.

Unlike other Chicago companies, the Chicago Theater scene will not collapse if you do not donate ten cents per pin to your favorite WNEP Bowler. Chicago won't suddenly become like St. Louis, no children will be without a decent theatrical education, the vast array of Chicago original productions will not dry up and leave you with no theater to see except for the fifth production of The Tempest and a slew of Neil Simon plays.

But, if you want to see my SHR skewering, you'll have to pony up some dough! Much like our ousted govenor, I'm embracing a pay-to-play ideology.

So far I have $65 on the want to throw another sawbuck in the pool? I'll happily send you the link.

Even if you don't have lots of dough, come hang out and have a beer and a cheese-it brand cracker. We'll likely throw a split the pot raffle in the mix as well.

A nice night at Ye Olde Bowling's just what the doctor ordered.


I'm working on a show that opens next month called THEMS.

It's an improvised homage to some of our favorite sci-fi films, and is, for all intents and purposes, "Alien meets The Thing." I was brought on to direct. Finally, all those hours of watching (and rewatching) those movies on many a lazy Saturday is paying off.

I'm working with a great cast who is taking this project with all the seriousness and sense of purpose it requires. It's not a spoof. This is not "monkeys-flying-out-my-butt" improv. Each performer is crafting a fully-formed character which they'll maintain throughout the run. It's no small feat to take an archetypical character and make it live and breathe without becoming a charicature...but that's the ultimate goal and I think the cast is doing a hell of a job thus far.

While I'm a big fan of solid bare bones, long form improv...I'm really digging what we're creating. Something like a half-breed of improv and a fully formed play. We're not recreating the wheel. Structured improv has been around for ages. But, I don't think I've seen this genre before - and this level of commitment to the genre without making it a parody of itself.

We're trying to create the world of THEMS as fully as possible on a tiny stage. Costumes, some killer props, a good amount of simple (but impactful) tech to take you even closer into that world.

There are strong structural elements to the show - within which the cast will improvise toward the ultimate conclusion.

What that conclusion turns out to be each week...I can't wait to find out.

If you're a fan of any of these films, I'd recommend you check it out:
The Thing
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 or 1978 versions)
Dawn of the Dead

In the meantime, I'll be over in the corner, doing what I can to help make this a freaking kick ass show.

Opens Saturday, May 9
$20 (it will be worth it, I promise)
10:30pm Sat nite thru June 27.
The Playground Theater

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

picture day, 04.15.09 I long to put a list up next to this with the heading of, WHAT YOU WOULD BE GIVING UP YOU MORONS: traffic signals, drinkable tap water, public education, plowed roads, forest preserves, public parks, mail delivered to your home, lead free toys, libraries, the ability to call 911, affordable utilities, disease-free pets, clean lakes/rivers/ponds, breatheable air...etc, etc. etc.

Idiots. And I love how they're putting this all at the feet of Obama.
Who's not even 3 months into the job.

Also, anyone going to a protest and using the phrase"tea bagging" is just wholely without a compass in this world.

Is it just me, or does everyone hear Harvey Korman saying, "Lily, Lily, Lily..." (circa "Blazing Saddles") when they see this picture?

Go Cubs.

Is it wrong to think having a player named Milton Bradley is just plain awesome?

Answer: NO. It is awesome.

I'm not sure what the title of my autobiography is today...but I'm pretty sure this is the cover art.

I don't care if it is a photo op.
I love this picture for 10, 000 reasons.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

back to life

I'll assume that most if not all of you know that I had a fairly serious health issue that laid me out last week. It's improving, but ongoing and I'm sure I'll talk about it at length some other time.

Since I'm baby-stepping all over the place, I'm just going to make this a quick and painless post.

I've noticed that on many blogs that I frequent that they have a structure to their posts - a way to help focus and generate the material published that is content specific. I've decided to co-opt that plan for this blog.

From now on (or until I change my mind) I'll be posting as follows:

Mon - Focus on Chicago centric stuff and/or my pending To Do List
Tue - A "get up on this" entry - website, movie, etc.
Wed - Picture Day. The last one made me laugh. So, I'm keeping it.
Thu - What I'm Working On. Could be a show, could be a new soup recipe.
Fri - Random. Whatever I feel like posting. Could be a rant, could be a youtube vid.

The weekends will be free and breezy and I'll post what and when it seems like a good idea.

So, tomorrow, we'll kick it off with Picture Day.
Aren't you foaming at the mouth? last thing. Due to my health, I've been sidelined for the WNEP Bowl-a-thon this year. I'll still be attending on Friday night, but I'm not planning on bowling until my Pinata Leg is completely human and weight bearing.

Still, I'd like to help raise a few bucks for Ye Olde Theater Company, so if you were planning on pledging, please consider a flat donation. I know that this is also a rough year for lots of folks (including myself) with the economy in the tank, so really, any amount is truly appreciated!

All are welcome to hang out at Timber Lanes, nosh on some grub, have a drink at the bar and watch as I skewer yet another School House Rock classic.

Yes, the pool is now up to $65 for me to perform a SHR song and have it posted to youtube.

What song will I sing?
Only the Shadow knows!

If you're in town and are looking for some laid back Friday good timing, stop on by!

WNEP Bowl-a-thon 2009
Friday, April 17th @ 10:00pm
Timber Lanes - 1851 W Irving Park