Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

tunneling out

I'm alive.  I swear.

Wow.  Do I miss this place. 

Our firewalls at work updated/changed and now while I have non-stop access to facebook, I can't log into blogger, which makes posting here a bit of a challenge.

When I'm inspired to write, it always seems to hit at a "offline" time...and when I do have access (like now), it's on a clock ticking down...and man, I seriously can't produce on a stopwatch.  A deadline, sure, but a stopwatch?  Nope.

So I am around.  I will find a solution.  My need to spew my brain parts into the void hasn't altered and distance certainly has made the heart grow fonder.

So, fear not brave readers.  The two of you just have to hang in there a bit longer and I'll be back.

With a vengence.  Because, I have a lot of I might as well put it to use.



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

While On My Way To Hell - 365 Sketches Project

While On My Way To Hell  is the sketch show I'm directing as part of the insanity which Joe Janes has wrought upon this earth better known as, 365 Sketches Project.

Joe Janes wrote one sketch per day and posted it to his blog every single day for a year.

Now, the world gets a chance to explore a year's worth of comedy writing:
...from the mind of one man
...under the eyeballs of 26 directors
...thru the commitment of 117 actors
...over the course of 10 nights.

Do you have the balls to witness this marvel? 
You've got 26 chances to man up and do it.

Tickets can be purchased here
Again. There are 26 shows.  Make sure you click the right date!

While On My Way To Hell will be performed ONE NIGHT ONLY! 
Saturday, June 5 at 10pm (sharp)
Directed by Rebecca Langguth
Performed by Kim Boler, John Brewster, Trey Hanks, Briana Hansen, Ben Harpe and Brett McGovern
Tickets for this are $10 (and include free Goose Island Beer, yo.)
Performing at Strawdog Theater, 3829 North Broadway St, Chicago.

They are going fast, I'd get them toot sweet!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

a tale told by a fool

This is the story I told at the SKALD event last weekend. 

I had a hard time settling on the right story, in fact, I never remember it being this hard to pin one down.  I changed my mind a dozen or more times over the last week and literally committed to this story about 24 hours prior to the competition. I wrote it the night before and edited it like nuts the day of...and just didn't give myself enough time to properly commit it to memory or time it out.  (Contestants are only allowed 7 minutes to tell your story, then the lights dim and go out completely 30 seconds later.)

Of course, now I know where I wasted time...and how I would continue to edit it, but I will put it down here, in it's complete and long-winded goodness.  This occurrence happened in 1982.  That's 28 years ago.  I never told it to my parents, until my mom asked me, a couple days later, what story I told.

I figured, it's too late for her to ground me from going to the roller rink, so I fessed up.

Maybe, if he asks nicely, I'll tell it to my Pops. 
Of course, he will still try to ground me.

Please insert knowing glances and glares where you feel I might have put them to really sell the shit out of this not-so-tall tale.


When I was a kid, I was what you might call "scrappy."

I was small for my age and rail thin.  So much so, for a time, my parents thought I might have a tape worm or some rare aberrant illness.  I was fine.  I was healthy. I was just a grade A tomboy.

I lived to run and climb and brawl with boys just to show them I was their equal. My two role models were Huck Finn and Laverne De Fazio .

There wasn't a day that I didn't have some form of bruise or scab on my body, which I wore as a badge of honor and couldn't wait to amaze you with the story of how I overcame some perceived physical adversity. 

And while I pretty much grew out of that stage by middle school, something happened there that proved to me other folks still saw me that way.  Scrappy.

I recently read a quote by a 14th century scholar named Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam...let's call him "Desi."  Desi was a Dutch Renaissance humanist and a Catholic priest and a theologian who enjoyed working on both religious texts and satirical works.

I am an American secularist who enjoys burritos.
So, we have a lot in common.

Actually, even though we lived centuries apart, I feel as though we might see the world through the same perspective. He was a very prolific writer and critic. You may think you don't know Desi, but you've heard his stuff.   He's credited for coining the adage, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."

Not too shabby.

He's also credited for originating the phrase, "Pandora's box."

See, when he was translating it from the original Greek into Latin, he misinterpreted "pithos" (which means storage jar) with pyxis (which means box.)  So, really, we should have been talking about Pandora's Jar for the last 600 years...but for my man Desi's screw up.

But the quote of his that's stuck in my brain is this...

The fox has many tricks. The hedgehog has but one.  But, that is the best of them all.

Now, most people probably wouldn't associate their power animal with the hedgehog.  I mean, it's not the most dynamic or virtuous creature.  But, something about it rings true to me.
When I was 12, our school district was drawn in such a way that while I lived 10 minutes from the nearest junior high, I instead rode a bus for an hour to the school our house was zoned for. 

It was a rare occasion that I ever stayed after school, as both my parents worked and there was no public transportation available.  One day, my friend, Bonnie Begley wanted to stay after school to try out for volleyball and asked if I'd try out with her.  That her mother would pick us up and drive us home.

Turns out, while scrappy, I was still pretty short and didn't have much "jump" in me and Bonnie was kind of a klutz.  She was much more adept at playing the violin and was first chair in our school orchestra. 

We decided that volleyball just wasn't for us.

Afterwards, we waited in the parking lot behind the school.  Her mom hadn't arrived with the other parents and the lot starts clearing out pretty quickly.  Students, parents...we even said goodbye to our teachers as they left. 

Pretty soon, we were the only ones there, standing in the gravel, waiting for her mom's van to pull in and kick up a chalky white cloud of dust.

It was an early fall day, still sunny out with a blue sky and a nice breeze.  We stood and talked about...whatever 12 year old girls talked about in 1982. 

We suddenly noticed a group of boys approaching from the far side of the parking lot.  They came from the direction of the high school that was only a few blocks away.  Sauntering across the gravel, in no big hurry...but directly toward the two of us.

Two awkward 12 year old girls, standing alone outside a locked school.

Looking back, I'm sure the boys weren't more than 14 or 15 at best.
But to us, they looked tall. 
And lanky.
And older.

Something was up.

While they were still a distance away, Bonnie turned and quietly pushed the violin case into my arms and said, "Don't let go of this."

Then they were there, standing in front of us, all smiles and chatty.   
In a blink of an eye one of them made a grab for the violin.

I did the only thing I could think of, the only reaction my body could muster.
I threw myself on the ground and curled myself around that violin case.

Like a hedgehog.
A quill-less, clueless, spineless hedgehog.

Two of the boys grabbed Bonnie by the arms and held her while the other two tried to pry the case from my arms with little success. 

And so, they started kicking me.

They kicked me in my arms. 
In my legs.
They kicked me in my back. 
Over and over and over and harder and harder.

The kicking seemed to go on forever...and then Bonnie screamed out in pain.  And the kicking stopped.  I looked over at Bonnie holding her arm and crying.

One of the boys immediately started apologising to her, afraid that he hurt her arm by holding it too tightly.  All four of them, in that instant because boys again.  Scared little boys, realising that they went too far.

They all apologized again to Bonnie and ran off.
Of course, her arm was fine.  She was faking her injury.

I, on the other hand, was still lying fetal on the ground.*

Without saying a word to each other, Bonnie helped me to my feet and started dusting the gravel marks off my clothes.  I handed her back her violin and in the next heartbeat, her mother's van pulled into the parking lot.

Bonnie sat in the front seat while I climbed in back.  She told her mother all about the tryouts and how lousy we had both done.  We knew in an instant if we told our parents what had transpired that neither of us would ever be allowed to stay after school again. 

We wouldn't be praised for besting four high school boys with our grit and quick thinking.  Instead, the small measure of freedom we were recently granted would have been unjustly revoked.

[I can not speak for Bonnie, but to this day, neither of my parents know the true story of what went down in that parking lot.]

I stared out the window, in what I'm sure her mom considered my bitter disappointment as an athlete.  

But as the world rushed by my window, I couldn't stop berating myself. 

I had fallen to the ground instead of standing my ground.
I had let some stupid boys kick me over and over instead of making them eat gravel.
Or feel the pointy end of my elbow in their gullets.
Or let loose with a well placed knee.

I had never lied down and let someone hurt me before.

Why didn't I fight back? 
Why didn't I defend myself?

I wasn't afraid.  I wasn't.  Sure I was outnumbered and knew that Bonnie wasn't about to throw down, but I was so baffled by my own response after years of never taking crap from a bully.

It took me a long time to realize that I did the right thing.  The only thing.  That my brain and body in an instant did the math and knew the only choice we had of keeping that violin was to curl up and wait for this brutal piece of business to pass.

Of course, I know that Desi didn't write that adage to make me ponder on my lack of bold response. 

I'm sure he meant to imbue something grander in scale in his allusion to such a creature. That if we hold true to our nature...our instincts will help us weather the fray.

Still, he reminded me that I will forever have that tomboy...that girl...that scrappy little porcupine inside of me.

That I am still scrappy.
I am a scrapper.

The fox has many tricks. The hedgehog has but one.  But, that is the best of them all.

*this is when my 7 minutes expired and the lights started to ebb, so I quickly wrapped it up with a very edited ending. The audience did not hear the whole end of the story.  You get to.  Lucky duck.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


File Under: Lessons Learned from the Inebriated

Lesson One: Do not get on a boat with more than one douchebag. If you need clues on how to spot a douchebag, please see our reference manual, Douchebags. They Live Among Us.

Lesson Two: Do not get on a boat that is zoned for six, when there is already 7 people aboard.

Lesson Three: In case of eminent plunge into freezing cold drink, Drop the Motherfucking Wine Bottle.

Lesson Four: If you are "fall down drunk" drunk, there is a 75% chance that you're going back in. There is no Pass Go for you. You're going back into the drink.

Lesson Five: The douchebag will always come to the aide of the blonde first.

Lesson Six: Elbowing your friend in the back to try to balance yourself will karmicly payoff by having a drunkass doucebag pull your arm out of its socket in his attempts "save you." You earned that trip to the ER.

Lesson Seven: It isn't "romantic" or "hip" to pay a couple of teen douches with a sixer in exchange for a private party on their dingy. Better to pony up and pay full dollar for the certified canal cruise. They at the very least, have life preservers and will not drive the boat away from your sinking drunk ass to save themselves.

Viva El Nederlanders!

Friday, April 30, 2010

by request

This is the story I performed live at CHIRP'S Uncommon Ground fundraiser, "The First Time." It's about my first endeavour as a sexual personage. You've seriously been warned. I apologize for my godawful abuse of ellipses. This was written as a performance peice, so punctuation was pretty low on my concern list.

Picture if you will...

A small dorm room, circa 1987, in a college town somewhere in the great state of Illinois. Four walls of concrete blocks painted over in industrial off-white.

I had finished high school with the satisfying notion that I could wait for college.

That I would wait for an intellectual man.
I would wait for a creative man.
I would wait for a sharply witty man.

I waited three days.

In the room a young man of 19 stands in profile at the end of a bed. He stands, if memory serves, fully naked in front of his stereo, sifting through a pile of CDs.

As I lie in his bed with the covers pulled up to my chin, I look at him.

And while this is likely the first time I've ever seen a man completely in, what my grandmother referred to as, "the buff ," what I recall immediately isn't that he was naked. Although, I'm sure I stared bug-eyed at the spectacle of anatomy on display before me.

The only image my brain can register is watching him carefully making his musical selection and then the precise way the CD drawer mechanically opens...and closes.

And then there is music.

What that music is exactly?
I can't say for sure.
Oh...I can narrow it down.
Because, Big Poppa only had two CD's on that specific playlist.

It was either Rumours, the eleventh studio album by British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac...or the soundtrack to Amadeus.

Now, I would like to take a moment and encourage each and every one of you, at some point in your life (and I really hope you take this small piece of advice to heart) throw caution to the wind...and fuck your brains out to Mozart.

Nothing makes sex seem more like an otherworldly event than having oboes come in right as you're reaching climax.

I would mention the bassoons, but some things you need to discover on your own.

In fact, I dare you to have sex while listening to Symphony No. 25 in G Minor and not believe, with every fiber of your being...that Mozart wrote it specifically to underscore your ride on Willy Wonka's Glass Elevator.

Oh. I'll say it.

Mozart is the symphonic equivalent to Al Green's Greatest Hits Volumes 1 and 2.

But, I digress.

That very first night we were together, I'll admit, I really didn't notice the music. There was some other shit going down that pretty much had my full attention. It was in the background. A lovely undercurrent to the proceedings.

Years later, looking occurs to me that we were doing a Requiem.

1. Requiem (via the Roman Catholic Church)
a. A mass for a deceased person.
b. A musical composition for such a mass.
c. A hymn, composition or service for the dead.
d. In music, a mass for one or more dead persons, containing biblical passages and prayers for the admission of the dead into heaven.

Uhmm...okay...maybe we weren't listening to a death hymn the first time I did it....


Maybe, we were listening to the critically acclaimed, Grammy award winning Rumours, which has sold over 40 million copies since it's release in 1977! It is, after all, the 10th best selling album in US history!

I mean, there are a ton of kickass songs on that album.

Like...You Make Loving Fun!
Which, incidentally, Christy McVie wrote about her boyfriend...
Who was also Fleetwood Mac's lighting designer....
Who she just happened to start banging right after she split from her husband and band mate, John McVie.

Or...maybe, Go Your Own Way.
Penned by Lindsay Buckingham...
A song he wrote about his band mate Stevie Nicks...
With whom he had just ended an on again/off again romantic relationship?


Did I mention that, during the recording of the album, Mick Fleetwood discovered that his wife had an affair with his best friend?

These are my choices.

I can either recall that the soundtrack of my first sexual encounter was - a record about romantic dysfunction, personal turmoil, anger, recrimination and loss...

or a death hymn.

Funny thing is the boy never asked me what I wanted to listen to.
For two years the boy never asked.

And while I grew to enjoy the ever present one-two punch of the pop-rock feel of The Chain and the powerful orchestrations of Don Giovanni, not to mention the fact that either was a pretty good indication that at least two people in the room would be getting lucky that night...

I definitely would have enjoyed a third option.

And so, I choose to rewrite my history.

I want to pull the covers back up to my chin, look at the naked man at the end of the bed and dream of a different track.

A song, still as melancholy and infused with suffering and longing - because, obviously, that works for me - but, one that my 18 year old self, had she been sifting through her own CDs, would have fully embraced.

I choose Morrissey.

I choose The Smiths.

And I dedicate a new-wave sex dirge to that girl still hanging out under the sheets.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

track marks

Here's the thing...
I love performing.

Every part of me, down to the double helix of my DNA longs to have an audience pay attention when words fall out of my mouth.

Whether or not I'm reading words I wrote, reciting ones someone else penned or standing there making it all up on the spot, entirely out of whole cloth? That's an equation that ends with Me + talky = You listen with rapt devotion.

It's that part of myself that I both adore (the ability to spark an adrenaline rush quicker than a junkie can heat up a spoon full of horse) and despise (the soul crushing need for that junkie high.)

Whether it's at a backyard bbq or on stage front and center, the spotlight is my crack.

And while it's true that admitting you have a problem is the first step, the actual act of admitting that fact aloud is yet another chance to make someone listen to something you have to say....about yourself.

Since I'm too brain dead to come up with a less obvious analogy, we'll run with it. Like a junkie, I can go into rehab.

I can stay far enough away from the stage - as a writer or director or costumer - that I don't burn myself with the proverbial spoon.

But, when you hang down the block from the crack house...temptation is a mere dime bag away.

Last night I fell off the the most glorious way. I was invited to participate in CHIRP's (Chicago Independent Radio Project) funky fundraiser, The First Time, at Uncommon Ground - an out and out fantastic event.

Each of the performers - Scott Smith, Margaret Hicks, Paige Worthy, Leah Jones, Karen Louis, Steve Frisbie, Jocelyn Geboy and myself - hit the stage to regale the crowd with a story which was immediately followed by a lovely rendition of a song connected to the story in some way.

The theme of the night was...well...about your first time. Doin' it.

And while there were a lot of shared moments of frustration and heartbreak, there were equal (if not more so) moments of balls out hilarity.

The trio of musicians, the aformentioned Steve on guitar, Liam Davis on guitar/piano and Gerald Dowd on drums/guitar - holy schnikes! I've been letting out sigh after sigh, wishing I could get my hands on a recording of the covers they performed last night. Marvin Gaye, The Grateful Dead, The Smiths, Death Cab for Cutie, Michael Penn, Modern English, Extreme ...


The cover of More Than Words had the crowd singing along to the point where we nearly tore the roof off the mutha!

And the final song - Van Morrison's Madam George - was so full of could have heard a pin drop, the crowd sat so perfectly still with listening.

Honestly, I wanted to pull a bottle out of my pocket and pour that moment inside, Jim Croce style.

For my part, standing up there, telling my own tale of comic reminded me why I spent so much of my 20's and 30's onstage. And while I've kept my performer's life on the down low for the past few years - only performing once or twice a year (if that) - just putting my toe onstage brought it all back in a rush.

I need my fix, yo.
The genie is out of the bottle and I'm not sure I can put her back in.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

leon's definitely getting larger. again.

So here I am.

Once again.

Staring at that wagon I need to climb back up on towards dropping weight and getting healthier.

I am my own biggest hurdle and let me tell you, I'm very talented at getting in my own way.

It's amazing how logical and reasonable doing the right thing for yourself can be...and equally stunning how easy it is to ignore your own mindset and fall into extremely bad patterns.

Of course, that fall is cushioned by burritos, my friends.
Also known as my friend, the burrito. (who is only pretending to be my friend. sigh.)

I've never had to overcome an addiction like smoking or drinking or shopping [insert any addiction you may partake in or have been witness to.] But, the way I continue to fall off the wagon has got to be similar to a smoker giving in to that physical craving for some nicotine or the alkie's perceived comfort from a bottle.

It's literally a daily battle. Whenever I start to feel cocky about small successes, that's when I bend...which ultimately leads to the fall.

I've been watching quite a bit of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and while the cynic in me cries out about ratings and ad dollars, I can't help but be moved by what I perceive to be his sincere desire to inspire folks to put down the frozen pizza and pick up a wok.

Here's his TED talk on the subject that I feel cuts to the quick - it uses clips from the show and covers all of the salient points in a quick 20 minutes:

I've also been fairly mortified by a newish blog run by a grade school teacher in my own state regarding what her students are being given to eat. It's her own year long version of Super Size Me. At her school, kids get 20 minutes to eat this crap...and there's no recess anymore. This school only gets gym class once a week. It boggles the mind.

Kids are all energy. Add a diet high in sugar (and high fructose corn syrup) and 0% way to burn off any of it? How do teachers get anything accomplished in a day? Brains need nutrients, yo.

I don't know about you, but I got way more exercise running around at recess versus waiting for my "turn" in gym. Grade school with no recess? That's criminal. CRIMINAL. For the kids, the teachers and any sitters/caretakers/parents who have to deal with all that unleashed post-school energy.

Sweet baby jaybus! No wonder every one's got their kids on Ritalin.

While it's just another confirmation that we as a nation of immediate gratification driven consumers are swimming in - our own bad choices. Choices we vote for with our representatives, by our purchases and with our behavior.

That we are a nation (about 2/3) of fatties who don't want to look at the big picture (no pun intended) of what we are doing to ourselves, each other and to future generations.

I was a uber healthly kid. I played sports, was nearly always the first girl picked for the team (sometimes, even before some of the boys, yo!), and was an all-around tough little sob. You did not mess with me on the kickball diamond, the soccer field or at the public swimming pool where I spent pretty much every day during summer break.

Personally, I blame puberty as a root cause for my eventual down slide...but that's a story for another day.

Here's likely my greatest challenge that I have only begun to really embrace.
While I love eating veggies and healthly stuff...I'm just not a fan of cooking. At least not at the moment (I do recall enjoying cooking for others at time.) But, cooking for myself is just a pain.

A pain/hurdle I need to figure out my way around.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Last night I caught The Factory Theater's send-up of (a segment) of 80's pop culture Hey! Dancin'!

While it wasn't entirely my cup of comic tea, there was a lot of fun and funny being thrown down onstage. Some stuff worked tremendously well, other, not so much for me.

The costuming was outrageously gaudy to the point that I recoiled in my own brain remembering a certain pair of leg warmers I tried to pull off. ONCE. Noah Simon was pitch perfect as the cable access station manager and Dominque Johnson as Princess (a devotee of Prince circa "Purple Rain") reminded me of one of my friends who embodied the same fervent spirit...along in my friend's case, she was devoted only to Cindy Lauper.

I also enjoyed the dry-humping quite a bit as I'm sure it will be a while before I get that slice of physical slapstick scrubbed out of my head.

What didn't work for me was the "screaming as acting" school of theater that some of the cast obviously attended. Some of the piercing delivery hit the mark, mostly though, it just kind of flat lined for me after a very short while. Oofie.

Overall, it was like watching a bit of collective history through a wildly colorful and overtly stereotypical kaleidoscope.


As I waited for the bus, thinking about the show and how being a teenager was so vastly naive and tame to being one now, a conversation I had on the phone with my sister just a few hours before the show slams into my brain.

Yesterday, my nephew was punched in the mouth by a bully.

This is one of those seemingly typical bullies who pushes and shoves and verbally abuses many of his classmates. While my nephew has had run-ins with this kid before, yesterday was different.

This kid walked up to my nephew in the middle of a crowded hallway, shoved him and said, "Hit me. I dare you to hit me!" My nephew said no, he wasn't doing that....and the bully socked him in the mouth.

When he was reported to teachers by other students, the bully went AWOL from school grounds.

This was not the first time this kid has pushed or yelled at my nephew, but it was the first time he hit him.

After being called about the incident, my sister went to the school to find out exactly what had happened. The school admitted this was not the first time the kid had hit someone. While the school called the police regarding the truancy...they did not report the hitting/assault.

My nephew's mouth was swollen and bleeding - due in part, I'm sure to his braces. (As someone who wore braces, I can only imagine how much getting punched in the mouth must hurt.)

My sister decided that, had it been the first time this kid hit someone, she would have let it go and let the school handle it. But, because this was an ongoing situation and he had hit other kids and it was now escalating with her son, she decided to file a report with the police.

Her reasoning being that the kid needed help - and by ignoring this behavior and letting it slide, the school (and possibly his parents) was letting the cycle continue and build. By filing an assault report, the kid might be forced to get some counseling to deal with his anger or whatever is causing him to lash out at other kids.

The police took pictures of my nephews injuries, made a report and acknowledged to my sister that this is a kid whose name is familiar to them.

The only way for bullying to stop is when parents and the community step up.

The schools will not take on the responsibility, nor should it fully lie at their feet.

Much of the time, the outcome of bullying is damaged kids.
It's damaging to the victims, the witnesses and the bullies themselves.

More often than it should, it ends tragically.

On a positive note, and the thought I just can't get out of my head is how impressed I am with my nephew. He's not a scrawny, fearful little kid. He could have easily mirrored the anger that was being directed at him and, in the name of self-defense, hit back. But, he didn't.

When his friends asked him why he didn't defend himself he said, "Getting in a fight would get me an automatic suspension. He's not worth it. I want to be in school."

My nephew isn't a boy scout. He'll sneak phone calls to girls when he's grounded from the phone. He fib about chores that haven't been finished.

That boy will tell you whatever you need to hear...if it will result in consumption of a pepperoni pizza.

But, lately, when it comes to showing us the kind of character you dig down deep for, my nephew has really stepped up and shown that, as goofy a kid as his still is, he is growing into a responsible and thoughtful adult.

I'm very proud to know him.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

why it's important to have friends

Reason #6: They introduce you to stuff that you might have missed since you spend 40% of your day with your head up your ass.

Case in point...without Julie, I would not have this shot full of awesome in my world today.

I'll apologise for repeating myself yet again, but I love, love, love watching art influence art influence art (into infinity, yo.)

The humor, creativity and just plain sweat that went into the details of this video make me want to tell Ok Go to watch their back.

Jules, you are 2 for 2!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

While On My Way To Hell

If I haven't mentioned it, I'm a participating director in 365 Sketches.

Joe Janes, who is many things, but mainly what I would call, "a writer" gave himself a challenge to write one sketch a day for a year. Fuck yeah, he did it!

Now, with the assistance of Don Hall, every single one of those sketches will be performed in 26 revues over ten nights in June at the Strawdog Theater's Hugen Hall (more show info as we approach June.) Each revue will be compromised of two week's worth of sketches.

I'm directing weeks 13 and 14, which Joe has so aptly titled, "While On My Way To Hell."

These are truly sketches which show a different, sometimes darker side to Mr. Janes...and man, I adore them. Darkly humorous, heartbreakingly honest at points - every time I read them, I get a little more excited to put a cast together and run them.

If you're interested in being a part of my cast (or any of the other 25 revues), you can audition for the show (or, if we've worked together before, drop me a line) next Saturday, March 27th.

There is currently a wait list, but I'm telling you, some yahoo will cancel at the last minute or blow off the audition, because there are always inconsiderate idiots who do that shit.

So, getting on the wait list is a good idea.

Since this is a one night only show, there will likely only be a few intensive rehearsals scheduled. This is one of those opportunities to be involved with something pretty unique and exciting...with a small time commitment.


To schedule a slot (or get on the wait list) email Joe at and he'll get back to you with a time slot.

WHERE: Zoo Studios, 4001 N Ravenswood (just off the Irving Pk Brown line stop)
WHEN: Saturday, March 27th from 11-6pm
WHAT: Small group auditions - improvisation and cold readings.

Some of the other talented director types you'll be auditioning for include: Rich Baker, Mary Jo Bolduc, Regan Davis, Becky Eldridge, Jen Ellison, David Rocco Facchini, Jason Fleece, Lillie Frances, Rose Kruger, Bina Martin, Scott Olson, Chris Othic, Rinska Prestinary Amanda Roundtree, Tony Soto, Rachel Staelens, Derek Van Tassel, Trish Vignola, Rebekah Walendzak and Wendi Weber.

The show I'm directing will run on Saturday, June 5th at 10pm.

I am uber stoked about this project. Uber, yo!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

5 days and counting

I have decided that it is time that I can be excited about going to Vegas (while being broke) and not feel guilty about it.

And thanks to BV, I have the first song for the official playlist for the trip.

As Bries put it so succinctly, this is a remix that makes liking KeSha not feel dirty.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

an open letter to Mars, Incorporated

Dear Mars Incorporated,

RE: Your Agency Who is Creating These Snickers Ads.

Please keep on bringing this magic into the world.

This is 180 degrees from your past couple of godawful campaigns which forced us to look at brain collapsing words like "Hungerectomy," "Peanutopolis" and "Substantialiscious."

Granted, I make up horrible words all the time.

But, I don't slap them on the side of a bus and unleash them unto an unsuspecting public. You were not part of the answer back then, Mars. You were a part of the turn our nation state into a horde of Beavi.*

But with this new campaign...I forgive you and welcome you back with open arms.

While I rarely partake in a Snickers, I can promise to do you a proper and pick up a Milky Way Midnight.

Keep it coming.

*the plural of Beavis

Sunday, February 7, 2010

just do it

Maybe it's because I've had less than 5 hours sleep.

Maybe it's because I'm tired of the Dems rolling over on all the bullshit that FOX, the tea baggers and a number of conservative/republicans have been slinging for months and I agree that turning on each other right now over something like this is the last thing we need.

Maybe it's that I'd give my left nut (I have a pair under my bed) to hear once, JUST ONCE, someone in Washington just let down their guard and really say what they are really thinking, instead of what is expected...

But, man. This SNL monologue hit me just right.

I'm no fan of Rahm Emanuel, per se, and I think that this is Andy Samberg's imitation of Mark Walhberg channeling Emaunel...but, hell, it works for me.

"In conclusion, boo fucking hoo. Get over it."

In other news...Dave Grohl has another band?
Jaybus. I'm always the last to know.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

get yourself a sweet Madonna

Feeling like I've spent a night in the box.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

second banana

Olive just turned 11, yo.

I wish I had some awesome video of her acting a fool, but
1) I don't have a camera and
2) the Beast is like Greta Garbo when it comes to being photographed.

Instead, you'll have to settle for this:

Wow. That is one shitty magician. I mean, the dog performs well (and rocks those shades), but that guy's slight of hand is on the level of a 6 year old trying to kick a 5 year coke habit.

Still, I wish I had the balls to whore Olive out on this level.

A level which includes a website, youtube videos, press releases and directions to the dog's facebook page. Bitch, it ain't like you Benji or shit.

Wait. Hold that thought on whoring my dog out. I just saw this video...

That pooch is NOT having it, yo. Get me off of this stand, take this hat from around my neck and fucking listen to me when I'm barking at you.

And while I am occassionaly guilty of putting a sweater on Olive (when the temps get sub zero and the snow is higher than her belly), I will proclaim loudly that anyone who puts a speedo on a dog should be sterilized.

I find it to be not at all coincidental that, at the moment,"How much fun is this for you?" that "Bobby" makes his true feelings known to the camera, but exposing his poop chute.

Basically...what I'm saying...fuck it.

I just wish Olive could skateboard.

Friday, January 29, 2010

carpe diem

Okay. So, maybe you're a little trepidacious....

You've been burned by new plays before.

You don't know if you're ready to gamble your heart away.

But a life lived in fear is a life half lived, my friend.
Regret can eat your liver, if you let it...

So, Come On Down to the Storefront Theater (66 E. Randolph), sit amongst friends and neighbors and drink in the Hopper kool-aid! It's fortified with lye!*

Photos by John Sisson

Honest! You'll want to tell all your friends about the good time you had at The (edward) Hopper Project!

*sorry. can't resist the lure of an inside joke!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

vote...i double dog dare you

I am less than a week away from my 15+ hour day as an election judge.

I know that voting in primaries is about the least sexy/interesting/recreational thing one can do on a Tuesday, but you know...primaries do impact elections...and I think you all know how I feel about an individual's duty to vote.

( should totally do it. I bet someone in your family at some point in history was refused the right to vote. Immigrants, Woman, Minorities, etc. They would kick this entire nation in the balls if they knew how apathetic we can be about the process electing our local and national representatives.)

And yeah, it's confusing and the ads suck and who has time to figure it all out?

I'm with you.
And I'm here to help.

A great place to start is, where you can find your polling place and see a sample ballot.

I find those ballots pretty helpful.
- You can skip researching the seats that only have one candidate *
- You can focus on the races that you deem the most important of your time/resources.
- If you bring in your list of folks you already know you want to vote for, the actually process goes by SO much faster!
- Lastly, one of many of these folks will be running in November...and you'll be that much more knowledgeable about their candidacy.

*Hell, if you register Green Party for the primary, you only have to actually choose a candidate for one position as, aside from two folks running for Cook County Board President, they only have one person per role running. Bingo Bango, you're done, Greenie!

Also, eVoter has an option on the ballot page to show who received endorsements from various organizations including: Sun Times, Federation of Labor, Citizens for Ethics, Sierra Club and so on.

If you want to see who's the most green candidate, Sierra Club should point you to them. If you are pro-Union, Labor might give you some direction.

In addition, some of the candidates have links to "statements" and other bio and press info.

The point is, with the internet and a reasonably small investment in time, you can be up on the candidates and make a more informed decision.

Bingo. Bango.

Photo by Sarah-Ji

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

my new secret boyfriend

I am in LOVE with the Wu Tang Clan and Beatles mash-up, The Magical Mystery Chambers conceived and mixed by Tom Caruana.

I am in LOVE with it.

It puts a secret smile on my face.

It makes me want to put my hands in the air and wave them as if I just didn't care.

In fact, I want to shake the man's hand for taking such divergent sounds, tones and beats and making them smooth and dirty and sweet. (Thank you, Tom Caruana. Thank you.)

Highly recommended tracks: C.R.E.A.M., Uh-Huh, R.E.C. Room and Save Me Dear.

I totally want to marry this download.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

influence and perspective

I'm fairly sure, at least in my time at WNEP, we've never had as much press coverage for one show, as we've been granted for Hopper.

As an off-loop theater company (with 100 other small theaters competing for press as well as the decrease in arts coverage - too many shows, not enough reviewers, publications cutting back in size and scope - most reviews are barely more than a paragraph, these days), to have so many reviewers interested in Hopper, we're in a very fortunate and rare position to get such a cross-section of feedback. See D-Ray's blog for links to all the reviews.

While the reviews have been all over the board - some like the comedy, some prefer the drama, some want more of a traditional story arc, some wanted less, some loved the grand scale of a giant set and cast, some thought it was too far reaching, some believed there were "too many cooks" in the writing and some really dug the whole kit and kaboodle.

Mostly, what I've been interested and asking folks who come see the show is:
1) Did you enjoy the show? and
2) What do you think about Edward Hopper?

I wish I had kept better statistical data, because, again, it's been all over the board.

Some folks love Hopper's work.
Some folks are only really familiar with "Nighthawks."
Some folks know the painting...but only as pop art parody.
Some folks really are not a fan of his work.
Some folks were "meh" about him. (Why those folks came to the show? I suspect to support someone working on it, and other folks said they support DCA shows in general...which is really outstanding, as a rule.)

When you look at any painting, you find your own story and connect emotions with it that someone standing right next to you, well, they'll have a completely different tact on it. Theater is very much like this reaction.

Your personal experience impacts your perception.

Yes, yes...that statement can be true about all things throughout life.
But, looking at a painting or watching a play almost seems to magnify this result.

My favorite responses have been such...

"I went to the Art Institute today and looked at the painting before I came and saw the show."

"I am not a fan of Hopper. I generally find his work to be isolating and depressing. But, I loved this show!"

"What painting was that scene from?"

"Afterwards, I went online and looked at a bunch of his stuff. I really liked it!"

Personally, the greatest compliment I can ever give to a show is that I want more. If it's from a book, I want to read the book. If it's inspired by history or a true story, I want to research it and learn more.

In our case, if our show puts the desire in someone to see more of Hopper's works? I feel like we won.

It's an interesting cycle. Hopper creates, which influences us to create, which influences some folks to reconsider (or consider for the first time) Hopper's work. Or who knows? Maybe this show will inspire someone else to create something?

Of course the circle of influence is stretches beyond Hopper alone.

Speaking for myself, I reimmersed myself in the works of Studs Terkel and Nelson Algren as I was writing the pieces I submitted for the show, not to mention all the research I did for the costume design for the show. D-Ray's direction was very much influenced visually by Joseph Cornell along with 50's jazz music he uses in the show, along with other influences I'm probably unaware of.

In my mind, Art, in a way, is like paying it forward.

Brass tacks? Art is sharing. Sharing an idea or a feeling or a laugh. Edward Hopper (1882 - 1967) saw something and decided to put in on canvas decades ago. I'll never know what he was feeling that day, or what he might have wanted me to feel about it...but I have a reaction to it all the same.

His work inspired many people to create this show, which (hopefully) will influence some folks to look at his work with new eyes, perhaps. Or encourage them to put their coins on the counter and see another play by another small off-Loop theater company in the future. Who knows.

Art creates art. Art is encouraging. Art is free speech. Art is fun. Art is a release. Art is connection. Art is so many things. And pretty much? All of those things are a good thing.

I am often fascinated by the influence of art.
How the ripples can stretch out, sometimes quietly and find it's impact years later.

Here is a song. It is one of my personal favorites.
Originally written and recorded in 1964, it never made it to the charts.

Still, this song went on to influence many folks.

Nearly 20 years later, an English band re-recorded it to much success (the first version I heard and loved.) And more bands and artists continue to put their stamp on it.

But, once I heard the original, I was struck by how a piece of art can, by critical and/or financial standards, "fail" - and yet still be a beautiful piece of work that still ripples out.

I'm not comparing this to Hopper directly...I consider our production to be a complete success.

I'm only using this as an example of how art can reach across the years to impact other artists and "civilians" across the globe...and how, when I like something, I want to know as much as I can about it.


Tainted Love (1964)
Written by Ed Cobb (1938 - 1999)
Originally Recorded by Gloria Jones

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

over my shoulder (the 2009 edition)

I'm stealing a meme (again) from notnits: Post the first line from each month of your blog over the previous year.

While self-evaluation is great, I'm not a fan of sitting through "year in reviews" (or making you do the same), but I found this entertaining...and a tad revealing last time, so...why not.

I'm following my pattern of last year and adding the title of the entry (note the parentheses) and linking to the full entry (hit the month), if you're curious to see where the stray thought ended up.

JANUARY: (over my shoulder) I've been avoiding doing one of those "year in reviews."

FEBRUARY: (hiro worship) Lately, I've noticed that Time has been swirling around me...but it came to a slamming halt when his car hit my car this AM.

MARCH: (major) First, the meme: 1. List three of your major artistic influences and three unexpected ones.

APRIL: (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.

MAY: (rock paper scissors lizard spock) Next week, I'm taking a sabbatical from blogging as we enter the final phase of getting the show up on its feet.

JUNE: (precious) At the end of the day, when I finally made it back to my office, and as I was hacking my lungs out, an office mate peered around my cube and told me I sounded just like Gollum.

JULY: (slowly i turn) Yeah. I've been gone.

AUGUST: (give me these moments back) So, I'm thinking you might have heard by now.

SEPTEMBER: (the lost footage) If you missed it on FB, John put together this "trailer" for our show, which if very helpful, when you're trying to describe a live, sci-fi, improv show and folks look at you funny.

OCTOBER: (backing the wrong horse) I thought I could be quiet about the Polanski arrest.

NOVEMBER: (awol) First I was having issue with my access to the blog. "Gaw! Why can't I load this picture? Damn you to hell, Blogger!"

DECEMBER: (let it be) Many times I find myself drawing strength from the example of others.

brain sorbet

Just when I start to think that James Franco is edging on overexposure, I see something like this and it just makes me root for him all over again.

[From April 2009]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Here's the truth about reviews.

Some of it is actual constructive criticism. Some of it is just pulpy word play. Sometimes, it's based on personal likes/dislikes or preconceived expectations. And sometimes, it's just mean for no good reason.

Here's the truth about theater.

It's a group effort. You need a director with a focus to corral it all, but everyone has to hold onto their length of rope to keep the sail up and the boat headed toward the right destination. That's the actors, writers, technical staff, everybody. Everybody.

Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee

So when a review points out something grand, or less than's a reflection on the whole, no matter which part was held to task.

I've performed in (or worked on) a lot of shows. LOTS. A few were heartbreakingly excellent, a couple were painfully bad and many more than I can count were quite entertaining (which is the very least a show should be at any given time.) All of them share one constant:

Artistic types (on the whole) seek response.

And, let's face it, positive response is 84% sweeter than negative.
We want our work to be appreciated and understood.
Or at least appreciated.

Some years back I was in a really great show. Audiences loved it, critics loved it...well, except for my character. There were seven cast members. One particularly glowing review mentioned how fucking awesome every single actor was by name (and they were)...with the exception of me. I was listed as an "also ran."

Let me tell you, years later, the thought of that review is still like a tiny splinter in my thumb. It doesn't really hurt, unless I jab at it, but it's there, just under my skin. A reminder.

The thing is, I was happy with my work in the show. (Still am.)
And thrilled that we got such a great response.

But actors are, well, we hate admitting it aloud, but we are needy, attention seeking motherfuckers. We play it cool (or learn to), but really, down deep, we just want you to tell us how fucking awesome we are.

24 hours a day.

Of course, that's highly unrealistic.
At some point, we need sleep.

So, I suspect that's why, while we try to ignore bad reviews (but sometimes can't), when we hear words that flatter our giant balloon animal egos (like the ones they use outside of car dealerships), we tend to let them wash all over us.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm super proud of all the work everyone put into this show. More than once,my jaw has hit the floor at the display of talent and professionalism these folks have thrown down.

That said, if anyone could use some air in her giant balloon animal, it's me.

So, for today, I'm going to take it and run with it.
Enjoy it.
Let my brain explode, squeegee it off the wall and let it explode again.

Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee

Sun Times: Several scenes do justice to Hopper's paintings, including the winningly raw and poetic Nelson Algren-like riff that starts the show, and some exchanges of body language that capture hints of longing and disappointment.

DUDE. Nelson Algren is one of my all-time favorite writers and for someone to pick up on that tone and reference makes my brain explode and fills me with an excitement akin to Navin Johnson finding his listing in the phone book.

New City: There are eight million stories in the naked city, and WNEP lets us eavesdrop on a handful of them. Fragments, not full narratives, consistent with the mystique evoked by Hopper, create a mosaic of life. Not surprisingly, there’s a noir tone to it all, with spot-on night and the city costuming by Rebecca Langguth and a cinematic jazz soundtrack.

Although, I believe this reviewer was less keen on my writing "...the writing is spotty, ranging from clever meta-noir tone poems to ineffective melodrama."

I'm the only one (I'm pretty sure) who's pieces could be compared with a meta-noir tone poem. If you've seen the play, you'll find some ironic comedy in my writing being called "clever." Ah...callbacks.

Still, it's awfully nice to get a shout out for all the hours upon hours I spent digging through thrift stores and pulling my hair out when I lost on Ebay auctions.

So there you are.
Or there I am.
My ego. Sated for the moment.

Although...the day? She's still young.

Monday, January 18, 2010

It's a Hopper World

The show...she is open.

I'm celebrating my 10th year with WNEP and I have to tell you, I'm very happy that this is the show that marks that anniversary.

- The writing is very much reflective of our company. Dry, smart, funny, dark, and awkward (in the most delicious way.)

- While we normally strive for rather simple set designs (if at all), the set Heath Hays created in tandem with Mike Durst's light design is as lush as the set for "Metaluna" (John Wilson/Sarah Gorsky), with the scale of it amped up times 10.

- The actors have been firing on all cylinders and I love to watch them bring it all into flesh and bone. Best part...they all seem to be enjoying themselves, which makes it even more delightful to watch.

- The crew is just freaking on point. ON. POINT. You wish you had these ladies in your corner. You dream you had Joe Griffin layering your world with sound.

- A special shout-out to Henri Dugas (another company member), who, in the final days of rehearsal, with very little notice, created several key set peices that you would give your eye teeth for.

- Our director, Mr. D-Ray Hall should be very proud of the beautiful and awkward caliope he fostered into being.

I'm very happy with the show.

I'm happy with the writing I put into it. I'm happy with the costuming (although, it will be a while before I costume a show this size again. Woof.) I'm happy for the small pieces of direction here and there that I've was able to offer up as Don's second pair of eyeballs.

Happy. Proud. Satisfied.

With theater, like any art form, what you see is what you want to see. What you get out is often the perspective you walked in with. Maybe you'll see something new, if you're open to it...or maybe something familiar.

For me, this show is about stepping into a painting. Stepping into a world inspired by Edward Hopper. It's likely the most Studs Terkel-esque show I think we've done (since Postmortem.) It's full of small stories about every day folks.

Some funny, some awful, but always honest. Like watching a slice of a city. So much goings on, so many small moments that add up to the bigger picture. Like any other day, it can be filled with the mundane or magic.

Of course, I prefer my magic with a large serving of mundane.

Photo by John Sisson

(by the way...that's not the painting. that's a pix from the show. chew on that.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

role models r us

I had such a long day freezing my ass off tromping around this city getting Hopper schtuff done...but, suddenly...not having a car, waiting at the bus stop in 11 degrees of bone chilling cold, with five giant overstuffed bags of sundry costume peices...

It all melts away when I watch this.

Stephen Colbert was one of the folks who taught me about improv, writing and sketch comedy years ago. I continue to learn from his example (and his fine staff of writers) to this day.