Music in Black River Falls

Back in 1998, I saw a poster taped to a lamp poll for a play called Balm in Gilead.  I was intrigued by the black and white image:  a shadowy figure (maybe two) at the top of a staircase.  The play was being performed at the Magic Theatre, and I made plans to see it.  Going to Ft. Mason on the bus, and walking into the space, I clearly remember the stage:  a run-down coffee-shop on the Upper West Side, full of colorful and burnt-out figures coming out of the shadows.  The cast was huge. I loved the world that was created in that theater, and how the actors were so believable and good. The one thing that I've always remembered about the show was a specific moment and song that made it come alive.

The play takes place in Frank's Cafe.  The principal character, Joe, owes money to a drug dealer, Chuckles.  Joe has just met Darlene, and they've spent the night together.   Joe nearly gives up his drug dealing and starts over with Darlene, but he's killed by the dealer's thugs.  The play ends with the occupants of the Cafe, repeating their lines from the first scene, implying that they're stuck in a rut they can't get out of.

In the moment we learn of Joe's murder, there was a light transition into the final scene with The Rolling Stones' "Let It Loose" - which knocked me out.  I haven't forgotten about that moment:  the visual of an actor in a solitary light with that music playing over the transition.  It really hit me.

I wanted to use this song in Black River Falls to acknowledge that production I saw, and of the moment the character of Craig gets his comeuppance at the hands of Dabney, instigated by Laurie.

Music in this production was really important to me to get right.  Putting the music together and getting the tone of every scene and transition was so much fun to do.

Here's the playlist of music from the show.  Enjoy.

The first seven songs are the pre-show music - just personal favorites from my childhood, but also of the time this play takes place in - 1978.

• "Who Are You" : That's really what it's all about, isn't it?  If you know this song, then that's all you need to know about Gary's motivation. • "White Rabbit" / "Far Away Eyes" / "Walk On The Wild Side" - underlying music to introduce us to Dabney, and the environment of The Lighthouse, the local bar.  "Far Away Eyes" is not only a great bar song, but a under-handed reference to Dabney's extended monologue about Grace Slick and 'those shotgun eyes.' • I wanted to include "Sundown" because of this specific lyric:  "Sundown ya better take care/If I find you been creepin' 'round my back stairs" - this refers to the character of Craig, who is upstairs with Laurie at the top of the show. • "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" : The scene in Colleen's bedroom really is about the awkwardness of new love between someone who has more experience vs. the other person's inexperience.  But the music was important because as teenagers, we all had music playing in the background that was perfect for make-out sessions. • "Let It Loose" - a shout-out to Balm In Gilead. • "Time For Me To Fly" - it was a choice between this song for the final picture of Gary and Colleen, or the pulsating rhythm of "Anytime" by Journey.  I opted for this because it gives me (and hopefully the audience) a sense of Gary's new direction and new love with Colleen.

Black River Falls by Bryn Magnus runs from 10/29 – 11/20 in San Francisco at The Mojo Theatre. Ticket information


A Dream

This summer is turning into something that, at last, I could say has a magical element to it.  I'm speaking of being an actor in A Midsummer Night's Dream, which is currently being performed in Inverness, CA. San Francisco in the summer, at least for the locals, is a mix of fog, blasting wind, and indecisive sun.  I didn't know what to expect when I signed on to play Demetrius - except that my days would be spent in a stuffy office building by day, and by night, warm and toasty Marin county evenings, rehearsing past sundown while literally bringing out the flashlights.  It reminded me of summers in Lenox, MA, when the fireflies made their presence known at dusk.

The year has been full of a lot of auditions, near misses, and dashed hopes.  LeAnne Rumbel and Sharron Drake reached out to me in early June and asked me if I'd be interested in taking part in the show.  Of course, I accepted:  I just had to work opposite of LeAnne as Helena, a force of her own, whom I've known for for over 20 years - and never worked with - and return to Shakespeare, which I'd taken two years away from.

And so, in late July, I found myself on a day trip out to Inverness to see the performance space, a beautiful outdoor amphitheater - overgrown with weeds and green growth everywhere, and full of potential.  The space sits on the grounds of St. Columba Episcopal Church, and from the vantage point of the audience, has a beautiful view of Tomales Bay and the hills beyond.

Director Tina Taylor's take on the Dream aims for simplicity in it's acting, and does not try to kick the audience in the gut with gags.  The cast is comprised of actors who are older than the characters (the Lovers are not teenagers or young adults), and it's a production that feels instinctive and organic.

I did this play twenty years ago, and I was too young to play Peter Quince.  Demetrius would have been right up my alley.  I think I've found something about him that resonates with elements of my life.  He's a thinly drawn character, and is a plot device, (those are not the parallels I'm referring to) and it's easy to play him as a jerk (not drawing any parallel there, either). But who wants to see something predictable.  Hopefully people are seeing something they can relate to.

So, we opened.  We sold out both shows last weekend.  We had a standing ovation.  It's a wonderful thing to have the audience appreciate the literal sweat and tears we've put into this.

Working in a very bucolic setting, and listening to the silence of the area (it's so quiet in Inverness), and watching the late afternoon sunlight be a character in the play reminds me of my summers as an actor at Shakespeare & Company.  There are many parallels I'm noticing, from the guest house I stayed in last week, to the small town community of Pt. Reyes Station and Inverness, with it's seaside charm, and the human connection - that seems to be missing throughout the Bay Area - it's the perfect setting for Shakespeare.

A Midsummer Night's Dream plays through Sept. 5 in Inverness, CA.  Event and ticket information can be found on Facebook. Tickets are $20.  

When I Met Two Broadway Legends

Back in my greener days as an actor, I was living in New York, and had found a part-time job at the now-defunct Applause Books store on W. 71.  I had talked my way into the job quite easily, and I knew it would be a great place to meet actors and anyone else connected to theatre. The bookstore was my first link to theatre history.  The internet was not yet the presence that we know it today. I still had to reserve a computer at the library in midtown to just check my email for 30 minutes.

Applause had a fair amount of crazy actors who not only worked there - the clientele were just as varied and crazy, too.  The regulars were people who primarily came in to chat. Not so much to buy a book; this place was a community-neighborhood-theatre-geek hangout. I remember lots of faces but the names have faded. I helped a lot of people find books. I borrowed books. I kept books. Eventually, after moving to Brooklyn, the travel time was too much to handle, and the owner found a way to fire me, as he took a dislike to me.

However, there are some bright memories that remain:  helping Kim Catrell find dialogue training tapes (yes, tapes).  Play readings in the performance space; talking to people whom I'd imagined had a huge part in Broadway shows, or were directors, producers, you name it.

And frequent visits from Adolph Green.  If you're not a Broadway buff, his name may not have any impact on you. However, if you've heard of "Bells Are Ringing" or "On The Town," and you were face-to-face with this guy, your heart would've stopped, too. This guy was a direct link to Broadway's Golden Age.

Betty Comden and Aldolph Green

I remember how he would parade into the doorway of the store, announcing himself. He was funny, boisterous, friendly, and always had a smile on his face.  Some of my coworkers had warned me about him, describing him as a neighborhood character who just liked to come around every once in a while to laugh and tell glorious stories:

"Oh, wait until ol' Adolph comes in and talks your ear off!" they'd taunt.

I remember telling myself I had no idea who he was, when I first met him.  Even more so, I had no idea of who Betty Comden was, when he spoke of her.

Not until I had to deliver a book to her apartment, personally.

It wasn't unusual that someone would call in and put a book on hold.  But it wasn't too frequent when we had a request to deliver a book to a customer.  Such was the case with Betty Comden.  Again, most of my co-workers referred to her as 'Betty.'  One day I was asked to take a book over to Betty - since she lived nearby.

When I rang her doorbell, the door slowly opened, and a great, marvelous, expressive face peered through.  So, I said hello and gave her the book, and she asked me to wait for a moment.

She came back, opened the door further.  I remember my first impression was how regal she seemed.  She handed me a $1 bill for tip.

"Thank you very much."

"You're welcome."

The door closes.  I stood there half-laughing to myself, and also wondered what had just happened.  I knew I had just encountered someone important, but it wasn't until I got back to the bookstore, where my co-workers first laughed at this story, but gave me the background behind her.

A broadway legend.  That's all I could think about for days and weeks after.

Here's a pretty great interview with the both of them from 1996.

1977: Star Wars and me

"They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Naturally, they became heroes." - Leia Organa of Alderaan, Senator - From the novelization of 'Star Wars' by George Lucas, published in 1976.

(Spoiler:  I'm going to let my inner Star Wars geek out.)

When I was six years old, my retinas were singed with the sight of a Star Destroyer flying overhead. A malevolent caped figure with a deep, resonated voice struck fear into me. A lightsaber battle that thrilled me and broke my heart when Obi Wan was struck down.  A long trench on a battle station that had one fatal flaw that no one except a farm boy from Tatooine could exploit. And how could you lose with a smuggler with the fastest ship in the galaxy?

I clearly remember sitting my seat, shifting in my seat to see over the tall people's heads in front of me. My father took me and sat me on his lap, where I could clearly see the Falcon descending upon Yavin IV.  The sound was deafening.  The theatre was filled to capacity; people lined along the walls and sat in the aisles.  By the end of the year, the Christmas tree would give me the first toys and products from Kenner.

IMG_0071Those years covering Episode IV - VI clearly marked my youth.  The original trilogy toys that I managed to score, I've luckily held on to. While my AT-AT walker and Millennium Falcon toys saw them played to the limit, those somehow fell by the wayside.  It was the action figures I managed to hold on to, along with the original Darth Vader Carrying Case.  No C-3P0 Carrying Case for this boy.

I did have Darth Vader, of course, but in a fit of boredom, perhaps, I put him in cup of water and put him in the freezer.  Only his head was spared from the ice.  Out of some boyish desire to break things, I ripped his head off, and left his body in the ice.  An early premonition with regards to carbonite?  I don't know, but I never replaced the figure, sadly.

When the door closed on Luke smiling at Force Ghosts, and the triumph of the teddy bears - er, Ewoks - homemade weapons over the Galatic Empire's vast arsenal of technology - one thing remained with me:  you can triumph over adversity, and be strong in the face of overwhelming odds, while making new friends, and winning the girl (initially) who later turns out to be your sister.  And not only your sister, but your dad just happens to be the most malevolent and evil being in the Galaxy, who just has a shred of his humanity left.

Qui-Gon JinnThe launch of the prequel trilogy was something I was all but ready for, and how can your heart not leap at the sound of the Fox Fanfare while you wait breathlessly for the title crawl to transport you away?  Jar Jar Binks was not the new hero I was looking for, and Anakin was bratty. Qui-Gin Jinn sadly had to go, but man, he would've been an awesome inclusion had he continued on.  I was overwhelmingly disappointed. When the prequel trilogy began to pick up energy and ended on a better-than-expected outcome, I closed the door on any possibility of something new coming along.  I wasn't into comic books, nor had the Expanded Universe attracted my attention with the stories that began to fill the gaps.

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster-691x1024When Lucas sold the franchise to Disney, that didn't worry me.  The stories left to be told and dreamt up are yet to come.  And now that The Force Awakens has launched an incredible discussion in regards to theory and cultural impact, I decided that watching all of the films in order, prior to Episode VII was necessary.  No, I didn't pay $60 to sit in a theatre from 3a onward, dealing with lack of sleep, uncomfortable seats, bad food, and sticky floors.  How can you not want to relive the original trilogy on the big screen, the way they're meant to be watched?  Luckily, a friend with access to a screening room and the original trilogy (pre-Special Edition) surprised and delighted me.

The first six Episodes are colossal in scope and reach, as we all know.  The trajectory of Anakin's rise, downfall, and redemption - when watched in sequence - is truly heartbreaking.  Watching a single Episode is not the way to form a singular opinion, as it changes when watched a whole, the way Lucas intended.  The history of the Jedi, the political backdrop (blocking of trade routes - how boring) are starting points, though the manipulation of the Senate and the maneuvering of Palpatine to solidify his power and lure Anakin to his side is the best thing about the prequels.  Visually, notice how his costumes evolve over the Episodes.  Notice the color palettes he's increasingly infused with, signifying his rise.  And best of all, you have Ian McDiarmid giving the character a truly magnificent arc in Palpatine's evolution.  By the time Anakin is kneeling in obedience following Mace Windu's failed attempt to arrest him, Palpatine's transformation is mersmerizing.  If there's one thing to keep an eye on over the course of the three prequels, it's him.  I truly do feel something for Anakin by the time his transformation is complete.

"I love you." "I know."There's little time for human emotion in Episode IV, save for the short moment where we grieve the loss of Obi-Wan as Luke sits sadly, lamenting, "I can't believe he's gone."  Empire perhaps is the best of all, with a truly needed development in all characters; and that by the time Han is being scuttled away by Boba Fett, and Luke has learned his paternal fate, you're left with a powerful need to know what happens next. Not to mention Han and Leia.

Episode III comes next with Palpatine's instructions to "execute Order 66."  And Lucas was so great about giving the film such a sorrowful moment (beside's Anakin's).  The film's depiction of various Jedi suddenly being turned on and struck down by the Clones, next to Obi Wan's realization that Anakin had struck down the Youngling's at the Temple, is horrifying.  The film doesn't give us enough to let us marinate on that, because we all know that in the end, it is simply the pure evil of the Sith and ambition of Palpatine to rule the Galaxy in "peace."  Try comparing this element of Episode III to events happening today, or go back to history's atrocities, and there will be something to compare this to.

I do feel that Lucas is a true artist and when he went back and released the films in their Special Edition format, he said that he was updating the films with the things he had wanted to do originally, yet the technology wasn't there at the time.  While I like that he did that, I'll always prefer the theatrical release versions.  There's something about how simplified the effects are without sprucing everything up.  But what's cool is that Lucas was able to go back and do that to his films, like the way an artist is always trying to improve his art.  It's a weak argument on my part, perhaps, but I agree with him here:

Some would argue that you shouldn't mess with works of art. But he wasn't satisfied. And I don't think artists can ever be.  And while he knew that,  Episode IV was being hailed as one of the greatest films of all time.

Concept art by Ralph McQuarrie.I've seen The Force Awakens three times at this point.  I am excited about the future of the franchise.  The nostalgia factor is pretty big on this one, for me.  I grew up with this universe; these characters.  I had the toys; I played in the front yard and let my imagination run wild with stories; I had the original collector cards; I was really into Ralph McQuarrie's concept art, which - cool fact:  often a trading card pack would include a McQuarrie original artwork.  The original concept art really fueled my imagination, and I can remember looking at the pictures for hours and hours, daydreaming.

The Best.It's that daydreaming, memories, excitement, fear, wide-eye wonder and shared experiences with others that has always been the foundation of the series, for me.  Each movie represents, more or less, a time in my life, for good or for bad.  I've certainly identified myself with Luke, and his journey.  Han has always been my favorite, and while his story in Episode VII ends, I am disappointed that he won't go on to have further adventures.  Unless the filmmakers turn him into a Force Ghost, and I wouldn't like that.  Can you imagine Han Solo merging with the Force?  I don't think so.    My jaw dropped.  I didn't see it coming, but I should've guessed.  Ford and Kasdan didn't get their way in Episode VI - to kill him off.  This time, they got their wish.

But, the end of Episode VII was an emotional tug at the heart, and so brilliantly done.  I did not know how Luke would reappear, and his presence throughout the entire film is felt.  But the face-off between him and Rey, and the music, well...all I can say is, I can not wait for Episode VIII and IX and to find out how Luke's story is played out.

The next few years are going to be very exciting.  Better yet, wouldn't it be just perfect if I could work in one of the upcoming films?  Goal set.  GO.

Fall 2015: New York City

New York. A more unique visit than previous ones. What prompted this visit was an invitation from Blue Man Group to audition. It was very unexpected. With so many friends and colleagues urging me to take advantage of this opportunity, I made arrangements. Contacted everyone I knew to see who would be in the City while I was visiting, arranged to stay at my friend Nick and Barb's place for the week, and did as many things as I could that were free to do.

The best and cheapest flight out I could get got me to JFK after 11p. However, we sat on the runway for 45 minutes due to the gate being unavailable. This prompted my waiting driver to bail, caused me to get other transportation arranged, and after 1a, I managed to open the door to my waiting hotel room and promptly fall into the bed.  I had decided that a hotel room was necessary, since my audition would be the following morning - trying to go out to my friends' apartment in Jersey City would've been impossibly draining.

Monday morning came all to quickly, and I was up at 8a. For all I knew, I was in Manhattan, but once I was out the door, and into the falling rain on E. 17th Street, the smell of the City, the architecture, the noise, and the bustling energy was already hitting me. I walked to Union Square, looking for a good place to start with breakfast. Just down Broadway, I ducked into a coffee shop, settled into a deep chair, and, with coffee in hand, and croissants at the ready, read a copy of TimeOut New York front to back.  This settled me considerably, as my heart-rate and breath were already increased.  I was nervous about the audition at 11:30a.

With MetroCard in hand, I was quickly entering the subway and made my way down to Canal and Broadway, where the audition was to be held.  Across the street from the location stood a reliable Starbucks, so I was able to settle in there for several minutes, read a chapter of my book, make my final adjustments mentally, and head across the street and upstairs to the offices.

The BMG offices contain the rehearsal spaces, and I guess that this is where all the work happens until a Blue Man starts performing uptown near the Public Theatre.  I was greeted with a warm hello from the casting assistant who had invited me to the audition; filled out paperwork, and waited.  Other men began to arrive and sign in, however, they all had hair, I quickly noticed.

Soon, a woman came in and introduced herself. She would be working with us in the audition. She gathered us five men and took us back to a large rehearsal studio. I saw props from the show; percussion instruments; and a room full of makeup supplies, obviously to turn someone blue.  The room was not brightly lit as we entered, and I don't know if this was on purpose, but we were asked to take a seat along one wall, and we were then given an explanation about what to expect, and what we would be doing.

I won't go into great details about what the audition entailed, however, I will say that at the outset, it's not about drumming.  It's an acting exercise.  Or, it could even be considered a clown exercise.  The point is to have a non-verbal dialogue with other people in the room.  I was only kept for a half-hour.  I was the only guy in the room with no hair.  And, I made a point to thank the casting assistants.  We were told that they'd let us know the outcome that night, with callbacks set to begin the next day and Friday.

I directly got onto the subway and went up to Times Square.  For no other reason than to go to the Actors Equity building on W. 46th and check out the audition postings, as well as to properly give myself a pat on the back for joining Equity.  How often do you get to proudly present your union ID when you arrive at it's entrance?  That was me.

I'd done some research ahead of time about what shows would be auditioning while I was in town. And while reading the boards, there was nothing new that I could see that I could go out for, except for The Lion King on Broadway.  The amount of listings posted along the length of the wall, to me, was absolutely thrilling to see.  There's something about being in the center of all this excitement, looking at the possibilities, knowing that I could pursue opportunities here, and dream of what I could do.  Just outside this door, outside this building, in the street and in the historic theaters in this district, dreams were being made every day.  I also met an actor who was there, practicing his monologue for an upcoming audition, and got to learn a little bit about what he did, and how the opportunities in NYC had been working out for him.

The boards at Actors Equity.

While prepping for this visit, I promised myself that I would try the ticket lottery to see Hamilton.  It's the show to see on Broadway right now.  If you haven't heard the cast recording, you need to get it now.  It's the most original and exciting concept I've heard, not since Rent or Hedwig and the Angry Inch or In The Heights.  For the Wednesday matinee, Thursday, and Friday night performances, I tried to get a ticket - $10 cash - by throwing my name into a bucket, and braving crowds who were there for the same reason.  Needless to say, I didn't score a ticket, but I did get to see and hear the show's creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda make a short speech to the waiting crowd.

Jewels the Cat.

The rest of the week was spent catching up with friends and colleagues.  Over my last few visits to NYC, I've stayed with one of my best friends, Nick and Barb.  Once again, for this visit, I was graciously accommodated, and I really enjoyed getting to explore their new neighborhood in Jersey City, just across the river.  Nick has been my friend for 25 years, ever since we were roommates together on a semester abroad in Paris.  He's had an incredibly successful career in IT and the software industry, and him and Barb have travelled the world.  Whenever I visit Nick, he always proudly shows off the things he's brought home from other countries.  He has two friendly cats - who LOVE me - and I never get tired of his stories and love for New York City.

One World Trade Center from SoHo.

So while I shuffled back and forth between the City and JC, I realized that once again, as had been the case when I lived in NYC from '99-'02, the World Trade Center was always my compass.  I'd always look for it no matter where I looked.  I guess it's because now, after 9/11 and the years since, the comfort of knowing the strength and personality of the towers somehow brought a comfort to me.  Three years ago, when I visited Lower Manhattan, I was truly surprised at the progress of construction on the new World Trade Center.  This time, as my flight was making its way directly over Manhattan, I could see the tower clearly, bright and shining.  I honestly can't believe that the Tower is done, and it's there, and the Memorial Plaza and reflecting pools now housed in the original towers' footprints, and the Memorial Museum are open.

Bright and early Thursday morning, I took the ferry from Jersey City across to Lower Manhattan with Nick and Barb.  The ferry drops off at Battery Park City, just next to the World Financial Center.  When I lived here, I had a temp job in the Center, and I'd commute the entire length of the island, just to get to this job.  I lived on 173rd, and when I emerged from the A-Train at Cortland Street, and come up onto the Plaza between the original towers, and walk across the West Side Highway bridge to the Center.  Now, upon disembarking the ferry, I was back on familiar ground, making my way toward the Memorial.  I was surprised to see that all of the security fencing was gone, and that you can now freely walk into the plaza.  My heart leapt when I once again approached the South tower footprint, and beheld the enormous size of the reflecting pool.

Reflecting Absence: South Tower Footprint

Today I'd finally give myself time to go to the buy a ticket, and visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum.  And it is absolutely stunning.  I wasn't prepared for the emotional punch I felt as soon as I was descending the escalator:  two gigantic steel tridents from the original towers stand, and you have the new tower behind those, presenting an incredible contrast.  I checked my items, and slowly entered, and I was crying before I knew what hit me.

The experience of seeing so much, while you are actually inside the foundations of the original buildings, and seeing the artifacts, and exhibition, is overwhelming.  There is so much in there, that after two hours of looking at everything, that I still hadn't given enough time to everything the museum wanted to teach me.  It became too much to handle.  Because around every corner, there is something to give you pause, and reflect; I got numb.  I will say that, for me, it was cathartic.  I was able to relate my own experience of 9/11 to what was presented to me here.  And the personal connection of being back in this place, left me with sense of loss and sadness, but incredible resilience and strength.  If I had any complaint about the experience, it's that too many people feel it necessary to take pictures.  Some people who weren't even born yet, seemed to treat the experience differently, or seemed bored.  I don't know.  It'd different things to everyone.  But, I think that if people wanted to have a true connection to this site, to this history, to this event, they wouldn't have their phones out to have a visceral and emotional experience.  But that's just me.

Laura Rohrman and I

My actor and playwright  friends living here are making incredible strides to continually work and develop their passion for their craft.  I managed to make it out to a staged reading of a play written by Laura Rohrman. Like my friend Nick, we've known each other for 25 years.  I've seen Laura's playwriting development take off, and she's written some really great plays that deserve attention.  I was really impressed with this play I heard, "Hoboken."  Hopefully this play will see further development and a production at some point.

Actor Watch:  Mary Marxen, a new arrival from the Bay Area, is here, and she's an incredible actress.  We worked together on a few projects through Berkeley's Waterfront Playhouse & Conservatory.  We made it out to a performance of a new play that featured my friend Galen Murphy-Hoffman.  "The Dishonorable Discharge of Private Pitts" was a play I knew nothing about when going in, and the ensemble cast made for a remarkable night of end-the-round theatre.  Well written, expertly acted.  Sometimes going off the beaten path lands you in a goldmine.  Galen was spectacular in his role, demonstrating a new depth I was proud to see.

Stephan Wolfert and I.

My final night in New York, I made it up to Columbia University to see my friend, actor Stephan Wolfert perform is one-man tour-de-force "Cry Havoc."  My third time seeing the show.  I'm very lucky to know this man and his work, and I think that it needs to be seen - any way you can.  We met at Shakespeare & Company - well, in the snowy parking lot of a Hertz rental facility.  I had driven from New York to Lenox, MA with a rental car, and when I pulled into the parking lot to drop the car off, the car got stuck in a snow pile.  This man, came over to help push to car, whom I learned, was Stephan.  Now, seeing him perform his work for veterans, and his passion to bring attention to the stories of veterans, is astounding.  He is a member of Bedlam, and has established an outreach group called De-Cruit.  Please go see Stephan perform "Cry Havoc."  Absolutely necessary.

One World Trade Center pays tribute to France, 11/13/15.

Late Friday afternoon, I learned that Paris was attacked.  Landmarks in Manhattan were turned the color of the French flag.  As I prepared to return to New Jersey for the night, I emerged from the Cortland St. subway station and looked up.  One World Trade Center had it's spire lit up in blue, white and red.  I initially felt nervous about leaving out of JFK the following morning.  But I did get home to SF rather quickly.

So what's left to say?  Did I get called back for Blue Man Group?  No.  I only wish I'd been able to move forward into their callbacks to further demonstrate my skills.  Being asked to audition for them was a gift itself.  Now, they know who I am.  I would love to be considered again down the road.

What this trip meant to me is that I'm at a crossroads - or have been - for sometime. My career in acting is now at a place where I need to be working consistently and constantly.  I think 2016 will be a great year and hopefully it will see growth new, exciting opportunities I haven't yet had.  I have so many friends and colleagues that I'm thankful to for encouraging me to get out to NYC for this audition, and I couldn't have done this without everyone's support.  Even more encouraging, is that I know the community here in SF has my back.

Stay tuned for more...

NYC: Blue Man Group Audition

I am raising money to fund a very last-minute trip to New York City to attend an audition for Blue Man Group. You’re probably familiar with them. The production incorporates stunning visuals, awesome music, and a unique theatrical experience. I'm thrilled beyond words for this opportunity. Last Friday, this email came:

Dear Scott:

We are holding auditions November 10th for the role of Blue Man and would like to include you in our schedule for the day....

In order to take advantage of this, I'll need to be off of work for a week. If I'm called back, it will be the next day, Nov. 11th. There will be a second day of callbacks if I'm asked to return for that. If I am asked to be a member of the Company, it means I can have a contract with a guaranteed paycheck, benefits, a new (for me) and well-known show to be a part of, and most importantly, extra cash to send home to my family.

I don't have vacation or sick pay to use. I don't have any savings to use. My job will pay me before I leave, but that money is going toward November's rent. I go to New York next week with <$100 in my pocket.

• If you feel compelled to contribute any amount you’d like, you can do so - for no fee to you or me - at this webpage:$scottragle

These are my projected expenses. I’m hoping to raise $400 to have in hand during the week:

Airfare: $350 Lodging: $150 Transportation (Subway, Train & Taxi): $100 Food, Entertainment: $200 Unexpected Expenses $100

During my stay, I plan to attend some theatre productions that involve industry colleagues, as well as attend auditions for other productions, if I'm able to. Even if I don’t get to the callback rounds, this will be a great opportunity for them to have seen my work, and hopefully there could be a future opportunity.

Thank you for your consideration. I am grateful for any donation you wish to contribute. Knowing that I had your help will mean everything to me!

Stay tuned for updates!

Kaleidoscope & Diversity In Casting

Earlier in 2015, Brian J. Patterson told me and others about his dream to bring more attention to the obvious lack of diversity in casting in Hollywood. Backed up with strong statistics and a passion to somehow, someway, bring more attention to this issue, myself, Linsay Roussesu, Cameron Mark Lewis, and Brian met to discuss his ideas. Over the coming weeks and months, we began to narrow it down to the creation of a new production company that could self-produce it's own content. We are calling ourselves Kaleidoscope Productions.  To start with, the content would come out in short, 7-second blasts called "Vines," - a perhaps perfect length to get an idea out there, and to satisfy the short-attention-spanned populace, too.

We chose the subject of "Women In Film."  We put out a call for story ideas, and after getting many excellent submissions, we went with a series of ideas put forth by actress and writer Kate Ociepka. We quickly found actors to participate.  I took on the role of producer for the project; and I also got to direct one of the pieces.  We also had the following talent on hand:  Jackie Dallas, Tina D'Elia, Jasania DeShong, Andy Strong, Alice Ko, Edwin Ortiz, and Nancy Madden. They all did fantastic work, and I encourage you to see the videos we produced at the links below.

Today, we release the short that I directed, called "Casting."  I think it is the most brilliant of all the pieces that Kate wrote, and for me, my only goal was to keep it as simple as possible, yet convey her message simply.

"Basically this one deals with ageism in Hollywood. I read that most women who win Oscars do so before the age of 30, while most men get their Oscars after the age of 30. So it's about feeling unwanted and being "put out of one's misery" - because Hollywood projects the idea that an acting career for a woman after 30 is very hard to start and equally difficult to maintain." - Kate Ociepka

Watch, and please leave any thoughts below.  Kaleidoscope will be expanding in its ideas and offerings, and I'm very proud to be part of a creative force that wants to make a difference.  You can see all of Kaleidoscope's videos at the following places:

Facebook YouTube Instagram Vine

Coffee & Catchup with Sarah Kliban

Coffee and Catchup is now taking flight, and judging from today's turnout, it is becoming the actor's hub for information and networking.  Plus, the enthusiasm of our guests and returning members of the community is reinforcing it's importance.  San Francisco  - and the Bay Area at large - has needed this kind of group.  It's going to fill a very important need for actors who are set on launching their acting career, or are in the midst of it. Sarah Kliban has been a fixture in the Bay Area for as long as I can remember - and that goes back to even before I lived in NYC.  I can remember being on different film sets or audition rooms with her, and how much she brings a vitality and excitement to what she does.  She clearly loves her work.  I was thrilled to learn that she was eager to be a guest for us.  Apparently, she'd already heard of us through the grapevine, when she was contacted by Taylor Lambert:  "Oh, I was told that I might be hearing from you guys."  The word is out.

Even with the rainstorm starting to hit the City, the turnout was large, with upwards of 50 or so people.  All of them at some point in their acting career, have had some sort of interaction with her, whether in the audition or in a class she has taught.  I don't think I've actually seen her in a few years, yet, as soon as she entered the room, of course, it was like seeing an old friend again.  As a casting director, she usually sees plenty of my submissions I do through SF Casting.

So it wasn't a surprise that she practically knew every actor's name in the room.  We began with an exercise she wanted everyone to do.  Introduce yourself.  Simple.  But by just saying your name, and the inflection you give your voice, can tell a person so much.  And so many of us, including myself, will talk in a way that denotes a question, when it really isn't.  I mean, if you think about it, and you listen to yourself talking, you may catch yourself making a statement, yet it really comes out as a question.  Sarah made this point very early, by having everyone stand up, and say, "Hello, my name is....  I am a..."  Declare what you are, and don't make it a question.  Declare it.  It was fantastic to hear everyone stand up and declare who they were without hesitation or doubt.  It will make for a better slate in the audition room, too.

It's not enough to just summarize what was said, because you would have to have been there to understand her point of view.  And she's not the only one dispensing this advice, which she doesn't normally share, she pointed out.  We were very lucky to have her talk to us, hear her opinions, and tell us frankly about what actors are doing right and wrong.  But there were many golden pieces of advice and commentary:

I have never once walked out of an audition without saying thank you. But I am completely guilty of commenting too much afterward.  I've learned to rein it in over the years, but sometimes you get in a room with a CD who you've known and auditioned in front of countless times, and you know, it just feels like chatty-chat-chat time.  Totally on-point with this comment.

The decision on whether an actor should go Fi-Core is a topic many are debating, especially here in San Francisco.  For someone who doesn't know what that means, essentially a union actor (SAG/AFTRA) drops their membership and become a non-dues paying member; thereby giving up the protections, benefits, and privileges of being a union actor.  It enables an actor to work on union and non-union projects, and it is something that I know many people do and are doing it successfully. This is something I know I could do, myself; but for the record, I have benefited enormously from the union and I don't think it's the right decision for me, especially if I move to LA or NYC.  San Francisco has a huge non-union segment of actors, and the majority of work being done here is non-union; but on the other hand, union productions have increased over the last few years, and especially now with the passage of AB1839, it should be getting better.  But ultimately, a decision like that can have a great or negative impact on your career.

We got practical advice on how to approach your headshot, and Sarah gave a great demonstration of how to use your eyes (the secret is to smile!); talked about resumé credits; and how important it is for actors to think about how they represent themselves professionally.  Casting directors want to see us succeed, yes; they are not to be feared.

It's great to have the community turn out in force for events such as these, and I'm particularly excited about how hungry everyone is to network and collaborate.  It's great to have inspiration and encouragement from others.  Big mentions to Tina D'Elia, Lee O'Brian, Steven Spohn, Linsay Rousseau, Brian Patterson, Boston Blake, Laurie Burke, Andy Strong, and everyone I meet every week who is bringing their game on.  It's beyond impressive!

We've got a short wrap-up podcast that Sarah recorded with myself and Cameron Mark Lewis afterward. That will be posted sometime next week on our dedicated podcast page - which, if you haven't checked out, you need to!  It's got an archive of past events with our notable guests.

Feel free to leave thoughts or comments below if you attended.