Promotions, new plays, and acting challenges

I know I’ve been promising more and more blogs here on my blog but as the title suggests, I’ve been busy.

So what have I been busy with. New plays for starters, I just finished a stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and have sent it off to a potential theatre out here for their debut show. Hopefully I’ll have some news on that in the coming days. I’m excited about this show because it is the first full-length play I’ve written in a long time.

I also started a new play, inspired by some weird things. It always amazes me what sparks imagination. A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were talking to her son about the “27 Club” and the musicians who died at age of 27. I was also thinking about an old Stephen King short story called “You Know They Have A Hell Of A Band” from an old anthology of short stories called “Shock Rock” about a couple that finds a little town called Rock and Roll Heaven which is inhabited by the spirits of deceased rock and rollers. It’s a story that I haven’t thought about in a long time and I haven’t read in probably 19 years or more. The fall/Halloween season always inspires me. My short play “Lot 249″ was also originally written in this time frame.

That brings me to my next thing and what lead off this blog. Promotions. The short play I mentioned “Lot 249″ is one of the four plays included in my collection Based On The… This collection is published by Black Box Theatre Publishing and is made up of four short plays that are inspired by or are re-tellings of stories that have been previously published and are in the public domain. I’m really proud of this collection and don’t spend enough time promoting it. So, if you are in the market for a different type of read, a fun read, or for a short play, I suggest mine. I’m also looking for some reviewers for this collection, so if you want a complimentary PDF copy, drop me a note in the comments or in my email, Facebook, etc and I’ll send you a copy.

I recently talked about Based On The… on “Chatting With Sherri“, a podcast interview program for authors. I talked a lot about my thoughts on theatre, the arts, the importance of arts in education, and my plays. Sherri also produces “Sherri’s Playhouse”, which is here my play Murder At Home aired. Murder At Home is available to listen to anytime via YouTube or the BlogTalkRadio website or you can go to the video section of this website. Spend 45 minutes during this fall/Halloween season with myself and my cast of talented actors with this thrilling story.

The next show on Sherri’s Playhouse is a play that I didn’t write but I’m getting to act in! It’s written by a super-talented writer and young playwright. We just finished the first night of rehearsals and as I’ve been writing this, I got an email with notes for my character. So I’m going to wrap this up and go read my notes.

Remember you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter for the most up-to-date information, as well as fun things I share, and my standings in my fantasy football league.

‘Are you a feminist?’ — the question more and more female celebrities are asked – The Washington Post

True story, once upon a time in a land far far away (in reality about 20 years ago in a town about 100 miles away), I rejected the idea of feminism. Not because I didn’t believe in equal rights, but because I believed this notion that feminist = man hating woman. I thought, wrongly, that there was this evil cabal of women (who were jealous or something) ready to pounce and basically make us sperm donors or something. I believed and perpetuated this idea for a good long time. I had a friend and we jokingly referred to ourselves as N.A.M. (the National Association of Men). I got into a few near shouting arguments in my civics and government classes with a couple of young ladies who were just as passionate about things as I was, but on the “other side”. Yeah it was stupid. I was stupid. I listened to and believed in things that if I would have stopped and thought about it made no sense. Even lately, I tend to do what a lot of celebrities do and refer to myself a “humanist” (a believer in the rights of all humans to be equal), not because I’m not a feminist or whatever but because I think it’s a more accurate term.

There are things I agree with those who identify as feminist on and things I disagree on. I think that is the sign of someone who truly THINKS, I distrust people who blindly spout the same stuff as a blogger, writer, media personality, etc. because I WAS that person. If a certain radio or television personality said it was so, I repeated it verbatim.

I bring this up because this is an interesting article on the celebrity feminist question. What does it mean and what does it entail and why certain celebrities get asked questions about it while others do not.

‘Are you a feminist?’ — the question more and more female celebrities are asked – The Washington Post.

The Life of a busy writer

I know I haven’t updated much lately and I’m hoping to change that and start updating on a regular basis, but i say that everytime I go through one of these stretches of little to no posting.

This summer was a busy theater summer for me. I performed in Hays Community Theatre’s production as “Into The Woods”, I followed that up by acting in and serving as a consultant to Phillips County Community Theatre’s production of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: The Musical”. There is a bit of irony to this, as when both of these shows opened on Broadway the great Tom Aldredge created two roles, in “Into The Woods” he was the Narrator/Mysterious Man and in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: The Musical” he was Muff Potter. I performed as both the Mysterious Man and Muff Potter in the two productions I was involved in. So that was a bit of irony but also a treat as Aldredge remains one of my favorite performers. The day we closed “Tom Sawyer”. I began production of the radio play I wrote and directed called “Murder AT Home” for the feature “Sherri’s Playhouse” heard on the podcast “Chatting With Sherri”. As soon as that aired, I almost immediately began writing a new radio style play of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. I knocked out a 70 page, first draft in less than a week. I followed that up with another appearance on “Chatting With Sherri” this past Tuesday (the 23) to discuss theatre and my collection of plays, “Based on The…” (available now from Black Box Theatre Publishers).

So overall it’s been a busy time for me, I am hoping to blog a little more often, perhaps on my journey through editing, revising and hopefully producing A Christmas Carol.

Til the next blog,

Break a Leg

A Two Year retrospective: In Shadow’s Shadow: Neil Gaiman, 9/11, and me

I published this blog two years ago and remains one of the pieces I’m most proud of.

In the two years that have passed, more things have changed in my life. I’ve published two additional plays (one a year). Life is good for me, but we need to remember to keep looking back at the shadows that we have cast over the years and what we can learn from them.


In the days before September 11, 2001 my family had much to celebrate. The adoption of my sister was finalized, we attended a wedding of a cousin in Colorado, and got to spend lots of time with family. During that trip I made it a point to make sure we stopped at a bookstore. I have always been kind of a book nut, so no one was surprised on that Sunday afternoon, September 9, when I walked out with two brand new books, an anniversary copy of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride and a newer book that I had recently read a review of called American Gods. I was familiar with the author, Neil Gaiman, but not versed in his writings. This was to be my initial exposure.

On Monday, the 10th, I read Goldman’s book and fell in love with Buttercup and Wesley all over again. The Princess Bride is an American classic that never fails to spark my imagination. I probably watched the movie that evening, although I can’t remember for sure, but that is usually par for the course for me, read a book and if it’s available watch the movie. I know I did some prep work for auditions at Colby Community College the next day. They were doing the play Heaven Can Wait. If you don’t know that story, it’s about a boxer who dies before his time and is sent back into the body of a dying millionare. He finds love and his world is changed.

I woke up Tuesday morning, September 11, and didn’t turn on the television. I’m a TV junkie, so this was a little weird for me. I didn’t turn on the radio, I didn’t have the internet in my little studio apartment, so there was no doing that. What I did do was pick up American Gods and begin to read.

American Gods is a “desert island” book for me. It’s a book I find challenging and inspiring and a true classic. It tells the story of a man, Shadow, who is released from prison a week early due to his wife’s untimely death. On his trip home, he finds himself being pursued and followed by a strange, older fella named Mr. Wednesday. Mr. Wednesday offers Shadow a job as his bodyguard. With really nothing left to live for, shadow goes along for the ride. Along the way, while his zombie wife follows him and warns him, he discovers that the world he knew, isn’t what it seems.

American Gods is about the death of one world pushing against the on coming push of a new world. it’s about gods, myth, and magic. It’s about technology and its hold over us today. It’s about change. It’s about being lost in a world that is changing itself around us, reshaping itself, molding itself into something new and scary.

I read this book, all day, never once did my TV click on or did I tune in the radio. This would be betraying Shadow, and Mr. Wednesday, and Mr. Nancy, and Mr. Gaiman. I set, in a complete media blackout, while the world around me changed in a moment.

I went to auditions that night, which had been cancelled, and that’s when I found out. at 7pm CST, I found out what had happened. I, like everyone else, was in shock. Everything made sense now. The leaked words through thin plaster walls, dividing me from my neighbors, that “it looked like something out of Independence Day.” The lack of cars on the streets, the lack of activity anywhere. The fact that the radio station I worked for at that time, was airing the Presidents speech, when they hardly ever did things like that.

I felt like Shadow, lost in the shadows, not knowing what was going on. Lost, confused, shocked. I could take you to one of my “thinking spots” I went to that night. The place my friends Shane, Lacy, and Becca found me at. I can take you to the parking lot where the news was first delivered to me. I could show you the apartment we all went to and watched CNN, and Fox News, and Headline News, and CNBC and every other channel that was airing news. I could take you to the small Baptist church I went to and prayed. And even though I’m not a Baptist, it seemed like the thing to do.

I remember pouring over my Bible, looking for answers that didn’t come easily. Of drawing conclusions that probably weren’t there. The world around me had changed and I was fighting that change. I wanted to stay locked in a small bubble, in Shadow’s shadow, where maybe things weren’t safe but I couldn’t get hurt. Where I was forced to think, but not put thoughts into action.

Good literature forces us to think and to act. A life changing moment causes us to act and to think. For me those two worlds collided as a tower fell in New York City.

How has the world changed in 11 years? We’re a much more global society then we were then. As high speed and wireless internet has been developed along with cheaper, faster, more mobile computers and smartphones, more people are “online”. Information is passed along, thanks to social media sites, as they happen. In 2001, there was no global Facebook or Twitter. there were no smart phones and instant Instagram uploads. No YouTube. No Netflix. That’s life on a global, technological scale. What has happened to YOU personally in the last 11 years?

At the time, Shane, Lacy, and Becca were my best friends. My only friends. The 4 of us were almost inseparable. We went to church together, we went out to eat together, we were always at one another’s houses. We were hungry for a fresh spiritual awakening. And in the years that followed, we did grew up. They all three are married now, to wonderful, godly people. Becca has two beautiful daughters. Lacy quit her long time job and moved to a small town when she got married. Shane just bought a house. I floated from job to job working in various media jobs (radio and newspaper) and hospitality fields (hotel and restaurant). Last year, I lost my job and decided to go back to college. I rediscovered my love of acting and theater. I’ve been privileged to travel over the world. I’ve made new friends and reacquainted myself with some old ones. I’ve had a play published. I’m trying to make this writing/acting thing work for me while I juggle a job and schooling.

In many ways I’m in a similar place to where I was 11 years ago. Then I had just moved back to my home town and made some new friends and sparked an old friendship. Today I’m in a different town with probably as many friends, some new and some old. I didn’t act in Heaven Can Wait in the fall of 2001, I dropped out for personal reasons. I really wanted to do the fall musical here,  Curtains, but I didn’t get cast. That’s life though. In 2001 I was a scared 24 year old kid. Scared, not that terrorists had attacked us, but scared of change and what the meant. Now I’m a 35 year old man, and while I’m still scared of change, and I think we all are, I no longer fight change, I embrace it. And that, I think, would make Shadow proud.

I have No Mouth and I Must Scream – A playwright’s response to #Ferguson

One of my favorite writers is the incomparable Harlan Ellison. Harlan once wrote a short story about a fickle “god” (in reality a computer) who manipulated and changed and warped a group of people for it’s own amusement. In the end there was one man who had no mouth and had to scream. Can you think of something so horrible? A need to scream, a warning to shout, anger to release, fear to vocalize and yet you have no mouth.

I am not that man. I have a voice. I am a writer, a wordsmith, an artist, a talespinner and a storyteller. I have a few publishing credits and a few people who follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I have a blog (obviously, you’re reading it now) and a few followers there who may read it (like you). I come form a place and background of some privilege (not as much as some, but more than others.) I have been blessed to travel to parts of the world that some of you never will go, I have stood on a volcano in Guatemala and on a beach in the Philippines. I have seen these countries natural beauty but also the dark side. Children in hospitals crying out and street urchins reaching, begging for a dollar. I’ve seen homes, shacks, that were barely liveable and offered no protection, let alone amenities. I have cried over the things I’ve seen. I can still feel the pull on my shirt of children going “Joe. Joe. Hey Joe, gotta dollar Joe?” 

But I haven’t just seen poverty in foreign countries. I’ve seen it here too. I spent formative summers in high school working on Mississippi Delta, working on homes that should have been demolished, or watching dozens of people living in a house made for a few. 

Some people will say I shouldn’t say anything even if I have a voice. To them I say, “If I don’t speak up who will” or as the famous saying goes “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” So I will not stay silent, not about Ferguson, not about ISIS, not about arts in schools and arts education or any other subject I feel passionate about. 

There are people out there, in American towns like Ferguson, MO, who until two weeks ago, probably felt they didn’t have a voice. I KNOW that they felt they didn’t have a voice. I’ve heard their stories, people I know who are African-American and have experienced fear that what happened to Michael Brown, might happen to them. Fear, anger, and a lack of a voice lead to violence. When you answer violence WITH violence, the result is simply MORE violence.

When I was a kid, my folks had a gas grill, one day I was told to light the grill. I went outside, turned the gas on to high like I had done hundreds of times before, and went to light the match. Nothing. The wind was blowing and the matches wouldn’t take. I got more matches and finally got one to light the grill. However, I spent so much time messing around with the matches that when i touched the match to the grill, a flame leaped out and toward my face. I was lucky, I singed a few eyebrow hairs that’s all. What I didn’t know is that while I was trying to lit the grill to control the fire, the gas was building up until it “popped”.

That’s what happens when you have no voice. The gas just builds and builds and builds until it explodes.

I don’t have an answer, I wish I did. I pray I had an answer. I wish I could definitively say that if there was greater emphasis on arts in school, in painting, drama, writing, dance, etc, that the voiceless would find their voice. I think it helps. I know it has helped me, but that seems like such a simplistic answer in the face of such racial turmoil.  So maybe we need a little more arts education.

I want to say that if we just talked better, opened up communication and learned from one another these things wouldn’t happen. And that would help, I’m sure of it. I know my personal views on certain issues (not related to race) changed when I met people that believed different than I did. So maybe we need a little more communication.

I don’t know the politics of race that well, but I’m a student of history. I just finished a couple of plays that, at least to me, resonate, in these troubled times. One is about a young girl who moves to Lawrence, KS with her family at the dawn of the Civil War and why they moved there (to stop the tide of slavery). The other is about the most unlikely Civil Rights advocate you can imagine, a “bad guy” professional wrestler named Roscoe “Sputnik” Monroe, who was responsible for the intergration of Memphis, TN in the 50s. Sputnik Monroe’s story particularly struck me. Here was the most unlikely of heroes, an ordinary guy, who saw and injustice and fought for it. He was arrested six times, he was threatened and he threatened to give up his livelihood if there wasn’t intergration and it worked. I dont’ know if this is the full answer, but we could use a few more Sputniks, good men who aren’t afraid use their voice to speak for those that can’t.

You may feel you have no mouth and you must scream, but I assure you, you do, just try.

#Ferguson

Wrestling With the Wrath of Writer’s Block | Heather Hummel

I got the chance to share my thoughts on how I overcome writer’s block with Heather Hummel, a blogger at The Huffington Post. I encourage you to give it a read.

You might have thought that writer’s block got ahold of me, I’ve been silent for awhile over here on my blog, but the truth is I’ve been busy writing and am now casting a new radio play that I will be directing in August.

I’m also performing in two different community theater shows (and I’m a big supporter of community theater). I’ll be performing as The Mysterious Man in Stephan Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into The Woods and as Rev. Sprague in Ken Ludwig and Don Schlitz’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

So it’s going to be a busy summer of theater for me.

 

Anyways, check out Heather’s article and give the other contributors some love.

Wrestling With the Wrath of Writer’s Block | Heather Hummel.

Autism and the Theatre

If you didn’t know, April is Autism Awareness Month. Today (April 2nd), people were encouraged to wear blue to show support for autism awareness. Over the next month, I will be highlighting autism on my blog and how the arts can affect and help autistic individuals (specifically autistic students.)

Autism affects one in 88 children today, according to Vanderbilt University researchers and theatre and theatre related activities can help in those children’s devolpment.

A recently released study assessed the effectiveness of a two-week theatre camp on children with autism spectrum disorder and found significant improvements were made in social perception, social cognition and home living skills by the end of the camp. There were also positive changes in the participants’ physiological stress and reductions in self-reported parental stress.

Called SENSE Theatre, the Social Emotional Neuroscience & Endocrinology (SENSE)program evaluates the social functioning of children with autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders.

Camp participants ages 8 to 17 years join with typically developing peers who are specially trained to serve as models for social interaction and communication, skills that are difficult for children with autism. The camp uses techniques such as role-play and improvisation and culminates in public performances of a play.

“The findings show that treatment can be delivered in an unconventional setting, and children with autism can learn from unconventional ‘interventionists’ – their typically developing peer,” said lead author Blythe Corbett, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychiatry.

Theatre and the arts is making strides in helping children on the autism spectrum and is something theatre professionals should encourage and help out with.