Dec 29, 2012

Cards arrive...


The holiday cards I made a few weeks back finally arrived. I'm pleased with how they turned out. Wish they had arrived a little sooner. Now they will be New Year's cards...

BSJ episode 9



NOW ONLINE... One last episode of the extremely unnecessary podcast Bike Soccer Jamboree before 2012 ends. 

This one involves transportation, Ayn Rand and Wayne White.

Dig it... HERE.

Dec 27, 2012

I'm teaching a Workshop


 

CREATIVITY AND THE IMPROVISER:
 
The workshop will focus on a series of exercises and techniques for improving the improviser’s “Improv Mind” – both onstage and off. Especially helpful for the solo improviser, the class will center on focus, play and seeking connection out of explicitly unrelated concepts. Learn a new skill set for your improv while having fun and celebrating risk taking!

At the Alternative Comedy Theater 
February 13, 2012

Details coming soon...

Dec 20, 2012

The Sea Captain and the Robot


I have an idea for a graphic novel. It is a huge idea that I want to really do justice to. Then, in turn, I hope to adapt it from a graphic novel into a play. Because it is such a big idea and I have not written and drawn a graphic novel before, I have lately been brain-storming ideas for a sort of "practice" graphic novel. I guess I should say, mini-graphic novel. Something that can be told over, say, 24 pages and that I can make myself, zine-style, to sell at the STAPLE! Independent Media Expo in Austin in March.

I have been producing a bunch of doodles lately and I think I finally have something interesting enough to develop into a story... THE SEA CAPTAIN AND THE ROBOT. I'll post updates and pages as I finish right here on this site. 

Should be fun. So, stay tuned...

Dec 17, 2012

One Picture Story 1

[click on image to see larger]




3rd Annual Winter Monologue Jam

[click to see larger image]
In 2011, I came up with the most wonderfully simple concept for an improv show. Have a series of performers come onto the stage one at a time. They would get a word suggestion right there and then and have to create a character monologue on the spot. I called it Monologue Jam and it has been successful every single time it has been presented.

The Alternative Comedy Theater is producing the 3rd Annual Winter Monologue Jam in January (there has been one added during the year at the summertime Big Sexy Weekend of Improv as of this year). Info on the poster above...

Dec 16, 2012

Writing Is Hard

" I just got a whole bunch of comments in, and I noticed that these—like many I get—are from people who say (in various ways), “Encourage me to write! Tell me I can!”
I’m not going to do that. That would not help you. I would be doing you no favors what-so-ever by doing some empty cheerleading and poking and prodding you. Because writing is hard, and it is NO FUN and PRETTY MUCH POINTLESS if you don’t want to do it. And writing is revision, and revision is hard and often thankless work.
So if you don’t want to do it, don’t do it.

Author Maureen Johnson has a wonderful tumblr post about how she is NOT going to encourage people to write. I totally agree with her. Check out her full post HERE.

Dec 15, 2012

Two Blue Smiling Robots

New print up at Society 6. Head over and purchase a framed print for someone you love. After all, 'tis the season for buying orginal art... especially sweet illustrations of smiling robots!

Get the goods HERE!




Dec 12, 2012

My Six Titans of Comedy

In the January 2013 "Comedy Edition" of Vanity Fair, Judd Apatow has a photo of the six people who have most influenced his career in comedy. It is a good list he has. I was inspired to think about the same sort of thing for myself. Here's who would be in my pic as my Six Comedy Titans:


WILL FERRELL
Perhaps the most contemporary influence on my list. Ferrell is fearless and versitile and, well, big. He is a big guy and has figured out how to turn a lunk-headed oaf into someone audiences cheer for as much as the underdog misfit of smaller men ( a path not open to me at nealy six foot and well over 250 pounds).

The lines from his movies are infinitely quotable. Ferrell finds the funny and then leans on it. And he looks as though he is having such a good time while he is doing it, too.

GROUCHO MARX
...because this is what bottled chaos looks like. Groucho had the wonderful ability to ride on top of whatever situation he was seemingly entangled in. And talk about anti-authoritarian. The man could just tear down wall after wall of stuffiness and priviledge. Even better, he was often cast as an anti-authoritarian authority figure (great hunter, professor, dictator, etc.).And he could give as good as he got, especially on with his brothers Chico and Harpo. Best of all, he seemed to be operating on his own rules. He is an island of his own.

I particularly love his asides: stepping away from an interaction he wasn't even that invested in to begin with to rattle off a faux Eugene O'Neill heaviness filled with tangents and non-sequitars.

STEVE MARTIN
He deconstructed the whole concept of a comedy act. Martin also had a wonderful and subversive code of conduct resulting in a singular form of performer dignity. For instance, as he outlined in his wonderful memoir Born Standing Up, he had to be the only act. He didn't open for anyone and he never had an opener. Also, the audience had to be in darkness. No one laughs when the light is on them. 

Martin would keep ironing out a bit, show after show, until it shined like a diamond. And he very successfully branded himself with his white suit and "happy feet" (on par with Groucho's cigar and painted on moustache).

Martin also "turned off" when not onstage. He was not constantly on. It shows he took his role as funnyman seriously. Unlike his contemporary, the equally crazy Robin Williams (who I also love), Martin refused to be a dancing monkey for interviews and such.

NICHOLS AND MAY
You can trace back most threads in contemporary comedy to the groundbreaking work done by Nichols and May, first at the Compass Theater in Chicago (my youthful Camelot of theatre companies), and later around the country, on Broadway, and on thier awesome Grammy-winning comedy album. Relentlessly honest and ironic, the pair used impeccable comic timing to pack every routine with tiny explosions of subversive hilarity. The two excelled at urbane characterizations and mundane-turned-absurd relationship dynamics. And the percision. Oh, man! Mike Nichols usually played straight man to the flamboyant Elaine May.

SAMUEL BECKETT
On the surface, this seems like a surprise to have on this list, but Beckett is hilarious. And his humor is painful.

If you haven't read Waiting For Godot, do it. It is funny at its most sad.

"Let's go." followed by the stage direction... (They stand.)

BUSTER KEATON
Ah, the Great Stone-face. I like Chaplin, don't get me wrong, but I love Keaton. Where Chaplin was bouncy curves and gooey emotions, Keaton remained all angles and stoicism. He never melted or weakened into bendiness. He never descended into sentimentality. Like Groucho, he stood firm against wishy-washiness (maybe not as aggressively hostile as Groucho, though). Keaton's stance invariably demands uprightness, backbone and a firm gaze set ever-forward. A Keaton character had to win hearts not warm them. He was all irony and fatigue, high velocity and tough luck, frustration and toil, and hard-line grace.

One of the most profound lessons of comedy I rememeber, upon discovering the world of Keaton as a high schooler, was from the opening bit of his 1921 film "The Goat." A starving Buster is sent to the back of a breadline that stretches down a sidewalk outside of a clothing store. He gets in line, but doesn't realize he is standing behind a couple of mannequins. And he waits. And waits. And waits. And the camera waits there with him. He's doing absolutely zilch and this comic tension just slowly simmers and builds. This stretching out of time was so simple and so relevatory for me. It has shown up in so much of my work since I first saw that Buster Keaton film as a sophomore in high school.




Dec 8, 2012

Christmas Cards 2012


My wife and I are teaming up this holiday season to do something special. She's crocheting a bunch of "snowflakes" and I'm creating an original Christmas card. we'll put the snowflakes in the cards to send them out. I only have to make a funny, but "Christmasy" card design. Which sounds easier than it is turning out to be...

I am on my second attempt. This one has a snowman. The first try had a reindeer (pictured above), but was roundly vetoed by the few people I showed it to. I think I'll go with the snowman version. Goes to show... the creative process is exactly that - a process.


Dec 3, 2012

Painting Big Underwear


I've written and am directing a bunch of first graders in an after-school play that they gave me the ingredients for. It involves robots, the ghosts of robots, mermaids and giant underwear. So this is how I'm spending my Sunday evening...

UPDATE: 12/3/12 
And here is the giant underwear in action...


Nov 27, 2012

Bike Soccer Jamboree Ep. 8 is up!


The 8th episode of the exceedingly off-the-radar podcast Bike Soccer Jamboree is now online. Originally recorded over two months ago in mid-September, the episode has finally made its way on to the internet and features Jeff Hernandez and yours truly discussing our summer travels.

Jeff talks of staying in his first hostel, his summer road trip to San Antonio and getting a Manske Roll at Gil's Bakery in San Marcos, Texas. He also prefers his potato chips in a jug...

Brad likes sharks in tanks in Las Vegas. He doesn't care for two English girls who ruined a youth hostel stay for him one time in Sydney, Australia. And he doesn't seem to care for the New York International Fringe Festival...


Check it out... HERE.

Fun Grip plays at Dyer Street Bar... for the last time


The Dyer Street Bar in Dallas is closing. They had a bunch of improv troupes come in and perform one last time tonight. Swearingen and I performed some FUN GRIP goodness. It got as little more physical than usual, perhaps bordering on dangerous.

Nov 19, 2012

I speak about ATL


I was recently questioned about the theatre company I'm associated with, Audacity Theatre Lab. More info about the company at: www.audacitytheatrelab.com

Nov 18, 2012

14 Hours: A Trip to Austin

Jeff played a "Magical Chair" in our set about dueling laboratory assistants...
Last Friday, November 16, Ruth, Swearingen and I set off to Austin. We left Dallas around 3 PM. The original goal was to get there around 7:30, chill a bit, check into a cheap hotel (Jeff was going to stay with Chris Humphrey), then do an improv set at the Hideout on 7th and Congress. We had been invited to do a split bill as FUN GRIP in "The Spectacle" with the house troupe Parallelagramaphonograph.

We did not anticipate Formula 1 weekend. Lots more traffic. The hotels were all super-expensive. Bars all super-crowded. We ended up doing the show, grabbing some grub at Kerby Lane, catching up a bit with Chris Humphrey, then driving back. 

Back to Dallas by 5 AM. That makes a 14 hour round trip. Huzzah!

Nov 15, 2012

Watch The Skies Teaser Trailer


"Watch the Skies" is a short film directed by Benjamin Davis and co-written by Tyler Hiott, Benjamin Davis, and Jonathan Kirby. I play John Brownlee, an inventor and a father who disappeared, leaving a mystery behind for his sons.

For more information on the project please visit http://www.watchtheskiesmovie.com and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/watchtheskiesmovie


Coming soon. Looks like is gonna be kinda awesome.

Nov 14, 2012

A Very Potent and Effective Instrument Is Theatre...

I have written before on those who have influenced me in my slow journey of creative maturity. One of the most impactful is the English theatre director and thinker of the theatre, Peter Brook

Chiefly among the many many things I take from Brook is his basic and consistent questioning of what the theatre is and why it has value to the human experience. Writing this out, if seems like a common sense thing that most theatre artists would do, but it isn't. Most theatre artists take for granted those basic questions. The focus is usually on the less profound and more practical questions of what is performed and how is it presented.

With this is mind, I came across this beautiful talk Brook gave in 2005 to Tel Aviv University. He displays his amazing and rather mischievous resistance to being considered "a guru." He also formulates his thoughts so clearly and reasons out his ideas so deeply (and without notes).




Nov 3, 2012

Work Space

Oliver Jeffer's workspace [via the Guardian]
Today I straightened up my work area. Sometimes the space gets really messy with piles of papers, clothing, random books and DVDs laying about, half-done artworks, pages and notes from plays I'm working on... all just kind of dumped and strewn about. This is okay when I'm in the middle of a big project (like making puppets or building set pieces for a show or actively creating a play, etc.). After all, art is a messy business. But when I'm not in the "belly of the whale" the mess just starts to make me feel ill-at-ease and slobbish. I find it harder to focus when things are in general disarray. To some degree, like an empty stage, a desk or drafting tables comes off as a sacred space in my world. Without getting too far out about it, I believe that outside or one's own body and brain, the work space is the closest you can get to the epicenter of where magic can happen... where novel new things are forged into creation out of the nothingness... 

I'm also interested in the way a work space is used in that the thinking about something may or may not take place in the same place as the actual making of the something. I often make simmer over something during my day-to-day activities, making little notes and such, and then bring all this preliminary stuff to the table and actually work on the thing I'm making. Can a work area encompass both, as place to think and a place to work?

I did a quick web search on others works spaces and was delighted to come across a bunch of inspiring ideas. I love to study these photos and imagine what kinds of art and new ideas are invented in these spaces.  Sometimes, looking at the space is like a small glimpse inside the creator's mind.

Sirima Sataman's studio. on DesignSponge.com

From Geninne's Art Blog

Office studio on Pinterest


Oct 29, 2012

Ruth's Sketchbook

At the beginning of the summer I experimented with painting on the front of one of my sketchbooks. My wife, Ruth, saw it and asked me to do the same to the front cover of her sketchbook. Then 1001 things happened this summer, including a big move. Last week she pulled the unfinished sketchbook I had started for her out of a cardboard packing box. Tonight I finished it. I think it turned out a-okay...
[click on image to see them bigger]




outline

So, I like stumbled onto Emma Coat's Story Shots blog at the beginning of the summer and referencing it in the last post, I was prompted to scroll a bit. In a post she put up called "Writing as a Drawing Tool" I came across this little snippet of awesome...
 
 A general guideline I use for writing out an outline is that each of the following gets a paragraph:
  • the concept of the story
  • who the main character is
  • what is her place in the world
  • what goes wrong (inciting incident)
  • how does she try to fix it (act 1 break)
  • brief description of complications (act 2)
  • what really goes wrong (midpoint)
  • low point
  • resolution (act 3)

Oct 23, 2012

CARTER STUBBS makes progress


I met with the Sundown last night to go over the first draft of the play I've been commissioned to write for them. We had our "creative meeting" at a bar, which I think bodes well for our whimsical, absurd project about a man given a rocket pack who fights a tiger on a Micronesian island. Look for the finished beast next spring.

Oct 20, 2012

Playwriting 101 Top Ten


Jonathan Dorf has put together a sort of 'Top Ten List' about story development on his website Playwriting 101. The site has been up for years, but I just stumbled across it while looking for something else earlier today. It is still good playwriting advice.
  1. Create a world that's true to real life or fantastical or that mixes the mundane with the magical. But whatever set of rules you create for that world, make sure you follow them.
  2. Write a conflict that builds as the play progresses. As you structure the conflict, think in terms of your play having a beginning, a middle and an end.
  3. Write characters that want something (which puts them in conflict with other characters) and try to get what they want at every moment.
  4. Make sure that each character has something at stake, a consequence if he doesn't get what he wants.
  5. Create a "ticking clock" that puts the characters under pressure to get what they want right away.
  6. Make sure there is a good reason, an "event," for your play. It's not enough for two characters to sit around and talk for a while and then leave. There needs to be some important reason why we're watching them now, at this particular moment.
  7. Write dialogue that illuminates your characters and advances the plot at the same time.
  8. Make each character speak in a distinctive voice. If you have trouble with that, try imagining a specific actor you know - even if it's someone who will never play the part - in the role.
  9. Do not have a character tell us something she can show us instead. For example, it's much more effective to hide under the bed than to say "I'm afraid."
  10. Give each character a "moment," something that justifies the character's existence in your play and that makes him attractive for an actor to play. 
  11.  
    This reminds me a bit of Emma Coats' list of 22 story basics she picked up working at Pixar.
     

My 2009-2012 sketchbook

I just finished another sketchbook. This one lasted me from 2009 to 2012. I snapped a few select pages of my sketchbook. It is interesting to look back on the unfiltered ideas just jotted across the page. Some turned into things, some didn't.

sk009 by dribblefunk
sk009, a photo by dribblefunk on Flickr.
 

Oct 18, 2012

New ATL website


Last Friday I spent the bulk of the evening creating a new website for Audacity Theatre Lab, the small outfit I co-founded several years ago (which itself was an evolution from a smaller group I founded in 1999). I develop nearly all of my original theatre work through ATL.

I am extremely pleased with the look and feel of this new site. The unweildy bulk of the content dealing with individual productions/projects has been off-loaded to the blog, which now serves as a sort of portfolio, archive, place for news, press, etc. The website itself is stream-lined with the most relevant and pertinent info and not much else.

Not bad for a few hours of concentrated work...

VAMPS BLOOD AND SMOKING GUNS



At the beginning of the summer I did a one-afternoon acting gig on a small super-low-budget movie called VAMPS, BLOOD & SMOKING GUNS. I played a husband who flirts with women at bars so he can go home to his shrewish wife. The lead in the movie, a female detective, has been sent to seduce and thus catch the "cheating" husband. Later she runs into vampires.

We shot the scene super fast. In fact, I think we did one take, really, from each set-up. The director, Alex Topete, just sent out a digital copy of the movie to us last week. I clipped out my scene for posting here.

Oct 14, 2012

Twain the Public Speaker

I have just finished the book CREATORS by Paul Johnson. There is a wonderful chapter on Mark Twain. In particular, Johnson puts a very nice exploration and celebration of Twain as a lecturer and story-teller. Since working on my original oration CYRANO A-GO-GO this summer I have taken a real interest in the format of the old-school lecturer... part education/part sales pitch/part dramatized entertainment. Here are some nuggets from CREATORS.

On his motivations for doing lecture tours:
Twain took to public speaking, both for money and to publicize his books, early in his career as a writer, and his lectures quickly become a major source of income and fame. Indeed it is hard to say whether, in his lifetime, Twain was better known as a writer or as a speaker - the two roles were inextricably mingled. His lectures were essentially humorous performances; they were dramatic, and he was acting. He came to this life on the coattails of Charles Dickens's readings, which were attracting enormous audiences all over the United States in the late 1860s, just as Twain was getting going. Dickens read from his books, and so did Twain. But whereas Dickens aimed to draw tears (with his "Death of Little Nell") or gasps of horror and excitement (with "The End of Bills Sykes"), Twain wanted laughs. He was essentially a stand-up comedian. Raising a laugh was at the heart of his art and his creativity.
On how he took the stage:
Twain's entrance, early on, went as follows. He would be behind a curtain, playing the piano. (He did this with some skill; and he was the originator of the western saloon joke, later purloined by Oscar Wilde during his American tour in the 1880s, "Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.") When the curtain went up, Twain would be engrossed in his music; then, slowly, he would realize that an audience was awaiting his attention and would stand up and walk to the center of the stage. There would be a long pause, then he would begin to speak.
 On his signature look:
Twain dressed the part, or his part, as did Dickens and Oscar Wilde. But whereas Dickens used the male evening attire of early Victorian England, suitably embellished, and Wilde the velvet pantaloons, golden buckles, and greenery-yallery of the aesthetic movement, Twain devised his own attire. His black tailcoat gave place to an all-white suit, of linen or wool, according to the season, with a white silk tie and white shoes. At the time he became a favorite on the lecture circuit, his flaming red hair turned grayish, then a glorious white, or rather the color of foaming champagne, as did his bushy mustache. This white appearance became celebrated, and Twain was recognized wherever he went, in Europe as well as the United States. He basked in this glory and wore his white outfit everywhere, not just onstage.

Lots of food for thought. I particularly like that he developed a "brand" aesthetic to market himself, easy to caricature by cartoonists, long before contemporary technology could spread him image.


Oct 13, 2012

Donnie in the office


Ziegler = Dickens

Charles Dickens came up recently in my readings and I went online to look at pictures of him. Because I'm also making my way through the entirety of the television series THE WEST WING on Amazon Instant Video, I have discovered a brilliant choice for an actor to portray Dickens in an, as yet non-existent, bio-pic. Feast your eyes on the evidence thus:
Charles Dickens
Actor Richard Schiff as Toby Zielger in THE WEST WING
I know, right... uncanny. Casting agents for this non-existent bio-pic, please contact me for instructions on where to send a check.

Wayne White Documentary

So, first off, this looks awesome!

I must admit, though I've heard the name Wayne White a few times in the past, I didn't really know who he was until I stumbled on to the above trailer. After seeing the BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING trailer I did some searching for old Pee Wee's Playhouse episodes. And I came to this Christmas Special. Actually, you just need to watch the first 3 minutes, the intro, to feel the sheer intensity of the awesome...

Oct 12, 2012

A Theatre of One


If you are in the theatre and have had more that a few beers with me - and followed me down the rabbit hole of shop talk and pet theories - I have probably brought up my thoughts on the role of the Individual Artist in the Theatre.

In a nutshell, I believe one of the things (just one of many, actually) holding Theatre back from being as swiftly evolving as other art forms is that the collaborative nature that is instilled in young theatre artists inundates them with the notion that they are interpretive artists and ONLY interpretive artists. The notion that a designer, director, actor (or anyone besides a playwright) can instigate his or her own project seems to be one of those severely outsider ideas, like not needing corporate or government funding or questioning the very practice of selling subscriptions. 

My argument is, we need more artists in the theatre that think of themselves as creative artists -  as opposed to strictly interpretive artists - and who take personal responsibility for their art. We need less folks waiting to be handed projects. Less actors auditioning for whatever they can with no regard to how -  a particular role, in a particular play, put on by a particular theatre -  lines up with their own concepts of personal expression. 

Let me put it this way... I had a conversation with a wonderful actress friend of mine a few years back. Over coffee she made good-natured complaints about the many auditions she'd been to lately with little or no callbacks or other feedback. I asked what the plays and roles were. They were all over the map. I off-handily asked her what kind of acting she did and she looked at me puzzled. I asked her if she considered herself an Artist. She did. I asked, then, as an Artist, what did she want to say in the world? With her acting? Again, she was puzzled. I said the only outlet for whatever message she, personally, felt was important to stand for in the world, was in her choice of roles. Did she care about family values? The power of love? Outsiders and misfits trying to find identity and place (that's my bag...) or what? She said she'd never thought of herself, as an Actor, in those terms before. She "just wanted to perform."

I explained to my friend that artists in other art forms: singer-songwriters, painters, poets, novelists, sculptors, etc. all do their art because they have something to say, to express. If she considers herself a Theatre Artist, surely she has something to say.

Since I began widening my idea of a Theatre-Maker years ago to embrace all the specialities of the Theatre (playwright, performer, director, designer, producer, marketer, etc.) I have come across more and more colleagues who see themselves as merely collaborators. And not just collaborators, but the one in a collaboration who is approached, not the one that does the approaching. Certainly, part of this is from the way we are trained... to specialize. But part of it also has to do with not taking responsibility.

I have a friend who is unfulfilled as an Artist. He openly complains about his plight (usually over beers). No good plays to audition for. If he does audition, he doesn't get cast as often as he'd like. He is a wonderful performer and a budding playwright. I ask him from time to time why he doesn't just start making his own work, from scratch, for himself to create and perform? He openly admits that he doesn't want to be "saddled" with the responcibilities that come with producing, marketing, casting, etc. He would just rather act. Let someone else handle that "business-y"stuff. This is okay, but he will always be beholden to others for his artistic pursuits until he learns to take responsibility, full responsibility, for his Art.

If you are still reading this far, I thank you. I put forth the exposition above because I have come across various discussions related to this Myth of the Individual Artist lately.

Oct 8, 2012

Looking for Structure

“A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order.”
~ Jean-Luc Godard
I have what might be called a passionate, perhaps even militant, belief in the art of narration. The narrative is everything. I'm reminded of this as I work on my new play CARTER STUBBS TAKES FLIGHT. It has a straight ahead narrative structure to present an eccentric little fable, but as I laid the thing out, it seemed both kinda boring and predictable in chronological order. So, I started playing with the order of events.

As my progress continues on the play, I stumbled across this video the other day. Writer Rebecca Skloot was attempting to find a working structure for her multi-narrative book, so she wrote the different plots out on color-coded index cards. She then spread them all out where she could look at them, and then went searching for stories with multi-threaded narratives that she could borrow from. She ended up storyboarding the story lines from the film The Hurricane (great movie, BTW) on the same color-coded index cards, and then laying out her book material over the movie’s structure. Totally interesting stuff!

  
Rebecca Skloot: How Fried Green Tomatoes and Hurricane Carter Shaped The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks



Oct 5, 2012

ANESTHESIOLOGIST is Award-Winning


I received news that my play FOR THE LOVE OF AN ANESTHESIOLOGIST, put on as a swell production last spring by San Antonio's Overtime Theatre recently won an award. It won an Alamo Theatre Arts Council Globe Award and was named one of the "5 Best Comedies of the Year."

Congrats to the cast and crew that worked so hard at Overtime to bring to life ANESTHESIOLOGIST!

Info HERE.

Oct 3, 2012

St. Germain Gin and Tonic

I dabble in mixology. For a few straight summers I adopted a different "signature" cocktail and made it a point to practice making it until I was good at it. I'm not a bartender and I don't come home and make cocktails every day (well, maybe once or twice a week...), but I enjoy a good drink. There was the summer of Colorado Bulldogs, the summer of Sweet Manhattans, the summer of the Dark and Stormy, and so on.

Lately, I've been on the look out for something I can use St. Germain in. St. Germain is a liqour made with elderflower blossoms and it is sold in a flat-out-awesome bottle.

Today, I believe I've stumbled upon a winner...

St. Germain Gin and Tonic

1½parts Gin
½ part St. Germain
3 parts Tonic Water

Combine all ingredients in a tall ice-filled Collins glass and stir. Garnish with lime wedge. Enjoy. Can also substitute lemon wedge for lime, if you're feeling tenacious...

Also, though I haven't tried it yet, here's another St. Germain cocktail that looks worth exploring... HERE.


 

Oct 2, 2012

The Hernandez Banner

My good friend Jeff Hernandez, who co-hosts the Bike Soccer Jamboree podcasts with me, asked if I would create a header banner for him for his Tumblr or blog or something. Here's what I came up with...
 
[click on the image to see it larger]




You can see into Hernandez's demented little world HERE and HERE. Be warned...


Sep 29, 2012

Doubts from Steinbeck

John Steinbeck
I'm working on a play. This involves a lot of carrying it around in my brain followed by infrequent bouts of getting those thoughts down on paper. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes I feel I have something worthwhile in the works. Sometimes it is a joy, sometimes a drudgery.

Today I made very little progress and the whole exercise seemed ridiculous to me. And then I stumbled upon a neat entry on Austin Kleon's Tumblr... excerpts from John Steinbeck's working diary while he was writing GRAPES OF WRATH.

June 18: …I am assailed with my own ignorance and inability. Honesty. If I can keep an honesty to it… If I can do that it will be all my lack of genius can produce. For no one else knows my lack of ability the way I do. I am pushing against it all the time. Sometimes, I seem to do a good little piece of work, but when it is done it slides into mediocrity…

This totally lifted my spirits. I mean, if Steinbeck had bad days, then...

The diary is collected in Working Days: The Journal of The Grapes of Wrath, 1938-1941.

Sep 27, 2012

Composer John Adams's 106th Julliard Commencement Address

"I should be doing the ritual thing and blessing you with words of wisdom and encouragement. But the truth is, all I really want to say is thank you. Thank all of you students who, against all odds and against all the pressures to do otherwise, have chosen to have a life in the arts. All the paradigms of success that we routinely encounter in our everyday lives—on television, in movies, in the online world, in the constant din of advertising, even from our friends and families—all these “models” for success and happiness American-style are about what is ultimately a disposable life, about a life centered around material gain and about finding the best possible comfort zone for yourself.
But by choosing a life in the arts you’ve set yourselves apart from all that and from a nation that has become such a hostage to distraction that it can’t absorb a single complex thought without having it reduced to a sound byte. Most people now, and particularly most people your age, live in a fractured virtual environment where staying focused on a single thought for, say, a mere seven seconds presents a grave challenge. (I mention seven seconds because a staff researcher at Google in San Francisco recently told me that 7.3 seconds was the amount of time that an average viewer stays on a YouTube site before jumping to another page.) You have grown up in a world that offers constant, almost irresistible distraction not unlike what the serpent in the Garden of Eden offered to Eve when he whispered to her, “check out them apples.”
The arts, however, are difficult. They are mind-bendingly and refreshingly difficult. You can’t learn the role of Hamlet (no less write it), you can’t play the fugue in the Hammerklavier Sonata (no less compose it) and you can’t hope to move effortlessly through one of Twyla Tharp’s ballets without having submitting yourself to something that’s profoundly difficult, that demands sustained concentration and unyielding devotion. Artists are people who’ve learned how to surrender themselves to a higher purpose, to something better than their miserable little egos. They’ve been willing to put their self-esteem in a Cuisinart and let it be chopped and diced and crushed to a pulp. They are the ones who’ve learned to live with the brutal fact that God didn’t dole out talent in fair and equal portions and that the person sitting next to them may only need to practice only half as hard to win the concerto competition.
And the wonderful, astonishing truth is that the arts are utterly useless. You can’t eat music or poetry or dance. You can’t drive your car on a sonnet it or wear it on your back to shield you from the elements. This “uselessness” is why politicians and other painfully literal-minded people during times of budget crises (which is pretty much all the time now) can’t wait to single the arts out for elimination. For them artistic activity is strictly after-school business. They consider that what we do can’t honestly be compared to the real business of life, that art is entertainment and ultimately non-essential. They don’t realize that what we artists offer is one of the few things that make human life meaningful, that through our skill and our talent and through the way that we share our rich emotional lives we add color and texture and depth and complexity to their lives.
A life in the arts means a life of sacrifice and tens of thousands of hours of devotion and discipline with scant remuneration and sometimes even scant recognition. A life in the arts means loving complexity and ambiguity, of enjoying the fact that there are no single, absolute solutions. And it means that you value communicating about matters of the spirit over the baser forms of human interaction, because you know that life is not just a transaction, not simply a game about winning someone’s confidence purely for purposes of material gain. ....I am deeply grateful for your decision..."
 via: Nonesuch.com

Sep 26, 2012

CHOP in Seattle - Part 2

I am back in Texas after my travels this past month to Las Vegas, New York, Houston and Seattle. CHOP just finished a run at the Seattle Fringe Festival. This was my last time to perform it for a while. I have been living pretty close with the piece for the last three years (and began writing it two years before that). I enjoy performing the piece and it was a wonderful gateway  for me to stand front and center on the fringe circuit and see what's what. Up until CHOP I had facilitated/enabled others to do the performing, with me acting as director, producer, designer, etc. With CHOP it was me. My kind of theatre written my way and performed the way I'd want to see it. I am so proud of the piece.

It is time to step away for a bit. I'm sure it will be better - deeper and more resonant - with some distance. The next emergence of the piece will be different and I welcome that. I'm not giving up CHOP indefinitely, but I do plan to release it to the greater world for other theatres and performers to take a crack at and see how it stands. And I'm moving on to other projects, with reinvigorated goals to have a really great, portable, personal touring solo show. And with it, have oodles more adventures, perhaps on the great Canadian Fringe circuit this time.

Also at the Seattle Fringe, I met some outstanding performers, met up with family (it is a rare treat to get to share my art with those closest to me... ironic, I know), and experienced great hospitality from nearly everyone we came across. It is as if the city itself were doing its best to be welcoming...

With this in mind, her's a few final pics of my time in the Pacific Northwest at the Seattle Fringe.


Ruth and I with Grant, on of the organizers of the Seattle Fringe.
At Pikes Place Market.
Our excellent hosts... Richard, Curt and wee Thomas.

My aunt and uncle from Oklahoma happened to be visiting my cousin and his partner, newly relocated to Seattle. They all came to see the show and we grabbed dinner afterwards.

If you are curious, you can see a whole set of my travel pics related with CHOP over the years HERE.


Sep 23, 2012

advice for creative types from a medieval iconographer


Before starting work, make the sign of the cross; pray in silence and pardon your enemies.

1. Work with care on every detail of your icon, as if you were working in front of the Lord, himself.

2. During work, pray in order to strengthen yourself physically and spiritually; avoid, above all, useless words and keep silence.

3. Pray in particular to the saint whose face you are painting. Keep your mind from distractions and the saint will be close to you.

4. When you have to choose a color, stretch out your hand interiorly to the Lord and ask His counsel.

5. Do not be jealous of your neighbour’s work. His success is your success too.

6. When your icon is finished, thank God that His mercy has granted you the grace to paint the holy images.

7. Have your icon blessed by putting it on the altar. Be the first to pray before it, before giving it to others.

8. Never forget the joy of spreading icons in the world, the joy of the work or icon-painting, the joy of being in union with the saint whose face you are painting.