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..."

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.

Sep 22, 2012

CHOP in Seattle - Part 1

My solo show CHOP is part way through its final run at the Seattle Fringe Festival. Small to medium audiences still, but great feedback and response. A couple of standing ovations! 

The folks in Seattle are nice and Ruth and I have eaten well since arriving. My hosts for the weekend, Richard (my 2nd cousin) and his partner Curt have been super welcoming. Here's some photos of adventures so far...

Richard and I at Pike's Place Market

Gourmet hotdog sliders at a place around the corner from the theatre, Po Dog's
The stage is set for CHOP at Odd Duck Studio
Ruth and I in front of Starbucks, store #1
"Happy Birthday to me..."
backstage at the Odd Duck Studio
"I just came to walk the pasture..."
 Read Part 2 of CHOP in Seattle... HERE

Sep 20, 2012

Sep 18, 2012

To my Book Tossers

image credit:

Recently, on artist Austin Kleon’s Tumblr he cited a New Yorker profile by D.T. Max. The profile is about David Foster Wallace:
[Novelist Mark] Costello remembers, “Junior year, David and I were sitting around talking about magical realists—I think it was ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’—and someone said, ‘Pynchon’s much cooler.’ We said ‘Who?’ He threw a copy of ‘Lot 49’ at us. For Dave, that was like Bob Dylan finding Woody Guthrie.”
He goes on to think about that simple transaction… a book is casually tossed, taken home and read, and it changes everything. Kleon says, “…usually when we recall these transactions, the Somebody isn’t important, it’s the book, or our hero who catches it, who’s important… but the Somebody, or the Book Tosser, is the unsung hero here: if it weren’t for the toss, there wouldn’t be a catch.”
I have been working on a play on commission for the Sundown Collaborative Theatre. I found out about SCT from my friend and colleague Chris Taylor. Even though I submitted work to the organization on my own, Taylor would be the person I cite with brokering the opportunity for me. My acquaintance with him allowed my later connection with Sundown. My career is filled with these connections. 
One of my favorite collaborators (and people, for that matter), Chris Humphrey down in Austin, was introduced to me by my friend Jeff Swearingen. In a way, he was the book tosser for all the creative work Humphrey and I have done together since then. These little interpersonal connections and transactions are important. I’m sensitive to them. The busier one becomes the harder it is to keep straight who lead who to what, but I try to stay aware of it.
Actually, I used to be overly sensitive about the whole thing. I have been the book tosser myself many times. I was good at it. And honestly, it used to chaff a bit when no recognition was thrown my way. I kind of carried around this secret knowledge that because of me -  because I’d introduced a person to something or someone -  they prospered, be it professionally, creatively or practically. The person would never remember, of course. Or if they did, they never said anything. If asked, it was that person’s own personal victory. He or she had been in the right place at the right time. It was all “them,” with no outside help whatsoever.
Anyway, that is how I used to be. And like I said, I realize it has become more and more difficult to remember all these book tossers in my life. In fact, I have built up a weird defense, in a way, against gathering too many more.  
I “discover” stuff on my own. It is a joke that one of my friends will say “hey, check out this cool website…” I’ll either ignore it or half-heartedly peruse it. Then six months later I’ll stumble on it and spread the same news back to my friend about the awesome website I “discovered.” It is a bit of an amusing running gag in my small, close circle, but I believe this habit did not develop out of a vacuum. 
In light of having both been burned in the past as an excellent book tosser (kind of like what Malcolm Gladwell called a “maven” in his book THE TIPPING POINT) as well as the fact that it is difficult to keep who has done what for me straight on the other end, of course I’d be defensive. And aware.
If any of my book tossers are reading this post… Thank You. I couldn’t have done what I’ve done without each and every one of you.

Sep 17, 2012


I came across a new word today... skeuomorphism. Here's what an article in had to say about the word...

What’s skeuomorphism? If you’ve ever used an Apple product, you’ve experienced digital skeuomorphic design: calendars with faux leather-stitching, bookshelves with wood veneers, fake glass and paper and brushed chrome. Skeuomorphism is a catch-all term for when objects retain ornamental elements of past, derivative iterations--elements that are no longer necessary to the current objects’ functions.

In software, skeuomorphism can be traced back to the visual metaphors designers created to translate on-screen applications before users were accustomed to interacting with computer software: virtual folders to store your documents, virtual Rolodexes to store contacts. But over time, skeuomorphism has seeped into all areas of UI design, especially in Apple’s software, where text documents, for example, are made to look like yellow legal pads.

"It’s visual masturbation," says one former senior UI designer at Apple who worked closely with Steve Jobs. "It’s like the designers are flexing their muscles to show you how good of a visual rendering they can do of a physical object. Who cares?"

I have been thinking all day about this concept, skeuomorphism, in regards to the theatre. 

I was having a conversation the other day about what the future of theatre would look like and what it would take to make a legitimate impact on the mass culture again. As the conversation continued I stopped at one point and made an observation that no one can really see the future, not really. Whatever comes along will come out of the blue. The catch will be not tying it down with carried-over concepts from the past (or even the present).  The contemporary trend is to look backwards in order to feel like we are looking forward... And I'm not sure if this isn't the very thing that holds us back most of the time.

Anyway, it's an interesting word... skeuomorphism.

Sep 6, 2012

Hot in Houston

CYRANO A-GO-GO is a go at the Houston Fringe! Here are my initial observations...

1. It is too hot to do an outdoor show in a suit during the summer in Texas!
2. It would be nice to know ahead of time your show will be outdoors before you get to the festival.
3. A pleasant and professional venue contact goes a long, long way to making the experience kick-ass.
4. Even if the festival is kinda unorganized with a DIY aesthetic and the other shows aren't world-class, meeting a bunch of nice, enthusiastic, welcoming folks really makes the whole experience worthwhile (and sadly, the niceness of the festival people - organizers and fellow performers - often heads downhill in proportion to how big and streamlined the festival itself is).
5. Having relatives/friends/family to stay with is also a winning bonus for festival travel.

Two more shows to go. Click HERE for details. 

Sep 5, 2012

CYRANO A-GO-GO at 2012 Houston Fringe

I will be presenting my "original oration" CYRANO A-GO-GO at the Houston Fringe Festival this weekend. Here's the deets:

A note about the piece:
Since the age of fifteen, during the first few weeks of his first ever theatre class, Brad McEntire has been obsessed with the swashbuckling, romantic, tragicomic play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmund Rostand. In this original oration, McEntire explores his fascination with Rostand’s play from many angles: historical, literary and personal. Through this exploration, CYRANO A-GO-GO reflects McEntire’s own life-long coming-to-terms with the hard lessons about how art imitates life, and vice versa...

A note about the oration format:
Oration, in which a single speaker takes the stage to discuss a given topic, dates back as far as Cicero and was a well-known format in Europe and America from the mid-1800s through the mid-1900s. A cross between a theatrical performance, lecture and staged reading, the form was made popular by such orators as Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. This presentation is a deliberate, contemporary take on this format.
Charles Dickens

Mark Twain

Thursday, September 6th at 7 PM
Friday, September 7th at 7 PM
Saturday, September 8th at 8:30 PM

Bohemeo's Cafe and Theatre,
708 Telephone Road,
Houston, TX 77023

As part of the Houston Fringe Festival.
For tickets head HERE.

Sep 4, 2012

Report from FringeNYC - Pt. 2

I finished up my run of CHOP at the New York International Fringe Festival on August 26. The audienced remained medium to small (with lots of positive feedback from nearly everyone). The Fringe itself never really got better (it has become a large institution), but I was proud of the show and had a great time in New York. Here's a recap in pics...