Jul 31, 2016

Camp Cooking Backyard Test

For the last few days I've had a hankering to go camping. Two things: 1.) I don't have a bunch of money to sink on buying gear and 2.) it is too hot here in Texas to actually go camp out for a while.

To remedy the first, I am frugally gathering equipment, some of it DIY. For the weather, I'll just have to wait until the wort of the summer dies down.

Here's me testing a Mainstay "Grease Pot" I got from Walmart for under $7. It should work out pretty well considering I won't be using it too terribly often.

Watch more of my videos at: http://youtube.com/dribblefunk

Jul 27, 2016

New place to get work done

Found a great little coffee shop in my neighborhood. Good place to get some work done. # WritersLife

Jul 26, 2016

My Home in Dallas

Two years ago, I left this comment on a post by Will Power in regards to his article on HowlRound. He had recently moved to Dallas with his family so he could be the Artist-in-residence at the Dallas Theater Center. I have tweaked it a bit and reposted it here. It sums up what I set out to do and why I chose Dallas to do it in...

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Will, great post! You know, I'm operating on the fringe-size/indie side of things and I discovered the same thing about Dallas (which was a surprising revelation because I grew up around here).
I lived and worked in NYC. And I have visited Chicago for long stints at a time. When I finally committed to a career as a theatre-maker and turned my attention to specializing in my own idiosyncratic stage creations, I considered moving a bunch of different places: Minneapolis, Seattle or joining the bulk of my playwriting colleagues who have nestled in Brooklyn. 
Then I started thinking about what I actually wanted to do.
I had some concrete aims:
I wanted to create theatre where it didn't cost an arm and leg. Simple things like getting rehearsal space or building sets didn't have to be logistical nightmares. I'll admit, 24 hour places like Walmart, Kinko's and CVS are handy when you are producing theatre. So is having mega hardware stores like Lowe's nearby. After trying to move a couch across several boroughs in NYC one time for a play I realized I liked having space and easy transportation (heck yeah to harnessing the power of a pick-up truck for theatre!). These are all practical considerations of the actual "making" process that I took for granted until I went to other big cities around the country. I have lived in New York, but also in London and Hong Kong. Making theatre in these cities was difficult.
I didn't want to spend a fortune just to maintain a sustenance-level lifestyle. Dallas is comparatively inexpensive and the standard of living is super high. I have rented those four bedroom houses you talked about, complete with huge backyards and plenty of space, central air and heat, etc. for less than the amount I used to spend to sublet a *room* back in NYC. With space comes a surprising level of freedom (for rehearsals, meetings, thinking, building, etc.)
I wanted to travel. My wife casually pointed out on a map one time that Dallas is centered literally in the middle of the entire country. With a giant international airport here and no aversion to driving places (hell, it takes more than 12 hours to drive across the state... so pretty much anywhere in the midwest or south seems pretty close by Texas standards) Dallas makes a great "homebase." I consider the whole country my "field of operation" and keep coming back to Dallas as my welcoming HQ. From here I've taken pieces to festivals and venues all over North America.
Lastly, I didn't realize southern hospitality was an actual thing until I went other places. Dallas is a welcoming place. The arts patrons here are curious, sophisticated and actually pretty open-minded. Dallas, like Austin, is a little dash of blue in a mostly red state, politically. I like that. It is a good mix. I'm not saying there is more audience than other places, just that most of the time, the audiences here in Dallas are pretty engaged and smart. 
I'm producing my first large arts festival - the Dallas Solo Fest - at the historic Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park later this month and I have solo performers coming in from all over the country. As the lead up to the fest is underway, it has been a pleasure to begin to show off Dallas to them. I'm hoping they leave with a good impression of the place and community here.
Anyway, great write-up, Will. Glad you and your fam are here. Glad you have experienced the positive side of Dallas for a working theatre artist.

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I am about to move into a new chapter in my theatre career, with a new focus. But I am still gonna be here around Dallas. It is still my home and my artistic HQ.

Jul 12, 2016

Book Report: The Compound Effect

I have been reading a lot lately. I read year round, but sometimes, I devour book after book because I'm in search of ideas. These times come when I am in a period of reinvention. This happens about every five years or so, which is pretty understandable. How many five year segments does a person get in life? Maybe ten or so after one is all out of formal schooling. 

Ten years ago, I started getting really into improv. Before that I was a gigging actor and sketch comedy guy. Five years back I drifted into solo performance big time. One thing kind of leads to another. I don't reinvent the wheel, I just pick a variation on a larger path (as a theatre artist who specializes in narratives) and see how far I can go. I'm not a hundred percent sure what is coming next, but I know I'm restless for new horizons. 

One of the books that I've picked up recently has been Darren Hardy's THE COMPOUND EFFECT.

I had never heard of Darren Hardy before. Apparently, he's a motivational dude comparable to Tony Robbins. He shows up in his own book preseting himself as quite a big deal, which was initially a bit of a put-off, but once I got past that, I found he has a lot of worthwhile things to say. 

The book doesn't break new ground, but the benefit of it is putting all the common sense stuff we need to hear, but often forget, all in one place.

  • Track everything.
  • There's no substitute for hard work.
  • Cut out distractions.
  • Figure out why you are doing what you are doing
  • Small, incremental changes add up over time.
  • Don't quite, keep going.

So, nothing groundbreaking. But Hardy puts all these things together in such a simple, accessible way. 

The things that I took away from the book have really stuck with me and I have started applying them directly to my life. For instance, Hardy reiterates that little seemingly inconsequential decisions really do either add to one's life or take away from it. 

For instance, he uses the example of three friends. One starts eating slightly less (like 125 calories less) per day by doing small things such as having one less soda or switching mustard in place of mayo on his sandwiches. A second friend doesn't make any change in his diet at all. A third friend puts a bit more luxury into his life. He puts a bigger screen television in his house and fixed himself cocktails in the evenings. After a few months, there was no noticeable difference between the friends. But after 30 months, the three friends had very different outcomes. The first guy had lost 20-something pounds. The second fiend didn't change at all. The third friend was 20-something pounds heavier. Just from the small, seemingly irrelevant actions, the compound effect yields drastically different results in the long-run.

Hardy goes on to point out, if friend one and three had stopped their actions after a short time, they would have seen very little effect. The big change happens in the long term. So, keep going. The take-away is to keep going.

I totally fall into the trap of instant gratification from time to time. I have been known to throw up my hands when I don't see results. Ultimately, I have never gotten that far in those areas where I expect a lot of apparent results in a short time. 

I have decided to switch my basic belief system in regards to this. If I have faith that the compound effect will work, that given enough time and pressure things are bound to change regardless of short-term noticeable evidence. 

The last big take-away for me is Hardy's insistence on direction over goals. Setting a goal and mechanically heading toward it in perfect measured ways is really difficult to do. But knowing that you are heading in a general positive direction towards what you want is enough. All the benefit in the long-run but without the stress and pressure. Again, small, incredmental changes add up to seismic shifts. The compound effect in action.

Recommended. You'll need to be ready for this book, or in need of it, but it is jam-packed with useful stuff.

NOTE: See more books that have impacted me on my Book Shelf page.