Jan 1, 2017

Looking Back at 2016

For the last few years I've been using this site as a kind of portfolio to collect together my creative and theatre projects (to be honest, that's pretty much the main and sole point of this website). I have also been doing a little year-in-review thing over the last few years (here's 201220132014 and 2015). So, here’s what happened in 2016...


NIGHT OF THE TARANTUBEARS in performance

In late January I directed (and produced, designed and co-wrote) NIGHT OF THE TARANTUBEARS. The script was written by my good friend Jeff Hernandez and myself. The play concerns a genetic experiment that surfaces as a seemingly harmless viral internet sensation. Part bear, part spider hybrids become the latest trend. But when passing fascination grows the trend becomes uncontrollable in a horrible horrible way. Five survivors hole up in an abandoned theatre, while the city is over-run by genetic monstrosities.

This was the first ensemble show - more than 2 actors - I had directed in a long time. While I remembered why I don't direct multi-actor works all that often (trouble casting, scheduling rehearsals, dealing with lateness, getting performances up to snuff by opening, balancing all the tech elements, etc.), I was genuinely delighted to have such a good group of actors to work with. Hernandez stuck around to help in the production as well. And my wife, Ruth handled box office and some of the "special effects." Though it only recieved one review in the local press, it was a positive one. And though it was only sparsely attended, it was a fun way to start the year.

Throughout the year I continued to interview performers for TheSoloPerformer.com website that I moderate. I also continued to make videos for my YouTube channel. I also continued to co-host the Bike Soccer Jamboree Podcast.



In mid-February I published a kids book for Amazon Kindle. It is called The Secret Island. It is the delightful tale of two unlikely friends. They offer each other mutual assistance and it, of course, comically backfires. It is also still available online.


Deep Vellum Books

In March I performed an excerpt of CYRANO A-GO-GO at Depp Vellum Bookstore in Dallas' Deep Ellum. It was part of an evening of other solo works (and Jeffrey Colangelo's two-person "solo" act). The evening was put on by The Tribe, a great group of young hipster theatre artists who formed a company for about a year and half, and have now disbanded.

In March I also published an ebook version of my play DINOSAUR AND ROBOT STOP A TRAIN. I am pleased to have some of my work actually out in the world and accessible. Hopefully the play will have a life beyond the two productions it has already recieved. 



I kind of laid low for the rest of the spring. I taught cinema and theatre classes at Tarrant County College throughout the first quarter of 2016. Grades were due in mid-May. I enjoy teachingat TCC quite a bit, but I have topped out on what I can make there as an adjunct. And that is nowhere near a fair compensation of the value I create. In fact, it is barely a living wage. I am still there because I genuinely enjoy the job and I'm good at it. I have worked some crappy/semi-crappy jobs in the past (barista, casual dining waiter, high school teacher, hay baler, after school drama instructor, childrens theatre performer, commercial actor, etc.) so having a job I like is a not something I take for granted. On the horizon in the next few years, I will need to make a change. Not certain what I will do, but it will need to pay a better salary than adjunct community college instructor.


In June the 3rd Annual Dallas Solo Fest played at the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park. It was moderately successful. I produced it and Ruth helped out with hospitality and ran the box office. It was more difficult to get press coverage and audiences than the first two years. The acts this year were also more uneven in quality than the last two years, even though there was a greater degree of curation by the selection committee this year. Both weekends of the fest also had to contend with various events at Fair Park, some planned on and knwn about, some not. Fair Park was actually a serious obstacle in a variety of ways, from the inaccessiblity of parking to excessive noise pollution (there was a band playing literally out in front of the theatre at one point). I even tried working with the overwhelmed staff at Fair Park this year, explaining for months in advance and then during the actual festival what I needed and that did not work out at all.


Tech Guy Shea and myself at DSF 2016

I have decided that in order to grow the festival in quality, that I must move it out of Fair Park. The Margo Jones Theatre is an ideal venue on paper, but in reality, the location is hugely detrimental. Too many variables in the early summer that can come up out of nowwhere and distract from what I'm trying to achieve. As soon as the festival eneded, I began looking for an alternative place to hold it in 2017. As of this writing no suitable alternative was located and the 2017 fest has been cancelled. The festival takes months of planning, so by October, when I could not locate a suitable venue for June 2017, I had to call it. I will attempt to produce it in 2018. The bottom line is that it must be better each year. I'm not producing it simply to do it. The goal is improvement.




The bulk of the summer was spent reading and writing and staying out of the public sphere (except for YouTube videos). I read a trilogy of great books including Darren Hardy's The Compound Effect, Dr. Kelly McGonigal's The Willpower Instinct and Ryan Holiday's Ego is the Enemy. They happen to work together really well to form a sort of rudimentary operating system for handling life. 


In August  I served as the first theatre-artist-in-residence at the Kathy George Indie Artist Residency in Ashford, Washington. Sponsored by Seattle's Minion Productions, this week-long retreat offered me a chance to get away from my regular routine and concentrate on my writing in the isolated and idyllic setting of Ashford, Washington, right next to Mount Rainier National Park. Shout out to my colleague and friend Grant Knutson for helping set this residency up.


I came away from Ashford with a full first draft of a full-length play, which was my initial goal.





Grant and I drove to Portland after the residency for my last weekend in the Pacific Northwest. Ate well, reconnected with old friends and got a bit of scratch for my travel itch.

In September, Sundown Theatre Collaborative remounted one of my shortest pieces, LIZARD BOY EATS A DORITO as part of their "best of..." Drunken MIxed Tape Series. The delightfully weird Robert Linder reprised his take on the protagonist in that piece.


Robert Linder in LIZARD BOY EATS A DORITO

As the summer wound down, so did I. In fact, throughout September and October, I retreated away from career pursuit. I actually suffered from a bout of ennui and did some hard internal questioning. I was convinced that I had nothing else to offer for the rest of the year...

Then my friend Justin Locklear texted me. He wanted to know if I wanted to be in a new play at the Ochre House Theatre about Nikola Tesla. I said yes.

I haven't acted in a theatre project outside my own work in nearly a decade (since I was in the Dallas Theatre Center's 365 Days/365 Plays in 2007, directed by Kara-Lynn Vaeni).

The Ochre House play was written and directed by Kevin Grammer. He titled it DREAMING ELECTRIC. I played a very fictionalized version of the real-life George Westinghouse.


DREAMING ELECTRIC at the tiny 55-seat Ochre House Theatre

Despite an unusual rehearsal process (the script wasn't completed until the week before the show opened... the actors just did table work, sitting around reading the work-in-process every night for two full weeks), the play proved to be a lot of fun. It was a nice little drawing room dramedy and it had a great group of people involved with it. It also paid very fairly, which was unexpected, but greatly appreciated. The Ochre House peeps made a pretty good impression on me.

I enjoyed acting - and just acting - again. It was nice just to show up, do the performance, then leave. No staying to lock up. No showing up to open the box office and front of house. It was kind of a throwback to younger days for me and I enjoyed it a great deal.

2016 was also the year I was accepted into Will Power's Dallas Playwrights Workshop. Sponsored by Southern Methodist University, the course was a 6-week intensive throughout November and December. Me and two other writers met with Will once a week at SMU and talked playwriting and did insanely challenging writing exercises. The workshop then culminated in a closed reading of scenes. This workshop used to be sponsored by the Dallas Theatre Center and I applied for it for the previous three years, in a row, since its inception. The workshop is for mid-career playwrights who have a good chance at making an impact on the wider theatre community. I was not sure why I did not previously get in, but I was grateful to finally be accepted. 


CRANDALL ON PLANET X-16 in preview

My little playlet CRANDALL ON PLANET X-16 was included in a collection of holiday themed one-acts put on by Nouveau 47 Theatre in December. It got positive reviews. This was my fourth time, in so many years, contributing to this annual project called A Very Nouveau Holiday. My play was directed by Chris McCreary. I had very little input in it (as usually is the case) and it turned out okay, despite some distracting performance embellishments and a rather bland visual mise-en-scene.

The biggest news is that my wife Ruth and I became parents. Our kiddo showed up in this world on the 30th of December. He is awesome.





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