Jan 6, 2020

Looking Back at 2019

I use this website as a kind of portfolio of my creative projects. I have also been doing a year-in-review report since 2012 (here's 20122013201420152016, 2017 and 2018). This past year was difficult for many reasons, though prolific all the same. It was the end of some major long-term projects and saw the creation of some new ones. Here’s the artistic goings-on that happened in 2019...

Steven Landry and Erica Jure

Cast and playwright

Que Se, Giant Monster got a production in Louisiana - February 15-23

My newest play Que Se, Giant Monster won a play competition and was selected to recieve a developmental" production by Acadiana Repertory Theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana. It was esenttially a world premiere, but the folks at Acadiana thankfully call it a developmental production (meaning it is still eligible to have a "world premiere" somewhere down the road).

Steven Landry, the Artistic Director of Acadiana played Charles in the show and even hosted me in his lovely home the two times I went down to see the progress (once during dress runs at the end of tech week and then for the opening of the second weekend). It recieved great audience response and I was generally pleased with the work they did. I saw a few places to improve the play from seeing it fully on its feet. Much gratitude to director Debbi Ardoin and company members Steven as well as Erica Jure (as Katherine) and Michelle Colon (as the Uber Driver/ various other roles). Turned out to be a delightful way to start the year with delightful people doing some good work.

Justin Lemieux, Tyler Cochran, Erin Singleton and host Brad McEntire

Hosted last Audacity Solo Salon - April 1

Since 2014 I have been hosting these salons to feature solo-shows-in-progress by regional performers. This one marked the ninth and final salon and the last one at the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park, where they had originally started. Last year, the MJT and the rest of Fair Park was taken over by nonprofit Fair Park First and Spectra, a Comcast-owned food-and-entertainment company that manages over three hundred properties around the country. The theatre has been cleaned up, but the new people in charge are not that amiable to small groups like my company Audacity coming in. Everything has become less casual and much more corporate with the accompanying red tape. Since the Dallas Solo Fest is also wrapping up (read on), I decided this Solo Salon would also be the last as well. I am glad it had one last hurrah at the MJT before it ended.

The last Salon featured pieces by Justin Lemieux, Erin Singleton and the writing duo of Abel Flores and Tyler Cochran.

Small, but enthusiastic audiences at DSF

Chatting in the lobby during DSF 2019

Performer Carmel Clavin

Produced the 5th (and last) Dallas Solo Fest - June 6-16

This was the fifth Dallas Solo Fest since 2014 (there was a break in 2017 when I became a new dad). It was a great arts event that featured a diverse roster of one-person shows presented by performers from around the country. It was a pleasure to bring these offerings to Dallas area audiences each summer. This year, though, saw record low audience attendance (partly, I imagine, due to huge thunderstorms both weekends), a change in venue for the second time, a general lack of enthusiasm by several of the performers and a considerable financial loss. Despite some rather amazing shows and a great crew (that included stalwart tech guy Shea Smith and box office help from Erin Singleton) the whole thing was somewhat lackluster. It seems Dallas doesn't really have that high of a demand for a solo performance festival on a national scale. Associate producer Grant Knutson and myself decided that is was, at last, time to hang it all up. We produced 30 idiosyncratic one-person shows over five festivals.The DSF had a good run, but it is time to move on to other adventures.
Performing Cyrano A-Go-Go at Theatre Too at the 2019 DSF
Also performed CYRANO A-GO-GO at the Dallas Solo Fest

For the first (and now, apparently, last) time since it bagan, I decided to present one of my own solo shows as part of the Dallas Solo Fest. I performed an updated version of Cyrano A-Go-Go. It was under-rehearsed and under-marketed (my efforts going towards marketing the festival as a whole instead of my own piece specifically). I was not altogether happy with how it went. I had one great show out of the three presentations.Though two or three of my good frends came out, and my folks, some of my best friends skipped it. Ruth, my wife, also found excuses not to come see it. I had very low audience numbers. This was kind of demoralizing. On top of this, I had a cold a few weeks leading up to the DSF and it had moved into my ears, leaving me with stuffy, ringing, hearing loss for the entire month surrounding the Solo Fest. I think the whole time I was operating with a roughly 20% decrease in my hearing overall. This was annoying in the lobby trying to have conversations with performers and patrons, but it was a bigger setback for performing. I never felt that I sounded right. The whole experience, performing Cyrano A-Go-Go and the DSF as a whole, was a low point in the year.

Performing The Beast of Hyperborea at FIT

Created and Performed THE BEAST OF HYPERBOREA at FIT 2019 - July 13 - Aug 3

I rolled directly from the DSF into writing, rehearsing and designing a new, original solo show. In a very short time, I created a homage/satire of late Victorian adventure fiction. I called it The Beast of Hyperborea. It played between mid-July thru early August at the 2019 Festival of Independent Theatres a tthe Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas.

This was, by far, the most challenging process I have ever been through putting together a show. I did a two-part podcast about it, actually, on The Cultivated Playwright. I was constantly stressed, hurried, on the edge of complete burn-out and writing and rewriting the thing. I also did it completely by myself. Not even a stage manager. So, it was kind of an isolated, lonely process. It was literally all on me. I snatched up every available few hours to try to rehearse it in time, before I'd have to debut on stage. I even took at trip with my familty to San Antonio, and between visits to the Alamo and Sea World, I holed up in the hotel room and ran lines.

It turned out to be really pleasing and a crowd-favorite. It got some nice reviews as well. But, dang, it was a hard, lonely march to get the thing assembled. 

Published paperback collection of CHUPACABRA, DINOSAUR & ROBOT & RASPBERRY FIZZ

Around mid-August, I self-published a paperback collection of three of my short plays: I Brought Home a Cupacabra, Dinosaur and Robot Stop a Train and Raspberry Fizz. Though I have had each of these up as individual ebooks on Amazon for some time, I wanted to put them in "real book" format and market them to high schools and community theatres in the future. Chupacabra would make a wonderful H.I. (humorous Interpretation) piece for some high school actress and Raspberry Fizz would shine in a good community theatre production. Though I released the book and did some lazy promotion (instagram posts, etc.),  I am hoping to actually market the book throughout 2020. 

Performing Cyrano A-Go-Go at the Side Street Studio, Elgin Fringe Festival [credit: Joshua Smith]

Performed CYRANO A-GO-GO at Elgin Fringe, IL - September 12 - 15

My day job is as a community college instructor. I am an adjunct professor. I teach cinema and theatre classes. In January, two days before I went back to work, I found out I would be unemployeed for the spring semester. One of my classes didn't make (not enough students signed up)  and the other one was stolen from me by a full-timer whose own class didn't make. Because I found myself suddenly jobless, I instantly stopped applying for fringe festivals to attend in 2019, shifting into save money mode and resolved to stay close to home this year. I applied for two fests before I got the news that I would be jobless. I was ultimately accepted to both. The first one was the Elgin Fringe.

I took Cyrano A-Go-Go to the Elgin Fringe Fest this past year. Elgin is about 35 miles outside of Chicago. A neat little town with an emerging arts scene. In 2018 I won an award there presenting Robert's Eternal Goldfish and was excited about going back. It was a blast. The show went well and I reconnected with friends I had made in 2018. I even won another award.

I forget sometimes how much I really enjoy travelling to far away festivals and living the life of a fringe artist. It has become more rare for me now that I am a dad, and the trips are now mostly over long weekends instead of a proper tour, but I really do enjoy them when I can set them up. 

Cyrano A-Go-Go at Theatre Crude Fringe, OKC

Performed CYRANO A-GO-GO at Theatre Crude Fringe, OKC - September 27 & 28

One of the festivals I applied for was a brand new one up in Oklahoma City called the Theatre Crude Fringe Festival. It had an extensive application process complete with skype interviews. I was bummed when the line-up was announced and I had not been accepted. Oh well.

About a week before I left for Elgin I got a voicemail from one of the organizers of the Theatre Crude Fringe. They had a couple of groups dropped and were now scrambling to fill the roster. Would I be interested in coming up after all?

I knew this was a new fest and also that I would not have the proper amount of time to market myself, but on the other hand, OKC is really close and I have extended family sprinkled around central Oklahoma. I said sure. Besides, Cyrano A-Go-Go was, by this point in the year, battle-hardened and ready to go.

My folks organized a smattering of my relatives and the weekend became sort of family event. Ruth and my kiddo came up. We stayed in casino hotels. It was not the usual fringe experience, but was rather a sort of "family weekend." It was nice to have my relatives see the show. My folks, bless them, came to both shows that weekend (and the timeslots I had were horrible). I also caught up with Elaine Liner and grab a coffee (she was also a performer in the fest) and Grant Knutson, who I hadn't seen since the DSF back in June. He was there checking out the new fest as well.

Six weeks of camping

The weekend immediately following the Theatre Crude Fringe found me camping at Lake Murray State Park. For the next month or so, I spent every weekend outdoors at some camp ground or another. I camped alone, with my friend Jeff Hernandez and even an over-nighter on Lewisville Lake with Ruth and the kid. 

I have been an indoors/bookworm type most of my life. In the last few years, I have taken to camping and am slowly evolving into a real outdoorsy type. One of the things I enjoy about camping is that it seems simple, but one can get better and better at it. I am slowly moving towards hiking and going more lightweight in my gear, further and longer in my trips. It is an unexpected turn for me and I am enjoying it immensely.

It has been fun to actually go on adventures instead of merely writing about them.

student actors
director, playwright and cast of Going Up?

Directed Kat Hamilton's GOING UP? for TCC-SE with student play, actors and crew - November 13 - 16

I usually keep my head down where I work. I took a job as an adjunct specifically to teach college classes - theatre, cinema, acting, etc. - to college students. Anything beyond that is extra. I never lose the forest for the trees of why I am there. I am offered extra work to do from time to time: conducting workshops, directing students in plays, presenting my own work, being on committees, etc. Sometimes it is paid work, sometimes not. It is always up and beyond the actual instruction in the classroom. I usually decline. After years of aggressively staying below the radar, I'm not asked to do "extra" stuff that much anymore. But this past autumn, I was asked to direct a student-written short play at the college where I work.

The sting of having my classes yanked last Spring was still a bitter aftertaste in my mouth, but I decided maybe it was time to rise above any petty grievances. Maybe I'd try being a "team player" for a change. Also, I needed the extra stipend to help refill my savings accounts.

The last time (and only other time) I directed at the college I work at was almost 8 years ago, only a few semesters after I joined the staff as an adjunct instructor. I directed a student written 10-minute play, complete with student actors. Just past November, I directed once again for the "Festival of New Plays." The script, by a young creative writing student was fast, quirky (it takes place mostly in an elevator in an office building), humorous and tackles important content (it is set in the 1970s as women just started to rise in the professional workforce). The student actors were focused, enthusiastic and performed well.

The ten-minute play ended up taking over 70 hours total over several weeks to rehearse, tech and present since it had to be coordinated with three other pieces, directed by three other instructors, to form an evening of one acts. The crew were all students lead by a TD and a Sound Designer who never seemed in a particular hurry. I determinedly stayed a good sport the whole time. 

It was not an efficient process, but it wasn't horrible. And the playwright I worked with ended up winning first prize with her script. 


I released six more episodes of my podcast The Cultivated Playwright throughout the year. I certainly am not consistent with the episodes and this is not helped by my efforts to try and fiigure out what direction I want to take the podcast in. I have several rather ambitious ideas for it, just not the time ans drive to put the work out on a steady basis. I am proud of the episodes I did release in 2019, though.

Produced 23 YouTube videos in 2019

I did turn more attention to my YouTube channel throughout 2019 than I have in a while. My goal is to grow to approximately 1000 subscribers. I am not particularly in a hurry to do this. My channel is a hodge podge of promo vids, camping-related stuff, mini-docs on my fringe touring, an alternate way to listen to Cultivated Playwright episodes and theatre-related "talking head" videos. That is to say, it is all over the place. This is also okay with me. I am not using YouTube to grow a brand or even to make money. It has become more than merely an archive, though. My only guidelines are that the content is something I personally am interested in and that the video should add value in some way.

I had 1,946 views and racked up 96 total watch hours according to the stats, so that was nice.

Featured in two long-form interviews, plus conducted an epic two-part interview with performer Tim Mooney.

Though my projects are covered from time to time, I am not featured, personally, all that often by the media. So, it was nice that I had two rather comprehensive interviews this year.

The most thorough set of questions I've ever sat down to answer was for an interview on TheSoloPerformer.blogspot.com and was conducted by my friend and colleague Grant Knutson. You can read it here. Grant did a deep dive into my story, my background and focused on my work as a solo performer and producer of the Dallas Solo Fest. You can see it... HERE

My improv teammate from the old Frenchclub Dropout days, Victoria Irvine, suggested me for an interview series called "Hidden Gems" for an online magazine called VoyageDallas.This profile was more about Audacity Theatre Lab and how that came about. You can read it... HERE 

Besides being the subject of interviews, I spent a considerable amount of time conducting my own interview of touring fringe artist Tim Mooney. Tim performs year round, booth at educational intitutions as well as at fringe fests with his collection of one-man shows based on the works of Moliere and Shakespeare. The interview turned into an epic two-parter which I was extremely proud of. You can read part 1... HERE and part 2... HERE

The holidays were spent with family and friends at the end of the year. 2019 was filled with ups and downs with a lot of productivity throw in to show for it. 2020 looks to hold more adventure as well as some new and exciting projects.

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