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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Gift Idea #5: Eleventh Hour Rush

Okay, it's Christmas Eve. There's still one extremely hard to shop for person on your list, and you're stuck. He or she didn't seem too enthused about the chia pet last year, so you have got to find something meaningful.
Okay, last minute, simple, easy, and meaningful -- Big Bad Wolf's got you covered.
Go to the following website: (Well, not now. Read the rest of the steps and then come back and click on the link.)
This is the website for Heifer International: an organization that does an awful lot of good in the world (unfortunate moniker aside).
Here's how: Heifer International provides families in starving nations around the world with livestock essential to building a sustainable way of life. Following the "teach a man to fish" axiom, these animals aren't sent to be butchered, but rather to become part of a thriving, self-sustaining farm.
Goats, for example, provide milk for growing youngsters and fertilizer for growing crops. A flock of chicks will grow into a hen house that provides eggs daily for a family as well as a surplus that can be sold at market.
This is the abridged version of the project, but I know that you're in a hurry. At some point you ought to peruse the whole site, but for now just scroll over the tab that says "Give" and click on "Online Gift Catalog."
You will see just over twenty different items with prices. A donation of a heifer is $500 or a share of a heifer is $50. A flock of chicks is $20. Honeybees, pigs, llamas - all of these critters will help needy families move from poverty into prosperity. Click on a picture that looks interesting, and read about how a little thing like a flock of baby ducks can change a village for the better.
Once you have decided on the creature or combination of creatures that you think will hold meaning for your gift recipient, go ahead and check out just like you would on any other online merchant site. Once your transaction is complete, you can create an e-card for your gift recipient with a link back to the site, so they can see how the gift given in their honor can impact a starving family.
You can also print out a card if you want - there are even folding instructions.
There. The shopping is done, and you have given the best gift you can give - hope.
Followed in a close second place by Elmo Live.
I'm joking, of course, but there is also something to be said for a gift that won't get shoved in a drawer and re-gifted next year.
This time of year, everyone is always saying, "It's the thought that counts." Well how about a thought that feeds people as well?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday Gift Idea #4: Happy Feet

My good friend Ali told me about this idea. She just graduated with her Master's in Non-Profit Management (Congratulations, Ali!) and spent a couple of weeks this last semester in Alaska as part of an externship. While there, she stumbled upon this very unique gift idea from the Alaska SeaLife Center.
Look at this.
It's called a puffin painting, and is created by these funny little aquatic birds sometimes called sea parrots or the clowns of the sea.
Regularly priced at $150, through December 24th you can get one of these one-of-a-kind works of art for just $100 and the proceeds go to benefit the Alaska Sea Life Center and the good work that they do there.

*Update*: Ali just posted another (and less expensive) way to support puffins in the comments section throught the Puffins Cereal website, which I have now made a link here in the main post.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Gift Idea #3: A Little Wilder, Perhaps?

As in wild animals.
Here is a really great gift idea for that person on your Christmas list who is crazy about polar bears, penguins, otters, or, of course, wolves.
You can symbolically adopt just about any endangered fauna in someone else's name through either of these two organizations: Defenders of Wildlife or The World Wildlife Fund.
You can adopt at many levels, and what your recipient gets a nice little adoption package and the knowledge that their favorite critters are being given a fighting chance to be around for years to come.
For example, with a $25 Gray Wolf Adoption through Defenders of Wildlife, here's what gets sent to your gift recipient: a certificate of adoption, a photo, fact sheet about the species, and this little 8" plush wolf.

At the $50 Wolf Family Level, you get the certificate, fact sheet, photo, a kids wildlife activities book and this 17" plush.

The Wolf Pack ($75) includes everything in the above package plus a nice frame for the photo and certificate, so that your recipient can display their support of their favorite animal for one and all.

The Wolf Mom and Pup ($100) adds a little wolf cub plush to the package.

The Giant Wolf Level ($250) replaces the smaller plush with this 40" plush wolf.

Pretty cool idea, no?
World Wildlife Fund's packages are a little different, but it's pretty much the same idea.
Again, it's a chance to give a gift that really speaks to the heart of your giftee and does some good at the same time. It's sort of like saving two birds with one coin. (See what I did there? Sometimes I even impress myself.)

Here are just a few of the animals available for adoption at one or the other of these two sites:
Wolves, polar bears, snow leopards, pandas, bison, meerkats, sea turtles, vampire bats, penguins, anacondas, bald eagles, great white sharks, dolphins, and orangutans.
There's a little something for everybody.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday Gift Idea #2: Puppy Love

Any pet lovers on your christmas list this year?
Well, I can't think of a more thoughtful gift than one that also helps out our four-legged friends in the process.
Here are a few ideas for the dog's (or cat's) best friend in your life.
The North Shore Animal League, the world's largest no-kill shelter has all kinds of fun pet-related gifts, and, of course, the proceeds go toward keeping this amazing endeavor up and running.
Look at this necklace for $28. (The same design is available in a lapel pin for $21.50.) Check out their whole catalog. Lots of good stuff here.
A little closer to home is the Denver Dumb Friend's League right here in the Mile High City. Take a look at some of the goodies in their gift shop. It's through Cafe Press, so, you have a lot of options for every design featured.
Maybe the person on your list is moved by the spirit of activism. Well, how about a "We are their voice" t-shirt with a loveable dog or cat on the front from the ASPCA Online Store?
Or you can get even more to the point with a "Stop Puppy Mills" T-shirt from the Humane Society. You could even give it to them early so that they can stand outside the mall pet stores and educate people about the conditions in which those cute little doggies in the window were sired.
Anyway, I think you get the idea. There are a lot of ways to spend your holiday-shopping dollars that can allow you check a name off your list and support a worthy cause at the same time.
Of course there's always the option of making a donation in the name of someone who really just does not need one more t-shirt or coffee cup.
Show you appreciate them by showing that you appreciate their cause.
Now, before you accuse the Big Bad Wolf of being a little canine-centric with this entry, here's a little something for you cat lovers out there:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday Gift Idea #1

Okay, you've survived Black Friday. You've made it through the easy part of your list.
A home beer brewing kit for Dad.
A snuggly warm bathrobe for Mom.
A Tickle-Me-Yoda doll for little Tommy. (Would be cool, though wouldn't it?)
Now, what about those people on your list who are a little harder to shop for during the holidays?
Gift card? Maybe, but isn't that just a little impersonal? Besides, many gift cards have hidden fees and expiration dates, and about 27% of the gift cards purchased for the holidays in 2007 never got used.
Never fear, the Big Bad Wolf is here! I've got a few ideas for unique, heartfelt gifts that have the added bonus of making the world a better place, and over the next few weeks, I'm going to share a few of them with all of you.
Today's gift idea:
Check out this cool logo hat and t-shirt combo in a distressed, retro style.
Normally $18, now just $15. This is a great gift for those office holiday exchanges, too.
Don't recognize the team logo?
Well, I'm glad you asked.
That team is working and succeeding every day to cure childhood cancer and other diseases.
That's right. That is a St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital logo hat and t-shirt combo, and 100% of the profits from the sale of this gift goes straight to the hospital.
This gift and many other just like it can be found in the St. Jude's Hope Gift Book.
These are gifts that you can feel good about buying and the receiver can feel good about receiving.
If , like me, you sometimes feel that the true meaning of the holidays gets lost amid all the jewelry and toy ads, here is a way to bring real giving back into the gifts.
While you're at it, why not pick up some wrapping paper designed by some of the kids who have been patients at St. Jude's?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Some of My Best Friends . . .

Are married. Some of them also happen to be of the same gender. Some might then say that they then cannot possibly be married. "Marriage can only be between a man and a woman," comes the argument. "Marriage is sacred," they say. "Same-sex unions cheapen the sanctity of marriage," is the battle-cry I hear most often.
With the recent passage of California's Proposition Eight, I decided to do a little investigating.
Why, exactly, is a marriage only between a man and a woman? "Because that's the way it always has been," is the answer I receive.
I believe that statement is accurate. That is, as far as I'm aware, the way it has always been. However, why is that a valid argument for marriage, but not for other things as well? Should we not, then, be hunting our own food, reading by firelight, walking from village to village, and curing ailments like schizophrenia and autism through exorcism, and headaches through bloodletting? Is there no room for a progressive perspective?
The number one reason that marriage has been between a man and a woman is this: progeny. The propagation of the species is why a man and a woman were paired.
Now, with a world population of 6.72 billion that is predicted to reach 9 billion by the middle of this century, is it not safe to say that we've got the propagation of the species covered?
As to the notions of "sanctity" and the "sacred," all I can say is that marriage has traditionally been about the exchange of property between families. Marriages were arranged like business transactions (many still are), and consent was not a factor between the "happy couple" -- forget about love. Love is a late-comer to the institution of marriage.
And as institutions go, I find it difficult to locate much sanctity in a bond that is so easily and frequently put asunder. Somewhere between 40 and 55% of all first marriages end in divorce. 60% of second marriages end in divorce. 75% of third marriages end in divorce.
Reason #1: Money.
Reason #2: Infidelity.
"The sanctity of marriage" argument doesn't hold water.
So, let's be honest, here. Proposition Eight passed not because marriage is a sacred institution, but because a lot of straight people are freaked out by gay people.
Sure, we could get into a long debate about Leviticus and the letters from Paul and other elements of the Bible that have been used through the years to condemn homosexuality. We could even find equally outdated, obscure, and out-of-context passages in other holy books that can be interpreted to condemn homosexuality. Jerry Falwell found homosexuality in a teletubbie. If you want to find something badly enough, you'll find it wherever you look.
So why do so many people want to find a reason to condemn homosexuality? Why do so many latch on to a passage in an ancient book on a page full of completely outdated "laws" in order to validate their idea that one entire group of people is unnatural or wrong?
Well, why are we so obsessed with erectile dysfunction, breast implants, hair loss? It's all about gender roles. Guys are supposed to be masculine, strong, virile -- oh, and we don't cry. Women are supposed to be attractive to men.
We may have been able to put aside the Suzy Homemaker and Tom Breadwinner stereotypes somewhat, but the basic idea is still there. It is at the root of most individual and group (and national) psychoses: Men constantly want to know if they are "man" enough. Women obsess about their role in a relationship.
Heterosexuals are constantly on shaky ground with our own sense of worthiness in our gender. Homosexuality presents a perspective that, frankly, scares the hell out of us.
Does that make it wrong? Don't we kind of have to figure out what's right before we can figure out what's wrong?
In this country, it is not appropriate to legislate your fears. You overstep your bounds by writing or re-writing laws that infringe upon the rights of others just because you find something distasteful.
And "distasteful" is as far as I'll go. I am tired of hearing the word "abhorrent" being thrown around so lightly. Violence against a child or an innocent animal is abhorrent. "Abhorrent" should be reserved for school shootings, suicide bombings, and Kid Rock's "music."
Two men or two women in a committed and loving relationship is not abhorrent. It may be confusing for some. It may be unsettling for others. It may even be disgusting to you.
But it isn't abhorrent. And it isn't hurting anybody. Proposition Eight and the fearful thinking behind it is hurting people, and we are supposed to be better than that -- as Americans and as spiritual and human beings.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Disturbing Trend

I read a couple of articles earlier this week in Stage Directions Magazine about two Shakespeare companies that are experiencing some financial woes of late. Despite having a record season, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is running a $700,000 deficit. More on that story here.
Even worse off is the Milwaukee Shakespeare Company that had to abruptly close its doors mid-season.
In both cases, a lack of financial support in the current economic market is a major factor.
Denver Post theatre critic John Moore pointed out in his last column that, here in Denver, a third of the existing theatre companies do not have any upcoming shows scheduled.
The current state of the economy is considered the main culprit.
Now, I am not an economist, but it seems to me that when we talk about the economy we are really talking about people spending money. Money doesn't spend itself (though at times it may seem like it.)
If people aren't spending money, people aren't making money, and lo and behold the economy takes a downslide. Now, yes, there are a lot of other factors, and there has been some seriously fproblematic handing out of loans and such over the last few years that have put us in the situation we are in, and those things will have to be dealt with as best we can.
Notice, though, that I said "situation" and not "crisis."
"Crisis" makes for good headlines. It's scary, and scared people watch the news more often. The problem with that is that "crisis" calls for panic, and panic only magnifies things.
Look, gas has gone down a bit. Groceries didn't suddenly get more expensive. Things are really not as bad as the word crisis suggests. Things are tougher for some people than for others, but, what little I do know about economics is that the line graphs are very seldom made up of straight lines. Things go up, then down, then back up, etc.
There are a lot of "financial experts" vying for fifteen minutes of fame, and the ones that are going to get the most exposure are the ones who wave their arms the wildest and scream the loudest and whip us into a panicked frenzy the fastest. This is not true of all of them, but I think it's important to consider what people will do or say to get on TV.
So, where am I going with all of this?
Where I am going is simple. Go see a show. You are obviously a theatre aficionado if you are troubling yourself to read this blog. You love theatre. Put your money where your heart is, fly in the face of these overly dramatic doom-sayers, and buy two tickets to the comedy, drama, or musical of your choice. Just for good measure, drop a few bucks in the donation jar, buy a can of soda and a homemeade lemon square for 2 bucks. Even consider becoming a sponsor at the basic level or above. Nearly every theatre company has a sponsorship option (if they know at all what they're doing), and, if it's not listed in the program or on the website, the person who smiled and handed you the ginger ale can probably tell you something about it.
Now a couple of lemon squares and a $50 donation might not have been enough to save the Miluakee Shakespeare Company, but I believe that a helathy dose of consumer confidence just might have.
The economy is not something that exists outside of us. We are the economy. All of us. I'm not in "crisis." Are you?
I didn't think so.
Check out the Denver Post Theatre page and see where you want to exercise your economic influence.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Puppy Update and Wisdom from Alice Walker

It seems unlikely that President-Elect Barack Obama reads my little ol' blog, but this is uncanny. One thing I hope that our next President is reading these days is the open letter to him from Alice Walker. I hope he reads it several times. In fact, I think we all should read it. I was going to put up just a piece of it, but, as I re-read it now, I think I'll just put it all here for you now.

"Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker"

Thank you, to Alice Walker for sharing this wisdom and to my friend, actress Jenny Hecht for pointing me to it.
More with Alice Walker:

Also, if you were touched by Baby's story in my last entry's video, here is her website.

White House Puppy

It sounds like one of the first campaign promises that President-elect Barack Obama will be fulfilling is (perhaps rightly) one made to his two young daughters Malia and Sasha. That promise, of course, being a new puppy.
It is my hope that the Obama family will choose to rescue a pup, though I'm sure there are many breeders who would be more than happy to give a furry bundle of joy to the next First Family.
With a Presidential pet adoption on the horizon and with the approach of the holiday season, I just wanted to take a moment to speak out on behalf of my non-speaking cousins.
If you're thinking about getting a dog (or cat), please really think about it. Do you have the time for a dog? This includes playing. Not just walking and brushing. Do you have the space for a dog? Do you have the patience for a dog? Answer these questions honestly, please, before you bring a new life into your household.
If you feel that you meet the criteria to be a new pet owner, then, please, please consider rescuing a puppy from a shelter like the Dumb Friends League here in Denver. There are a lot of animals who would be very grateful for your love and your home.
However, if you absolutely must have a that purebred Scottish Terrier, then just make sure you do it right. Do not, I repeat, do not buy the little guy from a pet store and do not buy a puppy online or from a classified ad. You can find a breeder online or through an ad, but make sure that you visit in person.
Here is a little info about puppy mills from our friends at The Humane Society and (The video is upsetting but not particularly graphic.)
Just as a personal preference, I am partial to mutts anyway. Being one myself, I find that mutts are more unique and generally much heartier than purebreds -- even those that are not horribly inbred like those from the puppy mills.
(Which reminds me, let's add another criterion for pet ownership: Can you financially handle a dog who becomes ill or injured?)
Whether you go through a shelter or through a legitimate breeder, there are just two things to remember:
1. Have the little darling spayed or neutered. It's better for them. It's better for you. It's better for the world. But don't just take my word for it, here's what the Humane Society has to say on the matter.
2. Be grateful. The unconditional love that one gets from a pet (even a cat) cannot be measured and it cannot be matched. An animal companion is a blessing. Treat him or her as such.
Here's one more argument against puppy mills. (But not the last one by far. This makes my blood boil. You will hear more from me on this matter.)
Meet Baby:

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Johnny One Vote

I'm going to get a little political today, but maybe not in quite the way that you think.

I voted this last week. Exercised my right as a free citizen. Let my voice be heard. Stood up and was counted. Pick your cliche. I've seen many people on MySpace and on Facebook who proclaimed loudly and proudly in their status bars (by "loudly" I mean either with all-caps or exclamation points) that they had cast their vote. I envy their enthusiasm and joy. I was more saddened by the whole experience. The confusing ballot measures, the "lesser of two evils" choices between the candidates -- these things left me feeling more disheartened than anything. Also, knowing that, just because I had voted early didn't mean I wouldn't still be subjected to the barrage of negative and/or misleading campaign advertising and automatically-dialed recorded messages in my voicemail between now and Super Tuesday.
My penultimate disappointment of the last week has been the news of the $4-million (or more) 30-minute campaign ad for Barack Obama. The price tag just seems staggering to me.
Now, this is not an indictment of Obama at all. Given the way this year's (fifteen months'?) campaigning has gone, it was a natural progression.
As Benjamin Franklin said, "Don't hate the playa, hate the game." (Or something like that.)

I guess that is what troubles me the most. This country has mobilized in terms of both volunteer hours and funding to support one candidate or another to "rescue" the country from its dark days. To hear people speak about their politician of choice, you would think we were electing a new Messiah rather than a public servant.
I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but neither of the choices presented to us can truly "rescue" us from anything. In fact, there isn't any one person out there who can.
I see all of these people out pounding the pavement to get the population registered to vote -- I get asked more for my voting status on the 16th Street Mall now than for spare change!
I receive about five calls a day from one political camp or the other. Once a day, someone knocks on my apartment door holding a clipboard.
I can't help but think that, if we paced ourselves, if we spread this energy and activism out over four years, we wouldn't need to be rescued. If we as citizens were 1/4 as much involved and informed every year as we are for just this one year, we would truly be the nation that we set out to be 200+ years ago.
Our vote is important, there is no denying that, but we are more than our vote. The prevailing attitude seems to be that, once the ballots are counted, we can all just sit back and let the newly-elected miracle worker make everything groovy again.
History should have taught us by now that it doesn't work that way.
We are a nation "of the people" not of ballots. The government can only do so much, or, as we have unfortunately allowed it to become so mired in bureaucracy, so little.
Obama's ad is only a fraction of the total cost of the campaigns this year -- on both sides. Obviously, Obama didn't go into his own pockets for that money -- it came in the form of contributions. Now, just imagine what would happen if, instead of raising $4-million in one year for a 30 minute television ad, the individuals who so readily handed over that money decided instead to raise $1-million every year and put it toward solving a problem or supporting a cause they believe in?
Could they make as much impact as a President who is himself only one part of the government? I happen to think so, and remember, that's only a small chunk of the total funds spent on this election.
And, again, I'm not slamming Obama. McCain has raised and spent a lot of money, too. The size of the price tag is not on them, it's on us. We let it get this way. We are the ones who have become so complacent in our self-governance that we need to have hundreds of millions of dollars spent on us just to get us caught up on what's going on every four years.
The young man who knocked on my door today probably spends at least ten hours per week walking around and telling strangers why they should vote for Obama.
Now, I don't imagine that Obama is this young man's uncle, so I suspect that he is advocating for this man he does not know because Barack Obama's philosophy is somewhat aligned with his own.
Now, what if this young man simply spent two hours every week talking to strangers about the events and issues nearest and dearest to his heart. Could he not still make an impact? Perhaps even more of an impact?
The two young me who came to my door last year from the LDS church fervently, strongly believed in what they had to share, and, while they didn't get a convert out of the deal, they did get their message heard. The older woman who handed me a copy of The Watchtower the other day isn't going to find me sitting in the next pew anytime soon, but it only took her a second or two to do it, and the next guy might be more receptive. The point is, it's something she believed in strongly enough that she was willing to risk being told to "F*** off." (I didn't, but if she'd caught me on another day . . .)
I know I probably sound like an idealist, but I think I'm really more of a pragmatist.
I don't wish to be cynical, but can we really believe that either McCain or Obama will be able to enact their respective plans for change when they are finally put behind the big desk? Will not the day-to-day business of running the government curtail or even de-rail some of their plans, no matter how well-intentioned?
So much emphasis is placed on the power of a person's vote, and I don't want to diminish that. A vote is a powerful thing.
It's just that, if we believe that our power begins and ends with our ability to cast a ballot, we've put all our eggs in one basket.
So, whoever ends up taking the big chair after Tuesday, let's remember one thing:
The real seat of power in this country -- or at least what should be -- is the one under our own tuckus.
We can choose to get up off of it and truly become -- as we were intended to be -- a nation of leaders, or we can stay on the couch and be a nation of followers.
Capitalism and socialism both have a utopia at the end of the rainbow in which no one wants for anything and everyone lives in peaceful harmony. Whichever camp you fall into (and this country was founded on elements of both philosophies), I would just like to point out that, well, we ain't there yet. We've got a ways to go.
There is still work to be done, and it's going to take all of us.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Scary Monsters, Good Deeds

There is a long-standing tradition of young people using Halloween night to collect donations for the United Nations Children's Fund or UNICEF.
If you have little ones with big hearts, this is a great way to help raise their consciousness. It can be done as an alternative to candy collecting for kids with food allergies or special dietary needs or in conjunction with sweets-gathering for kids who have a true appreciation of the wonder of candy corn.
Not making the trick-or-treat rounds this year? Consider putting out a collection box at your Halloween party.
Everyone keeps talking about how the economy's bad and times are tight. Personally, I think it's an exaggeration for effect. Bad economy makes for good copy, etc. However, even if it's as bad as they would have us believe, we're still in much better shape than lots of other places in the world.
So as we temporarily abandon diets and good eating habits to dip our fingers in the candy bowl during the Eve of All Hallows, let's try to remember that there are children in the world for whom good nutrition isn't even an option on a regular basis. Okay?
Here's a link to the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF webpage.
My dad used to tell me when I was little that the best way to keep monsters away was to let them see you aren't afraid of them.
Let's show the "bad economy monsters" that we ain't scared by doomsayers and such. We still have plenty to share.

Same Old Song and Yuma X Two

Once again, here I am lamenting the lack of theatre updates here for a while. Again, most of what I write about here in terms of plays will be shows that:
1) I have seen
2) I enjoyed
3) you still have time to see yourself

If any of those three criteria aren't met, I don't feel it's worth writing about. Lately, though, the difficulty has been in meeting the first criteria.
It continues to astound me that, as of today, I have seen 44 plays and/or musicals in 2008, and I still find myself having to say, "Sorry I missed . . ." or "Hey, I really meant to see you in . . ." to most of the theatre folk I encounter on the web or out in the real world.
There's a lot to see here in the Denver-area theatre-wise. There really, really is.
I am still working on some solutions that will result in more frequent postings from the Big Bad Wolf here, and those will be forthcoming.
In the meantime, I'd like to share with you the most recent results of one of my little movie proclivities.
Sometimes I like to try to watch both the original and re-make of a film in the same week (or in the case of Gaslight, the same day.) In order, if possible.
In the case of 3:10 to Yuma, I actually watched the films in reverse order, starting with 2007's "how-is-it-an-English-guy-and-an-Australian-guy-can-play-American-cowboys-better-than-we-can"
oater starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe.
This newer version is action-packed, with compelling performances from the leads and a particularly notable performance from Ben Foster (an American! Yee-ha!) as the chilling Charlie Prince. This is a Western for people who don't like (or think they don't like) Westerns. Interesting bit of trivia: when the clock strikes three in the film it is exactly ten minutes until we see the arrival of the 3:10 train bound for Yuma. Timing is everything. (RTD? Hello? This is not a science-fiction concept!)
Now the 1957 version is shorter and focuses just a little more on the psychological aspects of the story and less on the blazing pistols, but it is no less fun to watch. I would describe it as "cowboy noir" because so much care is given to lighting, camera angles, and gritty storytelling.
I would be hard-pressed to pick a superior between the two films. Both stand on their own as great Westerns that stand apart from the genre.
Do what I did. See them both. (Though seeing them in the same week may be a bit much for the less movie-nerdy among you.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Mr. Miyagi

"Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do "yes" or karate do "no." You karate do "guess so," just like grape. Understand?"

"No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher."

"In Okinawa, belt mean no need rope to hold up pants."

"First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Daniel-san, not mine."

"Don't forget to breathe, very important."

"Just remember, license never replace eye, ear, and brain."

"Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?"

"For man with no forgiveness in heart, life worse punishment than death."

"Never put passion before principle. Even if win, you lose."

"Aha... here are the Two Rules of Miyagi-Ryu Karate. Rule Number One: 'Karate for defense only.' Rule Number Two: 'First learn Rule Number One.'"

Monday, October 13, 2008

Philly Edition: Gee's Bend

I am back in Denver now, but I spent the weekend in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I thought I'd lay out a little theatre blogging specifically for my Philly-area readers. I know there are at least a few of you who have let me know you check out my blog, and there may be even more of you out there, so here goes.
Saturday night I had the distinct pleasure of enjoying a terrific production of Gee's Bend at the Arden Theatre.
Gee's Bend was part of the Denver Center Theatre Company's previous season and regrettably I missed that production. Fortunate then that I should be in Philadelphia not only to see Gee's Bend produced but also to have been at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (yes, the one with the steps that Rocky scaled, Denverites) to see the accompanying exhibit of the quilts that are the basis of the play.
The story covers 61 years in the life of a young African-American woman in Gee's Bend, Alabama who has learned the art of quilting from her mother. We follow her through motherhood, marriage, segregation, the Civil Rights Movement, widowhood, and ultimately the fame received for her quilts.
Having taken a walking tour of historic Philadelphia that morning and seen the places where this nation and its ideals were founded added an interesting context to the production for me.
As a kid who grew up on a reservation in Southwest Colorado, the notions of "freedom" and "equality" presented in our country's founding story have always held a certain irony for me. I suspect that the African-American community and others regard the words with a similar antiphrasis.
On this day that we celebrate the "discovery" of the land we now call America, I think it best that we not forget that, since that discovery, we have loaded our historical closets with an awful lot of skeletons.
I am not suggesting that we revile Columbus, by any means. he was a man of great vision. He took a big chance on sailing where no one of his race had gone before. These are admirable traits. The full ramifications of his voyage were far beyond anything he could have predicted, I'm sure.
Yet before we wear out our voices lauding Columbus, let us take a moment to reflect upon some those of those ramifications: the subjugation of people, the denial of human rights.
As I watched the story of the quilts of Gee's Bend, I became acutely aware of the fact that "liberty" has not existed for the full 232 years for everyone in this country. Some acquired it much later in the story. There are those who might argue that some have yet to acquire it fully.
I remember thinking at that moment of how important it is for theatre and other storytelling media to ensure that these stories continue to be told.
For that reason, I will say that the Arden Theatre Company's Gee's Bend goes beyond merely being entertaining and beyond even thought-provoking directly into the realm of inspiring.
Both of the candidates are now touting their platforms of change, and that is good. Change is good.
However, one lesson that can be learned from Gee's Bend is that change, real change, goes far beyond any ballot box. Real change comes from within each of us.
It was Gandhi who said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world."
If you're in the Philadelphia area before December 1st, get over to the Arden Theatre and get inspired by Gee's Bend.
And for everyone: Yes, vote for change, but more importantly, be change.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A New Voice

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome a new voice to the Denver Theatre Community. Angela Clemmons joins the Denver Post as a new part-time theatre critic with her review of The Denver Civic's Magdalene: Woman of Light.
I am glad to have another set of critical eyes join the dialogue that exists in Denver. I believe that criticism -- good criticism, thoughtful criticism, brave criticism -- is of vital importance to the growth of any theatre community. There are those around who tout themselves as critics but do little more than slobber favourably over every production they see. This may get them "copied and pasted" into lots of MySpace blogs and Community Theatre webpages, but it lacks any critical perspective and, I believe, does more harm than good.
Now, I make my recommendations of shows that I see, but I am not a critic myself. I don't claim to be, either. I think that is best left to John and others more removed from the inner workings of Denver Theatre. In addition to occasionally blogging, I still direct, act, and keep my hands in a few things around town behind the scenes. It feels inappropriate for me to be critical of someone else's work when I am constantly striving to improve upon my own. Though I suppose my criticism does come in some ways through my omission, but, since you all can't know all the shows I have or have not seen, I still have a little "wiggle room."
Besides, compared to me, John Moore and Lisa Bornstein are pussycats. I would be far less forgiving.
Still, the more voices, the more perspectives, the better for us all, so welcome Angela. I look forward to more from you in the near future.
Now this clip has nothing to do with anything above, but I wanted to share another favorite memory of the late Paul Newman. Incidentally, this was scene was shot (mostly) just north of Durango, CO, near where I grew up. (The camera angles make it look higher than it is.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I haven't a lot to say today. One of my heroes has passed from this earth. Paul Newman was one of the best actors that this world has seen, and one of the best human beings as well.
53 years in film, including two of my all-time favorites: The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
$250 million dollars raised for charity via his side business, Newman's Own.
I remember as a kid seeing his face on a bottle of salad dressing and saying to my mother, "Isn't that Butch Cassidy?"
When I had confirmed that it was, I was puzzled. My dad sometimes had to take on extra work to make ends meet on the ranch, but surely movie stars made better money than ranchers. Then when I read on the bottle that the money raised from the salad dressing went to charity, I began to understand the concept of "giving back."
In an attempt to follow in his example, I have endeavoured in my career as an artist to give back whenever and in whatever way that I can -- even when my income has been far less than that of the average struggling rancher.
Paul Newman was, is, and forever will be one of my heroes. My thoughts go out to his family.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Movie Recommendation: Yellow Brick Road

Yellow Brick Road (2006)
(Synopsis from Netflix): "Filmmakers Matthew Makar and Keith Rondinelli capture a high-profile theatrical production of "The Wizard of Oz" (based on L. Frank Baum's beloved children's book), performed by an enthusiastic cast of players with disabilities. By interspersing poignant moments of onstage fantasy with scenes from each character's offstage reality, this moving documentary strives to fully tell the troupe members' inspiring personal stories."

While this documentary shows some additional challenges of staging a show with mentally and physically disabled performers, the significant challenges are universal.
As a director, I have often been heard to say that, when casting a show, I value heart and enthusiasm over talent. (I like it best when I get all three.)
This documentary is about a theatre group with a whole lot of heart, a whole lot of enthusiasm, and a surprising amount of talent.
Plan to be charmed by this movie.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Shift Happens

I just wanted to share this with you all. Food for thought.

McCain On the Arts

Okay, my little lambs, let me preface this blog with the following statement. Support for the arts and arts education is my hot-button issue. It may not be yours (though I hope that you have begun to recognize its importance through a few of my blogs here). There are many other issues that are of equal if not more importance in the coming election. I just don't know what the right answers are in many of those issues. "Drill, baby, drill" or make cars that run on cooking oil? I think I know what we ought to do, but I don't know. I've done my research, and I still see both sides.
Support of the arts and arts education, however, is a topic upon which I know where I stand. I have read the statistics, and I have seen the influence of the arts with my own eyes. It's an important issue to me. I'd like it to be an important issue for everyone else, too, but we each have our own issue that is dear to our hearts and minds.
So before I get into discussing John McCain's policy on the arts, I just want to say that, whatever his policy may be, I do not expect that it will necessarily change or affirm your vote one way or the other (though I do hope that it will influence it).
Okay, John McCain's policy on the arts is, as near as I can tell, that he doesn't have one presently. He has shown in his senate career a tendency toward not providing for the arts, but he has no official policy that I have been able to locate.
In fact, the last word from John McCain on the arts that I have been able to dig up comes from 1999 in regard to the NEA:

”I have opposed federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts because I believe it is not proper to use tax dollars for what many Americans feel are the obscene and inappropriate projects this organization has supported. I support providing federal block grants to the states for arts education and artistic endeavors pursued by state and local authorities, while assuring that federal tax dollars are not spent on obscene or offensive material.”

Okay, that seems reasonable enough, but here's where I may have to nitpick just a little bit. What is obscene or offensive? Who makes that determination? Further, even if we can all agree that something is obscene or offensive (which we can't), is it without value? Shouldn't art be allowed to challenge boundaries set by societal ideas, strengthening those ideas that make sense and obliterating those that do not?
See, I have a good friend in town who is also a director. Recently he directed a show that some people found obscene and offensive, and he found himself in some pretty hot water for it at his day job. Now, it all worked out eventually, but the problem arose because his artistic expression wasn't fully grasped by a small group of very vocal individuals.
I guess I would be curious to know what John McCain's definition of "obscene or offensive material" would be. I expect that John McCain would not have liked my friend's show, and would have opposed the SCFD funding that allowed it to come to fruit.
I am glad to hear that John McCain supported federal block grants for state arts education in 1999. I think I would like to hear it more often in 2008.
If anyone has, please comment here or e-mail me. I want to give Senator McCain his equal time.
In the meantime, maybe someone could direct the senator to the Americans for the Arts website.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Obama on the Arts

Busy. Busy. Busy. Sorry, piglets, that it has been so long since you've heard from the Wolf -- I've just got a bit on my plate. I'm directing a new play right now that will open in a few weeks, and that has been taking up a fair amount of my blogging time.
I did not, however, forget my commitment to investigating the support for arts education from our future leaders.
Starting right at the top, I am looking at the two men who are currently neck-and-neck to become the next President of the United States of America.
Today, let's look at Barack Obama.
Here is a fact sheet from the Obama camp detailing the candidate's plans for incorporating more arts in America's schools.
Here is the candidate himself speaking about arts in the schools back in April of this year:

If you want to hear more interesting facts about the impact of arts on kids and communities, spend a little time browsing around the Americans for the Arts website.
In the interest of equal time, tomorrow, we'll look at John McCain's views on the importance of arts education.
I will say that it is not a coincidence that I chose to put Obama's policies on arts education up first. I found most of what I needed with a simple Google search in 0.27 seconds.
McCain is saved for tomorrow because, frankly, I'm still looking.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Come Eleven

The skies in Denver are literally gray today, and the expressions on some of the faces are just a bit grayer. Seven years since we discovered our skies weren't as friendly as we thought, nor our borders as secure. Seven years since we found a new reason to fear.
Now, people aren't as morose today as a year ago -- even less so than two years ago, and so on and so forth. And that is probably a good thing. Life is about moving forward. In fact, if not for the media blitz every 9/11 (which, too, decreases from year to year) I expect that many would not realize that this Thursday morning was an anniversary of anything at all. I don't really think that there's anything wrong with that. Forgetting that today is September 11th is the same as forgetting that yesterday was September 10th -- it doesn't mean that the events of September 11, 2001 have faded from memory. Nor does it diminish the grief we all still feel for the loss of so many lives and of a part of our collective innocence as a nation.
Perhaps we don't need to be reminded so conspicuously: banner graphics on TV morning news shows, politicians competing for the pithiest 9/11 commemorative sound byte, and insipidly patriotic country-music songs on the radio.
Perhaps I shouldn't even be devoting a blog entry, but I was overcome with concern this morning. It wasn't concern over another attack by Iraq (or Turkey or France or whoever it was). It wasn't concern that we would forget the tragic loss of the day seven years ago. It wasn't even that Kid Rock would criminally filch another Warren Zevon song to create another sort of uber-patriotic southern rock anthem. (Poser.)
No, my concern on this morning, seven years since the planes went into the buildings, is just what we as a country and as a people have learned in that time.
What I see is that we are more fearful, more suspicious, more hateful. We are more resolute in our "rightness." Even those who oppose the war in Iraq often do so still from a place of "superior" wisdom about these foreign civilizations.
I don't pretend to have all the answers. (Actually, I do pretend to have all of the answers, but that's just to get chicks. I'm as clueless as the rest of you.)
I just think that what happened seven years ago ought to make us less certain of our position on this planet, not more, and that lack of certainty should not inspire fear, but introspection. When I hear Toby Keith sing about putting a boot in a particular orifice of our enemy as being part of the American way, I cannot help but wonder if that American way gives us much more than some very dirty boots.
Now, I'm not saying I'm right and everybody else is wrong (well not today, anyway). I'm just saying that maybe none of us have given enough thought about what makes us right and somebody else wrong. A lot of lives have been lost prior to and since 9/11. Maybe today when we take a moment to remember the victims of 9/11, we should also take a couple of minutes to remember all of those others as well. Then maybe we should take another moment to ask a couple of questions of ourselves.
If your answers remain the same, well good on you, then. You're convictions are sturdier than mine, and maybe I think about it too much. But my fear -- my red level threat, if you will -- is the possibility that we think about it too little.

Oh, and Kid Rock: I just sent an e-mail to Toby Keith asking if I could borrow his boots.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Issue

I hope that last week's Democratic National Convention here in our Mile High City has inspired you to take an active part in the coming election -- whether Democrat, Republican, or other.
I am narrowing in on my candidate choices both nationally and locally, but what is really important to me are the issues and where the candidates stand on them.
The issue of greatest importance to me right now is the support of the arts.
Now, in a perfect world, the arts would not require external support and would largely be able to support themselves. However, we know that things don't always work out quite that way.
Over the next couple of months, I will endeavour to raise awareness about support for arts programs and shine light on those candidates whose platforms recognize the importance of arts to communities and schools. (If any of you out there happen to be working for or supporting such a candidate, please drop me a line here, and we'll see if we can't find a little bandwidth here to hear them out.)
Today, I will start with a personal anecdote that I call upon whenever anyone asks me why I think the arts are important for kids.
A few years back, when I was the Artistic Director of the Ascot Theatre, I was directing a summer kids' musical. About midway into the first day, a woman walked into the rehearsal room and said, "Is it too late for my daughter to join you?"
I looked around puzzled, because, as far as I could tell, she was by herself. At that point a small blue eye emerged from behind her back, looked at me, then immediately disappeared again.
"She's a little shy. We're just in Denver for the summer visiting my mother. We don't really know anyone, and Jenny (we will call her) hasn't really made any friends yet. My mom is really sick, and I have to help her, so we aren't able to get out much. I thought that a theatre day camp might be fun for her, but she doesn't really have any experience. Is that okay?"
I smiled. "This is the experience."
Jenny and her mother negotiated for a few moments about whether Jenny would stay with us or leave with her mom, and came to the compromise that both would stay for an hour "just to see."
Now, the thing about theatre kids is that, once the performance bug has bit, there is a quality that overtakes them that can only be described as "magical," and, in this group of about a dozen pre-teen girls, I had a couple of downright "veterans." I waved one of them over, introduced Jenny and asked if they'd like to partner up for the morning. Of course, my veteran enthusiastically grabbed Jenny's hand, welcomed her, and together they re-joined the rest of the group.
Jenny was so mesmerized by the group's enthusiasm in greeting her that she barely threw a glance in her mother's direction for the rest of the hour as we all played theatre games and learned a song. In fact, Mom had to flag Jenny down like a passing airplane in order to ask her if she wanted to stay for the rest of the day. Jenny paused for a second, looked over her shoulder, and nodded an emphatic "Yes!"
Mom looked at me, smiled, a little baffled, and said, "I guess I'll go then."
I smiled back and said, "See you at four."
Over the course of the next two weeks, Jenny gradually came out of her shell. She sang, she danced, she squealed with all of the other girls, and I discovered that Jenny also had a gift for comic timing. By the end of day four, when Jenny's mom came to pick her up in the afternoon, she asked me, "Are you sure this is the kid that I dropped off?"
After the musical showcase at the end of camp, all of the parents gathered around me to talk about their little thespians, but Jenny's mom hung back a bit. After the crowd had cleared, she approached me and I could see that she had been crying.
I asked her if she was okay, and she took a deep breath.
"Jenny . . . talks. All the time. She sings, too. Ever since she was little, she's always been very quiet. We even thought for a while that there might be something wrong with her." She pointed across the room at Jenny, who was bounding across the lobby hand-in-hand with another girl, both of them singing and laughing. "Now I have a daughter who skips through the house and laughs. She laughs. I love her laugh! You gave my daughter a voice!"
I laughed. "No. She always had it. We just helped her find it is all."
Now, Jenny and her mom went home at the end of the summer, and I hope that they found more theatre for Jenny where they live, because she really seemed to have a knack for it.
However, even if Jenny never steps on the stage again, Jenny picked up some skills that will help her throughout her school years and even into her adult life.
Theatre teaches us how to use our voices, how to stand up tall, how to tell a story through our body language, or how to read someone else's. In theatre we learn to listen actively. We learn to work as part of an ensemble. Theatre teaches how and when to take center stage, and how and when to give the spotlight to someone else. In the more academic sense, theatre stimulates critical thinking, hones comprehensive reading skills, inspires historical research, and, in the case of musical theatre, can even liven up arithmetic.
I have seen Jenny's experience repeated time and time again in the smiles and twinkling eyes of kids and adults of all ages.
Every school should have programs in visual art, theatre, and music.
Every kid should have the opportunity to find a voice.

Americans for the Arts

Monday, August 25, 2008

Star-Spangled Denver

Here are four of PHAMALy's stars (left to right: Amber Marsh, Regan Linton, Linda Wirth, and Don Mauck) performing the National Anthem at Elitch's for the opening of the DNC here in Denver. The arrangement is by the amazingly talented Donna Debrecini.

Pretty cool, huh?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Shown Up

Amid the sea of George Bush spoofs and electoral burlesque acts that are cropping up in Denver hoping to gain an audience from the DNC, there is at least one new work that hopes to uplift and enlighten even the most disenchanted of eligible voters.
Show Up for Democracy doesn't sugar-coat the current state of American affairs, but it also doesn't sound the death knell either. It is intelligent and hopeful at the same time, and, oh, by the way: it is the latest theatrical endeavour from one of the Big Bad Wolf's favorite theatre companies, PHAMALy.
The original one-act musical with book by Mimi Stokes Katzenbach, music and lyrics by Ben Greenwill, and directed by Charlie I. Miller, is a clever allegory of the political and historical landscape of America presented as a cabaret act trying to reach a wider audience. Sound a little hokey to you? It did to me, too, but let me tell you, this show packs a wallop. It certainly did for me. It also did for the crowd at yesterday's preview of the show presented at the Mizel Center. My good friend and regular PHAMALy volunteer, Kendall Rohach, was one of many who were visibly moved by the play's message -- a message reinforced by the moment in the show where each of the characters shares the personal story of the actor who portrays him or her. Powerful stuff.
Not to be missed: Leonard Barrett's rendition of the haunting "Wave" -- a song about, well, you'll just have to see (and hear) it for yourself. Let me just say it would still be a very moving song, even if performed without Leonard's stunning vocals -- which, to paraphrase Kendall Rohach, could bring us all to tears just singing the phone book.
Show Up for Democracy will be showing a few times during the Democratic National Convention, and there are two performances that are free and open to the public.
The first is today, August 24th at 1pm in Civic Center Park as part of the Denver 2008 Marketplace. (Yes, it's short notice. You'll deal.)
The second is Wednesday, August 27th at 7pm in the Air Forest in City Park just west of the Museum of Nature & Science as part of Dialog: City.
If you get out to see any theatre during this week -- and you really should, there's a lot to see -- make sure you seek out PHAMALy's Show Up For Democracy.
Incidentally, John Moore's column in the Denver Post today has a lot of coverage of PHAMALy-related news, so be sure to check that out as well.
And, because it's my blog and I can do pretty much whatever I want, here's a link to Kendall Rohach's website,, where he markets his services as a magician-for-hire.
Check it out. He's pretty freakin' good. I have interesting friends, let me tell you . . .

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Some of you may have read about Buntport's generosity in donating the proceeds of one of their performances of The Musketeer to benefit fellow Denver theatre company Paragon. That performance will be tonight at 8:00 pm. This is an opportunity to support two local theatre companies in one night.
On a related subject, The Crossroads Theater -- where Paragon is currently hanging its proverbial hat -- has its own producing company and opens this weekend with Manhattan's Last Fight, an original play by promising local playwright Jonson Y. Kuhn and featuring the talents of Ariana Griffith, Rich Sater, and Dayna Smith, among others. Also, look for a brief return to the stage of a certain bad wolf blogger in the title role of Bobby Manhattan.
It's been about five years since I've been on stage -- preferring the comfort of the director's chair to the smell of the greasepaint, as it were. However, this is a very good script, and I just couldn't pass on the opportunity.
So check out The Musketeer tonight, then come see Manhattan's Last Fight on a Friday Saturday or Sunday through September 7th.
I might even sign a beer can for you. (That will make more sense when you see the show -- as will my pun about "brief return.")

Saturday, August 9, 2008

"There's Still Hope For Dreams" Preview Cancellation

Hey, quick update people: the August 13th preview for "There's Still Hope for Dreams" has been cancelled. It was a tough decision for director/producer Mark Dissette to have to make, but -- well, why don't I just let him to tell you himself:

Dear PHAMALY friends, crew, cast and volunteers. I am very sad to let you know that I have to cancel the showing of "There's Still hope for dreams...A PHAMALY Story" planned for Wednesday, August 13th. I did not do my homework on this showing and I have found out that if there is any public viewing the film will be taken out of contention for many festivals and awards that we are hoping for, including the Oscar. I have also been informed by my Executive Producer that several distribution possibilities will be eliminated as well. While the cancellation is embarrassing and disappointing to me, my crew and PHAMALY, I know that you want the best for the documentary and hope that you will understand. I desperately wish to show this film to all of you and let you see how wonderfully it has turned out, but that wish clouded my judgment and I now have to admit my mistake and ask for your understanding in cancelling the showing.

Again, my sincere and humble apologies,

Mark Dissette

I say, "No worries, Mark."

That makes perfect sense. By showing it early to all of us here who already know and admire PHAMALy, he'd be cutting out the rest of the world from learning about this amazing and unique company. The little bits I've seen and heard about this film hold the potential to educate, enlighten, and enliven the worlds of people around the globe who live with disabilities, or, for that matter, anyone with a dream that has been deferred for one reason or another.

Given that possibility, I think we can afford to wait and see this film with everyone else, don't you? Besides, PHAMALy is right here in our town, and they've got some great stuff coming up that we can all see live and in person.

Oh, and don't let's forget about Kathleen Traylor, for whom next Wednesday's preview would have been a fundraiser. PHAMALy Executive Director Melanie Mayner has come through with another solution for you to help Kathleen with some of her recent medical expenses:

If you still would like to make a donation to help out Kathleen Traylor, please make the check payable to her & send it care of PHAMALY P.O. Box 44216 Denver, CO 80201-4216. We’ll make sure she gets your donation.

Melanie Mayner

Okay, folks, that about covers it.

Good luck to Mark and his team in bringing the PHAMALy story to an international audience, and get well soon, Kathleen!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Suffer the Little Children (Non-Theatre- Related Rant)

I turned on the T.V. the other day at one of those times that most networks figure not enough people are watching to bother showing a rerun of "Reba," so they sell the time to some other organization. This is often when we find ourselves being offered some "fantastic" item at a "low, low, price" like a kitchen knife set that can cut through a can. (Have any of you ever needed to cut through a can? Just curious. I haven't.)
Well, on this particular day, the hour was devoted to fund-raising for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Those of you who have been reading this blog since the beginning know that the one and only real soft-spot in this old wolf's tough hide has to do with kids.
Needless to say, about ten minutes into the program I was a bit of a wreck. It doesn't happen very often, but it does happen. (The end of Con Air tears me up, too. Yeah, shut up.)
I watched a lot of stories of kids who were battling horrible, relentless diseases, but still managed to be all smiles. Some of the battles had happy endings. Some, not so much.
As the program went on, I found myself getting angrier and angrier.
How have we not beaten these cancers yet? Why are these kids still suffering?
We can make sure that 60-year-old man can get a four-hour erection! We can clear up Jessica Simpson's acne! We can increase breast size and penis size (potentially, in the same individual)! We can make a birth control pill that will give you softer skin! We can make a phone that you can talk on while driving, equipped with a camera so you can take pictures of the accident you caused while talking on the phone!
Congress enacted a law that requires all television stations to switch to a digital signal by 2009, because God forbid anyone should have to watch "Super Nanny" in anything other than HD!
And yet, there are still children dying from diseases that killed children fifty years ago!
What the hell are we doing?!! How are these things the priority, but children with cancer are not?
Now, there is some good news here. Cancer research, in which St. Jude's has been a leader, has increased cancer survival rates to as much as 95% in some cases.
But not in all cases, and the downside of even a 95% survival rate is a 5% non-survival rate. Non-survival. As in dead. Dead kids. Haven't thought about it like that before, have you?
Maybe you think I should sugarcoat that rather than being so blunt. Maybe you forgot whose blog you were reading.
The point is that more work needs to be done and more help is needed, and by help I mean money. There are a lot of ways to give money to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. You can just send money outright. You can become a Partner in Hope and give on a monthly basis. You can even go to the online catalog and buy clothes, toys, books, DVDs, stationery, and all sorts of things -- all of which go to supporting this hospital that provides hope, comfort, and often even cures for kids living with cancer.
You don't have to be independently wealthy to help in the fight against cancer. It's a numbers game. A few people can give a lot or a lot of people can give a little. It works out the same.
Rather than buying that seventeenth purse to hang in your closet or throwing fifty bucks into that fantasy football pool at work, why don't you put the money instead where it can actually do some good?
Now, I don't speak on behalf of St. Jude Children's Hospital in any sort of officially capacity. I'm not sure that they would like my style. If I've said anything here that has irritated or offended you, then be irritated or offended at me. Not at St. Jude's.
Send the nasty e-mails to me. Send the money to St. Jude's.
Spend a little time perusing their website. See if you don't see an organization worthy of your support.

And for those of you who doubt me about Con Air:

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Just shy of twenty years ago, a small group of artists banded together to fulfill a dream. This dream was to allow their passionate fire for performing musical theatre in spite of their disabilities burn and shine hotly for all to see.
This was the genesis of the most beloved and most original theatre company in all of Denver. This was the beginning of PHAMALy. Season after season, show after show, the Physically Handicapped Actors and Musical Artists League won the hearts and turned the minds of audiences who had previously seen only limitations when they looked at a person with a disability. PHAMALy was and is about possibility.
PHAMALy has received a bit of press beyond the city of Denver, but soon the whole world will be enlightened to the wonder that is PHAMALy. For the last few years, PHAMALy company member and film auteur Mark Dissette has been lovingly crafting a documentary that is both a history and tribute to this amazing theatre company, and, on August 13th, you all can be among the first to see it.
Here is a portion of the recent announcement from PHAMALy Executive Director Melanie Mayner:
“There’s Still Hope for Dreams… a PHAMALY Story” is an engaging new documentary produced by Terry Austin and Dissette/Wyss Productions. I have seen rough cut versions of the film and feel it is a wonderful representation of our theatre company.
Please join me at the Lab at Belmar on August 13 for a sneak peek of the film before it goes public. The film screening is free but the producers are requesting a minimum $10 donation to support PHAMALY founder Kathleen Traylor as she struggles with health issues. All proceeds from the night will go to Kathleen to help with medical and living expenses.

I could go on and on about what a wonderful person and talented performer Kathleen Traylor, and I just might, but, before I do that let me just add a few words from Mark Dissette:

There’s Still Hope for Dreams…a PHAMALY Story” is a feature length documentary that follows PHAMALY from its creation through this June’s production of “Side Show.” It features interviews with many of the cast and crew, footage from past shows going back to the first production of “Guys and Dolls” – and many surprises. We have put two years of sweat and tears into this film to show the world what a wonderful company we have created here in Denver.

Kathleen has been having a rough time with her health, (as some of you know, she had to drop out of “Side Show” because of these issues), and this is also our chance to say “Thank You” for her love, support and hard work over the last twenty years of PHAMALY. Now it’s our turn. All of the donations from the event will go directly to Kathleen.
Please join us in celebrating PHAMALY and a woman who has given us so much. I am very proud of this film, but even more proud to call myself a member of PHAMALY.

Mark Dissette

I first met Kathleen Traylor (one of those original founders from 1989) backstage during PHAMALy's production of The Wiz.

I was shooting off my mouth probably trying to impress Regan Linton (at which I failed) by pointing out what I felt were flaws in the score of the original musical. I said that I felt that Aunt Em's song in the first act, while beautiful, was unnecessary and slowed the momentum of the story. Kathleen, who played Aunt Em, overheard me, sought me out, introduced herself, and then proceeded to let me know just exactly what she thought about my opinion of her song. (I'll leave her precise words to your imagination.)

Needless to say we have been friends ever since.

So, come out and preview the show and fill the coffers to help out my friend (and a lot of people's friend) Kathleen Traylor.

That's Wednesday, August 13th at the Lab at Belmar in Lakewood at 6:30 pm.

Oh, and that's not a request, piglets.

**Update: Never mind, folks, this event has been cancelled. See entry for August 9th.**