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Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This time of year, people around the world are very concerned about the possibility of things happening above our heads. Maybe it's a jolly fellow in an airborne sleigh, or angels dancing happily on clouds, or a bright star guiding the way to a new hope for mankind.
Maybe it's the hope of falling snowflakes and the dream of a white Christmas.
Maybe the mounting bills of the holiday season have us feeling a little bit like we're in over our heads.
It's amazing to me that, come January, we don't all have cricks in our necks from constantly looking skyward for the previous month-and-a-half.
Now, I have been accused of being a "Scrooge," a "Grinch," and other things around this holiday season because I have been known to get a little jaded about the rampant consumerism, the self-righteous (and often hypocritical) religious posturing, and the glut of really, really bad made-for-cable Christmas movies.
However, I suppose I should let these things go. For some people, this holiday is all about the shopping, and I guess that is their right. And what's religion for if not to periodically wrap oneself in a blanket of myopic fervor. (Though I will confess I get a certain sardonic pleasure out of the blank stares when I mention the Holy Roman Emperor Constantine, Saturnalia, and September 29th.)
And I guess even a bad movie about the spirit of giving and goodwill is better than the usual TV movie-of-the-week fare. (There is no excuse, however, for making two - count 'em two - movies about Steve Guttenberg as Santa Claus.)
Rather than spend any more time talking about what I don't like about this season, I think it's time to talk about what I do like.
I love Christmas carols (in season). I like them best when sung by Dino, Frank, Tony, Mel, Burl or Bing.
I love A Christmas Carol. It's about the only Dickens story I enjoy, and my favorite filmed version is the 1985 George C. Scott masterpiece. (I also really like Scrooged, the updating of the story with Bill Murray.) The story only pops up around the holidays, because of its titular value, but, remember, Scrooge transforms his life for the other 364 days of the year as well. It's a great story about it never being too late to change one's life for the better, and I just love it.
I love Christmas lights and decorations. I love the smell of cinnamon and hot cider, of pine needles and gingerbread. I love "The Night Before Christmas," and have been lauded for my rendition of "The Cajun Night Before Christmas."
Every year, I read the "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" letter from the editor from the 1897 New York Sun, in particular, the passages:
"Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence."
And of course, "A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood." 
Santa Claus is the best!  Admittedly, the myth of a magical fellow who gives gifts to good children all over the world can be a bit troublesome for families on a budget and kids with long lists, but the idea of Santa is, well, magical.
The way that kids' faces light up at the sight of Mr. Claus is unlike anything I've ever seen. Yes, some kids get a bit frightened of the big guy, but a good "Santa" knows that you save the loud "Ho Ho Hos" for entrances and exits and to speak softly when the little ones are on his lap. (Yes, I have been known to don the beard and hat. Didn't see that one coming, didja?)
So, this holiday season, whichever holiday is yours, and whether your celebration is devout or more secular, traditional or modern, just remember that the best present to your loved ones is to be . . . present, in body (if you can), mind, and spirit. 
Stress is a matter of choice.
Holidays are meant to be enjoyed.
Tis the season to be jolly.
Happy Holidays, my little cherubs.
 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Awards and Recognition

It's that time of year again: the Denver Post Ovation nominations are announced, and, invariably, a few of my readers ask me whether there will be Big Bad Wolf awards this year.
The answer, as in previous years, is no.
For one thing, I'm not a critic. I'm an advocate. It's possible to be both, I know, but trust me when I tell you that it's best that I just recommend shows that I think are worthy of your time. When I have been asked for my honest critical analysis of shows in the past -- even shows that I have liked -- no amount of sugarcoating on my part has kept feelings from being hurt. I'm tough. To be fair, of course, I am always the most critical of my own work.
Second, I just haven't seen enough shows this year. I've only seen thirty or so shows so far, which is a bit less than half of what I usually see in a year. However, even in 2007, when I saw nearly ninety shows, I still do not feel that I saw enough productions to fairly single any of them out for superior recognition. No, the Denver Post team can't see every show, either, and I respect that John Moore qualifies the Ovation Awards under this condition. (I highly doubt that anyone associated with the judging process of the Ovations would be so audacious as to equivocate the recognition to the Tony awards as a few CTG members attempted to do with the Henrys this summer.)
Now, does an awarding body have to be totally inclusive in order to offer fair recognition? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that it should be something toward which one strives -- adjusting the parameters of adjudication, etc. This particularly if one chooses to have an inclusive moniker. That the Colorado Theatre Guild awards do not include productions of member companies very far outside of the Denver area is still very much a point of contention with me. Interestingly, the Denver Post awards seem to have a bit more of a statewide reach.
However, in the absence of an inclusive (or at least appropriately named) single awarding body, I think it's good that we have many awards out there : the Henrys, the Marlowes, the Ovations, CCTC, RMTA, etc., etc. to cover as many bases as possible (provided that no one organization lays claim to the title of "Denver equivalent of the Tonys.")
As for me, though, I prefer to leave the trophies to the others. I prefer to give my accolades when they can do the most good: while seats are still available.
Congratulations to all of the Ovation nominees. I didn't see every production listed, but, those that I did see are highly worthy of the recognition received.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Three Years of Huffing and Puffing

On December 14, 2006, on the advice of friends, I took to the web with my rather outspoken opinions and (as described by others) my moderately bizarre sense of humor. (Okay, I added the "moderately.")
Over the last three years, I hope that I have had some effect upon my readers. I know I have made some angry (maybe more than "some"), but I hope, too, that I have posed a few questions that gave pause regarding the present and future state of theatre in Denver. I hope that a few tickets were sold to underrated productions at my recommendation. I hope that a few organizations -- theatrical and otherwise -- have benefitted from my mentioning them here (and, more recently, on Twitter as well.)
I still wonder at times (frequently, to be sure) if I'm actually doing any good. These feelings are compounded every time I have to comb through and delete the many spamming comments here, but I would rather leave commentary unrestricted, so I put up with it.
Someone once told me that you can tell how solid your arguments are by the amount of hate mail you receive. To that end, it would seem that my arguments are quite solid. Someone else told me you can tell how right you are by the degree of invective they contain.
That doesn't necessarily make them any easier to read.
Still, I do what I do because I hope to affect a change, not only in the way that theatre is presented, but in the way that it will grow and adapt in the rapidly changing world of performance art.
So, piglets, I thank you for reading, and I offer you my assurance that I will continue to blow away at the houses of "straw" and "wood" that we may ensure the future of theatre is one of mortar and brick.
For the time being, at least.
Thank you.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Gift of Hope

Well, I hope that those of you who braved the Black Friday shopping found yourself some great deals, and I hope that you saw some fellowship in yourself and the other shoppers this year.
I would like to list one gripe that I have with some of the holiday retailers: Is it really appropriate to call these sales "doorbuster specials" after what happened at a Wal-Mart last year? Just saying.
Okay, now, if you didn't find something for everyone on your list, I would highly suggest that you take a look at the St. Jude Holiday Hope Gift Book. There are lots of very special gifts in a number of different price ranges that just might be the perfect thing for those "hard-to-buy-fors" on your list.
There are some really quality items in this catalog, and 100% of the profit from your purchases will benefit a great organization - an organization that is a very important one to your Big Bad Wolf, too.
Check it out, please.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money

The title of this entry is a bit of a stretch, but I didn't want to use Steely Dan's "When Black Friday Comes" because everyone else is already using it - even the squares.
The biggest, baddest, meanest shopping day of the year is right around the corner, and I wanted to get my piece in here, too.
Now, I contemplated a tirade about the evils of rampant consumerism in the name of family and togetherness, but - while that would no doubt have pleased many of the fans of this blog - I have decided against it.
I thought about linking to stories and embedding videos of the violence and inhumanity that occurs among "holiday shoppers" on previous Black Fridays (and even the days following), but, frankly, it turned my stomach a little, and I would not wish that upon you, my little cherubs.
Instead, let me just impart a few rhetorical reminders.
What do the holidays mean to you?
What's your favorite thing about the holidays?
Is your relationship with your significant other predicated on what you can get for one another?
Is your relationship with your children or other members of your family predicated on the same? Do you want it to be?
If a child's sense of self worth depends upon whether or not that child has the same toy or other item that their friends have no later than December 26th, does giving the child that item help them or hurt them?
And a big one to keep in mind through the weekend and through the entire season:
Which is more important: a thing or a person? Even a stranger? Even an inconsiderate or mean stranger? Is that inconsiderate, mean stranger not still a person and not still more important than any electronic device?
I don't want to rain on anyone's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade here. While I am not a big fan of holiday shopping or crowds, I know that some people just love it, and I wouldn't want to take that away from you. (I will most likely be barricaded in my home until Sunday, however.)
I would just ask that you not let your "zeal for the deal" turn you into one of a particular crowd of people lined up for an early morning Black Friday deal outside of a big chain store. Another woman in line collapsed, passed out, and was left to lie there without any assistance at all because no one wanted to lose their place in line. (That's not even the worst story I read.)
Oh, and be nice to the salespeople. Working that day is usually a result of drawing the short straw, and I can pretty much guarantee you that they are not paid enough to put up with all of your drama.
So be patient, be considerate, don't let other people's bad behavior dictate your own, and have a happy Black Friday. Hey, like John Rock said, "Black is beautiful." (Yes, I know he didn't actually use that phrase.)
Here's a little video to occupy your mind when you are standing in one of those long lines (I saw it on the show of my TV girlfriend, The Bonnie Hunt Show):

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Book Was Better

How often have we heard the above phrase regarding the film adaptation of a novel or short story? How many times have we been the ones saying it?
As Twilight: New Moon opens to record attendance this weekend, I expect that this phrase will be uttered quite often:
"The book was better."
This is not meant to take anything away from the director, the screenwriter, the actors, the editors, or anyone involved with the film. This is simply the nature of the written word. The images that can currently be created from them on the screen pale in comparison to the images that the human imagination can conjure. This will likely always be the case.
This makes some of the following statistics from the Jensen Group, Inc. all the more troubling:

~ 1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.


~ 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.


~ 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.


~ 70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.


~ 57 percent of new books are not read to completion.
 
Now, I share these statistics mostly because they find them interesting. Interesting and saddening.
It also inspired me to go grab one of those books off of my to-read shelf, dust it off, and crack open the cover.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Holiday Follow-up: Letters to Santa via Macy's

This is mentioned in the article that I linked to in the last entry, but I really think that this is a cool idea, so I'm going type a little about it myself.
Here's the deal: Macy's is going to donate $1 (up to 1 million dollars) to the Make-A-Wish-Foundation for every letter to Santa dropped off at one of their stores, including all Denver locations (I checked).
Look for the big red mailbox in the store.
The program is called simply "Believe."

More Holiday Ideas

There is a great article on mainstreet.com right now on the subject of charitable gift-giving during the holidays that I hope you all will read.
Here are a couple of the very easy suggestions for your shopping dollars to reach out and help others:

GoodSearch.com, a Yahoo-powered search engine will donate to a charity you select for every search you perform using their search. You don't have to spend a dime extra to help a good cause.
GoodSearch has also created a shopping page called GoodShop that finds stores willing to donate a portion of your purchase dollars, again, toward a cause that you select. So, gifts that you were going to buy anyway can now go toward helping out your favorite charities. Easy.
Still trying to come up with gift ideas for those hard-to-buy-fors on your list? Well, swing by the Starlight Children's Foundation's Online Store and take a look at the gifts there that benefit this incredible organization.
The article has many more suggestions, so do check it out.
I'm sure that I'll keep coming up with some more suggestions myself, so keep checking back in here, too.
That is when I'm not "undermining the entire Denver theatre community." Hee hee. People are funny.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Loathing: The Saga Continues

As promised here is the follow-up to yesterday's tale and Reason #2 that there is too much theatre in Denver.

One year later: Meet Gladys. Gladys has just moved into our fair city. Gladys loves theatre, so she immediately opens her laptop at the neighborhood coffeehouse in search of info on the local theatre scene.
What's this? Somebody's doing the cute but overdone "Vishnuspell," someone else is doing the tired old chesnut "The Preschool Dilemma." And two, yes, two theatres are both doing versions of the insipid but popular "I Don't Think That's My Meatball."
Gladys is appalled. Have they no culture in this town? Is it all just the mind-numbing cotton candy theatre fare in this town.
Have they never heard of the wonderful classic works of Renaissance-era scribe Horace Pantaloni?
Gladys is resolved. She will start her own theatre company devoted to the works of Pantaloni. She will bring culture to this town.

Six months later: Meet Barney. Barney loves to go see theatre. It's more expensive than movies or cable or internet porn, but there is something magical about the live experience. Barney opens up his paper to see what's playing in town.
Oh, look, they've extended the run of "Vishnuspell" again. He's seen it three times, but it is just so charming. Why, just this morning he was humming the showstopping "Walking Arm-in-Arm-in-Arm-in Arm-in-Arm-in-Arm With You." Hmm, someone's doing "I Don't Think That's My Meatball" again.  He did just see that  six months ago at both of the theatres that were doing it, but it is just so funny.  He ruined at least one pair of pants.  Oh, and this version is supposed to be different and risky. They've double-cast the meatball? Wow!
Hey, what's this? Oh, a new theatre group: Hoity-Toity Theatre Company presents Pantaloni's classic romantic drama, "Why Must You Lick That?" Closing weekend.
Ooooh. Pantaloni. Barney read Pantaloni in boarding school. He is known as the uncle of playwrighting. They call him "The Poet."Ooooh. The Poet.
Barney is intrigued. But Barney is reticent. Pantaloni can be difficult to understand. He's never seen Pantaloni performed except for that DVD of Kenneth Branagh in "Pantaloni's The Lancing of the Boil."
Barney is not comfortable with the unfamiliar. He recalls the unfortunate and confusing experience of watching "The Fungus Chronicles" at Myron'sATool Theatre a year ago. The image of the strange little man with the lantern still haunts him.
Still, Barney is intrigued. He would like to see Pantaloni, to expand his horizons, to become a little more cultured.
Well, maybe next time. Perhaps some weekend when "Vishnuspell" or "I Don't Think That's My Meatball" aren't playing somewhere else in town.
Meanwhile, across town Gladys sits in her empty theatre.
"Why has no one come to see my Pantaloni," she moans. Over two weekends, she's sold only fourteen tickets - three of them to the same weird little man carrying a lantern.
Perhaps Hoity-Toity Theatre was not well thought out. Perhaps she did not market well enough.
Ridiculous. Pantaloni requires no marketing.
Perhaps it is time to close Hoity-Toity Theatre. But how will Gladys know that she is a valid artist if she has no theatre of her own?
No, it is time for a new approach. Aha! Hoity-Toity Theatre presents "I Don't Think That's My Meatball."
Yes! But wait, would that not make Hoity-Toity a redundancy, an unnecessary draw upon the limited public funds for the arts?
Don't be silly. Of course not! Gladys will present "I Don't Think That's My Meatball" in a groundbreaking new fashion: she will double cast the meatball. Eureka!

One year later: Meet Hyacinth. Hyacinth has just moved to our fair city. She loves theatre. As she surfs the entertainment page on her laptop, she is appalled. Back by popular demand: "Vishnuspell!" Held over for two more weeks: "I Don't Think That's My Meatball!" A special fundraising event for The Daughters of the American Conflict in Grenada: "The Preschool Dilemma!"
What? Has no one ever heard of the great Pantaloni? . . .
                                                                                *******
There's no happy ending to this story, either.
I suppose that is the age old question: do you give theatre audiences only what they clamor for, or do you expand their palates, inspiring them to clamor for something different? Well, that's not easy to do as long as somebody, somewhere is always doing "Vishnuspell."
The second question is, if finally no one wants to see your "Pantaloni," is it right to simply change your mission, particularly when there are plenty of others out there with the same mission?
Food for thought.

You may commence hating me again. Oh, you never stopped?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I would rather be loathed for who I am. . .

. . . than loved for who I am not, goes the quote. I got that from Dr. Wayne Dyer, of all people, and while it may not be the most cheerful affirmation, it is a good reminder to me to conduct my life with as much integrity as I can. Integrity and passion.
Something that I am passionate about is the state of Denver-area theatre. Really, I'm passionate about theatre everywhere, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how to bring the live, dramatic experience to audiences whose view of theatre is tainted by a bad community theatre production of "The Odd Couple," so they'd rather just stay at home and see what's on cable.
Over the last few months, and again over the last day or so, I've been the lone voice on one side of a debate that has got a lot of people mad at me. It's not something I aspire toward, but I can live with it.
The difficulty is that I think that people are busier loathing me than listening to me, and, while I don't claim to have all the answers, I really do think I have something valid to say.
The debate is about whether or not there is too much theatre in Denver. My position is "whether." That is, the affirmative.
Now, I actually had someone say to me "I refuse to believe that there can ever be too much theatre." This is an idealistically beautiful idea, but not a very realistic one. This is like saying "there can never be too many butterflies." Okay, we'll now lock you in the hall closet with a million of them and see if your opinion is the same after twenty minutes.
Blind idealism is pretty difficult to debate.
Anyway, John Moore wrote an article about this issue over the summer, so I won't re-hash it here.
Here's the problem as I see it (all the names have been changed to protect the innocent; and the ignorant):
Myron loves theatre. He loves to act. He loves to direct. He loves to sing and dance. Unfortunately for Myron, he keeps losing out on all of the good roles to Kip. Is Kip just that much more talented than Myron? Myron doesn't think so. Myron thinks that Kip just gets the roles because his friend Heidi directs all the shows. Heidi also casts Muffy in all of the female leads because Muffy and Heidi were roommates in college. At least that's what Bertha thinks while she is getting fitted for her lantern bearer #3 costume. Bertha and Myron discuss it and decide to start their own theatre company. Oh, but they don't have any money.
Aha! thinks Myron. We shall become a 501c3!
Oh but a 501c3 must have a board.
"I will be on the board,"says Myron.
"So will I!" says Bertha.
"Me too!" says Dudley.
How did Dudley get in here and why is he carrying that lantern? Never mind, now there are enough for a board.
And thus, "Screw Heidi Theatre" is born!
"What shall be our first show?" says Bertha.
"We will present 'Euthanasia: The Musical'," says Myron.
"Hooray!" says Dudley.
"But didn't Heidi just direct that last season?" asks Bertha.
"We shall do it . . . better!" says Myron.
"Hooray!" says Dudley.
"I shall play Kevorkian," says Myron, "better than Kip ever did."
"I shall play Terri Schiavo," says Bertha, "better than Muffy ever did."
"Hooray!" says Dudley.
"I will also direct," says Myron, "because I'm just that good."
"Hooray!" says Dudley. Dudley. Put down the lantern already.
"We need a chorus," says Bertha.
"We will hold auditions!" says Myron.
"Hooray!" says Dudley. Seriously, Dudley, there's no lantern in this show.
So they hold auditions, and find a wonderful chorus of people who Heidi never cast because they weren't in her tennis club, so they say. Obie, Franco, Sharona, and Penelope are cast, and all of them join the board. "SHT" is really rolling now.
What a successful season they have! They follow their better version of "Euthanasia" with better versions of "The Preschool Dilemma", "Vishnuspell", and "I Don't Think That's My Meatball."
Ha! Take that Heidi, Muffy and Kip!
Meanwhile. . . Obie loves theatre. He loves to direct. But Myron directs everything himself. . . Come on, Dudley, let's get out of here.
Yes, okay. You can bring the lantern.

There is not a happy ending to this story.

Now, was Heidi really that "nepotistic"in her casting? Maybe she was, maybe she wasn't. Were Kip and Muffy really that overrated? Maybe. Maybe not.
And, yes, it's a slight oversimplification of things, but it still accurately reflects a philosophy that I think is problematic.

Reason #1 for too much theatre in Denver: People doing good (more or less) theatre for bad reasons.

I'll write about reason #2 later.

Book Recommendation: Managing a Nonprofit in the 21st Century

I missed October's book selection, so I will do two for November. The second will be in a week or so, and the first I was just talking about in an online discussion among some friends.
Managing a Nonprofit in the 21st Century by Thomas Wolf is, in my opinion, an effective introduction to the world of nonprofits. Since most theatre companies are nonprofits, I think this is an excellent manual for anyone who has started or is thinking about starting a nonprofit, who is serving on a nonprofit board, or who works or volunteers in a nonprofit organization.
This is a very accessible read and offers plenty of specific examples of the right and wrong way to construct a board, manage finances, and utilize volunteers.

It also gets into board ethics without being particularly preachy. Rather than focusing on whether something is right or wrong, Wolf demonstrates how self-interested and unethical actions can negatively impact the effectiveness of the board.
Now, I called this book a manual, not a bible, but it presents a strong, logical framework for a healthy nonprofit. That doesn't mean you can't deviate from the standards that are set forth in this book (standards that seem to be more or less universally agreed upon among those in the know). It just means that if you do, you'd better have a darn good reason for it.
Case in point: I think that Mr. Wolf's examples of mission statements are just a little bit wordy. I believe (and others I've read would agree with me) that a mission statement should be simple enough that any member of the organization, from a board member to a weekend volunteer should be able to remember it and recite it when asked, "So what is this organization?"
This, however, is a pretty minor quibble, and I think that the book is largely a very useful tool. In my opinion, every nonprofit board should read the chapter on boards, at the very least.
Now, don't look for any theatre-specific instruction here. This is a general guidebook, but that doesn't mean that any of it should really be discarded as inapplicable to theatre groups.
In fact, I think that where most theatre companies fail is shortly after the point that they lose sight of their mission and how they are serving the community. I expect that this book would be a major wake-up call to most of the theatre groups in town.
Which is why I'm recommending it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bless the Beasts and Children: Ethan and the ASPCA

I was reading the fall issue of ASPCA Action the other day. It's the quarterly publication of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and it comes to me in the mail, but it can also be downloaded from the ASPCA site here. In fact, click here to download the fall issue as a pdf file.
It's a great little magazine with information for pet owners and lots of both heartbreaking and heartwarming stories about the plight and rescue of homeless or abused pets in America.
Anyway, I was reading this article on page 9 about a little boy named Ethan St. Amant who, after seeing an ASPCA television commercial about abused and abandoned animals in shelters decided to help in whatever way he could.
Well, Ethan's eighth birthday was coming up, so he asked that friends and family give to the ASPCA instead of buying him birthday gifts. The kid took a pass on Transformers, video games, baseball gloves, and Yu-Gi-Oh, so that shelter animals could have food, medicines, etc, and he wasn't even eight years old yet!
Ethan set up a birthday page over at ASPCA Ambassadors, and, as of the publication of the fall issue, Ethan had raised $555 for the ASPCA!
Here's what Ethan had to say about his choice to forego toys for his birthday:
"I just wanted to save the animals. I helped to save some dogs."
I have been thinking about Ethan a lot over the last couple days, particularly when I see one of the nearly identical TV commercials that Wal-Mart and Toys R Us are running now, in which kids are rattling off an insanely long wish list of toys they want for Christmas.
It's nice to know that there are kids out there like Ethan St. Amant, who recognize that life is more about giving than getting.
Good for you, Ethan. (And a big "well done" to Ethan's parents.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Other Side of PHAMALy

Most everyone who enjoys Denver theatre has heard of PHAMALy, the Physically Handicapped Actors and Musical Artists League. For twenty years, PHAMALy has been entertaining Denver audiences with rousing musicals and increasing awareness about people with disabilities.
With VOX PHAMALIA Re-Dux, however, prepare to have your awareness increased wider than ever. Playing a very limited run through November 14 at the Mizel Center, VOX gives us a glimpse into the lives of these performers after the curtain goes down. From laugh-out-loud silly to darkly satirical to heart-wrenchingly real, these performers once again put all of us "able-bodied" theatre folk to shame by unabashedly displaying their inner vulnerabilities for all to see.
Don't expect to leave the theatre with that same "feel-good" spirit that accompanies the summer musical. That's not the point of this show. However, if you want to have a greater appreciation of PHAMALy, then you should really see this production.
Warning: the subject matter is not for the kids and certainly not for anyone who wants to continue to blithely appreciate the "tokenness" of Denver's only all-disabled theatre company.
This is an eye-opener.
And it's selling out fast.

For more on the show, here's John Moore's piece in the Denver Post.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fuzzy Philanthropy. Is It That Time Again Already?

I've been away from the blog for a bit, gang, sorry. I'd tell you why, but it's a long explanation full of all those messy little personal details that are really only important to me. Suffice it to say, John Lennon put it best when he said "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." (I don't know if he said it first, but he set it to music, so I'll give it to him.)
I was able to keep up the Twitter updates for those of you who've been following me there. I hope you're enjoying it as much as I have been. 140 characters is a pretty darn good-sized box to put a thought into most times. Though I shall have to be careful not to again engage the Glenn Beck drones who scour the feeds looking for negative references to their misguided pedagogue and cannot decide amongst themselves on the proper spelling of "LaRouche." (Two hours of my life that I will never get back.)
Anyway, I have noticed (much to my chagrin) that the holiday shopping commercials have begun already. There was one the other night from ebay reminding consumers of the "evils" of handmade gifts. (I guess it really isn't the thought that counts. Oy.)
Now, I will forego my usual tirade about consumerism, the debasing of the holidays by merchants, and the idea that familial love can be measured by the size of one's MasterCard balance.
Instead I will respond to the first of the holiday jingles with the first of my blogs devoted to alternative holiday gifts.
Now, I'm not suggesting that (Frosty forbid) you should refrain from buying your little emos and emettes the newest version of Dance Dance Revoluci├│n. Rudolph's little red nose would surely be extinguished if every adolescent in America didn't have a wii stick in their hands by December 26th.
I am simply suggesting that you might still be able to appease the elf gods for those individuals on your list in the "hard-to-buy-for" category while incorporating a bit of altruism as well.
Did Cousin Josie show up to your Halloween party dressed as a blue-footed booby?
Well, she might appreciate it if you skipped the Glamour Shots gift card this year and instead paid a visit to the World Wildlife Fund's Gift Center. There you can buy all kinds of gifts that will support wildlife conservation and even adopt endangered fauna in her name. (Haven't you always wanted a wombat?)
You get to show your cousin that you understand what's close to her heart and maybe, just maybe, somewhere a reindeer gets to graze in peace without fear of a winking ex-governor in a low-flying plane.
And technically you're still buying a gift, so Santa (also known as the Egg Nog Czar) won't have to climb down your chimney and break your fingers. Oh what do you care, you've got great insurance, right?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Long Before I Knew You: Judy Holliday

Dear Ms. Holliday,

You don't know me, but I'm a big fan of yours. I love your movies. I'm sorry to say I've never seen you on stage.
I write a little blog on theatre in the Denver area. I call myself the Big Bad Wolf because it was a nickname I picked up somewhere along the way - I have a tendency to be a bit outspoken about things I believe in, so I guess it fits. I don't mind the reputation. Sometimes you have to stand up for your beliefs.
You and I have that in common. I admire your courage in refusing to name names before the Senate Internal Security Committee in 1952. That could have cost you, but you stood tough.
I also direct and occasionally act in theatre. At the moment, I haven't got much going on. I guess you know what that's like. I heard that, despite your rave reviews on Broadway in Born Yesterday, Columbia wasn't going to let Garson Kanin cast you as Billie Dawn in the movie version. One of my favorite Hollywood behind-the-scenes stories is about how Garson Kanin, Spencer Tracy, and Katharine Hepburn connived and conspired to get you the role in Adam's Rib so that Columbia Studios could see what you could do. And after your performance in that film, how could anyone not give you the role of Billie in Born Yesterday?
For me, your performance in Born Yesterday is unsurpassed. I made the mistake of watching the remake with Melanie Griffith a few years ago. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't you. So now I stick strictly to your portrayal. A friend recently directed the play in town, but I wouldn't go see it. Nothing against their version, of course, I just prefer to think of Billie Dawn as portrayed by you.
I suppose that I can confess at this point, Judy, that I have a bit of a crush on you. Okay, I have a big crush on you. Not only are you incredibly beautiful and talented, but you're courageous and strong. I'm also very attracted to the fact that, on top of all your other graces, your I.Q. is higher than mine. 172. Wow!
I would really love to meet you sometime and talk about your experiences in Hollywood and on Broadway (maybe you'd let me hold your Tony award, just for a minute).
Unfortunately, this world lost you to breast cancer in 1965 - a little over eight years before I was born. This fact weighs heavily on me, and I watch your movies with just a bit of sadness in my heart (much as you always manage to make me laugh as well).
I'm sorry there wasn't a cure then. We still don't have one now, but we're working on it. There are lots of organizations mobilized to fight breast cancer. I linked to three of them on my Twitter page today, in fact, and I will do the same next Saturday.
I'm even turning my blog pink for the rest of the month to show my support.
There are millions of us, and we will find a cure, because we all have personal reasons for taking up the fight.
You are one of mine.
Thank you, Judy. You inspire me.

Your Biggest Fan,

The Big Bad Wolf

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Save the World Saturday: STC in Asia Pacific

Okay, big Twitter/MySpace/Facebook/Wolf Blog crossover today because I'm trying to reach my widest audience possible.
Today is "Save the World Saturday" on my Twitter page. (Seventy followers and counting. Yeah, I'm a rock star.) My Twitter piglets (Twitlets?) know that this is the day of the week when I highlight one of my favorite charities.
I was going to devote this month's tweets to cancer charities given that this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I still will, but I wanted to give some space to something that is extremely timely and urgent.
Many of you have seen in the news about everything that's gone down in Asia Pacific recently: tropical storms and flooding in the Phillippines and Vietnam, earthquakes in Indonesia, the tsunami in American Samoa.
A lot of people are out of their homes - a lot of children are out of their homes.
Fortunately, Save the Children already has a strong presence in these areas, so there is a channel through which we can help.
In addition to offering individual sponsorships of needy children (you may recall me mentioning Mamtaz in my Charity Navigator post), STC has the Children's Emergency Fund set up to help out with disaster situations like these.
If you can help out at all, it is certainly needed right now. I would also encourage you to look over Save The Children's website and consider sponsoring a child. It really is just around $28 per month, and I know that I have enjoyed getting to know my kid and getting letters and e-mails from her updating me on how she is doing. I say this knowing full well that Denver Post reporter John Moore will use it as further evidence of his assertion that I am, in his words, "a cuddly puppy." (Geez, you give a guy one lingering hug . . .)
Save the Children also has Facebook and Twitter presences if you are so inclined.
Please click on the links. Please read the information. Please help in whatever way you can -- even if that's just passing the info along.
Namaste.

Friday, October 2, 2009

On Excusing Roman

Chinatown, Pirates, and Frantic are among my favorite movies. I admire Roman Polanski's work as a director. He has a keen eye and a fearlessness in storytelling.
I do not think that my admiration of him as a director necessitates my admiring him as a man or even a human being. I do not think that his ability or talent should make him immune from consequence.
He raped a thirteen-year-old girl. He plead guilty to having done so. In a time before hordes of paparazzi roamed the streets, before "Extra", "TMZ", and the E! Channel, and before blogging, The Hollywood machine could not muster enough power or influence or money to sweep his actions under the rug (and I'm sure we can expect that they tried).
He drugged her. He plied her with alcohol. She said no. Repeatedly. He didn't care. She was thirteen.
(If you want the more sordid details, Kate Harding wrote an eye-opening column on Salon.com.)
He did it. He confessed to it. He fled the country.
I am surprised at the number of people who are rallying around this man. If he were not an Oscar-winning director, would these people be as willing to gloss over the facts?
Frankly, I'm a little tired of this notion that "artists" need to be excused from real-life consequences, as though being creative diminishes one's capacity in some way.
I once had an actor throw a temper tantrum in the middle of rehearsal, storm out of the theatre, and refuse to return for the rest of the day.
I began to make a list of possible replacements for him, but the producer said, "Oh, he's just being an actor."
I said, "No, those people who just had to witness that display and are still standing there ready to go on are being actors. He is being a child."
Alas, he didn't get fired that day. (He got fired a week later for calling one of the actresses at her workplace and making inappropriate advances. The producer had nothing to interject with that time.)
Being an artist isn't easy. It requires a type of thinking for which we are not trained in our rearing. Artistry requires a leap out of one's comfort zone - or it should if it's to be worthwhile.
The creative among us deserve respect for their creativity, but not excuses for their bad behavior.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Ringing in My Ears

Are we really back to this again? Is it really necessary to have this discussion again?
Recently, a preview performance of A Steady Rain was interrupted by a ringing cell phone. Here's the article which includes video, no doubt taken (illegally) by another person with a cell phone.
What is the deal here, people? Honestly? Do you remember in the old days (like, ten years ago) when you went to see a play or a movie and someone wanted to call you, your phone would ring . . . AT HOME. The answering machine would pick up and the caller would either leave you a message or decide that it wasn't really all that important that Aunt Beatrice spilled grape juice on her muumuu and just wait to tell you the next time they saw you.
Forget for a moment (but not for more than a moment) that cell phone use while driving has made people into even worse drivers. (Yes, it has. I've been behind you.)
Forget that quiet coffee houses and libraries (LI-BRAR-IES) are now inundated by technocratic tools loudly explaining the details of their latest prostate exam (which could no doubt only be performed after first dislodging their heads) to some poor sap who is trying to negotiate 5:00 I-25 traffic going, "uh-huh, uh-huh, really? just how cold are we talking here?"
I have said before that I find it increasingly difficult to enjoy a movie anymore for the multitude of little blue text screens shining throughout the theatre, and the woman trying to quietly explain the plot of the movie into her phone (no doubt to somebody on I-70), not to mention the jarring sound coming from the pocket of the guy two seats over who had put his phone on "vibrate" then put it in the same pocket as his keys and collection of buffalo-head nickels.
I went into a movie theatre for the first time in months just last week. It was a showing of Rashomon at the Starz Film Center. Do you know where my phone was? In my car.
I like to tweet as much as anybody (okay not as much as John Mayer and Brent Spiner, but you know what I mean.) I sent a tweet from the Aurora Fox last night when I went to see Paragon's Miscast. I sent it during intermission. Then, I turned my phone back OFF and walked down the stairs to have a wonderful conversation with an aspiring playwright for the remainder of the break.
It's not that hard, and if there is something pressing enough that you can't risk missing a call, do what we did back in the olden times (the 90's). Stay home, and give the tickets to someone who doesn't have a pending emergency.
What I find the most perplexing is that activities that once were performed in noncommunicative silence (grocery shopping, watching a movie or a play, driving to work, pumping gas) now suddenly need to be filled with conversation. Is there really that much more that needs to be talked about that wasn't there fifteen years ago? Or, is it more likely that we are so seduced by this new technology that we now prioritize insignificant minutiae in order to have something to talk or text about into these little devices that now own us. (That receipt from the Apple store is just there to let you think that you're in charge. You're not as free as you think, Pseudolus.)
So what do we embrace to fill the space? Gossip. Look around you. What's on the magazine covers? What were the subjects of your last ten phone conversations? How many of them, if not wholly insignificant and pointless, contained gossip?
I don't want to moralize too much here. The world is getting smaller. Secrets and privacy are becoming more and more a thing of the past. It's inevitable.
I do think, however, that it's being hurried along by that little square thing on your. . . oh, what? No, go ahead and answer it.
I'll wait.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Miscast Theatre People

I had not planned to go to Miscast tonight. I usually regard these kinds of shows as little more than a parade of vanities and an opportunity for theatre people to gather.
As a good fried once told me, "Brady, you may work in theatre, but you're not 'theatre people.'"
The concept for the show is sound - actors performing roles for which they would never be cast. There is an opportunity for lots of literal and figurative cross-dressing, which appeals to many actors and is always good for a few chortles from the audience.
Ultimately, I was moved to attend for three reasons.
One: Emily Paton-Davies (one of my favorite actors) would be there goofing around with everyone else, and I may not going to make it down to the Springs to see her in Our Town. Two: It's a fundraiser for Paragon - in my opinion, one of the most important theatres in Denver.
Three: Heroes is pretty stupid anymore. Ooh, is Sylar a good guy or a bad guy? You know what? Sylar's a tool. Yeah, I said it. Not as big of a tool as Peter, but a tool nonetheless.
In all seriousness, though, I'm glad I followed the impulse. I may not be theatre people, but I do enjoy them. It was a great show, too, and, though vanity was present, these performers certainly have good reason to be vain.
I won't go too far into what went on. If you were there, you saw it. If you weren't, I see no need to rub your nose in it.
(John Moore was taking video. I'll let him rub your nose in it.)
I always say that theatre should be a moving experience, even on the subtlest of levels. Theatre should make us think, and, more importantly, make us feel.
Tonight was a lot of silliness, but silliness in the name of love - a love of theatre, a love of performing, a love of audience.
It's hard not to get caught up in that just a little, even if you're just a big bad wolf.
An added bonus: the presence of a theatre mentor and one of my favorite people, Bob Moore, there to see his daughter Missy in a funny stage combat scene.

I'll leave you with a quote that popped into my mind while I was watching the show:

"I personally would like to bring a tortoise onto the stage, turn it into a racehorse, then into a hat, a song, a dragoon and a fountain of water. One can dare anything in the theatre and it is the place where one dares the least." - Eugene Ionesco

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Magic Moments Still Homeless (So It's Up To Us)

You may recall my open letter to Littleton High School in early August regarding the "eviction" of Magic Moments from their facility. (You know I'm angry when I resort to sarcasm.) Well, according to John Moore's latest column in the Denver Post, Magic Moments is still without a home.
This cannot stand.
Magic Moments, in addition to being a long-running Front Range tradition, is a force for good. Opportunities are provided, funds are raised, lives are touched every single year by this company.
Now, I'm going to stop myself from going on a tirade here and reflect upon the lesson I wrote about in yesterday's blog entry.
I am going to choose to believe that we live in a friendly world. Magic Moments itself is proof enough of that. I am going to choose to believe that enough people care about this organization and the magic moments that they provide for this community that action will be taken. Letters will be written. Phone calls will be made. I choose to believe that - even if Littleton High School cannot be persuaded to be a little less selfish with their building - another facility will happily open its doors to take part in the triumphant tradition of this company.
Magic Moments has done so much for this community.
It's our turn to do something for them.
Don't you agree?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Einstein's World

As my Twitter followers (both of them) know, I have had a long-standing crush on beautiful comedienne Bonnie Hunt, so I am grateful to the powers that be for making my bonnie Bonnie available to me five days a week on the Bonnie Hunt Show.
Earlier this week, Bonnie had another of my favorite people on the show: Dr. Wayne Dyer. (I don't have a crush on Wayne, though. Well, maybe a little. I like his deep voice.)
Anyway, Dr. Dyer mentioned something that Albert Einstein had said in an interview once: that we have to choose whether we live in a friendly world or an unfriendly world, and it's up to us.
To further elaborate, if we decide that the world we live in is an unfriendly one, then we will be suspicious, competitive, and jealous. We will decide that everyone is out for themselves and that life is a struggle. On the other hand, if we decide that the world we live in is friendly, we will look out for our fellow man and trust that they will do the same for us.
That thought has resonated with me for the last couple of days, and I had a bit of an epiphanic moment this evening when I went to the corner gas station - a Jenny's Market.
On the counter were flyers and an opportunity to donate to an organization called Kids Mobility Network that provides wheelchairs to kids without insurance.
Diamond Shamrock stores have a similar flyer for MDA (I think). When I bought Adelaide her special cat food at PetSmart, I was able to donate to homeless pets just by tapping the button on the credit card screen.
In an unfriendly world, these would seem like opportunistic and exploitive plots by these companies to appear philanthropic in order to garner more of your business.
In a friendly world, these companies are using their customer traffic (generated by their own marketing and advertising dollars) to spread the word and generate some funds for some very worthy causes.
I think I prefer to live in the friendly world. Thank you, Albert. And thank you, Wayne.
And Bonnie: text me. Seriously.
Kids Mobility Network, cherubs. Check them out. This is important.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bookmark This: Charity Navigator

There are a lot of non-profits out there that serve similar causes (even outside of the theatre realm.)
When it comes to charities, wouldn't it be nice if you could compare similar organizations to know where and how your philanthropic dollar will be spent in each?
Well, there is.
Charity Navigator is a non-profit website that analyzes thousands of charities and gives them a rating based upon growth, organizational effectiveness, and how much of their income is spent fulfilling their mission.
I use this website quite a lot myself. I used it last night in fact. I sponsor a young girl named Mamtaz in Bangladesh as part of Save the Children. I have been considering sponsoring a second child with this organization. Last night I saw a television advertisement for a similar organization called Children International.
Now, I don't wish to disparage Children International. I am sure that they do good work. However, a quick visit to Charity Navigator showed me two things very quickly: overall, CI has a 3-star rating compared to STC's 4-star rating, and Save the Children spends 10% more of its total budget on program expenses than does Children International. I will obviously look more in-depth into the information on both organizations (much of which is available on Charity Navigator) before I make my final decision, but it's nice to have that information so readily available.
Another nice feature of Charity Navigator is the search option. You can browse their database by category or by keyword.
I found this useful last holiday season when I decided to skip the malls and donate to charities in the names of my family members. My brother owns two St. Bernards and is definitely an animal advocate. My father is an outdoorsman. My sister is a believer in providing aid to Africa. Using the Charity Navigator website, I was able to find causes that spoke to each of their hearts.
(My mom required no search as she has long been an advocate of Heifer International.)
When trying to decide where to do one's charitable giving, Charity Navigator does well more than half the work for you, so I encourage you to put it in your bookmarks on your computer at home or at work.
Charity Navigator is a non-profit itself, so, if you really can't decide, you might consider donating to the site so that they can do their good work.
You might consider that anyway.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book-Of-The-Month: True and False

Hello, gang. I've been away from the blog a bit longer than I had planned (though you Twitter followers know I haven't missed a day there yet).
There are a lot of exciting shows coming up over the next few months, and I will be seeing as many of those as I can and letting you know what I think.
In the meantime, I'm adding a new monthly feature to my blog: a book selection.
This month I have chosen David Mamet's controversial True and False.
Not unlike a certain lupine blogger you all know and love, Mr. Mamet is not afraid to call it how he sees it.
Chapter by chapter, Mamet takes on and frequently skewers the current and traditional practices of method acting, auditioning, casting, theatrical study, and many other old theatrical axioms.
From the back cover of the book:
"Hard-edged, pragmatic, and idealistic . . . Every actor or would-be actor should read this book." - Chicago Tribune
The brilliant Steve Martin echoes this sentiment: "This book should be read and considered by everyone who acts."
Further acclaim of this book: "This is a very important book. No one has defined the actor's job better than Mamet." - William H. Macy
"I agree with almost nothing Mr. Mamet says in this book and encourage you to devour every word. Mamet is a genius." - Alec Baldwin

I encourage every actor, director, producer, and writer at every level in this business to not only read this book, but to have a copy on your shelf to pull out periodically as a reference.
Whether you choose to use Mamet's new idealism as an example of "what-to-do" or "what-not-to-do," I think it is an important perspective to keep handy at all times in this business.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Saving the World: Heifer International



Today is Save the World Saturday in Badwolf1013 Twitterland, and I thought I'd let it spill over a little bit into the blog realm as well.
I have blogged about Heifer International before, and about how I enjoy shopping from their catalog for the "hard-to-buy-for"s on my gift lists, so I will leave the talking to others today.
Check out the vids, kids.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Twitterpated for Danielle Ate the Sandwich

In an attempt to gain more Twitter followers (and the hollow but desirable sense of pseudo-validation that accompanies said quantity), I have decided to start a weekly schedule of events to break up the monotony of my constant tweets about my cat and her general disdain for me.
Spiritual Sunday: I will share a lesson in enlightenment from someone who enjoys a slightly higher state of awareness than the average Joe. (No offense, Joe.)
Music Monday: I share some tunes and possibly video from a local (or not so local) artist that I think will present a treat for your ears.
Teach Me Tuesday: Those little life lessons that are oh so useful. I started this little experiment last week with a video on how to tie a bow-tie.
Weird and Wild Wednesday: Stuff I find that is weird, wild, or both. Kind of a twisted show-and-tell. (Or, if you went to kindergarten where I did, regular show-and-tell.)
Thankful Thursday: A thing or things for which I am grateful.
FACE Friday: You'll see.
Save-the-World Saturday: A cause I think deserves your attention.
That's seven, right? Okay. I should be be able to keep up, I might skip a day here and there or put Wednesday and Thursday up both on Wednesday if I'm going to, say, have a life on Thursday. (It could happen.)

Now, these will just be happening on Twitter (badwolf1013) for the most part. The One Big Bad Wolf blog will go on as it always has.
However, I may decide that something I find worth tweeting about deserves your attention here on the blog as well.
Today, for example, I want to share my Music Monday selection with you all here.
Danielle Ate the Sandwich is a very pretty, very talented, very funny gal with a ukulele who has achieved some local and YouTube notoriety, but deserves more in my personal opinion.
Here's her site (DanielleAteTheSandwich.com) and here's a couple of my favorite homemade videos:
Another Day
Rich Girl (Hall and Oates Cover)
Afterwards (No ukulele but maybe my favorite.)
Born In the Wrong Body REPEAL PROP 8!!!!!!!
By the way, that's Danielle you hear on the theme song to KDVR Fox 31's "Everyday with Libby & Natalie" TV talk show.
I hope you enjoy Danielle Ate the Sandwich as much as I do, and follow me on Twitter if you just can't get enough Big Bad Wolf.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Reminiscing: The Audition Story

One of my more popular blog entries and a story that I am often asked to share at parties is my rather unfortunate audition in 2006 for Town Hall Arts Center's production of 1776.
As there are a number of auditions coming up in town over the next week or so, it seemed an appropriate time to share the horrific story once again.
Rest assured, I do not plan to make a habit out of blog re-runs, lest this become like a later episode of The Golden Girls where Blanche, Rose, Sophia, and Dorothy sit at the kitchen table eating cheesecake and reminiscing through flashbacks of previous episodes. (God, I loved that show!)
Enjoy my misery, piglets:

So do I get the part?

I recently had an audition experience that I thought would be worth sharing simply for entertainment value.
Preferring to direct, it's been a while since I've been to an audition on the other side of the table. Recently, however, I heard that Littleton Town Hall Arts Center was holding auditions for one of my favorite musicals, 1776. I decided that I would dust off the old vocal chords and give it a shot. I went to a vocal coach, hired out a rehearsal session with an accompanist, picked out a favorite monologue, and basically "got my act together" for the audition.
On the day of auditions, I was feeling pretty confident. My voice was in pretty good shape, song and monologue were memorized thoroughly, and I was relaxed.
When my name was called, I strode confidently into the audition room, introduced myself, went over my music with the lovely and talented Amanda Farnsworth (music director for the show and accompanist for the audition), walked to the little yellow "X" that marked the audition spot, and turned around to face the auditing table.
Now, on that 70's TV show, "Wonder Woman," when Lynda Carter turned around a half-dozen or so times she would turn into a butt-kicking Amazon Princess. Evidently, I should have kept turning, because my half-turn transformed me into a blithering idiot.
I really think that I felt the room shift, and for a moment, I didn't know where I was. The director said, "Give me just a moment" as he scribbled something down.
I said, "Take your time," because I honestly couldn't figure out how I'd gotten into this room. After a moment, I became very aware of the fact that the very pretty girl at the piano was looking at me. I smiled. She smiled back. Then I realized that everyone was looking at me. I smiled, and the director said, "Whenever you're ready."
Ready? Ready for what? Why do they keep looking at me? That girl at the piano is really cute. Piano? Music? Sing! Sing, you idiot! You're in an audition!
Amanda nodded at me. I nodded back. Then she started to play. Oh nuts! What's my song? What's my song?
Miraculously, I remembered the first word of the song just as it came time to sing it. And when I say sing, I do so because I cannot accurately describe the sound that actually came out of my mouth on that first note. It is a sound that I recall hearing only once before in my childhood on a Mutual of Omaha wildlife special. I don't recall what creature made the terrible sound, but I do recall that Marlon Perkins looked scared, very scared. By the second note, my voice had become almost human again, and I proceeded, mildly shaken, into the rest of the song. I was almost to full vocal power by about the tenth bar, and I thought, we may pull this one out yet, when inexplicably, the next word of the song disappeared from my brain. I stopped, and, for some reason, grabbed my throat. (Did I think that I had swallowed the word?)
At that moment, I remembered a quote from Winston Churchill: "When you're going through hell, keep going."
I backed up a couple of bars and got a "running start" at the missing word, thinking, it's in my brain somewhere. It'll find it's way out.
Nope. I stopped again. Evidently, the word had been frightened away by the horrible screeching animal that had appeared at the beginning of the song.
(The word, by the way, was exception'ly. Not exceptionally. Exception'ly. Frackin' Lerner and Lowe.)
I backed up again and took another run at it. When I got to the offending (and absent) word, I mumbled like it was a secret (it certainly was to me) and finished the song. Then, partly as a release and partly just because the whole thing had been so comical, I started to laugh. Amanda then started to laugh. Then the rest of the panel started to laugh. Whether the correct preposition was with or at, I may never know, but it gave me a second to regroup.
Then I began my monologue: one of my favorite pieces by Oscar Wilde.
I got about five seconds in when suddenly, the missing word -- exception'ly -- jumped back into my head like a wayward croquet ball. Relieved as I was at finally remembering the word, I became painfully aware of the fact that, with its re-entry, it had knocked the rest of my monologue right out of my head.
Now what?
Well, knowing the basic theme and story of the monologue, as well as Oscar Wilde's fondness for alliteration, I decided to fake my way through until the monologue came back to me. I don't think it ever did. I started out alright, but as I became increasingly aware of the fact that the monologue was seemingly gone for good, both my concentration and my British accent deteriorated. The panel was then subjected to an oddly-gesticulated amalgamation of Long John Silver in an Irish Spring commercial. As I forged through, unable to understand my own ramblings over the loud hum of Oscar Wilde spinning in his grave at 400 rpms, I thought I heard the voice of Winston Churchill saying to me, "Dude! Let it go!"
I somehow managed to find a stopping point in my tirade/audition, and then smiled and left the room. (I don't know if I stopped to open the door or just kept walking.) Not my best work.
Luckily, the folks at Town Hall are fond of me, and even offered to write in the part of a shrieking, sheep-herding pirate, just for me. I graciously declined as I felt that it would diminish the integrity of the show.
Now, I've had bad auditions before (though never this bad), but I am pleased that I was able to find the humor in this one. Laughing at this experience has proven a far more effective way of dealing with a bad audition than my usual coping strategy. (Sitting alone in the dark listening to Laura Branigan albums.)

There you have it, folks. So, to you veteran and novice actors trying to calm your butterflies before your upcoming auditions, rest easy in the knowledge that, short of accidentally setting yourself, the director, and the accompanist on fire, you can not possibly screw up your audition worse than I did.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Burning the Ground I Break from the Crowd

I've been poring over the comments, messages, e-mails, etc. that I've been receiving over the last few days regarding the future of the blog. I even got a few phone calls and one person made a point of catching me out at the the PHAMALy concert.
Okay. The blog will continue.
Whether I'm facilitating a change or not, I still don't know, but it's obvious to me now (where it really wasn't before) that I'm making an impact.
If my motivations aren't really clear to everyone, then I guess I can live with that.
Somebody (I think it was Randy) called me the "voice" of Denver theatre. A couple of others called me its "watchdog." The one I liked most was "the Denver community theatre's conscience," but I think all of those titles are just a bit too lofty for someone like me.
I don't know what I am, really, but I'm here. Still.
And I'm watching.
And I'm not afraid to tell you what I see.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Will the Wolf Survive?

My followers on Twitter and my friends on Facebook have already heard me muse about the possibility of bringing an end to this blog, and, in spite of a chorus of "why?"s, "don't"s, and "no!"s, it is still very much a possibility.
I consider myself to be an advocate for Denver theatre. That is the main reason that I started this blog. Yes, I devote some space to local eateries, some to my favorite charities, but, really, this blog is about getting butts into seats for theatre. (I have to be honest when I say that I don't know how effective I have been at this.)
However, it has come to my attention over the last few months that I am not always - or even often - seen as an advocate.
When I am greeted at a show after-party by a reader of my blog who wants to know who I'm "going after next," and a friend refers to One Big Bad Wolf as my "bitchy blog," I begin to wonder if my occasional trips to the soapbox are giving people the wrong impression about what I'm trying to do.
This kind of hit home over the last couple of days when a few of my blog readers (knowing of my criticism of Vintage Theatre's decision to expand their 2010 season by about 30%) began sending me links to a couple of unfavorable reviews of Vintage's current production of Dial M for Murder. The links were accompanied by little notes, saying "Thought you might like this." or "You'll get a kick out of this."
In fact, someone closely involved with the production rather facetiously sent me links to both of the reviews with the subject line "Enjoy!"
Sorry, folks. Just because I don't agree with some of Vintage's recent choices doesn't mean I'm looking to see them fail. (Not that a couple of bad reviews constitute failure by any means.)
However, somewhere along the line I must have given you the impression that I would delight in the misfortunes of others in the theatre world with whom I take issue.
Not so. Like I always say, "we're all in this together."
That's why I speak up when I think Vintage is making a decision that I think will hurt them and, more importantly, hurt others in the community struggling for the same audience. That's why I raise my voice when I think that the non-profit theatre system is being misused by people who just want to create a 501c3 to direct a play they've written, or to direct a show they've always wanted to direct, or just put all of their closest friends on stage, or to do their version of a play that's already been done to death, or just because existing companies are monopolizing opportunities by always pulling from the same small pool of directors and actors for all of their productions.
I won't sit idly by while a theatre board that receives public funds keeps hiring themselves to direct the season's shows. No non-profit outside of the theatre realm would ever be allowed to engage in such corrupt behavior, and, if I am truly an advocate for Denver theatre, I won't let such corruption go on without shining a light on it if I can.
Putting caucasian children in bronze make-up, black wigs, and slant-eyed make-up to fill the coffers with a production of The King and I is deplorable behavior - especially in the 21st century. It's called "yellowface," and it's not as cute as you think it is. When the perpetrators of such blatant racism attempt to hide behind phrases like "But it's a classic" or "audiences want it," I feel that, as a proponent of quality theatre in our fair city, I should probably be telling them to blow it out their greedy, culturally-insensitive keisters. ("Amos and Andy" was a popular classic, too, you over-privileged morons.)

But I digress. The question with which I have been wrestling over the last couple of days is:

Can I continue to be a supporter of the wonder that is live theatre while refusing to accept the aforementioned atrocities as simply part-and-parcel of the animal that is community theatre?
Can I still be an advocate while also advocating change? At what point do I move from proponent to opponent - at least in the eyes of my readers?

The answer, as near as I can surmise thus far, is "I don't know."

Feel free to chime in. Frankly, I'm stuck.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Extra, Extra, Pinball Bonanza!

Tonight at La Rumba, 99 W. 9th Avenue in Denver:
Instant Party presents The Who's Tommy: The Rock Opera in concert, a special one-night only benefit for PHAMALy
featuring:
Donna Debreceni on keyboards/vocals
Mitch Jervis on guitars/vocals
Rick Thompson on bass/vocals
Larry Ziehl on drums
Dan Langhoff on vocals
Traci Kern on vocals

Doors open at 5:30 with DJ Tyler “Danger” Jacobson spinning some classic rock from "across the pond" including the music of The Who. Tommy starts at 7 pm.
After the concert, La Rumba transforms to the Lipgloss dance club and your Tommy admission includes the cover charge for Lipgloss.
Tickets are $10 General Admission at the door or $20 VIP seating at the door or in advance at 303-575-0005.
This is an over 21 event. IDs must be presented at the door.

This is going to rock!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Guid Eats: Argyll

As a direct descendant of famed poet Robert Burns and a member of the Clan Campbell, I tend to prick up my ears at all things Scottish.
So when I saw a tartan-backed ad for the fine gastropub Argyll in Cherry Creek, I made a note to drop in as soon as I could, and drop in I did this past Sunday for a bit of lunch with my mother.
Now I could go on about the friendly waitstaff or the attentive service or even recommend that, if weather permits, you should take advantage of the sunny patio, but I thin I'd best coorie up and tell you about the food.
From their brunch menu (over which I pondered quite a while - so many appetizing choices) I selected the Short Rib Hash: pulled short rib, Gruyere cheese, great northern white beans, potato & carrot hash with two poached eggs. Not your everyday pub food, now is it? That is the distinguishing factor of a gastropub: fine dining within a pub atmosphere (and at a pretty fair bargain as well).
And, did I like it? Well, you know how this works, friends. If I bother to write about it, I must have liked it a lot. In my opinion, Argyll is the stang o the trump.
The portions are large enough that my mother needed me to finish her entree: the award-winning Argyll MacCheese, mini-rigatoni with white cheddar b├ęchamel, Yorkshire bacon, peas, truffled breadcrumbs, with langoustines (very small Norwegian lobsters).
I was fortunate enough to be able to sample two of the fine entrees from their brunch menu, but was left too full for dessert.
Ah, but keep the heid! my little cherubs, I will be going back. I can't wait to try their dinner menu, and I'm planning to save room for dessert the next time. If I enjoy dinner as much as I enjoyed brunch, you just might see me mention it again here.
Until next time, carry this bit of Scottish wisdom with you:
It's guid ti hae yir cog out whan it rains kail.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Too Much Theatre or No?

There is a new article in the Denver Post in which John Moore asks and attempts to answer this very question. I knew that this was in the works because John asked me a week or so ago if I would mind if he used some of my replies on his blog of a few weeks ago in the article.
I didn't know he was going to use my least insightful point, but, hey, I'm just glad that the question is being asked before a larger audience.
Now, I know that nobody likes to hear that there might be too much theatre in Denver. In fact, I encountered somebody last week who said, "I refuse to accept that." However, I think that we need to accept that it is at least a possibility.
I seem to miss as many shows as I see, and I see somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 shows per year. That's more than one per week, and that's a lot to ask of the average theatre-goer.
This blog originated out of the fact that a lot of very good theatre was playing to dismally small audiences in this town. Despite my efforts, as well as the efforts of Becca Fletcher, Gloria Shanstrom, John Moore, and others, that hasn't changed a whole heck of a lot.
Now, I will be the first to say that theatre is a necessary part of any community. I doubt that a single person in last night's sold-out audience for PHAMALy's Man of La Mancha would be able to recount a movie or television program that provided a more moving or transformative experience than witnessing Regan Linton's breathtaking performance as Aldonza. Paragon's incredible production of Harold Pinter's Old Times crawled inside my brain a few nights ago and has yet to release its hold.
Because of this inherent need for theatre, I think of it like feeding the hungry, except that some of these "hungry" don't know yet that they need to be fed. Blogs, reviews, word-of-mouth, and clever advertising help to stir appetites, but not enough to keep up with the massive amounts of food that are being produced. In many cases, the "food" being produced has nothing to do with feeding the hungry, it's more about wanting to show off what great cooks we are.
I'm not an economist, but I don't think being one would help me to believe that creating a surplus of anything helps to stimulate demand. This was the argument posited by the person who "refused to accept" that there could be too much theatre. It just doesn't work that way.
Another argument being made is that companies are producing more theatre to "provide more opportunities" for actors, designers, and directors. If that is so, then why are 8 out of the 16 upcoming shows which include Vintage Theatre's expanded 2010 season being directed by only two directors? As of August 10th, it was reported that there were 180 actors signed up for Vintage Theatre's season auditions for the twelve shows that will be presented in 2010. We will have to wait and see how many of those actors will be provided the "opportunity" to perform on stage, or if we will be seeing the same few faces over and over again as is the trend in a number of other companies. For me, the argument just doesn't hold water.
I don't mean to pick on Vintage. I just happened to have these facts about them before me, and, let's not forget, they did decide to put more "soup on the stove," before any more "hungry" walked in.
To some degree, I will admit that every theatre production is a vanity project. It's the nature of what we do. I'm just worried that vanity may be overtaking reason here, and I'm not sure what it's going to cost all of us in the process. Or rather, what more it's going to cost us.