Friday, December 2, 2016

2016: High Highs and Low Lows

It's hard to believe, but another year is coming to a close--and it's been a very challenging one for all of us.  The pressures of a tense and acrimonious election, and the seismic effect of its outcome, have left many of us feeling drained, stressed and worried about the future. The highs and lows of life in New York and the vagaries of a career in theatre have made it a bit of a roller coaster ride for me on these fronts as well.  But, at the risk of sounding trite, in my profession, and in life itself, the show must go on.  We have to pull our shoulders back, lift our eyes to the horizon and stride forward with as much positivity and optimism as we can muster.

There's a great lyric in "Me and My Girl" that seems apropos to the current climate:

Julie Kleiner and Matt Loehr in "Me and My Girl"
So if we're alive
If there's a bother you want to survive
Just you take it on the chin
Turn on a little grin
And smile...

Doing this bubble of a show at this time is both a welcome distraction from the cares of the world and a challenge.  Sometimes I've had to ask myself, what's the point of tap dancing and silly songs and this old fashioned little farce?  The answer of course is that people need to laugh right now.  They need to come together and have some fun.  And boy, are we providing that here at Maltz Jupiter Theatre!  "Me and My Girl" has been great fun to do; I have a treat of a cameo role and have been enjoying being a part of this truly elegant production.  Our leading man, Matt Loehr, is so multi-faceted and so skilled that he has really inspired us all.  And his leading lady, Julie Kleiner, brings the heart.  Together, they are unbeatable! The run is selling like hotcakes and it's a great way to launch the holiday season.
With Giselle Wolf and Brad Fryman in "A Wilder Christmas"
This time of year, I always take a look back at the year past, and the work I have been lucky enough to do.  2016 began with an extension week of "A Wilder Christmas," the evening of Thornton Wilder one-acts that made a real hit Off Broadway at Peccadillo Theatre Company.  
I then escaped the winter chill and returned to wonderful Riverside Theatre to play Rudolph, the headwaiter, in "Hello, Dolly!".  Brilliant director James Brennan invited me to be in my fourth production with him ("Me and My Girl" makes five!). 

With Karen L. Robu in "Nice Work"
The spring brought a difficult dry spell and I weathered the New York grind as best I could.  The light on the horizon was getting to do Cookie McGee in "Nice Work If You Can Get It" again with director Larry Raben and choreographer Peggy Hickey at Music Theatre Wichita.  I was thrilled to win the 2016 IRNE Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for the show at Ogunquit Playhouse and what a treat to do the part again.  MTW artistic director Wayne Bryan invited me also to play Cogsworth in "Beauty and the Beast" for him, so this was a very exciting debut season for me in Wichita.  For it, I was honored with the Mary Jane Teall Theatre Award as Guest Artist.  Cookie's been a lucky guy for me!

Talbot, "Henry VI, Part 1"
Late summer brought me my shot of Shakespeare for the year, when I joined my friends at Taffety Punk Theatre Company as we exploded onto the Folger Theatre stage in DC with "Henry VI, Part One."  This was my sixth of these all-in-one-day theatrical feats with these amazing artists, and a chance to revisit the role of Talbot, which I played almost a decade ago at Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

With King Arthur and the Knights, "Spamalot" at NSMT

With the coming of autumn I got to watch the leaves change in my hometown of Beverly, MA in my very first "Spamalot" since the first national tour closed in 2009.  Playing Sir Robin again and in the town where it all began for me was a truly special experience.  Great production, great people, and great time with my Mom and other friends and family.

And a few weeks later, it was off to Florida to do 'The Lambeth Walk!'  I have been enormously fortunate this season and am grateful for the collaborations with artists familiar and new, and to do wonderful new parts and revisit some of my favorites.  In the middle of all of this, I wrote the third draft of a full length screenplay, had a reading in New York of it, and thanks to generous contributors to a GoFundMe campaign, was able to send the script to LA for analysis by amazing script readers at Coverage, Ink.  Their encouragement and insight, and a new connection with a literary agent, have spurred me on to the fourth, and I hope, last rewrite, and perhaps my 'baby' will soon go out into the movie world and find a way of coming to fruition as a feature film!  To begin a new creative path as a writer while pursuing my acting work would be a great adventure I would welcome happily.

What 2017 will bring remains to be seen, for us all.  To you and yours, my best wishes for a healthy and happy holiday season and a New Year that will hopefully bring to us all new purpose, greater understanding and good will between all people.  And many new and fulfilling creative journeys!