Sunday, November 26, 2017

My End of the Year Letter 2017

2017: New Realities

The holidays bring a pause for reflection and a summing up of the accomplishments and challenges of the passing year.  I have always found this annual meditation much more powerful than setting resolutions.  As I get older--and in these times of greater and greater uncertainty--planning or setting myself tasks seem less valuable to me.  Standing in the present, poised, aware--a much more grounding exercise. While I fear for our nation, and our world, in a time of such erratic leadership and national cynicism, I am, at heart, an eternal optimist.

No one is more aware than I of some of the remarkable good fortune I have experienced in recent years as an actor, and the opportunities to work afforded me that many worthy actors wish they had.  But some years are leaner than others.  2017 was one such for me.

But the shows I got to do were choice!  I started the year reunited with my dear friend, director InĂ©s Braun, performing the role of Pheres in her final Columbia thesis, "Alkestis."  I got to play a real SOB, and how often does one get to work on a Greek tragedy?

As Pheres, with Alex Marz in "Alkestis"
 Spring brought me to Fayetteville, NC and Cape Fear Regional Theatre's production of Ken Ludwig's Sherlock Holmes farce, "Baskerville."  CFRT epitomizes the "little theatre that could" story of small professional theatre in America, and with our production they gave a talented group of recent Carnegie Mellon graduates, led by our bright director, Sam French, one of their first jobs in the industry.  As guest artist, I loved collaborating with these energetic young artists and I had a schizo good time playing fourteen eccentric characters.

While in Fayetteville, I taped an audition for one of my dream parts, Nathan in "Guys and Dolls" for Maine State Music Theatre.  I didn't raise my hopes.  Nathan is one of the great comic leads in musical theatre, and the anchor for the entire show.  I didn't expect to be cast from a video--but I was!  While the spring was a lean time for me, come June I was rollicking through Runyonland, in a superb production directed by DJ Salisbury in beautiful Brunswick, Maine.  My co-star was audience favorite Charis Leos, whose talent and comic genius remind me of another of my favorite co-stars, the great Sally Struthers.  Charis made playing Nathan one of the best theatre experiences of my life.

But what goes up, must come down.  Returning to NYC in the full flush of success, I faced an extended drought which stretched my faith, and finances, to breaking point. The protracted and painful three year probate process of the settling of my Dad's estate dragged on, and the small inheritance I anticipated seemed like it would never come.  But necessity is the mother of invention, and while audition opportunities were few, I sought out other work opportunities.  Matthew Corozine Studio invited me to join a select group of Artists in Residence and I used the chance to create and teach my first four week Shakespeare workshop.  I expanded my base of private coaching clients, and participated in readings of new works.  I also completed the fifth draft of my screenplay, signed with a production company and sent the script out into the world to, hopefully, become a film.

I will begin the New Year in sunny Orlando, beginning a 12 week rep season at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater.  Both the warmth and the challenges of the Bard will be most welcome.  What the rest of the year will bring?  Who knows.  I am grateful for my friends, for my work, for surviving the ups and downs of life, for my beloved family, and for a life that allows me the freedom to chart my own course.  Wishing you an extraordinary 2018!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Writing My Next Chapter

Diversification.  It seems to me to be the wave of the future, and the way, in the present, for artists to seek new avenues of creativity and income.  It's not enough to just do one thing anymore--we actors are finding ways to express ourselves through music, visual art, education, and other disciplines.  For me, writing has become a powerful mode of expression.

In 2003, when New York's Museum of Sex was just opening, a good friend who was setting up the retail area of the museum offered me a job managing the place on the weekends. The inaugural exhibit was a multi-media instillation called "Sex in New York" which told the history of sex and sexuality in the city from the early 19th century through the beginning of the 21st.  

The very first piece of history represented in the show was the lurid story of the murder of beautiful prostitute Helen Jewett by her 19 year-old lover, Richard P. Robinson, in 1836.  Due to the scandalous nature of the crime, a nascent tabloid press jumped on the story, and the murder-- and Robinson's sensational trial-- became national news.  The tale of these two tragic young people evolved into American lore, and over the course of a century and a half, would crop up in novels by such eminent writers as Gore Vidal, and would be the subject of in depth historical studies.

Helen and Robinson took hold of my imagination and I began studying everything I could find on the murder, the trial, and the cultural sensation it engendered and I knew it would make a great movie.  I am an ardent cinephile and love films and had long wanted to write one.  So I began, learning over the course of several years the complex craft of the screenwriter.  The first draft of "The Girl in Green" was completed in 2012 and over the past five years I have tussled with the process of rewriting.  With the mentorship of script readers, other writers and industry professionals, as well as the feedback from four major screenwriting contests, I forged ahead through four more drafts to arrive at what is now a lean, taut and I feel, well-crafted script.

Two of my most supportive friends, Linnea Larsdotter and Johan Matton--themselves multi-talented artists: actors, writers, producers, and founders of the Nordic International Film Festival--have, after mentoring me through my revisions over the past couple years, come on as producers of the film!  Changing Film Productions recently announced they are developing "The Girl in Green" and I couldn't be more excited or more blessed to have these amazing people guiding my vision into what we hope will be the reality of a thrilling and epic motion picture.

The next steps are in motion: finding producing partners, name stars, a director, and of course the many, many dollars it takes to produce a feature film set in another time.  I feel that there is something magic happening with this piece and I am so excited to watch it come to life.  Stay tuned!