Friday, July 12, 2019

"Everything is Okay (And Other Helpful Lies)" at the New York Musical Festival

For my daughter’s sixteenth birthday I promised her a weekend getaway to New York. We travel, our family travels a little, but she’s halfway through her high school years and I am not getting any younger. Taking a special trip, just the two of us, it seemed like something I would later regret not having done.

We have a freewheeling itinerary, which includes visiting schools, art museums and galleries up and down Manhattan, conditioning runs in Central Park (she for the soccer season, me for the Chicago Marathon) and who knows, maybe a show or two.

Saturday evening we’re going to Playwrights Horizons in Times Square to attend reading of Everything Is Okay (And Other Helpful Lies) by Melissa T. Crum and Caitlin Lewins, presented as part of the New York Musical Festival (NYMF).

This is particularly exciting to me, to get the opportunity to see this work. Missy and Caitlin are good friends and colleagues, Cleveland artists, and talented, rising playwrights. I have had the chance to watch this piece grow and grow at Cleveland Public Theatre, where they teamed up as Nord Family Playwright Fellows to first create this works as song cycle at Pandemonium and Entry Point, further develop it at Test Flight (I missed that one) and then receive a full production on the mainstage last fall.

Everything is Okay is a Millennial musical, chronicling two days (or nights?) in the lives of a cohort of twenty-somethings, slouching towards thirty, trying their damnedest to smile bravely through disillusionment, disappointment, and death, armed with wit, attitude, and a lot of alcohol.

What is truly impressive is how they’ve continued to shape and develop this musical. Everything is Okay has the potential for great things; it’s an urgent, contemporary work which speaks directly to the young adult generation with candor, understanding, and a great deal of humor. And the music is really good!

Having raised the necessary cash through a highly successful Kickstarter campaign and other individual donors and investors, they created a professional demo for the application to NYMF, and for their efforts received a space with nine other musicals to receive readings, directed, musical directed and performed by Equity members. For ten days, Caitlin and Missy have been present for rehearsals but also spending a great deal of time revising the work and providing daily updates to the company.

“It is crazy and beautiful and eye-opening just being writers,” Missy said. For each previous step of this journey, she and Caitlin had doubled as performers. Now they get to take it in.

I talked to them by phone Thursday morning, after they had each slept in for the first time since before Independence Day. Their first performance was Wednesday afternoon, and they unwound that night at Marie’s Crisis, a piano bar where musical theater fans gather and spend the night singing showtunes together.

“It’s like hanging out with your old high school friends,” said Missy, and I can dig it.

Just getting them on the line I had to make an appointment, as they have been rushing about, from rehearsal space to their Airbnb to various writing warrens and back again.

Caitlin, who has been to New York before and has acted as navigator and tour guide for Melissa, who hasn’t. Making their way to the rehearsal space in Times Square in ninety degree heat can dizzying and exhausting, but Caitlin has kept reminding Missy to look up. “Look! It’s Waitress!” she says.

They are intensely grateful for all of the support they have received, at home, from CPT, from all of the artists they are working with this week, especially Chloe Treat (director), Dan Garmon (musical director), Olivia Mancini (stage manager) and all the performers, with their “talented, amazing, incredible voices.” (That’s both of them saying all of that.)

One of the most significant things they have heard this week was from NYMF (pronounced “nymph”) Artistic Director, West Hyler. He remarked that Caitlin and Missy have made a musical that feels like a documentary. It’s a comment which struck them significantly, and which they carry with them. They’re in a unique position, having already had a full production, and getting to break it down and build it up again.

They have already received feedback from Wednesday’s performance, much of it supportive and helpful, though there remains this unfortunate generational divide over the content. They received such criticism in Cleveland. Christine Howey went on a tear in Scene Magazine, accusing the production of “taking navel-gazing to new heights,” wildly mixing metaphors as she bemoaned the kids these days and their focus on personal issues rather than more important things like school shootings and plastic waste in the sea.

This, from the generation who gave us The Big Chill. And plastic waste in the sea. They said the same things about we Gen Xers twenty years ago, and we’re still trying to figure it out.

“Superficial,” came one piece of written feedback from the other night. “That’s me!” said another.

Musicals with heart and empathy like Everything is Okay help us all feel less alone. And that, my friends, is the opposite of selfish.

The New York Musical Festival presents "Everything is Okay (and Other Helpful Lies)" at Playwrights Horizons in NYC through Saturday, July 13, 2019.

(Photos courtesy of Caitlin & Missy.)

Friday, July 5, 2019

"Rosalynde & The Falcon" at Culver City Public Theatre

Thieves enjoy some tasty soup.
(Photo: Nic Henry)
For the few months I spent squatting with some friends in Venice Beach, all those long years ago, I never imagined I would one day have a play I had written performed in a park, a mere twenty minute drive away.

Culver City is a bucolic oasis of calm in the midst of the Los Angeles megalopolis, the former home to MGM headquarters the city is tied to the history of American film. Hughes Aircraft was based here, today you will find Sony Pictures, NPR West, and Amazon.

This small city, incorporated independent from the city of L.A. (which surrounds it) is also the site of the Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park. It’s one of those one block, city parks, serving a modest residential neighborhood, the park surrounded by one-story homes, many dating back to the 1940s.

For over twenty years, Culver City Public Theatre has presented shows for child and family audiences in Carlson Park, free of charge. This summer that production is my play, Rosalynde & The Falcon.

Rosalynde & The Falcon is a mash-up of several folk tales, notably those that focus on a damsel or princess driven out of the kingdom in fear for her life and finding her way through unfamiliar surroundings. This is the basis for Snow White, but also Shakespeare’s As You Like It. There are also elements of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and Little Red Riding Hood ... and a wide variety of other sources.

Originally commissioned and produced by Talespinner Children’s Theatre, this is only the second production Rosalynde has received, and my first children’s play to be remounted anywhere. And because it is such a fanciful tale, I was intensely curious about how it’s all coming together.

Rose Leisner (Rosalynde) & Ryan Hardge (Roland) rehearse.
I had a delightful conversation with director Marina Tidwell yesterday, who was not only able to share with me some of the design concepts, but also to give me a nice sense of what it’s like to attend one of CCPT’s outdoor productions.

With an uncomplicated set, meant for use in the out-of-doors for an audience of children seated on the ground and close, costumes are a significant part of communicating the story. Rosalynde is a goofy satire (in verse) and the folks at CCPT are leaning into the classic animated Disney character of Snow White; the princess Rosalynde (Rose Leisner) dressed in blue and yellow -- with a red hair bow -- when she first identifies as female, and then maintaining those signature colors when she becomes the male-presenting “Falcon.”

The script was written to accommodate a company of no fewer than six players, though so few performers requires double-casting several roles. Tidwell brought on two powerful singers to perform the several songs and to assume supernumerary roles.

When I wrote the play I included song lyrics, leaving the music up to the individual companies to create. In addition to playing the role of Rusty, Susan Stangl is the music director and has composed original tunes inspired by classic Disney songsmith Leigh Harline (“When You Wish Upon a Star”) and even an homage to Claude-Michael Schönberg (“Les Misérables”).

You know I love creating theater for the community, offered free of charge, presented out of doors on a beautiful summer’s day, and I’m just tickled to think of all the kids -- and parents -- who are going to hear my words on a warm summer afternoon in Culver City. It’s my West Coast premiere!

Culver City Public Theatre presents “Rosalynde and the Falcon” in Carlson Park, July 13 - August 4, 2019

Monday, July 1, 2019

This Band of Brothers

"What is this castle call'd?"
The transformation of Public Square has been remarkable. For four summers (the redesign officially opened in time for the 2016 Republican National Convention) folks have been playing in the fountain, dining in the shadow of the Terminal Tower, and attending performances -- and protests -- on the lawn. It’s a far cry from when the square was largely pavement and planters and nowhere to really hang out.

My friend Jeff (he who recently played The Fool in King Lear at Beck Center) and I once entertained the idea of staging free Shakespeare in Public Square. This was some fifteen or so years ago, when you would find very few establishments open in the vicinity of the Terminal Tower after four pm, any day of the week. The plan was to perform one act from some Shakespeare play every day at lunchtime. Five acts, five days. People would come back day after day to see what happens next!

People who put on plays by Shakespeare think like that.

Things downtown have changed, Public Square has changed, and I very much hoped my friends at the touring Cleveland Shakespeare Festival would add this site to their roster of performance sites. They wasted no time. Since 2017 they have produced free Shakespeare in spitting distance from the site of long-lost, 19th century Cleveland theaters such as the Lyceum and the Euclid Avenue Opera House.

Why yes, even my own production of Troilus and Cressida played there last summer, though I was out of town at the time.

Immediately following the closing, matinee performance of the aforementioned Lear (and after a farewell toast with the company; I must recount my experiences in this production soon) I hightailed it downtown to finally catch a CSF show on Public Square.

On Sunday, that performance was Henry V, in a production conceived by Kelly Elliott, the first such production of that play that CSF has attempted since their second season, twenty years ago in 1999.

Her choice to cast all women in this production is not only in keeping with adaptations in American and England and elsewhere, but a call to action to all young, male-identified performers everywhere.

In her director’s notes Kelly explains, “I did not set out thinking I was going to cast this production of Henry V with all women. But I did.” She goes on to describe a scenario I am all too familiar with; too many skilled and eager women at auditions, too few men, and those who deigned to offer their services all too confident of their inclusion in a play written for a large cast with only four named (and minor) female roles.

"Strip his sleeve and show his scars!"
HENRY V, IV, iii
So fuck it. She cast those who, apparent to me and the audience, were best suited to each role and to the ensemble. Of this there is no question. They’re great, starting with the bold, and might I say fierce, Shley Snider as young King Harry on down.

Let me mention a few things I loved about Kelly’s work on this production, her first directing for CSF, and if I am dissing all previous directors of their work that includes me, so, you know. Get over it.

PROJECTION. The show starts with the Chorus (Jenny Hoppes) beginning the performance from the back of the stage. The mics only pick up the actors onstage, she began bellowing “O, For a Muse of Fire” from the rear of the “house” and her voice carried through the crowd until she reached the front and did not need to try so hard -- though she and all other company members remembered throughout they were working al fresco and we were never at a loss for their text.

I recall a free a performance of Much Ado About Nothing in Fort Tryon Park in NYC that my wife and I saw way back in 2002, produced by Gorilla Rep. No mics. They just shouted for two hours. It was amazing. The sun went down (the show started at 8:00 PM) and the acting company used flashlights to keep each other lit. That shit was bargain basement but it was raw, it was big. They didn’t need no stinking sound system.

CSF has a sound system, but these girls were BIG, and by that I mean they filled that space.

REGARDING SOUND. The sound check alone, before the performance took some time. Kelly brought the tiring tents close, and used a curtain between them to create a close backdrop. The show was close, which hard to accomplish in an open space. And they made sure the sound system worked for the actors and the audience, that neither they nor we had to compromise.

That’s sound and also set, for those keeping track. Kelly created a tiny set, with instant entrances, the timing was excellent. I was in the middle of a wide open space and yet my focus was contained. And, as the old people like to bray, I could hear every word!

HUMOR. Jesus God. These women were funny. A playwright friend of mine made a jape recently on social media about how it’s not really Shakespeare without at least one crotch grab. We had one of those in Lear (sorry, Jeff) but they didn’t need one in Henry V. Instead, we were treated to a racy conversation from the French nobles about the merits of horse-riding which could only have been imagined by women.

It may be the best CSF production I have ever seen, and I directed Timon of Athens, which was legendary. You owe it to yourself to get out next week, and to see one of the final three performances. I recommend Tremont this Saturday because I would.

Cleveland Shakespeare Festival presents "Henry V" directed by Kelly Elliott, at various locations through July 7, 2019.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

And Then You Die (revisited)

James Rankin as Pengo
Monday night, a small gathering joined me at my house for an informal reading of And The You Die (How I Ran a Marathon in 26.2 Years). This is the monodrama I wrote ten years ago, took the New York Fringe, and revised for a run of performances at Cleveland Public Theatre in 2011, performed a single evening with I Hate This (a play without the baby).

Pairing the two shows together only pointed up the flaws in this newer piece. Though they share themes and feature a similar character (me) IHT is straightforward and weighty while ATYD flails all over the place, trying to decide what it wants to be. Or so it seems to me.

It was Chennelle’s suggestion that, having proposed a revision, I may want to hear the script read out loud first, and by someone else. We asked James Rankin to read the script, he has already performed in several plays I have written, including Double Heart, both of my Agatha Christie adaptations, and The Great Globe Itself.

The crowd was intimate, by design, as I limited the gathering to folks who were unfamiliar with the play, mainly folks I had only met in the past eight or nine years.

It was refreshing to listen to the play, to experience it in real-time like an audience member. The structure takes the audience all over the place, from the past to the “present,” from formative moments to the job of training for a marathon itself.

The middle section is powerful with poetic imagery, and it made members of this audience wonder why it took so long to get to that point. Of course, the early scenes give the middle scenes their strength, building the story and the character so it/he can take flight.

I also made a running list of all of the Cleveland references, and how many were helpful and which were not. It’s definitely a play which takes place in Cleveland, and nowhere else. But it does get bogged down in minutiae of interest only to a local. That’s fun and all, but takes up valuable verbal real estate.

Not an illustrator. Actually a runner.
Finally, it is a period piece, the story of a Gen X father preparing for a marathon in 2006. References to the now disgraced Lance Armstrong and now ubiquitous Alexander Hamilton ring differently than they did even eight years ago.

My audience was asked to reflect back to me what they felt the play is about, what message it attempts to convey, and some of the answers surprised me.

The effects of long-distance running on the human body, the functions of the body, its capacity and fragility.

I have created an alternate professional life for the main character, that of a visual artist and illustrator. How relevant this is was the subject of some conversation, and also how more clearly to draw these aspirations to the personal and athletic goals, errors, and achievements.

One of the New York reviews from years ago remarked on how characters arrive, never to be heard from again, which is a thing that happens during a person’s life. But the place of “father” in all of this, the original inspiration for becoming a runner was an important question for me, and I received some valuable feedback on that.

My goal is to rewrite the play entirely, leaving most of the skeleton intact and changing all the words. My writing has evolved in the last ten years, or I like to think it has, and this is a story I want to return to, to get right. Listening to it read has only strengthened that commitment, the fact that I am training for the 2019 Chicago Marathon will provide a lot of time to ruminate on the revision.

I'm taking the TEAM CHALLENGE for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation,to raise $2,000 and run the 2019 Chicago Marathon! Will you kick in something today? Visit my TEAM CHALLENGE page and learn more about my reasons for supporting this cause. Many thanks!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

My Own Private Dramaturge

Calvin G. Thayer & Toni K. Thayer
circa 1985
My wife’s grandfather, Calvin G. Thayer, was a professor of English at Ohio University. When he died in 2004, his widow, Mary, thought it was only appropriate that we take his theater books. The collection included a large if incomplete set of hardbound Arden edition Shakespeares.

These baby-blue covered books have proven invaluable to me in the time since, as I have returned to them, again and again, for assistance in my work in education, and in directing the plays of Shakespeare.

Students of Shakespeare know Arden editions to be extremely helpful in understanding text, as they include footnotes on every page, sometimes so many notes that they take up more space than the text itself.

These copies, however, are unique in that they include Calvin G.’s handwritten notes in the margins, and it is his particular wry insight and commentary which made him the man he was, and remains on the pages of these volumes.

During the process of rehearsing for King Lear, as directed by Eric Schmiedl for Beck Center for the Arts, he was my own personal dramaturge. As I studied my lines for the role of Earl of Kent, often I would find CGT's cramped hand, commenting in one way or another on the proceedings.

The King banishes Kent for standing up to him in court, insisting Lear “revoke (his) gift” or change his sudden decision to punish the princess Cordelia. Instead of leaving the kingdom, however, Kent chooses to disguise himself and remain available to assist the ageing monarch.
KENT: Now, banish'd Kent,
If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemn'd,

So may it come, thy master, whom thou lov’st,
Shall find thee full of labors. (I.iv)
In red ink CGT writes, “Why does Kent love his master?” He then answers his own question in green ink, quoting Sonnet 116:
Love is not love.
Which alters when it alteration finds …
"Why does Kent love his master?"
Sonnet 116 is one of the few Shakespearean sonnets you can quote in a marriage ceremony (and I have) because it is one of the few expressions of pure, unconditional love to be found in them. You love because you love, and situation does not change that fact.

Why does Kent love Lear? Because he does. Understanding this informed my entire performance, including and especially Kent’s outburst in the first scene.

Kent is also a verbally aggressive character, and his hatred toward the servant Oswald (one who felt confident enough in the new power structure to be dismissive of Lear) leads to this hearty exchange:
KENT: Fellow, I know thee.

OSWALD: What does thou know me for?

KENT: A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver'd, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, superserviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch;one whom I will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deny the least syllable of thy addition.

OSWALD: Why, what a monstrous fellow art thou, thus to rail on one
that's neither known of thee nor knows thee!

KENT: What a brazen-fac'd varlet art thou, to deny thou knowest me!
Is it two days ago since I beat thee and tripp'd up thy heels before the King? (II.ii)
Kent goes on. CGT writes,“One of the few truly satisfying passages in the play.” He underlines satisfying, which I take to mean (because he surely believes the play as a whole to be a great work) that it satisfies, that it feels good.

"King Lear" at Beck Center for the Arts
Photo by Andy Dudik
In our production Eric has done a tremendous job streamlining the text; he abridges it, yes, but also takes liberties with where lines fall and in what order. While it is greatly enjoyable to hear a fine actor vent Kent’s spleen in its entirety, this is not that show. My line as delivered goes like this:
KENT: A knave, a rascal, and eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, lily-livered glass-gazing son of a mongrel bitch that I tripped up and beat before the king.
Purists will take issues, and that is what purists do. For me, I find the line at present to be immensely satisfying.

Speaking of edits, in Act II, scene iv, Lear discovers Kent shamed, languishing in the stocks (for having assaulted Oswald) and demands an explanation. In the unexpurgated  tale, which Eric had lightly edited, Kent tell of how he had gone to deliver letters from the king to his daughter Regan.

It’s a bit wordy, describing how Kent had kneeled appropriately, but had been ignored, how another servant had arrived, one from Goneril, who had received proper attention, and how Kent had waited patiently while everyone was rude to him.

This little drama is new to the audience, as it is a scene that Shakespeare didn't actually choose to dramatize. CGT comments,“I suppose we must take his word for it.”

Kent then goes on to describe the issue at hand, his altercation with Oswald, and imagining myself sitting on the floor, feet in stocks, whining about that other event, the one we haven’t even seen, and I suggested to Eric we cut it and stick to the stuff we’re already familiar with.

Yes, I am an actor who actually suggests saying less. I suppose you must take my word for it.

Finally, I had a note of my own. Near the end of the play the king reconciles with Cordelia, in prison, accepting responsibility for his actions:
LEAR: When thou dost ask me for blessing, I’ll kneel down
And ask of thee forgiveness. (LEAR V.iii)
Shakespeare says almost the exact same thing in Hamlet, only this time to son is reconciling with the mother:
HAMLET: And when you are desirous to be blest,
I'll blessing beg of you.
(HAM III.iv)
I don’t know why, but I always have such difficulty getting my young actors to understand what that means, and why it’s important, and at that moment in the play. I am grateful to know how much more clearly it is stated in Lear, and that I can use that in the future.

One last story about Calvin G. If you have seen or read my play I Hate This (a play without the baby) you know we named our first born son Calvin, and that was in honor of my wife’s grandfather. Following the very first performance, sixteen years ago, a local poet came up and asked about the name, because it was too much of a coincidence. Calvin Thayer-Hansen? Did we know Calvin Thayer, the English professor? And of course, we did.

This man went on to explain how he had been a pre-med student at Ohio University, and took a class his freshman year in medieval literature. Calvin Thayer was his professor, and saw in him something other than medicine. Calvin recommended him to the honors tutorial college. He took CGT’s Shakespeare History class, and was his advisor on his honors paper -- the subject, none other than King Lear.

Thanks to Calvin G. Thayer we may have one fewer doctor in the word. But we do have internationally-renown poet, performer and educator Ray McNiece.

Beck Center for the Arts presents "King Lear" directed by Eric Schmiedl, now through June 30, 2019

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Summer of Shakespeare

Robert Hawkes (Lear) and Jeffery Allen (The Fool)
"King Lear" at Beck Center for the Arts
Photo by Andy Dudik
The folks I work with in the school residency program at Great Lakes Theater are some of my very favorite people in the world, and it is a point of pride to mention that former actor-teachers have gone on to not only become successful, professional theater actors, directors, and technicians, but also occupy positions of responsibility at virtually every professional theater company in Cleveland.

There is a lot of Shakespeare going on around Northeast Ohio this summer, and it is delightful to note how many actor-teachers, past and present are company members.

Beck Center for the Arts opened King Lear last night, featuring former actor-teachers Jeffery Allen (The Fool), Shaun Patrick O’Neill (Oswald), myself (Kent) and recent hire Tyler Collins (King of France).

Opening June 21, the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival presents an all-female production of Henry V, directed by former actor-teacher Kelly Elliott, and featuring present actor-teachers Kimberly Seabright Martin (Montjoy, others) and Adrionna Powell Lawrence (Dauphin, others).

Kim and Adri are also performing as Rosalind and Celia (respectively) in As You Like It at French Creek Theatre in Sheffield Village, which opens August 16, directed by former actor-teacher Brian McNally.

Later in the Cleve Shakes season, former actor-teacher Khaki Hermann plays Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing.

Hamlet opens at the Ohio Shakespeare Festival, opening June 28 featuring former actor-teachers Trevor Buda (Horatio) and DeLee Cooper (Ophelia swing).

Chennelle Bryant-Harris and Kelsey Tomlinson
"Tame" at Rubber City Theatre
There is even a current actor-teacher, Adam Graber, who is traveling to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival to assume the role of Curtis in the production of The Taming of the Shrew which was first produced at sister company Great Lakes Theater in March.

And speaking of Shrew, that scrappy little Akron theater, Rubber City, received a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to commission a new work inspired by Shakespeare’s famously misogynistic comedy, interpreted “through the lives of LGBTQ+ characters.”

This new work, Tame, features former actor-teacher and present GLT Educational Assistant Chennelle Bryant-Harris in the Petruchio inspired-character, here named Porter.

Rubber City Theatre presents Tame by Josy Jones and directed by Dane CT Leasure, opening this Thursday, June 7 at 243 Furnace Street in Akron.

Happy PRIDE!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

On Death

This post includes spoilers for William Shakespeare's four hundred and thirteen year-old play KING LEAR.
“Thou wilt come no more.
Never, never, never, never, never.”

- LEAR V.iii
Gloucester (Anne McEvoy) and Lear (Robert Hawkes)
My phone has this odd bug … I’ll be listening to a podcast and the Music app will suddenly start up, playing some song I purchased from iTunes at some point in the past fifteen years.

Today, before rehearsal, that song was "You’ll Be Back" from Hamilton. What an exciting time that was, three years ago, discovering this new musical, this national craze, at the same time as my seventh grade daughter.

I haven’t listened to this score for, what? Half a year? Since summer vacation last? So I had to ask myself, why this feeling of sadness, of melancholy, especially in reaction this, one of the lightest, most frothy tracks on the album?

Ah yes, always. Hamilton is steeped in melancholy for me. We purchased it shortly before my father died one February Friday morning. The year 2016 was dizzying, thrilling, full of anticipation, promise, and fear. And all year I was keeping my chin up, deep in mourning.

All the celebrity deaths that year. “Let’s all make a protective circle around Betty White!” I didn’t find it amusing. You know what I found amusing? That moment in Oh, Hello On Broadway when George St. Geegland (John Mulaney) says, “Ladies and gentlemen, it behooves you when a famous person dies, blame it on the year and make it about you.”

Just as we were adjusting to the new normal, death of a father, death of democratic norms, came the call. My father-in-law had cancer, the kind you don’t get better from. We were still in it, only my father dropped dead one day. They were all correct, those who said that was better. Yes, Chris hung on, danced at his daughter’s wedding. But his care took such a toll on my wife, on my mother-in-law.

My wife gently reminds me she wouldn't have traded those seven months with him for anything.

When he passed that December, my son was ashamed that he didn’t grieve in the same manner he had for my father. He didn’t openly weep, he was numb. We tried to reassure him. My father was a shock, a surprise. You knew this was coming.

But my son lost both grandfathers in as many years. I am glad he was close to my dad. But Chris was supposed to teach him so much more.

Kent in the stocks.
I am in therapy. I am having difficulty moving on, of making sense of all of this. Turning fifty, watching my children move into the last stage of childhood. I realize I may not have much longer, I didn’t used to be able to see the end, and now I can.

What have I accomplished? What have I yet to do? Will I do it?

And what will oblivion be like? I will miss this world, I want to see so much more. That is why I have been investigating Buddhism, to make peace with the void.

Performing in King Lear exacerbates this anxiety, especially in the role of Kent, working to help and protect those he loves from harm and then watching helpless as, in spite of his best efforts, they are all dragged down to their doom.

Kent survives, but Albany’s appeals for the nation to move forward do not compel him. He will die soon, too, of a broken heart.
“I have a journey, sir, shortly to go.
My master calls me, I must not say no.”

- LEAR V.iii
Have a beautiful Memorial Day.

Beck Center for the Arts presents "King Lear" directed by Eric Schmiedl, May 31 - June 30, 2019