Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The "Santaland Diaries" Diaries

The Cleveland Public Theatre production of "The Santaland Diaries" by David Sedaris and Joe Mantello started one week ago today. The second of this two-weekend run kicks off tonight, so here are some personal reflections on the work so far. 

Photos by Steve Wagner.

Wednesday, December 6

Opening night. We had an intimate crowd, maybe twenty-five or so people plus a flock of Red Coats. I was grateful to have my mom in the audience, and a couple of friends. The laughter was extremely polite this evening.

Right of the bat I developed some serious dry mouth, which was no doubt a result of having never performed this material in front of an audience, any audience at all. Sure, I had performed the piece numerous times before my director, stage manager, and our team of designers, most of whom had heard these lines untold numbers of times. But how would an audience react?

We have festive, colorful, holiday-themed tumblers hidden behind the toy boxes and I tapped those at least four times during the show. I am self-conscious about drinking during the show. A critic once called out Curtis Proctor for “gulping water” between every scene, which was an unfair exaggeration. It was like, between every other scene.

I needed to slow down for laughs, but first I needed to learn where they would occur.

Thursday, December 7

This morning I woke up to discover I have pink eye. So, this should be an exciting weekend for everyone involved.

Tonight the house was twice as big as the night before, but the laughs were half so much. There was a weird energy that I couldn’t account for, except that maybe that people had not had enough to drink.

This show has been produced by CPT for fourteen years, isn't that amazing? Word has it that most of those in the audience for any given performance of  The Santaland Diaries love this play and attend year after year. Almost as many have never seen the show before and know nothing about it. A surprising number believe they are actually going to see David Sedaris.

Tonight, while I was changing into my elf costume a woman in the front row asked me a question. I mean, the play was in progress, and she piped right up to ask me a question, like this was a lecture or a TED Talk.

She asked if the outfit I was in the process of putting on was the actual outfit they made me wear.

I just stared at her and a million responses popped into my head, like, “You know I’m an actor, right?” and “This isn’t real,” and “Oh my God, you think this is actually my story, don’t you?”

I also wanted to say, “I don’t have any lines here, so I’m going to ignore your question,” but instead I didn't say anything at all, and just made this pathetic little gesture with my hands as if to suggest, “Nice costume?”

About ten minutes later, her friend’s cellphone went off, and I was debating whether or not to ignore it, but when she pulled the thing out to turn it off she said “sorry” in a manner that was so matter of fact I wondered if she thought she was in a staff meeting and not attending a play.

So then I did speak up. I said, “We didn’t have cellphones in 1989.” That got a laugh, so I continued, saying, “Well, we did, but they were very large and they were only owned by douchebags.”

I realize we didn’t really use the word “douchebag” in in 1989, either, but by that point I was saying, “Where was I?” and picked up from where I left off.

Remember to turn off your cellphone.

Friday, December 8

By tonight, I only had to drink water twice! I have them timed so they almost make sense, too. You’ll have to see the show to know what I mean.

The guy who directed the first Cleveland production was in the house tonight, and when I spotted him I got extremely self-conscious. I would have to say one-third of my performance is me, one-third David Sedaris, and one-third a wholesale rip-off of Curtis, who first performed the role in Cleveland in 1999.

I don’t actually feel bad about such dramatic reinterpretation, or artistic plagiarism, or whatever you want to call it. I mean, Jesus. Cleveland Public Theatre contacted me about doing this show on the 19th of October. Did you expect me to start from scratch? Durr?

Saturday, December 9

Who attends a play at 5:00 PM? During the holidays, a lot of people. I had my biggest house for the first show, bigger than even the 8:30 PM. Both houses were loud and had fun, and it was probably because they had all been drinking heavily, which is something I wasn’t able to do between performances. This is really sad because there’s nothing like being by yourself for two hours in Playhouse Square, surrounded by literally hundreds and hundreds of other people having a great time, and not being able to drink.

There’s a certain passage, if you know the show you know what I’m talking about. It includes a certain word. It’s legendary. It’s awful. People ask you not to do it. “Do you have to use that word?” Yes, I have to use that word. It’s in the script and if you don’t say it, or use a different word, and the people who manage the rights to the play find out, your theater company might receive a cease and desist order.

It falls about a third-way through the show, and it’s a real crucible. It’s a personal challenge to see if I can make the audience laugh in spite of themselves, and they always do. That makes them complicit.

Sunday, December 10

Tonight’s crowd was smaller, and sober, but they were game and we all had a good time. One woman on her way out after curtain call confided to one of the Red Coats that she “wanted to see something dirty!” By that I think she meant she was satisfied.

Changing from my street clothes into my elf costume is one of the weirder parts of the show. I understand Ray used to do a kind of a strip-tease, but that’s Ray and besides, that’s really not the personality I give off through the rest of the show. I might be one of the most uptight and uncomfortable Crumpets in history. I really have no idea.

So, I have some fun with taking my clothes off, but mostly I stare at people who make comments, which is also funny. Tonight, however … man! There were whistles and catcalls. I am a forty-nine year-old man with a spare tire. I raised an eyebrow and said, “Really?”

Monday, December 11


A night off is always nice, but I still have to go into the office. Ran into a colleague in the lobby of the Bulkley Building who saw the show over the weekend, she told me again how much she enjoyed the show. She's seen one or two guys perform Santaland in the past, but that they were all young, that I was the first older guy she's seen do the show.

She said she really liked it this way, from a guy who has been there and done that, but without any bitterness. That I'm able to look back upon this life-changing moment with humor and clarity.

I guess that's kind of what I do.

Cleveland Public Theatre presents “The Santaland Diaries” at the Outcalt Theatre in Playhouse Square through December 17, 2017

Friday, December 8, 2017

A walk with Julie

One Monday afternoon in early October I received a text from my friend Julie, to whom I was once a terrible boyfriend, which read, “Hey David! I’m in Cleveland with my mom today and tomorrow. Can you get together tomorrow evening?”

How often do old girlfriends reach out for an evening of booze and reminiscence? Far too few, to be sure. Especially those who happen to live in Anchorage. My response was a subtle, “Whoa! Yes! Yes! Yes!”

They were staying at the Drury Hotel, which is a recent venture, carved out of the former Board of Education building on East 6th Street. Twenty-five years ago we saw candidates Bill Clinton and Al Gore speak before a tremendous crowd from a platform in front of that building.

Julie suggested we have a drink in the lobby, but she hadn’t really been to Cleveland since the early 1990s. I thought we might do a little better.

I met her in the lobby, which features these two amazing, restored murals from 1931. Her mother was staying in for the evening, and she had already tied one on so I knew we were in for a good night. Instead of heading out through the main entrance, I noticed that the rear of the lobby opens onto Veterans’ Memorial Plaza. Had she ever seen the Fountain of Eternal Life? Indeed, she hadn’t. She was impressed, and so was I. I always am.

It was just after dusk, and the weather was just perfect jacket weather. The streets were alive with people, neither team was playing that night, and it was a Tuesday, but many were out enjoying the weather.

We ambled through Public Square. I felt wistful, we all, my family, my co-workers, we spent a lot of time visiting and hanging out there the summer before. Good Lord, the convention and all the rest. The kids running through the fountain. But it was like we’d never even been there this summer. We just hadn’t.

Lek
I was surprised and delighted to see the large, metal “free speech” art installations by Lek (Olalekan Jeyifous) and we made our through the square heading for our ultimate destination, which was East 4th Street.

I didn’t really know which bar we would choose, I just wanted to impress her by showing off the street. The Greenhouse Tavern (which is my favorite restaurant, anyway) had a board out touting it’s rooftop bar, and that was enough for Julie. Up we went.

We sat at the bar and we talked. We talked for a long time. We talked through one old fashioned, and then two, at an open air bar, the screen showing some basketball game (not the Cavs) with a narrow view of the slice of the roof across the promenade, the Terminal Tower, the colorful, hanging light bulbs of East 4th Street.

We remembered old friends, and boyfriends and girlfriends (yes, even one another) and what it is like to raise teenagers, in Cleveland, in Alaska, in Trump’s America.

Social media has afforded us all the opportunity to make contact with, and even continue and grow, relationships with people who in an earlier time we may never have seen or communicated with again, from childhood, high school, college. But what is the nature of that communicate, and what does it mean? That we’re still cool with each other? We mostly agree on things? We make each other smile?

Taking, grabbing the opportunity to sit and talk, for hours, with someone with whom you have a shared history. That’s what we’re missing when we think we’re staying in touch through Facebook and the like. Julie and I barely scratched the surface, but I learned things that were new to me, events I hadn’t heard about or worse, entirely misunderstood.

"The Branches of Education" by Cora Holden (1931)
Do you see Shakespeare?
I have spent a great deal of my forties digging deep and regretting certain decisions I made a very long time ago, but she made me remember why I had made those decisions and some of them actually made sense. It was a great relief.

The bartender gave us a last call, which made me believe it was very late, so instead of having one last at the Greenhouse we hit the street because I had to show her where I work. We walked to Playhouse Square, where nothing was really going on on this Tuesday night, they were in tech for A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Hanna Theatre, but we took a peeked through the windows, and took our chandelier selfie.

Parnell’s was still open so I checked the time and realized it was only just past nine, which was only how late the patio at the Greenhouse was staying open on a Tuesday night, silly me. Well, I had to show her my favorite bar so we went there for another and more reminiscence, sitting out on the sidewalk which is the best place to be.

Some time after ten, the server asked if we wanted another round and Julie said I have to drive eventually and should probably have a glass of water, but that she’d have another, which was perfect. And so it went.

She suggested getting a car to take her back to the Drury but I insisted on walking. How many more night’s like this would there be this season? Just when we reached 6th street it began to lightly rain and we said our goodbyes at the door. I had almost reached the sidewalk when I heard her calling for me. I ran up to the portico, out of the rain, a bit apprehensive as to why she would call me back.

It was the music system. They were playing Tom’s Diner.

“It’s always nice to see you.”

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Grand Rounds @ Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage

Margi Herwald Zitelli & Luke Brett
Strange, I am opening a show tonight -- performing in the Cleveland Public Theatre production of The Santaland Diaries in Playhouse Square -- which means I will not be present for the premiere of my new ten-minute play, No Cure For Cancer.

Last summer, Jeffery Allen, Director of Education at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, and Faye Sholiton, director of Interplay Jewish Theatre, contacted me about participating in an evening of brief plays (called collectively Grand Rounds) to be performed as part of a new exhibit at the Maltz, Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews In Medicine.

The four playwrights include Faye and myself, and Christine Howey and Anne McEvoy. We met with Jeff a few months ago to discuss the project. We would each write a short script for two actors, to be performed in the exhibit itself. We drew for each of the four spaces -- the medical library, a consultation room, the rear of an ambulance, and a pharmacy.

I drew the medical library. We also drew for character types, which we could use or not. I got the coveted “racist” card. A racist and a “suit.” A racist and a suit walk into a medical library …

Anyway, I did research on medical hoaxes (which are always racist in nature) and was led down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories and madness and found myself not one step closer to a character nor an idea. That’s when my wife suggested I investigate the works of Maimonides, the 12th century philosopher, Torah scholar and physician.

Then I fell into a warren of horrible websites that malinterpret the teachings of Maimonides.

Long story short, I created a brief sketch in which two people meet, a concerned parent with an ill child (originally my “suit,” and really she still could be) and a callow, young man on a quest for knowledge.

The actors in No Cure For Cancer are Margi Herwald Zitelli and Luke Brett. Luke’s character (neither have names) is really the focus of the piece, one of your modern young white nationalists who fancy themselves intellectuals. The kind of guy who defines himself by what he’s not; he’s not a Nazi, he’s not some neckbeard, dwelling in his mother’s basement. He can talk to a woman, and often has sex with them.

Last Saturday we had the chance to rehearse in the space, and to see each other’s plays. They are all delightful, a powerful artistic endeavor and I wish I could be there to share in it. Each play will be performed simultaneously for a subset of the attendees, who will then circulate to see the other works, each play to be performed four times.

Word is the event is sold out, but you can call the museum (216-593-0575) for more information.

Grand Rounds at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage will be performed this evening, Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 7:00 PM

Monday, December 4, 2017

Urinetown: The Musical @ Blank Canvas Theatre

Daryl Kelly as Bobby Strong (Blank Canvas, 2017)
It is a well-known fact that the ground-breaking musical Urinetown: The Musical was set to open on Thursday, September 13, 2001. As events played out that week, it is no small feat that they only need to postpone the opening for one week, and opened instead on September 20.

What is less-reported is that I already had a ticket to see it two weeks later, on Saturday, October 6. Not only a ticket to the show, but also a plane ticket for LaGuardia. The emotional trauma of witnessing the events of September 11, even just on television, endowed the idea of flying with a newly realized dread, one which continues to this day.

Earlier that summer my wife and I took a transatlantic flight, international terrorism was furthest from my mind.

I had several reasons I really wanted to attend this new production, however. I knew some people who were deeply invested in it, and I had long been a fan of Greg Kotis from when he was a member of the Neo-Futurists.

My first impression of his work was a Too Much Light play called “Documentation” from 1991. Kotis stepped out onto the empty stage with a Polaroid camera and asked, "Will all the Jews in the audience stand up, please?"

People stood, the guy I came with stood. I’m not Jewish, I didn’t stand. Kotis took a photo of the audience, looked at the photo until the image was clear. He said, "Thank you." Curtain.

Simply told, haunting and cautionary. Our imitative company in Cleveland were always trying to reach the elegant impact of plays like that one. The idea that someone whose experimental work I had seen in a rented theater in Chicago ten years earlier had written the book for a Broadway musical was inspiring and I just wanted to see it.

My wife had written a play which was produced at that year’s New York Fringe at the old resent Company space, a mere two years since Urinetown had made its mark in the same venue. The Broadway producers of that musical were about, drumming interest and selling copies of original cast album, which I purchased.

So, I knew what the show was about, and frankly I was a bit concerned how it would be received. We were still, supposedly in an era of “post-irony,” SNL producer Lorne Michaels had only the weekend before my arrival asked Mayor Giuliani on the show if it was okay to be funny again. (The mayor’s response; “Why start now?”)

John Cullum as Caldwell B. Cladwell (Broadway, 2001)
Even Urinetown’s most experienced and lauded performer, John Cullum, didn’t get the show or think it was funny. In Backstage earlier that year he said he thought the show was “strange and crude and by the end of the first act I was angry and offended.” Later, I heard Cullum in an interview admit that it was his wife who read the script, thought it was hilarious, and encouraged him to take the role.

My first night in Manhattan I met and drinks with some friends. We were well uptown, far from Ground Zero. I had already seen it, however, from the sky. We arrived at dusk, the sky was dark, but the site of the former World Trade Center was lit as bright as day, crews working around the clock, the pit still actively smoldering. Everyone in the plane was looking out the window. Many literally gasped. The guy sitting next to me had a tourist guide, he was visiting his son at college, and good for him.

I asked my friends, should I go? Should I go downtown and see it? Was that the right thing to do? The wrong thing to do? These were early days. I didn’t want to be a ghoul.

They said, yes! You must! And so I was absolved. And I went. And what I saw there is a story for another time. It is enough to say at this time that all of this was hanging in the air the night I first saw Urinetown: The Musical at the Henry Miller Theatre.

Was the audience apprehensive? Perhaps they were. Maybe it was just me. And maybe it was just me, but the company seemed apprehensive. They were totally on, the show was funny, and it music popped. And we were appreciative. But even from the beginning, I felt as though some previous audience had mistreated them, and that they weren’t sure we were going to like them. And I wasn’t sure if we were either.

It wasn’t until "Run, Freedom, Run!" -- in the middle of the second act -- that the audience was, at last, entirely on their side, and it brought down the house. We liked the show. We liked it a lot.

The following spring, I returned to NYC with my wife. It had been less than a year. Driving into the city we were struck by the absence of the Twin Towers. We met our friends, we had a beautiful weekend in New York. And I took her to see Urinetown.

By this point, it’s success was apparent. The theater was buzzing with excitement which hadn’t been present the previous fall. This guy sitting near us said this was his third time. It was a hit. And maybe it was just me, but I could see it in the cast. They were relaxed, confident, hilariously confident. John Cullum, who seemed a bit above it all my first time, was now rolling in the production. He got the joke.

Dayshawnda Ash as Little Sally (Blank Canvas, 2017)
I was thrilled when Kotis won a Tony Award for Best Book, and disappointed when the show lost out on Best Musical to the more traditional Thoroughly Modern Millie. But a play as acidic as this one had never been bestowed that honor before … though such arch material soon would be. This is what I meant by “ground-breaking.”

This weekend, the entire family went to see Urinetown at Blank Canvas Theatre. Other parents take their children to Wicked, we take them to Urinetown. They were not unfamiliar with the show, the by has heard the about the girl saw a production at Shaker Heights High last year.

And yet, even today, even following the success of arch-satiric musicals that actually won a Tony for Best Musical like Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon, watching it again I was struck by how “strange and crude” the play still is, to its credit. If anything, its themes of greed, want and unsustainability are far more relevant now than they were sixteen years ago.

My daughter goes to Heights High, and she already knows who Thomas Malthus is, which is more than I could say when I first saw the show. Watching the corporate masters of the show's “Urine Good Company” raise fees on public amenities the same day our Senate passed their version of Trump’s tax plan was entirely not lost on our audience.

Or maybe that was just me.

Blank Canvas Theatre presents "Urinetown: The Musical" through December 17, 2017.

Sources:
John Cullum: A Real Pisser in "Urinetown: The Musical" by Simi Horwitz, Backstage.com (5/9/2001)
Weekend Edition, NPR (12/1/2001)

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Santaland Diaries (2017)

Photo by Steve Wagner
It happened last month in a cottage in Yalding, England, where I received an email from Beth Wood at Cleveland Public Theatre, asking if I would not like to perform the stage adaptation of The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris and Joe Mantello.

For several years now, CPT has produced this holiday favorite. The Santaland Diaries is one of the most produced plays in America, and has consistently been for over a decade, so much so that American Theatre magazine has stopped including it in their annual list of most-produced plays.

Actors who have played the role in Cleveland include Ray Caspio, Kevin Joseph Kelly and (for Bad Epitaph) Curtis D. Proctor.

I was excited to have been asked. So, I have spent the past several weeks rehearsing with director Eric Schmeidl, who played the role of "Crumpet the Elf" himself for CPT three years ago. I love working with Eric, who has previously directed me in The Velocity of Autumn at Beck Center, and Night Bloomers for Dobama.

When I first announced the production and my place in it on Facebook the other day, I was delighted by the strong and happy response. I was inspired to put out a call for questions, because folks were so curious about my finally playing Crumpet the Elf. Here are my responses.

Q: Explain the juxtaposition of tragedy and comedy in this this line; "Today a child told Santa Ken that he wanted his dead father back and a complete set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Everyone wants those turtles."

A: Actually, Donald, I think the line speaks for itself. The line you should be asking about is; "I am a thirty-three year-old man applying for a job as an elf," and how exactly I am going to play that when I am certainly long past thirty-three. 

For this production, and in fact when Eric himself performed the role in 2014, there is a set piece which makes it clear this play takes place in the past -- 1989, to be exact -- and that we are treating it as a memory play.

When first produced in Cleveland at Bad Epitaph Theatre in 1999, we tried updating the line you ask about. The boy wanted Pokemon cards. When I directed the show at Beck Center in 2002 the boy wanted a "SpongeBob SquarePants BackPack. Everybody loves SpongeBob.

You have to admit, "Everybody loves SpongeBob," is a funny thing to say. But now we leave the line as is.

Q: Have you seen David Sedaris in person and what did you think?

A: Good question, David. Sedaris read at the Ohio Theatre in 2000 when he was promoting his collection of essays "Me Talk Pretty One Day." He was on a certain medication and at one point had to ask the audience if it was all right to take a much needed pee-break, and we all thought that was fine.

Q: What's your favorite emoticon?

A: ðŸŽ…

Q: Reflect on being a writer who creates and performs autobiographical one-person shows performing another writer's autobiographical one-person shows.

A: Insightful query, Phil. Yes, I have written and performed my own solo shows, "I Hate This" and "And Then You Die." Standing on stage and talking for an hour without interruption is not unfamiliar to me. Those who are close me are no doubt aware that sitting in bars and talking for an hour without interruption is also not unfamiliar to me. 

It is perhaps because of these stage experiences that, while I had a few concerns about whether to accept the offer, actually being able to perform the piece wasn't one of them. I have at least that much ego.

Performing someone else's story, especially one as lighthearted as this, is particularly liberating. I just need to say the words and it's funny. Sedaris is really good that way. But it is also a thrill channeling my own feelings through the words. I don't have to play a character. Just as with those other solo plays, I still get to be myself. 

Q: Compare and contrast your Crumpet with Eric Schmiedl's Crumpet. I'm assuming you have seen Eric Schmiedl's Crumpet, yes?

A: No.

Q: How did you levitate that box (see photo)?

A: Well, Carolyn, how do you know that box is not slowly floating down into my loving arms, like a drunken cherub? 

Q: Have you ever actually worked in a retail store during the holiday season?

A: Thanks for asking, Nina, though your use of the word "actually" makes me a little defensive. 

I am happy to report that almost every Christmas season since 1991, I have been employed by one theater company or another. This means my holiday contributions to society have included productions like "Stealing Christmas" (Karamu 1991), "The Wayward Angel" (Bad Epitaph 2000), "Adventures In Slumberland" (Talespinner Children's Theatre, 2013), educational programs surrounding Great Lakes Theater's annual production of "A Christmas Carol" and that Yuletide favorite, "Simpatico" by Sam Shepard (Dobama Theatre, 1995).

However, during my college years I had several holiday jobs in mail rooms, wholesale outlet stores, performing data entry, and packaging and labeling volatile chemicals. I have also had my turn as a server at several restaurants, but have never "actually" worked retail during the holiday season.  

Q: What's with the knickers?

A: Yes, Halle. The knickers are satiny and very comfortable.

Q: Where?

A: The Outcalt Theatre at Playhouse Square, 1407 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, Susan! See you there!

(Many thanks to Blayne, Bob, Carolyn, David, Donald, Halle, Nina, Phil, and Susan for all the great questions!)

Cleveland Public Theatre presents "The Santaland Diaries" at the Outcalt Theatre in Playhouse Square, December 6 - 17, 2017

Friday, November 3, 2017

My Friend Dahmer (film)

Local comics legend Derf (see: The City) composed a cartoon memoir of his high school years in the late 1970s and his association with serial murderer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer.

That book, My Friend Dahmer has gone on to international acclaim, been translated into a several languages, and on Friday a motion-picture adaptation starring Ross Lynch as Dahmer goes into general release.

Derf has been and will be accused of cashing in on a horrific tragedy, but that charge can more reasonably be made of previous made-for-TV films which capitalized on the gruesome and inhuman acts performed by Dahmer during the years of his crimes. This story has as much to do with the psychology of a would-be-but-not-yet killer as with the world which fostered his desires and compulsions, and provided the opportunity to make his fantasies come to fruition.

As one of the more self-pitying members of Generation X, I have loudly and at length whined about the disastrous effect the 1970s had on its children, when media was skewed entirely toward the interests of rising Baby Boomers. Our television programs and films churned out tales of easy sex, transient relationships, and graphic violence, while popular music dwelt on maudlin thoughts and liberal mores, and no one was looking after the kids.

From "My Friend Dahmer" the graphic novel by Derf
Two months ago I surprised the wife for her birthday by taking her to a sold-out, pre-release screening at the Cleveland Cinematheque. I am excited for Derf, and hope My Friend Dahmer, the film, receives the attention I believe it deserves.

The film captures that late 70s mood without fetishizing it, as so many contemporary films do. The suburban torpor of a nation in decline, and the effect that has on its citizens, especially the young people is on full display.

Derf has often suggested that his book is an indictment of the adults who failed in their responsibility, providing no oversight, and in this way allowing a neglected, alienated monster to come to life. Dahmer may have been destined, either through fate or natural design, to become a murderous sociopath. But why did no one see the signs?

The screenwriter and director Marc Meyers made the decision not to employ a narrator. Derf comments on the proceedings in his novel through the use of captions, and in this way he himself leads us through the narrative. We are never alone with Jeffrey Dahmer. Without narration, Dahmer's increasing isolation from humanity (portrayed hauntingly by Lynch) is ours to witness in isolation.

It is this emotional connection -- not sympathy, which is feeling, but empathy, which is understanding -- that makes the final scene of the film so chilling. I won't spoil it for you. It's enough to say that in any other film, it would be moment of triumph, and of celebration. Our main character finally knows who he is.

And he is free.

"My Friend Dahmer" makes its Cleveland premiere at the Capitol Theatre next Friday, November 10, 2017.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Assessment

It has been two years since I wrote an assessment, which has been a useful tool to reassure myself that, in spite of any sense of inertia, the work continues.

Last week there was a reading of These Are The Times which was very productive, and when I have a moment I will be able to tweak a few things and then, if you can imagine, I will finally be able to begin the submission process. And it only took eight years!

Meanwhile, I composed a piece for Grand Rounds: Four 10-Minute Plays, which will be performed on December 6th at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage as part of the exhibit Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews In Medicine.

Just yesterday I was a "Writer In the Window" at Appletree Books, brainstorming a writing collaboration with my colleague Chennelle which will make its formative debut in early 2018, and tomorrow evening rehearsals begin for a play I will be performing in, to be announced.

Basically, after months feeling a bit adrift, November is packed. Suddenly, I have no time. And you know what? That is a good thing. When I am pressed I am most productive, which is stupid but there it is.

What is not good is how I have almost entirely stopped exercising. Nerve pain has made working out this past summer less than fun, but the fact is I have not gone for a run in over a month. Seriously, October 1 was my last time out. I haven't run so little since 2011, when I was taking antidepressants.

But the kids are all right. My education work is meaningful and sustaining. What I most need is to (literally) get off my ass, and move.