Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Winsor McCay, the Famous Cartoonist of the N.Y. Herald and his Moving Comics (1911) April 8, 1911 this short film (popularly known simply as Little Nemo) directed by Winsor McCay and James Stuart Blackton had its debut. Only two minutes are actually animated, and the moving images repeat, and while fanciful, are of course very simply compared to anything we are used to. However, when you consider that McCay drew all four thousand pages himself, by hand, you have to admire his time, effort, and outstanding creativity.

This was not the first animated film, that honor goes to co-director Blackton, whose Humorous Phases of Funny Faces was released in 1906.

Talespinner Children's Theatre presents Adventures In Slumberland by David Hansen, Nov. 30 - Dec. 22, 2013.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Oh, hello. I didn't see you there.

The summer comes to an anxious conclusion. The emotions fighting for expression are making it truly difficult to concentrate on any one thing. My dreams have been active, animated and bizarre, struggling for realization. There is too much to do, and I can't get my head around any of it.

I crave two sleepless days to revise one of my scripts. Tonight there will be a rehearsal/reading on another that won't even be performed for six months, but there is no time, we need to figure this out starting now. I need to think of a ten-minute play within the next twenty-four hours.

Work is normal for August, reams of reports due for the end of the fiscal year, and requests due for the next one. A pile of half-completed proposals in my office, days spent staring at the screen, trying to be ar-tic-u-late.

The children have been virtually destroyed by the summer, by Labor Day they will be begging for school. A different camp, a road trip, weeks spent with the grandparents, weddings, plays, games. I miss the Olympics, for two weeks (really? it was for only two weeks?) we came together in front of the TV every night to watch whatever was on. Usually women's beach volleyball. Watching sport is a great family activity. I never knew this.

As I bragged three months ago, I did not lose any toenails during the Cleveland Marathon. I understand this is something that happens, odd though it may seem. But it did appear I had bruised three of them, and I did not know if that meant they "died". Well, one appears to finally have come undone, and will fall off soon. Really? Three months later? Sorry to have to share that with you. I feel like the fly.

Our personal economy is troubling. There is a lot of work to be done on our house. We had a guy over to look at the garage, which has been propped up and held together for years. It is original to the house, and it is done, we need to get a new one. New garage, I have a new (used) car. I sit in our unfinished basement wondering what if? while the boy practices drums. He's pretty good, he's only seven.

The girl will come with me to work today. After a dozen weeks of camps she's finally been hit with one she hates, and we just can't stand to send her there any more. For perhaps the first time in her nine year life, she has entered a situation where she cannot find one person to connect with, not even one. She makes friends so easily, it must be quite a shock. Part of us think we should just tell her to suck it up and go, but she's not a spoiled girl, she does everything we tell her to do, always. She needs a break from the summer. I think we all do.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Chorus Line (London, 1977)

Original Drury Lane Company of "A Chorus Line"
The 1975 Tony award-winning musical A Chorus Line was mounted in London's West End at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, opening July 22,1976, where it won a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical. This was the first professional musical I ever saw.

In 1977 my entire family took a springtime vacation in England. It was the Queen's Silver Jubilee, and if I weren't so young, I might have noticed it was one of the most depressed and spectacular years to visit Britain. Because my ageing grandfather was with us, we took buses or taxis almost everywhere, avoiding the "Tube" and so I missed out on all the punks.

Why a new musical was on our agenda, I have no idea. Knowing my brother's and father's appreciation for Agatha Christie, you'd think we would have front row seats for The Mousetrap or something. But they had made this trip the year before without me, and had already seen it.

Brief synopsis: A successful Broadway producer briefly satisfies his need to dominate and control by pressing those auditioning for non-acting roles to reveal their most deeply personal and humiliating life stories. Songs by Marvin Hamlisch!

In hindsight, my mother was mortified. I do not know which was more embarrassing, subjecting her nine year-old son or her eighty year-old father to songs about tits, masturbation and "the life". Probably that she was sitting right between us. Poor mom.

As for me, most of what was truly shocking flew right over my head. When the kid has his first orgasm and misdiagnoses it as gonorrhea, well shit, I didn't know what either of those words meant.  And listening to a woman sing about tits and ass was nothing, because by that point in the show, I was so charged from how revealing the women's leotards were, giving voice to it was merely hilarious.

What sticks with me was the one gay character (wait for it) named Paul. He is the one who describes when he was "outed" performing in a drag act at which his parents show up as a surprise. To this boy, that one story gave me entirely the wrong impression -- reinforcing the already dominant point of view at the time that being gay was something to be ashamed of, something exotic and interesting, but something to keep hidden at all costs.

And then Paul, the gay one, blows out a previously injured knee. So he loses, basically, the gay one loses. Pathetic. Maybe it was the memory of this that sent me into such a rage watching Rent. The most flamboyantly gay character, Angel, is the only one who actually dies, the straight, hot chick lives another day. The gay one always gets it.

For anyone familiar with the show, you know that Paul is not the only gay character in the show. He's not even the only character who talks openly about being gay, but he was the only one to speak so clearly about it as to make me understand what he was saying. Even Greg, for some reason, didn't stick in my memory, and he is such a queen, girlfriend.

The other day, the boy (7) and the girl (9) and I were heading into the pool, and we ran into a friend of the girl's from Girl Camp heading out. This friend was with her two moms, and after introductions and farewells, the boy asked if there was a dad. My girl said, "nope."

The boy thought for a moment and concluded, "They must have done that with the gay marriage."

Things are not more complicated today. They are more clear.


Marvin Hamlisch died August 6, 2012.

Monday, August 13, 2012

On Weddings

This weekend I had the pleasure of officiating the wedding ceremony for my brother-in-law and his bride, in Athens, Ohio.

Before we go any further, I just want to add this: No, thank you for asking, I won't conduct yours.

On the day-of, I received the following FB message:
HI Dave- I am officiating a wedding in November... do you have any recommendations or have you written about your officiant experiences anywhere? I'm really stoked about the one I'm doing, but as my first, feeling a little green. Would love to hear your take on it. 
No, I haven't written about it! And I jotted down a few hastily written suggestions off the top of my head, which I will expand upon here. Maybe someone will get some use out of them.

First, however, some background. Officiating a wedding is no big deal, legally speaking. Any couple (any straight couple, at least today) can get married at city hall, then have a party that has all the trappings of a wedding, which anyone can conduct.

However, if you want someone to marry you, to sign the document and make it legal, they must be an ordained minister, and register with (in this case) the Secretary of State of Ohio. In 2005 Josh and Kelly asked me to wed them, and I found out how it was done.

Founded in 1959, the Universal Life Church believes every individual should be a church unto his/herself. To that end, they will ordain anyone a minister. In the old days, it was mail order - today you can be ordained online. Right now. In moments. Go ahead, do it! It's free, even.

You must cleave to their solitary tenant, Do only that which is right. I have followed this commandment, since 2005, every moment of every day, without fail.

Then I paid for proof of ordination (five bucks) to send to Columbus (another ten bucks) and I have a certificate stating I may perform legal marriage in the state of Ohio.

I have conducted services for a few people. Very close friends, one of my brothers and his wife. I take it seriously. I mean, I am not a noodge, I am also not religious and do not pretend to be. But I had a false-start marriage in the early 90s ... without going into any detail, the service was much too clever. A close inspection (unfortunately, it was videotaped ... thought fortunately mine was accidentally damaged beyond repair) gave several close to me the opportunity to judge the kind of humor we had injected into the ceremony and found it very telling.

These are some tips I gave my friend, which were very helpful to me last Saturday, as my wife and I were even then writing and re-writing the ceremony that afternoon.

1. I interview the couple, together, asking them very basic, personal questions. Why are you getting married? Why are you marrying this person? Why do you love this person? What is the goal? I get them to tell some stories, how did you meet, begin dating, propose, etc. Whatever they say is always golden. I take notes.

2. I ask them what they want to have happen. How many traditional aspects of the wedding ceremony do they want to include? Technically, they do not need to include any of them. None. No one needs to say "I do." They do need to get the marriage certificate, and when I sign it, they are legally married. Everything else is a public declaration of fealty.

3. Vows should definitely be included. I make them write their own vows, but often edit them. I feel free to make them start all over if they feel to generic, or too clever. I once told a groom his vows could be said be virtually anyone, and to search a little deeper for what was important, and what he was promising. His second pass was perfect.

Honesty and sincerity are key. I once dropped the final vow because it was an attempt to gently threaten the other if they weren't faithful. And the fact is, I tried to put in the same kind of vow in my first wedding and our officiant insisted on taking it out.

4. This is not about me. Making references to my connection to them gives the attendants some indication as to why I have been asked to do this, but really -- no stories about me, about my life, about my family or marriage. It's all about their lives and feelings.

5. It is about both of them, not just one of them. Sometimes this is challenging, not with friends like Kelly and Josh, for example, who I know equally, but I needed to know more about my brother's intended, and my brother-in-law's this weekend. I don't want to run the risk of talking too long about just one of them. Then again, I don't want to run the risk of doing much talking at. I'm not a minister, I am a happy interlocutor. I am there to speak for them because they are nervous and emotional and scared.

6. Explain, in one sentence, why we're doing everything we're doing. This is why we're here. This is why we make vows. This is why we exchange rings. It gives a brief, sometimes surprise-filled event structure, and makes everyone -- the couple, but also the crowd -- feel like it all makes sense.

7. Finally, what else do they want? Sometimes, like this weekend, that was about it. My wife included a Libation Ritual, to absent friends and family, which went over very well. We concluded with the kiss, and it was time for a party.

But people like music, or poems, or verses ... but I feel it is best, for a simple ceremony, the know that these are things you choose to include, because they express something and that people are happy to hear. Feeling that they must be included can add a lot of pressure.

Sure, the entire event can be stressful, I feel responsible for someone else's wedding. But I also know that everyone is very excited to be there, about whatever it is I have to say -- most of which was written by or about the wedding couple -- and there really is no way to disappoint.

However, it is because I take this seriously, that I try to politely decline when a kind stranger approaches me following a ceremony (usually before I can reach the bar) to ask to conduct their wedding. They want me to marry them because I appear competent at it, and I am flattered by that. But I only want to participate in a wedding in this manner when, as they say, I have skin in the game.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Eggshelland 2009
Walking on Eggshelland
by David Hansen
Cleveland Magazine, April 2006

When the last sand grain was blown from the floor of City Hall’s rotunda last October, the collective image of that Tibetan Buddhist mandala remained forever burned into the memory of all those who had seen it. Dyed fragments of pulverized stone, brought together for a brief moment in time, then scattered forever.

That’s a lot like Eggshelland, Lyndhurst’s greatest artistic achievement and my favorite harbinger of spring. For almost 50 years, Betty and Ron Manolio have decorated their front lawn with grand mosaics of colored eggs.

You can’t rely on those nutty Buddhists. But every Palm Sunday the Manolios will have laid out a grand, rainbow cross, shimmering in the sun with the bright palette that only high-gloss enamel car paint offers.

On their tiny patch on Linden Lane, you can also expect the latest hit animated film to be represented, and as this year’s theme is “Animal Antics,” it wouldn’t be hard to guess that “Madagascar” gets the featured space closest to the sidewalk. Betty tells me it will be joined by characters from “Blue’s Clues,” “Dora the Explorer” and, of course, the Easter Bunny. Eggshelland is nothing if not about the kids.

But is it art? Of course it is, don’t be a snob. If for no better reason, Eggshelland invites a sense of wonder. Wonder what they’ll surprise us with this year; will it be another sports tribute or the head of Montel Williams? Wonder if it will blizzard the day after the Manolios have painstakingly set (this year) 34,424 eggs onto little wooden pegs, the snow destroying many of them.

Fragility. Impermanence. At one with children and animals. There’s no need to go to Tibet. It’s all right there on a cul-de-sac in Lyndhurst.
Ron Manolio died Tuesday at the age of 82. Eggshelland 2013 will be the final display, and a celebration of his life and dreams. (8/11/2012)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Henry VIII: The Song

Queen Katharine. 
My soul grows sad with troubles;
Sing, and disperse 'em, if thou canst.

Now that the show has closed, I can write something about the song. I have already written about the pageantry inherent in The Famous History of the Life of King Henry VIII. The stage directions call for the dying Queen Katherine to have a vision of the future wives of King Henry. But they also have her calling for one of her ladies to sing to "disperse" her troubles.

Now, I could have cut that. But I did not wish to lose any opportunity to have something happen, something non-stand-and-talky. We have a party near the beginning, and the Vision closer to the end. A song would be very nice.

The woman sings the following lyrics:

Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain tops that freeze,
Bow themselves when he did sing:
To his music plants and flowers
Ever sprung; as sun and showers
There had made a lasting spring.
Every thing that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
Hung their heads, and then lay by.
In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart
Fall asleep, or hearing, die.  

Okay. Was I going to set that to contemporary music? No, I hate when people do that. I was trying to make this feel as contemporary as possible. So, a substitution. At first I tried to think of songs of heartbreak from my past, and briefly entertained the idea of using Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac. But that seemed silly. What was I going to do, have a guy come out with a guitar and warble a verse, for a laugh, and move on? It didn't seem appropriate.

Then I remembered this song I had been listening to since last November -- yes, I am claiming to have heard it first, so kill me. I wrote this around Thanksgiving:
So. Tuesday. I'm making breakfast for children, packing lunches for everyone, listening to The Current. I am struck by a track that sings to me. Slightly retro, sounds like something I would have been big into during my younger days. There's a vocal refrain reminiscent of Sting. I immediately download the song from iTunes -- I never do that anymore.

I listen to it over and over again on the drive down Chester to work. I never do that anymore. A song about an ended relationship, frank, naked, blunt. Well-crafted song. Stirring production.

It's like that old saying; I do not miss you. I miss the person I was when I was with you.
Yes, I'm talking about Somebody That I Used to Know. What I did not know, because I do not listen to Top 40 stations, is that this had become a number one song everywhere in the world this summer.

Regardless, that was the song. In conversation with my friend Elaine, I was trying to figure out how the hell to stage it. I had already banished any kind of furniture, I wanted a clean, uncluttered look to everything. Did I really want the entire company to join the Queen onstage with guitars, drums, and a toy xylophone? I mean, what the hell?

Elaine asked if I meant what I said when I said every character carried an iPhone. Why not have one of them download a karaoke version?

And there you go. Thanks, Elaine.