Hey, How’s it Been?

I know, it’s been a while since I last posted.  I’ve been busy.

Not with writing plays– my last play was written around 2009 (Five years ago??).  I’ve been writing, just not writing much stuff for others to read.  I’ve been busy studying and taking notes for a new full-length play, my first, that I plan to write during NANOWRIMO (https://nanowrimo.org/) National Novel Writing Month.

Two of my friends wrote during last year’s event.  One wrote a play, one wrote a novel.  I thought it was a great way to buckle down and write, considering I’ve been going through what I (erroneously) thought was a dry spell.  Turns out, I am merely changing gears.  I’m not going to write a children’s play, I’m going to write a play for adults.  It will be a play focusing on the early church.  My tentative title is “Follow The Way.”

Does this mean I’m done writing for child audiences?  No.  I still have a couple stories that I want to put my unique spin to.  We’ll see.  It won’t break my heart if I don’t get around to it.  That will just mean I’m spending more time with my family or writing about other things.  It’s all good!

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Convenient Rules?

I make my living in Theatre.  I am a playwright, theatre artist, actor, director, producer, techie, — I’ve done just about everything but choreograph, though I HAVE choreographed various songs for various productions of my own (nobody would consider PAYING me to choreograph).  I say this just so you know that I know Theatre, I know what it takes to produce shows, I know all about “the show must go on.”

That being said:  I am also a Dad.

My two sons are involved in a local theatre production that is to open this week– in about 4 days.  The theatre has a teen program that produces 3-5 shows per year.  It’s a great program run by a wonderful theatre professional, though I absolutely HATE sitting in the audience to watch a show because the seating is cramped and my claustrophobia goes bonkers.

We are presently undergoing the worst snowstorms I’ve ever seen in Kansas.  Usually, we get maybe an inch and it’s gone in a couple days.  We may get 2-3 such snowstorms a winter.  Three days ago we had 12+ inches come down.  Today, schools are closed because they’re expecting another 8-12 inches to come again.

Last night, after all the local public schools announced closing for the day, the NWS issuing a winter storm watch and telling everyone to stay off the roads, and after the theatre in question announcing it was closing the offices and canceling classes– we get word that the show will be rehearsing from 10-2.  According to the weather reports, that’s right in the middle of the the freezing rain changing into snow.  The rule has always been, as long as I can remember, “if schools are closed, WE are closed.”  This was to alleviate any confusion over whether there were classes or not during bad weather.

I always thought the rule was set in stone for the benefit of the students’ safety.  After today’s events, I am wondering if the rule is more set in sand for the benefit of the theatre’s convenience.  I know there is a show getting ready to open.  I know there would be a possibility of having to post-pone the performances.  But I also know that I am a nervous wreck having my two kids (the eldest only having been driving for a couple years) out in what is turning out to be near-blizzard conditions.

Yes, the show must go on.  But in my later years– I find that more and more I have to place a caveat in that statement.  I missed most of my brother and sister’s weddings because I was in a show.  I’ve missed funerals, family reunions and vacations because I was in a show.  Looking back over the years, I now regret a lot of those.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the passion, the excitement, the DRAMA of producing a show.  There is an “all or nothing” atmosphere during rehearsals that really convicts or coerces (depending upon your point of view) everyone involved to be a team player and make sacrifices for the benefit of the production.  That can be a good thing– but, particularly, when safety is involved, it can be a not-so-good thing.

I guess the reason for this post is to remind my fellow producers that it’s a good thing to get all involved in your productions to be team players– but PLEASE keep safety in mind.  “The Show Must Go On” is a terrible excuse for a teen dying in a car accident.  And trust me, should that ever happen to you (God forbid), you will not soon forgive yourself.

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PC Audio Labs

PC Audio Labs (PCAL) is a computer manufacturing company that specializes in DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations).  I first heard about them  in 2002, bought my first DAW from them in 2003– ten years ago.  I was so happy with their product, I replaced it with a newer PCAL DAW in 2007, then again last year I updated to a newer model.  As you would expect, getting the newest and fastest technology isn’t cheap.

I think what set PCAL apart was their attention to detail and the fact that they would fine-tune the computer to my hardware and software.  They tweaked everything to work together.  They tweaked hardware settings, windows settings, software settings.  They tweaked the heck out of everything.

I never had to contact PCAL for support with my first DAW other than questions on implementing software.  The machine they sent me was perfect in design and function.  Same with my second DAW.  This newest one, however, is turning into a NIGHTMARE.

It was delivered to me in January of 2012.  Wiz-bang, it was fast.  Four hard drives, 24GB of RAM, swappable hard drive enclosure– I was so excited to get busy with it!

Then in August, It began crashing and stalling/hanging and the drive reserved for my audio files began disappearing from view.  I contacted PCAL in September and they tried to fix it over the phone– which is an acceptable solution.  They would have me try settings, they would send replacement hardware and have me install it to see if that fixed it.  Finally in November, we decided it best to just send the machine in for service.  They had it for six weeks, sent it back, and it’s still not right.  It doesn’t crash any longer, but it still hangs during video rendering and the Audio Drive is still disappearing.

I think my main problem with PCAL is their lack of communication.  Emails went without response for days.  When they sent the machine back from servicing, there was no explanation, no invoice, no communication about what was done, what the problem turned out to be.  I can’t even attest that they actually opened the box.  I have lost faith in PCAL.

I thought something was different when I purchased this last machine.  They didn’t ask for my software/hardware so they could do any tweaking.  “We don’t really need them,” I was told.  Hmm….

I doubt very seriously that I will ever buy another PCAL machine.

[I was thinking, how COULD they make this right?  If they sent me a new, identical computer that works right– that would probably do it.  Right now, I am not getting the usual customer support that I’m used to with them.  They just got bought out by Obedia so I wonder if they’re just too big for their britches….}

UPDATE:  The computer now works as it did when I first got the new machine.  It was a faulty solid state hard drive.  They had a new one sent, I swapped it out, and now all my issues are gone.  No more computer hanging, no more disappearing drive, no more endless rendering of video.  The technician who has been walking me through this solution (an Obedia tech) was wonderfully helpful.

I MIGHT consider buying my next DAW from PC Audio Labs.  I am no longer adamant about NOT patronizing them again.  My Obedia tech really came through– and since they bought out PCAL, we’ll see….

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Inspect Your Gadget

About this series:  These entries are taken from my article “Don’t Call Us — We’ll Call You.” It is a tongue-in-cheek survey of actors’ silly mistakes that should never have been made. Your comments are welcome, but PLEASE don’t comment “that’s dumb” or “everybody knows that” because I have personally seen these mistakes cost actors (sometimes even professional actors) roles.

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YOUR GADGET INTERRUPTED.  In the middle of our audition, when one of the other actors was delivering a heartfelt reading, I heard your cell phone go off from the back of the room.  Or perhaps an actor was distracted by the blue glow of the screen on your iPod, seeming to float in the back of the house.  The moment was ruined for that actor– and for me.  Are you new to technology?  Have you never sat in an auditorium and read or heard an announcement about turning off all electronic devices before a performance?  You are either very inconsiderate or just a little too “ditzy” for me to take a chance on putting you in my cast.

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I think we’ve all been in a theatre or movie house and had our enjoyment spoiled by someone’s cell phone going off.   Cell phones, iPods, MP3 Players, Gameboys, iPads, laptops… the list of personal electronics goes on and on.  Don’t get me wrong– I own a few of ’em myself.  I love technology.  But during an audition, it should be old-school, person-to-person time.

Most people have mastered the mute setting of their phones.  A simple flip of a switch makes sure that no noise comes from the darned thing.  But sometimes it happens.  I know, it’s happened to me.  I run the sound board for our church Praise Band.  The week I got my brand new iPhone, it went off right during a prayer.  I have one of my own songs from one of my shows as my ring tone:  “Time Outs.”  The congregation was silent except for the pastor’s voice, then all of a sudden, everyone hears:  Time outs, Time outs, I sure hate to get time outs….!”

Luckily for me, our church has a sense of humor.  You may not be so lucky.

Muting your phone should be second nature to you whenever you step foot in a theatre.  It separates the pros from the amateurs.

On the same vein, make sure any other device doesn’t distract from the process.  Don’t let the sound of it be heard (earphones are wonderful things!), don’t let the glowing screen be seen, and for goodness sakes, don’t let yourself get distracted from what’s going on in your audition.  Few things are worse than having to call someone more than once, only to find that they are engrossed in playing a video game during an audition!

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Be Prompted to be Prompt

About this series:
These entries are taken from my article “Don’t Call Us — We’ll Call You.” It is a tongue-in-cheek survey of actors’ silly mistakes that should never have been made. Your comments are welcome, but PLEASE don’t comment “that’s dumb” or “everybody knows that” because I have personally seen these mistakes cost actors (sometimes even professional actors) roles.

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YOU WERE LATE.  We make the schedules for our performances, rehearsals and auditions available months (usually a full year!) in advance.  Why is it that 20 minutes into our audition call, after we have already welcomed everyone and have begun to see and hear the many other actors who chose to be prompt, you arrive and expect to be given equal time and attention by our staff?  It doesn’t matter your talent level or the excuse– all we can think is “will this actor be late to rehearsals as well?  And what about performances?”  Also See “You Displayed Bad Manners.”

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Oh, dear– Never, never, NEVER be late to an audition.  Unless you arrive in an ambulance, I would say it is better to turn around and go home than to arrive late to an audition.  It is usually better for your reputation to miss that call than to arrive late.  I say USUALLY because, of course, there are exceptions to every rule (Perhaps you were mugged at gunpoint at the front door when you arrived early, but they knocked you out and you just “came to.”  Perhaps the Tech Director was walking through the lobby right before the audition and asked you to help him as he was having a heart attack.  Please note that all these instances required you to have been actually on time to the call.)

I don’t think I need to go into the spiel about how tight the rehearsal schedule usually is and that every minute counts.  Having an actor arrive late to a rehearsal– or even (shudder!) a performance– makes any director and stage manager throw up a little in their mouths.  Remember that an audition is set up to get as close to a performance situation as possible, to see how each actor responds to the circumstance and to see what choices are made or not made.  You chose to allow yourself to be late to the audition.

I know this seems rather harsh.  You ask:  wouldn’t a theatre rather see a person who is truly perfect for the part, that happens to come late?  What if nobody else can play the part as well?  What if this tardiness was an isolated incident and it will never happen again?  I ask:  What if a pig could fly?  Let me set something straight based upon my 50+ years on this earth and 30+ years of intense study of human behavior:  The Theatre is beholding to no one.  Nobody is perfect for a role.  There is ALWAYS somebody else who can play a given part.  And, rarely is any behavior an isolated incident (unless it involves Martians or the actual hand of God).

Do yourself a favor by getting back into your car, taking a deep breath, figure out WHY you were late (habitual tardiness, inferiority complex, superiority complex, laziness, inability to tell time, etc.) and fixing it so it never happens again– and just coming to the NEXT audition.

This advice is definitely for professional actors.  As far as my advice for amateur (community theatre, school theatre, etc) actors, I personally wouldn’t take the chance to blacken your reputation.  Coming in late to an audition and giving an excuse….  And woe be unto you if you end up using a bogus excuse– and you are found out.

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SoundBytus

I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem with Facebook is it suffers from SoundBytus, which is a debilitating dis-ease resulting from the Internet and 24-hour news gathering outlets having made us dependant upon the reliance on Sound Bites.  In our insatiable pursuit of information, we want as much detail as possible in as little time and words possible.  We often sacrifice expediency for detail, context, elaboration and summation.

CNN, FoxNews, and CNET have had 20 years practice in delivering ideas as succinctly as possible– yet we common newbies naively attempt this and– more often then not– fail miserably. 

This results in miscommunication, misspeaking, insufficient explanations (not to mention the disastrously-failed attempts at irony, sarcasm, hyperbole, humor, satire, double-entendre, and my personal favorite: reductio ad absurdum), etc., that inevitably lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, inaccurate labellings, and possible shunning and de-friending.  Whenever we encounter such attempts on Facebook, we should keep in mind WHY the person was “friended” in the first place and remember that “what is in our hearts” is what truly matters– and that core of our humanity is at the mercy of our communication skills.

For some reason, our friends who read our missives often do so without any filtration whatsoever.  Our sound bytes are consumed with the same expectation of perfection as any professional source.  By a sort of Pass-Fail measurement, our words are judged purely on face-value.  They pass muster or they don’t.  They are accepted or they are damned– and the person behind the words are often treated in the same way.  Why on earth would someone hold my awkward writing to the same vetting as that of George Will, Charles Krauthammer, or even our local newspaper reporter?

… probably for the same reason I have done the same to others.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been at the mercy of this phenomenon.  I have seen friends try to communicate very complex points of view in such a way that made me wonder why in the world I could have ever endured being in the same room– let alone allow them to become a dear, dear friend.  I have stood by and watched my own words be misinterpreted, judged, and defamed by friends in such a way that I am sure they wondered the same about me.  I would not be surprised if they went to the seemingly-logical next step of de-friending me.

I have been called everything from ill-informed, misguided and uneducated, to sexist, bigoted, and misogynistic.  As a result of some of my posts, I have no doubt that I have triggered prayer chains for my soul and those of my children.  All from my attempts to succinctly communicate a thought or position I have in regard to something I encountered during my day. 

It often makes me wonder WHY I continue my association with Facebook.  Yet, I do continue, learning once again that more-times-than-not, it is better to “just click LIKE and move on.”

[For the record, I am an intelligent, responsible, God-fearing man.  I pay my taxes, serve on committees at church, donate to charities, and I love my family and friends.  I try to live by the motto:  Do no harm.  I just also have the audacity to write down my thoughts.]

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Kevin 2.0

It has begun.  I dont know exactly WHEN it happened, but it’s happened.  I am no longer a performer– I’m the DAD of a performer.  A couple of ’em, actually.

Yesterday, out of the blue, I saw my neighbor drive into his driveway.  I walked over and told him my kids had been cast in a show at our local professional summer theatre.  As I was telling him, I heard the words come out of my mouth and I was thinking, “He has no interest in what I’m telling him.”  He’s a good guy and all– but he’s not a “theatre person.”

They’re not in the professional company for the whole season– they’re in the teen company for “Singing in the Rain.”  Emily isn’t being paid, Nicholas has a Teen Internship, so he gets a little for his work.  This is the summer theatre that I worked at most of my years as a performer.  I did over 35 shows with them over the years.  They are a fantastic company and the Artistic Director, Wayne Bryan, is as good as they come (as a Producer and as a Good Guy).

Anyway, my mind has been flooded with fatherly actor advice for my kids.

ToBeContinued

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Strive to be Irreplaceable

I think one of the the greatest sources of anxiety people have of dying is that nobody will know that they’re gone.  Everything they did, everyone they loved, everywhere they left a mark that they existed– will be quietly replaced and life will go on without a hitch.  After all, that’s what Life on This Earth does.  It adapts.  It evolves.  It survives. 

One of the most important lessons I learned early on in my performing career was this:

Strive to be irreplaceable; never let them discover that they can do it without you.;

Now, we all know that nobody is irreplaceable.  Particularly in Theatre, everyone can be replaced.  That’s the nature of Show Biz.  What I learned was to be talented, fun to be around, thoughtful, conscientious, responsible, energetic….  Be the performer that has the director saying “Where can we put Kevin.”

I’ve gotten roles in my career for a myriad of reasons– many having little to do with my talent:  I was over 6 feet tall, I didn’t “swish” when I walked, I was a bass/baritone, I could grow a mustache in a week, I wasn’t timid about a kissing scene….  But more times than not, the reason was that the director just couldn’t imagine NOT having me in the show.  I was fun to work with, I had an appropriate sense of humor, I knew my lines and blocking, I had performing chops, I got along great with techies and staff without coming across as a brown-noser….

I am now in semi-retirement from performing.  By “semi-” I mean that have stopped in order to be a stay-at-home Dad, but I plan to return to performing after our kids are all off to college.  I’ve done three professional roles in the last 15 years– all as a favor to buddies in a jam.  I don’t audition anymore and I don’t look forward to EVER going through that dog and pony trick again. 

After we moved back to the Wichita area in 2006, my family and I started appearing in a yearly local production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” put on by Wichita Children’s Theatre.  They’re been doing it ever year for almost 30 years now.  I play the Dad, Janelle plays the Mom, and our kids have played a variety of the kids’ roles.  It’s a great family tradition.  Now, Nicholas is too old for BCPE, so he and I have begun appearing in WCT’s annual production of my adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.”  I’ve played Fezziwig and Ghost of Christmas Present, Nichols was Marley last year and this year he is Nephew Fred.

I sit back during rehearsals and just observe the kids.  It’s amazing what you can learn just by being quiet and watching.  I’ve kept notes over the years and plan to develop them into a video project about auditioning and basic acting:  How to find your light, how to walk quietly backstage, how to check sightlines, that sort of thing.

I’ve also become aware of a phenomenon that is very unique to my situation.  Let me start out by telling you that I am rather shy.  I don’t like attention drawn to me unless I’m onstage and playing a character.  When I sit in the audience of one of my shows I make it a point to NOT have the theatre announce that the playwright is in the audience.  I just want to enjoy the event like everyone else.  But that’s not always possible.

During the course of rehearsals of A Christmas Carol, the cast gradually becomes aware that I am the “Kevin Reese” that wrote the script they are reading from.  Adults will usually come right out and ask if I’m the playwright and then comment on the adaptation (there’s really very little “me” in the script– it’s 99% Dickens.  Most of my work was in streamlining the story for an hour on the stage.).  The kids are far more entertaining!  Their reaction usually varies from distant glued stares from across the room to coming up and telling me all of their favorite parts of the show.  There’s an amiable young fellow in this year’s cast that reminds me of the Chris Farley character on SNL that would interview various celebrities and get all tongue-tied.  Very cute!

I’m rambling, but the point I set out to make is that no matter what career you find yourself in– strive to make yourself irreplaceable.  Develop the whole package and whoever gets you will want to keep you around forever.

 

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Happy Birthday to me!

I talked KMR Scripts into celebrating my birthday by losing some money.  (See– this is why I only let KMR Scripts handle all my plays and musicals:  they aren’t in this business only for the money!)

I don’t advertise my birthday.  It’s not displayed on Facebook, I try not to have it listed in the “December Birthdays” notice at church.  It’s not that I don’t like birthdays– I do– I am just uncomfortable with all the attention.  Yes, it’s a paradox:  I spent a good portion of my adult life as an actor, performing before crowds of up to 2,000 people– yet I don’t like attention.

I will forego my usual “I’m okay with people’s attention when I’m playing a character, it’s when I’m playing myself that my shyness comes into play…”

Suffice it to say, I’m changing a paradigm this year.  If you are a customer of KMR Scripts, print out the coupon, below.  You can use it whenever your next production of one of my shows takes place in 2011/2012.  You can only use it once and the coupon can only be applied to performance royalty, not script sales or Performance Packet rentals.  We’ll only be displaying this during the month of December, so print it now before it’s gone.
(Do you think Sam French would ever do this?)
 

We LOVE our Customers!
 (clip and mail in with your royalty payment)
NOT APPLICABLE FOR “BENEATH THE UPPER ROOM”
(that already has a HUGE discount)

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Proud Papa

My Dad passed away over 10 years ago (2000), my Mom died in 1990.  They got to see quite a few of my shows as a performer.  Usually, once a summer, they would travel to wherever I was performing and spend a long weekend with me, seeing shows and visiting the area.  I have great comfort knowing they were very proud of me and my work onstage.  Mom never knew me as a playwright (I didn’t write my first show until after she was gone), but Dad did.  I know he was very proud of my work there, too.

Last night I sat through a production of Oklahoma! with my son, Nicholas, playing Will Parker.  He was very good, I am very proud of his work and of him as a young man (a work in progress).  As I sat watching him sing and dance in the song “Kansas City,” I was overwealmed with emotion and had to fight to keep from sobbing out loud.  So many things were going through my mind:  he was doing a REALLY nice job, he was conscious of the fact that he was entertaining the audience and they were enjoying it, the audience was thoroughly enjoying his work on the stage, and I was marvelling at the thought that I had created a living being that was capable of providing that much joy in people’s lives– even if for a couple hours in an evening.

As the crowd applauded him after his song, I couldn’t help wonder if the same thoughts ever went through my Dad’s mind when he was watching one of my shows way back when.  And I have to wonder how in the world he kept from bawling like a baby as he sat and listend to 2000 (at Music Theatre of Wichita) people applaud his son (me).

I remember that Dad used to get emotional whenever I left home to head back to school.  He’d give me a hug and I could see his eyes water and his lip tremble a bit.  After a few years and more than a few such goodbyes, it wasn’t as hard on him.  Now, as I find myself getting older, I’m showing the same sentimentality.  Tears come easily and, so far, so does my composure.  But I find that the older I get the less I care about displaying my emotions.  Very soon Arthur wille be heading off to college, then Nicholas, then our girls.  I’m gonna be a soggy mess.

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