Monday, October 26, 2009

John McCain, my dog is more equal than you.

1984 fans everywhere raised an eyebrow as John McCain, author of the doublethink masterpiece, The Internet Freedom Act, was proposed to Congress. Obviously, the man has no understanding of net neutrality, nor its implications. According to his wife, he doesn't even know how to send an email, and yet he proposes legislation that would allow ISPs to control or eliminate content. The information highway, brought to you Google free by MSN. Awesome.
One thing I have to give to conservative thinktanks; they understand Orwell better than we do. If we'd have named the public insurance option the Freedom Option for Liberty, we'd have single payer healthcare by now.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On being a comprimario.

I have a friend, an excellent singer and actor, who decided to quit singing because noone would hire him to play leads. They only wanted him to be the funny little sidekick. He refused. I could never wrap my brain around that. Character parts are so much more fun than leads. Have you ever had the experience of working for hours and hours on a project, only to have someone come in at the last minute and totally steal your thunder? That's what comprimarii do. Coming in for 5 minutes, blasting it out, and then leaving with the furniture is so much more rewarding than the slog of romantic melodrama. I'll let the skinny shits work like dogs and deal with the crazy divas. I just want to be a pirate, or a chef, or a retard, or a soldier, or a toady.
And give me my motherfucking check.

Of course, there are a few pitfalls. One downside to being a secondo is being treated with a lack of respect. I guess people are so used to small parts being performed like shit, they get used to the idea that the people that do them are in some way diminished. I had quite a few people come up to me after the last performance and tell me they have never heard my role sung that well. Seriously? I feel horrible for people that had to endure a bad Antonio, or Remendado, or Magician, or Li'l Bat. Companies are so used to young artists playing these roles for no money, they get dismissed half of the time. That really is a shame.
Sometimes is can be a disadvantage to one's career to be good in small parts. Anton Coppola told me many times he couldn't hire me as Don Jose because he would have a way harder time casting the gypsies. He said having people in small roles whom he doesn't have to worry about is worth its weight in gold. Having seen how a bad walk-on can derail an entire production, I can see his point.
I sincerely hope there are more henchmen in my future. I have a Beadle and another pirate coming up, not to mention the giant garbage pail kid in the ring cycle. This big performer loves coming in small packages. Wait, that didn't come out right. There are no small roles, only small actors, and I am in no way small. fuck it. You get the point.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Waiting for direction.

I have worked with hundreds of directors in my lifetime. I can count the number of them that actually knew what they were talking about on one hand. Apparently, the only criteria for being a stage director are 1) a healthy loathing for music and/ or theater 2) a bucket of contempt for actors and singers 3) A reasonable amount of dupes so that one can pad the resume.
I was in a production of Carmen where the director thought it would be great if we did the Les Miserables march step in place during the finale of the act 3 chorus. Gypsies marching in lockstep, seriously. The director of Lucia di Lammermoor, right after the first musical read through ended, asked the cast to gather around the piano so that he could "hear how the first scene went". Direct quote. A very famous director, during a new production of Porgy and Bess, decided to the make entire cast sit on the front of the stage with their legs dangling off during their rousing rendition of "Oh, I can't sit down." My wife asked her if she was being ironic and the director asked her to take her poodles out for a pee. I have had numerous directors in numerous shows shove me into a scene that I was not supposed to be in, for the direct purpose of singing in the chorus, even if I wasn't chorus. In one of them, I had died in an earlier scene.
Recently, I had a Shakespearean director make an impassioned, hour-long speech about character preparation and motivation. We would be tested, he said, on the reasons we made certain choices, and not knowing was not acceptable. In the next rehearsal, he had us beat up a character for no reason, out of nowhere. "Grab some stuff, put it on him, twirl him if you want, tie him up, leave him." I asked if we could add something earlier in the show that would set up this seemingly random action so that it would make sense. "Yeah, that would be great. Do whatever." Three days of "whatever" later, we had an impassioned, hour long speech about only doing what the director tells you. Improv is not acceptable. Thanks, Shakespeare guy.
Now I'm doing a musical with a director who thinks the show is crap, and therefore we must nod and wink ourselves through the entire production. Hey audience, we GET it! It's CRAP, see? Wink, wink. Have a hackneyed cliché and some choreography from Music Man! Oh, and by the way, we need you to sing in the chorus.
What the fuck is wrong with these people? If they hate the art form so much, why do they do it? What's wrong with a tiny bit of research, and maybe just a teensie bit of continuity? I love anachronisms as much as the next guy, but I loathe it as a directing style.
Of course, this leads to the question, "OK, dipshit, if you know so much, why don't you direct?"
Frankly, I'd love to. I don't know how to get started, but I think I have the requisite amount of contempt, especially if I had a couple of directors in the cast.

Friday, September 18, 2009

It's been a long time...

I shouldn'ta left you
without a dope rhyme to step to.
Sorry, oh snark worshipping folk. After a bout of month long ho hums followed by an insanely large, terribly directed and overwhelmingly talent-filled mega-musical, I feel like I'm back in the saddle of my life. So, now I can truly get back to bitching about it.
The show went great for me, and not only did I meet a fabulous casting agent, but I got back in touch with a lot of people in the singing biz. For a while there it didn't look like moving back to Cali was a very good idea career-wise. There is no opera here outside of crappy "Guffman goes to the opera" organizations, or the really bigguns, which I am already affiliated with to some capacity. But I remembered something about myself these last couple of months. I like musical theater. I always forget that, until I do another show. I would rather do Gypsy than Boheme any day of the week. And Cali has got MT coming out of its disneyfied cornhole. There is nothing like it in NY. There is opera and there are musicals and by design, the twain shall never meet. I think that is why I found myself doing new American opera so much; it was the closest I could get to campy musical theater without being a twink.
I've found that operatic training goes a long way to forgiving my weight on the CLO circuit. I have already landed my next two gigs, which will pretty much take me right up to the time I start ...



Monday, April 27, 2009

5 reasons why Gandalf is better than Jesus

I have often thought that what we worship is mostly luck and timing, and if The Lord of the Rings was printed on the Dead Sea Scrolls we would be worshipping Gandalf, Sam and Frodo instead of Isaiah, David and Jesus. That being said, I just think Gandalf has it all over Jesus in a head to head comparison. Let's break it down:

1) Gandalf was resurrected and actually completed his task.

Jesus promised his disciples he would return within their lifetimes (Mark 9:1). Whoopsie. Gandalf came back in the middle of the second book. Take that, Mormons!

2) Bread, fish and wine vs. weed and fireworks? No contest.

I'm sure both these gentlemen were fun at parties. Anyone who can keep the party going after the food and drink has run out has hero potential. However, fireworks that turn into life-sized dragons, especially on a halfling leaf bender? I think the wizard gets the edge on coolness.

3) Jesus' friends were all kinda douchebags.

You think Aragorn would have fallen asleep in Gethsemane? You think Gimli would have denied Gandalf 3 times? You think Legolas would have gone to Saruman for 30 pieces of silver?
With friends like Peter, John, James, and Judas, who needs enemas?

4) Gandalf slew his demon, Jesus just moved his into pigs.

Gandalf fell through multiple planes of existence to kill the Balrog. Jesus didn't eat for a couple of weeks in the desert. I mean, come on. Jesus only lasted 3 days on a cross. It usually takes weeks to die.
Jesus was sort of a pussy, seriously.

5) Sermon on the Mount vs. advice in Moria.

Well, the sermon on the mount is pretty good. I'll give ya that one. I won't bore you with the details of it, but Gandalf wins just on succinctness.
"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
Very Zen, very Yoda-esque, and he didn't need a mount nor a multitude, just a word from the heart and a stalwart example.

So, there you go.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Movie recommendation: Rachel Getting Married

Usually, I hate rehab films. "When a Man Loves a Woman" made me want to kill myself and "28 Days" made me want to kill Sandra Bullock. I am a huge fan of Augusten Burrows, but the ending of Dry ruined the entire book with AA preachiness, much like Brideshead Revisited's ending was polluted with Catholic drivel. So when my wife brings home "Rachel Getting Married", I spent a good five minutes wondering if I would be better off watching "Hell's Kitchen" in the other room. 
I'm glad I didn't.
Yeah, this movie had the same old predictable, simplistic, manipulative, dysfunctional plot, but what was really interesting and different was the functional wedding. From the rehearsal dinner through the wedding reception, the party was wild, heart-felt, multi-cultural, comfortable, loving, and wicked fun. It was a wedding I wish I were invited to, and I don't say that very often, if ever. Jonathan Demme took a page from Robert Altman in the filming, but added unbelievable musical moments, including two performances by Robyn Hitchcock, and the lead singer of TV on the Radio crooning Neil Young for his bride-to-be. That's just cool.
Do yourself a favor: Rent it, take a lot of breaks, and ignore the plot. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hey Mormons, my gay dog is better than you...but probably not as gay.

Few know the actual reasons for our relocation to California because Butterbean wanted to keep it low profile. He left his band and his gay lover of 3 years, Rupert McNoodle (a self-loathing gay republican, unapologetic racist and scheisse fetishist), in order to campaign against Proposition 8 at a grassroots level. No longer could he sleep idly by and let this injustice stand. We could get on board, or he would go it alone.
Thanks to the machinations of the Mormon church, the struggle for equality in the most progressive state in the U.S. has been endlessly frustrating. Preying on the small-mindedness of its constituency has always been the church's strength, and the funneling of tax exempt monies, bullying and fear-mongering have seemed to achieve the desired result. I tried to explain to the dog that I had lived in Salt Lake City for a number of years and still can't understand why a male culture that was so openly embracing of the gay lifestyle (deep-seated obsessions with thinness, grooming, and light-hearted musicals) would be so outwardly hostile to it. I mean, think about it. They take male youths at the peak of their sexuality, ship them off to foreign lands and proselytize about dirty, sweaty sins to nubile youths in banana hammocks. Butterbean thinks there is a little more to it. He has surmised that Mormons don't want the state involved in the definition of any marriage. Why, you ask? Because they are all pissed off about having polygamy outlawed. If they can't marry who they want, then Moroni-damn-it, noone can. It's an interesting theory, but I don't think another wife or 4 would make mor-men want a cock in the pooper any less.
Butterbean struggles on. He has met a nice chihuahua mix (named Coach) who shares the same passion in equal rights for all dogs; gay, straight, or polyamorous. They are in the preliminary stages of marketing their new product: The Harvey Milkbone. "Change their hearts and minds with commerce!" Coach has been known to shout, when he's not licking his own balls anyway.