Sunday, July 20, 2008

The True Meaning of Love ...

... is taking your kid to American Idols Live 2008.

Holy Money Grab.

Most Disturbing (yet hilariously true) Moment: While runner-up Idol David Archuleta was warbling along, he was bathed in a light that was blatantly phallic.

There was a circular outcropping at the front of the stage and it was awash in white light that extended past the little fellah in a ramrod straight line and ended with a bulbous flourish just beyond.

And if that wasn't enough — and, again, I am crapping you negative — swirling around the circular ball-sac-ish outcropping were dozens of very sperm-ish-looking lights. Lisa and I nearly choked on our Cracker Jacks and bargain-basement $7 flat Bud Lights. Never in my life have I seen so many parents looking around for independent confirmation of what they were witnessing.

Then ... then! ... at the end of Archuleta's song, the sperm lights exited in unison — as if the music gods had just climaxed (a wet dream, no doubt, since they surely were asleep by that point.)

It was a bizarre sedative of a concert — complete with a gigantic Pop-Tart mascot, a desultory Guitar Hero video game contest, all the female performers mechanically shaking booty (except piano-bound Brooke White) as if the audience were full of drunk out-of-town businessmen armed with a stack of singles, and all 10 performers each imploring the crowd to make more noise — where only that Aussie dude Michael Johns seemed to inject any real fun or emotion into the proceedings.

In the end ...

Our daughter had the time of her life.

Upon reflection ... Greatest Concert Ever.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Love Letter ...

"The real job of any actor is to retain an urgent need to become a better actor."

The renowned acting teacher Larry Moss said something like that ... as far as I know. And, as is our custom at BrothersMcC, I didn't bother to look up the exact quote. I liked this one just fine. It struck me as truthful.

And difficult to fulfill.

When I first moved to New York to pursue acting — shortly after FDR left office — I had seen exactly zero plays.

Actually, that's not true — my high school buddies and I went to Archbishop Carroll's production of Inherit The Wind. We snuck beers in and, being the assholes we were, laughed out loud during all the dramatic moments.

Talk about denial ...

Anyway ....

The first play I ever witnessed — sober — was the original production of Burn This by Lanford Wilson at the Plymouth Theater.

I had been in New York just a few months and had done little but tend bar, drink with an angry focus and expand my working knowledge of recreational drugs. I could not have been further from being an actor. I was beginning to think I had made the worst mistake of my life.

Then John Malkovich made his entrance in Burn This and two and a half hours later, all doubt had been scorched away. If ever I could do to someone else what Malkovich did to me that night, it would be worth any humiliation, hardship or hangover. I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

In the intervening years, I've been able to scrape together work as an actor.

But I also drifted about as far as one could from that night at the Plymouth Theater. I effectively gave up the theater — not that the theater was knocking my door down or anything but ... I became that dude — the one waiting for the phone to ring, dying for that next chance to be "Cop #2" on CSI — which, coincidentally, I am currently available for, if Carol Kritzer is reading this blog — and I think we all know she is.

I have spent an inordinate amount of time doing — and pursuing — work of dubious artistic worth. But that's the gig for 96% of us and that is cool (surprisingly — health insurance, mortgage payments and food aren't included with your SAG card) — as long as there is something else. I mean, after a while, the question has to be revisited — "Why the fuck did you become an actor in the first place ... and, more to the point, why are you still at it?"

Well, I was lucky enough to be reminded of both "why's" over and over again during the past two months — working on the play Stones in His Pockets by Marie Jones.

It was — by turns — frustrating, exhilarating, terrifying and joyful.

It was theater.

I felt like an actor.

And no amount of gratitude can convey how thankful I am to still have my hat in the ring.

Secure in the knowledge that I will never be nominated for any award any time soon (okay — maybe I have an outside shot at, say, "Creepiest Villain Who Bears An Uncanny Resemblance To Kevin Bacon") I will now thank the people who have instilled, nurtured and resurrected the 2nd greatest love affair in my life.

Whether you all share in my thanks and/or resurrection is another story entirely.

But screw it — why wait till they're all dead:

To Greg Zittel — A teacher of blinding intensity and fierce dedication to the creative spirit. Any seriousness of purpose I may have acquired as an actor came from him.

To Wynn Handman — Easily the most influential — and the best — acting teacher the country has seen in the last fifty years. If you don't believe me — just ask Alec Baldwin, James Caan, Kathleen Chalfant, Chris Cooper, Michael Douglas, Allison Janney, Frank Langella, John Leguizamo, Mira Sorvino, Christopher Walken, Denzel Washington, and Joanne Woodward.

To my students — As flaky and kooky as they are, they have no idea how much they have taught me. I'm in their debt ... not monetarily, of course (just so there's no confusion on the first Tuesday of the month)

To Jimmy Bohr — Improbably, we've both ended up in Columbus, OH. Not so improbably, he is the best director I've ever worked with. His patience and insight made Stones In His Pockets an experience that will be difficult to top. And, Jesus Christ Almighty, does he make unreal German potato salad.

To Jon Osbeck — Who knew a Swedish half-Jew could pull off six Irish characters, a Scottish bodyguard and a chick ... and be a better Irish step dancer than I am? And the fucker built our deck. And he plays piano. And he can sing.
On second thought, let's beat the shit out of him.

To Lisa — I don't know ... I assume every actor has a spouse who says "Hey, I have an idea — let's form a company and do Irish theater. And if you drag your feet, I'll keep after you because — you moody, thick bastard — I know a great idea when I have one even if you don't. So we're doing this play and I know you'll take all the credit afterward but that's cool because I'll know the truth and that's good enough for me."

Well, Lisa, now everyone (or at least the eight people who read this blog) knows the truth. You are extraordinary.