Reviews

The promotional performance at Sidetrack on Monday night for Under A Rainbow Flag went very well.  People were quite receptive to the music and we handed out a ton of flyers after we sang our two songs.  Hopefully that will translate into a few more butts in the seats for the remaining shows.  Additionally we have been getting some buzz, good and bad, with some of the reviews that have come out.

Paul Thompson from Broadwayworld.com wrote us a wonderful review, and I had the good fortune of meeting him on Monday night after our preview.  We also got favorably reviewed in Chicago Critic as well as Chicago Stage Standard.  Thought it isn’t a full review Best Gay Chicago called us a “Must See” and 5 pink crowns.  The review from Time Out Chicago wasn’t as positive as we were hoping for but the issues they took came from the script and the score not the actors. In addition to being Jeff Recommended we are also Chicago Reader recommended!

I am exceptionally excited with the feedback we have been getting and I can’t wait to get back to the show tomorrow night!

Jeff Recommended

What an absolutely amazing opening weekend.  I am so proud of my cast mates, our director, musical director, stage manager, designers, musicians….every single person that has been involved with Under A Rainbow Flag since the first staged reading. Thank you all so much for the hard work that you put into the show to make this opening weekend such a success.

Our performance on opening night was by no means perfect.  I know that I missed a couple dance steps among other slight hiccups (that only the people who have been with the show would notice) throughout the night, but, and I kid you not, they laughed they cried. We were all having a very fun time and the energy was fantastic.  Everything you could hope for in an opening night.  Overall I was pleased with my performance but I am also continuing to look for and make new discoveries with my character.  Paul Gibbs is an interesting man.

This morning when I found out that we were Jeff Recommended I was so excited that I couldn’t wait to get to the matinee performance.  The Recommendation means that 7 judges saw the show opening night and enough of them liked enough things about our show so that now the remaining 20ish other judges will come see the show.  Now this does not mean we are Jeff Nominated, we won’t find that out for a few weeks, but I will certainly be posting about that if it happens.

Tomorrow night, we are performing a promotional segment of 2 songs at Sidetrack during Musical Monday.  We will be going onstage at 10:30, right in the middle of busy time…peeps got connections I guess.  Then hanging out, drinking and singing show tunes. Nice.

Opening Night Under A Rainbow Flag

In life you plan, train, practice, rehearse, re think, adjust, tweak, change, and prepare as best as you can for your moments.  Whether that is a presentation, a game, a test or any other number of important things.  Sometimes you are nervous and scared, other times you are excited and ready, but no matter how much preparation you do, eventually, you have to take a deep breath and go for it.

Fortunately, for myself, I am in the latter position in regards to my opening night feelings for our performance of Under A Rainbow Flag.  I have been involved with this show for about a year now and having seen the changes it has gone through, both in script/composition as well overall feel, I am confident and proud to say that this show is ready to be performed in front of an audience…hopefully a large one.  All of the people in this show are exceptionally talented and that isn’t limited to the actors.  The director, designers, musicians, stage manager, choreographers…everyone has brought an incredible amount of passion and dedication to this project.  We are ready.  Hopefully you will be able to join us for a show, we run for 5 weeks and I would love to see you in the audience.  I will also post reviews, good or bad, if they come out.

TICKETS CAN BE BOUGHT HERE

UARF Poster

Post Princess Bride

As you wish, to every single person who came to the show, tried to come to the show, lives outside of Chicago and told me that if they could they would have come to seen the show! It was a wonderful smashing success and I really could not be more pleased with how amazing the show turned out.  We took many pictures during the show and I will try to post some of those here once I get copies of them.  To all those who weren’t able to make it I do have this little treat for you:

Working with Dave Gonzalez (and Nick Toussaint, Inigo from our Saturday show) was really fun because this man is not only an incredibly talented actor but the dude really knows how to fight well.

So. Much. Fun. If any of you were ever thinking of getting me a gift (for some reason) you don’t need to ever ask me what I want because the answer is simple: Fighting gear.  This includes swords of all kind, daggers, knives, gauntlets, gloves and anything else that could be used in a stage combat scenario.  One last time, to all the people who were involved with this show in any way I love you.

Princess Bride Opening Night

What a wonderful opening night my friends and I got to experience last night!!!  The show went quite well but in the aftermath of the performance we started doing a little bit of reflecting and the things we realized were remarkable:

  • First rehearsal was on January 17th
  • We only had 16 total rehearsals
  • Of those 16 rehearsals we NEVER had the whole cast together
  • 4 of those rehearsals we did with a guest director
  • We did our Cue to Cue rehearsals without our light board operator
  • We had a stage manager for the first 11 rehearsals but not the last 5 and not for the run of the show.
  • The first time we ran the show with the entire cast was the opening night performance…

Not to be excluded are things like some of our ensemble members went above and beyond with contributions to costume, props and set work.  On Saturday night one of the ensemble will be stepping in to play the role of Inigo Montoya. Our Count Rugen is also running the sound for the show. We are going to end up meeting our ticket sales goal and make money for Edge Youth Theatre…The list just goes on and on.  I know that I want to work with all of these people again in the future and I hope that it happens.  Another sold out show tonight and hopefully we will sell the last few tickets for Sunday to make it a sold out run!  To all those who see the show and to all those who took the time to look at my website, as you wish.

Westley and Buttercup

Westley and Buttercup in The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride

Ladies and gentleman I have been having an absolute blast the last 4 weeks preparing for this weekend.  Edge Professional Theater company will be performing a stage adaptation of The Princess Bride as a fundraiser for youth theater and I am fortunate enough to be playing the role of Westley.  The entire process has been a labor of love and here is a little movie trailer style preview of the show

Movie trailer on facebook 

Tickets are still available and I would love it if every show was completely sold out so that we could help raise as much money as possible for children’s theater.  The group of artists that I have been privileged enough to work with is incredible and I truly hope that I get to work with each of them again.  Originally I thought that fighting left handed was going to be the most difficult part of this show but I was mistaken, I guess that having two left handed parents means I have some of that skill somewhere in my DNA.  The most difficult task has been focusing on my life outside of this show because I honestly just wanted to keep working on Princess Bride everyday.  Come see the show and remember, every single one of you that reads this, “As you wish.”

Planning

When you are working as an actor and setting your own schedule one thing that is often overlooked, by myself at least, is to schedule days off.  It seems like an odd thing because I am constantly doing exactly what I want to be doing: Acting.  The problem is that sometimes you do need to step away from what you love, just to realize how much you love it.  So today I got together with my friend Carey (who is all sorts of awesome) and we planned out roughly a week of our schedules making sure to include a day off.  I’m going to go ahead and count today as my day off because later I am going to see Les Miserables and then just take it easy.  Tomorrow will be my first rehearsal for The Princess Bride as well as coaching speech and debate. I might get bored sometime later this evening and decide to listen to a new musical or read a script but mostly I am going to focus on just enjoying a relaxing day.

UPDATE: I put up 3 new videos in the Reel & Video section of my site, go check it out if you want to see some of the other work that I have done in the past few years.

2013…GO!

Well the year has been off to a fast and wonderful start.

On January 2nd I performed in a production of TRL (Television Requested Live) which is put on by A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre Company (ARFTCO) at Mary’s Attic on Clark and Balmoral.  The show is put on every month and it is a staged reading of 3 shows as well as some small sketches from SNL or MadTV or some other sketch comedy show. The shows are the first Wednesday of every month so if you are looking for something fun to do in February you should go check it out. 

On January 13th I was in another staged reading, this time it took place at The Piven Theatre up in Evanston.  The reading was of a new screenplay entitled The Bachelors about Bob Neal and Edgar Hellum, two men who were responsible for the restoration of 3 stone cottages in Mineral Point, Wisconsin during the 1930’s through the 70’s.  The process was absolutely amazing and I really hope that I get another opportunity to work with that script again.

Several other things have been happening but I will talk about them later.  Hopefully tomorrow. I need to get back into good habits about updating my site.  So 15 days into the new year I have finally updated in this new year….no more 15 day breaks this year.  2013…GO!

From Reading to Production

Earlier this year I was in a staged reading of a new musical titled Under a Rainbow Flag which was written by Leo Schwartz and put on stage by Pride Films and Plays, a company of which I am an ensemble member.  The story is about a group of gay soldiers in WWII and what their lives are like in the army before the term ‘gay’ was used in way that we use it today.  The staged reading was a very fun process because Leo was with us for the 5 rehearsal process and was taking notes, editing the script, tweaking music etc. the entire time.  Our performance took place at the Center on Halsted on the North Side of Chicago and was received very well by the audience that was in attendance.  So much so that the Artistic director of PFP decided that we would be doing a full scale production of the show as part of our companies next season.  I am very excited as I will be continuing my work with the production playing the character of Paul Gibbs.  The show will be running March 23rd – April 21st and will be at The Profiles Theatre Main Stage.  I will definitely have many more updates as the process gets underway but for now I am just very excited!

Metamorphoses

On Tuesday, November 20th I had the privilege of attending Metamorphoses, a production of The Lookingglass Theatre, at their main stage space downtown. Since moving to Chicago in 2010 I have had the good fortune of seeing a large number of shows, including some classic Greek productions, but none of them quite compared to the wonderful experience I had on Tuesday.

Metamorphoses, written and directed by Mary Zimmerman, is a play that has quite a developmental history dating back to 1989 when Ms. Zimmerman was staging a production of The Odyssey at Northwestern University during a summer program/class and she envisioned the entire production could, and in some ways should, be performed in/around a pool or body of water. Mary noticed that many stories in Greek literature and myth involved water and over the next 23 year Metamorphoses gradually became a fully realized piece being performed all over the country and garnering numerous awards, from Obie’s to Tony’s to Jeff’s, for direction, design, writing and performance to just name a few. Time Magazine called it “The Play of the Year” in 2001 when it was running in New York in off-Broadway at The Second Stage Theater. Metamorphoses is comprised of 11 vignettes based off the poem of the same name by Ovid.

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Picture of the set for Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman before the show began

The picture to the let displays the performance space that the audience got to view before the show.  No set pieces were flown in and only a few props were used throughout the production.  For myself, and I assume the majority of the audience,  the most eye-catching part of the set was the large pool of water (I estimate it was about 18’x40′) reflecting the lone chair and lights in the space.  The water was of an unknown depth and with the first two rows of audience members being given black towels, because they were going to get splashed, you could feel the potential energy that the pool provided to the space. The lights then dimmed, a pre show recording played and the show began…

ACTING (Usman Ally, Patrick Andrews, Anjali Bhimani, Lawrence E. DiStasi, Marilyn Dodds Frank, Anne Fogarty, Raymond Fox, Chris Kipiniak, Louise Lamson, Lauren Orkus) : The ensemble of 10 (5M 5W) did not have a weak player among the group.  The show calls for each actor to play at least one Main character in one of the vignettes as well as several supporting roles throughout the production.  Each actor did a wonderful job a creating unique, passionate, tragic, comedic characters that we are all familiar with for every scene that s/he was in.  Most of the characters are very one dimensional but that is the point! The energy required for the show was evident from the beginning and a testament to the physical shape that these actors keep themselves in.  Often times they would be tussling, dancing, even being submerged in the water for extended periods of time while also speaking (or yelling in a, thankfully, justified way) with another actor or even narrating the scene themselves.  I was continually impressed all the way up to the very end of the show.

DIRECTING: No wonder this show has won so many awards for its direction.  The use of the space was absolutely brilliant, with sight lines in the 3/4 thrust being constantly cleared to assure every audience member a fantastic view of all the action taking place on stage and brilliant use of all 7 different entrance/exit points .  The aforementioned actors were all managed exceptionally well to give a piece with so many different scenes a congruous overarching feel for the whole show while also maintaining the drama of each vignette individually.

SCENIC DESIGNER (Daniel Ostling): Though it is probably already clear at this point I must say it again, I loved the set. The pool was absolutely brilliant in and of itself but the deck around it was also very important.  The large door, chandelier, and cloud backdrop all complimented particular scenes and never distracted from action on the stage.

LIGHTING DESIGNER (T.J. Gerckens): Mind blowingly wonderful.  I could rave about the design but my favorite part was easily the use of lighting with King Midas.  How do you make everything he touches turn to gold? With incredibly well focused lights that transform the stage golden yellow with his every step and a perfectly placed special that transmutes his daughter when she jumps into his arms.  OK one other part, the scene with Eros and Psyche was done in almost darkness! Too many lighting designers forget about yin and yang and don’t use darkness enough.  Brilliant.

COSTUME DESIGNER (Mara Blumenfeld): I will never pretend that I know anything about costumes, or clothing in general, which is kind of a bummer because it means that I have no credibility to give.  The costumes were mostly classical in nature with a few modern touches here and there.  Overall I really enjoyed them and was never taken out of the show by a costuming choices.

SOUND DESIGNER (Andre Pluess) with ORIGINAL MUSIC (Willie Schwarz): The music and sound of the production only ever aided the action on stage and never got to the point where it was about the sounds and nothing else.  The soundtrack is available for purchase and if you have seen the show I have a feeling that if you put the music on it will magically be able to take you back into each one of the scenes as if they were unfolding in front of you again.

STAGE MANAGER (Cynthia Cahill): I really hope Cynthia was the one up in the booth calling the show the night I saw it because I know how important and amazing stage managers are.  They have to deal with so many different things and I just wanted to give Ms. Cahill a shout out for never being late (at least to the point where a first time viewer of the show would notice) on a single cue, light, sound or otherwise.  Thank you to all stage managers everywhere!

In summation! Go. See. This. Show.  It really is a remarkable production and I am so happy that this was my first experience at The Lookingglass Theatre and I look forward to seeing many more productions in the future.