“In the Book Of” at Taproot Theatre

BookOf_FBbanner_500x185Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present my current theatrical project?

I give you: “In the Book Of” by John Walch at Taproot Theatre.

From Taproot’s website: “Lieutenant Naomi Watkins returns stateside and opens her home to faithful friend and Afghan translator, Anisah. When Anisah’s visa is called into question the whole town goes to war over this suspicious stranger. But as fireflies light up the night, romance launches a stealth attack showing us that anything can happen.”

This is a big play, with wide-ranging subject matter and clear resonance with the complex difficulties we find ourselves facing today. In my faith tradition, this time of year is one of reflection and this play is excellent food for thought and discussion.

We open March 28, and perform until April 26.

For ticket information, click the banner or link above to be magically whisked away to Taproot’s website! See you at the theatre!

Greetings, Sky Defenders!

Airship Daedalus CD'sAirship Daedalus is live! It lives! It’s been a while since I last posted, even tangentially, about this project, but I’m really excited to be able to share it with you now.

For those of you who loved the Indiana Jones films (well, except for that last one), The Rocketeer, The High Road to China, or, for the slightly more nerdy: for those of you who seek out and listen to radio adventure serials from ‘Radio’s Golden Age’ (and you know when that was), THIS IS FOR YOU!

I voice the dashing Captain Jack “Stratosphere” McGraw, the leader of an intrepid crew of adventurers aboard the Airship Daedalus II, traveling the globe to prevent the diabolical schemes of Alister Crowley and his evil army, the Astrum Argentinium.

Sounds like fun? You BET it does!

Check it out:

Airship Daedalus Radio Adventures HQ

Airship Daedalus on Facebook

Airship Daedalus on Amazon

Ketchup. Catsup? Catch-up.

So, it’s been a while. Those awkward moments when you attempt to re-establish a rapport after months away from a colleague, you know, the person you had that ‘finish-each-other’s-jokes’ vibe with; you know those moments. I hate those moments. I’m going to bullet-point this update just to get through with it, and then we can carry on like we used to back in ’13 (or maybe ’12).

Joseph Coors and executives re-shape the world- with dance.

Watt?!?. Village Originals Developmental Production. Photo by Sam Freeman. Property of Village Theatre.

August, 2013“WATT?!?” was a big, vulgar, funny, provocative success during Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals. We got great receptions from our audiences, provoked lively discussion, and came a way learning a little something . . . about ourselves. (The more you know!) Last December, I was even privileged to re-unite with my “WATT?!?” cast-mates (you know who you are), band (ditto), musical director (Aaron Jodoin) and composer (the ever-awesome Brendan Milburn) to record the premiere cast album at Seattle’s famed Studio X (some minor bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, R.E.M.,  and Soundgarden recorded some marginally significant albums there.)

September, 2013 – Vacation. Mexico, baby.

September, 2013 – Rehearsals for  . . .

MuchAdoPoster-225x300

October, 2013 Much Ado About Nothing at Seattle Shakespeare Company. Really, there’s far too much for me to say about my experience in this show. I was given the opportunity to play one of the roles that got me interested in Shakespeare, and in Theatre. I was acting opposite a fantastic Beatrice, and with a tremendous cast of familiar and new faces. I was working with a director I for whom I have tremendous respect and with a company that has been one of my artistic homes. It was a dream job, and my hope is that I did justice to the role, and allowed the audience to enjoy what is one of my favorite plays. I haven’t read them (another post for another time), but I’ve attached some links to some of the notices we received from local reviewers:

Seattle Times- Seattle Shakespeare stages a jazzy, ’50s-set ‘Much Ado’

Seattle Weekly- Opening Nights: Much Ado About Nothing

Heed The Hedonist- Two Plays Worth Seeing End November 17th

Arts Stage- Seattle Rage- “Much Ado About Nothing” presented by Seattle Shakespeare Company       

Seattle Gay News- Love wins out – Seattle Shakespeare Co. jazzes up a romantic comedy classic

Jim Gall as Don Pedro, Matt Shimkus as Benedick, and Jay Myers as Claudio in Seattle Shakespeare Company's 2013 production of "Much Ado About Nothing"

Jim Gall as Don Pedro, Matt Shimkus as Benedick, and Jay Myers as Claudio in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s 2013 production of “Much Ado About Nothing”

Matt Shimkus as Benedick in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s 2013 production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” Photo by John Ulman.

Matt Shimkus as Benedick in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s 2013 production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” Photo by John Ulman.

Jennifer Lee Taylor as Beatrice and Matt Shimkus as Benedick in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s 2013 production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” Photo by John Ulman.

Jennifer Lee Taylor as Beatrice and Matt Shimkus as Benedick in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s 2013 production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” Photo by John Ulman.

So, there you have it! The latest news (a mere few months old)!

There is more to come, very soon!

And this time, I really mean it.

Dude! You’re destroying the Earth, man dude!

Watt-bannerJames G. Watt has become something of a punch-line in discussions of U.S. politics in the 1980’s. Now, there’s a whole musical play about him, and I’m in it along with some of Seattle’s finest. Below is the blurb from the Village Theatre website. Click the link below or the banner above for more information, along with performance times, and ticketing. See you after the show!
WATT?!?

A Village Originals Developmental Production

With book and lyrics penned by 12-time Emmy Award-winning David Javerbaum (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All), this over-the-top political satire musical is based on the true story of James Watt, Ronald Reagan’s infamous Secretary of the Interior. Watt is best remembered for opening millions of acres of federal land for exploitation, banning the Beach Boys from 4th of July festivities, and successfully offending nearly everyone he came across. An eclectic score by Jonathan Larson Award-winner Brendan Milburn boasts music ranging from gospel, to rock, to country, making this a brazen musical experience unlike anything you’ve seen before.

August 9-18, 2013

Matt at Taproot in “Bach at Leipzig”

Bach at Leipzig - Taproot Theatre 2013

Bach at Leipzig – Taproot Theatre 2013

Even though it is the middle of audition season here in the greater Seattle area, production continues, as ever, as companies put up their last few shows before the summer. There has been some great work on the boards this spring, with lauded productions like NCTC’s The Trial, Balagan’s August: Osage County, ACT Theatre’s Assisted Living, Seattle Rep’s Boeing, Boeing, Seattle Shakespeare’s indoor re-mount of Wooden O’s The Taming of the Shrew, and Taproot’s The Whipping Man, just to name a few.

I hope to carry that baton as well in Taproot Theatre’s production of Itamar Moses’ Bach at Leipzig. A bit of background, cribbed from the back of the script:

“Leipzig, Germany – 1722. Johann Kuhnau, revered organist of the Thomaskirche, suddenly dies, leaving his post vacant. The town council invites musicians from across Germany to audition for the coveted position, among them young Johann Sebastian Bach. In an age where musicians depend on patronage from the nobility or the church to pursue their craft, the post of a prominent church in a cultured city is a near guarantee of fame and fortune – which is why some of the candidates are willing to resort to any lengths to secure it. Bach at Leipzig is a fugue-like farcical web of bribery, blackmail, and betrayal set against the backdrop of Enlightenment questions about humanity, God, and art.”

Sound like your cup of tea? Want glittering, witty dialogue, tights and wigs, and some swordplay? Itamar Moses’ script is a multi-faceted gem of intelligence, character, and comedy, with depth to surprise and ideas to challenge you to think further.

Being a reader of discernment and excellent taste (as demonstrated by your choice of electronic literature, ahem): I know this show is for you. Click the banner above to be magically whisked away to Taproot’s webpage for information on dates, times, and how to get your hands on what is sure to be a hot ticket.

Movin’ on (up?)

There’s always something to closing a show. Whether it’s wrapping a film, closing night, or the end of the tour, there’s a combination of feelings that leave you a little drained the next morning, regardless of the experience you had doing the work, or the beverages you imbibed at the party the night before.

For me, I usually find that for the first week or so, I miss the routine and the people that make live performing so unique. I miss my role. I find myself mumbling lines from the play to myself in the checkout line at the supermarket, or to my family members. Your fellow actors, the crew, the theatre’s staff are all an everyday part of your life in a way that approaches family. You’ve made friends onstage and off. You’ve lived with another person (your character) for every minute of every day of rehearsal, through performance. Whether you admit to it or not, you miss them.

After that, regardless of whether or not I have a gig to look forward to, I wonder if that might have just been my last play/film.  Rational or not, I always have the sinking feeling that my career might just be at an end with my last project. It’s a difficult business in which to persist. Those of you with ‘secure’ jobs, just try interviewing for a new job every couple weeks (or, often, more frequently), pile up a stack of rejections in hope that one interview will hit and you’ll be able to work for a couple months. Rinse and repeat. It transforms how you consider your future.

Then, there’s the fire and determination to get back in the saddle/on the boards/in front of the camera again. Ask nearly any working actor, and they’ll tell you to get out of the business unless it’s the ONLY thing you can do. An unquenchable thirst needs to exist to do the work of storytelling in theatre in order to make the sacrifices worth the time, the stress, the heartache, and the effort of making a life in the performing arts.

Here’s to the next project!

Jeeves? Fetch my Blog, will you?

Taproot Jeeves in Bloom BannerHappy New Year! Yes, yes, I know it’s been too long since I last posted, and for that, I’m truly sorry. For those of you seeking news about my theatrical exploits, wait no longer: here’s the dish:

I’m in a fully sold-out comedy on the boards of Taproot Theatre in the beautiful Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. I defy you to purchase tickets. Can’t be done. They’re all sold. Unless you want a standing room ticket (those with arthritic knees/hips need not apply.)

Adapted from the famous “Jeeves and Wooster” stories of British humorist P.G. Wodehouse, Margaret Raether’s “Jeeves in Bloom” follows the hapless Bertie Wooster and his ‘gentleman’s gentleman’ Jeeves (portrayed by, well, me) and their misadventures in the gardens of an English country manor.

Some reviews, for your perusal:

The Seattle Times: ‘Jeeves in Bloom’ a valentine to Wodehouse fans.

Seattle PI: Jeeves Definitely Blooms

Examiner.com: Taproot Lightens up Winter Gloom

Edgeseattle.com: Jeeves in Bloom

To have a show sell out is a real privilege, and I have truly enjoyed bringing our version of Sir Wodehouse and Mrs. Raether’s ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ to the Seattle community.

There are projects on the horizon. Stay tuned (or, maybe check back in a couple weeks) for more!

A Facebook find about Theatre

Arthur Penn, Director

Arthur Penn, Director

Finally, something actually worth reading. Facebook actually came through. Thanks, Mark Cabus, for posting this. Shared without further comment:

“I do not want to know another thing about what a nice guy or gal someone on the stage is: This is entirely irrelevant to me. Some sort of desperation has crept into our theatre–all of our arts, really, but we’re discussing theatre–where we feel a defensive wall is erected around the meretriciousness of our work by highlighting how hard someone has worked; how many hours they’ve put in at the soup kitchen; how many hours they spent researching the aphasic mind in order to replicate the actions of one; how many ribbons sweep across their breast in support of causes; how much they love their lives and how lucky they feel to be on Broadway!

There is very little art, but there is a great deal of boosterism. Fill the seats; buy a T-shirt; post something on the Internet; send out an e-mail blast.I’m in my eighties, and I think I should have left this earth never knowing what an e-mail blast was.

I saw a play recently that was festooned with understudies: Not the actual understudies, but the hired, primary actors, all of whom performed (if that is the word) precisely like a competent, frightened understudy who got a call at dinner and who raced down to take over a role. No depth; no sense of preparation. These were actors who had learned their lines and who had showed up. And that is all.

I spoke to the director afterwards. By all accounts a nice and talented and smart guy. I asked him why a particular part in this play–a Group Theatre classic–had been given to this certain actor. He’s a great guy, was the response. Prince of a fellow. Well, perhaps, but send him home to be a prince to his wife and children; he is a shattering mediocrity. But nice and easy counts far too much these days. Another director told me–proudly–that he had just completed his third play in which there wasn’t one difficult player; not one distraction; not one argument. Can I add that these were among the most boring plays of our time? They were like finely buffed episodes of Philco Playhouse: tidy, neat, pre-digested, and forgotten almost immediately, save for the rage I felt at another missed opportunity.

All great work comes to us through various forms of friction. I like this friction; I thrive on it. I keep hearing that Kim Stanley was difficult. Yes, she was: in the best sense of the word. She questioned everything; nailed everything down; got answers; motivated everyone to work at her demonically high standard. Everyone improved, as did the project on which she was working, whether it was a scene in class, a TV project, a film, or a play. Is that difficult? Bring more of them on.

Is Dustin Hoffman difficult? You bet. He wants it right; he wants everything right, and that means you and that means me. I find it exhilarating, but in our current culture, they would prefer someone who arrived on time, shared pictures of the family, hugged everyone and reminded them of how blessed he is to be in a play, and who does whatever the director asks of him.

Is Warren Beatty difficult? Only if you’re mediocre or lazy. If you work hard and well, he’s got your back, your front, and your future well in hand. He gets things right–for everybody.

No friction. No interest. No play. No film. It’s very depressing.

I don’t want to know about your process. I want to see the results of it. I’ll gladly help an actor replicate and preserve and share whatever results from all the work that has been done on a part, but I don’t want to hear about it. I’ve worked with actors who read a play a couple of times and fully understood their characters and gave hundreds of brilliant performances. I don’t know how they reached that high level of acting, and I don’t care. My job is to provide a safe environment, to hold you to the high standards that have been set by the playwright, the other actors, and by me. I hold it all together, but I don’t need to know that your second-act scene is so true because you drew upon the death of your beloved aunt or the time your father burned your favorite doll.

Now the process is public, and actors want acclimation for the work they’ve put into the work that doesn’t work. Is this insane? Read the newspapers, and there is an actor talking about his intentions with a part. I’ve pulled strands of O’Neill into this character, and I’m looking at certain paintings and photographs to gain a certain texture. And then you go to the theatre and see the performance of a frightened understudy. But a great gal or guy. Sweet. Loves the theatre.

Every year or so, I tell myself I’m going to stop going to see plays. It’s just too depressing. But I remember how much I love what theatre can be and what theatre was, and I go back, an old addict, an old whore who wants to get the spark going again.

I don’t think we can get the spark going again because the people working in the theatre today never saw the spark, so they can’t get it going or keep it going if it walked right up to them and asked for a seat.

It’s a job, a career step, a rehabilitation for a failed TV star or aging film star. I got a call from one of these actresses, seeking coaching. I need my cred back, she said.

This is not what the theatre is supposed to be, but it is what the theatre now is.

I don’t want to just shit on the theatre: It’s bad everywhere, because it’s all business, real-estate space with actors. It’s no longer something vital. I used to think that the theatre was like a good newspaper: It provided a service; people wanted and needed it; revenue was provided by advertisers who bought space if the paper delivered, but profit was not the motive–the motive was the dissemination of truth and news and humor. Who goes to the theatre at all now? I think those in the theatre go because it’s an occupational requirement: They want to keep an eye on what the other guys are going, and they want to rubberneck backstage with those who might use them in the future. But who are the audiences? They want relief not enlightenment. They want ease. This is fatal.

I talk to Sidney Lumet. I talk to Mike Nichols. I ask them if I’m the crazy old man who hates everything. You might be, they say, but you’re not wrong. They have the same feelings, but they work them out or work around them in different ways.

The primary challenges of the theatre should not always be getting people to give a shit about it. The primary challenge should be to produce plays that reach out to people and change their lives. Theatre is not an event, like a hayride or a junior prom–it’s an artistic, emotional experience in which people who have privately worked out their stories share them with a group of people who are, without their knowledge, their friends, their peers, their equals, their partners on a remarkable ride.” ~~ director ARTHUR PENN

An unlikely lesson from “Music and Lyrics”

Music and Lyrics- 2007

Music and Lyrics- 2007

As artists, we sometimes find ourselves taking projects just to keep working. The performing arts can oftentimes be a ‘what have you done for me lately’ industry, where your most recent effort on  stage or screen becomes the entirety of how you’re viewed. To keep yourself in the eye of people who could/should be hiring you in the future, and to prevent the formation of artistic ‘rust’, you continue to work.
I know, as an actor that work itself is hard enough to come by, and completing roughly 3 full productions a year, plus or minus film work and voice-over gigs, is a pretty good pace. However, I’m not always doing the work I have a desire to do; the work that inspires and compels me to do it.

Which brings me to “Music and Lyrics,” the 2007 romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant. I really was taken with this film, because I love music, lyrics, romantic comedies, Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. It’s a story about honesty, artistic excellence, and integrity. Oh yeah, and two really neat characters fall in love. Formulaic? Yes, however there’s some great stuff in the formula, and it’s executed so well that I find myself drawn nearer to the characters, themes, and plot, rather than distanced from them.

In it, Hugh Grant’s character, an aging 1980’s pop star coming to terms with his nostalgic fame and lowered expectations says, referring to his accomplishments in light of his greatest musical influences (Smoky Robinson, Bob Dylan): “They write DINNER. I write dessert.”

Dinner. A satisfying meal that sustains one through the night. Simple or complex, it is artistic food he’s getting at. While I’ve grown through each project, developed as a performer and refined my craft with each opportunity to work and perform, I find myself really yearning for those fulfilling roles. The ones that stick to the audiences’ ribs. The roles people take home with them. I’ve had a taste of this in the last year and a half. I’ve had the great fortune to bring Dietrich Bonhoeffer and C.S. Lewis to the stage. I’ve also left my mark as Aguecheek in ‘Twelfth Night’ and formed part of a tremendous ensemble in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’. I stand behind all my work, but I find myself hungry again.

As another year draws to a close, I find myself making lists (it’s a compulsion of mine) and thinking about the year to come. A colleague recently asked me what roles I WANT. Not what roles I could be interested in, but what I desire to do; roles with words that compel me to speak them. What roles do I want?

I want dinner.