“It’s the day of the show, y’all!”

BookOf_FBbanner_500x185Well, here it is: go time, the magic moment, curtain, butterflies and all that stuff. It’s opening night! In the Book Of at Taproot Theatre had it’s final preview performance last night, and tonight we open the show to the paying public.

I would write more, but what I have to say would make much more sense if you come and see, and hear what I’m talking about. Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much, let me sum up: We have a good one on our hands here, folks, at a good theatre that values and encourages further thought and discussion, a theatre that provokes and challenges it’s audience.

I wrote in a prior post that in my faith tradition, this time of year is one of reflection, contemplation, and a ‘return to God’. I don’t know how to manage that last one, honestly, but this show has brought me to reflection and contemplation. So, if you feel so moved, and like me, are in a time when a little reflection, a little contemplation, could be helpful, come check this play out.

See you after the show!

Hunting Demons since 2007 (er, earlier than that, but yeah!)

Children, it’s story time:

Once upon a time, I made some extremely shoestring-budget films with my college buddies. We were, and still are, nerds who like Star Trek and Dungeons and Dragons. With this confluence of influences, many of us actors at one time or another, and the available technology and willingness to make absolute fools of ourselves, we hit on the idea of filming the scripts of one Matt Vancil.

The first of these was Demon Hunters, quickly followed by Demon Hunters 2: Dead Camper Lake, and international cult hit The Gamers. I’m not making the international cult hit thing up, either. Copies of the DVD were sold to places like Finland, the UK of GB, the Baltic Republics (I’m looking at you, Lithuania) and many other fancy nations not in North America. All this was back in the days before digital streaming of videos, and we had to actually ship things physically from place to place, employing thousands of people rather than calling on our robot drone army to deliver items door-to-door.

After we’d finished filming The Gamers, I graduated from our liberal arts university, and being an ambitious nerd, moved to Chicago to attend graduate school.

While I was away from the beautiful Pacific Northwest, my friends incorporated themselves into a film company, Dead Gentlemen Productions. Under this aegis, they produced and filmed The Gamers: Dorkness Rising. For a while, in the early days of live streaming for Netflix, you could find it in their catalog. It was a big deal for the company, and totally raised the profile of our once little group of buddeez.

Not only had we entered the age of digital streaming, but my contact with the company changed as I moved to the middle of the continent  and pursued my theatrical training and career to obsession. It is, after all, what one is supposed to do in graduate school for theatre. It’s also at this point in the story that I lost track of the day-in, day-out goings on in the ‘company’. Things were changing in my absence, which is not to say that had I been present, they would’ve remained the same.

I returned to the Pacific Northwest for reasons romantic. My then-girlfriend (now wife) Emilie had just landed a great job in Tacoma, and I, in my naïveté, thought “Well, I can continue my acting career anywhere! There’s a major theatre in Tacoma (the now defunct Tacoma Actor’s Guild), and it’s just a short commute to Seattle! The Dead Gentlemen guys have more stuff in the works, and I get to be with the lady I love!”

Within 6 months of landing in Tacoma I had indeed landed on my feet and continued my theatrical career. I had booked a school tour with The 5th Avenue Theatre’s Adventure Musical Theatre outreach: “Klondike! The Great Alaskan Gold Rush”, and landed a role in “Once Upon a Time in New Jersey” at The Village Theatre in Issaquah. The ‘walking-distance’ theatre I’d once dreamed of working at closed its doors mid-season in ignominy over mismanagement and profligate spending. And Dead Gentlemen Productions, still alive and kicking despite several key members moving to other states for film school, jobs, and educational opportunities, was indeed about to embark on another project.

Which brings me to the point of all this historically-based rambling: the glory that is the Demon Hunters: Brotherhood Orientation Video. Filmed in early 2007, and published in a DVD included with Margaret Weis Productions’ Demon Hunters: Roleplaying Game, it is, in my opinion, the most fully realized vision of the original source material, and captures best the essence of what we were attempting to create with the first two Demon Hunter films.

I bring all this up, because the new Dead Gentlemen Productions website has launched! And with it, we have access to this jewel of low-budget, mixed-genre filmmaking. Enjoy!

 

Like what you see? There’s going to be more! The Dead Gentlemen return to their origin! From the DG website: “The Demon Hunters are back in a new weekly comic from Dead Gentlemen Productions! We’re taking things back to before the beginning with a new format, new stories, and a few surprises along the way. This is Demon Hunters the way it was always meant to be seen—without the limitations of a college film budget. Join the hunt on April 1st at Demon-Hunters.com!”

 

In Awe of Wizardry

In the collaborative world of the performing arts, in this case, theatre, an actor rarely finds his work performed in a vacuum (unless you’re into some craaazy performance art.) By this, I mean that not only does your work and craft exist on stage next to that of your scene partner, but your work is put before he audience in concert with the work of designers and builders of all the physical elements of the production, as well as the lighting designer, and the sound designer, choreographer, director.
At no time does this strike me more than during ‘tech’ rehearsals. It’s during these rehearsals, usually just before the first dress rehearsals and first audiences of a given work, that all the elements of production come together with the acting work done in the rehearsal hall, in a more or less organized way.

Gandalf and Radagast
And this brings me to the title of this post. I’m working with wizards. Yep. Long beards, interesting hats, magical staves, robes. Funny names, usually with a color in there somewhere. Wait. No.

I AM working with wizards. They may not stand out in the way they dress, or in their tonsorial or naming choices, but they do possess powers beyond my understanding.
Their creative gift and hard work brings an incredible amount of life and detail to the work we do as performers. For instance, in my current production “In the Book Of” at Taproot Theatre, I was particularly struck by the wizardry of our sound designer during last night’s tech rehearsal. As we heard some of the sounds that would be enriching our play for he first time, several of us were struck with the sheer power of the designer’s creation and his ability to bring us into the internal world of a character simply through music and sound. We were moved. And we knew a depth to our work we hadn’t experienced before. It was a sublime moment that I’m excited to get to share with our audience.

So come join us! Partake in some theatrical wizardry!

A Bit of Bad Luck

” Brooks Caldwell has it all: money, power, and a beautiful socialite wife. When Brooks makes plans for a weekend romp with his young mistress, his wife sets in motion an elaborate plot of revenge.”

Sounds fun, right?

A (gigantic) Tangent

Up here in southern Alaska, we’ve got something called Washington Filmworks. It’s a great organization with the stated goal to ” encourage growth in the film and video  production industry for the economic benefit of Washington State. By  offering productions extensive support–from location scouting to  financial incentives–we’re helping Washington State reemerge as a  premiere destination for motion picture production.”

A while ago, Washington, and Seattle were popular places to film. We had movies that put us on the map. “Sleepless in Seattle, ” anyone? But as producing film in Hollywood became more expensive, many US states began to subsidize film production to attract producers to make films away from Los Angeles, for less money. Maximize those profits, capitalists! The era of ‘Runaway Produciton’ began quickly, and has not yet let up. Washington state was not as quick on the draw to subsidize film production, nor as generous as several other states, and was quickly losing out on opportunities to bring film jobs north from California.

Enter our hero: Washington Filmworks. Washington State has had a Film Office since the 1970’s, but Washington Filmworks merged with the state film office to create a cyborg of incubation, subsidy, and resource-gathering that has allowed local filmmakers to hone their craft, and the state to attract production, and jobs in the film industry for crew, and (most importantly for me) actors.

An important part of Washington Filmworks’ mission is incentivizing film production through the State’s Motion Picture Competitiveness Program. Money for movies.

Bad luck? No! Good luck.Bit of Bad Luck Poster

Especially for me. In 2012 I was cast in a film, partially funded by Washington Filmworks incentives. “A Bit of Bad Luck” starring Carey Elwes, Teri Polo, and Agnes Bruckner.

If you don’t blink, you can find me in the bar, where the film’s protagonist (Elwes) finds himself befriending the locals of a small town.

It was a great gig. I had one line of dialogue, which may have been with my back to the camera, depending on which shot the director and editor decided on. But for me, professional exposure in this film was far less important than my experience on set. I got to spend time on a union film set, and learn my way around, taking that experience with me. I got to meet Carey Elwes, who, aside from being a truly funny guy in front of the camera, was an absolute gentleman and complete professional in the most inspiring sense. I had a really enjoyable time, getting to work with my colleagues from the Seattle acting community in a setting where we often don’t find ourselves.

What’s the moral of this post?

There is no moral. I live in a state that cares about my industry, and I’ve seen a benefit from the State Government meddling in the purity of the market. You want a moral in every post, go write your own blog. (I think my political economy professor would be proud of me just now.)

Links, though? I got your links right here:

Washington Filmworks

A Bit of Bad Luck- Facebook

“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.

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!