Trailers? I has dem.

There comes a time in the life of every performer when they’re asked “Do you think you could hit the gym before this project? You’re playing a barbarian.”

OK, no. That’s not true. At least, not for Dwayne Johnson. I think he walks past a rack of weights and just becomes a paragon of human physical training and development. (Love you DJ! I indeed do detect that which the Rock is in process of composing in the kitchen; it smells glorious.)

However, I did in fact visit a weight room and physical training edifice local to my place of dwelling, and the results, well, are now on film for good or ill.

This project is in the late stages of post-production, I’m told, with things like digital effects and color balancing being applied to footage at a torrid pace.

Enjoy!

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A love letter to Taproot, on its 40th season:

Dear Taproot Theatre,

I know this imperfectly conveys my feelings about you, but I’m hoping there is grace enough to take my incomplete thoughts and perfect them in your mind. In the words of someone far more eloquent: “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you”.

-Matt

Today I had the great pleasure of seeing a matinee performance of the musical Big Fish at Taproot Theatre as part of their 40th season as a theatre company. As a milestone, it’s astounding, and as a work of theatre, Big Fish is a terrific piece with some standout performances, and the cast, crew, directors and designers all deserve the accolades due them.

The continued lines of relationship in our lives, parent to child, form the backbone of Big Fish’s story of self-discovery. How we tell that story to those closest to us shapes those lines of relationship, and gives us a wonderful gift of perspective.

And it’s at times like anniversaries, milestones, that perspective seems to come more easily, personally and publicly.

Taproot has meant many things to many people, and like most robust theatre organizations, has left its own unique stamp on its audience, and the greater theatre community in Seattle. I have had the distinct honor of joining with Taproot in their mission to bring stories to their audience that “brighten the spirit, engage the mind and deepen the understanding of the world around us ” as a cast member in several Taproot productions.

In my time working as part of Taproot’s company, I’ve seen amazing things happen on stage, in rehearsal, and in people’s lives offstage. I know most actors have, regardless of what theatre they’re working in. Actors, by and large, are a sensitive breed of people. We notice things, listen closely, read between the lines of voice and movement.

Producing theatre can be extremely hard. Emotional risk and vulnerability is an essential part of the journey we as performers take with an audience. An audience which sometimes might not want to come along with us. Time with family and friends is forsaken as we prepare for performance. Sacrifices are made in the hope that the end result, the experience for the audience, will allow something new to be born in their minds and hearts. And after all that, we fail in our goals at least as often as we succeed.

An element of faith is involved in this work. And maybe it’s not religious faith. To quote Stoppard: “It’s a mystery.” Maybe it’s the faith we can have in each other, that we’ll be supported by our colleagues and friends. That if we fail, we all fail together, and that if we succeed, everyone is responsible for that success.

I have always felt that kind of support working at Taproot. I have always believed that my work was valued and that I was an integral part of creating something that would bring a group of people together and open their minds and hearts to something new. I am so proud of my friends and colleagues at Taproot, and I wish them success as they continue to pursue their mission to “inspire imagination, conversation, and hope.”

Exit 133- It’s almost uncanny.

ali-seatac-commuteExit 133- It’s about Tacoma. And while I’m not primarily a Tacoma blogger, I think my recent dip into home interests makes my sharing this applicable:

Exit 133 – Finding the right Job/Housing Balance for Tacoma

While it starts primarily rooted in the economics currently at work in Pierce county, the above article really strikes at what’s going on in Tacoma: do we want to be a bedroom community for Seattle, or can we stand out in our own way, and be a unique urban center?

I think it directly resonates in our Arts community, as well. Discuss?

I need Tacoma to need theatre.

Tacoma Skyline by spacedonkeyI live in Tacoma, Washington. I love this town. The jewel of the South Puget Sound, the City of Destiny, Thrice All-American: Tacoma. Fabulized in song by local girl Neko Case and the Steve Miller Band. We have an arena covered by a dome. We have a revitalized downtown, light-rail, a convention center, fantastic restaurants, safe neighborhoods, wonderful public parks including a Zoo and Aquarium on beautiful Point Defiance. We have professional sports (Go Rainiers!). We have culture: The Museum of Glass, Tacoma Symphony Orchestra, Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, Tacoma Art Museum and, for the love of Mike, a THEATER DISTRICT.

And yet, to continue my work in the arts, I need to drive at least 35 miles each way (as the crow flies) to Seattle. This commute isn’t a joke. I-5 is a mess. It’s dangerous. Due to the irregular hours required for theatrical rehearsal and performance, often I’m travelling through daytime rush-hour, or late at night, through all kinds of our lovely local weather.

Tacoma, despite having a THEATER DISTRICT, cannot apparently support professional actors. (Let’s not now get into a fight over what makes one a ‘professional’ actor. We can do that, but I’ll win. It’s my blog.) Tacoma did, at one time, support local and regional actors through the work of the lost and lamented Tacoma Actor’s Guild. However, since its closure, Tacoma has been without professional theatre. I know I’m not alone in my current mode of work. There are, I’m sure, more than a few of us making the journey to professional opportunities in Seattle. In fact, one of us living in Tacoma is not only one of the workingest actors in Seattle, but he’s artistic director of one of Seattle’s more ambitious musical theatre companies.

Both he and I are (proud) members of the Actor’s Equity Association, the professional union of Actors and Stage Managers. We are not permitted, outside of certain exceptions, to work at theatres who are not able to provide for union contracts for their actors. These contracts provide for a living wage, pension contributions, give eligibility for union healthcare, and stipulate safe and fair working conditions. They’re important. Unions. Living wages. Pursuit of these things has forced local Tacoma talent far afield, or forced them to accept less than suitable compensation for their hard and valuable work.

Are there theatres in this town? Absolutely. There are community theatres. They’re all thriving to one capacity or another. Tacoma Little Theatre has been around for nearly a hundred years. Lakewood Playhouse has thrived thanks to tireless artistic directors and a devoted audience. And Tacoma Musical Playhouse continues to appeal to its audience. Sure, there’s a whole THEATER DISTRICT. Are any of the proud edifices in this district housing local Theatre Companies? Troupes of actors and creatives seeking to tell stories that resonate with the local populace? Reaching out into the community to foster the importance of narrative, theatrical storytelling as an agent for change, reflection, discussion? Nope.

Is that a problem? Depends on who you ask. Theatre just isn’t some people’s thing. They got dragged to some godawful production of Arsenic and Old Lace when they were in junior high, and have never stepped into a theatre since. I don’t blame them. I’ve seen theatre change people’s minds and hearts. I’ve seen it entertain. I’ve seen theatre that uplifts those with their souls weighed down through repression, through trauma. I’ve seen theatre set prisoners free, if even for a few stolen minutes, from the confines of their cells. Storytelling has power. It is one of the primary ways we instill values, and one of the best ways to present our ideas; ideals. When we tell a story to a group, and that group shares in the experience, in the same place, at the same time, breathing the same air: revolution of thought, outrage, healing, laughter. So much becomes possible.

I’m tired of commuting to be a part of the social work of theatre in someone else’s community. It’s wonderful work. It’s valuable to the communities in which it’s present. It adds another vibrant strand to the fabric of the artistic community of this neighborhood/city/state/nation/planet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to have to travel to do it, and I’ll enjoy my time in rehearsal and performance, and I’ll be happy to join with arts organizations to make a difference in Seattle, tell stories, and get people to feel and think. I just want to be able to do it in my home town. To bring my talent and passion to my neighborhood, and not starve in order to do so.

Fair warning: In the coming days and weeks, I might be writing more about this.