Welcome One and All

Welcome new vistors and thank you for returning dedicated fans. For more information about me please dig into my "About me section" or look at my G+. This was my first blog. I have rebuilt and specialized since this blog's inception. It now serves as a "hub" for the three blogs I write. Below this banner is "Welcome to the Club" which is my comics blog, "The Silver Screen" which is my Cinema blog, and "All the World's a Stage" which is my theatre blog. Read at your leisure!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Endings and New Beginnings

Greetings Friends!

If you are reading this post you are far more dedicated to this blog than I have been. I commend you for your patience and dedication. To say this blog and my writing has taken the back burner would be an understatement. I have not written anything in quite awhile, which is not to say I haven't wanted to write anything. Everyday there is a dozen new things I've wanted to write about, but between school, theatre, work and life I have lost passion to for this blog. But never fear new content is coming, but before we get into let me fill you in on what I have been up to since I've stopped writing (because we really all read this because we're interested in ME right? NOT!)

Things I have done as of late:

  • I had my first professional acting gig. Someone actually paid me to pretend to be someone I wasn't! I would love to go on and on with how amazing of an experience it was, but it really wasn't. It was one of the worst experiences of my career. So I have been paid and now I am cynical. 
  • I got a job. I now work for a fast food restaurant that only serves chicken. I also love almost every second of it. Everyone there is chill, down to earth, and really great to talk to. 
  • I wrote a play. Well I didn't write a play, but I was part of an ensemble that create a piece from scratch and performed it. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. To see work you have written be put on stage and be received by an audience was incredible. 
  • I passed German AND Geology. I have never come so close to failing a class in my life nor have I worked so hard to save it. I only have one semester of German left and I might kill me but I survived for now. 
  • My votes helped prevent voter suppression and bigotry. It was a great election season to be a lefty. Gay Marriage was passed in three states and a bigoted fuel marriage amendment failed in my home state as well as a Voter I.D.  bill. It was also pretty cool that war on drugs was rejected in two states. 
  • I got a directing gig. My first college level directing will be assisting with "Something About a Bear" a new work and collaboration with Theatre Novi Most on campus. It'll be a lot of work, but hopefully it will also be very rewarding. 
Well enough bragging let's look to the future of this blog and writing in general. While talking to professionals, professors, and listening the magnitude of Internet media I consume all tell me the same things on how to break into the industry as a critic:

  • Build a specific audience
  • Write at a level of quality that could really be published
  • Consistently have new content that drops on the same time and date
Looking over this list I have not accomplished any of the three. This blog has been about anything and everything that interests me in any given day. New blog content is also released about as consistently as a Square Enix  game. My grammers and punctuations and spelings need some serius work. 

Square Enix's stock as of late:

I have built a plan to address and improve all of these problems as this blog has been and will continue to be about artistic self improvement first and foremost. I will be launching three new blogs. Each with much more specific areas of study. Now I know what you are thinking. Will how can you keep up with three blogs when you couldn't even handle one blog?  Here is the plan going forward:
  • Each new blog will have a much more realistic content volume (each getting one submission a week with the opportunity of a possible second with time permitting.) 
  • Each blog will have a hard-set drop date and time. This will hopefully combat procrastination and me avoiding doing the work
  •  Each blog will focus on a specific medium that I hope to write about or create my own work in someday.
  • This blog will serve as a hub linking my three blogs together and will have a weekly reader's digest version of the work I did each week. 
That is the goal of it all. Will it be successful? Only time will tell, but I am excited to get back to writing and expanding my interpretation and understanding of art. Without further adieu lets unveil these new blogs. 

Welcome to the Club

This is a blog that will be focusing on the world of comics. Each week I will tear into a trade paperback and share my thoughts on in. The goal is to alternate between "Superhero Comics" and the loosely defined category of "Non-Superhero comics." Eventually there will hopefully be marathons of larger bodies of works, web comics, and interviews, but I promised myself I will start small and realistic. 

The Silver Screen 

This blog will focus solely on movies. Each week I'll watch or go see a movie and then share my thoughts about it. The goal is to alternate between film cannon and more contemporary cinema. I am not nearly as literate in film as I hope to be so this is a way to expand my understanding of film.

All the World's a Stage

This is the blog that is closest to my profession at large and what I am studying. My goal is to one day be an actor/writer/director of both scripted theatre and work I devised myself. It is surprising to me how little scripts I have actually read. So the first year of this blog I am dubbing the 52-Week Play challenge. Basically I will read a script a week and write a little about it. This is the blog I will also post theatre reviews when and if I get the opportunity to see live theatre and have the time to write about it.

So that's the plan. Everyone who reads this has been with me so far and I hope you join me on my journey of development as an artist and a writer. However I understand that my passions are not the same as everyone else's and therefore I don't expect everyone to read everything. Now that the blogs are more specific you can read what interests you and ignore the rest. 

Have a great New Years,


PS Each of these blogs in the next three days will have their first post. Comics tomorrow, Then film, and then theatre. Look for that if you're interested in more specifics of the blogs.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

24 Hour Creation Reflection

This is probably only relavent to people in or involved with the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities. You have been warned.

This past weekend I participated in an event called "24 hour Creations" the concept is very similar to the 24 Hour film festivals or 24 hour theatre festivals. Basically within one day a play or dance piece was written (choreographed), directed, cast and then performed all within one day. This event was put on by the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance Peers. This event was meant to accomplish several things; I will list some of the goals of this project and then discuss what worked and what didn't and go into why things didn't work.

Goals of 24 Hour Creations

  • Have the different disciplines of the department come together and break down some of the walls we have build between the BFA  and BA theater majors and the Dance department. 
  • Allow for a creative space where people not trained in a specific aspect of performance have a  low stakes environment to try something new. Dancer become playwright. Actors become dancers. Directors try acting... etc. 
  • Give an opportunity for freshman and people new to the department a chance to workshop with people in their department and make some new connections or friendships. 
  • Give a place for performance focused students a chance to perform. 

Now that I have laid out my understanding of the goals of this project I will dig into each goal and see if these goals were achieved and if they weren't give some opinions of why they weren't achieved. I am not writing this to be the authoritative voice on the matter nor do I hold that my opinion is the correct one. This is just me sharing my perspective and hopefully the first step of a longer conversation within the department. At Frameworks this fall Will Daddario talked about the concept of dissensus. The need for students in the department frustrated with aspects of the department to come together and share their opinions of why things are the way they are and discuss their opinions on how things can change. This is my attempt at starting a conversation in that vein. 

  • Bringing the overall community of the theatre department together. I think this goal was achieved as much as it could be. In my piece specifically we had two BFA freshman a BA sophomore and a BA senior. Before I started collaborating with them I had never seen any of them. It was challenging and interesting to be in a position where I had to create a piece of theatre with three other people who didn't have the same background or vocabulary I did. I  found I had to find more precise ways to communicate what I was thinking which forced me to think about my choices more. 
    • The place where this goal wasn't as successful was not all of the three groups had equal representation. We had one group of dance major who came in  and performed an awesome piece and a few scatterings of BFA's (I don't know everyone nor did I meet everyone), but my perception of the event leads me to think that vast majority of the participants were BA theatre majors. There might be some value in going to the BFA and the Dance departments and asking what is was about the event that disinhibited them from participating: the way it was presented, communicated, or framed. What made it harder for them to get excited about this event? This can inform how we frame the piece of theater in the future and therefore succeed in this goal even more. 

  •  This next point I would say falls more on the individual more than the Peers/ organizers of the event. The peers provide all the tools possible to allow anyone to do anything they wanted. The initiative was placed on the individual to force themselves to try something out of their comfort zone. We live in a very competitive industry and college is one of the last opportunities you might have where you can try something new and fail and have it not effect anything. The show was the perfect opportunity to fail brilliantly. Sitting in the audience and watching all of the pieces informed my work as an artist tremendously. When there were parts of pieces I didn't like whether it was acting, directing, dancing or writing I still learned. Watching people try something and fail is tremendously more informative that sitting in a class and talking about things in hypotheticals or conceptually. When something didn't work I was able to stop and think: "Why didn't this choice work for me?" and then later when I try something I have learned that lesson and I don't make the same  mistake. 
    • The major failure in this section was the lack of respect for the people who tried writing. It was really unfair to have someone commit to a stressful evening of work, birth something from their soul and then not even give it the opportunity to fail onstage. If you are going commit to something commit to it. Signing up and then not showing up doesn't just reflect badly on you, it disrespects a writer who put a lot of time and effort into a script. I am very interested in writing plays. I chose not to write a piece because I was afraid I was going to put all this time and effort into the project and then not even see my baby birthed. My fears were right as two plays did not get performed.

  • Freshman. I think this was the perfect setting to give the freshman an opportunity a chance to meet people in the department and create something. The freshman seem very represented and hopefully a lot of their friends came and saw how cool this event was and will want to do it in the spring (If that happens...). 

  • An opportunity to perform. Most of this is a BA issue and a BA perspective.  This is my last point and it will probably be my harshest criticism. I have a lot of peers in the department who are frustrated by the lack of opportunity to perform this year. Last year there was the student-run organization, The Experimental Theatre, where students who didn't make it into the main stage shows had an opportunity to perform and grow their craft. It must be frustrating as hell for the peers and department administration to hear this complaining about the lack of opportunity in the department and then offer an event that has the lowest stakes possible and the smallest time commitment possible and then have not a lot of people show up. If you want to communicate to the department that there needs to be more chances to perform, then having a massive turnout for this event would be a real way to prove there is real passion behind that. Why would the department spend time, effort and money into making more opportunities if people aren't going to be grateful and passionate about the chances they do get? 

This leads me to my last point. An event like 24 Hour Creations is the most bottom-up control over our education we have. The onus lies completely on us to make this event a success or a failure. I asked several people last week if they were going to do 24-hour Creations and most people said, "No, it sounds like its going to be kind of lame." By approaching it with that mentality that guarantees that result. If everyone was excited about it and appreciated it for the value it provides then the event will be a success. When something is challenging, different, or weird it is easy to just passively say this is dumb and give up before trying. We are active agents in our own education, and we must try that much harder to work past our reservations.

Overall I think the event was a tremendous success. I learned a lot, both from the piece I was in and watching the other pieces performed. I hope that enough people had similar positive experiences (whether audience members or participants) that next time we do the event even more people participate and we all have even a better experience. I invite criticism to my criticism. I want an open dialogue started so we can talk about what worked and what didn't therefore it is that much of a better experience next time. 

Peace Will

PS.  Come see Courting Harry Saturday please. It is an amazing play and incredible relevant to the conversation about woman's reproductive rights in this country. Also I am in it. We perform this Saturday at 2PM in the Thrust in Rarig (Oct. 13).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Batman Live!

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So last month I had probably one of the most unique live performance experiences of my life. I saw the arena show "Batman Live! The World Tour." Now going into an event that promises Batman live and in the flesh I didn't know exactly what to expect. I basically hope it was over-the-top, ridiculous, and something that I can never experience in any other Batman media (film, video games, comics, novels?, Radio serials?)

Suffice to say I was not disappointed at all. This was either the most horrible or the most genius performance I have seen in a really long time.

What I liked

  • The circus aspect of this show was incredible. I am not an actor who is literate in circus (even though I come form a theatre department that has a lot of circus master) but to a simpleton such as myself the trapeze, silks, and stills were great.
  • The media for this show was also fantastic. The entire back wall of the space was a screen and it served as a very inexpensive way to house many a back drops. This alone I thought was pretty clever, but the thing that really surprised me was in scene transitions we zoomed out and were in a comic book spread and pages would flip to the next "panel." The art was all done in a very silver age Batman look and with most characters emerging from the back drop it have the effect of characters literally breaking through the 2-D universe and emerging onstage. 
  • A lot of the performers were fantastic (and some were the opposite of fantastic, but more on that in a minute), but I have to single out one performer. The girl who Played Harley Quinn was amazing. I actually might say she is my definitive Harley Quinn (yes better than Batman the Animated Series or the Arkham video games). She was funny, insane, and unpredictable. Not to mention she had a giant hammer and a bazooka (see next point)

  • THIS ENTIRE NEXT BULLET POINT NEEDS TO BE IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE IT WAS SO AWESOME!!! IN THE FINALE HARLEY QUINN SHOT A BAZOOKA AT THE JOKER IN A HOT AIR BALLOON AND IT BURNED DOWN AND CRASHED ON STAGE. Ok enough of that gimmick. This effect was incredible and looked absolutely real. The western theatre tradition from Ajax to Hamlet, Medea to Our Town, or The Birds to Rent was all missing one specific element of the human experience. Thank you Batman Live for finally filling the void. I have now seen a Bazooka fired live onstage. Let's just say I am now working on Click Click BOOM!: The Musical. Not to spoil any major plot points lets just say there is a grenade juggling sequence. 

  • Before the final big fight scene The Joker put on a magic show that was actually quite impressive. No Bazookas sadly. 
  • The Joker has a jet pack. 'Nuff Said? Well I do need to provide Dialogue context. Batman: Joker are you just going to run away? Joker: Why run away when Jetting away is so much more fun!

Normally I would put in this next section what didn't work for me. However, this seems silly since this entire production was designed for 8 year olds. Instead I will include the top 10 most insane/amazing things that occur in this performance.

10. The Scarecrow was on stilts....because.... ITS A CIRCUS....kinda... In the final fight Scarecrow kinda just walked around and waved around his 3-5 foot fingers. 

9. Slow motion fighting. In a fight scene where Joker's henchman are attempting to capture Dick all  punches throw were Matrixed the fuck out. It was so weird. The peak of insanity was when the clowns had surrounded Dick and where very clearly pounding the ground and Dick slipped out of the pile and yet.... the ground pounding continued for approximately 30 more seconds. 

8.  Harley Quinn and Catwoman's tender moment. All of the action stopped just as we were building towards the climax so Harley and Selina could talk relationships. That's right Batman fails The Bechdel Test.

7. Arkham Asylum. This show was very kid friendly. The fighting onstage was clearly fake, Catwoman's costume was the most practical I had ever seen it. For some reason the set for Arkham Asylum came right out of a Saw film. There were floor to ceiling chains of moaning mummified bodies. I cut to the Nostalgic Critic for my comments:

"You Know, for Kids!"

6. Catwoman in Arkham. After Catwoman gets locked up she is rolled out on a small block styled  as a mini Arkham Asylum. She is standing inside the model with only her head and shoulders popping out. Representing her imprisonment.... maybe?

5. Wayne Manor's Table. Remember that scene in  Burton's Batman where they make fun of the dinning room table about how comedically large it is? Well in this show a chair is rolled out that is no smaller that fifteen feet tall with a table that is 20 feet long. The table is also angled so one end is on the ground and the other comes to meet the chair.

4. Batman  and Catwomen fight. So the entire Catwoman and Batman fight scene was done in the air with the actors on wires. Because of the rigging it was impossible for the actors to move their arms or legs. The fight was ridiculous. 

3. In the final battle Batman Robin and Catwoman all get katanas and beat all of Joker's henchman with swords. Also they only choreographed two of the three fighting at the same time. So one of the good guys would just stand in the corner and pose while the other fought the bad guys.

2. Giant Joker head. For the final scene a giant Joker head is rolled onto stage and an endless wave of henchman come out of it. IF that wasn't enough, the heads tongue and teeth are actually hanging people. WTF?

1. Batmobile. I am speechless attempting to describe this Batmobile. It is environmentally sustainable as it has a hydrogen engine and its only exhaust is water. Better it has virtual wheel. Wheels that employ anti-gravity and don't actually need to spin. They still light up and spin anyways but are also square shaped. The best however was the animated car chase. The Batmobile chases down the joker in this virtual car. After awhile streetlight and builds start to fall on the car unexplainably. Finally boulder fall from the sky and the car shoots lasers to blow them up. LASERS.

Well that is Batman live. I have a lot more stuff to write about so I'll give you a little preview of what is to come in the future someday:

  • Open Eye Theatre's Alice in Wonderland adaptation "A-hole"
  • Ten Thousand Things Theatre's "Measure for Measure"
  • Pillsbury House's "The Brothers Size"
  • History Theatre's "Lombardi"

I might write something political too who knows.

Peace and please click an ad or two!


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My Last Cigarette

UPDATE: I have enrolled in a quit and win program at the U of M and part of that is I have to submit  urine sample before I start to quit. The first opportunity I have for this is October 3 so I need to keep my smoking levels the same until then. I am serious about quiting, but I want to do this program the way it is intended.

So this post is all about me. me, Me, ME. When I started this blog  the goal was to grow myself as a writer and an artist. It was meant to be a place where I can form my opinions as a writer and then hopefully have those those opinions scrutinized by the public. I never believed I had all of the answer to anything and I hoped to form a discussion around my opinions to grow as a writer and develop as an artist. That being said today's post is not about any of that. Today's post is my first step in my own personal therapy to hopefully break once and for all from the grip of Tobacco (which I have heard is more addictive than Heroin). Please bear with me.

Why I starting smoking

There is a long list of reasons of why I have started smoking. I think it will be good to truly list some of them off to work through how I fell into this unhealthy habit:

  • I started smoking because I fell in love. I was in love with an amazing individual. I thought at the time she was the closest to a soul mate I will ever get. One of the many barriers that prevented us from being together was smoking. She was a smoker and I thought it was a nasty and unhealthy habit. Needless to say after the multiple dozens of times of joining her outside so she could smoke I finally joined her. One of the excuses I always gave myself of why I started was it was love that made me fall into smoking and it will be love that would get me out. 

  • I started smoking for camaraderie. I love the smoking community. I thought it was amazing that I could go up to a complete stranger as ask to bum a cigarette and 9 times out of 10 they would give me a cigarette no questions asked. There were conversations and whole friendships I would not have if it wasn't for smoking. Of the smokers I have encountered in my life, they seems to be some of the most open, accepting and understanding people in my life. 

  • The world is a very fucked up place. I am a very passionate individual who is very aware and focused on what is going on in the world. It bothers me that there are so many bad people in the world working to keep the masses down and oppressed. I look at my country and see the crumbling roads, an education system in shambles, a shrinking middle class, and   poverty more wide-spread in this country than it has been in decades. It drives me crazy that more of my peers don't seem to care. They are more interested and excited about Kate Middleton's tits or what a Kardashian is up to than the people dying in the streets. All of this  awareness and frustration with society got me into a place where I was insanely stressed out and depressed way too often. In the beginning cigarettes calmed my nerves. They were a way to cope and deal with the status quo. The deeper I got into smoking however the less chemical returns I got out of each cigarette. My self-medication wasn't working, but it became harder and harder to stop.

  • The anti-smoking campaign significantly contributed to my continued unhealthy habit. Smoking has been wiped out of our media in this country. Only movie villains, Europeans, and Arabs are allowed to smoke in our country's media anymore. In Anti-smoking PSA's smokers are   portrayed as awful people who are rotting society. 
(Because smokers of the world are the walking dead...WTF?)

There is a specific story I want to share to illustrate this mentality shift in America. I was handing out flyers for a U of M show last year. I had been standing in the freezing cold for two hours with a bird beak and a protest sign.  After the cold, the humiliation, and the level rejection I had dealt with, with the hundreds of people ignoring my stump speech to "Come see the birds" I took a 3 minute break to smoke a cigarette. While I was doing that I had a lady come up and inform me that I was killing myself. A  complete stranger I didn't know just inform me that I was going to die because I was ignorant enough to take up such an unhealthy habit. Who was she to so openly and publicly judge my life habits? 

America has been beaten over the head in the school systems, in the media, and legislatively with how bad smoking is. Everyone is fully aware. In my year of smoking people who didn't like my unhealthy habit never asked why. Why did I chose to pump poison into my lungs? It was just assumed I was a bad person, ignorant, or hated myself. Smokers are people too.

Now that I have laid out some of the reasons I want to explain why I am quitting. 

  • It's unhealthy. I have noticed physically things I used to be able to do that I can no longer do because I am short of breath. Not to mention the dirty six letter word (CANCER). 

  • Its time consuming. If I added up all of the time and energy I have wasted going out to smoke, smoking, or going out of my way to buy my next pack it really is disgusting. I have a very busy life and every night there is a long list of things I wish I had time to do that I never get to. I was prioritizing nicotine over homework, friendships, reading, video games ect. As I get older and gain more responsibility I realize how little time we really have in this life and I don't want to waste it on a habit that kills.
  • It is expensive. I went through roughly two packs a week. That is a lot of money, and I was never that heavy of a smoker. I can't even fathom the cost if I smoked a pack a day or two a day. 

  • The chemistry wasn't working. I start smoking to escape and try to deal with the stress and depression in my life, but the more I smoked the less return I got. I found myself thinking more and more about when I would get my next fix instead of learning in class, attempting to write, or working on my acting. 

Now that I am attempting to climb out of this pit I have put myself in there are a few things I hope to never forget. I will never forget the judgement I felt from people because I smoked. I will never think less of a person because they smoke. If I end up in a position where I am with someone and they're smoking I will do my best to ask them WHY instead of preaching to them the same old song and dance they have heard their entire life. 

So this is my first step. It has been hard to come to this point. I have had all this pressure from friends, family, society, and significant others to quit. I am not doing this for them though. I am doing this for me and my health. That being said I will need help. I have tried to phase out of smoking before and it is so easy to fall back into this rut. I open the floodgates to your judgement now. Please if you see me smoking smack that shit out of my hand. Remind me of all of the reasons of why I quit. I want to be better than this and I plan on reading this brain dump every time I want to go and buy a pack of 'Mokies. 

That is pretty much it. I don't want to be celebrated for this decision just as I don't want to be looked down on for when I did smoke. This is entirely personal and I want people to view me as a person, not as a smoker or nonsmoker. 



Monday, September 17, 2012

Where in the world is Will?

Hey folks,

I am blowing the dust off these keys, as I write my first post in a very, long time. I started this blog as a way for me to grow and develop as a writer. I really wanted my opinion and views about subjects to be put up agianst the scrutiny of the interwebs. I was naive at best starting this little project. I had no idea the amount of time I would need to commit to this project.

Although Naivety is my reason for this blog not getting the proper attention it deserves it is by no means an excuse. I know there are people out there would look forward to reading my blog and responding (in concurrence or dissent) to my opinions. I would like to bring out the same old promises of "my consistency will be better" "I am committed to this project" blah blah blah. All of you that have stuck with me and believed in me have heard these sorry songs before.

With all of that being said I will show you the same respect that you have shown me. I still believe in this blog. I believe in the power and resonating effect it has had in my very small corner of the interweb. It has not been and will continue to not be my primary focus.

I am back to school now (or University as they would say in Europe). Already on my plate for this semester is two shows, BA mentoring, 20 credits, and various socialist activities. If that wasn't enough to keep me from being bored I have venture into a bold new project. I will get into that in a sec but first let me finish here.

Basically what I am saying is do not expect a lot out of this blog for the foreseeable future. This is   my very back burner thing after school, theatre, socialism and my new project. I HOPE (and yes that promise of hope is just as empty as the HOPE promised in 2008) to post something at least once a week.

Well on that downer note let's move to something exciting and new!

Cinefiles Anonymous

So me and two of my friends have decided to wade into the tides of the internet. We are launching a film podcast reviewing current films, making a top 5, and having a larger genre discussion among the panel. Now I know what you are thinking, there is about 1000 film podcast around the world why is this one any different?

Well there are several key differences that I would love to get into:

  • Our podcast will pull absolutely no punches. We are not afraid to tear apart a critically successful and popular film (see The Dark Knight Rises in episode 1). 

  • We don't believe in spoilers. You cannot fully evaluate the artistic merits of a film unless you talk about the whole product. Art critics do not review only sketches or first drafts of paintings because they don't want to ruin the surprise of the Mona Lisa. 
  • Our Top 5 is completely unique to our show. I don't want to ruin the surprises of our top five, but suffice to say that there is a time limit as well as a competitive nature among the hosts to the top five that is not experienced anywhere on the internet.
  • We have copious levels of love for Michael Fassbender.

If the idea of me talking for an hour once a weak sounds unbearable, but you long for my Hemmingway quality of writing (that is a joke I probably my most outspoken critic of my quality of writing)  never fear there is more under the Cinefiles Anonymous umbrella. Each host will watch and review a movie once a week outside of the show, and write a 500-1000 critique of it. Each of us will focus on our unique specializations. Here is the writing breakdown:
  • Peter Hogenson will blog weekly about film from a more technical perspective. He know a lot about editing, cinematography, lighting, ect. I know nothing about these things so I am very excited to read his articles to expand my knowledge of cinema as I grow ever interested in it. 

  • Madyson Kendall has volunteered to put herself through something that no one should have to bear. She is very passionate about the literary cannon as well as film adaptation based off said cannon. She will be exclusively reviewing film adaptations of the classics (in other words... a lot of BBC and a LOT of Colin Firth.) It will be nice to have a resource to find the gems among the mess of cheesy masterpiece Theatre adaptations.

  • What will I be doing? Well as I generated my top 100 films of all time there was something that became very clear to me. I am not very film literate. Therefore I will be diving deep into the film cannon and looking at the classics with a unique set of eyes. My theatrical training in acting and directing and love of Brecht should be an interesting counterweight to films such as The Godfather or Citizen Kane. 

All of these blogs of will post weekly with a hard reliable drop date. On top of that we will be peer review all our content and the goal is to have the writing at a more professional level than say a certain blog you maybe reading right now. 

I thank each and every reader for their unshakable support, without all of the positive response this blog has had over the past six months or so I would have never taken this bold next step in have a REAL fake internet job. I hope you stay along for the ride and I will  never forget my very humble beginnings as a guy who once listed as many Santorum jokes and I could think of.

Good Night and Good Luck


PS Here is the every growing list of things I would LOVE to find the time to blog about:
  • Republican National Convention
  • Democratic Nation Convention
  • Top 100 reasons I am NOT voting for Obama
  • A theatre review of Batman Live! The world tour
  • Why I think Fun. might just save pop music
  • The merits of a liberal education today
  • the list goes on and on and on

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Theatre Review: Parade

So I went and saw one of my favorite musicals of all time performed on stage for the first time last Friday. It was both incredible and surreal to see a show that I have so rabidly listened to on my ipod for the past three years finally performed live. What did I think? Read on as I go through the positives and the negatives of the show I saw. I will also talk about why I think this show is important and relevant to today's audience, but first let me bring you up to speed for those unaware of the tragically under seen musical Parade.

The Story

This musical is about the murder of Mary Phagan and the illegal trial and persecution of Leo Frank that ensues. The show is set in Atlanta, George 50 years after the Civil War (or as the south's textbooks teach The War of Northern Aggression. Sick right?). Our main character, Leo Frank, is an outsider to the city he lives in. He is Jewish, from New York, and has a college education. There are three other things that could be more offensive to the Southern Culture.

Frank is a supervisor at a local pencil factory that employs mainly adolescent girls. On the day of the Memorial Day Parade Mary Phagan goes to get her week's pay and never comes home. Hours later it is discovered that she has been brutally murdered and left in the basement of the factory. Frank is arrested and the people of the town start to assassinate his character. A local newsman desperate to sell papers seizes the murder as a way to reboot his career and starts to run every story about Frank he can get.

The District Attorney of the state is informed that these people want blood and he must get a conviction at any cost. He is told that "it won't be good enough to hang a negro this time." The DA parades a series of witnesses that attack Frank's character even though they are heavily coached and clearly making stuff up to see their friend avenged.

I wont spoil the ending for those who haven't seen it or listened to the soundtrack, but suffice to say it doesn't have a happy Broadway ending. There is also a movie about this trial which is quite good. You can get more information about that here.


This production of Parade was Produced by Musical Theatre of Madison (MTM) a local theater company focused on letting lesser known works get a stage and up and coming actors have a place to perform. The show performs at the Bartell Theatre and runs through August 4th. I would encourage everyone to buy tickets!

What I liked:

  • The ensemble for this show was very strong. In scenes where everyone was on stage there was high energy, passion, and rage when needed. They really showed the Southern mentality and culture quite well. 
  • The music was amazing. I could have told you that before seeing the show, but I was honestly nervous walking into the theatre. This musical is not an easy feat. I would say the level of difficultly as well as the acting and emotion needed to pull this musical off is on par with a Sondheim show. Overall the music was beautifully executed. 

  • Stand out performers. There Are several performers I want to pay their dues. They Are:
    • Gregory Reed (Leo Frank)- Reed Did an outstanding job. His Frank was layered, deep and powerful. The biggest aspect I liked of his performance was they fact that Frank was still human. In stories like these it is easy for the subject matter to get preachy and the main character to rise to Christ-like status. Frank was still petty, short tempered, and had an ego. It made the message of the play that much more powerful.

    • Alex Roller (Frankie Epps)- The love interest of Mary Phagon. Roller goes through a transformation that is incredible to watch unfold on stage. He goes from a a carefree teenager trying to score a date with the prettiest girl in town, to a rage-filled man seeking revenged for the death of his beloved. I had every hair on my body standing up as he half screamed half sung to the reporter what he wanted to do the man who murdered Mary. 

    • Jim Conley (Jason Atkins)- This is the character that seals Frank's fate in the courtroom. A no good swindling escaped convict who spins the tale the DA needs to prosecute Frank. Now it would be unfair to just say this is the best performance in Parade because there are so many memorable, but oh my. This performance is perfect. My imagination of Jim as I listened to this show came to life before my eyes. Conley is sleazy, funny, calculating and mean. Atkins personifies the big evil Jew with fangs the newspapers have been reporting about to sell papers. Not to mention his solo in "Blues/Feel the Rain" is by far the hardest song in the show and Atkins soars above all other performers on musical talent. 

  • The number "Come up to my Office" where three factory girls recount Frank's alleged sexual harassment is eerie. Even knowing the story and knowing that the three girls were lying I still wanted to jump on stage and lynch Frank myself. It was one of the best scenes in the show. 

  • The amount of passion, energy and rage that the ensemble radiated in "Where will You Stand When the Flood Comes?" shook the house. The cast was out for blood and it was amazing. This was by far my favorite scene of the show.

Now that I have sung Parade's praises lets get into what didn't work for me:
  • The lighting design left a lot to be desired. I realize the simplicity of the lighting might have had to do with budget concerns or the physical space itself, but it was still disappointing. As I watched this show in my head I imagined those red hills of Georgia turning blood red as the cast jumps into "Where will You Stand When the Flood Comes?"

  • The set was simplistic and it work well for the space and again I assume the simplicity was mainly about budgetary concerns. With literally one set piece on stage the entire time without it rotating or adapting the the stage picture did grow to have a monotonous tone.

  • I am going to single out some performances that left some to be desired. These are not personal attacks on  the talents of the performers, but more critiques of the direction, acting choices and casting decisions. I have seen most of these performers' work before and have even been in shows with a few. I respect everyone onstage and believe they have true talent and skill.

    • Mary Phagon (Roberta Riportella)- Mrs. Phagon has the most heart-wrenching song in this show. When I heard it for the first time it literally made me cry. I was excited, to say the least, when I could sense Mrs. Phagon's testimony was coming. Riportella did not bring the gusto and emotional depth necessary to pull this song off. On top of that she was struggling with singing in a thick Georgian accent which caused her to waver in and out of pitch. It was painful to hear my favorite song, but not painful for the right reasons.

    • Judge Roan (Edward Marion)- I got the sense that Mr. Marion had a strong history of character parts and comedic roles. His physicality with talking out of the side of his mouth and having very animated eyebrows was impressive. It was not what the part called for though. Worse than that he didn't seem to be a really big singer. He frequently sang-talked and was out of key. 

    • Britt Craig (Adam Aufderhaar). It is hard to put my personal biases away. Brit is my favorite character and a dream role for me. Suffice to say Aufderhaar got a higher level of scrutiny with his acting choices. Aufderhaar did not bring the level of charisma or energy needed to fill this role. Craig is a character that has it up to his neck in dirt. Craig should be a Harold Hill. Someone so good at being sleazy that you can't help but root for him. 

  • My previous love for Britt Craig already stated, I was more than horrified to see that his big number had been cut. Tonally this show is pretty much hard punches and downers. "Big News" provides a much needed lighter tone and funny to balance out the tragedy to come. 

  • "The Glory" Should not exist. There I said it. In fact it doesn't exist on my Broadway Cast Recording. Not only does it make no sense that the DA and Judge just stop to fish for awhile, while the Governor reopens the most contested murder trial in Atlanta's history, but it completely throws off the pacing of the show. 

  • Leo needs to hang. As I looked at that set I instantly saw how the upper level doubled as a hangman's scaffold and a podium for governor speeches. The horror of seeing an innocent human being dangling from that height would have driven the evilness of the whole case the last few inches it needed. I don't know if it was budget or audience discretion but the whole point of the play is to make us uneasy. 

So there are my thoughts on Parade. I would highly recommend seeing this show while you still can because who knows when it will be performing anywhere again (this play is criminally under produced). Even with its shortcoming Parade has a lot to boast about and leaves the audience with a lot to wrestle with. 


This review got really long so I won't say a lot. As we live in a more and more partisan society I think the themes of North vs. South, Liberal vs. Conservative, Educated vs. ignorant ring just as true today. There are lesson we can take from this show and avoid repeating lessons from the past. This play deals with stereotypes a lot too. In this plays the Jews and the blacks are the oppresses and mis-characterized peoples. We can make very easy parallels to the LGBT community and Latinos. Our country needs to stop fearing others because they are different and accept that we are a country of immigrants and multiple cultures. In this play the hard-right fridge goes for blood and elects the hero that won't compromise. This same kind of fringe is expressed in the Tea Party as well as the complete crucifixion for leaders that compromise. 

Let me end by asking: Where will YOU Stand when the Flood Comes?"


Monday, July 30, 2012

Theatre Reviews: Twelfth Night

Howdy Y'all!

I know most of my reading base in is Minnesota and very few will have an opportunity to see the play I am reviewing today, but I decided to write something up nonetheless. As I have talked about before on this blog, this blog is more about forcing me to grow as an artist and a critic. I thought this exercise would be a good one.  I hope you stay and read it, because a lot of this blog will be questioning the relevance of Shakespeare instead of critiquing the performance.


Before we begin I thought it is important to put APT (American Players Theatre) into context for reader's not familiar with who they are and the impact they have had on my life. APT is one of Wisconsin art scene's crown jewel. For decades now they have been producing Broadway quality Shakespeare for southern Wisconsin (the theater is conveniently located halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago and 40 minutes outside of Madison).

Although this is a company that perfects the classical style, there is nothing traditionally about their stage space (well actually if I wanted to get very theater historical it is the MOST traditional theater). Their space is located in Spring Green, Wisconsin right in the middle of nowhere. The theater is completely outdoors in the beautiful woods.

The House (where the audience sits) is situated on a natural hill. Well it started out as wooden benches and grass today they are the best seats in the industry while also fully waterproofed. The house boasts approx. an 1100 seat audience, and it fills that pretty much all summer (Just to put things into context I saw 12th night on a Tuesday night with crappy weather and the threat of rain and there were still 750 people). The Stage itself is a thrust stage with a bridge that goes right out into the audience.

I have been going to this theater since I was a little boy. APT was incredibly monumental in my passion for Shakespeare, the arts, and fueled my own desire to perform onstage for the rest of my life. While in high school I attended three years of "Fine Arts Weekend," a program where high school students spend the weekend at APT, see three shows, workshop and party with the actors, and get a full tour of APT's facilities. I've learned a lot from APT over the years and I thought it was important to start this blog paying them some dues. If you love theater as much as I do I strongly recommend you make it out to Wisconsin someday and see one of their shows. Without further adieu lets review!(Dr. Seuss points scored!)

Twelfth Night

For those of you unfamiliar with this Shakespeare Play here is the skinny. So Viola and Sebastian, twin siblings, get shipwrecked on the shores of Illyria. They are separated and each presumes the other is dead. Viola having little money and no kingdom decides to dress as a man named Cesario. Cesario becomes counsel to the noblemen Orsino. Orsino is in love with Olvia, but she won't take his courting.

Viola get sent to court Olivia in Orsino's place. Olivia falls in love with Viola (who is still Cesario), but Viola really loves Orsino who thinks she is a man. these love quadtrangles really break down when Sebastian comes to Illyria and everyone thinks he is Cesario (Viola). Viola's cover is blown, Viola marries Orsino and Sebastian marries Olivia and everyone lives happily ever after. The end!

Sound a lot like many other Shakespeare plays? We will get to that but the review first:

What I liked:

  • The costumes as always with APT were truly stunning. In my opinion APT's costumes are the closest to the extravagance and beauty they had in Shakespeare's time. 
  • Feste (John Taylor Phillips) was by far the funniest and most entertaining person to watch on stage. I found my eye wandering to his side work away from the focus of the space just because his reactions were priceless.

  • Sir Toby (Brian Mani) was incredibly clever and had impeccable timing. Toby what the comics world would call a meddler (like Loki in The Avengers). Watching him scheme and watching his control unravel was a joy.

  • Viola (Christina Panfilio) might deserve the rookie of the year award for APT's season. Her performance in this show keeps things fresh and keeps me engaged. Its great how she doesn't fall into too frequent gender cliches of cross dressing characters

  • Malvolio (La Shawn Banks) might have stolen the show with an inspired physical performance and creative voice work.

What I didn't like:
  • The musical interludes started to grind my gears after awhile. One or two? Fine. But with each act over an hour long as it is let's not drag this out.
  • Orisino (Marcus Truschinski) might have been the blandest performance from Truschinski I have ever seen. I was blown away by Truschinski's Puck in APT's modernization of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Since then I have been an avid fan girl. This performance while competent, left me wanting so much more.

  • The set was bland. Now I know APT might have been going for a more traditional Shakespearean style in regards to set and props, but it was nonetheless disappointing to say the least.
  • The entire Sebastian subplot was hack work. Now most of this is probably the writing, but I want there to be greater purpose to Sebastion and Antonio. I never got a real sense of danger with Antonio being an outlaw. I never got a sense of wonder with Sebastian coming back from the dead.

  • At over two hours this show draaaaaaaggged. I like to think If the whole cast has brought the energy that Mr. Banks did to Malvolio the show would have clipped along smoothly. With the increased tempo the jokes might have worked better.
  • As clever as Shakespeare's writing is a lot of the jokes fall flat. I have been to APT shows of Shakespeare plays where I have hurt myself from laughing so hard. So the source material isn't the problem. I would attribute it to bad timing, and a lesser Shakespeare script.


I believe anytime a director starts the process of bringing a play to light they need to be able to answer the question: Why now? They need to communicate to the audience why this story, these themes, these characters needs to be showcased today. Theatre is current, on topic, and a current temperature reading for our society.

This was a question that was going through my mind as I watch this play. I continued to ponder this question many days later as I thought of it in the context of Shakespeare's comedies. We all know the lazy plot devices that are repeated over and over again in his comedies:
  • Shipwrecks
  • Twins
  • Twin confusion
  • Presumed death
  • Characters plotting against nobles for entertainment
  • And of coarse a brilliant Deus Ex Machine right at the end that results in:
    • Meddlers getting punished
    • All young couples paring up and getting married
    • Families being reunited
    • ect. ect. ect.
So why is Shakespeare put on such a pedestal of Artistic godliness? Today when we watch our sitcoms and see them use their same bag of tricks again and again we call bullshit.

But because Shakespeare's name is on the script and he wrote Hamlet, Macbeth, and other masterworks that have definite the industry, Willie gets a pass. So I end this blog post with and question. Should all of Shakespeare's comedies be held in the same Pantheon as Hamlet or Macbeth? Or should we acknowledge that while he wrote masterworks, he like every other starving artist did work for the paychecks like everyone else.

Thanks you my loyal fans "We few we happy few!"