Oh, The Academic and the Artist Can Be Friends

Or can they?

On Monday I had an interesting interaction with a Professor from Stanford.

I’ve recently begun moving forward on my latest musical project, Joe Schmoe Saves the World.  Part of the story in the show takes place in Iran, just prior to the 2011 “Day of Rage” protest.

Researching this aspect of the story has been difficult at the beginning because, frankly, I just have no clue where to look, where my focus ought to lie. There’s a LOT of complexity to the situation in Iran and there’s a lot to take in.

This lead me to want to speak to a person, a human being.  Personal interaction allows for shortcuts, tangents, anecdotes – things that BBC articles don’t have.

I was put in touch with a Professor at Stanford who totally fit the bill for who I was looking to talk to. He was Iranian, had been jailed in Iran for teaching Marxist theory through metaphor, had written about Iran’s modernity.  A perfect guy to get some answers from.

But I forgot one thing – he was an academic.

Now – I may not have “represented” myself well.  Meaning – I may have looked young, and sounded naive, asking him my questions.  Needless to say, I don’t think he took me very seriously.  Particularly when he began to lecture me on how difficult it was to get theatre produced these days.

Um.  Ya think?

Anyway.  He began most answers to my questions with “well, there’s no short answer to this question.”  I would ask him, for example, if there one piece of material in particular that he found useful in research on the aesthetics of dissent, and he would say, “I mean, there are hundreds of books written on this topic.”  Which made me feel like Katie Couric interviewing Sarah Palin about which newspapers she reads.  “If you could name just one.

I did get some useful information out of him, such as how they recently implemented a law forbidding the sale of neckties in Iran.  But most of his interaction with me felt like condescension.  How could I possibly know what I was doing, let alone know how to do it well?

Here was a man who was used to being the center of his own bubble.  He was used to there being a right and a wrong answer, something that is more or less antithetical to a creative process – a process the requires remaining open to all possibilities.

At the end of the meeting, he ushered me out in order to prepare for his next appointment – he was being skyped into a meeting in Iran.  He slipped a tie on as we walked out.  He looked at me, finally allowing himself to be a person and not an educator.  “I have to wear a tie.  Just to spite the fuckers.”

First Look!

Here’s the first press photo of UPRIGHT GRAND, a new play by Laura Schellhardt.

Dan Hiatt plays Pops, Renata Friedman plays Kiddo, and I play the piano.  Not literally “the piano”.  I play ON the piano.  As well as four other characters.  None of which is a piano.

Meredith McDonough directs – at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto July 11- August 10.

Check out more info and cool design photos here!

Something about Twenty-Somethings

I recently made a comment on the Book Face that seemed like perhaps needed a bit further clarification.

I had come across an article about a new musical being produced by young (read: my age, which may or may not be young depending on whether or not you are a hater) musical theatre writers.  The summary of this musical hinged on a plot about 6 or 12 or 100 “twentysomethings” figuring something out about life before making their first steps in the real world.

And I wrote: “I think it’s time for younger musical theatre writers to remove the word “twentysomethings” from our vocabulary.”

Afterwards, all with good intention and good taste, some people took me to task for various things.  A few people took me to ask for seeming to include myself as a “younger” writer.  Others apparently thought I was griping about the lack of roles in my apparent age group, which is presumably not “twentysomething.”  Fine. Har, har. Whatever.

The larger point that is being missed is this: why do contemporary writers continue to turn to this archetype of a non-idea, the story of the Twentsomething? (Who started this trend, I wonder?  Jonathan Larson with RENT?)  I’ve written about this issue before and its one of the few things that continue to eat away at me every time I come across it.

To me, the word itself gives away its inherent flaw.  It’s vague It’s “sorta-kinda.”  It attempts to be universal, and in doing so utterly fails – as all non-specific things do.

I’m all for exploring post-adolescences.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with a story about young people coming-of-age in the world.  However, when you start off with characters who are defined simply by their general age as a shorthand into their character…well, I find that nearly insulting.  What does being a twenty-something really, truly, SPECIFICALLY mean?  The truth: nothing.

Regardless of who started the trend, I say we vow to end it.   Let’s once and for all send this word to the chopping block where so many other vague words have gone before.

What do you think?  Does this bother you as much as me?  What do you hate to see writers write about?


This past March, my musical DARLING had a workshop production at Emerson College, Boston.  That production has since been nominated for 10 Evvy Awards.

The EVVY Awards, modeled after professional shows such as the EMMYs and Oscars, have become the largest student-produced, multi-camera, live switch event in the nation. This award winning show has become nationally recognized with a first place award at the National Association of College Broadcasters awards and has received two national Telly Awards.
Throughout the year, student work can be submitted in a wide variety of categories, creating a very competitive environment right here on campus. These submissions are then sent out to professional judges in their respective field to ensure a fair and experienced judging process.

In addition to all acting categories, DARLING was also nominated for Outstanding Direction, Choreography, Lighting, Scenic, and Sound Designs, and Outstanding Theatrical Production.

Haley Vigil was also nominated for Oustanding Costume Design, which includes these fantastic designs:

Many congratulations to director Michael Bello, producer Jacob Porter, and the fantastic cast and crew of DARLING: Emerson!

The Evvy Awards are distributed May 12th, at 7pm EST, and the ceremony will be broadcast live on their site.


As I’ve just recently purchased an iphone, I’ve begun to listen to a lot more music than I usually get to do.  One thing in particular that I’ve been able to use it for is for my pre-show warm up.  I have a “Prince of Atlantis” playlist that includes Adele, Josh Pyke, Imperial Teen, Snow Patrol, and so on.Image

One song that has been making a strong impact on me in general is Sara Bareille’s “Uncharted” off her album Kaleidoscope Heart. For me, this song sums up many key points about acting in that poetic way that only music and lyrics can.

No words, My tears won’t make any room for more,
And it don’t hurt like anything I’ve ever felt before,
this is no broken heart,
No familiar scars,
This territory goes uncharted…

This is every moment in a play.  It’s brand new.  The first time. You may have walked into this room before, spoken with this person, but these circumstances are brand new, and it’s important!

I’m going down,
Follow if you want, I won’t just hang around,
Like you’ll show me where to go,
I’m already out of foolproof ideas, so don’t ask me how
To get started, it’s all uncharted.

This is the idea of not-knowing.  In line with this being the first time, there’s also an element of taking an action, and not really knowing how it’s going to turn out.  Or not even really knowing how to go after what you want, but trying anyway.

I won’t go as a passenger, no
Waiting for the road to be laid
Though I may be going down,
I’m taking flame over burning out

This, for me, is the idea of taking risks.  Not just kind-of-sort-of going after your objective, or making a safe choice, but REALLY going after your objective, and REALLY making a choice.  Jumping with out a net.  Deciding it’s better to go big and feel utterly vulnerable than play it safe and easy.

Compare where you are to where you want to be, and you’ll get nowhere

And finally, the truest of truisms in this whole song – and the rhythm in which it’s sung…ugh ::kisses fingers:: – this is the idea of not aiming for results.  In life, in acting, you have to live in the process.  Only in the looking for something will you actually find it.

So thank you, Sara, for this incredible lesson on acting, and, of course, life.

You’re my hero.


Melissa van der Schyff. Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Melissa van der Schyff (Bonnie & Clyde), Victor Hernandez (Bonnie & Clyde), and Andrea Ross (Whistle Down the Wind) will star in my new 10-minute play Death Valley DQ.  The play will premiere as part of American Globe Theatre’s 18th Annual 15-minute Play Festival at 8pm on April 29, 2012.  Brendan Naylor directs.

The offbeat drama centers on two Dairy Queen employees in Baker, CA, and their final customer on the day the DQ is closing its doors.  Described as “Waiting for Godot in a Dairy Queen,” Death Valley DQ explores the risks we must be willing to take at the crossroads of life.

Founded in 1989, American Globe Theatre is the longest running classical theatre in midtown Manhattan. Now, in its’ 23rd year, American Globe (AGT) is dedicated to staging innovative productions of classical plays and to the development of new audiences through educational outreach. American Globe Theatre is committed to reinvigorating performance in contemporary American Theatre through the use of the First Folio technique, which originated with Shakespeare’s own company of players and to passing down this legacy to a new generation of artists and students.

American Globe Theatre is located at 145 West 46th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10036.  The 18th Annual 15-minute Play Festival semi-finals play April 23-29, 2012, 8pm, with the finals on May 4, 2012, at 7pm and 9pm, and May 5, 2012, at 5pm and 7:30pm.

For more information and tickets go to www.americanglobe.org


Okay, so that’s the wrong Prince.

But here’s the right one: The Prince of Atlantis.

This new play by Steven Drukman is premiering at South Coast Repertory from April 6-April 29th and will be featured as part of their annual Pacific Playwrights Festival.


In the play, the Colletti brothers, Kevin and Joey, (Matt Arkin, and John Kapelos) debate how to handle the appearance of Joey’s long-lost son,

Miles (me)!


Along with Joey’s fiancee, Connie, (Nike Doukas) Kevin must keep Miles from learning that Joey is actually in prison – all with surprising, comic results.





Previews start tomorrow, March 30th.  Come down to Costa Mesa and see the wonderfully endearing comedy, directed by Warner Shook.


In celebration of the song “Free Beer” from The Tavern Keeper’s Daughter, Milwaukee’s famous Lakefront Brewery will be offering Free Beer samples before the staged reading of TKD on Monday, Feb. 27th.

The samples will be available starting at 5:30pm in the Skylight Bar, along with brats and other gnosh.  Food and drinks will also be available following the reading.

Check out the song, and then check out the reading!