Thursday, June 30, 2011

Live Bait: Cross the Line

This story would have been my contribution to Live Bait: Cross the Line, which took place on June 3rd, 2011.

I’ve never been much of a gym guy. I would enjoy gym class when I was in school, so much so where I would get a decent grade. But usually the grade came from effort, not necessarily results. What comes to mind when I think of these classes is when we played a dodgeball-esque game. With me, it was quite literally hit-or-miss. I was never good at getting people out, so I never tried to. On a good day, I was very good at dodging. On a good, day, I was able to fake people out and stay alive, sometimes managing to get others back in. Many times I wasn’t even noticed by the opposing team. On a particular occasion, the second-to-last kid on my team was taken out, which caused a rush from the other side to switch the court. This was halted by the gym teacher’s whistle and a calmly delivered: “There’s one more.” Then people on my team suddenly knew who I was. They had to so they could say, “Ryan, get me back in!”

We played this style of game in grade school where we had one line in the middle of the court, and a bowling pin on either side. You had to stay on your side of the court, and of course the purpose was to get people out in a dodgeball-style fashion. If you hit the bowling pin on the other side, anyone on your team who was out is now back in.

We were playing this game once, and the other team was doing very well. It was essentially down to me and one other girl. We were both holding our own fairly well, but unfortunately neither of us were good offensively. With the way we each threw, someone was sure to catch our ball and, by traditional rules, get us out. So we had to get the bowling pin. No question about it. Soon enough, she was out and it was down to me.
While I may not be the best dodgeball player, I am a smart one. When you are on your own, the first thing you need to do is get all of the balls on your side. So I’m dodging everything they throw at me, all the while stock-piling the balls on my side. Luckily, I managed to get every ball. Now or never, I had to get that bowling pin.

I move as close to the line as I can, lining myself right up with that pin. There is one guy on the other team standing in front of the pin, determined that I will not hit it. He will either catch my ball, or he will take one for the team so that I’m still by myself. I only had one shot at this before I had to go back on the defensive. I did a maneuver that only works in grade school, and maybe in young adulthood. I did the infamous “Fake Throw”. This is when you have the ball, and you only pretend to throw the ball. So you move your arm in a throwing motion, but you don’t let the ball go. This guy literally dove out of the way as if it was a grenade coming at him. Once he cleared, I simply rolled the ball with as much accuracy as I could muster. The ball sort of rolled in slow motion, and I was surprised no one ran to stop it. They all just watched what it would do. What they watched was the balling ever-so-slightly nudging the pin, but enough to make it tip over.
I then heard two things: I heard a rush of kids run back over to my side, ecstatic that we now outnumbered the other side. I then heard the gym teacher, Mr. Almonte, yell “You’re out, Hanley!” My foot had just barely crossed the line in the middle, so I was out of bounds. Everyone else was still in, but I was out.

No one got me back in.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Oh Theatre, You Have Forsaken Me!

I encourage all that can to see "BUSTER KEATON: FADE TO BLACK" A play by Lenny Schwartz, particularly this Friday. It's a great show and has been getting wonderful reviews and responses. But why this Friday, you ask? If anything, please make that day worthwhile for me. Because I won't be in NYC at Barnes & Noble meeting the cast of Doctor Who. Cast and crew, I am letting common sense overtake an over-the-top,outrageous, and slightly feasible nerdgasm. That's how much I love you all and how much I care for this show.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Bathroom of Higher Education...and Hotnessssss!

My_Movie.wmv Watch on Posterous
Yes, someone was getting down while doing their business. I was just getting down. Go, white boy! Go, white boy! Go! Go! Go, white boy!

Live Bait: Eat Your Broccoli

This is a story that was meant to be told at the March edition of Live Bait. The theme was “Eat Your Broccoli”. This is the story of how I met Kevin Broccoli…and went to war against him!

I met Kevin back around 2006 when we were both in a production of The Boys Next Door. Immediately, I thought he hated me. I wasn’t sure why he did. Maybe I did something to him in a past life and he had the ability to remember recall this event. More realistically, he might have just been sizing me up. If this was in fact the case, I don’t think he was impressed. Frankly, if I were to go back to 2006 and size myself up, I’d probably go back to “Young Kevin” and agree with him.

Regardless of initial impressions of each other, real or perceived, we got along fine during the production. This was actually my first community theatre show, and Kevin was certainly part of the reason the experience was enjoyable. Once we had gotten to know each other a bit better, our senses of humor seemed to mesh pretty well.

Once the show wrapped up, I really only saw Kevin on occasion. I might run into him downtown in Providence on the street. I might see him when hanging out with other friends, as it turned out we had some friends in common. But mainly, I would see Kevin at auditions. Right after The Boys Next Door was done, we both ended up auditioning for Proof at the Barker Playhouse. It was a bit weird for me, because now here was a guy I just worked with, and now we were both going for the same role. And this wasn’t a show we could both be in. There was only one character we could both appropriately play. I ended up getting the part. Later on, we both auditioned for You Can’t Take It With You. Once again, it was at Barker. Once again, we were both up for the same part. Once again, I ended up getting it. I’m certainly not saying this to toot my own horn. It’s for chronological purposes, and it will supply some reflective material later on.

Flash ahead some years, and I am in my last year of earning my MFA at Rhode Island College. I performed my thesis project entitled Sex, Please, We’re Americans at Perishable Theatre. It’s coming to the summer of 2010, and I am getting my annual messages of Facebook saying “Please vote for me at this year’s Motif awards”. For those playing the home game, Motif magazine holds a theatre awards ceremony every year, usually at this place called The Hi Hat, where suspiciously hats are banned, and you, the readers, choose the winners. I go on the site to vote for people I want to support, and I am surprised to find that my thesis was nominated for “Best New Work”. Also nominated, “The Kevin Broccoli Monologues”. As many people are aware, Kevin writes monologues regularly and puts together shows. If you haven’t seen one, you should. Also, if you have a moment, ask yourself why.

I am working at RIC, and I run into a friend of mine, Jeff. I’m talking to Jeff, and I mention the Motif nomination. Now I’m the one that can prod people to vote for me. To this, Jeff says “Kevin Broccoli said he wants to destroy you at Motif.” I am certain this was the verb to be performed: destroy. Not beat. Not even overtake. Destroy. Jeff also mentions that Kevin claimed we had a “mutual disdain” for each other. This completely confused me. First if this was a mutual thing, wouldn’t I have been in on it? I feel like I’ve missed many opportunities to express disdain because I didn’t know I was supposed to. I was cheated out of hatred.

The day of Motif arrives. I’m there with my girlfriend Jamie. I see Kevin, I say hello. I’m playing it cool. But maybe to cool because I think he’s on to something, but if he is on to something then he is hiding it well because he too is playing it cool. Too cool, perhaps? By now, I have completely engrossed myself in the “why”. Why does Kevin not like me? What did I…what…now wait a minute. It’s Barker, isn’t it? It’s the two shows at Barker that I did instead of him. Kevin, a fantastic writer who is making his mark in Rhode Island Theatre, a man who is becoming recognized by newsletters and local magazines, a man completely in control of his destiny, is holding a grudge because of two community theatre shows. His success is not enough! He should have been Hal! He should have been Tony! He should have paid the $75 in dues! Not me! And now, Kevin is going to exact his revenge! He is going to destroy me and the work I did! To this I say, “I…think…not!” I will not be destroyed. I will be the destroyer. In fact, I will devour every fiber of this man’s being at the Motif awards! I will devour Kevin Broccoli! I will eat…my…Broccoli.

He won. Rightfully so.

Later that summer, we both were in a show together. And during that rehearsal process, I wanted nothing to do with him. I made efforts to at least be polite. I don’t think I was rude during the process. Just quiet. When we get to the run of the show, I have to say something. I ask him where this mutual disdain is coming from.

“That? That was a joke! I was saying that about everyone. Jeff is a moron.” I don’t know if he really called Jeff a moron. But I am. Jeff, you’re a moron. And I love you.

Jeff actually came to our show, to which I told him that he was mistaken. He knew. In fact he knew so well that he in fact played me for a fool. The whole time.

Since then, I would say Kevin and I have a mutual respect for each other. I would say that we get along pretty well, and our regular interactions at Live Bait are some of the best I’ve had with him. And I am certain that he doesn’t hate me. After all, I’ve gotten to perform his monologues.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ignorance is Bliss(fully Like Drugs)

Recently, I had performed in one of Kevin Broccoli’s monologue shows at the 2nd Story Theatre in Warren, RI. This is the second time that I got to perform in one of Kevin’s shows, and the first time proved to be a great theatrical experience for me. What I mean by this is that it isn’t like the run-of-the-mill theatre people expect. The kind of theatre that sort of stereotypes the whole form, and it is fueled by the likes of what Peter Brook would call “Deadly Theatre”. This was the kind of theatre that I could really get behind; it was the kind of theatre that understood what it was and it was true to its “self".

I was excited about the monologue that I had. It was much more substantial than the first one I had performed. It was interesting. It was funny, as well as something I could have fun with. I had a fair amount of time to go over it, and I was feeling good about it. When I got to 2nd Story that evening, I had gotten to see a fair amount of people who I haven’t worked with in a while. One thing that seemed constant about these people was that they were working regularly, and I mean this in a performance sense. They were working regularly in work that seemed interesting and provoking. At the time of this show, I too was part of a production currently in rehearsal. And while I felt good about this production, I felt a bit stifled with all of the other work I have been doing. I don’t know if it had to do with the monotony of the work, or if it was because the work in itself was not pulling in a crowd, but I was in need of a new creative outlet. I needed something creative that would give me a solid kick in the pants. I tried turning towards writing, primarily through a comedy writing course through Second City in Chicago. Unfortunately, that class was now over. And while the class provided a great deal of information and practice, I am not so sure it provided me with the thing I wanted most: the “want” to write. This is probably something that can’t be manufactured, but nevertheless it is still something that I am eager to grasp hold of. It is something I want to not bury in excuses. “It’s been a long day.” “I’m tired.” “I’ll watch a movie instead.”

We have a little less than an hour until the doors open, and I’m seeing the space for the first time. I hadn’t the pleasure of being at 2nd Story before, but it’s one of those theaters in RI that people want to be involved with. It’s generated this certain amount of clout that those in the artistic community want a piece of that pie. I was unaware that the place was in the round, which was certainly interesting. I was also unaware that my particular monologue was part of a dual monologue. I would be performing this alongside another actress named Katie. It’s our turn to get up. Katie and I are on opposite ends of the stage. We are performing monologues about a one night stand we had with each other, each with very different perspectives. Katie goes first. Her monologue is good. It’s solid. The delivery is where it needs to be. I’m feeling the lights trying to melt me from the head down.

I start my monologue, and right away I begin to blank. Why am I blanking? I know this monologue. I know I know this monologue. I take a look at it from off my phone, continue, and I blank again. I take another look, and I continue. More blanks. This is getting absurd. I tell Kevin “I need to sit down and look at this”.
One thing I will give Kevin was that he was as calm as could be. I’ve worked with enough where he thankfully had something he considered faith in me. Meanwhile, I was sweating bullets. Here I was, at a monologue show, and I don’t know my monologue. These shows that Kevin had been doing for a while gained a good rep. I didn’t want to be the guy that tarnished this rep. I didn’t want to be the guy that let the rest of the cast down. I could almost picture myself completely blanking in front of a full house, watching Katie stand uncomfortably as I tried to remember my next line. I didn’t want to be “that guy”.

One thing that I can assure you all of is that one of the biggest rushes one can have is not knowing what you are doing before you have to do it. Not to be confused with being inexperienced. I felt confident in the skills I’ve gained for the stage. I knew this was something I could potentially do. Think of it like a NFL quarterback, at the Super Bowl, and he forgot all of the plays. As I watched the beginning of the show, going over my monologue over and over in my head, I could feel my heart beating in my throat. The anxiety was like nothing else. If it was a drug, I was not only hooked on it, I was hooked, kicking it, going through withdrawal, rehab, and then hooked again. Like one of Lindsay Lohan’s months.

This anxiety kept building and building, all the way through Katie’s monologue. Finally, it was my turn. I took one moment, one moment to make a choice. Somehow, that choice got a laugh, which was good in this case. I started talking, and thankfully, I talked the whole way through. I had one rough patch, where I had switched some stuff around, but everything that had to be there was there. The audience seemed to have enjoyed the piece. My adrenaline slowly went down all the way to intermission. After that, I went over to Katie to congratulate her on a job well done. Then, I went downstairs, got myself a beer, came back up, and had the best “cool-down” I’ve ever experienced.

In one fell swoop, I felt what I needed to feel, both creatively and mentally. Pants thoroughly kicked.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Comedic Monologue for Second City Comedy Writing Class

Hello? Eileen? Listen, when you get this message I need you to call me back right away. I won’t be able to come into the office today. I…well, I locked myself in my own basement. I am guessing my wife saw the outside door lock unhinged and put it back, not knowing I was down here. Don’t ask me why we have a lock on the outside of the door. It’s not like we have any kids. All I know is that it better not be a hint. Anyway, I don’t know if I am going to make it in at all. It all depends on when I can get out of this creepy basement.

I know what you’re thinking: how can a grown man think his own basement is creepy? Well, you aren’t one to judge, Eileen. Besides, it all goes back to when I was a kid. My mom had asked me to go down to the dryer and get the towels out. So I go down to the basement, open up the dryer, and my sister comes screaming out of it, scaring the shit out of me. She was waiting for me to go down to the basement just so she could pop out like some demon child. Her and my mom planned the whole thing. They thought it was just a practical joke, but it really was a traumatic moment for me. I mean, look at me, Eileen. I can’t even walk into my own basement unafraid, let alone keep myself locked out of it.

I know that I must be rambling, Eileen. But I feel like if I keep talking I’ll be able to keep myself distracted and not worry about this stupid phobia. I find that I ramble a lot when I am nervous. It wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t so nervous all the time. Do you get nervous, Eileen? You don’t seem the type to get nervous. Every day, you are at your desk, proper, organized, not at all nervous. But who knows, maybe you are nervous on the inside and just aren’t showing it. Well you really should let it out, Eileen. It isn’t healthy to keep all of that bottled up. In fact, I find it a bit insulting. Here I am, ready to wet my pants, and you’re off somewhere being confident. Where is the compassion, Eileen? I don’t know how I can work with someone that has no compassion. Maybe I shouldn’t work with you at all, you know that? Maybe one minute I’ll walk into that office, and then walk right out the next minute. Just to get away from you, Eileen. Oh…Eileen, you know I don’t mean that. I couldn’t walk out on you because of your confidence. It’s just this basement. It’s making me crazy. And for the record, I didn’t really wet my pants.

Wait a minute? Did you hear that Eileen? I’m going to hold the phone out and, when I get back to the office eventually, you can tell me if you heard something in this part of the message. I’m going to hold out the phone right…now. Did you hear anything? I hope you heard something. Wait! There it was again. I’m going to hold out the phone again. So now, when I get to the office, let me know if you heard something in this part of the message. Don’t worry about the first part of the message. I’m guessing that you didn’t hear anything anyway. Unless you did hear something, then I do want you to tell me. So, just to be straight, let me know if you heard anything in the second part of the message no matter what. Don’t tell me if you heard anything in the first part of the message, unless you actually heard something. Got it? Second, definite, first, maybe…wait! I just heard it again. Jeez, if I wasn’t explaining so much, you might have actually heard it. Alright…the third part of the message, let me know. Ignore the second, which was me talking. Only tell me about the first if you heard anything. Ready…and…now…Did you hear anything? I don’t think you would have that time either. Maybe if…oh, there it was again! You know what, forget it. I’m going to go and find the noise myself. I can’t just wait here at the top of the stairs the whole time.

You don’t think I can do it, do you Eileen? Well, I’m going to show you. I’m going down these stairs as I speak. You can hear my feet on the stairs. See, I’ll even stomp loud! Hear that? I’m stomping, Eileen. I’m stomping because you don’t believe in me, Eileen. And I’m not just stomping on the top step, Eileen. I’m really going down the stairs. Alright, I was stomping at the top for the first three stomps, but now I am really at the bottom. Oh! There it is again. I think it was coming from over here. I’m walking towards it, Eileen. I really am. It seems to be coming from…oh, it’s the dryer. How ironic, right Eileen? Here I am, talking about my fear of the basement because of a dryer, and this one is driving me crazy. Can you believe the irony, Eileen? When I get to the office, we’re going to laugh about this. It will be a good laugh, Eileen.

Stupid dryer. To think, this is the cause of all of my grief. And it’s just a dryer! I’m a man, Eileen. I shouldn’t be afraid of something so simple. Well, I really can’t say simple. This dryer actually broke down a year ago. My brother came down to fix it. Took him a whole week. So I really can’t say simple. But you know what I mean, Eileen. I’m not going to give into this machine anymore. You hear me, Eileen? I am going to conquer this fear. That’s it. I’m going to conquer my fear by facing it head on.

Listen to this, Eileen. Do you hear this? I’m climbing into the dryer, Eileen. And I’m not afraid. It’s not like the dryer is going to eat me or anything. You hear me? My dryer is not eating me, Eileen. And I’m going to stay in the dryer. I’m going to stay in this dryer until my wife comes down with some laundry. She’s going to come down with some towels or the like, open the dryer, and then I’m going to scare the shit out of her. That will do it, Eileen. That will beat this phobia. Of course, you don’t think she won’t notice me, toss in the towels, and start the dryer? Well, if you do or don’t, let me know when I get back. Although it really won’t matter at that point, will it?

Well, that will be all, Eileen. I’ll be in this dryer until my wife shows up. Dr. Kniseley is on call. He can talk with my patients today. I have a good feeling about this, Eileen. I have a very good feeling about this.