Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Lucha Libre / The Usual Suspects

Hello all. Found these pics in my nightstand and thought I'd share. The first photo is from Southwest Shakespeare's April 2004 mounting of As You Like It. Shown is the wrestling match between my character (Charles) and Orlando, the young hero played by Kyle Sorrel - a wonderful actor and heckuva nice fellow. The wrestling was choreographed by our fight captain David Barker (a performer in his own right with Chaplin-level physical skill and agility) and came complete with head-butts (acting), numerous chairs to the face (acting), and even a back-breaking kneedrop (totally acting). Despite the faking, it was intensely physical and afterwards I would usually go backstage and gag for a bit. After the scene some of my castmates would ask me if I'd finally won a match. Ha-ha. I never did...
Shown in the pic are l to r: Kyle Sorrel (Orlando - 'bout to get slammed), Myself (Charles), Cale Epps (Courtier-you can see his shoes between my legs), Paul Silver (courtier), Scott Dillon (courtier/Sylvius), Eric Urbauer (Oliver DeBoys), Jim Landua (the usurping Duke Frederick), Dave Edmunds (LeBeau), Richard Trujillo (Touchstone), and Michael Sherwin (Old Adam).
The play was performed at Mesa Amphitheatre. It was a neat space in which to perform. I really enjoyed walking out there and speaking my lines into the night air. It made me feel connected to the theatre tradition.

I really like this photo. It was taken in the guy's dressing room at Westwood High in Mesa, where SW Shakespeare was putting on King Lear, starring Ken Ruta in the title role. Shown are myself (anonymous knight/Captain), and Randy Messersmith (Duke of Cornwall). At this moment we have just blinded the Duke of Gloucester and have come backstage for a wash-up. The "blood" is a mixture composed mainly of Karo syrup, red dye, and peanut butter. The peanut butter was included because it made the blood appear to contain bits of tissue. Randy and I started a tradition of sharing a bloody handshake just before we washed the stuff off. You know - success! My first job in the scene was to tie Gloucester to a chair. Then I would step away and another knight would slip the blood packet into my hands, which were clasped behind my back. I would squirt the mixture into my right hand and then close my fist to hide it from the audience. Then two other knights rotated Gloucester's chair until it faced away from the audience. I would come around to the back of the chair and kneel as it was lowered so that Gloucester's head would end up resting on the floor between my knees - hidden from view. Before his head was all the way down I would smear the blood on his eyebrow, the lower temple, and down his cheek. Then Randy would come over and pretend to stomp on Gloucester's eye and grind it out. He would be using my shoulder as support, and I still had my hands over Larry's (Gloucester) face. Basically Randy was placing his foot on my hands and resting his weight on my shoulder, that way Larry would be in no danger of actually getting his face stomped.
The scene was pretty horrific, even for us. Larry (Soller) had a bloodcurdling scream. It even made Randy and I a little queasy at times. Still, it always felt good when everything went well and we were able to unsettle the patrons. Randy would sometimes say to me while scrubbing off the blood: "Man, you really got him good tonight." And I would answer: "Really? Did it look good?" "Oh, yeah."
Some nights, after the scene, Larry would shuffle past the dressing room door with his bloody face and give us a thumbs-up and a chuckle.
It's an odd business, Theatre.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Lesson?

I had the opportunity yesterday to teach the High Priest lesson. It always makes me nervous to stand in front of such an experienced, "seasoned" group. I often get the panicky feeling that I am tearing through my prepared notes, only to realize I still have about 20 minutes left. I started out a little speedy, but was able to calm down and gather myself. The lesson was taken from an April conference talk by Elder David Stone entitled - "Zion in the Midst of Babylon." It deals with how we have a charge to live "in the world, but not of the world," as the expression goes. Or, as I phrased it: fit in, but not blend in. My expressed hope was that we will each be able to live in such a manner that Zion and the Gospel itself will be visible in our countenances. Or, as one brother put it - paraphrasing (I can't remember where this comes from), "If we are accused of being a Latter-Day Saint, will there be enough evidence to convict us?" I was pleased that the brethren seemed to get something from the lesson. I received several nice compliments.

Soul Patrol / Miss Kitka / the Idol

Congrats, Taylor Hicks. I knew you were a contender when you crossed that long room to hear the triumvirate's verdict on whether you'd made the final 24 - playing a blistering harp solo the entire way. As if trying to conjure up some old soul voodoo. I sure like Kat as well - what a charmer. Each week I'd call once for Taylor and once for Katharine. Better make that CD fast, Taylor. We consumers forget quickly.

The other day at work I had the occasion to speak with a very refined-sounding and gracious lady who turned out to be an assisant for Lee Meriwether. Those of you out there who are old enough to remember the old campy Batman TV series will be aware that Ms Meriwether was one of the "Cat-Women" along with Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt. She appeared as Catwoman in the Batman feature film, and her alter ego was a sultry Russian named Miss Kitka. I was not aware, however, that she was also Miss America, not sure of the year. It's interesting to have these intermittent contacts with celebrity. I've had several of them - with a few being with the famous person him or herself. The ones I've spoken to have been mostly down to earth seeming people, though I have spoken to an assistant or two who seemed convinced they were endowed with papal authority.

And now back to the theme of music "Idols." Here is a video which you may have seen before on this blog. It stars, in my opinion, the greatest living Rock Idol in the world. He's my favorite anyway. And by the way, Macca, hang in there. If I could, I'd sing you a song which would take you to that place - where you could find your Brave Face.

Yes, I have removed Macca's video for the time being. Rest assured he'll get back eventually in some form or other. I found another video code site with lots more of his videos. I think I saw it on the Freiberg blog.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Return of the AVP'er and Chuck Noland's God

Ok, Sarah. I'll put the finely tuned/toned spiking babe back in. You're right, it just doesn't seem right without her. Especially since I mention the photo further down. Maybe I'll find out who she is...someday. And if I do, I'll tell her that I was one of the hundreds of shmoes watching her play v-ball that the SB. ZT - 27 May, 2006

Today I felt the need for some relaxation, so I took a day trip to one of my other favorite places - Santa Barbara, CA. The airport, a rich hacienda-type affair, is a mere 10 minute walk from the beach. I've been there twice before. The first time was memorable because it was the first time I'd ever seen a dolphin anywhere besides Sea World. I saw the dorsal fin break the surface, and before I could register my surprise at that - the dolphin popped clean out of the water in a perfect arc.
Anyway, today I took a walk out to the end of Goleta Pier, just to read, smell the sea air, and listen to the waves break on the beach. I then drove down to State street, which runs through downtown SB. Lots of nice looking homes are there to be seen, as well as lots of quaint litte motels I'm sure my Mom would've enjoyed seeing. State St. runs right into Stearns Wharf, with several restaurants and shops out on the pier. One can actually drive out and park on it if one wishes.
Unbeknownst to me (honestly) the AVP pro beach volleyballers were there for a tourstop. Didn't see Kerri Walsh or Misty May, but got this pretty good action shot of an anonymous, intense-looking player serving one up. I also got this shot of a giant Wilson Volleyball (can't you just see it with a huge, smiling, red-painted hand?).

The day was mostly overcast, but still it was a pleasant day with many cool breezes. It was nice getting back home despite the 40 degree temperature swing.

I arrived home to discover there would be a total of 5 kids sleeping at this house tonight. Bless their noisy little hearts. Oh, wait - I hear Emma. Sadie must've just bumped her off of some toy or other. Anyhoo...

Best wishes to all, and have a pleasant evening. I'm off to have a stiff pint - o' Haagen Dazs! P.S. - I eat ice cream alone. Yeah, with nobody else.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Survivor/Lady Croom

Ok folks, it's monday. Aras won a million, and yet I feel strangely empty. Once while discussing 'Survivor' with my friend Sandy, I commented that it would be interesting for a change to set the show in a snowy setting like the Canadian Rockies or Alaska in winter, or Antarctica. To which he replied, "Trust me, kid, it'll never happen." When I asked him why, he answered, "'cause the producers would never get their (the contestants) clothes off!"

Here's a good idea, "Survivor: Maricopa August"

P.S. - Kim/Lady Croom, if you are out there and happen to stumble across this blog o' mine, why not drop me a line and let me know what's up, how you're doing, etc.?
It's been a while. And, since the world-wide-web is world-wide, then you won't have a problem answering these few questions - just so I know it's you.

1. What's the title of that movie we both really like?
2. Who is your favorite cartoon character?
3. Who were the only two people better than you and I at the two-step?
4. Where did I often go on saturdays after golfing?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Two Matriarchs

In honor of Mother's Day I thought I'd post this photo. Shown are my Mom, myself, and Mama Taylor. We are in the rear parking lot of my Dad's Lakewood clinic. Behind us is our old green station wagon (for the young out there, the term "station wagon" would later evolve into "mini-van," and then "SUV").
This photo was one of several photos and mementos which were gathered by Mom and then given to me in an envelope.
Mom spends most of her days in the realm of the selfless. I look at this picture and see two women who have gone multiple extra miles, many times over.
And that more than anything is why, when Mom told us she didn't "need" anything for Mother's day, we collectively answered, "Too bad! You're not the boss of us!"

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Next Year

Alas, I recieved an email today from the assistant stage manager thanking me for auditioning, and letting me know that I was unfortunately not invited to callbacks.
Am I bummed? Yes I am, but not overly so. I still feel good about my audition. The company draws on the best actors in the valley, and on occasion, the country.
Which leads me to one of the amazing things I found out while doing plays here in the valley. The amazing thing was getting to associate with and learn from such amazingly talented people, and that there are so many people who are so incredibly successful in show business (tv and movies), but don't have near the talent of so many people I've gotten to know through the plays we've done together.
My friend Sandy Elias (a director, mentor, and sometime fellow actor) told me that the question he most hates getting from students (he's also a professor at one of the local community colleges) is: "Do I have what it takes to make it in show business?" To paraphrase what he said: There are a gazillion factors which determine success in show business other than talent.
Anyway, they may still call me back. One never knows if they'll need an extra captain, guard, or spear holder. Same money whichever.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Finally the weekend. This week was lots more "grind-y" than normal. Not much on the schedule other than Mother's Day festivities on Sunday. I might get together with my singing/guitar partner Mark tommorrow night. More about him later.
I voted twice for "Kat" this week. Yes I watch 'Idol.' I had a feeling she needed the extra vote. Previously I'd been voting once for Taylor and once for Kat. Seriously I thought she was gone. What a time in the competition to give one's poorest perf, huh? I heard from a friend at work (and I can in no way credit or verify this) that she ended up getting just two votes more than Chris. I find that impossible to believe. But if it's true, then all I can say is: "Don't you worry, McPhee, 'cause apparently I got your back!"

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Saturday in the Park

This is probably my favorite single photo from the NY trip. The location is Bryant Park, where we stopped for a breather while making our way to the ESB. The park actually is bordered on the east by the NY Public Library. We did not know that at the time, however, because the front of the library faces 5th ave. I feel we would have realized what it was had we been able to see those lion statues.
I'd like to be able to say that the photo made me think of the song 'Saturday in the Park' by Chicago. But, in truth I only thought of it after I titled this posting "Saturday in the Park."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

SWS Auditions

The day after returning from NYC (5-7-06) I was scheduled to work eight hours to cover for a friend, and then at precisely 4:05pm I was slotted to audition for the 2006-2007 season of Southwest Shakespeare, one of the top classical theatre companies in the state. I had to audition in front of Jared Sakren, the company Artistic Director. Jared has decades of theatre experience in performing, teaching, and directing. Among former students are such names as Kevin Kline and Helen Hunt. I've been in two SWS shows so far: As You Like It (Charles the Wrestler) and King Lear (I got to tie up the Duke of Gloucester and help put his eyes out). One nice perk about doing a show with them is that you get paid a bit. Signing the contract was memorable ("...Zachary Taylor, hereafter named 'Artist, ' agrees to provide the following services for the company: Actor...").
I had prepared two pieces for the audition. The first was a monologue by Trinculo from The Tempest. I've always found it funny. I was gratified to hear a chuckle from Jared near the beginning of the piece. Upon finishing he asked me for my other piece (encouraging). So I did the Friar Laurence speech from R & J when he comments on how both poison and medicine can
be found in a plant, just as good and evil can both reside in a person.
It went well. Much better than last year for sure, when Jared told me straightaway that there wasn't anything for me. This time he simply said, "Great. Callbacks are in two weeks. We'll be letting people know soon." So, I am not totally certain he will call me back, but at least he mentioned them.

My New Toy

After taking the previous shot of Lower Manhattan, I decided to really see what my new camera could do. Therefore I zoomed out to the maximum it would go and got this shot of Lady Liberty. Digital zoom? Darn right.

View from the Empire State Bldg

Prior to actually going there, I gleaned most of what I knew of Manhattan/NYC from tv shows like 'Seinfeld' or 'Law & Order' or from films such as 'The Godfather.' When I'd hear terms like "upper west side," "Soho," or "121 W. 81st St" I got no mental picture. I had no idea what those things meant. Now it all makes sense. Thus, now when Briscoe and Green find a body in Morningside Park, I know just where that is. (110th & Manhattan Ave).
I was unprepared for how impressive a place Manhattan is. Central Park is beautiful - a real jewel in so urban a setting. And the natives really do appreciate it. One thing in particular struck me: Upon hearing the name Manhattan in the past, I always thought HUGE, just as a result of it being part of NYC. But really, Manhattan is small. The island is about 2 1/2 miles wide at it's widest- about 2 miles wide on avg. And I'd estimate maybe 10 miles from top to bottom. And yet - places I've often heard of, like Little Italy, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, Soho, Tribeca, and Chelsea are all located within the area shown in this photograph. Quite a unique place. FYI, Ground Zero is on the right side among the tall buildings in the far distance. Also you can see Lady Liberty way out there on her island in the upper right.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Here are my niece Caitlin and brother Jeff at the Howard Beach train station. This was about 6am on May 6th, 2007. We had departed Phoenix the previous night at approx 10pm and landed at 5:30 am. At this point we are waiting to take the A train into Manhattan. Jeff was experiencing several firsts. Such as: "I am sitting at my first NYC subway Station." Or, "I am now seeing my first real NYC crazy drunk."

Strawberry Fields Forever

So, I have a blog. In the end I was inspired to start my own by two things: First, I finally acquired a digital camera. Second, I took said camera with me (along with my Bro Jeff and niece Caitlin) to NYC, where I took lots of photos which came out really well. This shot is of the Imagine mural (is it a mural if it's on the ground?) located in the Strawberry Fields section of Central Park. Jeff, Caitlin, and I had a fun and very memorable time seeing the sights. More photos to come.