Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Too Busy

I ran into an old friend earlier this week who asked me how I was doing. "Busy," I told her, "Busier than I've ever been in my life." She replied, standing underneath a sign in her cubicle that read It's 4:00. Why aren't you at the gym, "Well, that's good. That's great!" I shrugged and mumbled something noncommittal, but what I wanted to do was shout ludicrous and shameful obscenities for an hour or two.

What I'd give to have time to go to the gym at 4:00.

Let's take a look at it all, shall we? I'm acting in Measure for Measure for one final weekend. We've had overlapping rehearsals for As You Like It for the past three weeks; that show opens March 27 and runs through April 20, and I am, of course, playing live music for each performance because canned just won't cut it. I'm scoring another production of As You Like It for Georgia State University's theatre department. I'm working to try to get AYLI down to Eureka Springs, Arkansas some time in the summer, and that's a long story. We have auditions on March 16, workshops the next three second Tuesdays, and I'm teaching a class that begins in late March. I'll be directing a summer re-staging of As You Like It, and likely assuming a lot of production duties for the other Festival shows. I'm spearheading a redesign of the RAPT website and preparing a national survey of Shakespeare theatres and university training programs to see where the teaching isn't fitting the companies' needs. I'm helping with the Easter Vigil drama at Christ Church, leading weekly worship at Redeemer, and trying to put together a staged reading with David Sennett. I'm having a hell of a time with DVD burning software on my computer, for crying out loud; I just can't get anything to work!!! And I'm desperately trying to figure out how the heck to grow Richmond Shakespeare, a company that is producing some real quality work in the last few years, but performing for criminally small audiences.

Meanwhile, last Monday, I played four meager songs at the RAPT meeting, three of them with Lizabella, and it was the most perfectly happy and at peace I have felt in recent memory.

Jill Bari said to me last month, "You must absolutely love your job." Truth be told, I almost laughed in her face, bless her.

I do love my job. Jobs. What I'd really love is a little less of them. My creative juices are flowing; I've never in my life experienced a real "dry spell" or writer's block. I just have no TIME. Here's a very brief and incomplete list of artistic projects I've begun which are simmering (or cooling) on the back burner:

A re-staging of my wildly successful 2004 graduate thesis, a concert-theatre performance of Joe Jackson's Night and Day. Finishing my musical, A Week in the Suburbs (an adaptation of Turgenev's A Month in the Country), which I've been working on for literally a decade. Producing my second play, Awake in Pennsylvania, re-writing my first full-length play The Blizzard of '93, writing my latest play idea Gift of Light, also a five-year-old idea. Mastering the live album I recorded in December. Recording a new piano album. Finding a market for my Christmas CD from two years ago. Writing (of all things) a science-fiction novel about astronauts exploring a planet without original sin. Writing a book about acting called The Five-Tool Player. Taking piano lessons so I can stop playing the 88 keys like a rhythm guitarist.

But what I really want to do is load a guitar and a computer into my truck (this dream keeps coming back) and drive across the country creating art in small communities and blog about the experience. Writing songs, doing concerts, writing plays and stories, recording on the old church piano, staging one-acts in the community center, filming the whole thing like Les Stroud and blogging the entire shebang. That would be great. I could even throw Bella in a guitar case (she is small and seldom complains) and take her on the road with me; we could do the songs we sang at RAPT.

But I can't do any of that stuff. I'm really down here, guys. I'm torn between the fact that I know I have so much more to offer as an artist than I'm able to give and the fact that I'm giving a heck of a lot right now. I'm torn between a sense of mission and civic responsibility and a desire to just work a job that gives me my evenings free to watch TV with my wife and maybe a computer on my lap. Some days I think I want to be 23, strap that guitar on my back and just start walking westward, trusting the inherent goodness of humanity to provide for me as I make music out of the miles.

I'm really miserable this week, friends and readers, and I don't know what to do about it.

The good news is, I've lost three or four inches around my waist from the diet change I made last month. The bad news is, I need a bunch of new pants and really can't afford to buy any.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Richmond Shakespeare Auditions March 16

Auditions for the 2008 Richmond Shakespeare Festival and the 2008-2009 Richmond Shakespeare Theatre will be held on Sunday, March 16 beginning at 2:00 PM at Second Presbyterian Church (5 N. 5th Street). Callbacks will be held later that evening.

Shows include:

The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) – June 12-29
As You Like It – July 3-13
Henry IV, Part 2 – July 17-August 3
Hamlet – October 2008
Other shows in 2009 TBA

Actors should prepare a one-minute classical monologue, bring a resume and headshot (if available), and be prepared for movement and cold reading. Some roles have already been cast. Most roles are non-union, but a limited number of Equity contracts are available.

To make a reservation or ask questions, contact Andrew Hamm at 232-4000 or

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Richmond Shakespeare's March Workshop

"Professional Development"
with David Sennett
Tuesday, March 11, 2008, 7:00-9:30
Second Presbyterian Church (5 N. 5th Street)

What does an actor need to survive and thrive in the working theatre world? Headshots and resumes, of course, but also numerous monologues, special auditioning and rehearsal skills, marketing plans, and financial strategies are just some of the requirements. How does an actor go about obtaining what he/she needs? And what about unions, agents, managers? Learn some basics about making a living doing the work you love. Actors should bring headshots and resumes for feedback.

Instructor David Sennett is an Equity and SAG actor, teacher, director, and producer who has appeared nationally on stage and screen. He currently teaches Theatre at the Center for the Arts at Henrico High School.

15 students maximum. High school juniors and older. Cost: $20. Spaces are limited. Call 232-4000 to make your reservation today!

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Style Weekly" Praises "Measure for Measure"

From this week's Style Weekly:

Quick-Change Artists
Actors make the most of multiple roles in “Measure for Measure.”
by David Timberline

Richmond Shakespeare Theatre’s practice of “doubling” — having each of its actors play two or three roles in a show — has always led to some interesting juxtapositions. Its current production of “Measure for Measure” may present the most fascinating and artistically rewarding combinations yet.

In this complex consideration of moral gray areas, Andrew Hamm portrays both the strict Duke’s deputy, Angelo, who must crack down on the reprobates of Vienna, and the unfortunate gentleman Claudio, who gets cracked down upon. Both of these characters are fraught with inner conflict, and it’s a tribute to Hamm’s considerable skills that he is able to make each man’s trajectory riveting and distinct. He even throws in for good measure an amusing comic turn as an elderly constable.

Hearing that Claudio has been sentenced to die, his novitiate sister, Isabella, leaves the nunnery to plead for his life. Angelo makes her a devil’s bargain: If she sleeps with him, he’ll free her brother. As Isabella, Liz Blake is convincingly enchanting and proves her acting mettle in the extreme emotional rollercoaster her character must ride.

Spurring the plot into greater complication is Vincentio, the Duke (David White), who disguises himself as a friar to spy on the proceedings. White doesn’t quite do enough to differentiate the Duke from the pimp Pompey, but he salvages his performance in some exceptional final scenes.

In other supporting roles, Julie Phillips makes her biggest impression as the bawdy Mistress Overdone, and while John Moss’ near-farcical take on the opportunistic Lucio sometimes seems to belong in a different play, it’s also consistently hilarious.

As is befitting one of Shakespeare’s “problem” plays, this production has some issues with the mix of comic and melodramatic elements. But the overall effect is a bracing — and gratifying — journey down a murky moral path.

This is my blog, rather than Richmond Shakespeare's, so I can make more personal commentary here without shame.

It's unfortunate that David Timberline and Mary Burruss have to come see such early performances in a show's run (they were both at the Thursday preview) to write a review that doesn't see print for almost two weeks after the fact. It's a bit of a disservice to the company, which loses a full week of media buzz, but it's also not fair to the reviewers, who are often seeing something of a work-in-progress at the beginning of opening weekend. Cases in point: the slippery carpets were a serious distraction for both actors and audience, and Dave White has really found some very specific and delightful differences between the Duke and Pompey in the past two weeks.

Then again, that's part of the wonder of theatre, isn't it? No two shows are alike, shows morph and evolve as they run, and no two audiences have the same experience. Perhaps all theatre reviews should be required to state the date of the performance the reviewer attended so the audience can say, "Hey, that was like two weeks ago. I wonder how the show is different now?"

Measure for Measure continues to be a mountaintop artistic experience for me. This script has gone from being a chore to read in October to possibly my favorite play in all of Shakespeare by January, from being a struggle to connect with to the most rewarding acting work of my life. I will be incredibly sad to see it go.

Honestly, to play those scenes with Liz Blake, I would do this show for free.

Don't tell Grant.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Honoring Sean Taylor at the Pro Bowl

From Fox Sports:

Players get final chance to honor Taylor
by Alex Marvez
Updated: February 11, 2008, 12:58 AM EST HONOLULU

Three Washington players entered Sunday's Pro Bowl wearing No. 21 jerseys as homage to late teammate Sean Taylor.

They left Aloha Stadium knowing a new head coach named Saturday will be leading the Redskins upon their return home. In between, the trio played in a 42-30 NFC victory over the AFC.

That convergence of past, present and future events made the Pro Bowl experience unique for tight end Chris Cooley, left tackle Chris Samuels and long snapper Ethan Albright.

"Life goes on and things happen fast, especially in this business," Albright said. "It doesn't change the fact Sean will be remembered, but time does heal wounds. The further out you get from (Taylor's death), the more you accept it.

"But every day you go in the (Redskins) locker room, his locker is going to be there just like he left it. Everybody that comes in is going to know about Sean Taylor."

Taylor's presence couldn't be missed Sunday. Redskins players were designated the NFC's captains for the pre-game coin toss. The NFC then opened defensively with just 10 players. Washington did the same in its first game after Taylor was killed in late November following a botched robbery at his South Florida home.

NFC (and Green Bay) coach Mike McCarthy suggested the gesture, which was overwhelmingly welcomed by Taylor's peers. Taylor became the first player voted posthumously to the Pro Bowl in December.

"Knowing he's still in our heart, it was a big deal for all the players," said Minnesota's Darren Sharper, who was the lone safety on the NFC's first defensive snap. "We wanted to play hard for Sean."

When a Taylor tribute began airing on the stadium video screen late in the first half, Dallas tight end Jason Witten grabbed Cooley's arm and pointed it out. The duo spoke briefly and watched together as P. Diddy's "I'll Be Missing You" blared over the public address system.

"I told Chris, 'He was a special guy, wasn't he?'" Witten said. "Chris said he was."

Players traditionally swap team clothing during Pro Bowl week. Taylor had so much respect among them that Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck noted "there was probably more Redskins gear being worn than normal."

"I liked talking to Chris and the Redskins guys this week just to understand what (Taylor) was really like," Witten said. "I knew what a great player he was, but I found out he was an even better guy."

After almost breaking into tears during the video montage, Cooley took the field and scored on a 17-yard Hasselbeck pass.

Eerie — just like when Washington defeated Dallas by the same point total as Taylor's jersey number to clinch a playoff berth in the regular-season finale.

"Sometimes things just happen and you don't know the reason," Hasselbeck said. "He just happened to be the guy open on that play."

That touchdown wasn't the only time Hasselbeck and Cooley connected at the Pro Bowl. The two went to dinner Tuesday night so Cooley could pick Hasselbeck's brain about Jim Zorn, Seattle's quarterbacks coach the past seven seasons.

Four days later, Zorn was promoted to Redskins head coach after recently being hired as offensive coordinator. Cooley is admittedly glad that the "musical chairs of head coach interviews are over" after the Redskins met with eight other candidates considered to replace the retired Joe Gibbs.

"I was initially a little surprised (about Zorn), but it is the Redskins," said Cooley, referring to team owner Dan Snyder's history of making unconventional coaching hires. "We kind of sat back and waited to see what happened with no real expectations.

"It's hard to not have anything solid there. We were ready for it to be done. No one really expected Coach Gibbs to leave. It's been an interesting month, but I'm happy we got our guy."

At the Pro Bowl, the focus was on a guy who wasn't there. Samuels remembers seeing Taylor level Buffalo's Brian Moorman on a fake punt during last year's Pro Bowl.

Yes, even punters weren't off-limits to Taylor.

Samuels said he and other Redskins players tried to bring that same intensity to what is essentially a glorified exhibition game.

"We wanted to represent Sean the way he would have played the game," Samuels said. "I think about Sean every day. I also pray for his family."

Samuels' girlfriend is compiling a scrapbook of Pro Bowl events as a memento for Taylor's girlfriend and their infant daughter. Samuels, though, also knows the Redskins must close the book on a season that saw Washington rally for a playoff berth by winning four of five games after Taylor's death.

"We buried Sean a while ago," Samuels said. "We have to put him to rest. We'll still think about him from time to time, of course. But now we have a new head coach. We're going to play for this guy like if it were Coach Gibbs there.

"Hopefully, we'll carry some of that (2007) momentum over. But it's a new season, We can't live off the past. We've got to go out and start all over again."

For three Redskins, that process began Sunday.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Times-Dispatch: "Measure" "Offers Much to Chew On"

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

A comedy wrestles with morality
Richmond ensemble takes on tangled plot of Shakespeare play
Sunday, Feb 10, 2008 - 12:08 AM Updated: 02:49 AM

Richmond Shakespeare's entry in the Acts of Faith Festival, Shakespeare's comedy "Measure for Measure," offers much to chew on in the areas of morals and ethics.

The Duke of Vienna has been lax in applying stringent societal laws; he pretends to head out of town and gets his deputy Angelo, a much tougher enforcer, to take his place while he's gone. Angelo promptly condemns one Claudio to death for fornication -- a crime that has typically gone unpunished by the duke.

Claudio's sister Isabella, a novice nun, begs Angelo to let Claudio off, but deceitful Angelo is willing to do so only if Isabella sleeps with him (with Angelo, that is -- confused yet?). The duke is hanging around Vienna disguised as a friar, and when he learns of Angelo's treachery he devises a plot by which Angelo will be tricked into thinking Isabella has submitted to him. So Angelo has sex with a substitute girl, but he still demands Claudio's death. The execution is faked, the duke reveals the truth and metes out justice, and then he asks Isabella to marry him.

It's fairly complicated, morally as well as plot-wise, and Shakespeare has blended serious matters with comic ones throughout. No one is quite blameless here, though several characters are shameless, or hiding their shame.

In Richmond Shakespeare's production, director James Alexander Bond upholds the company's high standard of spoken verse and pulsing energy as realized by a terrific five-actor ensemble.

Each actor plays at least three roles, and all the characters are well-distinguished. Liz Blake plays Isabella, lovely and innocent, brave and outraged. Andrew Hamm, as Claudio, has a classic scene with her in which he begs her to sacrifice her virginity for his life. He's also perfectly tuned as hypocritical Angelo.

John Moss is amusing and animated as Lucio, Claudio's friend, and Julie Phillips is strong in several smaller roles. David White does a fine job with the role of the duke. It's a lively performance that lends heart to the production.

Thank you to Susan Haubenstock! One of the great things about doing plays with universal lighting is seeing Ms. Haubenstock's mysterious Mona Lisa smile in the audience during a show.

Matinee today at 2:30. Come out and join us!

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Decision 2008: I Finally Endorse a Candidate

It's a tense and exciting time in Washington.

A second, four-year term of mixed results passes, and we're on the verge of selecting a replacement for the biggest job in town. Big names have come and gone in the quest. There have been several intriguing candidates, with three coming clearly to the forefront as of Tuesday's action.

Yes, things are tense around town, with all three big-time candidates representing strong ideas and some obvious flaws. Whatever decision is made, I'll support the eventual winner. But the time has come for me to make my will known and pick a horse. I don't expect anyone to be influenced by my decision, but I feel a civic duty to make it known. I've had to balance a lot of issues here, most notedly experience versus the ability to inspire.

After much consideration, I am supporting Ron Meeks to be the next head coach of the Washington Redskins.

I would have been very happy with Gregg Williams as head coach, keeping the Gibbs 2.0 regime's core in place. But Williams is gone, taking over the defense in Jacksonville. Steve Mariucci is an intriguing prospect, but doesn't appear likely at this point. I think Fred Thompson threw his hat in the race for a little while, but surprisingly never turned out to be a serious contender.

Which brings us to the big three candidates.

I originally wanted Jim Fassel, and had been a big Fassel supporter for the job four years ago before Gibbs came back. And Fassell could be a fine head coach; Washington is one of the biggest pressure cities in the league, and Fassell's experience as New York Giants head coach certainly has him prepared for that. He's a fine, solid coach. But I want something new; I want the Redskins to be the team that discovers the new hotness, rather than bringing in the same old merry-go-round of established guys.

Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is an intriguing prospect. His defense certainly gave the Patriots offense more than they could handle. But I'm just not enamored of the idea of hiring a first-year coordinator based on his players' performance in one game, even if it was the Super Bowl. No, especially if it's the Super Bowl; players play out of their minds in that game. I don't want to hire somebody based on one game, or even one playoff season.

Which brings us to Meeks, the Barack Obama of this chase. A one-time defensive backs coach in Washington, he knows the scene and is familiar with management. With Dan Snyder or Jerry Jones as your owner, that's extra important. He turned a Colts defense that had resembled a sieve just a couple years ago into one of the league's best last year, with mostly the same personnel. His players would run through walls for him. He's young, he's hot, he's hungry, and frankly, I just have a feeling.

I'll support any of these guys because they'll be wearing burgundy and gold and that's how I roll. All three have the potential to be great coaches. All three have the potential to be huge disasters. Last time we could say that, we were looking at Steve Spurrier.

Please let this not be Steve Spurrier.

EDIT: Spagnuolo is out of the race. He agreed today to a three-year contract worth more than two million dollars a year to stay in New York, making him the highest-paid defensive coordinator in the game.

So it's looking very much like Jim Fassel will be the next head coach of the Redskins. We could do a lot worse.

EDIT: Holy crap, it's Jim Zorn! If I'd had any idea he was in the running, he would absolutely have been my candidate.

Last notable name to jump from QB coach under Mike Holmgren to head coach? Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles. That seems to have worked out pretty darn well.

I'm totally jazzed! This is just the kind of guy the team needs. Can it be that Dan Snyder has actually grown up as an owner with Gibbs at his side for four years?

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Art Monk and Darrell Green Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame!

Art Monk is finally going to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame!

It almost makes the wait worthwhile to have him make it the same year as Darrell Green, not to mention one-time Redskins coach Emmitt Thomas. Now if we can just get Russ Grimm in to represent the Hogs, we might have a real representation of the team that won three Super Bowls in nine years.

Congratulations to Art and Darrell!

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Review: Joe Jackson - "Rain"

Joe Jackson
Ryko, 2008
Produced by Joe Jackson

I am a completely unapologetic fan of Joe Jackson. Ever since Phil handed down his vinyl copies of Night and Day, Look Sharp!, Blaze of Glory, and Body and Soul I have been completely hooked. Joe is simply everything I love about songwriting. He effortlessly jumps genres to serve the story or the vibe, sometimes from song to song on an album, but just as frequently from album to album. From the New Wave energy of his first three albums to jump-swing, Latin-retro and jazz-pop for the next few to concept albums, film scores, avant-minimalism, a Grammy-winning symphony, and a neoclassical song cycle about the seven deadly sins to 2002's orginal band reunion album, there is no modern musical artist who has explored so many musical styles with greater commitment and facility than Joe Jackson. When Joe has a new album coming out, you never know quite what to expect.

Regardless of what I expected from Joe's new piano trio album Rain, what arrived in my mailbox were ten of the most deftly-written, beautifully-played songs of his storied career. Rain is a deceptively simple-sounding album, just Joe on piano, Graham Maby on bass, and Dave Houghton on drums, all three on vocals, produced simply and elegantly with no tricks or gimmicks. It advances Jackson's songwriting while somehow managing to hearken back to his early years and even back to early Steely Dan and '60s jazz-pop. It is a singular album, somehow modern, retro and timeless all at the same time. And I know I say this every time, but it's one of the best works Joe has ever produced.

Every single song is simply great; true of a few of Joe's records, but maybe never since Night and Day to this extent. I think I listened to "Invisible Man," the opening song three or four times before I even moved on to the rest of the album. The track's syncopated groove and odd vocal phrasing are baffling but completely logical at the same time, and the chorus is just fantastic. It's just a great song; I've been singing the chorus to myself for three days. The third track, "Citizen Sane," reminds me (as a lot of the record does) of early Fagen & Becker, and features strong lyrics reflecting Jackson's recent stands against the gentrificaltion of our minds and opinions: "All you kings and martyrs / All the little girls and boys / Will thank you when you start us / Safely on the way to be Citizen Sane."

Sanity and insanity, not so much real as perceived in the eyes of the fun- and thought-police are recurring themes, along with the sadnesses of lost love, from the melancholy of "Wasted Time" (my favorite track on the album, and the first one I'm going to learn to play) to the abject despair of "Solo (So Low)," which made me weep in my car when I first heard it. There's a bit of the goofy Jackson here, in the throwback "King Pleasure Time" and "Good Bad Boy," and sheer grinning playfulness in "Rush Across the Road." The album's most purely delightful track is probably "The Uptown Train," a toe-tapping homage to the '60s Billy Page instrumental "The 'In' Crowd," which Joe covered on 2000's Summer in the City live album.

An entire album of piano, bass and drums has certain sonic limitations, but Joe transcends these with some of the most intricate and subtle arrangements of his career. Key changes and unusual modulations are everywhere, nowhere more beautifully than in the bridge of "Wasting Time." Chord changes seem to come out of nowhere, but when the phrase ends they are obviously the only way the song could possibly have gone. From a pure songwriting perspective, Rain is one of Jackson's greatest triumphs, and that's saying something. I spend almost every moment listening to this album in sheer delight at the magic of its songcraft. It's a collection of music that reminds me why I love music, and makes me want to go out and make my own.

It strikes me every time I hear Joe play a piano-heavy song how much his piano playing resembles mine. Fairly simple left hand (Joe's because he's leaving room for Maby's bass, mine because I'm a lousy pianist with a left hand like a bunch of bananas), song-serving right hand grooves, and big chords under a dominant vocal line. Never has this been so evident as on Rain, where I hear Joe Jackson playing the piano lines I would have played if I had written these songs. Ironically, I do plan for my next studio album to be a piano trio CD, an idea I've had for about 5 years but which has been solidified by just how beautiful Rain is.

EDIT: Raves coming in for Rain!

"Joe Jackson returns with arguably his most consistent collection yet."

Slant Magazine:
"It's a terrific set of songs ... The nicest surprise is how good the guy's become at writing love songs ... it's a joy to deconstruct the song's craft."

New York Daily News:
"Joe Jackson plays piano on two levels. The way he performs, the instrument has the kick of rock as well as the sweep of Broadway. As both a writer and a player, Jackson is terse in his intonations, but broad in his melodic sense. His work can be tough and beautiful at once. It's hard to miss all that when spinning his latest CD, "Rain," which you should do often.... 'Wasted Time' feels like a classic.... Given the dash of his tunes, and the theatricality of his playing, one wonders why this ambitious man has yet to pen a musical. If Duncan Sheik can do it with 'Spring Awakening,' surely the artist behind 'Rain' can, too." (Thanks, Daily News. I've been saying that for years! Fortunately, a Dracula musical is Jackson's next project.)
"...finds Joe Jackson at his absolute, shimmering best.... The coolest part of Rain, though, might be the musical breadcrumbs Jackson drops in his songs, inviting us along on tour of the many and varied influences from which the accomplished songwriter/piano man draws."

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Coming Attractions: "Measure for Measure"

Next up for Richmond Shakespeare: Measure for Measure, directed by James Alexander Bond, featuring Liz Blake, me, John Moss, Julie Phillips, and Dave White, costumes by Rebecca Cairns, and stage managed by Heather Johnson.

I wrote the "professional" blurb over at the RS Blog, but this is where I get to be a little more honest and self-serving.

This is my second time acting under the direction of Mr. Bond, and both times I have come out of the process feeling like I've grown as an actor far beyond where I thought I could go. This particular process has me simultaneously thrilled at the leap I feel I've taken forward and more than a little frustrated at the little places where I still feel myself holding back with only a week to go. I feel like a huge breakthrough is just one rehearsal away, but I've felt that way for two weeks.

I have to say here that every truly huge advance I've taken as an actor has been every bit as dependent on acting partners as on directors or teachers. senior Year, it was Mark Joy's and Yvonne Graetzer's Acting for the Camera Class, but it was also the huge brown eyes of actor Summer Bashaw, just listening to me talk about my brother. In David Leong's and Aaron Anderson's Physical Acting class first year of grad school, it was Matt Ellis, who is not only just about the best actor I know but who became my best friend while we rehearsed that first scene. (Our feedback from David: the unforgettable "Good work. No notes.")

Two years later, the actor-writers of Project Evil shepherded me through a process I was ostensibly supposed to have been "teaching." Piper Blouin, Jeff Cole, Elaine Deichmeister, Julia Rigby, and Caitlin Stafford: hats off to you all. Don't think I've forgotten.

The whole cast of Measure is great. Dave is one of my best friends, John is consistently hilarious, and Julie Phillips is simply one of my favorite theatre artists to work with in the world ever. But here I have to single out Liz Blake, Fievel Pockets, my official unofficial little sister.

This is three years now I've been working with Liz on and off, and the first time I've gotten to play with her extensively. And it has been one of the joys of my professional life to see her grow into each role she plays. She's our Isabella, all passion and pleading, the nun's novice whose virtue steals my Angelo's heart (among other things), and in the moment when she kneels at the side of my throne to ask if I've ever had fault like her brother's, I gaze into those prismatic brown eyes and fall completely in love with her. Every. Night. The rest is, as Mal Reynolds would say, easy-peasy. (Except the "little sister" part; that's pretty much gone forever.)

So I hope you'll come see Measure for Measure, not to witness The Greatest Advance in the History of American Acting but just because I'm happy about it and I think you'd like to see it.

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