Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

to all, and to all a good night.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Andrew saves Christmas

Friday was a very busy day at work. My morning started with bad news, I was still sick with this stupid sinus infection (Has anyone seen my energy? I seem to have lost it), and we have the pre-Christmas-break rush of people expecting their glasses for the holidays. I was still a bit feverish, very weary, and rather focused on the night's Christmas party at Liz and Dave's (which would be preceded by a nap).

With about an hour to go before closing the office, one of my coworkers poked her head into the lab and said, "Santa needs his glasses fixed."

So I went out to the optical floor, and there was Santa Claus sitting at the dispensing station, his glasses a mess: one eyewire screw gone, bent all out of shape, held together with a twisted paper clip, and nasty old green nose pads.

"Santa!" I exclaimed, "You've been naughty to your glasses."

Santa chuckled and mumbled apologetically.

"Okay," I said, "you need a screw here, and I'm going to replace these old nose pads. I'm making a list of how many ways I'm going to have to fix your glasses."

"It's hard up at the North Pole," he called to me as I went back to the lab. His southern accent was a bit surprising, but I suppose Santa, like Jesus and Johnny Depp, has the ability to be all things to all people.

I straightened the jolly old elf's glasses out as much as I dared; they were pretty bent up, and bending metal back too far can snap it. A new screw held his lens in snugly, and new nose pads made the whole package look newer. I chose silicone nose pads, which grip a little better during abrupt altitude changes with the wind in your beard. After cleaning them off, I brought the glasses back out to him.

"Well, you're pretty hard on your glasses, Santa," I gently scolded. "You better watch out or you're going to have no glasses on Christmas Eve, and if that happens you better not cry to me because I won't have a lot of sympathy."

"I'll be more careful," Santa promised me. "Before I leave, I need to make an appointment for my two-year check-up."

"The ladies at the front desk will help you, Santa," I promised. "Merry Christmas!"

"Merry Christmas!" he called as I returned to the lab.

I'm a Christmas hero. Neil Patrick Harris will be the voice of my claymation character on the TV special, which will be preceded by the big drums-and-horns "SPECIAL" word spinning in a circle.

Santa comes all the way down from the North Pole to get his eyes checked by Dr. Robinson and Dr. Parker in Midlothian. How cool is that?

And as an added bonus: how freaking totally sweet are the presents I'm going to get this year?!


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sammy Baugh: 1914-2008

There are a few constants that Redskins fans have to deal with.

One is the feast-or-famine principle, the fact that the years of feast (late '30s through early '50s, 1982-1991) will always be followed by an equal or larger era of famine (the '50s and '60s, 1993-doomsday).

One is that the #2 quarterback is always more popular in this town than the #1, as long as #2 hasn't played recently. One thing the Redskins unequivocally do better than any other NFL franchise is quarterback controversy: Jurgensen vs. Kilmer, Williams vs. Schroeder, Schroeder vs. Rypien, Shuler vs. Frerotte, Johnson vs. George, Danny (shudder) Wuerffel vs. a lick of sanity, Brunell vs. Campbell.

One is that only the number 33 will ever be retired. We love our #7, our #44, our #81, our #42 and #43, and most recently our #28 and we understand that we will never see those numbers on any Redskin player's back even though they have not been officially retired. We understand that #33 is special, that there is a reason no other team of even half the Redskins' age only has one retired number.

The other thing we understand is that #33, Sammy Baugh, will live forever.


Slingin' Sammy Baugh died Wednesday evening of kidney failure and double pneumonia. It is telling that neither one of those ailments was enough to take him down independently, that both had to consipre to attack simultaneously, while he was in a weakened state of Alzheimer's and dementia. And 94 years old.

Redskins owner George Preston Marshall brought Baugh from Texas Christian University to Washington in 1937 to lead a team that had just moved from Boston and was desperately in need of an identity in their new town. Marshall insisted that Baugh buy a cowboy hat and boots to wear for public appearances, despite the fact that the quarterback was a small-town kid with no connection to ranches whatsoever. Baugh would eventually end up retiring to a ranch in Texas after his playing career; ironically, the greatest Redskin of all time would be turned into a cowboy by the team's owner.

And when I say that Sammy Baugh was the greatest Redskin ever, I really mean that I genuinely believe him to be the greatest football player of all time, who just happened to play for the Redskins.

Consider this: in an era when quarterbacks averaged three passes per game, Baugh won the 1937 NFL Championship game against the Bears by throwing for 335 yards and three touchdowns of 35, 55, and 78 yards. In his rookie season, no less. That's nothing short of a 2007 Tom Brady game, a 1999 Kurt Warner game, a 1983 Dan Marino game. As soon as he hit the league, Baugh was transforming it. He invented the forward passing game almost single-handedly from inside the huddle, on the fly.

Consider also: a three-way player, Baugh led the league one year in passing, punting, and defensive interceptions, the only NFL player to ever lead stats on offense, defense, and special teams in the same season--or ever. As a safety, he is still number three all-time for interceptions as a Redskin (31), despite having played in an era where quarterbacks were just starting to pass.

Consider third: he retired with a whopping 13 NFL records, and still holds two of them 56 years later. The two? Punting records. When pundits complain about Ray Guy not being in the Hall, that there are no punters in the Hall, I have to laugh: Hell yes there's a punter in the Hall of Fame. He just happens to be in there as a quarterback. And he was a fair sight better than Ray Guy.

Sammy Baugh was the last living member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's inaugural class. He was Babe Ruth. He was Michael Jordan. He was Wayne Gretzky.

He grew into an irascible old cuss who would have shared a hearty laugh at being called an irascible old cuss. Holding nothing but good-natured contempt for the modern game and its players, he separated himself from the pomp and circumstance of the modern NFL, but would occasionally allow himself to be interviewed well into his 80s. These films and transcripts are worth seeking out for their insight, unpredictability and sheer hilarity. The phrase "sharp as a tack" was invented to describe Sammy Baugh in his 80s.

Two-way players are almost extinct now, though Brian Mitchell remains one of my favorite players of all time, a threat on special teams and out of the backfield as receiver, running back, or quarterback. And let's not forget the recent three-way glory of Patriots receiver/returner/defensive back Troy Brown. That was freaking awesome.

Any discussion about the greatest football player of all time must begin and possibly end with two-way players, with special consideration given to those who go all three. As much as I respect great players like Unitas, Jim Brown, Rice, Payton, and Montana, I'd like to see any of them punt for a 50+ yard season average. (You think punting's easy? Try it.) I'd like to see them tackle. I'd like to see how fast Rice is if he's playing all the snaps on defense. I'd like to see how accurate Montana is if he has to deliver ball-jarring hits.

Sammy Baugh is the greatest Redskin of all time, and the greatest football player ever. #33, the cowboy Redskin, has moved on to a bigger, more beautiful ranch. We will never see his like again.

Washington Post article: "The First of the Gunslingers."

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rocking the "Midsummer" in December

Thank you so much to everyone who was involved in Midsummer in December last night. The cast, the crew, the rehearsal understudies, and the fabulous audience who came out all made it a huge success and an unforgettable evening.

It's amazing what happens when actors have little to no time to rehearse. Spontaneity becomes essential, and impulses have to become final choices; in short, creativity blooms when you don't have time to second-guess. That's why I love things like staged readings, improv, and 24-hour projects so very much.

We will have to do more of these, my friends. I am grateful to all of you.

The show was so successful that Richmond Shakespeare has elected to produce A Midsummer Night's Dream for our final show of the 2008-2009 downtown season. I'm directing it! Yay!

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Midsummer in December!

Richmond Shakespeare presents

Midsummer in December

A Midsummer Night's Dream
December 15, 2008
7:00 PM

The weather outside is frightful, but love and fairies are so delightful. Join us for a magical staged reading of the Bard's most beloved comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream, featuring some of Richmond's most beloved theatre artists: Scott Wichmann, Jennifer Meharg, Audra Honaker, Joe Carlson, Harry Kollatz, Daryl Clark Phillips, David Janosik, Cynde Liffick, TJ Simmons, Liz Blake, Sarah Jamillah Johnson, Shanea Taylor, Julie Phillips, Frank Creasy and more!

Directed by Andrew Hamm, the show features music by Liz and Andrew, with Jake Allard on percussion. The pre-show music is a mix of Richmond Shakes' greatest hits from Midsummer, Hamlet, and The Tempest, as well as love songs from summer's acclaimed production of As You Like It. Come early or you'll miss it.

Monday, December 15, 2008 at 7:00 PM at Second Presbyterian Church (5 N. 5th Street). $15 Adults, $10 Students and Children. All proceeds benefit the Richmond Shakespeare Annual Fund.

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