Monday, March 31, 2008


The family at Shear Madness bid an emotional farewell to one of their longtime members on Sunday night. Matt Sawyer, who has been involved in various productions of the Madness for well over a decade, left the company to continue his military training as an officer in the National Guard. Matt has been a buddy of mine for many years, and while we can't claim to be particularly close friends, we are surely good friends. I know he would step up to help me anytime, and the reverse is true as well.

Matt began his Shear career playing the young detective, Mikey. When I met him, he was graduating to the role of Eddie, the sleazy antiques dealer. I was in the midst of my first gig in the salon, and about half-way through my contract, several of my costars were rearranged. Matt came in as Eddie, and I immediately took a liking to this self-effacing young man with impeccable comic timing. He soon graduated to the role of the lead detective, Rosetti, a role which is complicated and difficult, but Matt handled it with aplomb. I was thrilled when I rejoined the show last year, in the spring company, and I found that "my Rosetti" would be Matt. He and I have a strong chemistry together, and he made me look very, very good.

As so often happens in this business, our paths crossed more than once. As our first Shear contract together was ending, we were both offered roles in the Second National Tour of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Matt had appeared in the First National Tour and had been asked to return. This was my first experience with touring, a process which was educational, exhilarating, and exasperating. After rehearsing at the Kennedy Center (but not performing there), our tour began with a long 6 day drive to our first site, in North Dakota. Hard to keep the excitement up when there are 6 days between your final dress rehearsal and your first performance. The cast took turns driving the passenger van across country, that is, everyone except me. I had broken my foot during rehearsals, and I was wearing one of those removable boot casts. Nobody thought it was safe to drive while wearing one of those things, so my first week on the road was quite the boring one. Matt kept my spirits up with his positive attitude and wry humor. He was always the first actor to volunteer to help out the crew traveling with us, and even occasionally drove the huge moving van which housed our sets and costumes.

Here's a typical pose, representing Matt's brand of "what the f*ck?" attitude:

Another typical pose of Matt's happened in dressing rooms across the country, and just about every night of Shear Madness. Whenever Matt wanted to sit down, he'd pull down his pants. No one quite knows the reason for this ritual. He didn't remove his pants, he just dropped them down around his ankles and sat.

Matt's ability as "Rosetti" was undeniable. His skill with the audience was matched only by his desire to insure that every single moment of the show shined. With him at the helm, everybody onstage looked good.

Matt is headed down south to Georgia for several weeks before shipping out to Oklahoma for a period of several months. During that time, he will be completing officer's training, after which there are strong indications that he will be transferred to the war zone. I can't even imagine what life has in store for him in the next few years.

During our season together last year, I asked him about food rations while out in the field. Matt surprised me a few days later with a large brown packet marked:

U.S. Government Property

"Ready-to-Eat, Individual Meal.

Menu No. 6: Chicken Fajita."

That ugly brown packet of processed food has been sitting on my refrigerator for a full year. I imagine it now tastes roughly the same as it would have then. I imagine it lasts pretty much forever. It's likely to be a long while before I see Matt again, but I'll be keeping that packet, unopened, until his return from his journeys.

Be safe, my friend.

Friday, March 28, 2008

25 Years

In the early pages of this blog, I wrote a letter to my mother, on the 24th anniversary of her death. It's hard to believe that a full year has since passed, and it's even harder to believe that I have lived a quarter of a century without her.

I can't claim to think about her every day anymore, but this time of year, my subconscious takes more control than I'm used to, and I begin to dream more regularly of my mother. Memories of her are closer to the surface this time of year, and I find myself thinking of her when I reach for a plate which she touched, or sit in the rocking chair which sat in our living room so many years. The drop-leaf table which resided in our dining room in Atlanta while I grew up now sits against my wall; there isn't room enough to raise the leaves, but this time of year, I find myself recalling those special occasions when we dined on it.

I wish all my memories were comforting ones, but I sometimes run across one which makes me wince, or gives me a shudder. Why did I say that to her? Why wasn't I kinder to her at that moment? Why was I such a sarcastic schmuck so often?

One of my deepest regrets is that my mother did not really get to know the adult me. That was entirely my fault; I was 26 when she died, and had lived at home all but 3 months of those 26 years, so I had plenty of opportunity. She once, rather ruefully, mentioned that we never did anything together, just the two of us, like going to the movies. Go to the movies with your mother? Such an outrageous idea had never entered my head.

I'd sacrifice quite a lot to go to the movies with her today.

Well, we did have a bit of a routine, once I turned 21. During those years in California, I think my mother was bored. Her children didn't need a lot of attention anymore, and she was far removed from the close friends she had made while living in Atlanta for 20 years. My father had huge responsibilities in his career, and we never expected him home much before 8. So, I would get home late in the afternoon, either from my job at Sears, or my waiter job, or my rehearsal, or just hanging out with Judy or Claudia, and I would bound upstairs to my room to check the messages on my private phone line, to read my mail, or just to continue my life.

Soon, I would hear my mother holler up the stairs to me: "Want a cocktail?"

Our cocktail hour really wasn't one, as we never had an actual cocktail. In those late years of her life, half a beer was just about all my mother could take, her body having been so ravaged by the cancer, and even more ravaged by its treatment. She didn't care about having a drink, she clearly wanted some adult interaction, and I was the only adult around. So, we would split a domestic beer (she taught me the trick of salting the beer in the glass to reignite the foamy head; I still do it!), and she would listen while I rambled on about the Sears Complaint Department or whatever else I wanted to talk about. In retrospect, of course, I wish I had spent those precious times letting her know more about the man I was becoming; she was clearly waiting for me to reveal more of myself to her. But I was a coward, and she was a lady, so...

I have a dear longtime friend who asked me recently what my views on religion are. He has made many very logical points about the irrationality of the concept of God, logic being the enemy of religion. I couldn't really answer him coherently. I am not in any way, shape, or form a religious person (I couldn't wait to turn 15 and thus be excused from the Sunday School which my parents forced on me throughout my childhood, but that was more from laziness than lack of belief), and I certainly don't think there is a grandfatherly figure with a white beard waiting for us at the end of our life.

And it can't be denied that the majority of the wickedness in the world, throughout history and today, has been caused, and is being caused, in the name of organized religion.

But there is comfort in the thought that there may be some kind of afterlife for the spirit, once the flesh gives out. There is solace in thinking that my mother's spirit lives on somehow, I hope someplace close.

Without that belief, even 25 years later, the loss would be too much to bear.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Glory Daze

We've had some great news for the local theatre community this week. Signature Theatre's original staging of Glory Days will be moving into the Broadway theatre recently vacated by the Putnam County Spelling Bee, and will open in time for Tony consideration. The show's original cast and director will remain.

This is great news because of the rarity of a DC-grown project making it to New York. Jane Horwitz pointed out a few instances where the local gang made good, but they are few and far between. I was not a big fan of Glory Days when I saw it, but I'm thrilled just the same that my opinion was in the minority. It is always good for our community to gain national attention for something other than political hijinks. It's good news for DC theatre, and Signature in particular.

Unless I'm mistaken, this will be director Eric Schaeffer's second Broadway stint. He directed the Sondheim revue Putting it Together a while ago, which transferred from Los Angeles on the star power of Carol Burnett. Sadly, the show did not continue beyond Burnett's involvement in it.

And Eric seemed close to hitting the Broadway boards a number of other times. Over & Over, The Fix, The Rhythm Club, The Witches of Eastwick, and Mame all seemed to be prospects for transfer, though none made the move. Just shows how difficult it is to land on the Great White Way, so Signature Theatre is to be congratulated for getting there this time.

It makes us all look good!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

the Musicality of Shear

As we've launched into the Shear Madness Spring Fling, with two full companies sharing 12 performances a week, the actors have been reminded several times about the "sound" of the piece. Our glorious leader, Bobby, has mentioned more than once that the dialogue has a musicality to it. I have to admit that the first time I heard this, ten years ago during my first assignment in the salon, I inwardly rolled my eyes. Shakespeare and Shaw have a musicality to their plays, but Shear Madness ?

I have since changed my tune, pardon the pun. Bobby has always insisted that the show works best when certain crescendos are hit, certain sotto voces are enforced, etc. He freely admits that the play is paper-thin, so with that scarcity of depth comes the necessity of playing each and every moment in the correct key.

I've been thinking about this concept a lot since rejoining the Madness, and I've come to a few conclusions. The show has been around for decades, of course, and each and every cast, be it in Boston or Chicago or San Fransisco or Budapest, is telling the same story. We are all playing the same concerto, to use a term from the play. But as individual actors, we all have different instruments (ourselves) . So, each cast, while playing the same song, differs from every other cast, because the instruments playing that song are different.

It's been a relief to think of the show in those terms, particularly in the situation which occurs at the Kennedy Center each spring. It can be a bit unsettling to be performing a show with one cast while a completely separate cast (playing different "instruments") prepares to play the same show an hour later. Comparisons are bound to pop up, and I have to hand it to the management of the show at KenCen that they keep such comparisons to a minimum. They want each cast to be playing the Shear Madness Concerto in their own way.

But despite the fact that the instruments being played are sometimes wildly different, we are all playing the same song.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Theatre Droppings: New York, 1991

Once I graduated college, my semi-annual jaunts to Manhattan ceased, as we all attempted to begin construction on our adult lives. I remained very close to many of my friends from those undergrad days, but the thrill of traveling together wore off. For reasons best saved for further entries, the 80's swept by without my heading east to New York. My next trip, then, was in 1991, when I visited the city on my own, camping out at a friend's tenement flat in Hell's Kitchen. (The toilet was down the hall, shared with two other apartments, and the bathtub was in the kitchen.)
I saw two straight plays that year, and four musicals. Our Country's Good, by Timberlake Wertenbaker (gotta love that name) was the kind of large-cast drama which is prohibitive in today's commercial houses. According to my program, there were 13 actors in the piece, including J. Smith Cameron, who had received a Tony nomination for her role. But the main attraction for me was the presence in the cast of Peter Frechette, who had been one of my favorite young character actors ever since I caught his performance in Skriker (a dense play about a shapeshifter) in a small theatre in LA. Frechette has had a long and varied career since then, including appearing in that controversial episode of thirtysomething, in which he and David Marshall Grant exchanged pillow talk as two gay characters who had just slept together. Anyway, Our Country's Good concerned a British penal colony in Australia in the 18th century. I thoroughly enjoyed this dramatic piece, and had no idea I was watching the early work of the actress who is now the preeminent stage actress of our time, Cherry Jones.

The second straight play I saw was a comedy, but full of backstage drama. The Broadway production of I Hate Hamlet has become an infamous one, due to an altercation between its young leading man, Evan Handler, and its star, Nicol Williamson. I've already mentioned Williamson's histrionics, and in this show, he apparently repeatedly refused to perform the stage fights as choreographed. There was a fencing match in the show, as Williamson, playing the drunken ghost of John Barrymore, dueled with Handler's character. After one evening performance, Handler had had enough, and walked off the show.

I did not see that particular performance, but by the weirdest luck, I was in the audience the very next show, a matinee, when the understudy, who had never appeared on a Broadway stage, stepped into the role. The papers that morning had been full of the altercation from the night before (this was back when what happened in a Broadway theatre actually was deemed newsworthy), so this young actor (Andrew Mutnick, I never heard of him again) was under considerable pressure to perform. The truth is, he wasn't very good, but the audience gave him a standing ovation anyway, after which Williamson himself made a curtain speech praising the young actor. The star failed to mention that the reason this guy was onstage today was because he himself had been misbehaving dangerously the night before. All this backstage trauma overwhelmed this light-weight piece, an early play by Paul Rudnick, but I enjoyed the show, which also starred Adam Arkin and Celeste Holm (Holm was awarded her own Dance Party in these pages when she died).
Mandy Patinkin and Robert Westenberg (remember him as the Wolf in Into the Woods?) were in the large cast of The Secret Garden, as were future Broadway leading ladies Rebecca Luker and Alison Fraser, but the show was swiped by two younger stars. Daisy Eagan played the orphan Mary Lennox with such panache that she won the Tony for the role, and John Cameron Mitchell, as the field hand Dickon, was also a highlight (Mitchell went on to create a sensation as the drag queen victim of a botched sex change operation in his own composition, Hedwig and the Angry Inch). The Secret Garden was a beautiful show to watch and to hear, particularly the haunting ballad sung by the brothers in love with the same ghost, "Lily's Eyes."

I have already mentioned seeing Angela Lansbury in a major revival of Gypsy back when I was still in the womb, and in 1991, I was privileged to see another dynamite performance of the iconic Mama Rose. The 90's revival of the show originally starred Tyne Daly, who was eventually replaced by Linda Lavin. By the time I caught up with the production, Daly had returned to the show to play its final months. Nobody would claim that Ms. Daly is a spectacular singer, and I would venture to say that, despite her success on TV, she is not a spectacular actress (I always preferred her under-rated TV costar, Sharon Gless).

But once I saw her in Gypsy, I will claim that Daly is a spectacular performer. From her first entrance from the back of the theatre, barking orders to her kids, Daly's Mama Rose was full of relentless drive.
The final two musicals I saw that year in New York were both products of the creative artistry of Tommy Tune. I've been a fan of Tune's since he was a young performer, winning his first Tony for a supporting turn in the musical Seesaw. I remember that his acceptance speech was quite moving, as he emphatically proclaimed that audiences could always be inspired to come to the theatre because it is "ALIVE."

By 1991, Tune's career had shifted from performing to directing and choreographing. The Will Rogers Follies was really an old-style vaudeville show, with the various acts surrounding a plot concerning the home life and career of Will Rogers (the show was subtitled: A Life in Revue). Gregory Peck's voice was piped in every night as Florenz Ziegfeld, and up-and-coming stars Cady Huffman and Dee Hoty played the women in Rogers's life. Film star Keith Carradine, the least creepy of the Carradine clan, was an ingratiating presence as Will, and my program tells me something I either never knew, or have forgotten: actress Martha Plimpton is Carradine's illegitimate daughter. How fun is that?

Despite the star power onstage and in the sound booth, the undisputed star of Will Rogers Follies was its director / choreographer. The show is the thinnest imaginable, but Tune was able to turn each and every number into a memorable moment. He stopped the show in the middle of Act Two with "Favorite Son," which had the entire chorus sitting side by side with Will, banging tambourines, switching hats, and tapping legs.

(that's Carradine's replacement, Larry Gatlin, above)

What Tommy Tune did with tambourines and hats in Will Rogers Follies, he did with chairs in Grand Hotel. The show had been running quite a while when I caught up with it (none of the original stars were in it at this point; I saw former Duke of Hazzard John Schneider, of all people), and the darkness of the plot, and the bleakness of the music, should have turned me off. But Tune created something truly wonderful out of this episodic tale of the inhabitants of a Berlin hotel in the midst of the Depression. The scenic design consisted of not much more than a huge revolving door, and all those chairs, which the actors rearranged in various positions to signify various locales. Doesn't sound like much, but this was one of the most visually exciting musicals I have ever seen. And those chairs did everything but tapdance...

My 1991 trip to New York was to be the last one I took for the express purpose of theatre-going. I have visited the city many, many times since, and have caught more than a few later Broadway shows, but the trip was always in conjunction with an audition, or a visit to a friend, or what have you. Those years, during which I would see 6, 7, 8, or more shows in a single week, are long gone. Who can afford that now?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Theatre Droppings: a smokin' "KISS," and a kiss for "SMOKE"

These pages have been dormant for a while, as my every waking moment has been concerned with my return to the Madness of Shear. The show is an exhausting one to perform, and even more exhausting to rehearse, so I've been essentially brain-dead while trying to get back up to speed. More on that anon.

This weekend was the first time off I've had in a fortnight, so I took the opportunity to check out some local Theatre Droppings, hoping the diversion would help clear my head.

Signature Theatre has kicked their Kander and Ebb Celebration into high gear with a hugely successful production of Kiss of the Spiderwoman. I imagine the original Broadway production was anchored by Chita Rivera in the title role, but here, the show is dominated by the spectacular performances of Hunter Foster and Will Chase, as the unlikely cell-mates Molina and Valentine.

The show is an intensely atmospheric piece, with the minimal plot taking a back seat to the scenic elements. The huge multi-leveled set houses the largely male ensemble like caged animals, with Steve Cupo's creepy warden observing from on high. Matt Rowe offers the clangiest sound design heard at Signature since Grand Hotel, but the effect is electric. And that dripping sound which often fills the quiet moments is a chilling reminder of the degrading conditions to which these prisoners are subjected. My only complaint concerns the matinee audience of oldsters who hacked and coughed their way through the show, reacting to the frequent use of smoke onstage.

This is the first production of Kiss of the Spiderwoman I have seen, and while its unrelenting, tragic darkness will never put it at the top of my list of Kander and Ebb favorites, Signature's offering is riveting from start to finish.

Yesterday, I schlepped out to Wayside Theatre's Front Royal space to catch their latest installment of the Smoke on the Mountain series. I have not seen any of these crowd-pleasers before (there are three of them), but I had a good idea what kind of musical I was attending. The trilogy about the Sanders Family of preachers and proselytizers has been a huge hit around the country for years, and Wayside's cast has played all three shows together. The result is a tightly-knit group who really delivers, both musically and dramatically. I have to admit that I went in expecting Bluegrass Nunsense but with Baptists, so I was quite surprised that I was sucked into this slender story of a family dealing with a loss and a return. The plot is paper-thin, but each member of the cast gets their chance in the solo spotlight. Each family member "testifies" in their own way, with a couple of monologues slanted toward comedy, including that of Liz Albert, with whom I worked years ago when she was a student at Shenandoah University. It was a treat to see the mature performer she has blossomed into. Most of the monologues tugged at the heartstrings, though I suppose there may be some who are uncomfortable with the overtly Christianic tone of the show. But that did not get in the way of my appreciation of the performance given by my buddy Larry Dalke, as the black-sheep uncle returning home. His world-weary speech comparing himself to the apostle Peter was a highlight of the production. And my friend Thomasin Savaiano, as the hugely pregnant, hugely tone-deaf elder daughter of the family, gave a performance rich in both physical comedy and emotional truth. (Selfishly, I love it when I can claim my friends are giving scene-stealing performances. I'm sure it makes me look good, though I'm not sure how...)

And I look forward to the fourth entry in the Smoke on the Mountain series: The Sanders Family Goes Hawaiian.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Theatre Droppings: New York, 1978

For some reason, the shows I saw in New York in '78, when I was barely out of diapers and just learning how to eat with a fork, are less vivid in my mind than those I saw in '75 and '77. I wish I had paid better attention, as this was to be my last trip to Broadway for 13 years.

Truth be told, I do have very vivid memories of two of the shows in this group, but as for the remaining six, I have only flashes of moments.

I remember being enchanted with the only straight play I saw that year, or rather, with the actor playing the title character. After a lifetime in the business, actor Bernard Hughes reached star status as "Da", the patriarch of an Irish family who returns from the dead to haunt his son (mostly humorously). I remember Hughes being a real delight, but I may be prejudiced in his favor, as he appeared in one of my favorite "unknown" films, Cold Turkey. I love it when an actor who has toiled in the business his whole life finally strikes it big; Hughes won every acting award that year, and deservedly so.

All the other shows I saw that year were musicals, though two or three of them were pretty unconventional. The biggest hit among these three was Dancin', a Bob Fosse extravaganza in which the chief star was, of course, the dancing. Fosse set his choreography to pre-existing songs in a sort of revue (it had a bit of singin' , too). I remember almost nothin' from this evenin' of dance, except feelin' that it went on too long. The music ranged from Neil Diamond, Cat Stevens, and Melissa Manchester, to a classical tune or two, and a long section devoted to "American" music, like George M. Cohan songs and the like. I have a distinct memory of seeing a young Ann Reinking in several leading spots, but my program says no, she was not in the performance I saw. So much for my memory. Examining the song listings, I got a giggle from one of the numbers in the "America" section, a song called "Pack up your Troubles in your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile." I giggled because this song is not American in origin, but was instead written by a Brit during World War One.

Another musical odd-duck I caught was an off-Broadway smash called I'm Getting my Act Together and Taking it on the Road. My recollection of this female-centric piece was that, as a male, I was not supposed to understand it. And I didn't. The thing was written by its star, Gretchen Cryer, and was all about women taking their place in the world. One of the songs, according to the program, tells you everything you need to know about this show: it's called simply "Strong Woman Number."

But the weirdest show I saw in '78 happened to be its final performance. After more than a year's run on Broadway, and earlier at Joe Papp's downtown Shakespeare Festival, Runaways was closing. This show was developed by Elizabeth Swados by casting kids who were living on the streets, except that by the time I saw the show, the original cast was making Broadway salaries and were no longer "runaways." In fact, my program reflects that I saw several "street urchins" who had previous professional stage credits, so I am a bit skeptical to the claim that these performers had all been living on the street before Swados plucked them from their poverty. I really could not relate to this show, which was written, composed, and directed by Swados, who had no interest in concocting anything pleasant for an audience. (I've previously trashed her later musical, Doonesbury, but she was no better here.) I am glad I saw Runaways, however, as it taught me to be very suspicious of any show which has only one creator who also acts as the director.

The three remaining musicals I saw were much more traditionally structured. After his extraordinary success as the Emcee in Cabaret, Joel Grey was elevated to star status, but he was, and has remained, better "in support." The Grand Tour followed George M! and Goodtime Charley, all attempts to turn Grey into a musical leading man. The Grand Tour was just, well, bad. Jerry Herman furnished another of his post-Mame flops, and Grey came off chilly. I am a great fan of Grey, having seen him in a summer stock production of 1776, but he's just not suited to headlining a musical. It took many decades for him to realize this, and he's had more recent success in the Chicago revival and in Wicked, playing supporting roles in both.

In one of the quirks of the business, both Joel Grey and Bernard Hughes ended up in the film version of The Fantasticks.

I loved On the Twentieth Century through and through. It was here I was first introduced to Judy Kaye, a performer who had been knocking around town for a while, usually understudying stars. In fact, she received her big break in this show due to the fact that she was understudying Madeliene Kahn, who deserted the show shortly after its big opening night. Kaye inherited the part, and played it so well that the producers decided to give the role to her, rather than searching for another star to replace Kahn. On the Twentieth Century also featured terrific performances by John Cullum and Imogene Coca. Yet with all this star power, this show was stolen by a relative unknown (he was certainly unknown to me), a young man with good looks, good pipes, and spectacularly comedic physicality. Any time Kevin Kline was onstage, you couldn't look away. He won the Tony and a big career boost for this role; shortly thereafter, he won his second Tony for Pirates of Penzance and filmed Sophie's Choice.

I've saved my favorite show of this bunch for last. Ballroom was a gorgeous failure, but not to me. To me, it was just phenomenal. A year after bowling me over as Miss Hannigan in Annie, I returned to New York to find Dorothy Loudon starring in the newest Michael Bennett musical, his follow-up to the monster smash, A Chorus Line. It was based on a TV movie which had starred Maureen Stapleton, and concerned a middle-aged woman dealing with the death of her husband, and her attempts to reenter the world. She does so by frequenting a ballroom dance hall. Bennett populated his ensemble with dozens of aging hoofers, most of whom had substantial Broadway credits but who hadn't been on the boards in years. These oldsters furnished an almost non-stop array of ballroom dances, and even stopped the show with their second act disco dance routine. I thought this show was movingly played and beautiful to watch, but there were substantial structural problems. The majority of the music was sung by two band singers in the background, with the only book songs handled by Loudon. She did a terrific job with these numbers, and furnished cabaret singers with a new standard by introducing "Fifty Percent." I loved this show so much, I returned later in the week to see it a second time, but I was clearly in the minority on this one, as the show closed shortly after opening, losing more money than any show up to that time. Though Loudon would continue to appear regularly on Broadway, in both straight plays (Noises Off, West Side Waltz) and musicals (she replaced Angela Lansbury in the original Sweeney Todd), Ballroom was to be her last chance to create a musical role for Broadway.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Split Focus

It was a weekend which included visits to Ireland, Italy, and Illyria. And Foggy Bottom, too.

It's a good thing when a lot of different things are going on in an actor's life. It beats the alternative: nothing going on in an actor's life. But it does lend itself to a bit of scattered thinking: where am I supposed to be, and when? And what should I have prepared?

The fun began Friday night, when I attended the first and only rehearsal for the Washington Stage Guild's reading of two short Irish one-act plays. The Stage Guild has been running a series of these readings in lieu of a full season of shows, as they await the completion of their swanky new digs. These readings are always fun, and there isn't much pressure, as the actor has the script in his hand during the performance. Still, one wants to give a good show, so, to prep for this event, I trotted out my old cassette recording of the original off-Broadway production of The Hostage, in order to brush up my Irish brogue.

Saturday, I visited Mickey the Hairdresser, in order to remove the gray from the topper. As I have already mentioned, I am rejoining the Madness of Shear this week, and I always take the initiative to remove those pesky reminders of age. The role I play in the show, Tony, just does not have gray hair. At least, not in my mind, so not on my watch. Later in the day on Saturday, I attended the "twilight matinee" of the show (6 PM curtain).

Sunday afternoon was our first performance of the Irish plays. There were lots of laughs (both playlets were comedies), and as always, it was great fun to work with the Guilders. I look forward to our second reading of these plays Tuesday night.

After the staged reading, I dashed home to change my clothes and head north to Baltimore, for my callback for Twelfth Night at the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival. I appeared in the show waaaaaay back in my undergrad days, and would love the chance to tackle the piece again.

I read for Malvolio, the puritan servant who secretly loves his mistress, and for Feste, the clown.

I returned home Sunday night in time to get about 5 hours sleep before returning to the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival Monday morning. This time, the callback was for Taming of the Shrew, and I spent a couple of hours reading various servants and lovers.

The fun won't be stopping yet. Tomorrow, Tuesday, will be my first Shear rehearsal, a full day's worth, after which I will pop over to perform the Irish plays once more for the Stage Guild. The remainder of the week will be spent at the Kennedy Center, getting up to speed before our first performance of Shear Madness Monday night.

It's great to be busy as an actor. There are many, many periods when that is not the case. I just wish I had been a little more disciplined before all this activity started.

Maybe I would have completed my taxes...