Friday, December 31, 2010

Lets Go See Shakespeare

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

above all else

I bought a crazy book last night.

It's crazy not because of what it says but because of how it made me feel. It's Josh Waitzkin's The Art of Learning.

Waitzkin is a child prodigy chess player. He was playing and winning international chess tournaments in his teens and even younger. Then a documentary was made about him, based on his father's book Looking for Bobby Fisher, about Josh's young chess life. And Josh got a taste of celebrity:

But there were problems. After the movie came out I couldn't go to a tournament without being surrounded by fans asking for autographs. Instead of focusing on chess positions, I was pulled into an image of myself as a celebrity. Since childhood I had treasured the sublime study of chess, the swim through ever deepening layers of complexity. I could spend hours at a chessboard and stand up from the experience on fire with insight about chess, basketball, the ocean, psychology, love, art. The game was exhilarating and spiritually calming. It centered me. Chess was my friend. Then, suddenly, the came became alien and disquieting.

He goes on:

My game began to unravel. I began to think about how I looked thinking instead of losing myself in thought. The Grandmasters, my elders, were ignored and scowled at me. Some treated me like a pariah. I had won eight national championships, and had more fans, public support and recognition than I could dream of, but none of this was helping my search for excellence, let alone for happiness.

And then, the money shot:

At a young age, I came to know that there is something profoundly hollow about the nature of fame. I had spent my life devoted to artistic growth and was used to the sweaty-palmed contentment one gets after many hours of intense reflection. This peaceful feeling had nothing to do with external adulation, and I yearned for a return to that innocent, fertile time. I missed just being a student of the game, but there was no escaping the spotlight. I found myself dreading chess, miserable before leaving for tournaments. I played without inspiration and was invited to appear on television shows. I smiled.

In some ways, it's a familiar theme and a familiar story: is this all there is to fame? His observations thus far are keen, sincere, and heartfelt, but it's what happened next that makes Waitzman's story so electifying. He discovered T'ai-Chi, and began to study it, and after a time, he had a remarkable realization:

This type of learning experience was familiar to me from chess. My whole life I had studied trechniques, principles, and theory until they were integrated into the unconscious. From the outside T'ai-Chi and chess couldn't be more different, but they began to converge in my mind. I started to translate my chess ideas into T'ai-Chi language, as if the two arts were linked by an essential connecting ground. Every day I noticed more and more similarities, until I began to feel as if I were studying chess when I was studying T'ai-Chi. Once I was giving a forty board simultaneous chess exhibition in Memphis and I realized halfway through that I had been playing all the games as Tai-Chi. I wasn't calculating with chess notation or thinking about open variations...I was feeling flow, filling space left behind, riding waves like I do at sea or in martial arts. This was wild! I was winning chess games without playing chess

Waitzkin went on to compete and win international tournaments in push hands, the martial arts form of T'ai Chi. This was an incredible story: a young man who becomes a beginner again to rediscover the joy of learning, and then goes on to master a totally unrelated field.

There is so much to talk about, even in this first chapter, that it kind of makes me crazy, as I said earlier. I feel like jumping around and shrieking, in a completely crazy way. You will be hearing more about Waitzkin on this blog, believe me. My students will find his book on their curriculum list. But I will close this initial discussion with the following:

A lifetime of competition has not cooled my ardor to win, but I have grown to love the study and training above all else.

This is something I often want to express to students, but I hold back, because coming from someone who makes his living as a teacher, it can sound self-serving. But an actor who has stopped learning has probably stopped acting. A high-performing athlete does not train to be able to stop training: the training continues throughout her career, and ultimately, the training is the source of the true satisfaction. The siren's song of performing in front of an audience is strong, and not necessarily to be resisted. But the pursuit of greater skill is not something that should be abandoned, well, ever.

Take it from the champ:

What I have realized is that what I am best at is not Tai Chi, and it is not chess -- what I am best at is the art of learning.

Monday, December 27, 2010

On Success and Failure

I came across this:

“Failure’s hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever.”– Po Bronson

And it made me think of other wise things I have heard on the subject over the years:

To divide men into the successful and the unsuccessful is to look at human nature from a narrow, preconceived point of view. Are you a success or not? Am I? Was Napoleon? Is your servant Vassily? What is the criterion?
One must be a god to be able to tell successes from failures without making a mistake. --Anton Chekhov

"Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."--Winston Churchill

"There is no burden greater than a high potential."--Charles M. Schultz

"It's easier to live if you are not afraid to die."--Confucius

Failure is a fact of being an artist, and it is also a fact of life. No one enjoys failure, but once you recognize that we learn far more from failures than we due from successes, and you also accept that some failure is inevitable on the road to mastery, then it becomes easier to deal with.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Uranium Comes Back to Colorado?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

madness: it's what's for breakfast

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Watch the whole segment.

A question for you, dear readers: this kind of "insane" unreality, has it been with us since time immemorial, or is it a peculiarly modern affliction? Or do we have more of it now than we used to? This is a central preoccupation of Uranium Madhouse, so I am interested to hear what you think.

Monday, December 20, 2010

People are talking about Uranium Madhouse - a video

Sunday, December 19, 2010

You should be on Broadway

Uranium Madhouse Associate Artist: Deidre Suber

Another fantastically talented Uranium Madhouse Associate Artist

Deidre Suber The Techie: Deidre Suber's career in theater began at Skyline High school in Oakland, CA with several stagecraft classes, where she honed her skills in set construction, and then went on to become the lighting operator for many of the schools dance concerts. After graduating from high school, she took a brief hiatus from school in general, but theater was in her blood and there's no escaping the hypnotic song of the stage. She answered the call by joining San Francisco State University's Theater Arts department in Fall 2001. Immediately, she was back to working as tech for several main stage productions for the department; set construction and stage crew for A Japanese Christmas Carol directed by Yukihiro Goto, assisting the lighting designer on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar by William "Bill" Peters, stage crew head for Danton's Death and tech for The Ibsen/Strindberg Project, both directed by Mohammed Kowsar. The Stage: But something happened that she did not expect, suddenly the shy techie felt a desire to be on stage performing as part of the show instead of being behind the scenes helping to run it. The world that she once knew had changed and now it brought new and exciting problems and pleasures to sort through. She dove right into a flurry of acting, voice and dialect classes, stage combat, mask work and the Suzuki Actor's training workshop, in and outside of SFSU's theater department. However, Brown Bag, a little black box theater in the Creative Arts building, is where she made her acting debut. First, in The Land of Counterpane as Hildegard the witch by, Robert Louis Stevenson, followed by God in Pieces, an adaptation on the off-Broadway play, The Kathy and Mo Show: Parallel Lives by Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffeny, where she played various characters. Then she starred as several characters in a four person ensemble play, The Age of Dragons, written entirely in verse and directed by River Jackson. The films: Many theater actors have ventured on to have their talents captured on film, and Deidre was right there with the rest. Student films is where she started, first as a hallway collision victim in Bushwhacked, then as a Pirate/Angelic dancer in Stealing a Burrito and Christmas Spirit. She played a supporting role in the independent film Things Done Changed by Joe Alonso and several roles as an extra in the films; Colma: The Musical by Richard Wong (credited), All About Evil by Joshua Grannell (uncredited) and Moneyball by Bennett Miller (uncredited). Currently, she is working as a videographer and editor on several personal and professional video projects. Deidre has just completed two cycles of The Mother of Invention Acting School taught by Andrew Utter.

Welcome Deidre!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Uranium Madhouse Associate Artist: JB Waterman

The constellation of artists that is Uranium Madhouse just got a little brighter with the addition of JB Waterman:

JB Waterman has performed in plays and films in Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle. Most recently he performed Henry in a production of Henry V at Island Stage Left in Washington State. Recently he has performed in "Conquest of the South Pole", "The Bald Soprano", "Tape" (Smith&Martin Co.), and "What the Butler Saw" (Court Theatre, Chicago). Other Chicago Theatre credits include "Angels in America" (Hypocrites), "Three Sisters"(Ground Up), and "La Traviata" (Hypocrites). His Film Credits include "Dickie Smalls: From Shame to Fame" and "Witchunt". In addition to his training with Andrew Utter and Mother of Invention, he has trained at the School at Steppenwolf, Atlantic Theatre Co, at the Yale Summer Drama Program, and has studied Corporeal Mime with Thomas Leabhart. He lives in Los Angeles.

Welcome JB!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Uranium Madhouse Associate Artist: Tyne Marie Gaudielle

Another day, another ridiculously talented Uranium Madhouse Associate Artist, Ms. Tyne Marie Gaudielle, recently seen in Mom at the Ark Theater Company in Los Angeles.

Tyne Marie Gaudielle was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She attended San Diego State University and majored in Theatre Performance. She studied acting abroad in Oxford, England, with the British American Drama Academy. From a young age, Tyne had a vivacious interest for creating and performing. Her family eagerly dismissed the idea of acting, though. Finally in high school, she was allowed to participate in her first play, Stepping Out. It was love! Past theatre work includes Mom, The Importance of Being Earnest, Ten Women, The Good Person of Szechwan, The Vagina Monologues, Letters From Home, Tough as Nails, and The Jungle Book. Past performance art work includes, Strings Attached and Chimera. Past short film work includes Broken Hearts, Thank You For Calling, My Sweetest Downfall, and Aim For the Heart: A Guide to Vampire Defense. .

Welcome Tyne!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Uranium Madhouse's upcoming company retreat

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Friday, December 10, 2010

"my heart is as guarded as a nuclear reactor"

I heard a song with that lyric in it, so of course I had to post it.

Artist's name is "Charming", and the song is called "I'm in Love with Love".

Thursday, December 09, 2010

BOOYEAH!!: Uranium Madhouse Gets A Fiscal Sponsor

I am doing backflips incredibly excited to announce that Uranium Madhouse has obtained fiscal sponsorship from an organization called Fractured Atlas. What this means is that donors can now claim donations to Uranium Madhouse as a tax deduction.

Here is a full list of benefits that Fractured Atlas provides:

  • Online donations by credit card (up to $5,000 per transaction) with no additional fee for credit card processing
  • Donors can make automatic recurring monthly credit card donations
  • We can accept and process non-cash donations of equipment and materials
  • Create dynamic fundraising campaigns, including through integration with cutting-edge crowdsourcing platforms like IndieGoGo.
  • Fund release checks are issued weekly or through ACH (electronic fund transfer) at the sponsored artist's request
  • Complete set of online tools for managing your sponsored fund (check your fund balance, view donation and fund release history, look up donor contact information, process new donations, etc.)
  • Access to a variety of fundraising templates
  • Online profile and website link featured on our website
  • Program is structured to ensure that you should never owe any taxes on money we disburse. Funds are disbursed only when you have project-related expenses, which ensures that any "income" from the fiscal sponsorship will be 100% offset by deductible expenses.
  • Access to Volunteermatch, Materials for the Arts, the TDF Costume Collection, nonprofit rates and sales tax exemption in the State of New York
  • Subsidized fundraising assistance is available for research assistance, grant applications, individual campaigns, events etc.
  • Fractured Atlas staff is friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable — a great ally as you pursue your work!

It's a beautiful thing! I'll say it again:


Uranium Madhouse Associate Artist: David Bauman

The march of massively talented people coalescing around Uranium Madhouse continues with David Bauman:

David Bauman is an actor, writer, and teacher in Los Angeles. Originally from Wisconsin, he received his B.A. in Theater and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin, and his M.F.A from U.C.L.A. In Los Angeles Bauman has worked with the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, Evidence Room Theater, Buzzworks Theater, The Blank, Theater Company's Young Playwrights' Festival and Living Room Series, and Sacred Fools, in classic and contemporary productions. Bauman has taught acting at UCLA, StageCoach School at CrossRoads, YADA (The Youth Academy of Dramatic Arts) in Los Angeles, and is currently a member of the faculty at Idyllwild Arts Summer Conservatory, where he has been writing and directing original and adapted works for more than ten years, including his adaptation of Heinrich Hoffman's Shockheaded Peter, The Red-Legged Scissorman, his musical adaptation of A League of Their Own, and his original musicals Down the Block, and The Scrugg Sisters. Bauman is currently preoccupied with the group SomeComedyThing, creating short films and webisodes.

Catch David in the hilarious holiday bacchanal Bob's Holiday Office Party.

And check out David's recent writing and directing work with a comedy troupe he works with (it comes after the commercial):

Welcome David!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Performances I Like page

My blog has a new page, check it out.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

on serving two masters


But it is Jacobi's Lear that drives the production. And what is truly astonishing is the way he combines Lear's spiritual trajectory from blind arrogance to impotent wisdom with a sense of the character's tumultuous contradictions. Even the rubicund features and close-cropped white hair suggest a mix of military autocrat and merry patriarch. And, having entered genially cuddling his adored Cordelia, Jacobi quickly unleashes a monumental fury. That's in the text. But what strikes one is the disproportionate nature of the rage. When Jacobi threatens Goneril by saying, of her sister Regan, that "with her nails she'll flay thy wolvish visage", he pictures the scene with vindictive savagery.

Jacobi's special quality, however, has always been his ability to forge a bond of sympathy with the audience: one thinks of his Cyrano, Peer Gynt or Philip II...It is a tremendous Lear, to be ranked with those of Paul Scofield and John Wood.

That's from the Guardian's review of the production of King Lear currently running at the Donmar Warehouse in London, starring Derek Jacobi. Read the whole review. And this show is coming to New York!

The Guardian was not so kind to the recent Wooster Group show, Vieux Carre, that visited London:

Played boldly but unsympathetically by the six-strong cast, they never transcend their status as standard-issue deadbeats. Their stories may have lit a flame in Williams, but they only smoulder here.

This show is currently playing in Los Angeles. As big a fan as I am of the Wooster Group, I won't be going. I'm currently engaged in my own personal financial austerity program, and $55 theater tickets don't belong to it. However, I have been following the press about it with interest. Variety agreed with the Guardian critic, only denounced the acting more emphatically:

whereas Tom in Gordon Edelstein's stunning Taper "Glass Menagerie" was emotionally invested in the events he both lived and scribed, this guy is in a dreamy absinthe haze, a cut-rate Baudelaire spouting inchoate imagery amped up by the microphone attached to his jock. Bits of text are hazily projected against the rear wall, though inconsistently and sometimes rapid-fire, suggesting the production can't really be bothered with anything the man has to say.

In spite of my fondness for the Wooster Group, I cannot say I am surprised by these pronouncements. My first Wooster Group show was Brace-up!, the Group's scrambled rendition of Three Sisters. It was astounding, for all the reasons their shows usually are, but it revolved around Ron Vawter, who played Vershinin. Vawter is one of the greatest actors I have ever seen. Sadly, he passed away from AIDS in the nineties.

I have always found the acting of the rest of the company to be serviceable at best, and pushed at worst. Kate Valk was delightful as the narrator in Brace-up!, but her Emperor Jones was all flash and no smash. She could do the blackface dialect perfectly, but we got none of the sense of midnight-hour desperation that is the play's subject. Willem Dafoe in North Atlantic initially shone, but as the evening wore on, he became noisome. Bottom line: I think LeCompte the company's director, understands the cool side of acting perfectly. The hot side? Not so much.

This places me, a bit, on the horns of a dilemma. I love the coolness of the Wooster Group, and if I could bring even a modicum of that kind of dash to my work as a director, I would be infinitely grateful. Maybe someday I will. But I serve another god in addition to the god of cool, and that is the god of heat. I want acting to be impassioned, truthful and compelling. In my experience, it is fairly rare to come across the kind of cerebral sophistication and attitude of playfulness towards the theatrical apparatus, usually a staple of what we might call good "director's theater", AND the kind of acting I describe.

But bringing those two values together is what I hope to do with Uranium Madhouse. I want to bring a strong directorial imagination and sense of possibility together with the aesthetic of acting that I acquired from the master teachers I worked with at Yale and have continued to refine and deepen over my six years of teaching acting. Doing the first depends on my ability to challenge myself to recognize my own assumptions about theater and interrogate them on an ongoing basis, and the second depends on extreme judiciousness in selecting actors to work with, and conducting the work with them in such a way that simultaneously challenges and nurtures them.

Tall order. But then again, I'm feeling pretty tall these days. Stay tuned.

Uranium Madhouse gets a Managing Director

The Win just keeps rolling in for Uranium Madhouse. Yolanda Seabourne has stepped up to become Uranium Madhouse's Managing Director. Yolanda is going to be one busy lady, since her stellar acting abilities will be constantly in demand on the Uranium Madhouse stage. Check it out:

Combining a passion for theater with experience in contract administration and entertainment business affairs, Yolanda Seabourne brings to Uranium Madhouse two distinct sides in a single, integrated personality. Formerly with the Business and Legal Affairs Department at Vin Di Bona Productions, Yolanda's business side assisted in launching the licensing division for one of primetime's longest running entertainment programs. As Director of Licensing for FishBowl Worldwide Media, Yolanda is responsible for licensing and strategic repurposing of television's largest library of user- generated content for use across various platforms, including feature films, national commercials and new media. Yolanda's actor side has appeared in productions of Hay Fever, The Chairs, The Bald Soprano, Nero Fiddles, The Tinker's Wedding and The House of Bernarda Alba. Yolanda is a graduate of the Theater Arts program at California State University, Fullerton and currently studies with Andrew Utter at The Mother of Invention Acting School. Yolanda's two sides peacefully coexist in a 101-year old house in the Echo Park section of Los Angeles.



funny, I was just talking about...

...Tony Kushner, and then I come across this:
Threshold of revelation, guys: Angels in America is one of the most over-hyped plays I've ever seen. Irresponsibly long and cripplingly ludicrous, I'm thoroughly convinced that if not for the novelty of the "epic" form coming in the midst of a dark time (1990), to say nothing of the light shed on those living with AIDS ("We will die silent deaths no longer"), Tony Kushner's script might have gotten the paring down it needed. Instead, it remains a gelatinous mush-up of three different (and slightly overlapping) plays, a set in which the only good one is entirely too preachy and chock full o' angels with a penchant for the obvious: suffering is a part of life; it is not the end of it.

I walked out of the original production. It was totally clear to me then that the emperor was in his birthday suit, as my mother would say. Its popularity can be explained by the collective guilt being felt in the society at large over the abandonment of AIDS sufferers in the eighties.

And I also read A Bright Room Called Day, a play about, IIRC, whether or not you would kill Hitler if you could go back in time, or some such thing. And then there was the painfully boring Slavs!, unhappily produced at the Yale Rep during my time in grad school. The man's plays have a bad case of what a character in a Woody Allen movie called "people-don't-talk-like=that". Kushner is one of the worst examples of the penchant for candy-assed verbal pyrotechnics that has become the craze in the ensuing years. His plays will be forgotten, and with good reason.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Uranium Madhouse Associate Artist: Stanton Wood

Massive, epic win: Stan Wood is in the (mad)house!

Stanton Wood is a dramatic writer in a variety of media. His play THE NIGHT OF NOSFERATU, produced by Rabbit Hole Ensemble and subsequently moved to Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre, received 5 Midtown International Theatre Festival "Best of Fest" nominations as well as 6 New York Innovative Theatre Award nominations (including Outstanding Full Length Script) and was featured on a number of "Best of 2007" lists. Three of his plays, THE SNOW QUEEN, THE MAGICAL FOREST OF BABA YAGA, and THE BLUE BIRD, (co-written with Lori Ann Laster) were produced in NYC by Urban Stages Theatre Company over successive seasons, and he was the recipient of that company's Emerging Playwright Award in 2007. Other plays include THE TRAGIC STORY OF DOCTOR FRANKENSTEIN, CANDIDE AMERICANA, BIG THICK ROD (all produced by Rabbit Hole Ensemble), DOWN THE DRAIN (adobe theatre company), and MR. HOOVER'S TEA PARTY (Offworld Theatre Company) In addition to being a resident artist at Rabbit Hole Ensemble and Urban Stages, he has received developmental support from Algonquin Theatre Company, Manhattan Class Company, Playwrights Horizons, The Hangar Theatre, Primary Stages, New York Theatre Workshop, City Theatre in Pittsburgh, and the Carnegie Mellon Showcase of New Plays. His plays have been published in a number of literary magazines, by Original Works, and by Playscripts. His credits in film and television include a stint as dialogue writer on South Beach Story, a daytime drama, and as screenwriter on Heart to, an independent feature film comedy now distributed by the Starz Network. He has also done radio and stage comedy, appearing as a writer/performer on the BBC in England, on local NPR, and live on stages in the San Francisco Bay Area as part of the comedy troupe Reverend Gary's Church of Fun. The proud contributing author to the screamingly funny Message Insertion System and Method (Patent Number 09/955,678), he has also worked extensively in the game industry, writing dialogue and designing characters for award winning projects at Zoesis Studios and Pandemic Studios, including Otto and Iris, Mr Bubb in Space!, and Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers. He has an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University.

Welcome Stan!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Uranium Madhouse Associate Artist: Ben Miller

A tremendous addition to the Uranium Madhouse crew is Alexander technique master Ben Miller:

Ben Miller is the only AmSAT certified Alexander Technique teacher in Southern California who also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Performance Pedagogy -- the art of teaching actors. As such, he is uniquely qualified to assist actors in developing their craft and increasing their emotional fluidity. Ben resides and teaches the Alexander Technique in Los Angeles. In addition to his private teaching studio, he has taught the Alexander Technique in New York, London and Berlin. He has taught workshops for the Pasadena Playhouse's resident company, Furious Theatre, as well as The Five Willows in Lincoln, NE. Ben has taught acting and/or the Alexander Technique at the following schools: Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, Los Angeles. Pomona College, Claremont, CA, USC (assisting Babette Markus). Point Park University, Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh, Ben recently served as Associate Producer in charge of casting and assayed the role of Don on the independent full-length feature, "American Macho Buddha" ( He was also the casting director and inhabited the character of Rowan in "The Resurrection Man" ( Ben is also a member of Actors Equity Association and Screen Actors Guild. He served on the nominating committee for the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2004 and 2009. Ben currently serves as the Treasurer on the Executive Committee for the American Society of the Alexander Technique (AmSAT).

Ben is an also experienced writer, producer and director.

Welcome Ben!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

one reason why I don't care much for Tony Kushner

The self-important millenialist hoo-ha.

Or, as some guy puts it in a new book:

The desire to treat terrible events as the harbinger of the end of civilization itself also has roots in another human trait: vanity.

We all believe we live in an exceptional time, perhaps even a critical moment in the history of the species. Technology appears to have given us power over the atom, our genomes, the planet—with potentially dire consequences. This attitude may stem from nothing more than our desire to place ourselves at the center of the universe. “It’s part of the fundamental limited perspective of our species to believe that this moment is the critical one and critical in every way—for good, for bad, for the final end of humanity,” says Nicholas Christenfeld, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego. Imagining the end of the world is nigh makes us feel special.

New Yorkers: this show sounds very interesting

Emancipatory Politics :

Eric Bland is becoming the voice of his generation. Is it too big a stretch to compare him to John Osborne, whose "Angry Young Man" in Look Back in Anger seemed to crystallize the angst and anxiety of postwar Europe? Bland, both more poetical and more avant-garde in his inclinations than Osborne was, speaks brilliantly about this particular American cultural moment in his remarkable new play Emancipatory Politics, which is currently being presented by Incubator Arts Project under the auspices of Bland's company Old Kent Road Theater. People who are interested in the way the world is now, and the way the theatre of today and tomorrow is going to be, will want to see this show.

Explaining an Arts NonProfit


H/T Yolanda S

Uranium Madhouse Associate Artist: Rick Burkhardt

Composer, writer and theater artist Rick Burkhardt was living the Uranium Madhouse dream before it was a twinkle in my eye:

Rick Burkhardt studied music composition at Harvard University, the University of Illinois, and the University of California, San Diego, where he earned his Ph.D. in 2006. He has received commissions, grants, and performances from organizations and performers such as the U.S.-Mexico Fund for Culture, the La Jolla Symphony, Ensemble Surplus, the Boswil Foundation, Janos Negyesy and Paivikki Nykter, Ensemble Ascolta, Red Fish Blue Fish, the NOISE quartet, the past(modern) duo, sfSound, Toca Loca, Mark Menzies, the Olympia Chamber Orchestra, the American Composers Forum, and Ensemble Chronophonie. During the early 1990's, he toured the US, Germany, and Swtizerland performing new music and theater with the Performers' Workshop Ensemble. In 1997, he began studying music with Chaya Czernowin and took classes in poetry from Rae Armantrout. He spent the following years inventing idiosyncratic methods for producing critical interactions of oddly integrated music and text. His hobby, the satirical political cabaret duo the Prince Myshkins (with virtuoso guitarist, singer and lifelong collaborator Andy Gricevich), became a full-time job in 2002, once the "War on Terror" had provided an alarming overflow of material to satirize, and he began dividing his time between completing his studies and touring nationally, recording two CDs of his original political songs which have been covered and recorded by musicians across the US. He is a founding member of the Nonsense Company, an experimental music / theater trio dedicated to new works and new venues. The Nonsense Company has performed in over 30 US cities, presenting new music and theater in unexpected combinations for a wide range of audiences. Their concert in Darmstadt in 2004 was hailed as "one of the most solid, free, and critical aesthetic propositions... of the festival." Their 2008 performance in NYC's Frigid Theater Festival was reviewed as "the must see show of the festival" and won Best Show and Audience Choice awards. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Look for a Uranium Madhouse production of Rick's play Conversation Storm in the near future. Welcome Rick!

Flash Mob Gone Terribly Wrong by Tom Scott, Ep 77

acting on the razor's edge

One of my mentors at Yale, now a prominent New York director, once confided in me that it took ten years out of grad school before she got to the point where she didn't have to live in terror every day about what aspect of one actor's work in whatever show she was working on would deteriorate that day.

Ten years.

I knew that terror well. Helping an actor to develop a performance in which every word they say and everything they do issues from a visceral need is no mean feat. Many actors and directors never come anywhere close to this. But let me tell you, there is nothing more heartbreaking for a director than getting an actor to that point, where you actually see them do deep, compelling work, and then having to watch the show with an audience when the actor, for whatever reason, does not deliver that work that you have seen them do, that you helped midwife and that you KNOW they have in them. It is a very, very bitter pill.

Acting is a uniquely difficult pursuit in that if you are watching yourself do it, YOU'RE DOIN IT WRONG!!!! Sure, there will always be a part of the actor's awareness that is not totally absorbed in the scene, but ideally, most of the actor's faculties are involved in the world of the character. This fact about acting, that you can't successfully watch yourself do it, makes it difficult for the actor to have a real sense of how it's actually going. I have seen actors after a show in states of high elation over how it went, and then I have seen the same actors on different nights feeling badly about what they did, and often, I see very little difference. It's just the nature of the beast.

So it's important that actors work very, very hard at developing their skill. It's one thing to truly connect with the need at the core of the character, and to learn to play the scene from that place. But it's quite another to be able to do that consistently. It's a real tightrope act. On Friends and Family Night in the class, I am never really sure what I am going to see, because I am working with people who are learning the process. That's a big part of why I have them do the scenes that night for me once before the guests arrive: they can warm up the scene, and I can take an inventory of what they have managed to hold on to and what they need to be reminded of.

It's also the director's responsibility to create a safe, sane environment of support and encouragement that allows the actor to develop her work on the role in a way that promotes mental equilibrium and readiness. Directors who terrorize or bully are doing a disservice to everyone involved, and the actors can't be faulted for inconsistency under such circumstances.

Work hard, actors, and stay in trim. We need you to be able to renew us, inspire us, to bring us to life.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Uranium Madhouse Associate Artist: Brian Bauman

It's my great pleasure to welcome Brian Bauman, playwright, to the Uranium Madhouse lineup. To wit:

Brian Bauman is a playwright and the artistic director/founder of Perfect Disgrace Theater. His plays include: Atta Boy, Butane, Crack Baby Jesus, Elegy for A Midshipman, Hell’s Kitchen, Motherhood in a Faucet, Porridge, Saint Cocker Spaniel, and Vanity Arsenal. His work has been performed in Boulder (Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Dairy Center for the Arts), Los Angeles (Broad Art Center at UCLA, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Company of Angels Theatre, Unhappy Hour at the Parlour), New York (Collective Unconscious, La Mama Galleria), and San Francisco (Poets Theatre Jamboree at CCA, RADAR Reading Series at SF Public Library). He is a MacDowell Colony Fellow. He earned an M.F.A. in playwriting from California Institute of the Arts.

Welcome Brian!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

SoCal Friends and Family Night December 2010

More here.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

listen to the atomic scientist and the political visionary

"An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field." - Niels Bohr

"Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."--Winston Churchill

So get on with the mistake-making. There are still many (many!) you haven't made yet.

Uranium Madhouse Associate Artist: Lucas Krech

Helping Uranium Madhouse to light up the sky at a theater near you will be lighting designer Lucas Krech:

Lucas Krech Lighting designer for opera, dance, theater, installation, and performance. Opera: Soldier Songs and Aida (Dir, Yuval Sharon); Don Giovanni (Dir, Mark Streshinsky); and The Seven Deadly Sins: A Fire Opera (Dir, Roy Rallo) Dance: Nicolo Fonte, Matthew Neenan, Sean Curran, Johannes Weiland, Donald Mahler, Sallie Wilson, Paul Sutherland, Keith Michael, Trebien Pollard, Anandha Ray, David Brick, and Viktor Kabaniaev. Off-Broadway: Fate's Imagination (Dir, Hayley Finn); Becoming Adele (Dir, Victor Maog); Sake with the Haiku Geisha and The Last Word (Dir, Alex Lippard). Regional Theatre: Desperate Hours and Of Mice and Men (Barter Theatre); Lovers & Executioners (MTC); House of Lucky (The Magic). His work has been seen across the United States, Puerto Rico, Rumania, and the UK. MFA from New York

Welcome Lucas!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ok, not really my style but...

...I can't say that I don't feel this way sometimes.

(If you can't see a video below and you are on Facebook, click the headline above to go to my blog)

Learning to act is hard. Really hard. Every bit as hard as Roland, the guy in this video, says being a designer is.

People who think they need to miss class should think carefully about what kind of profession they think they are entering.

Watch the whole video, and more Roland Young, here.

From the comments under the video on Vimeo:

This is the clearest window into a Creative Director / Art Director relationship I could ever hope a student experiences before they send their first resume out into the world.

You're very-very lucky to have this as preparation for a job in design. Thanks for posting, this is great.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Uranium Madhouse Associate Artist: Travis Shakespeare!

More Big Fat Win for Uranium Madhouse: actor Travis Shakespeare has joined us as an Associate Artist. Regarde:

Travis Shakespeare started acting early on in theater as a teenager in his home state of Colorado. His first recognition as an actor came from his performance in Flowers Out of Season, a Williamsesque drama about a borderline psychopath in Waco, TX. The Denver Post called his work a "bravura performance," which gave him all the reason he needed to head to NY to try for the big time.

After college Travis studied acting with Susan Grace Cohen and at The Actor's Studio. He had a recurring role on The Guiding Light, and featured roles in Spike Lee's Malcolm X and Woody Allen's Celebrity. He appeared in many independent films & commercials, as well as over 20 New York stage productions. Ultimately he nabbed a leading role on Broaday in the Lincoln Center production C'est La Vie, in which he played a young artist vying for success in New York society.

That experience sent him on to Los Angeles in 2001. Critics singled him out in A Charlie Brown Commercial Xmas as "brilliant"(LA Weekly) and "outstanding" (LA Times). A year later Daily Variety, Access Hollywood & Extra! all featured Travis in the industry spoof hit Allyn McBeal.

In 2004 Travis started producing documentary television, which meant less time to pursue acting, but he never lost his love for performing. In 2008 he decided to start auditioning again, and was cast in the Swiss short Big Sur, which garnered much festival recognition and a Swiss Academy Award nomination. In 2009 Big Sur was remade as a feature film, set to debut in the Spring. He also signed with Innovative Artists for commercials.

how Shakespeare changes us

The Muse Daily FTW:

Shakespeare's art is no more and no less than the supreme example of a mobile, creative and adaptive human capacity, in deep relation between brain and language. It makes new combinations, creates new networks, with changed circuitry and added levels, layers and overlaps. And all the time it works like the cry of "action" on a film-set, by sudden peaks of activity and excitement dramatically breaking through into consciousness. It makes for what William James said of mind in his "Principles of Psychology," "a theatre of simultaneous possibilities." This could be a new beginning to thinking about reading and mental changes.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Uranium Madhouse Associate Artist: Cris D'Annunzio

I am exceedingly pleased to announce that actor Cris D'Annunzio has accepted my invitation to become a member of Uranium Madhouse. Ecce homo!:

Cris D'Annunzio was raised in a traditional East Coast nuclear family -- in the sense that his grandparents, both Italian immigrants, lived in the house and there were always bombs going off! He survived to attend Princeton University, where he played football. Cris got his start in acting when he was 'discovered' by the John Houseman Acting Company while moving instruments for the symphony orchestra at Chautauqua Institute in upstate NY -- his summer job during college. The experience of riding his bike to the theatre and performing stuck with him. After a brief stint in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills, Cris embarked on an acting and writing career that has taken him from the stage to the screen -- both big and small. LA Stage appearances include Cobb at the Falcon Theater, award winning Cockroach Nation at LATC, and the World Premiere of Beth Henley's Sisters of the Winter Madrigal. NY credits include Miss Julie at Manhattan Theatre Club. Selected film credits include Ridley Scott's American Gangster and Chasing 3000 with Ray Liotta, which Cris wrote. Cris has had numerous TV roles which include appearances on Without A Trace, and Law and Order.

Welcome Cris!

Derek Jacobi on finally playing Lear, being gay, stagefright, and other stuff

Make friends with your fear. It isn't going anywhere. Or, as Jacobi says in this great interview:

"I do get very nervous. Very nervous. And the pressures are much bigger now. There was a lovely actress called Dorothy Tutin and she always said that there were three categories of actor. The first one was "young and talented", which is a great category to be in. You've got youth on your side, and you're the rank outsider in the race. You've got everything to play for, nothing to lose. Then you become, if you're lucky, "experienced and successful". You've got work, you're making a living, and you're also getting wonderful experience. And then there's the last one, which is "distinguished and acclaimed". And that's where the pressure is. Now you're the favourite in the race, you have to win or come a good second. Now people are putting money on you to win."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

fascinating interview with creator of Doonesbury

Gary Trudeau, on the BBC.

Friday, November 26, 2010

why Uranium Madhouse?

Many people whom I have told the name of the theater company I am forming have chuckled upon hearing it, and, after a moment, exclaimed "I like it!" But I think the reason for this name, what I am gesturing at with it, is not immediately obvious. I don't think that's a bad thing, I like a good enigma as much as the next guy and probably more. I have produced a lyrical explanation in the company Mission Statement, and the 9 Muses page on the website I think also does an excellent job of invoking the intended esprit de corps of the thing, but I thought that some of you around me who have been so supportive and encouraging might be curious to hear a bit more about where I am coming from with this name, and, perhaps more importantly, where I am going.

I recently completed a dissertation on the Austrian novelist and playwright Thomas Bernhard. Bernhard is now widely considered the premier writer in German of the postwar era. It's hard to describe him; for a sample, see #2 on the 9 Muses page of the Uranium Madhouse website. His novels consist of long monologues (no paragraphs!), and the narrators rant, relentlessly, at length, about all manner of subjects, from Heidegger to the pissiors of Vienna. They ruthlessly take apart people in their acquaintance, only to take themselves apart with greater ruthlessness shortly thereafter. They resist the use of pronouns, so that as they hold forth on some subject, they will have to repeat certain terms over and over and over again, making them seem as verbally clumsy as they are obsessively fixated. What fascinated me about Bernhard was the effect this seemed to induce: if it wasn't outright laughter (and it often was; I have laughed to tears more than once reading Bernhard), then it was what I can only describe as a certain kind of loopiness or trippiness, a sense of unreality.

In thinking about Bernhard and studying him, I came across a place in his writing where one of his most famous figures describes the world as "a completely, totally carnivalistic system." The writer W.G. Sebald, in an essay on Bernhard, uses this utterance to invoke the work of a thinker named Bakhtin, who had written an important book on the concept of the carnival, the role in played in the consciousness of medieval Europe: a period when the rigidities of the social order were suspended, and nothing was sacred. I recognized this as what fascinated me about Bernhard: that he saw both human society and the human mind as carnivals, places where their own procedures and practices were subject to reversal and parody at any moment.

Ironically enough, around the same time, I had begun to perform in the night club world of San Francisco, including at the legendary Trannyshack. I had created the persona of Johnny Cocksville, based on this photograph of Johnny Knoxville from the cover of Rolling Stone:

The picture inspired me to create a kind of hypermasculine, hypersexual gay superhero:

I performed little vignettes, lipsynchs at bottom, that were structured like vaudeville pieces that told a story of sexual conquest or of abject failure in the sexual realm. I reveled in the carnivalistic dress-up world of the San Francisco drag scene.

At some point, I recognized that the loopiness and absurdity that I appreciated in Bernhard and in the world of Trannyshack were related to each other, as different as they seemed. And really, they couldn't have seemed more different: the asexual, Mandarin Austrian and the punk-juiced dragsters of San Francisco. But in simultaneously mirroring and parodying norms of the world around them and of their own internal worlds, they were engaged in something remarkably similar.

At the same time, in thinking back on past theater projects and also to ones I had a hankering to do, I found that this trippiness or loopiness was a common thread through much of what I had done and what I set out to do. Case in point: Hamlet. The whole middle of the play, when Hamlet is feigning madness, is suffused with a sense that since he has left the norms of behavior behind, he could do...anything. Another case in point: The Ride Across Lake Constance, the play I did as my thesis at the Yale School of Drama. Written by another Austrian, Peter Handke, this play depicts the struggle of a group of silent film stars who find themselves in some sort of hotel lobby, not at all sure who they are or what they are supposed to be doing. Their struggles to have exchanges that feel "normal" or "connected" are by turns comedic and painful. Another case in point: The Duchess of Malfi, in which a man becomes so incensed with the thought of his sister's involvement with her servant that he locks her up with madmen, has her killed, and then comes to believe he has become a wolf.

Meanwhile, in 2008, I awoke fully to the political realm, which I had had a fairly dim awareness of previously. After I came to know the full-blown dementia evinced by Sarah Palin, I immersed myself in politics and the Presidential campaign. (I even performed as Johnny Cocksville with the Obama logo painted on me where the target usually was. ) As I did so, I became more aware of what had unfolded in the last eight years, and the madness which seemed to have gripped the country in the wake of the fall of the Twin Towers. And I noticed what a big role uranium had played in all of that. Lying about Saddam Hussein trying to enrich uranium had been an important part of mobilizing the nation for the Iraq war, and the worry about a nuclear Iran and North Korea seemed to be bearing down just as hard.

The notion of radioactivity resonated in another way with me: I had studied acting with some truly remarkable teachers at Yale, and had come to see the actor as a generator of "heat", and I don't even really mean the quote marks. An actor who was working from a visceral place seemed to radiate, in a way that compelled our attention from deep within our cores. This phenomenon was so important to me that I would eventually found an acting school, so that I could put the process of helping actors to radiate in this fashion at the center of my work, and develop my skill at doing so.

Also around this time, I read a great book by Adam Phillips called Going Sane, in which he attempts to think about the relatively bland role that the notion of sanity plays in our set of concepts compared to the one played by its opposite.

Lastly, I had long had a sense that in starting a theater company, I wanted to think of it as starting a rock band. Growing up gay (and really afraid of what that meant) and studious, I have long felt that I missed out on the kind of carefree adolescence that many had, or at least that popular culture seemed to suggest many had. In the music of Blink-182 (also to be found on the 9 Muses page, in a video in which they band members run naked through the streets of San Diego), I discovered in my late 20's this spirit of irrepressible insouciance and even omnipotence that bordered on the insane, that I felt I had missed out on. So when I started to think about what my company would be called, I thought of it a little like coming up with a band name. Something like the Flaming Lips, or Vampire Weekend, or Okkervil River, or the Dandy Warhols, or...

And then, in a moment of epiphany, it all seemed to come together in the phrase Uranium Madhouse: the radiation, the danger, the insanity, the vitality. It had to be. It was what I wanted to do with the second half of my life. To create a context and an artistic family which would celebrate all of this, and invite the society in which we live to join in our revels.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

9 people I am thankful for

In living color, right here.

Vive l'art!!!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

cool stuff I saw on the internet

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NorCal Friends and Family Night December 2010

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