26 October 2010

Where Everybody Knows Your Name


Jennifer's Coffee Connection is closing up after 25 years of serving Studio City/North Hollywood.

I worked at Jennifer's some years back.  That's where I met Jimmy Zerda, actor, comedian, comic-strip writer.  At some point, I began drawing his strip and we had plans in the works to publish a book of these things.  Those plans ended in February of '06, when he took his life.

I haven't drawn Beanman since, but the closing of Jennifer's is a significant enough event to make me lift pen to paper again.  So above is the first new Beanman strip in nearly half a decade.

More info about Jennifer's may be found here.

Rest in peace, Jimmy.

14 October 2010

Folly is the cloak of knavery.
-- William Blake, "Proverbs of Hell"

I'm a big fan of William Blake.  When Lili VonSchtupp approached me with the opportunity to host "The Cultured Ecdysiast III: A Night at the Library" as a dead writer, I jumped out of my skin at the chance to bring William Blake to the stage.

Note:  I look nothing like William Blake.


But a borrowed costume from burlesque buddy and habitual historical reenactor Phillip "Wolfgang" Dye, and I cut a pretty convincing figure nonetheless.





Red Snapper helped me out for the musical portion of my act.  Photos by Markus Alias.

I did a bit where I dissected "It’s My Life" by Jonathan Bon Jovi:

This ain't a song for the brokenhearted
No silent prayer for the faith departed
And I ain't gonna be just a face in the crowd
You're gonna hear my voice when I shout it out loud

It's my life
It's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just wanna live while I'm alive

(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said, "I did it my way"
I just wanna live while I'm alive
'Cause it's my life
... followed by a retelling in sonnet form as "‘Tis My Life" by Jonathan Bon Jovi, translated into English by William Blake (aka Mr. Snapper):

I shall not sing of loves long passed away
Of hearts long since entwined with cord untied
No prayers bequeathed for those who curse the day
A man from Galilee came forth and died
I shan’t be bowed, a simple human mere
No more to be one of a thronging mass
Let those who would confound me lend their ear
Voice made loud, a ringing trumpet blast
‘Tis my life, forever made anew
Before this corpus dies and turns to grey
My heart envelopes all, it courses true
As spoke the poet, “I did it my way”
Élan courses through ev’ry vein and bone
This one moment, this breath is mine alone
I was more prepared for this evening of hosting than ever before.  I wrote material; original jokes about the authors whose work was being embodied by the burlesque dancers that night.  I lived with the material for days, tweaking it, honing it, making it as good as possible for the big night.

On the night, I was super nervous.  Usually I wing it, but this time I knew exactly what I was going to do.  I had the luxury of gnawing over every syllable, wondering if any of it would play.

Play it did!  I had a blast, and the audience was with me.  Without a doubt, the best hosting I've ever done.

26 August 2010

John Mayer on Playwriting

Ignore the tabloid bullshit for a moment, and listen to the words of a poet who knows how to reach the public-at-large:

Listening to Train play "Hey Soul Sister" from backstage. What a massive hit. Yea, it's on the radio pretty constantly, but a hit song is all about the way the crowd reacts to it. There's nothing like the reward of making the air swirl around thousands of people with one of your songs. Better than any of the spins or chart positions. I think people would write better songs if they aimed for the religious concert experience rather than the top 20. Train's now playing "Drops of Jupiter," a song that succeeds and succeeded at both, respectively.
The same could be said for playwriting: Aim for the religious experience, rather than "success." Keep it honest, keep it pure. Make a personal connection with the material -- intend to make it a personal experience for the audience. Getting back to something I quoted from Heinlein*, it's about intercourse with the audience; a sacred union.

[*Quoted in a Facebook note:  "Jubal shrugged. 'Abstract design is all right — for wall paper or linoleum. But art is the process of evoking pity and terror. What modern artists do is pseudo-intellectual masturbation. Creative art is intercourse, in which the artist renders emotional his audience. These laddies who won't deign to do that — or can't — lost the public.'"  From Stranger in a Strange Land.  My Facebook page as a playwright may be found here.]

23 August 2010

A New Name, A New Direction

This blog started life as "The Felties."  In it, I hoped to chronicle the production of a puppet webseries called The Felties.  Along the way, I'd post my experiements in video production, mostly in the form of Disembodied Animal Head Theatre, and comments on entertainment in general.

The Felties fizzled.  I have most of the cast built (by the very talented Russ Walko) but they sit in a box, waiting for me to settle for what I can do vs. what I would like to do.

So I rebranded the blog, "In the Extreme," which was the title of my old newspaper column in High School.  I kept posting about whatever the hell struck my fancy.  And then I stopped blogging.  Well, I stopped blogging here.  I kept publishing notes on Facebook, and I've blogged quite a bit at Mad Theatrics, the sister blog to this one.

I am going to endeavor to get back up on the blogging horse.  September 30th will be my 5th anniversary here on Blogger.  Hence, the rededication to typing away into the ether, like a street preacher yelling through a megaphone at no-one in particular.

That's not quite true.  I know my parents read this, as a way to keep up with what I'm doing.  Scarlett Letter reads the blog.  I still get referrals from puppetry websites and blogs.  I imagine I get quite a few hits from people interested in Scientology -- mostly ex-Scientologists and fence-sitters who may have heard that I was declared a "Suppressive Person."  And for some strange reason, I get a bunch of hits from people looking for Picasso's stripped-down sketch of a bull:


(And just like that, I doubled my web traffic.)

If you follow my Facebook notes and other blog, you may see a bunch of double-postings here.  I apologize, but I'm going for a sort of "Andrew Moore clearinghouse."  Yes, I am that egotistical.  More to the point, I have that many irons in the fire.

And speaking of such things, I would like to end off with this short movie, shot with my pal Mike Delorenzo a week ago.  We did this for the "5 for 50" Film Festival held by Bagavagabonds.  That's ("5 minutes for $50.")  Enjoy!

28 July 2010

Scientific Ologies‏
"A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be."
-- Albert Einstein, scientist


They told me that L. Ron Hubbard was an engineer, and I believed it.  They told me he traveled extensively in the Far East, soaking up Eastern religion and philosophy like a Sham-Wow, and I believed it.  They told me that he took his Western, scientific training and applied it to Eastern philosophical thought and from this marriage of the Oriental and Occidental, Scientology was born.  And I believed it.  You gotta admit, that's a pretty compelling narrative.  It sounds right out of The Matrix or some such.  Unplugging from a computer download, Neo knows kung-fu.

(To my family:  This is going to be difficult for you to read.  I apologize wholeheartedly, but I am pretty much done with dishonesty in matters of the spirit.)

In college, I discovered the Tao Teh Ching and Buddhism.  My Old Testament professor (I went to a Presbyterian university) calmly and eloquently explained that the Books of Esther and Daniel are fictionalized history.  I read about the Gnostic gospels, and how the current New Testament line-up was crafted by men, not God.  I became a "Preterist" after studying the Book of Revelations and history.  I decided that Plotinus was probably right, best case scenario our consciousness emanates from the source of everything, and that's about all there is to God.  I stopped believing in a literal Hell.  I flirted briefly with atheism, and settled on something between agnosticism and deism; I assume there is a God.

Leaving college, trying to sort myself out vis a vis religion and matters of the spirit, it occurred to me that an honest attempt at sussing out the truth would involve a survey of world religions.  Perhaps applying scientific principles to the truths offered by Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, etc. figuring out what works, and going with that.

Enter L. Ron Hubbard, an American engineer and nuclear physicist whose extensive travels through the Far East led to a scientific approach to the spirit.  Or so they said.  As it turns out, he was neither an engineer nor a physicist, and his travels through the East were not nearly as extensive as he (and the Church) led us to believe.  One may say that, to borrow a phrase from Tom Cruise, Hubbard was glib.


So there you have, in a nutshell (emphasis on "nut"), what appealed to me so much about Dianetics and Scientology that I was willing to join the parade of fools.  There were other things:  I was attracted by the potential for losing psychological baggage (not that I have much) and increasing my potential as an artist.  (Laugh if you want, I really dig Travolta.  Been a fan my whole life, even through the dark days of "Look Who's Talking."  Back in 1997, when the wife and I first bought a copy of Dianetics, Travolta was in the middle of a career resurgence.)  Regardless, it was the science angle that really engaged me.

But is it science or faith?

From Geir Isene, an OT VIII, former member of the Church of Scientology: "It seems fanaticism feeds on hope and faith rather than experience and personal certainty. Maybe fanaticism is a substitute for real personal certainty."

Hurm.

A long quote from Haydn James, aka "T. Paine" from Scientology-Cult.com, an Independent Scientologist:
I have not one shred of doubt that Scientology is a religion, never have had. To me the evidence is clear and unequivocal. Though we may not talk about it often, faith is a very important element in Scientology.

In the lecture SELF-DETERMINISM ON THE DYNAMICS, dated 23 October 1951 LRH points out that the 8th Dynamic is actually faith, when he says:
“… Because the eighth dynamic is faith. It is not even knowledge, and it is certainly not ARC or understanding. It is faith; it is a static, and in a complete static there is no understanding. The individual is taught ‘You have to understand things in life,’ so he goes ahead and tries to understand the eighth dynamic. But you can’t understand the eighth—that is faith! You accept it. You don’t try to wonder about it.”
People may gain faith from life experiences, visiting with holy men and in other ways I am sure, but other than Scientology, I know of no actual technology that is capable or restoring, repairing or creating a resurgence of faith in an individual -- which provides incredible certainty that nothing can strike them down or a feeling that everything is absolutely going to be alright or any other way one may wish to describe it.
Uhhh ... faith is inconsistent with science. You don't have "faith" that a hypothesis or theory will hold out. You may suppose, based on experience, that such a thing may happen, but you don't take it on "faith" that a+b=c. You set up and conduct the experiment, and see what happens. If it turns out that a+b=d, well then. That's that. Reconfirm the results by duplicating the experiment, etc. "Faith" in the area of science leads to prejudice. It is inconsistent with certainty. (Perhaps this is semantic hair-splitting.)

I have had the "incredible certainty" James describes restored, repaired and created by everything from prayer to sex to socializing to going to the Getty Museum to reading a good book to playing with the dogs to holding my wife's hand. Experiencing life fully in the moment, in my experience, is what gives you that "incredible certainty." Even when my neck has been on the chopping block, I've found incredible courage and certainty in confronting the circumstances fully.

If that's all that Scientology has to offer, what's the point of paying $4,000 an intensive for something you can get for free with a library card or in the halls of the Getty? In the end, is the church a "Cargo Cult" with the trappings of science and a few neat parlor tricks that do little to actually clear someone? Is the most it can offer is a way to key you out and give you that "incredible certainty?" If so, that's fine. That's enough, actually. I could be a part of that church.

What I need from ANY church or religion is honesty, transparency, and a "true" commitment to being right -- not a false sense of "rightness" pasted over wrongness. What I find interesting is how the older I get the less I need religion. It seems extraneous and arbitrary. If THIS is what life is, and it's as awesome and wonderful and scary and exciting and horrible and glorious as THIS, why would I need anything else? It would take a lifetime to master life itself, without taking on ridiculous side-projects that, in the end, have no real bearing on my life. In short, why do I need international events, Friday night graduations, TMs and checksheets when an hour or two of burlesque does the job?

Because "An artist never cleared anyone," or so David Petit, the Commanding Officer of Celebrity Centre International once told me. Well, maybe that's just because no one ever went clear.

If I sound bitter, it's only because I get a bit grumpy when I wake up.

23 July 2010

The Great Busking Experiment of 2010
II

(BTW - I'm following the free lessons on busking available through www.buskerworld.com.  These blog entries are using the lessons as a jumping-off point.)

Where does my confidence as a performer come from, and will that confidence exhibit itself once I'm on the sidewalk?

I think it may stem from a deep understanding that I have nothing to lose from performing.  Before embarking on some new adventure, I consider the best case and worst case scenarios.  I know full well that the worst and the best rarely--if ever-- happen.

I've gone up on lines, I've forgotten lyrics and chords in the middle of a song, I've been heckled.  I've run afoul of authority and I've said some things on the fly that I have regretted.  On the other hand, I've held an audience, I've nailed a song, and I've thrown in the exact right line at the exact right moment.

Knowing what can go wrong and what can go right allows a person to relax.  Tension is caused by the unknown.  It's the "fight or flight" instinct queuing up psychologically and physically, ready to send you into the thick of things or through the nearest window.  There's an observation a character makes in The Usual Suspects which is quite apt:
First day on the job, you know what I learned? How to spot a murderer. Let's say you arrest three guys for the same killing. You put them all in jail overnight. The next morning, whoever's sleeping is your man. You see, if you're guilty, you know you're caught, you get some rest, you let your guard down. 
Not to say that artists are murderers -- although I have killed in the past -- the point is when you know the stakes and know what cards you hold, you can let go of the "fight or flight" business and just let the flow happen.

The audience identifies with the performer onstage.  If the performer is relaxing into it, going great guns, so too will the audience relax and become enraptured by the performance.

I need to mine my busker friends for their experiences; the horror stories and the fish tales.

14 July 2010

Happiness



My Dad bought me an accordion.

You see, I had an accordion-riffic week a couple of weeks ago.  Count Smokula hosted the Monday Night Tease:


Then I performed three nights of Victory Variety Hour's The Wrong Show at Hollywood Fringe Festival.  Also on the ticket, Renee Albert:


I finished off that week with Fish Circus:


And the Fuxedos playing together in concert at Hollywood Fringe Festival:

[Take my word for it.  They have an accordion in some of their songs.]

The last night of The Wrong Show, I asked Renee how the left hand works.  All those buttons -- DAUNTING!  She explained it to me briefly, and then asked, "Do you want to try it?"

Ha ha ha ... do I want to try it.

"ABSOLUTELY I DO!"

She helped me saddle up, and I was off to the races ... er, I was tentatively pushing buttons and working the billows. 

So I expressed my deep desire to get my grubby hands on an accordion over on Facebook.  Something along the lines of, "If anyone has an old accordion in the back of their closet, I'd happily trade for the unicycle in the back of mine!"  Dad started checking prices on eBay and gave me a call.  After an excruciating week of being outbid and losing a number of fine instruments, Dad finally won this beaut:


An Ambassador 120-button squeezebox, built in Italy.  The case was manufactured in Los Angeles, and the vintage lesson books that came along for the ride are stamped with a music shop address in Chula Vista.  Oh, and it sounds sweeeeeeet ...

There is a learning curve.  I took piano lessons when I was six years-old, and I have rudimentary knowledge when it comes to reading music (a combination of Mom teaching me to sight-read for singing as well as cello and trumpet lessons as a teen) but putting it all together is a bit vexing.  Never fear -- I will be up and running soon.  I told Mr. Buddy that I'll be ready to bring the accordion onstage in a month or two.

You remember Mr. Buddy, one half of Mssrs. Snapper & Buddy:


Last night, my second time to really pull the thing out of its case and practice, I figured out the left hand and right hand parts to "La Valse d'Amelie" and John Mayer's "Neon."  Now the challenge is to get those hands working together.  Pretty tough!

I'm very fortunate to have a very understanding and patient spouse.  She is very supportive of my musical pursuits, even if they sound like a whole lotta noise at first.  She's a peach!


So there you have it.  One more weapon in the arsenal of mirth, soon to be unleashed upon unsuspecting burlesque audiences across the Southland.

16 June 2010

It's Lie



I think I just threw up in my mouth.

The majority of things listed in this very persuasive litany would be considered "PTS to the middle class" or "other fish to fry"  Seriously ... shiny cars?

"PTS to the middle class" means that your basic purpose as a spiritual being (i.e., being a Scientologist) has been thwarted by your urge to "keep up with the Joneses."  In other words, you're being too materialistic.  This phrase is used to justify onerous demands on members, ("Saving money for your retirement?  Don't be so PTS to the middle class!  Spend that money on your next intensive of auditing!") and the extreme asceticism required of org staff.  ("New clothes?  Don't be so PTS to the middle class!")

"Other fish to fry" means you should get with the program and stop wasting your time pursuing what you may actually be interested in.  For instance, when my wife and I took tap dance lessons in St. Louis, we were excoriated for having "other fish to fry."

Transcript:

"Its shiny cars, wistful eyes and roast beef for dinner.
Its questions and answers and 'I dont knows.'
Its finding true love and losing it and finding it all over again."
A more accurate version would be:
"It's keeping your old, beat-up car running, blurry eyes and skipping lunch to get your stats up.
It's questions, being sent to ethics and Qual until you stop asking them, and toeing the line.
It's finding true love, but suppressing your romantic urges for fear of doing lower conditions."
I fell for the PR bullshit back when I first cracked the spine on What is Scientology?  I believed the glossy pages and staged photographs.  I took the testimonials to heart.

I've been to the puppet show, and I've seen the fucking strings.  Don't believe the hype.

15 June 2010

TARANTINO BURLESQUE!

I'm going wig shopping real soon.  The last wig I bought was this cheap "Biblical Character" wig and beard combo.  It's my go-to for when I play Manson:

Charlie reads poetry at Jim Martyka's Dead Beat Poet's Society, hosted by Write/Act Rep.

Brolesque Superstar-in-the-making Steak N. Shake debuts at Peepshow Menagerie

And Red has worn the beard as a terrorist:

Dizzy VonDamn! shows a little patriotism with the help of Red Snapper at Victory Variety Hour's The Wrong Show.

But I'm looking for something a little more sophisticated.  Something a little more ... Vincent Vega.

Red and Mr. Snapper give the Monday Night Tease audience a little Jack Rabbit Slim's action at The Quentin Tarantino Burlesque Film Festival.

When we first performed the act at The Quentin Tarantino Burlesque Film Festival, I wore a clip-on ponytail. My hair was long enough, it worked.  The second year my hair was too short, and I went without.  The number didn't really suffer for it, but Vincent Vega's silhouette is defined by his hair.  Am I right?


A fellow burlesque performer and professional wig-wrangler gave me the address of a wig store that should have what I'm looking for. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find a men's black ponytail wig that doesn't look like complete shit.

Just one of the few commercially available men's black ponytail wigs.  They all pretty much look like this.

I mean, c'mon!

I've never gone serious wig shopping.  This will be a new experience for yours truly.  I'll be sure to blog about it.

More awesome Tarantino Burlesque Film Festival photos can be found on the Monday Night Tease website.

13 June 2010

The Great Busking Experiment of 2010

George Burns did it.  So did the Flying Karamazov Brothers.  Penn & Teller, Steve Martin -- even W.C. Fields did it.  My homeboy, Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards did it.  Busking.  It's a tradition as old as the bards and troubadours of yore.  The word "busk" comes from the Spanish word "buscar," to look for.  And indeed, I'm looking for something.

As you may know, I get paid to make funny and play my ukulele.


I feel that I've hit a certain plateau as a performer.  I'm not getting any better.  I do what I do, and people like it, but I feel I am capable of much more.

I know a guy who is a professor of math education at a very prestigious math college.  He recently went on sabbatical after becoming tenured.  Did he rest on his laurals? NO!  He took a teaching position at an inner-city high school.  That's right:  He bucked up and put himself in the thick of things.  Rubber meets the road time, for certain.  Boy howdy, was it tough!  An emotional roller coaster, as he tells it.  I respect this guy.  He didn't have to do it.  He didn't have anything to prove, except, perhaps, to himself.

I want to experience the oldest crucible there is for what it is I do.  I want to be made or broken by the street.  I want to hang 'em out there, put myself at risk, and earn it.  I desire the chaos of busking; the unpredictable.  I want to know I can be entertaining in the worst possible circumstances.  I want to make money from strangers--absolute and complete strangers--who didn't even know they wanted to be entertained by me.  I want to bring my talent and skill to the public at large and have my efforts recognized in the roughest way possible.

Assuming I survive the experience, and don't hang up my uke out of shame, I expect to emerge a stronger performer.  I expect a surge in confidence and ease on stage.  I expect to hone what I do to a fine point.  And yes, I expect to make some extra scratch.

I will journal my experiences here.  The beginning of this journey will consist of talking to buskers I know, getting a sense of how to go about doing this.  Yeah, yeah: take your uke out to a street corner and play.  Look, I believe in "know before you go."  A little preparation now should save me considerable trouble later.

This is going to be interesting.

02 June 2010

I had to post this.


As you may recall, I publicly quit the Church of Scientology this year. (For those of you who read the preceding sentence and went, “WTF?!?” I’d encourage you to read the original post.)

Since nutting up and giving the Church of Putting the Beat Down on People a public kiss-off, I’ve had the pleasure of telling church employees what I really think about the organization they support with their sweat equity.

Recently, I received an email from “HAPI Pers Procurement.” Let me translate that into English for you: HAPI in this case does not refer to the Egyptian god of fertility and the Nile river. Instead, HAPI is the “Hubbard Academy of Personal Independence” in Edinburgh, Scotland. This is an “Advanced Org,” which means this is where one first begins to study Ron’s confidential material. “Pers Procurement” is short for “Personnel Procurement,” sort of the HR rep at a Scientology Organization. The person who signed the email is the “HCO Area Secretary.” “HCO” is short for Hubbard Communications Office, the section responsible for personnel, communication (letters, bulk mail, etc.) and ethics. This is the section I was second in charge of when I was on staff in St. Louis. The HCO Area Secretary, or “HAS” (Yes, they abbreviate abbreviations) is the boss.

How the hell did the boss of the HR department for an org in Scotland get my email address? I ask the HAS that very thing. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is an excerpt from Gillian’s email:

Dear Reader,

Have you ever been asked to join staff before? Perhaps you have been asked many times. Maybe you have thought about joining staff or have signed up already or have been on staff before. Wherever you stand on the subject, this letter is for you.

[…]

Overall, the staff member has the satisfaction of knowing they have made a real difference - that they are helping to put there what LRH always wanted - a saner planet.

Thank you for reading... If you would like to apply to become a Hubbard Academy staff member, please reply straight away!

Much Love

Gillian Brown
HCO Area Secretary
Hubbard Academy, Scotland

And my response:

Dear Gillian,

Thank you for taking the time to send me a blind, cold email. And points to you for guessing accurately my relationship to the email (i.e. "Reader.")

I have no idea how an org in Scotland of all places got ahold of my email address. Is it likely that the orgs are out-Admin on CF policy, and have been sharing lists like teenagers share mononucleosis germs? Given the state of the Church, I'd say that's more than likely.

Regarding your invite to change careers, I'd like to counter with such an offer myself.

Quit. Leave the Sea Org.

You've seen outpoints. I was Cope Off for two and a half years at St. Louis Org -- an idyllic Class V Org in the Midwest. If I have seen outpoints in how the church is run, I know you have. I've read the stories from credible witnesses (I recommend Jeff Hawkin's story) of physical and mental abuse at Int Base. I watched the Anderson Cooper series, and saw a journalist with better TRs than the Church's spokesperson expose the truth: The Church does not live up to its stated aims.

I'm not asking you to believe any of this. On the contrary, DON'T believe anything. Look, don't listen. But for God's sake, LOOK.

In the meantime, consider routing out of the Sea Org. Consider creating a life for yourself in an environment where the able truly can prosper. You will be surprised at just how much your work ethic and dedication to the task at hand will translate to great professional success in the much maligned "wog world." The perks: No one yelling obscenities at you, insisting you miss sleep to hit some arbitrary stat goal. No more suppressive targets on hare-brained programs. No more chicken-scratch paychecks. Merely the expectation that you do a good job, and the freedom to actually do it.

And by the way: The Bridge is available outside the church.

The next time you have one of THOSE Wednesday nights, when you know you're on the chopping block, and you find yourself compromising your integrity to push your stats up, think about this email. Freedom is yours, if you want it.
You're a Scot, for Christ's sake. Get your back up and throw off the tyranny of little men with little minds who bark orders from half a world away.
-- Andrew
PS - On the off chance some HCO terminal intercepts this email before it gets to its intended recipient, what I said above goes double for you. Are there no men in Scotland? Bring order, damn it.
I throw around a lot of Scientologese in this email, but I think you get the gist. (That’s right, I’m not defining jargon, thus endangering my reader with dreaded misunderstood words! Oooooooo. Per the tech, you should all start committing harmful acts towards me, thus justifying your urge to leave. Because that’s what happens when you go past a word you don’t understand. Also, you should be yawning.)
And the response I get from (ostensibly) the person in charge of the Hubbard COMMUNICATIONS Office? The person in charge of the Department of Inspections and Reports, the ethics top cop at the org? Brace yourselves:
Bugger off
And there you have it folks, one of the modern masters of communication.  The sad thing is, I don't doubt Gillian's sincerity and willingness to help others.  You don't put up with all the bullshit that comes along with the corporate climate of Scientology without having your heart in the right place.  I hope Gillian recalls my email during the inevitible "Dark Nights of the Soul" that come along when you're on org staff.

21 April 2010

I Believe.

[I'm not sure where I was (mentally) when I wrote this draft, but it's been kicking around for a while. I don't want to delete it, so I'm going ahead and publishing it.]

I believe in shoestrings, in raw talent and bruised knuckles.

I believe in not having all the answers, but not letting that get in your way. I believe in opening things up, stripping things down, getting in way over your head and putting it all back together in the end.

I believe in working parts. I believe in functionality and utility, but not at the expense of style, which is just another word for whimsy. I believe that if it isn't beautiful when you're finished, it wasn't the right solution to begin with. I believe in elegance, but I also believe in getting the job done, by hook or by crook.

I believe in leaping before you look, trusting yourself, and reaching for higher ground. I believe in failure, in the power failure holds. I believe in picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and starting all over again.

I believe in resilience, in the indomitable human spirit, in compassion and self-sacrifice. I believe in tolerance, but I believe in merit. I believe in teaching a man to fish, but giving a man a fish in a pinch. I believe in not being an idiot. I believe in trust but verify.

I believe that the most anyone can ask of you is your best.

I believe nothing gives a person the right to infect your space with their crazy.

I believe in liberty. I believe in the chaos 6.7 billion free individuals could potentially wreak.

I believe in "Soyez réalistes, demandez l'impossible!", in "Do I contradict myself?/Very well, then, I contradict myself;/(I am large—I contain multitudes.)" and in capax universi. I believe its all been done before, but that's no reason not to do it again.

I believe in time-binding, in standing on the shoulders of genius and reaching higher, in reading a good book or at least a trashy paperback.

I believe in taking the time to figure out what you believe, because if you don't, someone is bound to try and do it for you. And I believe that's pretty fucked.

04 April 2010

Done.

Well over a decade ago, my wife and I stepped over the thresh hold of the Church of Scientology of St. Louis.  We both signed two and a half year contracts, and had the pleasure of working with some of the most forthright and honorable people we've ever met.  Still, there was a significant disconnect between the stated aims of the Church, and the corporate climate we found ourselves in. 

Although we never experienced the kind of abuse that is coming to light now, we certainly experienced the collateral effects of that abuse.  Hateful, screaming phone calls from "up lines" in Los Angeles; insane, micro-managing programs sent down from on high; and the incessant interference from stridently zealous Sea Org missionaires revealed an organization not run on high affinity, communication and reality, but rather a brutal, top-down, command and control tyranny.

There is a lot of good in the study of Scientology, a lot of useful tools -- particularly at the lower end of the Bridge.  There are many good people who genuinely want to help others and make this a better world.

Unfortunately, that technology and those people are beholden to a leader and a culture completely inconsistent with the stated aims.  As such, we cannot in good conscience continue to align ourselves, even tacitly, with such an organization.

I would apologize to any of our friends currently in the church, but I'm not sorry for the impact this may have on you.  I hope it upsets you enough that you decide to look for yourself, and apply your own personal integrity to the existing scene.  Outpoints abound and you're not the only one who sees them.  Look, don't listen.

For more information, I highly recommend both of Jeff Hawkins' blogs:  His personal memoirs of thirty-five years in the sea org at Counterfeit Dreams, and his current commentary at Leaving Scientology. His story is compelling and very well written.  If you're in the church and sensitive to such things, be advised that he does touch on the confidential materials.


And of course, you can always contact me if you have any questions: andrewmoore_[insert at sign here]hotmail.com.

16 February 2010

TORRID AFFAIRE RETURNS!

The very first play Pamela and I produced in Los Angeles is returning to the stage starting Friday!

I softball this stuff in our official press, but this is my personal blog.  Torrid Affaire was an explosion of pent-up energy, frustration at watching (and being a part of) a couple of bad plays, and an expression of my potency as an artist after toiling in the salt mines of Hollywood for too many years. 

The breaking point was our acting class.  Doing what all good little actors and actresses do, we enrolled in an acting class taught by a well-regarded (in some circles) teacher who had a BIG, IMPRESSIVE list of former students.  Who knows how long any of those names studied with this teacher.  I do know that one "former student," an A-lister known for his "rubberface" comedies had his lawyer send my teacher a cease and desist notice over the use of the actor's name in promotional materials.

Pamela and I did an actors' showcase for this class and wound up spending much more moolah than should've been necessary by any stretch of the imagination. Pamela made a main drape that we then rigged, and I spent a full day and night hanging and focusing lights and programming the board. All that money and effort for a measly five minutes of stage time. Meanwhile, the jerk-off of the class who consistently showed up late for rehearsals was the "star" of the showcase, on stage about half the time. After the curtain call, Pamela and I had clean-up duties while our teacher introduced jerk-off to the only industry person who showed.

The hard-headed, DIY ethic that the gods install in all sons and daughters of "flyover country" kicked-in.  We quit our (overpriced, pretentious and poorly-run) acting class and struck out on our own.

I pulled together a cast with a certain published play in mind.  The rights holder, Dramatists, told me to "suck it."  That natural oneryness cranked up a notch, and I sent the following email to the individual members of my cast:
Thanks for your patience. I'm sorry to have taken so long in e-mailing you.
We did not get the rights from Dramatists. In fact, they said that we could not re-register for the rights until after May 2006! Well, we were distraught for a couple of days. Trying to figure out what to do.

Well, I decided to write a play. I've done it before (a few times) and I've even won an award or two.

So here's the scoop. I'm directing a play to be produced at the beginning of next year. We're no longer constrained by "rights" to stage this thing on a certain date. So it's just gotten much easier to schedule it. At the same time, I can't very well expect all of you ladies to just go along with this change in plans.

So I'm sending this e-mail to each of you privately. If you want to opt out now, no sweat. Time is a precious commodity in this town.
If you'd like to see where this will go and want to hang on for the ride, super! Just let me know how you feel about all this. Be honest - don't sugar coat it. I won't be hurt if you'd rather bag out. I'll totally understand.
We are going to have fun, though. I'm writing this play for you ladies. The characters are a custom fit!
I heard a resounding "HELL YEAH" in response.  The first draft was hammered out in a couple of weeks, and I workshopped it on the fly with my cast, like a quarterback calling plays from the line of scrimmage.  We played to packed houses, selling out our last night at the Two Roads Theatre in Studio City.  Not bad for a two night run.

Torrid Affaire got me other writing work and membership at a theatre company in Hollywood.  It went through further drafts, streamlining what was already a tidy comedy ostensibly about religion and sex toys.

Like the best of my stuff, it deals with relationships, regret, the power of communication, attraction, love, and the tiny little fuck-ups that add up to big, monstrous problems.  It's a romantic comedy, a "chick flick of a play," and pretty damned funny, if I may say so myself.  This time out it's helmed by Erin Scott.  Erin is a great person, a talented artist, and she possesses a drive and versatility that makes me envious.  I am so pleased that she took this on, and I expect great things.

This is an entirely new cast, and I can't wait to see what this talented group of actresses and actor do with the material.  I've been a bit too busy to attend rehearsal, it's true, but part of me wants to be surprised on Friday night.  I know my cohorts won't disappoint!



Torrid Affaire

Directed by Erin Scott
Written by Andrew Moore
Produced by Theatre Unleashed

SYNOPSIS:
Theatre Unleashed is bringing back the first full-length production from up-and-coming playwright Andrew Moore (Pin-Up Girls, Tracing Sonny). Torrid Affaire is a frank and naughty exploration of the lies we tell ourselves about friendship, love and sex. Five close friends, each with a secret to tell, gather together for an evening of sexy fun in this hysterical situational comedy. The reason d’etre for the gathering is a “Torrid Affaire” party, wherein the ladies review the scented body oils, lingerie and other…personal accessories…that the Torrid Affaire company has to offer. As the evening progresses, each shares her secret and we learn that there are some problems you can’t run away from, especially when they’re right down the hall.

DATES AND TIMES:
Feb. 19-March 6
Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m,
*Meet and greet with artists after each show
**Show contains adult content intended for mature audiences

LOCATION:
The Sherry Theatre
11052 Magnolia Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601

TICKET PRICES:
General Admission: $15

INFORMATION & RESERVATIONS:
For further information, please call: (818) 849-4039
Or check out our website at: www.theatreunleashed.com

04 January 2010

Top 5 Entertainment Experiences of 2009

I'm not a huge fan of "Top" lists. I'm more of a "human interest" kind of guy; I'm far more interested in the person who read the books than the books themselves.

Since '05, I've blogged a list of my top "entertainment experiences." This list does not cover just the source of the entertainment (i.e. books, albums, films, etc.) Rather, I take into consideration the entire experience surrounding the entertainment. It's far more personal, more all-emcompasing, and makes for more civil conversation than a list that might kick off with Avatar and end with Star Trek. Particularly in the company I keep.

Also, this gives me something to do while I wait for J.C. Maçek's "Dead Man of the Year" (Here's 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008)

The rules are simple: It's not just the source of the entertainment -- it's the experience surrounding that source. Although I enjoyed Avatar more than any of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, no amount of 3D wizardry can compete with the experience of catching Revenge of the Sith with Darth Vader and members of the 501st Legion of Stormtroopers out in force. No pun intended.

In no particular order:

1. TIGGER! This is why I love doing this list. This experience started with the Victory Variety Hour "Wrong Show" and culminated a couple of days later with the Monday Night Tease "Laugh-In" show, and it centers around boylesque performer extraordinaire, Tigger!

I was in the audience for VVH. Great wrong show, just phenomenally funny. (There's another wrong show right around the bend!) Highlights included Red Snapper as a terrorist -- twice, the ventriloquist stylings of Bob and Al, the Fuxedos, and a bunch of very attractive women taking their clothes off. What could possibly make it any better? Oh yes ... this guy:




An iconoclastic boylesque performer who both challenges striptease conventions and pays homage to the very meaning of burlesque, a word that means "comedy" and "parody." Known to me only by reputation, I was blown away by his performance. He created a character, fully fleshed-out, with a staggering level of commitment. He brought the house down.

The next evening, I meet Tigger! at a little soirée Lili VonSchtupp threw, a combination birthday party/rehearsal for the upcoming Laugh-In show (there's another Laugh-In show coming up, as well!) That was Friday. Saturday evening, back to El Cid for Penny Starr, Jr.'s birthday party and another Tigger! performance. Sunday afternoon, I'm in a special Striptease Symposium class taught by Tigger! Everything he says is right-on. And Monday Night, at the Tease, sharing a bill with the man:




Just an outstanding experience. If you have seen him perform, you know what an electric stage presence he has. That effervescence carries offstage, where I found him to be a genuine mensch, a considerable and considerate person; a true showman of the old school.

2. Acting our Age




A 24-hour play festival to celebrate the one year anniversary of Theatre Unleashed's incorporation! It's a delightful bit of kismet that our paperwork was processed by the Secretary of State on April 1st, 2008. We're a very gregarious bunch, prone to partying for the slimmest of reasons. For our birthday, obviously we had to do something huge! Erin Scott pulled the strings, and we danced. I directed one of the plays in the festival. The evening was put on as a birthday party for the company, complete with decorations and games. Our Director of Publicity was Daddy and our Managing Director (in drag) was Mommy. The jokes veered frequently to the inside, but the audience was mostly friends and family so everything landed. We drank, we laughed, we engaged in social intercourse. What a great night!

3. Comic-Con/Super Nova A Go-go



Me at Comic Con, flanked by two Orion gals.

My first trip to Comic-Con! That would be enough. Running into friends at Comic-Con ... okay, awesome. Knowing people who had booths at Comic-Con, even better. Joe's Crab Shack and "Crachos?" Awesome. Drunk off my ass before 2pm? Ah ha ha ha. Kick ass. Dressing up like Han Solo and taking my clothes off for a bunch of screaming sci-fi fans? Priceless.





Han Solo ...
sexy hero or sexy mercenary?

Next year I'm doing some panels. I'd like to have my own booth, but "Pulp Graveyard Readers Theatre" didn't take off quite as I had planned. >:-)

4. Burlesqueland All three days!




It started with kismet. The band scheduled to open Peepshow Menagerie on day one canceled at the last minute. Co-producer Chris Beyond offered the slot to me and Mr. Buddy (no doubt in a moment of weakness.) This led to our first long set:



Singin' in the Rain. Mr. Buddy's tearing it up on his big cornet solo!

And what a great line-up! The very lovely Ana Fur Laxis from the UK, hosted by Dizzy Von Damn! as Ursula the Sea Witch -- a magical evening. Dita Von Teese was in attendance, and Red performed her "Hannah Montana" number. That was the first night.

The second night at Monday Night Tease brought a bevy of buxom beauties from San Francisco and San Diego. Sizzle Dizzle wowed us with her ... package ... as Pinocchio. (A real boy! Sort of!)

Day three, we took Disneyland!



But Mr. Buddy, I'm already married to the gal with sass, class and a black girl's ass!

Mssrs. Snapper and Buddy goofing around on Burlesque Day at Disneyland, day three of 
"Burlesqueland." We were the opening act on day one, performing our first long set.

I was full to bursting!

5. The Magic Castle The first trip for Pamela and I, I believe it was after the Tarantino show. There with so many awesome people! Funny Eddie toured us around (if you have never been, go with someone who knows the place. It helps!) and we saw some fantastic magic -- hell, the best magic I've ever seen live! And it ended with a private show with Micah down in the WC Fields bar.

You know, 2009 was a good year. Narrowing down so many wonderful experiences to just these five was very difficult! The common theme is friendship. I have awesome, talented friends. You all rock! And I'm looking forward to making many more memories in 2010!