What I Learned from David Lynch

I am currently deep in the midst of listening to the audiobook Room to Dream by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna and I am loving it.

Lynch has long been a fascinating character to me and I’m relishing this chance to dig deeper into his life. Coincidentally, I am also trying to get back in touch with my own creative side, which I feel has been a little absent for far too long.

So it was with marvelous serendipity that I was searching a message board the other day, looking to see some old posts about Lynch, that I came across a link to something I had written and completely forgotten about. I kept a blog for a while (didn’t everyone?) and in 2010 I posted five things I learned from David Lynch about creativity and the creative process. And I find myself inspired by my own words and thought I’d repost them here.

Maybe this is exactly what I need to jumpstart my own creativity. And maybe it will be useful to you, too.

Continue reading “What I Learned from David Lynch”

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2017 – A Year in Books

In 1987, I began keeping a list of the title and author of every book I finished reading. I started near the back of a notebook/journal and, in August 1998, I filled the last page. So I went back to the first page of my list and started filling in pages going backwards toward the front of the notebook from there. In 2017, I still have a few more blank pages left before I run into other content, and when I do I’ll have to figure out how to keep going. Sometimes I think about rewriting the whole list in a new blank notebook, and I guess that will ultimately have to be the solution – or at least keep going in a whole new notebook. Anyway, I have a couple of years before I have to decide.

Meanwhile, 2017. Continue reading “2017 – A Year in Books”

School of Rock and On Your Feet

The last two shows I’ve seen were touring Broadway shows. I reviewed both of them for BroadwayWorld.

 

School of Rock “School of Rock isn’t about plot or spectacle or insight orcharacterdepth. School of Rock is about rock and roll. About that heavy metal spirit. About stickin’ it the The Man.”

On Your Feet! “Filled with fantastic music performed by an amazingly talented cast and on-stage band, On Your Feet delivers a timely story of emotional – and physical – triumph against overwhelming odds.”

 

GLOW Lyric Theatre

When Les Miserables came through town recently, I found out that one of that production’s actors, Felipe Bombonato, was a veteran of a local company, Glow Lyric Theatre. I’ve long enjoyed the work GLOW does (and actually got to appear as Doc in their production of West Side Story a couple of summers ago).

I met up with GLOW’s founding power couple, Jenna Tamisiea and Christian Elser, to talk about their upcoming season and their memories of Felipe. I also talked to Felipe on the phone and then put together this story for the Greenville Journal.

Song for Claudine

I was thumbing through a notebook just now and saw a note that reminded me of this song.

Back in February, a social media friend lamented that no one had ever written a song for her, so I did. One of her points was that her name is not pronounced in the typical fashion claw-deen. So I tried to pronounce it the way I thought it was pronounced based on what I’d seen. And I think I did it completely wrong. I think, now, that the first syllable is pronounced “cloh” (rhymes with low). But I somehow got it into my dumb head that it was “clow” (rhymes with cow).

So on the plus side, I wrote her a song. On the way big minus side, I — like every other casual acquaintance in her life — screwed up the pronunciation of her name.

Sorry Claudine.

(Also I asked my son to hold the camera when I shot this, so, it’s not as steady as your average viewer might like.)

 

Context

Today I started listening to the book How Music Works by David Byrne.

I was struck by the opening sections, by the thesis he lays out, and am looking forward to hearing how he develops it further.

context largely determines what is written, painted, sculpted, sung, or performed. That doesn’t sound like much of an insight, but it’s actually backward from conventional wisdom, which maintains that creation emerges out of some interior emotion, from an upwelling of passion or feeling, and that the creative urge will brook no accommodation, that it simply must find an outlet to be heard, read, or seen. The classical composer gets a strange look in his or her eye and begins scribbling furiously. The rock-and-roll singer is driven by desire and demons, and out bursts this amazing song. This is the romantic notion of how creative work comes to be, but I think the path of creation is almost 180º from this model. I believe that we unconsciously and instinctively make work to fit preexisting formats.

My thoughts immediately drifted to the theatre, and how certain choices – particularly the choice of where you stage your show – determine a lot about the overall shape of the production. I also thought about theatre classes I took in college, and the methods of play analysis I learned. Essentially, the whole point of the classes was learning that the context of the play’s creation – the historical and cultural forces at work when the play was written – are fundamental pieces required to help understand the work itself.

These are just half formed thoughts, typed here while one of my kids babbles to the dog in a very annoyingly distracting singsong voice, so I can barely think at all. So that’s the context of this blog post and the reason why it’s likely not coming together as a coherent piece.

One Day More

Last night I saw (for – shockingly – the first time), a production of Les Miserables. This was the current North American tour and it was pretty darned good. 

One moment, at the opening of act two, Phoenix Best as Eponine sings “On My Own.” At one moment, she holds a note. The music stops. Then she stops and in otherwise utter silence, her last note echoed, resonated, lingered through the Peace Center auditorium. It was quite literally breathtaking. 

I can see why people get emotionally attached to Les Miz. 

Here’s my review of Les Miserables on BroadwayWorld

Act One

I’m currently reading (listening to, actually) Act One, an autobiography by Moss Hart. It’s both a seminal theatre work and a highly enjoyable read (listen).

Moss Hart co-wrote several classics, including You Can’t Take It With You, a play I did in high school (which reminds me of a line from the New York Times review of a recent revival: “Those who saw, or performed in, You Can’t Take It With You in high school should not let that trauma taint the Broadway revival of that show.”).

Hart also directed the original productions of My Fair Lady and Camelot, so the guy was no slouch.

This is a book that, frankly, I wish I’d read when I was young and impressionable. His drive and ambition, as well as his ability to keep going despite setbacks, is inspirational. I suspect this book resulted in a lot of people moving to NYC over the years, in pursuit of theatrical careers. But few of them had Hart’s talent or – as he would likely be the first to admit – his luck. It’s a wonderful story, well told.

UPDATE:

I finished this afternoon and the ending is fantastic. What a story. What a life.

Frank Rich wrote this about Act One, and it encapsulates the book’s appeal: “Hart’s memoir is one of the great American autobiographies because it gives a certain kind of reader hope. It says you can escape a home where you feel you don’t belong, you can escape a town you find suffocating, you can follow a passion (the theater, but not just the ­theater) that is ridiculed by your peers, you can—with hard work, luck, and stamina—forge a career doing what you love. However modest or traumatic your beginnings, you can find your way to Oz—and you don’t have to go back to Kansas anymore.”

Interview with Cosette

When I found out that Jillian Butler was in Chicago, I immediately had to ask her one important question: “Have you seen Hamilton?”

Butler plays Cosette in the new touring production of Les Miserables that opens at the Peace Center in Greenville on October 31, 2017. I talked to her on the phone last week, when the show was still playing Chicago.

“I did see Hamilton!” she told me. “We got here on a Monday and we had a Tuesday free, so a bunch of us got to see it on Tuesday night the first week we were here. It was amazing.”

How lucky we are to be alive right now.

We chatted about Hamilton for a few moments, then moved on to the real subject of the call, her experience playing an iconic character in an epic musical. Butler’s joy of performing really came through in her voice as well as her words, and I truly enjoyed talking to her. She was a real delight and I can’t wait to see her – and the rest of the cast – perform.

You can read the full interview on BroadwayWorld.

Fun Home, starring my Close Personal Friend, Kate Shindle

A couple of weeks ago I saw the musical Fun Home and it was terrific.

Quick back story: in early 1999, I went on a Birmingham TV news show to promote a production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile (I played Einstein in the show). In the green room, I met Miss America, Kate Shindle. She was clearly smart and quick-witted as well as friendly and charismatic and I liked her immediately. So when I saw that Kate was starring in Fun Home, I began to really look forward to seeing it. And I was not disappointed. She was fantastic and so was the show.

There are so many things to unpack, so many layers, so much truth. My close personal friend Kate is excellent. I was also impressed with the actress who played young Alison as well as the dad and the mom and the girlfriend, Joan. But more than any of them I really loved Abby Corrigan as the college-aged Alison. There’s something about her that really stands out. A fantastic performance. It’s also got a great set and lighting. It’s the kind of show I want to write a college essay about. If it comes to your town, see it.