Friday, January 25, 2019

ALA Mid-Winter Conference

It's Friday evening and I'm sitting at my In-Law's condo in Everett, Washington. Cheri and I flew into town last night. We're spending the weekend in the Pacific Northwest, and tomorrow morning I will be on a bus to Seattle. For the first time in my life, I will be attending a conference of the American Library Association.

I have very little knowledge of what this event is like. Sometimes on Facebook I see posts from fellow writers -- and they are typically squeeing with delight about all of the new books they are witnessing... As well as the advanced copies they are receiving.

I'm not a featured author or anything exciting like that, but I am hoping to spend some time visiting the people who have made my books come to life: Candlewick Press and Charlesbridge Press. I don't even know if they will have my books on display. But even if they don't it will be nice to be able to personally thank them for all the work they have done. Maybe Peter Pauper Press will be there? Perhaps even Houghton Mifflin -- they are the ones who will be bringing my next book to life (Yes, Mr. Complain Takes the Train is coming down the tracks!)

So, I am looking forward to tomorrow and Sunday. Keeping expectations very low. As long as I am in a place surrounded by books, I'll have a good time, right?


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Improv Selfie!

Do you notice how terribly rude I'm being in this photograph. I'm blocking my poor daughter Mackenzie! Very thoughtless of me, especially since she (and the rest of the Knights) did an amazing job!

Not picture here is Barry Agin, who planted himself in the audience at the start of the show.

Fun was had by all! Not every theater game was an A, but we generated enough laughter from the audience that I would give us a solid B+. Not too shabby for a Saturday night in Newhall.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Meet the Knights of Improv

The quest for comedy continues as The Knights of Improv are ready to return to the Canyon Theatre Guild once again.

I've been dabbling in theatre games ever since my friend Pat Mannion started hosting workshops at the CTG. Actually, I dabbled long before in high school -- but that seems centuries ago now. Back then, instead of experimenting with drugs or alcohol, I experimented with drama.

I've been facilitating the workshops for a while now, and I feel so blessed to work with these folks. To give you a glimpse of how wonderful they are, here's a grainy photo I took when Mackenzie was at the hospital, coping with severe inflammation of her spine.

That's Thomas Carbone, one of the Knights who won't be able to make it to this weekend's adventure. But there he is performing, along with many other Knights, bringing a smile to my daughter's face while we make fools of ourselves. 

That night meant so much to me and my family. Mackenzie was learning how to adjust to a walker and getting used to the idea of a wheelchair. She was very sad earlier that day. Scared for her future too. We've heard the cliche about laughter being the best medicine. Well, it sure seemed to help this night, not just because the Knights performed for her, but because Mackenzie actually rolled up in her wheelchair and performed with us! 

A Quick Mackenzie Update: Check out that grin! She has been walking on her own for several weeks now. We feel so thankful for this turn of events, and cannot thank friends for their continued support. Mackenzie still experiences back pain and numbness; an upcoming MRI will give us more information... But we are hoping that miracles continue to happen and that a full recovery is on its way. She is anxious to exercise again! The doctors say: no running, surfing, or martial arts. But they didn't say anything about Improv. So, guess what! Mackenzie makes her debut as a Knight this Saturday Night! 

Who else will be there? 

Jeremiah True (above in the gray shirt) will be bringing his quick wit and wild characters. Mackenzie and Jeremiah have been dating for over two years now, and I cannot thank him enough for all of his kindness and support he's been providing my daughter through these tough times. He's a great guy. And as for improv, his skills get stronger with every workshop. 

Scott Sandler (in the Star Wars shirt) is amazing at free-style rapping and he brings his lyrical cleverness to many of our theater games. (You may have seen him at the CTG as Graffitti Pete from In the Heights of Sam Wainwright in It's a Wonderful Life. He seems to have a habit of playing supporting roles in which the character swoops in to save the day at the end. Hopefully he'll save us too!

Marcus Langston, master of the dry comeback lines, won't be here. He's off visiting Hogwarts. But Kelly Nicole will make her world premiere as a Knight. She has been learning and growing during the workshops, I am excited to see how she does in front of an audience! 

As will the saucy Ms. Jane Arnett who goes straight for a laugh the way Cujo goes for a mailman. I don't have a photo from our Improv workshops, but I rather like this snapshot from last year's Rex's Exes. Literally breath taking. 

The amazingly talented Nancy Lantis was originally going to be our special guest (because she's one of the stars of the upcoming Steel Magnolias). However, after she attended many of our workshops, I feel so fortunate that way can say she has enlisted as a full fledged Knight! 

Kirsten Rast seems very innocent and young. But don't let that fool you. She often plays hilariously devious characters (and she's actually 58 years old.) She's also got a strong musical theater background which is going to help us during our brand new music-themed games. 

Speaking of music, our resident musical genius Jennifer Teague will be performing with us. She has not only agreed to play improvised compositions for us, but she's even willing to step center stage and play some of our theater games. I am so thrilled to have her expertise enhance the show. 

The wise and white-haired Barry Agin (who is actually 23 years old) will be returning to the Knights of Improv. He is the master of one-liners. As I like to say, only one person inside the theater knows what Barry's going to say next. (And it's not Barry!)

Finally, we have Josh Aran, another Knightly debut. He made a guest appearance during our first performance in which he played the game PROPS, and he hit home runs with every gag. The man is funny -- and a pure joy to work with.

Well, I think that covers everybody. Except me. But I don't have a photo of me performing Improv. However, I do have another snapshot of me at the Cat Cafe. This is shortly after allergies got the best of me. 

If you live in the Santa Clarita /  Los Angeles Area, I hope to see you tonight at the Knights of Improv! 

8pm at the Canyon Theatre Guild. Call for tickets: 661-799-2702

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Crumbs and Whiskers: The Cat Cafe

Emily gave me a very special Christmas present. A visit to the cat cafe...

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Theater Dreams & Actor Nightmares

If you have ever fulfilled your dream of acting on stage, there's a good chance you have also experienced theater-themed nightmares.

I'm not a professional actor, but I do occasionally appear on stage at my local playhouse, and it seems whenever I am in the middle of the rehearsal process, I start having the usual actor's nightmare. There are many variations of this dream, but they all involve me about to go on stage for a production I haven't prepared for... Sometimes it's a familiar show, like Hamlet or Hamilton. (That's when my dream-self says, "Maybe I'll be able to wing it.") But often it's a never-performed show, and I have no idea what the heck is going on!

The last theater dream I had was so amusing and so vivid, I decided to make a little animated film about it and post it on Youtube.

(Can you tell I've been on vacation and have way too much time on my hands? Don't worry, that will all change when I go back to work on Monday.)

For me, as an amateur actor, the experience of being in the middle of a scene is very dream-like. I guess there's that deja-vu feeling because you have practiced the scene over and over again. It can be a bit surreal if I stop and think about it -- which is the last thing you'd want to do when you are performing for hundreds of people. Thinking too much is a great way to forget your next line!

There's also something dreamy about the theater space, especially in those moments before or after a show in which you are all alone... Like being out in the Quonset Hut prepping my lines...

Or getting lost in the prop attic...

I guess there's dreamy about the whole theater process. It starts with a playwright's imagination. Then a director, actors, and a whole team of dream-builders...

Dream-builders such as our amazing lighting-designers...

(Don't they look thrilled to be here???)

... our incredible set designer / set-builder...

(who also got dragged in to play a supporting character 
because Theatre desperately needs men!)

... the sensational stage crew...

(who also moonlights as our theater's phantom --- every playhouse needs one!)  

...and let's not forget the directors!

(The rumors are true: I had to sleep with one of them to get the part.) 

At our local playhouse, the Canyon Theatre Guild, we take dreams and bring them to life.

Are you involved in the Theatre? Professional? Amateur? School plays? Leave a comment or link to share your dream-like experiences on the stage.

(PS: I slept with the one on the right -- my wife!)

Friday, January 4, 2019

New Year's Resolutions for 2019

It's that time of year... When everything seems possible, the world is new and shiny. You've got big dreams and big goals. What could possibly go wrong?

Last year I had a dozen goal, so this year I am streamlining the resolutions. Here they are:

1) Gain more Followers (Achieve at least one of the following) 

-- Gain 1,000 YouTube Subscribers
-- Gain 1,000 Newsletter Followers
-- Gain 1,000 Followers of My Author Page

2) Make 24 YouTube Videos

3) Sell Another Picture Book and / or Chapter Book

4) Write / Sell Another Play

5) Follow my New Creative Calendar (at least 52 times) 

Monday -- Money Makin' Mondays
-- each passing week I brainstorm, scheme, and implement 

Tuesday -- Teacherly Tuesdays

Wednesday -- Heroic Humpday (Games and Geeking Out) 

Thursday -- Movie / Theater Thursday  

Friday -- Friendly Fridays (Good Deeds) 

Saturday -- Nostalgic Narratives

Sunday -- Picture Book Sundays