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Clean scheduling

I’m at the Airport Marriott right now, waiting to shuttle back over and catch a flight to Chicago. I checked in early and shuttled over here because I prefer this lobby to the airport terminal.

Yesterday I woke up with 120 pages of an unfinished screenplay. I met a friend for breakfast, and then parked myself at the Central Library in front of a big window looking out onto the duck pond. And by noon I had written five pages, typed those transcendent words: “FADE OUT”, and had a draft of 125 pages.

However, since the day wasn’t over yet, I decided to put off circulating the draft in order to say if I could ratchet that page count back with a comb through the script. This took several horus in and around packing and prepping for the trip, but it was well worth it – and at 9pm I was able to circulate a “finished” first draft of 120 pages to the director and a couple of trusted readers. I like the symmetry of that.

120 is sort of a talismanic number in Hollywood. If your page count is above that people get as nervous as if you start saying “Candyman” into a mirror. It’s not as if it’s a guarantee your movie will end up bloated or bad at 121, it’s just that they start worrying about the worry it will trigger in others until it becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. While every reader fancies that THEY will judge something purely on its merits, they always believe that the next reader in the chain wll just look at the page count and the cloud of negativity will doom the content.

I’m sitting in the 13th row of this airplane I’ll be boarding, so I obviously give less of a damn about such things; I just wanted to get the story on paper. However, I do want to make money, so I’m glad we’re at least at 120. 115 would be even better, since while 120 itself is not outright terrifying, its position at the upper limit of acceptable is at least partially-alarming by proximity. I know all this sounds ridiculously stupid, but so much of the game out here is about confidence.

I am confident we can wrench it down further. Even after my comb-through, first drafts tend to contain redundancies, over-describing, all sorts of things. And I went into a lot of detail with all the action sequences, something that will be less necessary on the page as the action-minded director and I start working them out.

So 115 may be in the future; or even less. But that’s a worry for another day, and so much smaller a worry than putting something on a blank page. Once again, that process is finished. I have written another script. And as I prepare to travel, visit loved ones in a loved city, I can move it off the top spot on my writing “To Do” list.

Of course I’ll be writing on my holiday. I’ll be eating and sleeping, won’t I?

Between 3 and 4

Working on this action script has been an education. For one, I am realizing that you shouldn’t fear writing yourself into a ridiculous situation, because you can always write your way out of it with something even more ridiculous – and, in fact, people often pays their money for just such pleasures. On top of that, action sequences are, these days, never left solely to the writer; the director and many, many others will work to build it, so my concern is primarily specifying where the plot is when we enter, and where it will be when we leave, and just making sure the reader stays entertained.

It’s also – and I knew this was coming – a hell of a lesson in pacing. As I’ve written before, modern action scripts turn over story beats at a terrifying rate. And I wanted to see if I could evolve my style to work within those confines. I specifically plotted out my treatment to include a lot of twists and turns and action variety; but it meant a story with more beats than any I had written before.

The last treatment I wrote was for a horror movie – 22 beats intended to fill 95 pages. That script never got drafted, but that’s to do with whom I was pitching it to. Still, the story felt solid and each beat would have broken down to about 4.32 pages; a pace I felt very comfortable with.

The treatment for this action script has 45 beats to it. Now, “beats” are a very arbitrary and inexact term of measure. It’s sort of like paragraph breaks in writing; it goes more by when you feel a shift in direction, or location, or tone. Still, my aim was a 110-page draft, which would have required averaging 2.44 pages/beat. There’s evolving my style and there’s outright mutating it.

I’m near the home stretch now, and my latest calculation shows me at 3.02 pages/beat. Now that’s pretty great progress in this new direction for my work, but it still sets us up for a first draft of as long as 136 pages, far longer than I would want to turn in to any producer or buyer.

First drafts can always be trimmed – in fact, they pretty much always should be trimmed – and the director I’m working with will, I’m sure, have some good perspective to offer. In addition, I just finished working with producer on probably the most punishingly-extreme redline polish I’ve ever performed on a script of mine. I thought it was my tightest script, and by the time we were finished, it was 10 pages shorter without losing a bit of story. I would love to turn in a script below 120 pages; and I would love to do it without cheating. That will be a different skillset than what I’m developing now, but I think it can be done.

4.32 pages/beat to 3.02 pages/beat. I wonder how long beats were before Star Wars came along and permanently adreanalized all our movie brains?

Robot Population Check

The site appears to have grown significantly more popular this month. Not sure how to account for it – as usual, the bulletin board is the most popular feature and the most popular search term that guides people in. I had a very funny moment during the run of Much Ado About Nothing when one of the actresses realized – after six weeks of rehearsal and two weeks of performances – that I was the guy who ran the website that had led her to the audition. She said she’s had it bookmarked in her browser for months.

Still, these blog posts effectively never generate any comments, and I imagine it’s partly because I added a couple of hoops to thwart all those very determined spambots; and it’s probably also because I don’t often blog argumentatively or through any current events lens. Even if there’s something that I fancy could be a conversation-starter, there aren’t any people hanging around here looking for a conversation.

My acting profile does seem to be growing, and there are a number of writing initiatives that, while I would not jinx them by detailing, do seem to be bringing me ever-closer to that elusive Hollywood payday/greenlight. So I have wanted to add a little flair to the Acting and Writing pages on the site, but have yet to really delve into how.

I don’t know what version we’re on of this site by now; my web presence has evolved from LiveJournal to BlogSpot to here, with a cameo on FreeWebs plus some truly eye-stabbing old-school GeoCities action back in the day. And the whole idea of a “presence”, which I guess serves as a synonym for the “personal brand” all us creative types are encouraged to cultivate via Facebook and Twitter and all the rest, is both mindbendingly odd but somehow natural enough that a whole generation has seemingly absorbed the idea one day at a time. I guess personal brand used to mean just whose band’s T-shirt you wore. We certainly have evolved.

Still, if the bulletin board remains the most visited and recognized feature (far more so than my face and name), I am still happy about that; because it means I fulfilled a goal of creating something useful to the community of local stage actors. I guess our “presence” is how we find our community and start figuring out our role in it.

Hashtag Obvious Typecasting

Major great news – I have been offered my first on-camera speaking role in a feature film. Why the caveats? Well, I had a role many years ago in this forgotten little movie made during my days as a development executive. During some reshoots I was pressed into service to play an employee at a bus depot, silently loading bags into a bus cargo hold. “This is great,” I thought, “this is guaranteed to end up in the movie, because if they don’t see how this bag got from point A to point B, the movie will make no sense!”

My scene got cut. But that’s just one of many, many stories about that movie.

Last year I had a role in an independent feature I’ve mentioned here before – Bread and Butter, but it was a voice-only role, and for all I know still might end up cut or replaced. So when it comes to features, I’m not technically totally new to this, but it sure feels like a major first, in that I’ll have a real role with long dialogue scenes and a character name and stuff.

The movie is called “The Story of Ben”, and it’s a romantic comedy to be written/directed by a gentleman named Kevin Resnick. I call him a gentleman because he specifically warned me that my big shooting day might be Mother’s Day and he wanted to make sure I was okay with that. I told him my guess was that my mother would be supportive.

My role is Greenley, the main character’s best friend/co-worker who is perpetually stoned and has terrible advice about women. It won’t be a massive studio-level production, it is an MFA thesis film produced through the New York Film Academy, so very low-budget and distribution isn’t likely – although you have to imagine they will be motivated to get it out there on the festival circuit. Kevin and his producer Rebecca Norris took a short to Cannes last year.

Honestly, I wont even be paid beyond gas money and the meals on-set. And unpaid work is a longtime hobbyhorse of mine, but one of the things most likely to make me okay with it is to have the opportunity be a real professional stepping stone, the chance to do something I haven’t done before. This very easily qualifies.

The film shoots in May and my guess is that they’ll spend most of the rest of 2014 finishing and tweaking. So who knows when it will emerge, or how it will look when it does. But this is major – updating my resume across all the different platforms I use can be tedious, but I’ll be glad to do it this time.

Lifeplans

Much Ado had a pretty superb weekend – we crossed that threshhold where the cast seems to collectively settle in and starting finding life and new layers in the performance. Always takes a few shows to do that. We also had a slew of reviews out, mostly very positive – although one observed that I’m “a bit old” for the role of Benedick. (I wonder what he thinks about this gentleman daring to play it.)

Another review, though, singled me out for a full paragraph of rather staggering praise, and I don’t feel quite right about that, either! I do admit it feels good, but in a review like that, you want to see some of that love spread out amongst the cast, since they’re all working hard and we lift each other up.

Still, this is going even better than I had hoped, and I think when we reach closing night, I should be able to put this play to bed for awhile, and maybe put Benedick away for good.

A week later, we have a sort of pre-season gathering for Shakespeare Orange County, which will include costume fittings and a first reading for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We don’t start official rehearsals until late May, but it will surely whet my appetite so see the familiar faces, meet the new ones, and start playing with my fellow mechanicals.

And today I booked tickets for a visit to Chicago in mid-April. I’m due to turn in drafts on a couple of projects in the next couple of weeks, and I believe I can accomplish that before my plane departs. It would be awfully nice to grant myself that time away from major project deadlines, and let the producers here wrangle my projects while I catch up with friends and take pretty pictures. It’s rare that I see Chicago in the spring.

Dungeon Crawling to a Higher Truth

I think if I was ever going to podcast, the topic would be “What I’m Obsessed With This Week”. I have these random fixations on things – sometimes they’re satisfied by a quick read on Wikipedia, sometimes it goes much deeper.

I found myself remembering one of the many games my brother and I played on our mighty Commodore 64 home computer in our childhood – Telengard. Telengard‘s original program dated back to 1978, and by the time we were playing with it, circa 1985 or so, its code had barely changed, it merely had more handsome graphics. It was an attempt to create a Dungeons & Dragons-type experience for players where they could roam, slay monsters, cast spells, level up, find treasure, etc.

Given memory limitations of the time, it was impossible to actually design a labyrinth of any appreciable size, so what creator Daniel Lawrence rather ingeniously did was use the puny power available to him to simply set up the mathematical parameters and elements of the dungeon, and then have the computer generate the layout completely at random.

Randomness is the ruling quality of the game, and she is a stupendously harsh Goddess.

Once you “roll” for your initial stats, you’re plunked down in front of one of the game’s “inns” (where you can rest and save your game), and…you die. Probably. In fact, you might die several times before you even get to move off the opening square. The system of encounters, and the threat level of the monsters that roam even Level 1 of this dungeon, is comically unforgiving.


Oh, you wanted to ADVENTURE today? Too bad.

You don’t even have time to think – the game runs unstoppably in real time, and if you don’t make a decision to do something in five seconds, the game interprets this as a decision to do nothing. I think Rush wrote a song lyric about that. Anyway, this probably kills you too.

IF you are lucky enough to roll good initial stats, and IF you survive long enough to advance a level or two (or luck into some good equipment), you quickly find that to venture even a square or two away from that first inn is a terrifying experience. Creatures can appear (randomly) and steal your fancy equipment, and you can basically do jack squat about it. Undead creatures can (randomly) drain your character a level; unless you cast a spell that blocks this, which wears off randomly. You can be teleported without warning to a random (sensing a theme?) spot somewhere else in the dungeon (maybe on a deeper level, where everything that didn’t kill you before just got stronger – because f*ck Nietzsche).


You are going to see this screen a lot. I mean a LOT a lot.

And oh, were you planning on being Mr. Clever Graph Paper-Owning Dungeon Crawly Guy and mapping everything? Yeah, about that – every level of the Dungeon is 200 by 200 squares. That means 40,000 spaces. Per floor. Randomly generated with every new game.

And there are 50 floors. So a programmer in 1978 created a way for a computer to create a 2 Million Square Dungeon. And then rigged it so most of the time you’ll die on the first square. That is straight up Evil Mastermind stuff.

Now, some things are fixed once the dungeon is drawn. Those inns (which, by the way, are only on Level 1). Fancy, color-changing boxes that contain a lot of treasure if you brute-force your way into the code sequence (which then changes every time you successfully open it). Stairways and pits that connect levels. Weird, floating gray cubes that can teleport you to a fixed point on the floor of your choice – unless, at random, they decide to send you somewhere else.

Maybe Telengard‘s second-most ruthless trick – you can save your character to disk at the inn if you actually want to, like, leave your computer and eat. But when you load the character back up, the game erases the record from the disk. So if you die:


Disk? What disk? F*ck you, you’re mortal.

That’s right, I said second-most ruthless. The most-ruthless trick? Take a deep breath:

There is no goal.

That’s what I said. There’s no Princess, no big boss, no final treasure horde, no ending cinematic, not even a damn exit into the daylight. You are transported into the dungeon, where you will adventure until you die. Which will probably be while you’re trying to run your Level One ass away from the Level Four giant that attacked you on your first turn.

In a way, its simplicity now stands as a savage rebuke to all the fancy ways that video games over the years have tried to put perfume on the Sunk Cost Fallacy that hides inside the dark heart of most videogaming. All the fancy graphics and presentation, all the heroic narratives, they are a pretty lie. You’re not really there for them in most games. You’re usually there because How can I stop playing after all the work it took to get to level 60?

Telengard sees life differently. You’re here, it’s probably going to suck, you can’t control most of the things that are going to drive your fate, and no one is going to tell you how to make the best of it. So make up your mind what meaningless thing you’re going to do and get to it, because you’re definitely going to die, pitiful and alone, probably soon.


Life. Don’t talk to me about life.

So why the hell play this game? Well, it’s nostalgic (totally valid). And it’s weirdly-honest in its brutishness. And, with modern technology, I managed to get just the slightest leg up on fate. A downloadable re-creation of the game offered me the option to preserve my saved character. So, if I died, or if too much horrible nonsense happened, I could just zap back to the inn and re-start that leg of the journey.

I got up to level 9, with some good gear, and had mapped out a small loop that (provided randomness didn’t zap me elsewhere) would take me down through levels 4 and 5 to a treasure box on 6 that tended to have massive amounts of gold in it, which I could then tote back up to the Inn to convert to experience points. I was consistently winning the battles along the way, so with this route, I could safely grind myself up a few levels until it came time to map a deeper loop.

And right about the time I realized it, I stopped. Haven’t played the game since. Because really, while that was a pretty effective strategy for accessing more of the game, it was really going to be the same stuff. The same 20 creature types, at higher levels, with bigger prize totals. Each new level would take twice as much experience; that blunt, simple math inside the game’s code just expanding and expanding.

Which brought on the question: “Is this all there is?”

It would be healthy of more video games to bring us to moments like that.

Maybe I’ll just get partially-drunk

So you may have heard that, for several years now, I have been working, a bit at a time, on a script inspired by my experience in a college theater department. It is a story that, even back then, I knew I wanted to tell, but I waited over a decade to write even a single scene of it, because I wanted a) the distance, and b) the storytelling muscles, to do it the justice I felt it needed. Basically, I waited until I couldn’t wait any longer.

The script is called The Ghost Light and for its sake I have broken a great many of my most sacred rules. I did not do a traditional outline. I blocked out no scene order. I didn’t even write scenes in order, I just picked a random place on the canvas, started writing bits, and watched the world of it take shape while I discovered it.

This has asked for levels of creativity that are beyond sane. I have had to populate a fictional theatre department with fictional people – faculty and students both. I refuse to just port myself and my friends over onto the page, I think it’s lazy, not to mention rude. Sure, I took some real incidents and Benihana-d up some people I knew for raw materials, but all of the major characters in this thing have grown into their own identities in that frightening way characters can to writers.

I have to remember what year the students are in, what their specialties are, I have to watch the calendar of the school year that the story covers and track what shows they would be working on and in what jobs.

I have had to program a full imaginary season of college theater, including mainstage shows, student-directed black box shows, auditions, special fundraisers, and class exercises. There’s one Shakespeare play involved – Twelfth Night – the rest of the plays that appear in the script, for rights reasons, are all made up. I had to invent plays from different time periods, title them, name their authors, write excerpts that would sound authentic from their era and school of drama. I’ve written fake audition monologues, fake song lyrics with melodies that only exist in my head – all wheels within the larger wheels of The Ghost Light.

I am pretty sure this is the craziest thing I have ever attempted, writing-wise, and it is far from done. Long ago, it mutated far beyond screenplay length. I don’t want to turn this into a book, I am burning to tell this story in script form, because I don’t think that anyone has before without falling prey to the impulse to pump up the prettiness and ambition and turn it into Fame. The theatre kids at my mid-sized University in the Midwest were the freaks and geeks – hell I remember a notice from a nationwide casting call for the ACTUAL Freaks and Geeks on the department bulletin board. But we were beautiful, and I was so in love with the crazy, metamorphosizing agony and ecstasy of all of it.

So far I have written 173 pages; which is, again, beyond sane. But finally, in recent months, I have allowed myself to start thinking about how to sort this material and structure it in a way that accounted for presentation. I started to think of it as a miniseries in chapters. TV is evolving rapidly, and series that go direct to Netflix have demonstrated an astounding ability to stretch the old time limitations that used to be imposed by commercial slots.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m under no delusion this gets made any time soon, even if it actually turns out to be brilliant. I will need a hell of a lot of fame and clout to even propose this, because the idea of breaking this story, this particular story, into a traditional 22 chunks of comedy in 21 minutes each hurts me almost physically. So far I have followed the story where it has taken me, and I am determined to continue that, and do it the way it needs or not at all.

But, I have allowed the idea that it splits into things that the audience can digest at an easier pace. Questions then follow…how many things? And of what length? In recent days I finally tried to articulate an “Episode 1″ based on the material I have written. I did so…SO much cutting and pasting and rearranging scenes. I wrote new linking and bookending material. I settled on the themes for the episode and the central characters from the massive ensemble that we could focus on for telling that story, while setting up as much of the world and its population as I could get away with.

When I was done slapping and gluing all that, I had 68 pages that formed a cohesive opening chapter. 68 pages is just such a stupid number to try and apply to any conventional formatting whatsoever. And yet it feels like the first chapter of this story; and it feels like, if I had to guess right now, that there would be about three more chapters, maybe at more like 50-60 pages apiece.

A miniseries of 4 50-70-minute episodes. I’ve never heard of that – then again, I don’t think anybody had heard of a “season” of television consisting of three 90-minute movies before Sherlock came along. Media just keeps evolving.

In the meantime, I’m not going to worry about it. I’m going to tell my story. And I guess finishing a chapter counts as an accomplishment, although one that I am struggling to categorize. I can’t dwell on that, though, there is a lot left to do – and for the first time EVER, another human now has some pages for The Ghost Light and will be reading them.

I wonder if it’s just crazy and awful and I’ve chased a mirage? Maybe I’ll never know. But hey – a script! Or, a partial one. A sub-script. Accomplishment!

Instead of bridging the gap, you fill it in

I’ve been exchanging e-mails with an aspiring writer that I don’t know. He queried an old e-mail address of mine that is apparently still listed in a few places from my development executive days. I haven’t been an exec for about nine years, and the company I worked for has been defunct for about that long, but it can be difficult to run down all the places where these listings still exist, especially since companies out there probably sell each other information which they then “monetize” by selling hope of access to aspiring writers. 200 accurate listings doesn’t look as sexy as 1,000 listings.

I think one of the most frustrating mysteries for writers outside the system is: how did the people who “made it” get their material read? Those stories tend not to get told in detail, and I understand why – they tend to be so convoluted, coincidental, and ultimately dependent on “who you know” that none of them seem to have any connection to the writer’s ability. And while it is true that a great writer who never talks to anyone might find themselves trumped in earnings by a merely good writer who markets the crap out of themselves, the real flaw, I think, is in seeing “who you know” as some immutable fact, or some bequest of fortune that can’t be changed.

If one of the most frustrating arts in writing is how to get read, then one of the secret truths you have to embrace in mastering that art is you can get to know more people. And it can actually be fun.

For the purposes of this entry, I am counting myself as someone who “made it”, to the extent that I have sold and optioned material, earned membership in the WGA, and have ongoing interests with some producers and directors and executives out there. Trust me when I say that neither my bank account nor my own ambitions are satisfied that I’ve “made it”, but I know that there are a lot of people out there who would dearly love to just have made it this far.

I was fortunate in that I successfully used a Trojan Horse method – I worked my way into town as a script-reading intern, platformed that into a development executive job, and then, by the time my screenwriting had progressed to the point that I thought I had something of good enough quality to circulate, I was already regularly in conversations with execs and literary agents, some of whom owed me favors. That’s how I got read, that’s how I got my first agent, and my first agent got me my first sale.

Obviously, not everyone can replicate this approach. There could be a whole book about how you build your network to the point where you material is organically circulating to where you want it. Hell, probably just start with reading Dale Carnegie. But the idea is to stop viewing yourself as Over Here and the people you need to reach as Over There behind some unbreachable stone wall. You spend a lot of ineffectual time with catapults in that metaphor.

What you must remember is that by writing, you are already part of a community: the community of people who Do Things. Just by finishing a script, you beat out 98% of the people who ever mused to themselves “I bet I’d be a good writer”. Now, of course, once you’ve beat out that 98%, you have to beat out the 98% of the survivors who finish one script and then say “well, this is so perfect, I obviously don’t need to re-write it, or learn anything else about writing, or even bother starting a second script”. There are a LOT of rounds of culling to this game, and the numbers are brutal.

But that’s for later. Right now, you’re someone who Does Things. That means you need to put yourself around other people who Do Things. You’ll find that you love their company – they inspire and encourage you to work, and set a great example by being their own brilliant selves. You want to be better just because they’re so damned good. They are a vast improvement over the company of people who Talk About Things.

So writing communities are great, but just being in one is not enough. Critique each other, share wisdom, hold each others’ feet to the fire. And in that process, don’t just improve yourself, get to know the people who are serious and have direction – they are a very minor subset even within the group of people who Do Things.

Inevitably, you’re going to need help – an introduction, a read, a recommendation. The best way to get someone to help you is to help them, and a good writer can definitely help someone. Craigslist is full of listings from aspiring filmmakers looking for short scripts to shoot. Hey, maybe they don’t need a script, but they do need crew. There’s a director I am now developing a horror movie with – we met when I answered an ad to be his 1st A.D. for a short film. It went to festival, his stock rose, we got along well and he loved my writing. So now when people with money are starting to look at him for feature film work, I’m near the top of his list to bring in if there’s a need for a writer.

Build alliances with good people, and you could find yourself at a film festival and someone with money is asking YOU to please send them a script. That’s the secret, really – the best way to get someone to read your script is to get them to want to ask you for it.

This film festival example is just one way to go about it – but the trick is to see past this mentality where you’re on the outside trying to lob your script in. Trust me – if you wrote something, you’re inside already. You just have to learn the landscape.

A Read is a precious currency in Hollywood, and is not spent lightly; there are just too many bad scripts to be foolhardy with your reading time. And a Recommendation is even more dear. And I’m a writer, trust me I know the deep-down desire for the material itself to render all such equations moot. But writing quality is not a fixed value – everyone has different needs, and the creative partners you seek out are going to have different tastes (and if you don’t see directors and producers as creative partners then you need to adjust your mentality). Then there’s the etiquette that comes with these reads and recommendations – far from a perfect system, but it does keep a great deal of the worst stuff off our desks.

I know very few people get into writing because of an overabundance of social skills, and fewer still pursue it with the thought that growing their social skills is going to be a job requirement. But the latter part is true and – although this is for a different entry – it can even make you a better writer.

Good writing is good writing, but that is not the same as matching the right script to the right opportunity. Not even close. By building your network you can really forge the kind of connections that allow you to do that sort of matchmaking and build enough credibility to start getting those reads and recommendations. Personally, I think it works better than endlessly pursuing the impossible goal of The Perfect Query Letter. As my example proves, a lot of the time the person you’re querying might not even be looking anymore.

2014 is my something else year, too

I just learned that my one-act play “The Rothko” has been selected for production at the 4th Annual OC-Centric New Play Festival for Orange County Playwrights. The festival is staged at Chapman University in Orange and runs the last two weekends of August, which will include my birthday. My performance schedule in The Tavern actually may conflict with some of the stagings, but hopefully the schedule works out because it is a rare treat to see my work fully-staged.

This particular play is about a man in a museum who finds himself unable to explain why he felt irresistibly compelled to kick a hole in an abstract painting valued at $30 million. It was partially-inspired by the horrifying (for the art-minded) story of casino mogul Steve Wynn accidentally driving his elbow through a Van Gogh he had just sold to someone else, a spasm that ended up lopping about $10M off the sale price.

The audition bulletin board remains the most popular area of my website, and I’m glad I get to play that role in the O.C. Theatre scene. But I hope the theater owners in the area won’t begrudge me putting a little special emphasis on the auditions for this one when they come up in April.

2014 is my Shakesyear

This past weekend, Much Ado About Nothing opened in strong style – our first preview performance on Thursday was one of the tightest, best received “first” performances I’ve ever been a part of. And the official opening on Saturday was the most fun I’ve had in the two months since I came aboard. The crowd was boisterous and occasionally downright raunchy – in one scene where two of the soldiers appear in vintage 1930′s swimwear, one patron begged them not to leave the stage. It was about a step away from turning into Magic Mike out there.

Which is, honestly, a great audience to have for a Shakespeare comedy. It’s a good idea there’s a bar in the building.

Sunday was consumed with recovering from Saturday night’s post-opening champagne gala, as well as the Oscars. So yesterday was kind of my first day with my life belonging to myself again, with no theatre commitments until Friday. Nonetheless, Shakespeare found its way in.

I started the day with an e-mail from the Texas Shakespeare Festival. The artistic director reached out to inform me that, while they would not be offering me a contract, they had held me over in consideration until the final day of casting, and that it was ultimately a question of ensemble needs and not merit. He expressed hope that I would submit an audition for next season.

Now, who knows if that final day stuff is literally true (I’m confident that this e-mail was cut-and-pasted for a few actors, which is not a criticism at all), but my thoughts are: 1) They didn’t have to send anything, and most companies wouldn’t. 2) Since they held in-person auditions in Chicago, New York, and Memphis, as well as locally in Texas, that I made an impression in such a crowd with a YouTube video is a tremendous compliment. 3) There wouldn’t be any rational motivation to send me such a message if I weren’t good enough (or potentially good enough) on the merits. Actors who aren’t worth their time just take up slots.

That’s a wonderful boost, because while Texas Shakespeare is not Equity, they do offer salary, housing, meals, and travel assistance, which, despite the stipends I’ve occasionally received, would make me feel like an honest-to-Mergatroid Professional Shakespearean Actor. So I think I will audition again next year, just like I will with the other out-of-state festivals I queried.

And before I had a chance to wonder about my open calendar for the summer, I got officially offered a place in Shakespeare Orange County again, which I accepted. This will make my third consecutive summer with the company, and I’ll be playing Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as an ensemble role in George M. Cohan’s The Tavern (a non-Shakespeare taking a slot in the company’s newly-expanded season).

SOC’s final show of the season is Romeo & Juliet, and as it stands it appears I won’t be in that show. It’s only a small pity, because no one dies in Midsummer and I had some small hope of continuing my annual tradition of being murdered in an SOC production.

But it does open up a spot in September for me to pursue a production at the Long Beach Playhouse Studio – of Twelfth Night. Always have wanted that one on my resume…