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Panther City Arts

The Problem of Partisanship: A Liberal Rant

I am liberal.

I make no bones about it. I am a fully partisan liberal. I believe that liberal governance is the best source for our Republic.

We live in an increasingly partisan country. It’s troubling. And, I’m clearly not the only one who has noticed as article after article have lamented the seemingly endless rush to the edges of the political spectrum.

Fingers are pointed in either direction, attempting to cast the blame on each other instead of figuring out how to mend the divide.

There was a time, in fact throughout most of 240 year history, when this country was all about the middle ground. Sometimes it shifted a bit left, sometimes a bit right. But, overall it stayed close to center. This was a time when Congress was generally able to work together. Senators from each side of the aisle would leave work after a long day of legislating and head to dinner or drinks together.

Anecdotal stories tell us that doesn’t really happen much anymore.

You see, the reason I’m writing this piece today isn’t to do what so many other journalists have done over the last few years. I’m not writing a treatise against partisanship.

I’m writing for for consideration of our system of government.

Look, you won’t always get your way. That’s life. That’s why we have compromise. It’s this idea, not only that it’s good to give a little to get a little, but that there’s a third party that needs consideration in any debate.

That’s our Republic. Our country. Our system of government. However you want to put it.

I may have one idea about how to address and issue, and you may have a completely different idea, but we have to remember that in figuring out how best to address said issue, there is – or should be – deference to the system we’re sworn to uphold.
Say what you will about it. I know our country isn’t perfect. I know we’ve made – and continue to make – mistakes. But, we are a successful country with a successful government.

Seriously, think of how much the global map has changed over the last 240 years. It’s not as constant as you might think. Many countries have shrunk or disappeared completely. Some have grown exponentially only to be beaten back.

The United States blossomed from thirteen original colonies into 50 states, and remains strong centuries after its founding.

Quick side note for my liberal friends who are feeling a bit triggered already: I’m not forgetting imperialism or the fact that we still have several territories, of which none have proper representation. I’d love to talk more about this, but this particular essay isn’t the specific place for it. I’ll get back to it soon enough in another essay.
The reason I believe we’ve survived, and even thrived, over the last 240 years is because of the incredible strength of our founding documents.

Naturally, it helps that we have a system by which we can amend our core founding document. And, if that’s not the definition of a living document, I don’t know what is… Oops, my partisanship is showing. I’m working up to addressing it, I promise.

What has bothered me about the last several years specifically, has been the breakdown of our Congress.

They seem to no longer consider that third part of legislating. The regard for our system of government.

Naturally, as a liberal, I place a lot of blame for this on the shoulders of people like Mitch McConnell, who is on video saying the Congress’ primary goal was to try and make Obama a one term president. Not legislating. Not helping middle class Americans. Not solving hunger. No, it was all about keeping that guy they didn’t like from a second term.

It was so baldly partisan.

I have a confession to make.

As I grew up in Texas, and was raised by and grew up around Republicans, I voted for John McCain in 2008.

I know. I’m disappointed in me too.

Don’t get me wrong. I generally like McCain – though I think he’s occasionally lost his spine over the last eight years – but the thought that I ever cast a ballot for Sarah Palin haunts my dreams. I wish I could claim I was naive, but I was a 28 year old finishing up a masters degree in communication. I should’ve known better.

That uncomfortable fact on the table, it’s also worth noting that I didn’t dislike Obama. On the contrary, I found him enlightening. I like his positive rhetoric. I especially liked that he wanted to end the wars (Bush had specifically lost me with the invasion of Iraq). I just thought, perhaps unfairly, that he didn’t quite have the requisite experience you’d want for a president.

I was wrong. Obama had been President of the Harvard Law review, he’d been a distinguished professor of Constitutional Law at Chicago, he’d been a State Senator, and then a United States Senator. Compared to our current president, he might’ve been over-qualified.

I slowly came around to Obama. Very slowly.

The 2010 midterms didn’t phase me. Even though I had started to swing a little left, I foolishly still thought that it didn’t much matter who was in control of Congress because ultimately they usually reverted towards the middle.

Boy, was I wrong.

It’s also worth noting here that as much as I supported the idea of universal healthcare, I thought going after it right out of the gate was the wrong play, and I had criticized Obama for it. I thought he should’ve stayed focused on the economy.

I might be right about that. Perhaps that could’ve prevented the Republican landslide in 2010. Perhaps not. I’m not exactly privy to a lot of insider info, just what the guys on Pod Save America tell me.

But, after those midterms was where the real turn started. The Tea Party movement was gaining a lot of steam and I knew I didn’t like them. You’d see reports, however sporadic they might’ve been, that showed these people – often dressed in some sort of colonial garb – yelling racial epithets and holding signs depicting the President as an evil Muslim guy, or worse, a monkey.

It was disgusting.

Yes, I’d seen some of that during the campaign, but naively assumed that was an extreme minority. But early 2011, it was undeniable. There was something seriously wrong.

I listened to all the critiques and complaints of the Obama administration, at the same time trying to stay educated on what was happening with policy, laws, etc.

And, I came to a conclusion that I dared not say out loud.

I eventually ran out of excuses. It was clearly, whether they even realized they were doing it or not, that many conservatives hated Obama because of his name and/or his skin color.

Not all, of course. #NotAllConservatives. But, it was prominent enough to have a real effect on me.

Because, at the same time, I was seeing tangible differences in the country. Good differences.

The recession had wiped me out. And yet, I’d been able to go back to school and finish my grad degree, I’d been able to pull myself out of debt enough to move back into my own place, I was on the verge of getting healthcare for the first time in several years, and a lot of my friends gained the freedom to get married. Good things were happening, and yet my conservative friends were crying about the decimation of our once great country.

It didn’t compute, and it hastened my move to the left.

But, something else that happened after the 2010 midterms was unprecedented (at least in my lifetime) obstruction in Congress. Armed with that McConnell quote, Republicans in Congress not only were refusing to even listen to Democratic proposals, they were threatening to shut down the federal government if they didn’t get their way on certain things.

To this guy who was still kind of teetering in the middle of the political spectrum, it was damning.

Why would they threaten to kill the government over funding for social safety net programs?

I made no sense to me.

Why not just try and fix the programs to make them more efficient? If there’s fraud, let’s fix it so that only the people who genuinely need the help can get it. What happened to that solution?

Instead, it was threats that is these programs weren’t drastically cut, the Republicans would shut down the government. It was the ultimate take your ball and go home move.

I thought for sure this would outrage Americans. Sure, we may disagree on the best way to administer social safety net programs, but surely it wasn’t worth shutting down the government over. That’s something we very much want to avoid. That can have far reaching, damaging effects. Surely, we wouldn’t…

We did.

They did.

And, the thing that pissed me off the most was that Republicans in congress crowed about Obama’s refusal to “work” with them, which was clever code for “failed to meet our demands”.

And, worse than that, their followers bought it.

Soon my increasingly partisan conservative friends were all over social media claiming that Obama and the Democrats were being obstructive.

I was dumbfounded.

They controlled Congress. How could they blame the president for their inability to get funding for the government passed? Especially when they wrote it in a way they knew he’d never accept.

Because, here’s the deal. Remember that compromise we talked about earlier? Well, this is one of those key times when – in the past – compromise would’ve been the word of the day. The Republican Congress and the Democratic Executive Branch would sit down and hash out something that worked for both sides.

From what I could see, in the reporting I followed (from reputable sources), the Obama administration was making the effort. In fact, when deals would get done, Democrats would decry the bad deal the Obama Administration had made (think sequestration).

But, the Republicans remained obstinate. They were doubling down on obstructing until 2012 when they could take back the White House and govern the way they wanted, which apparently meant taking a sledgehammer to any federal program they weren’t particularly fond of and passing massive tax cuts for rich people.

I inched more and more to the left.

The 2012 election came and Republicans technically did the right thing by running a popular mainstream Republican who’d been Governor of a liberal state. Had he not been the first one to use the system that eventually became known as Obamacare, thus undercutting most criticism of the program, he’d have been the perfect candidate.

There was a problem, though. Republicans, in their thirst for power, had let the fringe Tea Party have a seat at the table. And, it bit them in the ass. Suddenly, tried and true Republicans were getting primaried, and many Tea Partiers stayed home on election day, or at least didn’t vote for the more moderate Romney.

Obama won decisively, but Democrats still didn’t win back Congress.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Four years of obstruction, capped off with the completely unprecedented refusal by Senate Republicans to even hold a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland. If there was ever a last straw this was it.

Never before had one party bowed to partisanship so deeply as to completely subvert the standards and practices of our democratic system.

Sure, the previous six years had been frustrating, and people on the left were often angered at Republicans’ seeming disregard for our democratic institutions. But, they always had an excuse, however disingenuous it might’ve been, that they were trying to negotiate. They were just being very, very hard negotiators.

With Garland, they refused to even come to the negotiation table.

Keenly sensing that they might actually have a chance in the upcoming election, they obstructed and delayed. They took President Obama’s Constitutionally granted power away from him. They completely subverted an entire branch of government. All for selfish partisan means.

We’ve gone a full year with an eight member Supreme Court. One branch of our government is hobbled because of blatant partisanship.

And, yet, it worked.

It freaking worked.

Republicans were not outraged. Sure, some of them said they were outraged when Trump race-baited his way into the nomination.

But, at the end of the day, many of them still voted for him.

Why?

Pure partisan selfishness.

Whether it was for tax cuts, or rolling back LGBTQ rights, or whatever. One by one, my Republican friends voted for a man espousing patently un-American ideals because they thought maybe they’d still also get that thing they want.

And, now look at it. Look what’s happening.

General Flynn was fired/forced to resign yesterday because he straight up lied about the content of his phone conversations with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S., somehow hot realizing that all those lines would be tapped.

And, then the New York Times breaks a story that Trump operatives, in fact, were in contact with Russian operatives during the campaign.

This is interesting because we know that the Trump campaign was briefed in August about Russia’s efforts to undermine the election. Just days after he’d “jokingly” asked Russia to hack his opponent, he was informed that in fact they had done that and were actively working to hurt her, and help him.

His campaign knew that, and still had contact with Russian officials.

And, following the old saying that the cover up is worse than the crime, they routinely lied about having contact with Russia, just as Flynn lied about the content of his phone call with Ambassador Kislyak.

Our intelligence agencies have told us, objectively, that Russia interfered in our election, specifically targeting one side over the other. We know it happened. We know it was their goal to hurt Clinton. We know it is ultimately their goal to destabilize our country.

And yet, all I hear from my conservative/Republican friends is “give him a chance”, “fake news”, “you’re just bitter”, etc.

The hypocrisy alone is infuriating. We just spent four solid years investigating Secretary Clinton because she thought it’d be more convenient to have all her email go to one phone as opposed to two. And, oops, a handful of classified emails, none of which had any truly sensitive data that everyone else didn’t already know on them, got through. God help us, the world is going to end. The rest of the world might see where our last drone strike was…except they already know because there are websites that track that stuff in real time.

Oh, but Benghazi. Remember all those times throughout our country’s history when the Secretary of State was personally held responsible for a terror attack?

Yeah, me neither.

It was galling. And yet, there was a thought that chickens will come home to roost. Once Trump won, and was coming into the White House in open defiance of norms and laws in regards to his businesses and possible ties to Russia, sure enough we’d get our chance to investigate.

Nope.

Republican committee chairmen are content to do nothing. And, somehow Republicans are mostly okay with this.

Are you serious?

This bears repeating. We know for a fact that Russia wants to destabilize our government. Our intelligence agencies have confirmed this fact. This isn’t a MoveOn.org article. It’s the freaking CIA, NSA, etc.

We know what Russia is doing. They are now doing the exact same thing in France and Germany. We’ve caught them doing it.

We know their plans.

And, it seems, witting or not, that the Trump administration is somehow caught up in this thing.

At the very least, isn’t it worth having a thorough investigation to make sure everything is one the up and up?

And, if there’s nothing to hide, why isn’t the Trump administration jumping at the chance for an investigation?

Well, it could be because they’re guilty. It increasingly seems that way as a new story breaks every day and more people go down for it.

But, it’s also just blind partisanship. Republicans have sold their souls to a Russian devil for a small tax cut.

Would Democrats do the same thing if they were in this position? I’d like to think not, but I honestly don’t know.

There’s a good line from the Aaron Sorkin show Newsroom. At one point, debating the rise of the Tea Party, the lead character played by Jeff Daniels argues that the Democrats never would’ve nominated Abbie Hoffman for anything, nor ever sought his endorsement.

Sure, that’s a fictional show. But, I also think that’s a good point.

Say what you will about the DNC collusion against Bernie. I think it was overstated, but real.

But, in general, Democrats don’t seem given to rushes to the fringe. Sure, the modern Democratic party is becoming more progressive, but unless you’re a fundamentalist religious person, it arguably has been a pretty glacial move to the left.

Despite Bernie’s loss, the Democrats put forth their most progressive platform ever, and it actually wasn’t all that different from the direction we already seemed to be comfortably moving in under Obama. Nice and slow progressive movement, perhaps speeding it up in cases of social equality.

Naturally, everyone should be for equal rights, but somehow it’s still an issue. Republicans, for being the party of low government intervention, sure do like messing with people they disagree with. But, I digress…

Even if Bernie had been the candidate, the platform would’ve almost been close to identical to what it was. So, we’d be in a similar spot. In fact, I think Bernie’s big problem was labeling himself as a Democratic Socialist – a very misunderstood term – when really he’s just a slightly more left wing Democrat.

Anyway, I like to think the Democrats fundamentally wouldn’t let something like the Tea Party happen to them. At least not the running to the fringe part. As far as protest and obstruction go, we’re finding (sadly) the only way to fight fire is with fire.

But, in our case, we’re trying to protect things like social equality and the environment. We’re trying to prevent increased income inequality. We’re trying to prevent another Great Recession.

Republicans were constructive under Obama because they wanted to cut those things. They wanted to gut the social safety net. They wanted to eliminate arts funding. They wanted to privatize all healthcare. They wanted to get rid of all banking regulations. They wanted to get rid of all pollution regulations. They wanted to keep DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

They were defending a divisive and cruel world, a world of increased inequality, a world of decreased air quality, a world of haves and have nots.

Democrats are fighting for support for those in dire straits, for equality for all citizens, for fair treatment of workers, for a planet we can leave our children.

It’s worth fighting for. It’s positive.

And, it’s all being sold out right now. Defending what the Republicans did in Congress under Obama was one thing. But, standing by Trump as revelation after revelation come out about the extent of Russia’s meddling in the election, isn’t just partisan. It’s un-American.

It’s selling our democratic institutions up the river in favor of hopefully getting that pet issue you love satisfied.

It’s despicable.

Care about our system of government. Don’t burn it down for personal gain. Nothing will be left to protect you when you’re in the minority.

(The governing minority, that is. Of course, Democrats routinely get more cumulative votes for the House, Senate, and White House. Thanks, regional distribution. But again, I digress…)

But, as we become more and more certain of Russia objectives, are you willing to perhaps destabilize the country for your partisanship?

That’s a question I would ask all Americans.

Remember this, Democrats. Let’s vow to never let this happen to us. Learn from what the Republicans are doing.

And Republicans, think on your actions. Broaden your perspective beyond selfish partisanship, and see what effect your actions might have on other Americans, on the country, and on the world.

We need to get back to honest governance. You win some, you lose some. You’re fair to the other side. You compromise when necessary, always maintaining the best interest of the public.

I may be a liberal. But, I’m an American first. I may criticize Trump, but I also criticized Obama when it was necessary. I want this country to truly be great, and I think you get there by being inclusive, fighting for equal rights and protections, and making sure citizens are treated fairly by other citizens. Those should be our ideals. That’s what it means to be American.

Let’s try it out.

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Hollywood Fringe Postmortem

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I’m a little late with this, but after the experience of the Hollywood Fringe, I pretty much didn’t want to think about it for the two week break I had before getting back on the road.

So, now that I’m back on the road and bored, it seems like a good time to finally report on what was an extraordinarily underwhelming experience. So, here goes…

Orange County…

I actually arrived in Southern California a few days before I was scheduled to do anything at the festival. My reason? Seeing one of my best friends Jeff and his wife and two kids down in Orange County. That part was fun. I hadn’t seen Jeff in years, and I’d never met his kids. They’re freaking adorable. I read them bedtime stories at night. And, Jeff and his wife Jessica are great, even if they do watch a bit too much reality TV for my taste 😉

The one thing I will say about Orange County, though, is that it’s exactly as cutoff from the rest of the world as you’ve been led to believe. Extraordinarily rich and white, the OC struck me as a very self-centered place. I could give a laundry list of things I saw that appalled me, but I’ll save whatever bile I can muster in this article for the festival.

Overall, I enjoyed my time in the OC.

Hollywood…

I booked a small efficiency apartment about a half mile from my theater through AirBNB. The very first thing that stood out, and would prove to be a constant annoyance, was there wasn’t any dedicated parking for tenets. It was all heavily regulated and monitored street parking. I managed two parking tickets in the first few hours I was there. After that, I had to keep myself on a tight meter-feeding schedule. Parking easily ended up costing me over $20 unbudgeted dollars a day. Just my first taste of how expensive that city is.

The apartment was on Lexington Ave. The nearest big intersection was Santa Monica and Highland. That sounds like a pretty good location for people who only hear these street names in songs and movies. In reality, though, Hollywood is actually not that great. Sure, there are pockets of well-developed, nice ares. But, generally it doesn’t live up to its romanticized image.

Having been to Hollywood before (albeit 20 years ago), I knew this. And still, I was more than a little disappointed to see that the particular stretch of Santa Monica Blvd. my theater was on was definitely not one of the nice areas. Not that it was terrible. It was just shabby. Next door was a convenience store decked out with barred windows and safety glass in front of the cashier. Though, I never felt unsafe. I’ll give it that.

My venue was perfectly nice. I performed in the East Theatre, which is part of a group of theaters called The Complex. My experience with the Complex and with my tech director Rebecca was great. I have absolutely no complaints there. They were wonderful.

The fest itself, however, is incredibly underwhelming.

So, here’s the deal. Hollywood Fringe is a BYOV fringe. Bring Your Own Venue. That means instead of booking directly with the fringe, the artists book with the venues who then tell the fringe who is performing.

This is how several of the really big, established festivals (like Edinburgh) do it because they have huge built in audiences and they’ve gotten too big to manage all the venues themselves.

Hollywood Fringe is big, but it doesn’t have a built in audience. The only shows I went to with decent crowds were locals, and the audience was made up of a bunch of their friends, not festival goers.

Of course, the other big problem Hollywood has in this regard is no pass system. With a performance festival of any sort, you really want the ability to buy some sort of all inclusive pass. This saves you from having to shell out full price for each individual show. Even with the discount button they sell (which gets you a total of $1 off), the onus is still on the audience member to seek out each individual show and get their tickets. It’s tedious and not cost effective.

Every festival should have a festival pass. One price, get into any show you want.

Also, at this point, these festivals should invest in app development. Or at least a very mobile friendly website, so people can reserve on the go. Hollywood actually does this, though the app does still have some flaws.

For artists, this BYOV system puts all the pressure to build an audience on them.

Look, it’s already expected at a festival that the artists do A LOT of advertising. But, with Hollywood, it was in overdrive because there were precious few audience members to get.

Granted, I didn’t do everything I could have to drum up more audience members. I could have done more. I didn’t send out press releases and try to get reviewed. I didn’t perform at the Fringe Central cabaret. I didn’t make a lot of posters, relying instead mostly on quarter page flyers. Etc.

Look, I realized after Dallas that I didn’t have the next Swimming to Cambodia or Sleepwalk With Me on my hands, so I’m now treating this tour as a learning experience. And it’s working. The show gets better with every performance. Last night (July 11) was my best show yet, and I’ll write about that soon.

Still, though, I averaged 4 audience members per performance. Granted, my summary in the guide may not have been awesome, but it’s not too different that what I wrote for the Capital Fringe guide and I’m getting plenty of people in DC.

Outside of the fringe itself, the thing I hadn’t planned on was the utter loneliness of being a solo performer on the road. I’ve heard comedians talk about it before. Two of my favorites, Louis CK and Patton Oswalt, have both done lonely road jokes. But, it’s totally real.

It’s very lonely when you’re on the road by yourself and don’t work until 9:00 at night. And, attempting to fill my days with something other than cabin fever led to spending more money than I should have, simply because I was fighting boredom and homesickness.

I can only think of one other time in my life when I got homesick, and that’s when I was a little kid. But, I got so homesick on this trip.

Overall, I had trouble meeting people at the fringe. I just really didn’t connect with the vibe. And, since even as a participant, I was gonna have to pay full price to see other shows, I usually didn’t. (All fringes should have free participant admission. How is this not a thing?)

Of course, I also had one of the best nights of my life when one of my best friends, James Kimbrell, drove down from Salinas to see the show. He brought some great beer from the Firestone Walker Brewery and we stayed up super late talking and catching up. It was the best time I had on the trip.

Especially considering that some of my other local friends didn’t come to the show, many not even RSVP’ing to my invitation. That was a bit of a gut punch.

In fact, there have been a few gut punches in getting this thing started, and it usually stems from expecting something from people who have given every indication that I can expect something, then giving nothing. But, that’s for the postmortem article that will encompass my entire fringe experience at the end of the summer.

But, James Kimbrell will always hold a special place in my heart, if not already for the previous 20 years of friendship, then definitely for that night. Thanks, James. You’re a truly great friend.

For all the disappointment I’ve already experienced with this endeavor, it’s even more important that I point out the friends who have my back. On this trip, James Kimbrell and Jeff Norwood were amazing. This trip would have been a million times harder than it already was if it weren’t for them.
That said, I did manage to make some new friends. And, I saw some cool shows. Not always at the fringe, though. I’m going to write another article detailing my adventures in the LA comedy world.

I doubt I’ll ever do Hollywood Fringe again, but for a first time on the road learning experience, I’d say it was an overall educational experience. Now, I’m at Capital Fringe. So far, it’s better. A little.

The Lonely Road: Four down, one to go…

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I should have written in this blog more. But, here I am only a few days from going home and this is only the second post.

It’s not like I haven’t had time. I’ve had pretty much nothing but time. I’m all alone halfway across the country from most of my friends and loved ones.

Of course, I didn’t anticipate being as alone as I’ve been. And, that’s been part of the problem.

I have several friends in the Southern California area. And, through four shows, two have them have attended. One of those friends, I think it’s safe to say, is actually living in Northern California. But, James drove all the way down to see my show and spend the evening with me. He ever brought some great beer from the Firestone Walker Brewery.

The other friend who has come to a show, Leah, I actually haven’t even known that long. We’ve really only met once before. And yet, she came to the show, and she brought friends. It was really great.

But, outside of those two bright blips, the trip has been lonely.

The actual Fringe Festival hasn’t provided much solace either.

The first day I was in Hollywood, I showed up for my tech rehearsal. That went great. My tech director, Rebecca, is awesome. I really can’t say enough nice things about her. Everyone else, though…

It seemed like everywhere I went people looked at me like I was an alien. Here’s the square looking middle-America guy wandering around trying to talk to people.

I get it. To them, I looked like some buttoned up guy. Wearing my white button down, khaki pants, and blue blazer. Of course, I wear these clothes in a kind of ironic way. It’s how people like me are supposed to dress, so I do. People at home recognize it for the shabby parody it is, but the beautiful, stylish people out here haven’t reacted so well. I even threw off the comics at The Comedy Store (blog post coming) for looking so put together and square. As Iliza Shlesinger told me, “You look like your parents had money.”

Those of you that know me know that I’m actually pretty introverted. Outside of my comfort zone of friends or family, I’m pretty kept to myself. So, it’s already really difficult for me to have to go up to people and try to talk up my show. And for them to look at me all sideways makes it even harder.

Thus, I haven’t done a lot of on the ground marketing. It’s something I’ll have to get better at.

However, there are significant problems with this Festival that are not my fault, and I’ll write another post about that once it’s over and I’m safely out of town.

So, I’ve had four of my five shows. Here are the attendance figures for each show: 7, 1, 4, 4.

Sixteen people have seen me perform.

It’s cool, though. I’ve met a few really cool people. And, I’ve used the small audiences as an excuse to work on things in the show. Try stuff out. For instance, I’ve been able to get the runtime down to 56 minutes…until last night. It went so well last night, all four people were constantly laughing, that I ended up going about 10 minutes over. Oops.

So, there are spurts of excitement. But, the rest of the time has been incredibly lonely.

I long for home. I long to see my family, and friends, to go hang out at the cigar shop, to cuddle up with Katelyn on the couch. I miss home, which is something I never anticipated.

I know now why celebrities have entourages. This would be so much more fun with someone here with me.

Last night was kind of the climax of all this. I’d just finished my fourth performance. Only four people showed up, but they were the most receptive audience I’ve had yet, which was awesome… Unfortunately, it all caused me to go way over time. So, that was a bummer. These things work on strict schedules so it’s a big taboo to use more than your allotted time. Also, for the first time, I had several no-shows from my reservation and Facebook event invite lists.

I was still feeling good, though, so I went over to the Fringe Central bar for a drink and to hopefully meet some more people. It was like I wasn’t there. Everyone already had their little groups set up, and I’m not one to go randomly barge in. So, I had one drink and left. I rolled through a drive-thru so I could have at least one hot meal that day, then went back to the apartment I’m staying in and sat in front of the computer watching Netflix until I fell asleep.

Now that the shows are almost over, that feeling of wanting to go home is increasing exponentially everyday. Especially as we go into a weekend where normally I’d get to spend it with my girlfriend.

Admittedly, I shed a few tears. It’s been hard.

The upside is that the show is really coming along and I’m getting better and more confident in my performances. But, the traveling alone kind of sucks.

Oh well, I’ll be home in a few days. It’s almost over. I have one more show tomorrow night, and I know that at least a couple of my friends are coming to that one.

I’ll write more about this in the coming week or so. There are lots of observations about fringe that I’m picking up.

Until then, 4 down and 1 to go.

An Inauspicious Beginning…

This is the first in what will (hopefully) be many entries as I travel the country this summer with my one man show, And Then I Woke Up, to various fringe festivals and the like.

This isn’t Day 1, though. That was technically last Thursday, opening night at the Dallas Solo Fest.

The entries in this blog are intended to be more about the road. Also, I was still so busy preparing in the days leading up to and during the fest that I didn’t really have much time to blog.

So, I’ll give a quick post-mortem on the 2015 Dallas Solo Fest…

It was okay. Brad McEntire does a great job with the fest and there are some really talented performers this year. Among them, I’m definitely the most amateur. And, it showed.

Opening Night was nerve-racking, though not as much as one review from a friend who has access to my Facebook page would have you believe. To me, it was the normal run up to a show. Stressful, but optimistic.

That said, I was definitely nervous. Ironic, given that I talk in the show about how performing has never scared me.

Pretty early on in the opening night performance, I got a little lost. My concentration was shaken early from an overworked voice that was on the verge of throwing in the towel. It cracked and quavered with every rise of the voice. It got to me and I lost my place. Not for long. I soon found it and the rest of the show went fairly smoothly. I dropped a few lines, including a bit that would prove to be pretty much everyone’s favorite in the last two performances. But, I got through the whole thing relatively unscathed. The (admittedly minor) scathing would come later when the reviews came out. Scattered compliments that got the wind knocked out of them by some pointed criticisms.

But, it was my first performance. Kind of. Really, it was the first time I ever performed an entire, complete piece that I wrote. I’ve performed smaller sections of the show in public. But, this was the first time it was all ever presented in one place.

So, considering that, I guess it’s not too bad.

After all, half the show had never been workshopped. I have no director (yet). This was about as true to “one man show” as you can get. This was a Kris Noteboom joint all the way. And, just like with my writing, it turns out I need an editor.

There’s no shame in that, for any other writer/performers reading this. Pretty much every great writer of the last several hundred years has had an editor. A good editor is worth her or his weight in gold. I learned this when I became a journalist and saw that Mark Lowry was able to take my rambling sentences and make them sound much better.

Forgive the self-congratulatory tone…but both reviews said, in one way or another, that I’m smart, talented and funny. Lindsey Wilson of Culture Map called me a “wordsmith”. Amy Martin (of my employer Theater Jones) said: “Woke Up is full of zingers, witty phrases, and bon mots to make a dependable hour of laughs.”

I can work with that!

But, both reviews also noted that the show is sometimes unfocused and a little too exposition heavy. They’re right. I’ve taken enough writing classes at this point to know that “too much exposition” might end up being my epitaph.

Arguably, I’ve gotten much better. Taking a short story creative writing class last semester helped a lot. The story I eventually submitted for publication went from over 10,000 words in the first draft to just over 5,000 after a couple of revisions.

So, even as this blog post is already well over 600 words, I’m getting better!

My performances on Saturday and Sunday went much better than Thursday. Those opening night jitters were exorcised, but I also just got more comfortable with the material with each passing day. Also, my voice recovered, somewhat.

In the end, a lot of family and friends came to see me perform. That was very meaningful. I’ve been telling these people for years that I’m working on something. I’m glad they finally got to see me. And true to being good friends, they all said they liked it.

Ultimately, I was right that it was more difficult to perform in Dallas. I’ve been a critic for the past five years. I don’t have a lot of friends in the theater community, but I’m friendly with all the other critics. To that end, the only part of my reviews that miffed me a little was when my private Facebook postings (which only my friends would have been able to see) were used as a plot point. It made me sound like I was having a breakdown in the days leading up to the show, which wasn’t really true. I’ve performed in front of audiences hundreds of times. I’ve spent 6x more time in my life performing than being a critic. The week before a show is always stressful.

Anyway, I’m not complaining. The reviews were accurate and fair. It’s not the greatest show in the world. And, that’s okay. It’s my first.

And, yes. I’m telling everyone right now, I’m not destined for Broadway just yet. But, you should come out and see it anyway. People have seemed to enjoy it and have been laughing a lot.

So, there’s that.

And, that’s the post mortem.

Now, I’m in LA for the Hollywood Fringe Festival. I perform Friday. For now, I’m visiting friends in Orange County. I’ll post about that next.

Stay cool.

My Indiegogo Campaign

Hello, all!

Today, I have launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign for the 2015 Summer Tour of my comedic one man show, “And Then I Woke Up”.

Well, actually I launched it last week. It took me forever to make a video for it. I got in my head – or rather I let other people get in my head – and got to where I was really overthinking it.

This isn’t a huge campaign. Id say it’s fairly modest.I’m not trying to appeal to millions, though if I do, cool.

So, what is this for?

There are a lot of costs associated with going to these festivals around the country. They basically provide the opportunity to perform, while I provide everything else. And honestly, that’s really great. For us non-professionals that want to try and build our work into something, these festivals are a great way to get exposure. But, in the meantime there are travel costs, lodging costs, food, publicity and advertising, having enough to make sure I can keep paying rent while I’m gone, and biggest of all, venue fees. It costs money to run these venues and pay the well-deserving staff. That’s on me as the producer of my show.

All in all, I’ve estimated that this tour will cost me about $12,000 when it’s all said and done. To date, I’ve already spent close to $3,000. And, you’ll notice that my Inidiegogo campaign is for $6,000. That’s because I expect to put in just as much, and probably ultimately more, than I would ask anyone else to put in.

And, that goes to the incentives as well. It’s not a lot of trinkets that you’ll never wear or use. It’s mostly stuff that I have to work for. Whether it’s performing, collaborating, straight up working, or brewing, I tried to make my incentives something that I had to work to earn. I believe in working for what I get, and I thought this was a good way to run my campaign.

So, check it out. And please donate. I appreciate the support.

Also, please “like” and “share” liberally. These campaigns aren’t made by just friends and family. They’re made by friends of friends, friends of family, and friends I haven’t even met yet.

Thank you for your time and thank you for your support.

Hooray for Hollywood!

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I’ll be performing at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival

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Where: The Complex in The East Theatre (6468 Santa Monica Blvd)

When:

Friday, June 12 @ 9:00

Saturday, June 13 @ 7:00

Monday, June 15 @ 9:00

Thursday, June 18 @ 7:30

Saturday, June 20 @ 8:30

TIckets: On sale May 1st http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/ (I’ll post direct links on the 1st)

This is my first out of town show ever. It’s super exciting! Also, looking forward to seeing all my LA friends (and begging to sleep on their couches).

Also, don’t forget. Tickets for the Dallas Solo Fest go on sale tomorrow @ www.dallassolofest.com

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2015 Dallas Solo Fest!!!

I am incredibly honored to announce that I’ll be performing at the 2015 Dallas Solo Fest, June 4-14

Where: Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park, Dallas, TX

When: June 4-14, 2015

My Specific Shows:

Thursday, June 4 at 9:00 pm

Saturday, June 6 at 10:30 pm

Sunday, June 7 at 5:00 pm

Tickets: $12    http://www.dallassolofest.com/tickets.html

More Info: http://www.dallassolofest.com

This is a particularly exciting show for a couple of reasons. 

          First, it’ll be the World Premiere of …and then I woke up

          Second, it takes place in my hometown (sort of…I’m from Ft. Worth, but close enough!)

     Those that have known me for any amount of time know that the struggle to get to this point has been pretty tough at times. In fact, the show uses this for some good comedy. But, it was very real. When I made the decision that I was gonna go for it and really try and get my writing and performance career off the ground, it was at a time in my life when things really couldn’t have been any lower. 2008-2009 was devastating on several fronts. Like many people, the recession wiped me out. I’d finally (I thought) taken a step towards something good (my art gallery) when the economy went into the tank. I’d gone through a pretty terrible breakup. I’d had some issues at school that would end up delaying my graduation by years, and I’d endured several other (almost entirely by my own actions) personal struggles. It was bad.

     But, as I sat in the gallery one day, knowing that it was about to close, and knowing that I had little choice but to crawl back home with my tail between my legs, I made a decision. I decided that I was done working for other people (metaphorically, of course). From then on, everything I did would be in service to this very moment.

     And, it’s taken a very long time. And, it has rarely been smooth sailing. But, the moment is finally here. I’m premiering an original work at a performance festival in the place I live.

     I’m excited that Dallas is the first (followed, so far, by Hollywood, DC, and Chicago).

     A very big thank you to Brad McEntire at Audacity Theatre Lab. He’s the man behind the Solo Fest. Over the years I covered him as a critic, we became friends. Or, as friendly as an artist and critic could be. It was a little easier considering how amazing his work consistently is. This opportunity is a direct result of his belief in my work. He saw my first public performance last year and immediately invited me to perform in the Audacity Solo Salon in December, and apply for the Solo Fest. I owe a lot to him, and hopefully I’ll justify his confidence with a solid set of performances in June.

     Another big thank you goes to Erin Singleton and the team at the Nouveau 47 Theatre. Erin gave me that first performance opportunity last year. And, she did it knowing I was a critic. There has been some pushback from the local theater community as a couple of us critics have crossed over into performing, but Erin gave me a shot. And, that went so well she gave me a chance to submit a short play to the Nouveau Holiday Show, which also went well. Just like with Brad, Erin, has been an early believer in my work. And I’m grateful. Especially since it is a considerable risk to give me a shot in this town. A lot of people still think of me as a critic. A critic who has ruffled some feathers at times. Erin saw past that, and I’m eternally grateful.

    There are so many people to thank. Really, I’ll try to list some, but if your name isn’t here, know that the list is very long. And if I see you, I’ll tell you in person, which is always better anyway.

     To my teachers over the years. Faye Youngblood, Suzanne Borski Robinson, Donna Matney, Donna Clevenger, Larry Wheeler, Amy Jackson, Kelly Taylor, Justin Trudeau, Jay Allison, Shaun Treat, Brian Lain, Karen Anderson Lain, Thomas Riccio, and Fred Curchack.

     To Kim Jackson, Robert Hart, Joe Lipscomb, Nathan Siegele, Lance Lusk, John Michael Colgin, Danielle Clemens, Melia McFarland, Jillian Jordan, Carrie Helms Tippen, Jay Tippen, Shelly Stearns, Matt Ducey, Jesse Jenkins, Mark Lowry, Elaine Liner, my cigar shop family, etc, etc, etc. I have a really great group of friends who have always supported me and I’ll never be able to thank you as much as I should. But, I’ll try.

     And to my family. My choices haven’t always made sense to you, I know. But, you’ve supported me nonetheless and that really does mean a lot. It’s more than most people get, and I’m very grateful.

Thank you again to everyone. This is a super exciting time and I’m glad I get to share it with all of you. See you at the Margo Jones Theatre in June!

Etsy Shoppers: Kim Jackson’s High-Quality Posters

Check out the awesome artist Kim Jackson’s new Easy page! Starting with very high quality (and much requested) prints, but much more mercy coming soon!! Stay tuned!

Kim Jackson

Photo by Robert Hart Photo by Robert Hart

Thicker than your typical poster, Kim’s original cigar band collage mosaics are scanned at an extremely high resolution for excellent detail and color. You can even see the original signature.

Her originals sell from $1,500 to $7,000, but you can get one of these high-quality posters in her Etsy Shop, KJackArt:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/KJackArt

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Workshopping…

Well, I sent off my application to NYC Fringe this week. Fingers crossed…

In the meantime, here’s a video I posted of my December workshop at the Audacity Solo Salon.

(For whatever reason, I can’t embed the video, so here’s a link!)

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYQXXSrkmWo

This was my first time workshopping this particular section. I’d done a version of it once before, but it had been significantly overhauled since then. Also, I was losing my voice 😦

And, my apologies for the low volume. The mic is on the music stand in front of me, and for some reason, it just didn’t pick me up well.

Oh well. It was a workshop environment. And I was mainly filming for rehearsal purposes.

Nonetheless, enjoy!!!

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