New York, NY

Hurricanes are threatening to become passé. Last year we had one, plus an earthquake. Of course, we're now hearing that Hurricane Sandy may be followed up by a nor'easter (which, in my head, is already named Annie - as in, lil' orphan). Just imagine if that proves to be a repeat of "Snowpocalypse," the storm that rocked the whole of the east coast not that long ago. At this rate, weather systems seem increasingly likely to cause another enormous blackout, like the one we had back in 2003. And even if they don't, with the pressure they've been under lately I suppose it's also possible we just might have another transit workers' strike before the end of 2013. But I don't mean to be pessimistic! Over the past decade or so, our police force has successfully foiled under a dozen proven terrorism attempts. Sure, they also clashed with our own citizenry over the Occupy Wall Street protests, but.... Hey! At least no one's flown any planes into any buildings here, lately!

I'm not aiming to make light of any of this. I'm just tired.

I used to consider it a cliché, the way that movies concerned with monumental American events (including, of course, disasters) so frequently feature New York as a landscape. After living here for over a dozen years myself, it seems more apt than anything else. Even when we set aside the iconography so necessary in film, wherein a subset represents the larger culture, the fact is that a lot befalls our fine 'burgh. Manhattan is set on some ley line intersection of fortune and desperate fate.

This event-riddled lifestyle of living amongst "the five boroughs" used to be a way of life I relished. As a kid, I used to run outside when it was windy. I wanted the world to be an exciting place, dramatic and narrative, swirling and swift. I still do. I still entertain survivalist fantasies and pursue the occasional unnecessary speed. It's just that last Monday night, as I prepared to huddle up for the night with Darling Wife and Tempestuous Twelve-Week-Old on an air mattress in the most central room of our railroad apartment, bags packed and boots by the makeshift bedside in case of a sudden evacuation, it all seemed suddenly a bit too ... well: disastrous.

And not a moment later, it seemed too familiar. I'm tired.

We've fared among the best of all the locations where Sandy laid down her land legs. We're in central Astoria, and though not five miles hence our friends in Long Island City have a quasi-war-zone on their hands when they step outside, here plenty of people are having food delivered and getting far more drunk than they generally would on a weekday. Personally, the storm has had the following effects:

  • A paid week off from work, for the most part (OK: I have worked, but from home, and as the email server went down so did the list of tasks I could reasonably accomplish);
  • Hours upon hours of more time with my family than I could've otherwise expected;
  • Clean laundry and apartment; and
  • More Facebook, Google Reader and Tumblr than any one man ought to have thrust upon him.

There are people whose lives are at risk, and those who've lost their lives already over this latest storm. I have nothing to complain about. The spookiest thing about our Halloween was that we're hardly exercising enough these days to justify some peanut-butter cups. Instead of power failures or looting, we've had to confront the fact that we were just too baby-encumbered to do anything adventurous for our four-year anniversary last night. We're incredibly fortunate, and I'm very grateful.

And I'm tired. Tired of the risk, the threat, the struggle of living here. I'll always love New York, and always miss it once we've had enough and moved on. I'm sad even now, with no special deadline for leaving, at the thought of no longer living here. I have been sad for years - when I happen to think of it - years over which the option of leaving NYC for greener (but NOT by definition more lovely) pastures has grown increasingly practical. I've been subliminally preparing myself for the day, because in the midst of the uncertainty involved in calling this city my home I've had complete certainty about how I will look back on it: with little else but longing.

But just maybe we should get going before the Mayan calendar ends. After all, we've already got our "go bags" packed.


Fourteen is a dangerous age for boys. Things get a bit incongruous, just when you start to think you've got a few things figured out about how life and other people work. In my case, I also switched schools and had some new health complications that left me feeling pretty unstable, even hormones aside. So it may not exactly come as a surprise that I soon began spending my unsupervised afternoons after school at a large storm-drain tunnel with friends, learning how to blow things up.

Amateur arson is of interest to most boys, and I and my friend were boy scouts anyway, so we were well acquainted with some of the more expressive properties of fire. Burning plastic action figures was a popular form of this expression. One day while we were messing around with an open flame in his backyard, his brother pitched a small aerosol can onto the fire. We ran for cover, but after some uneventful time, his brother went to investigate. Lucky for him (and us) the bottle was nearly empty of whatever it had once sprayed, because it blew apart with a loud pop but only a small hiccup of flame. Giddy laughter ensued, and so did our afternoon sojourns to the tunnel.

It ran under

Burke Center Parkway

, and always had a little bit of a stream running through it connecting one of the many creeks that ran through the woods of our hometown. The walls were adorned with hasty graffiti at either end, and you could stand in the center and still have almost a foot from your head to the ceiling. We'd lay out a few wet logs for a baseboard to suspend our fire over the rivulet that ran through the tunnel, then set to burning a few disposable artifacts from my friend's vast collection of forgotten toys. We quickly realized that, though the smell wasn't exactly what you would call rewarding, burning plastic could make a very hot, very long-lasting flame.

I can't recall if it was our first trip there or not, but one day I brought a few spray paint cans harvested from my mother's craft collection in our basement. We set a few of our boyhood toys burning into a significant little inferno, and laid a large, full can of red spray paint in it. Then we ran for cover. I remember in particular that I and another of the hangers-on who were drawn to pyrotechnics ran a little too far to see, so we cautiously marched back a bit to see my friend's brother once again being the first to approach the as-yet uneventful inferno.

The tunnel amplified and directed the sound of the explosion, firing sound waves northeast and southwest and a jolt through our chest cavities. A belch of heat followed. A bright orange ball of flame worthy of Hollywood expanded from the fire, and a host of boys shouted in sudden, unabashed surprise. It would inspire us with its terror, and our experiments in delinquency from there on out would grow more and more bold and irresponsible. We thought we understood what a miraculous bit of grace it was that my friend's brother came away completely unscathed, but we didn't really. I don't think there was a single one of us who could have conceived of the reality of that kind of crisis.

Some ten years later, I returned to rehearsal on the debut of an original comedy entitled

The Center of Gravity

. It was a broad-strokes comedy with existential underpinnings, set in small-town Texas. Nevertheless, it was obvious to us now that we would need to change several references to "ground zero," a term that had less personal implication to us just a few days prior. What wasn't immediately obvious was how bad the air quality in lower Manhattan - where we were rehearsing in a free, abandoned office space in the West Village - would be. I was the one to call it quits first. We were losing precious days of rehearsal, and there was a certain shared ethic at the time of "getting back to it," but I could feel the particulates in my throat and the smell was everywhere.

After about an hour of watching the news and the Science Channel's series on rebuilding on the World Trade Center site, I stepped out of my apartment building in Queens today to buy a coffee from the Italian bakery down 30th Avenue. It was gray out, but cool and not humid, and I took a moment to look up and down the avenue. I smelled something familiar - synthetic materials burning, definitely some plastic. It seemed to be strongest up the avenue, away from Manhattan, which was both comforting and confusing. The first thing I looked for was panicked people. I have an instinct for this now, whether it's in person or on Twitter, as I did a couple of weeks ago when the office building I work in started swaying with the aftershocks of an earthquake.

A family was out on their stoop, chatting away. A woman in a red t-shirt looked at me as she walked by. No one was panicked. No one was coming out of their buildings to look around like me, no one was crying, holding one another or hunched over the open window of a parked car, listening to the radio. No one was walking determinedly away from somewhere, or even in a daze, wandering as though searching. After a few seconds, I decided that either it was a minor burning somewhere or I had simply imagined it. I'm not normally given to that kind of suggestion, but it wasn't inconceivable. I left my stoop to get my coffee.

Coffee's all done now, and instead of starting the dozen things I intend to do today, I've written this. While writing, my sister called to see if she could spend the night tonight on her way from Cape Cod down to her home in Baltimore. I'm grateful for that. I've missed her since she moved away from the city a couple of years ago, and I think the personal impact of today's anniversary is something I'm having some trouble articulating for myself. Sisters are good for clarity, whether anything ever really gets figured out or not.

I'm seeing a lot of people sharing their thoughts and feelings today, and I'd just as soon have kept mine private. Particularly because I can't really tell you what they are, exactly. I'm very lucky, and very grateful, to have made it this far in life intact, with so many of my friends and family still with me. I think gratitude is a thing we can always use more of, especially in the face of tragedy or inexplicable circumstances. It's a good emotion from which to make decisions and judgments.

Thank you.

Two Influences

I was 24 years old when it happened. It was a gorgeous day -- I mean really, really beautiful. The kind of advanced autumn day that is both bright and slightly cool and, once I thought I was relatively safe and had let someone know that, I sat in Central Park and watched the people go by. It was a fairly surreal thing to do but, then again, even the most common of things felt strange that day. I sat on a park bench just east of Sheep Meadow and watched as dozens of people in suits and carrying briefcases walked north through the park, no one particularly rushing, most people seeming slightly dazed, or even simply surprised, like me, that it should be such a beautiful day. This was before the twin towers actually fell down, you understand. That hadn't even occurred to me as a remote possibility.

Of course I can't say for certain, but I'd wager that any artist living in and around New York City on September 11, 2001, has lingering effects in his or her work thereafter. You wouldn't have to actively explore the issues or circumstances, or even the relevant emotions, to exhibit this influence. No, I see it coming out in myriad little ways too, without our even trying. Of course, many do try.

Friend Kate

often did in her work with


, but particularly in the last full-length piece she created with them/us,


. Directly or indirectly, we all had a profound personal experience, and we all keep returning to it in the hopes of making a little more sense of it . . . or at least of ourselves, afterward.

I have never quite tackled it head-on in my work. I did

some agit-prop theatre

that referenced the following war in Iraq, and I wrote a bit on it, even going so far as to start a play all about three people's personal lives leading up to the big day. (I still plan to return to that someday; feel it was a bit too big for me at the time.) I even fantasized a little choreography for a dance about it, and I am in


way a choreographer of dance. In fact, it's interesting to me that I took my creativity over the tragedy into dance, if but in my mind. I think there's a reason for that. I'm not sure, but it may say something about how abstract it felt at the time, unknowable -- just a series of visceral experiences that couldn't be ordered into anything particularly narrative or thematic. It felt, and I suppose it still feels rather, like an experience not meant to be understood.

It's curious to me, also, how profoundly I felt this year's anniversary. In previous years certainly I paused to reflect and (especially in the few anniversaries immediately after) even took some private time to remember and process and grieve. Yet this year, I was rather emotionally floored for a few days. I didn't know anyone personally who died in the attacks that day. Not that it's necessary to justify my response, but in seeking explanation there's no light to be shed in that direction, and what particular significance could the eighth year after hold? It was terrible, of course, and they say all New Yorkers have some kind of collective response around this time, our stress levels instinctively rocketing up. Still, this year seemed different, somehow.

I have an opportunity that's up-and-coming to make a show of my own. Actually, it's a commitment to provide a show for ETC's side stage program, Out On a Limb. When I submitted my proposal, I wrote about presenting something that explored a more intentional incorporation of circus and physical skill acts into scene work. That's something I've always wanted to see, and it seems the perfect time to explore it. It remains a very unformed idea, without even a story to back it up yet, and I find myself wondering if this could be an opportunity, too, to explore my responses to the events of 9/11. If it proves to be, it still won't be my focus or specific goal. Primarily, I want to fuse reasonably naturalistic acting with ecstatic and impressive movement.

An interesting personal coincidence related to 2001 is that it was the year that I met David Zarko -- now artistic director of


(not to mention the guy responsible for most of my professional acting opportunities) -- and in the same year was my introduction to circus skills. In many ways, it was the year-of-birth for who I am now as a creative artist, so it's bound to hold quite a bit of sway over anything I make. When it comes to that infamous day, I'm glad that in addition to all the horror and confusion, I especially remember what a beautiful day it was. There's something in this that comforts me.

Open Up



Wednesday last

(Odin's-day, oddly enough), while I was guest teaching in a high school, the school went into what was referred to as a "lock down." It was the start of second period, and the gym had just about acquired all of its students for the period when an announcement came over the loudspeaker. At least, that's what I'm told happened. I heard about it from the gym teachers, as the school-wide announcements do not penetrate the gymnasium itself, and I heard it whilst basing

Friend Heather

in a thigh stand for a photograph. We held until the photograph was taken, as a "lock down" doesn't particularly mean anything to us. After we got down, we asked what it meant, and were instructed that I had to go into the boys' locker room, Heather into the girls'.


thought I,

I'm not about to hang in the locker room; I'll go into the teacher's office.

And I did. And I wondered if I should lock the door (I understand language! [So long as it's English!]). It's a tiny office, and no one else was in there, though I could hear the raised voices of the boys in the adjacent locker room. Just as I was contemplating joining them, the male gym teacher for that period entered from there. He said a few noncommittal things to me about it being an eventful day, then turned back around and yelled at the boys to shut up, admonishing them for thinking everything's a joke, until all was silence. Then he turned back to me as if he'd barely interrupted himself and explained the situation a little better in a subdued tone. I felt bad, hearing him talk to me after he'd been so aggressive about the boys' silence, but I was also gradually coming to appreciate the motivations behind his severity.

In 1999, just a couple of months before I would graduate from college, two young men executed a plan to take their high school hostage with a murder spree that included the use of planned explosives. The whole thing was elaborately planned out, actually, and -- notwithstanding all the death and destruction wrought that day -- it could have been much worse had the plan gone accordingly. "


" is now a word with tragic and unfortunate associations, probably for the foreseeable future, here in America. It's an Anglicization of the Italian


, which means dove, and "Colombina/Columbine" was a character popular in both the Italian and English commedia dell'arte traditions. I don't know what came first, but pictured above is a Columbine flower. Perhaps they're named for their resemblance to a dove; they characteristically hang in a shape like a dove with its wings tucked until they blossom, but they also aren't all white. Some are a rather vivid shade of red.

The main preoccupation for the gym teacher was the fact that the door out the back of the locker room seemed to be locked and he wasn't sure if he could unlock it. His feeling was that everyone would be safer in a certain back hallway, and he set about finding the key to those doors. Eventually he found it, and we all filed out of the locker room. I trailed the group, and found myself in a narrow, dim hallway that soon bent to the left and became a landing to two flights of concrete stairs that made a sort of u-turn, where there was a second, smaller landing. At the top, where I remained, were double doors that led outside and were locked with a heavy-duty wedge bar; presumably this was part of the appeal of this room, such as it was. The students all just fit on the two flights of stairs and landings, and most sat, preparing for a long wait. From the top landing, I could see everyone but a couple of boys at the base. It was cramped once people sat, but no one thought of spreading out a bit back toward the direction from which we came. We waited.

I went to one of these mega-schools that were popular to build in the 70s --

James W. Robinson Secondary School

. Robinson, as we and everyone in the area called it, was named in honor of a certain Sergeant James W. Robinson, Jr., the first Virginia resident to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor in the Vietnam conflict. The school is massive, and it needs to be to hold the some 4,000 students day in and day out. I found its size intimidating when I first arrived (in spite of attending the almost equally massive Lake Braddock Secondary for two years), aggravating throughout my middle years there and ultimately it became a weird point of pride in my final months there and thereafter. I would never have admitted this at the time, though. I felt largely oppressed by my circumstances, due to too many factors to get into just now, not the least of which was simply a seeming inability to understand that I was going through profound changes. I turned it around just before my senior year, but up until that time I was increasingly falling into stereotype (or archetype, if you will). You know the type. I kept to myself as much as I could. I even took to wearing the ubiquitous black trenchcoat.

The students had already changed into shorts and t-shirts for their gym classes, and the stairwell was pretty chilly. By and large, they were very well-behaved. It was only natural that their whispering would occasionally escalate, and we'd remind them, or they'd remind each other, with a "shh!" The teacher explained to me, as I tried to look responsive without actually making any sound (I wanted to avoid any hypocrisy, and figured that lacking any rapport I ought to lead by example), that they ran drills in lock-down procedure frequently -- too frequently, he felt. It made the students take it less seriously than they ought. Then again, this particular time could be a case of an aggravated parent on campus, or perhaps a building search for contraband. He didn't name the other possibility. He didn't have to. He went on to explain that they didn't hear all the announcements in the gym, certainly not in the stairwell. So, periodically he would call his fellow gym teachers on his cell phone to see what they knew. He even called someone at the elementary school (a separate building). No one had any information for him. We shushed the students again, and he told them all to just relax.

I've been

pretty quiet in my 300+ entries to date

on the subject of September 11, 2001, but that's not because I'm at all removed from the experience. On bad days, I'm avoiding it; on good days, I'm rising above and moving on. Both explanations are to say that it was the kind of event that one never quite epitomises in description. You had to be there, as the old comic excuse goes. What I can say about that day, for myself, is that it has a lasting and highly personal effect on me. It's a little darkly humorous for me, these people who advertise "Never forget." The memory of it lives at the back of my head like a patient worker, occasionally pressing his button or pulling his lever. I was rather alone that day: new guy at a temp job in Rockefeller Center, the phones mostly didn't work, giving me only the briefest opportunities to touch base with my girlfriend in Brooklyn, I was trapped for hours in Manhattan, picking up news from car radios and strangers' conversation. Eventually I found my way to the apartment of the only person I knew at the time who lived on the island. He wasn't really a friend of mine, but of my girlfriend's, and his place was packed with strangers watching the news. Sitting silent on a stool there, I worried about my dad in D.C., and relived the surreal morning, with its evacuation from the 50s down the twisting, disused fire stairwell of 30 Rockefeller Center. It seemed like we'd never get to the bottom.

When the bell for change of classes rang, no one needed to be shushed. It seemed to remind everyone that time was passing, and the longer we had to wait, the more likely it seemed that whatever motivated our lock-down was a dire circumstance. Minutes after the bell rang, the whispering started up again amongst the boys. As our time in the stairwell passed the hour mark, I stretched against the railing and the cold, and some of the students began to be more aggressive in their efforts to make sense of the situation, or at least lighten the mood. Some were playing a silent game (save for occasional involuntary victory cheers) that involved flicking out digits on both hands against one another. Some asked me who exactly I was; they'd never gotten an explanation on what they were doing in class that day. Others tried to nap or discuss quietly. One young man seemed to continually take it on himself to take charge of the mood and, by and large, he was pretty good at disrupting expectation and continuity with his joking. He seemed popular with the class, in a jester kind of way. Soon, talking to no one in particular, his kidding turned to half-serious plans for what to do when someone burst in with an automatic weapon. It was on everyone's mind. You'd occasionally hear one of them add a onomatopoetic gun noise to his whispered conversation. The jester was still trying to be light, but he was scared too, and losing his audience, boys getting variously agitated into signs of despair, or aggression. So I took a gamble. "Hey, seagull," I said in a normal tone of voice (he was wearing a t-shirt with a seagull silhouette on the front), then whispered, "If you're going to plan for us, whisper it." Then I offered a wry smile, hoping he'd get me. He did, simultaneously embarrassed at being caught out and pleased with the attention and the hushed chuckles of his peers. The tension did not stay away for long before mounting again.

After about a hour and a half of nothing, we got the call that the lock-down was over, and we could return to our third-period classes. It didn't quite engender the relief you might imagine, though everyone was pleased to march out from the chilly stairwell. We all returned to the locker room and changed, then walked out into the brightly lit gym to learn what we could. The students quickly took to the halls to access their community of gossip. Heather and I soon learned that the official announcement had actually stated that classes could take place -- just in the same locked room, until further notice. None of the gym teachers heard that. I felt a little ashamed at my relief over not having had to teach an hour-and-a-half gym class, but not at my hiding with all the men. It was the only sensible course of action, given the information we had. As we watched students flow out from the doors that faced onto a windowed hallway, one of the gym teachers said, "Look at the cop car pulling away. See that dog in the seat? It must have been a drug search." We went on to teach an abbreviated third period before leaving campus for lunch, a necessary diversion. The beginning of our last class for the day, seventh period, was interrupted a few minutes in by an announcement from the principal. He congratulated everyone on a clean report for drugs, including some students themselves who had been pulled from their classrooms. In something of a tangent, he went on to admonish those older students who were violating traffic laws when driving off school property, and let them know that they could expect an increased police surveillance along the road at that hour. "But overall: good job today."

When I was in high school, I was often very angry. I was also, often, terrifically depressed. I'd have a lot of answers for you if you asked me why, and I believed in them very much. I was creating so much -- my world view, my appetites, my self -- at such a frenzied pace that it was important to me to know the things I knew. We complain a lot about teenagers' personalities, but in terms of life stages it's really where the rubber meets the road, more often than not. All that ambitious, energetic emotion for learning that children have meets all that complex, interactive consequence that adults enjoy. It's confusing even without the sea change that released hormones bring to . . . well, everything. It's exciting. It's terrifying. Particularly for those of us who've been through it already, and understand the potential for disaster, and feel responsible for them.

It's hard to write about this without offering some sweeping verdict on it all (harder still, in some respects, not to relate it back to government or religious issues). That's not what I'm writing for, though. I'd like to avoid that. Instead, I mean to do what I do with other, less traumatic events here at the Aviary. That is, write out my experience in an effort to come to some kind of better understanding about it. Opinions must enter into it: I don't agree with using a "lock down" as any sort of practical device for something other than an immediate emergency. To wit, I disagree with using it to facilitate investigation, or set an example for teenagers to let them know they stand a chance of being caught at something. Yet I appreciate its necessity for preparedness. It seems extreme, but if you read

the details of the Columbine incident

, it's evident that the scenario was disastrously mismanaged by the authorities. Of course it was -- it was virtually unprecedented. And if the authorities have to shape up procedurally, so ought the schools. We drill for the potential of fire, of earthquake. This is another kind of natural disaster.

But. "Natural" does not mean it is without cause. Quite the opposite, in fact. I've read the details, and I saw


in the theatre, and I wore a black trenchcoat through high school, and played


and fantasized about all sorts of socially morbid scenarios, and I still don't presume to explain the reasons behind Klebold and Harris' actions. What I do mean is to suggest that regularly cowering in a darkened room and being forbidden to speak might, just might, be more a part of the problem than of any sort of solution. Giving a society (and what else is high school than a constantly evolving society?) a little information and then turning their ignorance back on them as a kind of preemptive punishment, that's frustrating. In fact, revolutions have been begun for less. Unfortunately, most teenagers aren't yet capable of revolution, of the organization and long-view perspective required to make a social change. What they are capable of is making louder, more extreme choices until someone hears them. Hell: Most of my so-called choices in high school, in retrospect, were little more than reactions. Teenagers are exceptional at reacting, and we discount that ability at our, and their, risk.

Let people talk. Listen. Please.

Balancing Act{ing}

Rewind to 2001, before the towers fell; months before, in the spring. Shortly after my one-year anniversary of having moved to New York, I got two jobs that have fundamentally affected every bit of acting work I've had in the seven years since. The first was that I actually found enough bravery (or naivety) to attend an open call for a touring company that required singing. The result was a production of

Der Talisman --

a flippin' MUSICAL, of all things -- which happened to be directed by some dude named David Zarko. This dude wasn't even at my audition or callback. He was a freelance hire. David, of course, went on to become the producing artistic director of

The Northeast Theatre

, where I have gone on to do the lion's share of my professional theatre work to date.

The other formative gig was a show I've mentioned here before,

Significant Circus

, directed by

Kate Magram

. In the years since, Kate and I have shared other collaborative efforts and developed a pretty rad friendship to boot. Amidst all this work and play, it can be easy to lose track of who did and said what and when, and how we got to where we find ourselves at any given moment. (That's how it is when you are involved in a true collaboration to create a play, too. Someone will ask you, "Whose idea was it, the dancing donkey in Act Four?" and you'll reply, with great conviction, "I have absolutely no idea.") What amazes me, when I stop for a moment to consider it, is this one thing Kate contributed to my life. I can point to it, which is part of what makes it so remarkable. Look! Right there, it is!

In a word: acrobalance.

(In a compound word, I suppose I should say.)

Yeah. That stuff that has gotten me work, and that all the actors I've worked with in the past five years know me for? Kate's fault. All about Kate. Didn't know a thing about its existence prior to knowing Kate. Furthermore, because I learned it from Kate, I have loved it more than I otherwise would have, and it has had more influence over the rest of my life than it likely would had I learned it from someone else. Some of the most amazing things I've done on stage, some of the best, most interesting ideas I've come up with, never ever would have had a chance of existing in real life without Mz. Magram. It baffles me a little. She has changed me as an actor and person. Let me explain.

I have never been an athlete. In fact, and spent a good portion of my earlier years as a portly chap. When I was around 16, grandpa's genes kicked in with a vengeance and I lost 40 pounds in a few months. Suddenly I could move easier, and looked more the part for more central roles in plays. In college, I realized I did truly dig incorporating my whole body into parts as much as possible (and, still occasionally, more than is necessarily called for). I also realized that I didn't have any particular technique(s) for doing so. In college, and after graduation, I tried different things, and they were all good -- stage combat, Suzuki, Viewpoints -- but none of them thrilled me. I wanted something I didn't know. Ever feel that way?

I was lucky enough to find it. As I recall, part of what won me the part in

Significant Circus

was that I did a diving forward roll on a concrete floor in my audition. (A similar move cemented my audition for d'Artagnon in college; apparently a willingness to risk debilitating injury is like catnip to directors.) Then I got to my first rehearsal, and Kate asked me to balance myself against the feet of a beautiful woman while we lowered me down to kiss said beautiful woman.


Acro-balance, partner balancing, however you want to term it, has some basics. These are what Kate taught me, and what I teach all over the place now as part of workshops for

Zuppa del Giorno,

and to sort of pay forward all the free training she gave me.

  1. Shared responsibility. The name "partner balance" is in a way more apt, because the essence of all the postures and moves is to distribute weight between two or more people in a way that looks impressive and/or beautiful, and uses one another's weight and effort in tandem. It requires a great deal of communication between partners, verbal and physical, which can be tricky to learn. In fact, there's no way to take responsibility entirely on one's self for any aspect of it. More significantly, there's no occasion in which you can blame the other for anything. There is always something more you can be doing to help your partner(s). This is shared responsibility.
  1. Half the ability lies in trust. Never mind all those trust games you played in high school, or at the team-building workshop you were subjected to on some three-day "weekend." In acrobalance, generally speaking, the base needs to be responsible for making the pose balanced, and the flier needs to be responsible for maintaining a strong shape (and both are responsible for communicating [see above]). Control freaks beware: Nothing wrecks a balance faster than a flier trying to change the balance, except maybe a base who refuses to adjust. And you'll be doing it again and again with this person, which as we know is long-term trust which, as we know, is as challenging as it is rewarding.
  1. Drawing straight lines into the ground. There's no defying gravity. Maybe you can make it look like there is, but there ain't. There are moves that require enormous strength and control, but the most important basic skill one can learn is to create a benevolent relationship to gravity. Get that down, and any move is open to you with a little effort. So straight lines. Straight limbs can hold weight by grounding it into the ... uh ... ground, and angles that direct weight toward the ground are more stable and architecturally sound.
  1. Always be spotting. We get tired, and we are used to having to fight for our own time to relax, so it's not surprising that people tend to let down their guard when they're not in the spotlight. Acrobalance, though, is high stakes. You're working as a group to achieve something, and trust is a twenty-four-hour necessity. Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, be ready to catch someone else when they fall. Not if; when.
  1. Down. Things go wrong. People are fallible. Physics is complex. When something is flirting with F.U.B.A.R. -- and more so when you're intentionally, repeatedly approaching that something -- you need to have an agreed-upon vocabulary. When the fit hits the shan, we say "Down!", and that's what we do. Safely. Together.

Pretty simple stuff, but as with any simple, broadly applicable ideas, they make for a good regular practice. I have been practicing these with some regularity for years now, and teaching them to others. These "others" probably promptly go out and try the same moves whilst blithely forgetting these five concepts behind them, but, I don't know; I've found that the harder I work on moves, the more I need to remember these guide points. I need reminding of them, but I'll never forget them, because Kate taught them to me so well. Especially the first one.

I think it's pretty obvious how these concepts apply to life in general, and acting in particular (keep them in mind; explore the possibilities; from Kate to me to you, gratis [you're welcome]) so I won't spin on much longer here. This is just to say thanks to Kate (and to her friend, Leah) for reminding me once again of important keys to finding balance.