"Those Who Can't Do, Teach"

The implication being, naturally, that if one could really succeed at something, one would have neither the time nor interest to teach it. And, by inference, we can allow that to mean that to teach is a default activity. Teachers end up teachers because they could do nothing else, and teaching is an unsupervised, disinteresting field.

Now, I admit up front that I am about as biased as can be about this pithy little saying, so full of pith as it may be. My mom was an elementary school teacher for years before becoming a


(which is in many ways just a different sort of teacher). My dad teaches college-level courses now. I have been teaching workshops in a variety of subjects to a variety of students over the past few years, and even spent a year teaching in an NYC school. I believe in teaching. In fact, if I have dogma of any kind, it probably lies in the practice of teaching more than it does the practice of religion. So be it. Can't disabuse me of it. Teaching, and teachers, are important. And further more, it's something that can be quite difficult to do well. I know the above quote is half-joking, but I still eschew it. It is totally and entirely eschewed by my person.

Some time ago,

Friend Heather

began a process to get

Zuppa del Giorno

signed up through the


(no; the other NEIU) as an official "rostered teaching artist," and we passed our initial interview back in February. Last weekend, I took the road more-traveled, and landed in Scranton, PA, to complete the application. We received some brief orientation and demonstrated our ability to not-immediately-destroy malleable minds. We're in like Flynn, in other words, which bodes well for Heather's continuing struggle to avoid the confines of a day job. (Less so for me, as I stubbornly remain in NYC, where the cost of living is inversely proportional to the average pay for actors.) In fact, the good people at the NEIU seem quite enthusiastic about our participation in their program, which helps to organize residencies for teaching artists in public schools. We could be spending up to a month at a go teaching our unique brand of creation, development and performance to students we really get to know. It's an exciting move forward in our educational work.

In addition, we'll periodically receive free training in educational and personal interaction theories and techniques. They briefly described what to expect in terms of that, and it sounds both useful and interesting, focusing on reaching out to all different kinds of dominances in an individual's learning process, and without losing sight of the fact that at all times one is dealing with a person, a unique individual who exists outside of a classroom as well. When I worked for

Wingspan Arts

during the 2006-2007 school year, many were the times I wished I had more training in my interaction with challenging students. It seems as though I'll get some of that, finally, and at no cost to me. Additionally, I'm fascinated with the processes of learning and intelligence, especially so since tackling Italian. When it comes to a foreign language class, despite my best intentions,


the challenging student.

I used to regard "resorting to" teaching as giving up on my acting career, way back when I was a college student. College affords us a lot of space to draw conclusions unrelated to real-life experience. The fact is, I've probably learned more in recent years from being a trainer or teacher than I would have had I been enrolled in school the whole time. Plus, a teaching-learning environment is one of those unique opportunities in life to practice the craft of an actor without artifice, and I don't mean simply because one is often in a "stage" relationship to an "audience." In fact, in my opinion a good teacher uses that particular paradigm sparingly. A good teacher, much like a good actor, is more concerned with connecting to and communicating with his or her students than with enforcing any separation or dominating aura of authority. Sure, discipline enters into it, but discipline won't invite absorption of knowledge. Eye contact. Listening. Humor. These are the keys to transforming people into little dry sponges, thirsty for learnin'. And doesn't that sound appealing?

As I tentatively turn my interests toward directing plays, I'm reminded of something

David Zarko

once said to me about division in rehearsal (and, if memory serves, he was paraphrasing Brecht): It's important to keep rehearsal and training in separate spaces--not just in time, but if possible literally in separate rooms. The thinking behind this is that actors need to associate the space in which they work with how they're expected to behave. In a classroom, in training, mistakes can (


, in my world) be made, but the emphasis is on a narrow goal that can generally be defined in terms of right and wrong. Whereas, in an ideal rehearsal room, actors must allow for willfully getting things "wrong" all the time, in order to explore, to make discoveries, and above all make their work true. It may seem a subtle difference but, believe me, it's not.

When I teach, I have a concrete goal to be achieved, and that satisfies me. When I act, the goal is in the process, never-ending, which offers a rather unique series of satisfying moments. These bleed into one another in various ways. The success to be found in both, I think, is in doing them equally well.

Read Me?

Before you ask: My butt feels okay today, inasmuch as a butt can that is apparently seriously damaged.

Some have expressed confusion at my schedule, of late and upcoming. I can't begin to imagine why. I suppose it could have something to do with the way in which I myself never actually know what I'll be doing much in advance of a week beforehand. Such is the life of the unrepresented, slightly-whorish-about-work actor. (Come on. Everyone's a little whorish about the stuff they love.) So I thought I would give an update on what I think is happening for me this summer. What I


is happening, mind you. You don't get to hold me to this, because I don't get to hold anybody to anything they promise me regarding work and travel. Them's the breaks.

Some of the more niggling questions of late:

By-Stander of Innocence:

Hey Jeff, how come you aren't in Italy right now?

VERY good question, helpful By-Stander. I myself am often amazed by life's little surprises. It turned out that we did not achieve our enrollment quota for

In Bocca al Lupo

, and thus it seemed we weren't able to go. Then David Zarko, artistic director of

The Northeast Theatre

, asked us if we could apply for grants and pay part of our airfare as actors. To the first we said yes, the second, no. We did not get the grants, and most of we lot are pretty shallow-of-pocket. Suddenly David pipes in again, saying, "Well, what the hell! I want to go with youse guys, and--being that I am gradually becoming the real estate baron of Upper Left-Hand Scranton--if we make it a two-week trip I can afford to take you." So we were on again, for the last two weeks in May. But then one of us had show conflicts with that time, and David thought we could get better prices later, so now we are positively, definitively going to be there the last two weeks of June. Maybe.


Soooooo . . . how comes you hain't been writing about teaching with Wingspan Arts all month, then?

Well, when I left off teaching with


at the start of May, it was with the idea that I had two weeks to find a new apartment before going to Italy, and very little money to accomplish this. Now I have a little more money and Italy is put off, but I am still, technically, apartmentless. So it's best for both me and the youth of America that I NOT be compelled to invoke any disciplinary action upon them.


Enough said. Do you miss it?

Badly. I miss the kids, and Alex. Hopefully the timing will work out that I can see their final presentation before really, truly (maybe) leaving for Italy.


And what of

The Torture Project


Joint Stock Theatre Alliance

? Are they still going strong? Are you still strongly going along with them, or have you been left at the side of Collaboration Road with nothing but a few creative notions wrapped in a handkerchief tied to the end of a stick?

Er . . . . That's very poetic, By-Stander. Are YOU by any chance involved with a collaborative theatre project?


Who isn't?

Indeed. Well, refer to a previous entry of mine (


) and you will see that the above project has miraculously transformed itself unto a show entitled

As Far As We Know

, created by a theatre company now monikered as

UnCommon Cause

. Same bat-people, same bat-project, different bat-names. And yes, as far as I know, I'll still appear on stage. (Speaking of which: Todd. I need those work-out tips NOW.) In fact,

As Far As We Know

shall grace one of the stages of the

NYC Fringe

in August. So we're gearing up to hustle and bustle to create the most fully realized version of the show to date. With a script, and everything. Hopefully we'll maintain some of the homey effects, like string lights. String lights make everything pretty. Currently, along with several writer meetings prior, we're planning to escape to

New Hampshire

once again at the end of July to get some focused development done.


Wait, wait. At the end of July? Won't that conflict with projects you've mentioned previously?

The Exiled

, and something with Friend Melissa's company,

Kinesis Project Dance Theatre


Yes and no, happily and sadly.

The Exiled

(which I keep thinking of as

Teh Exiled

; consider it, Nat...?) was not accepted into the Fringe, obviously because the Fringe only accepts fluffy, unresearched and underdeveloped material. Wait. No. Um . . . I guess . . . LOOK! A SEAGULL! {sound of hurried footsteps, fading into the distance} But never fear: Friend Nat fully intends to mount the show all the same (fan as he is of mounting things), possibly at the end of August, when all of this Fringe-related madness has blown over.


, however, I had to bow out of, owing to conflicts at both ends of the project's development. This makes me very sad, as it is hardly the first time I've had to abandon both Friends




--creatively speaking--and their faith in me probably can't take much more. That's not to their discredit AT ALL. Quite the contrary. I just basically owe them a percentage of all the cash I make from other shows I end up doing during the time we had planned to work together. Guys, your checks for 72 cents are in the mail.


Okay. I'm starting to get the picture here. So you'll be around more than usual this summer?

Yes (if by "more than usual" you mean, "at all"), and I have aspirations of many open acrobalance sessions in Central Park as a result. I will, of course, keep my hungry public updated on the progress of that as it develops.


Great! So the rest of the summer, you'll be busy, but around--

Ah, not quite. There is also a week at the start of July--from the 2nd to the 6th, to be precise--when I will be in Pennsylvania teaching children ages six to sixteen about the glories of physical theatre and acrobalance.


I see. BUT, apart from that, your summer will be spent in and around the Big Apple, and of course in the fall there's so much going on here you'll need to stay local--

Er. Um.


. . . What?

I, uh. Starting August 27th I'll be out of town for over two months collaborating on the newest

Zuppa del Giorno


Prohibitive Standards


: . . .

Sorry. Sorry. It's like this: See, I work really hard at my craft. The only thing that limits me in this is the opportunity to do so in any context that supports the rest of my life, which opportunity is unpredictable in occasion and duration. So when I get to do it,


in a context in which I really, personally care about the work itself . . . well, it's not to be missed, no matter how much it may rattle the equilibrium of my life at large. Hence the mad schedule, and feeling all warm and fuzzy inside the more theatrical obligations I have to run around to. It doesn't make sense. It does, however, make me happy.

By-Stander of Now Somewhat Less Innocence:

But how's your butt feeling?

Quiet, you.

Strange Times bring Strange Tidings

Where have I been? Where have I been? I've been busy, okay? Do I have to report every little thing I do to you, huh? Huh? Do I? Do I? No. NO! I DON'T!

I'm sorry. Hey: I'm sorry. Really. I lost my temper and, um, I . . . I said some things I shouldn't have said there. I may have, you know, given you the impression that I felt smothered, and I don't. I do not. No, no, I'm just . . . stressed. I'm a little stressed right now, and I took it out on you and that wasn't fair and I'm sorry. Okay? Can I make you some pancakes? How about waffles?

And just where have I been? Oh, here and there. The glorious thing about my end-o-week is the astonishingly little time it has me strapped into a desk. The un-bloggerly thing about it, is the astonishingly little time it has me strapped into a desk. It's a trade-off. But it's Saturday morning, I'm doing laundry and watching old Paramount(TM) Superman(R) cartoons (first episode: "Japoteurs"!) and finally my much-neglected 'blog gets a tune-up.

When last we left our erstwhile hero, he was opining about the glacial pace of The Torture Project's development. He has since resuscitated after various activities in the intervening day-and-a-half to the extent that he is barely aware of writing about himself in the third person. >Ahem.< I did receive some unexpected support in my feeling of impatience over the TP, which helps me feel less psychotically insecure, so thank you, O eponymous anonymous contributor. In addition, we had circus night at the loft on a Thursday this week. We did not receive the promised jugglers, but we did have both Zoe(umlaut) and Dave of Paradizo Dance with us--a rare treat. I got to fly a thigh stand on Dave, which was like climbing a tree with roots to China, and based Zoe(u) in a high angel, which was a first for me. Friday brought another day teaching at Validus Preparatory Academy, but another "first." This time it was the first time both Alex and I were supervising the boys as they filmed themselves playing basketball, and it was fascinating. The guys were more responsive and invested in the project, and Alex learned a little bit about all the kind of work I had to do in her absence last semester. After that it was off to a photo shoot for A Lie of the Mind at Manhattan Theatre Source. I bought one of those circa-70s cowboy shirts (with the pearly snaps) for the occasion--a fantasy buy for me for some time now (whoa, slow down there, Tex) and the shoot was spent in pretty continual laughter over the antics of Todd d'Amour and Laura Schwenninger.

Tomorrow returns me to The Torture Project, but after such a varied series of hours I feel more equipped to be there. It's strange how that works. There is the usual inertia factor when it comes to personal energy, how one just generally feels capable of more when he or she is already active; there is also, however, a kind of recharge to acting that comes from just living a little more life. I wonder sometimes if it works the same in all things creative, or in all things in general. You have to be out there, having a life, to bring something back into whatever you're working on. Do other things one is working on count toward that? I venture a yea. It's worked for me this weekend.


That is the finsky quote of the day, and also the subject of today's (very brief) 'blogination. I am struck today by the fickle nature of moods. Really, as an actor, I'm not supposed to believe in moods, insofar as the word can be used to describe a mysterious or unwarranted reaction. Everything has meaning to an actor--purpose, reason. The "because" is part of the daily grist for an actor's mill, even if sometimes that "because" amounts to something like, "Because it works." Nevertheless, I think life is full of unexplained moodiness. I'm not saying they happen without reason, but I am saying some of the reasons one experiences a mood are far too complex or far-reaching in their sources to ever be sufficiently divined. Yet it's rare that we try to capture this on stage, because it doesn't create a feeling of identification with an audience.

Take today, for example. I came in to work with such a good mood on that nothing stood in my way. (I also didn't get much 'blogging done, but everything's a trade-off.) Why? Can't say. Caught up on some sleep. This is essentially my Friday, as tomorrow I have a

film-making class

to participate in and Friday I return to

Validus Preparatory Academy

for class sign-up and then whisk myself out to Pennsylvania for a


reading by

this guy


this place

. So work to look forward to as well. A variety of factors. But if only I could access this kind of enthusiasm on a regular basis! Dear God, what couldn't I do?

Surely there's a way to do just that, at the times I need it most, and hence avoid periods of inexplicable melancholy.

Something besides hard drugs, I mean. And

The Power of Positive Thinking

, which makes me want to hit people.

"[Jeff] killed a guy."

"I saw that!"

Film Debuts and Saving the World

I am having myself a lazy weekend, people. How lazy, you ask? Two words, people, two words:

  1. Pan.
  2. Cakes.

Oh yeah. That bad. If I have the presence of mind and heartiness of spirit to invest time and eggs in making (baking?) pancakes, it is a time-taking weekend indeed.

This may simply be fall-out from the end of my week, and energy-storing for the start of the next. Monday Heather and I are driving off to Philadelphia to teach a

three-hour workshop

in physical theatre to actual, really-real professional actors like ourselves. (Possibly entirely unlike ourselves, potentially higher-earning, better-looking professional actors...but I'm trying not to linger on such possibilities.) All this is to serve the goal of

In Bocca al Lupo

and its endless hunger for virgin souls. Our students always think it's a joke, or some Suzuki-inspired training technique ("I saw Bogart make her actors do this once!") when we tie them to a giant stake and run away. Oh no. When we say "into the mouth of the wolf," we're being more literal than you imagine, and we don't want to be around when the beast emerges to slake its thirst for actor sanguine...

And, of course, Friday was the last day of my classes up at

Validus Preparatory Academy

, in the Bronx. Our film-making students showed their work (well, their film...Alex and I [and ultimately: Alex] ended up editing their work together) to the rest of their school and visiting parents and funders. My bosses,

Wingspan Arts

, were there as well. All-in-all, it went well, though it went long. Every "community class" showed something, from karate, to poetry, to fiction, to hip-hop, African drumming,


, etc. We sort of kicked it off, though, and I think got everyone into a good mood for the rest. During the semester, Alex divided the class into two groups--fiction and documentary--since I was there for coverage. Her group of four documentarians showed their film first, an interview piece about the decision to have sex. Next was my group of anywhere-from-six-to-ten, depending-on-who-managed-to-slip-out-of-their-other-community-class, who made a "feature" (read: random capturing of celebrated moments) about sports; specifically basketball and football. It was a hit, I'd judge. Five minutes of hero-worship and good-natured foppery. Yes, my Freshmen managed to get comfortable enough in their own skins to even fop a bit, and have it shown to their peers.

But it was five minutes. The movie, when it left my hands at 9:00pm Wednesday night, was about fifteen minutes long. I knew it was going to be cut down drastically. Alex informed me earlier in that week that we didn't have the time for the whole thing. She also told me that the administrator of Wingspan wanted her to do the final edit so the two would be "stylistically consistent." I buy this for one minute not, says I, but I'm new here and frankly already worked on the film harder than someone getting paid $35 a week ought. So I complied, simultaneously informing Alex that I didn't believe the excuse of stylistic consistency. What's done is done. I tried to make my film about conflict resolution, including a real fight between two boys in my class (with the participants' consent) and ending in their playing happily with a whole other school. What was shown on Friday was probably more what everyone wanted: a playful sampling of boys at play.

And so this weekend I did work, but honestly, played more. This past week my

City of Heroes

account was reactivated (thanks be to you, Hubbardses) and, though I'm now sharing it with a person or two, that means I have yet another fantasy world to escape into when I'm at home amidst all my facilities. Which isn't necessarily a helpful thing (and rarely ever productive) but this weekend I just didn't care. For the un-indoctrinated,

City of Heroes

is an online game in which one creates a superhero and busts heads (you can also make a character who heals heads and guides heads but...come on), all amidst a very realistically rendered world (apart from all the freaky superheroes running about) and in time with other players. It's a geek's paradise. I don't even get all the various game controls and menus. It's


geek chic.

Incidentally, did you know the word, "superhero," is shared under joint copyright by




comics? No joke. So whatever you do, don't pay me for this article.

Perhaps there's a certain hypocrisy to my intentions of making a student video about conflict resolution, and then going home and giddily blasting the snot out of "criminals." In


(you are in on one more useless web abbreviation), the generic criminals at large are designated by wearing hats and orange/red signature clothing. You don't have to find probable cause, you don't have to read them their rights or understand their feelings, you just find them and ambush them. But the relationship is simple in this way, and that can be refreshing at times. Neither of you is trying to get money from the other without being direct about it. Neither of you is circumventing notorious artistic temperament with excuses steeped in aesthetic issues. Neither of you wants anything more than to kill the other. Okay. Go.

Speaking of which, I have to go. I have to return the hard drive I bought for the film project to Circuit City. (Store motto: "We won't call it 'renting' so we feel better about it.") I've burned a DVD of my original film; there is a record. Then I have to get to Kinko's to place the order for brochures for our workshop in Philadelphia.

Then I've got a date with Adam to kill lots and lots of aliens.