Biding a Do: Change and Its...Anticipation

Hwæt: I am considering moving

Odin's Aviary

- which since its inception has called Blogger its home - on over to my

refreshed website

. The reasons are various and sensible; the hesitation largely ignorant and nostalgic. Yet I tarry.

This week I performed, and had my writing performed, at

No, You Tell It!

, which was a much-anticipated event on my part that I used as motivation to get certain of my creative goals in order, post-initiation into fatherhood. I try occasionally to set my own deadlines, but they're never as effective as those applied to me by an outside party.

Anyway, as I frenetically revised my personal narrative for April 22nd, I also finally got off my duff to re-engineer my website for April 6th, when the press for the event would start. When I passed around the new website for feedback, the ever-amazing


gave me a laundry list of "suggestions," primary of which was to get the dang


over where I profess to call myself some kind of writer, and

tout de suite


There is an interesting thematic overlap here, of the sort I used to often experience early in my acting career. In those days, I attributed it to rather mysterious, quasi-Jungian synergy - a sign of "following the path." Now-a-days, I tend to think of it as me trying to tell myself something, quietly yet persistently, from the background of the daily struggle and strife. Either way, it is that weird sensation of life imitating art. Or whatever whatever.

I took to the revision of my website as something of a workshop in figuring out what in the hell I'd be doing as a creative person who's prioritized the support of his family over unbounded freedom to act like an actor. I took to the writing assignment for

No, You Tell It!

as a workshop in really going for effective and significant revision of my writing. We were all writing to a theme - in this case: "outdated" - and I ended up writing about becoming a parent, the life cycle of a theatre troupe and the regular yet somehow unpredictable rhythms of life itself.

All of this seems very well-ordered, connected and natural. I assure you: I PLANNED NOTHING. I'M MAKING THIS UP AS I GO ALONG.

As I always have. I need to surprise myself. It's at least to some extent a coping mechanism - aimed against depression, uncertainty, insecurity. There's a tension in my life - between a need for order and a need for surprise - that is mirrored in my writing process. I mean, I


written from an outline before. Usually it's under duress, on threat of torture by 1) a writing partner, and/or 2) an admittedly limited personal capacity for long-term memory. Generally speaking however, what I enjoy about writing is the surprises the process brings me.

It's not dissimilar to improvised comedy. You have an invisible framework - threes, setup/suspension/punchline, what-you-will - and just try to make poking around in the dark as interesting and relevant as possible until you hit on the hilarious. It is all about the moment, and nothing feels quite as like magic as that discovery. It would be a shame to capture it, mold it, distort what is plainly inspiration into something staid and flat and un-prophet-able.

So has gone my internal justification for not working over my own work when it comes to writing. Revision would squelch whatever was special about the original experience. Prove a dishonor to that inspiration. What an incredible excuse.

So how does someone who has it built into his philosophy


to revise, go about revising his life?

Though it seems grandiose to put it that way, it does not feel like an exaggeration. Even if becoming a parent hadn't meant sacrificing certain other creative opportunities, if I had attained a level of fiscal success that allowed me to keep acting up a storm and keep coming home by 5:00, parenthood still necessitates learning how to better order one's life. I laugh, derisively, at my younger self's occasional complaints of a lack of time or occasional boredom. Then I cry just a little bit, inside, before hitching up my (sexy) work slacks and tackling another day.

I did some good work through

No, You Tell It!

, work I'm proud about, toward learning how to effectively step back and revise. And my website looks much better. I count these successes. But: I did not succeed.

I did not succeed because the website, though it is pretty and more functional, still lacks direction - intention - and still emphasizes me as an actor. I did not succeed because my piece for the "outdated" event suffered in similar ways, still written in a voice aggressively eschewing an easy read, and still emphasizing exploration over communication. I still don't know what I'm doing. But I'm on the path, physically and metaphysically, which is sometimes the best you can do.

So there will be more changes coming - revisions, if you will (and whether you will or won't, frankly). Among these:

Odin's Aviary

will be transplanted to live under my moniker, part of the unified-field-theory of Jeff.

Perhaps somehow prescient of this, one of the live interview questions asked of me on stage at

No, You Tell It!

in prelude to my story being presented was about this here 'blog title. I explained about thought and memory, Huginn and Muninn, and how that seemed appropriate for a personal 'blog, without getting into my nigh fetishistic adoration of ravens. One interesting thing I failed to realize until just now, however, is that a primary characteristic of Odin himself is...fatherhood.

There might be something to this "reviewing what we create" after all.


"A word with a long pedigree in English is 'triskaidekaphobia,' which comes from the Greek phrase meaning 'fear of the number three and ten.' A fear of Friday the thirteenth adds the name of the Norse goddess Frigga, who was the wife of Odin and the mysterious, sometimes scary queen of all the gods."

~The Word Origin Calendar, Friday, January 13, 2012

I'll explain carefully to

Wife Megan

that her new nickname of "Frigga" is an honorific, but I can't promise I won't occasionally use it as a quasi-homonym in times of frustration.

Mysteries and Secrets

Neil Gaiman


Neil Gaiman is an incredible treasure of storytelling, whom I can appreciate largely due to the years-ago efforts of

Expatriate Dave

to make me experience as much of Mr. Gaiman's work as possible. Since that time (around age 17, this was) I have consumed every iota of his work that I could, and his work includes comics, other literature, movies, a

daily 'blog

and numerous odds and ends besides. If you don't know his work, you should, even if you don't consider yourself a fan of fantastical fiction. He has very good ideas, and he steals awfully well. By which I mean that one of the things I love about his work is the way he can tie together disparate old ideas and stories with new ones and make something appreciably unique. This could be considered a decent description of what any artist endeavors to do. Neil Gaiman is an artist.

I decided to write about him today because I have noticed many disparate ideas and stories coming together for me lately that point his way. In brief:

  • I'm reading a book about him I received for Christmas.
  • He was just on "The Colbert Report," which I stayed up to see (WAY past night-before-open-call bedtime).
  • He just made Wife Megan's esteemed list of Famous People With Whom She Would Like to Have a Conversation.
  • I've been enjoying the fiction-writing process of late, especially with Friend WHftTS.
  • Expatriate Younce actually confessed some writerly desires to me the other night -- a victory for the cause of Fiction, I assure you.
  • He recently experienced a personal loss that makes me wish I could do something for him, as he's done so much for me.

I had an opportunity to share a word or two with Neil Gaiman a few years back, when he was in town signing copies of his short-story collection,

Fragile Things

. He was interviewed by John Hodgman, which was hilarious and insightful, and then took a seat at the back of the room to sign hundreds upon hundreds of signatures. I waited my turn in line with my and Megan's books, and I thought about things. I had a signed copy of his novel


that I had won in a costume contest back in my home town, and it seemed unbelievable that I was going to watch him sign a book from my very hand. I wondered what I would say, and suddenly the whole thing felt eerily familiar. Looking back, I realize the panic I felt was the exact same feeling I have waiting for an open call. Suffice it to say, I thought of a million things I could say. When I got to the table, I squeaked. Something. I don't know. I think I've since blocked it out. But I know it was squeaky, whatever it was.

The Zen Buddhists believe that the elimination of desire is a key to enlightenment. When I want something as much as to be cast off-Broadway, or to get into a discussion about mythology with Neil Gaiman, I can see their point. It can be crippling.

Mythology, as a concept, is a very interesting way of looking at our lives. Obviously I would say so -- see name o'blog -- but a few thousand years' worth of actual mythology may be said to back me up on this as well. I used to think of mythology on the whole (and prepare for more sweeping generalizations here) as a way of devising answers to difficult questions. I was taught that these stories came about because primitive peoples needed an answer to things like lightning storms, death and babies. I won't argue against that theory, but it is only one theory. The more I learn about them, the more I see the enduring mythologies as stories and beliefs that return people to essential questions, rather than direct answers. Moreover, I see mythology not as giving us guidelines or neat morals for our living, providing context, so much as it

changes our story

. Stories influence other stories, and one person's life can be said to be a (hopefully) long, largely sequential story. What I realized while standing in that line was that Gaiman's stories had profoundly affected my life, my story. In fact, just at that moment, it seemed entirely likely that his stories had had the most influence on mine, out of all of them. Thus: Squeak.

I don't know if myth and mystery have any relation, etymologically speaking, but I find them to be very closely related. Brothers, almost. In his famous


graphic novels, Gaiman resurrected DC Comics' versions of Cain and Abel as the keepers of mysteries and secrets, respectively. According to that particular mythology, a mystery is a mystery because it was meant to be shared, a secret a secret because it ought to be forgotten . . . if it can be. Mythology, fiction, stories, they all confront unanswerable questions in one way or another, and it's by sharing them that we fulfill their functions. So I hope you'll share in some of Gaiman's, because it's no secret that they're uncommonly good.

Short Shrift

Quick one here, as we've a manatee this afternoon, and I'm busily preparing for a quick trip home afterward for my day-and-a-half off. The coming week will be jam-packed for me: Shows, teaching acrobalance to the theatre's

conservatory class

(sans my usual teaching partner), teaching a workshop on career management at


, and choreographing fights for North Pocono's


(you may recall our teaching there

back in October

). My hope, however, is to do a proper entry about some of the process behind

The Very Nearly Perfect Comedy of Romeo & Juliet

sometime tomorrow, between getting my tax paperwork straight and working the kinks out of my rather bruised body.

For today, I just want to say thanks to everyone for their thoughts and encouragement in seeing us through this process. It seems to have been a project that has inspired a lot of enthusiasm in people, and created a certain synergy in the community -- both the local community, and the larger, meta-community of our far-and-wide friends and family. I was reminded of this vast, unseen network of support in a couple of ways in the past twelve hours. Last night, after the show, I was greeted by several students from both Marywood and North Pocono who had attended. This was a big deal to me. It's a kind of community that is only created by open sharing, and a willingness to learn, and I can not value it highly enough.

And then this morning, a different kind of reminder. I woke a bit groggy from a late bedtime, and lingered in bed, checking my email on my phone (not even thinking of

casting news

, I assure you). In my inbox was not one, but two messages from friends letting me know that I showed up in their dreams last night. One is a friend whom I haven't seen in years, that worked with me on the very first show I ever acted in with David Zarko as director, and the other is a friend who lives all the way out in merry olde England. I regard it as an unequivocal good omen when I show up in others' dreams. This is the kind of thing that I'm sure I have Facebook to thank for, yet I also feel that it's owed in part to the power of this play. It's the kind of story that signifies so much to so many that it has only to be mentioned and one finds oneself making strong associations, and perhaps thinking of younger times. That alone is reason to do a funny, mad-cap version of

Romeo & Juliet

; that alone is worth the work and tears. Thanks, everyone, for keeping the star-cross'd lovers alive in your hearts.

Also, in one of their dreams: I was Han Solo. That's neither here nor there, but I had to mention it...

Fair Winds

Last night I attended what was a first for me: A staged reading of a musical. Tom Diggs, of NYU's First Look fame from some time ago, wrote the book and lyrics, and invited me out for it by replying to


email about


. This could be the most direct evidence of the importance of simply being present in the New York theatre community as it relates to contacts and casting: People call on the people they've heard from recently. More evidence of this was to be found in my own efforts to assemble a cast for my upcoming reading -- I had a couple of people respond as unavailable, and when I searched my files for replacements, I realized I had neglected a whole throng of good possible actors for the roles. Why? Because I hadn't spoken to them in a while. But I digress.

Once Upon a Wind

is a musical that concerns itself with the story of two children coming of age in WWI England. Jay d'Amico wrote the music, and Jeremy Dobrish directs, which was an unusual coincidence -- Friend Todd is now appearing in


, a play he directed for the MCC in 2007. I was impressed as all hell with the cast. I find readings to be difficult to act, given the restraints of physical movement and all the conventions involved (such as music stands). These people gave a very effective reading

with full song

. A small feat for musical-theatre types perhaps, but I was impressed as hell with them: Molly Ephraim, Alex Brightman, Laura Fois, Kavin Pariseau, Marcus Stevens and Ken Triwush. Oran Eldor gets a lot of credit for that, I'm sure, as the musical director and (I assume) pianist. The reading was a part of the

TRU Voices series

at The Players Theatre, exactly the same venue at which

I performed in

American Whup-Ass

last spring

. It's a showcase for plays seeking production, and specifically focuses on getting feedback and advice from accomplished producers.

The play also concerns itself with an interesting phenomenon in England at the time --

the Cottingley fairies

. It takes some inspiration from the story, I should say, and it's a story I have some familiarity with. When I was very young, I went through a period of some obsession with "paranormal" occurrences and sightings. I wasn't so much interested in ghosts, rather with mythological or prehistoric beasts that might, in fact, exist. So I had read a little something about Elsie and Frances and their faux photographs, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the reading I was watching would be using that kind of source material. As you might imagine a musical doing,

Once Upon a Wind

explores the world of believers versus pragmatists, but it does it with a surprising balance. It never goes Disney on you (one could just about wait for the Tinkerbell meta-joke), yet keeps a sense of humor in the face of serious subjects like the loss of a loved one and our dueling needs to grow up, and to remain innocent. I hope Tom continues with it, and that it develops into a full production.

Personally, I don't feel that the will to believe is necessarily childish, or delusional. I think it's creative, and creativity is a strength, not a weakness. During the turn of the century, and the world wars, a lot of people turned to spiritualism and its cousins in search of something. We tend to view such searching as naive and, in a sense, this is as true as can be. It begins with accepting the possibility that we don't know something. And that's the beginning of any good discovery.