I'm frankly surprised: I did a search for this word in the Aviary, to see when I'd ruminated on it previously, and came up with only one occurrence -- yesterday. That was only in reference to Friend Melissa's upcoming dance exhibition. The reason this surprises me is that I think about it quite a bit in terms of human (read: my) behavior. I think it's pretty undeniable that one does not become an actor without a certain persistent "Look at me!" impulse, and naturally I feel a bit conflicted about that. I don't think that's one of the better bits of acting technique, I really hate obvious artifice and insincerity, I do hate to be scrutinized, yet I must admit that I have a very basic urge to perform for an audience.

I've had two rehearsals over the past two evenings, one for each performance I'm doing



. Tuesday night was for the benefit performance with

Bond Street Theatre

, and I spent a couple of hours cavorting about Monty-Python-style in their loft rehearsal-space-slash-apartment. I had come from il day jobo, and so was dressed in appropriate gear for the scene: button-down shirt, slacks, etc. As we progressed, however, I cuffed up my pants so the hems wouldn't drag (I was shoeless) and, as I got warmed up, stripped off my shirt, so I was wearing only my undershirt. Suddenly I found I had more energy for making physical choices. I was very interested in the choices to be made in the character's posture, his pace and quality of movement, and all the rest. Getting warm and losing the little suggestions of restriction that office clothes suggest contributed to this, of course, but there is also a large mirror in the studio that did not escape my attention.

Presume for a moment that there is a difference between an impulse toward exhibition, and vanity. They may be so closely related that they're like married cousins (ew), but let's still say they've got a distinct DNA strand or two. Vanity presupposes an attractive visage, or at the very least the potential to attract in that way. Exhibitionism, however, has more to do with being seen than being admired and/or being wanted for procreation purposes. Those of us excited by looking wretched in front of large groups may not necessarily be all that vain. What vanity I do suffer I try to be aware of, and keep in check with equal parts objectivity and self-deprecating humor.

It's a lucky thing that I have nice eyes; they just read past my long, crooked nose that way.

That sort of balance of power, if you will.

Last night the rehearsal was for the reading of

Tom Rowan

's play,

Burning Leaves

, and it actually took place at Tom's apartment, on 40th Street. The whole thing was a bit unconventional: in an apartment that had recently been moved into, an unfamiliar neighborhood, it was late to accommodate various schedules. Unconventional does not in this case mean unusual, mind -- New York conditions of living and renting often necessitate unconventional solutions. Nevertheless, I had a lot of time to kill before rehearsal, and in that time I think I got a little uncomfortable, a little introspective, so that when I arrived for rehearsal I didn't feel all that engaged, much less demonstrative. It's rather a new group to work with, too, yadda yadda yadda. I had my reasons. I was self-conscious, and slow to warm up. Gradually I became more comfortable, and my acting choices improved in both their execution and the quality of choice. This time, however, I did not find the comfort to improve from exhibiting myself. Rather, I found it in gradually letting go of the worries related to exhibiting oneself.

Oh, balance! You are such an elusive spirit! When I began looking seriously into Eastern philosophy, I ultimately chose to align myself with Taoism instead of Zen Buddhism (this was way back in the day, when I was so young I didn't know what a hangover was [not really] and I didn't have necessary stretches to do every morning). There were many reasons for this choice -- although the concept of Zen had a strong appeal for me -- but the most convincing reason has to do with the difference in the way Taoists and Buddhists generally approach the problem of human desire. Buddhists believe the only way to spiritually improve oneself is to rid oneself of all earthly desires, and possibly, ultimately, all spiritual desires as well (they don't have


for nothing). Taoists, on the other hand, acknowledge desire as a natural aspect of humanity, and one that's part of the whole process. Transcendent thought and action is available in any part of the whole. Instead of urging you to let go of all desire from the word "go," a Taoist might say, "Good luck with that," and mean it. I think desires are good to transcend. I also think they're good to learn from.

So I keep performing. The farther along I get, the more that desire for exhibition changes; perhaps it grows more mature. I'd like to think it does. I'd like to think that I'll become more intelligent and balanced in my performance as I continue to live and learn and, so far at least, I believe my progress has been evident. In the long view. When I was in my hometown for

The Big Show

, I ran into my high school drama teacher in a restaurant, the very day of the event. I hadn't seen or spoken to him in over a dozen years, and I was shy to approach him. Once I had, however, I wanted to audition for him. Not to be cast, obviously. But maybe just to be seen.

"3: We are now held within un-, sub- or supernatural forces. Discuss."

The comment thread on my last post (see


) has me seriously jonesing for a good

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

quote match. For those of you unfamiliar with the




, it's essentially an absurdist retelling of Hamlet from the vantage point of the two minor characters made titular ("of a title," you perverts). It's a fave. It's often


fave, depending on mood, time of day, strength of coffee and relative distance of Saturn from Venus. So, some favorite quotes, checked against


, from which even more can be found...


"Out we come, bloodied and squalling, with the knowledge that for all the points of the compass, there's only one direction, and time is its only measure."

"Life in a box is better than no life at all, I expect."

"We'll be all right. I suppose we just go on."



clearly the part I want


"I mean, you wouldn't bet on it. I mean, I would, but you wouldn't."

"It must be indicative of something besides the redistribution of wealth."

"What could we possibly have in common except our situation?"

"All your life you live so close to truth it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of your eye. And when something nudges it into outline, it's like being ambushed by a grotesque."

"A man talking sense to himself is no madder than a man talking nonsense not to himself."

"Don't you discriminate at all?!"

"If we had a destiny, then so had he, and if this is ours, then that was his, and if there are no explanations for us, then let there be none for him."

"...now you see him, now you don't, that's the only thing that's real..."

"Pragmatism. Is that all you have to offer?"

"No, no, no…death is


. Death


. Take my meaning? Death is the ultimate negative. Not-being. You can't not be on a boat."

The Player

"The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily. That is what tragedy means."

"We do on stage things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else."

"We are tied down to a language which makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style."

"Hamlet…in love…with the old man's daughter…the old man…thinks."

Cobbled dialogue

"So there you are...stark, raving sane..."

"I don't believe in it anyway ... What? ... England. ... Just a conspiracy of cartographers, you mean?"

Up in Smoke

Last night I acted in a staged reading of one of

Tom Rowan

's plays,

Burning Leaves

. Foist of all: I have a lot of audience members from the night to be grateful for. It must have seemed like I was packing the house, which would be easy to do--it was easily the smallest "theatre" space I have ever worked in. It was akin to a return to the womb, and the play is not, as yet, a short one, so I owe big thanks to Friends





Kate C.


Sister Virginia


Fiancee Megan

. Way to go, guys. Way. To. Go.

Not that the experience was in any way bad. The script is, in fact, excellent. My friends were very engaged by the story and the performances, and only had critique for the run time -- a quite forgivable fault in my opinion when it comes to an initial reading. This was evidently a reading aimed at giving Tom some perspective on his work in action; the crowd seemed intimate and friendly, and he has already got a literary agent representing him (she was in the front row, and what I wouldn't give to know her response). I felt fairly good about my work, though I had a bit of that familiar sensation wherein I think to myself, "Damn--that went so much better in rehearsal..." It's hard to get away from that, particularly in a performance that has such a brief and concentrated rehearsal period. I just try to remind myself that some things go worse, but others go better, and I just have to stay open to the possibility each time of having the most true and effective performance yet.

I had several reasons to meditate on the various distractions that can enter an actor's concentration during his or her work, even while the reading went along. Not that I wasn't kept busy: I think there were maybe ten pages out of over a hundred on which my character didn't have substantial dialogue. The distractions, though seemed to begin to gang up on me even prior to entering that (very small) room. I had dressed casually nice for the event, and was careful to keep myself that way through my work day, but at my hasty dinner I spilled grease on my pants. The chairs we sat in for the reading had arms (rehearsal did not), which felt limiting and inappropriate, somehow. And my friends, God bless them, all sat in one corner and were not shy about being themselves. Add to that the audience just being very visible and very close in general, and you have yourself many interesting choices for being taken out of character. Fortunately for me, the script is very effective, to the point at which I almost didn't need to manifest the emotions involved. They were just there, ready.

In some ways, being an actor can boil down to an exercise in determination and concentration. The funny thing is, we have to remain supple and open at the same time, to allow impulses in and unpredictable forces to affect us. My character in this reading, a former NYC actor who moves to a more suburban environment to teach, recalls a director he worked for telling him acting should be a "stripping away of layers" to his soul. Apart from this immediately reminding me of the onion scene from

Peer Gynt

, it also reminds me of how the actual craft of acting, at its best, seems to work. Never mind souls and Truth, and all. A really successful acting experience is all about shedding, rather than accumulating, layers of analysis and lines and decision and fear and, hell, everything. Even the concentration so necessary for doing an effective job has to eventually become unnecessary. We're aiming for an emptiness, a nothingness, of sorts, to become cyphers for . . . what? Maybe it is Truth (by which I mean something more than simple verisimilitude), or maybe it's some kind of human energy, continuous and interdependent. I can't say. All I can say is that my best memories of jobs well done are suspiciously blank. They're mostly just a


of having hit the sweet spot, and the collective details are as impossible to touch as a leaf turned to ashes on the wind.

This reading was no such sweet spot on my part, though it went well enough. It was, however, one of those experiences that reminds me that this work is worth the struggle, the concentration, all of it. Sometimes, it seems like a very good trade-off indeed.

"April is the Cruelest Month"

It's taken me a long time to come to this decision, and I have to admit it's difficult for me to declare it, particularly here. It's also apt, however. I began this 'blog with the intention of chronicling the efforts of an actor trying to find an effective balance between his work and the rest of his life. "The Third Life," I called it. From the very beginning, I had to acknowledge the possibility that such a frank observation might lead me to a conclusion I wouldn't otherwise have entertained the possibility of. Now I find myself ready to make a change in my life, and I just have to ask for your understanding in doing so.

I am giving up acting.

To a few of you, this will come as little surprise. From the rest, I don't know what to expect. If you are counting on me for a specific project we've discussed, don't worry -- I'll be honoring those commitments, and fulfilling them just as I would have before my decision. And I won't stop helping friends out with their work, naturally, if they ask me. It's just that I'm going to have to start basing the decisions of my life more upon other things, apart from trying to act all the time. After giving it much thought, it's clear to me that this is the right decision.

It came down to this: What did it matter if I continued or not? What's really important is living a life I can be proud of, one that helps other people and supports my loved ones. Besides, the whole notion of "art" needing to be my career is hopelessly naive. Art can still have a prominent place in my life, regardless of what I spend the majority of my time doing. I won't stop thinking and having ideas, feeling and reaching out to others. I'll just stop auditioning and rehearsing and performing. I'll catch up on all the fun to be had by living a life that's still unique (it is me, after all) but lived a little closer to the main way.

There is a lot I enjoy doing, and a lot I want to try that has nothing to do with acting. Teaching, for example. I used to view it as a painful compromise, but I've been doing more and more teaching lately, and more often than not I find it a really gratifying experience. I'm not sure just what I'll teach, now that it won't be performance-related, but there's time to figure that out. And I can finally spend time figuring out all those little financial details everyone else has in their lives: 401(k)s, stock options, equity, etc. I have no idea what these things really are! And now I'll have the time and access to them to learn. I've been wanting to reacquaint myself with the trombone since last Fall, and can finally take those guitar, Italian and kung fu classes I could never commit to before.

Finally -- and this is more important than may at first be obvious -- I will no longer have to feel uncomfortable about myself in relation to the rest of the world. I can meet people and simply say, "I'm an accountant," or, "Did you see how the Giants were playing on Sunday?" People will accept me, and I will understand people. The world will make sense, and I can't wait for it. I've spent so long re-enforcing my own lonely battle for some idea of "truth," and asking difficult questions. Sure, I've had some friends who felt similarly and who questioned with me, and I hope I'll keep them, but now I'll have the rest of the world as my friend. I respect those who can continue that sort of struggle. I just have to do what's right for me.

So thank you, one and all, for joining me for the last year or so of my life lived a certain way. From here on out, this 'blog will catalogue different things; possibly guitar tablature and reviews of television shows, that sort of thing. I'm not sure yet. But the title is definitely going to be "Wednesday's Hobby" from now on.

[Oh and ah: Check the date of this entry. Hope you had a happy one, Fools.]

Going Out with a Bang

I usually prefer a quiet celebration of the New Year. You know: a few friends, some laughs, feeling self-righteous about not subjecting ourselves to the cold and hassle of watching the ball drop in person. That's just how I was raised, really. In NoVa, that seemed like all there was to do on such a holiday. Stay in.


go over to a friend's so you can feel sociable. Drink that really cheap champagne that makes you wonder why anyone in their right mind would want to drink champagne on a regular basis. Count down with everyone until you get to pretend the words of

Auld Lang Syne

actually mean something to you. Then you wait a bit--because of course no one else out reveling will think of waiting a bit--before driving home.

This year, I will usher in the new at the

Hammerstein Ballroom

, enjoying the dulcet tones of Velvet Revolver. For those of you unacquainted with this hybrid band, I understand it to be comprised mainly of the members of Guns n' Roses (plus one guy from Suicidal Tendencies), but with Scott Weiland--of Stone Temple Pilots fame--fronting instead of Axl Rose. They are, in short, a rock band. And in a matter of ten hours or so I will be hearing them live for the first time through newly purchased earplugs.

There's no shortage of contradictions in life. Paradoxes abound. Every time I find myself at a concert that requires earplugs, I also find myself wondering, sometimes even aloud, "Why the hell am I here?" The absurdity of the situation is inherent. Some argue that they want the music to be loud enough to feel the bass in their chest cavity, and I can appreciate that, but I'm also aware that all that really requires is a decent subwoofer placed on the floor. It does not necessitate creating the decibel equivalent of a breaking subway car. But that's rock and roll for you. No one said it ought to make sense.

In many ways, this is an increasingly appropriate way of spending my New Year's. Maybe it was just turning thirty this year, but a lot of the good parts of it have been spent in reclamation of things of my past, trying to make good on promises to myself and reconsider what's truly important to me. I came into the year as uncertain and detached from myself as I've possibly ever been and I leave it with, if not certainty, a very surprising yet somehow familiar intimacy with myself. Reclaiming one's life involves a lot of confrontation: confronting perception, confronting contentment and, perhaps most strange, confronting assumption. There are many ways in which I did this, quite subconsciously, this year. I attended Camp Nerdly (see


), which I never would have thought I'd find myself doing, right up to my arrival there, I returned to Italy (see


), which was a touch-and-go promise right up to the flight, and I managed to push myself to a fairly new physical dimension for

As Far As We Know



), an objective I'd long held and never before dared to commit to.

But the most satisfying illustration for me of reclaiming some of my favorite parts of life, chewing over where I am and where I want to be now, comes from music. You can see over on my Library Thing widget that I recently read a book that had a lot to do with mix tapes. This inspired me to try and make one again for Christmas. For a few years now I've been mailing out what I call "MiX-mas" CDs to close friends, which are compilations of new (to me) music I have on my computer that has meant a lot to me over the course of the year. Processing my music through the computer has had an interesting effect on how I listen to it. It and my iPod urge me toward new music all the time, and I come to appreciate songs over whole albums. I love the access and maneuverability of the format, and it quickly usurped my CDs as the source of my musical accompaniment. When I first became capable of MP3 audio, after importing maybe a third of my CDs, out of a concern for space I stopped. It has, ever since, been an intended "when I have the time" project of mine to crack open the CD binders again and import more music. Just the good stuff. Some day.

In deciding to make a mix tape, I had a lot to do. I actually had to purchase a CD player with a tape deck. I have been using computerized music for so long, I had found my boombox fairly neglected a while ago. If I wanted to listen specifically to a CD, it was usually a mix someone made for me and I'd simply play it over my DVD player or alarm clock. So I bought the cheapest boombox (more a toot-orb) I could find, and felt a certain sense of relief upon finding that, yes, people still sell blank audio cassettes. Then I cracked open the CDs and sort of just gave a listen to anything that I hadn't heard in a while.

I remembered some simple things, like using the "pause" button between changing CDs and keeping an eye on the amount of tape left on the left-hand reel. This is why I was so surprised to be reminded of some other aspects of mix-tapery. I mean, I had been making mix tapes for over a decade before switching to the seductions of laser-guided lyric lathing. Yet it took turning the pages of forgotten albums and the engaging mechanics of an actual tape player to bring back certain things. The main thing was how differently I listened to the music when it was relying on me to cue it. A lot has been acknowledged about the flirtation involved in passing on a mix, but few (to my knowledge) have exposed the complex back-and-forth between music and a mix maker when it comes to real-time recording. For example, does music these days tend to use a fade-out less? Or is that only my perception after making this tape of predominantly 90s music, as I would perk up at any diminution in tone or volume on the songs I was laboriously copying to cassette? I forgot how I would turn the volume all the way up at the end of song to be sure I captured the end of the diminution, and the rush to depress the button before the next song leapt into the speakers. And remember that? "Song"? Not "track," but "song"?

Anyway, I'm not calling for a return to tape format, or anything like that. What I am calling out is myself, as someone who too often takes progress for granted. I do it in two ways: assuming that as it happens, it ought to happen, and I take it for granted in the sense that progress is a given. Time proceeds, progress is made. It isn't so, but it's very easy to fall into that thinking. I had an amazing time making my first mix tape in some five years. It made me remember good music, which was difficult to take for granted in that context, and it slowed me down. I had somehow forgotten how fulfilling it could be to surrender to a song, rather than treat it as a score to my life. I had forgotten just how long 90 minutes, one song at a time, is. You can fit a lifetime of experience in there! Most of all, I was reminded of how it feels to meditate on the moment. It feels wonderful.

I'm glad I didn't know, during the 90s, how much I would miss the music in the years to come. A sense of nostalgia-to-come is akin to a sense of impending doom, and the gift of this year for me has been the opportunity to reflect on old times without nostalgia; rather to approach them as songs I still sing. Back in the day, I favored Metallica over Guns n' Roses, Pearl Jam over Stone Temple Pilots. The beauty of age, I suppose, is in being able to appreciate all of it in some way. It seemed contradictory before. Now it just seems full, and well-realized. And, after all, should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?