Monday, November 26, 2007

Case Closed

The Right Brain Project's Chalk closed yesterday, and I am sad to see it go. I met an amazing group of people, all of whom I hope to work with again. The experience was quite the adventure in non-Equity theatre. There were nights we had to shout our lines over brass bands; other nights we competed with bagpipers. There was a strong chance that the last two shows would be performed under the florescent room lights — although it thankfully never came to that. There was the night our tech team showed up and found large chunks of the stage missing. Pros that they are, the show went off without a hitch. And I think I may have given myself a stress fracture in my foot about three weeks ago when I stepped off the stage in the dark and the step wasn't there. I don't know for sure, though; I see the doctor tomorrow morning.

However, we had a blast the whole time. I can't wait to see what the RBP cooks up next.

So, tomorrow I begin rehearsals for Journey's End with the Griffin Theatre Company. Also, this will be the closing weekend for Trap Door's Emma, co-directed by my good friend Shane and featuring my fight choreography. And last week I learned that I will be appearing in BackStage Theatre Company's Bloody Bess: A Tale of Piracy and Revenge next summer. I don't think I have ever had this many theater projects in the works at the same time before. Very exciting stuff!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Incommunicado, Part Deux

Did you all have a lovely Thanksgiving? All of you who are Americans, I mean. Those of you who are not, I hope your Thursday was lovely. I did my part by watching football and eating too much. What? You did, too? That's crazy! There was a unique wrinkle to yesterday's festivities: Not one but two of my in-laws announced their engagements to the family. So congratulations to Caryn and James, and to Bev and Don.

And now, the continuing saga of my ongoing battle of wits with Comcast...

So, I had an appointment for a technician to come out Tuesday morning, between eight and ten. I received a phone call the night before, confirming the appointment. I received a second phone call early Tuesday morning, again confirming the appointment. This second phone call is significant, because it came to our home phone. We have Vonage, which means that to receive a phone call we must have a working Internet connection. After hanging up I jumped on the computer and found that our connection had indeed restored itself once again. But I was determined to follow my instructions to the letter, so I made no attempt to contact Comcast to cancel my appointment.

Around 8:30 I received a third phone call that not only re-confirmed the appointment but clarified that the technician would arrive at my home between 8:40 and 9:40. I sat on the couch and watched television, since that gave me a view of the street and I would know when the van arrived. I flipped channels until 10:30, when I finally decided to call Comcast and find out when the tech was planning on showing up. The friendly operator (they are all friendly) informed me that the tech had, just moments earlier, completed the assignment before mine, and he should be arriving literally any moment. I waited at the window with baited breath.

I called again a little after one o'clock. After once again navigating my way through the ridiculous Comcast phone tree I reached yet another friendly representative. I told this nice lady my whole story, and at the end she told me that she worked with the cable television section, and she would need to transfer me to the Internet section. After being rerouted I had to tell my story again, because the previous person did not bother to inform this new person why she was transferring me in the first place. This new person then informed me that my appointment was...

Wait for it...


By whom? I wondered aloud. By the technician himself, I was told. Why would he do such a thing? Oddly enough, that piece of information was not included in the notes my new friend had in front of her. She said that was unusual; normally when a technician cancels an appointment he makes a note explaining why. There was no explanation this time. I explained that I had already taken valuable time off work to deal with this problem, and I wanted to know if a new appointment could be made for that day. The operator could not do that herself, she said, but she could have the local dispatcher contact me and set something up. As an added bonus this mysterious local dispatcher would also be able to shed some light on why my appointment had been canceled in the first place. I could expect this phone call, I was told, in the next half hour to forty-five minutes.

An hour and a half later, the phone rings. Did I squeal with joy? Perhaps. With trembling hand I answered the phone. I placed the receiver to my ear and heard the dulcet tones of... another recording. My appointment, it told me, was scheduled for some time between one o'clock and five o'clock. Keep in mind, it was now 2:30. Specifically, I could expect the tech to arrive between 3:30 and 4:30. Yippee.

Mandy got home around six. I was, by this point, a bit cranky. I think I scared her a little. We sat on the couch and griped about our respective days until around seven o'clock, when the door buzzer interrupted us.

"No fucking way," I said.

"It's them," Mandy said, looking out the window.


"There's a Comcast truck right outside," she said.

I opened the door and told the very nice technician that I had been expecting him at ten o'clock that morning. I smiled when I said it. It wasn't his fault. He looked perplexed and checked the work order, which informed him that my appointment was supposed to take place between six and eight PM. It wasn't worth arguing. He was here now, so I explained what the problem was. He poked around, found the cause, and fixed it. In theory, that should be the end of the story. We shall see.

As an interesting footnote, however, I learned that the cause of the problem had to do with fact that our downstairs neighbor's cable connection was hooked up to ours with a splitter, rather than having a separate line. The splitter itself was inadequate to handle the load, which caused our connection to crap out the way it did. But here's what's funny: If we ever cancel our Comcast account, our neighbor will lose her cable as well because it would be plugged into an inactive line. Mandy and I are thinking we may want to write our neighbor a friendly note explaining why she might want to have Comcast fix the situation now, before it becomes a real issue later.

Monday, November 19, 2007


We are having Internet issues right now. That is to say, Comcast is having issues, and they are taking it out on me and my wife.

About four or five weeks ago our Internet connection crapped out. It was fine one minute, the next I was in Page Not Found world. We let it go for about a day before we decided it wasn't coming back on its own. I called Comcast, and the friendly operator took me through a series of troubleshooting steps before determining that my connection was indeed fucked. I made an appointment for a technician to come to the apartment and fix it. Later that day I received a voice-mail suggesting that the problem may have been fixed remotely, along with a number to call in case I wanted to cancel the appointment. Turns out our connection was back, so I called and canceled.

Two weeks later I had to repeat the whole process. Internet goes out; I call and make an appointment; the Internet comes back; I cancel the appointment. Everything was fine again, at least for a few more weeks. Then, last Friday morning, no more Internet. Again. I called Comcast and talked to a very friendly, very helpful man whose name I do not remember. He ran some tests — or at least he clacked on his keyboard and said he ran some tests — and determined that there was indeed something wrong with the signal coming into the apartment. He suggested I make another appointment, but this time I was to keep the appointment even if the connection resumed. I was in luck; an appointment slot was available that very afternoon.

The four-hour appointment window came and went, and no Comcast. I had places to go, and listening to Comcast's hold music had already burned a good way through my available cell phone minutes. I resolved to try again the next morning. On Saturday I spoke to a woman who sounded like she was on the verge of panic. This was before she tried to set up a new appointment for me, and then failed miserably at the task. For reasons still unclear the operator was unable to make any changes to my account, and could not change the previous appointment time, even though it was a day later. The best she could do was ask me to please call back on Sunday.

Which I did.

After sitting on hold for another twenty minutes I spoke to another operator who informed me that she was in North Carolina. She also informed me that nobody showed up at my apartment on Friday because the work order was, for reasons passing comprehension, transmitted to a technician who was based out of Portland. Oregon? Maine? Who gives a fuck? Either one is over a thousand miles from my house.

Now I am told that a technician will be at my home by ten o'clock tomorrow morning. Best case scenario, I'm back online by lunch tomorrow. I will have gone four days without Internet service at my home. I think perhaps my next phone call to Comcast should be regarding a discount to my next month's bill. I wonder how long I'd have to wait on hold listening to Yanni before that conversation takes place.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Metroblogging Chicago

I just put up my first post at Metroblogging Chicago. I'll be chiming in there a couple of times a week, writing about anything and everything related to Chicago. My friends Dan and Fuzzy are already regular contributors.

Come check us out!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Chalk Reviewed

The Windy City Times ran a great review of Chalk. I can only assume the reviewer did not come on opening weekend, when we were still working out a lot of kinks. Last weekend, however, we really started to hit our stride. I've worked on shows that just deflated after lackluster openings. These guys at The Right Brain Project, however, have such chemistry and enthusiasm that you just want to push that much harder to get it right. I can't wait to see what next weekend looks like.

I feel like the reviewers who checked out Chalk on our opening weekend were stuck watching what amounted to final tech/dress rehearsals, and the reviews certainly reflected this. We were not outright panned, but we received no raves either. (Although the Chicago Reader did point out our "above-average stage combat", which always gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling.)

Every review mentioned the restrictions of our performance space, and I would like to add that such criticism is truer than the reviewers know. We had limited access to the theater throughout the rehearsal process, and time from each rehearsal had to be allotted for striking the set each night, since the space was used for other purposes during the day. It basically looks like an oversize classroom. I have to hand it to our designers, who did some amazing stuff with lights and sound to overcome the room's inadequacies. There's this one scene done with shadows, while this one song plays... but I don't want to ruin it for you. I really hope I can get a recording of the soundtrack one of these days, since the music is incredible.

Chalk runs for three more weeks — that's only twelve performances! Don't miss out!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


The Writers Guild of America is on strike. You may have noticed that the late-night talk shows have already gone into reruns. In a few weeks scripted television shows will have to stop shooting. The movie industry will be able to hold out a little longer, but soon something is gonna need a re-write and the only people skilled enough for the job will be out on the picket lines.

This affects me in a handful of ways. First of all, I watch an appalling amount of television, particularly the hour-long serial dramas. I am glad to know that the fourth season of Lost is already in the can, and shouldn't be affected by the strike. But what about Friday Night Lights? Or Pushing Daisies? Or Battlestar Galactica, for the love of Jebus?!? If those shows have to wrap their seasons early I may break out in hives, or worse: I might have to find something useful to do with my spare time.

Second, I have friends in New York and LA who are directly affected by the strike. They are effectively out of work until the dispute is resolved. They have not quite reached the status of a Joss Whedon or a Tina Fey, however, so things could get tight for them a lot sooner than other, more well-known writers. When they do go back to work, I hope they feel they got a fair deal.

Third, I fancy myself a writer. I even have a completed screenplay sitting in the bottom of a drawer (where it will STAY FOREVER, if I have any say in it). I am more interested in writing novels, but I'd love to take another crack at a screenplay some day. Or I'd love to write a novel, and then adapt it into a screenplay. That'd be sweet. But if I want to make a career out of it I need to know that I will be treated fairly for my work.

The movies and television shows we all love would not exist if it weren't for the writers. They create the worlds, the characters, the stories. So many flaws can be forgiven if they are in service of a decent script. It's the writers who deserve top billing.

More information about the strike and about the profession of screenwriting can be found at the Writers Guild of America website.