Sunday, January 25, 2009

For a Friend

According to Ron Kuzava, Will Schutz is one of Chicago's two greatest living character actors. The other, according to Ron, is Ron himself. Apparently they pass the title back and forth. Ron is a very silly man. However, I cannot argue with the idea that Will is indeed one of the finest actors in the city, and simply an awesome guy. I first saw him in Defiant Theatre's Action Movie: The Play as one of the most over-the-top ridiculous Blofeldian villains I have ever seen on stage.

I finally met Will (and Ron, for that matter) in 2004 while working on Defiant's production of A Clockwork Orange. Will had a small role in the show, but it was the kind of part that you loved to watch from the wings because it was so damned hilarious every time.

I next worked with Will in The Hound of the Baskervilles in 2007. I could not help but admire his stamina as Watson. He never left the stage for the entire show and as the narrator carried at least three-quarters of the total load of dialogue. And his dialect was dead on.

A few weeks ago Will was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Like so many of us, Will does not have health insurance. He is keeping positive and has vowed to fight this with all he's got. He could use, and certainly deserves, all the help he can get. A fund has been started online for Will, and a few events have been planned around the city to help out with expenses during this difficult time.

If you have a few bucks to spare, please go to to help out.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The In-Blog-uration

Barack Obama has been President for 78 hours now, and I am neither as rich nor as good-looking as I should be. What gives?

It seems to me that, as a person with a blog, I have some sort of responsibility to write something about the inauguration. I have put it off for a few days partly because I was busy, but also because I had little to say about it that has not already been said by faster if not more eloquent parties. Did I watch it? I did. Did I feel pride? Yes. Hope? Check. Relief? A little. And I must say that the headlines - from closing Guantanamo to loosening restrictions on stem cell research - make me feel better day by day. But again, you can read this stuff anywhere.

There was that one moment during the President's speech where he made reference to "non-believers." That gave me a bit of a thrill, I must confess. It seemed like a huge step. And it ruffled a few feathers, too. Joy Behar of the horrid "The View" made a weird joke about "you pathetic atheists out there." The Friendly Atheist has been trying to give her the benefit of the doubt - that she was in fact trying to be funny - but I frankly don't see the humor. As Friendly Atheist points out, the line would have caused a riot if she'd said "pathetic Christians" or "pathetic Jews" instead. The President's line even, according to some reports, drew boos from some parts of the multitude witnessing the event. Now that is impressive, to be the one thing that gets booed during Barack Obama's inauguration speech.

Of course, those few voices of dissent really had very little to complain about. As Greta Christina pointed out, the inauguration was saturated with god-talk. It required no less than two ministers to see the thing through, plus two Bibles (one each for the President and Vice President), and more references to the Christian God than you can wave a cross at. Granted, Rev. Joseph Lowery's closing benediction was a hoot, but it was still full of Lord this and Almighty that.

But what did I expect? This country is full of Christians. Our new President is a Christian. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting somebody who believes in the Abrahamic god. Our brief, token shout-out was more than any of us could reasonably expect.

Now before you go thinking this is another whine-athon, please know that that one phrase was not the only thing I took away from the President's speech. What has stuck with me the most, what has been rolling around in my brain for the last few days, is this idea of responsibility. I will confess, responsibility is a thing I have striven to avoid. It always sounded like way too much work. There's something different about it now, though, and I can't put my finger on it. "Responsibility" has always, in my mind, seemed like an anchor preventing me from doing what I really want to do. There seems to be more to it now, though. Maybe it's just that I'm not used to hearing this stuff from a truly gifted orator, but there is suddenly this sense of nobility surrounding the idea of responsibility. There is a sense of community about it. You want to go out and make it your own. It's a good feeling, really.

I don't know. The truth is, I've been busy. I started a new job, I'm working on a new play. I haven't truly processed everything that has been going on. To use a cliche, it has been a blur. All I can say is that things feel different, and I am really very curious to see what happens next.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

In Arabia is Jeff Recommended

My most recent theatre gig was as fight choreographer for Steep Theatre Company's production of In Arabia We'd All Be Kings, directed by the amazing Joanie Schultz. This is the tenth show Joanie and I have worked on together. (I think I miscounted when I wrote my program bio and said it was the eighth show. My bad.) In Arabia is a great show with a fantastic ensemble working from an excellent script. You should all go see it - but don't take my word for it. The show is also Jeff Recommended.

Congratulations, everybody!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Wheelchairs, Walkers and Peg Legs

About a year and a half ago I and several other local fight choreographers took part in a round-robin interview with Mary Shen Barnidge for an article about disabilities and stage combat. The interview originally appeared in the August 2007 issue of the stage combat quarterly newsletter Moulinet, which sadly does not publish online. This particular article, however, has found its way onto the website Total Theater. It's an interesting discussion, and the other choreographers, all wiser and more experienced than myself, had a lot of great input into the subject. For those of you who are interested you can follow this link to read the full article.