Friday, December 17, 2010

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Mandy and I saw Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at Steppenwolf last night. I'd seen the play before, and read it. It's one of those plays that everyone involved in theater is familiar with on some level. But in spite of my knowledge of the play, this show brought me to the point where I was holding my breath because I didn't know what would happen next. It was amazing. Exhilarating. Insane. I've seen this play before. I know the big twist at the end. And still, when the moment happened, there was a whole audience with a "Holy shit!" expression on its faces.

This is the second time I've seen Tracy Letts, who played George, on stage. I saw him last winter in American Buffalo, also at Steppenwolf. With both shows, I left the theater knowing that I want to do that. What I saw, just then? I want in on that. How do I make that happen?

No, seriously. I'm open to suggestions.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Money: It's a Gas

I don't understand money.

No, that's not it. I don't understand finance. For example, I got into a short-lived Twitter-based argument with a complete stranger over a link to a petition demanding that the FCC protect net neutrality and prevent Comcast from blocking Netflix. I will freely admit it's not an issue I fully understand. My argument was this: Netflix provides online content I want to access. I pay Netflix a monthly fee to be allowed to use this content. Comcast provides the means of accessing online content, and I pay them a monthly fee for that service. If Comcast blocks access to the content I want, what am I paying Comcast for in the first place? My worthy Twitter opponent schooled me (seriously; he said, "Get educated.") with this link.

I confess I don't understand everything I read there either. But basically the gist seems to be that Netflix somehow costs Comcast extra to provide it to its customers, and so Comcast wants Netflix to pick up some of the costs. Makes sense, I suppose. Of course, either way it means something is going to get more expensive for me, the consumer. I'll either have to pay Comcast extra, or Netflix will raise its fees instead. Probably both. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered how much longer Netflix can keep doing what it does. Netflix does not create anything. It's just a middle man. It was one thing when it focused on mailing out DVDs, but its stated intention is to become primarily an online service. But it doesn't make the movies, so eventually somebody's going to find a cheaper way to do it. It might even be Comcast itself -- they already have fairly expansive "On Demand" content; if they could create their own library to rival Netflix, there would be no need for Netflix at all.

Then the other night I watched Michael Moore's film, Capitalism: A Love Story, and now I'm all like, "Corporations. Fuck 'em." Businesses are like bottom-dwelling sea creatures. They do one thing: Take in money. The products a business produces are merely lures to attract the money. Anything else (Paychecks, insurance, etc.) is a by-product. There's more to this rant, but I'm at work right now so it's hard to focus.

I've been thinking a lot about money ever since we bought a condo. I get nervous because this is a level of financial responsibility for which I have not been tested. Furthermore, I have been tested for lesser levels of responsibility in the past and I did not do very well. I have spent the last decade trying to fix that, and I think I've done pretty well so far, but this is the first time I've really taken it out for a drive. And so I'm sweating a little.

I think I had a point when I started writing this, but I've lost it somewhere. I don't like money. I don't like worrying about it. I don't like needing it. But I don't know what to do about it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Dresden Dolls

My lovely wife and I took in the Dresden Dolls concert at the Vic last Wednesday. It was quite extraordinary. Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione are a pair of dynamic performers. It's amazing that two people could create such a HUGE sound, but they absolutely filled that place - which is doubly impressive considering that their opening act, Mucca Pazza, is a full-on marching band. I'd never heard of them before, but they were a total riot. And they're local, so odds are good I'll have a chance to check them out again.

I also learned an important lesson at the show: The Droid Eris smart phone doesn't take pictures for shit. Either that, or I just don't know what I'm doing. It's probably a little of both. Anyway, here are a couple of the almost adequate pics from Wednesday:

Mucca Pazza:
Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls (no, seriously - see what I mean about this camera?):

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Lull in the Action

I'm writing again. It's been a while. I'm out of practice. It's not NaNoWriMo, although I miss that. I'm telling myself I'll do that next year, but I'm finding it difficult to plan that far in advance.

No, this is a whole new writing adventure for me: Adapting. This is what my theatre company does; we adapt books into plays. But it's not something that I, personally, have ever attempted before. I've written a couple of (shitty, shitty) one-act plays before that will never ever see the light of day, and I've written one full-length screenplay that will also never see the light of day. Scripts have never really been my thing, but adapting has certain advantages. It feels like training wheels.

I don't want to talk to much about the specifics of the project yet because I don't know for sure that it even IS a project. I've pitched the idea to the ensemble and the response so far seems enthusiastic. I've worked some details out with another member of the company who is interested in directing, and soon the ensemble will discuss it. If all goes well I'll get a green light, which basically just means I have to write it. It does NOT mean it's actually getting produced, which is fine. After all, what if I hand in a script that just totally blows?

But rather than sit around and wait for the green light I've decided to get started. The sooner I have a first draft, the sooner I can get started on the second one. And besides, I have a few weeks with nothing better to do. My last show closed a few weeks ago, my next one doesn't even start rehearsing until next month. There are some meetings and discussions between now and then, but nothing too time-consuming. I really can't think of a better way to spend my time.

In other news, the diet has stalled. Not ended. Just stalled. I reached that first goal and then life intruded, and I lost focus. Backslid a little bit. I'll get it back, though. I'm not worried. I'm slightly more concerned about my exercise routine, or lack thereof. I started on this program that is supposed to help you do a hundred push-ups, and two hundred sit-ups. And I started walking three miles every morning. That lasted a week. I need to regroup and start again with that. I have to play a warrior bunny this spring, and I need to look the part!

It's been a fairly pleasant break between shows, but there is still that itch in the back of my brain, freaking out that I'm not in rehearsals or performances for anything right now. But things will get busy again soon enough. I'll do my best to enjoy this while I can -- mostly by catching up on The Wire on Netflix, and waiting for the next episode of Boardwalk Empire.

Monday, October 11, 2010


A milestone. I haven't weighed below 280 since 2001. I've dropped just over five percent of my total body weight since I started.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lookin' Good

Officially I have lost 14.4 pounds in the last month. I am less than a pound away from my first "goal weight," and just over a pound away from what I will consider a personal milestone: getting under 280. I haven't been there since 2001.

It's Weight Watchers. That's it. In many ways it is so easy I'm slapping myself for not getting on this years ago. In many other ways it is just as difficult as I feared it would be. This past week, for example, has been fraught with indulgences, and with family coming in this weekend I don't expect it to let up until Monday. So when I weigh in on Sunday there may be some discouraging results, but I'm not going to stress about it. There's no reason I can't get back on track next week.

I decided it was time to bite the bullet and commit to this whole plan when I got on the scale for the first time in several months and, for the first time in my life, saw the number climb above the 300 mark. I had a moment of actual panic. I'd spent the whole summer being very physically active, and here I was at the heaviest I had ever been. When I stopped and thought about it, though, the problem was obvious. I'd spent the summer indulging in as much awful food as I could fit into my stomach, justifying it all with the knowledge that I was surely sweating it all off on stage. When I signed up for Weight Watchers I was told I could eat up to 42 "points" worth of food per day. That seemed like a lot until, just for funzies, I calculated how many points I'd eaten the day before I signed up: 68.

Holy shit.

So I'm on the wagon. There are occasional slips, but the progress is noticeable. I'm told I'm looking better. I'm definitely feeling better. My pants are all a little looser, and I can button a shirt I couldn't button three months ago. That's an awesome feeling, but there's a healthy amount of guilt and embarrassment as well. I can't help but chastise myself a little for letting myself go as long as I did.

The next step is exercise. A gym is supposed to be opening right in my building, but there hasn't been any visible progress on it since we moved in last June. I've started just doing push-ups whenever I have a few minutes and some space to myself. I've still got a ways to go, though. I'm hoping I'll find something that works for me soon.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

No Rest for the Wicked

It has reached the point where I write on this blog so infrequently that I wonder if it's worth the trouble of keeping it at all. For now, I shall endeavor to continue. The lack of posts are my failing, not the blog's. And the truth is that August was a busy month.

Since last I wrote, I not only began rehearsals on Louis Slotin Sonata, but as of today we're already in tech. This has to have been one of the fastest rehearsals processes in which I have ever participated, and yet it never for a moment felt rushed, or like we were running out of time. We're in great shape for tech, and I can wait to see what this whole thing turns in to. I wish there was an image of the show's poster online, because it is stunning. We're in previews as of next Friday, and then we open Monday the 13th. I will keep you posted.

Last weekend I also participated in my first ensemble meeting at Lifeline Theatre. As the discussion grew, I found myself look around the room and thinking, I am surrounded by a bunch of really smart people. Seriously. It's a little intimidating. But I left the meeting with a good-sized list of new books to read, and I am now at the very early stages of a new project for the company. I don't want to go into detail yet because it is, as I say, in the very early stages. Nothing official yet, but the ball has started rolling. It's something that has me extremely excited, and perhaps more than a little petrified. We shall see what happens.

A few other things are moving along as well. Next Saturday, Signal Theatre Ensemble holds auditions for Accidental Death of an Anarchist, by Dario Fo. I'm working on the violence for the show, so hopefully I'll get a chance to stop by and get a look at some of the potential cast.

Then, after Louis Slotin Sonata, opens, I start in on a script development workshop with The Strange Tree Group. Getting a chance to work with this company will be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream... or at least it would be if they'd been around my whole life. Actually I first learned about them about three or four years ago, around the time I was directing Rogue 8: Issue #3 with Rogue Theater. Seeing their shows has been some of the most fun I've ever had as a theater audience member. I get excited every time I hear they have something new coming up. And now I get to play along a little. I am all kinds of thrilled about this.

This coming Monday is Labor Day. It is the only full day off I've had in a month, and the only full day off I will have until late October. You'd think that's a bad thing, but really, it's not.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Joining the Club

Neverwhere has finally closed, and I can say with certainty that it was the premiere highlight of my theatrical career thus far. I was fortunate to be able to work on a fantastic script based on a wonderful story, with an extraordinary group of talented artists. I've never had this much fun on stage before. I got to be scary and funny at the same time. I got to be larger than life. I got to fight with a quarterstaff, and a machete that sparked. I ate a rat. And an ear.

And Neil Gaiman came to see it.

But the show has closed, as they all must do, and it is time for new adventures. I actually have a few projects lined up that should keep me out of trouble until next summer. First up is a role in Louis Slotin Sonata at A Red Orchid Theatre, followed by a fight director gig on Signal Theatre Ensemble's Accidental Death of an Anarchist, and wrapped up next spring with Lifeline Theatre's adapation of Watership Down. That's right: I'm gonna be a bunny. I also have a workshop or two thrown into the mix, just for funzies.

Speaking of Lifeline, however, I do have some particularly exciting news: I have accepted an invitation to become a member of Lifeline Theatre's artistic ensemble. There was a press release and everything. I spent about a week after receiving the invitation just vibrating with excitement. What made it worse was that the company wanted to hold off on the announcement until after Neverwhere closed, so that whole week was spent sitting on a secret. But it's out now, and I am thrilled. I can't wait to get started.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why I Do Theatre - Reason #342

That chubby guy right in the middle? That's me. The fellow next to me, with the shaggy hair, standing at a jaunty angle? Yeah, that's Neil Gaiman. Oh, and the guy three heads down from me, with the glasses and blue sports coat? Added bonus: Lenny Henry, who co-created the BBC miniseries of Neverwhere with Neil. Also one of the funniest men in England. They came to see our production last Sunday, June 13th, and were just two of the coolest guys you could ever hope to meet.

Lifeline Theatre did a fine job of keeping their visit a secret as long as they could, but they couldn't clamp down on actors running out for a cigarette before the show. Sean Sinitski (Mr. Croup - the fellow looming above and behind Neil in the picture) came up to me backstage about fifteen minutes before the start and just said, "Yes or no?" Yes, I said. "Neil's here." I spent about four seconds wondering if I was going to either barf or crap my pants, but then reigned it in enough to give, I believe, a respectable performance for one of my all-time favorite authors. I'd like to think we are doing justice to the work, while accomplishing something all-together new and exciting.

And I got Neil's autograph. He signed one of Croup & Vandemar's prop business cards. First though, he had to search his many pockets because he knew he had an appropriate "evil pink sharpie." And he did. He signed it, "With extra teeth." I'm gonna have it framed.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Press... and Extension!

NEVERWHERE has come close to selling out ever performance so far. It's going so well that we are extending the run for an entire month. Our new closing date is July 18, 2010. Click here for ticket info.

We've also been getting some great reviews. The folks at Lifeline have collected the best of them here, but I thought I might excerpt a few of my personal favorite quotes:

"Chris Hainsworth and Christopher M. Walsh have the comedy cavern down cold." - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune
"There is sharp character work by Chris Hainsworth (neatly ambiguous as the Marquis); Sean Sinitski and Christopher M. Walsh (terrific as the sadistic duo); Kyra Morris (as a sleek, unreliable huntress); Patrick Blashill (as the raven stew-eating Old Bailey); and Phil Timberlake (an eerie Angel)." - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times
"And the villain brothers, Croup and Vandemar? Terrifically funny. Vile. Wear cravats." - C.S.E. Cooney, Centerstage Chicago
"Sinitski and Walsh are a killer comedy duo." - Katy Walsh, Chicago Now
"Sean Sinitski and Christopher M. Walsh, playing the hilariously sadistic duo Croup and Vandemar, are an absolute delight, their dry banter and garish demeanor heightening a menace that's nothing but playful." - Randall Colburn, Gapers Block
And just for fun:

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Floating Market

A couple of weeks ago I participated in Lifeline Theatre's annual benefit. This year's theme was Neil Gaiman's Floating Market from NEVERWHERE. I wandered the venue and recited stories written by Lifeline ensemble members. Photographer Paul Metreyeon took this photo, which I think is rather awesome (if I do say so myself):

Friday, April 30, 2010


After many weeks, NEVERWHERE encounters its first audience tonight. This is not opening night; it is the first night of previews.

The preview process is a luxury many (perhaps most) theatre companies in Chicago are unable to afford. At best they will have previews on Thursday and Friday, and then open the show on Saturday. While that does give the show a chance at a little audience feedback, there really is no opportunity to fix anything that just doesn't work.

Lifeline, the company producing NEVERWHERE, owns its own space. As a result, we have the chance to perform an entire weekend of shows, take what we learned from those audiences and continue to work during the next week, then test those changes on a second round of preview audiences the next weekend before we finally open the Monday afterward. The result is that the show we will open on May 10th will be a different beast from the one we'll perform tonight.

In this particular instance the changes probably won't be too dramatic. A shortened line here, a tighter entrance there. That sort of thing. However, I've heard stories of musical productions that added entire songs during the preview process. For an actor these changes can be dizzying, but there is nothing more exhilarating than the moment all the pieces of a show finally fit together.

If you're in the Chicago area and want to help us put the final touches on NEVERWHERE, we'll have preview performances April 30-May 2, and May 7-9. Click here for more information.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I hear the phrase "in this economy" three or four times a day. I have friends who have been out of work for over a year. I have friends who have sent resumes to the far ends of the country to find work. I have friends who have sent out over a thousand resumes and have barely scored any interviews. I have friends who have given up their chosen careers to go back to school after being laid off.

Two years ago I was laid off from a job I'd held for seven years. I had spent most of those seven years complaining about the job, but for a couple of weeks after my last day I felt as though I'd been kicked in the stomach. I couldn't get to sleep until three or four in the morning, and I couldn't get out of bed until noon. I got back into temping for a few months, but that world had changed dramatically since the last time I'd gone that route back in 2001. Assignments were fewer and far between, and the work was menial and monotonous.

Then a good friend suggested I come and temp at her office for a few weeks. She suggested I could at least get a higher hourly rate than what the agencies had offered me. Those few weeks turned into a few months, and then a little over a year ago turned into a new full time job.

I am ASTOUNDINGLY lucky. I want the universe to know that I am fully aware of just how lucky I am. I do not have an impressive resume by anyone's standards, haven't even finished college, but I have a job that not only pays fairly well, but that I genuinely enjoy. I have a theatre hobby/career that has never been more fulfilling. I have an extraordinary circle of friends. I have two cats whom I adore. I have a fantastic wife, and soon we might be buying our own home. I really, really, have little about which I can complain. I am grateful for all of the wonderful things that have come my way.

I am getting ready for rehearsal and watching the snow fall out my front window. Gonna be a good day.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


I tried Bikram yoga for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It's the kind of yoga where they crank the thermostat up to 105 degrees and then you do yoga for an hour and a half while sweating balls. Did I say sweating? The word "sweat" does not really encompass the sprinkler-like way my body's moisture reserves evacuated through every pore. Dripping. Drenched. Soaked. They warned me in advance to bring a big towel. I don't know if one was enough.

When I first walked into the room the temperature was pleasant. It was a like being in a sauna, only not as humid. I wasn't doing anything strenuous yet. Plus, it was freezing outside and the warmth was more than welcome. It doesn't take long, however, before you really start to feel the effects.

I am proud to say that I made it through the full ninety minutes without feeling light-headed or needing to lie down. Several other people in the class lie down on their mats for a few minutes at a time. I'm told it's common, and in fact during the brief orientation the instructor made it clear that it was not only acceptable but encouraged to do so at any point during the class. The only real difficulty I encountered was that some of the poses were just beyond my skill level, and while we were told to only go as far as we comfortably could go, I wasn't always sure what to do when I couldn't do the full-out pose the more advanced students did.

Did I enjoy the class? I would have to say no. At one point the instructor came by and asked if it was more intense than I expected, and I said no. I wasn't trying to be badass. What I meant was, I'd been told ahead of time that this was going to be VERY intense, and the class lived up to its expectations. By the end I felt dazed, and my body felt like it was made out of jelly. The studio is only four blocks from my apartment, but I still waited for the bus because I just wasn't up to the walk. However, for the next couple of days I felt AWESOME. Sore, but awesome.

I thought maybe I should try a less exhausting yoga class, but one of the things I liked about this was the sense of accomplishment when it was over. A few days later I did go back and try a beginners' Vinyasa class, which was informative but didn't have the same "holy crap what have I gotten myself into?" vibe that made the Bikram class so exciting.

Would I go back? If I could afford it, I'd like to think maybe I would. Yoga ain't cheap. I have a couple home yoga tapes, but they really don't do it for me. It helps to have the instructor there. At the same time, not knowing anybody there added to the anxiety level. Also, I'm not a fan of all the talk about "chakras" and "union" and whatnot. It gives me the embarrassment shivers. I'm there to lose weight. I'm not on some kind of spiritual journey.

So, yeah. Bikram yoga. I'll give the whole experience two and a half stars out of four. Two and a half sweaty, sweaty stars.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Epic Fail

I seem to be on a bit of a self-destructive streak, diet-wise. My whole plan to drop 10 percent of my body weight for Neverwhere? Check it: I gained four pounds. I've had the house to myself most evenings for the last month while Mandy is in rehearsal. I thought it would be a good opportunity to really dig in and make the whole diet and exercise thing happen. Not so much. I watched a lot of movies, and recorded a lot of music. And ate a lot of crap. And exercised... very, very little.

So today I walked to work, and I walked home. And I intend to repeat the process tomorrow. That's four miles a day. I'm not sure what to do about the diet yet. For reasons too ridiculous to go into, my office is continuously supplied with cake. It's out of control.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

1 Down, 364 To Go

2010: The Year We Make Contact. If Arthur C. Clarke is right, we should be getting a second Sun due to an alien race accidentally detonating Jupiter this year. That should be cool. Of course, he was wrong about the orbiting tourist destinations being ready nine years ago, so maybe Sir Arthur wasn't such a smartie after all.

The holidays are winding to a close, and as per usual they went much better than I always fear. Christmas Eve saw a lovely dinner and gift exchange with my wife's family. Christmas day was spent lounging around with the in-laws, with more gifts (Check it! I got an Amazon Kindle, AND Final Draft! No excuses now; I've got to get some real writing done.) and another nice dinner. The day after Christmas we met up with my family along with some old family friends out in the burbs. A nice time was had by all. Then Mandy and I rang in the new year with some friends up in Rogers Park and spent New Years Day on the couch eating junk food and watching bowl games. The Northwestern game was a great one; too bad the Wildcats couldn't pull it out.

It's resolution time again. Every year I make a few, and they pretty much always get forgotten. This year I am not "resolving" anything. I am simply make a few suggestions for myself. First suggestion, lose some weight. This morning I weighed in at 288.8 pounds. Five of those pounds were added in the last week. I need to spend less money on food, and therefore I need to be more selective about the food that I buy. Plus, I've got this kettlebell thing, and I want to give it a serious try. My goals are modest. Right now I want to lose ten percent (28 pounds) by the first rehearsal of Neverwhere. I think this is a reasonable, attainable goal. After Treasure Island I owe it to my knees to make the effort.

Suggestion #2 involves my theater career more directly. I have decided it is time to find an agent. I have no idea how to go about finding such a thing, but I have friends with agents and I will start by getting feedback from them. I will probably start by preparing headshots and resumes for a mailing. I'm gonna wait until the postcards for Neverwhere are ready, because I think that would be a cool thing to send along. But I'll ask around a bit first and make a plan.

I have one or two other suggestions for myself, but they are private. I'm sure you'll understand.

In the meantime, I still have the fight direction on The Ring Cycle and Under Ground to keep me busy. Plus, I've created a new website for my music at, and posted several songs at I'd love your feedback!

Happy New Year, everybody!