Thursday, December 27, 2012

An Open Letter to Joss Whedon... Because Why Not?

Dear Mr. Whedon,

I am an actor-- WAIT! DON'T STOP READING YET!!! Let me try this again.

There is a character in the Marvel universe named after me, and I think you should cast me to play him... me... him. Please let me explain.

Christopher M. Walsh first appears in Invincible Iron Man #8. He is a HAMMER agent, working for Norman Osborn. Agent Walsh is a minor character who has appeared in a handful of issues since then. I have fairly good reason to believe that this character is named after me.

Invincible Iron Man was written by Matt Fraction. "Matt Fraction" is the pen name of Matt Fritchman. Matt Fritchman lived about a block from my house when we were around eight years old. We were best friends for a few years, until his family moved out of town. During the time we knew each other, our lives were entirely consumed by Star Wars, Legos, GI Joe, and comic books. We even once attempted to write our own comic book. I lost interest, but it apparently stuck for Matt.

Matt and I lost touch and haven't spoken in almost 30 years, except for one brief exchange over MySpace in the mid-2000s, shortly after I figured out that the Matt whose books I'd been reading was the same as the Matt with whom I discovered my inner geek all those years ago.

So, I can't prove my hypothesis - at least, not without getting a hold of Mr. Fraction and asking him point blank, which just sounds awkward - but the circumstantial evidence is pretty convincing, don't you think?

I have no actual expectation that you are going to drop everything and write the next Avengers or SHIELD script with me in mind. That would be crazy talk. Frankly, I would be thrilled to learn that you even got a chance to read this letter. But on the off-chance that you do read it, and for some reason you find a place for that random character in one of your projects, I hope you'll remember this letter. I actually am an actor. I'm based in Chicago and most of my work is on stage. I'm a member of the artistic ensemble at Lifeline Theatre, where we adapt literary works for the stage. I'm currently writing an adaptation of China Miéville's The City & The City which opens in February 2013.

I'm also a huge fan of yours. Firefly is one of the greatest things since... well, since Matt and I made up our own Star Wars stories with our toys back in the early '80s. I can't wait to see what you do next.

Best Wishes,

Christopher M. Walsh
(the real one)

(See? We even kinda look alike! Kinda. Sorta. Maybe.)

Friday, December 14, 2012

That Time I Totally Met China Miéville

You guys!

I can't believe I haven't written about this earlier. I tweeted about it, or maybe I posted about it on Facebook. I can't remember. That's not the point. The point is, a few weeks ago I totally met China Miéville.

For those of you who haven't paid any attention to me for the last six months or so, I'm writing a play called The City & The City. We're just over a week into rehearsals, and start performances in the middle of February. The play is an adaptation of China Miéville's book of the same name. The story follows the tropes of a classic crime novel through a setting that is anything but ordinary. I'd explain more but even a description of the setting is kind of a spoiler. The first time I read the book, I made a series of assumptions about the setting based on the first couple of chapters. By the end of the book I was gobsmacked by just how wrong I was. At first I thought, Ah there is this interesting magical thing happening here. But it turns out it's much stranger than that.

Mr. Miéville himself was in town a few weeks ago and did a little reading/Q&A at Roosevelt University. An administrator there had gotten wind of our production and tipped us to the event. I and a handful of our crew and cast attended. For about the first half hour he read from a new story he was working on, then took questions from the audience for the rest of the hour. I would tell you what he said, but I haven't finished looking up all the ginormous words he used. One that stood out was "heuristic." I have only heard that word used in one other place: It's what the "H" stands for in HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I have a vague understanding of the word, but I'm not going to embarrass myself by attempting to define it here. (I could look it up. I probably will at some point. But it's 12:30 in the morning and I'm tired.)

After the Q&A the audience politely held back while Mr. Miéville collected his notes before trying to wedge in some one-on-one time. That is, everybody held back but me. Seeing my chance, I ran forward and introduced myself. As soon as I got out the name "Lifeline Theatre," he grabbed my hand and said, "My collaborators!" He asked about how the show was going, which was only slightly awkward for me due to the fact that rehearsals hadn't actually started yet. But I told him we had a great cast in place, and I thought the script was in good shape for the start of rehearsals, and that we'd have a lot of revisions by the time we opened at the end of February.

The most exciting news? Schedules permitting, Mr. Miéville is coming to see the show. Or at least he's going to try to come. I don't want to make promises for him. But he seemed pretty excited about it. I can assure you he was not nearly as excited as me, though.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dream Role

This weekend we close The Woman In White at Lifeline Theatre, in which I had the great fortune to play Count Fosco. As anyone who has read the Wilkie Collins novel will tell you, Fosco is one of the great villains of Victorian literature. He is charming, charismatic, arrogant, and evil, and one of the best characters I've ever had the opportunity to play.

I first read the book about a year ago, when the company was seriously discussing producing an adaptation. We had recently had great success with an adaptation of another Collins book, The Moonstone, and we knew we wanted to explore that world some more. The Woman In White, as Collins' most famous book, was the obvious choice. About halfway through reading the book I knew I'd discovered a dream role.

The Woman In White is an epistolary novel, meaning it is written as a collection of letters and diary entries and other documents. The specific moment that sold me on the character of the Count comes near the midway point, at the end of a lengthy section of diary entries written by the book's heroine, Marian Halcombe, in which she describes her efforts to uncover the Count's duplicitous schemes. Her last entry reveals that she risked her life to spy on the Count and his accomplice, Sir Percival Glyde, and in doing so she managed to catch a fever and cannot leave her bed. While that is Marian's last entry, it is not the last entry in the diary. Count Fosco, after finding and reading the document, adds his own postscript, revealing his admiration for Marian, proudly admitting to all the sinister deeds of which she accuses him, and daring her to try and stop his grand scheme.

I put the book down after reading that part. I was in awe of the balls on this guy. I was about twenty or so years too young, but I didn't care. I needed that part, and I got it. And I cannot even begin to describe how much fun it has been. Everything about this production has been a joy. I will miss coming to the theater every day and spending time with this extraordinary cast. And of course I will miss my mouse co-stars Fanny and Hester, who stole the show every night.

I will be off-stage for a while. In fact, for the first time in a long while I am closing a show without knowing what my next acting gig will be. Frankly, I do not like the sensation. But I can console myself with the knowledge that in about a month my radio play Comparing Notes at the End of the World will be presented in WildClaw Theatre's annual Deathscribe competition, and rehearsals for The City & The City, my next adventure as a playwright, begin the day after that. In fact, I've got some work to do between now and then, so I'd best get to it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Check one more item off the bucket list: My ten-minute radio play Comparing Notes at the End of the World is a finalist for WildClaw Theatre's Deathscribe 2012 International Festival of Horror Radio Plays. This is the fifth year writers have competed for the coveted Bloody Axe award and I am thrilled to have the chance to throw my hat in the ring.

WildClaw's annual Deathscribe event has become a holiday tradition for Mandy and me. Aside from the Jeff Awards, I cannot think of another annual event at which you can find so much of Chicago's theatre community gathered in one place. The five finalists' plays are performed live with foley artists contributing sound effects. There is a live band, musical acts, a panel of celebrity judges, and a whole lot of alcohol. It has never failed to be a riotous good time.

This year's festival takes place on December 3rd at the Mayne Stage. I am all kinds of excited.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Stress-Filled Ramblings at 1:00 AM

I can't sleep.

I have been staring at my computer for about an hour, bouncing between Facebook, Twitter, job listings, and various news outlets. I have this feeling that I should be doing something. Something important. Something productive. Something that might, some day, be worth money. And I could be doing that. "I have projects and plans in my head." That's a line in a play I'm in right now. One of my lines, in fact.

I recently made a list of due dates for myself. They are somewhat arbitrary, these dates. Nobody has told me that such-and-such thing must be done by such-and-such date. I just wanted to set some goals for myself. The first of those dates is today, Friday, August 17th. I was going to finish the first draft of a play by today.

I am not going to finish the first draft of a play today. At least, it is highly unlikely. The play in question is well on its way to having a completed draft. I have been working, believe me. But while I'm pleased with the progress I've made in the last few days, I don't see me cranking out the final thirty or so pages needed to finish this thing. But it's okay, because, like I said, it's my deadline. If I miss it, nobody is really going to notice except me.

Of course, one of the reasons I picked this date to finish this particular project is because I wanted to finish it before I moved on to the next project. This is a different draft of a different play. This deadline is a little more serious, because this play is really officially happening, and at some point in the nearish future people need to read this thing, and I need to get another draft done before that happens. So that means Project #1 has to go on the back burner until Project #2 gets sorted. Which is okay by me, except what does that mean for the deadlines I set for Projects #3, 4, and 5?

And then there's #6 and #7, for which I haven't even set dates yet. Because that would be crazy.

So I'm awake at 1am and I'm bored and I'm worried that I'm wasting my time and I'm wasting my time worrying because I'm awake and bored at 1am. It has been a long year and I'm waiting for things to start going right again, and I'm wondering if there's something specific I've forgotten, something I was supposed to do to make that happen. I've put on fifteen pounds this year. Can you believe that? How did I find room for it?

But I'm a fairly positive sort of guy, and there are some things that have gone right this year, and I'm going to try and think about those for a little while. And I'm going to stare out the window a little, because I have a great view of downtown, and it is a very clear night.

Good night.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I have never been what you might call a "good" student. I have never been comfortable in classrooms. I've never been good at taking notes. I tend to freeze up when called upon. I usually did better when I could do the reading on my own time, and writing papers was always preferable to in-class tests. Seventh grade through senior year of high school was basically a six-year block of frustration, except for a single bright spot that appeared when I was a junior: Choir class.

My high school had an enormous choir program. And by enormous, I mean that our Christmas show was such a big deal that it was featured on Good Morning America. I'd seen it each holiday season and thought that I would love to be a part of something like that one day. It wasn't until my junior year that I finally got up the nerve to sign up for the class. I'd never sung before. I had no idea if I could sing at all, but that didn't matter. The program took all comers.

The class was taught by an exuberant, charismatic fellow named Guy "Skip" Frizzell. At some point during the first week of class he had each of us get up one by one and sing scales as high and as low as we could go. I recall being more excited than scared, which was an odd sensation for me at the time. When my turn came I did my best, although I wussed out at the high end - like most of my fellow newbies I was too embarrassed to attempt falsetto. But when I finished, some other kid in the class said, "He sang a lot of notes." And Mr. Frizzell responded, "Yes, he did." And suddenly I had a sensation I had not experienced since my family moved to Michigan the summer before seventh grade: I was good at something.

My first year in the choir class turned out to be Mr. Frizzell's last year at my school, but what an extraordinary year it was. That fall I took my first trip to Stratford, Ontario, with a group chaperoned by Mr. Frizzell and a few other teachers. We saw Kiss Me Kate and The Merchant of Venice. With Mr. Frizzell's encouragement I tried out for my first, and what would end up being my only, high school play. And of course I got to be in the huge Christmas show. But to top it off, the summer after my junior year I joined the choir on a trip to Europe, and saw Leningrad while it was still called Leningrad. I partied on a boat on the Neva River. I strolled the grounds of the Summer Palace. I ate homemade borscht and drank vodka with local music students and their families. I took a ferry ride across the Baltic Sea, and rode a bus through Finland and Sweden. I performed at the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. I celebrated my sixteenth birthday in Berlin on the same day as the economic unification of East and West Germany, and witnessed the mania in the streets when West Germany won the World Cup.

I stuck with the choir during my senior year. The new teacher was lovely. But Mr. Frizzell was still a presence. He took over the choir at my parents' church, and frequently suggested I should join. I found lame excuses, not having the nerve to tell him that I just really wasn't a church kinda guy.

We lost touch, like people do. Mr. Frizzell moved on to other opportunities elsewhere, and so did I. I had heard that he was teaching again in Missouri. I was glad to know he was still out there, doing his thing.

Mr. Frizzell passed away last Saturday after a long illness. I learned the news over Facebook, the way I learn most things now about people I knew a long time ago. That's not a complaint, just an observation. If it weren't for Facebook I wonder if I'd have heard about it at all. Anyway, I was sorry to hear the news. I wish I'd kept in touch with him. I think he would have liked to know that so many of the choices I've made as an adult - a lot of the ones that have made me happiest - were based on things I learned as part of his choir. I wish I could have told him that in job interviews, whenever they ask you to name a teacher or mentor who had a special impact on your life, he's the guy I'd pick. Mostly I'd just like to say thanks.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Lifting the Curse

Once upon a time, many years ago, I had a birthday. To celebrate, some friends treated me to a movie. That movie turned out to be Batman & Robin. One of my friends felt so bad about this shitty gift that after the movie we immediately went to a toy store where he bought us a couple of Super Soakers and then we went to the beach and chased each other around and had a fine time.

A month later,  in an attempt to make amends for the Batman & Robin fiasco,  we went to another movie. This one turned out to be Spawn.

Two years later I got the bright idea that I wanted to go see a movie for my birthday again. That movie? Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Holy Crap I Can't Even Finish This Because the Title Gives Me Embarrassment Shivers.

After that we decided to take a couple years off from the birthday movie tradition. Then in 2002 I thought, surely enough time has passed. Surely it's safe.

We saw Minority Report.

Yesterday was the first time in ten years that I have risked going to the movies for my birthday. I think... I think... that the curse may finally be broken.

Mandy and I saw Ted. It was a risk, I know, but I actually put some thought into this one. I read reviews. I relied on the fact that Mandy and I are both big Family Guy fans. Also? I lowered my expectations. Ten, fifteen years ago I expected every comic book or sci-fi summer blockbuster to be the next Most Awesome Thing Ever. Now I'm content with giggling my ass off for a couple of hours. And that's precisely what I did. And it was great.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Count Comes to Calgary

I am over-the-moon excited to announce that my adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo is coming to Calgary, AB, Canada, courtesy of Mob Hit Productions. (Check them out HERE.) It's my international debut! If you happen to be in Calgary next January 30th through February 9th, please check it out. I'll share more details as they become available.

As you can imagine, this is a big deal for me. The Count was my first foray into playwriting, and I am immensely proud of how our production at Lifeline turned out last year. I am so thrilled that my script has a little more life in it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

An Open Letter to a Reviewer

Dear Alice Singleton,

This is a new one for me. I've gotten reviews with which I have disagreed, but I have never felt insulted by one. I've certainly never felt the need to respond. I took this long to respond out of respect for the show. I didn't want to raise a stink while we were still running.

On Wednesday, April 25th, 2012, the web publication Gapers Block ran your review of Strawdog Theatre's The Duchess of Malfi. I had the privilege of participating in that production as a cast member and co-fight choreographer. I am proud of the work I did on that show, and proud of what the cast accomplished. I will not claim that it was a great show - plenty of other reviewers pointed out its many flaws - but I am astounded that our little production could have produced the level of smug disdain and outright rudeness exhibited in your review.

First of all, to get my own little personal gripe out of the way: "Shoe-black"? What? I had nothing more in my hair than regular old styling gel. Lots of it. I was playing a greasy, slimy character so we gave him greasy slimy hair. You compared my look to Otto from Beetlejuice. I... don't have a problem with that, actually. That particular character did not come up in the early design discussions as far as I'm aware, but it's a valid choice. The whole show was intended to be over the top. You know... "theatrical."

Also, your concern about cast members tripping over themselves backstage? That was me, too. Tripped over a curtain and threw my hand out to stop myself from falling. Slapped it hard against the wall. Made a big loud noise. Sorry about that. It gets really dark back there! I suppose they could turn on more lights, but you were already having so much difficulty handling a "big-ass show in a small-ass space" and we didn't want to upset your refined sensibilities.

Most of the issues you raise in your bullet-point list wrap up into one basic complaint: The show was not big enough for you. You wanted a bigger stage, and fancier costumes. You wanted to see money. You did NOT want to see Chicago storefront theatre. Yes, anyone can stay home and watch TV, as you suggested, but perhaps someone who thinks plays would be better served at the Lyric is unaware, or cannot appreciate, that attending the theatre is an entirely different experience. The Chicago storefront theatre aesthetic may not be for everybody, but for those who truly appreciate theatre created at the ground level, there is no better place to find it. Your review, Ms. Singleton, makes it apparent that you cannot appreciate a play unless you can see money in it. And I feel sorry for you for that.

Or it's possible you just don't like being that close. Certainly, the Lyric would allow you that oh-so-comfortable separation between the audience and the actors, but I can tell you that no matter how close you are sitting, all of the costumes are held together with safety pins.

Which brings me to your "advice" for the actress who played Julia. Is it possible you are not aware that even though a character may die onstage, the actor playing that character remains alive, and usually continues to breathe? And furthermore, most characters who die onstage do so in a violent manner, which tends to be physically demanding for the actor? If you are unable to suspend your disbelief enough to accept this very standard theatrical convention, how can you possibly be expected to appreciate or even understand the rest of the play? Or ANY play? Or have you just never sat close enough to notice?

Strawdog's The Duchess of Malfi was far from a perfect show. But you held it up to standards that simply do not apply. And because it didn't fit your mold, you spent half your review repeating the Wikipedia plot description, then descended into bullet-pointed condescension and insults. "Slather on plenty of Prep H"? As a 280-pound person who has sat in those chairs many times, I think that comment says more about you and your, ahem, issues, than anything wrong with the theatre or our play.

(CLICK HERE to read the original review.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I Wanna Be An Avenger

I mentioned this on Facebook, but I thought I'd toss it out to the world at large just for funzies: I just discovered there is a character in the Marvel universe named Christopher M. Walsh. He looks like this:

Perhaps not the handsomest superhero around. In fact, not a superhero at all, as far as I can tell. He's just some dude. According to, he appeared in Invincible Iron Man and was a "HAMMER agent working for Norman Osborn that tracked Tony Stark down in Afghanistan." As you can see, he's kinda chubby - not unlike myself. And I could totally rock that facial hair.

My point is, I should totally have at least a featured cameo in the next Avengers movie. After all, SHIELD is listed as one of his group affiliations. I almost want to start a petition, but that seems kinda douchey. But if someone else were to start such a petition...

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'. Know what I'm sayin'?


My friend Chelsea went and started up some Facebook stuff. Click HERE to like the page, and HERE to join the group. Be a part of the movement! Viva la Revolucion!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Just Checking In

Oh, hey, look at that! I have a blog. I totally forgot about that.

That's a lie. I knew it was there the whole time. It lurked in the back of my mind for the last several months, taunting me, daring me to write something. Which I did! Just not for the blog. I've decided not to feel too bad about it.

That said, it has been a thrilling few months since my last report. I opened and closed Hunger at Lifeline. Lifeline also announced its next season, and I will be writing the script for our winter show, an adaptation of China Miéville's The City and the City. I'll be hearing the script out loud for the first time in just a couple of weeks. And I spent the last six weeks rehearsing The Duchess of Malfi for Strawdog Theatre. Previews start tomorrow. I've got a couple other writing projects in the works, and I've been cast in a show that will run next fall, about which I am incredibly excited.

On the downside, I lost my day job a few weeks ago. The company packed up and moved its office out of the city, and without a car I couldn't make the commute. I will admit that I am getting more and more stressed about money issues with each passing day, but I feel certain that in the long run this is going to turn into an opportunity for me. Like I said, I'm writing more. I've also finally started going out on commercial auditions that my agent has set up for me. Nothing has come from these yet, but it's an area in which I'm still very new. I am thinking positive thoughts, and telling myself it's just a matter of time.

Oh! And I recorded a voiceover demo. I'm rather proud of it. You can check it out here. (In fact, please do. Because of budgetary constraints I am doing this completely on my own, and could use all the free feedback I can get.) This one is strictly commercials; next week I plan on recording a second one that focuses more on narrative scripts. This is another new field for me, but one that I think holds some potential for me.

A Crew of Patches has a few more weeks before the end of its season. When that's done I will need to begin my job search in earnest. Most likely I'll start hitting up some of my old temp agencies. My fingers are crossed that I can find something that will be as flexible as my old place about letting me run out for auditions, as well as my morning Patches shows.

In the meantime, I have my current artistic endeavors to keep me busy, if not solvent.

Also, I need a haircut.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

I don't have bad auditions.

Wait, that came out wrong.

I mean to say that I am usually pretty confident at auditions. I get nervous sometimes, sure, but never so much that it distracts from my performance. I'm a good cold reader, and I've got a handful of monologues that I know really well, that I've really done my homework on, and that I can whip out at a moment's notice whenever the occasion calls for it.

Which is why I'm really not sure what went wrong yesterday.

It was a general audition for a casting agent. That means that I wasn't up for any particular role, but rather was trying to make a good impression in the hopes of being considered for future roles. No one likes having to do general auditions. They are a necessary evil - and the "necessary" part may be up for debate. But I guess every so often casting directors and agents want to see some new faces, and so they hold generals. And we actors show up because we need to be seen if we ever want to actually get hired. As audition situations go, the general audition is pretty low-pressure. The important thing is to avoid looking like a complete idiot. If you can get a chuckle from the agent during your comedic monologue, you've probably done as well as can possibly be expected. They have to sit through a hundred or more of them, so it will take a lot to get a reaction.

The point is, I don't expect a lot in the way of feedback from these types of auditions. You go in, you get about three minutes to get through your monologues, you say thank you, you leave. You try not to look at the people watching you, because most likely they won't be watching you. They will be taking notes or something. But I expect this, and I'm a personable guy, so I'm polite and do my stuff and I don't stress to much about it.

Which brings me to yesterday. Like I said, I can't tell you what went wrong yesterday. It was my first time auditioning for this particular agent, so I was a little nervous going in. Everything was fine until it came time to start my first monologue, and I found myself suddenly all self-conscious. I mumbled the title and playwright for the first monologue, and then could not focus for the rest of my time. I botched the first couple of lines of my first piece, not so badly that I had to start over, but enough that for the rest of both monologues all I could think was, what am I doing? My second monologue is supposed to be the "funny" one, and it totally fell flat. I was unsure of what I was saying or why I was saying it. I was acutely aware of the agent's blank stare, and the agent's assistant's pen as she scribbled notes. I think I actually directed part of the second monologue at her notepad.

I was so rattled by how the whole thing went that at rehearsal that night I fumbled my way through an entire act before I could get through a scene without completely demolishing at least one line of dialogue.

Long ago I gave up trying to assess just how well I did or did not do at an audition. I've landed roles after auditions I was certain I had botched, and didn't even get a callback from auditions I knew I had nailed. So I am not going to pretend to have any idea what this agent thought of me. But it is going to take me a while to shake this one off.

Monday, January 02, 2012

I Am Thus Resolved

Happy New Year! As per usual, resolutions abound.

This year, I resolve to lose fifty pounds. This is different from my usual resolution to "lose weight," which technically I have succeeded in doing every year that I made the resolution. However, I've never set a specific goal before, nor did I specify that I need to actually keep it off. My resolution is to be fifty pounds lighter on December 31, 2012, than I was on January 1st. That's less than a pound per week. Totally manageable.

This year, I resolve to get my drivers' license. I resolve to take care of this every year. It's a scheduling problem: I don't have regular access to a car, but I will need to take a road test to get the license. And of course you can't just show up and say, "Hey! I'm ready to take my test now!" Figuring out exactly when to show up for these things is an exact science, and one that I have not mastered yet. So, I cannot promise that this resolution won't come to the same result this year that it has every year previously, but I will see what I can do.

This year, I resolve to get cast in at least one film. It doesn't matter what kind. It doesn't matter if I get paid. I have an agent now, so the odds of me getting paid for film work has increased, but it's not a deal breaker. In order to get paying film work, I need to put together a film reel. In order to get enough footage for a reel, I need to get some time in front of a camera. That means doing student films, shorts, whatever. Fine with me.

This year, I resolve to write an original play. If I write an adaptation as well, that's awesome. But I want to write something new, on my own, and I want to submit it in hopes of having it produced.

This year, I resolve to learn how to play the piano. I got a midi keyboard for Christmas, and GarageBand has tutorials to help learn. I've already started. I need to find time to practice, but I'm excited about it. There is a possibility that I will be writing a musical for my theatre company in the next year or two. While I'm told that my job would involve the parts that aren't music, I'd still like to be able to participate in the conversation. Plus, it's just something I've always wanted to do, and now I can.

This year, I resolve to talk to my family more often. I've really let that slide. Events of the last couple months have driven home how important it is to keep in touch with loved ones.

Right. No problem. Time to get to work.