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2/24/2015

The Call

What I’m working on now, which is really myself. Thanks to hero Dan Harmon for the story structure, to hero Joss Whedon for the mythos, and to friends who have read drafts and helped me mold.

the_call

I feel like it’s easy for people to give up on me, and I have unwittingly joined in that. I am a terror, a childish tyrant. It was always this way, probably, but I had better ways to hide it before. Better motivation to, at least.

My evils I have to let live. They are there for me to keep, like tigers in a zoo. Beautiful from a distance, but they make poor pets.

These escapes I came to love. I can keep those, too. Minimum security.

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2/13/2015

I think I’m alone.

No one has ever said, “Don’t give up.”

I tell people I’m giving up theatre, and they just nod. I don’t expect their life to be about me, but I see this as evidence that I would not be missed. I think I would respond the same way to someone who said it sincerely if I did not think they were contributing anything worthy to the artform.

I changed my life intentionally to do this full-time. Did I waste the last six or seven years? What have I learned? Only that the people I expected to find also treading this path, the people I thought were my people, are few and far between.

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2/2/2015

On the use of Violence in the Theatre

Theatrical violence incorporates the most important aspects of theatrical performance: objectives and commitment at the very highest stakes, physical communication and cooperation between actors, and a dual awareness at both the character and actor levels. For me, stage combat informs all of my work as a professional actor in Milwaukee, and I am proud to have served as fight director for so many shows at so many companies, bringing safety and storytelling to their scenes of violence.

I consider stage combat to be a modern martial art, focused on storytelling, rather than defense, much like many Eastern disciplines teach that, at the highest levels, violence and destruction are set aside in favor of aesthetic creation. A master becomes an artist, as the understanding of violence reminds one of their human nature (the earth, the id, the beast, etc.) but channeling that directionless passion are the creative and rational drives. As artists in the theatre, the consummation of all arts, we have the ability and responsibility to bring this violence as realistically to bear as we are able in order to confront and discuss — and perhaps, to change — the way in which we accept and cope with our natural tendency toward violence.

To that end, it is essential that we as fight directors, give our actors the tools required to tell these stories. By necessity, we begin to help with precautions against harm; after all, beyond the obvious preservation of the actor, if the actor must hesitate because of a safety concern, then we have hindered the story by whatever fraction that hesitation costs. Contrarily, when we instill in actors the knowledge and practice to free them of the constraint of fear, we not only allow that particular scene to come alive, but we bring the actors to a greater state of awareness and commitment, which can only serve them in all aspects of performance.

The responsibility is colossal for fight directors, as with any teachers, to keep this always in mind. We must understand fear, violence, and all of the darkest parts of our humanity in order to create compelling art, but we must be in command of those forces, and teach others to be in command of them, if that art is to be of value.

(from my application to the SAFD TCW 2015)

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1/22/2015

A limited word poem as an elegy

Bring me my crisp white shirt
let me put on
the necessary black and stand
somberly as he passes

For remembrance sake
let me say these words
that stand here, black on white
a counter-facing of my grief

lift them from the page
let me also lift your heart
to live in the white of joy
and let grief stand black behind

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1/20/2015

Endings

My grandfather died on January 20.

1.

I heard from my mother that he was sick, refusing meds, home in bed. He was surrounded by people, professing to hate that. An old dog that wanted to die alone under the porch.

I wanted to respect that, so I declined offers from my wife that she would take off work and we could travel together to see him. I met with my therapist, who thought maybe I was avoiding confronting this situation out of a fear of the awkward emotions that accompany it, and that my respect was a justification. After all, we agreed, the visitation would be not for his sake, but for mine. All the more reason to avoid it, I thought.

Burdening him with more tears and silence; who does that serve? It seemed selfish. Still, will I regret not having seen him weak and dying?

At Christmas, I told him I loved him. He was standing then, perhaps in pain, but smiling, because around him was the family he had created. They acted more like a family than they had in years, despite the ill-suited nature of the gift exchange. He smiled, he shook my hand. His callouses made his hands dry and rocky and years of self-induced hard labor made them strong. He asked me to use my voice to emcee the game — I did my duty by him — but something in him was actually saying, “I’m proud of you. Don’t forget.”

2.

Grandpa passed away quietly today at 11:21 am, we will see you soon …love to you all :(

Love you, Mom. See you soon.

3.

My cousin called, then texted, then called again. “We were hoping you would be a pall-bearer,” he said, his gentle strength spoken large, even through a speakerphone.

I was beginning to feel a solid silence take hold of me, one I wanted to live in for a few weeks. My grandfather, the stoic spirit, looking over me. He was a man of his era. He expected and delivered a masculinity that had become verboten during the Lilith Faire 90’s, then forgotten in the age of social media. A kind of Don Draper, a kinder kind.

“Sorry to call back. We were talking about who might be good to deliver the eulogy, and your name come up.”

“Yes. Of course.”

“You don’t have to. It’s —”

“No. I will.”

“Ok. We can have Michael be pall-bearer. We want someone from each family.”

4.

Eulogy for my Grandfather

Hello.

For those who don’t know me, my name is Christopher. I say “for those who don’t know me” for a couple of reasons: my grandfather touched so many lives, and was an important part of such a colossal family, that it’s possible I’m closely related to you, and yet we’ve never met.

I am known, for better or worse, for being somewhat loud and talkative. I remember once when I was very young and Grandpa was teaching me to play chess, I told him that I wanted to be a gastroenterological surgeon. He made a little smile and asked me why that specifically, but I couldn’t answer him. It was just the largest word I knew and I wanted to impress him. In his chosen profession of medicine, my grandfather helped improve thousands of lives, inspiring many of his children to also go into science and medicine, and all of us to be empathic, caring, gentle people.

One Thanksgiving, after I had officially made the move from the kids table to the adult table, he pushed away from his plate of turkey and Grandma’s famous stuffing, and began his usual rounds, asking people what they would like to drink. In the list he gave, there was a new offering that year: a high ball. To this day, I don’t know what kind of cocktail that is, and it seems there are many answers to that, but I accepted because that was the true mark of adulthood in Grandpa’s eyes. I would always be his grandson, but now I was also a man. When he brought it to me, we sat across from each other in tall, cushioned lazyboys and watched the Packer game, sipping our drinks. Then, when a commercial came on, he looked over at me and told me one of his infamous, slightly off-color jokes. I don’t remember the content now, but I remember that the funniest part was the way he told it. It was not the joke that mattered, but that he wanted me to laugh. It was of utmost importance to him that his family be happy during the holidays. He had taken me through my rite of passage effortlessly, and I will always remember and be grateful for it.

Now that I had reached adulthood, he would ask me at each family gathering how my education was coming along. When I graduated with a degree in Literature at the age of 35, he made a point of telling me that he had finished his schooling later in life as well, and what mattered was that I had seen it through. He never mentioned the drastic change of subject matter. It was education, the bettering of one’s self in the service of others that made the difference. He had worked hard for his many advanced degrees, and he translated that work into a love for teaching others. Grandpa was always so pleased to see his children and grandchildren succeed, no matter their path through life. They were his favorite students.

This past Christmas, at the now familiar Mr. Beef, he stood and shook my hand, probably in pain, but smiling through it, because around him was the family he had created. Years of hard work — on his farm in Wisconsin, in his home and his garden — made his grip strong and his hand rough. He chuckled his Grandpa chuckle, and asked me to bring the family together for the game. But, over time, you learned how to read Grandpa’s reserved nature, and I knew part of what he was actually saying was, “I’m proud of you.” It was an honor that he wanted me to speak for him. I’m honored again to speak for him here.

We are a lot alike, my grandfather and I. Like him, I am tall, hale, and hearty. Like him, I don’t really like having my picture taken. Like him, I get restless and want to get things done rather than sit idle, even if it’s just to play several hands of pinochle while we talk at the table. I learned from him to eat ice cream by carrying a single spoon of it around the house with me. I have the “Blechl head,” which I think refers to more than just the baldness, but a keen perception and a certain headstrong quality which can, at times, be a virtue.

There are many things to admire in my grandfather. His stoic, unwavering strength in times of need. His kind smile and overflowing generosity when surrounded by the warmth of his family. Our family. That word can mean so many things. From his great faith, he taught me that it means to give —sometimes what is needed and not what is wanted — it means to sacrifice your needs for the needs of others, to love unconditionally, to forgive and be forgiven. Together with his loving wife, my grandfather gave us all that gift, that pure and perfect unbreakable bond of family.

So, beyond our grief at missing him, let us all celebrate that gift together, as he would have wanted, and let him watch over us, smiling quietly, as always.

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1/12/2015

Dishonor

It has a name, this feeling. I have discovered it, through my blinding tears and binding fears.

It is dishonor. I am dishonored by the way people have treated me lately. I suppose it’s not a feeling that is common in the United States, because I don’t mean the distortion that some Fox News enthusiasts might summon up in their talk of war.

My guests have dishonored me. I have shown them courtesy and respect and they have not reciprocated. Now, they come here to steal from me, their host.

It is dishonor, and it shall be treated as such.

Compassion: He develops a power that must be used for the good of all. He has compassion. He helps his fellow men at every opportunity. If an opportunity does not arise, he goes out of his way to find one.

Courage: Rise up above the masses of people who are afraid to act. Hiding like a turtle in a shell is not living at all. A samurai must have heroic courage. It is absolutely risky. It is dangerous. It is living life completely, fully, wonderfully. Heroic courage is not blind. It is intelligent and strong. Replace fear with respect and caution.

Courtesy: Samurai have no reason to be cruel. They do not need to prove their strength. A samurai is courteous even to his enemies. Without this outward show of respect, we are nothing more than animals. A samurai is not only respected for his strength in battle, but also by his dealings with other men. The true inner strength of a samurai becomes apparent during difficult times.

– from Akodo’s Leadership

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1/11/2015

from The Last Five Years

NOBODY NEEDS TO KNOW

Hey, kid.
Good morning.
You look like an angel.
I don’t remember when we fell asleep.
We should get up, kid.
Cathy is waiting…

Look at us,
lying here
Dreaming, pretending
I made a promise, and I took a vow,
I wrote a story
And we changed the ending
Cathy, just look at me now.

Hold on, facts are facts
Just relax, lay low,
All right, the panic recedes:
Nobody needs to know

Put on my armor
I’m off to Ohio
Back into battle
till I don’t know when
Swearing to her
that I never was with you
And praying I’ll hold you again

Hold on, clip these wings.
Things get out of hand
All right, it’s over, it’s done
No one will understand
No one will understand

We build a treehouse
I keep it from shaking
Little more glue every time that it breaks
Perfectly balanced
And then I start making
Conscious, deliberate mistakes

All that I ask for is one little corner
One private room at the back of my heart
Tell her I found one, she sends out battalions
To claim it and blow it apart

I grip and she grips
And faster we’re sliding
Sliding and spilling
And what can I do?
Come back to bed, kid
Take me inside you
I promise I won’t lie to you

Hold on, don’t cry yet
I won’t let you go
All right, the panic recedes
All right, everyone bleeds
All right, I get what I need
And nobody needs to know
Nobody needs to know

And since I have to be in love with someone
Since I need to be in love with someone
Maybe I could be in love with someone
Like you

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You will pay for your passion

He said, “Try not to think of your theatre career as your identity.”

He said, “I’m not telling you to give it up, but make a conscious split.”

One show closed. Another opened and one was still running. The calls kept coming and the websites — the paid work, the valued work, the work of concrete value — fell even further behind schedule.

In a few months, all of this will have passed. I have deliberately extricated myself. In atonement, I have isolated myself.

In this state of trying to be less involved, I have to decide now, in this moment or the very next, my future for the next three years. Either I finish my application in January for my “terminal degree,” — and isn’t that an apt phrase? — or I wait for the next go-round in three years. Then, I will be 41. With my life less ahead of me than behind me, I start on a career of physical training. I consider myself a punctual person, but I arrived late to this understanding. In this moment, when I want to give up theatre entirely and crawl into a hole because I have nothing else to excite me, I have to choose.

Two young people are coming, ill-advisedly, to my home city. They’re newer to this craft than I am, but who gives a shit? I’ve spent ten years trying to convince people of its worth; why wouldn’t those same people hire the young hotshots for cheap over the tired, bitter curmudgeon who “overcharges?” I would, in their situation.

I am not someone who wants to hold anyone back. I loathe competition because it favors those without compassion. You must not care for your opponent if you want to win. Should art be about winning? No. In a capitalist society, however, it’s not immune.

I will give up. It is not only easier, it is the right thing to do. I am not so gifted that the world needs my art. My passion has waned, but there are many for whom the spark still burns hot. I am not so important that my absence will leave a dent. Those that understand know I am a fraud, those that give me praise do not understand.

Where does that leave me? On the couch, pressing buttons. In a chair, pressing keys. Waiting for my heart to stop, because it gave up long ago.

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1/2/2015

2014

24 Fight Direction gigs.

Acted in 6 productions.

Became an Associate Instructor with Dueling Arts International.

Taught 5 skills tests in 6 months.

Developed 6 websites.

Sound Design in 3 productions.

Directed my first full show.

Led my first Unrehearsed Shakespeare show.

 

Kiss my ass, 2014. I kicked yours.

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12/23/2014

Going Through the Motions

Every single night the same arrangement
I go out and fight the fight

Still, I always feel this strange estrangement
Nothing here is real. Nothing here is right.

I’ve been making shows of trading blows
Just hoping no one knows

That I’ve been going through the motions
Walking through the part
Nothing seems to penetrate my heart.

I was always brave and kind of righteous
Now I find I’m wavering.

Crawling out your grave you find this fight just
Doesn’t mean a thing. (She ain’t got that swing.)

Thanks for noticing.

(She does pretty well with fiends from hell,
but lately we can tell

That she’s just going through the motions
Faking it somehow
She’s not even half the girl she… ow.)

Will I stay this way forever?
Sleepwalk through my life’s endeavor?
(How can I repay you –)
Whatever.

I don’t wanna be

Going through the motions
Losing all my drive.
I can’t even see if this is really me
and I just want to be

Alive.

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