Monday, September 23, 2013

Update: The Sparx City Hop, the Monologue Battle, and "Handle With Care" at Actors' Summit

I had an amazing time this weekend as a tour guide for the Sparx City Hop in Cleveland. It feels like it's been ages since I made a living sitting in a rumbling trolley bus spouting off into a mic about local landmarks to a bunch of tourists, but it's amazing how it all came rushing back.

DC is easier to tell stories about than Cleveland -- if nothing else when you're in a traffic jam you can fall back on American history in general and tell stories about various presidents and whatnot -- but I really did learn how much there was to know that I didn't know about Cleveland's history preparing for this event, including how much of Cleveland's storied history has been determined by massive rioting. (If you want to know the history of Cleveland's East Side vs. West Side rivalry, check out the story of the Battle of the Bridge.)

I had a lot of fun hanging out with native Clevelanders and visitors to our fair city swapping stories, and I definitely recommend the Sparx City Hop for anyone in Cleveland next year. The Downtown Alliance pays to have touring hop-on-hop-off trolleys completely for free -- which is a better deal than you'll find in DC -- and the only downside of my being a tour guide this year was I didn't have much time to ride myself and take in all the art exhibits, musical performances and cheap beer around that day.

In further news, I'm going to be performing once again at the Epic Lounge at the monthly Monologue Battle. Major props to my friend Cristal Christian for continuing to work hard putting on this event every month. I won the first time I went and have had to yield to the increased competition since then -- but I'm hoping to step up my game this month and reclaim my crown.

Thursday night September 26 at 6:00 pm at 17322 Harvard Ave. in Cleveland. Hope to see you all there!

And finally, more details to come as the event approaches, but I'm excited to announce that I've been cast in the lead role in an upcoming production at Actors' Summit, a romantic comedy entitled HANDLE WITH CARE. (I get to be the comic third wheel in the "meet cute", just like John Candy in Splash.) The show doesn't go up until the spring, so watch this space for more info.

Thanks and much love to all my friends and supporters, and hope to see you at a show soon.

Another Erfworld update

My British accent gets another workout in this one: Maggie and the Great Minds

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Also, Erfworld!

I get to do some really fun voices in these bits. I finally get to try to fill the enormous boots of the imposing and tyrannical Lord Stanley the Tool: And I get to do my best attempt at a brief Alan Alda impression, as well as yet another attempt at being a sexy lady: I won't tire of doing these as long as Rob keeps writing them, and I'm really excited to see what finally happens when Parson directly confronts the Great Minds. Stay tuned!

So here's what I've been up to

Sorry to leave you all hanging (well... as far as I can tell, all two dozen-odd or so of you, but I have big hopes for this blog's audience growing in the future).

I've been spending a couple weeks struggling with mild illness and an enormous amount of work, both day-job-related and personal-business-related, but I haven't forgotten you, gentle readers.

In fact, here, have a present, a Vine I did as an audition for a social-media-based ad campaign by, on the topic "What does it feel like to be in love?":

The projects that have taken up my time since waving farewell to the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival are diverse, but the biggest one was being part of the diversity presentation at John Carroll University's freshman orientation.

That was a trip for me. I still remember guiltily feeling bored at the diversity presentation at my OWN freshman orientation. The fact that now more than a decade separates me and this year's incoming college freshman class fills me with dread of my own mortality and the relentless march of time, as well as giving me the urge to acquire some kind of facial piercing.

The hardest thing about it was that I was playing multiple characters -- a professor who had immigrated from China, and a Chinese international student -- where it was integral to their character that they spoke in a thick Chinese accent.

Admittedly this isn't the first time I've been called on to do it, and it is an accent I grew up on my whole life, so it wasn't totally nerve-racking for me. But, as I said in the Q&A we had after the show, when you've spent your whole life trying to sound as "normal" and "American" as possible, intentionally putting on a "broken English" accent is triggering in all sorts of ways, and it's a delicate tightrope doing so in a way that's sensitive to the character while also reflecting the reality of that character's struggle to communicate.

Perhaps the biggest thing that freaked me out about playing those characters was my wife telling me I ended up sounding just like my dad. Unsurprising, considering who my model for the accent was, but still... I'm not sure I'm ready for people to be saying that to me yet.

In any case the experience would not have been anywhere near as rewarding as it was if not for our director, Michael Oatman, a consummate professional capable of breaking down a scene moment-by-moment at the same time as regaling us with heartwarming stories about growing up amid gang violence and hate crimes in East Cleveland. I learned a lot and I hope to work with him again.

Now for my next project -- I'm in front of a camera! I've been cast in MAD Vista Productions' indie feature film Cleanland.

Sort of the exact opposite of doing an uplifting and optimistic piece about racial healing, Cleanland is a gritty look at corruption, chaos and criminality. My mother was always afraid of me being brutally murdered on the streets of Cleveland -- now she'll finally get to see it happen!

You can sign up for updates about the project at the MAD Vista Productions website:

as well as read their maddeningly terse synopsis of the plot of Cleanland.

I've signed an NDA so the details are still hush-hush. Let's just say I'm planning to re-watch Frank Miller's Sin City soon as research for my (minor, but badass) role.

And that's it for now. Though I continue to remain, as always, overcaffeinated, underslept and always auditioning. Keep in touch about opportunities coming down the pike, gentle readers, and I'll do the same for all of you.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back to blogging -- My involvement in The Book of Voices project

I've been completely wiped since my vacation in Maine, trying to keep up with the flood tide of work that had been piling up while I was gone. I did promise my loyal readers (however many of you actually exist out there) more updates about what I've been up to, though, so here's a project that's just getting off the ground that I'm pretty excited about.

Meet Joseph Zitt, scholar, geek, leader in the Occupy Cleveland community and all around cool Cleveland citizen. One of Joe's interests is also one of mine: This beautiful, complex, frustrating compendium of law, philosophy, history and poetry we call the Holy Bible and the history and context as it's been viewed through the ages.

One of his many awesome projects has been tackling the process of writing what ended up being a pretty long novel in the form of serialized microfictions, The Book of Voices. You can read an early version of the book on a Wordpress blog here. It's essentially theological fanfiction, a Midrash for the modern age -- giving voice to the unheard characters in the background of familiar Hebrew School/Sunday School stories, exploring holy text with an eye for the postmodern and subversive while always remaining respectful to the weight of the subject matter.

It's really fun stuff, in other words, and I was a fan of it as soon as I heard about it. Of course, my own voice being cast in the pilot episodes to turn it into an audiobook series didn't hurt.

You can listen to me playing the roles of Adam, the First Man, and his suspiciously similar-sounding great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson Japheth, youngest son of Noah and patriarch of the nations, here:

These are rough "pilot" pieces, as Joseph notes, intended to serve as a prototype with which to start putting together a more professionally made series of podcasts, but I still really like how they turned out and think they provide a great sense of what the book is like and what my vocal range is like.

And yes, in both the pieces I'm in I play a distraught mortal man commiserating in the wake of a great disaster with an angel played by the inestimable Robert Branch. I think it's a dynamic that suits my "earthy" quality as an actor, especially alongside Rob's natural ethereality.

Do leave me a note if you're in the Cleveland area and want to know more about/be more involved in this evolving project.

Another Erfworld update

I won't lie, the Erfworld update schedule can be kind of draining, but it's rewarding too.

The character of Jack Snipe was one of my favorites in the comic, and it's been a lot of fun voicing him. That alone makes this a great update, leaving aside the MASSIVE PLOT REVELATION.

(For those of you who don't read Erfworld: There are massive spoilers here. Go ahead and binge-read the whole series before watching the most recent video. I'll wait.)