Monday, April 29, 2013

In Beck We Trust

A few months ago The Brick hosted a night of Beck songs with artists performing selections form Song Reader, Beck's sheet-music-only album he released back in December 2012.

It was a magical night filled with laughs and melodies from wide variety of artists, many friends of The Brick and some new to the space and community.

I'll let the videos below speak for the night. I'll update this page as new videos trickle in. Or jump over to The Brick's YouTube page.


Just Noise:
A Concert Recording Session for Beck's Song Reader
January 11, 2013

Trav S.D. performing "Old Shanghai"

Supermajor performs "Don't Act Like Your Heart Isn't Hard"

Ben Williams performs "I'm Down"

Killy "Mockstar" Dwyer & Joe Yoga perform "Do We? We Do!"

Maria Dessena performs "Eyes That Say 'I Love You'" 

Bobby Oahu performs "Last Night You Were a Dream"

The Starr Kendall Experiment performs "Saint Dude"

The Roly Polys perform "The Last Polka"

More to come...

Friday, April 12, 2013


I like to draw. I used to draw a lot as a child. Anytime something was delivered to the house in a cardboard box, I'd flatten it out and go crazy. My characters and scene-scapes were always impressions of my surroundings. People had big, round heads and really long feet. My grandmother would laugh because I always drew a cat's paw off to the side. You never saw the full cat, just the paw entering frame as it walked by. Even with that enthusiasm and fun, I never thought to become an artist. I was just a kid who enjoyed interpreting my world through color and lines (which, yes I guess, is an artist). But I never had the opportunity to develop into one. My East Texas school didn't offer an art program, which was a shame because several people in my class had a knack for drawing. Yet another reason I wish there was more money for the arts in public schools. And so when I was older, my grandmother asked why I stopped drawing. I blamed it mainly on not having that art program. Sure I could have kept at it trying to improve the rudimentary skills I had, but after a while I couldn't paint or draw with the detail that I could see in my head. And so my attention wandered to other things like music or theater or what out-of-town girl I could make out with on a school field trip.

And I did eventually become an "artist". Instead of canvas I chose the bare stage to paint with my intentions and body movement. Although I tend not to call myself an artist because it's usually a little confusing to the outside observer. "Oh, you mean you're an actor?" Kind of like how I wouldn't raise my hand if someone asked if there was a doctor in the house even if I had a Ph.D in theatre. But yes, I'm an artist in the grand sense. And I like to think that I am contributing to the many artful dialogues that play out in bar discussions, social media and my own head.

But what makes an artist? What makes art? Is it the physical thing or simply the idea? Do you have to create something to be an artist? Or could I just brood around a gallery telling people that I'm still "working" on something? "Something BIG!" Those questions seem to never have a straight forward answer (especially if you're talking to artists). But all that has once again lead me to The Brick and the upcoming performances of Mass, the new rock opera from writer and Brick co-founder Robert Honeywell and directed by the wonderful Leah Bonvissuto. I sat down with them recently to discuss the show which goes into previews Saturday April 13th and opens Friday April 19th.

First off, they wanted to definitely say that this musical is very loosely based on the life events of Vincent Van Gogh, his brother Theo and contemporary Paul Gauguin. Especially since it stars an all-female cast and is set between 2015-18 in New York, Vancouver and Shanghai. Go figure. Ultimately, Mass is a love story of two artists. Because if art alone wasn't confusing enough, adding love into the mix makes it even messier.

Making sense of this mess of love and art are three very gifted artists of the stage: Esther Crow (Francoise/Gauguin), Moira Stone (Mary/Vincent) and Rebecca Gray Davis (Kate/Theo).

Photos by Joe Kolbow, triptych by Sarah Lippmann
Inspired by themes of their real life counterparts Mass throws us into the passionate tale of two artists (Francoise and Mary) and questions if two artists can be together if their art differs. And what effect does a relationship do to the artist's view of reality? What effects do money, family (Kate) and religion have on the creative process? What happens when the ones you love pull away? And in the process of artistic breakthroughs, does the mass of these questions hold you back or cause you to go off the deep end? Questions I ask myself every day and am unable (and sometimes unwilling) to answer.

If the Wiki rumors of the time between Van Gogh and Gaugin are true, I fear for what Mass has in store for Francoise, Mary and Kate. And with the talent behind Crow, Stone and Davis I know I won't be disappointed when the lights go down at the end.

And making this show even more massive is the rock band backing up our artful ladies, lead by the wonderful Maria Dessena, who was musical director for Honeywell's Ich Liebe Jesus this past December, and comprises an awesome rhythm section that includes Electric Mess bassist Derek Davidson and Auto Bonfire drummer Sparkie Sandler, both bands fronted by Crow, and which you may have seen providing psychedelic overtones in the Piper McKenzie/Trav S.D. Charles Manson inspired musical Willy Nilly (Fringe Festival 2009). But all this isn't just for show, the creators have been careful to make sure that the songs are tied to the emotions and thoughts as the characters experience it and helps to express the the ideas instead of just telling. As a professor in college once told me, songs should be reserved for when you can no longer express what you're feeling with words. The music must burst out of you in a flurry of emotion. So I look forward to seeing this tale of love and strife burst forth from these wonderful artists.

Also, a story about art wouldn't be complete without a little art as well. You may walk into a blank, white canvas by set designer Lianne Arnold but you'll be dazzled by video projections by Daniel McKleinfeld and lights by Joe Levasseur, with some stylish costumes provided by the lovely Iracel Rivero.

And if you want to convert this into more scientific terms let's take the mass (m) of talent in this ensemble of actors, singers, musicians, writer, director and design team, multiplied by the square of electrical transmission of ideas/light in their brains (c2) and the energy (E) released will surely blow people out of their seats at The Brick and prove Steve Martin's theory between art and science.

April 13 – 30, 2013
The Brick, 579 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11211

Music, book and lyrics by Robert Honeywell 
Directed by Leah Bonvissuto 
Music direction by Maria Dessena 
Set design by Lianne Arnold 
Lighting design by Joe Levasseur 
Video design by Daniel McKleinfeld 
Sound design by Emma Wilk 
Costume design by Iracel Rivero 
Choreography by Sarah Doudna 
Special effects by Stephanie Cox-Williams and Melissa Roth 
Assistant Dir. & Stage Management by Raffaela Vergata

Featuring: Esther Crow, Rebecca Gray Davis, Melissa DeLancey, Kaitlan Emery, Amanda LaPergola, Tracy Shar, Phoebe Silva,* and Moira Stone*

And the band of: Derek Davidson, Maria Dessena, Ryan Ferreira, Michael Rafalowich and Sparkie Sandler

*Appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association

Tues & Thurs–Sat @ 8 pm; Sun @ 3 pm
$18 ($10 for previews on Apr 13, 14, 16, 18)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fool for Love

I tend to stay away from "show" relationships. I convince myself that I should keep things "professional." The "work" comes first and my "feelings" a distant second or third place even if one of my cast mates is so beautiful that my heart melts every time I see her. Maybe I'm afraid that something "weird" might happen during the dating process and we have to deal with all that awkwardness for the rest of the run. Maybe I'm waiting for the show to end to make my "move," using all that rehearsal time and performance to see if a) she's available in the first place and b) interested in me in the slightest. Most times this approach backfires on me and that special someone starts seeing someone else, completely unaware of my affection. And maybe I'm afraid of the rejection. Maybe I just don't want to get burned again. I once asked a cast mate out and her only response was, "Ooohh, that's cute..." After a few seconds of silence waiting for a more concrete answer from her I walked off embarrassed.

There are many questions that we artists face throughout our life and times. The last couple of shows this year at The Brick have tried to answer some of those questions. Dealing with plagiarism (Buran Theatre's Nightmares), government/artistic entitlements (Lamb Lays with Lion's Entitlement) and the love/hate relationship our families have with our artful career choices (New Saloon's William Shakespeare's Mom). And now Dangerous Ground will expand this unintentional theme and explore the questions of love that arise with on-stage/screen relationships with L’Amour Fou, a stage adaptation of the Jacques Rivette's 1969 film (not to be confused with the 2010 Yves Saint-Laurent documentary of the same name)

Jacques Rivette and Bulle Ogier on the set of L'Amour fou, photo by Pierre Zucca
The movie/play centers around the production of Racine's Andromaque with the lead actress and director's marriage falling apart  while a film crew documents both the rehearsal process and a crazy love-chain that rivals the Greeks. Thanks to Dangerous Ground and director/designer Doris Mirescu, this play within a movie is now a play within a play within a movie within a multi-media landscape, dramatically altering The Brick's stage, that looks to explore the dialogue between the original movie and this adaptation. Where Rivette switches between 16 and 35mm film to capture his saga, Mirescu switches between live staging and video projection. 

This dialogue exchange is very timely, given the circumstances of when the movie was shot. Filmed in the wake of the failed 60s revolutions, Mirescu sees plenty of parallels between then and some of the failed revolutions we've recently experienced in the last few years like the Occupy movement. But the hope is still there to make those things happen (we hope). And with this production, Mirescu hopes to continue the questions of what it means to be an artist/creator. Are we allowed to be free and be innovators? And how does love interfere with all of it? And so, where Rivette left off, Dangerous Ground looks to pick up and run with it, in what Mirescu hopes to be the beginning of a trilogy

L’Amour Fou
February 14 – March 10, 2013

Written by Jacques Rivette and Marilù Parolini

Conceived, designed and directed by Doris Mirescu

Set/Clothes/Art Direction: Doris Mirescu
Lights: Kira Davies
Set & Technical Supervision/Video & sound installation: Marshall Miller
Live Cameras: Craig Newman, Doron Bloomfield, Suzannah Hoffman
Live Guitar: Gabriel Stranahan
Assistant to the Director: Doron Bloomfield

With: Sarah Baskin*, Brooke Bell, Kira Davies, Penny Folger, Gayle Greene*, Susannah Hoffman*, Melissa Hudson, Bree Merkwan, Craig Newman, David Skeist*, Mickey Solis*, William Paul Smith, Gabriel Stranahan

*Appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association

For tickets visit or OvationTix.

Until next time...choo, choo, choose me!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Meet the President

During last summer's Democracy Festival, The Brick asked their audience to help them elect the President...of The Brick. Each show was considered a candidate in the running and on the last day of the fest everyone was invited to come to the theater (or go online) and vote for their favorite show. And whoever won this election would be crowned President and receive a performance slot in January 2013. 

And now Inauguration Day is here so meet your new president: Jeremey Catterton and his company Lamb Lays with Lion.

Hail to the Chief: President Catterton
I'll take a little credit with helping this happen. I first met Jeremey last February. The company was fairly new to the city and Jeremey was excited to learn more and work with The Brick. I told him the best and easiest way to get onstage was to submit to one the many festivals, which is how a lot of companies "audition" for a main-stage slot. He applied to Democracy, was accepted and come Election Day campaigned like Mitt Romney on a milk bender earning enough votes to crown them king. He did this by stating his case to strangers on the street who then came into the theater (probably for the first and only time) and voted for his show, Ignorance. Some of the other candidates found this a little suspicious and corrupt but The Brick wanted to see how far festival participants would go to get elected. It was part of the experiment. Only one other festival candidate picked up on Jeremey's cue and did the same. 

And as promised, they were granted a two week term on the main-stage. Their new show, Entitlement, opens Jan. 17th and is the third and final installment of their American Trilogy series.

The show centers around entitlements and the bitter discussions surrounding their usage from the rantings of people from the right to the left of the political spectrum and how the center seems to maybe be the most reserved. But this show won't just involve government checks to poor folks but also the technological entitlements that our enlightened generation is so accustomed to. You faithful readers might not have to worry about your assistance check arriving late in the mail but how often have you yelled out in anger when you can't update your Facebook status? Are these entitlements one and the same? The show isn't looking to preach to you but instead engage those who are willing to listen to both sides of the debate as we eek out our existence amongst the diverse set of voices that is America. 

And similar to presidential candidates picking their running mates, Jeremey and Co. brought on board Brooklyn-based, Bard College-born theater collective New Saloon and their production of William Shakespeare's Mom to split the bill.

Their show centers around William Shakespeare, his mother, Vincent van Gogh and the struggles of being an artist. With one, you have a successful writer entertaining the Queen and the other, a depressed painter who shot himself before ever knowing his greatness.

This isn't a biopic, but more really about the struggles of artists being artists. Especially that moment between school and the "real" world. We may be taught by excellent teachers, but sometimes, those teachers are so removed from their professional paths that the advice they give is no longer valid for the current, changing times. And with the inclusion of Shakespeare's mother, the play also takes on the themes of how our parents influence and shape our artistic careers. A simple little thing like enrolling a child in a summer theater camp might be what creates the next award winning writer. But then how many of us were encouraged to get a "real degree" in something like Business? Maybe not because parents are against something artistic but they just want to make sure we can pay the bills and take care of ourselves. And can we survive without that support, either financially or emotionally, from them? Sometimes I wish I had listened to my grandmother and become a lawyer. But most times I happy I chose this life for myself. I'd rather deal with the rejection of casting directors then spend every waking and sleeping hour trying to make partner.

Personally I identify here with van Gogh (my current wallet is his Skeleton Smoking a Cig painting). I have yet to curry favor with anyone at Court. Most times I can barely get a reviewer to notice me as an actor. And as a student at the University of Oklahoma, and later at The Warehouse Theater, I was spoiled on the excesses of the main-stage theaters that were prepping me for the real world. Then I stepped out into that world and found most places where I would perform were black-box, found spaces which I've actually come to prefer over lush prosceniums. 

So I'm looking forward to the questions and answers both shows present about our political and artistic societies. And I recommend you checking out what they have to offer.

Lamb Lays with Lion's Entitlement (part 3 of The American Trilogy)
Conceived, Written, and Directed by Jeremey Catterton. 
Set, Costumes, and Choreography by Company. 
Company: Jeremey Catterton, Julia Mae Fairbanks and Breese Pickel

Appearing on a double bill with...

New Saloon's William Shakespeare’s Mom
by Milo Cramer 
Directed by Morgan Green
With Madeline Wise, Noah Schechter and Caitlin Morris

Thursday, 1/17 8pm 
Friday, 1/18 8pm 
Saturday, 1/19 8pm 
Sunday, 1/20 3pm & 8pm 
Thursday 1/24 8pm 
Friday, 1/25 8pm 
Saturday, 1/26 8pm

General Admission: $20

For tickets visit OvationTix or

Until next time...give me more!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sprechen sie Deutches, baby?

I'm a decent Beck fan. "Loser" was my first introduction after a friend saw the video on MTV. Later that same friend drew "Soy un Perdedor" on a piece of paper that I tacked to the door of my room back home (where it still hangs to this day). And since then I've seen him in concert a couple different times and most of his full albums are always on my iPod. I love how he embraces musical elements from all spectrums: anti-folk, punk, rap, sampling, rock, hip-hop, Latin, country, funk and blues to name a few. But I once wanted to kill myself from listening to Beck. It's a long story so find me at a bar one night and I'll fill you. All I will say is that if you're going through a bad break-up avoid listening to Sea Change

Beck hasn't released a studio album since 2008's Modern Guilt. He's stayed busy producing other artists, releasing a song or two for movie soundtracks and getting together with friends and playing cover songs.

Then this past December Beck released his latest sheet music. Like how music used to be distributed and played in the days before our grandparents. Song Reader has never before been released or recorded by Beck. And he encourages anyone to read, play, record, even rearrange these new songs and upload them to the internet. Check out the McSweeney's Q&A for more on how it came about.

As a band nerd I was really excited to hear about this. The flagship song "Old Shanghai" is available to download without purchasing the entire collection and I was pretty happy checking out the parts for tuba and trumpet along with the piano score. I was mulling the idea of recording that song on my own when I heard The Brick was gathering artists for a concert recording of the entire set of songs. I signed up. I taught myself guitar in high school and a couple of years ago I bought a vintage Danelectro Silvertone and have been reliving my college rock band past (Taste Like Chicken, 1996; Leggett and the Lesbians, 1998). And yes, one of the reasons I bought this guitar was after seeing Beck play one in concert. I can read music. I spent about 10 years throughout school playing trumpet but I never learned to play guitar music (little old three-chord me). Luckily the chords to "Saint Dude" are on the sheets. I've cheated a bit by listening to other bands and performers who have already recorded the song. But I found my own sound over the last few days coming up with my own arrangement, pulling inspiration from Jay Reatard, Elliott Smith and Beck himself who, if you've seen him in concert, never plays a song the same way twice

And so this Friday at 10:30pm The Brick presents Just Noise, a concert recording of these songs. The line-up is impressive. Not only will you hear me (performing as the Starr Kendall Experiment), but also Supermajor, Mockstar Killy Dwyer, Trav SD, Gyda Arber and Steve Sabaugh, Lord Ian Hill, Lady Berit Johnson, Bathtub Jen and the Henchmen, Deacon Bishop Revival, Alexis Thomason, Patrice Miller & Chris Chappell and a few more. It's free so come rock out with us. For more information check out

Until next time...get crazy with the Cheese Whiz.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


The earliest dream I remember was a nightmare. 

I was around three, in real life and in the dream. It was Christmas and I was in the den of the home where I grew up with my grandparents. The den was warmed by a Williams vent-free gas heater. It was a good warmlike you feel during Christmassurrounded by family. I was playing with some toys on the circular rug. And then my grandfather entered from the living room. Black smoke coughed from his lungs. My grandmother went to help hold him, patting his back as more soot billowed from his lungs. The temperature rose in the den. I went to the door and peered into the living room. A wave of heat engulfed me and my fear shot up to 11. There was a low hum and I looked over to the twinkling Christmas tree where I saw a toy Volkswagen Beetle slowly rolling across the carpeted room spewing fire from its tailpipe! 

Years later I found that when I overheat, I have nightmares. I now, always, as best I can, keep myself cool at night with the breeze of a fan. Even during winter. Because I'd rather dream than scream.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting in at a rehearsal of Buran Theatre's next show Nightmares: a demonstration of the Sublime, which opens at The Brick tonight. After the success of their last Brick main-stage show, The House of Fitzcarraldo, I was happy to see what they were cooking up.

In 1816 Mt. Tambora erupted in Indonesia and helped global temperatures drop and bring about the "Year without a Summer." That summer a power group of romantics were trapped on a Swiss holiday and as a contest produced the stories of Frankenstein and The Vamprye, which predated Stoker's Dracula by 80 years. Now add in some Marx Brothers and you'll get a small taste of what the company is brewing at The Brick this new year. I'll let writer and co-director Adam Burnett clue you in a little better: 

This video is from their Indiegogo campaign. After premiering at The Brick this January, they will take the show on the road to a series of theaters across the United States. Consider making a small donation if you can. And for a show about to tour, preparation is key. The cast and crew were very happy with their progress on re-crafting the script from previous workshops and presentations and "having keys" to The Brick helps too. From experience I know that making The Brick your "home" for a couple of weeks prior to opening helps keep those real nightmares away.

Nightmares: a demonstration of the Sublime opens January 2, 2012 and runs through January 12th. Tickets are on sale now at or

Written & co-directed by Adam R. Burnett and performed by Caitlin Bebb, Arla Berman, Brady Blevins, Adam R. Burnett, Sarah Graalman, Marlowe Holden, Jud Knudsen, Catrin Lloyd-Bollard, C.S. Luxem, Geraldo Mercado, and Curry Whitmire.

The creative team includes Theresa Buchheister (co-director/co-producer/co-choreographer), CS Luxem (composer), Nick Kostner (scenic designer), Geraldo Mercado (media designer), Ann Sitzman (lighting designer), and Lara Thomas Ducey (dramaturg)

Until next time...Happy Nü Year!