LIVE IN ENCINITAS!

Last week, I did my JIMPRESSIONS show for a crowd in Encinitas, CA in San Diego at a lovely old jewel of a theater, the La Paloma.

Built in 1928, this well-preserved theatre is a small spanish art deco adobe & wood marvel, and very comfortable to perform in.  It’s used mainly as a second-run movie house, and I seem to recall when I was a kid visiting my grandma in nearby Cardiff-By-The-Sea, the marquee always had “Endless Summer” on it.

I was contacted originally by a guy I’d never met before, Ken Harrison, who owns several Comedy Traffic Schools in CA.  He grew up in Cardiff By-The-Sea where my grandmother used to live, and where my family has had vacation homes for decades.

Ken wanted to see my JIMPRESSIONS show, but didn’t want to have to come all the way to L.A. to see it, so he got his friend Allen, who runs the La Paloma, to book in a night for me.

Ken was very helpful and outgoing and he made it easy to accept the gracious invitation.  Since I could stay at our family home nearby, and we desperately needed a couple of days off, it was a no-brainer to try and make it work.

Since Ken and his family are big fans of Professor Knestor, I agreed to do the second act with the Virtual Museum, and take audience questions on art and culture as my alter ego, Oxmouth College’s own Prof. Jackdaws.

I don’t have many contacts down there, so we conspired to get on local radio and TV to promote the show, much the same way I did in Sydney, Australia last year.  Ken and I arranged an interview with a local radio personality, Bob “Sully” Sullivan to let me do some of my celebrity impressions on the air, and then did another interview the next morning with another host, Chip Franklin, who also was very generous and promoted the show on his program.

I had also done a podcast interview with Carolyn Fox, which my pal, Phil “Firesign” Proctor had recommended and then happily dropped in to contribute to, and we plugged the show that way.

We were pretty sure with the radio interviews, the podcast, my own YouTube promotion and especially the TV morning show appearance, we could easily fill the 340 seat venue.

Unfortunately for us,  the local TV show in San Diego that had confirmed an appearance to plug JIMPRESSIONS bumped me the morning of the show in favor of candidates from an upcoming mayoral race, which left us no TV exposure at all.  So, Ken, my director Tait Ruppert, my wife and daughter and I took a hitch on our courage and did what actors in that situation always do… we passed out flyers to people on the street!

By the end of the last day we didn’t have many advance ticket sales and I was steeling myself to play to a couple dozen souls in a vast old duchess of a theatre that could hold hundreds more, something I knew I could do, but would regard as a bit of a “Lose”.

As fate would have it, the promotion we had done was effective after all; by showtime, the house had about 120 people, mostly walk ins, and, spread out over all rows made for a very “Full” house, if not a “Full house.”  AND the important part was, they LOVED the show, and I could hear excited chatter afterwards, of people more in communication with one another and very cheerful.  That’s a very telling thing, and one I always listen for after the evening draws to a close.

We made a lot of friends, and learned another lesson: Never Depend on One Channel of Promotion to Do ALL the Work.

So, the JIMPRESSIONS tour continues!  Next: a performance and workshop at my old University, UCSC in Santa Cruz, CA, on May 29th.  After that, I’ll be back at The Acting Center in Hollywood for one night only, June 2nd at 8 p.m.  Then, Sacramento in July, and then… who knows?

For up to date schedule, videos, press and more, visit my new site: http://www.jimpressions.net.  And thanks for reading!

Published in: on May 21, 2012 at 7:06 pm  Comments (6)  

REDEMPTION & PURPOSE

One of the stickiest things I had to resolve for myself early on in my artistic career was a clear vision of what my purpose was.

Of course, these days it might seem stodgy or old-fashioned to have to have any sort of purpose for one’s actions… especially in the arts, where “Hey- just do what feels right, right?”

Well, I had been doing what felt right for a while, when I was in college, and I became aware that there might be a higher purpose to operate with.

In the sometimes desperate and anxiety-provoking field of acting, for example, having a purpose might seem like a nice fantasy; the reality being that one is usually happy to take any sort of part, as they are few and far between.  (When I see actors interviewed with the inevitable “What made you choose a particular role?” , I always dub in “Because somebody wanted to hire me” as the non-PR answer, not “I’ve always been interested in the dynamics of the world of people working at a Dude Ranch…”)

But to my mind, if I was going to hunker down and become a professional actor, instead of a painter or illustrator, I had to know what direction I would head in, irrespective of what opportunities would be offered me based on my appearance, status, etc.

So I labored to find some kind of answer to the question, “What is honorable about being an actor?”

I had certainly, by about 1981, acquainted myself with the dishonorable part, (it is odd that there doesn’t exist a “dishonorable discharge” from the acting profession, probably because there is always some reality show waiting to scoop up and hire former stars who might have, in earlier times, been put in the stocks for a fortnight for their misadventures.)

The worst thing I ever did, the one that really ushered in my interest in an answer to this question, (and for which I should have been put into the stocks for a night or so) happened in my next to last year of college.

A fellow student who was a theater major asked me to appear in his senior thesis production that he was directing– Easter, by August Strindberg.

Feeling very full of myself to be courted, I decided to be magnanimous and agree to do the role.  I had tremendous feelings of undeserved confidence at that time, much of it brought about by a regular consumption of inappropriate chemicals.

The role, naturally, was a character role, that of Lindquist, “The Creditor”, a grey-bearded old Swede.  It was the kind of part Orson Welles would have called a “Mister Wu” role– a character that everyone speaks about and foresages throughout the first acts of a play, and then, once he arrives, hardly has to do anything at all to have an enormous impact.

Welles had played the part of Mister Wu in a play by the same name, was spoken of exhaustively by the players in the first act, and didn’t actually appear on stage until a moment before the curtain fell before intermission, saying nothing but simply appearing in the distance. Welles said all that was heard out in the lobby at the interval was, “… And wasn’t that guy who played Mister Wu great?”

The Creditor, in Easter, a depressing Strindberg play (to be redundant) was such a character; feared, dreaded and bemoaned about in great detail until the final beats of the last of three acts, when he enters and… well.

I didn’t like standing backstage for two and a half acts.

We did about four or five performances, and with each succeeding show, I grew more and more restive, despite my commitment to “do a favor for” my friend.

Not knowing at that time the story and lesson of Orson Welles and Mister Wu, and being possessed of enormous resources of ill-placed self esteem, I contrived to sabotage the last night of the production.  It was going to be my “pay” for waiting around backstage so much, wasting the valuable time I could have been spending investigating how much beer I could get into my stomach.

My purpose as an actor, it might be said, was under-developed at this moment.

Lindquist, arrives at the door at the end of the last act, confronts the propitiating male lead who owes him a lot of money, and in an act of far-fetched mercy, forgives him the loan, supporting the redemptive theme of Easter, the title of the play.

I worked it out that instead of being admitted to the house through the front door, on the final night I would come crashing in thru the window.  I even made a make-shift ramp out of a low table so that I could really catch some major air before I entered.  Premeditated.

Where did I get that idea?  Who the hell knows.  It became a kind of private dare, one I couldn’t resist taking.  In those days, any feeling of giddy anticipatory fear was a kind of command to obeyed.

So, on the final night, an audience of students, friends and faculty were treated to the surrealistic and jarring event of a grey-haired and bearded man in Victorian garb crash splinteringly through the wooden mullions and delicate lace curtains of the front window and land with a thud onto the floor of the stage.

An act of terrorism, as far as the world of theatre is concerned.

The remainder of the play, including, of course, it’s timeless message of redemption and personal integrity, was washed away by a flood of senseless improvisations by the other actors, who rightly assumed that nothing could salvage the show, and valiantly struggled to save themselves until the lights came down.

Afterwards, I felt very self-righteous about the whole thing, even though some distant warning bell in my psyche clanged a signal that perhaps this was not my finest hour.

The young director, whom I ostensibly was doing a big favor for, didn’t speak to me for about a decade.  I think it speaks very highly for him that he ever spoke to me again at all.

That ignoble event, unique in my career, I’m relieved to say, marked the beginning of my search for a worthwhile purpose as an actor.  I think deep down I did not want to continue to lead a life of artistic crime.

I then began the lonely search for a reason why being an actor was a noble pursuit, and how a flawed chap such as myself might participate in such a purpose.  Luckily, I got some valuable help along the way.

Published in: on May 6, 2012 at 9:22 am  Comments (2)