Wednesday, April 23, 2014

War Horse at The Capitol Theatre

I taught a Humanities class where I spent one lecture discussing the ins and outs of World War I.

We would discuss how old war fighting traditions stood against machine guns and biological warfare. You can talk about the battles and list the numbers of the dead, show the artists and show how the existential movement was born from the horrors of the fighting--but War Horse was the most moving demonstration I have ever seen of the horrors of this war.

Broadway Across America presents The National Theatre of Great Britain's production of War Horse.

First of all, you should see a picture of the horses.

The horses were operated by three puppeteers whose job was to bring to life the animals. With every stir of the head, every breath, every twitch of the tail, you felt and understood the animal's spirit.

Joey and Topthorn are two horses sent into war to charge with the cavalry.

They are sent into the war to charge into machine guns and barbed wire.

Both guns and barbed wire rip into the flesh of these magnificent animals and during the fighting soldiers from both sides of the war risk their lives to save the innocent animals.

The whole play is about people who can't understand one another, learning to hear and speak to one another. From the horse Joey and the boy Albert's first meeting, to Captain Freidrich's efforts to communicate with a young French girl, to an exchange between an English soldier and a German soldier--both determined to save an injured horse.

The whole war was about a clash of perspectives and an inability to see eye to eye. The 19th century fighting styles clashing with the 20th century weapons. The Kaiser and the Kings. Albert writes home that he's still in farm country--and he is. Across the different borders, across languages--the spirit of the land and the kindness of the people extend to both sides of the conflict. But across the land, the inability to communicate leaves the land a growing cemetery.

But where good men try, as they take a moment to listen to breathing, to choose their gestures carefully, and reach out in gentleness, we see hope that despite the differences, the world will heal from this great war.

The play was beautiful. It wasn't a vehicle for actors. It was a vehicle for a story. Each person was a part of a whole. It was moving to see actors work so seamlessly with one another to honor the story that they were telling.

If you have an opportunity, don't miss out on a chance to see this beautiful play.

It runs April 22-27 at The Capitol Theatre. Tickets are expensive, but worth it. This kind of puppetry is something you don't see everyday. (Thank you Handspring Puppet Company.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


There's a place on State Street where young homeless people can go and find lunch and hope.

They provide classes, training, one on one guidance, clothes for interviews, food, and opportunities.

Volunteers of America runs the place.

It's on 655 South State Street.

They are working to help homeless youth--people who often blend in--to find a way out.

If you have time or money and you're looking for some way to help with the homeless crisis, please consider their efforts.

They are now raising money to build a 30 bed youth shelter.

They are just finishing a home with 14 beds to help the youth transition from the street to their own homes.

I'm so impressed with the work that they're doing.
If you would like more information, visit

Instead of giving to panhandlers, give to this or any of the other resources available to the homeless.

Instead of giving your change to panhandlers who may or may not be homeless or who are part of syndicates who often have to give their money to higher ups who use them to collect money--consider this alternative:  Keep bottles of water on hand and share information about nearby resources where they can turn for help. Instead of pocket change, offer refreshment and education.

If you would like to donate your resources, the shelters are in need of food right now.  These organizations are always in need of volunteers. And of course, whatever money you can give will go a long way.

Thank you!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Seeing Les Miserables at Hale

Saturday night, my friend Andrea called me and asked if I wanted to be her date to Hale Centre's production of Les Miserables that night. The show sold out ages ago. I had heard wonderful things about the show, but I never thought I'd get the chance to actually see the show because I just didn't have the time or money--and it was sold out!

It was a beautiful show. I don't need to write about the plot or even this particular production.

Instead, I want to write about seeing this show on closing night.

There was something deliciously metatheatrical about this particular performance.

First of all--Hale is theatre in the round. You look down onto the action, rather then up at it. Instead of seeing the action played out across a stage--you see the action swirling in front of you. And you're always aware you're in a theatre because you're constantly gazing around at all the people watching the show. The audience is a part of the action of the play. Because of this, all theatrical experiences in this space have a bit of metatheatricality about them.

But closing night... that was a whole 'nother story.

Throughout the run, two casts of actors performed Monday thru Saturday, at least twice a day.

I imagine, knowing you needed to preserve your energy and strength for a week's worth of shows, the actors would have measured their energies and sang with gusto, but a touch of reservation. Saturday night's actors left EVERYTHING on that stage. I felt like I was watching actors finally free to give absolutely everything to a performance. Every gesture, every chord, every tear, everything was filled with all the energy and love they could muster.

I never really fell into the world of the play. I was more touched by the actor's story then by the story of the play. (Not that Les Miserables isn't a beautiful story!) But when the bishop offered Jean Val Jean redemption, I was more moved by the look shared between David Weekes and Casey Elliott as they cried over sharing the moment for the last time.

As Casey sang out "Bring Him Home", he held that sweet note at the end just a touch longer. And the audience roared with applause, not only for that night's performance, but in gratitude for all the previous performances.

My friend Andrea's daughter Abigail Scott played young Eponine. It was so delightful to see her running around the stage during "Master of The House" stealing luggage, serving beer, and stealing beer. She was a riot. My heart melted at the curtain call as she and young Cosette stood in front of the audience and tried to keep little smiles on their faces as their lips quivered and little tears streamed down their faces.

Adam Dietlein's performance as Javert... I was told I would cry in several different places, but I didn't. I was moved. I was inspired, but like I said earlier, I never really fell into the story. Not complaining--just saying, I didn't cry. Adam's performance was solid. I never felt like I was watching an actor on closing night with him. I felt like I was watching Javert. And when he jumped off the bridge into the foggy depths, I cried.

Madeline Weinberger had a beautiful moment as Eponine. She had several, but I was especially moved by her choice to just be. She didn't push. She didn't over emphasize. The words just poured out of her mouth without anything more than a breath. The choice to just sing--without affectation, without pushing, without supplication--it spoke volumes. It told me that she was tired, that the mere expression was all she could muster. It was moving in a way that anything more would have sullied.

Of course I watched Emily Bell's performance of Madame Thenardier carefully because that's the role I wanted to play. Of course she was magnificent. She wouldn't have won the part if she wasn't incredibly talented at both singing and acting. She was funny and grounded. Where everyone else's characters are caught up in flights of romanticism, she and her partner in crime, played perfectly by Josh Richardson, were pragmatic capitalists. My only complaint is that she looked too young to be Eponine's mother in the scenes after young Eponine becomes older Eponine. I was surprised they didn't put a streak of white in her hair or something. Despite the fact that I'm a good ten years older, I take great pride in the fact that I probably would have looked too young as well. (Gotta love looking young!)

Erin Royall Carlson's Fantine was beautiful, dangerous, and passionate. Her voice soared and her body quivered. She carried herself in this unbalanced way as though her whole life took place on a rocky ship that left her unbalanced and undone. The lovely ladies that surrounded her were equally mesmerizing. They were gritty and raw.

I've never really connected with the character of Cosette. She's lovely, but it's hard to remember that she was the poor neglected girl who sings about castles in clouds. Instead, she's the girl who gets the guy. (As the girl who does NOT get the guy, I don't relate well to this character.) Rachel Woodward was beautiful and she did a beautiful job. I'm not surprised that she won over Brad Robins heartstruck Marius.

Derek Smith's Enjolras was inspiring, as he should be. His followers were equally inspiring. He rode around the circle on his cart, waiving all of us on to fight in his revolution.

My favorite moment of the show was when he died. (I realize I'm a touch morbid.) I gasped. I think I even muttered "Holy Sh**!"  During the fighting, the guns went off and fire blazed in spurts all over the stage. People fell injured and crawled back on top of the barricade (remember, we're looking down on the barricade, not up at it--brilliant work by set designer Kacey Udy). At the moment of death though--when these brave soldiers died...the light designer Brian Healy orchestrated a shot of light--or rather--a BEAM of light to catch the character in their moment of death. The actor would freeze in that moment and then fall to the ground. All around the stage--shot, beam, freeze, death. One after the other. Now you understand why I swore. It was an unexpected bit of magic. Not only did you feel the sorrow of their death, but in the same instant, you felt like these poor souls were carried immediately to heaven.

And of course, it was no surprise to see the souls return to carry Jean Val Jean to heaven at the end of the show.

It was a beautiful production. Kelly DeHaan's musical direction was pitch perfect. (Sometimes a good cliche is hard to resist.) Director David Tinney found delicious nuances in the story. Peggy Willis and Suzanne Carling's costumes were a treat. The colors were muted. The shapes were intriguing. The layers, the structure, the lack of structure--all told compelling stories. No one really notices sound until something goes wrong--and I didn't notice Dan Morgan's sound at all. (That's a lie, I noticed quite a bit of lovely nuances that added to the story... but you know what I mean..)

I'd tell you to go see the show, but it's likely you already saw it. And it closed.

So instead, I'll encourage you to just go and enjoy live theatre. If nothing else, remember the beautiful moments that happen when audiences and actors come together to tell a story. Truly, a theatre is a hallowed place. 

Friday, April 18, 2014


Easter is my favorite holiday.

As a child of divorce, Christmas was always about figuring out where you were going. Or as we get older, about making sure you have a gift for everyone you see. It's really fun buying gifts, but there's always this nervousness that you're going to forget someone you love.

Halloween for an actor is a night you don't have to dress up. Very fun, but I never really get into it because I find that the favorite part I like to play is myself.

But Easter is a day you're only beholden to yourself. You don't have to buy gifts. If you don't show up to a party, it's all right. I don't even feel guilty not going to church because we really should remember Jesus year round. On Easter, we are invited to celebrate with music, scripture, and really tasty candy. And it's springtime. There are evidences of rebirth and renewal everywhere you look. You don't have to decorate because the earth does it for you.

In Judaism, my favorite holiday is Yom Kippur or The Day of Atonement. Because it reminds me of Easter.

..In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and you shall not do any work ... For on that day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins before the LORD. -Leviticus 16:29-30

 What does it mean to afflict our souls?  To remember. To remember what we have done.

He shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins before the Lord. 

To remember what He has done. 
We remember that He lives. We remember the gifts and the blessings, despite our afflicted souls. We remember the wrongs and we remember that they will be right. 

It is a day to remember hope, renewal, and resurrection of both the body and the spirit. 

It is a day of praise and gratitude. 

Please enjoy this beautiful song of "Total Praise", written by the incomparable Richard Smallwood.

You are the source of my strength. You are the strength of my life. 

I lift my hands in total praise to you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Midvale's 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is Hilarious!

Aaron Ford as Leaf Coneybear, Erica Smith as Logainne SchwartzandGrubbeinerre, Mary Nelson as Marcy Park, Michael Howell as William Barfee, Garrett Grigg as Chip Tolentino, McKenzie Heaton as Olive Ostrovsky. (spellings may be off)

Last Friday night I got to see an absolutely enchanting show at the Midvale Main Street Theatre. 

I auditioned for the show and I spent a weekend listening to the music, watching youtube videos, and preparing for the callbacks. Before that weekend, I really wasn't familiar with the show.  As I watched and listened, I fell in love with this beautiful show about the confidence and insecurities of those preteen years. The pressures, the needs, the horrors, the delight! I laughed and cried all day long. 

Michelle Dodge as Rona Lisa Peretti and Jourdan Dixon as Douglas Panache
I really wanted to be in the show. But alas, another very qualified woman got the part I wanted.  Of course, I cried my eyes out because you do that sometimes as actors. We weep to the heavens and wish we could play these amazing parts. Having shared that, I was absolutely delighted with Michelle Dodge's performance. In real life, she IS a jr. high teacher. She sang beautifully. She was an anchor for the craziness around her, and I loved her improv! I loved her performance! She and Jourdan Dixon absolutely won over audiences with their improvised banter. 

My brother Matthew came with me to the show. He's been doing improv for over ten years and he raved about Jourdan's performance. This is high praise folks.

Carolyn Crow as Trish Mahoney

The comfort counselor is usually played by a man named Mitch, but I loved Carolyn's performance as Trish Mahoney. It was spot on. I swear, I never stopped laughing during this show--except for that one time I was bawling during the one song that always makes me bawl.  You know what song I'm talking about and if you don't--you better go see this show because it is worth every penny just to see that amazing song! McKenzie Heaton, Garrett Grigg, and Michelle Dodge--I love you! (hint hint, nudge nudge... knowwhatimean...)

There are no words to describe Aaron Ford's performance as Leaf Coneybear. 

I invite a comparison to the original Leaf Coneybear as played on Broadway. 

 Jesse Tyler Ferguson was pretty dang brilliant. 

But Aaron Ford... oh for the love of Pete.. the man made me laugh so hard. 

I'm glad that the world is filled with men who are talented enough and crazy enough to play this part. 

It makes me very happy.

Big kudos to the whole cast for finding a perfect balance of individual strength and ensemble in their performances. They came together beautifully in the music (directed by Colyn Quinn) and the dancing (choreographed by Aaron Ford). Tammy Ross's direction served the story well. I loved  the show!

 The show only runs three more nights. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Shows start at 7pm. My suggestion to you is to try and see the show Thursday night since Friday and Saturdays fill up super fast. 

Midvale Main Street Theatre is located at 7711 S Main St (700 West). You can visit their website at for more information. 

(I'm going to press publish and wish I could gush more about each performance, but honestly, just go and see the show. Take my word for it and go and see the show. Then you can tell all your friends about how Garrett Grigg's performance as Chip cracked you up--or how Mary Nelson's Marcy was spot on, or how Erica Smith was both militant and endearing. Or how Olive and William's friendship was so tender. Okay... pressing publish now.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Always On My Mind

Things that are currently on my mind:

1) Noah was a complicated story that actually delved into some of the elements of the story that I personally pondered... like the whole letting everyone die thing.

2) Elder Dallin H. Oaks' talk at the Priesthood Session of the April General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have so many more questions now! It inspired my curiosity.

3) I have a very cute nephew.

4) I spend way too much time having inane conversations with people in Facebook groups. I feel toxic.

5) I'm tired of being unhealthy. I keep thinking I'm depressed, but I realize I'm just anemic. Which is just another symptom of another problem. And on and on and on.

6) My TV is only showing in black and white right now. I've been watching West Wing. The show really works in black and white. I kind of love it.

7) I'm transferring to a new facility. I had a good talk with the person coming in to take over here at the storage facility--and she's wonderful.

8) My Aunt Marylou came to visit this weekend. We had such a great time! My brothers Nick and Matt came over with my dad John and we made Beef Massaman Curry! It was so tasty.

9) I paid a lot of bills. This is awesome. This left me without any moneys. This is not awesome.

10) Performing in Not The Messiah last week was absolute joy. The audience waived little glow sticks. The other singers were so talented. And I got to eat cheese curds and grape juice. During the show. During a song. Because I'm cool like that.

11) I'm afraid of a few things. I don't want to say them out loud because it gives them credence. But I carry a few extra fears right now.

12) The film I was in last year is doing really well at WorldFest in Houston. Our leading man--Carleton Bluford--was just nominated for Best Lead Actor. I'm so happy for him! Eventually you'll have an opportunity to see Stop Pepper Palmer  in Utah. And when you do, remember that it was filmed right here in Utah with actors from Utah!

13) I'm still very grateful. Life is good. I washed my clothes last night. Woot!

So these are the things that are currently occupying my brain. Among a thousand others.

I need to settle my mind.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Singing in a Monty Python Show!

A couple months ago, I got a call from the radiant Kate Rufener. 

"Would you like to be a soloist in an upcoming show at The Grand?"

This is The Grand.

Isn't it magnificent?
She told me it was going to be a revival of this show.
 She told me that this guy--
(Dave Hanson)

and this guy--
(Jim Dale)
were both in the show! 
The luminous Marcie Jacobsen was going to Hawaii--and they needed someone to step into her shoes for the revival.
At the thought of working on a hilarious show with such talented people--and at the mere compliment of being considered for a part that Marcie had played the previous year--
I immediately said yes!!
And now it's showtime!
We have had wonderful rehearsals where I've met so many talented people! 
This is Angie Chatelain Avila and her beautiful sheep.

This is the hilarious Choir--surrounding the beloved Brian--played by Anthony Thomas Buck.


(You can kind of see the backside of Kevin Mathie, our wonderful musical director.)

The incomparable JD Dumas took this picture of the live orchestra from his place at the piano at last night's rehearsal. 

They sound heavenly. 

 The show is a joy!

We have lumberjacks, sheep, men in drag, beautiful music, beautiful singing of beautiful music, Bob Dylan, a little irreverent humor--(It's Monty Python!)--glowsticks, a keytar, french horns, and Cheese! 

It's 3 nights only! (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday)

Tickets are only $12-$15. 

Come and enjoy a beautiful evening of fun!

Showtime starts at 7:30pm.

For tickets, visit

The theatre is located in South Salt Lake at 1575 South State Street. 

See you at the theatre!



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Stranger in the Flowerbed

I saw this shape pass in front of my office window.

I hurried over to the door and yelled down the street. "Hey!"

He turned back.

"Don't walk in the flower beds. Use the sidewalk please!"

He started towards me with this familiar smile.

I cut him off with a polite thank you before he could start a conversation and shut the door.

Two hours later, the rain started to fall.

He came blustering into my office.

His hair was shoulder length and matted. He was unshaven, but it only looked like maybe two days growth. He still had his teeth. His coat, face, and hands had a layer of dirt and his face had that leathery look you get when you live outside. He looked to be about 40. But really, he could have been 30. Who knows. He stood about 5 ft 10 inches. Average build. He was handsome. His body had the quality of being a former jock in another lifetime.

He asked, "Where's the music you usually have going?"

I lied. "What music?"

I always turn off the music when a customer comes into the office so I can focus. He wasn't a customer though. He had never been in the office. How did he know about the music? I immediately thought about the flower beds just in front of my office window.

He began to speak as though we were longtime friends and as though we had spoken together many times before.

I attempted to keep my face completely neutral and said, "I don't remember you."

He became flustered.

He said, "Do you have any coffee or a lighter?"

I said no.

He asked if he could use the restroom. I told him to go right ahead.

When he came out of the bathroom he continued to try and make small talk. I'd record it here, but I didn't understand it honestly. Just imagine a lot of nonsensical small talk.

I just stared at him with a neutral look. Not caring, not condemning. I was behind my desk. He was a human being and I refused to humiliate him by reacting to him with any sort of fear, but I did think about how we were the only ones in the office.

Suddenly he said, "Can I have a hug?"

It was incredibly difficult for him to say it. His eyes begged me to hear him. I thought of all the healing that a hug can offer. I thought of how alone he must feel.

I sat safely in my seat behind my big marble desk and thought about his needs.

But I didn't move.

I didn't catalog my own needs and his needs were clear, but I just couldn't cross that threshold.

I looked him in the eyes and said in a clear soft voice, "Why? Tell me why you need a hug."

He floundered for the words, "Because it's Christmas."

"It's not Christmas. It's April 1st. Why?"

He tried to smile like a sheepish little boy and make a joke. I kept my face serious.

"Why did you let it get so bad?"

His face softened into a kind of seriousness, but he didn't answer.

Finally he smiled, "You need a hug more than I do."

I responded, "Everyone needs hugs. I know why I need one. Why do you need one? Words are important. You want a hug--give me words."

He begins to describe with his body language and his words a need to be held like a baby. I understood what he was saying, and I came very close to giving into his request.

Then I heard it.

Water running.

I used it as an escape from granting his request.

"The water is running. Turn it off."

He looked at me.

"Turn off the water."

He walked away from the desk. For a moment, I thought he was going to just go out the door and leave without a word, but he headed past the door to the restrooms. There are two. The men's and women's. Instead of going to the men's restroom where he left the water running, he headed to the women's restroom and turned on the large spigot over the mop bucket.

I realized he was using this as a means to get me out from behind my desk. But I had no choice.

I left the desk and walked to the restrooms, but I made sure I had my phone with me. If I needed to, I could speed dial the police.  I turned off the sink in the men's bathroom, and managed to push past him into the women's restroom to shut off the larger spigot before the mop bucket overflowed.

I was incensed by this little bit of anarchy. It undid the puppy dog eyes and the sincerity in his request. I realized that couched in his need for human contact was a much baser need to just rub up against some boobs. And even though his need for intimacy was real--my need for distance and safety was just as real. I decided that it was all right to embrace an ethic of selfishness in that moment and I put my needs ahead of his. For many, this answer might have been obvious--but I'm a militant people pleaser. I have this stupidly courageous need to see how I can please the world at my own expense. Choosing my needs over his was a difficult thing to do.

Until I heard the water running.

He left without any ceremony and if there was conversation, I don't remember it.

I imagined what good I could have done, had I allowed him to hug me. But honestly, I think he would have taken more from me than I could have given to him.

After he left, I replayed the situation over and over.

I have three core values, Faith, Courage, Compassion.

I feel like my choice to leave that man without a hug demonstrated neither faith, courage, or compassion.  I hate to live outside of my own value system, but I must have faith that I don't need to sacrifice my own well being to save this man. I must have courage to protect my own needs. I must have compassion for myself.

This is my story about the stranger in the flowerbed.