Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Are We There Yet? Not Yet But SO CLOSE!

VERY similar to the moose we spotted on our trip!
Hi Everyone,
A little update. In fewer than 20 hours, I'm more than halfway to my KickStarter goal. Thank you so much to folks who've already pledged. And advance thanks to those of you who decide to pledge. And no thanks to the rest of you. JUST KIDDING. I thank you all for your good thoughts. The six of you have been quite a support team all these years.

Just in case you missed the KickStarter launch news yesterday, you can VIST MY PROJECT RIGHT HERE!

Thanks y'all,

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

All The Kids Are Doing It: Welcome to My KIckstarter!

Hello Everyone,
As if I don't ask enough of the six of you, wanting you to read my blog entries all the time and indulge me and whatnot, now I have another favor to ask. The short version of it is this-- I just launched a KickStarter Campaign called Getting to The Maine Event.

The campaign is to help me publish my latest book, The Maine Event, a memoirish road trip saga about a trip I took to Maine in 2011 with Warren. As I mention over at KickStarter, I had toyed with trying to get an agent and go the traditional publishing route. And I even put out a couple of feelers. But after years of being yanked around by NY, you know, I just don't give a flying fuck anymore about trying to score a big contract. I really just want to get this book into the hands of the few, the proud, the six of you who've been indulging me all of these years. And I am a big believer in the GSD School of DIY. (Get Shit Done School of Do It Yourself.)

My dream is to move five hundred copies. Anything beyond that is gravy. Well actually, anything more than four copies sold (because yes, the dogs better each buy a copy if they want to continue living the lifestyle to which they've grown accustomed) is gravy.

Will you please, please, help me spread the word? The campaign runs til November 30, 2012. I intend to be kind of a nice pain in the ass about this until then. You can tell me to shut up at any point. I might not listen, but you can tell me.

Thanks in advance for your help. I admit I feel a little self-indulgent and you know, that's not such a bad thing.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Hobby

Nurse? Burger flipper? You decide!
Years ago a grocery store cashier told me that the saddest orders he ever saw were women who came through alone on Friday nights with a bottle of wine and some wet cat food, planning -- he guessed-- for a lonely night in. I was remembering that conversation last night as I observed my Saturday night festivities. There I was, sitting on my IKEA couch/bed/thing, listening to Twine Time, rolling my eyes at Paul Ray's coercive methods of working the KUT fund drive, knitting and-- of course-- conversing with the dogs, who'd arranged themselves in heaps on and around me. 

To the untrained observer, I might've appeared pathetic. Saturday night and I'm knitting to the radio? But I could not have been happier. Because weekends are my crazy days. I was in the middle of a five-wedding weekend that involved hundreds of miles of driving -- on Saturday alone I went from Austin to Georgetown to Fredericksburg and back to Austin. Downtime respite is all I crave during my busiest wedding months, and-- for someone extremely slow to the concept-- now that I have learned about self-care, I know how to take it to wonderful extremes.

So there I sat-- after making myself a delicious dinner, which I ate alone by candlelight (not because, as in the old days, I couldn't afford the utilities, but because I wanted to)-- in my very fancy expensive-but-purchased-from-the-60%-off rack PJ bottoms, my Rufus Wainwright t-shirt, surrounded by my pack and... oh yes, wielding my iPhone. Anyone who has read the Steve Jobs bio, or even just the book jacket, knows that guy was a flaming asshole. But damn, I owe him a bottomless debt of gratitude. Because thanks to Jobs's vision, I can take endless photos of my dogs. Can and do. Can't stop. Might be so addicted to this pastime that I will wind up the poster child when OCDP (Obsessive Compulsive Dog Photography) shows up in DSVM. And trust me people, that day is coming, right around the time they officially recognize OCF(ood)P as an affliction.

Those of you who live a sad life deprived of canine companionship will, little doubt, be too... uh, what's the nice word for stupid?... to grasp what I say next but the rest of you will so connect that you'll want to come over here and sniff my butt and lick my feet and wag your phantom tail in hearty agreement. (Come on! What are you waiting for?) Dogs do something for me that most humans cannot. Whereas humans often fail me, dogs almost always lift my spirits. Few people believe this truth: the Myers-Briggs test identifies me as an introvert. You might shake your head in dispute, because you only ever see me out there in front of a mic. But trust me, for every half-hour I spend onstage, I need about 23 hours at home, talking to the dogs, to recharge Ye Olde Internale Batterie.

And so now I reveal the secret to my success at seeming so buoyant at work. Folks want to know, "Spike, how is it you can do up to thirty weddings in a month?" The answer is easy-- during those super busy months (I'm talking to you April and October) I spend every minute of downtime as downtime. Like a modern day game of CLUE I am Miss Muster New Energy, in the sitting room, on the IKEA thing, with the iphone.

Which is why I am now about to unleash on the six of you my smashing results of the past two days. But first, one more random thought. As I sat in my house, on the IKEA thing, taking so many shots, the voice of my lovely friend Kyomi filled my head. She's in her seventies and lives in Japan. Whenever I visit her, I say the same thing everyday as I head out for a day of riding the trains, "Don't clean my stuff!" I convey this through pantomiming and shouting slowly, since we don't share a language.

She always nods and smiles. Then I come home and find my underwear hanging on the line, my day-before clothes all clean and folded. "Kiyomi!" I say, faux-chastising. She smiles and says sweetly, pointing to the clothesline, "My hobby!"

Okay then, here's to hobbies! I hope you enjoy mine. (Please note their are no pictures of Tatum as she is now residing in that place that K calls Wolf World. Technically Tate is alive, but she's almost 14, post-stroke, and spends most of her time staring off into Wolf World, waiting for the door to open so she can pass through it.)

New CD Cover
The doctor will be here soon!
I see you and if you don't get that fucking camera out of my face, I'm gonna rip your head off and shit down yer lungs.
I'm sorry, what part of, "I'm going to rip your head off and shit down your lungs" did you not understand? 
Oh, I might not have the innate ability to officially flip you off, but trust me, in my mind I am so giving you the bird. 
Snout, snout, let it all out... 
My god, could you just lick those pink pads or what?
The piano has been drinking, not me.
Paws for effect. 
Oolala mademoiselle! Tres sexy!
Belly up to the IKEA thing. 
so dainty.
No really, aren't dog paws weird and amazing and AWESOME?!! 
Do I need to ask that again?
Le Slump.
Dante HATES it when I touch his paws. 
Classic. Dante: "Are you my friend are you my friend are you my friend are you are you are you?!!" Rebound: "I think I'll lick your feet. Oh wait, I don't have the capacity to think. Okay, no problem, leaves me more time to lick your feet." Bubbles: "You people bore the piss out of me."
Dante: "Are you my friend are you my friend are you my friend are you are you are you?!!" Rebound: "If I only had a brain I would know why I should feel guilty. Well, while I'm waiting for a brain transplant I'll just try my best guilty look." Bubbles: "Bitch, did you not hear what I said about that camera? ip-ray your ead-hay off and it-shay own-day our-yay oat-thray, eh?"
Dante: "I'm sorry to bother you but I'm not sure you heard me before  and I was just wondering: "Are you my friend are you my friend are you my friend are you are you are you?!!" 
Rebound: "Le sigh. I'll be your friend Dante. Just as long as I can lick the crap out of you later."

Friday, October 19, 2012

Office of Good Deeds: Call for Yarn!

Bon Jour Y'all,

Over at a knitting blog I write, I'm asking for your help. We need YARN! My friend Ann is helping young girls who've had a hard time in life do some healing through knitting. All the details are right here.

Would you kindly share this link and please send me your leftover yarn!
President of the Office of Good Deeds

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Next Dick Monologues Coming Up...

Hey Y'all,
The next Dick Monologues is December 5, 2012, 7 pm til we finish. Hyde Park Theatre. Tix are $10. Theme: The Holidays (or maybe I should say Fuck the Holidays). The show will sell out so if you want seats, email me asap at to hold your spot.

Pass it on.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dear Rufus-- I LOVE YOU!! Thanks for Last Night!

Dear Rufus,
Thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for that magnificent performance in Houston last night!! I was wondering beforehand, as I looked around the nearly empty theater, if you would be bummed that Houston didn't have the good sense to come out or if you might, perhaps, look at this as a nice relaxing gig after the insanity of ACL. Well, who knows what the hell you were thinking but my god, man, WHAT A SHOW!!


And sorry, I swear I tried for at least five seconds to convince myself not to trot around to the bus to catch a glimpse of you post-show. Because I know, I really really do, that you are giving us all you can give us onstage, and our job is to appreciate that and move on. But you know, you're sort of like Dolly Parton-- you know this, right? You know about the Dolly Parton People who don't just love her in a normal fan way but who just feel so much better after hearing her live, like she has these powers to cure the spirit?

We, your people, get that kind of charge from you, Rufus. You really got it! And your wonderfulness inspires us to be wonderful to each other. I had the BEST talk with a quartet of enthusiastic gay men before you came out (pardon the pun). We talked about knitting and I told them how I read that article about your mom in NYT and how she loved to knit with good, scratchy Canadian wool. And how when I was in Canada I bought some of that scratchy wool in her honor. And how I know that I can't really do this because it wouldn't be appropriate, but how I wish I could knit you and your husband and your daughter nice scratchy wool sweaters. (The gay guys suggested maybe I consider a soft wool for the lining-- great idea!)

And yeah, I did try to tell you after the show about how I bought the scratchy wool. I know that was pretty dorky of me. But what I mostly was trying to get at is that I am really, really sorry about your mom. Your tributes to her on the new record are so moving. I totally wept when you sang Montauk. I love how much you love your mom. My son is a musician, too, and there is just something about musicians talking about how much they love their moms that just does me in every time.

Note Teddy Thompson surrounded by the love.
Also, thank you so much for having Teddy Thompson in the band. I loved watching the look on his face during that extended dance party closing number. Priceless. And thank you for including Krystle Warren and your sister Lucy Wainwright Roche as opening acts. I confess I was not familiar with either of them before last night. I am so grateful anytime I find out about magnificent musicians.

I guess that's all for now. Thanks again, a bazillion. I can't wait to come hear you again sometime.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: Middletown at HPT is AWESOME!!!

Not quite halfway into Middletown, now playing at Hyde Park Theatre, I couldn't stop myself. I fumbled in the dark for my little notebook and pen, trying hard not to be disruptive. A line had been uttered that so tickled me in its simultaneous simplicity and profundity that I just had to capture it on paper that very moment.

As I extracted my notebook, I had a flashback to another play that inspired this must-jot-it-down-now response. That was Thom Pain (Based on Nothing), and it was also at Hyde Park Theatre, back in 2007. In fact it was watching HPT creative director Ken Webster perform so amazingly Thom Pain (a one-man show) that launched me into what is now my sixth year of writing reviews.

Well, duh. Turns out that it wasn't really a big surprise that both shows prompted me to take notes. Unbeknownst to me-- she-who-doesn't-research-plays-beforehand-- both Thom Pain and Middletown were written by Will Eno. Eno, I assure you, is a man who is deeply in love with language. Yes, yes, we have amazing characters, here. We have plot and tension and timing and action all those other components that make a great play a great play. But most of all, we have language so beautifully wrought that I imagine Eno is the sort of guy who wanders through life with the ability to visualize words as they spill from mouths, to see them as a cross between a complicated math equations and stunning modern dance moves.

Webster, who both directs and appears in Middletown, clearly gets Eno. He takes this language-loving work and intertwines it with a perfectly chosen cast. The result is amazing and I'm kicking myself that I waited so long to see it. Because now there are only three shows left, and it's going to sell out which means not all of you will get to enjoy it. Goddammit. (Aside: when I went to the show on Saturday, mid-ACL, I expected a light turnout. Au contraire-- apparently there are plenty of us who would rather take in a play than endure the teeming masses. It was so nice to see a packed house.)

Getting back to the cast-- Benjamin Summers and Rebecca Robinson are terrific in the lead roles as John and Mrs. Swanson, a couple of lonely people who find each other and have a relationship that is purposefully presented by Eno as ambiguous. And everyone else... oh let me just say what I've said about some other HPT productions I've seen: there is not a weak link in this show. All of the actors bring believability to their roles, and this is more impressive still considering that some of them-- Webster, Dane Krager, Jessica Hughes, Katy Taylor, Marc Balester, and Molly Fonseca-- take on multiple roles.

I could not get enough of Tom Green, Emily Erington and Mical Trejo-- the cop, the librarian and the mechanic-- all of whom inhabit their roles wonderfully. Seriously, if Middletown were an HBO series, I'd give each of these three their own spin-off show. Watching them perform (along with the rest of the cast, natch) was this wonderful reminder of just what an embarrassment of riches we have in this town when it comes to the theatre.

The set, by Ia Enstera, gets a standing ovation, too. As ever there is the visual beauty she brings. But also the functionality allows the tiny HPT stage to be, believably, a number of different settings: park, library, hospital. Kudos to the light, sound and costume folks, too. I mean, really, HPT knocks it out of the park with Middletown.

So here we are, once again, nearing the end of one of my reviews and I have been as purposefully ambiguous as Eno is with the John/Mrs. Swanson relationship. For one thing, I remain staunch in my refusal to give anything away. But here are a few hints: in the opening scenes, you start to get this idea that the play is, like Thom Pain, about nothing. But then all that beautiful language gains purchase in a storyline, and we begin to piece together what is going on. There's a hilarious Moment of Meta in the middle. And I warn you that you might feel a little bit of bait-and-switch later in the evening as the rather funny first half gives way to a super heavy second half. But as the saying goes, it's all good-- and I mean that as precisely as Eno selects his words. It is ALL GOOD. All great, actually. A super, super show.

Don't be a fool-- reserve your seats today. As noted, only three shows left.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: Physical Plant Theatre's Agnes & Alfred

Thomas Graves and Hannah Kenah as Alfred and Agnes in Physical Plant's Agnes and Alfred.
I met Austin playwright Steve Moore nearly fifteen years ago, during the high tech boom that found us both working in the tech writing department of Vignette. Neither of us belonged there. I didn't even know how to do email attachments at the time, and in a perfect world Steve would've been off somewhere, solely focused on his creative writing. 

Well, there's good news. I am now a whiz at email attachments and, more to the point, Steve has managed to use his non-office time wisely, spending the past decade and a half honing his creative wordsmithing. Witness Agnes and Alfred, his latest offering via Physical Plant Theatre. Before I tell you about the play, let me warn off those of you who define yourself strictly as romantic musical comedy types. This ain't Xanadu, people. And if you prefer to escape reality rather than confront it full on, you might stick with Angry Birds or the kids' tent at ACL.

But for the rest of you who like to be challenged and provoked and-- I'm gonna say it-- sometimes kinda depressed (but not regretfully) by a show, then by all means get your tickets for Agnes and Alfred before it closes. Directed by Carlos Treviño, A&A follows the 17-year relationship of two people who personify the song I Can't Quit You Baby. The dialogue is super real, Graves and Kenah have truly amazing chemistry together, and the way they fight, well...

Let me step back for a minute here and say that, as Warren and I were driving over to the Off Center, where the show is playing, we were engaged in a spat. Not one of our Famous Arguments, just a little grumbly back-and-forth. To our credit, we have spent years working to spot argument patterns and either stop them entirely or else get more quickly back to the lovey-dovey (or at least non-yelly-belly) side of things. So our argument du jour felt more like a studied act than an actually passionate disagreement, to the point that I pulled out my iPhone and googled "top reasons married couples argue"... in hopes of spicing up our rather lame exchange.

Thus, as you can imagine, when we settled in for a play about a couple that argues pretty constantly, our perception was that this play is definitely Art Imitating Life. And as an expert arguer, I'm going to say Moore got it really right. Please note that, as is my ongoing tendency, I am purposefully being incredibly vague about what actually happens. I think it's important for you to go and see/hear/feel all that for yourself. 

I will say that every scene starts out in a calculatedly misleading fashion, lending emphasis to the old saw about how things-are-never-what-they-seem. Something really interesting is how, though Treviño never dismantles the fourth wall, he nonetheless precariously perches the audience atop it by keeping the number of attendees extremely limited and arranging seating in a fashion that gives everyone a front row seat, as if at a boxing match. We get such a close glimpse of this couple that we can feel them breathing and if they'd started getting it on mid-play I wouldn't have been surprised (I was sort of more surprised they didn't get it on on stage-- that is how well Graves and Kenah capture intimacy). 

Another interesting device-- instead of one stage with changing sets, Treviño uses a good bit of the sprawling Off-Center to create separate spaces for each scene. So the audience moves from section to section as the relationship progresses (a progression also marked by little details like what sort of phones they are using). There was one other kooky device that I didn't totally get-- though I'm not complaining, just observing. To get folks to move from space to space and to sit down promptly and in an orderly fashion, between scenes an assistant steps forward and commands us to "FOLLOW ME" and "SIT HERE." These commands are barked, as if by a mini Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS. Not sure if this was to add to the effect of making us feeling squirmy and uncomfortable, and not even sure if Steve had a hand in including this person as a character? At times I wanted to giggle at her conduct, thinking it was supposed to be a joke, but as the play progressed and the staunchness persisted, I wondered if I was supposed to utilize my English degree and assign some sort of symbolism to Ilsa. This I never figured out. No worries, though-- she was but a minor distraction.

If you dig the realism school, do check out Agnes and Alfred before it closes at the end of the month.  (Caveat: Possibly not a good First Date Show.) Shows Thurs - Sat At the Off Center. For more info check out the Physical Plant website.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Congrats to ZACH!

Congrats to ZACH on the new Topfer Theatre. Warren and I had the pleasure of attending one of the gala opening events last week. Herewith, pics from our oo-la-la experience. XANADU closes this weekend after an extended run-- it is HILARIOUS! For more scheduling info you can go right here.

Clang clang clang went the trolley! I parked at Zilker and took this stylin' machine over to the new theatre.
OMG-- look at this place. Are we really in Austin? Pinch me, baby!
Warren steps out onto the red carpet. This being Austin, the red carpet at ZACH is blue.
Rain, schmain. There were lots of tents set up so we could listen to the rain and stay dry. Decor included a massive lanyard. 
Play with your food!
Not what you think. Chicken and waffles. 
Warren went for the Healthy Choices option.
Oo-la-la monsieur! Inside the theatre.  
Life is but a... 
This new place is so swank it has its own special cocktail. Which gets me wondering-- what if every theater in town had its own cocktail? I'm talking to you, Ken Webster! 
Extremely cool art made from soda cans I think. 
Self-portrait in lovely loo.
Damn, girl! Even the porcelain thrones are spiffy.
Balcony view. 
Warren acts casual in hopes of being discovered by Dave Steakley and cast in CATS.
Warren tries to push his way into the early show (we had tickets for the late show). He cleverly uses this moment as a chance to show off his calves, just in case Dave Steakley walks by and decides to cast him in... uh, what's a show that involves amazing calves? Ah, I know: Beauty and the Calves. 
We weren't allowed to take pics of the performance, but here's the new stage. It is a really super groovy space.
And now, at last, I can reveal the truth behind ZACH'S new Topfer Theatre. Here, Dave Steakley and I re-enact how it all began. Years ago, he made a wish and yes, it's true, I granted it. You're welcome, Dave! Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!