On Stopping the World

Photo courtesy of Rob Reider

Katherine: …A little hyperbole never hurt anyone.

Like lightning in a bottle (or a leap caught on camera) we captured a moment of magic. For that moment, we stopped the world.

Having time now to reflect on my part in Disney’s Newsies at La Crosse Community Theatre, I feel a profound sense of peace and gratitude. Maybe the heartache of no longer creating this wonderful story on stage each night hasn’t yet set in, but for now at least, I can say with great satisfaction, I seized each day.

To my friends, new and old, thank you. To Brody, Grant, Brianna, Avery, Grace, Brad, Liz, Allante, Colin, Dennis, Tom, Angie, Jeremiah, Aaron, Aaryn, Skyler, Olivia, Maddie, Brandon, Erick, Josh, Kane, Erik, Garrett, Riley, Naikya, Rubie, Alex, Angi, Brittany, James, Cole, Caidan and Lance, it was such an immense pleasure to share the stage with you for the past three weeks. I treasure the talents and dedication each of you brought to your part.

To the crew and the band, your work behind (and under) the scenes make a world of make-believe that much more real. To the production and support team, your direction and encouragement pushed us to be the best versions of ourselves both on and off stage. And lastly, but certainly not least, to the ushers and audience members who cheered, cried and and sang with us, without you this would all be for naught. Thank you, wholeheartedly, for supporting local arts.

The magic is always fleeting. But, the brevity breeds a beauty that lives on in our collective memories and the bonds created and strengthened by the process.

I continue to encourage you all to find such collaborative ventures in your lives. Whether through arts, recreation or service, find a way to unite with others outside of work and family. Explore interests, take a risk and break down barriers.

Stopping the world doesn’t have to alter the course of history. All it really takes is a moment to watch what happens when you do.

Reference Roundup – Part 2

Happy second weekend of [title of show]! I’m really looking forward to digging back into this beautiful sandbox of creativity. But before that happens, I’d like to share some of the bits of this show (and playing the part of Jeff in particular) that mean a lot to me personally.

  1. You Have a Story to Tell
    Two parts in particular call to one of my deeply held desires. The foremost is the lyric right after the heaviest part of the song “Die Vampire, Die,” which through its quirky metaphor truly has one of the best messages of this show–don’t listen to your doubts (vampires). Instead, kill them by letting your creative expression shine. And right after Susan lays it all on the line, I sound off with “You have a story to tell, pull your novel out of that sock drawer!” At that moment, I feel like I’m speaking as much to myself as anyone else. Similarly, Hunter’s line in Scene 5 poses the question:

    Hunter: I mean can you imagine if we got to make our living just writing? Actually making money doing what we love?

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I truly feel like journalism and specifically being a news anchor is a dream job. But there is a part of me that’s always wanted to write–a part that I once let loose during the month of November 2012. As part of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, for short) challenge, I wrote a 50,000+ word story that’s been sitting on a flash drive, unedited, ever since. I’ve also got a few ideas bouncing around the back of my brain for another historical fiction story. I know I’ve got a long road ahead, but whether or not anything comes of it, I think this is the spark I need to say to myself, “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to try anyway.” Stay tuned.

  2. Jeff the Web-designing, Gaming Nerd
    Hey! I’ve got a website (you’re here now–welcome, enjoy). While I feel that its fitting that Jeff works as a web-designer–this is the line that really spoke to my inner-techie:

    Hunter: Hey. Did I wake you?
    Jeff: No, I’m playing “RollerCoaster Tycoon 3.” I have to build a log flume that has a thrill rating of at least 4.

    So, it’s not the third edition of this computer classic, but…IMG_20180727_093005598-1.jpg
    …yeah. The mere 16 hours is only due to the fact that I recently rediscovered it on Steam. My parents could likely attest to the hours (days?) I spent on our old Compaq as a theme-park Tycoon. Ah, nostalgia. And in case you’re wondering, the original still holds its own in my book. Keep your Fortnite. I’ll take my RollerCoaster Tycoon any day of the week.

  3. Jeff the Grammar Gestapo
    The sign at my desk that reads “I am silently correcting your grammar” really says it all. So, when I first read this exchange…

    Jeff: That’s redundant.
    Hunter: What?
    Jeff: The ‘M’ already stands for “machine.” It’s like you’re saying “Automated Teller Machine Machine.”
    Hunter: Well, anyway I went to the ATM and I forgot my pin number and the…
    Jeff: That’s redundant too. Personal Identification Number Number.
    Hunter: Okay, so anyway I forgot my PIN… totally forgot it, and I was gonna say the irony is, it didn’t matter ’cause there was no money in my account anyway.
    Jeff: That’s not really ironic, that just sucks. It would be ironic if…
    Hunter: Oh my god, I’m gonna kill you!

    …I felt like I was reading my inner-monologue! Sorry, not sorry friends–I strive for mastery of the English language. Also, while I agree it’s less of an offense to do so, I do also enjoy the part in the dream sequence when Jeff suggests “flying around that preposition at the end of your sentence.” This character speaks to me.

  4. Parents, amirite?
    Though she doesn’t win flat screen TVs at bingo, my mom has been known to do pretty well at the casino from time to time. But the most important parental reference to me is in “Montage (Part One) – September Song” (and it’s not the one you might be thinking). Simply:

    Hunter: Has your mom come to every show?
    Jeff: Every one.

    Also simply: I can’t thank my parents enough for their continued love and support. I don’t always have space to put it in the program bio, but I want them to know that it truly means the world to me to have them in the audience as much as they are (even with such a risque show as this). It also serves as an example that I fully intend to pay forward with my own little guys. Mom & Dad, you’re the best.

  5. Finding a Way Back to Then
    The denouement of the show begins with Heidi’s powerful, gorgeous song “A Way Back to Then” and I know it hits all of us in the cast. For me, it’s two-fold.

    The “opportunity [that] walks through the door” in my life is my lovely and talented wife. Five years ago now, she prodded me to take a chance and audition for La Crosse Community Theatre’s production of Noises Off. After wavering, I relented on the day of auditions and haven’t looked back since. Through this wonderful local theatre community, I’ve connected “with the thing that [I] forgot that [I’ve] been looking for.” Now, here I am, doing what I love–creating art with the “craziest of company” and “having a kick-ass time” doing it. And I couldn’t do it without the love and support of my partner in this life. To her, I dedicate this performance.

    It’s also got me thinking ahead, though. I watch my sons “in the backyard dancing” and think of the dreams they’ll have and the lives that lie ahead. This affirms my vow of support to them. While not wishing time away, I cannot wait to see what they can do.

So, that about sums it up. If you haven’t yet had a chance to see [title of show] and find your own meanings in its message, please don’t miss your chance. Four more nights: July 27 & 28, August 3 & 4 at the Weber Center. Get tickets online or at the door, and I hope to see you there! We’ll have some fun.

Reference Roundup – Part 1

Like the Naked Cowboy with a lasso (does he even lasso, bro?) I’m going to try to pull together a list of some of the Broadway nods and Easter eggs that make [title of show] the musical mayhem it is. Thankfully, “The Gray Lady” already compiled quite the compendium (including a gem of an original from co-creator Hunter Bell–check out the video in the sidebar):

As for some of those not mentioned in the article above, here’s what I found out from diving down the [title of show] rabbit hole:

  1. Jeff Bowen, Birdwatcher
    [title of show] co-creator, Jeff Bowen appears to be a fan of our winged friends. While not a prominent Broadway reference or plot point, it informs a particular line in the first scene:

    [Jeff] Look, I’m going to go to the park and do some bird watching. Let’s both brainstorm and I’ll come over later.
    [Hunter] Okay. Bye.

    Browsing Twitter (appropriately enough), I soon found @jefbowen and the plethora of posts about his Central Park finds:

    twitter.com/jefbowen

    Turns out he also created a website in 2016 called birdingwithjeff.com. I tried to check it out, but it turned up empty for me. I digress. Still, context to the show.

  2. Wonder Woman
    Not only are the tunes of the show copyright of “INVISIBLE JET MUSIC,” but there’s also this gem in “Montage (Part One): September Song”

    [Jeff] Was it Lynda Carter? I’ll die if it was Lynda Carter.
    [Hunter] Would you stop? I’m trying to tell you we had a lot of important industry and producer people here tonight. Maybe it wasn’t our last show!

    Further references to “Wonder Woman for President” and the like lead me to believe one of our intrepid heroes is a big fan of Princess Diana of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta.

  3. Super-Awesome Sardi’s Caricature
    In the song “Part of It All,” Jeff and Hunter pretty much lay it all on the table how awesome life would be if they could make a living doing what they love and take advantage of all the perks that go along with it. Aside from splurging on the cable, VIP tickets to Wicked and lunch dates with Bernadette Peters, they long for “a night to stare at your super-awesome Sardi’s caricature.” You might have heard of the Manhattan restaurant that got its humble start in 1921 moving to its current location (234 West 44th St) in 1927 and features the mugs of hundreds of show-biz celebs adorning the walls. Also getting a nod in another famous show about a show (The Producers) and a show about nothing (Seinfeld), Sardi’s is the birthplace of the Tony Award. Per Wikipedia:

    after Antoinette Perry‘s death in 1946, her partner, theatrical producer and director Brock Pemberton, was eating lunch at Sardi’s when he came up with the idea of a theater award to be given in Perry’s honor. For many years Sardi’s was the location where Tony Award nominations were announced.

  4. The Vineyard, Off-Broadway
    It’s where lots of things are happening (per the song “Montage [Part Three]: Development Medley”), but in reality, that’s pretty true. Billing itself as “New York’s home for bold theatre,” it’s a non-profit company at 108 East 15th in Manhattan where both [title of show] and the [title of show]-referenced Avenue Q had their debut before hitting the Great White Way. From its first production in 1981 to this fall’s upcoming Good Grief the Vinyard Theatre and its contributors have earned two Pulitzer Prizes, five Tony Awards and 23 Obie Awards.
  5. Winning

    [Hunter] (sung) What if this show won a Tony? What if this show won a Tony Award? Papa, would that change the way you see your little boy now…

    While Mr. Bell will have to keep fantasizing about collecting the hardware, [title of show] did earn a nomination in 2009 for Best Book of a Musical, ultimately coming up short against that year’s powerhouse Billy Elliot. Nonetheless, despite wondering whether his buddy ever sits on the “terlet” (toilet) thinking about winning even an Obie, that turned out to be more of a reality than a pipe dream (had to) as the group picked up the Special Citation win in 2006.

    Awards or no, you’ll certainly be #winning if you score tickets to see our production of [title of show] July 20-August 4 at the Weber Center. Tickets at webercenterarts.org. #shamelessplug

    Stay tuned for (a more personal) Reference Roundup – Part 2 later this week!

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