Tuesday, December 30, 2008


one quest of the musical theater performer is to find good audition songs.  recently, a song was mentioned to me that i've really fallen for.  it's from "the scarlet pimpernel" (music by frank wildhorn and lyrics by nan knighton).  i'm endeavoring to make it my life paradigm song for the first few months of the new year.  given all the challenges in this new city for me, it seems more than appropriate.  i offer it to you, as well, for whatever challenges the new year brings your way.  

"into the fire"

david walked into the valley
with a stone clutched in his hand.
he was only a boy, but he knew someone must take a stand.
there will always be a valley,
always mountains one must scale.
there will always be perilous waters which someone must sail.

into valleys, into waters, into jungles, into hell.
let us ride, let us ride home again with a story to tell.
into darkness, into danger, into storms that rip the night.
don't give in, don't give up,
but give thanks for the glorious fight.

you can tremble, you can fear it
but keep your fighting spirit alive boys.
let the shiver of it sting you
fling into battle, spring to your feet boys.
never hold back your step for a moment.
never doubt that your courage will grow.
hold your head even higher and into the fire we go.

are there mountains that surround us?
are there wall that block the way?
knock 'em down, strip 'em back boys
and forward and into the fray.

into terror, into valor charge ahead, no, never turn.
yes, it's into the fire we fly and the devil will burn.
someone has to face the valley.
rush in, we have to rally and win boys.
when the world is saying not to
by god, you know you've got to march on, boys.
never hold back your step for a moment.
never doubt that your courage will grow.
hold your head ever higher and into the fire we go.

let the lightning strike,
let the flash of it shock you.
choke your fears away.
pull as tight as a wire.
let the fever spike.
let the force of it rock you.
we will have our day, sailing into the fire.

someone has to face the valley .
rush in!  we have to rally and win boys.
when the world is saying not to
by god, you know you've got to march on, boys.
never hold back your step for a moment.
look alive!  oh, your courage will grow.
yes, it's higher and higher and into the fire we go.
into fire!
onward, ho!

all the best to you in 2009 whatever fires you face.  may they be those of the refiner who continuously seeks to strengthen and shape us.  be encouraged!  
happy new year!

Monday, December 29, 2008


i suppose it had to happen at some point.  although, i thought it might be a little longer than this.  i've only been here five months, afterall.  and i can't say that i've really turned completely...just looking.  is that okay?  

the broncos went down big last night.  i've tried to support them as much as possible from here.  if their game was televised nationally, i was watching (like lastnight...thank you nbc).  the rest of the time, i was huddled in my apartment around my computer listening to the game by going to the websites of 850 koa in denver or 740 kvor in colorado springs and getting their audio streaming of the game.  sometimes i'd have some other game on tv just to get a visual.  that could be confusing right there.  admittedly, though, support has been difficult, with the distance and all their injuries...poor blighters.  and then last night...mm...losing by 31 points like that.  just wait til next year!!  i know they'll be back!

so i'm at this strange place of needing a team i can actually follow and watch and keep up with.  since this is how many americans determine how they are doing, whether they're a "winner" or not for their monday, etc.  the problem is, of course, this area has lots of teams to choose from.  what i'm needing is some help in this choice.  

i live on the upper west side of manhattan, across the street from central park, just off the b and c line.  am i supposed to like the jets or the giants?  i like favre since he's old like me and it's great to see him hand some youngin his lunch (although...hasn't happened as much as would be nice, i guess, for jets fans).  but i'm wondering if there's some kind of "line" through this city that determines allegiances, at least loosely.  

secondly, baseball season is just around the corner.  when spring training ends, i've got to have some sense of who to root for.  am i supposed to be a mets or yankees fan?  i just don't get it.  

so, if anyone has some helpful advice for me on who to choose and why, i'm listening.  it's all in the name of being a good and decent new yorker for whatever time i'm here.  so leave me a comment and share your logic!

until next year...go team.  go team go!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

in the midst of all the commercialism surrounding the celebration of jesus' birth, it's easy to forget what we really are celebrating.  in fact, it's all the craziness of this time with nuts schedules that makes slowing down seem impossible.  when do we find the time to rest?  

while sitting in church a couple weeks ago i heard something i've never heard before.  this is always a fun moment for a preacher since we think we've either heard everything or said it ourselves.  tim keller seems to keep saying things i've never heard before and that's great refreshing fun.  

so two weeks ago he was using the "begat" passage of matthew 1 with all the names of the generations leading up to jesus.  the list ends with a breakdown of the numbers of generations.  matthew says there were 14 generations from abraham to king david, 14 generations from david to the babylonian exile, and 14 generations from the exile to christ.  the next verse then describes the birth of jesus.  there's nothing new there, is there?  tim asked the question, "what is this 14, 14, 14 about?"  frankly, i didn't have a clue.  just seemed like information of a historical nature.  but no!  i should have remembered all that special theological training i received at fuller seminary and recalled that matthew never just throws in extraneous information just to be informative!  no no...he is a theological writer!  there is something deeper behind this 14, 14, 14.  

three 14's is also six 7's.  this makes jesus the 7th seven.  along with the divine number, matthew is wanting to remind us of the creation story and the six days of work.  the seventh day was a day of rest.  jesus, as the 7th seven, is the very rest we all crave in this world.  his coming into the world when he did (giving even more weight to the "at just the right time" concept) was to herald "rest" as something, or rather someone, that we could have a relationship with.  

new york amplifies the need, it seems, for rest.  but i know it's not just this place.  we all crave a kind of peace that seems elusive even when we do have the right job, or the right relationship, or the right living situation (the universal trifecta).  augustine said that our souls are restless until we find our rest in jesus.  and if we're honest, we know we have a restlessness that is rarely, if ever, satisfied.  so while you're enjoying gift giving and gift receiving today (and then returning them tomorrow :) and getting tired with it all), remember the "rest" that was born in a manger those many moons ago.  the 7th seven has come.  this is a rest i can relate to. 

merry christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


last friday, less than 24 hours after the arrival of my sister to the big city, we were sitting in radio city music hall ready for something spectacular.  we were not disappointed.  it started with the 36 rockettes dressed up like reindeer with cute little antlers as they pulled santa's sleigh from the north pole into rockefeller center through the help of a 3d movie.  i still have the special glasses.  it would have been nice if they could also magnify the stage so i could see all 72 of those rather amazing legs as they kicked in unison their trademark chorus line high kicks.  we were in the second mezzanine in the 5500 seat theater.  

but distance couldn't take away from the magic of my first new york show.  a flying santa, dancers kicking, toy wooden soldiers, real ice skating on stage, sugar plum fairies, the complete nativity, live camels, a donkey, more kicking, a double decker bus with dancing girls, singers, 72 legs synchronized with precision, tap dancing, a demonstration of how santa can be in so many places at the same time...there were oodles of dancing santas on stage at the same time.  i never knew his legs looked that good.  

there's a reason they call this production the radio city christmas spectacular.  the scope was tremendous!  the creative energy represented on that stage could probably light a small country for several weeks.  of course, creative energy is like that.  at this time of year, the opportunities abound to light up lives with our creative energy.  light 'em up!

Saturday, December 20, 2008


it's been snowing in new york for a couple days now.  very cold.  it's made for some pretty good puddles and slush at the street corners.  guaranteed to get your feet wet if you try to jump over or circumnavigate them.  there is one way to avoid them, however...take a cab.  

my sister is visiting the city and because of the generosity of a friend, she has a place to stay over on broadway.  my place is not too far away here on central park west.  we had been chatting about faith and science and using tim keller's book, "the reason for god" as the catalyst.  good stuff.  and i might just add how proud we are of our mother whose photo made the most recent copy of scientific american (on newsstands now!). 

at any rate...have to get up early to sing in the lessons and carols services of redeemer presbyterian church and my dear sister didn't want me walking home in the cold.  so, i took a cab.  my driver's name was bernard.  he was from ghana but has lived in jersey for the last 18 years or so.  he has retained the delightful accent of his homeland, even with a couple local phrases.  he won't be going home, either, for christmas.  he said he missed his home.  i know a little of how he feels.  

i asked him how the snow was impacting driving around the city and he made me laugh.  he said, "people same drive today as every day."  he didn't think that was a good thing.  he was just saying that a new york driver sees no reason to change their speed just because of a little moisture on the road.  that would be crazy!  bernard said he'd seen 4 accidents today.  he said all this while cutting off a new york cop in his cruiser going about 40 down broadway toward 96th, in the falling snow and on the wet roads.  it was pretty fun.  only cost me seven bucks for this thrill ride, too.  that's a bargain for a little risk-taking.  not like bungee jumping which, i just researched, ranges from $45 to $75 for the first jump and then tack on some more for subsequent leaps.  plus, there's a fun tunnel effect when racing down city streets with tall buildings on either side.  that's just a free bonus.  

bernard got me home safe.  tonight he was my saint bernard...sans internally warming beverage in a barrel.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


you never know what to expect when going to auditions in new york city.  although i've only been at it for three months, there are a few things that are somewhat standard.  when you show up, you have to sign up on a list.  usually this is so the order is set.  those who show up early get to do their thing and then leave.  many an actor gets up early in the morning to be first on the list when the doors open at 10:00 a.m., myself included.  

another commonality is the holding room.  this is a space where everyone waits til their number is called.  usually some of those metal folding chairs are around the edges of the room so everyone can stare at their competition.  sometimes there are hushed conversations.  sometimes there is one or two boisterous personalities who want everyone to know that they are there and they know someone.  i believe this is an attempt at intimidation so that those of us who don't know anyone feel that we're at some kind of disadvantage...which, who are we kidding, we are. knowing people makes all the difference.  

along with the sign in sheet and the holding room, there's the monitor.  this person keeps order, makes sure people are going where they need to go, and answers whatever questions there might be.  these are usually very kind people who love the industry and appreciate actors and all their woes.  they are also important for giving you a little information about the mood of the casting directors and other insider information that is meant to make you a little more comfortable before baring yourself to these strangers in the small room.  

today had all those things as i went in the stage door of the metropolitan opera just off west 65 th street, and moved past the security guard.  i signed in on the little sheet and looked for a place to sit around the edges of the room.  because the call was specifically for men, that's what the room was full of.  because it was also a call for gypsy/fighters who had combat experience, these were a certain sort of men.  and because the call was for those who had a percussion background, beating on stretched skin, there were a few fun long hair types, as well.  it was already looking slightly different than other auditions.

there were lots of guys in tank tops with muscles to show off.  one guy was clearly a body builder...and a good one.  when i came in he was polishing off three hard boiled eggs and some fruit while bulging through his polo shirt that could never have been meant to stretch that way.  he would certainly be interesting to look at on stage.  but there was more to this audition than appearance.  

i was led with 16 other met supernumerary potentials down into the bowels of the metropolitan opera theater.  we walked past huge and ornate set pieces in warehouse size rooms that were under the stage.  finally we arrived in what appeared to be a rehearsal room.  it was huge.  easily 25 foot ceilings and probably 50 by 60 feet on the floor.  we didn't know what was going to happen in here.  we handed our headshots to a guy as we came in and stood around looking at four long metal tubes about four inches in diameter and three feet long, sitting on benches.  there were large hammers laying next to them.  things were getting interesting.

i, of course, was never a percussionist growing up, nor did i ever do any combat, stage or otherwise, so i was feeling a little out of my element but one should go to every audition and let the casting director cut you.  don't cut yourself before even trying.  

the audition had two parts: a musical component which was really a timing issue, and the combat part.  four at a time, we approached the benches with the long metal tubes and heavy hammers, and lifted them.  some did practice swings, loosening up their shoulders.  others weren't sure what was about to happen.  too bad for them.  we were auditioning for the great "anvil chorus" from verdi's opera, "il travatore".  this was going to take timing, strength, acting, and some good old testosterone!  here's a link to the scene from a past performance.  you know the tune.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1YsHzTv7mg&feature=related  

two of each four were to play on beats 1 and 3, and the other two on 2 and 4 and to hit the anvil as hard as we could, or as the casting guy said, "beat the crap out of it!"  we were playing like we were beating out swords on the anvils.  how complicated could that be?  right.  not very.  but, as the director began to count in the piano player and bring in the anvils, there were a lot of timing issues which were somewhat painful for the rest of us.  not just because people were off the beat (it's important to think about the time it takes to swing your arm around so that the hammer hits the anvil on the beat...a few didn't seem to think about that), but because these were very loud pieces of metal being struck with blunt instruments...and we weren't given ear plugs.  

my love for gospel music and the ensuing rhythm that it seems to have instilled in my body was a big advantage for this audition.  probably unfair, but...everyone should be listening to kirk franklin.  i can't help it if they don't.  so i passed the first part of the audition just fine.  but next was hand to hand combat.  the next several minutes were spent learning and doing several hand to hand, choreographed fight moves complete with grunts and shouts...just like good gypsies would do.  i think i did alright.  it was nice to get some aggression out on the metal tubes and at least pretend to hit somebody.  

this would be a great gig.  a couple months of beating the crap out of some anvils at the metropolitan opera and getting paid for it.  but either way, this was the coolest audition i've been to yet!  :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

mary's song

heard these words in church this morning and was moved by them.  they are part of a larger poem by luci shaw as she imagines mary commenting on her baby jesus although with a theological perspective that is full.  

older than eternity, now he is new.
now native to earth as i am, nailed to my poor planet, 
caught that i might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended, 
brought to this birth for me to be new-born, 
and for him to see me mended
i must see him torn.  


there's a concert going on right now that i'm missing for the first time in over 10 years.  a favorite song of mine is very special this time of year and perhaps even more so this year.  it's by chris rice.

tears are falling, hearts are breaking
how we need to hear from god.
you've been promised. we've been waiting.
welcome holy child.  welcome holy child.

hope that you don't mind our manger
how i wish we would have known.
but long awaited holy stranger
make yourself at home.  please make yourself at home.

bring your peace into our violence
bid our hungry souls be filled.
word now breaking heaven's silence
welcome to our world.  welcome to our world

fragile finger sent to heal us
tender brow prepared for thorn
tiny heart whose blood will save us
unto us is born.  unto us is born. 

so wrap our injured flesh around you
breathe our air and walk our sod
rob our sin and make us holy
perfect son of god, perfect son of god.
welcome to our world.  

extra extra!

the past couple weeks have seen quite a bit of activity on the tv background front.  after my momentous appearance in a very brief scene on "life on mars," the method for getting "extra" work was known and understood.  more brief appearances have occurred in "kings" with ian mcshane.  he's shorter in person than he seemed in films.  that seems to be the regular thought as i see actors in person.  this was a long shoot (an 18 hour day followed by a second shorter day) at a mansion turned museum out on long island.  beautiful place that was right up to my standard of living.  :)   it really was extraordinary.  good place for a show about a king.  don't you think?  

this week, there was a pilot being shot for showtime directed by tim robbins.  yep, that's 
him eating with all of us non-union scrubs during the lunch break.  he was a pretty laid back director.  i think he's put on a couple pounds since the shawshank redemption days.  

after helping tim put his pilot together, there was work to do on a detective show called "the unusuals".  i may actually get a little air time on this one.  look for the guy shuffling through paper "investigating" something behind the stars of the show.  

then there was gossip girl.  i don't know anything about this show except that it's supposed to be the new 90210 but in new york city with kids from the upper east side.  my part in gossip girl was to appear in my tuxedo at the theater (supposedly the metropolitan opera - however we shot the scene on staten island at an old theater).  even after five hours of shooting, i'm still clueless about this show.  all i know is that two of the kids were on a date at the opera.  before the show starts and everyone is getting settled in (that was the masterful work of all of us background actors looking like uptown opera attenders getting into our seats, etc.), the girl starts to have some kind of coughing fit.  i guess it was funny for some reason, but i'm not sure how it fits into the story.  what's remarkable is that this scene in its final form will probably take no more than 2 minutes of air time...if that.  there were 250+ extras, all of us getting a minimum of $85 for the shoot and many getting more.  some quick math reveals that these two minutes cost about $25,000 in background actors alone.  that's before you start figuring in food, snacks, crew, the expensive talent, and other expenses.  i don't think the producers of gossip girl know there's a financial crisis going on.  in fact, i was just told that i was cut from my catering gig tomorrow...econmics. client needs to save money.  

there is a very curious background actor sub-culture.  i'm seeing many of the same faces at each of these shoots.  i don't think they're going for anything more than background work which is fine...they can make a bit of a living that way.  i'll do some more of it, but i will be auditioning for other things, as well.  with extra work, you never know what is going to turn up until the day before.  so one must live with faith that there will be work tomorrow even though it's unknown til the night before.  keeps things interesting.  

the wilderness...venturing the unknown, depending on manna from above...he is faithful.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

working actor

yes, it's true.  made my first dollars acting yesterday.  a whopping $80 for a day of shooting (mostly sitting around waiting to shoot) on the set of "life on mars" which airs on thursday evenings.  not sure when this show will air, but it will be sometime in the new year.  the basic plot involves a new york cop from 2008 who finds himself in 1973 after an accident.  obviously this calls for some fun wardrobe choices and excellent sideburns which made the set look very fun.  but not just the people, the set itself was like stepping into the past: rotary phones, typewriters (remember them?), massive steel desks, cigarette machines with the pull knobs before they moved all cigarettes behind the counter.  

the show stars harvey keitel and some others that i don't really know.  they were all on set as w
e crowded them, asking questions as extras playing various print, tv, and radio reporters.  the scene lasted about 20 seconds.  if i'm on
 camera at all, it will be about 2 seconds.
  that's 10% for you economically minded people.  yes, this is harvey.  

It was a fun day.  I've attached a few photos of yours truly trying to get into character in my sweet, vintage, 1970's three-piece suit.  and since i know you would ask, the cigarette is a prop!  and those bars are part of the set...no worries on my status in the city.  and the stuff on my boots was a kind of foam to cut down on noise during the shoot.  

it's pretty amazing the lengths we go to for our entertainment.  for this 20 second scene, there were probably 25 - 30 of us extras which is great cause everyone is cool and it's great to meet folks.  in fact, the photos of me on set were taken by one of the cool extras.  we got into a little trouble but nothing that should keep me from working in the future.  :)  each of us received our $80 (although there were a few s.a.g. folks who made more).  i know they'll make it all back in advertising dollars, but it was interesting to be a part of this aspect of our economy.  so thank you for supporting the advertisers of this show.  you helped me buy some yogurt and put something toward the pillow where i lay my head.  yay advertising supporters!!!

frankly, i think the shot of me on the phone looks like a regular detective on the show.  i should send it to them to consider.  i could just be the guy on the phone in the background of all the office shots.  i'm believable, aren't i?  maybe lose the pads on the shoes...