Monday, April 15, 2019

Next to Normal—a searingly brilliant rock opera examining the lives of a family whose mother is struggling with bipolar depression—opened on Broadway 10 years ago today

The show beautifully captures the swings between the ridiculous highs and the soul-crushing lows the disease brings to us living in it and to the selfless teams of people who care for us.

I’m fortunate enough to have seen the original production, very soon after I’d been diagnosed as bipolar and had found myself caught in a rather terrifying struggle to wrap my confused, exhausted brain around the fact that mental illness was no longer a mysterious entity in other people’s lives; it was MY LIFE, and I had no idea how to manage it or what potential and very real horrors to expect from it.

The musical is rough to experience from any perspective, but seeing it for the first time tore me apart ... and then put me back together with its closing anthem, “Light,” which features an almost casually placed lyric that is at once devastating and hopeful and never fails to sneak up on me and emotionally gut me even though I know it’s coming: “The price of love is loss / but still we pay / we love anyway.”

Back when I saw the show on Broadway, selfies were new and weird and shameful—and for you young folks, it was the Middle Ages when our smart phones had single cameras that didn’t let us see on our screens what our selfies would look like so we just had to hold our phones in the air and hope for the best—so I took this selfie as one-shot quickly and discreetly as I could to ensure an entire city of complete strangers wouldn’t judge me. It turned out rather well, although I cut off the last letter of the sign. Which means as far as any of you know, I actually just saw a knockoff production called Next to Norma:
Coe College in Cedar Rapids opened a production of Next to Normal last weekend that runs through this weekend. I was asked to have a QA with the cast a few weeks ago to help them create hopefully more informed characters, and I’m honored to be giving talkbacks with the audiences after every performance this coming weekend—starting this Thursday, April 18, which is my birthday, and I can’t think of a better way to keep my mind off the number fifty (ahem) one. I’d add a link here, but I can’t get one to load on my phone that I can copy. So google it and come see the show if you can. The show will change you.

Day after day,
We'll find the will to find our way.
Knowing that the darkest skies
Will someday see the sun.
When our long night is done,
There will be light.

Six days to #Memester!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and started sinking 107 years ago today, at almost exactly the time I’m posting this

I’ve had a lifelong fascination with the tragedy—mostly from the perspective of wanting to know what it was like to be on such a grand ship ... and then to have it slowly, terrifyingly disappear under my feet. I’ve recorded the sinking as an annual event on my google calendar so I get a pop-up reminder every year to take a moment to think about the people who died and the horrors they and the survivors endured.

I just saw a matinee of the incredible musical Come From Away, which tells the story of the small town in Newfoundland that almost doubled in size for a week when American airspace was closed on 9/11 and flights from all over the world were diverted there. Now every flight out of NYC was canceled tonight due to weather, and I’m stranded here until Tuesday. But I’m safe. And I’ve found that these two events have subtly enriched whatever emotional connection I’ve given myself to the Titanic passengers and crew I technically know nothing about but still mourn.

Don’t wait for tragedy. Don’t wait for averted tragedy. Take a moment every day to be thankful for the people you love in your life.

Last-minute TKTS tickets aren’t always worth the $99

My seat is literally staring directly at the stage-right lighting/sound scaffolding. Stage right is six feet to MY right, and I can see probably 51% of the stage.
Even if Jeremy Jordan trips and catapults off the stage, there’s still almost 0% chance he’ll land in my lap. But at least I have lots of shoulder room to my left.

When life gives you canceled flights, make canceled-flight pie

The irony is our last flight out tonight just got canceled so we’ll be staying an unplanned night here

The fortuitous thing is we’d already booked an extra night in our hotel because we had points and we didn’t want to haul our luggage to the theater.

I thought I knew where the Angels in America angel is in Central Park, but clearly I don’t

So instead I’m commemorating my final run with a selfie in front of this gorgeous blooming tree. I’m pretty sure it’s not a cherry tree, and google isn’t offering any useful information to help me identify it. So we'll just call it gorgeous.

Also: El Camino shirt!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Tossed salad and scrambled eggs indeed

Nine years ago tonight after seeing Sondheim on Sondheim at Studio 54 (where I just saw an appallingly lackluster Kiss Me, Kate tonight), I found myself seated at a table next to Kelsey Grammar at an après-Sondheim dinner at noted celebrity-sighting restaurant Joe Allen. I’d heard Kelsey was kind of a dick, but he demonstrated on no uncertain terms how he’d earned that reputation when also-celebrities Tony Shalhoub and Kathy Baker made an appearance at the other end of the restaurant. Kelsey jumped up from his table and pushed his way toward the two of them while yelling their names and knocking my coat off the back of my chair as he stumbled by. He stopped in his tracks, looked back at my coat on the floor, did some quick cost-benefit calculations, decided taking two seconds to pick it up wasn’t worth the effort, shrugged, and continued on his quest to meet up with his socially valuable celebrity friends.


Sniff Me, Coke!

I mean Kiss Me, Kate!

Sorry—I was having flashbacks to my Studio 54 days.

Vessel at Hudson Yards: A Celebration of Geometries and Metallics and Tickets I Couldn’t Get to Go Inside

see also: That Thing That Looks Like a Giant Shiny Shawarma

Shit. I forgot to take my long-traditional marquee selfie! I RUINED MY PROM.

But here’s a shot of my program framed by the beautiful Longacre Theatre proscenium:

Mile 2.5! Ish!

But probably not at all that far! Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone!

Mile 2!

Repping the I-P-R in the Central PAR!

My kick-ass Garmin running watch that stalwartly got me through every mile of last year’s Summer Of Running Away From Being 50 not only stopped syncing with the app on my phone this year but it didn’t even hold its charge from three days ago. Grrrr. So I’m running on a 10-minute-mile assumption using my phone—with selfie/Facebook breaks at every mile, duh—and just enjoying the scenery. And the hills. HOO BOY there are hills.


My kick-ass runner-tech running shoes that I bought solely because they look totally cool are unfortunately—on this, their first-ever run—noticeably exacerbating my pronation issues, so as soon as I get back to the hotel they’ll be demoted to just kick-ass runner sneakers that look totally cool.

But in the mean time, my break’s over. Onward!

I know it’s just the skeleton of a building being built across the street from my hotel,

but when I take my glasses off it looks like a galaxy of stars. Just like all the ones I’m seeing on Broadway this week.

Friday, April 12, 2019

And every night all the men would come around ... and lay their money down ...

It’s not a trip to NYC without a visit to my beloved Hearst Tower

The stone base was completed in 1928 as the foundation for a matching tower that got put on hold during the Depression and never got built. The magnificent new diagrid tower was added in 2016 and rises in a muscular, majestic dialogue with its citadel-like base. It’s all but a literal diamond shimmering among the grand old and shiny new architecture just south of Columbus Circle, and I make a point to stop by and say hi every time I’m here.

Tourist. Times Square. Tacky tselfies.

Word to the wise:

There are two dance studios next door to each other on West 45th Street. Only one of them necessitates tap shoes.
And next door to these establishments WAS Kinky Boots, which required ridiculous heels. The show closed last weekend though, and rough-looking guys named Vinny and Dude and Here’s My Number Jake Call Me are currently hauling the remnants of the show out the side doors and across the sidewalk into trucks for what doesn’t look like a promising fate.

Oh—and tap class was the perfect level of challenging, so I therefore deem it awesome. Except the teacher randomly started many of the technique drills and combinations on the left. Which is the dance equivalent of pushing us into pits of lava, but with a compelling beat.

It’s paradiddle time!