Sunday, March 31, 2019

Another performing adventure has ended at my beloved Paramount Theatre, and once again I stopped before I packed up and left to take a picture of this awesome door

It’s literally where a hole was cut high into the side of the gilded, lavishly baroque auditorium (specifically an alcove above the audience-left mezzanine) to link it to the austere new addition with all of its modern dressing rooms and bathrooms and showers and elevators and laundry facilities and its comfortably appointed green room with refrigerators and a wide third-floor window offering a southern view of downtown Cedar Rapids. I love how you can stand where I took this picture right next to a sleek stainless steel elevator surrounded by the clean walls and neutral carpet tiles of the modern addition and peer through this door and see the brilliant reds and golds of the rococo carpeting that hint at the breathtaking, venerable grandeur waiting just around the corner.

I grew up in awe of—and in love with—the Paramount Theatre, and I’m so thrilled and honored and humbled not only to get to perform on its century-old stage and enjoy the distinct privilege of looking out into the vast sea of lustrous golds and merlot velvets of its auditorium on a happily regular basis, but also to see first-hand the backstage additions and upgrades and enrichments to the expanded facility that will take it—as I see through the metaphor of this door—beautifully into its next century.

It’s my 15th Cedar Rapids Follies!

We just had an increments-of-five-years-anniversary-celebrating cast meeting before our final show and I got a nice card and a packet of granulated silica gel. It was in with a star-shaped metal box engraved with my name. Which is nice too.

Now the house lights have dimmed, the audience has hushed, the curtain speech is underway and our final first downbeat is in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

One of us is wearing a plunging V-neck T-shirt. One of us is a bust.

We're here

For all the irrational hatred and the isolationist hypocrisy and the manipulative demagoguery Trump and his vile, desperate, defiantly hypocritical sycophants are using to tear this country apart morally, socially and intellectually ... for all the ignorance they've perpetuated and the lies they've parroted to shore up their base ... for all the ugliness and hostility and racism and sexism and phobias they've unleashed from the dungeons and the shadows and the basest instincts of humankind ... they've ironically and unintentionally and no doubt regrettably inspired something quite beautiful: a mass uprising of love and support for every person they vilify and every minority they oppress and every demographic they scapegoat in their bloodthirsty quest to dehumanize and destroy us all for their own gain.

And if you're a trans person—especially if you're a trans kid—we want you to know we're here.

There are legions of us who have been and who currently are and who will continue to be your friends and allies and champions with no judgments, no condemnations and no barriers. We may not have been as visible to you as we'd have liked in the past out of consideration for your privacy or lack of a forum to communicate to you or even out of concern that we might inadvertently say or do something awkward or uncomfortable or insensitive around you. But we're here. And it is now our moral and social and just simply human imperative to make sure you know who we are.

Whether you're just coming to terms with your need to transition, beginning to comprehend the emotional and physical and social journey ahead of you, taking the first tentative steps in changing your persona and your presentation and your name, or standing bravely and confidently and proudly at any point on the transition continuum ... our primary interest in your trans identity is that you are safe and healthy and happy.

We may never fully comprehend the extent of what your personal or collective journey has entailed—and we may ask a lot of questions both out of curiosity and a sincere need to better understand where you've been and where you're going.

But we're here. And we stand with you both in person and at the dawn of a new sense of community. And we want you to know we love and respect you just as you are. Or just as you need to be.

We're here.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

I am where I wanna be

I’m sorry, but I just belted endless choruses of this brilliant, layered, driving anthem surrounded by a 14-piece orchestra and a 10-voice pit chorus with 50 soloists and singers alternately crooning and belting on the stage above us—many of whose lives are affirmed profoundly by these lyrics—and I’m at once happy and weepy and so so proud to be a part of this amazing show with all of these amazing people.

Nothing kills the romance faster than when your secret gym boyfriend walks by in a cloud of evidence that he recently clawed his way out of a mass grave

Then again, I look like I’m hiding mass graves in my cheeks today, so perhaps I’m being unjustly picky.

Not all heroes wear capes

Do you ever feel like you’re being watched as you work?

This little Rhodes Scholar has decided his reflection in my window is a mortal enemy that must be fought to the beak-squeaking-against-glass death. It would be condescendingly adorable if the preternatural squeaking sound weren’t making my fillings ache.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

SOMEBODY we know just finished making a huge, loud, high-drama production about her disdain over Miss Bridget’s prolonged visit ...


I’ve been really conscientious (thank goodness autospell took that word and ran with it for me after three letters) about stretching and gently easing into movement with the areas of my body that have historically flared up with chronic gym injuries

... and I’ve perhaps been too enthusiastic about diving into my workouts involving every part of my body that hasn’t previously given me trouble because now I have heretofore-not-existing pain and tightness deep in my ventral left deltoid. It’s not bad, but it’s bad enough that it’s sidelined my chest and shoulders workouts out of caution. Fortunately, I still have a back and legs and a core and two arms, the latter of which are getting some brutal attention today. OK, intermittently brutal; there are currently five other people here and they’re all on the other side of the gym and clearly not holding auditions for Husband Who Actually Works Out Instead Of Sitting On The Equipment Brazenly Taking Selfies And Playing On His Phone and I’m probably spending too much time sitting on the equipment brazenly taking selfies and playing on my phone instead of brutally blasting my arms.

Oops—the Bus Of More Gym People must have pulled up while I blathered on and on in that last sentence because now there are more gym people here. I’m still all alone on the preacher bench at the front of the gym though, so maybe they all know something I don’t. Or they’re afraid of seeing my ventral left deltoid explode in a shower of pain, gristle and glitter.
My anatomy isn’t such that I can take a selfie that shows any progress on my arm blast, so I’m reduced to posting a selfie that shows zero progress in removing my face wrinkles or taming my hair. The management regrets this error.

I never knew that crooning the theme to Love Boat with a full orchestra was at the top of my bucket list, but I just found out it was and I JUST CROSSED IT OFF

I’m at the Fpitzprobe so I was just a placeholder singer, but the experience was surprisingly awesome—and as awesomely cheesy as a grown-up '70s kid could ever want.

Our soloist is in for a supreme treat when he croons it onstage. All we'll be missing is a cameo by Adrienne Barbeau.

Never bring a spife to a knork fight

Follies pit singer sitzprobe!

Or you could say Fpitzprobe. But no, you should really never say Fpitzprobe.

Friday, March 22, 2019

A waning gibbous (according to Siri) moon over the north entrance to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. 11:30 pm.

I’m tired of your shit, Dove. PICK ONE.

Flashback Friday: What The Hell Is That Theater Called Edition

This was the view from my office in the Chicago Loop. In the 15 years I lived in Chicago, this venerable theater (which was called the Majestic when it was built in 1906) changed names from Shubert to LaSalle Bank to Bank of America to Private Bank, and since I left three years ago it's become the CIBC Theatre. Amid all those changes, it's been home to some amazing shows, many of which I went to see multiple times because it was right across the street from work. Jersey Boys and Book of Mormon sat there forever, 9 to 5 made a brief stop (where Dolly Parton herself walked right by me in the tiny lobby), and now Hamilton has taken up long-term residence. If you go see Hamilton or whatever comes next to its stage, look up to the fifth floor on the big squarish skyskraper across the street and wave. The next credit-card solicitation you receive in the mail might very well wave back at you from its colorful storyboard.

He doesn't believe an entire globe of scientists and catastrophic empirical evidence about climate change but he believes a genocidal dictator because he was nice once

Happy birthday, Stephen Sondheim!

Thank you for redefining musical theater. For redefining music. For redefining theater.

Thank you for composing music that's at once asymmetrical and balanced, halting and fluid, atonal and lush, messy and perfect.

Thank you for finding lyrics that explore the outer limits of rhythm and structure and rhyme, that tell a story or define a character or celebrate a moment or break a heart in sometimes just a handful of words, that always seem fresh, that always seem timeless, that always seem effortless.

Thank you for creating an apotheosis of creative and intellectual order, design, tension, composition, balance, light and harmony.

Thank you for inspiring as only you can an enraptured young writer to think outside his own thoughts, to feel outside his own feelings, to never stop searching for the perfect word or the lyrical phrase or the essential defining idea in a universe of creative entropy, to always make sure he's proud of how he creates and proud of what he writes.

And thank you for the phrase that I rely on almost daily to turn an undefined someday into a compelling now ... to pull me out of inertia and propel me sometimes through a bipolar fog and sometimes just through my own complacency to run a marathon, broaden my perspective, take on a challenging writing project, upgrade to a difficult tap class, find a solution, emerge unscathed or at least unbroken, or some days to just show up.

Careful the things you say; children will listen. And sometimes they'll turn your words into kick-ass tattoos.

Feel the flow,
Hear what's happening:
We're what's happening!
Long ago
All we had was that funny feeling,
Saying someday we'd send 'em reeling.
Now it looks like we can!
Someday just began.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Happy 334th birthday, Johann Sebastian Bach!

Fun Bach fact 2: The formal title of every work composed by Bach is followed by a BWV (Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis or Bach-Works-Catalogue) number. First published in 1950 by Wolfgang Schmieder--who was probably very boring at parties--the BWW system assigned a unique number to each of the 1,126 known written works of Bach. Unlike the far-more-useful-in-my-humble-opinion Köchel catalogue that assigns numbers to every known work of Mozart chronologically, the BWW assigns its numbers by genre. Which isn't even a German word.

Happy 334th birthday, Johann Sebastian Bach!

Fun Bach fact 1: Johann Sebastian Bach is considered to be one of the definitive composers of the Baroque Period in music, which lasted from 1600 until Bach's death in 1750. Following the Renaissance Period, which explored independent, interweaving melodic lines in a style known as polyphony, Baroque music introduced the concept of tonality, where music was written in an established key. The highly ornamental and often improvised music of the Baroque followed the key-based chord progressions played by the lower instruments of the basso continuo.

And though all symphonic music from the Baroque Period forward is collectively known as "classical music," the official Classical Period as we define it today directly followed the Baroque, lasting from 1750 to 1825. Its definitive composer was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


A gay’s powers are never stronger than the morning after a fierce haircut

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


You won’t acknowledge in any way seeing me take a secret gym selfie and I won’t acknowledge in any way seeing you trip over a workout bench like a drunken three-legged camel learning to fly.
Though I can’t guarantee the entire rest of the gym won’t acknowledge it.

As of 4:58 pm CDT today ...

Monday, March 18, 2019

Bitch Kitty says good night!


It’s All of you are Really in My way Day

(often shortened to ARM Day) at the gym, and it’s so bottlenecked at the first- and second-tier equipment that if I want to get in any type of workout I’m relegated to third-tier equipment like that stupid triceps-extension contraption where you put your upper arms on that little shelf and push the uncomfortable handles forward and get more of a wrist sprain than a triceps pump.

Fun fact: That little shelf makes a great place to rest your arms for a stealthfie.

Today marks three months without Diet Coke for me! And there’s only one way to celebrate!

#SparksOfJoy: A weekly post about something that makes me happy

Felix Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor, Opus 64: A concerto is a musical structure dating to the Baroque period (roughly 1600-1750) that features a solo instrument backed by a full orchestra. It’s traditionally composed in three movements with a fast-slow-fast structure. Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto (composed in 1844, which puts it squarely in the Romantic period) is a lighthearted delight that explores a range of happy, inarguably beautiful and requisitely contemplative musical voices in its first two movements. But its third movement--a bouncy, exuberant celebration of musical virtuosity titled Allegretto non troppo – Allegro molto vivace (starting at 22:06 in this recording)--is completely joyful and captivating and downright triumphant for any violinist who masters it. Part of its joy stems from Mendelssohn’s placement of the violin solo mere moments after the downbeat of the movement instead of letting the orchestra introduce the solo, as had been the convention for 200 years. Romantic music is about emotion--often extreme emotion--and the joyful emotions of this third movement leap at you with no room for impatience or distraction.

Good morning!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

I often write little notes to both friends and total strangers on Instagram when I have something (hopefully) interesting to say ...


I’m all stocked up on whisper-of-fruit-burp-flavored not-pop for the week!

But why don’t you have an easy-to-dispense pull-off corner of your box like all other canned beverages in the universe, La Croix? It’s not like you’re spending all your packaging money on flavoring.

I’m at the gym minding my own business

and desperately trying to reclaim even the tiniest shadow of my former (relatively) youthful (relative) pulchritude but there’s a glaring specimen of Unfair Physical Perfection wandering all over the gym as if to ensure that everyone notices his hyper-Adonic contours and perfectly polished cheekbones and covet his genetics and his ... um ... other things. And here I am in my Shakespeare T-shirt that says “This shit writes itself” and he inevitably has a B.A in Bard and a PhD in Pentameter and is mortally offended by my literary flippancy EVEN THOUGH THIS VERY MORNING I MADE A BURNHAM-WOOD-TO-DUNSINANE REFERENCE as we moved a bunch of fake potted trees at our 9 to 5 strike but he seems to have left the gym while I just had my caps lock on and he’s probably going to go pull some kind of manufactured-drama Ophelia stunt to express his disdain and disgust with me but in the mean time since he’s gone some sense of non-outlier self-esteem equilibrium has been restored among the mere mortals and steel plates and cable machines and relentlessly forgettable ‘90s B-side grunge-wannabe noise on the loudspeakers and I’m returning to my regularly scheduled Back And Shoulders Day programming. With 20 more lbs on my shoulder presses!
Oh—and not only did Ophelia Guy have the well-honed genetics of a You’re Never Gonna Have This Physique Model but he also had really cool shoes. He’s such a Portia.

The 9 to 5 set, props, costumes, lights and fucking miles of spike tape are struck

And I’m already forgetting my lines. I can’t tag our resident dead guy in this commemorative selfie because he doesn’t have a name in the show. Let’s just call him Brian. Brian Tofive.

It’s not a visit from Miss Bridget until she sneezes on you then completely fails at taking a decent selfie

WTF, Mother Nature?

9 to 5 has gone the way of the steno pool and the perma-press shirt

We had an intense rehearsal process and we more than met the challenges of this intensely challenging show. I’m sorry we had just three performances—especially given the rockstar performances of our leads—but I think we’re all proud of what we did and thrilled to have gotten to do it. Now all that’s left is to boil my sopping wet show shirts and scrape the last stubborn chunks of dried spirit gum out of my skin and hair. And—duh—to post all of my photos.
My selfie arm wasn’t long enough to capture this, but we’re all posing on the bed that makes multiple appearances under multiple people in the show. Our cast was ... um ... very close.

Here’s a list of every set piece I moved and every prop I needed and every location I needed to be in every scene and for every song in the show. I made it as a cheat sheet during rehearsals, but the show had an insane amount of stuff to remember and the list became an oft-consulted security blanket and even though it got sweaty and smudged to the point of unreadableness it never left my person for the run of the show.


The good thing about doing a show set in an office is you have tons of prop pencils you can use to erase all your markings in your libretto when you’re done. The official count: I wrote 2.5 erasers of notes.

It's not a 1979 musical without a '70s-themed closing-night party. That I totally forgot to dress for.