Friday, December 9, 2016

Improv Tip: How Do I Know If I Had A Good Show?

In this installment, Nelson provides his philosophy on how to determine if he had a good show or not.

For more, visit his website at

Monday, December 5, 2016

When Not Being On the Bandwagon Helps You Out

Ever since around the 7th/8th grade, I began an attitude of exerting my individuality.  My whole life until then, all I really wanted was to blend in and be accepted just like everyone else.  Now, I want to be accepted as the individual I am.  As a part of exerting my individuality, one of the things I do a lot is try to avoid hype wherever possible.  I automatically want to hate whatever is currently popular or the "in" thing to sport or do.

For example, Pulp Fiction came out in 1994.  When it came out, EVERYBODY was recreating pivotal scenes from the movie or talking about how bad ass Samuel Jackson was in the movie or how Quentin Tarintino was a gift from the filmaking gawds and how revolutionary his movies were.  Hearing all of that, I automatically knew I was going to hate this movie - not because it in itself was a bad movie - but rather because I wanted to be different from everybody else and that meant espousing the opposite opinion on everything.  In order to avoid all of that, I decided to just not see the movie until I felt I could judge the movie on its own merits.  It took me 21 years later to finally watch it.  Yeah, it was a good movie after all.

I'm currently doing the same thing with Hamilton.  I've purposely avoided listening to the soundtrack, mixtape, or going to the theatre to see it (however, I almost auditioned for it during their last cattle call...hey, it's a paid gig!).  It sounds absolutely awesome and very much in the vein of the two things I like - hip-hop and theatre.  However, with the circles I keep, I've had to endure countless Hamilton references, social media rants and raves, people acting out scenes from the show, and folks telling me that it will change my life to see it.  All of those things engaged my avoid-at-all-costs mechanism and thus I've been ignorantly living in a Hamilton-free bubble for the last year or so.

I decided to audition for a show based off Hamilton recently.  I figured that since it was by a local improv company known for fantastic improvised long-form musicals, I would have a decent shot at maybe throwing down with them (many of whom I've worked/studied with).  So, I went up the city to check out this audition to see what I could do.

While waiting in the lobby, I listened to people talking about Hamilton with the same reverence and enthusiasm as I was accustomed to.  Once they were all done, I mentioned, "I haven't seen it yet nor have I listened to the soundtrack."  As soon as I said that, I felt like I got written off by those folks - not in necessarily a conscious way - but rather in a "Dude, why are you even auditioning for this?" kind of way.  We went in and I hoped for the best :)

I ended up having one of the best auditions I've had in a while.  We did a lot of things I ws already exposed to or that my skills let me answer the call for.  My favorite part came when the director asked "Who has seen or listened to Hamilton?"  I was the only person auditioning who wasn't raising their hand.  The director took a look at me and said, "Don't worry. You'll get it" and proceeded to describe what he was looking for.  He was right. I totally got it.

It's cool to get recognized for skill even when you weren't necessarily on the wagon with everyone else.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Future of Our Country Will Be Led By The Likes of Kanye West

2016 has really sucked for America.  We lost Prince, Alan Rickman, Abe Vigoda, Gene Wilder, Mohammed Ali, and Pat Harrington (look 'em up!).  Black people (and other unpublicized people of color) who have been victim to corrupt police state final broke through to mainstream status when the media had no choice but to cover their stories and force all Americans to face the fact we as a nation have a race problem.  And, of course, most of all, we have a reality star as our President-elect who alienated so many people along the way during his campaign that the country has canonical proof that we're divided as people.

And then there's Kaney West...

Kanye has been speaking his mind ever since he started his career; he's outspoken and feels he's the voice of a generation because his artistry is "genius" and thus gives him an advantage over everybody else in all subjects including politics.  He's been outspoken about how blacks were not a concern to the Bush administration during Hurricane Katrina, how blacks are not welcomed or respected in the fashion world, and his feelings about how racism caused Taylor Swift to win an award over BeyoncĂ©.  It would appear that Kanye is in tune with how race plays into our every day lives (or at least within his reality warp bubble) - until now.

Kanye decided to rant at a concert earlier this week.  Check out the footage below first:

Kanye West told a crowd of people that he would've voted for Donald Trump - IF he had voted.  Many people booed him for making this statement based on the principle that many feel Trump does not have their best interests in mind.  Kanye further tried to explain that he didn't necessarily would've voted because he agreed with his policies, but rather he feels kinship with how Trump ran his campaign and eventually won - it was "absolutely genius - because if fawkin' worked" - and he "fawks with that".  Here are my problems with this logic:

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda...

Trump ran an 8th grade president of the student council campaign:

This is promising people things you cannot personally deliver but sound good.  Oh, let me translate the statements above into Trumpese:

Can't be any clearer...

Lots of promises with no real, transparent plans on how to do them. 

Kanye, you respect the "game" being run and figure that is more important than the results of having that game run on everyone?  Your narcissism and megalomania then knows no bounds.

You got knocked the FAWK out!!!

I Will Choose Freewill!

Kanye didn't vote. Granted, that is a vote in a way (as Rush says, "you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice"); however, it's difficult to take him seriously as he chose to not vote - not even for Trump. The fact remains he didn't vote for Trump (or anybody else). To me that knocks him out of the conversation of having any valid point to really make. It'd be like someone saying "If I had trained hard enough, I would've totally kicked Mike Tyson's ass in his prime." The truth is you'd get your fat ass knocked out in the first 10 seconds of Round 1.

What would Hall & Oats Do?!!

You're Out Of Touch. I'm Out of Time.

Kanye seems to be a bit out of touch with the plight of the common black person (or person of color in general). Later on in the rant he basically told his fans to stop talking about racism.  He said, "This world is racist, OK? Let's stop being distracted to focus on that as much. It's a fucking fact. We are in a racist country."  The intent behind this statement was have blacks stop dwelling that it's racist and be motivated beyond identifying the problem.  However, the message was not conveyed this way but rather asked blacks to stop talking about racism all together and accept that it's "just the way it is".  I instead would rather have blacks continue bringing up race.  Obviously we as a country have tricked ourselves into believing that we made it further along in race relations than we actually have.  We need to keep talking about it until we have no choice but to accept it as a whole society and move to end it.

His position as a celebrity, multi-millionaire, and part of the Kardashian Klan has skewed his perception of the real world for many of us.  Part of his appeal was that he was (at the beginning?) somewhat down to earth with his approach to music.  However, lately, he's gotten more obnoxious condescending, and narcissistic in his pursuit of his art that he's alienating anybody who could actually relate to him in a real-world sense.  It's a big reason why I'm not  fan - as much of a narcissist as I am, I can't fathom to be at his level of self aggrandizement.

What scares me now that Trump is office is that we collectively are willing to follow versus lead.  People like Kanye West are ready to take advantage of this fact.  He will help lead this nation in the future.  Is that what you want?

Oh, and remember, he's running for President in 2020...

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Jumping from Lily to Lily

Lilies of the Field opened last night with a strong pace, great acting, and lovely story.  

I have to admit that this production has been more advanced than other productions I've been a part of.  We started rehearsals in August.  By September, one of the major players had his lines pretty much ready to go by beginning of September.  The rest of us worked dilligently on our lines from then and did a really good job of embodying our characters and motivations.  We were able to take 4 day haituses amd come back even stronger than before.  We even included a first time actor into the fold and get him up to speed.  Most productions I'm a part of

Tonight we should have over 100 people in the crowd.   I'm going to bring even more energy and passion to the show to more people tonight!

For more information on Lilies of the Field and to get tickets, visit

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Moving On Up

Right now I'm trying to raise my improv teaching game to a new level.  Fresh off the Grand Rapids Improv Festival, I'm feeling pretty good about my ability to help introduce and guide people in the direction of doing musical and standard improvisation.  I'm talking with a guy about doing a course that would be affordable and accessible to everyone.  Here's a little video snippet form my workshop "Have Guitar. Will Travel.":

I feel my only obstacle to pulling this off is myself.   With 5 improv teams, 1 sketch team, 1 play, work, and a family, I am constantly tired and unmotivated to do something new.  I have to remind myself that my "unmotivation" is probably undoable to most humans.  I'm hoping that after my play is done, I can take a break from myself for a few days to recharge and tackle this course I want to put together more formally.  Either way, I am proud of myself for at least thinking about doing this full time :)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

My Inner SP Fan Rejoices

Just watched this:

The biggest part that caught my ear was obviously the Smashing Pumpkins news.  Corgan getting back to writing rawk songs?!  YES!  Gish/Siamese Dream era-ish sensibilities?  YES!  With Jimmy Chamberlin on the drums?!  YES!  Maybe with the original line up touring?  YES!

I've been pretty disenchanted with Billy's passion in his music over the last few years; so much so that I no longer will buy tickets to shows.  The last Chicago show they did, I just went and hung across the street while they played.  However, now, if the passion is back, I may be brought back into the flock more tightly.  I'm not expecting Gish II or Siamese Dream II but rather commitment  in his performance and solidarity in the band.  It's so hard being a Pumpkins fan all fo the time as billy always finds ways to challenge me :)  Lets hope this one pays off.

Another thing that caught my ear was the Billy finished up a solo record with my all-time favorite producer Rick Rubin.  I am not a fan at all of Billy's first solo record so normally I would write this second record off as a vanity project.  However, if he has Rick Rubin involved, I will definitely give it a chance even if it isn't SP.  Rick Rubin's sensibilities are spot on 90% of the time with artists.  If a song comes on from an artist I don't necessarily like/follow and I like it, I find out many times that Rick had a hand in doing it (ahem, Limp Bizkit's "Results May Vary").  So, that's exciting.

So, let's see what fruits come to bear in 2017!  I'm excited.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

From 9/11 to Sandy Hook: How Conspiracy Theorists Suck

I read the following article today:

It resonated with me today being a father of children myself.  I can't truly imagine what'd it'd be like to have to find out my children were killed/murdered in any fashion let alone a la the Sandy Hook shooting.  However, I can empathize because it made me sick to my stomach when I heard about it.  The pain this father must feel has got to be extraordinary and I wouldn't wish it on anybody.

I never really thought about the fall out from Sandy Hook other than the political discussion regarding gun control and mental health services in the US.  This article descrives this father's plight of having not only to bury his son but having to deal with the idiotic conspiracy theorists/trolls rampaging online.  The amount of anger and anguish this family must be going through must be unbearable at times.  I would lose my mind if people wrote off a personal tragedy as anything other than what the end result remains - loved ones were lost and they're never coming back.

The thing I hate most about conspiracy theorists is that they have a lot of questions and a lot of answers but lack a lot of proof to support their statements.  I must've watch the "9/11 was an inside job" ragumentary Loose Change in all of its incarnations at least a dozen times.  What entertained me were the theories they came up with to explain events that many thousands of people saw with their own two eyes - two planes crashed into the World Trade Center, fires raged for a long time, then the buildings came down.  The filmmakers point out issues with the 9/11 Commissions' report and actually do provide their own theories as to what happens (sort of) but provide ZERO EVIDENCE to support their claim.  There's a lot of demanding for "answers" and demands on releasing things that may/may not exist to the general public.  If asked to support/recreate the theories in which they support, there are a million excuses as to why they can't do it.  I have to ask, "If it's so important to you to deny the facts presented, why is it not equally or even more important to prove you're right?"

I have seen "truthers" saying things like:
  • The planes that crashed into the buildings never existed.  They were elbaorate holograms by the government generated to coincide with a controlled demolition of the buildings to justify a sinister plot to go to war.
  • The planes were real but never had people on them.  The passengers were taken to secret government facilities, deplaned, and either killed or given new identities so that the planes can be used to induce martial law on the east coast (New World Order type stuff).
  • The planes did crash as stated but there was NO WAY POSSIBLE that the buildings could go down (even though the supports were heavily weakened by the crash itself and fires further weakened what remained to the point they couldn't support the weight of the rest of the building).
I've tried to buy into these guys theories.  I really have.  The one 9/11 event that never truly convinced me went down the way I would think it would was United 93 which crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.  All I saw on TV was smoking hole in the ground and no wreckage whatsoever.  Despite the lack of evidence, I will go with the official story because I CAN'T PROVE A COT DAMN THING OTHERWISE.  

What keeps turning me off to the truther movements out there is that NO EVIDENCE is presented to support their claims.  The excuse that typically comes up is "Well...The government did XYZ to supress that information therefore I can't show you the truth!" Shut up.  Seriously.

So, when reading what Lenny has had to go through with people denying that his son never existed to be killed in the first place, having people calling him and his family at all times of the day to harass him, and to destroy everything one could hold onto that makes you believe people are inherently good is just horrible.  These people want him to suffer to make themselves feel better about themselves in a sick, twisted way.  I'm just glad he's found a way to dish it back on them.

Read the article

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Just Remember

Those times I visited my best friend in a mental hospital weekly
Those times I helped my girlfriend fix the hole in her belly
Those times I lived with starting over every day with a friend
Those times I made the trip to the city ot keep things going

You understimate

Just remember
I am.