Monday, October 7, 2013

Hello, Goodbye

If you have ever heard anyone tell you that New York is a small town, they are absolutely, unequivocally, correct. This is something that I have been told before by my experienced New York friends, but I never really saw it until it happen to me until this past weekend.

To begin with, I went to see a play that my friend Sarah Lahue was stage managing called  Lickspittles, Buttonholers and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens by Johnna Adams. Sarah told me I had to see because it was funny, had amazing actors, and was written entirely in verse. I was intrigued and decided to go see it, but it wasn't until I was sitting in the audience that I realized I knew one of the actors in the show. And then I recognized another, and another… But the one who really caught my attention was Chris Weikel, with whom I worked with a year ago at the Lark Play Development Center.

A snapshot of Chris and I from a year ago.
I staged managed two play readings during the Lark’s playwright’s week. One was Denny and Lila by August Schulenburg and the other was Secret Identity by Chris Weikel. I hadn't seen or heard from Chris in over a year because New York, and then I got to see him perform wonderfully in a hilarious show. Not only that, but afterwards when I was talking to him I was introduced to the playwright of Lickspittles and we discovered that we both knew each other. She starred as the narrator in August Schulenburg’s play, Denny and Lila. So not only did I meet two people with him I had previously worked with during the same week a year ago, but I met them both on the same night. Crazy!

Believe me when I tell you: New York is a small world. Last year I worked as an ASM on Restoration Comedy at The Flea theatre. While on this run, I worked one night with the resident director at the time Liz Carlson. She ran the front of house, and I was the go between helping her and getting the show ready. We had a splendid time and kept in touch.

This past weekend I was emailed about a job opportunity that Liz had referred me for.  This job opportunity was one that was so good, so amazing, that I quit my job at Actors Equity today to be able to do. I am excited to tell you all that I will be working as a stage hand on Julie Taymor’s upcoming show A Midsummer Nights Dream. Now I am sure many of you are asking yourself the same question I have been asking myself:

“Joey, are you stupid? Why did you quit your full time job to work as a stage hand on a show?”

Left to right: Oberon, Julie Taymor, Puck
Well, first off, don’t call me stupid, and I did it because Julie Taymor is an award winning director and one of the greatest directors of her time. Getting to observe her work, even from the sidelines, is a once-in-a-life-time opportunity that I, as a learning director, can’t pass up.  

What this means is that for the next four weeks I will be working on the show in some intense morning to evening hours. Then once we open I will be working the shows until January. These next four weeks are going to be busy and I will be working ever day, 10 am to 11 pm, except Monday's. So until we open, I am going to be nearly silent on the digital front. No blogging. 

Once the show officially opens and my days will return to normal I plan to write a big blog post about my experiences, so be sure to check back in November. Truly, I am very excited for this amazing opportunity. I can't wait to see what the future holds and what awesome people I will meet. Until next time!

"Lord, what fools these mortals be!"
Puck (Robin Goodfellow)A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 3 scene 2

Monday, September 30, 2013

Between Projects

It's the last day of September and unless the House and the Senate can come to a budget agreement by midnight tonight, our government will shut down. When I first heard this I was legitimately freaking out because I thought it meant like zombie-apocalypse-America-goes-crazy-looting-no-law shutdown. What actually happens is that offices and facilities that are deemed “non-essential”  shut down and millions of Federal workers will find themselves out of a job. The police will still exist, the military will still exist, whic means I dont need to start preparing for the Thunderdome (thank baby jesus). What surprised me further was that this had actually already happened in 1995. From November 14 through November 19, 1995 and from December 16, 1995 to January 6, 1996, for a total of 28 days. While this shutdown seems more and more likely, I wonder how long it will last, and what the millions of Federal workers who will be out of jobs will do for money…

My old friend... Raddy the radial arm saw.
Right now I am between projects, and it’s very weird. Since I landed hear a year and 2 months ago, I had always been working on a show or getting ready to work on a show. Now, having nothing to work on, I’m kinda tweaking out. Theatre is my drug and I inadvertently quit cold turkey.  So I’ve been finding other ways to occupy my creative-theatre needs. Yesterday I spent all day striking props, sets, and furniture for Rattlestick Theatre. A week or so ago I worked as a carpenter for a private school in the Upper West Side. I’ve also been doing lots of writing because it’s easy, stress relieving, and most importantly free.

I’m currently in the works on developing an adaptation of The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare that a producer is interested in work-shopping. I love The Winter’s Tale because it is just that: a tale. In Shakespeare's time  the phrase “winter’s tale” was not meant to be taken seriously and was known to be a fantastic story that didn’t focuses on details like continuity or credibility. If you wanted to draw a parallel with a modern day phrase, and I sincerely hope you do, it would be equitable to what an “old wives tale” means to us. Shakespeare takes random outrageous events like a man being chased off stage by a bear, or a dead woman coming to life after 16 years, or a young baby being abandoned in the woods and surviving with no explanation as to how, and weaves together a funny sort-of hyper pastoral play.
So rather than discount these oddities as bad writing I am, key word here, attempting to adapt a play that embrace these quirks as heightened and fantastical story elements to create a very theatrical play. I want to tell you all more about it, but I’m only halfway done. Plus, it would ruin all the surprises! Suffice it to say, I am having alot of fun writing it and I can't wait to start workshopping it. 
My entire being is trying to convince me that, because I’m not directing something, I am failing at life. My friends tell me that I am stupid for thinking that and I say to them “Hey, don’t call me stupid.” They are right though. We all go through lulls in our life where there just isn’t anything to work on creatively or otherwise.

It's all about perspective...
 I may be out of directoral oppertunites right now, but what puts in it perspective for me is this:  I live in New York City, I have a full time job in the theatre industry, I have a good apartment in a great neighborhood, a loving family, supportive friends, and food in my fridge. I could be worse off. If the House and the Senate can’t agree on a budget, millions of Americans will be out of work and struggling to make ends meet. Let’s all just hope that an agreement can be reached by midnight tonight because, at the end of the day, all anyone really wants it to be able to comfortably live their lives in peace and persue happinesses… Until next time!

"Well, that's easy for you to take that kind of physical risk – you've got government health care." –Jon Stewart on Ted Cruz speaking for 21 hours in opposition of Obamacare

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What We Were Promised

The Huffington Post recently published a an article promoting baseless assumptions about Gen Y and why some random person thinks we are unhappy. This is a Gen Y'er's response:
Key Points for those of you who skim:
·         World War II created a false economy.
·         Baby Boomers then created an America about the science of spending money and creating debt.
·         We, Gen Y, have inherited a terrible economy, with little to no expanding job market, and massive amounts of student loans, and are now being blamed.  Thanks.
Recently an article made the rounds on social media outlets entitled “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy”.  It goes to great, condescending length to describe how my generation - everyone currently between the ages of 20 and 35 – is basically a bunch of entitled, spoiled, children who need to grow up and stop thinking they are special.  Supposedly, the reason we are all unhappy is because we think we deserve fulfilling jobs.  It’s not clear how the anonymous author Wait But Why - the blogger behind articles like “7 Asinine Things About Society” and “7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook” - reaches this conclusion because there’s nothing in the article about depression rates or job satisfaction or any other indicator of general welfare.  The article truly fails to explain the conclusions reached about why my generation feels the way it does, which I will attempt to do.
The Great Generation (World War II)
“War-time industry pulled us out of the great depression and helped re-establish America’s dominance as the world’s economic and military power.  Once the Greatest Generation came back from the war they fucked like rabbits and had tons of kids.  Thus the Baby Boomers were born.  They were told stories of how their parents had single-handedly won a better America and that it was their children’s responsibility to do the same:  To take what their parents had given them and make it better.
Who cares if America didn’t actually single-handedly win the war but rather was one participant in a joint effort of many other countries and that many other non-American battles helped turn the tide.  For example:  The Storming of Madagascar, The battle of Westerplatte, the Battle of Moscow, the Battle of Kursk, The badass Kokoda Track, The Piolis of the Underground State, the Details of El Alamein, the HMS Bulldog and - the true turning point of the war - The battle of Stalingrad fought and won by Russia.  To quote George S. Patton “Americans love a winner.”  And in our eyes, America won.
The Baby Boomers then trotted off to school and learned things.  They graduated high school and most went straight from there to the work force, where quality jobs with benefits and pensions awaited them.  Some went on to college, but a college degree was certainly not required to get a decent job.  Thus, the Boomers began building the foundation for the next generation.
America 2: Judgment Day
Then in the 1960’s, a thing called the credit card made debt widely available to all Americans.  This created a way for banks to put massive amounts of people into small, manageable, debt.  With telephone technology, even the most rural of gas stations could accept all major credit cards.  So now every American could partake in money they didn’t have to spend on things they didn’t earn.  The newest  TV, the newest Beatles album (or Monkees, if you were into that scene), a brand new GM automobile, anything they wanted they could get.
It was at this moment - the birth of the modern credit card - that industrial America died and neo-capitalist America was born.  As we approached the 1970’s America was no longer about creating and building things, it was about finding the cheapest labor, using the cheapest parts, convincing people to buy things, and maximizing profits.
Outsourcing work to China started to become a mainstay amongst savvy businessmen.  Why pay Americans a minimum wage when you could pay even less to some child in China to do the same job?  It made sense.  The Baby Boomers figured it out!  America became richer and prospered.  Minimize expenses, maximize profits.  Minimize expenses, maximize profits.   Sure it cost American’s jobs, but the Boomers made more money!  Go America!  Make the Greatest Generation proud.
What We Were Promised
Enter my generation.  I was born right at the turn of the decade, January 1990.  By the time I was 3 President Clinton started building one of the best economies America had Seen since the 1920’s.  We were told that we were great, that our generation was going to do well, that we could do anything because, well, why not?  The middle class was booming, we weren’t fighting any major wars, the job market looked great, everyone was paying their credit cards on time, mortgages for houses were plentiful, there wasn’t a thing to be worried about in the world.  So we trotted off to school to begin to build the foundation for our future generation. 
 “Oh but wait,” the job industry said to us.  “Sorry, but you need a college degree to get a job now.  Yes, we know, your parents could get away with just a high school degree, or at most a B.A.  But the job market has become too competitive and so you need a college degree.  You should probably get a Master’s, too.  Yeah it’s going to cost a lot, but hey we have these great things called student loans.  Guess what:   You qualify!  You can now go to college and do whatever you want to make your dreams come true.  You can be happy and fulfilled and get the job of your dreams.”
We took out a loan on our dreams.
Our generation is nearly entirely in debt, and in debt before we’ve even had the chance to find a job. Now, the Average American owes $24,301 in student loans and has $7,084 in debt on their credit card. For the most part, previous generations started with a clean slate and only incurred debt after they were employed, for a house or a second car.  Our generation was told that we had to go to college to get a job, even though the Boomers and the generation before didn’t have to.  We now have more debt than any generation before us strapped to our backs - over a trillion dollars’ worth of debt – and we’ve barely entered the job market. American industry had long been dead and the only thing we produce now is pop culture and debt. The Baby Boomers and their parents had it good because America was still booming in their time.  You could walk out of high school and get a good-paying job with benefits at a factory building cars or boats or tools or toys.  Few of these jobs exist today. 

Wrapping it up
In two weeks, the US government will shut down, and about a month from now, the US will run out of cash, unless a bipartisan deal can be struck on the debt ceiling. As of June, only 44% of us “Gen Y’ers”  had a full-time job, with 12% unemployed and 4% straight-up giving up. Over a third of 18-to-31-year-olds still live with their parents. We’re living through an insane employment market where we take unpaid internship after unpaid internship, only to have just 37% of them ending in actual employment. Even rock-solid yuppie fields like law are looking shakier by the day. No wonder less than a third of young people “actually feel that their job is part of their long-term career plan.” We’re just trying to survive.  We may be unhappy with our jobs, but it’s not because we expect to be CEOs by 30. It’s because at this rate, it’s nearly impossible to see ourselves becoming CEOs at all.
This is what our generation was given:  Massive debt, no industry, awful job market.  The generations before us created America, one nation, in debt, and we the United Generation Y now have to sort this mess out.  And we must do so while working in jobs that have no future and hardly pay enough to cover our student loans repayment schedule, assuming we can find a paying job at all.
Yes, we were told we could do anything.  We were told that we could get our dream job.  We were lied to about the possibilities of our future because no one accounted for the fact that maybe, just maybe, saddling the American people with tons of debt, while simultaneously getting rid of all the decent-paying jobs, was a bad idea.  This is what we were born into and it’s not our fault. But we will fix this problem because we are better educated than those before us.  We are the smartest.  We are well connected.  We have the ability to communicate on a global level and to us, race, creed, and religion aren’t dividing points anymore.  We will fix the problem our parents and grandparents handed us, even though it might cost us the future we dreamt of. 

Joey Stamp, originally from Iowa, is a 23 year old writer/director struggling in New York City. He has $60,000 dollars’ worth of student debt, and is very happy.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Life and some Change: Part 2. Hacking New York

Everyone knows that living in New York City is expensive. It can empty your bank account faster than you can say “Check, please.” BUT, if you know where to look, you can find affordable prices sprinkled all around New York. You just have to work to find them. For your reading pleasure I have compiled a list of some of the best ways I have found to live on a budget. With these "hacks and tips", you can now at least attempt to move to New York and probably not blow your life savings within the first week.

Cheap food comes in two categories: That which you make on your own, and that which you pay someone to make.

That which you make on your own- When it comes to saving money on food, the best way to do it is to make your own food. When you eat out you are paying a premium for labor and location. Buying a loaf of bread and making PB&J for the week can save you loads on your lunch bill. The more ways you can find to prepare your food yourself, the more you will save in the long run because eating out anywhere in New York will quickly add up. Here’s a quick breakdown of possible expenses:

Lunch eating out: 10 dollars a day x 5 days a week = 50 a week
Making PB&J: $2 (loaf of bread) $8 (PB & J)= 10 a week
The math says it all folks.  The More  you make your own food, the more money you save.

That which you pay someone to make THAT SAID. Finding affordable places to eat out is always a treat. Here is a list of restaurants I have found to be the best bang for your dwindling buck.

Punjabi Grocery & Deli - 114 E 1st St #3 - Don’t go in expecting to anyone to speak English. Instead be ready to point to a selection of freshly cooked Indian veggie dishes that they will take
Best bowl of who knows what on rice.
and throw on top of a bowl of rice for you, all for $3. It’s totally Vegan Friendly and totally affordable.

Vanessa's Dumpling House - 118A Eldridge St --Chinatown’s best kept secret. I frequented this place often when I lived down in Chi-Town. You can get 5 dumplings for a dollar, a big-as-your-face sesame pancake for another dollar, 3 pork buns for yet another dollar,  and half enough food leftover for lunch the next day.

Dollar Pizza – Various Locations – If you live in NYC and you've ever been out late drinking, or running between jobs, you know the glory that is dollar pizza. There are a dozens of dollar pizza deals all across the city from chain restaurants like Papa Johns and Domino's to local chains all serving a slice for a buck. Don’t expect any frills or protein though. You get exactly what you pay for: a single slice as thick as the paper plate it comes on.

Papaya Dog -- 333 Avenue of the Americas, 578 9th Ave – This magically unhealthy food establishment makes its business by frying up some of the cheapest comfort foods you can find in town. 5 bucks will get you a burger and fries. 3 bucks will get you 2 hot dogs. Their fried food tastes delicious and destroys your arteries, but the price is unbeatable. Oh and their corn dogs are to die for. Literally.

So you've filled up on the cheapest eats in Manhattan, now what? How about filling up your soul with culture? While Broadway tickets are insanely expensive (Book of Mormon tickets are around $200 dollars), you can still see shows and get culture without breaking the bank. Check out this website and sign-up for their will-call club. The way it works is that they get tickets from shows and offer them on their site, first come first serve, that you can reserve for five dollars. Sometimes they are big budget shows, sometimes they are tiny shows in a downtown theater. Either way you get an evening of entertainment for a fraction of the price.

Theatre on Film and Tape Archive- This is one of the biggest unknown gems in all of New York. Since the 70’s every Broadway, and some off Broadway shows, have been recorded on video. This organization, thanks to Lucille Lortel, has them all in one place free for you to view. There are a lot of restrictions, of course: You must make an appointment, you can only watch them there in the center, and on older films you cannot pause or rewind. But what you have access to is a high quality video recording of every Broadway show, entirely for free. All you have to do is ask.

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Arabs Crossing the Desert
MET Museum of ART and American Museum of Natural History-  Whether you have a passion for history, or a passion for art, you can get enlightenment and knowledge from either for next to nothing. Both museums tout massive collections of priceless artifacts from all across time. Like the full scale Egyptian tomb in the MET Museum of Art or a 94 feet long, the fiberglass replica of a blue whale at the Natural Museum of History. The best part? Both Museums offer Pay-What-You-Can tickets with a minimum payment of 1 cent. Go out and be enriched!   

I imagine you will want to spend your hard earned pennies on other frivolities  right? Well fear not, there is always a cheap place waiting for you with steep discounts. Here is a short list of everything else I have discovered that is secretly affordable in a not so affordable town:

Goodwill Store -- 512 W 181st St  -- Wearing old vintage clothes used to be a thing people did to save money, but now it has become a style of fashion all its own thus causing thrift stores to drive up their low prices! That said, you can still find cheap clothes if you know where to look. The Good Will store in Washington Heights is your answer. It has the prices you would expect from a regular good will store, but the clothes you’d expect old rich manhattans to discard. High End designer clothes are a common sight at this store. So if you are in the  market for clothes, make this place your first stop.

Heating and Cooling - Turn off the A/C and put a fan in the window blowing air out. It creates circulation, cooling your apartment.

Internet- Don’t pay for expensive internet if you don’t need it in your apartment. Starbucks, McDonald  and even certain parks give it out for free.

This glass of whisky cost $15. I only had one.
Umbrellas, chargers, and sunglasses- Lost and Found is your friend. Go into random hotels and ask them for a lost iPhone charger or umbrella or sunglasses. Odds are they will have one and give it to you without much question.

Transport- The subway will cost you 120 a month if you use it. I choose to bike to work, it saves money and burns calories all at the same time.

AlcoholDon’t Drink! Take it from a drinker. It’s expensive as hell. But if you do intend to partake, drink during happy hour or find the bar's specials. Bourbon Street on 46th has a magical drink called "Hurricane" that is filled with rum and happiness, and only costs you 5 bucks. Its a cheap way to get intoxicated on any evening of the week. 

Well there you have it folks. Some tips and tricks from yours truly, to you. Hopefully your next visit wont cost you an arm and a leg but, if it does, I guarantee you there is a store here that will sell you a new one. Until Next Time!

"When you draw, form is the important thing. But in painting the first thing is to look for the general impression of color….. Always paint a direct sketch from nature every day”.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Life and some Change: Part 1

Money, for me, is always tight. I am entering a phase of my life where it will be the tightest it ever has been. 

A photo from Pygmalion
A screenshot from Marley
Producing two shows this summer was not cheap. Thanks to the many generous donations that were given to my company, we were able to make shows for wonderful audiences and provide opportunities for our actors. We did not, however, raise enough money to completely cover everything so ended up paying for a good portion of these shows out of my own pocket which means money is really tight for me right now. In addition to that, I had my one year review with the food stamps program and they told me, ironically, I make too much money so I am no longer qualified to receive food stamps. This means, for the first time ever in my life, I have to start buying my own food. I know that might sound immature but it is true. I must say that the food stamps program has been a huge success for me. It helped me transition and carried me through a time in my life where I didn't have a job, and now I do. I am going to have to be better at saving and spending, and it won’t be easy, but I know I can do it.

Because all this is on my mind right now, I am starting a three part series about money with my blog; specifically how money effects my life in NYC. Part one will feature a short story I wrote about my first weeks here, part two will feature tips and tricks I have found to getting free stuff in NYC, and part three is a surprise, so keep checking back. And, without further ado: Part 1: 


It’s no secret that New York is an expensive place to live with its insanely high rent, expensive food, and costly utilities/transportation fees. That’s not to say that you shouldn't live here. I think everyone should try living here because it will teach you things about yourself that you can’t learn anywhere else. Things I can’t even begin to explain. Just moment of deep realization really... Like riding home on the subway at 2 in the morning and seeing young kids wide awake and riding with you leaving you wondering if you missed out on something in your childhood, or seeing a young gangster hold the door for an elderly woman, or seeing people of multiples faiths and religions all eating in the same one dollar pizza shop, and being happy, or sitting in Bryant park surrounded by tall tress and even taller buildings and knowing there are 1 million people near you and each on of them are worried about something...

New York will change you.

It wasn't a particularly pleasant day weather wise, with dark clouds treating to unlace their stores of water on unsuspecting victims. I got on the 7 Train at Times Square to ride to my home in Sunnyside, Queens. I had only been in New York for a few weeks at this point, so while the honeymoon period was still in full swing I was still worried about money. I hadn't yet received food assistance and I wasnt sure how I was going to afford to pay for food and rent.

The 7 train is my second favorite train, next to the 1 train of course, because it is one of the last “Above-ground” trains and it cuts right through the heart of Queens. Instead of riding deep below the earth, with nothing but streaming dark walls to view while looking out of ironic windows, you are welcomed with some amazing views of Queens: from the twisting ride around the graffiti training grounds of 5-pointz, to the humble homes in Long Island City. It’s a magnificent view.

As the train started its typical ascent from below the East River to the high-above of Queens, I heard the sound of rain pelting against the train car. It was an intense rain with buckets falling every second. I dreaded getting off and walking the 5 blocks it took me to get home because I knew I would end up drenched and with soaking wet socks. Nothing is worse than soaking wet socks. When the train pulled into the covered station, I quickly darted across the street to the nearest CVS. I figured, I had been hear a month, its high time I purchase an umbrella.

See, rain is interesting here. Back where I am from in Iowa you can get in your car in the garage and drive to work or school, all while its raining, and never get wet thanks to large swaths of covered space. New York City offers no such protection, so an umbrella here is like a sword to a samurai. A deep, symbiotic bond that, when treated with respect and care, offers protection from the harsh falling waters. Your umbrella is your shield and word against the falling water ninjas that threaten to ruin your day.

As I was standing looking at the umbrella selection I was suddenly hit with that anxiousness only money problems can bring. I did not have much money or a steady job to bring it in. So I had to decide. Spend 8 dollars on a cheaper umbrella, or 12 dollars on a little bit nicer one, or deal with it and be able to eat. I know getting worried over 12 or 8 dollars seems a bit silly, but when you have no income and 700 dollars in rent due soon, it matters. 

I decided to bit the bullet and by the 12 dollar one figuring it would last longer. I walked home from that CVS happy and dry footed, though still a bit worried about spending 12 dollars.

The umbrella lasted a whole week before it broke. I was utterly depressed after it happened. 12 dollars wasted that I could have spent on food, plus I’m also out of an umbrella. But see New York has a way of making things work out...

I was eating at my favorite lunch place one day when it started raining. I was instantly embittered by the fact that when I finished I would have to walk back out in the rain and wind up with wet socks. The restaurant I was in was also connected to a hotel, so I decided I would cut through the hotel to save some time from being in the rain. As I neared my way to the exit a kind doorman opened the door for me and asked, “Sir, do you need an umbrella?” I stopped, looked at him for a sec, and said “Yeah, actually. Mine broke.” So he went to a side little room off from the entrance and came out with a glorious round handled black umbrella and handed it to me. “Thanks...” I said, stunned by his generosity. “Don’t worry about it. Have a great day.” And off I went with a big smile and dry socks. 

New York is amazing because it will test you and push you to your breaking point, and then surprise you again with incredible generosity when you expect it least, and need it most.

Until Next Time.

I will not lend thee a penny.

Why then the world's mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open.

Not a penny.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Wow. It’s truly hard for me to believe that it has been a year. I have lived in New York City for an entire year. That’s 365 days. Or 52 weeks. Or 12 months. Or 1 year. (see what I did there?) It’s both a long time, and no time at all.

My last few posts have been incredibly angsty and I have complained a lot, so I’m going to take the time to recount everything I am thankful for that has happened to me in this past year because, while New York can be a stressful place, and it tests me like no other, it’s also my favorite place in the world and I never plan on leaving. So, here are some awesome things that I am so thankful for, in  order of appearance:

  •  Moving to New York with an apartment in Sunnyside and Internship at the LARK Play  Development Center waiting for me.
  • The highly efficient subway system. (I’m not gonna say anything about the buses cause I promised to keep this positive)
  • Finding paid Stage Management work at J-City Theatre in my first month here.
  • Having many experienced New Yorkers help me in my first weeks here ( Eugenia, Nicole, James, Rita, Tim, Mike, and Anna)
  • My assistant stage management job with The Flea I got with the help from Cammie, a cast member from my first show in Jersey City, and her friend Liz who works at the Flea.
  • The privilege of working with the amazing cast and crew of Restoration Comedy at The Flea for two and a half months (and getting paid for it too)
  • One Dollar Pizza.
  • Hurricane Sandy forcing me to buy a bike, and subsequently riding my bike all over Manhattan and discovering some amazing views of the city. 
  • Thanksgiving with Liz, who got me my job at the Flea, and her then girlfriend and now ENGAGED fiancé Michelle (CONGRATS BTW) and their families.
  • Becoming good friends with the other interns at The Lark, and drinking lots of wine while reading a play we all wrote together.
  • Living in Chinatown.
  • Dad, Mom, Michael, and Kristin come and visit me for Christmas.
  • Many friends come and visit me over the course of my first year (Alison, Luke, Alison again, Kristen, Allison (a different one), Joe and Jill, Carrie, and John.
  • Getting a full-time job with Health and Benefits and not having to worry about money as much.
  • Assistant Directing an Off-Off Broadway Play at Theatre for the New City.
  • Directing an Original Play at the Venus Theatre Festival.
  • Finding an AMAZING apartment in Washington Heights that is just my size.
  • Directing an Original play with the Rhapsody Collective.
  • Starting a Production Company.
  • Writing a Musical with Adam O’Dell.
  • Producing Pygmalion and Marley with my brothers.
  • Michael come live with me for the summer.
  • Directing two plays in the course of 3 months and working with tons of amazing actors
  • Making it an entire year working on 8 different shows while holding down a job, and having it only cost me some time, money, and a few stitches in my hand.
It’s been one hell of a ride, to say the least and I couldn't have done it without the support of all my friends and family back home in Iowa sending me good thoughts every day. I wonder what awesome things New York has in store for me as I enter Year Two?

You may or may not have noticed, but I've made a couple of changes to my blog 2.0. With this most recent update on the right side of the screen are beautiful little icons with links to all my social pages: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine, and flickr. If you want to see what I’m doing when I’m not blogging about it, that’s a good way to keep track. And at the bottom of every post is a little social bar thing. So you can like the post on Facebook right within the blog itself! HOW CONVENIENT.

I promise I’ll keep blogging if you promise to keep reading and that especially goes out to my dedicated readers in Iowa, Germany, and South Korea. Oh and to the spammers in Latvia, cut it out. Until Next Time!

If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Reliving Marley: Show Weekend Memoirs

This week has been insane and life changing from start to finish, and I’m going to try and reconstruct it for all you awesome readers out there. I warn you, it’s a long one. So grab a nice drink and sit down in the cool breeze as I regal you with the craziness that is my life.

For those of you who don’t know: This weekend I premiered my very first original work, which I wrote and directed. I worked with amazing cast members: Ally Katselianos, Amina Camille, Fred Fleury, and Allyson Wilson. Amazing Stage Manager: Sarah Lahue. Mic the Boy Wonder on the Piano and Adam O’Dell, Marley’s Composer, who also flew in to help out with Show Week.

To enhance the dramaticness of my story, I suggest having the link to the law and order sound on standby.

To begin with, I needed a gun. Not just any gun: a realistic looking, non-firing, prop gun for Marley. Luckily I have amazing friends. I had been searching all around New York City, and even got desperate enough to look around New Jersey, for some sort of mock firearm. Believe it or not, guns of any type, real or fake, are hard to find in New York City. I reached out to my Technical Director friend Liz Blessing, who had graciously lent me things in the past (and also invited me over to her house for thanksgiving dinner), to see if she had a spare prop gun she was able to lend me for my show.

She replied almost instantly and came to my rescue saying she had just the gun for me. So I took the train down to her theatre and picked up the gun. It was as I was leaving, with the gun in my bag, that I thought: “Hmm… I hope the NYPD doesn't randomly search my bag, because I have a gun that looks very real…” I was so nervous I almost took a taxi to get home, but considering I was in SoHo that would have cost about $40... and I didn't have $40.

 "My heart stopped when I saw the cops get out of the train..."

So I timidly got on the subway. As I waited and rode, trying to act calm and casual, not a single cop got on the train. Life just bustled along at its own pace. But sure enough the last damn stop before mine, cops got on my train car. Instantly my nerves went on high alert and my palms started sweating. It was as if I was actually committing a crime of some sort. I tried my best to act calm as they cops lazily sauntered through the train. The train finally pulled into my station and I calmly, but quickly got up and out of the train. My heart stopped when I saw the cops get out of the train and come towards me. They made eye contact with me but just walked on by into the next train car. I must have been holding my breath because when I finally breathed out I felt like I was gasping for air, but then i just laughed and walked on up out of the train station and back to my apartment. Mission Complete.

Thursday was opening night. It was also our first day of Tech. We had 5 hours to tech before we opened. It was crazy, but we managed to pull it off.

We went to load in and were locked out of the theatre. I'm not sure if there was a mis-communication on our part or on the part of the festival’s artistic director and founder, Franco, part but our team ended up not being able to get into the theatre space until 45 min after the start time we thought we had. This gave my stage manager a headache because, since we only had 5 hours to tech, she had everything planned down to the minute, and we lost 45 of them.

Once we got into the space we worked hard at getting it ready. Now we had a game-plan as to what we wanted and where we wanted it, but Franco was made it hard on us by voicing his opinion and trying to force upon us his ideas for what we should do. This slowed us down and stressed all of us out.

Eventually we got set up, and we proceeded to do a run through. The run went so smoothly because my actors, stage manager, and piano player were perfect, professional, and on their game. We solved lots of questions, re-blocked a few entrances and exits, and fixed last minute problems. Because everyone was so talented we managed to finish with about a half hour to spare, which was good because dealing with Franco had been getting on everyone’s nerves. We took an hour to rest and then opened the show.  

To sum up the night: The show was fantastic.  The audience was blown away. The cast was psyched.

Because of the rules Franco had for us, we have to set up/strike our set before/after each performance. And this was a lot of work. As we were tearing down Franco told me, in front of the cast and crew, that he wanted to talk to me in private about the show and that everyone else should leave. This made the situation awkward for many reasons. So instead of asking my friends, whom I intended to hang out with, to leave. I had Franco take me to a side room to talk.

What he proceeded to tell me was one of the weirdest, most frustrating and unexpected feedback talks I had ever had. He told me straight up that my directing was bad and showed signs of immaturity. He told me that the music was phenomenal. He told me that my blocking was messy. He told me that Mic was phenomenal. He told me that while my writing was good, it wasn't great. He then proceeded to insult every one of my actors to my face. I don’t want to recount what he said about them because I have a policy about not posting uninformed bullshit on my blog. He then said that my play has a real potential to go on to the finals if I were just to change some things he wanted to change. HE wanted me to put it on stage, He wanted me to come in an hour early before the show on Saturday and design lights, and he said that it wouldn't effect my actors because its basically the same. (spoiler alert: Not the same)

"I was so shocked by what he said and how invalid his opinions were..."

He then dangled the competition prize money in front of my eyes. He said he thought if I changed my play and my direction to what he wanted, I would surly go to the finals and have a good shot at winning the prize money. Now me being me, I thought to myself “Fuck you, I’m not changing shit.” And just stared on politely. But it made me wonder how many others plays he changed by dangling the money in front of people because, as a broke artist who spent a lot of his own money on the show, the prize is damn tempting. But I didn't change a thing.

I was so shocked by what he said and how invalid his opinions were that I wasn't sure what to say. Couple that with my inability to be confrontational and I just basically stood there and took it.

It will probably the moments in my life I regret the most.  I wish I could have spoken my mind and said what I wanted to say. There are lots of things I wish I could have told him, but the fact is I didn't say a thing and I let my cast and crew down by not defending them....

Yes you read right, we didn't have a show on Friday. Because of Franco’s scheduling we did a show on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. It was awkward, but we dealt with it.

Saturday at 4 o’clock the cast, crew, and myself all met at a recording studio in midtown to record the show. I set us up an appointment with a professional so that we could have a CD of this production. We all ventured into one of the coolest recording studios I had ever been in: The Sweet Spot on 46th street between 9th and 10th. Mike was the owner and operator and he was one of the chilliest most professional guys, and I highly highly recommend him.

" the end we had some really good takes and Mike was blown away by the talent..."

We spent the next three hours in his studio singing songs, making jokes, getting stressed making mistakes, and recording our songs. Everyone was getting tired, but by the end we had some really good takes and Mike was blown away by the talent of our 4 singers, composer, and piano player repeatedly saying " You all are amazing. Wow.". The only thing I did that impressed him was get all that talent in the same room together. Ha.

After the recording session we headed straight up to the theatre to do our second show. I, personally, was not looking forward to seeing Franco at all because of how Thursday went, but I knew there was a show to do so I tried to be professional. When I got there Franco had some ideas for me. I was not having him so I just brushed him off.

The cast was tired because of the recording session, but you would never know it from the performances they gave, They had all improved from that last performance and put on a hell of a show.

The audiences loved it, and we went back to my apartment with the cast and we celebrated another successful show.

Sunday-day was great. I slept in, rested up, and walked around the neighborhood with the parents. It was a great day to just relax. Mom bought some turtles, which was really random, but whatever. I took a nap, Mic made us dinner. It was great.

Mic and I head over to the theatre after dinner and we arrived to find we are locked out…. One normal show, that’s all I wanted… just one…

We peek our heads in the window and discover that there are people on stage. Performing. Franco evidently booked his festival so full that there was a show right before ours. Had we been told this at, say, ANY TIME it would have been fine. But finding out the night of when we are planning to set up our stage is a tad bit annoying.

So we wait for their show to get done, and while we wait or stage manager Sarah and composer Adam arrive, and both become equally upset as we do. At this point all three of us were so over Franco that in honesty it barley fazes us.

"I didn't really feel anything at first, but as soon as I freed my hand from the light blood started gushing everywhere."

As soon as the show before us ends, we go in and start setting up for ours. Everything is going swimmingly, we are moving at a good speed, getting lots done. All well and good. Then I go to move a ground row lighting unit that is on a wheel cart thing. I go to push it and the entire lighting unit falls of the cart. Evidently it hadn’t been secured to anything, LIKE IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN FROM THE START. As it fell my hand got caught in it. I didn’t really feel anything at first, but as soon as I freed my hand from the light blood started gushing everywhere. At this point I am yelling profanities but I remain calm and walk to the bathroom, dripping all the way. I run the cuts under some water and try to apply pressure to the wound but the blood just keeps coming. I hurt myself badly and I could tell the bleeding wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. As I was trying to figure out how to stop the bleeding and see the show at the same time Sarah, the stage manager, looks me dead in the eyes and says “ Joey, I got this. You go to the hospital and get your hand fixed.” I stood there, blood dripping from my hand, and realized, yeah… In only the best of ways, I am not needed.

I left and hailed a cab, cause its cheaper than an ambulance, and went to the hospital. After waiting in the receiving room for 15 min I was seen by the nurse. They took my info and sent me to a back room. I am glossing over a lot of the story because the majority of the time I spent in the ER was just sitting, waiting, and bleeding.

I got to an examination room and a nurse named Mike came and got rid of the paper towels I had been using as bandages, that were completely soaked through with blood, and puts on some real bandages. After Mike leaves, the coolest ER doctor I have ever met, and I’ve obviously met a lot, walks in. His names is Lucius, and after we talk for awhile, he tells me he is from Haiti and moved here in the 80’s and has been practicing medicine in New York City for longer than I’ve been alive. He sticks my fingers with a numbing thing, and the needle hurts like hell because he sticks it right into the muscle tissue in the tips of my fingers. He says: “Its ok, feel free to yell.” And I do. Sorry grandma but my mouth was not pure at that moment. Then afterwards I look at my hand and notice I can’t feel a thing and comment “Doc, they look swollen.” And all he says “Of course, it’s because I stuck a needle in you.” And then laughs, I don’t know why but I found this really weird.

Anyways, Lucius and I talk. He tells me about the interesting people he has met, like the guy who, after getting stabbed, refused anesthetic or the 70+stitches he needed to get. Then I tell him my story: that a show I wrote was being performed right now and I was missing it by sitting in the ER. He tells me he loves theatre and that I need to get back as soon as possible. So he stitches up my fingers and tells nurse Mike to hurry up with the tetanus shot and then sends me on my way. As I am gathering up my stuff and looking over the paperwork on “How to care for your Laceration” he looks me dead in the eye and says: “ Get back to your show and enjoy it.” I shake his hand awkwardly with my left and scurry out the door into a cab.

As I was riding back to the show, hoping to get to see a few minuets of the final performance, Lucius words swept over me and suddenly I was overwhelmed with just how much has happened in so short a time. From first putting pen to paper in writing this show, to asking Adam to write the music for it, to flying Mic out here, to hiring Sarah, to casting, to rehearsing, to tech, to closing night. It all overwhelmed me and I nearly broke down and cried in the cab with how awesome the summer had been.

"...after all the stuff that happened in this fucking weekend, nothing more could happen right? WRONG."

Just as my emotional flashback journey was reaching its crescendo, the cab pulls up to the theatre, so I have to cut short the sequence and pay the cabbie. You think the journey is at its end right? That finally, after all the stuff that happened in this fucking weekend, nothing more could happen right? WRONG. As I walk up the path to the theatre, smile beaming, ready to catch the last few minutes of the show, I look up at the theatre door and there is a, and I'm not lying, goddamn SKUNK in front of the door. Like a black and white striped, Pepe-le-Pu, goddamn skunk sniffin its little nose around in front of the theatre. I freeze. I have no idea what the hell to do or how to get through the doors because... Its a skunk. In New York City. My only thought was “yes, me getting sprayed by a skunk is the perfect way to end this weekend.” But I think, “Fuck it. I want to see my goddamn show one last time and listen to those beautiful voices sing Adam's beautiful songs. So I walk straight up to the theatre and look right at the skunk who at this point has frozen and started staring me down. We stare for a solid 25 seconds, and then he slowly walks away. I watch him for a few seconds, and then go into the theatre to hear the beautiful sounds of the finale. I made it.

So that was my weekend. Crazy, stressful, painful, weird, and also life changing. I wrote a musical, produced it, and directed it. I don’t think I want to ever have to do all three at the same time again. But I really enjoy writing and directing, its the producing that takes it out of me. And believe it or not, today is the last day of my first year since being in New York. I’m going to get much more nostalgic in my next post, but I’ve officially been here for an entire year. Weird, right? Anyways, thanks for reading this epic post. Stay tuned for some exciting things coming round the bend! Until Next Time!

"Never, never, never give up."

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Generation

My Generation

It was said to me by an elderly woman
“You’re generation with your phones and internet,
Your attention spans are too short.”

I wanted to tell her: “You are wrong!
I’m not one of those kids,
I’m not from my generation.
I watched the old movies like Citizen Kane and Casablanca
I know who Bogart is,
I studied your generation and I appreciate it.”

Seeing as I was born into this generation not by choice,
But rather a summation of randomly organized events,
It seemed unfair to be judged by an elder about
“My Generation” and our “Short Attention Spans.”

But you see that’s the thing about prejudice,
No one cares about your backstory.

And so I thought to myself:
“Is my generation so bad?
Why do people hate us so much?
Is it us or is it the change we represent?
Because really, human nature hasn’t changed,
Just our technology has.”

Have you heard of the encyclopedia?
It was the Wikipedia of its day
(and ours is better because ours is fact checked)

Have you heard of Playboy?
Yeah people used to pay for porn.

Have you heard of the television?
Yeah we took than and improved it.
Now we can pick what we watch and when we watch it.

Have you heard of Parasols and Fans?
They were the iPod cases of the Victorian era.

Have you heard of Vaudville?
It was the YouTube of its day.

You see I think its jealousy.
I think that’s why older people don’t like us “young people”.
They are jealous at how connected we are,
At how borderless our world is now.
And they are jealous because
they are living in a different world
Where maps have lines,
And people never change.

So I wear my generation proudly now
With our  digital narcissism and intellectual immaturity.

Yes: we have short attention spans.
Yes: we display our lives publicly.
Yes: we  play lots of video games.
Yes: we like to voice our opinion.

I don’t see it as a “Short Attention Span”
But rather a face paced yearning for meaning.
A yearning for substance.
A yearning for communication and global connectivity.

So stop telling me what’s wrong with our generation,
Because all we did was take what you gave us,
And tried to make it better.