Regional Theater Egos

Ideas about the regional theater’s conception of itself have been floating around my head recently, and this morning I read something in City Pages which is precisely the topic. I hope to expand this discussion further in future writing, but I want to begin while this is particular example is right in front of me.

As a part of the City Pages description of this Monday’s Minnesota Theater Awards, in its first year, Jay Gabler says, 

These were truly awards by, of, and for the theater community. No representatives of the event’s few sponsors appeared at the podium, there was no teleprompter, and there were no dinner-theater musical numbers. It felt more like a backyard afterparty than a glittery ceremony, and if that meant fewer people showed up (the Iveys were the best-attended theater awards in America outside the Tonys), those in attendance seemed perfectly fine with that.

I include the full paragraph for context, but it’s only four words therein that promted strong reactions from a local actor. Tony Vierling says in the comment section, 

I also attended the event on Monday evening and enjoyed celebrating the rich community of theatre artists here in Minnesota. As a professional actor and member of Actor’s Equity for 32 years, I am extremely disappointed in your dismissal of “dinner-theater musical numbers”. I can only assume you are referring to the Chanhassen Dinner Theater and their performances at various Ivey ceremonies thru the years. Here are a few things you may not know about this particular theater. First, it is celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary this year. 50 years of producing theater 52 weeks a year. It is the largest theater of it’s kind in the U.S. According to Actor’s Equity, while it is not the highest paying contract in the state, second to the Guthrie and Ordway, it is the most coveted contract due to the long runs. This means that an actor not only makes a living wage doing theater, but also gets health and pension benefits. At one time the theater had 4 stages, all employing union actors, musicians, and stage managers, and actually employed 1% of all working actors in the U.S. Many of it’s performers have worked all over the world, and some even have 5 Academy Award Nominations. It’s costume shop, wig shop, prop shop, and scene shop are all onsite and employ local artists. Many artists have been able to buy homes, cars, raise children, put children thru college, and retire on a very substantial pension. To say that I am disappointed in your choice of words is an understatement. We are a vital community, and we ALL deserve to be lifted up and recognized. I would ask for an apology to be printed to all of the artists who continue to work 8 shows a week, 52 weeks a year, doing “dinner-theater musical numbers”. Sincerely, Tony Vierling Proud member of Actor’s Equity for 32 years and Chanhassen Dinner Theater Veteran of 42 shows.

Isn’t it remarkable that one nonspecific, noncritical reference to a genre of theater, can elicit such a thoroughly defensive response for a specific theater? Thank you, genuinely, Tony Vierling, for the detailed information that I did not previously know. However, no one is questioning the legitimacy of your theater. Except, it seems, you. You are the only person to raise any question as to that theater’s respectability.

But it just so happens that everyone in Minnesota might not want to watch the shows at that theater, even—or especially—when excerpted for the sake of an out of context awards show performance. I certainly don’t, and, while Jay Gabler doesn’t make clear insinuations when he mentions “dinner-theater musical numbers,” I suspect, as you seem to, that his particular reference to them implies that he might not miss them either. Does that mean I disrespect your theater or the type of plays you do, or any of the artists and other professionals that make them happen? No! Just don’t look for me in the audience. 

I point out this single internet comment because it is so emblematic of regional theater’s tender egos. Any reference to a show must be coupled with lavish praise, or it is immediately taken as a slight. The regional theater proclaims over and over, “We are happy with this our life exempt from the national spotlight!” but only, it seems, when coupled with external validation. If anyone should hear a comment about “Making it in New York,” they jump to the defense of their chosen provincial lifestyle. If the regional theater really is to have its own integrity, it must be able to disregard all the fools who think good theater only exists in New York.

Does this all sound a bit harsh? In a way, I hope so. Because I think it matters deeply. Constantly comparing regional work to that on the coasts becomes a terrible artistic inhibitor for the regional theater as a whole.

Obviously there are myriad counter examples, and I am so glad that they exist, those bastions of creativity that couldn’t give a fuck about their potential lack of national attention (which can result in a good deal of national attention, it turns out). But the massive chip on the shoulder of so many regional theater makers is a huge inhibitor of their excellence. Everything from play selection to hiring artists from the coasts to demanding apologies from newspapers for an INFERRED opinion about a theater you “can only assume” they are referencing by way of listing facts–the fact is there was no musical number that had been originally staged at a dinner theater performed at the Minnesota Theater Awards on Monday.

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Looking skeptical about…everything?

Even if Jay Gabler, or anyone else, really, came out and said, “I was glad I didn’t have to sit through a Chanhassen musical number,” you would have no reasonable grounds to demand an apology. Ask for an apology for someone’s aesthetic preference? Come on. Maybe I should ask for an apology from Chanhassen because they never do Shakespeare. Well, that’s a nonsequitor. Yes, exactly! To conclude, my opinion of your play does not reflect on the integrity of that play. 

Next time, how my opinion of the regional theater does not reflect the integrity of the regional theater, and what that can mean for the artists.

So You Want To Hit The Gym

Many friends and colleagues over the years have asked me for some kind of fitness advice. Most common are people who have some experience in the gym, but want to take that next step, to go from doing a few lifts every once in a while to a structured program that can produce perceivable change. So I wrote this up.

This program won’t be perfect for everyone, so I encourage you to get in touch with me so I can help you customize it to your specific needs, as well as monitor your progress and adjust it accordingly. This program is designed for people who are interested in overall strength and fitness, with a goal toward gaining lean muscle mass, improved strength and performance in a variety of athletic applications. What you will see outlined below is only phase one. If you’d like phase two, get in touch with me.

I’ve created a highly structured program that still affords you a great deal of choice in order to cater it to your own needs. Again, this won’t be right for everyone, but if you’ve tried getting into weight lifting before, but couldn’t make it work for your schedule, or found it too controlling, the agency I give you in this program, without sacrificing rigor, may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Hanging Out
Hanging at the gym can be very beneficial
Here we go.

 

This program begins with an extended bulking phase which includes the foundations of strength that will be necessary for the more advanced lifting that will come later. This will be a clean bulk, aiming to add muscle mass with possible, though limited, coincident fat. More on clean bulk when we get to diet. The program will ramp up in intensity, volume, and frequency, beginning with what I expect to take around five hours per week. This first regimen will last somewhere around 10-12 weeks, and will be followed by continued bulk. Our goal during the bulk will be to put on a total of 15 lbs of muscle, which will likely come with some body fat, so you can expect to gain 20-25 pounds during the whole phase. The slower you bulk, the less coincident body fat there will be. Also, given this is a radical shift in exertion for your body, ramping into it slowly will give your muscles, tendons, joints, etc, a better chance to adjust, and you will be less likely to get hurt.
We will begin by needing to know your One Rep Max for the three core compound lifts. There are several ways to determine this, and I recommend an in person meeting to do so. Also, I’ll want to get some more baseline info, probably from an in person meeting, like body fat percentage, weight, estimated caloric intake, history of exercise, etc.
What you’ll do:

First Phase Lifts:

Compound Lifts:

Core Compound Lifts:

Bench (Push) (4 sets, 5 reps, 80% ORM)
Deadlift (Pull) (3 sets, 4 reps, 70% ORM)
Squat (Legs) (4 sets, 4 reps, 75% ORM)

Additional Compound Lifts:

Military Press (Push) (4 sets, 4 reps, 45 lbs (bar weight))
Pull Up (w/ possible modifications) (Pull) (variable)
Other Squat (there’s so many great ones, we’ll add them progressively) (Legs) (variable)

Auxiliary Lifts:

Pushing:

Chest:

Dumbbell press (4 sets, 6 reps, 25% Bench ORM)
Dumbbell fly (4 sets, 8 reps, 10%)
Cable fly (5 sets, 8 reps, 15%/hand)

Shoulders:

Dumbbell shoulder press (3 sets, 4 reps, 15%)
Lateral raise (4 sets, 8 reps, 10%)
Deltoid fly (4 sets, 8 reps, 10%)

Triceps: (take 30-60 second rests between sets)

Bar dip (3 sets, to failure, bodyweight)
Skullcrusher (4 sets, 5 reps, 20%)
Cable pushdown (5 sets, 8 reps, 25%(these weights can be variable depending on machine type))

Pulling:

Upper Back:

Lateral pull down (4 sets, 6 reps, 35% Deadlift ORM)
High horizontal row (3 sets, 8 reps, 10%)
Upright row (3 sets, 4 reps, 15%)

Middle Back:

Bent over row (3 sets, 4 reps, 45%)
Dumbbell row (4 sets, 6 reps, 20%)
Cable row (4 sets, 6 reps, 45%)

Biceps:

Barbell curl (4 sets, 4 reps, 20%)
Dumbbell curl (5 sets, 4 reps, 10%)
Incline dumbbell curl (4 sets, 6 reps, 7%)

Legs:

Upper:

Leg press (4 sets, 4 reps, 100% Squat ORM)
Quadricep extension (4 sets, 8 reps, 50%)
Hamstring curl (4 sets, 8 reps, 30%)
Jump squat (3 sets, 12 reps, bodyweight (begin holding dumbbells on second rotation))
Pelvic thrust (3 sets, 12 reps, bodyweight (begin using dumbbell on top of pelvis on second rotation))
Dumbbell lunge (3 sets, 4 reps (each side), 20%)

Calves: (take 30 second rests between sets)

Dumbbell calf raise (3 sets, 12 reps, 20% as with all dumbbell weight notation, this is the weight of each of the two dumbbells you will hold)
Smith machine calf raise (3 sets, 16 reps, 25% (this refers to the total weight you will ADD TO the smith machine)
Leg press calf raise (3 sets, 6 reps, 60%)
This is a non-linear program, so there will not be prescribed days of the week or exercises or rest days. It will be up to you to decide if you have enough energy and available time to give your all in a workout.
Each workout day you will choose two compound lifts. Any of the six. Go through all six compound lifts in this way before repeating any of them, but feel free to recombine them in different combinations each time you cycle through.
Roughly every other workout, add in auxiliary exercises after your compound lifts. Always choose auxiliary exercises that correspond with one of your compound lifts. So if you’re doing Bench and Squat, choose either Legs or Pushing. Then choose three exercises from that list. For Pushing and Pulling, make sure you are selecting one exercise from each muscle group, and for Legs choose two for the larger muscle group and one for calves. Rotate through all three energy systems before starting over. It’s OK if you don’t know all of these exercises; choose the ones you know, and as you progress, I’ll teach you more of them. It’s OK if you repeat auxiliary exercises for more than one cycle, and by extension don’t get to some others, even through the whole first phase. This is simply the introduction. Find what’s fun, and if it’s fun, keep doing it. You’ll get to the others eventually. Trust me, we’ll add volume, so you’ll be doing more exercises per session.
Shoot to get into the gym 3-4 days per week, but again, do it as your schedule allows, and as you have energy to throw into the workout. If you need a rule of thumb, don’t take more than two rest days–if you take three, that’s OK, not the end of the world at all, rest is healthy! But keep the three day spans of rest to a minimum. Feel free to work out two days in a row and then take two rest days. Do what your body and schedule allows. This program is written with the suspicion (not expectation) that you will average 3 workouts per week.
Similarly, add the auxiliary lifts at will and listening to your body. Shoot for every other workout, but the program is written to be very flexible according to your body and your schedule. If you discover you’re always energized enough to add auxiliaries, great. If two work outs in a row you don’t have energy for auxiliaries, that’s fine too. But shoot for every other.
This program is constructed to give you a consistent foundation in several compound lifts, which you will be repeating quite frequently. This will give you a way to track your progress and begin full body hypertrophy. The auxiliary lifts can change at will, in order to appeal to your own personal desires, and also build a wide range of skills, strengths, and neural pathways. This will keep you in charge of your own workout, so if you want to do the same auxiliary lifts each time you hit the gym, that’s fine, or if you want to learn as many as possible to prepare for a more targeted use of those exercises in the following phases of the program, you can do that too. Do whatever’s fun.
We will shoot to do at least six full rotations of this cycle before changing it, meaning you’ll get at least 12 times through each compound lift, probably over the course of two to three months.
Start with a standard intensity for all exercises, resting 60-120 seconds between each set (with a few exceptions).
The weights, reps and sets that I’ve chosen should all feel doable. I’m not trying to send you to failure in this first phase. If you are unable to complete any of the exercises, get in touch with me and we will adjust.
That said, we will be using a basic progressive overload. Each time you return to an exercise, add 5 pounds. This will require the use of 2.5 lbs weights for barbell exercises, which are standard in most gyms. If you do not have access to those, barbell clips are generally about 0.5 lbs each, so you can use a few of them. People will look at you like you’re crazy, but fuck’em. If you reach a point with any exercise that you can no longer complete every rep, maintain that weight the next time you do the exercise until you are able to do every rep. Then increase by 5 lbs the next time, as usual.
A word about warming up. If you’re coming into the gym super cold, then get the blood flowing. Run for a 2 or 3 minutes, hop on a stationary bike for 5 minutes, or jump rope a bit. Roll around on the ground if you want. Honestly, though, I rarely come into the gym cold. Even if it’s just walking quickly, I usually come into the gym with my body a little warm.
Warm up into each lift. As a part of learning proper technique, you will need to learn appropriate ways to warm up the joints and muscles for the compound lifts. Those will be where you are at greatest risk of injury, and you’ll be doing them at the beginning of each workout. For this reason, you will need to warm up a lot into each compound lift, but barely at all into most auxiliary lifts, since they will use muscles already exercised with the compound lift.
Shoulder, hip, and knee mobility will be the primary focus of warming up into the compound lifts. Before beginning and between warm up sets, use shoulder circles, active lunging, and other non-lifting mobility exercises for the joints involved in a particular lift. Then begin to perform the lift with 20% of the weight you’ll be working with that day (not ORM, just to clarify. Lots of % floating around. You may want a calculator nearby). Do a set or two at that weight for 3-8 reps. Then increase to 40% of the weight you’ll be working. Do one set for 4 reps. You’re not trying to get tired out, but to warm up the muscles and prepare the joints. This is the perfect time to think about good form. Practice perfect form here and it will pay off when you have real weight on. Do another set with 60% for 3 reps. 80% for 3 reps, and you should be just about ready to begin your working sets. Take a good long rest before you begin, though–at least two full minutes, and three or four is better.
I think that’s all the pertinent information on the lifts. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.
There are two more elements we will throw into the mix from the beginning, which will change a lot through the overall program.

Core and Cardio:

For cardio, I am going to begin by recommending light running at the end of some of the workouts. 1-2 miles roughly every other work out. Do this after your lifting. And not at hardcore intensity. Intersperse it so you are getting about three runs in for every six workouts. At this point doesn’t matter if this coincides with auxiliary days or not. If you miss a run on a workout day because of schedule or being exhausted, that’s fine. Do it on the next rest day. You can also substitute stationary biking, elliptical, rowing machine, or something else for the running if you want.
For core I want you to choose one exercise to do each time you are at the gym. If you get particularly tired one day, that’s fine. Try to do the exercise the next rest day. Core strength can be highly variable, so if you have trouble completing any of these exercises, do your best, fight through, and get in touch with me for a modification. If any are too easy, let me know that too.

 

Core exercises:

Lying leg lifts (4 sets of 20 reps)
Plank (3 sets of 1 minute)
Reverse crunches (4 sets of 20 reps)
Palm-to-palm crunches (4 sets of 20 reps)
C sit twists (2 sets of 50 reps)
Russian twists (3 sets of 3 reps (each side), 10 lbs plate)
Turkish getups (3 sets of 2 reps (each side), 10 lbs dumbell or kettlebell)
Hollow body hangs (4 sets to failure)
Hollow body rocks (4 sets of 10 reps)
That’s enough to start with.
I also recommend some recovery work on your rest days (or even directly after the workouts). This could be a sauna, stretching, a foam roller, a massage stick. Move your body on rest days, just not with the goal of building muscle. You want to give the muscles time to recover and repair (the real growth period–don’t fuck with it), and getting blood to flow to those areas, even just with light rotation of sore joints and self massage of worked muscles, can help greatly.
So, to sum up, it will take you roughly six work outs to hit every muscle group. During a single rotation of this cycle you will do each compound lift twice, and each auxiliary group once.  Here’s an example of how one cycle might play out:

Day 1:

Bench
Squat
Dumbbell fly
Dumbbell press
Cable pushdown
Leg lifts

Day 2:

Deadlift
Pull Up
Hollow body hang
Light run

Day 3:

Rest

Day 4: 
Military Press
Other Squat, say a Front Squat
Leg press
Quadricep extension
Dumbbell calf raise
C sits
Day 5:
Rest
Day 6:
Bench
Deadlift
Hollow body rock
Light run
Day 7:
Rest
Day 8:
Squat
Military Press
Day 9:
Rest
Leg lifts
Light run
Day 10:
Pull Up
Other Squat
Lateral pull down
Bent over row
Dumbbell curl
Reverse crunches
This is just an example. Create your own. And each of the subsequent cycles does not need to be identical to the first–change it all up at will.
Write down everything you do.

 

OK, now

Diet:

No one puts on muscle while losing fat. Any bodybuilder will tell you that to gain muscle mass you need to eat more calories than you are burning, to get those “gains”. In the meantime, your body will likely add some body fat. That’s OK. We’ll deal with it later. In fact, the more muscle mass you put on, the more calories your body will start consuming on a day to day basis, anyway.
Also we are working toward sustainability. So instead of training your body that it needs to have a low metabolism to deal with tons of cardio and super low calories, we are going to train it to have a high metabolism, with light cardio and reasonable calorie intake.
In short, I don’t want you starving yourself. The goal of this program is to put on muscle, so you’ll need to eat when you’re hungry.
No radical changes. Continue to move in the direction of common-sense good foods. Whole things. Vegetables, fruits, grilled, baked, and sauteed meats, unsweetened dairy products. Don’t buy grains. That’s not to say don’t eat them, but just don’t buy them. If you’re out with friends and someone orders nachos, have some nachos. Or if you’re in the city and forgot to pack lunch, buy a sandwich. But don’t keep grains in the house. That means bread, cookies, cereal, tortilla chips. Prepare as many meals in your kitchen as you can. Trust me, even avoiding grains, they show up all over the place in our contemporary diet, so you’ll still be consuming them regularly, which is just fine.
The biggest shift will be protein intake. Try to take in between 150 and 200 grams of protein per day. Track protein intake for a few days to see what this actually means. It means a lot of thinking about where your next protein is going to come from. Try to consume it in chunks of 30-40 grams every 2-3 hours. I wake up to 6 eggs. Then I have a protein bar and yogurt midmorning. Lunch is a half pound of grilled chicken, maybe with cheese and maybe on a salad. A couple hours later another protein bar and some nuts. Then I work out and have a protein shake after. Dinner is more chicken, this time with some veggies. Before bed I might get super hungry and have another protein shake. This is how I come close to 200 grams of protein per day. Find what works for you…but it will probably look something like this. Later on we might track fats and carbs, but for now focus on this.
You don’t need to track calories yet, but as I said earlier, we are aiming for a clean bulk, and a slow bulk. You’ll be gaining weight over the course of the next 2-3 months, which means you’ll need to be consuming more calories than you burn. But to keep it clean, I want you to eat good, whole foods, not the quick and dirty bulking foods that a bodybuilder might eat to gain huge amounts of weight. Let your carbohydrates come from vegetables and fruits as much as possible, your fats be un-fried, and avoid refined sugar completely. This first 2-3 month phase will be our chance to see how your body responds to this style of program, so we will continue to refine the diet design as we learn.
Any questions?

The Wanderer

Honoring my intention of putting writings on this Crashpad, fragmentary and otherwise, here is a translation/adaptation of ‘The Wanderer’ I made several years ago. You will see the Anglo Saxon preserved in various places.

So quothe the Earthstepper mindful of hardships
of wrathful bloodslaughter, or family’s, friends falls:
“Oft must I alien the hour before dawn
my care speak. There is no one alive
to whom I dare now openly speak
my inner mind. I know it in soothe,
it is in an eorl very noble strength
that he bind fast his spirit-location,
hold fast his hoard coffers, think as he will.
Forthon doomyearners dreariness oft
in hyra breast coffin bindeth fast:
So must I my heart.
Oft wretched with cares, deprived of home,
far from family, he knows who experiences it
how cruel is sorrow as friend
for him who has no one to share it
Wraeclast holds him, not wunden gold.
He remembers warriors of the hall,
how in his youth his goldwinner
feasted him. Joy has all perished!
This he knows, he who must his wine-lord’s
beloved counsel longly forsake:
When sorrow and sleep same atgether
oft a wretched lone-dweller bindeth,
it seems in his mind that his lord man he
clasps and kisses and lays head and
hands on lap, so he sometime ere
in old days embraced the throne-chief.
When the friendless man awakens after,
sihth before him dark waves.
bathing sea birds and broadening feathers.
falling ice and snow mingled with hail:
then are the heartwounds ever more heavy,
sore after sweet. Sorrow is renewed:
when memory of family pervades his mind,
companions of men—always they swim away.
Forþon I can think not, for all this woruld,
for why mind-soul mine does not grow all-dark,
when I think all around eorls’ lives,
how hy suddenly abandoned the hall-floor,
brave maguþegnas. So, as in this middle-earth
all days, each dreoseð and fealleþ;
forþon ne man can become wise ere he has
passed winters in the woruld-realm: wiseness must be patient,
must not be too hot-hearted nor too quick of word
nor too wac warrior nor too reckless
nor too frightened nor too happy nor too money greedy
nor never too eager to boasting ere he readily has knowledge.
A wise warrior must ongietan how gæslic it will be
when all thisse woruld’s wealth stondeþ wasted,
so now in certain places around þisne Middangeard
wind-blown wealles standeþ,
hrime bihrendered, the buildings snowswept.
The wine halls wear, the walden lyað down,
dream deprived, war band all falled,
proud by the wall. Some war fornom,
fared on forth-way, one a bird bore off
over the high sea, one the hoar wolf
deaðe dælt, one sad faced eorl
gehydde in an earth cave.
So yþde/destroyed this earthworld the creator of ælda/men
until, the burg-wara’s revelry lost,
the ent work of old stood idle.
When he who thinks deeply around this
foundation of stone and deork lif with wise thought,
he who is frod in ferðe of remembers afar
many battle-slaughters ond these words acwið:
“Hwær has gone the mare? Hwær the young warrior? Hwær has gone the maþþumgyfa?
Hwær have gone the feast seats? Hwær are the hall-dreams?
Alas bright cup! Eala byrn warrior!
Eala þeodnes þrym! How the time departs,
darkens under night’s helm, as if she were not!
Eorls fortaken by ash-spears power,
weapons hungry for blood, fame of the wyrd,
ond on this stone cliff cnyssað storms.
Snowstorm, attacking, binds the earth,
winter’s woma, when dark cymeð,
nightshadow grows dark, onsendeð from norðan.

Crashpad

Below you will find writings of all kinds. Some things are about theater, some about climbing, some about life in general. Perhaps they will find some kind of rational structure at some point, for in the meantime it will be the place where you can find fragments of all sorts.

Crashpad: A Dirtbag Journal

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Stashing my crashpad in the hallway
Friday was a great day to be a climber and an actor in New York City. I made it to SITI Company early enough to get a slot in their Equity Chorus Call style audition. The atmosphere in the waiting room was so much more congenial than many audition waiting rooms, the advisory given to us being to stretch out thoroughly–not the advice usually given to actors who don’t go in for dance calls! Moving our bodies seemed to loosen us up. I got a few questions about the pad on my back as soon as I showed up, “Nice pack. What do you keep in there?”

The audition itself was a delight. Three wonderful artists of the company held the audition, Ellen Lauren, Akiko Aizawa, and Leon Ingulsrud. It was an audition that felt more like a rehearsal. We began with a conversation–about art, of all things, in an audition, who would have thought. Then we practiced 15 minutes of Suzuki, one of the disciplines of SITI’S theatrical praxis. We finished that and began 15 minutes of Viewpoints, the other pillar of the company. All in all, it was a freeing, engaged experience. Would that all auditions felt like that. I wonder what I can do to make that so.

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Susanna’s Instagram picture
I went downstairs and met up with a friend who was getting ready for rehearsal in the same building in which SITI makes its home. We sat at Gregory’s and ran her lines. She made fun of me for my crash pad, for sure.

We finished with a few hours of sunlight left. The temperature was hovering right around freezing. I hopped an A train and then a C to 103rd. Right outside the station the Westside Outcrops stare down over Central Park West. I have to think there are interesting, moderate lines all over these rocks, not just on the southwest corner. So that’ll have to be a major exploratory operation sometime in the future. To begin with, I warmed up a little on the V0 terrain around the corner from what Mountain Project calls The Fridge. Then I worked The Fridge (V2). The beta isn’t the most obvious, so I took a few attempts to do the problem, but it was a good intro to the style of this particular boulder. I like it because its edges are flat and strong. Unlike so many of the boulders in the park which have epoxied holds, I don’t think the holds on this boulder will ever snap off, and this also means the holds don’t have that schist sharpness that so many of the tiny flakes in the park do.

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The south face of the Westside Outcrops
It took awhile to send the very fun Squeedge (V4). The start is on a soft sloping side pull, very core-powered, all about the body position. Through the course of a million tries I found easier ways of achieving the right hand triangular ledge, discovered good feet, the order in which to use them, and only after the million and first try did I see that it was so much easier to go to the juggy left hand near the top before advancing my right hand off the triangular ledge. The foot beta still held me back for a few more tries before I finally achieved the top, with a bit of a desperate throw in which my knuckles found an unintended finger lock. Not the way I’ll attempt to do it the next time, but it worked! Great fun with smiles at people walking their children home from school in the golden hour.

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Then I set off to explore the so called Worthless Boulder. On the way, on the north side of the Great Hill I discovered so many other possibilities! 

Chalk all over…except on one big overhanging prow covered with vines…looks like it is out of my league, but damn does it look fun…I mean look at that.

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So now might be a good time to lay out what I’m doing here. I got to New York a few months ago, and I want to climb. I quickly discovered that Manhattan has a lot of great bouldering. So I tried to figure out where exactly to find it. Sure, there’s plenty of beta for Rat Rock and Cat Rock, and the other obvious boulders. But there are so many more possibilities than those, and most people who write about bouldering say just that, “There are many more boulders out there.” OK, so why can I find so little about them online? Sure I find a blurb about the slopey top outs right by the stone bridge in the Ramble, and a reference to Shit Rock, though nothing about either in Mountain Project and in the recently published guidebook that everyone talks about it says ___________. So I thought, sounds like a fun project. While I’m in New York, I’ll seek out all the outdoor rock I can, and compile the notes into one spot. What brings me to New York is that I’m a dirtbag actor, so I’m going to use that as my framing device. And here’s how I’m going to do it:

Pretty much anytime you talk to me, I would rather be climbing–but my career has brought me here.

So I’m going to write a blog as I explore New York City’s outdoor climbing while also making my way as an actor here.

I’m a moderate boulderer, having topped a couple V5s in my time and gotten so close on a V6 or two, so that’s the perspective you’ll get (until I get crushers to go bouldering with me).

I’m tired of getting spat off of Polish Traverse, so I’m going to attempt to document as much variety as possible.

As I go, I’ll put together a stand-alone guide (something I’ve never done, so I’m going to be learning as I go). I’ll shunt the things I find lacking on Mountain Project over there, too.

So back to Friday. I wandered my way down to Worthless Boulder, where I went once last fall. I started on the arete off to the left of the overhanging face, called Gumb Project (V1). It’s surprisingly moderate for how overhung and difficult it looks. Still, it’s not the shortest problem, so I had to lock the beta in over a couple burns before I sent.  

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Then on to the myriad other possibilities of this overhanging face. Clearly, there are endless possibilities here for eliminates, linking lines, and other ways of making the boulder exactly as difficult as you desire. I got up on Voodoo Bullshit / Bring the Noise (V2) next. Fun problem that, really, I thought was going to be harder. I’d probably call it V1 with that stand start. And the top out didn’t feel tenuous at all.

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After messing about on Mean Green / Flava Flav (V4), which I found really hard, I went up the line of good holds just to the right of the arete, probably another V1, though shorter as a stand start. I finished just as the temperature was dropping with the sun, and hopped on an overcrowded 2 train downtown, on which everyone hated me and my big pad. Good day.

 

Crash Pad: A Monograph?

This is the post excerpt.

My new monograph delivered over the internet in installments.

Yeah, it’s a blog.

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In the Red River Gorge

I don’t own a house. My van is thousands of miles away. My crash pad is my aunt and uncles place in Park Slope. Rough life, I know. Like so many actors I know, my life is itinerant, traveling as my career directs me. Like so many climbers I know, I have very little income, and make do with as little as I can so that I can spend as much time climbing as possible. It’s these two parts of my life which have conspired to bring me to New York City, exploring both the theater scene and the climbing scene in this enormous metropolis.

A crash pad is a protective device used by climbers when they boulder. CrashpadBouldering is a type of rock climbing which derives its name from the practice of finding difficult ways up small pieces of rock, say 6-20 feet tall. Some boulders will have many different problems on them, fun trials of skill and strength that tend to include five to 20 distinct moves, muscular bursts of energy, and tricky body positions. There is no right way to climb a route, and no certain body type that excels. One of the defining characteristics of bouldering is that it does not involve the use of a rope. Instead, to protect oneself from the harsh realities of often stony fall zones, boulderers use thick pads which they carry around from rock to rock, and friends to spot them. Both are subject to availability.

Coming to New York as an actor has not been easy. I’m not going to talk about the past few months and the wallowing, though–I’m going to talk about the present and my active struggle to figure out what exactly I’m doing here. By that I don’t mean find the answers, I mean the act of finding, that’s what I’m exploring in this piece. And of doing. And through that, you’ll hopefully get a window into my being.

One of the reasons I love climbing is that it welcomes failure. This is something that’s a lot more complicated in the theater. The intersections of those varying perspectives on crashing and burning will be a major topic of exploration in this monograph. I’m hoping that you’ll find this an interesting inquiry whether you are a climber, an actor, or neither.

The other result of this piece will be a real time compilation of moderate bouldering possibilities throughout the New York metro. I won’t have much to say about problems harder than V6…because I probably won’t be able to hold myself off the ground on them. So welcome, moderate boulderers, this will be a guide targeted toward you!