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.
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.
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.
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.
First Phase Lifts:
Core Compound Lifts:
Additional Compound Lifts:
Triceps: (take 30-60 second rests between sets)
Calves: (take 30 second rests between sets)
Core and Cardio:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the post excerpt.
My new monograph delivered over the internet in installments.
Yeah, it’s a blog.
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. Bouldering 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!