Faith, Hope, Love: A Trinity

Lake Michigan, July, 2016

Faith. Hope. Love.

Sometimes, when I think of Faith, Hope, and Love, I dream of someone crossing the Atlantic on a wooden ship with a great mast, and great cloth draped and tied to catch the wind. 

Thousands of ships have made the journey over times gone by. Every ship bringing with it hopes and dreams of something better, something more.

Each ship is filled with a soul, searching for a better life, always looking ahead through a pirate’s spyglass of lies, always seeing the unattainable horizon just beyond the distance. 

They take the journey of a lifetime, searching for the paradise that doesn’t exist but has existed always, the myth of how life should be, must be, can’t be, but always has been.

Faith. Hope. Love.

Whenever I see these three together, I see the Trinity come to life in the world. This is the Trinity on the ground, in the presence of the people, taking names and loving them; loving the people attached to those names as if they meant the world because they do. 

This Miraculous Three, this Trinity, calls to me, desperate for me to notice their presence, ready to guide me as I search for and desire to know more intimately the Mysterious More—the reason to continue, the experiential reality of the un-nameable who is omni-nameable, the summing up of why anything matters at all, the one than which none greater can be conceived. 

This is my response to their calling my name.

“Faith, Hope, and Love: I welcome you. Do what you will with me.”

Faith.

A ship only moves if it has a well-made sail. One fashioned together with material cut to withstand the storms and the sun, each one beating down hard upon the deck in its own time and turn and in its own way. 

There could be water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. But a sail must stay ready, sturdy, willing to adjust to the new direction of winds never seen before. It will be (it must be) handled and moved and battered and untied and retied, but it must remain sturdy. It will be tested. Again. And again. And again.

Hope.

What makes a ship sail across the seas? A fleet of strangers sailing alone, following a star to a land where life is free from pain. A land never before seen, only dreamt of. A sail is but cloth. Nothing more. A sail is not dreams, it is a sail. 

Wind is the hero. Without wind, nothing moves. There is no peace, no understanding, no dialogue; there’s just no talking to anyone about anything without wind. The wind is a promise kept to the sail. 

“Just be in place and be ready,” the sail is told. “You are imperative! Without you, the wind blows uselessly. But, because you are both flexible and steadfast, the wind will propel the journey!” 

Our journey on the great sea.

Lake Michigan, July 2016

Love.

The sea itself. 

A boat travels because of the sturdy and flexible sail, propelled all along by the wind. But, the entire journey was, is, and will always be on the ocean water, the only place a ship can be when it crosses the uncrossable sea.

The endless water, the unfathomable fathoms, greater than any human understanding. 

The ocean water is that on which the ship travels. The only reason for a ship to exist is to journey on the water. 

Without Love, there is no journey. 

There is only that feeling of always wanting to go somewhere but not knowing where to go, exactly, or how to get there. There is only wandering. Until we see the sea, there is only lost.

There are stories that have forever been told of sailors who can’t stay on land for very long. They must get back to the sea, to the journey. On the water is where they feel most alive, most connected.

Love is the unfathomable ocean on which we all journey. We all traverse the endless ocean together, though it might so very often seem as though we are all alone, in our  own private wooden ships.

You do not travel alone. We are all on the endless ocean together. Some so much more experienced and even  more comfortable than others, but we are all traveling together. Each of our experiences are unique, but the journey is the very thing we all share.

Love never leaves. It is the very substance of our journey, the very foundation of our  lives at sea.  Love is the endless water on which I journey through this life of mine, this life of ours.

If you feel you are sinking, tie your ship to mine, and let’s travel side by side together. 

Let’s find more lost ships and offer to have them tie their sometimes broken vessels to ours. Let’s take the journey together, as we’re meant to do. 

Faith. Hope. Love.

The greatest of these is Love.

From the Workspace #1 – “Everybody’s Talking”

Bristol Borough, PA – February 2021

Harry Nilsson is one of my favorites! His easy style – particularly on this tune – always encourages my imagination to run wild and free.

I hope this song leads you to a place of easy joy, rest, and peace.

Enjoy!

See you soon!

“A Man and His Dog”

February 10, 2021

WATSON: I’m looking right at you! I see you! Everyone can see you, now!
ME: Watson?
WATSON: I know what you’re up to! I’m on to you! You won’t get away with it, anymore!!
ME: Watson!


WATSON: What?
ME: What are you doing?
WATSON: I’m just exposing this brick.

(Pause)


ME: That’s…you’re being very bad, right now.
WATSON: Hehehe!
ME: I can’t believe you’re my dog.


WATSON: Can’t you, though?
ME: I’m going inside.
WATSON: That was good though, right?! Hahaha! Come on!!

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You can still help us raise money for AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) by clicking this link! Thanks so much to everyone who has donated so far!

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Lee Golden and the Folded Paper

The Original “Franz, the butler” track guide, by Lee Golden

IN LATE SUMMER of 2002 I finally reached a benchmark in my newly relaunched performing career—the Walnut Street Theatre had called me in to audition. 

The Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia is the America’s oldest theater and has the largest subscription base of any theater in the world. 

I’ve known about the theater all my life and dreamed about playing on the stage where Edwin Booth played the Scottish Play, and Brando screamed “Stella!!” eight shows a week during Streetcar’s out-of-town try-out. 

Used to be, if you had a play you wanted to get to Broadway, it had to come through Philly first, and coming through Philly usually meant coming through by way of The Walnut. 

So many of the greats have played that staged, and I couldn’t wait to temporarily take up the same space once temporarily taken up by so many legends.

I had been cast as the Nazi, Admiral von Schreiber, in “The Sound of Music,” the second show of a five-show season which ran all of November, December, and into the second week of January. 

It was a great gig, and a fantastic show in which to make my debut at one of my dream theaters.

Admiral von Schreiber is the guy who, just as everything is about to turn out perfectly for the Captain, Maria, and the brood, comes in and throws a wet blanket on the whole situation by personally summoning Captain von Trapp to take his new post in the Nazi Navy. 

I’m happy to report to you that I was particularly creeptastic and tried my best in every performance to live up to the honor of the history of the house that has, in many ways since, become a sort of home for me over the years.

In addition to my role as the Nazi Admiral, I was tasked with understudying the role of Franz, the butler, usually played by a wonderful character actor from Philly named, Lee Golden. 

The Original “Franz, the butler” track guide, by Lee Golden

By this point in his career, Lee was beginning to slow down some. The lengthy run of a Walnut production can take its toll on the most fit and healthy of any of us, and I was told from the beginning to take special care to be prepared at a moment’s notice…just in case.

Toward the end of our nine-week run, I could tell Lee was looking a bit tired. Soon enough, it became clear that I would need to take over his role, at least for a while. 

On a Sunday afternoon, following a matinee performance before having the next day off, I was told Lee would be out for a few days and perhaps even the entire week. 

Before we left the theater that particular Sunday to go home for some much needed rest, Lee stopped by my dressing room. 

“Hi, Lee! How you feeling?” I asked. 

I knew he wasn’t feeling well, but I wasn’t sure what to say. 

At that point in my career, I had never missed a performance of a play I was in, nor had I gone on as an understudy before. 

There were several “first times in my career” things going on, seemingly all at once.

“I feel like shit, to be honest,” he said. “But I know you’re going to be great. I’m not worried a bit.”

And then he handed me a folded piece  of paper.

I had seen that very paper before.

The Original “Franz, the butler” track guide, by Lee Golden

One of the benchmarks of a rehearsal process in almost any theater is the “designer run.”

This is when the production gets to the point, relatively early in the rehearsal process, where the cast performs a full run-through of the show in the rehearsal room for the producer, the designers, and the crew.

Often, it can be the first time for the entire cast to go through the whole show from beginning to end together.

Memorizing your lines is only part of what needs to be learned by heart in a production like “The Sound of Music.” Entrances and exits for a character actor can be confusing; you need a map of your ins and outs—your “track.”

It was during this designer run that I noticed Lee while he was waiting offstage for his entrances. Every time he exited a scene, he would reach in his pocket and pull out a meticulously folded paper.

He had made his own map of his entrances and exits, a “key” of sorts for his track.

Now, in my dressing room before leaving for what ended up being a full week of eight performances, Lee was bequeathing me his performance lifeline.

“I thought you might be able to use this,” he said. “I always make one for every show I’m in. It helps me keep my head straight, especially when I’m listening backstage. Being a character actor can get confusing. That’s why I always try to be prepared.”

“Thank you, so much!” I said. “You just get better. I’ll keep Franz warm for you, I promise.”

“Break a leg,” he said, closing my dressing room door as he headed out into the Sunday evening.

Left alone, I unfolded the paper to reveal everything I needed to know about how to navigate the business end of playing Franz, the butler. 

Lee had typed everything out on a good old fashioned, ribboned typewriter, highlighting certain important parts and scribbling notes where he needed them, and where he thought I might need a reminder or two.

It was, at once, the kindest thing a fellow actor had ever done for me by bequeathing me this tool, and the beginning of a part of the acting process I have never gone without in any show I’ve done in the eighteen years since.

I gratefully accepted Lee Golden’s generous gift of his “track map” and have kept it to this day as a reminder that kindness is most often found in the seemingly little things. 

I’m sure I would’ve gotten by just fine had he not given his notes to me to use, but in doing so, he made a permanent impact on my life and an indelible imprint on my heart.

It’s among the fondest memories of my professional career.

Yup…

How can I make someone else’s life easier? 

It’s a question Lee Golden asked himself regarding his understudy some eighteen years ago, and one that absolutely changed my life for the better.

Here’s to a fond memory, Lee Golden! Thank you for shaping my life in a way you probably never even knew.

I wish you peace.

I’m a Fan Friday: Twenty-One for 2021 – #1

Camelot at Act 2 Playhouse – 2018

Being an actor is the only thing I have always wanted to be.

There are so many reasons that come together to make the above statement true, and I will be exploring practically all of them as I continue trying to understand what it means to be human.

One thing I do know, and can say with a great deal of certainty, is that it’s not about the applause.

Applause is amazing, and I’m not going to pretend it isn’t gratifying and that it doesn’t feel good, but it’s not the reason I perform.

There is something about the connection between a performer and the audience the never leaves me with any doubt whatsoever that this is what I am made to do.

Acting the part of another being is where I feel most like myself, and as strange as that might sound, the very process of acting has brought me closer to an understanding of who I am and who we all are to each other than anything else I have ever done or attempted to do.

This clip from the 2011 film, Anonymous – which argues that all of the works attributed to William Shakespeare were actually written by Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford and not Shakespeare, himself- illustrates to perfection what great theater can actually produce in a moment.

This scene from the film- a moment from the play, “Henry V” – shows Henry rousing his troops in one of the greatest theatrical speeches ever written.

Watch how the audience responds to this actor in the most authentic and human way.

Watch what these words and how he says them move the audience to forget themselves and truly feel as if they are present with a long ago King of England and not some lowly actor in a wig and false armour.

What is that? Why does that happen?

I hope you will continue to join me on my quest to understand what that connection is and why it is so meaningful to our existence as human beings.

Thanks for joining me on this countdown journey, as we thrust ourselves headlong into this mysterious new year – 2021!

I wish you peace.

I’m a Fan Friday: Twenty-One for 2021 – #2

Manhattan, NYC – August 2019

The first time I heard the band Nickel Creek was just over twenty years ago.

They were playing the Pennsylvania Folk Festival that summer, and Malisa and I drove from south Jersey – where we were living at the time – just for the day so we could see them live.

We had worn their self-titled CD completely out in the car, over the prior year or so. We were so excited to see them in person.

The other acts that preceded them (they were the headliners) were good. We enjoyed them.

But when Nickel Creek came out, I could instantly feel something was about to be dialed up several musical notches.

The first thing I thought was that they all looked even younger in person than on their album cover – a feat that in itself I found pretty extraordinary. That was instantly wiped to the side in my consciousness when they began to play.

Amazing musicians, all three of them, but Chris Thile almost instantly commanded all of my attention. His complete and utter control over his mandolin led to an offering that my heart gratefully accepted and, at one point, left me in a puddle of tears I never expected to shed.

I’ve posted about him several times on this blog, and you’ll definitely be hearing more about him here in the future.

This video, though, is something uniquely special.

Vulfpeck is a funk band out of Minnesota, one with which Thile has performed several times. Their “Live from Madison Square Garden” show is terrific.

This video is taken from Live From Here with Chris Thile and is one of the most soul-lifting performances out there in the videosphere.

Pay special attention (after you’ve listened to it all the way through a time or two, of course) to the 3:00 minute mark.

Chris, Joe Dart (bass), Cory Wong (guitar), and Woody Goss (keys), take this jam session in a direction that begins at 3:00 and culminates in something that EVERYONE KNOWS IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN at 3:19!

It’s AMAZING!!!

How is it we all know where that arriving point is in the music? We all know when it occurs, and there is no way to hold back the knowing of it.

What is that connection?

That, my friends, is art at its very best!

Enjoy!

I’m a Fan Friday: Twenty-One for 2021 – #3

Bristol Borough, PA – September 2019

I saw a LOT of movies during the 1980s. It’s what we did. We went to the movies. To the theater. To the cinema!

I saw White Nights in the theater, when it came out in 1985.

I couldn’t drive yet, so it was probably one of my friends – who had their licence already – who found themselves carting around as many theater geeks as could fit in whatever type of car their parents owned to the movies on some given night.

Right out of the gate, this film thrilled me. I had never seen Mikhail Baryshnikov dance in quite this way before. I had seen plenty of ballet but not like this.

This scene is the opening credits of the movie. It’s a truncated version of a ballet by Roland Petit, but I didn’t know that then.

At the time, I thought this particular ballet was something done for the movie, something written especially for the film. I didn’t realize how famous a piece it was, and who was involved in the original collaboration.

Le Jeune Homme Et La Mort is a ballet – choreographed by Roland Petit in 1946, with a story by Jean Cocteau – that tells the story of a young man driven to suicide by his faithless lover, set to the  Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, by J. S. Bach, BWV 582.

I have felt the pull this character seems to be feeling. I have felt the pain and desperation this man expresses, as he pushes and pulls in an effort to simply quiet his mind.

I know this man, and that “knowing” is what my work is leading me to, what I’m interested in exploring.

What is this connection we feel to others brought on by a piece of art? Why do I know how he feels? How is it that we can share these feelings?

But this piece doesn’t make me what to share this character’s fate, simply because I know his pain. On the contrary.

This performance of this work makes me want to live because of the very fact that I do connect with something being communicated, something that could only be communicated in this way – through the medium of art, ballet, in particular.

Enjoy this luscious emotion fest! (And, I’ve a bonus treat for you below this video!)



_______________________

BONUS: This is a full performance of this wonderful, haunting piece. Well worth your time.

I’m a Fan Friday: Twenty-One for 2021 – #4

Bristol Borough Waterfront – September 2019

I’m not exactly sure when Miles Davis came into my seemingly separate orbit.

I don’t know when I first heard his music. Maybe it was playing in my experience as a young person but I wasn’t fully aware of it, or who it was that was playing?

The likely thing is that I had heard Miles’ sound somewhere in my youth but just didn’t know how to pay attention to it yet.

I do remember the first time I ever came in contact with this tune, though.

On a summer night in 1990, my roommate Keith Parker and I went to a jazz club in Oklahoma City to hear this band that was beginning to gain some attention beyond the local scene.

I don’t remember the name of the band, but I remember like it was yesterday being completely enraptured by this tune and the way they played it.

When they finished, the band leader (whose name was the name of the band; I do remember that but nothing else) said,

“That was ‘So What’ by Miles Davis”

and I was like,

“If this song is on this band’s album (cassette tape), I’m buying it!”

It was, and I did, and I wore that tape OUT!

As good as I remember that group’s terrific version of this tune being, imagine my delight when I found the original some days later.

From the 1959 album “Kind of Blue,” this is a really terrific live version of “So What” by the great Miles Davis.

Enjoy!

I’m a Fan Friday: Twenty-One for 2021 – #5

Bristol Borough, PA – 2019

The term “Mob” has never really enjoyed the kind of popularity that its family members have had.

“Crowd,” “Group,” and “Assembly” have all had their troubles from time to time (sometimes misinterpretations, sometimes not), but “Mob” has never been given a whole lot of positive press.

The events of the past week haven’t helped matters much. Obviously.

But, if you’re a friend of this underdog term, there is good news. Just when all might seem lost, in comes “Flash” to the rescue!

Pair “Flash” with “Mob” and you end up with one of the greatest things of all time: the flashmob.

“FLASHMOBS”!

I love ’em!!

Here’s one of the great ones, but don’t take my word for it. After you’ve watched this joy, feel free to follow down the rabbit hole of videos that are the “Mob” in its absolute Sunday best!

Enjoy!