On running with the Florida bobcats…

MaMaBobcatSitsSo, a week ago today we landed in Vero Beach, Florida, ready to begin work on How To Succeed. The cast got settled into our wonderful living accommodations, and after a cursory glance around town, I had in mind a few different routes I thought I might try to run while I’m here.

I’m in the middle of a Lenten Run Streak where I’m running at least one mile per day, every day, through Easter (I might extend it after the holiday…we’ll see), and finding new routes isn’t always the easiest thing to do when working out of town.

Several of us in the cast are being housed in some newer condos on the west side of the city, which has just recently seen some development into the more “wild frontier” type lands that Florida has away from the coastal habitations.

So, Friday evening after a long day of rehearsal, I decided to venture out a bit from the confines of our beautiful if not slightly regrettable gated community to the main road and beyond.  The main road is relatively quiet, especially at dusk, around 7:00ish.  After a straight shot of a quarter mile or so, I came to a traffic light and took a left.  This direction was sure to take me to some more interesting territory by the look of things.

After another mile, a second intersection presented me with another left onto a road which looked extremely interesting.  I made the left, and within a few hundred yards, bid adieu to the confines of pavement for the much more pleasant dirt road.

It wasn’t very long before I saw a woman walking in my direction with her leashed canine companion heeling very nicely alongside.  I had my earphones in, and was concentrating more on the Dave Matthews Band in my earbuds than what she was attempting to tell me.

“Waaa waaa waaa waaahh, ” she said, as she approached.  I removed my headphones to hear her more clearly.

“Hi! I’m sorry.  What did you say?”

“Watch out for the bobcats up ahead, ” she said rather casually, I thought.

“You mean, like a kids football team?” I answered, trying to amuse. I was sure she would chuckle.  She didn’t.  “Bobcats? Really?”

“Yeah, they come out around this time of night, around dusk.  Also, not too long ago a raccoon got a guy.” Again with the casual.

“Did you say a raccoon got a guy?

“Yeah. There was rabies and everything.  It was terrible.  That’s why I always walk with my dog.  Have a great night!”

“Thanks.  I will.”  I stared for a second in the direction of my certain doom.

How would they break the news to Malisa?  I thought to myself.

“Hello, Mrs. Langdon?  Yes, we have some news.  Your husband…Well, your husband had an encounter with one of our bobcats down here in Florida.  Yeah, actually he was able to evade the feline, but in the end it was the raccoon that got him.”

I turned around, turned on the jets and waved politely to the woman and her dog as I left them in the dust.

I’ll stick to the pavement.

 

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Follow Scott on Twitter: @scotylang

 

 

 

 

 

 

On what you can expect when you expect something

ec22c64c1cc09e0a_3d-audience.previewA couple of months ago, about a week before Christmas, a thought occurred to me.  As I am wont to do nowadays, I condensed it to less than 141 characters (including spaces!) and tweeted it.  Here’s what I sent out to the world:

If a gift is given with an expectation of the receiver, then there is no gift, simply and exchange of a thing.

I didn’t think much about it.  Not too much comes from any of my activity on Twitter, and that’s fine with me.

But, something pretty cool happened that day.  Somehow, Pam Grier (yes, you read that right– Foxy Brown!!) came upon my tweet and retweeted it.  What that means is that she sent my little thought out to everyone who follows her.  With my name attached to it, Ms. Grier sent my tweet to over 500,000 people.

Evidently, it registered with many of those who saw it, because a few hundred of them retweeted it themselves.  I’m not sure exactly how many people have seen the tweet to this day, but I was blown away by the power of our modern-day methods of communication.

People talk listen on tin can phone communication

When I think about all of that, what occurs to me is that we really have no idea how significant each one of us truly is.  What we say matters.  What we will do on this day reverberates throughout the universe in the same way waves are created by the butterfly’s wings.

Now, that might only be a figurative statement and it might also be literal, too; I’m no scientist.  But, what I do know for sure is this: whenever we do or say a thing, after we’ve done or said it, whoever receives that piece of communication makes it mean something to them.  Sometimes that meaning is life-changing.  You never know.  What happens from there is so often out of our hands.  Even so, the next move is ours, and that move begins with us releasing our intentions without any expectations of the receiver.

Let me explain what I mean in this way.

I recently closed a production of the play, The Diary Of Anne Frank at The Media Theater in Pennsylvania.  During the run, we performed several student matinees for high school students.  Many of the students had never seen a live theater production before, and this particular play is not the easiest piece to see as your first.

Throughout the performance, they reacted as most audiences prior to them had reacted.  But, every so often some of the kids reacted to certain characters and moments in scenes in ways that most adults might consider inappropriate–laughing when you might expect a more serious attitude, murmuring to one another when you might expect silence, even occasionally talking back to a character (a character, mind you, not an actor).

Some involved in the production were concerned with the reactions of some of these students in attendance, but the more I thought about it, the more I was thrilled.  You see, these kids were engaged.  They were participating in the communication.  As far as I noticed, none of them were playing with their cell phones or whispering about how they might end up missing lunch.  They were fully engaged with the story and emotionally invested in what was being offered to them.  How could we really ask for more than that?

To have someone respond to your communication in the exact manner you expect them to limits the possibilities of how you can impact the lives of another, and how they, in turn, might surprise your own life with what they can bring to it.

Recently I decided that I’m a huge fan of mystery.  I believe that faith and mystery are such close bedfellows that any attempt to remove mystery from my life has a tremendously negative effect on my faith; not just in God, but in my fellow humans, as well.

I have found that when I concentrate on giving my communication away as a truly well-intended gift and leave what comes next to the mysterious unknowing that is another’s response, my life is richer, fuller and far more satisfying.

Now, that’s not to say that miscommunication doesn’t ever happen.  On the contrary, it happens often.  But, if I take responsibility for all of my communication, both how it is released (intention) and what meaning is made from it (someone’s response), I am, myself, engaged with the world in a way that makes for a heck of a thrill ride in this life.

I pray that my intentions bless your life.  I pray that you receive my intentions in that way.  But, no matter what, I choose to participate in the great mystery that envelops all that we do and say to each other.

I wish you peace.

________________

Follow Scott on Twitter: @scotylang

 

Questions, pain, demons, compassion, and love, always love

Philip_Seymour_Hoffman-1024x802-650x509I wasn’t sure how to, or even if I could, write about Philip Seymour Hoffman and how his death has affected me so deeply.

I just made a link from his name to IMDB.  See for yourself the way his prolific work impacted your life in some way.  Seen any of those movies?  Have any of them moved you at all?  Any of them have an impact on how you look at the world?  Well, several of them did for me.

The day he died, a friend of mine posted this on Facebook:

Oh, Philip Seymour Hoffman… Your performance in “Capote” single-handedly changed my opinion of the death penalty. No, we never met, but your authenticity made me feel as though we had and based on what I’m reading today, I’m not the only one.

The word that struck me in that last sentence was, authenticity.  In all of his work, Hoffman was definitely that–Authentic.  I heard several interviews with him over the years and he always spoke about making choices for his characters that were honest.  Honesty and authenticity in his acting were hallmarks of what he left behind to the world.

He also left behind a great deal of confusion.

I’m going to do a bit of assuming here, but I’m not sure Hoffman meant to die; I don’t think he wanted to.  There was no note, no goodbyes as far I’ve read or heard.  I could be wrong, but as I grasp for answers regarding why this could happen, I want to hope.  I want to hang on to a hope that he never lost hope, but just lost his way and couldn’t get back.

Almost immediately after he passed, I read things on my social media feeds like, “How could he do such a thing?  He had it all!” or “How selfish!  Why do people feel like they have to turn to drugs?”  I understand the questions, however short-sighted they might be, but those are not the questions that came to my mind.  Among many were these:

What triggered you?  Did you know how much you were loved and admired?  Could you possibly know what kind of hole you would leave if you couldn’t come back from that needle?  If you did, did you just not care or were there just too many voices in your head keeping you from hearing how much you were needed here?

You were NEEDED here, Phil!

There are so many questions when anyone dies so tragically like this.  We ask the questions because we want answers.  We want sense to be made from the things that happen that are so senseless.  But the more questions I ask, especially about this particular death, the more I know that I don’t know shit.

Goddammit, Phil!  I’m so mad right now!

I want answers!!  I want answers that will not come, and I’m so sad.  I’m sad for your partner and your children; for your family and friends; for all of us who will never see the brilliance of what you were becoming.  You made the world better.  What you did mattered.  Can you hear me where you are?

I pray that you still had hope, Phil.  I pray that you had visions and dreams for your future right to the end.  I pray that you didn’t die in despair, not knowing if anything you did made any difference in this world, not knowing if you could keep on fighting the demons inside of you.

I know the urge to run away, to give up, to escape.  I know how it feels to need peace so badly that the consequences of getting just a moment’s worth of it make no difference if only that moment could come.  I pray that you have that peace now.

I don’t know what was going through Philip Seymour Hoffman’s head the day he took the heroin that took his life.  I do know that he lost his way, and I weep for him and for everyone who loses theirs.  This life is not easy.  It is so hard sometimes to even think about what it’s going to take to make it even one more day.  But all we can ever do is live this day while it’s here.  Tomorrow will come, if it comes, and then we’ll take that day.  One day and then another.  Just take this day.

If you’re still reading this post, dear reader, I want you to know that as I sit here typing this on my computer, I’m fighting my own particular demons.  And I know you are fighting yours.  You being alive is so vitally important in ways you do not even know, what you do matters, and you are never separated from love no matter what you might think.  Please look around you and if you can’t see it immediately, look harder.  Seek love out and it will find you.

I’m still here only because, somehow, the grace of God has allowed me to remember how much I’m loved and needed today.  Today.  We’ll see about tomorrow when tomorrow gets here.

Follow Scott on Twitter- @scotylang

How “Inside Llewyn Davis” got way down inside me.

One of the functions of great art is to, as Hamlet puts it to the acting troupe about to play his scene for the King and Queen of Denmark, “hold a mirror up to nature.”

Any great work of art, whether it be a painting, a play, a piece of literature, or a film, gives us something new every time we encounter it.  We go back to great art, time and again, because of what we see when we look into that mirror.  What each of us sees can be so different because of where we find ourselves on our life’s journey.  But, that’s what makes great art great– we all see different things.

As a result, conversations should ensue; opinions should be shared.  The more we talk and wrestle with what our lives are about, the more we learn about ourselves and each other; the more we learn how to live together and love each other better.

Sometimes, a great piece of art can speak to us as a group, as a society.  Other times, a great piece of art can speak to us in such a profoundly personal way it’s as though it were our own personal mirror.  For me, watching  Inside Llewyn Davis was like sitting down at a vanity.

Inside Llewyn Davis, the latest film by the remarkable Coen brothers, follows Llewyn Davis, a fictional folk singer, for a week of his life in 1960.  Based in part on the memoir, The Mayor Of MacDougal Street by Dave Van Ronk, the film explores several questions that can ring true for everyone, but most especially for those of us who make our living in the arts:

How do we sometimes sabotage ourselves?

How much does being in the right place at the right time play into our success?

What’s the difference between talent and genius?

Would we just “exist” if we gave up our passionate pursuits?

Do cats really know where they are on the subway?

Llewyn doesn’t make things easy for himself.  He’s abrasive, a bit too impulsive at times, and not especially prone to making good decisions. But it’s his music that redeems him.  At the end of the day, making music is what he does better than anything in the world; it’s what he was made to do.  I related to that.

I related to his desire to make ends meet and the lengths he goes to in order to further his career.  More than that, I related to what Llewyn becomes while in the midst of performing, transcending the moment with his full concentration firmly locked on participating in something beyond himself.  Because of that, I rooted for him.  I wanted him to keep plugging away and continue to hang in there, even though I wanted to shake him by the lapels of his seasonally inappropriate jacket and say, Dude!  You could be a little nicer, man!  Especially to the people who love you and want the best for you! You dig?

But, I also related to his frustration of feeling like he’s stuck in a vortex of bad timing and thinking that those around him might never truly get what he’s trying to communicate through his work.  By employing a very effective story-telling device, the Coens show us, the audience, a week in Davis’s life in a way that makes us question whether or not he’ll ever make it out of that vortex and whether or not he could do anything about it even if he wanted to.

As an artist, the concern that others will understand you as a person is almost never as important as the desire for your work to be understood.  At the same time, it can be a very difficult blow to the confidence when the former does not occur.  Llewyn spends some time with a married couple on the Upper West Side of New York City, both of whom are college professors.   A few different times they introduce him to friends of theirs as their “folk singer friend.”  I’ve been introduced as “our actor friend” by friends of mine a time or two, myself.  There’s nothing ill intended, I know, but I related to Llewyn’s uncomfortable feelings in those scenes.

“This is what I do for a living!” he tells the hosts and their guests when they press him to play for them around the table after dinner.  He wants it to be understood that what he does is important in some way.  He wants his work to matter.  I got that.

As the film, and thus, the single week of Davis’s life comes to an end, the audience is left to speculate on how things will proceed for Llewyn.  Will his fortunes ever turn around?

When the credits began to roll, I thought about all of the ways in which the character of Llewyn Davis and I are similar.  But, as I sat in the car after the film was over, I contemplated all of the ways in which I wanted us to be different, and how much I hoped we were different.

I felt such I strong desire to sit him down and have a talk with him; to convince him that things could change if only he would look outside of himself and care more about others; to try to convince him that his gifts were given to him so that he could, in some small way, contribute to making the world a better place; to try to convince him that he already had everything he ever wanted and all he needed to do was learn how to give it away.

Then I realized, once again, how great art can be.  I had been looking in a mirror the whole time.

***

Follow Scott on Twitter– @scotylang

I’m A Fan Fridays! (Sunday Edition)

200-desertI promise I don’t mean to be lazy!  When I get to this stage on a job (Last 2 weeks of rehearsal before opening), things get so crazy I barely have time to think straight, let alone post.

But, I wanted to at least put out an, I’m A Fan Fridays! post, even if it is two days late!

This week, I want to take you to the theater stage and tell you about an absolutely fantastic play.  This past Wednesday night, I attended the Opening Night performance of a play called, Other Desert Cities at The Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, PA.

The cast was superb, the direction spot on, and the set and lighting extraordinary!  If you happen to find yourself in the Philadelphia area any time between now and March 2nd, I highly recommend you catch this wonderful work.  You can thank me later!

Here’s a sneak peak…Enjoy!

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Follow me on Twitter: @scotylang

These boots hurt my feet

bootsI recently bought a new pair of boots, and it made me think of a movie.  Okay, I’ll explain.

In 1990, a movie called, “Avalon” came out.  It’s the story of a Polish-Jewish family that comes to America at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.  Early on in the film, one of the brothers in the family gets a job breaking in new shoes for his employer.

So, the man’s boss gets a new pair of boots or dress shoes or whatever, and the brother’s job is to walk around in those shoes until they are broken in and comfortable.  The boss doesn’t have to go through any of the pain or discomfort.  No blisters or corns for the boss, just the comfortable feel of the broken in leather.

That’s what I need, I thought to myself.  I need a guy to break in these new boots for me!

But then I thought about it again.

I know what a really nicely broken in pair of boots can feel like, the way they conform to your feet as if they were made specifically for your two dogs.  The thing about that is, no one else has your feet.  So, if someone else is breaking in your shoes, they break them in to their own feet, not yours.

I have a few things in my life that I’d liken to a nice pair of broken in boots, and with every one of those relationships or acquired skills I hold dear, I can say, without hesitation, that there was a significant “breaking in” period that I had to go through myself; nobody else could put in the time for me.  That’s what makes those special things so special–I put in the time.

People often speculate about what success means in this business of being an actor.  Is it how much money you make, or is it how often you work, or is it what size roles you get, or is it some other kind of measuring stick?

For me, I just want to work as an actor and pay my bills doing it.  It’s not an easy road, and God knows my feet have got more than a few blisters from breaking in this career.  It will be worth it, though.  I’ve just got to put in the time.  I’ve got to do the mileage.  Nobody else can do it for me.

But, Jesus, my feet hurt right now!

 

 

I dreamed a dream of times gone crazy

The_Scream_by_nalissisThere’s a bit of anxiety inherent in what I do for a living.

I prepare for a significant amount of time to be able to put on costumes, get up in front of people (the more the better!) and pretend to be someone else (or multiple people, sometimes) for about an average of two hours at a stretch, depending on the job.

It’s the preparation time that gives me the anxiety, especially if it’s a one-person piece like my adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” which, coincidentally, I’m opening at The Media Theatre in Media, PA on Sunday evening.

When I get this close to an opening of a show, things get a little hairy, and I’m really no good to anyone.  I don’t sleep well, so I disturb my wife; I sometimes completely forget about appointments even though I have them in my calendar, so I upset my friends, my kids, and people I do business with; and I sort of wander around, lost in thought like Norstadt in “The Man Without A Face.”

I also have weird dreams like the one I had this morning…

It’s this coming Sunday, and it’s less than a half an hour before curtain on the opening performance of “A Christmas Carol.”  I’ve decided that I need to go out and get something I forgot that I desperately need for the show.  The thing is, I’m not sure what I’ve forgotten, I’m not sure where I’m going, and I’m riding around town peddling my guts out on a tiny tricycle I don’t recognize.  It’s not even my color.  I should have a red tricycle and this thing’s blue!

So I’m peddling around when I get a call from the stage manager.

“Scott?”

“Hi!  Yes. What’s up?”

“Well, it’s time.”

“Time for what?”

“Time for the show to start.  You need to go on.  There are people here and they’re getting restless.”

“Oh, jeeze, right!  Yes!  Uh, okay, I’ll be right there!”

“Where are you?”

“I’m not exactly sure.  But I’m on a tricycle, so I’ll be just a few minutes. I’m on my way!”

And then I woke up.

***

I’m a fan Fridays!

doctor_who__the_day_of_the_doctor_wallpaper_by_skinnyglasses-d6m4e2wIf you’re a Whovian like I am, you already know about The Day Of The Doctor, the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who.

What you may not be aware of is this mini-episode written by the series show-runner, Steven Moffat, starring the 8th Doctor played by Paul McGann.

So, I give it to you on this “I’m a fan Friday.”  Enjoy, and let me know where you’ll be doing your 50th Anniversary viewing next Saturday night.

You can follow me on Twitter at:  @scotylang

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Press release and promo video for “A Christmas Carol” at The Media Theatre!

christmascarolTHE MEDIA THEATRE PRESENTS SCOTT LANGDON, PERFORMING HIS SOLO INTERPRETATION OF CHARLES DICKENS “A CHRISTMAS CAROL” THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

Link: www.mediatheatre.org

Philadelphia native and AEA actor, Scott Langdon, will perform his one-man interpretation of the original Charles Dickens masterpiece, “A Christmas Carol” on Saturdays and Sundays from November 24 – December 22, 2013, at the beautiful Media Theater in Media, PA.

This wonderful one-man production uses minimal set pieces, relying instead on Dickens’ text and Langdon’s ability to portray every character in the story. The actor brought the production to Princeton, NJ in 2009 and the East Brunswick Performing Arts Center in 2011, to great acclaim.

Langdon will play Scrooge, Fezziwig, Tiny Tim, the Three Ghosts and every other yuletide Dickensian character this Holiday season in an adaptation taken directly from Charles Dickens’ own cutting of his famous story.

Dickens, famous as an author, of course, was equally popular with audiences as a reader of his works on the stage.  From 1867-68, Dickens brought his enormously successful reading tour to America.  His favorite work to read, and far and away the one most adored by fans, was his little story called, “A Christmas Carol.”  It was from this reading tour in that Langdon took inspiration for his interpretation of the story.

“Everyone from Jim Carrey to Patrick Stewart to The Muppets has had a go at delivering this timeless tale, yet it continues to be relevant even today.  It gets to the heart and soul of the holidays,” says Langdon. “It has been a dream of mine for years to bring this to the stage and this unique adaptation will bring the story to life in a whole new way.”

Running Saturdays at 11:00am and Sundays at 7:00pm from November 24-December 22, 2013, tickets are a very family friendly $15 a piece for every show.  This is a Holiday experience that no one in the family will want to miss!  The Media Theatre is located at 104 State St. in Media, PA. The number to call for tickets is: (610) 891-0100.

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I’m a fan Fridays!

vertigoWell, it’s been quite a week!  We closed “Spamalot” at The Media Theatre on Sunday, and now I’m in full on preparation/panic mode for my one-man “A Christmas Carol” that goes up in two weeks at the same theater.

I’m a bit bummed because I’m going to have to withdrawal from this year’s Philadelphia Marathon.  I’m sad about that because I’ve really worked hard.  Unfortunately, I’ve been suffering from BVVP (aka Vertigo!), and I haven’t been able to put in the miles over the last couple of weeks that I’ve needed.

It’s been more than a little scary the past few weeks, as this condition is no respecter of where you might be and/or what you might be doing when it comes on you like “a bad lobster in a dark cellar” (not exactly sure what that means, but it’s my favorite line from “A Christmas Carol!” Suffice it to say, vertigo happens very suddenly and with very little warning).

It came on me twice while I was on stage and, needless to say, it freaked me out.  The first time it happened, I almost fell into the orchestra pit.  Luckily, I was headed off stage at the time and made it to the wings. Believe me, nobody wants to fall on top of the brass section!  They get upset about stuff like that!

I’ve got some medication and we’ll see what happens, but let me tell you, it’s no fun at all.

So, in honor of this condition that has me spinning, I give you a scene from a classic film, with a classic score and one of my favorite actors.  Enjoy!