Remembering My Father

My father passed away yesterday. It still feels strange typing or saying those words. Not that I had a particular great relationship with him. My teen years were not pretty. But I won’t dwell on those here (I’m sure you’ll see them on stage or screen some day). I’d rather focus on some of the fun, geeky childhood memories.

When I was a kid, going to the movies was a big deal. There was not a local movie theater for the longest of time (though when the Revere Showcase Cinema opened, he took me down to check out the opening night festivities, we even saw local entertainment reporter Joyce Kulhawik, which was my biggest celebrity spotting at the time), so going to a movie was a big event. I don’t know if it were he or my mom who chose family movies, but we all went to see “Superman” as well as “Star Wars.” And we even saw “Jaws 2” without even seeing the original “Jaws” (remember the days before cable TV and video).

Eventually, movie going became a father and son thing. Though it felt like I was the one who was dragging him to them. Though he liked “Superman” I remember having to ask him to see “Supeman II”. And I felt so guilty for making him sit through “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” I did not ask him to take me to see “Wrath of Khan” (even though I remember hinting to him about it, asking if he could believe a sequel actually got better reviews than the original).

For an Italian guy, he never had any passion about movies. Though, my most memorable movie moment with my father was while we were watching “The Empire Strikes Back.” It’s at the end of the battle between Luke and Darth Vader and Vader announces (SPOILER ALERT!): “I am your father!” To which my father exclaimed: “Some father! He just cut his son’s hand off!”

My father did surprise me at one point when he took me and my cousins to see a movie called “Raiders of the Lost Ark” because some friends at work said it was like the 50s adventure serials. For one afternoon, my father was cool in a geeky sort of way.

Did the man ever encourage my writing? No. But once I accepted that this was a generational thing, I no longer sought his approval. Though, fast forward to the present, and my trip home two summers ago. Though my dad was already in a nursing home at that time, he was still a little more coherent. He was aware that they were doing one of my plays in New York City, and was obviously proud, because he told the entire nursing home staff about it.

Would dad have enjoyed GEEKS! THE MUSICAL? No. But he would had sat through it and wondered which character was based on him (this time, none of them were). He would have told all the cast and crew that he was my father, or rather that he created the guy who created the play. And of course, he’d point out (over everything else) that I had put his name in the program and dedicated the show to him and my mom.

And I’m very happy that my best work (to date) was dedicated to my father. And it always will be.

The Geeks Were Here

Years of writing, months of planning, weeks of rehearsal and now… It’s over. With it’s five last shows completely sold out, GEEKS! THE MUSICAL’s world premiere came to a close this weekend. Though I am confident that it will regenerate in one form or another, it’s still sad to see it come to an end.

For those who are familiar with the theater world, we know how it goes. You work with a group of people for a couple of months, spending long hours with them, and then suddenly, you don’t see them any more. Yes, some will stay in contact, become friends, work with you again, but it will never be the same as it was the first time.

The camaraderie of the cast and crew for GEEKS! THE MUSICAL was astounding. We were not just creating a play, we were creating a family. There was so much love on that stage, I couldn’t even put it in words.

It was great that almost everybody came to the wrap party this weekend. After spending such long hours with each other, we wanted to spend more. Even if we knew this would be the last time (in this capacity).

It is a wonderful feeling to have created a project that the cast and crew were passionate about. It never felt like just another gig to them. They gave their all both on stage and behind the scenes. And to see that they all genuinely liked each other was just the cherry on top!

GEEKS! THE MUSICAL will return, I’ve no doubt. We are already in talks to bring it to New York and remounting it in L.A. But, even in the next L.A. Run, things will be different. Though I’d love all the actors to reprise their roles, I have to prepare myself that not all of them will be available. These people were damn talented and the rest of the entertainment world will snatch them up in a heartbeat.

I’ve always believed with true friends and family it does not matter how far apart you are or how often you see each other. Whenever you see each other again, you pick up exactly where you left off the last time. And I know this will happen with my GEEKS. Because they are truly my friends and family.

The Geeks Are Here (Part Four)

GEEKS! THE MUSICAL would not work if it weren’t for the hard work of nine wonderful actors. I hate to call them the ensemble, because that sounds so (as Audrina would say) common. We call them the Geek Chorus (had it before I knew Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark had one, which they don’t any more, so the point is moot). And each one of them is a character in their own right.

Steven Alloway may look unassuming, but his voice will make you take notice of him. He is a true geek and a regular Comic Con attendee. He helped bring GEEKS! into a more modern geek-dom by adding a little steam punk flavor. And I believe we about stunned him with a surprise birthday greeting during rehearsals. But it was the first time I saw how much our entire cast cared about each other, they wanted to make Steven’s special night a little more special.

Aexzer Anthony (first name pronounced X-zer, like X-Men), has been with us since the last staged reading. His commitment to the show has just been amazing. He may be the smallest guy in the cast (sorry, Aexzer) but on stage, he’s a hundred feet tall, crushing buildings like Godzilla… OK, I may exagerate. But like all our Geek Chorus, he knows how to bring the background to life without overshadowing the foreground. He’s a family man, and from what I’ve seen, we should all be so lucky to have a family to support us the way Aexzer’s does.

Laura DeLano is not only a Geek Chorus member, but also one of our Dance Captains. One may not know that because she leads others with such ease, it doesn’t even look like she’s leading them. And I am so happy she gets to play a Harry Potter fanatic on stage, because I know she is one in real life, too. And I will treasure the GEEKS! pin she made me forever.

Betsi Freeman is multi-talented. She is an actor, singer, dancer and also plays a mean piano. During the table read in a condo boardroom, she entertained us at break time by playing a few songs on the piano in the lobby. Her energy is endless, as I witnessed when she came after rehearsal one night to help us prime walls. And she wears a monkey hat. How cool is that?

Damaris Justamante is just a darling. Her excitement about being involved in GEEKS! is contagious. She’s always sharing information she found that she thinks may interest us, and even went out and bought some comics to use as props as well as to learn what was out there these days. The girl knows he music and she’s got rhythm!

James Lui is the hardest working man in GEEKS! He has done so much to help the show. From painting the sets, to helping with sound, to printing poster for the walls, to promoting the show around town, to creating badges for our preview night– and most importantly, creating our pod cast ad and our GEEEKS! Workout video. Damn. I think he’s done more than me! But he does not bat an eye, it truly is a labor of love. Oh yeah, and he can sing, dance and act and all that, too.

Sebastian Munoz does occasionally steal the show, but always gives it back as good as new. It’s difficult not to notice Sebastian in the background. His expressions and movements are fun. But he gives back as good as he receives. A generous actor and a generous person. He was very excited to be part of the show and one of the ringleaders in making us feel like a family.

Mark Sugar is another unassuming guy who will just blow you away with his talents. The guy can sing and dance and act. And on top of that, he’s pretty damn funny. He is very excited about GEEKS! and told me he had a good feeling about it from the moment he read the script. Sorry to point this out, but he is the elder of the chorus. But we never notice, because he fits right in with the rest of us Geeks that we all become ageless.

Last, there is Peter Varvel. He is also one of our Dance Captains and former Geek Chorus Member. But since that last staged reading, I have worked with Peter on a couple of projects. And he always brings so much to the pieces he preforms. We have the same wicked sense of humor and I can see myself working with him more in the future. But I’ll need to take a number. Peter’s booked two more gigs since starting GEEKS! The boy is in demand.

I hope every single one of these folks has such a prosperous future. I’ve never met a more enthusiastic, hard-working group of actors in my life. And most importantly, no drama, no egos, no nothing. Just love.

And I love every single one of these guys.

Come share the love this weekend, March 15-17, at GEEKS! THE MUSICAL at the Write Act Rep in Hollywood. Be square, be there.

The Geeks Are Here (Part Three)

The role of Trey was the toughest to cast in GEEKS! THE MUSICAL. It was the rare case where we had three really good contenders. But I had a feeling it would be Brandon Murphy Barnes. With his wild hair and lanky legs, he just screamed Trey. He had an energy that none of the others could quite match.

After getting to know Brandon, I learned he had the same determination as Trey (but much more confidence). Brandon told me his goal was to act every day, and that impressed the hell out of me. He’s a hard worker and I know that will pay off for him very quickly.

And on stage the guy just shines. He has the sexiest dance number and pulls it off. He acts with his entire body, we watch him regress and grow. And damn, he and Audrina look sexy together!

Audrina is played by Juliette Angeli. Though I’m sure Juliette would fearlessly take on any role and make it hers, it was nice to have an actual Goth girl play our Goth girl. But Juliette’s not just any Goth girl, but one who sings in a Goth band, or rather a neo-cabaret jazz-electronica band. And they’re pretty damn good.

But Juliette never assumed that because she knew Goth culture that she knew Audrina. She studied the character and asked great questions about what made her tick. By the end she had a great grasp on our goth girl, so much so, when we suggested she ad lib an exclamation, she came up with one of the funniest lines in the show.

The reviews have already compared her voice to angels (playing off her last name). And it this case, I’d agree with those critics. I would never have dreamed the lyrics I wrote would come out of such a beautiful instrument.

With Brandon and Juliette, we really feel Trey and Audrina are best friends.

But you only have three more chances to see them in GEEKS! THE MUSICAL (March 15-17). Hurry and make reservations. We’re poised for another sold out weekend!

The Geeks are Here! (Part Two)

Tyler Koster, who plays Chip, has also been with GEEKS! THE MUSICAL since the very first reading. I can see GEEKS! going on the Chicago, New York, Boston and London, but I can’t see anybody else playing that role. Tyler is Chip. No, Tyler is not a Doctor Who fanatic. As a matter of fact, he barely knew about the show starting out, but has done tons of research the past couple of years. But when he’s on stage, he is 100% Chip.

It has been an honor for me to watch the character evolve with Tyler. He inspired some rewrites for his character, to help make sure he didn’t get forgotten by Act Two. Though I doubt an audience would let that happen.

He’s a hard worker, always prepared, always energetic. And I predict he’ll be Chip long after Matt Smith is Doctor Who. As well as the guy after that. And the guy after that…

Wil Bowers may play the bitter queen, Emerson, but he is one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met. But he does seem to enjoy digging into the nasty side of Emerson. Who wouldn’t? To be able to say what you thought and felt, no matter how offensive it was. He’s got the courage to take the booing to his character’s comments (as we saw Friday night), but he knows as well as I, in the end, they’ll be cheering his performance.

Wil has a great sense of comic timing and can really bring it out during a song. He can be both the comic lead, but then more of a “straight” man when he’s onstage with Chip. Emerson could steal the show, but with Wil’s generosity as an actor, he never does.

Wil has been with GEEKS! Since the second stage reading. He is one of the busiest actors I know, but it never interferes with the show. Like the entire cast, GEEKS! Appears to be more than just another gig.

Richard Warren Lewis plays Mel Tyler, the has been TV actor. Richard played a creepy priest in my play “Deeds” that was also performed at Write Act. When I saw that he wanted to audition I was excited and terrified. What if he was really as creepy as the character he played for me. I didn’t have Heidi Appe there to kill him with a rock! (Spoiler alert!)

But Richard can do funny just as great as he did scary. Yes, it’s obvious when he’s the center of attention of the story, but some of his subtle humor may be missed by some of the audience. Little things he’s added while in the background (most of them at his suggestion) are just hilarious.

As an actor, Richard has no fear. Come see the show to see what I mean exactly. But his fearlessness makes him the perfect Mel Tyler!

 

As of today, Monday March 12th, you still have three chances to see GEEKS! THE MUSICAL. But do hurry and make reservations. We’re poised for another sold out weekend!

 

The Geeks are Here! (Part Two)

Tyler Koster, who plays Chip, has also been with GEEKS! THE MUSICAL since the very first reading. I can see GEEKS! going on the Chicago, New York, Boston and London, but I can’t see anybody else playing that role. Tyler is Chip. No, Tyler is not a Doctor Who fanatic. As a matter of fact, he barely knew about the show starting out, but has done tons of research the past couple of years. But when he’s on stage, he is 100% Chip.

It has been an honor for me to watch the character evolve with Tyler. He inspired some rewrites for his character, to help make sure he didn’t get forgotten by Act Two. Though I doubt an audience would let that happen.

He’s a hard worker, always prepared, always energetic. And I predict he’ll be Chip long after Matt Smith is Doctor Who. As well as the guy after that. And the guy after that…

Wil Bowers may play the bitter queen, Emerson, but he is one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met. But he does seem to enjoy digging into the nasty side of Emerson. Who wouldn’t? To be able to say what you thought and felt, no matter how offensive it was. He’s got the courage to take the booing to his character’s comments (as we saw Friday night), but he knows as well as I, in the end, they’ll be cheering his performance.

Wil has a great sense of comic timing and can really bring it out during a song. He can be both the comic lead, but then more of a “straight” man when he’s onstage with Chip. Emerson could steal the show, but with Wil’s generosity as an actor, he never does.

Wil has been with GEEKS! Since the second stage reading. He is one of the busiest actors I know, but it never interferes with the show. Like the entire cast, GEEKS! Appears to be more than just another gig.

Richard Lewis Warren plays Mel Tyler, the has been TV actor. Richard played a creepy priest in my play “Deeds” that was also performed at Write Act. When I saw that he wanted to audition I was excited and terrified. What if he was really as creepy as the character he played for me. I didn’t have Heidi Appe there to kill him with a rock! (Spoiler alert!)

But Richard can do funny just as great as he did scary. Yes, it’s obvious when he’s the center of attention of the story, but some of his subtle humor may be missed by some of the audience. Little things he’s added while in the background (most of them at his suggestion) are just hilarious.

As an actor, Richard has no fear. Come see the show to see what I mean exactly. But his fearlessness makes him the perfect Mel Tyler aka Rick Winger!

As of today, Friday March 12th, you still have three chances to see GEEKS! THE MUSICAL. But do hurry and make reservations. We’re poised for another sold out weekend!

 

The Geeks Are Here! (Part One)

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, but I’ve been busy getting GEEKS! THE MUSICAL up and running. I had hoped to blog stories from the stage, but turns out, putting up a full-length musical is a lot of work. Even when you have an amazing amount of people behind the scenes and a cast that is very devoted to the work. But, I find myself with a rare free moment and thought I’d write a little bit about the show.

There wouldn’t be a show without a cast, so let me tell you about them. It’s a large cast (16 people!) so this will take multiple posts. But every single one of them deserves a mention.

Starting with Jonathan Brett, who plays the lead, Jordan. I know Jonathan from a monthly game night we both attend, but he was very quiet and our gaming paths rarely crossed. After chatting with him at another party, I suggested he come try out for GEEKS!

He blew us all away with his audition. Jonathan had such energy and presence. I swear I had not seen anything like it since I saw Hugh Jackman do The Boy from Oz on Broadway. I was a little worried that the rest of the crew would think I was playing favorites, but they all loved him, too.

And what he brought to Jordan has been amazing. A sweetness and honesty that goes beyond what was written on the page. I get chills every time I hear him sing “Powerless.”

Many people have come up to me after the show and said Jonathan reminds them of a younger me. That is very flattering to me, I can only wish I were that cute and sweet. And I certainly can’t sing and dance like Jonathan! Well out side a Goth club, that is.

As for our female lead, Kerry, played by Redetha Deason… well… I can’t say enough about her. She has been with us since our first staged reading way back in 2009! She has dropped everything to attend other readings and meetings and rehearsals. Her energy is endless and contagious!

I can’t even imagine anybody else playing Kerry. Redeatha truly is our Girl at Comic-Con. Come on, she is the only girl I’ve ever met who is a Space: 1999 fanatic! And she owns more Star Wars shirts than I do.

And the chemistry between her and Jonathan is believable. They look so cute together!

As of this post (March 10, 2011), you still have 4 chances to see GEEKS! THE MUSICAL and these two amazing actors, along with the other fourteen amazing actors. Don’t miss it! I know in a few years you’ll be seeing these folks on the big screen or the small screen or on Broadway… hopefully still playing the roles they originated in GEEKS!

Like Two Shippers Who Passed In The Night

I just read an interesting article in Entertainment Weekly about “shippers.” In case you don’t know (because I didn’t) a shipper is a fan who takes a deep interest in a relationship (or the possibility of a relationship) between two characters. And it will sometimes develop into fan fiction.

Now, I may alienate some of my geeks, but I’m not a fan of fan fiction. Though, I’ve nothing against it. I think it’s great that people are inspired to write about characters they love. I did my share when I was younger. My favorite was a novella based on the original V series where the resistance kidnaps the lizard queen Diana. It was fun writing about her getting her comeuppance. And I’m sure that fulfillment is what shippers get when they have their favorites hook up.

If I were to be a shipper, I’d probably have more unique parings. Nothing gross or too taboo (though my suggestion of Doctor on Doctor action at Gallifrey Con a few years back was not received very well… an eleven-some?). Just not the obvious parings.

What if on the original Star Trek, Bones hooked up with Uhura? Or if in Harry Potter, Hermione has a teacher crush on Professor Snape, which melts some of his harsh facade? Could Emma Frost and Tony Stark have a mad, torrid affair? Lois Lane and Bruce Wayne? Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark?

I’m not one to pass up a good crossover. The Marvel/DC ones excited as a kid! Though I never could find the 1976 Spider-Man vs. Superman when I was growing up, but the X-Men and the New Teen Titans was so cool. I see there’s an upcoming Doctor Who and Star Trek crossover. That just makes me drool.

If I were do to crossovers, I’d have the X-Men crossover with the Star Trek TNG crew. I’m sure they could meet up with them thanks to the Starjammers. I’d love to see Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four help Doctor Who solve a problem. And could Batman put his detective skills to use with Bones or Castle? Bones from Star Trek working with Bones from Bone!?!?

Though, I think it’s best that I stick with writing original things, like GEEKS! THE MUSICAL!

Geek My Valentine

There are a bunch of Geek Valentines going around Facebook this week. My favorite was the Star Wars one: “You are the droid I’m looking for.” Is it sad that I think that would be the most romantic thing somebody could say to me?

So, I thought I’d come up with a few just for fun. Some are silly, some are stupid, but some may be what your Geek Valentine would want to hear this February 14th.

For the Doctor Who fans:

Will you be my companion?”

This scarf is big enough for two.”

Fezzes are red,

Bow ties are cool,

If it weren’t for Rory,

I’m sure it’d be you.”

You’ve reversed the polarities of my heart.”

Your heart is like a T.A.R.D.I.S.”*

(*OK, I paraphrased this line from a Beautiful South song.)

For Star Trek Fans:

Saving my Pon Farr for you.”

Be my Valentine, make it so.”

Will you go on a Stardate with me?”

Roses are red,

So is your shirt,

Please by my Valentine,

Before you eat dirt.”

My heart tribbles for you.”

OK, I’m not the biggest Trekkie. Sure you can come up with some better ones. Please share if you do.

For the comic book fan:

 “Rogue thinks you’re sweet as sugah.”

I’ve got something in my utility belt for you.”

Heart smash!”

Kiss me! It’s slobberin’ time!”

My Valentine sense is tingling.”

In brightest day… in blackest night, no Valentine shall escape my sight.”

Who knows what love lurks in the hearts of men? My Valentine knows…”

Perhaps I should keep my day job and not try to work for Hallmark. Though, I’m sure some of these would have a market.

Of course, if you’d like to send this Geeks! The Musical author roses and chocolates, he wouldn’t mind that either.

 

 

 

 

 

Today We Mourn a Sweathog

Robert Hegyes who played Juan Epstein on “Welcome Back Kotter” died on Thursday, leaving behind him a 70s TV legacy, along with Vinnie Barbarino, Freddy “Boom Boom” Washington and Horshack (baby, Horshack).

I’m sure most of us haven’t thought of Robert since the 70s, when we all had the issue of Dynamite with his afro nicely framed by the masthead. “Bob Hegyes is a Real Person!” it reminded us. Real, and mortal apparently.

(On a side note, who remembers the Dynamite Duo from Dynamite magazine? Brother and sister superheroes who could control gravity. They had one story run where they take on a black hole. It was so cool. Though before that, they did Superhero origins. I still remember the two page spread for the Fantastic Four and the one for Batman. But I digress…)

Yes, I’m being a little tongue and cheek here (me!?!?). It is very sad that Robert died so young. At my age, 60 seems closer than ever before and I still have lots of things to do. What’s even sadder was Robert’s post-Kotter career, and those of many like him. There can only be one John Travolta on such a show (if at all), and the rest fade into TV Land.

In GEEKS! THE MUSICAL! there is the character of Mel Tyler, a has-been TV actor. Granted, his character was more type cast than forgotten, but he did share some of the same path as Robert. They were a household name (or face) for a while, and then… nothing. I’m fascinated by how an actor reacts to that. I’ve met a few of them at the San Diego Comic Con and the Shrine show, and there, they do seem happy and appreciative. Probably because I lead with a favorable comment, like telling Mark Singer (V, Beastmaster) that he was my childhood hero. (Hmmm… anybody making any connections here?)

But I’m sure many of these has been actors are bitter and angry. I could name a few here who I know for sure are, but I don’t want to get sued.

Is having had your career peak early so bad? How about those who never had one. I’d rather be remembered for a character I played in the 70s than never remembered at all. If I were an actor, of course.

But hey, even if GEEKS! hits its big (of course, I mean WHEN it hits it big) and I never have another success after that (again, we know I will), I’ll at least be happy knowing I had one moment of success. My 15 minutes, if you will.

And after that…

I’ll be signing autographs down in San Diego next to Ron Palillo.