Monday, January 21, 2008

Essential, Kong, and on

One week ago Sunday Essential Self Defense was staged for the last time at Playwrights Horizons. Jumping in a van and leaving on tour after closing has been a great way to avoid post-show depression. Under the very supportive roof of Tim and Billy's Theater, the team of Lucas, Heather, Paul, Chernus, Joel, Guy, Cheryl, Courtney, Annette, Carolyn, Adam, Ry, Carrie, Kate, Brandon, and myself gave all we had to tell Adam's story and move people. Every night when Lucas and I would start the Overture, my breath would be short. When Joel, HEaher, and Paul took the mic for their first Karaoke songs, it was never hard as an actor or a songwriter to play my response.

So many moments, some which only happened once or twice in the run - Cheryl climbing on the table to thrash...Lucas's guitar cord getting tangled with his Rat pedal so when he jumped off the band platform to rock his solo, his guitar had cranked itself up to face-melting volume.......Sadies banshee scream at the end of Run to Your Mountain...Issak shaking his ass to the Russian two step....Guy's voice booming out to MC the Roller Boogie... when Yul actually thinks about hitting Sadie before turning her request down...when Sadie spilled her drink on herself as Issak and Sorrel kiss... when Chuck would say "It was hilarious", or on special nights, drop the comb...when Klieg would storm the stage after a Karaoke song with his "YEEEEAAHHHH!!!"

I had moments of my own. Doing Klieg's Death Metal MAntra, staring Issak down after he tells Bob Beard how to play his drums, and my once scene in front of the drums with the great Guy Boyd.

I wrote earlier that the real critique that matters is the one we give ourselves. It did not come clear to me until the final two weeks how important the word Essential is to describe the realm in which I think we were doing our best work with Adam's play. Much like the driving aesthetic of Less the band, the play worked its strongest magic when the audience felt the story as much as they witnessed it. I have not heard Adam or anyone who worked on the play discuss what I think was the unique theatrical language that we brought to the play with the music, so maybe this is my own perspective that I leave with. For me, writing songs that more deeply showed us the characters and so strongly centered the music of the play was a an immensely satisfying artistic experience. Things I resolved in myself about my own direction as a writer, musician, and performing artist during Essential Self Defense were the greatest reward.

It was powerful to perform the play on the day Vonnegut died. (Sorrel describes book banning going on in town and mentions Slaughterhouse Five.) Another intense experience that I could have done without was the Virginia Tech MAssacre that happened the day after the play closed, and then the hostage story in Texas the next day. It is hard to admit that I think Yul's words about Corporate Warlocks is already passe: The culture of fear is running itself. It was the shootist who had the brains to send a picture of himself pointing a gun at us to the media. The kind of space Adam tried to open in the play to consider someone such as Yul is being closed tighter and tighter .

On a lighter note, while Traci and I would have loved my last night in town to be spent at home with Sophia, we were both stoked to be at Union Hall on Monday when Less The band opened for Ethan and Willie and King Kong. We ate beer cheese, danced to Kong with Emily, and stayed way late drinking with Scott Morfee and Chernus.

It was amazing to have all five Less guys on stage and hitting it in concert, but in the week leading up to the show, I wasn't sure it would happen. I had asked Ethan and Union Hall if we could play without being sure what the band was up to, but certain that if we could do it, the night would be sublime. Paul was filming a movie. Chernus really wanted to go to a gala that we were invited to, and Adam was going to be honored at it, so i could understand him not being too keen on missing it, although he never made any bones to me about the fact that playing with the band was way more important to him. Chern and Adam arrived for soundcheck. Kevin showed up ready to play for Paul, but at the last minute, Paul was able to leave the movie set where he was working a few blocks away. (Apologies to Kevin). In the past months Less the band has been seperated by the great work everyone has been up to. During our set the universe truly felt to have be a little more restored - just in time for me to leave on tour with Days Of The New.

For the next few weeks I will be blogging from the Days Of the New tour. I don't know if anyone reads this but if you do I hope you enjoy

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