Death of Brian v.1 & v.2 Seattle West of Lenin 26 - 28 June 2015
Written and performed by Ricky Coates and directed by me, DoB is radio drama meets physical theater. This weekend run precedes a Canadian Fringe tour. Friday night is Episode 1: A Zombie Odyssey. Saturday and Sunday are Episode 2: Ides of Undead March, a new stand-alone chapter! The zombie uprising meets Julius Caesar. Brian S. is now the Prophet of the Phoenix, spreading the Word of the Host. Unfortunately, he's inspiring more than a return to nature and harmony. "genius in a slick and muscled body." - Edmonton Journal. "Coates prowls the stage like a cross between a Balanchine dancer and a feral animal." - L'etoile Magazine. "Gut-munching master class in physical commitment." - Orlando Weekly.
The Coffee Table, Season 2 Internet Web Series May 3 2015
If you haven't seen Season 1, what are you waiting for? Once you do, then you can ask yourself how it is I'm in Season 2. Then you can watch Season 2 and find out what's going on.
14/48 Mixtape Seattle 12th Avenue Arts 30 May 2015
The powers that be (Seattle theater artists en mass) have scoured the archives of 14/48 The World's Quickest Theatre Festival and selected a handful of favorite short plays to run at the sparkling new 12th Avenue Arts Center. I'm excited and honored my piece Face Program was one of the selected. The night is helmed (directed) by the dreamy Aimee Bruneau. Other plays this night by Kate Jaeger, Jennifer Jasper, Keri Healey, Erin Stewart, Holly Arsenault, and Rachel Atkins.
The Orchestra Rocks Seattle Seattle Symphony 9 - 14 May 2015
Professor Odoacre T. Thunderpupple is back by popular demand! This highly interactive school concert gets 3rd through 5th grade music classes performing with the Seattle Symphony. Last year they hired me to write and perform a theatrical arc to tie it all together and the Professor was born. This year the concert is less arc, more interactive, still an absolute blast. One of the most ingenuitive school concerts I've ever seen!
POST FACTUM 21MAY15 5PM To be honest, I was quite nervous going into performance week. The writing process for me was reverse of normal, chunking out transitions moment to moment instead of flowing out the whole show. (Lesson learned: write the big picture dream and then edit.) In the end, after all was said and done, we all seemed happy with the script. Not ecstatic, but happy. That's the state we rested in. It's not like a theater production where you have a reading or workshop to get feedback. The opening of this show would be a massive jump off a cliff. To make matters worse, the conductor rehearsal was cancelled last minute, so the timing and some of the physical bits would have to be thrown away. The next day the orchestra rehearsal had remarkably smooth moments but also moments that went horrifically awry. And then we opened. It happened all so fast, honestly, I can't even remember how that show went -- the public show, the show played to real, paid customers. I know my warm up was awesome. That seemed to be what folks talked about. I think they laughed at the instrument gags. That's the extent of what i recall. The school concerts were the real test. Day one, first show was clunky, didn't have its groove, but by the second show, we found our stride. It worked! Really really well, actually! Perhaps even better than last year. The professor was looser, poppier, goofier. Without the science exploration plot of the previous year, he could move more freely and wax back and forth with the conductor and audience. The schtick was less hysterically funny, but the show needed to crank, to run forward, which it did. And the complex participatory bits worked. Bam. Done. Whew. I feel like fifty percent of the show is "written" in those first shows on the fly. It's affirming, really. They really do have the right person doing this stuff -- in all modesty -- me! Highlights: the increasingly fun and complex interaction with the second violin chair. She was fun to push the guitar on. Oh, the moment when I made the entire string section laugh, mentioning their well developed neck muscles. Hearing how Mike, the stagehand, was a superstar with the kids. "I was out on the street and all these kids are yelling 'Hey, it's Mike!'" The fourth show, not knowing where we were at, what the heck was going on -- multiple shows back to back is a surreal experience. The top two memoris of them all: listening to two thousand students sing and play O Fortuna and In C, and being on stage right in the middle of the orchestra playing Holst's Mars! Bloody amazing.
H. P. Lovecraft: Stand Up Comedian Seattle Annex Theatre 28 Apr - 13 May 2015
Instead of expressing his terrifying vision of malevolent, eldritch gods via horror stories in the early twentieth century, H.P. ("Howie" to his friends) Lovecraft expresses his terrifying vision in the present day via stand-up comedy. But an ancient evil stirs beneath the sea -- can Howie pull off one last sold-out gig before the human race is destroyed?
POST FACTUM 20MAY15 1PM Scotto's writing gets better every year. Even though the scope was smaller than his past few main stage shows, his writing is smoother and smart as hell. There wasn't a single misplaced or unnecessary moment; everything moved tightly, and hysterically, to fruition. But that's waxing. There are a couple concepts and conventions that are really unique to HPLC:SUC. First is the easy way it crosses the geek barrier. Hard core Lovecraftians of course have a field day with the accurate lore and complex in-jokes. What's truly amazing is there is nothing lost on the neophyte. Well, some depth lost, perhaps, but the humor and plot and world is as rich to the layperson. For real! The main element that achieves this connection is the character of Sonya. She is the everyperson, unaware and inconceiving of how anyone could dig this meaningless horror stuff -- the perfect vehicle for the uninitiated to connect with. By the time she's brainwashed by the necronomicon, so are the innocents in the audience. But the real amazing thing for me to watch night after night was the intricate reverse suspension of disbelief. It's set up in scene one that the comedy we are about to hear is not funny. Then the comedy set follows and is bloody hysterical. The set up is sweet, because it gives the audience permission not to laugh, but then we do. The clincher happens next: scene 3 begins with Sonya telling Howie that no one laughed at the routine. There's this weird ripple of perplexity that courses through the audience at this point -- "we just laughed and she's telling us we didn't." A reverse suspension of disbelief. The disbelief isn't that what wasn't funny we accepted as being funny, instead we are told not to laugh, then we do, then we're told we didn't laugh. Brilliant. I mean, the best part of the show is still the blood at the end. That's smart too. Video of the whole show is on YouTube.
Saturday Morning Cartoons Seattle Pocket Theatre 18 Apr - 25 May 2015
Short plays inspired by 'Toons, written by playwrights and their offspring. Rowan and I have a piece called Population 51. Other plays by the Pruzans, the Sterne/Dices, the Jorgensens, the Rawleys, and the Notis/Lindles. Hysterical Saturday morning fare! Sells out way in advance.
Young Playwrights Festival Seattle ACT Theatre 5 - 7 Mar 2015
Directing a somewhat profound piece about two gravediggers who uncover the time capsule of a couple from 1973 called Buried, by John Wojciehowski from Lakeside School. John was also my student this last year. I think ACT saw how up my alley this play is. Cast are Erick Ray Anderson and John Pyburn.
The Death of Brian: A Zombie Odyssey The Death of Brian: Ides of Undead March Seattle Radial Theater 19 - 28 Feb 2015
Part one has toured all over the continent to critical praise. The throngs of living and unliving-living require part two. See them both back to back. I've directed these solo pieces by and starring Ricky Coates. They are sort of like one man interacting with horror radio soundscape. "Ides" is the Empire Strikes Back to the Star Wars that was Odyssey! Yes, it's bloody epically AWESOME!
14/48 Old School Seattle Cornish Playhouse 27 - 28 Feb 2015
I'll be writing with the other old geezers.
POST FACTUM 080315 11AM Friday night's theme was Rotten to the Core. I drew the 4-spot with three men, two women. I had two ideas I liked equally. I started writing The Autopsy, about the dissection of a serial killer, where the elements of his personality rise up out of the cadaver. Finished around 1:00, so I figured I'd start the other piece and if in an hour it wasn't flowing, I'd rest with the finished work. Next I looked up it was 5 am and The Alpha and the Omega was done. I joked that I was pulling a Brendan Healy since he often shows up with two plays. As he does, I let the director, Rhonda J. Soikowski, decide. She chose the latter. Kerry and the cast decided to stage the 50's serial sci-fi in a static, stoic, slo-mo style. I'd envisioned it more loose and casual, with free movement about the stage. The next night the theme was The Moment of Truth. I wrote one play, but keeping with quantity over quality, gave it three different endings. Hi Honey I'm Home was much more in the style of 14/48, simple concept, lots of room for the cast to play. Still in the 50s style, but this time in the Dick Van Dyke mode, the director, Kerry Christianson, was thrilled with the piece, and the cast went to town. Very satisfying. Both nights had phenomenal casts. I hope they had great days.
Kook Seattle Radial Theater 30 Jan - 7 Feb 2015
My 7th solo show is a stream of consciousness romp comprised of entwined looping scenes:
KOOK: The Possible Lives of Jarvis Meatshed. A new loopy comedy from the creator of Vaud Rats.
Jarvis is a kook. An average bald guy striving to live the good life. Problem is, he doesn't really know what that means. The more he reflects on his past and imagines the possibilities of the future, the more he finds his world looping in on itself in bumbling and tragic ways. His own imagination becomes his own worst enemy.
Made up of scenes that swirl around and wrap into each other, Kook is madcap comedy meets conceptual theatre -- Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka. A stream of consciousness domination of a most diabolic psyche!
MID FACTUM 31JAN15 1PM Last night something happened that has never happened to me in 25 years doing theater: I cancelled a show. Opening night, to boot. To say it was due to illness doesn't give proper poetic justice. I basically had a mini stroke last night, at least that's what the doctor says. That sounds horrible and I confess is an exaggeration. I had a migraine. I need to exaggerate you see because most people have two reactions when you say migraine. If they have never had one, they look at you like you're making a big deal out of nothing -- clearly there's nothing wrong with you, you have a bad headache. What a wuss. The second reaction you get is, "Oh, I get those all the time. A bad headache." Uh, no. Now, there is a tiny percentage who have experienced the horror. There are many variations on the theme. For me, what happened last night was this: I lost the ability to speak or understand language for two hours. It was gibberish. But that's just the third stage. First stage is loosing parts of my vision, as if big circles of the world are absent. Next, a bright jagged lightening bolt strikes across my field of vision and hovers there, vibrating for about half an hour. Then I loose the ability to speak or read or comprehend. At this point if I verbalize it sounds like speaking in tongues. When I look at english words, like on signs -- "Play in Progress" -- I can't for the life of me make out the meaning. It's like looking at kanji. Then comes the headache, which is... painful. But the language thing is the surreal, frightening kicker. There's no work around with that. No performing a show with that. I've only had about five of these, once every year or two. Mathematically speaking that's about a one in 700 chance that it would strike the night of opening of my new solo show! (I have meds, I took them, they helped with the pain afterword.) Thanks to all the caring friends who rose to support me. Your concern and sympathy was inspiring and humbling. I truly belong to a marvelous community here in Seattle. Footnote: there's this little beauty at the end of the torture. For days after everything is vivid and bright, all my senses are so alive and super. Tastes and smells and colors like never before! There's residual pain too, but it's almost worth it for this ultra-alive. That's what it will be like for you when you see Kook next weekend!
MimeShop Central Washington University Seattle Mime Theatre 12, 13 Jan 2015
POST FACTUM 15JAN15 12:00PMTried my fingers at the typewriter gag, an homage to Jerry Lewis. Went pretty well, but it needs context. In the improvs I was a Kim Kardashian Moose and a Scottish Stripper in Compton.
Family Affair Seattle Rendezvous 17 Dec 2014
Jennifer Jasper's ongoing family themed cabaret is always boisterous and touching. Each night's proceeds benefit a particular good cause. I'll be accompanying Keira McDonald on uke -- hi-sterical.
A Spirit for the Holidays Seattle Seattle Symphony 13 Dec. 2014
First time performing on home turf under the MCM moniker. I'll play Noise. Maggie will play Silence and Music. Fun and excitement for the whole family.
POST FACTUM 14DEC14 10PM Magic Circle shows are pretty phenomenal. The way they integrate the orchestra so elegantly and hysterically. Such a pleasure getting to be a part of the legacy of this company. I was proud of the new choreography in Brazilian Sleigh Bells, Doug and I worked on that quite a bit, which was very fun. During the performance a cellist got up danced with me on stage, and then I got the audience dancing in the aisles! Such a rush. After the conductor chased me off down the aisle for breaking the orchestra, I knew I had em cause they called out "don't leave!" Ain't that sweet. But the real joy for me was watching the wonderful elegance of Maggie's clown work. I bow down. We got a standing ovation. In the immensity of the orchestra hall, that's a lovely feeling.
I Never Betrayed the Revolution Seattle West of Lenin 31 Oct - 23 Nov 2014
At the peak of a long standing revolution, farmers-turned-activists form an alliance in an attempt to overthrow the government. Packed with Soviet satire, this farcical piece of Worker versus State offers a fast paced and twisted sense of humor. I play General Chuchelow, which may mean either "comes from kings" or "scarecrow" depending on your social standing.
POST FACTUM 24NOV14 7AM I don't think I've ever acclimated to this whole 8 to 10 week theater lifecycle. I'm not talking about the artistic process. That makes sense to a certain degree. Though some would debate it's usefulness. Pattie Miles has found deep-routed justification for one-week intensive processes -- her deeply rich productions of full-length Checkov plays are amazing. Even 14/48 proves the viability of a shake-n-bake model. The thing I'm having trouble acclimating to is the social aspect, the temporary community that's raised like a tent and then deflated just as fast at the end of the run. Don't think I've ever really gotten used to that. Right out of high school I joined a nine-year improv ensemble, Kings' Elephant Theater. We were very close knit. Then I was part of Seattle Mime Theater for many years, also close knit. Even my solo work over the years consist of long-term touring with a cadre of directors and stage managers and such, often family (thanks Jennifer, Bronte, and Rowan), in tow. If I were a traditional actor, moving from play to play, ingrained in the equity system, I'd probably get used to it. That has been my experience knowing actors who frequent the bigger houses. But not for me. it's a shock for me today, the day after closing Revolution, I find myself realizing how phenomenal the community in that show was. Wall to wall lovely, interesting human beings. I miss them, and i know that this isn't unique to me. I know every actor experiences this now and again. I also rest easy in a way, this is really a small community here in Seattle, we won't be far from each other. Furthermore, I just realized I have a phone and a computer that is capable of keeping me in contact. So there's that. But you asked how I'm feeling, and well, that's the short of it.
Or, The Whale Stage 1 Theater Pony World Theatre 23 Oct - 15 Nov 2014
A theatrical re-imagining of Moby Dick. Only without Ahab. And without the whale. But with phones. (I'm co-writing with Brendan Healy and the Pony World company.
MID FACTUM 04NOV14 3PM It's an odd position for a writer to be in I imagine. Brendan and I were in the fourth or so draft of the play when I dropped out of the process, this was just as rehearsals were gaining full swing. I dropped out to act in I Never Betrayed the Revolution. I wasn't a complete asshole for doing this -- Pony World knew about it from the start. But when the Revolution schedule adjusted weeks before rehearsals to conflict on-to-one with all rehearsals and performances, having any input at all was beyond my reach. To do it again, I'd not have double booked myself. Not a good idea. Anyway, last night I went to the only show in the entire run I was able to see! Nerve-racking to a degree. I'd heard from many sources that the rehearsal process had it's share of upheaval, from all sides it sounded like. What world premiere theater work, especially an ensemble-driven one, isn't riddled with emotion and insecurity and knocking heads to some extent. I'd heard enough from all involved in the production as well as from audience viewers of the show that it didn't suck, so I wasn't worried about that so much. As a writer I was concerned to hear my words, my moments, unrealized. That would be sad to me. But I thoroughly enjoyed the show. Hearing my words beautifully actualized was satisfying. I commend them for raising this monster so well, with so little input from this writer. And it's a behemoth, let me tell you. But I was with it the whole time. Thanks so much to Brendan and David, the designers, and especially the cast. My favorite moments: San's M and her perfect lucid speaking of Melville's words, Keiko's overheads and fish-mongering, the sailors and lip-sync dance, especially Liza's eye-glint in that scene, the bold end to the first act, the sour turning of Bulton (well done with the character in general, Marty), Heather's Houston and canary (actually, every character Heather did), Carter's itinerant sailor, and of course Mark's Perth. There were so many unscripted moments discovered. I love that shit. What a beautiful sprawling mess of a show. Kind of like Moby Dick. Not that I'm comparing, mind you. But whenever a voice in my head went "what the hell is that about?" Another voice in my head answered, "It's based on Moby Dick, dude!" Oh, that explains it all. A lonely sprawling contained mess it was. Glad to be a part.
MID FACTUM 17AUG14 3PM When we started we really didn't have any idea what this play would be. (Perhaps Brendan did, it was his brilliant idea.) The past two months we've been writing stabs in the dark. After a massive brain-storming weekend, we'd meet every week with scene treatments, character ideas, and fully written scenes galore. Eventually we had quite a stack of content. We shuffled it, kept the stuff that made sense together, and put it into a semblance of a play. The first read at the Seattle Repertory Theater this last Wednesday went quite well. We have the semblance of a play, ladies and gentlemen. I mean we still have at least four scenes to write, including the ending, and massive editing of the existing content, but the end is in site and it didn't suck! Sometimes that's enough to bolster onward. The hardest part for me, was the fact that much of my work didn't make the cut. Some of my ideas and scenes and overarching concepts are in the core as we move forward, but many of my ideas were too abstract (performance arty), and required a show based on extreme multiple character work. In the end the piece is driven by the dramatic realism of four overarching characters. And it works. Here's a monologue I wrote that didn't fit. It's a phone call to Saint Jude, patron saint of lost causes and desperate cases. Phone rings. Jude answers. He is dressed in stereotypical biblical robes. He speaks before giving Em on the other line the chance to begin. Pleas are no longer honored through this line of prayer; nor tribulations or sufferings invoked herein, no matter the miserable state implored on hands, knees or within the venerable gabled holy structures: your pulpit is full of meaning -- ever the earth's foremost part -- where breezes fair or foul are first invoked for favorable winds. The world's a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow. And from this prow, be free to praise; but the privilege accorded me to bestow speedy help and consolation is assistance no longer willed on this end of the tether. You are absent of a secure knot, listener. I am not interested in your repentance. True and faithful repentance is not clamorous for pardon, but grateful for punishment. I care not for your soul. For what are the comprehensible terrors of man compared with the interlinked terrors and wonders of God! Peek inside the cabin, listener, for I was present upon the final dismissal of the jewish riggers; present when the son of the creator embarked on his vast reputable dispute. It was a watery region round about there, much like some noted four corners of a great highway, where you meet more travelers than any other part. Midnight, Pentecost. Present are the historically well known watch: my pristine and verbosely sanctimonious brothers, Matthew and John (Often we'd joke of our mothers -- sisters, aunts -- both named Mary; a cruel taunt by their parents, our grandparents: calling to gather water or clean the dishes, calling out, "Mary," and both like-named sisters come running! Were there not a dearth of names available that one moniker bestowed upon two maids in the same homestead be necessary? We had visions of drunken absentminded parents at the birth, forgetful of the previous naming: "Call her... Mary!") ... Matthew and John: we didn't hold agreement much. John the "son of thunder" the disciple most loved was a temperamental, spoiled, needy, social goodie-good. Matthew: changed his name from Levi as it was a Jewish name; he was a tax collector and customs official, enforcing his own judgement upon the populace at will with a smirk and a whisper. Nor Andrew the pious fisherman, nor James the less, nor the other unremembered: Andrew the stutterer and Philip the runner and Thomas the doubter, Bartholomew who was Shannon Bartholomew, a woman made a man in paternal posterity. Peter, I liked. An honest walk on water faith one minute, whores and lovelorn lost the next; an honest skeptic with baby blue eyes. He was human. We were all human. Men may seem detestable as joint stock-companies and nations; knaves, fools, and murderers there may be; men may have mean and meagre faces; but man, in the ideal, is so noble and so sparkling, such a grand and glowing creature, that over any ignominious blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes. Simon -- Simon the Zealot -- he was a mystery, a hider of his soul, and a friend to me; for I only trust a skeptic; plus we cannot choose our friends any more than we can change the placement of our eyes on our face. Simon would set back in the corner with me, listening to the watch; standing, lounging, leaning, lying in various attitudes, and smoking from the same pipe until we floated upon blue-waved clouds, laughing from our subterranean hold away from the religious machinations and contrivances. In published retrospect thin-leaved pages of posterity seem solid as the pine they are fibered from, but in truth, at the time we were twelve people reaching for meaning, vises grasping an invisible shroud. I say twelve; plus a leader, human as the rest, yet distant to us with a plight of vision spreading from his eyes like a preternatural Summer calm. Yet there were no miracles from my purview: the single plate of bread and fish feeding the masses was a simple matter of politeness from the congregation: as the plate of bread was passed, listeners saw the paltry offering compared to the vast bodies surrounding the mound and simply declined to partake; some even donated their own precious vittles to the till. Hours later, when the plate completed the circle and returned to the bearded speaker, Simon spoke: "It's a miracle." And so it was. As for resurrection: I'll comprise you to the reason Thomas demanded see the physical wounds of the stigmata: the arisen man didn't look like death, as the saying goes, not because he'd risen from the dead, but because he was a bearded stand-in who "ascended to heaven" many days later seeded with precious green gold on a fishing boat bound for the tranquil quietude of the Feegees; he coincidentally joined the same wrinkled old fate of Jonah, cradled within the gory jaws of a barnacle-hulled leviathan. History washes away all sin for the preachers, especially when the scripture commands impossible obediences for everyone else. This I told them. I implored them see the hypocrisy and inherent violence their peace would bring. The dove plucks a worm from the damp soil; does he then christen it blessed meek? Alas, no, he abrogates the morsel within its exceedingly savage beak. So did we with humanity. I attempted to abdicate; to withdraw. I deemed myself Jude Thaddeus the Apostasy. But twelve there were to be; a mystical even number insisted by the triumphant halloo. I reddened with pleading to Him, "A better man than I might well pass over thee what he would quickly enough resent." He seized me as if a gun from the rack, "Dost thou then so much as dare to critically think of me? There is one God that is lord over the Earth!" "Nay, sir, not yet. I do entreat. And I do dare, sir -- to be forbearing." He calmed a little. "Thou art but too good a fellow, Jude" he said lowly to me. Eggs were we to be delivered. And thus I became saint. Patron saint of my lost cause, my desperate case. And here add insult to my injury: In all but two languages on earth, I am confused with Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed his master with a kiss; the one who made the supreme act of treachery. All I desired was to be left in the corner with my pipe and my doubt. A lost cause. You have called to plea for a lost cause? Speak not to me of lost causes. For what is mankind but all crew aboard a vessel infallibly doomed to be dragged down into the profundity of the sea; and what is God but an unimaginable faceless behemoth beholding to no one; with dread powers more forceable than any in living nature. You see no one point precisely; not one distinct feature is revealed. No meaning to sate, as a teething toddler reaches for a shiny spoonful of mush to ease the cloying curiosity.
14/48 High School Seattle The 14/48 Projects 1 Nov 2014
Theme: The Leftovers. When i got to the writer's hub at Walker's house around 11pm on Friday, three plays were already pretty much done. Wayne Rawley had been at the 'party' from the get go, around 8pm. Do the math: three hours to write a play! Three plays. Three high school playwrights. Impressive. (I'm a writing mentor, by the way.) On the panic side of things, Amelia's computer had just crashed and she was scrambling to see if there was any way to recover her unbacked-up writing! And some of the playwrights had mere pages so far. This is typical of an adult 14/48. And I must confess, I tend to be a writer in the latter camp; usually by 11pm, I have but a few pages to show. Those are the statistics. In terms of quality, Wayne and I and Scott Augustson, who arrived shortly thereafter, kept exchanging looks and leaned-in whispers: "these plays are incredible!" On par with anything we've seen at any festival. The scenarios were varied and dynamic, as you'd expect: a dark comedy about four soon-to be victims of a serial killer chained in a basement by Duncan Boszko; a daughter's plea from the afterlife to her mother to let her heart be transplanted into the disapproved-of boyfriend by Emma Ratshin; digesting crap-food love by Frank Garland; fan fiction frustration by Nora Germani; a roommate's eaten leftover lasagna and leftover threesomed boyfriends by Meg Ruppal; a moral debate of whether to save a normal good friend or a cancer researcher by Grace Heller; and those not on a lynch mob debate the value of a masked stabber by Amelia Miller. Throughout the night, Wayne, Scot, and I would read the plays, give feedback; the other writers would take breaks to read aloud each other's work and give feedback. A pretty wonderful system, really. By the time I left the crew around 3am, the second to last play was wrangling together, and one play still had a ways to go. Some of the writers were crashed on the couch or in the guest rooms, trying unsuccessfully to sleep. The giggling, frantic energy was pretty much the same from when I came to when I went. Four hours later I arrived at the theater to continue to assist with the writers during the crucial director meeting. The director/writer parings were uncannily impeccable -- the 14/48 gods shone down as usual. Looking around the room, the collaborations were mostly going smoothly. I stepped into the role of directing mentor for Meg's play for a bit which was fun -- really a matter of hanging back and listening and asking questions to guide the director's vision of the play. And then Grace asked if I'd come to the first read after the actor draw. There was a request to do a substantial re-write on the fly! We heard the read, heard the reasons the director wanted the re-writes (I got the feeling it was the directing mentor who wanted it). Grace and I went off for a bit and conceptualized what this would mean, but then Grace told me her vision of the piece and we realized the re-writes were't huge at all, just little tweaks. She went back and told the director(s) her vision, and everything came into place. And the writer's job was done, so mine was as well. That night I was only able to catch act 2 (and Duncan gathered the cast for a private performance of his play in the dressing room for me! Amazing.) Honestly, the plays were fantastic. Exceptional acting, astute directing, the band was jaw-dropping. Thank you Walker Caplan for spearheading 14/48 High School. Well executed. I hope this festival will continue through the years to galvanize the city's high school drama students in an independent showing of just what youth can accomplish if they are set free to create on their own. We adult-folk could learn a thing or two from them.
MimeShop Central Washington University Seattle Mime Theatre 20,21 Oct 2014
POST FACTUM 22OCT14 12:00PMAside from the standard mime faire, I experimented with plugging in two loops from the new solo show in development. It peaked their weirdness bar into the red zone; didn't quite know how to take it. I think it blew some minds and fizzled some out. In the improvs I was a Scottish priest convict digging into an x-marks-the-spot treasure with his tongue, and a pregnant sloth giving birth in a gas station 500 miles from civilization. Good times. I like how they're upping the theater department game. Go team!
Legend of White Woman Creek Seattle Beehive House Theater 27 Sept 2014
This fell in my lap at the last minute. Such a transformative, magical, devastating show. Simply had to force Katie and Nick to perform it for me and a very lucky intimate crowd. Thank you so much Coldhearts.
SketchFest Seattle Pocket Theatre 18 Sept 2014
Troy Mink is doing three new characters (One is new to Seattle). I'd describe them, but you'd laugh to DEATH! He is really a master class in character work. And funny. Did I mention funny? I directed.
Family Affair Seattle Rendezvous 17 Sept 2014
Jennifer Jasper's ongoing family themed cabaret is always hysterical and touching. Each night's proceeds benefit a particular good cause. I'll be playing Zeppelin on uke, background to Paul Ship's piece about couple's therapy -- Radio is Random.
Sandbox Radio Back to School Seattle ACT Theatre 8 Sept 2014
I've been out of Seattle's locally grown radio theater for a few years. This time around I get to play Judas and a student upriser, but most of my time will be spent on sound effects! Dig it.
Performing Self Help Loop at Spin the Bottle.
Tap Me on the Shoulder Seattle The Beehive 5 Sept 2014
I saw this wonderful show in Canada last Summer and offered the house if she was ever passing through. A one-woman show about Brooklyn, Indonesia, Hip Hop, and a Death Threat. Winner of the 2014 Orlando Fringe Critic's Choice Award. "MacDonald has a way of making you feel like you're the only person in the audience, and her warm, inviting demeanor comes across in every word and live-performed rap." - VUE Weekly, Edmonton
Singing We Know We Love You at the most stunningly beautiful wedding of Jena Cane and Eric Liu.
Magic Circle Mime press shot for The Listener, outtake with Sara Mountjoy Pepka.
In the Land of Rain and Salmon Washington State Book-It Repertory Theatre Summer 2014
The Washington State Jewish Historical Society presents this staged reading with multi-media adaptation of the book Family of Strangers, a history of the lives of early Jewish settlers in the state of Washington. (On the road again. I love these Book-It productions.)
Teatro Minestrone's Around the World in 8 Stories Washington State Parks 1448 Projects Summer 2014
The traveling Italian theatre troupe that brought The Totally True and Almost Accurate Adventures of Pinocchio to Seattle in 2013 is back! Since performing here last summer, this band of actors toured the globe performing before royalty and peasantry alike on nearly every continent. Now they have returned to Seattle equipped with stories from many of the countries they visited. Be entertained by both beloved and obscure fairytales from England, Russia, India, Japan and other countries, as Teatro Minestrone serves up storytelling flavors from around the world. (I'm directing this romp scribed by Brendan Healy. Ensemble extraordinaire: Sharon Barto, Jordi Montes, David Brown King, Norah Elges, Rachel Delmar, Erin Bednarz, Andrew Murray, Shane Regan, and Ben Burris.)
MID FACTUM 16JUL14 1PM The entire rehearsal process for the first two weeks was a dream come true. Directing this ensemble with established stock characters from last year, each artist armed with spot-on instinct and directing finesse, and a desire to get physical, we played games mostly and developing the physical language of each story was a feast each day. And then the planets which had been so keenly aligned suddenly and shockingly flew out of alignment. One Sunday morning, an hour and a half before rehearsal, one of the actors emailed me inform me he'd been cast in a Syfy television show and would be dropping out, two weeks before opening. On the one hand: Damn sweet, my friend. Go boy! On the other hand, not good timing, but we'll get through. The only bitterness is the fact he didn't inform me of the situation prior to this Sunday morning. He must have known he was up for the role, on right of first refusal, but he didn't communicate it to me. Further, he'd not shown up to the previous three rehearsals. Not good mojo, sir. Advise to all actors: Don't leave the director in the lurch. Communicate the possibility of better gigs. It's solid okay, unless you pull this kind of shit. No bad will to DBK, but dude, do the right thing next time. We spent two days recasting, then decided to re-write the show, folding in an actor into his role, and deleting the other role. As crunch time slapped us in the behind, actors kept missing rehearsals for other gigs and auditions. We ended up with only two rehearsals with the whole cast before opening. Wow, to hear me say it this way, seems like this show's gonna suck. Thing is, it doesn't suck at all. It's quite fun and well done. I mean, it's a parks show about a group of disorganized pseudo-Italian performers putting on a mess of a show. So there's that. But it works. it's funny. It's silly. It's got some well-done physicality. The script is effervescent. And the cast is wonderful. And it's over for me. Uh... except I'm understudying Ben Burris in the role of Franze this weekend. Zere will be four minutes to contemplate za void zat stretches before us in zis chaotic and cruel universe!
Sandbox One Act Play Festival Seattle West of Lenin 4 - 8 Jun 2014
Thirty-six hours into a hackathon, three young programmers make an Earth-altering discovery. But are they ready to take responsibility for unleashing their creation upon history? That's the pitch for this play I wrote called iI, part of a stellar festival of longer one act plays in Seattle. Excellent director: Annie Lareau. Check. Excellent cast: Nik Doner, Sam Hagen, Ben McFadden. Check. Humbled to be on the docket with these most excellent and brilliant playwrights (goofing off under the overpass).
POST FACTUM 1JUL14 1PMI stepped into the director's chair for three rehearsals mid-way through because Annie had exotic travel plans. It was interesting to see how different the show was to how i'd imagined it, and frankly, how much better. I think the corner-thrust of the audience layout required Annie to do some creative wrangling in the blocking -- lots of triangles, and you know what they say about constraints freeing you up. It took me a rehearsal to get out of my vision-mode and be able to direct from their angles on things, especially the different character takes. It was a great experience in give and take for me, and the end result was bloody awesome! Opening night was a trip -- the physicality, the hystericality, and the emotional wallop at the end. It worked. (I saw it again on the second to last show, and it'd lost a lot of it's crispness, it's pacing lagged a bit, and the lines were less accurate. Interesting how it just didn't work as well, you could see it and feel it in the audience. I think it's easy for actors to feel loosy-goosie with contemporary pieces. After all, it's not like it's in iambic pentameter. But this made me realize how I should be less open about my words in the future -- I told them it was okay to riff on it. But that's blowing a nit-picky to a mountain. It was still a solid show, and I loved the collaboration with this phenomenal group. Thanks, artistic team. And thanks to SandBox A.C. and SOAP producers -- boy, they know how to do things right!
Spin the Bottle Seattle Annex Theatre 6 Jun 2014
Been a while since I've performed at this longest-running cabaret in Seattle. Been even longer since I've performed something non-musical. Gonna do two solo-loops, one called "Middle Management" the other "Advise". Thanks to Scotto Moore, guest curator, for inviting me.
MimeShop Central Washington University Seattle Mime Theatre 12 May 2014
POST FACTUM 22MAY14 12:00PMI like being the first show of the semester -- we're a good opener. Due to a conflict of mine, we performed four weeks in. Show was fine, but felt like lighter fare after they've already seen a melodrama, a musical, and an abstract theater piece. Also, there were no stage lights. Shows are always better on stage... with stage lights. Improv was a multiple personality disorder honeybucket designer getting trapped inside a huge poo bag vortex.
Ladies Night Seattle Live Girls! Theater 27 Apr 2014
POST FACTUM 1MAY14 10AMThe honor of participating as token male was mine again. I've always had such a lovely time at LG cabarets. It's been a while. Meghan and I sang three songs while I played ukulele -- two June Carter Cash songs we've done before, way back when, and Gonzo's song from the Muppet Movie. Lovely.
Jesus Christ Ukulele Star Seattle The Beehive Good Friday - 18 Apr 2014 - 8pm
I'm calling this year The Kitchen Sink Concert because the entire soundtrack will be performed in its entirety. Too long, you say? Too much uke, you protest? Will my ears hurt, you ask? Probably. Bring it on, I say. For this, the third year, I'll be joined by Kathie Whitehall on uke bass, guest musician Erik Vatne on guitar or mandolin, a guest vocalist or two, and even more audience participation and sing-along. (Who'll be Judas this year?) Don't miss this last year we can contain this blowout in the intimate confines of a house concert. Bring your own beer or water turned into wine. We DO know how to love him -- Sanna Sanna Ho Sanna Hey Superstar!
POST FACTUM 26AP14 5PM Where to begin... this event blew the lid off my house! We had close to 80 people sardined in here. (There was room for one third of a person more, by my estimates.) Jennifer said it felt very punk rock, the energy in the room. People wanted to sing sing sing. Perhaps too much, really. But the pathos and intensity bled through, as usual; and the full score worked, didn't get tedious on that little instrument. The guest musicians were the highlight for me, including Joe Zavadil performing Judas' death rant, and the unknown cast of Peter's Denial who spontaneously delivered that song/scene on the fly! Brilliant. I'm excited and glad for this to graduate to a larger venue next year, but I'm glad it could be intimate and special in this way one more time.
The Listener Regina, Canada Regina Symphony Orchestra 22 March 2014
Get to inflict my bugle prowess on Canada. Top it off with a dash of conducting. How's the weather this time of year?
POST FACTUM 25MAR14 10:00AM Answer: Cold! I didn't take this blizzard picture, but it summarizes the feeling of Regina in March. Coldest winter on record. Actually it wasn't at all snowy. Clear blue skies, fluffy white clouds, snow on the ground. And ice. Ice everywhere. Sara and I couldn't walk more than a couple blocks without reeling. She says it was colder in Ottowa the month prior, but when my nose and ears are numb and breathing is near impossible unless it's from within my coat collar, I say it's splitting hairs. The hotel was very nice. We spent a lot of time there, aside from partaking in some very good food in the neighborhood, including some wonderful Indian the conductor and his lovely wife took us to on our last night after the very successful concert. On another note, the place seemed overrun with bassoonists. The conductor, our contact from the administration, the managing director of the symphony, and Sara herself of course. It was like a wonderful cult. The show went incredibly well. I milked every laugh possible from the audience (Sara said). Such a lovely crowd. Conducting was such a rush. I'd been warned and trained well; during the orchestra rehearsal I found myself falling into the tempo of the musicians and felt the music start to slow down. An imperceptible moment, as I yanked back into the rhythm in my head and brought it on track. Conducting the show was more solid, such a rush. My bugle was passible (Sara said). Disappointing to me, but I played it solid in the dressing room and the next day! Alas.
Young Playwrights Festival Seattle ACT Theatre March 6-8 2014
POST FACTUM 13MAR14 3:30PMThe culmination of the 2013-2014 program, it was exciting to see the culmination of two of my playwriting students' work brought to life on stage. Congratulations and well done Duncan Boszco of Ballard High School and Paulina Glass from Lakeside school. I also worked with Antonia Sunderland, staging The Play of the Ketchup, her short play that absolutely defies description. The story of a young elf who becomes obsessed with ketchup from the human world. At times quirky, at times intense, we did a fine job bringing it to life. Antonia was astute in fine-tuning her play, and our actors were elegant-perfect elves: Allie Pratt, Sann Hall, Raymond Williams, Katie McKellar. On another note, to round out my jack-of-all-trades mentality, Annie Lareau cast me in one of the other plays, A Dragon's Tale, a fun romp inside the behind the scenes world of a poorly written kid's book in a library. Such fun playing the narrator/stage manager. Nice script, Makenzie White.
The Orchestra Sings Seattle Seattle Symphony February 22-28 2014
I created a fun and interactive theatrical script for this concert from Carnegie Hall. Audiences will sing and play along on recorder to melodies from Beethoven, Copland, and more. I'll be your host: Professor Odoacre P. Thunderpupple, on a quest to uncover simply and scientifically exactly what melody is. Great for families with children ages 6 to 11.
POST FACTUM 28FEB14 3:30PMStephanie and Kelly from Seattle Symphony have been forwarding praises from schools all over the region all afternoon. Yes, the show was a phenomenal success, on every level. Here are some comments that trickled through directly to me: "Brian - You rock!!! Took my 3rd Graders to LinkUp on Friday AM. Didn't know I'd be seeing you. It was fantastic! My class LOVED it! Even the tough kids... thanks so much." - Edd Key "I felt like I was inside something big. Like my heart was growing." - Otto, Third Grader "This morning G2 and I got to see K. Brian Neel strut is clownish stuff as part of a music education show done by Seattle Symphony and Carnegie Hall. What a treat! Brian was superb and no one who knows him will be surprised by that. What took my breath away was the program as a whole. Clearly all the kids who were there, HUNDREDS of them were a) THRILLED to be there and b) had been clearly prepped to participate. All I knew going in was that Brian was going to be hilarious in front of an orchestra. What I figured out (and Amy and Odetta, I hope you'll fill me in on this end) was that this seemed to be the culmination of a whole curriculum. These kids had learned the music, both the words and the recorder parts. They had learned movements to go with them. So that when Brian and a lovely singer created a narrative along with the orchestra about Brian's professor character trying to figure out what constituted a melody, the kids were ALL OVER it. They used terrific music from Copland (Rodeo--a personal favorite and Simple Gifts) to Stravinsky to a list song about animals to illustrate points about singing and melody and COMMUNITY and what happens when we make MUSIC AND ART TOGETHER. And the whole thing just made me literally weep with joy. G2 thought I was a little crazy. Think about all those kids, working on all that music together in the classroom and then getting to take a field trip to Benaroya Hall and put all the pieces together with hundreds of other kids with Brian leading them through. They are NEVER going to forget it. And you can't get that experience on that scale in one classroom. This is why we need to support the arts. This is why we need ART in SCHOOLS. I'm getting weepy all over again just typing this. Thanks, Brian for getting us in and making my week." - Rachel Katz Carey "His hair looked like it was done by thunder." - G2
14/48 The World's Quickest Theatre Festival Seattle ACT Theatre 10-11 January 2014
Now I'm a quadruple threat... first came performing (i lost count at nine times), then came writing (my favorite so far), then directing (once), and now I'm going to be in THE BAND! It's a dream come true.
POST FACTUM 20JAN14 3:30PMThis flurry of activity has kept me from writing about 14/48 in a timely manner, which is a pity because I'd hoped to jot down impressions while they were hot in my pocket. I've always said that the success of a 14/48 evening depends on the following: the show is mainly reliant on the quality of writing. That's number one. The actors get all the credit, but it's absolutely due because they have the hardest job -- they have the guts, they get the glory. The director's get the least credit, and deserve so much more (or so much of the blame if they don't respect and trust the script). Design can really add that certain something and sometimes even outstage everything. Wonderful when that happens. Lastly, the success of the flow of the show itself, the theatrical experience live and in your face, is dependent on the band. The band is the tasty icing on the cake, and who wants cake with shitty icing, right? My biggest fear going into this was that I'd know more than anyone else in the band. That wouldn't be a band I'd want to hear. Ha. Silly fear. Turns out, I was in the best hands possible. The musical prowess that weekend was simply jaw dropping. I got to sit back and support on uke when I felt comfortable, which was a lot really, and sing backup when necessary, and I got a lot of featured vocal and uke to boot. I'd never been in a band, and they were so supportive and understanding. Never once did they ignore or brush over or leave me behind, never once did they disregard or bruskly ignore a suggestion of mine, no matter how ignorant. Jason Anderson was a mellow and diplomatic band leader. Mariko Kita and Mazen Award of the weekend winner Shawnmarie Stanton were stalwart vocalists and musical aficionados, each writing brilliant original songs each day. Guitarist Michael Adams was on the other side of the stage, so I didn't get much interaction, other than hearing is amazing abilities. His original song on day two was so good, it sounded like it was a standard from ages past. The other multi-instrumentalists (keys, reeds, bass, banjo) were so talented, able to pick up songs instantly and determine chord structures and musical notations after a single listen... amazing to me: Daniel Chercover, Adam Creighton, John Patrick Lowrie, and Zane Smith. Though the song I wrote the first night wasn't included in the show - a Harry Nilssonesque sweet and sour ditty - the gospel song I wrote the second night was the act one closer! What a rush. I didn't sell it as much as I maybe could have because I was nervous. (Speaking to a jazz musician at a holiday party last December, I asked any advice. He said to play like you're in your living room. So I really just kept to my music stand. No show-boating for this virgin.) In rehearsal, we cut my lead-in, going strait to the chorus. The band asked me to count it in. I said, "No." They looked puzzled and asked why. I said I've never done that before. They said, give it a try. I did. "1, 2, 3, 4..." I started playing and singing, but no one joined in. I asked what happened? They said I did it wrong. So I said, how about I just start playing and y'all join in. That worked. What a rush. I had a whole band backing up a song I wrote! Dreams do come true. The audience ate it up at 8:00, and I screwed up the ending signal at 10:30, alas, but it was fine. The incessant schedule, going from ten am to one am, two days in a row, was numbing, but I'd do it again. Thanks, 14/48. (Now, can anyone tell me what it means when they say: "It's in G. Then it goes to 12, 7, 3, and back to 12"? Or something like that.)
MimeShop Central Washington University Seattle Mime Theatre Jan 7-8, 2014
POST FACTUM 20JAN14 11:00AMDrive was dicey the second night, but Rick's new Ford hybrid is a sweet and solid ride. The first class was desolate in numbers due to the Seahawks doing so well. It never reached culminating energy. Second night was sold out. Improvs had something to do with a panda with turrets, walkville, and other stuff.