Milking Christmas (2018)

Project Roles: Writer / Composer
Location: Chicago / Kansas City

A show I co-wrote that premiered last year at The Living Room Theatre is returning! Milking Christmas is a holiday musical comedy that went over quite well during its first run, and I’m nervous and thrilled to be working to expand it into a full-length two act with new scenes and musical numbers!

Many more updates to come. In the meantime, you can read about last year’s production here, RSVP to this year’s run on facebook, or buy your tickets here!

Directed by Missy Koonce & Rusty Sneary
Musical Direction by Ryan McCall

Starring Elise Poehling, Bob Linebarger, Ellen Kirk, Mike Ott, Nellie Maple, Hollis Wilhoit, Pancho Javier, Enjoli Gavin, and Margaret Veglahn.

GOP Jesus

Project roles: Actor / Writer / Producer / Editor
Location: Chicago Area

My comedy channel Friend Dog Studios released our latest video about a week ago on facebook and youtube.

I’m writing this entry in a bit of a hurry, but I hope eventually to come back and fill out the story of this project a little more, because it was a doozy. We’ve produced something like 60 public videos in the last few years, and, ordinarily, the time from when we first sit down to write to the day of posting is one to two weeks. In a few cases, 3-4 days. Not with this one, though. This was one case where our micro-budget clashed head on with our vision, and our time kept getting claimed by other, more immediate deadlines.

Each step of the process was repeatedly postponed, rescheduled, and reconfigured, to the point that we came very close to dropping the concept altogether. When you see the finished product, you may not immediately understand where the difficulty came from. There are no special effects, no grand sets, no complex editing, nothing that screams logistical nightmare. But I’m tellin’ ya, it was.

 Brian location scouting along the lake, north of Chicago

Brian location scouting along the lake, north of Chicago

Luckily, through a little persistence and a lot of amazing luck finding an excellent cast and crew, we got production done, and a few weeks after THAT, we finally uploaded it on Saturday morning, 11/10/18.

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I don’t want to spend too much discussing the thought process behind the writing. Partially because I’d like it to speak for itself and partially because with such contentious subject matter explanations often come out sounding defensive, and I’m not interested in that. What I will say is that it was clear to us from the very beginning that this was not a “new” concept. This is an idea that’s been in the social consciousness for a long time, and has reached new heights in the age of Trump. We didn’t invent it, we just wanted to do our take on it.

So, after all that, what was the response?

In terms of numbers; very good. Within a week the facebook upload had accumulated over a million views and over 20,000 shares. The youtube growth started slow but it now growing by a rate of 20-30 thousand views per day. I’m never sure when to call a thing “viral,” so I usually wait until I hear somebody else say it and then point to them as the authority on the matter. In this case, an article by the Christian Post about the video used the word, so let’s go with that.

(EDIT 11/16/18: The video continues to grow and has been picked up by several outlets including HuffPost and RawStory, and several notable tweets like the one from Mark Ruffalo at the top of this post, which I found particularly exciting.)

In terms of critical response, the majority of the feedback we received was quite positive, and seemed to be coming from people who, even if they disagreed with the thing, understood it. It also stirred up plenty of classic comment fights and a threat of hellfire here or there, but that’s the cost of being a citizen of the internet, so, no bones broken. We especially appreciated some of the more thoughtful takes on it from within faith communities, like this piece on churchleaders.com

Questions about this video? Feel free to email Friend Dog Studios at dogandfrienddog@gmail.com


Written, produced, and edited by Ben Auxier & Brian Huther

Directed by Brian Huther
Assistant DP Doyla LaCrua
Assistant director Erin Moreland
Sound Engineer Sarah Putts
Costume Designer Jazmin Medina
Colorist Cory Vetter

GOP Jesus…………..…...Ben Auxier
Sick Woman……..……….Caroline Lyell
Disciple…….......……….…Justin Parlette
Child……………....………...Amaya Tredway

Followers:
Sean Buckley
Alisa Goldberg
Johnathan Koller
Kaitlyn Nibbelin
Anne Ogden
Josh Patel
Sachi Patel
Sanjay Patel
Graig Tertulien
Marie Tredway

Special thanks to Michelle Leatherby

October Improv Specials

Project Role: Improvisor
Location: Annoyance Theatre & Cards Against Humanity Theatre, Chicago

I’ve been way less active in improv than I’d like to be lately - which is why I’m excited to say I’ve got some fun shows lined up this month!

Every Saturday night in October I’m doing a special midnight show at Annoyance called POEssession - a psedo-experimental improvised Edgar Allen Poe format that’s been a lot of fun to kick around. I think the tickets are only like $5, so, if you’re out and about in Chicago one of these weekends, come check it out!

I’m also very excited about a one time event called The Primary, which goes up Thursday, October 25th at the Card Against Humanity Theatre in Chicago. This get-out-the-vote comedy event aims to arm the audience for the upcoming midterms while holding sham of a political race that if we’re lucky might be 1/10th the comedic train wreck as the actual 2016 Republican primaries.

Apparently I need to decide on a persona and a platform to run on. I honestly have no idea what that’ll be yet but let’s find out together. Tickets and more info here.

Comethazine - Walk (Music Video)

Project Role: Actor
Location: Chicago

This was wild. I got hired on pretty last minute to be in a music video for Illinois rapper Comethazine.

The video, directed by Cole Bennett and produced by his hit company Lyrical Lemonade, shot for one day in smaller town about an hour north of Chicago. I come in at about the last third.


**EXPLICIT CONTENT WARNING**

Lots of language - viewer discretion advised and all that.

Ads, Ads, Ads!

Project Roles: Actor / Writer
Location: Chicago

I debated making individual posts for each of these things but seeing as how I’m so behind on updates, I’m gonna condense, dammit.

I’ve been doing some ad work here and there lately in different capacities, and I’m excited to be able to share what I can from that!


TOTINO’S • Actor

When I submitted for a role in Onion Labs’ new project for Totino’s, I was thrilled to see that the call explicitly noted that all participants had to be ok with eating pizza rolls. I, as it happens, am the most ok with eating pizza rolls. So imagine my heartbreak and betrayal when after spending a whole day on set - despite a solid spread from craft services - not a single roll was on offer.

Still, it was pretty cool I guess. I had a background role but somehow snuck my way into having a line, which you can see toward the end of the video. I recommend giving it a watch, it’s genuinely funny and the lead cast is great. Onion Labs is doing some great stuff. As of this moment I’m actually prepping for a lead role in another of their ads and I’m very excited. Updates on that later.


SCOTT GALIGER LAW • VOICE OVER

It was my pleasure to step into the home studio of Wayne Watrach in Chicago and see the cool operation he’s got going! Watrach Multimedia is a versatile little company run by Wayne and worth checking out if you’re looking for freelance production & animation in Chicago.

I was hired on to do VO work for two animated spots he’d been commissioned to do by Sctt Galiger Law, a firm in North Carolina. I’m not sure if they’re broadcast out there or just being run localized web ads.


PRESTIO.COM • WRITER

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My writing partner Brian Huther and I received a commission from startup Prestio.com to write a long-form ad for the web and to send en masse out to the industry.

They wanted a comprehensive ad that thoroughly introduced their online car-buying portal and explained its advantages, while staying funny and engaging enough to keep average viewers watching. It was a special challenge and a lot of fun to work out a concept and bring it to completion here. Unlike a lot of our projects, we were only involved in writing and making a suggestion or two in other areas of pre-production. Production and post were handled out in KC shortly after we’d handed in a final script.

As of the time I write this (10/13/18), the company is just in beta testing, and I don’t think a final version of the video has been publicly released, but I’ll try to remember to come back and update this entry when I know more.

It's 2018

Project roles: Writer, Actor, Producer
Location: Chicago

This Fall has been extremely busy and as a result I’ve fallen way behind in my updates. Time to play catch up real quick!

In late August Brian and I made plans for our next Friend Dog Studios release. We had a concept in mind that would be easy to produce; a list-comedy style video in which serious looking millennials held up ridiculous signs in a parody of a long-overdone style of advocacy piece.

The more we talked about it though, the more we wondered if that concept alone was enough to be worth a damn in the current climate, and whether we felt good about who or what exactly was the object of the joke. We talked about social frustrations, idealism, political exhaustion, and everything in-between.

On my drive to the KC Improv festival, a concept clicked together in my head, so I recorded my thoughts in a voice memo, sent it to Brian, and we got to work.

I’ll let the end product speak for itself.

As with most of our releases, the youtube response was mild, but the facebook upload received hundreds of shares before all was said and done. Hats off to Brian for spending something like three days tirelessly sorting through all our available footage and piecing this comedy puzzle together with care.

We shot the whole thing at our apartment on a simple white backdrop with the help of a stellar crew and cast, which came in and out for short segments throughout the day. I’m really happy with the result!

Oh and also

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, VOTE

“It’s 2018”
Written by Ben Auxier & Brian Huther
Directed by Brian Huther
Director of photography Doyla LaCrua
Assistant AD Derek Nickisch

Edited by Brian Huther

Cast in order of appearance: Aaron Branch, Evilyn Riojas, Diana Lee, Brian Huther, Ben Auxier, Carlos Rivera, Olivia Corkery Perry, Shon Ruffin, Vi Tran, Sami Ismat, Michelle Leatherby.

ALEX JONES' NEW SHOW!

Project Roles: Writer / Producer / Editor
Location: Written and edited in Chicago, shot in Kansas City

Ok, story time.

As I've mentioned in this blog before, Brian and I have resumed our work creating video releases for our comedy channel Friend Dog Studios. We've renewed ourselves for a season and committed to releasing something every two weeks at least through August, probably September.

There are a number of reasons why we've decided to do this, but I won't go into that now.

There's a big, production-heavy concept we really want to do here in Chicago. Unfortunately, we keep having to push that back because of the challenges involved in getting the necessary cast and crew.

A little over a week ago, it became clear to us that this bigger idea wasn't going to happen in time to keep with our release schedule. So we pushed it back. Now we needed something new to take its place. Something that could be shot by Thursday at the latest. And hopefully something, yanno, funny.

I had personally become fascinated with the current news stories involving "TV personality" and foaming-at-the-mouth lunatic Alex Jones. His legal cases, his de-platforming by just about every major company, all of that. And I remembered that our good friend Michael Foster had - maybe a year ago - mentioned that he thought it would be funny if he played Jones for us at some point.

I talked it through with Brian for a while. We formulated a concept. One big hurdle was that Foster was in KC, and we had to stay in Chicago. I'd have to produce this thing remotely and assemble a crew in a totally different state.

I am blown away to tell you that not only did that happen, but I actually ended up with more volunteers than we even needed. On Sunday and Monday I waded through a flurry of emails to get all the arrangements made.

 On set-shot.

On set-shot.

On Tuesday I wrote the first draft of the script. Brian made revisions.

On Wednesday I finished the script, created a shot list, and had a phone call with the director.

On Thursday, our incredible production team shot the whole thing in KC, then sent me the footage via Google Drive.

Friday and Saturday, I edited. For like, 20 hours.

And now, this thing exists.

The point of this story is that my mouth is kind of on the floor. I'm proud of myself for all the work I put in, but more importantly, I'm  b l o w n  a w a y  by the amazing artists who stepped up and made this happen in such a high-quality way, so quickly, knowing all along that we could afford to pay them little to nothing for their time.

Having friends like this is amazing.
Knowing artists like this is spectacular.
I am a lucky, lucky man.

Hope you enjoy the vid.

"ALEX JONES' NEW SHOW"
Michael Foster............Alex Jones

Directed by Jamie Campbell
Director of Photography Cory Vetter
Hair & Wardrobe by Nancy Robinson
Lead Production Assistant Dalyn Le Grand
Production Assistants / Audio Engineers Corbin Eaton & Drew McCall

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.  

Stay Chill

Project role: Writer, Actor, Producer, Director, Editor
Location: Chicago

My comedy channel Friend Dog Studios continued our new season with the release of a new sketch we called Stay Chill. We had an entirely different video planned, but were having difficulties getting the necessary crew together to get it shot in time for our release schedule, so we continued to work on that larger concept while swapping in this project for a more immediate drop.

The sketch was originally done back in October of 2017 in our live revue The Rough & The Precious, which played at the Blackout Cabaret at Second City. That show was developed and performed by Brian and I as well as our friends Michelle Leatherby and Molly Kessler, the latter of whom sat in on this shoot.

We changed up the script a bit from its original form. Swapped in our own names (originally this was performed by Michelle and I), made a few tweaks, and changed up the ending to something we thought would play better on screen.

Maybe the coolest milestone of this particular release was connecting for the first time with Chicago film dudes Doyle LaCrua, who served as Director of Photography, and Derek Nickisch, who served as assistant DP and operated a behind the scenes camera. Both were incredible and I can't wait to work with them again!

The next day, I put in maybe 10 hours of editing and it was ready for patreon early release by Saturday, as planned. Speaking of which, the support we've been getting on patreon lately has been astounding. When we returned to online content creation after a long hiatus, our numbers on the funding platform had understandably atrophied, but in the span of just a few weeks we've gained back something like $150 in pledges, and that's awesome. Thank you to all our patrons for their support and generosity. If you'd like to join them and get bonus perks, check out the info here!

Your Drunk Neighbor: Donald Trump - Space Force

Project Role: Writer/Actor/Editor
Location: Chicago

The comedy channel I co-run known as Friend Dog Studios has been largely on hiatus for a while, but we've returned for a new season of content, kicking off with a probably overdue installment of our "Drunk Trump" series.

The video is the seventh (or eighth, depending on what you count) episode of what started as a one-off joke that gained a decent amount of viral popularity. The premise is simple; take Trump audio clips and lip-sync them in character as some loud-mouthed, drunken, neighborhood menace. The effect works shockingly well, as we've found over and over again in the series, which you can peruse in its entirety via this playlist.

The decision to release a new episode of this series after nearly two-years came from a couple of factors. First, Trump keeps talking. And despite our best efforts, it's absolutely impossible to ignore the severity of the shitfaced babbling he blesses us with on a daily basis. Originally we set about to do what we'd done traditionally, which is listen through several of his speeches and select various clips. What we discovered, however, is that the now infamous "Space Force" speech gave us so much fodder that we could easily create an entire arc using little more. In addition to pulling almost entirely from one speech, the video is also unique in that it's the first installment in which anyone other than Trump speaks. We wrote dialogue for a neighbor character, which I played, who comes along to ask "Trump" to keep it down, and provides a sort of dialogue glue to connect his rantings about delusions of grandeur and space exploration.

A second reason for the release is that it serves to kick-off what we're calling a new "season" of content. The plan is to release something new every couple of weeks for a few months. Once that season is over, we'll take a little break and decide when and how to renew ourselves, basically. If you'd like to learn more and help us do what we do, please check out patreon.com/frienddog

Let Me Get This Straight: Episodes 1-3

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My latest podcast venture, Let Me Get This Straight has released three episodes, with more to come in the near future, we hope.

The gag is basically this: my friend Ryan Hruza goes off on tangents that reveal his (character's) bizarre way of interpreting the world, while I try to reel him in and wrap my head around it. Simple as that, really. And I love it. Give it a listen and subscribe via whatever crazy podcast thing you have! I dare you!

2018 KC Improv Festival

Project Role: Improviser, Accompanist
Location: The Kick Comedy Theatre, Kansas City

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This year - if all goes according to plan - I'll be heading back to the KC Improv Festival with my troupe Business of Otters!

As I am committed to growing my career in Chicago, I will abdicate my spot to a substitute performer should something come up here. But, it's only a couple of days - so unless some shoot pops up in a very narrow range - I've got my sights set on the fest!

KCiF is one of the oldest improv festivals in the country, and if memory serves, I've been performing there in at least one troupe every summer since 2014. This year, I'm slotted to perform with Business of Otters, which also happens to be the group I've been with the longest. We formed back in college. At the time (and I think to this day?) there was no official improv going on at Avila University, so a small group of us started putting up projects on our own time. We had a couple different names before landing on Otters, but the core idea and cast remains the same.

 The Otters after one of our two Improv Thunderdome wins. I think I still have that belt.

The Otters after one of our two Improv Thunderdome wins. I think I still have that belt.

Andy Perkins, Michael Hudgens, Joshua Gleeson, and I (with occasional appearances by Peter Weber) have toyed with various format specifics, but the heart of the act is a style we call "basement-prov," which is less creepy than it probably sounds. The act is just big and dumb and goofy and free; the sort of vibe that came out of playing just for ourselves in a basement. No audience, no pressure, just fun. That's what we try to bring with us. It's all helped along by the kind of chemistry that you can really only get from college buddies.

Whether that sounds like your cup of tea or not, I highly recommend checking out KCiF if you're in the KC area this August. More information on their website: http://kcimprovfestival.com/

UPDATE 8/14:

In addition to my set with Business of Otters I'll also be making the following appearances at KCiF! Here's my full schedule:

August 23rd, 7:00pm - Business of Otters
August 24th, 7:00pm - Accompanist for headliners Shrew
August 25th, 5:00pm - Hot Mess: The Musical
August 25th, 10:00pm - Accompanist for headliners Shrew

UPDATE 10/13:

I am way behind in my updates! But the festival was an absolute blast and I want to thank everybody involved for yet another wonderful year! It was tough to say goodbye.

Camp Comedy with Ben & Brian

Project Roles: Teacher/Coach
Location: SqueezeBox Theatre, Kansas City

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 SqueezeBox is a brand new space in KC.

SqueezeBox is a brand new space in KC.

My friend and long time collaborator Brian Huther and I will be popping back into Kansas City for a short while run Camp Comedy - a week of fun for kids in 6th - 8th grade!

This program is an initiative from the newly opened Squeezebox Theatre in the Crossroads district of KC. The owner Karla Deel has been a long time friend and supporter of ours and reached out about the possibility a few months ago.


As I write this, camp is right around the corner. We start Monday, June 24th and Brian and I are currently busy filling out a curriculum. The basic plan as it stands now is that we'll start with an introduction to team building and improv, then move into sketch writing, then sketch performance, and finally rehearse a showcase that brings all the elements together for friends and family.

I have a fair amount of teaching experience in these areas for a wide age range. I hope I can keep up with the energy of these kids - and I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes outta their heads. One of our goals with the week is to give the "campers" a taste of what all this is - enough that they should walk away either knowing it's not for them, or excited to delve in further. I'm incredibly grateful for programs like Christian Youth Theatre and others which gave me an opportunity to explore, at that age, what would eventually become my life's work. If we can be that first door for any of these kids, it'll be well worth it.

I'll post more later on, and hopefully have some sort of video.


Update: 7/10/18

Well, the camp has been over for a couple of weeks now and I'm just getting back around to bloggin'. As usual I wish I'd written on the experience itself sooner because so much happened so fast and the details have already started to scamper away.
 

But in broad strokes, I can say this:

 Practicing some improv with Brian

Practicing some improv with Brian

There's no video to show. We had thought that part of the camp experience would be creating a vid with the kids to post to our Friend Dog Studios page, but this was planned as a sort of bonus goal in case "we got ahead of schedule." In retrospect, that was a pipe dream. In just four days we gave a group of kids a crash course in improv as well as writing and performing sketch; nobody was gonna be gettin' ahead of nuthin'.
 

It was fascinating and hugely rewarding to get to know so many different personalities in these young folk, and help them figure out what funny ideas were already floating around in their heads, waiting to be realized. It was good stuff, too. Like, for real. Even without time to weed through a big pile and find the gems (which is how sketch shows usually work), we put some truly solid premises up on that stage Thursday night, and the students showed huge bravery diving into formats and situations they'd never previously known.

It's been a while since I've done something like this, and re-orienting was certainly a personal challenge, but I'm really proud and grateful to these kids, to Brian, and to Karla & Sterling, our gracious hosts and employers at Squeezebox. The room was buzzing when the showcase ended, and the question on everybody's lips was "Next year?"

The answer is: I have no idea.
...but I hope so.
 

Dad Show: A Father's Day Weekend Sketch Show Fundraiser

Project Roles: Actor, Writer
Location: The Cornservatory, Chicago

I'm happy to announce I'll be making my debut performance at The Cornservatory with "Dad Show!"

I've contributed a little writing and a lot of talking to this sketch revue directed and produced by Michelle Leatherby, with whom I've previously worked on Fountain City Sketch in KC, and The Rough & The Precious at Second City.

As you may have guessed, the theme of the show is dads. In honor of Father's Day, this show is a celebration and loving roast of all things paternal, ranging from the sweet to the surreal. And if that's not enough to get you out to see it, consider the following:

  • A) It's only $20, and that's just a suggested donation. You can be cheaper than that if you want, Cheapy McGoo.
  • B) There's free beer
  • C) There's free donuts
  • D) You can BYOB if you want
  • E) Go back and read A-D again because this is pretty sweet

    You can get your tickets online or at the door for either performance. Both shows are matinees:

    Saturday, June 16th - 2:00pm
    Sunday, June 17th - 2:00pm

    The Cornservatory
    4210 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago

EDIT 6/20/18: The donuts have been eaten, the beers have been drank, the dads put to bed. What a fun weekend it was performing this show! Thanks to everybody!

Directed by Michelle Leatherby

Ensemble:
Courtney Matula
Heather Meyer
James "Shamus" Jarvia
Morgan Vesper
Shelby Wolstein
Stephen Schumacher
Zach Abel
Ben Auxier

Signing with Shirley Hamilton

I'm very happy to announce that I'm now represented as an actor by Shirley Hamilton Inc in Chicago!

This wonderful agency has been thriving for over 50 years, and currently operates with a busy and buzzingly friendly staff of seven (plus interns, I think) at their offices in Streeterville. I've only spent a very limited time with them so far but I'm already thoroughly won over by what a welcoming, genuine, and enthusiastic atmosphere they create.

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They were already representing my friends Shea Pender and Molly Denninghoff, whom I'd like to thank for putting in a good word and lending advice during my submission process. Same goes for Emily Hatley (Peterson). Both these ladies walk on water as far I'm concerned and if you don't know 'em you oughta fix that.

Currently we're doing our parts on both ends to get everything updated and connected, so it may be a few days yet before I'm listed on their site, but starting now all inquiries can be directed here.

Here's to next steps and a fun future!

Amadeus: Weeks Three through Six

Project Role: Actor
Location: Colorado Springs

READ PART 1 HERE
READ PART 2 HERE
THIS IS PART 3

I'm a little (a lot) behind on this post. I had planned on writing weekly entries on my incredible experience playing Amadeus at THEATREWORKS in Colorado Springs, but time got away from me. I regret that now, as there was so much packed into each week, and now I'm far enough out that most of the day to day details have blurred together. So, I'll do my best at a brief overview, if for no other reason than to preserve what I can for my own sake.

WEEK 3

 Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Our final week dedicated entirely to rehearsals, week three started with two lovely days off, in which I got some work for other projects done as well as visited the jaw-dropping Garden of the Gods with Dana. Our friendship is maybe the coolest thing I got to take from this entire experience, and it was great to see the sights with her.

 Mark and I at KCME

Mark and I at KCME

On Tuesday, Mark and I did little publicity work via a radio interview at local classical/jazz station KCME. Thanks to our host Keith Simon for sending the audio over; you can listen to the segment below.

 Kyle, pre-tech

Kyle, pre-tech

We got back to rehearsing on Wednesday, and had two 10 out of 12 tech days that weekend, then we all came home and fell over dead. Moving from our rehearsal space into the theatre itself and witnessing the incredible design elements, though, was hugely revitalizing.

 

 

In the weirdest piece of happenstance, an orchestra was performing a biographical overview of Mozart's life and work in the theatre right next to ours at the Ent Center. Dana and ran from tech during one of our ten minute breaks and slipped inside, in costume, to check it out.

WEEK 4

During our day off on Monday, our director Kyle and his wife Emily came by the house. Mark and I piled into the car with the two of them and had a great time cruising around the mountains and enjoying the scenery.

Tuesday and Wednesday we had our dress rehearsals, and Wednesday night some gorgeous production photos were taken. You can see a full gallery here.

 Production photos credit: Isaiah Downing 

Production photos credit: Isaiah Downing 

Technically our opening was Thursday, but the overall feeling amongst the cast was that that was a "soft" open. The true bolt of energy hit on Friday. What a ride that was. I wish I could recapture it, but knowing I can't makes it more special. I leaned into the part without reservation that night, and my entire experience was taken to the next level. I think that goes for most of the cast, really. We were off and running.

WEEK 5

 My mom, grandma, and I at Balanced Rock

My mom, grandma, and I at Balanced Rock

Early in the week my mom and grandma flew in to see the show, and we spent a bunch of time on either end of the performance exploring the area. It was a lot of fun and extremely sweet of both of them to come all the way out. Later in the week I was surprised by another visit from one of my oldest friends, Christopher Sauer, who drove in all the way from KC without warning! Having loved ones appear in audiences otherwise composed of strangers truly meant the world to me.

Prior to some performances, an excellent quartet performed Mozart in the lobby! I came out once to show ‘em what’s what.

WEEK 6

By now, I won't lie, I was tired. Real tired. This role was turning out to be the most exhausting I'd ever done. The mania of it, the physicality of it, the vocal hugeness, the overall constant state of being at a "10." It was a lot. Don't get me wrong; I loved every minute of it, but I was finding that my plans of exploration during the day were usually dropped in exchange for naps and TV to conserve my energy.

My friend and writing partner Brian Huther flew in toward the end of the week, which provided a ton of fun as well as a hearty shot in the arm.

 I did manage to get out of bed on one of the last days and check out some awesome ancient cliff-dwellings in town.

I did manage to get out of bed on one of the last days and check out some awesome ancient cliff-dwellings in town.

The final lap came at closing weekend. Like the weekend before it, this stretch contained four performances in the span of 48 hours; Friday at 7:30, Saturday at 4:00 and 7:30, Sunday at 2:00. By the time we'd ended that, I was both very ready for a break, and downright heartbroken to say goodbye.


I could write pages and pages about my gratitude to everyone involved, my love for this play, the journey of tackling this role, etc. Our crowds were full and consistently appreciative and enthusiastic. Our crew was dedicated and ready to go. The cast was a blast. And of course, I can't bring this to a close without thanking Kyle Hatley, and all of THEATREWORKS, one more time for bringing me in to do this. This turned out to be a dream role I didn't even know I had. And - no joke - it's now my mission to do it again before I age out. What an enormous gift this was. What a wonderful experience. I don't know what more to say than this:

Thank you.

(Just a few unforgettable views from the cast house I stayed in)

Amadeus: Week Two

Project role: Actor
Location: Colorado Springs

READ PART 1 HERE
THIS IS PART 2
READ PART 3 HERE

 Checkin' out the Fortepiano 

Checkin' out the Fortepiano 

If you're uninitiated with this project, check out the week one blog entry here.

A couple days ago we finished up our second week of rehearsals for Amadeus, and as I write this we're coming to the end of two days off. Week two was a doozy. We worked our way all the way through ACT II and wrapped up with our first full run on Sunday, which I'm happy to say went very well!

For the Mozart role, the first act is devoted mainly to impish mania and unrestrained outbursts. In other words, it's mostly just fun. He's still playful and beaming with arrogance. The second act, however, is where the waters get choppy. Now you're navigating through a constant onslaught of crippling defeats, which produce fury, horror, grief, madness, and eventually, death. It's a pretty big challenge, but it's a rewarding one, and I hope to do it some amount of justice.

 Mark loves working with me!

Mark loves working with me!

I think the day from this week that's going to stick with me was when we first blocked out the ending. Well, Mozart's ending. On that particular day we had a LOT to get through - something like 20 pages - so there wasn't much time to stop and smell the roses. The result of this was Dana and I running through Mozart's death sequence several times amidst some surrounding logistical work.

 

What amazed me was that even though we were just kind of sorting through it, we were both WRECKED by the time it was over. Constanze pleads with her husband to stay alive while Mozart himself, hardly registering her, desperately attempts to finish his own Requiem in his mind. A selection from that piece plays throughout the scene, and it is achingly beautiful. Lying on that table, floating through that incredible piece, is already one of the coolest moments I've had as a performer, and we're just getting started.

Next comes tech week. It's going to be a lot of hard work. I feel ready. And unprepared. How do shows always manage to do that?

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Let Me Get This Straight - Pilot Episode

Project role: Improviser
Location: Recorded in Colorado Springs / KC

Today my buddy Ryan Hruza and I released a pilot/concept episode of a podcast we're calling "Let Me Get This Straight."

Ryan and I have known and worked with each other for a few years now, originally connecting through The KC Improv Company. The idea for the podcast came about when when were both in Chicago this January performing a musical. Almost all of our off-stage conversations were riff-sessions of some kind, and we kept finding ourselves in these patterns where he'd say something intentionally dense or misguided, I'd play straight man and get him to elaborate, then slowly we'd weave up some elaborate, ridiculous concept. That, basically, is the show.

My previous experience in improv-based comedy is the podcast For Serious - a Friend Dog Studios venture with Brian Huther and Seth Macchi. Technically we never quit that show, it's just been on an extended hiatus. The reason for that isn't a lack of love for the program - I personally am head over heels for it - it's just that it's a concept that takes extensive post-production time (10-20 hours per episode, usually) and we just sort of ran low on resources.

This concept, however, is the sort of thing that can be recorded in about 20 minutes and edited in about an hour, so the pressure is very low, and we can just sort of feel it out for now. The pilot is a proof-of-concept, recorded on decent mics from Ryan and I's current residences in KC and Colorado Springs, respectively.

Let me know what you think! We'd love to make more.

Amadeus: Week One

Project role: Actor
Location: Colorado Springs

THIS IS PART 1
READ PART 2 HERE
READ PART 3 HERE

Something I've been gleefully and nervously anticipating for the past couple of months is finally underway. My friend and fellow KC expatriate Kyle Hatley called me unexpectedly a while back to offer me the role of Mozart in an upcoming production of Amadeus by Peter Shaffer. The show is at THEATREWORKS in Colorado Springs where I'd be housed and well taken care of, he said.

Once I'd picked my jaw up off the floor and said yes, he went to check on some Equity stuff to make sure the whole thing would be union compliant, and I basically didn't breathe until a couple days later when he called back with the confirmation.

  Pikes Peak after a day of snow, as seen from the theatre.

Pikes Peak after a day of snow, as seen from the theatre.

So, here we are. In a gorgeous mountain town with an incredible new performing arts center, rehearsing one of my favorite plays. Depending on how you look at it, Mozart is either a sort of co-lead or secondary lead. The story centers around him, but it is told through the eyes of fellow Vienna composer Antonio Saliere, a part played here by KC acting great Mark Robbins, who is making us all look bad. Seriously, I don't remember the last time I saw an actor come in so thoroughly and perfectly prepped for such a massively demanding role.

  Table read at the first rehearsal on Tuesday.

Table read at the first rehearsal on Tuesday.

My wife Constanze is played by the fantasticly talented Dana Omar, a fellow Chicago-based actor. The three of us are all currently living in the (top-notch) cast house provided by the theatre, and I consider myself immensely lucky to be working with and seeing them both on a regular basis. The rest of the cast are local actors (listed below!) whom I've just had the pleasure of meeting in the last few days, and I'm constantly being wowed by their hard work and incredible skill. I've got some hardcore impostor syndrome goin' on right now, this is a hell of a group to be accepted into.

There's so, so much I could write about, so I'll try to keep my thoughts organized and split this into multiple entries as the process goes on. At the moment we've just finished week one, and I've been spending the day getting some rest. We covered the first act at a breakneck pace this week in Kyle's capable and energetic hands. I am having an absolute blast. Mozart (as depicted here, and, probably in reality) is a capricious, spoiled, ego-maniacal, eccentric, fiery, silly, genius little man-child. He gets the whole spectrum of emotional experience in his arc, and it's honestly difficult to find a choice that's "too weird" when playing around with him. Not that that's gonna stop me from trying.

  Definitely a painting and not a hastily taken selfie during a promotional shoot.

Definitely a painting and not a hastily taken selfie during a promotional shoot.

The main difficulty I've had thus far is just the sheer volume of possible avenues to pursue. Dozens if not hundreds of books have been written about the guy, a full playlist of his recorded music is over TWO WEEKS long, and a google search for "Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart" turns up just shy of 2 million results. And none of that is to even mention the storied history of the play (/film) itself. It's an embarrassment of riches, but, unfortunately, there's only so much time before that curtain opens, so I've had to be choosy about what to focus on, and what to explore, both onstage and off.

Tomorrow, we dive into ACT II, which is where things really start to fall apart for Amadeus. It's gonna be a challenge for sure, but I'm so, so grateful to be surrounded by a director, crew, and cast that are so generous, so encouraging, and so thoroughly capable. I'm literally figuratively pinching myself; I don't know how I got so damn lucky.

The full team for the show is listed below. If you're in the area or would like to be (it's beautiful here, come take an affordable little vacation!) check out the website for tickets and more info. 



CAST:
Mark Robbins - Antonio Salieri
Ben Auxier - Wolfgang A. Mozart
Dana Omar - Constanze Weber
Jennifer DeDominici - Joseph II
Bob Morsch - Johann K. Von Strack
David Hastings - Count Orsini-Rosenberg
Tom Paradise - Baron Van Swieten
Monica J. Thompson - Katherina Cavalieri/Ens.
Erica Erickson - Teresa Salieri/Ens.
Kara Carroll - Salieri’s Cook/Ens.
Hossein Forouzandeh - Salieri’s Valet/Ens.
Marisa D. Hebert - Venticelli I
Sammie Joe Kinnett - Venticelli II
Omid Harrison - Major Domo/Priest
Steve Wallace - Bonno

ARTISTIC TEAM:
Kyle Hatley - Director
Jack Magaw - Scenic Designer
Maggie Armendariz - Asst. Scenic Designer
Stephanie Bradley - Costume Designer
Amanda Zieve - Lighting Designer
Joseph Concha - Sound Designer
Kristen Wickersheim - Stage Manager
Lauren Duggin - Props Master
Alex Williams - Asst. Stage Manager

(READ WEEK 2's BLOG ENTRY HERE)

A Brief History of April Fools' Day

Project roles: Actor, Writer, Graphic Designer
Location: Chicago, w/input from Kansas City

Friend Dog Studios emerged for a moment from our video-producing hiatus to present A History of April Fool's Day, a totes wrong mini-documentary that of course went live on April 1st, 2018.

Originally the concept was to present it as some sort of Ken Burns historical doc - maybe even faintly believable at first - to lull unsuspecting facebook scrollers into a false sense of education before releasing it was another dumb joke. But as it developed, we started favoring a more absurdist, rapid-fire approach, as we usually do.

Brian, Seth, and I sussed out the script over the course of a few writing sessions, with Seth phoning in from KC. Our biggest problem was narrowing down the ideas; this being a list-comedy video, the concepts kept coming, and we had to kill a few darlings to keep it under 3:00 like we prefer.

Once we had the script, Brian and I recorded VO (directing each other in turn), then I gathered up/created graphic resources and handed them over to Brian for editing while I skipped town to head to Colorado Springs.

This video is real dumb. But I like it a lot. I hopes you does too.

Gann Asphalt & Concrete Ad

Project role: Actor
Location: Recorded in Chicago, Animated in Colorado Springs

A few weeks ago my friend Jeremiah England invited me to send over a VO audition for some character work he needed on a client's project. His company, Sound & Shadow, based out of Colorado Springs / Denver, produces a variety of videos for clientele.

I play both "Pothole" and "Sidewalk" in the animated spot, which was fun and easy to contribute. I simply recorded the audio using a basic rig at my apartment in Chicago and sent it over, going back and forth a few times for notes and redirects. 

In the weirdest coincidence, as I type this I'm actually in Colorado Springs myself for something utterly unrelated (much more on that soon.) Ya never know where the next gig will come from!

Thanks to everyone at Sound & Shadow for having me on!