Kansas City

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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.

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.

Along the Line

Project role: Contributing Writer
Location: Written in Chicago, performed in KC

As I type this the cast and creative team behind Along the Line are celebrating their closing night in Kansas City. I myself am still in Chicago so I can't join in the fun, but I was very happy to be given the opportunity to contribute two micro-plays to the project.

Along the Line is a new play festival produced by KC's Heidi Van. The festival, now in its third year, serves as a sort of sample of a moment in time - with 75 plays (1 minute or less apiece) showcasing thoughts, hopes, fears, messages, and jokes from the minds of a large cross-section of writers.

This year's theme concerned the future; imagining what it might be, what we might like it to be, etc. Tasked with setting two short vignettes 10, 100, or 1000 years from now, I had a hard time avoiding sci-fi, but I came up with a couple of avenues to express sci-fi ideas that I hope will land well; one a sort of silly slap in the face, the other more tender. I'm told an archival video was taken so I greatly look forward to seeing the mosaic of work produced for the show. Thanks to Heidi and the festival for inviting me to join in!

 A snapshot from my 1 minute play "Reset." Image courtesy of Emma Carter

A snapshot from my 1 minute play "Reset." Image courtesy of Emma Carter

Kiss & Tail 2018

Project role: Writer
Location: Written in Chicago, performed in KC

Kiss & Tail is an annual Valentine's event at the Kansas City Zoo. As far as I can tell it's been going on since 2012; an adults-only evening of wining, dining, and entertainment.

In 2015 my writing partner Brian and I were commissioned by the KC Zoo (or rather, by The Living Room Theatre, which was producing) to write a new show for the presentation part of the evening. In years past, an expert biologist would give a talk about the weird and interesting mating habits of various animals, and the organizers felt that it was time to up the spectacle a bit.

So, in January of 2015 we got down to writing a 45 minute play about animal sex. Play is the wrong word, it was really a series of sketches with a simple through-line for the narrator and his love interest. I grew increasingly concerned about what might happen if someone stumbled onto my google history around this time (how many times can I look up "elephant penis" before I'm put on some kind of watch list?), but the end result worked. Unfortunately, neither of us could be there for the performance, but all reports say it went over great - and they probably weren't lying, because they've had us back to write a new version each year since.

 A rehearsal for the 2015 version.

A rehearsal for the 2015 version.

All the media in this post is from the first two runs of the show (2015, 2016), but there have now been four versions total. The first three years we did some recycling; keeping a few sketches that went over big the previous year, replacing a few others. This time, however, the zoo specifically requested a 100% original script. They're noticing a lot of repeat customers, and they want to ensure that no one is bored by material they've already seen. So, with that in mind, we sat down in our Chicago apartment and churned out an all new half hour featuring everything from dance competitions to mooching angler fish to exploding bumblebee testis. The script is now in the hands of director Missy Koonce and her stellar cast, preparing for the big performance on February 10th.

 Victor Raider-Wexler, Seth Macchi, Amy Attaway, and Ryan Hruza rehearsing in 2015.

Victor Raider-Wexler, Seth Macchi, Amy Attaway, and Ryan Hruza rehearsing in 2015.

The cast and creative team has changed every year, with a few repeat offenders returning to their roles. The Living Room has signed some top notch talent to this thing every time, and this year is no exception. In addition to our perfectly bombastic director / narrator Missy Koonce, the show will be performed by Donovan Woods, Sebastian Smith, Damian Blake, Emmy Panzika, Missy Fennewald, and Molli McCulley. Each will be playing a wide variety of animals in an eclectic script that we tried our damndest to keep...possible.

Unfortunately, I won't be in town to see it performed, as I'll be here in Chicago doing our musical Lefty & Crabbe. In fact, I've never actually been able to see it, weirdly enough. But I want to wish everybody all the broken legs, and apologize in advance to whomever has to do the penis fight in the flatworm sketch.

If you'd have asked me upon graduating college if I ever thought I'd get paid to write infotainment comedy, I'd say, "What kind of a question is that? How did you get here?" But weirdly enough, this has become something of a pattern. Four zoo shows, something like 40 Did You Know videos, and a history show called Slant KC, which, incidentally, might be getting a revamp this year. I'll take it! It's fun AND I get good and learned!

Huge thanks to both The Living Room Theatre and the Kansas City Zoo for this ridiculous and wonderful gig. 

Tickets and more information here.

Milking Christmas: A New Musical

Project role: Co-Writer/Co-Composer/Actor
Location: Written all over the place, performed in Kansas City

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2017 is over and I am officially tired. Somehow, against all odds and reasonable medical advice, my collaborators and I managed to squeeze out a second full-length musical before the year was over. It's hard to know where to begin with this one, so bear with me as I hit ya with some background.

The whole thing started as sort of a joke during late night conversations toward the end of the run of our first musical, The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe. Brian and I had recently watched a fascinatingly awful Christmas movie in the form of an MST3K episode and we were so intrigued by it that we started musing about turning that into our next piece. Then the idea of writing a Christmas show became less of a joke. And Seth got on board. And Ryan (composer/musician extraordinaire) got on board. And the artistic director of the theatre got on board. And then our fate was sealed.

It started with a couple of brainstorming meetings. We really had no idea where we were headed other than "Christmas." We quickly scrapped the bad movie concept, though one or two elements from it made their way into the final piece. By the end of the two days, we had a core concept.

The story would take place in Christmastown. That much we knew. North Pole, Santa's village, sleigh, reindeer, the whole nine yards. In addition to the standard cast, we wanted to use figures that would be recognizable as Christmas characters, but that didn't get featured a lot. The 12 Days of Christmas turned out to be a goldmine. Lords-a-Leaping? Ladies Dancing? Who the hell were these people? We had loads of fun figuring out how to weave them in. We'd landed on one of the eight "Maids-a-Milking" as our protagonist; it felt like kind of a perfect choice. Milk Maid is an inherently low status character, a great place to start for a hero, and it seemed unexpected but not out of place. We knew that this Maid (eventually dubbed "Macey") would make a troubling discovery about Christmastown, and have to fight to save the day.

 White board from one of the first writing sessions.

White board from one of the first writing sessions.

I hesitate to say more because we hope to stage the show again, and I hate to spoil my own stuff. I'll just say that we landed on the title Milking Christmas for three reasons: 1) Milk maid protagonist 2) Themes of exploitation of the holiday and 3) A wink to the fact that that's exactly what we were doing by putting up this show.

The writing process was a bizarre beast. Following the close of Lefty and Crabbe, we had to shelve this project for a bit to get other things done. By the time we refocused, we had about 3 months, in 3 different states, to put together a full script and score.  Brian Huther and I worked from Chicago. Seth Macchi had recently moved to New York. And Ryan McCall and producers Rusty Sneary and Shawnna Journagan were in KC. Thank god for google docs.



 

 Writing session from 3 different states.

Writing session from 3 different states.

Once Brian and I, and later Seth, got back to KC, it was really crunch time. We'd have full day sessions with Ryan tying up musical loose ends and finishing numbers, then we'd retire to the building's basement and work a few more hours on book revisions. Lather, rinse, repeat.
 

Since this was such an infant of a piece, we were still playing and writing and adjusting basically up till tech week, which I'm sure caused no shortage of headaches. Luckily, there was an amazingly talented and supportive team on this show remarkably adept at punch-rolling. All four of us writers were in the show (Ryan on keys, though often throwing in a line or an animal sound). Was this a good idea? I dunno, but it was a hell of a ride. Seth had originally planned on being in New York during the run but stepped into the cast last minute to fill a vacated spot.

 A production meeting midway through rehearsals.

A production meeting midway through rehearsals.

I could churn out two dozen more paragraphs on this from a writing standpoint, but none of that is as important as the incredible people that really made this thing happen. Rusty and Shawnna at The Living Room, as usual, demonstrated unconditional support, absurd amounts of trust, and ingenious leadership and flexibility in bringing a really odd vision to life. Our incredible director, a Kansas City legend and self-proclaimed Director-of-All-The-Plays, Missy Koonce, pulled a sort of triple duty as set designer and choreographer, which makes me tired just writing it.

I won't gush about each artist individually because this post is already too long, but they are all listed at the close, and suffice it to say that their professionalism, drive, and willingness to go the extra mile for a yet thoroughly unproven idea was tremendously humbling, and I owe these folks a lot.

So - how did it go?

Our goal, as writers, was to have the show go off well enough that we left saying "Yes, we'd like to keep working on this." I think we certainly achieved that. It was a crazed and wonderful first stab - thanks in no small part to the commitment of the actors - and we're already brimming with notions of how to make it better. Some nights, the response was subdued chuckles and warm smiles. Some nights, it was wall-to-wall hysteria. That's fairly typical for a comedy in my experience; there's no telling what the energy's gonna be. But I don't think any crowd left feeling disappointed. And boy did they show up! About a week before it even closed, Milking Christmas officially became the highest selling show on record in the history of The Living Room.

It was well reviewed, well enjoyed, and maybe most importantly for my selfish ass, a wonderful time. A Christmas "cheers" to all of you, team. I love you, I miss you, and this is one holiday season I'll never forget.


Milking Christmas: A New Musical
Book and lyrics by Brian Huther, Ben Auxier, and Seth Macchi
Music by Ryan McCall, Brian Huther, and Ben Auxier

World premiere: The Living Room Theatre, December 2017
Director/choreographer Missy Koonce
Musical director Ryan McCall

CAST
Elise Poehling.............Macey Maid-a-Milking
Bob Linebarger..........Santa Claus
Seth Macchi................Chris Claus
Ellen Kirk......................Mrs. Claus/Masha/Carol Jolly
Mike Ott........................Jingle B. Elf/Ginger/General Sparkleshine/Lord 1
Nellie Maple.................Citizen Cane/Lt. Puddings/Mildred/Holly Hunter/Lord 3
Brian Huther.................Clyde/Mandy/Lord 2
Ben Auxier....................Krampsnickle/The Christmas Mole/Mike
Margaret Veglahn......Mildred/Toy Soldier
Andrew Stout...............Coal Miner/Toy Soldier/Mika/Lord
Cam Burns....................Coal Miner/Toy Soldier/Mary

Stage management: Lacey Pacheco
Regina Wellner
Emmy Panzica
Shawnna Journagan
Costume designer Nancy Robinson
Lighting design Nicole Jaja
Stage carpenter Kyle Dyck
Scenic artist Regina Wellner
Properties by Shawnna Journagan
Artistic director Rusty Sneary
 

No Sleep November 2017

Project role: Actor / Host
Location: Kansas City, MO

No Sleep November is an annual tradition at The Living Room Theatre. It's a 24 hour play writing event and it goes like so: a handful of playwrights are featured. Each one is grouped with a few actors and a production assistant through a series of draft picks and challenges. Each is also issued a few elements that must be incorporated into their work: a prop, a line of dialogue, and a costume piece. 24 hours later, a brand new 10 minute play from each writer will be performed for the public in a one-time-only showcase.

It's a play festival meets a lock-in, and it's delirious fun. The expansive four floor building that comprises TLR provides housing for a bustling mob of 35+ artists and administrators to develop, rehearse, design, and tech their new works. Also sleep, occasionally, though that's far from guaranteed.

The results of this venture are often hilarious, often touching, and always innovative. The immediacy and live-wire sensibility of the show gives both the artists and the audience a sense of being plugged into something unique and exciting.

 The wonderful Curtis Smith and I starred alongside Diane Bulan in "Alamo Love"

The wonderful Curtis Smith and I starred alongside Diane Bulan in "Alamo Love"

As I was already in KC to work on our new musical Milking Christmas, I was excited to get another chance to hop into NSN. This was my third time as an actor for the event and second time as host. I was also a writer one year, but I prefer not to talk about that, as it broke my entire brain. This time around, Rusty and I had fun coming up with new drafting techniques, and I got to play one of my wheel-house characters (the dry and baffled straight man) in a funny, visceral piece by the one and only Ron Simonian, who is maybe the most prolific writer in KC. Big thanks to everyone involved - I think this was the best year yet!

If you live in KC, be sure to check out the next No Sleep November at The Living Room Theatre. It's a night you'll never forget - and a little secret you get to be in on.

The Kansas City Improv Festival

Project role: Improviser
Location: Kansas City, MO

 Pictured: a KCiF sponsor, 3 members of Business of Otters, a 4th guy who looks vaguely like me but is not, in fact, me.

Pictured: a KCiF sponsor, 3 members of Business of Otters, a 4th guy who looks vaguely like me but is not, in fact, me.

It was an absolute pleasure to return to my stomping grounds at the Kick Comedy Theater in KC for the 17th Kansas City Improv Festival!

The festival, produced each year by the KC Improv Company, takes place over two jam-packed weekends and features prominent improv acts from all over Kansas City and throughout the U.S., as well as specialized workshops and of course, great after-parties. Despite being (allegedly?) based in Chicago now, I couldn't resist popping in for a couple of shows with two groups that got accepted to perform.

On Friday, August 18th I played with Business of Otters (Andy Perkins, Michael Hudgens, Joshua Gleeson, and myself.) The otters are basically a quartet of college buddies, and when we take the stage together to indulge in what we call "basement-prov" (so named because it originated in inebriated basement shows for no audience), the result is a racing, absurd, joyously stupid time. We've actually won a couple KC competitions despite rarely having any idea what we're trying to do.

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We don't get many chances to perform together these days - in fact, this was the first set we'd done since the last annual festival - but once we sat down and started talking, it took no time at all for the old sparks to fly again. The set can be viewed here (time code 21:37). It made very little sense, conveyed nothing of importance, broke several improv rules, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

 Kate not included in this picture because she wasn't in the group yet when I made it and I am lazy.

Kate not included in this picture because she wasn't in the group yet when I made it and I am lazy.

Then on Saturday I returned to play with Breakspeare, a novel little group consisting of myself, Tim Marks, Kate Haugan, and Dave Martin. Every Breakspeare show to date has featured some combination of 3 out of 4 of us, this time it was Dave who sat out. The format is somewhat difficult to explain, ya kinda have to see it. But I'll try anyway. One player speaks in modern American English while the other two maintain a Shakespearean style of dialogue throughout. The set is divided into several unconnected scenes, each of which takes place within a genre of film or television, as submitted by the audience before the start of the show.

 Crowd for the Saturday show at The Kick Comedy Theater

Crowd for the Saturday show at The Kick Comedy Theater

In short, it's the hardest improv I've ever done in my life. The only way I can think to make it more challenging would be to layer music over top, but that makes my head spin so don't tell Tim I even mentioned it. The festival set was a lot of fun and really well received! Tim and Kate are two of the greatest improvisers I've ever had the pleasure of working with and I was so, so happy to get another chance to tackle this mixed-up style. Video of the set can be viewed here (we go up first after a brief intro.)

If you're in KC, I highly suggest checking out the KC Improv Festival next time it pops up. It's a well-curated fest that won't waste your time, and is guaranteed to introduce you to something new in the improv world. If you're part of a troupe from anywhere at all, submit for next year! You won't regret it.

 

Making a Masterpiece: Part 1

Project roles: Improviser / Editor
Location: Show in Kansas City, edited in Chicago

After a hiatus of about three months to focus on stage work, my comedy channel Friend Dog Studios has returned to creating patreon funded online content! Making a Masterpiece premiered on our facebook and youtube pages this morning, and I tell ya what, it feels good to be back.

We took a premise based, no-script approach to the production of this one. While still in Kansas City shortly after the closing of our musical, we co-opted The Living Room stage and essentially improvised for about two hours while Director of Photography Joe Carey rolled camera. The result was a hilarious mess that I've been picking through from my editing bay for the last few days, ultimately forming the experience into a multi-episode story arc about three colorful playwrights.

I think there will probably be three episodes in all. Look for the next one to premiere in a couple of weeks.

The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe

Project role: Co-Writer / Co-Composer / Music Supervisor
Location: Kansas City, MO

"Playwrights Ben Auxier, Brian Huther, and Seth Macchi have put together an absolutely enjoyable evening at the theater. Dialogue is tight. The jokes are funny."
- Alan Portner, Broadway World

I don't even know how to begin writing about this. This has been one of the single greatest experiences of my life, both professionally, and personally.

The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe is a musical comedy that began its life as a 55 minute piece in the 2015 Kansas City Fringe Festival. I co-wrote it alongside my Friend Dog Studios collaborators Brian Huther and Seth Macchi, and the response we received was so wonderfully positive that we all came away knowing we weren't done.

Rusty Sneary and Shawnna Journagan at The Living Room theatre produced that fringe original as well as this new, expanded version. Their trust and support have been absolutely integral to the existence of this piece; it simply wouldn't be around without them, and I'll never be able to thank them enough for that.

 A poster design I created for the show.

A poster design I created for the show.

So, sentimental blubbering aside, what is this show? The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe is the story of a comedy duo who find themselves down on their luck as the vaudeville circuits die and give way to the early popularity of film. Determined to stay in the entertainment business they love so dearly, the two follow a fast-talking agent to Hollywoodland, and are soon dizzy from the rapidly changing industry landscape around them.

The show is lightning quick, blissfully silly, 100% heartfelt, and designed to be a piece of pure entertainment. In many ways, it's a simple show, but in many others, it is fiercely and fascinatingly challenging, and I couldn't possibly have asked for a better team to pull it off. The casting consists of Lefty (Michael Hudgens) and Crabbe (Seth Macchi), surrounded by an ensemble of six actors (Brian Huther, Molly Denninghoff, Mike Ott, Ellen Kirk, Joshua Gleeson, and Elise Poehling) who portray some 46 additional characters throughout the show.

The piece was directed by Rusty Sneary of The Living Room, with choreography by Kyra Weinberger, costume design (no small undertaking here) by Nancy Robinson, lighting design by Lacey Pacheco, and dashes of sound design by David Kiehl. A very special kudos to the stage management team as well - led by Ellyn Calvert - who juggled more elements than I could possibly count in a stunningly flawless manner. I could go on and on about this cast and creative team, but there's too much to cover, so I'd invite you to read the reviews (below) to hear more about the incredible fruits of their labor.

One of the best things to come out of this experience was a new partnership with musician Ryan McCall, who acted as both our music director and our arranger, converting our chords and melodies into fully-fleshed out numbers that are better than I ever could have hoped. Ryan had to leave the production as accompanist after the first week, replaced by the incredible Eryn Bates, but we at Friend Dog Studios know we want to work with him again, and in fact are already getting started on our next collaboration!

"The writers and actors won me over with the sheer joy of performing and love of theater. And that’s something you can’t fake. The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe is part of the Living Room’s mission to produce original work by local or expatriate artists. Other theater companies should take note. I suspect this show has a future."
- Robert Trussell, KC Studio

"Playwrights Ben Auxier, Brian Huther, and Seth Macchi have put together an absolutely enjoyable evening at the theater. Dialogue is tight. The jokes are funny."
- Alan Portner, Broadway World

"The team is also able to tap into some kind of immediacy — whether it’s the small theater, the local talent or the 1920s nostalgia — that makes this production something to savor. (And don’t forget to stay for the post-curtain call sequence.)"
- Christine Pivovar, The Kansas City Star

"The heartfelt performances and unbridled silliness add up to an affectionate evening of escapism. The Ballad of Lefty and Crabbe is the stage equivalent of a summer blockbuster..."
- Liz Cook, The Pitch

"Hudgens and Macchi absolutely carry the show with their singing and acting. They are a joy to watch. The interaction and camaraderie amongst the cast sends electricity to the audience. ★★★★★"
- Bob Evans, KC Applauds

Hamlet: From the Page to the Stage

Project role: Actor
Location: Kansas City, MO

I was honored to take part in Hamlet: From the Page to the Stage, a presentation that was part of The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival's 25th Anniversary celebration in Kansas City.

Veteran British director and master acting teacher Ian Wooldridge waxed artistic on the soliloquies of Hamlet, intermingled with performances of said soliloquies from local talent Nicole Marie Green and myself. I'd like to thank Mr. Wooldrige and the festival for inviting me to be a part of it! 

Below is audio of the entire event, courtesy of the KC Library.

 Nicole Green, Ian Wooldridge, and myself. All photos in this post courtesy of Dean Davison. See the full  gallery here.

Nicole Green, Ian Wooldridge, and myself. All photos in this post courtesy of Dean Davison. See the full gallery here.

Phillips 66 In-House Spot

Project role: Actor
Location: Kansas City, MO

Had the pleasure of visiting Barkley for some quick work as part of a project for client Phillips 66. I don't believe the spot is being shared or broadcast outside of the company, so there's no video to show, but this was a quick, fun shoot with a wonderful, creative KC group.

I've also been very busy lately working as a writer/music supervisor on our musical The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe, which is currently in rehearsals. Check back for more info on that soon!

"Mazuma Mike" 2017 Campaign Launch

Project role: Actor / Model
Location: Kansas City, MO

My role as Mazuma Mike - spokesman for Mazuma Credit Union - is now in its third year! This time around Mike is getting a makeover; lookin' a good deal sharper and ready to take on the world.

The campaign is one that I've acted and written for over the past few years and I feel so incredibly fortunate to have had this opportunity with such a truly cool and creative company of people. You can check out some of our past work with Mike via Mazuma's youtube page or Mike's facebook page. Here's to another year!

Catego TV Ad

Project Role: Actor
Location: Chicago


"I am fast like-a the lightning, pow-pow!"

I don't think I've ever had this much fun working on just one line of dialogue.

I provided the voice of "Lightning Cat," one of three different feline characters featured in a new ad for Catego. The job was booked through my Kansas City agency Exposure for  Evolution Audio, who kindly agreed to patch me in from ARU Studio in Chicago for the recording session. The ads are being used online as well as TV in certain regions of the country.

 Audio Recording Unlimited - 625 North Michigan Ave, Chicago

Audio Recording Unlimited - 625 North Michigan Ave, Chicago

The Sexy Accident - I'm Going to Love Your New Boyfriend (Music Video)

Project Roles: Actor / Co-Writer
Location: Kansas City, MO

"At your dinner party
Our eyes locking as he
Says he doesn't like Scrabble..."

Today was the public release of the music video I'm Going to Love Your New Boyfriend by The Sexy Accident, produced in conjunction with Friend Dog Studios and Cooper Films.

After being approached by bandleader Jesse Kates, Brian Huther and I had a great time developing the concept and story of the video, which was beautifully shot by Morgan Cooper and his team. I like to think of it as a bittersweet, tongue-in-cheek expression of what it's like coming to terms with the fact that your chapter in someone's life has come to an end. This was my first collaboration on a music video in any professional capacity; a wonderful learning experience resulting in an end product I'm quite fond of. Huge thanks to Jesse for the opportunity!

We decided that Brian would take the reigns as director and that I'd play the lead in the video opposite the fantastic Nicole Green. Seth Macchi plays the mysterious "boyfriend" in some of the greatest bacting* ever seen on screen.

*acting with one's back

Huge thanks to all the wonderful cast and crew! Full credits listed in the youtube description.

Check out this behind the scenes feature from director of photography Morgan Cooper!

The Joy of Memeing with Bob Ross

Project Roles: Writer / Video Editor
Location: written & edited in Chicago

"Bob Ross really memes what he says." - George Takei on facebook

We tried something a bit different in the latest Friend Dog Studios release; an anachronistic little parody/tribute to Bob Ross and the world of dank memes, both of which have a special place in my heart.

The sketch was posted to our youtube and facebook accounts on 3/13/17, and as of this post three days later, it's accumulated over half a million views altogether, thanks in large part to crossposting by Did You Know and our BFF George Takei. The reception has been almost universally positive and it's been a lot of fun to see the joy this silly piece is bringing to many.

I did most of the writing on this one - and I gotta say it's one of the easiest things I've ever done. It's a comfort to know that hours and hours of watching an instructional show on something I'm never going to try finally paid off somehow. I also handled the post-production with input from Brian and Seth. That step provided some interesting challenges, such as creating a convincing false screen, giving the footage an outdated feel, and not being lulled into a pleasant slumber every five minutes by the soothing voice.

KC actor John Rensenhouse graciously loaned us his dulcet tones in the role of Ross. The video was shot in Kansas City by Vetter Brothers Filmworks, directed by Seth Macchi. Wig and beard were played by a wig and a beard, expertly applied by our good friend Heidi Bowles.