A Death in the Community

Curtis Jerome

A man named Curtis Jerome has died. He was a director, set-builder, costumer, actor, dancer, singer, and all-around performer. He was a tent pole at The Maverick Theater in Fullerton, CA. He was in a terrible car accident and did not survive. His death was as shocking to our little theater community as it was tragic. He was a man who meant a lot to a lot of people and I am sad that he is gone.

I really didn’t know Curtis, other than how he and I were often confused in conversation for sharing the same first name. He did most of the musicals at the theater and I did only plays, usually, if I wasn’t doing Shmimprov. I’m sure that he and I were in the same room more than once, but we never quite got introduced. While our paths never crossed, his reputation preceded him.  Many people credit him with giving them their first chance at something, whether a role or a new skill, and for being very supportive in his direction. He was known as a work horse who got things done. He was good people.

Theater, when it comes down to it, is a community more than anything. It’s made up of people who come together for the shared goal of telling a story, live, in front of a group of strangers. It doesn’t require a special location or crazy technology – as long as you have free space and people who will watch you can put on a show. It’s the quality of the people who come together to tell that story – the community – that dictates how well things work. When that community grows it depends on each person to help it run. And when you lose a part of that community the ripples of that loss are felt throughout.

I didn’t know Curtis, but I miss Curtis.

I feel for everyone who had the benefit of knowing him personally, but I’m also grateful for all of the lives that he touched and people that he helped to mentor while he could.

Thank you, Curtis. You will be missed.

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Creativity on the Daily – The Highlights

Andelon Discussions Creativity

Back in February we held our first Andelon Discussion video roundtable. I got together my oldest friends, who all happen to have varied and diverse careers, and we talked about being creative. It was a really good discussion, if I do say so myself. We covered a lot in an hour.

Admittedly, we did have a few technical troubles (namely the sound for the first 10 minutes) and an hour can be a long time to ask people to watch on the internet, so I edited together what I feel are the best 13 minutes of our discussion that will hopefully help to inspire the creativity in your life.

I want to thank Dan, Dean, Jeff and Scott for participating. If you want to learn more about them see their links below. Also, Jeff wasn’t wrong, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is amazing! I’ve provided a purchase link down below.

Scott Sanford – IT specialist for the financial industry.

Dean Ethington – Graphic Designer and web developer for Oakley.

Dan Zarzana – Manager at an entertainment payroll company.

Jeff Garvin – Author and musician.

What do you think about being creative? Did anything the panel said strike a chord with you? Let me know in the comments.

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Filed under Andelon, art, artist, career, creativity, video, videos, YouTube

The Value of Journaling

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Not that long ago I dug deep into the pits of my parent’s storage space to where I keep the bits of memorabilia that I saved from high school and college. There underneath old trophies and certificates, under the photo albums and  envelopes filled with pictures (we used to have to get them developed and physically printed!) I found the trove of old high school journals that I was looking for. I was pulling them out, on purpose, for a project that my friend, author Jeff Garvin, and I were thinking about working on.

A bit of advice if you ever reach a point where nostalgia overrides your more rational thinking: Things you wrote down at the height of your adolescent hormonal development are not light reading. You should be mentally prepared before diving back into that headspace.

I was not.

My friend Zeke has always said, “Five years ago I was an idiot.” It’s a great phrase. How often have you looked back on things and noticed that your opinions had changed or shifted? It’s easy to forget that most of us actually change our minds quite a bit about a lot of things as we grow and get older. Thanks to social media and “flashback” apps we can now be greeted every morning with a list of things that we have posted to the public via a variety of different platforms to lord knows how many people that shows exactly where you were at in your head. Thanks to these apps I can attest that I as well was an idiot five years ago. And I’m sure that I’ll feel that way in another five years, and then five years after that.

Now imagine diving back over twenty years ago…

…Idiot doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Actually “idiot” is too harsh of a word. I was a teenager and suffered from being “sixteen and angry.” I think we all have our “sixteen and angry” time, I know that everyone I ever knew had one. It’s a tumultuous time when you are starting to figure out who you are as a person separate from your parents, when you start to make decisions for yourself, when you desperately want to be considered an adult but secretly enjoy the shield of being a kid. This is when you find all the great music that will become your favorite into adulthood. This is when crushes are defined as “love” and every relationship can last “forever.” You fight with your parents, go on your first adventures with your friends, and generally raise eight different kinds of holy hell.

I managed to document my sixteen and angry period in nine volumes: eight journals and one sketch book. The picture at the top of this post is of all but one of the books. Inside are entries that detail my thoughts and feeling about friendships, relationships, and some stories that I used to write about a fictional version of my friends and I. Reading it back revealed that things were a bit different than the memory of those times in my head. It’s easy to romanticize the high school experience. I didn’t mind high school. I had a lot of friends and did well academically. I was fortunate enough not to have the troubles that make it into after school specials like bullying or drugs. My friends and I were no saints, but we weren’t troublemakers either. I can safely say that there were no arrests and any statutes of limitations have expired. My memories of high school are full of laughing, inside jokes, musicals, and enough Pepsi cola to kill an elephant. Seriously, my three best friends and I drank Pepsi by the case. I’m pretty sure that my blood was at least 4% Pepsi by my senior year. It’s amazing any of us have teeth.

However, these books tell a different tale. One of extreme emotional turmoil, dramatic shifts in friendships, and document the kind of existential crises that would make Sartre roll his eyes. None of it is ironic, it is clearly very earnest and deliberate. It feels like a different person wrote it. They are remarkably detailed history books that talk about people I had nearly forgotten about; people who, at the time, were very involved in my life. They discuss music I liked, places I went, and in some cases even what I was wearing. I actually put pictures in the front and back covers of almost all of the books. Some of myself, some of my pet chameleon, Fred, and some of my friends. I have one here of me circa 1993:

Curtis Circa 1993

Great hair, right?

The strangest thing about the entries is that they are written like blog posts. There was apparently a part of me that thought that people would like to read the hormone fueled ramblings of a teenage boy so the entries often referred to the reader and explained things in great detail so that a stranger who might not have any previous knowledge of me would be able to understand the context of the situation. Thank God the internet wasn’t then what it is now. They are a set of volumes that document the true feelings I had as a teenager. As embarrassing as they are they are valuable.

Journaling is a pretty great exercise. It requires you to write down what you think and feel without a filter. It is a time capsule of an exact moment in your history. It’s honest even if you are lying in it, since the lie is part of that moment. I fell out of journaling when I was twenty or so. I was in college, working more, and my dramatics were getting me a paycheck as opposed to being spewed into the blank pages of a book. I also moved to digital means of note taking and idea tracking. I had PDA’s with styluses that would let me write and store things away or send to my computer. Nothing at all like the pages of these books and none of those items made it to today – they are lost on some old hard drive in a landfill somewhere. I got completely out of the habit and I think I regret that now.

I started journaling again when I was doing my 52 in 52 challenge. I keep an idea book where I jot down story ideas and I was leaving a Barnes and Noble. I had some extra time so I sat on the patio and wrote some things down, stream of consciousness style. It felt like I was giving my head a spring cleaning. It wasn’t anything extraordinary, nothing even worth having a conversation about, but what I wrote down had been sitting in my brain taking space. It felt good to have it out. Then Rene and I did the Dragon Tree Challenge. I won’t lie, it’s a bit hippy-dippy and new age-y, but it got me in the habit of daily journaling again. Journaling has helped to focus my thoughts and let my brain work on the stuff that I need it to without having to navigate through all the gunk that fills it up during the day. I highly recommend it. It’s especially good if you are in a creative field! Most of the other creatives I know keep a few different books to write in depending on the mood. Personally, have my pocket notebook for notes and tasks, my story idea book, a sketch book (the same one from twenty years ago), and a journal for just private thoughts that aren’t really for the world.

Here are some tips if you’d like to give it a try:

  1. Get the right book for you. I’m currently using one of the old journals I found from 1993. It was empty and some of the pages are yellowing. It has age on it, like me, and the pages are a little crisp because of it.
  2. Get the right pen. This might sound silly, but when you get on a roll the words are going to come out fast and the last thing you need is your pen running out of ink or not being comfortable in your hand.
  3. Don’t judge what you write. No matter what my teenage self thought, what you journal probably isn’t destined for public consumption. It’s for you – and you don’t ever have to read it again. Just write and let it all come out, warts and all. Really clean out that brain.
  4. Date your entries. Just in case you do ever want to go back and read what you’ve written it’s nice to know when you’ve written it. It helps to put everything into context.

Do you journal? Are you going to give it a shot? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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Filed under artist, books, creativity, Curtis Andersen, nostalgia

Fun Video Friday – The Fermi Paradox: Animated

Fun Video Friday Update

Are we alone in the universe?

That’s a good question. Probably not, but there’s no evidence for it even though the math says that it’s possible. This is known as the Fermi Paradox and this week I’d like to share a great animated video from Kurz Gesagt – In a Nutshell.

So, what do you think? Will we ever make contact with intelligent life? Drop your thoughts in the comments.

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May 8, 2015 · 8:00 am

Fun Video Friday – I Believe in a Thing Called Love

Fun Video Friday Update

A friend once said, “You know a good song when you can play it on an acoustic guitar around a bon fire and it still sounds good.” I subscribe to that idea and would expand it to say that a good song can survive new arrangements in new styles as well. The folks over at Post Modern Jukebox are regularly doing this with popular songs. I’m not the first to find PMJ (as the kids call them), they’ve been posting great versions of pop tunes for years and they appear regularly in pop culture and geek blogs. In fact they are going on tour! I’m not getting paid to bring that up, I just like in supporting cool creative things.

Back to the song…

Permission to Land was my favorite album of 2003… and 2004… and most of 2005 and ’06. It’s a solid, fun, driven rock album and was the perfect anthem for my late 20’s. “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” is a song I still love to listen too even though I’ve heard it thousands of times. The New Orleans version below gives it a different kind of energy that still fits the spirit of the song and it never hurts to have a strong female voice driving a song.

 

And here’s the original:

 

What are some of your favorite tunes? Pop some links in the comments.

See you next time!

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May 1, 2015 · 8:00 am

Getting to Know Curtis: Favorite Horror Movies

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A few months ago I shot an interview about my favorite horror movies and monsters that didn’t end up getting used anywhere.  It’s just been taking up space in my editing computer and I came across it yesterday when I was working on a new project. Since Fun Size Horror Volume 1 is coming out on Friday I thought that this might be a good time to release it.

What is your favorite horror movie? Do you have a favorite monster? Tell me in the comments.

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April 28, 2015 · 8:05 am

Project: Iron Man – Iron Man #28 The Controller Lives!

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IM 28 Cover

This is a one-and-done issue and when I read issues like this I always ask myself if going through each issue is really the best plan for this project. The goal was to go through my collection and read them through and reconnect with the sentimental memories that are attached to them. Issues like #1 and #173 are easy because they are not only milestones in my collecting history, but are fond memories that I have with my Mom and Dad, but issues like this don’t rouse the same emotional response. I didn’t want this to just become me retelling Iron Man stories. That idea’s been done, and done very well, by Tom Katers and I don’t want to do a poor copy of that.* I considered taking a new tact with this project, of reading through each comic and then only writing about the ones that struck a chord, but that didn’t feel like it was in the spirit of what I set out to do. It felt like cheating. Then it occurred to me that this issue follows television show formula and that, even though I may not have strong memories of it, there’s still something to explore. Something to comment on beyond just rehashing the story in the pages. If this issue of Iron Man were on TV it would make for a good CW show.

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Here on our first page we have a girl running in the dark. There’s thunder and lightning, suddenly a foreboding shadow and… the monster is revealed! It is The Controller and he has found her! This opening scene wouldn’t out of place in an episode of Supernatural or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It even ends the page with the credits.

The more I read stories with The Controller the more it is clear to me that he is a good foil for Iron Man , especially at this point in Iron Man’s evolution.

  • Just like Tony, Basil Sandhurst is infirm without his armor.
  • In the opposite of Tony who uses his own brain power to make powerful armor, The Controller uses other people’s literal brain power to make his armor powerful.
  • He’s a very physically powerful villain, they make a big deal about that this issue, so he’s not someone that Tony can just overpower. Tony has to out think him.

As he makes more appearances he changes to fit with the times and by the time we get to Matt Fraction’s run in 2005 The Controller has an army of drone zombies… but we’re not quite there yet.

The Controller is trying to stop our young lady, who we will call Meredith McCall, from warning Tony Stark about something and pulls out and tosses a tree stump just to get to her and make her one if his mind slaves.

IM 28 Tossing tree stump

Where comic books have one-and-done issues that return to the status quo at the end of twenty-two pages and TV shows have their stand-alone episodes that do the same thing. This is one of those. Have we met Meredith McCall before? No, she is a special guest start if we are using TV vocabulary. Will anything be changed when we get to the end of this issue? No, but I’m getting ahead of myself. That tree stump does what all things thrown into the air must do – it comes down…

IM 28 Tree stump landing

…right in front of the car that is carrying Tony Stark and Jasper Sitwell.

Can we take a moment to talk about how strong someone has to be to pull a tree stump out of the ground? Rain and wet earth notwithstanding,  tree stumps are notoriously difficult to get out of the ground. It’s easy for city-slickers like myself to forget that there’s a reason why stump pulling has a shocking large return of results on Google search. Trees don’t want to be moved and anchor themselves down pretty good. The fact that The Controller can rip one out of the ground so casually really speaks to the strength he has.

Back to our story…

Tony and Jasper are on the rocks ever since the run in with The Minotaur and Jasper’s discovery that the love of his life, Whitney Frost a.k.a. Madame Masque, is in love with Tony. Tony mentions that he is just visiting an old friend and doesn’t need his S.H.I.E.L.D. escort, but Jasper is more cautious saying that a mysterious call from a young lady from Tony’s past seems suspicious.  The tree stump pretty much confirms that Jasper is right as does the scream from the woods. Jasper runs into the woods to help while Tony dons his armor from the secret compartment in his car. Side Note: I wish real cars had all the secret compartments like they do in comics and movies. I don’t know what I’d do with them, but I want them!

Iron Man, using his boot jets, finds Meredith before Jasper can (and The Controller runs off not ready to confront his old foe) which makes an emasculated Jasper Sitwell feel all the more useless.

IM 28 Jasper feeling useless

Tony has guilt about it, but also has to maintain his cover of being both Stark and Iron Man, so Iron Man lets Jasper get Meredith back to the car while he “searches” for Tony. They drive to the sanitarium where Meredith works and we get the popular television trope – the flashback!

 

IM 28 Young Love for Tony

 

Forbidden love – the sweetest of all fruits. Even though Tony and Meredith are all hot for each other that one summer, after their fathers make an effort to separate them the relationship fades just like so many do. The reach the Pinewood Sanitarium and mention that Meredith was worried that Basil Sandhurst – The Controller – was planning his revenge on Stark. The director of the facility laughs it off claiming that Basil is an invalid, even showing Jasper and Tony a sleeping Basil Sandhurst.

IM 28 Basil is an invalid

Jasper, still feeling useless, decides that Tony probably is safe and leaves, Tony sticks around to see to Meredith. Unfortunately it was all a trick! The Controller reveals himself and that he has built a new Absorbatron! In TV we’d call this an act break or a reveal – something big to bring you back after the commercials.

IM 28 New Absorbatron

Now The Controller wants Tony’s help building a new device that will make him even more powerful…

Meanwhile in the woods, Jasper can’t shake his suspicions and investigates the area where they found Meredith. There he finds a slave disc and rushes back to Pinewood.

IM 28 Jasper finds a slave disc and wong chu homage

 

Under the careful watch of The Controller, Tony builds the helmet Sandhurst designed. It focuses the mental energy of those attached to slave discs into powerful rays of destructive force.

Jasper rushes in and distracts The Controller just long enough for Tony to get into his Iron Man armor and there is a battle:

IM 28 Battle

I really like this battle scene. Iron Man is not as physically powerful as The Controller, Iron Man even mentions that only Hulk or Thor could really slug it out with him, and just like in a good TV show we need to see the hero overcome what looks like a hopeless battle. And brains win out over brawn. Knowing that he couldn’t directly sabotage the helmet, Tony made it so that it could only handle so much power:

IM 28 The Controller burns himself out

With the bad guy defeated we get our wrap-up where the status quo gets put back to normal (rather quickly as well):

  • Villain is out-of-action and his new tech is destroyed.
  • All of his victims are free and safe.
  • Jasper and Tony are friendly again.
  • As for Meredith and Tony’s lost romance? The final nail is hammered into that coffin when it is revealed that she is married. Stark don’t do married chicks.

IM 28 Tony don't date married chicks

I don’t think we see Meredith McCall again and the next time we see The Controller he is so different that this story is irrelevant, but just like good genre TV it filled a month and was fun to read.

See you next time!

 

*Seriously though, his podcasts called Tom vs. Comics are fantastic! Especially if you’re a DC Silver Age fanboy. I’m not but I listened to all of Tom vs. The Flash and I attribute it to being the main reasons why I’m enjoying The Flash television show so much right now. Yes the show is good on it’s own, but Tom and his retelling of the classic stories makes it so much better. Check it out!

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Filed under avengers, comic books, iron man, Iron Man 28, Iron Man Issue, Project: Iron Man

Actor 101: From the Trenches

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I recently had a conversation in the comments of my post Actor 101: The Actor, The Art & Advertising where the question came up about actors in a show who were asked to make changes in their performance that they were, for personal reasons, uncomfortable with. While you can see the full conversation at the link above, I wanted to post my initial response as a post because 1) this may happen to a new actor and it’s important that you maintain your personal integrity and 2) when collaborating it is essential that everyone is on the same page.

I actually cover this a lot in my acting class because if we, as actors, are going to do good work then integrity must lie at the center of that. It’s the kernel that a good performance sprouts from. There are a few things that must be considered in this answer:

1) The show itself: Tone and final objective for the audience is the biggest factor to consider here. Are they supposed to enjoy themselves? Should they have a visceral reaction for or against? Should they be shocked? Assuming that you are doing a standard version of South Pacific it’s a pretty solid romantic musical. The audience should be happy when the relationships culminate. However, if this is an avant garde take then perhaps another goal is trying to be reached?

2) The director: They are in command of the overall vision of the show, which can include adjusting the tone of the show as a whole. While actors see individual “strokes,” the director is responsible for the completed “painting.” Based on your description it sounds like he is trying to put his own stamp on the show? Maybe making it grittier? My default reaction is to have trust in the vision, but it’s also his duty to make you, as performers, understand what that vision is and what part you play in that vision. Based solely on your description it sounds like this may not be very clear.

3) The actor: You have a responsibility to deliver the character that you have been hired to play that matches the tone of the show and the vision of the director. To that end it is entirely possible that there will be 11th hour changes that may need to be integrated into a performance, but these changes, whatever they are, need to be applied as they would work for the character. They need to be defensible if you are asked where they came from. There needs to be a motivation behind them. There’s a reason why the phrase, “what’s my motivation” exists – it’s a legitimate thing for an actor, it just sounds really pretentious. If the actors being asked to change behaviors that don’t match their personal beliefs then the performance may come off either contrived or poorly done – neither is good for the show. But the people are not their characters so if the character displays different behaviors then the actor that is something the actor should be prepared for. I don’t like the phrase, ” to be a good actor you must be willing and able to substitute your moral upbringing…that’s acting 101″ I disagree with that, but characters do things that actors as people would never do and sometimes the most powerful performances are the ones that challenge the actor to really think and maybe even question why they feel the way they do about something.

I’m not sure how vulgar they are asked to be, but in my opinion the best solution is a director/actor meeting where each side comes open minded and the reasoning for this change is discussed. That way a compromise can be made that follows character and place in show versus “I say do this!” “But I don’t want to do this!”

I hope that helps and that you guys have a great show!

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have a story about being asked to do something you were uncomfortable with? Let me know in the comments.

See you next time!

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Filed under acting, actor 101, actor stuff, education

New York Part 2: Friendly Inspiration

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The last time I was in the city was over ten years go. The city is quite a bit different than it was then. I’m quite different than I was then. Before I really enjoyed being in the city, but I didn’t feel like I was a part of it. It was a location and I really couldn’t see myself as being included in it. I was an outsider looking in on the swirling mass of activity that was the city. I felt far more included this trip and that was primarily due to the fact that we had so many friends there to help bring us in.

When Rene and I got to New York we were surprised and delighted to find that we knew a lot more people in the Five Burroughs than we realized. Nearly all of them are artists in one way shape or form and doing things that we found either inspiring or motivating. I’ve actually been struggling with this post because there’s a part of me that wants to share all the cool stuff we did and all the cool people we did it with – just toss it out into the public and share, but the other half is having a really tough time being like, “these are the people we saw and here’s what we did with them.” It feels a little too personal for a public forum.

Pictures, however, I’m very comfortable sharing. So I’ve created this slideshow of cool stuff we did with cool people who I hope we see again very soon.

See you next time.

 

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An Easter Tradition

Happy Easter!

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April 5, 2015 · 8:00 am