Friday, June 26, 2009


I am just emerging from jet lag, kicking and screaming. Not that I like being lagged, mind you, but it means I will have to face reality. I am back from one of the best weeks of my life.

For those of you not bombarded with my news nonstop for the last several months, I have been to Alaska! I attended the 17th Annual Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska, where for a solid week I was involved in non-stop playwriting, directing and acting. My play, HEART, received a lovely public reading (with Frank Collison playing Bert and an amazingly dedicated and talented cast), as well as a terrific presentation of ANCESTORS OF TELEMARKETING and an enjoyable reading of DEATH BY MISADVENTURE in the Fringe. Additionally, I was a reader in the wonderful works and words of Damon Chua (THE GHOST BUILDING), Alex Pollock (UNTITLED), and the wonderful wizard of Oz himself, Dawson Moore (BURNING). It was a week of wonderful readings, terrific performances, breath-taking landscapes and amazing people.

The week worked its magic on me in several ways.

First (and I suppose foremost), it gave me not only an opportunity to hear my work and receive valuable critique (a special thanks to Marshall W. Mason, Lee Brock, Tim Daly and the audience!), but also a much needed shot in the arm for my artistic ego. There were also some amazing workshops, with two (one led by John Yearley, the other by Richard Dresser) standing out as particularly enjoyable and helpful.

Secondly, the Conference was jammed packed with activities--more than any one mortal could hope to do!--that gave me no time to whine or worry. Just keeping up with it all was a challenge, and it required me to fly versus holding on for dear life, as is my wont. It was stimulating to say the very least, and I was required to try things I might not have let myself try under my "normal" circumstances. For example, as an actor I was cast in roles that I never would have thought of myself for--yet with nothing to lose, I threw myself into them and was able to work in ways I never had before and to (at least) satisfactory results.

Thirdly--and this is the kicker--after so many years of feeling odd-man out, the geeky asthmatic kid who dropped out midway through two-week day camp, I was actually feeling welcomed and "one of the gang." This has NEVER been my experience in 51 plus years! I met so many wonderful people, who were accepting of my, er, "quirkiness", and I had the most relaxed and wonderful discussions not only about art but about life. I'm amazed how well virtually everyone got along. I even was in a dorm with roommates and had a splendid time "roughing it." (Don't get me started about collapsing cots and corndogs!) To feel like one has repaired a failure in life--to be one of the guys--is a MAJOR gift and one that I truly appreciate. With help from the Internet and Facebook, there are folks with whom I will hopefully continue lifelong friendships. Talk about mining Alaska for Gold.

And finally, the change of scenery. As you'll note from the video above, the landscape was breath-taking. I've never seen mountains like that, mountains on steroids. With mists, fogs, snows, wild animals and, yes, green foliage of a different stripe than the New England and New York scenery I was raised on . . . if Edinburgh was Brigadoon for me, this was Shangi-La!

Needless to say, this is a trip I would recommend to anyone of a theatrical stripe and it will remain one of my cherished experiences.