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If I took the time and sought out every necessary resource, these are things I feel that I could be an expert on:

  • Theatre
  • Social arts movements (I’m just a beginner, though)
  • Broadcast Journalism(?)
  • (Does Ben Folds’ music count?)

…in developing that list, I realized that I was quickly derailed. For having so many years of formalized education at my disposal, it’s slightly disheartening to realize that I’ve been spread in so many different directions that I don’t have many solid fields to pursue and stake my claim. That can’t be right, though, can it? Have I really come all this way without any expert potential?

Becoming an expert in theatre is inherently flawed, as it implies that there is a discernment necessary, a sort of judgment that shouldn’t hold prominent position in a discussion on the arts. There are critics, there are theatre educators, and there are acting teachers, but to call one person an expert on theatre is a broad, sweeping generalization that should typically be avoided.

Let’s hold on to that idea, though. Let’s say I was all three of those things: a theatre critic, a theatre educator, and an acting teacher. While I’m missing the important element of technical theatre in such a vocational repertoire, I feel as though those three things are doable. So, establishing this skill set as my goal, what can I do to get myself to a place of supposed-wisdom in each field?

  • be a constant patron of theatre (already done)
  • read plays in my spare time and keep abreast of new work
  • read the work of prominent figures in the field of criticism,avoiding judgment in favor of objective viewing? (Ben Brantley – NY Times, Charles McNulty – LA Times)
  • Intensely explore the realm of theatre history, doing research
  • Study the various methods and theories of acting
  • Watch recorded performances of “the greats,” those actors who have reached critical and commercial acclaim, noting why they are so effective

Ok. So. That’s a start. To translate my expertise into something useful, however, I don’t know if a blog would necessarily be the proper medium. There really aren’t…any? bloggers who run the gamut of theatre topics. There are sites that give you theatre current events, there are bloggers who review shows, but there are no experts (that I’ve seen) who both inform and attempt to teach. Because of that gap in the blogosphere, I may just be able to leave my mark, though I have a great deal of education to take in between now and then.

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I am a self-professed slave to the Top 40 Music Charts.

While all of my friends are busy scoping out local music scenes, sometimes too indie for their own good, or relying on Pandora to expand their horizons, I’m the one singing along to the song that the rest of America, those mythical people in the “heartland” who can embrace a film like Norbit and make the Jonas Brothers the top-selling artists in the country, has embraced as their national anthem of the week.

I know I’m not technically in the minority in liking these songs, the reason I know them being solely their popularity, but within my circle of friends and among most of the college people I know, revealing my affinity for pop is typically followed by a chuckle, a sigh, or an immediate dismissal of my taste in music and all things sensory. Perhaps most despicable, in their eyes, is my unabashed love for the Now CDs. Yes, those compilations of today’s “hottest hits,” released every 6 to 9 months with the changing tide of popular music, happen to be one of my life’s greatest joys.

Although I wouldn’t call myself proud to be looked down on for my taste, I have no interest in denying my love; it’s honestly part of who I am. Growing up, I wasn’t necessarily an outcast, but I also wasn’t exceptionally popular. My appreciation for the arts had yet to be harvested and I attended a set of exceptionally urban schools. Culture wasn’t exactly flourishing left and right and, when it came time for the inevitable night of chaos and woe, a.k.a. the seasonal school dance, all of my peers took utter delight in requesting their favorite songs from the radio to the DJ and moving their bodies in ways that they shouldn’t have even discovered at that age. To fit in, to get along and make it through the night, it simply wasn’t suitable for me to stick to my laurels, requesting some of my favorite songs from childhood — the likes of which included not-so-popular ditties by Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, and Billy Joel. For the sake of social ease, I needed to know what was hip and happening at the time (or at least in a sort of retrospective sense, since the Nows were typically released a short time after the songs had become popular).

When I fell in love with the Now Collection, what stuck out to me was not the capitalistic state of music, the complete lack of originality in songwriting, or the overproduced nature of the industry.

My reaction was more visceral, more raw, more true to my humanity:

It was all just so damn catchy.

The songs on those CDs became popular because they were specifically engineered to be popular. While it is not often respected by artists and music purists, there is a very interesting and specific science to making a song appeal to the masses. All of the artists who made it to those compilations, with a few exceptions (I’m looking at you, Sisqo), were able to capture the crux of that science, albeit a number of them aided by professionals who had worked all their lives writing hits for other people.

The point of all of this, for the sake of brevity, is that, while I may not be the most cutting edge music aficionado in anyone’s book, while I may not be the go-to for soon-to-be-popular bands, and I may not put anything on a mix CD you wouldn’t consider overplayed, three things are for certain:

1) I will always be happy mindlessly singing along to these super hits in my car, in a mall, or wherever popular music invades one’s ears.

2)I can provide you with the complete tracklist for Now 5 at the drop of a hat.

3) I will be available when you inevitably need a DJ just like me for your big party or people more interested in dancing and drinking than the purity of the art form of music.

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Imagine, if you will, being in a packed-beyond-capacity theater, seeing your favorite band of all time. Then, layer on the fact that this band happened to be from your hometown, this happened to be their first show at home in over a year, and that, as luck would have it, it happened to be the LAST of their homecoming shows, as they were destined to break up in a few months time (but, of course, you had no idea, as you imagined them being together forever, perhaps playing at your wedding or your child’s Bar Mitzvah). Electricity is coursing through the air as each and every devoted fan in attendance waits with bated breath for the first few strums of the guitar, indicating the next song that you and everyone else obviously know by heart. You’re all set to scream your approval of the selection, no matter what song they end up playing. The evening is reaching its eventual demise and you’re drenched in sweat, feeling that sort of glorious exhaustion you can only reach in the ecstasy of doing something or being somewhere you absolutely love. Then, the lead singer gives his signature brief introduction to the next slice of aural heaven.

“This one’s for my family.”

The backing group of the band – the drummer, the bassist, the second guitarist and the keyboardist leaves the stage. Left are Sam and Nate, Sam caressing his acoustic guitar and Nate sitting on his stool, microphone in hand.

You know what’s next.

The collective mass recognizes the setup and within seconds, a deafening silence fills the room, making that ringing in your ears noticeable for the first time all evening. Then, with the entire audience showing their ultimate respect and reverence for these gods of “jangle pop” by remaining absolutely silent, you hear this.

There are moments I wouldn’t trade for anything in this world, and the above situation, which you hopefully just relived with me, was one of them. The Format broke up in the fall of 2007 and I was lucky…no, more than that…blessed to see them in their final show in Phoenix at the majestic Orpheum Theatre.

The song On Your Porch has a lot of personal significance to me, as I’ve been able to relate to something about the song since I first heard it in my freshman year of high school. It’s come to mean the world to me and it affects me more than any other piece of music in the world. The song brings me higher in my greatest moments, supports me in my darkest hours, and never fails to put my mind at ease, comforting me like the most intimate of friends. I won’t tell you any more than that, both for time’s sake and the fact that I don’t want to put an impression of the song in your head. Just do me this one favor — give it a listen. Put yourself in the shoes I provided and let the song mean something to you. It’s not for everyone, but it might just be the best thing that ever happened to me.

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The topic of our first blog asks the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Fundamentally, I’ve always had a major problem with that concept. Maybe it’s the fact that I didn’t have what could be considered the “typical childhood,” but I’ve felt that I was forced to “grow up” much earlier than most. As a result, the idea of “growing up” representing my future self hasn’t ever sat well with me.

Sure, when I was 7, like most 7 year old boys, I went through bouts of more idealistic professions: firefighter, astronaut, train conductor, etc. As luck would have it, however, I tapped into what I have always wanted to be quite early on and that job, more than anything else in the world, has managed to keep me optimistic and idealistic when the weight of the jaded world expected me to concede. For that reason alone, I choose to never grow up, and in order to do so, I’d like to become an actor.

The drive for a life in the performing arts emerged, quite literally, from a storybook. My parents had noticed my lack of subtlety and natural draw to performing and what I imagine to be the following conversation emerged:

Mom: “You know he’s been singing Peter, Paul and Mary at the top of his lungs for three days straight?”
Dad: “That’s not the half of it. He’s worked out an entire storytelling narrative to Puff, the Magic Dragon, complete with different voices for each character. I can’t remember the last time my mind’s been free of that song. If I didn’t know the song was about drugs, he’d have convinced me otherwise by now.”
Mom: “We need to sleep again. Let’s send him to camp.”

What then transpired was my first venture to the stage: a month-long theatre camp for ages 6-9, the conclusion of which brought my debut performance as a vertically-challenged prince to, what I considered at the time to be, a giant posing as Cinderella. While I’d hardly call it my finest work, it was the spark I needed to realize that there was no environment in which I could feel more comfortable and no job at which I could exert as much of my energy. Acting, from that point on, would be my destiny.

Since that fateful month, I’ve been granted a number of incredible opportunities, as well as the completely unconditional support of my friends and family, all of which have instilled in me the confidence to continue my pursuit of the performing arts. In acting terminology, your first “real job” means one that will pay you and, by those terms, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive a handful of “real jobs” thus far.

When asked, then, where I’d like to be in five years, my response is the same as it has been for over a decade now: being as far from grown up as possible on a stage, hopefully somewhere near you.

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