Over the course of two decades in Manhattan, I met a lot of aspiring actors, musicians, singers, stand-ups, clothing designers, directors, etc., etc. Sad to say, none of them made it big. The high failure rate served as a sobering lesson to me. Why try? It fed my insecurities and predisposition for seeing failure as an unavoidable outcome.
I fell hard for actresses who would pack up and leave town because their spirits were crushed under the heavy weight of auditioning. Two or three times a week they were told they were too old, too young, too fat, too thin, too tall, had an accent, just not right for the part. A few years of that will wear your resolve down to a nub and send you into the loving embrace of the Omaha Community Playhouse.
Having said that, I just stumbled across this journal entry last night.
October 27, 1993
Do you remember that really smart guy from the writing workshop at the YMCA? David? That dude had more talent than the rest of us combined. I don’t remember if I mentioned this, but not long after the workshop ended I was making my annual holiday pilgrimage through Santaland at Macy’s. God, I love that place. If that doesn’t put you in the New York holiday spirit, then there’s a hole in the space where your heart should be.
Anyway, I was walking past Santa’s throne and felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and it was that guy from the workshop! He was dressed as an elf. We had a nice chat. I told him how much I enjoyed the stuff he read in class, told him he was the only one who actually made me laugh and then (stupidly) asked what he was doing there dressed as an elf. He was working.
That had a profound impact on me. Clearly, that guy has a rare gift. If he, with his divine talent, can’t make it as a writer, what hope do I have with my meager skills? During class one night, he told me he made a living cleaning apartments. He said it like it was no big deal. It didn’t bother him one bit! He’s way more evolved than I’ll ever be. I walked out of Macy’s and gave up every dream I had.
Well, guess what? This week The New York Press printed a front-page story he wrote about his experiences as an elf. It’s really funny. It looked like a horrible gig but, if nothing else, he got a good story and some exposure out of it. I wonder if he got paid? He told me his sister is in Second City. They must have a good gene pool.
My stripper story was rejected by Details. No surprise there. I’ll edit it and send it to The New York Press. I think they have lower standards. I’ll bet David could get published in Details. He’s that good. I remember the instructor giving him the number of her agent and saying his stuff is publishable. Maybe he’s one of those dudes who’s afraid of success or thinks his stuff isn’t good enough. Who knows?
[Note: That, ladies and gentlemen, if you haven’t guessed already, was David Sedaris. The only guy I knew who made it. And made it, he did.]
Last week, I climbed the mighty mountain of words known as Hamlet. Actors wrestle this bear to prove their mettle. A few years ago I saw Jude Law give a surprisingly effective performance. This time, Peter Sarsgaard is the melancholy Dane. 3:20 long and he was on stage for the majority of it. No small feat.
The director chose to present it with modern dress and staging. He didn’t mess with the dialogue, obviously. Typically, I prefer a traditional presentation. Modernizing tends to take me out of the story. Fortunately, the production was absorbing enough so that the modern clothing and staging blended in instead of distracted.
The Classic Stage Company is a tiny venue. Only 199 seats. The stage is on the ground floor and risers wrap around three sides so you’re uncomfortably close to the action. It’s an intrusive feeling. The actors walk up the aisles and stalk the audience. I was seated in the second row. In front of me were three boys about 14 years-old. Sarsgaard was giving an impassioned speech about his murderous uncle. He walked up to one of these kids, rested on one knee, looked him dead in the eye and delivered his lines. It was a performance for one person. It showed the power an actor can have over his audience. That kid will never forget it. That won’t happen to you on Broadway, no matter how much you pay for your ticket.
Fun fact: Hamlet is 400+ years old but it’s so steeped in our culture that you don’t need to have see it to know many of its lines. Here’s a sampling. Remember…these all come from one play.
“To be, or not to be: that is the question.”
“Frailty, thy name is woman!”
“Neither a borrower nor a lender be…”
“This above all: to thine own self be true.”
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
“In my mind’s eye.”
“When sorrows come, they come not as single spies, but in battalions.”
“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest…”
Not bad, right?
That is really cool about David Sedaris. Glad he never gave up. I’ve listened to some of his stuff on audio while I was driving long distance.
As for getting to see Peter Sarsgaard live, I’m jealous. I’ve always liked him as an actor. I recently watched him on the 8-week TV series called ‘The Slap.’ Pretty good show, though he didn’t get to shine like he normally does.
Sedaris deserved his success. He worked hard and it never went to his head. That dude sold out Carnegie Hall! I’ll bet you can’t name five writers who could sell out Carnegie Hall.
Sarsgaard is one of those quirky actors. He takes all the weird parts. He’s married to Maggie Gyllenhaal. The two of them are part of the CSC rep. They did Uncle Vanya together a while back. I missed that one.
And Maggie’s brother Jake is no slouch either.
That dude does theater as well, This past season, they were both on Broadway at the same time about a dozen blocks apart. I saw her in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing. She played opposite Ewan McGregor, but I didn’t see his play. I couldn’t get my hands on a discount ticket and I simply can’t pay retail. It’s too expensive. I miss a lot of theater that way.
Trying to edge your way in in London is also a hard slog.And if you don’t have singing-and-dancing in your bag…you become something else to pay the rent.
It’s an impossible slog. It amazes me that anyone even tries.
On the other hand, I can kick myself for not even making an effort. I gave up before I even began. What a coward.
In a writing workshop with David Sedaris, a letter from Harper Lee – what the hell?! I once stood behind Clint Eastwood at a Wendy’s and rode the Capitol subway in a seat across from former Senator now Actor Once Again Fred Thompson. I’ve got to get better seats to this life.
I lucked into all this stuff. None of it was supposed to happen. Good thing I wrote it all down.
A few of the stories he read in that workshop wound up in his first book, Barrel Fever. I still think that’s one of his best.
Was Clint tall? His son is in a new movie and he’s supposed to be a dead ringer.
He was very tall and polite. We had gone over to his restaurant in Carmel, when he still owned the Hog’s Breath Inn hoping to catch a glimpse and we didn’t, so the Wendy’s thing made us all laugh like hyenas afterwards.
I think it’s hilarious that he’d go to Wendy’s. It kind of humanizes him a bit, doesn’t it? Boy…if I made it that big I’d be polite, too. I went to a book signing by David Foster Wallace and he was an asshole. Sorry to speak ill of the dead but he was a monster.
There is always that question of whether meeting the people behind their work is a good idea. Probably safer to admire from a distance, so that I can continue to enjoy their work, even if they’re total peckerheads.
Baloney. I’ll take any chance I can get to meet someone famous. Years of bumping into famous people on the streets of NYC did NOTHING to diminish the thrill of seeing a celeb in the flesh. I’ve had pretty much nothing but good experiences. I only wish I were famous so I could crush the little people who bugged me on the street. 😉
I dated a girl who sold a pair of shoes to Robert Plant in Boston! She put them on his feet and everything, said his head seemed disproportionately large, like a pumpkin. This is a great story — nice to talk to you two on this bridge line. I was totally like WOW when I realized it was Sedaris. Good cocktail with the Hamlet too.
How’d they smell, I wonder? I think his head is probably normal sized but his flowing, golden locks made his head seem pumpkin-sized.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; posting is nice but it’s these bridge conversations that are the meat.
You’re right on that, the pumpkin and the meat and the flowing locks of gold.
Thank you for the title of my book if I ever write one:
“The Pumpkin and the Meat and the Flowing Locks of Gold”
It sounds like a story for ‘tweens.
I have met 2 of the 85 Chicago Bears in person. The first, I thought would be a really nice guy, really was kinda full of himself and seemed built his pedestal just a little too high. The second, I expected much the same, but he was SO NICE and just a regular person! Steve McMichael. Just a regular guy who played on a superbowl winning team with the likes of Walter Payton. GAH! He let me try on his ring, hung out in the smoking area with a couple of us. He didn’t seem to think it was such a big deal.
that’s 1985 Bears, not that there are 85 of them.
I read that as 85 Bears. Not THE 85 Bears. So thanks for clarifying. Was he still fast or was he too old for a chase? Because I’d have ran like hell once I slipped that ring on. My Precious.
He is still much, much bigger than I, and he was really such a nice, down to earth guy! did I mention he was much bigger than I?? He coulda squished me like a bug.
that, and I might be older than him…..
This post/story just made my day! How motivating!! I love the David Sedaris story and even though I’ve never really put the time and effort into trying to make it as a writer, it’s pretty inspirational to hear a success story like that – about a guy who is amazingly funny. I think there’s a combination of lots of mad talent and a little bit of crazy luck that goes into people “making it”. But if you have the mad talent you have to keep on putting yourself out there day after day after day, rejection after rejection after rejection, to be able to possibly have that day where you trip over the luck. Sounds like that’s what Sedaris did. There’s probably tons of really talented folks out there, writers, singers, musicians, artists, that never made it or will never make it, because they didn’t get noticed in time. Great post!
I spoke to him a few times after he achieved mainstream success and he told me he never once thought about making money in connection with writing. He wrote because he love to and all the success that was born from it was icing on the cake. He never cared that he was cleaning apartments or had to be an elf. He inscribed one of my books “Where’s your book?! If I can write one, anyone can!” A real humble guy who deserves his success.
So where is it? 🙂
If what you say about Sedaris is true, you might even get him to write the foreword 🙂
I have a fatal combination of a lack of ambition and a overwhelming feeling that it’ll all be for naught. Talent alone isn’t going to do it. You need the desire, too. In fact, ambition trumps talent every time.
I totally agree with your comment, Steve!
Not bad at all. I think I should be asking for your autograph..
Go away, peasant.
LOL! I just cracked myself up!
*Walks away with head down kicking the dirt* 😉
Now I’m the horse’s ass. Just like David Foster Wallace was at a reading I went to.
I have friends who are actors and writers and it’s such a hard slog. I so admire anyone who sticks to it.
I love your journal entries, as usual 🙂
My heart goes out to anyone who tries it. The competition is so stiff, especially in places like this. Lots of folks want to live that life. Many are called but very few are chosen.
Thanks for loving my journal entries. There’s so much more in my basement. I’ll bet I really could get a book out of it if I had the time and ambition.
I consciously made a choice to stop thinking about acting as a choice and to move to stage management instead. I knew I could make a career out of it – and although I’m in a totally different industry now, the core skill set required is actually the same. And I have always credited my performance background for my ability to present to large groups of people without fear.
My daughter sings. She sings in school and with a local vocal group. I don’t think she’ll ever be a professional, but I like that it made her comfortable on stage in an auditorium full of people. There’s a skill that’ll come in handy.
I can totally see you stage managing a play. Maybe you’ll do it again one day…
I don’t know anyone famous. Not even Canadian famous. Wait, that’s not true. I work with a woman who is a two-time women’s hockey Olympic gold medalist, Sarah Vaillancourt. That’s Canadian famous. But when you see someone eating school cafeteria lasagna, it kind of takes the glow off.
The director of the play I’m in had a go at New York. He’s back, obviously, and we’re happy he is. Hopefully all those so-called failed actors are making these small contributions to the arts, not famous but happy.
I don’t want to give the impression that Sedaris and I were great old drinking buddies. That’s not the case at all. But our paths did cross. Thereafter, I would attend his (jam-packed) book signings and he’d always remember me and have a kind word to say. He’d always ask if I started my book.
Are you in another play?! Or is this the previous one you’re talking about? Please clarify. I’ve met PLENTY of people who are able to devote a portion of their lives to the arts without making a living off of it and are quite content.
Arsenic and Old Lace. Dr. Einstein. We open (hoo boy) a week from Friday.
Fantastic! Did you blog about that and I missed it? How go rehearsals? Break a leg!
No, but I may. I have a deadline looming and am as dry as an AA meeting.
Feh and fie to your deadline! What about your nation of eager fans out here?! We need our fancies tickled. Get on it.
That’s really cool you knew David Sedaris before he was famous, as an elf no less! Not many people can say that. And that you took a class with him. I’m so jealous all the talent you see on a regular basis. You are writing, Mark…and you can still write, you know. Why not? Never quit your dreams. Maybe David Sedaris will put in a word for you.
It’s a strange sensation to see someone you (sort-of) knew become famous. I don’t want to overplay this. We were acquaintances for a very brief while. I do remember seeing him in his elf outfit and thinking it’d make a great story. Who knew it would launch a major literary career!?
One of the things that always struck me about Hamlet is that so many of those great lines are just said in a hurry, as advice to one of the characters heading off.
The version David Tennant and Patrick Stewart did was brilliant too, though I didn’t see that live.
Sometimes, the actors gloss over the famous lines–especially “To be or not to be…”–just to get them out of the way. Or, so it seems to me. You can see them coming a paragraph away and they speed right through them. I missed the Tennant/Stewart production, but I did see Stewart do Macbeth a bunch of years ago on Broadway. I thought he’d be too old for the part but he did quite well. That same year I saw Ian McKellen do King Lear at BAM. So I saw Gandalf and Captain Picard do Shakespeare. Or, if you prefer, Professor X and Magneto.
We saw them in Waiting For Godot. I liked the second act much more than the first. My wife didn’t like the play at all, but thought the two of them were great.
I saw that, too. It wasn’t the best production of Godot I’ve seen, but it was a real treat seeing those two great acting dinosaurs pouncing about on stage. Is this a great town or what?
I’ve written in some of my comments that you should write a book and, yes I understand that you are self defeatist and have a fear of failure. But how in the name of Sam Hill do you think Sedaris achieved a very respected level of success? Certainly it was not by wishing and regretting that he made a stab at writing. He is funny in a different way but I find his writing engaging and leaves me wanting more.
I feel the same about your posts. You write in a very different voice but one that I relish as I read- doesn’t matter if you write about a urinal that sold for a scandalous price or what your life was like in the early nineties.
I’ve included one of his quotes that is my favorite by Sedaris. And it’s funny and right on the money too.
“I know it sounds calculating but, if you’re not cute, you might as well be clever.”
By David Sedaris
I remember your retorts to me to write a book and I appreciate them. I think in order to tackle a book you have to feel it in your bones. It’s a major commitment if you’re going to do it right. I wouldn’t see my daughters and wife much. I don’t know if I’m ready for that. Plus, as I mentioned above, I really am a lazy bones. I’m not bragging or trying to be funny. I hate it. I can only imagine how far I’d have gone in life if I hadn’t been so damn lazy. But I’ve got a bin full of journals to draw from so who knows. Maybe one day…
You know, you don’t have a time limit. You can still see your family. You can still see your plays, go for walks and eat and sleep. Do it. So what if it is a chapter a week or a year? Do it.
Jesus…you’re making me think here. Grinding the gears. I have to admit…it WOULD be kind of fun. And there’s tons of material to reference.
DO IT. At your own pace, of course. Sign me up for a signed copy. Would you like me to pre pay? I will. 🙂 You have a gift, it would be a shame not to share.
What a great story – pretty cool. 🙂
Thanks, Lynette. I wish I had kept in closer touch with him!
To me, when I see someone more talented than me becoming successful in a certain field, it would not serve as an example that encourages me to try for the success in the same field. No, it’s only when I see someone who I think of as less talented as me becoming successful – that’s when I start thinking along the “why not me?” lines.
However, since I invariably see only those who are more talented than me getting farther than I have, I just don’t bother.
He was one of these people you meet who you can just tell are gifted. During that period of time, I had a friend who went on a few dates with Mary Louise Parker. She was an unknown but my friend said she was going to make it. He just knew. I felt that way about Sedaris, too. Their work shines above everyone.
Those less talented who are successful have an overabundance of ambition. It’s a compensation for any shortcoming. Ambition trumps talent every time.
I just spent a few cold, damp days in Boston with my family being a tourist. Stayed at the Marriott Long Wharf. Aquarium. Tea Party ship. Walking tours. etc. I begged my wife to reschedule for more favorable weather but she wouldn’t have it.
There’s no such thing as favorable weather in Boston. 🙂 Well, certainly not for a few days in a row.
Now you tell me.
So you were thinking how disheartening it was that he had to work as an elf, when that was what led to his breakthrough article in the New York Press. That, my friend, is irony! You get very close to the action at the Globe Theatre in London if you’re willing to stand in the stalls.
It’s a great arc to study. A cast-off job lead to a cast-off story, which lead to a major career. There aren’t many writers of his stature. He filled Carnegie Hall! Twice!
Fun factoid: I’ve been to The Globe. Many (many!) years ago I saw Mark Rylance do The Tempest. I think he was the Globe director at the time. All male cast. Just like in olden days.
Hello Mark – I think you should follow Sedaris’s lead and take an elf gig at Macy’s – you never know where it could lead. And what can we do to make you more ambitious? You need to drop that self-defeated attitude and write a book, or a compilation of your journal entries in book form. You can do this – why wouldn’t you??
I’d look kind of creepy in an elf outfit. I’m too tall (and far too old) for the gig. What worked wonders for Sedaris (and Will Ferrell) will land me in jail.
I’ll write a book when I have time. And the ambition. I don’t know if either will ever arrive in sufficient quantities.
Ok – I’m holding you to that statement that you’ll do it. You have the journals already. And I know you can find (or know already) the right people to help you format it. Just start working at it a little bit every day – and stop the negative self-talk. I’ll cheer you on anytime 🙂
I’ve learned to embrace my inner Eeyore. Instead of beating myself up over it, I’ve decided to consider it part of my boyish charm. That won’t get me anywhere in the publishing industry, but I’ll probably sleep much better.
I’m a big fan of both the Sedaris’ books – how cool that you knew him when he had pointy ears!
And thanks for the summary of Hamlet’s famous lines. I’ve always maintained that if anybody says anything that sounds profound and involves the word “forsooth”, you can nod your head thoughtfully and say either “ah, Shakespeare” or “ah, the Bible” and you probably won’t go wrong.
Hi! This is your first visit here although I’ve see you all over the interwebs. So welcome! Nice to see you.
I think I might have mentioned above that a few pieces he read in that workshop wound up in his first book. I was in the right place at the right time FOR ONCE.
Shakespeare is a rough slog for me. It’s usually :15 minutes or so until I have the cadence of the language settled in my ears. It helps if the actors know their stuff.
I didn’t realize this was the first time here – must be because, as you said, we see one another all over the interwebz. Thanks for your hospitality.
Had I known you were coming I’d have baked some cupcakes.
Being the stoned and zen sort i find it counter-productive to engage in any artistic activity for the sake of fame or commerce, oh yes in my younger days i thought that’s what i wanted but now it is the art of doing, the ritual of the habit as they say, if you enjoy it it’s not work and if you are doing it for yourself and the pleasure of doing, of practicing to become proficient in a chosen discipline, that’s all the reward needed, when one begins to think of pleasing and audience or agent or attaining notoriety or cash it’s all lost, of course us pure at heart types are hard to come by in a cynical and jaded world but just as in your favorite book by Cormac McCarthy (wink) some of us must keep that flame alive…
C’mon, really? You never entertained the idea of getting paid for an artistic endeavor? Something you’d do for free, anyway? I find that hard to believe. Anyone who engages in any type of creativity–even blogging–has some vague dreams of popularity and monetary gain. Or are you really that pure? Because that would be an incredibly freeing place to be.
Fuck Cormac McCarthy. He still owes me $14.95
Of course i did when i was younger (i stated that dammit, haha) now though i honestly don’t, i’m really just paraphrasing Vonnegut up there and stealing a little bit from Steinbeck which i got from his collected letters, which are brilliant by the way… and to be perfectly honest it is an incredibly freeing place to be… and in being honest all one has to do is look at the lounge to discern that other than being on the netz there is no push for popularity or monetary gain, it’s just better than staring at the telly and it will be an easy place for the boyos to go when they’re old enough to understand and learn about how odd their old man was… now when i look around the blogosphere i see the shilling and the networking and the hustling for attention and money, no interest, i’ll let what i create stand on it’s merits and it’s merits alone, no use creating a persona and selling that which is much of what happens in literature today, see James Frey, it’s why i admire Pynchon, he writes and doesn’t need or want to be on GMA or Oprah… i say little Dave Sedaris read one day at a sold out Byham Theater here in Pittsburgh, good stuff, nice gig if you can get it…
Glad I got you to admit an ugly truth. Chalk it up to your yoot. We all want fame and fortune when we’re young. As adults, you become sanguine enough to know it’s probably not going to happen. Best to make peace with it. I consider my shilling to be a somewhat half-assed effort. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much how I’ve handled most of my affairs. Career. Fatherhood. Blogging. All of it completely half-asses efforts. As for Sedaris, how many writers can fill a theater? Seriously. Think about that. Maybe a small handful out of the millions. At least he deserves it. Thank God for that.
I gave up trying to ‘make it’ nearly thirty years ago and decided to try and make a living doing it instead. I can’t complain. But I do. In the past couple of weeks, with paying gigs being scarce, I contemplated giving it all up. And then I went to sing for my fanbase in the local hospice… We all need a good kick up the hole every now and then.
You have a talent and drive that I do not possess. Not writing a book is easy peasy for me. I don’t think about it! But I’d like to see you stop singing. You couldn’t do it. Cursed with talent, my friend. Not a bad curse to have.
I really enjoyed your post!
Sent from my iPad
I really enjoyed your comment.
I really really enjoyed your comment on the comment. 😀
Hey Mark! How’s the World’s Most Exciting City hanging? That is such a cool story about Sedaris. Your stories about the theater are fascinating – although I don’t follow much. You would write an awesome book if you chose to.
As an aside, I did another guest post over at Cordelia’s Mom http://cordeliasmomstill.com/2015/04/13/school-fruit-guest-post-by-paul-curran/comment-page-1/#comment-10129 If you have time to drop by for a read, I’d be honored Mark. Thank You.
Hi Paul. It’s also the world’s filthiest and most expensive city. So it’s got that going for it, least we forget.
Thanks for the link. Cordelia is a Shakespeare character. King Lear’s good daughter.
Yes, funny how we quote Shakespeare every other day without paying any heed to it. The bloke had staying power!
Same here regarding not putting enough effort in when I was younger – I wish I had.
I wonder where I (we) would be if we’d just made an effort? I wonder if it would’ve worked out? I think about that quite a lot. What are those called again? Oh yeah…regrets.
You know, I am always surprised by you. You don’t see what you have either. You are gifted, you write, I read, and you ALWAYS hold my interest. You ALWAYS take me there, where you are writing about. Always. That is something pretty special you know. Hamlet in a tiny venue! How cool is that?! Something I probably never would have considered, yet you have taken me there and I enjoyed it, I want to be there. I saw Harry Chapin in a pretty intimate setting, but he didn’t come out and sing directly to me. I think a lot of what happens to us is directly related to our outlook/attitude. What seems shocking to you, seemed ‘normal’ or matter-of-fact to David. I guess it has to do with how we spin it. You are a more cultured person than I am, with more interest in things, not that I don’t care about, but that I don’t actively pursue, and you draw me in. You’re also smart and funny, which is also clear by your writing.
Had enough yet?
Being hard on myself and not believing seems to be the skill I nutured the most. It’s a shame I can’t parlay it into a paying gig because I’d be rich.
Intimate settings are the thing for performances. It’s a much different show than an arena or major Broadway house. Sometimes it’s nice to see what they can do with a giant space + a giant budget to match, but nothing beats being close enough to see them form the chords on the neck of the guitar.
Thank you for all your kind words. It’s ridiculous. I don’t see it. You left out pretty. I’m pretty too, aren’t I? LOL! I just cracked myself up. I do that all the time.
HAHAHA! How did I miss pretty?? Often we don’t see the magic in ourselves, simply because it is our ‘normal’ and accepted as such, when, in fact, it is extraordinary.
I understand the “hard on yourself” trait. I remember telling my kids teachers to be careful with pushing them, I managed to pass that trait on to them, and a push from a respected authority figure, like a teacher, might just break them. They have always pushed themselves for perfection.
You cracked me up too! as you often do. I have the gift as well. Sometimes I can’t even explain why I am laughing as I am sure no one else but me would find it funny. Well, maybe my kids, but I’m not always sure if they get what I am laughing at, or if they just find me funny when I do it.
I LOVE your journal entries, they are brilliant. Fantastic anecdote about David Sedaris.
And I think it’s safe to say that you made it as well, because we’re reading you aren’t we? 🙂
I’m happy to see you here and really do wish you post more frequently. I’m not just buttering your ass because you left a comment. More Stickman = joy.
You missed a few journal entries but if you have the time, take a look at this beauty:
Failure can’t live with persistence. Good man.
Can’t live with him permanently, but he can pull up a chair and sit a good long spell.
I had an acquaintance who met David Sedaris at a book signing in Boston two years ago. She said that he was wonderful. He took his time talking and listening to every person in line. She said that he was so attentive that she felt like he was genuinely interested in her and asked for the link to her blog. She then brained out about not having updated her site in a year. She asked me if that might give him the impression that she’s not serious about writing. I suggested that that was a distinct possibility. I just looked at her site now. Make that three years since she’s revised it. Your up close and personal time with him confirms that he remains down to earth today. I love his writing and I love the fact that he remained such a nice guy even after fame and fortune. Maybe there is hope for the human race.
In 2011, I got lucky and I ushered CSC’s production of ‘Three Sisters’ directed by Austin Pendleton starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard. It was an excellent volunteer ushering gig and you’re right, that theater is very intimate. They were both terrific. Often, CSC lets the ushers sit in and stuff Playbills as the actors are warming up. I always appreciate this behind the scenes sneak peek whenever I work there. My all-time favorite ushering gigs there have been when I’ve worked David Ives’ plays. Last year I even got to meet him following a talkback when they staged ‘The Heir Apparent’. He was so kind. That was a perfect comedy. I was in my bliss watching that production for my other favorite four-letter f-word: free.
I’d like to think that I’d handle fame and fortune the same way Sedaris does. He loves his public and his public loves him. I wonder what the odds are of that happening to me? Not my becoming rich and famous. My remaining humble about it.
I didn’t see “Three Sisters” because I couldn’t get my hands on a discount. That’s the make-or-break for me. Can I get a discount? I miss a lot of stuff because it’s so popular they don’t have to offer discounts. That’s why I’ve never seen one of Denzel Washington’s plays. The reviews are out this morning for “Hamlet” and I’ll have to agree a bit with the Times that it felt a little long but I still liked it and think it’s worth seeing. I’m sure you can score a discount if you’re interested.
I liked “Airline Highway” very much. It’s no masterpiece but it’s a worthy night out. I thought it was a master class in direction. (Does Joe Mantello direct EVERYTHING?) That play has so many moving parts and so many actors on stage that it’s a miracle he can keep it all going. But, like her “Detroit,” I didn’t like it as much as the critics. I think “Detroit” was up for a Pulitzer. Really?
I might see “Clinton: The Musical” tomorrow night. I’m not much for musicals but I like politics and Kerry Butler is my pretend girlfriend so I’ll go. “Hand to God” is on my A list this season. I’m certain discounts will be plentiful, despite the universal glowing reviews. It’s just too weird and angry for tourists. They should have put it in a smaller venue. 2nd Stage would’ve been perfect. Glad you enjoyed “Something Rotten.” Seriously…if you don’t laugh at least a few times during that show then you’re a corpse. How’d you like that tap-off between Borle and D’Arcy James? Worth the price of admission. I like that their website is rottenbroadway dot com. That’s funny, too.
Bruce Willis in “Misery.” Brilliant casting or train wreck in the making? Personally, I can’t wait.
I thought that Brian d’Arcy James and Christian Borle were terrific. I love those guys. I was also very impressed with John Cariani who played the younger Bottom brother, Nigel. That stellar cast made writing that fell short work well. We also loved the “Musical” number set in Soothsayer Alley. That one was brilliant. I laughed my head off. We thought the first act was better than the second though.
This evening I got an email for FREE tickets to Airline Highway. But it’s only for Sunday when a dear old friend is visiting me from NJ (yeah, your turf). It crossed my mind to reschedule our plans, but I’m not that much of a turd. He’s also going out of his way to see me and he’ll very likely pick up the lion’s share of the tab. But why couldn’t that discount have been for another day?
If you get on some volunteer usher lists, you can see many off-Broadway shows for free. I’ve been ushering for over six years and I have noticed that it’s become very competitive. Word must have gotten out about it.
Film stars doing taking on theater often disappoint me. Right now, I feel negative about Bruce Willis in Misery, but if there’s good buzz and we can score tickets at a discount, maybe we’ll go for it. Is Joe Mantello directing? Hey, couldn’t resist. I see Leigh Silverman’s name everywhere.
Have you ever seen ’39 Steps’? If you like British farce and Alfred Hitchcock (a big yes on both for Milton and me), it’s wonderful. Its also pretty kid-friendly. It’s coming back now at the Union Square Theatre. If you go to the box office by April 30th and mention the code THMNIA, you can get orchestra seats for $39 and mezzanine for $19. This offer is good for performances through May 31st. Also, you can save having to pay over $8 in fees per ticket by buying them at the box office.
Amazing tale, inspiring. I’m always looking for “inspiring”. Thank you!
Hello and welcome aboard. I dole out inspiration in small, controlled quantities here. It’s usually a lot of me complaining. You’ve been warned.
This post came at the right time. What a great story about Sedaris! I was just rejected (again) and so I’m in the middle of having yet another writer tantrum. When something I write is rejected over and over it really has a funny way of crushing your spirit. But then I also know that writing humor is something I love to do. I get such a kick out of it that I know I’ll never stop.
I have mad respect for people who get it down on paper and send it out there. You have an admirable resolve. I’ve always been too thin-skinned. I take rejection far too hard. How do you do it? Can I borrow some of what you have?
It’s a great reminder how hard these people worked to get where they are, Mark. And that they’re really freaking good. Great journal piece. Did the New York Press publish your stripper story? If not, you would have done the research on your own anyway back then, I’m sure. Characters you must have seen in those joints.
Great work by Sarsgaard putting the 14-year-old in his crosshairs. He likely knew he could turn that kid onto live drama for the rest of his life with that one personal turn.
I bet by now 75 percent of the people quoting those lines perhaps with perhaps 50 percent accuracy have no clue they come from Hamlet.
I was most taken aback by Sedaris’ attitude about success and monetary gain. Perhaps it was all for show but he really didn’t seem to care all that much about money (at the time). Maybe that’s the secret. Become disinterested and it’ll come to you. I don’t know the secret. I doubt anybody does.
Nobody printed that piece I referred to. Quite honesty, I don’t remember it and think it was right to be rejected.
I like when named actors return to the smaller venues to pay homage to their early careers when that’s ALL they could do.
I’m a bit like kono — I lack ambition and drive. I’m happy just drifting about. No deadlines, no endless applications, no begging for crumbs. However, at the same time, I am aware that I’ve let opportunities slip through my grasp. I mean at one point I was paid for a week in Brussels (air fare, accomodation, drinks, meals, everything) by the Belgian Culture Ministry to do my performance art malarkey over there. It sold out (a tiny venue!) and what did I do when I got back home? Make show reels? Put something on YT? Check all the upcoming performance festivals and put in a pitch?
No, sat on my arse and did FA.
I’ve always considered my lack of drive and motivation my most fatal flaw. Worse, even, than the low self esteem I was haunted with for so many years. I have a inkling that I might actually have possessed some talent at one time. If I had nurtured it, heaven only knows how far I could have gone. But I simply couldn’t be bothered. And setting myself up for failure wasn’t my thing. FA was what I did best.
JUST spent an evening in Columbus, OH with Mr. Sedaris! He is still gloriously funny and talent oozes from his pores! i have read “Santaland Diaries”, and seen two different stagings – and he is brilliant! i am completely all ‘fan girl’ knowing that you were in a writing workshop with him! He is my muse – if i ever get to writing up the ‘trailer park’ memoirs,i hope to have a nano-fraction of his skill in pulling it together…
I’m going to Columbus in a couple of weeks to visit friends. What a shame this didn’t all coincide. What a fun trip that would’ve been. Sedaris really is gifted. He’s excellent in his readings. Not all authors can give entertaining readings. I’ve seen some poor examples. Did you get a signed book? You only people like that guy occasionally. You can tell they have something extra going on that regular folks lack. Many are called but few, etc.
i’m only an hour away from C-bus, so e-mail me if you think you’ll have a clear window for dinner or drinks while you’re there… Figuring if you’re headed there to visit friends, you’re probably already booked…
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You ever think that maybe it’s luck that some make it and others don’t? I don’t. I think it’s blazing ability to make words do what they are meant for. Hard to replace. By the way, I have to officially nominate you, through whatever venue possible, your blog as the finest on WordPress. Seriously man, you are that good and readable.
I’ll pop back in a couple of days to finish the other posts I missed.