Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Doing Phantom in Akron was, on the whole, a disillusioning experience. You work so hard as an actor in New York, going to audition after audition. It's brutal. Then, Eureka, you finally get a good gig! And when that good gig ends up being a less-than-positive experience, you start to wonder what the heck you're doing it for.

Of course, attitude is everything. One begins to want more control over one's life, and as an actor, it's hard not to feel eternally "at the mercy" of someone or something else. And, I worked with a lot of great people in Akron, and the theatre itself was fine. Maybe it was just me.

At any rate, it ended, and it was back to Manhattan. I did two readings of new musicals, Moll Flanders and Houdini.

One day I checked my voicemail, and there was a message on it from Kevin Clash. He asked me to call him, because he wanted to talk to me "about Muppets". It was a solid half year since I had sent in my tape, and then out of the blue, I get a call from Elmo. I called him; we talked. I had to freely admit that I had almost no experience whatsoever with puppets as an adult, beyond having made that video. He asked me to come in and hang out on the set of the 25th anniversary special that Sesame Street was taping for ABC.

So I went out to Kaufman-Astoria studios in Queens, and there it was: Sesame Street. Totally surreal. I still can't quite believe that happened. I met Jerry Nelson. Caroll Spinney. I was going to be there for three days, just hanging out and observing. On the last day, totally unpaid and probably against union rules, I got pulled into assisting on three shots. I got to right-hand Oscar inside his trash can! Enormous thrill.

I then got asked to assist on a shoot for a pre-recorded attraction for Sesame Place theme park. As I remember it, that was just before my first workshop. The workshop was a weeklong affair, led by Kevin. Here, I'm afraid, is where my total lack of experience hurt me, as of course it would. Attending this workshop with me, all of them total newcomers to Henson, were three puppeteers who already had a great deal of experience, and have gone on to major careers with Henson. Even a seasoned pro would have trouble making an impression alongside people like that. It was a very supportive, non-competitive process, not "cutthroat" in any way. But I do wish I had had a lot more studio experience before that workshop.

Back to the world of musical theatre. I got cast as Rutledge in 1776 at Maine State Music Theatre. This was a great gig, a great role, and I loved doing it. So it was great to have that experience, to remind me that acting and singing gigs could be wonderful.

Somewhere in here I did my first animation, doing 2D facial animation in After Effects for a calculator character for a gig Brian had gotten. This was a blast. I also did some voices for talking masks in the Jekyll & Hyde theme restaurant, courtesy of my friend Darin De Paul.

This was also a time of much auditioning. Following up on my 1988 experience, I auditioned for Les Misérables a countless number of times. Any time Johnson-Liff had an audition, they called me in. I ended up auditioning for every male lead in the show except Marius: Valjean, Javert, Enjolras, Thenardier. I probably would have been cast in a much smaller part, which would have been just dandy. I know that if it had been up to Johnson-Liff, I would have been cast many times. But it wasn't up to Johnson-Liff.

I played the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Montclair Operetta Club. Nice to be working "just outside the city", and to get to come home at night!

This year I surprised Laura with tickets to go see Patrick Stewart in A Christmas Carol, on Christmas Day. For the first time since moving to New York, I got to spend the holidays with Laura. It was a nice end to a year of big highs, and smaller frustrations.

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