Friday, November 6, 2009

The Humble Haiku

I thought I would share my latest creative outlet with anyone who happens to pass by. I am creating Haiku poems for my family for Christmas. I've written the 5/7/5 syllable verses and am in the process of photoshopping them onto photo backgrounds which I will print 8x10 and frame. So far, I'm really happy with the end results. Haiku structure is fascinating to me and really a good vehicle for summarizing one's feelings about a loved one. Choosing the right photographic background can be the biggest challenge, however. After Christmas I might post a few select examples...

Friday, October 23, 2009

A change of Direction...

I've spent the last 25 years of my life acting, writing, drawing, sculpting, painting, designing, and generally "creating". As anyone who struggles with Depression can tell you, there have been many "ups" and "downs"...distractions that have led me away from the spawning grounds of my imagination. I've made my share of mistakes and they have cost me greatly...but I've experienced some amazing things along the way that make it all worthwhile.

I am the sum total of my experiences, tempered by a brush with death and a few life-altering milestones. At age 14, I died...sort of. I was born with a birth defect that basically allowed me to poison my own blood throughout my formative years. When they operated, they gave me an antibiotic that I was allergic to. It stopped my heart. But I digress...

In middle school, I had a growth spurt that left me at 6 feet tall and as thick as a tree trunk. High school football coaches had convinced me that football was going to be as good for me as I would be for it...and they way certain young ladies acted at hearing that I was going to be on the team, it seemed the prophesy would play itself out. I squatted 315 lbs and dead lifted 350 lbs at age 13...which I thought was pretty good...especially since I was out lifting many of the Varsity players at the time and had never lifted weights before in my life.

At this point, poised to become at least a noteworthy warrior in Aubrey High School's Gridiron History, the unthinkable happened. While I had been deathly ill at times earlier in my life because of my birth defect, as I grew my body seemed more able to withstand the poisons with only occasional instances that would present as the flu. However, my doctor since birth happened to finally discover that the so-called flu was actually a kidney infection...and then proceeded to alter my medical records to cover his incompetence...using most of the correction fluid in the free world in the process. I was sent to a specialist in Dallas and had exploratory surgery. To make a long story short...if this defect wasn't fixed, I'd be dead in two years. The true extent of this revelation wasn't fully realized until the actual surgery...where they sliced me open right through my lower abdominal muscles. Even after I recovered and began to lift again, the doctor said that if I was to take a bad hit in football, I could dislodge all that he had repaired and hasten my demise once more. And thus, I felt my life was destroyed. No football glory. No girlfriend. No future.

Fortunately, Aileen Stark came to Aubrey High School in 1984 to start a Theatre program. She set about reaching into my troubled mind and heart, plucking out my shriveled creativity, and breathing life back into it. I acted in every play from that point until graduation in 1987.

By 1989, I had my Associates Degree in Fine Arts, but had decided that Video Production would be a more "permanent" form of expression. Blame it all on the Great Snowstorm of the Spring of 1989...which allowed me to tour a television station while snowed in at a Theatre Festival. I graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio/TV Production and a job at a Television station in Wichita Falls, Texas.

My time in TV was incredible and I saw things people don't normally get to see...or would ever want to. In 1994, I took advantage of a college connection to get a job with a government contractor providing video production services to the U.S. Air Force at Sheppard AFB. I spent the next three years conceptualizing, writing, videotaping, editing, creating graphics, voicing, and producing training and education multimedia for the Air Education & Training Command. I was involved with Distance Learning and Computer-based Training and had the opportunity to travel around the country to various Air Force bases. I also produced a Public Affairs program that was aired on the local cable network. The contract ended in the summer of 1997 and I was made a temporary government employee for 6 months until the contract was awarded to a new company.

In October of 1997 I left Wichita Falls and returned home to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. While trying to find a position in my field in the 8th largest television market in the nation, I began substitute teaching. A little boy named Rowdy in my first class convinced me that becoming a teacher would be a worthwhile career change. I entered the Teacher Preparation Program and began teaching at Aubrey Middle School in 1998. I met my wife while teaching at Aubrey and we were married in June of 1999. At the conclusion of my first year of teaching, I was certified to teach General Elementary 1-6. I taught for 4 years at a private school for ADD, ADHD, and other Learning challenges. As one might think, it was a high stress but high-reward job. I burned out. I tested for my certification in Theatre and began teaching Technical Theatre at the high school level. Finally I was back to my first love. I spent two tumultuous years dealing with the most messed-up group of people in the world...the American Teenager. The problems my students faced on a daily basis crushed my heart and ultimately proved to me that I was not able to maintain the professional distance or dispassion that was required. Inconsistently medicated depression didn't help either. Time for yet another career change.

A digression: It was during these years, early in my marriage, that I began acting and writing again. My first show was "Fiddler on the Roof"...yep, a musical. I played Mordcha the Innkeeper and sang on stage for the first time ever. I loved it. I went straight into "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" as Scanlon. Aileen Stark was the Assistant Director and Dr. Ralph Culp directed. Around this time I participated in RoverDramawerks "One Day Only 7" as a playwright and my wife as an actress. In 2005, I was asked to play Horton the Elephant in Music Theatre of Denton's production of "Seussical the Musical". It was my first ever leading role and it was a singing one at that. I've missed singing so much since then.

Shakespeare Dallas was my first opportunity to work professionally in theatre. I was Assistant Master Electrician and Mic Tech for the 2006 season. It was one of the hardest jobs I've had in my life. 100+ degree heat, running heavy electrical and sound cabling, erecting incredibly heavy lighting trusses, and putting microphones on scantily clad actresses were only a few of the challenges I faced and overcame that summer. From there I went on to work extensively with Dallas Children's Theatre as Master Electrician, Lightboard Operator, Sound Designer, and Soundboard Operator. I also worked as Master Electrician for Kitchen Dog Theatre and Lighting Designer for shows at the Bath House Cultural Center. The highlight of my professional endeavors, however, was working with Buff Shurr and Patty Granville as Sound Designer for "Hello, Dolly!" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie" in 2007.

And here comes the disconnect... In 2007, as the Garland Summer Musical season was coming to a close, my wife and I came to the mutual conclusion that contract work without insurance or a 401k, no matter how lucrative it might seem at the time, was not a replacement for a steady paycheck and retirement savings. For the last two year or so, I've been languishing in retail management.

Recent Revelations: My play "Stranger Than Fiction", originally written for One Day Only 7, was chosen from over 75 plays to be included in The Best of One Day Only production which would culminate in the collection of short plays being shopped around to publishing houses. A local middle school recently contacted me for permission to produce my play "The Bedtime Story" which I originally wrote for my wife Shannon.

Future Plans: I have written approximately 7 plays which are currently in various stages of editing. I would love to have more of them produced and eventually published. I will be posting excerpts of my plays soon. MTD is producing "The Pirates of Penzance" and I am seriously considering auditioning...

If you read all of this...I love you! ;-)