Saturday, July 31, 2010

Responding to your Critics

I was just reading somewhere of a playwright who wrote a snarky email to a critic who had (in the critics' own words) "savaged" their writing.

This made me think of my recent response to a critic who off-handedly charged me with plagiarism.

I would (and this seems strange) side with the critic in the first case: a playwright should NEVER respond to a negative review, no matter how unfairly they feel they might have been treated.

The critic has the bully pulpit here, and any response will just make you seem petty, at best.

If anything, it only empowers the critic, and gives their review more weight (and attention).

I would only make two important exceptions to that rule (though there might be more that I haven't come across yet):

1. The critic accuses you, or your writing, of something wildly damaging to your career/reputation - that is completely untrue - thereby forcing you to respond. (ie, my recent missive re: Grimm. I would also include the recent "homophobia" charge against the author of Johnny Baseball as an example: it just wasn't there, was a serious charge, and justified a response.)

2. The critic is anonymous/uses a pseudonym. This is WILDLY unfair, and a clear conflict of interests. It happens more and more now that blogs are everywhere. I remember reading of a recent case covered in The Times of a woman who sued a web-site for the email of an anonymous (and slanderous) blogger/reviewer, and won. It turns out, of course, that the blogger was a fierce competitor in her field.

A reviewer MUST stand behind their words, as any writer does.

This said, it is always a tricky situation to respond to your critics.

My best advice, unless you find yourself in one of the above situations: ignore them.

And even then, you might still want to ignore them.

Or even better: write a play about them.

Tom Stoppard's excellent The Real Inspector Hound (which The Publick will be performing in the fall at the BCA) is a great example of a playwright writing about (and alternately humanizing and savaging) critics, as is Conor McPherson's St. Nicholas, a terrific one-person play the Sugan produced years ago, about a theatre critic who falls in with a troupe of actors who are really vampires.

The truth is, we NEED more people writing about theatre, who care about theatre, who are passionate about it, who want to start a conversation.

Even if we don't always like to hear what they have to say.

Last Night at Grimm

Finally saw Grimm last night: what a blast! Tommy and I had a great time.

I hadn't seen the whole piece since the read-thru months ago, and I missed opening week because of my teaching schedule.

It really looks beautiful, the cast is AWESOME, and it was directed imaginatively and with great care by Shawn and Summer.

My favorite part of the evening was the audience: it was a packed house, out for the night, they wanted to be there, and they were having a great time.

Company One also managed to publish the text in a slick little edition, which you can purchase at the concession stand. It's a great idea (Woolly Mammoth does the same thing: I bought Clybourne Park and Gruesome Playground Injuries, which are both new and hard to find).

And the talk back was quite fun and engaging: the audience seemed truly interested in new plays, and talking about the process.

It made my previous worries about DC fade a little bit.

Friday, July 30, 2010


I just finished my new play for Emerson, and sent if off for perusal.

I've titled it Stargazers, as the couples reminded me of those beautiful lilies,

staring at the fireworks,

the sky,

the moon,

into the past,

the future,

their dreams,

their reflections.

Everything but each other.

Green with Envy #1

There's an episode of The Simpsons where Selma is getting married to yet another ill-fated suitor, and emerges from the church in her wedding gown.

She turns to her grouchy twin Patty and demands: "Just tell me what you know I want to hear."

To which Patty sighs, drags on her cig, and responds: "All right: I'm dying of jealousy."

To which a teary Selma replies: "Thank you."

In that spirit, here is the first of what I'm sure will be a long series of invocations to people that just have a WAY better life than me.

Some people are just lucky.

Or talented.

Or charmed.

Or good-looking.

Or smart.

Or wealthy.

Or have great careers.

But it takes a really special combo to make me envious: that unique person who I just want to BE.

And coming in at #1 is:
Zach Braff.

Which seems strange, even to me, as I knew next to NOTHING about Zach Braff until this morning, when I read a little puff piece about him in the Times for this up-coming Off-Broadway play Trust, in which he's performing.

I have never even seen an episode of Scrubs, which I know might seem REALLY strange, as it's been around so long.

Not that I wouldn't have liked it, probably, it just never seemed to be urgent viewing, the way I feel about, say, Mad Men or True Blood.

It always sort of struck me as too much like Ally McBeal.

Only set in a hospital.
With a guy.
Then again, I have only seen ONE episode of Seinfeld.

And I saw the show twice. It was just the same episode. What are the odds?
(In case you're wondering which one: it was the one where they all have the masturbation race.)

Anyway, back to Braff.
I saw his movie Garden State when it came out, though I don't remember a thing about it.
But I remember it didn't suck.

And really, the guy is just charmed. He even admits to it in the The Times, pretty much.

And I'm not saying he didn't work hard to get there: I'm sure he did.

Nine years of Scrubs couldn't have been all pinwheels and cream pies.

But he's made his money (doing something that was probably pretty fun) and now he can do whatever he wants.

It didn't seem to get to his head.

He's not controlled by anyone, it seems.

He's modest and likable and funny.

He's not some scary, driven ambitious Hollywood actor.

He's not in rehab.

He's good-looking in a non-threatening fashion.

And he's five years younger than me. OK, six.

I am assuming a LOT here, but until proven otherwise, here's to you, Zach Braff:
I want to BE YOU.

Up next: Annie Baker.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Trailer for GRIMM

I am going to be at the talkback tomorrow night (Friday).

Hope you can make it!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Acting Life

So I've hit this strange sort of section in my life lately where I'm really looking back/

assessing things/

trying to figure out what's next/

how to proceed.

I'm a lot less busy right now, which helps to nurture such a luxurious state: I usually can't afford the time to think of such things.

And I've realized I typically work about 12 hours a day: teaching during the day, then a show or rehearsal at night.

In between I'm writing whatever it is I'm writing (last year it was Superheroine Monologues, The Salt Girl and The Hotel Nepenthe plus Grimm and this short play for Emerson coming up).

If I do have free time, I'm either sleeping, shopping for food, cleaning the house or trying to spend time with Tommy.

It's tricky to even keep in touch with friends with a schedule like that.

So I'm really LOVING the free time.
It feels alien and wonderful.

Last year was particularly brutal: I began rehearsals for The Caretaker and teaching pretty much simultaneously.

Once The Caretaker opened, I began rehearsals for The Salt Girl, while still teaching and performing at night.

We cobbled together a rehearsal schedule around our free time. Since I was the only actor, it was a little easier to do that.

The remounting of Superheroines at the BCA was also occurring at this point, but I was so busy, I never even saw it, which really broke my heart.
There was only one performance I could make that didn't conflict with my rehearsal schedule, and I threw my back out during it - completely immobilized. (I have a feeling stress was involved. Maybe.)

I have still never seen the noir Wonder Woman re-write.
Also, The Caretaker only has three characters, so we were always called to every rehearsal.
And such a grueling play, I felt like a truck hit me after every performance.

After five weeks, The Caretaker closed on a Sunday and The Salt Girl opened that Wednesday, so the tech overlapped (I don't think I ate or slept during that period...).

The Salt Girl was even more grueling than The Caretaker. I felt like a truck hit me after every performance, after being struck by lightning and raped by a giraffe.

Once The Salt Girl opened, I began directing The Magic Flute at BoCo (just the first act, but still....) and teaching on top of that, of course.

The Magic Flute is in outer space in my version, with Tamio running around in tights with his underwear on the outside, like Captain Kirk. Such a blast!

Once The Salt Girl closed I immediately starting rehearsing Midsummer.

Midsummer goes into tech during Christmas and opens right about when school gets back into session.

During the Spring semester, I'm teaching full time again at BoCo PLUS a class at Suffolk.

Midsummer closes, and the show I put together with my seniors at BoCo opens. It's an original piece that they wrote/perform themselves, called Cosmic Certainty.
It's about the Zodiac, and seeing into the future, and the Post Office.

I'm directing it.

I'm also the stage manager.
And the set designer.

I also, with Trent Mills, create the lightning design.

They make all the sound effects themselves, which is a relief and really cool.

After this period, I go into rehearsal for Timon of Athens.

Still teaching, with three finals coming up now, which are really one-night performances that I'm curating/directing.

Both grad theses that I'm advising go up: a show about Mary Martin and a show about Gyspy Rose Lee.

Reading of The Hotel Nepenthe with The Village Theatre Project, so I'm re-writing that.

Timon opens.

School ends.

Timon closes.
Somewhere in there I get this weird infection in my elbow (!) which requires two trips to the emergency room.
A week in DC/ visiting T's family.
A trip to NC to see my Granny (she's 93 and sharp as a tack!).
And now I'm here.

But here's the thing: I don't know of any actor who wouldn't be that busy, if they could.
I felt very lucky.
I WANTED to do The Caretaker. I LOVE that play. I will probably never get a chance to play Aston again (I'm a bit old to play him now).
It was such a difficult joy to perform.

And I NEEDED to do The Salt Girl. I've been working on it for years. I don't think I could be more proud of it, or feel more blessed.
I was on board for Midsummer since the summer before, and Timon, well, I LOVE that play too: such a difficult text, and a real challenge.

And that's really part of it: actors jump at the chance to perform, in spite of crazy schedules and the impossibility to make a living or have a life.

I would perform in drag on a moving sight-seeing train for senior citizens, if someone asked me to. (and I have!)

Karen MacDonald put it so well, that we NEED to do this, somehow. It's just a part of us.

But my year coming up looks VERY different from last year.

I don't really have any acting work.

At all.

For the first time in over a decade, I have very little to do, acting-wise.

I'll be performing in The Hotel Nepenthe for 2 weeks in February (which I'm very excited about), and that's it (and that seems like a million years from now).

The landscape has totally changed over the last year and a half.

New Artistic Directors have appeared in theatres where I used to work frequently.

Directors that liked to work with me have gone away, or have nothing for me.

If I was in need of health insurance this year, I would be totally screwed.

But I'm not, thank god.

And, in a way, because my insurance isn't on the line, I feel strangely relieved.
Note: Equity actors need to work 20 weeks out of the year to qualify for their health insurance.

If you don't work the 20 weeks, you get dropped, which is a terrifying prospect, and seems unfair. After all, if you're sick, how can you work?

And acting isn't something you can do well when you're sick, though we all do it, again and again.

(I was SO sick and drugged on cold medicine during tech for The Caretaker that I think it actually helped me understand my brain-damaged character a little better...)

But if I know anything, I know that this happens.

There is no stability in this profession, and we will always be scrambling.

I remember forming a real close working relationship with a theatre company when I was just starting out here in Boston: I did 10 plays with them in the span of 5 years.


Including 5 that I wrote.

That's still more than any other theatre company I've worked for.

Let's see if I remember them:

Fifth of July.
Party Poopers.
Freaks! (in 3 incarnations)
After School Special.
The SantaLand Diaries.
Actorz...with a Z.
Balm in Gilead.
I think that's it. Maybe I'm missing one.
That's a lot of shows for such a short time.
I assumed, given that history, that we would continue working together for quite awhile.
Never assume.
The last time I worked for them was in 1999.

They had a change of programming, a different direction they wanted to explore, and I haven't been hired by them since.

If someone told me that 10 years ago, I would have checked to see which leg they were pulling.

But these things happen, and I feel no bitterness about it at all.

Just bewildered.

There are opportunities.

And then suddenly there are none.

And the company is still doing great, now considered one of the best theatres in the city: they produce wonderful work, and I wish them nothing but the best, now and always.

But as I tell my students, that is the nature of this business: there is no stability, no loyalty, no security.

You will never be right for every role in every production, no matter how versatile you are (though Meryl could make an argument there...)

For Tommy, the situation is even worse: after 30 years with the ART, the new artistic director has let him and the entire acting company go.

It's pretty devastating.

I have a lot of feelings about that situation, but for now, I will keep them to myself.

But I will say that I'm glad that we live in Massachusetts, and that we are married, so he can use my health insurance, if need be.

All in all, I feel like there's been lots of change, but not always for the worse.

I'm just as busy, but in a different way.

I took a new teaching gig.

I'm directing a new musical at BoCo in the fall.

And while I'm working less as an actor, I'll actually be making slightly more money and have much more free time.

Which is a sad state of affairs, but it's just the truth: stage actors do not make money.

And because I'm not in rehearsals/performance every night, I have more time to write and focus on playwrighting.

So Rick Park and I are writing another show for Greg Mariao.

Which is heaven, working with them both.

It's just different.

And it feels weird, to not be acting.

But I guess what feels really weird is that I don't mind.

After all, it's tiring.

It's exhausting.

It's relentless.

God, I will miss it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Into the Bitch

I try my best not to read reviews.

If I'm acting in the play, I ALWAYS try to wait until the play is over, as even a positive review can fuck up what you're doing.

Sometimes I'm not so successful in avoiding them (I get emails sent to me with review blurbs, sometimes by the theatres themselves), but I TRY.

But if I WROTE the play, (and I'm not performing in it), I usually read them during the run.

I am curious, after all.

And, like most writers, I want people to like my work.

Even Ivo Van Hove cares how people respond.

And critics, in theory, are supposed to be these enlightened, perceptive, tasteful, seasoned play-goers who know a thing or two about theatre.

So, I've been reading the reviews of Grimm, which opened last week.

As usual, they range from the vaguely positive (The Boston Globe) to the wildly mean-spirited and negative (The Boston Herald).

And that is as it should be, really.

No one sees a piece of art the same way, of course.

But the system is flawed, unfortunately.

To my mind, theatre is an ephemeral thing: it opens and closes and is never seen again.

Reviews, however - especially in this day and age of the Internet - are FOREVER.

They are the only record that the production ever existed, sometimes.

So in that sense, critics wield a great deal of power, and it upsets me when I feel they use that power irresponsibly and recklessly.

Artists cannot defend their work from critics.

It will ALWAYS be seen as sour grapes.

So, there's really nothing that can be done or said.

But every now and then, a review lays some wildly bogus claim, and I feel that I must address one that has been laid against me.

I am referring to the review of Grimm that was published in "My South End", which you can read here:

I am ambivalent to even refer to (and thus, empower) this poisonous review, because, as you can see, the reviewer totally eviscerated nearly all these new plays.


He can do that.

And in a sense, I got off easy: he only wrote one line about my play, Red:

"And in Kuntz’s Little Red Cap the play owes too much to Sondheim’s Into the Woods"

Here's what's wrong with that statement:

I have never SEEN Into the Woods.


I've never even heard any of the music.

I know the gist of it, and that's about it.

I know, shocking.

I'm sure someone will revoke my fag card now.

But as I've written before, I'm not a huge fan of musicals, unless they are really dark and disturbing.

And maybe Into the Woods IS dark and disturbing.

But I wouldn't know.


So I'm not exactly sure what I OWE to it.

And notice, it's not that I owe "much" to Into the Woods, it's that I owe "TOO MUCH" to Into the Woods.

See, my problem here is that the reviewer is actually accusing me of ripping Into the Woods off.

That I just stole all my words and ideas from fucking STEPHEN SONDHEIM.

I wasn't even given the benefit of a doubt.

It is laid out here as a FACT.

Perhaps I should be flattered, since I know that isn't true.

Perhaps I should laugh.

Perhaps I should just forget about it.

But to anyone reading that review, I have just been branded a plagiarist.

I really can't think of a more damaging activity of which to accuse another writer.

And it is here on-line.


And it was so lazily, thoughtlessly, blithely done.

Well, I would like to set the record straight:

I do not owe ANYTHING to Into the Woods.

Every word, every idea in that play - for better or worse - is MY OWN.
And I really resent the implication.

If there IS a similarity (both plays - I understand - use Little Red Riding Hood as source material, after all) then it is a fucking COINCIDENCE.

Here's what I think:

Do NOT empower irresponsible, dismissive, reckless critics like this.
Do not let them tell you what to think.

Go and see the show.

Grimm is still running.

It is a NEW ORIGINAL PIECE in its WORLD PREMIERE that needs and deserves support.

It was a brave, risky, adventurous choice by a daring theatre company.

It is NOT some re-hash of a recent New York hit.

It is NOT some unimaginative re-mounting of a tried and true chestnut (like, btw, Into the Woods).

It features NEW work by playwrights that I admire IMMENSELY: Lydia Diamond, Marcus Gardley, Melinda Lopez, Kristin Greenidge, John ADEkoje and Gregory MacGuire.

It has a wonderful cast, directors and design team.

And this original production will soon close and be gone forever.

So I hope people will come see the show and make up their own minds.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

BoCo Summer Intensive

For the past three summers, I have been teaching an acting portion of a 2 week-long vocal intensive for high school singers thru Boston Conservatory.

The kids are quite talented, it's really quite fun, and the closest I have ever come to being shot out of a cannon.

The class is large (47 this year), with a focus on vocal performance.

I only have them for one week, so I usually separate them into groups, and we work on Shakespeare monologues, but this year I decided to have them all perform the Richard III/Lady Anne Scene at once, dividing the lines between them.

I also have included Caliban's "Be not afeard" speech from "The Tempest", the poem "The Emperor of Ice-Cream" by Wallace Stevens, and a dance to "Bye Bye Bye" by N'Sync.

Really interesting to work on this piece. It's a challenge, but I am having a blast. I wish, of course, there was more time, but I guess that's why they call it an intensive!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Imperfectionists

Had a chance to actually read a book for fun recently, rather than out of duty.

I do read quite a bit, but it's usually for a class, or an audition, or it's news-worthy, or research, or some other alternate reason, so it always feels like work.

It's rare I can actually sit down and read something purely for pleasure.

It's quite a different experience, and I miss it, just being lost in someone elses' world.

Anyway, if you're looking for a fun read, I would highly recommend "The Imperfectionists" by Tom Rachman, which just came out a few months ago.
I read a review in the NY Times and it sounded really interesting , so I picked it up at the Cambridge library with my spanking new library card.

It kept me company during Act 2 of "Timon of Athens".

It's the story of an international English newspaper that resides in Rome. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different employee of the paper, so it's almost like reading a book of interconnected short stories, each with a surprising twist, that collectively chart the beginnings and end of the newspaper.

Really enjoyable, colorful characters, and there is great wit and humor in the writing.

I'm in the middle of "Mr. Peanut" right now, a new novel about toxic marriage, murder and deadly food allergies.
Great so far.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mad Mel

OK, so after reading not one but TWO NY Times Op-Eds on Mel Gibson's crazy rant (the latest by Frank Rich, no less), Tommy and I decide we must hear it.

Holy. Shit.

It was actually a lot worse than I even imagined.

And yes, Mel is a total narcissist. But we seem to be seeing that a lot these days.
And I really don't think he's the worst one out there. Which is a scary thought.

OK, so, we're all a little self-involved. We need to preserve ourselves, of course. If we didn't have egos, we would just lay down and starve to death.

But then there's behavior that goes beyond mere self-preservation.
And then behavior that goes beyond that.
And then there's behavior that goes WELL beyond that.

It's like the creaming station at Starbucks.
You know, that little counter with the cream and the Splenda and the stirrers?
I LOVE watching that station: it's always interesting to see how much space people take up, without a thought or regard to others that might be behind or next to them.
And then there's others who actually seem AWARE that the station is for MANY people, not just them.
And there's still some others who seem cowed, apologetic even, to be taking up space: deferential and shy, cowering over the skim milk, moving quickly.

There are different types of narcissists, too.
You can be entitled.
Or vain.
Or authoritative.
Or an exhibitionist.
Or superior.
Or simply self-sufficient.
Or a combo.
And there's degrees within that, as well.
Again, sometimes it's not all bad.
It's better to be self-sufficient than vain.
So no narcissist is alike.
Like snowflakes.
Self-absorbed, self-centered, selfish snowflakes.

I love the BP guy, what's his name: you know, the guy who "wants his life back" after his company's cheap-o methods killed 11 of his employees, and created the worst oil spill in history: destroying our coast, killing wild life and the livelihood and well-being of countless people.

At one point, he took a break to go yachting in the middle of all this.
At a really high-profile yachting event in England.

Now I can understand wanting to spend time with your family.
To be with loved ones.
I'm sure he is under a lot of well-deserved stress.
But to go YACHTING? At a wildly popular, expensive PARTY?
That's when you realize that this man is different from you, different from most empathic human beings.

In short, that he's a fucking asshole.

And he's a LOT more dangerous than Mel, at least right now.

And there are TONS of men and women like him.
Remember the parents of "Balloon Boy" last fall? These were two people that forced their children to lie and staged a phony, multi-state emergency, all so they could get attention and (hopefully) a reality show.
The scary thing is, unlike Mel, some of these people have actual POWER: they run our big companies (Enron, Lehman Brothers), they manage our finances (Bernie Madoff, and countless others), they are elected officials (Jon Edwards, George W. Bush, anyone?) they control gigantic organizations that are doing God knows what to us (back to BP and the oil companies, the insurance companies, the tobacco companies, the fast food companies, and on and on...)

The thing about an out-of-control narcissist is that they can be quite driven, and they are ALWAYS right.
About everything.
Because they say so.
They have no understanding of how other people might think or feel.
Other people do not exist to them or are merely an extension of themselves.
They are self-confident, because that is all they know, and they take great risks.
They ignore any criticism and see anyone who slights them as a mortal enemy.
All these traits can make them seemingly great leaders, but they are not: because they will ALWAYS sacrifice the good of the company and the people they are supposed to serve for the good of themselves.


And it seems we are fast becoming a nation of narcissists.

David Brooks of the NYTimes wrote this last week:

"In their book, “The Narcissism Epidemic,” Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell cite data to suggest that at least since the 1970s, we have suffered from national self-esteem inflation. They cite my favorite piece of sociological data: In 1950, thousands of teenagers were asked if they considered themselves an “important person.” Twelve percent said yes. In the late 1980s, another few thousand were asked. This time, 80 percent of girls and 77 percent of boys said yes."

This made me think of two things:

First, of course, since I was a teen-ager in the late 1980s, I am a part of that data.

It secondly reminded me of the film "Greenberg" (which I just rented) and made me realize that the title character represented Gen X self-involvement to the nth degree.

Both these observations, of course, are hugely self-aware.

Some social observers are blaming modern parenting methods, which tend to involve constant "Brave New World" -esque self-esteem building, for the influx of self-loving little darlings.

But whatever the cause, it seems that our egos will soon out-grow the limits of reason.

Actors can take the wrap sometimes for being the biggest narcissists, but I think it's the non-celebrity narcissists that do the most damage. We just notice actors more, because they are in the public eye, and have our attention (the perfect place for a narcissist).

But I don't think the best actors are narcissists.

This is perhaps because you cannot truly understand a character and how they might be different from you, how they might think and feel, how they might see the world, if you can't see other people in the first place, if people do not fascinate you, if they do not hold an interest beyond what they can do for you. You can never really TRANSFORM.
But more and more, actors are not required to transform. They just need to hold our attention.

Which is why actors are slowly being replaced with "reality stars".
It's why we watch shows like "The Real Housewives of New Jersey": those women are APPALLING, spoiled, self-centered monsters. But we can't tear our eyes away from them.

It's why we love watching the first three episodes of "American Idol": all the talent-free hopefuls that can't believe they aren't wonderful singers, that Simon Cowell is just "mean".
He IS mean, but that's beside the point.
The real mystery, what is so entertaining, arguably, is how (really WHY) so many people - a whole generation, it seems - can believe wholeheartedly that they are special; that they possess the pure raw talent (often with no technique or training or discipline whatsoever) to be a pop star, only to find that they are not only ordinary, but well below average.

They can't believe it.

They stare in disbelief at Simon and Randy.

The usually get quite angry, even rageful.

It is the mirror cracking in front of their face.

Glenn Beck and Percy Jackson

So, it's a Saturday night

Tommy is in tech.

Nothing on TV.

I notice that Glenn Beck is on, which made me throw-up a little, but I had never actually watched his show, so I decide to finally see how big an asshole he really is.

and I turn it on.

I swear to God: I did not understand a word he said.

I'm serious. He seemed sort of high. Or drunk or something. Perhaps on his own improbable power. And he was so squirrely, sort of fidgeting around, looking at the ceiling and the floor, and then at the camera, and then somewhere else.

He was talking to someone about the Tea Party, and race, and he kept injecting sentences about God that had nothing to do with what he just said, and at one point he said "And, well, Planned Parenthood is just EVIL" which really just came out of no where.

I mean, I don't think I'm a stupid person, but I really couldn't follow anything he was saying, it was just gobblity-gook. Completely incoherent.

So, I gave up after 10 minutes and, I'm ashamed to admit, rented "Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief"

Which was just as stupid.

But at least it had car chases.

And Zeus and Medusa.

And I realized: Glen Beck was sort of like Percy Jackson: a sort of white noise that just babbles down on top of you.

You aren't supposed to think, necessarily.

Just sit back and get lobotimized.

(Later Note: OK, I want to amend that last thought: Glenn Beck and Percy Jackson might both be mindless, or require mindlessness, but one is dangerous, and the other is just a waste of time.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Writing Analyzer

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I just found a link to this funny thing called "The Writing Analyzer" on the blog
"Direct Address"

You paste a piece of your writing into it, and it tells you what famous author your scribblings most resemble.

Some previous responses to various users had been HP Lovecraft, Kurt Vonnegut and "DaVinci Code" author Dan Brown, so it's a pretty wide playing field, evidently.

Curious, I put "The Salt Girl" into the contraption and was told that I wrote most like David Foster Wallace.

(Though I'm not sure if that's because of the writing, or the subject matter.)

Still, I couldn't be more flattered, (I thought I would get Danielle Steele, at best!) though, honestly, I now can't get Wallace's tragic end out of my mind, the poor thing.

I think I would rather write like him than BE him, necessarily.

He was clearly dealing with some really heavy shit.

But sometimes I worry that being a brilliant mind/writer and being happy might be mutually exclusive.

Hemingway was, clearly, not all that cheery.

Or James Joyce.

Or Proust.

Sylvia Plath.

Anne Sexton.

F. Scott was fun, but what a handful!

Same with Dorothy Parker. You REALLY don't want to be cleaning up after THOSE two...

Poe was a freaking nut.

According to a new biography, even William Golding of your eighth-grade required-reading "The Lord of the Flies" fame was pretty miserable, and he wasn't even THAT brilliant. I mean, don't get me wrong, he was certainly more brilliant then, say, Jacqueline Suzanne (who died of cancer pretty young, btw), but not next to Proust.

Jack "Call of the Wild" London was a total asshole, from what I hear.

Beckett was no fun to be around. Not a surprise.

Tolstoy died in a subway station.

Truman Capote was a mess.

Chekhov was sickly (see Proust).

Genet spent most of his life in jail.

Virginia Woolf: say no more.

Two words for E.M. Forester: Rough. Trade.

It's like Edward Albee: I LOVE his plays, but I don't know if I'd want to go scuba diving with him.

But maybe that's not a solid rule.

I hear Rossini was hilarious.

But he was a composer, so that's different, I guess.

Still, I heard he wrote "The Thieving Magpie" for his dog.

So he must have been fun at dinner parties.

And then, of course, there was Oscar Wilde, who was probably VERY fun and witty and happy.

So, of course, we threw him in jail!

Anyway, I have a feeling that if I were to put in a different play, I might get a completely different response.

Still, it's kind of fun.

Try it! You just click on the link above.

Mirror Up To Nature

My friend Art Hennessey, I just found out, gave me a shout out in his blog, Mirror Up To Nature, which was very nice. AND I was welcomed to the blogosphere!
I've never been welcomed to the blogosphere before!

Thank you, Art!

I worked with Art and his lovely wife Amanda on "The Superheroine Monologues", where they played Superman and Lois Lane. (Art also played 8,000 other characters as well. Backstage must have been a clown car of spandex!)

I also worked with Amanda on "Mr. Marmalade", which was a freaking hoot!

Art has been blogging for quite a while now, so I'm quite flattered to be mentioned.

I really don't know what the hell I'm doing here.

You should check out his blog, if you haven't before:

It's really a must-read for anyone interested in Boston Theatre (or theatre in general) and a WONDERFUL resource to and for theatre writers all over the country!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Just rode my bike in the pouring rain to an audition, only to find out that I had been given the wrong date: they are actually tomorrow.

Of course, I can't make it tomorrow: I moved everything to tomorrow so I could go to the audition today.

This made me look back and realize: every audition I've had lately has been a train-wreck, or a failure, or a complete waste of time.

But as actors, we are grateful to even be AUDITIONING, to be thought of AT ALL, so we forge on, eternally hopeful.

It's like making a living out of scratch tickets, some cosmic lottery.

Which is why I think only a very magical thinker would ever hope to believe that they could make a steady living out of doing this, without going bankrupt or crazy.

But I think actors ARE magical thinkers, which is why I like them.

The audition process is such a flawed system to me: I find it impossible to show a director what I can do (or even NOT do) with a role in 2 minutes.

Some people are REALLY good at auditioning. I am TERRIBLE at it.

Some actors enjoy auditioning. I dread it.

A lot of times, it just boils down to luck, or connections, or some random thing.

The biggest film role I ever got (Roger in "The Red Right Hand", this horror film set in the 70s - Netflix it! I play a gay vulcanologist with a dark past and HUGE bell-bottom slacks!) was TOTALLY random.

The day before the audition, I was doing a show in Wellfleet, and I was swimming in one of their ponds, and I got this nasty eye inflection from the algae or something, and I couldn't wear my contact lenses, because it was too painful.

So I wore my glasses.

Now, they always say (and I don't know who "they" is, really) to NEVER wear glasses to an audition: they might not be right for whatever character you're reading for, and they cover your eyes, somewhat, which isn't great on film, etc, etc.

But I had no choice. So I wore my glasses and got the part, and afterwards the director told me: "You know, you were the only one who wore GLASSES to the audition, and I just thought to myself: "Of course! Roger wears GLASSES!"

It was like this epiphany he had, over my glasses.

So, I got the part because I had an eye inflection.

All this just to say: you never know. It's completely random.

My favorite terrible audition was for a Boston casting agency (which will remain nameless, but they do all the local casting for the big movies that come to town).

I don't remember what this was for, exactly, but my audition was at 9 am, as that was the only time I could go (had to teach a class at 11pm).

I rode my bike in the freezing rain (it's always raining when I have to do these things) and got there early, like 8:30 am (which is REALLY early for me, as I typically don't get to bed until 2am).

I had the side, which was literally one line. I swear, my dry cleaner could play this part.

And there's other people there, in the unheated, drafty hallway, waiting.

But no one from the casting agency.

We wait and wait.

And wait.

Finally, an HOUR AND A HALF goes by, and now I have to get to my class.

I leave my headshot and resume on the table by the door, with a note saying how sorry to have missed you, maybe I could come back later, blah blah blah. I leave a message on their machine as well, like a responsible person. I never hear back from them.

A few weeks later, I bump into one of the actors that was waiting in the hallway with me and I asked him what had happened.

He told me that the kid running the auditions (and really, it was some KID, like 20 years old, who was apparently just supposed to tape us reading our lines into a video camera) had OVER SLEPT and that was why he was late (it was another HOUR after I left before he showed up to the agency).

So, he was about THREE HOURS LATE. And we all just stood there and waited.

Because when you come right down to it, really, we are powerless.

They have us, and they know it, and they can treat us like cattle, because really that's what we are to most of them. And, unfortunately, we come to expect that.

I never heard back from them, either. Not an apology, or an offer to re-schedule, or anything.
That's the really demoralizing part: I felt as though I wasn't worth calling back.

I was a dime a dozen to them, so there was no need.

Because they knew that the next time they called me, IF they called me, I would be crawling back on my hands and knees to do it all over again.

And that's when a little piece of my soul dies.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Market Theatre

I was having dinner with friends last night, celebrating a birthday at "Upstairs on the Square", that truly lovely restaurant in Harvard Square.

As I sat in their dining room, I realized that this was the former home of the short-lived, but awesome Market Theatre, the brain-child of affluent theatre-lover Greg Carr, which had, I think, two short, adventurous seasons before closing to become the home of the aforementioned restaurant.

We were seated in what was the old lobby, and where the tiny stage was is now the restaurant's bar.

I remember I was in their first show, "The Imperialists at the Club Cave Canem", a very experimental piece by Charles Mee, directed by his daughter Erin. It featured the very cool band Neptune making some crazy sound sculptures in between scenes.

I had a short monologue at the top of the play called "Rindecilla", which was quite fun.
I went to visit Charles Mee's web-site to try and find it, but it's no longer there (it was before, I swear!)

Btw, you can go there to check out Charles Mee's plays (and re-write them, if you wish).
Here's the web-site:

He wrote this about his plays, which I like:

"I like plays that are not too neat, too finished, too presentable. My plays are broken, jagged, filled with sharp edges, filled with things that take sudden turns, careen into each other, smash up, veer off in sickening turns. That feels good to me. It feels like my life. It feels like the world."

And you can find out more about Neptune at:

Monday, July 12, 2010

North Shore Music Theatre

I'm apparently supposed to be thrilled and ecstatic that the North Shore Music Theatre has re-opened its doors.

And I'm trying REALLY hard to care. I really am.

But I just don't.

First of all, it's in BEVERLY.

Secondly, I don't really like the dusty old chestnuts that they produce again and again (they've opened their new season with "Gypsy"...)

I enjoy new work, but NSMT will not be producing ANY, according to a recent Globe article.

So, I probably won't be going there to see anything.

Frankly, it just doesn't sound very interesting. And why should I trek all the way to Beverly to see a cheese-ball musical from 1945, when there are excellent ones being produced here in Boston?

And if I really wanted to see a corny New York-style musical, I could also just plan a trip to New York. It's not that far. Just ask the actors that NSMT hires.

Which brings me to my next concern: when a new theatre opens, or even when an old theatre RE-opens, it's usually good news for the local actors and designers and directors; for the artistic community of that area.

But it's not really such great news for any of us.

North Shore has, traditionally, not hired ANY theatre artists from the Boston area, as far as I know.

Many, many years ago, they used to do scaled-down Shakespeare every now and then, primarily for high school students, with Boston actors: I remember my friend Bill in their production of "MacBeth" and Neil Casey as a bowler-hat sporting Horatio, Natalie Brown as an alcoholic Gertrude and Bob Saoud and Mark Carver as a romantically involved R&G in "Hamlet".

But that was a LONG time ago.

(Note: I just went to the NSMT web-site, and these Shakespeare productions aren't even listed as part of their past seasons. So apparently I dreamed even this all up...)

Even their "Christmas Carol", which used to employ a handful of local actors, was cancelled, to make way for "High School Musical VII" or something like that.


Now, I know, I'm being a crank. It's a MUSIC theatre, after all, what should I expect?

Well, I guess I would expect a theatre in my community to actually ENGAGE its community and support local theatre artists, even in a small way. You can't tell me that Kathy St. George isn't good enough to perform there. Or Leigh Barrett. Or any number of excellent musical theatre performers that chose to live here in Boston.

Why should I attend a theatre that has no dialogue with the place where I live, that only hires artists from out of town, that doesn't even ATTEMPT to do those things?

I even recall Jon Kimball, the former grand pooh-bah of NSMT, addressing that issue in an interview a while back. I remember him saying that NSMT had an un-written policy of only hiring New York performers because New York was the capitol of musical theatre in the country, so if you didn't live there, you weren't really a serious artist or a professional.

Personally, I think that's one reason why NSMT failed in the first place.

It's why I didn't notice when they closed, and why I don't care so much that they've re-opened.

They alienated the artists living in their community, and totally trashed them.

Why should I support that?

Perhaps this will all change, with their re-opening.

But I somehow doubt it.

So, Hooray.

North Shore Music Theatre has re-opened.

And I should care because...?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Gruesome Playground Injuries and New Plays

Tommy and I went to the Woolly Mammoth Theatre while in DC recently. I had always wanted to see a play there, as I've heard so much about them: fresh, new, exciting, edgy theatre is their speciality, and the one we saw, "Gruesome Playground Injuries" was no exception: a very original script, very well acted, directed and produced.

Like most new plays there is a wonderful creative economy involved (it's difficult for a new play with 38 characters and 11 set changes and period costumes to get produced, even during healthy economic times). Here, two actors play two characters from age 8 to 38, with an inventive structure that leaps back and forth in time. Doug and Kayleen meet in the school nurses' office at age eight. We then follow their increasingly complicated relationship from one accident to the next: some, truly flukes/acts of God, others self-inflicted, and some a manifestation of a deeper, emotional injury that refuses to heal. It was touching, heart-breaking and extremely funny.

I love seeing new plays, it's very thrilling. You feel like you are part of something new, that's never been done before, or seen before.

I should clarify that by "new play", I mean a play in its world premiere. I do not mean a play that was previously produced elsewhere (usually New York) and then brought to Boston (usually a year later), although I think those plays are important to see as well.

I think it's crucial that Boston produce new work. It is, I feel, the only way we will be seen as a theatre town/destination. It is the only way we will be put on the theatrical map.

I wish there was a way to bottle what Woolly Mammoth has managed to do in DC and bring it to Boston. The small theatre was absolutely PACKED with people who all looked like they really wanted to be there. the energy in the room was electric. And the crowd was so YOUNG: mostly in their late twenties/early thirties.

In Boston, new plays are an EXTREMELY hard sell. Audiences seem to prefer recent hits transported from New York. But I think they like this because that has been their primary diet.

And it's just easier, in a sense, to produce a play that already has rave reviews, and/or a built-in following, and/or a New York pedigree.

And I think that's a bit of a shame.

Because if all the plays are from New York, then that is the only type of play we will see. If all the playwrights live and write in New York, then the vision will be New York, the world will be New York, the attitude will be New York, the way of saying and doing things will be New York, the STORY will be about New York. And I don't mean that in a literal way, necessarily. I am just saying that I think where you live effects how you write and what you write about.

Even the writer of "Gruesome Playground Injuries", Rajiv Joseph, lives in New York and teaches at NYU (the major difference here being that it was theatres in Houston-The Alley- and DC - Woolly Mammoth - that gave him the support and believed enough in his work to produce it. So it was the productions themselves that, arguably, made the play special, in the sense that they weren't New York exports.) A Woolly Mammoth production or play is then exported TO New York (like their "Clybourne Park") rather than the other way around.

Now, I love New York as much as anyone. But I don't think you need to necessarily live there to write plays.

Playwrights need to feel that they can live and write and get produced here in Boston.

This is important, because otherwise we lose our playwrights to New York. And if we lose our playwrights, we also lose our directors, and designers, and actors.

And, most importantly, we lose the story of what it means to be living here. We lose a sensibility that only comes from being a Bostonian.

We will lose many theatre professionals anyway: New York is huge, and there is more opportunity there. But we don't have to lose ALL of them. And we also don't need to support this myth that ONLY plays and playwrights and actors and productions and successful plays and directors come from there.

And we do that when we ONLY produce plays that had successful Off-Broadway runs.

When we ONLY commission New York playwrights to write our plays.

When we ONLY hire New York actors, and directors, and designers.

There are, unfortuately, many theatres here in Boston that do one or the other again and again.

So I guess I really just want to applaud the theatres that are taking a great risk by supporting and producing Boston plays and supporting Boston theatre artists.

Kate Snodgrass and everyone at Boston Playwrights Theatre, which continues to be the ONLY theatre in town dedicated solely to new work. I wish that BU, now that they have finished building their immense sports stadium/arena next door, would realize what a jewel they have in BPT and pour a bucket of money on top of them.

Company One over at the BCA is doing a terrific job of supporting new works by local writers, (and with "Grimm" coming up, SEVEN of us!) as well as the Central Square Theatre in Cambridge, which produced "From Orchids to Octopi" by Melinda Lopez, "Not Enough Air" by Masha Obolensky and "Harriet Jacobs" by Lydia Diamond in one season alone!

Greg Maraio over at Phoenix Theatre (that beautifully produced Rick Park and my "Superheroine Monologues" last year, not once, but twice!)

Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans continue to produce the most inventive, imaginative, inspiring, campy theatre around.

And there are very real possibilities over at the brand new Emerson Paramount, where Rob Orchard has expressed great interest in New Work, starting with an event of new short plays by local writers to kick off their autumn opening.

There's festivals that attract audiences to new works, as well: the BPT Marathon, of course, a Boston Tradition, but also "the T Plays" with Mill 6, the "Village Voice" readings with the Village Theatre Project and others that I know I'm forgetting right now.

I am also very proud that the company I am company member of, Actors Shakespeare Project, has chosen, for the first time, to produce a play by a local writer (Jon Lipsky's "Living In Exile") and to produce the world premiere of my new play "The Hotel Nepenthe" this season.

Producing new plays is a new idea for us: we are dedicated to Shakespeare and classical works, primarily. But our new Artistic Director, Allyn Burrows, believes that supporting new work is an intrinsic part of our mission. Even Shakespeare, after all, was a living, working playwright at one time.

The Huntington has also done an amazing thing by forming the Huntington Playwrighting Fellows (which led to the world premiere productions, among others, of "Sonia Flew" by Melinda Lopez, "Brendan" and "The Atheist" by Ronan Noone and "Cry of the Reed" by Sinan Unel).

"Sonia Flew" is a wonderful example of what I'm talking about: Melinda is a wonderful writer/actor that everyone in the theatre community here knows and adores. We were Huntington Playwrighting Fellows at the same time, and it was thrilling to watch her bring in bits of dialogue, sometimes written on napkins or scraps of paper, that she would eventually shape into her play.

"Sonia Flew" opened here in Boston, and has been produced all over the country since then.

That is something the whole city can be proud of.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ivo Van Hove on Criticism

I saw "Table Manners" in Gloucester a few weeks ago, which had many friends in the cast, which was lovely to see.

It reminded me that about six years ago I had seen the entire "Norman Conquests" - about 7 hours in all - in Amsterdam, in Dutch, directed by Ivo Van Hove at his Toneelgroep.

Of course, I don't understand a word of Dutch (so it was nice to go to Gloucester and finally understand what the characters were saying, precisely), but it was an absolutely unforgettable production nonetheless: no furniture - just a metal box, sort of like a lemonade stand, that the actors would stand in when they weren't in a scene. There was no table. They just sat and ate off the floor. On top of the metal lemonade stand (if I can keep calling it that) was an 8 or 9 foot pole with a carpeted platform on top, upon which sat, for the duration of the 3 plays, a large orange tabby cat.

I have been a huge fan of Van Hove ever since. I wish I could have seen his Streetcar, or his Hedda Gabler, with the infamous V-8 juice scene.

I recently stumbled across an inteview, where he says this about criticism:

"When somebody comes to me and says he really hated what he saw, or he really loved it, it’s both the same. I act as if it’s indifferent to me, but deep down of course you always crave to be loved. And that’s what I make theater for. Theater for me is my mission in life. It isn’t my job. I can express something from myself which I think is very valuable. Missing it would be like missing my heart. When it means so much for you to make theater, you want everybody to love what you make. It’s really terrible when somebody dislikes it."

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Tommy is directing a three person "Hound of the Baskervilles" for Central Square Theatre, which is opening in a few weeks and should be quite fun. It's a wonderful cast: Bill Mootos, Trent Mills and Remo Airaldi, all of whom are very funny and transformative.
Here's the official web-site with all the info below, if you think you might like to check it out!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Gay Marry Me, America!!!!!

I was disappointed and, just as its author predicted, stung to read Jonathan Rauch's NY Times Op-ed piece on Elena Kagan and Gay Marriage yesterday:

One would think that Rauch, the author of the 2004 book "Gay Marriage: Why it is good for Gays, Good for Straights and Good for America" would be just a tad supportive of the Supreme Court finally doing away with such bullshit as DOMA and making gay marriage the law of the land.
But the surprisingly conservative Rauch believes that there are other things just as or even more important than civil rights, such as "the meaning of marriage" the "pace of change in a conflicted society" and "who gets to decide".

Really? Those strange, abstract, ephemeral things are more important than my marriage? I'm not sure I can go along with that, Jonnie Rauch.
What is truly sad is that Rauch still maintains this belief even after describing in two poignant paragraphs the horrible injustices he and his husband must under-go everyday in their hometown of Virginia, where their Washington DC marriage instantly evaporates and they are regarded as little more than roommates.
I see federal laws like DOMA as government-mandated bigotry, plain and simple. And it's wrong. And it needs to go. Now.
Is everyone going to like it? Of course not. But those people can go fuck themselves.
I seem to recall that not everyone was keen on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which got rid of the Jim Crow laws. And not everyone was keen on interracial marriage. Or gung-ho about letting women vote. And I remember reading somewhere that we had a Civil War because half the country still thought SLAVERY was a great idea.

Gay marriage is just like all those things. It is a RIGHT, and it is a CIVIL RIGHT.
So why should we treat it any differently, with kid gloves, afraid of pushing forward too quickly? So we won't hurt the feelings of a few aging homophobes whose lives aren't effected ONE BIT by any of this?
We are going to look back on all this and say "What the fuck were we even THINKING?"
And you know, I would be fine with Congress doing it, a la The 19th Amendment. OK. Fine.
We did it in Massachusetts. The Court passed it, and then our legislators passed on amending our constitution. We won it, fair and square.
But please don't tell me that you want the COUNTRY to vote on it, like some 4th grade popularity contest. Sorry, but I don't want some uninformed idiot who voted for George Bush TWICE to vote on whether I can get married or not.
Rauch maintains that it's important for "the people" to vote on such things as gay marriage. That they will turn around someday and pass the laws all by themselves.
Well that's just great. And maybe if I wish real hard I'll get a pony.
The truth is, the Majority should not have the right to vote on whether a minority should have rights or not. It is up to the Courts to protect minorities, it's their JOB, as part of the system of checks and balances that protects minorities from the tyranny of the masses.
Right now there are 1,100 civil rights that are being denied to us because of the Federal Ban. And that's WITH a Massachusetts marriage.
All this is just my little way of saying:
HAPPY 4th OF JULY!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Company One's production of Grimm is opening soon at the BCA, with short plays by Melinda Lopez, Marcus Gardley, John ADEkoje, Kristen Greenidge, Lydia R. Diamond, Gregory Maguire and myself. Very exciting!

Just found some pics on-line of what appears to be my contribution, "Red" (based on "Little Red Riding Hood" - or, "Little Red Cap", as the Brothers G called her), which look pretty hot. The heels are more than I ever imagined!

I hope the actors are having fun (and have a safe word)!

More pics of the Paramount at Emerson

Friday, July 2, 2010

A short play for Emerson

Rob Orchard and Emerson College have commissioned me and some other Boston playwrights to write short plays for the opening of the Paramount Center in the Fall.

I already wrote earlier about the first season at the Paramount, which is absolutely jaw-dropping, and seeing the actual space, which was amazing.

I decided I wanted to write a play about the paintings of the couples on the walls of the theatre: riffs on Barbier, who was riffing on Verlaine and his "Fetes Galantes".

They kindly let me back into the theatre to walk around and take pictures of the murals (no flash allowed, so they came out a bit dark, unfortunately)

Thought you might like to see a few!

Teaching Playwrighting

I got a gig teaching playwriting in the Fall, which is comforting (I need the work!) and terrifying (I've never done it before!) and exciting (because I love doing things that scare me a little).

I've been teaching for over 10 years now, at various places (Emerson, Suffolk, BoCo, gigs here and there) but never playwrighting straight on (though Solo Performance at Suffolk and Emerson and my Acting Emphasis at BoCo all deal with the creation of text, it is always in that symbiotic relation to the actor/author/performer. So it's different. The new class will be playwrights, but not necessarily actors.) It's a strange subject to think about teaching, and I'm enjoying the ruminations on the many methods to approach it.

Like most things I've taught, it will not be an academic course, per se, in the sense that there won't be a lot of tests and reports and stuff like that, at least not as far as I see it. I would want the focus to be on writing, of course.

And yet I think we will be reading quite a bit of (short) plays and talking about them. But reading plays and writing them are very different. And for me, I usually get inspired to write a play by reading or seeing or experiencing something else that isn't a play. Seeing a beautiful painting or photograph or image or reading a poem or a news article or a grocery list or a cookbook or a label on some sort of meat product or shampoo bottle. Watching the wind move a branch, or staring at a stain on a rug, or finding something that someone has lost, or overhearing a scrap of a conversation on the subway between bickering lovers. Feeling something very specific and trying to capture that experience.

That's not to say that it's not useful to read plays as well. Yet I like to watch plays more. So perhaps that might be part of the class.

In doing some research/preparation, I re-discovered John Lahr's intro to The Paris Review Interviews' "Playwrights at Work" buried among all my other piles of stuff. I had forgotten about it, but it was such a pleasure to read the opening paragraph again:

"We need stories; but, as the twenty-first century begins, most of the stories we're told on television and in film are corporate creations, calculated to pick the pockets of the public. The theater's charm and its power is that it is the last bastion of the individual voice, where the secrets of the psyche and the sins of the society can be explored in community with others."

Yes. I needed that!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lil' Eggbeater.

So, I finally got rid of that beloved little eggbeater I called my computer and got an upgrade. I have been putting it off because it literally took me two ENTIRE days to figure out how to get my files, music and photos off my external hard drive and onto the new computer. Because that's just how technology works around me. A normal person simply plugs in the hard drive and downloads the files. Not me. Nothing like that EVER works the way it should for me. So after an hour on the phone with HP, and then another hour on the phone with SimpleTech (the ironic name of my external hard drive) and then ANOTHER 3 hours (seriously, 3 hours!) I now have something resembling a computer with all my writings, music, etc. But there are still bugs, things missing, etc. Does this happen to everyone, or just me? I swear, I DREAD getting a new computer. If I had been working right now, I would have been out of my mind!