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Standing O #2!!

Standing O #2!  

Add to that two vomiting cast members (remaining nameless), one of whom had, um, an issue ON STAGE at the end of act one, one that would normally debilitate…

(No, there were no messes.)

(Again I am sparing details to protect the innocent, though it’s a wicked story!) 

…but they still finished their show and no one knew the secret.  AMAZING.

Dare I say the obvious:  The show must go on!  

And it will.  

"Dance Legends" at The Grand in London until May 18.

Without You

Tonight I got to see Anthony Rapp’s one-man show “Without You” and I sat there in awe the entire time, watching an idol of mine confess secrets about the show people may not have known.  Nothing scandalous, nothing crazy, but things from behind the scenes that a RENT-head like me couldn’t have known.  I was sitting there in row K at the Panasonic, wanting to be closer, just so I could be nearer to someone who made such an impact on my life.  He sang many excerpts from RENT, including songs that weren’t his, plus songs from his album, “Look Around,” which I obsessed over as I drove there streets of LA on my first professional acting contract.

I am not reviewing this show, I am telling you as it was as a RENT-head.  This is more of an account than a critique. I hope you will get to know me as someone who respects opinions and doesn’t try to sway your thoughts… I am not in your head, I want you to decide for yourself.  Simply a personal opinion.

Through all his stories about RENT and his mother’s struggles with cancer, we got to see an Anthony Rapp that we don’t know, but it was the talk-back afterwards that was even more thrilling.  It wasn’t until then that I realized that the person he was portraying in the show, while talking about his own life experiences, still came across as Mark from RENT.  The talk-back afterward was totally different.  I felt it was then that we as an audience (most stayed after the show) truly got to know him better, as though it was a different kind of secret he hadn’t revealed.  After the multitude of questions from us, I was sitting there thinking, ‘damn, I want to have coffee with this guy, not only because he was a part of something that changed my life, but because he seems so cool, so accessible, so down-to-earth.’  

So, while I still maintain that this is not a review (because as an actor I will never publicly critique another artist’s performance), I say, if you ever liked RENT in your lifetime, or if you even want to hear about what it is like to be in such a polarizing show, then see this one.   Only until January 3 in Toronto.  It was absolutely thrilling to see him in person, and if there is any question in your head about doing so, drop it and just do it.  

Air on a FUCKING G-string!

I cannot write the three letters after the colon big enough: FML!!!! I am auditioning for the musical “Once” in NYC on Monday. I fly there tomorrow at 1:30. I have been practicing audition songs like a fiend and I just broke the G-string on my guitar, which I need for the audition in New York on Monday. The song I have chosen requires an alternate tuning and the most important string, around which all the chord variations happen, IS THE FUCKING G-STRING!!!! Which I have already replaced once, which is why I don’t currently have an extra! I don’t stock strings like toilet paper. AND (screamed), Long and McQuade isn’t open Sundays. AND it means I can’t practice tonight, AND I have to work in 30 minutes until the damn place closes. SO, if anyone out there in the universe has a G-string they want to put in their mailbox (the guitar kind, though underwear would be fun) let me know and I can pick it up tonight after work and leave money. Otherwise, Steve’s does open at 11 tomorrow. (insert another scream here)
P.S. I had a feeling something like this would happen, and thank God it happened here and not in NYC right before the audition!

A Brush With Hollywood and Iced Green Tea

Monday:  A stylish gentleman, late 30’s, maybe, wearing funky glasses sits alone in my restaurant, and quietly enjoys sashimi and iced green tea.  I was tending bar, made no contact.  He seems really cool.

Thursday:  The same man sits at the bar I am tending, has sashimi again and a green tea cocktail.  I don’t recognize him until he orders iced green tea.  

"Oh!" I exclaim.  "You were here the other day, and Patricia, your server, made that for you!"

"Yes, it was DELICIOUS."

We don’t actually offer iced green tea.  I remember standing by Patricia on Monday and seeing she was making iced green tea, but, busy with other things, I didn’t notice what exactly she did as she created her own recipe on the spot.  Shit.

"Right!  Well, um…" I proceed cautiously.  "I will totally make it for you, but it isn’t something we normally have on the menu so I am not sure what she did.  Did she, by any chance, tell you what she did?"

He explains that he doesn’t know but he remembers, perhaps, tasting ginger, maybe lime, but graciously tells me he trusts that whatever I come up will be fine.  

I escape to the tea room and text Patricia at home.  ”Damn you and your iced green tea!!!  How did you make it?”

"Haha—I don’t know if I should give you that info."

"More like, you shouldn’t give out that drink cuz dude expects this AMAZING iced tea and I can’t make it!  Grr. ;)"

I do my best.  Five times the normal amount of tea leaves for a normal pot.  Brew.  Pour over ice.  Add ginger syrup, fresh lime cordial, and green tea syrup for good measure.  Shake until cold.  Pour over more ice in a tall glass, garnish with lemon.  I guess.

"It’s good!" he smiles.  Phew.  

"Well, if you decide you would like it to be different, let me know because I have more and I can fix it."  Um, maybe.

He finishes two identical plates of sashimi and a second glass, unaltered, of iced green tea, while doing business on his iPhone.  He pays, leaves a lovely tip, and departs.

Friday:  I am working on the patio, but since the trend is for people to not actually sit on our patio until later in the evening, I am bored, resting on a banquette at 6:30, poised with my legs crossed and my hands near my feet in case someone should walk out and I have to defend my laziness by saying I was just tying my shoe.  

I decide to go inside and offer to play hostess seeing as tonight we didn’t have one.  I was happy to do it because while I had nothing else to do, I take a somewhat sado-masochistic pleasure in answering the phone.  It is a little like Russian-Roulette.  It can be as simple and routine as taking or confirming a reservation, or as annoying and exhausting as listening to someone name-drop saying they know the owners when I tell them I don’t have a table for them.  Mostly, though, I just like entering stuff into the computer.  I am 34, and I have always loved and still love filling out forms and entering data.  If that doesn’t make me a total geek…

7:00 p.m.:  With a still-vacant patio, I am manning my station.   In walks a handsome man with piercing eyes and a very friendly face.  

"Hi, uh, I don’t think we have reservation, but for two, please."

He was accompanied by someone else but I was immediately transfixed.  

I know you.

Wait, you’re famous.

I look at the computer, buying time to—

Click.  

It comes out.

"Um, I know this is gross, but I saw you in ‘Venus in Fur’ and, well, it was amazing.  Beautiful.  I saw it by accident, and I was blown away."

"Oh, thank you!  Thank you," says Hugh Dancy.  He is humble yet confident, and very friendly.

Mr. Dancy, while not necessarily the most familiar household name, is a phenomenal actor whom I saw in said play my last time in New York.  It was fantastic.  Just him and another phenomenal talent, Nina Arianda, in a 90-minute two-hander giving a master class in acting.  Most recently he starred with Maggie Gyllenhaal in ‘Hysteria’, and less notably but most admirably as Adam in ‘Adam’, a film about the relationship between a man with Aspergers Syndrome and his neighbour, brilliantly played by Rose Byrne (‘Bridesmaids’, ‘Damages’).  And he is married to Claire Danes.

I bring the gentlemen to their table, and as I put the menus down I realize that Hugh’s companion for the evening is Mr. Iced Green Tea!

"Oh, hey!  How are you?"  I ask.

"Good!"

I proceed to tell every server in the dining room who is sitting at table 501, and explain to the few who weren’t sure who Hugh is, well, who Hugh is.  Wishing I was serving them, I return to the patio to await my first guests.  

Why is Hugh Dancy with stylish guy?

As the evening goes by, I pop into the restaurant just to check if they are still there.  Not that there is anything I would do, but it was fun just to know.  Sheelagh, their server, reports how nice they both are and what they are drinking.  Cucumber-mint saketinis.    They are trying to remember a director from the 80’s, she reveals.

Stylish dude clearly likes fresh-tasting things.

Around 9:00:  Sheelagh tells me that they have finished, and stylish guy, not Hugh, paid the bill.  She tells me it seems it was a business expense for him.  For two, their bill was healthy.  And again, he was generous.

"I saw the name on the guy’s card.  Bryan Fuller.  Do you know that name?"

Bryan Fuller?!  Wrote for ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ and ‘Voyager.’  Created, wrote and co-executive produced ‘Pushing Daisies.’  Co-executive produced and wrote for ‘Heroes’.  Yes, I know that name!  I served and sat a Hollywood writer and producer, who happens to be in town shooting ‘Hannibal’, a series he created based on Hannibal Lecter in his earlier years.  Which also happens to star Hugh Dancy as Lecter’s patient.  And there I was, kinda sucking up to Hugh Dancy (I have met other Hollywood actors and it is rare for me to even mention their work to them) when it was Bryan Fuller’s ass I should have been kissing all along!  

Yes!  I will make you the best iced green tea EVER!!!

A while later, they leave unceremoniously, and my chance to backpedal and say something nice to Bryan Fuller disappears.  For now…  

***************************

According to the Toronto Film and Television Office website, they will be here a while.  After posting this I will immediately being work on the monologue I will deliver to Mr. Fuller the next time he comes for some sashimi and iced tea.  

An out-of-work actor can dream…

Best Pride Ever.

Last night at the restaurant where I sideline the hostess, Nicole, asked me what I was going to be wearing today to attend all the Pride festivities.  I told her that I didn’t know but that my outfit for last night was great.  I confidently called it a hipster-meets-rocker-meets-“I’m jigging for clams” kinda look:  a slim fitting teal, white and navy plaid shirt (sleeves rolled up past the elbow), probably-too-tight, slightly shiny black jeans (legs rolled to just under the knee), studded belt, converse, black sport socks with blue and white stripes, fake lobe-stretcher earrings, gold-plated skull ring and Clark Kent glasses.  Nicole thought it sounded hot.

After work I went to Woody’s, which I sometimes dub the “Cheers” of the Village.  As I am running into people who know my name and who are glad I came, I find Jordan and we hang out a bit, and through Sammy we meet Mike.  Kevin was there too and Tats, and we all hung out and “enjoyed the festivities”.  When the bar closed at 4,  Jordan and I were invited to continue the festivities at Mike’s place.  

Mike lives with (yet another) Michael.  Michael owned Zelda’s, a fixture of the Village for decades, but which sadly burned down recently.  Zelda is also the name of Michael’s alter-ego, for which she is best known, I think.

In the midst of an ironic who-can-slap-who-in-the-face-hardest contest at around 6 a.m., Mike asked what I was doing today and I told him I was going to the parade and then would let the night unfold.  He told me that he was going to be marching in the parade with Zelda and representing his restaurant/bar, and asked me if I would like to join them.  In my “festive” state, I said yes, and didn’t think of the logistics.  Mike’s plan was, I sleep over, get up, there would be a few people there, and then we go do the parade.  Perfect!

I doubted I would do it.

Next thing I know, it is 12:50 p.m. today, and I am awakened by Mike, who says he has been up since ten, there’s breakfast made, and “you’re coming, right?”  

"Hunh?  Um, yeah, uh…. yeah."  

I had crashed in his bedroom (out of the gutter, minds).  He left the room and I got up.  I exited the room, not fully clothed (again, out of the gutter) only to find three guys half-ready getting into drag, Mike offering me a Caesar, and a girl handing me a shot.

Brief pause.  I’m probably still a bit festive.  I just agreed to… it’s past noon… ugh, why not.

Hail Caesar.

What the hell am I going to wear.

Shut up, Nicole.

"Mike, what the hell am I going to wear?"

"One sec."

Mike disappears and quickly emerges will far too many choices to fit into such a small amount of fabric.  I am presented with many options, nothing with more coverage than a Brazilian-cut bathing suit.  Maybe it was the second shot within 20 minutes of waking that convinced me to choose the royal blue square-cut with the pockets on the legs with black straps on them.  I though, hell, I have cool black leather high-top John Varvatos Converse to wear with them, why not?!

Then Mona walked in. 

Mona is really Shawn, 48, looks 38, has a wife, Gwen, has worked at Zelda’s manning the door. He’s about 5’ 8”, beefy but toned (go with it), balding but closely buzzed, had on camo shorts and a T-shirt that said “Rock and Roll Fag Bar”, and he wears actual prescription Clark Kents.  And he’s one of the friendliest guys you will ever meet.  

The best thing about Shawn’s outfit was the rainbow leis wrapped around his ankles, and I decided to copy him.  If you are keeping score, we now have converse, little blue trunks and my ankles were getting lei-ed.

Breakfast:  Scrambled eggs, bacon, Pillsbury biscuits, and a perfect fruit salad of just blueberries, strawberries and kiwi.  Thank you, Mike.

"Here, you can wear this too!"

A belt in rainbow seat-belt material, worn as a sash.

"I need sunglasses."

And we all left, dipping ourselves into the soupy weather.  Ursula, Scarlet, and (I am an ass, I forget her name; blame Caesar), all in drag; Mike, dressed only in briefs with a mesh back; Zelda, who, in her forties, calls her style “trailer trash”, stuffing her pink floral muumuu with a pillow, wearing red and white striped stockings, an enormous sixties curly blond wig stuck with a rainbow and a Canadian flag, horn-rimmed sunglasses and gold platform sandals; a few other of their friends, Shawn, and me, hiding behind my borrowed sunglasses, but surprisingly happy that I was wearing so little in this weather.

As soon as we hit Carleton Street, we were cheered on by a few people around us.  It was pretty cool, but I didn’t think it would last.  

As we arrived at the parade line-up and found our spot behind about a hundred people representing PFLAG, the eight (we were joined by a couple of other drag queens at the end, so now ten) of us were getting so much more recognition.  I mean, as a longtime fixture of the Village, of course Zelda would, but we all were.  It was then that I learned that “Mona” was what we should shout if we needed water, sunscreen, or anything else from Shawn, who was the mom of the group, carrying a backpack of supplies.  And he was the only straight one of all of us.

We waited for a bit, took some photos with the fellow marchers, and finally we were off.  We started west on Bloor, leaving Church Street and headed to Yonge.  Almost immediately we met our first taste of the crowd, packed in behind the steel barriers, waiting to revel in Pride.  It seemed like every second or third person had a camera.  And they were so happy to see us.  

What the hell am I wearing?!

But (and maybe thanks have to go to Caesar a bit), after walking a few hundred feet, watching the smiling people cheer us on, affectionately getting sprayed with Super Soakers (maybe TOO affectionately, but thank God cuz it was hot) and learning how much you can make a crowd scream when you yell “Happy Pride!”, the experience became unmatchably amazing.  

Last year’s parade was attended by an estimated 1 000 000 people.  I just walked in front of SO many people, and while I was just one of many, I got to help spread the love of it all and helped make people happy, all while feeling like a celebrity with paparazzi.  I am a theatre actor and I do this all the time, but in character.  This time it was just me.  It didn’t take long before I was egging on the water gunmen, dancing whenever music happened, and waving like the Queen.

(If you wished I had just finished that last sentence with “I am” then I like you even more.  

But never say it to my face because I just learned how to slap even harder.) 

The parade, for us, was done far too quickly.  After about an hour, we finished our journey at Yonge and Gerrard.  I had forgotten about what I was wearing—it didn’t matter anymore.  It was no longer about feeling exposed, it was about feeling free, almost in a costume for myself, celebrating Pride, and being admired for simply participating, not because I was showing some leg.

After a little rest, I walked Church Street with Zelda, Mike, Scarlet, and new-arrival Scott, where we were stopped for photos about every ten feet.  What I only really wanted to do for 30 minutes lasted 90 and it was great, especially when people of other cultures approached us.  It was a bit like the parade, but a bit more hands-on.  Awkwardly, sometimes literally, though no harm done.

I finally arrived at home at 8:45.  Back in my clam digging outfit, feeling far too overdressed.  

I said to Mike at one point today, remembering Nicole, “Now that I have done this, I am not thinking, ‘what am I going to wear tonight’, it’s ‘who am I going to be tonight.’”

It is 11:17 now and I haven’t decided yet.  Who cares what I wear… as long as I am myself, it doesn’t matter.  And I got to learn a lot about myself today and had an unforgettable experience.

It’s Canada Day.  So, Happy Canada Day.

But it’s also Pride.  So HAPPY PRIDE.

If You Don’t Floss, Start Now. Start Yesterday…

You wanna know how to check if you have a speedy metabolism?  

Go to the dentist and have your mouth frozen.

If you can go the rest of the appointment without pain, good for you!

I, apparently, metabolize anesthetic nice and quickly.  I went in to have a cleaning today, and given that my gums are quite sensitive right now, I need to have freezing done so that they can work without me flinching throughout the procedure.  (And so it doesn’t F***ing hurt.)  

We began with a nice dose of 8 injections into my gums, 4 on top between my teeth and lips and 4 on the bottom.  Then, as the hygienist, Megan, started to probe to check its effectiveness, we learned that it wasn’t enough.  So, a few more needles, I think it 2 each on the top and bottom.  

On with the procedure… Megan worked as fast as she could but the freezing wore off before she was done, after about 30 minutes.  Out she went to get my dentist, Dr. Poulos.  This time, since we had to be more aggressive, and the injections went on the tongue side.  Two more.  

"Dude, this is really gonna suck," he apologized.  "Bad."  

It did.  

Megan finished the bottom.  Now, if you are good at deduction you will have figured out by now that if the freezing on the bottom wore off before she was finished cleaning the bottom, the freezing on the top was most definitely gone as well.  Four more in the front and another two “Dude, this is really gonna suck” behind the teeth.  It sucked worse than the bottom.  

Gladly, Megan managed to finish just in time for the freezing to wear off on the top, but since I have developed sensitivity in my teeth that even Sensodyne won’t fix, she couldn’t irrigate with water (the temperature of which is cool and can’t be changed) and all she could do was wipe with gauze (this is all so attractive, isn’t it?).

The Moral of the Story:

FOR GOD’S SAKE, IF YOU DON’T FLOSS EVERY TIME YOU BRUSH, EFFING DO IT!!  

Many of you will say, “Duh, I floss all the time!”  But I have talked to people, and I know you all aren’t doing it.

I admit to not having flossed a lot of my life.  More recently as my gums started to hurt and bleed and as I lost the ability to eat apples because of the pain, I started flossing more but it still wasn’t enough.  

I was blessed with nice teeth and I have never had braces.  Now, I have gotten to a point where if things continue down the same path, they will literally start falling out.  I am 34.  

I am 34.  I want to live like Peter Pan, but when it comes to being responsible and taking care of yourself, you have to grow up.  

Effing floss.

This is why I do what I do…

I was asked yesterday to meet a young girl after the show last night, and this is her mother’s account of what happened, as emailed to me today by people at StageWest.  Even if for one night, when we can make a difference in someone’s happiness, it makes it all that much more worthwhile.  (A tiny bit of backstory: Ashley saw the show on opening night already, and she can’t be more than 12.)  

Hello Amanda,

I want to thank you for arranging to have “Chad” stop by our booth after the
show.

Literally, this is how the evening went;
- Ashley drove me nuts guessing where we were going and what we were doing
all the way to your
hotel.
- Then when we got there, she said “cool, what show are we seeing?”  When I
told her it was All Shook Up, she literally started screaming and jumping up and down.
- She smiled ear to ear during the whole show.
- At the end I told her we were going to let the crowd clear a bit before we
left.  Then of course she had to pee which is, of course, when Michael came by the booth.
He was such a great sport, he waited for her and even hid a bit so Ashley wouldn’t see him when she was coming back from the bathroom.
- Ashley’s words when she saw him: “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god”.
- He gave her a hug and talked to her and we got pictures.  What a sweet
guy.
- On the way home Ashley said: “This is one of the best things to ever
happen to me.”

Nothing could have been more perfect and I can’t thank you enough.

Kindest and most sincere regards,
Nate


Elvis Lives…

Thursday night was our first preview of “All Shook Up” at StageWest Mississauga.  It went very well, the audience was very kind, and while it wasn’t perfect, we do have potential!

After the show, I met a man named Bill Carson who is a family friend of one of our cast members.  The man, in his sixties or early seventies and not much taller than about five-five, sported the white version of older-Elvis’ hair: brushed back and longer all around, complete with moderately bushy sideburns.  I was surprised that he had what sounded like a British accent.  

After paying us some nice compliments, Bill, a hypnotherapist by profession, revealed that he was actually a neighbour of The King’s in his pre-Graceland days.  Mr. Carson began what I thought was going to be a story of wild days in Elvis’ past, but all he told me was about Elvis’ generosity; a story about a time Elvis gave one of his rings to a man who was simply admiring it, and another about how he would just give people cars.  Bill seemed to hold Elvis in a higher, different sort of esteem than what I expected.

So what do I make of a British man who continues to emulate Elvis with his hairstyle?  It could be anything—who knows, maybe Elvis copied HIM!—but I like to think of Bill as a man who was touched by the good of a person and honoured him for the rest of his life with his hair.  I know, it could just be that he fell in love with a hairstyle and kept it for the rest of his life (like the “Aniston” or the “Princess Diana” hairstyles I still see), but given the man Bill painted Elvis to be, I like to think it is much more than that.

It was a great meeting to have on the day of our first performance.  I am not portraying Elvis on stage, but my character has a lot of Elvis in him.  And now, thanks to Bill, he can have a little bit more.  

On set shooting a Ben Gay commercial!

On set shooting a Ben Gay commercial!

My Anniversary….

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of me getting the phone call that would change my life forever.

I was seated at my desk at TransCanada Retail Services, a company that owns the credit for 30+ retailers we all know, including Petro Canada, Future Shop, Holt Renfrew, Birks, and the Brick, to name a few.  I had moved to Toronto from Ottawa in September 2001, and was hired by TCRS in November 2001, as a bilingual collections officer (and I wasn’t all that fluent, though they deemed me to be so).  I’ll spare many of the details of the story I would normally tell in true Michael style…  

At around 3:15 the afternoon of January 23 my cell phone rang and the number had a 212 area code.  I snapped up my phone and went straight to the lunch room where I could not be heard by others.  Not yet a professional actor, I had no idea what this would be about because I had been rejected from my last major audition process (on my birthday, no less, just six weeks before), but why else would New York be calling?

It was Amy Jacobs, calling me directly from the General Manager’s offices of Mamma Mia, to offer me a job on the US National tour of the show.  

Today, ten years later, I am proud to say that I am still a working actor, on my way this morning to shoot a US National commercial, and tomorrow I begin rehearsals for a musical in which I am the lead.  It hasn’t been an easy road, but it is a life I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Here’s to following your dream, folks…