Thursday, October 03, 2019

Hi.. I’m Jay....depressive...


These are tough times for depressives.  The struggle to see the glass half full is needed now more that ever, but it has also never been more difficult.  Even when things are great, depressives have a difficult time converting that energy into happiness. That is the disorder.  Like a diabetic who can not physically process sugar, a depressive can not physically  process happiness.  If we could process happiness like others do, we would not be depressives. It is a struggle when times are good,When times are rough... it is almost impossible for a depressive to be “happy” or even neutral.    In this emotionally divided country, no matter what side of the political divide you inhabit,  these are not normal times. The tone of the news is divisive and upsetting. Those who do not have such issues with depression don’t understand, These are tough times for depressives.  

Unfortunately most people don’t know how to interact with a depressive.  With other disorders there is some sort of a protocol.  When some one sneezes you say “God Bless you”.  When faced with the specter of depression most do not know how to act or what to say.

“Just be happy”, “Get over it”, or my favorite phrase proclaimed by the uninformed, “What do you have to be sad about.... look at your life.”  

Yes, look at my life. There is nothing  I have to be sad about.  There is no disagreement that I am extremely blessed.  A list of my credits and experiences should be the penultimate of a persons life and career. Unfortunately these wonderful experiences are very much like a Snickers bar to a diabetic;  I do not process it in the same way as a “normal” depressive neutral person would. Pointing out the abnormality of a person’s depressed emotion is not helpful.  To exasperate the problem, in theTrump era normally happy people are stressing out. These are tough times for depressives.  

It is not a perfect synonym but happiness and hopefulness are connected in the depressive mind.  A depressive can feel unhappiness for any reason because of their mental disorder, but if there is a way to hang on to hope,  there is a chance of happiness.  Hopeful times are helpful times to depressives.  But, because we have an Executive branch of government composed of lawlessness, lying, corrupt individuals who seem to defy convention and law, there is no hope for the depressive.  Equality, morality and ethics do not seem to be part of the Trump administration. There is no accountability to the truth, the law or even human courtesy  and decency. We are being told that what we see and know is not the truth, and because they seem to be getting away with it, truth becomes irrelevant.  There is no hope that wrong will be unsuccessful nor punished.  To the depressive we are being shown that there is in reality no way out of our unhappiness.  There is no hope.  
The unfortunate thing is, I have no solution. I know of no way that depressives like myself can find peace and harmony in this “era”.  Politically I would love to see Trump brought down and humbled for his complete lack of humanity, lawlessness and selfishness.  My depression tells me that this event might bring me happiness and a relief of depression.

These are tough times for depressives,

As you were, 
Jay

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Jimmy Nelson - Dean of American Ventriloquists



Even if you are not a ventriloquist and don’t know the name Jimmy Nelson, If you hear the jingle “N-e-s-t-l-e-s, Nestles makes the very best...Choc-Late” (from the Nestles Quik commercials of the mid fifties through 60’s) you know Jimmy Nelson.  Jimmy and his ventriloquist figure Danny O’day performed the Quik commercials that ended with that song/jingle. Farfel (a vent puppet dog) took the last line “Chocolate” and snapped his mouth closed at the end.  Jimmy’s performance on those commercials were better than any of the shows they sponsored.  They were delightful.   Jimmy parlayed a recurring role as a ventriloquist pitch-man on the Texaco Star Theater in the 1950’s to become an icon of American Variety performers.    His brash side kick Danny O’Day and long-eared dog,  Farfel,  performed in every entertainment medium from 33 RPM records to Carnegie Hall.  He became a pillar of what is now referred to as the Golden Age of Television. He was a regular on the Ed Sullivan Show, did the Nestles commercials, pitched toys, did record albums and performed in supper clubs with the “Who’s Who” of entertainment. 
I became addicted to Nestles Quik because of Jimmy Nelson. I became a ventriloquist because of Jimmy Nelson. Truth be told I didn’t want to be just a ventriloquist... I wanted to become Jimmy Nelson.  
Edgar Bergen was too formal. Some of the other ventriloquist of the day were too corny, Jimmy was the Goldielocks of ventriloquism, just right.  He did not get lost in the relationship with his characters. Danny was precocious but not rude, Farfel was deadpan but not a push over, master of the understatement, and Jimmy’s personality was so engaging he could negotiate peace between the two.
Jimmy never retired, because his phone kept ringing, even after he left the winters of Chicago and moved to Florida. Because he always had time to encourage other ventriloquist,  he was ultimately given the title of “Dean of American Ventriloquists”. To me he was my Ventriloquist GodFather.  It wasn’t that he just showed us how to be ventriloquist, he showed us how to be gentlemen.  I never heard him say a bad word about anybody and no one who knew Jimmy had a bad word to say about him.  Everybody called Jimmy Nelson their friend and I was no exception.  His devotion to God, family and ventriloquism (in that order) was as influential as his instructional album teaching ventriloquism called “Instant Ventriloquism”. Over the years our paths crossed many times. I even became friends with his son Larry Nelson for the short time we both lived in Los Angeles. My times with Jimmy were never often enough nor long enough and I never got over being a “fan boy” to my hero Jimmy Nelson. I suppose my greatest thrill was to be called a “half-Nelson”.  Betty Nelson gave me that title during a dinner at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas.  We had just seen Terry Fator’s show. 




Jimmy passed away this morning after a short illness from a stroke.  
There is no way to prepare for this news. There is no way to calculate his loss to the art of ventriloquism nor fill the void that his departure has left in my heart.  I know so many people, peers, entertainers and especially ventriloquists feel the same.  My eyes glisten, keeping me from more joyous memories of my friend, Jimmy.  My thoughts are with Betty and Jimmy’s wonderful family.  Like Danny O’Day I have no more words right now.

Never the same,
Jay

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

18 Years Later.....


In the years since 9/11 I have watched both my sons graduate from College, was joyful when Sandi got hired on a television show that is now premiering its 9th season in a couple of weeks; I won a Tony for a one man show I wrote and performed on Broadway. Somewhere along the way I started writing this blog. 

9/11/01 seems so long ago, until I start to recall that specific day in my life. It then becomes altogether too fresh like it only happened months ago.  In this time of memorial to all that did not see 9/12/01, I reprint what I have written before.  During this unpleasant anniversary, I find it easier to cut and paste the past rather than relive it to write about it. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014


So much has happened since then.  So much has changed... but my raw emotions never seem to change.  Here is the way I will always remember it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


September 11 Remembered...

Reprints from the past:

Those of us who did live past this day in 2001 we will never forget those who didn't.  They were all of us.  There were no blogs, no tweets, no texts, no smart phones connected to social media back then,  but it was seared into my consciousness nonetheless. It was seven years before I thought I could write about it here.

Written on: 
Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. No one of this generation will forget where they were when they heard the news about a plane hitting the World Trade Center that morning. Most of us were watching CNN by the time the second plane hit. I was in Boston, which immediately became part of the crime scene.

I was performing for an Insurance company. A week earlier they called and asked if I could move my performance/presentation to Tuesday morning instead of Monday afternoon. They had a scheduling problem and that would help. I had no problem with coming in and leaving a day later. I didn't think much about it until after the events of 9/11. My manager at the time just switched my flights around and adjusted everything by 24 hours. That change in schedule saved my life.

My traveling MO is to catch the first nonstop home to Los Angeles the morning after my performance. In most major cities American Airlines is my carrier of choice. I am a two and and a half million mile American Airlines AAvantage member and in 2001 had Executive Platinum status. It was of no help when all air travel stopped for a week after the towers fell.

Until the company delayed my performance by 24 hours I was booked on the first non stop home after my Monday afternoon show. I was booked in seat 4E non stop from Boston to Los Angeles, Tuesday, September 11, 2001, American Airlines #11. I remember at the time thinking that flight #11 on the 11th of the month seemed lucky. That plane hit the north Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 am. Because the show date changed I wasn't on that plane. I was waiting to go on stage.

Even with that graphic life changing example, I sometimes forget that everything happens for a reason. One small decision is sometimes the one that changes your life. Only with perspective do we understand it as either good or bad, and ultimately even good and bad are human judgments.

It would seem natural to thank God for saving my life, but doesn't that make him responsible for the 3000 souls he didn't save that day? There were people on flight #11 much more "deserving" to live than me, or at the least equally deserving. They prayed for protection and deliverance that morning.

I would have been sitting on the plane next to David Angel who was the very talented writer/creator of the television show "Frazier" had my show date remained as contracted. He was deserving to have another day in his life, but he rode the plane into the tower. Who did God love more, me or him? It is a stupid question.

That event does not define me. I do not count the days since I was saved. I have not used it as a testimony in Church. I don't think I was given a celestial "do over". I rarely even remember it unless prompted by some event. All I know is I am here to write briefly about it and David Angel is not. I wrestle with the name Angel trying to make it some sort of metaphor. It is as fruitless as thinking flight #11 on the 11th was lucky. It was what it was. Those who have moved on are not looking back, but here's to all of us who are left behind to try and figure it out.

We will never quite be as we were,
Jay

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Michael of Inis Oirr



In June of 2015, Harry, Elizabeth, Sandi and I engaged the services of this buggy driver to show us around the Aran island of Inis Oirr/Inisheer. It was a vintage buggy, pulled by a horse named Bob with a driver named Michael. Of the four or five other buggy drivers waiting  at the dock that day, Michael just looked the part.  Michael looked like he had been sent by Central Casting to be the perfect Gallic/Irish guide.   He had the round face of an Apple doll that hadn’t completely dried out yet. Michael was born, raised a family and lived his entire life on this Galway Bay island of 250 residents.  He retired from his career as a fisherman and was now literally a welcome wagon for visitors to his home. His lyrical accent made it sound like he was singing the words when he spoke.  In fact at one point he actually did sing to us.  As we traveled up a small hill Bob, the horse, released a loud and lengthy fart.  As the smell of digested hay reached our nostrils Michael began singing, “ Oh...The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind”.  

 Michael and Bob took us to the eastern shore of the island to the ghostly site of the Plassey Ship wreck. Grounded 100 yards inland lay the  rusting hull of the merchant ship Plassey.  Michael recalled a very bad storm as a child in the early 60’s that stranded the Plassey at that spot.  To say that Michael made an impression on us that day is an understatement.  This day would forever be etched into our memory.  

None of us would have thought,  four years later we would make a trip back to this very island to scatter Harry’s ashes.  

Harry’s death was sudden and unexpected. In his will he requested that his ashes be taken to Ireland and scattered by a couple of his close friends, and immediate family. This Ireland Ashes party of 9 included:  Elizabeth, Harry’s kids, Turk and Christy (Harry’s close friends) and my family. We met in Dublin, took the train to Galway and the ferry to Inisheer. We repeated stories of Harry along the way and observed signs pointing out the reason we were in Ireland.  Things would happen that seemed to have Harry’s celestial input.  Case in point: while all of us were  trying to find the bus station, to get to the ferry, we were led to this Galway mortuary.  


The busker who danced in front of Harry’s favorite pub wore black instead of her signature red outfit, 
and from an overcast day that threatened rain, the sun came shining through at the moment we set Harry’s ashes free on the rocky Inisheer beach. None of it was coincidental to those who knew Harry.  Eventually we just accepted everything as an occult “sign” .

Harry had specified his ashes be spread in Ireland but “where” in Ireland seemed to be up to Elizabeth, who was doing everything the way Harry would have wanted.  The Plassey ship wreck on Inisheer seemed a perfect place, because we had such a vivid memory of being there with Harry. It is also a very distinctive local landmark.  Elizabeth made plans to make that happen. 

On the ferry ride over, Elizabeth, Sandi and I discussed how perfect it would be if we could hire Michael to take us one final time to the Plassey ship wreck.  We docked and quickly scoured the buggy drivers to see if we could find Michael.  There were half a dozen buggy’s and drivers but no sign of Michael nor Bob the horse.  We had to settle for two other buggies to transport us to the shipwreck. 

Normally the buggy tour allows for a 10 minute stop at the ship wreck for photos.  We asked our drivers if they could stay for an hour while we said goodbye to our husband, father, godfather and best friend. When they realized the reason for this trip, the drivers were very reverent.  

It was a tougher job than any of us thought it would be.  Because the rocks were unstable,  just getting to the waters edge was a challenge.  It was also more emotional than we thought it would be. All of us had been to the previous four memorial services for Harry.  We erroneously thought this would just be one more, but we soon realized, it was the last one.  It is an indescribable scene watching Harry’s ashes linger in the water for a moment, and then to be swept forever away into Galway Bay. With not a dry eye in the party, the sun came busting through the over cast sky to project theatrical lighting on the occasion.  It was an exit Harry would have been proud of.  

The buggy ride back to the dock took some time, and our driver was very respectful of our silence and our questions.  I was thinking back to the time it was just me, Harry, Elizabeth and Sandi traveling this very road.  I thought of Michael and Bob “blowing in the wind”.  After a moment or two I said to our driver, “You must know a buggy driver named Michael.  His horse is named Bob.” 

 “Of course.” He said. 

I explained that Michael had been our tour guide the last time I was on this island with Harry... the person we had just put to rest. I also said Elizabeth, Sandi and I looked for him at the dock but he wasn’t there. We didn’t see him. 

“Everybody knows- him.. very nice man.” Said the driver.
“Does he still drive the buggy?” I asked. Then the driver said:

“Michael... just passed.” 

It was yet one more “coincidence” to Harry’s death. The street dancer dressed in black- the mortuary - the sunshine for the ashes ceremony -  And now one more “sign” our driver Michael also died.   I responded with some sad remark about losing friends. There was a moment of disconnect in the conversation. The young buggy driver realized - for some reason- we were not on the same page, 

He said, “No. No.  He just passed us....” as he pointed to another buggy which had just passed  by.  

Sometimes it’s not a sign..


“Be Seeing You”
My Friend.


As you were, 
Jay












Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Stupid is not Ignorant


The Amazon Rain Forrest is burning out of control. Smoke from the Amazon fires is turning day to night in cities 1000 miles away. Most of the fires were set deliberately to clear pastures for cattle.  The easiest way to clear a Forrest to make a pasture is to set it on fire.  For the last 30 years the Amazon has lost an average of 31,000 square miles a year from deforestation for ranch land, to raise beef. 
The tropical Forrest that supplies 20% of the worlds oxygen is now producing Co2 , the gas that causes climate change.    But why would you want to set the lungs of the world on fire? Money.  Money can be made from beef and no money can be made from the oxygen the Rain Forrest produces.  The current president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, is a climate change denier who says he will not preserve nor protect a centimeter of Rain Forrest.  He says that Brazilians have the right to make all the money they want from their own land, and now  refused the offer of money from the G7 to help battle the out of control fire. 
When I think about Bolsonaro’s policy toward this Global problem I say to myself, “How Stupid.” When I see climate denier, Trump rolling back EPA rules and  relaxing mining and drilling standards on protected lands in this country, I think the same thing... “Stupid.”  After much more thought I do not believe these men are Stupid.  They are much more dangerous than just being stupid.... they are IGNORANT. 
Being a wordsmith, adjectives and labels are very important, especially describing people of power.  Stupid is having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense. Intelligence is not the issue.  In fact our President is a self proclaimed genius.  Trump supporters believe, arguably, that he is a rich man because of “some sort of”  intelligence.  This is not an essay on the IQ of Trump or Bolsonaro nor a question of either man’s sanity.  I believe both to be much more dangerous because they are Ignorant.  The word "ignorant" is an adjective that describes a person in the state of being unaware, and can describe individuals who deliberately ignore or disregard important information or facts. 
Ignorance and Ignorant come from the root word “ignore”.  
Ignorance then is not so much  a description of knowledge or intelligence but a quality of awareness and acceptance.  Facts are facts, and scientific facts are things that can be proven true time after time.  You take water and heat it up enough it will turn to steam and eventually disappear.  Fact... you can prove it at home on your own stove.  The fact that humans  are contributing to the climate change of our planet by dumping poison into the atmosphere is   scientific fact.  These studies and facts are all almost general knowledge.  An uneducated person may not be aware of these facts, as would be the case if one was stupid. However, to know the facts, and dismiss them or IGNORE them is IGNORANCE. Both Trump and Bolsonaro know the facts, but they ignore the facts that are not good for them. 
I would suspect that Bolsonaro is very much like Trump.  He was supported and endorsed by Steve Bannon. I do not know the depth of his ignorance, but it runs very deep in the orange clad brain of Donald Trump.  Trump is ignorant to any truth, that he is not the best-ever, the brightest and most successful.Trump ignores his oath as president. Trump ignores any compassion for those not “loyal” and praising him and those who do not agree with him.  Trump ignores climate change. Trump ignores the fact that his words have any affect on the rest of the country while claiming all good comes from what he is doing.  Trump ignores and rejects any fact that the world is not the oyster of rich white men.  Trump simply ignores the truth about anything that does not support his selfishness.  
Trump supporters are not stupid either. They know Trump is a liar, a cheater and a vulgar racist but they IGNORE those facts because the economy is good? They are like the Brazilian cattle ranchers, as long as I make money... the hell with the world’s oxygen supply.  IGNORANCE.  

So let’s be fair.  Donald Trump is not the Stupidest President we have ever had.... He IS however the most IGNORANT President we have ever had and that is so much more dangerous.  

As you were,
Jay


Monday, May 06, 2019

God said, “No Collusion”


It baffles me how anyone who claims to know or and believe the tennents of Christianity can support Donald J. Trump.  It has bothered me for the entire time this poser has been seeking the presidency.  Here is a man who has broken every one of the Ten Commandments except “thou shalt not kill” but even jokes that if he DID kill somebody on 5th Avenue he wouldn’t lose his base of supporters.  
And it’s not just the fact they support him, they deify him claiming he is chosen by God to be the President. Apparently, however, God does not participate in ALL presidential elections just this one.  

In an opinion piece from the Carroll County Times, a guy named Sparkle (yes Sparkle), claims God stepped in this time because: 
We needed someone who could pick up the pieces after eight years of Barack Obama and his program to “fundamentally change America.” https://www.carrollcountytimes.com/opinion/columnists/cc-op-other-voices-041019-story.html
Hey Sparkle, the only fundamental change Barack Obama made to America was to break the color wall of the Presidency.  But I get your point. God obviously did not help elect a black man to the Presidency.  But let’s leave the racism out of this discussion.  

How can Christian people support a leader who is so unlike Jesus and so much like their concept of the Devil? For several years now it has vexed me as I try to see the appeal of Trump to these otherwise pious people.  Trump’s obvious lying, cheating, disloyal, insulting, bullying, name calling, ignorant vanity is in direct opposition to anything that Jesus lived for or taught.  In fact to quote the Bible itself, it seems like John was making a statement on Trump.
John 8:44 
“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” 

I have even entertained the idea that Trump is a demon who has used his evil power to hypnotize the faithful into believing in his own anointing.  That line of reasoning falls apart when I realize that even a demon would be more intelligent than Trump. So what is it? It seems that no matter what he does his evangelical support seems to be steady if not increasing.  

Today as I was searching the news, two items came together in a way that turned a light on for me.  As Oprah would say it was an “Ah Ha” moment.
Here is the first article that caught my eye: 
Mr. Trump retweeted a statement by Jerry Falwell, Jr. that because of the “witch hunt” that has been going on for two years, Trump should get a two year extension on his term. It dawned on me how similar Falwell, Jr. and Trump are.  Two sons who inherited a large fortune from their Dads, who grew up with privilege and power taking over their Dads business. 

Now, If you do not see televangelism as a very lucrative business, then read no further.  We will never see eye to eye. I will not argue that these ministries don’t do some good.  Some more than others.  However, the lucrative business of pharmaceuticals also does some “good” while bringing in billions of dollars. 
On the heels of that article I also came across this one. 
https://www.insideedition.com/investigation-shows-televangelists-living-lavish-lifestyles-52662
It is an Inside Edition piece on the lucrative life style of some high profile  televangelists, Jesse Duplantis and Kenneth Copeland on their multi-million dollar love of private aircraft. In one instance Duplantis actually said, “God told me he wanted me to have this airplane.” (God evidently prefers $85 million dollar luxury jets). Copeland is quoted as saying, he couldn’t fly commercial air because “it is a long metal tube filled with demons.” Along with Joel Olsteen these mega preachers hold rallies in arenas and live in mansions spread out all over the country.  They are not shy about their wealth but flaunt it as proof that God loves them,maybe  just a little bit more than you.  All the time preaching that money given to their tax free cause will bring ten fold blessings to the “flock” in return.  Give me my private jet so I can flaunt my wealth to masses all over the world, in the name of Jesus.  

I finally realize why so many evangelicals  blindly support Trump.  The Trump lifestyle is exactly like that of the televangelist they listen to on television.   He is wealthy. He has expensive multiple homes, flys on his own private jet, and holds rally’s in arenas.  He touts his own accomplishments but is lining his own pocket first.  Trump is the poster boy for what the self righteous “Duplantis’s” of this world spout as the rewards of Christianity.   Add to this similarity in style and opulence, an aberrant election that seemed to be impossible (in fact even losing the popular vote by millions) to win. It was such an anomalous political election that surely God intervened, certainly not the Godless Russians.  So there you have it,  Trump is Rich, Famous and now President.... all the  “things to come” promised by Jesus. After all aren’t the streets of heaven paved in Gold? Just like Trump Tower toilets.  

Trump is the result of many years of riches and greed  taking over high profile religions. Luke 20:24:  When asked about wealth and paying taxes Jesus wanted to see a coin and asked who’s picture was on the coin.  The disciple said, “Caesar’s”. Jesus answer is forgotten by some of the wealthiest, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”. If it was not clear from that statement that Jesus separated wealth from spirituality he also said in Luke 18:25. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”  Fortunately for the Luxury Jet Salesmen the televangelists pay nothing to Caesar because they are tax exempt.  

I certainly have no solution to this ethical, moral and spiritual detour of Evangelicals.  However there is an admonition in the Bible Mark 13:6  “See to it that no one deceives you.  Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am He” and will deceive many.”  

I’m spinning my wheels here because there are  Bible scholars who can quote scripture that will contradict my research and thesis.  I’m not trying to convert anyone nor discredit faithfulness.  However, for what it is worth, I spoke with God this morning. He and Jesus said they had no collusion with the Trump campaign. I believe them.  Unlike this President, God doesn’t lie.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Why Come to a Live Performance?

I have great respect and admiration for my friends who specialize in children’s shows.  I can’t do it. I love kids, but I am not comfortable performing for them.  It could be that I am much to ADD to make it work. To me an audience full of kids is like performing for a can of worms... worms that occationally yell out nonsense. Doing my act and my one man show requires way too much concentration to be distracted by little Johnny who has yet to learn proper social filters.  It becomes so easy for me to become distracted that my entire concentration suffers.

Here is my theory about performing live.  A live performance is a very special moment in time when a group of people and a performer(s) come together and meet in the “now moment” of a specially rehearsed event.  My attention is obviously on the material being presented but it is filtered by an analytical consciousness of the audience.  The audience becomes an emotional mirror to what I am doing on stage.  If their emotion mimics the intended stage reaction then all is good. If something other than that is happening, a conscious shift is necessary to get everyone back on the path of the performance. Most audiences do not realize that performers are adjusting at almost every moment on stage to make the “story” clearer.  

There is a relevant story about Lena Horn when she was doing her one woman show on Broadway.  Being a consummate performer, her attention was always laser focused on the audience. On one evening after the intermission, she came out singing and immediately noticed that the attention of the audience, particularly down front, was different.  Her audience mirror was not reflecting the right emotion.  Her instinct, as an artist, was to move closer to the audience to see if she could wrangle them back to paying attention to her performance.  As she did  a  large lighting instrument fell and hit the stage where she would have normally been standing.  The audience was observing what was happening behind Lena Horn, something she could not see nor was she aware of it.  The opera curtain became intangled with the grid, dislodging the lighting instrument which fell to the stage.  The attention to her audience and her instinct to move toward them for more focus saved her from injury or worse.  

I recently got to perform “Jay Johnson: The Two and Only” at the North Coast Rep in Solana Beach.  It is a nice intimate theater,  perfect for my intimate show. Because I am a ventriloquist, my ears are always aware of the sound around me.  I listen to the ventriloquial voices to monitor their effect and clarity.  This awareness of sounds include, laughs or sighs or whatever noise comes from the audience as well as from the sound track and me.  It is the equivalent of a race car driver monitoring the RPM, Speed and vitals of the race car.  There is so much to monitor on stage that anything less than full concentration doesn’t work.  In the case of a live performance you only get one time to get it right, no retakes, no do overs, the only chance you get is the one happening now; so the stakes are high.

The focus for a theatrical presentation is much more intense than that of  a nightclub performance. When liquor is involved you need to have more of a guard up since the likely hood of a heckler yelling out is increased by the number of beverages ingested.  But a club performance does not require as many ideas to juggle at once so this “heckler guard” can occupy some idle brain space.  

While I was doing 8 shows a week on Broadway there were times that I could put the cruise control on and relax a little while doing the show.  However, it has been a while since I have done that and at the North Coast Rep I had to concentrate on so many things I could not even find the cruise control for the show.  It was going well and to a point in the Tuesday night show, we were on course. That’s when I heard a noice from the audience.  Stage time slows way down when your mind has to multi-task. First comes the evaluation phase. What is the sound?  Is is threatening? Is it directed toward me? Does it require a reaction from me, or do I need to completely ignore it?  While continuing with the show, I determined that the sound was someone talking loudly followed by several people “shushing”.  My decision was to continue as if the fourth wall was soundproof.  There was another outburst this time attached to an angry tone, followed by another loud voice, then a young girl pushed her way through one of the center rows to get to the exit.  I did not know what happened but it seemed that the cause of the noise left the audience.  Just as I was about to devote my entire attention back to the script of the show, there was more loud talking and two more women walked out.  At this point my instincts told me to briefly stop and make sure there was no issue or continuing distraction.  I stepped out of character and script and said to the Usher who was closing the door behind the last woman to leave, “Do we need to stop the show.... Is everything okay?”  The Usher said, “Everything is Okay now.” Indicating the cause of the commotion was gone. 

Even if this performance was recorded, rather than a live show, some sort of re-cue needs to occur to the get back to the  place where the show left off.  I tend to think in text blocks for my hour and fifty-minute show, and the block of text I was doing  suddenly left my brain.  There is a trick I learned years ago to get back on track when a distraction like this occurs in an audience.  I said, “Geez where were we I’m lost..... I guess we have to start over from the beginning.”  I moved to my starting position for the show and a quick laugh gave me time to re-rack, re-cue and begin where we left off.  

It wasn’t till the end of the show that I found out what happened and I am glad I didn’t know during the performance.  A young lady in the middle of the house was texting on her phone which was very bright in the darkened theater, blinding the lady behind her in the next row.  The lady behind asked, if she would please turn the phone off. The theater director was sitting close enough to hear the exchange.  He said the lady was polite when she asked the offender to go dark.  The texting 20 something said in response, “Are you reading my texts, you cunt?” It caused an immediate conflict which escalated to the young lady inviting the older lady outside saying , “I’ll Kick your ass”.  The two girls sitting with the “texter” tried to defend her but were told to leave by the usher.  All three left the show.  

Never mind that I have an announcement at the top of the show asking that all cell phones be turned off and silenced for the enjoyment of every one else, why come to a show to text?  Why spend the money to watch a show only to ingnore it and text on your phone? And when a person realizes they might be unintentionally ruining the show for someone else, expletives and attitude from the offender is the result? I am glad that young lady was not around after the show.  There is nothing civil that I could have said to her.

The light from a cell phone in the darkness of an audience is distracting enough to actors on the stage, but to ignore manners and disrupt the rest of the audience when asked to put it out... is unforgivable.   If we are going to live in a society that accepts social media and ubiquitous cell phones, we need to establish some manners to go along with that “society” of texting.  

So to the young lady who disrupted the only chance I had to tell my story to that particular audience that particular night at NCT, please don’t ever come back to any of my shows.  And on behalf of every performer who is trying to communicate art,  just stay at home and text with your friends till you go blind.  Instagram and twitter, Facebook and IM your life away, as is your right to do, just never, ever, ever do it within 400 yards of a theater.  
As you were,
Jay