Giants in The Sky: Remembering Stephen Sondheim

While I know he was 91 years old, I belong to the huge legion of Stephen Sondheim fans who secretly hoped he would never, ever die, and that his unique creative voice would never fall silent. And now it has. The loss is inestimable, incalculable–and now we have no one to come up with clever rhymes for words like that. I am trying to console myself by watching some of the countless fascinating interviews he did in which he talks about his craft. And he left a catalog of brilliant, groundbreaking musicals that will outlive us all thanks to their astonishing alchemical blend of heart and mind. And he left the world his two books about his art and craft, Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat.

Stephen Sondheim changed my life–twice. The first time was when my college friend Neal sat me down in his dorm room at Mather House (Harvard College) and played me the LP of A Little Night Music. The music and lyrics both took my breath away. I was intoxicated for the first time in my life. From that day on I knew I had to be a lyricist, to do what he did. It was kind of like when I was 13 and saw a relative perform a magic show; after that, I was determined to become a magician. And for a while, I did! Then in college I heard that album, and I wanted to create magic with words the way Mr. Sondheim did.

The second time he changed the course of my life was when I sat down at his home for a chat about an actual career as a lyricist/librettist. To say it was an unforgettable afternoon would be a massive understatement. And I still treasure the two brief notes I received from him on his now-classic personal stationery–even though both notes make it clear what an arrogant, clueless young man I was at the time. I cherish them because they make clear what a deeply kind man he was. He saw past my youthful callowness straight through to the seriousness of my intent. He did not have children of his own, but he mentored a generation of young writers–and more.

Below is the note inviting me to his home for that talk. If you’d like to read about what happened at that chat, what the note below refers to, and how I ended up steering him towards a film he later adapted into a musical, read my earlier post here.

I’m not going to quote anything of his, although so many lines spring to mind as a fitting tribute to him that it’s overwhelming. He famously resisted the idea that any of his works or characters was autobiographical. (Although of course on some level, especially as he approached his lyrics and songs with the rigor of an actor learning a character, they were all facets of him–and he was a diamond with infinite facets.) I will just say, with all my heart, and with tears in my eyes: Thank you, Mr. Sondheim. For sharing your genius. For your deep kindness. For reminding me what bravery can look like. For everything. My condolences to his husband, and to all who loved and admired him. The world is forever richer because of what he shared, and forever poorer now that he is gone.

Exciting News: Catch My Scene With Ewan McGregor in Netflix’s Halston!

Mirror, mirror…have you seen the fashionably fabulous @halstonnetflix yet? Look for me in this fun scene at Bergdorf Goodman early in Episode 1. Step aside, Elizabeth II—there’s a new Old Queen in town! Thanks again to Director and Executive Producer Dan Minahan who has long held a passion to tell the story of this great gay fashion icon, and to Ewan MacGregor who is simply a joy to work with, and to Ryan Murphy for co-writing, producing, and partnering with Dan to make this gorgeous series happen!

I love that Dan chose a take in which I was riffing and improvising a little bit–he established such a comfortable, fun set that we all felt free to go with it! 😀🙏❤️

Check it Out! Audition Setup for Success During the Pandemic!

Here’s what auditions look like these days. While it can be frustrating not to physically be in the room with the casting director, live virtual casting is actually pretty darn great, much better than just submitting self-tapes–because the casting director can coach you and give you feedback in real time to help you land the gig. But you need to be set up to succeed. To look your best, consider having:

  • Adjustable ring light with remote control
  • Collapsible plain-colored (chroma key is ideal) background (the one pictured is chroma green on the other side, and comes with reflector covers as well for photography use!)
  • Water in a n0-spill container to whet your whistle (a chapstick is good to have handy, too)
  • Laptop for video audition room
  • iPad or printout for your script
  • (I also have a light-up selenite crystal for a little extra good energy in the room!)

A huge thank you to all the hard-working casting directors who believe in us and coach us to succeed whether in person or online. You all rock.  #bowlingmisciacasting @josydiva @therealbobcline @stephanieklappercasting  @judybowmancasting @brettegoldstein @donna_grossman_casting @wojcikseaycasting @rosalie.joseph #meredithtuckercasting #chrystiestreetcasting and many more!  😀🙏🎉 

The virtual waiting room….
My behind-the-scenes setup.
(If you look closely, my MinuteMaid print ad cast by Donna Grossman is on the wall!)

Exciting! Colin and I Presented Five Emmy Awards!

This September, Colin and I were asked if we were willing to present five awards for the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Emmys. Of course we said yes!

Since the actual winners had to be kept secret, Colin and I had to record two entirely different segments for each of the five awards, plus intro and outro clips. I shot the segments in front of a green screen in my home office, and the Emmys team added a suitably Gothamesque animated background in post production. The end result is a lot of fun. You can watch a selected clip below. Enjoy!

Complete Tempest Radio Play Now Available FREE!

Missing live theatre? Love Shakespeare? Or just love a good story with complex villains and heroes, and some all-out magic? You can now listen FREE to all four episodes Shakespeare@’s beautiful new radio play production of The Tempest with an awesome international cast and audio by Emmy-winning Sonic Designs. Tim and I have listened to the entire production and it is simply wonderful. This fabulous production is adapted and directed by the amazing Sean Hagerty, Artistic Director of Shakespeare@.

You can stream or download us on Spotify, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, and the Shakespeare@ website. Music. Magic. Monsters. Mayhem. And me. For FREE! (I play faithful old court counselor, the chatty Gonzalo.) 😉 Enjoy! ❤️ #OBraveNewWorld (And if you haven’t already heard our acclaimed production of Richard II, it’s available in its entirety for FREE in all the same places!)

Tempest Ep2 is Out and Ep3 Drops Tonight at 8pm EST!

I’m catching up with my blog posts! 😏 You can now listen FREE to Episodes 1 & 2 of Shakespeare@’s new radio play production of The Tempest with an awesome international cast and audio by Emmy-winning Sonic Designs. You feel like you’re on the island with magic all around you.

And the news gets better: Episode 3 drops tonight at 8pm EST! The final episode will drop next week. Tune in and catch up with all the fun! This fabulous production is adapted and directed by the amazing Sean Hagerty.

Hear us on Spotify, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, and the Shakespeare@ website. Music. Magic. Monsters. Mayhem. And me. For FREE! 😉 Enjoy! ❤️ #OBraveNewWorld (And if you haven’t already heard our acclaimed production of Richard II, it’s available in its entirety in all the same places!)

Episode 1 of The Tempest Radio Play Has Launched!

You can now listen FREE to Episode 1 of Shakespeare@’s new radio play production of The Tempest with an awesome international cast and audio by Emmy-winning Sonic Designs! Adapted and directed by the amazing Sean Hagerty. Hear us on Spotify, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud and the Shakespeare@ website. Music. Magic. Monsters. Mayhem. And me. For FREE! 😉 I play Gonzalo, the faithful (and highly opinionated) old court counselor. Enjoy! ❤️ #OBraveNewWorld (And if you haven’t already heard our acclaimed production of Richard II, it’s available in its entirety in all the same places!) The remaining three episodes of The Tempest will drop in coming weeks. Stay tuned!

All 3 Episodes of Richard II Are Available Now for FREE!

Huzzah! Now you can listen to all three parts of the fantastic Shakespeare@ audio play production of Shakespeare’s Richard II on their website ENTIRELY FREE!

Artistic Director Sean Hagerty came up with the great idea of bringing back fully-produced radio plays in response to the shutdown of theatres due to COVID-19. It’s a terrific artistic response to a troubling time–and it’s a fantastic production.

All three parts are now available for you to download or stream at your leisure, my lords and ladies! Enjoy, and let me know what you think. I am thrilled and honored to be part of this wonderful international cast.

Click here to listen to all three parts of Richard II!

Video Reading of a Great New David Gerrold Short Story!

Monsters, Movies & Mayhem–Oh, my!

As you may (or may not) know, I’m on the faculty of the Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Western Colorado University, where I serve as Performance Coach to all the writers.

The fledgling Publishing Masters Program at WCU, led by the amazing NY Times best-selling author Kevin J. Anderson, has just released a wonderfully entertaining anthology of 23 tantalizing tales: Monsters, Movies & Mayhem entirely put together by the grad students–and it’s a real winner. There are stories by award-winning authors, and stories that came from students in the creative writing program! Some of the stories are funny, some are scary–and some are both. All relate in some way to our love of movies.

As a little promotional surprise to the students, Kevin asked me to create a video reading of a terrific short story from the anthology by award-winning author and screenwriter David Gerrold. David has written over 50 novels, many short stories, and penned episodes for classic TV shows like The Twilight ZoneLand of the Lost, and Babylon 5. He also wrote my favorite classic Star Trek episode: “The Trouble With Tribbles!”

I encourage you to pick up a copy of this wonderful anthology for yourself, or as a gift for that monster-loving friend or family member. You can find it at WordFirePress.Com or wherever fine scary books are sold. All proceeds benefit the WCU Publishing MA Program’s future publications!

As as taste of the book’s contents, here is my reading of David Gerrold’s “Michael Thinks The House is Haunted.”

Enjoy!

Michael Thinks the House is Haunted by David Gerrold read by Andrew Sellon

Episode 2 of Richard II Is Out Now!

I’m excited to share that Episode 2 of Shakespeare@’s radio play production of Richard II is available now on their website for FREE! Episode 1 is still available as well, and Episode 3 should be released shortly. Please see my prior post for more details. This is the inaugural production of their “Shakespeare@ Home” series and it’s a winner. It’s also an extremely timely tale, about a despotic rule and a country torn apart by divided loyalties. This was a terrific project to work on, with a wonderful international cast. Artistic Director, Adaptor, and Director Sean Hagerty hit a home run with this one. 

Give yourself a treat today and click here to tune into this exciting production!