Thursday, December 31, 2009

and the oscar goes to...

...inglourious basterds?

the l.a. times' tom o'neill:
Breaking with recent tradition, a weighted ballot will be used to pick the winner this year. Thus, pundits must size up this race in new ways. I don't think "Basterds" would win under the old system, but I think it's the fave under this new one that offers 10 alternatives, thus widely splitting votes, giving the edge to the film with the most consensus support.
avatar? sci-fi rarely wins, says o'niell. the hurt locker? no stars. precious? too gritty. up in the air? not enough gravitas. (last year o'neill correctly predicted 21 of the 24 oscar races.)

that leaves tarrantino, pitt, and a bunch of nazi-killing basterds to take home gold on oscar night.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

always look on the bright side of life...

sullivan sums up obama and suggests, on his blog, that the right may be more aware of his success than the left. they're just not happy about it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

why i quit show business #5's 2009 star of the year.

what a difference a day (or 3) makes

ragtime is not closing. ragtime is closing.

lessons learned in 2009

2. it's not a competition.
1. talk less, listen more.

the top ten top ten of 2009
(aka: the best of the best of)

the end of any year is filled with top ten lists. the ten best, worst, sexiest, largest, fastest, biggest selling, whatever. this year being the end of a decade, we've got the best of the '00s to deal with too. truth be told, i find it all terribly annoying, and i'm quite certain i've blogged this exact paragraph before.

that said, here are ten of my favorite top ten lists for 2009:
1. huffington post lays out their greatest political disappointments of 2009, including setbacks for gay marriage, the debate over health care, and joe wilson's "you lie" outburst. there should be a special catagory for pol's named lieberman.

2. roger ebert has actually put together four ten best lists: best foreign, animated, and documentary films, as well as his choices for the ten best films of the year. he's roger ebert, and i believe him.

3. black cod with fennel chowder and smoked oyster panzanella. pumpkin-seed-crusted tofu with lemongrass broth. milk-braised pork shoulder with semolina gnocchi. eating is good. here are the top 10 best new restaurants in america, courtesy of bon appetite.

4. national geographic awards the 10 best new species of 2009 to new friends like the blob fish, the sea squirt, a worm without lungs, a shark with a penis on it's head, and a big, gay jellyfish.

5. u.s. news' year end list (or, year beginning list?) sounds like it could have been written by a 10 year old boy. among the 10 best careers for 2010? firefighter, meteorologist, architect, veterinarian, and funeral director. (what? you didn't want to be a funeral director when you were 10?)

6. let's pretend i read. the new york times' top books of 2009.

7. it's well known what a sports nut i am, so why wouldn't i enjoy sports illustrated's top sports photographs of 2009? especially when it includes a near trampling by giant wieners in milwaukee?

8. lists japanese hot pots as one of 2009's 10 best cookbooks. (see, i do read.) having actually eaten from a traditional japanese hot pot, i concur. buy this cookbook and invite me over. いただきます!

9. rolling stone has a dozen or so ten best lists. here's their ten best albums of 2009. to balance that is pitchfork's 50 best of '09, billboard's top 200 sellers of the year, and's 40 best. all four lists include this album.

10. not to be outdone, time magazine has listed the top ten everything for 2009, including the top ten animal stories (who could forget this charming quote: "yes! he ripped her apart ... he ripped her face off!") the top ten gadgets (hopefully you've all got your dyson air multiplier) and, of course, the top ten t-shirt-worthy slogans (from kanye's "i'ma let you finish" to obama's "all we-weed up.") okay then.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

lessons learned in 2009

1. talk less, listen more.

a most important conversation

something vitally important to discuss with your parents, your loved ones, your family members, long before the situation arises. this is why the "death panel" debate is so infuriating and offensive: this is a serious, heavy issue that we should not be afraid to delve into in great detail. the decisions are never easy to make, but they are much easier if you've actually had the conversation.

lie of the year: take 2

palin wins again, with an assist from betsy mccaughey:
The "pulling the plug on grandma" falsehood really took off once former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin coined the term "Death Panel," but this falsehood got its first push from former New York lieutenant governor and health care overhaul opponent Betsy McCaughey.

She misrepresented a provision (since dropped) that merely called for Medicare to pay for voluntary counseling sessions to help seniors make end-of-life care decisions, such as designating a health care proxy, choosing a hospice or writing a living will.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

a cozy christmas

i remember a scene just like this on christmas morning.

thanks a lot, but no thanks

carney says no.

bullish on barack

andrew sullivan thinks it's been a good year for obama:
When you consider the magnitude of shifting from one conservative era to one in which government simply has to be deployed to tackle deep structural problems, the achievement is as significant as his election year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

will the real john mccain please stand up?

dowd snarks mccain. somewhere, deep in his shriveling, shrinking heart, he knows this is true. but he'll either ignore, or – more in line with his recent persona – snark back. ugh.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


the cast of disney on classic: promise. this year's tour came to a rousing conclusion sunday with a final sold-out concert in fukushima, japan and audiences standing and cheering long before the final note had been sung. (from left: brian runbeck, timothy booth, malkia stampley-johnson, tim ewing, anne tolpegin, jen zappola, tony clements, and ian simpson.)

lie of the year

palin wins.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

not quite a nine?

rob marshall, the director who single-handedly brought movie musicals back to life (with chicago) may have just killed them off again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

the fukuoka riffs

language is an interesting thing.

i'm traveling in japan with disney on classic (a symphony concert tour with the tokyo philharmonic orchestra, 8 singers, and a crew of japanese folks who have become my dear friends. 28 concerts over the course of two months.)

in japan, the letter U is always pronounced "ooo," and the letter O is pronouced "oh." thus, fukuoka = foo-koo-oh-kah. sometimes the japanese say it so quickly it sounds like three syllables instead of four: foo-kwoh-kah.

how it isn't pronounced is: fuck-you-oka.

living in a culture and country for two months at a time (six months total if you add my time here from 2007 and 2008) gives you hopefully more than a tiny insight into it, and – certainly in this case – brings a special respect for it's customs, food, culture and language.

that said, here are some witty u.s. responses to my and other cast members' facebook posts mentioning fukuoka (i.e. "today i'm in fukuoka!" or "had a lovely dinner in fukuoka today"):
  • Hey, watch your language
  • What did you just say to Japan ?
  • Is this an Austin Powers joke ?
  • who is oka and why do u want her to fuk herself in Japan?
  • Fukuoka? Didn't his 16-year-old girlfriend shoot his wife a few years ago?
  • Fuk u ova?
  • You just like using that name!
  • who's oka? and why are you so mad at her?
look, if i were back home and had never been to yokohama, or osaka, or masuda, or sapporo, or aomori, or fukuoka, i'd probably be laughing. i'm just feeling protective friend.

and hey, i get just as bent out of shape sticking up for places like gays mills, spooner, spread eagle and bohners lake, wisconsin.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

oy, dat old man river!

you've probably never heard old man river quite like this:

don't mess with texas parker

houston, texas – the fourth largest city in the united states – has elected a new mayor. she's "the first contender in a generation to defeat the hand-picked candidate of Houston's business establishment."

oh, and she's gay.

shame on john mccain

the daily beast's matt miller shames the senate's grumpy gramps (mccain) who is fast becoming the republican's go-to man for throwing hissy fits about stopping health care reform:
If every aging, displaced worker in America had McCain’s incumbency or inherited wealth to fall back on, it’s true—the ability to buy into Medicare would be superfluous. But most Americans aren’t in the Senate or married to an heiress. For most Americans, losing a job (and health coverage) in your late 50s or early 60s spells catastrophe. For McCain to set aside the obvious empathy he must feel for this vulnerable group in order to score cheap political points is dishonorable.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


i know you're all asking this question already, but really – why is it all tiger all the time?

UPDATE 1:42 AM – and maddow provides as good an answer as i've heard:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

a brief swooning in brooklyn

if you're in new york, anywhere near new york, heading to new york, or have thoughts of going to new york, see this: kneehigh theater’s adaptation of the 1945 noel coward movie brief encounter.

i was lucky enough to see encounter at american conservatory theatre in san francisco (it has since moved to st. ann’s warehouse in brooklyn, where it opened tuesday night.) that same trip west included the green day musical american idiot at berkeley rep – with green day in the audience. not a bad weekend for someone who doesn't often enjoy going to theatre.

like american idiot (and not at all like american idiot) brief encounter provided some of the most inspiring, surprising and creative moments of theatre i've experienced since sitting slack-jawed during the first 20 minutes of spring awakening.

no kidding, call right now and get tickets.

who doesn't like a good gouda?

and, is right around the corner.

a tough act to follow

u.s. president barack obama at tokyo's suntory hall on november 14, 2009. disney on classic performs at suntory this friday, december 11.

like it's 1991

certain songs stay with you, mean different things at different times, take you back. for some reason tonight i'm back to early 1991 and events in my life at the time. these five tunes stick out, each for specific reasons and memories. instantly i'm sitting in a running car, late at night, it's so cold outside i can see my breath inside the car, i'm waiting for someone to come out of a house, i'm nervous and anxious...and, well. the rest of the memory is mine.

quote of the day

"Like many of you who live in New Jersey, I've been following the progress of the marriage-equality legislation currently being considered in Trenton.

I've long believed in and have always spoken out for the rights of same sex couples and fully agree with Governor Corzine when he writes that, "The marriage-equality issue should be recognized for what it truly is -- a civil rights issue that must be approved to assure that every citizen is treated equally under the law."

I couldn't agree more with that statement and urge those who support equal treatment for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to let their voices be heard now."

gotta be this or that

politico brilliantly headlines an article gay marriage inevitability in doubt, and goes on to use the final paragraph to make just the opposite point:
...a review of recent polling and conversations with political operatives and pollsters on both sides of the issue suggest that same-sex marriage still benefits from deep support from younger voters.

A Gallup poll from May, for instance, found that 18 to 29 year olds favor same-sex marriage by a margin of 59% to 37%, while people 65 and over oppose it by an even wider margin. And other studies have suggested the support among young voters is broad, and stretches across regions. One recent Columbia University study reported that more than 50% of 18-29 year olds in 38 states support same-sex marriage.
this is not becoming a generational issue, it already is. setbacks in maine, new york, and (likely) new jersey aside, the momentum may have slowed, but the direction is basically the same.
UPDATE 12/10/09 politico has since changed the headline to read is gay marriage 'inevitable'?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

size does matter

a jellyfish. beautiful, but not a pleasant site in the sea of japan. even more unpleasant when you realize this is no ordinary little jellyfish. in fact, little has nothing to do with it.

from environmental graffiti:

"They came from the deep – swarms of giant jellyfish that can sink trawlers and strike fear into the hearts of fishermen. Growing to almost seven feet wide, weighing a sumo-sized 450lb (200kg), and armed with myriad stinging tentacles, Echizen kurage sound like the stuff of Japanese sci-fi, yet the threat they pose is as real as it gets. Since 2005, these slimy horrors have been wreaking havoc in the waters off the coast of Japan – and how to stop them is anyone’s guess."

more on the giant jellyfish, including video, here.

what to do when you have too many giant jellyfish? npr's madeleine brand uncovered one solution in yokohama:

it was 29 years ago today...

Friday, December 4, 2009

the threat to marriage

if you haven't seen this, you should:

new york state senator diane savino speaks on marriage equality just before the senate voted the bill down.

大橋トリオ: i can't get enough

a few weeks ago started buying ohashiTrio records. i haven't stopped yet.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

i say a little prayer for you

nasty grumpy sad face-lift person crawls out from under his rock to offer some absolutely brilliant advice to young gay actors everywhere (cue eye roll.)

unfortunately for nasty grumpy sad face-lift person, lots of those young gay actors are saying to themselves, "rupert who?"

a heavenly pressing

proof that "life is going to be good," according to mary jo coady.

and then there's this.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

backlash: 38-24

via andrew sullivan:
New York's state senate continues the recent backlash against recent expansion of marriage equality. The vote against marriage equality was more lopsided than many had hoped for. Not a single Republican voted for the bill, despite intense lobbying. The vote in the Assembly was 88 - 51 in favor of civil equality.
and this despite what a marist poll out today reveals:
Where do New York State registered voters stand on this controversial issue? A slim majority — 51% — favor legalizing same-sex marriage. 42% oppose it.
des moines, here i come.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

what's the difference?!

william shatner grilling rush limbaugh about health care reform in the u.s. just...skip past how weird that is in the first place, and listen to rush's point. if his argument doesn't make you at least a little sick to your stomach, then you're probably not – as my dad would characterize me – "strictly librul."
Shatner: Here's my premise and you agree with it or not. If you have money, you are going to get health care. If you don't have money, it's more difficult.

Limbaugh: If you have money you're gonna get a house on the beach. If you don't have money you're gonna live in a bungalow somewhere.

Shatner: Right, but we're talking about health care.

Limbaugh: What's the difference?!

Shatner: The difference is we're talking about health care, not a house or a bungalow.

Limbaugh: You're assuming there's some morally superior aspect to health care.

but adam, it's not that it was offensive...'s that it wasn't good.

the reason i don't have an iPhone (yet)

it may be hip, it may be exciting, it may have tons of apps, but – sorry iPhone users – there's still this:
In the latest annual survey by Consumer Reports, released Tuesday, Verizon topped the rankings of major wireless phone carriers in the United States. The survey awarded high marks to Verizon for customer support, voice connectivity and data services. T-Mobile came in second, with Sprint and AT&T tying for last place.

The popularity of the iPhone has been something of a mixed blessing for the telecom company. While the iPhone has clearly won new customers for AT&T, it has also prompted many complaints about dropped calls, spotty service, delayed text and voice messages and glacial download speeds.
can you hear me now?

Monday, November 30, 2009

not in my japanese backyard

the scene in ginowan city, okinawa, on november 8, 2009.

from japan press-weekly:
Over 21,000 people in Okinawa protested on Sunday to demand the removal of the US bases from the prefecture, criticizing the plan to only relocate the Futenma US air base from its current location of Ginowan City to the Henoko district of Nago City, also in Okinawa.
during the protest, "dozens of armed u.s. troops on board rafts landed on the coast off the usmc camp schwab in the henoko district of nago city and deployed into the woods during an attack exercise. ashitomi hiroshi, head of the nago council against the construction of the u.s. on-sea heliport, said angrily, “is this their response to the determination of participants in the 11/8 rally? how arrogantly provocative they are!”

the convention center housing the disney on classic venue is the blue-green roofed building in the background, just right of center.

big in japan

ian simpson, part of this years disney on classic cast traveling japan for two months, time warps back to the 80's with a faux music video.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

big band japan

most japanese hotel rooms have a small, wooden console next to the bed (or in between the beds) with push button controls for the room lights, for lights underneath the console that serve as a night light, for a clock and alarm, for air conditioning levels, and then, in a slim row all to themselves, four or five buttons that each provide different types of music, playing from what sounds like my father's first hi-fi.

generally, one button is strictly news, reported in japanese. one is japanese pop music, maybe from the 80's. one is classical or easy listening. and in the hotel meitetsu in hamamamatsu, there's a button that plays only big band jazz music from the 30's and 40's. no commercials, no interruption.

as we were getting ready for bed tonight, listening to benny goodman, or artie shaw, or woody herman, rob said "this music makes me so happy. if you can find me this music, i'd be so happy."

and suddenly, this new york times article couldn't have been timed any better.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

quote of the day

"They recently made a porn movie about Sarah Palin, and the same adult actress – Lisa Anne – played me in a porn parody of '30 Rock.' And weirdly, of the three of us, Lisa Anne knows the most about foreign policy."
– tina fey


how many democrats touted as possible presidential / political candidates have their own shows on cnn or msnbc?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

from beginning to end

i've said it before on this blog: i just don't take the time anymore to listen to an album all the way through. what's even more rare is taking the time to listen to a new album all the way through...two times in a row.

Friday, November 6, 2009

not all good news out of ny-23

think the brewing republican civil war that bubbled to the surface in new york's 23 congressional district ended positively for democrats on tuesday? you'd be right on most counts.

except this one:
“(New York Senate) Republicans who might have been supportive (of Marriage Equality) in the past might have been spooked,” (Senate president pro tempore Malcolm) Smith said, by the recent battle over the 23rd Congressional District in upstate New York. The state’s Conservative Party pressured the Republican candidate, Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, a moderate, to withdraw, partly because she supports same-sex marriage.
new york governor david patterson is vowing to include gay marriage on the agenda of an extraordinary session he is calling for next tuesday.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

matsui, matsui, matsui!

new york and japan celebrating...about the same thing.


this is beginning to happen more and more frequently: i look at a sign in japan (so long as it's written in katakana - the japanese characters used for transcription of english words) and i can make out what it says fairly quickly.

i am to the point where nine times out of ten (okay, maybe eight) i can look at the word and decipher it. but today, as i was walking back to shinjuku from shibuya, i rounded a corner, saw:
and immediately thought of my friend tim booth. tim's been having some stiff neck trouble lately, not to mention some issues with a torn rotator cuff. it was the neck pain that made me think of him when i saw the sign.

it says, literally, ka-i-ro-pu-ra-coo-te-i-coo. chiropractic. it's not a word i've ever seen in japanese before, and it was a sudden, unexpected joy today – not to see the word and decipher it, but to see it and think immediately of telling my friend tim there is a chiropractor near our hotel.

it's the simple things.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

they say you shouldn't apologize...

...or start a blog post with "i know i haven't posted anything in a while," but i know i haven't.

there are many reasons, not the least of which is i've been distracted and busy – both in excellent ways. besides, i'm in japan and the most commonly used word is probably sumimasen ("i'm sorry.")

i'm lucky enough to get to spend another two months in what now seems like a second home, and my friend jen zappola – part of the disney on classic 2009 company – is keeping a charming blog called jen in japan. best of all, her videos have that "first timer's" view of this beautiful country and culture. jen constantly reminds me why i love it here so much.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

the men of d.o.c. - nagoya

this year's disney on classic tour of japan includes a group of five men who are featured in a series of photos taken in each city or venue the tour appears. (more photos here.)

(from left to right, tony clements, tim ewing, brian runbeck, ian simpson, & tim booth.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

quote of the day

"A bit of dithering might have been in order before we went into Iraq in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

For a representative of the Bush administration to accuse someone of taking too much time is missing the point. We have much more to fear in this town from hasty than from slow government action."

– conservative columnist george will
will was remarking on former vice president dick cheney's criticism that barack obama is "dithering" on a decision whether or not to send more u.s. troops to afghanistan.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

japanese cheesheads

when wisconsin is friends with japan.

katsunori kusakabe & tomoki takahashi of harmony japan, inc.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

so much for those angry town halls

remember those health care town halls over the summer? all those angry people shouting down senators and congressmen about a government take-over of our health care system?

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that support for a government-run health-care plan to compete with private insurers has rebounded from its summertime lows and wins clear majority support from the public.

On the issue that has been perhaps the most pronounced flash point in the national debate, 57 percent of all Americans now favor a public insurance option, while 40 percent oppose it.
more here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

a preview: the sky is not falling

rod weber is an actor, a singer, and an independent filmmaker and videographer. he's also the only person we called when we decided to document the sky is not falling, the skylight opera benefit in new york. by some strange stroke of good luck, rod was free, and he agreed to do it. he showed up on monday, october 5th at st. luke's theatre with three cameras and a crew of one.

here is a preview of the dvd you have to look forward to. it's a pretty astounding array of talent. everyone there to support their friends, to support art, and to support the skylight. all captured beautifully by rod.

i wish you could have been there too. something tells me, thanks to rod, you sort of can be.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

where in the world is rob hancock?

two things. first, this play. it started previewing tonight, at the rubicon theatre in ventura, california.

i've jumped up and down to certain friends about it. if i had the money, i'd invest in it. yesterday. it's beautiful, moving, simple. and i think it has an amazing future.

but more important than all of that, someone i love dearly is in it. he's part of this video...maybe you can pick him out. (he's not john caird, paul gordon, or megan mcginnis.) this is the first time i've seen him in almost a month, in this video. i'm leaving for japan on friday, he opens in this show on saturday, and i won't see him in the flesh again until the end of november. this is why we love, and hate, this business.

theisen is the old new skylight a.d.

bill theisen will return to the position of artistic director of milwaukee's skylight opera theatre.

from the skylight:

Milwaukee, WI (October 14, 2009) -- Joan Lounsbery, Interim Managing Director of the Skylight Opera Theatre, has announced the re-appointment of Bill Theisen as Artistic Director. The decision is part of a redistribution of responsibilities at the Skylight that will remain in place while the Skylight’s incoming Board leadership and Managing Director assess the viability of all artistic positions moving forward.

Theisen re-assumes the Artistic Director position effective today through June 30, 2011. Board and staff leadership are in the early stages of a strategic planning process which will include an assessment of the Skylight’s long-term artistic leadership.

Theisen will manage productions and planning as well as facilitate the artistic team’s transition. He plans to direct up to two shows next season, which will reflect a program planned collaboratively with Interim Artistic Director Colin Cabot.

With Cabot’s departure today as Interim Artistic Director, “we all feel a great sense of urgency in establishing a 2010-2011 season that is exciting, forward-thinking, and financially viable,” Lounsbery said. “Bill’s re-involvement enables the Skylight to move forward in quickly planning and preparing for 2010-2011, and provides a level of consistency in the Skylight product while we continue to develop a strategic plan for artistic leadership.”

Lounsbery added, “I am grateful to Colin Cabot for his artistic leadership during this time of transition at the Skylight.” Cabot has been part of an interim management team along with Lounsbery. Although Cabot will no longer be on staff, he will attend Skylight Night, the company’s annual gala, on October 24, and will also attend the November 11 Annual Meeting.

The Skylight’s new management team will be fully in place on November 16, when Amy Jensen assumes the job of Managing Director, an appointment announced earlier.

“I love the Skylight and I always have, so I’m thrilled to be helping the administration with this transition,” said Theisen. “Amy Jensen will be a terrific leader for the Skylight, and I want to help her and the company in any way I can.”

oh, the talent

your morning warmup.

zambello on skylight: "there is no other theatre company like it in the world."

francesca zambello, the internationally recognized director of opera and musical theater, and former artistic director of milwaukee's skylight opera theatre, speaks at the sky is not falling, the october 5th nyc benefit concert for the skylight. the concert grossed over $8500 in ticket sales and donations. a full-length dvd of the event is in the works, with a holiday release anticipated.
"The Skylight is unique. There is no other theatre company like it in the world.

People may come from all over the United States to work there, but there is also an amazing troupe of what are called local artists – which sometimes people go 'oh, local' – actually, that's the greatest thing about it. The fact that there is this tradition there of people who are performers: music theatre performers, opera singers, backstage workers, musicians, all in that community – which is not a great big city, remember. And they're all there and they make this family. That's why we all work in the theatre, right? Because there's that sense of family that we wanna be connected to. And that's what the Skylight has.

To lose that, and not hold firm to those principles, is something that is very, very sad.

So I really salute and applaud everyone who went to an incredible kind of internet campaign – led by people from Milwaukee – to say 'No, art is important. And local art is important.' Because without that, most of us who are here living in New York wouldn't have had these careers.

Nor would Milwaukee be the kind of city it is without an important institution like the Skylight."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

quote of the day

"There is an opportunity here. The tone has changed -- but obviously we recognize that, while the tone in the world has changed, the challenges remain. They are very significant. Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum -- when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes."
– assistant secretary pj crowley,
a spokesman for secretary of state hillary clinton
commenting on president barack obama winning the nobel peace prize today, crowley was referring to the incident last december when an iraqi journalist threw his shoes at then president george w. bush.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

what's in a name?

this won't be confusing at all.

the sky is not falling: the performers

just a few of the 20-plus performers who were part of the sky is not falling last monday night. it was an incredibly diverse group of singers and repertoire. just like the skylight itself. (photos by lesly weiner.)

kate mccann. a call from the vatican from "nine".

tari kelly. he loved me till the all clear came.

phyliss somerville. way back home from "spitfire grill".

malkia and nathaniel stampley. wheels of a dream from "ragtime".

francesca zambello. "if it weren't for the skylight, i wouldn't have the career i have today."

joel hatch and niffer clarke. daisy's confession from "adding machine: a musical".

lisa brescia. i'll be here from "ordinary days".

shuler hensley and tony clements. curly and will 17 years on.

branch woodman. a better emcee you could not ask for.

michael diliberto. clair is always there written by skylight alum brett ryback.

carol chickering burden & william burden. o happy we from "candide".

richard carsey. rock solid accompanist extraordinaire.

malkia stampley. last night i didn't get to sleep at all.

john kuether, branch woodman & nathaniel stampley. three little maids from "the mikado."

carol chickering burden signing posters to be auctioned off in milwaukee at skylight night, the skylight's annual fundraiser.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"is this going to be a yearly event?"

that seemed to be the question of the night.

the sky is not falling, the benefit for the skylight opera theatre at st. luke's theatre in new york city, was - if i do say so myself - a pretty stunning evening of entertainment. there was definitely an "old skylight" feel to the venue (st. luke's theatre seats less than 160 people, and there are posts! not blocking any sightlines, but along the side of the seating area) and to the performance.

skylight performers old and new took the stage and told the audience about this special little place in milwaukee. from wendy hill to tari kelly, john kuether to nate stampley, shuler hensley to lisa brescia, it was a beautiful mix of opera, musical theatre, gilbert & sullivan, and new music as well.

and the folks familiar with the skylight were incredibly moved by francesca zambello's impassioned plea to not only milwaukee and the skylight but to artists everywhere to remember that "art matters."

photos are on the way. and...without giving too much away, you might actually get to see the concert yourself, in the comfort of your own home. (wouldn't a sky is not falling dvd make a lovely christmas gift for your friends and family? stay in touch.)

Monday, October 5, 2009

the sky is not falling

it's the day of the show, y'all.

i hope you'll be there. and i do mean you. seriously. find a babysitter.

if you're already planning on coming, get your tickets here or at the box office. if you can't make it, (or if you come, have a great time and wanna kick in a few more bucks) donate here. all proceeds from ticket sales and additional donations go directly to the skylight opera theatre. all are tax deductible.

and fyi...just because this event happens tomorrow doesn't mean that the fun is over. watch closely over the next few weeks for a very special announcement.

tonight, from
New York City-based showfolk with a connection to Skylight Opera Theatre — the Milwaukee Equity troupe that had a highly publicized administrative shakeup over the summer — are putting on a benefit show for the organization devoted to operas and musicals. Tony Award winner Shuler Hensley, director Francesca Zambello and actor Malcolm Gets will appear.

Billed as The Sky Is Not Falling, the concert will be presented 8 PM Oct. 5 at St. Luke's Theatre at 308 W. 46th Street, off Eighth Avenue.

Appearing among 25 artists will be Tony Award nominee Jeff Blumenkrantz (Urban Cowboy), Kate Weatherhead and Lisa Brescia (both of Off-Broadway's Ordinary Days), John Kuether (The Phantom of the Opera), Beverly Ward (the tour of Show Boat), James Moye (Broadway's Urinetown and the new Ragtime), Hensley (Young Frankenstein, Oklahoma!); stage, television and film star Gets (The Story of My Life, Amour, "Caroline in the City"); opera and Broadway director (and former Skylight artistic director) Zambello (The Little Mermaid, Little House on the Prairie); The Lion King's Nathaniel Stampley; and Billy Elliot's Joel Hatch.

Expect an eclectic mix of music from the opera, operetta and musical theatre repertoire, matching Skylight's mission.

Friday, October 2, 2009

bennett in chicago: he'd fit right in

from huffington post:
Conservative commentator Bill Bennett certainly didn't endear himself to the residents of Chicago during a recent appearance on CNN's "The Situation Room." Asked for his thoughts about President Obama going to Copenhagen to personally lobby for Chicago as the sight of the 2016 Olympics, Bennett said that he was actually rooting for Rio, Brazil: "I'm actually for Rio. In Rio, it's beautiful women at the beach, and in Chicago, it's fat people eating."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

quote of the day

"Here's what the Republican Party has to do: We have to say that's crazy. So I'm here to tell you that those who think the president was born somewhere other than Hawaii are crazy. He's not a Muslim. He's a good man. And let's knock this crap off and talk about the real differences we have."
senator lindsey graham (R-SC)
about the "birthers," and the rhetoric on the far right

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

still wanna be a producer?

now's your chance last chance.

the sky is not falling: the flyer

click, print, and post. at your desk, in your office, on your callboard at the theatre. print a bunch and go running through times square handing them out.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

public option: $85 billion more in savings

not only is the public at large overwhelmingly in favor of it, but enacting health care reform with a public option based on medicare rates "would save $110 billion over 10 years" – $20 billion more than earlier estimates, says the congressional budget office.

teabaggers not bagging much support

despite the downer headline, a new cbs/new york times poll has plenty of good news for president obama, and democrats. not so much for republicans. despite all the yelling, teabagging and media hooplah this summer over health care...
The poll suggests that Mr. Obama is in a decidedly more commanding position than Republicans on this issue as Congressional negotiations move into final stages. Most Americans trust Mr. Obama more than Republicans to make the right decisions on the issue; 76 percent said Republicans had not even laid out a clear health care plan.

And by a lopsided margin, respondents said that Mr. Obama and not Republicans had made an effort to cross party lines and strike a deal that has the support of both parties.
furthermore, a majority of respondents think the federal government should guarantee health care for all, and here's the whopper: when asked, "would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan – something like the medicare coverage that people 65 and older get – that would compete with private health insurance plans?"
favor 65%
oppose 26%
dk/na 9%
and the percentage in favor of a public option has increased since august.


one of my greatest fears in life is that i am going to accidentally eat a bug.

okay, it's not one off my greatest fears, like drowning or experiencing the sensation of melting flesh. or being stuck in an elevator with ann coulter (that's likely above both drowning and the melting flesh thing.) accidentally eating a bug probably falls somewhere around having to just ride in the elevator with ann coulter.

i would consider eating a bug on purpose. but to suddenly have 6 to 260 little legs paddling furiously against your tongue (or worse - the back of your throat) when you expected only a tortilla chip and a chunk of week-old salsa seems to me like it would be one of the most horrible experiences you could have.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

iowa stubborn stupid

the vast majority of folks in iowa are actually quite intelligent. seriously.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

jensen (re)joins the skylight

the good news at the skylight opera theatre continues, today's being some of the best in a long time: amy jensen is returning to the skylight, this time as managing director.

Skylight Opera Theatre Announces
New Managing Director Amy S. Jensen

MILWAUKEE, WI - It is with great pleasure that John Stollenwerk, newly elected president of the Skylight Opera Theatre Board of Directors, announces the appointment of Amy S. Jensen as the next Managing Director of the Skylight Opera Theatre.

Stollenwerk states, "We are extremely pleased that Jensen has accepted the position as Managing Director of the Skylight Opera Theatre." Adds Joan Lounsbery, former Skylight Opera Theatre Managing Director and current Interim Managing Director, "The Skylight has gained a skilled professional with 15 years of experience in leadership roles in the Milwaukee arts community. Her financial expertise and her love of the Skylight make her the perfect choice for this organization."

This is actually a return to the Skylight for Jensen; between 1995 and 2001, she served as the Skylight's Finance Director. She has also held positions at the Milwaukee Art Museum, UPAF, and, most recently, as the VP and CFO of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO). "Amy's contributions to the MSO have been enormous over the past three years. As CFO, she has played a key role in MSO financial planning, human resource management, information technology, strategic planning, UPAF relations and the work of the Finance Committee, Audit Committee, Endowment/Foundation Trustees and Milwaukee Arts Partners. The MSO family wishes Amy the best in this exciting new role at the Skylight," said MSO President and Executive Director Mark Hanson.

Jensen has long been an arts lover, arts patron and arts advocate. She has provided consulting services for several area non-profits and has been invited to speak at a variety of local and national conferences such as Theatre Wisconsin, Association of Fundraising Professionals and Americans for the Arts.

She states, "I am so proud of the Skylight for beginning its 50th Anniversary Season with such a spectacular production of The Barber of Seville. It is the shining example of everything there is to love about the Skylight and I am excited to be returning to the company in this new role at this time. I look forward to working with everyone who is a part of the Skylight family to solve the current challenges and build toward an exciting future."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

protect health insurance companies

"People are saying a lot of mean things about health insurance companies and their executives and it's gotta stop."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

maureen dowd calls out the south

in sunday's new york times:
This president is the ultimate civil rights figure — a black man whose legitimacy is constantly challenged by a loco fringe.

For two centuries, the South has feared a takeover by blacks or the feds. In Obama, they have both.

there's safety in numbers

there's some disagreement about how many folks were teabagging washington d.c. on saturday. but heck, what's 1,430,000 here or there among friends?

from abc news:
Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, the group that organized the event, said on stage at the rally that ABC News was reporting that 1 million to 1.5 million people were in attendance.

At no time did ABC News, or its affiliates, report a number anywhere near as large. reported an approximate figure of 60,000 to 70,000 protesters, attributed to the Washington, D.C., fire department. In its reports, ABC News Radio described the crowd as "tens of thousands."
leave it to a teabagger to lie about the size of his members.

quote of the day

"Make Joe Wilson pay.

And by pay, I mean beat his sorry ass at the polls and send him to the private sector. That is the only way to change the political discourse in America today. Because as long as louts like Joe Wilson can spout off and call the president a liar and get rewarded with reelection, then louts will continue to spout off. And we will continue to claw our way to the very bottom of the political swamp."

– former bush and mccain strategist mark mckinnon
read the rest of mark mckinnon's post here. make a donation to wilson's opponent, rob miller, here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

the future of the republican party

from today's tea-bag march on washington. crowd estimates vary from 30,000 to 60,000. protest organizers accuse the obama administration of manipulating those turnout numbers, claiming the actual crowd size was more like 2 million.

what's even better than this, is the photo of the full sign this young man is holding (below the jump.) i just hope he didn't have to watch the president's address to students last tuesday.

andrew sullivan has more.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

quote of the day

"What you're seeing is folks on my side anxious to see what the president has to say tomorrow night. I think he's gonna have to express some humility based on what we've seen around the country this August, and that's not his inclination."
– senator saxby chambliss (R-GA)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

the fire next door, part five:
"what in this apartment...?"

(continued from part four)

we rounded the corner and looked back to our building. no police tape. no one blocking our door. as we charged up the stairs, the smell of smoke in the stairway was heavy, but certainly not overwhelming.

four flights up, we opened the door.

our apartment was unharmed. in back, the bedroom just as we left it. untouched. rob, behind me, gave me a squeeze. not because of the bedroom.

i crawled out onto the fire escape to survey the damage.

the ash tree was not ash. it too appeared unharmed. a bit of charring near the trunk's base, but the rest still healthy, green and beautiful. the first, second and third floor windows next door had been blown out, or busted out. someone's belongings had been pulled out a bottom floor window: a dresser, a full length mirror, clothes, papers. providing another entrance for firemen to battle the flames, perhaps.

then there was movement. as if a painting i'd been lost in suddenly came to life. the movement had been there from the start, but somehow i'd missed.


the fire was out, but the embers and mess needed to be soaked, and poked through. the sound of water and chopping. breaking, smashing. more chopping.

"firefighters love to do that," our friend ted would later tell us. "they have to smash up everything to make sure the fire is completely out and doesn't start again." seven or eight firemen were milling around in our courtyard, while others were digging through the burned out apartments like miners looking for treasure, explorers exploring. spelunkers.

i climbed down a flight on the fire escape.

there was the apartment where the fire started, as if on display. with the windows smashed wide open you could see right in. at first it was difficult to make out much, everything was black. then it came clear. moments ago this was someone's home, someone's respite from the hectic rush of new york. now it was...gone.

“i saw the woman who was screaming,” my downstairs neighbor said, leaning out her window right behind me. “the woman who was yelling 'help me, i'm going to die.' i saw her out on the street. she was walking around and smiling and saying, ‘oh i’m fine! sure, really, i’m fine.’ i thought to myself, i don’t think so.”

"you okay?" i asked. she looked in my eyes. nodded.

"you?" i nodded. and enough.

i climbed back up to my own window, crouched, and paused to look in, like an outsider seeing it for the first time. there was our bed. our warm, comfortable bed. there were books. clothes. papers. through the door i could see our kitchen, our living room in the distance.

and i remembered that moment.

the moment in the middle of it all when i turned to rob and said, “think. what in this apartment could you not live without?” i knew the answer as the question was coming out of my mouth. i knew the answer as true and as strong as anything i’ve ever known in my life.

"what are you doing out here?!" rob said, smiling, shaking his head and coming toward me from inside. "i want you to come inside with us." he put out a hand to help me crawl in the window.

what in this apartment could you not live without?

i was looking at it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

the fire next door, part four:
"they're rescuing someone"

(continued from part three)

"oh look!" a woman behind me said. "look, they're rescuing someone!"

a fireman had shimmied up a ladder next to a fire escape on the front of the building and was reaching out to a middle-aged man standing on the rickety metal contraption.

the man looked anxious, scared, but focused. there seemed to be some intense discussion between the two, as to how this might work. the man just kept reaching out. was he...? yes. he was handing something to the fireman. something large, and brown.

something moving.

a dog.

"they got him," the woman behind me said. "oh thank goodness, they got him."

in time, the smell of wet and burnt overtook the smell of smoke. there was some comfort in that smell. the smell of dead campfire.

it smelled over.

there wasn’t as much movement from the firemen anymore. stretchers were being taken away empty. oxygen masks were being removed. even some of the gawkers were dissipating, moving on. no one had been seriously hurt. there was plenty of damage to be sure, but everyone was alive. the gawker's stories wouldn't have the intense climax some of them had been waiting for.

we headed back around the corner to our home. to our apartment. if those flames had actually made the jump across the courtyard to our building, we likely wouldn't be allowed back in.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

the fire next door, part three:
"the guy in the blue t-shirt"

(continued from part two)

once outside, we could see the entire block had been shut down. six, seven firetrucks surrounded us. men running, oxygen tanks strapped to their backs. fire hoses. pickaxes. and smoke. smoke rising up and over the top of our building. (could it now be from our building? was our bedroom on fire? no. the flames couldn't have spread that fast. they couldn't have.)

we walked around the corner to get a better view of the burning building.


gawking. pointing. shaking heads. the experts spouting off about what happened and why, the lurkers listening in – leaning in – to get the story. "apartment building on 96th burned today," they'd say at dinner, or at the bar later. "i was right there. such a mess." we became part of them. we stood. we stood with everyone else, and watched.

i saw no flames.

but i could see faces. faces of men rushing into the building with seemingly no fear. faces black with soot and red from the heat. "he looks sunburned," rob said, referring to a man who had just come out of the building. there were dozens upon dozens. and suddenly i had a newfound appreciation for them: the firemen.

“i’ve lived in that building since 1983” the man next to me said, fiddling with the police tape stretched across the width of the sidewalk, there to keep the gawkers at a safe distance. “i'm on the top floor. i’m the only one left with an actual floor-through. in the 90’s the owner divided all the other apartments in half and rented each as two separate units. that meant all the apartments in back were without a fire escape. they have no fire escape. which is illegal.”

the woman screaming was right. if she hadn't jumped, or been rescued, she could have died. she was a young woman, not quite 30. she might have survived a jump – a broken limb, maybe. an elderly person probably wouldn't have made it.

i wondered again if the man who appeared in the courtyard, urging the young woman not to jump, was in fact the building's owner. where had he come from?

"that's him right there," rob said. "the guy in the blue t-shirt, wearing the tacky gold chain. that's the guy who was in the courtyard."

it wasn't, in fact, a fireman who brought the ladder. it was this man right in front of me. he was wearing a tight blue t-shirt with the words "neighborhood construction something-or-other" written across the back in a bright white design that included what appeared to be a new york city skyline, i wasn't sure. this was the man from the courtyard, sitting a few feet away from me now, talking to two firemen. explaining what happened, i guessed. moments earlier an older asian woman had been reading him the riot act.

i looked back at rob. "is he the owner, do you think?"

“those tenants are going to own that building” another voice interrupted. “that owner is going to jail.”

"oh look!" a woman from behind me said. "look, they're rescuing someone!"