Thursday Thoughts

Where I've Been

I’m back!

It’s been about 4 months since my last Thursday Thoughts post. Honestly, I needed a break. Writing each week was starting to feel like a chore. I was burnt out and overworked. And I didn’t feel inspired like I want to be. But, I've been missing posting these and, deep down, I knew it was only a matter of time before I couldn't resist getting back on the grind.

So, here’s what I’ve been up to:

• I’ve been getting closer to my 10,000 hours - 10 minutes at a time. I have a super-focused approach to improving my script, performance, and creative ideas. (If there’s enough interest, I could turn that into a future post.)

• I was invited to perform at the Orlando Fringe Winter Mini Fest back in January. Both of my shows had packed houses and I even won a small award at the end of the weekend. (I won 12 awards at 12 festivals in just under 2 years, but it’ll probably be my last fringe festival for a while. It’s been a fun ride, I just need to focus on some other projects for a while.)

• I did a show in Dubai. It was my first time in the Middle East, but I made the most of it. I saw the Burj Khalifa, the Palm Jumeirah Island, Atlantis, the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, the Dubai Mall, visited a mosque, and did nothing but eat amazing food. I can’t wait to go back.

• I just did a couple TV spots for Windy City Live and Good Day Chicago. Check out the WCL clip below!

• I was also on the Bill & Wendy Show on WGN Radio. It was super fun!

• After MIND READER won a Chicago Theatre Award last year, the Chicago Magic Lounge asked me to be their artist-in-residence this summer. The show just started this month and I’ll be performing there every Wednesday through the end of June. (Get your tickets here.)

Photo by Trainman Photography

Photo by Trainman Photography

• Also, I just announced my other show dates through the end of the summer. I’ll be performing six shows a week for six weeks at Liberty Magic in Pittsburgh, PA. (Tickets available here.)

• I haven’t really been going on social media much. Chances are you probably clicked this link on facebook or twitter, but that’s only because it automatically posts to those networks for me. I’m not going to see or respond to your comments there, so if you have something to say please comment below this post or send me an e-mail.

• I’ve been taking time for myself. To get through the miserable Chicago winter I’ve been running and working out more. I ran the Shamrock Shuffle 8K last month and am working towards a 10K next month. I took some trips to Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas. And, I just finished the second season of The OA in time for the NBA Playoffs to start.

• Finally, I’ve been searching for more mystery. More on that next week.

It’s great to be back. See you in my audience soon?

Grateful

Two years ago my life was in chaos.

I returned from an out-of-state funeral to find our apartment had flooded. Water was everywhere, destroying a rug, sofa, and the wood floor. It took over a year to get someone out to finally replace it.

Last fall, renovations were just beginning. We moved all of the furniture into one room so the floor could be stripped and replaced. In the middle of it all, I was putting together a tour.

It was a challenging and frustrating time. It’s never fun to deal with contractors or file insurance claims or coordinate with a condo association, and we were doing it every single day for over a year. Plus, I was trying to work on my new show.

I always like to storyboard my act out so I have a visual idea of what to expect. So imagine me crammed into a small section of the bedroom, sandwiched between the dresser and sofa, affixing post-it notes to a large poster board while workers pried up floorboards in the adjoining room. That was the only way I could work.

My storyboard is simple - larger notes represent specific parts of the shows (one color for Mind Reading, one color for Monologues) and smaller notes represent moments (Music Cues, Jokes, Storytelling devices, etc.). It always takes a while to get the layout started but once it falls into place I have a colorful, concise outline of what I want to put onstage.

As furniture moved from room to room, the storyboard got lost in the shuffle. I told myself I’d get back to it after the floor was finished. There were more pressing things to worry about, so my show was quickly misplaced and forgotten.

It’s very easy to put my creative projects on hold. I promise myself I’ll “start that tomorrow” even though I usually end up being too busy to ever begin. The realities of being an adult are often all-consuming. All of my artistic endeavors often get pushed off to one side so I can complete other tasks. Sometimes you can mentally multi-task and other times your ideas get lost in the shuffle so you can finally have your apartment back together.

Last week I was rearranging my home office and there, inside an art portfolio, behind some other projects, was that original storyboard. The post-its were faded but the ideas were still there. Columns of concepts, still intact, waiting to be lifted off the page.

I sighed, frustrated by the thought of another delayed endeavor. Then it hit me:

That storyboard was the making of this year’s show. I had actually accomplished everything without even realizing it. In the midst of the chaos, I had somehow managed to finish everything on the board. There are only a few, minor changes but what I’d hoped to be doing last fall is the show I travelled with this year.

I’m always happiest when I’m fully immersed in a creative project. Head down, writing and researching - even if I’m surrounded by all of the furniture I own and there are workers pounding away in the other room - that’s how I love to spend my time.

At the time it seemed like the home projects were overshadowing my creative exploits, but now I realize it was actually the opposite. I was actually trying to create and write and dream and perform to move through the chaos and have something to work towards. It just took me until now to realize that the chaos of the past couple years was actually the start of my 2018 Chicago Theatre award-winning show.

Sometimes it takes a long time to realize that you’re doing the things you once dreamt of doing. Sometimes it takes a while to understand that you’re exactly where you need to be. Sometimes it’s a year and sometimes it’s even longer.

Give thanks today for how far you’ve come and what you did to get here. Be grateful for those that helped and the ones that made you stronger by standing in your way.

I’m thankful for finding ways to deal with the chaos and knowing that someday, somehow I’ll end up making sense of it all.

I hope you do, too.


As always, I’m going to take a break from Thursday Thoughts while my travel schedule picks up over the holidays. Thanks for reading and see you in 2019.

Too Close To Home

On three separate occasions I’ve been in an airport on the same day as a shooting that occurred there. I’ve also performed in locations that had an active gunman later that day or the next. My wife once performed at Pulse Nightclub, which later became the scene of one of the worst mass shootings in American history.

Recently we were at the movies and another patron stood up and loudly started running towards the exit. My first instinct was to duck for cover.

This is the new normal.

I live in fear that my next trip might be to the scene of our next mass shooting. Crowded spaces seem terrifying now and, perhaps worst of all, even people in a darkened theater - a place designed for escape and entertainment - have to be on high alert.

I don’t know what the solution is, but I am so tired. Every day or so I read about another act of gun violence in another corner of the U.S. and it’s exhausting. I wasn’t designed to experience so much pain.

The emotional weight of these tragedies is too much to bear. They’ve directly affected close friends, communities where I’ve lived, and places I’ve been. Something has to be done.

I met someone on tour this summer who told me that “voting is selfish” and they “always vote for what’s best for me”. Well, I selfishly think everyone deserves a chance to see another day and feel safe wherever they go - myself included. I don’t know about you but that’s the world I want to live in.


For ways you can make a difference, check out Everytown For Gun Safety.