The Five- Final Thoughts

Anthony R. Miller checks in one last time.

Hey you guys, so here we are, my final post for Theater Pub. Some posts have been good, some not so much. But let’s not mire ourselves in introductions, I have some final thoughts to share with you, and as a surprise to no one, there are five.

For God’s Sake, Go See TERROR-RAMA 2

Of course I’m starting with one last shot of shameless self-promotion. Promoting this show has been my obsession for weeks, and since we open THIS FRIDAY, why stop now? So here’s the deal, I want to tell you exactly why I think you should see this show, call it my final plea. We have spent the last 2 years preparing this show. After the success of the first Terror-Rama, we knew we wanted to do it again. In part because it was really fun and we were super proud of it, but also because there were things we knew we could do better. So now we’re back, we have two brand new shows, a super cool venue and a team of crazy-talented people that have been working their asses off. And you know what? It’ll all be worth it, because the show is great.

Purity is going to mess you up. Claire Rice has written a freaky-ass play, and it will make your skin crawl. Not to mention, it features two brilliant performances by Adam Niemann and Laura Peterson. As for Sexy Vampire Academy, I’m biased, because I wrote it. But this fantastic cast has done amazing things with it; I have been brought to tears in rehearsal by how funny this play is. You may even find a few poignant moments (maybe).

As I spend my day staring at box office reports, sweating, drinking, and praying, I take comfort in the fact that this show has been blessed by some many happy accidents, whether it was the random conversation that led to hiring Jess Thomas (who has been killing it as SM), or finding out we had unwittingly cast a great props person, a licensed fight choreographer and dance choreographer whom have all added so much to the show. All led by Colin Johnson, my Artistic Soul Mate, my man fifty grand, my brother from another mother, I could not be prouder of his work as a director. So there you go, Terror-Rama 2 is the culmination of some really brilliant people working their asses off. When we first sat down to plan this show, we didn’t want to just put on a good show, we wanted to put on a great show. I think we’ve done that. So go to www.awesometheatre.org and get your tickets for opening weekend. It’ll be a bloody good time.

Like Whatever You Want To Like

So if I have any parting words to my 6 or 7 loyal readers, it is this: Like Things. And unless you like things that are hateful and cruel, feel no shame for liking it. There are people who want to judge you for liking something they don’t, because they are miserable people. (More on them later.) Life is too short, our times are too troubled and empathy is in short supply. So like things, like the shit out of them, squeeze every ounce of happiness from those things and don’t let anyone make you feel bad for liking them. There are no guilty pleasures, if something in this godforsaken world makes you happy, do your thing. Whether it’s super popular or you feel like you are the only one who has heard of it, it is equally special, because it is special to you. Any time you spend worrying about what other people might think of you for liking something is just time you could have spent liking it. So like things, like them pieces, like them like you have the freedom to like them, because you do.

Don’t Define Yourself By The Things You Don’t Like

We’ve all been there, our early 20s, sitting at a coffee shop, judging people into the ground for their taste, feeling a sense of superiority because you have the high-minded taste to dislike something. “Of course I don’t like (insert thing here), I’m not a plebeian.” Here’s the thing, it makes you sound like a dick. It’s OK to have an opinion, it’s OK to dislike something, but when disliking something becomes as much of a part of your personality as the things you do like, you’re defining yourself with negativity. You’re not a smarter person for disliking something, or a better person, there’s just this thing that you don’t care for, that’s all. Maybe it’s something super popular and the fact it’s not your thing makes you feel alienated, so you lash out, you say snooty shit like, “Well, that’s fine for the masses.” Or “I wouldn’t be caught dead seeing that show.” What’s really being said here is, “Everyone else is part of something and I’m not, and it makes me feel left out.” That is an honest, normal way to feel, and I think sometimes we get “snobby” because were too scared to admit we feel left out. Let the things that bring you joy in life define you, not the things that just aren’t your cup of tea. You’re a good person because you are kind, empathetic and generous. Not because you think something sucks, and certainly not because you shame people for liking something you don’t. It is the things you love that make you interesting, not the things you detest.

I Am Full Of Shit

Over the years in this blog, I have made some bold statements, and I’ve also bit my tongue a lot. I try to stay away from “bomb-throwy” articles, despite the fact that they get lots of hits and stir things up. That is because of one simple fact; I am nobody. I am not famous, or crazy successful or seen as an expert in anything. I’ve done OK in my life and I’ve had some great adventures and wonderful experiences. Sure, I’ve learned a few things along the way and I’m to share them, because they worked for me. But if you ever find yourself reading something I said and you think “Oh, who does this guy thinks he is?” I’m nobody, just a dude with a day job, a great daughter, two cats and a wonderful partner. But by no means an expert. I am “that guy” just as often (if not more so) as I am not. So if you disagree with me, that’s fine, because it’s just my opinion, an opinion no more valid than any other. We are all full of shit in our own special way.

So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish

This blog is not always good. For every insightful reflection of why I do theatre, there is a photo essay featuring my cat. For every cool rundown of an event I attended, there is some random list of whatever was on my mind. My favorites? Well, I will always cherish the two stories I co-wrote with Allison Page, whether it was drinking cheap whiskey and watching beefcake wrasslers pick up Allison at Hoodslam, or singing Blink 182 songs while a greasy muscly dude in a G-string dances 4 feet away from us at “Thunder From Down Under.” Those were adventures, a total pain in the ass to write about, but adventures. I’ll always remember my semi-existential crisis at the first TBA awards, which became one of my favorite articles. But I am thankful for the opportunity to write all of them. 5 years ago I left a job I thought would be my future, but it wasn’t. It was a horrible, depressing, and disillusioning experience that made me spend a year questioning whether or not I wanted to do theatre. But it is the Theater Pub world that helped me get up and brush myself off and get back to what I loved. The Olympians Festival, Theater Pub shows and meetings, play readings at Stuart Bousel’s mountain chalet, are so important to where I am in life. Surrounded by people with the same passions I have, people with hustle, and people with ideas. Theater Pub gave me a foundation to stand on, a place to rebuild, and great people to work with. I am so excited to see what everyone goes on to do because I know it’s this crazy thing called Theater Pub that helped make it possible. It’s sad when a band breaks up, but sometimes the solo albums are the best work they ever do. So thank you to Stuart for hiring me (twice) and thank you to all my fellow T-Pub writers.

Tl;dr Go see Terror-Rama, Don’t Be a Dick, and I’ll miss you T-Pub, thank you for everything.

Be Excellent to Each other,

ARM

Anthony R. Miller is a Writer, Producer and Educator, keep up with him at www.awesometheatre.org and on twitter @armiller78.

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The Five: The I Didn’t Go to the TBA Awards Round-Up

Anthony R. Miller stayed home from the Prom.

Hey you guys, so if you’re here for an exciting round-up from last night’s Theatre Prom known as the Theatre Bay Area Awards, you have barked up the wrong tree, because I didn’t go. But let’s be clear, I’m happy for those who did, happy for those who won, performed, presented, and whatever else, good for you, way to leave the house and wear nice clothes. These kinds of events just aren’t my thing, they just aren’t, I’ll go next year I promise, or maybe the next. However, it is not to say I did nothing last night, in fact I had quite the evening which had many highlights, and remarkably, there are five.

I Made Tacos
They were pretty good tacos too, breakfast tacos to be exact. What was most remarkable about them is that my girlfriend (also a theatre worker) and I actually sat down at the table and ate them together. We talked about our days and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a theatre-miracle.

I Made a Prop
I’m using “I” here pretty liberally. I bought the materials, and then once my beloved girlfriend was weighted down by breakfast tacos, I managed to get her to actually assemble the prop for me. She can sew better than me; seriously I would have just hot glued the thing together. It looks pretty magnificent. Curious to see the prop? Well then you will just have to come see CHRISTIAN TEEN DOLPHIN-SEX BEACH PARTY at the SF Olympians Festival Wednesday, November 18th at 8PM (also known as tomorrow.) to find out, and you should, because the cast is so darn funny.

I Watched Wrestling
Because it was Monday. Besides, it was the Quarterfinals for the WWE World Heavy Weight Championship Tournament. Priorities people.

I Cleaned My Office
My home office / large closet where the cats poop had gotten pretty bad, it had to be done. But I find sorting through 6 months of crap (figurative) on the floor is a pretty effective “look back” on the theatrical year. I went through programs of all the shows I saw, prior drafts of old scripts, yellow pads full of production notes and receipts, lots of receipts. (Remember kids, if you buy someone a drink, talk about working for them, and then end up working for them, that drink is a tax deduction.)

I Got Into the Morrissey Plays
In January, Theatrepub is presenting a night of plays inspired by and about Morrissey. I am thrilled about this because Morrissey is, in fact, my spirit animal. I mean, c’mon guys, I would have gone out last night, but I didn’t have a stich to wear. Around 7pm, with my slipper-adorned feet resting on my now clean desk, I went through my emails to discover my short play, “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” got accepted. I’m pretty excited and Thankful about it and it’s about an awards show, so that kinda brings us full circle right?

In all seriousness, congrats to everyone involved, according to Twitter, it looks like it went well. I’ll go one of these years. Also, on an unrelated note, it doesn’t take much effort to realize the world is a big scary place right now, so even when it seems really hard or maybe even a bad idea, be excellent to each other. The world needs love sweet love.

Anthony R. Miller is a writer and producer, he’s not much for fancy parties. Keep up with his doings at www.awesometheatre.org.

The Five: Have You Written Anything Lately?

Anthony R. Miller checks in with tales of inactivity.

Hey you guys, so last Monday was the TERROR-RAMA 2 reading/ fundraiser. I gotta say, it went pretty great. We had a packed house and a very game audience, it was nice to see two plays we had put so much energy into making great be so well received. Not to mention I finally got my Olympians play done (OK, OK the first draft, I gotta fix a few (hundred) things. I just turned in a huge amount of work for that freelance dramaturgy gig I do. So on Tuesday evening, as I got home from my trusty day job, it occurred to me “I don’t have anything immediately pressing to do”. Oh sure, there’s things I could do; research for the freelance gig, Olympians edits, (which I’m sure my director and cast would appreciate sooner than later.) Not to mention a preponderance of half written scripts. But none of it was due right now. Since I work better with a little bit of pressure; I took this opportunity to do…nothing. Which is not to say there were no highlights of the last seven days, on the contrary, there are five.

EDITORS NOTE: This article is enhanced by listening to “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars while reading. Give it a whirl.

Netflix and Stagnate
For me, finishing a major project (Or three) is usually celebrated by turning my brain off for a few days. When I’m knee deep in a script, I’m basically a court stenographer for the voices in my head. Scenes that aren’t working or aren’t finished replay over and over in my head. It isn’t until the words “END OF PLAY” are written do they actually stop talking. I usually celebrate this time with a grand re-watching of a favorite TV show (“Lost” and “The Sopranos” are my go-to’s) but, this time around, I have fallen into a rabbit hole of “The Wonder Years” , which was a huge show for me growing up. When Kevin was 13, I was about 13, so as I grew up in the early 90’s I lived parallel to Kevin Arnold’s Baby Boomer coming of age tales. This is the first time I watched this show since it originally aired. So with this aged perspective, I noticed a few things, like how each episode is just Kevin being a selfish prick and learning a valuable lesson, or how it’s clear that Winnie Cooper just isn’t that into him. The episode where they put on “Our Town” is especially fantastic.

“I’m Natalies Boyfriend”
So recently, Natalie, my significant other scored a pretty great job working for Curran: Under Construction. While the Curran theatre is being renovated, a series of smaller, experimental shows are being produced for weekend runs. And like a good boyfriend, I’m there to represent, and see stuff for free. On Saturday, I saw “The Object Lesson” a crazy immersive theatre piece where you are surrounded by hundreds of boxes of stuff. I’ve been loving this series, It’s fun to sit on stage and look into the historic Curran’s house lit up by a giant chandelier. Not to mention, wandering around the place is like going through a museum of SF theatre. The first show I saw in SF was “The Phantom of the Opera” when I was 15. It was at the Curran, so now, a hundred (or 20) years later, I’m standing on that same stage, drinking free wine and introducing myself as the Venue Managers boyfriend, and a playwright, life is weird.

Nerd-Out
Keep an eye out for what’s happening at the Curran, because there’s a lot of cool stuff happening. As things come together, they’re going to be inviting a lot of local theatre artists to perform on that stage. And it’s pretty cool that such a big money group has decided to put a focus on smaller, off the beaten path theatre and try to be a really presence in local theatre. Another great event they had on Monday was a talkback with theatre critic Michael Riedel. Riedel is a notorious critic from the NY Post and most recently got a lot of buzz for calling “Hamilton” overrated. Riedel has just written a book called “Razzle Dazzle” that tells the story of Broadway from 1975-present. He spent a lot of time talking about the impact of “A Chorus Line” the incredible influence the Shubert organization had and how Broadway became a billion dollar tourist attraction. I am a big fat theatre history nerd, so naturally, I loved every second, I was told that a few time I actually smiled. Oh, and I got a free book. So that was awesome.

Hello Laundry My Old Friend
I think any theatre artist can directly correlate how busy they are to the amount of dirty laundry they have. So upon looking at my empty dresser drawers, I’ve been swamped. I consider it one of the great accomplishments of adulthood that I can go several weeks while still having clean underwear. But there is something peaceful and zen-like about sitting on the couch and folding laundry for several hours. I get reunite with T-shirts I haven’t seen in weeks, that sport jacket I forgot to hang up and is now caked in cat fur, and my two dress shirts that I have to alternate between when I need to look like an adult. This is leisure folks.

I Make A Pretty Good Housewife
So with Natalie’s new gig, she’s been working crazy long hours, and with me being home a bit more, the domestic responsibilities have shifted. It’s been hard guys, I’ve grocery shopped, made my own doctor appointments, and even made dinner a few times. (Please note I make 4 things pretty well.)I made her a sandwich for lunch the other day, I don’t even know who I am anymore. It’s weird being the theatre widow for once, but it’s also nice being the supportive one for a change. For the hundreds of times I’ve interrupted her catching up on “The Leftovers” just to pitch a few story ideas at her, or randomly texted not to say loving things but to make sure the deposit check on the venue was mailed. It’s a chance for me to thank her for always being the supportive one.

That’s all for now guys, I’m halfway through season 4 of “ The Wonder Years” and my submission for theatrepub’s Morrissey night is due in a few days, we’ll talk about theatre in two weeks, I promise.

Anthony R. Miller is a writer, producer and avid procrastinator, keep up with him when he’s productive at www.awesometheatre.org or read about his new play “Christian Teen Dolphin Sex Beach Party” which will be read at the SF Olympians Festival next month at www.sfolympians.com.

The Five: Things Smart People Told Me

Anthony R. Miller checks in with some good advice.

Hey you guys, so full disclosure; I am not famous, nor am I a wildly successful theatre producer. I’ve done Ok, but one thing is for sure, I’ve worked with and learned from some amazing people. Over time and throughout my adventures, these people have bestowed upon me various nuggets of knowledge. I want to recognize that it might be a bit audacious of me to make a “Tips for success list”. So think of this as “Tips to Not Fail Completely” or “Tips to Do Reasonably Well.” As usual, there are five.

“Know Thy Tree”
Basic, but a rule I still follow. Don’t pick a project beyond your means. Instead, tailor your projects to the resources you have. Know what’s possible, know where to push. I recently wrote a fog machine into a script. Why? Because dramatically it made sense, it served the story and also because I have one, and I really want to use it. I have bent this rule once or twice, I have also seen projects that should have been beyond their means, but the show was re-worked to fit their resources. Sometimes this can be very cool; but it helps if you are brilliant. Know what you have to work with and build your ideas off of that.

“Nobody Needs to Know What You Really Think of Them”
This isn’t as cold as it sounds. This not to say “Pretend to be nice” or “Be fake”, being disingenuous is not the point. In the context of the original conversation, I was venting about a particular person who was very hard to work with. I expressed how badly I just wanted to tell this person how terrible they were in a big dramatic fashion. So what I think it means is simply “Don’t Be Drama”. If there’s somebody you’re working with that drives you crazy, deal with it. Nothing lasts forever in theatre and before you know it, you both will have moved on. At that point you can just not work with them, or find a way you can. But save the dramatic speech where you tell them every awful thing you’ve been storing up, it won’t work. You will have to play nice because it what’s best for the project as a whole. Also, no one likes a yeller.

“Assume You Are Not The Smartest Person in the Room”
Also known as “Shut Up and Listen” or “Hire Brilliant People and Get Out of Their Way” and “Don’t Mansplain”. I know this one to be true because every time I have not followed it, the results were pretty god awful. Theatre is problem solving and sometimes the damnedest people have the perfect solution. I have been part of more projects that have done well when everyone involved felt listened to. Don’t micromanage, hire people you trust will do a good job and then let them their job.

“At Some Point in Your Career, you will stop and ask yourself; ‘What the Fuck Am I Doing?”
When I first heard this, I laughed. It was a funny thing to say, and I didn’t realize its importance at the time. Not until the moment came. I was working for a theatre company full time and for a while it was a fantastic opportunity. I got to meet all sorts of people and bay area artists, every day I was in the middle of the craziness of start-up theatre. I had a lot of jobs there, very few of them artistic. A big part of my job was just being a facilities manager. I just kind of fell into it, and I was working for a theatre for a living, so I went with it. After a few years the magic was gone, I felt demeaned, disrespected and taken for granted. After years of work, I will still getting stuck with the most undesirable jobs. Nobody really recognized me as artist and all my time and energy was being given to someone else’s vision. Now the thing about this place is the theatre was in bad shape and had a few holes in the ceiling. Eventually the holes got big enough for Pigeons to get inside of the theatre. So on any given day there would be a gang of pigeons just hangin’ out onstage. Getting rid of the pigeons was my job. This was my life. After one exhausting bout of pigeon chasing, I sat down for a moment only to get up realize the worst had happened. I sat in pigeon shit. There I was, 33, not happy, and with pigeon shit on me. That was the moment it happened; I thought to myself “What the fuck am I doing?” Things had to change. Not long after that day, I gave my notice and had a big reorganizing of priorities and promised myself the only theatre I would ever chase pigeons out of would be mine. My life has changed for the better in so many ways because of it. My point is, a moment will come when you ask yourself if this is the place you should be. Take that moment seriously.

“Hard Work Will Always Beat Talent That Doesn’t Work Hard”
I realize that sounds like something you would tell a football team but hear me out. I am constantly inspired by all the brilliant artists living and working in the Bay Area. Part of that inspiration comes from just how less brilliant I am than all of them. And that’s not meant to be self-deprecating, but I try to be honest with myself, I have a modicum of talent and it’s easy to be a little intimidated. But I’m here to tell you, being marginally talented shouldn’t stop you if you have the passion and a good idea. Just work harder, work twice as hard as the most talented person you know. I will always take the hard worker that’s pretty good over insanely talented people who are lazy. Outwork everyone, keep your head down, and don’t be a dick. Good things will come if you work harder than everyone else.

Again, none of these tips have brought me fortune and fame, but have yielded many positive things in my life. Any success I do experience comes from heeding this advice. And full disclosure, I have broken all of these at some point, it doesn’t work out.

Anthony R Miller has a lot going on, you can get more info on those things at http://www.awesometheatre.org and http://www.sfolympians.com

The Five: Post Closing Rituals

Anthony R. Miller checks in with a few of his favorite things to do when a show closes.

With Terror-Rama closed and packed away, I find myself in an odd place, that period of time in between projects. All of the sudden, I’m not crazy busy, there are no more emails to reply to, I realize just what a mess my house is. But most of all, I’m a little sad. I’ve spent the last year of my life on this show. And while I’m turning right around and jumping to the next big project, I find myself with one day devoid of responsibility. I have no meetings, no rehearsal, no call time, no promoting to do, DEAR GOD WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH MYSELF? Well, it turns out I have a few things that I always look forward to, filling the void if only for a moment.

Do Laundry

In the last month, the only time laundry got done was when I could toss a few things in the wash while cleaning blood soaked costumes. Now it is time to tackle the large pile of dirty laundry that has collected over the last few weeks, and not a moment too soon, I wore my last pair of clean underwear on closing night. Toss in bed sheets that haven’t been washed since the day before tech week, all my clothes that have been used as costumes, and the one hoodie I’ve been wearing since opening, (I’m superstitious.) and the laundry pile is like a National Landmark. Tourists take selfies in front of it, people stay two days just to see all of it, mule guided tours take you all the way to the top. Nothing says closure like reuniting yourself with the t-shirt you wore for the final dress rehearsal, almost a month ago.

Eat Cake

Self-Explanatory.

The Great Email Purge

Oh man, nothing beats creating a new mail folder and filling it with months of emails. Emails about casting, costumes, rehearsal schedules, contracts, call times, program notes, stupid questions, and box office reports can be filed away, making your inbox manageable again. Oh look, I DID get an email about my phone bill being late, well I’ll be.

Catch up on TV

My Hulu cue is backed up for weeks; the notion that I have spare time, much less more than 45 minutes of spare time to watch TV has been crazy talk. But all the sudden my nights are free and I’m home by 6pm, it’s time to catch up every show I haven’t even been able to think about. I seriously have no idea what’s happened on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s time to veg out and recover from responsibility overload.

Remind people that you exist.

Between load-in and opening weekend, I saw my daughter so few times; she started asking for ID. But seriously folks, I’m pretty sure my friends and family didn’t come to my show to support me, but more so to confirm I was alive. My girlfriend and I produced this show together and despite cohabitating, we haven’t had a non-business talk in weeks. How is she? I have no idea. What will my boss think when it’s 5 pm and I’m just now leaving work?

Now keep in mind the time in between projects can be weeks, days or a couple hours. In this case I have about one day before I dive into the next project. So I’m gonna soak it in, and enjoy the little things, like having a weeks’ worth of clean socks, the ability to sit still and do nothing important for extended periods of time, and cake, because y’know…cake.

Anthony R. Miller is a writer, director, producer and seller of theatre tickets. His show, “Zombie! The Musical! Live in Concert and One Night Only”. Is December 14th at Terra SF.