A couple months back, I read an article at the Runners' World site discussing the story of Emily Schaller who was diagnose with Cystic Fibrosis when she was eighteen months old and whose parents were told that she would most likely not live to see her eighteenth birthday nor high school graduation. What is Emily doing now? She is living! She is almost thirty years old and she is blazing a trail for others who will come after her. She is a shining example of heart, courage, and determination. She created the Rock CF Foundation which works to inform, educate, and help those with CF, their families, and anyone else who wishes to help find a cure for the disease. As Emily was quoted in the piece and on the Rock CF site, "I hope one day CF stands for cure found." I hope so too. There are concerts, gatherings, and other events the foundation puts on to help educate the world about Cystic Fibrosis as well as raise funds which go to researching possible cures. Next March 20, 2011, the foundation will organize the inaugural Rock CF Rivers Half Marathon and 5K in Michigan. It will be cold and snowy, but I hope to get the chance to make the trip and race in the event for a worthy cause. I was so moved by the piece on the RW site that I reached out to Emily and have had the privilege of seeing what she and her foundation are doing to help those with CF. As Emily likes to say, "I'm here to rock CF on its ass!" I hope she does. I hope a cure is found and CF does eventually stand for cure found!
For anyone interested in reading more about Emily's work, her foundation, and the Rock CF Rivers event please log on to:
One of my friends of whom I have written before is Laura Shatkus. She is a talented artist who has become quite a force in local Chicago theater in recent years. I was lucky enough to be a classmate of hers in several acting classes and she was one of the individuals who helped me reach some major break throughs in those classes. Laura is one of those amazing artists whose talent enables others' abilities to shine. I have seen her perform in a couple shows and I am always thrilled when she gets cast in a show because it is a sure bet, she will be a shining star in it.
Laura can currently be seen in Berwyn Avenue written by Cynthia VonOrthal at the Raven Theatre Complex West Stage. Laura plays Gay Martini. Performances are Thursday to Saturday at 8:30p.m. and Sundays at 3:30p.m. From now through December 19, 2010.
After a wonderful day with family where I did not eat to the point of being stuffed, but still enjoyed some football games, drinks, movies, laughs, and food, I take this moment to say thank you to you, the readers of this blog. I appreciate that you take time to see my thoughts written down, successes of my theatre, film, or races, and my occasional failures and stumbles on route to my desired goals. To those who have been with me since I first began writing this, thank you for remaining. For those who discovered this blog more recently, I hope I can keep you as a frequent reader. To those friends, Rani and Amy, who years ago said I should give this a try and insisted they and others would be interested in what I had to say, I wish I would have listened to you sooner. For anyone interested, please sign up to follow this blog so you may receive the latest information on new posts. You can always follow me on Twitter and friend me on Facebook.
I was scheduled to race in three more races prior to the conclusion of the 2010 year, but due to my severely twisted and sprained ankle suffered at the Chicago Marathon in October, I have pulled out of all three races which I was to run on December 11 and 12 in Sugar Land, Tx. On Saturday, I was to run a 5K then 10K. On Sunday, I would have gone 30K which is 18.6 miles. I was looking forward to this trip and improving on my finishing times from last year when I ran the 5K and 30K, but I had to do what was best for my health in preparation for next season. I still have plenty of memories from the challenges I faced this year. I have so many people to thank who made my participation in those races a reality. As the year draws to a close over the next month I will do my best to highlight them. Of course, this blog exists to always highlight those individuals so if you do read my entries frequently then chances are you have already seen some items on these individuals as I promote the plays, film, and races in which they appear. Thank you to them for pushing and inspiring me. Thank you to you for reading. Please, feel free to reach out to me. Maybe I will see you at a show, screening, or event.
While I can not go to Sugar Land, you can still learn about the C Different Foundation for whom I was to race in the three events:
After writing my first ever full length screenplay many years ago, I realized the importance of taking some structured acting classes to improve my skills should I ever decide to step on to a stage or in front of a camera. I also wanted to network with actors who could appear in my plays or films as well as learning as much as I could about every aspect of the process to take dead words on a page and bring them to life so that I could better understand what I could or could not do and what I could expect from others. After looking over a few acting schools, I came across the Actors' Center Of Chicago. I read through the biographies of the various instructors. I was impressed by all, but what ultimately made me certain that ACC is where I wanted to study was reading about instructor, actor, and director, Laura Sturm. She received her MFA at the same school I received my BA. I had not a clue whether Laura would like me or even want to work with me, but I needed to go to that school and hope, pray, and beg to be let in and study under Laura. I did not understand why I felt so passionately and so sure that I needed to study with Laura, but I just knew I had to start classes. Sure enough, after my initial interview, one of the school's owners, with whom I met, felt it would be best for me to be placed in Laura's Beginning Scene Study class. The owner felt that since I had received my BA at the same school and same time as Laura was working on her MFA, she and I could find some common ground and bond. Laura met with me in person and was so excited as a result, I was even more certain I had just met a special woman who would help me discover my artistic voice. Over time, I was lucky enough to have some spectacular acting teachers whose guidance and influence still shape me today. Laura Sturm is the one who made the most impact as she did the impossible and helped me break down most of my physical, mental, and emotional barriers to help me tap into my voice, talent, and sexuality as an artist. One of my favorite moments from the very first production in which I appeared and starred was having Laura attend a performance and state that she was in tears from the opening moments of the show because not only was the show which I wrote a powerful one, but that I allowed myself the freedom to do anything and everything on stage while embracing Laura's famous line, "I have no apologies." After the years Laura invested in attempting to pull it out of me, I was finally displaying my abilities. I had taken a class as late as two months before opening night of the production being discussed and Laura said I was showing a freedom in the performance which I had not shown as late as that class two months prior. I was so overwhelmed with emotions knowing I made Laura proud of me and of her work with me. Truly, from the bottom of my heart, I love Laura Sturm as an instructor, artist, and friend.
The wonderful, talented, amazing, beautiful, and sexy Laura Sturm can currently be seen in Toronto, Mississippi written by Joan MacLeod in Chicago at Mary-Arrchie. November 11 to December 19, 2010. Thursday through Saturday at 8p.m. and Sundays at 7p.m. For more information log on to:
When I first began the process of writing my autobiographical theater piece many moons ago, I started out envisioning it as a one person show. Over the years, I altered my vision and it ultimately became what it is. At the time, one of my acting instructors, Ted, suggested I contact one of his former colleagues who was a successful instructor, actor, director who had written and performed a wonderful one woman show. I reached out to Robyn. She was one of the nicest individuals I had ever met as she was always willing to answer my questions and offer me such wonderful words of wisdom. Robyn invited me to a performance of that one woman show and I loved every second of it. Over the years, she has become one of my dearest friends and biggest supporters. She had such praise for an early draft of my theater piece. I especially loved it when she praised me for not falling into the trap which most inexperienced writers or those writing their life story tend to do which is to make themselves be the hero and look good. According to her, there were times in my piece where I start taking my reader and or my viewer down the path of an after school special when suddenly I pull the rug out from under them and shine a not so flattering light on who I am not concerned with being a likable figure. Ultimately, I learned that I could be honest and allow the theatrical me to be separate from the real life me. I have Robyn to thank for helping me realize that fact.
Tonight, all can witness a wonderful piece entitled The Dialogue at Links Hall on Chicago's north side. A fascinating nine performance run where two established Chicago based performers are put together in a show, but neither knows the identity of the other. They have a telephone conversation in front of an audience which is improvised as the audience members listen in using headphones.
For more information and directions if you wish to attend, log on to
In May of this year, I was able to run on the same field where Dan Hampton and Walter Payton, two of my favorite Chicago Bears players of all time, had some of their most special playing moments. As best as I can remember I have been lucky enough to attend to Bears games at Soldier Field. Once in 1990 with my dad as we watched the Monsters Of The Midway take on the Washington Redskins. In 1995, just two days after I was rushed to the hospital with an allergic reaction, I was sitting in the seats with my sister watching the Carolina Panthers come to town and lose to our home town heros. When I was a member of the media, I had a chance to stand on the sidelines at Huskies Stadium in DeKalb, Il watching the Northern Illinois University Huskies take on various opponents, but I never had the privilege to patrol the sidelines at an NFL game. This was even better. I had a chance to run through the same tunnel Bears players do and pop out on the playing field finishing the ten mile race by galloping across the field and crossing the finish line on the fifty yard line. Justine Boney of Fleet Feet Chicago helped me through the registration process and Michael Crissie, who until this year, I had never met nor had he ever been a sighted guide runner, was the man in whose hands I entrusted my life when he volunteered to get me through the race which started just outside of the stadium. It was the first time either of us had tackled the Soldier Field 10 Mile race, but I knew instantly after crossing that I would be back in 2011. Now the opportunity has presented itself as registration is now open for the 2011 Soldier Field 10. It is a great race which is organized by top notch individuals. I hope Michael is interested and available to return next year so we can shatter our time from this year. If not, I will have to find another man or woman willing to finish on the fifty with me.
Since I first met Amanda Grace over six years ago, I have always been impressed at how talented she is as an artist. In the years since, I have been lucky to get to know what an even more amazing person she is. She is one of those individuals I feel privileged to know. She is so gifted and so down to earth. Everyone should be so lucky to know someone like her. Here is a video of a project Amanda Grace did recently. Please watch and enjoy this spectacular woman!
In October 2007, I was lucky enough to attend IFPChicago's Filmmaker Summit at Columbia College in Chicago. It was a wonderful weekend of panel discussions, film screenings, and networking opportunities. My friend, Madelon, accompanied me throughout the weekend. Two of the opportunities which presented themselves during the weekend were chances to sit down with two talented women. The first was Laurel Ward, Director Of Development for Ocean Pictures. The second was screenwriter, Michelle Amor. With Laurel, I had a chance to pitch an actual movie idea to her with the possibility of having her interested enough to request I send her the screenplay for production consideration. With Michelle, I was afforded the ability to ask any questions about the screenwriting craft, life, and process. With both women, I had less than ten minutes to either dazzle or ask as many questions as possible. Since that day, I have remained friends with Michelle. In fact, I always wanted to send her a script to read, but as she is a professional writer, I was afraid she would tell me I was not good. I was worried she would tell me I better find a different line of work. So when the time came to send her one of my scripts, I chose to give her a copy of my autobiographical theater piece, In The Dark. After all, it is my most successful piece to date and the one which evokes a response like no other. Well, maybe Touch Of Rain is a close second considering the passionate responses audience members have had of that piece. I knew that it would probably take a week or longer for Michelle to respond so I was floored, scared, and excited when she provided me feedback within hours. She told me she had planned to put my piece through her First Line test. Over the years of reading screenplays, Michelle had learned that if the script did not draw her in with the first line, odds were that it would never draw her in. Scripts do not suddenly get great. Writers do not suddenly become talented. She read the first line of my play and Michelle was instantly drawn in and ended up reading the entire script right then. She called it one of the best scripts she had read in quite some time. I was stunned. She kept praising me and my talent. I could not believe she was talking about me. Over the years, Michele has been a wonderful friend, resource, and mentor to me. What I love about my friendship with Michelle is that she and I will talk to simply shoot the breeze, but in that conversation, she may relay a story or say something about her day and I can always take that as a nugget of wisdom which I can then apply to my life and screenwriting. Even if she never intended the story or comment to be applicable to screenwriting, it can be.
I am most excited that Michelle's first full length narrative feature, Of Boys And Men, which stars Robert Townsend and Angela Bassett is being distributed for release by Warner Bros Home Video on January 26, 2011. It is a beautiful powerful story which has been screened at different festivals. I first saw a couple scenes when attending the Filmmakers Summit where I attended a panel discussion about the film of which Michelle was a part. It is a film all should watch. I know I will be purchasing a copy. Maybe I will convince Michelle to personalize my copy with her autograph.
I have known my friend, J, for over six years. We met when we were partnered up to do an in-class exercise in one of the acting classes I took at the Actors' Center Chicago. As a result of my friendship with J, I have been able to enjoy various theater productions around Chicago as well as having the opportunity to see a screening of The Godfather Of Green Bay, a film in which he appeared which was written and directed by Pete Schwaba and included such stars as; Lauren Holly, Tony Goldwyn, Thomas Lennon, Jimmy Pardo, and Lance Barber. J wrote and stars in a school assembly program aimed at students from kindergarten through eighth grade as he assumes the role of Dr. Exhaustus to educate while entertaining his audience about the seriousness of global warming, but doing so in a fun environment for the children. Here is a mini film of Dr. Exhaustus in the rain forest.
As this day rolls on, hours away from polls closing in this country and results begin to flood our airwaves and web sites explaining if and how our political landscape has changed moving forward, I take a step back to a piece I wrote two years ago on what was a historic day for the United States Of America. I shared this piece with family and friends hours before the results were known and I wish to share it on this site for all who read my thoughts and reflections.
Tuesday November 4, 2008
"In Barack Obama, we get more than a president like Bill Clinton, we get a statesman like Abraham Lincoln." - Cornel West
Where is it born? The vision of a pioneer. The heart of a champion. For Joe, it comes from being a public servant over forty years. For Sara, it is leading the state of Alaska. For John, it is from fighting for his country even as a prisoner of war. For Barack, from being the voice of the under served mostly African American and latino population of Chicago. From the ashes of the primaries come these four ready to take their place in history. This country decides whether it wishes to elect its first African American president or first female vice president.
For a country which says it's one of the leaders of the globe, it has taken a long time to get here. Instead of praising our pioneers, we shut them up. John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Abraham Lincoln. Often, we read about them in our history books. Betsy Ross, Molly Pitcher, Susan B Anthony, and Cesar Chavez. Now, we are trusted to make history.
If the polls can be trusted then tonight is the night Barack Obama steps forward to take his place in history. As Isaac Newton once stated, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Obama will stand on the shoulders of generations past. He will also stand along side those giants. If tonight is the night as most expect then his mother and grandmother, both who died of cancer, will smile for they had major influences on him to make history. If tonight is the night, then all hands on deck as more than five million people are believed to travel from all parts of the country to converge on Grant Park to celebrate with Barack. If tonight is the night, then we will finally have someone in charge who is an expert in constitutional law so we can once again be a free nation. If tonight is the night then maybe our next challenge is to find a woman to elect down the line. If tonight is the night this country makes history and elects its first African American president, then those past pioneers; JFK, RFK, MLK, and Abe will enjoy a measure of satisfaction as well.
Thank you for lending me your readership. What gets lost on the conservative right is that being American and loving your country is the ability to agree, disagree, support, and criticize. You and I, we are the real America! There is only one. It is all real.
I am a playwright, screenwriter, actor, triathlete who grew up playing sports, fell in love with the talk radio industry, and now enjoys telling stories and evoking emotional responses from fellow artists and audience members