If you are looking for something to do tonight, head on over to the Flat Iron Arts Building in Chicago to check out my dear friend, the lovely and talented, Laura Shatkus, in Collaboraction Sketchbook REVERB. Monday night's performance is designated Industry Night. A headshot and resume or business card will enable you to get in for $10. It is a great deal to see a collection of wonderful pieces written by and performed by amazing artists. Again, the steal of a deal is that you will see Laura Shatkus!
1575 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago. For more info, log on to:
Just under seven years ago, I met the talented, beautiful, and amazing Kate Bergeron, in an acting class. I had the great privilege to work on some in class exercises with her. I also had the great privilege to sit back and observe her as she worked on her craft. In those days, there was never a doubt in my mind as well as in the minds of others that Kate was destined for greatness in the theater, film, and television industries. I later found out that she was a model and singer as well. Sure, she had starred in many musicals, but more than that, she was the lead vocalist for an up and coming band. As Kate Bergeron becomes a household name, I wish to invite all to check out this wonderfully talented woman in one of her latest projects. She is the star of this web series entitled On The Brink. If you are a regular reader to this blog, you have seen her demo reel from the internet movie data base a link to which I posted a few weeks ago. Now you can see complete episodes of her fabulous work.
While this blog was created to promote, preview, and review my artistic and athletic ventures as well as the artistic and athletic ventures of my dear close friends who along the way have been supportive, encouraging, and pushing me to achieve my absolute best, I will on occasion take the time to shine a light on some of my favorite resources or individuals. I believe very strongly that any success I have with my theater pieces, films, presentations, marathons, or triathlons are the result of my dedication to put myself in a position to succeed as well as friends taking the time to read my scripts, provide feedback, agree to act in my pieces, go on training runs, or volunteer to be my sighted guides for various races. My name goes down in the records, but it is always a collection of talented people working together which assures my success. Every so often, I read an online article or come across a web site which intrigues me and keeps my interest because the writer is informative, talented, and entertaining. In those cases, I usually do not know the person. In some cases, I may exchange messages with the person. Always, I feel grateful that I have come across that article or person because while I may not personally know him or her, I still feel that I am given an opportunity to learn and grow. Hopefully, the education I receive and the growth I experience can be channeled into my future work.
I have recently been reading a couple sites from an extremely talented writer and I am so glad I have had the opportunities to read her entries. I look forward to the chance of maybe finding her books on audio. I have not learned how to download audio books from the internet so if her books do exist in that format, I am sorry that I have not yet purchased them, but I hope to learn to be comfortable in that method in the very near future because several friends have been publishing books and the only way I can listen to them would be audio downloads as they do not exist in audio CD for purchase. Still, I encourage all to check out the sites and books by the talented Jen Knox. Her book entitled Musical Chairs is a very intriguing piece discussing her personal journey of the ups and downs of life which lead her to rock bottom before she picks herself up and as a champion does, she goes after her life's purpose with a toughness which shows what the human spirit is capable of when it is given a chance. Her book entitled, To Begin Again is a collection of stories. The description reminds me of the Norton Anthology books I loved so much in college.
For more information and to get a better description of Jen's books, please visit both of the following sites and make sure to buy her books:
I am always amazed at the wonderful individuals in my life of whom I have the great privilege to call friends. I am constantly in awe of their achievements. One such person about whom I have written in the past is Laura Shatkus who I met about seven years ago in acting class. We ended up having several classes together and it was such a joy to observe her in every single one of them. She was and continues to be a masterful artist. Whether in the classroom, in conversation, or on the stage, I get such a thrill when I am around her because she is an amazing beautiful person who oozes love, happiness, and friendship. I learn so much about being an artist and a friend when I am in her presence. Laura can currently be seen in Sketchbook REVERB presented by Collaboraction through March 27. Of course, throughout the run, I will post more information and links so that people can go out and see her work her magic. For now, please take the time to read this wonderful piece about her which appeared in the Daily Herald.
In the first week of July 2010, Matt Miller, the founder of the C Different Foundation, the organization under whose umbrella I would be racing the New York City Triathlon, contacted me to inform me that he had found a man to be my sighted guide. Matt said the man would reach out to me via Facebook, I should accept his friend request, and begin the bonding process. Matt told me the man's name was Brendan Hermes and his and my interests are so similar, it would be frightening. Sure enough, Brendan reached out to me, we sent comments back and forth, then we had an opportunity to speak on the phone. He was just a few years older than me, enjoyed living an active triathlon lifestyle, and worked for a production company creating TV, film, and interactive online content. He had also appeared in a few national commercials. I was overwhelmed by his accomplishments and experiences. It would be an honor and privilege to swim one mile in the Hudson river, bike twenty-five miles along Hudson Highway, and run 6.2 miles around and in Central Park with Brendan as my eyes. My entries from July 2010 discussing the New York City Triathlon expressed my thoughts of how the weekend with Brendan and his family was more magical than I could have ever dreamt it would be. More than a race day guide, Brendan has been a tremendous supportive friend with whom I have shared what feels like a lifetime of memories in just about six months.
Brendan's latest project has him as one of the producers for the television show, Bar Karma, which debuts on Current TV on Friday, February 11 at 10p.m. eastern time. The show is interactive so viewers and fans will have the opportunity to use the internet to submit ideas and plot or story lines to be written, filmed, and air in future episodes. If anyone has ever wanted to experience what it may feel like to contribute to a television program, this is the perfect way to do so.
Please read more information about the show at the following link and make sure to check out the show.
Here is another reason which shows how lucky I am to be surrounded by amazing talented individuals. The talented, amazing, and beautiful Amanda Grace is not only a spectacular actor, singer, and model who has shined on the stage, film sets, and catwalks, but she is a funny, warm, fun loving woman who I am privileged to call a good friend.
Here is Amanda's latest commercial for the Champagne Lodge
A few years ago, I had the great thrill of performing my autobiographical piece, In The Dark, at Prop THTR in Chicago. It truly was a case of opportunity knocking and I happened to be in a position to answer. I sat down to write a screenplay. After completing said screenplay, I showed it to some friends who were split on their reactions. A couple enjoyed it, while a few hated it. This was a bit of a shock since after completing the draft, I was very confident I had written a spectacular script. I figured people would enjoy reading it and many more would fall in love with it as a film. Before I could return to the screenplay, I needed to better understand screenwriting and story telling. I also needed a grasp on what I could realistically expect from myself as a writer, actors, and directors. I began taking acting classes. After a few months, I added playwrighting classes. I expected a slow developing class structure where I would have to learn to write characters, scenes, and outlines. To my surprise, the instructor believed the best way for me to learn to write a play is by actually writing a play. Sure, I worked on characters, one sentence summaries, and formatting, but he insisted I churn out the pages on a weekly basis. Since I had never written a play in my life, he felt it would be best to set my sights on completing a ten minute play. Yet the story I wanted to tell would take longer than ten minutes to tell. After six weeks of writing and rewriting, I completed the first draft of my first ever play. It turned out to be seventy-six pages. In my first attempt, I had written the first draft of my first full length play. Eventually, that play went on to be named a New Play Fest winner by Prop THTR where it was workshopped and received a staged reading directed by the wonderful, Jacque Lueken. After writing that play, I began work on my next full length, but before I could finish that second play, I was approached with the idea to tell my life story. I initially laughed it off figuring my life experiences were not all that interesting, but my playwrighting instructor insisted that not only were my individual stories fascinating, but with my ability to write, I would be able to weave them together to creating a compelling, informative, and entertaining play. I spent months on it and before I knew it, my playwrighting instructor had contacted people at Prop THTR to inform them of a wonderful new unproduced piece from an up and coming writer and actor. Since he already told them I would be sending a copy immediately, I had no choice, but to do so. Weeks later I found out they were interested and a few months after that I received a letter congratulating me on "writing a story which needed to be written and sharing my voice which needed to be shared." Prop THTR named my autobiographical piece a New Play Fest winner where it was workshopped and received a staged reading under the direction of the amazing, Emily Lotspeich. It went on to received its world premiere production with me in the lead as myself, my dearest friend, Madelon, and another fella, Ivan each starring along side me. It was after this production run where I submitted a copy of my first ever play to Prop and they included it in their NFP.
After each performance, audience members raved about what I had written and what they had just witnessed. One remark which always stayed with me came from Nina Metz whose review of my play appeared in the Chicago Tribune Tempo Section. She wrote that the show was rough around the edges, but had plenty of potential. She had some additional comments about my, Madelon's, and Ivan's individual performances. Once again, I was a bit surprised. Ultimately, she was correct, but I also wondered in what ways could I improve the piece since I believed it was already a wonderful play. As award winning journalist, author, actor, Jenniffer Weigel said once, "Israel has the ability to blind me with tears from ripping my heart out with a heart wrenching moment then make my sides hurt from laughing so much to the point I'm crying all in the same scene."
It has been several years since that initial run of performances. Madelon and I have performed slightly different versions at schools and conferences. I have gone to organizations and performed a one man version as well. All the while I was finding ways to tell certain stories I was not ready to include in that first run. As the years pass, I have become more comfortable with wanting to share other aspects of my being. I have also found other ways to tell stories as a writer. A month ago, I sat down and rewrote my autobiographical piece. I feel that it is now more moving than before. In some cases, a slight shift in a scene made a world of difference. In other cases, a complete rewriting of the scene or of the characters was my best option. I sent it off to a very trusted friend, director, actor for her feedback and I anxiously await her feedback. I hope that this latest draft captivates her as previous drafts have and together she and I can move forward to bring my world back to life for audiences. Each time I have sent this or other scripts to friends I get nervous in anticipation for their feedback. I know I will always get replies which point out the positives and negatives on which I can build or choose to change. It does not matter how many times I send out my scripts, the anxiety remains just as intense.
I have previously written about how about four months ago, I came across an article in Runner's World Magazine in which the subject matter was Emily Schaller. When Emily was eighteen months old, she was diagnosed with cystic Fibrosis and her parents were told she probably would not live to see her high school graduation. She is not only alive in her late twenties, but she is an unstoppable force as she dedicates her life to not only finding a cure for CF, but bringing joy and happiness to others. I was excited when I read that the foundation which she founded, Rock CF, is organizing the inaugural Rock CF Rivers Half Marathon and 5K in March of 2011. If I could make my way to Michigan, I could participate in the half marathon to help benefit such a wonderful cause for an amazing woman. Unfortunately, it is looking more and more as though I will not be able to participate in the event, but there is a way I can still be involved to make a small difference. For anyone wishing to contribute, but is unable to attend in person, there is an option to do a virtual run meaning one can run a 5K or half marathon anywhere in the world while raising awareness and money for the organization. If I can get some friends or maybe just one to agree to it, I can run 13.1 miles in my home town at the same time as the event will be taking place in Michigan.
I am in the process of figuring this out, but in the meantime, I invite all to read up some more on Emily Schaller and the Rock CF Foundation to learn about how Emily is playing a role in one day changing the letters CF from representing Cystic Fibrosis to standing for Cure Found!
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