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Friday, November 17, 2017



There is magic, child,
in how people rush
to justify the unjust
how protectors
can kill with impunity
and almost 
be found guiltless
and go free

There is magic
in how speaking out
is a bigger problem
than injustice itself

There is magic
in how the right act
is an affront to liberty
in how doing better
is slavery
and the expectation to do better
is oppression

There is magic in how
there is not Enough to go around
but there is always Enough
for more of the same

There is magic
in how racism thrives
but no one is racist
in how sexism lives
as excuses die
and in how They demand
you always say "Please"
to get Them to give you
what you should already have

There is magic around you, child.
Just open your eyes.



This work has needed doing
There have already been others doing it
You may be joining just now
but you are welcome here

Come to the table
and see how old it is
See the nicks and scratches,
gouges and splinters,
knots and holes
and chipped off edges
Acknowledge these and remember
that you are welcome here

Look at the smooth places,
the polish, the varnish,
the grain, the stain
the way parts are patched
and joined
and mended
The care with which it was made and maintained

Come here and know:
We will laugh and cry
fuss and fight
teach and learn
speak and listen
struggle and strive 

Come here and know
it will not be easy
people always leave
and some come back

Look, now
See all this
Know all this
Make your choice
With all this, know
you are welcome here 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

My Kind of Portfolio

Fellow humans, I have been charged with the task of creating a portfolio.

I love doing things. I love writing, improvising, clowning, taking pictures. I am self-critical, but I enjoy sharing as well as being shared with. That usually wins out.

Patches in the road thus far:


• a piece for Wanderlust online journal about diversity in yoga

• a piece for Wanderlust online journal about hiking up Mount Fuji

• a blog entry about performing at Mixed Blood Theatre

• a transcription of freewriting from an audition for Sandbox Theater


My Flickr album for Stubborn Photography


While I was in Japan performing on Kinoshita Circus, I helped a friend of mine by filming videos illustrating some physics principles for her high school classes.

Newton's Second Law



• solo improv, Where I Am Now: Loose String

• solo improv, Where I Am Now: Oil Painting

• clowning at Four Humors Theater's Firsty Thursdays: "Passing Through"


• excerpt from The Pratfalls Podcast: "Buckaroo Banzai"

• excerpt from The Pratfalls Podcast: "Being (sm)arty"

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Dad Hands

When I was talking to her, I had to stop and think about it: are my dad's hands still larger than mine? I looked at her tiny hand laid against mine, palm to palm. I was sure the difference wouldn't be as dramatic, but his are surely still larger than mine. They must be — he's my dad.

It had been a while since the last visit. I live in Minneapolis, just over three hours up the road from West Des Moines. It's not that far, but when you work weekends as well as weekdays and get no paid time off, it complicates things. When you're an actor juggling multiple jobs, it makes the concept of vacation time even more unlikely. At ten months and counting, home felt too close for it to have been as long as it had been.

I wasn't smooth about asking and with Dad I didn't have to be. I told Dad how tiny her hands are and how it made me wonder. Being the person he is, knowing his adult children to be bigger, more experienced versions of the tiny humans he helped create and raise, he obliged.

I had expected there to be a huge difference.

Because of my frame, my hand was not as thick. The fingers were more slender. My skin was lighter than his, but the differences were small. End to end, heel to finger tip, my hand was the same size. It was odd. And it was a testament to the fact that I am indeed an adult.

By my age, my father had a fourth child on the way. Even when I stopped being short and could look my dad in the eye, he seemed to tower over me. Even now, when I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the man who taught me to shake hands — and hug — like you mean it, I feel I will never be as big a man as he.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sunday Callback Freewrites (with prompts)

I had an amazing callback audition on Sunday. Part of the process involved freewriting and even though neither of them was incorporated in the final product (which we were proud of), I liked them enough to keep them. Sometimes you don't have to kill your darlings, but you set them aside for other uses.

Weaving a pattern, a blanket of light. It was an odd blanket, but in that way that mystifies instead of scares. It was thin at one end and spread wider and wider, with room enough for anyone who could see it. Dust motes were not dirty, but living, warm and comforting, massaging each tiny hair that rose in goosebumps. I wasn't cold; I was energized.

You hate the struggle — resent it. You learn to curse your tenacity and loathe your ambition. But you are so focused on the goal.
     "Keep your eyes on the prize."
     "Follow the drinking gourd," the ancestors say.
Why do you do this to yourself? Not cool, Robert Frost. "Road less traveled" my stubborn, Black ass. But if I quit, there's no way to succeed

Friday, October 9, 2015

Whatever Helps You Sleep At Night

Fresh off of arguing the inaccuracies of "the best actor for the role" and another in a never-ending chain of discussions about representation and questioning the idea of "default" and all of the entitlement that comes with it, Creatively Independent posted this essay on meritocracy and bias, merely by coincidence. Afterward, I reflected on a recent experience in which the veil was lifted on the notion of acting being nothing other than a meritocracy.

I recently auditioned for a commercial for an amusement park in the greater Twin Cities area that featured a father and a son. Maybe I was too animated for a television commercial. I'm more of a clown and physical actor, and without direction, sometimes I can play a bit too big for the camera, so that is a possible factor. Maybe I'm not fatherly enough or don't look old enough for people to buy that I was a father and I can buy that. Maybe my shoulder-length dreads would have made it too much of a problem-solving issue for hair and makeup to make it look like I was stuck upside down. It could have easily been for any one of those reasons I almost didn't get the callback in the first place. That happens all the time, but this audition was different. My agent clearly explained the client wanted to schedule a callback, but it might not happen because they didn't have any Black kids.

While not getting a callback or not getting a job is typical in the business, sometimes the reasons behind the outcome can also be more frustratingly, disturbingly typical than we want to accept. Even if I had not been the "best actor", I was nearly denied the chance to prove it on the field of battle as an equal, even after passing the first test. I also might have been the best actor and didn't get the job, but I won't ever know. I can always improve, but when the issue became the color of my skin and the existing reasons in society why I wouldn't have worked out, that's notably bigger than a one-man job.

By extension, it was also a statement on the composition of families in the United States of America. I almost didn't get a callback because mixed families apparently aren't a thing or obviously blended families due to remarriage isn't a thing or adoption isn't a thing. Having a kid that didn't obviously spring from the loins of this man wasn't a leap they wanted to make and because it's a business, was likely not a leap they were willing risk trusting or expecting their intended audience to make. You have to match because at least in matching, you don't have to ask the more conservative members of your audience to consider the idea of a "nontraditional" family as being valid and worthy of consideration. Remember: we live in a country where a Cheerios commercial depicting an interracial family was considered groundbreaking and controversial — in the second decade of the 21st Century.

If the world of theater truly were a meritocracy, colorblind casting might not be as much of a thing, and representation might not be as much of an issue. If acting were truly a meritocracy, one might have to look at how representation repeatedly shakes out on stages across the country and then admit that when one says "the best actor" one usually just means a white actor, and is at peace with all of the messiness holding and supporting such ideas might contain. Or maybe we just need to be more forthcoming about admitting the cultural factors that add up to the need to cling to the idea of a meritocracy to make us feel better.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

New Blood

I am in rehearsal and I am sitting in a chair in the main house of Mixed Blood. The theater is an old firehouse built in the late 19th Century.

There is remodeling and upgrading being done during the rehearsal period. There is another rehearsal happening upstairs. Today, more than the other days of this last week-and-a-half, it smells old in here.  I am not smelling paint fumes or the recently cut wood of the set and stage. I am smelling and looking at old wood. It is a scent that is comforting and grounding.

They say that the bell tower on the northeast corner is being restored and a bell will live there again. That is one of the coolest things I have heard all week and the thought excites me. I can see US Bank Stadium on the other side of the freeway to the west. I steal glances at the progress each time I go to the bathroom. It doesn't look completely horrible, but its existence is complicated and problematic.

The subject of this play — race, representation, and portrayal — is complicated and problematic.

An Octoroon is a play about race, but not in the comfortable way that is accepted in the current state of theater. It is not the sort of play that will have people nodding their heads congratulating themselves about How Far We Have Come. It has a wicked sense of humor that is tied to a storied history of laughing through examination of pain and airing of grievances. After laying this show in the laps of audiences night after night, there will be talkbacks. I have never heard of a show or a theater having talkbacks after every performance. This is an exciting idea to me.

The play we are rehearsing is based on a "tragic mulatto" melodrama from the late 19th Century. It is as much an adaptation as it is a sendup. Its point might be lost on some people. The audience may miss some of the points or come up with their own. It may very well escape them that a character that is known for being mischievous and lighthearted is being silent and still, calculating and focused, contemplative and evaluating and for very good reason. It often escapes people — even some "clowns" at times — that a clown is a real person and that real person has real reactions. Sometimes that person has had enough and drops the antics because the audience and the situation need it.
I did not think as a clown and improviser that I would be on this stage in this theater, let alone any such notable stage in the Twin Cities. But one day a friend called an audition post to my attention. My eyes glazed over in disbelief and I signed up for an audition slot. Three months later, I sit here in this old building among new people, having a new experience.

I still have trouble believing this is happening. And yet here I am: in this building with a history, doing a play with a history but mutated by the present, in a medium whose problematic and complicated history we challenge simply by continuing to engage in it. It's been frustrating to pass on project after project, a role here and a role there because of this show, but this feels great. It feels big, like something I should do right now. This is a new adventure.