Monthly Archives: January 2012

Random Ramblings: Part 2

To be honest, during my last few months at The Baltimore Guardian I found myself wanting to write about something – ANYTHING – other than theatre. I kept hearing about all these supposedly good movies like Drive, Shame and The Adventures of Tintin, but there I was sitting in a claustrophobically small theatre watching some mediocre singer warble his way through “Try to Remember” (already an overrated song).I guess that’s part of the reason I took a Friday off to see Forces of Nature at the Science Center.

However much fun reviewing films look from the outside, I know for me it would still have a sort of “been there\done that” feel (my first clip was a review of Final Destination 2 for The Miami Hurricane in 2003). Sure, I’ve dabbled in reviewing books and video games, but one area that’s conspicuously absent from my writing portfolio is music.

For instance, I just did a search of the “Gigs” section on Craigslist and almost a third of the listings were from music blogs looking for “unpaid contributors.” ALL of them (like The Baltimore Guardian before them) promised to eventually pay their writers once they became profitable enough. This means one of possibly two things: 1) the market is so over-saturated with sites like these that they cannot differentiate themselves from the dozen or so identical blogs and will thus die within the year when their “volunteer writers” decide to look elsewhere (also like The Baltimore Guardian) or 2) the demand for ad space on blogs like this is so great that they have to continually hire new contributors just to fill the gaps between ads, and since paychecks are sent out almost immediately upon launch, the only turnover is due acceptance of work at larger publications. I’ll let you decide which (if any) is more plausible.

The other trend missing from my portfolio is financial writing. While missing from this month’s listings, writing about stocks appears often on several local job boards (including Craigslist). These positions are decidedly NOT volunteer based, but I still find it hard to muster enough passion to write about a .5% increase in Apple’s quarterly earnings with any sort of conviction.

I need to come up with new ideas and perhaps a new direction for my writing career… Servus.

Categories: Baltimore Guardian, job hunting, ramblings, writing | Leave a comment

Random Ramblings

Sorry for not posting lately. I had a post ready for earlier this week, but as novel as short sleeves and sunshine is in the middle of January it doesn’t necessarily make for compelling reading. I then came up with an idea for reslanting part of my story as a rant, but it made my sound like a bigger jerk than I normally am. I even tried reframing some of my better observations as some sort of “roundup,” but by then realized it was pointless…kind of like this post.

In other business, I finally heard back from my former editor at The Baltimore Guardian. The site isn’t dead, but it won’t be posting anything in the foreseeable future either (in other words, it’s the Fidel Castro of journalism). He claims he’s going to “reorganize” and “bring it back” at some point, but for now, it’s…um…whatever the opposite of not-dead is.

In the meantime, I sent (Baltimore) City Paper an inquiry letter last weekend about reviewing Fifty Words at Everyman. I never got an answer back, which I guess is itself an answer. I completely forgot completely about Baltimore OUTloud until they updated their site yesterday afternoon. (Baltimore) Gay Life no longer runs theatre reviews, a shame since I don’t like posting reviews on this blog.

Categories: Baltimore Guardian, ramblings, theatre, writing | Leave a comment

Theatre Review: Fifty Words

Theatre in Baltimore is generally seen as either the touring shows at the Hippodrome, the often larger than life plays at Centerstage, or the more reserved plays at Everyman giving it the distinction of being the city’s “other” regional playhouse. These plays may be more grounded, but their quality is generally such that even a misfire can still land somewhere near it’s target.

The press release for their latest play, Fifty Words, describes it as “exploration of a modern marriage,” but the plot has more in common with the 2006 Vince Vaughn-Jennifer Anniston vehicle The Break-Up. This is especially bad since the actual marriage being portrayed seems more like a truncated season of John & Kate Plus 8 (and we all know how that turned out), between her catty emasculation of her husband and his obnoxiously sarcasm, the only person we feel any sympathy for at the end of the play was their (unseen) son Greg.

Like Shooting Star before it, the problem here isn’t the actors who both do a fine job with the material they are given. The problem as stated above is the episodic nature of the couple’s (Meghan Anderson and Clinton Branhagen) many fights that escalate and de-escalate over the course of their first night alone in almost nine years. The play is quite intricately plotted, but there were still a few moments when I found myself saying “what?” and just when you think they’ve had enough fighting for one night, one of them would invariably say “one more thing” and the cycle begins anew.

I have to give special praise to Timothy Mackabee for the incredibly detailed set from the mismatched chairs dining room chairs to the children’s toys stuffed in a shelf in the dining room giving the set a lived-in feeling (though why would they still have a corded phone in 2009?). My favorite detail was Jay A. Herzog’s use of the ceiling lights (a rarity in theatre), and how they were wired so that the actors could supposedly control the lighting level on the set. The only technical problem I had with the show was the overly loud “dramatic” music pumped into the theatre during certain key scenes (though to be fair, this was a preview performance so the volume will probably be fixed by the time you read this).

If you enjoy watching two self-absorbed people shout at each other for nearly two hours (without an intermission), or just want to relive the “glory days” of reality programming on TLC than this is the play for you. If not, as John Waters famously said: “there’s always Centerstage.”

Fifty Words is playing at Everyman Theatre, 1727 N. Charles St in Baltimore through February 19th. Tickets are $35 for weekday performances, $45 on weekends. ** ½ out of *****

Categories: entertainment, theatre | 4 Comments

A little more than 50 words

It was 3pm, and I was bored. I was already sitting at my computer so I signed into Facebook, my virtual crops still had about an hour left on them so I clicked back to my “News Feed” and saw an item about Everyman Theatre was having a special “pay-what-you-can” promotion.

That in and of itself isn’t not unusual, a lot of theatre companies have been doing that lately, but they usually wait until a few weeks after the show opens to host them (the first “official” preview is tomorrow).

I may not be working for The Guardian anymore, but I wasn’t about to pass up this deal. I go to their website, but they weren’t offering tickets since the show doesn’t officially open until tomorrow… Next I called the number, and after 7 rings I was finally answered…by a machine.

This left me with no choice but to walk over to box office and buy them in person. I checked the weather forecast, sunny with temperatures in the low 50s (not bad for the middle of JANUARY) but with a chance of rain around 7pm. I grabbed my keys and left.

I arrived at the theatre, somewhat surprised at having to “ring the doorbell” to enter the box office. I did anyway and the door opened almost immediately by an older woman in a red shirt with a white plastic lanyard around her neck. She points me to the box office (even though it’s impossible to miss) and I hand the man behind the counter a $20. If only so I wouldn’t have to get any more of those annoying letters extolling the virtues of donating to Everyman Theatre… besides, it was easiest bill to take out of my wallet.

I make the trek back to my apartment. I retrieved my virtual crops, send an e-mail to my former editor and began thinking about appropriate places to send this review. I closed my laptop, took a shower and got dressed up for the show. When I came back upstairs, the rain had completely disappeared from the forecast, and I was clear to leave for dinner.

It was 6pm when I grabbed my keys off the table, and exactly as I was leaving the apartment the phone rang. I dashed over to catch it before the machine picked it up, and it was a Melanie who was calling because she needed my opinion about the “recent changes to America’s healthcare system.”

As thrilled as I was about someone pretending to care what I think about divisive political issues, I was kind of in a hurry. Besides, it was the same company that called me on Friday to discuss “recent changes to America’s healthcare system” so I’m sure they’ll call me back to discuss this over dinner some other day this week.

I didn’t have enough time to eat at a proper restaurant, but I didn’t feel like starving myself either. I stopped at the Chipotle on Charles St just a few blocks south of the theatre. I was counting on their normally ginormous line to eat up some time, and was thus somewhat disappointed about walking straight up to the counter to make my order.

I finished eating but still had almost 40 minutes to get to the theatre less than three blocks away. I ducked into the Starbucks next door. I wasn’t really thirsty but I figured I could sit in there for ten minutes before moving up the road.

I arrived at the theatre just after 7pm. I didn’t need to use the doorbell as the lobby was not only open but quite crowded as well. I tried finding restrooms, but the ladies in already line told me I’d “have to wait” as there was only one bathroom in the lobby. Eventually they opened the doors to the theatre and I was given a simple photocopy with the names of the actors and designers (perhaps the formal programs hadn’t arrived yet from the printers).

The show itself was intense. This isn’t a show you see for casual entertainment like “MML,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’” or even “Gleam” – this was more a like a serious version of Vince Vaughn’s “The Break-Up” except the petty fighting never stops and the few moments of silence are filled with LOUD overly dramatic music as if the sound designers thought the LOLs in the audience might fall asleep amidst the constant shouting.

The play got out shortly after 9pm, and I made my way back to the apartment. I still have no idea what (if anything) I’m going to do about a review.

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, entertainment, theatre, weather, writing | 1 Comment

Art on the move

This was supposed to be a fairly busy weekend for me, but certain situations left me, ironically enough, with nothing but time on my hands.

I left the apartment just after noon, nothing like losing a gig to ruin your sense of urgency, and made my way to new art show playing at Penn Station. Well, the museum’s website said it was at Penn Station…the people AT Penn Station looked at me like I was on crack (I get that a lot for some reason) when I asked them where it was.

“There is no ‘art gallery’ here. What is the name of the location of the venue again.”

Moving Right Along,’ a new show sponsored by the Contemporary Museum-”

“This isn’t the Contemporary Museum, this is Penn Station.”

“I know that. The museum lost its lease last year, and until their new space later this year, they are hosting their show in an ‘unused retail space in Penn Station.”

“I strongly suggest you check your address again, as there is no art exhibition here.”

“How many addresses could ‘Baltimore’s Penn Station’ possibly have?”

I considered pulling out my phone and showing him the museum’s website, but I figured that would be more trouble than it was worth.

Meanwhile, the agent backs his seat away from the Crazy Person (another thing I get a lot), and then slowly turns his head towards his colleague, and cocks his head towards me mouthing ‘Do something.’

His somewhat older colleague gives him that classic ‘don’t pawn the Crazy Guy on me’ expression, he then looks over at me with a fake smile: “I can help you over here.”

“It’s the boarded up window just through the archway,” a woman said passing by the counter. I couldn’t tell if she worked for Amtrak or if she had just overheard our conversation. I scanned the room, “no, THAT archway… past the ‘Shoe Polisher’ …next to the restrooms.”

I still didn’t quite see what was talking about, but I walked through the archway, past the Shoe Polisher into the main lobby. Nothing looked out of place until I realized that the lobby I was staring at from the service counter would have extended the platforms into the cab stand so I took a seat on a long wooden bench in from of the papered over window and watched the animated characters running around the pseudo lobby until I lost interest and went to get lunch at the Subway over on Charles St.

As I was eating I wondered: how hard would it be to take a train to Concord, NH to cover the primary there? I had no change of clothes, no itinerary, and no press pass. I also had no reservations for either the train or lodging once I got there, and I had neither social skills nor any real credibility as a journalist. Sadly, ‘Fear and Loathing: 2012’ would have to wait…*sigh*

I left the store at 1:46pm, and decided to head back to the
apartment…to grab a jacket before heading to the light rail stop at UB\Mount Royal. This day was far from over.

I arrived at the platform slightly later than I had hoped, but was able to get downtown by 3:51pm. This gave me just under 10 minutes to get to the Maryland Science Center in time for their next show. I just barely made it to the center by 4 o’clock…or should I say their ticket counter. Fortunately, they were just closing the door to the theater when I came barreling around the corner.

The movie (Bears) had its moments, but it probably wasn’t worth a special trip downtown for (I was initially going to see it at the Whitaker Center over Thanksgiving). The footage of cubs wrestling each other was cute. The the opening CGI, while entirely superfluous, actually came off looking kind of cool, but the black, fog covered set they used for describing the Native American myths was creepier than it was mystifying.

I left the center at 4:46pm, and decided that I’d try for an early dinner so as not to risk missing the last Circulator back to Midtown (as both the Light Rail and the Circulator stop running around 8pm on Sundays). I chose to eat in Harborplace, but only because I wanted to be near the Circulator when I came out (in case service was slow).

I came out the restaurant just after 6pm, and made my way across a busier than expected Pratt St to the Circulator stop in front of the Gallery. I barely brushed by the guy trying to bum change when the quarter-filled bus pulled in. I briefly considered taking it all the way up to Station North to review “MilkMilkLemonade” at Single Carrot…until I remembered I had no-one to send it to.

Categories: adventures, art, Baltimore, Charm CityCirculator, entertainment, light rail, movies, ramblings, transportation | Leave a comment

Happy New Year – You’re Fired

This post was initially going to be about the results of the Iowa caucuses and the political flameouts that resulted from it. But then I got an e-mail saying that The Baltimore Guardian would “no longer be sending me on reviews.”

In other words: the trolls have won, congratulations.

The “official” explanation is that he could not afford to keep the site going because it was losing money for him. However, I paid for every single show out of pocket with no compensation at all, and for this reason alone, if he hadn’t pulled the plug on this arrangement I would have.

This termination means that I am no longer seeing shows because I “have” to, and instead of stacking bad shows just to meet quota, I can see good shows because I WANT to.

Not only that, but by not seeing: MilkMilkLemonade (Single Carrot, who probably don’t want me at their shows anyway), Arsenic & Old Lace (Vagabond Players) and Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Spotlighters), I can finally afford to see shows like: Fifty Words at Everyman, Centerstage’s A Skull in Connemara or even The Addams Family at the Hippodrome.

To clarify, I have nothing against the former theaters: $15 (TSC) + $15 (VP) +$15 (Spot) = $45 (Everyman). Yes, they’re a comparative bargain, but in community theatre you tend to get what you pay for. For instance, there was nothing fundamentally “wrong” with The Fantasticks, but I wasn’t rushing out to recommend it to anybody either. To be fair, there were a LOT of problems with Shooting Star, but none of them were Everyman’s fault (the cast was excellent… the script was terrible).

This, of course, brings up two questions: 1) what happens to the stories I’ve already started (capsule reviews of the IMAX Film Festival)… and 2) now that I’m no longer working for The Baltimore Guardian and was summarily rejected from grad school at UB, what is tying me to Baltimore (besides rent and jury duty)?

No really, since graduating from SHS in 1998, I have lived in four different states (California, Florida, Pennsylvania and Maryland) for three years apiece where I held no single job for longer than a year-and-a-half (which, believe me, looks horrible on a resume). Do I take Amtrak to New Hampshire or South Carolina and do a half-assed update of Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trial? Do I try to restart my writing portfolio at another publication in\around Maryland or go full time on my freelance career?

So many questions…so few answers…just like in politics.

Categories: Baltimore Guardian, editorials, job hunting, news, ramblings, writing | 5 Comments

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