Monday, December 31, 2012

Out with the old...

...and in with the new!  Well...maybe so, but not without some reflection and gratitude for an exciting, challenging and artistic 2012!  It has been almost 6 months since my last blog entry here, primarily because I have spent a great deal of time with my Cooking Show Blog, COOKING EASY WITH PATRICK

With that said, I thought it was important as we say so long to 2012 and ring in the New Year to reflect on the creative success of this past year and say a few words about "letting go."

First off...a list of really great creative accomplishments for 2012:
*The move to LA
*Creating a Cooking Show and having a blast with it
*Finished my new One-Act, THE DAYS AFTER
*Co-starring in the American Premiere of THE IMAGINARY LIFE OF THE STREET SWEEPER AUGUST G at Casa 0101 Theatre in LA
*Signing with The Bohemia Group
*Having featured roles in an Indie Film (ESAI'S CROSSING) and a pilot (50 STARS)
*Starring as El Gallo in The Gilbert Theatre Production of THE FANTASTICKS
*Being nominated for a Pryer Award for Best Actor in a Musical for THE FANTASTICKS
*Running a Stage Management Intensive and giving a Stage Management Workshop
*Having two of my 10-minute plays chosen for readings and workshop
*Saw some great theatre including PETER AND THE STARCATCHER on Broadway, WAR HORSE and RED at Mark Taper and JITNEY at Pasadena Playhouse
*Great photo shoot with Greg Crowder
*Some great audition opportunities and cast in two shows (ROMEO AN JULIET and JEKYLL AND HYDE) I had to turn down
*Being hired to direct THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT
*Having the PIE Holiday Stories and Carols CD finally launched
*Ending the year with a paid Choir Gig for the Christmas Holiday

Needless to say I am grateful.

But I am also mindful of the serious events that took place that are much larger than myself and have a lasting impact on all of us: the elections, the shootings around the country (especially the one in Connecticut), the Hurricane, the hunger and atrocities that take place every minute around the world, the losses that my family and friends suffered this year, and the idea that the world might come to an end or at least shift.  All of these things are part of the experience of life and all of them are examples of why each day is a gift and we must try to live it to the fullest!

I am also struck by the accomplishments of others - whether creative or spiritual, or in the case of my friend Jimmy, riding in AIDS RIDE LA to make life better for those living with HIV/AIDS or my friend Kate organizing an amazing Shakespeare Fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Sandy!

And as I begin to see my 47th year on the horizon as 2013 approaches I am hopeful that the lessons I learned this year will carry forward and propel me to be more present in my daily be more joyful and serene with all that I do and all that I have - because indeed I have so much in my life!  I am especially grateful for Shane!

Having goals and dreams is certainly an important component to our lives, but I am also reminded of what my Auntie Carmie used to say to me all the time: "Stop and smell the roses."

The biggest lesson I take with me from this past year is LETTING GO.  When I let go of the things I can't control; when I am present and being of service to others and taking care of myself and let go of fear and anxiety and "expectations" I find that my life is much more balanced...and frankly, success (whatever that means) seems to find its way to me in the things that matter most in my life.

So in 2013 I hope that we can all find ourselves stopping and smelling the roses a bit more often, admiring their beauty, letting go and being grateful for all we have right now.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Art can do so much...

I'm not expressing any new ideas here but it's worth repeating, especially on the heals of seeing a remarkable piece of theatre:  ART CAN DO SO MUCH!

Of course for many, it isn't about the RESULT but the process.  For those creating art, the motives are as varied as the paint colors or costumes or lyrics that are used by the artist.  But for those who RECEIVE the can be transforming.  And because art is so subjective, much of it can be transformative to one and bland to another.  And that is what makes it so miraculous.  But there are times, and I hope not as rare as they sometimes seem to me, when art is so powerful that a majority of those experiencing it are all in the same place together.  

And so it was with the performance I just saw of WAR HORSE at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.

From the first moments of the piece with no dialogue; no spoken word; the visual imagery and the subtle musical tones lifted me to a place where I began to cry.  Certainly some of this comes from the fact that I LOVE the theatre.  I was born on a stage (or so it feels) and so each time I am in an audience I am always transported even before the lights dim because I love it so much and my anticipation is always heightened.  But sometimes, I am disappointed, or don't "get it" or don't find myself as moved as I would like to be.  But with WAR HORSE, all the elements of good theatre were present: great acting, beautiful concept and movement with these amazing puppets,  wonderful effects of sound and music and of course a wonderful story.  But what makes the piece GREAT for me is the fact that the piece is more than those elements.  It is a history lesson and so therefore it is educational.  It is a moving love story and therefore it is emotional and universal.  It is transformative because it makes those of us watching it think about a variety of things in our lives - family, competition, war, loss, love, hope, camaraderie...the list goes on and on with this piece.

Two of the most poignant moments in the play for me took place on or near the "battlefield."  The one is when a Corporal becomes enraged at another officer who is clearly trying to abandon the war and protect two horses in the process.  The Corporal says something like..."Why do you care more about these beasts...these animals...than you do some of your comrades dying in the field?"  The blunt irony was not wasted on me in the moment and I actually verbalized a quiet "huh" in the theatre.  I wanted to yell out "YOU are the beast!  YOU are the animal! If you are speaking of "humanity" in some grand form then these horses are MUCH more human than you are!"  And the second moment was when a German soldier and an Irish soldier were both sent by their opposing camps to untangle a horse in barbed wire.  Neither could understand the other and yet when their goal was a common one, their differences vanished and only the common cause seemed to matter.

I could go on and on but I will simply leave you with how I began this can do so much.  And at its best, it can do A LOT!

A special mention to the entire cast...their work in this piece is a true definition of ensemble.  Would that we all worked together so well in all of our endeavors.

I fly the flag of art in all its forms...long may she wave!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sometimes...they just don't like you...

So throughout my life in the biz, there have been MANY auditions that did not result in a booking.  Probably 90% if I am being honest.  But many of those auditions were "general" calls where they were not looking for anyone, or I was really wrong for a show, or no one with authority was at the audition...or...sometimes...I just blew it!

But I must say that since I have come to have representation and primarily only do audition "appointments" it is rare when the feedback isn't good and I can honestly say that probably 70 to 80% of the time I get a callback and my booking ratio is MUCH higher as well.  Why?  Because if they are giving me an appointment, they already believe that I am the right type and have the talent (or at least experience) to do the project.

HOWEVER...there are rare occasions now where I go in for an appointment and from the moment I walk in the room, they look at me like I have three heads.  It is in those moments, that I breath, do my best work and walk away without giving it a second thought.

Just the other day I had such an experience.  I heard the two gentlemen who preceded me, and in all honesty (and i hardly EVER think this at auditions) I thought they were HORRIBLE!  Just terrible actors who where shouting lines they did not understand and it was classical text (not Shakespeare but still had a rhyme and cadence) and they just didn't have a clue.  This seemed to be confirmed when the casting director came to me with "pre-audition notes"  and I was careful to listen and prepare to give him what he asked for.

As he brought me into the room however, it was clear that the producer and director were already disappointed in my look and stature.  Then, the casting director looked at me and said. "Oh!  I thought your last name was Rivera."  "Nope," I said, "it's Riviere!".

I then proceeded to give what I thought was a kick-ass audition.  Projecting appropriately as he had asked...making bold and strong choices as if this man knew what he wanted and could have it as he was a king.  I used a slight middle-eastern accent as they had said they were looking for middle-eastern for the role (altho clearly they were looking for Hispanics for the role).  And finally, I felt my use of the text was really good.

When I finished the director looked at me in disgust and just said, "Thanks for coming in." And the producer looked even more disgusted.  The casting director was a bit more pleasant and thanked me for coming in but it was clear they did not want me from the moment I entered the room.  More ironic to me was that both gentleman that preceded me were asked to do the piece AGAIN with adjustments and they were no better, if anything in my opinion, they were worse!  But because their "type" was closer to what they were looking for, they were willing to give bad acting a closer look over better acting but the wrong type.

And proves so well what I used to tell my students at TISCH, New York University:
"You can only do the best that you can do in that moment in those given circumstances and then LET IT GO!  Sometimes they won't like you because of your stature, or your coloring, or your ethnicity.  Sometimes you will remind them of an ex lover who they despise and that will be your downfall.  Sometimes they will love you but it is already cast 10 times over."

And sometimes, for whatever reasons, they will just look at you like you have three heads and just not get you.

So I left the room thinking, you folks are clueless and if you aren't interested in me, that is your issue - I did the job I wanted to do and I left it all in the room.  That is all we can do as artists - the work we want to do and leave it in the room.  It's all subjective so some will love it, some will hate it and some will just find it mediocre.  We must continue to do it anyway because those who love us, will find us and make it all worth the journey.  All worth the "nos" and "nexts"!

I am ready for the next adventure!  Because sometimes they just don't like you, but sometimes, they DO like you, they REALLY like you!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

It's Mother's Day!

My mother was an amazing woman...without her in my life I would never have become an actor/artist.  I would never have been able to believe in myself and follow my dreams.  She was always my biggest fan but she was NOT a stage mother.  Oh...she was ALWAYS there, but in the shadows and silent and had a purse full of useful items for us like band-aids, gum, paperclips and bobby pins for the girls.  She was at every single performance (or close to it) along with my Auntie Carm who was like a second Mom to me (Mom is on the left and Auntie Carm on the right) for all of my High School and College Shows.  Maybe she knew she wouldn't get to see most of my work as a professional and so she wanted to get as much in as possible.  I do not know.  What I do know is that she loved me and supported me unconditionally.  And when I was little, an ad exec approached her about taking me to New York City and making her, as he put it, "A boatload of money on commercials."  She said..."I appreciate it, but I want my son to have a childhood.  If he wants this life he needs to be old enough to make that decision for himself."  I am grateful for that decision.  I DID have a childhood and I DID make the decision on my own.

So today, on this special day when we pay tribute to Mom's...I send so much love and gratitude to my late Mom, Genevieve Riviere Monacelli and my late Aunt, Carmella Monacelli.  Great ladies who I miss every day.

Here is a poem from my book FLOWERS IN AUTUMN for all the Mom's and adopted Mom's and Second Mom's out there!

Somewhere in the backyard are my mother's favorite flower - lily of the valley.  The fragrant bells have bloomed by May, a time for mothers.

The Peonies have yet to bloom.  I planted them because my father had one near the shed at the cottage on the lake.

There are two types of lilac trees.  I like the one because it is so different, and the other one because it is what I expect.

Rose bushes line the wall, their variety of color remind me of an Easter Basket, or a box of crayons, or a rainbow that reflects a kind of forgiveness.

And there are many other flowers:  the hyacinths, the tulips, the crocus, and a bleeding heart, and there are always daffodils - yellow daffodils that I picked a million miles from here, a million years ago.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The art of listening...

Photo by Ed Krieger
As a young performer, I was trained in the old-school style of musical theatre...louder, faster, funnier.  My job was to FIND my show by opening night and then repeat that show every night...hit my marks, re-create what I had prepared myself to do.  I was very literal with that technique for a long time.  It wouldn't be a surprise if someone gave me a wrong cue line and I just said what I was supposed to say, even if it didn't make sense.  After all, I was doing my job, saying MY line, the playwright or book writer's line, in the place I was supposed to say it as I had said it many times before.  

Two years after I graduated college I was invited back as a guest artist to revive a role I had created as a senior in a very difficult and wonderful historical play about the life of Saint Vincent de Paul.  In a particular scene I was supposed to break down into tears talking about Thaddeus Lee, Vincent's and The Congregation of the Mission's first martyr.  When I was a senior in college, I often had to fake it. I tried emotional recall but it didn't always work for me.  And besides, there were so many lines that I was always thinking about what came next half the time and so quite often, during the original run, I would fake it.

However, when I came back to the text two years later, it became quite apparent that if I just LISTENED to the monologue before mine that all the emotion I needed was RIGHT THERE.  I just had to LISTEN.  I just had to let go of what had already happened in the play and what was to come and trust that all of my preparation was enough.  Now... much of this wisdom was arrived upon with my director Tim Ward and the actress who played the queen, the gorgeous and talented Erika Insana.  They were instrumental in my beginning to become aware of the art of listening.  Not just to my cue line or the line before it, but to the life and world of the play.

As I got older, I didn't always heed that wisdom...I would often find myself in my old habits of "repeat that performance if you can!"

Thankfully, in recent years, having worked with some amazing folks who have studied the techniques of our more modern age, I now make it a part of my craft to LISTEN.  I do my work to be prepared but each show is it's own.  I do NOT take liberties with blocking or with words, and those actors who do are disrespecting all those who work with them - directors, writers and mostly fellow actors.  Those egos should stick to one-man-shows!

But I do listen and I do stay in the moment that I am in.  Each night may find different inflections or a different cadence or emphasis.  My physical life, within the set blocking may be different.  And if other actors have found new things or if they make a mistake and say something different, I try to pick up the ball (as it were) and not be so rigid or stuck with what it was supposed to be but live in what "it is!"

I am grateful for my current play, The American Premiere of THE IMAGINARY LIFE OF THE STREET SWEEPER AUGUST G as it gives me a chance to listen, to be in the moment, to create a living piece of art that WILL BE different each night but at it's root, holds the truth and vision of the playwright, the director and the cast who helped to create the work.

Theatre is a special art form because the nature of it, is, to be live.  Therefore it is living.  And in life nothing stays the same...and in life, when we listen, we tend to learn and grow.  I have certainly learned a great deal about my craft doing this show.  And I expect to learn more before the the run is finished!


Monday, April 16, 2012

Tech will always be tech...

I am about to open an American Premiere of a play with 31 actors - THE IMAGINARY LIFE OF THE STREET SWEEPER AUGUST G. While it can be argued that a play with 4 actors is much easier to stage, when it's that time in the rehearsal process for tech, it really doesn't matter what the size of the cast or the style of the, is tech, is tech! It is stopping and starting and going back and waiting and waiting and waiting and skipping and being lost and forgetting your lines and getting frustrated and giddy and exhausted. But it is a necessary beast of the craft as the components of sound and light and final stage elements can be the difference between a good show and a great show. I am certainly proud of the work I am doing in this play and honored to be working with so many dedicated and talented artists. I look forward to our dress rehearsals and the run. Tech was tedious and difficult and pretty much the same as the 100s of other techs I have done. Tech will always be tech and it will always mark the 11th hour.

SO... curtain up, light the lights! Break-a-leg!

Monday, April 9, 2012

My first Easter Audition!

It's been a couple weeks since my last entry as I have been busy with the new blog for the cooking show and rehearsals for the American Premiere of August G. It's funny how I never get used to the roller-coaster and yet I have chosen a career which guarantees me a "ride" whether I want it or not! Today marked a new one for audition on Easter...well sort of! I received a call from one of the biggest casting offices in NYC last week requesting that I work on material they were sending me, put it on tape (since I am in LA) and have it uploaded on a private link to YouTube by Monday morning...which is NOW!

And so...

I was in rehearsal all day Saturday and knew my only chance to record the material would be Easter Sunday. I am blessed that my partner is such a supportive and giving man that he was willing to take 6 hours out of our Easter to make this happen. At least we got in a beautiful afternoon walk (and some fresh picked grapefruit from one of our neighbors) and I did make us a scrumptious lamb dinner. But truth be told, I couldn't have done it without him. We face a lot of technical challenges with lighting and sound and so it took us longer than it might have with better equipment and a better space but I am proud of the result and grateful for the opportunity to be seen for such a major project.

Can't say what it is for as I don't want to jinx it, but fingers and toes crossed!

Wishing you all light and love, joy and gratitude! And away we go!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Where do we go from here?

In glancing over the titles of all my past entries in this blog, this is only the third time I have asked a question in the title. That surprises me because I am someone who is CONSTANTLY asking questions - of myself, of a situation, of others (especially teachers, directors, colleagues). I am always asking questions because I am always seeking answers!

For the past week I have been faced with that ugly monster of fear and doubt. Wondering if the move to LA was the right one? Wondering if the projects I have chosen are the "best" for my career and for me as a person? Wondering if the "honeymoon" is over?

I realize that we all have hills and valleys and as I have mentioned in previous posts I am trying to live in gratitude. But sometimes that is more difficult than I would like it to be. And rainy days like today "always get me down."

But for this moment, as the rain pours outside, I will focus on all I have: an amazing loving partner, a wonderful little apartment, a great part in an American Premiere of a play, my cooking show, my health, and of course, my supportive friends and family! Not bad is it? I guess making a list of what we HAVE is a great way to keep perspective.

As for where I go from here? I have no idea...onward and upward!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A simple and tasty meal...

What I hope to serve up on my cooking show...


I hope you will all follow along!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Finding the balance...

Recently I saw an "inspiration video" if you will, from Tyler Perry. He talked about how if we scatter too many seeds that we will find ourselves "all over the place" and not have the focus on one thing, to succeed at anything. Kinda like that old cliche, I'm a Jack-of-all-Trades and Master of NONE! And yet, there has been the counter-argument that if we have multiple irons in the fire, our chances of something "catching" can improve exponentially. The more lines you toss into the water, the greater chance of catching a fish!

I'm not sure about you, but I'm having a hard time finding the balance in those two philosophies. Picking the one thing that I think will bring me success (I use that term loosely; more accurately: will bring me work that fulfills my creative needs and desires) is difficult for me and I usually find myself paralyzed with self doubt, self criticism, self sabotage (which normally causes me to just listen to Indigo Girls and eat a lot of chocolate), OR...I go at warp speed in 75 different directions submitting plays, filming, auditioning, trying to create a network, rehearsing, exercising, painting, working on a photography project, cooking...and it goes on!

I think it is time that I try to find a balance...maybe just sit silently for a change, silence the voices in my head and let the universe guide me to the place I am supposed to go. They say when you aren't sure what to nothing. That too is REALLY hard for me. But the warp speed thing...torn in twenty different directions isn't working for me because I find I don't ever FINISH anything. Lots of things in progress but not seen through - the plays, the paintings, the photography projects, the auditions I don't go to or am under-prepared for.

And maybe that is where Tyler has it right. Pick something and give it your all. I just have to let go of the results when I do that...I have to keep the fear and doubt of "choosing the wrong thing" out of the equation or Nestles will be richer than they already are.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

No man is an island.

Artists are often alone...memorizing lines, taking photos, painting a landscape, sculpting a masterpiece, practicing the trumpet, vocalizing in the shower. While the very creation of art may be a very personal and at times "isolated" experience, or, at its pinnacle, a way to give thanks to our higher power for giving us the gifts, I ultimately believe.that the shared experience of art is the true expression and most powerful gift. "But if that light's under a bushel, brrrr...its lost something kind of.crucial!"

I was involved with an actors group in New York City on-and-off for quite a few years. While we sometimes struggled to find a focus or solid format, one thing was certain...the group consciousness was the important element - the tool for growth and enlightenment and discovery. Even if we can come to knowledge on our own...and of course we do all the time, how glorious to share in the discovery of knowledge in a group. We are after all a collection of spirits making our way day to day as best as we can. I for one am a better human being because of.the collective forces in my life. Alone I am potential...with and through the collective force of "others" I am fulfilled.

It is in the group consciousness that we grow exponentially...alone we only have one perspective...ours. With others the perspectives are endless.

I am grateful for the groups of people in my life: artists, teachers, friends, colleagues, fellows...all of whom give me experience, strength and hope...all of whom help me gain knowledge and grow. "There is a brotherhood of man..."

Monday, February 13, 2012

On a wing and a prayer...

I've been thinking a lot about my move to Los Angeles...mostly because I have been so grateful for all of the audition opportunities and also because of the amazing support I'm feeling since I came out here (most notably from my dear Shane).

But I can't help and pause a bit after the passing of Whitney Houston and ponder life and what it all means? I say that last bit almost tongue in cheek because clearly none of us knows what it all means, but it represents the magnitude of what I am feeling. And she died literally a few miles from where we live so it was even more intense for some reason.

Let's face it...none of us are perfect. And I doubt there are many out there who have the perfect life they might have chosen for themselves were that even a possibility. But, there are some, who seem to be able to face their demons better than others - to find a way to sobriety (I use that term very loosely to represent a way of living that focuses on recovery from whatever ails us) and walk life's pathways with joy and gratitude at least a majority of the time. That is not to place judgement anywhere, it is merely an observation. There are those that seem to live in each moment as if it were their last; they take life by storm with a big smile and a bigger breath and they just march to their drum!

That is what I am hoping to do with this move to LA. Yes, it is about me trying to work in the realm of my career as an actor and writer and artist, but moreover it is a chance to begin the phoenix rising out of the ashes (I realize I use that image a LOT). I want to be able to shed the fear of insecurity and doubt and mistrust...I want to focus on all that is positive and good and POSSIBLE. I want to maintain my own semblance of sobriety that allows me to make the healthiest, strongest and most joyful choices for my life and for the life I am creating with my partner.

I am well-aware as I find my way through my 40s that life really does happen on life's terms. And so often we feel like it's "on a wing and a prayer!" But I also believe that if we are open and joyful and constantly reminding ourselves of the gratitude, that we will be more available to take flight and to have the prayer answered.

And of course, part of my own gratitude is being able to create...write...sing...just get projects up on their feet! Shane and I are working on a little YouTube cooking show called, COOKING EASY WITH PATRICK. We are in pre-production now and hope to have the first little episode up in March. Be on the lookout for the trailer in the next couple weeks!

Light and love to you all...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Food for thought...

It's been almost a week since I've been in Los Angeles and I have to say that the most intriguing thing for me thus far has been my discovery of the 99c store; or more accurately my introduction to LA 99c stores! I've been in plenty of "dollar" stores on the East Coast but nothing could have prepared me for the addiction that these superstores in LA have caused. I am pretty certain that I have gone EVERY day and made purchases each time. How could I not? This is not just some plastic-wrap, knick-knack store. These places have groceries and FRESH PRODUCE! Yesterday I bought the largest bunch of asparagus I have ever seen and it was only 99cents!!!

So with all of this excitement over food at a 99c store comes my reinvestment in cooking at home. Our little place is modest but it has a good little kitchen and in the first week I made fish, chile, burgers, baked chicken, veggie stir fry, banana bread, chocolate chip cookies and lots of salads - at least some of the ingredients in the meals were from the 99c store!

When I have moved in the past (and I have moved a lot in my life) I have always spent a LOT of money eating out or ordering-in those first few weeks of the move. Now in fairness, Shane was here ahead of me and I had sent him some pots and pans and my favorite big wok. But still, just the idea of having to cook when you first move can be tiresome. But these 99c stores made me so excited to be saving money that I couldn't help myself! isn't all taken care of meats and no fresh fish, and you have to be careful with the produce, especially the fruit, but overall it really is pretty amazing.

It makes me think that if these places were everywhere that folks on a fixed income wouldn't need such huge least not with food. And while people seem to point out much more these days that obesity is a huge problem in this country, I have always said that is a direct result of so many large families unable to afford healthy food with the dollar meal at McD's right around the corner. However that theory could be blown apart if the grocery dollar store were EVERYWHERE!

On another juicy note...I have had two film auditions in my first week and the second one for this little indie film went REALLY well! These auditions sure do work up an appetite. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

There's just a few more hours...

that's all the time I've got...

Funny, that lyric from MY FAIR LADY seems especially apropos at this moment for two reasons:
1) I am literally a few hours from leaving my home of over a decade and my partnership of almost two decades and...
2) I am hoping to be in a production of MY FAIR LADY this summer if all the stars align for me.

So what is next? What will this new chapter be about? Where is the road leading?

Sometimes I wish I had answers to ALL of those questions. Don't we all? And yet part of the excitement is that because you don't know, ANYTHING is possible! I am making every effort in this new adventure to try and take things as they come; be optimistic and joyful. You know...that whole "living in the moment" thing we hear tell of!

I also feel like in the past week i have faced all of my "stuff" (that being the physical accumulation of things) and thrown out a lot, given some away and processed the rest so it can be sold easily. I am literally shipping to LA what would have fit in my 98 Toyota Corolla were it up for the trip. And I am actually feeling relief that this "stuff" is not a burden anymore...even less of one when I sell what is left. But maybe more important than dealing with the stuff was seeing so many of my friends and comrades; some of whom I had not seen in over a decade. Even tho we may not have spoken frequently or seen each other in quite some time, there are flashes of brilliance from our past that tie us together. The amazing faces of people who I have worked with in the theatre, or admired in different walks of life...people I have known for 20 years and people I have known for a couple. Folks that are my besties and folks that are somewhere in the history book of my life and all of whom, for the same defined reason: friendship, came to see me off with a warm goodbye and best wishes.

I don't think that we can underestimate the value of friendships. They are the sustaining force behind my success for sure...not only in my career but in my day-to-day life! I am not sure what tomorrow brings but I feel confident that it will be exciting and wonderful. And much of that assurance is because of the amazing folks I have in my corner.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It used to be about trying to do something, you see...

now it's about trying to BE someone...IRON LADY

That struck a real chord with me...I think that sometimes we lose focus...all of us...about what life and living is all about. I suppose you could take the above statement two different ways, but I take it to mean that when we are trying to DO things: to create art; sing a song, write a poem, help out our neighbor, making dinner for someone who is sick or watching a friend's kids at a moment's notice...we are doing...something. But when we get lost in trying to BE someone: the star, the award nominee, the President of the club, the mother of the year; the winner of the race...we may lose the very reason why we want to be those things. I am not saying that we shouldn't aspire to BE the doctor or lawyer or President...I just would like to think that if we did a check-in every once in a while as to WHY we want to be that thing, maybe we would do things a bit differently or realize it is the journey and not the destination that is most important.

I know that for a very long time I was miserable because I felt like I should be on Broadway and my dream was to win a Tony Award. Now believe me, I've still got my acceptance speech in my back pocket but I don't aspire to be a Tony Winner or star. Instead, I really try to enjoy the work when I get it...the process...the "something" that I am doing and it means so much. Not that I would turn down Broadway or an award, but I am not trying to be an actor with that goal driving me. I am trying to be an actor because I want to act...I want to sing...I want to work on new material and wonderful old material. For me, in my craft, I am excited by the process as much as I am by the product. I can honestly say that all of the projects in the past several years, from stage to TV to film have been a great joy and challenge, and luckily, or maybe because of the joy in the work...the outcomes were pretty great too!

I was asked by a dear friend (and one of the most gifted directors and teachers I have had the good fortune to know and work with), if I would come play in the sandbox with her and one of her students on a scene from a favorite musical of mine. I haven't been able to do much acting (other than an occasional audition) since the fall and so just being present, in a space, working on some dialogue and listening to the perspectives of this bright student and this brilliant mentor...well, it was like magic for me.

Then I came home and screened the movie A BETTER LIFE (one of the perks of being a SAG member is getting to screen movies that are nominated for the SAG Awards). I didn't know what the film was about but I must say it really upset me...for me, it deals with man's inhumanity toward man and that is probably my BIGGEST issue in life. It is the thing that upsets me most; that I have the least patience with; that I get angry over. Whether it be people getting away with terrible things or simply driving irresponsibly to the detriment of others. In any case, it made me think about a few things. 1) how fortunate am I to work in a craft of creativity where, for the most part, it is all about collaboration and support (at least that has been a great deal of my experience). 2) when you realize that many people are just fighting to put food on the table and raise a child to have a better life than they did...well...the gratitude I feel for my life and my support system and my art is multiplied exponentially.

I guess this post has deviated from its starting point but then again...such is life. At least it begins with a movie and ends with a movie!

I would like to think that as I get ready to move to Los Angeles in 11 days that I am trying to DO something...and not just as an actor, but as a human being. I wish that for all of us.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Musicals or bust...

I've always thought of myself as the big musical theatre character actor. Indeed, for much of my early career I did NOT consider myself an actor at all, but rather a singer and mover who could do great accents, understood timing and could "make em laugh!" I was Mr. Vaudeville (when they wanted that) and knew how to repeat my show just like Merman did! In recent years I have come to understand that actually, first and foremost, I am an actor. I just happen to have some other skills that lend themselves well to musical theatre.

And as I look back at my work in 2011, not only did none of my creative work involve musicals but NONE was even on the stage! All of my acting work was in film and TV projects. Honestly, I never aspired to film and TV work and then a few years ago I got an amazing little role on a Fox TV show called THE JURY. Suffice it to say, my big scene ended up on the cutting room floor and my recurring role was unable to recur because the show was cancelled! Wah, wah!

BUT...that experience allowed me to realize that I had been wrong about my ideas of the medium. I thought I would miss a live audience or the spontaneity of having to get it right the first time. I thought all that waiting around to hit your mark and say a few lines would be devoid of acting; devoid of creating character. I was wrong. In 2011, I had the great opportunity to work on several Indie films and a thesis film project that gave me the chance to sink my teeth into a starring role based on a Stephen King short story. It was an amazing experience and allowed me to take risks, develop a character and be spontaneous. All of the film work I did taught me a great deal about myself and certainly about acting.

And as I prepare to head out to LA...the big film and TV town, I feel that it's the right time somehow...I feel like the stage will always be a part of my soul and I will always love doing theatre (indeed I hope to do some in LA) but I am looking forward to possibilities of working in a medium I never thought I would FIT into. Why? Because I was too big...I was too "broad." I was larger than life and didn't know how to be anything else.

I am reminded of words spoken by two Casting Directors to me that have been so beneficial and inspiring to me. I have been able to blend both of these statements from two very talented and kind men and so I share them with you now:

"It bothers me when people accuse actors of being "larger than life." How can one be larger than life? That would not be possible. As long as what you are doing is coming from a place of truth than I can believe it. Dennis Franz is larger than life in REAL life and his character on NYPD Blue was a pretty big character but we believed him because it was all coming from a place of truth. It was all honest and true." Ross Meyerson (Emmy Winning Casting Director whose credits include Nurse Jackie, The Big C, Damages and Rescue Me)

"Patrick...I know the training and experience you grew up with. So did I. You are "louder, faster, funnier" and great at it. And you will always get SOME work continuing with that approach. But most of the industry doesn't want that right now. They want truthful and intimate. Even in the theatre you have pin mics and smaller stages. And you are a good enough actor to give them what they want if YOU want to do it." Eric Woodall (Broadway Casting Director of Mama Mia, Mary Poppins and Billy Elliot to name a few)

I look forward to what LA has to offer...I am coming in with my arms outstretched and have my toolbox with some great experience, fantastic knowledge and wonderful contacts. I am grateful for it all!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Visual arts?

Happy New Year one and all!

As I gear up for a major move to Los Angeles, I am probably just as excited about the prospect of the art I hope to make off camera, as I am the work I hope to do ON camera. You see, over the summer, I discovered that I have an interest in photography and painting. Now let me say that both my mother and father were Mom was really gifted and altho she only painted for a brief time as therapy, her work is inspirational and was the basis of my book, FLOWERS IN AUTUMN: endings and beginnings published a while ago. I could never even sketch the skunk out of the back of the TV guide and never fancied the idea of picking up a brush. That is...until I met my love this summer, who is a brilliant artist and performance artist. His work so inspired me that I decided to just buy some canvas and paints and brushes and go for it! i went to an installation in Brooklyn where one of his pieces was on display and told the gallery owner of my wish to paint but wondered without any classes or training if I should. He told me that I should just go for it and have fun and explore it all. He said classes can sometimes actually inhibit the creative talent with rules and boundaries. Another artist friend of mine said the same things so I went for it! Amazingly I discovered a real joy for painting (mostly acrylic but now dabbling in oils) and have found that I just have a blast and lose time when I am with the paints and brushes. Now I have no idea if I am any good but I am excited to create my own art (as well as work on projects with my fiancee) as we both make our way in Los Angeles. And I wonder, just a bit, if maybe that carefree, I'm just gonna go for it and have a blast attitude that I have found for painting and photography might just be the answer with my acting career! I sometimes think we have a tendency to blame everyone else for our lack of success and achievement and the more I look within, I realize that maybe I am my own biggest enemy. If I throw off all the limitations and just go for it and have fun, the end result won't matter as much (and since that is usually out of my control anyway, that's a good thing right?) I just hope that with the new move, comes a new attitude for me...a new perspective. I look forward to just "seeking the joy" in the work and just showing up and letting the result be what it will. Yes...I do want to be successful in my craft and career. But ya know what? I already am! And I am blessed that so many amazing talents have collaborated with me on wonderful projects and given me the chance to shine.

But since I began this entry talking about visual arts, I thought I would share two pieces from my latest project called: PILES. I was inspired to start this one day when I was in a rural area of Pennsylvania outside of Pittsburgh. I was driving on a back road and saw two piles on the same bit of property. One was a pile of fire wood; the other a pile of cinder blocks. Both piles struck my eye but it also dawned on me that without man, those piles would never exist. There are very few things that "naturally" pile. One thing that piles is snow. Another is poop (I hear some of you saying "ewwwww!" and of course leaves naturally pile. As I love autumn leaves I had the idea that I would begin to find piles that are man-made, take a photo of those piles and then, alter the photos and add two leaves to each one as if to imply that the falling leaves have now created these piles of other things. One of those altered photos is at the top of my blog. Here are the cinder blocks. And I already have a series of about 15 piles from baskets, to cars to giant ornaments in a fountain in New York City. Enjoy! Seek the joy in art and your life will be full of smiles and possibilities!