Hedwig and the Angry Inch

So good. So, so, so good. Neil Patrick Harris is perfection. I first learned about Hedwig when I was still a tourist traveling to the Big Apple with my Ohio theater friends. We’d pile in a van, drive to NYC to jam-pack four, sometimes five shows in three days before the drive home.

On one such trip in 1998, Hedwig and the Angry Inch was playing Off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theater. Torn between which shows to see during my limited time, I decided to skip Hedwig in favor of some other big Broadway show. It was a choice I regretted as soon as I saw my friend Eileen, fresh from the show and out of her mind with enthusiastic love for it and its writer and star John Cameron Mitchell. I couldn’t tell you what I saw that night instead.

I’ve loved the music for years, singing, screaming and weeping out loud in my car to Wig in a Box, Wicked Little Town, Origin of Love.

Last night I remedied my mistake by seeing it on Broadway. It moved me. Not just Harris’ fantastic (definitely Tony Award nominated, probably winning) performance but the journey of the show from Jane Street to here and my own from a tourist to a 14-year New Yorker. The art and love of it all had me in tears a few times. And the music. God, I love the music.

Don’t make the same mistake I did in 1998. Go see it.

http://hedwigbroadway.com

NPH Hedwig

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My Fool’s Day

Turning 41 on a Tuesday can be pretty blah. If you looked at our day on paper, it probably was.

We slept till 10:30 and in between the rush of showering, dog walking, coffee and breakfast, I gave Christian (the birthday boy) his gifts:

1) A doggy DNA kit for our mutt Griswold,
2) Tickets to “Hedwig & the Angry Inch” starring Neil Patrick Harris, and
3) A neon sign from the set of his sitcom Are We There Yet? that an eagle-eyed photographer from the show snagged at a junk store and shipped to me from Connecticut.

Christian went to therapy and had an MRI for his knee & hip while I worked. Afterward, we took Grizzy to an empty dog park. Bummer. Grizzy was hankering for some play time. We were finally joined by a guy with a rambunctious puppy named Fliffy. Making small talk about our dogs, we asked Fliffy’s dad what breed Fliffy was (poodle, Wheaton terrier mix). He asked what Grizzy was. I said we didn’t know but that I got the doggy DNA kit for Christian’s birthday.

“Today’s your birthday?” the guy asked as he walked toward Christian with his hand extended to give a shake. “It’s mine, too.”

Weird! “Happy birthday, Fliffy’s dad!”

“What year? I’m 1973.”

WOW! WHOA! WEIRD! What are the odds?

Hungry, Christian, Grizzy & I left the park for LIC Bar. We ate Vietnamese food and drank beer in the rapidly diminishing afternoon sun followed by dessert at Monika’s Cafe Bar. We came home to swab Grizzy’s cheeks for DNA, watch TV and not much else.

Turning 41 on a Tuesday can be pretty blah. If you looked at our day on paper, it probably was.

Christian & Griswold

Fly, Baby, Fly

NYPDTweetI saw a tweet (click pic at right or scroll down below) from the NYPD and thought it was cool. It’s cool not only that in 1988 Mary Lowery was the first woman assigned to the NYPD’s Aviation Unit, but also because that same year Mom was wiring avionics for Heli-Dyne in Hurst, TX. She was even in a Budweiser commercial during the “For all you do, this Bud’s for you!” advertising phase. One helicopter they built was for…you guessed it:  The NYPD.

After the helicopter was completed, the NYPD gave everyone at Heli-Dyne baseball hats with their logo on it. Dad used it to try to get out of a traffic ticket. I was with him and acted as his interpreter. Dad told the truth to me, and I interpreted a lie to the cop which was better. We got off. We didn’t need the hat.

Years later, when I moved to NYC, I worked at the law firm that represented the NYPD in their precedent-setting licensing efforts. Less than two months after the license was granted, planes flew into the Twin Towers on 9/11 and the NYPD’s trademark became invaluable. Months were spent at Ground Zero confiscating unlicensed NYPD hats. Funny how things go full circle.

Heli-Dyne I always loved that Mom didn’t have a “traditional woman’s” job. That she excelled in her industry inspired and empowered me. With each generation we women can learn from and lean on each other.  There’s something weird going on in the USA with women’s rights. I can’t fully wrap my head around it and why it’s happening now, but I have faith that it’s just a phase. We still have the right to vote, something our [great] grandmothers didn’t always have and women in other countries *still* don’t have.

Exercise that right, ladies.

Build your own helicopter and fly that baby.

~Kambri
Below are pics of the tweet / photo of Mary Lowery and a photo of Mom (the redhead) with two other women in avionics with the NYPD chopper, wiring other choppers and the NYPD choppers in action at the World Trade Center and the Brooklyn Bridge.

NYPDTweet Heli-Dyne NYPDChopperBridge NYPDChopperWTC NYPD Chopper MomWiringChopper MomWiringChopper2 NYPDChopperTest

Solo Shows & Storytelling

The first time I saw the Oscar-winning movie Midnight Express was the summer I turned seven years old. The Academy Award-winning film was based on the memoir by a young American named Billy Hayes who was arrested in Turkey in 1970 during an attempt to smuggle hashish out of the country by taping it all over his body. His sentence of four years was, for various reasons, converted to a minimum of thirty years to life. For trying to smuggle pot. Crazy.

Life in a Turkish prison is pretty horrific as you can imagine, and Mr. Hayes’ story left an indelible mark on my young, impressionable mind.  The movie is rated R for violence, a gay-lite prison sex scene (hubba, hubba), tons of nudity (including full frontal male, hubba, hubba, hubba), and a prison visit masturbation scene (hubb…oh…wait…this is heart-wrenching).

Obviously, it was highly inappropriate for me to watch it. Yet I did…alone…dozens of times thanks to a summer spent at my deaf grandparents who had cable TV. This should serve as a testament to powerful storytelling that a seven-year-old kid would watch a long, quietly intense drama about a Turkish prison experience.

midnightexpressLast week, I went to see Mr. Hayes in his solo show “Riding the Midnight Express”. It’s just him and a stool and a bottle of Poland Spring followed by a Q&A and book signing. He was generous of his time and gave us his all even though it was a light crowd on a Wednesday afternoon during  a snowstorm.

He told the same story he wrote in his memoir — the memoir that Oliver Stone turned into a movie that won an Oscar. After winning, I’m sure plenty would think, “Hang up the hat, dude. You did it!”. Now, 40+ years later, Mr. Hayes is touring the world with a solo show.

This is encouraging to me as someone who is worried that I’ve squeezed all the juice from the lemons life gave me.

My memoir is almost two years old and even older to NYC alt comedy and storytelling audiences. Now, here I am on a train to Rochester to give a speech at RIT/NTID and am in the early stages of producing a solo show of me telling the same old story. Really? YUP!

So the timing of seeing Mr. Hayes could not have been more perfect. There are billions of people in the world and all but several thousand of them have never heard of me, my book, my storytelling, nothing. Add to that, that I actually have a *message* of hope and societal change to share, why would I stop now?

I’m reminded of Mike Birbiglia, too. I saw him tell him tell his Sleepwalk with Me story many times as a long stand up comedy bit about ten years ago, give or take. It progressed to long form storytelling on This American Life and, most recently, a feature film.

Like Mike, I have other stories to share and hope to not be telling the same story in 40 years, but even if I am? Fantastic. What a privilege it is to have people come out, spend their hard earned money and precious time to see me. Thank you, each and every one of you, who have given me that honor.

Christmas 2013

I had an especially awesome week leading up to Christmas. I had three separate dates with my protégé which was the biggest treat. We hopped aboard a vintage train (pic at right & at bottom) to Midtown where we shopped at the Disney store and Toys R Us Times SquareNostalgia Train, and got tickets at the TDF booth for Newsies the Musical. Our seats were pretty high up in the mezzanine but this musical’s set design allowed for great viewing. The choreography was phenomenal and we enjoyed the show very much.

During intermission, Jeaniah pored through the program matching each actor’s headshot and bio with their characters. A few minutes into the second act, the lead male was singing in earnest and Jeaniah whispered, “He has a very pretty voice!” I agreed and took note at how enthralled she was. At curtain call, she applauded politely for chorus, loudly for a few of her favorite supporting cast members, then screamed the highest pitched dolphin squeal that could’ve broken glass when the lead male took his bows, like we were at a One Direction concert. Her unbridled enthusiasm made me happier than any gift could.

On the subway ride home, some boys started breakdancing in our car and could’ve rivaled any dancer in the Newsies chorus. Our car wasn’t that packed so it wasn’t too obnoxious and they were seriously talented, so Jeaniah gave them a dollar.

A few days later, I picked her up after school. She opened my Christmas gifts for her: a bracelet loom, tons of rubber bands and charms for making the bracelets, and a jewelry organizer for her new bedroom. These were met with gasps of OH MY GOSH! and COOL! I also packed her bag with her favorite treats that I normally would put in a stocking like some gummy bears (Gummy bears?! I LOVE gummy bears!) and a bag of Goldfish crackers (Goldfish?! I LOVE Goldfish!). This cracked me up. I’ve known her for two years now, so of course I know what she wants and likes to eat and do and see. Her surprise was delightful.

She mentioned that she had cards for her two teachers but wished she had gifts, so I let her pick two gifts from a shopping bag of heavily discounted Christmas items I had just snagged at Rite Aid. She chose an amaryllis and a candle/holder.

Later that week, I picked her up after school to go see “Frozen” in 3D. We both really loved it and the theme song “Let it Go”. In the movie, it’s sung by Idina Menzel but when then end credits rolled, it’s this Demi Lovato version. Dang it is a catchy tune! I felt so happy from the movie, so the heck with it….I’m gonna SING! We sang what words we knew (not many) at the tops of our lungs and mumbled the rest and bounced around in our seats. I gotta take this girl to a real concert.

ESB

A couple of days later Christian and I joined her and her family at the annual Hour Children Christmas party with gifts supplied by the Marine’s Toys for Tots program. We got a few really nice pictures and made some crafts before Christian and I scooted out to LIC for the LIC Flea and the gorgeous view of Manhattan with the ESB decorated in green & red for Christmas with an awesome light show timed with music airing on 106.7. Fun! (Click here for the YouTube video of the light show.)

All in all, it was a great week in the city with all it has to offer, but I was happy to leave it behind for a long “vacation” at our cabin upstate. We enjoyed dominoes, the wood fire, Vince Guaraldi, lots of good home cooked meals, “Cheers” on Netflix, making pomander balls, way too much candy and almost too much laziness. Among other gifts, I gave Christian a pair of Hunter boots and Morrissey’s new autobiography and a bunch of tech gadgets; he gave me a gorgeous vintage tub planter, a much needed wallet and  a 3,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. The latter was really a gift to him: I stayed busy and out of his hair for a whole week. ;oP

We rang in the New Year quietly around our fire, writing out our goals, the theme of which seemed based on this Samuel Beckett quote:

All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

Onward and upward to us all in 2014!

Hour Children Christmas Party 2013 Hour Children Christmas Party 2013 Hour Children Christmas Party 2013 Nostalgia Train Nostalgia Train Nostalgia Train Nostalgia Train Newsies LIChristmas 2013 Tree2013 Tree Christmas 2013 Pomander Balls  Fireside Chat

El Nombre de Mi Hombre Deli es JOSE!

I’ve been going to the same deli for nine years. Working there were two Latin dudes named Juan and Jose. One was a short order cook and the other the delivery guy / sometimes cook. Both are so damned nice considering their grueling hours and commutes that they inspire me to enjoy my life and work half as much as they do.

The problem is, I never knew who was Juan and who was Jose. It didn’t matter much since I could just say Hola Juan! Hola Jose! And they both would smile, wave and say good morning. At Christmas, we delivered two envelopes with a card and cash as their “holiday bonus” one addressed to Juan & the other Jose and handed both to whomever was closest. So, they sorted that out.

Then the short order cook moved back home. It was sudden. One day he was just gone. Who was left? Juan or Jose? We didn’t know and the more time passed the more awkward it became to find out. I listened intently to anyone who would address the remaining guy but no one ever said his name.

Last week, I hosted my 10-year-old niece for her first trip to NYC. I devised a plan to teach her some phrases in Spanish with the ultimate goal to find out my deli guy’s name. Her first day in NYC I ushered her in to the deli and introduced her to the owners and Juan/Jose:

Me: Hola! Buenos días! Esta es mi sobrina.
Her: Mi nombre es Kaelyn.
And the mucho importante part
Her: Como tu llames?
Him: Mi nombre es Jose!
(Kaelyn and I high five. Mission accomplished.)
Kaelyn: Mucho gusto.

She’s now addicted to Duolingo & trying to learn Spanish and I am now calling out to Jose by name every chance I get to make up for lost time.

 

“Prisoners” Screening & Talk Back

Christian and I attended a special screening of Prisoners tonight at the Museum of the Moving Image followed by a Q&A with actors Melissa Leo and Jake Gyllenhaal, director Denis Villeneuve, and screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski.

Christian loved the movie. I liked it too, mostly for the stellar performance by Hugh Jackman. I expect some nominations in his future. Jake was charming and Melissa was quirky. Both were funny and I loved their interactions with the director and screenwriter.

I love this museum so, so much and am grateful to have such a unique resource within such a short walk from home. I always wonder what the A-list actors, directors, writers, producers, etc. think when they hear the pitch for a museum Q&A gig in Long Island City. Happily, they say “yes” time and again and I think they leave pleasantly surprised at what a lovely space it is and how generous the audiences are. And I’m certain they enjoy the stellar view of Manhattan on their way back home.

To me, a membership is a no brainer, but I’d highly recommend it for anyone in NYC. If anything, it’s worth a visit and super cheap and yummy happy hour at 5 Napkin Burger or a brewski at Sunswick. But if you do that, you gotta drop me a line so I can join you. :o)

Prisoners AMMI

La Soirée Giveaway & Discount Offer

I have FOUR PAIR of tickets that I am GIVING AWAY to see La Soirée, a sexy mix of cabaret, burlesque, circus sideshow and contemporary variety. Check out this video to see what I’m talking about!

It’s in NYC for a limited engagement after winning raves and wowing audiences from Paris to Sydney. You’re not gonna want to miss it and, hey, why not see it for FREE or at a discounted price of $49?

To win FREE tickets, simply enter here. Super easy, no strings attached.
LaSoiree

THREE EASY WAYS TO GET YOUR DISCOUNTED TICKETS:

ONLINE:  Visit www.ticketmaster.com and use code LSMKT

BY PHONE: Call 1-800-982-2787 and mention code LSMKT

IN PERSON: Bring a printout of this offer (download it here) to the Union Square Theatre, 100 E. 17th St.

Performance Schedule
Tuesday – Thursday:  8:00 PM
Friday & Saturday: 7:00 & 10:00 PM
Sunday: 5:00 PM

*Offer valid on select seats and subject to availability and prior sale. Not valid on prior purchases and cannot be combined with any other discounts or promotions. All sales final; no refunds or exchanges. Telephone and Internet orders are subject to standard service fees. A $1.00 theatre facility fee is included in the price of the ticket. Limit 6 tickets per order. Offer does not include 11/7. Other blackout dates may apply. Offer Expires November 27, 2013. Offer may be revoked or modified at any time.

“PURE ADRENALIN-FUELED ENTERTAINMENT AT ITS BEST.” – Time Out London

 

 

Classic NYC Week

Highlights from my classic New York week in a nutshell:

— Worked on “The Following” where I cheek-kissed Connie Nielsen about 20 times & ogled Kevin Bacon for 12 hours.

— Ran 7 blocks through crowded streets in Queens & raced up 3 flights of stairs at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts to vote in the mayoral primary with only 30 seconds to spare before polls closed. It was as intense & stressful as any chase scene in a movie. I should’ve had German techno music playing in the background.

— Finished my Playwriting I class with a 1st draft of my solo show script.

— Invited to perform on the first ever Solo Comedy Festival #SoloCom at The Peoples Improv Theater with the script from ^.

— Got into a screaming match with a cab driver.

This week I’ll work on “The Good Wife”, hang with my protégé after school & accompany Christian Finnegan to his headlining gig in Virginia Beach. No screaming matches allowed.