Not From The Stars Do I My Judgement Pluck …

It’s about the middle of my 58th year of life, and as, as we know, the orbital period of the planet Saturn is 29 years and change, I’m in the onset of the second Saturn return (lucky me).

I’ve embedded a video from youtube. If it’s just a single image, go ahead and play it, if you haven’t already seen it. Sometimes it shows up as four astronomical samples, the one in the upper left quadrant is an artistic graphic impression of solar motion. It illustrates what Kurt Vonnegut Jr. talked about in Slaughterhouse 5 and The Sirens of Titan, what Rodney Colin Smith had to say in Theory of Celestial Influence.


Simply put, every 29 and some years, the planet Saturn will be in the same position relative to the Earth and the Sun as it was when you were born. Bearing in mind that everything else will be in different places, what does this mean and why does it matter?

Time was when astrologers, alchemists, and seers were respected professionals. One thinks of people wandering about with phials of lead which they were trying to turn into gold, dressed like something in an episode of Wolf Hall.

Time was, on the other hand when actors were vagabonds.

When James the first of England (Sixth of Scotland) came to the throne, things took a rum turn for the metaphysicians (although it was still a good decade for language, theatre, and Shakespeare). In the following centuries though, there was a loss of public confidence in the arts of the signs and the planets, and the consequent rise of charlatans and quacks brought the business into disrepute.

Charlatans and quacks abide still, if you don’t believe me, go and order a report for $29.95 at random off the Internet, then stand back and watch as you get a zillion emails explaining that it’s just crucial that you order the full deluxe package because if you don’t you’ll miss your chance at greatness for another many several rounds of the Sun.

But …

Although a natal chart is cast from a Terra-centric viewpoint giving a snapshot from earthly perspective … and although such a picture is the merest slice from the unique loaf each human life describes …

And …

Because I once played the great physicist, Neils Bohr, I’m able to tell you that a sub-atomic particle can also be a field, and not that I knew Zoroaster, but I know people who knew people who did, and I think he got it right when he said: “As Above So Below.”

And because, as you see, the dance of the planets is a spiral one.

And because an approximation of the orbital period of the planet Uranus is 84 years, and there was a stock market crash in 1929 and subsequent trouble for quite a while, and the 2000s were ripe with global crises …

Maybe some of us will look to consultant astrologers again.

I did so myself recently.

I found a British lady and via the magic of Skype we chatted. I was impressed.

It’s not editorial policy to make commercial recommendations in these pages, but here’s an exception:

Shakespeare on the span of a human life:

“A breath thou art, servile to all the skyey influences …”


Or, for a more prosaic instance; I recently got into a minor altercation with a “hare-brained rudesby”. I was waiting in a checkout line and one of the six clerks appeared to be free. The Rudesby, two places behind suddenly shoved my elbow, while at the same time ordering me to go forward. When I explained that I had seen what he had not, namely, a previous customer returning with new items for payment, the Rudesby grunted, and muttered in a language I do not know. We had an exchange:

Me: And you know, Mercury isn’t even retrograde until the 18th?

The Rudesby: (Aggressively) What!? I don’t know what you’re talking about!

Me: No.

The Rudesby: (Proud of it) I don’t believe in any superstition.

Had he chosen to quote from King Lear, the Rudesby could have expressed himself more elegantly … “I should have been that I am had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing.”

What has all this got to do with acting?

Good question: I was wondering that myself …

Shakespeare knew of course (no surprise there):

“… that this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment.”


Dancing With Hyphens

The hyphen has flipped. This is where I work now.

The Writers Room before the rush
The Writers Room before the rush

It’s called The Writers Room and it’s on Broadway and Astor Place on the Washington Square/East Village border In New York City. It’s convenient as everywhere is in Manhattan to (among just about everything you could want in a city), subways, eateries, and hookah emporiums. It’s 2500 square feet of loft space, vacant as you see in this iPhone snap taken against the light, in the early morning. Once the writers arrive, the window spaces go first.

Before I was an actor I washed dishes in an ultra-chic French restaurant in Deauville, France; I planted Olive trees in Crete, Greece; and back in London, I waxed a limousine that once belonged to Idi Amin.

Seeking greater job security, I trained for the stage.

When I graduated I became an actor/something else. The something else was, in phases, painter, driver, barman, all the way to that most traditional of acting auxiliaries, waiter; later: actor/writer

The hyphen has flipped.

I have an interesting writing project, and am working as a writer for hire. So for now have now become writer/actor. I like it. Ready to become writer/something else if necessary.

Creative and commercial considerations prevent me from going into detail. Seriously, I know that it’s not a good idea to let the steam out of the bottle before the soufflé has risen. Have you ever had an idea and you told someone and the next thing you knew there it was all over the Internet?

Looking towards the Empire State Building
Looking towards the Empire State Building

This is the distracting view from my favorite window at night. The Writers Room is a great place to work because where acting is agreeably social, writing is solitary. It’s good to see other people tapping at their keyboards. The rule of the room is silence and people are pretty scrupulous about it, but you can talk in the kitchen where there is coffee.

So does this mean these pages will no longer chronicle the jobbing actor experience? Possibly …

I believe the time is ripe for a slightly oversized — alright, moderately oversized, British/Australian detective on the telly. Precisely the category of work that all jobbing actors understand partakes of the jackpot. This could be where the New Year resolution to eat more Kale comes into play …

Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution and lost it soon after?

Me too.

The end of January and the beginning of February is the Celtic festival of Imbolc. Sacred to Brigid, patroness of Poets, Bards and Smiths, it is a festival of new beginnings, of plans for the coming year, also of elevated states — inspiration. This may be where we have gone wrong. After a season of frolic and frivolity, and celebrating at the solar festival of Yule, it may be an idea to let the party spirit subside for 5 or 6 weeks until Imbolc — Easing into it, do you see?

Here are my predictions for 2015:

The bees will need protection.
Increasing numbers of people will want greener fuel.
Those put here to make Nostradamus look good will defend the indefensible.

Happy New Year!

Re-union Uncategorized

“Into a thousand parts divide one man …” Shakespeare

I belong to a small but non-exclusive fraternity. 

Anyone can join, although there is only one way to qualify. You have to perform a solo version of Shakespeare’s play Henry V.

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That’s all. Once you’ve done that you automatically have life-long membership.

Way back in the last millennium I did such a show at the smallest (but well-known) theatre in Great Britain, aptly named The Little Theatre.

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It was on the remote (but popular in the summer) Inner Hebridean Island called Mull. It was my first job as a professional actor, the story is available here.

The place was eleven miles from a bus stop and there was fixed seating for 37 patrons, but a lot of the time we played to more than that. Over 100% capacity.

A lot of Mull’s landscape is wild and sparse. It’s not the first place you’d think of for theatre.

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I thought back then that such a gig was unusual for content as well as location, possibly unique. However, over the years at regular intervals I encountered three, count them, three (!) other one-man productions of Henry V.

No surprise then that my dear friend and sometime fellow-student, colleague in decorating, drinking buddy, fine actor and writer, Mark Carey, has gained membership in this fellowship of Henrys with his delightful piece, ‘Into The Breach’.

Mark’s show is set in second world wartime Devon in England’s south-west, and as well as the up to 40,000 or so parts that anyone undertaking Henry V plays by implication (the French and English armies), Mark has added an entire village as seen through the eyes of his leading man George Crocker. I think it’s no spoiler to let you know that Widow Twanky plays a vital role. The show is a complete delight, and I for one, am thrilled that someone has at last shown the rest of us Henry-soloists how it should be done.

There is a website: If you happen to be in London on Sunday December 29th 2013, go to The White Bear Theatre at 6pm, 138 Kennington Park Road: box office 0207 793 9193

The show is fab, and at 8 quid a time (5 concessions) it’s a seasonal winner!

Highly recommended, five stars, 

If you see one show this year … etc!

‘Course if you’re in New York, you could spend approximately $400 for top price tix to Twelfth Night … hmn … I know which one I’d choose.

Issues of then and now, the nature of eternity, and whether time flows only forward, have been current with me lately. Because last week I went to London to the 30th year re-union of Stage 83 my graduating class from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. It was a truly lovely occasion. Great to see so many old friends.

Apart from the physical ravages of the years in passing time, none of us are really any different at all.


As you see there’s quite a lot of white hair, and some places where there’s no hair at all. The school itself has undergone a series of developments including several new buildings, in fact our re-union matinee took place in a room that did not exist when we were students. There we all are standing on the set of a student production in the refurbished Embassy Theatre. To have achieved such transformations as well as a greatly expanded academic reach, speaks of serious money.

George Hall ran the acting course in my day, and I thought he was a genius. In one crit session he said to one of our classmates, “Darling it’s as if you know all about the XYZ of acting, but nothing about the ABC.” We responded variously to his comment. Then he said, as he usually did when offering some insight, “Does that make sense?”

Speaking as one who feels that he understands less and less about the craft as time passes, my answer 30 years later is, “It didn’t then, but it sure does now.”

It may not look like much on the page, but for me it is a pithy expression delivered compassionately and with humor from a man who had gained the sort of theatrical wisdom that not a stack of new buildings could match. I feel lucky to have been there.

Meanwhile I have to wonder, are these men related?

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I think we should be told.


Purple is the new blue!


From Miami to Jupiter is about eighty miles by road. The distance defines the south and north ends of the coastal megalopolis on South Florida’s Atlantic side and the drive is not for those without extensive hi-speed video game experience. The mode of driving on I95 or the alternative Turnpike, is of ducking and weaving across lanes, tailgating at 30% beyond the speed limit, and giving signals is seen as a sign of weakness.


‘Dial M For Murder’ at The Maltz Theatre, Jupiter, was a spirited and stylish production. All praise to our designers who achieved a unity of style. Michael D’Amico displaying his usual virtuosity with the set, Robin McGee coming up with a truly stunning dress for Claire Brownell who played Margot with an understated grace, also achieving in her performance a rare period authenticity threaded with genuine inner life (possibly the most difficult role in the play). Costume designer Robin, also chose her suits for my character so well then when offered a deal I immediately purchased them both. And special kudos to Paul Miller who did the lighting.

Do you recognize the silhouette?

It’s a moment of homage to the late great Alfred Hitchcock whose name is more associated with this 1952 thriller than that of its author, Frederick Knott. And in a quasi-accidental moment during tech I passed in front of a lamp and the director yelled “hold it!” The resulting shadow was incorporated into the final tense moments of the play, giving an unexpected humorous twist, and a unique reference. Audiences loved it.

The Maltz as helmed by Andrew Kato is an impressive operation. They’ve taken special care to make their visiting artists feel valued, included and at home. Little touches like the bottle of water and the orange which greet you off the plane! It is also flourishing after an extensive renovation with plans for more development to come. It’s great to see a theatre sufficiently valued by its community to be able to expand, and not as is widely the case presently, to be scaling down operations.

Florida has been good to me, and I love going there to be in plays. The mighty United States has a few actual theatrical companies. Nothing like what you could guess at or hope for, given the might and wealth of The Republic. But South Florida has a core of talented actors who work up and down the strip from Miami to the Maltz weathering the closing of Equity theatres (ones that can pay something meaningful) and the springing up of non-Equity ones (that cannot). The effect, and I don’t think it was anybody’s plan, is close to a company of actors. A mobile, a fluid one that spans half a dozen venues. It’s always good to work with actors who know each other. There’s a shorthand. Todd, Greg, Jim, and Dan… do you know what I mean?

Whilst in Jupiter, I got a call from David Arisco, artistic director of the Actor’s Playhouse in Coral Gables, south of downtown Miami. Would I be interested in reading for a part in the show about Judy Garland that played to great acclaim in London and New York?

David offered me a role in 2003 and I wasn’t available, and I’d always wanted to work at his theatre. Besides, I knew there wasn’t really enough excitement in my life, so I hired a car, got a free upgrade to a sleek late-model Cadillac and cruised down to Miami getting the complete hazard experience on the road. I stayed one night in Miami Beach. Nowhere in Florida does pastels better. The limes, the magentas, the ochres …

I packed in a hurry and forgot to take a fresh shirt. In the morning the one shirt I had with me had lost its appeal and there may have been a coffee spill on it too. “I’ll buy a new shirt.” I told myself.

“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” So said Henry David Thoreau,19th century transcendentalist. Perhaps if he’d seen the South Beach pastels he’d have made an exception.

I entered a gentleman’s clothing store and explained that I was looking for a shirt to wear to an interview. I was slightly pressed for time.

“Oh!” said the assistant.

I explained that it was to audition to play a Scottish homosexual who accompanied Judy Garland.

“That sounds exciting!” he said and pulled a dress shirt in bright purple with a price tag beyond what I normally would have spent.

“I’m not sure about the color.” I said.

“Purple is the new blue!” He exclaimed. “I will iron it for you.”

It was all worth it. The dangerous drive, and the retail time pressure that made me an easy sell, because I will return to Miami at the end of the year to play Anthony in ‘End of the Rainbow’.

Purple is the new blue. Gay is the new straight. But if Antarctica melts, Florida and all its pastels will be the new Atlantis.



Acting Off The Grid

Sometimes I go as a storyteller.

Last week I went through southern Virginia and east to west in North Carolina, driving a distance equal in miles to the length of England. Visits with old friends and a book reading with stories in Winston-Salem, and another on the North/South Carolina border. I call this acting-off-the-grid. Why? Because this stuff takes you outside the infrastructure of the business. No agents, directors, casting directors. As an actor-for-hire you’re always waiting to be invited to a party. But when you go rogue you take the party with you.

Here’s what it looks like at its best. This is a picture of my friend Jenny Harmon setting the tone!

ImageTrish (AKA Patricia Conolly, Broadway veteran and a storyteller with vintage material herself) joined me in on one gig and together we did an hour of “Tales from the Backstage” at an amazing community south of Asheville which also runs a healing center called Free Rein.

Troubled people come and learn to ride, lose their fear of horses, get better…

One of several highlights of this delightful trip in The South was brunch with Joe Bly Snr. Joe Bly is a man of such positive voltage that he lights a place up when he walks in. He is a man who’s been telling stories since he learned to speak. Now in his ninth decade of life he’s still telling them. He gave me some good technical advice too …

Me: When you tell stories to a group, you hear great stories too …

Joe: And you LISTEN! Because that’s where you get your best material!

Or to put it another way, there is no shortage of product out there, but meaning is sometimes in short supply. Story is one way to find it.

So with respect to a master of the craft, here’s a brief tale about him …


Joe came to visit us in New York City a few years back and he and I went one time to the drugstore on the corner of Thirteenth Street and Sixth Avenue, to buy—I can’t remember what.

Inside it was one of those retail situations that sometimes develop in corporate retail situations. A long line of people all standing in tense silence, two people behind the counter moving at one speed, DRS—dead resentful slow, the air thick with passive hostility, impatience, anxiety, and other related negatives.

All lit with over-bright fluorescent lighting, short on vitamin D.  And none of it any one’s fault, just a turn in the psychological weather from sunny to cloudy. Standing in line were New Yorkers of all colors and sizes, a mixed, egalitarian demographic. But so drab was the atmosphere, that no one could see the point of anything any more. Amongst the diverse customers in waiting was a young mother, carrying a baby in a wrap-around pouch.

Joe Bly loped into the place maintaining a stream of optimistic commentary. He took in the atmosphere at a tissue level, took a stance apart from the waiting line, and pointing to the mother and then to the baby, announced in a voice that instantly gathered focus:

“Every time you don’t believe in heaven any more, you get to see one of these!”

‘Course, on the paaaiiige, there’s no way I can riiiightly conveeaay, the swooping vowels in Joe’s North Carolinian accent, nor the hopeful tone always present in his voice, nor the emphatic cadence in the final word: theeese!!! Delivered in such a manner that we all recognized the revelation in what he said. It was at once a quotidian commonplace and a universal truth.

It was magical.

Even the lighting seemed to respond, losing some of its harsh edge. The people behind the counter smiled, and the smile rippled through the line. The childless woman standing next to the young mother turned and asked in shy praise, “How old is she?”

The mother bloomed like a flower opening, her cheeks pinked, and she admitted with blessed, gentle delight, “She’s four months.”

Four months! Four months of miraculous new life next to us all in the line at the drugstore! The information rippled and splashed around the place which was no longer a drugstore simply, but rather a crucible of joy, bright in a dull world. Revealed now because an angel spoke through an old man who’s lived a positive life. Spoke aloud against the denial of the light.

Magic. What would we pay for this?

We cannot pay. This is worth beyond gold.

It’s always seemed that way to me anyway.

Meanwhile, a journeyman storyteller, I am available for weddings, christenings, bar-mitzvahs …