Monday, June 27, 2011

More than laughing

Spent the day working with my son, Ryan Wallace, on the cover of my new book, Great News Town, which is coming out in July. What fun! He's such an artist. I had a simple idea, he took over and created something amazing. He's so particular about every splatter of blood. It has to look just so. Bet you've guessed that the new book is NOT about laughing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Shrek Trek

I can sympathize with that ogre living in the swamp after the storm that hit Grandville last night as I was getting ready to head to the opening at DeVos. Actually, the storm was sort of the fiery dragon in my daylong quest to review Shrek. I'm spending the week at Glen Lake working on my next book (that's another story) and attending the annual Peninsula Writers retreat. But I couldn't give up a chance to review the biggest thing to hit Grand Rapids stages in years. After a three-hour drive, I arrived just as the sky was darkening. I had barely turned on my computer to check messages -- no Internet at Glen Lake -- when the rains came down and everything went black. Just try putting on makeup in the dark. I probably looked like an ogre. I got soaked getting into the car and soon discovered Grandville had become a swamp. Road after road was underwater. I spent more than a half hour trying to find a way to the Interstate. I finally got downtown, but even with an umbrella, my nine-year-old companion and I were soaked. But from the momen Shrek hangs up his laundry -- a flag-size pair of jockey shorts -- in the first number, I knew it would all be worth it. Very funny show, lots of attitude, spunky music, fantastic effects, but too long, I'm afraid, for many of the whiney kids in the audience. (Sorry, do I sound like an ogre?)

Friday, June 17, 2011

More laughter, more living

Although I continue to write reviews for The Press, I added a new notch to my belt this week with my first review appearing on the Encore Michigan web site. It was a great opportunity to return to The Barn in Augusta, which I hadn't been able to review for The Press in about five years. It was such fun to see everyone again -- and more than a few laughs in Escanaba in Love. Tonight I'll be reviewing another show for Encore, Children of Eden at Hope Summer Repertory Theatre, another great theater I haven't had the opportunity to see in a few years. I'm really looking forward to the show. Here's the link for the Escanaba review.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

iLaughing for eLiving

Laughing for a Living is now available at the Apple Store as an epub ($4.99) which means you can read it on your iPad, iPod, iPhone -- or just download to your computer. Or read it on everything at once! I've never tried iTunes but I guess I'll have to get an account and get with it! Here's the link

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sisters (and brothers) In Crime

Just came back from a trip to Battle Creek for a meeting of Sisters In Crime, a group that appeals to my alter-ego career: gasping for a living as a mystery/ thriller writer. D.E. Johnson, author of Detroit Electric Scheme gave a great talk about his writing process and advice for breaking through in the traditional publishing world. I got a copy of his book and can't wait to read it. Of course, I'm beginning to think the "tradition" of publishing is changing. I've done what I said I never would: self-published. And I plan to do it again. Look for Great News Town coming out in July.

You can't stop the FEET!

One of the crazy things about laughing for living is that sometimes I have to laugh two nights in a row for one story. This week I reviewed "Hairspray" which opened Friday night at Civic Theatre. The Press has a tight deadline on Friday nights, so rather than try to write my whole review in an hour, I went to dress rehearsal Thursday night, pre-wrote a general review and then finalized it after seeing Friday's opening show. I'll tell you, I was totally blown away on Thursday night and at first I was disappointed that I didn't get the same reaction to the first song on Friday night, but I quickly decided it was because I knew exactly what to expect the second night and I was holding on to my seat! Can you laugh at the same jokes two nights in a row? Most definitely. And catch lines you missed the first time around. Both audiences loved it. Friday night's crowd was dancing in their seats and singing along at the end, and Thursday I caught a pair of senior citizens (one with a cane) dancing in the lobby on their way out. Check it out!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A little green with envy?

My friends keep complaining that I only interview handsome hunks, but today my subject was a real ogre. A big fat, green, grouch. That's right. I talked to Shrek this morning, but not just any Shrek, the Eric Petersen Shrek who is visiting Grand Rapids later this month. The same Eric Petersen I used to cover at Augusta's Barn Theatre, back when he was in the ensemble for "Bat Boy." I feel like I saw him grow up. It's where he got his equity card after playing the romantic lead in "The Fantasticks" in 2004. It's also where he met his wife, Lisa Marie Morabito. They returned in 2007 as Equity guest artists to do "The Producers" (He was the Nazi playwright, she the sexy Swedish secretary) and were back a few years ago when he was the Elvis-impersonator Pharoah in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." He said he's very glad The Barn is back in business this year after closing for one season. "It's such a special place, not just for the patrons but for all the young actors cutting their theater teeth. It's a one-of-a-kind place." Sorta sentimental for an ogre, don't you think?

Friday, June 3, 2011

'Night George

One of the first plays I reviewed for The Press was a Shakespearean production at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. At the end, I noticed that one of the little cameo performers I had enjoyed didn't appear at curtain call. I checked the playbill and the missing actor was George Spelvin. I complained to my friend Pete DeMaagd who was sitting in front of me. Pete said he didn't know who Spelvin was, but Joe LaChappelle played the role I was interested in. Turns out Joe played two roles in that production. Thanks to him, I discovered the old theater tradition of using the phantom name, George Spelvin, when a person plays more than one role. I also discovered Joe, who did maintenance at Civic and jumped at the chance to do any acting he could. Joe just bubbled with enthusiasm. And he grew in his acting ability until last year he played the leading role in Inherit the Wind. This week he died. What a terrible loss. But you know, I can't think about him without smiling. He was just such a happy guy. Night, George.

"Rumors" relieves toothache

Even on a bad day -- when I'm struggling with a tooth that needs a root canal -- my job keeps me laughing. Neil Simon's farce, "Rumors," is full of witty lines and ridiculous situations, but the cast in Circle Theatre's production makes it even better by creating such wonderfully crazy characters. Maybe the dentist should use play projections on the ceiling instead of laughing gas.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

It's a gas!

Maybe I'm all laughed out. I went to the dentist for a root canal this morning and they promptly put a gas mask on my nose. The room began to spin, and after a couple of shots to numb my tooth, I couldn't even answer the doctor's questions about whether or not my tooth was fully numb. I heard the question but I couldn't get my brain to answer. But when he started to drill, I found my voice. Double shots and laughing gas was not enough to dull the ache. The third shot actually made it more sensitive instead of less sensitive. So, he sent me home with a regimen of ibuprofen and antibiotics to make the tooth less irritable before we try the root canal again next week. I was really disappointed. My memory of a previous root canal 15 years ago was relatively painless and the laughing gas was great fun that time. But the real test comes tonight. I'll be covering "Rumors" at Circle Theatre and I'm predicting that Neil Simon can give me a better high than any drugs.