Sensory-Friendly Theaters: something good from Hollywood…

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We took our seven-year-old daughter to the theater for the very first time. She did very well and sat through the entire movie! She enjoyed the popcorn and the fruit snacks.

It was 10:00 am on a Saturday morning. 10:00am? Weird time for a movie. But Beauty and the Beast is a huge hit and odd movie-times are not unusual for a hit (see my “review” – more in the way of thoughts on the movie – here). As we walked down the hallway of the multiplex to Theater 1 I noticed a sign saying this was a Sensory-Friendly showing.

A what?

Here is an article from June of 2016 from The Mighty:

https://themighty.com/2016/06/movie-theaters-offer-sensory-friendly-screenings-for-autistic-people/

Loud noises, bright lights and foreign smells can make going to the movie theater or seeing a live performance an overwhelming experience for those with autism spectrum disorder. To make showings more inclusive, an increasing number of theaters across the country are now offering “sensory-sensitive” screenings of movies and performances for people living with autism.

“Many people on the autism spectrum experience intense anxiety and heightened sensory sensitivity,” Lori McIlwain, Co-founder & Board Chair of the National Autism Association told The Mighty. ”By making a few simple adjustments, movie theaters can give individuals on the spectrum the opportunity to enjoy a film without judgment or fear.”

According to the Autism Society, approximately 3.5 million Americans live on the spectrum – a huge market for the cinema arts world to tap into. Sensory-sensitive screenings began in 2007, with AMC Entertainment, the second largest cinema chain in America.

Since 2007, AMC has expanded their program to include 175 cinemas in 33 states, about half of their cinemas. Other cinema groups are starting to broaden their offerings as well. The largest cinema chain, Regal Entertainment Group, offers screenings at about 6 percent of their cinemas, 36 out of 565. Smaller chains, like NCG Cinemas, offer sensory-sensitive showings at all 20 of their locations.

Shows billed as sensory-sensitive often include accommodations such as lowered volume and raised lighting. Other theaters skip the previews and make accommodations for special dietary needs. Allowing families to bring their own food is another way theaters can make themselves more accessible, McIlwain said.

Of the cinemas that have sensory-sensitive offerings, most films are geared towards children and families – limiting showings to one children’s movie playing one morning a month. Others offer more frequent showings once a week or several times a month, as well as discounted tickets. AMC is one of the only theater groups to offer screenings for adolescents and adults with autism, occasionally playing movies rated PG-13 and R.

“It’s important to allow individuals with autism to be in a comfortable, low-stress environment where they can simply be themselves,” she said. These screenings all act as a judgment-free zone where patrons are allowed to get up, make noise and act in ways that may otherwise be regarded as disruptive. Because of their relaxed environment, sensory-sensitive screenings can benefit more than just those with autism. Relaxed screenings can also benefit those with learning disabilities, movement disorders, young children and their families, as well as those with neurological conditions like Tourette syndrome.

Movie theaters aren’t the only venues increasing their reach. Playhouses and other performing arts venues are also looking for ways to become more inclusive. Earlier this month, playhouses in New York and California hosted relaxed performances of “Backstage in Biscuitland,” a show about life with Tourette’s. In December, the California Ballet will become the first West Coast dance company to offer a sensory-sensitive production of “The Nutcracker.”

Inclusivity is key, McIlwain said. “We’re happy to see movie theaters promoting inclusivity and hope more will follow suit.”

Among the theater chains with Sensory Friendly shows include Regal Cinemas and Marcus Theaters.

AMC-Sensory-Friendly-Films

Our local chain is AMC.  Their website describes Sensory Friendly as:

The program provides a special opportunity for families to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment. The auditoriums dedicated to the program have their lights up, the sound turned down and audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing!

The idea for the program began with a request from a parent with an autistic child for a special screening at AMC Columbia Mall 14 in Columbia, MD. More than 300 children and parents attended the first screening.

We are thrilled to now offer the program at many locations nationwide – please see below for a complete list of participating theatres. As a leading theatrical exhibition company, we are so proud to be making a difference in the estimated 1.5 million Americans living with an autism spectrum disorder by offering families a chance to see a movie together – often for the very first time.

Good for them! I am all for Sensory-Friendly showings!

Although it does bring in families that would otherwise not buy movie tickets, and that is their ultimate bottom line; when corporate whores act less like corporate whores – even if only on the surface – we should all encourage it.

The lights were not dimmed very much – kind of like when you first walk in before everything starts – but not as bright as when the movie was over and we finally leave (after sitting through 20 minutes of credits to see Samuel L. Jackson ask Belle to join the Avengers).

The sound is turned down. This is never a bad thing. Even so, in B&B the constant slamming of castle doors thunders through the theater. I can understand how that can help the special-needs movie-goer.

My favorite? At 10:00 the movie started. No previews, no Fanta ads, no house ads to keep quiet and turn off the cell phones and go eat something. No music was piped in before the show started.

And it’s not just for children’s movies – at least at AMC. They plan on Sensory Friendly shows for Fate of the Furious for example. Well, that kind of reminds me of my Facebook post from March 16 of 2013:  “One ticket to see The Hobbit, please.” “For an adult or a child?” “That depends on your opinion of people who goes to see movies like The Hobbit…”

I think it’s wonderful and I applaud AMC and the other chains for doing this kind of thing.

Of course, if they were truly concerned about special needs children and their families during these special showings they would also have lowered their concession prices …

… corporate whore baby steps …

#AMCSensoryFriendly

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

About the author:

Michael is the author of Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped

frontcover

The cover of Abby’s Road

Abby’s Road leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival!

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.

 

 

Thanks for the Memories!  A National Adoption Month/Veteran’s Day Spotlight on Bob Hope

Three of the most famous – and funny – comedians of the 20th Century were George Burns, Jack Benny and Bob Hope. They and their wives adopted all their children.

November is National Adoption Month. November 11th is Veteran’s Day. Who else would make the perfect Spotlight?

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Really? You want to know about Bob Hope? There have been as many words written about Bob Hope as there are miles he travelled entertaining the world. Okay, here goes:

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From Wikipedia:

Bob Hope, (born Leslie Townes Hope, May 29, 1903 – July 27, 2003) was an English-American comedian, vaudevillian, actor, singer, dancer, athlete, and author. With a career spanning nearly 80 years, Hope appeared in over 70 films and shorts. In addition to hosting the Academy Awards 19 times (more than any other host), he appeared in many stage productions and television roles and was the author of fourteen books. The song “Thanks for the Memory” is widely regarded as Hope’s signature tune.

Born in London, England, Hope arrived in America with his family at the age of four and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He began his career in show business in the early 1920s, initially on stage, and began appearing on the radio and in films in 1934. He was praised for his comedy timing, specializing in one-liners and rapid-fire delivery of jokes—which were often self-deprecating, with Hope building himself up and then tearing himself down. Celebrated for his long career performing United Service Organizations (USO) shows to entertain active service American military personnel—he made 57 tours for the USO between 1941 and 1991—Hope was declared an honorary veteran of the United States Armed Forces in 1997 by act of the U.S. Congress.  He also appeared in numerous specials for NBC television, starting in 1950, and was one of the first users of cue cards.

He was married to performer Dolores Hope (née DeFina) for 69 years. Hope died at the age of 100 at his home in Toluca Lake, California.

From Legacy.com:

The nation’s most-honored comedian, a millionaire many times over, was a star in every category open to him — vaudeville, radio, television and film, most notably a string of “Road” movies with longtime friend Bing Crosby. For decades, he took his show on the road to bases around the world, boosting the morale of servicemen from World War II to the Gulf War.

He perfected the one-liner, peppering audiences with a fusillade of brief, topical gags: “I want to tell you, I was built like an athlete once – big chest, hard stomach. Of course, that’s all behind me now.”

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All four Hope children were adopted from The Cradle in Evanston, Illinois. A brief search of the internet is confusing: one sight says Nora Hope was born in 1930 and another that she was adopted in 1946. This could make her 16 when she was adopted by the Hopes. Family photos dispute this. I will thus avoid dates:

Linda Hope is the holder of her father’s legacy – producing many of his last specials and controlling the releases of his work for home viewing.

William Kelly Francis Hope, an actor.

Anthony J Hope died June 28, 2004. He worked in Washington as an attorney.

Eleanora (“Nora”) Avis Hope.

 

frontcover

The cover of Abby’s Road

“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

 WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival!

 

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.

 

 

Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

 

Well! A National Adoption Month Spotlight on Jack Benny

Three of the most famous – and funny – comedians of the 20th Century were George Burns, Jack Benny and Bob Hope. They and their wives adopted all their children.

From http://www.biography.com:

For more than 50 years, comedian Jack Benny was a star of radio, the stage and screen. His radio show, The Jack Benny Program, was a forerunner of the sitcom genre.

Jack Benny was born on February 14, 1894 in Chicago, Illinois. Benny came of age during WWI. He developed an ear for music and played the violin. He enjoyed entertaining people and in the 1920s became a successful vaudeville player with a knack for comedy. By the late 1930s, he had become the king of radio with his own show, The Jack Benny Program. In 1950, he started appearing on a television version, which alternated weekly with his radio show. The TV show ended 15 years later, after which Benny made guest TV appearances until he died, on December 26, 1974 in Beverly Hills, California.

His first radio program was in 1932; his last television program was 1965. Always with good to excellent ratings. Such a 33-year run seems unimaginable today.

From the blog “A Shroud of Thoughts” – http://mercurie.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-120th-birthday-of-jack-benny.html

Jack Benny would leave behind a legacy that only a very few other comedians could match. The Jack Benny Program was pivotal in the development of the situation comedies of radio and television, evolving from the sketch and variety format familiar from vaudeville into the sitcom format we recognize today. What is more, it is one of the few radio sitcoms that successfully made the transition from radio to television, running for fifteen years on the new medium.

Jack Benny would also have a lasting impact on future generations of comedians. The influence of Jack Benny can be seen in comics and actors as diverse as Johnny Carson, Phil Hartman, Eugene Levy, Kelsey Grammar, and Jerry Seinfeld.

Of course, Jack Benny’s greatest legacy may well be the works he left behind. His radio show is still widely available, on CDs, in digital form, and through streaming media on the internet. His television show is also widely available, with possibly the entire run available on DVD and many episodes available through streaming media. While many classic radio and television stars have long been forgotten, Jack Benny remains recognizable even to people who were born long after his death. One hundred and twenty years after his birth, Jack Benny is still regarded as one of the greatest comics of all time.

                                                  ***

Actually, Jack Benny left two legacies: his comedy and his daughter.

jack-and-joan-benny

Joan Benny was born in 1934 as Joan Naomi in New York City. She was adopted by Jack Benny and his wife Mary Livingston at the age of three months in September of that year. They decided to adopt after Mary’s second miscarriage.  From Joan’s book Sunday Nights at Seven, 1990, Warner Books:

“I became curious and asked the obvious questions: Who were my real parents? Why didn’t they want me? (My adoptive parents answered) “We don’t know who they are, we don’t know where they are now, and they couldn’t keep you because they couldn’t afford a baby and wanted you to have a good home … Besides, you are luckier than other children – most parents can’t pick the child they want, but we chose you and we wanted you very much.”

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“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival!

 

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.

 

Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

 

A Funny Thing About Adoption …

November is National Adoption Month. This blog series focuses on three legendary comedians connected not only by fame and their craft, but also because of their children …

For most of the twentieth century if you asked who were the best (or at least most famous) comedians you would be told, not necessarily in this order, George Burns, Jack Benny and Bob Hope.

Each one would be a face on a comedian’s Mount Rushmore.

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Each one garnered success in every venue of their careers: vaudeville, radio, television and film (don’t let Benny’s self-deprecation fool you – he parleyed his filmography into comic gold. And “To Be or Not to Be” is actually a great film!).

Each was, to some extent, ignored, forgotten or even vilified by the generations after them. Despite this, their brand of comedy has survived the test of time. Watching each of them at their peak (and George Burns had more than one) still provides genuine laughter.

Each of them adopted their children. Their wives – Gracie Allen (who at one point was more famous – and funnier – than her husband), Mary Livingston and Dolores Hope – had no children naturally with their husbands, and each couple decided to adopt.

This three-part blog series will not go into the “why” they adopted. In those pre-internet and 24/7 celebrity days the reasons were personal and remained so. Were there health reasons – were one or both unable to conceive? Gracie’s Wikipedia entry says they were unable to conceive, but there is not citation.

They were all very close friends (the Benny/Burns friendship would nowadays be called a “bromance”) – did they ever discuss it? When the first one to adopt a child did so, did the other two jump on the bandwagon? Celebrities adopting children in the 1930s was trendy. …

We may never know. What we DO know is that these three legends of comedy brought laughter and joy to millions for over three-quarters of a decade in the twentieth century; and also gave children who did not share their DNA a family and a home.

More to come …

frontcover

“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

 WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival!

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.

 

Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

The Last Suicide Squad Movie Review

A cast of bad guys – outright villains, misfits, killers and sociopaths each with a unique mind-set and world view – are gathered by a morally ambiguous government agent to rid a town from an evil worse than even their own members. Along the way they bicker, fight and some of them die. But eventually they become a team!

The film was called “The Dirty Dozen”.

***

            Regular readers of this blog know I rarely go to movies on the first week.  By the time I see a movie so has most of the rest of the world.

That has its advantages: smaller crowds, shorter lines; but – most importantly – by the time I get around to reviewing the movie most of the spoilers have already been spoiled! But I will still try to warn you in advance.

I saw “Suicide Squad” with low expectations. The critics savaged the film. The only ones who seemed to like it were the same cheerleaders that thought “Batman vs Superman” was the epic of their generation.

You might even say I went to the movie expecting to dislike it: Movies based on DC’s superheroes have been very dark of late. And I like neither dark superheroes nor dark superhero movies.

So imagine how I felt when they announced a movie featuring DC Villains and based on a comic that is, by this time, sloshed with the uber-violent fare typically vomited upon the comic-book-buying public.

The usual group of … Hmm, what would the collective noun be for the fans of dark DC – the films of late, most of the “New 52” comic … ah, got it!

The usual goth of DC Dark fans have drooled over every preview and picture since the movie was announced.

I kept quiet. I chose to neither get excited over the movie nor to actively say I was not going to see it. But truthfully? Had my friend not invited me to an afternoon matinee, I might never have seen it.

I liked the movie! It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t a perfect movie. No movie is perfect.

Okay, Godfather I & II are perfect … but you know what I mean.

***

            Let’s go back and do a primer on what the Suicide Squad is …

The Suicide Squad debuted in the comic book the Brave & the Bold #25 in 1959.  It had only four members, including Commander Flag, but they were all normal humans – although all were experts in their field (astrophysics, etc.).  They fought the bug-eyed monsters typical of the era – intelligent dinosaurs, aliens, beings from the center of the earth, etc. They appeared in only six issues.

The Suicide Squad disappeared until 1987, when they showed up in their own magazine. This group was firmly ensconced in the super-hero genre. As with the movie Amanda Waller gathered a group of bad guys to fight global threats. Waller said in issue #1: “the administration needs something they can disavow if things go wrong. That’s us.” Rick Flag, Captain Boomerang, Deadshot and the Enchantress among others were in that first issue. It lasted 66 issues.

Back to the movie …

So we have the evil (and we see her being truly soulless in a few scenes) Amanda Waller gathering a group of villains to fight worse bad guys led by a morally bankrupt soldier.

It’s “The Dirty Dozen”. Before that it was “The Magnificent Seven”; and before that it was “Seven Samurai”.

In fact, one of the previews shown in my theater was the remake of “The Magnificent Seven” with Denzel Washington, et. al. Tip to DC Entertainment: Don’t remind us of a legendary film, even a remake (which itself has BIG shoes to fill), before showing us your movie… Do you REALLY want us to compare them?

We have old Batman villain Deadshot, “new” (the last thirty years is hardly “new”, but I am an old fart) Batman villains Harley Quinn and Killer Croc, Flash rogue Captain Boomerang, El Diablo (a villain who debuted in 2011 in the Suicide Squad comic. This was DC’s third character named El Diablo. The first was a GREAT Weird Western star that should have gotten more page time in the 1970s), the Enchantress – who started life in 1966 as a macabre hero until the character was completely rebooted in 2011, and Firestorm baddie Slipknot.

Along the way we meet Katana, a samurai-sword wielding hero used as Flag’s back-up in case any of the bad guys get uppity.  Her sword contains the souls of everyone the sword has killed, including her husband. She talks to her husband. That’s about all we know of her in the movie. Coincidentally, her comic book debut was in Brave & Bold #200, the same comic book that debuted the Suicide Squad 20+ years earlier.

SPOILER

The Enchantress was in the group, but very quickly defected. It seems the chief bad guy is her brother. Blood is thicker than … gallons of blood.

END OF SPOILER

In the movie they were gathered to fight off future threats to earth. What if the next Superman was a bad guy? How can we fight an evil Superman?

With bullets, boomerangs and a baseball bat, apparently.

But how will they be able to control this group of killers?

In the best Amanda Waller way: threaten them! “We know about your daughter. We will reduce your sentence. And ALL of you have implants at the base of your skull that will blow your head off if you disobey.”

Dry shave!

Sorry, Dirty Dozening again…

This time it is not an alien threat but a demon from earth’s past. He and his sister are in Midway City (the home of DC’s Hawkman, although he is never mentioned) building a machine to take over the world.

So our heroes – er – villains take on the demonic duo.

Along the way they bicker, fight and some of them die. But eventually they become a team!

 

More thoughts next time.

Corporate whore department: If you are interested in the original Suicide Squad, Katana or the Brave and the Bold comic book -read my free ebook available at Barnes & Noble! http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-brave-and-the-bold-michael-curry/1120872264?ean=2940046443011

 

Original Material Copyright Michael Curry 2016

 

The Odd Couple

“I don’t think two single men living alone in an eight-bedroom apartment should have a cleaner house than my mother!” – Oscar Madison…

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            This requires a little back story. Don’t worry, I don’t mean voluminous amounts like Harry Potter, Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, more like the beginning of Season 3 of Agents of Shield or Sleepy Hollow or the usual modern-day TV drama … it won’t take long.

Spring 1981 – my High School drama club tried to put on the farce “Murder in the Magnolias”. I tried out for and got the part of Cousin Thornbird Chickenwing. Two girls tried out for the main part. Both girls had earlier in the school year also tried out for the hand of an eligible young man. The same girl won both parts. The other girl’s BFF (a term in use now, not in 1981) also got a part of “Murder …” and there was much yelling, hair-pulling and thrown punches.

Add more raging hormones: the part of Colonel Chickenwing, whose monolog opens the play, was given to a young man who felt the need to leave practice after his one-and-only-yet-pivotal scene to go to his girlfriend’s house to ooo and aaa sycophantically over her. Said young man not realizing that it is possible, indeed likely, that we might need to go over his scene more than once.

Add a drama club coach fresh out of college and only four-or-so years away from these very issues herself and it added to uncontrolled rehearsals and cast members walking out with three weeks to go. Not that by this time anyone had known their lines or marks yet.

So they cancelled the play that spring.

Fall 1981 – the Sparta (IL) Community Chorus is known for putting on lovely and very professional musicals! This year they selected “Oklahoma”. I tried out for and was given a small part with one line. George was the character and his line was “sounded like a shot!” I was also in the dream ballet. You read that right. About five years later it was announced the SCC would begin doing plays as well as musicals.

Spring 1982 – in our senior year of high school we put on “The Odd Couple”. I tried for and won the part of Felix Unger (or Ungar in the play). My best friend Scott tried out for and won the part of Oscar. It was typecasting at the time, and it was a wonderful play. It was also well-received. Drama clubs from schools as far as Benton came to see us. We had articles in the papers and reviews on local radio shows. It was probably the second-best show the school put on next to “Arsenic and Old Lace” from 1978. Oh, and the girl who won the part main part in “Murder…”? She was one of the Pigeon sisters in “Odd Couple”.

Winter 2014 – I am Facebook friends with the girl (now grandmother) mentioned above in “Murder…” and “Odd Couple”. She has been involved with the SCC for decades by this point and announced that she would direct “Murder in the Magnolias” for their Winter Play (rehearsal in January and February with the play in early March). I posted that I would love to try out for it but the dress from Act Two probably would not fit me anymore.

She asked me to try out for it anyway. Try-outs were the weekend of our family Christmas party and the day after my wife and I went to see Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas concert in St. Louis. My daughter spent the night at my sister’s and her four children.  It was her first time away from us and they ate nachos and “camped” in the living room. We needn’t have worried.

At the auditions the director asked if I were trying out for my old part, Thornbird. Yes, I was. Would I also be interested in trying out for the Colonel? Sure, I said. This has since turned into a comedy routine: “Are you dumb enough to take two parts – er – I mean are you will to do two roles?”

I worked in radio for ten years and also did stand-up during that time. Both require a bit of acting but not the kind you really do on a stage. “Oh that this too solid flesh would melt” is light years ahead of “two Jews walk into a bar”. But by the time my family and I drove home the director called to say I got both parts! Both she and I got to finish a part of our youth. The circle was complete. Hakuna Matata! Plus I made lots of wonderful new friends!

Fall 2014 – The SCC announces that its fall musical would be “Legally Blonde”. They usually “begin” the season in the fall with a musical, followed by a kid’s cabaret at Christmastime, then a play, then a musical review. They asked if I would try out and respectfully declined. It was a wonderful production! It would have played well at the Fox Theater in St. Louis. Excellent stuff from a bunch of so-called amateurs.

Winter 2015 – The SCC announces its play in December 2014 – “Unnecessary Farce”. The director – who played the part in “Murder…” that “Murder…”’s director played with me in high school (are you still following this?) asked me to try out for the Scottish hitman. Can I do a Scottish accent? “Och, ye needn’t wurrah ‘bout dat, lassie!” I said. In December I tried out for and won the part of Todd, the Highland Hitman. It was a big hit with the audience in stitches!

Fall 2015 – the spring musical review was the music of Michael Jackson. They asked if I would be interested but said no thanks. The playhouse was an hour-and-a-half drive from home – although I could stop off to visit with my father and/or sister for an hour or so each time. That much driving really takes a toll on me and my car, but so far the plays have been worth it. Brilliant fun! But doing a review so close to finishing a wonderful-but-very-complex comedy would be too much of a strain.

They had yet to announce the fall musical (remember they did musicals in the fall). Unless it was something that knocked my socks off – like “1776” or something equally fun or silly – I would probably not try out for it.

The announcement was made on the SCC Facebook page. It was not a musical! That was not unprecedented but it was still odd …

… that adjective was intentional …

In July the SCC held auditions for their October production of “The Odd Couple”. I asked for an audition packet. On a lark I emailed Scott to see if he were interested in trying out as a team – reliving our old glory days. He declined (actually he never answered …). So in July I tried out for Oscar and Felix.

Was I crazy? They were both huge roles in the play with hundreds of lines. I would be driving three to four days a week again! Getting home at eleven o’clock if I was lucky then getting up for work and/or court again!

But it was the Odd Couple – one of my favorite plays/movies/TV shows. Of course I would try out for it. There were about ten men trying out for the six male roles that Saturday. Fortunately, only two women showed up to audition for the two female roles. That would be easy, eh?

It wasn’t until Monday night that I heard from the director – she also had a part in the 2014 “Murder…” play. She offered me Oscar. I told her how happy and thrilled I was. I told her I played Felix in high school, but didn’t mention it earlier. I was afraid I’d get a “you’ve-had-your-chance” response. I should not have worried

I wanted Oscar more than Felix. Felix would have been great fun – joking about 33 years between the roles, beating out Jack Lemon by three years! But something inside me wanted the role of Oscar more. Maybe it was the challenge of being on the other side of the fence – how many people can say they’ve played both parts?

I spent July until the first read-throughs in mid-August watching the plays online and reading the script I still had. It’s a lot of lines, so I didn’t feel like I was cheating trying to get a head start. Plus work was light in August (I had both my staff members off on vacation and other things and I was in the office alone for a full week – plenty of time to shout out my lines in an empty office at lunchtime and between appointments).

And now we are practicing. The drive is a drag, but rehearsals are wonderful; the cast is wonderful and I enjoy working with each one of them. It is a mix of new friends and old comrades from previous plays.

As they said on the Simpsons, “perhaps we are all a little mad, we who don the cap and bells and tread beneath the proscenium arch”. For the second time this year to spend three hours a day/three days a week for two –plus months driving to perform in an amateur production for no monetary gain – only for accolades? Only for the sounds of laughter and applause?

Is it worth it?

Are you kidding?

Playbill

Original material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

 

Wizard World Con 2015

St. Louis Wizard Con 2015: Hey Kids! Comics! Finally!

Wizard Con has held a convention in St. Louis for three years now. I have been to all three and blogged about the 2013 and 2014 cons.

Although at times during this little review it may seem I thought this year was a disappointment, it will probably turn into one of my favorites! And for reasons other than why I enjoyed previous Wizard Cons. Opposite reason!

The first thing I noticed was the lack of vendors’ booths and lack of celebrities attending. The list of attending celebrities definitely lacked the star power of last year – Shatner and Adam West for us old folks and Nathan Fillion, Bruce Campbell and others for the younger crowd.

This year’s list left this old timer shouting out a resounding, “Who!?” People I didn’t know starring in shows I don’t watch. George Romero was the only one on the list that raised my eyebrows. It might be interesting to shake his hand and tell him how much I enjoy his work. But then another part of me wanted to slap him and say, “Look what you’ve done!”, Tara Reid, Elvira, Michael Rooker, Billy Boyd, Hayley Atwell, Jason Mewes,  Naomi Grossman, Joey Lawrence , B.J. Britt, Mark Dodson, Jason David Frank, Robin Lord Taylor,  Paige of the WWE  and a few St. Louis Rams linebackers (which I believe is some sort of local sports team). A few stars who were supposed to be there weren’t – such as Guardians’ Dave Bautista.

Looking at the guests of other Wizard Cons (Indianapolis and Des Moines) show the dearth of stars in St. Louis: Shatner, Billie Dee Williams, Robert Englund & Carrie Fisher to name a few.

(NOTE: if the “dearth” of stars includes your favorite performers … or heaven-forbid the performers themselves or someone they know reads this and thinks of it as a slam – fear not! My heart will grow three sizes this day before the blog is through. Stay with me and let me rant on for a bit longer…)

Lou Ferrigno wasn’t in St. Louis, but will be at Des Moines. Ferrigno! He’s ALWAYS at these things!

               Even the list of artists was disappointing. Indianapolis had Jim Steranko! Steranko! And while St. Louis had Michael Golden and Gary Friedrich … still … Steranko

               Neal Adams wasn’t in St. Louis, but he will be at Des Moines. Neal Adams! He’s ALWAYS at these things!

Was this a Ferguson thing? Did the local St. Louis promoters not treat the guests properly? In all my internet trolling I have not been able to find anyone even guessing why St. Louis got a bit of a short shrift on the guest list. I WAS told there was a major convention in Detroit that weekend – and it was Memorial Day weekend. Was that enough to keep other stars from attending?

And there were only about half the vendors (if that) attending than from previous years. Were they expecting a small crowd? Was it too expensive to attend (I found out the answer was no …).

And the crowd was only about half (if that) from the previous years. It seemed there were more cosplayers than non-cosplayers. Of course that day was the cosplay contests for adults and kids, but still…

But it wasn’t all bleak. In fact, when it was done I realized I had a lot of fun!

Once again I went with my sister and her family. Also attending were one of my best friends and his wife. We met their daughter and son-in-law there, too. We ran into another friend there, too. “I didn’t think you were going to go,” he said.

I didn’t plan on it, to be truthful. But my sister and her husband and two of their sons were going and asked me to join them. My wife said it was fine – she would watch our five-year-old-master-of- all-time-and-space for the day and told me to go enjoy myself.

And I did. Here’s why:

My sister and family helped me see through my solipsistic dislike of the guest list. Sissy was so happy to meet and speak with her idol Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) that she cried when she spoke to her. This made Cassandra cry. “My sister made Elvira cry!” I told anyone willing to listen.

The friend who came with me had an Elvira supplement of a Chill role-playing game for her to sign. She said she must have a copy of this in her house somewhere but otherwise didn’t recognize it!

My family wanted to meet Michael Rooker and have him sign various Walking Dead/Guardians of the Galaxy things. I got in line with them and as I left held out my hand and said how much I enjoyed him in JFK and Tombstone. He shook my hand and thanked me.

My nephew met Jason David Frank, one of the Power Rangers, last year. He showed the star his Tai Kwon Do moves and a video of their meeting was on Frank’s Facebook page and website! He got a picture with Jason and brought that picture back to be signed. Unfortunately he would not be available until 4:00, so we decided it would be our last thing before leaving.

While waiting, at different times of course, Robin Lord Taylor and the quite pretty Naomi Grossman walked past with their entourage. My sister said hello to Robin Lord Taylor and he stopped, very briefly, to thank her. Same with Naomi Grossman.

Both were very friendly and neither of then stood higher than my mid-bicep! Short people, these stars…

While the family was in line for Jason David Frank, I saw actress Tara Reid at her autograph booth. She was between signings and sitting with her aide and I thought, “why not? When am I ever going to meet Tara Reid again?” I walked up to her booth and offered my hand. I said I was a big fan and enjoyed her work. She smiled and shook my hand and said, “Thank you.” I turned away and she resumed her texting. I wasn’t going to buy a picture or pay for an autograph or picture so she certainly wasn’t going to spend a lot of time chatting with me. That’s okay, I don’t blame her. But she was polite about my wanting to meet her and that’s all that matters, isn’t it? I didn’t make any of the stars any money, but I didn’t bug them either. Fair trade. She was also very small, even sitting high up in her booth.  I doubt she would have come up to my elbow standing next to me.

There were two artists I wanted to meet. I talked with Michael Golden for a few minutes as he signed a Star Wars comic I brought and a Marvel print I bought. I told him I had that poster on my college dorm wall. I also told him what I thought of the comic – after that issue the comic had better stories and art than in the issues before. I said it was all his doing. He laughed and thanked me.

I brought a Ghost Rider book for Gary Friedrich, its creator to sign. He was scheduled to appear at Wizard Con in 2013 but had to cancel. He has had health problems. He cancelled this year, too. I was disappointed but not angry – still I could have done without lugging that thick paperback compilation around.

That was my only “meeting of the stars” I did this year.

***

               With fewer vendors, it was easier to take my time in artists’ row. They had local authors this year and I enjoyed talking to them. Who did they use to self-publish? How long have they been doing it? What were their books about? I did not spend too much time talking to them as they were there to hawk their books, not talk shop. But they did in between shilling to the other customers and I thanked them. I might even buy their books!

One author spread his debut science fiction novel into five parts. No one is going to buy a thousand-page book from a first-time author, he said, which is true. We discussed the trend of writing stories in series to bring in fans to your work. I mentioned some authors I’ve met had written a few short stories set in their fantasy worlds and gave them away from free online or as chap books to draw readers into the rest of their line. He liked that idea – maybe we’ll see some short fiction from him soon!

***

               I not only got to chat with authors but also some of the vendors and employees. I asked one local comic shop owner if he knew why the low vendor turn out. He did not know, except for perhaps the Con in Detroit. I asked if the rental space was too high. “No,” he said, “we pay $(blank) for this and we have a pretty big spread.”

“Is that per day?”

“No, the whole weekend.”

“That’s pretty good. You’ll make that back just today.”

“Yep.”

While my family was waiting in line an employee (I will not say who or where in case he gets in trouble for telling me) told me that stars have to give a cut of their autograph and photo op money to the Con. I asked if the guests get paid for attending. Not a lot, although they do get their rooms free. They make their money from the autographs and photo ops – what they don’t give to their Wizard Con overlords. That is why the stars have a few “attendants” the young man told me, “to make sure they don’t pocket the cash for themselves.” That’s another reason some stars need line tickets – not just for crowd control, but to keep a rough account of money made…

Hearing about the dark business side of the Con was almost as fun as hunting for comic books.

Comic books? Oh, yes …

***

               The main difference in this year’s Wizard Con was the focus on the one item that was shoved aside in the previous two years.

This year the comic book convention was about comic books.

With the thinner crowds and less vendors came more opportunities to shop for comics. Perhaps to make the weekend worthwhile, the vendors were more willing to negotiate and barter. Some of them. But I found some beauties and some comics to finally plug some holes in my collection.

I spotted a Superman from the 1970s and he charged me more than I was willing to pay. But he made me such a deal on other comics I bought I accepted it. When I got the comic home and saw was great condition it was I realized what a bargain he gave me.

There were some comics I bought for less than cover price. I can name four that I paid only twice the cover price. The rest of the silver age comics I bought (mostly Green Lantern) were within my purchase comfort zone. Since I did not have to plunk down eighty bucks to shake hands with William Shatner and Adam West, I could spend it on comics I was looking for.

Since the crowds were thinner I was able to get the comics I was looking for and not leftovers.

Since the vendors were fewer I was able to get back to the booths that I found the comics that were still there and that I could afford. In prior years I would try to go back to a booth only to “lose” it. “I think it was by this store …  no … it was by a t-shirt place. Now, which t-shirt place…”

What I mean is that I subscribe to Nihilistic Shopping. I see something I want but then go away to get it later. If I still want the item an hour or more later I will go get it. If the thing is there I will get it; if it is gone it was not meant to be. At a place like Wizard Con that usually means I do not get it – someone else snapped it up. We even joked about that waiting in line to enter the convention hall. “NO! They are all in there buying everything I wanted!”

But this year: more money, thin crowds, and fewer vendors. I was able to find the vendor that had the golden age issue of World’s Finest within my purchasing comfort zone AND it was still there. Ditto the three Green Lanterns at a silver age booth across the convention floor. This guy near the entrance still has those tabloid-size comics.

By the time the family was in line to talk to the Power Ranger my bag was full and my back was aching. Later that weekend I swam with my daughter and spent Monday walking around the St. Louis Renaissance Festival. My back, hips and thighs have not said a kind word to me yet.

Fortunately I have some sweet comics to read while I mend.

***

               You can’t talk about Wizard Con without talking cosplay. Lots of great superheroes and gamers on this day.

Aaron Rabe, who does a pitch-perfect Captain Jack Sparrow, won Best in Show for the first two years of the Con. He was on a panel this year and helped to judge – like Carol O’Connor with the Emmys you get tired of winning all the time. We met him on the convention floor and he asked us the time. He stopped long enough to take his picture with my nephews – one is a huge Captain Jack fan!

As we left we saw this group:

 Princesses

They gave us a card and said they are available for birthday parties and other events. One friend asked for several cards to give to her Girl Scout troop families. I said they will inevitably be doing my daughter’s birthday party as soon as she sees the picture.

My wife hinted that she might go with me next year. She will be less likely to stand and wait for me while I troll the comic boxes if there is a bigger crowd of friends and family there. She can visit or look around the vendor booths herself.

Some of the vendors sold age-appropriate items. For every Walking Dead bobble-head there were Annas and Elsas and Olafs…

Obviously it all depends on our five-year-old Master-of-All-Time-and-Space.

She gets scared during the climactic scenes of Sophia the First. She would be SO excited to see Captain America or Thor or Batman and faint at any Disney Princess. But then she would see a man with an axe through his neck and we will have to go home. I call this picture “this is why I don’t bring Abby to Wizard Con”…

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Although my sister took her son, who is only about two years older; I don’t think mine will be able to handle it. Even my nephew got a little skittish at that clown-puppet.

There were plenty of kids there, though. Some even younger than mine. But as I said last year and the year before; my daughter would freak out too much at some of the more gruesome cosplayers.  Hence why I wanted to slap George Romero…

But we’ll see. Now if you will excuse me, I have some comics to read…

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Copyright 2015 Michael Curry