Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ways to Woo or How to Steal a Penny

Dixie State College Theatre is opening a new show on Monday that I think is definitely worth mentioning. The concept itself is very unique. Student director Jarom Brown has, for the past several months, used improv workshops to develop a completely original story in the style of Comedia del Arte complete with huge cartoon like characters and genuine Comedia del Arte masks. Jarom even wrote the script... sort of. You see the story is the same every night in as there are key pieces of information that the audience needs to receive every time, almost like checkpoints that the actors must stop at, but the actual lines and blocking that are used are almost entirely improvised... every night.

I had to see it for myself....

I popped in on tonights rehearsal and though I missed most of the first act, I was very very impressed with what I saw. The story is absolutely hilarious, and the actors are all astounding. How they come up with that stuff is beyond me. Every one was really in the moment, because they literally did not know what they were going to say, or how they were going to react until right before they said or did anything! So exciting! I mean, I watched a rehearsal! With no costumes, no lights, frequent interruptions by the director, and I was still laughing hysterically.

I really wish I had better words to describe it, but it really is unlike anything I have ever seen, or will ever see again in a long time. All I can do is urge you to come and see it, and bring some friends with you. Because this is a student production at a college that is experiencing budget cuts the funds for marketing are a bit low so we're relying mostly on word of mouth. This really is a rare opportunity to witness some truly unique theatre.

The show opens Monday February 2nd at 7:30pm in the DSC Black Box Theatre located in the Eccles Building and will run until Saturday February 7th. Tickets are only $5.00! Come and show the school that St. George supports new and different types of theatre! The director has given his word that although the script is improvised the actors are under strict instructions to keep everything G rated and trust me this is a show that will actually hold your child's focus for an hour and a half. Tell your friends, and bring the fam! I hope to see you there!

And keep checking for updates on the college's theatre schedule!

Just Singin'and Dancin'

                                      Just Singin' and Dancin'

                The other night my wife and I had the great opportunity to attend St. George Musical Theater's production of Singing in the Rain. And, as many of you know Roger Dunbar usually reviews the plays in the St. George area, and he does a fantastic job. Unfortunately for those of us who enjoy reading †hose reviews Roger is in Singing in the Rain. So I've decided to unleash my secret desire to be a critic and attempt to tell you what I thought about the show. I feel like I should precede this with a disclaimer: I am not a professional. Anything I say is my opinion and nothing more; it's very possible that I'm wrong. I apologize that this took my so long to get to, since the show has since closed everything I say is mostly irrelevant anyway.

                Community theatre is an interesting creature. And as I think about attempting to review this show part of me feels a bit cold hearted. With a few exceptions, most of the members of the cast are not professionals, or even want to be professionals. Many cast members are without any formal acting training at all…  They're all volunteering their time, and essentially doing the community a service project by sharing their talents.  So I'm hesitant to be too critical. However, whenever I'm doing a show I only want honest feedback, because I can't learn from 'polite' feedback. Therefore I'll do my best to provide those involved with my honest opinion, because they deserve it.

                Overall I was very impressed with the hard work and dedication of the entire cast. I really felt that everyone involved must have worked their hearts out to get to the level that they achieved. The dancing was definitely not easy, and there are a lot of numbers. If I'm picky I have to say that the big group numbers seemed a bit sloppy… but this is tap dancing… we get to hear every mistake. All things considered I have to say that I looked forward to every dance number, and I was pleasantly surprised with the skill and energy.

                Speaking of skill and energy; Roger Dunbar, who played Don Lockwood, was fantastic. It was interesting to see him in a new type of role for him, and when I watched a dress rehearsal earlier I could see some ‘uncomfortable-ness’ in his character, but by the time I saw him the second time around he had mastered the charming yet sensitive character of Don Lockwood. His voice sounded great, though I would’ve liked a little more punch. Or, to be simpler, volume… and his dancing was out of this world. If it weren’t for a few (and only a few) moments where I could see the concentration on his face, I would’ve believed that he had been dancing all of his life. Roger continues to be one of my favorite actors to watch on stage and I can’t wait to see his take on Thomas Putnam in DSC’s production of The Crucible.

         I think that I can put Kyle Turman in the same vein of skill and energy. Here is a kid that I can tell loves the stage and is willing to work hard to be there. He appeared very comfortable on stage, and most of the time had good energy. His dancing was also extremely impressive, though sometimes his arms were a bit crazy. His character was sometimes too casual, and I think I caught him playing for laughs once or twice, but most of the time he was great. One of my least favorite moments of the night however was the song “Make em laugh”. But I don’t believe that it is Kyle’s fault... he sounded fine. First of all a joke rarely flies when you say, “I’m going to make you laugh” first. Secondly I just did not think the blocking/choreography was… well… funny enough. It was cliché and punchy and the audience didn’t fall for it. I congratulate Kyle for committing to what he was given.   

         Tazia Marie (Is that her last name?) was also very good. Her voice was beautiful, her dancing was spot on, and her character was adorable. She really did a good job of capturing that ‘up and coming’ desperateness. If I have to be picky there were a few times when I felt that her responses were ‘pre-planned’ and so I missed some spontaneity. However Taz has always been someone that I love to listen to. Her musical numbers were great.

         The last person that I’m going to single out is Sally DeMille who played Lina Lamont. There is a fine line that has to be walked when you’re playing an ‘annoying’ character because you can’t be so annoying that the audience hates it when you come on stage… I think Sally did a great job of walking this line. Her facial expressions were priceless; she got the most laughs out of me because she was actually ‘in the moment’ instead of playing for laughs.

         The ensemble / “smaller roles” are so important to a show and they really help to flesh out the stage and create a believable world for the story to take place in. The main note I have, especially to those with lines, is to pick up the pace. Try thinking ‘on the lines’ not in between the lines. Close those gaps, and speed up the dialogue.        

         Layers, and depth… this is a note for every person in the play. With a story so happy, cheerful, and musical theatre-y I can see how it would be hard to find some depth. But most of time I didn’t believe that these characters on stage were real people. I saw just a little too much of ‘I’m on stage! Laugh here! Clap here!’ I saw really good versions of ‘I’m on stage.’ But those layers would’ve brought this show to a whole new level.

         Overall I was pleasantly surprised with the level of discipline required by all members of the cast. And I was very entertained by the show. There will always be picky things, but especially for a community theatre show I think that everyone involved should be very proud of their work. Great job everybody! And thanks for working so hard so that we could enjoy it!


I give it a B- 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Celebrity Status

My dreams of becoming a celebrity came true last night. I am officially a star! Get my autograph now, because I will probably start charging!

Last night my wife Whitney and I were in McDonald's renting a movie from the Red Box (best invention ever) when the girl behind the counter screamed: 'Oh my gosh! You're the people from the video!' At first neither of us had any idea what she was talking about, but soon discovered that she had seen this video and loved it, and us! We didn't know that anyone other than our friends even knew it existed, but apparently she called all of her friends, and they called all of their friends etc... It was very unexpected, really funny, and kind of made both of our days. Now I know what Ashton Kutcher must feel like.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dear Mr. President

I recently stumbled across a website that Pepsi was hosting at And they've got a pretty cool idea going there. They've asked people to upload a video of a letter to our soon to be President, Barak Obama. What a great idea! I know that Mr. Obama will probably never see these videos, but the idea of getting our voices heard and just being involved is a good thing. So I made a video. You can find it here: For those of you who don't have a flash player or something like it, here's what I said:

Dear Mr. President,

You should know that I did not vote for you… sorry. However, now that you are our Nations leader I sincerely hope that I was wrong about you. Please prove me wrong. You talk about change, well, I hope that you make me change my mind. But allow me to mention a few things I hope you don’t change:

Don’t change what America stands for.

Don’t change the 2nd Amendment. I have a right to own a firearm.

Don’t change our taxes too much… Just because I’m poor doesn’t mean I want a rich person paying my taxes, that’s degrading. And let me pay my own hospital bills.

Don’t change the meaning of good: It is not good to punish success and reward laziness. (Taxes, Healthcare, etc…)

Don’t change my desire to fight for a better life. If you make living in the gutter too comfortable, I’ll stop trying to get out.

Don’t change the pledge of allegiance, or what it says on our currency. We are one nation under God, and I do trust in Him. I hope you will too.

I am proud to be an American… Don’t change that.

Please remember that you are not a celebrity. It is not your job to be cool. I personally do not think that my Presidents face belongs on the cover of the same magazine that featured Kid Rock surrounded by four naked women, Britney Spears topless, and three very naked Red Hot Chili Peppers. I don’t want your face on my t-shirt, or your name on my shoes. I don’t want my President to be a fad.

I will support you Mr. Obama, I will pray for you, and I honestly hope that if “Yes you can” change anything, I hope you change my mind about you. You have my sincere Congratulations, and my heartfelt wishes; best of luck to you. And by all means change all the bad stuff, just don’t lose the good.

-Travis Cox, St. George, UT

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My "Cornpone Opinion" on "The Ophelia Syndrome"

My ‘Corn-Pone Opinion’ on ‘The Ophelia Syndrome’

Bear with me… I'm killing two birds with one stone here... I'm writing an essay for my ethics class, and writing a blog for my amazing friends to read about two articles that I actually quite enjoyed. In class we're discuss individuality and the effect that our surroundings affects/controls our personalities. The two articles that we were assigned are 'Corn-Pone Opinions' by Mark Twain, and 'The Ophelia Syndrome' by Thomas G. Plummer; both of which address the issue of individuality, or lack thereof. To start things of I'll provide a brief summary of each article, and then I'll give my two-cents worth.
I'm sad to say that Mark Twain's view on the situation is rather depressing and hopeless. He seems to be of the opinion that no one is innocent and that there isn’t any hope for any of us. I'm even more sad to say that he may be right. He starts his article by sharing an interesting quote from a black friend he had as a child, his friend said: "You tell me whar a man gits his corn-pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is." Meaning that if you know where I live and the people I live with, you know what I think. To support his claim Twain accuses religion, fashion, etiquette rules, standards, politics, etc… of being nothing more than fads. He states, very dismally, that people do not think, or reason, they only feel. The reason this bothers me so much is that I see his point manifesting itself all around me... sometimes within me. How many people do you know that are Republican because their dad was/is Republican? How many people do you know that voted for Obama because the media told us he was 'cooler?' How many friends do you have, that won’t wear white after Labor Day?
I'm interested in pointing out, though, that it's not always a bad thing... conforming is not always a negative action. Just because girls are allowed wear pants, and people shop at Abercrombie, does not mean that society has devolved. It is sad however, that where we are has such a major impact on who we are.

Naturally, once accused of being, in essence, mindless almost all of us will refuse to accept it. We will deny ever making a choice simply because somebody else made it first. We will passionately call Mr. Twain a liar when he tells us that we have not weighed all the options, reasoned the pros and cons, and truly decided exactly how we feel about something and why. We’re all individuals! Right? Sadly, a closer look might reveal otherwise.

The second article ‘The Ophelia Syndrome’ is quite a bit more optimistic. After offering some interesting script analysis on Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ Mr. Plummer compares us, or at least Mark Twain’s version of us, to Ophelia; a young person who “knows not what to think.” He then draws a parallel between the media and authority figures to Polonius who answers: "I'll teach you [what to think]. Think yourself a baby." He warns us of what he calls ‘The Ophelia Syndrome’ and gives us several tools that will help us to think for ourselves.

This article is actually one of the best pieces I’ve ever read. It is sound advice, it rings true, and it has hope for the future. Mr. Plummer believes that we actually have the potential to think for ourselves. (Exciting isn’t it?) Although he reminds that escaping the clutches of conformity will require a certain amount of effort. Plummer quotes a S. I. Hayakawa who said something that is very interesting:

What Does It Mean to Be Creative? Most people don't know the answer to the question, "How are you? How do you feel?" The reason why they don't know is that they are so busy feeling what they are supposed to feel, thinking what they are supposed to think, that they never get down to examining their own deepest feelings.

It’s sad, but true. Thanks to Plummer I now know the ways to avoid falling into the category of ‘most people.’ And lucky for you, if you continue reading, you will too. Plummer’s steps (drastically paraphrased) are: 1. Seek out learning from great teachers. They’re great for a reason, and they will often teach you things more valuable than the course material. 2. Dare to know and trust yourself. Write in a journal, write letters, record your thoughts and your dreams. 3. Live with uncertainty. Don’t demand to know every answer to every question. It’s ok to imagine, and wonder. 4. Practice dialectical thinking. Check out another point of view, and try arguing with yourself. 5. Foster idle thinking. It takes time, but allowing your mind to relax and wander can often lead to some very profound and original thinking. 6. Plan to step out of bounds. This step is my personal favorite, and is the reason that I’m doing this assignment as a blog. It doesn’t mean to break the laws and be destructive, but it does mean to think outside the box and mix things up a bit.

So those are the steps to take to avoid being a mindless sheep. Cool stuff isn’t it? I appreciate that someone took the time to do more than say “Think for yourself.” Plummer actually says “Here’s how to think for yourself.” Which is a lot more useful than Mark Twain saying “You don’t think for yourself… in fact, you don’t think at all.”

So here’s to individuality, originality, and not being sheep. If you get the time, check out those articles, and drop me a line about what you think. Plummer mentioned that one of the best ways to see things from another view is to hear it from your peers. So by all means peers… lay those other views on me. And thanks for reading.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Good Always Trumps Bad

I just noticed that it has been almost a complete year since I've bothered to post anything here on this page... That's a long time sure, but considering everything that has happened in my life since then it seems like it has been much longer. I could write a big long comprehensive blog about all the things that have happened... but I won't. For two reasons. One, I don't think anyone reads this anyway. Two, if you did read it, it would bore you.

Instead I'll write about something much more interesting... now. Now is a beautiful time for me. I'm married to a beautiful woman and we're happily going on seven months. I'm part of a show again to the first time in half a year, and it's nice to be back in the game. I'm playing the part of File in 110 in the Shade, and so far so good. What makes it even better is that my wife, and my best friend are both in the show with me. I really think that it's going to be one of the best shows that I've ever been a part of. There really is so much good in my life that I almost feel bad mentioning anything remotely bad. But I will, cause we all need a little drama in our life. Just know, reader, that the good in my life, is definitely trumping the bad.

I auditioned for Crucible on Tuesday and I actually felt really good about my audition. I think I applied all the things I've learned in the past and really had a good go at things. But then I wasn't called back today. And even though I know that a. Just because I wasn't called back doesn't mean I'm not going to be in the show. And b. There are way more factors than just "how good my audition" was that go into making a casting choice. I still feel the sting of disappointment. I was really excited about this show, I mean... it's The Crucible! It's THE SHOW! It's legendary in it's amazing-ness. And it looks as though I'll be in the seats instead of on the stage. I'm trying my best to be a good person, and be excited for my friends who did get called back, but I'm still down about it. Dumb huh.

On a positive note I had the incredible opportunity to watch some of my peers audition for the show. It was so great because I got to put on the eyes of a director and see what things stand out for the good and for the bad. I had three different sections of notes. One section of things for me to remember next time I audition. One section for things that Michael did that I will emulate if ever I direct a show. And one section where I kind of... evaluated each persons performance and recorded what roles I felt they would be good for. It was so amazing that it almost makes up for not getting a callback. I hope I have more opportunities like that in the future.

As for those who do end up in the show, congrats! I can't wait to see it!