Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Takin It To The Streets

I am a die hard Stefanie Powers fan. Is that random? I know that when people talk about their favourites, they talk about Dench, Streep, Smith, Weaver, Sarandon, Foster, Blanchet.. you know, those big, visible, fabulous actors like Julianne Moore, who seem to be in every single great movie without, ever, being in danger of over saturation. There, are, though, scads and stacks of actors who don't become the biggest star in the world; there are lots of actors who have continued to work their entire lives. I love those actors. LOVE them.

I have loved Stefanie Powers since the first time I saw her. I was a kid. That fact being known, everyone should be able to guess (correctly) at what it was I saw that made me such a fan. Anyone? Anyone? That's right. HERBIE RIDES AGAIN. She was so lovely and so charming, how could you not fall in love with her? And so began a lifelong love affair with gorgeous redhead with a wealth of talent.

During the years I lived in Europe, it was difficult to keep up with Stefanie's body of work; but once I was back in the States, I had a chance to see tv reruns of shows she had done, as well as her work in films like Die! Die My Darling with the legendary Tallulah Bankhead. Then came the incredibly popular Hart To Hart series and a slew of tv miniseries. In the 80s I was a devotee of miniseries and Stefanie was in some of my all time favourites: Family Secrets, Shadow of the Sun, Hollywood Wives, At Mother's Request, She Was Marked For Murder and, especially, Deceptions and Mistral's Daughter (I have my vhs of Mistral handy for the six times a year that I watch it; and the soundtrack is in my Ipod). I simply love this woman. She is such an accomplished actress and a flawless beauty.
Imagine my surprise when, in the 90s, I found out she was a dancer and a singer. I love when stars reveal talents that they have that we didn't know about. I read that Stefanie was doing the musical APPLAUSE at the Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey. I've always loved that musical, in spite of flaws that it has that every musical theater buff acknowledges and either accepts or trumpets. My parents were living in Jersey at the time and my mom loves Stefanie Powers, too, so we went out to see the show. What a thrill! The script had been tampered with in an effort to fix it. Numbers had been cut, numbers had been replaces, the running order of the songs had been changed. Some of the cast weren't really very good but they were passable. What mattered was this: mom and I thought Stefanie was a delight. I really like the way she sings and, boy, can she dance. There was much criticism over the production and over her performance and I admit that for a part like Margo Channing you have to have a huge, huge star - and huge, huge stars are hard to come by. Stefanie is a wonderful actress and a star in her own right and, so, the opinions of other people wasn't going to deter me from enjoying one of my idols, performing live.
After APPLAUSE, mother and I had a chance to go backstage and meet the petite star, who was very sweet and most gracious, in her pretty dressing gown and wig cap. My mama was happy to meet the lady and say to her "well, now I can say it: you can do anything."
A year later, I photographed Stefanie Powers for my book. She was accomodating and sweet. She drove to me, brought her dogs, did the photo, hung out and talked, asked me questions, behaved like a lady and a star without making me feel like a minon. That made it final: I would and will always love this woman.
In the last few years, I heard that Stefanie was doing a tour of The King And I, one of my favourites. Everyone who knows me knows that the Tony winning star of the Broadway revival is one of my dear friends; so the musical has an extra special place in my heart. What is more, another actor (and human) that I revere did the London production, playing the King - Jason Scott Lee. It's a special show for me. I would have loved to have seen Stefanie in the show. Alas, it didn't tour anywhere near where I was going to be and I don't have the disposable income that allows one to travel. So I missed it.
I did hear a story, though, that left an impression on me...

A person I know was in the production of The King And I that starred Stefanie Powers. Months after it closed, I saw my friend and asked about the experience. While telling me about it, my friend said that there was this one day that Stefanie arrived at work and was very unhappy.
It seems that their little tour of the great Rodgers and Hammerstein musical had been booked, not into a small theater, but into a high school gymnasium.

They were booked into a High School.
They did the play in an auditorium.
I had visions of basketball hoops and white tape on a shiny wood floor.
I probably would have been a little miffed, too.

But I think it says a lot about character that Stefanie continues to work. The great actors of the first part of the last century all toured. Lynn Fontanne told Carol Channing "It is your duty to tour the provinces." Laurette Taylor believed the same, as did Julie Harris, Alfred Drake, John Raitt, Tallulah Bankhead, Uta Hagen. And Carol Channing STILL tours. If you are a stage performer, it is important to take that craft to the people who cannot make it to Broadway. I'm so grateful for the theaters around this country who do shows and hire actors that the public wants to see. My friend, Anita Gillette, did Mornings At Seven last summer with Joyce Van Patten, Debra Jo Rupp and a host of other lovely American actors that people know and want to see. I remember reading about numerous shows that Barbara Eden has toured with. Over the years I have heard of Loni Anderson in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Joyce DeWitt in Gypsy. Why, just this year, Casa Manana did Steel Magnolias with Margaret Colin, Ruta Lee and Sally Struthers. These are wonderful actors who deserve to work and who deserve to be seen. I know that I, personally, feel hurt when my favourites don't work (Jane Fonda's retirement was especially hard on me) and always feel grateful when they make themselves accesible. Stefanie Powers has a big fan base and I bet people turned out, in droves, to see her play Mrs Anna. I would have. Like I said, DIE HARD fan.
I wish I had done it. After all, Pat and I did travel by train to Rhode Island to see Helen Reddy play (beautifully!) Shirley Valentine.
I think The Girl From U.N.C.L.E deserves just as much, don't you?
Please note: I did not do the photos in this story.

Feed The Homos

Here's one that may make youse laugh, especially those who have lived in our place, hung out there or attended a party there...

So everyone knows that Pat was in Texas for the last week. Everyone knows that we are on a bulking up diet that requires maximum caloric intake, causing us to eat six times a day. So when he left, he left me with a fridge full of food... and the chances of some of it going bad were big.

I hate throwing food away. Hate it. It makes me sick to my stomach. Pat is the same way.

So I determined that, while Pat was away, I would not spend any money on food (it didn't hurt, making this decision, that the company for whom Pat and his boss freelance were ten days late paying them and that I had two photo shoots cancel on me, leaving us holding on to ALL our money in case of Pat's travel needs and/or emergencies). If I had a craving for a particular food item, it would have to wait until all the chicken, all the veggies, all the eggs, EVERYTHING in our place had been consumed...

Pat came home yesterday. Within about fifteen, thirty minutes, he said "I'm STARVING. Is there anything to eat?"

As he approached the fridge, I said "About that...."

He opened the fridge.


Water, capers, sundried tomatoes, roasted garlic, half an onion and a variety of liquid products.

"I guess not."

He must have been really, really, really hungry because within the hour (and I am not lying, even one little bit - it was within the HOUR)..

Hunger = Great motivator.

Like Riding A Bike

I had a really interesting experience a couple of weeks ago.

A phone call from Jake brought the happy news that he was engaged to be married. Now, what you need to know about me and Jake is that he is one of two men who are the closest I have come to have a son of my own. The other is a man who has been hailed as my adopted son, a man that I love, dearly, and who I continue to refer to as my son. He came into my life much later than Jake did. I've known Jake since he was ten, when I was playing Willy Wonka and he was playing an Oompa Loompa. In this life we become seperated from our loved ones by the continual moving that most of us do; and I lost touch with Jake. Years later, as an adult, he found himself studying acting in New York City, was headshot shopping, spotted my name and called to see if it was truly me - and we were reunited. Over the years, this reunion has brought me more joy than I can say. Now he is engaged to a lovely young woman who has captured (not only his heart but) the hearts of everyone in his life.

Upon hearing the happy news, I announced that I was to do their engagement photo.

Jake is on tour with a Broadway musical. He flies here, Emily flies to him; they make it work, which is what actors must do, since they often have to go to their work (work rarely makes the concession to come to us..does it?). On one of Jake's days in the city, we were scheduled to meet and make art.

It isn't every day of the week that I make art, anymore. As a matter of fact, it is a rare, fair month if I pick up a camera. Since retiring from working as a photographer, I have most of my equipment stored in the back of the closet. I also have my creative juices stored in the back of the closet that is my mind. There are times when I have a shoot coming up that I wonder if I will be able to deliver. In fact, most of the time (these days), if I am going to pick up a camera, I worry if I will still have it.


Some years ago, my attorney had a birthday party. He is one of the biggest show business attorneys in New York, with a client list that would make an autograph hound's mouth water. On the festive occasion of his birth, there was to be a show and some of his favourites were going to perform. A week before the party he called me and asked if I was coming. Yes. Would I bring my camera? No. I am coming as a guest, not an employee. He explained that nothing could be further from his mind; he just wondered if I was going to be able to take pics of Sam Harris, Randy Graff, Karen Mason, Julie Wilson, Margaret Whiting, Mimi Hines, Lesley Gore, Lainie Kazan, Nancy Dussault, Ann Hampton Callaway, Marcia Lewis, Jennifer Holliday... Yes, I told him, I will bring my camera. I spent the eve running around, amidst party guests like Linda Lavin, Gregory Harrison, Polly Bergen, Dee Hoty and my beloved LiZa, shooting pics of the show. A couple of weeks later I was in his office and saw a bag of videos - it was the pro shot video of the birthday concert. I told him I was taking one and he started to protest "I'M TAKING ONE" and that was the end of it. I transferred some of the numbers onto cd so I could listen to them in my cd walkman. Years later, I transferred the numbers to my IPOD.

The day of my scheduled shoot with Jake and Emily, I was coming up out of the gym. It was mid morning and the sun was out, even though it was a chilly day. As I passed up the stairs of the gym, through the lobby, out into the street, I found myself thinking "What am I going to do with Jake and Emily? What kind of engagement photo should I do? What can I do that is interesting, that is new? What if I don't come up with something good?"

My IPOD was on shuffle. As I walked into the street, I heard Randy Graff start to sing...

Mama, a rainbow
Mama, a sunrise
Mama, the moon to wear


It was me. I had been standing under the videographer, the next level up at the party, during the show and taking pictures and each time I took a photo, there it was on the recording. Ha. I laughed. I smiled. A single tear squeezed out of my right eye and rolled down the bridge of my nose. Aside from the photos, there was proof that I was there. There was a document, a witness, of my artistry. Each time I heard that Click and Bzzzz, I knew why I had taken that picture; I could hear it in Randy's performance. It was as though she and I were collaborating on something: she made something unforgettable and I saw it and documented it - and the videographer documented me. A history was made. A history of art.

I took it as a good sign. A sign of good artwork to come. A few hours away....

Monday, April 28, 2008

The ReMake Story

Everyone who is a film buff or a theater fan loves to sit and daydream, even discuss what they would do with a revival or a remake -
how they would cast one of their
shows. It's something that Pat and I do often.
It's something that I do with certain friends - even strangers from time to time. It's just a fun little game that we play.

Now, usually I am not in favour of remaking good movies. It would be one thing if someone wanted to remake MAME or MAN OF LAMANCHA - both original films were pretty bad (even though there are those who like them - I, myself, have acknowledged moments in these movies that I enjoy; but they are still pretty bad.) When they did the remake of THE LION IN WINTER, I was sickened (even with a cast of actors I love). I was reviled by the remake of CHARADE, which starred my idol, Mark Walberg. It just doesn't seem like a viable option, most of the time. However, I did like the remake of SLEUTH that was done last year. I also happen to be one of the few who like the remakes of SABRINA and BORN YESTERDAY (in spite of my deep, abiding love for the orignals). The idea of remaking a classic seems, most of the time, to be a mistake.

I read the other day that they have finally started work on the remake of THE WOMEN. I have some opinions on it, not the least of which stems from their insistence on modernizing it to today. That, however, led me to think... wouldn't it be fun...? Well, I actually liked what I came up with and I called Pat and told him about it. He was intrigued, though surprised, to hear what I had come up with. After all, it is my favourite play, my favourite movie and my favourite actress; but I thought it would be neat to see a modern film version (still set in the original era, though) of the great work by Phillip Barry: THE PHILADELPHIA STORY.

Picture, my dear friends:

Katharine Hepburn's character, Tracy Samantha Lord, would be played by the beautiful and brilliant Naomi Watts, while her ex husband, C.K. Dexter Haven would be passed from Cary Grant to Jude Law.
Playing the part that won Jimmy Stewart the Oscar, Mike Connor, would be the wonderful Matt Damon; and Connor's counterpart, the photographer (and wisecracking good old dame) Elizabeth Imbrie (a part played in the film by the under rated and fantastic Ruth Hussey) would be

Ann Hathaway, whose star is on the rise and who should ONLY be playing the leading lady but who is the clear choice for the multi faceted role. These four main characters being cast, thus, we have the supporting players: is there anyone better to play the towering George Kittredge than the towering Ben Affleck? And though, most of the time, Dinah should be played by a ten or eleven year old, my favourite young actress these days is Abigail Breslin, who can do anything -- even appear a couple years older than she is.

To play the parents of the Eastern society girls, Tracy and Dinah, you would have to have truly Eastern high class folks - a man and a woman who fit, perfectly, the idea of American Aristocracy. Look no further for Seth and Margaret Lord than Victor Garber and Christine Ebersole! Lord Have Mercy. What gorgeousness for one movie!

Let's talk about the wicked, the wiley, the wonderful Uncle Willy, that booze guzzling, bottom pinching ladies' man who spends the entire movie partying and chasing Miss Imbrie... It has to, has to, HAS to be one of this country's greatest (and funniest) actors, Mister Frank Langella.
I wish I were a Hollywood film producer... or even a casting director... or anyone with the power to get this idea into the heads of someone in power.
This is a remake I would go see. It's a remake I would champion. Alas, I will just have to remake it in my head.
What fun.
Please note: I did not do the photos in this story.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What An Ass

UM.... You had the immunity idol and didn't play it?! You are one of the greatest Survivors in the history of the game and you didn't see it coming? You let yourself get comfortable and cocky and didn't think about the fact that we ALL know how Cerie and Parvati work? What?

I'm sorry, I said that wrong. What I meant to say was


Sorry, Ozzy, you got voted off because you stopped playing the game; even if it was just for a moment.

That's Survivor.

Right Bright White Light

As a boy, my favourite thing was a blank sheet of paper. It didn’t matter whether it was lined and in a spiral notebook, a piece of typing paper from my mom’s desk, a thick page from a sketch pad… whatever kind of paper I could find, I loved. I loved the smell of it, the feel of it, the bright white of it; for, with that piece of paper, I could create anything. In my life I have used blank pages to write stories, draw pictures or even just make lists. The weapon of choice might be a pencil or, perhaps, a pen; a crayon or marker would do, too. I only needed a writing implement and that white page (or canvas).

My entire life I have been a lover of musical theater. To prove it, I can point out that the first record I ever bought was Hello, Dolly and I did this at the age of eight. That musical remains one of my very favourites. Over the years, my favourite changed (depending on where my head and heart was, at a certain time, or what I had found that was new). After Hello, Dolly! I discovered Mame, Oliver, My Fair Lady, Funny Girl, The Sound of Music and Dear World. In high school I went through a Camelot phase, an Oklahoma stage and a Forty Second Street thing. A Bob Fosse lovin’ friend of the family introduced me to Pippin and Chicago; and the late, great Steve Barton introduced me to Godspell, The Fantasticks, West Side Story and Man of LaMancha. When I arrived in college I learned about On The Twentieth Century, Seesaw, Guys and Dolls, Starting Here Starting Now and Gypsy.


It was my freshman year of college that I found (in this order) A Little Night Music, Merrily We Roll Along, Company, Sweeney Todd and Follies. All that in my first year of school! What?! That was a great year; and anyone who knows Sondheim, anyone who loves Sondheim, gets what I’m talking about.

In the years that followed I can remember periods of time when my favourites were A Chorus Line, Nine, Best Little Whorehouse, Into The Woods, Anything Goes, Phantom of the Opera, Romance Romance, March of the Falsettos, Grand Hotel, Passion, Triumph of Love, Ragtime, Sideshow, Wicked… there is a kind of regular changing of the guard as I discover something new to love, something to obsess over until it becomes time to set it down in the list of favs. One show, though, has always been more than just a favourite for me – it has been the heart beating within my chest. It isn’t always as much in the foreground as it has been; but it is always there, lurking somewhere beneath the surface. It has lived within me from the moment I first experienced it, from the moment I, first, heard the opening sentence.

“White. A Blank page or canvas…”

All of my life I have wanted to be an artist. Well. Let’s re-state that. All of my life I wanted to be an artist. The omission of one little word makes the intent more clear. I wanted to be an artist. I don’t anymore. I was an artist. Now I’m just a man. It’s simpler. It is, though, essential to the telling of this story that the reader know how badly I wanted to be an artist and that that desire lasted nearly four decades. It didn’t matter what form the artistry took, either. I tried performing – it didn’t work out. I spent some time behind a sketch pad – didn’t really take. I wrote some short stories, a couple of plays…started a novel or two, which remain unfinished. I even spent a few years behind a camera, where I found the most artistic success of my life. To create art; that was my dream.

In the mid 1980s I saw a musical number on the tv broadcast of the Tony Awards that left me breathless. It truly did – I was hyperventilating and crying. I’ve been teased (during my adulthood) for being emotional, sensitive..a weeper. I am not, now, but I was, then. So it wasn’t a great shock to anyone that the number SUNDAY, when performed on the Tony’s would leave me in a state of emotional upheaval. No surprise to anyone when PBS broadcast a performance of the entire show, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, and it became my favourite. I bought the record album and listened to it, devotedly, trying to memorize the songs (no easy task, let me tell you); I watched my vhs recording of the PBS broadcast until the tape was nearly threadbare. It became, not just my favourite musical, a personal anthem for me, this intellectual fictionalization of a famed artist’s life. The play is too intellectual for some…a lot of Sondheim IS too intellectual for some. Not for me. I’m a modest man, one who often downplays his intelligence with protestations of being stupid or (my favourite expression of the situation) “I’m NOT a smart man.” It’s true that there are areas of my life in which my intelligence, my retention of information, is selective. However, on this one occasion I can state the unstated: I have an IQ in the triple digits and, though it ain’t the high triple digits, it’s high enough up there. And, for me, there is no such thing as too intellectual, when it comes to Sondheim. I don’t read music, I don’t understand the science of the craft of music; but I get Sondheim. It’s like breathing for me. SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE is like the air.

I never saw SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE. I watched my vhs, then dvd, of the original Broadway cast. I wondered, often, how it was that Bernadette Peters was denied a Tony award for her performance and, each time, I am reminded that the great Chita Rivera took home the Tony that season for a play I did not see called THE RINK. I have the performances of that cast branded in my mind (in my heart) like a rancher’s brand on cattle’s hide. During twenty years, it has simply become a part of the mosaic that is my personality. It’s not just because of my love of the piece or the performances; it is because I understand what it means. I know I am not alone in this. I know that other people with a wish to create art understand it, just as well…well, maybe just as well but in a different way. I even came out of my self imposed retirement from acting, several years ago, to audition for a production of the play, just so I could live, for a moment, in that world. (When I told my friend, Mike Babel, that I – a non singer who had left the profession of acting a decade earlier-that I was auditioning for a musical he asked which one and I told him. His reply: “You maybe couldn’t start with Hello, Dolly?”) Naturally, I did not get the part; but the audition process was enough.

This week, thanks to the generosity of my best friend, Brady Schwind, I walked into the theater at Studio 54, with Pat (natch!), because I was (finally) going to see SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE onstage. It had been a busy week and a half and I was so focused on the things going on in my life that I had not taken time out to think about the fact that I was going to see SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE; and I felt glad to be going to the theater as we passed through the vestibule of the building and, then, through the outer lobby of the theater. Once inside the inner lobby, my eye was caught by the kiosk where the souvenirs were sold. I saw the cds, the posters, the cups, the magnets, the keychains….the t shirts. My eyes landed on one of the shirts whereupon was written ART ISN’T EASY. I paused. I felt an emotion (it doesn’t happen a lot anymore). I moved my eyes to the next t shirt and, there, I saw a different logo that incorporated the words Order Design Tension Composition Balance Light and, there in the middle of the shirt, HARMONY. I gasped. My body was frozen in that moment. Pat, having heard that gasp and knowing me well, reached over and put his hand on my left forearm. He knew that all he had to do was wait for the moment to pass, which it did, and we could go to our seats and await the curtain, which we did. There was no need to talk. We settled into our perfect seats and looked at the set of this revival of the show, brought over from the UK. It was a white room, rather like something you would find in a gallery or a museum.

The lights dimmed and I heard a voice say

“White. A blank page or canvas.”

And I was on my way…

I don’t want to review SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE. I’m not a theater critic. I don’t understand the history of theater or the framework that makes a good play – I only know when something moves me. I imagine that the people sitting near me at the play knew that it moved me, as well, because I spent the entire play wiping the tears and snot from my face; and, when it was over, I could barely clap, let lone let out one of the “bravo!”s or “alright!”s that I tend to cry during the curtain call of something that I enjoy. I could, as a matter of fact, not breathe. I was hyperventilating and weeping and just trying to regain composure. I’ve been to plays that have done this kind of thing to me before. I couldn’t get out of my seat after seeing M BUTTERFLY. I wept, uncontrollably, at NINE. I had apoplexy when we saw Plummer and Dennehy in INHERIT THE WIND. RAGTIME did me in, completely. And when MARY POPPINS flew out over the audience and up out of sight I thought I was going to combust, spontaneously. All of these experiences (and more) are like living and breathing organisms inside of me, each of them. Because, though, of the extreme nature of my relationship with this piece of art, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE will, forever, be the cherry on the sundae that is my theater going life.

To compare this production with that original one (which I, now, own on dvd) is unfair. The performances of the OBC are iconic. That is why the director of this revival, wisely, had his actors play it another way. It is all very natural, very real. The lines are spoken as real people talk in their living rooms; the performances of the OBC have a heightened sense of delivery (something I admire in stage actors – the ability to be presentational, to ACT so that we see and feel your emotions, to project to the last row and, yet, not become over the top). This production is like going to see a play…they just talk, they just say the lines without affecting their delivery of dialogue for a heightened reality; they just do it around the customary outbursts of song. For me, it works.

Technology has allowed for more interesting special effects in this play (and special effects are NECESSARY to the play)—and the computer generated special effects are very fun, indeed. (I have to admit, here, that I am not a big fan of computer generated special effects in the movies-though I know that without them we wouldn’t have the great kind of fx we see in movies like HARRY POTTER or LORD OF THE RINGS of MATRIX; it’s just that, in the movie STAR WARS I am more impressed because they had to really WORK for those special effects – in THE PHANTOM MENACE, they give us a video game to watch. So I let go of my preconceived notions so that I could really enjoy the FX in the play, even though I am more impressed by how they created the illusions in 1985 because it took more imagination and more work.) The orchestra has been turned into a band small enough to fit in one of the theater boxes. We can see them at their work (which can be a problem because there are lamps over their big white music scores and we see them turn the pages – distracting). Some of the dialogue has been removed from the play (I pouted a little when the “I detest these people” exchange was removed from the Mr and Mrs characters’ storyline). And I wasn’t all that impressed by the chromolune – but since I don’t know what a chromolume is or looks like, I guess it can take any shape or form a production chooses. As chromolumes go, this one is as good as any other, I guess. So I made the choice (which we can always do) to not be bothered by things like this because it was imperative that I enjoy this production.

Enjoy it I did. I let the script and music wash over me and I gave myself, freely, to the entire cast. I will admit, though, that it was these two actors who (rightly!) were driving the vehicle who had my fate in their hands. Both of them are lovely actors from England: Jenna Russell and Daniel Evans and the best way for me to say what their performances meant to me is this: after the show there were cast members collecting for BC/EFA in the lobby. Jenna Russell was one of them. Though we dropped a contribution in a different actor’s bucket, I stopped to look at her. I stood, for a brief while, looking at her, memorizing her, so that I could keep her with me, always. As I turned to leave Studio 54 for the last time, I looked to see if another of the collectors might be Daniel Evans. I hoped he would be there so that I could say hello and he would see my tear stained face and red eyes and know that what he did that day mattered, deeply, to another human being. Alas, he was not there. Too bad for him. Too bad for me, for I, truly, wanted to leave a part of myself with him, as he had with me.

You see, I am a failed artist. Now, now; no pity and no protestations. As a child I had a rich fantasy life. I am an adult now and I live in the real world. I live in the present and I know who I am, what I have done and where I am going. There are no illusions (or delusions) here. My work as an actor went nowhere. My work designing costumes went nowhere (save for a very 80s themed production of Starting Here Starting Now that I did in college—in the 80s). My writing has been reduced to internet blogs and I, now, create photographic art only a few times a year when a subject truly inspires me (or a potential client offers me the right sum of money). I worked for a decade on a book, taking pictures of the most famous people imaginable, meeting my idols and making art with them, walking among the celebrated in three major cities. When I was 38 that book (which I happen to hold in high esteem) came out and nobody bought it. The book came out at about the same time that Digital photography took over the profession. In the words of a great pop song: video killed the radio star; and, by 40, I was retired from my career as an artist. Desperate for something to do (and for an income) I went back to work a couple of years later, only to discover that the industry didn’t want me back.

Like George Seurat, I struggled with my artwork, with a desire – no, a need – to have it be seen, to earn some respect. At least I sold that one book during my life, unlike Seurat, who sold nothing during his. Like the George of the Second Act, I worked to find something to say—“something that is new, something that is my own.” I understand the two Georges…or at least a part of them.

When Daniel Evans plays the first George, I can see his passion for his work. I can see WHY he has to finish the hat. I can see his delight, his excitement (I used to do a little dance immediately after taking a picture that I KNEW would be good), his very being, illuminated by his power of creation. I can see the conflict of wanting to be a part of Dot’s life and, indeed, the world, all the while being unable to free himself from his work (my own spouse can attest to my tendencies toward workaholism). When Daniel Evans plays the second George, I see his discontent with the struggle to balance the creation of art with the business of art. I see his struggle at moving on to a new vision (at one time, desperate to break away from a reputation of wholesomeness based on baby portraits and couples in love, I started a project about random acts of violence—theft, assault, rape, murder—that went nowhere, due to my inability to find people who would be photographed so graphically); I see his weariness at being unable to escape the unachievable balancing act that is the life of an artist. One other actor has communicated my feelings of being an artist – Michael Sheen, when he played the other part I always wanted to play as an actor: Mozart in AMADEUS. After years of worshipping that play, I learned (from Michael Sheen’s performance!) that what made Mozart lose his mind was his perception of himself as a failure. Both Georges believe in their work and both Georges perceive the negativity of the business to detrimental extremes. That is why it is essential for the people in the painting to come to life, to show George 2 that there IS a purpose, there IS more, there IS someone who appreciates him and every artist who makes someone immortal (Quentin Crisp once wrote me a letter, thanking me for making him immortal – it is one of the nicest things I own). For communicating my own life, my own experiences, my own joy and heartbreak back to me, I will always remember Daniel Evans; I will (during the run of this production) look for his face in crowds so that I might smile at him. I will bless him, quietly, when I meditate on art, life and my life as an artist, failed or otherwise. There will come many a cool, grey dawn in my future when I remember those final moments of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE.

The people in the painting have paid homage to the artist and have left the arena; only the artist’s muse remains, looking over him one last time. The artwork has faded from the walls of the gallery and, as he turns, the muse exits the scene. As the artist turns to look for her, he sees a field of white of white before him.

The artist gasps.

And in the audience a former artist weeps.

Please note that I did not shoot the photos in this story; I wish I knew who did so I could give them credit