We Are Most Amused

Once upon a while back, I told you about how my fellow Bristol Ren Faire Town Crier alumnus set me up with my first-ever author event with her writing group. Among many other worthy highlights, I made mention of the fact that I’d been privileged to read an early copy of a script my host was working on – a little something inspired by my very own “INSPIRED”.

Fast forward to the present, where the show has moved from page to stage. “aMUSEd”, written and directed by Megan Ann Jacobs, is aliiiiiiiive! And you’d better believe I was there on opening night!

aMUSEd, cover photo

Me and my Daddy, awaiting curtain-up!
Me and my Daddy, awaiting curtain-up!

aMUSEd, centerfold

Presented by the Milwaukee Entertainment Group, “aMUSEDd” was staged at a lovely old-homey bed and breakfast, the Brumder Mansion. The mansion’s owners, Tom and Julie Carr, are not only the providers of the show’s venue, but its producers. Like my own family’s residence, the Brumder has been around since the Victorian era. Unlike our home, it has a gorgeous little threatre in its basement.

aMUSEd, Brumder Mansion

Interior shots of but one of the Brumder’s fancy rooms. (Hi, Dad! Hi, piano I refrained from playing!)
Interior shots of but one of the Brumder’s fancy rooms. (Hi, Dad! Hi, piano I refrained from playing!)

aMUSEd, stage
The stage in all its pre-showtime glory.

The seed of a single inciting incident has bloomed and branched into two magnificent tales. In the first, the untimely end of the author of Lucianíel, muse and light elemental, became Luc and Annabelle’s story, as novelized by yours truly. In the second, the death of Anita (Lori Morse) sends Sebastian, Muse of Comedy (Josh Scheibe) into a slump of poltergeist-esque depression as he does all in his power to keep any new tenants from taking over his late instrument’s apartment. Too bad for Sebastian, Nikki (Madeline Bunke) doesn’t plan on going anywhere – not least because, following a tragic loss of her own, Nikki’s had as tough a time as Sebastian moving forward.

Good thing they’ve got each other! And when I say “good thing”, I mean “hilarious thing”.

Pre-production photos courtesy of Ross Zentner Photography; http://www.rosszentner.com/rosszentner.com/Main.html
Pre-production photos courtesy of Ross Zentner Photography; http://www.rosszentner.com/rosszentner.com/Main.html

But it wasn’t all laughs. Both I and the light elemental looking out from my head had our hearts battered by Sebastian and Anita’s relationship. The deep connection between Muse and vessel of inspiration is a precious thing, and Scheibe and Morse played it for every bit of pathos it was worth. To watch their characters’ time together come to an end was a bittersweet thing indeed.

Pre-production photos courtesy of Ross Zentner Photography; http://www.rosszentner.com/rosszentner.com/Main.html
Pre-production photos courtesy of Ross Zentner Photography; http://www.rosszentner.com/rosszentner.com/Main.html

aMUSEd pre-production, N and TThen out steps Bunke as Nikki, giving Scheibe a run for his money in the category of “most comedic facial expressions ever”. Gotta love when silent gags and dialogue work hand in hand.

Also making his presence known in a big way was Nate Press as Tyler, the overloud, oversharing, and basically over-the-top landlord trying to juggle a reputedly haunted unit and his own relationship issues. Although I’d never want such a someone all up in my personal space in real life, it was a wicked delight to watch everyone else onstage have to deal with his escalation factor.

Rounding out the cast were Olivia Gonzales as Kasey, the NYPD officer who gets called into this apartment’s shenanigans one time too many (no-nonsense cop, meet ALL the nonsense!), and Phil Stepanksi as Ryan, Nikki’s long-suffering fiancé who’s got longer suffering ahead of him before this Muse-bestirred mess resolves. Word to the wise: Don’t let an immortal touch your cell phone. Or your frying pan.

Pre-production photos courtesy of Ross Zentner Photography; http://www.rosszentner.com/rosszentner.com/Main.html
Pre-production photos courtesy of Ross Zentner Photography; http://www.rosszentner.com/rosszentner.com/Main.html

All told, this was a fun production, one that both my novel’s protagonists and I deem an excellent portrayal of the magic of stories and the souls that give them life.

Hats off to Megan Ann Jacobs and everyone involved! The show runs at the Brumder through October 17th, so if Milwaukee’s not beyond your reach, I urge you to get out there and be very much “aMUSEd”!

Alone in a New York apartment, the god of comedy is melancholy, and he wants everyone to know it.

Though bound to find a new person to inspire and complete an unfinished story, Sebastian, the last remaining Greek Muse, mourns the passing of his latest instrument and friend, amusing himself by successfully spooking, pranking, and sabotaging every opportunity for a potential replacement.

Until Nikki.

Driven by her own personal demons, Nikki stubbornly battles with Sebastian for mastery of the apartment. Though fully engulfed in their feud, things get all the more complicated when the two are plagued by an over-involved landlord, a well-intentioned fiancé, and a dramatic Sebastian-orchestrated duel between the two that results in good old-fashioned police intervention. “aMUSEd” captures and explores our tendency to honor the dead by refusing to live, and leads us, through the ancient art of comedy, to live with the past and move forward.

Megan’s bio (as lifted from the “aMUSEd” playbill): Megan studied English and theatre at Wisconsin Lutheran College. There she played Becky in Becky’s New Car, Lady Macbeth (act 2) and ensemble in, In Spite of Thunder, and Sarah in New York, to name a few. Since then she has worked for Theatre Unchained, Memories Dinner Theatre, and she is thrilled to add the Brumder to the list. aMUSEd marks the beginning of both Megan’s career as a playwright and director. She is beyond grateful for the faith, trust, and support the Milwaukee Entertainment Group has given her. Megan is very proud to announce that after making its world premier on this stage, aMUSEd will be produced at two other Theatre Companies this year: The Bay Players & Memories Dinner Theatre. Megan would like to tank this dedicated cast and crew for all of their hard work and talent. Without them these words would never have left the page.

My little Luc in a lightbulb approves.
My little Luc in a lightbulb approves. ^_^

“Pre View” or “HYSLTT!”

No, that’s not a typo – I really did mean to separate the “pre” from the “view” in my blog title. Why? Because that’s how it goes in the title of the newest album from my favorite hip hop artist, t.Jay: “The Pre View”. And yes, this post’s subtitle is having the usual fun with subverting the original “HYSRT!” acronym – in this case because, Hey, You Should Listen To This!

Regular readers of my blog may remember T.J. “t.Jay” Pompeo from this post, when he was cool enough to let me interview him about his previous album, “Iris”. The man is at it again, writing more inspired music and offering it for free  (yeah, you read that right: I said FREE) to any and all who’ve got a computer to download it with.

I just nabbed my own copy of the files, and I’m telling ya, some of these tracks have been getting some major play time with me. You know I dig a song when I can play it some ten times in a row and be excited that it’s starting again every single time. And it’s not just me enjoying these songs: I’ve got a character in my head who not only loves them, he was moved by them; encouraged by them; majorly blessed by them. And that’s exactly what t.Jay set out to do with this album. …well, maybe he’d been aiming more to touch technically real people, but as an artist (and therefore probably a little bit crazy, just by definition), I’m sure he wouldn’t cry boo at my character’s testimony. (Fictional people need the love of Christ, too.)

The Pre View

The album’s track list includes:

1- Fairytales

2- Tomorrow

3- If I Have to Wait

4- Buy Focals

5- Money Ain’t Everything

6- Make It Reign (I’d heard a preview of this song on YouTube, a while back, and was pleased that the full version made it onto this album. The chorus always makes me wanna bounce.)

7- Lens Crafter (My favorite track! Its happy little beat and lovely harmonies do joyful things to me. I am honest-to-goodness listening to this on loop as I post this.)

8- iShadow

9- Remember When— (Another one of my faves. It gets me right in my nostalgic side.)

10- Don’t Let Me Go

11- Far Sighted (This is the one that touched my character the most out of all of them. It was really relatable for him, and just what he had been needing to hear at the time it first reached my headphones. And then it was back to looping “Lens Crafter”, for joy for the both of us.)

12- Hourglass

13- Love – Acoustic Remix

So, in summary: The artist’s legit, the songs are sweet, and you can totally— no, should totally download the album, ‘cause it’s awesome and it’s FREE. And who knows, it might be just what you – or a friend, and/or someone in your head – need(s) to hear.

“UNtitled”

I’m not much of a nonfiction girl. Actually, I sometimes wonder if I have a mild psychological allergy to “real life”, but let’s save the talk about mental quirks for another time. The point I’m coming around to is, you’ll very rarely catch me reading nonfiction unless it’s been assigned for Sunday School or something, and even then, I won’t enjoy it.

            And because that was such a blanket statement, you just know there’s an exception coming. You’d be right. Cue the explanation:

            I’ve been following the blog of Kate Mardis for – (I check the records that my mental quirk of reluctance to delete emails that I’m 70% sure I’ll never have any further use for compels me to keep) – a little under a month, now. The day after I subscribed, she announced her intention to give away two copies of her lately self-published book, “UNtitled” – one to a lucky winner, and one to a friend of lucky winner’s choosing. Staggeringly, my comment/entry was selected at random (guess I’ll have to turn in my “I never win anything cool” badge; oh well, I had a good run…), so as of about a week ago, I have two signed copies of Kate’s book on my hands. (Worry not, my Tirzah, you’ll get yours in time for Christmas.)

            “UNtitled” is a memoir surveying a recent period of unprecedented hardship in the author’s early-twenty-something life. Although the subject matter is fraught with deep emotional pain and spiritual questioning, the tone of the narrative is conversational, often laugh-out-loud humorous, goofy in the way that friends with friends will be, and otherwise sounds very much like the same Kate readers of her blog will have come to know.

            Despite my suspicion of nonfiction and longstanding enmity with typos, I very much enjoyed this book. It read as easily as YA chick-lit, and resonated like a daily devotional. Within the pages, I felt closer to this halfway stranger than I do to some people I see multiple times a week. What’s more, her reflections drew my gaze toward the God who’s used this time of yet ongoing challenge to draw her closer to him.

            The literary ride is best summarized in Kate’s own words near her book’s end: “Where I thought I was headed at the beginning of all this is nowhere close to where I have ended up… There are undoubtedly a few commas missing, a few words misspelled, and a few thoughts repeated… There have been tears shed on the keys of this Macbook from the emotions these words have uncovered. There have been smiles created at the ends of these sentences because of the jokes I didn’t even plan to make. There has been comfort in the completion of chapters and hope in new ones, too. There have been endings and beginnings that didn’t make sense at first but ended up tied together later on… That’s life, though, right?!

            “UNtitled” has been made in the image of its author: Fun, approachable, imperfect, sincere, beautiful, and for the glory of the God she loves. The book is available for purchase through her blog, here. I do hereby recommend that you go make her day and check it out – yes, even if nonfiction isn’t your usual cup of tea.