Revelation in a $43 cup of Starbucks.

I just had a major revelation rise out of a $43 cup of Starbucks. Story:


I'm in Vegas this week, doing an Industrial show (or what we like to call Business Theater) for just a couple of days. We've been staying at the MGM Grand, and our show, for Country Financial, was an interesting little presentation on a huge conference center stage, woven through some long speeches being given by the top brass of this company. The greatest piece of Art? Absolutely not. But it's been a terrific gig. We've been paid well, got housed in a beautiful hotel in a fairly warm climate (while the East Coast was getting pounded by a huge snowstorm), got fed like Kings and Queens, and I even got to the gaming tables - and it looks like I'm actually going to leave Vegas 'up' about 100 bucks. Happy days!


So yesterday morning just before I checked out, I went downstairs for a $43 cup of Starbucks. Well the Starbucks cost $8 - (8 dollars for a cup of Starbucks drip and a scone! YIKES!), so where the other $35 come from? As I was stirring in some milk, I noticed that on the gaming floor not 10 steps away there was a five dollar Blackjack table with a nice, welcoming looking dealer standing behind it.   I sat, and I was the only one at the table – you can do this when it's 7 AM on a Wednesday, even in Vegas.

When you play Blackjack and it's just you and the dealer, it can be really fun. You can really play the game, and if your dealer is personable, you can strike up a conversation that can ramble nearly anywhere. My dealer's name was Audrey. And as she was casually hammering me with a very unfriendly shoe, the questions began: "What do you do for a living?" "I'm an Actor.". Usually, Actor gets some kind of reaction, but she barely blinked. Because this is Vegas, and she gets every kind of everything at her table. For a moment, I mused that in a certain way, she's a priest, and this is her confessional - but then I thought, no that's not right; she's a zookeeper, slinging cards and jokes at whatever kind of animal runs, flies or crawls by. "Could you break this for me please? " "Well I'm not strong enough to break it, but I'll definitely give you change." Bah-DUM-bum. 

She dealt me a 20 and then proceeded to deal herself 21 the hard way, and as my head sagged and she reached for my chips, another casual question: "What's your favorite thing you've ever done?"


Now as a person who makes their living as a Professional Actor I've easily been asked this question a thousand times. I usually have some kind of stock answer for it, and so I began my usual "Well, that's a really hard question, but..."

Revelation. BOOM.

And I realized that in that silly little industrial show, I had just as much fun in the moment, in the doing of it, in the performing of it, as I've ever had in any show I've ever done. Anywhere.

So who cares? Why does this matter? PROCESS. That's why. It is all about the doing of a thing, not where you are doing it. (As long as you're getting paid, of course - I mean I am a professional and all.) I've been on Broadway, on television, in film, I run my own series, and even in a conference venue at 7AM, I was having a fantastic time with fantastic people.


Perhaps getting hammered at Blackjack is a method for making that clear. (This is not a method that I would advise participating in frequently - but it is quite effective.) Thus: Are you enjoying what you're doing at the moment? If not, then you should probably find something else to do. Me, im going to keep finding every opportunity I can...  just to be in the show. Wherever it is. As long as it's paying.

Thank you Audrey. You took my money... but in the end, I owe you. 

On being a Union Member: A story, a challenge.

A few moons ago, I was an overzealous pre-med student at the University of Michigan with very little (read: zero) experience in theatre. I had decided to take an acting class 'because it would be fun' - and was soon asked to join the cast of a professional on-campus production of Oedipus, as the nonspeaking boy who brought Tiresias (the blind prophet), on and off stage. I remember saying to the Director, "Well okay, but only if I don't miss Marching Band". Somehow they still cast me.

The play was my first glimpse of Professional Theatre; and as I focused intensely on keeping Tiresias from bumping into the furniture, I was told offhandedly, "Oh, because this show is Equity, you can join the Membership Candidate program," (Actors' Equity is the Union which represents Actors and Stage Managers, and EMC is a program by which you can accumulate weeks towards becoming a full-fledged Equity Member). So I signed up for EMC, truly without considering it further - mostly because I was told to.

My character got beat up quite a bit.

My character got beat up quite a bit.

Flash forward to a small theatre in Seattle some 5+ years later, where I was in my last year of conservatory training at the University of Washington's Professional Actor Training Program. We were doing a play called Mephisto, an adaptation of the political thriller by Klaus Mann, set in Nazi Germany. I had just started considering where my career might take me, and was thinking about a move away from Seattle to either LA or New York.  We were on a break, and the director was standing near me, speaking to the Stage Manager, and in my conversation a few steps away I mentioned that I had joined the Equity EMC program. Her head snapped around and she stared directly at me.

"You're going Equity?" she said.

"Um...yeah, I, I guess," I stammered.

Her eyes narrowed. "Do you have any idea what that means?"

All of a sudden I got very uncomfortable - I had no idea what that meant.

"Well... I guess, that, um, I'll be a professional?" My only thought about had been that perhaps I'd get to audition for the Big Stuff, and maybe I'd meet some really hot girls.

The director took a step toward me, her eyes boring into mine. 

"The very act of joining a Labor Union is a political act," she said. "You don't join a Labor Union because you want benefits. You join because you believe in what a group can do to defend the individual."



Her stare never wavered. "If you do this - if you become a Union Member," she continued, "I challenge you. I challenge you to become politicized. Don't ever take what has been achieved for you for granted."

I never forgot that moment. And once I got to New York, just after I 'went pro', in 1993, I started volunteering. First as a deputy, then on committees at Equity, and finally running for Council, which is the governing body of Actors' Equity. And looking back on that kid who joined EMC then... here's what I know now:

Your Union card is more than just a pass to safe working conditions, better wages, health care, a pension, access to auditions, and on and on. It is a statement; a statement that you carry in your wallet.


It is a statement that you are politicized. That you are a part of the political process that makes things better for Labor in this country. 

And it is a statement that, instead of sitting by - THAT YOU WILL FIGHT.