Sunday, October 9, 2016

Theater, Books, and Squirrels!

It's been five years this week since the launch of my first novel in downtown Manhattan. Here I am again with the launch of my third children's book and the excitement is still just as grand. I love the feelings I get as I lead up to the big day a book comes out. The build-up to that moment when it's out there for the world to see. I've had many opening nights on stage and several book launches. The difference is the weird feeling from when a book is released, you're not totally sure when people are buying it or reading it. That's why I'm doubled thrilled to be launching Irving the Theater Nut! at the Drama Book Shop in NYC on the same day of the release. What a great way to share a book all about theater.

I love theater. It's been a part of my being since I was a child. I think since the moment I was on stage in kindergarten for the Christmas play, I was bitten by the performing bug. I can recall all the rehearsals as a child, the incredible friendships made during the process, and the letdowns when a show closed. For children that love theater like I always have, they can either embrace the term of theater-geek/nerd/nut or let it bother them. Hopefully this new children's book with amazing illustrations by the very talented Morgan Swofford will show kids that it's okay to be different. If you'd rather be at play practice than football practice - it's all good! Let your freak flag fly (to steal a phrase from Shrek!).

I'm lucky in my job as an arts center manager I've been able to see so many children experience that same joy I always have when I see the different groups rehearsing in the theater. There's no other thrill like it and one that theater people can bond on. It was at my current job two years ago when a squirrel got into the theater that I decided to write a story about a squirrel that wants to be a performer. He watches the children rehearsing and wishes he could do the same. There are many messages in the story about teamwork, following your dream and yes..even diversity as Gwen Ricks-Spencer pointed out in her Huffington Post article. These themes are not accompanied with a flashing neon sign, but definitely ones that parents and teachers can discuss when reading the book.

So here I am like an actor waiting in the wings until I walk out on the stage and the lights hit me. This time, it will be at a great bookstore where numerous theater people have shared their stories many times. I'm excited about Monday. I'm thrilled for those across the country to grab the book at an indie bookstore (ask for it!) or from their favorite online site (IndieBound Amazon The time has come for little Irving to shine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Simply Deplorable

I would definitely call this the worst election season that I can recall. Of course things have gotten bad in the past and friendships have been tested based on party lines, but it's much worse this time. Opposite sides simply yell back and forth at each other never hearing anything. The media has completely sold their souls to the rating devil and no one seems to truly care what the consequences will be for the country. I take that back - the patriots do. Of course the word ‘patriot’ seems to have been taken over by one part of the country and they believe only they can own it (I think it was bestowed on them by Bill O'Reilly). You're not allowed to think differently than God-fearing, Flag-waving, gun-toting people and still consider yourself one that loves the country. But I do. I love this land AND the people in it - the melting pot that is America.
What upsets me the most is gone is the United part of the United States. The road we are currently going down (if polls are correct) will only make us more and more divided. As I type this, people will yell that Obama has divided us for 8 years – that he is to blame for the racial divide in our country - I strongly disagree with that statement. There is a man running now that has completely made it okay to believe you are a 'patriot' if you hate your neighbors. If you make fun of people that are different from you. That diversity is a bad thing. That you care about the nation by using the word 'nationalist' (which is someone who wants to be political independent from the country). That you can punch a 69 year old woman in the face at a rally simply because you disagree with her.
Guess what: all of that IS Deplorable. The fact that many people are adopting that word and using it as their twitter handle simple shows how strong of a hold this twisted man has on many. They believe a man that lives in a golden penthouse can relate to them living on a farm. That's their guy. Are people truly that removed from reality that they think he is one of them? Oh sorry...I used the world reality: he is after all a reality TV star. And no matter what happens in this election, I look for him to build his loyal followers to create an entire network on TV where anything goes.
I can say I’m just as guilty as I’ll tweet an inflammatory tweet which is met by disdain and jabs my way. I just get so upset that people don’t want to have the capacity to accept the diversity of our country; to make us united again. I'm so exhausted by this election. I'm tired of fighting with people on social media. I'm scared to death over what will happen if this 'outsider' gets into Washington and then America wakes up to what he truly is: a business man that will do whatever it takes to get a deal - even getting in bed with the enemy. (Just look at any of his properties to see where his products are made: clue, NOT in America.) But this is the savior to many people. And others simply hate Hillary so much and long for a change that they are getting behind him. But yes - deplorable is a great word as so much of what he stands for and what those that surround him, follow him, and believe in is truly the slime on the bottom of the boots of those that built this amazing country.
He gets in, it all comes tumbling down.

Monday, September 12, 2016

You Gotta Believe

Have you ever been asked by a friend to attend something at the last minute and then be completely moved by what you witness? That's what happened to me Monday night at the Al Hirschfeld Theater when my friend Cathy asked me to go to the You Gotta Believe "Voices for the Voiceless" Stars for Foster Kids concert. That may seem like a mouthful, but it was actually 2 and half hours of utter joy and beauty.

You Gotta Believe is one of a few organizations in the U.S that has a mission to find families for young adults, teens, and pre-teens in the foster care system. Too often, children 'age out' of the foster care system, but this incredible group believes ALL children are adoptable and make it their mission to find homes for older 'kids' - some who are even college aged.

Alec Mapa & Stephanie Mills
And those are the stories we heard tonight.

It was a star-studded event with Chita Rivera opening the evening as only she can, and yes there were Broadway, TV, film, sports personalities that flooded the stage and wowed the crowd with talent...I mean come on, Gloria Gaynor!  (Plus I simply want to follow Alec Mapa around and just laugh at everything he says.)

But it was the real stories that got to me. That was the reason for the night. The kids that came out and shared how they were adopted later in life after a rough road to their early lives. Adults who told how a certain child took their hearts and they knew they were meant to be a family. Joseph Tole who went through the foster system himself and then created his own family by adopting older children.  Rosie Perez sharing her absolutely moving story of her childhood living in a group home and singing the song "Home" from the Wiz to get herself through dark times. And then Stephanie Mills comes out and sings the song and there isn't a dry eye in the house.  

I've never been a parent, but I grew up in a family that was a foster family. I often wondered what happened to those kids in the 80s when they left our house. What became of them. I know what became of one of them because we adopted him and he is my little brother that I'm so proud of having served our country in two tours of duty overseas. For me, he was meant to be our family after coming into our lives at 2 years old (and stealing all of our hearts). But for those that are older, that think they will never know what it means to have that unconditional love and connection - I could cry again now typing this as I think back to those stories tonight.
Rosie Perez

Check out this group or a group like it in your area. Mentor a child. Be a big brother or sister to someone younger than you. I never thought I wanted to be a dad, but boy I sure left there tonight wishing I had that capacity like those amazing people that stood and shared their stories. I'm lucky that I get to travel to schools and speak to kids and perhaps inspire something in them. Tonight, I was the one inspired and came home, went on their site, and made a donation to this awesome group!

Thank you, Cathy, for thinking of me to invite. And a HUGE thank you to Seth & James for producing an incredible evening!!