Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Like most of my friends I’m ready for this year to be over. But it’s probably good to take a minute and remind myself that there are still things for which I am truly thankful.

I am thankful for my wife, Mandy.

I am thankful for parents and siblings.

I am thankful for my artistic families at Lifeline Theatre and WildClaw Theatre.

I am thankful for my friends.

I am thankful for the people who attend theatre.

I am thankful for my cats: Smogs, Aggiebear, and Reggieface.

I am thankful that I still have a lot to look forward to.

Thanks, everybody. Mandy and I are a little under the weather, so we’re probably gonna order a pizza and spend the day under a pile of blankets on the couch. There are worse ways to spend the day.

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Checking In

So much stuff has happened since my last post that I don’t know where to begin. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m friggin’ exhausted.

The big news, of course, is the election. It’s been two weeks and I still don’t know what to say about it. I am enraged. I am depressed. I am overwhelmed. I don’t know what to do about it. This is not the country I want the USA to be. My social media has been a maelstrom of anger since election day, and it is getting toxic. I often think about deactivating my Facebook account, maybe just for a month or two, but I worry that I’d be lost without it. But then I get into an exchange with one of my Trump-voting relatives – who are better at arguing online than I am – and I just want to burn it all down. I don’t know. Maybe after Deathscribe.

I watched the returns on election night from a hotel room in Salt Lake City. It was one of several cities I’ve traveled to over the last few weeks as part of a video shoot I’m acting in. The details of the shoot are not particularly exciting. It’s an “industrial,” which is the kind of video that companies have made specifically for their employees. There’s not much in the way of artistic fulfillment going on. But I’ve gotten to fly a whole bunch, and see parts of the country I’ve never seen before. The only real downside is that we’re in and out of these towns so fast that I don’t really get to see much. But it’s still cool. And the gig pays really well.

In spite of the global trash fire we’re living in right now, some things are going right. My play Miss Holmes has had a long and very successful run, and will finally close this weekend. I have signed an agreement for a new production of it in 2017 (more on that after the theatre announces it) and I’m in discussions for a couple others. I have started working on the sequel, but it’s still in the very early stages.

I’m home this week for Thanksgiving, and Mandy and I have elaborate plans tonight to order some food and watch a movie. Next week I’m back on the road for a few more days on the video shoot. Then I’m back for my favorite annual event, Deathscribe. And then I jump into rehearsals for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. During all that I’ve got to keep writing and also work on pre-production for a play I’m directing next year. More on that after Deathscribe.

I have a lot more to say about… everything. I’ll be back.

 

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Press for MISS HOLMES

My new play Miss Holmes opened on Monday, and I am proud to say that the response so far has been enthusiastically positive. I’ve taken the liberty of rounding up some of my favorite pull-quotes:

“Christopher M. Walsh’s ‘Miss Holmes’ offers a cunning and highly enjoyable gender-bent take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s maddeningly brilliant detective. … Walsh manages the tricky task of providing both old-school fan service … and feminist insight. If you peek into the narrative corners, you can see shadowy suggestions of everything from the Jack the Ripper slayings to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.'” – Kerry Reid, Chicago Tribune

“Courtesy of Christopher M. Walsh, whose adaptation of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ was sublime, ‘Miss Holmes’ never overplays its feminist politics, preferring instead to slowly build how disadvantaged Holmes and Watson are as intelligent, independent women in a society that so clearly does not value such attributes.” – Peter Thomas Ricci, Chicago Theatre Review

“The playwright, Christopher M. Walsh, should particularly be commended. He has captured both Holmes and Watson’s characteristic ways of speaking and translated them to an entirely new mystery. One that is engaging and contains a twist or two and uses the fact that the main characters are now women to further the action and the plot. The gender-swap is not a bug, it’s a feature.” – Suzanne Magnuson, Splash Magazines

“Walsh’s script carefully balances the need to establish the female characters’ place in the world with the particulars of the mystery, and he is able to connect the themes of sexist oppression with the case quite smoothly. Of course, this being a Sherlock Holmes story, the truth of the case is quite a bit more complicated than any easy, pat didactic. For the many fans of the great detective, Miss Holmes is a true delight – expanding and commenting upon the original, while adding its own twist.” – Jacob Davis – Around the Town Chicago

“Walsh creates a female Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson that were not simply females playing the men but new characters who were burdened with most of the prejudices, societal limitations, and female rebellion were not tolerated in 19th Century England. … Playwright Walsh weaves all the smart observations by Holmes with the unique observations by Watson that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would appreciate to establish a new mystery. Add a Holmes-style plot and this new work appeals to mystery lovers.” – Tom Williams, Chicago Critic

“Walsh’s detective story is smart, sophisticated and droll. Even without the female slant, we would be more than satisfied with this Sherlock adventure. Yet, looking at lady sleuthing from a 19th century perspective cleverly adds layers of depth to these familiar characters. … There is so much to love in MISS HOLMES that I want more! Encore! Series! When is the next installment, my dear Walsh?” – Katy Walsh, The Fourth Walsh

We also got a brief mention in the Chicago Reader, but that one was a dissenting vote. Oh well. To each his own. I will give the reviewer credit for making me look up the word “ressentiment.”

Anyway, Miss Holmes runs through October 30th. You can get tickets through the Lifeline Theatre website.

Miss Holmes trailer from Lifeline Theatre on Vimeo.

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What I Meant to Say

On Sunday, August 14th, Lifeline Theatre hosted a “Sneak Peak” event for my upcoming play, Miss Holmes. We do one of these for each mainstage show. Early in the rehearsal process we invite our subscribers and donors to come and watch a couple of scenes and hear about the process and what we hope to accomplish with the show. We give a little demonstration, do a little Q&A, and then mingle and drink wine for an hour. It’s fun. But during the Q&A portion this time, a young woman asked a question for which I should have been prepared, but wasn’t, and I tanked the answer.

A little background: Miss Holmes is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, an exercise in “fan fiction” in which we explore Arthur Conan Doyle’s setting and characters by changing the gender of the two central characters in his stories. In the originals, Sherlock and Watson have pretty much free reign to go wherever they want, talk to whomever they choose, interfere with police investigations, wander around crime scenes, and set traps for criminals. As long as Sherlock solves the crime, nobody has a problem with it. None of that would be true if Sherlock and Watson were female. Women who exhibited the same traits as the male Sherlock Holmes would be met with contempt. They would face consequences that could include institutionalization in an insane asylum.

So that’s what my story is about.

The question I got at the event on Sunday was something like this: Was I using this play to put forth my ideas on the differences between men and women? I don’t recall my answer exactly. I believe I said that no, that was not my intention, and the initial spark of the idea was really a collaboration between my wife and me, and then I kind of faded into mumbling until Paul, my director, moved on to the next question. It’s been bugging me ever since.

I should have seen this question coming. If I had been prepared, my answer would have been Yes, as a playwright writing a story about women, my own ideas about gender would obviously inform my storytelling whether I intended it or not. The real question is, what informs those ideas?

I would have talked first about the research I’ve done into the history of women in the medical profession in Victorian England. Watson is a doctor, after all. Heroes like Sophia Jex-Blake, who organized the first group of women to attend classes at a medical school in Great Britain, and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, who was the first woman to obtain a medical license in England (among many other extraordinary achievements), provide invaluable source material for my story.

I would have talked about the Not In Our House movement, and the brave women who have shared stories about their experiences in our theatre community.

I would have pointed to my two leads, Mandy Walsh and Katie McLean Hainsworth, and I would have explained that from the beginning I knew the story could not be told without their voices.

I would have talked about all of the women I know who have shared with me stories of the everyday sexism that permeates their lives.

And I would have explained that I don’t look at writing plays as an excuse to preach what I think. I see it as an opportunity to learn something new. But don’t ask me what I’ve learned yet. I haven’t finished writing it.

Posted in Theatre, Writing
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Hammer Trinity Vice

If there’s anybody left who reads this, you might be wondering where I’ve been. The answer is Miami. I was there for seven weeks this spring, with the House Theatre of Chicago’s production of The Hammer Trinity. It’s the longest I’ve been away from Chicago since I moved here, and the longest I’ve been away from my wife since we started dating. She did get to fly down and spend a week with me in the middle, but still. It was a long time away from home. I think it was good for me.

I can’t say that Miami is my kind of town. Nothing against the place, but she and I, we move at different speeds. Miami is about partying. I am not really a partier. Miami is about nightlife. I like to spend my evenings sitting on my couch eating pizza and watching movies on HBO. That said, I loved the weather. The weather in southern Florida cannot be beat. It was never not nice there. Even when it got particularly hot, it was still a nice kind of hot. In the seven weeks we were down there, there was only one day where the weather was bad enough that it was preferable to stay inside. This was something I learned about myself: I like being outside. This is not the same as liking the outdoors, mind you, but sitting outside with my laptop or a book is just about the best thing ever. Since I got back I’ve already spent more time on my balcony than I did all of last summer.

One area where Miami and I jive is the food. Oh man you guys, the food. This year I discovered the Conch Fritter. It’s as simple as it sounds. It’s fried batter with conch meat in it. It is delightful. I could live off of them exclusively. I ate many, many conch fritters down there. I also tried alligator for the first time, and yeah, it tastes like chicken. But really, really good chicken. And the Cuban food that I tried was, across the board, fantastic.

One area in which Miami does not do well: Fast food. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But I did on a couple occasions break down and opt for McDonalds because it was convenient and I am a creature of very bad habits. I might have done it even more often, but the fast food down there was just not very good. Also, not very fast. For a town full of sports cars, Miami has a surprisingly slow pace. It is impossible to run out for a quick… anything.

Our show went fine. It was so great to be back in the room with that group of people, telling that story. I wish more people had come to see it. Those who did, however, seemed to really dig it – although I had one particularly strange response that reminded me how far I was from home. In the show I use an Irish accent. In between parts a man came up to me and told me I was doing a good job. I said, “Thank you very much! I’m glad you’re enjoying it,” or words to that effect. The man replied, “Oh good. I just wanted to make sure you were American.”

It might have been a compliment. Maybe he was saying my accent sounded very authentic. But what a weird way to say so.

Our schedule in Miami was insane, in that we were basically getting paid living wages to work two days a week. Since the decision had been made to only run the full 10-hour marathon shows, we only performed Saturdays and Sundays. So we had vast swaths of time to kill. A lot of time was spent at the beach. People went camping, or made trips up to Orlando. A couple people went on a cruise. I spent a day down in Key West, which was just magic. We ate and drank our way up and down the main street, toured Ernest Hemingway’s house, saw some fun street performers, watched an incredible sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, and saw creatures called sea hares. It was there that I finally figured out why so many people retire to Florida. I’ve always thought of myself as a city-dweller, but there was something about that place that made island life look really attractive. Maybe it was the conch fritters.

With this vast expanse of free time before me, I thought for certain I would be able to plow through another rewrite of my next play (Miss Holmes, opening in September!) and probably get some really solid work in on one or two other projects. I was mistaken. When I tell people about this they assume it was because Miami lured me away from my work with promises of sun and fun. That was not the case. I was actually fairly disciplined, and had carved out a chunk of each day to park myself at a table in the courtyard beneath my hotel room, open my laptop, and work. It’s just that I could only manage the first two of those things. The problem was not the siren call of Miami. It was the fact that I had nothing in front of me but spare time. I learned that I’ve conditioned myself to work best with a tight schedule. If I know I have two days to get these rewrites done, and I need to fit that writing time around work and other obligations, then I will find a way to make it happen. But when I sit down to write and have nothing but all the time in the world ahead of me, then my momentum dissipates and my creativity fizzles out. I just stare at the screen and wonder what to do.

So, my plan to use the Miami trip as a writing retreat was a bust. Oh well. Once I’d resigned myself to the idea that I would be getting no writing done that day, I’d either grab a book and head for the pool area, or I’d go out and explore. All in all, not a bad way to spend almost two months. I might have a chance to head back there for a few days this fall. If that happens I know exactly what I’m doing first. It involves conch fritters.

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Facelift!

The ol’ website’s gone and got herself a little work done. A little nipping and tucking, a little streamlining, a little smoothing out. I think it looks rather fancy, if I do say so myself. I hope you guys will give it a spin and let me know what you think.

I’m deep into a long-overdue new draft of Miss Holmes right now. When that’s done, I’ll write some posts about what I’ve been up to for the last few months.

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Why I Should Be In the Marvel Movies

Dear Kevin Feige,

I am an actor– WAIT! DON’T STOP READING YET!!! Let me try this again.

There is a character in the Marvel universe named after me, and I think you should cast me to play him… me… him. Please let me explain.

Christopher M. Walsh first appears in Invincible Iron Man #8. He is a HAMMER agent, working for Norman Osborn. Agent Walsh is a minor character who has appeared in a handful of issues since then. I have fairly good reason to believe that this character is named after me.

Invincible Iron Man was written by Matt Fraction. “Matt Fraction” is the pen name of Matt Fritchman. Matt Fritchman lived about a block from my house when we were around eight years old. We were best friends for a few years, until his family moved out of town. During the time we knew each other, our lives were entirely consumed by Star Wars, Legos, GI Joe, and comic books. We even once attempted to write our own comic book. I lost interest, but it apparently stuck for Matt.

Matt and I lost touch and haven’t spoken in almost 30 years, except for one brief exchange over MySpace in the mid-2000s, shortly after I figured out that the Matt whose books I’d been reading was the same as the Matt with whom I discovered my inner geek all those years ago. It was not long after that brief exchange, however, that Christopher M. Walsh first appeared in print.

So, I can’t prove my hypothesis – at least, not without getting a hold of Mr. Fraction and asking him point blank, which just sounds awkward – but the circumstantial evidence is pretty convincing, don’t you think?

I have no actual expectation that you are going to drop everything and insist I be written into the next Avengers movie or Netflix show. That would be crazy talk. Frankly, I would be thrilled to learn that you even got a chance to read this. But on the off-chance that you do read it, and for some reason you find a place for that random character in one of your projects, I hope you’ll remember this letter. I actually am an actor. I’m based in Chicago and most of my work is on stage, although I did manage a couple of small roles on recent episodes of Chicago Fire and Betrayal, both shot here.

I should also point out that this isn’t the first time I’ve posted this. I first made the connection a few years ago and addressed a similar post to Joss Whedon. It amused me to re-post it once a year or so. But now that Mr. Whedon is no longer working on the MCU, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to actually address this to the man in charge.

Best Wishes,

Christopher M. Walsh
(the real one)
christophermwalsh.com

(See? We even kinda look alike! Kinda. Sorta. Maybe.)

Posted in Acting, Movies
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Deathscribe 2015

On Monday my other company, WildClaw Theatre, capped off months of hard work with Deathscribe 2015. This year’s edition of the annual horror radio play festival was special as it was the first big event for what we’re dubbing WildClaw 3.0 – the company that assembled last summer after a handful of long-time members moved away and new leadership took over. They brought in myself and a handful of other scrappy young artists to shore up the ranks. We’re still finding our way a bit, learning how we all work together as a company, but this Monday provided a huge boost of confidence. For the first time, the event was sold out in advance. We had industrial music hero Martin Atkins and Tony Award winning actress Deanna Dunagan among our panel of celebrity judges. I performed on stage in a Deathscribe piece (two of them, actually!) for the first time. The response from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive. All in all, the evening was a great success. I can’t wait to find out what we do next!

Posted in Acting, Theatre, Uncategorized
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Rehearsals

Rehearsals have begun for Lifeline Theatre’s upcoming production of Midnight Cowboywritten by my good friend and frequent artistic collaborator Chris Hainsworth. I think this is the seventh show we’ve worked on together? Or tenth, if you count A Crew of Patches, and why wouldn’t we? Usually we’re acting together, or one of us is acting in something the other one wrote. This time, I’m directing Chris’s script. We’re four days in to the rehearsal process and I don’t think I’ve embarrassed myself too much yet. It’s been all preliminary work so far: Table work, some movement exploration, and tonight is devoted to dialects and music. We’ve got a couple days off, and then on Sunday we have an event for our donors and subscribers. Then, next week, we start with two days of violence. And THEN we will start actually staging this play. I can’t wait.

Posted in Directing, Theatre
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Have I Told You About SINGLE VERSION Yet?

“The large cockroach skittering, scuttling across my desk doesn’t faze anyone. Except me. No one else even looks at it, I just catch it out of the corner of my eye. People got used to this far too quickly.”

So begins Single Version, a new sci-fi novel by my friend and fellow WildClaw company member Scott T. Barsotti. He is currently taking pre-orders via Inkshares, a Kickstarter-like service specifically for new authors to market and sell their work. Scott is skirting the edge of his goal of 750 pre-orders, with a little less than a week to go before the deadline.

Scott describes the novel like this: “A massive paramilitary group. A fully armed society. An exploding population of cockroaches. Amidst it all, an entomophobic pacifist who has yet to need a cybernetic limb.”

I’m so curious to know what that last bit about not “yet” needing a cybernetic limb might mean. I should find out soon, because I was one of the first people to pre-order this book. It would be amazing if you got on this train and ordered one for yourself.

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© 2016 Christopher M. Walsh