Still reeling from last night’s LA Weekly Theater Awards, where I was nominated against so many people I respect and admire and somehow managed to walk away with a win for Best Comedy Direction for “A Kind of Love Story.” For those of you who don’t know, this has been an amazing, exhilarating, remarkable journey for me with a story I’ve been kicking around for 15 years. I couldn’t have written the script I wrote then, I had a lot more living to do, and I wouldn’t have been a director as recently as five years ago. Proof that things happen at the right time and the universe has a plan for us all. And the best part was getting to share the night with so many people, as Sacred Fools’ “Stoneface” also swept up a slew of awards and sister theatre Theatre of NOTE was ably represented.
I was in a blur while giving my speech—genuinely shocked—and was afraid to start naming names because I knew I would leave someone off and feel like a colossal jerk. (I’m already embarrassed I didn’t think Steven Leigh Morris and the good critics at LA Weekly, who truly love the medium of theatre and work so hard to put on such a special show for the artists of 99-seat theatre.) So I thanked my cast, crew, and Sacred Fools, but wanted to use this endless virtual space to specifically thank everyone who made this possible. Even so, I cannot possibly name all the people who turned up and laughed and passed on kind words and just did the most important thing: YOU SHOWED UP. Thank you, may your god bless you, and you have my lifelong devotion.
I don’t want to take myself too seriously, but there are people who are due some thanks, and I do take that seriously. So here’s what I would have like to have said, given unlimited time and space:
Exactly how do you win an award for directing? You get involved with the finest group of artists in town, the most talented and committed group of people called The Sacred Fools Theater. You hone your craft there over the years thanks to the producers of the late-night show “Serial Killers” and one-off events like “Fast & Loose.” You find your voice, you find what works, you allow yourself to fail. Over and over again.
You pray for an Artistic Committee like Alyssa Preston, Leon Russom and French Stewart—people you admire so much who actually support and encourage your growth as an artist. You con them into giving you a show and somehow the people who make this theatre run on a daily basis, Managing Director Padraic Duffy and Production Manager Heatherlynn Gonzalez, not only agree, but work their asses off to make the show happen.
Then you surround yourself with producers smarter than you—Ben Rock, JJ Mayes and Monica Greene—and associate producers like Addi Gaash and Annette Fasone. People who have nothing to gain out of working their asses off for you, but do it anyway. Who go above and beyond the call of duty, probably more than you will even know because they don’t want to bother you with every crisis. You get guidance from the likes of Bryan Bellomo. And you put together the best designers you know of—Mark McClain Wilson as your sound ninja, lighting genius Brandon Baruch, costume wizard Marianne Davis, and Tifanie McQueen to put together a set that you want to live in. Jessica Sherman takes pretty pictures for you and Corey Klemow is always there to make sure the website looks amazing and tweak every little request. And Ben Rock and Anthony Backman, way overqualified, make your video. Then people like Zach Bernstein, Suze Campanga, Erik Engman, and Lisa Anne Nicolai dedicate their time to be there practically every night and make your show run smoothly. And CJ Merriman, who belongs on stage, agrees to move your furniture—and cameo as a surly usher named Jan (she has a whole backstory.) This is all overseen by the best goddamn stage manager you can imagine—though she might not want people knowing that, I think the secret is out—Megan Crockett.
Then, the smartest thing you do is assemble a flawless cast. People who you know are going to make you look good. Your go-to stalwarts like Carrie Wiita and Mike Lanahan, who you know the world is going to have no problem falling in love with. Comic geniuses like Erin Matthews, who makes air humping an art form, and Will McMicheal, who can get a laugh out of a wordless Sam the Eagle glare. Fearless actors like Carrie Keneran, who will go anywhere you ask, or Rebecca Larsen who you can’t take your eyes off of every time she steps on stage. People like Curt Bonnem, who is ALWAYS so good in everything, you could almost take him for granted, or Terry Tocatins, who everyone knows is a comedic genius but surprises you with a heartfelt performance. Guys like Rick Steadman, who not only handles the audience’s hatred of his character, he revels in it (so you don’t have to feel too bad.) You cast people like Donnelle Fuller, who you became a fan of the first time you saw on stage and always hoped to work with, or Jen Smith who makes your dialogue sound so natural and real people think you’re brilliant. Then you take a handsome devil like Eric Giancoli and put him offstage in a booth so the world can hear his dulcet tones. And when you think you can’t live without these people, you somehow manage to find amazing understudies like Emily Clark Simpson, Bailee DesRocher, Lena Bouton, Pete Caslavka, Anthony Backman, JJ Mayes, and Terry Tocatins, who not only glide in effortlessly but make the parts their own. The fact that all these people also happen to be ridiculously nice, supportive, and fucking fun to hang with is just a bonus.
And personally, you surround yourself with people who love and support you, who let you know that no matter what happens, even if your show is the “Showgirls” of LA theatre, they’ll still be your friends. Truly too many people to mention but have to thank Vanessa Claire Stewart, Cheyanne Gustason, Carrie Wiita, and Desiree Hall for listening to me complain, talking me off ledges, and always being there, even at ridiculous hours.
So you let all these people work their magic and then you rewarded for being smart enough to get out of their way. Then you hope the audience comes. And you did. And I can’t thank you enough. Some of you, like Brenda Dunn, even came in from places as exotic as Oregon to support me. Some of you came from the Westside, which is just as impressive. And the Weekly people came—Steven Leigh Morris was not only nice enough to take time out of an insane schedule, he even moved to a different night at my recommendation. And then so many artists who I worship and admire—writers like Bob DeRosa, Stuart Gordon, Steve Chbosky, and Bert Royal—are kind enough to make me feel like their peer.
And the day of the awards, this whole team comes out to support you. The balcony is filled with Fools and Foolish friends. Mandi Moss Holmes brings you nail polish. Eric Giancoli gives you a calming massage for your migraine. French and Vanessa Stewart throw a party where you can all celebrate together. And you try your best not to take it all too seriously, but just have a great time. And you do, because the truth is, the nominations were such an unexpected honor, just icing on an already perfect cake. You don’t do this for a shiny plaque, and even before the nominations this has gone down as one of the most amazing, exhilarating, frustrating, wonderful, beautiful, epic experiences of your life. And is truly is an honor being nominated, in such amazing company, receiving that encouragement from people you have so much admiration for. And that’s the real victory—that all these fantastic people worked together to realize a dream you’ve had and make it exceed your fantasies.
Uber power couple Annette Fasone and JJ Mayes.
Stage Manager/Actress/Miniature Golf Expert Megan Crockett.
Fellow fool and BEST DIRECTOR winner Jaime Robledo.
Photo by Donnelle Fuller–the view from the balcony.