Tag Archives: Sheldon Patinkin

Blog 2014: The Fifth Year In Review.

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2014 was the fifth year for this blog — and though I have to admit I was a relatively infrequent blogger this year — there were a handful of events I could not let pass without trying to say something. Most important was the loss of two iconic figures who granted me (and many others) the privilege of their invaluable friendship and mentorship. The passing of Sheldon Patinkin and Ray Shepardson made 2014 a year I will always remember.

Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. has attracted 189,401 viewers since it began — 24,929 in 2014. The busiest day of the year was September 21st with 505 views. The most viewed post that day was O Captain! My Comedy Captain! — my post on the passing of Sheldon Patinkin.

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I continue to be honored that 179 subscribers have now signed on to have my posts automatically delivered to them via e-mail. (And 59 more who follow this blog on Twitter.)

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What follows is a list of The Top Ten Most Popular Posts of 2014.

Just click on the title of each post to access the original article.

1. The Top Ten Rock & Roll Singers of All Time


There’s nothing like a Top 10 list to promote discussion on a blog – and this December 5, 2011 post did just that. It’s one of the posts that has generated the most comments. A lot of people feel I’ve left one of their favorites off the list. Check it out – and then weigh in with your own opinion. Just realize that your opinion on rock & roll singing cannot possibly be as informed as my own.

O Captain! My Comedy Captain!

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I don’t know where my life would have gone if the great Sheldon Patinkin had not walked into a small storefront theatre on Howard Street in Evanston — and took my silliness seriously. Sheldon didn’t just change my life. He changed generations of lives. I will miss him every damn day. But, in essential ways, he will always be with me — and with all of the thousands of creative people whose lives he touched. (Posted on September 21, 2014.)

3. My Book Report: “The Battle of Midway”midway

What a great book! What an amazing chapter of world history! On January 23, 2012, I wrote this review of a book that captures all the incredible heroism, good luck, and turns of fate that made this epic World War Two naval battle an overwhelming victory that turned the tide of the war against Imperial Japan. In 2013, I wrote another report on an excellent World War Two book, The Day of Battle, about the campaign to liberate Italy. A few weeks after I wrote that post, my family and I visited the American cemetery in Tuscany and paid our respects to the soldiers whose valor, sacrifice and victory are recounted in Rick Atkinson’s fine book.

Farewell to Ray Shepardson, the Visionary Who Saved the Theatres

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I honestly had no idea how to headline this tribute to the great Ray Shepardson, who died suddenly and shockingly in Aurora, Illinois in the spring of 2014. The man who saved dozens of great old theatres and movie palaces from the wrecking ball was a man of prodigious energy, drive, and “can do” creativity. He is greatly missed by many. This was posted on April 16, 2014 — my birthday.

5. Victory at Pearl HarborPearl Harbor

Originally posted in 2010 on the anniversary of the “day that will live in infamy” – this post has become an annual event. A lot of military history fans visit this blog, but I think Pearl Harbor fascinates and resonates with Americans whether they have an interest in military history or not. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks took more American lives – but Pearl Harbor was the shocking opening act in a drama that ultimately made the United States the world’s preeminent superpower.

6. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffooneryblackboc

Though we didn’t hear much about it in 2013,  the Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired a lot of posts on this blog since 2011. This post, written on November 2, 2011, has proven to be the most popular. Maybe that’s because people agree that we don’t need a bunch of foolish, immature anarchists screwing up a noble movement that ultimately helped to put Barrack Obama back in office. Without Occupy Wall Street, would Romney’s attack on the 47% have evoked such a profound and spirited response? Without Occupy Wall Street, would the concept of the 99% and 1% have ever entered the Zeitgeist? And can Occupy Wall Street — or something even more effective yet peaceful — please come back in 2o15?

7. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

On December 15, 2010 – the 215th birthday of our Bill of Rights – I wrote this basic primer on the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution and it’s become one of the most-read posts in the history of this blog. I guess that’s because Americans still give a damn about their rights and are keen to understand their Constitutional foundation.

8. Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog back on January 9, 2010 celebrated my brief but soul-satisfying collaboration with the legendary underground comix artist, Jay Lynch, who gave Vic and me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write a series of Bazooka Joe comics. It was one of the coolest chapters in my creative career. The Practical Theatre Company, Saturday Night LiveBehind the Music, The Vic & Paul Show and Bazooka Joe. Classics all. Can I retire now?

9. Paul McCartney & The War of 18121812banner

This was originally posted on June 18, 2012. That day was not just Paul McCartney’s 70th birthday – it was also the 200th anniversary of The War of 1812. 130 years after the young upstart United States declared war on Great Britain, Paul McCartney was born. I thought that was a real fun fact.

10. LeBron: The King Moves Onlebron-banner-2

As a Cleveland native, I’ve often been asked my opinion of LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers several years ago — and my friends and co-workers are usually shocked that I’m not upset or indignant or jilted, etc. And while the blogosphere hardly needed one more commentary on LeBron James’ move to the Miami Heat, I wrote this post on July 9, 2010 to explain that LeBron James didn’t owe me anything. He’s a professional basketball player who wants to win and be remembered as the best to play the game. The two NBA championships he’s won in Miami since I wrote this post have given LeBron all the scoreboard he needs. in 2014, The King came back to Cleveland, which is doubtless the reason for renewed interest in this post.

So, that’s the best of 2014. Stay connected. Subscribe. And please keep posting your comments!

Here’s to a worthy, adventurous voyage in 2015!

And here are the All-Time Top 10 Blog Posts from January 2010 up to today:

1. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

2. Victory at Pearl Harbor

3. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffoonery

4. The Top Ten Rock & Roll Singers of All Time

5. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

This post was the #3 post in 2010. 24 years ago, my wife Victoria and I went to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields on our honeymoon! I needed no other assurance that I had married the perfect woman. On our 20th anniversary, we returned to Gettysburg. Now both students of the battle, we walked the battlefield on July 1, 2 and 3, 2010 on the 147th anniversary of that critical conflict. My four-part account of our battlefield tramping became one of the most popular items on the blog. (Originally posted July 20, 2010)

6. A Childhood Memory of Kent State, May 4. 1970Kent State

On the May 4, 2012 anniversary of this very dark day in America history, I posted this personal remembrance of a young Ohioan’s earliest memories of that terrible day. Unlike the Pearl Harbor post, I haven’t re-posted this article every year — but readers still find it. “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming.” The shootings at Kent State should never be forgotten.

7. Aliens Among Us?

I’ve always wondered where singular, epochal, “out of this world” geniuses like William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci and Bob Dylan came from. So, on January 26, 2011, I wrote this speculation on the possible alien origin of such monumental minds. Evidently, my curiosity (if not my Erich Van Daniken “ancient astronaut” fantasy) is still shared by a lot of people who read my blog in the past year.

8. Growing Up in the Space Age

The last American space shuttle launch inspired this July 14, 2011 remembrance of my personal connection to the Space Age. This popular post salutes my fellow Ohioan, John Glenn, who served as both the first man to orbit the Earth and as a Senator from my home state. I wish that my three daughters had grown up experiencing something half as exciting and inspirational as The Race to the Moon.

9. My Book Report: “The Battle of Midway”

10. Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me



Filed under Adventure, Art, Comedy, History, Politics, Sports

O Captain! My Comedy Captain!



I don’t know where my life would have gone if the great Sheldon Patinkin had not walked into a small storefront theatre on Howard Street in Evanston — and took my silliness seriously. Sheldon didn’t just change my life. He changed generations of lives. I will miss him every damn day. But, in essential ways, he will always be with me. And he’ll be with Victoria and all of the thousands of creative people whose lives he touched.

87noteswsheldonaSheldon polished our routines, sharpened our satire, laughed when we needed a laugh — and always expected our best.

We worked to meet his expectations because he was Sheldon. And we did not want to disappoint him. His laughter was the coin of the realm.

Sheldon Patinkin was funny and wise and warm and the very best humanity has to offer.

And now he’s gone?

Sheldon would have something funny to say about this.

I am at a loss.

We’ll always love you, Sheldon. And we’ll never forget you.


Filed under Comedy, History, Improvisation

A Mid-Year Celebration!

If nothing else worth celebrating happened today, June 30th would still mark the mid-point of 2011 — reason alone to pop a cork. But there are some very good reasons to mark this day with fanfare and hoopla.

The newlyweds and our comedy guru, Sheldon Patinkin, on June 30, 1990. A picture of perfect harmony in our universe.

The first reason to party today is personal. On June 30th, 1990, I was wise enough to wed the lovely, brilliant and talented Victoria Zielinski. Today is our 21st wedding anniversary. Whatever else I have done in my life to this point, marrying Victoria has been my shining accomplishment. Ultimately, my marriage to Vic will stand as the pinnacle of my achievement.

Now, from the sublime to the ridiculous…

The other reason to celebrate today is something we all can share with equal joy. Tonight, Glenn Beck will make his last appearance on Faux News before going off the air. Beck was banished by progressive activism that pushed more than 400 advertisers to pull their commercials from his show. Of course, Beck will not be going away entirely. He’s setting up his own Internet network so that he can live-stream his ravings for two hours a day starting in September – for just $9.95 a month! (Can you think of a bigger waste of an Alexander Hamilton?)

Today also marks the end of the first year and a half of this blog. And, thanks to all of you, 2011 has been going gangbusters for Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. Consider that this blog attracted 22,389 total views in 2010 – and the fact that there have been 23,845 views in the first half of 2011 alone. We’ve more than doubled our site visits from 60 daily views in 2010 to 133 per day this year. That says a lot for the growing community of friends and readers,  including 70 stalwart subscribers, that make this blog worth blogging.

So, what are all these readers reading on this blog? Of the 177 posts I’ve put up since I began this personal experiment in new media back on January 1, 2010 – the following are the Top Ten Posts. (You can access the original post by clicking on the title.)

1. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

(Posted 12/15/10.)

Though it’s a relatively recent post, this primer on one of America’s most misunderstood founding documents has gotten just over 6,000 views. Clearly, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Glen Beck were not among those 6,000 readers.

2. Aliens Among Us?

(Posted 1/26/11.)

The most recent post on the all-time Top Ten, this celebration of my favorite geniuses has attracted more than 2,000 views. (Which shows just how strong popular interest in the Bill of Rights is. And that’s somewhat comforting.) Were Abe Lincoln, Mark Twain and John Lennon aliens sent from another world to show humanity the light? Or just really, really, really cool…

3. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

(Posted 7/20/10. #5 post in 2010.)

1,623 viewers have perused my account of battlefield tramping through the Second Day’s fight at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863 and the heroism of Joshua Lawrence and the 20th Maine’s desperate defense of Little Round Top. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of The Civil War (Fort Sumter in 1861), which may be part of why this post has gained in popularity.

4. Baseball Season Opens: Of Mud Hens & More…

(Posted 4/6/10. #4 post in 2010.)

This article was the 4th most viewed post in 2010 – and it still holds that spot today. That’s because Baseball is eternal. (Though some games may seem interminable.)

5. The Practical Theatre Co. Part 1

(#3 post in 2010)

If you don’t know anything about The Practical Theatre Company, here’s a good place to start your education. (Many of you have already lived this history – in which case, you may not learn anything new, but you’ll enjoy the photos.)

6. All About The Rockme Foundation

(#2 post in 2010)

If you don’t know anything about Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation, here’s a good place to start your education. (Many of you have already lived this history – in which case, you may not learn anything new, but you’ll enjoy the photos.) Wait! Did I already say that somewhere?

7. The Saints Come Marching In…

(Posted 2/8/10. #1 post in 2010.)

The second sports post on the Top Ten: an ode to my daddy’s New Orleans Saints and their Cinderella victory in the 2010 Super Bowl.

8. Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me

(Posted 1/9/10)

One of the first posts on this blog makes its first appearance in the Top Ten. Than can only mean one thing: it’s Jay Lynchmania!

9. “I have not yet begun to fight!”

(Posted 1/20/10. #7 post in 2010.)

This post is one of my personal favorites. Please forward it to all of your local Democratic politicians well in advance of the 2012 elections.

10. Le Salon de Crawford

(Posted 1/26/10. #8 post in 2010.)

Anchoring this list and first in our hearts, the fabulous Crawfords round out our Top Ten. If you haven’t already checked this post out, do it now. You will be introduced to the coolest and most talented family I know. They invented the word “groovy” to describe The Crawfords.

So, there you have it. A snapshot of Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc at mid-year, 2011.

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Thanks again to all of you for making this so much fun. And thanks for your 751 comments over the past 18 months. This blog is so much better when it’s a two-way street.

And, if you aren’t a subscriber yet – click on the image of the saluting Matey (at right, where it says “Hop Aboard) — and get on the bus. Or the blog. Or both.


Filed under Random Commentary

The Chicago Theatre Symposium & Other Cultural Treasures

My wife Victoria and I have just returned from a wonderful trip to Chicago and Evanston. It was a perfect weekend: a blissful mix of business, pleasure, family and friendship — right up until (almost) the very end.

On Friday morning, May 20th, Victoria and I boarded our Spirit Airlines flight bound for Chicago. The next day, we were scheduled to make a presentation on the history of The Practical Theatre Company at the first Chicago Theatre Symposium at Columbia College.

We’d never flown Spirit Airlines before, but Vic had given me the job of booking our travel – and swayed by Bill Shatner’s performance as “The Negotiator” in all those Priceline commercials, I used that service for the first time. Spirit looked like the cheapest way to go. But cheapest, I would later learn (once again) is not always best.

We had a 90 minute layover in Las Vegas, and spent our idle time doing the kind of thing the devil encourages in idle minds: we gambled. With poker machines right there in the airport – how can you resist? It was an omen of a great weekend-to-be when I put $5 in a machine – and moments later, walked away with $82.50! We were leaving Las Vegas ahead of the game. It doesn’t usually go that way.

When we arrived in Chicago at about 2:30 in the afternoon, the sun was shining and the temperature was in the low 60’s: the kind of spring weather that requires sweaters and jackets in Los Angeles. But as we drove east on Dempster Street toward Evanston, teenagers in t-shirts drove by in top-down convertibles like it was a hot summer day in Malibu.

We picked up our daughter, Emilia (a sophomore at Northwestern) who said this was one of the few sunny days all spring – and that kids were losing their minds, running around in shorts, halter tops and sandals as though basking in a heat wave. That we’d come to town on one of the few sunny days was another good omen. Alas, the forecast was for rain the next two days. But, for the moment, the sun was shining and Evanston was picture postcard pretty. You’d never know it had all been frozen tundra not long ago.

Steve and Bea Rashid, our good friends and hosts, were preparing a barbecued pork loin feast as we pulled up to their warm, wonderful home. Steve is our longtime musical director, and the music man for The Vic & Paul Show. Steve’s wife Bea, a dancer and choreographer, is the Director of Dance Center Evanston – one of the town’s cultural treasures. We couldn’t imagine a better way to start our weekend than to enjoy a backyard BBQ with the gracious and talented Rashids, including their son, Daniel, a senior at Evanston Township High who’ll attend The University of Southern California in the fall.

The next morning, Saturday, we drove downtown to get to Columbia College by 9:00 for the start of the final day’s sessions of The Chicago Theatre Symposium. As Vic and I walked up to 1104 South Wabash, home of the Columbia College Chicago Film Row Center where the symposium was being held, the first person we saw was the most auspicious sign yet that our weekend was blessed.

Sheldon (Photo by Anita Evans)

Crossing the street and headed in our direction was none other than Sheldon Patinkin – our beloved, legendary comedy guru! Those who have read my history of The Practical Theatre on this blog know the impact that Sheldon has had on our lives. If there was one person we wanted most to see that day, it was Sheldon. And here he was! We greeted him with genuine joy and walked into the symposium at his side.

The sessions that day were being held on the 8th floor, and Vic and I sat down in the auditorium to await the day’s first presentation, when Mary Carol Riehs walked over to say hello. Mary Carol was a contemporary at Northwestern – and it was she who told me about the symposium and suggested that The PTC should be represented. Mary Carol was, quite simply, the reason we were there. She sat with us as we took in the 9:45 presentation, entitled “Beyond the Method: Chicago Teachers and Their Impact on Chicago Theatre – From the South Side to the North Shore.”

The first speaker was Kathleen Perkins, an Associate Professor at Columbia College, who spoke about “Inspirational and Influential Chicago Teachers and Leaders,” including Winifred Ward, the late Bella Itkin – and our own Sheldon Patinkin, who has made an indelible mark on comedy and theatre, from his work with the original Compass Players, Second City, SCTV and the PTC – to Columbia College, The National Jewish Theatre, Steppenwolf and on and on and on.

Then, the session really began to feel like Old Home Week.

Kathleen Sills (Photo by Anita Evans)

Kathleen Sills spoke next. Another NU contemporary, Kathleen founded Lifeline Theatre in 1982, along with four other NU pals of ours, Meryl Friedman, Suzanne Plunkett, Sandy Snyder and Steve Totland. Kathleen gave a presentation on one of Northwestern’s most famous and influential theatre professors, the venerable Alvina Krause.

Kathleen’s presentation, “Alvina Krause, Humanities, and the Anti-Conservatory”, added rich detail to a theatrical legend that Victoria and I had been aware of since our days at Northwestern. Krause had retired years before I arrived at NU in the fall of ‘76 – but long after she left the theatre department, her presence was still powerfully felt.

Krause established herself in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania in 1971 and many NU students made pilgrimages there for master classes with their guru. In fact, one of Victoria’s closest NU friends, Elizabeth (Betsy) Dowd, was among those students who, in 1978, founded the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, with Krause (then 85-years old) as artistic director. Krause passed away in 1981, but Betsy and her husband Rand Whipple (another NU pairing) are still making the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble a vital part of their community.

Victoria is ready for the symposium.

The next presentation, “Robert Breen and the Rise of Narrative Theatre in Chicago”, also hit close to home. Northwestern professor Paul Edwards gave a spirited account of Breen’s seminal work with Chamber Theatre – a theatrical form in which short stories, novels, and other prose works were brought to life onstage, incorporating the narrator as a central character. This was a technique I’d learned from one of Breen’s students, Frank Galati, whose brilliant class “Interpretation of Prose Fiction” was a must for aspiring actors and directors during by days at NU.

Victoria was an Interpretation Department major, and among her most inspirational teachers was Breen’s colleague Wallace Bacon, whose essential “Interpretation of Shakespeare” class was affectionately known as “Shake and Bake”.

In our era at Northwestern, the creative excitement, energy and ideas emanated from the Interpretation Department, with teachers like Galati — and his estimable predecessors Breen and Bacon – inspiring a generation of artists to think way, way outside the conventional theatre box.

This was the creative soup we were swimming in at Northwestern in the late 1970’s – and combined with our exposure to Second City style improvisational comedy through the Mee-Ow Show – provided the inspiration for four NU students to establish what became the Practical Theatre Company: a story Victoria and I were due to tell next in Room 801C as part of a session entitled, “Comedy and Improv, Part 2.”

The session began with a presentation on “Del Close, iO, and the Development of Long Form Improv” by Kim Johnson, author of The Funniest One in the Room: The Lives and Legends of Del Close, and Del’s longtime business and creative partner, Charna Halpern, who is still the producer of iO (Formerly Improv Olympic) which she and Del founded in 1981.

The late, great Del Close is a genuine American improv comedy legend: a veteran of the Compass Players in St. Louis (with Mike Nichols and Elaine May), Second City in Chicago, The Committee in San Francisco, Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, Saturday Night Live – and finally Improv Olympic.

Brad Hall and I met Del when we shared a dressing room with him during the 1984 Goodman Theatre production of “A Christmas Carol” – and Rush Pearson and I planned a show with Del (to be called The Secret Show) in which Rush and I would act as assistants/acolytes to Del’s mad comedy scientist. The Secret Show never went beyond one memorable appearance in Irv Rein’s class at Northwestern in 1985 – where Del explained the basic roles of comedy as he saw them, as his two clownish henchmen acted them out. That same year, Del became an honorary member of The Practical Theatre Company in a ritual during which a watermelon was disemboweled – and Del’s red-painted footprints were enshrined on the sidewalk in front of The John Lennon Auditorium.

Jeffrey Sweet (Photo by Anita Evans)

After Kim and Charna finished their talk about Del, it was our turn to make good on the program’s promise that, “Members of one of Chicago’s most popular comedy theatres recall their experiences as part of the storefront theatre explosion of the 1980s.” Victoria and I presented the brief, blessed history of The Practical Theatre to the assembled students, writers and Chicago theatre luminaries (including our guru Sheldon, playwrights Jeffrey Sweet and James Sherman, Chicago Reader editor Tony Adler, and Scott Vehill, artistic director of The Prop Theatre.)

Scott Vehill & Sheldon Patinkin at The Chicago Theatre Symposium (Photo by Anita Evans)

Victoria ribbed me as “the Herodotus of The Practical Theatre” for preparing an 18-page script for our presentation – but clearly, a more informal talk was in order. Luckily. I know my PTC history fairly well (having lived it) and Victoria chimed in with well-timed details, statistics, and comic asides – often at my expense. (Lovingly, of course.) Sheldon added his own color commentary – which was personally satisfying, as Sheldon’s impact on those of us who were privileged to work with him at the PTC was (and is) immeasurable. For Vic and I to be making this presentation at Sheldon’s college, and to have him there while me made it, cemented the fact that we were in the right place at the right time.

Afterward, we made sure to plug The Vic & Paul Show – which will be playing from June 9-12 at the Prop Theatre in Chicago. And I’ll plug the show here, as well.

For tickets go to: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/169351

Following our symposium appearance, Vic and I had an appointment to meet The Reader’s Tony Adler at the nearby 11 City Diner. His plan was to interview us for an article to appear in The Reader on Thursday, June 9th – the day The Vic & Paul Show opens in Chicago. The 11 City Diner is trendy, quite busy and pretty loud. Tony joined us and we got seated at a booth, our waitress arrived, and we ordered drinks. But we didn’t order food. Don’t worry, we told our waitress, we’d take care of her.

Tony turned on his tape recorder – and he’d barely begun his interview when a restaurant manager sauntered up to our table, reminded us how busy the diner was at lunchtime, and suggested we might “be more comfortable” upstairs (where it was even louder.) We protested mildly that we intended to take care of our waitress, but the manager was not to be deterred. With the smooth yet forceful false friendliness of a veteran Division Street bouncer, he had another suggestion: we might be even “more comfortable” in the quieter confines of the Columbia College student union just a few doors down the block!

In fact, he escorted us the few hundred feet down Wabash and practically opened the door to the student union for us. The whole episode was beyond odd, and Tony, Vic and I recognized that we were living a comedy sketch. But, like any good comedy sketch – there was another twist.

The “quiet” student union the manager promised was not so quiet.

It looked like a band was setting up to rehearse – and as soon we sat down and Tony turned his tape recorder back on — a percussionist began banging away on various exotic gourds and wood blocks.

Tony & Vic

By the end of our interview the band was in full swing – with a horn section blaring away – and the three of us were huddled close around Tony’s tape recorder, trying to have a conversation about the return of the PTC to Chicago, parenthood, the glory of living in Evanston (Tony’s an Evanstonian) and of course, The Vic & Paul Show.

We thoroughly enjoyed our conversation with Tony Adler – and we appreciated that the band rehearsal was one of life’s unexpected punch lines. Someday soon we’d love to continue our conversation with Tony. There’s not a nicer, more informed and erudite guy to talk to — or get thrown out of a restaurant with.

Later that evening, we enjoyed dinner with the Rashids and Emilia (and some of her college friends) at Union – a classy Evanston gourmet pizzeria that’s connected to SPACE. (SPACE is the best place for live music on the North Shore – and the site of Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation’s triumphant reunion concert last year: our first gig in the Chicago area in more than two decades.)

There was also a Rockme connection to the next item on our Saturday evening agenda. Our Rockme band mate, Maurice “Mr. Mo” Cleary was playing a few Bob Dylan songs on his ukulele as part of a 70th Birthday celebration for Dylan at Evanston’s Café Mozart at 600 Davis Street – just a short walk from Union.

Café Mozart was packed when we arrived, and Vic and Bea had to drink their coffee sitting under the bar, as we listened to a series of acoustic performances of classic Dylan tunes by local musicians. Then, Mr. Mo stepped up to the stage with his uke. And it sounded like this…

Next, Steve and I joined Mr. Mo for an abridged, semi-Byrds-like version of “Mr. Tambourine Man”. We hadn’t planned to do this in advance – and how Steve managed to suddenly pull a harmonica out of thin air I still don’t know…

After the show at Café Mozart, we said goodnight to Emilia, then went home to Steve and Bea’s house and played Mahjong for the first time. It’s hard enough to learn Mahjong – but when you start off with hardly any sleep, a long, busy day, and two glasses of Chardonnay – it doesn’t get any easier. At the end of the game, all four of us were just one tile short of victory. And we were also out of gas.

Rick Kogan

The next day, Vic, Steve and I rehearsed the songs for The Vic & Paul Show – including our just-written musical tribute to Chicago’s brand new Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.

We also prepared some audio clips for our appearance on Rick Kogan’s WGN Radio show, The Sunday Papers, at 8:00 am CST on Sunday, May 29th. (You Midwestern early-birds may want to check it out. The rest of you can hear it online.)

We spent lunchtime with our good friends and former NU classmates, Nili Yelin and Bill Wronski. Vic and I both performed in improv comedy groups with Bill back in the day — and Nili was one of my close theatre department classmates. Nili now helps to run the landmark Wilmette Theatre. After lunch, she showed us around this cultural treasure, built in 1913. If you live anywhere near the North Shore, you’ve got to check out what they’re doing at The Wilmette Theatre.

Time was running out on our dream weekend, and our flight back home was just hours away, so we threw our bags in the trunk, jumped into our rental car, and made one last stop to meet our daughter Emilia at Kafein, a groovy local coffee shop. (One of the dozens that now exist in Evanston. The number of groovy coffee shops back in our day? Zero.) Rain was starting to fall as we said goodbye to our darling Emilia and headed out to O’Hare for our 7:50 pm direct flight back to Los Angeles.

It didn’t work out that way.

As I said at the beginning — our perfect weekend of business, pleasure, family and friendship would end on a less than perfect note.

Due to the tornadoes in Missouri and other threatening weather in the area, our 7:50 flight to L.A. was cancelled (after several dispiriting) delays) at about 9:00 pm. To make matters worse, Spirit had only one more flight going west that night: to Las Vegas, leaving at 10:00 pm and arriving at 2:00 am. But the Spirit personnel at the gate could not arrange to put anyone on that flight. We would have to go to the ticket counters downstairs.

By the time we got to the ticket counters, there were about a hundred disgruntled, increasingly agitated people already in line – so Vic started working the phone. She directed me to get in line.

While in line, I heard a ticket agent in the very empty First Class line call out, “Anyone going to Vegas?” I raced over to take my spot, just third from the start of the line. When the ticket agent tried to clarify that she was only referring to travelers going to Vegas – and not those intending to go on to Los Angeles – those of us in line made it clear that we were not going anywhere. She relented. A victory.

Soon, Vic walked up to say she’d booked us on the 10:00 pm flight to Vegas — and within minutes we’d checked our bags, gone back through security, and took our places at the gate, waiting until about 10:30, when the flight finally took off, just ahead of the approaching storm.

We got to the Vegas airport at 2:00 am, picked up our bags at baggage claim, and for the next four hours, we tried to find comfortable spots in McCarran Airport to plug in our failing cell phone and catch a few winks before the ticket counters opened at 6:00 am – at which time we could check our bags for our 8:00 am flight to Los Angeles.

By 10:00 am, we were back at LAX and by 11:00, we were home. By Noon, Vic was at school and I was at work. Tired, to be sure — but happy to have spent a wonderful weekend in the treasured city that will always be home in our hearts.


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“Rock Me!” @ Northwestern…

For years my three daughters listened to the songs that Brad Hall and I wrote and recorded for our rock & roll musical “Rock Me!” in 1988.

“Rock Me” was originally written for the Columbia College New Musicals Project under the direction of Sheldon Patinkin and it was performed for one night at Chicago’s Apollo Theatre in August of ‘88.

Emilia, Eva and Maura pestered me relentlessly to get together with Brad to finish it. A couple years ago, Brad and I wrote a few new tunes for the show and made notes for a re-write of the book. But Emilia finally got the “Rock Me!” completion project underway last fall by submitting the show to a student production group at Northwestern.

NU’s student-run Sit & Spin productions chose to produce a concert reading of “Rock Me!” this year – and that was the catalyst for us to finish our work on the book and score. (Musical wizard Steve Rashid pitched in by charting the score and sorting out the voluminous harmonies.)

Now, I’m pleased to say that “Rock Me!” will be performed in a concert reading at Northwestern University’s Fisk Hall on Monday and Tuesday, March 7 and 8, 2011.

Performance times will most likely be at 8:00 pm on both Monday and Tuesday and there might also be an 11:00 pm show on one or both of those nights. (I’ll update the info as I get it.)

Ticket prices will be $5 dollars and cannot be purchased in advance. If you’re planning to see “Rock Me!” — let me know and I’ll make sure you’re on the list. (Just reply to this post.)

It’s going to be a gas seeing enthusiastic college folk having fun with these songs.

Big thanks to my rocking daughter Emilia for her tenacious advocacy on behalf of “Rock Me!”

You rock, E!


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Practical Theatre: The Last Laugh

I’ve finally wrapped up my four-part personal history of The Practical Theatre Co. To read the final chapter of the Practical Theatre story click here — or click on the graphic above. You can also find a link to all four chapters under “Landmarks” on the right hand side of the home page.

It only took me two decades to finish this project — so please enjoy!

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More Thrills & Glory…


Part Three: A Tale of Two Spaces

To read the latest chapter in my personal history of The Practical Theatre Company, click here.

After you’ve read our ancient history, you can check out video clips of far more recent PTC-style comedy if you click here.

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