Friday, February 26, 2010

The Velveteen Rabbit

For the past couple of weeks I've been working on drawings and designs for the Manhattan Children's Theatre production of The Velveteen Rabbit which opens this weekend. My friend Chris wrote and directed it and he asked me to design it and it's been a ton of fun to work on.

The set is a pretty simple (and dang elegant) notion, but the back wall is a big projection screen and there are all sorts of surprises which I won't say much about because then they wouldn't be surprises. I will however shout out because the technical director, John Ivy, has created some UNBELIEVABLE animations out of my drawings. Seriously, I never imagined that my stuff could look so cool!

I'll also posit that the crew over at MCT has done an amazing job of turning my hare-brained design notions into real and wonderful theatre. Finally, I'll swoon and giggle and mention that Chris's script (and his original score) has taken a classic melancholy children's story and injected fresh feeling and joy. Aw heck, while I'm at it, I'll say that the casts are great and the whole thing has been a lot of fun.

So bring the kids and check it out!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


The Poison Tree, live at The Living Room, February 10, 2010.

Monday, February 08, 2010


Last night, The Drama League hosted its annual star-studded benefit up there at the Pierre Hotel. A year ago, I sat in on all the rehearsals and did some drawings that were sold at auction to raise some money. I guess it went well, because they asked me back again.

This year, I wasn't able to hang around as much as I would have liked, but I did get to spend a good day watching some of Broadway's finest leading men --including Cheyenne Jackson, Chad Kimball, Derrick Baskin, J. Bernard Calloway (among others)--work on a musical tribute to Angela Lansbury and I spent a lovely couple of hours drawing while Donna Murphy worked out her big number.

It's always amazing to me to watch what professional Broadway stars can accomplish in a limited amount of time with good will, fear contained in humor and the knowledge that when the curtain goes up, they'll be in front of people with high expectations so they'd better be as close to ready as they can get.

No one puts up a show on the fly like the good people of Broadway.

As I left the studio, I found myself surrounded by a throng of young men entering a room across the hall for a cattle call casting audition. It was hard to move in the crush of bodies working it for their big break. The hopefuls looked behind me, star-gazing at the room full of former Tony winners and nominees on a break, checking messages, grabbing a quick bite and catching up with old cast mates. One of the hopefuls looked at me, smiled and gestured towards the room they were cramming into. A piano played "There is Nothing Like a Dame" and guys stretched and nervously went over routines.

"Want to come audition for South Pacific?" he asked me.

I put away my drawing pad and laughed. "Not in the slightest," I lied.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Casting Shadows

On Wednesday, I joined the lovely Nicole Atkins on stage over at the Bowery Ballroom for an acoustic set of tunes. The evening was part of the Stories in High Fidelity series and also featured readings by Alan Light, Dan Kennedy, Jason Gordon and a talk by David Byrne.

And then, as a special--well, amazing--thing, David joined Nicole and I on stage for a version of Nicole's Neptune City.

"That was a very New York night," said Laura in the cab on the way home.

I've said before that I never dreamed of living in New York when I was a kid and it's true. I didn't come in to the New York experience with any expectations. If you had told me ten years ago when I packed up my stuff in Austin, that I'd be drawing in front of people on stage in New York with people like David and Nicole--let alone that I'd be doing it regularly as a member of Balthrop, Alabama--I'd have thought you had a spectacularly active imagination.

"Yes." I said, smiling, as I looked out over the city from the Manhattan Bridge. "Very New York.".

Photos by Laura Wyatt. Thanks to Laura and Liz and Nicole for making this happen!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Be My Valentine!

It's unlike me to become sentimental and mushy, but I guess this year I'm just in the mood to be romantic.

Balthrop, Alabama is playing a special early evening, Valentine's Day show at Joe's Pub this year and I'll be drawing on the big screen just like I do at all the shows. This time around everyone in the band has come up with a new song and we're practicing a few covers and word on the street is that I might even sing one that I wrote myself.

Upon further reflection, that last bit may not be a strong selling point, but it's better when you know that it's a duet and Georgiana Starlington (Lauren Balthrop) will be singing half the notes.

In honor of the event, I made this video to go along with the Facebook invite. Enjoy and spread the word, This Valentine's Day, Balthrop, Alabama at Joe's Pub is the place to be!