Tag Archives: dreams

Kickstart Now. Here. This.

As many of you who check in with this blog know, I spent most of the winter and early spring working with some of my favorite people on the Off-Broadway show, Now. Here. This. Though our run at the Vineyard Theatre ended back in April, there remained one big piece of unfinished business: a cast recording.

Well, that all changed today when we launched our Kickstarter campaign to fund the making of the Now. Here. This. original cast recording. Behold.

Larry Pressgrove on the keys

I had many favorite moments and days working on this show, but one of the top ones was our sitzprobe, which is where the cast sings through all of the music for the first time with the live band. It was an incredible experience listening to what Jeff Bowen had been walking around hearing in his head for months. An electric guitar, a mandolin, a drum, an upright bass. That first listening experience felt akin to staring at a Chuck Close canvas at the exact distance where you see the individual depth, color, and dimension of the image and the whole painting at the same time. It excited my senses and made me feel incredibly proud of my friend and his sonic vision. It also made me want to share his music with everyone I know. For now, however, I’m resigned to walking around like pre-sitzprobe Jeff, with the tunes in my head and not out in the world.

Those of you who saw the show know what I’m talking about. But for those of you that didn’t make it to NHT, this recording will offer you the opportunity to hear what you missed, to fall in love with the music, to marvel at talents of some really smart, funny and creative people, and to play the tracks you love wherever you are, letting the bars of music float out onto the street, through your headphones, and in the interior of your car (while you sing along, of course).

Being a part of this show and collaboration was a very special experience for all of us involved in the production, but now we need you to collaborate with us on getting the original cast recording made. Join the adventure and help us bring everyone into the Now. Here. This.

The Now. Here. This. band

Life List #22

If you check out my life list, you’ll see it’s a work (life) in-progress. This year, my goal is to cross five big things off my list. #22, Start a reading/performance/conversation series, seemed like a far-off dream that would never turn into reality. Sometimes, however, the dreams are closer than you think.

I met Larry Smith this past December, at the party of a mutual friend who was passing through town. Larry is the founder of SMITH magazine, creators of the six-word memoir. Here’s a little video back story into the history of six words, SMITH, and the six-word memoir book series:

Ironically, I had attended Larry’s book party for the first SMITH publication in 2008, which we talked about at our mutual friend’s gathering. Larry was filling me in on what he had done with SMITH since then (the books, in school events, etc) and where he wanted to take it. Thinking in part about my life list, I told Larry he should start live reading series. This idea excited both of us. We got together for a meeting in January along with Jason Boog of GalleyCat and a month-and-a-half, plus one baby later (Congrats, Larry and Piper!) we found ourselves at the 92Y Tribeca hanging up six-word memoir posters, doing sound checks with Michael Hearst and Deb Kogan, and gathering our group of nine readers together for a pre-show rundown in the green room.

I knew a reading series would be a ton of work, but I never imagined it would really feel like a mini version of making a movie — so much prep leading up it, then the show happens in the blink of an eye. One part I found (surprisingly) satisfying was deciding on the lineup. There were so many aspects to take into account. What would they be like as a performer? Which story would work the best for opening the show? For closing it? I kept in mind themes or people who might be good to follow each other. It turned out to be a great flow, and I think the order hit all the right notes.

What was particularly exciting was that I finally got introduce some really talented writers I know to a group of friends and strangers. Deborah Copaken Kogan was someone I had wanted to do an event with for a long time. Most people were likely familiar with Deb’s writing, but even for those who were, this was something entirely different.

(*Thanks to Paul Kogan, who documented his wife’s performance for posterity)

Photo Credit: 92Y Tribeca

Kimberly Kaye is someone I met through the 140-character world of Twitter, then via her writing at Broadway.com and her new blog, which confirmed what I already knew to be true, she is an insanely talented writer in nearly every genre. People like this should be shared with the world.

I also discovered a new writing talent via the Facebook invite page we set up for the event. Anyone who wanted to could post their six word memoir and, if chosen, was eligible to come up and tell their memoir and back story. Qraig De Groot posted the following, which I immediately hearted and knew he had to be our winner: “Heart united us. Band, not organ.” His back story was funny and touching. I loved being able to introduce him and he totally killed it on stage.

Photo Credit: 92Y Tribeca

In addition to these great talents, we also had stories from Baratunde Thurston, Darin Strauss, Sara Barron, Rachel Sklar, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Molly Schulman, and Michele Carlo. To pull this off with these amazing people was an immensely satisfying accomplishment. It was the best Valentine’s Day I’ve had thus far. From the sound of the laughs and applause, it seems the 150 people who came out to celebrate with us hearted it, too. You can read more about the event on SMITH. And find more photos over here on the 92Y Tribeca’s Flickr page.

If you missed this reading, never fear! We have another one coming up in May. I’ll post on The Brow about it when we have more details. Remember, this life list item specifies “a series,” so this will be an ongoing adventure.

Photo Credit: 92Y Tribeca


Per Se by Day, Tacos by Night

Bushwick is the new(er) hipster capitol of Brooklyn. Populated by 20-something writers, artists, musicians filmmakers, muses, freePicture 1 spirits, and, until recently, a hipster grifter or two. As yet ungentrified, this neighborhood provides the perfect juxtaposition of irony and a laid back blase attitude common among the suburban-raised, middle-upper middle class Net Generation. They might wear thrift store skinny jeans and old Chuck Taylors, but they accessorize with the latest iPhone and the perfect pair of Ray-Bans or Moscot glasses.

Bushwick and its close brother, Williamsburg, are places I’ve been finding my un-ironic, un-hipster self in more frequently due to my job locale and my group of friends. This is where I also found myself dining one night at the apartment of a friend of a friend. I was told it was a “taco night,” but that the invite was a much coveted one, given the chef and the crowd. The chef is Cameron Wallace, a fellow 20-something who also happens to be the bread baker at the gastronomic heaven, Per Se.

Entrance of Per Se

Entrance to Per Se

The day of Taco Night, I was sent a text message with an address. I arrived promptly at 7p, my requested $10 in hand to “tip the chef,” and pushed through the apartment building’s blue door (also the same color as the doors at Per Se) spray painted with the number 855 (a decidedly un-Per Se detail). Our chef de cuisine was en-route, so we sat around drinking PBR or Corona (it was BYOB, can you guess which one I brought?) Chef Cameron arrived shortly after, armed with bags from Whole Foods and a box shipped all the way from San Diego (where Cameron was raised) containing flour tortillas and fire-roasted peppers in olive oil. “I’m taking a short cut today,” Cameron confessed to me, “I’m using store bought flour tortillas. Normally, I make my own, but there wasn’t time.” He continued to explain as he unpacked tins and Tupperware full of half-fried fish and marinated pork, a head of cabbage, and various & sundry spicy sauces and homemade crema. “But, these tortillas are fresh from California, my mom shipped them to me just yesterday.”

fist_taco

Almost looks like Cameron's fish taco

In no more than a 35 sq. foot kitchen, Cameron got to work, frying the fish up again in pots. “I half-fry them in advance,” he explained. “I don’t want them soggy and they need to be eaten hot. But I like to do my prep work.” Cabbage was shredded by our hostess, Mariah, who is a caterer, while Mariah’s sister, Ariana, took out plates and utensils for the twenty guests that packed into the apartment. Everyone taking up the small square footage in the kitchen served a purpose. Mariah as sous chef, Ariana calling in the orders, Cameron cooking and plating, and I, serving. Watching Cameron cook and prep masterfully in such a small space brought to mind the word that hangs over the door in Per Se’s kitchen, “Finesse.” Chef Cameron illustrated every aspect of finesse, with his “refinement and delicacy of performance,” execution and artisanship. Each taco was hand-crafted and made in small batches. The pork had been marinating since early morning. No detail was left untended.

After serving a few tacos, I finally got to taste my own. First, the fish taco. Perfectly fried, but not greasy, you could still taste the fish and how deftly it blended with the cardamom flavor of the lightly drizzled sauce. The cabbage added an extra crunch while the squirt of lime gave the fish a little zing and some chopped cilantro cleansed the palate. It was more than a taco, it was an experience. As I savored the first (and then second) fish taco, I asked Cameron what brought him from bread baking to taco making. “Actually, it’s because I couldn’t find a decent taco in New York. Believe me, I tried. I’ve gone everywhere, but nothing like the ones I grew up with in California.”

Even still, other San Diego and California natives at Taco Night felt Cameron’s tacos take it to a whole new level. After some coaxing, I got the full story out of Cameron. “After I quit my job at different restaurant in New York, I went back to California for six months and studied the tacos I liked,” he told me. “I traveled up and down the coast and as far down as parts of Mexico, just to see how they did it there and where our tacos evolved from, what worked and what was unique to each area.” Just like the discipline at Per Se, there is discipline to Cameron’s tacos. “I combined the best of what I liked,” he said. “What was essentially pleasing to the palate, what textures worked, ingredients, preparation in advance, last minute. Sometimes I have to take out what I love if it doesn’t work within the combination. But I still continue to experiment. That’s why we have taco night.”

There is another method to the Taco Night madness, as I soon learned, between bites of the juicy, spicy pork taco with crema and bits of diced, raw onion. Cameron, as modest as he is about admitting it, also desires to have his own taco stand. “He wants a little place in the East Village, somewhere downtown or in Brooklyn,” Ariana (Cameron’s biggest supporter/Taco Night waitress) told me. “By opening up Taco Night and spreading the word, we’re hoping it will lead to investors for Cameron. It boils down to word of mouth in the end.”  Abra la boca. Spread the word.

After serving a few tacos, I finally got to taste my own. First, the fish taco. Perfectly fried, but not greasy, you could still taste the fish and how deftly it blended with the cardamom flavor of the lightly drizzled sauce. The cabbage added an extra crunch while the squirt of lime gave the fish a little zing and some chopped cilantro cleansed the palate. It was more than a taco, it was an experience. As I savored the first (and then second) fish taco, I asked Cameron what brought him from bread baking to taco making. “Actually, it’s because I couldn’t find a decent taco in New York. Believe me, I tried. I’ve gone everywhere, but nothing like the ones I grew up with in California.”

Even still, other San Diego and California natives at Taco Night felt Cameron’s tacos take it to a whole new level. After some coaxing, I got the full story out of Cameron. “After I quit my job at different restaurant in New York, I went back to California for six months and studied the tacos I liked,” he told me. “I traveled up and down the coast and as far down as parts of Mexico, just to see how they did it there and where our tacos evolved from, what worked and what was unique to each area.” Just like the discipline at Per Se, there is discipline to Cameron’s tacos. “I combined the best of what I liked,” he said. “What was essentially pleasing to the palate, what textures worked, ingredients, preparation in advance, last minute. Sometimes I have to take out what I love if it doesn’t work within the combination. But I still continue to experiment. That’s why we have taco night.”

There is another method to the Taco Night madness, as I soon learned, between bites of the juicy, spicy pork taco with crema and bits of diced, raw onion. Cameron, as modest as he is about admitting it, also desires to have his own taco stand. “He wants a little place in the East Village, somewhere downtown or in Brooklyn,” Ariana (Cameron’s biggest supporter/Taco Night waitress) told me. “By opening up Taco Night and spreading the word, we’re hoping it will lead to investors for Cameron. It boils down to word of mouth in the end.”  Abra la boca. Spread the word.

johnny_automatic_open_mouth