2011 in Review

2011 was a pretty good year for me.  I wrote more in 2011 and developed as a writer.  And I lost weight.  I would have to say that I mostly met my resolutions for the year 2011.

I couldn’t believe how quickly the year passed by. I spent a good portion of the year procrastinating on deadlines, so I was keenly aware of how quickly time passed.  “I have how much time left?!?”

Family

Of course, my life isn’t all about me.  I share this life with my wife, Deb, and my three children, Caileigh, Keaton, and Tara.

Deb got back into acting in 2011.  When we met 25 years ago, we were both cast for a show playing husband and wife.  Originally, we had high hopes of becoming professional actors.  Reality had a different idea and both of us quickly forgot about those dreams.

I discovered community theatre about six years ago and felt invigorated to rediscover a part of me that I didn’t realize was missing.  Deb took the plunge last year.  She went to a few auditions and got cast in Time and the Conways at Dundas Little Theatre.  She was fantastic!  And she was also cast in The Memory of Water which will be put on at The Player’s Guild in February.  Looking forward to it.

Caileigh finished her first year of University.  She also performed in The Vagina Monologues — every father’s dream.  I mean who doesn’t want to hear their baby saying the C-word over and over gleefully?  She’s sharing her first place of her own with a couple of friends and enjoying her second year.

Keaton is in his last year of high school, but is considering a victory lap to earn more money before heading off to some form of advanced learning.  He went to the Dominican Republic to help build a house like his sister the year before.  And Keaton auditioned for the National Circus School, so who knows where he will end up?

Tara is still singing away, but the piano lessons have ended for now.  I think it’s the right balance.  She’s finishing up her last year of elementary school and can hardly wait to start high school.

Writing

2011 was a very good year for me, writing-wise.  I had four plays performed and there were a few milestones, as well.  Of the four plays put on, two of them were premieres of new work.  A good year, indeed.

Some students at Saint Thomas Aquinas Secondary School put on my play Laund-o-mat At The End Of The World for the Sears Festival.  They won acting and directing awards at the district level and went onto the regional level.  They won some more awards at the regionals, but didn’t move to the last level.  Milestones: first real royalty payment for a performance of my play.  Also, first performance of my work that I wasn’t directly involved in.

The main catalyst for that show being put on was Andrew Chown, who played Brian and got the ball rolling to make the show happen.  Andrew and I had met the year before at the Oakville Arts Council’s Stars Among Us awards ceremony.  We chatted because we were both up for awards and I knew of him through Caileigh and Keaton, since he went to their school.  Both Andrew and I ended up winning awards and he asked if he could read Laund-o-mat afterwards.  He liked it and wanted to put it on for the Sears Festival.

It was a great experience seeing the play performed with different actors.  Shari Vandermolen and Mike Hannigan originated the roles and I saw about twenty performances with them.  It was hard to imagine a performance with different actors.  But Andrew and Bami Kuteyi did a great job performing their roles.  Kudos also to Caitlin Kennific, the director, and Laura Wittman, set design & props.  It was also cool to see an audience of teenagers react to the material and receive it so well.  There was a well-earned standing ovation at the performance I saw.

What else happened?  Well, there was the Romeo and Juliet Experiment that the Theatre Aquarius Playwrights Unit put on.  Four writers were given a quarter of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to reinterpret to a ten minute segment without discussing it with the other writers.  Very interesting results.  I reimagined the piece as a Jewish boy in love with a Palestinian girl.

I did a fair amount of work on Minced and Cast Away, which I’ll discuss in a moment; but another milestone was participating as an “expert” on a discussion panel.  The Hamilton Arts Council sponsored a panel discussion with Luke Brown moderating playwrights Ryan Sero, Stephen Near and myself.  It was an intimate group, but always fun to talk about the writing and performing process.

Another experiment with the TA Playwright’s Unit was “Script Happens”.  Six writers brought a ten minute play that they had written and over two nights each script was read and got audience feedback.  Then the writers went back to the keyboard and made changes incorporating the feedback into their scripts.  There was about a day and half to make the changes and then the modified scripts were read again in front of an audience.  I really enjoyed this because I found the play reading I had for Minced really helped in its development.  It’s so easy to assume what you’ve written is clear, but when everyone in the audience is scratching their heads, you have to accept that it might not be as obvious as you thought.

Minced

I submitted Minced to the Hamilton Fringe Playwriting Contest and it came in third place.  Milestone: First time I “placed” in a playwriting contest!

In April, I had a play reading for Minced at the Artword Artbar in Hamilton and played both roles.  It was well received and I incorporated the feedback into my rewrite of the play.  Milestone: First time I gave a play reading.

My friend Shari was at the reading and liked the play so much that she wanted to put it on in the Fall.  Then, when the show she was going to do at the Hamilton Fringe was having issues, she decided to do put on Minced at the Fringe, instead.  We were the first show to sell out (okay, so it was opening night…) and we ended up being selected for Best of Fringe.  It was pretty awesome to be in the audience for other shows and hear people that I didn’t know suggest to their audiences to check out Minced.  Milestone: Being one of the shows with Buzz.

Theatre Aquarius renamed the Best of Fringe show to the “Mystery Double Feature”, but it was great being part of that encore presentation because the audience that came to see the show weren’t necessarily “fringers” so you got exposure to a different group of people.  Plus you didn’t have to hustle for an audience.  Yay!

Of course, Minced really benefited from having the reading, which helped me focus the story a bit more.  And it was helped by having two wonderful actresses, Shari Vandermolen and Jo Skilton, playing the parts and making them their own.  Al French was an awesome director.  He has a great dramatic sense and had some excellent suggestions for improving the piece.  And Gail Edwards kept things running smoothly from the production side of things.  There’s nothing like the sound of Gail’s giggles to keep spirits high.

Ironically, I did a rewrite of Minced after the play reading and made it almost thirty pages longer, but when Shari wanted to put it on at the Fringe, I had to shorten it, again.  And then a couple of weeks before we opened, I had to shorten it once more, because it was dangerously close to going over the time limit.  Because Fringe shows are on a tight schedule, they can’t afford to run late.  The irony is that I have been trying to write a full length play and when Minced was verging on full length status, I had to cut it down mercilessly.

Cast Away

While I was rewriting Minced for the Fringe, I was thinking that I should get to work on a new play.  Lo and behold, there was a notice for a new theatre festival in Hamilton: The Pearl Company Canadian Theatre Festival.  I submitted a proposal and it was accepted.

When I directed my play Cast Party, people kept saying that I should write a sequel to it, but I thought that I would write something called The Rehearsal instead.  It would be inspired on my experiences directing the play and the misadventures involved.  The Rehearsal morphed into Cast Away, which played on the idea of losing cast members and feeling adrift from divine intervention.

A big part of Cast Away was that it was a one man show.  Doing the play reading earlier in the year gave me the confidence (hubris?) to try this feat.  Actually, I had seen a couple of one person shows at Theatre Passe Muraille (The Cure for Everything and Oh My Irma) which had got me thinking about the one person format.  By the time the Hamilton Fringe started, I knew I was going to be doing Cast Away, so I made a concerted effort to check out as many one person shows as I could.

Of course, I didn’t get started writing when I should have, so I spent a week of holidays writing like a maniac.  My first draft was about 90 minutes, which was problematic because I had said that the show was 50 minutes.  Slash, slash, and more slashing.  It was very stressful. I didn’t fully learn my lines until Opening Night.  And then the realization really hit me: if I run into trouble onstage, I don’t have anyone that can save me.  GULP!  The terror was similar to how I imagine sky diving must be.  Once you jump out, you’re committed and you better hope everything works as it’s supposed to.

After the first week, I got my friend Al French to look at the piece.  Again, he gave great suggestions for improving the performance and honing the script.  I still owe him a couple of beers for that!  The second week’s performance went more smoothly, especially with the improvements.  Deb saw opening night and closing night and she agreed that there was a gigantic difference in the performance.

I would like to do some more work on the piece.  Maybe with the help of a dramaturge…  I’ll let it sit for a bit and maybe revisit it later this year.

Weight

I did not get my weight below 200lbs, which was my hope for 2011; but I did lose over 22lbs during the course of the year.  I’m pretty happy about that. I’ve been a bit uneven in my attempts to lose weight.  I had a pretty good start at the beginning of the year and a good finish at the end, but man, that middle part…

Part of the problem is that I haven’t fully committed to the idea of exercising regularly. It’s a great concept, but corralling the effort to follow through can  be challenging.   I have been better with watching what I eat and it is amazing how easy it is to lose weight when you cut down on rice, flour and pasta.

I’ve been following the Slow Carb Diet, a la Tim Ferris.  The thing I like about it is that a cheat day is built into it; so, you’re really only “depriving” yourself for six days.  And to be honest, it doesn’t really feel like being deprived too much.  There were some challenging moments leading up to the holidays — all that baking that gets brought in…  But overall, it’s been pretty easy to stick to it.

I’m hoping to get under 200lbs in a couple of weeks.  And by December 31, 2012, I hope to get down to 180lbs.

Reading

I do a fair amount of reading during the year.  In recent years, I have been reading much more non-fiction than fiction; which would have been unthinkable to my younger self!  But I really enjoy pursuing a topic and finding out more about it.

My favourite book that I read in 2011 was Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen.  I really enjoyed this book.  It examines a bunch of companies over a twenty to thirty year period and determines what they did differently from other companies in their type of business to enjoy a ten times better than average growth.  Fascinating anecdotes and great ideas not only to run a business, but to improve the way you work.

Another book that I really enjoyed was Getting Things Done by David Allen.  Basically, it’s about setting up a personal system to handle all the things you need to do in your personal and professional life.  I’ve been a bit better at implementing some of the ideas at work than I have been at doing it at home.  Something to work on in 2012.

I get a bit of flack from my son Keaton, because he thinks that listening to an audio book shouldn’t count as reading it.  I disagree.  I try to only listen to unabridged books, so you’re hearing the book instead of seeing it.  But it’s the same words.

I love audio books.  I can listen on long trips or when I run or on the walk from the train to the office.  You get the benefits of reading when you might be doing something that isn’t conducive to reading like driving or riding on the train.

Audio books came into my life when I needed something to keep me awake on those long trips to Montreal. But I listened mostly to kids books.  It was a few years ago that I started listening to non-fiction and that’s what I listen to now, almost exclusively.

I do still read books and I’m looking forward to reading two of my Christmas presents: Good to Great by Jim Collins and Act One by Moss Hart.

List of books read in 2011

Some of the other books I read or listened to were:

  • Predicatably Irrational by Dan Ariely.
  • The Upside of Irrational by Dan Ariely.
  • Superfreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.
  • The Four Hour Body by Timothy Ferris.
  • The New Glucose Revolution by by Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller, Thomas M.S. Wolever and Kaye Foster-Powell.
  • Unclutter Your Life in One Week by Erin Rooney Doland.
  • The 85% Solution by Linda Galindo.
  • Moonwalking with Einstein by Josh Foer.
  • Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk.
  • Never Eat Alone by Keith Farrazi.
  • The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.
  • Fish for Life by Stephen C. Lundin, John Christensen and Harry Paul.
  • Bounce by Mathew Sayed.
  • The Genius in All of Us by David Shenk.
  • Nudge by Richard H. Thaler.
  • The Mulligan by Ken Blanchard and Wally Armstrong.
  • The Generosity Factor by Ken Blanchard and S. Truett Cathy.
  • Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence by Gary Mack.
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey.
  • 50/50 by Dean Karnazes.
  • Three Uses of the Knife by David Mamet.
  • The Success Principles by Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer.
  • Sway by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman.
  • You’ve Got to Read This book by Jack Canfield and Gay Hendricks.
  • Start with Why by Simon Sinek.
  • Get Real, Get Rich by Farrah Gray.
  • Zero to Zillionaire by Chellie Campbell.
  • Dazzler by Stephen Bach.
  • Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki.

Well, that’s 2011 in review.  Time to start thinking about 2012, I guess.

What your 2011 like?

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