Tag: comedy

Some days you have no damn luck.

My show, Voice of Authority, is about a string of those days when the US Department of Justice comes after me for $19 million. True story. And the song that serves as the core theme of the show is: No damn luck today.

On opening night at the FRIGID New York Festival, the plan is to interrupt that song at the top of the show with a ringing telephone, because there is always someone in the audience who doesn’t turn off their phone despite the announcement, right?

In an ideal world, I’m interrupted during the first verse. I stop, accuse the audience of making things very awkward, and then realize the ringing phone is mine.

Oh! That’s my lawyer, I have to take this. Sorry.

In the real world of opening night, however, the sound cue never comes and I get to the end of the song, which is a surprise I didn’t see coming. I find myself thinking, “I’m gonna have to improv my way around this plot point.”

Which is what I start to do. I’m almost there and boom, there’s my sound cue – classic iPhone ringtone. And it’s loud enough to drown out a jet.


So what do I do now? That is literally what I’m thinking as it happens.

It also happens to be what I’m thinking when I get hit with the $19 million lawsuit. So in a way, I guess theater is a lot like real life. Something goes very wrong, what were your priorities suddenly seem a lot less pressing, and this newfound crisis owns all of your focus.

Sounds awful, right? Except for one thing: You are now 100 percent present.

Some people pay their gurus a lot of money to get that way, and some people pay their lawyers.

When you get it into your head to do something like the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Fringe staff is pretty good about getting you to ask yourself, why are you doing this? If you can’t answer the question, you’re not ready.

Aside from the various ways I want to advance my career and my work, my reason for doing this is to become a better artist. A better actor. A better performer. A better writer. Doing a show for 22 days (with only one day off) in front of people who don’t know you will do that and more.

My five shows at FRIGID are just the beginning of that road, and it’s one that has started off bumpy. But we live for moments like this whether we like it or not, because now we have to make a choice, and if we can find the courage to make a bold one, it might take us somewhere we’ve never been before.

I’m in the FRIGID audience at the Kraine Theater watching David Carl and Katie Hartman in their hysterically funny David and Katie Get Remarried. Katie — whose character is needy, narcissist, and biting — is singing a song she wrote about David after a breakup so she can forget him forever. She’s at the emotional peak, about to break free, and David’s keyboard stand collapses, crashing to the floor. Katie stops dead, robbed of her climax, and stares at the audience. David looks her direction with what I read as genuine fear.

Katie Hartman and David Carl in David and Katie Get Re-Married, image by Jeanette Sears

In the seats we hold our breath and the tension is excruciating. We’re mostly certain this is a real problem and not a staged one, and now we can’t look away. What are they going to do?

What they do is never leave character. They grab this moment and milk it for all it’s worth. David is on the floor with his keyboard looking like a naughty five year old caught with a broken heirloom. Katie is forcing a smile that burns like the fires of hell.

And we’re still holding our breath.

Until she slowly turns her head his way. We see the fear on his face grow and we’re witnessing theatrical perfection. This stage relationship has become so real and we are all invested in it. All Katie has to do now is throw away line about ruining the climax of the song and the audience comes to pieces.

People on the street could probably hear the laughter outside the building.

So what did I do when my sound cue went wrong? Did I get through it? Absolutely. Did I stay in character? Mostly, but I’ll admit to letting my frustration with tech throw me off my game. Did I handle it as well as Katie and David? Absolutely not. But that’s what I’m working toward, and it’s why I’m taking this show to Edinburgh.

To learn. From what others do. From what I do. To embrace the unknown. To remember to have fun. To go somewhere I’ve never been.

Dean Temple’s comedy solo show Voice of Authority, a true story
 about getting sued by the US Dept of Justice for $19 million and saved
by the choreographer of the Metropolitan Opera, will be at 59E59 Theaters in NYC Jul 17–21, and at Surgeon’s Hall at Edinburgh Fringe Aug 2–24. Follow him on Twitter
@deantemple, Instagram @thatdeantemple, and follow the show on facebook.com/deantemplevoa

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(Pictured above, my mom, my baby sister, mom’s ’68 Mustang, and me with the mop of black hair.)

You have this ambitious project that you need to take on, the kind of project that most of the world around you sees as utterly impractical. And while you can’t imagine how you could survive without this, the rest of your world can’t imagine how you’re going to pay your bills and do this at the same time.

For me that’s the moment I decide to write Voice of Authority and take it to Edinburgh Fringe.

So my question to you is, how do you know if you can trust your mom enough to tell her about it?

If you’re an artist, or even just a human being, I suspect you understand my thinking here. Moms can get acutely curious about what their kids are doing, particularly when they’ve become accustomed over time to questioning your judgment, as mine has.

My show is a true story about landing in a $19 million lawsuit with the Department of Justice. There’s no track record of good judgment my part. For all she knows, this is one more thing I’m doing that’s going to cost her money.

And she’s right, it is.

But that’s not the point. No one’s judgment strikes you as hard or as deep as Mom’s. Sorry Dad, that’s just how the world works. And if you’re going to tell her about it, you’re going to have to accept a couple of things:

  • If you don’t follow through and take the show to Edinburgh, you’re gonna have to answer the question “Whatever happened to taking your show to Edinburgh?” More than once. Possibly over a holiday dinner in front of a table full of people.
  • If you make a shambles of it by not preparing, you’re going to prove her more subtle and passive aggressive judgments of you correct. You might also find yourself answering questions about that during the holidays. Along with the one about how you could have put that money towards law school (it’s a little late at this point, Mom).
  • You’re going to have to know why you’re taking a show there.

The first two are brutal, yes, but that last one is the killer. That’s the divide between the amateur and the professional, the trophy hunter and the provider. And dammit, sometimes as much as I hate to admit it, Mom is pretty insightful.

I’m going because I want to get better as a performer and a writer, and 21 days of performing on the road in front of strangers will do that. I’m going to meet the sort of people I want to work with in the future. I’m going to develop this story into a bigger show or another medium altogether. And I’m going because it puts me in a spot where I have to prove myself, and I seem to have reached a point in my life where that matters.

But that’s enough about me. Back to the question. How do you know if you can trust your mom enough to tell her about this project? That might depend on whether you know why you’re doing what you’re doing. And she might surprise you, because no one gets as excited to see you driven and focused as your mom does.

Dean’s comedy solo show Voice of Authority runs at FRIGID New York Feb 21, 28, and March 5, 8, and 9 (Tickets»). He takes it to Surgeon’s Hall at Edinburgh Fringe from Aug 2-24.

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