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And remember to have fun

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.

WHOSE PHONE IS THAT?!!

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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Not all vulnerability is the same

Your Edinburgh Fringe show opens an NYC run later this week, but it’s morning, the windows are still dark, your bed is warm and you have no intention of getting out of it. Putting your feet on the floor will put you back in touch with the stress of the show, and you have so few moments where you can feel relaxed, where you don’t feel quite so vulnerable.

And you can’t stand feeling vulnerable. That’s what your show is about.

But you don’t feel vulnerable now, in these last moments of the early morning before the light comes up, and your stress creeps out of the shadows. What you do feel is the rice and beans you had for dinner. They are ready to re-enter the world any second and you have to determine whether they’re going to do that like a loving whisper or an angry tuba.

Because, even though you just celebrated your nineteenth wedding anniversary, you’re still not comfortable with the idea of farting in bed with your wife there. Like I said, you can’t stand feeling vulnerable. At least not in the real world.

Which gets you thinking about your acting coach. She’s constantly pushing you to reach greater levels of vulnerability on stage. Weird thing is, you don’t have a problem with it there. It’s still scary, but more like roller coaster scary. You look out into all that open space, and your stomach drops just as you start to fall. In a theater, when you let yourself go like that, the audience catches you and that connection is thrilling.

And when you fake that vulnerability, you don’t get that. What you get is a ding from your acting coach’s triangle and her saying, “I’m not believing you.”

When you hear that ding this time, your eyes open and it’s light out. You notice two things. You no longer feel the need to fart. And your wife is no longer in bed with you. Did the need just pass? Did something horrible happen in your sleep and now she’s out on the couch? Something like that happened the other day while you were visiting your parents in Florida. You farted so loudly in your sleep it woke both of you up and your wife lustily proclaimed, “Whoa!”

It was a vulnerable moment and you’re still feeling that vulnerability weeks later.

Not that she cares. She comes from a family of world-class crack flappers. It’s an art form in her family. They practically use spotlights for that stuff.

Like that time in Idaho at the Pioneer, waiting two hours for a table. Her brother has been sick out the backside for several days, with devastating effect on your condo. In an attempt to get a table faster by clearing out the restaurant, he does a long controlled crop dusting of the entire bar area. You watch the heads turn as he walks past and one kid whose face is ass-height starts crying, “Mommy it stinks in here.”

You appreciate the art, admire the execution, respect the mastery, but it will never be your medium. You realize you’re the kind of person who’d rather be naked on stage than fart in bed.

You look at the time. It’s 10am. Your wife has been up for hours now, and you just lost the four you were going to use to push ticket sales and organize the rack cards, programs, and posters you need for your opening. You just slept your way into greater vulnerability. Your day just got more stressful.

“Ding,” goes the triangle. “Too much drama. I’m not believing you,” says your acting coach.…

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Reviews

Voice of Authority delivers a good helping of comedy and masterful solo performance. An entertaining and thought-provoking show. – Fringe Review UK

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About Dean

Dean is an actor, writer, and creative director based in NYC and the Hudson Valley. His solo show, Voice of Authority, will be at the Phoenicia Playhouse, July 5, at 59E59 Theaters, July 17-21, and at Edinburgh Fringe, Aug 2-24, in 2019.

He has appeared on the stage at Carnegie Hall (Mr. Richard in Fannie Lou the Musical), as well as designed installations there for VDAY through his company, Drake Creative Collaborative.

He also serves as board president for The Art Effect, a nonprofit where youth learn to explore, experience, and excel in the arts and arts-related fields.