Showing posts from September, 2009

Is The Cat Snoring? Jet-lagged Musings.

I wrote it as the caption on my Facebook page: Happiness is being slept on by a big cat.

Or something like that.

I had been planning on trying to maybe make it down to Kulak's last night for the open mic, but I fell dead asleep about 7, woke up at 11, went back to sleep 12:30, woke up at 4. My eyes hurt.

I am physically and emotionally exhausted. Both of us are. But, as I sit here writing these words, I can hear the heavenly sounds of a contented cat purring quietly next to me in the dark.

His tail is touching me, and part of a leg, which is all he'll allow for the moment. I want, of course, to snuggle up with him and roll around on the carpet, but he's not having that yet. After all, it has been a month since we've been together.

But he did sleep on Jim as they watched TV together and snored through the second episode of Dexter, which I was then awake for. Or was that Mad Men? Was it me or did they both have exhausted daddy plots? Did Don Draper turn into a serial killer? …

One Last DC Show.

I can't believe it's almost over.

Has it really been a month?

In this short month, it feels like we've done and seen everything, and yet we've barely scratched the surface. But we couldn't be full time tourists. After all, the main point of our being here was to put "Zero Hour" onto the stage in one of the most sophisticated cities (with one of the most sophisticated audiences) in the world, and to see what would happen.

It's one thing to do it in Florida for what would be mostly retirees (who, not so amazingly were also sophisticated and discerning), but this is, after all, Washington, DC. The city has a thriving theatre community and features some of the most progressive and stimulating art (and art critics) in the world. If we came to DC and failed, then New York would be almost an impossibility.

What we couldn't expected or dreamed was that not only would every critic in every paper give him rave reviews, but, Jewish holidays notwithstanding, we w…

More Photos from DC.

Inside the Library of Congress. I never knew it was so beautiful.

The Capitol building:

Jim with our congressman, Howard Berman.

Me delivering my State of the Union address in the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

The beautiful DC Jewish Community Center, home of Theater J.

Jimmy and Piper Laurie acting silly.

Jim with Aviva Kempner, who made the wonderful film, "Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg."

Backstage with Theodore Bikel with NY producer Ed Gaynes looking on.

In the Newseum with sections of the Berlin Wall.

Jim hiding behind a G-man.

Me being taken into custody, but ever defiant.

A piece of the World Trade Center.

Face to face with J. Edgar Hoover.

The Navy Memorial, built to look like the top of the ship.

And so much more to come!

Touring, Touring.

I have so many pictures to share and videos that I've shot -- and no time to sit and process them all, so after Jim's last show on Sunday, after we get home, I'll sort through them and start telling stories.

But we had a special "backstage" tour of the Supreme Court building, a tour of the Scottish Rite Temple, which is the opening scene in "The Lost Symbol," and, on Thursday, a special tour of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Then, over to the Capitol for the House, Senate and a short visit with our Congressman (we just walked right into his office).

First, from the Smithsonian Museum of American History, an iconic statue (from Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol" of George Washington depicted as an Olympic god.)

Union Station:

The Presidential Yacht, used frequently by FDR but sold off by Jimmy Carter:

Speaking of FDR, Jimmy with Eleanor Roosevelt at the FDR memorial:

The Vietnam memorial:

A diorama of the Supreme Court. This is actually a little model…

"Why Do You Think I Fought At Omaha Beach?"

RIP Trevor Rhone -- "The Harder They Come"

I don't know why the movie, "They Harder They Come" hit me as hard as it did. Maybe because it was because it was about injustice -- country boy comes to the big city to make it in the music industry only find it corrupt and abusive, and "ends up a gangster who dies in a hail of bullets," as the NY Times obit puts it. Aside from bringing reggae music to the larger world, it also exposed the racism and class divisions in Jamaica.

I think it has the greatest soundtrack of any movie ever. Rootsy. Ragged. Filled with life. Filled with pain. I connected to them on a deep, spiritual level. And I'll never forget how I felt when I finally saw the film, years after it was released. Devastated. Exhilarated.

This is the kind of movie Quentin Tarantino wishes he could make. It's violent, ugly and real, thanks also to Perry Henzell's unflinching direction -- he also co-wrote.

The writer of this Jamaican masterpiece died of a heart attack on Tuesday. Rest in peace.…

Last Night's Curtain Call.

Why Dan Brown is the Number One Author in the World.

"For Blythe."

I had this dream last night. I was on a ship. I was explaining to the workers around me why I was running this particular division.

"It's because," I said, "I volunteered at the bottom and just made myself useful."

The dream was very detailed as I showed them how, by following orders and being creative, trying to stay out invisible and small, and out of the way of the Captain and the powers that be, I eventually just figured out how to make it all work, by effortlessly utilizing and empowering volunteers.

When I woke up, I had this big smile on my face because the last "scene" in my dream was that I was being secretly slipped down into the kitchen, by other workers on the bottom of the totem pole, to eat some freshly caught fish. And I knew exactly where this dream came from.

It reminded me of a saying from Stephen Mitchell's translation of Lao Tsu:
The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is…

For The New Year.

The other night, Jim and I were sitting in a very nice home with two former ambassadors and their wives and family members. They were dissecting the world, picking apart the Tea Partiers, the liberal left, the loony right, Obama, the vacuous media, the lack of civility, the tastiness of bacon,finally arriving at Afghanistan. And Pakistan. Then Israel. Iran. Disputed territories, Saudi Arabia and cities considered to be sacred.

And then the discussion turned to what it means when an object, city or land is declared to the "holy."

Up to that point, I was mostly listening and eating cheese and crackers, trying to get the cat to pay attention to me, but at the mention of "sacred," I blurted out, "Hey, I wrote a song about that once."

"Really?" said Tex Harris, a giant of a man, 6'7", with a great big American Texan voice, and who is a kind of hero to some people in the world for his work with the poor when he was ambassador to Argentina.

He bel…

A Grass Roots Fundraiser for a New AIDS Vaccine.

AIDS vaccine trials have been mostly disappointing because, as the virus mutates, the antibodies that attack the virus becomes ineffective. Sometimes the tested vaccines actually make things worse. So, the medical establishment has been at a kind of standstill on the subject. Also, as I learned from a class where I was a guest at the Stanford School of Medical Ethics, drug companies make a lot more money by selling drugs to long-term diseases than by curing them.

Therefore, when biochemist and immunologist Sudhir Paul at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston discovered a weakness in the virus -- an antigen discovered in people with Lupus -- which manages to disable the virus across multiple permutations, they became very excited and are ready to move into human studies of a new vaccine based on the research.

News article in Washington Post. And more information here.

So, to that end, they are holding a fundraising event in New York to get funding for human trials. Here is the…

Cathy Renna is Cool.

Talking about Cathy Renna, who Jim and I had lunch with, yesterday, after way too many years, is difficult because she's a professional in this business, but she's also a friend. I was a guest in her home long ago, in Boston back when I was the "just back from the dead" songwriter doing AIDS education concerts, at colleges and universities, following the success of The Last Session in New York.

I think I was still very fragile back then. (I'm still fragile, but who isn't?)

She had a deaf cat. Its ears never moved. And we all bonded.

Over the years, as Jim and I did our thing out in California in theatre, Cathy became involved with GLAAD as their PR person, and our lives intersected again when both TLS and Big Voice in New York and L.A. became nominees (winning once).

On her own now, with Renna Communications Cathy knows everybody and, better yet, everyone knows Cathy, or who she is. She's based here in Washington, but has been out of town until now for person…

Jim & Piper Get Podcasted at DC Theatre Scene

Piper Laurie and Jim Brochu get quizzed by the inimitable Joel Markowitz at DC Theatre Scene on a two-part podcast. Part one is up now, and part two is on its way. I was there for the taping, so I have this little preview for you where Piper talks about the ridiculous things they used to do to get her publicity in her early acting career.

And what was the silliness? Well, some publicist put out, onto the wires, that they had a starlet who "only ate flowers." Piper, being the dutiful employee, played along. But it would haunt her for years to come as reporter after reporter asked her about her geranium gestation.

The Jewish Press Discusses Zero Hour and Jim Brochu.

From the Jewish Press (the largest nationwide Jewish paper):

"There is something very special about Brochu's Mostel. Not only is the script brilliantly written and hilarious - and it is both - but it is also personal... "A comedic force of nature that knocks people out is a description that could apply to Brochu's acting as well. But when he says he was knocked out by Mostel, he means it literally. Brochu the sophomore had been invited to the play by his mentor David Burns, and searching for Burns backstage he ran into Mostel. Noting Brochu's uniform (he was in military school), Mostel told him, "You must be General Nuisance. What do you want?" When Brochu said he was looking for Burns, Mostel complained that Brochu never came to visit him and stormed off. Jim Brochu as Zero Mostel in Zero Hour at Theater J. Photo by Stan Barouh Brochu took the hint and visited Mostel backstage on several more occasions.Over time the two became friends. When he first asked …

A Day At The Newseum.

Iraq: Where Gays are Hunted Down, Tortured & Slaughtered.

Modern day Iraq.

They hunt down gay people and then ritually slaughter them.

It's happening now.

The killings are brutal, with victims ritually tortured. Azhar al-Saeed's son was one. "He didn't follow what Islamic doctrine tells but he was a good son," she said. "Three days after his kidnapping, I found a note on my door with blood spread over it and a message saying it was my son's purified blood and telling me where to find his body."

She went with police to find her son's remains. "We found his body with signs of torture, his anus filled with glue and without his genitals," she said. "I will carry this image with me until my dying day."
This is what we spent hundreds of billions of American dollars and thousands of American lives for.

Theodore Bikel Talks About "Edelweiss."

This is a session of theatre story-sharing between Jim Brochu and Theodore Bikel, who was in the original production of "The Sound of Music." He talks about the writing of the song "Edelweiss" -- and a funny story about the cast and some nuns.

Part 3 of Zero Hour Discussion with Piper Laurie & Jim Brochu

Part 2 of Zero Hour Discussion with Piper Laurie & Jim Brochu

"First they came for the socialists..."

Jim, Piper and I went to the Holocaust Museum two days ago, and it's really impossible to put into words what it felt like. The devastation that occurs in your soul as you witness how easy it is to convince the world that this group or that group is responsible for all the problems they're experiencing is devastating.

But you learn that this wasn't merely about the Nazis. The hate thrown at Jews began long ago after the destruction of the temple, shortly after the death of Jesus. They were flung across the world, herded into ghettos, decried as "Christ-killers," banned from "polite society," forced into conversions, driven from one country to another, blamed for disease, poverty, etc. etc. etc. until it culminated into Hitler's decision to exact a "final solution."

I'm reposting a video I shot a couple of years ago while on a cruise. Boris was a passenger who told me his own incredible story of how he managed, beyond all hope, to be save…

Review: DC Express Night Out

DC Express Night Out:

ZERO MOSTEL WAS hailed as the greatest performer on
the American stage, but his star has receded since his 1977 death. Fortunately, Jim Brochu is putting Mostel's name in lights again, playing him with ferocious anger as well as with great joy.

Even many who have heard of Mostel may not know he was a painter first. Brochu's Mostel does touch on the star's triumphs — in "Fiddler on the Roof," "The Producers" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" — during a rude, hilarious and touching autobiographical interview, but the interview takes place in a painting studio.

Brochu, looking like an insane Santa Claus, is wildly intense, expressive, manic and comic. He announces he's made 25 Broadway shows, 50 movies and 10,000 paintings. He insists on painting a visiting (unseen) newspaperman and asks whether his guest purchased his coat during a total eclipse. "Art is life," he offers. "Of course you can…

Piper Laurie & Jim Brochu Discuss "Zero Hour," Pt. 1.

In this "talkback" after Wednesday night's performance, Academy Award winning actress, Piper Laurie (director of "Zero Hour") and writer/star Jim Brochu discuss the play and their friendships with Zero Mostel, with artistic director Theater J, Ari Roth.

Posting "Zero" Reviews.

I've been posting the reviews as fast as they come in. It feels like a miraculous week, as rave after rave pile in, one on top of the other. So, the reader will have to forgive me for the flurry. But, I just don't want any of them lost in the mist of time. Links can break, magazines can fall out, but these reviews -- I'm so proud of them, and so proud of Jim, I wanted to make sure they all resided someplace.

Also, Piper Laurie came into town and did a talkback after the show last night. I taped it from my seat, so I'll be editing that and posting it to Youtube soon.

Stay tuned!

Review: Washington Jewish Week

Modern-day morality play

by Lisa Traiger

Arts Correspondent

The clown prince of Broadway was an angry man. Funny man Zero Mostel, it seems, had a bitter streak that adds heft and intrigue to actor, creator, writer Jim Brochu's one-man bio-drama, Zero Hour, which explores the life of the rubbery-faced actor.

Brooklyn, N.Y.-born Brochu has the oversize dimensions, literally the weight and heft, to carry off a more-than-believable Mostel impersonation. But Brochu offers more than an off-the-shelf impersonation of the character comedian with his bulgy eyes, grimaces, grins and groaners. At the end of 90 minutes, Brochu has become a reincarnation of the late, great Mostel, a one-of-a-kind stage presence -- famed for his Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof and Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Onstage at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center's Goldman Theater through Sept. 27, Zero Hour introduces us to a man who lived life with a vengeance. In the guise of a news…

Review: Metro Weekly

Zero to Hero

Questions from the past play into our present -- and future -- in Theater J's Zero Hour.

by Tom Avila
Published on September 10, 2009On Oct. 14, 1955, the actor and comedian Zero Mostel was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He was asked if he was or had ever been a member of the Communist Party. He was asked, in a phrase that is as unsettling today as it was then, to ''name names.''

Zero Hour
(Photo by Stan Barouh) Established in the late 1930s, HUAC's mission was to investigate individuals and organizations with alleged ties to the Communist Party. The committee paid particular attention to entertainers, those individuals whose voices were heard loudly and widely. HUAC's work would later be rightly seen as a modern-day witch hunt, destroying lives and careers in the name of some unfounded greater good.

Jim Brochu's one-man show Zero Hour, the season opener at Theater J, takes that single transformative day in Mostel…

Review: Washington City Paper

A Hilarious Paean to the Indefatigable Zero Mostel.
By Trey GrahamJim Brochu is Zero Mostel: the shrugging, the mugging, the right hand aloft to screw in that invisible light bulb, the eyes bugging as if to say “What, that’s the best laugh you’ve got?” The two-tone beard, the thinning hair scraped back to front, the screwed-up face, the waggling jowls—and those cadences, pinched and outraged, punchy and perfectly pitched. As a comic, Mostel had no peer, and as a mimic, Brochu does his hero proud: When it’s going for the funny bone, Zero Hour is a laff riot, down to the “I’m a little teapot” imitation excavated from Mostel’s early days in stand-up. And that’s terrific, because most of us know Mostel merely as the guy to whom funny things happened in A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, or as the guy who celebrated “Tradition” above all in Fiddler on the Roof. (Or—much to the actor’s chagrin, Brochu insists—as the sweaty swindler of a Broadway hack romancing wealthy widows in T…

Review: Potomac Stages

By Brad Hathaway at Potomac Stages.

Here's the review in full:
This wasn't advertised as a Pre-Off-Broadway engagement, but it turns out to be. Jim Brochu, who wrote and performs this solo show encounter with the inimitable but clearly impersonation-able Zero Mostel, will take the show to the Theatre at St. Clement's on 46th Street in New York with previews beginning November 14 and a formal opening slated for November 23. No need to wait the two and a half months until then, however. The show is up on its feet in fine shape right now (and some 230 miles closer to home for us here in the Potomac Region). It is another of those magical transportations that live theater can impart - the chance to spend an evening in the presence of a person from the past. Brochu brings the man back to life, looking so much like a living, breathing (and bellowing) Al Hirschfeld sketch of the real thing that you suspect the streaks in his comb over spell out "Nina." Those who enjoyed l…

Review: The Edge, Boston

Another great review for "Zero Hour" from The Edge, Boston (which, I guess, has a DC branch).

It is uncommon to find a play that can make you both laugh out loud and struggle to hold back tears with equal intensity. In this-and every respect-Zero Hour delivers. Five out of five stars for a rare gem of a play in which a brilliant actor is paired with the role he was born to play!

The Presence & Politics of Zero Mostel.

In a new, very thoughtful review of "Zero Hour" in DC Theatre Scene, Josh Fixler, raises two aspects regarding Zero Mostel. (I warn the reader, it's quite complimentary of our Mr. Brochu.) My emphases:
The play treats us to an opportunity that may never have existed in life: to be present for an evening in Mostel’s private sanctuary, his art studio... In this way, the play doesn’t feel much like an interview, but more like watching the inner workings of Mostel’s mind. He interrupts himself, sometimes with a witty line, and sometimes because he appears to have forgotten what he is saying.. Brochu’s performance is a symphony of the wiggling eyes and silly facial expressions which made Mostel famous. From the moment the play begins, we are pulled in to a world of the gregarious, the witty, and the raunchy. His Mostel is both self-deprecating and everyone-else-deprecating. There is more than one joke made at a friend’s expense, but you can tell that it is done with the deepes…