Wednesday, September 22, 2010

15 Days Remaining to Donate!!!

Donate to our show, Night of the Living Dead the musical, by clicking HERE.

Your support will help give our piece more of a chance at life after death! Thanks so much!

A Journey to the Cemetery

The wig sat on the kitchen table on a wig head. The raincoat had just come back from the dry cleaners and was hanging in my closet. Karissa was almost to my house, and I stood in the dining room for a moment, unsure of what to do. I had not been to my Nana's grave since she was buried there, due to my own irrational fears, and I suddenly felt that I was wearing the wrong thing for such an occasion. I looked down at the shorts, flip flops and tee shirt and thought that something a little more appropriate was in order. I changed into a black suit and tie. I packed my bag full of batteries for the camera, the camera itself, water bottles and the ice breaker mints that I am addicted to. I was ready to go.

Karissa arrived and started putting on her make up, and I told her that I had to take Buddha out before we left. As I walked my little puglet, my mind was racing. I was about to go to my Nana's grave for the first time in seventeen years. I was also taking Karissa, dressed in full Barbara wear to the cemetery for a photo shoot. These things combined were making my mind reel.
I have been working on this show off and on for the past eight years. Suddenly, due to Matt Conner's recent involvement with the project, it is all becoming a reality. Suddenly I was driving Barbara to the cemetery.
I had looked around for a cemetery to take her to, and it turned out that the one that my Nana was buried in happened to be the closest to me. I had only just discovered that the cemetery was right around the corner from one of my places of employment, ArtSpace Falls Church. That alone had made me think, "Hmmm. There's Nana, trying to bring me closer to her." When a google search yielded her cemetery as the best location for the photo shoot, I sighed and thought, ok Nana. I hear you. It's about time to make that trip out to see you.

I'm not sure why, beyond the obvious reasons, that I developed such an acute fear of graveyards, funeral parlors, and the like. Perhaps the film that I am musicalizing is at the heart of it, but I'm not so convinced of that. The person that I lost at 15 was one of the closest people to my heart. The loss I felt was so severe that I equated everything to do with the funeral and burial as horrific beyond belief. Every time that my parents would come down to visit me and go to Nana's grave, they would ask me if I wanted to come. I always found an excuse not to. I don't know why I kept doing this, but I thought to myself that seeing the finality of that gravestone would rip open the seams of an old wound that took a very long time to heal. So I always politely declined. This time, Nana was having none of it. If I needed to shoot pictures in a cemetery, it was clearly going to be hers.

I finished walking Buddha and walked into the apartment, and Karissa stood in the dining room with the wig on, and her make up done. I almost fell over. Vincent A. Hill had gorgeously cut and styled a fall that matched Karissa to a tee. It looked the spitting image of the fall worn by Judith O'Dea in the film. Karissa had done a "mod" style make up and looked exquisite. Next came the raincoat. I almost passed out at this point. It was so close to the original that it was shocking. The time on the clock said 6:35pm. It was time to get going if we wanted to arrive at the right time to get some shots at dusk. So off we went.

I think that the only way to break the curse of my fear was to combine this photo shoot with the first time back to the cemetery. That was the right formula to put an end to the bugaboo that had hid in my mind for so many years.

As we neared the cemetery, I started to feel my body tense up again. I immediately decided to fight this with the joy of my project. I put the cassette tape of the soundtrack to Night of the Living Dead into the tape player and the music that plays when they are driving up the hill to the cemetery started to play. This helped.

We pulled into the gate.

There it all was again. Just as I remembered it. I turned left on instinct and passed the fountain. The music from the film was playing, and I looked over at Karissa/Barbara and everything at once was all too surreal. She asked me, "Do you know where it is?"...not quite the line from the film (which happens to be "Which row is it in?"), but close enough to snap me out of my trance.

This place didn't seem so scary. It actually seemed quite peaceful and gorgeous. The fountains and statues in the grounds are quite beautiful. I knew that I would never find the flat marker on my own, so I called my Mom and asked her where to look. After some confusion on my part about which spigot to park by (I parked at the first, turns out I wanted the second one), I ended up on the right side of the hill.
Right at about that time, I heard Karissa/Barbara call over to me, "She's here! I found her!".

And there she was.

I didn't feel that ripping and tearing at my heart that I thought I would. I only briefly felt my eyes gain some moisture as I said, "Hi,'s been a long time." And just like that, the curse was broken. This wasn't as scary as I thought it was going to be, and not so terrible to revisit. I was finally able to concur my fear and break the spell. But now, I had work to do. I said, "I'll be back, Nan, I've got some pictures to take!" And we went to the top of the hill to begin our shoot.

The pictures came out incredibly well, and I love the blurriness of some of them. They have a ghostlike quality that I find eerie. These photos have all been edited now to look like they are film grain black and white. As we shot, I noticed that moon was brighter than usual, and the sky was totally clear. I was ten years old again. There in my photo lens was Barbara/Karissa. It could not have been more perfect. Here are the shots that we took...

I was very happy with what we shot, and it was getting dark. We walked back to Nana's marker before we left. I talked briefly with her, telling her what craziness I was up to traipsing all about the cemetery with a camera and a girl in a wig and raincoat. I'm sure she got a kick out of it. I said my goodbyes, and promised her that I would be back again, and that it wouldn't be another seventeen years until I did. And then we drove away.

I can't tell you how relieved I felt, knowing that I had done this. Leaving, I felt happy about the photos, but happier that I had been able to conquer my fear and face it down. It was an evening full of accomplishments.

Good to see you Nan. Thanks for helping me back to you.



Monday, September 20, 2010

Night of the Living Dead the Musical

We finally reached our goal on We are over the moon in so many ways. Any further donations will only go to increase the life of this show after death' so please open your pockets and give if you can. The fundraising page closes on October 7th at 5pm.
So tonight I performed a song from NOTLD with Dani Danger Stoller called "What You Say". It was met with a tremendous response, and the video will be forthcoming.
Tomorrow I will be doing a photo shoot with Karissa all dolled up as Barbara in a graveyard. This graveyard happens to be where my Nana is buried, and I have not gone there since she was interred in 1993. It turns out the cemetery is around the corner from Creative Cauldron. And it also happens that it is the closest one to me. See. There is Nana pulling me closer, wanting me to come and see her.
So I will go.
Tomorrow I drive "Barbara" to the cemetery. Photos to follow.
Thanks so much for giving this project it's wings!
Donations page is here -
Thank you all for your support. A VERY SPECIAL edition of this blog will come out tomorrow night after we return from the cemetery.


uh oh...i have discovered that i can blog from my phone...

Friday, September 10, 2010

The beginnings...

I first saw the film on an October night in the 1980's. I must have been about ten years old. I remember that my mother was next door visiting my neighbor, and that my father was at work. I was home alone, and snuck a tape into the vcr to record a movie whose title brought chills to my spine. Night of the Living Dead. I knew that I might not be able to watch the whole film, as my mother might return at any minute and I would shut the tv power off, put something in front of the red "rec" light that indicated a recording in progress, and suggest to my mother that we go do something other than watch tv. She would love that, I thought. I turned the tv on, and the movie started. The strange, tinny sounding music began to play as I watched a car slowly roll through the Pennsylvania hills. I was not even to the first spoken line in the film, and I felt like screaming at the people in the car to turn around and go back the way they came. I didn't even know why, I just knew that the music sounded terrifying, and made me uneasy. This feeling of dread only got worse as the film went on.Every five minutes, I would run to the window the make sure that my mother wasn't walking back home, and I would return to the tv only to see Barbara doing the same thing, looking out the window, terrified of what she would see, or how many of "them" were out the window.

"Them". How terrifying they were.

I remember several weeks prior to the night that I watched my favorite film for the first time, I was at a funeral of a distant relative. It was the first funeral that I had been to, and I didn't quite know what was going on. I remember the slow walk up to the casket, and seeing the form of someone I vaguely remembered laying like they were asleep in front of a room full of people. How the light above the coffin cast a strange, pink light on the area. How it almost looked like they were still breathing. I expected their eyes to open at any minute and for them to sit up and look at me.I decided that day that I did NOT like funerals, or graveyards, or anything to do with death. Period. And now, on the screen was death, not caring if you liked it or not, pounding on the walls of your house, desperate to get in and get you.I remember looking around my house and wondering what I could barricade the doors with or use as a weapon in a pinch. The next time I ran to the window to see if my mother was coming back, imagine my horror to see a figure close to the driveway walking towards the front door. Yes, of course, it was my mother, but for a moment...for just one moment my heart stopped.I taped the movie silently and watched the horrifying end of it the next day. As the credits rolled, I was devastated, stunned, and shaken to my core. This was the first time that I had truly been disturbed by something. The feeling was strange, and I didn't quite understand it, so I decided to better understand why, I would watch the film again. And again. Thus began an obsession.

I still watch the film with alarming regularity, and ten years ago began to dream up an idea of a stage version of this film that would terrify the audience as much as the film scared the ten year old boy so many years ago. But the second that people start seeing shlocky zombies chasing after people in a theatre, it becomes camp. So how to make it just as terrifying? That has been the journey of the past ten years, and now to have finally heard the first several songs written by the brilliant composer, Matt Conner, this show is finally taking off. If I make just a few people in the audience feel like that ten year old boy, looking out the windows and jumping at noises in the house, then I will have succeeded. My love and appreciation to all of you for getting on board with me as I drive us to the farm house.
To donate to the show, please visit this link:

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Hump Day update

What's up? What's new? What's going on? Well...I am fighting off a cold, now for the 4th week straight, which just really sucks. I am so tired of being sick, it is driving me insane. But that is hardly breaking news.
In other news, this weekend is a very special one at ArtSpace Falls Church, as the FOURTHwall cabaret series has been extended into September due to popular demand, and kick off the extension week is none other than Matt and Penny Conner. Yes, you heard right. Here is the press release:

"Matt Conner is going back to his roots of Gospel Music and celebrating with his mother Penny. A life long singer and former lead singer with the band "Lonely hearts",she will be singing some of her favorites including Consider the Lillies, Patsy Cline's Crazy, and The Rose, just to name a few. Matt and mom will be sharing stories from childhood including the Annual Christmas Pageants, that were written by Matt, and the many country funerals and weddings. Take a glimpse into a past that has one common family thread: Music!!!"
That is this Saturday, September 11th at ArtSpace Falls Church. Not to be missed. ‎571-239-5288 or for tickets.
What else? I just sang at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage for the 5th year in a row. We presented work in development at Signature, including "The Hollow" and "The Boy Detective Fails". You can watch the archive video HERE. Then when you get there, click on the 9/6/10 performance, and there we will be!
Fundraising continues for me and Matt's show, Night of the Living Dead the musical. The Kickstarter web page was started not 24 hours ago, and we are already at over $400!!! We have 29 days to go, so please help me spread the word! Even one dollar will help to raise the dead!!
In case I have not battered you over the head with it enough, HERE is the link to donate.
The first reading of the piece will be held at the Kensington Armory on Monday October 18th at 8pm. It is free and open to the public. Details to follow.
That's about all I know right now, but will check in with more news as it happens! Happy Hump Day, y'all!!!!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Matt and I are raising money for our production of our new musical based on "Night of the Living Dead". We have started a Kickstarter page to help raise the money. We have 29 days to raise it. Please help us meet our goal.
When I was 10, I first saw this film and was enraptured by it. It is my dream to bring it to the stage. I have worked on it for 10 years. This is the first time that I have found a composer that fits the piece, and the first time that I have ever asked you, the blog family to help me. Even if you donate one dollar, you advance us one dollar closer to our goal. Please check out our link and help us reach our goal. There are awards for different pledge levels. Please, in all honesty, help me reach my dream.
I love you all.