How to Break Bones Acting

left hand x-rayDuring filming of “Marathon Man,” Sir Laurence Olivier noticed young Strasbergian Method actor Dustin Hoffman looking less than stellar and asked why. Hoffman said he stayed up all night because his character stays up all night.

Laurence Olivier replied in jest,

“Why not try acting? It’s much easier!”


1) Commit to character.
2) Play the scene.

The highlight of the whole experience has been answering the same question hundreds of times: “How’d you break your hand?”

“By punching a wall in jail.”

The reactions are priceless.


Bone broken by actingAt the beginning of April, two weeks after returning from a successful tour with the National Theatre for Children, I was downtown Minneapolis at the Hennepin County Jail acting in deescalation training scenarios for the Barbara Schneider Foundation. It was the second day of training and on this particular day I was playing a bipolar man wielding a weapon (a pen) in the middle of a manic episode.

The goal of the scenario is for the participating nurses and sheriff’s deputies to use active listening skills to deescalate the situation, calm the inmate/patient, obtain a potential diagnosis to better treat the inmate/patient all while assessing safety concerns for the individual in crisis and the nurses/deputies.

If the participants in the scenario are doing well the actor will calm down and the scenario will reach it’s natural successful conclusion. However, if the participants in the scenario aren’t taking the role-play seriously and are indifferent, argumentative, confrontational, not listening and/or their body language is standoffish the actor escalates the scenario.

In this scenario the goal is to deescalate and get the inmate to relinquish the weapon. However, both deputies in the scenario escalated the scene. My character became agitated, suspicious, and felt like these two deputies were closing in on him.

The only way the character could maintain a feeling of dominance in the scene was to demonstrate how serious he was about wanting to be left alone. The character screamed at the deputies and with the adrenaline of the moment surging through his veins full-force punched a brick wall crushing the fifth metatarsal in his hand.

When the training day was over, I noticed my left hand had swollen up so incredibly I couldn’t put my bicycling gloves on. Rather than seek medical attention at an emergency room, which I should’ve done, I went to my favorite watering hole to visit Dr. McGillicuddy hoping to be prescribed a cure for what ailed me.

It wasn’t until the next day at Young Actors Theater Company when my co-worker Shelley said I had to go to the hospital. And that she was taking me. She and I spent the next five hours at HCMC’s emergency room. Because, yep — I broke my hand.

As much as breaking my hand sucked I’m proud of my commitment to character. Also, I’ve never participated in a fight or considered myself a violent person, but I can’t help feel a little “tougher” after this experience.

As dorky as this sounds, I’ve never had a cast or a broken bone, so the following are images documenting the experience. Some of these images are gross. Just FYI.

Bruised and broken Bruised and broken Bruised and broken

During my recovery I pondered: if you’re not suffering for your art, is it art? Are you an artist if you haven’t suffered? What do YOU think?


An Open Letter to 2011


Dear 2011,


Did you really need to share so much disappointment, frustration, sadness, shame, loneliness, and embarrassment this year? At least you kept things real and raw.

Congrats on making all the other months seem less terrible by making just this one month — July — so much worse than the rest!

Tom Poole’s accident and subsequent death remains to be the low point, 2011. I miss him. We all do. There’s no way to get around it and not much more to say. Let that be the mark of a life well-lived.

Another relationship that ended unexpectedly in July was the one I was in with my girlfriend, Sarah.

But you weren’t done yet. July just kept getting better…

Like when my home went into foreclosure. Well-played, 2011!

Oh, and special thanks goes out to Wells Fargo. I couldn’t have gone into foreclose without you!

Thanks for taking 7+ months to review the necessary loan documentation to qualify me for the Making Home Affordable program in an attempt to save my home. Thanks for misplacing the files I sent in November 2010 and then waiting until the files were all expired in February 2011 to contact me. Your expeditious handling of my account really helped fuck me. Well done.

However, there are the five things that got me through such a shit year.

  • The love and support of family and friends
  • A new bike that took me over 1,300 miles
  • Getting over my fear of the Unified Theatre Auditions and auditioning!
  • Teaching at Young Actors Theater Company,Harmony Theatre Co. & School, and Public Art St. Paul
  • Touring with the National Theatre for Children

Thank you for the difficult road 99% of us have been traveling on, because this year has certainly made us stronger.

Here’s to never reliving you again.



Do You Belong Here?

IMG_5018I was raised in Watertown, Minnesota, a small conservative bedroom community 40 minutes west of Minneapolis. I didn’t feel like I fit in. Watertown wasn’t “home.” On my 16th birthday though I received my driver’s license and ventured into “the big city,” Minneapolis.

Minneapolis was my Mecca. There was art and culture! People of different colors and creeds! The city had a pulse and I wanted to be apart of it. When I turned 18 I moved to Minneapolis.

Ten years ago Minneapolis owned my heart.

But that was ten years ago.

After touring things feel different. Weird. Like I have no business being back in Minneapolis. It’s a great city with a lot of awesome people, places, and things, but I can’t wait to leave.

Minneapolis doesn’t feel like home anymore. But neither did Nashville, Memphis, or Louisville.

So. Where am I headed next? Who knows. As far as the Twin Cities are concerned, I’m not sure if I’ll be here a year from now. I don’t know where I’m going, but I know I have nothing keeping me in Minneapolis.

In May, five months before leaving on tour, I wrote a (currently unpublished) blog about the “5 Things I Love About MPLS.” The list: friends & family, Lake of the Isles, art & culture, First Universalist Church, and all the indie bike & coffeeshops.

When I examine the list now I realize friends and family will always be friends and family — regardless of where you happen to be. And sure, Lake of the Isles is fun to walk around, but it’s a man-made lake and if I had to bet, I’d assume there are other — better — natural lakes that produce the same feelings of elation and peace. First Universalist puts sermons online so those come with me wherever. And all it takes for a city to become a “bike city” is for friendly people to get on bikes. Lastly, other places have art and culture too!

I’ll make the best of being here now. I’ve been busy these past few weeks acting in training scenarios for the Barbara Schneider Foundation, teaching at Young Actors Theater Company, helping around the office at NTC, and even doing a bit of dating. In the next two weeks I’ll be teaching at Harmony Theatre Company and then it’s back on the road!

So I’m not “home,” but I’m back holding my breath waiting to leave. One day I look forward to writing about finding “home,” what it feels like, where it is, and encouraging you to visit.