2019: The Travisian Year In Review

Backstage at the Slipper Room with Betsy Propane. Photo by Jim R. Moore.

As we do every year at this time, a little look back the year’s activities, just to remind ourself that we did somethin’. See yesterday’s post for an encouraging wrap-up of the past decade.

This year launched in a big way with the roll-out of my Now This video, in which I spoke of our unfortunate “President” in terms of clown theory. Between all the various social media platforms through which it’s distributed, this video was up to around 3/4 million views the last time I checked. It resonates! (But don’t read the comments. The kill-crazies do like to put in their two cents, even if it is worth less than a penny). Later in January, I made my debut at Necromancers at the Public Domain, the wonderfully nutty monthly variety show produced by Theatre of the Apes. These were wonderfully different ways to begin the year, and the rest of 2019 proved to be equally atypical.

TALKS 

Thanks to a growing online presence, demand for my Trav S.D. Talks picked up, and I used the opportunity to book still more of them. As a consequence, in 2019 I gave around five times my usual number of talks. Whereas in an average year I might give a half dozen such presentations throughout the year, this year the total was closer to 30. I spoke in Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, 3 boroughs of NYC, Long Island, Upstate New York, and generally hither and yon…at colleges, theatres, museums, community centers, anybody who wanted to hear about show business history. Many of them were brand new lectures, which may well be turned into books or articles in future. Some links to highlights. I spoke on…

The 1939 New York Worlds Fair at the Queens Museum (April)

Coney Island and World’s Fairs, at the Coney Island Museum (May)

Paul Swan at Torn Page (May)

Alla Nazimova at HERE Arts Center (June)

Laurette Taylor & Co. at the Tank (June)

Bowery and Broadway Vaudeville Walking Tours (Summer)

The Wizard of Oz, at the Coney Island Museum (August)

Stars of Great Neck at G.N. Historical Society (September)

Several Talks in California (September)

The Marx Brothers at SUNY Fredonia (October)

Weber and Fields at the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors (October)

Several Dates in Massachusetts (October)

Carl Laemmle at Gershman Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival (November)

And I know I left a bunch out. Next year I am looking to increase the number still more, and am already hard at work on the booking!

VAUDEVILLE

In April, I presented an all-star vaudeville show at the Slipper Room to commemorate 10 years of the Travalanche Stars of Vaudeville Series. And then I presented two small scale ones at Under St Marks, one in June, and one in August (the latter was a Woodstock themed event I called Weirdstock). Keeping dead art forms alive — or at least in a coma! Planning a very exciting one for the Spring — stay tuned.

REINVENTING THE OLD VICTROLA AND OLD TIME RADIO!

In April, I was thrilled to be on the Marx Brothers Council Podcast, talking Chico Marx. In May came the release of Archeophone Records new CD of Weber and Fields recordings, for which I wrote liner notes, along with scholarly collaborators. In July I was on the terrific Reduced Shakespeare Podcast, talking vaudeville in general.

ACTING! 

Performances of Jason Trachtenburg’s Kennedy assassination musical Me and Lee (in which I played David Ferrie) continued throughout the year, with shows at the Brick (March) and Theater for the New City (September). We were originally intended to take the show down to Dallas in November as well, but we’d made a video version of the show back during the summer, and the movie version ended up going in our stead. Ain’t that just like what happened to vaudeville?

I also had the good fortune to be involved with another play this year as well. In July Allen Lewis Rickman presented his translation of the 1912 Yiddish play Breach of Promise at YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. I was thrilled to get t take part in this SRO reading.

MY PLAYS!

Unusually (for me) none of my own playwriting was presented anywhere at all this year. That wasn’t by design.  I had originally intended something rather big in August, a presentation of sections of my musical Willy Nilly to mark the 50th anniversary of the Tate-LaBianca murders, and the 10th anniversary of the premiere of my show about them. But I’ll be frank — the marketing interns at the venue where we booked it were driving me batty, harassing me with almost daily reminders to promote my own goddamn show. (Do I promote? I make you sick with self-promotion, right? You’re reading an example of it).  I should have just spoken to the artistic director, a friend, to get them to cool it, but I was more than busy enough at the time, so I pulled the plug and said “sayonora”. And I’m almost certain to seek other venues for similar productions in the future. Venues, don’t harass your artists, especially touchy ones like me!

Oh, yes, there’s stuff planned. A solo show that I have been working very hard on for months (years, really) in connection with the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock. It’s called Son of Paleface. And look also for workshops and readings of The Curse of the Rat King, the opera I have been developing with David Mallamud. Because 2020 is the Year of the Rat! And I’m booking a whole new spate of talks for next year. . And more stuff, too premature to announce. As the magician says in Frosty the Snowman: “Bizzy, bizzy, bizzy!”

Thanks for all your help and support throughout the year. Let’s make next one much better in every way we can think of.