Monday, May 7, 2012

Oy Oy! Round and Round the Garden, Tisch Gala, The Wheels and Rebecca Miller

On Thursday, April 5th, I had an absolutely extraordinary day. Only a few days prior, I was named the recipient of the Sony Electronics Scholarship by the Tisch School of the Arts. I accepted this award - which included a Sony technology package with an amazing amount of Sony products - at the 2012 Wasserman/ King Awards at the Cantor Film Center on Thursday (the Wasserman/King Awards are a ceremony where the top prizes from the 2012 First Run Festival are also announced - essentially, it's NYU film school's Academy Awards). Thursday, however, was also the opening night of Tisch New Theatre's Mainstage production of Alan Ayckbourn's Round and Round the Garden, in which I was performing as Reg. I arrived at Cantor at 5:45 PM, and luckily, the recipients of the Sony Electronics Scholarship were awarded near the beginning of the ceremony. I went onstage and accepted the award from our wonderful Dean Mary Schmidt Cambell, and then I hail-tailed it to the Kraine Theater on East 4th Street for our first performance of Round and Round the Garden at 7:30 PM. You can click here to view pictures from the 2012 Wasserman/King Awards.

I am so lucky to have been a part of Round and Round the Garden - the play easily ranks among the finest productions in which I've had the good fortune to perform. I'm as proud of this production as any film work I've done while at Tisch, and it was enormously rewarding returning to this particular play after five years (I played Norman in Austin High School's 2007 UIL One-Act production of Round and Round the Garden). The other five actors in the cast - Daniel Richardson (Norman), Taylor Myers (Tom), Kira Kull (Ruth), Flora Greeson (Annie) and Elise Kibler (Sarah) - are extremely talented artists, and after spending so much time with them onstage and offstage, I consider them among my closest friends. Our director, Daniel Hasse (who starred in my film The Wheels) and producer, Bethany McHugh (who serves on the Tisch New Theatre Executive Board with me) are the two oustanding leaders who made the play possible. There's something about this endlessly hilarious and unexpectedly moving play that brings out the love among its cast members - this was true in 2007, and it is still true in 2012. Flipping heck!

After our first performance, I went to celebrate with some of my friends and family who had come to see the production, including Bobb Barito, Ben Dewey, Mike Cheslik, Ani Tomasic, Tom Corbisiero (who played the father in my film The Wheels), Karen McFarlane (who played Lucille in my film With Love, Marty) and, of course, my mother Gretchen and our family friend Leslie Eckert, both of whom flew in from Austin to see the performance. We went to the B Bar & Grill, just down the street from the Kraine Theater, and it was wonderful to be surrounded by my friends.

Like most shows, our Round and Round the Garden company kept getting better with each performance. Luckily, our closing night was filmed by the director himself, and we were never better than during our final performance. After that performance, the cast and crew celebrated at U2 Karaoke Lounge and Suites on Saint Marks. I'll admit to performing a few rousing numbers, among them "Sloop John B" by The Beach Boys and "What's Up?" by 4 Non-Blondes.

From having our incredible poster proudly framed and displayed in the Tisch lobby for many weeks to attracting large and enthusiastic audiences for every performance, my second (and hopefully not final) Round and Round the Garden experience was nothing short of amazing, and another wonderful collaboration with Tisch New Theatre, one of the finest of all Tisch organizations. More than anything, it was exhilarating to get back onstage again. Here is a link to both a feature on Round and Round the Garden on the Tisch School of the Arts website, as well as an article from NYU Local about our production. Congratulations to my fellow cast and members and the crew, and thank you to my friends and family for coming to see the show!

On Thursday, April 19th, I attended the 2012 Tisch Gala After Party at the New York Marriot Marquis. Only a week earlier, the Dean's Scholars had been offered tickets to the After Party, as well as the opportunity to record a special video tribute for Dean Mary Schmidt Campbell, who was being honored for her twentieth year as Dean of the Tisch School of the Arts at this year's Gala. I immediately recorded a video thanking Dean Campbell, explaining that, as a Tisch Dean's Scholar, there is no way I could attend this extraordinary school and pursue my dreams if it were not for her support and wonderful leadership. As usual, this year's Tisch Gala was star-studded, with Martin Scorsese, Alec Baldwin, Spike Lee, Tony Kushner, Bill Paxton and Clive Davis among those in attendance and speaking at the event. You can click on this link to see some of the photographs from the Gala.

However, I had no idea that my tribute video would play - in its entirety - for the whole audience at the 2012 Tisch Gala at the Marriot Marquis. As I arrived at the After Party, a few of my professors who were leaving the Gala said that not only was my entire video played, but that I was the only current student featured among the tribute videos honoring Dean Campbell from Tisch graduates (including Ang Lee. This was such an incredible honor, and I was nearly beside myself to learn that Scorsese, Baldwin, Lee and, of course, Dean Campbell - among many others - watched my video (I can assure you that, the next morning while working at Mr. Scorsese's office, I waited for him to recognize me from the video - alas, this did not happen).

The 2012 Tisch Gala After Party was an extraordinary time to spend with friends and celebrate the end of the semester. If you want to view some of the official After Party photographs from the Photo Booth, you can find those here at this website. Here are more official photographs from the event, including the stage and screen where my video played for the crowd.

Earlier on that same Thursday, I had tickets to a Tribeca Talks Director's Series panel called 100 Years of Universal (one of many special events hosted by the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival), during which Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep and Judd Apatow were slated to speak about their films with Universal Pictures. I was enormously excited for this event, as it marked the first time I was able to see De Niro - my lifelong hero (along with Scorsese) and the finest actor in the history of cinema - in person. Ben, Mike and Nicole joined me for this event at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, and although Mrs. Streep was unfortunately unable to attend at the last minute, I was overjoyed to hear De Niro speak for an hour about the Tribeca Film Festival, his upcoming projects, his preparation as an actor, and a few memories about the many films he has made at Universal (The Deer Hunter, Casino, Midnight Run, The Good Shepherd). Thank you so much to my godmother, Kay Lee Werlin, for treating my friends and me to this wonderful event!

In other news, the feedback on my film The Wheels has been wonderful around Tisch. The film has received some very high praise from the professors, and I am especially proud of this particular movie. Tisch Professor Geoff Erb invited me to screen The Wheels for his Freshman Colloquium class, as part of a presentation of complex student films that were successfully produced. Professor Erb and his colleagues were very kind in their praise for the film, and on Tuesday, April 24th, I screened the film for his class (essentially half of the entire freshman class) on a large screen at Cantor. After the screening, Ben, Bobb and I came onstage and participated in a Q&A with Professor Erb and the freshman class, detailing the intricate pre-production process of The Wheels and explaining how we successfully worked with the NYU production supervisors and the great people at Deno's Wonder Wheel to shoot a seemingly "un-filmable" student project. It was such an honor presenting and screening my film for the class, and the fact that The Wheels is being used as an example of a successful student film is humbling, to say the least.

In the midst of mailing out DVDs of the film to my IndieGoGo contributers and showing the project to my friends (in addition to an upcoming joint-screening of The Wheels and my producer Erica Rose's film And I Love Her at Tisch), I have slowly but surely been attempting to thank everyone who gave so much support to the film. Please click here to check out The Wheels on IMDB.

Before performing in Round and Round the Garden, I was able to join the Tisch Dean's Scholars to see the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, directed by the legendary Mike Nichols and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield. I was anticipating this production more than any Broadway performance in recent memory, as Miller's work has such a profound influence on me, and the teaming of Hoffman and Nichols was almost too good to be true. I do not exaggerate when I say that Death of a Salesman was the best piece of live theatre I have ever seen - as the curtain went down on the performance, tears were streaming down my face. I have never been so moved by any theatrical performance in my life. I cannot thank the Tisch Dean's Scholars program enough for the tickets to this extraordinary revival, which is now nominated for several Tony Awards.

After the performance, Nicole and I waited outside the Stage Door as many famous faces emerged from backstage, including Mike Nichols, Andrew Garfield, Liza Minneli and Alan Alda. But what was truly amazing about the experience was being able to talk about the performance with my directing professor Rebecca Miller (Arthur Miller's daughter). She has taught me so much about directing actors this semester, whether through coaching me as I directed my final scene from Michael Mann's The Insider (1999) in class, or giving insight into her own films, such as The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009). She is an extraordinary professor, and her directorial wisdom has made an indelible impression on me - I am so honored to have had such a remarkable person as my professor. Luckily, I have had the opportunity to tell her how much of an impact her films - particularly The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005), starring her husband, Daniel-Day Lewis - have made on me. Here is a link to a fascinating article on the Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman that opens with extraordinary praise from Professor Miller.

Speaking of Broadway, while my mother and Mrs. Eckert were visiting New York City, I had the pleasure of joining them to see Gore Vidal's The Best Man on Broadway at the Schoenfeld Theater, directed by Michael Wilson and starring James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, Candice Bergen, John Larroquette, Eric McCormack and Michael McKean. Filled to the brim with incredibly talented actors and impeccably directed by Mr. Wilson, The Best Man was an outstanding production. After the play ended, I had the good opportunity to see Mrs. Lansbury exit the Stage Door and greet her many fans. At eighty-six years old, she is still astounding audiences with her performances.

There are many other experiences from this semester that I will report in my next blog post. The end of this semester - with Round and Round the Garden performances, the Wasserman/ King Awards, working extra days at my internship, apartment-hunting for the summer, Assistant-Directing a most ambitious Intermediate Narrative film, submitting The Wheels to films festivals and mailing out DVDs of the movie, preparing for a summer film project, writing my feature screenplay for Developing the Screenplay, directing my final scene for Rebecca Miller's class, editing Ben Dewey's Intermediate Narrative film Quitting and keeping up with my classes - has been exhausting. I will close by expressing my deep sadness regarding the death of Levon Helm, one of the finest musicians of all time. I encourage everyone to watch Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz (1978) to witness Helm's breathtaking musical performance, or listen to Helm's wonderful songs (both with The Band and his solo work) in his remembrance. His voice, his music and his power will never fade away.

Lastly, Sunday, April 29th marked the ten-year anniversary of the death of my father, John Kyser. If you knew him, hold on to his memory. He was a wonderful father and a great man, and I miss him every day.


  1. Good on you my man—an incredible semester. I look forward to seeing you when I (maybe, possibly, awesomely) MOVE TO NEW YORK.

    Crossing my skinny writerly fingers.

  2. My good sir, I had no idea there was a possibility you would be moving here! That is the best news I've heard in a long time! I'm crossing my fingers, too - when do you decide? Holy maul!