Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sneak Preview: Says You! Goes to Holland

"Says You!" will host "Tulip Time in Holland and Belgium", a Springtime Cruise. April 17-25, 2010. Join host Richard Sher for a leisurely trip along the waterways of Holland and Belgium. Organized by our client, Cross-Culture Journeys (who has developed travel programs for many public radio stations and alumni associations), this trip includes: Kinderdijk’s lush green countryside dotted with windmills; Dutch and Flemish cultural traditions, and the world-famous cheeses, pastries and chocolates in Amsterdam, inspiration to van Gogh and Rembrandt, and Belgium’s great medieval cities of Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges. Itinerary and PDF brochures available later this summer. Email me for a preview copy of the brochure after July 10.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Where Has Mark Been ?

My Linked-In profile hasn't been updated in a while.

My Facebook Status Updates have been somewhat misleading. 96% of them make reference to caffeine (Starbucks hot or iced, home-brewed hot or iced); the number of days until the condo pool officially opened, and subsequently, and the amount of time spent tanning (3 days worth since Memorial Day because of the never-ending rains). There are even occasional references to writing and work. (Yes, I still do both).

In reality, I've embarked on a theatrical literary adventure. A former client and current friend (of two plus decades, but as eternally youthful as I) invited me to collaborate with him on a project (details being blogged and stored for release here when the time is right). He and his business partner want me to take one of their client's programs and turn it into a performance piece.

The Backstory

I majored in theatre in undergraduate school, and I studied theatre administration in graduate school. I've worked for arts organizations and media groups that cover them. I've covered theatre as a print and radio journalist. I've done my share of shows and I've seen hundreds of other people's shows. So, it seemed like a golden opportunity to jump back into the world on the other side of the footlights and to plunge back into a little showbiz.

I've scripted events, benefits and radio specials. But, in all of this, I'd never written a play. In fact, I'd taken but one playwrighting class for which the assignment was to write a 15 minute, one-scene, one-set, two-character non-musical, which would be staged, performed and designed by fellow students. We were told "write of what you know".

Well, some classmates wrote of love, anger, anguish angst, etc. etc. I, having procrastinated on the assignment until the weekend before it was due, returned to school on the train, seated behind two middle-aged suburban Jewish women who bragged about their successful children and their fabulous grandchildren, while dissing their husbands and their childrens' spouses. It was shortly after the moon walk.

OK. Fifteen minutes. How about the first two Jewish women to land on the moon ? (Never mind that I couldn't figure out how they got there...OK, one's son worked for NASA and they went on a tour and got lost). OK. They could diss the silver mylar costumes, the view from space ("I can't see Larchmont"), and so forth. I couldn't quite find the right ending, so I ended it with NASA son rescuing them and bringing them back to earth with moon rocks as souvenirs for the grandchildren. "Moon Yentas" is born, played out, and dead in one afternoon.

I was chastised after the playlet was staged. The audience laughed. The professor said I had taken situation comedy to a new low. I was advised to "channel my creative writing in other directions".

Anyway, the current project is daunting--it taps my theatre experience, my imagination, my journalist's skills, and my writing expertise. There are perameters to be observed, producers and others to answer to, and all kinds of rules and regulations that answer less to art and more to the bottom line.

It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I'm taking the work very seriously. I've had to discipline myself to write carefully and quickly. (unlike the copy for brochures, press releases, advertisements, proposals and grants, and the other wordsmith activities which I can polish off with distractions and interruptions galore). Phone calls, emails, instant messages, and the web itself provide easy distractions, where I lose my concentration completely. I used to be able to work with radio news or showtunes in the background. On this project, news distracts me and showtunes send me into a Broadway fantasy world which is alluring but somewhat dangerous to flirt with until this project is farther along.

On the fantasy high end, I imagine that I win a Tony Award (which is presented before the awards show begins on TV, so I don't have to buy a new tuxedo). I pose for photos with Marian Seldes and Cheyenne Jackson. The show is picked up for film and TV and my retirement is enhanced by royalty checks. People refer to me as "the writer" instead of as "the PR dude". I become a philanthropist.

On the nightmare low end, it could all be in vain. Ben Brantley's #3 pinch-hitter pulls out WebMD's list of symptoms to describe the audience's response. (I think it was in the play "Butterflies Are Free" when someone describes a piece of writing as having "feverish passages and fluid movements" while the other character drolly replies "so does diarrhea, but I wouldn't call it entertainment". I'm invited to be guest speaker at the Longmeadow Senior Center and no one shows up.

But, if I don't pursue this, I'll always have regrets.

The Process Begins...

I'm finding it easiest to write in the early morning, fueled by coffee and morning chill. But, as the official 9-to-5 "work day" begins, I've found a quiet escape place to write, and use the high-speed internet at the town library.

Now that the initial project research is underway, and drafts #1 and draft #2 (complete revision of draft #1) of the project's outline have been submitted, I can begin to merge this project better with other work and play. I've emerged from the world of inaccessibility and unavailability.

In planning for this experience, I had to revamp and retool Mark G Auerbach Public Relations in the short term. I've added a couple of clients and new projects this year. I've said farewell to a longtime client, in order to fine tune the kind of work I'd like to do (and should be doing). I am also looking for new projects in marketing, public relations, media buying and occasional special events production that will compliment and enhance my experiences and my client roster.

I'll be visible more often.

Now, back to work...I thank my colleagues, clients, and friends for their understanding and flexibility.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Web Sites of Interest. 6/05/09

We surf. We discover.

Boarding Area. A new portal for the business traveller, leading to some of the best websites and voices in business travel. http://boardingarea.com

Coach Class. Jeanne LeBlanc used to write for The Hartford Courant. Now she's travel blogging, and she's a great information source. I first found her blog when surfing for information on Bradley international Airport. http://coachclassblog.com/

Who knew there was an award for America's Best Restroom ? Jeanne LeBlanc scooped this one. I wonder if the Larry Craig Rest Room at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport has been rated on amenities as opposed to its tourist attraction status. http://www.bestrestroom.com/

Ketzel Uprooted. Ketzel Levine was the doyenne of dirt with her gardening spots on NPR's Weekend Edition with Scott Simon. The offbeat gardening guru and radio producer/host of many a unique tale finished a series on people laid off for NPR, when she was laid off herself. Her blog runs the gamut from what's in bloom to Ketzelisms. (I produced an appearance by Ketzel for WFCR. She was a charmer). http://www.ketzel.com/

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Now this Boy Can Text !

A couple of months ago, Iwas looking at I-Phones and Blackberry devices. The Verizon sales rep looked up my account and told me I'd text-messaged but twice in the last 18 months. He then asked if I "was ready for a big boy phone".

Thanks to my pool buddy Chris Bizon who taught me Text Messaging 101 over Memorial Day Weekend and a high school kid that gave me a Texting Tutorial at Gate D4 at the New Orleans Airport, I'm proud to say I can both send and respond to text messages. (slowly, I might add)

In a month or so, when my Verizon contract expires, I'll be ready for a Big Boy Phone.

Musings on Being Wired

Musings on Being Wired (and not from caffeine)

On a snow day last winter, I succumbed to the lure of Facebook--Partially, because I'm my high school class secretary; Partially, because I know it has marketing opportunities for my clients; Partially, because I was getting pressure from friends and colleagues. One of my clients used Facebook to promote a performance given by another client. Another client promoted a series of performances to its Facebook network. I was also able to connect fellow classmates and gather information for class notes.

Then, I joined Linked-In. I was able to post my company's profile and my resume, connect with current contacts and reconnect with others.

In both instances, it's been a good tool for making contacts, restablishing contacts, and networking. In both cases, one must be savvy with their status reports. I realise that 96% of my status reports on Facebook involve references to caffeine, the condo pool, tanning, and showtunes.

I'm too exhausted from both to consider other networks. AOL, my occasional client, dropped member profiles for Bebo, yet another networking site. Twitter has become the network-du-jour.

I ask myself: "Why not be old-fashioned and email someone for a coffee date and meet face-to-face ?"

Upcoming Client Events and Programs:

***Cross-Culture Journeys has a great 15 day/14 night trip to Egypt and The Nile on a cruise through antiquities. Next departure: October 27. For information: www.ccjourneys.com.

***The Capitol Steps bring their new touring show, "Obama-Mia" to Orlando's Plaza Theatre on Friday, June 5th. For information: http://www.theplazatheatre.com/0809_showdetail.asp?EventID=53

***Says You! comes to Nashville for two performances on August 22-23 at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center/Polk Theatre, presented by WPLN, Nashville Public Radio. For further information: www.saysyou.net