All Good Things

So much love for these Fools (photo by Jessica Sherman-Prince)

So much love for these Fools (photo by Jessica Sherman-Prince)

I studied theater in college, because of course I did. I mean, I didn’t get this weird entirely on my own, right? Then I fell in love, moved away from Albuquerque to Chicago for a few years, fell out of love, and eventually found my way back to New Mexico. It was then that I really immersed myself in the theater scene there. I helped found a Shakespeare company, directed for the first time, and found a passion for theatrical production design.

I moved to Los Angeles in 2001, ostensibly to start an acting career, but also because all of my friends made a mass-exodus to the west coast. I quickly found myself discouraged by the constant rejection. This isn’t making art, I argued in my own head, this is a business. There were so many other people who wanted it more than I did, and were far better at it than I was. I stepped away from pursuing acting, put my nose to the grindstone at my retail management job, and didn’t look back.

Fast forward a few years. I felt stuck in my day job. I hadn’t done anything creative or artistic in over a decade. I reconnected with an old friend from post-UNM days, Michael Holmes, and described what I was looking for: a safe place where I could connect with like-minded artists who were supportive and encouraging, even to people whose theatrical muscles had atrophied over the prior ten years like mine had.

“I think Sacred Fools is the place you’re looking for, Mike,” he said, and invited me to start hanging around the theater, which happened to be mere blocks from my apartment.

I had no idea what I was in for. I volunteered to help the lovely and gifted Tifanie McQueen, another fellow New Mexican, on the set for Forbidden Zone: Live in the 6th Dimension, Michael’s stage adaptation of Richard Elfman’s cult classic movie. After that, I volunteered to help with more Sacred Fools productions, and then was invited to become a member. I accepted quickly and eagerly.

After that, I helped produce a few mainstage productions and had the time of my life with my friend Jonas Oppenheim on Free $$$. I was giddy: I was creating again! I wrote a well-received serial for Sacred Fools late-night program Serial Killers, called Palimpsest. I was painting, and opened an Etsy shop to sell my work.

It was around this time that my creativity reached a fever-pitch, and I took the ultimate step: I left my job to take a year-long artistic sabbatical. It was this that allowed me to AD for the talented Paul Plunkett and hilarious on the rollicking The Coarse Acting Show, and then my dream project came along.

Michael James Schneider, in London Below

Michael James Schneider, in London Below

I’ve been a fan of Neil Gaiman’s for as long as I can remember. When Sacred Fools announced that we were going to produce Robert Kauzlaric’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere for our 16th season, directed by Scott Leggett, I was thrilled. But when I was given the chance to flex my set-design muscles for this project, I was overcome. It was only through the hard work and persistence of the entire company of the Fools did we complete the ambitious set.

Portland was already on my radar then, and I was traveling back and forth between there and Los Angeles on a regular basis. I was lucky to be in town the night that Neil Gaiman himself came to see the show. He was complimentary of the production and of my set, and that night remains a bright spot of my Los Angeles theater career.

Neil Gaiman and Michael James Schneider, on the set of "Neverwhere"

Neil Gaiman and Michael James Schneider, on the set of “Neverwhere”

It’s with great sadness that I announce, then, that I am stepping away from membership at Sacred Fools. I was optimistic about how much I would be in Los Angeles after I moved to Portland, but that simply wasn’t feasible. It’s a hard decision to leave the last vestige of my life in Los Angeles, and at that the happiest, but my future lies here, in the Pacific Northwest.

Sacred Fools has always made amazing work, and now they’re finally on the cusp of some well-deserved recognition. Follow them on Facebook to keep up with their success, and if you’re in the Los Angeles area, go see a show of theirs. You won’t regret it.

I guess in many ways I’m leaving a chosen family…or am I? The friendships will always be there, and as your successes grow, I’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines. I love my family, and I miss you guys already.

Fly, you Fools.

Truth, and Consequences

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Honesty is a hard pill to swallow
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First appeared (in edited version) on PQ Monthly

We’re walking along 10th Street near Everett. Karl and I just had the greasiest, sloppiest meal of our lives at Tilt (I’m sorry, but tater tots should not should be the size of my fist, or my increasingly struggling cardiac muscle). The first date had gone great for sure, ended in a make-out session that had startled my cat Ned away with its ferocity. We scheduled this date, the second one, even before the first had ended. I had good reason to be optimistic about this one. Holy shit, I had even saved his last name in my phone.

This place, walking past the yogawear shop, the rainwear store, the record shop that only sells cassingles, that’s where he drops the Bombshell. Not at the end of the date, and not a day or two afterwards, which would have been better. Here, while we’re wandering around the Pearl district and telling each other embarrassing stories about ourselves, this is where he ruins everything. Continue reading

The Gold Medal for Dating

from l to r, Michael James Schneider, Jess Burchett, Blake Morgan  .ig-b- { display: inline-block; } .ig-b- img { visibility: hidden; } .ig-b-:hover { background-position: 0 -60px; } .ig-b-:active { background-position: 0 -120px; } .ig-b-v-24 { width: 137px; height: 24px; background: url(//badges.instagram.com/static/images/ig-badge-view-sprite-24.png) no-repeat 0 0; } @media only screen and (-webkit-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2), only screen and (min--moz-device-pixel-ratio: 2), only screen and (-o-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2 / 1), only screen and (min-device-pixel-ratio: 2), only screen and (min-resolution: 192dpi), only screen and (min-resolution: 2dppx) { .ig-b-v-24 { background-image: url(//badges.instagram.com/static/images/ig-badge-view-sprite-24@2x.png); background-size: 160px 178px; } }

from l to r, Michael James Schneider, Jess Burchett, Blake Morgan
Instagram

The scene fades up, and there I am, eating my lunch on a bench at the waterfront near downtown Portland. I’m on break from work, wearing a suit, and have ordered a tortilla positively stuffed with ingredients (local, organic, because Portland). I look up and there he is: the man of my dreams. Bearded and short, with glasses on that make him look smart (YAY EVEN IF HE’S NOT), wearing shorts that show off his legs, and walking his pug. I smile at him, and he smiles back.

It’s then that it happens: Continue reading

We’ll Laugh About This Later: A Pride Recap

This Could Be Us But You Playin'

This Could Be Us But You Playin’

First published in the July issue of PQMonthly as the first post of my new column, This Ends Badly.Click here for more pieces in the Single Gay Time Traveler Series.

Here in the PNW, it’s Pride Season, or as I like to call it, Summertime Sadness. I’ve gone to a couple Pride Festivals in Los Angeles, where I moved from a year ago, and then my first Portland one last year. It was fun, but I usually just go to the parades and daytime festivities, and I found myself shrugging off Portland Pride 2014. It seems I had lost the spirit of Pride; so this time, I summoned the ghosts of Pride Past, Present, and Future to get it back. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, BLCKSMTH

Photo by Chase Person (from l to r, Jennie Kay, Michael James Schneider, Nick Mattos, Wayne Bund, Chase Person, Summer Olsson, Logan Lynn) .ig-b- { display: inline-block; } .ig-b- img { visibility: hidden; } .ig-b-:hover { background-position: 0 -60px; } .ig-b-:active { background-position: 0 -120px; } .ig-b-v-24 { width: 137px; height: 24px; background: url(//badges.instagram.com/static/images/ig-badge-view-sprite-24.png) no-repeat 0 0; } @media only screen and (-webkit-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2), only screen and (min--moz-device-pixel-ratio: 2), only screen and (-o-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2 / 1), only screen and (min-device-pixel-ratio: 2), only screen and (min-resolution: 192dpi), only screen and (min-resolution: 2dppx) { .ig-b-v-24 { background-image: url(//badges.instagram.com/static/images/ig-badge-view-sprite-24@2x.png); background-size: 160px 178px; } }

Photo by Chase Person (from l to r, Jennie Kay, Michael James Schneider, Nick Mattos, Wayne Bund, Chase Person, Summer Olsson, Logan Lynn)
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Two years ago, when I lived in Los Angeles, I left my job to take a year-long “artistic sabbatical”. I felt a creative itch that was brought about by working with my LA family at Sacred Fools Theater Company. A few months into that year, I went through some shit. I came out on the other side more determined than ever to create a life that was artistically fulfilling, and more than anything true and authentic to myself. I visited Portland for the first time in February of 2013, and instantly fell in love with it, thanks to my good friend and tour guide Summer Olsson. And then a funny thing happened: Continue reading

Love In The Age Of Scruff, Part 2

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“I have been holding this fart in from the day I met you, and now I’m ready to let it go.” When it all boils down, that’s really what I’m looking for, someone to say that to. In Part 1 about dating guys from the Scruff app, I mentioned that there were a million and one different things that people on there are looking for, but that’s the common denominator. Whether it’s friends, or “workout buddies” (hahahaha who the hell are you kidding), or an eventual husband, we’re all looking for someone to get know on a comfortable level. Someone who we don’t have to worry anymore about holding in our farts around.

This occurred to me while I was in the grocery store, where most of my Deep Thoughts happen (hey, dawdling stranger, get the fuck out of the boxed wine aisle so I can get to My Preciousss). Being single for a couple years isn’t a big deal…unless you’re someone who loves to be in monogamous relationships, like me. Loading my cart up with cat litter and Juanita’s chips, I thought Maybe it’s the first impression. If I’m going to make Scruff the primary thing I use to meet guys, maybe I should work on my profile.

Let’s break this down one section at a time, shall we? Continue reading

June: A Soundtrack

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BLCKSMTH first talked to Michelle Lesniak last year for our Princess Mononoke-themed photo shoot. To say she’s a force to be reckoned with is an understatement. This talented Portland-based fashion designer makes bold choices, has clear vision, and is humble about her successes. 2014 looks to be a banner year for her, with her recent engagement and her studio/retail space opening up in SE Portland this month, with a trunk show June 13th and 14th from 2 to 9 both days.

Michelle’s song contributions this month were dark and moody, and inspired me to make similar choices for my picks. We went up to the Pittock Mansion for a Gothic-inspired photo shoot from the masterful Chase Person, with makeup by Jill Greenseth. Michelle is modeling looks from her own current collection. This month’s soundtrack knows what scares you:

Michelle’s Pick: Radiohead, Climbing up the Walls  Dark. Hidden. A song of terror and the creepy-things under the stairs. I listen to this song and think of boarded up houses and stained wallpaper. It brings me to one of my favorite short stories “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a tale of a woman trapped behind vintage, torn wallpaper…or is she?

Continue reading