Saturday, March 17, 2018

St. Patrick's Day

My great grandmother was 100 percent Irish. She loved her whiskey, loved her cards, and absolutely loved cigarettes. As a matter of fact, great grandmother was so Irish she even got into a fight with a woman wearing orange on St. Patrick's Day.

Apparently she and my great grandfather used to play cards with another couple. The women, who were both completely Irish, would have very visible hand signals so they could cheat during their card games.

Great grandmother was supposed to give up smoking because she was getting sick. But she had other ideas. She would open the window and my great grandfather would ask if she was smoking. She said there was a fire in the alley and he didn't ask any more questions. Apparently, that alley was very fire prone.

She died long before I was born, but since she was my dad's grandmother she got him hooked on corn beef and cabbage. My mother, who is German born, had to learn to make that for my dad when they got married. While it was the bane of her existence for several years she rose to the occasion. Yet in that process I got hooked on corn beef and cabbage too.

Alas, I took after my great grandmother in several ways. I have a foul mouth if you have ever spoken to me for very long. I loved whiskey so much they made me quit. I loved cigarettes and they made me quit those too. I adore political arguments, bullshit or not. And did I mention I am lousy and am thinking of cheating next time I play?

I also have her triangular smile, the one where my whole mouth doesn't open. It's the Irish smile. It's the smile that allowed me to be a natural ventriloquist,

Either way, I don't believe St. Patrick's Day is about getting trashed. It's about celebrating the contributions of the Irish Americans. It's about celebrating the contributions of my family members who are doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, physician's assistants, engineers, entertainers, writers, musicians, nurses, community organizers, and just all around characters.

Now have a drink. And when you kiss a Chinese leprechaun think of my great grandmother. Or don't do that, that's weird. We are all Irish today. Now don't get arrested by that Irish cop. xoxo

PS. My great grandmother said your best friend was a dollar bill. Now buy my shit.

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Interview with Marvin Felix Camillo Valetine, Jr aka Panchito

The Family Rep company has a reading series March 17, 2018 at 6 PM at the Cornelia Street Cafe

1. Tell us about your father the founder of The Family and his legacy?

My father, Marvin F. Camillo, founded The Family in 1972 with Colleen Dewhurst and the assistance of Joan Potter in 1972 after conducting theater workshops in Sing Sing and Bedford Hills Prisons through The Street Theater. The company was created to give the ex-cons a place to continue their growth iin theater while allowing them to rehabilitate and adapt to outside living. Many plays were born into this company most notably Short Eyes, an OBIE and Drama Desk award winner for best play and best director (my father) which was written by Miguel Pinero, a Sing Sing inmate at the time. My father went on to successfully run The Family putting on many productions throughout the United States, parts of Europe and even Cuba, until his untimely passing in 1988. Other accomplishments of my father: Cast in South Pacific, Starred in Amiri Baraka's Dutchman, Starred as Walter Lee in The Raisin in the Sun, studied under the guidance of Vinnette Carol and his last performance noted was playing Arturo Shomburg with Miriam Colon playing his wife for CUNY TV.  

Marvin Camillo and Colleen Dewhurst

Marvin, Jr. 

2. What inspired the reading series?

My love for putting on plays and giving opportunities to anyone that wants to take that chance at something they thought they could never do. Also, I love to give people the opportunity to go see an enjoyable show and still be able to pay their rent. 

3. Your play, Petty @ The Pedi is featured as a part of the series. What inspired it?
Moments in my life! More specifically, I had a few occasions where I would go have the Green Tea Treatment at a Mani/Pedi spot and these amazingly humorous situations would occur. So in this short play, I wrote about a few of the situations and made it into one crazy scene.

Some inmates at Sing Sing from a Family Workshop

4. What is your ultimate theatre goal?
To create a community of supportive artists that uplift and support each other. I firmly believe in the African proverb Ubuntu; meaning I am because we are and to take it deeper, I eat you eat, I strive you strive, I grow you grow. 

Some family members after a fundraiser. They come in all walks of life. One might look a lil familiar. 

5. Where can people find out more about The Family?
We have a website under construction, but we are able to be seen on Facebook as The Family Repertory Company, Instagram Thefamilyrepertorycompany, Twitter TheFamRepCo and via our email

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Photos, Memes, and Other Things Oh MY!!!!

National Napping Day
National Walk out day
National Barbie Day
Rex Tillerson is fired

Prayer to St. Anthony

When I was a kid, my mom was always losing something. She was worse than Houdini as everything she touched disappeared. There was always the initial meltdown, and then there was The Prayer to St. Anthony. She'd day, "Dear St. Anthony, come around. Something's lost that can't be found."

Sometimes we found it, sometimes we wigged out more until we found it. Supposedly, St. Anthony was the patron saint of lost things. How he got that designation I will never know. That is a random designation. Was his miracle that he always found the crap of errant white people with too much leisure time?

My mom was big on St. Anthony as well as other holy relics, as my late Nuni followed the Virgin Mary and went to the shrines such as Medjugorje. Supposedly my great grandmother's vision was restored but I will never know as she died before I was born. My mom used to take the relics seriously as well as the custom holy water. Personally, I fell like scalpers sell to tourists there like we do in New York.

Anyway, today I lost my passport.

I wigged out and tore up my entire room.

I cried and cursed my life.

Then I said the prayer to St. Anthony.

Let me tell you that shit worked.

Perhaps my mother ain't so crazy after all.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Crushing It........Kind Of

Life has been a little nuts lately. For one my schedule is filled. I am currently in a master's program for creative writing. It's one where I do a ton of field work and is ideal for the independent student. Yet it is a lot of work, a lot. I never disliked school and would have probably pursued a master's earlier, but I completed high school and was taking college classes as I was doing high school. And because my undergrad was so expensive, I completed it in three years. My parents were generous enough to fit the bill, and I was generous to complete it ahead of schedule, plus I entered college with college credit already.

Needless to say, as I went to school both winters and summers and never stopped, when college ended I could not take one more acting class let alone write one more paper. I would dip my foot into a graduate writing seminar or a master acting class, but the road was my first love and my brain needed a rest. I had an ex boyfriend once tell me that, "Your brain works overtime, and this is why you do so many foolish things. You get tired of thinking."

Harsh, yes. Also true.

Now I am back in school and love the program I am in. I am also paying for it myself. I am rediscovering how I love school actually. Currently I am on the literary magazine and spent the past month judging a short story competition. While I expected the good, the bad, and the ugly we got some amazing entries. Instead of the allotted six books required by the mentee group, I have chosen to read seven. My program mentor told me I could read more than the designated number and here I am doing it. As a rule, my annotations and writing packet are turned in early.

My mom called me having her yearly meltdown about my life. It happens around this time each year so she is directly on schedule. According to her, I wasn't greeting my new program with enough "gusto." Meanwhile, if I had anymore gusto I would burst into flames.

I am also rededicating myself to my acting. Each Monday night I take a comedy acting class, and I adore my teacher. More often than not I bring in work I wrote and he critiques me. He performs and writes his own work and thinks traditional theatre people are stuffy snobs. I have been with him for several months and want to continue.

Coming back to acting class was difficult as I loved my acting teachers in college, but felt a tad burned out. I was also very hard on myself as a youngster, and beat myself with a hammer to the point where it made progress difficult. Coming back was difficult as I was prone to beating myself up again, and I discovered it after one class where I was close to tears. The truth is, as my acting teacher explained, I am among friends in class. It is safe to fail in class. Things do not have to be brought to completion in class.

I also realize I am hard on myself. My mentor in my writing program called me judgmental in my work. I am judgmental when it comes to others because I hold myself to insane standards. There are days I leave the house wearing coffee wondering why the fuck I got out of bed. Only to realize everyone has those days. So yes, I am beating myself up less, or at least trying to.

In between, I am also starting a voiceover class every Tuesday night. I have always wanted to do this and believe I am a natural, and a casting director a few years ago told me to take a class and make a reel. He was a nice guy actually. Too bad I was too busy beating myself up to take his feedback. Now I will be in class every Monday and Tuesday night. I look forward to the class as it was a generous gift from a friend who knew I wanted to do this for myself for a long time, and this friend surprised me with the class as a present. While it is one more thing in my plate, it is also a welcome thing as this was a gift out of love.

Each Friday I am also rehearsing with my pianist. We are mounting The Lady and President Tramp in  May. There have been rewrites to the show and I am sure there will be more. Being in a graduate program makes me not afraid to revise. I have a teacher in my program who says when you refuse to revise or get writer's block, it is fear. Never have truer words been spoken.

Saturdays are spent rehearsing The Crucifixion. I play Simon Peter, the one who helps Jesus with the cross and accidentally sells him out. He later flees because of his legal problems. Later Peter writes the story and builds the first church, only to be crucified upside down. The Easter story is pretty intense really. In this retelling, we have a Jesus who is a woman of color and a Jesus who is a break dancing black man. We also have a Judas who is a black man who sings country. And then you have Simon Peter, who is a tad queer. It all works and is the vision Family Founder Marvin Camillo would have loved.

I am singing in this show which is magical and strange, because I sing for my day job so this isn't a stretch. Granted, my voice is not as good as the young woman who plays Mary, a Broadway style singer who will likely be there someday, or Judas, who looks like Boys 2 Men but when he sings you hear his idol, Randy Travis. It's also an ensemble show that isn't comedy, which I haven't done since college either. We have performances Good Friday and Holy Saturday. I look forward to the opportunity for artistic and spiritual growth.

I am also in a comedy staged reading next week. I haven't done a staged reading in years which has me excited, and I am making big choices. While the opportunity isn't paid, it's opening doors and this company might also let me have readings of my own work, which would be exceedingly exciting.

On top of that I am still performing regularly, and working on becoming a headliner. Am I crazy? Maybe. But that's the world we live in. More on those developments later.

Monday night I realized all I had taken on, and knew this was going to be Herculean. Then I went to a show to perform and there was an improv jam that was ending. I hadn't done improv in years, so when they called me up I was shocked. But I just went with it and crushed it. If I died at that moment I would have been happy because I was having so much fun and loved what I was doing in that moment.

But then it could suck because I died.

Yet I am taking risks, going for it. Maybe I feel crushed, but when you feel crushed perhaps you are doing better than you think you are. If you feel like you are crushing it all the time, you probably aren't.

So I suppose I am crushing it.......Kind Of......

Now to get back to my reading for school

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love Is In the Air (John Paul Young)

A little over two years ago, I ended a relationship with a partner who was mentally ill. When it dissolved into chaos as these things typically do with a person who refuses to seek treatment and self-medicates with narcotics, I found myself feeling like my heart had been ripped out of my chest.

Combat related PTSD is a hard nut to wrap. Civilian shinks have a hard time treating it let alone understanding it. The VA can help them, but it's badly handled and backed up. Not to mention lots of times vets hate hospitals and like many trauma sufferers, prefer being homeless because being homeless means not having to face their triggers.

My support system was amazing. I went from wanting to smash everything in the room to crying all the time over his loss. A bad relationship is like a limb with gangrene. You know you need to lose it to live, but you want to fight to keep your arm even if there are maggots crawling out of it. One friend in particular said it best, "April, he's your knight of shining armor in a suit of armor that he stole!"

When my ex left, things initially sucked. They always do. But then I discovered a renewed love for comedy. I was studying joke writing like I never had before. I was pounding open mics like a young comedian who had never been on TV, and if she was she was standing on her friend's TV set. I was watching films of old master ventriloquists. I also developed Donald J. Tramp.

I also began to explore life on my own. This was scary but this also meant not being chained to a rock. While a partner can be a rock in a good way they can also weigh you down. This meant going to the RNC as a spokes person for an anti-Trump group, being credentialed press at the debates, and work shopping a one woman show. This also meant mastering releasing a body positive book, a line of merchandise, mastering full body puppetry, and applying for my dream MFA program in creative writing.

I would have been doing none of these things if I was still with my ex. Instead, I would have been a full time caretaker to a partner who refused to seek treatment. I would have continued to justify my codependency at the sake of my own self-preservation and sanity. I would have been "that woman."

I have a great support system around me. Whether it's my mom who gives my phone number and email address to strangers bragging about my status as a celestial being. Or my two straight male housemates who are dedicated to their art and families. Or my wonderful peeps from my Monday night acting class who love comedy as much as I do. Or my friend's from the stand-up world who agonize over every punchline. Or my friends from ACT UP who are as passionate about queer politics and queer identity as I am. Or my friends from my haunted house who I miss dearly and chat with on facebook and instagram. Or my friends from my master's program who are passionate about social justice and the written word like I am. Or my friends who remembered to say Happy Valentine's Day. Or my friends who laugh at my jokes. Or my one friend in particular who sent me flowers and listens to all my dreams no matter how stupid they are. Or my boss who lets me chase my dreams and pays me and hasn't fired me yet. Or my favorite Marine or favorite Mass-hole or favorite Frank Logan or favorite anyone and everyone.

I don't need a label to define me in any way, shape, or form. Whether it is this, that, or the other. I don't have to label the way I live or love as long as I am safe and happy.

I wish the same for you, too.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Naked Stand-Up

Hey guys, I have a new act. It's shattering the glass ceiling by proving we are all beautiful. It's preaching sex positive feminism. It's returning to my natural roots. I mean really natural.
I am performing stand-up comedy naked!
Yes, I am doing my act in the buff. Are you laughing at my punchline or my waistline? You decide.