Name dropping is so tawdry, but so are most things that instantly capture our complete attention. Twenty minutes ago I bid goodnight to my dinner companions, a group of five including the legendary English actor and playwright Steven Berkoff, theatre dynamo and James Bond villain extraordinaire. Steven regaled us with tales of theatre productions in the 60's when he shared the stage with a 24 year old Ian McKellan, and I reciprocated with a command performance of The Wife of Bath's Tale. It turns out he's also directing a play at the Pleasance Dome in Edinburgh this year, so we'll soon be sharing a venue. When I told him that we'd be performing 27 consecutive shows in Edinburgh, he retorted: "I have a tour of Australia coming up in September with 36 consecutive performances, two hours per night!" Nothing like a little healthy competition among playwrights...
If you don't know who Steven Berkoff is, then you've never seen Beverly Hills Cop. Check him out: http://www.stevenberkoff.com
I'm writing from the Lowdham Book festival in Nottinghamshire, where I have three days of performances and workshops in schools to keep me busy. Today I performed The Rap Canterbury Tales in five consecutive one-hour sessions starting at 9 a.m., for groups of students ranging in age from 11 to 18. Ouch, I can hear some of you wincing. Cool, I can hear others enthusing. Yeah, a bit of both, I concede. On the one hand, it leaves me completely wiped out, rapping for hours on end, repeating the same stories. On the other hand, every new audience brings new appreciation, and I get $1000 a day when I'm gigging.
The only thing more tawdry than name dropping is talking about how much money you're making, ugh. Whatever. Independently mounting a full production at the Edinburgh Fringe is an expensive endeavor, and this is how I'm financing it. Speaking of which, Dizraeli and I finished writing the script for the Rebel Cell the other day and have done a few test runs, smoothing out the kinks. We're also pressing ahead with the album version of the show, and we'll have advance copies ready in time for the Fringe, barring any unforeseen disasters. We recently completed the first track, "The Fallout", in which we break up like the Fugees in true dramatic fashion. The preview is now on myspace if you want to give it a listen:
Last week I was in Stoke-on-Trent, (which the locals call Choke-on-Stench), an industrial town not far from here that couldn't be more different (Lowdham's demographic is more than 70% millionaires, according to the cab driver). I spent three days performing at Staffordshire schools and teaching workshops to kids who definitely don't see outsiders much, lovely as they were. Some of them came up with very clever raps. Most bemusing was the fact that they mistook me for a celeb and had me signing dozens of autographs, which they seemed to think might be worth money someday. But I can't imagine even Eminem's autograph is worth anything on a scrap of paper (autographed large glossy photos go for about $5 on Ebay). If it were otherwise, he could just stay home scribbling his name all day instead of making records. Of course, no one is a celebrity except in so far as people mistake them for one.
Hold me back. In two days I depart for the notorious Glastonbury Festival, headlined by Jay-Z, Amy Winehouse, and Lenhard Cohen. I'm performing on three different stages over the course of the weekend, a mixed bag including both hip-hop gigs with Mud Sun and solo spoken word gigs. I've heard the legends for years and I'm finally going to see for myself, and under the exact circumstances I had most hoped to do so. After just over three weeks in England the cuts and scrapes on my limbs from a month of treeplanting have finally healed and I've completed my seasonal metamorphosis from a beast of burden into a purveyor of linguistic animal magic.
If you're curious about what our new Edinburgh show is going to be like, take a moment to read about "The Rebel Cell" at this link:
During the current run up to the Fringe (barely a month to go) is when the publicity drive kicks into gear, so any press contacts or suggestions for getting the word out are always appreciated.
Wish me luck at the mother of all music festivals!