Grateful and Orthodoxy . . . a Charles Shaughnessy blog

Grateful . . . . and 

I do not have a photo this time because the object of my gratitude is too modest and camera shy and she would kill me if I were to put one up. The gratitude is, however, in no way mitigated by this lack of pictoral representation! Janelle not only instigated this amazing contest, she has tirelessly and expertly steered it forward until it has taken on a scale and relevance that none of us predicted. I am so grateful for her support and work in all things “ Charlie”, but this one takes the cake!! Thanks, Janelle, I am so grateful.…and now on to something you know is also dear to me heart….

. . . . Orthodoxy

Hi y’all! Sorry it has been a while . . .

The trouble with an orthodoxy is that you can’t argue with it. Orthodoxy is about “facts” that are unshakeable, unquestionable and absolutely and fundamentally true. The trouble with the truth is that it can change. The world was once flat. That was the accepted truth. Anyone who disputed it was either crazy, ignorant or ungodly. Then science discovered that it was not flat but round, and the “truth” changed. The new truth was universally demonstrable as soon as a human sailed off to the east and came back from the west. When another “truth”, that the sun moved around the earth, was challenged by scientists, it was not so easily demonstrated for all to see. The Church found this new notion blasphemous and clung to its old “truth,” persecuting any who dared disagree. Even though we now know that the church’s stance was erroneous, at the time it was an unassailable orthodoxy. Science and human knowledge have always been the enemies of orthodoxy, because science is the means by which the curious human discovers new facts about his world, perpetually overturning the previous paradigm. This fits perfectly into the church’s story of Adam and Eve. Betrayed by their curiosity (and a snake,) they ate from the tree of knowledge and learnt stuff. Science was born in direct conflict with God’s word. Any fundamentalism is built on orthodoxy. By its very nature it must deny science and knowledge and instead cling to the old established truths that sprung originally from the mind, tongue or brain of some revered being, real or imagined. Thus the fundamental orthodoxies of the Christian Right, the Catholic Church, the Taliban or Al Quaeda are more or less the same. They are inspired by the teachings of a prophet or god and brook no argument, question or deviation. The orthodoxy is paramount and any intrusive “facts” that offer any counterpoint whatsoever must be denied, ignored or twisted to suit the original truth. To the fundamentalist, the 14th. century navigator must have gotten lost, lied or was borne along on the breath of the Devil. The fact that the earth was flat was indisputable.

We have the same kind of blind orthodoxies in our culture today. We hear orthodoxies that our President was not born on American soil, despite written, signed proof that he was. We hear that women’s bodies naturally reject the sperm of a rapist and that this country was founded as a Christian nation. Despite the evidence in front of their eyes and microscopes, the fundamentalists will not swerve from their beliefs. When a group of fundamentalists flew a plane into the twin towers on 9/ 11 they did so, convinced in their orthodoxy, that they were doing God’s work by destroying the unbeliever. When another group of fundamentalists blow up a women’s clinic they believe the same. In fact they both shout “God is great!” as they commit their ungodly acts of violence with the same clear-eyed, ecstasy of the fundamentalist martyr. What makes me very nervous at this point in our history is that a growing number of Americans, dulled by an inane addiction to mindless entertainment like Reality TV, too lazy to employ any critical thinking about anything and willing to let others do all their thinking and deciding for them, are happy to exchange scientifically supportable facts to be replaced by dogma, propaganda and rumor. We have stepped on the brakes of progress and seem determined to run the clock of our civilization back a few hundred years in terms of social justice, women’s and minority rights, religion and debate. The Tea Party, whose manifesto reads almost word for word like that of the Taliban in terms of a zealous adherence to an unshakeable orthodoxy have already dragged many reasonable Republicans into their madness and are intent on doing the same for the country. With an imagined history of America and perverted interpretation of the Constitution, these fundamentalists are taking advantage of the destabilizing forces at work in our economy and society to bring about an America as foreign and corrupted as the Taliban hope to do in Afghanistan. America has always been proud of its scientific, secular outlook. It was born out of the age of reason, not the Middle Ages. 

In conclusion let me remind you all of what John Adams signed his name to in the preamble to the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion. . . .”

additional comments made by Charles Shaughnessy on 


Charles Shaughnessy on "Dancer against Cancer" gala ball, cancer, Fran Drescher, The Nanny & how he looks at life!

Charles Shaughnessy did a magazine interview before leaving for the Dancer against Cancer ball in Austria that will take place on Saturday, 14 April, 2012, where he is guest of honour with his favourite leading lady, his wife, Susan. This is what Charlie had to say about the gala ball, cancer, Fran Drescher, The Nanny & how he looks at life.

The invitation to Dancer Against Cancer came “out of the blue.” Fran was unable to come this year as she was working, so she suggested me. I knew nothing about the organization at first, but the idea of combining a short trip to such a beautiful city with such a wonderful cause seemed irresistible. It is one of the most rewarding sides of the “celebrity” that comes with a TV show that you can use it to help make a difference in some small way. If my presence at Dancer against Cancer this year can help raise some funds and awareness for the fight against cancer, then it makes those years of playing Mr. Sheffield even more valuable.

Cancer is a dreadful disease that has no compassion for age, gender, fame, economic situation or where you are in life. Even though there are many other serious diseases that can strike a person at any time, cancer has a unique hold over our imagination and psyche. The three words: ” You have cancer,” are the most dreaded one can hear in any language. But organizations like Dancer Against Cancer and Cancer Schmancer as well as the countless others in this fight are working hard, every day, to make those three words less and less frightening. As treatments improve and survival rates increase, the once fatal sentence of cancer loses it’s hold over us. I have many friends and family members who have heard those three words and I am here for them.

When I was growing up, no one referred to cancer by name: it was always  ” The “C” word”  or  ” The big “C.”  It is important that we name the enemy and that we refuse to let it have such a powerful grip on us. There should be no “stigma” attached to the disease. It can strike anyone at any time: no one is immune. It is important that we spread awareness NOT just that the disease exists, but that we can each do our part to drive it into the open and defeat it.

I am a huge supporter of Cancer Schmancer. I think early detection is often 90% of the fight. It is one thing to say” We are fighting to find a cure for this disease,” which suggests that there isn’t one and that it’s going to be a bad outcome.  It’s another thing to say” As long as you detect it early, there are treatments available that can greatly increase your chances of survival.” Which is both true and hopeful. It takes a lot of the fear and panic away from those three words none of us want to hear.

I have always had a pretty “fatalistic” view of life. On the very same day, someone can discover that they have beaten the odds of 3 million to 1 and won the lottery, while someone else can discover that they have lost the odds by the same 3 million to 1 and contracted an incredibly rare form of cancer! You can take every precaution in life and still get hit by a falling tree. Life and one’s health are fragile things and we can never take them for granted or treat them casually. Fran has been an inspiration, not in the fact that she survived cancer, but in how she has chosen to make it a central part in how she continues to live her life as a teacher and crusader for the right of everyone to have access to early detection.

The show had already finished when Fran got her diagnosis, so I was not around at that time. Once we all heard about it and she went public, everyone came together to support her and encourage her. The struggle itself is an intensely private one, but it must be a tremendous help to know that there are so many people pulling for you and loving you.

Frannie and I have always had a very strong friendship. We live very different lives that mean we don’t see each other that much, but it is always a great time when we do. I have two kids that take up a lot of time and energy and she is always deep into about three or four projects at the same time. I never know even what country she is in half the time!! I have enjoyed being with her in all her shows since The Nanny” ( including her Talk Show!) She is a loyal and kind friend and I value the time we spend together.

I continue to work on stage, in movies and on TV in various roles. I have recently taped an episode of “Castle” as well as a recurring role on a Nickolodeon show for Kids called ” Victorious.” I played Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady” last summer, and am always tinkering with some project or other. I am also very involved in an Internet business with my brother, David through our company:  3S Media Solutions  

My time as Mr. Sheffield on The Nanny was a wonderful time and we did do a Nanny reunion show as a special on Lifetime. I’m not sure whether there is much point in trying to re-create something so special that existed at a particular time and place in all our lives. But you never know….perhaps : The Nanny – The Musical!!! 🙂

Mitt freundlichen Grüßen,

Charles Shaughnessy review GAME SHOW at New Theatre in Kansas City!

The time is right for New Theatre’s risk-taking ‘Game Show’

The Kansas City Star

When Richard Carrothers decided he wanted to stage “Game Show,” a process that began in earnest about two years ago, he knew he needed a cast that was nimble, adaptable and quick.
Because “Game Show” isn’t like other plays you’ve seen at the New Theatre — or anywhere, for that matter.
The piece by Jeffrey Finn and Bob Walton, which originally ran off-Broadway 11 years ago, is really two shows occupying the same slice of time and space.
There’s a “live” TV broadcast, in which actual theatergoers are invited onstage to participate in a quiz show, and actors operating real cameras are capturing images that are shown on big screens on either side of the proscenium.
And then there’s the play itself: a backstage satire depicting cutthroat network politics in which the debonair host, Troy Richards, gradually discovers that he has been set up in an elaborate plot to get him off the show.
Carrothers built a unique supporting cast around his guest star, British-born Charles Shaughnessy, who exudes effortless, David Niven-style charm as he interacts with theatergoers as Troy.
Carrothers assembled a group of Kansas City veterans as well as a couple of Chicago actors with improv backgrounds, all of whom had one thing in common: They could go with the flow. “Game Show” is scripted up to a point, but much of the entertainment is found in the unscripted moments when actors relate to real people from the audience.
“It’s going to be a different show every night, depending on the mood of the audience and how much wine they’ve had,” Shaughnessy said one afternoon during a rehearsal break.
Shaughnessy said he has never done improv, and he has never appeared on a game show, but you’d never guess it by watching him work in this production. He and his fellow actors form an ensemble of equally crucial components and share the stage with ease.
“I’ve never done a show like this,” said Shaughnessy, a veteran of film and television, perhaps remembered best for a regular role on “The Nanny.” “It reminds me a bit of English pantomime. This is really quite fascinating.
“You’re doing a play about a game show while filming the game show and broadcasting it to the audience. But the whole thing is a play that takes you behind the scenes. It’s a fascinating Russian-doll show — a show within a show within a show. It’s like Pirandello — wheels within wheels.”
Odd as it may seem to invoke the name of Italian dramatist Luigi Pirandello in discussing a show at a dinner theater, it actually is appropriate. Pirandello, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1934, wrote “tragedies” that are considered forerunners of theater of the absurd. He is best known for a play hardly anyone has seen — “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” in which characters from an unfinished play wander into a rehearsal and implore the director to finish their story.
In short, Pirandello made it OK for playwrights to free themselves from the restrictions of conventional storytelling, to break the “fourth wall” by allowing characters to speak directly to the audience and candidly acknowledging the artifice of theater.
Carrothers said the jokey alternative title for the determinedly frothy show at the New Theatre is “Six Characters in Search of a Game Show.”
“That’s the whole Pirandello thing — blurring the line between acting and reality,” Carrothers said. “This show blurs that line.”
Carrothers had only two weeks to rehearse, which meant, among other things, coming up with questions for the actual games, because the script didn’t provide any.
“The games themselves were very sketchy,” Carrothers said. “The script would say ‘Round One: selected questions.’ ”
Joe Fox, the company’s vice president in charge of production, came up with as many as 400 questions, which they winnowed during rehearsals, Carrothers said.
Actors Craig Benton and Peter DeFaria, who play the camera operators, used the equipment from the beginning and, according to Carrothers, took to it like ducks to water. Actor Tim Cormack plays the television director in the show, which obliges him to direct the live video feed the audience sees on the big screens from an upstage console.
In the 30 minutes or so before the show starts, actors — including Jim Korinke and Todd Carlton Lanker — go into the audience in character and solicit volunteers to participate in the games. Carrothers said many spectators enjoy being made part of the action. But some don’t.
“Audiences by their very nature are voyeurs,” Carrothers said. “It’s like looking into somebody else’s dilemma and wondering what they’re going to do. When you ask voyeurs to be active, there’s a sort of group resistance. We get emails and phone calls from people saying, ‘I didn’t appreciate being part of it.’ ”
As a creative artist, though, Carrothers likes watching what happens when you change the formula.
“It’s interesting that by having an audience member up there it changes the dynamic of how we’re experiencing the show,” he said. “I just love how it shakes up the dynamics. There’s really something I’ve found that in long runs actors get very comfortable with the words. It’s almost hypnotic. They feel protected by the words, but in this show they have to be able to respond.”
Shaughnessy, for his part, seems to enjoy where is. He inherited a baronial title, and he studied law at Cambridge. But the acting bug, he said, can be traced to his discovery in childhood that he really enjoyed reading out loud in class.
“I really like showing off,” he said. “And of course no sensible person is an actor professionally.”
But he never could picture himself among lawyers.
“That’s not my tribe,” he said.
Shaughnessy has done stage and television (including an eight-year stint on the daytime soap “Days of Our Lives”), and in this show he gets to do both. But he has no preference.
“It’s like different parts of a meal,” he said. “They’re all delicious, but they’re all different. I love getting onstage, but at the same time, it’s much more financially rewarding on TV, and that increases your fame, which allows you to do more theater.”
“Game Show,” whether it’s your cup of tea or not, does represent something that’s been happening more of late at the New Theatre: Productions that reflect playful, bold, even risky choices. Last summer Carrothers directed the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” a show the company had done before, but Carrothers and his designers came up with a wild new take on the material, and the results were very funny.
Then Dennis Hennessey staged the rather shopworn 1960s British farce “Move Over Mrs. Markham” and hit on the idea of setting the show at the turn of the 20th century, with corsets for the ladies, high collars for the men and antique telephones in the parlor.
And now we have “Game Show,” which has so many unscripted moments that the potential for derailment is always bubbling just below the surface.
Carrothers said the explanation is simple enough. He and Hennessy, who have been producing partners since the 1970s, said they have learned a thing or two through the years.
“What you’re seeing out here is that I get a little more creative the longer I do it,” Carrothers said. “We probably wouldn’t have done ‘Move Over Mrs. Markham,’ but because Dennis had the idea for this mashup, that’s the whole reason we did it.
“I am now more open to outcome than attached to outcome. In terms of this creative piece (‘Game Show’), 10 or 15 years ago I would have gone in with a very rigid approach. But I was so open to any artist in that room who had an opinion, they participated in the shaping and molding of this show. And that’s what you see.”

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