Dan Callaway

Act | Sing | Teach | Write

Madeleine L’Engle

She’s the one who told me how to write
A sonnet. I got to take the class she taught,
And I fully expected Mrs. Whatsit it to alight
Before the blackboard and comfort all us fraught
Meg Murrays with soothing words about how
Writing would be the tesseract to link
Us back to all that gaping space now
In need of saving. She took us to the brink
Of repair–cantankerous tenacious–saying things
Like, “Don’t go looking for pain. Pain will find
You,” and, “Fighting for peace is like fucking
For virginity.” This near-octogenarian blasted my mind.
Ms. L’Engle you taught me that writing is a gift
For author and reader to spell a universe shift.


O brutal. Full of specious cries for clamber,
Waives of brain. Usurpal–mounting travesty
Above the muted pain. Ameri… Amber
Waves were meant to image majesty
And plenty for all us huddled masses yearning
For free breath, space to grow a vine
And fig tree. Oh say, can you see the burning
Bombs bursting the image of the Divine
Right out of our knowing? The only spark of God
We strike in our neighbor is the wrath we ignite accusing
Them of demonic identity. Angels’ feet trod
By the river’s margins, their futile hubris losing.
Please God submerge us in that crystal stream.
Wash our eyes of the soul wasting dream.

A Message for Us

I have an Epiphany for us today, and it’s
Something I know from experience, so it’s firm
In my understanding: I’m calling quits
On the expectation that my lizard brain won’t squirm
Its reactive way under every sunny rock
In the personal wilderness we call us.
My kid just threw a book at nap time, and “Knock
Him on the head!” Was the clear preconscious
Directive from my nervous system. I amble
Down the stairs hearing one boy scream
And the other whine. I regard the scramble
Of my cerebrum, useless nipples, and ear steam.
So, my Three Kings Day advice is this:
Be kind and unsurprised when you surely miss.

How to Breathe

It’s the first thing we forget to do
When we sing or get stressed. For many
Of us those can be the same. Too
Many to count–thats the total uncanny
Times my guts locked or voice cracked
In front of paying people, so I know
What it is to shut down the allow, backed
Into a stifled corner by the foe
Most formidable–unchecked brain chatter.
Melting your chompers, opening your lips
And letting some oxygen through: “How can that matter?”
Your survivor insists, mis-naming tummy flips.
Blow out and open your mouth just a smidge.
Thoughts are just currents, and air is the bridge.

Video Monologue Advice

First thing I’d say is know your lines.
Your eyes look different when you’re reading cue
Cards taped beside your laptop. Other signs
You’re not prepared include inserting new
Text into Chekhov or actually choosing
A speech from Vanya in the first place.
I don’t even understand misery-musing
Russian plays, and I’ve done my face-
to-my-navel share of introspecting. None
Of us are old enough for that. All right–
Here’s the actionable counsel: when you’re done
Learning your words and gotten your images tight,
Open the door of your heart and say, “Come in.”
The gold of you shines when there’s nothing to win.

(And it takes forever to learn because it feels like you’re not doing anything.)

(And there’re about 58 other things you need to be good at to do a monologue well, but at 18 years old, start by laying off the Chekhov.)

College Audition Monologue

Hey!! That was my attention grabber.
Now I’m going to brood and look intense
As I move into my next beat and jabber
On in a sarcastic up-speaky way to incense
My imaginary scene partner– certainly
An elder authority figure I’m standing
Up to at last! Now…I’m still. Hurt and lee-
ward against the wind I widen my eyes demanding
My bold choices be seen by the adjudicator
Who clearly holds my academic fate
In her or his clipboard or track pad. Oh educator
Of the theatre! I must matriculate!
Now I take that pause my coach instructed.
He said…so that my score won’t be deducted.

New Year’s Day and Happy Birthday Anna Callaway

This Day we’ve demarcated as a new
Beginning–agreed upon by most of the globe–
Feels much like an extension of the few
Days before that covered us like a damp robe
That needs airing in the sun. I got
To do a show in school, and the last
Song said every blessed moment of what
We call our lives is the beginning. The past
Is the little playground rock climbing wall
I cling to because the resin approximations
Of foot- and hand-holds seem sturdy. And if I fall
I’m two feet up: risk ameliorations.
This day is new like every clock tick.
Seeing the ceaseless birth, now that’s the trick.

What Are You Doing Neeew Year’s Neeeew Year’s Eeeeeve

Our second son is the loudest human I’ve heard,
And I’ve met loud people. I’m a singing
Teacher and a musical theatre nerd
Card-carrying misfit toy ringing
In the new year with a solid rendition
Of “The Impossible Dream” because that’s what I’ll be doing
At midnight–dreaming. Last midnight was an audition
Of a different color, though, when our normally cooing
Room-sharing nuggets kicked off with a call-
And-response of abject wailing (from big brother–
He’s more “I Dreamed a Dream”) and metallic wall-
Cracking, cognition-halting screams from the other.
Somehow we got those belters settled down.
By “we” I mean Melissa–wearer of the badass crown.

Six Geese A Spraying

We call it Goose Poop Park because
The landscape has been commandeered by fowl
Of the aggressive Canadian variety imposing laws
Of territory with slow stalk, hissing growl,
And fecal sidewalk overlay. Navigating
That with a stroller and independently-brained
Humans relatively new to the planet while mating
Rituals by the avian occupiers ensued trained
My mind on times driving from work when a goose
Family had chosen the road median as home.
I glanced with jealousy at the gaggle, their loose
And easy middle-grass fecundity in the weekday gloam.
I didn’t know our goslings were on the way.
They poop enough to rival the migrating fray.

Christmas Five

Okay, so twelve days of Christmas seems
Really long. I think it’s because
The lights and tinsel were out at Target, and dreams
Of sugar plums were moshing on Santa Claus
Themed pop tunes well before
November. Everyone was ready for
Some Christmas whisky because this protracted war
Of a year has delivered some soul beat downs more
Bruising than a Wile E. Coyote gorge plunge.
While I’m ready to say goodbye to the red
And green conifer facsimiles, the 90s grunge
Drummer in my soul shakes his head.
“I feel stupid and contagious,” he sings.
I think today’s the five golden rings.

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