About JTinNYC

Author, Playwright, Director and Advocate

Killarney, Ireland: The Gap of Dunloe (video)

Killarney, in County Kerry, has a high concentration of tourists; probably the highest in Ireland, due to its location at the intersection of several major roads and its role as the “base camp” for the Ring of Kerry.

I heard a local travel expert say “if you have only one day in Killarney, and can do only one thing, I urge you to visit the Gap of Dunloe.”

The Gap is a narrow mountain pass between McGillicuddy’s Reeks and Purple Mountain. Here is a map showing the traditional routes through the Lake of Killarney, the Black Valley, and the Gap of Dunloe.

You can go in either direction, and go by foot and boat (as we did), bicycle, the most traditional way by pony and trap, which is a two-wheeled jaunting car; or by the least recommended way – by car. The road is extremely narrow and a car would be useful only if you’re staying at one of the few hostals along the route. If you’re not, do yourself a favor: walk or bike if you’re in reasonable shape, or go by pony trap if you are not. The walk is not too strenuous but it is long.

So – here we go. I’ll explain the route we took, but again, you can go the opposite way – just be sure you check boat schedules to and from Lord Brandon’s Cottage.

We had two cars so had no need for coach service between Kate Kearney’s Cottage and Ross Castle. We left one car at Kate’s and drive the other to our departure point at Reen Pier beside Ross Castle. There we got our boat at 11:00 (with Gap of Dunloe Tours) and made the 13-mile voyage across the Lake of Killarney, into Muckross Lake, and along the Upper Louth to Lord Brandon’s Cottage. You’ll see in video below, these boats are not large, enclosed ferries but open, long motorboats with a shallow draft to allow them to get up through some extremely narrow, extremely shallow waterways (though our boatman told us some parts of the lake are 100 meters deep!).

After arriving at Lord Brandon’s and a short pause for tea, we began the 7 mile (11 kilometer) walk through the Black Valley and Gap of Dunloe to Kate Kearney’s Cottage. There are hills and dales and dips and rises, but nothing too strenuous.

It is dotted here and there with moss-covered ruins, roofless cottages from ages past, and a hostal of more recent vintage (where I met a very old man who told me he’d lived all his life in Dunloe as he brewed the finest cup of tea I’ve had in ages.

Finally, I’d like to give you a bette view of the experience with this short travelogue of our boat ride and hike through the glorious Gap of Dunloe.

In Praise of Bram

In honor of Halloween, I have been re-reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. At the same time, I’ve been sampling various film adaptations of the book – and I am struck by how many go so far wide of the mark. Upon reading the first four chapters of the novel – the Jonathan Harker chapters – you realize you are in the hands of a master. Remember his early readers had no idea Dracula was a vampire. He weaves a web of slowly dawning horror and claustrophobia, with no sudden scares but with touches of horror that will raise the hair on the back of your neck…assuming you have any.

I can think of four truly horrific moments witnessed by poor Jonathan that are almost never in any of the film versions. Take Francis Coppola’s version (please). His Dracula is so immediately weird, I don’t know why Jonathan doesn’t head for the hills at once. In the book, Dracula tosses a squirming bag to his horrible wives and Jonathan deduces from a small noise that the bag contains a child. Coppola has Drac give them a baby in full view. And please – why does he dress the wives like the onstage girl band in Cabaret? And the less said about Lucy acting like she’s starring in a low-budget porn film the better.

This weekend, I started (and quickly stopped) a version starring Jack Palance. It begins with a pack of wolves that are so OBVIOUSLY German Shepherds I expected the theme to Rin-Tin-Tin to begin playing over the credits. Jack makes a fine Drac, but when Jonathan finally escapes from his room, he finds himself in gorgeous chambers lined with tapestries and lit candles guiding him through the bright and cheery halls. Since when does the Count lights candles in his part of the castle?

The silent film Nosferatu is truly hideous – but so hideous you cannot imagine anyone believing for a moment he’s actually an eccentric, yet harmless, aristocrat in Romania.

So at this point I must vote in favor of Tod Browning’s 1931 Bela Lugosi version. Even there, they conflate Jonathan with Renfield, but at least there is a genuine attempt at Gothic horror.

Do yourself a favor. If you like horror at all, and have never read the original, prepare to be blown away. There is a reason it is considered the greatest horror novel ever written. Bravo Mr. Stoker.



Actor Profiles: Francesco Pireddu


In my old theater blog, I featured interviews and profiles with performing artists I had known or worked with over the years, including Celeste Holm (All About Eve), Julie Wilson, and George Marcy (original Bernardo in West Side Story).  I decided to revisit these profiles and include some of them on this new blog.

Today I begin with Francesco Pireddu and an interview from 2014.  Francesco is originally from Sardinia, Italy and has worked his way through Rome, London and finally New York City as first, a dancer, and now a dancer and an accomplished actor.


JT:   Thank you for sitting down with me, Francesco.  Let’s begin with dance.  I saw you performing with Balasole Dance Company.  What I most remember is your decision to do a piece with absolutely no music at all.  It was only movement.  Can you tell us your thinking behind that? Why did you choose to do it without music?

Francesco:  The solo I performed at Live Arts Dance Theater in New York City is called: Silence?  I was always inspired by the work of the great actor and mime Marcel Marceau. He referred to mime as the “Art of Silence” and my piece was an homage to his fine art and immense talent. The idea of not having music was quite challenging and, at times, uncomfortable but I am always drawn to what scares me and pushes my boundaries as an artist and as a human being.  Not having music, in my opinion, creates also a deeper relationship with the audience; there are not filters, the movement is very much exposed and presented in its rawness.

You went to HB Studio, one of the most prestigious acting schools in New York City. Do you still consider yourself a dancer?

I will always consider myself a dancer.  Artistically, I started as a dancer,  The Ballet training, with its rigor and discipline, still represents my foundation whether I am on a stage or a movie set.  The transition into acting came smoothly and naturally.  I wanted to improve my skills and grow professionally and personally as well.  It was an honor to be accepted at HB Studio, one of the most famous Acting schools in New York City.  The training was truly well rounded and included: scene study, acting technique, voice and pronunciation, and movement.  Artistically, I became more grounded and complete.

I’ve seen you perform at the “Actors Acting for Actors” event in New York City. Can you tell us more about that experience?

The “Actors Acting for Actors” was a special event for actors and many professionals of the entertainment business such as producers, directors and writers were invited.  I was asked to perform a solo.  I chose to dance a neoclassical piece, which is a style I feel very comfortable with because it incorporates the Ballet training I undergone for many years. It was truly a beautiful experience.


How was your experience in the Off-Broadway musical: The Raja’s son and Princess Labam?

Oh, thank you for asking me about my off-Broadway-debut at the Medicine Show Theater.  The producer and director were looking for dancers and actors for the musical, not only singers.  I wanted to be part of it and I was called in for an audition, which was demanding and quite different from the type of auditions I am used to.  At the audition I was asked to dance and to perform a monologue.  I was also asked to improvise a dance routine based on the personality of one of the characters of the musical.  I eventually got the job and was very happy about it.

The rehearsals were grueling and demanding.  The Raja’s Son and Princess Labam is an Indian fairy-tale for both children and adults and was very well received. The cast was huge: singers, actors and dancers. The pace was fast and I learned a lot in terms of implementing different styles and delivering a well-rounded performance.

I was thrilled to make my off-Broadway debut in such a glorious production.

You just finished shooting a commercial for JA BANK, the Japanese investment bank.

Yes, and I had a wonderful time.  My role was the lead choreographer.  I created a modern, Broadway-style dance sequence and eventually performed it in the commercial. The production company Mt. Melvil had a very high budget, the crew was very professional and there was no rush whatsoever.  We had all the time we needed to shoot all the scenes; I totally trusted Mr. Motoki Tomatsu, the executive producer who chose me at the audition, and I felt confident in my performance.

You have so many projects in so many different art forms. What would you like to achieve in the nearer future?

Before moving to New York City I lived in London where I performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in Boris Godunov and La Forza del Destino, two of the most important Operas.  I was honored to have the opportunity to perform on such a prestigious and world-famous stage. I would love to create the same situation for myself in the US and perform at the most important and glorious theaters.  And I have no doubts I will.

It certainly requires discipline, dedication and hard work. And it is my intention to keep working on my craft and nurture my talent.  Stay tuned!


Francesco Pireddu, interviewed by John-Richard Thompson

December 2014




Writing: Internal Logic and Blue Giraffes


As an author, you have the god-like ability to create entire worlds made entirely from your imagination. If you want a world filled with talking trees, that’s great. A planet inhabited only by blue giraffes? Knock yourself out. There truly is no limit…however, there are limitations.

One of the most important of these is Internal Logic. Your readers will follow you anywhere (assuming they like your particular genre). If you lead them into your world of blue giraffes, they will happily reside there as long as you’ve set up your rules, the internal logic of your world, and follow them.

Let me give an example of a breach of internal logic: years ago I read a novel written by an acquaintance, set in our own world, with normal human characters who interacted as normal human characters do. All was well until somewhere in the middle of the book when he wrote about a couple having an argument in the living room of their New York City apartment, whereupon the husband “threw his wife’s straw hat into the aquarium, where it was immediately eaten by the piranha.”

Now. Anyone with even minimal knowledge of piranha habits knows they are meat eaters. They may eat some vegetable matter too. They are also about four to six inches in length. Does anyone truly believe a piranha will eat an entire straw hat? If you do, do you honestly believe our talented piranha could truly eat it immediately?


I read this novel at least twenty years ago and that piranha/straw hat detail is the only thing I remember about it. The author put it in, hoping for an easy laugh, but what he did instead was pull down the entire edifice of the world he had otherwise so carefully constructed.

(I’ve seen the same thing happen with actors, by the way. In an effort to get a laugh, they will put in a “bit”, an action, or expression that suddenly exposes the audience to the actor him or herself and tears them out of the “world” of the play. It doesn’t work. It is the piranha eating the straw hat.

I was inspired to write this post after seeing the film Alien: Covenant. The director Ridley Scott set up a world of high tech, aliens, and space pioneers…and then proceeded to allow his highly-trained spaceship crew to engage in one bone-headed, irresponsible action after another. The computer warns the crew not to go within eighty kilometers of an electrical storm or they will damage or destroy the ship.  Silly computer, thinking she was talking to calm, thoughtful, rational adults.  But no.  Instead, the acting Captain insists on taking it forty kilometers away. And okay, maybe he’s a nitwit.  Let’s give him that.  But with almost no trouble at all, he gets his second in command to agree to override the safety systems.  This truly was the Ship of Fools.

You go to an unknown planet with no idea at all of the life forms that may live there? Have you set up any quarantine systems? You have not. You let your stupid crew bring anything they want on board…which I didn’t mind so much as a quarter of the way through, I realized I kind of wanted everyone to be killed by an alien.


So there you go, writers, actors, and all artists everywhere. Build your world. Make it as complicated and fantastical as you’d like, but if you hope your audience will follow along, you must follow your own rules. Do not be tempted to go for an easy laugh or plot-point if it doesn’t follow the internal logic. If you do, your readers will lose interest and close the book.


Paris: In Search of D’Artagnon



One bitter cold night in Paris, in a Montmartre café over soupe aux oignons and steaming cups of hot wine, I mentioned to Vitali and Wilhem that I wanted to see the Monument to Alexandre Dumas created by Gustave Doré, particularly his sculpture of D’Artagnon from The Three Musketeers.   


Vitali, obviously having just come from a successful showing at Paris Fashion Week, said, “Let’s do it!”


We didn’t know the location of the monument so Vitali used Google maps and we discovered it was in Place du Général-Catroux in the 17th arrondissement, supposedly only a short 39 minute walk from where we were.


With newfound purpose and determination, we left the warmth of Chez Ma Cousine, and set off into the cold Parisian night.



Wilhem, Vitali and JT

First through Montmartre, past Sacré-Cœur…


And then down the long staircases, with a stop to visit Le Chat du Montmartre.


We did fine for a while, on track and on target…we passed from Montmartre into Pigalle, where an enthusiastic Vitali posed before the Moulin Rouge.


From there something happened…I don’t know what.  Vitali doesn’t know.  Wilhem doesn’t know.  We assume Google maps led us astray.  We walked.  And we walked.  No monument.  We walked.  We walked.  We couldn’t check the map as we did not have wifi.  “This is the right way, I sure of it,” Vitali insisted, and still we walked, and the hour grew late.  We stopped people walking their dogs and Wilhem asked if they knew where the Monument to Alexandre Dumas might be found.  They had never heard of it.  And so we walked.

I saw that my shoes were starting to behave the way shoes should not – that is, they began to break apart (see previous post: Paris: A Tale of Two Oxfords.   I said we should give up.  “No,” Vitali insisted, “we can’t give up – not after we’ve come so far.”  I began to feel like one of those noble explorers fallen by the jungle trail, urging my companions to, “Go on without me!  Save yourselves!”

Urging, poking, prodding, and then – and thenvoilà!   The monument, looming out of the darkness.


It had a fence around it to keep out trespassers, but did that stop me?  It did not.  I climbed over the fence, trespassed with abandon, figured a way through the planted garden, and found myself face to shoe with the great D’Artagnon himself.


And so now I’ve done it.

I’ve seen it.

I trespassed, risking imprisonment in the Bastille and, possibly, the guillotine.

I need not go there again.


Paris: A Tale of Two Oxfords

I wore a pair of black Oxford dress shoes for many years, but like a very old person whose time has come and whose bodily functions all give out at the same time, my shoes began to suddenly fall apart in Paris.  Cracks appeared.  Seams began to come loose.  I caught glimpses of my light blue socks through the tiny holes like stars in a black sky.

This was not a tragedy (if you’re going to fall apart, you might as well do it in Paris.)


I could have tossed them in the trash, but they had put in long years of service and I thought they deserved a more noble end than could likely be found in a Parisian trashcan.  As I passed the Paris Opera House, I thought, “Well, there.  That’s a fine place for a final resting place.”


And so I left them.


And there, presumably, they remained…for a while.  Au revoir à mes vieilles chaussures. Bonne chance, mes amis!


….I wonder where they are now.