More questions. More help. Introducing Mastering Table Topics Second Edition.

“You gotta play hurt”

How we deal with colds (image from came down with a cold. It’s a disease that isn’t really considered a disease (even though complications from it kill about 4,500 people per year in the US). But our response is to gulp down some medicine and go about our business. That’s what I tried to do the other day. At work, I had some deadlines and meetings. But when my boss saw me, she strongly suggested that I go home and get some rest.

I know it’s bad office etiquette to go to work sick, just like cooking fish in the microwave and not making a new pot of coffee when you finish the last cup. But I was struggling against something that has been programmed into me since when I was a child, “You gotta play hurt.”

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Hamilton: What comes next?

This is the fifth and final installment of a series, Lessons from Musicals.

Why am I bothering to talk about musicals I performed in 40 years ago? Aren’t there more pressing things to deal with in the present? I’ll answer by looking at a musical created by someone who hadn’t even been born yet when I was in high school, Hamilton.

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Pippin: How to grow up

This is the fourth installment of a series, Learning from Musicals.

I learned other important teenage lessons from Pippin. The first is not to listen to songs from musicals out of context.

We performed a few songs from Pippin as one of the opening acts before Dames at Sea in 1978. We couldn’t do the musical in its 1970s incarnation in its entirety. Graphic violence, nudity, orgies, and patricide (doubling as regicide) weren’t suitable for a high school stage, especially with our very Mormon music teacher. From the sanitized packages of Stephen Schwartz we performed, I developed a love for “Corner of the Sky.” It seemed like the perfect anthem for a teenage boy, especially one adrift in an innocent and idealistic bubble like me.

When Pippin played at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in LA, I begged my mom to take me. That’s when I learned my second and most important lesson.

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Plain and Fancy: Talent really is a thing

It wonders me how awful a 110 camera can beThis is the third installment of a series, Lessons from Musicals.

It wonders me how I was able to land a spot in Reseda High School’s prestigious Vocal Ensemble. Although I could read music, stay in tune (well, most of the time), and hold my own in harmonies, I clearly wasn’t a star. You could pick me out from the rest of the chorus because my choreography was off from everyone else. I didn’t feel bad about it, because I knew I was in the presence of remarkable performers, including those who went on to successful stage and music careers.

From them, I learned something about talent.

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Tell me your heroes, and you tell me who you are

Cartoon of President Andrew Jackson (from’s take a break from talking about musicals I performed in the 1970s and talk about a president from the 1830s.

What caught my attention about President Trump’s recent interview isn’t his comments about what President Andrew Jackson could have done about the Civil War. (We already know, which I’ll cover in a moment.) It’s that he clearly sees President Jackson as a hero. He paid homage at his grave, and he has Jackson’s portrait hung prominently in the Oval Office.

President Trump’s admiration of Jackson speaks volumes about who he is as a person. And there are lessons for all of us.

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