Orion Protonentis — swashbuckler, bug-hunter, pastry-enjoyer — joins the show to talk about testing Omni apps. And about his life on the stage with swords.
After studying acting and stage combat in Hawaii, Tennessee, and Las Vegas, and after tending bar and running nightclubs, Orion — whose first computers were Commodore 64, TRS-80, and Apple II — answered the call to come do support at The Omni Group.
He later made his way to the test department, where he’s been finding bugs — so you don’t have to.
Some other people, places, and things mentioned:
- Invisible Hair
- Apple Watch
- Valentine‘s Day
- Ken’s Roadmap Blog Post
- OmniWeb, OmniDiskSweeper
- Liz Marley
- Brian Covey
- Ken Case
- University of Oregon
- Conan the Barbarian
- Living Videotext
- Star Wars
- The Princess Bride Sword Fight
- Society of American Fight Directors
- Fight Choreography
- The Globe Theater
- Julius Caesar
- The Scottish Play
- Twelfth Night
- Seattle Opera
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
Brent Simmons: You're listening to The Omni Show. Get to know the people and stories behind the Omni Group's award-winning productivity apps for Mac and iOS. Music.
I'm your host, Brent Simmons. In the studio with me today is Orion Protonentis, Software Test Pilot at the Omni Group. Say hello, Orion.
Orion Protonentis: Hello, Orion.
Brent: Thank you. Now, listeners, I know that you're thinking that can't be his real name, Orion, because he's a tester and Orion the bug hunter is a bit on the nose. Nevertheless… is it in fact your real name?
Orion: It is in fact my real name.
Brent: It is. So, Orion, before we get started —
Brent: ... it should be noted that not only are you far taller than Aries, but you have a gorgeous, shocking head of hair.
Orion: Ah, it's true.
Brent: Except that it's also completely invisible, and our listeners want to know how you get it that way.
Brent: Is it a cream of some kind, or...?
Orion: When I was younger, I used to read the X-Men a lot, and of course I always wanted to be a mutant. It turned out that my mutant power is invisible hair.
Orion: Yeah, sadly it's not nearly as effective as I'd hoped for, but yeah, at least I have a mutant power, so that's good.
Brent: Yeah, right, yeah. Yeah. I don't have a mutant power. So, Protonentis is not the Greek word for an affliction when all your protons are inflamed?
Orion: I really hope not.
Brent: Oh, okay.
Orion: I think that would be “protonentitis.”
Brent: Protonentitis. A completely different...
Orion: Yeah, people say that sometimes as well, but...
Brent: Yeah, okay. Alright. So, you're a tester. You got your start here testing on OmniGraffle doing Pencil recognition.
Orion: Yeah, I moved down into test right before we did the Pencil work in OmniGraffle 2.8 for iOS.
Brent: How did that go?
Orion: It went quite well. I quickly learned things like a left circle and a right circle are not the same thing.
Brent: How are they different?
Orion: Well, they're interpreted a little bit differently.
Orion: So, it turns out that if you're a right-handed tester working with a left-handed engineer, you come at things slightly differently. And so I would find bugs that he hadn't noticed while he was writing it, and then he would write things, in which I would find other bugs and we went back and forth until it was in a state where both righties and lefties were reasonably happy.
Brent: Ah, interesting.
Brent: Southpaws are ruining things for the rest of us again.
Orion: Well, except that a southpaw wrote the code, so actually I guess he's making it better for the rest of us.
Brent: That's cool. Then from Graffle, you moved on to OmniFocus.
Orion: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yep. Worked on OmniFocus for a while.
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative), iOS or mac, or both?
Orion: Both, yeah. I helped Curt with some of the OmniFocus for Watch work he was doing.
Brent: Oh, okay.
Orion: Then just drifted from here to there.
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Did you have, like, a stable of watches that you tested things on, or with something like that, just the one watch was enough?
Orion: Just the one typically, yeah. Before we ship, we would check on two sizes of watch but that was about it.
Brent: Yeah. Smart.
Orion: Yeah. Well, at the time there were only those two, so it was easy.
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Moved from there on to OmniOutliner —
Brent: Seems like [you've worked] on just about all the apps here.
Orion: Yeah, which is where we worked together actually.
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah, yeah.
Orion: We worked on OmniOutliner 5, and the soon to be arriving OmniOutliner 3 for iOS.
Brent: Both of which are the greatest OmniOutliner releases ever.
Orion: It is true. It is true. Very excited to see people get their hands on OmniOutliner 3 soon.
Brent: Yeah. It should be in fact out, maybe?
Orion: By the time this airs.
Brent: By the time this goes.
Mark Boszko: Same day.
Brent: Same day, in fact this is on the Outliner 3 day!
Orion: Very exciting. Excellent.
Brent: And it's also, it's probably also Valentine's Day.
Orion: It could be, yeah.
Brent: Yeah, okay. See, listeners, we're recording the week before. But no Plan yet?
Orion: No, not yet, no. Back on OmniFocus now, working on some of the things that Ken has written about in his blog post.
Orion: No OmniPlan. I'm still waiting to collect the fourth application in my card deck, but I have done three, so it's been fun.
Brent: Fourth of four?
Orion: The fourth of four, yeah. Not bad. A little bit of work on ... I guess I haven't worked much on OmniWeb but helped with some OmniDiskSweeper stuff, and then some of our internal tools as well.
Brent: Okay. So, what's a tester's day like? What do you actually do?
Orion: Yeah, that's a good question. I don't actually know most days what I'm going to wind up doing. I moved into test from support and in support, mostly when I went home at the end of one day, I was pretty clear what I'd be doing the next day. In test, I generally have a pretty good idea. Before I go home I'll have a sense of what I think I'm going to work on the next day, but you never really know.
So, some days it could be spending all of my day digging into a very specific thing with perhaps Shape Recognition if it's Graffle, or maybe working on encryption or something along those lines with OmniFocus. Or it could be a day where it's 20 or 30 verifies, where you take something that an engineer has done and you just make sure a bug's been fixed, that there's no unexpected fallout. So, it could be exploration, it could be a whole lot of tiny, little things in a given day. But it's always interesting.
Brent: Liz once remarked that somehow developers, in her mind, were almost fingerprinted, so that when a bug came back from a developer, she would know what kinds of things to test because of that developer's past, you know?
Orion: Sure, yeah. I can see that.
Brent: And so, like, every developer is a little bit different. They might always forget this one thing or something. Do you find anything like that?
Orion: I haven't run into anything where a developer would, a specific developer would forget one thing, but I mean, we all have different learning styles and different ways of working, so you definitely learn how to talk to different people both in and outside of your department. Yeah, we all have our own approaches.
Brent: So, the relationship between test and engineering here seems to be quite good. I've heard people on other companies complain that it's not always great. Here it's good. And is the key to that really just all the flattery?
Orion: Oh, absolutely.
Brent: Because every time I talk to a tester they just constantly tell me how I great I am when [crosstalk 00:06:04].
Orion: Well, and they bring you donuts.
Brent: Oh, yeah. Sure.
Orion: And there's confetti, and let us not forget the balloons every Monday.
Brent: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Orion: It's definitely all about flattery, yeah, yeah.
Brent: It seems to be working quite well.
Orion: Indeed. As Brian was chatting about a couple episodes a back, this is a company where you can walk in and you can talk to the CEO, which is pretty cool. But it does take a little while to get used to. And much like you can go talk to Ken, you can, for the most part, with a little bit of advance notice — because not everybody likes to be interrupted — go talk to anybody, which has been nice.
There have been days that I have found what I thought was a bug or an issue, and I go talk to somebody and indeed it is, then I have days where I go talk to somebody and they explain what's going on and I realize, "Ah, it's not it. It's me." Perhaps something has changed, or there's been a design shift, or there's some other reason for what I'm seeing. But it is nice, that open communication winds up saving a lot of work for everybody.
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, from our part, I have to say I've never had testers, really, in my entire career.
Orion: You worked solo for a long time, too.
Brent: I did, and I've had some jobs at companies and always worked remote, but they just never had testers, so having people actually test things seems like a miracle. Why didn't we ... why didn't I have that in my career all along?
Orion: It certainly seems to be something that not a lot of people do. I know I was reading another, a local company, reading a series of blog posts they did on why test is important to their company. And between that, and my experience here, I realized just how incredibly lucky I am.
Orion: Went to a test conference last year where most people were dealing with web based clients, a lot of services, ranging from that, to some people who are dealing with various small microchip testing, and it became clear that the value that we had at Omni was very different than the value that's typically placed on test.
Orion: So, I definitely count myself lucky to be here.
Brent: I think I've found that testers are people who know the products the best, too. Certainly, I'll go in to work on a feature and maybe I didn't even know that feature existed, but — that's happened more than once.
Orion: Certainly, yes.
Brent: Because I have been a user of OmniFocus and OmniOutliner for years before coming to the company, but I'm a fairly simplistic user, and there is all of this stuff, and the testers, you guys know every corner of it, it seems like.
Orion: Well, sometimes, yeah, certainly. And fortunately we can all collaborate together, so on any given team, a lot of times, one of us will have more expertise in a certain area than the other one. It's been interesting for me shifting from project to project over the last couple years. For instance, I've been using OmniFocus since about 2009, just as a customer, and then I worked on it for a while when I first moved into test. And then I was off it for about a year and moving back on. It's this combination of, all right, I've been looking the various iterations of this product for close to a decade at this point, but the last year there's been a lot of work done, hence a lot of things have moved around so I have days where I think, "Ah, yes. I know this very well," at the same time I'm thinking, "What the heck is going on here?"
So, it's been fun. It allows me to come in with both this knowledge set and a fresh set of eyes at the same time. And fortunately the other two people on my product team have been very nice at, "Oh, yeah, well, we changed this six months ago and here is what's going on in that area," and then I have the tools to go on and explore that a little more thoroughly.
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Is it somewhat common for people to spend, say, a year or two testing a single product and then move, or is that maybe common for some of the testers and not for other ones, or? I just wondered, do we have a general philosophy or do things just kind of happen the way they happen?
Orion: Sure, yeah. I mean, generally there's always an issue of what product is getting a lot of resources behind it at a given time, so some testers will wind up moving from product to product. Some testers will stay on the same product for years on end. It really just depends upon what your knowledge base looks like, what a given product needs at any given time. And then sometimes you have people coming in and out of the department as well, so people need to shuffle round. So, I actually wound up moving to OmniOutliner because somebody had left the team, and then I stayed there for a while. And once we were in a place where OmniOutliner 3 was in a good position, then I moved back to a different team.
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative). OmniOutliner 3, man, that's a good looking app. Hey, it's OmniOutliner 3 day.
Orion: Hey, I know somebody who worked on that.
Brent: I might have helped a little.
Orion: Little bit.
Brent: It's the first iOS work I've done in years. But I helped make some indent-y things a little bit more indent-y.
Orion: Nice, yeah. I remember that.
Brent: So, I was pretty pleased with what I did there.
Orion: [inaudible 00:10:34] indent more, indent less, indent. Hmmm.
Brent: Yeah. It's a free trial. Go get it on the app store. It's pretty cool and it syncs with the Mac version, and you need an outliner whether you know it or not.
Orion: It's true.
Brent: It is. So, before you came to Omni, you grew up in Portland.
Orion: I did.
Brent: Went to the University of Oregon, and so nerd things happened around there. You must have touched computers at some point as a young person?
Orion: At some point, yeah. Not so much there, but I grew up with using a Commodore 64, and then at school we had TRS-80s.
Orion: Trash-80s, indeed. And of course the wonderful Apple II.
Brent: Ah, yes.
Orion: So, I got in — aaahh. We even had color. It was amazing.
Brent: Oh, wow.
Orion: I still remember playing Conan the Barbarian on that. It was a delightful game. I spent quite a lot of time using computers when I was a kid. I was very fortunate in that aspect. I didn't wind up doing a whole lot of computer work in college, but I've always been an avid user since I was a small child. When I was in school I actually ... Is this the, "How did you get into test question?"
Brent: Well, this is-
Orion: Or is that later?
Brent: I think we're going to move on to bartending pretty soon.
Orion: Oh, oh, oh. I see. I see, okay. Well, great. We'll move on then.
Brent: All right. So, yeah, you touched computers —
Orion: I did. I touched computers.
Brent: ... grew up, and said, "Enough of that. I'm going to pour drinks for people."
Orion: Something like that, yeah.
Brent: But you do have some period of time where you've been bartending and running nightclubs and things like that?
Orion: Yeah, well, I spent a ... I decided I'd pick up a little side job while I was in college, and that side job turned into a 20 plus year career bartending, and running clubs, and running restaurants.
Brent: That could be a pretty interesting side job actually.
Orion: Yeah, it was nice. It was nice. I had a good time. And I was always using computers on the side as well, but not professionally. So, I might help friends, I'd help neighbors.
Brent: You were the unofficial tech support.
Orion: I was, yes.
Brent: You was always that guy, right?
Orion: I was that classic unofficial tech support. Yeah, absolutely.
Brent: Yeah, right. I have a T-shirt somewhere. It says in big block lettering, "No. I will not help you fix your computer."
Orion: Or the other classic refrain, which is, "I'm here because you broke something." Yeah.
Brent: So, then one day though, after running yoga dance clubs and whatever, you decided to come work at Omni. How did that happen?
Orion: It's true. Well, there was an opening for a support person here, and I've spent a whole lot of years talking down drunks getting them safely out of bars and restaurants, and also I had recently had a couple small children so I had experience talking to toddlers, and though I didn't have any experience in tech support, in software, I figured that between my abilities to talk to people who sometimes were demanding, people who were actively ...
Brent: Executive function skills aren't on there at the moment.
Orion: Certainly. My children who are always learning, and then my years of just exploring software, that perhaps I'd be able to come and do this with some training.
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, it's an easier job than talking drunks off the ledge.
Orion: You know, it's very enjoyable. There was a day that I took a phone call and somebody was in a bad situation, and we helped him out and it took a little bit longer than I'd originally anticipated but we got everything back up and running for them, and I'd gotten off the phone and I think I'd probably had let out a sigh, one of those, "Ah, we did it," moments.
Brent: Yeah, yeah.
Orion: And Brian, the support manager walked by and he said, "Don't worry, man. Some days are kind of hard." I was like, "Well, I think maybe we need a little perspective here. Nobody challenged me to go outside and fight today, so I'm actually having a really good day." And he just laughed and he went —
Brent: Nobody holding a bottle challenged you outside.
Orion: He was like, "Oh, right. Okay, yes. Yes. All right. Hmm."
Brent: Yeah, that's fair.
Orion: It was a nice change.
Orion: Oh, and a nice part was being able to pick up the phone and actually talk to our customers who really liked what we do, and what we were doing, and being able to help them was great.
Brent: Yeah. I've found whenever I'm out at a conference or something and around other Mac users and I tell them I work at Omni, they tell me how much they love the company and our software and everything.
Orion: That's awesome.
Brent: Yeah, and all of those people are going to get OmniOutliner 3 today.
Orion: Today? You don't say.
Brent: Well, yeah.
Orion: Amazing. Everybody needs an outliner.
Brent: I know. They may not realize it, but once you start using one, you're hooked.
Orion: It's true.
Brent: You've totally got to have an outliner. The prices of outliners have really come down over the years.
Orion: Oh, yeah.
Brent: Living Videotext used to sell ThinkTank, and MORE, and some other ones, and they cost like 250 bucks.
Brent: I mean, you can get OmniOutliner 3 Essentials for 10 bucks?
Orion: $10, yeah.
Brent: Man, compared to 250 bucks, and that's in '80s money, I mean, come on.
Orion: That's a heck of a deal.
Brent: That's a hell of a deal. I'm selling it!
Orion: You're doing an amazing job.
Brent: Ah, geez. So, couple of years in support.
Orion: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brent: And what's a support day like, if you can remember that far back? I've talked to Brian, but I haven't talked to ... and he's the support manager, but I haven't talked to anyone who's done support otherwise.
Brent: So, you come in, your phone's just ringing, or are you on the [crosstalk 00:16:00], or?
Orion: Yeah, it kind of depends on the day. You have a little bit of time before the phone starts ringing, but your typical day in support, at least when I was upstairs, would be a mixture of answering email tickets, answering phone calls, helping people on Twitter, and checking the forums to see if you can help anybody there, so it's kind of a mix of things. I always really enjoyed picking up the phone. The first few months I did it, it certainly filled me with a mild sense of panic every time because you never knew what was going to happen.
But after a while I really learned to enjoy that. You never knew what was going to happen. So, every time you'd pick up the phone it was like, "All right. Is this going to be a philosophical conversation about how OmniFocus can help you manage your life? Or is it going to be an issue involved with shape duplication in OmniGraffle, or is going to be a leveling issue in OmniPlan?"
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Orion: You just never knew what was going to happen, so it was kind of fun, which actually, it shares a similarity with what I enjoy about my job now, which is I never quite know what every day is going to hold.
Brent: Yeah. One thing about phone support, you can't revise, right?
Orion: That's true.
Brent: If you're writing, or typing, you can type a sentence and go, "Nah, that's not quite right," go back and fix it.
Brent: You have to think on your feet. It's all improv.
Orion: It's exciting.
Orion: Yeah. Theater background came in handy.
Orion: It's true.
Brent: It's a high-wire act. That's a tough— I'm still amazed that Omni offers phone support. That is so rare in our community. I mean, I suppose Apple does, you know, some of the large companies do. But for companies our size, it seems to be quite rare.
Orion: When I talked to people and told them what I was doing at the time when I started here, they were always like, "Wait, but what? You do what?" I was like, "We pick up the phone and we answer it," and they're like, "You just answer the phone?" I'm like, "Well, yes."
Brent: Yeah, that's how that works.
Orion: So, if you need help, please call The Omni Group. We'll help you.
Brent: Yeah, right. It won't be Orion, but it will be somebody just as nice.
Orion: Amazingly nice.
Brent: Yeah, yeah. Especially if you need help with OmniOutliner 3.
Orion: I hear that comes out today.
Brent: Sweet. Happy Valentine's Day world.
Orion: Thank you.
Brent: So, two years at support, then two years back at test, so you've been here four years —
Orion: Just hit my four years.
Brent: Just about six months longer than me.
Brent: That's pretty cool.
Orion: I remember you starting.
Brent: Yeah. I was the new guy. Before that, you were the new guy.
Orion: It's true.
Brent: That's all right. Cool. Now, the rest of my notes here are jumbled. It's pretty much the word blood repeated over and over.
Orion: Ah, blood.
Orion: Oh, that probably needs context for our listeners.
Brent: Probably does.
Orion: Yeah, that's true.
Brent: The first thing we should point out is that you're currently on hiatus from blood.
Orion: Hmm, interesting. Well, I do have small children so occasionally I'm not.
Brent: There is that.
Orion: Before I came here, I spent several years doing classical theater and I got into stage combat and choreography, so I used to play with fake blood, and swords, and knives, and guns, and fisticuffs.
Brent: So, is this more Sophocles, or more Shakespeare?
Orion: More Shakespeare.
Brent: More Shakespeare, okay.
Orion: There apparently was something about my rigid demeanor that lent itself to classic theater. I try not to think about what that says.
Brent: Hmm. Your demeanor is very, very rigid. Geez.
Orion: Indeed. I once worked with a director that described me as “bombastic, but with moments of truth,” so I thought, "All right, well, I'll take that."
Brent: Little moments.
Brent: Yeah, that's something. So you studied at Hawaii.
Orion: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brent: You've always been to Tennessee.
Orion: Yeah, I went to University of Hawaii for theater, and I wound up doing an academic exchange to University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I spent a couple of years there with the Shakespeare troupe doing back to black plays and opening the aforementioned nightclub/yoga studio/art gallery, which was a number of adventures all rolled into one, before I had decided it was time to come back to Seattle again.
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, what got you into the fighting? because that's the exciting part. Well, first question, do you ever watch ... so you were good with the swordplay and I assume... I don't even know. It's different kinds of swords, scimitars and things?
Brent: Yeah. Do you ever watch the lightsaber scenes in the Star Wars and think, "Nah, they got it all wrong, these guys."
Orion: No. The choreographers who work on those are amazing. Yeah. They're incredible. And of course in cinema, one of the prime examples is The Princess Bride fight, right?
Brent: I vaguely remember it.
Orion: It's incredible. They practiced it for four months before they wound up shooting it.
Brent: Is this the one with Inigo Montoya?
Orion: Exactly, yes. "I have something to tell you. I am not left-handed." "Oh, Neither am I."
Orion: It's probably one of the finest scenes ever put on film.
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Orion: It's incredible. No, it is pretty funny though that I'll wind up watching shows and my wife will think, "They're fighting a lot. Why are we watching this?" And I will simply be sitting there in awe of the effects and the skill, and yeah, it's a different approach to reality but it's fun.
Brent: Uh-huh (affirmative), Uh-huh (affirmative). So, all the blood is fake blood we assume?
Orion: I hope so.
Brent: I hope so, because you've seen an awful lot of it.
Orion: I have seen —
Brent: You would be a scarred man.
Orion: Well, I am a scarred man, but that's not why, no.
Brent: Well, sure you are. So, you were into acting and classical theater, but what got you into the actual, the swordplay and all that kind of fun stuff?
Orion: I was taking a “movement for the actor” course at one point, and we had a gentleman come in and do just a couple two hour sessions with us, and he walked in with swords, which of course got my attention, as you might think it would.
Brent: Yeah, swords, yeah.
Orion: Then we spent two hours one Friday working with him, and I thought, "Oh, this is kind of interesting," and he came back the next week and we spent two more hours working with him, and then he was all done and he was going to leave. He says, "Anybody have any questions?" I said, "Yes. How do I do more of this?"
Brent: That's the right question.
Orion: And he said, "Well, there's actually a workshop in Las Vegas in two weeks," so I went home and I signed up. And I wind up spending three weeks in Las Vegas playing with swords and rolling around on the ground in 117 degree heat and learned a lot at the Society of American Fight Directors annual training. It was an incredible experience. So, I did that and that's actually what got me back into theater full-time for a number of years.
Brent: Oh, okay. Did you choreograph fight scenes as well as act in them?
Orion: I did. Yeah. I did.
Brent: Oh, okay. Is there a special visual language for choreographing fight scenes or —
Orion: Yeah there's ... are you talking about writing and recording, or how do you teach somebody a fight or?
Brent: Yeah. I guess, well, so you want to choreograph a fight scene and you've got a vision in your head, it's a number of steps, a number of shots, a number of different things have to happen in order. I wonder, I mean, music has notes that you can write down —
Orion: Sure, beats.
Brent: Yeah, what do you do with fights?
Orion: Yeah, so the same kind of thing. When I would show up to choreograph something, it's much like starting a day in test. So, I have a general sense of what I'm going to do. I've walked through the fight in my head. I know the people I'm going to be working with. I generally have a sense of what their skills are going to be and so I have an outline. ... Outlines. Hmm.
Brent: I bet you didn't use the OmniOutliner 3 though because it didn't come out until just today.
Orion: Just today, yeah. Sadly, no. Sadly, I didn't. And so I'd have an outline in my head and I would show up and start working with the actors in question, and then you wind up doing a little bit of tweaking here and there. At one point I had worked a fight with another person who was about my height as well, and we choreographed this long, complicated, small sword fight, and then we went to teach it to the two people that would be fighting in the show itself.
And for some reason they're having a hard time hitting some of the marks that we wanted them to hit, until we realized that they were both 6 inches shorter than we were. And when they said they couldn't do something, they quite literally couldn't do it because their arms were not long enough.
Brent: Uh-huh (affirmative), yeah.
Orion: So, a valuable learning experience. After that, it became much less rigid in how we planned them out, which is when I moved much more into kind of a conceptual outline. Some basic things, some basic moves, I wanted to make sure that it integrated into the fight and the story that I wanted to tell, because much like a musical — the premise behind a musical is that people begin to sing because there is something they cannot simply ... they cannot express in words. They have to sing. And same thing for fights, right? So, if you're telling a story, the story should contribute to ... the fight should contribute to telling that story. And so I would have the story that I wanted to tell and have some basic structure to it, and then I'd come in and I'd work with the actors to figure it out.
Brent: Yeah, so a fight's a mini-narrative within a larger narrative? It all has to make sense.
Orion: Yeah. You should always be driving the story forward.
Brent: Yeah, okay. So, you got to throw people around.
Brent: Fake blood.
Orion: That's true.
Brent: How do you die on stage? Is there a technique to that? I mean, you've been pierced by the sword, I suppose, and now, you know, how would you describe that to the layman? What do you do to do a convincing, "Oh god, he got me," moment?
Orion: Sure. Well, I mean, if it's Shakespeare, you probably have a speech to deliver first.
Brent: Yes, yes. That's pretty awesome.
Orion: So, you can't die too quickly.
Brent: You can't just go.
Orion: No, no. A wound, a wound, and then you have to go on for five minutes of dialogue, and then eventually you —
Brent: It's amazing how chatty people get at that moment.
Orion: It's incredible. You have a pierced lung and yet somehow you can hold forth about the nature of reality, just incredible.
Brent: Right, and in the days before amplification too and you're reaching the back, the top of the Globe Theatre with a pierced lung.
Orion: It's incredible. It's amazing what modern medicine could do at that time. It's just incredible. No, actually, I rarely worked in a miked environment anyway, so I was always projecting to the back row wherever I was. I think it just depends upon the part. It depends upon what the death scene calls for. I mean, it could be a comedy, in which case of course you're going to die very differently than if you're telling a big dramatic story.
Brent: Die funnily, I guess.
Orion: Funnily, yes.
Orion: It's true.
Orion: Yeah, but I was just always trying to drive that story forward. It's funny, you were mentioning to the back row, I think we had chatted a little bit about children and dogs. When I was working down in Knoxville, the director I worked for at the time used to say that we did Shakespeare for children and dogs. And I thought, "What?"
Orion: And then we were out on the square and we were doing shows, and indeed you would have people who would show up early and they'd bring their lunches or their picnics and they'd settle in and watch a show, but then you would see the periphery continue to grow, because it turns out that small children are entranced by loudly spoken Shakespeare, and shiny things, and the only people more entranced are dogs.
Brent: Dogs. You get the dogs!
Orion: It was incredible, you know? You'd start sword fighting. The dog would come along, which of course would bring the child along, which would bring the rest of the family along, and before you knew it, dogs were learning Shakespeare. It was incredible.
Brent: What do you think is the favorite play of dogs? I'm thinking Julius Caesar, but you know.
Orion: Could be. Could be. I think that they like dramas more than comedies.
Orion: Naturally. So, I was doing a production of The Scottish Play and we always got a lot of dogs. At the same time, the same production, our Twelfth Night, not nearly as many dogs. For some reason, the linguistic humor was lost on them.
Brent: Listeners, you notice of course that he referred to The Scottish Play because you can't say it by name.
Orion: Not supposed to, no.
Orion: Although, we're not in a theater so technically ...
Brent: We are ... sort of performing?
Orion: Yeah, okay. Fair play. Fair play.
Brent: Yeah, let's stick with “The Scottish Play.”
Orion: Well, it's one of the things like many career choices I made in my life, I came into acting late.
Brent: How many dogs named Spot show up to The Scottish Play, when they hear the, "Out, out, damned spot," line?
Orion: I was going to say they all tend to leave at that point.
Orion: Yeah, yeah. Well, Lady M. comes out, and she does her speech, and all the dogs that know what's good for them get out.
Brent: So, you don't sing much though?
Orion: Not much. I have done some work with Seattle Opera over the years. I've been fortunate to do some work there, but it's always fisticuffs and blades, and tussling about on stage. My wife is a trained opera singer and she is amazed by my singing ability. Of course, the thing that she's amazed by is my ability to convert anything into a minor key, whether or not it should be.
Orion: And then if it's a minor piece, but it has a major section, I will also convert the major section into a minor key, which makes Christmas carols entertaining. And it certainly made lullabies for my kids growing up, well, fortunately they grew to love me anyway, in spite of the fact that my lullabies had kind of a grim feel to them. You know, it might be that's also why they really like Nightmare before [Christmas].
Brent: Ah, yeah, sure. Yeah.
Brent: Because of Daddy.
Orion: It's because of Daddy.
Brent: How do your kids like having reformed actors as parents?
Orion: Well, we have the recovering actor. We have the recovering opera singer, and then my wife is a recovering pastry chef.
Brent: Oh, my.
Orion: Yeah, so she points out that one day the children are going to realize that not all parents like to sing loudly, engage in silly voices, roll around on the floor, and make multiple tier birthday cakes, but for now they're in this kind of happy reality where that's what parents do.
Brent: Thanks, Orion. How can people find you on the web?
Orion: On the web? micro.blog, at “orionp”
Orion: I'm also on Twitter at the same address, though I rarely post there except from micro.blog because it's amazing.
Brent: Yeah, yeah, it is. I'd also like to thank our intrepid producer, Mark Boszko. Say, "Hello, Mark."
Mark: Hello, Mark.
Brent: And especially, I want to thank you for listening. Thank you. Music.