“Invading Nirvana” Reviews


“This is a delightfully detailed and thoroughly theatrical tale of two cities. A born showman, Kevin Theis can also tell: In “Invading Nirvana” he spins a cross-country (and, more importantly, cross-cultural) “coming-of-stage” odyssey. Theis adeptly contrasts Chicago’s brand of collaborative ensemble theater (where the players always have a safety net) with the go-it-alone, sink-or-swim style of Los Angeles and its endless “showcases.” (Somehow, you sense, true art happens somewhere in between.)

“Theis is particularly persuasive at chronicling the perils, pitfalls and weird blessings of self-promotion and stand-up comedy–where you’re only as good as your last performance and everyone should have seen you last night. He cleverly contrasts this sometimes solipsistic nightmare to the creative compromises and self-effacing sacrifices of communal make-believe. Can actors afford to get greater than their roles or comics find consistency contending with the chaos of unpredictable audiences? This is a must-read manual for survival in either “scene.” Plus its insider anecdotes (and photos and maps) of the U.S.’ second and third cities make it equally valuable. Here is truly the tale of a traveler–in art as much as mileage–and an astute social commentator on the dynamic differences between life on a prairie and survival in a desert.”

 – Larry Bommer, Stage and Cinema

“Like Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee, but sporting a Windy City savvy, Chicago pilgrim Kevin Theis shares his impressions of Tinseltown with the humility and candor of a flyover-territory pioneer.”

 – Mary Shen Barnidge, Windy City Times

“The story is fantastic – and it’s quite well told. [Theis’] voice is a marvelously engaging mix of sardonic wit and self-deprecation.  The plot here keeps the reader constantly asking – and then what happened? The overarching question that drives the piece- “Will Kevin Become a Star per the Standards of TV and Movies?” – installs it with a momentum that never flags.

[Theis has] that 1-in-10,000 talent where he’s able to convey genuine emotion without getting all sentimental/cloying/cliched/makingpeoplewanttobarf. There’s an edge to “Invading Nirvana” that allows it to deliver all the feels in a way that’s extremely relatable. 

“Plus – the story itself is great. I feel like it could’ve pretty easily turned into an inside-baseball thing – mostly interesting to people in the business, and not so much those outside the theatrosphere.  That latter never happens – it’s dishy and informative without getting bogged down in minutiae or alienating the non-thespians of the planet. For example: I dare say most people writing about the technicalities of VO studios would probably lose everyone but VO artists after a sentence or two.   Somehow, [Theis manages] to make the whole process rather fascinating. And funny. I will never listen to an audio book in the same way again. 

“The travelogue stuff is great too.  I cannot imagine that there’s a more informative and funny guide to the La Brea Tar Pits and such out there.”

– Catey Sullivan, Chief Critic, Chicago Theatre Beat

“I knew Kevin Theis was a fine actor, from reviewing his work on Chicago stages for the past three decades. Turns out he’s a fine writer as well. This book is a smart, witty, but also incisive and candid chronicle of his experiences and observations as a Chicago actor who decided to head west to crash the TV, film, and surprisingly lucrative audiobooks markets. Theis guides the reader from movie sets to comedy clubs, from agents’ offices to casting “workshops,” offering helpful tips and wry commentary on topics ranging from “L.A. pretty” vs.”Chicago pretty” to money management to how to tell the difference between “Guest Star,” “Recurring,” and “Series Regular” when writing your resume. Along the way there are side trips to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, La Brea Tar Pits, and the Church of Scientology’s Celebrity Centre (that’s Centre, not Center). He even devotes a chapter to what may be the most important part of all: how to keep going when the stalled-career blues set in.”

— Albert Williams, theater critic, Chicago Reader

“Kevin Theis has put together a snapshot of the actors life that is real, funny and deeply personal. As an actor, I found Theis’ story incredibly relatable and INVADING NIRVANA does a solid job of bringing to life the struggles and triumphs of life in the industry. For anyone contemplating a move to Los Angeles or for those who’ve been there, done that, INVADING NIRVANA will evoke plenty of feels and plenty of laughs.”

– Abigail Trabue, Managing Editor, PerformInk