Leaping into Possibility

Yesterday I was presented with an opportunity.


This is not an employment opportunity, as a matter of fact it is an expensive opportunity.

But it is an important opportunity nonetheless.

op·por·tu·ni·ty http://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/d/g/speaker.swf [op-er-too-ni-tee, -tyoo-] noun, plural -ties.

1.an appropriate or favorable time or occasion.
2. a situation or condition favorable for attainment of a goal.
3. a good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success. (dictionary.com)

Rambling Thoughts

When I first saw this adventure posted on my Facebook page, my thoughts went like this:
“Wow! I want to do that! I should post it in case any of my friends are interested. Hmm, I’d really like to do that, but I don’t have a job so how can I justify it? But, I’ve given up opportunities before . . . so maybe its time I take a chance. No, I can’t do it.”
Soon after this little internal discussion, I got a personal message from the artistic director asking me to join them on this adventure. See, a few years ago I had been invited by Dramatic Adventure Theatre to participate in their program called ActionEcuador, where they spend time in several areas of Ecuador serving the community, teaching theater and exploring how the arts can help with social change. All things that  I am truly passionate about. They then spend a week creating theater pieces to be performed in New York later in the summer. Nathan and I were all set to do this wonderful program, bringing Sarah with us, when the world came crashing down around us and our futures became unsure. Needless to say, we had to let the opportunity pass.
That wasn’t the first international theater opportunity that I had to turn down because of changing circumstances and financial issues. A few years earlier, just before we moved to Colorado, I had been scheduled to participate in a mid-summer program for 10 days in Russia learning about theater and arts education in schools. That fell through when we had to move that summer.
My most recent lost opportunity involved an application to create theater in Pakistan, but I’m sure you can guess why that one fell through.
This time, however, my war with myself took on new meaning. True, financially it isn’t the best time for me to take this adventure, since I am underemployed and we are living in an expensive state. But, in term of where I am in my life, and my pursuit of reinventing myself and trying to create the career of my dreams, this is the perfect time. In terms of when the trip happens, its the perfect time, as I don’t begin teaching the one class I have until January 17th and my brother is available to help Nathan with parenting duties.
So what was stopping me? Two things.

Guilt and Fear!!!!

The issue of guilt: How could I possibly justify the expense when I am not bringing in very much in terms of income, and it means some of the things we planned as a family will have to be postponed?  But in reality, as soon as I mentioned the possibility to Nathan, his response was:

“I really want you to do this, so let us sit down and figure out the finances and what needs to be done to make it happen.”

And when I talked to Sarah about it her response was “I’ll be sad” until I explained it was only for a couple of weeks when she changed it to “You should go.”
So really, guilt was just an excuse. The more terrifying thing holding me back was, indeed, my perpetual stumbling block
But what exactly am I afraid of? Because when I think clearly, there’s nothing to fear:
  • I love the people who run this program, and although we’ve only spent a short time together in person I feel like we were meant to meet. In fact, I could easily have included both Jesse and Mary K in my post celebrating fabulous friends.
  • I’m not afraid of travel, and I love to see new cultures. Well, I get nervous travelling, especially flying, but ultimately once I’m there all is good.
  • The trip is pretty much planned for me, all I have to figure out is my flight there and back (and any extra visits to other places, which I probably won’t do anyway because of finances.)
So, what exactly am I afraid of?
The answer came out in my Morning Pages this morning, as I tried to work through my thoughts and emotions surrounding this possibility. Although Morning Pages are meant to be private, I shared them with Nathan and I now share a portion with you, so that you understand what’s going on in my head:
“I’m afraid of opportunity, because I’m afraid that I will waste the opportunity. If I don’t try, I can’t fail. But then again, isn’t not trying simply another type of failure? . . . this trip gives me the chance to see theatre in action, which is the type of theatre that I value. It is about the power of the arts to change lives. If I don’t do it, if I can’t make it happen, then I’m still all talk and no action. So going is the right thing to do. Or am I making excuses to do what I want? Am I being selfish? . . . Where should I look for guidance? My instincts are all out of whack, or at least I’ve lost the ability to trust my own instincts anymore. I don’t know how to follow my gut.  ”
Before I completed the morning pages, I read them to Nathan and asked what he thought I should do. Here was my response to his answer:
“Tears just poured down my face as he encouraged me to just go for it. Just do it. Live in the now and not worry about whether or not I achieve anything big or important. So I guess the answer is before me. Sarah even says I should do it.  Looks like I’m heading to Slovakia. I wonder what happens next.”
After that outpouring on the page, I got up and filled out the application. Then, of course, the doubts started creeping in again. But, in a miraculous way, signs from this wonderful blogging community keep cropping up to reinforce that I’m doing the right thing:
  • First I saw this lovely post called “What I Missed Today” on Gifts of the Journey, which shares what can happen if you don’t take the opportunities the world provides.
  • Next, I saw this post by a blogger that I’ve only recently become acquainted with, who is pursuing her graduate degree in theater and is going to be facilitating a workshop using Theater of the Oppressed techniques in Occupy Boston. A simple reminder of the power of theater to help create a better world.
  • And, just a few moments ago, this post celebrating the life of Dorothy Heathcote, reminded me of why I pursued a PhD in theater for youth in the first place. My dream was to create theater that explored cultural difference and promoted cultural understanding; a dream of mine that has been buried if not forgotten.

So friends, it looks like 2011 will end with me stepping onto a plane toward possibility, and 2012 will begin with a creative journey into unknown destinations. Look for me to blog about it.

From Floods to Fairies and Future Possibilities

Thursday dawned with good intentions. I was going to explore the area a little more in search of a coffee shop/book store that looked ideal for my needs. I was going to do a little job searching and take advantage of that coffee shop internet. At home, I was going to work on strengthening my resumes and perhaps unpacking some more or painting Sarah’s room.

Then came the deluge.

It had been raining much of the night, but it seemed to come down harder in the early morning hours. Just before Sarah set off for school, I suggested to Nathan that we might want to check the basement for water since our landlords had warned us of the possibility of minor flooding.

After soggy Sarah climbed onto the bus, Nathan went down to check.  ”Oh, I see a little water,” he called up. “I’m going to vacuum it up!”

A few minutes pass. “CALL THE LANDLORDS! I CAN’T STOP IT!”

I call the landlords, and as I do, I glance out the back door toward the deck, to see water pouring downhill toward us in three glorious (though small) cascades.

Our personal waterfalls

Then I headed downstairs to find water spread across the entire lower level, reaching up to my ankles. Nathan was desperately moving boxes onto plastic tubs to protect them. The garage that contained most of the boxes still waiting for unpacking, although not completely covered had several large puddles. You could see where the water was pouring in through various cracks and it was incredible.

We managed to get all the boxes up. Most of them contain the books that I can’t unpack without more shelves. Thank goodness we brought extra plastic tubs.

Then we began using a wet vac to suck the water out. The vacuum held 9 gallons at a time, and before our landlords got there with a sump pump I’m sure we had sucked out well over 100 gallons, with little to show for it. Sump pump in, we kept sucking, and the landlords went and bought a second sump pump. Eventually Nathan had to get to work, but we kept plugging. The rain stop and the sun made an effort to come out. Finally, about 4 hours later, we left the dehumidifier to battle whatever moisture remained on the floor and called it good.

After that adventure I lost any enthusiasm, ability, or even focus to allow me to concentrate on achieving the goals I had set out. I wasn’t going to look for the coffee shop with road had puddles up to the bottom of my car. The boxes looked overwhelming, and my resumes are intimidating. So what did I do?

I painted.

Before we left Colorado I had a sudden urge to oil paint. I’ve never oil painted in my life, and never had any training with oils. I painted two pictures, well one and a half. The first I call “The Dream Home”, and while I don’t love how the tree came out in it, I think it was a pretty good first shot.

I’ll have to add a picture of it later as I forgot to take one and load it onto my computer.

The half painting was something I was calling “Fairy Home” and I had only gotten so far before I got intimidated and stopped. When we unpacked art, we found this painting, and Sarah said, “I like that Mommy. When it is done can I hang it in my room?”

So I decided to finish it. Please be kind:

Finally I closed Thursday down to crawl into bed exhausted and unsure after what seems like another in a series of chaotic events in my life.

But Friday began a new day, with a dry basement, internet access at a good coffee shop, and plans to go to a huge antique sale for the afternoon. Of course, first we had to deal with the bureaucracy of registering our car and getting our driver’s licenses. I won’t dwell on that, however, as I am sure we have all had our horror stories–and this one was comparatively benign although annoying at the time.

As I waded through 130+ e-mails and realized I could not catch up on all the blogging friends and other business, I found a miracle. A potential job teaching kids acting classes on Saturday mornings at a professional theater in Boston area. I jumped on it, quickly wrote a cover letter and sent off my resume. Who knows what will happen, but it was a positive step. Then I embarrassed myself by e-mailing something to a fellow blogger that was purely the fiction of my own mind, but I won’t go into that either.

Today I registered Sarah for dance class and was talking to the owner of the studio. As I did, I decided to take a leap, and told her about myself to see if she might be interested in using me in some capacity. Another miracle, she said “Yes!” It is all tentative and talk right now, but at least I put myself out there.

So, through floods and fairies I finally feel like I may be moving forward.

Care to join me in a ROAR of VICTORY?!

Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt

I am doing it. The ultimate sacrifice. In the name of a lighter load, I am purging my t-shirt collection. Now, to be fair, I believe I have done this a few times before, as many of my t-shirts seem to have disappeared, but it is never easy.

Have you ever thought about the story of your life as it is told through fashion? Well, obviously we all go through trends and stages of fashion in our life. But, since I avoid the camera and haven’t really kept up with fashion trends (or really shopped for myself) for a long time, I can’t share that story here. I can, however, share part of my story as it is told through t-shirts. So join me through a trip down memory lane.

Perhaps the oldest t-shirt in my collection is this beauty from Fitzwilly’s in Northampton, MA, one of my favorite restaurants from my undergraduate college days at Smith.

Bought at Fitzwilly's ca. 1990

If I Tell You What It Means Will You Buy Me A Drink (Back of Fitzwilly's t-shirt)

Next we skip a few years (I don’t know what happened to t-shirts from Japan) and head to Hawaii, for adventures galore.

I got this at Sea Life Park in Hawaii the week after I graduated with my MFA from the University of Hawaii. For complicated reasons this t-shirt meant more than my diploma at the time.

I love this t-shirt given to me when my dear friend Nancy visited me in Hawaii from Japan. I hope she visits me in Mass., or better yet, I get to visit her in Japan someday.

We bought this on Maui, when Nathan finally admitted that he didn't really want to see anyone else. (For more on that story see the post called "Stumbling into Romance"

From Hawaii, we skip another few years to my doctoral program. Nathan and I got married in Hawaii, while I was in the middle of a doctoral program at Arizona State University. 7 months later, he moved to Vermont for work and I stayed in Arizona to finish up my dissertation.  I did research at three different professional companies for Young Audiences: Childsplay in Tempe, AZ; Dallas Children’s Theater; and my favorite Metro Theatre Company in St. Louis, MO (a company I learned about during the year before I started at ASU when we lived nearby.

I think we bought this t-shirt when we were in Hawaii to get married. It is dyed with chocolate (Yum) and smelled like chocolate for a while.

I spent a wonderful week or so at Metro, observing, interviewing and helping during their summer education program called Arts Intersection.

Move forward again, to our time in Vermont. We both taught. I directed, and I started a children’s theater company which didn’t survive much past my time there, as we had to move on.

Short lived, but well loved.

"Life is Good" when you live near enough to the Ben & Jerry factory for a tour.

For some reason I don’t have any t-shirts from the next stop on our living tour, Durango, CO. I guess I never bought any or didn’t keep them. I do have one from the first summer as a family at Okoboji Summer Theater, which happened while we lived in Durango.

And that brings us to the present. A t-shirt filled year in Independence, KS

I wonder what my next t-shirt will be. What is the t-shirt story of your life?

It’s All in the Perspective

“I can’t believe we have a summer home!” Sarah KramerLee

Nathan and I couldn’t help but laugh at Sarah’s perspective on our summer lives. While my idea of a summer home might be more like this:

A dream home by the lake in Okoboji, IA

with the ability to do this on a regular basis:

Heading back to the dock to hang out after a lovely boat ride.

to Sarah that doesn’t matter. In her mind, and her perspective, this simple little cabin is our “summer home.”

At the cabin at Okoboji Summer Theatre 2010.

To Nathan this place is

“like going back for a family reunion after not seeing them for a while.”

It is a place to focus purely on doing good theater and quality work without other things interfering. In some ways, then, to Nathan it is a home, but it is also a job and an experience that he values every year.

My perspective becomes a little more complicated. If this is a family reunion, then I am the awkward black sheep relative–the one who wants to make her way into the family circle and does not know how.  I recognize and value the wonderful creative atmosphere of this place, as well as the work ethic. I crave to be allowed to contribute to this work using the skills I bring with me, because I do have the talent to participate on an equal level.  But, for a number of complicated reasons, I don’t feel that I have a role or a position to play here, beyond being part of this extended family. So, from my perspective, I can’t quite call it a summer home of my own–rather it is closer to the summer home that I hold in my dreams but have yet to really achieve.

I know that I’ll never achieve the true dream summer home, which requires an inflow of money that could only happen if I win the lottery. But I wonder if, with a slight change of perspective, I can begin to see this place as simply OUR SUMMER HOME.

Only time will tell.

What kinds of things do you think change depending on the perspective?

________________________________

Today’s Quote:

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” Marcus Aurelius 

Behind the Jungle

As my first attempt at focusing on the details, I thought I would share a little bit about the backstage adventures behind Jungle Book, Kids where I spent a lot of time over the past week.

Anyone who has ever done something for a live performance knows that back stage tends to vibrate with energy, especially on opening night.  Add to that normal excitement the fact that this show had 70 children between the ages of 7 and 12 and the atmosphere in that college theater and the crackle of energy was palpable. I’m sure if there was anymore excitement in the air bolts of lightning would have shattered through the ionized atmosphere. Seventy young children running around in various manifestations of jungle inhabitants (including plants, prickly pears, flowers, rocks, and all kinds of living creatures) created an atmosphere that could have been (and occasionally was) utterly chaotic. Thankfully, with the help of the director and the producer, the chaos stayed at a minimum except for the rare flare up of insanity.

Photo by Jill Schrader

My job, as stage manager of this production, consisted mostly of wrangling kids and trying to prevent them from talking, running, playing, touching. You know, all of the things that kids naturally want to do when they feel this much excitement. I also had to make sure the appropriate group was ready and quiet (the hardest part) for their entrances. Overall this went well, except for the monkey chorus who can only be described as a true bunch of monkeys, led in all chaos by King Louie who had a very distinct way of thinking that the rules did not apply to him. After all, he was the king.

In addition to these more traditional kid wrangling duties, I became the official makeup designer of Shere Kan, and consultant on Kaa, Balloo, and a few others. This would have been completely fun except for one little detail–the one that made opening night a challenge in numerous ways and tested my patience on many levels.

What detail could cause me, the most experienced person involved in this show, to shoot evil looks and lash out? Only one thing could push my buttons that much.

The much dreaded . . .

Now, to be fair, most of the people who helped out back stage were delightful. They put in tons of man hours and created incredible costumes. They kept things organized and helped keep the chaos down.

The ones that made the demon in me appear were the ones who decided that they knew best.  They knew that their child should wear bright red lipstick, even though we (the producer, director, and myself) wanted somewhat less “whorish” colors for these girls. They knew that their daughter’s hair would look better with the bangs down, even though those bangs hid her eyes and blocked the makeup and made her itch. They knew what should happen backstage during the show, even though they stood in the wings and (it appears) used a flashlight that showed out in the audience. They knew when to let the kids move from point A to point B, even thought that meant somehow kids were wandering around in No Man’s land where I found them by luck.

Luckily, I had a very supportive director and producer who made it explicitly clear that I was the boss backstage, and that my word was law. Of course, thanks to Stage Moms, I had a few arguments with their children who were trying to listen to their parents when their parents were WRONG! I won . . . of course. But not without having to raise my voice and be strict.

And during the final two performances we restricted access to back stage much more seriously so I did not lose my mind.

At least the kids realized that I really am nice even when I had to be mean (or at least strict). Most of them appreciated that I was there.

The only thing that brings out my dark side is a Stage Mom. So, if you ever work on a show with me, or send your children to do a show with me, leave your diva attitude behind or expect the wrath of Dr. Lisa.

Evil Eyes. Makeup design by Sarah KramerLee.

Mwa ha ha ha!

Into the Jungle

I’ve spent the last few weeks helping out the local Children’s Summer Theater to get their first production of Jungle Book Jr. up.

It was supposed to be an easy gig that I took simply because Sarah wanted to perform in the play. She had to audition, like everyone else, and then she got cast as part of the Elephant Chorus so I agreed to be the Stage Manager. You may remember I was a little traumatized about the situation, as I discussed in this post.

The following photos were all taken by Jill Schrader:

My Little Elephant, front and center.

Sarah stands at attention the best. She's the second elephant in line, standing ramrod straight.

Sarah standing tall and singing.

Love this action shot during rehearsal

This one is just too adorable. Look at them acting all scared of Shere Khan

This little Stage Managing (read kid wrangler) gig turned into quite the project as I became:

  • Facilities coordinator and tension smoother over. (Long story, but somehow because I’m married to the Technical Director of the theater–who is currently in Iowa–it seems that it became my job to deal with all technical difficulties.)
  • Puppet designer and choreographer for Kaa the Snake.

Having Kaa, mouth open wide, come up from the pit was my idea. But hat lead to today's accident. Boo!

  • Monkey wrangler and semi-choreographer (which meant helping fix up trouble points even though my choreographic talent is limited to jazz hands)
  • Makeup designer, mostly of Shere Kan while advising for Kaa the Snake and Baloo. (I’ll add pictures of them tomorrow.)

  • And now crisis solver as Shere Kan fell off the stage today (she’s okay) and we have to deal with encouraging her to go on and adjusting her blocking for a show that opens tomorrow. She’s the second one to fall off the stage this week (the first was a child who didn’t listen when we said freeze in a blackout–she’s okay too)

No wonder I’ve been blocked, exhausted and just generally pooped.

Wish us luck for tomorrow night, but please don’t say break a leg–that’s a little to scary for this situation.

The Multiple Incarnations of Lisa

My journey at the Festival today made me recognize another important thing about myself–I have multiple lives. No, I’m not talking about reincarnation (although I don’t rule that out) but my life, in terms of interests, passions and goals can only be described as multiple incarnations of Lisa. This realization is keeping me awake tonight (or perhaps it is a combination of the caffeine I drank to make it through the day and the alcohol I drank to celebrate life). I realized that every event I participated in today reflected this diversity in some way.

The morning started with a presentation of a play called Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad performed by Book-It Repertory Theatre. This show told the story of Henry Brown who mailed himself to freedom to escape slavery. The story reminded me of two things–my passion for literature and seeing stories come to life, and my desire to fight for justice through the arts. That is an incarnation that I keep returning too.

Next I watched an amazing performance of Terrapin Puppet Theatre of Tasmania’s Boats.

This show can only be described as magical. It told a story of love, loss, and the sea using simple objects in amazing ways. It reminded me of my time as a student at the University of Hawaii, when one of my favorite teachers brought me into the world and magic of puppets.

Next I saw a performance of Doctor Kaboom! A show that combines theater with science. I witnessed a theater full of students embracing learning while watching and witnessing art. It reminded me of the things I do love about teaching–and of some joyous success stories I’ve had in my incarnation as teacher.


A performance by  The Guangdong Province Puppet Troupe reminded me of my love of culture and language, and my desire to create theater that crosses cultures bringing multiple languages and stories on stage at once. One time I started to write a play like that, but I don’t know what happened to hit. One time I worked on a show in Japan, and I stood backstage enthralled even though I know little of language.  This performance combined magic, animals, and the complex beauty of Chinese Opera, all done with puppets. We, did not need to understand the language to understand the story. I love that. When I first started my PhD program, I wanted to do research in that idea, but I got talked out of it (partially because I wanted to be both artist and academic and THEY wanted me to be only academic).  Incarnations of the language/culture lover, the passionate artist, the crushed academic. It also brought back memories of my MFA program (the incarnation of Lisa the director/Lisa the Asian theatre fanatic) where I studied Beijing Opera movement among other things.

The next two, performances (yes I saw a lot of theater yesterday, today I will be spending most of my time in a workshop) reminded me of my high school self, and of the incarnation that wants to find ways to help the youth of the world. The first was a performance of 1 1/2 by Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program in collaboration with Oregon Children’s Theatre. This piece, meant for 4th-6th grade deals with the nations growing problem with obesity and bullying. I’m still kind of processing this piece so I may write more about it later. The second was a Musical in a Day Workshop performance created by iTheatrics with local middle school  children. The did Annie and it was amazing. It reminded me again of why I chose to go into TYA.

After all this we had a wine and appetizer gathering, where someone asked about my academic background. I remembered that at Smith College, where I got my undergrad, I was a double major in English Literature and Theater. The incarnation of the reader and the writer wannabe. His honest response to my many degrees (as well as another woman who got a PhD from ASU after me) “Congratulations on being overeducated.”

The incarnation of Lisa the scholar; Lisa the student who loved to learn; Lisa the goody goody.

When I look back on my life, I have lived many lives. I have had many career paths and opportunities. I struggle with definition of self because of the multiple incarnations of me, but they all relate in some ways. Theater links them. Passion links them. A love of culture, language, arts, people link them.  So while I have many incarnations, it is the sum of those incarnations that makes me who I am today.

Right now I feel like I am a chrysalis that will soon burst open to reveal my next incarnation. I wonder where my butterfly  wings will take me, and what they will look like.

[I am starting to write a few posts for Spread Information, an interesting blog I found recently. Here's a link to my first post, which also comes from this festival and from my understanding of the importance of arts in society. Check out the entire blog, they have a lot of interesting things.]

Nathan

4:23 AM and Nathan is not home.

I can’t sleep. I woke up just after 3 am to notice the gaping emptiness of the bed next to me, and I could not go back to sleep.

He started working at 8 AM yesterday morning, and as far as I know he is still working.

Nathan is an incredibly talented designer as well as an incredible technical director. He is one of the hardest working people I know. He can’t stop. Where I have the ability tendency to embrace laziness in between bursts of activity, he is always doing something. He loves to cook, so he does most of the cooking. I hate laundry (plus we have to go to a laundromat for the time being) so he does the laundry. Lest you think I do nothing, I tend to be the cleaner/organizer. I keep track of the schedules and the bills.  But he does a lot of the stuff around the house because he cannot be still.

And, to be honest, because he cannot say “No.” Nor does he stand up for himself even if it is the saner option. His attitude seems to be “If that is what you want, I’ll make it happen. I’ll find a way how.”

That’s a wonderful thing, except when his willingness to give everyone the ideal leads to 4:30 in the morning. That is when mistakes and injuries can occur–and often those happen to him.

I can’t sleep.

That explains this moment.  He is still at the theater after putting up an unrealistically huge and (in my opinion) unrealistically expensive set in one day, he now (I assume) is finessing the lights for his design. Yes, it is his job, and the set needed to happen. But the problem lies in the fact that this huge set is not really a theater set. In your typical theater set you use flats and less expensive material in order to create an illusion of the real locations. But the designer of this set (who is from somewhere else) as well as the producer of this festival insisted on REAL material and SOLID construction. To be fair, Nathan expressed concern and objected, but in typical fashion he backed down and gave in. That would have been okay except for a few unexpected glitches in the plan 1) the person who was supposed to take on sections of the set to help build them had a family emergency; 2) the designer chose not to come and help (because this was not a paid design); 3) the technical assistance that he was hoping to get from some people we have worked with in the past fell through because nobody wanted to work for free (surprise, surprise) and 4) some of the students here seem to think that scholarship hours are optional and he has basically been building the entire thing himself.

Wait . . . 4:41 AM and the door just opened. He’s home, exhausted and not thinking straight. He just said, “I’m not done. The patch is wrong. The stage isn’t cleared. They need to be on the stage at 9:30. I have to go back by 8am.”

Not taken just now, but . . .

Then he started babbling  listing things yet to do–not all of which he should have to deal with.

I was intending this post to be only about how wonderful Nathan is, but it seems to be turning into a little rant. I apologize for that.  Nathan is a kind husband, father, and my best friend. He is a gentle man who loves simple and sometimes silly things. But, perhaps his fatal flaw is wanting to please everybody and losing himself in the process. Tonight is an excellent example.

Looks like I’m about to put on my Super Woman outfit and protect my family. I will try to step into his shoes for a little while so that the poor man can sleep. I also might have to step in and plead for some sanity instead of the “Inge-sanity” that seems to rule right now. As I just posted in Facebook: “Ingesanity + Ingesomina=One Very Angry Woman.

This should be interesting.

M is for “Marcia”, Marsha, Marcia and Magic

Who hasn’t had some Marsha’s in their lives?

My big sister Deb was my Marsha Brady. Growing up I always felt like she was better at everything. She was slim and gorgeous. Boys liked her. She was more athletic. She could paint. She was smart. She was popular.

Sometimes I felt like Jan. Sometimes I felt like Cindy. I lived in her shadow for a long time, and even have had moments as an adult where I felt like I could never live up to her glory. But, slowly I have stopped the comparisons and learned some of the ways that I overshadow her. I admire and respect her, but I no longer any desire to be her.

But today I want to talk about two other Marsha’s, who have also influenced me in some ways. The first I mentioned yesterday, the Pulitzer Prize Winning playwright, Marsha Norman.

The first presentation of the scene I directed seemed to go over well, including some tears in the audience. It wasn’t perfect, but that had to do with a minor annoyance and I took care of that. Of course, Marsha Norman didn’t see it, so the nerves are still there. This pictures is a little blurry, but it is of my actresses performing at the bottom of the stairs in the William Inge Boyhood Home. These are the stairs that inspired Dark at the Top of the Stairs.

Later in the day I attended a panel discussion with Marsha Norman and Sheldon Harnick discussing Adaptation for the Stage.  Both had amazing things to share. Sheldon has this vast history in musical theater working with some of the biggest names and he is a delightful story-teller. Marsha has the talent and power of a woman who has succeeded where many women still struggle. She said a few things that really resonated with me that I thought I would share.

When discussing how you choose a book to turn into a musical and how you approach that daunting task, she discussed the importance of reading the story to discover why people want to see it again and again in different forms (for example The Secret Garden). In the case of this story, she argued that people love to find hope.

The third Marcia I would like to mention today is another playwright, Marcia Cebulska.

Marcia is an incredible women that I have had the privilege of getting to know since I moved to Kansas. She is working on The Greensburg Project, where she will write a play developed by working with the citizens of Greensburg, KS about their lives after surviving a tornado in 2007. She was one of the women I worked with during the intensive theater workshop (which was the initiating workshop for the Greensburg project) which I wrote about in my post called “I Love Women”. I also facilitated a staged reading of her play The Bones of Butterflies which is a beautiful story  that focuses on the migration of monarch butterflies and the relationship a daughter and her missing father. That description doesn’t do the play justice, but it is a hauntingly beautiful and powerful piece. I attended a panel discussion with this Marcia as well today, where they discussed more details about the Greensburg Project. Unfortunately I had to miss her other workshop, where the discussion revolved around giving authentic voices to the characters when doing worked based on real stories. The more I get to know this amazing woman, the more I want to learn from her–about how to incorporate my passion and the respect she has for others into the words I pour on the page.  I am so lucky to have met her,  and hope to get to know her better.

The day ended with me getting a kind of surreal lecture from a conference guest about the “real reasons” behind the Inge Festival and why it should take years for me to get any recognition (even though he doesn’t know a thing about me, and was basically implying that I don’t work hard enough. If any of my few readers have learned anything about me it is that I work . . . hard.) Luckily, this discussion was cut short by the blare of  tornado sirens. This is the first time I’ve ever been happy to hear the. ;) The tornado cleared the area, and the day shifted to that beautiful post-storm, end of day light including one of the most magical things in the world.

So there you have it, the Marsha’s who have influenced my world with a little bit of magic included. Okay, they aren’t all named Marsha, but they all have made me think about how I view myself, others, my relationship to community, and my responsibilities as a creative person in this world.

I’m learning a lot this week.

L is for Late Nights and Legends

I begin writing this post at 11:30 pm Wednesday evening. I probably won’t publish it until after a I sleep a little (so I can check more clearly for flow and such) but I cannot help but write. My head is full of music and song. My dreams are full of possibility. Despite the fact that I probably got about a cumulative 3 hours of sleep on Tuesday night, I cannot lie down yet. I also won’t be able to completely rest until Nathan gets home, and he will probably be working until at least midnight after starting at 7:30 am.

Why such crazy hours? Why the mind full of chaos?

Wednesday was the beginning of the William Inge Theatre Festival here in Independence, KS.

William Inge

 

What is that you ask? Well, it is one of the main reasons that we made the move here. William Inge was an American Playwright who was born here in Independence. The festival that grew to honor his memory focuses on playwrights, each year handing out awards for new plays as well as honoring one specific playwright for his/her entire body of work and commitment to the field. For better descriptions of this event, visit the blog called Postcards from the Inge.

Sheldon Harnick

I spent the evening watching a the premiere staged reading of a new musical by Sheldon Harnick (who wrote Fiddler on the Roof) called A Docter in Spite of Himself that was based on a Moliere play. It was fun, fabulous, and truly entertaining. The cast, who flew in for this reading and the festival, included Tony Award winner Cady Huffman (The Producers) and Anthony (Rapp). (By the way, excuse the name dropping, but it will help you get a bigger picture of the whole event.)

Marsha Norman

This year the honoree happens to be one of my favorite female playwrights, Marsha Norman, who won the Pulitzer Prize for ‘Night Mother and as well as a Tony Award for the book of Secret Garden. She also wrote a play that I directed years ago called Getting Out and it was one of the best directing experiences I’ve ever had. The following slide show contains shots from that production presented at Castleton State College in Vermont.

I’m nervous about meeting this talented woman.

As part of the festival which includes workshops and other play readings, I am directing a scene to be presented at William Inge’s boyhood home. The scene is from ‘Night Mother and Marsha Norman might actually come see it.

What if she hates it? What if she loves it? What if she says nothing at all?

My actresses are fabulous and we worked really hard. It is a heart-wrenching scene, and I think we have all done good work.

So I think it will hurt the most if she says nothing at all.

I’m also doing a Panel about Theater for Young Audiences, but I don’t really know what we are discussing. I could make a complete fool of myself, or I could say some intelligent thing.

This could be the week that I collapse before legends, or it could be the week that I shoot for the stars.  Let’s hope for the latter.