Life is About Learning: Celebrating Fabulous Friends III

I know a lot of intelligent people. Since I’ve spent most of my life connected in some way with academia, I have often been surrounded by people who blow me away with the way their minds work.

But this morning I had a little revelation, life is not about what you know but about continuing to learn.

While I’ve met a lot of intelligent people who can wax poetic about everything under the sun, many of them don’t interest me. I find myself zoning out when it becomes obvious that the person I am talking to is more concerned with showing off his/her knowledge and sounding intelligent than contributing to a conversation and being open to learning something new.

In the end, the people who remain part of life, the people who I count as friends are the ones who see the world as a place to learn something new every day, and then share that knowledge with others as they seek more learning. So today, as the third part of my (hopefully ongoing) series that I call “Celebrating Fabulous Friends” I would like to celebrate some of the learner/teachers I’ve met in my life.  (For the first two installments read Celebrating Fabulous Friends and Night Marchers in the Bathroom.)

Nancy Lum, World Adventurer

Nancy is in the middle, with myself, my sister Deb, and her friend Karen celebrating my wedding.

Nancy and I met in Japan. She was there teaching for the JET program, and I was teaching for a private Language School. While I’m sure we met when she first got there, we didn’t become close until my last year in Japan, when I discovered an amazing person who had a passion for learning all she could about the world. Our friendship has lasted, with Nancy visiting me whenever she can in all of my various locations. She came to my wedding in Hawaii, while friends who I had known longer were unwilling to make the trip. While she wasn’t part of the wedding party, officially, she stepped up and helped in ways that made her truly the maid of honor.

Nancy returned from Japan to her home in Canada for a short time to get a masters in ESL. She then went back to our home in Okayama and has been there ever since. She takes every opportunity to travel and see the world, learning as much as she can about the places she visits and sharing her knowledge through the eyes of her camera. She and I keep fantasizing about traveling together on some wonderful adventure, but it hasn’t happened (yet). Maybe I should see if she wants to come to Slovakia. ;)

Anyway, I include Nancy in my list of Fabulous Friends because she cares and shares and is always learning more. When she visits, she wants to go out and explore the world. The last time I saw her, when she visited me in Durango, CO, she was distracted by news that her sister was in the hospital, but even then she carried her camera and shared adventures with me and my family. I am so honored to count this wonderful, intelligent, creative, learner among my friends.

Jackie Haltom, Inspirational Artist

Figuring out the hands for a piece of art.

I’ve known Jackie for only a year. We met when Sarah started taking art lessons in Independence.  We probably socialized for the first time last Halloween as we took Sarah out trick-or-treating with Jackie’s girls and other kids in the neighborhood.  However, a relationship that started slowly blossomed into a friendship of mutual support and encouragement. Jackie helped me discover the courage to express myself in a new artistic way, and the results are in the header of this blog. Jackie also took on the challenge with me of learning how to share our love of art and creativity with a different population, as you can read about in “Appropriate Age Appropriateness.” Without Jackie, I would not have had the courage to try to self-publish (although that project is still slowly moving forward). Jackie inspires me because she is continually learning, admitting what she doesn’t know, searching for more knowledge, and challenging the status quo. She lives and breathes art and recognizes how important the arts are to our culture–so she strives to share that passion with others by encouraging them to find their inner artists. Jackie helped me through a complex transition in my life, and I am grateful she has become my friend.

Jackie inspired another fabulous friend, Heather of Little Red Henry (link in my blog roll) to paint this wonderful creation.

There you have it, a couple of other examples of the incredible people you can meet throughout your life if you are simply open to learning about the world around you.

What have you learned today? Who have you met that you would like to celebrate?

Here's a beautiful piece by Jackie.


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.

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.

Artists vs. Zombies

 

“Feed me brains!”

Zombie Sam from terror4fun.com

The Zombie Leader lumbers towards an unsuspecting group of people who blithely go about their business reading, writing and creating. The Zombie Leaders intent to devour their energy and independent wills does not seem to faze them, until he makes his way to each one devouring brains and creating more zombies.

The Zombie leader does not discriminate when it comes to brains, but he especially enjoys feasting on young minds because of their potential to absorb energy and ideas at an overwhelming rate. Catch them young, he thinks, and they will never learn, grow, or threaten my Zombie Kingdom. Of course, he doesn’t really think this with as much insight as that. Really, his thought process is limited to “Brains!” but inside he knows that destroying a thinking, creative populace is what has made him strong and will make him more powerful.

Caught by this creature’s never-ending lust for domination and power, the young people turn into zombies quickly because they have yet to learn how to defend themselves from his overwhelming control.  As his army of brainless drudges grows, the Zombie King gains power over event those who have the skills to protect themselves and others from him. Why? Because these creative people often get so absorbed in their individual projects that they don’t sense his putrid, decaying presence until it is too late.

The more creative energy one zombie can devour, the higher in the ranks of the zombie world he/she rises. And with that strength comes more power and control over the ever-growing army of mindless drones and crucial elements of society which would help the diminishing group of rebels continue to fight the good fight.

But here’s the secret that they don’t understand (if they understood anything, which is a challenge when your brains are in someone else’s stomach):

Zombies cannot exist without artists!

Yes folks. Artists created zombies . We drew them, designed them, wrote stories about them. And while we focused on creating them, they grew stronger and more powerful. They grew to resent us, and their thoughts began to focus on our destruction. They exist because we gave them life,which suggests that we have the power to destroy them.

But I don’t think destruction is the answer. No! As artists our power comes from creation, not destruction. So, if we want to defeat the zombies and protect the creative minds of young and old alike, we must use of the power of our art itself. We must wield our pens, brandish our paint brushes, strengthen our words, mix our colors, build our connections, sing our songs, pronounce our monologues, grow or gardens, dance our dances, create our puppets, share our knowledge, and dream our dreams.

The zombies will try every trick they can–including destroying the foundations of equality and justice. They will attempt to suck the brains out of anyone, especially a leader, who leans towards valuing something other than power and money.

But in the end they will lose because artists never die–we live behind our words, our pictures, our songs, our sculptures, our ideas, and the power of our dreams. We are even capable of turning zombies back into fully functioning humans, or, at the very least rainbows. All it takes is a sprinkle of fairy dust and a lot of hard work.

Artists can rule the world!

Appropriate Age Appropriateness

I love reading books for children and young adults.

I like going to movies that have a rating below “R.”

I admit my fascination with shows made for Disney and Nick.

I like to build with and play with puppets.

I talk to stuffed animals, and yes I even sleep with some (they are the perfect size to support my arm, my husband is too big).

I have several collections of music made for children by regular artists.

Sometimes I feel I get along better with kids, then with other adults.

I am in my 40s, and I love all things related to childhood. And I truly believe that those adults who are in touch with their inner child lead happier lives.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, one of my many projects this summer is working with adults with Developmental Disabilities to create some drama/art programming. My artist friend, Jackie, and I go there twice a week to work with this wonderful group of people. At the end of this month, we will be doing a public sharing of some of the things we have done, but my focus has really been on providing this group with an experience that helps them learn, grow, and have fun.

Last Tuesday, the group had an open house and wanted to film the workshop for inclusion in a commercial. So I made sure to plan a really active day, incorporating everything we had done so far–including the fabulous masks and puppets that the group had made. It went really well, and the filming was fun.

However, this is where the issue of AGE APPROPRIATENESS came into play. Yes folks, one of the important people from the company stuck her head into the room to watch what we were doing. Literally, only her head, because to fully enter into the room might actually allow her to sense the energy, learning, and enthusiasm that was going. And what was her reaction? She didn’t like the puppets. She didn’t think they were age appropriate.

Let me backtrack a little to explain. Since this was a new group for me to work with, I had a plan but recognized that I had to be flexible and let the plan grow around the needs of the group. That is one thing that I am good at. So, first I started by introducing them to drama games, and getting them comfortable with using their bodies and their imaginations. Then we asked them to create masks which I thought would help some of the shyer ones come out of their shells.

Some of the fabulous masks.

It worked.

Then I learned that a group of them are in choir and sing “Puff the Magic Dragon. ” In an Aha! Moment I thought, “ooh, we could use that as a foundation for a drama to explore.” So, I brought the song with me to a session–and in that one we went on a magical imaginary adventure to the beach where Puff lived and the cave where he hid out. Then, in the next class, we had the group build puppets made of egg cartons and paper, and the decorations of their creative minds. Again, my theory behind the puppets was to give them something tangible and comfortable to use as we further explored this world.

A Puff puppet. The body is paper and "flies"

On Tuesday, the group interacted with the puppets, the masks, and each other. They had conversations and acted like they were at a party. They came to life.

But remember, the puppets are NOT AGE APPROPRIATE!

Yesterday, I wrote mini-scenes for us to explore, and brought two sheets and a few masks and one puppet to aid us.

Scene I: (on the beach)

Puff: I love you Jackie.

Jackie: I love you too Puff. Let’s always be friends.

We established the beach using the sheet, where we had an imaginary picnic. We ate. We played volleyball. We hunted sea shells. We became seagulls. And then we used the puppet and one mask to practice the scene.

Success #1: The shy man who would never speak or do anything, volunteered and read the lines in a very quiet voice.

Success #2: The woman who said “No!” and would not move, jumped onto the picnic blanket and ate her imaginary chicken nuggets.

Scene II: (Riding in a boat on the ocean!)

Jackie: Land Ho!

Puff: Roar!

King: Welcome!

Pirate: Arrrr!

We used two sheets to create the boat. One became the sail, supported by two people.  We laid the second sheet on the ground and had people sit in the middle. Then we picked up the corners and raised it around them, swaying back and forth so they could feel the boat moving. The rest of the group made wind sounds as the boat moved in the ocean.

Success #3: People jumping at the opportunity to ride in that boat.

Success #4: The older gentleman who is always happy and having fun, but a little hesitant about participating, refusing to let go of the sail because he was having so much fun holding it up and swaying in the wind.

Success #5: Some of the shyer ones again volunteering to speak and become the characters.

Success #6: The man who is somewhat higher functioning, but can be very taciturn and grumpy when things don’t go the way he wants them to, leaping up to become the King and embodying that king in body and voice.

Scene III (In the Cave)

Puff: Where are you Jackie?

Jackie (outside of the cave): I’m too busy, Puff.

Puff: ROAR (sobs)

This time the two sheets became the cave.  Four people held up one for the ceiling, and the other formed the floor. Volunteers again leaped at the opportunity to sit in the cave. When I asked what we might hear in the cave, everyone said “water.” So I grabbed my rain stick and handed it to the one woman who had not participated much at all that day. She simply sat in a chair and watched. She took the rain stick and helped create the glorious drippy atmosphere. Then, as  we started with the lines, I realized that caves should echo. So everyone became part of this scene, with one person saying the line and everyone repeating it several times to create a cavernous echo.

Success #7: Full participation in this imaginative journey.

Now remember folks. We achieved all of this using things that might be inappropriate. 

I wish more adults had the courage to embrace child-like things, because it brings joy.

And for this group of adults, it also brings other important things like:

  • The ability to communicate
  • Use of their imaginations
  • Use of their bodies
  • Fine motor skills in order to use the puppets
  • The chance to speak despite shyness.
  • The chance to touch in a caring, safe way.
  • The opportunity to travel even in imaginary places
  • Etc.

So I am going to continue to embrace the inappropriate. Anyone want to join me?

Please check out this  post written by Diane who used puppets in an even more powerful way, but faced the issue of inappropriateness  as well.

Okay, So Now What?

“Cease trying to work everything out with your minds. It will get you nowhere. Live by intuition and inspiration and let your whole life be Revelation.”
Eileen Caddy

“I always think it’s interesting to dig a little bit deeper every time you go to someplace that seems like a revelation or a strong connection to an emotional truth.”

Carly Simon

I spent the last week in a land of revelations that included:

  • reconnecting with old friends and making a few new;
  • rediscovering the passion and power of doing art for and with young people;
  • realizing that the academic mold that I tried to fit myself into does not
  • reinvigorating my desire to create and do good work
  • and realizing, that I have no idea how to do this.

Seriously, I discovered all of these wonderful things, but they aren’t really new discoveries. I’ve known for a long time that something has to change in my life, so that I can feel more fulfilled and help my family be happier. That’s not news. I’ve known for a long time that, in some ways, my education has failed me or I’ve failed my education (depending on my mood when I think about this). So that’s not news. I’ve known forever that I want to create and do good work and change the world through theater and passion. So that’s not news. This past week has served to make this more concrete; to make me recognize that the change has to come from within me. That I have to initiate the changes I want to see.

But how do I do that?

Facts:

  • I need to help support my family
  • My education simultaneously makes me overqualified and underqualified for many of the jobs out there.
  • We don’t currently have any back up (financially) for me to just take off and explore my options.
  • I still seem to be stuck in searching for jobs in academia because I don’t know how to break out of that.

I know, I know. All of those facts sound like excuses. I don’t want them to be that. I really want to figure this out. I simply don’t know where to begin. I’m trying be open to living “by intuition and inspiration” but my own fears often get in the way.

So, my friends in the blogosphere, help a girl out. What next?

More Inspirational Quotes from outside Seattle Children's Theatre

Inspiration found in a Drum, a Conversation, and the Universe

I spent the day yesterday reconnecting with old friends, discovering disturbing truths, and absorbing the power of theatre done with love and respect.

I’m starting with the last because of the inspiration and beauty of this experience. I spent 5 1/2 hours in a workshop on creating theater for children with complex disabilities (either Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities or an Autistic Spectrum Disorder). If you want to see the power of creativity on bringing children to life, just go to The Oily Cart website and click on any of the videos. I’m linking you to the description of the current show, but most of the video links are under the Previous Show link on their website. Go on. Watch one now, and be amazed. I expect some tears to pour out of your eyes.

The workshop was great except for the one annoying woman who wanted all of HER questions answered, despite the fact that most people wanted to learn the how to do rather than the how to fund. But that’s a discussion for another post. When we finally got on our feet, the room resonated with creative ideas (I love that) as we each came up with a possible production that could be done first for PMLD and then for the Autistic Spectrum. Each group offered wonderful ideas, a few of which I will not be surprised to discover show up in future Oily Cart performances (Tim Webb will “nick them” with our full knowledge).

I wish I had taken photos of the day. But I would like to share one story that Tim told us. During the current piece, they take the drum head off of a large drum and hold it over the children, one at a time. Then they pour rice on it to create sounds and shadow images that reflect through the drum head. One little girl, he told us, was lying on her side connected to her oxygen machine, and looking basically unresponsive throughout the show. Then they did this, and moved onto the next child. The little girl squirmed her body trying to get back under the drum head.

Her caregivers were astonished. That’s the power of theater.

One of Oily Carts therapy pool shows, photo by Patrick Baldwin

I spent most of the rest of the day talking with an old friend from my graduate program and a new friend who I met for a short time when she was applying for the doctoral program and I was finishing up.  Our discussion led to revelations that some of the challenges and concerns I’ve had over the years have been felt (in different ways) by others. Our conversation has led me to think more about “Life Without Tenure” (my other blog) so I may write new posts there (although I’m still thinking I might just merge the two if I can figure out how). I’m processing the conversation right now, so I don’t know if I can clarify exactly what I’m thinking.

But, I must end with a horoscope again. I’ve written before about my (not so secret) habit of checking my horoscope daily. I’ve also written about being open to messages from the universe. I read this one and couldn’t help but get a little th rill–message received:

My Horoscope AstroSync
Pisces

Pisces

Your responsibilities have grown in complexity and it’s no longer sufficient to just fulfill your promises. Things have changed as your awareness has grown over the past month. Now you must integrate your recent spiritual lessons into your everyday life. It’s not enough to write about your experiences like schoolchildren report on their summer vacations. Instead, recapture the intensity of your awakening by taking your new perspective to heart.

 
Now I’m off to further adventures at the airport and returning to my family. Farewell Seattle, I will miss you.

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.]

Battling Boggarts Part II

Riddikulus!” I yell at the form that hovered by me yesterday, but the spell did not work. Why? Because this time the boggart took the shape of myself.

Before I explain, I would like to refer you back to my original Battling Boggarts where I took on a few of the things that torture me and changed them with a flick of my wrist.

But how do you do that, when your biggest enemy is yourself?

As you know, I flew to Seattle yesterday. This is partially a mini-vacation for myself, but the pretense to get me here was to attend a conference called One Theatre World organized by TYA/USA the American branch of a larger international organization. This is the world that I am supposed to belong to. This is the world that my degrees and my passion for theater and its power as an educational and social tool is supposed to be part of my community.

Why don’t I feel like I belong?

The first people I ran into were some of my mentors. They both run companies that I studied and included in my dissertation. I admire both of them for their work and their passion.

When they asked me where I am and what I am doing, I stuttered like a fool. I blushed to say “I’m in Kansas” (remember, many of the locals ask, “how did you END UP here?”) I couldn’t claim my work with pride and confidence.

Why can’t I ? Why am I so hard on myself.

I want to flick the wand at my self doubts and my fears and turn them into something else.

I want my face to be on this woman

Image from Allsorts 2005

Open the Door to Imagination


“Art is communication–as simple, and as profound, as that.” (Sally Bailey)

Photo by Piglet in Portugal, The fort of Arrifana, http://pigletinportugal.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/window-the-fort-of-arrifana-miradouro-da-antiga-fortaleza-da-arrifana/

The door stood upstage center.

“When you walk through the door,” I said. “I need to know who you are and how you are feeling. But you can’t tell me who you are. You have to show me.” Over the next 20 minutes or so we met characters of all types:  grumpy girls who didn’t want to do homework; flying unicorns that shot flames our of their horns; fully armed bank robbers determined to get the money;  Annie, played by the girl who just got cast in the role for the summer theater production; someone running from a terrifying monster . . . the list goes on and on.

All in a day of my Youth Theater Studio.

Yesterday, in responsible to my Horrible H post (in my opinion, it was horrible), the talented AmblerAngel  from Hey from Japan, Notes on Moving wrote,

“Have you ever thought about writing what it’s like to teach? I really enjoyed your series on the production…to me working with kids is really a tough job- would love to hear the stories.”

I have a few posts about teaching, although most of those focus on the challenges of teaching college classes this semester, which hasn’t been fun. I haven’t written a lot about the other teaching I do, except this post about Magic Boxes. But I owe AmblerAngel a huge

 THANK YOU

for breaking me out of the block I was in and reminding me that I have something to write about.

I teach theater. But this week I ventured into another realm of this teaching, by presenting a workshop to a group of adults with development disabilities at Class LTD. We are hoping to turn this into a larger project, allowing the participants to share their stories and create some kind of performance to present to the community. We also hope to integrate other community members into the project as one of the goals of the project is to encourage community interaction.

I was nervous about this workshop. I know I have a slew of activities to do, but I haven’t really worked with this community since high school. If I am going to be brutally honest with myself, I was a little afraid. What would happen? Would they react badly? Would something go wrong?

Last week I attended a one-day workshop with a talented Drama Therapist named Sally Bailey and bought her book entitled Barrier-Free Theatre. That workshop was excellent, and I learned a lot about how to adapt the activities I already do with drama classes to the needs of people with varying cognitive and physical abilities. I was so lucky to have that opportunity.

But I was still nervous. I asked my friend Jackie to come with me, as I am hoping to involve her with this project as an art teacher. (She is also the woman who has been guiding me through the Moon Lady project).

Armed with a bag full of silky scarves, paper plates,a paper towel tube,  and classical music,  I arrived late for the class (there was a little confusion about locations, they had moved but that move didn’t show up on Google). I walked into a room full of nervously smiling people.  I thought I would be getting a tour of the place first, but no, we swept the tables out of the way and dove write in.

“Hello. My name is Lisa. I would like you to help me learn your names. To do that, I would like you to say your name and show me something you like to do. For example, I’m Lisa, and I like to dance.”

I perform a perfectly silly of butt wiggling clumsiness.

Laughs and giggles.

We went around the circle with varied success. Several of them merely repeated the movement done before (we almost got a full baseball team) and some were too shy to say their names. But we were off.

Next we passed around the “Magic Tube.” This is an activity directly from Sally Bailey. The paper towel tube has magic properties that can become anything you want it to be. It went from a flute to a golf club, and many places in between. It finally turned into a conductor’s baton that lead the entire group into an orchestra rendition of happy  birthday.

This was then followed by a group scarf dance to classical music (again borrowed from Sally). Some students wore the scarves, some flung them around in a kaleidoscope of flying colors. I managed to get two of the more shy students to dance with me, even though one remained seated.

Before I knew it, the half hour that I was supposed to be there extended to about 45 minutes of high energy creativity and smiles. We ended taking a giant bow and giving ourselves a great round of applause.

This was followed by thank you’s and a special gift from Kevin who wrote it for the ladies.  Here it is:

I am very honored to have received this.

Thanks to AmblerAngel’s question I learned something this week. I learned that I am a teacher, and what’s more, that I help people open doors to their imaginations.

I wonder what will happen when I open the next door.