Bizarre Twists of Fate

“Fate, or some mysterious force, can put the finger on you or me, for no good reason at all.” (Martin Goldsmith)

The Tree Fates by Steve Hook

Fate twists  a strand of curly blond hair around her finger and laughs a wicked little giggle.

“Sisters,” she says. “It is time to push buttons for our favorite playthings. They have become a little complacent, and need to be nudged. ”

“But not delicately,” the red-headed sister adds.  ”Let us shove rather than nudge. It is so much fun to watch them squirm as we throw the unexpected in their way.”

“Let’s do it!” The raven-haired sister calls out and begins to dance.

All three sisters spin and twirl, moving slowly at first. Then the dance gains speed and power, sending electrical sparks into the air, scattering like fireflies in a passionate ballet.

One spark flies all the way to a shabby little home filled with the memories of an old woman who no longer has control of her thoughts. Her granddaughter sorts through the detritus of years; collectibles and letters, pictures and albums, wishes and dreams. She plans to store some, give some to other family members, donate some, and sell what she can to help defray the costs of her grandmother’s care. Once the house is cleared out, she plans to rent it to some new friends to help them achieve some goals and make their life a little less stressful.

But the eyes of fate are on these friends, and the dance has begun.

The mysterious spark flies faster and sneaks into the electrical outlets biding its time until nobody is in the house. This game is not intended to hurt physically, only challenge mentally.

The house goes up in flames, taking with it the memories, the love, and the future home.

Meanwhile one of the sister’s sends a thought into another woman’s mind. “It is time to welcome a new renter so give him a call,” she whispers silently. The phone call is made. A verbal agreement set.

And the two stories collide.

“The house we planned to move into burnt down this morning. Can we stay?”

“Oh, wow! I just sort of promised your house to someone else. I guess I can still call him and back out.”

A day passes and the couple thinks things are safe. But they aren’t.

“I don’t feel comfortable backing out on him unless you commit to at least 9 months in the house. Can you do that? Oh, and the powers that be have decided to keep the status quo with the job–there will be no additional money or help.”

Commit to another 9 months with a job that is basically destroying the marriage of our fated couple?  What kind of game is this?

The fates simply laugh and wait to see the choices our couple will now make. How will this path unfold?

Only time will tell.

Ending, Pauses, and New Beginnings

June 30, 2011.

The last day of a jam-packed month that flew by at the speed of light while crawling at a turtle’s pace.

How did it manage to do that? I have no idea, one of those tricks of time where you live simultaneously in two dimensions–or something like that.

Perhaps if I sum up the month of Lisa you will understand more:

  • At the end of May I drove Nathan up to Okoboji, IA where he is working for a Summer Theatre Company. Sarah did not come, as she wanted to stay for the last few days of school. So, after an 8 hour drive up I stayed for a day and then drove 8 hours back to begin my stint of single parenting.
  • The last week of May also included a crazy session of planning for two on-line classes, neither of which I had taught before. Both started on June 1st.
  • The end of May also brought the beginning of Jungle Book rehearsals, the results of which I’ve written about in several posts, most recently this one.
  • With the advent of Jungle Book rehearsals came the great Kaa making project.
  • During the first weeks of June, Sarah still had piano lessons, and I had a few makeup lessons as well.
  • Sarah also took a book making workshop once a week.
  • We began helping to clear out (a little) the house we will be moving into at the end of the summer. I promised Sarah she could paint her new room, and that project started this past week.
  • Twice a week I met with the CLASS LTD group in a project that became exciting, challenging, frustrating, exhausting, and rewarding all rolled into one. That project ended today, in a Art/Drama extravaganza in the park. I don’t have any pictures (yet) of our “performance” but here are some shots of the fun had by this wonderful group of people.

  • After the festivities, I had a final lunch with my friend Heather from Little Red Henry who will be deserting me moving from Kansas some time this summer.
  • In the midst of all this, I made the decision to self-publish and began laying out the manuscript. I’m waiting on some cover art, and then I’m good to go. (This is what I consider my new beginning)
  • We also, finally, closed on the house and I dealt with all the weird financial stuff and paperwork involved.
  • Finally, Sarah and I loaded up the car for our 14 hour journey to Durango, CO to visit friends and have a mini-vacation. We are currently paused in Best Western in Garden City, KS because I could not drive anymore, and I didn’t have the energy to find a less expensive option. At least it has a pool, which was much needed after a morning in the sun of a 100+ degree day.

Does that list clarify the time confusion? Have you ever had one of those months?

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.

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.

Another Secret: “Forget About It”

Every day you hear talk about sending your goals out into the universe and they will manifest themselves–with your thoughts acting as a catalyst for the universe to create your destiny. (Okay, I simplify that a little bit).

“Thought = creation. If these thoughts are attached to powerful emotions (good or bad) that speeds the creation” (The Secret)

But I have discovered that the opposite might also be true.

I find that often, when I have a more laissez-faire or que sera sera attitude toward something, then it  manifests itself more easily. Or maybe, when I don’t stress about something, I simply convey more confidence as Caitlin over at Broadside wrote about yesterday.

Allow me to demonstrate. When I was a child I always wanted to be an actress. Not just an actress, I wanted the lead. Now, while I often got cast, it was usually in a character role instead of the dream role. (I have since learned the joy of character parts, but that’s beside the point). Part of the problem came from me wanting those leads SO MUCH that I stressed over auditions, and never felt that I nailed them. Not once. This anxiety took over so much that I actually chickened out of auditioning in college, and never tried again until many years later.

This week the Neewollah committee held  auditions for next October’s Neewollah musical. Neewollah (Halloween spelled backward) is THE event in this town, and the musical is truly a community endeavor, and from what I hear a pretty good one. I’ve only seen one of them and it had its ups and downs, but spectacular sets and great singing. Anyway, this year the musical is Willy Wonka. My daughter, who will be in her first musical this summer, decided she would like to audition.

Since the unknown is unknown and the life we have dreamed about has yet to manifest, we decided why not? After all, the more interesting and fun activities we fill our time with, the better our time here will be. So, for that reason I decided to audition as well.

I went into those auditions for the fun of it, and for the first time in a long time I nailed it. I got a call-back, and again I wasn’t really worried about it. I went in to have fun, and I think I nailed that too. The cast list isn’t up yet (and of course I’m not up for a lead). It will be posted on Friday. But whether I get the role I would like or not, that doesn’t matter. I had a really good audition.

See what I mean? Often when I allow myself to stress and plan and REALLY want something, I end up crashing, burning, or just getting hurt. But when I simply accept where I am at the moment, and do things with joy and spontaneity forgetting about the goals or dreams, strange things happened. It happened that way when I met Nathan. It happened that way for some of the projects I’ve enjoyed the most. It happens that way often in my life.

I’m not saying that I will completely stop putting the thought out in the world, but maybe now I just have to think it and then “Forget About It,”

Which one works in your world, The Secret  or Forget About It?

Maybe the real answer lies in a “world of pure imagination.”

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.]

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.

What Do You Do? Whatever Feels Right.

 

Question mark

Image via Wikipedia

 

I was reading a discussion between a group of writers answering the question “How do respond when someone asks you what you do?”

Surprisingly, many of the respondents said that they do not say they are writers. They come up with alternative descriptions of their jobs, or other terms. They hem and haw around the issue, particularly those who are just starting out and have no “professional” writing credits to their names.

At dinner last night with a professional playwright, a professional director, a professional actor and myself (who I guess is considered a professional) we talked about acting, or directing etc., as freelance work. But, if you ask an actor “what do you do?” he or she will probably respond with “I’m an actor.”

But, when you ask me the same question, I hesitate to respond. I don’t just hesitate, I struggle.

Why are we defined by what we do? I’ve written about this before in several different posts (most recently in I’d Like to Introduce . . . Myself ) but I believe I am coming closer to an answer. Well, maybe not an answer but an understanding of how I want to approach the question.

Go on,  ask me. “What do you do?”

I do a little of this and a little of that. I do whatever projects strike my interest at the moment. I do whatever little part I can to feel like I am making a difference in this world. In one day I may take on the role of: Mom, partner, writer, researcher, director, artist, friend, teacher, counselor, advisor.

I am all this and more.

“What do you do?”

I live. I love. I am.

Care to join me?

I’d Like to Introduce . . . Myself

“”This is Lisa Kramer, the wife of our new Technical Director.”

“This is Sarah’s Mom, Lisa”

“This is Lisa Kramer who has a Ph.D. in Youth Theatre.”

These are the ways I have been introduced lately, or some combination of them. Most often, and most disturbingly, is the introduction as “Nathan’s wife.” Not that I mind being Nathan’s wife, but around here it seems like I can only be identified in that way, and it bothers me. In parting the other day a guest theater artist actually said “So will I see you later Nathan and (pause) wife.”

His wife’s reaction to that was as disturbed as mine was. I love Nathan. I love my family. But I am the last person to see myself as a super successful wife or mother. I’m too selfish for that, and too desirous to be identified as someone or something else. How’s that for a blatant, ugly truth about myself?

Here is the thing about these introductions: THEY DO NOT EQUAL ME!!

For example, the most professional of these identifications pigeonholes me in a frustrating way. True, I have a Ph.D. in theatre for youth. But, in the eyes of many professional theater artists, Theatre for Young Audiences is the bastard stepchild of the theater world. I love it, and I love the power of arts and theater to change the world. I also, love doing theater with and for adults.  My first terminal degree is an MFA in directing. I worked as hard, in different ways, to achieve that degree. In many ways that is the more meaningful degree. (There is a long story behind that).

Also, despite those being my degrees, I have spent the past 5 years teaching research skills, writing, honors, and general education programs. Where does that fit into this definition or label of who I am professionally?

Whenever I ‘m asked to write a bio about myself, I struggle with what to put in and what to leave out. I find it impossible to define myself.

I remember going to a mini-high school reunion once (actually it was a retirement party for my high school drama teacher) and running into someone who I knew when he was a baby. I asked him what he did, and his response was “I’m a dad! I don’t like to define myself by my job.” He said that with a positive sense of identity. He was so proud of that particular role in his life. He had a good job, but chose to identify with his role as family man. I was impressed with that, because most men don’t do that. I don’t do that.

I wonder if my struggle with identifying myself as wife and mother is connected with my desire to see women as capable of anything in this world. Or is it simply my ego at work? Probably that.

I’d like to introduce myself, but I can’t because I cannot put myself into a simple definition.

So, for now, I am Lisa Kramer, a complex version of me.

Does that work?

*******

I’m adding this the next day, thanks to my friend Sue who pointed out that best thing that I can be is a friend. So . . .

Hello, I am Lisa. Good friend to wonderful people like my partner, Nathan, my daughter, Sarah, and all of the other people who make my life so rich, like Sue.