Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?"

If you don't know the story of the play, these will look like the most random theatre pictures of all time. But I promise you, there is a story line that makes moderate sense.

I am sure there is a way to just publish this picture onto my blog, but I can't figure out how to do it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Wherefore Art Thou?

Here's a funny thing - I have felt vaguely guilty this week that I haven't blogged, because it's been such a big, important week for me, particulary in my life as an aspiring writer, and I feel like I should have been writing about it more, and sharing it with the people who read this, and care. I got preoccupied and tired and just couldn't, for a variety of reasons. But here I am, all wound up and glowy, and I turn to that which got me here - writing about it. Funny how things grow bigger that way.

The play was a hit. Not because it was perfect, not because it didn't have things go wrong, and not because I happened to have written it. It was a hit because it made a lot of people happy for a variety of reasons. The kids, because they had something to connect to, something that they gave a life of its own. The parents of the actors because they got to watch their child shine. The Inspirationals, or some of them, anyhow (the rest are coming tomorrow, and Maura and Kenny are coming back.) At least I hope I've made them happy. That was a scary thing, to tell the truth. To present pieces of people the way I know them. That's a lot to ask of a person to let me do, and I think it's so interesting that it was on the day of Matt's funeral that I had the five of them together, and asked their permission to "use" them for the play. They were all so nice about it, and I hope I did them at least some measure of justice. Oh, I really wanted to. I really tried.

If you have to sit through someone's school play, you could sometime see your 11th production of Neil Simon's Rumors. Or You Can't Take it With You. Or...I don't know...another production of Annie. But I gave them something different. The kids, and aunts and uncles and grandparents who want to support their loved ones and who show up for opening night with low expecations. The play was too freaking long, but still...there are worse ways to pass two and a half hours. God, that's a long freaking play.

People were so complimentary, and so kind. The parents of the Inspirationals, particularly, and of my cast as well. And I end today feeling very loved by a whole bunch of people. My mom and Auntie came, and my friends were there or are coming tomorrow, and I have people in my life who love me and share in my successes, no matter what they might be. I feel so grateful for them.

So, I think that any little theatrical diversion that can do these things, produce emotions like pride and gratitude and also make people chuckle...well, I feel pretty darn humbled to have been given the chance to participate in that.

Thank you thank you thank you. I wish some things had been different, but over all, I will hold the memory of today like a treasure, like a little collage of daisies and stars and roses and a battered old copy of Romeo and Juliet and sparkly sneakers and pixie sticks and misty moonlight.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Followed by a PSA

Excuse the appearance of my blog. I think I'm molting. It's an ugly time.

I'm going from a winter me into a spring me. It's a little early but I need to move things along, here. I can't control whether my short sale will pass on my house, but gosh-darnit, I can control my own internal weather. I will be redecorating this blog accordingly, but as a card-carrying technophobe, I can't seem to get a new background downloaded. It is so frustrating. I pride myself on the fact that I clean snow off my own car and I pump my own gas and I build things with power tools, but I cannot do the simplest things involving a computer. Except write. I can do that.

So, anyway... little shoots are awaking under the soil and it's time to buy some daffodils.

I made a vision board today. It says just what I wanted it to say. One part dealt with creativity and writing, with roses and poems and song lyrics and empty blank lines waiting to be filled. Another part is for my home and my family, with pictures of all of us happy and the inside and outside of our new house. Another part is about health and eating better and exercising and releasing everything on my body which does not serve me. Namely...well, many pounds. But they are going away.

There's a bit in there about a vacation and clean closets and skinny jeans, but it all just worked. I felt kind of corny about doing it, but was determined anyhow. And I was literally mocked by my ten year old about it at dinner, but I sensed she was just trying out a snarky persona for a minute, and found it not to suit her. I was glad that was so. Shows me that she's got the strong moral compass we've been trying to nourish in her. She retracted her snarkiness with sincerty and all was forgiven. And then on the Olympics, I kept hearing stories of how athletes make vision boards and use the Law of Attraction and Visualize their perfect ski runs/skating routines, whatever. One woman hung a picture of herself winning the gold medal and hung it on her wall...when she was 13. She won the gold today.

I had a little spout about Tiger Woods right here, but I deleted it.

We had an important rehearsal yesterday. I think a lot of things started to feel real to the kids, and it's a step they all need to take on their own. They need the discomfort of being up there on their own, and feeling unsure and vulnerable, to commit to getting the job done. learning their lines and actually acting, for their own sake. To be better beacause they want to. It's all part of the process.

And just now, knowing that, makes me feel sort of amazed that I've been doing this long enough to feel like I know what the hell I'm talking about.

I had a converation with Lisa today about our high school director, and how much he taught me. I learned what I wanted to be, and what I wanted to never, ever be by watching him. I value those lessons, as hard as some of them were to learn. I am better because of them.

I'm excited for our week, excited to see how kids will transform, ignite, and embrace. Sometimes, for like five minutes, I might lose focus on that, but nearly always, I remember. It's for them, and I am just the vehicle. I'm just doing the thing I'm meant to be doing to the best of my ability, and trusting that my needs will be met in the process as well. I learned that in my thirties, I think.

And since I'm all stream of consciousness right now, let me follow this monkey speedboad ride forties. I used to laugh at that line in When Harry Met Sally where she said, "And I'm going to be forty!" Harry: "When?" Sally: "Someday!" Harry: "In EIGHT years!" And I used to do the math and think, "Sheesh! She's thirty two! That's so freaking old." I left that "old" behind some time ago.

I actually think that my forties are going to be the best of me. I feel like I'm just now beginning to get it, to appreciate it all, to be present and mindful and intentional in my life. If I can build that in my next decade to my fullest potential, well... I'll have earned the chance to spend my fifties resting on my creative laurels and drinking margaritas by the pool.

Set building tomorrow, painting and preparing, hanging balcony ivy and roses and affixing Lord of the Rings and Lacrosse posters to bedroom walls of my two main characters. My characters. I made up people. I borrowed pieces of a bunch of people and made a whole new person, for someone to play on the stage. I feel so grateful for the real Claire and the reall Kenny/James and the rest of the Inspirationals for letting me "use" their particular brands of wit. I could never capture the whole of them, but I am so glad that they let me know the pieces of themselves that they did, and that they let me give them a branched out little funky alter-ego/theatrical love-child. I hope they feel that I've done them justice.

See? Another reason why this is all complicated with the personal. And to think I could have been a plumber or a member of the armed forces or printing salesperson, just like on The Office. I totally could have. I might have to still if this whole writing/teaching thing doesn't work out.

I can't figure out where to fit this in, but I would also like to is a wonderful thing for the reasons listed above. It's different for every person involved in it, serves each person's life in some way, while still creating something with its own integrity and life and weight in the process. And there's room for everyone, because it expands to include.

I don't know how to post pictures well, but tomorrow I will try to post a picture of my vision board. I don't know if you'd be interested in it, but I bought this book about creating vision boards, and I thought that other people's were interesting, so maybe you would be interested in mine. You should totally make one. It's very scissor and glue artsy-crafty, and theraputic.

Tonight on NBC national news, Brian Williams (feel free to take a moment...Brian Williams is AWESOME...) Brian Williams said "We're going to post the Olympic results right now. So, you know the drill...if you don't want to know until prime time, avery your eyes until the music stops. We will be posting" I thought that was very polite of him. My POINT is that I sometimes feel like I should head my posts - and my journal entries, which are more often now one and the same - with a PSA that says....there's been chardonnay. Enter at your own risk.

Thank you, and goodnight.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

In Flux


So, feeling a bit adrift with the blogging thing. I'm sure I'll find a way to paddle myself through it, and figure out how to make it work in a way that feels authentic to me, but for now, I'm in flux.

Most of my life is in flux. I'm waiting for this house to happen, and trying to battle the fears that this whole short sale thing won't go through, and we'll lose this house that I feel belongs to me already. I'm updating my vision board tomorrow to reflect the whole Law of Attraction concept that tells me to see it as if it's already mine, focus on the what and let the Universe supply the how, because if there's ever a situation that requires that, it's waiting for a short sale. There's absolutely not a single thing I can do, no one I can call, no one I can sleep with, no favors I can cash in to make this move faster or bring it to fruition. I just have to wait, and believe.

Meanwhile, it's very hard to sleep at the Vacation House on the Lake. This house misses its real family, I think.

The show is coming along, and is about to hit its crescendo with Super Sunday this weeeknd. It'll be a week of madness and expectation, and then'll be done, like the rest of them. The difference with this one, though, is that it matters to me, personally. I generally reach the point during production week where I surrender to the process and recognize that it will be what it will be, and no matter what, the kids experience is really the only thing that matters. I think I will get there with this one, but the problem is that I also want it to be good. I care if the quality is there, because it's mine. Yes, it's their's too, but still...

So, there's that.

This afternoon I'm going to sign up for a family membership at our town's athletic club, so Patrick and I can get in shape and so the girls can take swimming lessons. I am going to try very hard to reframe my feelings about exercise from yet another thing I have to do - and fail to do adequately - to something that I can look forward to, as a way to focus on me instead of serving everyone else in my life. Writing is the only other way I do that, and...well, I'm having trouble there right now so hopefully this is something that will fill that void.

Thanks for bearing with me as I figure out what's next in my writing life, and in my life in general.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dear Sixth Grade Boy

Dear Sixth Grade Boy,

I would like to apologize for the following passage I made you read aloud today in "My Side of the Mountain," the tale of a young boy who leaves civilization behind him to make his life alone in the wilds of the Catskill Mountains:

"We were a gay gathering - me shouting, Frightful the Falcon preening, the woodthrush cocking its pretty head. Occasionally The Baron Weasel would pop up and glance furtively at us. He didn't care for water. How he stayed glossy and clean was a mystery to me, until he came to the boulder beside our bath pool one day, wet with the dew from the ferns. He licked himself until he was polished."

Gay, cocking, wet and licked should really never be in the same paragraph of a book for sixth grade boys, ever.

I further apologize that in Social Studies, we will be using the word Trojan today. Repeatedly.

One more week till vacation.

Your Teacher

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How I Feel Today

The Balcony Scene

The famous Romeo and Juliet balcony scene appears twice in my play. The first time, it’s in rehearsal, and James/Romeo and Claire/Juliet still loathe each other, and basically fight the whole way through it. We staged it yesterday, and my two actors nailed the conflicts spot on.

In the second act, they perform it for real, with only a very few minor cuts to the original Shakespeare dialogue. The only thing on stage will be the balcony, a trellis covered with white roses and leafy vines, and the moon and the stars. And hopefully…that floaty mist stuff that ripples over the ground and sort of spills off the stage. I want it to be all about the words…the discovery, the profession of devotion…even though it’s between two kids who met each other only hours before, and are far too young to have any perspective whatsoever on what it means to turn your life upside down for another person at a moment’s notice.

That said…I do believe in love at first sight, first moment, first conversation, first shared cup of coffee. At thirteen? Questionable. But possible, I think. Even as an adult, though, it’s hard to know if that “moment” that you connect with someone is meant to be forever, or for a season, or just for the moment that it is.

The for-realsies Balcony Scene in Wherefore Art Thou? comes just as the two main characters are recognizing their real connection to each other, even as the boy knows that the girl is his through-the-mail sweetheart. He spends much of Act Two trying to win her over, and by the balcony scene, he’s done it, confusing her heart for the meeting with the through-the-mail boy the next day. A lot needs to be accomplished through this scene - Claire and James’ discoveries of each other, Romeo and Juliet’s discoveries of each other, and a conveyance of the timelessness and placeless-ness of that moment of love igniting - how no matter where you are, there is still moonlight and starlight and mist.

Shakespeare makes it so easy to say so much. “My bounty is as boundless as the sea/My love as deep; the more I give to thee,/ the more I have, for both are infinite.” I have always been a little bit embarrassed by my love of Shakespeare, feeling that if I were to profess it I would sound too snobbish or elitist or something. But my chances to “do Shakespeare” with kids lets me sneak in my own effusive adoration of these words words words - words that no one has ever been able to weave together to express so much about humanity and love and life and the colors of the light.

I have seen a lot of Shakespeare plays, some great, some horrible, and some botched by my very own sixth graders. (But at least they DID it, right? It's all about the experience, in the end.) The production of Romeo and Juliet that they did at UMass in 1992 was actually one of the best I've ever seen. (Could have had something to do with its well-timed underscoring of my own dramatically romantic life at the time...maybe.) I remember there was a lot of white in that play, and that it was clean and beautiful to look at, and that its starkness eliminated distractions from the plot and the words. The characters were colorful, and the backdrop was plain, and the acting was as good as any that I've ever seen anywhere else. I loved that, and it has stayed with me since. Ours won't get to that level, obviously, but in my own judgement, it's something to shoot for.

The winter play this year almost ended up just being Romeo and Juliet, but having just done Midsummer a few years ago I wanted to wait before I did another Shakespeare. Then it was almost The Shop Around the Corner, and then the two ideas just collided, and here we have it - one month from actually hitting the boards. As much as it’s been an opportunity to write something that has some semblance of originality, it’s been equally the opportunity to show yet another layer of Shakespeare’s genius…that 400 years later, what he said about love and connection and the yearning to fuse with someone is still true and real and inspirational.

Those are some of my thoughts on Shakespeare this morning. Now, I will go read Percy Jackson and the Olympians to my sixth graders and wish for a much bigger cup of coffee. Hope you have a lovely day.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Bend in the Road

"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." ~Sylvia Plath

I'm pondering the idea of writing true. I'm not so sure that Sylvia Plath should be my inspiration, since she ended up with her head in the oven, but still...I'm questioning why I'm even engaging in this exercise, and where I'm supposed to go next.

Here's another quote that caught me today:

"Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write." ~Rainer Maria Rilke

My play is written. It's time to ponder what's next. This blog started as a launching pad for me to "get something out there." It got me to write a play, now I need to figure out the next step.

In another note, tomorrow is Groundhog Day. I actually really like Groundhog Day. It's a hint that spring WILL come, must come, and that there really will be daisies again.