Love and Kindness, and other Hateful Things

Yes, that title sounds cynical, but it’s not. Here are a few things that have happened recently, culminating in today – Valentine’s Day.

Yellow Tree Theater opened a production of Clybourne Park, the hilarious and touching, Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play about race, race relations, and loving (or not) one’s neighbor. I was able to watch a run-through before their tech week, and I look forward to seeing the finished product.

I love this script because it touches on the heart of how we treat one another in so many different facets, and it does so through humor – sometimes uncomfortable humor. Reading or watching this play you might find yourself laughing, and then feeling uncomfortable because you laughed. And then a moment later, while laughing, something truly touching or disturbing sideswipes you and you stop laughing.

Sometimes much like life itself.

One of the fascinating factors of this script is in its premise: the story of our racial and ethnic divide as told through one neighborhood – and more specifically – one single household, fifty years apart. In the end, we discover that not much may have changed over the time span except the way we talk about race. In the 1950s we were all a bit more plain-spoken in our stance, whereas today our language has become nuanced, coded and even deceptive. In either case, there are people doing hateful things in the name of love for family, protection and preservation.

In light of modern-day events, such as racial profiling, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the politically charged discussions by and about anti-Muslim leaders over immigration and refugees…..well, I think Yellow Tree picked the perfect time to produce this play, and to let us all take a good look in the mirror.

Last week I did a segment on Minnesota Public Radio’s Art Hounds podcast to promote this production, because, between the script and the expectations I have of the theater and the artists involved, I anticipate it being something not to be missed.

And speaking of hateful things, Justice Antonin Scalia died this weekend, and Marco Rubio ended a debate by going back to the “marriage is between one man and one woman” remarks. I know I don’t talk politics here, so I’ll keep it brief. But somehow, in light of this play that I’ve had on my mind, and these things in the news, and sitting here looking at roses on Valentine’s Day – the confluences struck me. Whatever happened to “do unto others…” and “love they neighbor”? Why is there so much hate, anger, and distrust in our society?

What does it mean to be part of a community, or of a society, and what’s our individual responsibilities to that? 

These are the things that Clybourne Park (and this week’s news) make me think about.

Love thy neighbor……Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

 

New Year, New Me.

This blog, like much of my artistic life, has been silent of late. Dormant. Hardly a peep. I’ve a couple drafts of entries that I started….but just somehow couldn’t finish.

IMG_2752

2015 was a tough year. While there were a few projects I worked on, which were fun, successful and fulfilling, much of my time and energy was focused on finding a new day-job. Like many theatre folk, I don’t work often and/or lucratively enough to do this full-time, but that full-time job needed changing (for issues that I will not both going into) and so job hunting is what filled my time, evenings and weekends, instead of the luxury of working on a play.

In fact, the whole experience, over several months, was rather draining – mentally and emotionally. I spent countless hours perusing want-ads, editing my resume and crafting cover letters, and the toll I felt was quite surprising. If I’m being honest, I’d have to say I became rather depressed. It certainly was a burden I was carrying, but I think for me the tipping point came when I realized I’d stopped looking at audition notices, and didn’t even want to look. I didn’t want to go see a play because I didn’t feel like getting up. I had a running list of positions to apply for, and each application was a thorough, time-consuming process. I was applying for jobs the way I would approach a role or direct a play. “How can I make this work? What do I need to do with this to get to my goal?”

And alongside all of it, I’d lost my spirit for any creative enterprise. I became concerned I was losing who I am.

As is often the case, patience and solid work paid off. At the end of the year, I got an offer that will accommodate an artistic life on the side, I left my old job, and have given myself a short reprieve in between the two in order to refresh my mind and soul…and spirit.

I’m looking forward to getting back to the groove of things. Finding productions to work on, ideas for new scripts, seeing shows and writing about more things here.

It’s a new year and I’m looking forward to a new me.

 

 

Truths and Ruts

Anyone who visits this site can tell that there’s been little activity in the past several months, and frankly, that concerns me. It’s not like I haven’t had any experiences worth sharing, or even worked on projects worth writing about. It’s just that I’ve been focused more on other things, other real life things like a day job and getting bills paid, blah blah blah. I’m in a bit of a rut, moving from day to day, but not building anything.

To prove that I’ve not completely isolated myself into some corner, here’s one of my favorite recent pictures. mtlemmonThis was taken near Tucson, AZ, as we drove our way up Mt.  Lemmon and stopped at a wayside outcropping that offered stunning vistas of the valley. The area is incredibly beautiful and the topography and foliage surprisingly varied. I could easily imagine planning a trip there just for the sake of filling an entire HD card of pictures — preferably taken at dawn or dusk. This came from a long weekend trip to visit family, a trip squeezed in among other busy schedules. In fact, I had to carefully book our tickets so that on the return trip I didn’t get home too late for a planned rehearsal of a short play I was directing.

I had responded to an ad looking for directors for a short play festival. It was small commitment but I enjoyed the idea of working on a new script and possibly new-to-me people, with a company I’d not yet been associated with. All of this came true, and in fact, I think it turned out pretty well. (If I may say so. And I think I may.) And in addition to that little project I’ve been to auditions, seen shows, attended production meetings for an upcoming project this summer, I’ve submitted a play to a few new play festivals, and have been approached about directing and acting gigs later this year.

Seriously – lots has happened.

But the real truth is that I’ve put more energy into other, non-artistic things, partially by choice and partially due to necessity. It’s stressful. It’s not fun. And it’s leading me down a dark path. That’s the thing that worries me. I was thinking the other day about what life would be like if I just continued in this vein? What would that be like?

I don’t know the answer, but right now I’d put my money on words like depressive, stifling and crippling.

And as my mind wandered further down that path I wondered about what else would I lose? What skills would be damaged due to lack of use or opportunity, or due to the overuse of others? I don’t really think I’d lose my creative abilities, my skills to tell a story or even my curiosity. (Although curiosity would be the first to go.) I wouldn’t lose those things entirely. But how much damage could this darkness do?

So I put this post here as a challenge to myself. To persevere. To do what’s needed doing….so I can get back to doing the things need to do.

That doesn’t sound like it makes sense, but it does to me.

 

My commitment to public arts

I’ve already debated this issue, on more than one occasion, in the past week. Here’s the thing….one of my biggest concerns is that once something like public art funding is cut from a budget, it’s really easy…..really, really, easy….so damn EASY!….for one to argue against reinstating it.

I think the bigger question is, why has the funding for projects taken this long to actually pay out?

And, why simply dismiss even looking at new projects worthy of being funded?

If this plan backfires on the arts community I will work very hard to make sure our mayor (for whom I happily voted!) doesn’t get a second chance in office.

Mayor Betsy Hodges

This past week a one year change in my proposed budget has raised questions about my commitment to the arts. I know that for Minneapolis to be a thriving, growing city our arts and our creative culture are key components to our success. That’s why I have proposed significant new investments in the arts for 2015 and beyond, and why I have ensured investment in public art moving forward. I am and will continue to be a strong supporter of the arts in Minneapolis.

The new and continued investments are in on-going support for our creative vitality. In fact, my 2015 budget includes funding for new initiatives such as Creative City Making, the completion of a Creative City Index, and funding for a Creative Economy Study and Report. The arts and our creative economy are important to me personally and for the city’s future. These initiatives will support the expansion…

View original post 680 more words

The Voice in my Head

I’ve been acting on stage or in front of a camera, in some fashion or another, for over….oh, my. Never mind. More years than I thought.

Let’s say, a long time.

Most of my work has been on stage, which for me is good because unlike when it’s in front of a camera I can’t see what I’m doing or how it’s coming off. When I can see what I’m doing, I’m really distracted by myself. Over time I’ve become more used to the idea of seeing myself on screen but the distraction never really goes away. 

Typically my thoughts turn to:

Is that how I really look?

Why do I stand that way?

What’s wrong with my eye?

We’re all sure that’s really my voice?

That’s the big one – the voice. While I can slowly adapt my head around anything else—the way I look, hold myself or how I need to lose weight (those things only make me realize I was young and pretty at one time)—the sound of my voice I’ll never get used to.

It’s true of all of us, that we don’t sound exactly like we sound to ourselves. I find it disturbing because it’s not only a different sound and tone and resonance, it seems to be a different person altogether. 

The other day I did that ALS ice bucket challenge, recording a short thing on my MacBook. It’s not the highest quality camera or mic, but it’s sufficient. Watching it afterwards threw me. There was something new.

Oh, right. I forgot. That’s what my voice sounds like and—Oh, did I just say “hAve to” with a big flat Chicago “a” sound? Crap, I thought I’d had that under control.

My accent is nothing like some of my siblings’, whose are much stronger. And I can easily slip back in to it when I visit there, or even if I’m on the phone with them for a brief call. I just didn’t realize it was there in my every day speech. And I’m not sure it is. 

I figure that I don’t usually do that, except…perhaps….maybe in the odd moment where I’m playing at being myself. Maybe that’s it. Give me a script and a character and while I still won’t sound anything like I sound inside my own ears when I speak I’ll probably be able to say say “that” instead of “dAt” without thinking about it.

As an actor I’ve always known that it’s important to know yourself and to be self aware. One needs to know what’s being put out there and how it can be read, to know what effect it has.

Suddenly it’s like I don’t know myself.

 

I should find more opportunities to see and hear what I sound like as myself. Maybe I’d learn something.

And maybe I’d stop being so surprised by myself.

 

 

Refreshing my Core

This blog has been a bit quiet lately because I’ve been busy with other things, life things. My mind has been full of task lists and schedules. My mind and soul have not been relaxed or exercised in creativity. The other day my agent called and said “Who are some of your actor friends about the same age as you?” My mind went blank. Oy.

Superior HorizonOne lesson learned: planning your own wedding is lot like producing your own play, and sadly you only get one performance and no real rehearsals. That was my show this summer. After the ceremony I had mental notes as to what we could do differently and then realized it didn’t matter – that moment was never going to happen again.

This week is the Minnesota Fringe Festival. I’m not done seeing shows yet, but a part of me wishes I were because the last thing I saw last night was the kind of uplifting, funny, touching show on which I always like to end my festival. (More about that at another time.)

Finishing that big summer project (which was memorable for the whole family) and seeing some inspirational theater the past few days, along with the fact that I now have my rehearsal schedule—which begins in only a few weeks for a fall play—has all been refreshing.

I feel lighter. More open. More relaxed.

What Did the Cat Say?

Sometimes talking animals in movies are more than acceptable, they’re expected and fun and insightful. Why not?!

However….the other day while looking through YouTube we stumbled upon this gem, and the only thought I had was….

Didn’t anyone working on this realize just how bad it was?

Shockingly bad. And Jody? Oh….oh, Jody.