Saturday, March 16, 2013
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
1. I will become a vegetarian.
2. I will enjoy exercise - and participate in it often. Specifically, I will become both an avid swimmer and runner. I should probably buy some shoes, right?
3. All the vice-like focus I am convinced I had as an undergraduate will magically re-appear.
4. I will have the capacity to joyfully read and retain vast quantities of information at a sprinting pace.
5. I will have reasonable expectations of myself and others.
6. I will say awesome things on the internet all the time.
|Don't worry, guys. I got this.|
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
|Nick put up the sign. I took this picture while he did.|
At New Leaf, we always said that the path to renewal was rarely the path of least resistance. We put it in all the grants - renewal does not guarantee a happy ending; rather it offers the possibility of a new beginning. Sometimes you have to go through a dark tunnel - a sleepless night, an impossible challenge, a test, a gauntlet - to find the light.
I can't call the ending of New Leaf happy. Even though I am as proud of Arcadia as I have ever been of anything. Even though it feels like that production was exactly what we meant and exactly how I hoped we'd make that play. Even though that production feels like the best I can do with the skills I have now. Even though lots of people have said really nice things about it. I would call this a successful ending, but I was - and am - far from happy about it. I already miss those people. A lot. And I'm about to miss them even more.
In about a month, I'm going to put everything I own in a truck and drive that truck to Austin, Texas. I will put all of the things I put in the truck into an apartment I have never seen. Three days later, I will start orientation, and nine days after that, I will begin classes and the official pursuit of my MFA. This is something I've wanted to do for a very long time.
But renewal - the possibility for a new beginning - is really hard. It's awesome and exciting, going off into the unknown with a truck full of stuff and three cats and an inexplicably game for whatever comes next boyfriend. That's all awesome. But there's also walking out of the LPCC with a box of props for the last time. There's pulling old show photos off the wall. There's the image of our brilliant lighting designer on a naked stage.
There's packing. There's saying goodbye to the people here I think of as family. There's the last train ride across the bridge into the Loop - you know that view, right? When the sun makes the river and the buildings and the whole city shimmer? Yeah. That one. For the last time. That's coming. And all of that has to come before the renewal really starts. It's part of the package.
So, the thing we never put in the grants about renewal: I think this is all part of it. It's not just about going through the darkness until you find the light. It's also about holding all these contradictions at the same time. It's about being afraid of what you're leaving and being excited about what you're going to.
I recently saw a friend from middle school who was lovely enough to fly to Chicago from Washington DC to see Arcadia (can you believe that? I couldn't either. but he's lovely. and he did that). Like me, he was an Air Force kid and like me he moved around. A lot. And he articulated something that I have been circling around for years. In the pre-internet days of our continual placement and displacement, keeping in contact with our friends was most often an exercise in best intentions that became subsumed in the necessary re-orientation of our new place. I think he and I sent each other maybe two letters once we both left California. And we were really good pals. But, the thing he articulated was that once we moved, it was like everything that happened in the old place was deleted, written over by new social orders, new rules of the road for the new environment. Connecting with him again, having a beer and talking about middle school, we both remember flashes - different ones - of moments that built, in various ways, the people we are today. But it's all misty. And not just because it was longer ago than I think either of us care to mention.
Renewal demands we make space for it. This new adventure is demanding I make space for it. The end of New Leaf makes space in each of the ensemble's lives and in the Chicago theatre community for the next adventure. But here's the thing I'm trying to grapple with - maybe we can make space without deleting. There's the internet. There's an archive of New Leaf's work. There are airplanes. There's Skype and blogs and phones. And just like we baked the shows at New Leaf into the oak-panelled walls during rehearsal, that thirst for renewal and the value of collaboration and the love I have for the artists I learned from is baked into who I am as a director and as a person. I don't think I could delete those things, even if I wanted to.
The first thing I will learn in graduate school is something I have learned before and something I will be learning forever. How to begin again. Again.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
people called Cultural Geographers
solipsism - it's meaning and its application
arts education as a civil right
theories of emotion
reason vs. feeling
people who can write really good personal mission statements
hip hop culture and its righteous anger
the complexity and miraculousness of pretending to be a tiger (David Brooks, you're my new favorite)
I want to learn everything about everything all the time. Today, so that I can get back to writing this syllabus? I'm just going to make a list.
Do other people ever have to just make a list of everything that's fascinating so that you can focus on just one of the fascinating things? If you've happened over here - what's your list?
Thursday, September 1, 2011
So - there. We'll try this kind of articulation and see if Boyfriend is on to something. I think the problem is less that nothing is capturing my attention and more that So Much has been capturing my attention for So Long that we've reached a point of overload. Hence the irrational desire to ditch all my various obligations tomorrow and rent a car and drive home to Nebraska. That's not the most productive solution, but it seemed like a damn good idea for about 45 minutes. Mental Wanderlust - maybe this is the solution. Or at least a way to articulate the questions.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Monday, November 29, 2010
The debate of whether life imitates art or art imitates life is a circular paradox similar to the struggle we’ve always had with chickens and eggs. To me? At the end of the day? The order isn’t as important as the overlap. And the older I get – or is it more experienced, more jaded, more skeptical, more aware, less naïve, less idealistic, less easily-buffaloed? – the more I see that understanding this overlap is something we have to be vigilant about as artists. It’s our duty, it’s part of the work, it’s an element of the unwritten job description.
I blame my training as an actor. I went to a perfectly good state school for my undergraduate degree in performance (Yes. I know. Performance. This surprises no one.) where my well-meaning professors spent four years getting me to break down my walls and get in touch with the emotional core of my being. And I’ve spent the last seven years trying to build those walls back up.
When you’re on stage it’s your job to live fully into each moment. You’re constantly barraged with demands to raise the stakes, go after your objective as if everything depended on it, play each moment – whether you’re begging for your life or asking for the butter – as if it’s life or death.
And what does this teach us about how we’re to move through the world? When it’s time to sit down to brunch, when it’s time to go to the day job on Monday morning, when it’s time to engage in any kind of relationship with other actual humans (not artistic constructions of humans in their most desperate hours), when it’s time to – God help us – go after the connection and intimacy of a Relationship (hopefully with another actual human as opposed to some kind of artful construction) – how are we to function? How are we to engage with each other when the stakes aren’t life and death? Are those of us who tread (or at one time trod) the boards condemned to living our lives continually raising the stakes, even when a healthy dash of perspective might be what the “scene” calls for?
In rehearsal, we have (when we’re lucky) six weeks to live the same moments over and over again. We have the unbelievable luxury of knowing where we’re going to end up, being able to find the breadcrumbs in the text that can take us there, make choices with the boldness of someone who not only knows what comes next – but who also gets to take the same path again and again until it’s smooth, until it’s – in its weird way – rational for you. On stage, we get to make sense of our journeys and move through the world with a modicum of consistency each night.
But real life’s not like that. There is no continual narrative. Even for those of us who believe in a “plan,” a plan is different than a story. Beginning, Middle, End – we only construct these things out of the discreet moments the universe hands us so that we can make some sense of them – not because a narrative is actually there.
I don’t know. I don’t know how to make these distinctions, even though I know they’re essential to my survival. Which is one of myriad reasons why I’m not an actor anymore. Because I have a hard enough time with the blurry lines between life and art when my job is to keep my viewfinder on “panorama” and open to the fullness of the picture. I think the wall my well-meaning professors helped me break down was also what was giving me some shelter. True, I needed to break through it to move through the world and in and out of my art, but sometimes it’s cold, sometimes there are gusts and gales and rain and snow. And unprotected from all the elements all the time? That’s no way to live, either.
I think what I really need is an artistic Pope-mobile. Something that affords some kind of protection against would-be assassins, something that keeps me warm and dry, but affords a really nice view of everything going on around me. Maybe that’s what all of us need. Picture it – a fleet of Pope-mobiles, agilely navigating the intricacies of the human condition from a distance that keeps us safe and whole.
Because the art that matters? The people that matter? The relationships and the work that matter? These things are too delicate, too precious, too essential to be careless with when we can’t take a moment, talk things through and take it back to the moment just before I say the thing that changes everything – because everything’s already been changed.
When I was in high school I had a bumper sticker on my first car that said something about enjoying life because it’s not a dress rehearsal. Which is lame. I know it’s lame, but I was the Queen of the Awkward Ball and I was 16. And very earnest. And let’s not dismiss the kernel of truth I could sense even in adolescence. Because at its lamest, most awkward core? It’s also a little bit true.