Monday, November 2, 2009

the search begins... let's draw a map

I'm wondering if this is how those fellas who were searching for the holy grail or the fountain of youth felt - those intrepid explorers who went off in search of something so precious, so potentially life-changing that they were feverish with the anticipation and the possibility of it all.

There's been a lot of buzz on the interwebs about this idea of a new funding model for non-profit theatre. And I just found another piece of it today, thanks to Simon's posting of it here. This makes sense to me, the work that Stolen Chair in NYC is doing - it's inspiring in fact. And I just started following them on Twitter. You should, too. And I'm totally stoked by The Field's bold support of the work. And it occurs to me that this is what the beginning of cultural shift must look like. And that is so so so exciting - and also a little daunting. Is there a way to better establish a line of communication about what everyone's doing to support and expand and challenge and grow this search for our own present-day holy grail, the fountain of patron buy-in and community support that will keep our organizations young and vital and - most importantly - alive.

Is there a way and a place for us to come together and chronicle this quest together? Is there a way to use a social media platform that we're all already using to compare notes, share strategies, and unapologetically steal from one another like the artists we are? Without starting another organization or coalition, is there a way to create a virtual clearinghouse and pool our intellectual resources as we all work to take this step together? A Facebook forum maybe? Something else entirely? A Twitter list even? Would folks use something like that? What do we think?

Discuss!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

action without thought VS. thought without action

I feel that I am at my best when I'm in the rehearsal hall. Marsha once talked to me about it as "selving" - that I am most myself when I'm directing, when I'm engaged in that process, getting my hands dirty in the rough and tumble work that is meaningful collaboration.

I've been deep in that process over the past weeks, wading into and through a script I fell in love with on first reading months and months ago. One that I'm proud to have been able to bring to life with an ensemble unlike anything I've encountered before and a production team - to my mind - unparalleled in Chicago theatre.

It's opening night. I'm allowed to be a little gushy.

My work on the show is essentially done. Tonight I fully hand over the reigns to my 10 incorrigible actors and ninja stage manager. But my brain is buzzing this morning for sure, and the show is helping to crystallize or at least contextualize that turbine. There a section in The Man Who Was Thursday that interrogates the paradoxes of thought without action and action without thought. Both are problematic for various reasons (and potentially disastrous). As I look around at a lot of the warring blogosphere posts of late, it occurs to me that we suffer as a community from a preponderance of both. Which is why I am so over-the-moon about what Chris Ashworth proposes.

This is an idea to be interrogated, surely. There are myriad ways to go about building a new model. But - just like in the rehearsal hall - we can sometimes get bogged down in theoretical gymnastics to the point where we talk ourselves to a place of "why bother" rather than "let's try it and see." I'm interested in running my company - and my life for goodness sake - more like I run a rehearsal. I want to make big, bold (considered) choices and pursue them with life and soul and vigor. If they fail, I want to take what I've learned and apply that not to a safer or more cautious or more (god help me) traditional route - but to the next Big Bold Choice. I want to move away from Thought Without Action.

Which is where the considered part comes in. I'm not a fan of pendulum swings. I don't want to become someone who goes whole hog into action with thought. That can be just as catastrophic, just as deadly. What I'm looking for is balance - calculated risk, cautious optimism (instead of the rampant "things are awful and we'll never ever change them" mentality I'm seeing circulated). From that place of balance, we engage our core and take our first trembling steps into a future defined by our innovations.

The wheels of change sometimes behave like the wheels on the cart I always seem to get at the grocery store - they stick in certain places. They've been gummed up by folks who came before. They've rusted from being left out in the rain. BUT - with coaxing, maneuvering - with (god help us) creativity - why can't we get that cart to go where we want it to? We may not get there in a straight line - in fact, we will not get there in a straight line - but we will get there.

My brain is freaking out from the sheer possibility of it all. It's overwhelming and inspiring - and exactly the sort of thing a girl who's most herself when she's making art needs to think about on an opening night.

Monday, August 31, 2009

falling into something new

I love that fall seems to have come early this year. I love the crisp quality in the air. I love sweaters and scarves. I love watching leaves begin their journeys from green to red, orange, yellow. I also love being brought once again to the feeling of possibility that has always accompanied this season. I love the idea of it being time to begin again.

Now clearly spring is often the time many folks think about new beginnings, about emerging from the dark and cold into the light and the warmth - and that's all well and good, but for me fall has always been that "wipe the slate clean" season. It might be because I was so fond of going back to school each year - new pencils, new backpack, new notebooks, new lunch box - and often new school, new friends, new life in a new town brought to us courtesy of the Air Force's reassignment of my father. Maybe it was because I always felt more defined as a person inside the satisfying and navigable structure of academia than I did in the loose and lax - and usually way too warm for my comfort - time of summer.

In my adult life, maybe this feeling of renewal and possibility is tied to the tides of a typical theatrical season. New seasons begin in the fall and carry us through the darkest days of the year, giving us warm rooms in which to contemplate the push and pull of our lives outside those walls. I've been fortunate to spend my last two falls in the rich, wood-grained, chandelier-ensconced Lincoln Park Cultural Center, beginning two seasons of monumental growth for my artistic home and me. I've spent the last two falls with two remarkable ensembles who fast became families and who taught me how to be a better artist.

Tonight I get to begin again - again. Tonight I get to start work with on a play that I love by an author - and a friend - whom I admire. I will begin working with my intoxicating ensemble of 10 men (yes, you heard me. 10. Men.), continuing to uncover the world of secrets, of joy, of bad-assery - real and imagined - that my crack production team and I have been starting to reveal to one another.

It's fall. Time to begin. Again.

Monday, June 8, 2009

connect / disconnect

Over the course of the last year, it's become increasingly important to me to find a way to articulate what and why I do what I do as an artist. (What and why I do what I do in life is an exploration that would probably be best begun under some professional guidance, so for now I'm sticking to the art.)


I've also become enamoured of the concept of interrogating your ideas, and those of your collaborators. The work doesn't end with that stroke of inspiration, that light bulb moment - that's where it starts. Everything prior to that is just prologue.

The idea I've been interrogating of late - and I do feel like I've been interrogating it: pushing it up against the wall, roughing it up just a bit, throwing that sharp, bright light in its face and asking it where it was last Tuesday - is the summation of what I do as a director. What is it that I'm interested in? What is my work about? What am I driving at? What's important to me in a collaboration? And why, why, why, why, why?


What I've come up with is something that is thrown into sharp relief by its absence as much as its presence. In fact, I wonder if this thing and the void created when it's not around are of a piece - two sides of the same coin - each as influential as the other. I'm a very process-focused director. I feel that artistic process is equal to, if not more important than product. Maybe it's because my theatre company is so focused on renewal of artist and audience. Maybe it's because the work of which I've been most proud has been created in that space - where collaboration, communication, honesty are the high court that guides our decisions.


Connection - this is what I keep coming back to thematically in my work - both the process and the product. I've been toying with the phrase "anthropology of connection" lately as well. What I think holds water about that particular way of putting it is the idea of study, discipline, uncovering patterns, drawing conclusions, comparing, contrasting, juxtaposing different methods and circumstances and histories and viewpoints. And the fact that we're not dealing with artifacts - nothing is static or removed about the idea of human connection - it's happening now and now and now and now and shifting in the breaths between.

I suppose it's actually impossible, though, to completely separate the idea of connection in my work from the idea of connection in my life. Likewise, disconnection is equally and inextricably enmeshed in how I negotiate the world. The insidious thing about disconnection - for me anyway - is that it's sneaky. It can creep up behind you and shove your face in the mud and you might not know that's what's happening until your pulling yourself back out, wondering why you're gasping for air, filthy, and exhausted.

Or maybe it's like being asleep - that might be closer to what I've been feeling - the idea of being asleep and not knowing you're asleep until you start to shake yourself awake. When the connection starts to come back, you feel its absence so acutely that you wonder how you lived without it for so long.

That's what I'm interested in exploring - that visceral, reaching, hungry feeling and how we wrap our minds and our bodies around it, and the consequences of going without it for too long. It feels to me simultaneously the best and worst thing about the human condition. It's that paradox that I think keeps pulling me back into these questions in my work and in my life - which I guess can't be compartmentalized as neatly as I might like after all.

image courtesy of flickr's creative commons

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

power of choice

This morning I read a wonderful post from Anne Bogart on the SITI company's blog. Now, it's not a secret that I think Aunt Anne is a pretty darn smart cookie (as evidenced by this blog being titled after an idea I learned from her) - but something about what she wrote in that piece has struck a chord with me today. You should read the whole thing (it's not really that terribly long), but the thesis I'm pulling from it is that we have the power to choose. We get to choose everything - primarily how we interact with the world around us. (there's also a killer episode of Radiolab that deals with what & how we choose. I love those boys.)

Anne talks specifically about life in these "tough economic times," but I think this idea of choosing your outlook carries far beyond crisis. I guess I'm just really invigorated today by the idea of this power to choose. Especially in a time when my professional life is uncertain - as is paying the rent and keeping food in the fridge, let alone the kind of art I want to make (see also Hierarchy of Needs) - the feeling of powerlessness can loom large. Some big decisions seem out of my control, there's a lot that feels in flux, in progress, with an outcome that I can't see clearly just yet. But I've been approaching a lot of things with fear rather than faith (not capital F Faith - although I won't say that isn't part of the mix, too). No matter what happens next, worry isn't going to alter the outcome, and it isn't making the present very much fun.

A very wise woman I know has counseled me to "look up." Regardless of the outcome of the myriad variables in my life right now, I can either barrel along with my eyes on the pavement, waiting to stumble and skin my knee - or I can look up, feel the wind on my face, and enjoy the ride. Given those two options, I think the choice is pretty clear.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

T-minus Two Days to World Theatre Day

It's amazing to me, the body's capacity to shut down at precisely the wrong time. Arguably, given all I've been asking mine to do in the last several months (existing without sleep, proper nutrition, and - for the last month or so - without coffee), I don't suppose I should be surprised by its sudden and absolute refusal to keep on keepin' on. However, I will express a bit of mild disappointment that it has chosen the week of World Theatre Day to crash and burn.

However - the sun rises, the hours & minutes pass, and World Theatre Day is now just two measly days away! If you haven't already, please check out our international blog for thoughts on the simple and painless ways you can participate. It's not about the size of your statement - it's about the fact of it.

You can show the world what you're doing by contributing to our Tumblr feed. This link will open up the e-mail to which you can send your video, pictures, text and the world will be watching. Please remember to include this info in your post:

Your media link
Your city / country
Your theatre's name
a link to your website.

And if you're in Chicago, I hope you're making plans to join us at the All-City After Party at the Chopin. If you'd like to be one of the crew that helps us make it happen (i.e. volunteering for all or just a part of the evening) please let me know at jessica@newleaftheatre.org.

Hope to see you soon!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

When the Mayor Proclaims...

With just over two weeks to go until World Theatre Day, Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley has issued a proclamation for the occasion! You can see it in its official outfit here, or just read the text below!

WHEREAS, a program of UNESCO, World Theatre Day promotes international exchange in the areas of drama, dance and musical theatre; and

WHEREAS, World Theatre Day offers participants a special opportunity to encourage peace and solidarity, increase creative cooperation between theatre professionals, and deepen knowledge of and appreciation for other cultures; and

WHEREAS, Chicago has a long and rich tradition of performing arts; and

WHEREAS, known for a thriving theatre community that has received wide acclaim and international recognition, Chicago continues to foster outstanding producions and talented professionals; and

WHEREAS, on March 27, 2009, Chicago will participate in World Theatre Day for the first time:

NOW, THEREFORE, I RICHARD M. DALEY, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, do hereby proclaim March 27, 2009 to be WORLD THEATRE DAY IN CHICAGO and encourage all citizens to be aware of the contributions that the theatre arts make to our lives.
And don't forget about the city-wide afterparty happening at the Chopin Theatre, beginning at 9 PM on March 27. Hope to see you there!

ALSO! If you're wondering what else you can do to be part of World Theatre Day, check out the League's great list of suggestions here. There's also a fantastic page from TCG that includes an interactive map. You heard me. Interactive. Map. Check it out here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Purpose Statements

A post from Don Hall today has, as per usual, got me a-thinkin'. In that post, and the ensuing comments section, there's some discussion of some noble theatrical endeavors (this is a continuation of a discussion that's been going on for awhile). That word is a little slippery to me when it comes to using it as an adjective for creative expression. It almost feels a little removed. I agree that firefighters and teachers are noble - are artists, too? As vital as I feel we are to society, are we in the same category as doctors? I don't know about that, but another way of getting at what I see to be the point is asking of theatre "To What Purpose?"


I've been feeling like a dog with a bone when it comes to this question - with my own work, and the work of my peers. Yeah, that play's kinda cool - but to what purpose? Of course that company can afford to replicate the whole of ancient Mesopotamia on stage, and I guess it's neat to look at, but to what purpose? Yes, that sex scene is at least mildly amusing and maybe a teeny bit arousing and in other circumstances I would have no problem with that actor removing his shirt, but to what purpose? And so on. I'm not a huge fan of the Because We Can School of Theatre, and I'm wondering if these lean economic times might teach us all a lesson in realigning our priorities and interrogating our ideas. Am I the poster child for always having the world's most clear and unassailable purpose for my work? Not yet. Do I have work in my future that will likely have a less than crystalized raison d'etre? You betcha. Doesn't make me want that clarity any less.

The work that Don's post refers to, as well as the "This American Life" Hamlet mentioned in the comments section, answer the question "to what purpose?" with precision. I would love to see more work like this, find more ways in which the work we do can directly impact and improve the lives of those around us - the marginalized, those without dominant voices, the young, the elderly - bring those programs on, I'd like to be involved. But we can also take the work we're doing now and clarify our intentions, our goals, our purpose in creating that art.


And I'm not saying that everything we produce has to be full of Message Writ Large. Sometimes the purpose of a piece is to entertain, to provide escape, to show us what fools these mortals be (oh come on, I get one - especially since I just read the article about the new Shakespeare portrait), but own that purpose. Revel in it. Declaring that your show is simply an entertainment doesn't make it worth any less; I would argue that that step makes it worth even more.

On 848, something the dueling critics said when talking about Chicago theatre in the current and forthcoming economies really struck me. The theatres that don't find their niches, the ones that can't succinctly articulate their missions - those are the ones that won't be with us on the other side. That seems to me a lot like having an answer to this question. My hope is that this crisis - gone unwasted - will help us clarify, prioritize, find our purposes in the new world into which we're being thrust.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

World Theatre Day update: Statement from Augusto Boal

Each year for World Theatre Day, the International Theatre Institute commissions a statement from a renowned theatre artist. This international message is then integrated into the day's festivities, ideally read to the audience gathered to see a WTD performance. Thanks to Rebecca Coleman, this year's statement by Augusto Boal (eek! yes, THAT Augusto Boal!!) is here in sneak peek format for you! Check it out, and check out the ITI's shiny new website.
And don't forget to visit our WTD09 blog to tell us how you'll play a part in this world-wide celebration.


World Theatre Day – International Message
27th March 2009

Augusto Boal

All human societies are “spectacular*” in their daily life and produce “spectacles” at special moments. They are “spectacular” as a form of social organization and produce “spectacles” like the one you have come to see.

Even if one is unaware of it, human relationships are structured in a theatrical way. The use of space, body language, choice of words and voice modulation, the confrontation of ideas and passions, everything that we demonstrate on the stage, we live in our lives. We are theatre!

Weddings and funerals are “spectacles”, but so, also, are daily rituals so familiar that we are not conscious of this. Occasions of pomp and circumstance, but also the morning coffee, the exchanged good-mornings, timid love and storms of passion, a senate session or a diplomatic meeting - all is theatre.

One of the main functions of our art is to make people sensitive to the “spectacles” of daily life in which the actors are their own spectators, performances in which the stage and the stalls coincide. We are all artists. By doing theatre, we learn to see what is obvious but what we usually can’t see because we are only used to looking at it. What is familiar to us becomes unseen: doing theatre throws light on the stage of daily life.

Last September, we were surprised by a theatrical revelation: we, who thought that we were living in a safe world, despite wars, genocide, slaughter and torture which certainly exist, but far from us in remote and wild places. We, who were living in security with our money invested in some respectable bank or in some honest trader’s hands in the stock exchange were told that this money did not exist, that it was virtual, a fictitious invention by some economists who were not fictitious at all and neither reliable nor respectable. Everything was just bad theatre, a dark plot in which a few people won a lot and many people lost all. Some politicians from rich countries held secret meetings in which they found some magic solutions. And we, the victims of their decisions, have remained spectators in the last row of the
balcony.

Twenty years ago, I staged Racine’s Ph├Ędre in Rio de Janeiro. The stage setting was poor: cow skins on the ground, bamboos around. Before each presentation, I used to say to my actors: “The fiction we created day by day is over. When you cross those bamboos, none of you will have the
right to lie. Theatre is the Hidden Truth”.

When we look beyond appearances, we see oppressors and oppressed people, in all societies, ethnic groups, genders, social classes and casts; we see an unfair and cruel world. We have to create another world because we know it is possible. But it is up to us to build this other world with our hands and by acting on the stage and in our own life.

Participate in the “spectacle” which is about to begin and once you are back home, with your friends act your own plays and look at what you were never able to see: that which is obvious. Theatre is not just an event; it is a way of life!

We are all actors: being a citizen is not living in society, it is changing it.

Augusto Boal

(Original Portuguese)




Saturday, February 14, 2009

What will Chicago bring to the party?

Yesterday, the city of Chicago's bid book for the 2016 Olmpics was released. As much as I worry about the congestion, the influx of visitors, the (God help us) CTA and its capacity - all the things that would make bringing these games to Chicago in 7 years potentially tricky, I have to admit to more than a twinge of excitement at the idea. That twinge shares some its qualities with the puff of pride I feel when Chicago is referred to as President Obama's home town. His home is my home, too.

Last month I celebrated four years of being a Chicagoan. (Yes, I moved here in January. No, I don't know what I was thinking.) I claim this city as my own, and not just because of its rich history, full of fire and liquor and the legacy of making no small plans. I claim it not just because of the pizza and pad sie eiw and curry fries, the bricks and stones and streetlamps and street fairs and the reminder that the doors open on the left or the right. I can truly claim this city because of the community of theatre artists who have decided - who continue to decide every day - that this is home.

On March 27th, we have a unique opportunity to celebrate that choice, and build our global connection and sense of collaboration at the same time. Thanks to Twitter (God, I really do love Twitter....) Nick Keenan and I have hooked up with Vancouver's Rebecca Coleman and her efforts surrounding World Theatre Day. What's this World Theatre Day, you ask? I've never heard of World Theatre Day, you say? Neither had I. Luckily, Rebecca can explain it for us:


World Theatre Day takes place every year on March 27, and is the brainchild of the International Theatre Institute. It’s aim is to: “promote international exchange of knowledge and practice in theatre arts (drama, dance, music theatre) in order to consolidate peace and solidarity between peoples, to deepen mutual understanding and increase creative co-operation between all people in the theatre arts”


Nick and I were so excited by this idea, and by the buzz that's already flying across Canada, that we approached Deb Clapp and Ben Thiem at the League of Chicago Theatres. We have a vibrant theatre community, with so much going on at any given time, on any given night, including March 27, 2009 - why not show the world what we're up to? Why not use this day where artists all over the world come together to celebrate our chosen medium to show that Chicago is producing world-class work, and lots of it? We have so much food - let's take something to the party.

Little time and less (read:no) money might look like prohibtive factors to our successful participation on March 27, but if there's one thing I've learned from my family of fellow artists here, when it comes to a challenge we prove that Yes We Can. In a town where our lighting grids are often held together with paper clips and hope, our rehearsal spaces also serve as our studio apartments, and our costumes are pulled from our own closets - we're not going to let something like a lack of funding keep us from getting our voices in the mix.

Simplicity will be key.

Using what we already have in place will be essential. When the wheel is already strong and rolling along nicely, why reinvent it? If you want folks to see your wheel, just find better ways to bring that wheel to their attention.

Coming together, spending a day and a night with one another, and exploring ways of meeting like-minded friends (and future collaborators?) around the world will be - a blast.

We have an exploratory meeting set for Friday, February 20th from 4:30 to 6 PM at the League of Chicago Theatre offices. Along with simplicity and creativity, a united front will be essential to a successful day. If you're a Chicago theatre-maker and you'd like to be part of this meeting, please RSVP to Ben. You can DM him on the Twitter, or e-mail him at Ben@chicagoplays.com.

There's a special World Theatre Day blog - throw that in your Google Reader and love it.

We don't have to wait until 2016 to show the world the good thing we've got going. We can't wait until then. Not when an opportunity like this comes along. Let's put our broad shoulders into it and show this world what Sweet Home Chicago has on the stove.


EDIT: Step 2 - How? Nick Keenan starts the brainstorming ball rolling. Check it out, and please add to voice to the mix through comment here and at Theater for the Future.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Engaging Our Core

You don't have to be a top-notch economist to know that we've all managed to get ourselves into a dilly of a pickle of late. To be fair, I think we can all agree that this storm's been a-brewin' for quite some time now. And you can blame the polticians. Or you can blame the bankers. Or you can blame us all and our good ol'fashioned greed. I don't want to talk about my personal debt load, for example. But the fact is that here we are, in the middle of the mess, and now we have to figure out what to do about it.

Because of my artistic home and our chosen focus for this season, I've been doing a lot of thinking over the past few months that could be boiled down to, simply, "Now what?" Now that we're here, what happens next? And it seems like a lot of folks are having similar thoughts. The time is ripe for reflection - not just in the World Writ Large, but in the theatre community in specific. Add our current conundrums to the other factors we were already bemoaning before the global mountain of money started melting like an ice sculpture at Lollapalooza (just take a moment and picture that) - conundrums like: the "graying" of our audiences, the theatre's perception as an "elitist" art form, the competition we face from movies, TV, the interwebs - and suddenly we're right in the middle of the dark tunnel, wondering from which direction that next gleam of light will come.

I'm not going to pretend I know the answers to these ever-mounting, increasingly-daunting questions. But I had a brief yet inspiring tweet-versation (conversation via Twitter. see what I did there?) with Mr. Mullins the other day, and I think it's time we consider a paradigm shift in how we raise our money and how we interest, entice, build, and keep our audiences, and our artistic communities.

The good people at the League of Chicago Theatres (smart cookies, all) recently posted this message about the latest news from the front, the results of the fiscal survey they've been sending out to member theatres. Note the part where it talks about how 1/2, sometimes less than 1/2, of theatre's revenue is coming from ticket sales. Remember the non-profit model that talks about 60% of revenue should come from ticket sales, 40% should be contributed income? I remember sitting in an intern forum with a ground-breaking theatre administrator and hearing him say that as a member of the posse who came up with the non-profit theatre model "back in the day" (I think he said "back in the day." He might have said "in the seventies."), it's time for a new one. And then he looked at us a little like we should go ahead and get on that. Quite the challenge from someone who has already put his money where his mouth is once, and rightfully expects us to step up.

Similarly, as explored in a killer panel discussion (again, thanks to the League) that you can listen to here (thanks, WBEZ. If I ever start making a salary again, you bet I'm renewing my membership), the traditional ways in which we reach out to our patrons - established and potential - is changing. Print media is shrinking, social networking and the blogosphere are exploding - but what are the most effective ways to change with these times? Because, as we know, with stagnation comes certain death. Which is why dolphins swim in their sleep.

How do we learn to swim in our sleep? Or - perhaps this is a better metaphor - how do we keep our balance as the world continues to shift beneath our feet? Wouldn't it be delightful if we could wait for the fallout to settle and then calmly and rationally, with the help of perspective, distance, TIME, take a look at where we are and what might be the most prudent step forward?

See above re: dolphins. If we wait, if we try to keep still, we die. If we don't engage our cores and find our balance in the middle of all this mess, how can we hope to still be standing on the other side?

So what's our core? Is it our over-worked, under-paid (if they're paid at all) human resources? Is it our art? Is it our community? Is it the very communication-filled-anything-is-possible-hey-awesome-now-I-have-theatre-friends-in-Virginia-and Austin-and England-and Canada-interwebs? I don't know. But the times they done been changing for a while now. And we best scurry to catch up.

New ways to make our money. New ways to encourage people to get not just on-line with us, but in the room with us and share our art. New ways to find the people with whom art is worth the making. Are we ready to take a next step? I hope so. Are we already taking it? Then somebody help me catch up. I'd rather be the dolphin in the water than the ice sculpture in the earthquake.

What next?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Single-Serving Wit

Thanks to my own personal Technology Czar, I am starting to fall in love with Twitter. Thanks to a genius idea from Simon at The Next Stage in Vancouver, I'm now a member of a Theatre Twitter group that is allowing me to make friends with folks who share my passion and craft all over this increasingly tiny globe of ours.

It's mind-blowing, really, to be able to follow the daily musings and movments of folks from Austin to Dublin to Sidney - all from my temp-tastic desk. And thanks to the good people at blip.fm I can add my own personal soundtrack.

Empowered and emboldened, I'm finding that the 160 character limit is creating a box in which my witty irony is running wild. Type, type type - send! and my sparkling conversation floats through the intertubes to - literally - the whole world. Well, at least I think I'm terribly clever.

For example, when I found out this morning that Touch is on the brink of selling out for the weekend (and it's only Tuesday!) I was able to joyously declare it in song.

I can Tweet from my cell phone, from my computer - will this lead to a bevy of national/INTERnational collaboration? I dunno. I hope so. Maybe I'll Tweet about that next and see what ripples.



Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What is our call to service?

As per usual, my friend Dan has inspired me to think big thoughts.

He came to visit last weekend from San Francisco, to see New Leaf's production of Touch. When the company first read the play out loud, I tricked Dan into reading Kyle. He knew nothing of the play or the emotional journey of its protagonist, but because he is a sweet and trusting man he did what I asked, and I don't think he's quite forgiven me for asking. Part of me thinks he moved to San Francisco as my punishment. But suddenly, this weekend, there he was, back again. Poof! Like magic. Like intelligent, articulate, regular-guy-shaped magic.

I am intrigued by the idea Dan's exploring of kidnapping American theatre and setting it free. I think the idea of freedom rings true right now in a way it hasn't done for at least the last eight years - or a good chunk of my life as a self-aware adult-type person.

Today, on Day 2 of President Obama's (I just don't get tired of seeing those words together) administration, he released a remarkable statement in reference to the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

Now, apart from being articulate (as per usual), our President uses this issue as a way to talk about something more broad and more pervasive than just a woman's right to choose. He's talking about a woman's right - to everything. The freedom for women - the right for women - to everything made accessible to men in this country. It's not about saving us; it's about setting us free. It's not about handing us anything - it's about allowing us to come into what's ours.

And I think the same is true of the American theatre. Those of us at the relative beginnings of our journeys as artists and professionals are not so foolish as to want to dismiss our forebears and start all over again. The only way to continue to grow, to continue our relevance in an ever-changing culture, is to stand on the shoulders of the giants - and they are giants, pioneers, visionaries - who have come before us and keep reaching up, up, up.

But how do we do that? It's not just about setting American theatre free, it's also a matter of setting people who attend the American theatre free. And simultaneously re-imaginging who falls into that category. How do we build new audiences? How do we continue and grow our financial support? How do we make art that is honest and engaging that might allow us to build our audiences and increase our financial support without compromising our individual visions?

I think there are a lot of ways to do this - but none of them are easy. Just like fixing our country on the largest scale, it will take work. It will take time. It will take open minds and ready hearts. It will take trust, and faith, and grace. It will take each of us making a commitment to service in the ways that we are best able.

But what an electrifying time to be alive. What a challenge. What a gauntlet our President presents us with. Responsibility. Hard work. He challenges us to stand on the principles that once made our country great - and can help us make it great once again.

God bless him. And God grant us all the strength and courage to follow him.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

nesting instinct

A little while back I was asked to be part of this killer all-city intern get together hosted at the Goodman. It was pretty sweet, and I remember making what probably sounded like a flip comment that has more truth for me the more I think about it.

I said that making a play was like giving birth. I said it was like what I imagine giving birth must be like (that got a laugh. which was fun.) Here's why I said that - because it's effing hard. Because when you're in the middle of the tech where nothing's going right (c'mon, you know there's always that tech. always) you just want it to stop, you want to grab someone around the neck and say "You did this to me!" You bargain and beg and pray and wonder if you'll ever do this again. And then, once everything clicks into place, the amnesia starts to set in.

This is why women sometimes have more than one child, and why artists make more than one play. You forget. All you can think about is this cute tiny person who looks a little bit like you and your partner(s), but mostly looks like something totally orignal, something all its own.

And yet I wasn't actually done with this analogy. Even though some of the interns seemed to think I was at least moderately clever (sometimes moderate cleverness is all one can hope for). I think that if tech is like childbirth, opening is like dropping the kid off at college.

I think when (god willing) I have an actual child, I will be either the best or the worst mother in the history of anything.

I will worry a lot. I will hug too tightly. I will get lipstick on your face and then lick my thumb to wipe it off. I will become hysterical if you fall and scrape your knee. I will be righteously indignant to those who look at you funny or question how advanced you really are. I will not hide things like that with a cool, collected exterior. I will worry. I will show up at the slumber party with extra snacks and your favorite pillow. I will ask her what exactly her intentions are towards my baby. I will insist. I will suggest. I will wait up. I will stand in the doorway of your dorm room just a little too long. I will assume you're wondering when the hell I'm going to leave so that you can start to be a grown-up. I will call to make sure you're still doing alright five minutes after I've gone. I will worry. I will love you until it feels like my heart will burst. I will be too obvious about it when I feel this way. I will mean well. I will try not to crowd you. I will worry. I will breathe in. I will breathe out. I will repeat.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Synchronicity & Fullness

In Touch, Serena helps Bennie define "one of those coincidences--what's that called--when exactly what needs to happen to make something right happens." Its synchronicity and its fascinating. And I've been feeling an awful lot of it over the last week.


It has been a helluva week for New Leaf, and for me personally. I feel like I have poured more of my heart, more of my self into this show, and it has poured right back. Which is wonderful and terrifying and has been leaving me feeling - full. Almost to overflowing. It's a feeling that Marsha and I talk about quite a lot - feeling as if there is just so much in the world and that feeling it all at the same time can almost be too much. Too. Much. This week, Time Out Chicago ran a feature story - A Feature Story - about New Leaf. It is beautifully written and, even more importantly, captures my family as we are. It is a gift - not just to see ourselves in print, but to know that while how one sees oneself and how the world sees one can sometimes be dichotomous, at New Leaf we appear to be in harmony. Full. So full.


And then this show - oh, this show. Touch continues to surprise me - it feels like taking physics in the way Kyle describes it at the top of the show. He talks about how he kept taking physics not only because there was so little offered in his high school, but also because taking physics over and over and over, the world kept opening. This play keeps opening. I feel like I'm STILL making discoveries. These actors keep opening. These actors - I just - words cannot express how I feel about my actors. If I seem effusive, it's just because I am. So full. The beautiful full moon last night brought me to tears. When has that ever happened before? Not ever.


My brilliant stage manager Amanda and my brilliant KJ were talking on Friday after the show about how New Leaf is synchronicity. I think I agree - at least it has been for me. The way I came across the company is not surprising - I was working with a company member on another project and she brought me in for The Permanent Way. Thank goodness. But the trail that even brought me to be in Chicago at the precise moment that put me in line to meet her, work with her - it's mind-boggling. It's mind-boggling that anything comes together, really, when you think about all the ways that things could be different. But that's why there's synchronicity. I'm so glad we have a word for it - I'm so glad that it exists.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

3... 2... 1...

I've been spending my blogging energy at New Leaf so have been remarkably lax in letting my thoughts rattle around my head here. But I can say that Touch opens on Wednesday.

I am filled with anticipation. And I am filled with hope.

(That'll make more sense after you see the show. In the meantime, watch the trailer.)
video