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I had a unique theatrical experience tonight.

What role does fear play in your life? )

I think this is the purpose of theatre, distilled: to enter a dark room not knowing what to expect and to find yourself there on the stage.

The Fear Project runs until May 13th.

*That story...content notes: drug abuse, violence, suicide. )
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While I was in Northern Ireland this summer, I started making a list of all the stories I tell that I'd like to write down. This is one of them.

Last year, Alice had a bit of a crisis. She told me that she didn't know what she wanted to be when she grew up. This was news to me--the last time I'd checked in, granted a few years ago, she'd wanted to be a ballerina/astronaut/chef. But now she didn't know.

When I was six years old there was a special on TV called "Really Rosie". Based on various stories by Maurice Sendak, set to music by Carole King, it was the story of a girl named Rosie keeping the kids on her block entertained on a boring summer day by convincing them all to be in her movie. I loved that show. I convinced my parents to buy me the album, which included a bunch of songs not in the show. I knew every word, I acted them out in front of the mirror, I was Rosie. The following year my elementary school did "Really Rosie" as our annual pageant and I was the only first-grader recruited for a speaking role, as the Narrator.

The first time this came up, I told her that nine is a great time to not know, that there are many more things to do in the world than she can really fathom at this point, and it's hard to choose when you're a smart kid who's interested in a lot of different things, and it's completely ok not to be sure. "OK, Mama, thanks," she said.

When I was eight years old I decided that what the world needed was a modern adaptation of "Twas the Night Before Christmas," so I wrote one. I reserved the hall at our church and recruited everyone in my third grade class to be in it and my mom to provide punch and cookies. We had a single performance, to a standing ovation of our parents. When it was over my mother asked what my next project would be and I said "Directing is too much work! I'm not going to do it again until I'm...nineteen!"

The second time this came up, a few weeks later, I tried to explain the timeline for making this decision: a sense of whether and what kind of college by junior year of high school, a major a couple of years later, whether or not to go to grad school in that field or something else a couple of years after that... "OK, Mama, thanks," she said.

When I was nineteen I somehow ended up directing "A Little Night Music" for the Tech Random Music Ensemble at MIT. That was the second of four fledgling theatre groups I was involved in, at four different schools, during my college years. When I graduated I had this idea about going out to Minneapolis and trying to become a stage manager, but never really figured out how I would do that. By the time I was 25 I was tired of theatre, tired of Boston, tired of a lot of things about my life, so I moved out to California and didn't do theatre for ten years.

The third time this came up, a few weeks later, I finally figured out that this was a real crisis, so it was a longer conversation and I asked more questions until I finally understood what was bothering her: not that she didn't know what she wants to be, but that she didn't know how to answer grown-ups when they ask her what she wants to be. OH! I explained that it's not a test--what they are really asking is what they might talk to her about. I suggested that she reframe the question in her own mind to "What are you really interested in at the moment?" Instantly she said "Interior design."

When it looked as though I might not be able to conceive, I felt a deep need to create something. Jason and I had talked for years about doing a show together and other opportunities emerged that led to the creation of Theatre@First. And then Alice was born. When she was four years old, we introduced her to "Really Rosie" and at dinner one evening she asked me if I knew who Really Rosie was. I told her yes, that when I was six years old I wanted to be Really Rosie. And as I said that I realized that's exactly who I am.

Six months later, Alice wants to be a fashion designer. We'll see.
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On Sunday morning I attended services at First Parish, as usual. The sermon was given by Aisha Ansano, a young woman of color who is a member of our congregation, as well as a staff member working with our Youth Group, and also a candidate we're sponsoring for ordination as a minister. Her sermon was excellent: it shared some of her personal history, her excitement at discovering Unitarian Universalism, her deep call to the UU ministry...and how hard it is to be a UU of color. She was very honest, though she did pull some punches (talking about "sitting in UU congregations," rather than specifying ours, for example) but also encouraged us to think more deeply about how our race impacts our relationship with our religion. I hope we will hear her voice from our pulpit often.

On Sunday afternoon I attended the CAIR Massachusetts Rally to protest the new Muslim ban and immigration restrictions. I hadn't thought I could go, but then I was reminded that someone else was spending the afternoon with my daughter, so I could go, but having previously passed on joining various friends and groups, and still having fairly tight timing, I went alone. I ran into a couple of people I know coming out of the T and we marched up Boylston together before splitting up, at which point I immediately ran into my next door neighbor (not the one I saw at the Women's March, the one in the other direction) and we chatted for a few moments before I decided to wade deeper into the crowd, where I quickly found an old friend from MIT and stood with him and his daughter until they had to leave. I kept moving slowly, but steadily toward the center, where I could hear the speakers more clearly. I got to be part of the People's Microphone for the first time and was moved by the inspiring words passing through my voice. I especially loved the MC, Rana Abdelhamid, leading us in various chants, but always returning to "What do we do? STAND UP. FIGHT BACK." While friends on the outskirts reported a majority white crowd, there at the center I found myself surrounded by a sea of different shades of people. The sense of connection and community and common purpose was palpable. When the speeches ended I made a beeline for the street and walking toward the bus passed the Boston Marathon Finish Line, site of the bombing, and thought how beautiful it was that we could gather near that fateful marker without fear of each other, strangers though we are in so many ways.

On Sunday evening I attended an Active Bystander Training workshop hosted by Theatre@First and run by Cassie Luna, a young Asian-American representative from the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. They and their partner, Nate, led eighteen of us in a discussion of ways to intervene in situations of harassment and attack, laying out a framework for thinking about responses, and putting us through some scenarios. It was great to hear so many people's perspectives and ideas and to get more training on appropriate and useful intervention tools. One of the response categories ("Dedicate") involved thinking of ways to make personal and systemic changes to address the culture of sexual violence around us and one of our participants shared that she has made a commitment this year to attend at least six events led by women of color and I suddenly realized that I had attended three that day.

I feel really fortunate that I live where this is possible, pleased that the spaces where I am putting myself are bringing me these opportunities, and grateful to these people for stepping up and speaking out. At a time when so much feels terrifying, I am lifted by their voices, excited to learn from them and to follow where they lead.
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Another one from [livejournal.com profile] writersblock:

Do you connect or identify with any particular fictional character? If so, which one and why? If you could be that character in their world for one day, what would you do?

[livejournal.com profile] greenquotebook wrote a great response to this one, inspiring me to give it a try.

This is not a way that I tend to think about characters, perhaps because I am too essentialist in viewing gender. I think I tend to identify with lead characters, but their tendency to maleness gets in the way of true sympathy for me.

The exception that I can think of is Lizzy, from Pride and Prejudice--her wit and tendency to enjoy her own, her observation of others and tolerance for their faults. But I am also Lydia, at least in the way my sisters see me, and I think that gets at a key issue in my identifications--they are more often because I recognize the relationship than the character itself. I am Marianne, but only because B. is Elinor. I am Kirk, but only because I hang out with Spock a lot and have several Bones and Scotties. I am Ferris, but that never occurred to me until I married a Cameron. Of course, we are both Pooh, so that helps :)

But considering it further, I think that I do not look for myself in books. I look for other options, other ways of being that feel authentic to me.

How about you? Are there characters with whom you strongly identify? Are there characters that make you think of me? Is that kind of identification something that you look for in your fiction?
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Last night I was trying to write a prayer/meditation for today's service. I had a hard time even getting started and then really didn't feel like I was getting anywhere good, even when I started writing. Perhaps, I thought, I had exhausted my inspiration in writing my speech about Theatre@First for the Women's Alliance meeting on Friday, or with the previous post on friendship. And then I was struck with inspiration. I've been thinking a lot about seeing people, about being seen, and I thought of a way to incorporate that concept. And then I realized how challenging that would be for some people in the congregation and the additional time it would take in an already busy service and how much it would interrupt the celebratory tone we were striving for today, with the kickoff of our Meetinghouse (Capital) Campaign. So I ditched that idea, or shelved it for another, more contemplative service, and went back to what I had and finished that, feeling entirely dissatisfied with it. It's a lot more theist than I usually strive for--as a secular humanist raised in a theist tradition, drifting more toward prayer feels lazy to me--and I didn't find a way to involve any of the miraculous science I've thought about this week and that I usually work into these. I mentioned my dissatisfaction to the minister before the service--that I thought what I had was fine, but truly lacking in inspiration, and we commiserated a bit about doing this when you're not feeling it.

And then, perhaps "of course," I got more requests than ever from people who have never spoken to me before that I send them a copy. One woman asked where I had found it and when I explained that I'd written it last night she was shocked and demanded to know however I had learned to do that. Even the minister whispered to me as I took my seat again, thanking me for leading her into prayer in the midst of today's chaos. I guess that's what I get for trying to control a numinous process.

What I Wrote )
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Jonathan Carroll posts a lot of things on FB: poems, quotations, snippets from the book he's writing, vignettes from his life in Vienna, extraordinary photos he finds on the web. They're often thought-provoking and sometimes uncanny in their relevance to myself, or the situations of others in my life. I comment sometimes, but mostly figure if something isn't relevant to me then he was talking to someone else that day.

This morning there is an unattributed passage that I'm guessing comes from his own work:

At the end of their relationship she asked if they could still remain friends. His face was expressionless until he said "No. Because we put friends in boxes. You see them once in a while, or even a lot, but still they have their box in your life, their specific place.Their *category.* That's one of the great things about being someone's love-- you have no box in their life because you're part of all their boxes. You're their friend, their lover, their confidante-- all those things. I don't want to be put in one of your boxes and I don't want to shrink you to fit into one of mine."

And while I know what he's getting at, my experience is somewhat different. Read more... )

A toast, then, to my lasting friends: the ones who jump out of the box, defy definition, and transcend context. You know who you are, even if Jonathan Carroll doesn't believe you exist.
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I'm having this conversation with Dayenne, the actor in question, who has a different perspective from many of my readers here, as an actor and a black woman and the person in the spotlight.

But since I've had such valuable conversations about it here in the past, I would like to get any thoughts that you have. I'm making this a public entry so that you can feel free to point other people to it that you think would have relevant perspectives, but I'm not going to post it more publicly, both because of its work-in-progress nature and because I simply do not have the available time this week to monitor and participate in a wider conversation.

As most of you will remember, in 2009 there was an extensive discussion about my previous casting of a black woman in Never After. In Pride & Prejudice I have a similar situation. I think that some of the significant details are different and it is my hope that I can handle it better this time around.

Dayenne, a black woman (the description she uses of herself), is playing the role of Mrs. Bennet. She is a fantastic actor (some of you may have seen her as Vera in The Oldest Profession). I am delighted to be working with her and she is excited to have been cast in a role for which she is not "to type". As in the Never After situation, she is the only major character of color in the show, due to the demographics of our audition pool (something Theatre@First continues to work to address). Unlike the Never After situation, Mrs Bennet is not a villain. She is a silly, self-centered, rather vulgar and stupid woman whose sole purpose in life is to see her daughters well married. I do not think that these qualities play into strong stereotypes about black women and it was my hope that, if anything, Dayenne being a black woman would make audiences reconsider the character and possibly find her more sympathetic.

Once again, however, I've failed to consider all the ramifications. Dayenne has pointed out to me that her being a black woman makes the higher class characters' disapproval of Mrs Bennet take on a potentially racist tone. The two characters whose disapproval is strongest (Lady Catherine and Miss Bingley) could be said to be villains and to each receive defeat, while Mrs Bennet comes out a winner, so that's something. Her children and husband reveal exasperation and condescension towards her--is that also going to be perceived as racially tinged?

We've still got a couple of weeks before opening night. Do you have any suggestions on what I can do on-stage to affect audience perceptions of the overall show's attitudes? I have asked Dayenne for her thoughts and if she would be comfortable with me including something about this in my Director's Note in the program, which was a suggestion last time around. I've got some ideas, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on what--if anything--that should be, and any other thoughts and suggestions you have.

In the long run, I'm going to keep reaching out to actors of all descriptions and encouraging them to audition for me and casting them primarily on the basis of their talent and feel for particular roles. And I'm going to keep stumbling and learning and trying to do better by individual actors, by T@F, by our audience and by our community. And I expect that I'm going to keep falling short and begging pardon and hoping to do better, show by show, year by year, being stung by my shortcomings yet grateful for the opportunities, as best I can. Your help in this process is profoundly appreciated.
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Last night, at Chez Henri, the song He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother was playing. It made me think about how my understanding and appreciation of certain songs has shifted over time.

The Police were one of the first bands I really loved. When I was fourteen, the song Every Breath You Take was just amazing to me--so romantic, so thrilling, so sexy. King of Pain, on the other hand, was just okay. I mean, it's got a wonderfully eerie sound and Sting's voice is so poignant and powerful, but there was no resonance. By the time I reached my thirties, I had "stood here before inside the pouring rain, with the world turning circles running round my brain" and King of Pain had become a great song, while Every Breath You Take is a song about stalking, which is not romantic, not sexy and is, as a great man once said, "creepy as fuck," albeit still pretty catchy.

When I was introduced to The Indigo Girls, my junior year of college, Closer to Fine was a heartfelt cry of meaning and truth, while Love's Recovery seemed pretty, but sort of maudlin. Washing dishes in London more than ten years later, having just heard the news of a friend's divorce, I cried to hear Love's Recovery--such a beautiful song of the sad, yet hopeful, side of love--while Closer to Fine still has a lovely lilt, but its sophmoric surety has come to grate a bit.

And I wonder if the time will ever come that I don't really hate He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.

lillibet: (Default)
Last night, at Chez Henri, the song He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother was playing. It made me think about how my understanding and appreciation of certain songs has shifted over time.

The Police were one of the first bands I really loved. When I was fourteen, the song Every Breath You Take was just amazing to me--so romantic, so thrilling, so sexy. King of Pain, on the other hand, was just okay. I mean, it's got a wonderfully eerie sound and Sting's voice is so poignant and powerful, but there was no resonance. By the time I reached my thirties, I had "stood here before inside the pouring rain, with the world turning circles running round my brain" and King of Pain had become a great song, while Every Breath You Take is a song about stalking, which is not romantic, not sexy and is, as a great man once said, "creepy as fuck," albeit still pretty catchy.

When I was introduced to The Indigo Girls, my junior year of college, Closer to Fine was a heartfelt cry of meaning and truth, while Love's Recovery seemed pretty, but sort of maudlin. Washing dishes in London more than ten years later, having just heard the news of a friend's divorce, I cried to hear Love's Recovery--such a beautiful song of the sad, yet hopeful, side of love--while Closer to Fine still has a lovely lilt, but its sophmoric surety has come to grate a bit.

And I wonder if the time will ever come that I don't really hate He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.

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[livejournal.com profile] miss_chance has famously said that, despite having done a lot of physical labor in her lifetime, the heaviest thing she's ever lifted was the telephone receiver.

I had a phone call to make that was difficult for me. Not the call itself--I knew I'd just be leaving a message--but the symbolism of doing it, the ball that it would start rolling. I had it on my to-do list today. I told Jason that I was going to make the call. I made the other two related-but-easier calls and then I paid some bills and started playing a computer game. And then I caught myself--none of your tricks, now, brain!--picked up the phone and made the call.

Call made on the first day I intended to make it, FTW!
lillibet: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] miss_chance has famously said that, despite having done a lot of physical labor in her lifetime, the heaviest thing she's ever lifted was the telephone receiver.

I had a phone call to make that was difficult for me. Not the call itself--I knew I'd just be leaving a message--but the symbolism of doing it, the ball that it would start rolling. I had it on my to-do list today. I told Jason that I was going to make the call. I made the other two related-but-easier calls and then I paid some bills and started playing a computer game. And then I caught myself--none of your tricks, now, brain!--picked up the phone and made the call.

Call made on the first day I intended to make it, FTW!
lillibet: (Default)
This is a fantastic post about accepting yourself as a fat person and about The Fantasy of Being Thin.

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] gilana for the pointer!
lillibet: (Default)
This is a fantastic post about accepting yourself as a fat person and about The Fantasy of Being Thin.

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] gilana for the pointer!
lillibet: (Default)
I just read that Putin has suspended Russia's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. Most of you have probably never even heard of that one, but I spent the summer after my junior year monitoring the negotiations. I know a lot more about what makes something a tank than your average suburban housewife.

That was a very different time, both for me and the world. The other part of my job that summer was organizing a conference for members of the US and Soviet (remember the Soviet Union?) military-industrial complexes on how to convert to a peacetime economy. I was living in a house of twenty-five brilliant, sexy, fun, nutty and so-very-young adults. Grunge had yet to make its way out of Seattle--although Nirvana had played a dorm party I was at a few months earlier--and rap music still couldn't get much play on the radio. My relationship with my parents was pretty distant. Bush pere was in office, but we had yet to send any troops to the Sandbox.

Funny how nostalgic one can be for a treaty.
lillibet: (Default)
I just read that Putin has suspended Russia's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. Most of you have probably never even heard of that one, but I spent the summer after my junior year monitoring the negotiations. I know a lot more about what makes something a tank than your average suburban housewife.

That was a very different time, both for me and the world. The other part of my job that summer was organizing a conference for members of the US and Soviet (remember the Soviet Union?) military-industrial complexes on how to convert to a peacetime economy. I was living in a house of twenty-five brilliant, sexy, fun, nutty and so-very-young adults. Grunge had yet to make its way out of Seattle--although Nirvana had played a dorm party I was at a few months earlier--and rap music still couldn't get much play on the radio. My relationship with my parents was pretty distant. Bush pere was in office, but we had yet to send any troops to the Sandbox.

Funny how nostalgic one can be for a treaty.
lillibet: (Default)
I've noticed the "interests meme" going around again and it always makes me think that I should add things to my list. And then I look at my list (fine dining, history, movies, reading aloud, science fiction, theatre, travel, wine, yoga) and think "yeah, that about covers it". But I'll grant you that it's not very specific. So, gentle readers, I'm taking suggestion: what should I add to my interests? I'm thinking "parenting," at the very least.
lillibet: (Default)
I've noticed the "interests meme" going around again and it always makes me think that I should add things to my list. And then I look at my list (fine dining, history, movies, reading aloud, science fiction, theatre, travel, wine, yoga) and think "yeah, that about covers it". But I'll grant you that it's not very specific. So, gentle readers, I'm taking suggestion: what should I add to my interests? I'm thinking "parenting," at the very least.

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