Friday, August 10, 2012

No and Yes

I want to make sure I teach my son the word no.  I don't want him to hear an incessant string of nos coming from me.  But what I do want him to understand is that there are boundaries that people can establish between themselves and others in the world, and when he encounters them, they should be respected.  I want him to feel that he has the power and the authority to set his own boundaries.  I want him to feel empowered and autonomous.  I wish someone had taught this to me when I was a child.

In art, I have a nearly opposite attitude.  I want to hear nothing but yeses.  I want hear myself saying yes.  I want to hear ACTORS and DESIGNERS saying yes.  Yes, to embrace the givens and spring from them, yes, to throw oneself into a rehearsal, into the world of the play, into whatever circumstances or scenarios I pitch at them, into each other, yes, to every preposterous, unlikely, and just maybe brilliant idea that arises during the process.  An attitude of can-do and find-a-way and we-will-make-this-happen is what makes beautiful collaborative art happen.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I get frustrated with modern etiquette. Times change, and our tools change, but there are some old habits I would like to hold on to. One, in particular, is the act of keeping an engagement.  If I make a date with someone, I'm trying to make more effort to commit in advance to a set day and time, and more importantly, to notate it somewhere to remind me.  Amazing!  Then I turn down any other offers or invitations for that time. I think this is something we could all try to do in general.  I understand that we all have those friends or family members with whom we get together frequently, and so we keep things loose and flexible.  It's when I start finding myself unable to see the people I care about as often as I like that such commitments become so important.  I think we should be teaching our children this lesson as well.  If they accept an invitation, it should be honored, not cancelled if a "better offer" comes along. This is a way we can practice respect for others and develop character.  Similarly, if a child takes on a class or an activity that they find they do not enjoy, the honorable thing to do is fulfill their commitment; just see it through to the end.  Everyone is free to make a different choice next time.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


A perpetual concept on my mind is the power of language to shape and alter the way a person thinks.  If language can affect how I think, then it can certainly have influence on the person I become.  Simply having words to name things in the world affects how I perceive them.  Having vocabulary to describe the things I feel and experience allows me to reflect on them, as well as share my thoughts with others.  So, can speaking more than one language affect who a person becomes in a significant way?  Can growing up in a place with a particular dialect or accent (perhaps one that's different than that of the parents) change things in the personality or character of someone?  The language one uses--and hence the thoughts one has--affects the physiology of the brain.  So what are the ramifications of the choices we make regarding the language we teach our children?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Busy Nap Times

Now that Sebbie has settled into daily 2-hour naps, I have this little window of time during which I can try to accomplish things.  Many days this ends up being simply food prep for dinner: sauce making, garlic crushing, and lots of washing and chopping of vegetables.  Occasionally, it also becomes my nap time, if i really need it.  And I'll sometimes relish the bit of quiet time for reading.  But now that this is happening with such reliable predictability, I can't ignore the sense that I should be using this time for truly productive work.  Researching.  Reflecting.  Writing.  There are a few passion projects that have for too long been on back burners. Perhaps I ought to move them forward and get cooking.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Back on your horse, girl!

Oh, so sad that I fell off the wagon with this writing habit.  Time alone is a rare and precious thing.  And such time is essential for me.  I spent one hour on my own in Chinatown on a recent evening.  It was lovely.  I had an Americano and a coconut tart from Wonder Bakery (love that place) and people-watched in the Old Chinatown Central Plaza as families wandered amid the new art studios and old import/souvenir shops.  I took a stroll down Hill and reminded myself how I love catching a view of downtown at night.  Even after so many years here, this city holds many secrets and adventures to explore and discover.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

in miniature

I've been wading in a shallow tide pool,
a hint of the ocean my life should be.
I set up a dollhouse, a miniature version
of where I ultimately want to live.
Small tokens and gestures keep me feeling
Connected to far off goals.

Time for Thought

What a challenge it is to carve out time for writing--which is really carving out time for thinking--when I'm caring for a small child. I identify with Virginia Woolf's sentiments in A Room of One's Own. To really create thoughtful work, I need space, time, and certain amount of financial independence. Although it sometimes feels like a necessity to do such work, it usually also feels like a luxury. Thoughtfulness is a habit to be cultivated.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Why would you support an institution that has been abusing children for generations? How can you weekly give your heart to an organization that for centuries tortured people? How can you make yourself vulnerable and seek spiritual guidance or benefit in a place that demeans you? How can you humble yourself and offer praise in a house whose keepers do not respect who you are? Again and again, acts of cruelty, inhumanity, and reckless evil are exposed, and still the flocks make weekly pilgrimages. Why do you not shout with outrage? Demand better? Overthrow the corrupt leaders and take back your safe havens that have been anything but safe for many of those around you? If I believed, it might be worth a rebellion, but I don't, and so I just keep moving farther and farther away.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I am of two minds regarding remakes.  There are stories that are so compelling, we return to them again and again, revealing in new ways the universal truths they share.  The themes are so meaningful to us in our human experience that each new generation hears them and retells them in their own way.  These stories offer us an experience of new discovery each time we pass them forward.  I appreciate the role these stories play in our arts and in our lives.

Then there are stories that are retold because of personal connections with the material.  This can also be a meaningful reason for a long as the storyteller takes the time to make sure there is something meaningful being shared.  This type of remake could illuminate the experiences of a subculture, for example, or educate about a certain philosophy.  Far too often, what I see is a story being retold because someone liked it when they were young.  Nostalgia is powerful stuff, potent emotion.  I don't, however, think it is a strong enough reason alone to remake an already-told story, rather than creating an original story of one's own.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Sometimes envy crowds out the joy and appreciation for the wonderful things in my life I could otherwise hold in my heart. I hear about the travels of some friend, or the artistic endeavors of another, or even such things as the acquisition of a car, a house, or a great job, and I wonder when I will be able to have such things. A hiatus of a year, or a few years, isn't so long in the grand plan of a life. I must try to not feel as though I am unwinding time and moving in reverse.  These feelings can damage my judgement, push me towards wallowing in depression and self-pity, and block my view of where I'm heading.  It's a long road I'm on, and many good things are still to come.  I can't expect to enjoy them all at the same time.

Friday, March 16, 2012


On overcast days, sojourn to the beach,
heavy grey clouds hanging,
the ocean frothy slate washing up,
salty scent, of jasmine   bougainvillea   sage,
quiet and cool except the volleyball players and joggers,
but mostly my own thoughts
and the infinity of the horizon.

Sunny days, take to the shade of the forest trails,
dirt mountain paths, leafy canopies
alternating cool shade and warm sun patches,
pines, mist and moist rock, river beds, soft pine needles orange and green, and moss
birds fluttering, chirping, cooing,
sweat and heavy breath relieved by occasional breezes.

Snowfall brings me out for storefront browsing,
gift shopping, coffee sipping,
stylish wools and tweeds, oft-neglected boots for more than just fun,
soft fluffy flakes landing in my hair before melting away,
brisk, cold, sharp air, scent of frost like barbs but welcome and fresh,
smoothness of cold skin, watery eyes, pink cheeks.

Rainy moody favorite moments,
indoors with a good window view
to see and hear the thundering drops making impact,
lilacs rich   heavy   tearful,
songs like the cure and the clash,
favorite flannel and a teenage heart of passion.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Not Ordinary

I have a neighbor who has a flower pinwheel stuck into the soil outside her door. Whenever I take little Fox out for a walk, he stops to admire this decoration. (He is starting to understand the idea of wind, and to gesture when he notices it blowing.) He gets very excited when the breeze sets the flower twirling. I remembered seeing pinwheels during a recent visit to the local 99 cent store, so I was thinking about buying one for him. Upon reflection, I thought that if he had a pinwheel of his own, it would become ordinary and he would no longer experience the thrill of passing the neighbors'.

I think about this idea whenever I take him on excursions with me. When we're in a store, he may be excited about all of the colorful toys he sees, but I want him to find fun in just looking at them. I don't buy him a new toy each time we're out. If he becomes animated, pointing at various delights, I talk to him about what they are, perhaps let him see what they feel like, but we don't need to own them. I want him to learn to enjoy the potential, the anticipation, the imagining of what each thing could be like. I want the idea of them to hold some magic.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Opportunistic Beliefs

If you don't believe in ghosts, can you be afraid of them? Do you pray to a god in whom you don't believe during a moment of crisis? Is that brief moment of belief real? What does it mean if the belief is dismissed when the fear has passed, safety is assured, and rational thought returns? Is it just a type of hope? Is it a wish for some power outside oneself to save the day? Is it opportunistic selfishness? Could it be called co-opting the advantages of the faithful? And what about that spooky encounter that send chills and goosebumps down your body? Fiction and fantasy can have such real and tangible effects on us.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Golden Hour

I can remember discussing napping schedules with my pediatrician during my son's early check-ups.  On numerous occasions she said that once he started taking longer naps, (1 - 2 1/2 hours), I would find I could get a lot done during these naps.  I thought to myself, what's the big deal with an hour or two?  How is that such a significant amount of time?  But after months of feeling tethered to baby-care tasks throughout each entire day, a 1-2 hour block suddenly seems like a golden hour...or two.  I am suddenly the wonder woman of single hour multitasking, accomplishing more within that one little nap than I might have done in an entire evening, in my pre-baby days.  It's amazing how a finite amount of time can stretch or shrink depending not only on whether you are enjoying yourself, but also on how you have been spending your time lately, and thus how precious that time has come to be.  Those little gifts of quiet time also give me time to think and to write.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Just Honest

I want to be done with cynicism. When I talk and when I write, I try to no longer protect myself from feeling dumb, or from being perceived as uncool. I still worry about whether my take on something is well-informed. I worry that if I put an opinion out there, I will later change my mind and wish I could take back the words. I fear that my vehement argument for a particular way to do something will be seen as a dismissal of any other choice. Yet, I am trying to say, anyway, my thoughts and my feelings. Unguarded. Not hipster-"vulnerable", ha ha. Just honest.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

To Record or Be Present?

Is it better to record a meaningful moment with photographs and videos, or to be fully present and just experience it? I don''t believe those who say they are present while snapping away. Not completely. I enjoy things more without the burden of documenting. Even an enjoyable act such as photography can be also a burden. The screen becomes so ever-present. A layer of removal between the eyes and the world. Between the mind and others in the world. A compromise, a middle ground can be negotiated while the purity of complete presence is still tainted. Yet the benefits of images that spark brilliantly clear memories are a weighty counterbalance in this argument.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Life Together

I am so moved by long marriages. A life committed to a single partner isn't for everyone, but for those who seek it and find it, oh what rich rewards! It is a precious thing to be by your love's side through growth and discovery and soul-shaping experiences. Living within my love's view makes me want to live a worthwhile life. Remembering to step back, to be able to see this very moment as one small part of the big overall arc of our lives together, motivates me to set aside the petty worries, to let go of talk of menial household tasks and responsibilities, and to make each encounter together a moment worth remembering. If this morning's events were written into a play, which exchanges would I edit out? Did I say or do anything that my love can think fondly of throughout our hours apart? Or did I drag out an old burden from the pile in the corner and add a weight to his load to carry through the day? When I see him again, what can I offer to let warmth and light into his heart? These are daily choices, and sometimes I make the wrong one. If I remind myself more often to make the choice that will make us both happier, then such choices can become easy habits, and ultimately become simply the way I live my life. This can smooth the way towards fashioning a lifelong adventure to be lived together, hand in hand.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I just started reading a book about habits: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.  I heard the author being interviewed on AirTalk, and what really caught my interest were the stories of people who made major changes in their lives after first changing a single habit.  It's an amazing thought, the idea that one could start a chain of improvements within oneself by taking advantage of the brain's penchant for efficiency (or laziness).  It may be well worth the effort of establishing a new habit to coerce yourself into regular exercise or healthier eating.  Perhaps I can find ways to create habits for myself to improve my frequently faulty memory.  This knowledge clarifies why shaking up the usual routine can get the brain fired up, revealing new solutions to old problems.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

How to Say It

I am an awkward phone conversationalist. I attribute this to the fact that I am very visually oriented. I learn things much more easily if the content is presented in a visual format. In conversations, I depend on reading body language cues from the person I'm talking with, and I feel more confident knowing I can rely on gestures to aid in my own expression or clarification. I can help myself hold a better telephone conversation with preparation and notes. (This sounds silly, even to myself, because of course preparation should help anyone. Recognizing it and acting on it is a good practice.) But I often wish I was better at off-the-cuff discussions.

Other exercises have helped me improve this skill. Offering verbal critiques of theatrical work--especially immediately after viewing--as I had to do throughout grad school, was excellent practice. Writing is also a beneficial exercise, as it helps me refine the act of structuring my thoughts, and offers me continuous practice in using elegant grammar. Choosing how to express an idea--deciding how to articulate a thought--forces me to clarify what I really think about the matter.

Friday, March 2, 2012


It is such a wonderful thing to arrive home.  It doesn't matter that it is only a rented cubbyhole, nearly identical to the rows of cubbyholes around it.   It doesn't belong to me, and when I'm done with it, someone else will call it home.  But right now, that little space is reserved for me.  I can count on it being there, looking as I left it, welcoming me at the end of a long and busy day.  It's a safe haven.  I can hide out there, if I feel I need to.  Some days, it's nice to know I have that option. 

If it were suddenly lost or taken, by a tornado or a bank, it would feel like the ground disappearing from beneath my feet.  It sometimes seems like a luxury, but always feels like a necessity.  It's amazing how having a place of one's own can be a grounding oasis, a source of strength, safety, and stability.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rich Life

I want my achievements in this life to be about the experiences I've had, and not only about the success of my career.  I constantly read about how young people today feel a lot of pressure surrounding every choice they make in life.  From an early age they are set onto a moving sidewalk propelling them towards college and careers, and every choice matters.  They must get a head start so that once they are in school, they will get tracked into the advanced courses.  They need the right balance of academics, sports, music lessons, extra credit work, and volunteer work in order to shine extra bright when competing for college admissions.

I didn't necessarily see too much of this among my own peers, growing up.  But during grad school I had a number of conversations with other directors regarding the types of shows they "should" be sure to direct during grad school in order to have the right resume when launching their careers.  I made my own choices based on what I was curious about, or what I wanted to learn about.  I've already expounded a bit on how I tend to make too much of making a challenging choice, but I do relish the learning opportunities in each show I direct.

Sometimes, when I am working on updating my resume and CV, I feel concern about how my broad and varied experience may be perceived. Will it seem as though I've merely meandered, rather than continuing to grow and build momentum?  I spent a lot of time trying to get experience in as many aspects of the theatre as possible, and I have done a wide range of jobs.  These many experiences have kept things interesting for me, most of the time.  They feed my curiosity and give me new perspectives.  For many, I think the learning is why we like theatre anyway.

Considering whether my choices are for the purpose of forging a "career path", versus a life, I have to remember that I'm not living a career; I'm living a life.  I should try to do all the things I want to with it.  I should not concern myself with how it all appears, as none of that really matters. I must look beyond such things to the long view, the bigger picture, the richness that a life can hold, and strive for that.  As I think about the many divergent paths along which my life has taken me, I feel quite satisfied with what I have been able to experience so far.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Skinned Knees

I am re-reading an excellent parenting book called Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children, by Wendy Mogel.  I'm not Jewish, and not religious at all, really.  However, I found many of the philosophies in this book to be intelligent, rational, and inspiring.  I find that the author's ideas which are drawn from her relationship with God can be analogous to my feelings about our roles as humans in the world in general.  There are many memorable lessons throughout the book, but I find myself most often reflecting on those alluded to in the book's title.  Life is messy and challenging.  Kids need to get those inevitable scrapes and bruises in order to learn how to deal with the world.  They need to see from experience that they can fall down, and then pick themselves up to continue moving forward.

I will share a selection of quotations from the book below.  I highly recommend reading the whole book.

  "The current trend is to shield children from emotional or physical discomfort." (p 25)

  "By sanctifying the most mundane aspects of the here and now, it teaches us that there is greatness not just in grand and glorious achievements but in our small, everyday efforts and deeds." (p 26)

  "The purpose of having children and raising them to be self-reliant, compassionate adults is to ensure that there will be people here to honor God after we are gone.  So the rules regarding child-rearing are not primarily about making children feel good, but about making children into good people." (p27)

  "According to Jewish thought, parents should not expect their children to be anyone other than who they are.  A Hasidic teaching says, "If your child has a talent to be a baker, don't ask him to be a doctor." (p 31)

  "A paradox of parenting is that if we love our children for their own sake rather than for their achievements, it's more likely that they will reach their true potential." (p 47)

  "The theory of cognitive behaviorism holds that feelings follow behavior.  In other words, rather than wait for your children to feel like being agreeable, you can teach them habits of politeness.  If you and they use polite phrases every day, feelings of gratitude and respect can grow out of your behavior. (p 58)

  "By giving them a chance to survive some danger and letting them make some reckless or thoughtless choices, we teach them how to withstand the bumps and knocks of life.  This is the only way children will mature into resilient, self-reliant adults." (p 71)

  "Real protection means teaching children to manage risks on their own, not shielding them from every hazard." (p 74)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Middle Age Pause

Is this what it feels like to be "middle aged"?  I feel both young and old, yet a little bit neither. My heart is not quite done feeling young, still wanting to be connected to youth culture, to feel hip, stylish, relevant.  If I peek down inside, I can see the tears, the tiny ruptures, the torn, rough edges, where I've already begun to break away from all of that.   Parts of me have begun to drift in new directions.  But I feel I haven't quite arrived yet. Roads wind behind me, as before me many trail-heads beckon.  Wide oceans invite...mixed metaphors.  The thirties are such an odd, strange decade in this age, for this generation.  By now, my parents would have had a family, a home, careers well-launched, a well established place in life.  Many of my peers are where I am, perhaps having one of the a, b, or c multiple choices, but few have d, all of the above.  I am anticipating arriving, landing on a shore not far from the deck where I stand, where I will start to feel more sure of my footing, more in possession, owning, of my skills and experiences, assured that I am building upon them.  This pause I've taken, to nurture and care for a child, as opposed to nurturing my work, has given me time for stillness and reflection.  The stillness, the thinking, the reckoning can be frightening.  Looking straight into that frightful wind assures me I am not just drifting, but I am sailing, and I am living.

Research and Respect

Directing allows me to continue working on old material and new material.  There are themes that call me back, to re-examine, re-explore, and ideally, to mine deeper.  I find this rewarding, as I develop a stronger understanding of the world and my own character within it.  One of the aspects I also love about theatre work is the built-in string of opportunities to investigate new topics.  I love directing plays that delve deeply into some subject that was previously unfamiliar to me. I enjoy the research, and the journey can feel like digging up buried treasures (although I have to acknowledge to myself that this work I'm learning about is no buried loot, but the daily effort and expertise of others).  Accurately depicting someone else's profession or passion is a challenge.  In a few weeks or months I can't expect to learn an entire new field.  What I can do is respect the lives depicted, devote time to diligent research, and trust in the playwright's work as well.  Showing another's life onstage with specificity can help us understand one another better. Within the specifics, the commonalities, the universals, can help us feel connected with one another.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Americans love to root for the underdog.  Our shared narrative fictions so often celebrate the underestimated antihero, the one who comes from meager beginnings, seemingly destined for a lackluster, go-nowhere life, who, through sheer grit and an unlikely wealth of inherent talent, blows all expectations out of the water. Most often the protagonist's rise is boosted by a delicate combination of brute effort, luck, and charm.  There is little celebrating of what is more likely to help one earn success: studying and paying dues.  I get it, that doesn't make for a romantic story.  But have we internalized the more common trope too deeply?  The underdog's arrival at domination goes against the odds, and therein lies the drama that rivets us.  Ironically, this story is so common that it is now cliche.  It should no longer surprise us, as it's been told so many times, and one might think it would no longer hold dramatic value, no surprise, no twist.  Why does it still engage us?  Do we really want to have great success without true mental effort?  Initially, one might be inclined to respond, "of course, duh."  What about all that we get out of the work itself?  We keep coming back to it for a reason.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Performing Live (Recorded)

I still think a lot about permanence.  I, at times, feel I don't care whether the work I create has any permanence.  I know I prioritize the event in the room over the evidence.  But I am grateful to the artists before me whose work (still exists and so) can teach me and inspire me.  A recording of a work of art becomes a new work unto itself.  The difference is particularly significant if the art is a performance.  An artist who chooses performance as a form is likely interested in the live-ness of a body performing.  The body might be the medium that can best do what the artist wants her work to do.  Or it could be the movement.  More likely it's a person's presence that accomplishes what an inanimate objet cannot.  A recording of performance art can be useful to artists and scholars, but whether the artist intended the recording to be an element of the work, or whether it is an afterthought, is also worth considering.  (Sometimes I feel almost too lazy to record my work, but that is a whole different issue.)  I wonder if scrutinizing a record of one's own past work is as useful as simply reflecting on it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Writer's Block

There are many different places to look to for inspiration.

Look within.  Of course.  Ideas are lurking there, frequently brushed aside for consideration on some other day.  Now is a day to give them deeper reflection.  Just pick any one and make a stab at it.

Events happened today.  Who did you see?  Someone passed by might have been memorable, or sparked some odd memory, or set off a string of imagined lives.  Where did you go?  Remember what it looked like, smelled like, sounded like.  Allow a reader, or a spectator, to be there too.  Description.  Poetry.  Recorded sound.  Music.  Scents.  Create the movement.  Imitate moments, then distill, abstract, exaggerate, deconstruct.

Look out.  Someone across the world would be surprised by a letter from you.  What do you need to say?  Send a mysterious message.  Know who you are writing to, keep it a secret, but share with all.

Sooth some pain.  Make peace with that awful thing you did.  Or that virtuous fight.  See the other point of view, give it honest consideration.  Argue against yourself.  Come back around if you will.

Take a picture.  Or find some old photo.  Start from there.  What happened, or what might have been?

Go out to get some inspiration.  Watch more plays, see more bands, go to the park to watch the kids play, put on some music, read a new book, re-read an old one, read a magazine with a critical eye.

Look back at the work you've done.  What did you mean to say, but forgot, or got side tracked?  Say it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Scent of Sage

And a dun dusty trail, underneath grey clouds. 
Birds: ducks, cranes, hawks, and skimmers. 
We climb, we balance, putting one foot in front of the other
along a matted down path.  Water at low tide.
Breath in, slow, deep.  The sage, and sweet others.
Easy pacing it, strolling, peering, squinting.
Pause on vantages, higher than th' gliding rise
of crows.  New views and learning the smell of the land.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How We Do Things (Global Perspective)

I'm reading yet another book on parenting.  Perhaps I read too much, but I can't help myself.  How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm, by Mei-Ling Hopgood, looks at a selection of parenting practices from various cultures around the world, offering an accessible, and very reasonable, analysis of how they compare to American conventions.

I initially picked up Hopgood's book for the chapter on how the Chinese toilet train their kids (rather young, starting anywhere from 6 months to 18 months old, and as a low-pressure process).  This particular approach contradicts most American potty training books on the market. The American books promote a child-led time frame, usually between 2 and 4 years of age, and as a pretty goal-oriented task. I can attest that the presumptions upon which these methods are based are sometimes wrong. For example, these books' authors insist that children of 2 cannot communicate the need to relieve themselves, but I have a 14 month old who is consistently using sign language to let me know when he has to go.

My point is that it's easy for new parents to take published parenting advice as absolute truth, a list of edicts to be followed, and we worry if we fail to follow some of their guidelines. Similarly, the "traditional" advice we might be offered by well-meaning family and friends can also put pressure on us to do everything in particular ways because that's supposedly "best" for our children, but this advice can also be flawed.  And, the traditions may not go back as far as we think.  It was reassuring for me to read, at least by some cultures' standards, that I'm not completely off-base in starting early with the potty training.

So many of the parenting ideas from other cultures covered in this book contradict the advice of American experts, from late bedtimes in Argentina, to non-intervention in fights between children in Japan, to parents all over the world thinking it strange to play with their children. This topic is much too big, far too reaching, to ever say all I want to say in a brief blog post.  What is important, in my opinion, is keep an open mind as we make choices for our kids.  Keep open eyes to see what ideas another parent might introduce us to.  Realize that there are many ways to approach our parenting responsibilities, and the rest of the world can't possibly all be wrong, just different.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


The sounds I hear: a chorus of high pitched birds, chirp chirp chirping; steady raindrops, dripdrip-dripdrip-dripdrip-dripdrip-dripping on a metal surface; more rain, a swell in its patter against gravel; a motor, of what sounds like a large truck, the engine starting, and settling, idling, then driving away; breathing, gentle and steady, a child napping with a stuffy nose; the birds are quiet now; the afternoon settles into distant traffic and the rain.

Sounds can stimulate emotion and set a mood, or establish a setting, a situation. It's a sensory tool that takes much effort for me to utilize. Sometimes I realize it is an afterthought, my choice to use sound or music.

Music is incredibly powerful shorthand able to convey many things to an audience. It must be chosen carefully, for a familiar selection will already hold meaning, older unrelated experiences and memories wrapped up in each verse and chorus. It takes a truly powerful concoction to transfer the definition of a melody, to substitute a new meaning for the old.

Lately, when I hear swelling music under a scene, I feel manipulated, rather than moved. Or resistantly unmoved at the attempt. Cynicism? Overuse? Lazy shorthand, perhaps? There must be meaning first, depth already, and a song thoughtfully used only as support, or emphasis, or as contrast in a meaningful dialectic. That, too, can become merely a stand in for the hard work, the real work.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Have a Dollar

When a stranger on the street asks me for money, I reflexively say no.  I hate that.  My mouth says no, and I'm deflecting the presence of a stranger before my mind even has a chance to consider giving.  Nearly every time, I feel bad about it.  Even as I'm saying no, I'm thinking through how difficult it would be to move my bag off my back, open the zipper, dig through for my wallet, unfold it, and remove a dollar.  I'm thinking about how slow and inefficient this act would be.  The walk signal is about to come on and I won't make it across and I'll have to wait through another cycle of lights.  I'm thinking that I want to give this person a dollar, and if it was right in my pocket, easy and quick to grab, I would hand it over and not be troubled in the least.  It seems so silly that the extra forty-five seconds it would take to get out a buck dissuades me from an insignificant act of generosity.  I recognize, though, that there is more going on than the discomfort at the interruption of my flow down the street towards my destination.  There is the breaking into my private sphere by someone I don't know, pushing me and my shyness to deal with an unexpected confrontation with a stranger.  There is the trained-in habit of being wary of people--particularly of men--approaching me, a woman traveling through her day alone (or alone-ish, with baby).  I hate this, too.  I wonder, if I made a habit of keeping a dollar (or a handful of change even) in my pocket when I go out into the world each day, could I break the habit of deflecting strangers, and over time, change my brain's habit of feeling wary of strange men?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Body of Stories

When I see old photos of myself, I'm sometimes surprised by the ways my body has changed, and numerous times. All the bodies I've lived in. Teenage waif. Undergrad, youthful and slim. Married woman, more mature and womanly--hips, curves, stature. Then more so, a radiant grad student, solid. Post South America, ragged, brittle, near-broken, but alive. Scarred. Pregnant glowing orb, ha ha! Now a mother, some softer version of myself. And again, scarred. Who will I be next?

When I read about teenagers increasingly opting for cosmetic surgery in search of some ridiculous ideal, I think, they have no idea that their bodies will continue to change. They think what they have right now is it, done, all they'll have for good.

The stories of my life are being written and rewritten on my body, as well as in my soul.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Delightful View

I want my child to grow up with wide eyes and an open heart. Right now he takes such joys in the small details of the world: a fountain, a ball, a hat. Music sets him dancing. A stick is a toy. Every new person who passes can become a friend. Tickling and tumbling are a delight, more, more, more! Every day holds adventures. Every day brings growth. New concepts, new words, new connections are ever flowing. I hope he will always hold some of this delirious spirit in his heart. I am grateful he has shared it with me.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Little Things Change

I have been thinking about the ways in which cell phones have changed our behavior.  I mean, besides the obnoxious habit of talking on the phone while a server is trying to take your order or ring you up, and beyond the annoying tendency to interrupt an in-person conversation to answer unimportant calls or continuously check email on a smart phone. 

I'm thinking about other, small, rather unimportant changes in how we do little day-to-day activities.  I think people have become less willing to commit to specific plans in advance.  No one wants to set a time and a place and then just show up, able to count on their friend also being in there.  Lately, I see a pattern of vague plans with a loose appointment to talk about it more later.  It get slightly more specific, but there's always an obligation to "just call each" other upon arrival to figure out how to find one other.  How silly.  Easy, I guess.  No worries about trying to be prompt or knowing anything about where you're going.  But didn't we somehow make it work before?  I can't decide if our new way is better or worse than before.  Is it less stressful?  Perhaps. 

I've spoken to so many people, lately, who can't read a map.  I'm thinking about the evolution of getting around, and it must have started with just using experience to get to know a place, and then, of course, maps helped out.  Remember Thomas guides?  Buying one was the best piece of advice I got upon arriving in Los Angeles 16 years ago.  And then, we relied on MapQuest printouts, or whatever online map service you preferred.  Now, so many people have GPS through their phones, there's no need to look up directions in advance.  But I actually like reading a map.  I like to see what the terrain in the surrounding region is like, and to search for possible alternate routes.  Their appearance on a printed page can only hint at the secrets they hold, and entice me to go off course for fun.

I think we check in with our significant others far more often.  You know, that quick call to say, "I'm leaving now, I'll be home in 20 minutes," or whatever.  Most of the time, that other person already knows you'll be heading home roughly around that time, right?  Usually unnecessary.  But I suppose it can be sweet, too.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Young Freedom

I feel some dismay when I hear parents of my generation saying that their children will never do many of the things these parents did as kids. Everyone says that things are very different now than they were when I was young. Of course some things are different. Are they worse? Is this country more dangerous for my child than it was for me when I was his age? I honestly don't know. I have read articles that claim crime is actually decreasing and that it's a misperception that our world is more dangerous than before.

When I was growing up, I did a lot of exploring independent of adults. My friends and I would ride bikes or walk all over the neighborhood--to the park, to the nearby variety store for candy or ice cream, through the woods--and while away hours that way. We crossed streams by hopping rock to rock and built forts deep in the woods. I walked to the bus stop and rode the bus to school. I took public transportation downtown with friends where we might go bowling, eat lunch, and browse the shops. These were great experiences in my memory. I feel they were vital to me developing independence and self-reliance.

Where I live now, there is quite a bit more traffic than in my parents' neighborhood, so that is something to consider. But kids can learn safe habits when navigating busy streets. I know fewer neighbors than my parents did. But I could make the effort to get to know them, to build a community where right now there are strangers. I think it is going to be very important to make whatever efforts are needed to allow my child to learn from his world.

This is a small dip into an enormous dark ocean of a topic. My strategies are something I'll continue to consider as my child grows.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Let's Work Together, Love

My husband and I are not competitive. Not with each other or much in general. We do like games, but even within games, we'll opt to work together towards solving the puzzles, if there is such an option. Or else we cheer one another's accomplishments. This is how I like it to be. Partners in oh so many ways, collaborators in life. We are long overdue for a true artistic collaboration.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I don't think I have ever believed. I can remember my CCD classes (what did that stand for? they never told me) and thinking that there were these ideas I was supposed to learn about, and you know how it goes, you have to go through all the motions that demonstrate you learned them, until you grow up and can drop the act. Well, I don't think I thought about it in quite those words, but that was the vague and muddy idea. It never felt real in a deep meaningful way, but only like another set of facts(?) to study up on like geometry or Greek myths. It was a compartmentalized discipline, sequestered to Sunday mornings in the Italian neighborhood but never reaching the Saturday afternoon rollerskating rink. It was not a part of daily life or family life. Never discussed. And I felt nothing lacking. I can remember the eleventh grade retreat, and old church ladies in a panic over me catching a ride there with some boys in my class - what if you're in an accident, what will people think? What should they think? I rejected confirmation, and the priest I discussed it with expressed appreciation for the fact that I was actually reflecting on my faith and not going forward unthinkingly. Later, in pursuit of a Catholic wedding I went searching again with more focus. I revisited the steps in earnest and tried to believe. I looked again to see if there was something that had been missing. What made a Catholic wedding meaningful? It was always only about the pageantry and ritual. Oh!  I see it was drama. Old theatre. Ritual and pageantry do have meaning, some universal some individual. The symbolic acts so familiar give us opportunity to pause, reflect on our guiding principles, on our needs, on our failings and successes. The pageantry helps evoke our imagination and inspiration. It need not all center on a magical myth. To have cultural meaning, I mean. But why do those who believe the strange tales think something is wrong with me? Why do they want to fix me? The illogic of many beliefs seems as clear to me as the tree outside my window. Clear. Real. Obvious to my open eyes. Yet, not uncomplicated. I do not disrespect the faiths of others, but I think they are illusions. I am still constantly moved by the art inspired by faith, and yet I l look elsewhere, to the world, for my inspiration. Who did I pray to when I was in the hospital in Colombia, I was asked. I didn't pray. I focused my determination on getting well and I worked hard towards it, actively. I take the same approach with my artistic work and my ethical living. My thanks are not offered to a god, but to the people to whom they are due.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Needless Stuff

When I was traveling in Ecuador, I spent a week in the small village of Quilotoa, high in the Andes.  It is an amazing thing to find yourself in such natural majesty as these breathtaking mountaintops.  What was troubling, though, was the trash.  Lush green slopes rise beside ravines littered with colorful wrappers and other debris.  As increasing varieties of processed and packaged consumer goods make their way into these villages, the trash piles up.  Such communities haven't yet developed a method for dealing with this trash.  It really made me think again about the waste we humans produce, and especially, we Americans.  Seeing the stark contrast between the natural beauty and the man-made junk was jarring.  I have made many small changes in my habits in an effort to reduce my own waste--cloth napkins, reusable food containers and shopping bags, fewer processed foods and trinkets, for example.  But as I sit here now in my home, I see how surrounded I am by packaging and products, rooms full of non-biodegradable things.  I feel a little sorrow in my heart, and while I enjoy my possessions, I know most of them are unnecessary.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Manic Success

Today I can do anything.  There is nothing I cannot accomplish.  Today is one of those days.  Arise early but not too early and cheer and smiles and everything is already ok, and even little one is up happy not crying.  Water soap lavender rinse, clip clean comb, come to my arms little dear.  And my dear.  No hot brewing slaving making, oh no, out and around the corner, serve me please piping hot.  Lists, errands, yellow pad and pencil, feels like places to save and people to rescue, over buildings, down alleys, aimed at the target.  Obstacles are not unheard unseen, but tripping, yelling, settling down hurdled over.  Somewhere in the middle is a peering out at all the other days on which I feel I can accomplish nothing, or won't get up off the couch, or look around in dismay at all of the work to be done and resign for that day.  But not today.  Scratch off one two three eight nine item ten.  And baby we aren't even at lunch.  Shoot straight through sweeping planting playing, no sandy troubles or worries, just fun.  Breathe.  Pause.  Sigh.  Hush.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Everyone has their own ideas of what they find brilliant.  I am always impressed when people are able to collapse layers of meaning into a dense, but seemingly simple, creative work.  Poetry is a perfect example.  A succinct phrase of few words that says many things at once while evoking an emotion and also following a predetermined rhythmic form--that's smart.  Or really good song writing in which the ideas in the lyrics are supported (or perhaps contradicted) by the melodies, then enhanced by the instrument choices for the accompaniment, and further brought to brilliance by the musical and vocal performances--it moves me. 

Silly examples I've found--and it reflects how I've been biding my time lately--are often in children's books.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar teaches a life cycle, the days of the week, counting 1-5, an array of fruits and other foods, good eating habits, and metamorphosis, all in a colorfully collaged picture book--so clever.

If these things were an object they could be one of those collapsible tin cups people used to use while camping or at war.  Folded down into silver concentric circles, it becomes a perfect compact cylinder, layered from the outside in, flat enough to tuck into your pocket, maybe a meaningful emblem engraved into the lid, and when expanded out to it's fullest, able to hold water and prove life-saving.  Hmm, a nice symbol.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Save, Publish, Log Out

I often have mixed feelings about technology.  I am tremendously appreciative of the many ways I benefit from my gadgets.  I love being able to reach people quickly, by phone, by text, by email or Facebook.  Traveling is accessible and relatively convenient.  Research takes a fraction of the time it used to require.  Creative work is savable and sharable.  It is a balm to have instant entertainment in my bag at all times.  I am amazed to see how effective online political action can be (and fast! just look at the Susan G Komen/Planned Parenthood story).  

Moderation works for me, as well.  I get fatigued seeing 8 out of 10 people around me navigating a touch screen instead of looking at their surroundings or being present where I am and they are.  I feel anxiety when I know I have a backlog of messages to sift through and address.  I enjoy long stretches of time with people I love without any electronic interruptions.

At times, multimedia theatre projects thrill me.  For the right piece--for example, a show with a theme that is supported by the addition of technology--layered use of modern media can say something complex in a way that straightforward drama cannot.  Or it can say something very specific about the time we live in right now.  I find, however, that I'm not so interested in using technology for extras that really are just extras.  I don't care to follow a character on Twitter or watch back-story videos on YouTube or read actors' blogs through the process.  I know, I know, some creative show could really integrate such material in a meaningful way, of course.  But it still feels like marketing to me.  With or without the technology, I still want the event to be about what's happening in a room with the people who are there.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why Are the Arts Important?

Because I am a person who takes the arts for granted, it can be difficult to articulate why I think art is so important.  I want to venture some thoughts on the subject.  This is an incomplete list in no particular order, but putting it into words helps me understand more deeply why I continue with my work. 

Art can be a tool for examining the events in our communities or the behavior of the people in them.  It can demonstrate what we have done well, or suggest better ways we could have handled situations.  It can remind us to still think about things past.  There may be events from history we would rather forget about, out of shame or regret.  Or perhaps it even bores us, sometimes, to talk about the past, but drama (or other forms) can make it interesting and re-engage us in the subject. 

Art can help us care about other people.  Empathy is perhaps a bit undervalued, but I think caring about the well-being of others can encourage us to seek solutions to a myriad of everyday problems.  When art can show the personal details of an individual's story, and charm us with their character, and provoke angst and excitement over their challenges, then we can almost imagine being that person, or being in that person's situation.  And then if we shift our focus to see how many others could be feeling the same way, then we might care about whether things are fair and good for them. 

Art can ask questions I never thought of asking myself.  Art can inspire me to question my habits, rethink my assumptions, reconsider my options, and demand the same of those in charge.  Art can teach me about something I never thought about learning.  Art can inspire me by the amazingly creative ways other people can think.  If someone could come up with that brilliant work, then I need to challenge myself harder to try to do as well.  If I can be inspired to want to work more creatively, others can also realize that there may be new ways to approach...anything! 

Art can show me how seemingly competing forces can help or depend upon one another.  Art can show me multiple points of view all at the same time.  Art can present ideas to me in ways that are simultaneously visual, aural, kinesthetic, and visceral. 

Art can help me improve my language skills.  Art can help me develop a better eye for noticing details in the world around me.  Art can manipulate me.  Art can point out to me how music and soundscapes can shape my perception at any moment.  Art can encourage me to feel something, rather than think about it.  Art can then try to make me just think about it intellectually without getting bogged down in my feelings.  Art can amuse me, cheer me up, or distract me from my worries.  It can make me sad and allow me to have some quiet contemplative moments.  It can make me laugh and help shake off some stress.  It can make me laugh together with a roomful of other laughing people and assure me that I'm not alone.

What so much of this comes down to is that art helps us learn and helps us enjoy learning.  We can then apply that skill and attitude to any other subject that concerns us.  Learning is good for us all.

Editorial this is still a tool for myself, primarily...I would like to come back to this list and streamline it while also fleshing it out with specific examples for each idea raised.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dear Hollywood, It's 2012

I just read about how George Lucas couldn't get his film, Red Tails, supported or distributed by any major Hollywood companies because it has an all black cast and is therefore seen as both unmarketable and unprofitable. The movie, which Lucas has been trying to get made for 23 years and paid for the making of himself, is an action flick about the Tuskagee airmen who fought in WWII.  I'm more than dismayed to still see artists coming up against this type of inertia.  It's not just racism, but also an unwillingness to change how things are done.  There is this idea that a movie like this couldn't attract a mainstream (i.e. white) audience, and sadly, for the most part, they could be right.  When I read news stories that shake me up, I'm always looking for the lessons I can learn from them.  I'm reminded of how important it is to not only go to see theatre or films that immediately appeal to me, but to also look for work that isn't such an obvious choice for me.  There are tremendous things I can learn by seeing a movie made by people I've never heard of or about a subject I know nothing about.  It can be an eye opening experience to attend a play set within a culture unfamiliar to me.  Perhaps there is a show playing somewhere nearby that at first glance seems to be far outside my usual comfort zone.  How refreshing it would be to see more people making such choices.  We could show those who hold the purse strings that they underestimate their audiences.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jump In

I observed some kids playing in a park today.  They quickly made up a scenario in which one kid needed to be saved by the others.  They all jumped into action, two of them turning a piece of playground equipment into a police car, while their friend dangled herself from the jungle gym.  They didn't need to discuss who would play each role, they each just took on a part and ran with it.  When one child decided she was tired of this scene, she shouted, "I want to play something different!"  One of her companions obliged, declaring that they were all now swimming.  And off they all swam.  This willingness to say, "yes," to try any suggested idea wholeheartedly, or to figure out independently how to fit oneself into a scene in an interesting and supportive way, is something I wish for with each new cast of actors with which I begin to work.  I have, at times, gone into a process naively expecting everyone to have a gung-ho cooperative attitude.  I recognize that I must cultivate amongst each new company of actors (and designers, sometimes) a culture of enthusiasm and good-natured risk-taking.  I can usually use exercises to help with this towards the beginning of the process, but more importantly, I need to communicate clearly that this is my hope, desire, and expectation from them.  Equally important is that I model the attitudes I seek.

Monday, January 30, 2012


When I participated in the SITI in LA Suzuki and Viewpoints workshop, the instructors from SITI Company continuously referred to the work they were teaching as "training".  They use this word, not in the sense of it being lessons, but rather, practice.  They compared it to the way a runner trains for a marathon.  In the theatre, we don't always think about training in this way.  It is a useful approach for cultivating a habit of disciplined work.  If I have a long stretch of time during which I am not performing or directing, like a runner not wanting muscles to get soft, I don't want to let my my skills atrophy.  It would be a disappointment to return to my work feeling like I was a few steps behind rather than picking up where I left off.  I realize I've been idle for a while, so I must create exercises for myself to keep my mind trained.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Muddy Thoughts on Challenges

It has somewhat recently occurred to me that I overvalue the challenging choice.  I'm starting to come around to a different point of view on the matter.  I used to have an attitude that if I was trying to get somewhere, I wasn't interested in the easy path, but would rather clamor up the steep slope of difficult terrain out of some fool-headed notion of learning brilliant things through the sheer challenge of it all.  How silly.  I can trace the origins of this habit back to my time at Shakespeare & Company, back during the days when if you were only working three jobs at once, you weren't working hard enough or giving enough of yourself.  From the artistic side of things, it was a glorious experience to be a teenager, bubbling with passion and zeal, acting my little heart out in that magical patch of New England forest.  Through our theatrical explorations, my comrades and I constantly sought unique angles and novel approaches to our work, guilelessly bounding towards seemingly-impossible tasks.  Such an earnest search for the challenge was the right attitude for that place and time.   But I clearly remember, with humiliation and chagrin, taking this prideful attitude with me to my undergraduate theatre classes, and taking on preposterous acting roles (and other ambitious creative projects) out this misguided notion of challenge.  I'm sure I learned valuable things from all of it, but brilliant acting was not one of those things.  I wish I had understood the value in starting with something simpler to work on, something closer to myself, and to learn how to succeed within the rules before trying to break them all.

Today, I recognize that setting obstacles in my own path will not always serve me or my goals.  In my own mind, I say these things with an exasperated chuckle and sigh, because I know some part of my core will always believe in the nobility of such an attitude.  I won't stop trying to explore ambitious ideas.  An important thing for me to recognize is whether my immediate goal is to learn something or to achieve a specific result (or product).  There are bound to be times when the two can overlap.

Time Out

As a part of caring for a small child, I have to make peace with the need to sometimes step out of enjoyable activities in order to tend to him.  Little foxes can only take so much fun at a time.  We might be in the midst of a family holiday party, or a Chinese New Year parade, and if he asks for milk and a nap, I'm the one who can give it to him.  So I must put my own desires on hold to give him what he needs.  This is one of the daily ways in which I love my child.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Made-up Language

I am constantly teaching language to my child.  It's an amazing process.  In the beginning, I just talked to him a lot.  Whatever I happened to be doing, I described.  I explained the task, I identified the things I handled, and I repeated words over and over.  And it appeared he would listen.  As his focus improved, he watched.  Eventually, he would look at the items I named, and then later he could point to them.  "Where are the flowers?"  "Where is the light?"  Lights amazed him and he pointed to them wherever we went.  "Do you see a fan?"  Fans also captivated him, and he made up a gesture that he used to point out every ceiling fan we walked beneath.  He was clearly so excited to be able to recognize some of the things in the world around him, and I think he was inspired to connect language with those things, even if it was a made up gesture of his own.  Language had an origin, and seeing my son's effort to communicate makes me imagine how people long ago also concocted ways to share their thoughts. 

Around the same time that I became aware of every ceiling fan in Southern California, I started to show my little one some words in sign language.  I had read that it could take two months before he even imitated any, and even longer before he would connect meanings, and then desires, to the signs.   But I persevered in using a few signs for common words, unsure whether any of them were being absorbed.  Then, one day, my son signed to me that he wanted "more" of something he was eating.  It was an amazing moment for me.  My 10-month old child was communicating to me what he wanted. 

Over the following months his comprehension snowballed.  He could point to dozens of objects when they were named, and he could sign when he wanted to eat, drink, nurse, and sleep.  What further amazed me, was how his use of the language he thus far possessed evolved with his shifting needs.  He began to use "more" to indicate when he wanted to play more of some game, and then to play more with some toy, and then to let us know he simply wanted to play with something or see how it worked.  "More" became the all-purpose action button, the "A" button, if you will. 

He has adapted other signs in logical ways--using "ball" to ask for an orange, for example.  And as he has started speaking a few simple words, he has used "hot" to label things that could hurt him.  His learning has also become much faster.  He learned the sign for "potty" on the first day I showed it to him, and a day later let me know he wanted to use it.  How amazing what communication tools can accomplish!  There have been amusing misunderstandings, too.  He conflated the words "coffee" and "coughing".  To point out the coffee on the table (yup, he's been asking for sips of coffee, a real chip off the old block), he would fake cough twice, "ugh-ugh".  This evolved to "ah-ah", which is now his word for coffee. 

I am constantly fascinated by the rolling developments, and grateful for my blind, early efforts to give him tools to start with.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I'm sitting in my bedroom (nursing), forced to stay put and just be still for a little while.  That moment when circumstances insist on inactivity can be a gift.  I'm looking at the pieces of my room, the little areas of clutter and collection that together give a room its character.  These are the things I look at numerous times a day, and yet rarely notice.  What do the details of my surroundings say about me, and how do they daily affect me?  Two different questions.

What if I was a character and the room was a set?  If a stranger saw the snapshot puzzle pieces, what impression would they make and what stories do they hint at?  Also, what known details can I fill in to make the story richer?  For example, I'll describe the hat rack on the wall: a fragment of lattice, stained wood with pegs.  It looks like a thrift store find, suggesting a limited budget, and a bohemian sensibility.  I know it came from my grandparents' house, so that extra detail adds a background of familial connectivity and caring about the past.  The sunhats, both woven straw, one a little funky with its jaunty, cloche-like, angular cut, the other straight and boxy with its brown ribbon flower more prairie-esque, put a female character in the story.  Is she young or old, sassy or sweet?  Neither, and both.  She must live somewhere sunny and she gets out into the world.  The stylish maroon camera bag conveys a hobby of one with an eye focused on the visual impact of the world.  Colorful crocheted scarves, red, green, and purple, dangle together; did she make them?  The objects might betray us.  What surprises and lies can they add to the story?  I could continue on with each detail.  I could shift my gaze to the dresser, with its piles of diapers, boxes of baby wipes, tangle of hair elastics, barrettes, and necklaces, and abandoned scraps of paper (shopping lists?), and come up with an entirely different character and backstory.  If I then consider these two fragments as part of a bigger picture, I see more complex possibilities.

So far I have ignored the second question.  Does it make me happy to look at these surroundings each day?  Do the objects remind me of my passions?  My recent activities?  My duties?

I should clean my room.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I read an interview with Robert Rauschenberg (most famous for his found-object, three-dimensional "combines"), during which he said that if he could envision a completed work, then the idea was enough for him and he didn't need to build it.  He preferred to put his effort into the projects whose final forms were mysteries to him and to make his decisions about what to build once he had the materials in his hands.  Sometimes I think about this approach to creating art when I reflect on my own process.  Paintings, sculptures, and installations are something different than theatre performances, of course, but I like to see how ideas from one discipline can inform or be in dialogue with those of another.  Some directors work as real auteurs, sculpting the performance of their imagination, using the actors and scenery as mere matter.  Others have a vague idea of what they want a show to be, and largely allow the actors to shape the direction of the show.  I think a large majority work in a sort of middle ground of mutual compromise.  At times, I have a strong, near-complete vision of how I would like a scene to play.  I know from experience that if I can accomplish it, I'm pleased with the results, but I also feel a bit of a fraud, or at least selfish.  I feel an ethical obligation to honestly consider the ideas and desired contributions of the actors and designers.  Generally, I think that's how I should be working in this collaborative field.  But there are times when I simply want to compose a performance and have that vision fulfilled.  Without questioning.  And then there are the collaboratively created ("devised") works I have led.  These require a huge jump of faith that the process--which usually involves much improvisation--will yield a good and meaningful show as the result.  Too much planning, or too-specific expectations would undermine the point of such creations.  Improvisation is a useful tool for both actors and directors (and, apparently, found-object sculptors), but I like it as a means of reaching a higher and more finely-crafted goal, as opposed to improvisation being part of the performance.  Unless it is thematically relevant.  Then I may find it to be smart and whimsical fun.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Welcome Home-ish

Fresh pattering rain outside the screen door behind
Wide open patio doors due to
Unusually mild January temperature as
Sweet Fox nuzzles close and naps on th'
Comfort of my own bed, my own blankets, my own room and
Notice the sweet fragrance of flora that
Always welcomes me back to Orange County

It's not verse, (I didn't count the meter) but an experiment in phrasing and editing.  I believe in editing.  First thin-sliced impressions are useful tools; reflection and editing are also necessary to accomplish goals.  The choices depend on the effect I want. 

Fresh pattering rain outside the screen
Behind the wide open patio door
With thanks due to the mild January weather
As my sweet little Fox nuzzles close and naps
In the comfort of my own bed, my own pillow, my own room
And I notice the sweet fragrance of the flora
That always welcomes me back to Orange County.
Small things make tough transitions easier.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gone Missing

I posted a blog yesterday about the problems with an economic model of "growth equaling success".  The entry was online for a few hours, after which, I accidentally erased it.  (Beware that "revert to draft" button.  Oh, the touchscreen troubles.)  I know that at least two people read the blog before it disappeared into the ether, so in my mind, it existed.  With digitally recorded work--writing, music, photography, or what-have-you--there is this question on my mind of the work's existence and permanence.  The work I do in the theatre is impermanent.  It exists in a specific temporal space and then is gone.  Therefore, I often think of my directing work as being not only about what happens upon the stage, but what happens in the room.  The collective experience that the audience members and the company has in the theatre on any particular night is what I (we) have created.  I always consider the journey the audience travels along through the performance.  The impermanence is part of the magic of theatre, and always a bit heartbreaking, too.  A recording often seems to be a pale impression of what happened.  You had to be there.

Did you see or hear the tree?  Then it is real.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Picture It

At times I try to think without words. It is strange and challnging. I attempt to remember, with only images and undefined sentiments, places or sequences, perhaps steps like recipes, or desired destinations. It's an exercise that always reminds me of the power of language and the beauty of being able to articulate a though or feeling just so.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Language is a recurring theme in my musings and my work. It seems so permanent, and yet it is ever shifting and transforming itself to serve our changing culture. In my own lifetime, I've done writing in print and in script, as letters to penpals, as folded up mashnotes and slambooks, on typewriters, then typewriters that could erase (!), on computer word processors to be printed out, never mind print-outs, send it electronically, or by phone, why not just call, or video chat, but a quick text message will suffice. Each form alters how we think, as we try to communicate. Someone told me schools no longer teach cursive writing; can that be true? Writing by hand uses different parts of the brain than typing. An the fluid lines of script take the mind down different paths than rigid printing, I suspect. Composing thoughts through a keyboard (and lately, a touchscreen) has required some learning and adapting from me. Practice does make a significant difference, even from blogging. I have thought that our increasing use of texting and facebook-messaging, instead of calling and hearing someone's voice, was a change away from how things were, and perhaps a major change for our culture. But talking by phone is also a short-lifed anomaly. It has been only a little over a century since the invention of the telephone. And what did we use before then? Letters. (And talking in person, of course, but that's not really what this is all about.) Is texting and email moving us back closer to the way we used to communicate? Or has it changed everything? There is much more to this topic to still uncover.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Heart

When I married you, I did not give you my heart. That would be placing an impolite burden of responsibility upon you to tend to its care. My heart is always my own to keep happy and healthy. A better metaphor would be to say that I opened the door to you alone to the garden of my heart. Side by side with an open doorway joining them, the gardens of our two hearts become nurturing playgrounds for us both. We look after one another's well-being like good neighbors and lovers. The flora is more abundant, diverse, and unusual for the cross pollination that can happen as butterflies flutter in from your garden and bees buzz back to you from mine. Taking care of my own heart is a duty I relish for the benefits it allows me to offer to you, my love.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Rethinking Big Assumptions

I used to try to buy American-made products out of a concern over the conditions in overseas sweatshops.  I have been reading, however, about how developing countries' investments in the empowerment of women has allowed many women to move into factory jobs, leading to vast improvements of their lives.  When women are no longer kept at home (only able to leave their houses with the permission of their fathers or husbands), they can become educated, learn skills, hold jobs, earn money over which they retain control, gain status and respect, contribute to their countries' GDPs, delay marriages and childbearing, and improve their health and well-being.  They can move themselves and their families out of a cycle of poverty.  Factory "sweatshop" jobs actual contribute to this.  For people like myself who are interested in how the small choices in our daily lives can be connected to larger humanitarian concerns, this is something worth reconsidering.  I am reminded that I could benefit from being less parochial in my ideological focus, and from looking with open eyes and mind at the lives of people far from my own liberated home.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Does it Work?

There is a wide distance between the habit of taking an uncompromising stance on a particular ideology and compromising a bit in order to make a difference.  I have often considered whether sticking rigidly to your principals is always the most ethical way to live.  These ideas come up a lot during political debates.  Candidates swear their unwavering support of one position on some polarizing issue.  I suspect a lot of ordinary folks can be a bit fuzzier in their stance on a lot of issues.  Yet there seems to be an idealizing, in this nation, of the strong stance.  Uncompromising dedication earns a hero-like admiration from many.  I see it pop up in subculture communities, including the feminist community.  I've read many articles and blogs looking at problems of subjugated women in various parts of the world and calling for sweeping changes, vocal opposition, legislation, and international intervention.  But after more reading and research, I'm learning that real activists sometimes need to take the less politically-correct approach to a problem because empirical evidence has shown it to be more effective.  Humility and compassion can guide us to really look at whether the effects of our work match our intentions.  Real changes, even small, are what we should be after.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Learning Joy

Little kids get shuttled around from place to place, tagging along on their parents' errands, and ruled by their parents' schedules.  Much of the time, this is necessary.  I feel so joyful when, instead, I am able to allow little Fox to set the pace and lead the action for part of the day.  Sometimes, if we have a day with no set plans, after breakfast, I just set him loose in the house and follow him from plaything to plaything, be they toys or everyday household items.  He decides what he wants to dismantle next.  Today we spent a few hours in the Boston Children's Museum, which was a blast.  I overheard numerous parents shepherding their obviously engaged kids onto the next exhibit, "Come on, let's move on."  As I watched the delight on Foxy's face as he swished his hands around in the soap water and reached for the huge bubbles, I relaxed and resolved to not push him forward.  I let him spend as much time as he wanted in that one activity, knowing there was no reason to try to fit as many experiences as possible into a single visit.  The excitement he was feeling was valuable.  I want to nurture a love of learning, and I think respecting a child's innate curiosity is one way to do this.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Characters in My Life

I am a storyteller in my work.  In my life, I often feel like I have no interesting stories to tell.   But interesting characters are all around me.  Yes, I know some real characters.  Occasionally, I think about the people who have passed through my life, and I imagine how they would fit into a really great play.  If my life story is the plot, what function does each person serve?  What do I want from them and what have I learned from each?  How do they contrast with one another?  One friend's foibles may enhance another friend's virtues, or even my own.  Perhaps the admirable choice of a family member prods me to examine the ethics of my routine ways.  Creative inspiration is surrounding me.  I can imagine someone I spent time with this week, and consider, what is that person's most conspicuous characteristic?  If I was directing an actor in a play, how could I utilize this trait in an amusing way?  If I wanted to explain my friend to a stranger, how would I sum up my perception of their essence?  Can I step far enough outside of myself to perceive my own qualities and life story, and could I sum it up in an engaging way?  And if I can't, then perhaps I need to do more meaningful work with my time.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cry Through It

There are some experiences that we need to suffer through even when we know we're not alone in them.  Sleep training an infant or toddler is stressful.  Every parent I've talked to about it feels miserable while listening to their child cry.  But so much literature out there strongly encourages us to teach our little ones to sooth themselves to sleep for their own benefit.  I presume they know what they're talking about.  I've heard and read from so many parents who suffered through it and found that after a few days their child went to sleep much more easily.  With our little Fox, we've gone back and forth between easy bedtimes and rough ones.  Regressions tend to happen at the cusp of new skill developments.  Right, now it's biggies of walking and talking.  With each regression, there is the dilemma of whether he needs me to just be sympathetic and try to ease him through it, or whether he'd be better off if I was tough with a firm routine.  Although I would like to take comfort in the knowledge that many have gone through this successfully, it sure is hard.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


A fox awake too late
Is finally settled into his den;
Screens of incomplete prose
Will have to thus remain.
This mom is turning in

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Big Fish Swimming Together

Someone said to me recently, "It's better to be a big fish in a small pond."  Of course, that would not be the right situation for all artists, as some people thrive from the competition in a crowded shark pool. I haven't always wanted to admit it, but I DO like being the big fish. I'd rather have my work reach a small group to whom it is significant, than see it bounce off the over-saturated cynics of a big-market crowd.  Freedom from the worry of competing allows me to open my heart a bit more and to take bigger leaps.  If I believe the work is meaningful to my compatriots, I feel willing to invest more of myself.

When I was researching theatre companies for my thesis on collaborative creation, I found companies with a range of attitudes regarding cooperativeness within their workspaces.  One company's founder described a willingness to forget about being nice and to have their artists (figuratively) duke it out in the rehearsal room for the best idea, while another company sought consensus both in meetings and in the creation of their work. It is useful to recognize where along that spectrum you feel most comfortable as an artist. I know that I like to work with a harmonious group, while still maintaining some directorial authority.  Disagreement and challenging views are important, but can be offered with respectful intent to push the work to a level of higher integrity.

The work is important, but even more important are people.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Source Material

Sometimes a trait I find annoying in a person could make a character onstage very interesting. As an example, I'm thinking of someone I know who has a tendency towards nostalgia. Nostalgia on its own isn't such a bad thing, but I feel like this person is so fond of things were during childhood, that telling the anecdotes becomes the subject of all mental focus, replacing opportunities to continue growing and learning about the world.  Precluded are any chances for thoughtful reflection, analysis of why things may be different now, or consideration of whether the changes are for the better or possibly a sign of decline. As a character, however, such a trait offers many possibilities, perhaps as the sole remaining keeper of some precious bit of information, or the one who reveals what all others in the story have long forgotten and need to be reminded of to keep their humanity alive, or simply as a witness of times past passing on the torch to the next generation.  How else could this idea be utilized?

This way of looking at things helps me look more sympathetically on others.  And it reminds me to look at the world as a source of creative inspiration.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sensing out an old familiar place

Toasted onion bagels Macintosh apples Pine trees Rain on blacktop Coffee Leaf-bare trees Apple tree silhouettes Crooked barns Red and yellow brick Grey sky Pot hole roads Melancholy nostalgia Cold cheeks Wool sweater Brisk breath in Maple candy Licorice Snowflakes Dry leaves Bread & butter, oil & vinegar, spaghetti & meatballs Slack-mouthed guttural curses Bagpipes Forks and dishes clinking Bell on door Landline phone ring

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Moldering in the Grave

I had a new thought about the problem of the perennial white savior character in movies that aim to deal with issues of racial conflict.  It's a problematic handling of a still important issue, undoubtedly.  (Ah, "problematic", that overused term of the progressively-minded blog!)  And yet it seems nearly as questionable to do away with such stories completely.

I have often considered whether there is something to be gained when a large population of people, who make up the obliviously privileged, are presented and confronted with stories of bedrock-changing experiences endured by characters with whom they identify.  In other words, I do think an ordinary, white, American movie-going person, who hasn't ever given much thought to the actual lived experiences of someone in a vastly (or slightly) different set of circumstances (or skin), can gain some self-awareness by watching a story unfold on the screen in which another supposedly ordinary person ("just like me!") learns to identify with, and even help, people less privileged.  I mean this with no cynicism nor snarkiness.  There is a value to this story.  But there is also the much-expounded-upon problem of that character being seen as a savior whose inherent talent and goodness (which seems to stem from his - it's usually his - whiteness) must be employed to save the apparently inferior others.  And really, much of the problem is that this version of the story is all too common, and just seen as more profitable (which is probably true) than a story in which a hero rises from within the oppressed group to save its own people.  Or ANY other variation.

So, anyway, my new thought to add to my musings is this: could a work of drama make an audience member feel the righteousness of acting on principle for the good of others, not through the glorification of the would-be hero, but because all reasoning, guided by human decency, points to this inevitable choice of action, and could they be moved to such righteousness?  Because the story makes it clear that it is simply the Right Thing To Do?  Is it possible to inspire people without them worshiping the hero?  Could the fact that someone is working on others' behalf without any personal gain to be had give the story line more merit?

I was reading about John Brown which got me thinking about all of this again, and now I have an idea for a project.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Reaching Out

My thoughts are something of a jumble tonight.  I'm feeling inspired, and yet lazy.  I'm following many shadowed paths, overgrown trails, and crooked lanes that end abruptly.  Looking at where I reside, not only the address, the apartment, but the moment and cosmic space upon which I have alighted, I know I've been feeling rather isolated, in my life, and in my home, down in the OC, Santa Ana, Orange County.  I have very few actual friends there.  (Tonight I must call it "there" because for the moment I'm on an extended holiday in my childhood home in the sweet Berkshires, in western Massachusetts.  Without snow.)  While I love solitude, I need connections and collaboration for my art.  So, I have been making a stronger effort to reach out to people, with a goal of nurturing relationships that seem potentially beneficial.  (And, of course, some have already!)  I want to talk about ideas.  Talking helps me quite a bit.  It helps me create; it helps me identify whether an idea is worth developing into a living project.  As language shapes the brain, articulating my artistic ideas solidifies the concepts for me.  Writing, as well, is a propitious exercise for me, as through the process, I must push myself to follow mental paths farther than is initially comfortable.  I'm training myself to develop ideas even while alone.  So, working on my art independently is ok.  AND I also sometimes want company in my work.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


About a year ago, I decided to make the switch to an e-reader. I was one of those people who argued on behalf of a Book, that tangible, comforting, dusty-aroma-ed volume you could thumb through in search of a half-remembered line that gave you pause on first read. And then I had a baby. My decision to breastfeed provided me with an unexpected benefit of time to read. Curled up with the lil' Fox for long stretches of the day, I realized I really wanted to be able to read one-handed, and to have my choice of books quickly available. This change in thinking is rather in line with my growing detachment from other material possessions. It would be disingenuous to claim a genuinely anti-materialist dogma, as I do enjoy many comforts and luxuries in my life. A more accurate description would be a relaxing of my grip on the significance of the material of things. Since the start of last year, I've read quite a few good books and have been eager to catalogue them to aid my own remembrance.

A list.  

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn 
Lie My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen (still in the middle of this one)  
Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier  
Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World by Lisa Bloom  
Classic Poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay (still working my way through this in spurts)  
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan  
The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child by Alan Kazdin 
The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogel by Erik Larson  
My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus by Nancy Tringali Piho  
Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein  

Fear of Flying by Erica Jong  
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett  
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon  
On Beauty by Zadie Smith  
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire  
Saturday by Ian McEwan  

The Clean House and Other Plays by Sarah Ruhl 

I also read a handful of actual, physical books, including a lot of Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They'd Ask): The Secrets to Surviving Your Child's Sexual Development by Justin Richardson and Mark Schustermost, On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, and most of The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It by Meenakshi Gigi Durham. 

I'm grateful to have had so much time to read this past year (though conflicted on having little time for anything else).  I feel I should balance out my nonfiction reading with more literature.  Also, I should really make an effort to find more drama in digital form.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Little One

As an artist I've often thought about my work as something to nurture (evven as it nourishes me), and I have at times felt motherly towards my casts, but the actual work of childcare ocupies my time and clouds my mind, making it a challenge to contemplate my work. I've only been without my helpmate a single day, and already my role feels demanding and my art far from my grasp. Yet, with my little one at my breast, I tap out some thoughts one-handed on my nook, and I smile.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Slow Down

I went to the Clark Art Institute today. I initially declined the audio guide, thinking I didn't want to tune out my companions, but on second thought went back for the audio device. I like to learn about what I'm viewing. But more importantly, listening to the commentary forces me to spend more time looking at each individual work. As a TA in grad school, I assisted a professor who required his students to draw any object of their choosing during a museum visit and record the thoughts that occurred to them as they sketched. The exercise forced them to slow down, and by spending more time with the object, to consider many aspects of the work--the materials, design, decoration, use, intended user, etc.--and by extension of all of these aspects, to consider what could be learned about the people who made the object. This is a useful lesson for anyone who enjoys museum exhibits, whether art or cultural objects. I am reminded, within my art, to consider my own choices thoughtfully and thoroughly.

Monday, January 2, 2012

I Am Fortunate

I've been reading an important book. It's called Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by married couple Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I AM a feminist and I DO know that oppression is a daily burden for women in many places of the world, but I often feel so distant from the problem. The authors of this book are journalists who, through their work, witnessed many instances of this oppression first hand and knew they needed to do something to try to change things. In their book, they tell the horrifying stories of individuals kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery, subjected to violent attacks and rapes, injured or killed during childbirth due to the low prioritizing of medical care for women, and numerous other injustices. The individual stories stand in for the unbelievably high number of girls and women suffering, and they help a reader like me sympathize on a deeper level than statistics can. Whenever I turn my gaze back out into the more distant world, I remember that I should do more with my life to make a difference. The privilege I enjoy is due to nothing more than good luck. I need to give thought and do research to see what I can do to help. I'll start here:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Collecting Dust

I was at used a book store in the Berkshires this week and found a lovely picture book that I wanted to buy for Sebastian. (It was Anno's Alphabet by Mitsumasa Anno, if you're wondering.) Seeing an old price sticker inside, I thought it was around $12, but the proprietor alerted me to the fact that it was actually $30, due to it being a first edition. I declined the purchase, but it got me thinking about the value put onto an item merely because it is old. I realized that I'm not a collector. I may have once felt differently about this, but these days I don't care too much about the physical object in possession. Jay has pointed out how the presence of an object can help invoke precious memories, and I believe he is right about this. Nevertheless, the notion of a book having more monetary value because of the idea of the desirability of a first edition seems like a self-perpetuating, inflated loop. It makes such a noble (and humble) thing as a book into an elitist token. I had to look up the quote about knowledge being the great equalizer--it was written by Horace Mann, an American education reformer and, appropriately enough, a representative from Massachusetts. "Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery." So it was education he was writing about, but I think the idea has a strong connection to books and reading. Books are beautiful, wonderful, meaningful, powerful, all these things, and more. But their value comes from their content, the ideas contained within. I believe purveyors of used books generally go into their field motivated by a sincere love of books, but I think their work is, at times, at odds with the intention of books. The collectible status shifts the value of the book from the content to the object.

As a side note, I just learned a little bit about Horace Mann, whose statue stands outside the Massachusetts State House. I particularly like this quote of his: "Be Ashamed to Die Until You Have Won Some Victory for Humanity." I'd better get on that.