The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself

Cliche, but so often true, especially in acting. We have good reason to be afraid. In what other profession does one truly expose themselves honestly for all to see? No wonder we're devastated when people don't come to see our shows. Actors are the only sane (well,) people willing to strip off all their disguises, all their little everyday lies about who they are and stand there, defenseless and vulnerable? This is what makes acting hard - it takes some major strength of character to be able and willing to be that honest. This is why it is so important to constantly push yourself to do things which make you uncomfortable, or things that outright terrify you.

The summer I was 24 I jumped off a cliff. Literally. My grandmother died and we all drove to Vermont to bury her next to my grandfather in a little cemetery near Lake Champlain. My uncle (who I should mention is a very responsible man, ski patrol & instructor, former Air Force and who makes me always feel I am safe in his hands) suggested we take his brother's boat out sailing. This was magic to a group of 5 grieving grandchildren ranging from  32-17 so we set off, the five of us, my uncle, and my father. My uncle took us to this little area with some rocky cliffs and told us to jump the cliffs, that he did this with his siblings when he was younger. It was a gorgeous day, sunny, warm -perfect. We all scrambled up the rocks and jumped. First from the teeny baby cliff which was maybe 5 feet, then from the next one which was maybe 10-15 feet, and then we all made it up to the high cliff which was about 40 feet up. When I saw that every one of my cousins, most of whom I beat out in years, had managed to jump the scary high cliff I realized deep in me I would have to do this. No one was forcing me, but I knew as sure as anything that I could not let my fear of heights win this one. I steeled myself mentally, and began climbing the cliff. This part wasn't so bad. It was really pretty and... but then I reached the edge. Okay, so I'm terrified of heights, by the edge I actually mean about 5 feet away from the edge. I stared over the edge at the lake below and fretted. With all my courage I inched myself closer and managed to get about 2-3 feet from the edge... and then, I stood there. Finally, I knew nothing was ever going to make this an acceptable risk in my mind so I gathered up every shred of courage I had, and ran. I'd like to say all my training as a swimmer kicked in and I used my head and jumped properly, but I didn't and I hit that water forty feet below like a ton of bricks hitting a solid wall. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't fun. My cousin thought I'd killed myself and was trying to figure out how he could jump in to save me without jumping on me... but after lots of ibuprofen and some time I was fine...ish. I still have back pain, but every time I think about it I am glad I did it. It turns out there's a point the human brain tells you "Hey! Dude! No way can you survive this jump!" and forty feet is just barely past that point. 

I have a friend who is the most fearless actor I've ever met. There are two things about this which intrigue me - first, its amazing and second, most of the time she's good actor, but there are moments a director asks her for something and its like a light switch flipped - as though she said "ohhh, you don't want mild-mannered actor-friend, you want her alter-ego, Fearless Actor." I don't know how she does it, but I want to know. I imagine it's a bit like jumping off that forty foot cliff - except in my head I can't even see that there is a cliff. Maybe there are stairs, or a rock wall, or a bungee cord, or ... well you get the idea. So I have decided that before 2011 is over, I will figure out what that barrier is made of and how to bust through it. I may end up with a lot more back pain, but I figure it'll be worth it.


Innovative? Aw, shucks sir!

Yesterday I had a conversation with a playwright we've worked with which involved me sharing the general gist of our script reading process. In reaction he told me the way we sort and maintain our feedback is far better than most theatres! This was startling to me (in a positive way of course).  I mean, I'm pretty proud of our process – it took me a few years to figure out what seemed to work best and even still I'm always trying to figure out how we can improve.Like many theatre folk I've met I have some seemingly-innate confidence issues.  Plus, we're small! There are fifteen of us all told, and not all of us are "readers".  Because we're small we also tend to be slow.  BUT, admittedly I do think I well-suited to the position of Literary Manager and nothing spurs you on to find a better way than seeing a critic refer to the company you've helped to foster through it's toddler years as a good company that does bad scripts. Ouch. Whether I chose those scripts or not, I knew as the Literary Manager that fell on me and I never wanted to feel like such a disappointment again and thus after much soul-searching the basis of our process was born.So what is this process? It's pretty simple really. We maintain a spreadsheet. On one tab we list all the scripts which have been submitted but have not yet been read. Once a script is read it is moved to one of the following: No, Maybe, or Yes.  Maybe basically means we want a second opinion.  From the maybe and yes lists we select scripts to read aloud and gather feedback.  Then, we go through the yeses and jointly decide on our next season. This is the toughest part, because we insist that we all agree.  Afterwards, those scripts which were yeses which were not selected are moved to a new tab called "save for later". Does it work? Heck yes. When you look at the scripts showcased in our 2011 season, it is clearly our strongest yet. We're currently pulling together our 2012 season, here's hoping we can maintain the trend! 
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The Rules of Haircare are Simple and Finite!

Okay, so maybe the rules of playwriting aren't quite so cut and dried, but who doesn't love a little Legally Blonde now and then? It's like ice cream in that you know there are more worthwhile things to eat, but its so yummy.

As I type this I am in the process of reading script submissions. As we near the point where the final decisions have to be made about our 2012 season I feel the need to go through a marathon of reading to feel certain we haven't missed out on the next brillaint opportunity. This process frequently leaves me shouting random expletives at the empty room in frustration.

I adore reading new plays. When I find something strikingly interesting or poignant or even better - thought provoking it makes me squeal in excitement. I champion that play, personally taking it to every member of our team radiating excitement I hope will be contagious. But, and this is a big but, let's be honest here - reading through scripts can be uttering draining and infuriating. Sure, we have submission requirements and requests to make it more successful for everyone involved, but not everyone follows them. In additon there are some concepts so simple they're not part of our guidelines until we realize there are people out there who don't know them.

So, ladies and gents, here are a few of my greivances:
- Do not send me only a synopsis or a portion of your play. Submit the full play or nothing at all. It takes you no more time, but it saves me both time and effort. It is your job to sell me on your product and I cannot do that without the complete product. Once I have decided I would like to produce your script I will chase you down, not before.
- Number your pages! Such a small thing, but page numbers helps me determine an approximate runtime. Also, should we produce your script, we'll need those numbers for rehearsals in a big bad way.
- Give me a list of characters with basic descriptions. I don't care what you call it, but this should be in your script, right after the title page. I need to know male/female ratio, ages, cast size, and if applicable race or other details to know if we could have a reasonable expectation of casting your play.
- I love google docs, but don't send me your script in that format if you at all help it. Google docs are living documents, meaning that I could reading as you are making changes. I think its fabulous you want to keep working on your play, but I need to know that the script I am signing a contract to produce is the same script I read and loved. If you have an updated version you prefer we use, let me know when I contact you, I'll be happy to read the changes.
- Know how long your play is. If your script is 63 pages of dialogue, chances are it is not a full length - especially if you have it divided into two acts. If you're unsure how long your script really is find some people and have them sit down and read it out loud, that will give you an idea. Then think about how a theatre would put that script into an evening. My general rule of thumb is: 1 page of dialogue = 1 minute of stage time:
1-20 minutes = short play
21-75 minutes = one act play
76+ minutes = full length play
There's a lot of wiggle room in that, but if I am specifically looking for a full length and your cover letter and/or title page misrepresent the actual length of your play I will have wasted my time.
- Please think carefully before using the following: excessive foul language, violence, nudity, rape, or incest. These things can make for amazing stories if used properly, but used carelessly they can cheapen your script or make it impossible to stage.
- Do not provide casting, scenic/costume/tech design, or directing advice/suggestions unless you feel they are absolutely integral to telling the story.
That said, sometimes breaking these rules is what sets you apart, just be certain you know you trust your decision to be the one for your script before submitting. One script won me over to its oddities with ridiculously long stage directions that were cleverly written with a lot of humor.

Happy writing! And here's hoping your script will be the one to cause my next little giddy campaign.
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Embracing Challenges

Isn't it odd to discover we are not who we were?

About year ago, to be honest maybe a year and a half I read on a good friend's blog something to the effect of "I guess I'm a runner now." It struck me as kind of funny - this friend had been training for and successfully ran a half marathon. At the time I was training for a 5k. Neither of us were "runners" to me, this was just a goal. In a way it was like acting - the constant focus and determination to push yourself to find the moments like building muscle and layering on distance.

I started running because it was a challenge I had mentioned once. I knew I would hate it, but as soon as it was in my head I was gonna have to do it sometime. I stopped because I was rehearsing a show and I just didn't make the time. I had a million excuses, including the fact that I didn't want to run in the heat of summer.

When that show closed and the doldrums set in I realized I need both physical activity and human companionship to be consistent forces in my life. I still didn't make myself head for the path though - I chose wii fit plus.

Now, with my mental faculties fresh after having opened our current show, and with a new (to us) car which Gatsby is allowed to ride in I knew I needed to get out there. Together we pushed through 4 miles. It took forever - an hour! We had to do intervals of walking, we both looked a ragged, sweaty mess upon completion, and we were both pretty sore afterwards...

Yet today as I walked across the parking lot to my car after work I found myself thinking, "Man. I wish I had time for a run tonight! I'd REALLY like to get out there." So yeah, apparently I'm a runner - a very slow runner. And somehow it doesn't seem all that silly to me anymore.
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Humble Pie Face

Sometime its the simplest things which are the hardest to grasp. A few years ago, after a particularly difficult spring the then very small contingent which made up our company expressed to each other that we needed to feel we could admit when we felt weak, when we were overwhelmed, when we needed help. We made a pact to share these feelings so we could help each other - even if help meant reminding each other that we were not alone in our fears/stresses.

Earlier this year a friend asked me if I would be willing to accept any role in a show he will be directing - knowing that I had acted in the same show in college. I told him yes. At the time I was being honest. I was so excited that we were taking on the challenge of this particular script I had been not truly thought through what "any role" might mean... until I was cast. I accepted the role, but even as I did I recalled how of my two roles in this show, one was exhilarating and creatively challenging, while the other was simply challenging in every possible way. Thinking back on the two roles here is how I remember them:

Role A: As the show began I would wait each night behind the curtains itching with excitement. I'd step out proclaiming my lines, dazzled by the texture of the elements of this environment and drink in the audience. I felt both empowered and free.

Role B: Throughout the rehearsal process I was constantly striving to meet the lowest expectations of my director/admired professor. I could feel I was simply not breaking the barriers he'd hoped. I pushed and pushed until I felt emotionally raw. I pushed and pushed physically, as I'd been asked to race through the raked house while shaking a cane high in the air. I wore a sports bra. I ignored the sweat which made my layered costume unpleasantly damp. I struggled to keep control of my breathing - and tried not to be frustrated as I received the criticism "How can you be so out of shape? You're 21!"

So, as I discussed this casting with my friend and fellow theatre-junkie I explained not only this, but that I hadn't quite realized there was a role I really wanted until I was not offered a chance to read for it. I knew fell well I could ask to be considered, but I convinced myself there was no point as the director clearly had a vision in his head which I did not fit.

Never mind the fact that I make a point of telling actors auditioning for me I want them to try to surprise me, to convince me they are right for a role I wouldn't have considered appropriate for them - like say casting a gal who'd be 8 months pregnant as a girl scout.

So, tonight after all this surfaced and I was told strongly that I should read for this role... and that I should always feel like I can tell him these things... well let's just say I felt a bit silly.  


Interview with Whales, Save Us! playwright, Elizabeth Leavitt

One of my favorite parts of my job as Literary Manager for RTC is the chance to get to converse with and get to know lesser-known playwrights. I recently had the chance to chat with Elizabeth Leavitt about Whales, Save Us! which opens later this week.

RTC: Name? 
EL: Elizabeth Leavitt

RTC: Hometown?
EL: Sacramento

RTC: Current Town?
EL:  Salt Lake City  

RTC: Tell us about Whales, Save Us!
EL: This is a play I wrote as my thesis for grad school. I worked on it with a lot of great help and support. 

RTC: What made you write Whales?
EL: There were two initial germs. #1 is a little watercolor I did. My aim was to develop a play visually. So painting a bit helped get me going. 

RTC: Tell me about that second "germ".
EL: It was based upon an experience I had hearing a speaker through a Western Fairs Association. 

RTC: Why the greek tragic form? Did you start out to write Whales this way, or did it evolve into this form?
EL:I knew I wanted a chorus. The three nuns from John Guare's, The House of Blue Leaves were a big inspiration. There's a company out of Cornwall called KneeHigh and they do these great choruses. If you notice - the Girl Scouts really act as one. #1 only asks questions. #2 only says statements, and #3 eats. I thought it was a worthwhile challenge. And I wanted big stakes - life or death. And no one does over dramatic like the Greeks.

RTC: In your mind, what is “The Big One”?
EL: Oh who knows...I'll leave the why up to audiences and actors.

RTC: What do the girl scouts represent to you?
EL: Odd morality and self-sufficiency. 

RTC: Why did you choose to use girl scouts, but put them in the 1970’s brownie uniforms?
EL: My goal was to have a very visual play. It was between three girl scouts or three ballerinas. I wanted young girls with a very unsentimental world view - and I wanted that communicated loud and clear. Rather than having them explain their bottom-line sensibility I felt the uniforms would say it all. The new Girl Scouts of America are so damned watered down I could just weep - so I looked to the past.

RTC: You managed to write a fair amount of swearing without using the actual swear words – what spurred this choice?
EL: I think half-swearing is very funny. 

RTC: What (to you) was the most exciting part of the original production?
EL: Well, I just die when an audience laughs. So that was exciting.

RTC: What would you like the Columbus audience to know about Whales?
EL: Guys, this is a great show.

RTC: Tell us a story from your childhood which explains who you are.
EL: When I was three, in preschool, we sang The 12 Days of Christmas and each kid was chosen to depict one of the days. I was desperate to be 7 Swans, 6 Geese, 11 Pipers -- anyway, long story short, I got stuck with 3 French Hens and I thought, "this is how the rest of my effing life is gonna be."

RTC: Who are your favorite playwrights?
EL: John Patrick Shanley and John Guare 

RTC: What kind of theatre really stimulates you?
EL: I love when someone says the truth and it costs them a whole hell of a lot.

RTC:Tell us about a play which deeply impacted you.
EL: Savage in Limbo. It really guts me in the best way. Let me include an excerpt to persuade you to it (please read the whole play some time): "As I have told you, this is the very drink that killed my mother. My father died of nothin at all, which is maybe the saddest thing a person can pass on from. But my mother, who was the only one ever stupid enough to love me, my mother died from this drink that Murk is making me now. I have always taken consolation where I could find it, even when it caused me grief." (April, Savage in Limbo - by John Patrick Shanley)

RTC: What made you want to be involved with the theatre?
EL: Quite truthfully, I don't always want to be in it. It can really get me down. I like it a lot though. There's no better feeling than watching your play and seeing it done well. It's pretty great, and I think you should try it some time. Just take care of your heart, if you can.

RTC: What else have you written?
EL: I wrote a play about The Creature from the Black Lagoon writing for Oprah's Book Club, a monologue play about a Romanian gymnast discovering Diet Dr. Pepper and a play that sounds very boring but is a crowd favorite (4 friends - coming of age [Sounds riveting, I know]).

RTC: What are you currently working on?
EL: At the moment I'm working on some narratives without words (animations, of all things). I'm taking a short break from plays because words are failing me. Or I'm failing words.

Raconteur likes to ask people the Inside the Actor’s Studio 10 questions, so here goes..
RTC:What is your favorite word?
EL: Hi

RTC: What is your least favorite word? 
EL: Actually
RTC: What turns you on? 
EL: Cleverness
RTC: What turns you off? 
EL: Self importance

RTC: What sound or noise do you love? 
EL: Syncopated clapping in 1960s girl group songs

RTC: What sound or noise do you hate? 
EL: That 'ping' before a flight attendant speaks.
RTC: What is your favorite curse word? 
EL: Fuck
RTC: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? 
EL: Graphic novelist

RTC: What profession would you not like to do? 
EL: Doctor

RTC: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? 
EL: I suppose I hope we wouldn't have to say anything, me and God.




Wait, Wait - You People Care What I Have To Say??

It's that time. Time for me to write my director's notes for the program.

I am firmly convinced that every person who has ever written their own bio for something has complained about how much they hate writing it. I certainly have and loads of people I know.

Somehow program notes seem about 15,000 times worse than a bio. When a write a bio people have a limited amount of surface details to judge me on. But with program notes I am expected to inspire, entertain, intrigue, or at least sound kinda smart. So really, is it any wonder I have "the fear"?
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It's All About Soul...

Music is a critical piece of my directing world - so much so that when I heard the director of 500 Days of Summer created a soundtrack for each day to provide to the actors just so they could get a feel for the emotional landscape of the scene I was sold. I sought out the movie (and I was pissed upon finding out the limited release did not include Ohio.)
So, it has been kinda weirding me out that I keep changing my effing mind about the music for this show! Originally I wanted all addiction/addictive substance related songs, then materialism, now it's become this odd mishmash... And I have become hellbent to find the curtain call song. I keep thinking it should be pop-y and upbeat, but nothing seems to fit because all the songs that really resonate are much more low key. C'est la vie.
Turns out I may have found it... And it is not at all what I expected: a cover of Gnarles Barkley's Crazy.... maybe I'm crazy? Yeah. Probably.
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"I like to think of any triple bypass rehearsal as a variation on the trust fall."

As a director, I feel one of the hardest things is choosing when to take the scripts out of your actor's hands. I'm not a parent, but I assume this struggle is similar to watching your child try to ride a bike without training wheels. Do you set the date early to force them to get the books out of their hands and therefore get really comfortable early on, or allow them to cling to the safety net until it is necessary to let go.

Option A means some fierce struggle, but in the end a really nice payoff. Option B gives your actors the comfort they need to explore their characters, until they suddenly have only a couple weeks to learn what it is they don't know... and "Oh crap! What do I do with my hands now that they are suddenly unencumbered??"

For this current show the decision was somewhat taken out of my hands - we have a cast member coming in late and I felt it was especially important for the cast to be very secure in their lines by the time our newbie joined us so she can assimilate as quickly and painlessly as possible. I selected a date halfway through the process and mentally braced myself for the idea that this might not be easy.

Tonight, was the first night off-book for Act One. I'm certain it was hell for my actors. All in all, I thought they did quite good. Yes, there were scenes I wanted to allow them to pick up their scripts, but I steeled myself against this with the knowledge that they now know what they don't know.

Did I make the right choice? I guess that still remains to be seen, but for now.. I think yes.


Joe Cocker Had Help From His Friends So Why Can't I?

I seem to be developing a habit of comparing past experiences to more recent revelations. I'd like to say this post was headed in a different direction, but saying that would create a "pants on fire" situation.

When I was in fourth grade I learned about poetry. For some reason, something inside me ached to write like this. I would lie in bed at night trying to put pen to paper. 

Four years later I had the great fortune of being blessed both with a scheduling mishap which caused an English class with only 7 students and an amazing teacher. She was able to really spend time on everything we did - and we spent a fair amount of time on poetry. All she needed to do was to point out that sometimes poetry rhymed, and sometimes not. Soon I was filling up entire journals with verses, learning to love the texture of words.

Three years ago I found a script I felt had some potential for us to produce. When I presented it the board asked if I would be interested in directing. I wasn't even ready to think about that. I'd taken a couple directing classes in college - sure I'd received a couple very nice compliments from professors on my work during the final, but still - what did I know? I was certain it couldn't be enough to take on a full length. 

In some ways I was right. I loved working on that show and I will always be glad both that we produced it and that I did allow myself to venture into the unknown. Since that time I have taken on three shorts for our most recent three flex productions. They have all been great experiences and each has taught me something about myself and about directing. Most recently I directed S.W. Senek's Milk Cartons. I knew I would have fun, but I was so worried the audience wouldn't see the humor as I did. There were other scripts I could have fought to do, but I really thought they wouldn't be the same challenge - and before I attempted the enormity of tackling my next full length production I needed to believe in myself - and in my ability to see insane, relate-able  humor. 

Tonight was the first real rehearsal for Whales, Save Us! I have been looking forward to directing this show since the first time I read it. However, about 85 minutes before rehearsal started I suddenly because so nervous I was nauseous. Crazy! This was something I knew how to do. Maybe it wasn't nerves... maybe it was the fact I needed my asthma medication - or the fact I hadn't eaten lunch. All I know is when my actors walked in I knew what pages we were rehearsing and in what order, but did I need more? I really didn't know. It took faith in a dear friend who had told me days prior to trust myself, that sometimes it's better to know what you know and what you don't. 

Just like poetry, I needed someone I believed in to tell me that it was okay to walk in with a plan which wasn't entirely fleshed out and to trust where my instincts took me. So my plan was to treat this like one much longer short play. I wasn't stressing and I was going to be honest and just lay out the facts for my actors and trust that if there was an issue they would tell me. And you know what? We had a great rehearsal - much better than we would have had if I'd walked in with blocking and exercises and a minute-by-minute schedule.

This is gonna be one hell of a show - get excited.


What good is a safety net full of holes?

I used to be that girl. The one who appears incredibly confident. She falls while rollerblading and just laughs at herself, she sees someone new on campus and barges up to them to demand an introduction. When everyone is in jeans, she's in peasant blouses and long gauzy skirts looking super feminine. I've often wondered what happened to that girl.

When I got married, I regained a bit of her while planning. I immersed myself in the details selecting what I liked and what made sense to me rather than what everyone else was doing - the girl with the oddball vendors. It seems when I am operating as part of a we the confidence quietly slips into place.

My mom says she made me afraid of everything because I was her first so she was worried about everything with me and I do think that makes sense. Except that somehow I became that girl and then lost her.

Tonight, we read a script about a relationship. The two are both being unfaithful - he to his wife, she to her sister (who happens to also be his wife). At first the two are strikingly human, but as the story grew I began to see him not as an imperfect soul who made an error in judgement, but a completely flawed person. He was demanding, full of excuses, felt he was blameless for the swath of damage in their lives... every choice he had to make he chose poorly. And while pondering this play, suddenly I knew where she went.

I wouldn't call Lily and Carter's relationship abusive, dysfunctional would be far more appropriate and yet his character called to mind an ex from college I haven't spoken to in several years. In the beginning, I knew dating him was the wrong choice, yet I allowed myself - almost dared myself to make it anyway. I can tell you the exact moment I knew it wasn't a normal, healthy relationship. We'd been out with friends and on our way back into the dorm I gave a friend a quick peck. It was a friendship kiss - as I would tell my now-ex many times over the next several hours ("I mean come on! he's gay!") In the end nothing I could say would win him over.

This was just a few months into our time as a couple and I kept my doubts to myself. Most of the time he was sweet. Sure his side of any debates during meals were simple, egocentric, and often so odd or idiotic they downright baffled me, but to me he said all the right things. There was something there though, unidentifiable that had crept in during that argument. He didn't trust me.

"I'll just break it off'" I thought towards the end of my freshman year, but I made the mistake of telling a friend. "Noooo, you guys are great together! You're my favorite couple." Fine. I gritted my teeth and decided it was in my head... Only it wasn't. I learned to live with him telling me that my make-up wasn't slutty enough (yes, he told me which colors to wear and which perfume), buying me trashy clothes & undergarments, that I didn't apply my make-up quickly enough, constantly comparing me to other girls, coercing me into countless acts I wasn't comfortable with, all while telling me I was "crazy" and a "nerd" (this last one is funny as I was in theatre and he was computer science). I permed my hair thinking he'd like it. I wore low-cut tops and the brand of denim he preferred, but I was never good enough.

One day, over summer break after two whole years of this a coworker who told me everyday to ditch him said something else. I 'd been talking about another friend from school and she pointed out she thought I liked him. Turns out I did - I married him four years later.

In all the times I've thought to myself the reason for my loss of personality, of recklessness was due to my ex I had never realized what exactly had happened... until tonight. It turns out remembering my abusive relationship (no, he never hit me but his words did damage enough) and wondering about how to abandon my "safety" onstage were all it took. That man robbed me of myself, and replaced it with fear. He taught me I would never be good enough for anyone, never pretty enough, never hot enough, never smart enough, or talented enough and replaced it with a deep-seated need, compulsion even, to get people to like me. It's a scary cycle; believing no one likes you or thinks well of you, but constantly trying as hard as possible to get them to like you.

Yet again, theatre has taught me something. Hopefully, this knowledge will be the key I needed to break the glass of this dainty, futile room I've been living in for 12 years.


Safety, or I told you that story to tell you this one, or everything is connected

When I was young my dad used to tell us this “joke” about some builders who get to the end of their construction and end up with an extra ½ a brick so they throw it away. Then he would tell us about a man walking a dog while smoking a cigar. The man gets on a bus and is the dog can’t be on the bus, so he leaves him outside where he trots alongside. Inside the bus the man is soundly told off by another rider for the cigar, so he throws it out a window. When he gets off the bus, the dog is waiting for him. “And what does he have in his mouth?” my father would ask… the ½ a brick.

I think I’ve loved theatre since before I knew what it was. When I was young, maybe 7 I had a solo in the church choir. I loved it, but it terrified me so much that I quit the choir afterwards. I had to be forced back by my parents – and at the time I hated them for it. They were not emotions I could face safely. When I hit high school and began learning the history of theatre it awoke a sense of joy and awe. Here was an art form which made me feel so utterly alive, so human, so …present.

My husband recently found this video  of a voice coach talking about a book tour she did. (The portion of the video I’m referring to starts around 3:30.) It should really be heard to truly get what she’s saying, but she talks about a man she met who didn’t like theatre. He tells her this repeatedly, telling her about how he went with his wife to see The Women of Troy. It seems the thing they didn’t like was that when one of the characters loses her son, the actress made a sound and he found it embarrassing. Then, as he’s speaking with her something in him shifts and he tells her that a year ago a policeman came to tell him that his daughter had been raped and murdered – and he made that sound. She reminds us that truth and honesty in theatre is like life – to be present you simply cannot be safe.

After our last production one night, my parents stood talking with a few people. My husband had directed a short called The Third Date in which a guy preparing for a date finds he has been visited by his father who died 6 years prior. My mother lost her father suddenly at age 2. Her entire life she has felt that empty spot where her dad should have been – not where the father figure should have been, but a more personal hole for this particular man she cannot remember except in one dream-like memory. My mom suddenly turned to me with tear-filled eyes and a quivering voice to say “That’s my dream you know.” Startled and puzzled, I was at a loss. She continued, “I never told anyone. I always hoped one day I’d open a door to find him standing there.” This is a rare side of my mother, an intimate pain that cannot be relieved.

Around the same time I was spending a lot of time pondering how people could not like  theatre, why people don’t attend theatre more, and more personally, how I can push past my own fears to allow myself to become a better actress. 

It is easy sometimes to think of theatre as a stodgy, highbrow art-form. However, this seems to be an excuse – the reason people shy away from theatre is because it’s not safe, in fact, theatre is dangerous. This is a truly visceral expression. It forces the audience to come along for the ride – you have to feel. This is why since 6th century BC theatre has been a documented part of culture. Why actors were some of the first people sent to concentration camps in WWII, why plays have been used – and continue even now to be used as a form of rebellion. We, as actors, as directors are putting you, the audience, society into a place where you must think – you must feel. This is how we make our argument, and folks, you should love that it’s not safe. I do.


Resolution: a course of action determined or decided on.

Several months ago I concluded that I had not seen enough local theatre. It seemed hypocritical and embarrassing as the Literary Manager for a theatre company to hole myself up reading script submissions and devoting my time to the various Raconteur productions when I knew nothing of the caliber of our neighbors. I resolved to myself (an informal resolution if you will) to see more local theatre. No excuses.

I am proud to say over the months that followed I managed to get to to shows produced by Actors Theater, Drawing Room Theater, Columbus Civic Theater, Rosebriar Shakespeare, Available Light Theatre and Madlab Theatre. Clearly this is proof that a little effort makes all the difference.

With this in mind I am resolving to get down to blogging. We used to have a blog. You might remember it, we posted, oh every 2-7 weeks. Not the sort of thing one takes any pride in. So here I am admitting our failures in entering the blogosphere... and starting fresh. Expect regularity, expect personality, and expect determination. If I start slipping I look to you to call me on it!