Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dear My People,

This is a love letter.
It will be full of sweeping generalizations, but all of them observed over a fair number of years, mind you, not simply theorized:)....

Here is a thing I realized today: I think you are why I'm still in it.
I love creating - *love.* But there are other ways I could create. I have so many ideas; I could pour my energies into writing for the theatre completely in lieu of performing. Writing is one of my first loves. But I stubbornly want to act.

I love the feeling of being in front of an audience, of attempting to thrust yourself into Present Moment after Present Moment. But I don't have much desire to do that alone. I prefer a buddy up there. Or a coupla buddies. Because...that's what you become, so very quickly and, in a weird way, fully. Buddies. I don't think just because we all part once a run is over and maybe don't hang out at all till we work together again...I don't actually think that diminishes anything. I don't think that makes friendship (trust, enjoyment, a form of love) unreal or less real. We makes friends eagerly, like children:). Which makes total sense. And we're passionate about those friends while we're creating with them, and we keep them in our hearts when we're not. I LOVE us for that:). For how soon in a relationship we will hold each other's hands and go to bat for each other and do our damnedest not to judge. The things I have shared in dressing rooms, from ohmygodIthinkI'mpregnant:) to subsequent motherhood difficulties...I am so grateful for that silly, sacred space.

I go through periods of loving our art but near-despising the set-up. In the wrong frame of mind, it can just feel like I have to prove myself over and over (and over...) to keep getting to just do my job. But I have never tired of my people...this mildly insane collection of both introverts and extroverts who love this old ritual and aren't afraid to acknowledge the weird and ugly and beautiful in people and in the world. Or, at least aren't afraid to be afraid.

I think I hang on so I can still be around you all:). I think I hang in there because, god, what a strange and gorgeous group to be part of. What a world my family and I get to inhabit because of you.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

You Once Said Yes (then again, and again...)

A few years ago, I wrote about a remarkable show I got to experience on my Edinburgh Fringe honeymoon...a show for one person at a time, roving through the city in a bright orange backpack, waiting to be found by the next actor in a string of one-on-one experiences. The idea was, as long as you kept saying "yes" (literally, in some cases, or in a way - do you hop into that car that just pulled up with the driver shouting your name? Do you give the possibly homeless man change and agree to walk with him to a cemetery? etc), the show would keep going until its natural conclusion. But you could say "no" at any time (if the implicating factor of highly personalized experiences was too much for you, or you weren't quite sure that *this person* was part of the show or just an incidental stranger and were too nervous to follow this time, for instance) and it would end there.

I think I just had a milder version of that show today:). A "You Once Said Yes," real-life edition. Complete with toddler.

I closed a show this past Sunday, and I'm just no good at closings. I get worse and worse, in fact. They seem to hit me harder now. So I thought I would try to keep myself busy with Beautiful Things, to carry on from the beautiful thing I have to leave behind. I'll be teaching a bit in the coming months, but only a few times a week, so I have a lot of wide open days at home with my brilliant, hilarious, adorable, but VERY "TWO" two-year-old...and I am both a happier person *and* a much more vibrant and satisfied mama when I keep my soul fed. So, I thought I would go on excursions with him to lovely places, and write tiny plays set in each place. Yesterday, it was Brookside Gardens with some pals and their own wee one. Today was supposed to just be Meridian Hill Park. Both places, by the way, might've made me tear up :) (ha, both with their ponds and fountains, actually. Their own waterworks - hehe. I've got a thing for water).

I got a late start and what with the walk to the train station, two trains, the walk from that station to the park...by the time we got to Meridian Hill, the boy had just fallen asleep for his midday nap:). So I suddenly had what turned into an hour and a half to do my own thing in the shade near this little snoozing thing-I-love. I wrote, I read, I contemplated contemplation by way of Thomas Merton:). I snacked, I walked circles in the crunchy leaves. I listened to the breeze and the tiny waterfalls. I got bored, and then happy when he woke up. Every dang bit of it was gorgeous.

I expected to play some soccer with His Dudeness after feeding, watering (hehe) and changing him, but he wanted to take a tour of this new place he woke up in instead. So, okay - I grabbed his hand and let him guide me away from the stroller. He found the waterfalls (I did not say "Yes" to his asking to get naked so he could swim in them, I must confess. Also, he has never swum naked, so I'm not sure why he keeps asking as if that's, like, what you do when you swim....), he found some ducks that we approached and said hi to. He stopped and we just listened to rushing water for a while. Then he started asking about animals, and I realized we were probably walkable to the zoo...

So we packed up and ventured the 1.7 miles through cool neighborhoods to the zoo! His only request was tigers, so the Great Cats section was the final destination. But on the way, whatever we saw, he said hi to it and then put on a voice for it and made it say hi back and describe what it was doing:). The two little horses, for example: "Hi, Charlie. I'm with my daddy. I'm runnin' with my daddy." The elephant: "Hi, Charlie. I'm eating by the tire. I'm eatin' this grass with my trunk - it's a big nose. I eat with my nose." In other words, he makes for a highly amusing zoological date:).

But it gets better!!

We rounded a corner to find ourselves in this sea lion cove - sea lions in a pen on one side, a little area with spontaneous fountains and water emissions for kiddos on the other. I didn't have a swim diaper or a towel. And on other days, I would have shied away from letting the boy run through the water, because I'd be afraid of doing it "wrong" somehow in front of other parents (that is a real and stupid fear, folks), or I'd think it'd be too much hassle to dry him off after. But...that's all silly. All those reasons to say "no" suddenly struck me as really really silly. And we were saying Yes today! So I stripped the delighted little kook down to his diaper, slathered some sunscreen on that stunningly  pale trunk, and told him to have at it. And by god, we outstayed every other kid there:). By a mile! He was SO HAPPY, and *I* was so happy watching him. I grinned like an idiot. And THEN...the sea lions next door came up reaaaalllly close to the fence - so they were maybe 15 feet from the cove of squealing toddlers - and they started barking ridiculously!! And my boy? My boy does not miss an experience if he can help it. He ran his little wet self over to them and BARKED BACK. Then he dashed back into the water. And this sea lion-to-tot communication happened a couple more times before we left the Surprise Cove of Happiness.

When we finally made it to the Great Cats, there was no tiger to be seen.
It was seriously the ONLY animal he'd been asking for (he had a whole list last time, including a dragon...WHICH THERE WAS!!;). I couldn't believe he didn't start crying. He did keep sweetly asking, though, as if surely he must've misheard me. He even tried to create his animal-to-Charlie dialogue like with all the other animals, in the hope that his imagined exchange could conjure a real one.
We pushed on to the lions.
We came back around to the tigers.
Still no dice.
There was the exit. I may have even started to go toward it when I said, "You know, let's just try again..." 'cause we had time. That was a big thing about today...we had the TIME to say Yes, for one! So I strolled him over to the pen that had been sadly empty on our first go-round...

AND THERE IT WAS. He, she, I don't know, but walking away from us around the bend. I ripped the kiddo out of his stroller saying "Hurry, hurry!" (after that, he approached every animal with a "hurry, hurry!"). I held him around the belly - froggy legs all dangling down my own - and speed-waddled along the fencing...and the tiger stopped. And did the coolest possible thing it could have done for my boy. IT. WENT. SWIMMING! I had even SAID when we looked into the pen earlier, "Gosh, too bad it's not swimming. That would be cool." AND THERE IT WAS, BEAUTIFUL AND *THERE* AND PLAYING IN SOME DANG WATER. Just like my boy had just done.
Now we were BOTH grinning like idiots.

On the metro home, it was rush hour, so two stops in and we were suddenly a little mom-and-son oasis sitting in the middle of a tall forest of businessfolk. But here's what happened...a woman squatted down on the floor in front of the stroller so she could play with the boy and chat with me. We spent the whole ride talking. I told her about baby theatre, she replied by telling me about eurythmia, which she knows about because of her therapist/educator mom. Toward the end, a man started playing with the kiddo, and I ended up sharing zoo stories (no Albee intended!) with him and the woman before we got to our stop. And I wished them both a good day and they thanked us for the company.

And then I was just going to go home but the sleepy boy suddenly came to life and requested a park. So, we journeyed to our little playground and a 5-year-old boy (whom mine would thereafter call the "little boy") immediately popped up next to me and asked to play. My kiddo and I *both* had a great time with this funny, helpful kid. It was all my son could talk about on the way home - that he played with "the little boy."

And here's what's gonna sound all New Age-y but I am floating on clouds right now (after so much trepidation about possibly long, lonely days post-show...) so I do not care:). I think we got the connections that we got today - with the people on the crowded post-work train, with the little boy, heck, maybe even with the dang sea lions and the tiger! - because WE SAID YES. We were OPEN to them. We moved through the hot-as-bejeesus day with big ole neon "Open!" signs on our foreheads.

In his bath, the boy said, "I'm really brave, Mommy." A phrase he probably got from his beloved superhero books, but still. I replied, "Yes you are. We're both really brave. And we had a really good day because of it."

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hello I am an Ageless Clown

This is not me.

If you've been around me at all this year, you probably know that I am weirdly obsessed with turning 35 next month. I LOVE birthdays (LOVE), and am usually super-embracing of the next levelling-up, but for some reason "35" feels like a lump in my throat. It feels like heartburn and the yes-I-had-a-baby tummy softness always threatening. It FEELS like it should still FEEL young but does not...which is perplexing. And frustrating. And kinda melancholy, really.

I think being a parent has made me feel a lot older. And yet, I have much the same lifestyle I've always had...I freelance. I eat like a college kid when I'm not consistently home for family meals. I work either too much or too little, back-and-forth. So I am the tired I'm used to, plus mom-tired. That's two tireds.

I keep wondering what people behind a casting table see when I stand before them these days. I feel different than before I had a kiddo, and I feel like I look different, too. Like the years started catching up to me after my good genes had successfully staved some of them off for a while. But then, I'll still hear people talk about how energetic I am. And I think...REALLY?!?! And then I think...oh THANK GAWD. Because I am pretty much oblivious to these moments. Do I sleep through them? Are they second nature by now? My body just DOES and I don't even realize? I wonder if that is what makes me tricky to cast...I don't look like a kid anymore but I still perform with apparent high octane. I am an ageless clown.

...you know...I like that.
I'm o.k. with that.
I feel like, instead of betraying me, my body and my nature have given me a niche.
They're keeping me in business. 

(Heavy eyelids, squirrel heart. This is almost-35.)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

I am not done. But I want a mountain.

I'm just gonna jump right in here:

I'm having a hard time.
Not an awful time, no. But a hard one.

I've felt for a while that life is about balancing, and freelance life perhaps even more so. And freelance life with a child? EVEN even more so. So...I know this. But the seesaw has just been even more extreme these last few months, for some reason. Is it that I have a full-fledged toddler now? Is it that this is my 35th year on mama earth and that is a thought that is striking me weirdly hard? Is it that one of my first shows of the year tapped into some tough new places for me? So I did this really hard thing and found some new artistic territory and now, months later, I am still emotionally reeling but my career is probably in the exact same place as it was before the show, or even a year ago, or even two or three years ago because this profession does not care how much experience I have, how much time or heart I put into my craft, if I don't look a certain way then there may not even be a role for me in a company's season to begin with, much less the chance to read it, then the perfect alignment of things allowing me to get cast?

Is is because what I do for a living is manipulate AIR? So there is literally nothing to show for any of the YEARS' worth of plays I have helped to make? My "body of work" is a list on paper...the fragments of impressions in my brain, in scattered others' brains...when I want for my body of work, my LIFE'S work, to CREATE A WHOLE NEW FRICKIN' MOUNTAIN somewhere upon the earth?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Theatre Life and the Miracle of Time

I have been thinking a lot about time lately, whether I've realized it or not.

After I updated an album of theatre photos, my husband smiled while perusing the pictures and said, "I love how many of these I was a part of." He then proceeded to count the productions we'd worked on together over the years, and something occurred to me:

We all mark our lives by way of story.

You might be able to locate, say, February 2010 in the files of your memory by way of a new job started, or a convention attended or a friend made or lost. Those are all stories. Mine are just a bit more, well...theatrical, that's all.

I can find February 2010 because that's when I was Anne Frank. And the world around me for a time had her journal scrawled upon it.

My husband made me realize that I have an awful lot of milestones tied to theatre. WE have an awful lot of milestones.

Looking through the album...there's the first time he ever saw me (on a stage. In a deer costume!). The string of shows we worked on together as we became friends. (And for him: the string of shows that led him to realize I was the one for him.)

We got together during that beautiful, 4-person "Lear."

We went away to get married during "Wind in the Willows" when I was an insane little stoat (when I came back to perform after the whirlwind weekend, a tiny "Just Married" had been added to the back of the tiny car that was one of my props).

We found out I was pregnant during "Taking Steps" (and while my character may not have taken any steps at all by the end, me? My husband? My life? We took terrified and thrilling baby steps. Out of a plane. Into a world so new, it continues to reveal itself to us).

For me, there is the very poignant duo of shows to mark the end of my selfhood as I knew it ("Anime Momotaro") and the beginning of mamahood (bizarrely, but perfectly...you had to be there:)...an all-girl "Titus Andronicus.")

This is how I know I am in the right profession: the stories that give my personal timeline its shape and color and vibrancy and meaning are mine AND someone else's. That person may have really lived, or may only have ever existed in the imagination of a playwright, but they become a very real something to me, and they walk with me for a few paces down the path. Heck, maybe they even create that next little stretch of path.

I read a beautiful play recently where a character angrily proclaims that she is NOT what she does.
And then she takes it back, and admits to being angry because she IS, indeed, very very much, what she does.
If you have kept up with this sporadic blog, or if you even just peruse its titles, you can piece together a mostly loving but overall tumultuous relationship to theatre. "Mostly loving but overall tumultuous" might also be how I'd describe my relationship to myself, if you caught me being carelessly honest. I AM what I do. That's why it's so hard. My marriage sprang from this, my child is tied to this. Yes, I could give it up tomorrow and forge a whole new path. But there would forever be that near-decade of Tia-as-Theatre.

And I don't see as I'd ever stop being grateful for it...for all those "friends," however strange or unlikely or eerily "me," on my timeline.  

Exhibit A: "Strange friend" - Youtha the Stoat. 
What a nut.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

I'll smile tomorrow.

There are times 

times like when you are having to look for another apartment after a mere two months in a place because the unusually wet winter sprung difficultly-fixed leaks in your new home - leaks to shock and befuddle your landlord

there are times

times like when you are looking for that new apartment and finding that, in the past three years, you have been priced out of your neighborhood and, in fact, everything that seems not-cruddy - not paint-peely and secretly-moldy and possibly insect-ful and definitely characterless and questionably safe - is juuuust out of your financial reach

there are times

when you step back in attempt to see the big picture and what you see is an awful lot of begging... begging for the work, then begging people to come see the work...lather, rinse, repeat...
when "artist"
seems like



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dear Us

Our little family moved this weekend. We moved from a one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom. Sounds like a lot of extra room, right?

Hubby and I each had some form of panic attack as our many (MANY. WHERE DID THEY ALL COME FROM???) boxes got crammed into the new space by our sweet friends. There was barely room to walk through the place. And separately, we each felt the same thing: shame. We felt suddenly ashamed that our friends were there to see how small the place looked…how pitifully we were providing for our growing family. We felt ashamed that our move was not to our own house or even a nice, spacious apartment, but to a tiny basement apartment under someone else’s home. It felt, in that moment, pathetic. It felt like we had failed. Or, at least, like we had definitely not won. Or were maybe not even playing the game right.

Some form of this moment occurs now and again for each of us. More frequently now that we are parents. I am feeling the need to pick both of us up.

Our son will grow up with *love.* Love from his parents, from his extended family and our friends. He will *see* love. He does not need thousands of feet of real estate in which to feel the love, and witness it.

Our son will grow up with joy. He will feel it, he will witness it. He does not need thousands of feet of real estate in which to laugh, and hear our laughter, and see our smiles.

Our son will grow up with art.
Our son will know that he is important.
Our son will know that his mom and dad, too, are important. They are important because they love.
We are not failures. You got that, Matt & Tia? People who love, who laugh, who foster beauty in whatever tiny way at all, those people can never be pathetic, or pitiful, or failures. There is nothing to pity in people like this. Quite the opposite.