Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cue Bette Midler: "You don't own me"

I’m a great believer in transparency when it comes to issues of ethics. That is one of the reasons I have this blog. It gives me the opportunity to talk about issues surrounding theater and the coverage of theater.

What I am about to write next applies to very few people in this community. The vast majority of the arts community in Lansing is populated with individuals I am honored to be associated with. They are people who enrich those around them through their art. They are amazing, generous, and brilliant individuals. I have many times expressed my love for this community because it is truly filled with dynamic, caring, and talented people whose diverse individuality make Lansing a wonderful place to live. What I am about to write is something 98% of this community would wonder why I even find it necessary to state the obvious. To those folks reading this, I apologize. I also thank you for not treating me the way I am about to describe.

For all that I believe in transparency, that does not mean that I believe I have to share everything about myself. There are some explanations that I don’t owe anyone because they are of a personal nature that has nothing to do with my ability to cover the theater community. Even more important, my covering the local arts community does not mean that the community owns me any more than I own it. We are wayfarers with similar destinations, but how we take the journey is for each of us to determine.

Setting Boundaries: "I'm not one of your little toys"

So allow me to set a few boundaries for those few who need it. You don’t get to dictate what I see and what I don’t see. You can choose to take it personally if you wish, but you don’t get to tell me how I spend my time. You don’t get to tell me which shows I have to see or that I have to see each group’s show in even amounts. You don’t get to tell me the type and quantity of experience that I need to have in order to cover you—only my editor gets to do that. You don't get to tell me who I can write for and who I can't. You don't get to tell me what I'm allowed to write and what I can't. In truth, the second amendment gives you the right to say all those things, but I don’t have to listen and from now on, I won’t.

You are welcome to pass whatever judgment on my character that you wish. I couldn’t stop you anyway nor do I have any desire to. However, I also don’t have to be subjected to your tirades and I choose not to.
You don’t get to tell my husband what he can and cannot do. You don’t have the power or the right to tell us that one of us must choose a career and the other must drop it. You don’t get to tell me who I’m “allowed” to be friends with and who I must not be friends with.

You Probably Don't Own the Media Either

Also, while this may disappoint some people, I must advise that no newspaper is required to cover you. They aren’t required to give you equal coverage. They aren’t required to have a single policy which equally spreads coverage around. Their obligation isn’t to you. Their obligation is to their readers (though, nowadays, most newspaper executives would say their obligation is to their shareholders). If you want to be covered, then make a compelling case to the media as to why you ought to be covered. If you simply say, “I’m here and I’m doing something,” well, not too many editors or readers are going to find that compelling. You’ll fare even worse if you say, “You covered this exact same thing when another organization did it.” Telling a newspaper that they need to be redundant in these days of reduced news hole isn’t going to get you very far. Their response will be—“we already told that story.”

If you want the newspaper to cover you, tell its editors why your story matters to their readers. Tell them why it will appeal to a broad group of people. Tell them what makes it compelling and what makes it different. Tell them how it will make a difference in people’s lives. If you can’t do that, don’t be surprised that they don’t jump when you say boo. Don’t be surprised when they are merely bemused at your attempts to tell them how to run their business.

I'll talk, talk, talk about it

I welcome discussions of anything I write—I relish passionate debate on issues, debate that challenges word choices, that examines ideas. Tell me what I've written is wrong and why. Who I am as a person is not up for debate or discussion. At least, it isn’t with me. You can have whatever conversations about me that you want with other people, though I am not so egotistical as to think that I am very frequently a topic of gossip. I will not discuss my personal life choices (including how I spend my personal time) with you simply because you think that I ought. Nor will I engage in debate with you about me as a person.

I’ll gladly discuss journalism, theater, the arts, and the Lansing community with anyone who is interested. However, I’m still old-fashioned about manners. I will treat you courteously and I will expect the same in return. If you abuse me or attack me personally, I will cut off any future dialogue with you that isn’t strictly professional. I’ll do my job and cover you when you do something newsworthy. I’ll be as objective and fair as possible when I review you. I will not, though, allow you to threaten my health or well-being by tolerating abusive behavior. I won’t bear you ill will, for I have no desire to poison my outlook or become cynical about people in general. I will, though, refuse to allow you any further access to me than what is strictly necessary.

Celebrating Everyone Else

The real advantage to cutting abusive people out of one’s life is that you are able to be more open to the vast majority of people who are not. By refusing to engage with people who make unhealthy choices in their dealings with others, I have more time and energy to engage with everyone else. Once again, I will express gratitude that so few people need to be told what has been written here.  

Friday, September 17, 2010

Twelfth Night: The Shakespeare Club

One of many reasons that I haven't been writing here is that I've been helping Waverly High School by writing their fall play (it opens in a month, and no, I'm not done with the script yet). To go along with the play, I'm putting together a rehearsal blog to provide dramaturgy on not just Shakespeare but the plays time setting--the 1980s (which you already figured out from the subtitle, right? If not, your hint is: Scrambled eggs and bacon.

If you'd like to read my theater writing over there, the link is http://whstwelfthnight.blogspot.com/.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

*cough, cough*

Hi! Still here. Still recovering. Will write more once things are on a more even keel.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A qualification or two

Generally speaking, I'm not overly fond of talking about my credentials. It isn't that I don't have them, it's that I do not wish to be arrogant or boastful (For more about that, you can read this note from Facebook). I also continue to believe that as a reviewer, I have to reprove my credibility internally with each review that I write.

Also, being a woman of "a certain age" (42 to be exact), I really don't feel like I have much to prove. I have enjoyed a wonderful career so far and I look forward to new opportunities and challenges in the years to come. A career is a fluid thing and the most important thing is to be engaged in lifelong learning and to be open to new experiences and new ways of doing things.

Sometimes it is also better to be quiet about one's credentials because there are times actors need to be able to call your credibility into account so that they can discount what you say. That's OK. If a performer needs to believe that I don't know what I'm talking about so that he or she can get back up on stage the next day, then go for it.

Knowing what I do about my qualifications, I'll confess that I was amused to hear them portrayed in a rather unfavorable light in "An Artist's Nightmare" last week. My experience was reduced to liking theater, having seen a "few" plays, and being willing to learn. While all of those things are true--I do like theater, I have seen a few plays (though a few every weekend would be more accurate) and I am willing to learn--they are major understatements. Now, I recognize that it really wasn't personal. I was being used as a device to present a particular point. I'm not offended and I continue to find it sadly amusing. I also recognize that I had the opportunity to boast to the playwright when we first met and chose not to because I was there to interview him and learn about his school, not to put myself forward.

For any curious, I'll post a more detailed version of my professional background. Everyone else can just skip to the next entry which I hope to make in the next week or so.

Writing/Journalism/Revi
ewing experience

  • 27 years of professional writing experience
  • B.A. in Journalism from Michigan State University (I graduated either magna cum laude or summa cum laude, but I can't remember which--it didn't really strike me as important.)
  • Winner of Serwach Leadership Award in Journalism ("This award recognizes undergraduate journalism majors who have demonstrated superior leadership and reporting and writing ability for campus or professional media.")
  • Second place winner for the Focus:Hope Journalism Olympics award
  • Alternate for Dow Jones International Journalism internship in Brussels, Belgium
  • Executive Editor of my college newspaper at Olivet Nazarene University
  • Editor of the opinions section of my high school newspaper and editor for two years of my junior high newspaper
  • Temporary entertainment editor and reporter for the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers
  • Intern at the Grand Rapids Press--which included writing book reviews
  • Copy editor for the Lansing State Journal--which included editing theater reviews when they came in and writing restaurant reviews
  • Editor of hospitality textbooks and training materials for the past 17 years
  • Writer of training materials and textbook chapters for the hospitality industry for the past 17 years
  • Author of numerous books for the hospitality, private club, and spa industries
  • Ghost writer for marriage self-help book, football biography, several ph.d. papers, natural hormone replacement therapy book, textbook chapters on everything from turfgrass to training.
  • Category Lead for the Book, Newspaper, and Magazine category of Epinions.com, a consumer review site. I wrote for them for 10 years, primarily reviewing books but also writing travel and theater reviews. I was a top reviewer for many years.
  • Publisher and primary contributor of Book Help Web, a consumer book site that included exclusive author interviews, book reviews, author bios, and related book news. I created content for more than 1,500 pages.
  • Freelance writer for a variety of organizations including General Motors, Michigan State University, EduGuide, Lansing CityLimits magazine, Dramatics Magazine, National Parks and Recreation Association, Club Managers Association of America, International SPA Association, Pulse Magazine, and others.
  • 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Arts Journalism in Theater and Musical Theater at the University of Southern California Annenburg.
  • Was a founding contributing blogger to Flyover, a national arts blog focusing on theater outside the country's major theater centers. It is hosted by Arts Journal.
  • Theater reviewer for the Lansing State Journal and Encore Michigan
  • Performing arts columnist for the Lansing State Journal
  • Weekly theater correspondent for Michigan Entertainment Internet radio and occasional co-host at live theater broadcasts

Theater Experience
  • Performed in theater in junior high and high school
  • Performed in pit orchestra
  • President of the forensics team my senior year and competed on the team for three years
  • Was part of a religious acting troupe
  • Took several courses in dramatic literature
  • Performed in several community theater roles from minor parts to a lead.
  • Directed a show.
  • Assistant directed several shows.
  • Produced many shows.
  • Costumed shows.
  • Worked lights and sound for shows.
  • Served on two community theater boards.
  • Volunteered extensively for several years for a professional theater.
  • Taught drama to K-3 grades for four years.
  • Wrote, produced, and directed children's shows.
  • I also see an average of 100 live performances a year (mostly theater and musicals but also opera, dance concerts, symphonic concerts, and vocal concerts)--and have seen them all around the country.

(And I'm not sure if this counts or not, but I am married to an Equity actor and have learned a lot from him and his colleagues. Also, my father is a journalist and I hung out in newsrooms from the time I could walk.)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Real-world" experience

Does geography matter when it comes to experience?

Is art only art if it takes place in certain agreed-upon locations? Do we only count experience if the person gained it in these locations?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rejecting Mamet's Glasses

I've never liked the plays of David Mamet.

I used to think it was because of the foul language and how I felt verbally assaulted after I'd been to one of his shows. However, strong language in other shows didn't bother me. I'll even use vulgarity myself when the situation seems appropriate (though never profanity and I do draw a very distinct line between the two--if I say "God," it's because I'm talking to or about him).

So why is it that I don't like David Mamet plays? It's because of the characters themselves. So often they are people who exhibit the worst human qualities. They are cruel, heartless, selfish, and amoral. Many of his characters could easily be diagnosed as mentally ill--sociopaths and psychopaths.

While drama is an excellent way to explore social diseases, Mamet's outlook is far too pessimistic and ultimately lacks authenticity. The societal problem that it skirts isn't that there are people like the ones he portrays in the world. The problem is that we look at others and see monsters like the ones Mamet creates. How many times do you hear someone come out of a Mamet show and say, "I know people like that."?

I've met a lot of people in my life. While there may be people who resemble Mamet's characters and who engage in some of the behaviors, none are as lacking in empathy or soul as he portrays. When you take the time to listen, you discover that the person does have redeeming qualities. For some people, it might take a lot of listening and a lot of empathy.

Hatred is easy. It's a pretty destructive habit to have. It's far easier to scream obscenities at the person who cuts you off when you're driving than to say to yourself that perhaps that person is having a bad day or didn't see you or any of a number of reasons that would make their actions understandable. It's far easier to classify someone as an idiot, jerk, or any of a number of stronger terms that to simply acknowledge that we don't like some of their behaviors--anymore than they likely are fond of some of our own behaviors.

We get to choose how we see people. We get to choose what sort of interpretation we put on their actions. While it is not wise to be naive, it can take great courage and effort to choose to see the best in people. We could see the world through cynical eyes that believe others to be criminals, wastrels, and users. Or we could see the world through compassionate eyes that believe others to share in our own struggles and to be searching for ways to be healthy and happy.

The latter may be more difficult, but it is also far more rewarding.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Difference

What is the difference between community theater and professional theater?

Aside from the obvious difference that one is a volunteer organization and the other pays its performers, how are the missions different?

There are many people who want to define the difference by creating some measure of quality. There is some validity to that measurement, but what is it that contributes to that quality?

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge supporter of community theater. Yet, you will not hear me say that community theater is as good as professional theater. To me, that would be a bit like saying a strawberry is as good as a carrot. They’re both good, but both different in core ways. They both provide different but necessary vitamins to the human body just as the different types of theater provide different but necessary forms to the arts community.

Why do I value community theater?

I value community theater because it gives a wide variety of people a chance to participate in the art as an avocation. It enriches their lives and makes them more committed to the community in which they live. It helps them to form long-lasting bonds with people who share a geographic home with them. They’re able to connect to people who have similar interests, temperaments, and personalities.

Community theater, when it is true to its mission, is focused inward on the participants.

Why do I value professional theater?

I value professional theater because it elevates the art form and allows audiences to participate in the art as a transformative experience. The performers matter less than the story being told and the effectiveness with which it is being told. The story is the medium in which people are talking to people about things that matter to them. Theater becomes a way of exploring issues, experiencing catharsis, and laughing deeply.

Professional theater, when it is true to its mission, is focused outward on the audience.

In community theater, production values can take on a lesser role as what is important is providing the support and structure for the performers to be able to explore and create. Choices are made based on whether they challenge, encourage or distract the actor. The audience is coming to see their friends, co-workers and families. They’ll be far more forgiving and far more inclined to praise a show because the priority isn’t what the audience was able to feel, but what the performers were able to do. Performers want to be treated with respect because they have given up their free time and worked hard at something for an extended period of time.

In professional theater, production values are of extreme importance. Even a bare set needs to be executed well. Choices are made based on whether they will challenge, encourage, or distract the audience. The audience is coming to be entertained, moved and transformed. They’ll have high expectations for the time they are spending in the theater and will have high expectations. They want to be treated with respect and have the show creators think that the audience was worth the effort.

In community theater, the performers are learning on the fly in an invigorating, collaborative effort that allows them to transcend their daily lives. A show’s success can often depend on whether the cast is able to bond with each other in mutual respect and admiration. The participants should be given a chance to learn, grow, and develop. Once the show ends, the relationships can continue and all are likely to be given opportunities to perform together again.

In professional theater, the performers are already proficient and trained in the skills the art demands. A show’s success depends on the strong collaboration of artistic and technical staff that is focused on the work and not the personalities. When the show ends, the artists will go their separate ways, maintaining a professional respect and connection, but no longer a part of each other’s daily lives until they once again end up at the same theater.

In community theater, it is essential that an effort be made to draw in new people who may not know much about the art or the craft. There needs to be room for participants to grow as performers. They should not be required to be great performers when they first show up. A community theater stagnates when it doesn't allow "less talented" people to be part of the shows.

In professional theater, it is essential that every performer from the lead to the walk-on role, from the stage manager to the box office manager, have all of the skills required to do the job. The theater should make sure it is hiring the best people possible for each role and job and not just the performers and technicians with whom they are most familiar and comfortable.

Community theater fails when it treats its performers poorly or ignores their needs and abilities. They succeed when they select work that allows their participants to stretch without asking the impossible.

Professional theater fails when it ignores the needs and desires of its audience and gets caught up in what it wants to do to the degree that it shows contempt for their patrons.

Community theater enriches society by giving people the chance to perform.

Professional theater enriches society by giving people the chance to experience performance.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Thespie "Nominees"

In just a few hours, the winners of this year's Thespie Awards will be on the newsstands. This is the 31st year of the Thespies--sponsored by the Lansing State Journal. They recognize great work done in the Lansing community during the 2009-2010 season.

Typically, only the winners are published, despite the large number of names that get considered. Part of this is because there is a limited amount of news hole. Also, with the process that the Thespie committee uses, we don't have formal nominees--thus the quote marks in the title. We float a lot of names before starting our votes. In some categories, a single judge might have a dozen nominees.

This year there had to be some last-minute changes in judges due to some illnesses and other complications. After the committee had discussed it for awhile after the meeting determining the winners was over, we thought it might be best to add an extra layer of transparency this year--to show the variety of shows and performers which were discussed.

Disclaimer: These were not formal nominees. They were the names we floated that made it through the first two or three rounds of elimination. They do include the winners.

In a couple cases, the professional and non-professional categories were divided out. These were cases where there were a great deal of nominees in both categories. I will post a link to the winners as soon as it is up (er, and I'm on the computer).

One more disclaimer: There are also several special awards--for those things which didn't fit within a category neatly. In a few categories, there is a winner but not enough other nominees for me to be able to list them here.

2009-2010 Thespie Nominees

Best Play:

  • A Few Good Men, Riverwalk Theatre
  • An Infinite Ache, Williamston Theatre
  • Bluff, BoarsHead Theatre
  • The Late Henry Moss, Icarus Falling
  • The Seafarer, Peppermint Creek Theatre Company

Best Musical:

  • Altar Boyz, Peppermint Creek
  • Hank Williams: Lonesome Highway, Lansing Community College
  • The Light in the Piazza, Riverwalk Theatre
  • Rent, Michigan State University

Best Director, Play

  • Chad Badgero, Seafarers, Peppermint Creek
  • Tony Caselli, It Came From Mars, Williamston
  • Tony Caselli, This Wonderful Life, Williamston
  • James Glossman, Bluff, BoarsHead
  • Suzi Regan, Home: Voices of Families from the Midwest, Williamston

Best Director, Musical

  • Chad Badgero, Altar Boyz, Peppermint Creek
  • Scott Burkell, Rent, MSU
  • Jane Falion, The Light in the Piazza, Riverwalk
  • John Lepard, Hank Williams, LCC

Best Lead Actor, Play, professional

  • Jacob Albright, It Came From Mars, Williamston
  • John Astin, Bluff, BoarsHead
  • Aral Gribble, An Infinite Ache, Williamston
  • John Lepard, This Wonderful Life, Williamston
  • Wayne David Parker, It Came From Mars, Williamston

Best Lead Actor, Play, non-professional

  • Doak Bloss, The Seafarers, Peppermint Creek
  • Rick Dethlefsen, The Seafarers, Peppermint Creek
  • Jack Dowd, The Late Henry Moss, Icarus Falling
  • Michael Hayes, The Late Henry Moss, Icarus Falling
  • Brad Rutledge, The Late Henry Moss, Icarus Falling
  • Brad Rutledge, The Seafarers, Peppermint Creek

Best Supporting Actor, Play

  • Dave Dunckel, A Few Good Men, Riverwalk
  • Mark Gmazel, Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight, Peppermint Creek
  • Bill Henson, Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight, Peppermint Creek
  • Jacob Hodgsons, It Came From Mars, Williamston
  • Brad Rutledge, A Few Good Men, Riverwalk

Best Featured Actor, Play

  • Joe Dickson, Book of Days, Riverwalk
  • Jason Garvey, You Can’t Take It With You, MSU
  • Bill Henson, The Importance of Being Earnest, Capitol TheatreWorks
  • Markitwia Jackson, The Late Henry Moss, IF
  • Kevin Knights, The Late Henry Moss, IF

Lead Actress, play

  • Sandra Birch, It Came From Mars, Williamston
  • Jasmine Rivera, Infinite Ache, Williamston
  • Emily Sutton-Smith, The Smell of the Kill, Williamston
  • Piaget Ventus, In The Blood, MSU
  • Veronica Gracia Wing, Enchanted April, Riverwalk
  • Amy Winchell, Power Plays, IF

Supporting Actress, play, professional

  • Laura Croff, The Smell of the Kill, Williamston
  • Alysia Kolascz, It Came From Mars, Williamston
  • Teri Clark Linden, The Smell of the Kill, Williamston

Supporting Actress, play, non-professional

  • Sarah Blossom, Third, Peppermint Creek
  • Abby Murphy, Enchanted April, Riverwalk
  • Char'Tavia Mushatt, In the Blood, MSU
  • Rachel Kabodian, Third, Peppermint Creek
  • Sandra Thomason, Enchanted April, Riverwalk

Featured Actress, play

  • Erin Cline, Ah Wilderness, LCC
  • Carol Ferris, Size 8 Shorts, Riverwalk
  • Julie Schilling, Bluff, BoarsHead
  • Becky Tremble, Talking With, IF
  • Gloria Vivalda, Enchanted April, Riverwalk
  • Amy Winchell, Talking With, IF

Lead Actor, Musical

  • Rusty Broughton, Rent, MSU
  • Chad deKatch, The Light in the Piazza, Riverwalk
  • Derek Smith, Hank Williams: Lost Highway, LCC
  • Evan Pinsonnault, Into the Woods, Riverwalk

Supporting Actor, Musical

  • Joseph Baumann, Into the Woods, Riverwalk
  • Doak Bloss, Light in the Piazza, Riverwalk
  • Jeff Kennedy, Into the Woods, Riverwalk
  • Brandon Piper, Rent, MSU
  • Sineh Wurie, Hank Williams, LCC

Lead Actress, Musical

  • Emily English Clark, The Light in the Piazza, Riverwalk
  • Claudia Dibbs, Rent, MSU
  • Paige Lucas, The Light in the Piazza, Riverwalk
  • Jennifer Schafer, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Riverwalk
  • Veronica Gracia Wing, Into the Woods, Riverwalk

Supporting Actress, Musical

  • Betsy Bledsoe, The Light in the Piazza, Riverwalk
  • Laura Croff, Hank Williams, LCC
  • Abigail English, Into the Woods, Riverwalk
  • Laura Stebbins, The Light in the Piazza, Riverwalk
  • Kellyn Uhl, Rent, MSU

Ensemble, Professional

  • Bluff, BoarsHead
  • Home: Voices of Families from the Midwest, Williamston
  • It Came From Mars, Williamston

Ensemble, Non-Professional

  • The Late Henry Moss, IF
  • Opposites Attract, Lansing Civic Players
  • Seafarer, Peppermint Creek
  • Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight, Peppermint Creek
  • Trojan Women, MSU

Original Script, Professional

  • Home: Voices of Families From the Midwest, By Annie Martin and Suzi Regan
  • It Came From Mars, by Joseph Zettelmaier
  • Three By Poe, by Paul Riopelle

Original Script, Non-Professional

  • The Watch List by Eric Dawe
  • Thunder Hoof and the Prince by Fran Johnson and Yvonne Whitmore
  • I’ll Make Merry When I’m Good and Ready by Oralya Garza, Tony Sump, and Chuck Dimick

Children’s Show

  • Thunderhoof and the Prince
  • Bremen Town Musicians
  • The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Dragonsong

Set Design

  • Enchanted April, Riverwalk
  • A Few Good Men, Riverwalk
  • Home: Voices from Families of the Midwest, Williamston
  • In the Blood, MSU
  • The Light in the Piazza, Riverwalk
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, MSU
  • The Smell of the Kill, Williamston

Set Dressing

  • Ah, Wilderness, LCC
  • The Light in the Piazza, Riverwalk
  • Rent, MSU
  • Seafarer, Peppermint Creek
  • Three by Poe, Boarshead

Costumes

  • Enchanted April, Riverwalk
  • Frog and Toad are Friends, Holt-Dimondale Community Players
  • In the Blood, MSU
  • The Light in the Piazza, Riverwalk
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show, MSU
  • Trojan Women, MSU
**NOTE: There are additional nominees for lighting and sound, but there is a problem with my notes and I need to get the nominees confirmed by the other committee members before I publish them. My apologies.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Red Violin

Tonight we're going to be going to the John Corigliano concert at MSU's Wharton Center. I've been most excited about hearing Circus Maximus as it is one of those symphonies that must be experienced live in order to get the full effect.

Another highlight will likely be performances of his work from The Red Violin. Here is an MSU student giving a preview performance:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weekend in Chicago

Hey! Dancin!

Cherry Poppins: A New Musical (an improv musical)

Billy Elliott

Awesome food, even better company. It was a good weekend.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Comparing apples to apples

Seeing the same play done by multiple companies is simply part of the job description for a theater critic. Moreso than any other art except ballet and classical music, live theater is a medium that explores different approaches to the same script. By its very nature it is dynamic and subject to many interpretations. While movies will have the occasional remake, it won't be done a thousand different ways by ten thousand different actors.

So when attending a show, a critic must try to approach each version of each play with an open mind. After all, it's not about whether a particular production was similar to another. What's more important is whether the production is living up to its own internal interpretation. What is the vision of a particular director? What does each new actor bring to his or her role? That said, outside of the structure of a review, it is highly enjoyable to compare shows and part of the essential discussion about what makes theater vibrant and dynamic.

Seeing Double: Canterbury and April

Several weekends ago, I had my weekend of seeing double. The two Canterbury Tales performances I saw were actually quite similar--which was to be expected. They had the same director and about a third of the cast was the same for each show. There were individual variations in character interpretations between the two different casts, but it was basically the same show.

The other show I saw twice was "Enchanted April." Knowing that I was going to review the Meadowbrook show while judging the Riverwalk version for the Thespies, it seemed only fair to see the Riverwalk version first. After all, Meadowbrook had access to greater resources, better trained artists, and the ability to rehearse as a full-time job rather than an after getting out of other work rehearsal schedule.

Enchanted April

What surprised me was how genuinely close the two shows were in overall quality--both in artistic performance and in production values. Both shows had their strengths and both had their weaknesses.

The Meadowbrook actors were far superior in their vocal quality, consistency of accents, and overall development of characters. Yet, while their Lotty was easier to understand, she also changed less. Nor could the Meadowbrook Rose hold a candle to the sensitivity and passion that the Riverwalk Rose showed. Likewise the marital relationship between Rose and "Florian" in the Riverwalk production was far more layered and complex. I could believe in Florian's change at the end far more than I could in the Meadowbrook production.

The Riverwalk production was also the more daring of the two, willing to commit to more intense choices. The men, while having very little to work with in the script, were also much more convincing and real in the Riverwalk production whereas they came across as too much of just backdrop in the Meadowbrook version.

The set, which is very much a part of the show--both in the grim grayness of the first act and the floral airiness of the second act--also had different strengths, even while looking extraordinarly similar. Both used the same color schemes with similar looking set dressing. For the first act, the Meadowbrook set was far more interesting with its constantly changing backgrounds and the ability to change lighting to a far greater degree. For the second act, the Riverwalk set had a much fuller, brighter feel to it. There was more depth and character to the castle. Also, the set change at the top of Act II at Riverwalk was one of those memorable moments that got its own applause. The audience was able to witness the transformation which once more underlined the theme of the show.

Proscenium vs. Thrust

The difference in sets could primarily be attributed to the two very different spaces. Meadowbrook is a large theater with a proscenium stage. Riverwalk is much more intimate and is a thrust stage. For the first act, the flatness added to the play's story while allowing the technical team far greater flexibility in swiftly creating many different rooms and settings. For the second act, the intimacy with the audience and the ability to emphasize dimension made for a stronger second act.

Both were shows well worth seeing for the beauty of the play and the fascinating differences in choices made by each cast.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Picking nits

When I write a review that is restricted to 300 words or less, I rarely include much except the main points of the production. What most worked? What didn't? What was the overall impression of the show?

I often think this is a disservice because there are many things about a production that can be worth talking about even though they are not the main thrust of the show and even when they don't effect the overall quality of a show.

Sometimes I think some of the more interesting moments in a show are the small ones that go by quickly. They can be great moments, or they can be horrible ones. When they're bad, mentioning them seems like an exercise in picking nits. They can be interesting to discuss, but really shouldn't effect whether someone goes to see a show or not. Sometimes the little things are matters of interpretation--one person wondering whether a slightly different choice might have been more effective. In the latter instance, the overall performance may have been quite good and it can be demoralizing to raise a question in a review.

At other times, the nits do matter. Sometimes the lack of attention to a small detail can take the audience out of a production and make the overall show suffer. Sometimes the jarring detail or moment can indicate a sloppiness on the part of the actor, crew, or director (depending on what it is).

I've been bothered lately by one of those small details I saw at a show--a detail that would likely go unremarked upon in a review because there were so many more important things to comment on. And yet, that detail told me a lot about the show and about the actor. In the play, the actor is complaining about how cold it is and how frozen he feels with a lack of proper heating during a winter month. He's wearing a scarf and a sweater and would rub his hands to keep warm. Yet he had his sleeves pushed up to his elbow. It immediately told me that as an actor, he wasn't paying much attention to what he was saying. He wasn't feeling the cold. He wasn't thinking. I couldn't believe what he was saying because if he were really cold and shivering, he'd pull his sleeves down rather than leave his bare arms exposed to the frozen air.

Does that minor point of costuming matter compared to the other elements of the show? Only in that it informed my thinking about the other problems that show had and what might have contributed to them.

Monday, March 29, 2010

In the Blood review

Here is my review of MSU's "In the Blood." It's posted at Michigan Entertainment.

It was a powerful show and I hope to be back to talk about it some more--after talking about Enchanted April.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What a weekend!

Theater has the power to move, the power to change lives, the power to challenge us to re-examine our ways of thinking.

This weekend the theater I took in left me almost out of breath by the end of it with plenty of themes chasing themselves around in my head during today's car trip to the west-side of the state for a family birthday.

Friday night, Richard and I went to see Romeo et Juliette, the opera put on by the MSU College of Music. It is the operatic version of Shakespeare's play, sung in French, then set in Miami, Florida during the 1980s.

On Saturday, I went straight from MSU's "In the Blood" to Everett's "Rent." I'll be writing more about the MSU show as it was strong, powerful stuff. Speaking of that, I need to go finish my review of it for Michigan Entertainment. So I'll write more later.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Balance of appropriateness

Earlier this month I attended a production of the musical Spelling Bee at the Ruhala Performing Arts Center. As with most productions there, the performances were superior and the young performers did an excellent job. Not only are they talented, but more importantly, they have put in a lot of hard work.

While their production was charming and wonderful, there were several times I found myself distinctly uncomfortable. Discomfort during a theatrical performance isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is a sign that there is something to think more about.

When I first saw The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, all of the characters were played by adults--including the kids. This added a certain humor factor to it. It also gave us even more of a feeling of looking at the kids through adult eyes.

Spelling Bee is a fun musical that takes a very authentic look at the real struggles of junior high kids--especially those who are outcasts for one reason or another. If stage shows were rated, this would would probably get a PG-13, with one song about the young man's "unfortunate erection" making it push the edge of an R rating. There is also a fair amount of language which is both vulgar and profane.

If I acknowledge that nothing in the show is outside of the language, thoughts, or conversations of junior high aged students, is it hypocrisy to be uncomfortable when I see actors as young as age 12 performing it?

After much thought, I've concluded that the answer to that is no. Ultimately, it is a parental choice whether it is appropriate for their child to participate in musical or dramatic pieces with adult content. For myself, I would not have my child perform in a musical like The Spelling Bee. There is a difference between knowing that children use certain language and joke about certain subjects and having an adult demand that they do so and having them perform it in front of audiences.

When you teach math, you don't ask students to attempt trig before they've learned how to multiply and divide. So it is with other subjects. Students of life shouldn't have everything thrown on them at once. When we respect the learner, we allow the learner to take things in stages and steps without dumping things on them before they are ready. So it is with issues of sex. I'm all in favor of open, honest discussions with children about sexual topics--and in letting them lead the way when determining what they are ready for and what they are not. However, we already live in an over-sexualized society in which messages about sexuality are far from healthy. I'm not eager to push my child to explore topics of physical desire when he is still working out more basic social and decision-making skills.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A full weekend

It was a good weekend for theater and I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend of seeing double. Everything went off as planned--I saw Waverly High School's "The Canterbury Tales" with Cast Canterbury on Thursday and Cast Southwark this afternoon. On Friday, I saw "Enchanted April" at Riverwalk and on Saturday night I saw the same show at Meadowbrook. The review of the latter show is posted at Encore Michigan.

We then topped it all off by a family night out at the movies with our friends the Thompsons. We splurged and saw Alice in Wonderland at the iMax.

Tonight, I am tired, but in the next couple days, I hope to write the following blog entries:

  • A review of "The Watch List"
  • A comparison of the two Enchanted Aprils
  • A discussion on the delicate balance of what we ask children to do in theater
Meanwhile, I wish for all of you a wonderful week.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Seeing Double

I'll be seeing double this weekend.

Tonight I went to see the Canterbury cast perform "Canterbury Tales" at Waverly High School. I'll see the play again on Sunday with the Southwark cast. (The show has only eight characters and they were double-cast to give more people the opportunity to perform.)

Then Friday night, I'll be going to Riverwalk to see "Enchanted April." On Saturday night, I'll be going to Meadowbrook to see "Enchanted April."

A weekend full of seeing double.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Good weekend for theater

I may have to break my usual rule and write a review for "The Watch List" in my blog. It's a new work and it deserves to get attention. So I'm going to put some thought into it and once I get my other assignments done for the week, I'll turn back to "The Watch List" and write about it.

I also saw "Opal's Husband" with Jane and Mark Zussman, Winifred Olds, Dan Pappas, and Jan Ross in it on Saturday night. I sat at a table with the director's parents who were quite proud of the cute show that their daughter directed.

Earlier tonight I saw a wonderful production of "The Ingham County Spelling Bee" at the Ruhala Center. It was a cast of exceedingly talented performers.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Directors and Editors

Writers are told that when they fall in love with a sentence that they've written--when they think it is just the greatest thing ever, they should get rid of it. Sounds harsh, but writers with that kind of discipline are far more readable and effective than those who aren't. Granted, it often takes a good editor to kill the sentence that the writer is in love with.

There is a parallel to this in acting. Theater needs strong directors to sometimes tell the actor to get rid of something that the actor thinks is awesome.

Weekend of Theater

In less than an hour I'll be heading out for the start of what I expect to be a wonderful weekend of theater.

Tonight I'm going to "The Watch List" at Riverwalk. On Saturday, I'll be at Starlight Dinner Theater's "Opal's Husband," and on Sunday I'll see the musical theater ensemble at the Ruhala Center perform "The 25th Annual Ingham County Spelling Bee."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Daily post

I said I would post every day for a week, so here is today's post.

Eventually, I will get embarrassed if my blog entries continue to say nothing. Hopefully that will inspire me to create better content and not just stop writing here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday Movie Musings

Yesterday was the Oscar Awards ceremony. This statement will surprise no one.

We didn't watch it for a couple reasons. One, we haven't a television. Two, with our car broken down, we couldn't get to any of the various Oscar parties taking place around town.

I can't say that I minded missing it the way I minded missing the Olympics. Primarily this is because I see so very few movies. As a theater critic, I see a lot of plays. When I talk about the "theater," I'm talking about what happens on the stage, not the screen. Given that I also have a day job, a family, friends, and more than a few hobbies, this doesn't leave much time for movies. This year, when I've missed many of the plays that I wanted to see, movies were an even lower priority.

Of the few movies that I did see (and you should take "few" literally), none of them were likely to be nominated for an award. I have fairly plebeian tastes in movies. If I'm going to go to the theater, I'm going to go see something that I can't see on stage since I far prefer the live medium to the two-dimensionality, distance, and static nature of movies. I prefer to have my actors life-size rather than bigger than life on the silver screen or in miniature on the television.

This means most of what I watch is animated. Yes, I could give you the excuse that I'm a mom and I do it for family reasons, but really, it's because I like animated movies. One of my favorite movies of all time is still Disney's Mulan.

Feeding into this was that I was raised a Nazarene at a time when Nazarenes didn't go to movies. While my parents never enforced this--preferring instead that I come to a decision on my own--as I became more active in the church, I saw movies less and less. By the time I reached high school, I had given up going to movies entirely. During my first two years of college, going to a movie could have gotten me expelled.

While that restriction has long since been lifted, movies never became a habit for me or even something that I typically think of when pondering entertainment options.

Nothing profound

I have nothing profound to say today.

I realize I needn't be profound in order to write a blog entry, but there is a certain amount of internal pressure. If you take the time to find my blog and read it, then I want it to be worth your time.

However, I also want to form the habit of writing on a regular basis in part because that triggers me thinking about entries on a regular basis so that when I do sit down to type them out, it is a quick process.

I will share a few random quotes--not necessarily favorites, just ones germain to the topic of theater:

"I regard the theater as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being."
--Oscar Wilde

"I have a terrible feeling that, because I am wearing a white beard and am sitting in the back of the theater, you expect me to tell you the truth about something. These are the cheap seats, not Mount Sinai."
--Orson Welles

"It is one of the tragic ironies of the theater that only one man in it can count on steady work--the night watchman."
--Tallulah Bankhead
(Except now most theaters have replaced that person with an alarm system.)

"All the best performers bring to their role something more, something different than what the author put on paper. That's what makes theater live. That's why it persists."
--Stephen Sondheim

"The reason why I hate working in theater is the tedium of memorization. But once that is done, then you feast on this never-ending meal. If you play it correctly, every night is fraught with very high stakes that are difficult to find in everyday life."
--Christopher Meloni


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Secondary School Drama

Oops! I haven't gone to bed yet, so I'm hoping this can still count as Saturday's post.

If you are involved in Lansing-area high school or middle school drama and your school is doing a spring play or musical--please contact me in the next week. I'll also be reaching out to the individual schools, but contact information can change. I'll soon be working on a spring overview article about what all the schools in the area are doing.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Linkety link

I was hoping tonight to write about "The Watch List," an original new work by Eric Dawe that is having its premiere at Riverwalk Theater tonight. Well, actually, I did already write about it in this week's column. But that was a preview. I was going to see the show tonight.

Our car, though, had other ideas. So while Dominic is off at Boy Scout camp for the weekend, Richard and I are stuck at home without transportation (which is not, all things considered, anything to complain about!). It does, though, leave me without a topic for tonight's blog.

Given that, I'm going to share some links that I've been lapse in talking about.

First, remember the press release I shared awhile ago about the critics' panel I participated in? That was an event (in January) that went quite well. I did feel a little out of my league with the high quality of critics represented by my colleagues, but it was an honor and a pleasure to participate. You can listen to the podcasts of the event here--Episodes 7 & 8 (yes, we were a long-winded bunch).

Also, I'm now joining Jim Fordyce every Thursday at 5 p.m. on MIEntertainment radio. It's a streaming station that you can get on your computer, smart phone, or any Internet-capable radio or iPod. Click to listen to the station at TalkLansing.net.

And, of course, you can read my weekly Lansing State Journal columns about a wide variety of performing arts on this page every Thursday.

I also reviewed Icarus Falling's Power Plays by Elaine May and Allan Arkin for Michigan Entertainment.

Did I mention in this blog that I've joined the reviewing team at Encore Michigan? I think I did--in the post where I was talking about "The Smell of the Kill." The next show I'm reviewing for them is Meadowbrook's "Enchanted April." It opens the same weekend that that show opens at Lansing's Riverwalk Theater. I'm looking forward to comparing the two.

That's a wrap for tonight. I'm sure in the next 24 hours I'll manage to think of something else to write about. Stay warm, everyone.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Forming a habit

For the next week, I am going to write a blog entry every day. Even if they are just this short.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Likes and Dislikes

I will confess--I like theater that makes me think.

Yes, I absolutely expect to be entertained when I go to the theater, however, that is only one of many expectations that I have. I also want to be engaged.

There are many ways to engage a person and each person is going to find different things engaging. For myself, I want my brain to be engaged. If you can engage my emotions, that's a plus too. For me, a fine night at the theater is when I've found myself presented with ideas that I have to wrestle with or am given a new perspective on a familiar issue. I like plays that continue to unfold after I've left the theater, forcing me to continue to examine layer after layer. I'm especially fond of shows where there aren't clear-cut answers and I am left pondering and arguing more than one side of something.

Notice those past three paragraphs have a whole lot of the word "I" in there. It's intentional. Nothing in those paragraphs say "this is what makes good theater" or "this is what art is." Rather, they state what my personal preferences are. When I am in the role of critic, it is, quite frankly, irrelevant what I like or dislike or what my preferences are. Why should any of my readers care whether I like a show or not?

My Personal Opinion? Why would you care?

"Isn't that the point of a review? It's an opinion, isn't it?" you might ask. (Or maybe you wouldn't, but indulge me a moment, please).

I would argue no. I mean, yes, it's an opinion and an expression of subjective criteria. But whether I liked it is NOT the point of the review. The point of a review is whether you, the reader, would like it. Most likely, you and I have different tastes in at least some aspects of theater. My telling you I like or don't like a show gives you no information on whether or not you would like or dislike it.

While a review expresses opinion, that opinion should be supported by specific observations--observations that can help you to judge for yourself whether you liked or disliked a show. I may hate farces (I don't, but let's pretend for the sake of argument that I do) and you may love them. If I'm reviewing a farce, I shouldn't be complaining that the acting was over the top or the situations unrealistic. Rather, I should be critiquing whether the play lived up to the conventions of a farce or, if it broke those conventions, whether the choices were effective for the genre and for the purpose of the play. If I've written the review well, the reader really shouldn't know whether I liked the show or not.

I've found that I rarely give a direct answer to the question, "Did you like the show?" More often than not, I'll give some specific reply about what worked or didn't work in a show rather than express my personal pleasure or displeasure--that is, if I'm talking to someone in a professional context.

To be honest, it is the elements of a show that I find far more fascinating to talk about anyway. To say I "liked" or "disliked" it seems so final, so pat. It lumps everything I've just experienced into a single word. Most plays deserve far more than that. They deserve to be heard, to be listened to, to be discussed.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Smell of the Kill

It was an excellent weekend for theater. On Friday night I went to see Williamston's "The Smell of the Kill," to review it for Encore Michigan. The next morning I headed out to Holland to take my first stab as a forensics theater judge. That was an incredible day in which three of us were privileged to judge the incredible work done by five groups of students. They did 45-minute cuts of the following shows:

  • Sweet Nothings in Her Ear
  • The Laramie Project
  • Doctor Faustus
  • The Jungle Book
  • Romeo and Juliet

I look forward to doing that again some day and am most grateful to Jane Falion for recommending me.

A Study in Assertiveness

While you can read my review at the link above (go ahead, click on the word "review" and visit the rest of Encore Michigan while you're there), The Smell of the Kill is one of those plays that encourages you to keep thinking. I found myself taking plenty of notes that didn't really fit in the context of a review.

The Smell of the Kill could be a textbook case illustrating the differences between being passive, passive-aggressive, aggressive, and assertive. None of the women in the play are assertive.

Let me give you Exhibit A: Nicky, a career woman who enjoys the wealth that she and her husband has accumulated. When he is indicted for embezzlement, she is furious because they are going to lose everything they have. Her reaction is one of very overt anger—she says she’s going to kill him during the first several minutes of the play.

Exhibit B: Molly. It is tempting to think of her as being the passive one. She responds to her husband’s possessiveness by keeping up a smiling, sweet face while striking out to get what she wants. Yet, as the play goes on, the audience learns that she is not passive. She's found her own way to fight against that which frustrates her in her marriage. She doesn't confront him directly, but she goes out and gets what she wants in a very passive-aggressive manner.

Exhibit C: Debra. Debra truly is the passive one. The audience learns almost immediately that her marriage is not a happy one. At least, we learn that her husband is a cad with roaming hands and eyes. Yet, she is the one who defends her husband, who tries to shame Nicky for not being a supportive wife, and who gives up everything she wants.

It's not surprising that all of their marriages are failing.

For a moment, let’s take it out of the context of a play in which the playwright makes choices based on dramatic effect, humor, and entertainment. Indulge me and pretend that these are real women. None of them have marital problems that are insurmountable—at least, not if they had been approached with two partners who were assertive and honest—or at least assertive in the face of dishonesty.

None of them have created a relationship where problems are tackled with a desire for a win-win situation. They're all stuck in the win-lose or lose-lose scenarios. This is a play in which the husbands are cads, but their wives aren't much better. They've cast themselves as victims who can only become "winners" if they turn their husbands into victims.

The play is hilarious and highly entertaining, but it can also be a character study in how NOT to run one's relationships.

A Superficial Smell

Perhaps the other thing that keeps the characters from becoming too sympathetic is their motivations for wanting to kill their husbands--in particular Nicky and Molly. The character who has the most cause and stands to lose the most, is the one who is least aggressive and the one who doesn't have the hunger for revenge that the others do.

Nicky is married to embezzler and is angry because she is about to lose the wealth she has become accustomed to. She's ready to kill for money.

Molly is married to a stalker and is frustrated because she's not getting enough sex and doesn't have the babies that she wants. She's ready to kill for more sex.

Debra is married to an adulterer--one who is ready to divorce her and throw her out of her home. She is about to lose everything just so she can still have custody of her child--a child who hates her because the child thinks it was her decision and not the husband's to put him in military school.

It is fascinating that the one with the most cause is the one who holds out the longest and who keeps up the fa├žade the longest while the one whose loss is the most superficial is the one most quickly incited.

Go ahead, go see "The Smell of the Kill" at Williamston and when you're done laughing, spend some time thinking about these women.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

On being able to write

There are many reasons I have not been writing lately--and being busy is not one of them.

In many ways, I have been the opposite of busy. I have been in a funk that has kept me from doing much of anything--a funk that started last July and that I have struggled to shake.

As a matter of philosophy, I typically avoid getting too personal in my blog just as I avoid inserting myself into reviews that I write. I'm starting to rethink part of that philosophy, even though I still wish to carefully guard the privacy of my family and those who are close to me.

Moved to Write About Altar Boyz, and yet hesitating

However, I had a bit of an epiphany this past week as I thought about "Altar Boyz" and how I wished to write about it. I wanted to talk about the final song and how and why it brought me to tears. I wanted to talk about how the art reached me and how it was so powerful because it spoke to me where I was. There might not have been anyone else in the audience who was hearing what I was hearing because they might have needed to hear something else. It's not the sort of thing I would put into a review because the message was a personal one.

In this blog, where I want to talk about theater and the connections it makes with people, how can I not talk about the connections art makes with me?

Getting Personal (or more than you want to know)

As those of you who know me personally are aware, this past year has been a challenging one. I have withdrawn from many activities and people that I love because I have needed to heal. I have had many days where I could not function on even a most basic level. That has kept me from writing because every time I started, I would end up revealing more about myself than I was comfortable with. I knew I was not in a good place. I knew I was not being my best self or even my somewhat-good self. I did not want that aspect of me put on public display when I was barely able to look at myself without contempt.

In July, I was struggling with an emotional crisis that I'm still not willing to talk about except to say that I was barely holding things together. Then Richard and I lost our sixth pregnancy. After that, I wasn't holding it together at all. I'll spare you the psychological details, but suffice it to say that in layman's terms I had what could be called a mental/nervous breakdown. (Yes, I know that medically there is no such diagnosis. It's a good shortcut phrase, though, that communicates things well without a lot of technical descriptions.)

Since then, I have cocooned. I've forced myself to do as much as I could where it was required--at home, at work, in my column. This blog fell by the wayside. There were several shows I missed simply because I could not face people and keep a smile on my face. Nor was going out without my smile an option. I would feel naked. My column has suffered, but I did what I could to keep it going and make sure things got at least minimal coverage even if I couldn't give it what it and the local arts organizations deserved.

There were times when I felt myself again and thought I had recovered. Those times would last a few days, sometimes a few weeks. I constantly counted my blessings, reminding myself how much I had to be grateful for. I thanked God for giving me a husband who was patient, understanding, and nurturing. As I slipped into paralysis, he stepped up to the plate and took over the care of our family and my needs. He encouraged me, never giving up on me and reminding me that I would recover. He kept me smiling and made sure that I laughed even when things seemed the darkest. There's a reason (several actually) why 25 years after we first met that I'm still head over heels for him--and he for me.

Finding Solace

Since Christmas, things have started to pick up, albeit in small ways. I'm reading again. I'm going to the theater again. I'm crocheting again. Playing the clarinet for the first time in decades has been wonderfully nurturing. I'm still having difficulty focusing and I have days where I cannot do the things I love. Work that used to be easy and fulfilling is still difficult and sometimes impossible. I still find myself caught in a past that I would exorcise if I could. I'm also far more emotional than is typical for me and far more vulnerable than I am comfortable with. But those things are starting to subside and more and more often I'm finding myself in the mirror again instead of the stranger who has been there for so many months.

While I have tried to practice compassion for myself and be patient with the healing process, I have not always succeeded. One of the things that has frustrated me the most has been the elusiveness of writing. Writing is often a gauge of my mental health. I am not one of those who writes well when depressed. In fact, I find myself unable to write at all in those times because all of my thoughts are focused inward. For me, writing has always been a means of communication--a way of making connections with people, with ideas, with life. If there is no connection, there is no point to writing.

Wrestling with Writing

So the questions that I wrestle with now are these: Can I find a way to write about my experiences in a way that can make a connection with others? Is it better to not write in this blog until I have healed more? (Not writing at all isn't an option given that I still need to feed my family.) For that matter, can I really write about art--something that I have often said is life-changing--without bringing at least some pieces of myself to that writing? Which pieces? At what point does it become unprofessional?

They are good questions to wrestle with, but while I'm engaged in that mental exercise, I can't make any promises that I will blog more or that I won't. I want to find a way to write things that are meaningful without being self-indulgent.

In the mean time, I'm going to quote from the lyrics in Peppermint Creek's production of Altar Boyz that left me unable to stop the tears from falling as the song's message spoke so much to where I've been since this past July and the hope that I have clung to when things were bleakest:

[Abe]
One beam of light, is enough to see where you're going
One wrong turn, is enough to lose your way
One choice, is all you have to make
One ounce of faith could save the day
I believe, that I came to know you for a reason
I believe, that the things that you say will come true
I believe that with you in my life I'll make it
I believe in you

[Juan]
One Mistake, doesn't have to mean that it's over

[Luke]
One bad day, only means there's work to do

[Mark]
One night, is sometimes all it takes

[All]
To realize one thing is true
I believe, that I came to know you for a reason
I believe, that the things that you say will come true
I believe that with you in my life I'll make it
I believe in you

[Matthew]
Take a picture of me now, take a look at who I am
Yesterday I wasn't half as strong

[Abe, Juan, Luke, and Mark]
Take a picture of us all, what we've been and what we are
Look at that, and tell me I'm wrong