Monthly Archives: January 2012

Theatre: Training for Life

Several people have expressed interest in hearing more about my life in theatre, so here is a beginning. Being involved with theatre for more than 30 years has affected my life in too many ways to be the subject of one blog post. In many ways, theatre training and production has actually been my training for life.

Over the years, rehearsal and performance of plays has given me:

At the Gaudi Cathedral in Barcelona, revealing my inner contemplative.

  • Self-Awareness. Many roles taught me something about myself or gave me an opportunity to stretch out of my comfort zones and experiment with other ways I could choose to live. Finding similarities and differences between myself and the characters I played enabled me to explore who I am and what makes me unique.
  • Awareness of Other Perspectives. Playing characters who differed from me pushed me to develop a bodily understanding of the reality that the world looks different from other people’s perspectives.
  • Community. Everywhere I go, there is a theatre company that benefits from my involvement. When I move, the local theatre community is usually where I make my first, and often my closest, friends.

    As a Kit Kat Girl in "Cabaret" - finding my burlesque.

  • A Reason to Work Hard. School never challenged me. I got through my entire education by handing in something for each assignment and showing up for classes and exams. Theatre challenged me. I started with nothing more than a good speaking voice. After 30 years of classes and productions, I have become a respectable actress and a good director. My theatrical accomplishments are some of my most cherished because I had to work for that growth.
  • A Place Where Unique Contributions Are Valued. Whatever your skill set, if you want to work on a show, there is a theatre that can use you. Even the most elementary amateur production needs performers, sets, costumes, props, lights and sound, publicity, front of house, and overall coordination. Even if you don’t want to perform, you can be a valuable member of the team. I like to know what is going on in every aspect of the production which makes me especially valuable as a stage manager, director, producer, or Board Member.
  • A Reason to be Part of a Team. I am naturally introverted. I like to figure everything out myself, and manage all the details on my own. But, you can’t do that in theatre. My senior thesis in college included a solo performance that I wrote, choreographed, and directed. I also designed and created the costumes, set, and sound. But, even so, I needed people to run the show while I performed in it and somebody else to design the lights. It would have been impossible for me to succeed without at least a small team.

Writers Aren’t Competing With Each Other

Competition between writers seems unnecessary because our role is not to become the one voice drowning out the others; our role is to be our own unique voice.

Alegra Clarke, Love the Competition: The world needs writers

This has been on my mind since Jen at Laughing at Chaos posted about her upcoming book from GHF Press. Jen and I interact in enough spaces on the Internet that I feel a connection to her. My first response upon hearing the news was entirely based on my expectations/projections of her feelings: elation followed by a gut feeling of panic on her behalf.

And then, I started thinking dangerous thoughts, “why not me?” thoughts. Thoughts I needed put away and consider reflections of my own feelings of inadequacy and no more. Because the truth is I really want to read her book.

I couldn’t write it. I would have to be her to write it.

She actively looks for (and more importantly, finds) the humour in challenges that I share with her, humour that usually eludes me. When I write about the challenges of parenting 2e kids, my thoughts are peppered with scientific research and education policy. She writes the funny. We could both write amazing books about our experiences raising 2e kids and they would be entirely different – even if we were raising the same kids, which we aren’t.

I had similar thoughts when I first saw a Barry Eisler novel for sale with the other mass market paperbacks at my local drug store. You may have heard of Barry: best-selling thriller writer, turned down a half-million dollar publishing contract to self-publish last year. I practiced law with him.

And when my best friend from middle school won a Pulitzer? Mostly just awe. She’s incredible at what she does.

No matter how hard I might have worked, I could not have written what they have written. They see the world through different eyes than mine. They have worked exceedingly hard and been lucky. And I celebrate them.

My voice is my voice. My work is what it is, and reaches who it reaches. They have their own voices and their own audiences.

And that is how it should be.

Leaving the Realm of the Average

I am in-between houses.

The kitchen at the new place is missing a few important things.

We have started moving things into the new place, but we are still living in the old place.

I am in-between in a deeper sense as well.

In the language of social anthropology, I am in a liminal phase, a transitional period between outward personas, an inner transformation reflected in the move from a modern suburban development with matching neighbors to an older, quirky, custom-built house.

I spent my young adult life struggling to fit into a model of the world I had absorbed through my years of schooling. That model involved a lot of applying myself to other people’s goals and working hard to appear normal, getting a good job and putting in the hours behind a desk to earn the paycheck that would allow me to become a useful consumer.

But, those goals were never mine.

Since leaving legal practice in 2000, I have been on a quest to rediscover my values and build a life that reflects me in my full glory. My return to writing and a life centered in creativity and play was part of this quest.

Parenting my challenging children has forced me to confront the pressures I yielded to as a child that I should have avoided. By choosing to homeschool at least some of my children, I have created an opportunity to pass different messages on to my children. The literature that is helping me understand my extremely bright children is helping me understand myself.

Last year, the demands of my novel and the self-awareness triggered by learning how to help my children came together and cracked my persona, and I haven’t put things back together yet. I don’t know what I am growing into; I only know some of the elements my next persona must acknowledge.

The new house is part of my growth. We rationalize the move by saying we need an additional bedroom and that the kids need more outdoor space, but a deeper truth is that my soul cries out for the quirks of a custom-built house.

After hiding in plain sight for years, I am standing up and saying to the world, “I am an outlier.”

Light breaking through

I don’t remember ever not being aware that I was out of the range of normal. In Kindergarten, I spent most of the year reading by the coat cubbies while my classmates learned the alphabet. That was also the year I gave up my English accent so I didn’t sound strange to my American classmates.

I learned about bell-curves when my class-mates accused me of “breaking the curve.” I learned about percentiles in 3rd grade when the doctor referred to my height as 105th percentile; my mother gave me a math lesson during the drive home. By 6th grade, I was taller than most of my teachers. And the stories of my struggles against gender-stereotypes deserve a blog post of their very own – or maybe a series of posts.

For too many years, I saw being different as being bad. But it isn’t. It  is just different.

I’m not sure where all this is going. I’m sure it will show up in my writing.

I hope you’ll come along with me for the ride.

Hang On and Pretend It’s a Plan

Last year, I didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I chose to take incremental steps to change my practices. I set out to play more, write more, and move more. In retrospect, I made progress in all three areas.

This year, I know better than to make resolutions, or even to make much in the way of plans.

By choosing to move, I have invited a world of change and I do not know how things will shape up. The new house will inevitably take more work than I have estimated. The new environment will surely require modification of my routines. I cannot predict how much the transition will upset the children or the cats, but I will have to deal with whatever arises. And then, once we have adjusted to the new house somewhat, most, if not all, of the kids will change schools after the summer.

TARDIS and keys

I can go anywhere I want in time or space. Can you?

Watching this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe, I was struck by a single line of dialogue. When asked by his companion what to do next as they whooshed through the time vortex in an alien escape pod, the Doctor advised, “Do what I do: hang on and pretend it’s a plan.”

And it struck me.

That is exactly what I need to do in 2012: hang on and pretend it’s a plan.

Last year taught me that I can make all the plans I want, but without the flexibility to drop or modify them, I will be courting trouble. This year, although I have directions I would like to go, setting specific goals feels like setting myself up to fail. But, and this is a big issue, I like to feel in control – and that’s where the “pretend it’s a plan” part is so brilliant. If I pretend it’s a plan, I might not freak out so much when I feel out of control.

Or maybe not. I won’t know until I get through the time vortex.

What star is this? From whence?

In the meantime, I found a guiding star.

Inspired by Christine Kane’s Resolution Revolution post (December, 2007), I have chosen a word to be a touchstone for the coming year, a word that will serve as grounding image, inspirational guide, and ongoing challenge, a word I hope will give me a stable focus and flexibility in the face of changing external environments.

My word for 2012 is ease.

I am aiming to ease my way through 2012, hanging on through the changes that are coming my way, and pretending it’s a plan if I start freaking out about my lack of control of outcomes.

Or at least, that’s the plan intention…

I’m heading into 2012 with a motto and a word.

Check back here in a year and we’ll see how it went.

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