Saturday, June 18, 2016

Risk/Reward

A wonderland of sun and clouds intermittently warmed my face on the way to the theatre today. A fresh breeze to compliment the click of my boots - a literal breath of fresh air - and with the freedom of the breeze I became aware that I was free from any expectations as to what I would see at the opening night of Risk/Reward 2016. I had no expectations of the subject matter or mediums I would see. And, I had no expectation that I needed to like what I saw. I was free of any need to ‘get’ something out of these creations.

From my humble perspective, the work created by this year’s Risk/Reward artists is intelligently structured, clearly delivered, and rooted in an appreciation for that special gift of live performance; the simple fact that 100+ human beings are in a room together, each having an individual experience of a shared moment in close quarters surrounded by strangers. Ahhh, the audience, my favorite thing about live performance, and it’s delightful to watch several very different styles of performance rooted in that interest.

Milton Lim’s work okay.odd., demands the most from this special relationship. His work opens with a quietly intimate and professional ritual acknowledging his ancestors and ours. He exits and a video/sound installation guides the audience into a meditative awareness of their breath. From this intimate place of meditative awareness, Lim throws us into a visual onslaught of seemingly random words which command the entire space while the beat drives and shakes the theatre. Observing my breath through the brutality of light and language, I could feel the subtle tightening of my shoulders and ass. I was present with the tension that sneaks it’s way into the never-ending stream of stimulus that greets me daily. At the end of this exhausting immersion (Lim’s description notes that we are experiencing a short length session), Lim comes back on stage to connect and invite the audience to end the experience by sharing a 'tender touch’ with the artist. The work is passionately ritualistic. Lim believes he can truly connect with his audience and isn’t afraid of pissing them off with a form that is, frankly, uncomfortable. After Lim’s piece I realized my heart was racing and I was out of breath, his strobe affect had sent me into a kind of adrenaline state. Lim’s relationship to the audience is certainly the most demanding on the audience, though other works acknowledge this special gift of audience in their own ways. 

Anthony Hudson (Carla Rossi) is using some of theatre oldest forms remade through his dance-drag-song-comedy-multimedia extravaganza. He speaks directly with the audience, sharing and responding.  He reveals himself to us as he strips away his wig and white face, he leaves his ‘mask’ behind and his identity becomes more complex. Revelation, comedy and culture are his tools. As he makes us laugh, we want him to be our friend so he can call us out in the midst of this mess of a racist culture we were both raised in. 

Comparatively to Hudson’s ease of style, Vanessa Goodman’s solo dance work is marked by a trapped and tortured movement quality, the few moments of release are flung out through barrels of explosion. At the top of the piece her gaze is fixed and searching towards the sky. It is only as she slowly (oh, so slowly) becomes willing and able to hide her torture under a mask of socially appropriate gesture, that her gaze lowers towards the audience. She smiles. She is more accessible to the world and yet further from her self. This simple, slow change in her gaze took my attention away from my empathy for this character putting on socially acceptable mask and toward the question, “Am I complicit in the self-injuring performances given by others around me simply by agreeing to be their audience?” 

Aside from my own fascination with how different artists are driven to engage with their audience, it was also simply wonderful to see five deeply disparate forms on the same stage. Goodman’s dance and Hudson’s drag narrative are followed by Lim’s violent ritual of meditation and connection. And, after a brief respite, we sink into Portland’s SNKR and their visual sonic landscape. I was immersed in the color, rhythm and vibrancy of their video creation and struck by the artistry of how they were able to co-mingle the architecture they created on stage with the architecture of the video media. I had no sense of “This piece is about…” and I didn’t need it. I was simply drenched in the moment at hand. Their work gave me new hope for how video and live performance can work together. Finally, Ilvs Strauss’ Doin’ It Right dived into my home vocabulary. Weaving subtle gesture, dance and relationship through a score of music and pre-recorded text, Strauss narrative simply and honestly invites the audience to peer into her personal exploration of that never simple question, “Is there such a thing as right and wrong?”

Thematically, this year’s Risk/Reward line up is all wound up in the experience of where we come from, how we’re negotiating that history, and the immediacy of sharing these questions with the people in the room today. 


I walked into the theatre calm, free of expectation. I walked out riled up. Riled up with questions about and appreciation for these artists, the structures and media they created to share with this unsuspecting audience. An audience who didn’t know what they came for. Who didn’t have to enjoy every moment of it. An audience just has to show up and be willing to offer their presence as generously as the performers do each night.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mission: Things As They Are

The hustle is on. I spend my mornings reading and researching in preparation for Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer with my dear friends at Shaking the Tree. And in the evening, I run my little booty off in our tech week efforts to open The Snowstorm with Many Hats Collaborations and CoHo Theatre. Both shows are near and dear to my heart and I am in awe of the ensembles I have the opportunity to work with this year.

In my research, I found a quote by one of the designers (Jo Mielziner, set and lighting) who stuck by Tennessee’s side through out his creation of what, at the time, was a new form. It’s good creative juice for both projects and I share it humbly here.

“When a play employs unconventional techniques, it is not, or certainly shouldn’t be, trying to escape its responsibility of dealing with reality, or interpreting experience, but is actually or should be attempting to find a closer approach, a more penetrating and vivid expression of thing as they are.”

Mission: ACCEPTED.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Just a poem for this week…

It’s been a rager of a week in my world. Several women in my life have experienced tragedy. A systemic and personal tragedy that’s been eating away at our collective good has flooded the streets of Ferguson. Until I have the time to integrate all that tragedy into ideas and understanding, I leave you simply with a poem, a grateful poem.


His Winter Crop
by Hafiz

I have 
Seen you heal
A hundred deep wounds with one glance
From Your spectacular eyes. 

While your hands, beneath the table, 
Pour large bags of salt into the heart-gashes
Of Your most loyal servants. 

Dear World, I can offer
An intelligent explanation 
For our suffering. 
But I really hope it makes sense
To no one here, 
And come morning, 
You are again at God’s door
With ax and pickets, 
Eloquent petitions and complaints. 

Think of suffering as being washed. 
That is to say, 
Hafiz, you are often completely soaked 
And dripping. 

The only advantage I can see in this
Is the Friend’s long range plan
Is that when the Beloved bursts 
Into flames

The whole world with not turn into 
A bright oil wick all at once, 
Then divine ash, 
And ruin his, 

Winter
Crop. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

So Much to Chew On

It’s a busy, busy, busy time. Fall has come and much bounty is there to be harvested. Of course, with this bounty comes much work and less time.  I become responsible for so many decisions about how to use and store all this bounty and all the work that comes with those choices. I come face to face that ever challenging dance between discerning wether the work is true and good while committing to the act of trusting my work in every moment.

I’m living in the harvest while I can the100 of lbs of apples I’ve been processing in the late nights after rehearsal. I’m living in the harvest on stage with Wilde Tales and in Maleficia’s rehearsal room. It’s good. It’s full. Overwhelming. Unclear. It’s WORK.

I’m in love with the word “work” these days. I’m still figuring out why and where my fascination with the word is coming from, but there will be more on this later…

For now, another full and fantastic bit of inspiration from Mr. Wilde as we work through this full and fantastically mysterious harvest season.

From The Picture of Dorian Gray:

“Dorian Gray stepped up on the dais, with the air of a young Greek martyr, and made a little moue of discontent to Lord Henry, to whom he had rather taken a fancy. He was so unlike Basil. They made a delightful contrast. And he had such a beautiful voice. After a few moments he said to him, ‘Have you really a bad influence, Lord Henry? As bad as Basil says?’

‘There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral- immoral from the scientific point of view.’

‘Why?’

‘Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of someone else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly- that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the  duty that one owes to oneself. Of course they are charitable. They feed the hungry, and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked. Courage has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never really had it. The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is the basis of religion- there are the two things that govern us. And yet-‘

‘Just turn your head a little more to the right, Dorian, like a good boy,’ said the painter (Basil), deep in his work, and conscious only that a look had come into the lad’s face that he had never seen there before.

‘And yet,’ continued Lord Henry, in his low, musical voice, and with that graceful wave of the hand that was always so characteristic of him, and that he had even in his Eaton days, ‘I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought. reality to every dream- I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of medievalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal - to something finer, richer, than the Hellenic ideal, it may be. But the bravest man among us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives. We are prohibited for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.  It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also. You, Mr. Gray, you yourself, with your rose-red youth and your rose-white boyhood, you have had passions that have made you afraid, thoughts that have filled you with terror, day-dreams and sleeping dreams whose mere memory might stain your cheek with shame-‘

’Stop!’ faltered Dorian Gray, ’stop! You bewilder me. I don’t know what to say. There is some answer to you, but I cannot find it. Don’t speak. Let me think. Or, rather, let me try not to think.’

For nearly ten minutes he stood there, motionless, with parted lips, and eyes strangely bright. He was dimly conscious that entirely fresh influences were at work within him. Yet they seemed to him to have come really from himself. The few words that Basil’s friends had said to him- words spoken by chance, no doubt, and with willful paradox in them- had touched some secret chord that had never been touched before, but that he felt was now vibrating and throbbing to curious pulses.

Music had stirred him like that. Music had troubled him many times. But music was not articulate. It was not a new world, but rather another chaos, that it created in us. Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivd, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They seemed able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their won as sweet as that of the viol or of lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?”

Mere words! Come check more Wilde out at www.shakingthetree.com
Wilde Tales though November 9th
Fridays and Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 2:00 p.m.
Sundays 5:00 p.m.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wilde Tales

This week in rehearsal, this is my guiding light.

From Mr. Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis:

There is, I know, one answer to all that I have said to you, and that is that you loved me: that all through those two and a half years during which the Fates were weaving into one scarlet pattern the threads of our divided lives you really loved me. Yes: I know you did. No matter what your conduct to me was I always felt that at heart you really did love me. Though I saw quite clearly that my position in the world of Art, the interest my personality had always excited, my money, the luxury in which I lived, the thousand and one things that went to make up a life so charmingly, so wonderfully improbable as mine was, were, each and all of them, elements that fascinated you and made you cling to me: yet besides all this there was something more, some strange attraction for you: you loved me far better than you loved anybody else. But you, like myself, have had a terrible tragedy in your life, though one of an entirely opposite character to mine. Do you want to learn what it was? It was this. In you Hate was always stronger than Love. Your hatred of your father was of such stature that it entirely outstripped, overthrew and overshadowed you love of me. There was no struggle between then at all, or but little; of such dimensions was your Hatred and of such monstrous growth. You did not realize that there is no room for both passions in the same soul. They cannot live together in that fair carven house. Love is fed by the imagination, by which we become wiser than we know, better than we feel, nobler than we are: by which we can see Life as a whole: by which, and by which alone, we can understand others in their real and ideal relations….Hate blinds people. You were not aware of that. Love can read the writing on the remotest star…

Wilde Tales tickets and times at www.shaking-the-tree.com

Sunday, January 10, 2010

out with the body, in with the self

Each individual is a unified organism. Not a mind and a body. A whole living, breathing, moving, thinking self.
Many people understand this. They believe this. And yet, in conversation I hear people continue to talk about the powers of the mind over the body and the body over the mind. 
I think communicating this way is problematic. The way we speak is the way we perceive. When we speak of our mind and body we are perceiving of ourselves as having a separate mind and body. So, I think we should stop using the terms “mind” and “body” when describing our experience of being.

I provide this example:
“Body image”, a well known term.
Webster defines body image as, "a subjective picture of one's own physical appearance both by self-observation and by noting the reactions of others."

Webster's definition definitely seems in line with my community’s cultural understanding of what body image is.
Recent neuroscience contends that the part of the brain that is responsible for "body image" is the posterior parietal cortex. Located in the back right side of your brain, the posterior parietal cortex manipulates mental images and integrates sensory and motor portions of the brain.

Woah. Let’s start there. There are sensory systems which send inputs to the brain so that we know pain, so that we know where we are in relation to the other things around us, and so that we know where our arm is in relation to our leg. There is no sensory system which sends inputs to the brain about the size and look of our "body". This is a more complex process. It requires us to receive and interpret information from many different sensory systems and apply that information through other networks to come up with a composite image.
So, we know a little about what we are talking about when we say “body image” and how that thing happens. My experience of “body image” has compelled me to suggest that this term confuses this issue in how we experience ourselves.
I was bulimic for many years. When I was being treated for bulimia, all the talk about "body image" made sense. Alright, what I am seeing when I look in the mirror is faulty. But I didn't have an experience of what seeing my self outside that faulty image might be, so my understanding of a faulty "body image" was only a concept, I had no experience to fuel my understanding.
In my third year of Alexander Technique Teacher Training, I started having a new experience when looking in the mirror. Looking in the mirror, I saw what I always saw. A woman’s body, fat and getting fatter. And, I would see my self with out that association. Color and shape, eyes, belly and nose, I just saw my self. I experienced both these perceptions simultaneously. 
What had changed? In this complex process of image making, had the sensory and motor inputs sent to my post parietal lobe changed? Or had something else shifted in the networks in my brain I use to interpret those sensory and motor inputs?
My guess is that something had shifted in the networks of how I see myself.
In earlier days, this was the experience of seeing myself in the mirror. I was not looking at my face. I was looking at myself from the torso down. I saw a woman’s body; fat and getting fatter. Being fat was wrong. I had to stop this body! This, of course, is ludicrous. A “body” does not magically get fatter. A person can make choices that result in them gaining weight. But this is simple cause and effect, not some nightmare of magical obesity. I was scared, I was angry with my self. This was a terrible way to be and this was what it was like to be with myself.
And there it is. The image I create of myself is a picture created out of many sensory and motor inputs filtered through my way of thinking. Previously, my way of thinking included slicing and dicing myself into separate parts with different strengths and weakness responsible to one another. My mind was responsible for keeping my body’s magical weight gain under control. And when I chose to have a cookie, I had failed. I was wrong and should be judged and punished. 
As I went through my teacher training, my time was spent practicing being present with my whole experience and the world around me. I committed to communicating in a different way, no speaking about my “body” and “mind”. When I said that, what did I mean? Was I talking about how a brain receives information or how bones are organized?  What was the purpose of using these words? I found little reason to use these words because when I talk about the experience of being human I am always talking about a unified experience (because it is a unified experience!)
I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to experience these two differing perspectives simultaneously. It has informed my understanding of how integral our understanding of self is to our experience of self. The image I or anyone sees when they look in a mirror or simply see themselves in their mind is a picture created from many sensory and motor inputs interpreted through their understanding of what it is to be human. To say “body image” suggests that this picture is just about an unassociated corporal form. But, it is a picture of our identity. When we continue to use the term “body image” we reinforce the idea that we have an unassociated corporal form.  We don’t. Let’s call it what it is, our self image.

That seems incredibly simple and maybe not worth the argument. But I believe that the more our vernacular supports reality the more likely we will be able to see reality simply.  And I am all for simplicity, especially when approaching things that are as complex as reality and my relationship with myself.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Inhibiting as I Go On

Creating an internet identity for myself is a new endeavor.

I do it for simple reasons, I want to teach the Alexander Technique in my community.

And I heard a rumor that the internet is an incredibly efficient means for people to get information about local businesses, educational opportunities, questions of interest like, "What the hell is the Alexander Technique anyway?"

So I adventure forth into this completely unknown stimulus of communicating my understanding of and excitement about the Alexander Technique through the written word and the internet.

I shall use this moment as an exploration of inhibition which is the cornerstone of the Alexander Technique.

I recognize that I really want....I really, really, really want everyone who reads this to understand my thoughts and passions. Hell, I really, really, really want all of the millions of people who read this blog to fly to Portland, OR and take Alexander Technique lessons with me so we can explore the nature of action and reaction in them as an individual. It would be such great fun! My heart leaps quietly with this fantasy.

And so I stop.

When I say, "I stop", what do I mean?

In this case, given the strength of my desire to do well and the newness of the activity, stopping took me some time.

I took my hands off the keyboard. I let the awareness of my self going up in this gravitational field, my hands hanging at my side, my sitbones on the wooden chair beneath me, and my feet on the floor be a part of my awareness that Extracto Coffeehouse is very warm and the leaves are blowing outside.

But I was also thinking about what I would type next.

Well, that's all well and good, letting my mind wander a bit while I watched the leaves. But I wanted to make sure I gave my desire to do this blog right and my conception of what right is in this moment the opportunity to change. Because maybe doing this blog right is easier than I am making it as I run through the four hundred eighty-four things I want everyone to know about my experience of the Alexander Technique.

I wanted to remind myself that I have the freedom to let the unknown and efficient right occur easily.

So I put my gloves on and walked outside the coffee shop, away from my computer.

And I stood on the sidewalk. I was aware of my feet on the ground as I was aware of the noisiness of Killingsworth and the man who looked at me curiously from his 4 wheel drive vehicle. I watched the leaves, I felt the breeze, all the while aware of my self existing in this space.

I stopped writing this post. I stopped thinking about what I wanted to write.

And after a moment of simply being, I chose to walk back to my computer. And as I sat down and as I began typing again, I stopped frequently, renewing my sense being in space as I go about fulfilling my desires.

I did all this stopping because I love desire. I love communicating. I love the idea that someone might read this and understand.

But I have found, as F.M. Alexander proposed, I am much more likely to be successful at fulfilling my desires if I approach them with freedom and ease.

It's like when you really want to find you keys. You look and look and LOOK. You get all knotted up and anxious. You trip over the cat three times. You bust your knee on the stove. And, then, your roommate hands you your keys and tells you they were on the ground beneath the front table where you always leave them. If you had stopped and given yourself some space from the intensity of your desire to find the keys, you might have looked more slowly, more methodically through the most likely places they would be. Your chances of success would have been better.

It sounds so simple! But I am so good at going fast and I am so good at getting things DONE (even if they are not done their best and my back is really sore after the fact) that I have to practice this kind of mindfulness and freedom of choice as often as I can remember to.

And so I go on. I observe myself in failure and in success daily. I am there for all of it. And so I go on.