Greek Sacrifices (in a poetic sort of way)

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I may have mentioned this once or twice before, but I have a big fear of missing out.

Tomorrow I leave for three weeks in Greece (!!!) and at lunch with friends today I was feeling pangs in my stomach that I will be missing out on two birthdays and one girls night and who knows what else while I am off trekking about one of the most beautiful and historical places on earth. Despite knowing there are many exciting adventures in store, I am sad that the fun times in Toronto don’t just press pause till I get back.
I know there are a lot of people like me who fear missing out. I am not crazy about it in that I always have to be part of the latest craze or fashion, but I always get very bummed about missing opportunities for fun adventures.

I think it’s this quality that makes me such a good guide though because I am so thorough in my research before I go places and I thirst after knowledge about everything to do with it. I was a Scout; I embraced the motto “Be Prepared”.  I have read the entire guidebook front to back, watched Hollywood movies that take place there, read The War at Troy, have spent hours reading websites, am part way through my History of Greece book (FYI Greece has a very long history…), have gone shopping for all sorts of outfits that will complement the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea, carefully planned out an intense 10 day itinerary for my boyfriend and I while doing reconnaissance (booking restaurants, finding my way around towns, learning how to ask where the bathroom is and where ferries depart from) right down the bikes we are going to rent. Tonight I will watch Disney’s Hercules while I sing along and pack. Mamma Mia soundtrack is ready on the ipod for cruising around the islands. Tomorrow at the airport I will start listening to the 13 podcasts on Greece that I downloaded last night. Knowledge is power – especially in Europe where key attractions aren’t necessarily open every day and the ferry schedule can be days apart. For instance, if I hadn’t read the guidebook I wouldn’t know that a place in Nafplio rents free bikes and that you can bike along the coast to the beach past all these private little swimming coves. Score one for advance planning!

My fear can also make me ineffective at times. I spend days looking at hotels agonizing over which one to pick because I don’t want to miss out on a life experience I don’t know I am missing out on by booking somewhere else. I am a little devastated that I will be missing out on the Santorini-Infinity-pool-over-the-Caldera experience but missing it was the only part of the experience I could afford. (It does seem like a bit of a tease that they say “Couldn’t afford to miss it” on things I generally just plain can’t afford…) Our “vacation” will be crazy busy because there is too much stuff to be seeing and doing. I am willing to miss out on some sleep (though that makes me a little sad too… oh dear).

The fear of missing out is also an extremely powerful motivating force in my life. It rarely debilitates me for longer than a few days of internet searching. It also inspires me to create new adventures – even in the living room if necessary. I am constantly looking for inspiration so I gobble up every story I hear and plaque I read. I go out of my way to do things just because it would make a good story or just to say that I’ve done it.
When I was younger, I had many diverse talents and my parents put me in a lot of different activities. As I got older and gravitated towards some more than others, I still kept doing everything because I felt that I might miss out if I let one go. One of my favourite quotes is “To do anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift” and I always felt that if I could do something, I should do it (even travelling), because not everyone is so lucky. So when I travel I want to do and see everything because to not do it would sacrifice the gift of being there.

What I try to remind myself is that for everything you don’t do, you are doing something else. In cases like going to Greece, it is a pretty obvious win. But sometimes I have to think a little harder about it. It’s much easier to complain and say “No Fair” than it is to get up and do something. It’s not even about “What are you going to do about it?” because I may not be able to do anything about IT – for instance I can’t control the lottery and all the stuff I am missing by not winning. But I can still always do SOMETHING. It may be totally different, unrelated, more awesome or less awesome, but I can always choose to do something. And that’s where my fear has really helped me embrace life. I may miss out on some things, but that always motivates me to make up for it with something else.

And sometimes, sacrifices just have to be made.

For instance, tonight instead of relaxing on the couch and easing into holiday mode, I will madly scramble to pack everything (a Leamen tradition the night before a trip)

If there is one thing those ancient Greeks knew, it was sacrifice….

Oh Zeus I am excited!

Brain Debunking without judgement

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Here’s the thing: I’ve started judging my ideas before writing them and that means I have lost the discipline of posting with regularity, and also fallen short of my goal. This is making me unhappy with myself and also contributing to my feelings of non-productivity.

This blog is a bit of a metaphor for what is happening in my life. I realize the stories or thoughts I have are ACTUALLY whats happening in my life, but my relationship with my blog has come to mimic what I am actually doing.

BLOG: I can’t seem to pick and stick to a topic for a blog post. It feels like a lot of pressure and responsibility to pick a topic that other people will find worth their time or to make entertaining. Sometimes I start and then give up because I don’t feel I am articulating it well enough.

REAL LIFE: I can’t seem to pick and stick to writing draft 2 for Alice or Christmas Carol Comedy. My brain is constantly on the look-out for the “next play idea”, but it dismisses things as quickly as it thinks of them (costuming too expensive, similar to something that’s been done before, needs more female characters, need to spend a year researching, etc.) It’s not that there is no merit, or good thoughts in each of those ideas, it’s just that it is too much work right now when I am so unfocused.

BLOG: I want to reach out to people and write something relevant, and meaningful. Because I haven’t thought of something that feels profound, I am judging all other thoughts as frivolous.

REAL LIFE: I feel there are a lot of people I need to support right now and I feel like maybe I am not doing a good enough job – my ways of support are too frivolous because they are not solutions. I also feel that events of the past week should make me overwhelming grateful for all the many blessings in my life right now and go out to seize the day! I want to! But part of me also wants to be totally lazy and just watch movies on the couch. Being torn on this issue means I sit on the couch because my body wants to, but I feel unsatisfied with this choice as my brain knows there is so much else it could be doing- it just can’t decide what.

So instead of waiting for universally meaningful thoughts to come to me divinely, fully formed, and perfect, I am going to just verbal vomit everything I should have been writing about the last few weeks.

1. After attending a double funeral this weekend, I am grateful for family. It wasn’t my family who was mourning but we joined in the mourning for my uncle, aunt, and cousins’ losses. I am honored that my presence at the funeral was a comfort. I am blessed I still have all my grandparents (I think I am one of the last people I know who can claim that) and that I celebrate my grandma’s 89th birthday last weekend, and talk to Grandpa about his days working at the ROM and Batman jokes. I am grateful that though funerals are totally horrific ordeals, they can lead to good laughs with cousins, long hugs, and good, honest discussions about what’s happening in life. Though Christmas is generally a happier time, I felt very happy that I could be there with everyone and doing whatever small bit I could to be helpful or sympathetic. Sometimes it is heartbreaking to see people drop all defences and be vulnerable: but it is nice in that moment to be able to share a bit more of your own heart than they normally need. Sharing is caring.

2. It was my Dad’s 34th RE-Birthday on Saturday – the anniversary of him surviving being shot. We generally celebrate his Re-birthday with more gusto than his actual birthday the week before but it was a quieter event this week after the funeral the day before. The fascinating thing about my dad is that he has always in my memory been one to “live for today” and to give back (or pay it forward) to his community and family. I didn’t realize how much of that is also in reaction to old feelings of guilt over being alive and not sure what his purpose is in life. We all struggle to find our purpose or meaning in our life, but after surviving death, everyone is quick to point out that there must be a purpose you were saved for (no pressure). Combined with his re-birthday is also his kidney transplant and the feelings of gratitude he feels he owes his donor and their family. He has always tried to live a life worthy of that gift. I am always very happy to share Dad’s birthday and re-birthday with him, but I am very glad for this insight he shared with me. I don’t know if I was supposed to share this or not, but I think it is an incredible thing to consider – living life with these two great weights of indebted service to people you never met or a higher purpose you still haven’t found. But the fact that those two things guide every incredible and inconsequential decision he makes every day is amazing to me. Somewhere in all of this, there is a play to be written. Also, I think EVERYONE should sign up for organ donation, not because you could save a life: but because you could have saved my Dad’s life. That’s not just the biggest gift you could ever give to one person and their family: that’s the biggest gift you could ever give to humanity because you are saving one person who will spend every day for the rest of their lives trying to repay that greatest gift and be worthy of it. Even Arthur’s knights never had such a noble quest. Hmmm… perhaps there is something in that comparison that could also inspire a play.

3. Auditions first thing Monday morning are not my favourite. Extremely stressful, especially for ones that are vocally demanding (like today’s “demonic voice”) and steal the relaxation from Sunday night. I feel like I lost part of my weekend and it’s not fair (this may be the most frivolous of all these thoughts).

4. I started writing a lengthy response to my feelings on the Ban Bossy campaign (too long to post as it was too long to finish). While I think it is a very worthy campaign – if you read any of the comments sections you will see how many women have been cowed by the negative associations with the word “Bossy” – I do hope they spend more time teaching young girls and women to be leaders (or the boss) and not just analyzing how the word has come to demean women.  I do however think people are being too sensitive to words like “Fiesty”. Don’t call me a “bitch” (unless you really want me to unleash a verbal lashing) as that is never a compliment- not even from gal pals (!!) but say I am feisty and I will take it as a compliment. Either way, I don’t think those words are synonymous with Bossy and I hope the campaign does not turn to feminist ranting about every word a man has ever called a woman. I could be wrong, but those are my feelings. In my humble opinion, bossy means dictating to others for personal gain, vs. leading can be dictating to others for group gain. Seizing authority in a group can be tyrannical (and bossy) unless the group chooses to accept your authority. And tone also dictates whether someone is seen as bossy or not. I think everyone could stand a lesson in tones actually. I think most of us do not realize the tone we are using most hours of the day, myself included. (I once got very upset that I was accused of giving attitude. In hindsight, I was totally giving attitude- though I thought I had been hiding it really well…. Fail.)

5. Sometimes I can’t decide whether an idea has merit, or whether I am feeling desperate that I should be writing another play so I am madly grasping at anything without feeling particularly inspired. I am interested, but not inspired. Except maybe about the whole King Arthur Quest thing…

6. Too often I feel like the White Rabbit these days “No time! No time!” Where does all my time go?! Though I am a little stressed about the all the prep work I need to do before leading a tour in Greece in April, I am REALLY excited to go to Greece and get on the European schedule of eat, drink, sleep, site see, cruise the Mediterranean, eat again, drink some more, take lots of photos. Have started practicing walking up and down hills to get in shape for optimal sight-seeing in a hilly country.

7. I am feeling like a bit of a commitment-phobe again: I can’t commit to summer plans until things fall into place. But things won’t fall into place until I commit to what I want to do. I want to do SummerWorks. Does summerworks want me too? Won’t find out until April 1st. I sense that that will greatly impact my desire to get back to writing.

8. I have a witch’s brew in my head: a creative cauldron that is starting to bubble but has not yet reached the point of full enchantment. However, I feel like it is full of random items as the one in Macbeth “Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog.”  However, I think that when I do finally sit down and commit to writing re-drafts, the ideas have been brewing long enough that they will be productive. It’s also hard to focus on a project when no one else is focused on it right now either. Too many distractions in too many lives to have creative cohesion right now. Sad though, as I had really gotten used to it and depended on it. Also, I welcome anyone who wants to sing Hocus Pocus songs to me while dressed like Bette Midler.

9. This is very cathartic. I am eager to see how this brain-debunking on blog will manifest itself into my real life!

10. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I do hope you are wearing green!

My (not quite) Oscar speech – which is more rambling than Matthew McConaughey

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oscar

Sometimes watching the Oscars makes me panic a little bit. I sit and watch and wonder what decisions in my life I should have made differently so that I might have ended up on the red carpet. I watch Jennifer Lawrence and am torn between how much I admire her gumption, think we would be great friends, and jealousy that she’s already “got it figured out”. I feel pressure that I might never end up on that red carpet. Then I feel stressed that by the time I might get my act together enough to end up on that carpet, I will no longer have my youthful physique. And then I start thinking about how I should plan a red carpet party so that everyone can experience the joy and excitement of being on the red carpet. (I might actually do that one day…)

When I am done putting stupid and ineffective pressure on myself for things I am not and might never be or want to be (sometimes I wonder if the sacrifices would be worth it to move to Hollywood away from my favourite people), I watch Ellen hosting. There are a lot of funny people in the world, but Ellen is a shining star because her humour comes from Joy. Many people find humour in poking fun of others, or belittling. Ellen finds a lot of it in just observing the silliness of life and enjoying it for what it is. And she dances – always a bonus in my books.  Sometimes when watching the Oscars, hosts can look like they are trying too hard, or the audience is ready to laugh while internally cringing and praying that they are not the butt of the joke.  When Ellen is hosting (or Tina or Amy or Hugh or Neil), it’s more like she is on your team, rather than the opponent. Either way, she does it with class, energy, and yes, Joy.

One can’t watch the Oscars without watching the speeches. Some are beautiful (Lupita), some are less awesome, and some are downright ridiculous, but I love how many people acknowledge the many, many people involved in getting them to this place in time.  And that got me thinking…

Originally I thought it would be an interesting exercise to write my Oscars speech and in doing so thank people in my life. But then I changed my mind. Though I still really like the idea, today was just not the day for it.

However, even without a formal draft of the key people and a few surprise people that would make it on that list, it did get me really excited and jazzed to think about the people I do get to create with. While we might not be in Hollywood or winning critical acclaim, we are making ourselves happy and our audiences happy and that brings me great joy.

I don’t know why my brain does this, but for many years I have “pegged” people that I think will be my good friend. There is just something about them that my brain responds to and immediately decides that I need them in my life in a fairly significant way. Some people get this with their soul mate, best friend, or true love. I had it for that too, but I also get it with random people as well (My apologies to my random friends…. I say “random” with great love and appreciation). Many times of the years I have pegged a person and while they don’t always become the most  frequent person in our living room or closest friend and confidante, they do end up being a source of great enjoyment and inspiration to me. Sometimes it the conversations they pull out of me. Or maybe it is the fun adventures we have together. Random projects or parties that we plan together. Often times, they are friends I probably email more than anyone else would assume.

Generally, the people I peg are ones who within minutes of meeting me have exhibited signs of joy in my company or our conversation. Their joy in me makes me joyful of myself and pushes me to higher levels of whatever we are doing: creating, storytelling, inside jokes that go on too long, arts and crafts, games, whatever…  Whether I see them once a year or four or talk to them once every day or 4 months, these pegged people are people who I would want to thank in my speech. They are usually some of the best cheerleaders I have known in my life and their joy in me and my company has bubblewrapped my heart against the harder parts of this industry.

Some of these pegged people have joined the illustrious ranks of my Dependables and I get to see them, love them, and enjoy them every day.  And some are more like caped Superheroes that I rarely get to see but swoop into my life to save me from villains, boredom or something – I still don’t know what each person has given me (some pegs have moved on) or continues to give me, but my heart/brain clearly knew they had something special just for me.

But those people who are so critical to the inner life of my brain would probably never make it into an Oscars speech. While absolutely essential to my internal development and creativity, they are not necessarily so present externally, if that makes sense?

That’s the thing about life though; each of us in a collection of the many people in our lives and experiences they’ve inspired or contributed to. Whether is it my family, friends, pegs (also friends), fictional characters (also friends), enemies, random person on the subway, students on a school trip, bank manager, teacher, coach, marketing slogan, cereal jingle, love of my life, childhood trauma (always hyped up to be more devastating than actuality), if I have any skill as a writer or creator it is because I am blessed with three key abilities that greatly contribute to my genetic makeup:

1. A good memory to remember all the very important and insignificant nouns (people, places, & things) that have shaped me.

2. To remember these things joyfully (Even moments where I was at my absolute angriest I still get great joy in retelling)

3. Peg people who my brain says “Yes! That person right there!  I must be friends with that person! Best tell them this right away!”

Some of my pegged people just circle into my life for a while and then circle out again. But it is always ridiculously exciting to me when people who seems like maybe they are on their way out come circling back in again. That was how I ended up working with Lynne and Sean again on Alice two years after Move Over Mrs. Markham. And in very exciting news, my stupidly talented friend, Jake, wants to come home (from Juilliard!) and make theatre with ME! Exciting! Just anticipating the new possibilities available because of his wicked skills makes me want to start writing something.

Perhaps if I can keep pegging these extremely talented people and showcasing our mutual joy and admiration through our creative projects, maybe I will get to those Oscars one day after all…  but will it be for acting or screenwriting or producing or….

*music cuts her off as clearly she has rambled on too long…

Make new friends
But keep the old,

One is Silver
and the other Gold (statues)

The wheels on the bus (& my brain) go round and round…

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This past week I was back in tour guide mode and leading one of 5 buses of grade 7s and 8s around Ottawa. When one is lucky, the bus can be a blissful place where kids sit in their seats and giggle with their friends, laugh at the ones sleeping and snoring, and chattering happily about fun memories of the last few days. I was so lucky as to have one of these buses.

However on the way home the last day, no matter how great the kids are or how amazing the trip has been, or how good the traffic is getting home, there is always the tipping point when the bus goes from being a happy and somewhat snoozy sort of energy to a harangue-y sort of energy where people get restless from being constrained, tired in an awake sort of way, and they turn on each other. Once that tipping point has happened there is just no going back to peace, quiet, or sleep.

This is exactly how my brain feels.

It's no use going back to yesterday... After our production of Alice finished, I thought I would have all sorts of time to fill to make up for the time I would no longer be in rehearsal or working on media kits and programs etc. I thought I would have mental energy to reflect on the process and then start planning the next project right away – or even just time to look for inspiration and maybe read a book or two.  Silly Rabbit….

Out of necessity, the first few days post show were like the quiet, snoozey bus. My brain had decided it deserved a break though my emotions were still running on high to finish dealing with stress I had been repressing the last few weeks. But even still, my brain had decided to shut off its “creative” switch, as well as the “decision making” switch and revert back to dealing just with the basics of the day and “real life”.  This worked for a few days while I caught up on some sleep, but then came the tipping point…

Similar to students who have been trapped on a bus, once they wake up from their nap, they are ready to start doing things again, and are already anticipating all the stuff they can do when they get home and sitting patiently becomes impossible. Same goes for my brain.

Forgive me as I go forward that the rest of this might not make sequential sense, but I have had a lot of things on my brain that haven’t made it to paper (or blog) and so are all bursting to escape (another similarity to kids on a bus…)

After 5 months of gearing up for Alice, I thought that I would have a little time to sit back and think strategy for how I wanted No Porpoise Productions to proceed and where we would shift our focus. Leading up the to run, we kept telling ourselves to just focus on the run, just focus on getting through it, as if that would be some final moment in time. It wasn’t. Blessedly, people were really impressed and excited about Alice and right away wanted to know answers to questions like “What’s up next?”, “When are you performing Alice again?”, “How can I book the show for my school?”. All great questions! I just hadn’t had time to think of an answer. And none of the answers were simple ones to bluff through either.

When we started Alice, we weren’t sure where No Porpoise Productions was going to go, or whether we’d even like producing or whether we would make any money. We didn’t have a contingency plan ready to go for if the show was a big success or a total flop. We would wait and see.  Now that we have waited, I am seeing that maybe we shouldn’t have waited so long…

Forward momentum is a very important thing in business and in life. Slow and steady wins the race, which means you don’t necessarily need to be sprinting all the time, but you do need to be consistently putting one foot in front of the other to get to the end. But just like Alice not knowing which way to go to get home, I am happy to put my feet in front of each other, I am just not sure which way to point them.

The Friday after Alice closed, I went to a high school to speak to students and also to negotiate a deal with the school board to write a play for them. This was the first time I was introduced as a playwright. It was weird! It’s just not something I feel I am, it’s just something I did. And the looks of awe made me feel slightly uncomfortable mixed with pride, because again, I don’t really feel like I know what I am doing, but my “adoring fans” seem to think I have everything all figured out. Easy as pie to write a second (third, technically) play, right? What’s my process? Oh god, what IS my process?! How did I do it the first time?!

Monday I went to see my former student’s version of Alice for the Sears Drama Festival and I reached celebrity status among his class and castmates who were all so excited and nervous to meet little old me. I was introduced to everyone as “the playwright” and the adjudicator even mentioned “This play by a new Canadian playwright Katie Leamen”. Weird. Is that who I am now? Apparently it is.

The thing about being on a bus is that someone else is driving. When I am tour guiding, I have the itinerary of where we are going and what time we need to arrive and making sure everyone is accounted for each time we leave a stop, but the bus driver is the one who is planning the routes and decided whether to turn left or right and the wheels on the bus go round and round, while my brain is free to go round and round without actually doing any important decision making. Normally I am quite content to just sit back and let someone else do the driving. Until that last half hour… the tipping point hits and I want nothing more than to grab the wheel, pull some stunt driver moves to weave through traffic and make it back in 60 seconds.

What does all this mean? Hmmm… I think somewhere along those mixed metaphors the moral is that I am changed somehow and while I don’t necessarily feel like I was the one driving those changes, I have now arrived at this new destination as “playwright” and “producer of a theatre collective”. As the quote above states (another gem from Lewis Carroll’s Alice), I am not who I was yesterday. And now I have to figure out how to accept this new reality and what it means to my daily life and decision making. As the Cheshire cat tells Alice, if you don’t know where you want to get to, then it doesn’t matter which way you go. So the biggest question rolling around in this brain of mine is “Where do I want to get to?” I am not sure yet. But I have already reached the tipping point which means my brain won’t go happily back to snoozing through this trip (aka my life) and is demanding I figure it out before it will let me rest.

It would just be nice if someone else gave me an itinerary to work from…………. (and paid for the gas).

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, the Irony… (Pity Party turned Fulfilled Fiesta)

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If I had posted to my blog two nights ago, it would have said this:

Despite being extremely busy, productive and proactive with doing my own theatre thing, part of me still feels it is inferior to being hired by someone else. I am focusing too much on the desire for approval and being wanted than on how exceptional my talents are. Being able to write a play is not a talent everyone has and I have written two. Producing is not something everyone can do, but we seem to be doing a pretty legit job of it. At work this morning (oh yes- I got a new job doing publicity and communications for the Small Theatre Administrative Facility) I had to search through a company’s reviews and I think that reading those “favourable” reviews is getting me down. In my own head, I assume that these actors and companies are more talented (due to their well-known reputation) than I am and yet their shows weren’t necessarily great. So odds are good that no matter what our reviews end up being, I will find something that they said that will be a knife to my heart….

It’s like a fear of being like Icarus as soon as I discovered my wings. (reference to Greek mythology and the story of Icarus whose father made him wings with wax to escape an island and once he started flying felt invincible. He flew too close to the sun, the wax melted, wings disintegrated and he plunged to his death. Greeks do love their tragedies and Hubris…) I’ve hovered above earth a few time and dreamed of the sun and yet at the same time I feel worried about the brightness, getting sunburned and, of course, the spectacular fall. AS naturally happens when devoted to a project, I have let my hopes exceed reasonable expectations (full houses, offers from theatres, $2000 paycheque, etc.)

But then… Carolyn told me a story about her father running lines with her of the courtroom scene and how he was full out laughing hysterically and thought it was incredibly funny. This from a man who it is apparently very difficult to make laugh. That is absolutely lovely! And fortifying. Bill and Michelle (my dad’s friends and not necessarily really keen theatre folk) came to see Christmas Carol comedy and their praise was so genuine and flattering of how clever they thought it and funny they found it. But even as my ego swells, I am already putting on my safety helmet in expectation of a crash.

Not the attitude I need to have when gearing up to tech and opening night!

Perhaps part of it is that I am very wrapped up in this show and any criticism or judgment on it feels like a criticism of me.

I worry about the lack of sets and minimal (well more partial) costumes and whether tickets will sell and being seen as a true professional. Despite the silliness of the show, I want it to be classy. And fun. Most of all I want it to be fun. And I want to believe Lynne and Sean are not exaggerating when they say it’s the funniest script they’ve read in a long time. I also know that one can’t always see the forest for the trees and I am so close to the project that I am staring at the ants crawling on the bark… I know that I have been putting my best into it, but it will be devastating if my best is not good enough. But even if it is good enough, will I believe it?

Back and forth I go- invincible to frail with every heartbeat. Is it possible to wrap one’s ego in bubble wrap?

But yesterday offered up some ironies Alanis Morsette would be proud of.

After these silly feelings of inferiority for “not being wanted”, two separate things happened yesterday: Luke, our Alice stage Manager and a drama teacher with the Wentworth school board mentioned last week that the board was getting him to set up a new project that would require a playwright. Instead of waiting for them to collect pitches from a variety of playwrights, Luke told them he wants to work with me. Hurray! I’m picked 1st for the team!

I also got a message from another theatre company asking if I would consider producing their fringe show. Hurray! Recruited again! Not sure yet whether I can fit it in my schedule, but it’s fun to think about and brainstorm strategy. And touching that they would trust me with their show. (That is actually quite a big deal)

This back-to-back affirmation of my In-demand-ness is certainly a very gratifying response to my plea to the universe the night before. This Pity Party has turned into a Fulfilled Fiesta! “Ask and ye shall receive” (even if you don’t know quite what to do with it).

The Moral:
I am really over tired and have a lot of really great people rooting for me. Though 12:00 am on the subway home from rehearsal after a full day of work can feel very lonely, I obviously have a lot of people in my corner. Instead of worrying about what reviewers will say, I can worry whether reviewers will come. Either way, I should be proud because I am carping the freaking diem out of life right now!

Pinterest quote to help with sanity and serenity (one can hope):
Don’t put your key to happiness in someone else’s pocket.

So what if reviewers aren’t there? Or full audiences? I will be there having a great time with some of my favourite people on stage with me, and my other favourite people in the audience watching us. And when it’s all done, I will sleep. And then start on my new project with Luke. And go to Ottawa… (but that’s another story and a separate to do list)

a Wisp of Whimsy

I have recently started a new job and it’s been interesting to note how many times my new boss has described me or my writing with the word “Whimsy”.  I don’t usually use whimsy as a frequent word choice, but now that it has been put in my head a few times, I am really enjoying it.

Whimsy:
1. An odd or fanciful idea; a whim.
2. A quaint or fanciful quality: stories full of whimsy.

The nice thing about odd ideas is that they are unique, which is rather an attractive quality as it denotes that my brain is working properly and making connections between things that are not obviously connected. Living or writing fancifully is a sign that I am writing creatively which I take to be a sign that I am using my gifts and talents.  Most importantly, the fact that my boss keeps saying it as a compliment means I have finally found a job that is really suited to my personality and style. Any place that encourages my whimsy is clearly a very good place for me to be!

I am curious to see if this new job doing publicity for indie theatres leads me to feel more creative (I am a popcorn thinker after all) or creatively drained. I have to believe the former is true and I strongly hope that I am right about that. If I am constantly writing about all these awesome shows, surely some of that awesomeness will rub off or inspire my own show ideas. If this how it actually works out, then this new role will be kind of like cherry picking in sports when you just sit next to the net behind the defense and wait for the pass: Still in the game, still likely to score, but significantly better odds than when you are being pressed as a defenceman.  

 Living with whimsy is something I have inherited from my parents. Though not technically  “creative professionals” themselves, they both have quite the flair for dramatics and all of us (parents, siblings and myself) definitely tend to act on whims that other people think slightly crazy but we’ll call “fanciful” because it sounds more complimentary. It is decidedly more fun to live life believing in magic and miracles than it is to be too smart to be fooled by anything. Amazing adventures are much likelier to happen when you are actively looking for them, or making them.

 The thing I am really enjoying about playwriting (now that I have decided to embrace it) is that I get to introduce people to a world of whimsy. Not everyone was as lucky as me to grow up in that sort environment or some people simply grow out of it. But to welcome people into my whimsical world of whatever play I have written, and to tour them around and instill a bit of silly enjoyment into their life, it’s a really fun thing! A very gratifying thing as well because that is where my energy naturally sits, so it’s always nice to have company.

 In a somewhat relevant tangent, I read this quote the other day and it’s been stuck in my head/heart/gut all week so I guess that means it is important enough to share.  From one of my favourite stories, Peter Pan:

 “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” J.M. Barrie

Now there was a very wise man.

The Disney Epiphany (or Pixar)

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I am a wee bit obsessed with Disney’s Frozen right now.

I realize it is a very uncool thing for an adult to admit, but I can’t help it. Not only could I watch the movie several times in a row, I listen to the soundtrack constantly, have a great desire to build a snowman, and also choreograph great dances to “Let it Go” while walking through parks.

“Let it go” has also become an anthem of sorts for me. It’s replaced Pitch Perfect as my number 1 go to song on my “Ego boost” playlist. I feel both free (what I felt shackled by I don’t know) and powerful as I mouth along all the words and pray that one day I can have vocals like Idina Menzel.

Aside from being a clever and heartfelt story about the true love between sisters (I truly love my sister!), it’s one of those movies that gets under my skin in a way that is not just about enjoying the humour and action, but actually verges more on a pricking of my consciousness that I can do that- I can write a cartoon script like that.

Last time I had a prickling like that from a movie was when I saw Moulin Rouge and I decided I wanted to learn how to dance. Signed up for dance classes at school the next year and nearly went to university for a career in dance. As is, I am still Satine on the dance floor (albeit slightly less sparkles)

Weeks ago I had a thought that I want my plays to be like the Pixar of theatre; the same absolutely brilliant cleverness with ridiculous humour that can appeal to all ages, unexpected sincerity despite silliness, and the painstaking attention to every single detail that could possibly prompt a giggle. When I had this thought, it didn’t actually occur to me that maybe one day down the line I should actually try to write one of those scripts. Epiphany! I realize that Frozen is Disney and not Pixar, but I can’t control how my epiphanies phrase themselves…

So add it to the list of life goals: Write the script for a cartoon movie with musical elements (I think my panto that I have been very slowly working on would actually work very well…) and pitch it to Pixar OR Disney.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a song I need to listen to in order to boost my ego to know I can do it!

p.s. If you haven’t seen Frozen, I highly recommend it. It was so much better than I was expecting and giggling just feels so good. Why go to the gym for 2 hours when you can get a full ab workout laughing in the theatre?

The Magic of Commitment

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Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back- concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decisions, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it now. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. - Goethe

As mentioned in other blog posts, I am working hard at building my own career. Every person’s career path is different than the next person’s, just as each person’s path through life has different twists and turns. But this seems to be especially true of artists as there is no “typical” way to become successful. It seems everyone knows of one actor who is actually doing it (generally they seem to be male, in NYC and doing Musical Theatre – three things I am not…) but no one knows how they got there. Even most famous actors have a hidden past of events before they were “discovered”. Actually, I wonder if even the “successful” actor themselves could identify what their path has been… There is a huge multitude of tiny decisions that can potentially have a drastic impact on how an artist’s path twists. This is one of the reasons actors can be so overdramatic at times because each little audition can feel like a do-or-die type life-altering event. Believe me, just about any audition I go to includes a little daydream of how that one gig will change my life in a certain way (or completely)… I try not to let it be like that, but that’s just the way my brain works…

Based on this, there are a few disappointing realities that I have come to face:
     1. It is frustrating and completely useless to compare your own path to someone else’s. I can greatly admire their work, but the fact is, I am a different person, I have a different style and I look entirely different than them. Our acting career will not be the same no matter what I do or how brilliant I might be.
     2. Don’t take advice from Non-actors based on their knowledge of that one actor they know who’s “made it”. Though well intended, it does not actually help me to have people suggest I “just move to LA or NYC”. That is not a solid or realistic plan right now.
     3. I have developed a fear of commitment.

This fear of commitment was a critical fork in the road and has really been the difference between my career path in August and my career path since September. Sharp left at Acknowledgement Ave and then take a Right on Over-it Drive. Keep straight on that road till you see a sign in front of you.

Ironically, I love to plan things. As I have mentioned, I am the queen of to do lists. I love to have goals, and hopes but often times I do not have a specific plan in mind for how to achieve those goals or my plan was to wait for someone else with the plan to tell me the plan. I have often felt totally out of control about what plays I get to work on, what characters I do, and whether anyone will hire me. Committing to plans or projects feels like a weighty thing as committing to one thing might mean you lose out on another. Have I ever mentioned I also have a deep fear of missing out on things (all things, not just acting related activities)? Committing to something might mean that you may lose out on an opportunity that you don’t actually know about at this time but may come up by the time you do whatever it is you’ve now committed to doing. Things pop up very suddenly in this industry and if you have a full calendar or are out of town, or in rehearsals for something else, you definitely miss out on auditions and therefore potential work (and therefore potentially career and life changing events). Every time you firmly accept one offer, it’s like playing Russian roulette for something that (once again) MAY happen. So stressful. No wonder most of us are pretty flaky and non-committal (actually I think this might also be an epidemic among my generation…)!

Working as a bartender/server for a few years didn’t help either. There’s a job where you never know your schedule more than 2 weeks in advance (especially as my bar was an event bar so it’s popularity changed drastically depending on sporting events, concerts, conferences, etc.)

I think this fear of commitment is also the cause of my “extended student mode” dilemma. Having spent years identifying myself as being an “extended student” (aka random jobs that are not career oriented), I gave myself a perfect excuse for not actually working on a career. I didn’t own up to the fact that once you are out of school, you no longer get to be a student (though some things like sheets on couches continue…) and a career will not magically appear in your lab. “Working on my acting career” requires more than just work in the general sense of auditioning and taking some classes and working other jobs while picking up lucky pennies and wishing on stars. Though that might work in Disney, my Blue Fairy has yet to appear and tell me that I am a REAL actor.

Whenever I say “I want to be a real actor” there is always someone who responds “You are a real actor”. But it just didn’t feel that way. I always felt aspiring without actually being. Or I would go through phases of being a real actor which directly related to the period of time when I was doing a show. If I wasn’t doing any specific acting work within that month, I felt an imposter to say that I was an actor.

Now I am no longer a student and I am a real actor. I am committed to that. My career, which was more of a trickle before, has now become a full stream of creative output. Instead of waiting for a career like wave trying to stick to the beach, I am finding ways to be a lake where the water level will fluctuate year to year, but it won’t be as futile as my wave-self. I know this because I have decided to be active in my role as Decider of my Fate. Sure I can’t control Casting agents, but I can write my own plays and cast myself! (done!) Instead of putting all my energy into planning theme parties and making games, I can plan productions and fundraisers (done!) I can diversify what sort of creative projects I put into the world and what roles I play on them so that I will always have something on the go (kids’ books vs. plays vs. pilot, acting vs. producing vs. directing vs. writing). Never again will I feel the horrible embarrassment and mad scramble when someone asks me what I am working on right now and I can’t come up with an answer! Huzzah!

Being able to commit takes a load off. Decision making is one of my strengths so being non-committal for years is a real drain to my spirits. You can’t look forward to as many things and get really excited when you are purposely not committing to something… It’s a real drag. Don’t know why I self-imposed this for so many years. Doing my own creative work is liberating, exciting, sometimes very tiring, but at least it is something I can do, enjoy and have some measure of control in.

I have always loved this quote since our acting teacher gave it to us in first year. I always think on it and quote it to myself and somehow I missed the irony of my situation until now. There are still many unknowns in my life and some things that remain uncommitted areas of my life, but I’d say I have taken a very big step. Goethe was right: there is magic in it. And power. And hopefully a little genius (I wish this more for our audiences than I do just for myself…)

To discuss later: Providence really DOES move! It’s crazy the things that have started happening and shifting into place and Happy surprises that keep popping up!… Awesome with a Capital A.

Act on Hope

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During President Obama’s televised speech announcing the death of Nelson Mandela last week, one phrase really stuck with me and that was “Act on Hope, not on fear”.

Hope is critical to our survival. Without it, we would give up on everything and die, overwhelmed by the hardships of life. No matter how bleak life gets, most people hang on to the hope that life will get better, something will give, or that somehow they will escape to a better place or life. The irony is that where Hope can elevate us and inspire us, people try to squash it down for fear of being disappointed. And Fear, which makes the world hard and scary, people grasp with two hands.

It is one of the many ironic tendencies of humans.

Act on hope, not fear.

When Pandora opened the box and all the demons, disease, greed, envy and hate escaped into the world, the only thing that saved humanity was little Hope. (Some stories actually say that Hope was a little bug so apparently a little hope goes a long way).

In theatre school we do exercises about Ultimate Hopes & Ultimate Fears. In the exercise, the actor has to imagine up every detail of their character’s ultimate hopes, not just within the scene, but in the whole play, life and beyond. Repeat the exercise with ultimate fears. Whereas fears offer stakes in a scene (the urgency or the actual point of conflict in the scene), a good actor will always act on hope, because hope means there is a reason to keep fighting. And if you aren’t fighting for something, then you are dead. In this way, life imitates Art.

Fear is terrifying and debilitating. While it can still motivate us to act for survival and keep fighting, it does not inspire us to take risks or expand ourselves and our humanity. Fear does not encourage growth. It does not encourage reaching out or up or beyond what we know. It is a stagnant sort of emotion which keeps us closed off and stuck where we are. Fear does not aim for improvements.

Too often, we act on fear. We treasure hope in a small place in our hearts, but we don’t trust it (fear doesn’t trust) and we smother it with a million fears that generally sound like “What if I fail?”, “What if I lose?”, “People will judge me”, “It is not the usual way”, “I don’t know how to do that”, etc. Fear often blinds us to our secret hopes which turn up later as Regrets.

People love to say, “Regret Nothing” but that is not really an action plan. It’s more like a final destination because it means that you did something during your journey that allowed you to finish with no regrets. And people keep arriving at that “Regret” destination because they did not know how to act in the moment. Act on hope, not fear. That is the only way you will end up at your eventual destination and “Regret Nothing” (Either that or act on fear and then spend lots of money in therapy to learn why you do things and to come to peace with them and say that you don’t regret it because it was who you were at that time of your life…). 

To “act on hope”, you must act. As in “Take Action”. Hope didn’t just sit in the Box when Pandora opened it; it went out into the world to try to change it: to counteract the negative things that also escaped from the box. It went out and found people like Nelson Mandela.

The difference between hope and optimism: hope entails pathways and thoughts to an intended goal. Optimism leads one to “expect the best, but it does not necessarily provide any critical thinking about how we are going to arrive at this improved future”. – Snyder, Charles D. The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. New York: The Free Press, 1994, pg. 19

Is the Fat Lady Singing yet?

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I am one to appreciate the journey. I abide by the wise wisdom that joy is in the journey and not just at the destination. I also enjoy the destination. But once the trip is over, I just want to get home. Enough is enough and I am ready to get on with the next thing.

I am fairly sure that the Universe is pushing me to the next stage of life/career and now that I can see that this stage is ending, I just want to call it a day and start gearing up for the next thing. Let’s not belabor the moment and all that.

More specifically, it feels (and I could be entirely wrong and need to retract this post in 2 months) that my days at the Architecture firm are dwindling. Now that I can look at it with the perspective that it is no longer as convenient and flexible as it used to be or a mini safety net of a job I can always fall back on, I am wondering why I have stuck around so long. As I have no plans to embrace a full career in architecture administration, it has just been a place holder type job. A job is not the same as a career. While I am excellent at juggling jobs and generally enjoy them while I do them and am able to pay rent etc., “jobs” (once again, not “career”) are what keep me in my “extended student mode” stage of life. And now that stage is (presumably) ending. (maybe)

The selection of my jobs have always been to support my “acting career” but other than providing flexibility and finances, they haven’t necessarily supported the actual career building- acquiring new skills to actually push my acting career forward. Now that I am being pushed towards having to find a new job, it’s time I tried to find a job more in line with my career. (Hopefully)

Or maybe I will just get another job and continue to work on my career through my No Porpoise efforts.

Or maybe I will just have to wait and see what Fate has in store for me, because I definitely do feel that Fate is guiding this one right now.

When I think logistics and what I think Fate is pushing me towards, I am excited by the possibility and how it seems to line up perfectly with what I have been focused on right now.

When I think about it again and a little more in depth, I think of all the unknowns involved: all the potential changes to my usual schedule, and all the hard things to negotiate (for instance, it is tough to get a new job and ask right away for them to accept my tour schedule that is lined up for the spring. I do say tough, but not impossible. But also very improbable… Unless…. Unless Fate really wants me to get this specific job. But do I get this new job at the expense of doing tours? And this new job is only part time so how do I make up the difference in hours? Or am I just imagining that this other job is the real deal and in actuality I am not as qualified for it and I should just do tour job full time as then I don’t have to worry about negotiating my tour schedule…. These are my thoughts aloud as per my blog’s promise)

Either way, the road is coming to a fork and I can’t yet see what the road signs say so I can’t actually plan my route.

Life has certainly surprised me the last couple months. In August, I felt that something big was coming in September. When “something big” failed to “arrive” in my life (no big gigs booked), I made it happen instead and so began No Porpoise Productions. Does that make it self-realization of dreams, or was my gut anticipating that September would be a good time for me to make my own big move? Either way (it doesn’t make a difference right now), Alice started as a workshop, that grew into a run of shows and student workshops, that has grown again into the hopes of a little summer tour, and having written one play is now blossoming into play readings for my second play and next year’s project… In August I would not have predicted this flurry of activity or “Career development”.

With all these activities happening that are career related, but not jobs (as in paying me to work every day), I am constantly feeling like Fate is pulling me closer towards my calling so now I am frequently on the look-out for those “signs” which will hopefully direct me to my actual career-job. And every day while I wait to find my sign, I read my horoscope. (Haha “Oh dear” I can almost hear you saying.)

It’s not that I actually expect my horoscope to give me all the answers, but each day it mentions an area to focus on. As I am currently juggling dozens of balls in the air, the horoscope reminds me of a specific ball which I might have overlooked in the general melee. Sometimes it reminds me about the importance of romance, or not to worry about finances, or to look for my good luck. Today I was reminded to spend time reassessing my options (I didn’t mention yet that sometimes it is worth it just for the irony). If nothing else, at least my daily horoscope reminds me to keep my eyes open and looking (though I have no skill for actual juggling, I assume it is harder with your eyes closed), and some days it holds out little fantasies for me to hold on to. (The Friday I was told my hours were being cut my horoscope chirpily told me that money would be coming freely. Oh the Irony again!…)

And all the while I just keep juggling and waiting and reassessing and trying to anticipate what I will pick at the unknown fork in the road, and the Fat Lady slowly warms up her voice and starts singing her scales, so I can hear the end coming, but the lady isn’t really singing yet.

I’m looking forward to the song though; It’s time to move on.

(I hope it’s a big, jazzy musical number)

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