Producing as an artistic activity in its own right


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Yesterday I sat through an Open Source Brainstorm session with a diverse group of indie artists, producers, directors, venue owners, and some representatives from medium to large sized theatres to discuss the challenges facing indie producers and artists today.

While thoroughly impressed and inspired by some of the ideas, I also felt a little frustrated by some of the comments. The pattern that stuck out the most was that indie producers want to be given databases, given budget templates, given ideas for fundraising… given everything they need essentially. I totally understand that that would make it easier – there would be less “reinventing the wheel” so to speak. But it is not a long term solution to my mind. In an age when Theatre is already fighting tooth and nail with film, television and the convenience of entertainment at home, producing shouldn’t be a paint-by-numbers exercise.

Last year, Crowdfunding really hit its stride with the Toronto indie theatre community. No Porpoise (my theatre collective) used it too. It was a good means to an end. But that’s the point: an end. We did one Kickstarter campaign to get our company off the ground and make our inaugural show an actuality. But when we did show #2, we did not use it again because everyone else was doing the exact same thing. Majority of indie producers on my Facebook did a new campaign for each new project and while people are willing to contribute to the first one, they are less likely to do it the second time, and by the third time they are tired. Or at least I am. I cannot afford to be as philanthropic as I would like. Therefore, my money goes to people I feel obligated to (because they are dear friends or they contributed to my campaign) or people that actually surprise and impress me with their creativity. I appreciate that they made the effort to think outside the box.

Maybe that’s the actual reason I think sharing platforms and databases isn’t necessarily the greatest thing in my mind. Aside from the gut response of “I don’t want to give up my hard-earned supporters to someone else as I might lose them”, I don’t like the idea because it makes producing a fill-in-the-blank type exercise and I don’t believe that makes for successful producers.

In indie theatre, producers are often also artists. You have to be because frequently you are wearing more than one proverbial hat. The choices you make as a producer need to be as inspired and creative as the ones made by directors or actors because competition is fierce. Are you a producer because you like producing? Are you a producer because you don’t trust anyone else to do it? Are you a producer because nobody else wants to deal with your work (in which case, that might also explain why you have no audience)? I actually really like producing because it still exercises my creative brain and a large part of that is because I have to think for myself to solve problems – there isn’t a pre-made list of solutions.
In Fall 2013, I was up to my eyeballs in Alice, trying to figure out how to be a producer, building an identity for our collective when we were still in beta mode, trying to be both playwright and actor in the rehearsal studio, looking for a new job, etc. I did not need more make-work projects.

I was writing a script for A Christmas Carol Comedy and I thought that having a public reading of it before Christmas would be a chance to get people excited for it as a full production the following Christmas (really advanced planning here) and it would also be a great way to tell a whole different audience about Alice coming up that February. Cross-promotion of my own work, you see. We ended up doing two readings of CCC – the bigger one being at my parents’ church in my hometown – we got laughs, built community relations, gave away two tickets to Alice (which was a great way to advertise) and I had found a solution for audience outreach that made sense to me and my collective.

It does make a lot of “extra” work. I do spend a lot of hours on Google and even more hours just sorting through my own thoughts. I really wish I had a mentor that I could call whenever (and my blog post asking for any interested parties turned up nothing…). There are databases that would make it much easier – the ones listing rehearsal spaces are pretty handy! However, databases built on my own brainwaves and personal relationships I am a lot less likely to hand over. In fact, their effectiveness as a solution would lessen with each use. In the same way that theatre is not stagnant, I think producing – especially for indie productions – needs to be adaptive and moving as well. Roll with the punches and ride that bull…

Perhaps that may all sound very lone wolf of me. I actually don’t like producing alone because I am most effective when I have other people to bounce ideas off of. As I said, it is still a creative exercise for me.

It shouldn’t be about databases, it should be about discovery. Picking a brain rather than picking names off a list. There are people whose work I follow on Facebook and I am in awe and so curious. I wish I could sit in on their production meetings. They present an aura of a cool cucumber who has got everything under control. If I were to make a producer resolution right now, it would be make it a priority to sit down with these producers, artistic directors, and artists to see how they have made things work for themselves and their companies. I want to see how producing and theatre-making makes sense to their brains. Not because I want to copy it exactly, but I want to see how their thinking might inspire mine and vice versa.

This is all very tangent-y. Perhaps I am even totally off the mark about what the other people meant by databases or what they wanted to use them for, but this is where my brain went and this blog is about me and my thoughts. So here they are.

If you are interested in reading notes from the discussion, they are available here:

Where my feet may lead

A couple of weeks ago I was at my cousin’s wedding and both my ankles were stomped on by dancing drunk girls in heels. While it seems like an obvious risk one takes when twirling on a crowded dance floor, my born-again aunt deduced that it was highly symbolic that something is trying to attack my feet and keep me from walking my path. Considering the last major injury I did was to badly sprain BOTH my sides of my ankle that led to 6 weeks of crutches – that being the second time I have sprained my ankle seriously enough to need weeks on crutches – I can see her point. 

But that brings up the inevitable and ominous question of: What is my path? Am I actually on it? If I am on my path, why is it so important to evil spirits to try to take me off of it?

I haven’t been sleeping well this past week because I keep having dreams where I am unprepared (at our wedding and I didn’t tell our officiant -that same born-again aunt – what I wanted our service to include so she just doesn’t marry us), way behind schedule (spending half the night apologizing and madly scrambling trying to catch up to other people on projects and throwing together presentations or running out the door), and overwhelmed by trying to maintain the same speed and schedule as everyone around me. 

These dreams are not entirely surprising as I consciously know that I am feeling behind on a two projects. Last September I wanted to find a publisher or literary agents for two children’s books I wrote. It’s that time of year again and nothing has happened. My Christmas Carol Comedy project is way behind the summer schedule I made. And I am planning a wedding…

The thing is, I do feel like I am on my path. I think (and hope) that I am exactly where I am supposed to be creatively. I am inspired to do two projects that I absolutely believe in and think can have a great extended life in the world doing good and honorable work. I have plans in place for how to accomplish them. However, whatever it is that is trying to stomp on my feet or kick out my ankle is also debilitating my bank account and distracting the other people on my teams from having time or focus to get to work on my projects. Both of these roadblocks feel like they have the power to derail me from my path. It makes me angry and guilty.

It is okay with me to have no money in my bank account for the next 4 months because I believe in my projects and sincerely think I do need to work on them NOW. But it makes me feel guilty because while I am willing to sacrifice things for my art, it is hard to ask Adam to do the same – especially when his passion project is to get a house. The thing about getting married is that you have to support each other’s passion projects, but how do you deal with it when yours counteracts his? I know compromise is the answer and Adam – bless him and his loyalty – has never asked me to compromise my projects. He believes in me. But I struggle with the guilt of feeling that I will be letting him down or derailing him from his path. I struggle with anger at the thought that while Adam accepts my path, other people who it doesn’t affect as directly might/do judge it. I guess I have been spoiled all my life by having people who believe in me 100%, so I feel a little betrayed if someone can only muster 80% belief. And it stresses me out that they might be able to lower Adam’s faith in me.

As I do whenever I feel overwhelmed by life and uncertain, I turn to my favourite book, Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! No matter when I am feeling, that gem of a book always comforts me, pats my hand and assures me that I have this (life) under control.  Thank God for this book!  Last night I was actually on the verge of tears of relief while reading the book – such a strong a reaction that it even took me by surprise… These are the words that were particularly potent to me last night

“And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.

“Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

Additionally, I never noticed just HOW many illusions to feet there are in that book…  I am relieved to know that things frequently happen to people as brainy and footsy as me.  And I guess sometimes the hardest thing is not to follow the path, but to trust that the path – though winding – will get you somewhere you want to be, vs. leaving the path to bush-whack a “shortcut” and maybe not ever arriving anywhere.  Why hasn’t Google made an app for life yet?


Wishful Thinking


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“You want to become aware of your thoughts and and choose your thoughts carefully and you want to have fun with this, because you are the masterpiece of your own life. You are the Michelangelo of your own life. The David you are sculpting is you.” - Dr. Joe Vitale, excerpt from The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.

I have just started reading this book called The Secret. Spoiler Alert: The secret to life is that whatever you think and feel is what you attract. You think about wealth (and not the absence of it), you attract it. You think about health (not how much you hate dieting) you attract it. Your brain is a radio transmitter to the universe and if you want to have something specific in life. You have to think about it specifically.

Specificity being the key. Also forming yours thoughts as a positive, instead a negative.

It struck me as interesting though that this seemed extremely relevant to Egyptian mummies. When I was in Bologna, we went to a little Archeology museum next to the university for a guided tour. I have been on many museum tours but this one was really interesting because we ended up spending quite a bit of time discussing Egyptian art on sarcophagi.  We see is a very stylized and unrealistic attempt at portraiture; but it was actually a VERY specific wishlist for the afterlife.

For instance, we might look at the paintings and say

“Geez, the poor guys didn’t know how to show depth perception so the foot in the background is huge and not proportionate.”
the Egyptian thought “In the afterlife, I’d like two feet please – matching sizes.”

If you really liked chicken and wanted there to be chicken in the afterlife, you put a chicken on your sarcophagus. It was just as simple as creating a very detailed wishlist. And then when you died, you’d have everything you need (provided the artist did a good job, otherwise the Gods might get confused about how big you wanted your second hand to be…).

Too often we spend majority of our thoughts and efforts on what we DON’T want, instead of thinking about what we do. Is is fear to dream? Already accepting the disappointment of not getting something so it is better not to get your hopes up (proactive defeat really)? Belief that we are not worthy of what we want? Or that we feel we want too many things and there is no way we’ll get all of them but we don’t decide which one we’d want most.

That seems like a pretty shitty way to think of ourselves.

Maybe that’s why Disney princesses always found “happily ever after”: because they were the only ones brave enough to ask the fairy godmother for EXACTLY what their heart wanted.

I think it’s time for me to put on my tiara.

Girl seeks Mentor


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Girl seeks mentorIn this age of Google and Siri, it is easy to feel self-sufficient because answers to any of life’s questions can be found at the touch of a button. While I feel I can and have accomplished things more or less on my own, I feel I need a mentor to help push me to my best. A sounding board who is in the industry and can offer advice and help that saves me potentially hours of google research and days of deliberation. Can introduce me into the industry and let me shadow their work to see effective methods that have already been put in place. Someone to push me to do the tasks that are actually important, instead of the ones I think might be. A person who has an interest in passing along their hard-earned experience and believes in my ideas enough to invest time in teaching me and working with me. A challenger to my less thought-out plans. A motivator and task master when I am slipping from the path of work I set out to do.

Where is my Obi-Wan Kenobi to teach me the ways of the Force? My Mr. Miyagi – how do I know whether to wax on or wax off? My Don Diego de la Vega to pass along the mask and spirit of Zorro… My Porthos, Athos and Aramis to teach me to fight like a Musketeer… My Mary Poppins to direct me through life with a song… Splinter, Professor Xavier, Dumbledore, Merlin… Where are they? (and why are there so many men….)

I excelled at school. Partly because I had really good teachers who inspired me. Partly because I had really intelligent friends who challenged me and egged me on. Partly because I had known competition to give me a little extra drive. and partly because there was consistently feedback given to help me learn and to push me forwards. That is what my life is missing right now: a teacher who can guide my education as I seek to build an artistic career. Not a life coach because I know how to do life and think I am doing it pretty well. I need a professional artist/producer/writer/all of the above to meet with me once or twice a month and mark my efforts of the last month and give assignments (focus) for the next month. Someone to call me a slacker when I need a kick in the pants and to inspire me to not disappoint them. Someone to talk through all the shit with, knows how to properly pitch a pilot, write a treatment, organize a theatre tour and successfully get sponsorship for theatre productions. Someone who know how to make a career in the Arts with various sources of income would probably also be really handy.

Any volunteers? Know anyone who might be great and up for the job (entirely volunteer right now)? Please send them my way!

Because that is where I feel I am struggling the most: moving and playing at one level because it is impressive enough but not at the level that I am capable. If I was an A student without trying too hard (just hard enough but not as hard as I could), what would I be capable of if someone REALLY pushed me? What sorts of plays could I write if there was a mentor there each step of the way to really draw out my best work? What stories could I write if I could focus more on the writing instead of researching how to get it published? What sort of actor would I be if I could work with a master one on one? All these things I could do, and want to do, and will in my own way, but one learns so much faster when one has a competent and confident instructor.

“When the student is ready, the master will appear.” I feel I am ready. Come out, come out wherever you are!


Tyrants & Demagogues OR Why I think Democracy is broken


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I don’t really like talking about politics. It is one area of conversation where people cease to be polite at all and will basically flat out call you an idiot if you choose to think or vote opposite to them. There is not really a spirit of intellectual debate about it as there is bullying and name calling. I guess that shouldn’t be surprising at all considering the House of Commons is worse that kids on a playground. All the snide back and forths, and standing to applaud their party’s best put down… I don’t know why politicians aren’t embarrassed by their behaviour. I am embarrassed for them.

During Elections in Ontario today, I don’t know anybody who has told me they are voting for a candidate because they like them or believe what they are saying in their campaigns. Almost every single person is voting based on a “lesser of two evils”, and strategically trying to vote out one person, rather than voting in another.

I don’t think Democracy is supposed to constantly put citizens “between a rock and a hard place”. I am not a poli-sci major, political journalist or anything even close, but I personally feel democracy is broken.

When I was in Greece, I went on a walking tour with a very talented guy named George (I couldn’t pronounce the Greek version of his name). He was born Greek and studied Archeology and History at Cambridge and at one point of the tour he led us away from the Ancient Agora to a small street to chat about Democracy. It was the best lesson on the topic I have ever heard and so today, instead of telling you to go out and vote or who to vote for (you big idiot!), I am going to tell you what I learned about the origins of Democracy.
(My apologies to any scholars, this is the abridged version as told by George and remembered by Katie)

In the Beginning…

It is incorrect to say that Ancient GREEKS created Democracy. Greece didn’t exist as a unified thing yet. It was a bunch of city-states that ran themselves independently of one another. It was the Ancient ATHENIANS who created democracy and to be honest, the other would-be Greeks thought they were totally nuts.

Way, way, back many centuries ago Athenians realized that their system of government was failing. The two major causes: Tyrants & Demagogues. Let’s look at this definition for a second as it seems WAY too appropriate after the last round of campaign commercials…

a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.
synonyms: rabble-rouser, agitator, political agitator, soapbox orator, firebrand,fomenter, provocateur

Isn’t it interesting that by the definition this applies to all our major political parties right now, and that the synonyms all sound aggressive and negative vs. inspiring and “good leader”-esque?

So the Athenians realized people with too much power were pulling too many strings. The government wasn’t for all the people, it was for those who had the money to control it. This was a major problem.

First off, all Athenians saw it as their duty to participate in the governing of their city-state. You didn’t have to send facebook reminders to tell people to vote, they just knew it was their duty to do it. You could not have a representation of the people if each person did not represent themselves first.

Now, in order to ensure that tyrants and demagogues could not buy their way into power or buy favour with those elected, the Athenians did two things.

1. Once a year, every citizens name was put into a large bingo machine (it was actually the forerunner to what bingo halls used to use) and from that they would draw names for the government positions. That way, there was little use trying to buy votes and popularity because it was all left to chance. One year you might have a noted philosopher running the city. The next you might have a farmer. The poor and elite has equal opportunity to make the important decisions that dictated how the city operated.

Now, there was a problem the first few years of the draw system, because not everyone was qualified for the jobs being given to them. If you couldn’t read, your job reading new policy proposals would be very difficult. So free, equal education became a matter of PARAMOUNT importance to EVERYONE. When we look back at the golden age of classics that just exploded with philosophers, mathematicians, playwrights and the like, we idealize it and wonder how it was possible. But it was possible when everyone took it as their civic duty to better themselves. Right now, I feel like most of us better ourselves for personal gain and higher status in society instead of bettering ourselves for how we can help our country. You know, the whole “It’s not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” type thing. You don’t just need to fight for your country. You need to educate yourself and help to educate others. This is also how theatre became a thriving art form because the Greeks saw it as tool for education as well as entertainment. If you were too poor to afford a theatre ticket, the state would pay for it because the experience was an essential part of your education (let’s bring this back, shall we?!). So education was first and foremost. (People still pretend it is today, but I am not even going to get started on how messed up the system is now…)

To guard against anyone becoming too popular or powerful, the Athenians also implemented a second measure:

2. Once a year, citizens were asked to enter a name of any person they thought was becoming too powerful or popular. If any person had too many votes they were then promptly exiled for 10 years.

How great would that be?! Take that Rob Ford! See you in a decade, Justin Bieber! Maybe you’ll have grown out of your douchey ways by then! (fat chance…) After 10 years that person was allowed to come back and it was hoped that in their decade absence their power and influence would have dissipated and if not, you could always vote to exile them again. It would certainly be a deterrent for power-hungry people to abuse their position or authority.

The sad truth is that if I had the chance to exile people today, I would pick Tim Hudak AND Kathleen Wynne. Out of all the people in the province, we have to choose between the successors and mentees of the two most notorious and reviled Ontario Premiers to date. How is that supposed to inspire confidence and hope for our economy and provincial well being?  Leaders who will buy us through fear, lies, and misleading soundbites?

Democracy is important. It cost many lives to win this privilege. I will honour those lives and my freedom by voting tonight. But it will be done with a sense of irony as I think of how far we have come in the opposite direction of what the wise founders of Democracy intended, and it will not be for a party that I only choose because I like the other party less. I don’t support demagogues.

Thanks George. It was a really great lesson!


“It’s just one day”


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I did not expect that I would miss blogging.  Don’t get me wrong, I have really enjoyed my blogging experience though it has been incredibly overdue the last few weeks (months really).

Blogging was supposed to help me build discipline as a writer and get over the fact that I don’t need every thought to be perfect and perfectly formed. So I didn’t expect to miss that. But there is freedom in writing without restraint and for my particular brain, blogging also offers great insight into who I am, walls I have built, attitudes I forget I have, quirks I can’t quiet and the like. It is an incredibly valuable outlet for me to blow off steam, ramble pleasantly, and overall clear my head so that by the end of a long blog, I usually have found greater clarity on a topic than when I just confine ideas to my mind. There is release in the unleash.

Additionally, I have been in creative withdrawal it feels the last few months and my body is craving the excited butterflies and adrenaline rush of working on a project. A blog entry is a very good short-term substitute.

Since leaving Greece with many amazing memories and an ENGAGEMENT RING, I have returned to the world as a blushing bride-to-be. (or maybe these cheeks are just a little pink from the summer sun that has finally decided to come to Toronto – Hurray!)

Before I could move on to the utter joy (and some very large stresses) about wedding planning, we had to set a budget. The TERROR! You know those Scotia bank commercials that say “You’re richer than you think”? Every time one of those comes on screen at the movies, I want to hurl something at it and scream “You liars!”. I am pretty sure I am just as poor as I think and weddings are a spectacularly awful reminder of that fact. Why do photographers cost thousands of dollars? Why does one dress need to be so puffy and expensive? Why do I have such an enormous family? Why wouldn’t I be happy getting married on a beach somewhere? (Ironically, I probably will be getting married on a beach, but it will be in Muskoka – not the Caribbean -which means more people will come and that means more cost).

Adam and I had a real struggle committing to our venue. We both loved it. I had already resigned myself to the fact that most weddings cost a ton of money but we could make it work (with lots of help of course…), and Adam thought that money would be better used towards a mortgage. Stalemate. Back and forth we went; back and forth I went tossing and turning all night, every night, for about a week while we dithered about signing the contract.

Aside from the money issue, I was feeling badly that I couldn’t give ground on it: I consider myself to be a flexible and compromising person, but this was one thing where my heart would not budge an inch. It made me feel like a bad fiancee, that I could be so stubborn and unyielding. I’d use compromising words, but then just use them to talk us in a circle back to my original point. It seemed like a bad omen or at least a come-uppence after our Disney perfect engagement story.

When people ask “If you knew this was your last day on earth, what would you do?”, they expect and appreciate totally extravagant, selfish dreams and wishes.

If it was my last day on earth, I would throw a really big party and hug everyone I love, tell them how much they mean to me, cry a little, and wear something that makes me feel beautiful. I would want to reminisce and laugh over pictures, drink bubbly drinks, eat nachos, dance barefoot till I sweat from every pore, set off fireworks or sparklers, make a speech to thank everyone for making my life so worthwhile and then dance some more. I’d take pictures – lots of pictures – not because they would do me any good when I am gone, but they might help other people remember one blissful night.

So now that I am planning a wedding, my heart can’t get behind the logic of “It’s just one day”. Why should my wedding day be any less wonderful than my last day? Especially as memories and stories from my wedding day I can treasure for all the days in between my wedding day and last day (and who knows how many that might be…)

I see weddings as a big metaphor or symbol of the type of marriage we will have together. This is why I felt our disagreements so painfully, because I didn’t want our debates on budgets to be a trend that dominated our marriage at the exclusion of joy and indulgence. I couldn’t imagine getting married with only a few people to witness it, because I am a person that loves to bring the whole gang together. It is true when people say your wedding is not just about you – but not in the way that a lot of people mean. Our parents don’t have crazy ideas that they are trying to impose on our wedding. No one is dictating who our guest list is.

I have always been most excited when dreaming about my wedding as the day when all the people I love are in one place. My wedding will not just be about me (though as Bride I hear I can pretend it is). Or Adam and I. It will be a grateful thank you to everyone who has gotten us this far in life. I have spent a lot of time over the years debating the rites of adulthood and at what point you become a real adult, but marriage seems a pretty firm act of adult. I want to include and involve as many people in the celebrations as possible because I want to share the joy with them. My joy in the love I have with Adam. My joy in the life I have led that has put me on this path. The total joy I get from the many memories growing up and those happy memories are largely owed to the people we are inviting. If I could give each person a special job or role (and they would enjoy it rather than stress out about it) I probably would because I somehow want it to be the happiest day of everyone’s life (I’ll settle for year or highlight of the summer).

This doesn’t mean I am going to go crazy overboard on spending. I aim for genuine, joyful, grateful, and humorous memories together. Each person at our wedding is significant and special. I am blessed (and often delighted) to have them in my life on the regular days so why wouldn’t I want them there on the big day?! And that’s why I don’t think I could be happy getting married on a beach somewhere else.

Okay, I could probably be very happy getting married on a tropical beach except that afterwards I would feel regret about the people who were missing.

I want our “just one day” to be a huge party of people we love because that is a metaphor for a life I can really look forward to. That seems worth the expense. Dream house can wait.

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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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).







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