Sunday, October 26, 2008

Five Nuggets

Random and Scattered Offerings...

1. Blitz opens next week. October 30th to be exact. It's the 5th Annual New Plays Festival at Lincoln High School here in Portland, OR. And this is proving to be one of the most challenging productions I've ever attempted to mount. It may also be one of the most satisfying. Eighteen new pieces all in one three-act evening. I finally got to see the whole thing in one sitting last Thursday before giving these high school kids a three-day weekend. It's a show of extremes. There's brilliant writing. There's greener-than-green writing. There are acting moments that rival the best in the business. There are acting moments that feel like...well...teenage acting moments. But what is not divided is the feeling of unapologetic expression. These kids know how to use their imaginations. And this year I allowed a more "messy" exploration. I am often accused of reigning in my productions to the point of sanitizing them out of being interesting. Not this show. These plays are all over the place - and I think the title is appropriate. A blitz indeed. And I hope a very entertaining one.

2. I want to set up an education retreat for high school kids. One month. And the camp is simple. Everything goes back to 1980 technology. No cell phones. No Internet. No personal computers. No personal videogame devices. No MP3 players. Etc etc etc. I came to this while trying to reinvent my syllabus once again for my various teaching contracts in the high schools. You see, one of the organizations I work for likes to encourage an extremely kinetic teaching style. "Keep the kids moving. Keep them jumping from one thing to another. Use many, many prompts." And for years, I did this. One exercise I developed in 2005 - one so popular I actually got paid to teach it to other educators - involves passing photographs of people around so quickly that in less than fifteen minutes, a writer has over thirty characters to develop for a potential play. Crazy! Fun! Fast! Woohoo! But what the fuck does it have to do with being an artist? NOTHING. It is simply a way to surrender to the pace of the times - a pace that is destroying the ability to observe. And observation is the key to any artist's success. We must use an artist's lens through which to view the world. And this requires being still. So this year I have gone against all the people telling me to go fast and furious. I'm slowing down. And instead of 30 photos in 15 minutes...they looked at 2 for almost 45 minutes. I am teaching kids how to observe and be still. And though there was a lot of shuffling, talking, distractions - the kids also seemed...relieved. Don't we all want to slow down?

3. I saw Religulous with Michael. We had a day date. And it wasn't the best date. We have no idea how to "not be working" right now. Two neurotic Nellies fighting anxiety attacks all day. Between my ridiculous October and his full time school with two jobs - we are a wreck. All we seem to know how to do is eat nervously and drink coffee - and that is really helping our waistlines let me tell you. But we tried to have a date. And we did enjoy Bill Maher's expose on religion. It was incredibly thoughtful. And hilarious. His meeting with an "ex gay" Christian - a man so coiffed he looked like he was about to go compete on some Bravo show - was HILARIOUS. Bill was downright dirty with him - and I loved it. I tried to feel sympathy for this poor 'mo with guilt over the Lord - but no...I just thought he was an idiot who needed to go jump in a sling and admit how much he likes it.

4. Yesterday I had a scary impulse moment. In the midst of trying to clean out the mountain-high "in box" I jumped from my computer and said out loud, "I must go to Bath and Body Works." And I did. Because they sell the best stress-relief candle on the market. It is a mix of spearmint and eucalyptus oils, and it tends to calm my nerves. So I bought one. It is burning now. It makes the air crisp and clean. I alternate this with my more seasonal apple cinnamon spice candles. Because you must understand. I AM a Candle Queen.

5. Finally...I was watching a documentary yesterday - one I've seen many, many times. I will perhaps talk more about this film in later posts, but for now it will go unnamed. There is a line in it - and I may not have the quote exactly right - but the concept is this: "There is something really seductive and euphoric about giving up." The person who says this is talking about being diagnosed with a deadly illness and deciding not to fight. Many people talk about this in the film - the relief of giving up. Stopping the fight. Stopping hitting one's head against the wall. And I began to weep very suddenly. Hard. Not for them - but for a longing I so often have to do just that. To give up. Not in terms of living - please, people, don't read into this. But just to "stop the fight". And as I wept, I thought about how I have framed almost everything in my entire a fight. I thrive in conflict and in overcoming it. It has defined almost everything about least in how I see myself. And I'm so, so very tired. That framework must change. But I simply don't know how to do it.

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