31 January, 2019

Kidspoem/Bairnsangs By Liz Lochhead

it wis January
and a gey dreich day
the first day Ah went to the school
so my Mum happed me up in ma
good navy-blue napp coat wi the rid tartan hood
birled a scarf aroon ma neck
pu'ed oan ma pixie an' my pawkies
it wis that bitter
said noo ye'll no starve
gie'd me a wee kiss and a kid-oan skelp oan the bum
and sent me aff across the playground
tae the place Ah'd learn to say

it was January
and a really dismal day
the first day I went to school
so my mother wrapped me up in my
best navy-blue top coat with the red tartan hood,
twirled a scarf around my neck,
pulled on my bobble-hat and mittens
it was so bitterly cold
said now you won't freeze to death
gave me a little kiss and a pretend slap on the bottom
to the place I'd learn to forget to say

it wis January
and a gey dreich day
the first day Ah went to the school
so my Mum happed me up in ma
good navy-blue napp coat wi the rid tartan hood,
birled a scarf aroon ma neck,
pu'ed oan ma pixie an' ma pawkies
it wis that bitter.
Oh saying it was one thing
but when it came to writing it
in black and white
the way it had to be said
was as if you were posh, grown-up, male, English and dead. 


08 January, 2019

Coulda-been-ku 20

20.

We met high above 
Chicago. Both in pain. But 
you shared your heartbreak-

-for a collection 
of moments my soul was nude.
You melted my ice.


© Nick Bantock

31 December, 2018

"To a Child at the Piano" by Alastair Reid

To a Child at the Piano
by Alastair Reid

Play the tune again: but this time
with more regard for the movement at the source of it
and less attention to time. Time falls
curiously in the course of it.

Play the tune again: not watching
your fingering, but forgetting, letting flow
the sound till it surrounds you. Do not count
or even think. Let go.

Play the tune again: but try to be
nobody, nothing, as though the pace
of the sound were your heart beating, as though
the music were your face.

Play the tune again. It should be easier
to think less every time of the notes, of the measure.
It is all an arrangement of silence. Be silent, and then
play it for your pleasure.

Play the tune again; and this time, when it ends,
do not ask me what I think. Feel what is happening
strangely in the room as the sound glooms over
you, me, everything.

Now, play the tune again

28 December, 2018

FAQ - Part 6

1. You’ve premiered a bunch of new works (such as Arlington at the Vineyard Theater and Love Story at Walnut Street Theatre). What is the best thing about premiering a new theatrical work to an audience?

In my experience, there is absolutely nothing that can compare to being present at the birth of new work. I think the most profound experience I had with that was Arlington by Polly Pen and Victor Lodato— a solo (with a pianist/vocalist played brilliantly by Ben Moss) piece, told in direct-address about a woman waiting for her husband to return from fighting in a war that I debuted at Inner Voices in 2012, that went on to a fully realized production in 2014 at the Vineyard. It was one of the most challenging, confrontational, exhilarating experiences of my life in any arena. To be inside the creative crucible at the birth of a new work that felt so relevant, contemporary and important, crafting it daily with the creators, was the absolute honor of my life.

The world we live in deserves, craves, and needs new stories. Sometimes difficult, sometimes hopeful, stories.



2. Are there some specific works of art that have gotten you through tough times?
©hula seventy

A  real mixed bag here but here we go:

"Kid" Stuff:
  • The Magician’s Nephew
  • The Secret Garden
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Funny Stuff:
  • It’s Called a Breakup Cuz It’s Broken

Deep Stuff:

  • The works of Marcus Aurelius
  • Far From the Tree
  • Braving the Wilderness

I find children’s literature to be particularly soothing in times of crisis—perhaps because when I was a child, my life was in a state of low, sonorous, but constant crisis. I identified with the protagonist children in the stories above because I recognized their conditions—not necessarily the exact conditions, but close. I identified with The Magician’s Nephew because the protagonist wants nothing more than to retrieve a magical apple to make his dying mother well again. I wanted that for my father.
    Similarly,  The Secret Garden’s Mary Lennox saw the power of nature heal her chronically ill cousin back to health.
    By the time my father had passed away I was sharing my days with Harry Potter, who, in The Prisoner of Azkaban, thinks he sees his dead father perform an act of heroism in a time turning spell, only to learn the profound lesson that he did not, in fact, see his father—he saw himself. And Harry this performs the act of heroism because, having seen the image of himself perform the act, he now knows he is capable. That image has never left me.

It’s sardonic, brutal, best-friend-holding-your-shoulders bracing. It’s hilarious, painful and real: It’s Called a Breakup Cuz It’s Broken was given to me like a Holy Bible of how to break up by a friend from college passing through New York after her own horrendous breakup, at the dawn of one of mine. It’s not great deep literature but it’s fantastic. And crucial? It actually helped.



3. How do you feel you've grown artistically since your career began?

Tyne Daly taught me a phrase that her mother (also an actor) taught her:
    “Deeper. Fuller. Richer. Better.”
I think that sums it up as well as anything ever could. It’s my intention, it is my aspiration, it is my devotion.

I give fewer f*cks about the stuff that doesn’t really matter (praise, awards, fame, followers), and a lot more f*cks about the stuff that does (ethics, growth, lessons learned, relationships made, contributions to society at large). It’s less about me and more about how I can serve.


4. Where do you see yourself artistically in 5 years?

I would love to see each of my artistic “arms” lengthening and broadening.

I’d love to be consistently working as an actor and theatrical writer— contributing to the theatre.

I’d love to continue to relinquish my singing baggage and sing with greater ease, less drama, more joy, more clarity, and feel freer inside my technique so that there isn’t a single sound I don’t feel confident making.

I’d love to write more books. I’d love to see my books dramatized for the screen and play an active role in manifesting their creation.

Overall: I intend to continue to create and make works that matter to me personally as well as socially. I want to continue to learn new things and sharpen old knives. I intend to make personal, profound, universal, connective, and relevant work that matters to humanity on any scale.

I intend to keep walking my talk.

©hula seventy

09 December, 2018

Preview of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' at Chicago Shakespeare


Cast members Melisa Soledad Pereyra, T.R. Knight, Alexandra Silber and Sam Kebede and took time out of rehearsal to share their excitement about the production, and why this production of Shakespeare’s audience favorite “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will have the whole theater laughing and dancing. Performances begin on December 6 in the Courtyard Theater at CST’s home on Navy Pier.

30 November, 2018

'Poem 1246' by Rumi

The minute I heard my first love story

I started looking for you, not knowing

how blind that was.



Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.

They’re in each other all along.

© Nick Bantock

25 November, 2018

Questions from Book Tour - Part 6

At the JCC of West Bloomfield, MI - where it all began
1. How would you urge the reader to learn to approach life as you do, in relishing the mundane and the ordinary?

By recognizing that absolutely nothing is mundane or ordinary.

But also:
     Pause.
     Breathe.
     Look in people’s eyes.
     Ask thoughtful questions and really listen to the answers.
     Practice gratitude.



2. As you stress in the book, death is something none of us an avoid. Have many people reached out to you with their own stories?


Absolutely. I think that has been the most overwhelming and rewarding part. Why write a book about grief and your own boring, excessively ordinary life if not to connect to others about theirs; and thus discover that nothing is boring, and no one is ordinary at all.

It is an old maxim, but you get what you give in this one glorious life. By leading with authenticity and vulnerability, by exposing your inner-most soft places (and merely exposing, not flooding or forcing your experience down someone’s unwilling throat!)  we allowing others to behold them, at their own capacity and tempo. Calm exposure invites  one to ask the age old human question: “you too?” And that exercise welcomes people to truly connect with one another.

I am so grateful to all [including you, dear interviewer, whose name I do not have the honor of knowing—I am so truly sorry for your loss—] who have been courageous enough to share their stories with me. It has been the greatest reward of this entire process.



3. Why did you begin the book with the list of things you'd tell your 17-year-old self?

The beginning of each of the five “sections,” as well as the Epilogue begin with a return of the adult Alexandra voice, speaking directly to the reader about events from the present day that are in direct relation to the events of my/her father’s death. They are “echoes” if you will that resonate in the present, informed by the past. After those introductory section chapters, we continue with the narrative of 2001.

First, I chose to speak to my 17-year-old self, because that was the last time I was truly innocent to the events chronicled in the book—the age of my personal “BC,” some of the advice is witty and typical stuff we as adults all realize we were idiots about bak then (“buy Frizz ease”), and some is very weighty (“go on all the walks with him and tell him all the things.”)

Second, it was important to me to create a structure that calmed the reader instantly by establishing that the narrator of this book was Alexandra Silber: contemporary adult who “turned out okay” and maybe a little bit more than “fine.” While, in contrast, the protagonist of this tale is an 18-year-old “Al” who has not yet acquired the perspective and wisdom of the narrator, she is just experiencing the events in real time.

The  “things you'd tell my 17-year-old self” was a clear way to establish that there was going to be an ongoing interchange between Al and Alexandra (if you will) throughout this book, and creates for the reader a subconscious understanding that our protagonist is not yet fully processed, while our narrator, is. Those two “characters” just happen to be the same person—17 years apart.






4. Concerning everyone who helped you through this tragedy, are you still in contact with them? What have been their reactions to the book?

All of them. ‘Grey’ is a hugely successful theatrical designer. ‘Kent’ is changing the world working for a State Senator and just had a baby. Lilly is still my best friend and plays oboe all over the world. I saw her last month at the Metropolitan opera playing Strauss at American Ballet Theater.

They are, all, triumphs of human beings.

Lilly!

17 November, 2018

Coulda-been-ku 19



19. 

I was impulsive. 
One cannot force love to bloom
in smothered soils. 




04 November, 2018

Ask Al: FAQs Part 6

1. You’ve premiered a great many of new and original works. What is the best thing about premiering a new theatrical work to an audience?

In my experience, there is absolutely nothing that can compare to being present at the birth of a new work. I think the most profound experience I had with that was Arlington by Polly Pen and Victor Lodato— a solo (with a pianist/vocalist played brilliantly by Ben Moss) piece, told in direct-address about a woman waiting for her husband to return from fighting in a war that I debuted at Inner Voices in 2012, that went on to a fully realized production in 2014 at the Vineyard. It was one of the most challenging, confrontational, exhilarating experiences of my life in any arena. To be inside the creative crucible at the birth of a new work that felt so relevant, contemporary and important, crafting it daily with the creators, was the absolute honor of my life.

The world we live in deserves, craves, and needs new stories. Sometimes difficult, sometimes hopeful, stories.



2. Are there some specific works of art that have gotten you through tough times?

A  real mixed bag here but here we go:

  • The Magician’s Nephew
  • The Secret Garden
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • It’s Called a Breakup Cuz It’s Broken
  • The works of Marcus Aurelius
  • Far From the Tree
  • Braving the Wilderness
I find children’s literature to be particularly soothing in times of crisis—perhaps because when I was a child, my life was in a state of low, sonorous, but constant crisis. I identified with the protagonist children in the stories above because I recognized their conditions—not necessarily the exact conditions, but close. I identified with The Magician’s Nephew because the protagonist wants nothing more than to retrieve a magical apple to make his dying mother well again. I wanted that for my father.
    Similarly,  The Secret Garden’s Mary Lennox saw the power of nature heal her chronically ill cousin back to health.
    By the time my father had passed away I was sharing my days with Harry Potter, who, in The Prisoner of Azkaban, thinks he sees his dead father perform an act of heroism in a time turning spell, only to learn the profound lesson that he did not in fact see his father—he saw himself. And Harry this performs the act of heroism because, having seen the image of himself perform the act, he now knows he is capable. That image has never left me.

It’s sardonic, brutal, best-friend-holding-your-shoulders bracing. It’s hilarious, painful and real: It’s Called a Breakup Cuz It’s Broken was given to me like a Holy Bible of how to break up by a friend from college passing through New York after her own horrendous breakup, at the dawn of one of mine. It’s not great deep literature but it’s fantastic. And crucial? It really, truly: helped!

Deep stuff? When I get gloomy and need perspective:

The works of Marcus Aurelius
Far From the Tree
Braving the Wilderness



3. How do you feel you've grown artistically since your career began?


Deeper Fuller Richer Better.

I give fewer f*cks about the stuff that doesn’t really matter (praise, awards, fame, followers), and a lot more f*cks about the stuff that does.

Calmer.
More in touch with my truth and thus The Truth.
It’s less about me and more about how I can serve.

Teaching changed everything.



4. Where do you see yourself artistically in 5 years?

I would love to see each of my artistic “arms” lengthening and broadening.

I’d love to be consistently working as an actor and theatrical writer— contributing to the theatre.

I’d love to continue to relinquish my singing baggage and sing with greater ease, less drama, more joy, more clarity, and feel freer inside my technique so that there isn’t a single sound I don’t feel confident making.

I’d love to write more books. I’d love to see my books dramatized for the screen and play and active role in manifesting their creation.

Overall: I intend to continue to create and make works that matter to me personally as well as socially. I want to continue to learn new things and sharpen old knives. I intend to make personal, profound, universal, connective, and relevant work that matters to humanity on any scale.

I intend to keep walking my talk.

© Emil Cohen

30 October, 2018

' The White Room' by Charles Simic

The obvious is difficult
To prove. Many prefer
The hidden. I did, too.
I listened to the trees.

They had a secret
Which they were about to
Make known to me,
And then didn’t.

Summer came. Each tree
On my street had its own
Scheherazade. My nights
Were a part of their wild

Storytelling. We were
Entering dark houses,
More and more dark houses
Hushed and abandoned.

There was someone with eyes closed
On the upper floors.
The thought of it, and the wonder,
Kept me sleepless.

The truth is bald and cold,
Said the woman
Who always wore white.
She didn’t leave her room much.

The sun pointed to one or two
Things that had survived
The long night intact,
The simplest things,

Difficult in their obviousness.
They made no noise.
It was the kind of day
People describe as “perfect.”

Gods disguising themselves
As black hairpins? A hand-mirror?
A comb with a tooth missing?
No! That wasn’t it.

Just things as they are,
Unblinking, lying mute
In that bright light,
And the trees waiting for the night.1

©Nick Bantock



1 Charles Simic, “The White Room” from The Book of Gods and Devils. Copyright © 1990 by Charles Simic. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Source: The Book of Gods and Devils (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1990)

29 October, 2018

Questions from Book Tour - Part 5

1. Have you also always been a writer and if not, when did you start writing?

I have always been a voracious reader—ever since childhood. Books were not only my friends, my escape as well as my solace, but they were in every way, my first teachers. There is a private experience a reader has with a book—possibly the most intimate artistic exchange one can have for it is direct dialogue between you and the author. Literature and language were always at the center of my life, and I believe one cannot write meaningfully without also, reading meaningfully.

Coincidentally, I began writing in earnest in the middle of my run of Fiddler on the Roof in London— in the spring of 2007. I discovered something that many a theatrical actor encounters during a long run: that being a ‘performer’ and being a ‘creative being’ are very different things. They have many an overlap, but they are distinct characteristics. I discovered (much to my shock) that I was not, in fact, a performer. I did not feel ignited from within simply telling stories for others, sharing my gifts with the world on the stage. That, actually, was often quite stressful! I was an actor because I loved the creative process— the distinct joy of wrestling a character from the page and filling it with life.

When one is in a very long run, the creativity, at some point, ceases. That is not to say that one doesn’t continue to discover new things every once in a while, shift and change your perspective and interpretation as you shift and change. But the creative process is finished. For a few weeks after this initial discovery, I was in quite a state of despair.

After getting a firm grip on myself I realized I could mope about this fact, or take charge of my creativity and of my contentment, and I would create on my own terms! So I
started by writing a very little irreverent blog (that I still maintain!) titled “London Still.” (The title is snatched from the song by the Australian band The Waifs). I never intended to share my writing with a wider audience, the blog was less a public platform than a location for a personal creative crucible— a place I could create daily.

The blog, quite simply, transformed my life. The act of writing became a quiet place to retreat and make new things that had never existed before and put them into the world.

Now that I am here I don’t intend to stop professionally engaging in either! It has been my honor to enjoy such a varied and ongoing career on the stage, and writing has brought me extraordinary creative pleasure.

We only get one life. Why limit oneself? Why wait for permission? Why tie up our precious days on earth with anxiety and not-good-enoughs and fears? I desire a rich and textured life full of a variety of experiences from the personal to the professional. Is it at times challenging juggling doing multiple things? Certainly. Rewarding? Inexplicably.



2. Even knowing the general background of your memoir, I could never have expected the journey you take the reader on. It's emotional, raw, earnest and witty. Did finding + delivering that balance (serious + comic) take time to craft?

The experience of chronicling memories, particularly traumatic ones, will always take time to craft, a deliberate energy, and a ton of discipline. But did the tone of the book require fine-tuning? Not really. I chronicled the memories much as I experienced them—at one moment poignant and devastating, the next flat-out hilarious or even preposterous, followed by more honest devastation. That is, of course, much how true life ebbs and flows. We laugh through our tears, we cry in moments of joy. There is no one label that could ever fully capture the essence of an event, a period of time or even a single moment. I documented the memories as I recalled them— in all their genre-busting detail.



3. The structure of the book is so layered and complex. Each chapter works as a vignette of a time, place and emotion. How did you make decisions when to write the chapter out as a stage play or a word puzzle, for instance?

If you examine the book intricately, you come to sneakily discover that not only does the overall narrative storytelling style switch genres chapter by chapter, but within the chapters themselves the writing switches its genres like some sort of bizarre, out-of-control improv game. I suppose that is why I used this format.

To be honest, it wasn’t entirely a conscious creative choice, at first, it was a very necessary personal exercise. The flipping of genres and formats was the result of me attempting to personally express the experience of grief as directly and emotionally accurately as possible, and I found couldn’t always do that in traditional prose. Some things cannot always be described—they must be intimated at like a photographic snapshot that is worth “a thousand words” (the use of mazes, cryptogram, and haiku.) Some things are in fact too painful to look at directly or described in the first person (that was often when I used the scenes).

Oddly, the overall effect is very much like grief itself—not just every day, but every minute is a new rush of experience, information, and feeling rushing toward you like a freight train. One has no control over it, one must simply endure and surrender to the “parade.”




4. Throughout writing this book, did you ever feel you were being torn apart emotionally all over again or was it more of a cathartic release?

I’ll answer in the style of WHGP:

Emotions Experienced Whilst Writing a Grief Memoir:

C K F P S M Y V A Z O W J Q T M 
Z O I N S E C U R I T Y V S R I 
E I M M O J W W Q V U L U Q A S 
G N K I A S M S K E W G I I E E 
J O Y N C J J G P R S H N U F R 
G P G Z D I N V P I S N P Y G Y 
E E K Y L M R C D X S I Q X E T 
R L T S B J T O K Y E A H V P G 
I I A G P B E N N J N N O T R W 
H B A T H V S F C Y D L R A O G 
K C Q P I G X U H E A L T F Y L 
A L K U S O D S D P S I R G O G 
E M A H S E N I G E T F K V Y R 
X V J M T Y D O J U M W O B I V 
T R I U M P H N D F O I M U P G 
W J W U N U X E Y T I R A L I H 

ANGER
COMICIRONY
CONFUSION
DESPAIR
DISGUST
ELATION
FEAR
GRATITUDE
GUILT
HILARITY
INSECURITY
JOY
LOVE
MISERY
SADNESS
SHAME
TRIUMPH


28 October, 2018

Response to Violence

On October 28 (the Sunday after the horrible shooting of the Tree of Life Synagogue), genius musical director and performer Ben Moss and I joined Jamie Bernstein at the Center for Jewish History, to raise our voices in song as her father Leonard Bernstein so rightly said is our greatest weapon against violence:

"This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."

 









LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails