19 February, 2016

Adult-ing: Part 1

1. Have integrity.
C.S. Lewis said:
Integrity is doing what is right even when no one is watching.
And Brené Brown defines integrity as:

    Choosing courage over comfort
    Choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy.
    Practicing your values, not just professing them.


At any and every age we wrestle with being true to what we CLAIM our values to be, and struggle with ACTING upon what we believe to be right. Integrity is easy to admire in others, but desperately difficult to fight for and maintain firsthand.


2. Things ALWAYS look messier before they look tidier.
Ever try to clean out a “stuff” drawer? Yeah. You start with vigor! Zeal! Then slowly you realize just how stuffed to the brim with utter crap it is, and after about half and hour the contents of said drawer are all over the room and you wondered why you began in the first place… for some, that is the moment when they give up. But if you persevere, and embrace the temporary mess, moments later you have ditched the unnecessary “stuff,” reorganized the contents, and the entire project has been worth it.

That drawer metaphor? Yep. Just like life. Usually, when you attempt to “fix” something, things gets a little messier before they get tidier— meaning, they get more complicated before clarity arrives. Don’t panic. See it through. Persevere. It’s worth it.


3. True ladies (and gentleman) can fit in anywhere.
Whether you are at home with your cat watching Columbo, on the red carpet, playing poker in a basement, feeding the hungry, eating humbly in a soup kitchen or dining in a penthouse at the top of Manhattan, TRUE ladies and gentleman can fit in anywhere.
They are not concerned with class or creed, they are not fearful snobs or hateful of plenty.
     They wear a tuxedo as easily as a set of work clothes
          and see humanity and universality in everyone and everything.

THAT is the definition of gentility.


4. Quit sugar.
Guys. Guys. Sugar is EVIL—and we are the victims of a very powerful Sugar Machine because it has been scientifically determined that sugar is more addictive than COCAINE. Health circumstances forced me to face this universal human addiction, and the results were life-transforming. Trust me.

Let’s review some reasons why you should do everything in your power to quit sugar YESTERDAY:

SUGAR:
Slows you down
Is expensive
Disrupts your metabolism
Hampers mental activity
De-activates your immune system
Destroys your liver, kidneys, heart and skin,
Leads to cardiovascular disease
Is the primary cause of diabetes,
Makes you smell bad
Makes you moody and sluggish
Makes you fat
Ages us
IS A LIAR (makes you think you are hungrier when you are not)

Quit.


5. A painful truth is better than a pleasant lie.
It might be true that you are angrier, fatter, more judgmental, crueler, messier or WRONG-ER than you hoped. Bite that bullet and hear the truth, for no matter how painful that truth may be to stomach, when you deal in and WITH The Truth, you deal with REALITY, rather than operating in a fantasy that will truly keep you from your best life.

As the Russian proverb states,

    Better to be slapped with the truth, than kissed with a lie.

© hula seventy

14 February, 2016

The Archipelago of Kisses by Jeffrey McDaniel

To love, dear readers.
To love.

Happy Valentine's Day. 

*

We live in a modern society. Husbands and wives don't
grow on trees, like in the old days. So where
does one find love? When you're sixteen it's easy,
like being unleashed with a credit card
in a department store of kisses. There's the first kiss.
The sloppy kiss. The peck.
The sympathy kiss. The backseat smooch. The we
shouldn't be doing this kiss. The but your lips
taste so good kiss. The bury me in an avalanche of tingles kiss.
The I wish you'd quit smoking kiss.
The I accept your apology, but you make me really mad
sometimes kiss. The I know
your tongue like the back of my hand kiss. As you get
older, kisses become scarce. You'll be driving
home and see a damaged kiss on the side of the road,
with its purple thumb out. If you
were younger, you'd pull over, slide open the mouth's
red door just to see how it fits. Oh where
does one find love? If you rub two glances, you get a smile.
Rub two smiles, you get a warm feeling.
Rub two warm feelings and presto-you have a kiss.
Now what? Don't invite the kiss over
and answer the door in your underwear. It'll get suspicious
and stare at your toes. Don't water the kiss with whiskey.
It'll turn bright pink and explode into a thousand luscious splinters,
but in the morning it'll be ashamed and sneak out of
your body without saying good-bye,
and you'll remember that kiss forever by all the little cuts it left
on the inside of your mouth. You must
nurture the kiss. Turn out the lights. Notice how it
illuminates the room. Hold it to your chest
and wonder if the sand inside hourglasses comes from a
special beach. Place it on the tongue's pillow,
then look up the first recorded kiss in an encyclopedia: beneath
a Babylonian olive tree in 1200 B.C.
But one kiss levitates above all the others. The
intersection of function and desire. The I do kiss.
The I'll love you through a brick wall kiss.
Even when I'm dead, I'll swim through the Earth,
like a mermaid of the soil, just to be next to your bones.

— Jeffrey McDaniel

Image: © Nick Bantock

10 February, 2016

We do it for THAT Guy

Whenever I meet new people the question “How did you end up in the UK?” is almost always at the top of the list—and the answer, of course, is extraordinarily complicated because the winter of 2002, I experienced a very strange chapter of my life that I rarely talk about for various reasons.

Thus, I do what we all do: I ‘Cliffs Notes-it—” that is, I give you the gist. Ya know: I skip over this weird four-month chapter of Twilight-Zone-Level weirdness that no one could possibly understand unless they were to be told the entire story, or perhaps, they were, by some miracle, there.

So whenever I tell what is the “Cliffs Notes story of my life” it goes like this:

    My Dad died.
    I moved to Scotland.
    SCENE.

That is… highly abbreviated. Because, of course, in between those events, I spent the entire winter and spring of my psychotic year-of-grief in a little coastal tundra-town known Alpena, Michigan.

It isn’t a very clean form of life-story-telling. It is much simpler to say “Well, my Dad died and I moved to Scotland” But it didn’t really work that way. My Dad did die. And I did move to Scotland— but meanwhile back in Grief-ville, I had to go back to the University of Minnesota and clean out my dorm, and drop of out of college to grieve-but-not-grieve.
None of it was tidy.

So, here we go. Let me set the scene:

As one is want to do in a time of crisis, 18-year-old grieving Al made a series of incredibly impulsive decisions shortly after the new year.  In an attempt to “get on with things” I decided to:

    1. Get a job. Perhaps at the mall. Perhaps at the diner I’d worked at all through high school.
    2. Maybe try out for some community theatre! Heck, I was pretty good and the Village Players were doing Our Town!
   
This lead me to trawl the (still-baby-fresh) WORLD WIDE INTERWEB for options. I scrolled around for theatre gigs in my area to maybe “do some plays” while I worked at previously mentioned diner, got my freaking life together and I duuno like maaaaaybe re-auditioned for schools… buuuut also maybe curled up and died— Jury was out on that.

Then one day? BOOM: a very very weird thing happened.

I clicked on a link on Playbill.com:

A semi-professional theatre was looking for a young woman aged 18-24 who could sing to play in their winter season— The Mousetrap, The Fantasticks and The Pirates of Penzance.
You’d get $125 to build the sets, make the costumes, do all the marketing yourself, and be in the shows, and oh, you got to live above the theatre for free and share a single landline phone in a hallway with everyone else who was CLEARLY running away from their lives…Helloooo? Was the computer talking directly to me?

I called the theatre and sold myself harder than an info-mercial, and 20 minutes later I had the gig.

The only catch? This theatre was five hours north of Detroit in a tiny little town on the coast of Lake Huron called Alpena, Michigan.

Alpena: mean January temperature 12º.
Alpena: suuuuper Catholic.
Alpena: where you were awakened every morning by the train that ran directly next to said theatre at 5am with a coal delivery from Cadillac.
Alpena: where the two main restaurants were Bob’s Big Boy and… the other Bob’s Big Boy.
Alpena: With the weirdest, most provincial, Twin-Peaksy, and KINDEST gosh darn people you’ve ever met in your life.

Oh Alpena.... BRING. IT.

I packed the Jeep and drove there in the middle of the night with my also-grieving-mom who helped me move in and, miraculously, sort of…let me do this very, very weird thing.


And thus, once, long ago, in a mystical land known as Alpena, Michigan, several very magical things occurred that I shall never forget as long as I live.

- There some seriously eccentric adventures all in a very sketchy white van called “The Deer Slayer”
- I went to some seriously peculiar social events (a few of which included babies in bars)
- I learned all about running a theatre.
- and I did three plays— two of which were pretty good.
- Crucially, I met some quirky, damaged, weird and totally wonderful people all just as lost as I— and we held one another, lifted each other up in a very dark time.

I don’t know that I’d consider many of these people close friends to this day, but I do know that whenever I spontaneously run into them, or see them on social media, or come across a photograph or memory of that era— my heart swells with gratitude the way I assume an aggregate of shipwreck survivors must feel. Because like it or not we went THROUGH SOMETHING together—and those feelings and memories are ever-present. And I am grateful to those people who held me when I was a child on the verge of womanhood, at my very lowest.

There were a lot of stories.
But this story?
This one was the most important of them all...


* * *


I had a philosophy teacher in High School who once advised never to make life-changing decisions in February— and he certainly had a point. This? This was one of those Februarys. It was deepest February in Alpena Michigan—12 degrees Fahrenheit and life was cold in every sense.

The theatre had recently completed its not-so-stellar run of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, and we were all in a deep funk as we began one of the most beautiful musicals of all time— The Fantasticks.

The thing was? It was February. In ALPENA. A blue-collar town of roughly 10,000 people.
9.23 square miles.
One high school.
A lake.
Like maaaaaybe 5 restaurants.
And a set of railroad tracks.
Oh! And the World's Largest Cement Plant wouldn’t ya know?
Who on earth was going to schlep through all that snow to GO TO THE THEATRE?

But here’s the thing: in the middle of deepest February our motley little crew of broken people was bang in the middle of the doing The Fantasticks, and you know what? The Fantasticks was… good.
Really good, actually.

It wasn’t ideally cast, or sung, or particularly gorgeous to look at, but man: every single person in that cast knew what it meant to lose something, to break apart and put yourself back together. Every single person on stage knew what the heck was UP with that beautiful little play, and we were giving it to you with every scrap, every single fiber of our fragmented beings.

Kent flew in to play the young lover Matt so we were re-living our Interlochen magical fantasies, our professional cast of lost-but-talented-actors-living-above-the-theater were filling the roles beautifully, and we had a duet of local men playing the Dads so beautifully it evoked extreme emotions in everyone.  Something about this work felt important, and universal and like it deserved to be shared.

Basically? This production was one helluva little wonder, and we managed to play… to NO ONE.  And when I say “no one,” I mean it: there were days when thirty-six people were in the audience.  There were days when there were SEVEN people in the audience—and I would know: I ran the freakin’ box office.

So tra la la: there we all were— bleeding away, baring the beautiful nakedness of splintered souls to NO ONE, in the asshole of winter, in the middle of freakin' nowhere.

It was bleak….
…and heartbreaking.
    …and soul-crushing.
How could it not be?
No one was out there—if a tree falls in the forest does it make a noise?
If seven people see your beautiful play does it even matter?
What and WHO on earth are we even doing this for?


And then one day… a miracle happened.


We had just completed a midweek matinee where we had played to our smallest house thus far— a house of six. Six people. I changed out of my costume. I locked up the office, and, as one had to do between shows, I walked through the lobby in order to exit the building and re-enter immediately next door to the resident entrance of our apartments above the theatre. I moved swiftly—after all, I had soup to make and tears to shed about the state of my life.

And there he was: a man, probably in his mid-fifties, dressed in thick winter trousers, heavy-duty boots, a buffalo plaid winter coat, and a John Deer hat. This man was a living stereotype of typical Northern Michigan GUY—what on earth was he doing sitting by the entrance of a theatre? And why did he look so pensive? Was he lost? Was he ill? I approached him very slowly and asked:

    “Sir? Hello there, can I help you?”

He made no reply.

    “…Is everything okay?”

The man shifted on the bench beside the door, eyes locked firmly to the ground, and it was only then that I could see he had clearly been crying.

    “Oh, yeah” he said in a voice that evoked one scoffing off feeling “I uh— I just had the afternoon off and I saw that this play was happening and I thought, heck, why not? So I came in and uh… yeah. I guess I didn’t expect it to uhh— ya know, hit me so hard…” His voice, laced thickly with his Michigan accent was breaking, “I— I thought it was really good. It uh— it made me—yeah. I’m fine I just … I… I really need to call my daughter…”

My insides lurched. It was as if the Universe was shining a spotlight on this man, in this lobby, at this particular moment in my little life.

...Who are we doing this for...?

We do it for THAT guy.

Because reader? THAT GUY IS ALWAYS OUT THERE.
Every show, in every audience, in every part of the world.
Even Alpena, Michigan.
In an audience filled with six people.
Because that day?
That day where six people were in attendance…? THAT GUY WAS THERE.

And when I tell you I think of That Guy every single day, I mean it.

So thank you, dearest and most beloved man I will never know or see again— you were a beacon of light in the darkest of days, and shine brightly in my memory, and continue to ignite every corner of my sometimes doubting heart.

It was all worth it.
It continues to be worth it.
Because then, now, and evermore: I do it for That Guy.

Alpena, Michigan

09 February, 2016

Recording the Fiddler on the Roof album

From Theater Mania:


Danny Burstein, Alexandra Silber, and more give us a first taste of the show's upcoming cast album. For any Broadway actor, getting to record a cast album is the epitome of a dream coming true.

But when that cast album is Fiddler on the Roof — and Fiddler on the Roof is your dream show — the experience is even more special.

TheaterMania followed Danny Burstein, Alexandra Silber, Samantha Massell, and the emotional cast of the show's latest Broadway revival as they took to the studio to preserve their stirring vocals.

The tradition lives on.

06 February, 2016

from ANTIGONE

ANTIGONE. [An aperture in]  …I’m tired, Father.

OEDIPUS. [Beat.] When you were born, you were hard on your mother.
    you came in to this world early, and raging.
You could not wait to be alive.
You do not yet belong here with me.

[SHE places HER hands upon HIS missing eyes… this is theirs, the ultimate gesture of intimacy.]

ANTIGONE. Father,
You gave me life.
It came with purpose—
    both were gifts.

[ANTIGONE exits.  OEDIPUS is silent for a few moments.]

OEDIPUS.
Love for this earth
    For life itself,
    And love for you:
There is nothing more.

And in the end,
    may silence make you strong…


01 February, 2016

In My Life: Mama


Catherine Silber - my mother. 
Los Angeles, California, 1969
 
Happy Birthday Mama, my mother, inspiration and best friend. 

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