10 October, 2017

from 'Different Seasons' by Stephen King,

“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.” 

—Stephen King


© Nick Bantock

09 October, 2017

"I wish... I know"

     In 6th grade when asked by our middle school music teacher to bring in a CD of our favorite music, everyone else brought in Ace of Base, Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey, I? Brought in the 1989 Original Cast Recording of Into The Woods.
That’s right.
I brought in Stephen Sondheim.

I was obviously very popular, and by “popular” I mean I was not popular. But I didn’t care, because even at eleven, I could appreciate a 6/8 time signature, internal rhyming, all things Robert Westenberg, and poignant social parallels.

Into the Woods with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book James Lapine is a masterpiece of the musical theatre about the inner-lives and backstories of the world’s most famous (an infamous) fairy tale characters.  We are fortunate as a culture to have the original production preserved not only on audio recording, but in a beautifully filmed live video of the stage performance. I grew up devouring both.

A Narrator guides us through the first act of familiar stories: Cinderella and her Prince, Jack and his beanstalk, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and some new characters such as a Witch, a childless Baker and his Wife, all criss-crossing and influencing one another in ways our children’s stories were never privy to.

The curtain rises, and the audience is welcomed by the Narrator (incidentally, played originally by Tom Aldridge, who also plays Mr. Gutmann in What About Bob, thus, making him a god among men) who says:

“Once Upon a Time…” followed by a now-celebrated and utterly identifiable series of chords, and lights up on the characters we are about to meet. The first is Cinderella. She sings a phrase that is to become the haunting theme of the evening:

    “I wish…”

Every one of our characters has a wish— to go to the festival, to have a child, for fortune, wealth, security, beauty. They wish. For things. They want.

How fascinating and fun.  By the end of the stream-lined first act, every character has achieved their well-known conclusions, and we celebrate with them in a rollicking Act One Finale celebrating Happily “Ever After!”

And then the curtain rises on a complicated second act.

Cinderella’s prince is unfaithful; life in luxury, unfulfilling.
The Baker and His Wife have their child, and they are ill-content.
With the wolf dead, Little Red fakes confidence in the shadow of her attack.
The Witch has lost not only her daughter Rapunzel, but her magic powers in exchange for physical beauty.
And above all, Jack has murdered the giant in the sky, and angered his wife, who now threatens to destroy their kingdom if she can not take her revenge on her husband’s killer.

Slowly, over the course of the incredibly difficult second Act, it is not an exaggeration to say that nearly everyone suffers in the wake of the Giant.

This musical opened on Broadway in 1989, at the very height of the AIDS epidemic, and as a child born in the middle of the crisis, I suppose I only now realize that the actors in the original production were suffering losses every day, of their friends, family, members of their communities. Mind-obliterating, countless, losses, daily fear— all of it, lacking in any kind of reason. ‘The Giant’ had ravaged their kingdom.


Into the Woods is a piece I have never truly seen myself inside of—somewhat unusual for an actor, as we tend to see where we would, or would like to, fit inside a story. But with “Into the Woods,” I’ve always been in the audience, seeing the whole picture, never precisely identifying with any individual story-arc.

Until now.

In the final few moments of the play, the too-old-to-be-babied, and to-young-to-be-ready Little Red Riding Hood, sits in shock. She is already vulnerable, traumatized from her experience with the wolf in Act 1, yet, in this moment she cannot move in the wake of losing her entire family. Her face is strained, still, but dry (and truly, the raw emotion on actress Danielle Ferland's face is a masterclass in trusting stillness and vulnerability). She realizes slowly, that she is alone in the world— a child, with nothing but a wolf-skin coat on her back.

Beside her, is Cinderella. She is dressed in rags once more, and having left the Prince, on her own again to face the world a stronger and smarter, woman than before.

Dreams shattered. Lives forever altered, the two women sit there. And from the depths of Little Red’s viscera, comes the musical phrase we know from what seems like forever ago, a cry from her soul so straightforward, so true, yet so painful she can barely utter it:

    “I wish…

Cinderella looks at her. Not with pity. Cinderella cannot grant this wish. No one can. The kingdom has been annihilated. People are dead. Life will never be the same. The pain, unutterable. Her childhood, ended. With great respect, Cinderella responds:

    “…I know.


Four words.
Yet this brief exchange is the summation of my entire life.

Four words that capture the essence of both versions of myself, of where I sit today as I write these words upon the page, looking back to “once upon a time,” exactly half my life ago. Before the Giant ravaged my kingdom; took all but my heartbeat.

Little Red, my eighteen-year-old self, and Cinderella, the self of today.  Would that I could look that brave young eighteen year old girl—who had already faced so much— straight in the eye, as Cinderella does for Little Red. Tell her that she is absolutely right, this is the bottom of the well of human pain. That her innocence is indeed, shattered, her childhood at its end. It will not get better, darling girl, I would say, it will only grow familiar and thus less harrowing; that there will never be anything deeper or more painful to wish for, ever again.

But now? Now she has earned her passage to the human race. She may now arrive upon its shores as the inextinguishable woman she is destined to become. That this exact tragedy, in time, if she allows it, will make her soul the richer; escort her to her highest self.


30 September, 2017

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

25 September, 2017

Coulda-been-ku 11

11. 

I should have loved you 
better. Not The One. 
But the best I knew. 

The hurt is nothing 
nowturned to gratitude and
sentiment. All one.

You get three stanzas.
For in the end, Im proud of 
us. Im proud of us.



24 September, 2017

Coulda-been-ku 10

10. 

You showed us how to 
love harder.  First rebellion.
The first, everything.


23 September, 2017

[The Real] Rabbi Syme

    As many of you out there are reading After Anatevka, you might be surprised to know that one of the leading questions I get is whether or not Rabbi Syme (Perchik's teacher and advocate) is based on a real person. The answer: of course he is. Rabbi Syme was indeed so influential, that I felt he had to be memorialized in After Anatevka for he was my first spiritual advocate.

    Fictional Rabbi Syme is based very loosely upon the real-life Rabbi Syme—loosely because my description in the novel is not so much a literal, but more of an evocative recollection and honoring of his influence. Real-life Rabbi Syme and I only spent a collection of minutes together in 2001, but they were crucial minutes. He gave me the gift of delivering the eulogy at my father's funeral service, as well as bearing witness to it when he lead the funeral service, and above all, he gave me an hour of his time months later, reminding me of what was eternal, and chartering a map toward the beauty, strength and individuality my faith. Irreplaceable gifts one can never forget.

    The influence of Rabbi Syme proves another true-to-life maxim: that we never know the depth of the influence we have upon one another. A fleeting moment to one, might bear a lifetime of profundity to another, for better and for worse. So it is in these tiny actions that we must recognize that our influence on earth is vast, has meaning, and should never be taken for granted.

    I include this story from my memory (also included in my upcoming memoir) in today's post because the prayer Rabbi Syme references, the Shema' Koleinu, is not only a prayer that is part of the Amidah (the core of every worship service), but especially significant on the High Holy Days, which are currently upon us.

    L'Shana Tova, one and all. May your new years be filled with positive influence that you both give and receive. Here's to a brighter and more peaceful world.


*


    Two months after the funeral I went to see Rabbi Syme.

    In the Jewish community, a rabbi is viewed as more than just a life cycle overseer, administrator, Bible reciter, or spiritual leader; but also as a counselor, a true community role model, and above all, an educator. The word Rabbi, in fact, translates as “teacher." At the time I’d be willing to admit that I required all of the above from good ol’ Rabbi Syme, a man I’d known for approximately 2 hours. I walked into Temple Bel El ready to order up the “super size me” platter of spiritual needs. Plus, I felt inexplicably close to him, compelled beyond logic to spend time in the company of the sweet, wise man who had, in such a brief collection of minutes, given me the ultimate gift—the eulogy. He had been the cartographer of the map that chartered the rest of my life.

    By the time I got to his office at Temple Beth El I realized, of course, that I barely knew him, and was suddenly embarrassed at my presence there. I knew so little of Judaism, had (unjustly) railed so harshly against it for, up until then, I had only ever associated it with my horrible grandparents.  Still, I entered and sat across from him. Two almost-strangers in two tiny chairs.

    “So. How are you doing?”

What was I supposed to say?

    “Fine, thank you Rabbi.”

I wanted to tell him about everything.

    “How is your family?”

Well well well, Rabbi Syme this is all getting a bit personal! I usually wait ’til the third date to list my favorite Mandy Patinkin roles in order of sexiness, craziness, intensity, beard length, let alone discuss my batshit-bonkers family, but I suppose I can make an exception. How. To. Respond. How can a person respond when “One time, grandma kidnapped me” is, say, the sixth most dysfunctional story?

    “I… don’t really know.”

Rabbi Syme sat up in his chair and nodded.

    “I sensed as much. They were… unusual.”

Rabbi Syme’s Spidey-skills: for the win.


    We talked for a long while that day, Rabbi Syme and I, or at least what felt like it.  It was an odd discovery, but Rabbi Syme was more than my first spiritual advisor, in many ways he was the first adult who, even in the mere three hours clocked together, was more interested in my cultivation of wisdom than of knowledge. I knew that the word Rabbi translated as “teacher” in Hebrew, but this exceeded reciting the periodic table. Knowledge is information—a collection of facts. Wisdom is the poetry inside those facts. Wisdom relies on evocation more than description. It is the difference between two photographs: one that looks exactly the way it looked in the moment, the other that looks exactly the way it felt. Memory through a lens.

    “Do you know the Shema' Koleinu” he asked, as if I actually might?
    “Rabbi, I wasn’t invited to the Bar Mitzvahs or the quinceañeras if you catch my drift.”
    “I ...do not.”
    “I’m kind of a Cashew.” He stared at me blankly. “A Catholic-Jew? An interfaith secularization situation?”
    “That’s very clever.”
    “Thank you.” I continued, nervously, “Well technically I was invited to both the Steinman kids parties and for what it’s worth I played Golde in Fiddler sophomore year of high school—”
    “I—” he stopped me, kind but swift, “I understand.”

    He went on.
    “The Shema' Koleinu is the sixteenth paragraph of a central prayer of Judaism, called the Amidah, which is the core of every Jewish worship service.

    It reads:

אָב הָרַחֲמָן, שְׁמַע קולֵנוּ, ה' אֱלהֵינוּ, חוּס וְרַחֵם עָלֵינו, וְקַבֵּל בְּרַחֲמִים וּבְרָצון אֶת ‘תְּפִלָּתֵנוּ, כִּי אֵל שׁומֵעַ תְּפִלּות וְתַחֲנוּנִים אָתָּה, וּמִלְּפָנֶיךָ מַלְכֵּנוּ. רֵיקָם אַל תְּשִׁיבֵנוּ.

    "Hear our voice, O Lord our God; spare us and have mercy upon us, and accept our prayer in mercy and favor.Hear Our Voice is the essence of this prayer—and I sense that your voice has always been heard, both of the spoken and the sung variety. The eulogy proves that.”
    “Really?” I replied, not entirely understanding where he was leading me, all I knew was that I was willing to follow. 
    “Well I believe so. What do you think?”

     No one had ever asked me anything remotely like this, and I grew hot and uneasy fearing I would offend him, or say the wrong thing.

    “I really don’t know how to respond.”
    “There is no right or wrong here, Alexandra,” the Rabbi pacified, “it’s just a simple question. One of the beauties of Judaism is this ancient tradition of the dialogic process. Of discussion! Jews recognizing that understanding comes from meaningful exchanges, from challenges, not only with one another but with God Himself.”
    “Oh! Like in Fiddler how Tevye has a kind of dialogue with God!”
    “Exactly like that. God and Tevye have a very personal relationship.”
    “I really like that.”
    “So do I,” he smiled. “So? What do you think of ‘Hear Our Voice?’”
    “We all… want to be heard.”
    “Yes.”
    “And we all struggle to listen?”
    “I think so.” He leaned in. “Hear Our Voice is a very simple request, but it indicates that we want to engage beyond ourselves. It acknowledges the desire to be heard, and the validity of that desire.”
    “Wow,” I gasped. The thought took my breath away.
    “That’s why you are here today, isn’t it? To be heard?”

It certainly was. I nodded.    
He continued.

    “The prayer continues a few lines on: ‘Renew our days, as of old.’ Almost as if the speaker  is a little skeptical: Alexandra, do you think it is possible to recover the days of the past? And I’m not saying it isn’t.”
    “No but…” And then I saw.

    If prayers were only knowledge, prayers would fail. As wisdom, the prayer was true as anything. My father was dead. That was the fact. But the poetry of that fact could continue for the rest of my life if I turned these days of pain into lessons. Yes, the past indeed is truly “passed,” it is unrecoverable, and none of us can truly live there. But the wisdom gained by reflection upon that past is why we are alive. To make meaning. To understand better.  I looked at Rabbi Syme and said as much.
       
    “Do you believe, Alexandra?”
    “I believe you.”

I did—it wasn’t an evasion.

    “You know what I’m asking.”
    “I do. I can’t believe I’m saying it but I do. I believe in something.”
    “Well, good. ‘Something’ is possibility. ‘Something’ is something.”

    I thanked Rabbi Syme and left him that day, never to see him in person again. But his impact would be ever-with me, his name etched upon my heart, and, forever synonymous with integrity. 


22 September, 2017

Coulda-been-ku 9

9.

While they got married,
You showed me I could, still, fly. 
Ill never forget.



21 September, 2017

Coulda-been-ku 8

8.

Oh, the agony 
of being seen. Dark chapter. 
I loved you. Too much.



19 September, 2017

Coulda-been-ku 7

7.

Ill never know why
your paint and my music cant 
exist together. 

Time and space are cruel.
But you wrote that already. 
You call, and I sing.


17 September, 2017

Coulda-been-ku 6

6.

I, available,
Open. You at a crossroads. 
Story of my life. 



15 September, 2017

Coulda-been-ku 5

5. 

Mussels and moonlight: 
And poems, I remember 
You, deeply, reading.


13 September, 2017

Coulda-been-ku 4

4. 

Not a Tsar. But you
showed me I could love again. 
Thank you. Love, Sunny.


12 September, 2017

from 'Don Quixote' by Miguel de Cervantes

"Remember that there are two kinds of beauty: one of the soul and the other of the body. That of the soul displays its radiance in intelligence, in chastity, in good conduct, in generosity, and in good breeding, and all these qualities may exist in an ugly man. And when we focus our attention upon that beauty, not upon the physical, love generally arises with great violence and intensity. I am well aware that I am not handsome, but I also know that I am not deformed, and it is enough for a man of worth not to be a monster for him to be dearly loved, provided he has those spiritual endowments I have spoken of.
— MIGUEL DE CERVANTES, Don Quixote
 
Monument to Miguel de Cervantes, Plaza de España, Madrid, Spain

10 September, 2017

Coulda-been-ku 3

3.

A grieving girl. Why?
You were lost, and I, a fool.
I dont think of you. 



08 September, 2017

Coulda-been-ku 2

2.

Sweet youth. You taught me:
It does not have to mean the 
world, to mean a lot. 


07 September, 2017

Coulda-been-ku 1


1. 
What I remember 
Most? My hand-crafted letters
un-opened. Un-seen.

31 August, 2017

'The Guest House' 
by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


15 August, 2017

#LoveList - Stuff I Love (& actual use!) - BEAUTY

1. Bare Minerals @bareMinerals
BareMinerals will always be my first and my truest love. Like my high school boyfriend. Like that pair of pajamas bottoms I still wear from the 90s. No cheesy or nuanced metaphor could ever describe our love affair accurately.

Not only do I love the creamy, skin-defecting, breathable, and made from natural AF stuff formula, I also love what the company stands for—
“We're from San Francisco, surrounded by artists and innovators who inspire us to think differently, follow our gut instincts and to pour our heart and soul into everything we do.
We create products like no other brand, and we connect with women in ways that no other brand would dare. For over 35 years, we've built a community of strong, passionate women who have become customers—but more importantly—lifelong friends. We create innovative products that are powered by nourishing, skin-loving minerals. We formulate our products with purity in mind, so you can feel good about everything we make. We connect with women in deep meaningful ways because we've never been content with just making them look pretty, we want to make them feel beautiful. WE EXIST TO MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE IN WOMEN'S LIVES.”
Whatever. Weeping. It's fine.

Whether it be their original powder formula, their mineral veil, blush, warmth, or their new BBc creams and liquid foundations— I can’t get enough. If I ever met the founder, I’d probably have an Lansbury-like moment of explosive and tear-filled gratitude.



2. Clinique Black Honey lipstick - @clinique
Transparent pigment merges with the unique, natural tone of your lips to create something wonderful and yours alone. Sheer, glossy. Emollient-rich and very lightweight.

I would have never bought this product if it weren't for the initial buzz (and I never listen to buzz. In fact: I’m one of those contrarians that didn’t read Harry Potter til 2001 and refuses to watch Game of Thrones, etc.). The color looks extremely dark in the tube which is a little scary, but it is truly a lipstick like no other, something I just…had to try.

I ordered the darker color (there is also a light one called Pink Honey), slid it on and ANGELS SANG.

One coat. Build able. Sheer in an “I just ate a cherry popsicle” way. Soft and creamy. The color is PERFECT. (Incidentally, this was Tzeitl’s lip color of choice for her wedding day—so Clinque had some serious Broadway air time).

Way to go Clinique.




3. Mario Basescu Facial Spray -  @MarioBadescu

The Mario Badescu line of skincare is extensive and generally A+
“Mario Badescu had a vision to bring to New York City his European-style facials—and it was in 1967, out of his two-room Manhattan apartment, when the world-renowned salon and product line were born. News of his unique philosophy and loyal following (which included a star-studded roster of in-the-know New Yorkers) quickly spread and Badescu’s home-turned-studio flourished. Fifty years later, Mario Badescu is the name that continues to transcend generations and span the entire life-cycle of skin: from powerful acne solutions to potent anti-aging treatments, we customize regimens for every skin type and concern imaginable.”
All of that said, my favorite of their products is an absolute must-have, complete with my addicted-as-if-to-meth-like need to be facially spritzed by their Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater. Cult-favorite. Makeup artist must-have. Revitalizes with dewy radiance.

Boosts moisture and glow. Smells like a freaking rose garden has exploded on your face. It's a rejuvenating mist infused with herbal and botanical extracts (like Aloe Vera, Gardenia, Rose, Bladderwrack and Thyme) that help soothe and re-energize skin—giving it a healthy, radiant glow.
I like to give my skin and makeup a fresh and dewy finish, so I spritz my favorite brush or sponge with this before blending in foundation or concealer. Then I mist my face as a final step to add radiance. I keep this in the fridge so it is nice and cool, and in the middle of the day (especially in summer!) I spray a super-refreshing, cooling boost.



4.  TIGI S FACTOR Tamer  and De-frizzer - @sfactorbytigi

As a life-long multi-textured hair diva, this has been the only product (and I. Have. Tried. Them. ALL) that consistently delivers my unruly hairs the sublime smoothness and a silky touch whilst Sir-Lancelot-level of defense against the Evil Sorcerer Humidity. This defrizzer and tamer fights humidity and moisturizes, and also serves as a heat protectant and frizz fighter by sealing the hair cuticle.
“Scientifically blended ingredients make this the perfect product for sleek, smooth, silky hair,
softening roughness and fighting humidity. Great for blow-drying smooth styles, Smoothing Lusterizer tames fly-aways and smooth’s the hair surface for a perfect finish.”
It also smells like Johnny Depp is french kissing you with a mouth full of Oreos. Or Scotch. Or whatever floats your fancy.


5. The BEAUTYBLENDER

Think all makeup sponges are created equal. Think again. The BeautyBlender is the ONLY makeup sponge out there that is worth the time of day.
“what makes the original beautyblender® so different?

the exclusive material
Super plush, moisture loving. Ensures makeup sits on the surface of sponge for smoother, more uniform blending.

the unique design
The original egg shape guarantees effortless blending in both small and large surface areas.

the look of perfect skin
360º of edgless, flawless application eliminates lines and streaks that other sponges & imitators leave behind.

minimum water retention
Open-cell structure only holds what is absolutely necessary for prime application performance.”

It’s design and material is utterly unique and the absolute perfect consistently to create a totally flawless finish, and in my opinion is peerless. I have every size and shape their products come in, and use them on stage and off.



6. NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil - @NARS
The result of a lipstick combined with the kindergarten-level convenience of a pencil in a jumbo crayon design.

The NARS Velvet Pencil ensures that lips are instantly saturated with rich, vivid pigments and a velvety matte finish.
"I wanted to create a modern way to wear a very classic matte lip. The creaminess of the texture makes them very easy to wear."—François Nars, Founder and Creative Director of NARS Cosmetics

The pigment is so rich and the color instantly saturates in a super-velvety matte finish. It is long lasting, non-drying, is enriched with magical unicorn tears or something to deliver the creamiest texture ever. You can use it for lining, all-over color, or pairing with another lip product.

The Countess exclusively used this product in Cruella (which appears to be discontinued— sad!). It’s my lipstick go-to.



14 August, 2017

Friends I Went to Summer Camp With: A List

CAMP.
Interlochen Arts Camp is located between two freshwater lakes in northern Michigan, and was the magical location of the majority of the lasting relationships I still cherish as an adult. 

Not everyone I met and be-friended is still in the arts, but most of them are kicking major butt, and all of them became the wonderful human beings they promised to become as children.

Summer arts camp is a funny thing—there you are, eleven years old an a total weirdo back home, and you get to spend 8 weeks with a handful of other weirdos just as passionate, talented, freakishly informed about a single art-form  as you are.

Three of those weirdos for me were:

THEN.
Alex Michaels, known today as Alexis Michelle of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 fame. (SHE IS FEROCIOUS and go see her werk). Little baby Alex and I met the summer we were ten and eleven. He had braces. I had glasses.

The day we met, we were auditioning for the Intermediate summer operetta, and, had to audition in front of the entire group of fellow middle schoolers vying for a role. What I remember best was that Alex and I BOTH sang excerpts from Show Boat, geeked OUT over one another’s talent and a shared obsession with Rebecca Luker, and never looked back. He was my first “best gay” and I was his first “best gal.” (Incidentally, we were both cast in that operetta as the comedy sidekicks…)

Last month, we reunited on stage at 54 Below, singing together once again, celebrating 20 years of friendship that all began in the Northern woods.
NOW.


Then.
Santino Fontana was my first ever scene partner! We met the summer of 1999 in ADVANCED ACTING TECHNIQUE (faaancy), and what I recall above all else is that
     1. The scene was a John Patrick Shanley classic that I only now realize as probably mildly inappropriate for teenagers
     2. We were REALLY into it and dare I say it, kind of good, and
     3. We performed our scene n what, at the time, was a very advanced form of communication called THE INTERNET. That’s right, we performed our scene and got feedback VIA SATELLITE for, of all people, Matthew Broderick.

I followed Santino to college (even though I had to leave the program to grieve the loss of my Dad) and he’s been one of my friends and artistic allies ever since. We’ve been there through epic highs and lows throughout all of adolescence and life. From the

Santino is not only (to quote his wife Jessica) "a unicorn" of talent, to his family and friends, he is the absolute loyalest man I know—unflinchingly, with all of his heart. When we made our Carnegie Hall debuts together in 2013, it had been a roller-coaster couple of years for both of us, and what a triumph. We'd "practiced." And above all, it was pretty special to realize that we’ll always just be those kids from Advanced Acting Tech.
At our shared Carnegie Hall debuts in 2013



THEN. ...Holy Moly.
Michael Arden and I met the same summer, and he was also in that Advanced Acting Technique class (that class was… obviously… fairly promising…). We instantly bonded, singing together at every opportunity, joined at the hip as budding artists and humans. The inside-jokes are countless.

Michael and I met at camp, but our friendship deepened and was made permanent when we went to the yearlong academy— we literally did almost every show opposite one another (he was the Charlie Brown to my Lucy, the Georg to my Amalia, etc).

Michael and I have both been through our share of tough stuff early on in life, and our families became very close as we grew up. His grandfather, Jim, wrote me a letter he handed me at high-school graduation. This deeply feeling, but very quiet Texan wrote that seeing Michael and I together on stage were "the happiest moments of my life" and that "it is the dream of my life to see you together on Broadway someday."

Well.

I was there for Michael's Broadway debut, he was there for mine. And last year, when we were both in the same season on Broadway, I was one of his guests at the opening night of Spring Awakening, and he was one of mine at Fiddler on the Roof.

Jim's dream came true. If only he, his wife Pat, and my father could have been there to witness it. That said, they were. They are a part of everything Michael and I are, and do; and because they gave us the gift of Interlochen, they gave us the gift of one another.

For Michael is, without exception, the artist with whom I credit with forming my capacity early on. Like a chess or tennis player who had the world’s best opponent to make their skills all the sharper, acting opposite Michael constantly made me better, and I owe everything I am today to that start. 

2016, Opening Night of Fiddler: a shared Broadway Season. Dream come true.

Camp. Magical.



07 August, 2017

from 'on optimism and despair', by zadie smith

"If novelists know anything it's that individual citizens are internally plural: they have within them the full range of behavioral possibilities. they are like complex musical scores from which certain melodies can be teased out and others ignored or suppressed, depending, at least in part, on who is doing the conducting. at this moment, all over the world-- and most recently in america-- the conductors standing in front of this human orchestra have only the meanest and most banal melodies in mind. here in germany you will remember these martial songs; they are not a very distant memory. but there is no place on earth where they have not been played at one time or another. those of us who remember, too, a finer music must try now to play it, and encourage others, if we can, to sing along."

-Zadie Smith, from 'On Optimism and Despair'

 A beautiful, brilliant piece I implore you to read.


01 August, 2017

Stage-door-ing: A Guide

Dear Al,

Any tips or things to keep in mind when a fan wants to meet a performer they admire at the stage door? I've heard both wonderful and horrible stories and I want to be the best kind of "fan" I can be! 

Thank you,

Jessica

*

What a FAN-TASTIC question! So thoughtful and something very few people every discuss at length. I am so happy to provide a little insight into what it feels like on both sides of the stage door experience!

When you are a professional actor, singer, artist, speaker, performer, noted person of any kind, you often meet strangers that have been influenced and affected by your work. There are many kinds of “stage door” experiences, some beyond beautiful, some verging on the inappropriate, and some downright upsetting.

It should be noted that most are wonderful, but just in case you are ever in fear of crossing a line, it might be helpful to lay out some helpful hints about what it feels like to be on the other side of the exchange, and hopefully encourage more positive and meaningful encounters, and lessen the chance of a cringe-able moment for all. :)


I want to begin with a recognition: it is, without a doubt, a privilege beyond imagining to be any kind of human "of note." If a fellow human feels the desire for an autograph, a photograph, or any moment of time with me, I continue to be honored, and, frankly, slightly in shock. Why? Because I don't feel particularly remarkable. Especially when I sit at home pretending that "putting on my bathrobe" is "getting dressed," watching crime drama with my cat, on my sofa in Queens. But hey: I recognize and respect that being a public performer comes with certain visibility, perceptions, honors, and also, sacrifices. It is all part of the gig.

Ruthie Henshall, West End star and creme-de-la-creme of singing actors, taught me at the very beginning of my career that being generous with people at stage door is "Act 3" of our job—and I believe that. That, if a fan is brave enough to come up and thank you for your work (and perhaps even express what you mean to them); that, despite a long day of life-giving, energy-draining performance, those audience members have earned that extra 5-10 minutes post-show. Everyone has earned it. It is courteous, generous and rewarding from, and for, both parties.


Some of my most beautiful encounters in the theatre have been experienced after a performance with extraordinarily generous people, sometimes young hopefuls that remind me of my younger self, and others simply filled with emotion, gratitude and lifelong memories.

When I was a young theatre-goer, I came to see my first Broadway shows at 14—it was the 1998 Broadway season and my eyes were full of stars and my ears full of show-tunes. Audra MacDonald, Rebecca Luker, Douglas Sills, Judy Kaye, Donna Murphy, Patti Cohenour, Marin Mazzie— they were my idols and role models and dare I even say it? In a certain way, my saviors. I was spending every single day with "them" as their voices and vulnerabilities blazed through my stereo system in metro-Detroit.

I respected, adored, and felt grateful to them, but I was also quite shy, and could never in a million years have built up the courage to thank them in person for the gifts they had given me. I would have melted down in a puddle of “I-don’t-deserve-to-breathe-the-same-oxygen-as-this-human” incomprehensibility; rendered incapable of articulating what they meant to me, what they had given me, let alone kept it vaguely together long enough to avoid asphyxiating on my own tongue.

All of this is to say: I think about 14-year-old Al whenever I meet someone at stage door, because they could be feeling just like I did.

Perhaps you, dearest readers, can’t entirely imagine how ordinary I feel when I come out of a stage door. Often times I'm thinking “Did I fully remove my makeup / I have to find some food / check on my cat’s Instagram / call my pharmacist / I wonder if my mother made her connecting flight in Atlanta yadda yadda yadda” …BUT I DO. I’m an "all-grown up" version of that 14-year-old girl  who might never be able to believe this is her life.

So I recognize now, that Rebecca Luker likely felt the same way about herself. (Just, ya know, without wondering about her cat’s Instagram...) All of my idols were (and still are) just people: normal, talented people going to work; and when they had the wherewithal, they were happy to greet fans at stage door because they couldn’t believe this was their life…

I don’t know when we become like our role models, but oh dear reader, we do. I still can't believe people even vaguely know who I am. In fact, this week at Yankee Stadium while supporting my Detroit Tigers, a sweet fan and her Dad came up to me and said Hi, we got a picture, and I followed up by asking her how the heck she knew who I was. (I'm clearly... a total Pro.)
Hopefully, as we grow, we can open ourselves to the realization that none of us are gods; that even our idols are people, and that we can respect the fact that authenticity is all that is required to make a meaningful connection with a person you admire.

I have had stage door experiences that have been touching, meaningful, and moving—I will hold them in my heart for the rest of my life. And, I've also had some stage door experiences that have been really challenging.

Know this: what lies within the confines of our inner-most selves is not only where an artist's best and most authentic work comes from, but it is also ours, to both defend and share at our own pace, and at a level of comfort that feels appropriate for us. We also have the right to change our minds, to retreat if we sense danger, to be discerning. And, we have the right to not engage for any reasons we deem fit, particularly if the work on stage is at risk (such as in terms of rest, energy, germs, etc). You have purchased a ticket to the performance, and that price tag does not include meeting the cast outside stage door. It is not a requirement, and should not be perceived of negatively if the actors wish to decline their participation.

We have rights—just like everyone else on earth, for again, we are also human beings trying to figure it all out too. I truly mean this: no matter how remarkable you may deem someone to be, at essence we are all souls striving to grow, to heal, learn, and be better versions of who we are every moment.

Social media (and the media at large) has in many ways warped our sense of what it means to "share." Even the words "friend" and "follower" have become warped by this phenomenon. In my own, introverted and very privately held life, I define a friend as: one who has borne witness to, and held, my inner life. I will not allow that definition to be exploded by Facebook. But it would be irresponsible to ignore the very blurry lines surrounding the word "friend" in our society. A “follower” on the other hand, feels slightly clearer—I do not follow your comings and goings, but you choose to follow mine. That feels appropriate, and like the boundaries are clear. Above all, remember this: never confuse friendLY, for freindSHIP.

Still. Confusing.


Dearest theatre goers, television watchers and fans of all kinds: those you admire are human beings too. We have limitations, emotions, off-days and downright bad days. We have previously arranged appointments, we have beloved family and friends visiting. We get sick. Sometimes very sick, and have to disappoint people, which is, believe me, heart-wrenching.


But above all, we too have very real vulnerabilities and basic rights to any privacy we deem to be appropriate for ourselves. Those boundaries are self-set and deeply personal; and everyone, no matter who they are or what they do, has a right to maintain those boundaries and be respected for it.


SOME TIPS:
     - Come prepared!
     - Bring a pen!(Preferably a Sharpie or other permanent marker)
     - Have the playbill/ poster/CD/autograph book facing the performer, not facing you. It will expedite the process. 
     - Have the camera open, prepped, and the photographer ready-to-go.
     - Have a special request? Just ask! But also be prepared for a “no” if the performer  is unable or unwilling to accommodate your request, and be gracious about it.
     -  Keep your comments authentic, but be brief. Remember that there are other patrons, and that we have to get home (to our famous cats
     -  Remember that friendLY is not friendSHIP: these performers are strangers, and not your actual friends (however friendLY they may be!)
     -  Meeting the cast at stage door post show is not included in the price of admission. Be compassionate and gracious if performers decline to engage.


The last thing I want to do is frighten anyone away from sharing their joy, from expressing their gratitude and laughter, getting a fun photo or above all, those sacred, deeply felt moments that can only be shared in a theatre.

I simply urge you to be discerning, and recognize what you are asking of strangers. Above all, to remember that performers are people too.

The first stage door I walked through as a working actor: London's Palace Theatre

31 July, 2017

'Nihilist Password Security Questions' by Soheil Rezayazdi

What is the name of your least favorite child?

In what year did you abandon your dreams?

What is the maiden name of your father’s mistress?

At what age did your childhood pet run away?

What was the name of your favorite unpaid internship?

In what city did you first experience ennui?

What is your ex-wife’s newest last name?

What sports team did you fetishize to avoid meaningful discussion with others?

What is the name of your favorite canceled TV show?

What was the middle name of your first rebound?

On what street did you lose your childlike sense of wonder?

When did you stop trying?

©Nihilist Bunnies

13 July, 2017

#LoveList - Stuff I Love (& actually use!) - HEALTH

1. OIL OF OLBAS
I discovered Oil of Olbas within my first few days of drama school— my Voice teacher (spoken Voice teacher extraordinaire, Jean Moore) casually mentioned Oil of Olbas like it was as ordinary as cabbage and… I had never heard of it. What was this magical oil? Where did it come from? What was it used for? Jean Moore’s voice was so hypnotizing and her RP so immaculate and and and and “Oiiiil of Ollllbaaaas” whatever. I needed it.

I promptly reported to the CHEMIST, and purchased my first beautiful glass vial of the product that would thereafter be the product (before it was widely available in the USA) that I would beg my British friends to buy and bring to me in bulk, perpetuating our own personal Oil of Olbas drug cartel. What? No shame.

This product is that trans-formative. Okay okay so what the heck is it?
“This 100% pure essential oil formula has been a European household favorite for almost 100 years. Applied to the body, Olbas Oil naturally increases circulation at the surface of the skin, opening up the pores and providing a warm feeling of relief in muscles and joints. But Olbas is also an inhalant; it readily diffuses into the air, providing extraordinary relief and sensory benefits to nasal and bronchial areas, cooling and invigorating dry, inflamed nasal passages due to colds, allergies, sinusitis, and hay fever.
Benefits of Olbas Oil. Inhalation: Olbas Oil is a completely natural essential oil formula that delivers invigorating and soothing sensations to the nasal and bronchial areas. Massage: Applied to the body, Olbas Oil tends to stimulate circulation at the surface of the skin.

    •    Instant Relief from colds, Sinus & Allergies
    •    Massage on Aches & Pains for a Warm Feeling of Relief
    •    Powerful Olbas Formula contains only Pure Essential Oils and?
    •    Cruelty-Free”
I am prone to sinus infections (partially my auto-immune disease, partially my small skull—years ago I would say I used to get one infection per month!) and only Oil of Olbas could relieve immediate symptoms before I had to turn to medicine. I have subsequently gotten he whole sinusitis thing under control, don’t you worry, reader. It appears to be “pricey” for the size of the bottle, but a little goes a long way and it is well worth the investment for the preventative and almost miraculous healing properties.

I use it in every single bath I run (I add a few drops to the bath water and mix with epsom salts for the ultimate detox/relaxation before bed), then if I am feeling “stuffy,” I rub a few dots into my temples, on my nostrils (if needed), on my chest and throat (my sinus infections always give me swollen glands), and sometimes if I’m really feeling frisky, I’ll dabble a few drops on my pillow to just be totally surrounded in European herbal voodoo. (CAUTION! KEEP AWAY FROM YOUR EYES! YOU WILL INSTANTLY REGRET IT AND WANT TO GO BACK IN TIME!)

It is also the only thing I will ever use to muscular pain. I mix several drops in with lotion to help with absorption, and within 10-15 minutes the blood is circulating, your muscles are relaxing and the pain has markedly diminished.

I am also a huge fan of the Olbas PASTILLES, which I exclusively use while singing, if I am making singing sounds, you can guarantee there is literally, always one in my cheek.

Last year, I got Samantha Massell (my Hodel on Broadway, and roomie of @dressingroom51, duh!) HOOKED on the stuff, and we got so enthusiastic Olbas got in touch with Samantha (because she’s just one of those people who gets lots of free stuff? You know those people?) and they sent us a GIANT box of goodies from the Olbas line I had NEVER even heard of!  Inhalers! Diffusers! Tea! Cough syrup?!  Who knew?

I am so happy they are in the USA now, and so are my generous criminal British drug cartel pals who no longer have to smuggle the stuff into the Land of the Free for their crazy friend.

Olbas? ....Will you MARRY ME?


2. The NUTRIBULLET 
Despite the fact that the founder /inventor/guru guy of NutriBullet is a little MUCH, wears a lot of crystals and has an intensity that sort of scares me: THE GUY INVENTED A MACHINE OF PURE GENIUS.

Okay okay I get it.  “A blender is a blender” right? Wrong.
This little guy is compact, simple to assemble and clean, and does not merely “mush up” the food you put in, but has one-of-a-kind technology that extracts the nutrient ingredients on a cellular level, so you get the absolute most out of every single scrap of food you put into your body— every vitamin, booster and delicious taste.
“The Creators of Nutrient Extraction
What truly sets NutriBullet apart from the rest is its incredible extraction abilities. The NutriBullet is the original nutrient extractor, transforming ordinary foods into extraordinary nutrition. With its exclusive Bullet cyclonic action, specialized blades and powerful motor, the NutriBullet converts whole vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and other superfoods into exceptional liquid fuel for your body. To get the most out of your life, you need to get the most out of your food.”
That makes it the ideal tool for health-conscious people (like myself) who are looking to efficiently fuel our busy and energetic lives.

Also, as a Paleolithic eater (briefly: meaning I eat a LOT of organic fruits and vegetables), the NutriBullet is the most incredible way to fuel myself in the morning. My day begins with my cup of tea ritual (in my adorable and perfect tea pot given to me by Lara Pulver thankyouverymuch), followed by a NutriBullet delight with a base of green veggies. My auto-immune disease means I am almost always fighting anemia, so starting my day with “nutrient extracted” leafy greens is ideal.

Power through the weirdo infomercial and buy it, or, just save yourself the creep-fest and go to their website and buy it today.

PS. Oh yeah. Also? Dear Nutri-bullet, Sorry but you reeeallllly need a new infomercial and I’ll totally do it for you if you want.



3. ALKOLOL

GAME CHANGER ALERT! I had been using a Neti Pot for years, and enjoying the slightly squeemy but totally refreshing sinus-cleaning system from days of yore. But when Alkolol was introduced to the regime? KAPOW. It was a new dawn. The natural formula made entirely of herbal magic stuff, takes the level of cleansing and clearing up to the next level. Breathe free EVERMORE!
“Alkalol is a unique blend of natural ingredients developed over 100 years ago as a nasal wash and mucus solvent. Today it still provides drug-free relief from nasal congestion and irritation caused by sinusitis, allergies, colds and post-nasal drip. And it helps dissolve mucus and clear blocked nasal passages. During nasal irrigation and while using the Alkalol Nasal Wash Cup, the Alkalol mixture flows through your sinuses clearing irritants such as dust and pollen. It also helps improve overall nasal hygiene by preventing mucus from gathering in your sinuses where it can become the breeding ground for bacteria.”
According to the Journal of Family Practice, “Daily hypertonic saline nasal irrigation improves quality of life, decreases symptoms and decreases medication use in patients with frequent sinusitis.”

It is formulated to be used as often as needed (I use a small amount in my Neti Pot daily as a preventative measure and to maintain sinus hygiene, but even more when I feel a cold coming on.) If you have chronic sinusitis or are an allergy sufferer who is increasingly looking to over-the-counter and prescription drugs, Alkalol should be added to your health regime. In fact, buy it in bulk.



4. ACZONE
So secret: I do not have perfect skin.
Oh WAIT? You too? Whaddya know. No-one really does. It's okay.

My skin-perfections have come in the form of what is called cystic acne (acne that never really comes to a head, but lingers under the skin in large and painful cysts—ouch!) and it was totally the pits until I found ACZONE.
And then?
OH. MAH. GAH.
Clear skin. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

Aczone cleared my skin in about 10 days and I’ve never gone back. I should do their commercial. I want to. I want to make a YouTube video and explain in depth how painful and isolating acne can be even as an adult, and how our faces is what we all present to world, what is perceived of by others, not just performers! This product is the only thing that ever brought me consistent results, and it more than cleared my skin, it cleared my psychology regarding my Self. That’s powerful stuff, and it is can’t be purchased in a bottle.

Aczone actually has a new formula that you only have to use once a day (whereas previously you used it twice), so is even more convenient than before.  It is very affordable (there are also a lot of fantastic coupons available online if you are paying out of pocket), it lasts forever, is fragrance free, smooth-as-silk and basically perfect.

This is of course, a prescription medication that you can only be prescribed by a doctor, but if your skin plagues YOU, ask your doctor and I wish you the best with your skin journey. We only get one skin! It is invaluable to care for it with love.


Happy health you all!

10 July, 2017

Adult-ing - Part 6

Dorothy girl: delegate!
1.  Delegate.
When it comes to tackling big projects, you can try to do everything yourself and have an aneurysm or…not! Why not? Because you can also choose to reach out and find the right people to help you— sometimes people that are (gasp) even better at certain tasks than you are. The former will raise your blood pressure; the second choice will raise your effectiveness.

Someone else always knows how to help.  Find and engage them.

Example: remember that episode of Golden Girls where the ladies want a fancy new toilet, and decide that the best way forward is to read a giant book on plumbing, then install the toilet themselves? Yeeeeah. Through a series of (hilarious) mishaps, they ultimately end up calling a professional plumber, who has to charge them even more than he would have in the first place, to not only install the toilet, but to clean up their DIY plumbing mess. …This is obviously a fictional example, but, you all know how I love a show about senior citizens, and also, it is an apt metaphor.

I am not a bad business woman, but I’m certainly a better singer than I am at talking about money. That’s… why I have agents and mangers. I delegate the business talk to them so I can do the stuff I am best at! Additionally, if your website is suddenly having glitches with a new web browser, why read a giant book on web design? Delegate. Hire a professional web designer. Just do it. Don't hem and haw, don't worry about the cost. Think of the Golden Girls and their giant plumbing bill.

See every stressful problem as an opportunity to delegate. You’ll get great results, and you won’t grow a tumor. Life is trying to teach you that most long-term, worthy endeavors are team efforts, and if you think about it, so much more palatable when shared with others.  Every unexpected tension in life is a lesson in disguise, especially solvable with the right team of people.


2.  Know your “Myths.” 
There is a popular phrase in contemporary psychology: “TELLING YOURSELF A STORY” or “WRITING A STORY.” What does that mean, exactly? I am not a psychologist, but I personally define this phrase thus: that it is not necessarily what factually happens to us, but how we choose to interpret and psychologically take on what happens to us, that defines our experience of life. “Writing stories” is a term that gives a name to why and how some people with terrible childhoods live forever in victim-hood, and others overcome the mindset and can even end up experiencing extraordinary gratitude for their adversities, if they even view them as adversities at all! It is not the facts, it is the manner in which we approach, interpret, internalize and identify with those facts.

I like this term, but in my own life, and in my teaching, I use an alternative: “Know Your Myths.” Why do I alter this? Firstly, the word myth insinuates instantly that the story is in some way not to be entirely trusted as fact, but is allegorical, and absolutely up for interpretation, like the mythic tales of yore. Second, I like that the term “myth” insinuates something ancient and older-than-humanity— something of great significance to be addressed and not ignored. If you were bullied as a youth, outright ignoring that adversity is not evolved— addressing, processing, and truly moving forward from the adversity, IS.

In her brilliant book Rising Strong, Dr Brené Brown says whole-hearted lives have the goal to “rise from our falls, overcome our mistakes , and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives.” I shall regurgitate her wisdom here, but only because it is peerless and can’t be bettered so why try? (Now do yourself a favor and go binge-watch her videos and buy her books.)

Brené Brown’s process includes 3 elements:
    •    The Reckoning.  Recognize emotion, and get curious about our feelings and how they connect with the way we think and behave.
    •    The Rumble.  Get honest about the stories we’re making up about our struggle, then challenge these confabulations and assumptions to determine what’s truth, what’s self-protection, and what needs to change if we want to lead more wholehearted lives.
    •    The Revolution.  Write a new ending to our story based on the key learnings from our rumble and use this new, braver story to change how we engage with the world and to ultimately transform the way we live, love, parent and lead.
But knowing your myths is an not only an important part of being a healthy human being, it is an important part of self-identity. In my own personal narrative, for example, I know that my father passing away when I was 18 is a fact, I have long moved into the acceptance phase of the grieving process, but? My myth is that I shall, no matter what, always in some way be an 18-year-old whose father has died. I will always be a fatherless daughter interpreting the world through that specific lens. Okay, that is the truth: I can't change it. Thus, knowing that, without getting all in a wah wah waaaahhhh tizzy victim-mode about it, owning that myth and making space for it is a responsible part of being in the world.

Haven’t you ever walked into a film or play or started reading a book, only to discover that the subject matter was WAY too close to your own life for personal comfort? If you’d known your myths going in, you might approach engaging with that piece differently, all of which can have a positive effect.

Everyone has myths. They must be incorporated in to who we become, not extracted, dissolved, or ignored, Knowing your myths means you can plan around and benefit from them—the way one would with anything else. If you know you are an introvert that prefers quiet holidays to jam-packed adventurous ones, you book a peaceful event-less retreat in the country, not a trip to Tokyo Disney. If you broke your ankle as a kid, and it still gives you a little trouble, you know going in to a day walking around the city to bring your walking shoes. We must know, and work with our myths just like anything and everything else. 


3.  See the world.
There are plenty of things one can gain from exploring different places. When you start exploring new places, you get a better understanding of the people living there including their culture, history and background, but you also get to know yourself— how you specifically fit into a pluralistic worldview, and it can both alter and strengthen your beliefs and values.


Further, studies show that traveling can improve your overall health and enhance your creativity. Therefore, it is recommended that you need to take time out from your daily tasks, office responsibilities, hectic schedule and everyday pressures at least once in a year. You don’t have to actually travel a geographic distance— there are plenty of cultural opportunities in our own backyards— sometimes just across town! Plan a tour with an open schedule and let life present you with the numerous opportunities that are waiting for you.

Travel improves social and communication skills, helps you get original and creative thoughts, boosts up your confidence, provides you with a real-life education, enhances your tolerance for uncertainty, and broadens your horizons.

You’ll realize how little you actually knew about the world, you’ll make new friends,  you’ll appreciate your home more, realize your “home” is much more than the place you grew up, and you might even find a new purpose, and create lifelong memories.


4.  Kindness is the supreme intelligence.
Kindness is one thing we all have the ability to share. It’s free, it feels great, and it’s within our control. Yet it asks a lot of us— it requires us to suspend our own selfishness, our primal instinct to survive over another species, it requires discipline, empathy, compassion, and above all, it requires us to suspend our sociological apathy. Thus, it is precisely this sacrifice of our laziness and judgements that proves kindness is the supreme intelligence. When you are kind, and engage with Kindness as a daily practice (like any other kind of practice from yoga to meditation to baseball), you not only feel the world as a more beautiful place, but you are provided with evidence that it is. Kindness breeds kindness in return. So says Jesus, Martin Luther King, The Buddha, Karma and ya know, PHYSICS. So dig a little deeper, suspend your jerk mode, put away your middle finger and be nice. Give it a try. It certainly can’t hurt.

Countless scientific studies, newspaper articles, religious texts, and self-help books have tried to help us become kinder people, but how often do we really put that advice into actual practice? We've all heard popular sayings like, “Do unto others” and “Do not judge another until you have walked a mile in their shoes.” Here are some actionable tips to take these tropes and sentiments, and literally apply them to our daily lives.

- Open your eyes - notice where Kindness is in need!

- Offer help. Once you’ve kept your eyes open for people in need (or even is not especially for people who are just being jerks because they are frustrated) and say “Can I Help You?” It is amazing what can come from interactions like this. (In fact, the other day I guided a lovely blind man from the D to the E train at the labyrinth that is West 4th Street station, and it made MY day!)

- Smile. So easy.

- Walk a mile in their shoes. There are always people who bother us and situations we try to avoid due to our selfishness. What if we had to do their job? Could we be kinder to them in the future?

- Don’t beat yourself up. Self-kindness is, ya know, also  thing.

- Confront yourself. Um...are you a jerk face? Do you have pedestrian or road rage or react rather than respond? If so, and you don’t like the effect this negativity has on your life— deal with it! What ever you need to do from getting a mantra to getting some rage therapy. Commit to Kindness!

- Kill 'em with kindness. As a woman who has recently dealt with some SERIOUS hospital rigamarole: Let. Me. Tell. You. You throw honey at the poor receptionists who are being yelled at all day? They’ll do anything for you. Even though I was frustrated as hell with the situation, I never lost my temper, and I made certain the people helping me felt appreciated when they finally did help me. Ever since I took that little bit of extra energy to make the hospital staff feel seen and appreciated, they gave me the same back in spades.

- Be kind to Auntie Em - Why do we always seem to neglect the people who we are closest to? Select one special person in your life who you might constantly neglect and do something especially kind for them.

- Pay it forward. “Paying” doesn’t necessarily mean financially, but energetically! That said, if you do have a little cash to spare, is just so easy to add an extra dollar to that tip when the service really is great, or to buy a stranger a coffee. But energetically, it is absolutely free to pay it forward with your heart: to take 3 minutes to speak meaningfully with the homeless man who just wants to talk, or to hold a door, help someone with a heavy suitcase on a stairwell, take a photo for a family of tourists (so they whole family can be in it!), or to compliment an outfit to a stranger on the street. I try to consciously do one of these at least once a day. It has changed my life.

Give these a try. I’d love to know how they go.


5.  Ladies always curtsy.
Trevor Nunn taught me that, so it must be true. I recall so vividly the first time we staged the curtain call of The Woman in White, and I instinctively curtsyed, and he shouted “GOOD GIRL!” from the back of the house. Then, explained later, that ladies always curtsy, and that he was pleased to know I was a natural lady.


6.  Nothing stays in Vegas.
Trust. This is coming from a woman who dated a cirque clown. …Trusssst.


Read More:

Adult-ing - Part 1
Adult-ing - Part 2
Adult-ing - Part 3
Adult-ing - Part 4
Adult-ing - Part 5

Yay Adult-ing!




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