31 December, 2017

from The Once and Future King by T.H. White

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn."
—T.H. White, The Once and Future King

19 December, 2017

"The Impossible Dream"

Last night I performed in a concert version of Man of La Mancha at Merkin Hall in Manhattan for The Transport Group. It was one of the most moving nights of theatre I have ever participated in and among my 'Top Five New York City memories.'

I was fortunate enough to be tasked with Aldonza's big emotional scenes at the finale of the piece but also partnered with longtime friend, the golden-throated Jason Danieley in the "Impossible Dream" scene at the finale of Act 1.

Quixote says:
"Love not what thou art, only what thou may become.
Do not pursue pleasure...
or thou mayest have the misfortune to overtake it.
Look always forward.
In last year's nests...
there are no birds this year.
Be just to all men, courteous to all women.
Live in the vision...
of the one for whom great deeds are done.."

As the scene progressed, it became abundantly clear that Don Quixote's idealism and vision of fighting for a better world was painfully relevant and poignant in a way none of us participants were prepared for. Jason and I came prepared to embody a scene, not knowing we would be embodying a philosophy for our age—lifting the audience to a higher, more hopeful place.

The scene began, and with it, the music.

To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go;
To right the un-rightable wrong.

To love, pure and chaste, from afar,
To try, when your arms are too weary,
To reach the unreachable star!

This is my Quest to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
To fight for the right
Without question or pause,
To be willing to march into hell
For a heavenly cause!

And I know, if I'll only be true
To this glorious Quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest.

And the world will be better for this,
That one man scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable stars.”

Jason singing with his glorious voice, that song, with those lyrics accompanied by a full orchestra, in this moment in history? All with the emotional aid of our friendship and connected “eyeballs”... it was one of the greatest artistic moments of my life thus far.
I will never, in all my life, forget it.

Thank you, dear dear Jason, and Jack Cummings III for giving it to us.

Highlights from the entire spine-chilling evening are captured here:

13 December, 2017

Coulda-been-ku 12


We endured so much.
No one else could have done it.  
I loved you. Im sorry. 

04 December, 2017

Questions from Book Tour - Part 2

I wanted this to be the cover. I... didn't win that one.
1. The novel exposes much of the social change and violence in Russia that the characters experience. Did you feel that you wanted to create a different and perhaps more realistic story for the characters than the more sentimental one that existed in Fiddler On The Roof?

I did absolutely. The tone of the world changed dramatically in 1905 after the first Revolution—and Fiddler on the Roof nods to those changes directly with the program, the inter-marriage of Chava, the presence of Perchik and his ideals, and subsequent imprisonment.

But what Fiddler hints at, but does (and can) not directly display, are the true horrors experienced by individuals across the country during that post-1905 era. These are the brutalities endured particularly by women, children, the elderly, political activists and the religiously displaced. I wanted to add those very real adversities realistically to the plot, to throw light on a profoundly dark era, and in doing so, give our protagonists the dignity they deserve for they have the strength and capacity to endure such horrors.

I receive some strong "criticism" that the book is "dark" or "not like Fiddler—" both of which I don't interpret as criticism at all. Not only because those points are both accurate, but moreover, I am extremely proud of them!

Everything changed in 1905. The world became a harsher place. By hiding those truths, by brushing them under the rug, avoiding the horrors entirely and treating them like mere historical 'unpleasantness,' I rob Hodel, Perchik (and the millions of human beings they represent) of their strength and capacity to endure. Historical fiction is fiction, yes, but it is also historical. A history that was real, and thus must be accurate because the authors are choosing to set their tale truthfully in a time and place different from our own and it is important that we tell the truth. Details matter. Truth matters.

2. When did you start writing After Anatevka and did the writing process affect how you approached your role in the play?

I began writing the book about a year after I completed playing Hodel so it did not have an impact on her portrayal. However it did have a great impact on my portrayal of Tzeitel on Broadway, and subsequently, I utilized that knowledge and put it back into the manuscript before finally submitting it. It truly was stage to page, page to stage, and back again.

3. If you were writing/editing during the New York production, how did your role as Tzeitel affect your writing of hat is basically Hodel's story?

I realized that I had judged Tzeitel! Not unlike the way siblings judge one another growing up and come to understand the complexities more finely as they grow up.

One of the things so fascinating about being a human being is that we can all experience the exact same upbringing, parental guidance (or sadly, sometimes, lack thereof) the same birthday parties, high schools, teachers, elections, vacations… the list goes on. We can have identical experiences, and yet, interpret those experiences totally differently for a myriad of reasons. It’s one of the great joys of growing up— reconciling those differences and hopefully making sense as well as peace.

I suppose that is exactly what happened between Hodel and Tzeitel for me, the only difference was the experience occurred at the same geographical address. The result is a real dialogue between my older and younger “selves” and I believe one of the strongest parts of the narrative.

4. What is a fun fact people might not know about you?

I’m an introvert. In fact, according to the Myers Briggs personality test, I’m a super-introverted  INFJ (which is a very rare personality type, about 2% of the world’s population).

Many—if not most—people challenge me on this, based on their misimpressions of not only me but introverts in general. They meet me for 5 minutes and perceive me as "gregarious" or "friendly—" both of which I am the majority of the time. But those qualities are not antithetical to introversion. Introverts are not necessarily aloof, shy, people-hating trolls, we simply recharge our personal batteries in solitude.

Some unsolicited advice? If a person shares with you that they are an introvert, never say “But you’re so friendly” or “but you’re not shy” or, the worst of all: “No you’re not!” Comments like these are degrading to Introverts (who are not necessarily aloof, shy, socially anxious or rude). The final statement especially attacks the person’s sense of self, and knowledge of self. All of these comments are presumptuous and abrasive.

If you are surprised to learn that a person declares themselves to be an introvert, it is perfectly appropriate to respond with “Oh really? I find that very surprising, please tell me more,” but to deny what an Introvert is, or worse, that a person does not fully know themselves is rude at best, particularly if the individual prides themselves on their self-awareness. It is wise to assume that you are not the expert on anyone but your self. Ask questions before making any statements.

Despite my highly developed extrovert behavior, I still require (and enjoy!) lots of time alone to process life, abhor small talk, love to socialize in small groups, treasure my closest friends, and enjoy quiet, solo activities above all others. These all indicate that I am a powerfully introverted person— it does not mean that I don’t have highly developed extrovert behavior! But that behavior is energetically “expensive,” and I must always recharge from it.

5. It is highly unusual for someone to both act as a popular character (Hodel) and then to create a novel. Are you hoping to continue as a writer by creating more novels or do you prefer to continue more of your career in acting and singing?

I do not 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 be extraordinary creative pleasure—We only get one life. Why limit oneself? 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.

An example: Motherhood is an expansion of Womanhood, not the definition of it. So too is becoming a professional writer an expansion of my artistic identity. It is an expansion of my artistry, not the definition of it.

Society often associates “success” with a very vertical trajectory of accumulated rewards. “More." More things, more wealth, more possessions, more accomplishments, Broadway shows, fame, followers, etc. But I desire a wider trajectory of “more." More experiences, more connections, more skills, more cultures, knowledge, satisfied curiosities, and, I suppose, more careers. I’ve said it before, but success is not about what you do, it is about how you feel about what you do, and I feel my best when I am contributing to the world, and connected to a sense of attempting to fulfill my maximum possible potential for one lifetime.

When I am done with this life, I want to feel like I wrung every last drop out of life's washcloth.


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