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:
     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.


17 November, 2018

Coulda-been-ku 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.

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


Related Posts with Thumbnails