Who understands this kid

My toddler has a motor speech delay. He’s been working with an amazing speech therapist for about four months now. My guess is that we’ll continue to make that weekly appointment for at least another year. Unless we need to step it up to twice a week which we might need to do. We don’t know yet.

These kind of speech delays are difficult to diagnose in little kids, and they can manifest differently for each individual child. Don’t Google motor speech delay (I did, and it was a mistake). A motor speech delay for my toddler means that he has a very hard time forming syllables that other kids seem to naturally voice. He has to look at my mouth when he’s trying to imitate me, and then he has to concentrate really hard to make his mouth do what his brain is telling him. It’s hard work. His vocal substitutions aren’t the usual ones that kids make and don’t make a lot of logical sense. He uses one ‘word’ to signify almost all other words regardless of what they sound like (‘da-da’ means ketchup, waffles, firetruck, and turkey). We are working to give him new and consistent motor maps for his mouth. His therapist gives him physical cues to make sounds, like touching his nose for the nasal n sound. He doesn’t seem to have any other challenges that delayed speech often signifies. He’s making improvements, but it’s slow going and no matter how fun we try to make it, it’s not super fun for any of us. One day this will be behind us.

Please note: This is not the time to tell me that your cousin’s neighbor’s roommate had a kid who didn’t say a word until he was three and he turned out ok, and don’t tell me about Einstein, and don’t tell me about how boys develop more slowly than girls and how he’ll talk when he’s ready. I appreciate so much that your words are coming from a place of love and reassurance, but 47 other people have already told me that. And it sounds sweet but…dismissive and like I shouldn’t be worried about something that I am worried about and like I don’t know my own kid.

I know he will learn to talk. I am certain of it. It’s just going to be more work than we thought. In the scheme of things this is a itty-bitty, teeny-tiny deal — I know parents and children who have lives full of appointments on top of appointments and daily therapies, and THEY ARE MY HEROES because just this one appointment each week in addition to the accompanying stress and all the other commitments that we have is about all I can manage. Maybe that says a lot about what I can manage. And what my priorities are. Sigh.

Here’s something embarrassing: when we’re out at the playground and other parents ask me how old my toddler is, I think about lying. He’s 25 months, but I want to say that he’s much younger. His gross motor skills are tops, so he seems older until he opens his mouth and a stream of incomprehensible sounds come out. Other kids his age are putting together sentences and saying “dinosaur”. At his age, my daughter was singing songs with lyrics. “He just turned two,” I say, “He doesn’t have a lot of words.”

I’m an introvert. I like quiet. But my work-life has been almost exclusively about talking. I’m an actor and a director; I have a podcast; in my long-ago life, I spoke with college-students about career counseling, and individuals about journaling, and I’ve led workshops for hundreds of people. Even the writing that I’ve done has been with oral speech in mind — as a playwright writing for performance or a poet writing to be read aloud. How can I have a kid who can’t speak and be understood?

After blaming my old eggs and ancient uterus (see: Advanced Maternal Age) and wondering if I’ve been too lax with this second-and-final child (maybe I should have pushed him more, talked to him more, given him more attention and vegetables), I’ve settled on “SCREW IT!” (well, a more profane version). Screw it, who cares why. Screw it, this is small potatoes. Screw it, we can handle this. Screw it, this is what we’ve got. This is who we got — a really wonderful wouldn’t-trade-him-for-anything  sweet little stinker — and this is what we’re dealing with. And aren’t we lucky? We really are. Honest to God, he’s about as cute as can be.

Communicating with my toddler is a full body experience. He acts out what he’s trying to say with his body, so most conversations are like playing charades with a two-year old. He uses sign language, facial expression, pitch and tone to convey what he means. Often, he’ll take my hand (or anyone’s hand!) and physically move us to see what he wants to ‘talk’ about. And when he finally loses his patience after I can’t understand him over and over and over, he screams at the top of his lungs in frustration….and gets over it. He moves onto something else.

Obviously, this blog post is me screaming….and getting over it and moving on to something else.

Of all the people in my toddler’s world, I am the one who understands him the best. That is special. I’m grateful for it. I spend the most time with him, but I also listen to him the hardest… the most carefully. So  yesterday when he finally said ‘boo’ for blue, instead of ‘bow’ and instead of ‘da-da’ and instead of ‘uhhhh’ — I HEAR it. I hear him, and we both rejoice. ‘Boo’ is on the right track to blue.

It’s the little victories, right? Boo never sounded so good.

 

The launch

When I uploaded the first episode of Artist Soapbox on September 1, I didn’t know what to expect. Now, five weeks later, the podcast has built increasing momentum and has the potential to soar. With minimal advertising (some Facebook posting), Artist Soapbox already has 200 unique listeners which has translated to hundreds of downloaded episodes. I believe that number will climb with every new episode.

Up to this point, I have personally funded Artist Soapbox, which places a limit on whether this project can expand and even continue beyond the next few months. As a result, today I’m launching a campaign to support the Artist Soapbox via a Patreon page. (www.patreon.com/artistsoapbox) Supporters have the opportunity to become Soapboxers — official patrons of the podcast — and receive extra podcasty-related stuff. Visit the Patreon page to see a video of me talking about it, information about the rewards, and other compelling reasons to support this work.

I’m asking you to be a helper. If you are a reader of this blog, a listener of the podcast, or a friend of mine, would you please do these things to help?

  • Give: Contribute $1-$100 (!!!) per month via the Patreon page. The financial support will be put to good use, and most importantly, a higher number of patrons will encourage others to contribute. And you’ll get stuff too.
  • Share: Share widely and enthusiastically via all social media outlets, email, word of mouth, and any other way. It makes a huge difference for support to come from many sources.
  • Listen: Listen to the Artist Soapbox podcast episodes. Give me feedback so I can make each next one better and make your listening experience the most worthwhile it can be.

Thank you so much for your support.

Questions, concerns, encouragement? Email me at tamara_kissane@yahoo.com or artistsoapbox@gmail.com.

fireworks-public-domain-image

 

Teeth extraction, boot-strapping, social media-mania and other announcements

Announcements like bursts of confetti for you.

#1: [Not exactly an announcement — I just need tooth-courage STAT.] I gotta get my wisdom teeth removed in October, and I’m scared of the sedation. Cuz I like to control when I go unconscious, and I don’t like to wake up bloody. I’m not alone in that, right?

#2: There’s a Facebook page for Artist Soapbox podcast. It’s new. I’m telling you, I am soooo technically challenged. This podcast and it’s ancillary marketing needs have required me to jump in with both feet while holding my nose. Thrilling and terrifying. I’m cool with ‘just trying things to see what happens’ but these last few weeks have pushed me to my limit. I’m sure trying a lot of things — hope they work. Who’s a big imposter with Imposter Syndrome? Uhh….not me….? Would you like my page ….and stuff?

#3: Episode 003 of Artist Soapbox is up! John Jimerson is a wonderful conversation partner. (He even read me a story from the Velveteen Rabbit!) We went deep on a range of topics and had some goofy laughs too. Give it a listen and let me know what you think. Keep a lookout on the Facebook page and on the Artist Soapbox website to learn about new podcast episodes as soon as they are posted — I have lots of awesome interviews already scheduled thru the fall!

#4: On October 8, I’ll be launching a Patreon campaign for the Artist Soapbox podcast. I believe Artist Soapbox can add real value to our conversations with/around/in support of artists in the Triangle and help promote a thriving community. Right now I’m boot-strapping the heck out of this podcast, but I need support to take it to the next level. I’ve put together a bare bones preview site on Patreon, and I’d deeply appreciate feedback from you. I would be grateful if you’d take a look and share your thoughts about things like:

Do I really need to make a video to motivate people? Is the ‘about’ text confusing and not specific enough? Am I presenting this in a way that highlights its value? Are the rewards sufficient or would you like something else?

What would you like?

Better graphics? A different message?

Will anyone give a crap about this and if not, how can I make them? What else?

I’ve clearly buried the lead at the bottom of this post because I’m nervous about the Patreon campaign. I have big plans for this podcast and lots to share with our community. If you’ve read this far into the post, then I’m guessing that you and I are already partners in our desire to support local artists and (new!) podcasters. So thanks for ‘Getting on the Soapbox’ even before this campaign is launched! Love.

**If you don’t know what Patreon is, then this page will help.

Previous posts about the Artist Soapbox podcast:

Post #1

Post #2

 

Going solo: a bumpy ride

Welcome to my learning curve!

Ten days ago, I launched my first ever interview podcast via the Artist Soapbox. Today, I published my first solo podcast! WOOT. In the solo episode, I discuss three ways to support a creative process (based on my conversation with Mara Thomas in Episode 001) and I answer FAQs about Artist Soapbox. The episode clocks in at a lean 16 minutes and is clean for kids’ ears.

I’m reasonably happy with it, particularly since it’s my first effort. And I’m pleased by how far I’ve gone outside my comfort zone in putting this podcast together. However, to balance that happy pat-on-the-back, I’m including a ridiculous list of maybe-you-can-learn-from-my-mistakes. Because this sixteen minute podcast took me SIX hours to record and edit. Yep. And that doesn’t include time spent figuring out how to publish it online and write any accompanying text (like this blog post).

Now, I don’t have that much time to invest in something I’m only “reasonably happy with,” so I’ve been reflecting on what ate up so many hours. Answer = lack of adequate preparation and being a novice. Perhaps you can learn from these….

TIME SUCKS AND INEFFICIENCIES:

*I’m learning to edit using Garage Band on my Mac computer and it’s pretty straightforward….as long as you know what you’re doing. I would not recommend the learn-as-you-go approach that I took with Garage Band. If I could go back in time, I’d learn GB ahead of time and save myself a lot of frustrating moments, like when I deleted tracks accidentally, and recorded over sections that I liked, and messed things up in ways that I’m still unclear about. GB and I need to get up close and personal before the next podcasting.

*I also bought a really cool new microphone to use at home called the Blue Yeti. It’s an awesome plug-and-play mic and I feel all official using it. It also requires experimenting and refining which I didn’t do enough of ahead of time. When you listen to my solo in Episode 002, you’ll hear some of that experimenting happening during the episode which is not the best time to be fiddling around. I recorded in the kitchen during the day while my toddler napped and then went to my bedroom in the evening when the kids went to bed and then moved back down to the kitchen when my spouse went to sleep. Duh, the audio quality is different in my echo-y kitchen with glass table top compared to my bedroom where I was talking into a corner stuffed with pillows. You can hear the difference. Again, duh. Note: bedroom with pillow-corner was superior in audio-quality, but not as comfortable for me. Next time I’ll record in the same room during the entire process and keep a consistent distance from the microphone. Seriously, Tamara, pay attention to how far your face is from the microphone!

*You know what helps when you sit down to record a podcast? AN OUTLINE. And sometimes it helps even more to type out exactly word for word what to say. I know I have experience talking in front of groups, leading workshops, improvising, coaching folks and just enjoying a friendly one-on-one chat. I also have a lot to say about creativity and art-making and theatre and community and all the topics that Artist Soapbox will inevitably cover. However, I’m not sure why I was sooooooo positive that if I just thought about what I wanted to say beforehand, then I would open my mouth and the words would pour out fluidly and coherently. That did not happen. I wasted a lot of time doing re-takes until I finally sat down like an adult and made a darn outline with some key words and phrases. Right. I also practiced what I was going to say a few times because that HELPS. I swear, it was like Amateur Hour around here. In my defense, it was 1:00 am when I finished, and I’m usually only awake at that time if I’m giving birth….so it’s rare and I’m not at my best in the wee hours.

**

Some of the podcast-y issues that cropped up were due to the fact that I’m a newbie, and some were issues that I should have anticipated and prepared for. Also, I’m not skilled enough with the editing software yet (see above) to fix my mistakes, so I must get everything right from the start.

Moving forward, I have a combination of recordings scheduled at Shadowbox Studio (with people who know what the hell they are doing) and at home (with a person who will eventually know what the hell she is doing). A home studio is really useful for odd-hours, solo recordings and managing schedule-craziness or conflicts.

The next several episodes will be interview style, and I’ll welcome the conversation with another person in the room. I originally thought my solo Episode 002 would be twenty minutes or longer, but I topped out at sixteen minutes and that felt like plenty for a first-go.

I hope you’ll keep listening. I hope you’ll learn from my mistakes and laugh along with me as I keep moving forward. I’m really excited about this new platform and having lots of fun with it. There’s much to learn about the art and science of podcasting, so I’m gonna keep plugging away.

I podcasted, and I liked it.

 

ARTIST SOAPBOX has been launched! Wheeee!

BIG NEW THING: I recorded a podcast, and I’m so excited that I couldn’t wait to share it. Seriously, I am SO excited. It took me an embarrassing number of hours to edit and put the first darn thing online, but I did it. It ain’t perfect, but that’s on me and my learning curve. More to come, more to come, more to come.

Me=tired. Good enough=Just fine

There’s still much to do with getting artwork, listing on iTunes, fixing the website, etc. but the link is online and it seems to work and it’s live. Anyhow, I’m getting there. I’m feeling grateful that there are so many incredible artists to converse with, and I can’t wait to do more. Special thanks to Greg Myer, Mara Thomas, and Jim Haverkamp for helping me launch.

Feel free to share if you’d like or just listen. There’s some good swearing, so it’s not for the kids.

EPISODE 001: Mara Thomas says Yes to Nothing

***

ALSO:

So I didn’t:

I haven’t written Mother of the Year yet. And I still have some other projects that I didn’t wrap up. I’ll just say, almost everything is still pending.

So I did:

I did write another play in the meantime.

Onwards!

Project: Mother of the Year

If you live in the Triangle Area of North Carolina and you identify yourself as a mother, then I have a request for you.

I’m gathering creative fodder for a new project, and I’d love to have your contributions. This project, tentatively titled MOTHER OF THE YEAR, has no shape or performance date, or anything at all specific. Like most artistic endeavors, it’s a creative trust exercise in the spirit of “let’s see what happens”!

Below, you’ll see the details (such as they are) as well as the caveats. If you’re game, send me something by the deadline. If this isn’t your cup of tea or you don’t have the brain-space at the moment, then that’s totally cool too.

DETAILS:

I’m looking for writing in any style and of any length based on your own experience. As much or as little as you’d like to send.

The focus: Your experience of being a mother right now. What are you going through/involved in/wrestling with/enjoying/struggling against/embracing/striving for/questioning/etc right now? What’s top of mind? What’s in your heart?

It could be profound or trivial. Focused broadly or minutely, globally or locally, politically or artistically or domestically, or personally or publicly or bodily or spiritually. Light, heavy, serious, comedic….of any emotional tone. It could be a poem, a conversation, a song, a speech, a monologue, a jingle, a list, a letter, a sentence, a stand up routine, a paragraph, a journal entry —whatever— pour your experience into a document and send it.

Deadline: Wednesday, Feb. 1. I’m setting this first deadline to assess interest. If I get zero contributions, then I’ll reassess the project and take a different tack. If I get a pile of emails, then I’ll rejoice, set a course for development and probably put a call out for more text!

Feel free to share with people in the Triangle Area (NC) who identify as mothers. For now, I’m limiting the geographic area to our smallish corner of the world.

CAVEATS:

I don’t know what I’m going to do with the writing that I receive. It could be broken up, combined, or used solely as inspiration. Your writing could be completely unrecognizable to you in the finished piece or it might be used word for word. If you send me something, please release it with the understanding that you are giving it away to be used TBD.

Everything that you send to me will be anonymous. If the project goes public, then your name will be listed as a contributor (unless you don’t want that), but no one will know what text is ‘yours’.

WHY AM I INITIATING THIS?

This project won’t let me go, so I’m giving into it. I don’t know what it will be or if it will be, but I hear the call to use the actual words of those who mother as the foundation and springboard for a piece of art. An exploration of contemporary motherhood, as told through local voices….perhaps….?

AND FINALLY

If you are like me, sometimes you need a ‘reason’ to write — I’m hoping that this will be a good reason for you, and an opportunity to voice some of the mothering-related thoughts that you’re carrying around in your heart and your head. Send me questions if you have them. No pressure. No judgment. Love. Love. Love.

With deep appreciation for all you do…

And Happy New Year and hugs,

Tamara

tamara_kissane@yahoo.com

A mom who…

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Gratuitous photo of darling baby toes. Taken by his big sister.

There are a lot of gifts that accompany a show opening. Everything has come together and is soaring. It’s a celebratory time. The New Colossus has opened! The cast, the direction, the design, the stage management are all amazing. Hurrah!

For me, one of the gifts of TNC‘s opening weekend, is a more personal one. And I feel a little embarrassed admitting it. The opening of the play has given me the opportunity to talk about more than just my kids. It’s strange, but that’s a real gift for me. Like, I’ve got other things going on that make me a multi-dimensional person and that feels really nice.

I’m so much a MOM these days. I’m MOM-ing constantly and vigorously. Leading up to the opening of TNC, I was on antibiotics for mastitis (Again. Sigh.) Most nights, I was pulling ice packs out of my bra before entering rehearsal. And my usually chilled out baby had major sleep issues. He. Would. Not. Stay. Asleep. Argh. So I was even more sleep-deprived than usual. At the end of rehearsal (and now, after the show), I rushed home to get friendly with my breast pump. No one wants engorgement, nope. Then there’s the end of school year chaos and piano lessons, swim lessons, etc. etc. Anyway, you get the picture. I felt my MOM-ness very much, even though I had sweet pockets of time when I was in rehearsal and felt my creative-self assert herself, and my mom-self take a little rest. My mom-self needs a rest sometimes, you know?

Please don’t get me wrong, I am crazy-grateful for my family. I love my kids, and I love to talk about them. Go ahead, ask me, you won’t be twisting my arm. It’s easy and often necessary at this time in their lives to make them my everything. It’s very special to witness the growth of such wonderful spirits.  So, I’m in love with my life, but there’s not much space for me in it right now. I’m MOM before anything else. I’m a “A mom who….” — A mom who writes, A mom who works, A mom who acts, A mom who makes theatre, A mom who is always mom-ing.

But now! But now, the show is out there in the wider world and people are coming to see it and wonderfully, amazingly, they are talking about it. And this past weekend, for a few days anyway, I really felt like a writer first, an artist, “A writer who moms….” And it was cool to have that experience, and I’m grateful for it too. Honestly, I think it was a damn f-ing miracle that I was able to write TNC while I was pregnant and then continue to work on it with an infant. I’m really, really hoping for another miracle as I start work on the next project too. (Writing with a toddler and an 8-year old — hold onto your hats!) Since I don’t know if I’ll get that next miracle, I’m enjoying the ever-loving sh!t out of this one. I really am. I don’t feel my usual murky mix of anxiety and awkwardness about my art. I just feel grateful and present and happy.

Please come see The New Colossus if you can. I’d like to talk with you about it. After that, I’ll tell you a funny story about my kids. Hee.

*Speaking of children, this Thursday, May 26, is Red Nose Day for TNC. Come support this worthy cause and get yourself a ticket discount. If you attend wearing a red nose, pay just $6 (half-off regular price). Good for door sales only the night of the show. Read more about Red Nose Day.

**This post is the third in a short series of posts about TNC. Here’s the first one. Here’s the second one.

 

 

On the brink of taking flight

TNCThis is the second of a short series of posts about my upcoming play, The New Colossus. (Here’s the first.) In the spirit of gratitude and reflection,  I’m considering some of what it took to stage this sucker (from a playwright’s perspective). We open this week!

Generally, plays require an enormous amount of collaborative and collective work to put up — way more than you would guess unless you do it on a regular basis. As a world premiere, The New Colossus required an even larger than usual dollop of investment, commitment, and risk-taking from everyone involved. It’s a brand new beast.

The New Colossus (TNC) would not be opening this week without a theatre company willing to take the risk to cultivate the script over the last two years, then put in the time/money/energy to mount a production. Thank you, Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern. Thank you, Manbites Dog Theater, for access to the venue and support thru the Other Voices Series.

It often requires years of preparation to bring a new play to the stage. This was the case for TNC. Research, several drafts, then readings, rounds of feedback, and more drafts, and then more drafts after that. It’s a long-game approach. It was a gift to have a producing company, like Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern, that invested in TNC before we even entered the rehearsal room.

Even a script based on a beloved classic, like this one, is still untested. It’s untried and probably still a little unfinished. By the time most plays really pick up steam geographically, they’ve been workshopped and produced multiple times, so the first production is really the infant phase for a new play. And you know it takes a village to raise a child….

Dana Marks, the director of TNC, has been a superb detective, problem-solver and imagineer — reading the text closely, discovering moments I didn’t know were there, conducting the pacing, arc and emotional tone of the production, as well as folding in all the crazy technical elements written into the script. (Yikes, videos and live feed!) Dana, Jenn Evans and Erin Bell, our stage managers, and the cast have been upbeat, flexible and supportive as I made numerous script edits throughout the rehearsal process. We’ve been able to collaborate and brainstorm solutions for moments that didn’t quite work once we got the script “on its feet.” Bless the amazing cast who jumped in enthusiastically, and tried to make even the most awkward lines work.  They breathed life and dimension into their characters in surprising and wonderful ways. Together with the stellar designers, all of these folks created a world that I never anticipated.

And of course, in order for TNC to happen, I needed lots of support from my friends and family (hi, honey!) — from the people who read and discussed drafts with me, and the people who’ve worked with me in the past. Kevin Ewert and Jaybird O’Berski were crucial readers and script advisors. My friend, Cheryl Chamblee, and I wrote and produced a dozen plays together in the last 20 years; without those experience with her, I wouldn’t have been able to bring this play to life. Same thing goes for my work with Rachel Klem in Summer Sisters, and lots of other experiences with folks who have built new work in the theatre.

As a theatre-maker, new works are my jam. I love creating them. I love experiencing them. Happily, this community is rich with theatre companies who are commissioning and growing new work. Support them! Love them! They are laboring hard against the odds to bring you new art.  Here are a few examples: Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern, StreetSigns, Archipelago, Common Wealth Endeavors, The Performance Collective, DIDA, Haymaker, Manbites Dog Theater, Duke University Theater Studies,  The ArtsCenter Carrboro, Paperhand Puppet Intervention, Common Ground Theatre, and more.

As an audience member, I’m thrilled by world premieres. Watching a never-seen-before-play is a special treat. It’s a secret discovery that no one else has access to yet. It’s opening up a surprise package. It’s watching theatre being born. I hope you feel that way too.

The New Colossus runs for three weekends. It’s about 90 minutes with no intermission. Rated R, so not for the kids. Get your tickets.

 

 

 

What’s the deal with the seagull?

PrintThis is the first of a few posts that I’m writing about my upcoming play, The New Colossus. Opening on May 19th!

A tiny bit about The Seagull:

Anton Chekhov wrote The Seagull in 1895, and it was performed a year later in Petersburg. In 1909, the play was translated from Russian to English. During the past 100+ years, there have been dozens of additional translations and adaptations, and countless productions of The Seagull. It’s one of those plays that continues to capture people’s imaginations. Wikipedia can tell you more.

I first read The Seagull in college (eep, 20 years ago!), and I remember thinking that it was an amazing but odd little play where not much happened. Mostly, people sat around and talked about….I don’t know….life…whatever….? And I totally didn’t get the whacky obsession with the dead seagull (Weird metaphor alert!). At that point in my theatre-making life, I was most excited by Shakespeare’s style of overthrowing kings and brandishing swords and epic drama and chest-pounding. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still into that, but these days I really dig the subtle dramas of everyday life and the undercurrent of emotion that bubbles below the surface of our interactions. Our days are thick with feelings, dreams, aspirations, and disappointments. Maybe those interest me most because that’s what I have in my life right now. Not much epic drama or brandishing swords, thank goodness.

SparkNotes describes Chekhov’s writing this way:

His plays marked a new movement in the theatre with their use of subtext, intimacy, colloquialisms and realism. His comedy-tragedies were unlike any plays that audiences had seen before because they made drama out of everyday circumstances, such as love and longing, instead of portraying the grand gestures of heroes and heroines of earlier plays.

Two years ago, I was re-introduced to The Seagull in a Chekhov class taught by Jaybird O’Berski. The play blew my socks off. The themes and conversations felt remarkably fresh and contemporary. The characters were damn deep. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I read different translations and adaptations and various essays and reviews. Then I got the zany idea to write a new play inspired by Chekhov’s Seagull. It’s an homage, really, because I’m so fond of the original.*

I wrote an adaptation with the help and support from a whole lot of people. (More on that in another post.) Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern, of which I am a longtime ensemble member, was kind enough to produce it. In less than two weeks, The New Colossus, produced by Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern, will open at Manbites Dog Theatre in downtown Durham. I’m weak with excitement and gratitude.

This is the teaser description:

A family of frustrated, attention-starved artists flocks to the seashore. One of them has a gun…what could possibly go wrong? A darkly comic reboot of Chekhov’s classic, this rollicking tale examines the pitfalls of making art and making love in modern day America.

Hopefully, people who don’t know The Seagull will enjoy The New Colossus as a stand alone play and be inspired to read the original. Hopefully, longtime Chekhov fans will enjoy the ways we’ve reimagined this work.  The basic story elements remain — they are the reasons I fell in love with the play in the first place. However, I did make some noteworthy changes. Some examples: one character never comes on-stage, two characters merged into one, the scene order is different, music and dance and video are more pervasive, and there are several new and transformed scenes. In particular, I added two new scenes so the female characters can talk to one another. (Those interactions were missing from the original and I was curious to consider them.) Most surprising to me, setting the play in 2016 had the biggest ripple effect on the entire project. It seemed pretty straightforward at first — just dress the characters in modern day clothing and sprinkle in some modern words! — but the ways in which we interact with art, fame, community, family, technology, health, and success seem different than they were for Chekhov’s Russian characters in 1895. The tools are different. The love and the longing are still there, but we manage them differently today, I think.

I’ll be curious to hear what you think.

And there’s still the dead seagull. What’s up with that?

THE NEW COLOSSUS opens May 19 and plays for 3 weekends in Durham, NC. Get some tickets.

*Regarding the use of the word ‘original’: I didn’t read The Seagull as it was first written in Russian. I’m sure that limits my understanding of the play in some important ways.

Spring time update

animated-10Seven months ago, I had a(nother) baby. So, I’m a mother of two now. Mind boggling.

Since I haven’t posted in a year, I thought I’d take a quick minute to post an update while the baby naps and before I pick up the seven year old from school.

Parenting, yes. My sweet spouse and I are doing a lot of parenting. A lot. And that is very challenging and very joyful. Even more so with each passing day.

Art-making, not as much. In the first 180 days of the baby’s life, I went out by myself TWICE at night and then raced home before the baby woke up to eat. Breast-feeding is tough, man. It’s cool, but it’s tough. However, in the last three weeks I was able to attend a few plays and even a few rehearsals, and I started writing again, and now the birds are singing and I feel more like myself.

Is my art compromised by my children? Yes, in many, many ways. Is my art made richer as well? I hope so. I think so. I guess we will see. I certainly appreciate any opportunities that I have to make art now — way more than I did before having kids. I work faster and smarter and with a better attitude. Going to rehearsal or having 15 minutes to write is like the best hot fudge sundae ever. It’s like pure oxygen.

So, it’s spring. I’m happy.

  • My family is thriving. I am so glad. I’m so grateful. No, the baby isn’t sleeping thru the night and the seven year old gets sassy sometimes, but on-balance, they are delightful. My husband is a cool dude.
  • I’m in the midst of a few playwriting projects. In some cases, that means actually writing for a few minutes here and there, and in some cases, I’m just thinking about my projects while driving in the car or feeding the baby or falling asleep at night. I’ll just trust that art is cumulative and that each moment spent creating will eventually add up to a meaningful whole. In the last week I’ve even written a few coherent and creative thoughts down. And I’m feeling inspired. Actually inspired to write more!
  • Most importantly, A play that I WROTE is going to open on May 19th (more on that soon). Thrilling!

The baby is awake and it’s time to go.  That’s the scoop. I’ll be posting more soon. Sending you all the best on this day and all the days that follow.