Saying goodbye to RICHIE

On Saturday night, we concluded our nine performance run of RICHIE. Now, I am launched into catch-up mode. Catching up on sleep, on cleaning, on emails and phone calls and appointments and Candy-Land and cooking, catching up on the life that resided outside of the theatre bubble that I rolled around in for six high-speed weeks.

I feel relieved. Now I have my evenings back and I can sleep – oh, a blessed bedtime of 9:30 pm! Now I can pay more attention to my child and my husband and my family and friends. Now I have more space in my life for so many things – because in my experience at least, theatre takes up a lot of space. When I’m involved in a show, even when I’m not physically there, I’m mentally there. I am a person divided until the show closes. Well, actually I’m always divided; it’s just more obvious when I’m in rehearsal.

I’m really sad to say good-bye to RICHIE and all the trappings associated with that production.  There’s a mourning period at the end of every show for me – a sense of loss and disorientation as I transition back to “real life” and to all of the many tasks and people who were banished to the back-burner during weeks of rehearsal and performance. So I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m a little teary-eyed as I type on a Sunday afternoon – we did have our final performance last night followed quickly (by me) with a grilled cheese sandwich, two gin and tonics, a few hours of frenzied dancing with castmates and five hours of sleep. That’s a recipe to get my tear-factory started!

Yeah, I’m not surprised that I’m having a hard time saying good-bye to RICHIE. This show was just what I needed at this time in my life, arriving when I was open to learning some things that I’ve needed to learn for awhile now. And it was fun. Really, really fun.

Look, it’s awesome to be on-stage. It just is. It’s an honor to walk into an amazing story as another human being, onto a stage where people pay to see you perform (You can see me! I exist!), and applaud when you finish – it’s fantastic. It’s a gift. Bathing in all those chemicals that rush around your body and brain when you are on a tightrope of anxiety and exhilaration, plus the deep and focused concentration that it takes to sustain a performance over two hours, plus the feeling of accomplishment that comes after you’ve worked so hard alongside other people of like-minds and hearts – the combination is seductive, it’s addictive, it’s being seen, it’s incredible. It’s exhausting, but whew, what a rush!

Not to mention that I was lucky enough to play a character with her own freaking fan club. How sad am I to give that up? Really sad. Here’s a recommendation – if you can, play a character who assumes power over the course of the story surrounded by a group of women who chant her name and do her bidding. Do this because you will feel really super unusually cool. No matter how much you remind yourself about the difference between real-life and pretend, some of those feelings of bad-ass coolness will bleed over and you will feel more powerful and more affirmed and more alive than usual. Give this gift to yourself with the understanding that you will be bummed when it’s over and that you will feel slightly ridiculous when you return to reality. Actually, we should all be each others’ fan club in real life. Let’s just do that for each other, ok? Wouldn’t that be great?

People seemed to like RICHIE. Performances sold out. The audience was packed. That’s all great stuff, but I don’t have the perspective to know what RICHIE was like for audience members. I don’t have enough distance at this point to know if it was ‘good’ or powerful or entertaining or if I was any of those things. We can’t ever really know that across the board since so much depends on each individual’s experience and expectations and point of view. I sure think it was good (what a silly word to apply). I’m very proud of our work. This show, an all female adaptation of Richard II, a pub-crawl thru Durham, a Paris Hilton/Britney Spears/Lindsay Lohan homage, got a lot of attention and that was fantastic. It’s a lot more fun when your show gets good reviews and people say good things and you get a lot of attention in the press, but for me as an actor, that’s the icing, not the cake. (Side note: For producers and theatre-company-directors, reviews/word of mouth/press are more than just icing since those things can have an impact on the financial health and viability of the company. Just a reminder that if you love a show, spread the word, share the love and encourage people to see it.).

As an actor on this show, my ‘cake’ was the experience of being inside the process and the world and the show of RICHIE.  That’s what I’m sad to give up. In the world that we created, I felt able to push the boundaries of my experience of being a woman, well, a human, really. I don’t know if others in the cast had this experience…gosh, I’m having a hard time articulating this….but I felt, more than ever before, the freedom and ability to be simultaneously beautiful and ugly, girlish and wise, aggressive and fierce and profane and vulnerable, sexy and powerful, muscular and lyrical, charming and dangerous and silly and funny, superficial and deep deep deep WOMAN. This is big for me. This open-source complexity is something I believe in, but have never fully owned.  In the world of this play, serious gorgeous Shakespearean verse could co-exist with four-letter-words as tools wielded by women doing business and living life. It was warrior and princess, madonna and whore, a mash-up of masculine/feminine without compartmentalizing or categorizing. I don’t know if this was due to the absence of male characters or the overwhelming presence of female characters (19 of us), but there was some heady female alchemy present.

So, in my mind, my character chose her costume because she liked it (short-shorts, tummy-showing blouse, a wig, false eyelashes, knee-high boots, a metric ton of red lipstick) and not because some dude might think it was hot. There were no dudes in the world of RICHIE. And no offense, Dudes, but it was nice to have some play-time in a land without you for a little while.  It was fierce female power on-stage (how liberating!). And off-stage, the women (and the few fab guys too) were generous professionals who brought their ‘A games’ and were all bent on telling a kick-ass story.

That’s what I will miss –what I always miss —  the people and the joyful community of theatre-makers that form like an extended flash-mob before disappearing again. They’ve become my friends, and I will miss seeing them regularly. I will also miss the deep and physical witness of powerful women (even deeply flawed fictional women) who were in charge of life and death without second-guessing their right to do so. It’s hard to know when we will see another cast of 19 women on-stage together. I’m so lucky to have been a part of that.

I will miss living the language of the Bard. I haven’t felt so invincible since I was a senior in college acting in Measure for Measure. Something about speaking Shakespeare’s language…the words offer electric insight into the power and complexity of the human experience. It’s like drinking from a fire hose — in a good way. William Shakespeare, I salute you.

We know that the beauty of theatre is the impermanence of the art-form. It’s also part of the gig — projects blossom and end, then the next one comes along. Next Thursday, when I’m sitting on my butt on my couch at 8 p.m. with a plate of nachos, relaxing with a doofy action movie, I will be happy to be there. I will be holding my hubbie’s hand (when I’m not shoveling nachos) and I will be grateful to be at home in my cozy house. I will be excited about my next creative project. I won’t be thinking so much about RICHIE. But right now, frankly, I’m damn sad to say good-bye.

Click on it

My child has been playing a lot of (too many!)  Sesame Street computer games, and watching too many (ehem) intellectually stimulating TV programs, and eating cereal for dinner on a regular basis. This is what happens when I’m in a show. And, you know, I’m cool with that. She’s fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine. It’s temporary, and when I get really honest about it, it’s not that much different than when I’m not in rehearsal.  Less TV, but probably the same amount of iPad or Sesame Street computer games and cereal for dinner…and yet the world still turns on its axis. I am a nicer and happier mom when I am making art and to me that’s more important (and that’s another post).

Anyhow, the over-saturation of computer games has become really apparent recently because the phrase, “just click on it” is now part of almost every make-believe game she creates. In a Sesame Street computer game, Grover might say, “if you see a green star, click on it”, then my kid will mouse over the green star, click the button and fireworks will appear on the screen. Magical technology! Or Elmo says, “if you want to see Elmo dance, just click on Elmo”.  Now, when my daughter and I play Babies and Monsters (a new favorite make-believe game), she’ll say, “If you want to hear the baby cry, just click on her” or “If you want the monster to stop scaring the baby, just click on it.” Full disclosure: I might be encouraging this behavior because I laugh every time she says that stuff.

It is true that I felt guilty the first dozen times she mentioned ‘clicking’ on something. Now there’s proof that I let her have too much screen time! Everyone will know that I am a terrible non-nurturing beastly mother! But I have a new rule about guilt that I’m trying to follow: I refuse to feel guilty about things that I do not intend to change. If I feel guilt coming on, then I make the decision to do something about it or make a decision to let it go, but I don’t want to carry around a backpack full of guilty distractions about stuff that I don’t really care enough about to fix. Know what I mean? Either I’m going to choose not to eat the brownie for breakfast because I know I will feel like crap an hour later or I’m going to choose to eat the brownie for breakfast and enjoy the daylights out of it. I’m not going to eat the brownie for breakfast and feel terribly guilty about it too. That feels like a waste of time and energy.

‘Click on it’ falls into the category of stuff that I have decided not to feel guilty about because really I don’t care if she plays age-appropriate games on the computer. I care what other people think about that, and I worry that I’ve been more tired or distracted than usual during our ‘quality time’ (issues that I am actively working on), but www.sesamestreet.org is not going away in our household. Sometimes I need to take a nap, and God bless Elmo. So click on that.

Actually, I’ve begun to appreciate ‘click on it’ as a way to signal decision-making points and active opportunities in my life. Now, I have Sesame Street voices in my head: “If you want to drink another cup of coffee and stay up all night, click on it.” “If you want to show your kid that you are paying attention, click on her.” “If you want to have stronger abs, click on some sit-ups!” “If you want to waste another 30 minutes spacing out on the internet, then just keeping clicking on it.” I often convince myself that I am a kind of passive victim of circumstances, that I have so little agency, but when I break it down, I begin to realize that I am clicking on things every moment. I am making little choices to do or not do all the time.

Other reasons I’m embracing “click on it”:

*’Click’ is such a great word so saying it often is aurally and orally satisfying.

*Telling someone to “CLICK ON THAT!” (even if it’s just in my mind) makes me smile.

*The idea of ‘clicking on something’ feels like a discovery or opening a present. Like, “What’s behind Door #1? Open it and see!”. When playing a game on SesameStreet.org, kids don’t always know what will happen when they press the button — it’s a great surprise for them. I like the idea of carrying that over into life. Oooo, what will happen when I click on that?

*And finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone needs to be ‘clicked on’ sometimes – to be intentionally seen, recognized, chosen, touched on the shoulder, paid attention to – even for a moment. “If you want your employees to be happy, click on them.” “If you want your friend to think you care, click on him.” Maybe this is something that only works in my brain, but the days seem happier when I intentionally set out to ‘click on’ everyone. I’m happier on those days too.

So, what about you? Thoughts about the guilt rule? Thoughts about clicking on things? Just click on it. Come on, really, click on it.

Fifty smiley moments…delight without the cheese.

This is my TWENTIETH blog post. Yippee!

Ten blog posts ago, I decided that every tenth post will be a list post. I’m hoping this one will support one of my pet personal projects – soaking up the delightful moments that life provides. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching over the last year – ok, I’m obviously still doing it — and I discovered (or uncovered) a tendency to shy away from the richness of life, both the good and the bad, the easy and the difficult.  Like the strategy that children use when playing hide and seek – if I cover my eyes, then no one will find me, right? If I don’t engage with life, then life will not engage with me. But the joke’s on me there, because life keeps coming and rolling on, and by covering my eyes, the only person I hide from is myself. I miss everything in the process. So several months ago, I gave myself a firm shake and kick in the a$$, and started a blog. Voila, I’m engaging with life! (Ha, ha. Right. Anyway, I’m trying.)

Below you’ll see a list of moments that bring a smile to my face…hopefully without too much heaping on of cheesy-ewww-factor.. I brainstormed the first 50 random delightful-delicious-delovely moments that came to mind. What moments will you come up with in your brainstorm? Do any of the moments below resonate with you?

I’m finding that being present makes me much more likely to recognize a potentially delightful moment, and to re-frame something that would normally annoy me and re-interpret it as delightful.  Also, you know that saying, ‘To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail’? Well, I find that the more I’m on alert for delightful moments, the more I see them. They are everywhere!

Wishing you something to delight in for every moment of your day….

Moments of delightful, delicious, de-lovely:

  1. The first crunchy-chewing bite of fresh, hot, buttered bread. Oh, mercy!
  2. Sliding my feet into my fuzzy slippers when my dogs are barking
  3. Applying false eyelashes easily and quickly on the first try without getting eyelash glue in and on and all over my eyeball. (This is part of a costume, not my everyday routine.)
  4. When it stops raining at just the right time.
  5. The first sip of a soothing beverage – cool water when I’m hot and thirsty, hot tea when my throat is sore, chicken soup when I have a cold, a gin and tonic when I need a gin and tonic
  6. Spontaneous genuine affection – a sudden, impulsive hug or hand on the shoulder or compliment or smile
  7. Seeing a bluebird and feeling like that is a good sign
  8. Hearing a child tell a made-up story about silly trolls
  9. Locating and then using a coupon for something that I actually need
  10. Every Paperhand Puppet Intervention show
  11. Finding a lost item in under one minute
  12. Watching a good friend receive good news — the beautiful look on his or her face!
  13. Scalp massage (well, any massage)
  14. Inserting the word “smurf” into a sentence
  15. Making up a new word
  16. The moment I realize that I’ve turned the corner on a cold
  17. Entering BeautyWorld
  18. Making a mental note to share a story, interesting tidbit or idea with a specific person
  19. Three green lights in a row – or – a fabulous parking spot
  20. Friendly, efficient customer service at Target
  21. Witnessing success
  22. Seeing a really great (perhaps slightly goofy) photo of someone I love
  23. A shadow puppet that looks like a recognizable animal
  24. Shared laughter born from friendship and joy (rather than cattiness or self-denigration)
  25. Feeling myself get sucked into an engrossing story
  26. Running all my errands, realizing I have EXTRA time, and choosing to read People Magazine
  27. Ten minutes of calm and easy solitude
  28. A well-timed breath mint
  29. Realizing (in a good way) that “we are all in this together”! Hooray!
  30. Seeing someone I love completely at ease and sighing with happiness
  31. Finding a penny and making a wish
  32. Watching my husband and child playing together in their own special way
  33. The first salty smell of the ocean. The first whoosh of the waves. The first toe-touching of soft sand.
  34. Sitting down to a tasty meal prepared and planned by someone else. With vegetables and dessert
  35. Having so much fun, I lose track of time
  36. Nap. Nap. Nap. Sometimes a nap with a cat if the cat doesn’t snore or hog the bed.
  37. First, second, third and fourth scoop of an ice cream sundae. (After that, it’s just shoveling in a sugar haze.)
  38. Pursuing curiosity
  39. Noticing that the price of gas has gone down by four cents per gallon
  40. Having all of the ingredients I need – already in the house!
  41. Confirmation that “truth is stranger than fiction”
  42. Swapping book recommendations.
  43. Feeling something click into place
  44. Slipping into clean sheets on a well-made bed
  45. Singing Journey’s greatest hits with a group of friends
  46. Giving and receiving a sincere compliment
  47. Realizing that I have everything I need…for real
  48. Making a goofy face that causes a baby to smile
  49. Hearing a song on the radio that triggers a wonderful sense memory avalanche
  50. Curtain call

Time squeeze + full heart

Several events converged this weekend — the usual last minute preparations for a show opening this coming Thursday and the sudden sickness of my eleven-year old cat. Despite having a lovely long weekend, the time I set aside to craft my weekly blog post was sucked away by hours spent in several different veterinary offices, running errands, and family-time. I suppose this is to be expected since there’s only so much time in a day and I can hardly cram in more activities — especially unexpected cat-liver-disease and decisions about whether or not to euthanize my feline friend. Something had to give, and this week it was my blog post. I’m really bummed about that. However, I’ll be back next Monday with some kind of written musings. Will it be about my cat’s amazing recovery (I hope so!) or our amazing opening weekend of Richie (I hope so!) or something else amazing (possibly!)?

I’m reminded on a daily basis that life is so full — of interesting experiences, discoveries, people, ideas. There’s so much to discuss, right? There’s so much to create. And not nearly enough time. Or maybe it’s just a matter of priorities or being more efficient with the time I have. That’s to be determined as one of my life lessons, I suppose.

The jam-packedness of my weekend makes me feel so grateful for the wonderful people who help me manage the challenges in life. I’m so grateful for the amazing vet staff at VSH Carolinas who offer information and options with compassion and without judgment. I’m grateful for the army of people who are working their tails off to create the rolling pub-crawl that is Richie, including the director, cast, producers, stage managers, text coaches, logistics and security folks, designers, and local business owners. Art-making always seems to take a village to bring it to completion and this venture is no different in that regard. What a group of big-hearted, inspiring and talented people! And I’m grateful for my husband and my daughter who support my full schedule with grace and patience (especially my husband, who is willing to devote money and time to caring for our old kitty). I feel lucky and all filled up…to the very brim.

If you are reading this, I hope you are well and happy and full.