About Tamara

I am a creator, teacher, coach, collaborator, podcaster, actor, playwright, theatre-maker, and mom living in Durham, NC. I love ideas, and I love getting things done. In my own little ways, I aim to make the world a better place.

RESPECT THE WORK on July 8

Respect the WorkFriends,

I have an event on Sunday at Shadowbox Studio in Durham, NC. See the publicity blurb below, and below that some of the notes that I’m making for the opening remarks. Tickets are still available and if you are local, I’d love to see you there and get your input!

Thanks, t

PUBLICITY BLURB:

For artists and artist-supporters, this is an opportunity to come together in conversation about what it means to RESPECT THE WORK that we and other artists make. What does that respect look like, feel like, sound like? What more can we do? What kind of respect are we seeking as artists?

Tamara Kissane, the host of the Artist Soapbox podcast, will lead a conversation around the topic of respecting our work as she tries out material for Part Two of her podcast series WHAT I LEARNED FROM 40 YEARS OF NOT BEING FAMOUS. She’ll also gather the thoughts, words, and voices of the people in the room to include in that podcast episode.

Tickets are free for the patrons of ASBX via Patreon.com/artistsoapbox. All others are asked to make a small $5 donation at the door to off-set costs.

Give your input. Challenge yourself to identify roadblocks, devise solutions, and get inspired with a spirit of generosity toward yourself and other creators in our community. See you at Shadowbox Studio at 7pm on July 8.

There will be snacks. :)

www.artistsoapbox.org

NOTES FOR OPENING REMARKS:

As people in the artistic community, I think we want to extend respect and we want to receive respect   — respect feels good, we like the sound of the word and the feelings it inspires — when I bring up the importance of RESPECTING THE WORK most people are like YEAH, YEAH OF COURSE. But I’m wondering about the second layer of that — what it actually means and looks like and sounds like and why it’s important and I’m thinking perhaps we need to be more intentional about our approach. As artists, it is difficult to ask for something if you can’t articulate (even to yourself) what you want or what your expectations are, and in our very fast moving world, it’s easy to assume that we are contributing in ways that perhaps we are not. I don’t know…these are wonderings….

My goals tonight are to get a sense of what people ARE experiencing (a lay of the land of and what is). Based on that and the conversation we have, I’d like us to consider what COULD BE or what we’d like to be. Ultimately, here’s what I’m looking to answer: If we want to promote a culture or a practice of RESPECTING THE WORK what responsibilities do we need to take  — or could we take — as audience members and as artists? What do we need to do in each of these roles to create a culture and practice of RESPECTING THE WORK of artists in our community?

 

The exposure of a solo episode on success

“I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

NOT YET, anyway.  I’m working on it. I’m preparing a solo podcast episode that will launch on Monday and it’s scaring the shit out of me.

Episode 029 of Artist Soapbox will begin with “I’m scared!” It’s not me speaking, but the sentiment is absolutely mine.

The title of the episode is WHAT I LEARNED FROM FORTY YEARS OF NOT BEING FAMOUS: PART ONE and it’s based on a lil’ talk I gave in April for Honest Pint‘s HOME BREW. Home Brew was a wonderful opportunity to try out material and capture the words of audience members in their own voices. Big thank yous to George, David, Beth, Carissa, Will, Megan, Brian, and Susannah for adding their voices and their thoughts about defining success. (You’ll hear all 8 of them speaking in the podcast episode.)

In PART ONE, using a bit of my own story, I throw a flag on our culture’s messed-up definition of success, our preoccupation with ‘getting famous’, and how local artists are marginalized as a result. It’s me and my voice, insecurities, flawed thinking, aspirations, missteps and…words. I don’t know if that’s ok or if it’s weirdly narcissistic or me being artsy-fartsy or the start to a conversation that I really want to have. Maybe all of those things. All I know is that this solo episode was really really scary to write, to present, to record, and it’s scary to release. And gosh, I’m doing it anyway.

Will you take a listen on Monday and let me know what you think? I have more episodes planned that will dig into this topic. I’d love to know if those might resonate with you.

Stay tuned for Episode 029 going live on www.artistsoapbox.org Monday morning and in Apple podcasts/iTunes.

How do you define success? 

Refining and defining success: my first talk!

[Scroll down to read an actual excerpt from the talk I’m planning to give]

I’m speaking live on April 13 at 9:00 pm, after HONEST PINT’S performance of THE ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS OF LEONARD PELKEY!

THE PRESS & INFO:

Tamara Kissane is presenting for HOME BREW, “a series featuring NC artists, writers, musicians, and actors sharing stories and works in an intimate, social atmosphere. The goal is to showcase the incredible local talent in our area and provide an opportunity to hear what’s brewing in the NC arts scene.” HOME BREW is free and open to the public. See the show at 7:30pm and stay for the HOME BREWed conversation. Info and tickets for THE ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS OF LEONARD PELKEY.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM 40 YEARS OF NOT BEING FAMOUS: PART ONE is the first installment of a multi-part series planned for the Artist Soapbox podcast. In this 30 minute podcast-like conversation, Tamara considers how we might love the artists we are and support the artists we love even when….especially when….we feel like we’re falling short. PART ONE is a shot in the arm for people who are trying to craft a life of creativity and art-making and feeling like WTF.

In PART ONE, using a bit of her own story, Tamara throws a flag on our culture’s messed-up definition of success, our preoccupation with ‘getting famous’, and how local artists are marginalized as a result. What might our lives look like if our community reimagined success and then affirmed and cherished our local art-makers? What might our lives look like if each individual artist loved their own creative gifts? What can arts supporters do to help?

****

AN EXCERPT FROM THE TALK TO WET YOUR WHISTLE

Here’s a problem:  in our society, we have some real mixed-up attitudes about fame and success —  giant hurdles that artists must overcome in getting to genuine and long-lasting satisfaction.

So, let’s take a moment for some thinking. Think in your mind about the answers to these questions: What are two or three words that come to mind when you think of someone successful in their career (any career)? How would you finish this sentence, A successful artist…? What would an artist need to accomplish at a local level to be successful (in your opinion)? Hmmmm.

Here’s WHAT I LEARNED FROM 40 YEARS OF NOT BEING FAMOUS — #1 Each artist  needs to define success on their own terms and figure out if fame is what they’re really aiming for. #2 We can help reframe success for local artists by helping those artists feel valued, appreciated and resourced.

Here’s a secret: I have been a very unhappy artist for most of my adult life, which is a pretty long time. And much of my unhappiness has been in response to feeling like I have failed by not being more famous and not achieving more as an artist. This is ridiculous and embarrassing to admit, but there you go.”

***
[Note: THE ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS OF LEONARD PELKEY opens April 6. If you can’t get to the performance on April 13, then please go see it another night. It’s going to knock your socks off.]

Serious thanks

Friends,

My adaptation of Ibsen’s classic play, MASTER BUILDER, opens this week. Here’s hoping the snow stays out of North Carolina and doesn’t derail our schedule!

The incredibly endearing Mara Thomas interviewed me about the writing process for Master Builder, the Artist Soapbox podcast, and various other life topics. I’m grateful for the conversation with Mara and for the opportunity to reflect on this process. Take a listen, and let me know what you think. Also, Mara is rad.

Compared to my experience adapting Chekhov’s THE SEAGULL, this production experience was different for me. I wasn’t able to attend more than one MASTER BUILDER rehearsal, I wasn’t able to reflect much, and I wasn’t able savor it in quite the same way. Holidays + life + other project commitments = a time crunch. That’s how it goes. The excitement is still there though and the gratitude and so many big emotions — those are all still there sitting in my chest like so many birds.

Podcast interview guests always tell me that they think of “things they should’ve said” during their drive home after interviewing on Artist Soapbox. My experience was no different.

Missing from my podcast interview is the long list of thanks that I wish I would have included. Thanks to Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern for producing my play, which is a gift that I cannot find the words to describe. Thanks to the actors, designers, director, crew, and the LGP team for the support. And most importantly, the biggest one: THANKS to everyone who took this play SERIOUSLY…even when I didn’t or couldn’t or down-played it. It’s such a gift to be taken seriously as an artist because the Imposter Syndrome looms large. It’s a beast. When other people interact with me as though I am an ACTUAL playwright, it’s weird. It makes me feel super weird and super hopeful. That attitude is a warm and gentle invitation for me to become better at my art-making and take creative risks…which are goals I strive for every day.

I’m thrilled and grateful. Thank you for sharing in my excitement. Sending you love.

***

Master Builder is showing January 18 – February 3 at Mystery Brewery (437 Dimmock’s Mill Rd, Hillsborough). GET TICKETS!

What to do when you hear yourself say, “The holidays can suck it!”

An excerpt from a lengthy out-of-the-blue rant given in the direction of my poor spouse, by me: “THE HOLIDAYS CAN SUCK IT! I have done ZERO shopping. No one is getting ANY presents. I don’t care WHAT we eat. We can have peanut butter and jelly FOR ALL I CARE!”

To his credit, my spouse didn’t reference that particular rant again, opting instead to let it evaporate into the ether like it never happened. (Although the next day he suggested we consider setting up a regular food delivery system via Amazon Pantry. “One less thing to stress us out,” he said. He’s known me for awhile.)

Even though I laughed about my rant later that day, I was troubled. It seems to me that shouting “the holidays can suck it” and really meaning it, is not me being my best self. It’s probably a sign that something is off. And more troubling still, I continue to carry the residue of that sentiment, I’m just not saying it out loud….as much.

So I made a list (like you do this time of year, and checked it twice, etc.) It’s for me, but if it gives anyone else inspiration or comfort, then I’d love to hear that.

What to do to de-suckify my attitude, get myself together, and stop being a Grinchy jerk:

  1. Check myself and don’t spread the suck. This season is fun and meaningful for some; for others it’s a damn difficult time of year. I don’t need to suck the joy out of people who are riding the wave of holiday cheer, and I don’t need to make folks who are struggling feel worse. So, shut up, Tamara. [See also: Check your privilege. There’s a lot of legit bad shit happening in the world, so get a grip about your stocking stuffers. ]
  2. Contain the suck. Find an appropriate container and pour the sucky feelings into that, and only that. Appropriate containers: a journal, a friend who gets me, a spouse who understands that I’m not always a crabby, mean-spirited person — basically someone or something that will listen without comment or judgement. Like #1 above, don’t pour your suck on everyone who happens to pass by.
  3. Name it, don’t shame it. When a feeling arises, I skip straight to asking whether I should have that feeling or I deserve to have that feeling or whether that feeling is appropriate. If I decide that I shouldn’t feel that feel, then I squash it or ignore it. This is a bad idea because it backs up my feeling tubes — which is a fancy term for the channels that your feelings flow out of when you need to release them and move on. If you’re not a scientist, then that probably didn’t make sense to you, but I’m just saying when I work really hard to deny feelings, then my feeling tubes get clogged and that’s problematic. So, hence forth, I will name the feeling that I’m feeling, and regardless of whether my brain thinks it’s ‘appropriate’ I’m going to hang with it for awhile. I’m gonna do some observing and feeling and chill out with that feeling until I decide whether to kick it out like an unwanted guest or take it on the town and introduce it to all my friends. Either way, it’s gonna flow. Cuz I don’t need to control the feeling. I need to manage the action that I take because of it. Or something like that?
  4. Breathe. My therapist told me I’m bad at breathing. Well, she didn’t say “bad”, but that was the upshot. We were doing belly breathing exercises that I totally goofed which was so irritating because I’m like, an actor, and I can breathe….most days. But it’s true, I couldn’t breathe while lying on the floor of my therapist’s office. My belly wouldn’t cooperate and all my breathing muscles were too tight. I looked like a fish on dry land. “Your body isn’t helping your emotional state,” she said, “Calm your body to calm your emotions.” Over here, I’m practicing my breathing.
  5. Go deep. Anger isn’t my go-to emotion; I generally try out all the other ones first before arriving at anger. (The reasons for that are 1. I’m not an angry person, I’m more of a sad person. 2. I’ve internalized that anger is so wrong that I’d rather implode than actually express anger even in a healthy way. Yay, me!) Anyway, I’ve learned over time that Epic Crankiness is the final stop before I really go to Crazy Town, so for me, getting angry is a definite sign that I need to slow down and figure out what’s really going on. Anger is me masking the deeper questions and concerns that I’m struggling with, but don’t want to actually deal with. Going deep is a drag….but it’s necessary.
  6. Be grateful. How embarrassing that I get so caught up in childish First World problems that I forget who surrounds me and how lucky I am and how exceptional my life is!!! Gratitude journaling STAT. Gratitude is good medicine.
  7. Take care. We know kids often act out to get attention. We know that self-care is a really important component to maintaining a healthy mental state. So when I hear myself saying shitty kid words, well then, I think that means I need to give myself attention and take better care of myself. It was hard for me to type that sentence. I find self-care really confusing… but gosh, I think…it’s important? Cuz here’s the thing — after venting about the Great Holiday-Suckfest, I  went to a play and saw some friends, and I LAUGHED. I stretched before bed. I ate an actual dinner. I went right to bed instead of staying up late stoking my anxiety. And in the morning, I could picture a season with some cheer. I didn’t do those things on purpose to make myself feel better, but all those accidental care-taking things had a noticeable effect. Imagine if I actually put my mind to taking care…of me.

I have two small children. Christmas will come to our house. The question is, “How will I show up?”

I wish you a gentle season of love and ease and just the right amount of fun.

The benefits of comparison

This is Part II of a blogversation on the Artist Soapbox site about comparing ourselves to other artists. Read Part I, by Mara Thomas too.
**
Over churros at Cocoa Cinnamon, Mara and I spent some time talking about what she termed “low-frequency comparison.”  Low-frequency comparison is the kind of comparison you use to make yourself feel bad – a self-flagellating tool. “High-frequency comparison” on the other hand is the kind of comparison you use to encourage yourself – an inspirational tool. Low-frequency’s easy to slide into. It’s familiar, simple and doesn’t require us to make any changes in behavior or thought patterns. Low-frequency comparison allows more of the same…and more of the same is easier, the path of least resistance.
So, if comparison sling-shots you directly into low-frequency territory, then I totally agree with Mara, just don’t go there. Don’t do that to yourself. Stop comparing immediately. If you consistently race towards low-frequency, that’s a signal to investigate your own awesomeness for awhile and learn to embrace your self-worth. That’s a signal that you need to fill up your self-love bucket. Do that, please. Focus on reframing your vision of yourself because that internal re-tooling will pay you dividends over and over. You have worth. You deserve to believe that.
If however, you’re feeling pretty solid about your value as a human and artist, and if you’d like to make positive changes, then open yourself to some high-frequency comparison. Look around at people you admire (you don’t need to start with the superstars, there are likely fabulous peeps right in your local orbit) and see what those you admire are doing. Is anyone living a life closer to the one you want to live? Is anyone making art that’s closer to the art you want to make? Is there anyone you can use as an example or model for whatever changes you want to make?
Re-orientating to high-frequency comparison has helped me enormously and in significant ways. It’s my go-to fixit. I think, “What would this person do right now? How would that person solve this problem/approach this mess/respond/decide/etc? What would the person-I-admire say right now?” And the ideas start flowing because people are doing MANY THINGS better than I am — good for them! —  and their examples teach me, inspire me, encourage me to try.
Ultimately, I’m still me being me, and I’ll do it my way, but I feel like I have more fuel in the tank. Because to be honest, in several areas of my life, I’ve run out of ideas. Over the last few decades, I solved problems ‘my own way’ and that didn’t work or the outcome was subpar. I have blindspots and tangles that I can’t work out. I’m ready for new ways of doing and being and I’m surrounded by inspirational people who are doing and being those things. It’s thrilling to see others thriving, living with integrity and purpose, aligning their inner compass and their outward actions, eating vegetables, and quitting nasty habits like biting their nails. I want to do that too.
Although low-frequency comparison flickers on the edge of my perception more frequently than I’d like, I have many wonderful high-frequency days when I compare myself to the Patti Smiths of the world and think, “Wow, I’m gonna infuse my life with a little of her creative bad-assery…..so…WWPD (what would Patti do)?”
WWYD (What would you do?)

Poll closes on Thursday at 5:03pm

Friends,

Take a break? Take a poll. Four questions, anonymous, helpful to 2018 planning. A quick and easy good deed for your day!

Artist Soapbox First Inaugural Four Quick Question Poll — here!

Creating a podcast is a little like talking into the void. The relationship can feel one-sided. I’m aiming for a genuine conversation; a feedback loop. I want the Artist Soapbox podcast to provide value to listeners. I want to give them what they want. I want to give you what you want to hear.

However….I can’t read minds. So, here’s an opportunity to give input that will help me plan for Artist Soapbox 2018 and get you what you want. I’m making plans for who to have on the show, how to shape the interview, and how to frame the way I talk about the behind the scenes of building and running a podcast.

This poll closes this Thursday at 5:03pm.

Want to give feedback in a different way? Send me an email at artistsoapbox@gmail.com.

P.S. I have 9 interviews scheduled between now and the end of this year. Gearing up! Getting excited!

P.P.S. Become a patron of Artist Soapbox on our Patreon page. As of today, we’re half-way to our first goal. Woot!

 

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.

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