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.

To be continued as needed

This is it. Post #30. Hard to believe that I’ve been writing weekly posts for seven months now. Blogging has been way more fun than I anticipated and way more challenging too. That seems appropriate since I generally find life to be way more fun and way more challenging than I anticipate.

These are the reasons I started this blog:

I liked to write, and I wanted to get better at it. (I still do.) I wanted to encourage (force) myself to write more regularly. I thought I could handle a weekly post; I liked the deadline and the discipline.

I wanted to find my voice. Turns out, I’m still and always finding it. As I watch my daughter grow, as I witness my friends and family wrestling with their lives, I’m discovering that this idea of ‘finding your voice’ is a life-long process. As we change, as we evolve, our voices change. Our declarations, our questions, our need to speak, how we say things, what we say – all of that transforms over time. Maybe there is no definitive finding our voices, maybe there is only locating or glimpsing or journeying with our voices. Maybe our voices aren’t found, maybe they are developed. Maybe they are revealed and accepted. Seeking our voices, still and always.

I felt that I had something to say that was worth sharing. The jury is still out on that, but  really, more importantly, it was time for me to challenge myself to take a stand and declare my point of view, even if ‘my stand’ is often that I don’t know what I think. I’m conflict-shy; I don’t like to rock the boat – I’m a dove, people – but I’ve realized that I can be a peacemaker and still have an opinion. In fact, I’ve decided that having a point of view is actually a crucial first step in peacemaking and change-making.  It’s certainly crucial to making good art. Surprise, surprise, I can have a POV that’s strong and flexible, well-thought-out and fluid. Prior to starting this blog, I had the shocking realization that I’d lost track of my thinking. Since then, I’ve discovered that I think differently than I did five or ten or twenty years ago. I’m still behind somehow and out of step with myself —  my spirit has outpaced my mind, but I’m working to catch them up. I’m updating my Operating System and recalibrating my mind, you know? Over these last seven months, I’ve been pinning myself down with words. The act of selecting words to express myself, rather than sliding by with gauzy unvoiced half-thoughts, has been an act of compass-making. I’m learning which way is North. Mostly.

I wanted to embrace technology. As a presenter/teacher, my preferred audio-visual equipment is still flip-chart paper with a few colored markers. However, seven months after starting this blog, I can (sort of) figure out (some things on) WordPress. Now, I have an iPhone! That’s right, I can swipe my finger across my Apple screen just like those kids do! [I’ve mentioned that I want to do a podcast, right? Will someone please come to my house, set that up, and show me which buttons to press? It’s exhausting to think about.]

I’ve determined that it takes four to six hours for me to write and edit (ok, loosely edit) a 1000-1200 word post. (This post has 1039 words.) As we hurdle toward the end of the year, I’ve realized I don’t have that time anymore. Or rather, I need to spend that time doing other things. Or rather, I’m choosing to spend my time with people and other projects. I suppose this is what they call ‘prioritizing’. So, I am changing up my blogging schedule to be ‘as needed’.  I’ll write when I need to; I’ll write when I can. I hesitate to make this change because I am now opening the possibility of NEVER BLOGGING AGAIN. You know how that inertia can be.

However, I’m hopeful that this ‘as needed’ schedule will help to de-stress my life a little and result in more robust, life-changing posts – perhaps I’ll post only my best stuff rather than a mix of weekly best and half-best. My fortieth (yes, FORTIETH!) birthday is coming up which is bringing me a great deal of angst, and my child is still endlessly inspiring to me (Currently, she is getting the words ‘nipple’ and ‘pupil’ confused which can be quite alarming in conversation. The fact that I find this creatively inspiring is odd, I know.). I’m also happily mixed up in the development of some super-fab theatre projects – so I’m guessing that I’ll still post fairly regularly. After all, life is so interesting, right? There’s so much of it.

Two things before I go (temporarily):

  1. Thanks for reading. I appreciate you. I apologize for all of the grammatical missteps and whacked out punctuation and typos. Hopefully, you were able to overlork that. Hee.
  2. This seems random, but I want everyone to know about it, so I’m awkwardly plopping it at the end of this post…I recently watched the Half the Sky series via our streaming Netflix. I was tremendously moved by these programs, and I’m still mulling on what to do as a result. Anyway, I highly recommend them. If you watch, let me know what you decide to do as a result. You’ll see a little blurb below.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is a four-hour television series for PBS and international broadcast, shot in 10 countries: Cambodia, Kenya, India, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Liberia and the U.S. Inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn‘s book, the documentary series introduces women and girls who are living under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable — and fighting bravely to change them. Traveling with intrepid reporter Nicholas Kristof and A-list celebrity advocates America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union and Olivia Wilde, the film reflects viable and sustainable options for empowerment and offers an actionable blueprint for transformation. The series premiered in the United States Oct. 1 and 2, 2012, with international broadcast to follow in 2013.

Keep on growing. Keep on keepin’ on.

Until soon,


Putting the ‘fun’ in Acting Fundamentals

I taught my first Fundamentals of Acting class last week. I think it went really well – everyone left smiling and feeling jazzed and saying things like “Looking forward to next week!” I felt that way too. Oh, happy day!

I drove home after Class One. Couldn’t sleep. Too excited.  My mental skywriter was writing fluffy, looping “grateful grateful grateful” in the landscape of my mind.

Now it’s Sunday night, and I just finished my lesson plan for Class Two of Four (which has eaten considerably into the time I have for crafting a blog post). And I’m excited again, and nervous again, and grateful again.

I feel lucky and grateful for the opportunity to share my love of the theatre* while offering practical acting skills and advice (hopefully). I’m grateful for all of the wise and fabulous teachers/directors/actors who’ve taught me what (little) I do know, and I’m most especially grateful for the wise and fabulous folks I’ve partnered with to co-teach prior to this class. I feel lucky  to have observed so many great teachers at work. Do you feel like you carry those people into the classroom with you as resources? I do. Hmmm, what would Cheryl do? What would Nathan do? What would Rachel, Jay, Mary, Jeff, Ellen, Bill, Devon, Chris, Jody, Dan, Melissa, Dina, Adam, Lorm, Nancy, Johnny, Greg, Rafael, Laurie, Sumi, Tom, Jenny, Janice, Beth, Dana, Enoch, Dave, Hope do?* What would my Mom, a former kindergarten teacher, do? Thank you, my teachers! What gifts you are to the world.

As I mentioned, this is a four-part class on (trumpets, please!The Fundamentals of Acting. Huh. Initially, when I sat down to hammer out text to describe/advertise the class, all sorts of questions were triggered – like, most importantly — What are the Fundamentals of Acting?

So, I brainstormed the list below (not in any particular order, and no doubt, incomplete).

Brainstorm List of Acting Fundamentals:

  • Creating a character (external) – body, voice
  • Creating a character (internal) – given circumstances, relationships, motivation/tactics/intentions
  • Script analysis, world of the play, story
  • Basic stage etiquette, terminology, job descriptions, etc.
  • Basic vocal work – diction, volume, pitch, tempo, resonance
  • Basic physical work – gesture, neutral, weird actory things
  • Ensemble building — being with other people on-stage and off-stage
  • Performance experience – scene work, monologues, auditions
  • My list of acting pet peeves; list of acting favorites
  • Actor mind — Focus, relaxed concentration, memorization, openness, creativity, improvisation. Something about authenticity?
  • Fun? Acting is FUN.Yep.

I also spent an evening with my best friend Google, and added more to that list. A long long list with a lot of words and eight hours of teach-time. Huh. I got myself tangled up with prioritization and the fact that all of the items on the list overlap and intertwine and that it’s all much more subtle and nuanced and that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Ack, imposter syndrome. I searched my house feverishly for undergraduate readings by Uta Hagen and Sanford Meisner and Stanislavski and etcetera. I couldn’t find them. Have you seen ’em?

There’s a looooonnnnng list of items to accomplish in order to be a an ACTOR. It’s more complicated than I first thought. And of course, my fear is that if I’m not ticking most of those items off the list, then I’m just ACKIN’ up there on stage. Or worse, being a WHACKTOR. Geez. Been there, done that. Hopefully, not recently.

But I digress….the question here is What is Fundamental?

This is the final text that was distributed to the public about the class:

The purpose of Fundamentals of Acting is to give older teens and adults an opportunity to further explore and develop acting skills on a more advanced level, regardless of experience.  Participants will learn or build upon drama skills, including voice, movement, vocabulary and character development and scene work.

Through low-stress, structured exercises and performance, students will:

·         Review basic theatre terminology and etiquette

·         Examine voice, speech, and breath as acting tools

·         Build characters from the inside-out and outside-in

·         Learn to make clear and well-informed acting choices

·         Develop confidence and relaxation on-stage

Please bring water and a yoga mat or towel for gentle warm-up exercises. Wear clothing and shoes that you can move in.

My basic plan (subject to change) for the class is:

  • Class One: Body
  • Class Two: Voice
  • Class Three: Mind
  • Class Four: Performance

Now, what do you consider to be (trumpets, please!) acting fundamentals? I’d love to hear your thoughts and have a conversation with you.

Like most things, acting (good acting, any kind of acting) is very subjective. I don’t know if we could easily devise a short list that everyone would agree on, and I haven’t asked my friend Google if such a list exists. However, as an exercise for myself, I tried to boil everything down to five essential bullet points.

Actors need to:

  • Be heard (project!).
  • Be understood (diction!).
  • Make specific choices that hang together coherently.
  • Develop a particular character for a particular play.
  • Be a team-player.

In the broadest sense, do those cover the ‘must-dos’? Fundamentally?

In the end, however, I keep coming back to the phrase  — actors need to be alive on stage. In this moment, that idea seems essential.  Actors need to be alive on stage is sophisticated and fundamental — yikes, I don’t know exactly what I mean by it (another blog post) — but really, I think that there’s something about electric-focused-energy-aliveness that is directly related to a compelling performance and somehow naturally gathers up all of the other items on the list. Maybe it’s a chicken or an egg thing. I don’t know. What do you think?

Well. That’s what I’m working with and that’s where I am. To be continued….

Wish me luck.

Wishing you many alive moments on the stage.

*This class focuses on acting on stage, rather than on film. Based on my limited experience with film acting, there seem to be a few key differences of style and skill. I’m not a film acting expert, but I can become one if you want to put me in your film. Hee.

*This is not the list of all of the teachers I know and love — not even close. It’s just the list of people I can think of in the time allotted to write this in my somewhat distracted state, and it includes folks I’ve actually seen do some teaching. I have a long list of  ‘excellent teachers-I’d-love-to-see-in-action’ on my to-call list. Here’s hoping I get to that one day. Also, although I am really enjoying this solo teaching experience, I have a real heart for co-teaching too. 

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

How I want to be as an actor

This week we begin rehearsals in earnest for Richie, Little Green Pig’s all-female version of Shakespeare’s Richard II. I want to get everything I can out of this experience, and I want the people involved to get the most out of me, so I thought it might be helpful to set down some intentions for the rehearsal and performance process. Partly, this is an experiment to see what will happen if I start with an intentional list of ‘how I want to be as an actor in this show,’ and partly it’s an ongoing effort to clarify how I want to be in the world and how I want to spend the art-making time that I have.

You’ll see the list below. [It’s at the bottom in case you’d like to think for a minute about your own intentions before seeing mine.]

As I sat down to write, I discovered that most of these intentions have been floating around in my mind as a ‘personal code of acting’ for many years, and this list has been very heavily influenced by my time spent on the directing/production/writing side* as well as acting teachers, cast-mates, etc.. Since I’ve never written this stuff down before a show, I’ve been lazy and hit-and-miss about following the ‘code’ from project to project. As we all know, committing words to paper is helpful for accountability, intentionality, and mindfulness, so I’m hopeful this list will keep me on track. Writing it down also helps me sort out what I really mean and what’s important to me. I’m thinking of it as a work in progress…

I also wonder if most of the bullet points below are plain ol’ obvious and duh! — is this stuff everybody knows and everyone is trying to do? I’m really curious to know what other theatre-folk would include on their intention list going into rehearsal.  Do your intentions change every time or pretty much stay the same? Like mine, is your list really a combination of intentions and a code of honor/philosophy of acting? How has your list changed over time? Would you be willing to share?

And what do you think, people-who-don’t-consider-themselves-theatre-folk? Do you make a list of intentions before beginning a specific project or process? What might you include on that list?

As an actor and member of the ensemble, I will:

  • Arrive on time to rehearsals (Note: On time = 10-15 minutes early).
  • Get it done and move with a purpose – after all, we are on a short time-table. Learn my lines as quickly as possible so I can be off book. Learn my basic blocking as quickly as possible, so I can dive into more nuanced work.
  • Take care of myself and my health as best I can (eat well, sleep, exercise, etc.).
  • Have fun and laugh lots. This is a play, after all. It’s important work, but it’s just a play.
  • Take responsibility for developing a multidimensional character with a back story and relationships, and commit to clarity of intention and meaning.
  • Inhabit my character in the most truthful and believable way I can. Also, endeavor to be a bad-ass. [I don’t know exactly what I mean by that, but I think there’s a certain amount of bad-assery that needs to be present for actors. It’s certainly not arrogance or even confidence — maybe it’s about striving to be really solid and specific and fiercely focused. Or maybe it’s just a mind-trick to make me feel brave enough to get on-stage. I don’t know. It feels silly to write ‘be a bad-ass’, but it’s on the list.]
  • Use my body as an acting tool rather than as a source for actor-inhibiting-physical-hang-ups.
  • Stick to the words the playwright chose.
  • Be mindful of vocal variety in pitch, tempo, volume, emphasis and rhythm, as well as diction, diction, diction. And more diction. And communicate.
  • Be brave and honest. Stretch beyond what I think I’m capable of as an actor. Be open to direction, new ideas and improvisation.
  • Be generous with my scene partners and seek out opportunities to connect as characters.
  • Have meaningful conversations off-stage with everyone related to this production. We are a team, on-stage and off.  Strive to maintain and cultivate relationships with everyone who has a heart for this work.
  • Do my best to solve problems that are mine to solve. Try not to create problems for other people. Ask questions and ask for help from the appropriate folks at the appropriate time.
  • Remind myself that I am one piece of a complex and complicated work of art. Given my part in this process, lots of stuff will go on that I won’t be able to see. I will trust, be patient and manage my confusion if it arises.
  • Be thoughtful and aware of the message this play is sending to the audience; be mindful of how my values square with that.
  • Maintain a positive attitude throughout the entire process, even when I am tired, even when I am worried that it won’t ‘come together in time’.  Manage the anxiety that accompanies being vulnerable, being uncertain and being on-stage.
  • Always remember that I also have an identity and an important life outside of the rehearsal room with people who love me and need my attention. Be present, available, attentive, and loving to family, co-workers, and friends. Make this process manageable for those around me.
  • Say thank you out loud to everyone at every opportunity. Thank the actors, designers, director, production team, audience, my husband and daughter. Appreciate the gift this is, appreciate the gifts.
  • Aim to do my best, strive to learn and become better. At the end of the performance run: I will feel proud of my contribution, people will want to work with me again, and I will want to do this work again.

Whew! As I re-read the list above, it feels daunting to even partially realize every bullet point. Yikes, can I do all that? Well, we’ll see. I’m game to try this experiment and see if having a pre-rehearsal list of intentions will make an impact on my experience. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks in advance for your support.

*Cheryl and I do give our acting ensemble a document that outlines our hopes and expectations during our working-time together. (That document also includes a list of what the ensemble should expect from us as directors/producers/playwrights.) However, it occurred to me that I’ve never created a personal list of intentions for myself as an actor…until now.

31 questions and then some…

I love questions. In particular, I love making lists of questions. Perhaps that’s because life seems like a series of questions strung together over time [What are we doing? Where are my keys? What’s next? Why did I say that? Who cares? etc.] Making lists of questions feels really empowering to me. I guess that’s a positive way to re-frame my general confusion about the world. What do you think?

When I’m all muddled up and frustrated, I start pushing really hard for the solution to my problem. Thinking and churning and turning those wheels in my brain. However, almost without exception, I’ve found that find the ‘right’ solution is really about finding the ‘right’ question first. Easing up and focusing on the questions has been so helpful — not easy, never easy — but helpful.

Questions are my all-purpose tool to help expand my imagination, sharpen my focus, sort my thoughts and priorities, stimulate creativity, delve deeper into an issue, and occasionally arrive at an answer. Of course, questions are excellent for generating art too. For me, questions are the first step in getting things done. A better question = a better solution (or a better result or a deeper conversation or a more specific plan or more focused art or etc.) Has that been your experience?

What’s your relationship to questions? Do they help you?

To celebrate the month of August — or rather, to celebrate questions during the month of August —  I offer you a list of 31 random (hopefully, thought-provoking) questions, one for each day of this month. [I realize we are a little behind since August started last week, but you can double up for a few days. Hee.] The questions below are in no particular order and have no particular focus. Just good ol’ jumping-off-point questions for self-discovery and conversation. If you want to, use them as writing prompts, conversation starters, or opportunities for getting to know yourself during a meditative walk. Let me know how you do with them. I’m so curious! If there’s a question that you find particularly intriguing, then let me know that too. Perhaps that could be the focus for a future blog post.

For more content-specific questions, check out Story Corps’ Great Questions List.


  1. Where are you going?
  2. What is the next book you would like to read? Why?
  3. How do you feel about your name? Would you like to change it?
  4. When people see you walking down the street, what do they think?
  5. What is your favorite place? Why?
  6. What makes you feel invigorated?
  7. What was your last nightmare?
  8. What do you forbid yourself to do or to feel?
  9. What can you let go of?
  10. How do you greet people?
  11. How do you spend your evenings?
  12. Why did you make that choice?
  13. Who do you wish to be?
  14. Where do you want to live?
  15. How do you feel about food?
  16. How did you learn to think?
  17. What is your biggest pet peeve?
  18. Who makes you feel important?
  19. How would you spend a day by yourself?
  20. What is the elephant in the room?
  21. How are you different now than 5, 10, 15 years ago?
  22. What is the first thing you disclose to a stranger?
  23. Have you ever been in danger? How so?
  24. What is your fondest memory?
  25. How do you feel about wildlife?
  26. Who makes you smile?
  27. What makes you laugh?
  28. What situations make your stomach churn?
  29. When do you feel authentically yourself? What does that feel like?
  30. What are you planning to do 5 minutes from now?
  31. What is the best gift you’ll give this year?

Bonus Question #32: What will you do now that you know something you didn’t know before?

Bonus Reference to 32: If you were an undergraduate female in the 1990s obsessed with the song 32 Flavors by Ani DiFranco (um, me), then this list might have triggered a yearning for that song. If so, for sentimental purposes take a look at the YouTube video of Ani singing that song, And Lyrics to 32 Flavors by Ani DiFranco.