Wishbone: Day 3

This is what I woke to this morning, and I needed it:

Around 4pm yesterday, two hours before our first rehearsal was to take place, I got a call from Mollie that rehearsal that evening was cancelled. There was trouble in paradise – no, wait, trouble in the house that all the interns were sharing for the summer, all the interns who would be participating in the improvisational exercises that would help shape my piece. Someone wouldn’t take out the trash, someone else felt like someone was telling him or her ‘what to do.’ Understandable, it’s already a challenge to share a house with so many people, especially if you also work together all day long. Mollie gathered the interns last night, instead, for a chance to regroup and remember that Theatre is about connection and depth and humanity. And sharing chores. So, instead of diving into the rehearsal/devised piece process, I had the evening and this morning/early afternoon to actually start writing some pages.

I think this was (at least, for me) a blessing in disguise. It was nice to have a framework, a rhythm established. I wrote a very short first ‘Act.’ I’m actually leaning more toward calling them movements, as in a piece of music. I am planning for four. So, with 7 pages in hand, and a sheet that described emotional revelations I want each of the three characters to make throughout the piece (and a brilliantly clinical, yet poetic, wikipedia definition of a ‘wishbone’ that Mollie found) I arrived at my actual first rehearsal tonight and met those who would be helping me. What an incredible group.

It was much more emotional than I thought it would be, though the tears shouldn’t have surprised me. The subject matter we’re working with is not exactly musical comedy. The piece speaks to how human beings survive crisis, and how sometimes the person living the crisis can over-identify with it, and become the crisis. In my piece, there is a mother who loses one of her twin daughters to abduction. She becomes the ‘mother who lost her daughter’ and forgets to be a ‘mother with one daughter.’  The group of actors who digested and processed this material and these themes this first night were so willing to jump right in. They worked through some very personal exercises, and allowed themselves to be really vulnerable.  It was very moving, especially considering the fact that, one day earlier, they were feuding housemates.

And inspiring. I’ll get back to work tomorrow morning and have two more ‘acts’ or ‘movements’ for them to work with. On my way to breakfast this morning I walked by the theater and saw it: POSTERS!

Yes, posters. This shit just got real.

Wishbone: Day 2

After an amusement park-like flight into Durango and a breathtaking (in both the best and worst meaning of the word) drive along the serpentine highway (flanked by at least a 500-feet straight drop) into Silverton, I’ve arrived!

A Theatre Group hooked me up with a sweet room at the historic Teller House hotel. Everything I need is within 300-feet of the Teller House front door, including the beautiful Montanya, an award-winning rum distillery where Mollie and I promptly toasted the beginning of an exciting week.

Silverton is a tiny and magical town. It has one paved road, several Victorian-era buildings that boast their roots of having originally been bordellos, and scattered A-frame houses on its outskirts. This is the kind of place that, were you to drive through it, you might wonder: do people actually live here? It seems like an impossibly charmed life. Dogs lazily wander the streets. Everyone knows everyone. Parking is free. It’s located in what is basically a bowl in a valley completed surrounded by mountains. And I’m currently blogging at 9305 feet.

Next door to Montanya is the current home of A Theatre Group – located in a storefront along the main road. I’ll head there Tuesday at 6:30pm for my first rehearsal with the actors who will help me shape my play over the next 4 days.

Until then, here is the view from my bedroom window, rain and shine (I’ve had a taste of both already!):

Wishbone: Day 1

I’m sitting at the Africa Lounge at SeaTac airport.  Thanks to the kindness of Sir Richard Branson, I have the internet at my fingertips…all I had to do was watch a (highly entertaining) ad (starring beautiful people travelling and interacting, through knowing glances, expressive eyebrows and the beauty of technology, with one another) for 30 seconds urging me to fly Virgin…after which I was able to connect to the world. And, believe me, Sir Branson, if Virgin flew to Durango, I would have. Have you ever flown Virgin?  I am terrified of air travel.  I routinely have to sit at a place like the Africa Lounge and have a glass or two of alcohol of some sort to even step onto a plane. BUT, with Virgin, the experience is such that you know if you crashed, at least you would die happy.  They’ve got chat rooms and mood lighting, people.  MOOD LIGHTING.

As I was saying, I’m at SeaTac. I’m privileged enough to be heading to Silverton, Colorado, to be an ‘artist in residence’ at the New Artist Series sponsored by Silverton’s A Theatre Group. If you would like to see my photo and bio, of which I am so proud, click here.

This is the first step in my journey.  I know, ‘journey’ can be such a loaded word that is often overused and dramatized…but I don’t know how else to describe this. It’s a journey that will take me away from my son for longer than I’ve ever been away from him. A journey that will challenge me to treat my dreams of being a writer as though they are a reality. It’s also a journey that will reunite me with a woman who was part of the process of my becoming the artist, and the person, that I am.

Mollie Mook Fiddler. I met her as a seventh grader.  I remember the first time I saw her, at age 12, standing at her locker, across the hall.  She was definitely too pretty and too cool to be friends with. Still, by some miracle, we became friends. In fact, somehow, eventually, we became the closest of friends, laughing together, crying together, camping together, being too cool together, dieting together, and eventually, as ‘adults,’ she took me into her home, giving me a place to stay when I was in a time of need, need of escape…that’s how I ended up in Iowa (where she was in the graduate acting program at University of Iowa), a place that became more important to me than I would ever know.  A place that, in all honesty, I had to look up on a map to discover its whereabouts before I flew there to accept her kind offer.  Iowa is where I met my husband, and where I found myself (not necessarily in that order).  And it all started with the tiny guest bedroom at 228 Lee Street, Iowa City, IA, 52246, that Mollie offered me when I really needed her.

While Mollie is still far too pretty and too cool to be friends with, I took her up on yet another kind offer to spend a week with her creating and developing a piece for the stage. She will not only be directing the piece, she will, if my begging did its job, be starring in it as well, at its performance at the end of the week.  The idea of Mollie Mook (as I knew her so many years ago) enacting MY written words is like an excerpt from a dream I’ve had many times, from which I’ve awoken smiling.

Here starts the journey.  I hope to update this process day by day, because my bags were too full to pack an actual diary.  So, welcome to my diary.  I’m calling it Wishbone, because for some reason I sense that will be the title of the piece that comes out of the outline I’ve put together.

The process is this: I bring an outline to rehearsal at A Theatre Group in Silverton, and three talented and open-minded actors (of which Mollie will be one) will help me craft this piece. I’m hoping to piece together something about survival, something about the acceptance of the price of admission for living. Something about how to move forward, with bravery or without.

That’s what I’m doing right now.  As I said, I hate flying.  But I’m moving forward, getting onto the plane in less than an hour’s time…with bravery or without.

A fellow flyer and diner at the Africa Lounge snapped this picture of me: Me with my armor, a beer, my computer, my cell phone, my blogging.  This is how I get on the plane.  Until tomorrow…


Building Up, Falling Down, Building Up, Repeat as Necessary

Olympia’s Washington Center for the Performing Arts is hosting a silent auction fundraiser on September 21st called 27 Feet of Art…and More!  Since I love anything that comes with ‘and More!’ at the end, I decided to submit three pieces (the maximum) to the jury to see if I can make it in the door as one of the featured artists.

For the last year or so, since I painted the New Mexico House under construction, I’ve been obsessed with painting objects that are more architectural than my usual portraits of human beings. I followed that up with the Ferry House on Whidbey Island, the interior of which is also under construction. I like the lines of things half-finished. I’ve also recently become obsessed with pictures I found of a house in Joplin, MO, that was nearly destroyed by that horrendous tornado that swept through last year. I was struck that the lines of something falling down are similar to the lines of something being built.

For my submission to 27 Feet of Art (and More!), I knew I wanted to do something architectural, and I wanted it to be related to Olympia. I had taken some pictures of a crane at the lumberyard on Olympia’s waterfront a few months ago when the boys were busy throwing rocks across the water. They had an unspoken game going with some other beachgoer/rock throwers — trying to hit a large metal…thingee…that looked like it had fallen off a boat and rested about 60 feet (?) or so from the shoreline. Every once in a while you’d hear a CLANG, followed by cheers.

But, as I said, I was distracted by this lumberyard. I was struck by the immense and neatly stacked pile of fallen trees. They had been processed and so were that bright orange/gold color. Ready to be made into houses?  Paper? The promise was exciting to me, but it saddened me as well, imagining the forest they used to be. Similarly, I was amazed by the huge crane that stood right at the edge of the water, so close to all this peace and beauty and playing families was this massive, almost science fiction inspired, machine. Symbolizing the end of the trees, but re-purpose for the wood. Symbolizing: Man making things. The torn emotion I felt reminded me of the torn emotion on the face of many of the women I’ve painted. And some of the men.

In short, I came up with a triptych (in this case, of equal-sized panels — a requirement of submission is that all art be 12″ x 12″) of details of the crane. Up close, the angles and the light shining through them are beautiful, and create patterns that might be mistaken for cliffs, rocky crags, or even branches.

Life is Good, Right Here, Right Now

Just today, this very afternoon, I was thinking about how lucky I am. It was one of those perfect moments that you hope flashes when, as they say, your whole life passes before your eyes when you die: I had taken a break from work and was sitting in the sun in my backyard, the summer sounds of birds and a faraway lawn-mower joined in, along with the weirdly remorseful dirge of the neighborhood ice cream truck’s version of La Cucaracha. Other than my broken foot and “that last ten pounds,” I am healthy. I have a husband I love. I have a ridiculously adorable son who is one part lovable, one part genius and one part my greatest and most honorable challenge. I love my home.  I *have* a home. I use coupons when I shop because that’s how I was raised, and because I think it’s fun…not because I, necessarily, have to.  Life is pretty damn good.

Another privilege of my life is that I can hop on Facebook whenever I need a break from work and check in with friends near and far, friends who, without the internet, I would probably have never seen or heard from again.  Tonight I saw a post informing me that a friend I knew in high school had passed away.  His obituary did not hint at how it happened, and I have not seen this guy for 20 years. Still, seeing his face in The Denver Post obituary section was a giant wake up call.  Here’s what it woke me up to:

A) TWENTY years!?  I guess the fact that I just received an invite to my 20th high school reunion should have clued me in to the fact that it’s been TWENTY years since I graduated high school.  Moral of the story: time is weird and memories are slave less to actual history than they are to the way our mind, guided by our emotions, interprets them. For instance, one of the reasons I am not planning on going to my 20th high school reunion (in addition to the prohibitively outlandish cost of tickets — $138 to be exact…that wasn’t a typo) is that, when faced with the names of kids with whom I actually attended school, I usually have to look them up to see who they are.  The group of friends I had outside of school, such as the one who passed away, I can still picture as though I just yesterday had coffee and played chess with them at Paris on the Platte.  Judging from the pictures on the Paris on the Platte website, our little place under the viaduct looks a lot fancier than it did back in the day (more power to them!).  The viaduct which, by the way, I’m pretty sure is no longer there.  I don’t think Denver looks very much the same now as it did in 1992. Are the alleyways my friend and I used to hold hands and run down in the middle of the night to scare ourselves as we left Rock Island still scary? Wait, is Rock Island still there? I know they tore my high school down last year. I figure if I want to pay $138 to get depressed I could just stay here in Tacoma and go see the Blue Oyster Cult at the Emerald Queen Casino next month.

B) Memories are a gift. The guy who posted the passing of our mutual friend credited him with introducing him to The Stone Roses, a staple of my high school years.  I immediately went on a mind-trip tour of 1990-1992 via YouTube (the equivalent to a time machine) and listened to several tracks of the Roses’ self-named album which I played on repeat, interrupted intermittently only by Kate Bush, Jellyfish and Jane’s Addiction,  in my 1984 Dodge Colt during my entire Junior and Senior years.  During trips to the DAV thrift store on Colfax, trips to Perkins on Wadsworth to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes and do homework all night, drives to the hogbacks in the foothills west of Denver, a fateful trip to the Sand Dunes during which my boyfriend crashed my car into a deer (one of the rare times I “got in trouble” with my dad), trips to Winchell’s when we didn’t want to attend the spirit assemblies, trips between my house and my mom’s new house when my parents got divorced, trips to my piano lessons, where my piano teacher was half teacher/half counselor.  She was the only one who noticed that I, at the the age of 17, considered coffee, cigarettes and Grape Nuts a balanced diet. Listening to that Stone Roses album, after twenty years, gave me the same feeling of indignant invincibility that I had back then. I’ve heard (but don’t quote me on this) that memory is in the frontal lobe of the brain, right next to sound and smell…I’m pretty sure if I had smelled a clove cigarette and Pert Plus (the shampoo my boyfriend’s mom bought him) I would probably actually, literally, have been transported back in time to 1991.

C) What matters most is now. I feel blessed to have such powerful memories.  Not just powerful, but empowering.  They made me who I am, for better or for worse. But what matters most is that those memories were stepping stones to get me here. The best part of this process is looking back and keeping in mind that, when things looked like complete and utter chaos, there was always a way out, and that way out brought me to where I am now…to the aforementioned husband whom I love. To the son who surprises me every day with his crazy brain (and who I realize, every day, will soon be creating his own memories, in his own version of ‘for better or worse,’ of high school). I’m older now and have finally gotten to the point where I can have faith in that thing my dad has always said to me “It’ll all work out, honey.” I need to give my mom credit for that one too, as she’s taxed with telling me that everyday in my adult life. Divorced or not, and whether they knew it or not, they were a pretty good team in making me feel, at best, that I could do anything, at worst, what’s the worst that can happen?

Time machines, still, are pretty fun, so I leave you with a few images of my high school years, and a soundtrack to boot.  I don’t know how many people “loved” high school. If I were to make a list on paper of what was going on in my life at that time, you’d probably look at it and think I should have been on suicide watch. Instead, I felt invincible. If I ever forget that feeling, I listen to Kate Bush, and now that my friend of so long ago has passed away and I was reminded, The Stone Roses. Not to speak for the dead, but I assume he is feeling pretty invincible now, too.

The Stone Roses – I Wanna Be Adored








                    Kate Bush – Army Dreamers

Jellyfish – The King is Half Undressed

Jane’s Addiction – Mountain Song

Kate Bush – This Woman’s Work

The Stone Roses - I am the Resurrection

Jesus Jones - Right Here, Right Now (our class song, actually, surprisingly)