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Tag Archives: Small Theatre

I’ve been thinking about these subjects a lot lately.  A whole lot.  As I embark on Cameron’s third text, “Finding Water” in the trilogy of creative recovery, I’m left with my thoughts and her assignments.  My pen and my keyboard once again leer at me.

“The Artist’s Way” was recommended to me in the mid-nineties by an actor.  I’ve since completed that text, writing assignments and all- eight times.  A few times I guided artists circles through them.  Sometimes I did it with one other person sometimes groups of 10 or 15.  These texts work for me.  And, “Vein of Gold” was perhaps the most difficult writing challenge I’ve ever endeavored to accomplish.  It meant going back over my life 5 years at a time in chapters.  It was really a kind of excavation.  It uprooted everything and shifted the floor of my existence.  I say that because the sky rarely changed, and when it did it was kaliedoscopically miraculous and beautiful.  Poverty was scattered on the floor but wealth was sprinkled across the horizon in a seeming neverending milkyway of abundance.  So for me, the question of the day is always about where I set my sights.  Wealth or poverty? High or low?  Up or down?

Isn’t it interesting how life is a spiral?  Things come round and round and our best power is to go up the spiral and not fall down inside of it’s Persephonic abyss.

The past can haunt us.

When I was growing up I spent summers in a wealthy part of Jersey.  My grandmother lived next to the Pfeiffer’s, of the bakery.  And, they lived in a mansion.  I played there.  Then, I went home to my townhouse, or apartment, or modest two level child of divorce life in the burbs of Prince Georges County, Maryland.  I watched my Grandmother attempt to climb the social ladder.  Marry the mayor.  Feel important.  Cocktails at 6.  I watched a lot.  I saw my paternal family sell land and squander money on sportscars and self-importance.  I can’t really explain what these adult child behaviors look like inside of a person.  Especially through the eyes of an actual child.  I can only say there’s a corrosion there.  Something happens and this birthright of joyful bliss turns into a dark kind of black hole.  And, not only can it squelch the spirit of the body it inhabits but it has a kind of forcefield.  It becomes it’s own chaotic soup of insanity.  Or, in the descriptive of Cameron:

“Crazymakers are those personalities that create storm centers. They are often charismatic, frequently charming, highly inventive and powerfully persuasive. And for the creative person in their vicinity, they are enormously destructive.

“Crazymakers create dramas–but seldom where they belong. Crazymakers are often blocked creatives themselves. Afraid to effectively tap their own creativity, they loath to allow that same creativity in others. It makes them jealous. It makes them threatened. It makes them threatened at your expense.”

I find myself staring at the floor too much lately.  There is a sense of devastation that can seem overwhelming.  I think it has to do with all of the crisis in the world.  With individuals choosing not to grow.  A general air of depletion and desperation.

Besides.  Things are tight.  People are relying on me.  I’m scraping my Company by.  And, these people that make up my Company are moving everything.  They are creating.  They are trusting.  I want to give them the world!  So, my eyes lift up.  They are bringing works to light that have never  been given a chance before.  So, I -once again- pull my eyes heavenward no matter the surface under my feet.  Maybe too much Casey Cassum as a kid?

And now, each time I look down there’ s a bit of stardust sprinkled among the clay.  Today, for instance-I reached into the mailbox to find a small envelope with a small card inside.  It also contained a check for $50.  It said, “Life is pure flame, and we live by an invisible sun within us.” -Sir Thomas Browne.  Then on the inside it read, “Deb, Go set the world on fire.”

Or yesterday.  Two envelopes.  One anonymous for $24.  And another for $75.  It came with a hand written note from a woman I have not seen or spoken to in more than three years.  She wrote:  “Dear Deb:  I got your email about Venus’s financial difficulties.  I’m so sorry to hear that.  The economy has been rough all around.  I can’t help with raising money because of my job, but I hope this will help a little bit.  Hang in there!”

Or two days before that.  I ran into someone who used to bring her daughter to my BabyPlay classes and she pulled out her checkbook and wrote a $100 donation on the spot.

I never wanted to become needy.  But, that’s not what this is.  I begin to understand that the value of the work at Venus deserves so much support, respect, and acknowledgement.  It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the cutting edge plays that are mounted and the groups of people that make them appear.

What I’m talking about here is job creation in a suffering economy.  I’m talking about telling stories that deserve their day in the sun and fortifying a community while doing that.

Yesterday, I met with a photographer because the Laurel Leader is doing a story on our cushion fundraiser.  The story will be out tomorrow.  And, Marilyn Johnson has begun the prototype and had the first cushion ready for yesterday’s shoot, even though the idea is barely a week old.  This is what I’m saying.  After having been surrounded by crazymakers I think I’ve FINALLY learned, the more we stop doing their dance the more we become surrounded with a true sense of creative family.

In a 36 hour period, I had five lawyers helping to draft one document.  Two playwrights standing for Venus actively.  An old friend who is very commercially successful in TV, film, and Broadway connecting me with a Broadway producer.

Maybe, wealth isn’t always about the huge funding check.  I begin to understand that helplessness is an illusion kept alive by unkind people.  Who we are and what we have to give is ENOUGH.  It’s enough to launch new works.  It’s enough to give us a room of our own.

It’s enough to accomplish dreams.

Maybe, one day, each of us who has been beaten down by the crazymaker will look up instead of casting our eyes down.  Maybe, one day, we will decide that they don’t matter.  And, that their pain is not more important than our joy.  Their need to control in no way begins to come close to the respective callings and the talents bestowed upon each of us to land on a fulfilling life.

I can’t control a world that has a hard time appreciating the arts.  And, I can’t control women or men who have decided to hate themselves and take that rage out on any and everyone in their path.  What I can control is me.  My leadership style.  My vision.  The Company my Company keeps.  And, in that, I am the wealthiest woman alive.

Okay. So I was talking with a playwrighting friend and we decided to blog every day this week. Where to begin?

photo by C. Stanley Photography

Venus Theatre closed “In the Goldfish Bowl” two weeks ago. It was an incredible process. The actors were amazing and the play told a great story. It was written by Kay Rhoads and it took place on a Texas death row unit. Four women. World Premiere.

It was one of those processes that faced a new challenge each week. Illnesses, actor drop out, and so on and so forth. But, the amazing thing was watching these actors pull together and tell the story.

Our Stage Manager John was running both boards and so, for the first time, I was able to not watch over every show. In fact, I watched the first couple of performances and then the final performance. I found it to be very moving.

We did throw a fish on stage though. This met with great controversy. I was accused of traumatizing and abusing animals. A gossip ring was launched in ignorant circles, acupuncturists wanted to beat me up, and so on and so forth. Eventually, we posted a notice in the lobby explaining that we never used the same fish twice and that we never killed a fish on stage. Also, that they were rescues out of a feeder tank, and that they were set free in the wild every week.

Well, even this met with great questioning. When you set them free, will they be safe there? This raises the question of accountability. Am I responsible for overseeing the food chain?

Here’s the thing. They were bred to be feeder fish. Overcrowded in a feeder tank in pet stores all over the place. Usually filled with disease in advance and definitely overstressed. Then, dumped into a tank with a predator to await their own demise. Sound familiar?

Stats show that every day three women are killed by their domestic partner and 600 are assaulted. Just last week four women were rescued from being trafficked as sex slaves 5 miles from the theatre. The point of “In the Goldfish Bowl” was to show the helplessness of woman trapped in the bowl and also as the fish out of water trying desperately to survive a terminal situation.

In doing this show, I did save some fish that otherwise would have never seen nature again. Also, almost all of our fight choreography time went to the fish. How to throw it without damaging it at all.

I don’t miss having to oversee a tank full of fish with no stomachs and treat them with fish-zoloft. But, I would like to think that everyone who had a criticism was either Kosher or vegan and did not wear any makeup tested on animals.  I also hope they were equally concerned for the animals that went into the bologna onstage. Do we really live in an out-of-sight/out-of-mind culture to such a degree?

I do appreciate the concern for the animals. But, the hardest part was looking at how little worry went out for the women.

I read a story about a Senior Petstore owner in the UK that was put under house arrest for selling a goldfish to a minor and not taking a bird to the vet early enough. Anyone see the disparity here? Real women are wiped out daily. So, I wonder why it’s so easy to care for a feeder fish and so difficult to care about women.

Why is it so easy to blame me for being cruel to animals, even though I’ve rescued them from the time I was a little girl, and so difficult to look at the human story and feel compassion. REALLY FEEL IT.  Am I fingerpointing here? We vowed not to do that in this 5 day challenge. But, I guess I’m still in venting mode.

Maybe the problem with telling the stories of women in theatre – the reason it remains a constant battle- has to do with the ability (or lack thereof) to care about them as human beings in our culture.

I want to understand.