Waiting for… Godot? …The Perfect Moment?

What a week last week was…

Death was roaming around making it’s presence more evident as it cast itself on people the masses knew. It slammed itself onto the innocent who were standing up to injustice. And it also roamed less publicly into some of my friends’ worlds.

How are you affected by these final interventions? How does it affect all of us as a whole? Are you thinking more about your own mortality?

And, what does that do?

Does it make you feel freer, more able to create and focus, or does it put you into the “deer in headlight” mode and you wonder what to do? Or, do you move into denial after the first shock?

As death creeps closer in, I find myself re-evaluating my own priorities, and examining time. How do I spend it? How do I waste it? With whom do I spend it? If I really knew the exact date of my eminent death, my “dead line”, would I do things a little differently?

In this way, I view “death” as a healthy kick in the pants.

This is not an uncommon discussion and I realize I’m being redundant, however, we humans seem to need constant reminding. We’re a bit stubborn that way.

Two years ago, I watched my close friend die and heard her last breath. A week prior when she was still lucid, she pulled me close and said, “Trilby, I feel like I still haven’t blossomed.”

She was fifty.

Her echoing words continue to propel me toward my desired work.

I listened to a CBC radio interview, last week, with a woman who had been diagnosed with an incurable disease over a year ago, and given 6 to 12 months to live. Her voice expressed, “I’m much freer now, and I know exactly where I want to spend my time.”

She wanted to spend it in her garden close to the earth where she knew she was going.

Fearless was the word she repeated about her current self. “I seemed to live in fear before, and now, nothing can scare me.”

Asked about how it felt to be dying, she answered that she was too busy living to be preoccupied with it. Interesting that she has surpassed the doctors’ predictions already.

Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Seize the moment. I ask myself, honestly, is my energy going where I want it to?

We’ve seen the question many times before, but I’m going to ask it again. What would you be doing if you knew you were going to die in one year?

This article is not meant to be a morbid one.

For myself, I find a liberating sensation flow through me when I think about being more deliberate with time, and priorities. Nothing like a deathly reminder to get me shifting closer to the creative projects I desire to perform.

Just what am I waiting for? How about you?

No waiting here…

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Permission To Play… reviving your inner kid!

When I was little, I didn’t want to grow up. The grown up world looked terribly serious and my instincts told me sub-consciously that there would be a drastic change.

One day when we were kids hanging out in the back shed lighting matches for fun (no we didn’t burn the place down), my little girlfriend told me that she couldn’t wait to get married and have kids. Wow. I thought she was nuts. I felt no rush nor desire for the same. None.

Now, gazillions of years later I know what my childhood instincts were telling me. There was going to be a lot less play in the grown up world and a lot more problems to solve. I just knew.

The other day on my walk, I watched an impish mix of  adults and kids playing soccer with abandon. It made me grin and I knew that nothing else could be on their minds. Too busy playing, they were in the elusive “now” where all the great contemporary gurus are telling us to be. (have you read Eckart Tolle’s book “The Power of Now”?) The soccer game was a perfect example.

Silly us adults frolicking for fun.. imagine!
Silly us adults frolicking for fun.. imagine!

Theatre, stage work offers this opportunity for me and I believe my journey to this world was an honest trek from childhood. I needed to keep playing. It felt like air, a serious necessity. Being a character on a stage, in a situation, with a live audience, if you are sincere with your work, will keep you divinely present.

When we get to witness, as an audience, a truly connected, compelling, and riveting performance in theatre we are privy to the players in the now. There is clarity and presence. And a strange truth.

To get to some of these great moments, I believe play is of the utmost importance. En Francais acting is called “l’art de jeu” – the art of playing. If we allow our grown up tightness to breathe and expand, we have an opportunity to experience extraordinary unexpected times.

We need to have the chance to discover and explore. I guess that is why I turned to Le Bouffon as a tool to get us all to our playful selves, and discover some gems in our work.

Bouffons in their element! Adults gone.
Bouffons in their element! Adults gone.

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child” Pablo Picasso

This idea of play translates beyond the theatre, musical and artistic world.

Who isn’t more productive when we have permission to laugh, or play in our working environment? A boss who reprimands employees who dare to enjoy themselves at work risks stymieing the worker and ironically losing productivity.

When I worked as a costumer in the film industry, I had a favourite designer who had a great sense of humour. We developed a wacky reputation as laughter frequently burst out of “that crazy wardrobe truck”! That laughter got us through the immense work and long grueling hours much more easily.

How is play in your grown up life? What do you do to nurture yourself in your working world? I’m curious. Do you have a situation to share where play proved to be the answer?

Despite my strong will to play, I still write to myself as much as to you, when I say that play is imperative. My bouffon students have heard me say, “I wish I could take my workshop!” as I watch them play wholeheartedly, forgetting about their adult masks, and discovering the sacred pleasure of the now. Their results? A freedom of expression that leads them to more.

I dare to wish that for everyone.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw

“Empathy: Our Greatest Guide (in my humble opinion)”

The above tweet (twitter term) came to me last night while I was having the privilege of witnessing a conversation about writing between an experienced screenwriter, and a newer one who was asking some pertinent questions. I mostly observed and then offered a couple of my thoughts.

Two things happened: one, it reminded me of how twitter can be such a valuable tool if used correctly (don’t worry… this is not a post about twitter, despite the fact I probably could ramble on for a length…), and secondly, the dialogue gave some valuable story advice.

Especially as I dive further into writing a piece for me to perform.

Last night’s discussion touched on emotion and its usefulness when creating effective scenes that will reach an audience. It reminded us to review the people for whom we’re writing, and in the possible ways they could see themselves in the story.

I was reminded of the importance of empathy, and to feel what someone is feeling, to place myself in their shoes. This is an almost impossible feat to do entirely – but one worth exploring if you are going to deliver something with substance…don’t you think?

And, speaking of feet, I wear a plastic support on my right foot as I have drop foot. The “AFO”(ankle-foot-orthoses) goes under my foot and reaches up my calf in an ugly way becoming my best friend so I can’t trip. (I draw on the plastic in the summer so it at least looks funky).

It looks like I’m digressing but it’s related, I promise.

In a rare moment, I met a man my age, the other day, who was also sporting an AFO. It was an instant empathetic moment. We understood so much without even saying anything. We knew in a flash some of the pain, discomfort, and challenges the other one had.

Empathy.

That was a direct one on one moment.

What about mass empathetic moments as a result from a play or a movie?

In our art, or even just our every day life, isn’t it better to work hard at trying to understand a person, a group, a movement, a tragedy, a joy, in order to reproduce a story, a character, a plight, a reason…

Of course it’s impossible to truly understand, & completely empathize, as we are such individuals with such a variety of experiences. But I think that empathy serves well as a guide to a deeper place of truth whether it is for performance, or just relating to a stranger or a close friend.

“I know how you feel.”

As we write, or give life to characters already written, as the twitter conversation implied, we must put our own tears where we want the audience to feel tears, we must feel our own joy in order to pass on the same emotion, and be in our own excitement in order to take others there.

What is my point of this blog post? I guess it is my attempt to remind others as I was gratefully reminded last night that to give “good art” empathizing with your audience is a good stage from which to dive.

I’d like to thank @JBMovies (John’s site) & @vivspace (Vivienne’s blog) for allowing me to watch your valuable twitter conversation unfold.

Enjoy some good musical art from my favourite album on human nature. “One Giant Leap

Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary’s meaning of empathy:

The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

Create Your Own Door, & Open It…

When one door closes, another door opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” Alexander Graham Bell

Thank you for the great quote Mr. Bell.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about those opening and closing doors. I’ve been thinking about the doors that have opened in my life and the doors that have been kept tightly closed. I’ve been thinking about some doors I should have maybe NOT gone through. And, some, I thankfully did go through.

As much as I can, and as much as I remember, I try to pay attention to any dusty lights suddenly extending my way from open doors. Sometimes, I’ve walked into doors, forced my way through doors, and found some doors just way too heavy to open. (I got my finger badly damaged in a closing door twice in my life because I was still trailing my hand as the door closed…hmmm… “don’t linger while the door is closing behind you”?)

Recently, I’ve watched others fall back in shock as doors have slammed in their faces just when they thought they were almost through. (Quick…look behind you! Maybe another door is waiting!!)

Can you relate?

Or, maybe it looks like there are so many doors open in front of you and you have to choose which one is seemingly the correct one. This can feel like playing Russian Roulette.

Sometimes, we wait too long for doors to open. We wait, and wait, and wait. Especially as actors, or people in the arts in need of others for their work to advance. We hope and wait. We get that audition and we wait. We get the call back and we wait. We wait for the jury to jury. We wait for the interview results. We wait for someone to tell us that we can practice our art.

Frustrating? I’ll say! You give power to someone you don’t even know in order to do the work you are destined for or are hungry to do.

A friend of mine who is also an Oscar winning actress was seeking work and wasn’t finding it. (Yes.. even winning an Oscar doesn’t guarantee you work!) Finally, she decided to create her own one-woman play. As she put it… she needed a job! A long story short, the show became a huge success and was requested everywhere. She had created her own door, and opened it wide. More attention eventually came her way and, of course, she was offered more of the work she had earlier been pursuing.

I look to the those imaginative pilgrims who boldly stride forth, and fling their own doors open and not passively wait for others to do so.

With some resistance, I was forced to open my own door several years ago because of a back operation. I had been doing work on film sets in costumes to help fund my theatrical thespian adventures, but after a long period of rehabilitation, and some permanent nerve damage, I knew I couldn’t costume supervise any longer.

So, I got entrepreneurial and started my own business – Hot Scarves ‘n Stuff, a special scarf with heat pads that I had created on a film set. I learned all the “businessy stuff”, and even did a business plan, but most importantly, I learned that you must love and be passionate about the work, which keeps you going through the tougher times.

Hot Scarves on Display
Hot Scarves on Display

Well, I didn’t love my “scarfy” venture enough. Try as I might, I just couldn’t sustain excitement for a fleece scarf. (What WAS I thinking?!!)

But, it did lead me to another venture that I do love- my buffoonery workshops. I had to open one door so I could get to the second door, which I managed to open on my own. (Thank goodness for those ideas that come in the shower!) I am hugely rewarded during my workshops when I get to watch others blossom in their “bouffoness” and become freer beings having fun!

Bouffons in Action!
Bouffons in Action!

The next heavy door I’ve created and I’m slowly pushing open, and I mean slowly, is a theatrical piece I’m writing for myself. Fear is the weighty material of this door, but I know I have to do this, especially as you are witnessing this statement!

What about YOU? May I ask you if this subject stirs some deep projects that have been brewing for some time or are you already boldly throwing doors open for us to watch? (I guess we all open doors at different speeds.) Do you perform work that feels extraordinarily satisfying?

What do think? What is the door you need to create for you? (…buying a canvas, going to a poetry slam, playing at an open mic?) Are you waiting for something? What doors do you want to fling open?

I think I used the word door way too many times in this post, but, there are not too many synonyms for “door”! Wishing you well!