acting · community · connection · intimacy · love · theater

"It’s not about the applause."

I’m doing it again. This “auditioning” thing. 
It makes me nervous, giddy, excited, daunted, and happy, underneath all the neurosis. Seems I’m the perfect image of an actor, then, eh?!
But really. I was thinking about it when I was in To Kill A Mockingbird recently, about tweaking the title of Lance Armstrong’s memoir, “It’s not about the bike”: It’s not about the applause. 
At the end of the show, the performance, onstage, when I come out for my bow, I don’t really hear it. Adrenaline in my ears, it’s part of a wall of sound crossed with Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice: Wah Wah Wah. It’s the briefest moment. Shorter than an orgasm. It can’t be why you do it. 
It’s not about the applause. 
Because in the moment that the audience is able to reflect on what they’ve seen and pass judgement positive or negative, they’re already out of the moment — and that’s not what this acting thing is about for me. 
Not that I have much experience! But from that which I do, I realize that it’s more about what’s happening in the moment of performance with the audience, the experience created with them in real time. Whether that’s engagement, boredom, emotional stirring. 
For me, those moments of connection are what it’s about. To create a space and an environment for others to have an emotional experience they otherwise might not have had that evening. 
For me, it’s always been about that. From poems written years ago that highlight my desire to incite a revolution or evolution in people through performance. 
You can hear it from the stage. Whether the audience is holding their breath, gasping at a sudden revelation. Or crying, you can hear the sniffling. Or laughing, or that one person in the audience who laughs harder than others, or is trying not to laugh because no one else is. 
It’s this petrie dish of human experience. How will they respond, react, be moved, if at all?
I love it. I love being a part of it. I love having a small hand in moving people, of allowing them the moments of anonymity in the dark theater to be moved. That intimacy, even though I will never see their faces. That authenticity they get to experience, even though they paid for it. 
Isn’t that what Aristotle spoke of when he said theater was a catalyst of mass catharsis?
So in those few moments when I’m timing when to step out and down to the apron of the stage, and for a moment be Molly instead of character, it’s like stepping out as the man behind the curtain in Oz. Like seeing how a magic trick works. 
It’s lovely and I won’t fein that it isn’t bolstering to get applause, but I rush that part in my head, braced against it somehow, not really hearing it, just trying to bow and let the next person have theirs. 
Sure, it’s gratifying as we, the whole cast, stand there hands clasped over our heads, knowing that this sound is a show of appreciation and gratitude and approval. 
And I won’t say I don’t like it or hope for it. But. 

It’s not about the applause. 
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action · art · awe · community · faith · friendship · love · miracle

The Miracle of 12 – 13 – 14

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“I’m getting married on 12/13/14,” I half-joked to my
coworker early this year.
I just love the order, the numbers, the unique fact that
consecutive dates like that won’t happen again until 2103 (1/2/03).
My favorite time of day? 12:34.
Although “5:55” is another favorite, because my brother and I
used to stand in front of the microwave (the only digital clock in the house
then), look at the time and announce, “Five fifty-five!” and then lean over
sideways, our heads upside-down, and announce, “Fifty-five five!” and then stand up straight and do
it again: 5:55!! 55:5!!
I love that kind of order and ease, palindromes, sequences.
THREE POINT ONE FOUR ONE FIVE NINE – I THINK PI IS MIGHTY
FINE!, is one our mother taught to us.
And so, when early this year, I looked at the calendar and
saw that one of these special dates was coming up, I declared to my coworker
that would be my wedding anniversary date.
Now, this was, say June, maybe? No boyfriend. No prospects. It would be a short
engagement! But I figured, What the hell, it’s always good to declare things to
the Universe. Why not?
And 6 months later, yesterday, it hit. December 13th, 2014.
No, I did not get married. Alas.
But I did get something else. An outpouring of love that
rivals the strongest romantic connection:
Yesterday, you all erased my cancer debt. In 36 hours. Less than two
days. Poof! Gone. Done. Finished. Eliminated.
FREE.
Yesterday evening, I became free. Because of the love and
generosity of you, my friends, your friends, and even people I barely know.
One of the donors is a woman I helped at my sales job this
week. A brand new woman I hit it off with, and happened to mention the launch
of the campaign on Friday.
“Send me the link,” she said. And she donated, too.
Over 60 people contributed to the campaign, not to mention
the shares and “likes” and “We’re with you” emails and messages.
In 36 hours. It’s done. Something that has harangued me since I got sick is over. Something I put in every monthly budget and calculate how long it will take, and that I can never move from my apartment with that debt. Something I was shackled to. 
Until yesterday. 
Now, I have to wait for the campaign to officially close in January,
and for the crowdfunding site to take their cut and then send me the donations.
But then, I get to write a check to my landlord. And I get
to say, Yes, it’s time to clean out that janitor room–cum art studio, unstick
the windows, clean out the dried cat poop, put a lock on the door, and hand me a key. 
And then I get to move my art supplies up. Out of my closet.
Out of random drawers.
The half-started art projects, the oil paint, acrylics, and embossing gun, the colored pencils, and easel, and oil pastels, collage magazines, glue
sticks, stamps and stickers, brushes and sketchpads and canvases, exact-o knives and glitter.
All of this. All of this hidden away in my studio apartment
closet. All of this out. Up. Lit. Alive. With me, available to me. Creation
incarnate.
I get to m o v e 
o n.
12 13 14.
I didn’t get married yesterday. But what is a wedding except
a display of love, commitment, hope, cherishment?
On 12/13/14, I absolutely received that. Your love, your
hope, your belief in me.
Wow.
And: Thanks. 

community · debt · healing · vulnerability

A Kick Start.

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Well, folks. Tomorrow I will publish my indiegogo campaign
to help me pay the back-rent accrued when I was in chemo.
It’s been a short, strange, and amazing process.
About 2 weeks ago, I was sitting with a friend in a café, both of us
“applicationing,” online searching, looking for work, looking for authenticity.
I said to him, “You know my favorite thing I ever did? I
hosted this group art show in SF.”
I showed him the LocalArtists Productions page, practically
defunct and way out-dated. I told him how successful it was, people came,
people who didn’t know they could sell their art sold their art. I even sold some!
People laughed, ate, met, mingled. It was divine.
I then told my friend that I haven’t painted much since then. That I can’t really in my small apartment with a cat who likes to
walk over wet paint. I told him about this art studio I found while exploring
the 4th floor of my apartment building, and how I’d inquired to my landlord
about it, and how he’d said, yes, I can rent it for $25 a month(!!!), if I pay off my back rent.
Almost $4000 now. Out of work for 6 months, only working
part time after that. I racked up quite the debt. And have been slowly paying
it back. But…
Here’s where lightning struck. My friend said to me,
“You should do a Kickstarter. This is exactly the kind of thing people use
crowdfunding for.”
I looked at him, stunned, quizzical, a little vague. I tilted my head, trying to process what was just
said, offered, opened up before me.
I replied, incredulous, “I guess people would donate to a cancer survivor who wanted to make art
again, wouldn’t they?”
And so it was, 2 weeks ago we started something new.
Planning meetings, a few video shoots, a lot of “omigod, I’m
not even wearing any make-up, I wish I’d smile, I look awful” moments. And it’s
done. It’s being polished, and tomorrow morning, I will push this campaign out
into the world in the hopes that others will actually feel something from it.
In the hopes that I can stop writing “back-rent” in my
monthly budget. In the hopes that I can sever that weight of debt from that
time in my life.
As I sat with my friend going over the language in the
campaign, we have been talking a lot about “closing the cancer chapter.” And I
turned to him and said, “This isn’t closing it,
you know? This doesn’t make it ‘over.’
There is no “closed” when it comes to cancer. I’m in
remission. I’m 2 years into the 5 year “almost as healthy as normal people”
period. But it’s never closed. It can be moved on from in many ways, but the
simple existence of the campaign itself is proof that I’m willing to move into
the world in a way I wasn’t before
cancer.
Everything I do is in reaction to it.
I told my friend, tearfully, that this campaign is
important. It’s helpful. But it isn’t the end. The “closing the chapter” is a
great sound-byte, and I’m using it. But it was important for me to say to him,
“Not quite.”
For better or worse.
I am proud of the
strides I’ve made since being sick. I’m proud of the advancements and actions I’ve
taken – being in a band, singing, being in plays, a musical, going to Hawaii,
Boston, Seattle, trying dating again, flying a goddamned plane! – and I’m
overwhelmed by the support I have gotten.
But, it’s so hard to sit with the reality that I am who I am
because of what I went through.
I still get nervous when I get a sore throat, cuz that’s how
I was diagnosed. I still have to keep extra tabs on my health insurance. I still have
a butterfly-shaped scar on my chest where the chemo tube went.
And last week I put on a sweater I hadn’t worn in a while,
and pulled a strand of hair caught in it. The hair, my hair, was long, past
shoulder length. It was from before I was sick. Before my hair fell out.
It was like seeing a unicorn. Evidence of a mythical time. A
time called, “Before.”
It existed. I existed.
The cancer chapter isn’t closed. I don’t know if it ever
does.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t take action and strides and
make use of the persistent lesson to live.
I am proud of the
woman I have become and continue to evolve into. I know she exists now. And
maybe she always did. 

action · art · community · dreams · help · inspiration

Re-Ignition.

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Unstructured time isn’t the best for me, and yet I am
feeling a bit panicky about my upcoming full-time employment in sales starting
on Tuesday. What has been lovely about
this time, besides the “brain space” I spoke of the other day is that I’ve
gotten to take my long walks again, meet up with my folks again, play with my cat again.
I’ve enjoyed being unemployed, though I know it’s not
sustainable.
On that note, though, I’ve been meeting up to “co-work” at cafes with a friend
also looking for work and get some applicationing done.
This has led to conversations, which have led to ideas, which are leading to
action. Particularly around things that “light me up.”
Such as the long-lost “LocalArtists Productions” I started
a few years ago, which hosted a successful group art show, but in which I
put too much of my own money and ended up in a pickle. Since then, I’ve
sort of let that idea drift. But talking to my new friend about what lights me,
I said, “My favorite thing I’ve ever done? This group art show I put on.”

Even as I sat listening to my friend at her CD release party
the other week, I looked around the space. I came home and looked up the rental
costs for that space: this could be a great place to host another one.
I love bringing people
together, people who “normally would not mix.” I’ve met so many types of
artists on my path – poets, writers, painters, photographers, musicians, actors – that
it only makes
sense that I bring
them together. “Oh, you make jewelry, my friend does still photography, maybe
you can work together.” “You’re a painter, my friend just participated in an
open studios, maybe you can talk to her about getting your work out there.”
There are too many opportunities to learn from and
collaborate with each other. I don’t want us to miss any!
So, I may be starting a Kickstarter campaign soon. To pay
off my back rent (accrued when I was in chemo) so that I can rent out the art
studio space on the 4th floor of my apartment building. I said to my friend
over our laptops, “Yeah, people would be willing to donate to a cancer survivor
who wants to produce art again, wouldn’t they?”
They’re slightly different avenues I’m beginning to chase
down again: One is the studio space I want to rent so that I can start working again. The other is the creation
of a space for artists to get together, these events and gatherings that I
love to host.
I feel putting grease behind one will help with the grease
behind the other. And so, before I start my full-time work on Tuesday, my
friend and I are going to brainstorm about the video, and maybe even get to
making it.
Because time is ticking away and we all have art to make and
people to meet. 

authenticity · community · growth · love · recovery · theater

Spiritual Echolocation

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I am not the best
judge of my progress or my abilities. But, even though I can’t rightly see myself, I’m beginning to notice that I am hearing
it from others.
And this in itself feels like progress: At least I’m hearing
it.
There was a time when I described compliments as one of those
bug zapper lamps people hang on their porch. The bugs merely get within range
of the lamp and they get zapped dead. Same with compliments for me: Anything positive that was said would get deflected before it even got close to
touching me. None of that here, pew! pew!
I’d said that you can’t receive a compliment if there’s no
complementary place within you to receive it. If there’s nowhere it fits
within your own understanding of yourself, then there’s no way that it can be
accepted. There’s no ring of truth, because you don’t believe it yourself.
Time passed, and I’ve become more able to receive positive
feedback about certain things, because I have begun to hone and cultivate the
place within me that is receptive, the place within me that believes you
because I believe it myself.
That said, there’s room for growth.
This week, I’ve had several experiences where I’ve been told
about my progress and abilities, and even though I can’t quite feel this, I’m beginning
to recognize that I believe them, I
believe others are seeing this, even if I’m not myself.
Hence, spiritual echolocation. I can’t see it myself, but I
believe in the feedback I’m receiving – so there must be something to it.
I know that feeding off external validation is not the
way to walk about the world, but what it’s doing for me is giving me hope that
one day I can see it. There is an
existence of a cave wall. Others are telling me so. If that is truth, there is
hope that I will see it, too.
On Friday night, after the first act of our opening night of
To Kill a Mockingbird, the director came
backstage. He was beaming. He was so glad and proud of the work I was doing
on-stage.
I was dubious. But I thought Wednesday’s preview night
went much better; it felt better
.
He told me he was the only rightly judge of my performance,
and Friday night, I was better.
Whether I felt it or not.
On Saturday morning, I went for my semi-regular voice
lesson. And at the end of a phrase I’d sung, my teacher applauded and cheered –
he even gave me a high five.
“Did you hear that?” he asked, delighted.
No, I didn’t. I can’t hear myself.
The noise and buffer between what is and what I perceive is
loud and thick.
“We’re going to have to record you more then,” he said. “You
have to get used to hearing yourself.”
This morning, I was on the phone with my mentor, and I
reported these incidents to her, as I begin to parse out these places where I’m
being told one thing, but I’m hearing and sensing another.
She, too, had told me that I’m farther along than I can
feel. And she gave me a metaphor (because we all know I love those!):
She told me I am a tree creating deep, deep roots. A solid
foundation. And you can’t always see that growth above ground, but it’s
happening.
We were talking (again) about my questioning of where and
who I am this lifetime and where I’m going. And she said, some people have
really gorgeous foliage, and weak roots.
We’re doing the work now — early, some might say — that others
come to in mid and later life. Creating a root system, carving out the rot,
cleaning the wounds.
Like a field of asparagus, you don’t see its heroic work
until one morning you turn, and the whole field has sprouted green, fully
formed, like Athena.
I am not used to
hearing or seeing myself clearly. I’m not adequately armed with the ability to
track my own progress. And thank god for other people, then!
But I do feel the promise and the hope of their reflection.
I am beginning to hear what they’re saying instead of zapping it, because I’m beginning to uncover the place within me that believes it myself.
I’m starting to open to a truth that’s been, and is, hard
for me to swallow:
I am worthy. 

community · compassion · learning · levity

Still?

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While waiting backstage last night for a long scene I’m not
in to finish, I leafed through an old book of opera history, the only book in
the room.
In it, are pages and pages of photos, and I was struck by
how similar everyone looked to today. Yep, there’re the same cheeckbones, facial
structure, haughty gaze we still see in others and starlets today. Some of the
photos were dated 1898.
Over a hundred years ago, people looked relatively the same.
They portrayed the same stories of love, hatred, betrayal, and sacrifice. And I
commented to the other actor who was also waiting backstage on how shockingly
similar we looked, and how our stories, our desires haven’t changed for tens of
thousands of years. Mythology and the Bible tell the same stories, and people probably looked
relatively similar too.
Sure, we might be a little more refined about it, not
sacrificing goats or children as often. Not slaying enemies in the street. But
for the most part, looking back through time, we’re the same people we were
thousands of years ago.
And my co-actor said something that struck me: Well, yeah,
because we have the same brains we’ve had for thousands of years.
For some reason, this made me pause, and things clicked into
place in my head. We’ve been retelling these stories through pictoral, oral,
and written history for eons. Homer wrote about the same passions and impulses
as Shakespeare as Langston Hughes as Brene Brown.
We’ve all been processing the same emotions for millennia.
There’s something kind of humbling and shocking about that realization. Perhaps
even a little bit disheartening! But mostly, I think, connecting.
It makes all humanity more relatable.
I remember reading a story of a therapist who was going to
be working with a group of Rwandan refugees. She was worried that she
wouldn’t know how to relate to them, how she would be able to talk to them
about what they’d been through because it was so alien to her experience.
What she found was charming: Her first client wanted
to talk about how the guy she had her eye on was hot for her cousin.
We all have the same impulses. We all have the same
chemistry and wiring, inhibitions and ambitions. Beyond the length of recorded
time, we’ve all been trying to make a go at this thing called life.
And I find that oddly comforting. 

community · desire · fear · lack · learning · science

Moving the water-cooler.

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I was at dinner with a friend on Tuesday
night, election night. And she was dispirited by how little she’d gotten to
talk with anyone about the election, the issues, what’s going on in our area.
That it’s just not the water-cooler chatter that’s around her. That there’s a part of her
intelligence that doesn’t feel fueled and fed in the current iteration of her
life.
I replied that I knew precisely how she felt. That there are
conversations I don’t have any more on an intellectual level, not just by being
out of school, but by being out of the groups who talk about topics that make
me think (beyond the emotionally intelligent conversations I can have until the
sun burns out).
I told her there was an informal dinner a friend from grad
school hosts every Wednesday, and how for 2 years now, I continue to get his
weekly invitations. I haven’t gone once.
Well, that’s not true. I went once, with an ex, and he felt
awkward, so it was awkward, and we left. But I have a feeling that dinner’s one
source of the higher conversations I want to have.
Meanwhile, this morning I get a text from a friend saying
it’s her annual birthday party this Saturday. She’s the founder of a non-profit
that provides medical birthing supplies to women in Africa, and has visited
more times than I can count. I can see from my text history that she invited me
last year, and the year before, and I still haven’t gone.
My friend at dinner on Tuesday night challenged me to accept
an invitation to events like these. To go, to meet, to talk, to learn, to be sparked. To
see if there’s a level of conversation I can have beyond my normal scope.
I haven’t wanted to go alone. But that’s usually the best
way to meet people. And so, today, this morning, I replied that I
would be at my friend’s birthday party this weekend.
I can’t attend the Wednesday dinners at the moment because
of rehearsal, but I promised my Tuesday friend I would go after they finish.
It’s not that these opportunities aren’t available. It’s
that I’m scared to go. Scared I can’t keep up. That I don’t know enough. My Tuesday friend told me we both know enough to have *some* kind of a conversation about anything, and she’s right. 
There are science lectures I want to attend at Cal. I have wanted to
sit in on classes there for a long time. Maybe it’s different from a party
that’s social, and I’ll want to bring a wingman, someone to discuss it with
afterward or — and here’s my real desire — I’ll meet people there who will want to grab tea afterward and discuss it, our own little study group of lecture-junkies.
I’ve written before about wanting to seek out conversations
and friends and classes that will again spark the kind of thinking I miss
so terribly; that in the absence of such conversation, I begin to feel stagnant
and short of my potential. I know I’ve hemmed and lamented about it
before, but maybe, with this one Yes for this weekend, I’m changing the
direction of my action.