Celebrating Projects

This (long-ish) list of mine is making me take trips into memory and thing pop into my head. I find myself remembering with a smile or a groan some of the interesting and obscure creative projects I’ve participated in, with people of all ages. So today, for #32, I celebrate some of those moments.

History Comes to Life

The first one that popped into my head has led me on a futile search for some record of another amazing person in my life. When I was a Sophomore in high school, I had a wonderful teacher named Rita Smith (who would a few years later be named the Time Magazine teacher of the year). She taught social studies, and as a class project we created a living chess tournament using characters from history (The War of the Roses) as our chess pieces. I, along with a fellow student, wrote the script for the tournament, which we then submitted for the state history competition, and made it to the semi-finals I believe. We all performed the living chess play/tournament in Boston, dressed in costume and enjoying every moment. This was one of the moment I saw the power of theatre as a teaching tool, but also the influence of an incredible and creative teacher on making learning an enjoyable and memorable experience. To this day, I strive to create opportunities like that in everything I do. I spent the day trying to find out where Rita Smith is now, but haven’t found any information. I’d like to say thank you, if I could. (Any Brockton High School alums who may read this . . . do you know where she is?)

Mystery on a Train

When I lived in Vermont, one summer I taught a summer camp at the Burlington Center of the Arts that was called “Mystery on the Flyer.” The kids who participated created a murder mystery that we performed on a moving train in Burlington. It was fun. It was fabulous. It was an adventure.

We met all the characters in the train station first, then we got on the train and the mystery began.

We met all the characters in the train station first, then we got on the train and the mystery began.

G.O.A.L Reached

While living in Durango, I worked on several projects geared toward grades 5-8 that I found rewarding. One was the Girl’s Opportunities in Arts and Leadership, where I helped some middle school girls find their voices through writing and onstage. I love mentoring girls. I also worked with a group f 5th graders as an Improvisation coach for a Destination ImagiNation competition which combines science, theatre and social studies. They placed fourth in the state and were a wonderful group of kids.

Creativity is for Everyone

In Kansas I worked on a program that I’ve written about elsewhere in this blog, providing an arts/drama workshop for a group of adults with developmental disabilities. That will always remain one of the most powerful experiences of my life.

Combating Hatred

If you read any of my posts about Slovakia, and working with the Roma you know how special and influential that experience was, and how much I hope to find a way to continue with projects like that.

Students Who Think

Over the years, I’ve managed to inspire or challenge some of my students to take their learning beyond the classroom. There was the one who decided to create a piece of invisible theatre in the campus center protesting the abuse of women around the world; there was the class (last semester) who decided to do a flash mob of sorts exploring the issue of sleep deprivation and stress around exam time.

There were Honors students who became inspired by something I taught  and pursued that as their project.  There was the Japanese student in my conversation class who took my discussion of poetry back to his college classroom to share. There was the student who took a chance and applied for a transfer at her dream school, partially because of a discussion with me (she’ll be graduating from Emerson in May). The list of students who have inspired me because of their passion, and of whom I feel like I’ve helped inspire as well, is ever-changing and growing. I’m honored to have been even a small part of their journey.

While I still sometimes look at my career and say, what have I done? I don’t have a big name in my field. I’m not famous. I never became the well-known director I had dreamed of becoming, it’s these smaller moments and short-term projects (a list which could contain many other examples) that I cherish.

What are some of the work/project experiences in your life that you hold dear?

I Will Not Be Silenced

I forced my family to head to Boston with me today, to attend the rally Unite Against the War on Women.

Jaclyn Friedman was an amazing speaker who articulated what I am unable to say.

I found myself sitting on the steps of City Hall, crying silent tears.

In the midst of all these people who had come out to show concern and express anger, to share stories, to speak out against repression and injustice I felt very much alone.

Nathan is interested, but not nearly as passionate about the issues as I am. Sarah really had no interest, despite my explanations that everything happening there had to to with making the world a better place for her. She was distracted by pigeons, the Circus that stood right next to the rally, and the fun potential of steps.

So when I cried, I cried alone.

Where did the tears come?

When I first walked into the plaza, my heart tightened. Around me people carried the signs that should not have surprised me, signs about not being sluts, or stay out of my vagina, or whatever. But seeing them made me realize that the issues we face are so much broader than contraception/choice. If we only focus on those issues, we are focusing our energy in the wrong direction.

The issues move beyond our bodies, to the fact that women are not inferior, second class citizens who serve no purpose other then as incubators for future generations. We are being treated as less than men, as barely human, and that is the real issue.  The laws that are being made affect anyone who is marginalized, and that is a bigger problem than a vaginal ultrasound. I am not diminishing the importance of those aspects. I’ve already written about them as passionately as I could. But, I’ve had the growing sense that we might be fighting the wrong part of the war, and if that is so we could be heading to disaster.

When I heard Jaclyn Friedman (pictured above) speak  I felt pressure release. She broadened the message, speaking of the effects on all people, especially poor people or people of color. She reminded us that this is a battle for all people, where men and women must stand together. She spoke for my thoughts.

But it was not enough and I still ended up in tears.

The tears started when I heard Reverend Aaron Payson Minister of Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester speak. The title of this post actually comes from his use of “We will not be silenced!” His words showed me that there are some truly religious people out there who recognize that perhaps the words of the bible are being interpreted incorrectly, or perhaps they were written by people who want to keep control of their own power. He too, spoke for my thoughts.

Some of the tears came from hearing people express themselves so beautifully. Some from the power of the stories. Some from the sadness and frustration expressed by women who started this fight in the 70s and could not believe that we were fighting this battle again, now.

But I admit, that some of the tears were personal.

Two incredible women spoke. Idalia, who is described as “” a Puertominican (Puerto Rican and Dominican) writer, performance poet, healthcare advocate, and kitchen table feminist” (http://idaliapoetry.tumblr.com) and Spectra, “n award-winning Nigerian writer, women’s rights activist, and the voice behind the African feminist media blog, Spectra Speaks (www.spectraspeaks.com). [Note that I shortened their bios for this, these women are truly amazing.]

They spoke with the honest voices of their hearts, including their sexuality, their race, and their womanhood. They spoke and the floodgates opened as my heart broke into a million tiny pieces of confusion.

Why? Because when I hear the voices of the truly marginalized I am reminded that I am a white, middle class, heterosexual woman. True, I am a Jew, and that carries with it a different kind of marginalization, but I do not experience rejection based on the color of my skin or my sexual identity.

Sometimes the reality of my identity makes me feel like I should not speak.

I flash back to a time when I presented my dissertation for an award. I wrote a doctoral dissertation entitled, “Theorizing Diversity in Three Professional Theatres for Young Audiences.” Basically I was looking at the fact that most professional TYA companies were white owned, white managed, and yet the audiences they served represented diversity. I wanted to understand the messages being sent in that interaction. I wanted to explore the intersection between what we thought we were doing and what we were really doing. When I presented this for the award, the only thing I was attacked for was the fact that I was a white woman looking at issues of diversity, of race. I explained my position on that, but the explanation was not enough and the question kept coming, “Why do you think you have the right to speak for others?” I did not try to speak for others, I tried to observe and learn and use their voices, but that did not matter to the questioner.

I won Honorable Mention for that award, but nobody won the award that year. Everyone was shocked that I didn’t win.

But this isn’t about that.

It’s about the fact that I should not feel silenced because I haven’t experienced the same level of struggle. If we separate ourselves that way, then we only hurt ourselves. I’m not saying we ignore the differences, but we must embrace those differences and acknowledge that all our voices have the right, the need, to be heard.

I am a white woman. I can’t change that. Nor should I have to apologize for it.

I also have a daughter who is a woman of color. Will she face different challenges than I did?

I can’t answer that, except to say that if we allow the powers that be to control women then her world will be even more challenging than mine.

I can’t allow that to happen. I will not be silent.

Riding the Bus: A Love Story

Fung Wah Bus Van Hool C2045 coach on a stopove...

March 30, 2012, Boston, MA

I sit on the floor, the cold from the rust-colored tile seeping through my pants. There are seats next to me, but I want to try to get a front seat on the bus, so I sit in line. The Chinese bus (Fung Woh) just loaded, so I hear the chatter of Chinese around me. I’m watching people, trying to be subtle about it. I don’t really have to be subtle though, as most people protect themselves with various technological devices. I bet that travelling by bus in the past was friendlier, as people asked questions and discussed the adventure ahead, rather than hiding behind mini screens.

Flashback, A Peter Pan Bus, Sometime in 1990

I remember falling in love, briefly, with a man on a bus. I was taking the bus home from college, either just before or just after I graduated. I got into a discussion with this cute black guy who was heading home from college as well. We talked the whole ride: about our times at schools 20 minutes from each other, about our fears as both of us graduated, about life and dreams and where we were heading from there. My future was still unknown. I can’t recall what his was, maybe moving to New York or something. “I wish we had met earlier,” he said. “Me too.” I surprised myself with that reply as I was perennially shy with guys. He got off the bus before my stop, and we never saw each other again. These were the days before everyone had cell phones, e-mail addresses and Facebook. For people in transition, contact was more challenging. I believe we exchanged phone numbers, but his life was moving forward quickly. A flame for a moment that blew out with a puff of smoke.

March 30, 2012, Boston, MA

Now the line is silent. Nobody speaks, not even the people travelling together. There are a few hushed conversations, and a few less-hushed cell phone conversations. Most of the noise comes from buses beeping, honking, moving, backing up. Nobody really makes eye contact even. I try to look up and be friendly, open–but that is not the norm nowadays. That seems like such a sad loss. The Fung Wah bus backs out and moves away, opening the space for my Megabus to move in. It’s still early though, so there is nothing to do but wait.

Waiting for the bus home in NYC.

Stories from the Airport

When I waited in the security line, they announced “Take your toiletries out of your bag.” The woman in front of me turned to me and said, “I have a bunch of tampons in there. Do I need to take those out?”

“No,” I reassure her. They mean liquids like shampoo and toothpaste.

We both giggle at the thought of handing a bag full of tampons to a male security guard.

“Excuse me, Ma’am” the shoe shine man calls out to a stunning black woman as she passes his booth. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” she answers and veers slightly into his domain.

“Do you believe in love at first sight?” He asks.

I didn’t hear her initial answer, but the conversation made me smile. They exchanged a few words, and then the woman continued her walk toward her gate calling back, “I hope not, I’m married.” I couldn’t resist a glance back, to see a huge smile on her face.

How could anyone not feel positive with a brief and friendly interaction like that?

I find a seat in the middle of the waiting area by my gate and start subtly observing the people around me in hopes that I will discover a story. There is the man with the gruff face who looks like he has serious thoughts going through his brain. His face reflects intensity and sadness. There is the business man who flaunts his importance as he talks loudly on his cell phone. Behind me sits the group of students reflecting on their futures as they discuss classwork and dream weddings. Their conversation then moves on to going on missions for the church, and I can’t help but shudder. I catch a glimpse of their shirts, and they are from Oral Roberts University. Enough said. (No offense intended, anyone).

People all around me read big, thick books that you know they brought (or bought) for this occasion. My own new book lies tucked in my carry-on waiting for me to pull it out.

A man sits in front of me and pulls out his cell phone to check for messages or technology. His eyes meet mine and he shares a brief smile. That is refreshing.

My observations will continue, to see what stories I can discover.

I must say, the flight from Tulsa to Dallas was full of friendly people. The man across the aisle from me took my bag without a word and put it up in the bin. Now, you might think that’s rude, but given my 5 ft. and shrinking stature, I always appreciate a friendly assist to get my luggage overhead.

I sat next to a woman who wanted to talk. That doesn’t happen very often. She seemed really nice so we chatted. Within the first 10 minutes of conversation I learned that she was probably one of the only other Democrats on the flight. Don’t ask me why she revealed that so easily. She even said, “I know we’re not supposed to talk politics, but . . . ”  I guess I come off as the a liberal hippie that I really am. It must be in my aura.

That first flight was fun.

The airport in Dallas was a little annoying, as they didn’t post gate assignments anywhere, and I had already forgotten what they announced by the time I got off the plane. But at least they were friendly when I asked. ;)

The second flight was a little less fun, as I was way in the back of the plane, sitting with a mother and daughter. I liked listening to their Indian accents, but then the girl got whiny so I had to tune out. I didn’t really get a chance to talk to them. The family was clearly from India (the father and son sat behind us), and I wanted to know their story.

Maybe I’ll have to make it up.

Once I figured out how to get to my hotel, I talked to a nice lady from Boston on the shuttle. Her response when I said I was coming from Kansas, “Well . . .(long pause) that’s and . . . interesting . . . place to be coming from.”

My thoughts exactly.

But now I’m in Seattle with more adventures to come! [Update, I took a walk around Seattle Center with my friend and got some interesting shots.]

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