O is for Only Five Sentences

This post will be longer than five sentences. ūüėČ

Marsha Norman

I went to the Master Class taught by Marsha Norman on Saturday. (By the way, she never ended up getting to my scene–all that worry and she didn’t even go. :(. Sigh)

This class was, of course, focused on playwriting, but again I think her advice crosses disciplines and maybe helpful to my friends here.

She asked the group to write down five sentences:

“1. This play is about ________________.

2. It takes place in _________________.

3. The main character wants __________ but _____________.

4. It starts when ______________.

5. It ends when ______________.”

We then shared these and selected some of the memorable ones (there were a lot of people in attendance) for a vote until eventually, as a group, ¬†we narrowed it down to one play that we would produce. (Side note, I knew which one it would be as soon as we had the first voting list–and, no, it wasn’t mine)

Through this process, Marsha pointed out some interesting things:

  • We all want to go to a play that takes place in an interesting location or a place that we want to know more about. But often writers forget about the importance of place.
  • There are some truly universal stories or themes that we all lean toward, for example the lost girl trying to find her way home.
  • When writing the actual play, she said “By page 8 you must let the audience know when they can go home.” (Marsha Norman) In other words, early on you tell the audience what needs to happen for this story to end.

Marsha went on to say, this is how to begin any playwriting process. She told us to do this, tell it to someone, and then LISTEN. The key thing is listening. According to her, if the response is “Oh, that’s interesting” or “that sounds like a good idea” then the play is not worth pursuing. However, if the response is another story, “Oh, that reminds me of the time when _______,” then you have a good idea.

I thought about how it relates to many of us in this community that hope to write an excellent story someday. In particular, Kathy’s story at Reinventing the Event Horizon popped into my mind. She has been working on her memoir of mental illness and sharing with us art and memories from that time. Today, she also shared some beautiful creations from the time when ¬†her “bipolar¬†symptoms have been managed by medication” proving that her amazing artistic ability and creativity move beyond her manic phase. If you read any of her marvelous posts, and then look at the comments below her posts you see something wonderful–you see more stories. Kathy’s stories touch us all in some deep ways, in ways that make us want to look at our own lives and share our own stories.

By Kathy McCullough--this is one of her later pieces.

By Kathy McCullough. This one was painted while she was dealing with the illness.

Her five sentences might be something like this (and these words are mine, not hers):

  1. This is a story about a woman trying to understand her history of mental illness.
  2. It takes place in her mind and in mental institutions in Lexington, KY
  3. The woman wants to feel normal but doesn’t want to lose the creativity and passion that come with her symptoms.
  4. It begins when she becomes overwhelmed by a reality other people cannot see.
  5. It ends when she embraces the true artist that encompasses all sides of her personality.

That, my friends, is a story that resonates with all. Please go visit her site if you haven’t already.

I think I need to start working on only five sentences, and see where they take me.

What are your five sentences?


Notes on Nothing, Notes on Everything.

I’m making a double N post today, because the post I just posted about Nathan wasn’t the one I originally started with and because I have been up since 3am but still cannot sleep. I understand if you choose not to read all of my posts. ūüôā But, to quote a comment from Kaye Peters of Have Coffee . . . Will Write on one of my recent posts, “you‚Äôre posting like a woman possessed”. Possessed . . . manic . . . whatever, I’m simply going with the flow right now. So here are a few notes:

More Marsha Norman

“Write what you urgently need to write.” Those were Marsha Norman’s words ¬†when asked if she had ever returned to a work she gave up on. “If it is over two years, don’t try to go back.”

Now, of course she was talking specifically about writing plays, but her point resonated with me. Basically she argued that if you are still struggling with something after two years, then maybe that is not the story that you need to tell. Maybe it is not your story to tell.

I have so many stories that I began but never finished. I have so many possible plans for books and other writing ideas that I couldn’t follow through. I have also always thought that I have a story that I have yet to discover, a story that truly needs to be told. It grows inside me until someday, I hope, it will burst out of me. The words will speak through me.

I just hope that happens soon.

She also talked about characters speaking through her, rather than her creating them.  I have only had a few moments where that has happened. Where the words and the voice of the character just poured through me and into my fingers. It is a powerful sensation, and one I yearn to feel again.

I want to be open and receptive to that energy.

New Thanks

Much to my surprise, yesterday I was honored with another blogging award. The Inspiring Blog award given to me by Dierdre Coppel from A Story Book World. ¬†Talk about inspiring, Dierdre is an incredibly talented writer and artist who does everything from creating her own artwork (including this beautiful award among others) and interviewing publishers and editors, to writing fantasies and delving into the paranormal. I am truly honored that she chose me for this award. Please go visit her site. You won’t regret it.

New Updates

  • My scene seems to be getting good responses. Rumor has it that M.N. might come see it today.
  • My panel went well and led to an interesting discussion on the value of theater in general
  • I apologize for falling behind on reading this week, but I am proud of myself for regaining a little control over this blogging obsession of mine. ūüôā
  • I actually submitted my Moon Lady, which I’ve really titled “Rebirth of Japan” to an art show. Insanity, I know.

I think that is all for now except that I feel like everyone out there (myself included) needs another  good virtual hug. So here you go (and I know I have used this image before, but how can you go wrong with Calvin and Hobbes?)


4:23 AM and Nathan is not home.

I can’t sleep. I woke up just after 3 am to notice the gaping emptiness of the bed next to me, and I could not go back to sleep.

He started working at 8 AM yesterday morning, and as far as I know he is still working.

Nathan is an incredibly talented designer as well as an incredible technical director. He is one of the hardest working people I know. He can’t stop. Where I have the ability tendency to embrace laziness in between bursts of activity, he is always doing something. He loves to cook, so he does most of the cooking. I hate laundry (plus we have to go to a laundromat for the time being) so he does the laundry. Lest you think I do nothing, I tend to be the cleaner/organizer. I keep track of the schedules and the bills. ¬†But he does a lot of the stuff around the house because he cannot be still.

And, to be honest, because he cannot say “No.” Nor does he stand up for himself even if it is the saner option. His attitude seems to be “If that is what you want, I’ll make it happen. I’ll find a way how.”

That’s a wonderful thing, except when his willingness to give everyone the ideal leads to 4:30 in the morning. That is when mistakes and injuries can occur–and often those happen to him.

I can’t sleep.

That explains this moment.  He is still at the theater after putting up an unrealistically huge and (in my opinion) unrealistically expensive set in one day, he now (I assume) is finessing the lights for his design. Yes, it is his job, and the set needed to happen. But the problem lies in the fact that this huge set is not really a theater set. In your typical theater set you use flats and less expensive material in order to create an illusion of the real locations. But the designer of this set (who is from somewhere else) as well as the producer of this festival insisted on REAL material and SOLID construction. To be fair, Nathan expressed concern and objected, but in typical fashion he backed down and gave in. That would have been okay except for a few unexpected glitches in the plan 1) the person who was supposed to take on sections of the set to help build them had a family emergency; 2) the designer chose not to come and help (because this was not a paid design); 3) the technical assistance that he was hoping to get from some people we have worked with in the past fell through because nobody wanted to work for free (surprise, surprise) and 4) some of the students here seem to think that scholarship hours are optional and he has basically been building the entire thing himself.

Wait . . . 4:41 AM and the door just opened. He’s home, exhausted and not thinking straight. He just said, “I’m not done. The patch is wrong. The stage isn’t cleared. They need to be on the stage at 9:30. I have to go back by 8am.”

Not taken just now, but . . .

Then he started babbling ¬†listing things yet to do–not all of which he should have to deal with.

I was intending this post to be only about how wonderful Nathan is, but it seems to be turning into a little rant. I apologize for that.  Nathan is a kind husband, father, and my best friend. He is a gentle man who loves simple and sometimes silly things. But, perhaps his fatal flaw is wanting to please everybody and losing himself in the process. Tonight is an excellent example.

Looks like I’m about to put on my Super Woman outfit and protect my family. I will try to step into his shoes for a little while so that the poor man can sleep. I also might have to step in and plead for some sanity instead of the “Inge-sanity” that seems to rule right now. As I just posted in Facebook: “Ingesanity + Ingesomina=One Very Angry Woman.

This should be interesting.

M is for “Marcia”, Marsha, Marcia and Magic

Who hasn’t had some Marsha’s in their lives?

My big sister Deb was my Marsha Brady. Growing up I always felt like she was better at everything. She was slim and gorgeous. Boys liked her. She was more athletic. She could paint. She was smart. She was popular.

Sometimes I felt like Jan. Sometimes I felt like Cindy. I lived in her shadow for a long time, and even have had moments as an adult where I felt like I could never live up to her glory. But, slowly I have stopped the comparisons and learned some of the ways that I overshadow her. I admire and respect her, but I no longer any desire to be her.

But today I want to talk about two other Marsha’s, who have also influenced me in some ways. The first I mentioned yesterday, the Pulitzer Prize Winning playwright, Marsha Norman.

The first presentation of the scene I directed seemed to go over well, including some tears in the audience. It wasn’t perfect, but that had to do with a minor annoyance and I took care of that. Of course, Marsha Norman didn’t see it, so the nerves are still there. This pictures is a little blurry, but it is of my actresses performing at the bottom of the stairs in the William Inge Boyhood Home. These are the stairs that inspired Dark at the Top of the Stairs.

Later in the day I attended a panel discussion with Marsha Norman and Sheldon Harnick discussing Adaptation for the Stage.  Both had amazing things to share. Sheldon has this vast history in musical theater working with some of the biggest names and he is a delightful story-teller. Marsha has the talent and power of a woman who has succeeded where many women still struggle. She said a few things that really resonated with me that I thought I would share.

When discussing how you choose a book to turn into a musical and how you approach that daunting task, she discussed the importance of reading the story to discover why people want to see it again and again in different forms (for example The Secret Garden). In the case of this story, she argued that people love to find hope.

The third Marcia I would like to mention today is another playwright, Marcia Cebulska.

Marcia is an incredible women that I have had the privilege of getting to know since I moved to Kansas. She is working on The Greensburg Project, where she will write a play developed by working with the citizens of Greensburg, KS about their lives after surviving a tornado in 2007. She was one of the women I worked with during the intensive theater workshop (which was the initiating workshop for the Greensburg project) which I wrote about in my post called “I Love Women”. I also facilitated a staged reading of her play The Bones of Butterflies¬†which is a beautiful story ¬†that focuses on the migration of monarch butterflies and the relationship a daughter and her missing father. That description doesn’t do the play justice, but it is a hauntingly beautiful and powerful piece. I attended a panel discussion with this Marcia as well today, where they discussed more details about the Greensburg Project. Unfortunately I had to miss her other workshop, where the discussion revolved around giving authentic voices to the characters when doing worked based on real stories. The more I get to know this amazing woman, the more I want to learn from her–about how to incorporate my passion and the respect she has for others into the words I pour on the page. ¬†I am so lucky to have met her, ¬†and hope to get to know her better.

The day ended with me getting a kind of surreal lecture from a conference guest about the “real reasons” behind the Inge Festival and why it should take years for me to get any recognition (even though he doesn’t know a thing about me, and was basically implying that I don’t work hard enough. If any of my few readers have learned anything about me it is that I work . . . hard.) Luckily, this discussion was cut short by the blare of ¬†tornado sirens. This is the first time I’ve ever been happy to hear the. ūüėČ The tornado cleared the area, and the day shifted to that beautiful post-storm, end of day light including one of the most magical things in the world.

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So there you have it, the Marsha’s who have influenced my world with a little bit of magic included. Okay, they aren’t all named Marsha, but they all have made me think about how I view myself, others, my relationship to community, and my responsibilities as a creative person in this world.

I’m learning a lot this week.

L is for Late Nights and Legends

I begin writing this post at 11:30 pm Wednesday evening. I probably won’t publish it until after a I sleep a little (so I can check more clearly for flow and such) but I cannot help but write. My head is full of music and song. My dreams are full of possibility. Despite the fact that I probably got about a cumulative 3 hours of sleep on Tuesday night, I cannot lie down yet. I also won’t be able to completely rest until Nathan gets home, and he will probably be working until at least midnight after starting at 7:30 am.

Why such crazy hours? Why the mind full of chaos?

Wednesday was the beginning of the William Inge Theatre Festival here in Independence, KS.

William Inge


What is that you ask? Well, it is one of the main reasons that we made the move here. William Inge was an American Playwright who was born here in Independence. The festival that grew to honor his memory focuses on playwrights, each year handing out awards for new plays as well as honoring one specific playwright for his/her entire body of work and commitment to the field. For better descriptions of this event, visit the blog called Postcards from the Inge.

Sheldon Harnick

I spent the evening watching a the premiere staged reading of a new musical by Sheldon Harnick (who wrote Fiddler on the Roof) called A Docter in Spite of Himself that was based on a Moliere play. It was fun, fabulous, and truly entertaining. The cast, who flew in for this reading and the festival, included Tony Award winner Cady Huffman (The Producers) and Anthony (Rapp). (By the way, excuse the name dropping, but it will help you get a bigger picture of the whole event.)

Marsha Norman

This year the honoree happens to be one of my favorite female playwrights, Marsha Norman, who won the Pulitzer Prize for ‘Night Mother and as well as a Tony Award for the book of Secret Garden. She also wrote a play that I directed years ago called Getting Out and it was one of the best directing experiences I’ve ever had. The following slide show contains shots from that production presented at Castleton State College in Vermont.

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I’m nervous about meeting this talented woman.

As part of the festival which includes workshops and other play readings, I am directing a scene to be presented at William Inge’s boyhood home. The scene is from ‘Night Mother and Marsha Norman might actually come see it.

What if she hates it? What if she loves it? What if she says nothing at all?

My actresses are fabulous and we worked really hard. It is a heart-wrenching scene, and I think we have all done good work.

So I think it will hurt the most if she says nothing at all.

I’m also doing a Panel about Theater for Young Audiences, but I don’t really know what we are discussing. I could make a complete fool of myself, or I could say some intelligent thing.

This could be the week that I collapse before legends, or it could be the week that I shoot for the stars. ¬†Let’s hope for the latter.

Who Kidnapped My K?

Please bear with my painful rhymes in my dedication to the letter


My K is missing,
I think it’s run away.
I can’t write anything
if I don’t find my K.

I could write about Kansas
or Kramer’s, I suppose
but those are things about which everybody knows.

I could write about Kings or Knights
who Kiss damsels in distress
but my brain seems to be under duress.

I could write about a Kangaroo
who dates a Koala bear
but I’d rather visit Australia first
before I share.

Barb says, “The kiwi and the kakapo
begin to take offense
to visit Aus before NZ
simply makes no sense!”

Perhaps it is Karma that K ran away
for without my K, I have nothing to say.

She’s Finished!!!!

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Juxtaposition of J’s

seems to be an important letter in my life. It stands for so many things that have made me who I am today. Because of this juxtaposition of J’s, I am listing some of the important ones here, along with links to some older posts that help explain the significance. I don’t ask that you read all of them, but if you are interested in something specific please visit these posts.

Japan: The country that changed my world by making it a little wider. In that land I learned to love. I learned to live. I embraced challenges. I survived difference. I learned a language. I learned darkness. I learned flexibility. I learned about my own prejudices. And I truly lived.

Judaism: the religion I was raised in, the culture I claim, and the traditions I follow (usually). I am no longer a religious Jew. I’m not sure what I believe. But Judaism still plays a role in my belief system–in the idea that we should do good in¬†this¬†life simply because it is the right thing to do. Also, as a Jew, I learned about prejudice and hate and the craziness of disliking someone for being different.

Journeys: My life has been an interesting journey and I still have a road to travel.

Photo by Steve Kramer

Jesus: Wait, you are thinking, how could Jesus play a role in my life when I am a Jew? Because much of the world is guided by Jesus. I am sure that, whether or not he was the son of God, he would be crying real tears at what has been done in his name. I have been told I will go to hell for not believing in him, but I wonder what he would really say to that.

Justice: Every day I see the injustice of this world, and I try to change that even in a small way.


Jealousy: One of my biggest flaws, and the one I struggle with on a regular basis, is feeling jealous of others. I often envy the success of people I know, because I struggle to see the success of my own life. I am working hard to overcome jealousy and to find joy in the happiness and success of others at all times.


Joy: I may not always see it, but I relish the moments, the people, and the experiences that bring joy into this world.

Jasper: My dog. He has cost us a lot of money. He escapes whenever he can. He steals toys and makes messes. And yet, he looks at me with loving eyes and tries to give me hugs, all with the true Joy a dog can bring. How can I not love him.

He's not smart, but he sure is cute.

As I was looking for a picture of Jasper I found a picture of my other dog, Lizzy, who was my first baby. I include it here (despite her name beginning with L) because I believe it will bring you some JOY.

"Look, I'm sitting pretty. Now you have to give me a treat."

There you have it folks! A true juxtaposition of J’s.

I is for “Incredible, Edible” Ice Cream

Chocolate ice cream

Image via Wikipedia

As the days get hotter I only want to eat cool foods. Salads, fresh fruit, and of course, ICE CREAM!

I don’t always want ice cream, but when I do I often think this is the perfect food. Yes, I know it has lots of fat and calories and sugar, but, if you get the right kind of ice cream it fulfills all sorts of nutritional needs, besides the fact that it sooths the soul. ūüėČ After all, most women don’t get enough calcium in their diet. What yummier way than to eat a little ice cream? But ice cream provides more than just calcium alone!

For example, yesterday after our quest for Dairy Queen failed (another count against this town) we ended up at Braun’s for ice cream and I ordered a small cup of German Chocolate. Now, in my naivet√© I thought that would simply be a rich chocolate ice cream, but of course it was actually German Chocolate Cake ice cream. So it included: pecans (protein and fiber) and coconut (protein, vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium) So, according to Calorie Count at About.com, my little journey into a decadent treat added this to my day (Note that I am actually writing this immediately after eating the treat, so these numbers will change later on):

  • 300 calories (okay, that’s not great, but I still have over 400 calories to eat today)
  • 36 carbs (but my carbs are still too low for the day)
  • 5 grams of protein. I still need more.
  • 16 grams of fat . . . um , I’ll just deny that. And I am still in the good range for the day.
  • 9 grams of saturated fat. Harrumph. ūüėõ
  • 45 mg of cholesterol. Not great but not bad. And I just started a medication to beat that silly cholesterol out of my system. Do you think this will set me back?
  • 150 mg of salt. Not great, not bad. Why does there have to be salt in everything?
  • 1 g. of fiber. Woo hoo!
  • 35 g. of sugar. So . . . it is a treat!
  • 400 IU of Vitamin A. See, it’s got vitamins.
  • 1.2 mg of Vitamin C. You can’t get enough of that.
  • 150 mg. of Calcium. I’m going to get enough calcium today! Yay me!
  • 1.1 mg. of Iron. That’s pretty awesome

Now I just need to figure out how to get some potassium in there and it will be almost the perfect meal. Aha! Easy solution for that:

And of course, I chose an ice cream that includes the most important food group. Okay, it’s not listed on the nutrition charts, but most women will agree with me that the most important food group is . . .


Now, I would like to point out that I’ve lost 15 lbs recently and am on the road to many more. I’m taking care of my health and trying to get more exercise on a regular basis. Did you know that sitting and typing/ writing for about an hour burns approximately 143 calories?

But sometimes you still have to eat ice cream.

Who wants to join me in a banana split?

Ice Cream and Nostalgia

Addition on Monday morning . . .

Isn't that a great porch?

After I wrote the draft of this post, I headed to the William Inge Family home for a rehearsal of a scene that will be held there this week. I was a little early, so I sat on the fabulous front porch (my favorite part of the old house) and enjoyed the sunshine at the end of the day. The smell of lilacs wafted over to me from the tree nearby. Bright butterflies made visits, drawn by the sweet smell. In the distance, I though I heard a tinkle of music that sounded like someone’s cell phone playing a lively, old-fashioned tune. When one of my actors arrived, a local girl, I heard it even more clearly.

“What is that?” I asked.

“The ice cream truck.”

I sat back and smiled.

Open the Door to Imagination

“Art is communication–as simple, and as profound, as that.” (Sally Bailey)

The door stood upstage center.

“When you walk through the door,” I said. “I need to know who you are and how you are feeling. But you can’t tell me who you are. You have to show me.” Over the next 20 minutes or so we met characters of all types: ¬†grumpy girls who didn’t want to do homework; flying unicorns that shot flames our of their horns; fully armed bank robbers determined to get the money; ¬†Annie, played by the girl who just got cast in the role for the summer theater production; someone running from a terrifying monster . . . the list goes on and on.

All in a day of my Youth Theater Studio.

Yesterday, in responsible to my Horrible H post (in my opinion, it was horrible), the talented AmblerAngel  from Hey from Japan, Notes on Moving wrote,

“Have you ever thought about writing what it‚Äôs like to teach? I really enjoyed your series on the production‚Ķto me working with kids is really a tough job- would love to hear the stories.”

I have a few posts about teaching, although most of those focus on the challenges of teaching college classes this semester, which hasn’t been fun. I haven’t written a lot about the other teaching I do, except this post about Magic Boxes. But I owe AmblerAngel a huge


for breaking me out of the block I was in and reminding me that I have something to write about.

I teach theater. But this week I ventured into another realm of this teaching, by presenting a workshop to a group of adults with development disabilities at Class LTD. We are hoping to turn this into a larger project, allowing the participants to share their stories and create some kind of performance to present to the community. We also hope to integrate other community members into the project as one of the goals of the project is to encourage community interaction.

I was nervous about this workshop. I know I have a slew of activities to do, but I haven’t really worked with this community since high school. If I am going to be brutally honest with myself, I was a little afraid. What would happen? Would they react badly? Would something go wrong?

Last week I attended a one-day workshop with a talented Drama Therapist named Sally Bailey and bought her book entitled Barrier-Free Theatre. That workshop was excellent, and I learned a lot about how to adapt the activities I already do with drama classes to the needs of people with varying cognitive and physical abilities. I was so lucky to have that opportunity.

But I was still nervous. I asked my friend Jackie to come with me, as I am hoping to involve her with this project as an art teacher. (She is also the woman who has been guiding me through the Moon Lady project).

Armed with a bag full of silky scarves, paper plates,a paper towel tube, ¬†and classical music, ¬†I arrived late for the class (there was a little confusion about locations, they had moved but that move didn’t show up on Google). I walked into a room full of nervously smiling people. ¬†I thought I would be getting a tour of the place first, but no, we swept the tables out of the way and dove write in.

“Hello. My name is Lisa. I would like you to help me learn your names. To do that, I would like you to say your name and show me something you like to do. For example, I’m Lisa, and I like to dance.”

I perform a perfectly silly of butt wiggling clumsiness.

Laughs and giggles.

We went around the circle with varied success. Several of them merely repeated the movement done before (we almost got a full baseball team) and some were too shy to say their names. But we were off.

Next we passed around the “Magic Tube.” This is an activity directly from Sally Bailey. The paper towel tube has magic properties that can become anything you want it to be. It went from a flute to a golf club, and many places in between. It finally turned into a conductor’s baton that lead the entire group into an orchestra rendition of happy ¬†birthday.

This was then followed by a group scarf dance to classical music (again borrowed from Sally). Some students wore the scarves, some flung them around in a kaleidoscope of flying colors. I managed to get two of the more shy students to dance with me, even though one remained seated.

Before I knew it, the half hour that I was supposed to be there extended to about 45 minutes of high energy creativity and smiles. We ended taking a giant bow and giving ourselves a great round of applause.

This was followed by thank you’s and a special gift from Kevin who wrote it for the ladies. ¬†Here it is:

I am very honored to have received this.

Thanks to AmblerAngel’s question I learned something this week. I learned that I am a teacher, and what’s more, that I help people open doors to their imaginations.

I wonder what will happen when I open the next door.

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