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?

Oh the Places You Will Go . . . If You Just Let Yourself

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
― Dr. SeussOh, the Places You’ll Go!

I’m watching (in a repeat airing) the Tournament of Roses parade on this January 1, 2013 and thinking about the year to come, and the theme resonated with me “Oh the Places You Will Go” from Dr. Seuss.

I started out 2012 on a plane to Vienna, heading ultimately to Slovakia, on a journey to find myself and find some purpose.

I ended 2013 sitting on a beach in Waikiki, tears pouring down my face as fireworks celebrated the first year without my Dad being on this earth.

DSCN1735

In between those two points, life happened. Not all of it good, not all of it bad, but all because of the simple fact that I am alive.

I’m not going to give a detailed account of the moments in between but rather try to sum up what I’ve learned over the past, rather challenging, year. I learned . . .

  • nothing ever goes as expected, but the unexpected can bring pleasant surprises.
  • nothing is ever perfect, but with hard work we can learn to embrace imperfection
  • never retrace your steps
  • you are never too old to dream, or to take chances because the unexpected can happen
  • nothing will happen if you don’t make it happen.
  • your past doesn’t have to dictate your present or your future

Tomorrow morning I will be on a plane, back to reality, back to the cold. I can’t say that this has been the most relaxing vacation in my life. Nor has it been the most joyous holiday season. However, I know that what happens next is up to me. and that I want to be able to look back on my life without regrets.

I want to learn from the wisdom of Dr. Seuss.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss

Cover of "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

Cover of Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I may not know what the future brings. I may not have resolutions (as I don’t believe in them), but I have two feet, a brain, an imagination, a dream, and a future.

I wonder where those tools will take me.

May you all find peace and joy as your feet carry you forward to new, wonderful, unimagined places!

DSCN1746

Travel as Inspiration

It’s Saturday, but I am working on a post for Tuesday evening. Tomorrow Nathan, Sarah, and I are heading to New York City for a couple of days. We planned this trip around the Dramatic Adventure Theatre Travelogue. I want to share something on that day, so I thought I would write something new and have it post around the same time I would be sharing (if I don’t chicken out).  Here we go:

Whenever anyone asks me about the best part of my experience in Slovakia travelling with Dramatic Adventure Theatre, I find myself talking about our day with the Roma. The extreme disparity between the Slovak attitude toward these people, and the warmth of our reception still intrigues me. The eye-opening experience of walking through the mud and debris of the Roma settlement after seeing the beauty and elegance of other parts of the country will live in my memory for a long time. These thoughts have inspired me as I approach writing my first novel for adults, a novel which (I believe) will explore the perception of difference that connects and divides us all.

The moment in the middle of the drama workshop  where I realized that the power of imagination and theatre works in every culture, reinforced something I have always felt. The moment when I led the workshop and lived up to the challenge made me finally acknowledge, “Hey, I really do know my stuff.” Those moments helped me take steps back toward confidence.

Despite all that, the truth is that the day with the Roma was not the best part of the experience. It is simply the easiest part of the story to share. It is, in some ways, the most obvious point of inspiration. However, for me the best part began simply with the decision to go.

For many people, travel is a form of escape out of their real lives. For others, travel is about experiencing adventure and risking new things. For some it is about meeting new people and learning about other cultures. For me, it is all of those things and none of those things at the same time. I am not really an adventurous traveler. I prefer to walk in company then alone. I like the quieter moments of travel, as opposed to the wild night life or taking risks.

Isa by the fire. I could be found in the same position at another time.

But, while I may not be the most adventurous traveler, each journey I take fills an unexpressed need, because each time I travel in a place unfamiliar to me I also make an inner journey of self-discovery. I learn more about myself and the connections I have with others. I face the opposites inside myself; things I should be proud of and things I strive to change.

When I travel, I come closer to my truths.

What did I learn on this trip?

  • I learned that I have hidden reserves of strength that can help me achieve my goals as long as I move at my own pace.
  • I learned that there is no shame in moving at my own pace and occasionally admitting I need help.
  • I learned that I am a complete idiot when trying to function on a couple of hours of sleep, and you should never trust a tired Lisa with bus money. (So embarrassing!)
  • I learned that, despite the fact that I may not be living the life I expected, others see my life as one full of adventure and success.
  • I learned the value of being sensitive to others when you travel, or you might come off as an aggressive tourist no matter how good your intentions.
  • I learned the joy of creating bonds with fellow travelers who believe in making connections and art, not war.
  • I learned the value of quiet time in front of a fire, with nothing but yourself, your journal, and the crackle of the flames.
  • I learned that I am more than my roles in life.
  • I learned the joy of eating bryzna halusky on a snowy winter’s day.
  • I learned that laughter and silliness connects people as quickly as sharing intimate secrets.

Most of all, I learned that the best and most inspiring part of the journey is the journey itself.

Writing Ahead, Planning for Adventures

I just wrote a long post. You won’t see it until Tuesday at 5pm.

I know many of you do this, writing posts ahead and scheduling when they will publish. It feels a little strange to me. I guess I use this blog as a place to reflect on the immediate emotions and ideas that pop into my head. Perhaps it means my writing suffers for it, as I don’t take time to refine. I know that I often go back and fix horrible grammatical errors or really poor wording. But usually my posts just go, pouring out of me in the instant I feel like writing them.

Maybe that’s why my blog only grows at a snail’s pace rather than a cheetah’s.

English: Common variety snail Comment by F. We...

Image via Wikipedia

Well, anyway, I am holding back on this post because it is something I have written to share at Dramatic Adventure Theatre’s Travelogue on Tuesday evening. I plan to read it at this open mike event, if I don’t chicken out. So I’ve timed the post to publish at the same time the event begins. I’m letting you know  now, in case any of my reader’s are in New York City and feel like checking the event out. It’s free.

Gulp! I just invited more strangers. Eek!

Anyway, as I wrote and prepared, my mind took its usual journey into self-doubt.  I questioned whether or not it was good enough. Is any of my writing good enough? I am sharing an essay, should I be sharing poetry? Maybe I shouldn’t share a single thing?

But what is this blog if not a place for sharing–even if some of my work does not live up to my ideals? And why did I take the trip to Slovakia if I am unwilling to explore and follow wherever that journey leaves?

So tomorrow evening my family and I will take a little trip together. First we head to Connecticut to stay with a friend for the evening. Then we take a train to New York City. I am excited for Sarah’s first trip to NYC. She’s excited too, even though it means missing a few days of school.

We don’t really have specific sight-seeing plans for New York. Maybe we will go

The Empire State Building.

Image via Wikipedia

to the Empire State Building. Maybe we will end up somewhere else. We do want to go to the Jim Henson exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image, because we are a family of puppet lovers.

While I don’t plan on bringing my computer, I think I will be doing a lot of writing on this trip. We will only be away until Wednesday but the possibilities are endless. Meanwhile, to pre-post or not to post, that is the question.

We shall see what inspiration hits.

Seeking the Truth Inside Yourself

“She is without any need to please, any need to act, or look, or be a certain way. It’s as if she’s done with that, and rests now in the solid center of herself, having arrived at her own condensed truth. She is herself. And that is all.” (Sue Monk Kidd, Ann Kidd Traveling with Pomegranates)

“As far as I’m concerned, people who think they fear failure have got it wrong. They really fear success. If you truly feared failure, you’d be very successful.” (Barbara Sher, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What it Was.)

The journey I began when I first started writing this blog has taken me in surprising directions, and I am still travelling.  I’m not just talking about the physical realities of my journey, with moves from Colorado to Kansas to Massachusetts including stops and pauses along the way: Okoboji, IA; Seattle, WA; Lexington, KY; Slovakia. These, of course, are part of my journey, but my inner journey has traversed millions and millions of miles and I am only beginning to discover what it all means.

Yesterday, as I was spending a relaxing day hanging out with Sarah in a bookstore, I found myself journaling in response to a prompt in Barbara Sher’s book. While I haven’t done all the activities she suggests, I have been reading a lot of books like her in the hopes that I could clarify for myself what goals and dreams I truly want to embrace. As I wrote in my journal yesterday, I came one step closer to my truth, even though I can’t label it with a traditional sounding career name.

Actually, I’m not even sure I’m ready to put this into words. So instead I will fill today’s post with a few images that, added all together, somehow represent the me that I am on my way to becoming.

Black Virgin of Rocamadour

Goddess Grants the Rebirth of Japan

The journey has just begun, where will it lead?

The Anatomy of Others

“They are like animals.”

“They smell bad.”

“They are all thieves. Be careful.”

“They just want to take from us, and they are lazy. They do not want to work.”

These are phrases from my past, but they are also phrases from my present. They bring back unlived memories of people being pushed into cattle cars, torn away from their homelands, herded into showers, and ultimately destroyed. They are the words of rape and destruction, of death and abuse, of war.

They were the words used to describe the Roma as we traveled through Slovakia.

I woke up this morning in a moment of writer’s epiphany. While I am no closer to clearly explaining what story I wish to write, what novel I will commit to living and breathing for as long as it takes to finish, I have recognized something important. Every story that I think of involves being different, being other, and learning to look beyond those differences to our common bonds.

I see no difference here. Do you?

I have grown up feeling like the Other. I have always been defined by the things that made me different: my intelligence (which separated me from my peers in school); my religion (as there were only a few other Jews in the classroom and I got to “skip” school on Jewish holidays); my height (always in the front of the line, always working harder to keep up); my financial status (I wasn’t wealthy enough for the other kids in Hebrew School, and when I went to college I actually had to work my way through); my race (live in Japan or Hawaii for even a short time, and suddenly you realize that you will always be gaijin or haole); even my pursuit of theatre and the arts as a career. I feel separate and different, not better or worse, but simply unable to be fully understood because I am OTHER.

I’m sure everyone can define their Other-ness, because in reality the one thing we have in common is that everybody is different. Everybody is Other.

Yet, this attitude of Us and Them or defining ourselves by our groups is the ultimate failure of humankind. Look at our world today. We fight wars of Otherness. In the United States, which was built on the premise of letting people live as they wished in all their glorious difference, certain factions of the government are trying to reestablish the Otherness of men and women and create a world where men have all the control and all the power.

After all, defining Others is really about Power.

Think about it. In Slovakia the hatred between the Roma and the Slovaks has existed for hundreds of years. They all eat. They all drink. They all dream. They all love, hate, dance, sing, smile, laugh, hurt cry.

Shylock:
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same
food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter
and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
rest, we will resemble you in that.

The Merchant Of Venice Act 3, scene 1, 58–68

Polski: Kopia zaginionego obrazu Maurycego Got...

Image via Wikipedia

Replace the “Jew” with this speech with anyone from any group (Roma, Muslim, Black, Gay, etc. etc. etc.) and the words ring true throughout all time. That’s why Shakespeare was the master.

The Roma choose to live a life that is different, where their roots and values lie in a different family structure and an old tradition of wandering. While they really are not longer wanderers, their different perspective on life threatens the norm. Anything that threaten’s the perception of what  a majority sees as normal causes a defensive attitude, because after all in a world that sees things as black and white, there can only be one right. If we allow people to live differently, it threatens our power.

So the world becomes a constant battle between Us and Them.

What happens, though, if we recognize that we cannot survive without difference? What happens if we recognize that our differences make the world a fabulous, vibrant place? What happens if we recognize that grasping for power while destroying everything we don’t like will ultimately lead to our own destruction? Eventually, if someone controls difference completely, someone else will come along with a new idea of what is “normal” and what is good. The battle against the Other will never end.

So, whatever I write, I will be writing to celebrate difference and encouraging a life where being Other is how we live and is truly wonderful.

Vive la différence!

A little later. . .

 Beth over at It’s Just Life wrote a post called “Gratitude Dance’ today that included a YouTube video that really fits with my thoughts today. I can’t seem to get it onto this post, so please go visit Beth and watch the video.

Zdiar, Slovakia in 80 Words

At The Blog Up North I ran into another short writing challenge that sounded intriguing. He got it from a blogging friend of his, who got it from another blog sahdandproud who put up the Around the World in 80 Words challenge as a Linky. So here I go . . .

Zdiar lies hidden in the mountains, a winter wonderland. A little lower down the tourist-filled ski resorts bustle with people. The ski bus stops in Zdiar to pick up adventurous  travelers. Children on sleds wander up and down the streets. People bundled for warmth still seem happy with holiday cheer. A sleigh ride at night, followed by drinks by a roaring fire in our cozy cabin makes for a delightful winter getaway. I dream I will return to the beauty.

Walking at My Own Pace

I breathe heavily, straining a little as I contemplate the next step. Where should I put my foot so that I safely ascend and don’t twist or break anything? Where is the best place for my makeshift moss-covered walking stick, to help guide me up the difficult spots or support my weight as I climb a challenging point?

Up ahead, the dogs pull Nathan forward with joyous canine energy. Plenty of new things to smell, and an adventure they haven’t had for a while. Sarah leaps from rock to rock, a graceful mountain goat-child. Occasionally she wanders back down toward me when they lose sight, just to make sure I am following the trail.

Sometimes they stop for a view, or to explore a mysterious crack in the earth. This allows me to catch up. Sarah waits long enough for me to snap a photo of her, but then the dogs and she pull ahead, barely giving me time to catch my breath.

But I still moved forward at my own slow and steady pace.

And that’s when it hit me . . .

I am NEVER going to be the world’s best hiker or a super fast walker.  But that’s okay, as long as I continue to move forward at my own slow and steady pace.

I have been reading Be Your Own Best Life Coach by Jackee Holder, and she writes:

“Accept what existential psychologist James Bugental calls ‘the nevers.’ Make a list of all the things you will never be [. . .] Far from being pessimistic there’s something comforting and disarming about embracing acceptance that leaves you free to embrace more of what you can achieve. What we may never be leaves more space and energy to concentrate our effort towards the very things we can be.”

I am NEVER going to be . . .

  • the world’s best hiker or a super fast walker
  • thin
  • a millionaire
  • a tenured faculty member
  • a famous director
  • a famous actor
  • a leading woman in the business community
  • the next JK Rowling

I’m not going to be those things, but there are plenty of things that I can and will be, even if I only move at my slow and steady pace. This doesn’t mean I won’t push myself, or pick up the pace at appropriate moments, because I can do that. But, I find, when I try too hard to keep up with others, or feel like I am holding other’s back, then I start to hate myself. I feel bad about what I perceive as my frailties or flaws.

In Slovakia I found my own pace. “Keep walking at your pace,” I said. “As long as I can see you in the distance, I’m fine. I’ll tell you if I need you to slow down.”

I never needed them to slow down. I always got where I was going in the end.

I will always get where I am going, and I will do it in a way where I can feel pride as well as enjoy the journey, seeing the sights along the way and  always moving at my own pace.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday, as I typed my post, I literally yelled at the computer screen. I vented. I ranted. I emphasized my thoughts with words and hand gestures. I nearly cried. I played a dramatic scene worthy of an Oscar nomination . . . well at least in my own mind.

I expressed myself in words and actions, and then I felt better.

I had trouble going to sleep last night, and when I did I had bizarre dreams, including one where I had the magic of Santa Claus and decided everyone needed a little Christmas in their life. I went from room to room in a hotel (?) decorating with the snap of a finger and the flick of a wrist.

Somehow the magic made me feel right. Perhaps because magic and creativity intertwine, at least in my world. My dream reached inside to find my crative source.

This morning, I did not have time to listen to the silence. This morning I did not have time to question, doubt, to stress, or even to write.

This morning, I got up and checked my e-mail. Then I drove myself to the University and taught my class for 2 hours and 40 minutes. From there I headed to Sarah’s school to help her class as they explored the people from the American Revolution through drama, aided and abetted by me. They researched the people and wrote monologues which they shared.

Not brilliant performances, but they learned and enjoyed. Many of them even thanked me.

I came home, to deal with more e-mails, including an announcement for a mini-conference on Theater and Education. I did not think, I signed up. There was also a message from one of the good friends I made on the Slovakia trip, who has asked me to come speak to her Art and Culture in Public Service Class at Rutgers. I said yes.

It looks like I will be heading to NYC three times in the next three months. Once to share at a Travelogue about my trip to Slovakia. Once to meet with Christen’s class. And finally, in May, to hopefully meet up with some blogging friends.

That’s kind of exciting.

Nothing has changed and yet everything seems different.

Yesterday I was 100% honest with myself and with you. Today I know that everything is going to work out and I will find my way. I’m no closer to clarity. I’m no closer to a plan. I’m no closer to setting goals or understanding where I am headed.

But it simply doesn’t matter. By writing my post yesterday I moved forward with a new sense that I can and will find my way and have fabulous journey.

I guess today I have a sense of hope.

"Hope" by Steve Kramer (aka Taochild aka my brother)

Words heal, time heals, and days pass.

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