SO a few things have hit over the last 24 hours that feel a little bit connected, but I’m starting to learn that many things are connected, so maybe it started before that, especially since some of this will connect to work/self from the past.
Last month, my collaborator, Hannah and I worked on a proposal for Strawberry Theatre Workshop’s call for proposals for “Strawberry Jam” - it was meant for directors, which I am NOT. I have always kinda hated directing, to be honest. I’ve done it a couple times. The product usually comes out well, but my enjoyment of the whole process is usually stressful and I don’t have fun. Hannah doesn’t consider themself a director either, and there was a moment where we were both pondering on this call for, specifically, directors. But the proposal also stated they were open to people trying it out, so we went ahead with writing the proposal, deciding we’d co-direct. We went with the simplest thing we could think of: two solo plays of mine focusing on women in Greek myth as well as a 3rd piece Hanna would write. I’ve already performed my own two pieces, so figured I could borrow from those previous experiences, and also, that would afford us a small, manageable cast we could work with one-on-one or as an ensemble. I feel like I do well with the actor-to-director part of the directing process, the in the thick of it moment of coaching them within a scene, but less well with managing an ensemble, being in charge, talking to designers, etc. We put my name as the “lead” director on the proposal, as we though I might have better name recognition, with the intention of both of us being at the helm, and perhaps practicing a model, to a certain extent, of direction by committee. We spent a good chunk of time working on it, over about 3 weeks, and submitted it on March 15th, with the understanding we’d hear back by April 15th if our proposal was accepted. Now, STW is a very well-regarded organization within Seattle’s theatre community, so I wondered if I was (once again) aiming a little high...but I also had the strangest inner feeling we were going to get the gig.
And let’s get to my own status within the Seattle theatre community over the past 20 or so years, as the red-headed stepchild. I haven’t historically been offered many opportunities, and have had to create many for myself. I don’t know if it’s my good diction, my unwillingness to play nice, or my low threshold for bullshit, but I’ve never felt part of the “in” crowd in Seattle’s theatre community, and after having gone to Baltimore and slipped in kind of easily (perhaps through my grad-school status), I felt it was less “me” than Seattle or perhaps me and this community not quite meshing. Seattle’s theatre scene, for one thing, likes to think of itself as super progressive and experimental, but now that I’ve left the community for a few years and seen actual, amazing experimental stuff, this scene is kind of in its infancy. It’s gotten better, and thank goodness for On The Boards, but by and large, experimental = camp around these parts. And I also don’t necessarily think of myself as all that experimental, but I do like to employ experimental ideas, and I love to devise work in the true sense of the word, rather than just showing up as an actor and have other people guide the devising. All this to say: things didn’t change that much when I returned from grad school, other than my own aesthetic and sensibility. I’ve still by and large, been the red headed stepchild who had to claw and bite to receive many opportunities.
Something has shifted, however, post-pandemic - partially within myself as much as outside me. For one thing, I’ve now worked as an actor on two professional shows over the past year, and been invited to audition in another that was one of the best projects I’ve ever experienced, and yet another bucket list classic I’ll begin rehearsals for in June. Also, I’ve been on a bit of a roll as a playwright, having been accepted as a resident playwright to Parley as well as a company playwright for Pacific Play Company, and have been not only generating a ton of work on both scores, but have had many of my pieces go up onstage over the past couple of months. Like, between the two, the respect I’ve craved for 20 years from my peers is finally starting to seep in. People actually SAW some of these things and are noticing my work positively, for a change. After SO MANY years of hustling, it’s nice to finally see a little payoff for all that hard work.
Which brings me to opening up my email last night to find our proposal to StrawShop had been accepted...YIKES!!! So now I have to be a director. I had a moment where I considered turning down the proposal and just telling Hannah we hadn’t been accepted - because I know doing this is going to bring a WHOLE LOTTA STRESS my way, and lots of it probably won’t be fun - but I also really thought about this after we submitted the proposal - maybe it’s the Universe’s way of telling me something, and something important will be revealed during this process. So I forwarded the acceptance email to Hannah, and we’ll discuss further during a celebratory dinner in a few days. I guess we’re doing this!
...and now we enter into the next part of this missive, that being a digital class I took today about getting yourself unstuck as a writer. One of the exercises was a guided meditation that invited us to relax (you know, all the things: focus on your breathing, relax your muscles, notice your senses, etc) and find where in our bodies felt the most comfortable, and I felt the answer coming somewhere from my solar plexis, and it screamed at me:
Yes, the pea. Not your ordinary garden variety pea you use in pea soup, of course, but The Pea I first met in Hans Christian Andersen’s Princess and the Pea during childhood - you know, the prince was trying to find a real princess and couldn’t, then one night, a woman knocked at the door saying she was a real princess. The Queen put a pea on the bottom of twenty mattresses and twenty featherbeds, and the princess couldn’t sleep that night, because she felt the pea beneath all this covering, and that sensitivity meant she was a real princess.
Pertaining to my own personal mythology, I wrote a poem in undergrad which I called The Princess and the Pea after I wrote it, because it inadvertently recalled the fairy tale, but without actually saying it - “...deep, deep down, under all the thick, masking layers of myself is something small, rare, pure, and perfect. It is all of me, I am all of it.”
Aaaaand of course, just typing out those words brings a sting of tears to my eyes. It meant a certain thing to me then, but also again, in my early 30’s during an acting class exercise about “the decisive self” at Freehold, where we were to imagine ourselves having been paralysed and today, after many months of rehab, we were going to walk for the first time. I remember something in my solar plexus propelling me to the wall of the studio so I could prop myself up and stand - it was an extremely emotional exercise for me, as someone who struggled with weight issues when I was younger, and between getting to the wall and realizing how precious my (oft-maligned) legs were in that I CAN WALK, and a valuable lesson. My old poem about the pea came back to me as we wrote about the experience afterwards, because while trying to get to the wall, I could FEEL THE PEA in my solar plexis....ahhhh, the power of the pea.
...So to have it speak to me again, over 20 years later here in my bedroom in this beautiful little house that chose us to live here was such a gift and reminder to me, whispering back to me yet again, “It is all of me, I am all of it.”
The card I drew today was “Crossroad”. Instead of examining it and describing it, I went straight to the description in the book, which talked about “upcoming decisions” and “a turning point in life”. Interestingly, the pieces Hannah and I have proposed for Strawberry Jam are about women having limited choices, so it resonates on many levels, and even harkens back to the last line in my friend Orla’s Uncaged I wrote about last weekend: “they looked down at the woman beneath...waiting for what she was going to do next.”
The pea has been there, since I was little, propelling me forward, despite fear, despite feeling like a fraud and a charlatan, despite the worry my peers don’t think I’m worthy or “cool”, propelling me to the next step: push yourself across the floor, prop yourself against the wall, take a tiny step” and “write this piece, develop this proposal, hit send”.
Am I, at last, a Real Princess?
Uncaged And Tree
The tree in the background no leaves, really, though the photo is light green - maybe it is a spring tree, just getting ready to sprout with new life? It’s the home of a butterfly, and there are birds flying in the distance. There’s a big hourglass imposed on the tree’s trunk, with mirror images of leafless branches on one half, and full, leafy trees on the bottom - the hourglass also seems to invoke an infinity symbol, vertically. There’s a transparent heart at the base of the tree, and I can see some of the roots.
Weirdly, it reminds me of this monologue I performed years ago, just coming out of Freehold, written by my friend Orla, who I coincidentally, just saw last night as she passes through town back to Ireland. I hadn’t seen her since my thirties, and she was part of a small group of friends who went through 9/11 together back in 2001, here in Seattle, and the show this monologue was part of came out of that. She brought the monologue up last night, when I mentioned I had just done “In the Time of the Butterflies” and alluded to similarities between butterflies and birds, which were prominent in the piece she wrote, and both birds and a butterfly present themselves in this card. In Orla’s monologue I performed, the narrator opened up her chest and tons of birds flew out, and all stood on the tree above her, “waiting for what she was going to do next”. It was an extremely powerful monologue for me during that time, but as I’ve discovered, throughout life, you can still have dialogue with art you made in the past, in different ways. It appears this piece wants more dialogue.
This morning I woke up to find a physical manifestation from a recent energy shift. A teacher in Boston produced a cut version of my play, Loom, for competition in the Massachusetts Educational Theatre Guild annual high school contest. They won the preliminary round, but alas, didn’t go further than that. Still exciting, though, and just having the piece discovered on NPX completely unsolicited a few months ago in the first place began a bit of an energy shift for me in terms of my own writing, so when the teacher wasn’t paying me my playwright’s fee for use of my piece, I started to go down an unpleasant road. Immediately after they were done, he asked me for my venmo, which I gave him, and then: radio silence. Two weeks later, I sent him a gentle reminder. Another week of completely silence. I started wondering what I was going to do. I mean: $200 isn’t a life-changing amount, but it’s more the principle of the thing. I kept thinking of what I was going to do: write him a nasty email, threaten to talk to his higher ups at Everett High School, try a heartfelt, artist-to-artist email...I went so far as to look up faculty and staff at the high school, doing a google search to find out more about him. I was actually getting a little anxious and stressed out, and the initial excitement of the play being selected, performed and winning the preliminary round started getting polluted by my bad feeling. I thought to myself yesterday: I don’t want to be that person who threatens and tries to manipulate. Maybe I just make my peace with the fact I’m probably going to get stiffed, and let karma do the rest of the work. I don’t know. Universe, please help me figure out what to do. It felt like an energy shift on my part.
And this morning, I had $200 sitting in my Venmo account. The universe didn’t even answer me with what to do: it just rewarded me with what I was struggling with all along. And yes, the $200 is nice, but more important to me is the ENERGY SHIFT I arrived at on my own, not only was it its own reward, but I also got the actual $$ I was due, without having to write any letters or really, do anything other than be patient and make my peace.
It makes me wonder if the tree with the birds from that long-ago monologue is still there, on my astral plane, and if those birds have been watching me ever since. I think of other subtle energy shifts I’ve made over the last few years, and how my life has changed because of them. It’s not like, a 100% transformation, of course, because there are still threads that connect me, and I’m still learning and growing. But I definitely LIKE the person I am now more than I liked the person who performed Uncaged back in 2002. I feel like those birds have been watching me make missteps for SO LONG...or maybe I shouldn’t think of them as missteps. Maybe it’s just part of the journey.
When I read the description for the card’s meaning, after having written all the above, it’s weirdly SPOT ON: “...as a time factor, it indicates a long time either into the past or the future. It is a slow growth; the tree also does not grow overnight...keep going with things that are important to you.” This is not all, but it definitely tracks with what I’ve written based on the experience of being paid for Loom and the experience of performing Uncaged during a time of huge, personal transformation.
More than anything, it assures me I’m starting to move towards something a little more deliberate, energetically, and more sentimentally, assures me I am still, in fact, ON THE PATH.
Day to day thoughts, rants and mental detritus.