Welcome to my blog..

"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty

When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.

I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.

As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.

This summer I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May.

Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.

For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Somewhere in Transition between Fuck this Shit and We need a Bigger Table

OK, so I'm having some kind of on the verge of tears PTSD type response to the Paris attacks. As someone who was in NYC on 9/11 and in London on 7/7, that is to be expected. Perhaps it is unwise to write a blog post under such conditions, but as the above-titled blog posts says: Fuck this shit.

What do I mean by that? Well, this refers to killing of lots of people for some mythology of gain or vengeance. This is something both 'sides' have been doing for like a while, and no one takes any responsibility for harm inflicted on other side. So yeah, fuck this shit. If you know anything about my politics, and if you're reading this presumably you do, you know I am not Islamaphobic or any other kind of phobic and that I mean by this includes our officially sanctioned drone strikes, et al. I mean Anything and Any way in which we kill lots of people as if that will change fuck all. Which it won't. It won't. It won't. Never has. Never will. Sometimes some people declare victory and other people surrender and power shifts, but the nature of that power? Any change? I don't think so.

So fuck this shit.

And my proactive more 'balanced' idea: We need a bigger motherfucking table!

What, you may ask does that have to do with anything?

Well, in my pea-sized brain, it has a lot to do with everything...namely, who tends to erupt in violence of the type we have witnessed in Paris yesterday - my beloved Paris about which I can't even think or write without weeping - or in Beirut the day before - about which others feel the same way I do about Paris and are now weeping - well, I think the people that do this tend to feel as if they Have No Place at the Table.

And they are right.

They don't.

This is equally true, I might add - and to prove this isn't about me just being a left wing nut - about far right positions, too. In general there is a neo-liberal capitalist consensus that revolves around a few folks making a shit ton of money, some countries where some people benefit, and fuck everyone else.  And if anyone else complains, they are sanctioned, either economically or overtly violently repressed.

As Ghandi said poverty is the greatest form of violence, and he's right...and if you want the more pomo version of same read Zizek on systemic violence. I will spare you that, but it's a good analysis.

In other words, what we are seeing is not the disease, it's a symptom of a larger, much more pervasive disease...and just as in Northern Ireland, if there is no addressing of the whole problem, the 'terrorism' will continue...both the kind we agree is terrorism and the more state sanctioned terrorism that we call defense because we're on a certain 'side' of the equation.

In London during the 'troubles' the Sinn Fein leaders were not allowed to be heard speaking in the media. Even if they were shown on the television, an actor said their 'lines.' No shit. Talk about no place at the table.

Now, we (by we here I mean broadly Western-capitalist nations) hear about people saying Allu Akhbar or whatever and all hell breaks loose. Do we even know someone said this? Maybe yes, maybe no...is that plus gunning down people systematically representative of all Muslims? I think we can safely say not, unless everyone among you who calls yourself Christian is willing to be defined by fundamentalists who kill people for not being white and Christian enough, etc...then fine, but I doubt that's the case, so give a thought to your average not violent Muslim. Please.

Because if we don't do that, this shit is never gonna end. I am also not going to go on an endless Middle East politics rant going back to WWI (which is the only way to actually understand this, but you can look it up or you may very well know the whole story, too - in either case, I don't need to be the "enlightener" there). However, the fact is, there are reasons for this, it's not out of nowhere and if we keep treating this like it's a fucking Star Wars movie with Muslims as Darth Vader or whatever, we ain't gettin' nowhere fast, except More of This Shit.

And I am sick of this shit.

I am sick of seeing people killed in the middle of their day - here in NYC, in London, in Paris, in Beirut, in Gaza, in Tel Aviv, in Mosul, in Kabul, in Lahore, in Bangalore, in Mumbai, in Jakarta, in Ubud...on the streets of cities in the US by police or in churches by white supremacists...or in a fucking elementary school.

What, you say, how does that relate?

Well, to me, that goes back to the place at the table...meaning, we are all at different tables now and it's too fucking easy to dehumanize an Other that way. I won't go into the whole history of racism in U.S., because people wiser than I have done so, but it causes what we see, plus classism. See Angela Davis Women, Race & Class for excellent analysis of this...

Speaking of which don't even get me started about domestic violence, rape and the like...that's some deep dark shit that's been going on for Millennia, but that shit is So pervasive, for the most part we women harm ourselves way before we lash out at anyone else. Fun times.

Then there's the economic violence...that has led to the suicides and overdoses in people of my generation, left out of the great - non-existent for most - prosperity...etc etc..

So, this Table I'm talking about, it also has to like Serve Food, too. Because people are starving in so many ways.

Oil got us into the mess we see unfolding in NYC, London, Paris, Beirut et all...or should I say oil profits. As long as we see life and ourselves only or primarily as a sum of profits and losses, we are well and truly fucked. This stellar logic has also brought us global climate change.

All this relates.

A few profit off of very many. OK, we know this. But it matters because of the logic that perpetuates that profit and the resentment of people being left out AND - and this is where the table comes into play, too, some people want to hold onto something sacred that Isn't Fucking Money...

And sometimes, that means religion...and sometimes that religion - or idea or art or ethics or Something Else - can matter more to someone than money...and frankly in this world, we can't even hear that as a reality. We can only hear it as a campaign slogan and the most visible culture ices that point of view out...leaving people struggling in subcultures that can thrive in moments of economic and political distress and lead to violence...

Which is usually fought by bigger, badder violence with all the fun weaponry that we (in the US primarily) pony up for to create (so that people like Dick Cheney and friends reap all those profits in their privately help companies like Halliburton). Yay!

Reagan managed to marry capitalism with Calvinism to create an unholy alliance that has not let go of its grip. But there are other people who don't see it that way...and those people do not have a place at the Table.

There are also people who might not take kindly to their land being taken away by larger forces (like oh say the founding of our country for example...or the way England and France and US divided up the spoils of Middle Eastern oil protectorates after WWI, for another example relevant to the place we find ourselves now). None of these people have a place at the table.

So, either we Make a Bigger Table - preferably round - and find a way to allow the cacophony of voices to be heard...to find a way to listen and learn and somehow figure out a way to distribute resources - and the way we talk to ourselves about who is on the planet and deserves a voice - in a way that makes even a tiny semblance of sense...or we can look forward to these moments on the news, or in our city, for many years to come...followed by more surveillance, less personal freedom and a world of fear.

And you know what: fuck that shit. That is not the world I want to live in. Do you?

Friday, October 30, 2015

I'm Still Here & More Good News!

Apologies for falling off the map, but it's been a crazy transition into the school year, plus some wonderful news, which was The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani was long listed for Mslexia, a fiction prize in the UK! This was based on the opening pages of the book, so, I had to format the manuscript, look it over for some final edits and add in some photos to send to them for the short-listing process. I just sent this book off on Monday night and it took whatever last little bit of energy I had left.

I have since taken some time off, but still am teaching, so it's not time off precisely, just not trying to teach and write at the same time, which I find very hard.

More later when my brain and body returns, but did want to share the good news.

The autumn here is lovely. Some pix will be posted soon, too!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Good news, anniversary and Maine...

Some good news!

My story The God Thing was nominated by its publisher Stockholm Review of Literature for a Sundress Best of the Net 2015 award. That was quite a pleasant surprise and will hopefully help in the agent/publisher hunt ongoing for The Book.

Am in Maine now, enjoying a few days off with John, celebrating our one year wedding ceremony anniversary, and my mother's birthday - belated. October light in Maine is spectacular. I forgot. Haven't been here in Maine in I don't know how long.

Still unreeling from writing the book. Had a lovely reading at KGB Bar - wonderful response from the audience that included friends of mine from parts of my life ranging from the 1980s to now - always a great feeling. Here's a photo of me with my fellow readers from Paragraph, Sarah Wetzel (gorgeous poet) and Kiri Milburn (at work on very moving novel):

Sarah, me, Kiri at KGB on Sept. 25, 2015 - great night -
photo by my love,  John Barclay-Morton

I'm writing this in cafe in Brunswick, Maine - Little Dog. Hence the choppiness, but it's also the only time I've had in ages to write here, so trying to steal this moment to do so.

So, post-book, I'm mostly breathing but also having lots of ideas for possible plays and books and wanting to get started on those. Because I had to do quick turn around to teach haven't had a chance to begin that work yet, so feel terribly guilty about that but also out of sorts. Without a creative project on the go, I can feel bereft. On the other hand, I know I have a 'baking period' - and that is happening now. I am not at a computer or notebook writing but my ideas are percolating. Given how much I had to push myself to get the book done, I think a month or so without active writing is probably OK.

Also beginning to dip toe in tiny ways back into theater world. I want to do that mindfully for many reasons.

What I've realized is that the few years off I've had from theater for the most part has given me a chance to survey more carefully the NYC performance scene and consider where I may fit in best. Because NYC grows in dog years, having been away for 8 years means when I returned in 2011 everything had changed. At first I found that disorienting and disturbing, but now I see the possibilities in carefully returning to places and people that may be better fits with where I am now...Have been meeting people these past couple of years who feel as if they would be good collaborators. I am surprised by how much I have changed in many ways. That doesn't mean there aren't people who I've worked with before I don't want to work with now - not at all - it's more about the whole thing - the how, where, why, when of it...and how that can manifest. This probably all sounds hopelessly vague, so the short-form version is: feeling it out slowly...

But for now, for now, enjoying the autumn light, the ocean at Pemaquid Point, the changing leaves and visiting with people I haven't seen in a while is enough - is more than enough. I have some pictures from the ocean on my phone but am on computer here so will post later.

Meanwhile, here's a photo of milkweed on Rock Schoolhouse Road from yesterday, in front of where my mother and Tom used to live. Haven't been back there since 2004. A beautiful place they kept lovingly from 1993-2005 when they had to move. For practical reasons, Brunswick is best, but it's melancholy to see such a gorgeous place they had loved so much. Life-the fucker-the whirligig-the magic show-she never sits still.

Milkweed on Rock Schoolhouse Road, Bristol, Maine, Oct 2015

I could go on about the state of politics, etc. in the US, but will spare you that. Other than one quick observation: I have hope for the Bernie Sanders movement. I do not know how deep and broad it is, but glad to know it exists at all. The garish, loud stuff is all about the GOP and the crazies, but there seems to be a much quieter, more persistent movement for real change. Am I dreaming? Could be. Am I hopeful for the first time in many years? Yes. We'll see.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

4 Wars and the Impossibility of Representing the Real

There is a lot to like about the ambition and scope of 4 Wars by Concrete Timbre, so I am going to start with that. The idea of looking at four different revolutionary movements in 1968 rather than focusing on one is a great idea. To attempt to the show the depth and breadth of the level of rebellion going on around the world offers an excellent corrective to focusing in one narrow event as if that is all that was going on.

Mixing excellent music with story-telling worked very well. I am not a musician or composer, so don't feel I have enough expertise to comment on this - very important - aspect of Concrete Timbre's work. But, suffice to say, the original compositions played by live musicians added a lot of nice texture and resonance to the various sections.

The use of projections to give context for a student revolt in Poland, the defiance of the Czech leader to the Soviet invasion following Prague Spring, a Mexican student march (which ended as a massacre) and the Yippies in the East Village, was effective most of the time.

The most effective section embodied the Czech leader, Alexander Dubcek's negotiations with the USSR, most likely because it was done in a highly stylized way that conveyed the complexity of the situation in a simple but sustained motif.

Before I write about the other three sections, I need to take a bit of a side trip to discuss the complexities inherent in representing eras of real upheaval. I have rarely seen the late 1960s-early 1970s represented in a way that feels anything like having lived through them - or even that appears as raw as any of the video footage or photos we have seen from the period. My suspicion is this is because the level of upheaval and confusion during this period cannot be represented, because only stable images or stories can be. That level of seismic shift can only either be experienced or somehow embodied, which would mean leaving oneself open as an artist to an extraordinarily uncomfortable level of vulnerability and confusion. Audiences, too, would have to be challenged. I am thinking now of the work of Richard Foreman, for example. His plays at times have touched that sense of the world tilting on its axis. To attempt to tell a linear story in general is going to fall flat.

Regarding attempts at more naturalistic representation of the late 60s-early 70s, just for starters costumes always seem too put together or ironic, when - in the U.S. especially - people rebelling were wearing clothes that did not convey anything like coherent sense. While this may seem superficial as an observation, it reveals the problem. From where we stand now - in a place far removed from that time - we want to impose some kind of order or coherence on it - to say they worse this or that type of clothing. The chaos and chance of it, that is almost impossible to truly engage. The same applies for the use of language, ideas, interactions. No one can represent something that won't stand still.

For all of these reasons, I had the hardest time believing the last section - which was meant to show us the Yippies in the East Village after Nixon was elected. Not only the costumes but the characterizations of the people seemed kind of cartoon-like and didn't bear any real resemblance to the political engagement of the time as it played out. The craziness, the confusion, was real. To truly embody that reality would mean letting go not only of a slightly cliché view of the people involved but perhaps of a traditional theater frame, which favors stable stories with beginning, middle and end, that does not ultimately care to disrupt the existing reality.

The facts about the Polish and Mexican student rebellions or cultural milieu I don't know very well so cannot speak to issues of veracity, but I could not sense - as I could with the Czech section - the stakes of the heroic confrontations. The heroine in both cases felt more like she was standing in for heroism itself than being fully human. If perhaps those sections were as stylized as the Czech section this might have worked, but because there was a more naturalistic frame, the tension - and resonance - was lost.

I don't think naturalism is always bad (though I do have a preference for more experimental modes of acting), but to address these large issues in short segments, this is probably not the best mode. I also wanted there to be more interaction with the live music and musicians and, indeed, the audience. With ideas about rebellion being played out, it seemed odd to have the actors avoid the presence of people in the room.

Finally, at the end, when there are scenes of hope shown on the projections - where the sacrifices the rebels made appear to have born fruit years later (the Wall falling down, Solidarity, Nixon's impeachment, etc.) - perhaps there could have been more reference to current struggles - such as Black Lives Matter, Occupy and the like (for US) and the complexities that face the old Eastern Europe now - and any new movements for change in Mexico.

I hesitate to be so critical of this production because the goals are so laudable and the amount of work that has gone into it is immense. However, when attempting to show such explosive periods of time, it is important to consider the means. Having said that, there are precious few examples anywhere - in film or theater - of anyone having pulled this off.

I applaud the effort and ambition - and hope this company keeps finding new ways to approach their material.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Unravelling...(...and reading at KGB Bar on 9/25!)

So, when you finish a five-year long project - like oh say a book about your grandmothers - apparently the first response - if you're me - is to: get a summer cold.

I have, in short, been unravelling for the past week or so. A long process of unwinding tightly held together string or something along those lines.

The good news is: I'm present again in the world. The bad news is: I feel barely functional within it. Part of that has to do with the cold.

Good news is the local grocer hooked me up with some dried sage and told me to make a tea out of it for the cold, and that is working.

Bad news is I need to turn around two syllabi for teaching by Friday latest. Yes, I have outlines of both, and one class I have taught already so not a big issue, but the second one: yikes. Good news is: I'm really excited about teaching that class, which I have entitled Reality Hunger inspired by David Shields' eponymous manifesto.

So, I've been sleeping for a couple days, with yesterday and today including walks in the local gorgeous park. Reconnecting with friends and suchlike.

It's a slow unwind.

On a practical level: have sent the manuscript to an agent who was interested in reading it and to a novelist friend whom I trust to give me both honest and constructive feedback. Now, I wait.

There is not really much else to say. I could rant and rave about many aspects of the world right now, but happily there's Facebook for that now. So, you all just get me reflecting in calmer moments.

More as I know it.

Gratitude for completion of the project, even if I barely know what to do with myself now...but oh, before I forget:

SAVE THE DATE: I will be reading from The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani at KGB Bar on East 4th Street on Friday, September 25 at 7pm - along with some other writers from Paragraph. Should be a great night of writing shared with some very cool people and it's FREE! I would LOVE to see you there!

Peace out (and put down the damn gun...OK, so I couldn't not mention something...)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

On completing a manuscript with the help of the Sisters of Wisdom

So, it's done. The book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani. Five years later, I have a complete (revised and twice-edited) draft, ready to send out to others to read. That doesn't mean there won't be revisions, etc., to come, but this does mean - for the first time in five years - this book leaves my own little sphere. Meaning me. As in no one else has read it. No one.

So, yeah, no biggie.


I finished the final edit just yesterday at this beautiful place where I am until tomorrow morning, Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT. This gorgeous ex-nunnery is still administered by the Sisters of Wisdom, but is ecumenical now. There are group retreat - spiritual and artistic - of all kinds, but they also allow people like me to come in - artists or writers - to have a private retreat. I've been here for 2 weeks in a beautiful room overlooking countryside, with access to a labyrinth to walk and a pool and amazing farm to table meals. I've learned that my suspicion about nuns these days - that they are more punk rock that anyone else in this time of rampant capitalism that overcodes any kind of 'rebellion' as a new marketing technique - is true. These women are walking a kind of walk most of us could only dream of in terms of integrity, grit, depth and lack of bullshit. Plus, wow, feminists much? Oh yeah. These are American nuns remember, the kind that are forever getting in trouble with the Vatican. Not so much these days with Pope (I have actually read the Bible and sussed it out a bit better than the recent other guys) Francis, but historically, they have been the troublemakers.

The Sisters have been very supportive of me here, and see the links between my life and work and theirs. They speak of things like 'the flow' and understand what deep thinking about one's self and the world really means. They also understand what it's like to commit for ages to something that is not very popular or well-understood. However - and this is my favorite thing about them - they seem so Joyful. These are not dour women wandering around imposing rules, but instead people who have committed to something larger than themselves and are reaping the reward for that, which is, unless I am completely missing something: joyful living. Plus, they are really funny (and get my jokes).

So, I  couldn't have ordered up a better place to finish a book about my grandmothers. The many women with whom I have spoken with while here - not just the Sisters, but also other retreaters - are interested in this story about my grandmothers - and their grandmothers - and unearthing the story of women in general. They reminded me why I was doing this project in the first place, which helped keep me motivated.

I am also now, as you can probably imagine, scared out of my mind to send it out. What if it just sucks and I've spent 5 years only to be looked at like an idiot child by people who I send it to - who will probably feel sorry for me and not know how to tell me it's Just Not Quite Good Enough...etc.

So, there's that.

But, send it out I will. It's time. I know what it is. It can stand or fall. May need changes here and there, but the core exists. This terrifies me to say because of all the screaming self-doubt voices, but it's true. I've done as much as I can now - and need others to look in on the Thing.

The Thing is btw 250K, which would be about 650 pages in paperback. This may seem extreme, but it covers two women's entire lives, one from 1915-1992 (in other words through the beginning to end of the Soviet Union and Cold War...for starters) and another one from 1916-1980. The more research I did, the more I saw was missing, the more I tried to add, the more I also cut away...and this is what I have. I believe they deserve a voice that takes up this much time and space, because women like them have never had that time and space, and it's time - past time - to hear their voices.

So, wish me luck as I send this manuscript out into the world - that I find the right agent and publisher - that Dick and Jani find those who can shepherd their voices into the larger world, in a way that people will want to take notice and listen.

If that happens, I will know my life has not been lived in vain. This process has taken everything from me for five years - most of my time, heart, intellect, spirit and even love. I have been barely available to anyone or anything else. I have devoted my life to this project. I have to believe it was worth it.

If nothing else, I could teach a hella 20th C. American history class now - I even know when sliced bread was invented. Women rock, and they keep the earth on its orbit. This too I have learned. I never used to believe in gender - and I know these days (hilariously as per usual I am out of synch) it's trendy to dispute gender as a valid identity, but I gotta say: women - historically - have been left out of the history books and even the general ways of telling stories - only the exceptions are heard from - but not the average female life. We know almost Everything about male consciousness in the 20th century in minute detail, but the female consciousness - except as an Object of study by men? - not so much. This is my contribution in order to redress that imbalance.

p.s. The room where I have stayed is called the Our Lady of the Fiat room. You can't make this shit up, kids. Yes! Let it be so!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

New Hampshire, finishing a book, and the fine art of letting go (no I'm not good at it)

So, I have edited a section of the book in record time staying at a cottage in New Hampshire, thanks to a most excellent friend, Marietta, who is hosting me. There is something about being on a lake, writing on a deck overlooking water and just not having to deal with most of modern life that suits me just fine - and my writing, too.

On to the very last section tomorrow, then to review what I have done over the next few weeks, with an eye to sending it out to some beta readers by end of August.

So, why do I feel depressed? I think it's because this process is about to go out of my hands, meaning I will be sharing the writing, after 5 years almost of incubating it. I think this is scaring the living crap out of me and one way that is manifesting is some level of depression - not the debilitating clinical kind - because I'm writing and taking care of myself, etc. - more the underlying, mild variety.

This is not a complaint, by the way, just an observation and somewhat of a puzzlement. But, I think it indicates something coming to an end and a letting go, neither of those things being anything I'm particularly good at pulling off with grace. Ends and/or letting go that is.

But I am moving forward (my theater director soul with a schedule as if I was in rehearsals with an opening night motoring away). And supported by all the wonders of clean air, pine trees, blue skies, white cloud, gorgeous sunsets, good food and a good friend. I miss my beloved John, but we Skype each night - back to the way we started. No substitute for in person being together, but it does mitigate the missing. My cat, Ugo, is not impressed with Skype however and just ignores me. Happily, he and John are now friends, so at least I don't have to feel guilty about that.

So, the weather forecast is: book on schedule to be in draft form by end of the summer with underlying northeastern depression. More as I know it.

However, I do want to end this post on note of profound gratitude for my week up here, which is already glorious and as always when I'm near the water and out of the way of most of civilization deeply healing...and some photos...(these were taken with my phone so not the best quality, but to give you an idea....)

beautiful sunset on the lake yesterday, from dock in front of cottage

reflected sunset light back of cottage, pine forest