Welcome to my blog..

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

I am 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 will be getting to know soon. 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 will trace the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that'll feature 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 last year 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. 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.

A recent addendum as of July 1, 2013: I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC but because of immigration rules that'll be slow. 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.

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Another death in the family....and some good news, too

OK, I'm getting sick of people suddenly dying. I'm 51, so that means this experience will simply increase from hereon out in my life, but I don't approve.  I'm feeling older by the minute and this was totally unexpected.  I was meant to visit my step-mother, Gloria, who I haven't seen in years, this Sunday in Connecticut, because she was traveling east with her son, Jason, whom I've never met, for her niece's wedding.  She was going to stay with her beloved brother, John.  Gloria comes from a large Italian family who live near Bridgeport. One of my favorite childhood memories was visiting her family, because it meant 7-8 of her siblings, kids, cousins, her parents, etc. all milling around a seemingly endless back yard - in a situation where the adults seemed to really like kids. As an only child who was surrounded mostly by arty adults at the time who who were experimenting with - well - everything, this slice of traditional life delighted me.

I found out later of course there was more than met the eye, there was discord in the Valley of Paradise, etc. but still it's a wonderful memory. I was really looking forward to experiencing this place again and seeing this house, even though now Gloria's sister and her husband live there and many of her siblings are dead.  But I did want to re-meet the living siblings and some of their kids.

Early this morning, however, I received an email from Gloria that her brother John had died suddenly. He had not been too well but they had spoken the night before and he was preparing food for her arrival. Gloria is of course in shock and beyond sad. The whole family is gathering for a wedding and now there is a funeral. It's not an indie film from the UK, though, so it's just sad.

While the grieving is of course for the direct family, so I feel idiotic even telling you about my sadness in this matter, it does exist. Because this was another remnant of a very scattered past that I had hoped to briefly in some way reclaim. This is, however, obviously not the time or place. And the fact that - as with so many people - they have drifted away or were tangential to my life - makes me feel even less tethered to the earth than usual.

Then there is also the realization - again - of my own mortality. How short life begins to feel in these moments and how scared I am that I will not finish the work I think I am supposed to do while I am here. Because this comes in the context of writing about my grandmothers and their deaths, it seems a bit like a pile on.

On the most selfish level, I'm not ready to die is basically what it comes down to, and my mentor who was a friend of the family's but so much more than that, died when he was 51 and writing about his family and teaching at Fordham - where I teach now. This confluence of similarities freaks me out. On the other hand, I seem to be relatively healthy and stopped certain self-destructive tendencies many years ago.

However, speaking of the book, I will be visiting my father's cousin and grandmother Dick's favorite niece, Sharon, in Connecticut on Monday. I will be meeting her in New London, which was the scene of some of the worst events of my childhood - which had nothing to do with her - then going to her family's place in Mystic, and staying in their summer cottage for the night. I may have met Sharon when I was a baby, but we've never met as adults. This is very exciting for both of us, because we both have lots of gaps in our knowledge of 'Dickie' that I hope we can both help each other fill in some of those holes.

Crucially, she knew her Aunt Dickie in a different way than I did, and I am hungry for another point of view of Dick and her parents, her sister (Sharon's mother) and brothers.  Also another POV of my father. It should be quite illuminating.

This past week, I have been writing The Book - mostly by hand in composition books  - the only way I can draft it - indicating where primary sources and photos should appear. It's scary. It's exciting. I re-read the 163 pages already written and/or transcribed and it doesn't all suck, which is a relief, but now I'm writing after having done all the systematic research. There are some issues of voice and structure that remain unresolved but realizing I can only figure it out by writing a crappy draft and then dealing with it.

Today, however, I was rattled by the death of Gloria's brother plus the disturbing sound of an alarm that kept going off inside our building from 430am onward, near our door.  It is basically a car alarm - but located inside and sometimes just goes off For No Reason. Just a weird-ass day is what I'm saying...

Sometimes, it's just best to say hooray, today I am alive and that is good.

There is an odd shame that comes with mortality, like it connotes a failure on our part. Probably a modern first-world problem. We should be able to do something about it, right? Well, no, wrong. Apparently not. This is the deal and always has been since the moment we were born. Just feeling more real than usual these days.

So for this event, I will say a prayer & a blessing for Gloria and her family that they find some solace in the fact they are all together in this sad time. I hope her niece can still get married, too. That there is a way to have both the grief and the joy. This is the solace of aging - realizing it is both.

I remember writing Gloria's mother a condolence card when her husband - Gloria's father - Frank, died. I drew it myself and attempted to draw a silver-lining around a cloud. I was young then. Death seemed very far away. It doesn't now. I now have to balance a sense of gratitude for being alive with a kind of shame at having not Become All That I Should Have Become etc...on the other hand: I'm still here and have found love in this life, even if at a later date. And that really should be enough. And in the end, it is. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Happy 20th Birthday, Willow!

Today I want to say Happy 20th Birthday to my step-daughter, Willow!

Willow, if you have been following this blog, you will know how much I love your father. I also know how much he loves you and misses you.  You are welcome to come visit us in NYC anytime.  We both would love to have you in our lives.  I've never met you, but I already miss you, so I would consider it an honor to have you here.  Get in touch with John or me and we'll figure out a way, if that appeals.

I don't have any children of my own (other than my ever-replenishing supply of university students if you want to count them) so you don't have to worry about trying to get along awkwardly with some step-siblings you've never met - just me and a nice rescue cat named Ugo.

I also want to wish you a very happy birthday.  I remember turning 20 - it was a wild, wonderful, confusing, exciting time. I hope you are happy and healthy and pursuing your creative dreams. Speaking of which, if you're still into film & theater, we can talk. My whole life has been about such things (more theater than film but still) and I'm a teacher by deepest nature.

I can honestly say I've never introduced myself via blog post before, but this seems the only way right now, so hopefully you'll be happy I did.

No matter what, know that two people in New York love you very much and wish you every happiness and joy. We are both so very glad you were born.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Beautiful landmarks

Yesterday, otherwise known in this batshit crazy country as 'Independence Day' (freedom to buy guns & elections while keeping women from their own reproductive health apparently), I did manage to create some of my own actual independence by Finishing The Research for my grandmothers' book!  Got through the last of Jani's legal pads (there were many) in which I found many gems, including a book she began called 'A Gift for Julie,' in which she - inspired by the recently-aired 'Roots' series - thought she would write a book 'between fact and fiction' going back to our ancestors...through the matrilineal line (which her mother had traced back to the 1600s - Enoch Buck being the pioneer from Yorkshire, England to Massachusetts).  In the opening of Jani's book, we are sitting in front of the fire in a cottage in Maine (which is where we did in fact spend a lot of time in the 70s), while she opens a book that tells this story back to the Stone Age.  Somehow it's written in Latin (which touch she added because I was studying Latin at the time), and apparently I am happy about this. (She thought I was way smarter than I am.) Sadly, she only got about 2 pages into this odyssey, but imagine my surprise at finding it at all scribbled in red pen behind yet another speech haranguing yet another group about not having adequate sex education in schools.

So now I am going to breathe, let all this mammoth amount of information (which I have been reading and organizing systematically for over a year) settle and begin writing when it feels right to begin.  This feat feels incredible, because when I first saw all the boxes of Jani's writing, I thought: I'll never get through all this (and for a couple years basically picked & poked through the material, until I finally acceded to the need to read it All).  But I did.  Bit by bit by bit.  Then finally finishing this past month - working 5+ hours a day - thanks to crowd-funding campaign giving me money to take the time to do so.

Last summer I spent organizing the hundreds - maybe thousands - of photos from both grandmothers and sorting through the complex genealogies of both. Late summer through now has been reading all of Jani's writing - 5 banker's boxes+ none of it organized).  I will of course have to go back through it and will be using some of it, but I have now Read it All, including the almost incomprehensible Legal Pads.  Her handwriting is as bad as mine.  This is not good.  She also plays so fast and loose with the facts of her life - never letting the truth get in the way of a good story - that it's going to be an interesting trick to show that in the book. I don't want to whitewash this part of her, because then she's not her. But it does make a good argument for keeping the 'imaginary' part of the autobio of Dick & Jani - because, well, I have no choice.

Another shout-out to all you wonderful people who donated to the 'cause' - because of you, I can do all of this and spend the summer working on the writing now. I can also give myself the crucial percolating time, too, without having to fritter that away on another money-making job. This is as much a part of my creative process as anything, so I bow down humbly to you all in deepest gratitude.

The other beautiful landmark was on July 1 (also known as Canada Day), which was the first anniversary of my beloved Canadian's and my marriage at City Hall!  We spent the day on the Circle Line (a wonderful touristy thing to do) circling Manhattan, including our beloved Inwood.  That and a lovely meal was a fabulous way to mark the occasion. We are both so incredibly relieved he is here at last with green card and doesn't have to keep going back to Canada. Such a simple thing that makes all the difference.

On the July 4 after we got married last year, John did have to go back to Canada, which was horrible.  However, right after we were married I was able to work in earnest on my book, which shows you the power of our union, even before we could live like normal people (well sort of like normal people...whatever that means).  But this is way better.

So, happy Independence, Canada and (in anticipation) Bastille Day...July seems to be a good time for positive, revolutionary change.  May it be so for you, too.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Writing mostly but: Coney Island Mermaid Parade!

That's it.  That's pretty much all I do.  Thanks to all of you funding this stage, it's my job and I'm treating it as such.

Almost done with the research...and hoping to be writing the draft by July.  It will have been a whole year of research - thousands of pages of writing, correspondence, documents, photos, etc...well worth it, but damn...it'll feel good to be able to write again (of course most of the stuff I wrote before this methodical research year is destined for the circular file...but hopefully some will be salvageable)...

I therefore have precious little energy to blog.  Have tons to say about what I'm finding but am going to save all that for the book right now, with the exception of the Dinner Prize given to the folks who commented on the term micro-history (which will happen on July 17 - finally)...and my beloved Canadian who gets to hear All of It now that he's here (& he's here, he's here - hooray!)...and my friend Susan who gets text messages about my progress...but mostly it's me boxes of papers a room summer heat a cat a husband in other room engaged in job search...party on...

But, John & I did take one day off this past Saturday for the fabulous Coney Island Mermaid Parade - which if you haven't been is one of the most delightful experience ever - people of all body types, ages, races, sexualities, etc. dressed up as Mermaids, Mermen, Pirates, Sea Animals, you name it...parading along the boardwalk with hundreds of people watching, cheering and taking pictures.

I was one of them (taking pix) - have hundreds, but here are a few:

my fave photo embodying the spirit of the day: everyone gets to be a mermaid!

another lovely mermaid passing through

groovy punky gorgeous mermaids - rocking my world

she's just fabulous - nothing else to say

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I get to live with my own husband - hooray!

A quick post, because I need to get up crazy early to pick up John (aka my beloved Canadian) at the scenic Port Authority because he finally got his passport back with visa in it and we get to live together - FINALLY.  11 1/2 months after getting married...I could rant about that, but instead will just say: hooray!  He'll be here in the morning just in time for my birthday (on Sunday)!  Best birthday present ever!  Also in time for our July 1 wedding anniversary.

You can tell how tired I am by use of excessive exclamation points...

I am so grateful for this moment...and a moment to express gratitude again to all who donated to my Indiegogo campaign, because I've spent this week working on the book, which has been great.  Beginning to get that wonderful sinking into the work - down below the resistance and into the flow. And I get to keep doing this for the whole summer at least! Thank you all for making this possible.  Second best birthday present ever (see above for best one)!

The music gig I did earlier in the month (mentioned in last post) also went really well - singing, vocalizing and working with my own text in front of people & improvising with violinist (Alison Blunt) and soprano saxophonist (Gianni Mimmo) was a revelation.  I hope for more such wonderful experiences soon. The world feels like it is blooming in all directions - like a late spring garden gone mad - in a good way.

Here's to happy times...gratitude & friendship & love & artistic creation...

Not a bad way to turn 51.  Not bad at all.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

And now for something completely different...

Tomorrow I will have the great privilege and honor of performing at the Commons in Brooklyn with the amazing Alison Blunt, violinist, from the UK.  She and I worked together in many ways when I lived in London, including as part of my theater company (Apocryphal).  She now plays with fabulous saxophonist Gianni Mimmo from Italy - and lucky me, they asked me to gig with them on Wednesday!

I will be adding in excerpts of text and vocals, drawing from my multi-year meditation/text inspired by William James.  Should be a rollicking good time, if you like way out improvised music and your text cut up and sung (sort of).

Here's the details...come on over, down, up...etc...if you can.  First set looks to be amazing, too!

Music Now! at the Commons

June 4th, 2014 7:00 PM
Music Now! @ the Commons
Julia Lee Barclay-Morton, Alison Blunt, Rocco John Iacovone, Gianni Mimmo, Ras Moshe, Dafna Naphtali, John Pietaro, Reuben Radding & Tor Yochai Snyder
7 PM Spring Music
With Ras Moshe
Tor Yochai Snyder
John Pietaro
Dafna Naphtali
Rocco John Iacovone
Reuben Radding
8 PM Words+Music
Alison Blunt (Uk): Violin
Gianni Mimmo (It): Soprano Sax
Julia Lee Barclay-Morton (Us): Text, Voice
Julia Lee Barclay-Morton is an award-winning writer and director of experimental theater, whose work has been published and produced internationally. She founded Apocryphal Theatre in London. Most of her stage texts are published in anthologies and online at www.indietheaternow.com.  She is working on a book about her grandmothers, The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani.
Mimmo/Blunt Duo: Soprano saxophonist Mimmo and violinist Blunt began to work together in 2013. A sparkling acoustic duo featuring a contemporary wild chamber attitude, improvising instant compositions, sound texture explorations and sudden lyrical flights, they have already performed prolifically in the UK, Germany, Italy and Finland. Experimental flavors, multi-perspective intuitions and reciprocal listening are the extremely well balanced blend of this duo that strives for an improvisation where “things happen.”
Continuing in the tradition of the loft jazz scene (i.e.- Studio Rivbea and Ali's Alley), Music Now is a monthly series featuring some of the most innovative artists on the music scene. The series is curated by veteran reedist and cultural worker Ras Moshe.

Admission: both sets $11
The Commons
388 Atlantic Avenue
BrooklynNY 11217
United States

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Honor Roll!

So, I'm back from Montreal - and today I have spent organizing my office/writing area and tomorrow I re-start work on the book.  I want to thank publicly every person who has made this moment possible (the donors to The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani campaign).  Some folks chose to stay anonymous, so there are more than meet the eye.  There were also people who donated time, ideas and help spreading the word to whom I am very grateful. But this list is for the folks who donated ranging in amount from $1 to $2,500 - each person a part of this book now.

If you donated and don't see your name here and wish you did, please do tell me so I can add you. The Indiegogo site perhaps listed you as wanting to remain anonymous and that's why you're not here.  I can change that.  Also, if you did choose to be anonymous, I do know who you all are and will be in touch with you all on progress of book.

One more note about this list: it includes people I've known throughout my whole life - some going back to summer programs and high school, some from college, some professionally and some through fabulous friendship that has spanned continents and years. Other people on this list I've never met and am astonished by their generosity and support. Of the people on this list I do know, I can tell you they are all amazing individuals who do great things in this world - some creative, some entrepreneurial, some activist, some academic, some in deep and profound service to others and many whose lives are a combination platter.  I'm going to take a leap and say I'm pretty sure the folks I don't know are the same.  Is this a certain kind of humblebrag? Yeah sure, but it's Also True!

Drum roll please....(thunder and lightening of gratitude...cheesy yet heartfelt effects...and...)

Very special thanks (and a place in heaven) to:

John Barclay-Morton, Allan Bilsky, Julie Clark Boak, Christoph Bolten, Ellen Boscov, Zoe Bouras, Jenny Boylan, Melinda Buckley, Glenda Burgess, Christine Campbell, Joanna Caldas, Francelle Carapetyan, Mark Cassidy & Suzanne Hersh, Sabrina Colie, Jay Davidson, Michael DiGioia, Peter Felsenthal, Robyn Flemming, Kathy Franklin, Dana Leslie Goldstein, Kélina Gotman, Susan Greenfield, Carle Groome, Renata Hinrichs, Julia Hough, Christian Huygen, David Irons, Bill Jose, Jeffrey A Lewonczyk, Jennifer Litchfield, Jana Llewellyn, Timothy Lone, Amy Loomis, Alyson Lounsbury, Sarah Lowengard, Amy Ludwig, Pam MacLean, Rachel Malbin, Jane Marcellus, Carol Martin, Susan Meeker, Sharon Miller, Glenn Mitchell, Katherine & Peter Myles, Veronica Needa, Nicole Poole, Steve Potter, Susan E. Purdy Pelosi, Nina Roberts, Karen Rush Rizzo, William Roetzheim, Tamara Rogers, Jonathan Salisbury, Nic Sammond, Amy L Sanders, Peter Schmidt, Robin Schmidt, Michael Steven Schultz, Rajni Shah & Theron Schmidt, Hasan Anil Sepetçi, Luis Sotelo, Malin Stahl, Carol Lynn Tabas, E Jill & James Tobak, Mario Veenstra, Sallyanne Wood and all the Anonymous Donors


with a special shout-out to my mother's friend Fran Woodring

who sent me a check (unsolicited) a few months ago, because she believes in what I was trying to do with this book and wanted to be a part of helping make it happen...which spontaneous gift gave me the courage to try the Indiegogo campaign...and has now led to this astonishing gift of time to put all my attention - without distraction on writing to complete the research and a draft.

I thank you all again and again.  Now to work....