Today started in a miserable fashion emotionally. I was contemplating writing a whole post about the loneliness of loneliness. That kind of awful after a night of difficulty sleeping.
Two things turned around my day, one was going to a meeting of folks like me and remembering what I should feel grateful for in my life and talking with a good friend who re-grounded me back into my life and reminded me why some issues involving my separation in the past few days have been so difficult.
The other was teaching my acting class at Hunter. To be able to teach basic acting skills as I have discovered them over the Many years I have been directing and, more importantly, working with incredibly talented actors in labs, and see that this works in a college class, is an incredible high. To listen to their response to the first chapter of Joseph Chaikin's The Presence of the Actor and their understanding that the listening, tone and space exercises we had just done relate to that even better.
I began the class the way I had wanted to but was not sure I would be able to do properly, but it worked: with breathing. How to breathe. Basic yoga stuff, 3 part breath conflated with up and down the body register vocal work. Then I took them through a yoga sequence an actor taught a group of us ages ago when I had a theater company in NYC, which I have been doing myself for years.
Usually, when I teach this stuff it's in the context of a workshop or a class related but not just about this, so I have to teach it quickly. To be able to take it all apart in a leisurely way and relate it to the class-long discussion on Monday was just great.
This I could get used to doing for like a while.
The students are a great mix from teens to 30s, many races and backgrounds, and - delightfully - only 16 of them. This means I can give individual attention and we can play as a group without losing each other.
Also, much to my amazement, many of them had bought the book and done the reading. They are thoughtful and - again to my astonishment - care as much about the ideas as the acting. Jackpot!
So, a thank you to Hunter for hiring me, a prayer for more of this kind of the work in the future and a posthumous thank you to Joseph Chaikin who rocked my world. First in 1983 when I read his book after my friend Veronica handed me a copy of The Serpent telling me I had to direct it (so thank you Veronica for that - and so much more...), then in 1988 in person when I took his directing tragedy workshop, quitting a job, selling my bicycle and hitch-hiking from SF to Marin to do so (and never regretted it even though I was quite literally starving for lack of funds) - so I could listen to him speak in post-stroke aphasia (a precursor to 7 years communicating with my father before he died), thinking I had landed at the feet of the Oracle at Delphi. I directed a scene from Seneca's Oedipus, rehearsed in a corner of my room with the furniture (I mean milk crates and futon) pushed to the side - while we all smoked too many cigarettes. Not exactly Grotowski to be sure.
My work has of course moved on from then, and I'd like to think I've kicked the can up the road a bit in my own labs, but if it weren't for Joe's work with The Open Theater, his encouragement of me as a director in the workshop and taking the time outside the class to show me old tapes of the Open Theater's shows, I know I would not be the artist I am now.
Which answers the whole sorry tale of woe in my last post - yes of course teaching is worth it. I just hope and pray I can continue to find opportunities to teach not only what I love but what I have well over 30 years doing and close to 20 years doing in an original way. It is a revelation. While I have taught the workshops and loved that (I always love teaching my workshops), there is something special about having a whole college course to introduce young people to a fresh way of approaching one of the oldest and most deliciously impure art forms.
Finally, thank you, my lovely students today, for being open, receptive, ready to play. Many of them said the class reminded them of being children, that they noticed stuff they'd never noticed before or had forgotten since becoming adults and and the class allowed themselves to get lost, look silly, play. Music to my ears.
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.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
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. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.