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


Monday, April 30, 2012

gorgeous day here in Inwood

It was beautiful today so went apartment hunting, had to fill out another teaching application but in between walked to the water.  The tide was going out so bay area turned into mudflats with rivulets.  Birds walking and swimming, including seagulls, ducks, Canadian geese and a beautiful heron.  There was a moment watching the water shimmer across the flats when a breeze made it looked like a translucent blanket of diamonds that was breathtaking.  Then watching the millions of little ovals of light from the setting sun on one area...walking back from a point, each path of a bird in the water was lit, so there were lines darting out behind each white gull.  There were at least 20 or so birds in the bay, so it made a pattern of indescribably beauty and asymmetry.  In these moments, it's hard to believe anything ever bothers me...ever.  Especially bullshit about status and accomplishments.  When the heron spreads out to its full wingspan and it lands again on those impossibly thin legs, what is there to do precisely?  What could possibly top that?

Once again, I recommit to staying up in this neighborhood, because it never fails to blow my mind as I'm waxing poetic about nature that I am standing at the top tip of Manhattan.

Another viewpoint that cannot be topped is standing beneath the Henry Hudson Bridge - seeing the perfect geometry of diamond-shaped squares receding behind one another.

I have taken photos of all of this but somehow enjoy the challenge right now of describing these sights.

The green of the leaves is lush, no tree is yet in full bloom but they are all ripe with green and yellow, dark and light, life bursting out of every corner of the park, the air smelling sweet and then when the tide goes out like a mud flat, but even that smell I like because it's natural, not toxic.  However a rat running out from between the rocks and into the water reminded me once again of the city.

I brought another friend on the walk through the woods the other day, and the familiar response: I didn't know this was here.  It doesn't even feel like a city.  Look at that light.  Oh my God it is so beautiful.  Is that the Bronx?  Yes.  Is that New Jersey?  Yes.  This is what?  Where the Harlem River and Hudson River meet.  Then the apocryphal tale of the Native Americans 'selling' Manhattan at that stone right there...then the awe: wait these trees were here then?  Yes. Why hasn't it been developed?  I don't know but I am glad.  In the case of this friend: it reminds me of my hometown in Germany, the trees and the smell...an old steel town where the Rhine meets the Ruhr (I think...can't remember the name but that's my best guess)...it's a place, this place, on the edge of meaning as well as place somehow.  And the light...oh my God/dess, the light.  You cannot believe it.

The conversation then turning to the vagaries of being on the edge of careers, artistic ideas, teaching jobs...the ways in which we think that does not fit into boxes and forms...wondering again if it is a generational thing.  Perhaps this is why I am always happy on the edges of places...where land turns to water turns to mud turns to water turns into another river into another state under a bridge where the train whistles to another borough to another town...to another century if you turn around fast enough.

So, wish me luck with finding another apartment up here...was taken around earlier today by a real estate agent, which is always a weird experience, because you know you're being hustled and at a certain point they know you know, but they can't seem to stop themselves.  So weird.  Hope I can find something on my own through a management company or owner because I feel somehow just too old or whatever it is to play along.  Today, the tired song of "if you like this place, you need to act now because someone could snap it up tomorrow" and me saying, with the superintendent present, yeah and then something else will open up, which made the super laugh and nod his head in agreement.  No one can keep a straight face anymore.  I mean, come on.  I'm sitting there looking at a long list of vacant apartments and it's obvious the masses are not moving in on any of them.  These are the benefits of getting older and - dare I say it - a little wiser.  False urgency appears as what it is: false.  Plus the hilarious-sad moment of me telling them - gringo that I am - I'm OK with living East of Broadway - gasp.  All the real estate agents, and I mean ALL of them, assume I have to live West of Broadway.  He even tried to scare me by leaving me out on the street by myself - which like didn't scare me.  He was surprised when I was joking with people on the street.  The racism here is just unfuckingbelievable.  Even when I said: yeah, I know what East of Broadway looks like, I walk to Bronx Community College (through the dreaded East of Broadway), he still didn't believe me.

Oh and speaking of racism, it turns out one of my students, as I suspected at least one of them would, knew the 18 year old boy who was shot dead in the Bronx by a policeman a couple months ago.  Not on the street, in this boy's own bathroom.  He was unarmed and the police chased him into his own house because they suspected he might have pot.  Which he may have had and may have been trying to flush down the toilet.  So now he's dead, feloniously black in the Bronx.  The weirdest thing about it is how little uproar there has been.  There should be riots, instead there is just despair and a few marches here and there.  She is going to speak about police brutality, this student, for her oral presentation.  I look forward to it.  I had to stop myself from crying when she told me the story.  When I saw the news report, I did cry.  I saw the photo of the young man and knew he could have been one of my students.  To put this in perspective: just imagine if this had been a middle-class or rich white college student who had been chased into his dorm room by cops and shot to death.  You can't even imagine that can you?  Right, so there you go.

So, like, of course I would love to live west of Broadway to be next to the water and park with a view, who wouldn't?  But this is not about that.

The teaching application I sent out today was to teach full time at BCC.  If I got that job, I could probably afford to live where I want.  But who knows where I will end up in the autumn?  I certainly don't.

Just hope wherever it is can be as drop dead gorgeous as corners of Inwood and that I will be able to experience another year as close to the changing seasons...and also the edge of reason, which is the poverty and inequality.  Not because I enjoy it, because I do not, but as a reminder always, that the human construction: global capitalism + nationalism + racism kinda sucks.



Friday, April 27, 2012

Quantum levels of not knowing

There is so much I don't know now about even the next few months of my life, it's kind of startling.  I do know that as of now, I need to move out of my sublet on June 1, but am not sure where I will go.  I have a couple options, mostly temporary in nature but I have a lot of stuff.

So, you ask, why don't you just find a more permanent place?  Reasonable question, but the other level of quantum not knowing appears to stymie the answer, namely, that I have so many teaching applications outstanding right now, some of which include jobs in the UK, that I don't know where I will be.  And, even if I stay in NYC, I'm not sure where I may end up teaching/working, so not sure in what neighborhood it would be best to live and that I can afford.  I also have a cat, which complicates things.  Though he is lying next to me now having little cat dreams where he moves his mouth, eyelids and paws when he's asleep, which is so insanely cute, I could never live without him.

This on top of the fact that all I want to do this summer is write, and not be hassled with looking for a place, setting it up, etc., makes this all seem a bit crazy to me.

The other reason I have not written in a while is that the teaching work, plus applications, has been staggering.  I kind of despair as to when I will have time to do my own creative work, and the only way I've managed to get through this is thinking: in the summer, you will have time...and now...hmmm....

The exciting news is that I got a sign of possible interest on one application, which involved sending in a lot of my stuff, in order to be considered for the shortlist.  I hesitate to even write this on the blog in case I am not shortlisted and the shame, the shame...on the other hand, I'm so happy to have finally gotten some interest, I do want to report this.  But, because I don't know how sensitive these things are, I will not say where this place is.

I do know that all the not knowing is difficult.  For someone who attempts to live the proverbial one day at a time, meditates and does yoga, I'm still pretty crap about really not knowing.  I'm also in a constant struggle to sort out what I am supposed to accept and what I am supposed to attempt to change...the so-called wisdom to know the difference sounding at these moments like a fortune cookie or teabag truism.

On the other hand, I went through a process last Friday of speaking with someone in confidence about my own resentments and how they affect me, my part in them and how to allow for the willingness to let go of the parts of me that are deeply unhelpful - to others and me - and this was powerful.  I am still walking through the emotional/spiritual resonance of that event.  This is a process I have undertaken 3 prior times since 1987 and always find world shifting.  This time, probably because I am rawer and more awake to my feelings and parts of myself I had hidden from view, it has felt more discombobulating and more clarifying in equal measure - a paradox I will not even attempt to unpack because the words will fall around me like so much useless confetti.

I did have a conversation with an amazing woman the next day who was able to witness some of the deeper feelings that emerged from this process, without judgment and without trying to fix me, and for which I am wildly grateful.  There are times when the right person just happens to sit next to you in a room of many people, someone you sort of know but not that well and that person can have a powerful effect.  It was one of those experiences.  She, not surprisingly, is someone who has suffered in similar ways and has walked through a lot of pain.  These are the spiritual warriors, there is no other way to describe such souls.  And when you are at the end of your rope and can't play nice anymore, if you are very lucky, one such person appears to allow you to go through some messy feelings without asking you to clean it all up and put it into nice little boxes at the end of the conversation.

In other news: I got my hair done (sounds stupid, but does improve my mood considerably) and managed through waves of fear to write the brief things needed to supplements the material that needed to get sent along for further consideration of the application.  I had no idea how badly I wanted this particular job until they told me they may be interested.  I have a knack of pretending I don't want things I don't have or don't think I can have or for whatever subterranean reason believe I don't deserve or all of the above.  So, if something weird happens that threatens that narrative (to use the word du jour wherein everyone has turned into post-structuralists overnight), I kind of get body checked by the emotion that gets unleashed.

Because I am nowadays more awake to my feelings, when this happens, it can be quite destabilizing... or I should say: it feels destabilizing, because my actual actions are not weird at all.  I did what needed to get done, managed to feed myself and my cat and get the laundry taken care of while doing it.  I felt fear and freakiness but acted normally.  I think earlier in my life it was the opposite, I felt normal or comfortable and acted like a whacko.

Someday when I grow up, maybe I can have both at the same time.  Crazy talk, I know.

Meanwhile, I'm continuing to apply for jobs and put out feelers for more independent work.  I continue to love my acting class at Hunter and have been asked back to teach in the autumn, which is great.  I hope this summer among other things to find a way to write about this acting class and what I have learned teaching it.  I think I am formulating a method that is not entirely from my own theatrical tool kit, but that borrows from traditions I respect, is rigorous and prepares actors for any kind of performance/theater, not just naturalism (which in the US is Still the prevailing wind - if you can believe it....).  But, here's the thing, this method can be used for naturalistic performances, too, because it's a kind of molecular practice. Before the cells of a particular style or story are created, there is this work...which can then lend something to any performing and also to life.  Not bad, eh?  So, both for my own teaching but also to articulate this as some kind of research, I hope to get on this....which reminds me of a paper I need to propose....soon.

Hmm...think I need to get on that now, before I forget...so, welcome to my world of molecular thinking and quantum not knowing...off I go...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Storm - Blessed Unrest at Interart Theatre

There is a lot to like about Blessed Unrest's production of The Storm (by Aleksandr Ostrovsky, translated and adapted by Laura Wickens and directed by Jessica Burr), which runs through the middle of May at Interart Theatre.  The first thing I noticed was the use of the raw theater space, up to and including the little natural ledges common in brick buildings that were probably once-upon-a-time factories or warehouses.  The set design included, even in this small space, a river of water, one of the best uses of which was creating 'rain' visibly through one character working the ropes to allow tin cans with holes in them to dip into water and be lifted up - once in a small version and later in a multi-can version creating a rain storm of sorts.

I liked the choreography and the way the ensemble moved together in such a way as to create another kind of architecture along with the space.  This was enhanced by the costumes, which - like the theater space worked with various shades of red and tan colors, so that everyone seemed to somehow emerge from the earth of the floor (painted red, too).  This whole mise-en-scène made the piece seem organic to the place and gave it a rootedness that is unusual in more traditional theater venues, so hooray for that.

I won't give away the story but it has a fable-like quality, includes love, lust, and an evil leader of a town, deceit, confusion, adultery and an inheritance.  There are moments of great beauty and emotion, created through the visibility of the artifice rather than an attempt at its erasure.  There is an interesting sound score including at times a cacophony of sounds, voices, music (live and recorded) that I enjoyed a great deal.

The one problem I had with the production was nearer the end when this artifice gave way to a certain kind of naturalism that to my mind undercut the expressionistic quality I liked at the beginning.  There were interesting dance/movement sequences that I wished had continued, evolved perhaps into something even more chaotic or rambunctious rather than ending in emotive monologues.

This critique is of course a taste issue.  I am not a big fan of naturalism, as anyone who reads my criticism or sees my own work would know, and only really buy it if it's the only way that a certain piece can be performed and it's done impeccably (which, considering its prevalence as the American Acting Style, is kind of depressingly rare).  Also, I should add I saw the show's first performance, so some of these issues may resolve themselves with more time in front of an audience.

What I also liked was how the whole cast worked as an ensemble.  I loved the gender-bending casting.  Some performances that stood out were Jason Griffith as Feklusha ("a bride with two grooms") who did a lovely woman of a certain age drag routine with gorgeous choreography (and played the cello!) - this artifice never faded and as such had more emotional power for me than some of the other intentionally emotional moments in the play.  He and his 'grooms' (Dave Edson & Giorgio Pinetta) looked a bit like they were in a Pina Bausch piece that every once in a while took precedence here, their whole presence being that strong.  I loved Laura Wickens as Varvara, the pregnant spinster sister-in-law.  She had an unforced earthiness to her, along with a Brechtian awareness of an audience that creates the kind of precision in performance I enjoy.  For most of the play I liked Zenzelé Cooper's presence as Katrina.  Her naturalistic turn (which was the turn of the production at which she was the center) at the end was what I found a bit difficult to follow.  However, for the first 3/4 of the play she was able to play the usually difficult role of the ingenue with a vigor and wry clarity quite well.

All in all, this show is worth seeing because it is reaching for something without recourse to easy irony and even if I don't personally agree with every strategy, the project has great merit, is very well choreographed and designed and as such uses space well.  If you go to a lot of theater, you know how rare those qualities are.

Surviving anniversaries and remembering the 70s-80s-90s

By my standards, this is a long time between blog posts.  I have survived a deeply weird week and kind of hellacious weekend of anniversaries.  Saturday was the 5th anniversary of my wedding and Sunday was the 5th anniversary of my miscarriage, both of course for the first time without my husband from whom I am separated and headed towards divorce.

The week before the fun-fest weekend was taken up with a mixture of grieving and dreading the weekend upcoming and filling out applications for teaching and a postdoc.  This was a strange way to spend a holiday week perhaps, but also necessary.  Sunday and Monday were spent grading many, many research papers and reading my acting students' journals.

I spent time seeing some friends and a show, a review of which I will add soon (The Storm by Blessed Unrest, which is definitely worth a look-in).  More later on that in next post as I think it's best to separate the reviews from the personal posts, mostly for the sake of the people being reviewed.

The thing I am most happy about, if happy is the right word given the circumstances, is that I did what I needed to do this week, talked to people to whom I need to talk, connected with myself and didn't bail on my emotions or my work.  I do wonder if perhaps I 'should' have spent the time doing something more like be on a yoga retreat or something, but then was reminded by friends: you know, whatever gets you through the night and if that includes applications for jobs (which you need - a teaching job that is), then so be it.  The only thing I can't do is take a drink or a drug...all the rest is gravy.

One of the people I spent time with, along with older friends, is one of the people who took my workshop, who is around the same age and going through the strange in-between time that I am.  I am beginning to think this may be a somewhat common thing for people my age and in particular my generation.  The one I have dubbed the who-the-fuck-are-you generation - not GenXers, not Baby Boomers... somewhere in the fulcrum...a transitional generation.

I was speaking with another person my age today who is a writer, I've mentioned him before here - he was a boyfriend in high school (only briefly, because I couldn't handle being with someone who actually liked me and was nice - you know the drill: zero self-esteem + being a girl = bad choices, etc.).  He, too, though happily married and doing well is also in a transitional place with his career - stuck in the eternal adjunct-ing world even with five - count them five - published novels.  But hey, why does that matter?  Luckily for him, his wife has been luckier in the academic world, but then apparently she feels somewhat suffocated by the amount of work of her full time teaching and how much time it takes from her writing (which is also published and very well-regarded).

Another friend of mine, also around my age, is a wildly successful director of a mental health facility - doing groundbreaking work, considered a national voice on the matter.  He wanted to be a writer originally and because he spends so much time at his job, he cannot spend the time he wants to writing.

I know many such stories.

There are of course a handful of people in my generation that I don't know that well, but are acquaintances, who are doing quite well in their chosen artistic paths.  I don't know how they feel inside, but of course it is possible to succeed on one's own terms as well.  However, the operative word there is 'handful' as in: not many.  Maybe it has always been thus, probably has...but there's something I sense about people in my generation and have for a long time...

In the same way that we are not identifiable as a generation per se and are not marketed to like at all (apparently we're just too tricky so the advertisers have given up on us - hooray for that), our voices as artists are not immediately recognizable either.  This is not, I hasten to add, necessarily a bad thing, but it makes it difficult for us in the short term (in artist-years 'short term' means: while we are alive or at least not until we are 80+).

There are many beautiful things I have seen written, created and made by people my age or thereabouts, so I do not despair for us, I'm just noting that on the whole we are not as visible as artists who are about 10 years older or younger than us.  In case you have not been following this blog, I'm 48 just to give you an idea of the age-group I am discussing (people about 45-50ish).

I fear this sounds too whiny, so I want to add that I also feel good about being my age, about what I have to offer from this vantage point and that I am glad I can see forward and backward a good ways.  I  was alive and politically aware before Reagan so remember a time when poor people were considered unfortunate and the inevitable cost of capitalism ergo helping poor people was considered a good idea versus from Reagan onward when poor people became somehow diseased, lazy, stupid or whatever - but something that made poverty the poor person's own personal failing and was therefore their fault and theirs alone to shoulder.

I'm glad I lived before that 'reality' became solidified here in the US...which so-called reality we have exported to the rest of the world (see in re: Euro-collapse 'austerity' plans, etc.) even to China of all places, which is sad-hilarious-kinda.

I was tweeting back and forth with a younger colleague in London who was watching 'If..." and telling him that we were shown that film at boarding school in the chapel at Choate Rosemary Hall (not a crunchy granola place, trust me on that) in 1979.  He was amazed that any school would show that film (which culminates in an armed insurrection of British boarding school students, FYI), never mind a high-school....I told him that even more than that my British drama teacher Mr. Symonds complained  that he was disappointed that we just watched and didn't riot afterwards as the boys had done in 1973 when they had shown it then.  (In 1973 CRH was Choate and a boy's school).

Can you even begin to imagine that happening now, like, anywhere?  Anywhere at all?  And that was only a little over 30 years ago.  By then we were considered the more conservative students (not quite Boomers we were the ones who would get 'graduated' out of school into Reagan's America and many people my age became Yuppies of course...though there were the hold-outs like me, who were not happy with The Plan...but we were a minority, it's true...the ones who you see milling around Occupy Wall Street gatherings with the greying hair and warily optimistic smiles).

I then watched the Reagan-Thatcher revolution, followed of course by the collapse of the USSR and Eastern Europe under that regime...All of this happening so quickly while I changed file codes at an international law firm to reflect the new countries that were popping up daily, while typing frantic letters to these countries in search of Trademark Attorneys to brand the Products of the New Capitalism.

Until we find ourselves here now, the frogs almost boiled to death in the slowly increasing heat - not quite dead of course, just so fucking scared and tired from being almost cooked, that we allow law after law get passed to deny us our basic First Amendment rights while more get passed ensuring fake Second Amendment Rights (a well ordered militia surely including concealed weapons) and denying women the right to control their own bodies (that according to conservatives is miraculously not government intrusion, which just beggars belief in terms of logic).

But worse than all that is the fact that the movie 'If..." could not be shown at a school, because it would be considered too controversial.  There is, along with everything else, this Wonder-breadization of thought, basic critical thought.  While we are given more and more and more products and strange stratifications of these products (how many kinds of nail polish remover does anyone need  for fucks' sake???), our thought process is being dumbed down to the most moronic level.  Add to that the ADD-inducing 'smart' phone (the one that makes you stupid), social-networking, video games and the like, who has time to even have a thought, never mind act on one.

I know there have been some heartening rebellions throughout the world recently, and long may they continue, but here in the Great Super Mall of America, I feel/see/sense again the Great Stagnation.  Even in Britain, where there is more critical thought as a whole, my colleague could not imagine the movie being shown at a school...and he teaches at university.

Pseudo-Health and safety being the operative term that comes to mind to name this state of affairs.  I am not talking here about sensible work safety rules, but the larger issue of cosseting ourselves and each other from anything uncomfortable ever.  It is a pervasive disease.

I feel grateful that when I was growing up this culture of the feather pillow everywhere had not yet taken hold, that for all the pain and weirdness I encountered, there was also a sense abroad in the land that you could handle things, as a young person especially - that ideas were not dangerous but exciting and good, that conflict was good.  I don't mean armed conflict or violence, I mean - gasp - conflict of ideas.  I remember huge arguments with classmates, in class, with teachers, between teachers, etc.  This was encouraged.  It was considered a good thing.

Now, it seems like there is an expectation that you go along to get along, that anyone challenging anyone's authority is a troublemaker instead of someone trying to stimulate thought and - dare I say it - debate.  Now, if you disagree with (or don't recognize) someone, you carry a concealed weapon, say you are Standing Your Ground and shoot them in 'self-defense'.  What is up with that?

No wonder there are so many random shootings.  Who are we to become - automatons with guns?  If so, what do you expect to come out of that?

Ah yes, this rant, this rant makes me know: I am home.  I am back in the US.  It reads like one of my plays.  Here I am, sitting at home, ready to rumble.  Somehow, I find that oddly comforting. 

But, I should also add, I am glad to be the age I am.  Glad to feel for the first time ever that I am OK as I am.  I know that sounds like the biggest cliche horse-shit line ever, but it's true and it's been a long time coming.  I can trust myself.  I am not clinging to anyone else for that knowledge, overtly or covertly.  I am in fact standing my ground, but not with a gun.  Just me.  Just standing here, breathing, taking up some space, and for once, for once not feeling like I have to apologize for that fact.

My cat has come to sit down next to me to remind me - I think - that I have been typing a long time and perhaps he, Ugo the Cat, deserves some love...so will take that cue to stop for now.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Great workshop and figured out my fancy camera

Things are looking up.

Spring is springing.  I continue to be amazed by all the blooming of flowers and buds.  I have a lilac flower in a glass-as-vase, smelling up the hallway with that sweet lilac smell.  Was walking with a new friend tonight when I came upon the lilac bush and he being taller than me, picked a flower for me, which was lovely.  He's someone like me in weird marriage-limbo so we discussed this as I took him through the same walk another friend had shown me when I first moved up here.  To the wetland area up through the woods and around to the Hudson - during twilight to sunset.  I had figured out my fancy camera, which can take kick-ass photos in low light and am delighted by some of the shots.  I have not yet installed the software on my computer to download the photos properly so will have to post them later - along with a bunch of other amazing shots I've been getting.

I can smell the lilac from here now - the advantage of a small studio.  It reminds me, too, that right now in London the lilac tree I planted in the backyard that used to be B's and mine should be blooming.  I planted it as a memorial to whomever could have been if I had not had the miscarriage five years ago on this coming Sunday.  I love lilacs.  They are my favorite flower.  In Maine, they bloomed in June, which was my birthday month.  I think usually they bloom in NYC around May, but this year has been so warm, so we have them now at the same time as the canary yellow forsythia, which I remember mostly from Waterford, Connecticut - growing at the gravel driveway that led to the back of the house in which we rented the upstairs apartment from Mrs. Beckwith who lived downstairs, next to the young couple who used to fight and have loud make-up sex below our kitchen.  My mother told me once - in another one of her excellent moments of mothers (and I mean that not sarcastically at all by the way): that (referring to the sounds below) is a bad relationship.  You don't ever want to be in one of those.  Amen, tell it sister.  She was right.

I have managed to get into some sub-optimal relationships, but have never had to go to that extreme, though I have a lot of sympathy for those who do.  Because, imagine if you will, the shame attached to it and who the fuck wants to admit to that shit?  I wouldn't.  I couldn't even admit I was being emotionally abused, never mind if there had been physical abuse, too.  On the other hand, the lack of physical abuse was the excuse I used to stay in that particular relationship, as in: "on the positive side, there's no physical abuse."  Trust me, if that's the best thing you can say about a relationship, it's not a good thing.

However, it's easy to know this intellectually, as I did even then, but not be able to act on it, such is the nature of emotional loyalty to really old and bad ingrained ideas....

So, how do I segue from that into my theater workshop on Saturday that went really well?  Ok, here's the attempt:

Speaking of emotional loyalty to really old and ingrained bad ideas: the workshop works first with clichés as a way to penetrate into the reality grid we live in at any given moment.  And I'll be damned if it didn't work again...levels of address, cutting them up...bringing in gestures, doing the same.  I've taught versions of this same workshop to numerous groups of people and every time I'm re-amazed: it works, it works!  It still works!

This group was special, too - people from many different backgrounds and ages, some in theater, some in social work, some doing conflict resolution work...some teachers, some professional actors...a fantastic combination of talents, opinions, points of view and amazing dedication to the task at hand.

There were 14 participants in all, which considering it was Easter and Passover weekend struck us as quite extraordinary.  The comments and engagement was phenomenal, and as usual, I had some inspiring conversations and made a few connections with people that may lead to some very interesting possibilities.

I am thinking of continuing in this vein - teaching workshops at Brecht Forum and other places independently, as everyone involved gets so much out of it and I find out so much new stuff about the work.  I will be working up a proposal to teach an experimental play/performance writing class, because I want to move this 4 dimensional performance energy into working with writers as well.

But I am also hoping to extend these workshops finally, past the beginning stage to something where people can take the ball and run with it a little further.  If you are interested in checking out the one-day workshop, we'll have another one on May 12 (see sidebar for details).  We will probably also have another workshop in June to do more advanced work for anyone who knows the basics, so that'll be a start.  I've done that before with 4-5 day versions of the workshop in university contexts, but want to see if I can bring that outside to a place like Brecht Forum, so can work with a more diverse group who can then bring this stuff into their professional practice as artists, teachers and/or political organizers...

Speaking of which, just saw an amazing documentary on PBS tonight called 'To Be Heard' following the lives of three students in a high-school Power Writing class that takes place on the campus of Bronx Community College.  From the beginning of the documentary to the end, starting with a glimpse at the buildings where I teach and the students, I started crying - in recognition and in joy at what the teachers were doing with the students and their voices, which were so crystal clear.  If you can see this documentary, do.  It's extraordinary, not for the faint of heart, not in any way sugar-coated happy-clappy but real as dirt.  You will then see the faces of the students I see about a year before I see them.  Though some of these students go on to places like Sarah Lawrence College, which is great, too.  It really made me wish I was teaching writing, too...but also gave me some ideas for the class I am teaching.

I realized, too, the importance of where I am teaching and the politics of teaching these young people language, writing and communication skills.  The whole documentary vindicated my insistence on writing in my class.  The lecture one teacher gave about the importance of understanding vocabulary words, because if you don't know the language "you will be screwed" sent me into another fit of crying for joy.  He went on to say things like "If you can't control language, you will be fucked by it and adding another bar to the prison cell - not necessarily an actual prison, but the one in your head."  A man after my own heart.  The motto of their writing class is "If you don't write your own life story, someone else will do it for you."  So great.  I will try soon to find these people and see if I can help out.  Obviously.  I am also going to apply for a full-time position at BCC.  I'm just a teaching application machine...one application at a time.  Need to go and work on one now.  It's late but it's due tomorrow.  Oy.  Wish me luck...will be interesting to see where which chips land.  No clue right now.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Finally some good news!

It's been a week since I last wrote, probably the longest break I've taken from this blog.  I needed it.  Had to apply to a bunch of places for teaching work - which seemingly endless task will continue this week.  I had a realization:  I need a job, as in a full-time job, as in not adjuncting, not just freelancing - a real job, teaching preferably so the PhD doesn't have to seem entirely meaningless, on which status it now flutters.  I also would like to not be continually plagued with money anxiety.  I feel a bit like I'm giving in to something, put perhaps at 48, it's just adulthood.  I've given permanent adolescence a long run.  Wouldn't trade it.  But right now, would like a break in the action so I can catch my breath, have some health insurance and maybe afford a decent apartment.  Crazy talk, I know.

So, what's the good news?  I'm teaching my Cutting It Up workshop on Saturday at The Brecht Forum and so far a good sized group has signed up for it, including folks coming in from Washington D.C., Boston and Philadelphia.  This kind of blows my mind.  People are making a trip into NYC to take my workshop.  Perhaps it's because it coincides with Easter, Passover and Spring break, but for whatever reason, I'm delighted...especially since we thought the group would be really small because Passover and Easter coincide this year. Oddly enough the first day of Passover is on Good Friday, which just seems like some sort of existential joke between the Old and New Testament God/s or something...Kierkegaard would get a laugh out of it anyway.  Can't speak for the Jewish scholars simply because it's not my patch. Anyone want to comment on that, please feel free.

Was asked by the extraordinarily supportive Martin Denton to do a guest blog post on Indie Theater .  This is about the workshop and how this work relates to my writing.  If you're interested, you can link to it here.  That probably helped bump up the numbers for the workshop.  Speaking of which, if you're interested in the workshop itself, come on by on Saturday or if you can't make it April 7, come on by May 12.  Would be lovely to meet you!

It is now also - praise Jesus Allah Buddha Mohammed Vishnu Kali and Whomever Else Desires  Praise - spring break this week.  I am beyond exhausted, so am grateful for this.

However, I have enjoyed teaching this week.  My acting class, as always is a joy, but a surprise was my interpersonal communications class - when two different students today handing in their research papers said - and I quote - "Thanks for this assignment, I really enjoyed doing this work."  Please re-read that.  Please understand where I teach and feel the miracle.  I almost cried.

After months of grading short essays, driving the students insane by requiring writing (not to mention driving myself insane by needing to mark all these essays - in homework, on tests, etc.), there was this unsolicited response.  I was floored, in a good way.  Just when you start thinking: what's the point?  Why do I do this much work?  No one cares.  No one even seems to be listening in class.  I wonder if perhaps I may be the most boring teacher on earth, etc., this happens and it seems, at least for one afternoon, all worthwhile.

Beyond that, I feel I am beginning to find my footing in these unfamiliar classes, beginning to allow whatever passes for the 'real me' into the classroom.  Last autumn I was so scared that while I was present, I felt like a cardboard cut out of a teacher - someone following rules others had laid down and hoping no one would find out that I was only 2 pages ahead (which last autumn I was - not that I lied to anyone who hired me - they knew that - so at least I didn't have to worry about the administration - I just felt for the students).

I love teaching my own work so much, however, that this Saturday just seems like a 6 hour play date to me, not like work at all.  That is an amazing feeling.

But I also feel that this dragging students along into maybe actually, for a moment, enjoying writing has value, too, even if that work is much more taxing and definitely feels Like Work.

The other good news if you want to call it that is that I really Felt this past week that the grieving, sitting through all the emotions surrounding, the separating from B and our impending divorce is like detoxing from alcohol and drugs.  In other words, the marriage was a state of being, one that was clearly getting increasingly toxic and so to move away from it is going to feel as disorienting as getting sober.  That process can take years and I believe this process will also take years.  I don't know when I will be ready to get involved with another person, because I really, really, really need to find a way to believe in myself as OK - by myself.  I don't mean by that that I don't want to be with someone else again, because that's not true.  I simply mean that I want to go into any new relationship as a whole person.

I am a whole person, that's not the problem - it's my perception of myself as Not a whole person that is the problem.  The part of myself that feels I need to Perform in all ways to deserve to draw breath on this planet and certainly in order to be with another person.  This is gut wrenching work and means going through what I am increasingly seeing as emotional DTs - wherein strange hallucinations appear and there be dragons.  Of course there not be dragons.  The dragons are dream figures.  I know that once I can see them that way, but in moments they seem quite distressingly real.

A few days ago I called and regaled my mother for about an hour with said dragons, which she did a brilliant job of helping me see as shadows - not by haranguing me or saying "hey, those are dragons, you fool!" but by listening and helping me see this myself.  I have good friends who help me this way, too, and for whom I do the same.  Without these friends and family, I know this journey would be impossible.

These people who love me, one of whom also includes my cousin Darcy who I finally got to speak with last week, keep me sane and let me know there is love and allow me, in moments, to feel loveable, when I'm about to throw in the towel on myself.  I don't mean by that I am suicidal by the way, because I'm not.  It just means a kind of giving up that would mean not physical death but living life in a husk-like way, skating on a surface of wafer-thin ice...therefore always afraid of really skating, hovering at the edge of the pond, clinging to branches of trees, hoping not to fall into the ice-cold water...mixing metaphors and never really resolving them kind of like this sentence...OK, forgive me.  You get the idea.  I'm too tired to mop that one up.

In fact, I'm too tired to keep writing.  But did want to post something.  I will eventually post some lovely spring photos from Central Park but too tired to upload those right now, too...

Oh speaking of which, my sublet is coming to an end on June 1, so I'm looking for a place to live - in case any of you out there are in NYC and know me - just a heads up on that.  Was hoping to stay here this summer and not have to move again but them's the breaks with subletting.

Have cat, will travel...somewhere within NYC...that is affordable.  Wish me luck.

I close out this post listening to a chance-operations version of Handel by Gavin Breyers (sp?) thanks to Jonathan Schaffer's 'New Sounds' on WNYC, which was preceded by a piece by Alvin Lucier that used dolphin sonar locators.  Sometimes life is just so good.