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


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Some interesting acting student journals & flowers!

Can't write much because need to finish grading my students' journals (acting class) and exams (interpersonal communications) so can prep for interview next week in UK.

I experimented with bringing in my cutting it up techniques into the beginning acting class at Hunter and have just received, via a student's blog, the most wonderful affirmation of this work as not just specialist but useful for beginning actors.  The earlier exercises she is referring to were more traditional ensemble-building exercises, Chaikin, Meisner, Linklater, etc...

Here are two of Liz's gems:

"Cutting things up, whether they are words or actions, is downright enjoyable.  I feel like with some of the earlier exercises that I couldn’t lose myself enough in them to shift my mental state. Cutting things up, however, is just different and wacky enough that I was present throughout the exercises and completely lost track of all the inner bullshit going through my head."


...and this about the cutting up of cliche phrases, which touches on the political/philosophical bit:


"I think what this exercise taught me is that truly it is terrible to type by group and how important it is to think of people as dynamic creatures who exist beyond color and culture.  Beyond the statements of stereotypes, it was fun to see the brains of students working and putting things together.  There was a freedom there that was enjoyable, a critical process with some moments of brilliance."


If you want to read her blog about the class, it's at http://teaspoonest.wordpress.com/

Watching the evolution of students such as Liz was kind of astonishing.  I have to keep reminding myself that when she started, she was shy.  There were a few shy young women who walked into the class and walked out way less shy and knowing they can act.  That is truly exciting.

Oh and another student actually brought me flowers to our final evaluation.  That is a first.  Sadly, in the "no good deeds will go unpunished" school of life, she had her wallet stolen in the process.

I have to keep this brief but eventually will write more about the students' response to this class, because it was quite exciting, especially their making the connection between the class, Chaikin's writing and their own everyday lives.

This is just a brief proud teacher moment...shared with you...

So gratifying...OK, now back to grading...


Sunday, May 20, 2012

In the Weeds (that's In the Rhizomes for you post-structuralists and/or botanists out there)

I have not written here in a bit because have been working hard between finishing up teaching and prepping for an upcoming interview, the good news being I have been short-listed for a position.

However, this has meant working non-stop and when not working at home, needing to go out and take a walk, talk to a friend or go to a meeting or my last classes.

What I am pleased about is that I am managing to take care of myself during this and what started as a chore (the pro formas I needed to write to be considered for the short-list and now the preparation for presentations) has become quite interesting and kind of exciting.  I'm not sure how or why my perspective changed on this so radically, though I have some guesses.

The result is: the need to discuss my work in various ways has led me to see it as a way more coherent whole than I suspected, and I am finding ways of bringing in the disparate pieces of writing of mine and others, along with performances, etc. and see the various strands weaving an interesting tapestry of sorts.

When I say 'coherent whole' I want to be careful because I don't mean some Unified Theory of Everything, because I don't even believe in that kind of totalization...but there are identifiable threads, what my fave philosophy double-act Deleuze & Guattari would call assemblages...to distinguish from mere fragments (random) or molar aggregate (unitary)...assemblages relational, ways of combining and recombining.  That sort of thing.  Rhizomatic (i.e. weed-like) being another way they talked about this kind of thing...but I don't have the energy to define that right now - if you're way interested, tell me and I'll point you thata way...

Yes, I'm re-reading a bunch of philosophy right now in preparation for this interview, in fact I began that reading the day before I found out I had the interview, which is not surprising.

I feel I'm on the edge of something right now - a kind of articulation through practice and words (together and separate) - searching for some words that feel like they are literally on the tip of my tongue, but slipping around...eluding me but dancing close enough to taunt me with their presence, even if I can only see them in shadow.

So, like, wish me luck...More later as I know it...or don't...as the case may becoming...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

For Vickie and those who love her

Just heard from one of my extraordinary friends in London (and I mean that - you all know who you are), that what I wrote for our good friend Vickie was read at the end of the memorial service for her today - it was her birthday today.  Below is what I wrote.  It is apt that her birthday coincides with Mother's Day in the U.S. anyway given the powerful example of love she gave us all.

***


For Vickie and those who love her…

I wish I could be there with you all today.  Unfortunately, my teaching schedule and being across an ocean makes that impossible.  Vickie, I know, would understand because she was always making sure her responsibilities were taken care of no matter how she felt.

Those of us who knew her in any context knew this about her: she did absolutely nothing by half-measures.  Speaking of which, today is her birthday and I imagine most of you who are gathered today were at her 50th birthday party last year – what a beautiful celebration that was!  We were all so happy to see Vickie so radiant and Alive.  I thought she had beaten her horrendous illness, and being an American, I’m addicted to happy endings, so that’s the one I wrote for her.

And even though she did die later that same year, the fact is on that day she had beaten her cancer.  That day she was radiant and grasping for every moment of life given to her and damn what courage that took.

That’s another thing we all know about Vickie: she had courage, even when she was afraid or angry or sad, she stayed present for it.  She did not duck or dive out of her disease or her life just because she got handed a horrible diagnosis, a reprieve and then a return.  She was so honest about where she was whenever she was there.  She sought treatment aggressively even when she didn’t want to fight anymore for the sake of those who loved her.

The thing I miss the most about Vickie, however, is her irrepressible sense of humor even in the darkest circumstances.  What I remember every time we talked was no matter how many tears or fears or angry feelings we shared, by the end we were laughing.  This was not the laughter of denial but of a kind of joy, a realization that in that moment no matter what we were both still alive and sharing that time together, along with the absurdity of whatever situation had befallen her or me or us both.

Because here’s the thing, no matter how many happy endings I want, we all die in the end.  That’s about all we do know.  Vickie got ripped away too young and the anger and sadness I feel about that is close to limitless, because it never seems fair to me when someone so vibrant, so beautiful and so hungry for life who has family, friends, a husband and especially a son who love and need her dies.  But the way she faced it and the way her courage inspired courage in those of us around her to all face her mortality (our mortality) is the gift to us all.

That gift cannot replace Vickie, especially for Joe and David. I know that.  I am not certain it’s a gift I particularly even want, but it is a gift nonetheless.

Thank you Vickie for having graced us on this earth and shared your precious time with each of us.  Thank you for showing us all how it’s done: how precious our time is, how precious we are to each other and what love really means.

Good-bye my dear friend.  I will never forget you.

When everyone shows up there is room for grace.

Not much very creative to say because I am toast.  But wanted to just check in to say what I've managed to get done in the midst of lots of crying and not enough sleep.

I did finish all the stuff I needed to send in regarding an application and taught my workshop at The Brecht Forum again to a nice, large group of folks ranging from theater people to teachers to psychotherapist/sociologists in training and a sculptor.  I'm learning so much from 'non-theater' people about this work, different ways of framing it and even ways of defining theater itself, very exciting.

Also have gotten to meetings I need to attend for my sanity and saw a new friend and her friend for cheap eats up here in Inwood and a walk in the park at night.

It's mother's day tomorrow here in the US and was unsuccessful in trying to get flowers to my mother on time, but at least remembered it.  A start, even if a kind of pathetic one.  It's also my friend Vickie's memorial service.  One of the reasons I've been crying so much is I wrote something for that and in so doing remembered May 13 last year, which was her 50th birthday, which she celebrated with a glorious party.  At that time it seemed the cancer was in remission so it was a very happy day.  So sad how much changed so fast.  I'll write about that more tomorrow.

Just now spoke with an amazing woman, the writer Jill Robinson, who led a great writer's workshop in London when I was there.  She now lives in L.A. and will be visiting NYC soon.  I'm very much looking forward to seeing her again, because she's the only person I can show my grandmother project to, because I don't trust anyone else with writing in this state.  She's that kind of special.  She's been through a lot of loss these past two years, too, including her beloved husband Stuart and just last week her assistant, Lisa, who had helped her so much in L.A.  Lisa died suddenly of meningitis in a way that sounds like everyone's worse nightmare of ways to die - out of the blue with no way to survive.  Then everyone around her had to be put on antibiotics, including Jill...everyone convinced they were going to die, but no one else has.  Crazy.

Mortality is real, that's about all I know these days.

Sometimes I feel quite lonely.  Other times I feel alone and OK with that and like in a larger sense I am not alone.  Then sometimes I feel lonely again...rinse. repeat.

There were moments in the workshop today that were Dancing...not just dancing, but Dancing.  I live for those moments.  They happen rarely, they happen by grace - perhaps aided by some guidance - but still the extra ingredient of grace...a manifestation of something greater than the sum of the parts of the group but also very much from the people in the group and then this something extra...to speak of it never seems to work very well, but it was there.

All the members of the workshop were present fully to the work, no one put quotation marks around it or themselves - everyone showed up.  That is the prerequisite for grace.  A real gift.

And now...to much needed sleep...



Friday, May 11, 2012

Watching The Big Lebowski after working my ass off

I've been so busy with teaching and getting various things to various people in regard to applications that I have not had a moment to even write on the blog.  However, I just submitted a third pro forma regarding my work after a week of end of term teaching and saw The Big Lebowski was on television.  The irony of the convergence was not lost on me.

Re-watching it now, it's not quite as funny as it seemed originally but given the state of my brain: fried, it's just fine...and somehow the combination of writing and watching it seems right.

The last piece I wrote about was something I wrote in 2003 at a time when B and I were very much in love.  This permeated the piece, so before attempting to describe the piece, I burst into tears.  I cried for a while and then wrote the pro forma.

I think I wrote the piece around this time of year as well, so that adds to the emotional resonance...

Life is weird that way.

I am waiting for many different people to make decisions that will affect my life and depending on what they are will then need to make some myself...have to remain vague unfortunately but that's the general scenario...

***
watching movie - OK so it is funny...I forgot how funny.  Lines like "oh he's a nihilist" are hard to beat...but there's a surface level to everything - I know it's intentional and clever and all but realize now it only goes so far...but as comedy, yes, it is funny...

***

Got caught up in movie and now back...am feeling kind of raw and drained from the crying and working bit so will end here.  Just kinda wanted to check in.

Teaching my workshop this weekend again down at Brecht Forum, we're almost full up again, which is great.  My friend Vickie's memorial service is on May 13 in London and I wish I could be there, but I can't.

Life's like that when you've been lucky enough to live as many places I have.  I complain about the sense of dislocation but a moment now for gratitude that life has been so large...long may it continue.

Time for tea and bed...


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Review of Flux Ensemble's Deinde

Before launching into my review of Flux Theatre Ensemble's Deinde written by August Schulenberg and directed by Heather Cohn, I feel I must restate my preferences as a theater maker and reviewer for work that functions outside the more traditional American naturalism framework.  I wish all reviewers would state their preferences, but because most tend to view things from the mainstream American naturalist framework, generally they feel their tastes are "right" as opposed to learned...

I want to add, too, that on the night I saw the show there were a number of people enjoying the show a great deal.  I say this because I have directed and written many shows where the particular reviewer may have reservations about the show, but then globalized her experience to include the whole audience, which I do not want to do.

OK, so all disclaimers having been written, I will now tell you my experience of watching Deinde.

Walking into the space at The Secret Theatre, we see a back wall filled with math equations and a number of clear plastic tablets in front of that wall.  We are in a science-y world.  The play opens with a tableau of a chess match.  Immediately, I felt like I was watching a scene from a movie or TV, probably sci-fi.  The self-consciously witty banter, the types, etc. felt like a take on any number of action-sci fi movies ranging from Star Trek (which is directly referred to later in the play in one of the more effective scenes) to the Alien series.  I thought at first therefore that this style was done consciously and the sense of familiar roles, etc. may be drawn out more or done in a way that indicated this was intentional.

The play is long (two acts) and follows an interesting plot line about a virus that is killing many people and an attempt to combat the virus through a kind of mind mutation on the researchers who are willing to have this technology attached to their brains (our younger protagonists who see no possible downside to this endeavor - who are set in contrast to the older researchers who hesitate).  I will not spoil the plot by saying how it turns out, because the most enjoyable part of the experience is watching how this contemporary version of a Faustian bargain unfolds.

My biggest issue with the play, however, was the overall production style, which hewed (with a few notable exceptions) to the American naturalist TV genre.  What I thought at the outset might be a parody of this genre, especially sci-fi, turned out instead to be a sincere attempt at characterization.  However, the scenes were about as long as TV segments (with breaks that included the actors moving furniture, etc.) and the depth of most of the characters felt the same as well - recognizable, likable enough but not challenging in any way or implying any kind of depth outside of their roles in the plot devices.

Most of the actors seemed like they were acting from the neck up, with the exception of Alyssa Simon as Dara, the wife of one of the researchers, who did an extraordinary job with a monologue of revelation about life that may be possible if she is not dying of the virus and the earthy, vibrant presence of Sol Marina Crespo as Mindy, the girlfriend of one of the younger researchers.

There were exceptions to the predominant acting style when the researchers who are "looped in" gain a kind of eerie synchronicity and odd speech patterns that were also enjoyable and well executed by Isaiah Tanenbaum and Rachel Hip-Flores.

The ideas in the piece are interesting and some of the lines are very funny, like equating the older researchers' prejudice against and inability to understand the new ideas available in the hyperlinked world of the new researchers as the response to "when Dylan went electric."  There are provocative questions hinted at about soul and identity, but I never felt the play really engage viscerally in the sense of theatrical presence with these ideas in a way that moved me or made me think in a new way.

Flux Theatre wants to create "transformative theatre," and I believe that is a worthy and ambitious goal.  They clearly have the intelligence to do this, and they have received many positive reviews for this play, so in the world in which they engage, this will most likely be viewed a success.  To extend the music metaphor, think of me as John Zorn or Cage coming in to crash the rock-n-roll party and take my opinion for whatever it's worth knowing it comes from a different way of hearing, seeing, experiencing...Ironically, this is the subject matter of the play - and in the case of this plot - the people who have 'evolved' past the familiar of their own world are made to pay in a pretty drastic way.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

sweet relief and getting closer to Time to Write

A simple thing has made my life considerably easier today.  I was given an extension on my sublet through September 1, which means I do not have to move at the end of this month to who knows where for who knows how long, etc.  The fact of my life now is everything is in flux and I probably won't even know where I need to be living in the autumn for a month or more.

I got some bits of information about the status of some applications, which is also a relief, just to have a better idea of where I stand.  And, my cat is finally eating his food with his medicine in it.  Well, sort of...if I add cat nip...and just don't feed him anything until he finally finishes it.

My students are all basically in the performing/creating/testing mode, so the semester is coming to a close.

And, the best part of all this, the fact that I can stay in this place through September 1 means when the teaching is over, I can begin writing in earnest and aim for a draft of the grandmothers book by the end of the summer.  Hoo-bloody-ray.  I simply can't get in and out of that project in small chunks of time.  Need long days and not much else to do....this is the summer plan.  That's it.  Oh, oh, oh...to have the luxury of mono-tasking...

And now I don't have to split my writing time with moving, setting up an office, etc.

I'm tired so will keep this brief, but just wanted to share some gratitude for small mercies and sweet relief.