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 as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While was blessed for the opportunity, after four years of being an adjunct, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in NYC and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again. As of 2018, I also started leading writing retreats to my beloved Orkney Islands. If you ever want two weeks that will restore your soul and give you time and space to write, get in touch. I am leading two retreats this year in July and September.

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 a new book recently completed.

I now work full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, editor and writing retreat leader. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.

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

In 2017, I launched a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. You can also contact me through that site.

I am now directing again, my newest play, On the edge of/a cure, and have finally updated my publications list, which you can find on the sidebar. Someday, I will have a website, but for now, you can find a lot about me on here. Thanks for stopping by...

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Review of RANDOM ACTS by Renata Hinrichs

Haven't blogged in a while, but RANDOM ACTS made me do it. Happy to tell you about something you should see!

***

While waiting to watch the newest iteration of RANDOM ACTS, Renata Hinrichs' moving, funny and more relevant by the minute one-woman show, I was struck by Renata's program note in which she credited the inspiration for this show being her experience living downtown during 9/11 when "memories from my childhood started to surface. The sirens and searchlight that erupted near St. Vincent's Hospital were reminiscent of the chaos, confusion, and terror I experienced as a child in the midst of the struggle for Civil Rights in the South Side of Chicago in the 1960s…" These memories, along with subsequent interviews with her parents to fill in the blanks of her memory as a young child, form the basis of her show.

Renata Hinrichs in Random Acts photo by Mitch Traphagen
As someone who also lived through 9/11 in NYC and had my own work transformed by that experience, I recognize the impact of traumatic experience on opening up new/old zones of the self. I mention this now because I think this part of the show, which is never mentioned within the production itself, may have some relationship to its emotional resonance now. In a talkback Renata spoke about her desire for this show to be authentic. This aligns with an unnamed movement I have watched develop in which many of us who directly experienced 9/11 have spent a lot of time since then working to create performances that embody complex levels of reality, while grounded in experience.

I don't want to give away the show, because there are many twists and turns in Renata's expert story telling that are best left to discover while watching. However, her instinct to tell this story from herself-as-a-child's point of view is a good one. We are accustomed to seeing the events of the Civil Rights era from the adult point of view with conscious actors, people with honed sensibilities who have decided what side they are on and for whom or what they are fighting. While these stories are moving and necessary, to witness these events from the point of view of a five and six year old girl, who herself is living in between so many worlds, gives a new and valuable window into these events. 

Renata was the child of a young and idealistic Lutheran pastor of a primarily white church on Ashland Avenue—a long boulevard that divided the white and African-American sections of the Southside. Her father tried to integrate the church much to the dismay of some of his own congregation and other neighbors, especially during the riots that ensued in response to Martin Luther King's assassination. Racist white men responded to her father's tolerance by hurling rocks in their window. 

Renata attended a primarily black kindergarten, walking on her own to school (as someone raised during the same period of time, I can assure you, this level of: oh, kids can take care of themselves, was normal, though was interesting to hear the audible gasps in the audience when Renata recounted her mother's conversation with her father about this—times have changed!). She encountered hostility on the street for being white, that as a little girl she did not understand, but the person who looked out for her was a young African-American man whose face she never saw. Her father told her that was her guardian angel, which as a five year old she took to heart.

Her questions about the violence against African-Americans intensified in the crack down after the riots—especially the killing of a young man like the one who had helped her—are heartbreaking, and become a kind of Black Lives Matter rallying cry, though not as a political movement, but instead from a little girl's ingenuous questions about unfairness. In the show, Renata embodies childhood without sentimentality, but also without losing the reality of the fantasy life of a little girl who wants to dance (and indeed becomes a dancer as an adult) and who believes she has a fairy godmother (and a guardian angel). Suffice to say at the end of seeing this show for the second time, I was sobbing (as I did the first time). This is not a normal response for me, and I attribute it to Renata's clear gifts and the impact of her—yes authentic—story.

Renata as an actor has an uncanny ability to transform into all the people who she is telling us about, including her own older, teen, and young child self. She does this with simplicity and humor, aided by the expert staging of director Jessi Hill, who also helped Renata expand this piece into a full-length evening that feels embodied and immersive, thanks in no small part to Matt Otto's excellent sound design. I also appreciated the simplicity and effectiveness of Daisy Long's lighting design, that added depth and definition to a small stage, which worked in sync with Chika Shimizu's adaptable set that shifted with the mood and place of the moment. If you can, you should this show.