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Enter Up Left
Tips and reflections for those who do/teach/enjoy the performing arts.
As I write this, I pause to quickly grab a pencil and jot down one more thing on my "Bring" list, so I don't forget when I leave for a foreign country at 8am tomorrow morning. I have more anxiety than I typically do -- normally I am happiest and most content moving through space (or preparing to), and love my collaborative-creative projects best of all.
So what, I asked myself, was I worried about this time? I had done quite a bit of social, cultural, and language preparation, spent time with friends and colleagues from this country to help prevent myself from various pitfalls, and although I knew I would have to be on my toes, I also knew I had done what I could, and that lots of listening, grace, good humor and respect, we would muddle through.
The economy in the U.S. and Canada is beginning to pull out of the big ole tank, but jobs are still both hard to come by and easy to lose. Which makes it...the BEST time to stop telling your kid to get a degree in accounting, and instead help her/him become an artist!!! I now pause for you to get your knickers out of that painful twist while I clarify. Being a full time artist is very doable. It is also very different from saying "I want to be a Broadway/Movie Star." It's similar to the difference between, "I want to go into innovative technology" and "I want to be Steve Jobs" Those highly visible, highly specific goals are certainly within a realm of possibility, but they come as the result of hard work, initiative, discipline, and commitment to the practice/career itself.
It's winter, and winter wonderlands bring to mind evergreens and warmer climes -- for me, at least! So this blog is focused on Living Art -- projects to do with your school or community that engage everyone, are stunningly beautiful, functional, and full of science and history exploration opportunities.
So, there you are, gearing up for another busy month, made busier by pending holidays. As usual, "work on website" and "go to networking event" and "get business cards" move to the bottom of the "to-do" list. They can, right? Face it -- your schedule is full! PLUS your Great Aunt Hossenpfeffersushikins is coming for a week and has a restricted diet of things that are harder to find.
But then business trauma hits -- a school loses its funding, a theatre has to cut back its budget, a community organization is cutting the department which contracted you, you were passed over for a gig you thought was in the bag.
I have spent much of this Autumn working on creating the violence for an all-female production of "Julius Caesar", which opens in November. This type of project is some of my favorite work, and this production in particular has been inspiring, challenging, and visionary. The challenges the women have struggled with and slowly-- with growing fierceness, glory, and concentrated power-- overcome have prompted me to post this blog from 2012 once more. Coaxing adult women into taking up more space, striking with surety, turning with quick and safe confidence, weapon in hand...even having to remind them that this warrior does not fear death.... I want girls to have some practice being bold in safe, fun environments!
Schools are now in session, and once again Social Studies teachers are wondering how to get their students to remember the many different peoples that are too often lumped together as ‘Asian’ or ‘African’ or ‘First Nations/Native American’. English teachers are hunting for a new way to engage students in discussions of The Odyssey or The Iliad or any Greek plays or legends. Theatre teachers are adapting a folk tale……. and everyone’s budget has been cut. Masks are a wonderful way to discover differences in cultural perspectives, character nuances, and the ideas of subtext and implication. But what if you are prohibited from ordering art supplies? Well Ta DAA! Enter Manila Folder Masks. Made almost entirely out of Office Supplies!!!
Now that the school year is in full swing and folks are beginning to stress about test scores, the idea of extending the school day, cutting recess, cutting creative activities and so on comes again to the fore.
"Play is under pressure right now, as parents and policymakers try to make preschools more like schools. But pretend play is not only important for kids; it's a crucial part of what makes all humans so smart," Alison Gopnik wrote inLet the Children Play, It's Good for Them!
I spent part of this past weekend attending New York Summer Sling:
a 4 day stage combat workshop sanctioned by the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD). Classes are taught by SAFD certified fight directors and teachers from universities and theaters around the country. Class options include introductory instruction in all of our eight weapon disciplines for the stage, unique and specialized experimentation with period fighting styles, and master classes in advanced physical acting techniques" (from the Summer Sling website description).
I just received this comment on my Facebook page after posting a PSA on how theatre transforms students' lives. This comment does not represent a desire to goof off and party, nor is it an isolated sentiment. Theatre education programs provide a safe place for students to be themselves, to explore relationships, to develop compassion, collaborative practices, and the idea of delayed gratification. Theatre education programs are about understanding relationships and possible motivations behind the actions that people take.