We Begin

September 14

“Dreams come a size too big so we can grow into them.”  (Josie Bissett)

Soooooo I’ve stared at this screen a lot this weekend – mulling – It was a hard summer in many ways and a real triumph for Detour in others. Where/how do I begin?    I just couldn’t figure out how to write this season.   Thought maybe I’d skip it this once . . .but my hands and my heart won’t let me.  We’re at an important pivotal point in the life of this company. We’re growing into existing dreams and creating new ones – that’s what happens with growth.  There is far too much happening to keep it all neatly inside.  These weekly “ramblings,” are the true story of Detour resiliency.  None of us quite know what’s going to happen “down the road.”    What we see on the stage is to be celebrated, definitely, but all this week after week journey?  Well, I’ve come to see and appreciate,  it’s the REAL drama.

I have to admit, I never believed that a full six months after we quit live rehearsals I’d still be writing about Covid.  But, Covid, face masks, social distancing, sanitizing and washing hands a million times a day are part of the essential fabric of our lives right now and for some unknown time in the future.  They are also part of the fabric of this and every theatre company’s plans.    We don’t know what January’s going to bring . . .  It’s only September – but we’ve decided we’re in it for the long haul.  That’s the dream.   We have begun zoom rehearsals.  Yes, I’m doing zoom.  In fact I’m doing it multiple times every week.   There will be a show – no one has a guess at this point what it’s going to look like but it WILL be!   Last Wednesday was Frozen’s first rehearsal and last Thursday was Lion King’s.  One foot’s solidly on the path.

It is so heartwarming to see those precious faces on screen even though it is so VERY hard to make some of them get off their beds. (Sigh – a reality.)   There are other challenges in this virtual approach to directing.   Eye focus is hard to maintain and of course there’s the normal  confusion with muting and unmuting but we’re working that out. (Thank heavens for Simon, Andrea, LaRiche, David, Jean and Stephen – directors who actually know technology.)  Last Thursday I was doing intros and forget that there’s a whole other “page” that faces can spill over and onto.    I’m personally a few steps behind in this approach but those talented others  I mentioned have created incredible opportunity/community in the midst of what could be real isolation (or worse, giving up.)  

We’ll see what the future brings – in many areas in the life of this company.   Right now we’re focused on singing along with Stephen.  I see MOST mouths moving – not everyone’s – but this is all  change and for us change comes slowly.  I can tell you Christopher was totally into it – LOUDLY!    We have begun – with grand  participation, real effort, and huge investment to forge ahead –  no matter.     There’s a fascinating thing about Zoom… there’s absolutely so much going on that you can sit there muted and simply observe.  I found myself doing that – a little by accident and a little on purpose Thursday.    Engagement is high – for both casts, both shows.   We have to mirror every bit of excitement we want our actors to bring to the table – or I should say, bring to the screen.   “Lean in” my daughter says.  This season comes with a whole new set of skills and vocabulary.  

Zoom it is –  for this first month.  After that there will be adjustments to the schedule, more bends in the road.  This company is aptly named.  We have tremendous directors and coaches,  fifty plus daring courageous actors and finally the most loyal supporters.   We know the dream,  our destination – January – a performance – somewhere.  But getting there???      

 We’re  blazing a path – and that journey my friends – the one of hope, support, love for one another, and growing into this bigger than ever dream …  that IS the story.

“When people keep telling you that you can’t do a thing you kind of like to try it” -(Margaret Cahse Smith)  

YES!

Black Lives Matter

June 9, 2020

 

This blog is where I am compelled to be honest.   My blog is not written to garner your agreement nor am I upset if you disagree with my opinions.    Let me state that fully, carefully.   I am also MORE than willing to discuss anything.

 

In this past week, I (along with others on Detour’s board) have written and posted a solidarity statement.  In this past week things I deeply believe in – related to that statement –  have been questioned.    There is no right nor wrong in that . . . people can and should seek clarification and I am grateful to share my thoughts.  Growth is a reflection of listening, discussing, embracing, and figuring out what to embody.   But I fear I have muddled far too much.   I just need to set the record straight –  for me.  The following reflects my thoughts and the depth of what I see swirling around me today.  Many of these beliefs may be shared by you… or maybe not . . .  but please hear that these are my words and I am taking responsibility for them.

 

Black Lives Matter.   I want to begin solidly there.   They deeply and will forever matter to me.  I do not think we can say that enough.  Right now, this is the absolutely compelling issue before us.   I am not talking about a catchphrase – I am talking about people I deeply care about and will stand by until my last breath – people who are good, tired, and justifiably angry.  Let me share an inadequate comparison –  If someone said to me – The Lives of the Disabled Matter – I’d plaster it across my car.  But we don’t hear that.  No.  the disabled are ignored, often marginalized, and yes, they are looked at suspiciously and as humans with lesser value.  Not by all people – but certainly by many.   No one can tell me otherwise. I have witnessed it, heard it, been shocked by it over and over again.  It has left a hole in my heart no one will ever be able to quite fill.  I get it.   If someone began to bravely protest that my son’s life mattered,  I would want to see it written –  everywhere.

 

Today, I am proud to say Black Lives Matter.  The hole in their hearts and the fear they live with is, I’m sure, far deeper than anything I can begin to fathom.  While I am saddened and angry with people’s reactions to C. I don’t ever have to live with fear for his life.   This is NOT the case for those I want to love and support, listen to, and make promises to now.   Black lives matter because they do.  We have abused, mistreated, and misunderstood the life experiences of these men and women far too long.  There are good and not so good folks everywhere  – but no person, especially when I see their faces smiling back from a Detour Zoom gathering, should feel they are less vitally important than any other.

 

Black Lives Matter is important for us to hear because for too long we have not heard it.  We have backed off.  We have let it become politically divisive – and we weakly avoid that.  We have mumbled it politely and let really outrageous behaviors against our fellow human beings continue.   We live in a world where we could change the slogan every day.  I realize that.  There are so many different beliefs to march for.   ME TOO!,  Ban the R-word,  and on and on and on.   That does not mean we should be any less adamant in our belief in posting, declaring, and owning up to cherishing these three words at this exact moment in our journey.

 

Again,  I am not advocating misplaced anger or destructive hateful, violent behavior. Black lives have always and will always matter to me.   I will do everything in my power to see that somehow we become more aware, more sensitive, and perhaps far more attentive about justice and our caring.

 

If someone, other than every parent of a Detour actor and my dear coaches,  would like to shout in my ear that the lives of those with disabilities matter – I’d be thrilled.  I know many people feel it but wouldn’t it be a miracle to hear it said by thousands marching in the street – clearly, boldly, and without fear of retribution!!   One day . . .

 

Today, Black lives matter.

 

We all bleed, fear, and hope to love the same.  We do.   I checked this out when I was very, very young. I carefully cut through my arm just enough so I could end a discussion of skin color once and for all. I may have been a child and naive then but the profound wisdom and loyalty of that moment remain fixed in my heart – forever.

 

“Black lives matter – This isn’t a controversial statement.”     Michael Jordan

There Will Be More

May 2, 2020

 

Normally, if any of us remember what “normality” feels like, this is that exciting point in our production schedule when life is a flurry.  It is exactly a month before our shows HAD been scheduled – a month that always before has been filled with final rehearsals, painting blocks, finishing costumes, rounding up info for programs, ordering t-shirts . .  . more and more of all that essential “hands-on” stuff there is to do –  I miss it all with all my heart.

Nothing is normal these days.  We are living life in slow (er)  motion.  We have time to appreciate and to mull.   Both of our shows have been “detoured” to January.   Which means, we’ve decided this week will mark the end of this very odd, very exciting, very challenging, very novel rehearsal session.  We’re having one final HUGE zoom celebration this Thursday.   I don’t know exactly how it’s all going to come together – I just know it’s going to be.   I’ll enter that magical “join meeting” number and be transported, inspired, and awed – as I have been every Thursday since this particular detour of Detour began.  It’s a season of unique “firsts.”

Coronavirus is passing over us like a great shadow . . . yet Detour continues to be.  It is a beacon of light, of hope, of possibility.    We have learned we don’t need a rehearsal space.   We need computers, I-pads and/or telephones.  We don’t need to gather to practice.  Instead, we need dear folks with technological know-how who can reframe their knowledge so that all of us can grow.  We’ve learned we can practice in our PJs – we just have to show up.  We’ve learned to support from a distance, to cough into elbows, and to see the twinkle in someone’s eyes – ABOVE the face masks.  Coronavirus has caused a slowdown, a shift in energy, a pause in the frenzy . . . I’m seeing in all that, we have managed to search out the good.

As a company, we are more resilient than ever.  Socially distancing has not meant abandoning one another or walking away.    I have seen even more dedication, loyalty, determination, and courage with all our actors. More hunger to reach out and connect – even virtually.  Coaches, directors, and Stephen have painstakingly created this safety net that has surrounded our work.  It has made the last six weeks of effort truly magical and amazingly productive.  Yes, things have been hard – but we have learned to rebound off that net into zoom spaces where we can laugh, dare, and dance our hearts out.   I am still struggling with the cancellation of this June’s shows but I remind myself often that this postponing of everything also means that we are going to have the time to build the sets and the costumes, props, and surprises these shows deserve.

New leadership has emerged.  New technology is at the forefront.  New approaches to learning are all about us.   As I’ve watched our dance parties and rehearsals, I see that the arts are more essential than ever.   Detour’s story within our community can’t/won’t be shut down. I marvel, laugh, and am enthralled.  Nothing has stopped this group.  We have just morphed with the times – some of us morph a little more easily, a little more gracefully than others but it doesn’t matter … we’ve not abandoned one another.   (It’s true Simon texts me every single rehearsal to make sure I have the right Zoom dial-in number.)  I humbly admit to feeling more like an antique – prized for what I offered in the past –  and old.

Back to this Thursday, where on Zoom, we will do a full sharing of where we are with both Lion King and Frozen – It’s all brilliant.  I can’t wait.  I have to admit I’m still being won over.  I  love so many things about this random patchwork quilt of precious faces that light up my computer screen and perform.   Yes, perform.  It’s extraordinary what I see created and shared – weekly.  I could have never imagined any of this for us – yet I have to admit we are boldly standing dead center in the midst of a truly daring creative virtual stage.  It may be born of necessity but – however, we arrived at this point – I am grateful to be a witness –  and there will be more.

We’ve certainly not given up,  maybe we’re growing up.

Life has this way of showing up and inviting us to take a chance.

It’s a detour…

April 25, 2020

 

It’s official.  For the first time ever we are postponing a Detour show. This, even after I’ve believed in this show and a June celebration with all my heart.   Sometimes though believing isn’t quite enough, and even though there have been incredible technology at our fingertips, we can’t quite zoom in an audience.  Coronavirus has left its mark on so much of our world – this “detourizing” of our show weekend is certainly its imprint on us.   Hopefully, it’s the sole imprint and we can all remain healthy.  That’s the tradeoff and even I, reluctant as I am, want to prize the health and safety – of our actors, our coaches, our audience – above everything else.  We have not canceled – NO, not at all.  We have simply taken a detour into the next empty time slot Scottsdale Center has to offer us– January 2021.

I did not want to make a unilateral decision about all this so last week we sent out word of a Detour town hall meeting and the response was staggering.  More than 50 family units showed up (via Zoom of course.)  We listened to thoughts, ideas, and opinions.  We heard from actors, parents, coaches, and friends.    It was made overwhelmingly clear that what this group wants most fervently to do is to perform before an audience – a very much LIVE audience they can see, hear and hug!  We’ve created stars and they want (and deserve) to share their warmth, their light, and their very real magic.

For me, this process has meant big change partnered with an even bigger challenge – my own tendency to want to control every outcome.   Well, even I can learn – it’s simply impossible NOT to take in the heart invested in these clear, concise, articulate statements shared Thursday.  I was awed enough to finally just keep quiet and accept the mandate they offered…

“I think it best to be safe . . .to stay calm, be cool.  We’re all trying to be healthy.”  (actor)

“So very many of my friends want to come and support me.”  (actor)

“The shows are magical  – We need an audience and a stage.”  (coach)

“ I agree with the above.  You know we DO have fans.” (actor)

“We want to show the AZ community we care about them as much as they care about us.” (actor)
“I want my parents to see me.” (actor)

“I want to see alllllll the audience.”

and so it went for an hour and a half . . .

The majority has spoken.  In two weeks we’ll have a gigantic zoom scene and song sharing from each cast and then we’re taking a little break before diving into summer.   (Summer is full – we don’t know where it will be, we don’t know how it will be – we’re just holding on to the conviction that it will be.)

Coronavirus has taught us that absolutely nothing is totally certain anymore.  Still, even with the fluidity surrounding this company and our programming, I’m awed by the conviction, loyalty, and passion that binds this group together.   Thursday dance parties have given me ample opportunity to gaze at these sweet faces I love so much.  They remind me just why we’re about what we’re about – There’s something incredibly infectious about creating magic, wonder, and joy.

What doesn’t ever seem to change is this love – I remain grateful…I’m actually learning to adjust and simply accept being where we must be – an important lesson for those of us taking a detour!

 

And now to meet more actors .  . .

Taylor Ray found out about Detour from his friend Christopher Forrest, at Special Olympics basketball. Excited to join, his first show was Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat in 20011. After that he was hooked!!! He has been in every production since! His top three characters he’s played are The Beast from Beauty and the Beast, Lord Farquad from Shrek, and Ralph Malph from Happy Days!  Taylor loves having a blast on stage being in character and working with his directors.  “I love everyone in Detour and I have fun with my girlfriend Davina.”

 

Eric Hesketh has been with Detour 13 years and particularly loves guitars.  School of Rock is probably his favorite show. He enjoys all of his coaches and castmates.  Zoom practice has become the highlight of his week.

 

Jonathan Dombek has been an actor in Detour for 10 years since he was 16 years old. His favorite roles have been Pinocchio in Shrek, Michael Banks in Mary Poppins, and Benjamin in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. His favorite thing about Detour is learning his lines and singing. He enjoys coloring and making note cards from his artwork which he sells and donates the profits to Detour.

 

Hailey Simon has been with Detour for almost 5 years.  Her favorite roles include Mark Cohen in Rent, Tamika in School of Rock, and Timon in the Lion King.  She loves her Detour friends because they accept who you are and you can express yourself without fear or judgment.

“Detour has inspired me to be who I want to be, an actor. They have helped me to stand up for myself and be confident.   You can do anything you dream of  –   wherever you are.”

 

David has been part of Detour since the very first show – The Wizard of Oz. His favorite role is definitely Lurch in The Adams Family – he loved it.  He loved pulling the handle on the torture chair! David works at the Doubletree Hotel in Tempe as a dishwasher and hopes to go back once the virus is over.

 

Lance A. Winslow was born in San Diego, CA.  His favorite roles include  Angel in Rent, the butler in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Bill Austin in Mamma Mia. A fun fact about him is that he was raised in the same house that his mom grew up in.

 

“Be a pineapple . . . stand tall, wear a crown, be sweet on the inside.”  (worth repeating)