Blast Off

June 30, 2021

Tonight is my last night to write as Detour’s founder/Artistic Director.   Tomorrow I take on a new title, and with it, new adventures.  As of tomorrow I become Detour’s Founder/Artistic Director Emeritus.  It’s a lot of words and I’ve been hungrily chewing them all.    I think what they mean is that I’m just getting old.  (Not growing up mind you  . . . just experiencing a few more quirky parts.) They also imply this grand dream of mine now has wings of it’s own. It can fly, actually, it can soar.   Finally all those fancy words gloss over a really huge truth -I really DON’T understand Google Docs (and probably never will.)   I can and should let younger, wiser folks do what they do far better than I.    I’m ready, inspired and utterly grateful as I take on this new role.   I’ll teach for sure, direct as needed, and always be there to hug and cheer. 

It seems there should be grand wisdom to share in this last post but perhaps I’ve shared it all.  Digging through piles of stuff is a magnet for tears – of joy, of remembering, of memory after memory.    Perhaps I’m just meant to continue my endless thank yous . . . those never retire.

As I was going through all those papers I did find a letter I wrote the company in May of 2011.  It was after my Michael died.  There was such a vast out pouring of support and care that I wanted to write a group letter. ( No blogs in those days.)   In that letter I quoted from a journal I wrote years before.   It may be the one thing that bears repeating so I thank you for this indulgence.

“What Michael taught me about an empty sheet of paper and paint holds such profound truth when applied to the canvas of living  (and directing!!) :

Be bold

Be juicy

Choose colors that are rich and vibrant

Juxtapose surprising combinations

Add water to revitalize a pigment (or person) that you think is too old and/or cracked to do any good

Don’t be so literal

See shapes, squint so the harsh lines (and wrinkles) disappear

Move things until they fit

Working and reworking an area too much simply muddies it

There is a time to let it be

Don’t let others comment while you’re in the process

Focus on those parts (of pictures and life) you want to keep (let go of the rest)

Risk

When I contemplate my life as a picture I can see the muddy areas, the areas where I dared to make a valiant stab at living juicy and the places where I can still choose to move things.  Michael taught me a trick about moving a matte around a picture that is amazing (and again a necessary lesson for us in living.)  ‘The challenge for any artist,’ he explained as he salvaged a corner of my picture worth keeping, ‘is to move the matte around until the composition is right.”  I can move my matte until what is left is what I want myself and others to see . . .”

and I would add today, what I want most to remember and cherish – forever.

The stage has been my canvas now for more than twenty years.   The men and women of Detour have been the vibrant, bold colors that creating a world of living, breathing stories I couldn’t wait to share.

I end with Michael and my rules for the road . . . 

Choose love

Always bring your paints

Tonight I would add one more  … 

Trust the journey to take you places your heart could never imagine …

I am grateful for all of you who’ve read my words,

for all of you who’ve heard my dreams,

for all of you who’ve  been there to help me create a lifetime of  incredible/memorable pictures on stage

Thank you for making this journey:together.

My love to you all,

s

Ignition

June 11, 2021

This date has felt so far off that it has been unimaginable – even for me – and my imagination can and does dream up some pretty crazy stuff.   Pregnancies, life spans, jobs and blast offs all have these very rigid time confines that define them.  Love, I clearly understand,  does not.

As I type these words it’s the morning of the Friday night show.  In too few short hours I’ll be at the theatre where I’ve lived all week.  I’ve lived there surrounded by the work and people I adore.  Yes, adore, and from them there is no retirement.  We don’t quit being mothers, fathers, mentors  – or from being Detour family.  I’m a mess of emotion – sadness, fear, excitement, hope, joy – all those for tonight’s show.  All those emotions for LaRiche, Simon, and these dear actors.  Finally all those about a future that’s looming but that I can’t quite make out.  

I have carefully walked step by step – now I’m at that big step of trust.  In the movie Onward there’s an absolutely wonderful scene where the very NON courageous brother, who hasn’t quite accepted how magical he is must trust his power to create an invisible walk way to cross a deep, ravine, one  “that has no bottom.”  (Isn’t that the way with our fears and the unknown – they just seem to have no bottom.)  I encourage you  to watch the scene (really, the whole movie.)  This young hero falters at first but his brother ties a rope to him (that swiftly comes undone.) He haltingly takes a step into seemingly nothingness and then, step by step, an invisible path way appears.  Of course he safely gets across – but first there’s fear, there’s doubt, and there’s a willingness to depend on the faith of others even as your own is shaky. When he realizes the rope is gone, he gets it, he must trust himself.  

That’s where I am.  Ignition has begun.   The key has been turned, the engine is warming, my job now is to trust.   Actors are ready, the lights and music are gorgeous, coaches have been and are EVERYWHERE,  my work is done.  This is this expectancy we’ll get off the ground.   I’d like to believe we blast off,  spectacularly  – that together we go beyond what we know and create something that’s pure magic.   I’m also a safety person. I’ll call it a great run if no one is hurt – not physically, not emotionally.    Tonight and this weekend will be ALL that it is – a gift for our audience – a gift for our actors – a gift for me.  

This weekend I get to celebrate those faces, yes, a Covid necessitated limited number,  still,  they are my tribe.  I get to cheer, clap, cry, sing, see wonder.   This need to celebrate and honor their talent does not retire.  It is huge – as I step out in trust I pray some kind of path shows up.   I pray I keep my eyes on what lies ahead.  No need to look down. 

It’s what I tell the actors OFTEN.  Your feet will take you where you need to go.  Believe. Let them dance.

My heart is so grateful.  I can’t get out of my pjs because I want to somehow slow down this morning.  I want to savor it instant by instant.  I’m honored that I get this place to write and share my heart.   To you who read this please know that of all the emotions I feel at this moment, the one that speaks most loudly and demands to be expressed is one of GRATITUDE.   

Thank you – Detour for shaping my life, for giving my dreams a stage to play on, for making stars out of men and women with hope burning bright.  Thank you all you the dear Detour community – I am grateful.

There are so many things, you hear only with your heart.   Perhaps, the loudest of those is love.

Countdown 1 – Leaning In

There’s a phrase I’ve come to love, “leaning in.”   Not sure where it comes from but it fits my life at this moment in time.  In all things I’m “leaning in” – I don’t want to miss a second and I can’t quite get myself to stand straight.  I’m caught in this absolute storm of last minute details. I need to see.  I need to hear.  I need to take it all in.    I want to be closer to all the action –  I’m caught up in this whirl wind of “stuff.”  I’ve somehow convinced myself that this “leaning,” though a little precarious, makes me more fully present to the moment.   In all things I’m trying to find a way to balance (me, emotions about this show, thoughts of retirement – yes, I want to believe there’s a way to balance even as I sway smack in the center of the swirl.)

You’d think Count down 1 would be the end…but all of us who’ve officially done countdowns know, if you choose, and if you need it,  you get to keep going …  there’s ignition, there’s blast off and a bunch of other “things”  that can be added to buy a little time.   I’m not saying that’s what I’m going to do but I’d say it’s a safe bet to say there’s at least one more blog after this one.  I’m due for at least one calm mull before my tenure runs out. So to my handful of VERY loyal readers, one more thank you – here we go, this week’s report. 

The academy classes are officially over.  Last week was brilliant AND FULL!!!!  every class had such great stuff to share.  The success of our actors on zoom has been tremendous. (Least we forget, what is NOT tremendous is that we DO need to figure out a way to address those who couldn’t take advantage of this platform.) For those who did participate though,  I see so much genuine growth, very inspiring engagement and such ability to think through a wide variety of material.  Hopefully the work of the play writing class will be with us in some shape or form to be shared during show weekend.   We’ve asked that the comedy club routines become our audience pre-show at the Center.   The BIG Ideas class is providing commentaries.   There is just SO MUCH stuff to choose from.  ALL seven classes were worth it.  Genuine learning, exploration of skills and LIVELY conversations happened.  This last point is important – even on zoom, we’re learning to take turns, to not talk over, to not interrupt  – to “lean in” and show our support for the thoughts of another.   Ahhhh theatre,  it provides such a unique opportunity to “put on”  even better, absolutely essential life skills.  

The academy ending rolled right into the final rehearsals for the show this upcoming weekend. It’s rather odd to be talking final rehearsals when we’ve only had a total of 4 in person times together.     Saturday was spectacular.  Every single actor and almost every coach was there.   Yes, more “leaning in” as they tried to absorb everything they need to know.  They were belting our words through masks eagerly tackeling all the problems we usually have months to deal with.

Tomorrow I remain a person for one more day, In that person guise I must get batteries for candles, organize surprises,  screw in the eye hooks, pack up the church, and proof the program.   Tuesday morning I walk into the theatre and I become simply and fully a conduit for the magic, the wonder, the inexplicable that happens when you give this life all your heart.  

In all of that there has not been one spare second to think retirement or transition.  I’m in total denial that my world’s about to completely rearrange itself.  That tornado I’m in right now is about to set me down in a whole new place   – BUT, not yet  –  still not an instant to indulge in panic.  I trust the force of these winds.  I’m “leaning in” to where I can balance better and take in this  swirl of stuff – the faces, the goodness, the smiles, the generosity, the tears and the joy.  

We have a show.   That’s all that needs to be said here.  I don’t know quite how it all came together.  Maybe Theatre magic has a bit of magnet to it..   Maybe when you “lean it” you create a chance to attract just what it is you need   Maybe it’s simply time to stop writing.  I’m more carried away than usual.  It’s show week – anything is possible!   It’s all happening so fast.  I simply want to root my feet so I can continue the leaning, swaying, catch a hug and feel the wind.

Count Down 2 – For Good

May 31, 2021

I just checked to make sure I’m right about this . . This is Countdown 2  … Really???    Sooooo quickly – a little bit too quickly.

I guess sleep does matter.  I was so inspired last week that just maybe I got carried away.   I thought “invincible”  was a good character trait for a director but apparently no sleep does take its toll.   C got sick and it lasted two days.   In the midst of my flurry of “stuff,” he passed his cold on to me. Mine has gone on a full 4 days that now feel like forevvvver!!!!.   I’m tired, I can’t breathe, and I’m gratefully taking over the counter drugs that I rummaged out of the corner of where I keep my medicine.  Wonder if it’s still effective if it expired in 2018???  Sigh, too much Detour on my mind to worry about expiration dates.   I just want to walk into every single day for the next two weeks with both eyes open and my heart ready to give.

Saturday’s rehearsal was beautiful.  We all cried, we all laughed. We all believed solutions into this wonder we’re creating.  It was a precious day.  It was a much needed, person to person, time together.   Somehow breathing the same air helped.  It fueled some kind of shared kinship, shared ownership of the story we’re creating.  (And legs!!!!! It was lovely to see feet and legs.)

The rest of my time has been committed to creating the show program, which now feels like an extension of this blog.   I sat down to write my lists of this and that, whos and whats, and realized it’s more like an open love letter.   Every page is a dedicated thank you, whether I’ve said those exact words or not.   Every page is filled with names, memories, listings of plays and songs that we did in the past.  I can’t read them much less type them without being overwhelmed by an avalanche of emotion.  Writing a program before you retire is a bit like creating your own obit.   You have everyone to thank and your time is limited.   I’m obsessed. I don’t want to waste a word or miss a sweet caring soul.   

I am awed by everything this week –

The actors – wow!!! They have really come through . They’re singing with all they’ve got.  They show such courage and tenacity.  They will not be stopped.  It is very odd to be down to 20 men and women but I’m grateful for this smaller number.  (I could never have turned away anyone and with the covid restrictions in place we’re just under the allocated stage limit for Scottsdale Center.)

I am awed by our special guests.   Bill Kelley walked in Saturday just as we were ready to do his song.  He inspired us to the bottom of our souls.   While it is true that his song was written to speak to race division and healing, it also speaks profoundly to the disability community.  When we march down stage in that song we are marching for all who’ve fought to be respected, seen, heard and honored. 

Stephen Schermitzler  left us in tears… You just have to come to experience that song.  It’s far bigger than I can explain here.   

I am awed by the  the mothers (by genetics and by choice) who have become my friends. Who roll up their sleeves and work – unasked, with out pay, with a ton of pressure and joyfully. 

I am awed by the coaches. That determined and loyal bunch who are trying to figure out just what I see so clearly in my head.  They keep calling with questions.  Each time I take one of those calls I’m honored.  They’re reaching out  because they’re dedicated (and truthfully my ideas spill out so quickly that I do own that I leave them confused.)   Yes, I get that.

Today I watched the final audition class taught by Tommy and LaRich  . . it was lovely, full of goodness and sweet morsels of talent.  When Leah sang her snippet, I heard what it is I want most to  convey here.   I know now it doesn’t really  matter if I’m sniffling too  much to write tonight.   The words of this song tell the  story.   There’s no denying that Detour IS here as the lasting hand print on my heart.  No matter where I go, what I do, what I create in the future, Detour, these friendships, these men and women, will be worn proudly as the outline that shows in my heart and in my loving.  I have been changed . . .

“For Good”  ….. Wicked

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you:

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend:


Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you:

because I knew you

I have been changed for good.

(WICKED – )