Academy Week 4

February 28, 2021

A few things . . .

Bob Wells as quoted by Chloe Zhao,  “Compassion is the breakdown of barriers between us.”

We’re half way through the first session of this “academy.”  Time’s flying,  There are so many things to say here I’m not quite sure where to begin… so get ready…  were going to do some jumping around.

First up a little Covid talk – As an organization we are not political.  As human beings we can’t quite avoid the treacherous waters of having an opinion.  As I straddle both of these I’m faced with one glaring truth.  Each and everyone of our actors deserves to be treated the same…  the same dignity, the same care, the same medical diligence, the same respect, and, should they desire it, the same right to have a covid vaccine in a timely way.   You would think this is simple fact within our community today but it’s not.   According to the state all those under DDD who live in government supported housing (Group homes, IDLA living situations etc.)  ARE indeed entitled to be part of the 1b group and may arrange to have their shots – now.  In addition there are some work programs that will be distributing shots for their clients.   What I am finding extremely unfair, as I talk to other parents, is that if one of our participants lives at home – even with the same underlying medical conditions as other participants of Detour – that that person is unable to be part of the 1b group and must wait… and wait…  I am not advocating getting nor saying to avoid having this vaccine.  What I am saying is this right to choose should be equal and standard for all of our actors.  Let’s start there but understand that there are so many more men and women who are NOT actors facing this vaccine disparity.    Letters have been sent to the governor.   I apologize because I don’t know what the final resolution is as of today but I am weighing in.  If you are asked –  please support the rights of all members of the DDD community to be treated equally, fairly and in a way that insures they can make informed decisions in a timely manner.

WHEW… which brings up the matter of words.  We’ve been exploring that a LOT recently as we’ve been writing more grant proposals.   As I worked this week three words that came up again and again… (in case you get a letter from us I want to tell you what they mean to me and how we use them in Detour.)  Inclusive, Accessible, Disability:

Inclusive – we are absolutely inclusive.  To me inclusive speaks a great deal to gender, to race, to sexual orientation, to a host of other things — religion, eating preferences, some things huge, others not so huge… inclusivity is an open door that stays open, inviting all to come in the room.

For me though inclusivity stops a little short of Detour’s ultimate dream —- it does not necessarily speak to accessibility (it may be implied but it is not always there)

Accessibility – in Detour terms means if you REALLY want a chance we will work to find a way to give you the opportunity you desire and deserve.   It means we hire interpreters, we have an audio describer for shows and a host of us  willing to  describe for rehearsals.  It means we tweak a chorus if we need more time so folks can get where they need to go – safely.   It means if a word is a stumbling block we may have to tweak it.    Accessibility is a yes to provide support to do whatever practical, necessary, dedicated action is necessary.   While inclusivity is often matter of attitude, accessibility is a matter of figuring out, commitment, and follow through.

Disability – I can feel some of you cringing already.  Did I really use that word?  Yes.  I do not believe the word disability is bad.  It is VERY often wrongly perceived.  Yes you can sub in “non typical,” “challenged,” “otherly abled.”  BUT for me disability is a descriptive and okay word.   It does NOT necessarily speak to diagnosis and it absolute does not refer to a one size fits al label.  We are not driven by diagnoses.  We are driven by a commitment to opportunity.   I find both diagnoses and labels limit the magic we long to create.  Understand the “disability” an actor is experiencing  is key to finding the right kind of fairy dust.    If you ask my son what his disability is he will tell you he has two  – losing his temper and people not understanding his speech.  He’s right.  Those are the hugely disabling factors that make life tough for him.   My disability is my complete shut down when it comes to technology.  Mention google drive, google docs or the cloud and I go pale.  It’s a disability.  It interferes with my functioning.  Our actors own their disabilities  – interrupting, being jealous of one another, being shy, too bored, restless etc.  Blind and/or Deaf are labels for conditions . . Not being able to see or not being able to hear . .. those are the disabilities.  They are something we need to make accommodation for.   We don’t avoid the issue, what ever the issue.  We endeavor to address what each uniquely wonderful person needs to function successfully.   We each have disabilities that interfere with our ability to do things within our communities . . .  I would challenge you to think of yours.   They aren’t bad.  They are reality – and once we understand them we can begin to learn how to work and grow with them.

Which brings me to songs – I am more thankful than I can say to be teaching this Thursday class that’s a celebration of past shows.   We always run over.   I always have two songs I still want to get to. The memories are fabulous and watching folks move about their home spaces so inspiring that I want to do each of these shows all over again.   Zoom does make it more of a challenge.  Most of the action I see is from the chest up but still those eyes have a LOT to say.   One of our songs for next week is one of my favorites.  If you didn’t see the show its from this probably makes no sense . . .if you saw it  then you understand why I’m so fired up tonight.  These lyrics speak to who we are . .  . they speak to wanting, expecting something better and of embracing  the beautiful, freaky, incredibly special souls we are . . .so here’s a peak at what’s being sung Thursday  and what we hope has been lived out in a life time of Detour:

                                    We’ve got magic, we’ve got power.

Who are they to say we’re wrong?

All the things that make us special

Are the things that make us strong!

What makes us special…

What makes us special makes us strong!

Let your Freak Flag wave,

Let your Freak Flag fly!

Never take it down, never take it down,

Raise it way up high! Yeah!

Let your Freak Flag fly!

Fly…

Fly, fly, fly…

Fly!

                           (From Let  Your Freak Flag Flay —  SHREK!)

Meet Simon and Andrea

Academy Blog – week 3

2/22/21

Meet Simon and Andrea

Tennesse Williams wrote, “What else on earth is there to do in this world but to grab onto life with both hands until all your fingers are broken…”    That sounds a little drastic but it also feels like my life and love for Detour – especially now.   There’s just so much happening (which is extremely odd considering there’s a Pandemic raging and we can’t meet in person) but there is.      We seem to be squarely in the middle of both fabulous arts academy stuff while at the same time completely reconfiguring all of Detour’s business side.  It’s all very exciting.  The stuff dreams, sore hands, zoom meetings, and magic are made of  . . . 

We’ve just finished week three of the academy.   It’s inspiring to see the buy in – moving hands, really deep thinking, hilarious scenarios, and lots of singing.   It’s also just hard. Is this the third week I’ve said that?   It may be –and yes,  it’s true.    There’s not enough time.   Technology is still daunting.   And really, how do you demonstrate those signs that are made lower on the body?? – just a challenge we’re diving even deeper into!   No one is giving up – not the actors, not the teachers.  We’re ALL learning.  We’ve talked a lot about mentoring and that’s what we’re up to.   I can share a lot about creating  a lesson plan but I’m forever hitting the wrong thing when it comes to turning on music.  We’ve all maxed out  our understanding AND our patience.  We’re finding ways to lean on and trust one another’s strengths as a teaching team.  We mentor what we know and value what we learn from and see within one another.  We know we need more tech help.  We know we need to  make further adaptions for teaching on zoom.  We’ve come to appreciate zoom break out rooms – if someone other than the teacher of the class sets them up.   Finally music tracks do work (sort of) but I still and will always sorely miss live music.

This week you’re meeting Simon and Andrea.  You saw them both in Newsies and directing Lion King, Jr. In their words, they are  “endlessly impressed by the caliber and energy of our peers” and “count themselves lucky to be a part of this Detour Academy.”

Andrea joined Detour first and through her we quickly drafted Simon. Together they are seamless as they teach fabulous, crazy, fun, zany stuff.   Here are their thoughts –

“Thursday’s Sketch Comedy Class is an exploration of what makes things funny, of how to create characters, settings, and ongoing jokes, and of what it means to create work collaboratively. These first few weeks have been so much fun and the actors have shown tremendous skill for comedy and devised theatre. More laughs to come as we roll with the punchlines!”

So while the arts side of this company has been going strong there is a bit of shuffling around happening with business roles.   It is with great sadness and utter gratitude for her work that we are – almost – saying good bye and best of all things to Raylah Pillar. She has done just about everything for Detour from serving as Prop master to coaching,  from writing every check, to coordinating all  our social media.  Much more about Ray and our appreciation of her very soon.  Right now it’s enough to know that Raylah is planning her own grand transition.   She’ll be leaving Detour the end of April. In the miraculous way things seem to come together for Detour, as Raylah began to share her plans Simon came forward eager to take on some new challenges.   So one more time – here are  Simon’s words.  He’ll be learning from Raylah, trying to fill her petit but POWERFUL shoes  this March and will become our business administrator starting May 1.  “I am very excited for this opportunity and honored for the chance to enhance my skills and dive deeper into what makes Detour, Detour. I hope to be of service and I’m so happy for the chance to learn more about this wonderful theatre community”. (Simon)

So yes . .  I’m “grabbing on to life with both hands”  and yes, I’m appreciating it’s beauty and wonder like never before.     Change and growth are abundant, slippery and spectacular.  There’s a lot to take in  and hold on to  . . .and it’s certainly worth a few broken fingers – and one very stretched and wide open heart.!

Academy Week 2

February 12, 2021

La Riche’s thoughts

Week two  . . .  solidly in.  Below, as promised, are LaRiche’s beautiful thoughts . . .  next week I’ll introduce you to  another teacher or two.   Time to really hear from everyone.  This  blog has been the place for my reflection for so long now that most of you who read this  already know what I think, feel and want to say. 

Right now all I want to  express is my gratitude  – for each of these teachers, for each of the actors who are making this first academy of classes possible and for one more truly  important group that often goes nameless, all those who’ve been sending in tax credits and end of year donations.   There are all kinds of formal thank you’s we tend to mail out to you of course but they are never enough.   To everyone who’s given – any amount – you need to know this Academy is yours.   Where other companies have suffered devastating loss and set backs, we have kept moving forward.   We’ve somehow managed to launch a whole new program.  It is the dreams of our actors that nudge us onward but it is the funding of all our donors that provides the practical infrastructure to support those dreams.   We know.  We’re grateful.   I do believe that is thanks we cannot begin to express enough.

And now LaRiche.  She has just begun as Associate Artistic Director working closely with me as we make this transition to what’s next for Detour. (MUCH more on that later.)   LaRiche sings as boldly as she believes.  She teaches with wit, warmth and so much knowledge.  She is fabulous, fun and laughs with her whole being.   She’s relatively new to Detour but already understands the vast number of “hats” her position requires . . so here’s week two – through LaRiche’s eyes and deeply caring heart.   My love to all of you who read this and live your love of Detour – s

Wow! I’m on Sam’s blog! Yay! What an honor! Ok… so bare with me as I attempt to write something half as awesome as Sam.    

We are off to a great start, friends! The Virtual Academy has completed its second week and Sam’s vision has come to life! Were there technical difficulties? Sure. But did we learn a ton and have fun? Absolutely! We have been having a blast!

The Virtual Academy is a “detour” that I am so glad we had the opportunity to take. Through these exciting skill building classes, our future performances will be even more dynamic! Each and every course teaches important skills that will make you an even better actor when we return to the stage. We’re learning different ways to communicate, how to be hilarious, and we’re learning more about ourselves and our feelings so that we can use all of that experience on stage. It is so important to remember that everyone should strive to always be learning so that we can always get better.

Thank you to every parent, friend and actor who waited patiently as we tried out new technology. Thank you to all the immensely talented teachers and supporting figures for facilitating these engaging classes together. And thank you to Sam for continuing to be a visionary. Sam’s willingness to change course and make the best of every situation is remarkable. Good thing I get to work with her and soak up all that genius! *smiles*

Most of all, thank you to our incredible actors who have committed to being focused and brave in these classes! Without you, we would only have a bunch of ideas written on pieces of paper. You bring those ideas to life. Each and every one of you bring so much talent and knowledge to these classes. As a teacher, I can tell you that YOU help us grow.

We’ll be sharing more about the current classes over the next few weeks. In the meantime, I hope everyone is getting super excited about the upcoming eight week session. I won’t tell you what we have planned just yet but I will say, it’s going to be epic so BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

 Until next time…

LaRiche Lamar

Associate Artistic Director | Detour Company Theatre

Blog One of the Academy Season

2/5/2021

This is a different kind of blog- absolutely fitting for an entirely different kind of production season and our first time ever Detour Academy. This first week has been a triumph – despite computer challenges, lost dial up numbers and trying to fit all we want to teach into one very tiny zoom rectangle.  We’re a full week of classes in and the feed back is positive, the patience truly appreciated.  There’s lots of excitement, folks trying new things,  actors daring, creating and GROWING, AND a stalwart, tenacious group of us doing our best to learn a LOT more about technology.    For the first time in all our years as a performance company  we’re very unsure of what June will bring in terms of our production weekend (that will be  impacted by the safety standards at Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts). What we do know is that we’ll be sharing something and YES, it will definitely be magical.  It is amazing how you need (and eventually learn)  to let go . . . take these necessary detours and allow new dreams to emerge.

With that in mind I’ve invited other voices to add to these blogs as we “play” our way through these next 8 weeks.    It is important for their thoughts to be here and to be heard. So, read on . . .to find out more about classes, more about actors, more about this transition, and more about what lies ahead for all of us

Classes – wow –  They are fabulous.  My first invitation for others to write here is to the other – truly gifted –  teachers working this session.  I’ll let these grand folks speak to their own experiences. We’re offering a huge variety of classes.  Mine:  Mondays , ASL through songs, and stories (teaching with Hailey and Dawn.)   I’m  quite honored that we have our first official Detour actor/assistant teacher.   Who better than Hailey to help teach HER language, this beautiful language of signs, facial expression and more.  It’s one we all love and appreciate so much.  Thursdays I’m  taking a look back at the many, MANY years of Detour through the songs and dances many of us have shared. (Jordan is helping out with this class and of course we’re totally dependent and grateful for the uniquely incredible musical tracks created by Stephen.)  I’m lost in this place of great nostalgia – there’s laughter, tears and utter delight.   

I know from watching transfixed through every single class,  that everyone is as excited to be teaching as I am.  It was a long break.  Even if we’re not rehearsing a show it just feels wondrous to be together again.   And the actors??   Well of course, they’re who we’ve missed most.  Seeing those vibrant, involved and eager faces is why we’re all here.   Zoom is still not the same as BEING side by side, with a hug on the way but it’s what we have for now –  and it’s so MUCH better than nothing.  Engagement is both the challenge and the reward . . .  It is exhausting as well as truly exhilarating.  There are those times when everyone is so full of things to share that it all bubbles over and they’re all talking at once.  I haven’t learned the solution for that – not yet – but thank goodness zoom comes with an invitation to learn how to use a “mute” button.   I just love this work!!

For next week  I’ve invited LaRiche to say a little.  She has just begun her tenure as Associate Artistic Director.   She is a sponge taking in everything and squeezing it all back out just where it’s needed most.   I told her I feel like a proud parent admitting my child (in this case my dream) has truly grown up.   This dream needs the capable hands of others – those who know technology, those who can attend many more meetings and those with the passion that will carry us into the next twenty years.

What I’m learning to do is to trust.  For a short time I still get the last word – which is TRULY an honor I hold sacred.   What lies ahead for me is a whole lot of teaching, dreaming of the future and remembering the past.

      “Sometimes I would almost rather have people take away years of my life than take away a moment.”      Pear Bailey  (and me!)