THANKS (of course)

November 26

 

Sometimes sitting down to write a weekly catch up is hard.   It’s a challenge to slow down and reflect when a million things are demanding my attention – the loudest of which is Christopher.   Sometimes it’s hard to write because Detour life is such a jumble of emotions.   Sometimes it’s hard because we’re just in the mundane, the running, rerunning and rerunning again of everything and I wonder how do I make that sound new, captivating, engaging.

All that being said it’s just been hard to isolate an hour of time for me – Hard because we’ve been about what Detour is about . . . Thursday was rehearsal… both rehearsal rooms BUSY.  Both rooms focused.   I know there were pianos going in both rooms but so were loud, exuberant voices. .only in the hush between songs could you hear there was another show being put up just a wall width away.   Exciting to see that buy-in now.   We’re not quite at the panic stage but we’re squarely at “taking it all seriously.”

What was extra magical about Thursday was the juxtaposition of celebration, remembrance and family . . . We had put out a call for gathering food for Friday’s memorial of Rosie, we had put out the word for a celebration of the marriage of our coaches Andrea and Simon and then for the birth of Jean’s first grandbaby.  So we practiced until we partied and honored this wedding and birth, and we packed up food to be taken to Rosie’s celebration of life.  So maybe lyrics are rusty and dance steps still needing to be nailed down and I have one quite elusive scene to be created – all that is true – but so is the thanks I give for this group that just opened their hearts Thursday and made “one for all and all for one”  (a line sung by the Newsies) our byword for living.  I was so proud, so awed – so absolutely not in charge.  This loving is just spontaneous giving born from a group of people that live goodness through and through.

So today I’m reminded that this week is about thanks . . .  here’s a very short, very inadequate beginning list . . .

Friday was the memorial and a group of us made the trek… a reminder again of how grateful I am for friendship as well as the support poured out for the Granados family.

Sunday Dick, Alicia, David B. were here to organize set – no tiny task.  No gym needed for them that day – they lifted, heaved and moved a mountain (really) of platforms… as that was happening a whole crew of us gathered to run scenes… 5 actors squished in my tiny living room plus Charlcy and Jack navigating furniture.  It was crowded, heartfelt, supportive and spot-on for learning. Grateful for that dedication.

Monday was rehearsal and JoAnna tried her costumes on a few  .  . . more grateful. .they’re amazing.   Jenna didn’t want to take her’s off… I don’t know how often she’s felt satan but she was mesmerized by it and so quick to want Chris too to see it with his hands too…  I was sooo grateful then too . . just the amount of caring in making these beautiful garments and grateful too for the honest and real excitement of the actors who are wearing them.

Then there are all Eddie’s bags… I think maybe 20 complete newspaper bags she’s made AND tried to rough up by sitting in the dirt.  Grateful for this creativity and over the top caring.

Grateful, grateful, grateful . . .  for friendship, for the wisdom of this dear group, and for the love they share boldly, proudly.

Grateful for all those who advocate for opportunity by living this example of inclusion.  It’s everywhere in Detour  .  . .  maybe we can be a tiny step toward making it everywhere in our community.

I just read that the new Mr. Roger’s movie has a full minute of silence, a minute to think of those who have helped you in your life.  I took that minute and this flood of beautiful faces came to mind… .the flood of faces I see weekly Thursday after Thursday and so many days now between . . .   It wasn’t so hard to write this after taking that 60 seconds challenge.  I knew all I wanted to do was say thank you. .loudly, from the heart and for all to know.

In the oddest of ways, I’m most thankful too that Christopher is Christopher.  His life and being have been there to challenge me to appreciate that there is an abundance of reasons to cherish life and truly offer thanks.

Resilient

November 16, 2019

 

Tonight’s word was almost “grateful,” but then I sat down to write and the word “resilient” just spilled out onto the page.  What a chewy, delicious, descriptive – and absolutely fitting word.    I’m sure “resilient”  tumbled out because honestly, I’m not completely grateful for all that’s transpired in the past few days.   While I’m VERY grateful for this incredibly bold, loyal, and loving group of actors, parents, etc.,  tonight, clearly, it’s their resiliency I absolutely admire, adore and cherish most.

 

This morning was a second of these calls I’ve come to fear.  In every family, there are life experiences shared mutually. But with most families, we trust there will be time to pause, to catch our breath, to process grief,  joy and/or bewilderment in between events. For our Detour family, this morning was the second time this month we have had to face the death of someone we hold precious.  This morning we found out that Tony’s mamma died . . . This is not the place to discuss any of the reasons why.  BUT, it is exactly the right place to affirm that Tony is one of our family, as is Davina, his cousin, and Dawn, Davina’s mom. Rosie, Tony’s mom, was there for us always, patiently . . . with her smile, her prayers, her belief and her help with costumes.  The last time I spoke with her was at Excell’s celebration of life exactly a week ago – and now this.

 

I’ve been on phone far too much today.   Each time I’ve said hello tears have come.   Yes, Excell’s loss was profound.  He was a part of us –  as an actor, as a cherished “son.”  It is still so fresh in our hearts.  Rosie’s loss is equally profound but it carries an additional, somewhat daunting reminder for many of us.  We the obsessively concerned parents, we the overly codependent, giving parents, we who are totally wrapped up in the lives of our sons and daughters, we share a common concern – a universal fear.    One day we will be gone . . . what then?  What will happen to our sons and daughters?  What will be there for them?  Who will be there for them?

 

Tonight my heart is filled with grief for the Granados family.   I  keep thinking about Tony and about his very wise Rosie.   She made plans.  Tony will have Davina and Dawn.     He can be on stage – any time he wants.  He can and WILL be surrounded by all of us.  He’s a joy.

 

But . . . what about when I am gone?  Will there be a Detour there to hold Christopher??   Grief breaks open our hearts so light shines in all the dark, dusty corners.   I’m a mom too . . . Rosie’s death is a reminder of my own fallibility, my own unvoiced, stashed safely away, concerns.   Life is fragile.

 

It is why stories like Rent – precisely at this time, are needed.  Theatre offers truth.  In Rent, Angel dies from AIDS, but loss is loss, death is death.  Angel, Excell, Rosie – all were/ are loved and the message we’re left with, in each case,  is similar.  It is one of resiliency.  Love goes on.   Our actors have talked for weeks and I know this week they will talk again.  I’m proud we can offer them an opportunity, a voice, and a sounding board where they can discuss feelings openly, courageously and as often as is necessary.

 

This is the resiliency I admire so deeply.   I know it will be there tomorrow when we rehearse Newsies.   They will be ready to work.  Not from a place of joy but from a place of trust, dedication, and responsibility.    No one holds back in this group  – not tears, not effort, not grief, not hope, not anger, not belief.    Resiliency is a powerful by-product of theatre magic.   I know. I have watched it change, redirect and heal lives . . . We will surround Tony.  We will be there for him in every way we can.   Detour goes on – a journey, not a destination.   It may be a while before we get those lyrics learned  . . . .  that’s a bit of theatre magic too.

 

 

“Courage cannot erase our fears

Courage is when we face our fears . . . “

Newsies

Burning Car

November 9, 2019

I know a burning car is not exactly what you’d expect to find as the subject of a theatre blog BUT it’s become a metaphor of sorts today.

It’s been nonstop since Thursday . . . Detour consumes the most of, most of my days now (and the days of so many others I know.)  C and I took Friday night off and today we were headed back from Tucson to attend Excell’s memorial when we looked down the freeway and out of nowhere saw this billowing surge of black smoke.  I, of course, wanted to ignore it but ten minutes later traffic stopped and there we sat, or rather sat and occasionally inched along.  In the next 45 minutes, all the necessary emergency equipment began showing up . . . and finally we picked up a little speed, and a little more until we passed this wreck of a car and were finally back on our way.

We walked into the memorial gathering (by then they were all eating) almost an hour late.  That’s when I was hit by the sheer beauty of all these caring faces that have been a part of Excell’s life and Detour’s story for so many, many years.  It was incredible…all the regular actors were there – as were so many of their parents, costumers, present coaches, past coaches …  There was just a welcoming sea of caring, love-filled Detour faces.  Maybe if I hadn’t been late it wouldn’t have hit me with such an impact.   I drove gripping that wheel like a crazy woman once traffic was cleared. I just wanted to get there – and now I understand why.

 

This caring group is family, my family.  We travel the road together.  Sometimes it’s smooth sailing and we just do our thing . . . We study, show up, sew, paint, learn what’s do be learned.   Other times something happens that stops us in our tracks.  It’s life, it’s our of our control.   We worry but we can’t do a thing about it.  We want to move all the cars in front of us but no, we can’t… We want to say where we need to go is so terribly important but there’s a mess that’s not necessarily of our doing.  We can’t do a thing about it.   What we can do is be patient, accept the situation and trust we’ll get to where we need to be.

Burning cars teach us that – patience, acceptance, trust.  It’s not an easy lesson to take in but maybe that’s why even burning cars in the middle of the I10 can be a blessing.   We’re into Act 2 – with both shows.  There are a few “burning cars” impeding travel in both groups . . . problems that are stopping us in our tracks . . . so we’re a bit stuck.  We feel like we’re only crawling ahead when we want to be flying.  This is when we need to remember it’s out of our hands.  It’s fine to have a plan…but just like driving my car today, I can’t nudge those cars in front of me no matter how much I want to.

Excell’s memorial was an incredible reminder of the importance of Detour in that young man’s life.  It was a reinforcement of why it’s so important in mine . . . I do it for one actor, one face, one dreamer at a time.  Yes, they’re all there filling a room, a stage, my heart . . . but we only can make a difference for them as we let them, individually, one by one by one, make a difference for and within us.   We need to give them the gift of both that time and that opportunity.

I left quiet and humbled.  That burning car not only slowed me down, but it also stopped me cold.   It made me appreciate even more my destination when I arrived.     It’s a grand Detour lesson to take in.    Right now there are things to solve, hard things.   Once all the right “emergency help” is in place, we’ll be on our way again.  Patience, acceptance, trust – those are huge words to swallow when all I want to do is run lines – full speed ahead.    Patience, acceptance trust . . .  That billowing cloud of smoke warned me that there was danger up ahead but the other side of that situation is always opportunity.  A chance to learn, to slow down, to appreciate how precious the destination.

Sometimes being a little late is not even noticed, it’s certainly not a catastrophe .  . . . I would bet that holds true for missed lines too.

“Keeping on…keeping on”

November 4

 

The phrase above isn’t mine.  It’s one I treasure though and one I’m borrowing for now.   We’re in the thick of it . . . with good days, with bad days, with remarkable breakthroughs and then a whole pile of quirky frustrations.   These frustrations are usually what keeps me from having the time to sit and share any thoughts.  They usually come in the form of phone calls or texts   –  never just one and they eat up enormous amounts of time.  That’s where “keeping on “ becomes a needed mantra in my heart.   We can’t really even look forward – not yet.  Keeping on is about being conscious of where we’re treading right here, right now.   This is my focus.   I celebrate each word that’s improved and then hold my breath as I pick up my phone and see what new disaster’s on the horizon.   The breathtaking and the precarious are so closely linked – in life and in this work.

 

We have “touched on” all of Act one.   That’s a miracle in itself…  I look at my script and there’s the proof.   41 pages of writing, erasing, coffee stains, and text that’s a circle, starred and underlined.   Then there’re the other 26 pages still (more) pristine and waiting.  So…. Going back to those well-worked, worn pages…Those are what tell OUR story.  We’re at “intermission” in the rehearsal process… .time for a check-in.

 

Here are the “midpoint” frustrations:

dialogue – too slow

music – we can’t even get to it because we’re still stuck with that dialogue that’s crawling

changes – this isn’t my frustration. .it COULD go down as a plus for me because it’s about tweaking but I fear it goes down as frustration for others because at this point there are so many little tweaks you either need to call me daily or be a mind reader. (I get that part too.)

transportation – oh my gosh we’re at the mercy of dial-a-ride and para transport.  Actors are late, actors leave early and we can’t say a thing – except study

people wanting to quit – why???  boredom (that slow dialogue is a crushing dilemma), and they’re not excited about the story  . . . it IS hard.

not knowing the story – you can’t be excited about singing your way through a story you don’t quite understand.  It’s not only the words that need to make sense, but it’s also the whole web of interactions for every single character on stage.   It all gets back to that basic concept (of David Helmstetter) that “Acting is Reacting.”  That’s it really.  Totally.   Reacting to what, reacting to who, reacting to why . . .   that’s our job, our gift.   Without reactions, -???  not even going there.  Discovering reactions, second to memorization on our to-do list.

 

And then the abundant blessing of “midpoint” triumphs:

Thursday we had a chance to watch 20 minutes of each of the two shows.  That was spectacular.

Yes, stuff to work on, but for each group, there was so much energy and utter delight.

Because we are doing two shows so many more actors are being given an opportunity – seeing that is worth much of the confusion of sharing space, music, etc.

While the dialogue is slow in fitting it all together, there have been HUGE individual triumphs with memorization of lines, with vocabulary comprehension, and with articulation.

movement too – direction and following through…  better, really better.  Both shows are more complicated – both shows have real choreography – no one is stepping back from that challenge

support – absolutely amazing – coaches showing up for countless added rehearsals, costumers cranking out exactly what we need, dear folks painting boxes and actors  . . .  some with frustration yes – but more with heartfelt dedication.   There are a couple I see four times this week and not a grumpy word – ever.

Hope – abundant

Time – still on our side

 

There it is – the two sides, at this mid-point,  of this  – (or any production I’m sure)

 

If I were to add a few more words to that plus side, I would have to add joy, courage, and patience.

 

The reason I can do this “keeping on” is because of that lovely supportive trio of qualities  – each shared so selflessly on the part of so many.   Good thing our hearts are fixed with hinges on the bottom – we keep having to open them – much wider.  There is simply so much that needs to be gently crammed in.

 

As an aside, maybe I don’t really care if we forget some of the words, we’ll cue from the front… .at the end of the day we need to live out the loving, keeping on, keeping on  . . .    That’s the journey.