HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN, JIGGETY JIGG! Wrote this last week before the fires...
With a landmark college reunion last week, distracted, never hit send!
In the meantime, so much tragic disruption and loss has engulfed so many in Northern California, it almost feels wrong to speak of anything else. So many harrowing stories, and so much heartbreak.
My thoughts are with all those affected, with prayers for their safety and recovery.
And yet, these times remind me that telling stories is part of what pulls us together as tribes and communities. Whether our stories celebrate our heroes, offer cautionary tales, inspire or admonish, they impart our tribe wisdom and humanity. And must be told.
So, sharing some notes from the road. I could not today write as I did last week, before it ever struck me I just might not have a home to come back to. But my words are no less true.
Just home after 9 weeks on the road with My Stroke of Luck. That's one big gulp of life as a touring theater artist! Nanaimo and Victoria, British Columbia Fringe Festivals, then New York City for sold out shows at United Solo Off Broadway, then the Atlanta Black Theater Festival, 40 plays in 4 days.
And now less than a month before my run at The Marsh, San Francisco!
Exhausted, exhilarated, with a whole ton of new actor's stripes - like the army, EARNED rank! - a bunch of lessons on self producing, ready for the next round!
Each city was so different, the challenges and rewards different.
First stop Nanaimo, the largest city on Vancouver Island after Victoria. Nanaimo is a beautiful city, managable with a small town feel. Friendly people, and patrons who stopped me on the street days after performance to talk. My performance space, in the Lobby of the beautiful 800 seat Port Theater, home to symphony, music, comedy and touring artists like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, was intimate. But the total opposite of a black box! Despite a back drop curtain, sunlight illuminated the entire audience through most performances. That takes some adjusting, and shift of performance style. But premiering the newly reworked show, ability to see the face of every audience member (usually masked by stage lights) gave me priceless information. At the end of each show, people simply did not leave. They had questions, and without tightly scheduled shows, we had informal talk back Q and A's every evening! Wonderful way to hear the audience experience, and learn what engaged and landed.
Self producing, of course, means time not rehearsing or performing is spent promoting: flyering lines (engaging and handing out promotional cards to potential audience members) dropping cards off around town, hanging posters. Add networking with other artists, seeing other shows, interacting with one's billet (hosted stay to make touring economically viable), result: non-stop whirlwind of activity. Huge saving grace for this introvert, billets were in short supply (downside of Airbnb), so I was housed in a studio apartment donated by Vancouver Island University! (Check my Instagram posts for the wild bunny situation there!) What a luxury! Time!!! Much of which I spent napping.
Then on to Victoria, one of my favorite cities! Covered that one in my last post, "Does it get better than this?" Two great reviews, Showbill Victoria, and Nexus CA, the first published just before my final show, the later 24 hours after my last show!
Then home for a week. Performed for St. Luke Presbyterian Church, our family church home for years, in the Sanctuary, in front of the Altar! Magical! Full sound, no theater lights, just sunlight through the stained glass windows! And it worked! No, I'm not Presbyterian. Never have understood all the Protestant divides, as I was raised at Riverside Church, a NYC interdenominal, progressive, liberal, inclusive church. As a young impressionable, there was where I first heard The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and William Sloan Coffin But raising two boys alone, looked for nearest Boy Scout Troop, which was based at St. Luke, and after a few years, we joined. And so it was St. Luke congregation who stepped in, cooking and shopping for my boys, during the worst of my incapacitation.
Then off to New York City for United Solo Theater Festival. Never in my wildest dreams growing up in NYC did I think I'd be playing Off Broadway! But there I was, with two sold out shows. Informed 10 PM the night I was packing for NYC that I'd get a third show! Talk about hustle to get the new date publicized to fill that house! (Be careful what you wish for!!) First stop in NYC after hotel check in- Fed Ex Kinko's to change my promo materials!!! Then jump on the computer to update all the show listing and outreach sites, and re-email direct contacts!
But the shows were a blast. Theater Row Studio Theater is a true black box, compact and tight, so audiences - which included elementary, high school, college and med school classmates, relatives, those in brain science, stroke survivors, theater lovers, et al- were over the top vocally reactive! What fun!
And I even had time to play NYC tourist! Later in the week went to a taping of a Trevor Noah Daily Show with elementary and high school friends. The warm up act said, "REACT! He loves to hear you! The more you give, the more he gives back! So don't hold back!" So how can we all get someone to start all our shows like that?! (BTW, Trevor's guest was Robin Thede!!! Lucky me!!!)
The huge NYC up side: invited to present my work at two medical schools! Hopefully, the start of something big!
(Oh, and if you saw show in NYC, and haven't voted for audience favorite, here is link! One vote per email address, you can vote for as many shows as you like, they're all listed)
Then on to Atlanta. Whoa, Chocolate City! Growing up in NYC, reading NYTimes coverage of the Civil Rights struggle at a formative age, with indelible images of Bull Connor's unleashing German Shepherds and fire hoses on peaceful protestors (including children), billy clubbing kneeling and peaceful marchers, firebombed Freedom Rider's busses, mobs attacking lunch counter sit ins, the National Guard escorting black students to school and the daily headlines until missing Civil Rights workers Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner's bodies were found, visiting the south was never on my to do list.
But over the years, kept hearing Atlanta was The New Black Mecca. Then the Atlanta Black Theater Festival beckoned. What an eye opener! Not only did I get to play tourist, and take in the Civil Rights Museum, Martin Luther King Memorial and Center and MLK BirthHome, (and some decadent Southern Cooking) but found the range of confident, self expressive young black people greater than anywhere I've been. Made me totally want to stay!
Then the festival opened! Managed to see only about 13 plays, despite being at the theater from 10 AM to 11 PM, but incredible, inspiring talent, variety, and quality, from readings of new works, solo shows, to the classic, A Soldier's Play (by Charles Fuller, directed by Charmin Lee best known for playing Jeanette Wood on Girlfriends& Chriss Scott, Starring TC Carson of Living Single).
And new creative family! Great reception for My Stroke of Luck, invigorating talk back with new and intruiging questions, and another medical school inquiry!
So, with 17 shows under my belt, feeling eager and energized for my run at the Marsh. Got to get the publicity/ promo machine in gear, though this time I have support from The Marsh staff.
And maybe help from you too? If you saw my Marsh Rising last October, there are 20 new minutes (with 20 old ones gone), tighter, with a different slant. If you liked it before, you'll see a different show, one I think you'll like better. If you missed it, now's your chance!
We'll be having Talkbacks at selected shows : SAT 11/4 Patricia Ryan Madson, Stanford University Emerita Professor, Author, Improv Wisdom,
THURS 11/9 Ann Randolph, Inappropriate in All The Right Ways, Loveland, Squeezebox,
SAT 11/18 Jerry Jampolsky, M.D, and Diane Cirincione, Phd, founders Attitudinal Healing International.
Additional talkback dates TBD, check Marsh Website for details.
Won't you help me share news of the show? Tell your friends- hey, bring your friends! Feel free to forward this if you're so inspired.
My Stroke of Luck