News/Blog

An odd anniversary in an odd time…

Today is April 1. It’s my anniversary: 6 years ago today, I was released from the hospital after being there for 2 and 1/2 months. I’m incredibly grateful to the amazing medical staff at the St. Joe’s hospital in Ypsilanti AND Chelsea – they kept me alive when a lot of stuff didn’t want me that way.

Normally, on this day, I have a ritual. For the last 5 years I’ve gone to visit the 4 different floors I was on between the two hospitals on this day, and I take them treats – baskets of oranges and chocolates and cards that say “Thanks for keeping me alive, for helping me see things like my kids graduate high school, and my 25th wedding anniversary” – things like that. Sometimes I’d put a picture of what I looked like in the hospital bed then in the card, with one that shows me now. Sometimes I’d see people who remembered me, sometimes I wouldn’t, and often I would get hugs from people. It’s a ritual I take seriously. Those people are my heroes, and it’s an emotional time for me – more than once I’ve stood in one of those hallways hugging a nurse and I was tearing up and she was tearing up – and it’s an honor to be able to do something, even something small like fruit and chocolates, to let them know how much I appreciate them.

Today, of course, I wasn’t able to go to the hospital because, like most of us, I’m quarantined at home, isolating to avoid catching, and spreading, Covid 19. I’m spending the time at home, with my wife and kids, and hoping that everything slows down and gets better soon. We’re playing games, and cooking, and watching shows, and working, washing our hands and walking the dogs, and reading. And I’m grateful that I’m here, with them, and I owe that to the medical professionals who made it their job, their life, to help the rest of us when we need it.

This year, I can’t make it to St. Joe’s – but I hope they somehow see this, and know how much I appreciate them. And this year it’s even MORE than that. The people who helped me, and the people who are working so hard right now to help the thousands and thousands of people that Covid 19 is affecting. We owe such a HUGE thank you to all of them.

Thank you. THANK YOU.

I don’t know where we’ll all be once this all settles down, and the curve is flattened, and we try and get back to some sense of routine and normalcy… but I know this: There are many people who are risking a lot to keep our society functioning as smoothly as it can during this, and those people are ALL worthy of our praise and respect. First and foremost are the people on the front lines of the medical industry. People like my friends Barb, and Jen, and Bry and Paula. They don’t do it for the recognition – but we should recognize them.

THANK YOU FOR DOING WHAT YOU DO.

For the rest of us…. Chocolates, oranges, or whatever y’all choose:

When this is over, we’re all going to need to pass out a lot of treats.

THANK YOU

Just a quick word to say THANK YOU to everyone.

After my last post about my kidney disease, and being on the transplant list, I got such an amazing response from so many friends, it was a little overwhelming. Thank you for all the kind messages of support and love.

With all of this crazy Covid19 pandemic happening, take care of yourselves everyone. Wash your hands, be safe. Keep yourselves, and the people around you, as healthy as you can!

I’m trying, like most of you, to just get through this chunk of our history the best I can. With my kidney disease and immunodeficiency I have to be a little extra careful, which is frustrating because, frankly, I don’t like to admit that those weaknesses exist. Still, thanks to my wonderful friends and family reminding me that I should take care of myself, I’ve been working on it. I’m super grateful to those folks who care enough to say “Hey, wash your hands and stay home.”

Adding to the stress, of course, is the fact that I help run a theatre that NEEDS people to show up in groups in order to keep us going. Well, that’s always been the theory, anyway. We may be testing that over the next few months. (And we’ll be joined by theatres all over the country testing it, also, so here’s hoping that all our friends in the industry can weather this storm smoothly.) I’m thankful for all the creativity and compassion being offered from so many areas.

Still, even with all of this craziness happening, I’m grateful: I’ve got wonderful friends and family, people offering to be tested for kidney compatibility, a great job with amazing coworkers, AND a nice tax return coming this year! lol

SO – wash your hands, cover your cough, spend a while in self-isolation and enjoy some downtime. This is the perfect time to binge a series or two, read some books, take up yoga, learn a foreign language, or learn to cook beef wellington. (I’ll take two, thank you.)

Take care of yourselves, and stay in touch.

A big reason to celebrate!

We got word that I AM NOW OFFICIALLY ON THE KIDNEY TRANSPLANT LIST.

This is good news. It means that I’m accruing time on the list, and I am now actively looking for a live donor.

In the next year to two years, my kidneys will fail thanks to kidney disease (acquired from my bout with Bacterial Meningitis 6 years ago). At that point I’ll wind up on dialysis, waiting for a kidney to become available. I’m grateful for the option of dialysis, but it comes with challenges and health risks of its own. So, the sooner I can get a transplant, the better.

The average wait time in Michigan can be 5-7 years for a donated kidney from a deceased donor. However, because of my other health issues left over from that whole incident, my transplant team has said they very strongly recommend a live donor kidney instead.

SO, for these reasons, Jeanne and I are asking for your help in spreading the word. If you’d be willing to share our search for a living donor with your community of family and friends, we’d greatly appreciate it. To learn more, you can go to Explore Transplant and get the information you need.

Finally, if you feel inclined and called to do so, you’re invited to consider becoming a living donor yourself! Thanks to the wonderful Pairing Program, your kidney wouldn’t even have to be a perfect match for me. It could match someone else, and I could get a better matched kidney in return! Of course this is a hugely sensitive and personal issue, and it’s simply not the right choice for many, many people, but if anyone out there thinks it might be something they’d consider, we’d be forever grateful! 🙂

If you’d like more specific info about donating a kidney, I’ll be having mine done at University of Michigan Hospital, and you can see their website about the donation process BY CLICKING HERE. Or, you can call the Living Donor Office at 1-800-333-9013.

And, of course, you can ask me if you have any questions! 🙂
Thanks, everyone, for reading this far and for caring. It means more than we’ll ever be able to express.

EDITED TO ADD: Wow, thanks so much for all the nice responses. For everyone asking, my blood type is A+, so compatible would be blood types A and O. However, with today’s Pairing Donor system, someone doesn’t necessarily have to match my blood type: Their kidney could be donated to someone else on the list, and in return I would get a kidney that best matched me!

Some great reviews for our big dystopian tale of mothers, sons, war and “othering”!

900 Miles to International Falls has gotten a couple of great reviews!  The production has been a wonderful challenge – it’s unlike most plays I’ve directed before, and it’s fun talking with our Williamston Theatre audiences about this different kind of production.

Set a mere 30 years in the future, in the middle of a huge war, this tale about mothers, sons, war and “othering” is provoking a lot of thought and discussion, which is very fun to see.

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An excerpt from the Lansing City Pulse review:

It’s a time of war, government propaganda and lies — and when mothers are asked to give up sons to fight never-ending battles. 2054 is when citizens are fighting aliens trying to occupy our lands.

Sound familiar?

Except in this new era, the “aliens” aren’t Mexicans, South Americans, or other foreigners fleeing horrific and unlivable conditions. The future invasion is actual alien beings from a distant, uninhabitable planet. Who look just like us. And care for their babies, just like us. And who really want to be our friends.

The world premiere of Annie Martin’s play is full of parallelisms, surprises, shocks and novel storylines. Getting to International Falls isn’t its real focus. “900 Miles” has flashes of aggression, emotional outbursts and genuine scares. Martin’s script also includes humorous and touching moments.

What helps make her very adult play succeed and come alive are the grand elements of the Williamston production.

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The Lansing City Pulse really got the show:  Click here if you want to read the full review.

This is a big production for us – a lot of tech elements, a larger cast that many of our shows, a set with lots of moves, and it’s a big epic storyline. I’m really pleased with the way the entire production team, the cast, and the playwright brought their A-Game. IMG_0240.jpg

I like this quote from the City Pulse:  “If the Orwellian and horrific future “900 Miles” portrays isn’t scary enough, the thought that a similar scenario could be less than 30 years away is terrifying.”

IMG_0134.jpgThe other great review, from Encore Michigan (Bridgette Redman), is available by clicking here if you want to read it.  It contains some terrific insight, and a couple of quotes I love, like this one:

900 Miles to International Falls asks questions about what we might do in a war-weary world where it seems impossible to make a difference because the odds against us are so great. What can any one individual do? When is it important to break free from our isolation and reach out to others, whether it is to help them, to let them help us or to learn to trust and care. It is ultimately a beautiful work by Martin interpreted with heart and love by the artists at Williamston Theatre.

The pics above are courtesy of the Williamston Theatre.  I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to bring this thoughtful, unsettling play to the stage, and work with Annie again.  The fun of the world-building in a piece like this was embraced by everyone involved.  I encourage you to check out the play, and also the list of wonderful people who made it all come together! You can learn more about them by checking out the website: Click here!

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A Brave and Startling Truth

Posting because today feels like a day to share some words of wisdom from Maya Angelou.
A Brave and Startling Truth 
by Maya Angelou

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet 
Traveling through casual space 
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns 
To a destination where all signs tell us 
It is possible and imperative that we learn 
A brave and startling truth 

And when we come to it 
To the day of peacemaking 
When we release our fingers 
From fists of hostility 
And allow the pure air to cool our palms 

When we come to it 
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate 
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean 
When battlefields and coliseum 
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters 
Up with the bruised and bloody grass 
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil 

When the rapacious storming of the churches 
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased 
When the pennants are waving gaily 
When the banners of the world tremble 
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze 

When we come to it 
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders 
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce 
When land mines of death have been removed 
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace 
When religious ritual is not perfumed 
By the incense of burning flesh 
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake 
By nightmares of abuse 

When we come to it 
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids 
With their stones set in mysterious perfection 
Nor the Gardens of Babylon 
Hanging as eternal beauty 
In our collective memory 
Not the Grand Canyon 
Kindled into delicious color 
By Western sunsets 

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe 
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji 
Stretching to the Rising Sun 
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor, 
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores 
These are not the only wonders of the world 

When we come to it 
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe 
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger 
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace 
We, this people on this mote of matter 
In whose mouths abide cankerous words 
Which challenge our very existence 
Yet out of those same mouths 
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness 
That the heart falters in its labor 
And the body is quieted into awe 

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet 
Whose hands can strike with such abandon 
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living 
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness 
That the haughty neck is happy to bow 
And the proud back is glad to bend 
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction 
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines 

When we come to it 
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body 
Created on this earth, of this earth 
Have the power to fashion for this earth 
A climate where every man and every woman 
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety 
Without crippling fear 

When we come to it 
We must confess that we are the possible 
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world 
That is when, and only when 
We come to it.

Grateful for awesomeness…

Something I haven’t talked about a lot online yet: I’m currently going through the evaluation process to get on the kidney transplant list. After years of not needing to be on dialysis, my kidney disease has almost reached the inevitable point of needing dialysis and, hopefully, a kidney transplant. Could be a year, could be two, but the process has begun. More info on that will come later. In preparation for that, I have been undergoing the evaluation process to determine if a transplant is feasible. We should know the results of that in a couple weeks.

This post, though, isn’t about me, it’s about the whole Kidney Transplant team at UofM hospital: they have been fabulous. Every single person I’ve dealt with, as I go through this evaluation process to determine if I can be listed on the transplant list, has been really wonderful. Helpful, patient with my questions, compassionate and personable.

I say this because I think awesomeness deserves to be recognized. This process, which has the potential to be monumentally daunting, is made more understandable and less scary by how good these people are at their jobs and how much care they take with each step. From the giant binder of information (that is SO well prepared), to the many phone calls checking in on me confirming appointments and easing any concerns, I (and I think Jeanne) have been put much more at ease by the reassuring calm and open discussions with the many staff people we’ve talked with.

It’s really energizing – seeing how much they care about getting it right, and helping each person to have every resource, every piece of information they need, and a clear path into and through this complicated and scary thing.

Today I sat through another several hours of tests, and the thing I realized is that everyone that I was working with, again, was operating with an amazing ever-present sense of empathy. How much information did I want? Or how little? Was I comfortable? Was I anxious? Was I clear on what was happening and why? What could they do to help?

As I was realizing this and watching them work, I started thinking about the season at Williamston Theatre (which is BASED around the idea of empathy this year), and how much the practices of empathy and compassion are able to change the world. We can see examples of it all around us, just as we can so clearly see the examples of people behaving without these traits.

So, this is a long way of working through this, and saying THANKS to the amazing transplant team I’ve been working with. We’ll know soon enough if the process bears fruit but, in the meantime, MY world has been made a little better by these people. And I’ve been reminded of how I want to impact the world as well.

Not bad for a cloudy Tuesday morning!

SNOW DAY!

Boy, we had a nice winter storm on Saturday. I mean, it wasn’t anything to write home about, in terms of winter storms – we’ve certainly had bigger, snowier, scarier, but this one was… Nice. (For me, anyway. I apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced by it.)

Since we already had rehearsal off for the day, Jeanne and I decided to just have a relaxing Snow Day, and almost the whole day was in pajamas and on the couch. We watched a little TV, we played Word Chums (it’s like Scrabble, and its on our phones), we did some napping and some reading. I’m nearing the end of The Beautiful Ones, the autobiography that Prince was working on with Dan Piepenbring when he passed away. It’s a moving and insightful look at the artist and his life, but it was barely begun when he passed, and so what Piepenbring was able to do with the book in his attempt to honor Prince’s wishes is lovely.

So, we did those things, I made some fantastic BLT sandwiches, I worked on my script for the show I’m directing (900 Miles to International Falls by Annie Martin), we had fun speaker-phone conversations with both kids and snuggled with the dogs. At one point we were all curled up on the couch. Jeanne was at one end, with FlipFlop (Schnoodle, curled up on her feet). I looked up from my book, took a drink of my coffee (decaf, almond milk), and petted Sneakers (Cockapoo, curled up on my legs). As I stroked her head, she let out one of the longest, most contented sighs I’ve ever heard. I nodded my head and said “I agree, Sneaks. Me too.”

We did wander out of the house in the evening: The Sun Theatre is a 10 minute walk from home into downtown Williamston, and their one screen was showing Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the Tom Hanks movie about Mr. Rogers. It was not at all what I was expecting, and we both enjoyed it a lot.

Snow Day. A little oasis of time. It was wonderful. In the craziness of life – running a theatre, directing a show, wrapping my brain around all the doctor stuff for my kidney transplant evaluation, paying bills and putting out the many metaphorical fires that we all find ourselves dealing with – having that day was a gift. Thanks, Universe, for the chance to catch my breath – and for the reminder that stopping to catch our breath once in a while is really, really important.

I hope you, if you’ve read this far, get a chance to slow down and catch your breath soon. In fact, if I can be bold – I’d encourage you to go ahead and MAKE the time. I think I’ll be doing it more often.

“Simplify, slow down, be kind. And don’t forget to have art in your life – music, paintings, theater, dance, and sunsets.” – Eric Carole