Recharging… a giant exhale, and too many pictures

Whether you think of it as recharging your batteries, or refilling the well, getting some down time is so important in your self-maintenance!

This fall was a great time – so much going on at work and at home. It was also, however, exhausting! I had a blast: launching our 13th season at Williamston Theatre, directing the first two shows of the season and a workshop of a new musical as well. Plus of course we’re prepping for the rest of the season and selecting next season and planning some other cool things we’ll be announcing soon, so it’s been busy.

With all of that, Jeanne and I have also been busy at home, getting one kid off to Germany for his gap-year-exchange program, and the other off to U of M, and getting a new exchange student from China living with us. Life has been great, but busy, and I really found myself getting a little burned out. SO – this last few weeks has been an amazing wonderful time of mental and physical rest and relaxation. A lot of deliberate “refilling the well”. Over the holidays we had so much terrific family time, and even though I miss Max terribly it’s so nice to be able to FaceTime with him in Germany and see him having a ton of fun on his year abroad.

We hosted our extended family for Christmas this year, and our family tradition of “Whoever hosts cooks a dinner from another culture or country and surprises the guests with it”, and it was a ton of fun. We made an amazing Indonesian dinner of soup, chicken satay, baked fish, cauliflower fritters, everything turned out so good! Here’s a shot of the Soto Betawi, a delicious beef soup:

We were really pleased with the dinner! I love this tradition we have, and every year it’s an adventure.

Before the holidays, I got lucky and was able to do a little traveling. The National New Play Network was having the annual conference and new play showcase in Sacramento, and coincidentally some friends were getting together for a few days of birthday celebration in Yosemite National Park right before the conference, so I was able to fly out and do both. I will just say this: If you are looking to recharge your batteries, refill your well, find some peace and a reminder of your place in the universe, go to Yosemite and just soak in the amazing atmosphere of the place. Truly. It’s one of those places that inspires awe, humility, wonder and peace. And being able to enjoy it with friends made it even better.

After Yosemite, I had a wonderful time being inspired by the incredible artists at the NNPN New Play Showcase. So much good work, and so many talented and dedicated people devoting time and energy to it. I can’t really announce anything yet, but I will say that the showcase definitely helped me nail down some decisions on Williamston Theatre’s Season 14 lineup! Plus, I got to visit the new B Street Theatre facility, which was gorgeous, and Buck Busfield and his staff were fantastic hosts for the conference. It was my first time to Sacramento, and it was delightful.

Between Christmas and New Year’s Day was a wonderful bunch of time with my family, too. Maggie and Jeanne and I watched a bunch of movies, I got to relax and just spend a couple days reading books (and, yes some plays!) and just enjoying being able to sit with the dogs curled at my feet! Currently reading a small stack of plays and going between a couple different books The Tao of Bill Murray and Collected Essays of E.B. White.

We also took a great trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts. It’s been a couple of years since I had been there, and it was wonderful. Again, a place that fills you with energy, excitement and awe. Spending a day there just immersing yourself in what people are capable of. The ingenuity, the beauty, the craftsmanship, the passion.

I hope you’re all able to find the time to recharge as well. Go, refill your well. It’s not a cure-all, but it helps. Taking time to soak in some of the joys of life helps you deal with all of the crap that’s NOT joyful! I mean, even though these pictures and this post so far have that stupid social media “man, everything looks great there” sheen, all of the hassles of life are still there: Bills are mostly getting paid, but they’re getting bigger, stress about jobs and family is there for all of us, my health challenges are always always always knocking on the door, etc…. The same things that the 99% of us deal with daily. But don’t forget to take care of yourself, and do a little self-maintenance now and then – it frees up your mind to create, free associate, process and just breathe! Take the time – go somewhere that provides you the opportunity to have your breath taken away a few times. Spend a day with some tea and a re-read of your favorite book, or re-watch your favorite movie. You’re worth it.

A time to be both thankful and helpful.

This week I wound up spending time at Beaumont Hospital in Trenton with an ailing family member.  All is well, everyone is back home and doing well, but times like that are stressful, and worrisome, and one of the things that stands out the most when you look back is the giant amount of HELP and KINDNESS given by so many people.  A big THANK YOU to the wonderful staff at Beaumont Trenton, you guys rock.

Between that event, and Thanksgiving and the holidays coming up, it’s a time of year that we all start thinking of others.  Probably we start thinking of them in a way that we should think all year.  I know I do.  I look around and I think about how amazingly fortunate I am, how lucky I am to be loved by people, to have friends and family I can count on, and to still be here in my very own Bonus Levels.  I also, though, am very aware that I could be doing more for others.  Does anyone else feel this?  The kindness of the Beaumont Hospital staff reminded me that a little effort can go a long way when people are in need, and sometimes it’s the smallest of gestures that makes a difference.

Everyone is busy, we’re all working too much and overwhelmed with life and plans and challenges and politics and that’s just the way our lives ARE nowadays.  One of the ways to help slow down, make OUR lives better, is to help someone else.  I don’t do enough of that, but I’m going to try to do more.  If anyone wants to join me, here are some resources that a colleague recently shared with me:

  • To volunteer at your local soup kitchen, click here
  • To donate a meal to food-insecure senior citizens, click here
Got any other suggestions on ways we could all, even in our over-scheduled lives, help make a difference?  Let me know, share them with all of us in the comments.

“Wonder will always get us there…”

What a joy Silent Sky has been. Some shows just have such an affect on people – audience, cast, designers, crew – that you don’t want them to end. Watching this beautiful script by Lauren Gunderson do that to people over the last 5 weeks has been wonderful and, now that we have reached the closing performance, I find myself feeling the same way.

The sense of wonder, of exploration and perseverance from this show is beautiful and inspiring. The sheer joy it evokes, that sense that “Anything Is Possible”, is just so beautifully interwoven with the loving bittersweet reminder “But… we don’t have forever… so Savor Everything.”

Working with the entire production team on this show has been an amazing journey. Telling the story of Henrietta Leavitt, Annie Cannon and Williamina Fleming – true pioneers in their field who persevered and changed the world around them despite incredible resistance – has been an absolute gift, and one of the highlights of my career so far. I offer a giant THANK YOU to the many wonderful people who helped to make it happen!

Because the real point… is seeing something bigger. And knowing we’re a part of it, if we’re lucky. In the end that is a life well-lived. Because thank God there’s a lot out there bigger than me.

-Henrietta Leavitt, SILENT SKY by Lauren Gunderson

A good week for stories


The last week has been so full of good storytelling and good theatre!

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
– Joan Didion

Last Friday I got the chance to see the beautiful production of Shakuntala, a gorgeous Indian folk tale by the ancient Indian Poet Kalidasa.  Directed by award winning Fulbright Scholar Satyabrata Rout, visiting from India, the play was a beautiful and moving  interpretation of the ancient tale.  Storytelling, dance, song, tableaux, all were executed marvelously.

Then over the weekend I caught up on my current television favorite:  The Good Place.  If you’re not watching it, you should be.  Whipsmart, hilarious, and beautifully done, it’s a real treat – the style of storytelling is just wonderful.  Ted Danson is a freaking national treasure, Kristen Bell is marvelous, and the whole cast and production team are firing on all cylinders.  Warning: Watch it from the beginning of Season One!!

Saturday, I got to see another Lauren Gunderson play, Ada and the Engine, at the Open Book theatre in Trenton.  If you haven’t had a chance to get to Open Book, you should make the time.  The show was just wonderful!  A beautiful story, with creative and lovely staging and design work.  My schedule doesn’t let me see nearly as much theatre as I wish I could, but I’m so glad I got to squeeze this one into the calendar.

(For more about Lauren Gunderson, CLICK HERE!)

Sunday was another treat:  Milvotchkee, Visconsin at Kickshaw Theatre in Ann Arbor.  Lynn Lammers and her team of artists put together another GORGEOUS production, as is their habit.  This show, which takes the audience into the mind of a person suffering from Alzheimers, was heartbreaking and beautifully funny.  The packed house went back and forth between laughing and gasping at the tragedy, the love, the humanity of the story.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house at the end, and the cast, production crew and whole Kickshaw team deserve the standing ovation they got.

This week, along with continuing to present Silent Sky, the beautiful story of Henrietta Leavitt currently at Williamston Theatre, we are also rehearsing the staged reading of an absolutely delightful, charming new musical titled Belinda. Based on the play by A.A. Milne (of Winnie The Pooh fame), this adaptation by Alisa Hauser and David Mallamud is a ton of fun, and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with our audiences on Monday night!

AND we are deep into pre-production work for A Hunting Shack Christmas, the next show I’ll be directing. It’s ridiculous and raucous with a heart of gold.  So much fun.

Plus, in the never-ending search for plays to include in our next season, I’ve had the chance to read some really lovely stories over the last couple of weeks.  We’re also planning our 12-hour play reading marathon (late November, Williamston Theatre), and I’m having a ton of fun piecing that together.

“Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.”
– Hannah Arendt

Storytelling.  Whether it’s to entertain, inspire, invigorate, reflect or question, it doesn’t matter.  It’s a wonderful, powerful thing, and I still believe we can use it to make the world a better place.