Saturday Thankfulness

Things are tough. Pandemic, economy, political divisiveness, the list goes on and for everyone I know it gets more and more personal.

So today I needed a break. Spent the day with Maggie. We took a nice walk, about 4.5 miles. Made a nice dinner, did a few things around the house. And now I’m thinking about a lot of the things I’m grateful for right now:

The text thread between my siblings and I.

Watching baseball on tv. I know the whole thing is fraught and ridiculous because of Covid, but it does something good to me, even when the Tigers are losing. (Which is a lot right now 😂).

Bobby Flay’s technique for cooking a steak in cast iron skillet. I love using my skillet, but this was the first time I’ve ever cooked a steak in it and man oh man that was maybe the best one I’ve ever cooked.

The “Five Minute Italian” podcast. The last couple months of quarantine I’ve been working slowly on my Italian, and this podcast is terrific.

The patrons of Williamston Theatre. Months after we had to shut down, they’re still with us. We’ve sold a bunch of WT FaceMasks in just a couple weeks, and still get regular feedback from them. I’m excited to reveal to them a couple things we’ve been working on pretty soon.

Being able to sit on our front porch in the evening, listening to the summer night sounds of the crickets, katydids, and cicadas, while reading, or writing in my journal.

That Jeanne was able to retire from teaching, and start a new job that she’s enjoying with less hours, less homework and less stress!

My doctors. With my medical challenges, I’m so grateful for the meds and science and medical know-how that is available to me.

Living in a neighborhood that’s great to walk around in. Trying to keep in shape (well, GET in better shape) and I’ve been walking 4 or 5 miles a day, and very glad for the ability to do it. And I’m down around 15 lbs!

There are more things, but that’s enough for now. Time to enjoy some baseball and relax a little. 😁 Hang in there everyone.

A night to be thankful

Absolutely beautiful night for sitting on the porch, listening to the Tigers and doing some journaling. The frogs and crickets are serenading me. It’s early August, not too hot, and I’d be happy to sit here for many, many days.

A beautiful night on the porch

The house behind me is pretty quiet – I can hear Max and Maggie playing a game together in the basement, laughing quietly and enjoying time together. Another few weeks and they’ll be heading out, back to college, and I’ll miss the sounds of them laughing…. or fighting, or singing, or all of the sounds I’ve gotten used to hearing again since they moved back in waaaaay back in March, when the pandemic was just starting and we weren’t sure how long the interruptions would be. Of course I’ll be worried about them, and I still hate that they’re going, but they have leases on apartments, and most of their classes will be online, and so I have to trust they’ll be okay. Ugh.

Jeanne went to sleep a little early, she had a long, busy day. Some exciting things happening for her that’ll be announced soon enough. Yesterday evening the four of us took the dogs for a nice walk as the sun was setting, walking around the neighborhood. We were laughing, watching FlipFlop pull Max on his skateboard (which he LOVES to do!), and Sneakers was pulling on Maggie because she wanted to chase them… as we followed behind Jeanne said “Aw man… we aren’t going to get many more nights like these” and I knew she was right. The kids will be moving out soon, and who knows when or even if they’ll move back in. Sneakers is not doing well – she’s almost 16 and had a good life, but probably won’t be with us much longer, so we’re really trying to enjoy the time we have with her now. Even if you take the pandemic out of the equation, the constant shifting of sand beneath our feet will be bringing us to a new place again soon.

Can we take the pandemic out of the equation? I mean, all we can do is be as careful as possible, and wait. Wear our masks, wash our hands, Hope people do their best, and hope for a vaccine. And do our best to manage the change that keeps coming as time drifts on, gently dragging us along (and sometimes not gently at all).

Thing is, every time I can remember thinking “Aw man, this is the end of an era” in our family, or with friends, later I also found myself having nights like last night, or tonight, once again, where I wound up thinking “This is beautiful. I’m a lucky, lucky man.” So, even though everything is so up in the air right now, I have faith that as much as I love tonight, I’ll have more moments like this again in the future. Hopefully I’ll remember to take the time to recognize them.

For now, though, I’m going to enjoy the back-and-forth of this ridiculous ball game as the Tigers keep finding ways to give away the lead, and listen to the frogs and crickets reminding me to just breathe, and savor.

That is our challenge

That is our challenge: To cultivate lives of reflection, love, and joy and still somehow manage to do our share for this beautiful broken planet of ours.

– Mary Pipher

One of the chief privileges of man is to speak up for the universe.

– Norman Maclean

We have to look deeply at things in order to see. When a swimmer enjoys the clear water of the river, he or she should also be able to be the river.

– Thich Nhat Hahn

I very much enjoyed Mary Pipher’s book Writing to Change the World. Thoughtful, inspiring and practical, it’s been one of my favorite reads of this pandemic “down time” I’m having with the theatre being closed. I love her take on storytelling, and making a difference in the world

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!

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

Mid-December round up – keeping the plates spinning….

Still catching my breath after a wonderful trip to Actor’s Express in Atlanta for the NNPN National Showcase of New Plays (followed almost immediately by a trip to Buffalo with family for some much needed family holiday time!)

The NNPN Showcase was terrific.  (NNPN is National New Play Network, in case I haven’t mentioned it in a while.)  We saw 6 readings, some of which I absolutely loved, and I had a ton of good conversations and chats with theatre makers from all over the country.  I love the readings, but sometimes just being immersed in that energy is the perfect thing to recharge my batteries.  It’s energizing to get that reminder that everyone deals with the same challenges and struggles, the highs and lows of this industry – all on a variety of wildly different points on the scale, of course – from companies with a $50,000 annual budget up to ones with many millions of dollars to spend, and raise, every year.  But the wonderful part is the belief and faith in the power of storytelling, and of having an impact on your community, and the pursuit of excellence in the craft – AND allowing for a whole variety of opinions on HOW to make all that happen.  It’s really good stuff.

And then our trip to Buffalo was fabulous.  We continued our decades long family Christmas tradition of holding a big dinner at one of the relatives houses, and that person (or family) cooks a giant dinner for everyone that consists of food from some other country, or culture, from anywhere in the world.  No one knows what it’s going to be until we get there, and it’s a big fun reveal and feast, with lots of lovely family time and board games and presents and laughter.  This year my brother and sister-in-law made an amazing Jamaican dinner that was delicious!  The kids played games, built an igloo in the snow, and generally had a good time.  It was fun to see all the cousins together, the six of them don’t get to visit as often as they used to. The age range goes from middle-school up to college now, and it was terrific to see them having such a good time just enjoying each other’s company.

Now I’m neck deep in prep for 900 Miles to International Falls, by Annie Martin, the show I’m directing next.  We start rehearsals at the end of this month, and I can’t wait.  It’s a big thoughtful, meaningful piece about mothers and sons and war, but it’s also about trust, and compassion.  We get to do a lot of “world building” because it’s set in 2054, when the planet is at war with an alien race who have landed seeking a new home!  I have an amazing production team to work with, and I’m so excited to launch into rehearsals for this world premiere in a couple weeks.  Learn more about the show here!

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Until then, though, our production of A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show is going wonderfully!  It’s essentially completely sold out this weekend, except for the occasional person calling in to cancel one or two from a group, but then those are scooped up by someone calling wanting to see it before it closes.  Aral Gribble is wonderful in it, and the whole production team did some really fantastic work. Check out more info here!

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Now I’m looking forward to the next couple days, when both kids will be back home with Jeanne and I for a couple weeks, and we can all enjoy some holidays relaxing at home with the Christmas tree, the dogs, and some friends and family.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Thankful

Taking a minute to acknowledge and thank the universe for all the wonderful things in my life.

With Thanksgiving just happening, and then so many wonderful things around it, it’s easy to take for granted the things I have. Sometimes I just need to look around and, to quote Kurt Vonnegut’s Uncle Alex, say out loud “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

It was so great to have the kids back home with Jeanne and I for a couple days. Just talking and hanging out and eating and playing games and watching them play with the dogs. Loved it. Going to sleep that night with everyone in the the house, knowing they were safe and home and happy, it was pretty terrific. And soon we’ll do it again for a few days for Christmas.

Plus we had a wonderful Opening week for A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show at the theatre, which is just lovely and so engaging and such beautiful storytelling, it gets me every single time, and watching packed houses fall in love with it is both inspiring and affirming.

Then we had a fantastic “Giving Tuesday” Play Reading Marathon, where we read a seasons worth of plays onstage in a day, 12 hours of readings, all open to the public, and we had so many people stop by for a play or two, or three, and a big group who stayed all day to see five or six plays! It was amazing, people came and went all day as their schedule allowed, and it felt like such a day of communion and togetherness and magic as we shared and discussed six wildly different pieces. Truly it was a humbling thing. Someone asked “Did you ever imagine this when you started this place 14 years ago?!” and the question AND answer got me all choked up because, no, we hoped but had no idea if it would work. Tuesday was pretty damned great.

And now I’m getting ready for the National New Play Network annual Showcase of New Plays – a weekend of staged readings and chatting about new plays and the challenges, joys and pitfalls of producing them with people from all over the country. This is going to be fun.

So much to be grateful for.

I hope you’re able to look around this weekend and find the same things in your life! ❤️

Tech Day!

The calm before the….. well, I was going to say storm, because that’s the phrase, but that’s not really accurate. A good tech day is nothing like a storm. So really, I guess this is the calm before the…. well orchestrated day full of hard work and creativity that results from months of planning combined with in-the-moment inspiration? Sure, let’s go with that. So here we are, a deliberate air of busy-ness in the building, with 8 different things being tended to by different teams of people, all working together with, or around, each other. All so that when the Stage Manager calls “places, top of show” everything happens the way it’s supposed to happen.

I love Tech Day. When you add in the lights, sound, sometimes projections, later in the weekend costumes, all of the technical elements blend with the cast and you really get your first true look at what the play is going to be. Some people dislike the tech day process but for me, as a director, I love it – it’s like Christmas! You work for months with the design team and look at sketches and images and discuss renderings and 3-d computer walkthroughs and you listen to sound samples and play with fabric swatches and plan each moment….and then on tech day you GET THEM! All these magical little moments! AND you get to work with a team of creative, passionate people who combine ideas and talents and brainstorms and suddenly things from your imagination are there in front of you.

A college professor of mine, George Bird, once said to me about theatre “It’s not magic, Caselli, it’s hard work.” I think about that often, and it inspires me. Because he’s right, of course: But the thing is, all that hard work can give us magic in the end!

pictured above – the set from A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show at Williamston Theatre. Set design by Kirk Domer.

THE SAFE HOUSE

The current show at Williamston Theatre is a lovely, moving piece by Kristine Thatcher and directed by Casaundra Freeman. Reviews have been universally wonderful, and this is one of those shows that SO many people can directly relate to, people are loving it. Charming, funny, heartbreaking and uplifting, it’s a beautiful piece about family, change, and the power of being there for each other. A terrific start to our 14th Season!

Read one of the reviews HERE!

Karen Sheridan and Dani Cochrane

Tobin Hissong, Karen Sheridan and Dani Cochrane

Dani Cochrane and Karen Sheridan

Opening Night production team photo.

Back row: Chris Purchis, scenic designer Gabriella Csapo, assistant stage manager Matt Kowalczyk, set dressing/properties designer Michelle Raymond, apprentice Becca Bedell, stage manager Stef Din, tech director Aaron Delnay, sound designer Sonja Marquis, costume designer Holly Iler, apprentice Ariel Sheets, John Lepard, Emily Sutton-Smith, Tony Caselli. Not pictured: lighting designer Shannon Schweitzer.
Front row: Tobin Hissong, director Casaundra Freeman, playwright Kristine Thatcher, Karen Sheridan, Dani Cochrane.