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.

Ch-Ch-Changes…..

Sat down to update my journal, and realized it’s been two months! Amazing, where did that time go? Well, life got crazy:

*We sold our house in Chelsea and moved to Williamston!
*We have officially become “empty-nesters” with both kids now moved out of the house and into their universities, University of Michigan and Western Michigan University!
*A BIG renovation has been taking place for the last 7 weeks at Williamston Theatre, at the same time that we’re rehearsing and about to go into previews for the beautiful play The Safe House by Kristine Thatcher.

So – life has been busy!  And WONDERFUL.  We’re about to open SEASON FOURTEEN at Williamston Theatre!

The kids:

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The building renovation.  We tore out our old Stage Manager tech booth and put in a new one!

How it looks now:

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How it looked a few weeks ago:

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and a couple weeks before that….

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…aaaaaand from the other side….

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Also, here’s our new house!

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AND here are a few rehearsal shots from the BEAUTIFUL show The Safe House by Kristine Thatcher, directed by the wonderful Casaundra Freeman, and starring Karen Sheridan, Dani Cochrane and Tobin Hissong.

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So, the last 8 weeks have been insanely busy, but also pretty darned wonderful.  I’m so grateful for my family, and my work, and the people I get to work with!

I hope everyone else has had a good summer as well – now that Fall is upon us, and my that wonderful Autumnal feeling is in the air, I’m really looking forward to what’s coming up. I hope you all are too!

Life…

We had 1,440 minutes today.  How’d you use them?  We’re not getting them back, is why I ask.  I want to remember this more often.

“I don’t know exactly what
a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,
how to fall down into the grass…
how to be idle and blessed…
how to stroll through the
fields, which is what I have
been doing all day…
Doesn’t everything die at last
and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan
to do with your one wild and
precious life?”
-Mary Oliver

 

“Do stuff. Be clenched, curious.  Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead.  Pay attention.  It’s all about paying attention.  Attention is vitality.  It connects you with others.  it makes you eager.  Stay eager.”
– Susan Sontag

 

“Relentlessly prune bullshit, don’t wait to do things that matter, and savor the time you have. That’s what you do when life is short. ”
– Paul Graham

 

Italy. Day 3. Friday in Cinque Terre

So on Friday I slept in a little bit, after a long Thursday. Then after a quick breakfast Tommaso and I bought Cinque Terre cards for the day of travel, and jumped on a train to Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the 5 towns in Cinque Terre.

The Cinque Terre cards are nice – for 16 Euros you can hike as many paths as you want and ride as many trains inside the Cinque Terre network as you want for a whole day.

Riomaggiore is beautiful. When you arrive off the train, you have to walk through a long tunnel to get to the center of town, where the main piazza is. I know just enough Italian to get excited when I see a sign I recognize, and “Centro” with an arrow was always fun to discover. This one pointed to the big tunnel walkway, so away we went.

Like all of the Cinque Terre towns, Riomaggiore is all about the steps and the vertical climb. These towns are built right into the big hills on the steep shores and cliffs of the sea, and space is not wasted! Buildings stack up and up, little terraces are carved into the mountain everywhere, and the alleys, stairways, ramps and streets are an amazing mixture of nice open spaces for public gathering and little narrow walkways that are maze like back into little neighborhoods of homes, shops and apartments.

We had lunch in town, lasagna that was SO good. I had a limoncello for an after-lunch drink. Strong and lemony, it was delicious and potent! Lemons and basil are two of the locally grown things Cinque Terre is famous for, and Riomaggiore had a lot of lemon groves in town, and on the narrow terraced farms carved into the hills above and around the city.

After a couple hours of exploring Riomaggiore, we jumped back on the train and headed to the next town north, Manarola. (The 5 towns that make up Cinque Terre are, North to South along the Ligurian seaside: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.)

Manarola has a big beautiful marina/bay area for fishing, swimming, boating and sunbathing on giant boulders, similar to Riomaggiore. There’s a little section enclosed by rocky outcropping also, and wonderful paths winding around and up the cliff to take you very high above the city itself. Once you get up to the top, there is a big flat(ish) space with a small park for kids, an outdoor restaurant/bar and a small public green space for sitting and gathering. Since you’re on top of a mountain looking out, the views are stunning.

You can even see, far down the coastline, Monterosso!

After enjoying some limone gelato, another local specialty made from home-grown lemons (SO GOOD), and spending a couple hours wandering the streets and stairways of Manarola, we headed back for the train station, and our next ride north, to Corniglia. I have to say also, with all the walking in the sun, I was really grateful that all of the cities had several small water fountains labeled “acqua potabile” for people to know they could refill water bottles with clean, cold, sanitary water!

Arriving in Corniglia was different than the other towns, because Corniglia is the only town not on the water. It’s located much higher on the mountain, and has no direct access to the sea. To this end, the city runs free busses for the short (7 or 8 minute) ride from the train station, which IS at sea-level) to the town itself. Some people do choose to walk the path up, but it’s a very steep climb high up the cliff, and I was quite happy to wait my turn for the bus! After Thursday’s hike to Monterosso, and climbing the stairs and ramps of the two towns we’d already explored that day, my legs would not have been happy to try that climb! Tommaso would’ve had to drag me.

Corniglia, like the other towns, was beautiful. Being so much higher than the others, the view of the sea, as well as the surrounding countryside, was quite beautiful. We found a cool little trattoria tucked into a little terrace a few steps below street level, and sat down to have a snack while looking over the city. The weirdest snack on the menu was a bruschetta with lard and honey on grilled bread, so I had to try it, and it was AMAZING. That and a cappuccino made a perfect combo to keep me going for the rest of our trekking around Corniglia, which was gorgeous.

We also visited, as we did in every town, a couple of the historic churches they have. Amazing architecture, and such history!

After Corniglia, we returned to Vernazza, relaxed and had dinner, and even saw a lovely Good Friday ceremony as the church members marched through the piazza singing, and celebrating the holiday. Then I was exhausted, and slept like a rock!!

It’s Saturday now! Tommaso has boarded his train to head home to Cerignola and I am returning to Milan, and checking into my hotel, for a couple days of exploring the city on my own! It’s been an absolute joy to see him again, and travel around with him. I’m looking forward to bringing Jeanne with me next time, and getting to meet his family! I will miss him, and I’m so glad we got to visit.

Such a fabulous experience, being here. The cities, the culture… I’m practicing my Italian, but most of the folks who live here probably wish I wasn’t, because it’s not good! We’ll see how I do for the next few days, without Tommaso to translate for me!