The Big Five Oh!

I don’t know about you, but I’m now voting that the best way to finish up a birthday is to relax on the couch after everyone is asleep, with a drink, snuggled up in your Heat Miser/Snow Miser pajama pants, your Star Trek t-shirt, and a Superman wool cap. (What can I say, my family and friends KNOW ME!!)

What a day! Had first preview of To Quiet The Quiet by Christy Hall, which went wonderfully. Was surprised at the end of the preview talkback by cast, crew and staff presenting me with a birthday pie and the whole audience singing happy birthday to me! (Yes, birthday pie. Pie is better than cake – MY PEOPLE KNOW ME!)

Turned 50 today. What a great day! FIFTY! Amazing. 5 years ago today I was in a coma, and my family was going through hell, but being supported by so many wonderful people. I am SO grateful to be here for another birthday, and to be able to spend it with so many awesome people. Thank you to everyone who sent birthday wishes today!

So, I sit here, a bit after midnight, finishing my drink and the brownie that my daughter left me (with a candle in it and a match so I could blow out one last candle before bed,) just watching the snow fall out the front window. Peaceful, quiet. (The drive home wasn’t, but I made it!) Now I can hear the furnace humming in the basement, and occasionally a cough or a gentle snore can be heard from one of the bedrooms. FlipFlop, our schnoodle dog, just padded out and flopped down onto my feet. I re-read the wonderful birthday message my son sent me from Germany.

I don’t know what the future holds, or where we’ll all be in 5 years.

I know that 5 years ago was a nightmare.

I also know that this, though, this right now, is perfect.

Thanks, Universe.

Marking the day

It was five years ago today that I collapsed at home and was taken to the hospital, marking the beginning of an ordeal that changed my whole life. If you don’t know that story, click here!

It seems crazy that it was 5 years ago – it feels like it just happened, but at the same tine it feels like it was a lifetime ago.

I am so grateful to the amazing people in my life who helped my family and I through that time. As awful as that was, it taught me how wonderful people can be, and how precious our minutes are. As I enjoy these extra innings of my life, I hope you all remember to enjoy your lives too. Love loudly, savor the world around you, every moment you can. Be a force of awesomeness and drag people in your wake! There is so much beauty to see, so much joy to share, so many people to embrace, and such an unknowably finite amount of time in which to do it – Be Relentless!

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.