One workshop down

It’s 100º here in Little Rock. Canadian summers have softened me and I have wilted often the past few days here in the South. I have to say though, as much as my hair looks like a freshly humidity-laundered poodle, I have missed walking through this soup.

23 JUNE

I rolled into Memphis and had a lovely chat about hospitality with my host, Kaelin. The phrase “a soft place to land” has been echoing in several chambers recently and it reflects the kind of space I want to create for other artists.

I settled in for my fourth Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe (OOVTT) production. I was extremely lucky to find them in 2002 when I was casting about for a master’s thesis topic and have been grateful ever since for their generosity and ethic. Their latest outing, Neuro Plastic City, explores how we make connections and see patterns (as well as how we might seek to break them). Good, good stuff, and I borrowed a pen at intermission to write down more ideas for our workshop the next day.

24 JUNE **WORKSHOP with OOVTT — 3:30PM-6:00PM**

My first easybake workshop was made possible by the most gracious eleven individuals: Alanna Stewart, Alexander Parker, Ann Sieber, Bill Baker, Ian Lemmonds, Jonathan McCarver, Katherine Dohan, Khyber Daniel, Kiña del Mar, Linley Schmidt, and Sarah Rushakoff.  I pulled out all of my over-sized legos, playdough, molding foam balls, hand-me-down Brobee, and so many crayons/markers/colored pencils and construction paper. A sampling of our activities:

Self-Care Hot Potato

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We passed foam dice with dry erase panels on them around a circle while I hummed inane children’s songs. When the music stopped, the holder of a die wrote down a word or phrase describing a self-care activity they employ. We repeated this until we had filled two six-sided dice with drumming, music, hydrate, yoga, snack, precision jumping, pray/meditate, disentangle, exercise, aimless driving with my sweetie, sleep, and writing. We then tossed the dice around and the holder mimed what they saw on a panel for the group. Then the person who had written that word/phrase told us about how that activity makes them feel.  (We also incorporated the dice into Self-care Simon Says later in the workshop.)

Adult Meets Child Self-Care

  1. On a sheet of white paper, we mapped:
    a. WHO – a list of people I feel safe with, I can call for help or companionship, I trust with my care, who know my history/circumstances
    b. WHERE – places which make me feel secure and safe
    c. WHAT – activities that make me feel in control, centered, alive and/or happy
  2. We stepped away from the table, stretched, did a wash-off-the-day ritual, and then made some silly faces to shake off our adults.
  3. We sat at the table in a child-like posture and answered the same prompts on colored construction paper, this time thinking as our kid-selves.
  4. We examined the two sheets of paper for similarities and asked how it might feel if we incorporated something from the child paper into our adult lives tomorrow (after a debrief with one of the participants, I’ll now also ask what it might be like to use one of our adult self-care prompts as self-compassion when thinking about our younger selves).

Going for a Walk

We walked randomly around the room and I would stop a participant and give them one of Kali Quinn’s values rephrased as a self-care action to model for the rest of the group to do: tell someone they are beautiful, greet a stranger, review your relationship with technology, move through life as a clown, etc.

Holding Space in Practice

I ditched the final activity I had planned for us (group-decorating a large cardboard box) in favor of continued conversation while we drew and sculpted various things. We spent our last 40 minutes together talking about the other ways in which we practice self-care, reasons why we don’tthe importance of valuing artists and their contributions (Frederick, by Leo Lionni), the necessity of community (talking to our ancestors, and how our increased access to sugar is a good metaphor for our increased isolation), the significance of modeling self-care, and how the reverse of self-care is tearing ourselves down or letting others do that for us.

We closed our time together in an uncomfortably tight circle just feeling each other breathe. I am so thankful for the willingness of OOVTT to be guinea pigs in this grand experiment of mine!

*** If any of my OOVTT folks are reading this: HYDRATE! ***

25 JUNE

The National Civil Rights Museum took every minute of the three hours I’d allotted myself and I feel I still need to go back. It’s an amazing facility and I deeply recommend the experience. I drove to Little Rock (a little zigzag between Memphis and Jackson) to meet up with friends I’d not seen in 15 years, Monica and Greg Robinson and Stephanie Judkins to attend a benefit for Lucie’s Place. It was wonderful to hear Greg sing after all of these years and to hear their kiddos also tearing up the stage.

26 JUNE

Central High School Visitor’s Center and the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. Tonight I’ll go see Monica in Menopause the Musical. When it’s 100º, everything feels like a hot flash, so in addition to my anticipation of seeing my friend onstage, it seems appropriate.

Tomorrow I may very well read to goats!

10,000 Sq Ft of Rhizomes

rhizomeI had a great conversation with my old friend Tim Caldwell last night in which, among many other things, we talked about the sometimes rhizomic nature of making new art. It’s often a series of seemingly unrelated ideas, gestures, and pieces. It’s only when enough of them poke their little heads up that that random stack of books you’ve been reading, those long talks you’ve been having, those half-started snatches of text you’ve been writing, and the news stories over which you’ve been weeping or raging, start to feel deeply and purposely connected and you say, “Oh, so that’s what I’ve been making! But, I have no idea where that came from or where it’s going to go…Yay!”

Today, I walked through a teacher’s supply store in Springfield, MO, and encountered 10,000 sq ft of: “What can this do/be? Where can this go? What else is it connected to? What are the possibilities if…and then what if…and then…?”  So many scattered pockets of otherwise detached activities and actions except for the roots of play and color and the hopefully unexpected growing just under the surface.  

In related news, anyone know where I can get a (free) dump truck full of kinetic sand?

Rhizome image credit: Kevin Murray and Katerina Gloushenkova

Here in my tower

I’m sitting in the third-floor tower of a gorgeous Victorian home in Louisville, KY. Below me are my wonderful friend Bethany and her beloved Chris. In front of me is a google drive of easybake workshop materials and a copy of Kali Quinn’s I Am Compassionate Creativity. Above me is the sound of a million raindrops on the roof and Eva Cassidy’s magical voice fills all the space in between.

How do you self-care?

 

 

 

 

 

Animal Crackers

Sometime last year, I crossed the border at Detroit/Windsor.  After lightning speed questions about where I live, why I live in Canada of all places, why I married a Canadian…not a Canadian? An American who works in Canada? Why the heck would anyone want to do that? …my exchange with the border agent went something like this: 

Agent X: Anything to declare? Fruit, meats, purchases?
Me: No, Sir.
X: (checks backseat) No snacks or anything?
Me: If you count animal crackers…
X: (regards me for a moment, then grins a mile wide) Heads?
Me: Beg pardon?
X: Heads?
Me: I’m sorry?
X: You eat the heads first or the tails?
Me: Um…I try to keep my eyes on the road rather than their anatomy, but when I’m stationary, the elephant’s trunk perishes first.
X: (laughs and returns passport) Very good – drive safe and enjoy your stay in the US!

When I crossed at Detroit/Windsor today, I had the same border agent and he asked me the exact same lightning speed questions. 

He then inquired about the status of my Canadian work permit and what I do in Canada. He got really excited when I said I’m an actor…less excited when I told him no, I make small, experimental theatre, so he probably hasn’t seen me in anything… He asked what that sort of work looks like,  so I told him about working with different kinds of artists on a common theme, and how there isn’t always a defined stage space and rows of audience seating…

X: (Long pause…deadly serious) Who goes to see that weird stuff?
Me:  People who want to be challenged or to hear stories they don’t usually encounter, blah blah blah…

^That crossed through bit was obviously theoretical me. Actual Me thought of the growing line of cars behind me, the long road still ahead, and longed for the animal-crackery banter of yore, so…

Me: Weird folks?
X: (laughs and returns passport) Well, good luck with that! Drive safe and enjoy your stay in the US!

Sigh.

Yes, And…a 4 page google doc

In the early stages of easybakeroadtrip planning, I was thinking about creative partners I would want to spend hours in rooms with. One of the best humans I’ve experienced that with is Emily Hill. I emailed her with very limited details because I wasn’t ready to fully articulate the thing yet.

Mar 14, 2018

Hey lady,
You around in July? If yes, can we make stuff? I have an image of an easy bake oven where my heart should be. Knocking around ideas of grown up self-compassion and kid wisdom/creativity for self-soothing.
A

I knew she would be kind, but I was bowled over by the force of her assurance. Her response was an affirmation of radical I believe in you proportions and a 4 page google doc chockfull of  “it sounds like, looks like, smells like, feels like…” gorgeousness.

Emily said “Yes, and.” Yes, and is the foundation of improv. It’s an incredibly gracious and hospitable and necessary thing to do in life and art. Yes, and says, “I see you and what you have given me, I’m going to build on it, give it back to you, and trust that you have something interesting to give again.” When it’s truthful, it feels like the best kind of dare.

I am simultaneously emboldened by Emily’s affirmation of me as a person and terrified about the actual doing of the thing. Because of her encouragement and feedback from now lots of others, I believe this can actually BE a thing. Listening to people tell you that you are wonderful and that you can be and do whatever you want is hard. Saying “Yes, and” to yourself when you’ve spent decades saying, “hmm….nope?” feels impossible, but it can be done.  Be kind to yourself, human! I dare you!

In related news, I also think I have to learn close up magic…yes…and? Deep breath.