“What if Fancy Cat is a Musical?”

Exactly seven months ago today on January 11, 2022, that was the question posed to me by Sid Ryan Eilers, co-artistic director of Aeris Körper and my glorious collaborator on Fancy Cat. While working on a grant for Fancy Cat, Sid was listening to music Raphael Roter had composed to underscore scene 1 (for the November 2021 development workshop) and was inspired; hence: “What if Fancy Cat is a musical?” I was equal parts thrilled by the question and terrified, but immediately started writing songs – something I thought I’d never ever ever (ever) do again. I wrote Fancy’s theme (“Too Much”), a song for their bullies (“Why Can’t You Be Normal?”), and a reprise of “Too Much” for Fancy’s caregiver, ZaZa. I’m currently working on a solo for ZaZa to accompany a nightmare sequence where they confront their father-figure about their own messaging of “too much.” (or is it a duet? *shrug*)

So, here’s a small taste of my process from winter/spring 2022. “Too Much” is the first song Fancy sings after they start internalizing the messages of “too much” they receive from teachers, classmates, and schoolbus drivers. Fancy is a non-binary human child I’ve been pretty much in love with since Sid brought the original idea to me and I started writing the script and accompanying picture book in March 2021. Like everything Fancy Cat, the music is still in process, with orchestrations to come from the beautiful mind of Raphael.

This mp3 is from February 2022 and was the first thing I sent to Sid after the musical prompt:

“Too Much” in February 2022

And the lyrics as they currently stand in August 2022:

🎵 I wear my culottes, they say “You can’t wear a dress!”
I splash in puddles, they say “Don’t make such a mess!”
I’m too much. It makes my skin feel tight.
Too much. When will I be just right?
I climb in trees, they grumble, judge and frown,
I waltz in gym class, they say “What a foolish clown!”
I shimmy on the suspension bridge and shake everyone down.
I’m too much. When will I be okay?
Too much. It ruins every day.
When will they finally see?
When can I be just me and not too much?
Just…me. 🎵

I’ll be honest: I feel pretty vulnerable sharing my voice and Voice here. Sid and I both received messages of “too much” when we were children and it’s been a lifelong struggle for us to shrug them off and learn to celebrate what makes us each unique. I don’t think we’re alone in that fight and that’s why Fancy Cat exists. We hope that each child and caregiver who experiences our little love letter will come away feeling seen and start on their own healing paths together.

I’m so thankful to Sid for asking the question and for being one of the best collaborators I could ever ask for. I’m also grateful to the rest of the Fancy Cat people who’ve joined us on this journey: Karen Ancheta, Jackie Chau, Dedra McDermott, Raphael Roter, Alten Wilmot, Shannon Kitchings, Mayumi Lashbrook, Jody Boston, Mikaela Demers, and Carlyn Rhamey. I love them all with my whole fancy heart.

SHOW ME – original audio short

Artist Soapbox asked me last Autumn to contribute a piece of short fiction in fundraising support of their new creative work Jesus Pancake. I’d been toying with the idea of a magical realism spin on two true family narratives and thought this was the perfect vehicle. The resulting piece, Show Me, has been recorded as an audio drama!

Note for my usual audience: SHOW ME is not intended for children.

Rural West Texas, August of 1966. A skeptically hopeful fifteen-year-old returns home from church camp determined to uncover definitive proof of the existence of angels. The outcome of her act of faith yields lasting ramifications.

Many, many thanks to Tamara Kissane and Aurelia Belfield for still considering me a North Carolina playwright and inviting me into this project; and to collaborators Paige Purgar (Narrator), Marleigh Purgar-McDonald (The Girl), Rachel Klem (director), Griffin James (production manager), and Jasmine Hunjan (sound designer).

If you enjoy supporting artists and have the means, please consider helping to fund Jesus Pancake on IndieGogo or joining me in my support of Artist Soapbox in general.

Show Me art by Artist Soapbox

Ranger Robin is HERE!

I am delighted by Ranger Robin and I think kids will be, too! Enjoy this new video from *kids in the hive* about hibernating animals. It includes a helpful pro-social message about how we can settle our bodies, as well as lots of fun animal noises with Captain Al and real kids! First in a series ❤ Be sure to like and subscribe to be the first to know when new videos arrive!

Who wants to get lost in the gorgeous Arcata Community Forest with me???

I loved collaborating on the scripts for this series with MaryAnn of *kids in the hive*/ALL PLAY Creations! I look forward to our ongoing work together. 🎥 

A Shared Table: “Storylab”

In January, 2020, I joined a small group of co-facilitators to plan curriculum for what we intended to be three IBPOC-centered creative lab sessions and a public pop-up for stories to be told, art to be shown, and food to be shared in March and April. Cue pandemic. Co-facilitators and Artists alike pivoted gracefully and exceeded our wildest expectations. We’re now in month 10 of online gatherings for what we affectionately call “Storylab,” sharing life and new and in-progress creative works of all kinds. We are happy to announce the launch of an online exhibit on January 11, 2021!

This community of Artists is balm and magic. Please check out the promo video below, created by the incredible Vuelo con Los Angeles, and follow @asharedtable.ca on Instagram for more information on all of the Storylab participants and the upcoming exhibit!

My creative process was cracked wide open in Storylab by the wisdom and openness of the Artists on this journey. I create work differently now because of them. (IG links in the video post above!) Rafay makes gorgeous music. Rucha is full of deep creativity and a commitment to wellness for self and others. I don’t think there’s anything Sobia can’t do creatively or in any other realm. Sarah puts beauty and goodness into the world.

And dear Co-Facilitators:

Eli Farinango, Kichwa Photographer/Beautiful Human, encourages me to just make things rather than editing and filtering myself before I even begin. I’ve started creating in different media that I was too afraid to choose before my time with her. I encourage a deep dive into her photographic world.

I first heard the rich storytelling gifts of Pat Wright (G’ama Trica) at A Shared Table’s “Sankofa” event in September, 2019. I have benefitted greatly from her creative prompts and guidance about storytelling craft, teaching, and life.

Extra special shout out to Bernadette Arthur, Founder and Chief Experience Officer of A Shared Table. She challenges me to step up in hard, necessary, and beautiful ways, encourages me, and holds me accountable. She also makes me laaaaaaaugh and takes wonder-filled crunchy newfallen snow walks in the woods. It is my deep honour to call her friend.

Joy.

Big feet and trash can to fill

In honour of Carroll Spinney, I present to you two of my favourite storytime socks.

Image of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch socks

The cuffs of the socks read as follows:

Big Bird: I like big books.

Oscar: Go away! I’m reading!

Big Bird modeled wonder, astonishment, gentleness, and curiosity for me. Oscar taught me it’s okay to express my emotions, whatever they might be. No surprise then, that these two marvelous beings still sing at me and inform my work four decades later. My favourite picture of Carroll Spinney shows him performing Oscar while wearing Big Bird’s legs. Proof that these disparate creatures can (and often did) inhabit the same body.

I love this tribute to Carroll Spinney from Judy Gold. We are not alone, dear friends.