I've passed through it once again.
It won't be the first time and won't be the last.
This time, it seemed to drag out, linger and leave its stench.
I have to remember, I am a fighter.
This is not the beginning or the end.
I can now think clearly, focused and enjoy what is.
Not was, not will be.
No more revisionist history.
No more fantastical futures.
To be present and to practice gratitude and patience.
I can think of nothing more that I want to do.
Friday, April 6, 2012
Last night I performed Work to Welfare with Living Stages theatre troupe. The show, a composite of experiences from the troupe was presented to the community as a forum play based on Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed.
The rehearsal process was a bit grueling- emotionally speaking. We started by sharing stories about ourselves, our families, our loved ones. Each story about unemployment, the lack of work, food stamps, homelessness and more fueled our work into creating this play. The piece examined the oppression that can happen with families and relationships while people are struggling to find work.
The characters were so real, yet they were not rooted firmly in our stories. In an age when the recession has impacted everyone in some way, we were looking for ways to create characters that were relevant to struggles that might be particularly salient.
Breadwinner mothers, long term unemployed father, younger generation saddled with debt, unable to escape the trap or fulfill childhood dreams, grandma who can't afford to live alone on social security, the sister who IS successful and thus should be point of comparison for other failures, friends with privilege and parental help who don't have to worry about paying rent and working.
These characters created the play. The play was about the shame, humiliation, depression, loneliness and all the gamut of emotions that come with struggling to find work. We live in a culture where work is tied into our identities. We ask, "what do you do?" not who are you. Work defines us and can control our life, creating a hierarchical system of haves and have nots.
The play hit very close to home. Sometimes too much for my liking, but like any strong art, it should. I knew that I could not be feeling alone in this. Of course, after months of sharing with the troupe, I knew that I was not alone. That others had similar stories. The same themes kept coming up, again and again.
Performing last night reminded me of the power and beauty of Theatre of the Oppressed. The audience was not only a receptive audience but a willing participant in creating a dialogue. Many interventions happened in the play that were interesting, touching and alternative. Theatre of the oppressed proposes new realities and alternatives to situations--it gives the audience and the performers a chance to "rehearse for real life". Within the living, breathing form of theatre, we are able to comprise these experiences and thoughts and create a new, living, breathing thing.
TO reminds me that Reality is not static. It's malleable, just like people, just like our thoughts. Though the world and many of us are stubborn, sometimes it is only because of our ignorance or lack of foresight that we think otherwise.
Performing last night made me feel engaged and alive--and most of all, inspired!
Monday, April 2, 2012
Trains howl in the middle of the night, reminding me of the emptiness in the city.
The sun comes up, just barely as I rise and I get the feeling that something isn't quite right.
I am not sure what this distress could be, other than a massive unsettling and lack of attachment.
My heart is with a person, but not with a place. I feel torn on my decisions.
Hindsight is 20/20, things were always better in the past and certainly in our future, but the present tense brings so much pensive gloom.
Portland reminds me of pensive gloom. It's a smart city that is perpetually grey. People come alive once the sun rises. People crawl out of their caves to live their lives once forgotten in a winter's past. The rain renews the green and the blue sky is better than any anti-depressant and these two dispositions mingle amongst the watery fronts, beards, beers and bikes to make a place. This place. Where I live.....
I crave more sunshine and friends and art and culture. I crave a sense of belonging.
I ask the universe for some peace and harmony. And some rest. Throw in some more blue sky too.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
I can't help but wonder, what if I stayed?
Would I be happier?
What is this idea of happiness and success that I so long for?
Ideas that are so foreign to my complicated brain, I would need a passport to get there.
The definition confuses me and the feeling eludes me.
Time evaporates into pores relishing into sun stained souls.
Sometimes I feel too much and I long for days I can find peace.
Is someone interested in social justice ever at peace?
I want to imagine a better world for myself-- for everyone. I think at the heart of the Occupy movement is the desire to see the change, be the change we wish to be--in this lifetime. To create alternative histories and radical futures that we possess with our bare hands. The ability to see our hard word lay the ground work for the pavement below us. To keep the sun rising everyday with our happiness and joy.
Sunday, February 5, 2012
I saw Famished at Portland Playhouse a couple of days ago and was moved by the first piece of theatre I've seen that delves right into current, relevant issues with food. Some thoughts post-show:
How does food control our relationships? (to ourselves and others)
How do food politics (dis)connect us to our communities?
What are the ethics of food production?
Can't afford local, organic.
the hunger within
the depravity and excessiveness of food.
the pleasure and pain.
food and memory
food and culture
food and control
food and love
food and hate
How to nourish the mind and body, in a healthy, sustainable, viable, productive, affordable way?
After being a "west coaster" for most of my life, and spending about 2 years on the east coast, only to then come back to a different part of the west coast, I am pondering the idea of geographic orientation.
How does where one live affect their personality? Lifestyle? Outlook on life? I know for a fact that if I was born anywhere else than Southern California my life would be completely different. For example, diversity, and working class people were "normal" to me. My cousins from Michigan however, were literally shocked with the diversity and homelessness present in Socal. I am glad that I was born in such a diverse, enriching place. And now only because I have left that place, can I look at it objectively. I understand (now more so than ever living in Portland) the amazing high that comes along with constant sunshine, the benefits of diversity and the general laid back feeling that permeates Los Angeles' air. (I've heard many a NYer who comes to LA and complains that everything is 'so slow')
Reflecting on my time on the east coast, I must say I am no expert. But also people claimed I would have a hard time with the "fast pace" in NYC and "east coast attitudes". What does that mean anyway? I did not have a problem adjusting to NYC. I was actually thankful for the fact that so many people enjoy working and getting things done in the city. I enjoyed people's honesty, heartache, pain and stress that parades itself across the whole city. The city is resilient and so are the people. The city and the people force you to hustle, to make it work. A study in perseverance and endurance.
I miss the fast pace energy and diversity of NYC. And now I find myself in another place. West-East-West. ((Orientations made up for convenience, with a whole lot of meaning. Makes me think of the useless labels we ascribe to race, geography and sexuality. Exclusionary forces. ))
Portland is very relaxed. Upon not being available for a meeting with a new acquaintance, I was told that he was hoping I was a "typical Portland slacker" with lots of free time during the week. Nope, definitely not one of those.
Because I am getting to know people at work and in the theatre, I have rehearsed my own little geographic story. LA-NYC-PDX. Some people get more details than others, about what brought me to each place. With the consistent recitation, and reactions to my geographic journey, I wonder how much does a city thrive on its people? And vice verse? It's as if we should put down on job applications if we are a West Coaster or East Coaster.
I have also gotten familiar with one particular reaction. "Why did you leave New York for Portland?" I get asked with an incredulous tone. I get asked this in such a way that eludes to my sheer idiocy for leaving "the center of the universe" for Portland, Oregon. Some people say it more politely, inferring that I went from one hip place to another and that I must be ok.
The answer: A man. I moved for a man. Is that dumb? The feminist part of me feels uneasy with this answer every time I recite it. Not because I am ashamed, or not in love. But because it is the first time in my life that he has really affected my life decision. I made a choice to move. So far the choice has worked out better than expected. I am embracing the journey. Who knows where we will end up? SF? NYC? Stay in PDX? The good thing is I am open.
I know a lot of people who have never left their hometown. They have no desire to leave what is safe. And now I know first hand, the sheer exhaustion and emotional toll of moving back and forth. But it can be thrilling. Sort of like an anthropologic study. A study of the self and the will to survive. To adapt to consistently changing environments.
I know that during my stay here, Portland will be come a part of me. Just like the morsels of Los Angeles and NYC have ingrained themselves in my thoughts, my actions, my nostalgic daydreams. The thing about this is I can't quite put my finger on it. I can't exactly describe how place affects me, or why I miss a certain place. I do believe cities and people have a symbiotic relationship in which each are breathing in and out of each other, affecting and changing. I am just fascinated by the divide and thought process behind East coast and West coast. And yet, I intellectually understand there is a difference.
How have you been affected by your geography?
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Be consistent. Something I have long known that I needed to adopt, but seems hard to put into place. I like to think of myself as a wanderer, wonderer and nomad, but even those questionable labels need some stability in the real world.
Creating routines in new places. Attacking new goals and failing and falling back only to move forward again. My discipline in running is proving faulty and time keeps slipping out of my hands like dissolved sand.
How to create consistency in fluctuation? Changing jobs, changing cities, changing friends. The trite but true phrase, the only consistent thing in life is change permeates my current state.
A will to determine the way things I ought to want to sought to be.
Looking forward to the evolution of myself, looking back at the past with near-sighted nostalgia. Improving and living fully every step of the way. And most of all to be able to relax amidst the fluctuation.
Friday, January 13, 2012
This week has been a pretty good week. I am settling nicely here in Portland and finding my way to good things. I started rehearsing with Living Stages, a theatre of the oppressed based community theatre troupe. It feels so nice to be doing TO again. I feel a deep emptiness inside me that I am not working with youth or adults right now as a facilitator- something I want to change soon. In addition to getting back into TO, I also saw two remarkable, moving pieces of art this week.
The first was Collapse at Third Rail Rep. I went to see their free dress rehearsal, and I was blown away by the acting skills! Last week I met a man who said, "there is a lot of New York in Portland". I initially wanted to scoff, but it seems to be true. There is such great theatre, beer, coffee, arts and culture here. Collapse was a play about, well, collapse. Both metaphorically and literally. The play takes place in Minnesota, where in 2007, the 35W bridge collapsed, killing 13 people. The play uses this event as its starting point, but doesn't mention the actual event until later in the play. The characters, a husband and wife seem to be having trouble conceiving a child. The husband hasn't gone to work in a month, and the wife is worried about getting fired. The hippie new-age sister from California moves in unexpectedly. Her entrance is memorable as she enters the house, much to her sister and brother in law's surprise, claiming "California is fucked! Like anal sex fucked! Not that that is bad or anything....". The sister has just lost her job at a non-profit, and been evicted from here apartment. The overtones of the biggest recession since the Great Depression almost acts as another character in the play.
Later we find out that the husband was on the bridge while it collapsed. He has PTSD, doesn't want to talk about it, but is deeply troubled. The sister and husband get drunk while the wife is trying to salvage her job and not get fired from her law firm. After a series of strange and interesting coincidences, we find out that the husband was on the bridge during the collapse. He fell into the water, trapped by his car. He can't remember how he escaped. The wife was three months pregnant at the time and miscarried a week later.
After the strange coincidences and some minor disasters (which are played very humorously!), the play ends with the couple having a frank talk about their issues. The play ended in such a powerful way, or shall I say line.
The husband says, "How do we not collapse?"
Wife, "I am not sure we can. I think we need to learn how to fall together"
The play's ending resonated with me strongly. Any relationship is bound to have its rough patches and I feel like this question is a valid one. The answer a superb motif on how to survive the rough times, together.
The other amazing piece of art I saw was the documentary Wasteland. Wasteland focuses on Brazilian artist Vik Muniz and his trek back home to Brazil to create portraits of the "pickers" at Jardim Gramacho. Jardim Gramacho is a landfill where the pickers carefully go through all the trash to take out the recycling. The movie is not so much about the artist as these characters at the landfill. They are beautiful, driven, interesting people. What fascinated me most was many of the women talking about how dirty and disgusting the work is, would often also say that it was honest work. They are happy to be there and not walking the streets of Copacabana. Muniz gets to know several of the pickers and creates multi-media portraits of them with the recycled materials. He then donates the proceeds of the art back to the models/pickers. The movie is interesting because class, politics, light skin/dark skin, sex, money and work are all multi-valent forces that make this movie very complicated.
The movie brings up several issues-- is Muniz really helping these people? Does art help people? At the end of the movie we hear that most of the people had left Jardim Gramacho to pursue a better life thanks to the proceeds of Muniz's art. While I loved the film and I am so happy at the success of the art and for the people, I wonder who was left behind? Who is still there? Also, we find out Jardim Gramacho is closing this year, where will the workers go? The movie really made me think about how much art and social practice belong together. Do they have a place and how do they work together to create real change? Real, unalterable change, not a bandaid. This question often is in my mind. I love doing theatre of the oppressed and I know that in rehearsals seeing youth/adults SEE, VISUALIZE AND IMAGINE new futures can be radical and life-changing. But sometimes I feel like it is a dead-end path. You can't help everyone, you can't change everything. But on the other hand, there has to be people trying to change the world, offering what they can and doing what they can.
Complacency is the enemy of resistance and social change.
I am moving through the week feeling inspired with thoughtful questions and the desire to do something.
Also, I have started running. One day, hopefully in the not-so-near future, I will participate in a sprint triathlon. There is a long story behind it, one that I would love to share if I can accomplish my goal. For now, I have started running. I am not in particularly good shape (an erroneous assumption people make, thin= in shape) and historically have hated running. This week I have made it to 1.5 miles. This is not amazing, but very cool considering on the spectrum of athleticism I am considered a couch potato. I enjoy running at night, when the air is crisp, the streets are empty and I can think and feel each footstep hit the ground. In a very De Cearteau-ian way, I am discovering the city more through my jogs. I've found new places, new parks, new adventures. The running seems to help my mental sanity while also creating a much needed physical space for me.
Moving into the week, I plan to stay focused and inspired.
Monday, January 9, 2012
who says you can't do anything
sometimes I just want to be a kid again
not worry about any of this stuff
I got my food stamps today
I went to the store and pretended it was xmas
so much food
gluttonous and dirty
inhaling every breath of creativity
but transforming into abstract expression
desire still ranks #1, with confusion a close second
I must remember that life is not a race, but sometimes it feels like
I want to think outside of myself.
To take a vacation from my brain.
how to get a way from one's self?
how to move through one's self to another?
my heart is a home, with three locations
my head is a cabinet of ponderings
wandering and wondering
seeking and reaching
utterly useless statements
that fall on the blank page like hard cement.
just give me something real.
what makes a person cry?
such a strange and mysterious thing tears are.
cleansing and absolving
working through that sadness
I listen for the song to call to me.
wait my turn to enter.
believe in what each note tells me is true.
the music of life, always so sharp
sometimes not a chorus, but a solo.
rarely too, a collaboration.
Monday, January 2, 2012
Tony Kushner's play Angels in America is a must read for any theatre major. When I was in college, I remember hearing the hype over it. When it finally came time to sit down and read the play, I was fascinated by the characters, the interweaving of history and the psycho-magical aspects of the play. However, at the time of reading I was so curious to see it staged. My imagination took me so many places, but I couldn't quite see it.
Angels in America, Part 1 at Portland Playhouse was close to perfect. The stage was mostly bare, with only essential props. The actors were astounding, moving and fierce and knew their characters well. The actor playing Roy Cohn even had a broken arm, something that didn't seem to detract from his performance in the least. The music was the part that could have been a bit better. The sound design was mostly of cliched 80's songs, that I felt did not agree with the intensity of the play. The play, while having humorous, magical moments, is a serious play. A play about the AIDS crisis, and homosexual life in New York City. But the play is about so much more and it is hard to describe everything that Kushner puts you through as an audience member.
In the production at Portland Playhouse, Wade McCollum plays Prior Walter. McCollum, a wonderfully vibrant and versatile actor, is so moving as Prior. Prior, a gay man in New York City learns that he has AIDS. In the play, his boyfriend of 4.5 years leaves him while he is in the hospital sick, because he can't handle it. The scene in which Prior (McCollum) wakes up in the hospital bed, alone is chilling. The frightening sense of loneliness and longing that pervades the scene is palpable. The man he loves, his partner has left him--while he is sick --and is nowhere to be found. Louis' (the boyfriend) actions are egregious, but Noah Jordan plays him so well, that the audience almost has the slightest faint of sympathy for him. The whole play is wrought with death, mortality, longing, love, history, confusion and identity. Portland Playhouse's production did a wonderful job of taking this complicated play and keeping it honest. Even the most hated characters like Roy Cohn had an heir of charm. The actors, direction, and minimal stage affects proved affective and very moving.
During the play, I am reminded of how many problems we still have today. The play takes place in 1985, but a lot of the issues are still omni-present. AIDS is killing everyone, not just gay men. Homophobia is still as present as ever, if not worse with the talks of 'equal rights'. History is the lingering ghost in our present and future, something we cannot deny. Angels in America is moving insofar that it asks the audience to get uncomfortable. Kushner does not shy away from sex, religion and politics, and brings it to the forefront of his plays and Portland Playhouse did a wonderful job of showcasing this very deep, intricate play into something real and palpable.