On Tuesday, October 1, I performed fortunes with Anne Carol Mitchell for The News hosted by Kolmel WithLove. I don't have too many words to say. It was a moment better left in other people's words, memories, and sideways glances. The photos above were taken before and after the reading. They represent the its transitory nature as both sets were taken on buses. They are simply snapshots of reflections and refractions.
On Friday, September 27th, Star Amerasu hosted tea time for performers interested in contributing to In Flux, a night gallery. In Flux is an interactive exploration and documentation of change in these times of accelerated development and incessant fluctuation. Using performance, photography, community and healing arts, and the platform of a block party, In Flux invites the audience to engage directly with the documentarians of change: artists, journalists, musicians, writers, dances, neighbors, and healers.
Over baguettes, dips, fruit, and beers, Star and I chatted with two performers -- Shirley Acuna and Michael Carpentino -- about the themes of change and how to create a more refine narrative through-line. Ideas of acceptance, perseverance, hope, pushing through all emerged as we noshed and contemplated. We pondered on how while change is a constant it is experienced singularly, and how it connects us despite and/or because of this paradox. In the calm of a Friday evening, we discovered a collective experience.
It seems the theme, In Flux, hits a nerve; it succinctly names our collective experience. It doesn't judge; it doesn't condemn; it doesn't exalt. Rather, it simply puts into words what is occurring.
Our exploration, though, left a word unnamed, one I hadn't even pondered until the fog rolled in.
As I now sit on a mossy stump at Land's End, the Monday morning fog clears my head. It's exactly the kind of Monday I love. I am furiously scribbling in a notebook, which wasn't originally purchased for me. The words race across the page and my mind starts to empty. I am reflecting on on Friday's contemplation over baguettes, dips, fruit, and beer, and I am also holding in my heart the morning news from friends' feeds
-- Caribbean nations suing for reparations, Republicans trying to shut down government, youth movements creating peace in Pakistan, personal reflections on anger and compassion. All this clatter turns to silence, and then there is the word: RESISTANCE.
And it dawns on me: Yes, we are having a collective experience of change; we are also experiencing a moment of polarizing resistance.
I have no real answers to any of this pondering. I only know that In Flux is some sort of manifestation, response, documentation, exploration of both change and its counter-point, resistance.
So...PLEASE join us -- Star, Shirley, Michael, Open Show, Livable Environments, and 14 Black Poppies -- in this contemplation, exploration, and documentation! Please join us for IN FLUX on THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7 from 6PM to 10PM. We can always use more voices, hands, and words.
And...for extra viewing pleasure, here are some snapshots from my stump:
Yesterday, December 16, 2012, my life long dream of performing with a band came real. I collaborated with Sadie Sonntag and Jesus Contreras of The Vespertine Orchestra to create a musically literary performance of my original poem, "the unfinish line". It took us about three months for the collaboration to come to fruition, and it included creating the music, rehearsing, refining the music, more rehearsal, and lots of bacon and eggs (Thanks Sadie!).
I was a nervous wreck before the show, which I am fairly certain folks couldn't perceive. I am good at hiding my nerves behind a smile and friendliness. Nevertheless, it was there underneath everything and diverted my attention to detail. It also made eating impossible.
As I sidled up to the mic and took center stage, the butterflies flew away. I was left with a fairly empty shell from which the performance could emerge. It was a strange feeling literally witnessing this transformation of self from somewhere outside of my body. For but a moment, I was in the audience looking back at me, and I saw in my eye a glint of sadness.
It wasn't the kind of sadness that overwhelms or overtakes. It wasn't the sadness of loss or grief. It wasn't the sadness of nostalgia. Rather, it was the sadness that can only come from art; the kind of sadness that is expressed by the transcendence words and music and performativity. It was the sadness of being.
I became that poem in that moment and within me was all of the conflict and despair and turmoil and hope contained within "the unfinish line"'s words, music, and theatricality. It was a moment of transformation of space, time, audience, and performer.
As I looked out at the audience, I saw people absorbed, clinging to every moment, closing eyes to feel that transformation. This was a completely new experience for me. While I have been an educator, a facilitator, a writer, a producer, a curator, an emcee, and a reader of my words, I have rarely identified as a performer. In fact, I have shunned that label fearing its power.
I thought "performer" were those drag queens, those musicians, those spoken word artists, those actors, those dancers, those performance artists of whom I have seen on stages big and small, in private and public spaces. They were always larger than life, embodying something different than just self. And really good performers always found ways to inspire and transcend. They were also something to be feared.
For me, I was afraid of the disconnect between the image of performer and who the person really was. I have spent a lot of time, energy, and work on aligning pieces of my self. For many, many years, I felt like different people given my varied interests, my ADHD, my plural identities. These different people while manifest in one physical body were jarring and often made for cycles of depression and mania. I wasn't bi-polar. But I did have high peaks and deep valleys. It became exhausting.
I watched some friendships deteriorate from my constant cycles. I even stopped talking to my family for a number of years as a result of needing to find "me". It was painful to lose friends, good and dear friends, and it was even more gut-wrenching to not speak to my parents. Still, these were necessities on my path of seeking balance, finding peace, and ultimately healing. And I still mourn the loss of those friends, and I can never reclaim those lost years when not speaking to may parents.
Now, as I become more a performer, I fear disconnecting from my self in order to "perform". I don't want to lose the ground I have made in integration, in becoming me. I fear falling back into cycles of peaks and valleys.
Over the last month, I have performed four times. It is a record for me. I have read and revealed an Ex Libris De Corpus story, performed a Ritual of Scripture, read a piece about Passing Midnight, and performed "the unfinish line". This last performance (on Sunday with The Vespertine Orchestra) was the most risky as it was the most out of my comfort zone. It combined elements of which I have never worked, mainly music. It was also the most authentic to my self.
The person I saw with sadness in his eyes wasn't a disconnection as in my youth. Rather, it was a realization of the person I am: a complex, multi-faceted, pluralistic, interdisciplinary artist/writer/PERFORMER. And contained within that person is a range of emotions, perspectives, beliefs. All I need is spaces for manifestation.
Sunday (and all of December) has been a manifestation of my self as performer. And I have realized in a very bodily way that the performers that I have admired over the years also perform from that place of authentication and alignment. It's taken years for me to realize and manifest this. I am still unsure and scared and hopeful about where I am going. I also feel the most alive I have ever felt. And that is in large part thanks to taking the risk of become a performer.
And best of all? I have a whole slew of friends who are supporting this manifestation. Without them, I couldn't be me.
Photos from A Dark December Night with The Vespertine Orchestra
The Dawn is almost here, and I am tickled blue. Well, I am also terrified. This is my first on-stage performance with OutLook Theater Project. Sure, I have been a part of the ensemble for almost three years. But I have been mostly behind the scenes helping with organizational development, programming, creative audience engagement, and marketing.
Now, I take center stage with an interactive performance piece exploring life, death, and the afterlife as the dawn breaks.
To create my piece, I administered an online survey and asked people to share their beliefs in the form of writing prompts. The first prompt was, "When I die...". The second was, "In the beginning...". And the last was, "As the dawn breaks...".
I am transforming these responses into Psalms. I am creating a ritual of hope, pluralism, and connection. I am hoping to reveal a singularity of time, space, and belief. I want to witness the dawn break at 6:30pm on a dark Saturday evening.
I also received a post from my dear friend Dan in Berlin via Facebook. It was his response to the questions. He shared a video of Margaret Atwood speaking about religion. She speaks about story versus dogma within the interview. I have turned that snippet into a closing reflection. And I thought I would share it all with you. Take a listen below.
AND...Join me for my performance THIS SATURDAY (12/8) at 5pm at Progressive Grounds Mission (2301 Bryant Street, SF).
On SATURDAY, December 1st, I hosted a very special Mission Arts and Performance project happening at Progressive Grounds. It included a special performance by Star Amerasu, profiled right here on the 14 Black Poppies Blog!
Star is simply amazing. I have fallen headfirst for her vocal and musical talent. And it is fabulous to watch her grow as a performer and musician. I feel honored to know her right now because I really think she is going to be big.
I captured this simple video of her performing an original song. Check it out. Not just for the talent that Star is but for the message she sings.
About the Blog
The 14 Black Poppies Blog is the place to find creative works, personal reflections, articles and various arts and wellness sundries that either inspire or are created by co-founders Jason Wyman and Margaret Bacon Schulze.