The end of a thing.

This past weekend, I closed another show. It had been a while since I’d been on stage – two years – and I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed it: the energy in the dressing room as the clock ticked toward curtain, the palpable excitement in those few, electric moments after “places” are called, waiting in the dark until it’s time to go on. The rush of adrenaline flooding my body when a cue line was dropped, and the sweet relief of recovery when the scene righted itself and moved forward. The utter you-can-hear-a-pin-drop silence when I realized the audience was right there with me, waiting, hanging on every word.

This play, Bare Naked Angels, was markedly different than any other play I’d done before. Autobiographical in nature, more solo performance than ensemble (though, really, a hybrid of both), it featured raw, personal stories from my and the six other cast members’ lives. It was the first time I’d produced a show without reading a script before signing on (our final script wasn’t ready until three weeks before opening night), and I had only a rough idea of the show’s concept and the journey it would take me on when I began.

During the months of workshopping that led up to Bare Naked Angels’ performance dates, my life was hit with a series of jolting events – both good and bad. The closer we got to opening night, the more change swirled in the air around me. It was almost as if by saying yes to this experience, with its leap-without-a-net nature, the universe began to demand more from me. I imagined Madam Universe needling me, saying something like, “Hey kid, don’t think I haven’t noticed what you’ve been doing. Complacency is no longer an option. And if you don’t take action on your own, I’m going to push you into it.”

Push me, she has.  These last few months, my insides have been shifting, a shift that has been echoed in the world around me. I’m not quite sure how to reconcile all I’ve seen and felt and experienced, or how to process what it all means. And to be honest, I haven’t had the time, at least not yet. In the days since the show closed, I have been preparing for an impending office move that will happen while I’m out of town. That’s right – more change – the company I’ve worked at for the last decade is being evicted from our office park, and I’ve been packing up my desk, cleaning, purging, organizing, and attempting to catalogue and archive fifteen years worth of a brand’s history; a history that is inevitably intertwined with my own.

This week, I am thinking about endings. And tomorrow morning, when I settle into my seat on the Boeing 737 bound for the only place I’ve truly ever considered home, I will exhale. I will take some much-needed time. Time to reflect on all that has happened. Time to grieve all that has ended. Time to swim in the sea, time to breathe in the salt air. Time to hug people that I love. And time to listen to what life has been teaching me over these last crazy, chaotic, jolting few months, so that in stillness, I can ask myself that big, looming question, “what’s next?”

Until next time, friends.

(Photo credit:  Instagram.com/AlaskaAir)

Alaska Air

Owning it.

“You own everything that happened to you.  Tell your stories.  If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird:  Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Burned sign

Four months ago, I started work on a new play that is unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It’s a solo performance workshop called Bare Naked Angels, conceived and directed by my friend Stacy Ann Raposa. The workshop is kept to a small group: our cast, which started as eight people and became seven, is on the larger side.

In the beginning, using readings and exercises from Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” to guide us, we each brought in weekly writing assignments to read in front of the group. As the weeks went on, the seemingly pointless ramblings about our day-to-day experiences or random childhood memories evolved into discussions about our hopes and dreams, the events that shaped our lives, and the nature of our identities. As we settled on the stories we wanted to tell on stage in front of an audience, we each emerged with a strong point of view about how we see the world.

BNA recolored group shot

I began this process with a clear idea of the story I wanted to tell. These last few years, my life has contained an inordinate amount of darkness. I didn’t want to dwell on that. I wanted to tell a story that was uplifting, that was about survival, about hope triumphing over despair. I wanted to tell a story that was more beautiful than what I’d been living. A story that I would want to read, that I would want to hear.

Like many things in life, the place I ended up arriving at was far different than the one I had envisioned when I began this journey. It turned out that I wasn’t so much writing the story as the story was writing me. And gradually, I learned to submit to that process, to let my words come out the way they wanted to, the way they needed to. Without judging them, without censoring myself, without worrying what other people would think. To just let it be what it was: the truth.

When the writing was done, Stacy (our director), took the seven intimate, honest, and (dare I say) incredibly brave stories written by our cast, chopped them up, and wove them together to create something beautiful: an achingly true script that is essentially a solo performance/ensemble piece hybrid. With only three days left until the show’s opening night, I’m equal parts exhilarated and exhausted.

BNA Publicity Shot recolored

To be honest, I have no idea how audiences are going to receive this show. I hope they love it as much as I do, but there’s really no way to tell with something like this. There is certainly nothing “escapist” about Bare Naked Angels. It puts real life in your face and dares you not to look away. Yet it’s also full of so many sweet, profound, heartbreakingly human moments. Ultimately, like the story I wanted to tell – and which, in large part, I think I did – I believe that this show will leave audiences feeling hopeful and with a greater connection to their own lives.

So here we go. It’s time to jump into the deep end of the pool and hope I can swim. Wish me luck.

P.S. – If you’re in the Los Angeles area and you want to come see this thing go down, I would love to have you. The flyer is below, and everything else you need to know can be found at www.fringetheatreco.com

Thanks for reading, friends.  I promise to let you know how it goes.

angels_unabated_poster

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