Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Princess Grace & Personal Statements/Emerging

Each year, Princess Grace offers the gift of reflection-- a moment to look into the river and ask questions about where I am, what I am doing, and what is important to me. And also, at least to myself, an opportunity to shape this word "emerging", which troubles me when it precedes the description "artist".

Specifically, this is what Princess Grace asks me:

Please describe, in your own words, your views and expectations of your role as a theater artist now and in the future. Please elaborate on your “emerging status” and how you plan to utilize this fellowship.

I am not certain my answers in response (more questions) are what she is looking for, but they come from the images that formed when I first read the prompt above.

I post my statement here because it might reveal something personal about me, but, more importantly, maybe it offers a beginning place to think about what "emerging" means (a small ripple in the water?).

In any case, I am thankful to the Princess Grace Foundation for their continued support of artists, for the opportunity to share my work with them, and for the questions they lead me to.

Thank you as well to all of the wonderful people (souls?) who have worked on Radio Ghosts with me, which is the work I applied with this year, and the inspiration for some of my statement below.


I started running recently, and the world has become bigger.

Also: “Please share with us a story or illustration of something or someone you have lost. Thank you.”

The running wasn’t planned. Last summer I turned 35, compelling my commitment to take better care of myself. So I started walking and stretching. After walking, daily, for several months, my body wanted more—it wanted to surpass its present limit. I could feel my muscles pitching me forward, harder. So I got some running shoes, because what is more important than listening to our bodies?

This invitation of sharing loss, described above, was hand-written on a single, folded, piece of paper, which we placed on each of the 25 chairs set out for the audience of New Leaf Theater’s workshop staging of Radio Ghosts. We wanted everyone in the room to participate deeply— to be listened to while risking something profoundly personal. It wasn’t enough that we were all in the room together—I wanted us all to go through something, for the conversation to work in all directions. Through shared expression, I wanted the full communitas of the event to bring us all someplace new.

And this running has taught me that I wasn’t working as hard as I thought I was at my writing—a disappointing discovery and a moment of hope. Because now, even when that knife is in my side, even when I have nothing left, I keep going. And each time, I can carry the pain a little further than last time. Am I still talking about running? I know that my body is different.

The audience handed their stories and illustrations of loss to two of the actors, who placed them in a lidded box, setting the box carefully on two sides of the playing space. Later in the play, the audience, seated in an intimate circle around the performers, directly experienced the journey of their stories. This time, the actors pulled the stories from their safe place, lovingly placing each one on the ground, leaning their faces close to each story, listening deeply to each gift of loss. This is how two of the characters then spoke to each other—through the paper that held the audience’s stories. And how two of the characters were kept from reaching each other—the papers on the ground creating an ocean they are unable to traverse. From this moment, the audience was different. They were profoundly engaged, they were nervous, they were thrilled, they were terrified, they were deeply inside of it because they were creating it.

And this is how I want each thing, running and creating, to continue reminding the other: committed, difficult challenge leads to purposeful, surprising transformation.

And this is what emerging means to me—the continued struggle of growing, a deeper discovery of personal truth, an exhausted body breaking-open, clearing the way for an ever-expanding version of self. Within this dedicated journey (and with the Princess Grace Foundation’s support) is my hope that the most truthful way of creating/sharing art emerges, a way that is likely very different from something I presently know, a way I am only beginning to imagine.