I Love My Life! (at least for the next 10 seconds)


Today I was in yoga teacher training after 5+ hours of working on devised theatre with 22 teens and some super talented adults.  And though I am so tired I keep walking into walls, forgetting things, adding things wrong, I am also grateful for the day.

Working backward, since I just returned from yoga teacher training, I have to say, where do these women come from?  I ordered a bunch of blankets and blocks in bulk for us, and I’m basically dealing yoga materials out of the back of my car, and everyone is so conscientious about giving me money, and trying to be generous about the better colors, or the better quality blankets, and I’m so spacey I walk away from the money with the trunk and car open and someone stays with it…I never really understood why I took this training and I still don’t, except that I really like being around these people.

Then, the yoga philosophy discussion was great.  Like church, just listening to what each person utilizes to pull him or herself toward the light, whatever that light is–but definitely non-harming.

And all this followed a day of coordinating the monologues and scenes the students wrote themselves with movement we’d found accidentally in improvisation with them, and watching it work, watching it fall into place, deep, sweet, young, holding every poignant thing about life.

So, for today, I love my life.  Even though I bought all these yoga materials thinking I was going to leave theatre behind in some way, and now I had a waiting list for my last acting class, registration coming in for fall, a new potential opportunity for a fall collaboration, auditions, etc.  So it seems like many of the blankets, straps, mats, etc might not get much use.  But, oh well.  I still get to love everything, to be doing the exact right thing, right purpose, right moment, right life.

I’m about to post on the yoga teacher training facebook why people should come to this teen show.  Not to support me.  But because it looks to be so magical and funny and moving, that the human experience of watching will be rare and full of wonder.

I’ll go back to complaining and having aversions and everything tomorrow.  After I get some f$#%ing sleep.

Chasing the Firebird…OR, Being an Artist


I’m going to start in an odd place.  Once a student of mine, who had been a professional actor for ten years at that point and worked at LORT theatres all over the country, told me that when he graduated from college he told himself that if he could just make a living in theatre, he’d be happy.  If he could work consistently and find joy in that, it was enough.

He was not chasing the firebird.  He was living a daily life.  What he said struck me because it was so unlike my own attitude, and unlike most of the artists I’ve known.  I have made a living as an arts teacher and artist for over 20 years, but I pursued the firebird, dreamed of catching it, dreamed of fame, money, the most prestigious prizes, the most enormous impact.

This is what we do.  I’ve watched the auditions for American Idol, with all the young artists crying, saying, “This has to happen, this is my dream,” and the sheer numbers of them have caused me to see the firebird whirling over their heads.  She’s beautiful, elusive, often impossible.  They see her so clearly; she calls to them like a siren.  They know if they touch her, they will be Dave Matthews, or Prince or Beyonce.  It will happen, they can feel it.

There’s a short story by Lorrie Moore that I love, called “Becoming a Writer.”  In it she talks about writing, in the middle of the night, the sweat staining the armpits of your shirt, when you know you are a genius.  (Paraphrased…too lazy to go look it up.)

I would like everyone reading this to know that I am, in fact, a genius.  I knew this when I was 15 and smoking pot every day more clearly than I do now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still believe it.

I am an artist.  As inescapable as breathing, the way creativity flows out through my skin, my voice, the beating of my heart.  I can’t stop making things.  Even this blog–when I’m making nothing else, I have this thing to make.  (And don’t even ask me how often I keep track of the stats of how many people read me.)

I knew that I had to write when I was twelve (I knew about acting at 3, but that got bullied out of me in grade school, so it took a long time to find it again).  I smoked cigarettes and drank wine with poets and painters in Arizona, in Europe, in Asia.  I thought we were a breed apart, somehow better than the rest of humanity.  I thought we were deeper, freer…that we were seekers of truth, that we saw beauty other people missed.  I imagined an artist’s life to be completely unconventional–and I wanted this, because I had always felt so different from everyone around me.  I thought our vision was bigger, less provincial, more catholic in its tastes (not the religion!  the adjective!). I couldn’t understand how anyone, anywhere, would choose another life.

I believed so much in this that I was willing to live with the absolute fact that mostly we were poorer, that we lived on the edge of poverty at times if not always, that we lacked all kinds of safety and security that money brings.

But now, here I am.  Not rich or famous, with the vision of the firebird more a taunt than an inspiration.  Studying Eastern religion to see if or when I went wrong.

I mean, nevermind that I have had so much of what I wanted–travel, adventure, inner seeking.  And more than that–that I have woken up in the morning eager to enter my day, with so much passion for the work and the teaching that I couldn’t wait to get to rehearsal, or class.  I mean, much of my working life I actually couldn’t wait to get to work and couldn’t believe people would actually pay me to show them how to get free, would pay me to talk about what I loved so much–beauty, truth, how to find these things.

But I have gone wrong.  In the last 7 years especially, I have come to see that the name of the firebird, at least for me, is “only rich and famous will do.”  I mean, truly, the realization began to creep up on me somewhere around 2000.  I’d been so ambitious about publishing my novel, with so many “almosts.”  I drove myself mercilessly, revised, revised…and then woke up one day and realized I didn’t want to go to the computer any more.  It was self-punishment rather than joy; I didn’t know how that had happened.

I stopped.  I told myself I wouldn’t write again until I couldn’t wait to get to the computer.

It took a while, but the time came.  Writing is joy now.

But here’s the thing–in one of the yoga/Buddhism books I’m reading, Stephen Cope talks about this pursuit.  He explains that there are two aspects to it–our ideal of who we should be and our ideal of what our life should be.  For some people it’s chasing the perfect love (those people better not come to my house, where neurosis and laughter often dominate).  For others, it’s the dream of being an artist–not a working artist, not someone finding joy in it, but a famous artist.  Angelina Jolie.  Julia Roberts.  Leonardo DiCaprio.  Toni Morrison.

And hell, the truth is, I’d really like to have more success in the future.  I have trouble accepting what my partner says–that I’ve had more than many people and it really should be enough.  I want recognition and to be heard, and I can’t beat that out of me.

So.  It’s okay to want it.  It’s just not okay to say nothing but the firebird will do.

I have learned that the only thing that matters is getting into this moment, right now.  And if I’m creating, and finding joy, if I’m rising up, if the beam of light from the window suddenly locks in and becomes poetry, then yes, I’m an artist, this is what I live for.

The great irony is how the chase for the firebird can make even that moment of living poetry not good enough.

And an even harder truth–making art won’t save me from death, or loss, or betrayal.  It helps me to make meaning from these things, but I still have to learn how to accept them and have peace.  In the end, if I sit with what is, and hold it, then I can hold being an artist, its challenges and joys, much more lightly.  I can want my stories to be heard, I can want to embody what I’ve lived in the characters I play, and I can be here, or anywhere, okay with what is.

Being an artist fills life with joy and light like pouring water into a cup.  But the drink turns dark and bitter so easily–when you can’t pay the rent, when retirement looms and you’re unprepared, when you don’t get the role, when the book doesn’t find a publisher, when you haven’t reached the should in your head for what life will be.

Oh, how life surprises us.  How it wants to strip us down to our own essential immanence and nothing else.  How peace is found when we just let it.

So I return to the student who taught me that a daily life fills you as the firebird can’t.  And I imagine, for those who have caught her, that her touch warms, heats, gets you very high…and then burns.  Which doesn’t mean if she slips away, you won’t crave her again.

I hope I teach my students the joy of the moment–on stage, on the page–as immanence, as the place where light can flow out of us.

And here’s the greatest irony:  the more I let go, the more success I have.

What is with that?

Saint John the Divine in Iowa RETURNS!


I don’t like fast-up productions.  I like to take my time and make sure everything is as perfect as possible.  I like to be over-organized with charts and calendars.  I like to not rush, or have stress or adrenaline.  In the world of theatre, this seems to make me weird (in film, not so much…you have to plan like crazy for film).

But, when the Boston Playwrights Theatre offered me 4 weeks in March, there were 2 people on full go ahead, so I allowed myself to be convinced that a fast-up production wouldn’t drive me insane.  This fits under the category of, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.”

HOWEVER!  While it has driven me crazy, while there has been stress and adrenaline and I have compulsively organized everything trying to make up for lost time, I have also had this kind of weird surrender.  So I’ve watched as things have oddly fallen into place…the hard-working Pattersons coming on for marketing, producing and Assistant Directing, the right cast (my partner, who has never acted, and who is terrified of the stage has somehow ended up in this play, and that felt right while being so irrational it took the limits off all definitions of insanity…but the director loves her and she’s great in the part so…), Julia Short stepping in as director (I love Julia), a sound designer, an actor, a production manager who are so invested in the project for very different reasons.  I am wondering after the hell year of 2011 whether this isn’t a gift.  I keep feeling like in some energetic cosmos weird thing Don is steering this…giving me what I have wanted, which is to tell this story of what it means to love and be human, and to tell it with people who are actively being good to each other.

I miss Don, but he respected Julia a lot, and the last time he and I directed she was our lead actress.  I keep thinking he would be nodding away, happy at her choices, happy with how she sees.  Joan Mejia, who was her co-lead, is playing Jesus, so I should maybe ask him if he’s seeing Don hanging around.  To top it, Alan, who plays my husband, is an actor I met through Don, when Don brought me on to do acting coaching on a sitcom pilot.  A confluence, a coming together…

I do have to admit that I wrote the first draft of the play in a week.  I didn’t sleep much, of course.  But it was really fun to do the adaptation.  I love anything creative–I’m really kind of a one note person, made of little else but creativity–and I love creative challenges, when you have limits and you have to create new ideas to fit them.  Screen to stage is like that.

Of course, everything about fast-up is terrifying.  Is the play really ready?  (I think it is…)  Are the decisions correct?  Do I have time to settle into my role as an actor?

Or perhaps what is terrifying is this–often theatre production has been very disappointing.  Not slams, they’ve gone well and they weren’t something I was doing for myself anyhow.  But the two times I’ve produced my own work before this were challenging and disappointing.  Often my own fault it turned out that way, or partly my fault.  I couldn’t get what I wanted from a play I loved, because I was so new to producing and I did too much (as I always do).

And now here I am. This story, Saint John the Divine in Iowa, is my watershed work.  I’ve been a writer all my life, and I could never quite get to singing the song at the center of me until I wrote a memoir in 2006-08.  The memoir opened a door out of well-trained crafts person into wildness.  I started to really sing in my own voice.  So…SJDI is my ultimate song.  It’s a song to joy, to healing, to redemption, it’s a belief in love and love’s power, it’s a song to morality and human goodness.  It is frightening to me to think that this fast-up production, full of risk, might not sing the song.  Of course, I’m risking because I think it will.  Obviously.  I’m even thinking these weird thoughts about Don…about leaning back into Don’s belief in me and love for me, and letting that carry me through the hard places that are, of course, inevitable.  Because it’s taken 30 years to get to sing this.  There was dirge in the way, and lament…and while dirge and lament can be beautiful, moving, they tell the story of life’s pain and difficulty, even when there are moments of redemption.  We all know that life is painful and difficult.  But the song of belief in goodness above all things, however idealistic it might seem, is also beautiful.

And me.  Joy is a part of me, along with dirge, lament, cry.

So, the damn play is already funny with these lovely actors.  It’s already beautiful.  I am settling into letting each moment unfold, I am setting into the temporal nature of theatre, making something that happens and then is gone.  Beauty.  A play is a tree dropping its leaves.  Gold on the ground.  Then gone.

Just right.

I Have Been Replaced, Part 2 OR Finally Finding My Way to the Right Job in the Arts


With my usual sense of moderation, I am helping Another Country Productions through the leadership transition, working on the board temporarily, in rehearsals for 2 slam plays (as writer and writer/director respectively), teaching the Full Training, trying to follow our stocks as the market swings like crazy, being sad about Steve Jobs, doing mindbody stuff…

But, as Lyndsay Allyn Hicks and I figure out how to collaborate on this piece I wrote, which is also made work, composed of the body as image, movement, and a little text, as we meet to figure out company transition, then I go to class in a rockin’ good mood and the class is more fun than ever…I start to think, “Yes, finally.”

In other words, I’m having days where what I do for work makes me so happy I could jump.  Up and down.  Repeatedly.

And this is just the beginning.

First of all, I love making work.  I love the wild creativity of all the artists ideas, I love being the person who helps select and shape the visual and the movement, I love not knowing what’s coming next moment to moment, I love the surprise and beauty, I love finding out how creative other people are.  It is pure joy.  When I’m in it, I don’t want to do anything else.

Except that was Tuesday night.  On Wednesday I met with Lyndsay, which I really enjoy.  Which must be about who she is, because I have never enjoyed figuring out business stuff…well, okay, when I’m starting businesses, I enjoy it because it’s creative.  It’s the sustaining of business work that makes me want to pull my hair out.

Anyhow.  The making work rehearsal was Tuesday.  Wednesday, yesterday, I met with Lyndsay and then taught the Full Training in Meisner, which is AS MUCH FUN.  This is my favorite class to teach, because it’s twice a week, and when I get a class like this one, in which the people really bond, and there’s this forward momentum and growing, cascading creativity, as one by one people get it, and sometimes I get to just take a little extra time with one person or another as they get through their blocks…it is also joy.

Then I go home and write on one project or another, or think about actually getting to do Time Stands Still with Julia Short, who, whether she knows it or not, is one of my very favorite artists to work with because she’s direct, reliable and honest as well as talented…

It’s like being let out of prison.  I keep saying to Lyndsay, “I don’t want your job!”  Of course, I’m still technically and practically in the job until December, but freedom is starting to come in waves…like what I’ve always dreamed of, which is to work with artists who share an aesthetic as well as a sense of social justice, might happen and I don’t even have to be the leader!

Artists are so weird.  We know, we absolutely know, that these bursts of freedom come when you work in the arts, or practice an art.  We are attached to them, we want them, we tell ourselves we have to endure all kinds of bullshit to get to them…and we are willing to endure much, because unfettered joy is not something you experience every other minute.  As I grow older, if not more mature, or maybe even more mature, I know that you can’t force those times of unfettered joy, and you can’t hold them.  All you can do is set the conditions, all you can do is get out of the way.

The conditions:  like-minded people who are not consumed by ego, who care about having fun and about each other, who understand the container for the work is held by everyone involved.  The conditions:  taking only the jobs that feel right to you.  The conditions for one Lyralen Kaye:  not clinging to producing as the only way to create the conditions.  Because guess who hates producing and being responsible for everything?

Metta for Lyndsay, who has a real vision and passion for the work she plans to do.  Metta for everyone at Another Country, that we may continue to set the conditions so joy may have its way with us and leave us pleasantly exhausted and satiated in its wake.

That sounds so sexy.  And I suppose it is.  Joy is just so, so sexy.

Metta for me, as I grow up or not, as I am joyful in one day or another, in between freaking out about couples therapy and other things that matter less when there is joy.

Right Now, Today, It’s All about WRITING


I thought of doing a 7 day stint in which I did not allow myself to talk about therapy.  But we’re seeing the Sheepdog on Monday, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to stick to it.

But in the meantime…

I’ve spent some of the last few days writing and rewriting plays.  I wrote FEMALE GERIATRIC ZOMBIES UNITE and then played with it some, I revised THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD, PART 1, and I also did some work on VESSEL OF GLASS.

Of course this means nothing to you, dear reader, but to me…well, I wrote a comedy about an insane director and her equally insane assistant director as they cast a play for a demographic they don’t…well, enjoy.  Then I revised an expressionist movement piece about grief and awakening.  I know that the Buddha didn’t come to his awakening through grief–it was compassion that led him to explore his own mind to find an end to suffering.  But I have awoken through grief, as most of us do (if we awaken), so I wrote a Buddhist piece about grief.  In it, a child is tortured by her own mind, the equivalent, for us contemporary people, of Mara (who tortured the Buddha).  I always think that if you’re going to write about human suffering, you have to balance the content with form and language that is utterly beautiful.  Maybe I’m strange, but I think sorrow can be beautiful.  Think of the arias sung by Maria Callas, or the tragedies of Shakespeare.  Darkness is more about refusing to suffer when that is what life happens to serve up.  Refusal is addiction, is acting out, is sadism, is going unconscious about who we are and how we go about getting what we want.  So yes, accepting suffering without self-pity is beautiful.

Finally, I worked on a rewrite of Vessel of Glass.  I have more work to do since a couple years ago I had a staged reading at the Nora Theatre, and there were lots of suggestions (most of which I disagreed with, but not all) that I need to incorporate without ruining the poetry of the language.  Yes, perfectionism again.  I want every word in everything I write to be rhythmically correct.  No weird sounds, no odd repetitions–it’s like all writing is poetry and every word, every sound, every consonant and vowel…counts.  Or you lose the song in the language.

When I write, the world disappears and it isn’t that I’m all lost in story, it’s that I’m lost in the concentration of making meaning clearer and beauty…just making beauty.  It’s miraculous, to enter this place, to get to feel the expression of what is inside me.  In Vessel of Glass, three women try to love each other, and the obstacles to the love are difficult.  The first and youngest woman has been abused, the second is a closeted lesbian nun and the third is a menopausal mother superior who had no idea she could want a child or that this particular child would show up on her doorstep.

Writing about nuns forced me into dealing with the sacred.  I was at Brandeis University on a scholarship in playwriting, and my workshop leader said, “If you have a character who is a nun, you must deal with the question of faith and God.”  I was like, “Shit.  How did I get myself into this one?”

He was right.  I am so grateful, and I am glad to be in it.  Religion, which I often hate, is nevertheless always about people trying to be better and find meaning, no matter how misguided they are.  It’s to easy to create beauty when people are trying to be better, even when they fail–no, especially when they fail and realize it (remember, sorrow accepted is beauty).

You know, all my life I have wanted to be a bird.  I wanted to grow wings, I wanted to soar like Icarus, I wanted the lift and heave in my muscles, in my body–when I do yoga, I love half moon, or handstand…any asana that takes me up and away from gravity.  Writing lifts me like that.  Not just any writing.  It has to be creative, it has to be art, it has to have poetry.

There’s a Pablo Neruda poem called POETRY that talks about this.  Here’s a part of it:

I wrote the first faint line,

faint, without substance, pure

nonsense,

pure wisdom

of someone who knows nothing,

and suddenly I saw

the heavens

unfastened

and open,

planets,

palpitating plantations,

shadow perforated,

riddled

with arrows, fire and flowers,

the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,

drunk with the great starry

void,

likeness, image of

mystery,

felt myself a pure part

of the abyss,

I wheeled with the stars,

my heart broke loose on the wind.

This is why we write, late at night, early in the morning, whenever we can.  Nevermind the bill collectors, the houses we could have owned earlier, the trips we might have taken, children we might have had.  Nevermind the food we couldn’t buy in one year or another.  Nevermind the relationship troubles as we try to serve this god of beauty, of terrible truth.   Nevermind.  I am soaring, falling, I am lifted up, I am a bird, I have escaped the cage of daily life and nothing can ever be the same; I will never go back to being grounded in any permanent way, I will never forget, never give this up…I will stay in the wind, alive, awake and so….

I write.  I lift a pen.  I say a word.

Let there be Light.

Create.

And we are one.

Metta for everyone who loves beauty, who picks up a pen, who says a word, who dances, sings…whether in public or private.  The one extending gesture…I do this because I believe in the world still, in spite of every darkness, in spite of every flaw.

I believe.  That our beauty may save us.  One of these days.