The Sight of the Stars

May 10, 2013

This is the script for a cabaret I wrote as part of an acting class given by Richard Perez of the Bloomington Playwrights Project in 2003. I performed it twice. I would love to perform it again.

The Sight of the Stars
For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream. ~Vincent van Gogh

 

(Darkness)

Lights up.

(Lights are dim)

(To audience)

Can you see me? Ok, great.

I have this particularly useless form of second sight. I dream of things that later come to pass. Sometimes in a week, sometimes in a few months, but while it’s happening in this world I remember the dream.

The only problem is, it’s never anything particularly exciting. It’s always something like “I’m putting a can of corn into the grocery cart and my knee itches.” Now really, what is the point of being able to foresee that??

I have another kind of precognition, of course, the kind most people have. Future-vision. The sight of certainty. The sight where I envision the future and know it will come to pass, simply because everything in my past points to it.

(Jumps up, spotlight)

I was gonna be a STAR (A Star is Born pose) on Broadway. (Break pose) I was born with a spirit of fire, and I tell people on that first day I sang instead of screaming.

I started singing professionally at age 11. “You’re going places, kid,” the adults would say, their eyes shining, hungry for some piece of my success, eager to hang on to the tail of my shooting star, desperate to cling to my afterimage and somehow make it theirs.

They didn’t need to tell me; I knew. I knew with the ardor of the true believer.

I’m twelve. “I’m going to IU for my degree – you know they have the best music school in the country – then I’m going to New York. I’ll starve for two years and then I’m going to make it.”

Can you see me? Augh, I could see it all, see it as clearly as I could see myself, sometimes more so. And I believed. I was young, I was lit from within, and I was Hungry.

I Sing The Body Electric

(Lyrics Dean Pitchford, Music Michael Gore; From the movie Fame)

I sing the body electric
I celebrate the me yet to come
I toast to my own reunion
When I become one with the sun

And I’ll look back on Venus
I’ll look back on Mars
And I’ll burn with the fire of ten million stars
And in time
And in time
We will all be stars

I sing the body electric
I glory in the glow of rebirth
Creating my own tomorrow
When I shall embody the earth

And I’ll serenade Venus
I’ll serenade Mars
And I’ll burn with the fire of ten million stars
And in time
And in time
We will all be stars

We are the emperors now
And we are the czars
And in time
And in time
We will all be stars

I sing the body electric
I celebrate the me yet to come
I toast to my own reunion
When I become one with the stars

And I’ll look back on Venus
I’ll look back on Mars
I’ll burn with the fire
Of 10 million stars
And in time 
And in time
And in time
And in time
And in time
And in time
We will all be stars

Throughout high school my star was ascendant. I sang at weddings, I sang at nursing homes, I sang at sporting events. I sang in countless musicals, choruses, swing choirs, you name it. Always with the leading role, always with the solo, always the STAR.

My spirit, my ambition, my burgeoning mental illness, and my Catholic messianic fervor all swirled together so by my senior year I believed my light would change the world. Just by the power of my singing I could transform the world’s dross into gold.

(Light intensifying)

Let me envelop you with my sound, let me purify you with my fire – give me your sorrows and your suffering and I will bear it, I will suck it into the inferno of this heart crowned with thorns and I will transfigure it into divine splendor. For I am a chosen one, I am blazing, I am righteous, I am strong, I am swift, I am hard, I am brittle, I am break-ing.

(Lights down)

(Silence.)

There was a long period of silence. No singing. No light. Years of darkness. Years of grey.

Present became past. The Wheel turned. I learned to live again.

(Lights up a bit)

(beat)

My father’s eyes are hazel. He’s always had problems with his sight – glaucoma, detached retina, you name it. Then on yet another routine surgery he was suddenly blind in one eye. Some degenerative disease; soon the other eye would lose sight, too.

I remember setting on the loveseat with the man I would marry, our fingers intertwined like some Celtic knot – interwoven, solid and sure. Looking at my Cyclops father, a shiver continually running down my spine as I contemplated my all-powerful, all-seeing, all-comprehending dad going blind. One light winking out, then two. Light, then grey, then darkness. Forever.

In that moment I saw my future with crystal clarity – the home I would create with my husband, radiant with love and children and comfy old furniture, furniture I would guide my father around when he and mom came to visit.

But like my other second sight, my future-vision proved useless. Nothing I foresaw came to pass. My father miraculously regained his sight, light from darkness, a solstice sun reborn.

My marriage was not to be.

What is the sound of one soul shr- shred-ding into two? Lights out. Darkness. Out of sight, out of mind, my heart still stops when I see a man with copper-colored hair.

(Lights dim for song)

Angel Eyes

(Lyrics Earl Brent, Music Matt Dennis)

Try to think that love’s not around
Still it’s uncomfortably near
My old heart ain’t gaining no ground
Because my angel eyes ain’t here

Angel eyes, that old devil sent
They glow unbearably bright
Need I say that my love’s misspent
Misspent with angel eyes tonight

So drink up all you people
Order anything you see
Have fun you happy people
The drinks and the laughs are on me

Pardon me but I got to run
The fact’s uncommonly clear
Got to find who’s now number one
And why my angel eyes ain’t here

‘Scuse me while I disappear

(Lights up somewhat)

A fire consumed my apartment complex. Eyes wide in horror I watched the flames leap four stories into a black sky as the people trapped inside flame-filled rooms were screaming, “oh my god, help me, help me, I’m gonna die!” We all saw the future. The future glared back: a living funeral pyre.

The firefighters saved them. Certainty averted again.

The future-vision is never right, because it relies solely on the past. In the future, there are no surprises.

(beat)

Sometimes at night I go outside and just gaze upon the stars. I feel so peaceful, so still. There’s something about the night sky that’s so NOW. I feel enveloped in the honey cloak of the universe, the Goddess who brings peace to the mind and delight to the soul.

Did you know we are made of stardust? Of course you do. And isn’t it odd how we can feel lightyears distant from the person right in front of us and yet so connected to the stars in the sky?

Light out of darkness. The oldest mystery, from the moment we first open our eyes outside the womb. Intertwined, interwoven, in a dance as old as the cosmos.

When I feel my place in that dance, I have no need for the future. Sure on this shining night, I see with my heart what my ancestors saw, praying to the Goddess of Fire,

Every day, every night that I praise the Goddess
I know I will be safe.
I shall not be chased, I shall not be caught, I shall not be harmed.
Fire, Sun, and Moon shall not burn me
Nor lake nor stream nor sea shall drown me.
Fairy arrow cannot pierce me.
I am safe, safe, safe, singing her praises.

O Watch the Stars

(Appalachian folk song)

O watch the stars, see how they run
O watch the stars, see how they run
The stars run down at the setting of the sun
O watch the stars, see how they run

O watch the stars, see how they play
O watch the stars, see how they play
The stars come and play at the end of the day
O watch the stars, see how they play

O watch the stars, see how they run
O watch the stars, see how they run
The stars run down at the setting of the sun
O watch the stars, see how they run

(Lights fade throughout song; fade to black by last line of song)

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Chocolate Paper Suites with Xanax

November 7, 2010

I watched in horror. I remember with horror.

I’ve been incommunicado here due to Chocolate Paper Suites, Krista Detor‘s CD release party, and the prep associated with it. Lara Weaver and I were working with Krista on a dance routine for Middle of a Breakdown that was very hush-hush. Then the show came, leaving me with a sick feeling regarding my performance. Then the DVD arrived, and my worst fears were realized.

I’ve always been a dynamic performer. Even when the singing or acting itself wasn’t stellar, the packaging around it drew the audience in and made it compelling. I remained baffled all during last winter’s Sound of Music performance as to why I could summon neither the technical chops nor the performer glow that helps boost me in my communication with the audience.

I also noticed I was having more difficulty mimicking accents. I noticed my conducting in Kaia was often off. I felt disconnected from my performances. None of it came together for me until the Krista show, however.

For one thing, I couldn’t learn the dance routine. I’m not a dancer, but I can certainly pick up simple steps. This was a mostly straightforward routine. I practiced night and day, facing each direction, in every room in the house—all to simulate the feeling of being in an unknown environment. No matter what I did, I couldn’t nail the steps.

I really liked working with Krista, both on Breakdown and her signature piece, Clock of the World, which was a full Kaia and Janiece Jaffe collaboration. She was relaxed but businesslike through rehearsals, giving just a laid-back four-count in as we started another bit. Just enough chit-chat to break down the walls, with the rest of the time focused on the work. And very generous with her time. It was a big show. I can only imagine how much work went into it.

I wanted to blog about the creative process but, even though virtually no one reads this blog, I wanted to keep the secret about the dance routine. Clock of the World progressed well in Kaia rehearsals and in the one full-group session we had with Krista, so there wasn’t much to report there. But I wanted an outlet for my confusion over my clumsiness and dissociation with Breakdown.

The night of the show, I was nervous as I usually get when I’m on the meds—very little. Sound check was a little bumpy, since we only had one run-through on each piece and we had to stop for technical reasons mid-tune on both of them. So we never got a full run-through with either piece. I wasn’t worried about Clock but was very tense over Breakdown.

I watched the first part of the show, a performance by a former Cirque du Soleil artist. I made it through one suite of Krista’s before my nerves kicked in and I went backstage to run the dance another four thousand times. Lara came back and we ran it repeatedly, with me crying out that we hadn’t run one transition during sound check and how in the hell was I going to do it.

The performance itself went by in a flash, as so often happens. The band and Krista herself were both driving much harder than I’d expected. I tried to put in extra oomph. I knew I made a mistake on the dance but didn’t feel so bad because I thought Krista had, too.

Clock of the World was very well received by the audience but was a bit of a technical mess. The monitor situation was not good and I could hear how Angela’s gorgeous opening solo was not synched with Krista’s gorgeous piano. We eventually did synch up but then hit a major snafu when someone jumped an entrance. There was about a half-second delay while the sistahs all adjusted in their own fashion and we eventually pulled it all back together. This is the joy of doing live performance—you never know what’s going to happen so you have to be able to react very quickly and stay on your toes. No coasting.

A few weeks later I got the DVD from CATS. I watched myself in horror. On Breakdown, I looked like some kind of zombie. I felt disconnected just watching myself. I felt like someone else had taken over my body and turned it into this grotesque, jerky thing that was totally out of synch with Lara and Krista. I didn’t smile, didn’t emote, didn’t shine.

Clock of the World wasn’t much better. I actually tried on that song to communicate some emotion, but my body remained still and my face communicated nothing.

I know most performers hate to watch themselves on playback but I’m not one of them. I usually am pleased with what I see, even while being hyper-critical of my performance overall. But in this case, the only word that applies is “horrified.” I look like a zombie. I look like not-me. I look like someone totally disconnected from the experience. And—worst thought of all—I think I am.

Due to my buffet of mental health issues, I’m on an interesting cocktail of meds, the central one being Xanax. It’s to manage my sometimes crippling anxiety. It smooths things out so my highs (such as they were) aren’t so high and my lows aren’t so low. Everything remains in this grey zone.

I’m more stable mentally than I’ve been in over a decade. I’m able to function on a daily basis with regularity. But who knew the price I would pay?

I’m convinced that the meds have slowly but surely eroded my creative self. The loss of my creative abilities has been slow but steady, to the point now where I have a hard time just memorizing lyrics. I can’t seem to hold onto anything—it all just slips away in the grey.

My shrink won’t change the cocktail because it’s stabilized me so much and she doesn’t want to mess with it now. Her philosophy is to keep the patient stable for a year before looking at changing the meds again. I feel that this essential part of myself has been torn from me—no, it’s more that it’s floated away from me. Away into the greyness, with tendrils whispering back towards me like a grey ghost’s shroud.

Once I saw the video, I was convinced. But, as chance would have it, I then ran across a video from 2007 when I was performing in the Blizzard at the BPP. Sure enough, there I was. Bright, present, aware, dynamic. Hard evidence that something has drastically changed.

I decided to push myself and see if I could make some of the old magic come back. At two Kaia gigs I pushed energy outward from my torso into my extremities, trying to use my arms and legs to communicate the rhythm and meaning of the songs. I could keep it up for a little while, but then would lapse back into grey. It takes an inordinate amount of concentration to keep the energy up.

The whole thing has distressed me considerably, of course. Apart from the impact on my creative outlets, it also impacts my creative work in my job. That’s not something I want to go into here but it’s been a concern.

The meds have made me into a stable person. If I’d been born with stable chemistry, would I be creative at all? Am I now who I’m supposed to be? Because that person ain’t much fun. And she certainly ain’t having too much fun.

The whole role of the meds in my life makes me question my identity on a fundamental level. If we changed the chemical cocktail, would I become a different person? What if I were a different person for each recipe? If that’s the case, who am I really?

I don’t see any easy answers. I don’t see any answers at all, just suppositions in the grey. I wish I could get my self back but without the craziness. I know there’s a stereotype of the tortured artist, but I think it’s B.S. I don’t think it’s necessary to be mentally ill in order to create. On the contrary, mental illness can cripple creativity—permanently. Is there a way to be me, with full access to my creative gifts and skills, and be well? Perhaps that’s a question for my psychiatrist. I have no answers here in the valley of the grey.


BloomingPlays ends

May 22, 2010

Tonight marks the end of the BloomingPlays experience for me. I just got back from the cast party (thanks to Gabe and Brett for hosting!), even though there are 2 more performances to go.

Overall it was a very positive experience. I learned a lot; chiefly, I am not a playwright! That takes a special kind of writer and that I am not.

It was fun and frustrating to hear the final reading of our play the other night. Fun in that the fabulous actresses (Holly and Margot) brought so much intensity to the script and frustrating in that we still didn’t get the equality of the characters that we were going for. That tells me that there’s something lacking in the script, rather than something lacking in the acting.

I’m a bit miffed about how the process ended up. We were told before the final workshop which shows were going to be produced, so it was kind of a letdown to try and bring enthusiasm to the last two written iterations of the script.

Then, when it came time for the festival itself, it was presented as four plays. They got all the PR. No one knew about the free readings of the other 4 plays (Caretakers among them) that happened Wednesday night. The complete info wasn’t even on the home page of the website.

The email promos were little better, with the name of our play wrong and the synopsis uncorrected.

But most painful of all was reading the program tonight and seeing no mention of our play or of ourselves as playwrights. I thought we were part of the BloomingPlays series. Apparently only the 4 produced plays were considered part of the series. The readings were just considered something…else. They don’t fit in to any category.

Enough bitching. It was good to work with Lori and it was spectacular to go through the workshopping process. I learned a lot. And I stand in awe of those real playwrights who are able to create actual theatre with their work. Thanks to the BPP for making it all happen!


Caretakers staged reading 19 May

May 12, 2010

Finally, after years of development, Lori’s and my play Caretakers will receive a choreographed reading on Wednesday, 19 May at 8pm at the Bloomington Playwrights Project. I’m not sure if “choreographed” includes Busby Berkley routines, but it would certainly create some interesting theatre. The event is FREE!

Sisters Rose and Pam are estranged after a complicated childhood. The illness of their mother brings them together. But what ensues is something neither expected.

Intrigued?? I hope so. Our play will be read along with Things to Believe In by Josie Gingrich & Gayle Gingrich (an interesting investigation of what motivates people to do good) and The Good Daughter by Brenda Hiatt Barber (an amusing snapshot of family competition at its best).

All the pieces have been extensively workshopped and are really good. So please come out and enjoy the goodness! (Did I mention it’s free?)

For more info, see newplays.org. Thanks!


Caretakers verdict in

December 3, 2009

Caretakers (formerly Kindred), the short play that Lori and I wrote, survived its second table reading at the BPP’s BloomingPlays series. The feedback was much more enthusiastic than the first reading, so we must have done something right in our re-write!

What was interesting to watch was how vested audience members were in either character. There are only two characters in the play and we’ve created them to be relatively equally sympathetic. That leaves audience members rooting for one or the other, sometimes vehemently.

The play revolves around the decision to bring Mom (who’s just had a stroke) back into her home and have Pam move in and take care of her. Pam’s sister Rose is willing to handle the financial and logistical details from afar (she lives in another state) if Pam will give the hands-on care. Pam doesn’t want to give up her life to take care of Mom—but neither does Rose. What’s a caring daughter to do?

All the plays in the workshop series were supposed to be read once more in January, but new artistic director Chad Rabinovitz decided to cut it short. He cut one play from the series, chose two that will receive full productions, and chose two that will receive staged readings. Caretakers falls into that last group.

Lori and I are disappointed that we don’t get another shot at development, but what’s a playwright to do in this sitch? We’re now faced with the question of whether to do another re-write of the play. Re-writes are due 03 January—closing night of Sound of Music. (I’m nunning and Lori’s stage managing.) With the heavy workload of rehearsals and performances this month, I just don’t see how we’ll have the time to do any more.

I guess I’m also irritated because we were told from the start that plays would be selected for development in part based on the playwrights’ participation in the process. Both Lori and I have been there as much as we can—hours and hours of munching on tortilla chips and sneaking raspberry danishes. The other playwrights have done just as much, so perhaps this is a moot point. Overall I feel like we were told one thing in the beginning and now we’re hearing something else mid-process. This is likely due to budgetary issues which Chad alluded to, but it still bugs me. I like Pam and Rose and would have liked to have seen the next phase of their development. Harumph.


Recent arts stuff

October 26, 2009

It’s been a busy week for Diva Adaire. Last Saturday, Lori and I got together to go over our script for Kindred, now renamed Caretakers. We sat side-by side and went over each line. She typed in the new material while I navel-gazed. I think the piece is much stronger, though we’ll only know at the next reading (mid-November-ish).

Then Sunday brought the first meeting for Sound of Music. Have I mentioned that I made the second-cut auditon for Sound of Music? I am (ahem) a nun. Again. I should invest in a wimple.

Anyway, the meeting laid out the vision for how to work in a professional environment. Randy White, director of Cardinal Stage, was friendly but firm. We got to hear the circumstances under which one might be dismissed—yeeks. I guess we do similar stuff when going over ground rules in Kaia, but it’s scary to be on the other side of the table. I know this is going to be a great opportunity for me to sharpen my skills.

Wait, Cardinal was on Saturday. It doesn’t matter. Sunday was the VOCO show, which Kaia opened for. That was exciting. The audience was small but appreciative. It wasn’t our best work—Amy had some nasty bug and all of us were pretty much exhausted. But we gave it our best and had the pleasure of singing in the sanctuary of the UU church. Beautiful acoustics. I Love Everybody almost blew the walls down.

Then Tuesday night was the VOCO workshop at Malcolm Dalglish‘s house. He served gumbo and pear pie. I skipped the food but appreciated the gesture. Made it all very homey and a great start to the evening.

The workshop was better than many I’ve been to. They sang a few numbers first. Then Moira did this call and response thing where she sang little snippets of music from every freaking corner of the world and we sang it back. She is amazingly gifted.

We learned Bring Me a Little Water, Sylvie by Leadbelly as arranged by VOCO. Learned a little of a Hungarian (?) piece. Did some cool improv exercises which I want to try out with Kaia. Then some body percussion, which I had no chance of learning due to the exhaustion of my brain! I’d had enough by that point and couldn’t take in any more.

Today met with Pat Anderson, the facilitator of Caretakers, to talk about our creative vision for the piece. Lori is involved in twelve million things as usual—I don’t know how she does it all! We talked over the play and what direction might be given to the actresses. As we talked, I thought more and more about how the script could be changed to make the dialogue more realistic and the action more tight. I hope the feedback is positive.

I enjoy being this active in creative spheres. I’ve noticed, though, that I’m a bit burned out on Kaia stuff. I feel like “we have this repertoire, now let’s sing it.” I’m not interested in arranging new stuff or seeking out new music. I just want to perform perform perform.

Another thing I noticed during the whole Cardinal audition process is that auditions are really bad for me. 🙂 I get very depressed afterwards, sometimes for days. I feel like I’ve blown the audition even though I do the best I can. I do my best but then feel like it can’t be good enough. That my best days are behind me (that’s a big theme). I feel too old to do anything meaningful anymore. My hope with Cardinal is that I’ll build up my confidence some. Oh, and I’m also studying voice with Rebecca Keith now, so that’s another piece of sharpening up my skills and building confidence. I hope it all works. Auditions suck.


Bloomingplays I survival

August 15, 2009

I know I’ve been silent in the blogosphere lately but…well, I don’t have a good excuse, only lies, lies, lies. So let’s just move on, shall we?

I survived the Bloomingplays workshop, which is a feat in itself, since it’s two all-day workshops. It was fascinating. I hadn’t expected to say anything, since I’m not an experienced playwright, but it turned out that I had plenty of opinions (this will surprise no one).

The feedback on Kindred was really helpful. Lori took lots of notes, while I slacked and just recorded what everybody said. There was some wild controversy about the ending (OK, not wild), which presented some good stuff for us to think about.

But you don’t care about that—you want me to talk about the phone sex scene! All right, all right. It wasn’t as bad as I expected, but I’m also certain that I absolutely sucked (no pun intended). I put one hand over my eyes like the lights were bothering me and then just leaned over the script. I interpreted it as a woman who was not fully comfortable with the scenario yet, because…well, I can’t tell you, since that would give away a key plot point. Regardless, I survived! And I hope never to do it again. Margot, the facilitator for that play, was very supportive and I appreciated it muchly.

The table readings were very fun. I love hearing a play come alive as the actors begin to bounce off each other and interact through their characters. It was also interesting  to see how the different playwrights accepted or refused to accept suggestions for their pieces. One person asked for lots of feedback and had great questions for the audience, but then made it clear that he wouldn’t change anything in the play! WTF?? There was much gossip about that, which in itself was educational.

Tracy Bee gave a party Saturday night that ended up with just a handful of people in her living room (lots of the actors had rehearsals they had to go to—I can’t imagine the stamina that must take!). I was glad, since this is my favorite kind of party. I started to go unconscious about 10, though, so I ran to Marsh to get food for the next day’s workshop and then collapsed at home, my brain buzzing with thoughts of the day. Thank you, BPP!