I make my way back to earth borne tragedies, dimly lit pathways, and houses full of clutter
I would run but my knees ache and I am tired of the
I would rest but pine needles are sparse in this part of the forest
The Wind says something’s coming
The cold is like ice on my bones, joints crackling louder
than whatever that is that’s following me
I would be afraid but I have an urgent need to draw blood
The years have changed me and I can no longer hide the warrior
side of me
Let it come
I will be as Simeon and Levi against Shechem
I will roar like Judah
My yell will topple the trees for I am, indeed, Judah’s daughter
A double portion I was given and I shall draw blood
Let it come, quickly in this thick solitude that blankets the night
Let it wake the birds and startle the muffled river for I am full of righteous indignation
I need to fight, I’m not running anymore
Shall the uncircumcised overtake me? Shall they make sport of me?
Nay; it will go another way this day
If I make the clearing before the attack
I will wade into the river and draw it in after me where my
hands shall drag it beneath to the water’s bed and I will break it like a stick
If I must fight in this forest
I will stand here, in the middle, like Shammah, son of Agee
the Hararite when the Philistines came and he stood in the middle of the lentil
field and fought victoriously, he took his stand and defended the field and
struck them down
I too shall defend and strike down —
This thing that follows me, hunts me like prey, taunts my life ,
Will do so no more for I shall be a terror to it this day…
Which way? It’s almost midnight And I just lost my shovel There is zero visibility in this fog And it’s rolling rolling in like gangbusters with diarrhea
liquefying in this heat, sticking like honey on skin soaking my clothes and hair Taking up all the air Congested, I can’t breath anyway except through my mouth Open to flying particles of fecal matter landing on my tongue and tonsils I won’t be eating nothing till I can scrub the Hell out of my mouth
It’s above ground if you didn’t know; it ain’t underground no more It ain’t an imaginary place
I need the shovel. Give me a shovel please
He said he was sorry He should have begged me to forgive him but it wouldn’t have mattered I still wanted him gone Poof…splat..splam…. Gone – like dead gone
If I got to carry this body till the limbs fall off, he got to be dead And I ain’t doing no backtracking to pick up litter either Limbs be damned Rapists need to lose something too
They need to get first class tickets to the fiery pit That big unknown called Hell And they need to go covered in hot shit mixed with gasoline
I have not remembered…. I have held my peace and kept time by the PTSD manager on my phone Been holding it all inside the holes in my teeth Losing them one by two by three
If silence is the enemy then you are the monster under the bed Grabbing at my hands, waking me up So I can never sleep through the night
I refused to remember… I have pushed that dunghill many a day to the fourth corner of the earth And left it there with the full and ugly memory of you and your touch Nearly comatose for decades by the weight of it all, by weight of you Hardly breathing Hardly living, hardly able to think Above the maddening secret That Flashbacks never leave you They mutate like sketchy thoughts after a head injury Leave you sinking in mire The sill clinging to your knees and thighs
I have sat in the troubled waters Broken from the top down Soaking my big toes and the place between my thighs scarred like burnt skin And lost dreams The smell unearthingly foul yet familiar Bone tired and nodding like an addict mid-fix Hoping to Forget-it-all Slowly embracing the lull and hum of stagnation
Then Byron died and the flood came and the chickens Well they came home, flatfooted and tough from age They came home like they belonged to me 3 months later, they are roosting
When I was in France in September for an impromptu trip, I had about two days to spend in Paris. I’d never been there before, I didn’t speak the language, I had a lot of work I knew I’d be flying home to. I was happy and grateful but stressed.
But there was one thing that I felt drawn to, the thing that I couldn’t leave Paris without doing: visiting the grave of Oscar Wilde in Père Lachaise Cemetery.
It felt like a pilgrimage. I’m not a religious person. I probably couldn’t truly articulate what I believe. Energies, maybe. Ghosts. I don’t know. I’m not even a hard-core Oscar Wilde fan. But I needed to go there.
I didn’t bring the right shoes for the amount of walking I’d been doing all week. My feet and legs ached. I got turned around a dozen times just finding the entrance of the cemetery. Once inside, I wandered for a long time, searching for the exact location of the grave. Père Lachaise is well organized but its long winding paths can play tricks on you. I could feel every cobble stone under my shoes. It was cold and I was hungry and I felt like I’d never find him.
Obviously people make this trek all the time. I am not unique. Roses and gifts littered his grave. Lipstick marks covered the protective glass installed around the huge grave stone to combat graffiti from adoring fans. Tourists from England and Sweden and Germany paraded by in the half hour or so I spent there, sitting on the curb across the path from the grave. I felt almost embarrassed that I didn’t have a flower to offer. He probably hated that.
Instead, I sat there and asked him questions.
How did you do it? How did you have the confidence?
I thought about the tragic way his life was cut short. And felt silly for asking him anything, since anything I had experienced is nothing compared to his life. But still, I admitted to him, that while I don’t deserve it, I’d sure like this advice.
Can I do this? This writer thing?
I feel silly saying I did this. But it was a pilgrimage to connect to something deeper, some sort of literary history, to figure out if I’m crazy for doing what I’m doing, for wanting what I think I want.
I think it is important to find stillness and ask these questions. To a god, to a literary giant, to someone you’ve lost, to yourself. You’ll get an answer if you ask the question. It may not come in the form of words and a life plan, but in the form of a warmness, a feeling in the pit of your stomach, a sudden lightness in your breathe, in your step.
I made my way out of the cemetery, but it wasn’t easy. I was pretty convinced the ghosts wanted to try to keep me there, confusing me, sending me down more painful cobblestone paths to drain me. But then I found the opening.
I spent the rest of the night wandering more streets, eating cheese, reading, and drinking hot chocolate. And felt like myself. And at peace with that feeling.
We’re getting close to the new year. I’m watching friends and family achieve things, get married, have babies, buy houses. Lovely choices and happiness in so many forms. Seeing others’ choice can sometimes make you question your own. So make your own pilgrimage. Maybe not to Oscar Wilde’s grave (if you do, bring shoes that can deal with those cobblestones) but to a place with the energy that will help you focus and ask that question that’s burning in your mind.
I have been wanting to talk to Mommy, forgetting she is gone. Such an odd thing to have a thought, “I need to talk to mother about that” then remember as soon as the thought hits space, that I can’t because she is gone. That whole week between the date of death, her birthday, and the date of burial, I longed for her, could not get out of bed the day before and day of her birthday. I have a blanket of hers that I have begun to wrap up in, lay my head on, carry in the back of my car – just to be near something of hers.
Trying not to lose myself, I took a seminar in poetry – not sure if it worked.
This shaking off of depression is hard. One year later and I still can’t believe you are gone. Thanks for coming to see me on your birthday. I know I can’t stay here. Seems counter-intuitive – I know you are in a better place. I just did not know how much I loved you and that the hole would be so large.
I did not know you were like air and heartbeat
And blood and bone to me
That the touch of your skin was home to me
(the child who was not breastfed because you had an infection – that used to bother me but mothers must always do the best for their children or at least try. it did not make you love me any less – the old wives tale that breastfed children are closer to their mothers – just not true…)
I am needing to crawl up beside you and kiss the north, south, east and west of your face
The truest words I’ve heard all year have come from Patton Oswalt, quoting his late wife Michelle McNamara:
“It’s chaos. Be kind.”
In his latest Stand-Up special for Netflix, Oswalt recounted that she hated the phrase “everything happens for a reason.” She would say, “It’s all chaos, it’s all random, and it’s horrifying. And if you want to try and reduce the horror, and reduce the chaos, be kind. That’s all you can do. It’s chaos. Be kind.”
Be kind. Be gentle. Be forgiving. I’ve been echoing these words to myself all year–both in regards to others and myself. Stay open. Stay vulnerable. Stay tender. I’ve been thinking about my clenched fists. The way they tighten both to keep things in, that maybe I should have let go of (like a dream being realized in a specific way), and the way they tense up in defense, when perhaps they should reach out to and for help and resolutions instead.
I came back to Missouri from LA not really by choice, and never planned to stay more than a year. Four years after coming here, I finally felt financially stable enough to start planning my return to the coast, or a coast anyway. I remembered my time in New York fondly and thought maybe I should go back there. So, I went and visited. And it didn’t feel right. So, I decided LA made the most sense. I made a lot of logical, sound arguments for it in my head, but some part of me was hesitant. I didn’t understand why. I worried that hesitation was just fear–fear of repeating my first 6 years and never progressing further. Fear of financially floundering again, of not being able to act as much as I have been here, of being away from my Mom. I didn’t want to be motivated by fear. So, I told myself: I’m moving back to LA in September. I started telling friends and family and my boss. I got boxes for packing.
Then, the possibility of making season two of my webseries Seek Help came up. I wanted to make it, and it seemed like we might be able to–so I decided to stay past September, and since I was staying past September, I auditioned for the play Good People and got cast. And since I was staying for those things, I had to renew my lease and they didn’t give me a 6 month option like I was hoping, it was 1 year or pay a lot more and do month to month. So I signed a 1 year lease. I told my boss and he said, “That’s got to be awful for you–having to defer the move 6 months longer than you wanted.” And I realized it wasn’t awful for me. It was easy.
I took some time after that to sit quietly alone with my thoughts and journal. And I had an epiphany. This was my epiphany: Acting is not EVERYTHING. I still feel blasphemous even saying that because I wouldn’t want anyone for one second to doubt how incredibly important it is to me or think that I’m saying that I’m giving up on my dreams of being a working actor. I’m not. However, life goes SO quickly. For 31 years (give or take a childhood), I’ve pursued whatever avenues I could to become a working actor on TV, Film and Theatre. I thought it would happen before I ever got to high school. It didn’t. I thought it would happen in my 20’s. It didn’t.
“It” being a regular on a TV show or consistently working on TV, Film and Theatre–the shows/films people all over the country know about and watch. Anything short of that…I never allowed to feel like “success.” I was grateful for every opportunity and job, but in my mind, I was still failing. And at 31, the thought of going back to LA and knocking on doors and getting all those “No’s” and “You’re great, but too tall”…even the thought of achieving my dream now as I always dreamed it…I just started questioning how fulfilling that would really be? I love the work, but the work is always the work no matter where you do it. I love working with people who are great at what they do and challenge me to be better. That would be great, no question. I would love to be respected and known (and paid!) as a full-time storytelling vessel. But I also know that sometimes you try and try and try and it never “works out” how you wanted or thought it would.
For a decade I’ve been saying that I want to get involved with CASA (court appointed special advocate–they speak for the child going through foster care in court) and fostering/adopting. I always said, you know, someday….when/if I am ever stable enough financially and in one place long enough. Everything hinged on achieving my acting dream in this one specific way–a way that most people never do, no matter how incredibly gifted they are or how diligent their hustle. Life is an expansive tapestry of experiences–and I’ve been zeroed in on just one thing for so long, never even considering the possibility that maybe if I un-clinch my fists just a little, I could hold some other things in my hands, in my life. I could make a little room and be a part of something bigger than myself.
Maybe it’s my age, but I crave community these days…I want to build a family, a group of close friends and collaborators. I’ve long had more love to give than people in my life to give it to. I’ve spent a lot of time alone in my apartment, hogging resources I could be contributing. Forgive the length of this post–I just want you to understand that when I say that I am not moving back to LA, I am staying in Springfield, MO, that you know that it is not about fear or trepidation. It is not a giving up on my dreams–they are still very much in the forefront of my mind, still daily on my to-do’s–rather, this decision is one to expand my life in new ways that I hope positively contributes to my community, and enriches the work and stories I am able to tell.
My dream now looks a little like this: Buy a house, make it a home. Get involved as a volunteer advocate for Foster Kids and eventually foster to adopt. Continue to make my own projects and try to improve with each one–try to get my scripts sold or made and audition for projects (only the ones I really, deeply want). I hope to travel to the coasts semi-regularly. I hope for many more lunch dates with my Mom and many more collaborations with my friends and artists I look up to.
After I made this decision, I told no one…for weeks. I sat with it, waiting to see if I would change my mind again. But I pretty much knew it was the right decision when, the day after, as I was driving to a work event, I started crying…they were tears of a mixed bag of emotions: relief at no longer living a life solely in pursuit of “yes’s” that may or may not ever validate me in the way I always dreamed, sadness and acceptance of letting go of that expectation, and excitement for all the new dreams I could now dream. It’s a little corny, but for the first time in my life, I felt like a “full-grown woman.”
Life’s not working out how I thought it would…mostly, honestly, it’s been chaos. And in that chaos you have one choice that belongs to you alone and is totally in your control, and that’s how you respond to the chaos. You can project meaning onto it, you can let it disorient you, you can fight the chaos and try to control it, or you can adjust your perspective and your goals, and look for ways to grow with each new challenge and curve that gets thrown at you. You can loosen your fists and let life flow through you.
“It’s chaos. Be kind.”
This weekend my friend, Lisa Murphy, who plays my wife in Seek Help was saying how “it” was going to happen for me. And I said that it didn’t matter anymore whether or not “it” did…it didn’t matter because I was already doing “it.” I don’t need anyone’s permission to live my life how I want. I’m going to act, and write, and create my whole life and that’s more than enough. Let me tell you, finally being able to say that and know it and mean it feels amazing. And what’s perhaps most incredible, is that this gift was a gift I gave myself. It was “just” a perspective change, but one that took me a couple decades and a whole lot of failed attempts at controlling the chaos to realize was always there just waiting for me to see it, claim it, and be free.
It’s been 9 months since I last blogged for LA FPI and the world feels like a drastically different place…a terrifyingly absurd place…the kind of place that I used to think only existed in dark, independent foreign films (a favorite to watch, though less favored to live in). Through all the political cacophony and “alternative facts,” one real, indisputable fact has emerged: Fear creates action like a motherf*cker. Advertisers, politicians, and religious zealots have harnessed this power for decades…but I’m not here to talk about any of that…I’m here to talk about creating.
It’s a story-line we’re all familiar with: A person has a near-death experience, survives and realizes what really matters to them. They quit their job, get out of that toxic relationship, sell the clutter, and live more simply in pursuit of their legacy. That may mean investing more time into your relationships with your family, or it could mean spending more time creating that masterpiece–or both! Or neither! Or something else entirely! Only your heart knows. The question is: If we all know the story, why aren’t we able to extrapolate the lesson of it without the near-death part?
Fear gets a negative connotation, some of which is justified, but fear is also adrenaline, it is motivation, and it can be the cold, hard hand of reality that slaps you across the face when you’ve tuned out on your life.
If you’re terrified of ending up as the person who always said, “I’m a _____,” or “I’m working on______,” or “I’m going to ________,” and then never became, never did, never got there…then you will do something. When the fear of not doing the thing becomes greater than the fear of trying and failing, you will do the thing. And when you do the thing, you’ll buck head-on with that fear of trying and failing like never before, and finally be forced to confront (ie. breakthrough) that fear. The good news is that the more times you breakthrough that fear, the further you’ll be able to go.
So, my advice? Be afraid, be very, very afraid. And do it anyway. Set yourself up to confront scary situations on the regular. Go take that stand-up routine you’ve got tucked in your pocket up on a stage in front of people and fill the space with your weird ass humor. Don’t just finish that book, put it out in the world–tell people, ask them to read it and tell you what they really think…then, send it to your idols–why not? Produce that play that you’re the most proud of but that no one has said, “yes” to yet. Start that business you’ve been dreaming about for 20 years.
In other words: LIVE LIKE YOU WERE DYING (because you are).
True: You might “fail.” You might fall flat on your face in the most humiliating way. Maybe no one laughs when they’re supposed to…maybe everyone laughs when they’re not. You will cry and there will be sleepless nights. You might go bankrupt. Maybe you go for it with all you’ve got and come up short. Maybe you’ll be forced to realize that you’re not capable of doing what you’ve always wanted to…yet. You could perish mid-pursuit…but, more terrifyingly, you could die never having tried at all–never having spoken your thoughts–never having shared your he(art)–never knowing what could have been…and then, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.
It’s not hyperbole to say these decisions are life and death. Your life and your death…it’s your legacy in your hands, your decisions plotting your path. It’s a lot of responsibility to admit that to yourself. While “success” is a personally defined moving target–much of which involves timing and luck that is out of your hands…your effort, your output, and your action…well, that’s all on you, kid. Life is so, so weird and no one knows half of what they seem to know…rather than try to make sense of it, embrace the absurdity. Rather than wait for someone else’s validation, proclaim it for yourself: you belong. You’re voice, experience and perspective are the rarest, most valuable assets you have.
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN! There’s just one catch: You have to try.
I promise you, if you let it, fear can be the biggest gift you give yourself (along with a hardy dose of kindness).
My Top 4 List of Scary Things From The Last 9 Months
1. True Confessions: Goldilocks & the Three Dildos
Back in September I had the opportunity (ie. volunteered) to get up on a mic in front of people and tell a true story from my life. True Confessions is a local storytelling event in the vein of The Moth and provided the perfect opportunity to scare myself shitless. It’s one thing going up in front of people under the illusion of character, costume and set, and another thing entirely to speak truthfully about truly embarrassing parts of your life that you think might be funny and poignant, but that could also just be quietly unacceptable to utter out-loud. I did it though (you can listen at the link above!) and the most surprising thing came from it…I was able to own my story in a way I never was before–always worried what others would think if I shared it…suddenly, that fear had no power over me anymore. I let go of shame and learned, by doing, how to be grateful for every odd, painful quirk of my story…for giving me such a great story to tell.
2. Art Hung on Gallery Walls
Art was always my Mom’s thing. She’s the professional artist. I was the artistic hippie who did all artistic things, but left the “serious” artistic pursuits in my Mom’s lane. I’ve always made art but rarely placed much value on it. It’s “my Mom’s thing.” As if my placing value on my work could in any way take anything away from my Mom–but I so clearly recall an incident in my childhood with a competitive friend when one of us crossed into the other’s artistic lanes and sparks flied. “Hey, that’s my thing!” To my Mom’s credit, she’s never been anything but supportive of my art. She’s even bought (ie. paid real dollar bills, yo) for my art (which is crazy to me–LOVE YOU, MOM). It’s completely my own neurosis. In the last two years, however, I’ve made more art than I have had space for and people started inquiring about buying, so I re-activated my Etsy shop and started reaching out to galleries to do shows. This makes me feel boarder-line legitimate artistically…and that means being vulnerable for my work to be judged through that lens as well…which is scary. In the last 9 months through to the next 9 months my work has shown at (for judgement and purchase) or will be shown at: BookMarx, Springfield Art Museum, Springfield Regional Arts Council, Tea Bar & Bites, and Arts & Letters.
3. LET’S TALK About My Poetry Book
I’ve been writing poetry as far back as I can remember, but like my art I never took it “seriously.” In the last few years, I have become more and more cognizant of the power of representation. The #BodyPositive movement, the #BlackGirlMagic movement, and #effyourbeautystandards among others are powerful because they provide much needed examples of strong, confident, successful, and beautiful that aren’t being shown as regularly in mainstream media and advertising. I’ve realized that my voice and perspective could add to the chorus of voices that have re-shaped my mind and my perspective on others and myself in monumental ways. And what if those people had never seen the value in their voices? My life, undoubtedly, would be vastly different today. This collection, LET’S TALK, has been in the works for the last 2 years and will be available on Amazon later this year through their self-publishing platform CreateSpace. It’s scary putting this book out there–it’s an expense–no, an investment. What if no one buys it? Or what if they do? What if they leave really awful reviews? But, more importantly, what if it helps? Anyone at all, even just a little…to feel less alone in life?
4. SEEK HELP & Seeking Funds
This was the biggest leap. This one was and is the scariest. No question. I wrote a web-series called Seek Help way back in 2012. It came out of me in a huge, easy burst of inspiration and I really loved it–which, if you write, you know how rarely that outcome occurs! I wanted to make it, but it required a specific set and a few other things that I didn’t have access to at the time. Every few years I would pull it out, re-read it and proclaim, “I want to make this!”
Then, this last year I was reading it with my friend Matt and it SPARKED. This was it. The time was now. We talked and decided to do a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to make it–and make it right. I was so scared to do a kickstarter…imagine asking for money for a project you really believe in and finding out just how many people find you or your he(art) project unworthy of giving to. But then I thought about all my friends who had had successful campaigns and how I had happily donated to many of them and I thought…okay, we can do this! People do this!
I made a plan, we made a video, we made a kickstarter, I researched, I submitted, I PR’d and I posted and posted and emailed…and then, I started to panic…like, dry-heaving, crying actual tears, out of my mind SCARED that because not enough people were responding that it meant that no one believed in me. I felt betrayed. I felt embarrassed for trying. I felt briefly like I was not worthwhile. Then, right in the middle of it, the election happened. To be clear, we were not on target for meeting our goal before the election happened, but once it happened, all progress slowed to a complete stop. Understandably people had bigger concerns–as did I.
In a weird sort of way, I found my perspective again. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started feeling so grateful for everyone who did support me when there are so many other very worthy causes to support. When we failed to make our goal, I wasn’t yet ready to relinquish defeat. When I thought about making it any way we could scrape it together, I felt excitement and peace. When I thought about giving up, I felt depressed and incapable. So, it was simple. I didn’t want to feel depressed and incapable…I wanted to feel excitement and peace. Amazingly, some of the people who’d donated wanted to keep their pledges and help us make it. So, we reconfigured, re-cast, and re-committed. There have been no less than 5 major set-backs (all SCARY) since that decision was made, but this week I finished the rough cut of the first full episode which we shot this past weekend and I haven’t been able to sleep un-medicated since. I’m so incredibly giddy with excitement. I go to bed late and wake up early and don’t feel cranky about it…and this is the thing, guys…
THIS IS THE WHOLE ENCHILADA…
The joy you get from doing the thing? When it’s your thing–whatever that may be–is more than enough to absorb the fear and the setbacks. You only live once (probably)–SO GO FOR IT! And don’t hesitate to reach out to me in the comments if you want an accountability partner, or someone to bounce ideas off of. I love being an accountability and encouragement partner–especially for other strong, creative women! <3
I had a thought today that maybe in the script of life your 20’s are the rough, first draft, and your 30’s (and beyond) are the re-writes. Maybe there is an age, though I’m sure it’s different for everyone, where you feel like the vision you had for yourself is fully realized, and maybe that age never arrives. This is the kind of introspection I’m sure most people face in the final inning (really? a sports metaphor? eh, sure) of their 29th year. That first decade of adulthood fading off into the sunset and the big 3-0 slapping you in the face with “like-whoa, I guess this adult thing is really happening.” It’s really sort of incredible all the different lives we lead…married, divorced, single (hello, again–I am), children, no-children, successful, struggling, etc. 30 looks so different on each of us, yet signifies, as all landmark birthdays do, that ever present passing of time.
It’s been an interesting and, as usual, utterly unpredicted few months since I blogged last. A break-up sparked an insane art binge that created well over 100 paintings in less than 3 months and just as many poems. The painting then evolved into ink line drawings, all of which, along with my paintings, are now for sale in my recently re-activated Etsy shop: www.andiebottrell.etsy.com Did not see that coming. I’m working on trying to get a handwritten and illustrated poetry book published (no idea how to do that, everything I’ve read has said basically “poetry is dead” “there is so little money in it no publishers will ever read your submission” “seriously, when’s the last time you bought a poetry book?”–actually, I bought, like, 5 last month, but I’m learning I’m more unusual than I ever expected). And I have my first art show coming up in May (my 30th Birthday month)…it’s called the “Break-up Art Show” (;
In June, I’ll be going back to Tent Theatre–I wrote about my first experience there on this blog. It was a momentous experience for me. It got me my EMC card. I am so excited to be a full-time actor for an entire month again! The play is Unnecessary Farce which not too many people seem to know about yet, but it’s hilarious and has a lot of great, quick, fast-paced wit and creative physical comedy (haha, I couldn’t think of the term “physical comedy” so I googled “body humor”).
There hasn’t been much writing aside from poetry. It’s been just poetry and painting and acting lately. Which at times I struggled with feeling guilty about–I should be writing a script. I should be re-writing that play. I need to make a feature film. But, you know what? Screw what every writing blog says about writing when you’re uninspired. I’ve hated almost everything I’ve written when I forced it. I feel blasphemous even saying that because I feel like that just becomes an excuse for the undisciplined, but I truly think you have to just listen to your heart/inspiration talking-piece when it comes to creativity. And there are other ways to access your creative geiser–sometimes being uninspired to write something just means you need to find another way in. At times I also feel a lot of pressure from people to do just ONE thing. To only focus on acting or only focus on writing, etc. When you split your focus among lots of different things, how can you ever get really great or successful at any of them? And I don’t disagree necessarily. It’s annoying saying all the hyphenates of my artistic endeavors (actor/writer/director/editor/artist/photographer). It sounds pompous and it takes a long time to list. But those ARE the things I do on a regular basis–those are the ways I express myself and use my voice as an artist.
I’m learning that my personal artistic flow is cyclical and that my obsessive nature means that I often clamp down hard on one or two things for a time, while doing all the other things in smaller frequencies, and then rotate out to another skill set and do the same. I thrive when being surrounded by many tools to express myself and giving myself the freedom to go from one to the next as inspiration strikes. And I will no longer allow myself to feel bad or pigeonholed into “picking” just one thing when my heart demands the space to speak through several different instruments. I am an Artist. That is my life. My creations take many forms. That’s just who I am. I think part of turning 30 will be saying “That’s just who I am” a lot more. Not to say I’ll quit evolving (god, no, never!), but just that I’ll no longer feel bad about those few core parts of myself that I know to be true.
As I enter 30 I wonder if my art will ever sustain more than just the will to live, but become my actual livelihood. I’m struggling to figure out how to price my work, how to say that my art is valuable and you will have to pay me to have the privilege of using/seeing/working with it. At the same time as I’m struggling to tell others it’s worth paying for, I am also more confident than ever in my work. I can access things easier. I have more control over my skills. It doesn’t feel as hit-or-miss as it has for the majority of my 20’s. I have a lot more life experience to draw upon. My perspective is constantly expanding. I care less and less what I look like, but am working harder than ever to feel good in my body and take care of it as I have started noticing how quickly the body can start to deteriorate if you don’t. I’m more and more impressed at how resilient people are and their capacity to adapt to situations beyond their control–and the incredible things people have achieved. I see now, more than ever, the amount of work and sacrifices people make along the way to realize their dreams. I’m inspired by the massive guts (figuratively speaking) on so many people–and am constantly telling myself I’ve got to be even braver.
“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues….”― George Orwell, Why I Write
This election year, I’m concerned about the erosion of women’s rights on a number of fronts; that’s why I’m participating as a playwright in the Reproductive Freedom Festival on March 20, 2016. Featuring 25 short plays and poems, the event will stream live from New York’s TACT Studio this Sunday from 6-9 p.m. EDT/ 3-6 p.m. PDT via Virtual Arts TV.
As described on the RFF site, it’s: “a festival of short works celebrating the fundamental right to human reproductive autonomy.” Created and produced by Choice Theater (run by the amazing Cindy Cooper), its stated purpose is “to support reproductive freedom, rights, health and justice and to generate new conversations on these subjects.”
It has six parts, guided by six female directors. Here are the format details: “Half-hour sets, each completely different, of short theatrical works and poetry collected from across the country and presented by talented New York actors under the guidance of six directors. Artists and activists will describe their works every half hour.”
Each grouping has a theme: 1) Heroines; 2) Next Generations; 3) Conflicts; 4) Body Politics; 5) Discoveries; and 6) What We Know. There’s also a “Pre-Show” from Ireland at 5:30 p.m. EDT/ 2:30 p.m. PDT. You can watch just some of the festival or all of it—and it’s free.
I have a short comic piece in it called “Papyrus” about the discovery of an ancient scroll; it’s scheduled in the fifth half hour. Other LA FPI writers participating in the festival are Allie Costa, with her work “Two Girls” (in the second half hour), and Mildred Lewis, with her play “Chained Labor” (in the fourth half hour). For a complete performance schedule, with the writers and directors listed, please click here.
Costa’s piece, “Two Girls,” is a haunting, poetic duologue in which two women emerge from a violent attack. The play was first performed in London in 2015 at the Unheard Festival, produced by Goblin Baby Theatre Co. at The Bread & Roses Theatre. It has also been presented at the Clear Lines Festival and the Keble Arts Festival in London. This will be the first time “Two Girls” has been performed in the United States. Costa’s play “She Has Seen The Wolf,” which is thematically linked to “Two Girls,” just had its first staged reading this week in Hollywood at PlayGround-LA. Costa is a Los Angeles-based actress, writer, director, and singer working in film, TV, theatre, and voiceover.
Costa, when asked about why she’s part of the festival, observed: “Victims of sexual assault often have questions posed at them – ‘What were you wearing? Why were you out late at night?’ – that are tinged with shame and blame. We need to stop blaming victims and start listening to them, and give them a safe place to speak up and speak out. I am honored that my piece was selected for this festival, and I can’t wait to see it!”
In Mildred Lewis’ piece, “Chained Labor,” an African American woman reveals to her daughter that she gave birth to her in chains while she was incarcerated. Lewis notes: “That experience sadly continues. Facing the reproductive freedom issues that women face in jails (e.g., forced sterilization) demonstrates how urgently the conversation around reproductive freedom needs to broaden. It’s not just about abortion or birth control.”
Lewis is excited that “Chained Labor” will premiere at the RFF. “I can’t think of a better platform, particularly since it’s being filmed in my hometown (Go Stuy Hi Peglegs!) I’m also grateful that it follows a run of my piece, “Bleed Black Bleed Blue,” at the Secret Theatre’s Act One Festival.” Explaining why she’s participating in the festival, Lewis responds: “I am a beneficiary of the women’s movement. I had access to great sex education from my mom, an RN, and my junior high school. Watching old battles being fought again over not just abortion, but birth control(!) is maddening. Sometimes I write purely to entertain. But there are some points in history where I believe we must pick up our pens to fight. This is one of them.” Lewis writes and directs for theater, film, television and the web; she is also a full-time film professor.
The Reproductive Freedom Festival is officially part of SWAN Day, Women Arts’ famous international celebration which aims to “Support Women Artists Now.”
RFF will send you a reminder notice to watch the performance online on March 20, if you’d like. You can catch the livestream and sign up for the reminder notice here. There will be a live chat function during the Festival, for online users. Please join us on Sunday, March 20, for a look at some female-centric plays and poems about reproductive freedom (and more!), and let’s continue the conversation.