The Reluctant Artiste Willingly Directs a Play: Brita Lind's It's Complicated opens at the Regina Fringe


The Reluctant Artiste: The Heartbreak of CBPS (Chronic Big Picture Syndrome)

A friend of mine just became a grandmother. (Let me pause there for a minute. Hand to heart. Deep breaths. A friend of MINE is a grandmother. A peer. A childhood friend even. Someone who I remember vividly wearing a cat costume with divine black velvet ears and perky whiskers when it was totally not Hallowe'en, but just a Tuesday and her Grade Four self needed to release her inner kitty. I have a Grade Four Kitty friend with a gorgeous little grand-daughter, and a blissed-out-new-father son, smiling from the photo with his newborn on his chest, like he is old enough to have a new-born and not still playing Lego down in my rec room. Processing. Processing. Nope.) Let's try this again. 

A new person has come into the world and nothing will be the same again. Just because a birth is not an unusual thing,  that one occurs around the globe about four times per second, doesn't mean the first statement is not true. A life is in motion. A story has begun. And I am old enough to know that stories are not safe things. Things happen in stories. Bliss, pain, love, unbearable loneliness, ecstacy--these things come-- in tiny drops or tidal waves-- when a life is put in motion. But they come. And you can anticipate, or prepare or practice your dog paddle til you're blue in the mouth. But when it does come like a five story fist of water slamming everything known and safe to matchsticks, and throwing it out to a rubble tumble sea, you've got nothing, but to spread your arms and ride it to wherever your story's going. 

(This is not something you write in a "Congratulations on your new Grandchild!"card. I mean, clinically depressed, Gauloises-smoking nihilists would manage something with a nice bunny on it, and a gift card for Toys R Us.)

But I have gotten to the point where I don't see just the day, the moment--I am always looking to where the moment is going push the story next. I am always looking at what it cost to get to the moment. I have developed Chronic Big Picture Syndrome. 

Which has made this week a little challenging. Quite apart from Hello Grandma Kitty's news, my son is about to leave his elementary school, and go to high school. Now before you go, "Ah, she's going to wax all soppy about her youngest growing up, and leaving the nest, blah dee blah blah...let me be perfectly clear. As a CBPS sufferer, my problem is NOT fear of empty. I long for empty. I visualize it, late in the night, when the stories that are my children finally, for a few sweet seconds, rest, and I can go from flailing to gently bobbing atop their very full cross currents. 

I am just trying to keep it together as my CBPS threatens to overwhelm me. When my fellah stood up on the stage to take his "diploma" (and when did the end of Grade Eight become something that required pomp and circumstance? When did leaving Pre-school for that matter? How many times can we listen to "Good Riddance" by Green Day before we figure out that it's not a nice song, and that "I hope you had the time of your life" is a Fuck You that should not be lisped by four year olds wearing teeny tiny cocktail dresses and My First Fake Lashes?) anyway, when he took his diploma--all I could see was the story--the stories--of how he got there. And the stories he was being pushed towards, by Green Day and time. 

Those who have followed my writing around my younger son will know that he is on the autism spectrum, and getting him through grade school has involved lots of story. A lot of it good. I am thinking about his communication therapist who came to kindergarten with him every day, for months, after spending half a year in a model classroom, trying to acclimatize him to a classroom. And who just sat, and supported him, until he looked at her and said "You can wait in the hall." I am thinking about the teacher who threw her arms around me after she heard we'd won, and the school board had guarenteed an education assistant. I am thinking about the three teachers who sat like cats with canaries wriggling in their mouths, waiting to surprise me with testing that showed that my boy had gained three years of lost development--in one. The little girl who got between him and a bully--arm outstretched, looking firmly up at the aggressor. The big, gentle, unflappable male teacher who walked past my son, now a former student, and said ,"Hello wonderful boy." I am thinking of so many good, strong caring people who fought so hard to keep my son's story headed somewhere safe. 

That's a good thought, right? Except I can't stop there. I have CBPS so I have to also think about the other stuff in the story to date...the wondering how often I could arrive at work with bruises and swollen eyes without human resources stepping in. The year he talked about suicide every day for three months. The daily picture of him alone,  hunkered down on the playground, trying to avoid the older boys who harried him. The way that picture stayed on the back of my eyelids all day, so that every blink brought it again. The day he ran. And no one knew where. 

(Four blocks. Across a busy city street. One of his daycare workers, walking to work, found him in a November bare baseball diamond. He was "looking for food and shelter.")

And that's not all of it. I don't just see the story to date. I see the story to come. As the other kids in his grade received prizes for excellence in academics, or sports, or community involvement, and my boy sat and watched them move away and on, I saw next chapters headed our way...high school (and god, that's hard enough for the more standardly issued, what will it be for an Ichabod Crane tall, pock-faced autistic guy with all the wants and desires of any teenage boy and ZERO game?), adulthood--when every single bloody support for people on the spectrum basically evaporates, and I'm an old mum, how long can I work, keep a house, keep him safe? How will we even negotiate that--when all he wants is a home, a wife, a job, children (dear god, children---he is very clear on that point). This "turning point" this "fork stuck in the road" puts him a year closer to the rest of his life's story...and that my friends, opens us up on a big picture that anyone in the ASD community will tell you is complicated at best. 

So, forgive me if I seem to be holding my breath a lot. Forgive me if my eyes are awash in water and salt. I feel the Big Picture coming, right now, and it makes me want to write inappropriate things in baby cards....and have the wrong look on my face in proud-parent-of-the-grad photos. 

A new person comes into the world. A new story begins. And there is NOTHING than can stop that story's flow. So I spread out one arm, to try to keep myself afloat. And I wrap the other around him. And we take a big breath and get ready to ride, wherever the story is going. 





The Reluctant Artiste: Get's a "Complicated" Gig. 

I first met Jack and Geoffrey when I was judging Saskatchewan Playwright Centre's 24-Hour Playwriting Competition. Fortunately I had avoided the writers' room and did not know who was competing that year (I often have friends in there and so that is always my practice). Otherwise I would have had to sit out awarding first prize to "It's Complicated" by my friend Brita Lind. That would have been a shame, because from the moment I encountered the voices in this two-hander about a man on a mission and the gorilla in his room, I have been charmed by the two of them.

Brita, who is half of GoGiraffeGo Writing and Design, while thrilled to win, was a little nonplussed by the part of her prize that was a berth in the 2014 Regina Fringe. How would that work? Who would direct it? I kind of shrugged, and said, if she didn't find anyone, not to worry, I'd do it. 

And then I wandered off, thinking that the Fringe was a ways down the road, and many things could happen between that moment and the next, and at least my friend wasn't worried. 

But Brita is a woman who does what she sets out to do. And remembers promises. So here we are, preparing for the premiere of her award-winning play. 

The young and talented cast (Tyler Toppings, Adam Milne) are already bringing such seriousness and craft to unpacking this play, and Brita and her partner/our designer Tania Wolk such tireless attention to pulling this show together, that I am starting to think that cavalier, off-hand offers to direct are the way to go. 

Hope you agree. All I know is this is a very rich play, whose first draft was written in one 24 hour period by a writer of unique perspective and bone dry wit. So I just get to be amazed and delighted every time we work the script. I've got a great month ahead of me.

See you at the Fringe!

It's Complicated can be seen, enjoyed, and applauded from July 9 - 13, 2014 at the Artesian at 2627 13th Ave, Regina at the following times:

Wed, July 9, 3:45 p.m.
Thu July 10, 6:00 p.m.
Fri, July 11, 7:45 p.m.
Sat, July 12, 6:30 p.m.
Sun, July 13, 12:00 p.m.


The Reluctant Artiste does a TedX Regina Talk


Tuesday June 10, at the Main Stage, University of Regina, I will join a host of fascinating speakers at TedX Regina.

I'll be speaking about what I learned performing my memoir play, Ducks on the Moon

To purchase  Ducks on the Moon

To hear the CBC IDEAS documentary based on the play. 

FMI about TEDX Regina and to see a complete list of the speakers, and their bios. 



The Reluctant Artiste: To Will, With Love


In so far as we can guess, it’s Shakespeare’s birthday today.  So Happy Birthday to him. It seems like a good time to express my gratitude to someone who has been in my life longer than almost anyone of formative significance. But,  as Lulu sang to her (oh so dreamy) Sir, with love, how do you thank someone, who has taken you from crayons to perfume?—or in my case crayons to whole, organic, hypoallergenic herbaceous oils, ‘cause I don’t do perfume anymore, ‘cause everywhere is scent-free these days, but if it doesn’t trigger the dachshund’s asthma, and the oils don’t, I figure I’m good—but anyway, how do thank someone for being Shakespeare? It isn't easy, but I'll try:
1. Thank you for shaping my brain. And my voice. And my priorities. 
I started reading Shakespeare when I was 6. Okay, I know you’re rolling your eyes now, and making gestures with varying degrees of vulgarity. But I did. I was a show-off. A precocious child with a gift for memorization, and a deep need for the attention that my precocity garnered.  So I read way over my head, and parroted those readings, and waited for a nice biscuit.  And:
delivered in a whispery just post-toddler voice was good for a few biscuits, let me assure you,  my friends. 
But it was good for more than that. It was good for me. Like sunshine and apples and not slouching and being kind just for the sake of it, the simple act of saying the words, iambically pentagrammical, and rife with metaphor, and alliteration and music, did things to my brain. And my voice. And what I thought words were for. Not just to make sound. Or get another biscuit. Words were for play. Words were for beauty. Words were to dazzle, and dream, and carry fire. To work at words was an intrinsic good. 
2. Thank you for keeping me (goodly) company. 
Okay, the kid who reads Shakespeare in Grade One does not get invited to a lot of pool parties. But there were books, lots of books—all of them important in getting me through the bookish child narrative relatively intact. But Shakespeare did more than keep me company through the pages. He did it across centuries—through dialect—and under a huge weight of difference. Shakespeare lived in a time with radically different ideas about almost everything, including whether a girl child merited attention of any kind—and yet—when I read him—I experienced a huge, generous, doubting, funny, sad, ironic and oh so human mind that seemed not foreign in any way. Across it all, Shakespeare offered not history so much as family. Which leads to:
3. Thank you for making me know it would get-eth better.
If a bearded, balding playwright four hundred years dead could feel that familiar—then kinship was not out of the question for me. I just had to find someone alive felt that way to me. Who I could make feel the same. By force if necessary (see past blog about my marriage). 
4. Thanks for being better than anyone else.
It takes the edge off right? Why worry if you’re good enough? You’re never going to be that good—so relax.
See, there’s what everyone else doing, here, which is…whatever. And then there’s what he did. Which kind looks after things—anything after him is kind of gravy. 
People are going to think I’m one of the Bard-ist fan girls who just go for a fella with both feet firmly planted in the canon. But that’s not it. I revere writing. I can list off a hundred other writers whose work I feel has made at least my life significantly better—right now—without breaking a sweat. And I think each and every one of them would tell you that they got good by standing on the shoulders of other giants. And each of those giants would shake their massive world-trembling shoulders and say, “Yeah but that guy? That Shakespeare?  I can’t believe him. He grows up a few steps from the cave—writing with a quill, by candlelight, in a world without public libraries, school or water treatment—and like Athena, he springs fully grown from the head of Zeus, starts working over tired old twice-told tales, and somehow, and in some cases in a startlingly modern way, does something that makes post-moderns cringe. He touches something dangerously like the heart of what it is to be human. I cannot touch that.”
Four hundred and fifty years, and I swear to you, someone somewhere is still saying his words every minute of every day? Fuhgeddaboudit. Nobody’s touching that. 
5. Oh, and thank you for the words. All of them.
 Thanks for Hamlet—because it proves that a play can be perfect, hold the whole world and still be a MESS. Thanks for Lear (though my heart cracks when I think on him). For Midsummer Night’s—especially the fairies, “the winter of our discontent”  “Out, out brief candle.” Ariel, Mercutio, Feste. There’s also several sonnets I could not do without.
‘Cause let’s face it, the guy’s got game.