Shakespeare and Leadership: The Power of Art

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**A belated post about a wonderful day that has evolved into an incredible blessing and opportunity in my life.**

One Friday in August I walked into my house with a huge smile on my face, excited to tell my husband all about my day at the American Shakespeare Center One-Day Leadership Program.  If a handful of my favorite things, including The Taming of the Shrew, could all be tossed into a “day creator”, that was that Friday.

It started by opening one of the ASC’s e-blasts (I learned months ago that it is beneficial to open theirs) back in July.  They announced the program, along with two scholarships being offered by the Community Foundation of the Blue Ridge.  I applied and found out the Monday before (also my first day of my seventh round of chemo shot treatments) that they had awarded one to me!

I was elated!  One of the burdens I’ve felt while fighting and recovering from cancer is the gap that it inevitably places on my resume.  This was an opportunity to stay relevant and learn about leadership in the workplace through the arts (an ideal hybridization)!  My one problem was navigating how to get my chemo shot and not miss the workshops, if possible.  After some conversations, and a wonderfully obliging nurse and pharmacist, we came up with a plan and it went like clockwork–I missed nothing!

The entire day, from start to finish, was amazing.  During the first session I considered how different professional development events are in 2018 compared to, say, the 90s.  For instance, we began our first workshop with a conversation about awareness of our bodies and meditation, which was followed by a body scan meditation.  In my opinion, workplaces that acknowledge and understand the importance of whole-person well-being are light years ahead of those that ignore it.

Moving throughout the day, we had the opportunity to hear excerpts from Shakespeare and discuss the way speech and body posture can communicate so much in any environment, but especially a professional one, where you want to be conscientious about what you convey to your colleagues.

One of the biggest components was preparing our statements based on something pertinent to our jobs/lives.  There was clear improvement from our first-draft presentations to our final presentations, after being critiqued by members of the education staff/ASC actors.  While only one day, I was able to see marked improvement in my fellow participants, and one even said he could see himself enjoying acting, though he had never before considered it.

Of course, my favorite part of the day (and the most unexpected) was getting to perform a short scene from The Taming of the Shrew.  One of, if not, my favorite play, it was a dream-come-true (that I didn’t know I had) to work on staging the scene and performing it on the Blackfriars’ stage.  We did not memorize the lines, but read from scripts prepared the way Shakespeare would have passed them out–with cue lines and then our specific lines, but not everyone’s.  This required unique collaboration, because we had to see what each person’s lines said to see what kind of stage direction we were given for acting and interacting with each other.  It is a complex and detailed process that only raises my respect for the actors at the American Shakespeare Center who work so hard to bring such incredible performances to their audiences.

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When it was all said and done, I was exhausted—but I made it, learned immensely, and felt more alive than I had in…months, at least.  I can’t get over how lucky I am to live in a town with such a powerhouse in the theatre world.  I mean, within walking distance from my house is the only replica of The Globe Theatre in the world—that’s pretty amazing.

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Being an enthusiastic, all-in kind of person, I immediately inquired about volunteering.  They said yes.  And, now I get to work on the most amazing project that is letting me use skill sets that have sat idle too long.  It feels wonderful to have a project to work on outside of my home, to contribute to something meaningful, that I care about, and from which I am genuinely learning, too.  (I’ll share more about that another time…maybe.)

I am grateful.  Though less than pleasant circumstances brought me to live in Staunton, it is a wonderful town with so much to offer in the way of arts and culture.

Now, because I can’t talk about all this Shakespeare and not share…PLEASE watch the video below and discover the brilliance and hilarity of Upstart Crow.  If you are a Shakespeare lover, you’ll find this series right up your alley.

First watch this…

Then watch this…

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Let Us Choose Peace

fullsizeoutput_f64Grainy shot from my trip to China–an incredible experience!

Today is the International Day of Peace.  I was excited weeks ago when I read it in my calendar, especially because the healing writing group I am involved with meets today.

The concept of “international peace” is simultaneously a fantasy that seems attainable, while also being something we can never touch.  Over the past week, peace has been in my face—or rather, the lack of it.  My heart is filled with sorrow at the hardness of humans against other humans, for differences that should bring us together.  Instead our governments, many media sources, propaganda, and our own prejudices divide us.

Two days ago I listened to a podcast by The Corbett Report about the lies that started the war in Afghanistan.  Last night, my husband and I watched some more of a documentary we’ve been viewing about Israel and how the United States gives carte blanche loyalty to a country committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.  9/11 recently passed, and I was again reminded of the millions of people affected by the United States choosing (even possibly orchestrating the events) to go to war for geopolitical reasons (i.e. greed).

This week you may have seen a woman from CodePink interrupting a presentation on the Iran Missile Program.  She spoke clearly, even while they tried to deter her from speaking out in support of the citizens of Iran who are constantly being hurt by decisions made by the United States government.

Peace.  We all seek it.  We all desire it.  We want it…for ourselves.  However, how many of us want it for the people we perceive as our enemies?  I say perceive, because statistically speaking, you’re more likely to be stung by a bee and die than die from a terrorist attack.  I say perceive, because if you follow social media accounts of travelers in the Middle East (where so many westerners base their fear) you would see incredible hospitality, people having fun, the most delicious food you can imagine, and a culture that cares.

That is the difference between people and governments.

When will we, as humans, stand up to the partisan politics that continue to wreak havoc on our WORLD?  My citizenship does not make me blind to the beauty and the atrocities around the globe.  I consider myself a citizen of the world.  I cherish what I have learned from my travels abroad and my chance meetings with internationals in the countries where I have resided.

Peace requires a change in our mentalities.  It requires us to remember and acknowledge the humanity in each one of us.  It forces me to remember the love I have for the person who says hateful things about other people I love.  It teaches me that through education peace has a greater chance of attainability because when people know something it can change their perspective.

Today, and every day, let’s choose peace—a peace that comes with well reasoned ideologies and process to create something better than we have ever experienced.  Something that goes beyond what we can fathom.  Think outside the box.  Imagine what can happen if we fight for peace and stop creating war!

Let us choose peace.

Art As A Weapon

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I was browsing a site that sells art this evening.  At the top of a page, there was a description of modern art’s color blocking that emerged in the mid-twentieth century.  I remember wanting to spend significant time discussing and attempting to understand modern art during my art history class in college.  I found the subject frustrating—starting with Duchamp’s Fountain.  Now, when I see images from that era, or artists attempting to continue the genre, I sit back, annoyed that I ever gave it the time of day.

You see, earlier this summer, my husband and I watched a four-part documentary series filmed in the 90s.  One of the segments shared that the modern art movement was really a CIA propaganda move to combat the rise of the Soviet Union.  Essentially, it was a war of the arts to prove who could produce higher culture.

Tonight I watched the movie Florence Foster Jenkins.  I won’t bother with the synopsis (because you should go watch it), but she is a well to-do woman who can afford to sponsor her own music career—while funding the career of her own pianist.  Her husband protects her from negative criticism because…well, you’ll just have to watch the movie.  But, while watching it, I realized how the arts can be a healing force.

I’m married to a musician, but I am not one.  I love music—certain kinds of music.  It makes me feel so many emotions.  I rise and fall with it.  Art does not only belong to the rich.  It belongs to all of us.  In our home we are so fortunate to be surrounded by art almost entirely created by people we know.  None of them paint or draw for a living.  For most, it’s a hobby.  Different techniques.  All bring me pleasure.

I suppose I’m trying to explain that I feel cheated by the government for manipulating the world with art.  Would Pollock be famous without the CIA?  I know the great artists were funded by patrons—often the Catholic church.  I’m struggling with the idea that what I’ve grown up admiring is not pure, but rather is tainted by the souls of those who sold themselves out to governments that do not work for the good of the people, but for their own self-interests.

Community in the Deep Side of the Pond

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I don’t know about where you live, but where I live, Spring is playing a teasing game of hide-and-seek.  The tantalizing scents, sights, and sounds cause my heart to swell with joy and anticipation of the refreshing weather and soul rejuvenation that is just around the corner (but the continued chilly days bring a damper).

With the changing of the season, I feel the urge to start some new life-habits, including a new book that I hope will give me some deeper insight into my own journey.  Have you ever read The Life You Save May Be Your Own by Paul Elie?  My impression is that it will compare, contrast, and ponder over what it’s four authors of focus wrote, lived, and contributed (the book looks at the lives of Flannery O’Connery, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and Walker Percy).  I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read it.

I know little bits about each of these authors—some more than others.  There is something deep and contemplative, hidden even, that I want to explore and gain from their experiences.  I’ve always loved the deeper things in life because that’s where bonding and community form, it’s where life is best lived and souls are grown.

Community is a beautiful and necessary thing.  When I reflect back over my 26.5 years, I see the ways I’ve grown and changed based on who I was around.  I also notice the maturing, though difficult, I’ve undergone during the lonely times in my life.  These authors, though separated by distance, have been placed in a category of influence during the 20th century much, it seems, like those members of the Lost Generation or the Transcendentalists (both groups with members or offspring from whom I garner inspiration) in their times.

Some of these communities burgeon into influential movements that impact the world, others will remain smaller and impact those in their immediate sphere of influence, but ALL serve a purpose.  One of my favorite times of community was during college when I was surrounded by close friends, all of us doing our best to figure out our lives.  It gets harder after graduating, when everyone disperses.  I’m thankful for the occasional visit or unexpected circle of peers (shout out to my Black Mountain people), because as a social adult, especially one recovering from a disease that limits my social time, I still need that connection that feeds my soul, the one that lets us share the struggles we are facing and what work we’re doing to address them.

One of my aunts shared a piece of Chinese wisdom with me yesterday: if you want to make a change in your life, do it for one minute a day until it becomes habit for that length of time.  Then, add a second minute.  The things in our lives we want to change—part of why I’ve chosen to read this new book—start with simple steps, like reading a short story in the evening before bed to feed my mind but without the commitment to something much longer.  It means making intentional decisions based on my personal goals for each day and stage of life.

Here’s to picking something you want to make a habit and doing it for one minute!
Here’s to creating community and going deep.
Here’s to Spring and rebirth.

Recovering and Growing

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For the past year and a half I’ve been battling and recovering from cancer/cancer treatments.  Over that time, I’ve striven to continue posting about things I care about.  However, I want to restart, sporadic or not as it may be, because I have this inner drive to write.  It helps me process issues and this blog gives me a platform to choose what I want to write about.

The inspiration for this blog has not changed: my passion for social justice, journalism, and championing change in my own way.  What has changed is the way I’m approaching this blog.  As I recover from my stem cell transplant, I want to continue to grow as a person, not simply recover my physical abilities.  Therefore, I am still going to write about issues that are important, but with a different tone—probably a personal one.  This is not a newspaper, it’s a space where I can explore, write, and share about topics that matter to me.

My hope is, if you read what I write and it impacts you, that you’ll talk about it with people around you and share the conversation—or talk with me.

 

Feminist Isn’t A Bad Word

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Over the weekend A and I went to Winston-Salem, NC for a quick trip to meet with friends.  Winston-Salem is also where he went to high school and undergrad, so he takes me to his old haunts whenever we’re in the area.  This time, he introduced me to McKay’s used bookstore.

It has such a great selection of books, movies, CDs, and more.  But seriously, the books.  So good!  I had to practice self-control, because our home is turning into a library (not a bad thing—just a space issue).

However, I’ve really wanted to grow my knowledge of women studies, feminism, etc., and the best way to do that seems to be starting “at the very beginning” (to quote Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music—which I did sing while leaving the store).  So, when I found a great copy of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan with an intro by Anna Quindlen, I grabbed it!

One of my sources of extreme frustration is when I hear or read females (teenage, young woman, woman, older woman—doesn’t matter) say they don’t need feminism.  They typically add that equality isn’t an issue in our country, and that things are far worse in other parts of the world.

I agree…to an extent.  Women in the United States do have more equality than women in, say, Saudi Arabia.  However, as one who has experienced sexism in the work place, social life, etc., I have to advocate for the rights of women—even the ones who say they don’t need it.

Growing up, I thought “feminist” and “feminism” were bad words.  I equated feminists with man-haters.  I never imagined I would become a feminist.  However, in college I encountered three young women, peers of mine, who helped shift my perspective.  Thanks to them, and others, I look for ways to protect myself and other women from patriarchy—whether imposed by men or other women.

We all know the stereotype of females being called “catty.”  That needs to go away, along with the words “nag”, “whore”, “hoe”, “bossy”, and many other terms and phrases that, when used in association with women, are meant to “put her in her place.”  We need to start, from a young age, showing support, advocacy, love, and encouragement to our fellow ladies!  Women supporting women has the potential to create a huge cultural and social shift.  Let’s do this together!

What do you do to help influence the way the world interacts with and treats women?  How do you support the girls/women in your sphere of influence?  I believe it’s an ongoing, reconditioning of how we view the world around us and how we interact with it.

Eclipse Trip

Columbia, SC is a place I never wanted to live long-term, then I didn’t want to leave (but had to), and whenever I go back it is refreshing to my soul to visit friends and remember aspects of myself I’ve forgotten.

I left before 7AM Sunday morning to drive down to arrive in time for church (where I attended in college).  It’s the most special church I’ve ever encountered, with people who are loving, caring, intellectual, fun, deep, and from many walks of life.  The children have all grown up and my college acquaintances have children—life moves forward.

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I got to see two of my best friends from college…and we laughed so much.  Those friends are the best kind.  And we drank margaritas and had the best homemade, personal pizzas EVER.

On the day of the eclipse, I had tea, cheese, and strawberries with friends, chatted about trips to England, and had the best time getting to know my friend’s son—he’s darling.  Once the eclipse began, we’d pop outside every few minutes to check on its progress.  The first moment I put on those glasses and looked up—it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.  Perfection.  I started noticing the other ways nature was interacting with the phenomenon: shadows from the leaves, the crispness of my own shadow, and the increasing brightness and then darkness as it got closer to totality.  Also, a flying bird making a strange noise.  After totality, I stood and soaked in the beauty of what we’d experienced.  The lining up of two, huge orbs.  The impact it had on the earth.  The way it instilled a sense of awe in millions.  *goose bumps*

 

At the last minute, I learned a sweet friend was also in town with her roommate…and hedgehog.  Awesome conversations about feminism, social justice, racism, belief systems, and interacting with people you love but who just aren’t on the same page.  And, I got to hold her hedgehog!

Tuesday morning, I had breakfast with my brother at my alma mater.  The caf is still the same—even down to my half a grapefruit (yum!).  But, they’ve added a great little coffee shop downstairs (why couldn’t that have been there when I was a student?).

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Till the next solar eclipse!  2024!