Saturday, January 28, 2023

“Railroad Madness,” a Photo by Tyre Nichols

In the foreground
Dusty white gravel
Crossed by wooden
Sleeper beams
Rusted steel rails
Rise up the sides
Then narrow to a point
Marked by a cluster
Of light posts
A downtown building
Is framed by angled wires
Almost like scratches
On the wind
To the left
An arch formed
Of crisscrossing iron beams
Rises over a footpath
Across is a tree full
Of summer leaves
Hanging on among
Concrete and railroad ties
Beneath a pale
Memphis sky 

Sunday, January 22, 2023


Una de las principales bellezas de hacer teatro es la comunidad. En una sociedad diseñada para aislarnos, nos necesitamos unos a otros para hacer teatro.

La comunidad es a menudo temporal, pero es real. Es el sustento que necesitamos.

La comunidad que forjamos montando una obra requiere exponer nuestra vulnerabilidad individual, enfrentar el riesgo y comprometernos en el apoyo mutuo.

En ausencia de confianza y seguridad entre los creadores de teatro, la comunidad y, por lo tanto, la obra, se hace añicos.

Es como algo sagrado entre los creadores de teatro: los pasos en falso y las pifias, los momentos de fragilidad y debilidad, incluso los experimentos fallidos, no deben dar lugar a la vergüenza y el ataque. Al contrario: Cuando uno de nosotros se cae, todos lo levantamos.

El daño que sufre un creador de teatro cuando es avergonzado o abandonado por uno o más colaboradores durante el proceso es profundo y puede afectar su capacidad para ingresar nuevamente a las comunidades teatrales.

Hacer teatro es fruto del aprendizaje de nuestros colegas -y del aprendizaje de quienes nos precedieron a lo largo de los siglos. Gran parte del aprendizaje consiste en aprender esta lección principal de cuidado y apoyo mutuos, incluso cuando va en contra de la ética del hiper-individualismo y el comportamiento impulsado por el ego que se encuentra en otras partes de la sociedad.

Una de las principales bellezas de hacer teatro es la comunidad. En una sociedad diseñada para aislarnos, nos necesitamos unos a otros para hacer teatro.

Theater & Community: A Manifesto

A primary beauty of making theater is community. In a society designed to isolate, we need each other to make theater.

The community is often temporary, but it is real. It is sustenance we need.

The community we forge mounting a play requires exposing our individual vulnerability, encountering risk and engaging in mutual support. 

In the absence of trust and safety between theater makers, the community and thus, the play, shatters.

It is as something sacred between theater makers: missteps and gaffes, moments of frailty and weakness, even failed experiments must not result in shaming and attacking.  On the contrary: When one of us falls, we all pick her/him/them up.

The harm a theater maker(s) suffers when shamed or abandoned by a collaborator(s) during the process is profound and can affect their capacity to enter again into theater communities.

Making theater is the fruit of apprenticeship and of learning from those who came before us over millennia. Much of this apprenticeship consists of learning the primary lesson of mutual care and support - even as it runs counter to the ethic of hyper-individualism and ego-driven behavior found elsewhere in society.

A primary beauty of making theater is community. In a society designed to isolate, we need each other to make theater.


Saturday, January 21, 2023

"Bandcamp Friday"


Today, Friday, December 2, is another "Bandcamp Friday." This means that if you purchase something digital or otherwise on Bandcamp today, the artist receives 93% of that money, while 7% goes to "processing fees and charges." When it is not "Bandcamp Friday," Bandamp takes a 15% cut off the top. I imagine that what this means for 98% of musicians who put shit up on Bandcamp is that listeners might go to an artist's page and stream portions of a couple of songs for free and then not buy anything. That's what I do sometimes – unless I have some available income to spend and the artist is not rich and famous and is, additionally, important to me personally. Then, it feels good and supportive to send 10 bones to an artist. And like most financial experiences in the life of an artist who has not penetrated mass culture, the money earned translates into burrito money, coffee money, train fare, money for guitar strings, notebooks, pens.

That's OK for me. How could I complain? At 55 years old, I have lived longer than so many artists I've known. And through chance, privilege, sacrifice and (I imagine) through a flurry of synchronistic (spirit world?) factors of which I am not even aware, I have had the time and energy to create things throughout my life. Creating occurs in dialogue with all of, well, creation, with your fellow living artists/writers/historians/thinkers, with those who have come before you, with the unseen world and in dialogue with yourself. Who are you? What is your voice in relation to that of the crow on the wire in the alley behind your house, in relation to the sun rising over the Atlantic & glimpsed from a cloud ringed mountaintop in Madeira, where your ancestors lived for 500 years?

You walk around grateful for and dialoguing with the chance mixture of weird gases that conspired to birth life on the planet -- resulting in waddling penguins and diving-swimming otters who seem eternally happy. You walk around grateful for and dialoguing with Thelonious Sphere Monk and the decades of sacrifice and study he pursued that permitted him to develop a piano language to which you can listen for all of your life.

Sons of Kemet

The brief poem below was written in the Johns Hopkins mood disorders unit in 2018 while recovering from a life-threatening medication mishap - two bouts of serotonin syndrome followed by abrupt withdrawal of an SSRI which I'd taken long term. Although my body, spirit and mind felt alternately lifeless & out of control for those 10 months of illness, some small part of my self or mind - which I cannot locate precisely - remained sufficiently functional to focus sometimes on reading and, very occasionally, on brief writings. How strange it was to write and not feel inspiration in my body, but know it was important to activate that zone of my mind that still functioned occasionally. The neurological memory of decades of creating and taking in creative things persisted inside me in an almost shadow form, a shadow form that actually worked, it turns out. And what remained of my rational mind recognized these brief episodes of functionality as a sign of a possible future for me outside of the hell gates of ultra-panic and depression.

A woman 103 years old
From Barbados
They memorialize
In the steady rain drop
Fall of snare drum rimshots
And a tuba bassline
That struts
A 4-note step
And modulates up
A queen is a saxophone
Story proclaimed atop
The drum
& tuba march
"Shore" ”Walk”
"Speak” "Breathe”