Thursday, 28 July 2011

Practivist of the Week - YOU Supporting BKLA!

The Brass Knuckles LA Slam Team is doing one big push to fundraise before Poetry Slam Nationals next month!  We'll be heading to Boston to compete against over 70 teams from across the country and we need your help!

We've raised about 25% of our goal through performances and book sales, but we've still got a long way to go!

For more details and to donate to our indiegogo campaign, CLICK HERE!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Quote of the Week - Irwin

"Now is the moment you have. Let it be informed but not burdened by yesterday, buoyed but not emptied by tomorrow. Think, act, be, now."
-Terry Irwin

Terry's my friend.  We went to film school together.  He posts these really amazing FB status updates.  I can no longer resist quoting him.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Back to Black

Despite being sure she wouldn't release another album, or make it through her Saturn Return, I'm finding it quite difficult to breathe this morning after hearing the news that Amy Winehouse died.

Her talent was of tragic proportions - the kind it is very tough for humans to handle.  A little talent is a challenge; tremendous talent requires near perfect environments and support.

Two months into my Saturn Return, I was a passenger in a car that was rammed by a drunk driver in a van.  We were saved by being in a Volvo, and though we walked away, the damage was severe.  I could not walk for weeks, or sit, or lie down, had a concussion the size of Mt. Rushmore.  The same night as the accident, I lost the job I had just started, after waiting months for it, as one of the partners walked away from the deal.  I survived all of this as well as the other surprises awaiting me, but only by shifting the path I had intended to take in life by a very wide margin.

I have a friend who's about to enter his Saturn Return.  He is far too reckless, tempts the universe daily, and thinks he's basically too cool to be messed with.  I watch this, and know that advice is unwelcome and the clock is ticking toward great tests, wondering how he will meet them.  Amy, Kurt, Jimi, Janis, Jim, but it's not just famous people - think of your friends who didn't make it to 30.

I'm glad Amy Winehouse didn't end up like the crack ho who accosted us one night in a chip shop in Camden.  Exposing herself while ranting about this being her town, where she grew up.  Winehouse could easily have become completely non-functional and spiraled down endlessly for decades.

We will make a lot of her death - and less than we should of the scores killed in Norway.  This is our way - it does not make sense.

What was it about Amy Winehouse that we all connected so strongly to?  I'm not sure.  Her complete surrender and lack of control - something we are not allowed?  Her indulgence?  Her other-worldliness?  What I know is that I've lost something in me today.  I don't know what it is, but I know that it's gone.  Her music marked something for me, something in me, that had no marker before.  I am not sure I know how to reckon that place on my own.  It wrestled her to death.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

My Top Ten Tips for Minimalism - A Primer for De-Clutterization

Okay, so prompted by a friend asking about how to scale back, I'm posting some tips for keeping it minimal.  Am I an expert?  I've essentially lived out of 2 Samsonite suitcases - quite happily - for about 3 years.  Confession would be a small storage room, which I have 1/2 of, and which is not at all full.  Everything I own, in one place and unpacked, could fit in an average sized bedroom.

Coveting these from Kate Spade - named for Alvin Ailey
Whether you're moving, or de-cluttering, less means more.  Back when I used to buy sunglasses for $5 and $10 a pair, I routinely had up to 10 pairs, none of which I could ever find, many of which got lost or broken, and had to be replaced.  At some point I realized that this was a losing proposition and that I needed better lenses between me and the strong California sun.  When I started spending 3 figures for sunglasses (yup, that's right) I had one and only one pair.  I've routinely kept those pairs for 3-5 years, so have actually spent less on sunglasses by spending more.  When you spend money on things like sunglasses, believe me, you always know where they are and you don't run around scratching them up.  My current handbag is an object of desire for many women.  It cost enough even at 80% off.  I only have one handbag.  When it quits, I will get another one.  (I also have one bag for clubbing and one vintage evening clutch.) to live like a minimalist.  This is for those who tend to stay in one place - not the gypsies.  For the gypsies, well, I'll probably do a special edition.  Here we go!

1.  Have one good one instead of lots of ok ones.  This not only means buying less, or bringing less into your home, it means actively going through what you have and culling out the overage.  You have 10 white t-shirts and 9 have stains you keep thinking you're going to be able to get out?  Get rid of the 9.  You only have 1, you've only had 1, but you've been telling yourself you have 10, storing 10, moving 9 to look for the good 1, feeling guilty about the stains on the 9 you never find the time or industrial strength chemicals to get out.  You have 1.  1 is good.  Start with that; it's probably all you need for now if you treat it nicely.  The other 9 can be rags or just plain garbage.  (NOTE:  Recycling is fantastic, but don't inflict your broken, stained, or otherwise truly undesirable objects on others.)
Sigh…had to bequeath this one sadly

2.  Love the one you are going to have.  Don't settle for okay, or on sale so why not.  Settle for love.  Love each thing you have and use it to death.  Only bring things into your world that you adore.  And yes, get rid of things you have that you do not adore.  Why look at something or use something that actively makes you feel bad?  Non-attachment means non-attachment.  Objects you don't like, or feel are inadequate for your current lifestyle, bring up emotions.  Emotions are attachment.  You are invested in the things that you don't like in ways you haven't imagined.  They bring up complex feelings that may point to inadequacy, feelings of not deserving better, and much much more.  When you love something and it is working for you, you just go on about your day around it.  You may adore your coffee pot, but I bet you won't fixate on it like you would if you didn't like it because it was cracked and given to you by your ex-mother-in-law. Conserve your energy by not attaching it to negativity that can be associated with certain objects you possess and the stories that may go with them.   Loving what you have cultivates gratitude, and we all know that's a good thing.

3.  Take great care of your things.  If your things are going to take care of you, then take care of them.  A broken DVD player is not a DVD player.  By definition if it doesn't play your DVD'S, then it's just a hunk of metal and plastic taking up space and collecting dust.  Get it fixed or give it away to someone who can fix it and use it.  Sew buttons on, take your boots to be repaired, don't surround yourself with things that don't work.  It sends a message of broken.

4.  Make space for what you do want.  Keeping the clutter at bay means the ability to actually bring in the things you want to love.  Getting rid of old things may even have a way of creating increased income to purchase those things.  Sell what you can and use the money to get one thing you truly love and need.

5.  Cleanse your media collection.  Yes, you.  It's 2011.  Pandora, Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, iTunes, Google Books, Kindle, iBooks....what are you doing with CD's, DVD's and books you haven't touched in ten years?  Yes, you're smart, well-educated, and eclectic.  So put the music and video on a hard drive.  Keep the books that mean something to you.  Look around your living room right now.  All the non-personal media you have in there has been digitized by someone already.  Nothing is going away.  You will never lose the ability to read The Great Gatsby over.  Okay, bad example - I tend to read that one every year, so I keep it.  But truthfully, the books I love the most are the ones I can never keep - if someone comes into my house and hasn't read Their Eyes Were Watching God, or The Gift, they walk away with my current copy.  

The books I have are either books I refer to at least once a year, books related to research on a current project, poetry books, or books given to me directly by their authors, or signed by the authors.  The CD's I have are only those by friends, and same for DVD's.  If I made it, or was part of making it, I have those, too.  Keep your first editions and signed copies, but do you really need a disintegrating copy of The Republic you hated in college?  I mean it's in the public domain...

I love books. I wrote one and have more to go.  But don't let yourself be boxed in by these objects.  The art is eternal and it is not going anywhere.  Keep the books you reach for at 3 a.m. on sleepless nights and the ones that have true personal meaning.  Invest in a library card - they are usually free.  This is a great way to have constant access to paper and binding books.  One tiny card gets you thousands of books for free!

Get rid of your VHS's and cassettes.  There's no excuse for keeping inferior formats at this stage.

Keep your vinyl - and your turntable.  You have my permission.

Carson only gives you ONE season!
5.  Get rid of any clothes you have not worn in the last 2 active seasons.  (Carson would only give you 1 year - I'm being generous!)  Exceptions are very expensive well-made shoes, bags, evening dresses/men's formal wear and accessories. Be reasonable.  If you live in a warm climate, but have Patagonia long underwear for those occasional trips to cold places and they're in good condition, hold onto them.  Don't get caught up in the vanity of "can I wear it next season if I get skinny enough" ask yourself if you'd actually wear it if you were skinny enough now, or would you want something else.  Just because you wore it when you liked the way you looked better does not mean you like the item now or in the future.

Still got Grandma's table?
6.  Do not hold onto anything you did not choose to have in your life.  Okay - this is a big one.  And very, very difficult.  But you have your grandmother's kitchen table!  Well, you've always wanted a colorful little round mosaic table, but you've always had your grandmother's vintage 1950's Formica table. never wanted that table; it's not your style.  You wanted something else.  But you moved out after college and it got handed down to you for free and you've had it ever since and how can you get rid of it now?  Every time you walk by that table or use it you think about the colorful mosaic table, then feel guilty about your grandmother and her table, and do not realize that you can change.

Here's the beautiful thing:  someone somewhere absolutely desires a 1950's vintage Formica table in perfect condition.  It might even be someone you know and they might be willing to pay you well for it.  Maybe enough to get a colorful mosaic table that suits your lifestyle and doesn't make you feel bad every time you pass it.  Putting these things back into the world means that someone may receive them who actually values them - that's great feng shui.  Check in with hand-me-down furniture and other items, presents that you never found a use for or really liked, etc.  There is someone who does want them and will use them joyfully and it isn't you.  If you are not going to get rid of it, that means you choose it.  Do you?

A pretty BaGua
7.  Do not keep anything broken, over-used, or worn past usefulness.  If it's broken and you are going to fix it, then fix it.  Or pass it along to someone who can and will.  If your style is worn, then keep the worn stuff that works, but ditch the stuff that doesn't.  Repurposing is great as is maintaining what you have.  Just don't hide behind old, useless stuff that's crowding your world.  Feng Shui principles differ somewhat from Wabi Sabi here - but the main question I would ask is:  How does it make you feel?  I aim for it either makes me feel nothing - i.e. I don't even have to notice it, it's there and it's functioning as it should - or I feel happy when I see it.  If there are negative attachments to worn or broken objects, then they are pulling on your energy every time you interact with them.  They are telling you stories of another you and reinforcing them.  They are taking up time in your head.

Here's a secret: if you know you don't want it, but can't part with it for sentimental reasons, take a picture of it.  I've done it with shoes I loved and knew were too worn out to keep.  It's made me feel better.  It might work for you, too.
The 2010 Derby Dolls

8.  Do not keep ANYTHING that makes you feel bad or negative when you look at it ("my ex-boyfriend gave me that before he cheated on me with the entire Derby Dolls* squad!").  This is really important!  This is the most freeing thing you can do for yourself.  We are not talking about your great-aunt's earrings which make you sad, but also make you remember loving her.  We are talking about anything and everything that makes you feel less than.  Honour your own energy by removing these things from your life.  Someone can and will use them happily somewhere if you release yourself from them.

*I just made that up.  The Dolls are not implicated in any actual wrongdoing.

9.  Get rid of anything that does not make you smile.  Simple.  My favorite rule.

10.  For every new thing you bring in, something has to go (or preferably has already gone).  Hard and fast rule.  You can actually start with this one if you don't think you're ready for full-scale minimalism.  It will keep you from continuing to spread.  New pair of shoes?  Get rid of a pair that have outlasted their usefulness.  New cell phone?  Donate or recycle the old one - immediately.  It can be apples and oranges - you can get rid of a sweater when you bring in a new throw pillow - but it must be something.  Conservation of mass.

Those are my top ten.  Be gentle with yourself, but hard on your stuff.  My experience has shown me that Americans really do have a lot  more stuff than most people in the world.  They dedicate space ($), time ($), transportation ($), and energy ($) to keeping the stuff they have.  Occasionally, they get overwhelmed, and then consumed by their stuff.  Sometimes, they lose their identity to it.

Trust your instincts.  Clearing is essential to growth.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Quote of the Week - Stanton

"The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls."
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton (via Goodreads)

Friday, 15 July 2011

Marketa Kimbrell 1928 - 2011

I dreamt of Marketa and woke up this morning with her advice in my head about the scene I did last night - an "Aha - of course that's what I was forgetting" moment.    I had completely forgotten the flaw theory of comedy - had worked on spine and need, but had weighed down the scene and the character, rather than opened it up.  As soon as she appeared, I knew what I'd needed to do.  I guess that was her last visit to me. The first thing I saw in the New York Times this morning was her obituary.

I'd often rehearsed the idea that she was dead - it sounds crazy, maybe is crazy, but I needed to do that.

The obituary does not mention that she was an original member of the Actors' Studio - her memories of Lee Strasberg are priceless.  It also does not mention her as a founding member of the Lincoln Center Theatre Company, where she did productions with George C. Scott and many others.  She was fiercely protective of animals and their rights, and was easily adopted by dogs looking for homes.  Her New York Street Theatre Caravan took theatre to the people -  she championed theatre in shelters and prisons and anywhere there was a forgotten population.  The values that  informed the Caravan informed every aspect of her life.

Marilyn in class at the Actors Studio
The obituary glosses over what is probably her greatest legacy - her almost 30 years of teaching at Tisch School of the Arts.  Teaching acting to aspiring film directors can be a thankless task, yet I'd venture thousands of students fell in love with Marketa and are much better filmmakers for it.  She fought tirelessly for the rights of the students, made professor despite not having even graduated high school, and in was one of the architects of what makes NYU's filmmakers' work feel so authentic.  

She created a safe space for young filmmakers to explore their craft and their boundaries, to learn  how to become an artist, and to grow.  She not only received a Distinguished Teaching Award, she was also given a huge tribute at NYU for her contributions - something I have never known for any other teacher there.  Her influence was widely felt at Tisch and will be for years to come.

Sidney Lumet - director of The Pawnbroker
As a teacher of film acting, she devised a deceptively simple technique to help actors and directors create real emotional moments despite the fact that film is shot out of order.  Starting with principles that Strasberg and Kazan employed for script analysis, she created her 5 questions.  In this way, each actor could create a strong reality, even for a short close-up within a scene.  She encouraged directors to utilize all the elements of film available to them - light, color, sound, setting - even during the rehearsal process.  She was gentle, patient, knew how to push on something to create challenge, but not obstacle and her immense joy for the craft of acting was present in every breath.  She was always talking about writing a book, but I have long feared she never made it through a draft.

11th floor
After graduating NYU, students would sneak back into her classes and take them.  I think I took class on and off for about 3 years after I left.  It was like a secret workshop, tucked away in 721 Broadway.  The first room we had was like our own little wasteland - a completely gutted and forgotten floor of the building where we'd drag props and abandoned furniture and use building materials lying around to create post-apocalyptic sets.  The people I met in those rooms changed my life, and I'm sure I changed theirs.

It seemed sometimes Marketa was choosing boyfriends for me by pairing me up with certain people - some of the choices were not so great, honestly - though she kept trying to get me to date outside the artist community and repeatedly told me never to marry anyone in the business.  She talked about finding someone outside, someone stable, someone who was not an artist in any way.  It often confounded people that she had been married and had children with someone in the military; she was an ardent pacifist.  Yet she hated oppressive regimes passionately - as well as oppressive strictures governing anything.  She could not stomach cruelty of any kind.

I used to think she knew my path better than I did.  Sometimes I searched her eyes for answers to questions much larger than how to direct a scene or how to really become Nancy Spungen.  I knew she wanted things for me that I hadn't yet learned to want and I knew she tried not to want them for me, but to rather inculcate a freedom to choose within me.  More than anyone, she is responsible for who I am as a person and artist.  If anyone other than me has shaped me, it was Marketa.  Her constant engagement with life and art - she never once looked bored or uninterested  - her kindness and compassion, her willingness to fight authority to protect those who needed protection, her insistence upon process and craft over result - all of these gave her life a resonance well beyond her list of accomplishments.  Like water on parched ground, Marketa poured her talents into others to help them become their best selves.   As far as I could see, she had no vanity, no ego, and no need to pull focus.  Even facing devastating grief, she maintained her commitment to craft and to her students.  She will be carried forward inside all those she touched and everything they create.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Quote of the Week - Buddha

"Teach this triple truth to all:  A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity."
- The Buddha

Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Word Begins!

Will you just go cause I tell you to go, LA?

Cause I really don't have time to do the proper blog thing right now.

But I best suggest that you head to the incredible Rogue Machine Theatre (yup - they do consistently great productions here) for the latest 2-man/1-man show from Steve Connell and Sekou Andrews.


Because their writing is sharp, insightful, poignant, funny, entertaining and elating.  Their performance is passionate, energetic, inspired, and brave.

Steve Connell/Sekou Andrews
These are courageous performers, willing to put on stage both what you want to hear, and what you do not think you want to hear.  They have dug deep in this one and are dancing with their shadows to bring out the tough truths about who we are right here, right now.

Sekou Andrews
The set is bomb; the direction sets it all off; the night is poppin.

Go because you're so narcissistic, you wanna know yourself better when the show is over.  Because they will show yourself to you.

Go because you want to be entertained wildly while you're being informed widely.  Because these guys can handle that.

Go because you have been hiding behind screens too long.  Because they will put on and then take off all the social masks you got.

Or just go because I said so.  Cause this week is pretty tough so far, and it would make me feel better if you went cause of me.

Or go because Los Angeles should require that its theatre be at this level, and we should not let shows of this caliber languish in half-empty theatres while we are watching SYTYCD.

Go - because you are not excused.  The word begins.

The Word Begins Trailer from Hip-Hop Theater Festival on Vimeo.
Praise for The Word Begins:

Nominated for Three Helen Hayes Awards:
Best Acting, Best Writing and Best Original Production

" a touch of Genius" - Norman Lear*

"vignettes crackle with pinpoint veracity..." - Washington Post

"...riotous and perceptive..."  - Washington Times*

"a frantic mix of theatre, spoken word and comedy" – DC Theatre Scene*

"a unique theatrical experience" - Falls Church News-Press

“a cheerful, spoken-word romp” - Time Out New York*

"the perfect combination of soul and science" - Quincy Jones

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Quote of the Week - Holliday

"If you can handle a nightclub audience successfully, you can handle anything."
- Judy Holliday

I have found this to be absolutely true.