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How 2019 Could Be Your Best Year Ever

I know a woman who begins her presentations with “Today is the best day of my life”.  As she continues you discover why: Because today is the only day we have! Yesterday is gone and tomorrow isn’t here! The only moment we have is this moment, right now. It is the only moment in which we live fully. The only moment in which we are fully alive. To appreciate this you need to become aware. First, that you’re not living fully in the moment. Then, by developing a practice that helps you develop greater awareness of the present moment. 

You can accomplish this simply by tuning into all or some of  your five senses.

Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s making a plan, reading, studying, creating a vision board at a free VISION BOARD PARTY (more info here), or meditating, bring your full awareness to your senses.

If you’re doing this during meditation, for instance, start by focusing on your breath.. If you start to relax and suddenly you hear someone hammering outside your window. Don’t resist it! FOCUS ON IT! You’re tuning in with your sense of hearing… Observe your annoyance: You’re tuning in to your body–your pulse rate usually goes up a bit when you’re annoyed, right?  Are you outside? Do you feel a breeze against your skin?

Continue to move about your environment mindfully, fully experiencing everything through your senses.

Your senses are what connects you with this moment. You become more aware. With greater awareness comes greater intuition and clarity of thought. And with that comes the ability to choose more wisely from a greater number of possibilities.

You can start a mindfulness practice right this minute. You don’t need to go to a class, or spend any money. Connect yourself to this moment by feeling the air against your skin, your back against the chair, your feet on the floor. Do you feel or hear your heartbeat?  Are you calm or anxious?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Whatever works for you. Become the observer. Sit quietly and observe and feel everything. If your mind wanders, observe that. Then bring it back to your breath, your posture, the sounds of birds, anything you can observe with your senses. That is mindfulness.

Do this for a few minutes every hour, or several times a day. I used to have a mindful clock on my computer; something I downloaded from the internet. It sounded like Big Ben. I could set it to ring at regular intervals, or randomly. When it gonged, I’d sit for a few moments and tune in to the present moment, then go back to work. I started this practice as a way of healing from medical trauma. My therapist was an expert in trauma and had done considerable research into the practice of mindfulness as a treatment for PTSD. It works.

Try it. What do you have to lose, except anxiety, stress, pain, high blood pressure–the list goes on. If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness I highly recommend books by Jon Kabat-Zinn, or his website which you can access here.

Holiday

You are Light Get Lit. Stay Lit. Bring it.

As we approach the holidays I’ve been thinking a lot about the similarities in the way different spiritual traditions celebrate with themes of light. More than at any other time of the year, it is in this season of shortening days, when  darkness prevails and seems to have won that people celebrate Light. Perhaps that’s because we take anything  for granted when it’s abundant. Our appreciation for something seems only to come as we realize we’ve almost lost it.

So many people suffer with depression at this time of year; a darkness of the soul ensues and with it the ancient fear that all is as it always will be. In darkness our imagination–and our fears–grow. Be without light long enough and it’s hard to remember the feeling of safety it brings. It becomes easy to lose our optimism and give ourselves over to the night and its insecurities. No wonder in December we seek to beckon Light’s return. To light a candle in the darkness is to invite the spirit of hope back into our consciousness. 

Maybe that’s why so many religions and spiritual traditions engage in celebrations of Light. Hanukkah commemorates the victory by the Jews over a tyrant king and the miracle of a small quantity of oil to light the Temple’s menorah miraculously lasting eight days. The 13th of November is huge  celebration of light, Diwali, celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, is a festival of triumph of good over evil celebrated with light displays, food and fireworks.. It’s a beautiful and colorful celebration. It is not surprising then that Kwanzaa, which celebrates African heritage in African-American culture, also is a celebration of light.  In addition to a feast and gift giving. seven candles are lit to symbolize the seven core principles of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is celebrated very near Christmas.

Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth,  is not in sync with the historical birth of Jesus, but occurs just after the longest night of the year, as the earth slowly tilts once again towards the sun.  I wonder if, back in ancient times, the darkness seemed to be winning when Jesus entered the picture.  Things were fairly dire in the outposts of the Roman Empire, especially if you were ill or not well off materially; there was poverty and disease, and an Empire not too interested in anything besides tax collecting.  For Christians, Jesus is “the Light of the World” that overcame the darkness. Perhaps that is one reason the celebration was moved from Spring to December, just after the winter Solstice.

Time and time again, candles are lit in celebration, commemoration, worship to give us hope and remind us that darkness always gives way to light. The thing is, you have to keep moving, keep bringing light, no matter how dark the night seems, or for how long.

 Just as darkness enveloped the Empire, so night envelops us as we wait for the Solstice, which occurs just before we celebrate Christmas. We string small lights onto our homes and trees and sing songs of Peace and Joy. Light once again has overcome the dark. It did back then. It will again. 

You will bring it.

For Aimee Levesque and me, Inclusive Theater of WNY is our candle in the darkness. It is the Light we offer to all those who wander in the darkness of exclusion, depression, judgement, fear, harassment, and hopelessness. Through our own difficult experiences we haven’t just come to believe–we KNOW–that to exclude anyone on the basis of something they cannot change (something core to their being) is to foist darkness upon the person, and the world. The world because we believe that each individual brings his/her own light and our calling is to help others to grow their own light and to share it. To extinguish the light of another is ultimate evil. Whether by shaming, blaming, ostracizing, or other means, it is soul murder not to acknowledge, validate and value the unique soul in every single person.



Commentary · Plays

The Power of Theater: No Ordinary “Fiddler” On This Stage…

Last evening my husband and I went to see Fiddler on the Roof at Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo, NY. We’ve each seen “Fiddler” a few times over the years and knew what to expect- and we looked forward to this beautiful, sad, humorous musical play. But from the first moments of the show we knew THIS production would be different. The set is a train station and a man is dressed in contemporary clothing (a red jacket). As he boards the train with many others, the doorway is turned and as the people mingle suddenly they all are in peasant clothing from a long ago time. The man in the red jacket becomes Tevya, the father with five daughters, husband of Golde, and he begins his conversation with God and sings of “Tradition”.

As we approach Election Day 2018 I am thinking of all the men who, like Tevya, are trying to feed and protect their families in a world that seems only to care for certain types of people. I’m thinking of all the women, who like Golde and her daughters, struggle to embody their true selves, to protect themselves and each other from what the world would impose on them and yes, what is imposed upon them in their own household, in the guise of “Tradition”.

I’m thinking of all the refugees who like the family in “Fiddler” find themselves suddenly and without warning forced from their homes, or those who choose to leave under threat of harm. Where is safe haven? And who will be allowed to go there?

Growing up in the America of the 1950s and 60s, I never had to worry about those kinds of questions. I read about people who did, but they were from other places, not here, in America. That could never happen here!

And yet earlier this year families were torn apart as they crossed the border into the US and as I write this, people still  are fleeing their homes in South America to save their children

Fiddler on the Roof always has been an  important and relevant play. By adding a contemporary note, the production we saw last night  was made  all the more powerful, current and relevant as, when the villagers begin their forced emigration  to America, Tevya once again becomes the contemporary man in the red jacket, walking with the “others” against a backlit stage–shadow people walking, walking, walking, but to where? And to what?

One thing I know for sure is this: They are us.


Performances · Plays

Audiences Love “And Where Will You Put the Things You Save?” –at Alleyway Theatre on Main Street in Buffalo Through October 28

Inclusive Theater of WNY opened its inaugural play on Thursday, October 11 and held a well attended gala before the play on Saturday, October 13th.

The play, “And Where Will You Put the Things You Save?” was written by Baroness von Smith, a WNY playwright and directed by Virginia Brannon. The talented cast includes veteran WNY actors Steve Brachmann, Jessica Levesque and John Profeta (just off his powerhouse performance in Farenheit 451 at Subversive Theatre).

Audiences have been enthusiastic and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the play, the chemistry between the actors, and the subject matter. Read the review by Cherie Messore of Buffalo Theater Guide hereThe play runs through October 28th at Alleyway Theatre. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 2pm.  You can purchase tickets here.

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Cast and Crew of “And Where Will You Put the Things You Save?”

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Uncategorized

TEN DAYS….

That’s how many days until audiences can see ITOWNY’s inaugural play–And What Will You Do With the Things You Save? …  Actors Jessica Levesque, Steve Brachmann and John Profetta have such fantastic chemistry that when the words of playwright Baroness von Smith are spoken, well–it’s magic.  

It’s no small task to bring a play to the stage and this effort is the culmination of the work of three years. With our preview/soft opening on October 11 and OPENING NIGHT on  Oct 12, there will be a shift in the universe! What awaits you when you enter Alleyway Theatre simply must be experienced, not merely described. So head on over to Inclusive Theater of WNY’s webpage and order your tickets right here!

Tickets are now available for “And Where Will You Put the Things You Save?

Written by: Baroness Von Smith
Directed by: Virginia Brannon

Starring:
Steve Brachmann
Jessica Levesque
John Profeta

11-28 October 2018
Alleyway Theatre

Showtimes:
Thursday – Saturday – 8pm
Sunday – 2pm

Thursdays are pay what you can!

Fridays – Sundays:

General Admission: $25
Seniors/Students: $20

 

Note: Special Gala Night on 13 October 2018!–7pm. Tickets are $50 and include a reception with light refreshments before the show!!

Don’t wait! Get your tickets today!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/and-where-will-you-put-the-things-you-save-tickets-49656156902

Oh, and if you’d like to place an ad in our Playbill, read on…

PLAYBILL ADVERTISERS NEEDED!  
Just think how great you’ll feel knowing you helped bring about the magic! In the show’s playbill, you can advertise your organization or business. The playbill will be shared online and given to theatergoers at each show. All ads will be printed in black and white, but will appear in color online, if applicable.

Ad prices as low as $25! Contact ITOWNY at inclusivetheaterofwny@gmail.com for more information.

 

Thank you in advance for your support!!

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