Commentary · Shakespeare in the Parking Lot - A Midsummer Night's Dream

Who Knew?

As rehearsals proceed for Shakespeare in the Parking Lot: A Midsummer Night’s Dream the cast is finding its footing. And they are hilarious. Did you know that Shakespeare was a very funny guy? And he was an anti-snob. His play within a play (at the end of Midsummer Night’s Dream) is ridiculous, and the royal court doesn’t know quite what to make of it–they’re kind of clueless. It’s Shakespeare’s way of making fun of the upper crust. The actors are disrespectful and the royal court can’t figure out if it’s just part of the play–or could it be they are the butt of the joke? Nah…

Our creative and hilarious cast takes the fun to the limit. Here are a few pictures from this weeks’ rehearsals…

For tickets go here

Commentary

The Power of Theatre

Last night I had a theatre experience I won’t soon forget. The Kavinoky Theatre’s production of 1984 is a disturbing and imaginatively staged vision of a future in which truth is relative and ever changing, depending on the needs of the “elite” which is control of, well, reality itself. Big Brother is always watching but a man called Winston dares to dream that perhaps he has escaped observation in small stolen moments with Julia, the woman he has the audacity to love. The audience is pulled in to believing that maybe, just maybe this couple will find freedom: Freedom to think, freedom to feel, freedom from observation, freedom to have real chocolate..

Aleks Malejs gives depth to what could have been a one dimensional character–Julia– a woman who may (or may not) be just who she says she is. Chris Avery’s portrayal of Winston is something I can’t even describe–but I’ll try. Gut wrenching comes close, but other than that words fail me.

There is one heart stopping moment in that play that occurs between Winston and the audience, and it is shocking, disturbing, paralyzing and is reason alone to see the show. It’s a moment that will stay with me for a very long time.

At the opposite end of the seriousness spectrum, Inclusive Theatre of WNY’s A Festival of Shorts opens on Friday April 5th at 7:30 pm and runs until Sunday April 7th at 2pm at The Foundry, 298 Northampton Street, Buffalo. Tickets are available through paypal here.

So. Here’s my recommendation for a perfect weekend: Catch one of the final performances of 1984 at The Kavinoky Theatre at D’Youville on Porter Rd in Buffalo, and then head over to The Foundry for a little comic relief!

Here are pictures from today’s rehearsal of A Festival of Shorts.

Commentary

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?

beautiful bloom blooming blossom
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.

Commentary

You are Light

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.