Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Let's Not Make a Deal...Invest in yourself as an artist

People often call me and say, "I want to take your Solo Performance Bootcamp" but.... (here it comes) "I can't afford it."

In the past my response has often been "Well, we can work something out" or "I'll give you a discount, payment plan etc."

At the time I worked in this way, I thought that I was helping people. That I was giving artists the opportunity to work with me at a price they could afford. And that they would leverage my "deal" to take their career up a notch and take more ownership of themselves and their show.

In reality...not so much. People value what they pay for and this principal is no different when it comes to our art/creative process. I have noticed that the people who really take themselves and their shows seriously are willing to invest in it financially as well as emotionally and creatively.

The people who have paid me a fair chunk of money are committed. And so am I. There is a subtle difference that I notice happens for me if someone has "talked me down" It's all about energy. And, if you want my full energy, expertise as well as valuable advice and connections, from now on you will have to pay fully for it.

The people who invest in their Solo Performance Bootcamps want to get their money's worth. They have paid me, come to Santa Fe and want to see a return on their investment. They are the ones who are taking their shows on the road, getting runs at festivals, professional theaters and getting PAID runs at conferences.

So, please do not try to play "Let's Make a Deal" with me. Because I want you to succeed and I want to succeed. I want you to take yourself as a performer/speaker seriously. Invest if you want to. If you are inspired to. Your heart will guide you if this path is yours.

I can honestly tell you that I have never had one person tell me "I'm sorry I did this" Quite the opposite. The experience is ALWAYS one of power, love, adventure and on some profound level, claiming oneself.

It is a life-changing event.

And life changing events do not come at Filene's Basement's prices.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

“The Soul’s Journey Monologue Experience”….A New Offering

“The Soul’s Journey Monologue Experience”….A New Offering

On April 27 and 28, at Unity Santa Fe, I am directing and co-presenting the lovely and inspired Sandy Alemian in her one- woman show “What Was God Thinking?”

Sandy is the author of a book by the same name, and late last year, she flew out to Santa Fe from Boston to work with me to adapt some of the stories from her book into a one -woman show. Sandy’s show and book are about her journey  when her precious baby daughter Talia died at  a month old and how the subsequent grief and pain opened Sandy up spiritually to become a channel and medium.

Sandy is one of many people I have worked with who utilize the solo performance vehicle as a way to share their spiritual journey with others. It is a perfect format, and while different from the professional actor who comes to create a character piece, if done well it can be equally potent and powerful.

My own first show, “Honeymoon in India” really combined my two greatest passions, solo performance and my own journey toward spiritual awakening.

The key is to do this work in an authentic, embodied and creative way. There is so much we can do to really bring a story alive, whether bringing in various characters from our journey or bringing in music, humor and irony. Even one's own most intimate journey must be shaped to serve an audience.

After working with five clients in the last two years who have written and performed their full-  length shows about their spiritual jouney’s I have decided to offer this as an additional option to my Solo Performance Bootcamp. These shows have been performed at churches, at 12 step and spiritual conferences, as well as in conventional theaters. Many conferences  are now choosing the solo show experience as an option to more traditional key-note speakers. I think because it is a more creative and alive format and people are craving that. A great example of this type of spiritual awakening message was embodied by Jill Boldt Taylor who delivered part of her show “My Stroke of Insight” at a TED conference a few years back.

I deeply believe that now is a time when people need to hear messages of hope, love, transformation and connection to something greater than ourselves.

This experience will be an opportunity to deepen your own spiritual awakening, share the story with others and offer it in community. Whether it is a once in a lifetime experience or you are a speaker/life coach who wants to perform your show in various venues,you will benefit yourself and others deeply.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ego vs. Soul: Why do a Solo Show?

This is a writing exercise I give my solo students: 

Write on the topic of “Why do I want to do a one person show?” 

Be willing to be ruthlessly honest with yourself. If your motives are primarily from the ego ( wanting applause, validation from the audience that you never got from your family, wanting for your victim story to be cooperated, needing approval or raging out in revenge for the injustices you’ve experienced in your life) now is the time to begin to work with these issues to transform them. If your motives are to serve the world through offering a story of heroism and transformation, you’re on the right track. If your motivation is to challenge yourself to go further than you’ve ever gone creatively and expressively, you’re on the right track. If your motive is to shed light for the audience and inspire them in their own growth of spirit; if your motive is to challenge denial and narcissism in our culture through specific experiences and wisdom gained, you’re on the right. As you can see, there are many ways to be on the right track. They all have one thing in conmen though. They are to reach beyond the needs of your individual self to serve a greater purpose. Basically, you want to do this to either glorify the human spirit and explore it’s journey in overcoming obstacles or you want to glorify your own ego’s needs. This may seem a paradox if you’re exploring a personal story from your life. It isn’t a paradox, though. However, it is walking the razor’s edge. Right from the start, you must be aware of the danger of indulgence in your story. Indulgence is an over attachment to your own suffering. Indulgance is the attachment to your own heroism. The key to a great show is the willingness to be honest and true simply and  with transparency. The opposite extreme is under exposure. That kind of show will be dry and empty because the individual doesn’t expose him or herself enough and there is an emptiness to the piece. However, there is a glorious place in the middle where vulnerability meets discernment and art is created. True art always moves beyond the individual artist’s needs and makes an offering of some way to others. It does not matter if others “like it” or not. What is important is the digging down into your own soul for something true, the presenting it in a way that is specific and unique.  This is the place that you will be striving for within your work .If you’re not on the right track, you will begin to do Wisdom Writing in your journal on what you need to heal inside you to remove any obstacles that are standing in the way of you offering an honest, authentic, compelling story that includes a beginning middle and end that explores the transformational arc of your life or the life of another (whose character you are portraying.).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

When you feel do you find material?

This week, I had a meeting with a prospective client. He wants to work with me and do a solo show, but was concerned that there isn't anything interesting enough about his life for him to focus a show on.

Our own literal lives are only a jumping off place in a solo show. It is not just our own experiences that make a great show. As a matter of fact, people who are complete literalists have the most boring shows generally. It takes a marriage of our inner experiences  along with the outer ones while adding our own unique point of view and imagination to make a tasty stew. To make something theatrical, we need to be willing to surrender, deeply to the different aspects of our Soul and allow for the story that really wants to reveal itself to arise.

Even the late "Spalding Gray", who was a master of spinning his own life into interesting tales and is known for his autobiographical work was a storyteller at heart. In other words, he started with his life but embellished. Maybe he added some characters and changed the sequence of events and "put himself on steroids" as solo performer Tracey Erin Smith says. Which means, it is still you, but a bigger, more exaggerated version of you. Or who actually does things that you only think about in "real life".

There is a difference between emotional truth and literal truth. If, as solo artists we move toward the choice for emotional truth, the audience will take the journey along with us no matter if the story actually happened, partially happened or did not happen except in our own imaginations.

How do we explore these different ways of opening up to our own material?

1. Go back to your childhood. Write about what you really loved. For me, I remember loving being in nature, my dolls and writing poems.

How are these aspects of yourself feeding your life and creativity now? Open to exploring that energy in the present. It may hold a key to some creative openings within yourself before your life had more layers of conditioning and expectations added to it.

2. Write about an event that changed your life forever with a beginning, middle and end.

3. Think about the archetypes that live within you or that you have experienced at different times in your life. Martyr, Caregiver, Heroine, Addict, Seducer...etc. Give one of these aspects a name, for example " Marlene the Martyr" and let her speak from her Point of View....For years I have called this exercise "The Voices in My Head" and it is a great way to jumpstart your material.

4. Interview a person and ask them about the most important thing that ever happened in their life. Or a day or person that changed them. Turn this story into a character based on the interview. It is not about doing an imitation, rather it is about using someone else's story as a jumping off point for you.

5. Walk, eat good food, drink water and set aside time for your creative musings no matter what. You need this even more when you are feeling blocked than when you are flowing.

No matter what, don't ever give up on yourself or your gifts. Even if they are blocked for the moment, be willing to dive deep, take time and also play around. You will be amazed at what arises as you give yourself the time and space to go back to exploring.


Monday, April 9, 2012

How a Loving Relationship Changes us as Solo Artists

I fell in love quite deeply and unexpectedly in the fall of my 47th year of life. That was 7 months ago.The kind of mature, sustainable, passionate relationship with another that I had always longed for, yet never fully manifested was suddenly right in my face as a viable option.

I'm pretty sure this man is my soul mate, even though, by the time he appeared, I didn't believe in soul mates anymore. I had become too jaded. We have both done a lot of deep soul cleansing work for many years, that part of soul is definitely evident in our relationship. We care for each other's souls and take care of each other in ways both large and small daily. And, effortlessly.

We've both been in varying degrees of lousy, mediocre, partially satisfying and down right abusive relationships previously. And, as two people who have a similar outlook on life; namely, that everything is an opportunity for growth, no matter how shitty it may feel at the time, we had both digested and learned a lot from the lives we had led until the moment of our cosmic collision.

Now, I have always been tenacious about my work as a writer, director, producer, facilitator and performer. No matter how difficult things are, and how long it takes, I never give up. That has been a tremendous gift in my life and I have always kept on keeping on.

However, when I was married to a narcissistic "genius" who thought his work was "important" and mine was less so (to be diplomatic) it was not such easy going. Nor was it easy when my daughter's father was having a mental breakdown while suing me for custody of her. I've walked through 2 marriages and divorces in the past twenty years and a few other challenging relationships.

During this same amount of time, I wrote and performed three original shows, acted in another ten shows, directed and produced over one hundred shows, had one book published, started a solo performance festival, worked with at least another two hundred people in writing and performing their stories, trained some other folks to do the work I do and have been developing a new therapeutic modality that utilizes personal monologues as a healing tool... while raising a daughter. Yeah, whew.

Oh, and clocked in at least $10,000 worth of therapy appointments. But like I said tenacity is a virtue of mine..but still in the face of  being in less that supportive or inspiring intimate relationships, it has been HARD and EXHAUSTING privately to keep going.

Now that I am with Barry, my 64 year old double Taurus non-soul mate soul mate ,things are FLOWING....I am finally getting down to the nitty gritty of writing 2 books that have been on my to-do list, partially written for the last 2-3 years. I am opening up to greater financial support for my work by pursuing long term funding. I am offering classes and workshops to joyfully support many more in creating their own shows as well as training people to offer StoryHealers Therapeutic Monologue work.

With real love beside me, I feel limitless. I am so aware of how important this is for those of us who are risking ourselves in solo performance. I see and feel how much his unconditional support and wisdom helps me open up to be a better artist and take deeper risks.

We are really in the kind of relationship where the drama can be kept on the page and the stage. He is also a writer. How freeing this is for our creativity. This is where deep trust, a commitment to kindness and a deep desire to see the other one go as far as they can go creatively completely changes the rules of the game.

When I was pre-occupied by fears of being lovable enough, being pretty enough, wondering of my guy was being faithful on a business trip or not, trying to get my needs met (Hello! If you need to think about this, it means that they are NOT getting met!), my artist self was getting DRAINED. She was not free to completely fly.

I get very sad when I see artists give themselves away by getting involved or obsessed with a loser or abuser. I know their ability to really focus and create has just gotten diminished, even if they keep on keeping on. Like I did. For, like, ten years.

I've seen these creative u-turns, as Julia Cameron calls them, happen to many of my favorite students, clients and friends. And I have been down that road before more than once.

When you want to really go for it onstage, I mean really risk in your deepest, free-est creative being, you cannot work against a negative current in your personal life without paying a high price. We are whole beings. It is a holistic universe. All parts of ourselves are connected. Whatever your circumstances, know that your choice of partner will effect you as a writer, performer, teacher, parent and any other aspect of your life deeply and completely.

I am grateful that I left the lousy ones behind. Even when I felt like I was too old and had already had too many chances. Even when I left financial security, again...and stepped into the unknown with a child, again.

I'll never settle for anything other than mutually respectful true love. It is too good. Too important and feeds my artists's soul like nothing else. Ease is key. So I can keep the drama on the stage and the page and have my WHOLE life. I want you to have yours too.

Love=Art=Life. Make the choice to be happy and keep creating no matter what.