First off, I am utterly convinced that art and creative expression are necessities for every single living soul on the planet. The first ten weeks at Dell'Arte have opened my eyes to the connection between art and nature allowing me to understand that art is not a frivilous act that comes after the washing is done. Art exists to reconnect spirit with spirit. Art is the entry way into infinity. It is a dance with what lies beyond and what exists within -both. At the same time. The ways to express oneself abound. Theater is but one of many, and an arduous one at that. Singing, dancing, drawing, painting, playing, erupting into the forest in stillness and listening with a deep awareness to all that exists. Taking that home and expressing it through art. This is the beginning of something for me that is very meaningful. I feel like I have woken up from a very long sleep and I am blessed to be alive and whole on this planet. I am blessed to be half asleep and partially dead on this planet as well. The act of waking in the morning and choosing to connect with all that is through creative expression is a blessing that I have and that we all have. I sound like an evangelist. I really am energized by it.
The last few weeks at Dell'Arte have been beautiful in so many ways. The connection with the group of people is precious. We can disagree and express our annoyances with each other in one moment and in the next we are playing ferociously. That is not even something I can do with family or friends. Life is more full of flavor. I think much of it has to do with stepping out of the city and into nature. Being surrounded by Redwoods and the ocean has an effect on the soul. My sensory intake has lessened to a point where I can actually process what is around me and enjoy it.
Now, as I take the next few weeks to reflect on my life and where I am headed, I can't help but feel overwhelmed by the need to "heal the world" and all those people in society that are still plugged in. It is a self-righteous painful approach to the world around me. However the counter of simply creating theater for the sake of creating theater and turning a blind eye to injustice feels painful too. Like anything in life the middle path must be acheived. This path however has a wide array of paths within it. I am interested in working with advocacy groups, I am interested in working in the education system. I am interested in working in prisons. I am interested in working with veterans. I want to create beautiful theater simply and I want to create connections between creativity, self-discovery, sustainability for the earth, community-focused living, and policy changes that respond to the hopes and dreams of a society that lives in a creative sustainable engaged way. Am I taking on too much? How do I even begin to achieve this?
I feel at peace when I remember that I am not the only one working to find this path, the path is certainly working to find me too. It's working to find you too.
This poem makes me feel happy and powerful. I don't know much about it but it speaks to me. Mohja Kahf is the author. She's an Arab American bad ass woman. I'd like to read more of her stuff.
So much of my life lately has consisted of failure and rejection. Which is fine. Totally fine. I am being torn apart to be rebuilt. I get it. But there are some days when it really gets me down. I love the way this poem takes on adversity with such fervour. I love the way arrogance is reclaimed. It's not a bad word. It's used with pride. It's inspiring. I need not let the rejection and failure get me down. I can tear its flesh like a guard dog tearing the leg off of an intruder.
Come at me. I dare you.
Ishtar Awakens in Chicago
My arrogance knows no bounds
And I will make no peace today
And you shall be so lucky
To find a woman like me
Today neither will the East claim me
nor the West admit me
Today my belly is a well
wherein serpents are coiled
ready to poison the world,
and you should be so lucky.
All I have is my arrogance
I will teach it to lean back
and smoke a cigarette in your faces,
and you should be so lucky
No I will make no peace
even though my hands are empty
I will talk as big as I please
I will be all or nothing
And I will jump before the heavy trucks
And I will saw off my leg at the thigh
before I bend one womanly knee
I am poison
And you will drink me
And you should be so lucky.
Today was a day unlike any other. Along with my friends, I clowned in a nursing home. We were thrilled and scared and unsure and eager and full of joy. We walked in with a slight shake in our knees and open hearts. A couple nurses eyed us wearily as we walked down the hallway. I eyed myself wearily. What the heck was I doing there? My friend Audrey had introduced this idea from Canada called La Belle Visite and so we thought we'd try it out to see if it would work in Humboldt. The activity director whom we had met weeks earlier had given the green light although I don't know if she was sure what she was signing up for either. When we entered the activity room, it was full of seniors with smiles and I immediately felt at ease. Such a kind group of people, so open.
We introduced ourselves as the Schirles. Myself Maude, my sister Claire, and brother Art, as well as Art's wife Vicky. The Schirle's name inspired by one of our favorite teachers at Dell'Arte Joan Schirle.
The methodology of La Belle Visite is based on the idea that clown can elicit an engagement with seniors that will offer a sort of healing through laughter. A chance to take it easy. And I really do think it did just that. We were able to lead them in some singing and some light chair dancing, tai chi, exercises and we ended up doing a good deal of performing as well. Really, it was quite precious. Four small noses offer a huge opportunity for a group of people to play together. We all just played and laughed. At one point, Claire (Audrey) picked up a Christmas gift from under the tree and started shaking it.
"It's for me!" She exclaimed.
"Oh dear. Claire" I continued. "I'm afraid that's just a decoration."
I smiled awkwardly looking at the residents.
"No, its not. It's for me and it's from SANTA!" She insisted, followed by a chuckle from around the room.
We took musical requests and sang some prepared songs. We danced, juggled Kleenex, and just took every opportunity we could to have a conversation with the residents about their lives and memories.
Overall for all four of us, there is quite a sense of satisfaction and passion around this. So much here to learn. So much to build on. We sat over lunch filling a napkin up with new ideas for our next visit. So much laughter and so much potential. I love the idea of how public performance can elicit otherwise unlikely interactions that can then inform and add momentum to relationship building which can add to trust and then for the trust to enable a performance that comes from a greater place of honesty and care. When the public gets lost in the performance and the performer gets lost in the public. When the experience becomes shared and real human interaction results, a veritable and spontaneous community forms. An experience that continues to nurture all those involved as they continue on in their future interactions. So much more to learn...
We'll be back for our next visit in January and continue on once a month until June 2013.
Yes. This is why I came here. To do this work with these people.