Category Archives: Creative Stuff

Happy International Stage Managers Day!

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/10/14)

Did you know October 10th is a holiday? (Stand by Sound Cue 1 hand-clapping)

Well, you do now! It’s International Stage Managers Day! Woo hoo! (Sound Cue 1 hand-clapping GO).

Those of you in the theater world know just how invaluable a good stage manager is, and how the success of a show is largely in their hands.  For those of you not in the theater world, here’s just a small sampling of the kinds of things that stage managers do:

  1. Setting up rehearsal schedules and making sure everything runs on time, which means constantly reminding actors when and where they need to be.
  2. Scheduling costume fittings and making sure actors remember to show up.
  3. Overseeing all the physical attributes of a production such as lighting, sets and costumes, and making sure actors don’t mess those things up by doing stupid things like eating in costume or touching props that don’t belong to them.
  4. Writing down all the blocking for the director during the rehearsal process, so when an actor forgets where they are supposed to be someone can remind them.
  5. Being “on book” during rehearsal in case an actor forgets his next line, so he can be fed the line after calling “line”.
  6. Taking line notes during rehearsal so that when an actor says a line incorrectly they can be reminded to say it correctly.
  7. Preparing a prompt book for all the lighting and sound cues during the show.
  8. Calling a show during performance (i.e. being in charge of all the cues and telling board ops and backstage crew exactly when to execute each cue so things run smoothly).
  9. Being in charge of all the backstage and on stage areas during the show.
  10. Ensuring the welfare of the entire cast and crew by knowing safety regulations, laws, health codes, etc.
  11. Keeping track of actors’ valuables during the show.
  12. Basically being a superhero that the production could not possibly live without.
Everyone involved in a production has a relationship with the stage manager, they are the hub of all activity. It’s a tough and often thankless job, especially when they have to deal with egomaniacal actors or directors (not that I would know anything about THAT of course).
If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment today to thank and maybe even hug a stage manager. You should also buy them a cup of coffee and even bake them some cookies, because they are the first ones to come in and the last ones to leave each night. They deserve some damn cookies.
Thank you to all the wonderful stage managers whom I have worked with over my 20 years in the theater. You guys are all rock stars!!
stagemanager

Lazy Sunday

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/5/14)

FARM (1)

LAZY SUNDAY

Sit still and listen,
listen to the breezes
making their tireless journeys through the trees, tickling their leaves and playing
their endless song.

Distant dogs
bark at passing trucks, kicking up gravel as their tires
spin past in a muddy blur.

Slips of conversation
are passed like notes in class
surreptitiously
not meant to be heard by unknown ears.

The creaking of exhausted hinges on a door that has
so much experience
it can no longer fit into the jamb that once so easily contained it,
that door is an old man
stubbornly refusing to fit in
and telling stories of old times in rusty whispers
that come and go with warm, decomposing breaths of air.

Death floats by on the wind
as the leaves force out their last bit of brilliance under a magnificent ombre sky,
almost in competition.

The grass is too long in the tooth
and a million crazy mouths try to bite you as you walk past
on your way to pin yesterday’s damp clothes on the line, having been
washed of their secrets.
They’ll soak up the yellow air that
hugs and hugs and hugs them,
making them dance with the joy of
another day.

You Ever Have One of Those Days?

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on )

You ever have one of those days, where everything feels like a big bowl of cold oatmeal? Where nothing you think of, nothing you hope to do, stirs any excitement in you? Where everything you create or think about creating sounds mediocre at best? Where it seems like everyone but you is succeeding? Where everyone but you has great ideas, and knows how to perfectly execute them?

I’m having one of those days today.

I know, logically, there are ups and downs in the creative process. My left brain is busy at work this morning talking my tender and easily-hurt right brain off the ledge. They then come to a standstill and stare, unblinkingly, at the blinking cursor on the white page.

Stare. Stare. Stare.

My right brain is really putting up a fight this morning, throwing all the old standards at me, you know the ones:

“You’re a hack.”

“You have the suggestion of talent, but lack real skill in anything.”

“You have fallen so far behind the pack, you might as well just give up.”

The good news is, I have enough self-awareness to know that these are the same old arguments that come up every time I’m feeling blocked or out of sorts. I recognize the Beast of Self Doubt for what he is – a flim flam man, a shyster, playing to my insecurities in moments of weakness. Fighting him begins with awareness, of knowing that he sings the same songs every time, badly and in a too-loud voice.

Just writing this is helping to silence him, a little bit. But he’ll be back. He always comes back.

How do you deal with your inner critic? How do you nurture your childlike, creative being and keep the dogs at bay? What are the tools you use to survive another day and get back on the creative wagon? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. I can always use some good defensive strategies for this ongoing battle.

rollerskates2

Free the Artist, Not the Art

 

 

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 9/29/14)

i_am_an_artist

Show of hands – how many of you out there are willing to pay for art? How many of you believe that an artist should be paid for her output, whether it be a musical performance, an essay, a graphic design, or a painting of your dog?

Alright, another show of hands – how many of you have gotten these things for free? Have you attended a free concert in the park, or gotten free tickets to a show, or shared a music download with someone for free, or asked a friend for a favor to create a little logo for your blog?

I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of free art. But I’ve also been a giver of free art. For far, far too long. I daresay our culture has given us a sense that art should be given for free.

As I struggle to embrace the idea that I deserve to be paid for what I create, I’m surrounded by messages that it has little value. That art is a hobby, not a vocation.

If art is a hobby, why did I spend over $100,000 for my education? Why did I earn an advanced degree? Why do I continue honing my craft in endless classes? So that I could get a job as an administrative assistant and pursue art on the side? Fuck that.

I’m so tired of working for free. I’m tired of being expected to work for free, even from my own peers. I’m sick that our culture allows us to perpetuate this myth that it costs nothing to produce art, and that it is easy – anybody could do it at an expert level. How many plays have I been in where I haven’t gotten a dime? Or if I did get the union stipend of $15 per performance, I was expected to give it back to the theater, just so they would survive? How is my time of no value?

As artists, we’re encouraged to work for free, in the beginning. It’s a way to establish contacts and gain some experience. But I’m almost 40 – when does that stop? When will I actually be able to start paying on my student loans? Is it only when I give up what it is I trained to do? What I’m good at, and what makes my heart happy? The thing I feel I was put on this earth to do?

I’ve been told, time and again, that I undervalue myself. But how do I find value in myself if other people don’t think there is value in what I offer?

I’m making a promise to myself today. If you are an artist that is struggling as I am, I hope you will join me in this. I refuse to keep working for less than what I am worth. I refuse to “give up” because society thinks that is the responsible thing to do. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this is the work I am meant for, and I will no longer undervalue myself. If someone doesn’t want to pay for what I have to offer, then I will move on and look for someone who does. They are out there, somewhere. I won’t find them if I continue to settle for less.

I am taking back my life today.

Seeing Art with New Eyes

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 9/28/14)

AFH2014SavetheDate

As I delve more deeply into this creative recovery of mine, I keep receiving the message of how art and creativity can be extraordinary tools of self-healing. Last night that idea was driven home at the Artworks for Healing gala, a fundraising art auction for A Window Between Worlds, a charity organization based in Venice, CA, whose tagline is “art transforming trauma.”

I volunteered my time for the event, as did a couple dozen other interesting and open-hearted people (mostly women, but a few men here and there). AWBW is the beneficiary of our annual production of The Vagina Monologues, and now that we’ll be celebrating our fifth year in April, many of the women and men that work and volunteer for the organization have become familiar.

For the art sale portion of the evening, over 70 LA based artists donated a piece to be sold, each for the same price of $320. Some of the artists are quite prominent, and their pieces are worth a great deal more than the selling price (some upwards of $10,000). The premise is that each piece is displayed anonymously, and guests are invited to purchase the piece which speaks to them the most. Only after the purchase is complete is the name of the artist revealed.

Before the VIP reception began, I had a few moments to peruse the gallery wall and admire each piece before it whispered into the ear of its new owner. I don’t know if it’s because of the work I’ve been doing with The Artist’s Way, but I feel as though I looked at the pieces with a new set of eyes.

I stood in front of each piece, and lingered just long enough until something about it reached out to me, whether it was the subject matter, the medium, the colors, the texture, the implied story behind it, the skill of the creator, or any number of other qualities. I found myself most drawn to two particular pieces. One was a small, rustic painting of three eggs, conceived in a thickly textured palette of earthy yellows and browns. Birds and eggs are particularly evocative subjects for me, in fact I still own a small painting of an egg done for me by the mother of a roommate back in college and gifted to me during the Easter holiday of my senior year. There’s something about that simple egg that I find endlessly interesting. I think eggs represent a beginning to me, most obviously as they are embryonic, but what they become has not yet been fully determined. The egg carries potential, and the suggestion of positive possibility. The sky just might be the limit. How fitting that I received it just as I was finishing my education and being loosed upon the world. Sadly, I never found out the artist of the trio of eggs at the event, as the painting was purchased at some point during the evening, carefully clothed in bubble wrap for it’s journey home, as if those delicate eggs were, in fact, real.

The other piece was a long, skinny portrait in an ornately gilded frame. The face was a portion of the Mona Lisa, but in the place where her enigmatic eye should be there was an iridescent beetle. I have an enormous fig tree in my backyard which produces well over 100 pounds of the Eden-esque fruit every summer. The beetle over the Mona Lisa’s eye looked just like a fig beetle, which descend on that unwieldy tree by the hundreds during the hottest days of August and September. Many people are afraid of the fig beetles – they’re big, they’re loud, and they clumsily fly right into you, bouncing soundly to the ground below. They are harmless, however, and their only prey are the plump purple pouches of the sweet flesh on the tree. I have come to love the fig beetles; they represent life at its most abundant, feeding and thriving off nature’s ascent into overdrive.

The piece was strongly reminiscent of Magritte, my favorite of the surrealists. It was simple in its execution, and certainly provoked a visceral reaction from those who gazed upon it it’s unseeing eye.

“Bug Eyes”, as it was aptly named, was not purchased by the end of the evening, so before leaving I lifted it from it’s moorings on the gallery wall to find out the name of the artist. At that exact moment, a man appeared behind me, identifying himself as the artist. Steven Salzburg is his name, and he’s had quite a career which has included working with and designing album covers for the likes of Elton John, Dire Straits, Phil Collins and more. I had a lively conversation with him about how the piece was created and whether or not a fig beetle was intended. It is such a unique pleasure to speak with an artist about their creative process, and I treated myself to several of those discussions throughout the evening, as many of the artists were on hand for the event.

Most of my life, I’ve breezed through museums, seeking out those pieces with considerable fame and merely glancing at those that lined the path to the masters. But I’m becoming more and more interested in spending time with each piece, discovering through quiet, almost meditative moments what message it is sending to me. I think a trip to LACMA or an art gallery is in order soon.

How do you look at art? How do you determine what you like and what you don’t like? Are you more attracted to color, texture and line or subject matter? Do you think art has the potential to heal? Art is such a personal experience, I’d love to hear your thoughts about how art affects you.

A Season of Beginning

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 9/23/14)

Fall is descending upon the garden here in Southern California. It doesn’t look like the fall of my youth, with the crisp, ripe air, the crimson, flaming trees, or the crackling logs on the fire. There are no frosty mornings or quiet, introspective, rainy days. No woolen sweaters or hot mugs of apple cider. You would sweat to death here.

But fall is here nonetheless. I can tell by how leggy the salvia has gotten, by how the mint, once a mad dictator claiming all neighboring lands as its own, has become dry and brittle and easily breaks like a tortured hostage. The squash vines have grasped their last fence post, their plump fruits ready to be plucked from their dirty brown hands. The hollyhocks have collapsed, unable to bear the weight of their beauty any longer, and the tiger lilies, once ferocious, have crawled back into their dens for the season.

It’s time to cut back in the garden. Time to prune back the perennials and pull out the basil. It’s time to weed the beds and cover them with a blanket of protective compost so they can have a cozy winter’s nap.

I think fall is the perfect time to cut back in my life as well. Take a cue from nature and trim back the excess growth that doesn’t serve me, only sucks away energy that could be put to better use, making my healthy parts stronger. It’s time to shed the old habits that don’t serve a creative purpose, and to let in some light and some air.

Fall is also a time of planting in Southern California. There is no better time that right now to put new plants in the ground. While visible growth comes to a standstill in the ensuing months, there is a festival of activity happening in places the eyes can’t see. Our warm, nourishing soil is prompting roots to grow, and once tender seedlings firmly establish themselves over the winter holidays. Come spring, they have a strong foundation on which to grow, and burst into life, wowing us with their color, their shape, their fragrance, their taste, and all their innumerable glories.

Now is the time for me to plant my ideas, to nourish them and let them establish themselves inside me in the coming months. Before long, those ideas will have taken root, and can burst forth and dazzle, seemingly effortlessly.

If we take the time to do important fall chores – to cut back, to clean up, to plant, and to nourish – we will have created the foundation on which to be resplendent.

If you need me, I’ll be in the garden, preparing for the beginning.

capote

Artist’s Prayer

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 9/12/14)

prayer

Artist’s Prayer

 

I open myself up to the beauty and goodness in the world

And to the beauty and goodness that exist inside me.

I embrace my creativity

And know that I am simply the channel through which it flows.

I surrender my old ideas of what I think I am meant to do

And let my intuition and my heart guide me to my purpose.

It is my nature to be creative.

My creativity is the way in which I serve the world.

I will not allow my feelings of inadequacy or low self-worth

Distract me from my path.

I nurture and protect my creativity

And encourage it to grow.

I am patient, kind and gentle with myself

And encourage patience, kindness and gentleness in others.

I believe it is never too late for us to walk our true paths,

Never too late to banish fear,

Never too late for understanding,

Never too late to unfold to the world

And to embrace our life’s calling.

– Amy Clites

51 Artist Date Ideas

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 9/4/14)

artistdate

I’m working through Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”, and one of the weekly exercises is to take yourself on an Artist Date. The only parameters are that you must do it alone, spend about two hours, and do it every week. I’ve gotten a little anxious trying to think of things to do that I would enjoy, so I decided to sit down and brainstorm a list. I’d love to hear in the comments below what kind of artist dates you’d like to go on, or have taken yourself on. I can always use more ideas!

51 Artist Date Ideas

  1. Treat yourself to one of those “Paint and Drink Wine” workshops, like those atPaintNite.com. Two hours, a couple glasses of wine, and a finished painting to take home with you!
  2. Browse through a thrift store or antique shop and buy one thing that really inspires or excites you.
  3. Browse through an art supply store and treat yourself to a new brush, some paint, some fun paper, a new pen, or whatever else you fancy.
  4. Walk through a street fair. Stop and check out the items for sale, sample a new type of food, and people watch.
  5. Take a tour of a local botanical garden. Photograph or sketch the plants and flowers.
  6. Take a stroll along the beach at sunset, and pick up interesting rocks or shells.
  7.  Check out a local museum and spend time in one exhibit, reading about everything on display and completely immersing yourself in the experience.
  8. Go to the movies and see a film you might not otherwise see.
  9. Go bowling or play a round of mini-golf.
  10. Treat yourself to a massage or a mani/pedi.
  11. Go to the fair and win yourself a stuffed animal. Take a ride on the Ferris wheel and see the world from a different perspective.
  12. Spend an afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese, eating pizza and playing skee ball or video games.
  13.  Lie in a hammock and simply admire the trees and sky above you. Look for birds and listen to their calls.
  14. Go to the library and choose a few CDs of music you’ve never listened to.
  15. Treat yourself to ice cream at an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. Try a new flavor.
  16. Sit in the park and people watch.
  17. Go for a walk in nature, and listen to the sounds around you.
  18. Go for a long drive to a place you’ve never been.
  19. Rent a bicycle and take a ride along a bike path.
  20. Go to a high-end department store and try on fancy evening wear. Imagine the parties or events you could wear them to.
  21. Check out a metaphysical store, and choose a healing crystal that addresses some of the areas of your life you want to work on.
  22. Get a palm reading or have your tarot cards read.
  23. Go to a used bookstore and linger, browsing through the various titles. Choose one to buy and take home with you.
  24. Go to the farmer’s market. Pick out a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried and take it home and make something with it.
  25. Go to an international market and browse all the different types of food for sale. Choose something you’ve never tasted and try it, or take pictures of all the neat things you find.
  26. Attend a public lecture at a college or university.
  27.  Take an art workshop from you local community college or library.
  28. Attend a free movie night in the park.
  29. Find a recipe you’ve never tried and make it for dinner.
  30. See a play. It can be a Broadway play or one put on by your local high school.
  31. Attend a live music event. Search the Internet for local music concerts that are free to the public.
  32. Take a tour of a historic home.
  33. Explore your town’s Chinatown or another ethnic neighborhood.
  34. Create a vision board.
  35. Browse your local nursery for herbs and make your own kitchen herb garden in a pretty pot.
  36. Browse seed catalogs and plan a vegetable garden for next summer.
  37. Attend a religious service or join a meditation group.
  38. Take a ride in a pedi-cab.
  39.  Go to a lake and rent a paddle boat for an hour.
  40. Create a board on Pinterest with ideas for your dream studio space.
  41. Go shopping at yard sales and look for unusual items.
  42. Go to a comedy club and watch some stand-up or improv.
  43. Go to the park and fly a kite.
  44. Sit in a coffee shop, enjoy your favorite drink and read the Sunday paper or people watch.
  45. Write hand written letters on pretty paper to loved ones, or send postcards even though you aren’t on vacation.
  46.  Sit in the lobby of a big hotel and people watch or daydream.
  47. Go to the zoo and find your favorite animals.
  48. Volunteer to read for the blind or help out at a soup kitchen or other charity.
  49. Go to a fancy department or lingerie store and buy a really great pair of underwear.
  50. Visit a meditation garden and simply sit quietly with your thoughts.
  51. Explore a neighborhood you really like, find the houses for sale, and imagine what it would be like to live in them. Pop into an open house if possible!

The Journey Begins with the First Step

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 8/31/14 )

ojai

Greetings, friends. I’ve been on a vacation as of late. A bit of a creative vacation, I guess you could say. You see, I’m at a creative crossroads. I’m turning 40 in 10 months and though I largely consider myself to be “successful”, I haven’t quite found my place in the larger, creative world. And I’d really like to.

I’ve embarked on the 12 week journey known as “The Artist’s Way” in an effort to reclaim and recover my creative self. I’m one week in, and so far it’s been enlightening, to say the least. While I’ve spent most of my adult life pursuing work as an actor, I feel I am much more than that. And I feel my “success” will be somewhere else. This is my attempt to find it.

So, friends, I hope you’ll consider walking along with me on this journey of self-healing and self-discovery. I’d like to share my triumphs, epiphanies, failures and ruminations with you. Perhaps some of them will resonate with you.  Perhaps we’ll all come out of this a little better – more fulfilled, more introspective, happier and more at peace.

Here’s to those first few steps!

I’ll Take Your Crap, Thank You

(originally posted in www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 8/12/13)

Those that know me know that I have an affinity for junk.  I’m the person that slows down when passing a pile of discarded crap on the side of the road, because you never know what kind of little treasure might be waiting there, disguised as trash.  These are basically the only types of items I like to put in my front yard garden – stuff that can be transformed into something interesting, but nothing of great value that will upset me if it gets stolen or destroyed by the elements.  I’ve found cement pedestals that have become plant stands and birdbaths, doll beds that have become flower planters, and stairway balusters that have become the bases for bird feeders and houses (and will one day be the body of a dragonfly sculpture, just as soon as I can find some discarded ceiling fan blades to be the wings).

I often find larger treasures such as weathered doors and old shutters that I’ve not been able to dash off with, simply because I owned a compact car.  Well – I’m delighted to say that is now a thing of the past.  We’ve finally secured an SUV so that I can pick up whatever damn thing I please.  🙂  I LOVE the new ride.  We were looking for something that we wouldn’t mind getting dirty or scratched, and found our perfect match in a friend’s busted-up, 2005 Cadillac SRX.  That’s right – I’m now the proud owner of a luxury automobile, albeit one that has a big dent on the front passenger side.  I think that makes it even better.  I can ride in my bubble of perfectly controlled climatic bliss while the computer tells me exactly how many more miles I can drive before my next fill-up, AND I can shove a dirty, cobweb-encrusted park bench in the back if I so choose.  The damn thing even beeps if I back up too close to the object I’m about to abscond with.  I’M IN HEAVEN.

It didn’t take long to find the first project.  While at a friend’s house for a dinner party recently, I noticed his neighbors had just set out a fresh pile of dinged-up furniture.  I’ve been waiting patiently to snag something to make a potting table of sorts, and I found the perfect specimen in an old, beat-up girlie dresser that was missing a drawer and hardware.  My husband, being consummately accepting of my junk addiction, loaded her up in the back of the Caddy for me (I was wearing a nice dress and carrying a plate of chocolate-covered figs, after all), while my patient and tolerant passengers ate their knees on the way home.

I spent the weekend sprucing her up.  I repaired the drawer runners with some wood glue, sanded her down and gave her a fresh coat of paint.  She also got some new drawer pulls from Home Depot.  The whole thing set me back about $12.  She’s now sitting on the front porch, my garden tools safely stashed in her drawers while some of the more attractive pieces show themselves off up top.  I’m pretty happy with how she turned out.

GARDEN BENCH

Lemme know if you have any junk you want me to take off your hands, I’ll be right over!