-Me playing a vaudevillian at the Multnomah Arts Center Village Vaudeville
-Puppet show that I wrote and performed with Mike Chastain: Further Along I’ll Understand Why
-Article on Kaia Sand and the Watcher Files
Three things that I didn't know how to do but did this winter
One: I performed as a joke-cracking, slightly crass, but very lovable Vaudevillian in November with a colleague, Kathleen Madden. Okay, yes -- I am an actor, but I had never played any part like this where I told jokes for ten minutes with a percussionist striking a badoom-chick to cue the audience to laugh. The humor that I know is more Beckettian than Jack Benny. But with the help of a trove of vaudevillian jokes found on Google and the Multnomah Arts Center's need for someone to tell jokes on stage, it turned out fine.
Two: filmmaker and designer Mike Chastain and I collaborated to make a puppet show. Together we imagined the concept for a story centered on people lost in the mall on the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. It was my job to write the script. We had friends show up and make the puppets—dolls we found at the Goodwill Bins and transformed, in most cases re-gendering them and always sewing them new outfits--, painted the set, utilized fantastic voice actors, and harangued friends to hold up (heavy!) puppets while Mike filmed and made them look beautiful. I don't think there has ever been a puppet show quite like this one...worth checking out.
Three: Franz Schubert (1797-1828, an Austrian) and I collaborated, urged by the composer and choir director Mark Woodward, who asked me to take a sacred lyrics and make them a secular delight. This was a process of translation (all acts of writing are feats of translation, some are more complex than others) and shifting the verse
“...Yet dare I mourn when heaven
Has bid thy soul be free
A life of bliss has given
Forever more to thee,
Yet ever more to thee!”
To an aubade, a poem that involves lovers waking, that goes:
“...But you upon the pillow
Lay back, ask for my kiss--
Once more, and once again please
And I can not resist,
But yet I must resist.”
Why do things you don’t know how to do? Why collaborate and experience the strong tug of anxiety when you are a writer who probably enjoys being alone and having your work turn out the way that you envisioned?
Well, watching Kyle come in dressed exactly like his puppet by sheer coincidence was pretty great:
And you can’t imagine how much fun it was to eventually get the swing of telling terrible jokes like “Why did Beethoven get rid of his chickens? Because they kept saying ‘Bach, Bach, Bach’” or “Do you know what it means to come home each night to a woman who'll give you a little love, a little affection, little tenderness? It means you're in the wrong house.”
And then there was the moment I saw my name on the front page of the sheet music. I saw it and suddenly remembered how when I was five, singing along with Oklahoma, that more than any other job I wanted to be a lyricist. And now I am.
Doing things you don’t know how to do is a curvy path to find what you might have forgotten. Here's to all of us finding collaborators this coming season that can help us do more interesting work than we might have dreamt.