September 30, 2008

Last Performance

I had to change the date on this posting, I thought I’d come home from the final performance and write, on Sunday night. Right as I came in; I would sit and write. Well I am a fool. I was wrung out, a puddle. Not tired, but done.

During the run of this show, at all 15 performances, we were all tested by heat, lack of working machinery, and nearly every cast member was so late on at least one occasion that it gave me palpitations. And I kept saying, OK so who can fill in for the clarinet? Or can we cover for Troy until he gets here? And they always slipped in right as I was about to call the Deep Lunatic Ward at Belleview, for myself. On top of that, we had endless and constantly morphing technical challenges in the near to ancient LaMama theater. On the final night, the lights went dark for a scene and a half as the cast and musicians kept playing while the less than competent electrician attempted to jiggle wires and reply things.

My frustration level was tip-top.

9/30 08
OK starting again.
It seems I am having trouble writing this.
It is the end; the end for now folks keep saying,
but I know it is the end of this artistic moment.

I have done no other work since March nearly seven months, a long time.
And for now it is over.

I’d love to, mount it again; but for this moment it is over.
And the ground swell and I had wanted, OH DON”T GET ME WRONG the press, the love, the applause, all were wonderful, but I felt it would be life changing.
I felt, or fantasized that I would be hired, or lauded to the point of being saved and that we would most definitely know where we going after this. My book would be picked up by a publisher and I would stop asking, begging, requesting things from others to help me or those I loved, respected and wanted on my team.

I felt I would raise or earn funds to pay people more that the tad they received. Hell, I didn’t think I’d be here attempting to figure out if we made enough to pay the violinist, the choreographer and the press woman. These three, the best sports, who have still not gotten their promised amounts. UUGH. Or that neither Doug nor I would be paid a cent, and would, in fact, be out of pocket. Not a fortune but now, what is a fortune? Grocery money, certainly, and where else will that come from? OK that is too dramatic, even for me.

As the country melts down financially, I await the word on REAL JOB.

I had my phone interview with the LA shrink hired to deconstruct the personality, aptitude test I took in haste last Thursday. Dr. Whoever was nice enough and we had some interesting off topic conversations about cooking, but still he did tell me there were others in the running. I said, “Well, I hope so as it is a plum job.” I didn't say 'and in a shrinking job market.' I answered what he asked; I stayed on topic; I was friendly and open hearted--meaning I was a portion of who I am. I checked my fear in the hall closet and only occasionally gave the finger to the phone. That felt good, and let me stay calm and happy. I was. As I knew one way or the other, this was moving me steps closer to the decision.

The show is so vibrantly present in my front and back brain that when I can’t sleep, I sing the words and music constantly to myself.
“Nothing to do but breathe,
Nothing but sweet air.
Sweet air, in and out.”

Or when Zac leaves for work I sing, “Quick trip there and back. Quick trip.”


I love this show and I feel like a bit of a failure, as I wish we were signed up to go to Festivals across the globe and across the country.

I loved, and was challenged by so much of this. I was dubbed a hot head by composer Doug, and I am sure I was, but I feel I got things done, I did light fires and made so many calls, wrote emails and sent actual mail. But there is this huge let down, a post partum, if you will, where I can’t help seeing and thinking of all the other things I coulda, shoulda done, felt, said . . .

This is no different than the culmination of a relationship, or job or maybe it is, because this is exacerbated by the fact that we are also living in terrifying times. And once again I am moving funds from here to there attempting to pay bills and not scare myself or those around me.

Today I cleaned, I straightened books, papers, magazines, scripts, invitations and I found all the back bills. I began to catalog the papers for CALLING to be able to retrieve and redo at a moment’s notice. And I attempted to feel the spirit of the Jewish New Year as it slipped quietly into New York City.

A few months ago, I made a promise to come here often to chronicle the making of this opera and I did that somewhat. I couldn’t be totally honest; as there were often so many emotionally frustrating and crazy occurrences and I felt it would have compromised the production to be an unflinching scribe. But now it is closed and I am exhausted and want to read, or eat apples and ride my bike to nowhere.

I went back to the gym yesterday and in my mind I screamed for the entire hour,

It was horrible to stick with the difficult Pilates class, and to see the slippage of my corpus and my resolve. I am attempting to eat no sugar and drink no alcohol, but as we watched the news about Wall Street last night, I thought, the sky is falling better finish my birthday cake and have a glass of wine. And so I did. Getting back in shape is always a test, finding a slimmer, not slim mind you, me and ending the sugar highs that have kept me awake and functioning at all.

I’d like to visit here often, but I am making no more promises for a while.

September 27, 2008

The Day After

I had a big flowery birthday, with the cast giving me a bouquet on stage and they sang to me, I HAVE NEVER HEARD HAPPY BIRTHDAY SUNG LIKE THAT. And Henry was there and came on stage with me and later over a great dinner at the local Japanese place Zutto, he told me loved the piece and further so surprised me with his attention to details to discuss. My friend Susan flew in from SF (OK on her way to hike in Morocco, but still I got a drive by)

After dinner we went home to the loft where Zac, who I now call my big Keebler Elf, had baked the biggest, out of control cake--must have been 4 times the recipe and he had tivo'd the debate. We had cake to sweeten the distaste of this horrible political season in our country.

When I work up this morning, with a terrible sugar hang-over, nothing to do but give in and have a little hair of the dog, sugar style, but after Monday, I am going cold turkey healthy-wise. Nice to have Henry here, and Susan rushing off to a next engagement before her real jaunt.

I ran off to pottery, hoping to see some of the pottery gaggle that came and clapped and brought a beautiful orchid for me last night. Of course the little plastic pot fit like a glove into one of the nicer pots I had thrown and glazed.

Tonight, it is roast chicken mashed potatoes before the show, and the big cast party at Michael and Liz Pappas, they call parties at their house PAPPAS HOUSE OF PAIN.
I hope I am up to it, as I know I am a lightweight when it comes to booze and party hearty. I am bringing Henry, who can party til dawn and still make the 8a.m. train back to college. Zac wants to pack him up with cake for the apartment mates but Henry seems reluctant to travel with cake. I know we can find takers.

Tonight is the penultimate evening show and I am both a little melancholy and excited to attempt to get on with a better financial version of my life, although the entire country seems to be suffering from a deep financial malaise. I suppose I am with my girl Willi wanting to know where I stand if the REAL JOB is on or off. And then I jump back in, but can anyone really be going on “go-sees” for work after they have had four interviews and a test on the computer and is awaiting the hour-long virtual talk with the shrink on Monday.

The timing could be good, but then again I just read that Mercury went into retrograde. Scary as I thought it had been there all long and I happily blamed interplanetary discord for the ills of my life and the world.

Oh well, I will have to find other reasons, but the harmony on birthday DAY was healing, heartening and totally wonderful.

September 26, 2008

58 in 08

Okay, disorganized, but here goes. It’s my birthday and raining. I remember that for 20 years it rained every year on my birthday. Then I met this man, my love, to whom I am now married, and it stopped raining. So now when it occasionally rains, that is fine by me.

A great good friend Susan Burks jetted in from SF on her way to trek in Morocco and my lovely big son, all lank and sleepy eyes, trained in from the foothills of the Adirondacks and college. Susan is off at tea and Henry has been sleeping happily in his childhood bed, on a soft rainy day. He will eat copious amounts of fancy cheese bought by my love and his dad before he jaunts off to the theater with Susan to see the show.

Zac is staying home to secretly, like an elf, bake a giant birthday cake, although I can see all the fixin's on the table arrayed like gifts themselves. And my daughter called from the south of France and we got to gab at length this morning while Zac brought me a strong dark cup of excellent coffee to wake me up.

Yesterday was a horrible though. I had to do the battery of tests for the potential “Real Job” and they were math and crazy spelling where you had to find the opposite, the antonym, of the word presented and they gave you the word jumbled, and then you had to pick the final letter in the word. So for a dyslexic it was:
Reordering letters
And spelling finding the last letter

It was awful, and they had wanted me to do it in a chartreuse room with no natural light and no windows or air on a PC computer I had never used before and--lo and behold--I had a major panic attack. My therapist friend says this had happened to me because of PST from 9/11. Perfect that it happens while I am mounting this opera that I hope provides some assuagement from all the panic. But in that little dark, airless room, boy did I get super scared with my heart threatening to leap from my body.

I did finally get permission to take the computer to my house to do the test. Endless personality questions.

I have never had any hair on my head?
I can look at rivers for hours?
Wait, do I have hours or am I being a slacker?

Many of the questions begin with
I ALWAYS and really, is there anything much that one can say never or always to other than for most of us at some point we have had hair on our heads.

I often feel as if I am being watched.
I know what others are thinking before they say anything.

Kind of an acid test for aliens.

But the test is over and now on Monday I have to speak to a shrink via phone from LA. As the therapist friend said, "You can just scream on Ninth Street in Manhattan and a shrink will step out the door." But they had to hire one to talk by phone.

But I divert, this should be about me having the opportunity to celebrate my 58th birthday with a show I conceived, wrote, directed and produced, thank god I found someone to write the music, a great collaboration. I am overjoyed at the timing and the marvelous, magical friends I have been seeing at the shows.

It makes me see how rich my life is, how varied, and how lucky I am.

September 22, 2008

Birthday Week/Country Blog

In my family, we attempt to celebrate what we call a birthday-week. Mine started this past Friday, and it ends this Friday with my actual birthday, a show and a party given by child-wonder Madison Pappas’ equally wonderful mother, Liz.

But for the next two days, I am celebrating in quiet fall splendor in the country. Right now my celebration consists of sitting in a café waiting for my car to be serviced, for new brakes to be added and a tune-up to be administered to my old station wagon so that it can keep going until my kid is done with college.

I am also walking while looking in windows thinking about buying a new flannel nightie, mine is 15 years old this year, a pretty good run. I read the things I write sometimes and I think, they make me seem so crazy, or cheap or both but. . . any private behavior we have when exposed to the light of public scrutiny makes us look wacky, right?

I think that is what so much of the political season is about--taking small private things, or big ones, and exposing them to bright light in an attempt to discredit the ideas or experiences. For me, now it is beyond the “silly season” in American politics, a phrase I heard Obama use during an interview. But this is the dangerously silly season and it has me very unquiet in my mind.

The political climate has me missing some of my moments of happiness with this incredible operatic endeavor, or my personal silly season: a birthday. What I don’t miss is the happiness in the moment of unexpected people showing up at CALLING. I have jokingly said that it feels akin to the experience of a back-in-the-day show, called This Is Your Life. A quick recap for youth of America, as I remember the show, hapless folks came on with the pretense of some other show and instead the show trotted out an array of acquaintances and key players from the constantly weeping “stars” life. So far in my version of the show appearances have been made by teachers, former bosses, ex-boyfriends, neighbors and co-workers, whose support is unexpected and so heartening.

So here is my disjointed post , typed at the noisy café in Rhinebeck NY. The one cup of coffee has stretched and lasted for 2 hours now, while I added and sent the final payroll to the LaMama office in the hopes that after this final weekend we may have enough money to cover the tiny amounts we promised to pay the incredible artists who have populated this opera.

I am off to pick up my car, buy a big round pumpkin and maybe the flannel nightgown in the window of the poky store in town.

September 21, 2008

Small House. Big Hearts.

Today Saturday, a gorgeous perfect fall day.

And I was stuck attempting to continue to take this mechanized assessment test for the REAL JOB, a series of endless computer screens and math questions.

Oh my god -- math and me. Bad in high school, worse as I got older. The lowest math score ever registered by anyone applying to the Yale School Of Management. I mean, a monkey would have gotten higher. So for this test, if the choice is "NOT ENOUGH INFORMATION TO ANSWER THE QUESTION," you can bet I check that. And in fact, that is the truth; as it is not enough information for ME to answer the question. How much information would be enough? Well, if they laid it out like paint by numbers chart, maybe I could plug them in. But honestly, still not a sure thing.

Then you have to write what your most ardent admirer would say about you and your most vehement critic. I asked my husband, and he said it didn’t mean what any of your ex's would say WHEW.

So I worked away at it for a while, going through the 350 first questions and slugging through the logic and other stuff until I excitedly came to the language skills part. I like those kind of questions, but it was not to be. My computer froze--well, the screen for the test froze. I tried all manner of things to get it back on track and then I wrote this email to the headhunter and the test administrators.

So, it is the most beautiful fall day ever and I am being a good sport taking this test. And it crashes and I
A) Call the help line
B) Attempt to reset the browser
C) Printout the time and error type #2050
D) Send an email detailing all attempts to restart said test


Now to the logical progression of this glitch. In frustration I
A) Beat the computer to a pulp
B) Go outside on my bike to have some fun
C) Call a tech friend and ask them to finish the test
D) Decide that this would be a good moment to take a nap


I thought it was funny and if they don’t, I guess that is what in BIZ School they would call DATA. So see? I did learn something.

Now to the opera. Last night the show was kick-ass, super good. I was slack-jawed as I thought I had gotten inured to the good and the bad, I was sort of floating in the audience, and then bang wow. It was so good.

Tough because our audiences have been tiny, this week but last night just as I was about to call places, in walked my two first bosses from over 3 decades ago at the Off-Off Broadway Alliance OOBA, Marnie Mueller and Karin Bacon. There they were, still beautiful and stylish, and I near to cried from their kindness at coming down to see this show. And tonight, I had a call telling me that two teachers from High School are in the car, caught in traffic near Yankee Stadium and I should meet them outside LaMama at 6:30. Well, of course I will.

So the house may be small, but the shows, the singers, musicians and the rest are increasing in prowess and every night there seems to be a blast from my past that warms me incredibly.

September 19, 2008

Rocky Racoon

Last night was so rocky that what I said to composer Doug when the lights finally went out and the 3 people in the audience (OK that is an exaggeration but sparse yes) finally left was "WHEW...that was Rocky Raccoon!!!!!"

It was awful to watch for me, not because the cast was so bad, but the energy to get the show going was flat and scary at the same time.

Here we go.

I get a call that there has been a fire in the dimmer board, the thing that runs the lights.

All the programming is gone.

Then they say ”Oh, we think we can fix, it don’t worry." But when I arrive it is bad and the poor tech director is in the hospital attending to a dying friend. Hard to say, “Hey fix our lights, friendship be damned.” I didn’t say that. I hugged him and let him cry.

Lights can go on and off. And believe me, last night they seemed to flicker in a random not good way, leaving the cast in darkness in the middle of one aria. Even LaMama is not that experimental.

There is a very sparse crowd expected for the rest of the weekend, I think sometimes folks think, "Oh a good review in the Times we won’t be able to get tickets," and then no one comes.

So last night tonight. Let me not list the things that went wrong, but for the rest of the weekend hardly a soul is on the books.

And more about last night, the stage manager again at 5 minutes before the show is to start. That’s what happens when you pay nothing, again really nothing, when they are paying to transport themselves even.

We had an understudy who did super well, but still it was a different energy.

And that was me today unable to get my ass to the gym, although I promised, unable to go to pottery. I thought that might make a good diversion. A little phone time trying to get a manager for the future of this show and butts in seats or a recording.

And then the tasks to secure the REAL JOB, the biggest something called, Assessment Testing. It is supposed to take between five and eight hours. I did the one part, 350 questions where you either AGREE or DISAGREE. Crazy stuff like:

* I like to re-measure my rulers to make sure they are correct.
* I feel everyone is out to get me
* I always want to eat ice cream
* I am never depressed

Sp weird, so I just motored through them. At first, I tried to read them out loud to Zac, to say look this could be fun right? But he was mad I was putting myself through this and left for a walk. In his words, what manager would do this?

I don’t know that I am in my good sport phase, wanting this job for tons of reasons: it is a very cool job and it would allow me to contribute to my neighborhood AND the economy is tanking and we have no health insurance. So from broad-based to specific, needs based stuff.

I have lots of other parts to tackle, but for now I am one foot in front of the other. Eat an egg, get some soup, go back do more test. Go to the show; take a fabulous shower, AHHHHHHHH clean hair... so fluffy.

More to come.

September 18, 2008

Keeping the Beauty in Mind

Today I had to ride to the dentist for the third attempt at a root canal. I was not in the best mood, still tired, wrung out from an encounter with a former friend who is trying to keep his aged mother, who is suffering form dementia, away from all her friends, as a means of control. It was ugly yesterday and made me cry torrents. I always feel depleted the next day, which is today.

I woke up late, hoping against hope that the dentist would be an another hour, but instead I had to gulp coffee and hop on the pony. I could see I was still groggy and my mind kept me going back to the fight and the sadness I felt and saw in my friend’s eyes when we were separated. I thought about all the people who hadn’t come to see the opera, of all the pushing and conniving, of the wheedling and cajoling to develop an audience for this lovely opera. The level of disregard for a project like this given the economy tanking and the craziness surrounding the political climate leaves me feeling often scared and certainly anxious.

But on this ride, on the first ten minutes of this ride, I gave myself a strict talking to.

DO NOT MISS THIS DAY, I intoned over and over again.


It was crystal, soft air, feint breeze, and my legs and arms felt strong and I was happy to ride my nice old bike, tires full of air, up to 50th Street. My mind roiled back to sadness, missed calls, people I want to see or hold and still I pushed to return to the immediacy of the day. It was warm, I was healthy and I had work to return to this evening.

I had to keep seeing that.

And I did keep trying as I called the bigwig producers who turned me down for one thing or another, and I persevered to get names of other folks to call. Hang up, email, make a package, call another person, hang up send information. Keep sounding as if I believed and not as if I was flagging, and losing heart.

Did they know, this little cast and crew how much goes into turning on the lights and having butts in seats. Do they know how I fret over getting this last payroll to them on the 28th of September and how much I feel like a failure because I can’t and clearly see now that I won’t be offering them big money for all the miraculous stuff they have achieved.

I have to run now, shower, maybe more email, maybe more Advil OK definitely more Advil.

Here we go: week two.

September 16, 2008

Why Do We Need Others To Tell Us What We Already Know?

Published: September 16, 2008
“Calling: An Opera of Forgiveness,” which received its first complete staging on Friday night at La MaMa E.T.C., is based on Wickham Boyle’s “A Mother’s Essays From Ground Zero.”

Rather than trying to portray the unthinkable scale of Sept. 11, “Calling” focuses primarily on one downtown family: a mother (Nicole Tori), a father (Roland Burks) and their daughters: a teenager (Nique Haggerty) and a child (Madison Pappas). The production is spare to an extreme, with no scenery or costumes and few props. Burke Brown’s lighting design is basic but effective; Edisa Weeks’s choreography depicts both panic and aimless confusion...

Read more

September 15, 2008

The Ides of Everything

Okay, today is the 15th of September. I had an article due, I had a Guggenheim grant due and this is my first day off in three weeks.

Whew, the market, the stock market, took a giant dive, while I typed, and edited and talked to potential grant recommenders. It seemed all around me swirled craziness and I attempted to keep my head down and write a very large grant.

Although I have received grants, I have never written a grant for myself. Asking or telling or wanting for myself has always been difficult and today exhausted and over wrought it seemed I could only get engaged in long phone calls, calls I wanted, but I had trouble jumping back on the writing pony. But I kept going back.

I finished the story for the TriBeCa Tib and by the help of magic fairies; it must have been that, I rode up to the Mail Box place just as the last Fed Ex guy was about to roll out.

“Hey, wait please,” I hollered.

The cute Fed Ex guy stood while I wrote out the labels to myself required by Guggenheim.

“So if you get this grant, what will you give me?”

“I will take you out for drinks.”

“OK, but I am planning on winning the lottery first.”

“Well, you better take my number then in case I don’t win, then I will need a drink.”

AHHH sometimes I just love humans, the ones who get that a little extra time won’t kill you and it might even help a fellow traveler.

Yesterday at the theater, the show was the best ever, nice because we were video taping it. I joked with the cast saying that if they did a great job, I’d be overjoyed, as we wouldn’t have to re-tape. A joke perhaps but they were flawless, inspired, amazing.

I really loved the show yesterday afternoon and that was a great treat.

I am taking Tuesday and a part of Wednesday off and running away to the country to dig dirt and smell the roses, literally.

September 13, 2008

The Day After Opening/ Lucky 13

Last night was beyond astounding. Packed house, really full, me telling the box office to sell tickets that were not there--I mean not printed, and we used programs as tickets.

People sitting on folding chairs on a balcony or stair. The New York Times photographer snapping as folks arrived and the reviewer sitting in the aisle.


Energy through the roof. The singers hit the notes, the highs and lows, somehow they found consonant and vowels. Who knew that vowels are easy in opera, but words like GLUE turn into GOO. Or PILE becomes PIE. Since I have no idea what goes into an opera and I just blurted out LET'S MAKE AN OPERA, this entire process has been a hapless wonder to me.

And fair warning readers , my house guests from the South, who got up at 11am, to find me at work on my Guggenheim grant application, due Monday, (oh the universe has a sense of humor), asked, “Can we take you to a wonderful lunch?”

“How wonderful?” I asked.

“Whatever you want.”

So I called Chanterelle, really the best anywhere, but it is around the block from me and they have helped so much with Calling. You know they took us right away and treated us royalty. We had champagne and wine. This is in the middle of the day, mind you. I came home at 3:30 believing I had missed the Sunday matinee; please recall that it is Saturday... oh my god, that lunch seemed really long and magical.

Oh the discussion among a Jungian mother and her daughter with me as the interloper when weaving between marital sex, an opera about September 11 and how to promote healing, the distancing that sons MUST DO WITH THEIR MOTHERS, and food, travel, art, literature and jewelry. That’s really all I can recall and it was marvelous. After lunch they went to buy champagne for after the show and then jumped into a cab to run to the Guggenheim before it closed. I asked them to bring back good luck from there for my grant and I hugged the couch and cat and took a well-deserved nap.

Why was last night so wonderful? Because the cast had gelled, the fear subsided, (before last night we had run the show only twice, really) and with this diminution of fear came boldness, not recklessness but the confidence of professionals. The stage manager was on time, the lead little girl had pigtails and not a salon “do”, and the light board operator ran the lights, not the designer. The fans that click and clack were turned off. And although the theater must have been 500 degrees (okay 90) it was calm, save the late comers seated and wedged with children into the balcony. But that is, as my mother used to say, “an upscale problem.” I wish us too many in the audience every night.

My roommate from college, Nina, was there with her sister, Deb, and we hugged, acknowledging our 40th anniversary. The very pregnant and gorgeous Rebecca Asher Walsh, tan from the summer in East Hampton, was prettier pregnant than her normal radiant self and was squired by Dr. Chuck, who is the cutest soon to be dad in our circle. Christine and Carter came--bigwig music and art couple, and I believe they really did love it. Neighbors came, the friends whom I met in Morocco last summer came from Birmingham and Pensacola to support and fete me.

At the curtain call everyone who worked on this baby from any point on came to the stage and we held hands and bowed. And my teary eyes saw my husband who had begged off coming as he had work and a biz trip this morning. But there he was in the back of the theater, smiling and clapping for me the second night in a row. He had even ridden his bike in the rain, He does not like rain the way I do.

So Zac and I didn’t go out with anyone. We biked home to snuggle and wait for guests and I just wanted my “normal life.” On occasion now when I find myself uttering, par hazard, phrases that crop up in the opera, I feel like a parody of myself, but I need to remember no one sees this but me so I need to relax.

Oh wait, that’s another line.

Ok back on the bike, (another line) and off to the theater.

Break a leg.

September 12, 2008

Paragraph Depeleted

What I mean is that I don’t feel as if I have the brainpower, or mind space or some good computer term that would indicate how fried I am. So I thought maybe I would resort to lists to express how the first invited performance went last night.

This is in the order the thoughts come to me, and I wish I could send this out without spell check or spacing check or insanity check, but alas I’d like to cling to the few writing jobs I have and if they saw the true mess I am, even those would be gone. Here is what happened last night.

The stage manager arrived at 8pm. I kid you not--the curtain is at 8pm--so I acted as the stage manager until the final moments.

I asked the electrician to do one task and that was turn off the electric fans that are poorly mounted to the ceiling so they clack incessantly. He did not.

The lights of tribute were amazing because it was so overcast it was as if you could climb them into the sky. Especially transformative after champagne, exhaustion and stepping from an overheated, but incredible party into cool air.

My friend from Brownies, from when I was 8, the age the two little best friends in the show are now, well, Nella came to the show with her husband, a blues musician, I called him a blue grass musician, saw that was an insult and thought, well the word 'blue' is in it right? Oh no. They loved the show and I loved them for coming.

Diane and Dick came down from Salem, Mass. I met them on a press trip I took to the Galapagos Islands. Such lovely folks... meant the world.

The gaggle of gorgeous young volunteers, led by event wizard Hattie Elliot and Grace Samson, who took over the lobby and the bike shop and made magic.

I gave books to everyone in the cast.

My great, good girlfriend Thalia flew in from Milwaukee and cried sitting next to me the entire time.

My friend and lawyer Tori came, she almost never leaves work.

My upstairs neighbor, Terry Berkowitz, who designed the book and has expressed over and over how much she hates opera, came.

My financial advisor Lisa came, my pal Dave came--he also hates theater, and he was the editor for the book. He dragged his girlfriend and his stepbrother.

My kids' cousin from the wretched baby daddy's side of the family came, WE LOVE HER, and she cried and hugged me. Her sweet boyfriend helped carry buckets of ice and water. I asked them when they were going to get married. Hattie dragged me away saying I had too much champagne. It was one glass.

Liz Papas, mom to little star Madison, bought the champagne and told me she got it donated, it was lovely but not as stunning as she was in a wrap dress.

Souhad and Paul were there, she so beautiful and not aware that she is. Soheyla and Pico, Mitchell and Whitney, Lori and Laurie, and on and on and on.

We were clapped for and toasted and I thought, oh let’s limp home after watching, barely helping Hattie’s mom and dad, Margaret and Rod, load up all the left veers into their car. Oh, let me go home and sleep, but neighbors Liz and Michael Pierce had other plans. So I was a good sport and we ate late at the local pub, Walkers right across from the fire station, the one that loaned us the fire coat that the cast believes is magical.

The entire night was magical.
I am so full of appreciation to all the components of my life.

BUT I still am only fantasizing about sleep.

September 11, 2008

Seven Years Later

It seems as if it was yesterday and eons ago.

A part is the weather; it is not the scrubbed blue September 11 sky that helps me to not go there to that day as deeply. But we all hear the bells and the sirens and the bagpipes at fire stations intoning our grief, the mournful wails tears at us.

And then tonight I open this opera about September 11 and my family’s little personal involvement in it. The New Yorker says that it ”harkens back to “Our Town” in its communitarian ethos." That says it just fine for me.

And so, in praise of that spirit of community being celebrated on the stage and really is the only reason we made it here today and will play for three weeks, I want to attempt to chronicle a little bit of how my neighborhood, TriBeCa, reached out to support this project and by extension me.

I started to write this while sitting on the steps of David Bouley’s newest culinary creation on Hudson Street. I love these steps surrounded by planters with wild flowers and herbs. I sit often and drink iced coffee, laced with extra espresso. Crazy, but I feel calm here.

David Bouley generously helped this opera with food and donations and a feeling that even a big swell, a real star like him, feels the community spirit. His wife, Nicole, is always ready to give us handouts, as are the folks at Bubbys, who fed pie to the entire cast at dress rehearsal. The pie was washed down by cider from the Greenwich Street Green Market. I am grateful especially to Pat and Stan and their farm stand as they sold the book on which the opera is based years back and continue to stuff post cards about the performance into bags of green beans or tomatoes.

Every where I go I see support for CALLING: An Opera of Forgiveness:
Erika at Myoptics hands out post cards and last week told me that now her friend’s grandson is in the show. One of our best chorus members works in Design Beyond Reach, Tribbles the design store on West Broadway loaned us the owner’s daughter to be my stage manager. ALL FOR FREE, no less!!

The Church Street School, who was an early recipient of the funds raised by the original book, helped with audiences and child singers. They sent us to the Trinity Church Choir, whose master, Robert Ridgell rehearsed some kids. Businesses all over downtown have taped up our posters including Paul Blaustein the plumber who put up a poster and gave me a check to “help pay singers.”

The folks at Mail Boxes Etc Avery, Wendy and Joe, copied all our fliers, mailed out post cards so folks across the country could have real snail mail to stick onto bulletin boards or their fridges. To the downtown papers, the Battery Park Broadsheet and Tribeca Trib who covered us generously, to Cheryl Hazen and her gallery, all the guys at the Tribeca Wine store, the wait staffs at Walkers and Bubbys, to the brokers at Douglas Elliman, all who gave out post cards, to all these and more an enormous thank you for showing that community spirit is more than alive and well, it is thriving in TriBeCa.

September 9, 2008

Lights In The Sky

Last night as I rode home . . . WAIT, do all these blog entries start this way?

Okay, how about this lead in: During rehearsal I received a phone call from the costume chick, my new girlfriend from across the street in TriBeCa, Liz Pierce. Liz is still a Catholic--don’t hold it against her--she is also very spiritual, so let her hold on to whatever floats her boat. Liz called breathlessly saying, “I am looking out the window of the loft working on design stuff and the LIGHTS are on again.”

I knew exactly what she meant. Liz was telling me that while I toiled in the dark confines of the LaMaMa Theater, the tribute at Ground Zero, the twin towers of light, has been switched on again. I suppose they will stay on for the entire week, as a memorial.

I love the lights, and sort of wish they were always on. They do what I hope this opera may do, they portray the presence of an absence and they do it with elegance and wonder that covers all religions and spiritual bases. I don’t know how the families feel, but as a resident I love them.

Riding home last night (there I go again, but listen it is huge leaving hours of rehearsal, in darkness and frustration and peddling home on my own power, alone, feeling strong and released into a world of soft air and possibility. So let me have me endless thought patterns that begin) there was this wonderful ice white column of light. Hard to describe the texture of white light, but there is clarity and poignancy and a place where these light towers cut right to my emotional well-being.

I followed them home like a beacon. It has been a while since I followed anything home. And I realized that when I worked at LaMaMa in the late eighties and early nineties and rode home to my babies, I rode home to the presence of that light as it came from the World Trade Towers. It was different then, I didn’t revere it or even often hold them in good stead, but they were an undeniable part of my life and I rode toward them every night to find home.

We are about to cut out the section where the mother and children sing, “Find home, find safety” as another kind of mantra. Oh, why are we going to cut it? Well, lots of reasons, time, rhythms, the need for everyone one of the creative team: words, music and movement to make concessions, meaning usually to take cuts. And this section seems to lag or drag or both. So it will be trimmed or totally cut.

But last night I took that sweet ride after work with my head swimming with the strains of “ Find home, find safety.” And now, for the next week my ride will be illuminated with towers of light and it warms and saddens me that they have to be there, and that I take some comfort in their cool white presence guiding me home.

September 8, 2008

Our Mission

Last night, I made an impromptu speech--in the middle of rehearsal--when we finally had everyone present, for the very first time. Okay, imagine that we open in three days and last night was the first time all cast and crew members were in the same room at the same time. So when we were all assembled, I gave a little rant or pep talk, because I realized that not everyone knew what I thought the mission was, or the manifesto was for this piece.

And it is this.

is one of the first experimental theaters, yes most folks know that, but beyond experimentation is the deeply held notion that we are all stronger with diversity and far-flung backgrounds. I was raised on this theory from my foreign correspondent at father and anthropologist mother, but it was Ellen Stewart, the founder of LaMaMa who drilled it into my head. She showed me that Oedipus could be from Korea and his wife from down the block on Fourth Street and it would be passionate and powerful. She showed me that drums could be logs, or pipes or expensive instruments and still beat out a rhythm. She convinced me that passion trumps wisdom; trumps education; and trumps sameness. And I watched companies come from 135 different nations to perform on the many stages of LaMaMa for more than 30 years and I believed each performance contributed to a more peaceful world.

I also, over these decades, came to see, what I thought was LaMaMa style, morph into an elevated theatrical style called “World Theater.” I saw it in The Lion King and everywhere I looked on Broadway, or in marvelous dance and music performances. No longer were we so desirous of homogeneity; we wanted our diversity to be on display, celebrated and huge.

So too with Calling. We are a cast and crew of 25 and we come from Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia and America, and mixed versions of all of these. We are short and young; or stout and older, as your scribe here, but we share a passion for telling a story through words, music, motion and diversity. The creation of this opera was a labor of love, no not just on the part of composer Doug and me, but really on the part of the cast and crew. Because these were the dedicated souls who took little or no pay, who brought their own clothes, who went home late and got up early to go to day jobs like Fifth grade or teaching or designing or mothering.

There is a song in Calling where the Mother croons to her child “All are heroes all are mythic.” And in fact that is the cast, the crew, the parents, the partners all the supporters of Calling. They are the heroes and believe me that I know and send appreciation to them for all they bring, offer and bestow on our dream.

To heroes.

September 6, 2008

Gathering Storm

I am awake and neither in a meeting nor rehearsal. I am up, well-coffeed and processing the dream I had last night about seeing a performance of Calling, our little opera at the grand, Paris opera house. I have seen work there, and it was that very place, with the fru-fru like a wedding cake interior, and a full orchestra and stage filled with our casts’ wonderful faces and, of course, more and more.

They were whirling and doing the mechanized dances that Edisa has cooked up, born from the images, photographic images, of workers fleeing the Towers on September 11, 2001. But now there was a chorus of heartfelt, office workers and construction workers all moving to composer Doug’s amazing music. And I don’t know if they do this at the Paris opera, but dreams can merge and purge and thus my words were running across the top of a lush red velvet curtain and they were in French. Although I speak French sometimes in dreams, I rarely read French and here were words so clear and fast zooming across my mind.

I suppose the dream was predicated on the great success of last night. Not only was the reading and performance, our little Page-to-Stage concoction at the TriBeCa Barnes & Noblem, a success, but the fact that we, our tiny company, pulled off a performance and rehearsal in dual locations was incredible and showed our nimble abilities to the best.

There we were, Carl conducting Maja on violin, and replacement crazy talented, Rob Walker on clarinet, subbing for Jay Hassler who was playing for Paul Newman (can you make this stuff up?). Nicole and Madison both really exemplified mother and child, full of emotion and voice. Hattie marshalling the forces of booksellers and press wishing she had a staff of 20. While Hiroya took the other musicians through their paces with Edisa blocking scenes where mom and child were extraneous. We were a producing family; all going about our tasks, staying on point and moving this baby closer to the real thing, an opera.

I have a need to insert an aside here, and although this is ALL ABOUT ME. (Hey, I wrote this thing right, so here it is.) I was touched beyond belief by the folks who showed up at Barnes & Noble and they all seemed to be truly moved by the reading and the operatic segment that followed. But here is the kicker, as I was shuffling paper getting ready to go on, I hear a voice from my very far past hollering my name. It was my favorite high school teacher, and just typing that I begin to well up. And all of this crying is happening as Tropical Storm Hanna gathers outside my window turning a blue sky to gray and threatening a big cry from the sky. Not only was sociology teacher Vic Leviatin there, but so too his wife Roz, who I had not seen in 40 years. I used to babysit for them.

“Oh, you are a regular old person.” She blurts. “I mean, you are a grown-up”.

Okay, Roz was the very first blunt person, blunt woman I had ever encountered. Roz was honest to a fault, and very political. This long time married duo, sported OBAMA buttons, hers a “WOMEN FOR OBAMA" button and, other than my husband, they were the only ones wearing political buttons at this event. I was so happy to see them; of course they bought books for their two little boys, now 44 and 48. I am still reeling from the kindness they showed and the happiness it gave me, especially now with both my parents gone, those in loco parentis mean so much.

I do miss my parents and with my kids away and sometimes unavailable, I miss that love the perfect squish of a hug that says, “You mean everything to me.” Luckily I have the kittens and a sweet, affectionate husband to fill in my family circle.

We have a super-long slog today, and every time I write September 6 and do the math, meaning it is four days until we offer our open dress rehearsal to folks downtown who helped us, my skin starts to leap off the back of my neck and arms. My job is to remain calm and hold the reins of this run-away pony. Composer Doug did give me some good feedback today, although I may be evincing this calm, he says I am jumping to conclusions too fast and I often jump to a negative conclusion so I need to slow my roll a little.

Okay, Doug, here I am, breathing and going to get a little lunch with my man with whom I feel I haven’t eaten in ages. Pizza or late night cereal does not count. I am excited to sit in the café next door and watch the storm arrive as I contemplate a salad and the metaphoric storms on the horizon lurking in wait for our little opera. I am confident that although we will get wet, we will flourish.

September 4, 2008

Oh My GOD I forgot to BLOG

I just forgot. I thought for a second I was holding it together dealing with my son in school, where I didn’t get him a meal plan or health insurance. And speaking of insurance, the adjusters are here to look at the flood damage. I just shut the doors to those flooded rooms and I forgot about that too.

My life is an overwhelmed flurry where I have to navigate a web site to sign over a trademark to my former job.

Where I have to re-edit a story for National Geographic.

Where my agent says I don’t have enough juice to sell my book of essays.

Where the press agent for the opera has me on radio shows at the same time as rehearsal.

Where we have a reading at Barnes and Noble tomorrow and the books -- WHEW -- just arrive a second ago.

Where I need to keep calling recalcitrant producers, in an attempt to get them to see the show.

Where the books have to now be delivered to Barnes and Noble.

And I promised to help hang the lights.

Like yesterday when composer Doug and I moved all the equipment from the rehearsal room into the theater.


Then after my “moving van“ experience, I had to shower, dress up and have an interview--my third, if you please, for a REAL JOB.

The folks at the REAL JOB were lovely, but the headhunter, who I think doesn’t get creative folks or me at all, is on the fence. A young associate from REAL JOB called this morning, after I said how happy I was to meet them, but this couldn’t be a worse week for me to be taking copious amounts of time to devote to the land of REAL JOB.

Instead, the young HR fella rings to say that the next step is a five-hour psychological exam that must be taken on a PC. (Well, of course they don’t have that type of exam that could work on a Mac) WHAT AN OXYMORON... assessment testing on a Mac.

Okay, still trying to be a good sport I offer, "If you can get me a PC to borrow, I can devote an hour a morning to this test.” That seemed super generous to me.


I haven’t slept five hours in a row in weeks.

I love the idea of this REAL JOB, but oh my goodness, everything at once is well...everything.

Happily, I ran into the head of REAL JOB down in my neighborhood and she said ”Oh focus on your opera and come to us after it opens.” She was a delight, and it took such a load off me and made me love the idea of this job even more.

So when I got home, I encouraged Henry to put all the charges he needs on the credit card.

I am putting some of the "we don’t have copier paper" onto another list and I am focusing on the opera, finding a center, getting books to the bookstore and listening to the singers and musicians.

I am indebted beyond words to Choreographer Edisa Weeks who is a genius and really moving these folks through the little world I created.

I love that Doug never says “Hey I am the composer and not a moving man.”

And to everyone who shows up and lends voices and energies to this amazing endeavor.

I will try and not forget but WOW the list is lengthening.

In the time I wrote this, 23 new emails came in. I am off to deliver books, then back to the theater for rehearsal.

FINGERS CROSSED for all of us and all our dreams.

September 2, 2008


Yesterday... what a strange combination of emotions.

WOW -- the New York Times saying actual nice things about bone-head me. And me taking my still silent, grumpy son back to college -- or at least I drove to the country house. (And yes, John McCain, I know how many houses I have, and, yes I know I am a very lucky person.) My husband, Zac, drove the rest of the way from the Hudson Valley to Skidmore College. Henry is still holding a grudge, and the ride north from the city -- where I was bursting with excitement and happiness that we had a real honest to goodness NY Times article that might put butts in seats and make people notice this little opera after months of working for free -- and well, the silence was chilling. I talked the entire time in my head, but it was sad.

After they drove off, I took back the little farmhouse from the renter ladies, making the nest my own again. Changing beds, doing more washing, tossing out weird renter food that is perfectly fine, but not mine. I then went out to touch plants, pull weeds, crush beetles and remember what wet earth feels like after a month of dark rehearsal spaces and late night bike rides home. I also fielded tears and confusion about rehearsal times; I dealt with egos on whose name appears where, and if middle names are used or why is former musician listed but not. . .

All told, it lets me know, again, that we are all fragile and all looking to be recognized for the little and large things we do.

After a romp through the woods with the cats, I collapsed into the hammock and fell asleep to find my husband standing over me, having waited, he said, for me to wake up so we could go get ice cream. OH, twist my arm. So we were off to Holy Cow. Can you make that up? We ate drippy sundaes in the shortening light and I tried to forget that in nine days, the show would go up, with lights and dance and music and all the cast members who have never even yet been to a single rehearsal... and I tried to stay calm and see it all working. All safe, all fine, all singing and then the audience applauding.

And in my head I will yell out "HOME-FREE-ALL!" Just like I did when I was ten and ran to hug the tree in dusky games of hide and seek.

When I went out to cut brambles and prune roses this morning, I let the big Maine Coon cat, Auggie, named for last month, lead me where he wanted to go. He wanted to walk in what our Scottish friends call the Dingly Dell. This is a path cut between blackberry brambles and a bogey hollow west of the house. It took me two years to cut this path through brambles and woods that resemble nothing short of Sleeping Beauty's prison in the fairy tale. But I hacked with clippers and machete and now there is a path where mossy tufts and lazy tress leave a clearing for deer, intrepid humans and fearless cats to tread.

This morning, there were clear paths marked by the pointy hooves of deer and Auggie and I picked our way along. I wondered what the deer think when they smell us and I imagined this conversation between the doe and her spotted twin fawns I spy regularly making crepuscular leaps.

“Oh look, kids, that is the foot print of the human woman who made this path. You know the thing about humans, and the reason they are so dangerous, is that they have forgotten how to use their intuition. They know things, but will never use what they feel until they can connect it to something they have learned in books, or school.”

“What does that mean?" the smarter, small female fawn will say.

“It means they can’t tell if things are dangerous, or fun or wrong unless they learn them, not feel them.“

“That must be a hard way to live.”

I think they are right. And I am going to attempt to feel my way though this last bit of time until we open. Now it is 8 days until our invited dress rehearsal on September 10. I will have to keep feeling the gratitude, luck and hope that I see evinced all around me and keep pushing myself to imagine the woodsy calm and the joy that comes form feeling the tree and yelling, “HOME-FREE-ALL!”

September 1, 2008

Writer’s 9/11 Experience, From Essays Into an Opera

People had plenty of painful reasons for leaving New York after Sept. 11, among them tragic memories and overwhelming fear.

For those who never would have considered leaving, New Yorkers like Wickham Boyle were probably a big part of the reason. Ms. Boyle, who lives in TriBeCa, spent the third day following 9/11 spreading grace as best she could, buying up ash-covered flowers from a local grocer, washing them off in her shower to let their colors reemerge, and then placing the restored blooms at sites of wreckage.

Read more of the New York Times article

Click here for more information on CALLING: AN OPERA OF FORGIVENESS