Posts Tagged ‘theatre’

Creative diversions yield fresh inspiration

I’m fortunate that I get to be creative for a living. Whether I’m writing, strategizing or executing an idea, my work demands creativity.

assassinslineupv2But even the most creative among us needs fresh inspiration from time to time, and I found it by pursuing an avocation I’d set aside for six years: theatre. I just finished nearly three months of rehearsal and three weekends of performances as Sara Jane Moore in Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins. I’ve already written about what the show means to me, but now I find myself reflecting on the experience of the production itself and how it’s seeped into the rest of my creative life.

As anyone who knows the music of Stephen Sondheim will understand, preparing and performing the show was a challenge — one that I welcomed. One reason I’m such a devotee of Sondheim’s music is the puzzles he constructs. I revel in sorting them out and finding the solutions that reveal the magic of what he’s created. Making sense of the character and the show’s structure were equally stimulating exercises, and ultimately rewarding ones. Sondheim consistently reminds me how important it is to be intentional about what we create. Everything for a reason.

But what I gained from this experience is about more than simply flexing creative muscles I haven’t used in a while. For me, being onstage requires a leap of faith and a willingness to bare my soul. It means taking risks and being brave about them, putting myself out there in a way that daily life doesn’t necessarily require — but perhaps it should.

Some of my favorite directors have taught me that a good performance is about being in the moment, one moment at a time, and being present with your fellow actors with every breath and every line of music or dialogue. While the mechanics of stage business matter, the ideal is to let all of that become second nature so you can maintain your focus on the moment you’re in, with the people you’re in it with. The sensation of “waking up” onstage to realize you’ve been fully immersed in the moment is indescribable and enormously satisfying.

The same thing is true about everyday life, and the interactions we have with people. If we’re not being present with others — if we’re not being open to the leaps of faith life requires or the courage that’s needed to face challenges head-on — there’s a good chance we could miss out on something. When it comes to creativity, we almost certainly won’t be open to taking the kinds of risks that can spark compelling new ideas.

I almost didn’t audition for Assassins. I thought I was too busy, that I needed to focus on my work, that I had been away from theatre too long to jump back in. But that would have been a terrible mistake. Because as I reflect on the experience of being part of the production, I feel more inspired than ever about my work and my life. I feel motivated to be more daring, more open, more collaborative. I’m inspired to continue stretching my creativity in new directions, even when I’m sitting at my computer.

Perhaps it’s the insight that comes from stepping outside yourself for a few hours a day to become someone else, or maybe it’s simply the jolt of energy that comes from a new experience. Whatever it is, I’ll take it and run with it. My creativity — and the work I produce as a result — will be all the better for it.

[Photo credit: Bryan Clifford, courtesy of Avon Players. I’m at left in the image, in the brunette wig.]

How Sondheim’s ‘Assassins’ fuels my passion for social justice

You might not think a show about Presidential assassins would inspire activism for social justice and the greater good, but Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins has done exactly that for me.

Assassins1This musical masterpiece is not an endorsement of assassination, not by a long shot. Instead, it’s an investigation into what might have motivated nine Americans to feel like the only choice they had in life was to try and kill a President.

I first played the role of Sara Jane Moore, would-be assassin of President Gerald Ford, in 2010. At the time, I was concerned about the anger and anti-government sentiment raging across our country. And after the production was over, I found myself more determined than ever to work toward productive solutions that would help put the American Dream within the grasp of more of our citizens.

I’m playing that role a second time, against the backdrop of a time in our history when the vitriol and violence of humanity feel closer to the surface than ever. If we are to stem this tide of discord, we must engage in collective action to take better care of each other, so that no one feels so disenfranchised, downtrodden or desperate that they’re pushed to such extremes.

My commitment to making a positive difference in this country is even stronger now, and it’s my sincere hope that a day will come when Americans no longer feel inclined to choose violence over constructive action.

I have more to say about Assassins, which you can read in my post at Eclectablog.

[Photo credit: Bryan Clifford, courtesy of Avon Players.]

Doing what I love at Netroots Nation

I’m one of the lucky people who gets to do something I love for a living. Even better? Getting to do a lot of things I love all at once — which I’ll be doing when I present an Ignite talk at the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit on July 19.

I’ve always been a writer and storyteller. I’ve been a freelance writer and strategist most of my career. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But I have another love: theatre. I spent more than 20 years working in local theatre, performing in and directing one or two shows a year. I miss being onstage, and I miss the unique kind of storytelling involved in playing a role like Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd or directing a play like Amadeus.

BFDpicAt Netroots Nation, I get to do all that again — but in a new way. The Ignite format gives presenters five minutes to speak, accompanied by 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds.

In this high-energy format, I’ll be talking about the Affordable Care Act and using personal stories of how it benefits Americans to demonstrate the value of healthcare reform.

My passion as a writer and strategist is using communications for social good, to educate and engage people in issue advocacy and change minds. At Netroots Nation, I get to combine that with my love of theatre, transformed into a very personal kind of storytelling.

I can’t wait.

If you’ll be at Netroots Nation — the country’s largest gathering of progressive leaders, activists and grassroots organizers — don’t miss the Ignite closing keynote on Saturday, July 19 starting at 4:30 p.m. ET. I’m one of 14 presenters who will be taking the stage to tell our stories.

The keynote may be available via live streaming, or I’ll post a video later. Tickets to Netroots Nation are also available if you’d like to attend starting July 17.

Although my Ignite talk will definitely be a high point for me, I’m looking forward to the entire conference. I’ll be doing what I love with thousands of others who feel the same way.

How lucky can you get?

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