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Saturday, June 27, 2015

You Still Have Much To Learn


If your belief
your memory
is dependent on a symbol
for its strength
then your memory
your belief
is a weak one indeed.

Followers of Christ
did without crosses
Tribes of Judea
did without stars

People on whose backs this country 
was built
the people whose lands
were stripped
(so we would eventually
have strip malls)
did without
a place for ceremony
a place to call home
and without the dignity
of being recognized
as equal humans
And if only you would look
(beyond maintaining
your own reflection)
you would notice
they still do

Your comfort then
commanded as much priority
over being decent people

as you demand it does now

This country
is not just yours.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

This Past First Year

One year and a week ago, I returned to the United States of America after touring Japan for two years with Kinoshita Circus. I was nervous and anxious. During the months leading up to my departure I was agonizing over numerous issues: I must be crazy to turn my back on such good pay. What if nobody remembers me? What if I have to start all over in acting and improv? What if I never clown again after this? I don't want to be a has-been or a never-was. What will I do for work? Will opportunities even materialize?

I had one extremely part-time job to return to, a website to scour for auditions, and a pair of friends who offered their spare room as lodging. Oh yes — and I also had a car to buy. Ten days before I returned stateside, I received a panicked call and email from my younger sister: a tree branch fell on my car and totaled it. I had been on the verge of owning it outright — one [big] payment shy for which I had the money in my account. I had been waiting strictly on ceremony.  In spite of these fears and that last big financial bump in the road, I had a list of goals to pursue upon my return.

This last year has yielded more than I can imagine.

I should rephrase that, for as Han Solo said: ". . . I can imagine quite a bit."

This last year, more of my goals were realized or set on track than I had expected.

I was in a show in the MN Fringe Festival. I got to participate in something clown related with my girlfriend for the first time. I attended a couple of general auditions for the first time. I auditioned for and was in a show produced by Live Action Set. After many years, there was a remounting of "A Klingon Christmas Carol" and I auditioned for and was cast in it. I had my first leading role in a show. I performed solo improvisation again. I taught some workshops, including one for current Ringling clowns. I took workshops. I started freelance writing on an occasional basis. I started feeling like I actually knew what I was doing, that I knew what I was talking about, and that people would listen to me. I had people approach me to include me in projects. I started delving into improv coaching. I returned to the Science Museum of MN. I was accepted into two improvisation festivals.

There were plenty of bonus features to boot. I was cast in an episode of a locally produced show (that has yet to air — on cable!). I got to sit in a makeup chair and be worked on by a professional effects makeup artist (I'm still wetting my pants over that one). I performed in the Chicago Avenue Theater Project. I attended my first comic convention. I was in a show at a major theater in the Twin Cities. I had the chance to audition for The Tortuga Twins and made it. I got to work with Sandbox Theater company. I got to hear people say that they had heard about me from other people. I became part of another show for this summer's MN Fringe. I was part of Dangerous Productions's parkour project. I became involved with coaching and judging high school speech individual events.

I learned a new level of how I cannot do all of the things and did my best to hold fast while I was riding the edge of burnout. I started re-learning to say no because I was so busy, but I also became better at taking the good kind of risks. Along the way I missed friends' birthdays and shows. I missed so many concerts. I missed an entire season of roller derby for which I was supposed to be a favorite team's mascot (That particular eventual "no" hurt a lot.) I felt crummy because of it. I spent February through now juggling rehearsals and shows and work, with every show's rehearsal process having to sacrifice space and time to another (or another show) at one time or another, with at least two people in charge weathering increased hypertension as a result.

I connected with a fellow cast member so much that we have a sort of nerd media/nerd representation salon/panel/collective idea in development. I connected with people in improv who —in startlingly typical improviser fashion — I thought wouldn't give me the time of day. I've had project and show ideas. I've been included in project ideas. I've had ideas to apply to clowning and I have an ever-clarifying vision of where I want to go in my effort to bring all-too-absent clowning and physical comedy to the local scene of the neo-burlesque wave that's sweeping the nation. I have grown in my ability to discuss matters of race and representation and have started to think I might even want to turn that into something.

In this last year, I have relied on the generosity of many people. I don't like doing that. I was able to help out some friends and family monetarily and that made me feel good, but I'm better at helping than I am at accepting help (while still feeling good about myself). I learned that through all of the years of loathing the idea of networking and how slimy the concept felt, I'd been doing it the whole time. I learned that real networking isn't trading favors or having a slick pitch for yourself. I learned that it was more about actual connection and fostering those connections honestly.

I say all this not to brag, but to share and to give thanks. I've had a lot happen this year and my plate was full, even when my bank account wasn't. Success is more than monetary (although money is marvelous) and love and respect are solid currencies. No one is an island and I have countless people to thank not only for the past year, but for a great many things that led up to it. I intend to keep working, keep building, and keep thanking.