Tag Archives: history

I’ll Have What She’s Having

1 Nov

You know how sometimes you are so conflicted, or so hungry, or so PMSey that you think you want a big ol’ plate of this thing over here, but when your buddy’s plate comes to the table, you feel like that was what you should have chosen instead…but then they see that look in your eyes and are all, “Split-share?” (…cuz all your friends are equal foodies), and your taste buds and guts go, “Yeeeesss! Best of both worlds!” and everything is all-the-flavors-of-awesome?

…That is what going to a friend’s show is like. 

…Kinda always super wish you were working with them, but sometimes you just had to try for that other thing over there, instead…cuz of the stuff…and you did, and lots of times its good, but if you somehow have a skewed performance schedule, (or can sneak into a rehearsal of a limited run, like I am tonight), it’s like all the salty, sweet, buttery and garlicy goodness, wrapped up in both life-plates.

So, I’ll be art-eating super good tonight, at one of the final rehearsals, for an already sold-out run, of a dear friend, whose passion and empathy knows no bounds.

Damn, I’m so proud of her, and the team she has collected to create this amazing piece of historical theatre!

Let’s eat!

~D

Dear Annie

11 Mar

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Well, my friend, as I’ve stacked two shows simultaneously after this one…I wanted to take a moment of reflection before an insanely busy weekend launches, inhibiting me completely.

…As it stands, we are three performances from where our road together ends.

…The time when both our bruised bodies and wrecked knees, ribcages stuffed in steel-lined corsets…the gallons of sweat and frustrated shared history with “that kid”…will have come to completion. I know how exhausted my body and brain is…I cannot even fathom how much yours was at final rest…but with Helen there beside you, I know it’s a peaceful, and well-loved place I leave you…until someone else picks up this script and begins the journey all over again.

I have truly treasured being a part of your world and history…learning the tiny details and intimacies of your life…the hard times and the sweet, and I’ve done my absolute best to provide the most truthful access to you that I could conceive of from months of study and communal brain space.

…I have to admit, it has been a more difficult task than I thought, to keep perspective in. Because honestly, you crack me the hell up with all your self-affacing humor in letters, your ferocious arguments in a heated moment, your stubborn refusals to back down, your imperfect people skills. But god, you were beautiful too…with your very honest, human struggles against doubt, and self confidence, and pain, and the loss that fueled the nightmares which haunted you all of your life.

I am astounded by so many things about you, but most of all, at the way you still managed to open (even if only to one person, truly) and trust enough…to “love” again. Despite all of it.

…I have loved being some far-reaching part of your existence. I did my best to do you proud, and though I could frequently hear you cussing at me and sighing from above, during manic rehearsals …I know you’ve nodded in my direction at least once or twice. Because I’ve felt it.

…A lot of actors I know, find performing actual people from history a daunting task. It’s a slippery slope that many feel caught and restricted in, which I never have. The homework only feeds me…the mindful conversations I have in my head which I have always invited the spirit or essence of such person to openly become a part of, makes me feel I’m participating in a secret interview with the past that not many people get the chance to undertake. I feel connected and energized and try to erase as much of my own judgment as I can, to keep an honest and open gateway to whatever enlightenment may come of it all. In essence, it may sound freaky-deeky, but in those moments, if I’m good and fair and trust…I am never alone…and I try to bring that with me as a host for the story being told. Frankly, I love the companionship of history and the people who make it worth remembering and talking about.

…Like you.

If you could look down right now and see what has come from the work you had started, all those years ago…I think I know you well enough to say that while not totally satisfied, you would still be proud. So many things changed for the better because of the work that you and Helen did.

So many lives.

…If you taught us nothing else, it is that every person has a worth of destiny and meaning…be they deaf, dumb, and blind, or an orphan girl with only six years of education under their belt.

…Whether you were of the inclination to believe it or not… I bet you all I’ve got, that a little boy named Jimmy…perfect in body and mind…is standing beside you right now, proud as hell, and grinning with all of his might, in agreement.

…And Helen too.

Three more shows, and I have to let you go. But before I do…wanna know my deep down secret?

In over 50 roles, you have been my most especial and absolute favorite.

Thanks for the hard, and wonderful work, Lady. In life, and on stage.

Your Big Fan,

~D

Making Choices

7 Jan

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It’s endless. 

…The supply of facts, figures, and analysis on Sullivan and Keller seems to stretch on infinitely.  Which is wonderful, don’t get me wrong…but it is also frequently debatable from one source to the next…with something as universally “go-to” as Wikipedia being the least academically sound posting of all.  The fact that anyone can contribute to it, is obviously the problem, but that it is likely the first place people will go for info on the topic, pisses me off.  It’s all over the place with inaccuracy…

…As are (from time to time) various books.  I’ve a small shelf of them in my brain now…not counting other articles, reports, essays and such.  Each time I open a new one, it sends me diving back into my now almost 400 pages of notes and clippings, to fact-check something I distinctly remember being reported as another date, time, location, argument, or note of reference.  At this point, I’m forced to use averaging to choose accuracy…in that if I’ve read it twice as this date, and once as that one, I’ll consider the original two reports as correct, unless the scales start to counter with a third option, or added numbers to one or the other of the first two. 

…How the hell can you get facts this way?

 You would think that with two such widely noted historical people, and archives scattered all over the country in their own handwriting, we could get together on some specifics …but it’s surprising to me how much is left out, misstated, inferred, or simply made up, to fill the gaps between days and years and functions…not only when the written and archived materials were lost or (in some cases) purposely destroyed…but even when a picture of a dated letter in Sullivan’s own handwriting states a fact, readily available to view from the Perkin’s archives online, without even leaving your chair.

It’s irritating.  And frustrating.

…First of all: Helen was 6, not 7…Annie 20 not 21 when they met in 1887.  It’s as easy as knowing their birth-months to calculate. AND IT MATTERS.  It matters because they were REAL people, because the difference between 6 and 7 is the difference between what should have been a first grade education and a second grade one…which matters to a child with zero education up to that point, in as much as Helen had to learn not only how to function day-to-day in a seeing and hearing world, and be taught what we spend our infancy learning about basic human interactions, etiquette, feeling, reactions, desires, disappointments, and frustrations…but also how to spell every word that made up every sentence she spoke, as well as grammar and formal sentence structure, mathematics up to and including multiplication tables, to read raised letters and braille, and print square letters in full composition format…as well as learn basics in earth sciences, history, astronomy, and geography, at an age when the average school child is just beginning basic reading, and simple addition and subtraction.

She was 6!

YOU couldn’t do that at 6!  You couldn’t do it at 7 either. Hell, the average adult can’t manage it NOW …but that isn’t the point. The point is: FACTS. 

…And Annie, at 20?  With only six years education…not “formal” mind you, just plain “education” of any kind…under her belt.? Yet, she took up the only post offered to her after graduation, sending her 1200 miles away, where she would be paid the equivalent of $625 (today’s calculation), plus room and board, per month, as a governess to a wild-child neither she nor anyone she knew had ever set eyes on.

…Adding to that her OWN handicapped circumstance (which seems to be frequently forgotten in all this), as well as the difference between “success” (whatever THAT meant) and “failure,” separating the the facts of either earning a living the only way she could fathom how, or going back to the State Alms or Work House.

…No pressure THERE.

It ALL MATTERS.

…So it bothers me when I have holes in the info that I can’t dig up.  The traces are gone (in some cases)…in others, we have only word-of-mouth to go on…and I trust even the written ones little enough as it is. The main point of contention I now face, being: Annie’s voice.

Her disposition is well noted, her temper, her inclination for finery and beauty and nature, her love of poetry and Shakespeare and virtually every other form of the written word…she was a talented sculptor, a fine horsewoman, occasionally composed verse, had an almost photographic memory of stories, anecdotes, and amusing tales, had a very wry and bitingly quick wit, was terrible at spelling and mathematics, hated anything to do with “sewing notions,” fought depression and anxiety, could at times be emotionally crippled with PTSDs from her childhood…in her top-most form, only attained 50% of her sight, eventually going fully blind, loved to cook, and had a monstrous affection for animals .  Add to that about a billion other fact and figures I have ferreted away…and I’ve come up with a pretty solid idea of the woman as she would stand, day-to-day…but it is (with all of that) in mute form.

…There is only ONE surviving sample of her voice, at age 62…and is a mix between the heavily elocution-trained musicality of Hollywood grande-dames from the early talkies, and an east-coaster wideness, in evidence of her Boston school years.  We know, that though born in the U.S., her constant surroundings through childhood amidst the Irish Immigrant population (including her parents, uncles, aunts, and the Almshouse after), left her with the mimicry of an Irish brogue…strong enough to be self-conscious of it (along with everything else about herself) when she entered Perkin’s School for the Blind, at age 14. 

…We know that in her valedictorian speech, six years later, she was reported by several newspapers attending the exercises as having, “a grace of expression,” “…with genuine refinement.”  Assuming then, that she’d worked her ass off to oust that accent, along with her other less savory childhood habits.

…Yet, Historical biographer Kim Nielsen suggests she still had some semblance of a lilt, even if only faintly, as late as Helen’s beginning of college at Radcliffe in 1900…which puts Annie at age 34. In other instances, Helen had been noted to ask if Teacher had an accent and was told “no,”…though had it been by Annie, herself, she could have preferred this as the answer to the reality. Meanwhile, on the flip side, Helen was able to note the differences in accents from Northerners and Southerners based on vocal vibrations felt by hand, at least by Annie’s second year with her. Whether the question was asked prior or after that, and if it was queried based on an oddness that Helen found in Annie’s speech, which fit neither in straight “North” or “South” categories, is unknown.

…Time, tons of speaking engagements, a stint in vaudeville, travels abroad, and further self-education very easily explains how we get from whatever-her-voice-sounded-like-then, to the 62-year-old version from the short video.  But the amount of previous affectation and when it was changed is still up for debate.

…The ever-copied full-on brogue that Anne Bancroft won her Tony and Oscar with, however, is not.

That was a simple solution created to help break a heavy Bronx-Jewish accent from her 750 performances of the previous Gibson play, “Two for the Seesaw,” she’d just completed before “Miracle” rehearsals began.  It was a quick fix that director Arthur Penn had come up with to help her speech patterns refocus, and is frequently copied in most productions which have followed…one assumes as either lack of research, or reverence to  “the one who came before” (and won all the awards, while she was at it.)

…Either way…thankfully Mdm. Director was in the “without” camp, letting the Irish feistiness show through in her many other aspects of expression.  I have enough to do without having the ghost of Bancroft’s ridiculously amazing performance haunting my every move. This leaves me a mode to create distance from her.  We’re both playing her in our 30’s, both keeping in mind the premature sobering a childhood like hers can have on “youth,” both ball-buster broads, and since she’s been a teacher of mine all my life…I’m even at war to break her specific cadence with these lines running in my head.

…What I get now, is the gift to create a sound, specific to where Annie is in her own history and education at that point in time.  With so many historical facts to get down, this freedom to invent her sound freely, has been (and still is) a major working point, and the essence of my own thumbprint on her.

…Mdm. Director has chosen to bring out the hint of brogue as-was in childhood, for the flash-back nightmare sequences… so I’ve countered, adding a taste in other key moments such as an added sense of play when making fun of herself…and, following a pattern which happens to most people with a previous affectation, to bring it out a bit whenever she gets angry or overwrought. 

…Basically…the flavor is still there…but not necessarily to where you pick up on the specifics of it…only: she has a different way of talking.  She is still at times fighting against it, like a war with her wanting-to-be-more-cultured self… sometimes embracing it, as solace when alone and frustrated or emotional…sometimes getting caught up in it, despite herself.

Figuring out how to do all that and make it unconscious, a matter of mental state, a peculiarity of just how “unfinished” this girl is herself, never mind with the weight of the extraordinary challenge facing her…I think it will help to convey the constant struggle, the lack in her own education, and the reminder that these two people are just beginning.  They have a long, long way to go…in life journey, in education, in everything they will achieve that hasn’t even been thought of yet.

 …Every day, it’s a total joy to remember all that, lace up my boots, and begin.

~D

Vikings & Sword Brandishings

27 Aug

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amtiredandcranky.

dontwannablog…

orusepunctuationspacesoranything.

iwouldratherreadthisBBCHistorymagazinearticleaboutthevikings…

andhowtheywieldswordsandtookoverstuff.

…soiamgonna.

~D

Insanity, Death & Other Trails

2 Jun

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The Pacific NW is packed full with ridiculous amounts of rambling trails cutting in and out of it’s natural habitats. 

…The feel is very rainforest meets old south, on account of the humidity factor, being always right on the ocean or near to a lake, and the obvious rainfall factor. 

Unlike the California trails we wandered when I was a kid, one can’t just pick a spot in the forest and “go,” unless one had a machete, knee-high boots, and a pair of welder gloves on, to help battle the sick mess of berry bushes, wild thorns, giant ferns, and vine-eaten, moss-dripping, decaying old trees, so cramming the forest under-canopy that you can’t get a foot hold in edgewise.

…And the people here like it that way. 

At some point, some brave bastard will pick a spot, forge a trail, and get the word out enough times that the footpath will be partially upkept by other hikers. And so our forests on any mountain drive, can be seen to have trail heads poking out in any number of random locations, which you take in good faith, and often interlink at some point with other forged paths, like a network of snail trails in a garden.

The Pac NW-ers are very big on these.

It’s pretty here, always green, and the canopies help umbrella the rain…because of course we don’t stop for that, otherwise we’d never see daylight, again.

We also have cultivated gardens as well. Quite a lot of them.  Because (again), it’s pretty here and always green.  So why not?

…Funny thing is that even the cultivated gardens seem like something out of a gothic novel, as even the old large estates keep to the el naturale effect.

Wild natural gardens with indigenous ground covers, mosses and vines are meticulously manicured so that even the larger pay-to-play mansion and state-park run formal gardens, look like they grew the houses out of their root structures as part of the budding of their plants. Which is eerie and awesome and reminds me of so many of the Irish ruin walks and Manor estate gardens we wandered through back in 2007. 

…Which is all to say: “I like it here.”

There is a history sense of reclaiming of nature pretty much everywhere you go. We haven’t become so built up that you can’t get away from it all within a ten minute drive in any direction, and there are places you can go and feel off the grid, and your phone doesn’t bing with text and phone alerts, and the music doesn’t thump from out of car windows, and the smell of “green” (you’d know it if you smelled it) is so strong, you just wanna wrap up and take a nap in it.

…So, naturally, I take a lot of walks.

…And yesterday was National Trail Day.

…So Ma and I took several.

The first: one of those Mansions that seems to be grown out of the ground along with everything else sprouting up. Lakewold Gardens, sporting both the boxed-hedge chic of patio gardens, as well as the wild trail-networking rock garden further toward the lake.  They were setting up for a wedding while we were there…and I’d have to say, it’s a hell of a backdrop for one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…And from there, we motored to Fort Steilacoom where the old Asylum and Cemetery are surrounded by giant dog and people parks, and trails cutting back into the hill.  Phone juice had died, so no pics, which is a shame because the trails remind you of corn mazes, so buried you become by solid walls of knotted berry bushes and undergrowth, that you can often only see the next turn.  The entire hill is networked with trails branching off of and into others, so that by the time you make the top-most clearing you can see dozens of them directing in every which way, leading downward to the lake.

The lake, now named for Dr. Waughop, had the most amazing mass-cluster of water lilies I’ve ever seen (live or otherwise) and it’s walk eventually leads back to the old barns and cemetery.  The graves, mostly dating from the mid 1800’s to 1950’s, are each number-plated on a mass-grave map posted by the parks department, and only when walking on the land itself, can you see the sunken headstones of new marble, which are part of the restoration and archiving of the people who once resided just up the hill, in the now ruins of the old Insane Asylum. 

Like all old cemeteries, it was totally fascinating to walk…not only for the history and sheer mass number of those buried there, but the fact that it is the only plot of land, in all of that acreage, almost entirely grown over with a blanket of old moss in lieu of actual grass, and even where the stone markers have not yet been replaced, you can tell where each body is interred because of the distinct sink of ground, and the shoots of wildflowers and grass blades rising from them, fed, like living memorials, from those buried just beneath.

…Was a good day, friends.

And now I’m off to see what I can make of this one 🙂

~D

The Star

25 Mar

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Having done a touring show of a Holocaust piece before, I’d already been through the creepy-real feel of being surrounded by Nazi uniforms, in a barbed-wire concentration camp.  But I had played a Christian “protector” (therefore, a political enemy), not a person of Jewish descent.

…Those uniforms. Very, very pristine copies, rented from a company who let them out to film costume departments, so that the authenticity of the weight of the material, and all the patches and insignia were exact…was a hell of a thing to be on stage with.  I can’t even imagine having to be one of the actors having to put them on.

…Put it this way: there was very little “acting” involved while being screamed at in German, surrounded by these uniforms and barking dogs and people weeping to the right and left of me.  The awesome realization that this was 6 million people’s reality, 70 years ago, hits an entirely new level when your senses are slammed into it, knowing that this terror you actually, ACTUALLY feel is NOTHING compared to what they lived with every single day.

…And the HATE for those pieces of cloth.  That one patch I would stare at through that one scene, on the arm just resting on a desk…a pen in the hand, writing out my fate in ink for all of time.  The actual metal skull pin of the S.S.  The meaning behind it, and the audacity and total disgust of seeing a human wearing it with pride and purpose as an achievement in rank and standing. 

…And the Swastika.  Black spider on white, backed in blood red. 

…Close up.

…Close enough to see the stitches, hand-sewn to the arm bands and tacked to place.  Hand-sewn like they would have been hand-sewn.  Only then it was by a prideful wife, or mother, or sweetheart.  Now it was by a team of seamstresses in a costume department. 

And what must it have felt like to them, to do it? 

It is impossible to be even in the presence of the thing and not feel the distinct darkness of evil come off it.

…And what if one of those seamstresses was Jewish?

…Or one of the actors who had to wear it?

These are things you don’t really think about with intense detail, until you’re playing a scene with a person you’ve rehearsed with for a month, whom you trust and respect as a friend, and who you now can very easily look at with such loathing hatred…draped in this disgust…for all that what they are wearing means, and how well they do their jobs in being totally sick bastards toward you.

Props and costumes have POWER. Especially when they’ve history behind them.

…And this is the truth.

Tonight, for photos, I stood as the costumer affixed a beat up, well-used, yellow Star of David onto my sweater…just here…over my heart.

Not to assume that in any way I am sharing equal pains with the spirits who came before me, who have worn it, but tonight…I think it was the first time that the power of it hit me. The power of that star. The word “Jude” inked upon it.

Because I was wearing it now.

Above my left breast.

As she would have.

As millions of them did.

…A marking of a people. A religion. A death sentence. Something people looked at and knew as a branding, every day, on the streets, in the shops. Something that was so much a part of day-to-day life, that people became accustomed to it. As if it was nothing. As if it was no more than the patch of a favorite sports team, walking down the street. Which is outrageous to me. But what other possible explanation could there be? And then the mixed emotion of pride as well as shame of being of the blood and religion to be told to wear it. It is your faith…so how can one shun it and be true to oneself? Yet it is a mark of distrust and segregation and politics and abuse. How does one live with the balance of both loving and hating it?

…On every piece of clothing.

…Staring at you from every mirror.

…Every reflection of yourself in a window.

…Marked to indicate where you can and cannot go…

…Whom you may and may not marry…

…Be friends with…

…Do business with…

…Speak with…

…Every single day.

After getting the Director’s approval, I slipped off stage, and beat it to the front lobby, to get a breather for a bit. Because putting on that yellow piece of cloth had such an immediate tie with me.

A bond.

I could feel it.

A costume piece, is all it is meant for. But it isn’t. And it won’t ever be.

…Sometimes you undertake a thing that means more than you can quite grasp or put into words. It’s haunting. It’s vital. It’s physical. It is tangible. Even if it is only an ” emotional feeling.”

I took a breather in the ladies suite, and just stared at the mirror. For quite a while. I don’t know how long.

…And all I could really come up with, that sorted out into anything at all, was what a horrible honor it was to wear it. This star. And tell this story.

…For Anne and all the others.

…Surrounding an audience with a feeling they will never get from just reading about it in a book.

They may think they know these people already. Their names, their reputations…they even know how the story ends. But what they won’t be prepared for is that now, they will have heard their voices…know what their laugh sounds like. They’ll watch the jealousies build, and the fights erupt in full force, and witness total seized terror as boots march by, a bomber drops it’s payload overhead…a machine gun sounds…or children can be heard in the distance, playing in the street, while a little girl, wearing no shoes, speaking no words, sits in total silence. Listening. Because her life and everyone elses depends on it.

…The audience will live through all of this. In the same room as us. Live. Now. With no escaping it.

…And without even realizing it, that same audience will become our friends and allies, and will get angered and hurt for us, and pick sides, and find favorites,and will soon find themselves rooting for an ending alteration that can’t be fixed or changed, any more than the history that it came from.

…And when that realization actually hits…it will destroy their emotions, from seemingly out of nowhere.

Not because of “slight of hand,” or any kind of “manipulation.”

Because of Truth.

History.

Horror.

Theatre is an awesome thing.

A constant teacher. And a humanitarian.

…I just (for the 1,000th time) was reminded of it.

Thought I’d pass it on.

~D

The Hardest Part Is Done

13 Feb

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Just wrapped up research in Phase 1 for the show…the most difficult part. 

…Wanted to get it completed and out of the way as quickly as possible so as not to have to live in that mindspace for any longer than necessary.  Had decided to start at the end and work backwards, for this very purpose, which means I’ve just finished the timeline for Auguste van Pels’ last 8 months of her life.

…Not an easy job.  Precious little info on her specifically, then needing to delve into each place she was sent at the time of her sentence there, before moving onto the next.  It’s been four days of Concentration Camp horrors in my brain, which has led me to yelling at books (and the TV screen), and one phenomenal hangover…because one just can’t undertake the study of this kind of thing sober.  Or if they do, I don’t know how they expect to sleep that night.

So, for any who care to know: here is the timeline from the Attic to the end of Auguste van Pels (née Mrs. van Daan’s) life, gutted down from pages and pages of notes, to her main specifics. And I have to say that the first VERY OBVIOUS information it feeds to one, is that this woman was one hell of a fighter…epic in both physical and mental strength, with a constitution to endure.  There is absolutely no way a human being could survive half of her plight, as long as she did, without having had all that.

***

PART ONE (From Attic, forward)

I. July 13th, 1942 (Age 42)
Goes into hiding with Husband Hermann and Son, Peter (15 years old)

(A) July 14th, 1942
Thousands of Jews in Amsterdam are rounded up and deported to Westerbork Concentration Camp, then onto Auschwitz, based on command of results of the Wannsee Conference. Having gone into hiding 1 day before their originally planned date, saved Auguste for roughly 2 years, 8 months and 22 days.

2. August 4th, 1944 (Age 43)
Arrested with all in the Attic, and locked in holding cell for 4 days at Euterpestraat Gestapo Headquarters at Amsteweensweg, until transportation.

3. August 8th, 1944 (Age 43)
Transported to Westerbork Concentration & Holding Camp (Netherlands) (Total stay here: 26 days)

(A) Westerbork main transport hub for Dutch Jews. Established by the Dutch in 1939 as Political Detention Center. Nazi’s claim it in May, 1943. October 2-3 1943, Jewish male labor used to revamp it for Concentration Camp use. Transports leave every Tuesday morning, with usually 2,000 – 3,000 people per train, for the death camps, primarily Auschwitz.

4. September 3rd, 1944 (Age 43)
Transported with all from the Attic, to Auschwitz (Poland) on a 3 day train ride containing 1,019 Jews, in the last transport made from Westerbork to Auschwitz.

5. September 6th, 1944 (Age 43)
Arrive at Auschwitz. (Total stay here: 2 months, 20 days). Of the 1,019 in her transport, 549 were immediately selected for and sent to the gas chambers. All from the Attic, survived the selection, at which time, Auguste was separated from Hermann and Peter, never setting eyes on them again. She, along with all of the Frank women, then walked from the station to Auschwitz-Birkenau women’s camp, where they became 4 of the 39,000 held there. Auguste was then assigned to a work labor group where she remained for her time there. She would not know it, but Hermann would be killed in a gas chamber at the men’s camp a few weeks after their arrival. Otto Frank and Peter both witnessing his selection for the group.

(A) Auschwitz was ultimately made up of three camps, camp II (also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau) had the highest death-rated of all the camps in the Holocaust. Established June 14th, 1940, from converted Military barracks, taken over by the Nazis, April 27th, 1940, by Himmler, hiring Hoss as the Commandant. By Summer of 1943, 4 gas chamber/crematoriums are at full function. The crematorium’s are only able to keep up with 50% of the daily gassings, disposing of 4,415 bodies per day. Between 1.1 -1.5 million died here by War’s end, 90% of them: Jewish.

6. November 26th, 1944 (Age 44)
Transported to Bergen-Belsen (Germany) as 1 of 8 women. (Total stay here: 2 months 11 days). Anne and Margot are already here, and it is the last time they will see one another, by chance one day, and speak.

(A) Bergen-Belsen was established in April, 1943, with particularly poor living conditions. It had 1 latrine for 30,000 women, the barracks built to house 100, instead were forced to hold 1,000, making rampant disease the camp’s #1 killer. By Summer of 1944, death via lethal injections were being applied to attempt keeping the numbers and disease down. By the camp’s liberation 13,000 corpses, and 58,000 prisoners were found. Rampant Typhus would end up killing 14,000 of the survivors between April 15th, and June 20th of 1945.

7. December 20th, 1944
The second of the Attic member’s dies: Fritz Pfeffer, (née Mr. Dussel) in Neuenggamme (Germany.)

8. January 6th, 1945
Edith Frank dies in Auschwitz.

9. January 16th, 1945
Auguste would never know it, but this is the date Peter was selected from the men’s camp at Auschwitz and sent on a death march, to the mining pits of the Mauthausen labor camp in Austria. It is 11 days before the date of Auschwitz’s liberation by the Russian Army.

10. January 27th, 1945
Otto Frank is among the 7,000 liberated from Auschwitz. The Netherlands are still at War, and he waits until March to begin his travels back to Amsterdam.

11. February 6th, 1945 (Age 44)
Transported to Buchenwald (Germany) (Total stay here: 2 months, 3 days). Auguste is immediately selected as part of a slave labor group called the Raguhn Labor Unit, with whom she works until it is later disbanded on April 8th, 1945.

(A) Buchenwald was established in the Summer of 1937, and in full operation on July 15th, 1937, primarily as a work camp for the Armament. This was also the site for the Euthanasia program, and medical experiments. It was liberated on April 11th, 1945…2 days after Auguste was sent to her final destination: Theresienstadt.

12. Sometime in early March, 1945
Margot first, then Anne Frank, dies of Typhus, in Bergen-Belsen. Several weeks later, the camp would be liberated.

13. March 5th, 1945
Otto Frank begins his trek homeward to the Secret Annex in Amsterdam. He has already heard of his wife’s death but has hopes of Margot and Anne’s survival. it will take him nearly 3 months to complete his journey.

14. April 9th, 1945 (Age 44)
Sent to Theresienstadt (Czechoslovakia) (Total stay here: unknown). After the Buchenwald Raguhn Labor Unit was disbanded on April 8th, 1945, all survivors were forced into what would be known as the Buchenwald-Theresienstadt Death March. Auguste was among those sent, (a 380.75 mile journey) on foot with little clothing, and no provisions. Due to the War’s ending and lax recording on behalf of the officers in charge, it is not known for certain if Auguste ever reached her destination.

(A) Theresienstadt was established on November 24th, 1941 as a “model ghetto” and Concentration Camp. Of the over 140,000 Jews sent there, 33,000 died, 88,000 were deported and killed, 19,000 survived.

15. Sometime between April 11th and May 7th, 1945 (Age 44)
Auguste van Pels dies. It is estimated: sometime after the 2nd day of the Buchenwald-Theresienstadt Death March, and before the date of the actual camp’s liberation on May 7th, 1945.

16. May 5th, 1945
Peter dies in Mauthausen, 3 days before liberation.

17. June 3rd, 1945
Otto Frank arrives in Amsterdam, immediately seeking out and finding Miep Gies, one of their protectors while in hiding.

***

…Auguste van Pels was 1 of 6 million Jewish deaths (Nearly 2/3 Jewish population of Europe, and 1/2 of the world-wide Jews.)

…She was 1 of 14,000 German Jews who relocated to Holland, fleeing the Nazi regime.

…She was 1 of 140,000 Holland’s Jews killed (75% of its Jewish population. Only 5,200 of the deported 100,000 survived.)

…She hid in the Secret Annex for 2 years and 22 days.

…She spent an estimated 8 months under forced labor and incarceration in 5 Concentration camps, in 4 countries, after 4 train transports and a death march.

This is the last of the worst of my prep for this role. Wrapping my head around facts and figures I’ve heard about a million times, but then sizing it all down to one single human life and the journey that it took under such atrocious horrors, is devastating.

What this shows me, in no uncertain terms…and with no arguments to the contrary, is that this woman was ANYTHING but the weak, whining, flighty, little socialite she was so often projected to be, in Anne’s diary. This woman fought longer and harder than I can even concept…beyond any hope…beyond separation of her family…and through intense labor, physical struggles, and all the mind-fucks that this situation could possibly put you in.

…And all I can think of right now, after four days spent researching the last 8 months of her life, is how 1 day separated her from the first major transport out of Amsterdam toward Auschwitz at the beginning of her hiding, and 2 days longer at Buchenwald, would have seen her survive the War.

…Sometimes there are no words to express what you feel.

This is one of them.

~D

Lessons From Behind The Bookcase

10 Feb

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Nose in the books, while streaming Netflix and every bio anything I can find for research on the show.  Playing real people, (and well known historical figures at that), makes the homework so much more specific. There’s a lot you have to get right, preconceived notions of who they are, what their contribution was in the whole of the story.

…This ain’t m’first rodeo in these matters.

I’ve played historical figures before on a number of occasions and I think what most people don’t realize is that these actual people (or what we have come to know of them as “characters”), are usually known for their one or two-dimensional most popular traits and factoid bases. This makes it a danger to research, flesh out, and mount as a total well-rounded “human being” because people are going to want the thing they THINK of as “that person” not necessarily the TRUTH of that person. And at some point, you have to decided just where that line resides and IF you are willing to cross over it or stay in the comfortable little valley, that the popular opinion is going to insist is gospel truth.

Am I confusing the hell out of you yet? Here, I’ll give you an easy example:

Lets take Marilyn Monroe.

…Now say, you were planning to portray her in a production. What does that mean? Where do you prep for that? What information are you going for? This is a totally iconic person, whose physical image is emblazoned on our culture in a very specific way, who has a cannon of work under her in a very specific style, who was notorious for very specific lifestyle choices, and died in suspicious circumstances which have never been explained. We know all that. And I mean “we” as a collective of pop-culture-aware consumers of the product that was (and still is) “Marilyn Monroe.”

…This means that any S.O.B who chooses to undertake her as a “character” has a gigantic, impossible-to-live-up-to laundry list of “dos” and “don’ts” that MUST, MUST, MUST be included and achieved in the portrayal of her in said production, and against which, everything that is spoken, and every move that is made, will be judged upon.

An “ideal” of what it is to be: “Marilyn.”

…Only, any idiot, (or self-respecting acting artist) would know…it takes a hell of a lot more than that to flesh out a whole realistic “human” into a production. Sure, you can take the lazy way, the easy way…the two-dimensional route…and nail it, and please plenty of people who don’t know any better and don’t want to. But that’s not your “job” as a performer. Unless your gig is literally: Impersonation.

…But “impersonation” is not what I’m talking about. That’s not what an actor is doing in the case of taking on the portrayal of an actual historic person. Your job, is to open that person up, beyond what is conventionally known of them…to dig in, get dirty, and find something there that makes them go from “historical iconery” to “relatable humanity.”

Least, that’s the way I see it.

If you want “Marilyn Monroe” as the product that is: “Marilyn Monroe”…watch her films, buy her posters..by all means, enjoy the hell out of it! She worked really hard , to package that deal and make it for you. She did her homework too and knew what it was that her fans wanted and gave it to them. But for a performer to portray her, is NOT the same job that Marilyn did. Hers was to give you the product you wanted. The performers is to show you the process of what it was to make and “be” that.

…Do you get what I’m saying here?

…So when you undertake…say, one of the eight people who hid together for over two years, in a tiny attic in Amsterdam, in order to save their lives…you have a choice to make. Do you give the audience “The Character” that is that person…that we have come to know of them…or…do you give them: the person?

Now, I haven’t even had so much as a first table read on the show yet, so I can’t answer what the Director is gonna go for, in this. But what I know from the performer’s standpoint…from the person who loves history and respects this subject of it beyond words…I know what I expect from myself, and it’s more than just the text in play format is giving to me.

Because it has to be.

…And it’s more than just Anne Frank’s diary is giving me. Because it has to be.

…Which is strange, because most would think of it as the ultimate in source material for these matters. But here is the craziest thing I’ve realized while reading it for the millionth time, these past few days:

One reads “The Diary of Anne Frank,” from Anne Frank’s perspective. No big surprise maybe…it’s meant for you too. That’s the point. But have you ever once attempted to view it from another perspective? Not your own, but from one of the other people?

No.

None of us have.

No matter how many times we read it.

…But when THAT is your homework, something glaringly obvious pops out at you: It isn’t “fair.”

Every fight is one-sided.

Every bickering is someone elses fault.

Every hurt is purposeful.

Every irritation: expanded on.

Every argument: honed and crafted from one point of view, onto paper.

…And this beautiful historical document that we have always taken as 100% pure documentation of absolute truth, and heartbreaking frustration…is that in many ways…but NOT in ALL of them.

…Because, she was a 13 year old girl, who wrote in her diary, all of her frustrations and foibles, without edit or consideration of the fact that most of the time it was written in heated circumstances in order to air her frustrations and yell out loud the things she couldn’t in actual physical life.

THAT WAS HER JOB.

She was 13!

…That we have taken it all as Gospel truth makes sense, she was there, she recorded it, raw and unvarnished and with incredible detail. But it was also one-sided. It was also in angst, and despair, and fury, and frustrations, and desires, and hopes, and irritations.

Unlike the work and realm of “Marilyn Monroe,” she wasn’t making a “product,” she was airing her personal feelings, never in a million years suspecting that her words would become a representative voice of millions of people, to billions of others, for all of time. Had she been given opportunity of completing the edit of her diary and submitting it to a publisher herself after the War, who knows what might have been ultimately altered and seen from other perspectives with less fury and more even balance to it all?

Perhaps the unvarnished parts of it, are what makes it so exemplary to begin with.

…But the long way to the point I’m trying to make here is: I am undertaking to portray “Mrs. Van Daan”…a very human and real person who once lived an entire life before her time in the Secret Annex in the Attic, and one who died very shortly after being torn out of it. And all we know of this woman, as culture, as students of history, as activists of humanity, as people who love literature…is what was recorded about her by a 13 year old girl, forced to live in ungodly circumstances with her, across two years of time.

We don’t even know when she died, where she’s buried, who spoke with her last, if she knew the fate of her family.

…We know only second-hand stories of her marriage and youth from those told in the Annex. But I am about to spend from now until the end of April, undertaking the life of this woman. She may not have been the most famous inmate in that Annex in Amsterdam, but she matters. She matters more than just details from a disgruntled diarist. And yet its my job to live up to the reputation she’s been given, while also trying to reason why all her vanity, and stubbornness, and flirtations, and complaints were justified…from where they came, and why.

It isn’t easy to try and work against “iconery.” And that’s what I have ahead. Maybe not on so specific a level as a “Marilyn Monroe”…but it is there, nevertheless. I need to figure out how to ride the line that Anne set, seventy years ago…yet Auguste van Pels deserves…as a person who lived through this hell…to be represented in as fair and rounded a light as I can manage.

Such an honor to be trusted with something like this, shouldn’t be taken lazily or lightly.

…I love, love, love my job 🙂

~D

Mr. President

13 Dec

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Having the night off from rehearsal, I thought I’d go n’ visit our little Arthouse, The Grand, and geek out on some study time.  Just me, n’ a couple of my teachers…namely Daniel Day-Lewis, Stephen Spielberg, Sally Field, Hal Holbrook, and Tommy Lee Jones.

…I picked well.

“Lincoln.”

…The screenplay: far less epic in content, the costumes and sets: less opulent than Hollywood has always previously shown us to expect of the period, the battle scenes: awkward, and chaotic…equally that in the House, with its members in full head-on debate, and quiet scene after quiet scene of a man whose face you could never mistake for anyone else’s: hair in an unruly coif, sunken cheeks amidst angular bone structure, with deep-set, hooded eyes wearing the weariness of War, and fast-approaching end of his first term of Presidency.

It took me a bit to understand exactly where they were going with all this.

…Not the “story line,” mind you, but the way in which they were telling it.  And why. 

…The point being: we already know the history, what was fought and won on the battle field, and in the House. But suppose we put all those high stakes and risks, and political choices into a different perspective, by remembering for a moment, that this person who made it all happen was not “Abraham Lincoln” as we know him to be. 

…Suppose we follow him into his bedroom, overhearing his interpretation of the days events while his stockinged feet are propped up on a sofa leg, with his wife’s discarded evening dress hanging before him.  Suppose we watch this giant of a man (in form and in legend), shuffle in slippers, to his son’s playroom, work his way to lay on the floor beside him, just to get on his level to look in the small face and give it a kiss.  Watch him give piggyback rides, like every dad does…share inside jokes and bitter fights with his wife, tell epic stories in inappropriate moments to his employees…sport a funny high-reed of a voice, that rasps after often great lengths in oratory…and see how he seems to have one speed at which he walks, talks, thinks and decides things…which is conservatively specific and frustratingly, painstakingly, slow.

…Think of him not in the “Sit Room,” discussing War and political strategy, but in the cellar of his kitchen — sinks full of dirty dishes and counters full of used wine glasses and platters–trying to coerce an ali, while a gala party goes on without him upstairs.  Think of him not addressing crowd after crowd giving any number of the speeches we all know by heart, but keeping company with a few soldiers on a battle field, or on a front porch with his general and friend, Ulysses S. Grant, puffing on a cigar beside him. Think of the privacy of a Parent’s grief at the loss of their son and how they share in deaths of everyone else’s son’s by extension.

…Think of him, just as a man.

Because: he was.

Albeit a remarkable one…but we already know that.

I think the point of this “study” on film, is not so much to look at the legend he was to become because of who he was…but to see that BEING who he was, MADE him into this remarkable legend.

And it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t obvious choices and fire-fueled debates and banners of glory, backed by a thankful Nation. He was actively hated by half the country, blamed for the War that slaughtered millions, turning brother against brother…had a split House, was trying to pass a radical new Amendment into law, just prior to beginning his second term in office, while dealing with an emotionally unstable wife, a son wanting to enlist, his Party threatening to turn their backs on him, his own Cabinet split in their support of his next plans of attack, a Southern delegation for peace on it way, which could entirely screw up his Emancipation Proclamation, and the knowledge that timing is everything…and what must be done, must be done NOW or NEVER.

…So, no pressure or anything.

What I loved about this whole approach was the constant, specific, reminder that our greatest moments in History are not the sure-fire wins we know in retrospect, them to be. What makes perfect sense and could never possibly happen in any other way (in hind sight), absolutely could have been crushed coming ’round any of the 45 corners along the epically painful obstacle course set out in real-time when History was busy being “current” and in-the-actual-making.

…They had no real way of knowing “how” or “when” or “why” or “if.” They had no idea the repercussions or what would branch and build out from them. They were our “Forefathers,” sure…but they were just men. Sometimes one or two, sometimes by the room full. We know their names from class text books and for what they’ve put their names to. We know them by their resumes. But this film was a chance to get a peek at this entirely different aspect of their lives and battles and weaknesses and private strengths.

…Then to sit there time after time and be gobsmacked by the turning of Party lines as a House of Republicans fight to put equality to law, Democrats fighting tooth and nail to oppose them, directly after an election 147 years later, where the same damn fight just took place in my own state backed by opposite parties, in a freak 180 degree turn of total irony.

It’s sorta mind-blowing in a million quiet, specific, painful ways.

…Ultimately, of course, the guy was eloquent, and brave, and hopeful, and trusting, and wholly without thoughts of spite or revenge: our “Mr. President.” Perhaps more than we deserved, but sometimes faith in people sorta forces them to rise to the occasion. Or, better put, a good example put before us, inspires us to greatness, respect and humaneness.

M’favorite part of the entire film, in fact, was one quiet moment in an empty telegraph room, save for a young engineer, the telegraph boy, and the President.

…He has to send a cable in response to Grant’s notification. There are Confederate delegates ready to meet in a peace talk that could now end the war. Meanwhile, up on the hill, lobbyists are fighting tooth and nail to secure the votes he needs to pass the 13th Amendment into law. If he ends the War before the vote: he could lose them altogether, and thus this certain perfect window of time to abolish slavery. If he doesn’t end the War, he might lose the vote anyway, and have the blood of how many more sons and brothers and fathers, killed in that time, on his hands? He has a choice to make, and has given it, but hesitates when the telegraph boy asks him if he authorises transmit.

…He sits there for a long while, just thinking…running everything through his mind. Eventually he turns to the young Engineer and begins to relate to him, “Euclid’s Theory.”

…No clip on YouTube or snippit of script I could find, leaves his spur of the moment History lesson on mathematics in tact as the movie has done. So go: pay the bucks…sit in the seat…watch the work of this man, and get to that scene….where I think Tony Kushner (Pulitzer winning author of “Angels in America”) has his finest, quiet moment in the script.

Just a man and two boys, (and whole Nation) waiting for an answer to one simple question. And keeping to character, the man (as we now know him), chooses that moment to launch on into a (seemingly) totally inappropriately timed story.

…It comes, partway in, at:

“…Euclid’s first common notion is this: Things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other. That’s a rule of mathematical reasoning and its true because it works – has done and always will do. In his book Euclid says this is self evident. You see, there it is, even in that 2000 year old book of mechanical law it is the self evident truth that things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other…”

Almost 150 years later, and we’re sadly still trying to get that through our damn heads.

…”Math doesn’t lie, so fuckin’ DEAL with it!”
~ Another inaccurate but closely (at least) related quote on the internet, attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

~D

A Christmas Memory

8 Dec

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Mom is the oldest of six kids.  An Irish Catholic family: three girls, three boys. 

…It was a crazy dynamic from the beginning because though they had music in common, Gram was a free-spirited, brash and often outlandish Artist, and Gramps was a detail-oriented mathematician and engineer.  It was almost like watching two species of animal exist together, and yet somehow, it (obviously) worked.

…And of those six offspring (which would later have thirteen kids of their own), each epitomized a little freak-peculiarity of their own…because of the melding of the two worlds in Sciences and the Arts, forever  surrounding them. Not all of them inherited the high-infused academia, but they all were gifted in things “Artistic.” 

From cartooning, to interior design, to crafting, to writings, to wonder-inventions made out of old rusty stuff you would normally find in garage sales or at the local dump.  And, they all have criminally hilarious senses of humor…ranging from the uber dry wit of a Cliff Claven, to the twisted-viewed observations of someone under the influence of heavy hallucinogens.  Fuck your classroom “Chemistry” class…THIS is what really happens, when you join two dynamically different elements into one beaker and produce a family with it.

I am reminded on a continual basis of why I love them.

…Because they do things like (for instance) accidentally adopt twelve too many animals, plank-board ‘tween bridge railings…just because…make lighting fixtures out of car parts, build a Japanese landscape in their backyard, or sit down and type out random memories on FB for us all to read and laugh about.

So, today’s blog will be guest-served by one of them, because it was too good for me to pass up: the voice too dead-on in which it was written, the memory too crisp to merely smile at and go along my merry little way.

This one is from “Uncle Big Guy.”

…So titled, by me, when an infant…as (at over six feet), he is well of at least six inches taller than any of the other leprechaun-sized people in the Crane family gene pool.  We are told he (the youngest of the six kids) was the one who got all the “Swede,” back from Gram’s side of the family.  But all I knew was: he was (and is) a giant…who used to let me walk on his back to pop it, or land-surf…who always had a collection of musty-smelling empty Jack Daniels bottles lining his windowsill (his libation and collection-obsession since probably birth), and who could turn anything…absolutely the most normal everyday observations…into breathless hysteria, making you piss your pants just by the way he retold them.

…He still does. 

…And this is one of our many shared family Christmas memories, as he retold it to the FB world, today:

“My Mom loved the Holiday’s, she decorated the whole house for every one of them, including the change of the seasons. Having the house totally decked out every Christmas was awesome as a kid and has stuck with me my whole life, it is the main reason I now decorate my own home, it brings back a lot of memories of past Christmas’s of mine and I hope is building similar happy memories for my Son.

Every year we got a live tree, not overly big because the nice big ones were ‘too Goddamn expensive,’ this tree would then be stuffed into our Volkswagen bus for the trip home, leaving any of us other passengers to try to squeeze in around it if we also wanted to make the trip back. There was no fighting over seats in our van because all the seats had been removed so we could haul firewood in it. Dad was fiercely proud of the fact that he could haul ¾ of a cord of firewood in our van and not bothered in the least that when not hauling wood, his Children sat in folding lawn chairs in the back desperately holding on to anything within reach to keep from being thrown to the floor in the corners or at red lights. More than once I saw someone proudly showing my Dad their fancy new car only to have him say ‘Yeah, but how much wood can you haul in it?’

Moms answer to our less than grand Christmas trees was to put the whole thing on top of a rickety old metal trunk, making it appear a full foot taller than it actually was and had the added benefit of making it completely unstable. First the tree had to be placed into the ancient tree stand, I affectionately referred to as ‘that finger eating Sonofabitch.’ This pathetic stand had the multiple threaded rods that you would twist equally from all sides in an attempt to secure the tree to the stand until enough tension built up within the ring surrounding the tree that the whole thing would violently rotate ¼ turn around the trunk with incredible speed, generally taking a finger or two with it. At this point the stand becomes useless, basically just another decoration as the only thing holding the tree in it is the force of gravity, then this whole affair is carefully lifted and placed onto the slowly collapsing metal trunk.

This impending disaster always sat in the corner of the living room, directly in front of the two corner windows, which not coincidentally, had permanently installed cup hooks in their case work solely for attaching the long strands of bailing wire required to hold this Christmas miracle in the upright position. The entire operation described above took place not 10 feet from the wood stove which Dad liked to keep at a cozy 215 degrees, so emerging from under the tree soaked in sweat and tree sap an hour or so after climbing in, left you looking like a large, pissed off, glazed doughnut with pine needle sprinkles and broke fingers.

With the tree up it was time for decorations. Putting up the decorations with Mom was a running history lesson, after dragging all the boxes down from the attic, each one was carefully opened and unwrapped and almost every single piece had a story to go with it. There was the whole box of handmade ornaments from Grandma that usually hung in a row across the top of the bay window in the kitchen, it just wasn’t Christmas until Grandmas balls came out. Opening each new box was like seeing old friends and Mom would very often say things like ‘ OH.. those were from so and so when we lived back in the little yellow house, remember Dad?’ and Dad would say ‘is there a door open in the back of the house? I feel a draft.’ The next one would come out and Mom would gush ‘Oh.. we got these when C was born, or was it P, Do you remember Dad?’ and Dad would say ‘T, check the back of the house and put some more wood on the fire, cold in here.’ The next treasure unwrapped would bring , ‘OH these are very old.. be careful, Mama made these’ from Mom, and Dad would ask if we were going to eat at some point tonight.

Regardless of lyrical content the tree was always beautiful.

I don’t mean to put My Dad in a bad light here, he was just a very ‘practical’ Man , he wasn’t against tradition, it’s just that sometimes they differed from mom’s, sometimes to a frightening degree.

One Christmas, Mom’s Mom, Gramma, was with us for Christmas when my Mom’s tradition of lighting a candle in the window ‘so loved ones can find their way home,’ collided head on with my Dads tradition of ‘closing the Goddamn curtains at night’ to stop the draft. This led to the development of the new Christmas tradition of sprinting through the house with a flaming curtain rod. This pyrotechnic celebration took place right in front of my very old and unsuspecting Gramma, who, relaxing on the couch with a book at the time, was almost gifted a severe cardiac event.

Anyway, the whole point of this story is that one of the things my mom did for us was to do these large drawings on tag board with colored pencil. These drawings were very detailed depictions of a ‘cut away’ house where you could see inside into all the rooms. In these rooms she would draw all us kids and Grand kids celebrating Christmas or outside playing in the snow covered landscape. These poster sized drawings showed staircases and fireplaces and Christmas trees being decorated. You could find toys and books and rugs you recognized from real life, they were “cartoony” but very cool and you could look at them for a long time and discover new things.

Every Christmas these would come out and be put up on the wall, they were part of Christmas and I have never forgotten them. Fast forward to a few years ago and I am flipping through a magazine that sells puzzles among other things and there on the page is a picture of a puzzle that I swear my mother could have drawn. Long story short, I bought it with the intent of putting it together, making it a permanent piece and putting it up at Christmas, that was two years ago. Two days ago I took this puzzle down and started working on it, now, I am not a puzzle guy, but over the last two days of working on this I have remembered years of Christmas memories and thoughts of my crazy Mom and Dad and all the good times we had.

I don’t remember what I paid for this puzzle, but it sure as hell was worth it, and it is the reason I had to come in here and jot down this story. Wishing you all the happiest Christmas,

God bless people,

T.”
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…I remember that van…pitching over out of the chairs on turns, and doing drawings in the back with colored pens Gram always kept in her purse, as we waited for Gramps to get off work, in the Forest Service parking lot.

…I remember hearing about the drapery fire story, and Nana’s impending heart-palpitation “episode,” which followed it.

…I remember all the gillions of times Gramps voice would bark out from the kitchen, or his chair in the living room, “Somewhere there’s a door open. I can feel a draft!” And all our immediate whisking though the house to find and fix it.

…And I remember all of those posters Gram drew, so well. Especially the last one. Always hanging in the hallway. A kind of Christmas “Where’s Waldo” of hidden family story elements, and jokes, and events, and happy, happy memories.

Like this one.

Thanks, Uncle Big Guy, for the ‘”member when.”

Love,

Boo.

~D

An Unholy Ripple

3 Dec

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Now that “Twelfth Night” has completed it’s run, am ready to dive straight into the deep-end of “Children’s Hour” and start swimmin.’

Today: Some study time on Lillian Hellman, author of the show…and a particular favorite of mine. In other words, it’s more “review” than anything else, but you never know what you’ll find when following an already mined seam.

…The focus now is “History.” What made her write the piece, from where she got the idea, the autobiographical element of the main female relationship, where the title hailed from. In other words: it’s roots of inception, to better inform of the time in which it was written, the social significance of its theme, the years of various censorship made to it, the bannings, the revisions, the productions…all of it.

If we’re gonna get good n’ squidgy here, one should go all the way.

…Anyway, thought I’d bring you along on the ride.

***

She was all of 26, in 1934, when Hellman’s partner, Dashiell Hammett (of “Thin Man” and Sam Spade fame) told her to get off her ass, stop wasting all her creative energy doctoring Hollywood scripts, and come up with something of her own. Going completely against character, she decided to follow someone else’s advice, and began research on an intriguing court case, from 1810.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, Jane Cumming Gordon, a pupil at an all-girl’s boarding school, accused her schoolmistresses of having an affair in full view of the girls in their charge, upon occasion even in the same beds as where the pupils slept. The girl’s influential grandmother, Dame Cumming Gordon advised all to remove their daughters from the school immediately, within days leaving it deserted and the two respective schoolmistresses without a livelihood. Jane Pririe and Marianne Woods, filed, sued, and would go on to win the case, on libel and slander. Of course this was after an entire decade in the courts, and the printings of hundreds of damning articles, news posts, and social commentaries having been scattered to the winds, though oddly enough the court case transcripts themselves locked away by command of the court: fearful that their contents, if disclosed, “would corrupt the morals of any who chanced upon them.”

…The damage to the reputations of Pririe and Woods, beyond repair…they eventually dropped out of sight and headlines…until 1931, when four copies of the original court transcripts were found by Scottish Law Historian, William Roughhead, who added it’s commentaries in his book published that year, “Bad Companions”…a copy of which Lillian Hellman became soon after, captivated with.

Changes to the case would be made, alterations to the women’s relationship and it’s ending taking place… giving a certain more dramatic outcome…but by and large, this was to the be the meat of the stew which would within three years take the theatrical, sexual, moral, religious, and ethical world by storm once again…with the Broadway debut of, “The Children’s Hour.”

…Difficult to find actors willing to undertake the subject matter, the play was ultimately banned in Boston, Chicago and London…and the Pulitzer Prize committee refused it’s consideration for award, (despite it’s many hailings on importance in social awareness, human rights, and political controversy), due to (ironically) it’s impropriety.

…After two films based on the play, an updating of the script leading to a successful Broadway relaunch in the fifties, and Hellman herself showing up on McCarthy’s blacklisting, (thus further launching the play’s themes of secrecy, lies, malice and persecution)…a new autobiographical element to the piece, first came to light.

“Pentimento,” the second book of Hellman’s autobiographical trilogy, was first published in 1973, and with it, the telling of a close friendship lasting from school years to adulthood, with a woman called, “Julia.”

Later put on film, (earning Vanessa Redgrave an Oscar for her title role, portrayal), “Julia” told of the friendship of Hellman and a woman she idolized and idealized. A child, tossed by a gallivanting Actress mother, on her rich parents to raise…who did, within a strict and ridged regime. Julia, however, a free spirit, with the blood of a natural rebel, fought all contests of keeping her caged…to which the wide-eyed, uberly conservative and skittish Hellman became rapt and besotted with.

…Julia, later a political revolutionary and underground movement member in a number of causes throughout Europe through her College years abroad, eventually seduced Hellman so far into her power of spirit, that in WWII, Hellman (an American Jew) agreed to transport much of Julia’s inherited fortune with her across the German border, in order to buy Jews and other Political prisoners, out of harms way.

…A later foreign correspondent of many wars and revolutions…boasting a much road-leathered skin akin to Hemmingway…this was to be the first terrifying tryst with death in which Hellman ever attempted. Her recounting of it, a wonder if nothing else in the foreshadowing of what would eventually serve as a lifestyle so shockingly different from the little girl of so long ago. Much attributed not only to that one journey, but…in my opinion…for what happened to follow.

Julia, the single mother of a baby duly dubbed “Lilly,” (whom she had sent to live with a farming family, safely away from her Political workings), was murdered, not long after…by the Gestapo. Hellman, upon being informed, conducted an exhaustive search for the baby…who was never to be found. Her dedication to Julia: transforming her morally, socially, politically, from that moment onward…into something made of harder stuff…the kind of hard-hitting, information-digging, political-freedom-hailing, toughened broad, that she would later become so renowned for.

…And it was Julia, so she claims, who was her first love.

…Not in consummation, but an unrequited adoration…as, though Hellman confessed of her love, Julia’s devotion (but non-romantic inclinations), kept it forever snipped in the bud.

…It was in this way, that Martha and Karen were born.

So they lived a life together…stood by one another…loved and dedicated themselves to one another. A friendship of physical innocents, wrapped up in romantic desires and steadfast devotion.

…”This is not a new sin we have been accused of…” as Karen, states…long after the damage has been done, to a relationship, a school, a town, and two souls.

From the mouths of babes. A lie is told. Or perhaps, in it’s way, a “half-truth.” But the damage it can do, is as irreparable, once begun, as the bullet that ends a life.

Jane. Marianne. Karen. Martha. Lillian. Julia.

…When you know the history behind it all, the lines of fact and fiction begin to bleed together so thinly you can hardly make out where one begins and the other ends. Six women’s lives and relationships making up the whole of a piece of theatre so relevant still to this day.

…As Mr. Director noted, on our first read-through with the cast, “We’re designing the show on a very simple theme: a ripple effect. The set, the relationships, the conversations had…the lie that starts it all. One drop in a still pond of water…with endless consequence.”

This show is going to obliterate my everything.

…And I’m totally ready for it.

***

“The Children’s Hour”
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, o blue-eyed banditi,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

~D

Loud & Joyeous

22 Nov

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I come from a large family.

…Holidays in our house meant no less than 27 people…with just the one side of Mom’s gene pool, and their immediate families. 

…Kids had their own tables and counter seating arrangements, because there just wasn’t room at the main one for all.  Even with the extender put in, and the extra leg props pushing the main table out, well into the living room…with chairs brought in from the patio and stacks in the garage, we would still sometimes have to squeeze in standing-room-only spaces.

…The kitchen would be stifling before ten A.M. with turkey-cooking and general capacity…with Mom and the aunts stirring things on the stove and fresh baked pies and side dishes arriving more and more by the moment. Two refrigerators full of fixings yet to be cooked and baked…cousins running around, playing games outside, wrapped in layers of coats and scarves, so our red, flushed faces glowed as our breath panted out in clouds of white in the crisp fall air.

In time, all the men, arguing over football plays in the living room, with beers-in-hand, could be heard in bear-like booms of laughter and anxious defeat.  Babies suckling from the newest Moms as they conduct instructions to their sisters, buzzing about in recipe over-drive.  Gram, being everywhere at once, completely in her element…someone losing the stuffing ingredients again, and scouts sent through the house to look in overnight suitcases, and diaper bags to find them. 

…An infusion of noise as the kids break in to thaw out a bit, shoo’d from the kitchen by their mothers.  Infants laid down to nap. New shifts in the kitchen as seating places are being set, and food comes to final bake and boil and plate. Gramps seated at the table’s end, watching all the work, with wry commentaries he gets a kick out of, and to act as official taste-tester on certain sauces and the rutabagas.

…And everywhere, in every room of the house, for all of the day long…loud, loud conversations taking place…only magnified as the day grows longer, by heat and wine and food…excitement, and general people-excess.

…So loud at times, with the men screaming at the TV screen, play-by-play, of the women laughing and telling jokes while cooking, of babies chattering,  the cousins “Haloo-ing” to one another, in hide-and-seek places up and down the hallways…that a moment of solitary in the bathroom during pee breaks, would make your ears ring with it’s silence. 

It felt so removed, those moments. 

…Like a wormhole where you were on one side and everyone else, at the other end…faintly heard in the distance, in gregarious employments, you were only annoyed that mere natural bodily function, was making you miss out on. 

Holidays with our family always made me feel badly for all those three and four-people families. Small, quiet, respectful, classy people…in their formal go-to-chapel best…Holidays like the kind they have in romantic comedy movies.  None of which we are an example of.  We were more of the family Griswold, “National Lampoon” stream, without a doubt…with all the curiosities, eccentricities, dramas and ridiculiousnesses that go with it.  Ask me then, or now: I never in a million years would have changed that, for anything.

As time has passed, spreading our family’s large number, like seeds on the wind, to new corners of the world…some to new corners now, in Heaven…Holidays seem to be more a time of reflection and thankfulness than they ever were before.  Because I can spend a quiet Holiday feast with four people today with the memories and history of those other’s behind it.

…Sometimes, a little sadly, yes.  Because I miss that loud, brazen, bellowing, laughing, arguing, baby-crawling, cousin-playing, surrounding of the truly peculiar breed of humanity that I hail from.  All those frustrating, brilliant, weird bastards, who I love more than anything, and miss like nothing else of bestness, on earth.

On quiet Holidays like today…which I am still so thankful for…I can’t help but remember those we once had in the past.  For all the world, I could swear eight or nine times today…faintly in the distance of my childhood, I could hear it all again.  A wormhole to our family past.  And I wish, more than anything, I could rejoin it, even just one more time…even just for a moment…in all it’s loud, joyous, wonderfulness…with all the people who are of my people, and who I belong to.

…Then, I remember: I can. In memory.  Any time I want to.

…And I’m thankful for that.

I’m thankful for that, and them, and even (reluctantly), the fact that time has passed and things have been forced to change.

The BFF is home again…even for just a little bit, back in her place at my stove, and me at my place at table: chopping and prepping as we gossip and sing and play on. Last night, after hours of loud joking, and shopping, and laughing, and winking insults, and spur-of-the-moment hugs…(just because we can), because we are here together now…was a many-moment deja vu.

…Later plating and feasting, The Fella and Marty adding to the family, by-turn, as the clock struck further into the night…squealing loud peals of delights over newly uncorked wine, and homemade eats…with everyone telling stories at once, and nobody listening, and bad jokes being played on one another, a tattling of the most embarrassing of stories we have to share…with the TV blaring in the background, and spontaneous bursts of laughter….with new infusions of energy and more friend arrivals as the night went on…well into the early hours of this morning.

…This loudness of epic proportions!

…So persistent and present! So joyous, and irreverent! And so…”my family.”

I realized, the coming of full circle, not once but many, many times across the night.

…Which, to me, is sorta like a wink from above, by those who’ve gone on before, and know me best.

A long story to say: I hope you and yours…be they family of your blood and bones, or of your soul and spirit…had a happy Holiday today.

…Cuz I know me and mine did 🙂

~D

Hello, I Remember You

20 Nov

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Seems it’s time.

…Time to start down an old road, in search for some truth and hope.  Time to deal with happenings in the past, drag them out into the light and face them once again. 

In front of several hundred people.

…My head, already feeding on the script, I’ve started a companion album to the piece.  I do it a lot, when beginning work on a character.  Because music gets to the heart of the matter immediately…giving you a sort of soundtrack to play by. Something that can run in my head on the way to the theatre, and as I put on my makeup and set my hair every night. 

…Something playing as I watch my everyday face, literally disappear in the mirror in front of me…replaced by this new being who has a story they need to share with a couple hundred people out there.

Two of the songs on the list so far, are the launching pad of where I’m coming from, and what the character’s journey means to me.  We are sisters in a lot of ways, but I think her core of cores is one part love, and one part shame. 

…Themes you can’t escape no matter how hard you fight them. 

And I ought to know.

Welcome, Martha. 

I’ve got your back, kid.

~D

Exercising Demons

18 Nov

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Sometimes Actors like to go a little suicidal and play really close to the edge of the cliff. 

…In other words, they will take something that has huge personal relevancy, connotation and emotional cost, and exploit it for artistic means…which is a brave, twisted, painful….and some would say, “sick” thing to do.  But it is how people connect with truth. 

Being naked means a lot more than just taking your clothes off. 

…The most naked I’ve even been in my life, had me in three layers of 1940’s clothes, sporting a Dutch accent.  Clearly that wasn’t “me” up on that stage.  Clearly I had plenty of things to “hide behind” in the voice and look and age that I was portraying. But, because the story content was so very personal to me…because the character I was playing was a real person, whom I had studied and knew from my childhood…because the themes and History of it had helped to form me so much as a reader and artist, and human…the role had wormed its way to my innermost guts, weaving a special new fiber of marriage with not just my mind’s creative sector, but key emotional centers, and physical expressions. 

It quite frankly took me over. 

…Not all at once.  But at some point, every night, I would lose myself it it fully, without even being conscious of it…and the only point that realization would kick in would be at the shows end, when I’d sorta wake with a start, to the audience beginning to applaud our work.

…It’s the furthest I’ve ever been, the most raw I’ve ever felt, the most emotionally draining thing I’ve ever experienced, by far…on any stage.  And though you learn so much as a person, as an Artist, when roles like that (few and far between) come along…it is still a terrifying aspect of what we do, for everyone who is willing to travel that journey. 

…Fighting your personal demons in public is as naked as you will ever get, my friends.  And agreeing to it, embracing it, and not holding back, is riding that suicidal cliff edge, where some people can’t handle the mind-games it pulls on you, the nightmares it brings, the depressions that it can usher in, the sleepless nights, and obsessive pushing to places you have purposely left behind closed doors, to grow thick with dust and cobwebs and never be seen or heard from again.

Yesterday, I walked down the corridors and unlocked one of those doors, letting out not just vacant dustballs and “remember whens,” but a whole fucking Pandora’s box of shit. 

I knew it would happen. 

And I did it willingly. 

…And it actually mentally, emotionally and physically altered me for the remainder of the day, and well into performance last night.  An inconvenience when you have another show to do, and another character with other traits placed entirely where your head isn’t, and won’t be, due to the cost of being naked on a stage several hours earlier.

Callbacks were yesterday, just before our performance.

…With one hour and fifteen minutes buffer, a group of us, talked and ate and joked and tried to redirect our brains to better places in order to prep for this other thing we were soon needing to do. But on the inside, several of us who had vomited all to-real emotions out on the stage less than two hours earlier, were play-acting our way now through “life” because we were actually in no way prepared to merely dust off the age and disgust of the long locked rooms we had opened in our private-most inner sanctums. 

…In fact the room was so overwhelming before even barely crossing the threshold that it took two scene reads before I could calm myself down enough emotionally to USE the feelings instead of letting them completely overwhelm me.  I felt swarmed.  My body actually physically shook beyond my own control.  I had to concentrate so hard on the words to get them out with the proper amount of emotion and not the sea of it that I was feeling, that the poor bastards I read with had little help in their own work, from my direction. 

…But in time, I was able to wrangle my grasp onto it.  Could get on the back of it, as it thrashed around, and manage to stay on, and stay focused and stay with my scene partners.  And though it was only several passes at four scenes…neither of them the big emotional reveal and peak that the script eventually rises to…just knowing it was there…that the words I was speaking were in defence of this unspoken thing…that every line had a double meaning, later to ruin and/or alter people’s lives forever…and knowing that I once knew and fought that battle too…was a palpable thing. 

Exercising a personal demon.  Being brave enough after all these years to walk up to it, getting grip of it’s mane, and swing onto it’s back with determination that this time…this time, I am the boss of it, and I will use it to my own devices and needs…

…Because I have EARNED this moment. 

I’m done living in a house with another door I’m too scared to open.  Of course there are other attics and basements filled with personal fears and painful memories, too.  But yesterday, I decided this one won’t be among them anymore. 

…I may or may not be given the opportunity to air it for an entire audience.  Casting calls are still yet to be made.  But even if I don’t…for a day, in front of more strangers than friends…I faced that certain beast.  Which is more than I’ve done since the day I first locked it away.  And the sizable personal victory…followed by slightly sickening after-shock once coming down from the adrenaline rush, was worth it.

If not on stage, then in some other way…I’m ready to get this shit taken care of.

…And it feels horrible, gut-wrenching, good.

…And if you’re an Artist of anything…you totally know exactly what that means.

~D

The History Of Being A Woman

17 Nov

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…So as uncomfortable as this time of month likes to make me, there are certain moments…(like taking off a corset that’s been squeezing the shit out of me for four hours), wherein I am reminded that there were times when we ladies had it much worse. 

…Pre-drugs. Pre-sanitizing products. Pre-Women’s Lib.

…This morning, as I rolled around in usual pain-induced grumpiness, I decided to go on a little investigation course, and immerse myself in the Historical significance of this monthly curse… on our grandmothers: great-great-great and ancient, and how they dealt with it, and how society dealt (in turn) with them. 

Brave men who seek to understand us better: read on. 

Fellow women: read on with thanks, and infused superhuman wonder at the animals we are and what our bodies do.

***

First of all, it was a curse. 

…And thus, unclean for thousands of years, women at their time of month were (and still are, in some cultures) shunned and restricted from society and sight.  Like with the King in “Love Labours Lost,” women were banished from courts and communities routinely. The Romans attributed the deformity of the god Vulcan to the menstrual intercourse between his parents Juno and Jupiter. In the Biblical times, women on their cycle were forced to camp out, away from the community…making everything they even came in contact with, unclean.  In early European times, they were made to bare no restrictions to the process, or smell, or sight, or change ones garments for fear of increasing bleeding and disease.  The Mae Enga people of Papua New Guinea believed that contact with menstrual blood or a menstruating woman would “sicken a man and cause persistent vomiting.” In the eighteenth century in Saigon, no woman was employed in the opium industry because it was believed that if a menstruating woman were near, the opium would become ruined and bitter. To some it signified a laziness on the woman’s part for not having done her “job” at being consistently knocked up. Women who complained of menstrual cramps were sent to psychiatrists because menstrual cramps were seen as a rejection of one’s femininity…which, until the Victorian era, was seen (together with it’s yet unnamed PMS sister) as a mental deficiency, called simply “Women’s Hysteria.” Freud called it the “bloody sign of a woman’s loss of penis,” as a reminder of woman’s “uncleanliness and inferiority.” And to this day, it keeps women of several religions from practicing in all rights of belief, and in their own temples of worship, before an allotted amount of time and certain purification rituals have taken place.

…Our Lady-History isn’t all bleak, however.  Some cultures revered our body’s cycle, as a sign of strength and fertility. The Cherokee Indian’s believed it was a strength and source of power to destroy enemies. Ancient Roman, Pliny the Elder, wrote that a menstruating woman, uncovering her body, could scare away hailstorms, whirlwinds and lightening. In Ancient Greece, menstrual blood was thought as a wonder cure of disease and used in love charms and to ward off demons. In Africa, it is used in the most powerful magic charms to purify and to destroy, while in France, in the 1700’s, its scent was thought seductive and fertile.

However you have come to loath and/or embrace this monthly happening…whatever name you have given her, she has a history that should be noted…has become a defining form of cultures and words, and bottom line is: we would none of us be here without her. So have a little respect. Let it be noted:

…“Menstruation” is from Old English “mondablot” or “month blood;” in Latin, “menses” means “month;” an Amazon culture’s word for “woman” translates to “the person with a red streak down the leg”; and the term “period” dates back to 1822 meaning “an interval of time.” Furthermore, some menstruation words have much more tainted meanings: “The term ‘ritual’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘R’tu,’ which means ‘menstrual.’ This etymology suggests that ritual in a general sense and menstrual acts have a common origin;” Also, the “word taboo comes from the Polyneisain tapua, meaning both ‘sacred’ and ‘menstruation’… [where] sacred means both ‘set apart’ and ‘cursed’.” ~ Southern Bell Feminist

…Scholars also suggest that pre-modern men and women learned to think numerically by recognizing relationships between groups of numbers that were also units of time measured through menstrual rites…and may have led to humanity’s sense of time, as most early lunar calendars were based on the length of a women’s menstrual cycle. The family of words related to the English word “menstruation” include mental, memory, meditation, mensurate, commensurate, meter, mother, mana, magnetic, mead, mania, man, and moon…while the term “ovary” is from the Latin ovum or “egg.” In classical Latin, ovaries meant “egg keeper.”

…According to randomhistory.com, a woman will spend about 3500 days, in an average of 450 periods in her life. When a girl is born, her complete potential egg supply is born with her. In the womb, she creates about seven million egg cells. At birth, she has two million. By puberty, there are only about 400,00 left, of which fewer than 500 are actually released.

…And as for our history of “treatments” to her woes?

Ancient Egyptians used softened papyrus as rudimentary tampons. Hippocrates notes that the Greeks used lint wrapped around wood. By the mid 1800’s some had begun the use of homemade pads, made of wool, cheesecloth, cottons and rags. The 1870s -1890’s saw a slew of such invented for sale in forms from suspenders to belts, making an alternate disposable option for the wealthy. By 1921, post WWI, Kotex pads were on sale to the masses, a product devised by nurses in the field, using the more absorbable wartime bandages. The modern tampon was invented by Dr. Earle Haas in 1929, trademarked by the brand name Tampax, and was in wide circulation by 1931. And the 1970’s brought in the self adhesive, non-belted, pad.

…Together with drugs and natural remedies to help ease our physical pains, and hormonal roller coasters…we continue this longest of Living History reenactments, today, by the millions, all over the world. It’s kind of a big deal. According to quora.com, out of the 2 billion women of menstrual age in the world right now, 334 million are my blood sisters, this very moment.

334 million.

…At the same time.

…In all races, cultures, incomes, and beliefs.

Dear Mrs. Johnson,

You are a giant pain in my ass (and other places)…but when I look at the history and numbers and facts and fables of your insistence on “Being”…I kinda gotta give you some props. You’ve got some game. Okay…I said it. Now stop fucking with me. I have shit to do today.

Signed,

~D

By The Numbers, By The Dates

6 Nov

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Seriously, this is really important to me. So beware of the 4th of July-type fireworks about to explode from my fingertips. It’s the only political ANYTHING I will talk about at all, in this blog, on Election Day.

Think about it, America:

…If you are a White Man of property – you’ve been voting here for 236 years.

…If you are an of birth or naturalized (male) citizen – you’ve been voting for 144 years.

…If you are of color, and of birth or are a naturalized (male) citizen – you’ve been voting for 142 years.

…If you are a woman – you’ve been voting for 92 years.

In this time, OUR VOTES have served to:

…Incorporate the Declaration of Independence (1776)

…Adopt the Constitution of the United States (1787)

…Elect our first President (1789)

…Incorporate the Federal Judiciary Act, building our Federal Court system (1789)

…Incorporate The Bill of Rights (1791)

…Pass The Pacific Railway Act, opening transcontinental travel (1862)

…Pass the Emancipation Proclamation (1863)

…Add the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery (1865)

…Incorporate The Civil Rights Act (1866)

…Add the 14th Amendment, ensuring equal protection under law (1868)

…Purchase Alaska from Russia (1868)

…Add the 15th Amendment, on equal voting rights (1870)

…Establish our first National Park, Yellowstone (1872)

…Elect our first female Mayor, Susanna Medora Salter (1887)

…Pass the Burke Act, granting citizenship to Native Americans (1906)

…Elect our first woman to Congress, Jeannette Rankin (1916)

…Incorporate the Child Labor Act (1916)

…Add the 19th Amendment, allowing women to vote (1920)

…Elect our first female Governors: Nellie Tayloe Ross, and Miriam A. Ferguson (1924)

…Elect our first female Senator, Hattie Wyatt Caraway (1932)

…Pass the National Labor Relations Act, allowing the working of Unions in public and private sectors (1934)

…Repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act, allowing their eligibility of citizenship (1943)

…Pass the GI Bill (1944)

…Establish the United Nations Charter (1945)

…Enact Desegregation of the Armed Forces (1948)

…Pass Brown vs. Board of Education, ending education segregation (1954)

…Elect our first South Asian, Dalip Singh Saund, to Congress (1956)

…Incorporate the National Interstate and Defense Highway Act (1956)

…Elect our first person of Chinese descent, Hiram Fong, to Senate (1959)

…Establish The Peace Corp. (1961)

…Pass the Test Ban Treaty (1963)

…Pass the Civil Rights Act (1964)

…Pass the Voting Rights Act (1965)

…Pass the Social Security Act Amendment (1965)

…Elect our first African American Mayor, Carl Stokes, of a major city (Ohio) (1967)

…Elect our first African American woman, Shirley Chisholm, to Congress (1968)

…Elect our first Puerto Rican, Herman Badillo, to Congress (1970)

…Add the 26th Amendment, lowering the voting age to 18 (1971)

…Pass the Americas With Disabilities Act, requiring full access to voting facilities (1990)

…Elect our first African American female, Carol Moseley Braun, as Senator (1992)

…Elect our first African American President (2008)

And for those who say, “I’m just one vote, why should it matter?” I’ll tell you:

* One vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England (1645)

* One vote gave America the English language instead of German (1776)

* One vote saved President Andrew Jackson from impeachment (1868)

* One Vote made Texas (1845), California (1850), Oregon (1859), Washington (1889) and Idaho (1890), U.S. States.

* One vote changed France from a monarchy to a republic (1875)

* One vote gave Rutherford B. Hayes the Presidency of the United States (1876)

* One vote gave Adolf Hitler leadership of the Nazi Party (1923)

* One vote saved the Selective Service – just weeks before Pearl Harbor was attacked (1941)

It’s your job to go out there and make History happen! It’s your right, to fight for what you believe in.

YOUR VOTE MATTERS!

Tell me what you want, America…and we’ll get it done together!

~D

Advanced Retreat Into A Sunny Day

23 Sep

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Like zero sleep last night. 

…Started off with a ridiculous cat in heat who decided to yowl right outside my bedroom window.  I kept telling her to shut the hell up and have some dignity, but she refused to listen to me.  Around two or so she must have stopped, cuz the next time I opened my eyes to look at the clock, it was five.  This time, it was Mrs. Johnson’s fault.  She wanted her pill-cocktail, so I had to get up, shove some food down m’throat and toss back the meds, then go back to bed clutching my guts and moaning.

…I put on Netflix to keep me company.  Ancient Egypt.  Mostly stuff on King Tut.

…I’m a little obsessed with mummies and tombs.

…And also serial killers and the Holocaust.

…If my theory is correct, (that whatever you are obsessed with in life, is because you have some sort of formal connection to it in the past…not necessarily in a “past life” per se, but possibly, and at the very least you were somehow present in a spirit or energy form around a person who was having that experience  at the time…kinda like a cling-on to a host), then I’ve witnessed me some SERIOUSLY disturbing shit in my time.  And yet where I can watch endless documentaries on it without residual affect (besides weeping), I CANNOT watch any of those things in a Hollywood film with viscera and guts just flying all over the place.

I don’t know why.

The REAL things are so much more disturbing.  You’d think THOSE would be the ones to haunt me. But no.

…I got this idea for a book a couple years ago, based on the Jack the Ripper case and spent the better part of NINE MONTHS with my nose in German Victorian dissecting books, and pouring over the snapshots of every attributed victim’s remains.  It was completely disgusting (and necessary…and gory…and disturbing as hell), yet it needed to be done in order to get the thing done correctly.  I’m talking some TRULY gorrific stuff, here.  And yet, I can’t even watch Hospital dramas or detective junk on T.V. without nightmares.

…I went through most of my childhood COMPLETELY surrounded in Holocaust literature and history books, because the empathy (yes, “empathy,” not “sympathy”) for these people was totally unexplainable. 

…The Romanov family massacre, and possible survival of one of the children, completely fascinates me.

…The tombs of the ancient Pharaohs, are crazy interesting, and I will watch anything regarding Egyptology, at any time.

…The era of WWII in general, (from it’s music to social customs) feels like a natural default that I could easily slip right into, were I to magically teleport into it one day.

…England is clearly my main base “home”…it just calls to the roots of me.

…And I relate to Bronte & Austen era books, character feelings, and frustrations far too much to NOT have (in some way) participated in them, historically.

So, when I can’t sleep…these are strangely, the places I retreat to…either in book form or film…to ease me back to an even keel and drift me off to sleep again.

Weird, I know.  But what are yuh gonna do?

…So through five, six, seven o’clock this morning…I soaked up History Channel explorations and tried not to think about how badly my stomach hurt, and how The BFF was gonna be leaving today. 

It was a good sidetrack for a while. 

Until it wasn’t, anymore. 

She and The Fella buzzed the door at nine, with coffees in hand.  A last “hurrah,” before they started their week-long road trip enroute to L.A..  First stop: the ocean for the night, then onto Ashland for a couple of plays at the Oregon Shakes…then two days in Vegas with The Fella’s aunt, and next to visit her brother in S.F..  Then: L.A. 

…I’ll be pickin’ The Fella up from the airport next Saturday.

Our coffee was had.  Ridiculous teasing and riffing, took place.  I gave her a monster hug. And she was on her way.

…I’m really excited for her.  And really bummed for me.  And the thing I wanna do most right now is just hermit away this sunny day by watching incredibly depressing history lessons of my possible past lives on Netflix, until rehearsal rips me out of my moroseness at four P.M.

That’s all I wanna do right now.

…But in my head, I can hear her say something like, “Fuck that shit!  It’s sunny!  Get out in that and play!”

I’m negotiating with Mrs. Johnson right now to see if she’s either with me on this, or I need to beat her into submission. Cuz moping is NOT the answer.  And I know it.

…SEE how good The BFF has trained me?!

FUCK it’s really gonna suck to be without her.

~D

You’ve Got Mail: The Text Edition

7 Sep

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When old acquaintances meet after a long spread of time, and play the “I remember” game…it kind of fascinates me how vastly the perspectives can change or how their past secrets and interpretations become revealed in retrospect.

History is a funny thing.

In the present tense, everyone is so very insistent to guard and protect their feelings, thoughts and intentions. Truth becomes the unspoken risk you never seem to take.  Which is asinine, because it is the only time that you are able to actually “do” anything about it.  But when you look back on a situation…after a certain amount of water has passed under the bridge, you realize how pointless it was to play your hand so close to the chest…to mistrust options or ideas…to hold back.

…Sometimes you miss out on things.

And yet, every once in a while, fate realigns you with a past opportunity (or person) from seemingly out of nowhere.  Suddenly, all the places that missed connection the last time, just don’t anymore. And what is exciting about that is skipping all the “crap parts” and going straight for the meat of the matter.  The conversation can get intense and goofy and real and wild and random…because there is zero judgement, expectation or care in attempting to be anything other than what you are, and where you are, in your life. 

“This is me, no holds bar,” you seem finally able to say.

Why is it different now?

Who knows.

…There is certainly no less baggage to carry. You’ve spent maybe the better part of a decade ADDING to the luggage set, not taking away from it. And there is no reason to assume that what might have happened once, will actually do so now,  just because a person writes another person out of the blue one day and says, “Hey, remember me?”

Of course I do.

…I remember the “you” back then, and you remember that “me.”

…And we will talk about the costume I was wearing, or that thing you said, or the party we went to…the other people around us at the time, and where their lives have lead to; like we are the oldest of friends and no time has really passed at all. You will tell me funny confidences. I will tell some of mine to you. And all the while in my head I’m thinking, “This might actually be one of the most bizarre conversations that I have ever had.”

“…It was that show, that’s when I thought that–”

” –You just liked the ‘boob’ dress is all.”

“…Whatever happened to [Him]?”

“–He got married…amazing woman…you’d like her a lot.”

“…And having drinks at that bar, after the other show?  My last one for a long while. The Ex never understood that whole deal…”

” There was a small group of us. Who-all was at the table…?”

” That was about five years later than the first show.  And about six before now.”

” …You were seeing that one girl at the time…”

” It was [blank], I think.”

“–I never met her.”

” Nice girl.”

” Then I heard you got married.  Had the boys and all.”

” And now…”

” And now.”

(Long pause.)

***

…Clearly, tonight has been a mind-fuck of “woa.”

…What I think I need most of all is a little bit of thoughtful perspective, here. I need to realize that though this is great, (catching up and all)…there is absolutely no reason that anything out of the ordinary, would somehow make anything “different” from where I was sitting yesterday.  After all, there are real ACTUAL obstacles that exist this time around, far larger than the scale we were playing with all those years ago.  Whole lives are in existence that were not, and relationships have ensued, and consequences must be dealt with…and all the things that life likes to throw at you when you are just trying to get through from one part of it to the next, are scattered all over the floors in both of our houses right now.

…Everything is so messy in the real world.  Which is a nightmare to people like me, who live with their “just so’s” of organized specificities. 

…And you CAN live like that. With the dedication of a Buddhist Monk.  I know.  I’ve practically mastered it.

…But what “if”…

…What “if” you feel like maybe…just for a second…you might not always want to?

…And what if, “Do you like wine?” is asked in total innocent and honest curiosity…because he knew you far before your pallet for it (and many other things) ever even existed.

“Ohhhhh. Yes…” I answer back via one of over 180 texts, now indexed just under his name.

“Woot!  I know just where we’ll go on our first ‘date’,” he says…waiting as to how I’ll respond to that.

…I’m sorta intrigued really, to find out myself.

…Will I “correct” him? Do the usual run-down of my philosophies on why I think “dating” is total complete shit? That it is an impetus for people to spend half their time covering up who they really are, pretending to be things they are not but assume the other person would really want?  Should I pick now to inform him that I also quite suck at “being a girl?” That I far prefer hanging out at the house in my pajama pants watching a movie, to dressing up like a hooker and joining in on the clubbing meat-market scene on a Friday night?  At what point do I bring up the fact that I refuse to be his mother (if he’s into that kinda deal)…that I’m really really stubborn, and sometimes I just need to be left the fuck alone.  Preferably with a book.  And why in the HELL is all this shit piling up and making me anxious just because of one word?

…One word.

It’s a word I avoid.  And always have.  At almost any cost. 

…And he said it so easily…just with a toss.  Like it took no effort in the least.  No anxiety of what the answer might be.  No worries on how I would take it, or what I would do with it, once it was “out there.”

The message just kept staring at me.

…Then I thought of the unbelievable balls it must have taken just to write me from out of nowhere to begin with.  Then make the effort to catch up with me.  Then listen as I tried to tell “amusing” anecdotes about people we know (or used to) and where they are now.  Then LOL at my stupid witticisms…and pretend I don’t horribly overuse the words “awesome” and “totally” and ellipsis in general.

This guy is STAND-UP.  HE: IS A MAN. 

…He has gone through God only knows how much of my shit from the “then” me, to the “now”…even in the last several hours.  And I think he deserves to get something out of all that, don’t you?

…But then I said, “I’m in,” anyway. 

…Because he doesn’t know yet, that me saying “no” would really just be doing him a favor.  And he might not know that for a couple of days .  But by the end of the “date,” I assure you: he will. 

…And THAT is when I will explain how sometimes, not getting what you think you wanted at the time, is really a “good” thing.

…However he responds after that, is when the real game actually begins.

Open bets. Any takers?

~D

In The Hood

3 Sep

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I’ve decided to take you on a walk with me today. 

…I’ll point out some stuff along the way, while you feel jealous because when you go on walks, you stay in your neighborhood, but when I go on walks, almost every building I pass by takes me to a totally new location in the world, and/or historical point of time.

For instance we have the English Cottage.  The wisteria-draped front door, and combination of manicured topiary enhanced lawn has no idea it is actually planted in the Pacific Northwest.   
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…But it shouldn’t feel bad about it…because this house thinks it’s in Greece.  I defy you to change it’s mind on that point.
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Here, we have our very own version of the Winchester Mansion, in that the people who live here never seem to think the place is big enough, so have continued to grow it in various directions for years now.
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…Meanwhile, this is where the Hobbits live when they move away from The Shire.
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…And this place thinks it is the starring feature of all of the Bronte novels.
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We have an actual Psycho house up on the hill…(and yes, those are mounted camcorders pointing at you.)
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We have ethnic diversity who live here, and brought the primary colors Crayola box with them.  (As a representative of said peoples, can I just ask: wtf is with the bitch-slap-you brightness of our buildings, people?)
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…There is the place that thinks it’s an English hunting lodge.
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…The one that wants to be a castle when it grows up.  (Turrets anyone?)
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…The one who thinks its in Nantucket.
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…And the one they stole out of a Dickens novel. (I give you: the place where Miss Havisham lives.)
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One of many representatives from the D.C. crowd is shown here.
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“Welcome to New England,” might as well be posted on a flag outside this door.
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This claims it’s in the Hollywood hills, circa 1920.
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And, this one actually thinks it’s the White House.
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Hey…you could move to the Mediterranean OR save your money and just pretend to, by living here.
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You can go back in time and live in this original Mike Brady design.
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Have coffee of the future.
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Eat in the 50’s.
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…Default to the Victorian.
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…Visit the Hogwarts stand-in.
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…Frequent the 40’s drugstore (that still makes deliveries)
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…Relocate to Spain.
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…Move in with the modern-day Flintstones.
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…Or, masquerade as an eternal Frat Houser.
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This is all within one giant loop of my own little home. Which I think you can agree ain’t bad for a couple mile radius that could fill an entire passport, and break some serious time-continuum laws. Not bad at all.

~D

Hauntings & Old Stuff

12 Aug

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I like old stuff.

…If we’re talking books or booze, photos or furniture, film or fashion …jewelry, appliances, houses or people…I like ’em most of all. I always have.

I was the kid who’d rather love on a hand-me-down doll with one eye and lopsided stuffing than a “new” anything out of a box. The more beat up and “used” a book: the better…and if “nature” had started to take the object back at all to reclaim it, I totally understood the feeling.

When I went to England and Ireland several years ago, I nearly exploded with too much old-stuff-awesome.  Because even the rocks, buildings, and air you breathe there, comes recycled from like a gillion years ago, B.C.  It crosses the “old” and “antique” mark into just plain “ancient.” 

It was ancient. 

It felt ancient. 

It smelled ancient. 

It looked ancient.

…I’d be standing on a heath (for instance) in the middle of nowhere, a once bogged peat land where the Celts had raised a stone circle for their protections and holy workings.  Center of this thing, it was still electrifying with the network of whatever had been infused into it centuries ago.  You could honestly feel the energy of it zapping you like those electric touch-globes they had back in the 80’s, connecting through your fingertips and skin and hair…to something elemental, base…a root network of being.

We’d take a turn in old manor houses…get lost in their hallways…or stay behind on purpose to be the only one left in a room just to feel it out a little.  Like hiccups in time, you could almost swear you could see the Lady of the house sitting at her vanity, applying scent to the  back of each ear and nape of neck.  The nursery was almost spooky with children’s giggles, nurse’s admonitions, and squeek of wood coming from the direction of the old rocking horse. 

…Sometimes (for maybe only a split second), whole dinner parties were sitting at table within the formal dining rooms…candles bouncing their light off the polished silver, under-butlers in black jackets and white cotton gloves attending in silence.  The studies still smelled of cigar smoke and gentlemen’s cologne.  The library’s books, (occupied floor to ceiling with volumes whose bindings you could never touch), once rested within the palms of hands while sunning themselves, or secluded somewhere in the network of impossibly manicured gardens.

…Paintings of previous owners would watch you from the walls, enroute exiting the main floors, retreating to the bowels of the homes where their empty kitchens were still a phantom bustle of activity, heat, food smells and ever-attending duties.  Ghost horses still live within their stalls…trees that had shaded picnics, games of cricket, and formal teas: shading you right now.

Sometimes the feelings were almost overwhelming.

…But then, I’ve always been sensitive to things like that. One part imagination (no doubt), but two parts what Gram and the Great Aunts used to call, “the gift.”  Apparently all the Kelly women have it.  Some more so than others. 

I remember stories from childhood, of experiences they had had…things they had seen, or felt, words they had heard spoken, in laundry lists of eery evokings that frankly scared the hell outta me.  It didn’t, them…they seemed perfectly at peace with it.  Basically because they had to be.  Stretching back into our line as far as we can source it, strange shit has been happening “to” or “around” our family for generations. 

…Sometimes, in the form of hauntings. 
(Any number of us like to come back and visit…which is a “comfort” I never quite understood and frankly wish they’d all cut the hell out. Also, we’re susceptible to seeing and feeling the non-familial varieties.  This doesn’t mean always in a visual form.  Sometimes it’s a voice, a touch, a breath…a general acknowledgment of “not-rightness,” followed instantly by cold sweats and the desire to get the hell outta wherever it is that we are.)

…Sometimes visions.
(Countless phone calls from my Nana would stream in at all hours, day or night, directly after some family emergency had just taken place.   She would know who was the injured party, just how life threatening it was, exactly when it had happened…and upon occasion, even what had taken place. And at least once she saved a life by it. The first words upon the answer of “Hello?” having been, “Get him to the hospital now.  Don’t wait.  It’s worse than you think.”)

…Or, prophetic dreams. 
(A car and motorcycle accident, one leg breaking from falling off a roof, a death in WWII, and one of the creepiest actual preventative stories of Gram as a little girl getting a yellow dress for her birthday, twirling too near a fire, catching light and getting burnt to death. The identical dress was in fact gifted, and destroyed, directly upon opening.)

Some were flat out spoken to.
(In most cases as a sort of “conscience-driven” inner-voice stipulating things needing to be done, or not, or fixed or rendered.  Sometimes: a literal voice, a whisper, a declarative warning. Often mixed in what I suppose you could categorize as “hauntings.”)

…And some just had the uncanny ability to read a person or a room, instantly.
(Bad things “were” or “are” done here. Something about him just isn’t “right.”  She’s hurting a lot, it’s all around her but no one is noticing. There’s something big about to happen…a lot of energy…its “full” right now.)

…Apparently, I deal mostly with the past-tense.  So I suppose it isn’t’ surprising at all that me and old things are attracted to one another.  We are lovers from the past, connecting again.

I’ll forget to actually “read” a book, I become so consumed in touching and smelling it…tracing my fingers over the signatures of it’s previous owners, trying to get a grasp on them. I can’t just “look” in antique stores, I have to skim and make contact…hold the things in my hand and get the weight and history of them in my grasp.  As a kid, I collected buckets full of rocks, and trinkets…not like other kids collect them…but because they had been hand selected, and adopted from places I had been (a camp site, a lake, a hike, a cave) and “felt” things at.  One of my favorite places to visit are old cemeteries…not for the morbidity, but the life and history still wandering around them.  I’ve been the only person in a room full of “others” I can’t see but fully know are there.  I’ve stepped into houses where bad things have happened and know it, with the kind of instant terror they can’t breed into you with the most horrifying Hollywood thriller. I get deja vus like crazy, will stop cold in a doorway or while standing on a piece of land to “listen”…because I could swear that something just told me to.

…For the parts of this that I am “comfortable” with, it’s been a strange life of feeling like I was born out of order and don’t actually belong to this time.  People don’t always understand my consuming fascination of history and “the past,” that I am completely delighted that I have.  For the parts that freak me the hell out,  I fought it (believe me) and tried to pretend it was all a load of fantastical nonsense.  Until I couldn’t anymore.  I certainly do not “encourage” it.

…But what was amazing…what blew my mind those years back on that trip abroad, (and still does when revisiting my thoughts and dreams now and then, as it does from time to time), is that being there in those places…particularly in the oldest outer-reaching ancient parts of Ireland, it was probably the first time I was “at peace” with whatever gifts had been handed down in the bloodlines. 

It was intense, and full and populated with air and energy and presence.  It was jerking in time from then to now.  It was peaceful, then bloody, then peaceful again.  I could almost hear the people’s words in a language I couldn’t understand, and smell the fires that had cooked their suppers.  Tiny cottages and ramble roads seemed like old friends. A rock wall and I could have a whole conversation almost, just sitting side-by-side and though I’ve never in my life smelled such a thing as burning peat…the fireplaces stoked with it brought the kind of memories back that only things like lifelong Christmas traditions do.

I can’t explain the connection with things that I had there. But I “belonged” to it.  I knew that.

…Which goes back to the old man in the pub, in Avoca: a tiny village, where we sat one afternoon over a Guinness, ‘tween ongoing rambles across the countryside.

Old Man On A Stool: “Americans, is it?  And how do you like us?”

Ma: “We love it.  I’ve had this aching pain to come here, as far back as I can remember.”

Old Man On A Stool: “You’re Irish then.  What name?”

Ma: “Kelly.  How’d you know?”

Old Man On A Stool: “Because that’s the way of it.  You can take the Irish out of Ireland but not the other way ’round.  We always find our way home again, else never feel ‘right’ about it.”

Me:  “What do yuh mean?”

Old Man On A Stool: “The roots, girl.  It’s in the roots, in here. (grasping his upper gut)  Can’t escape it.  And you feel it too…don’t you?”

…Only every second I spent on the land, is all.

Being in the “old country” just re-energized everything.  Like coming back to the absolute roots of me and plugging into the network that my blood first came from…fighting battles and building this intense bond with the land, the type of nature, the rocks that built their houses, the people that lived inside of them.  I remember extreme specifics of the places we visited…far out-of-way roads we travelled.  I can remember accidental monuments and churches and villages and homes we stumbled upon.  Conversations with people we met.  Comparing separate experiences we’d had at day’s-end.  I can remember this one turn in a garden path, and that bush over there…the feel of the mossy stone with tiny wildflowers growing out of a ruin.

…When I dream of it, they are always really intense dreams…where I can actually feel the texture of things when I touch them and smell the smells.  I get totally lost in it and wake up a little sad to see I’m not actually there.  It’s very like the opening of “Rebecca,” launching into this singsong, haunting rhythm…

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”

And last night, I did.

I miss it.

~D

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