Monday, July 2, 2012


As Cousin Tabitha likes to sing around me, I once had a blog, or should I say, it once had me. ⓿ Basically this post is corollary to my previous one, to announce that as part of my accession to not one but TWO new jobs coming my way fast, I’ll be shuttering SuperScript soon. Along with its exponents: The Editing Room, the Facebook page, the Twitter account. ⓿ Originally I had hoped to keep the business going for favored fiction clients only, but with August around the corner, it’s already becoming clear that I’m going to be a tad preoccupied. ⓿ Hence this is my last post on Blogorrhea, the bloggling you thought had long since wheezed its last breath anyway. The only reason I scribble a final post at all, as opposed to just fading away and radiating, is that I tend toward ending rather than mending. And sometimes an Irish Goodbye just won't do. ⓿ AND ALSO: because I’ll be back. Taking a cue from the ingenious Miranda July, Blogorrhea will probably simply evolve into something else in the very near future. And then metamorphose again. ⓿ Meanwhile, for excellent regional arts coverage, you have many resources. Two of my favorites are truly superb: Oregon Arts Watch and Art Scatter. ⓿ For national forums on theater, you can’t do better than Parabasis and HowlRound. ⓿ Oh, and you’re welcome to visit my secret repository of groovy images, Thanatopsis, the off-site storage facility for (some of) those startling sharings that show up on my Facebook timeline. ⓿ Goodbye hello.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Favorite Year(s)

Almost 10 years ago already, I moved my whole life up to Portland Ore. And it amuses me now to recall that some people weren’t very happy about it at the time. Seriously. A few even stopped talking to me, gave me up for lost. Because back then, Portlandia was generally regarded as a theater backwater. How was I supposed to do anything for anybody now, that was the general sentiment. ¶ Mymymy. How much has changed a decade later. Today, as Bob Hicks recently noted, there’s too much good theater to keep up with it all. The city’s definitely on the national theater map — even if our current rep is that we’re the best tryout town in the nation. (Translation: the place where you spend a couple of years to beef up your résumé before you head to Chicago.) ¶ When I dearly departed from Portland Center Stage about three years back, I again had to cope with people’s expectations. Surely now I would pull up stakes at last and follow my friends to Chicago, right? Or Louisville, or Minneapolis, or … ? Nope. I was through with being a theater vagabond. ¶ It was a no-brainer, actually. I had no intention of uprooting my family yet again. But that decision was tantamount to an immediate identity crisis. ¶ My decision to return to my roots as an editor (which was my original entrée into the theater, actually) and hang out my shingle as such was met with instant dismay. Less because it sounded like adopting struggle and poverty as lifestyles, and more because it seemed to mean acquiescing to a life without clout. ¶ Many friends acted like I’d adopted a tiresome avocation, like philately or model trains or joining an unfashionable religious cult. But I was serious. I worked hard to build my business, SuperScript Editorial Services. It meant living on savings that first year out, but one client led to another and eventually the work began to snowball. I found I loved working from my home office, where I was self-directed enough to turn in my assignments ahead of schedule and to serve as a domestic demiurge as well. Most importantly, I spent every day in the company of my beloved terrier, MacHeath, in the last two years of his life — a boon to us both, which I hoped made amends for the years I went day and night without him while working in the theater. ¶ And yet! Gradually during these years the theater work came ebbing back. (Just before it did, I visited a local psychic of some note, who told me something I didn’t really want to hear at the time. “You may be through with theater,” she said. “But theater isn’t through with you.”) There was a lot of script consulting, and there were occasional dramaturgy gigs. And then suddenly, somehow, I joined the ranks of actors and directors who lament that they work more outside their hometowns than in them. ¶ Lots of good counsel came my way about how to negotiate the sometimes lengthy out-of-town gigs. For ex, Kate Eastwood Norris and Cody Nickell advised: “Always buy the smallest bottle of quality olive oil possible; it’s expensive and too heavy to take home with you.” So many thrilling away-gigs over the years. A few favorites: Colorado New Play Summit, Humana, UT Austin, Hollins University’s new play fest, PlayPenn. And a particular favorite: Iowa Playwrights Workshop, which is a veritable crucible for the theater of the future. (One of its alums, Kirsten Greenidge, just won an Obie for playwriting, by the way…) ¶ I’m kind of sad it’s all coming to an end. Sad and glad. Starting in August, I’ll be the new theater history prof at University of Portland, joining an outstanding faculty that includes Larry Larson, Mindi Logan, Andrew Golla, Gregory Pulver and Andrea Stolowitz. And I’m chomping at the bit to meet my new students and to spend my days professing about the field I love so much, past and present. ¶ AND I hope I’ll still be able to collaborate on projects with the Portland companies who have been so welcoming to me, including Artists Repertory Theatre, Portland Playhouse, Hand2Mouth, Third Rail Rep, Northwest Children’s Theater and Oregon Children’s Theatre, among others…’s just those exciting national occasions will now mostly be limited to summertime. ¶ With one major exception: stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring comes to Planet Earth

In honor of the first day of spring, a poem by Mary Oliver. This is from her collection House of Light.



a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her –
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Awake and dream

Blame it on Inception, I guess, that silly video game-cum-action movie. In 2010 it made pop hash out of the idea of lucid dreaming. And now, premiering tonight, is a new broadcast show (on NBC) called Awake, that takes up some of these notion and adds its own twist. Suddenly this once obscure phenomenon is everywhere.

What is lucid dreaming? Very simply, it’s about cultivating a presence of mind, during the dreaming state, so that you realize you’re dreaming while you’re still doing it. This is more momentous than it sounds — because once you attain that realization, you have the apparent ability to manipulate the elements of your dream. And that can be fun, or terrifying, or revelatory. Or all of these at once.

There’s a ton of stuff on the interwebs about this nowadays. Forums, support groups, numerous how-to guides. For some people, simply becoming aware of the phenomenon induces it the next time they sleep. For many, however (such as in my case), it takes a lot of practice and self-discipline to get underway.

In recent years, there has been so much emphasis placed on the fun-and-games aspect of apparently controlling your dreams (e.g., flying around the cosmos, walking through walls, breathing underwater, etc.) that a new level of engagement is now underway. Sometimes referred to as advanced or conscious dreaming, this new society of oneironauts leaves the dream manipulation to the newbies and instead favors letting the dream take you where it will.

Essentially, this new paradigm asks: who, exactly, is doing the dreaming? You can best explore this gigantic existential question by querying the dream itself. If you encounter a dream figure who looks an awful lot like your deceased Aunt Clara, for example, you can ask her: what do you represent? Why are you here, what do you want? Or, to be more abstract about, if you find yourself in an inexplicable setting like an open field or an unpopulated city, you can just say to the open air: why am I here? Often the responses are out-and-out epiphanies.

So what of the pop versions of lucid dreaming? While most of Inception is sheer fantasy, there are people whose authority I trust who have indeed had group dreams, in which several people seemed to be present together in the same dream location. In theory, this happens to you every night, but doing this consciously and with avowed intent is advanced dreaming indeed.

Awake is an interesting case. In this plot line, a man (played by Liverpudlian actor Jason Isaacs, a perfect James Bond sort if ever there was one) has had a car accident in which either he, his wife or his son were killed. Every time he wakes up, he flips between a reality where his wife is alive and the son is dead, or the other way round. In each reality, he has shrinks (played by Cherry Jones and B.D. Wong!), each of whom insists he gives up the other reality if he’s ever to be mentally stable again.

The parallel to lucid dreaming here is that while lucid, the sense of its reality can be absolute. In terms of how vivid and palpable the experience is, everything can seem to be totally real. And almost any lucid dreamer can attest to the unsettling instance of the false awakening, in which you come out of a dream and start your day only to discover at some point that in fact you only started another dream—one that began with you waking up in your own bed.

There are scads of techniques for coping with this. If you’re ever out and about and you see someone perform certain actions—such as checking the hands (which tend to morph in dreams), snapping a rubber band against the wrist, or even whispering “Am I dreaming,” you may have just witnessed somebody performing what’s called a reality check. The hero of Awake has evolved similar methods to track which of his dream realities he’s currently visiting. Apparently lucid dreaming has gone mainstream.

Anyway. Media glosses on the experience aside, I recommend two good books on the subject, if you’re interested. Robert Waggoner’s Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self advocates junking the illusion that you have control over your dreams in favor of allowing them to divulge their meanings. And Robert Moss’s Active Dreaming has some excellent approaches to what’s known as dream incubation.

As the Aussies say, see you in the dream-time.