Saturday, April 6, 2013

Poetry and Passion Keep Him Young

To All of My Devoted Readers -

This link will take you to an LA Times feature story on one of my beloved writing "students"  85-year-old poet, Jim Haddad, whose other passions are his wife of over 60 years and a Japanese garden in Pasadena.  I will be following up with a post on this prolific memoirist and poet at a later time.  For now, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Jim Haddad and his remarkable garden.  Note there is an open house on April 28th.  It's worth the trip.

Monday, April 1, 2013

My Dramatic Life

Some years ago, my picture appeared on bus shelters throughout the city of Fullerton as part of an advertising campaign for a summer theatre program for a local church. The campaign featured a giant version of my head shot with the caption: Amy - Drama.

A friend called me after driving past one of the bus shelters and said, "Either you are doing something big or you're wanted."
I joked that I'd finally made it on to a marquee.

I've thought about the visual irony of those pictures plastered on bus shelters and how apropos the caption Amy - Drama really was.  Someday, perhaps, it will be the  title of my memoir!

Through the years I have come to recognize a pattern. The shows I direct often reflect some aspect of my life circumstances. Whether in thematic through lines, dramatic metaphors, subtext, or the lyrics of songs, my shows almost always take on a deeply personal meaning for me.  Perhaps subconsciously, I am drawn to material that resonates.  Perhaps it is simply coincidence. Perhaps, like poetry,  plays and musicals are just open to interpretation.
For example, Into the Woods provided a rich context for the parallel real-life drama I was living as my brother was dying from AIDS in 1994.  Sondheim's lyrics and the show's theme that "Into the woods and through the fear you have to take the journey" seemed written for me.
"No More questions. Please. No more tests. Comes the day you say what for? Please No more. No more riddles. No more jests. No more curses you can't undo left by fathers you never knew. No more quests. No more feelings. Time to shut the door. Just no more."                                  
"Sometimes people leave you - half way through the wood. Do not let it grieve you. No one leaves for good. No one is alone. Truly. No one is alone. People make mistakes. Fathers. Mothers. People make mistakes. Holding to their own. Thinking they're alone. Honor their mistakes. Everybody makes. One another's terrible mistakes. Witches can be right. Giants can be good. You decide what's right. You decide what's good. " 

 I have frequently been able to connect the drama of my life with the drama playing out on the stage in front of me. Directing musicals has been an extremely soulful and sometimes healing experience. Like Shakespeare's "mirror up to nature," I am able to see my own life reflected in  my artistic projects, choices, and material. I cannot say these are conscious choices. In fact I see the reflection only after I am well into the process. Once again this has happened with my most recent production.

Right now I am directing Beauty and the Beast. As I sit and listen to the character of Belle sing songs with lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice about her journey that takes her away from her home, I can't help but be startled by how closely her sentiments express my own.
"Is this home? Am I here for a day or forever? What I'd give to return to the life that I knew lately... My heart's far,  far away. Home is too."
Belle's separation from home teaches her important life lessons.
One of the things that has changed in me since this period of exile began is my need to plan and to have  loose ends neatly tied up.  It has changed my very approach to life.  Essentially the need to plan is a need for control.  I have come to understand that the illusion of control offers a false sense of security about the future.  Instead, I've had to work on trust and faith - believing that it will all work out as it is meant to. 
"There's been a change in me.  A kind of moving on.  Though what I used to be, I still depend upon. For now I realize that good can come from bad. That may not make me wise but oh it makes me glad. And I never thought I'd leave behind my childhood dreams but I don't mind. I'm where and who I want to be. No change of heart a change in me."
Art imitates imitates art...and so it goes. This is one of the great gifts that comes from working in the theatre.
Shakespeare was right. "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players."
And so the innocent caption on the bus shelter summed it up. Amy-Drama.
On with the play....