If we May...
You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself, "Well, how did I get here?"
— Once in a Lifetime, Talking Heads
Where does the time go?
We are already 5 months into 2021. How did we get here?
Did you hear us gulping?
Time is still flying by. It’s still blurry. But it’s time for us to harness it back. Time to refocus our energy and to stop giving it over to a powerful virus. There are too many powerful viruses that plague our country right now, not just COVID-19. It’s time to emerge from our 14-month hibernation, to stand up on our feet in strength and resolve, united to create a future that is vibrant and thriving.
It is the month of May, which got us thinking about the word “may.” It has many meanings and they are strong!
MAY: Named for the Roman goddess Maia, who oversaw the growth of plants. Also from the Latin word maiores, “elders,” who were celebrated during this month. Maia was considered a nurturer and an earth goddess, which may explain the connection with this springtime month.
MAY: An expression of possibility, a permissive choice to act or not, as distinguished from "shall," which is an imperative or often mandatory course of action.MAY: Old English mæg, of Germanic origin, from a base meaning ‘have power’
MAY: May is a modal verb. It is used with the base form of a verb. You use “may” to indicate that something will possibly happen or be true in the future, but you cannot be certain.
Boy, if there was ever a password for how we are feeling right now, it is “MAY.”
You may or may not be happy that spring has sprung. You may be planting your garden physically and metaphorically, delighting in the beauty and possibility this season of life has to offer, or you may be cursing the allergies and discomfort you are experiencing because of it. It’s always your choice.
You may be celebrating your elders right now, as both of us have done in the past few weeks, with Susannah flying to California to see her parents for the first time in 14 months and David mourning the loss of his beloved father, Jerry, who passed away in April.
You may be pondering the possibility of real, true, social change and justice following the conviction of Derek Chauvin in April on three counts of murder and manslaughter. You may be considering whether to act or not to help create a better, more just, inclusive, and equal world. If 2020 didn’t shake you up, honestly, we don’t know what will. Sitting on our collective hands is no longer an option; a mandatory course of action is needed to turn around the COVID-19 crisis, the violence against Black and AAPI citizens, our mass shooting murder problem, and and and and…. Yes, it will take all of us to decide we want to do something about the cancers that plague our country. We may not turn a blind eye to them.
We have the power. WE are the country, solutions are not out of our hands. The answers may possibly happen. A corrective course of action may happen in the future, but we cannot be certain. We can only be certain that we WANT it to happen and then act in each others’ best interests on that desire.
Theatre is a collective art form. We tell stories together. We share our human experience with each other so that we can feel what it’s like to walk in each others’ shoes. This creates understanding. When we understand each other, we have empathy for each other and we are no longer alone. “Together” just works better than going it alone. We may or may not see the positive changes we so desperately need in the near future, but we won’t get there without working collectively.
Things I am liking this month by Susannah
This brief and lovely blog written by playwright Mashuq Mushtaq Deen hit me in my very deeps. Deen writes about advocating in his community and the power of words as a brown-skinned, transgender, gay man born to Muslim Indian parents. “We must tell the stories of our lives, through our particular lenses. When you read my words, I don’t want you to step over the hard ones, I want you to feel them all, as I did. I want you to say them out loud when you read this essay to your lover, to your mother, to your friend. Art is not meant to be a comfortable, or even a safe space if safety means that we will not be disturbed or troubled by what we experience. Disturbance and discomfort are part of a necessary alchemy. Art is provocative; it provokes something in the cultural subconscious. It challenges us. And it should. It exacerbates a wound, one we pretend not to have, and it is good that it does this. Because the wound is not the problem, it’s the way we’ve declined to deal with it that’s causing so much pain… And finally, what is most important and always lost is that we need to be kinder with ourselves. Deeply embedded in our judgment of others, in our inability to forgive others for their flaws, is our own inability to forgive ourselves. Every act of forgiveness requires an act of self-forgiveness ... for allowing ourselves to get hurt, for needing a love that did not come, for not being strong enough to not get hurt in the first place.”
My aunt, fine art photographer Charlotte Watts, turned me on to this link. It is a beautiful study of young people on the autism spectrum and their brave caregivers. See how three photographers portray the richness of neurodiversity, and reveal what may not be immediately obvious to the eye. Yes, I wept because it is my story, too, but I think you’ll love these photos. Photography, like theatre, is one of the most powerful forms of visual language and also a relational tool—a pretext to entering someone else’s world and getting to know them.
https://www.lensculture.com/articles/our-ways-of-being-our-ways-of-being-visualizing-neurodiversity-and-autism Photographs: Mary Berridge, Carol Allen-Storey, and Erin Lefevre Essay by: Joanna L. Cresswell
And if, like me, you need distraction and respite from the trials of the day, look no further than my new favorite Instagram account. I can’t get enough of this little guy.
Welcome May’s guest blogger, Lormarev Jones!
Lormarev Jones is a Director, Choreographer, and Educator currently based in Raleigh. She received her MFA in Theatre from Sarah Lawrence College. Lormarev has served as a director and choreographer at many theatres and high schools in the Triangle, including North Carolina State, Meredith College, Raleigh Charter High School, Raleigh Little Theatre and many others. She is also a deviser, playwright, and solo performer. Lormarev currently teaches at NCSU while continuing to freelance in all her areas of expertise. http://www.lormarevjones.com Take it away, Lorma!
What a time to be alive, am I right?
In March of 2020, I was in the midst of 3 choreography projects, and had just completed three others in February. Meaning: I had six different shows running through my head at the beginning of last year.
I knew I was pushing the limits of what I could feasibly juggle. But when you’re an adjunct – you have to make hay when the sun is shining – because the hay (pay) is shit. These choreography projects LITERALLY paid my rent, and the money earned from that work would become my lifeline when the world shut down.
As an artist, I counted myself lucky as a creator that did not lose all my streams of income. In fact, I was able to create a new passive stream of income – through the virtual theatre space that became the industry’s primary way of telling stories during this time. My solo play, My Geriatric Uterus, was originally scheduled to be remounted in the summer of 2020 – and I had absolutely no interest in figuring out how to adapt it.
Then June 2020 came. The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breyonna Taylor and George Floyd took center stage, and suddenly people realized that racism was still a thing. My show focuses on the intersections of Capitalism, race, and the demands placed on the bodies of black women; unfortunately, it seemed as though some of the material I had written in the Spring of 2019 were quite clairvoyantly commenting on 2020. I didn’t want to seem like I was trying to capitalize on black trauma, but the show’s relevancy had intensified somewhat.
I quit the hand-wringing and assembled the original production team to collaborate on how to adapt. By July, I had seen so much virtual theatre; I wasn’t a fan of most of it. Pointing a camera at a stage did not appeal to me. My director (Carolyn Guido Clifford) and I decided to lean into the meta-theatre/show-within-a-show concept that had been built into the original stage play – and utilize the film-specific things that we couldn’t possibly have done in a stage play. Another friend handled all of the marketing and ran interference for the Kickstarter campaign that full funded the project!
We also made cuts. Theatre is an ethereal nature to theatre, an immediacy that really can’t be reproduced in a virtual format. I cut a lot of writing that didn’t work for film, or might seem redundant in this new setting. I also changed the ending, which was somewhat graphic and did not seem appropriate through a 2020 lens.
I am surprisingly proud of how My Geriatric Uterus: The Digital Experience turned out. It has been viewed in many states and several countries, by friends, acquaintances and strangers alike. It is weird and surreal to get messages every so often from people that have seen it, as recently as this month – when I filmed over two days at Shadowbox Studios in Durham, NC LAST JULY. I am so disconnected from that performance in a way that I am not used to as a theatre artist.
On the other hand, being an educator with several streams of income saved me from economic collapse – but as I mentioned, that pace was not sustainable.
I felt guilty that I appreciated the time to reflect, to slow down, to REST. Rest that was desperately needed. The pause allowed me to reassess my priorities, my goals and most importantly, my MISSION.
What is my mission, exactly? Well, I’m still working on it. Making theatre is part of it, but that’s not particularly specific, and as we learned this year – theatre is fleeting and not always accessible. Here’s what I DO know: I make better theatre when I am in community with those who share my values. Equity, accessibility, curiosity, collaboration, compassion, authenticity and joy = those are my values. I want to create work in environments that value people over profit – where rest is not only allowed but encouraged and celebrated. I had promised myself post-grad school that I would not run myself into the ground for theatre anymore – and the March 2020 shutdown elucidated that I had broken that promise.
I find myself at the end of my fourth semester teaching theatre in higher education as an adjunct. Meaning, (1) I have now taught theatre online for an entire academic year, and (2) About 63% of my entire career in higher ed has been online. I am exhausted. I’d bet you are too.
Although the pace of life has slowed, everything takes more energy now. Outings, social gatherings, even work. Now that things are ramping back up again, I am hesitant to sign on to projects for fear of getting back into the habit of overextending. I have no desire to go back to “normal,” because normal wasn’t healthy. Or sustainable. I am envisioning and manifesting a new kind of artistic life for myself, a more intentional one that reflects my values and allows me to care for my self physically, mentally, and creatively.
The unnerving stress, uncertainty and constant screen time of the past 395 days has worn us out. I have lost count of the number of times I have told my students, my peers, my colleagues (and myself) to drink water. We cannot control so many things – but we can choose how we respond and take care of ourselves in this life.
So: SIT DOWN. NAP. HYDRATE.
And remember that I love you.
❤️ We love you, too, Lormarev. We miss you on our local stages. Thank you for sharing your perspective on making a life with theatre. You MAY be the wisest theatre artist we know.
That’s it for May 2021. Our work continues with The Unititled Kafka Project and planning for another show as soon as we can safely return to theaters. More on that soon. As always, we appreciate your support and we long to see you all again in the lobby before or after a show. We have so much to catch up on, so many stories to share with each other. We want to hear every one of yours. Until then, take Lormarev’s advice. Always remember to
DRINK DEEP! 🍺
— Susannah and David
Honest Pint produces small, intimate, human stories. We make a different kind of theatre that we have a thirst for and that we believe others do, too. People see themselves reflected in our shows and are changed by witnessing them. To support our mission, you can make a donation here.