07 February, 2016

We do it for THAT Guy

Whenever I meet new people the question “How did you end up in the UK?” is almost always at the top of the list—and the answer, of course, is extraordinarily complicated because the winter of 2002, I experienced a very strange chapter of my life that I rarely talk about for various reasons.

Thus, I do what we all do: I ‘Cliffs Notes-it—” that is, I give you the gist. Ya know: I skip over this weird four-month chapter of Twilight-Zone-Level weirdness that no one could possibly understand unless they were to be told the entire story, or perhaps, they were, by some miracle, there.

So whenever I tell what is the “Cliffs Notes story of my life” it goes like this:

    My Dad died.
    I moved to Scotland.

That is… highly abbreviated. Because, of course, in between those events, I spent the entire winter and spring of my psychotic year-of-grief in a little coastal tundra-town known Alpena, Michigan.

It isn’t a very clean form of life-story-telling. It is much simpler to say “Well, my Dad died and I moved to Scotland” But it didn’t really work that way. My Dad did die. And I did move to Scotland— but meanwhile back in Grief-ville, I had to go back to the University of Minnesota and clean out my dorm, and drop of out of college to grieve-but-not-grieve.
None of it was tidy.

So, here we go. Let me set the scene:

As one is want to do in a time of crisis, 18-year-old grieving Al made a series of incredibly impulsive decisions shortly after the new year.  In an attempt to “get on with things” I decided to:

    1. Get a job. Perhaps at the mall. Perhaps at the diner I’d worked at all through high school.
    2. Maybe try out for some community theatre! Heck, I was pretty good and the Village Players were doing Our Town!
This lead me to trawl the (still-baby-fresh) WORLD WIDE INTERWEB for options. I scrolled around for theatre gigs in my area to maybe “do some plays” while I worked at previously mentioned diner, got my freaking life together and I duuno like maaaaaybe re-auditioned for schools… buuuut also maybe curled up and died— Jury was out on that.

Then one day? BOOM: a very very weird thing happened.

I clicked on a link on Playbill.com:

A semi-professional theatre was looking for a young woman aged 18-24 who could sing to play in their winter season— The Mousetrap, The Fantasticks and The Pirates of Penzance.
You’d get $125 to build the sets, make the costumes, do all the marketing yourself, and be in the shows, and oh, you got to live above the theatre for free and share a single landline phone in a hallway with everyone else who was CLEARLY running away from their lives…Helloooo? Was the computer talking directly to me?

I called the theatre and sold myself harder than an info-mercial, and 20 minutes later I had the gig.

The only catch? This theatre was five hours north of Detroit in a tiny little town on the coast of Lake Huron called Alpena, Michigan.

Alpena: mean January temperature 12º.
Alpena: suuuuper Catholic.
Alpena: where you were awakened every morning by the train that ran directly next to said theatre at 5am with a coal delivery from Cadillac.
Alpena: where the two main restaurants were Bob’s Big Boy and… the other Bob’s Big Boy.
Alpena: With the weirdest, most provincial, Twin-Peaksy, and KINDEST gosh darn people you’ve ever met in your life.

Oh Alpena.... BRING. IT.

I packed the Jeep and drove there in the middle of the night with my also-grieving-mom who helped me move in and, miraculously, sort of…let me do this very, very weird thing.

And thus, once, long ago, in a mystical land known as Alpena, Michigan, several very magical things occurred that I shall never forget as long as I live.

- There some seriously eccentric adventures all in a very sketchy white van called “The Deer Slayer”
- I went to some seriously peculiar social events (a few of which included babies in bars)
- I learned all about running a theatre.
- and I did three plays— two of which were pretty good.
- Crucially, I met some quirky, damaged, weird and totally wonderful people all just as lost as I— and we held one another, lifted each other up in a very dark time.

I don’t know that I’d consider many of these people close friends to this day, but I do know that whenever I spontaneously run into them, or see them on social media, or come across a photograph or memory of that era— my heart swells with gratitude the way I assume an aggregate of shipwreck survivors must feel. Because like it or not we went THROUGH SOMETHING together—and those feelings and memories are ever-present. And I am grateful to those people who held me when I was a child on the verge of womanhood, at my very lowest.

There were a lot of stories.
But this story?
This one was the most important of them all...

* * *

I had a philosophy teacher in High School who once advised never to make life-changing decisions in February— and he certainly had a point. This? This was one of those Februarys. It was deepest February in Alpena Michigan—12 degrees Fahrenheit and life was cold in every sense.

The theatre had recently completed its not-so-stellar run of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, and we were all in a deep funk as we began one of the most beautiful musicals of all time— The Fantasticks.

The thing was? It was February. In ALPENA. A blue-collar town of roughly 10,000 people.
9.23 square miles.
One high school.
A lake.
Like maaaaaybe 5 restaurants.
And a set of railroad tracks.
Oh! And the World's Largest Cement Plant wouldn’t ya know?
Who on earth was going to schlep through all that snow to GO TO THE THEATRE?

But here’s the thing: in the middle of deepest February our motley little crew of broken people was bang in the middle of the doing The Fantasticks, and you know what? The Fantasticks was… good.
Really good, actually.

It wasn’t ideally cast, or sung, or particularly gorgeous to look at, but man: every single person in that cast knew what it meant to lose something, to break apart and put yourself back together. Every single person on stage knew what the heck was UP with that beautiful little play, and we were giving it to you with every scrap, every single fiber of our fragmented beings.

Kent flew in to play the young lover Matt so we were re-living our Interlochen magical fantasies, our professional cast of lost-but-talented-actors-living-above-the-theater were filling the roles beautifully, and we had a duet of local men playing the Dads so beautifully it evoked extreme emotions in everyone.  Something about this work felt important, and universal and like it deserved to be shared.

Basically? This production was one helluva little wonder, and we managed to play… to NO ONE.  And when I say “no one,” I mean it: there were days when thirty-six people were in the audience.  There were days when there were SEVEN people in the audience—and I would know: I ran the freakin’ box office.

So tra la la: there we all were— bleeding away, baring the beautiful nakedness of splintered souls to NO ONE, in the asshole of winter, in the middle of freakin' nowhere.

It was bleak….
…and heartbreaking.
    …and soul-crushing.
How could it not be?
No one was out there—if a tree falls in the forest does it make a noise?
If seven people see your beautiful play does it even matter?
What and WHO on earth are we even doing this for?

And then one day… a miracle happened.

We had just completed a midweek matinee where we had played to our smallest house thus far— a house of six. Six people. I changed out of my costume. I locked up the office, and, as one had to do between shows, I walked through the lobby in order to exit the building and re-enter immediately next door to the resident entrance of our apartments above the theatre. I moved swiftly—after all, I had soup to make and tears to shed about the state of my life.

And there he was: a man, probably in his mid-fifties, dressed in thick winter trousers, heavy-duty boots, a buffalo plaid winter coat, and a John Deer hat. This man was a living stereotype of typical Northern Michigan GUY—what on earth was he doing sitting by the entrance of a theatre? And why did he look so pensive? Was he lost? Was he ill? I approached him very slowly and asked:

    “Sir? Hello there, can I help you?”

He made no reply.

    “…Is everything okay?”

The man shifted on the bench beside the door, eyes locked firmly to the ground, and it was only then that I could see he had clearly been crying.

    “Oh, yeah” he said in a voice that evoked one scoffing off feeling “I uh— I just had the afternoon off and I saw that this play was happening and I thought, heck, why not? So I came in and uh… yeah. I guess I didn’t expect it to uhh— ya know, hit me so hard…” His voice, laced thickly with his Michigan accent was breaking, “I— I thought it was really good. It uh— it made me—yeah. I’m fine I just … I… I really need to call my daughter…”

My insides lurched. It was as if the Universe was shining a spotlight on this man, in this lobby, at this particular moment in my little life.

...Who are we doing this for...?

We do it for THAT guy.

Every show, in every audience, in every part of the world.
Even Alpena, Michigan.
In an audience filled with six people.
Because that day?
That day where six people were in attendance…? THAT GUY WAS THERE.

And when I tell you I think of That Guy every single day, I mean it.

So thank you, dearest and most beloved man I will never know or see again— you were a beacon of light in the darkest of days, and shine brightly in my memory, and continue to ignite every corner of my sometimes doubting heart.

It was all worth it.
It continues to be worth it.
Because then, now, and evermore: I do it for That Guy.

Alpena, Michigan

06 February, 2016


ANTIGONE. [An aperture in]  …I’m tired, Father.

OEDIPUS. [Beat.] When you were born, you were hard on your mother.
    you came in to this world early, and raging.
You could not wait to be alive.
You do not yet belong here with me.

[SHE places HER hands upon HIS missing eyes… this is theirs, the ultimate gesture of intimacy.]

You gave me life.
It came with purpose—
    both were gifts.

[ANTIGONE exits.  OEDIPUS is silent for a few moments.]

Love for this earth
    For life itself,
    And love for you:
There is nothing more.

And in the end,
    may silence make you strong…

01 February, 2016

In My Life: Mama

Catherine Silber - my mother. 
Los Angeles, California, 1969
Happy Birthday Mama, my mother, inspiration and best friend. 

25 January, 2016

A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns

In hono(u)r of Robert Burns Night held annually in Scotland on January 25th, my favo(u)rite of his, in both poetic and sung form. 

O my Luve is like a red, red rose
   That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
   That’s sweetly played in tune.

So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
   So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
   Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
   And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will love thee still, my dear,
   While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!
   And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my luve,
   Though it were ten thousand mile.

20 January, 2016

Favo(u)rite Performances: A List

1. Charles Dance in Shadowlands 
I spent the first 8 years of my adulthood in the UK, first training in Glasgow at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and then working in the West End in London— so many of my early, endemic theatre experiences are from those years. There were countless performances I’d describe as “wonderful,” but the one that sticks out as unspeakably thriling. That was Charles Dance as C.S. Lewis in Shadowlands at the Novello in 2008.

I was performing in Fiddler on the Roof (because, yes, it is the only show I do…) down the road at The Savoy so I took in a mid-week matinee and scarcely had any tears left for my own show that evening.

I was so overwhelmed by the entire production that I returned a second time (something I had, up until that point, never done before) and was, in fact, moved even more intensely upon re-viewing.

Incidentally [*crazy alert*] later that week, I happened to see Charles Dance purchasing (of all things) a meat pie in Covent Garden. I tried with all my might to muster up the courage/language/scrap of dignity to speak to him, thank him, be even remotely articulate. But alas, I hid behind a pillar starring at him like a stalker and just watched him buy and eat that pie… what a weirdo... Clearly, he truly left me speechless. 

It is/was my favorite performance I have/had ever seen in London.

2. American Idiot 
I can’t even talk/write about this one— woof (look: animal noises are a more apt description of my emotions than human language). It is so fascinating because AI isn’t really my “aesthetic” (I tend to enjoy classics more than contemporary things), nor is rock really my thing. But 9$84yo3h&l@ksjdnb*%clka¢sj¡, it didn’t just move me: IT TOTALLY DESTROYED ME.

How much you ask? It is the only time I have ever been obliterated so completely by a piece of theatre that the ushers came up to the puddle that was me after the theatre had cleared out and said “Um, miss? Uh, everything…okay? [*sobs more*] Okay well, um, we’re closing up…”

That music was the un-intentional soundtrack to my adolescence. And I know those people. They are my people.

3. The entire original cast of Ragtime 
There is no other piece of theatre that meant more to my family. The Original Cast recording pretty much orchestrated our lives in the late 90s, and no other piece of contemporary theatre has ever rocked me like it. I think you could say that long before I ever saw Ragtime live, it had already formed and shaped my personal connection to, my aesthetic, and my feelings for and about, the theatre. So when my father made it his mission to take our family to New York to see it, suffice it to say: WE MELTED. We cried a lake of tears and it not only met our expectations, it exceeded them.

4. Angela Lansbury in A Little Night Music. 
Anyone who even REMOTELY knows me personally, or follows me on social media, or happens to casually see my iPhone wallpaper knows that I have a mild (read: ridiculously-out-of-control) obsession with my only idol: Angela Lansbury. Can you believe it took me 26 years to see her live on stage?

Having admired her on television, in films and on every cast recording she EVERMADEINTHEHISTORYOFEVER, the very first time I saw her live on stage was as Madame Arcadi in the 2009 revival of A Little Night Music and… I died a little.

Could I meet her afterward at stage door? Nope. I’m actually quite shy, and I also would never have known what to say… it was pretty magical to be 25 feet away from your only idol for the first time, and also? She was marvelous and classy and beyond beautiful in the role.

5. The Seagull at Lake Lucille 
 This cannot even be called a production, but is more accurately to be titled an “event” of epic proportions. I am a major fan of both Chekhov and “marathon theatre,” but this took both to the utter extreme. Founded by Melissa Kievman and Brian Mertes in 2003 the Lake Lucille project re-framed their Rockland County home as a performance venue. Basically? You drive out to Lake Lucille. You park near their house. And you (and maybe 90 other people) witness an all-encompassing, site-specific, marathon theatre event where 4 acts of The Seagull takes the entire day to witness.

In between Acts 2 and 3, you eat a gigantic potluck meal in a field. Actors enter from across the lake, they swim when they exit. Live music accompanies a parade that walks the crowd to the following scene. Mind. Blown.

It didn’t hurt that my treasured pal Gabriel Ebert played Konstantin with such depth and vigor, who is absolutely the best Kostya I have ever seen live (and I’ve seen a baker’s dozen).

6. Danny Burstein in The Drowsy Chaperone 
GUYS: Adolpho.

We were in the presence of genius there, folks, and anyone who saw it knows it. I don’t think there is anything else to say other than it is a performance that was so out-of-this-world I’m still not quiiiiite sure it was real.

7. Hoon Lee in The King & I 
I saw Bart Scher’s revival in October and while the entire production was wholly spectacular, Hoon Lee blew my brains out. Allow me to quote from the email I sent him 45 minutes after seeing it:

Hoon. I just wanted to tell you that I saw the matinee of The King and I today and the entire production, but particularly your performance absolutely blew me the f*** away. I was wiping tears from my NECK. What you did was so incredibly nuanced, genuine, funny(!), overwhelmingly powerful, and detailed— a true work of art, not to mention beautifully sung. You moved me so deeply— I just absolutely had to reach out! You're turning something out that is SO classy and breathtaking. 

Hoon is an amazing guy too— a Harvard grad, humble, funny, nerdy, a family-man, and one OUT OF THE WORLD KING OF SIAM.

You can still see him through February.
Run to see it.

8. Urinetown. 
Oh my Lordy loo. (Pun intended) All of it.

Like: what the actual HECK Original Cast of Urinetown? I'm gonna need you to dial the awesome down because us mere mortals cannot cope.

Theatre legends paying to pee, schooling us in irony and nuevo-farce, and off course, John Cullum, Jeff McCarthy, Hunter Foster, and Nancy Opel belting Zs. It was painfully hilarious, not to mention oddly poignant.

I saw it with Michael Arden in limited view seats and still, when it was over I wanted to press proverbial ‘rewind’ and just see the spectacular insanity again.

9. Alan Cumming in Cabaret 
I was lucky enough to see Alan (fellow RCS alum doncha know) in both the 1998 revival (and the 2014 revival [of the revival?])

The 1998 viewing rocked me—and not only had me thinking outside the box, but it blew UP the box and likely scorched my previously-held, teenaged “aesthetics” to ash. His was the first time I had ever seen an actor dare to not just “get dirty” (and not—though definitely appropriate—in the sexual sense). I mean he was b*lls-to-the-wall, cover-yourself in muck and glitter and disgrace and don’t give a solitary f*** what anyone thinks: just get out there and put it all on the line without a scrap of fear or shame.

Not a worry.
Not a speck of fear.
Just tons of grit.
Creative flow.
 It left me awestruck.

The cheating answers:

from Oedipus at Colonus
10. My students at Pace University 
Okay. I know they are not On, Off, or Off-off Broadway, but they might be anyfreakinsecond. I have the honor of being an acting professor at Pace University in the extraordinary School of Performing Arts, and what I have witnessed in these bright, beautiful, open and glorious young people is the future of our industry and nothing short of miraculous.

My class specializes in classics, so the work I’ve witnessed and lead has been primarily in five (mind-melting) ancient Greek tragedies, The Seagull, and The Spoon River Anthology. I could never select just one performance, but suffice it to say that Hammerstein’s words ring true:

“It’s a very ancient saying, but a true and honest thought, that if you become a teacher, by your pupils you’ll be taught.”

11. Tyne Daly in Master Class
I know it is sort of cheating to talk about an actor one has shared a stage with, but Tyne’s performance as Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s Master Class revival in 2011 is one that rises to top of best stage partners I’ve ever had the honor of playing with.

 Tyne treated me like an equal (on and off stage), and I endeavored to deserve that honor. Her “game” improved mine, and what we alchemically created together was one of the greatest, and most precious creations of my life.

Her Callas was towering, tender, monstrous, human, vulnerable, honest, and ultimately, incandescent.

As long as I live, I shall never forget it.

30 December, 2015

'Unending Love' by Rabindranath Tagore

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…

In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, its age-old pain,
Its ancient tale of being apart or together.
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time:
You become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another.
We have played along side millions of lovers, shared in the same
Shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell-
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you
The love of all man’s days both past and forever:
Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours –
And the songs of every poet past and forever.

© Nick Bantock

28 December, 2015

Ask Al: Stay on Your Own 'Mat'

Dear Al, 

I am an acting student at a prominent American conservatory, and one of the things I find so difficult and frustrating is avoiding comparing myself to my peers! For example, I happen to be a little bit more well-read than my classmates, but have two left feet and no singing voice. I get so jealous of their skills, and so down on myself for being “behind!” It often makes me hopeless! Any guidance? I feel like my mind if so full of comparison, I’m losing track of my own journey. 

Thank you! 



Dear Ilana,

I will open with one of my favorite quotes of all time, from our brilliant 26th President Theodore Roosevelt:

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” 

[*Mic drop*]

Okay so hold on: what does this mean exactly?

We are creatures of competition—that’s natural— everyone from Darwin to The Amazing Race has displayed countless times that human beings are just fighting to survive and we want to be The Best whether not being eaten by a bear or $250,000 are on the line.

Thing is, MOST of the time we are NOT being eaten by bears or running to the top of an Incan temple for prize money. We are just living our lives and trying to grow. Yet, we cannot help glancing across the lawn at the dude with the fancier car, or sitting beside the couple at a dinner party with the “better marriage,” and the lady at Starbucks with perfect hair. Or perhaps the mom with the better behaved children, the girl in class who can belt a Z without warming up, or the bastard people who stole your career.
You get it.

 Now this is where we get into analogy territory (which I like to call, that’s right, an AL-nalogy…) If you have ever taken a yoga class, you know that it is easy to get caught up in what other people are doing on THEIR mats. As one allows their eyes to stray, you get an upside-down glimpse at that bastard-woman next to you who is doing a perfect triangle pose and you behold your own crappy inabilities and feel a deep twinge of envy and hatred of Perfect-Triangle-Pose-Lady who, now that you look even more obsessively, is also wearing cuter yoga clothes, dammit.

On the flip side, you might see someone struggling with a pose that comes easily and naturally to you, and feel a sense of self-righteous atta-girl pride. Both of these things are completely:

     1. Normal
     2. Unhelpful. 

The beauty of yoga is that it is a space to get away from competition. Yoga recognizes that we all come to our practice (and yes, it is called a "practice" for that is exactly what it is) with different abilities, strengths, and flexibility.

But hold up, wait a minute: why do we have to keep that mentality exclusively for yoga class? Can we not expand ourselves juuuuuuust a touch and take that mindset into the actual freakin world? Of course we can. We just have to get a grip.

We all compare ourselves to others (yes, even me: who you are asking for advice; and even theatre-famous people, and even really famous people who are Michelle-Obama-famous) Ultimately, the end goal is not to live our lives flawlessly (or to be just like our neighbors), but to listen to our individual bodies, heart and souls, and to find our own pace of growth, learning and expansion. In our careers, as in yoga, there’s a tendency to let our ambition—and our own egos—guide our decisions according to other people’s success.

 If it becomes difficult to stay focused on your own progress and to be present with where you are in your life here are a few things to remember:

1. Don’t Compare 
Did your roommate get a date with the cute guy you like?
Did your boyfriend book the crappy musical you were using to define your entire sense of worth and you did not?
Is your best friend skinnier/more stylish/cuter/better at life than you are?

Don’t panic: you are not a loser, they are on their journey, and you are on yours. It is more than likely that they sometimes look over at you and can’t believe how annoyingly perfect you are at something that you don’t even value because you are too busy being a meany-pants to yourself. Worth, value, marketability, humor, beauty, intelligence, coolness, and pretty much EVERYTHING else is RELATIVE.
In fact, ever heard the phrase “everything’s relative?”
Oh yeah, that would be because it IS.

It’s one thing to look to others for inspiration, but we have to be careful not to measure our worth based on others’ accomplishments. In moments like these you must recall (and possibly recite) Teddy Roosevelt’s genius quote like the mantra it clearly is, center yourself and get that grip! If we fill our minds with comparisons we will completely lose out on truly living—the joys of being in the moment, the celebration of our uniqueness, special gifts, and personal callings.

 2. Don’t Judge. 
Listen to me: the more you judge others, the more you fear and feel judgement.
This was a big one for me to come to grips with.
Think about this: what are the insecurities that come your mind right away?
Thunder thighs?
Thinning hair?
Money woes?
Relationship drama?

Whatever it may be I’d wager that a part of your consciousness goes through life silently (or sometimes not-so-silently) picking apart, envying, and ultimately judging eeeevery skinny bitch in a magazine, every girl in an ill-fitting dress on the subway, assessing every head of hair, picking apart every belted D, everyone else’s relationship, wardrobe, GPA, income, or whatever.

Come on...
... Am I right?

I’ll own that this used to be me. Until one day I had a major epiphany, took stock of my inner dialogue and and had to admit it: I had lost DAYS OF MY LIFE thinking about how other people’s asses look in a pair of jeans [*sad trombone*]. I vowed to snap out of it. 

Now think about the things you are confident about (or, if you are really messed up, the things that are “fine” about yourself so you basically don’t really give them a lot of thought).
Do you have really pretty straight teeth?
Great legs?
Did you win the hair lottery?
Are you talented at stuff?
Are you #blessed with great skin/nails/style AND YOU JUST FORGOT ABOUT THAT?

Here’s the thing: I guarantee you that the things you don’t focus on (like your banging legs you never have to work on) you NEEEEEVER judge about other people. If you have great skin, you often don’t even notice other people’s skin—it is not on your mind, it has no currency for you. Am I right?

Thus, you can assume that most people don’t give a hoot about your jeans size or acne scars or the fact that you don’t have a boyfriend. Most people are too busy obsessing over their own bad hair day.

Now look: some people are judging, just like you were— but screw em. They don’t need to be scolded, they mostly need a hug, and frankly, so do you. Hug that hug and move on.

The lesson: The less you JUDGE, the less you FEEL JUDGED. If you take that ticker tape of judge-y nasty-talk out of your own head, you simply become accustomed to a life in which that kind of internal dialogue is not a part of your existence, and you also come to assume it is not a part of anyone else’s.
That is called inner peace.
It is a crucial component of acceptance.

The challenge: for the next week, try to be aware of every single time you internally judge another person based on your own insecurities. Just take note of how often you do it. The following week, note it, and consciously change the internal dialogue to something neutral or positive.

Keep that practice up and before long, that ticker tape of negativity will be neutralized and TA DAAAA! You’ll have your brain back.

3. Practice a Lil’ Self-Compassion 
On the mat, the body is boss. If our hamstrings are screaming out in pain, we don’t go all “mind over matter” on that sh*t. We listen. We accept our body’s limits. We must show ourselves the utmost compassion when it comes to growth. Yogis accept that the body knows best, and therefore don’t attach to the yearnings of the ego, which can often sound a little something like this:

     “Why the hell did you get into that handstand?… You were thiiiiis close to nailing it!!”

Translated? Don’t worry about:
1. What Perfect McBlondiePants has achieved
2. What you achieved yesterday
3. What you hope to achieve today
4. What any of it mean for your uncertain future

 It is all about what you are capable of right now—accepts whatever that is completely.
So, Be kind to yourself.
Release all expectations.
Honor yourself for simply showing up.

4. Focus on YOUR practice/ process, Focus on YOUR mental and physical experience/growth 
Yogis use the sensations of their body to guide their practice. Bringing awareness without judgement to all that we see, feel, smell and hear helps to focus our attention on the mat, back on the Now.  So… when you feel yourself all up in yo’ head – Stop. Look around. Listen to the sounds. BREATHE. Focus on your breath. Take a big whiff of your surroundings. Take stock of what you are feeling, experiencing. Respect and appreciate it all. When you focus on the basics, your psyche gets right back into alignment. The “Crazytown bus” takes a detour back to Sane-ville.
Inhale… exhale…
Welcome back to the mat, my friend.
Your mat.
Your life and journey and no one else’s.

26 December, 2015

12 December, 2015

Tzeitel's 8 Nights of Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah readers, from me, Al(exandra) Silber.
I wanted to escort you through the eight days of the Festival of Lights — with a little bit of Broadway razzle dazzle to keep the butts in the seats. So sit back, relax, grab your dreidel, prepare yourself for an onslaught of latkes and songs in Db minor, and get ready to raise a glass and drink L'Chaim to life.

© Joan Marcus
This year, on the evening of December 6 in the secular calendar—Jews the world over will light a single candle in their eight-branched Hanukkah menorah (also called the Hanukkiyah- חנוכיח). The Jewish community commemorates a miracle of the burning oil by lighting candles on the menorah every night for eight nights—one the first night, two the second, three the third, and so on. There is a ninth candle in the middle of the called the shamash, which is the “servant light,” in that it is lit first, then used to light all the other candles.

The appeal of a ‘festival of light’ in the season when the sun makes its briefest appearance is obvious: the kindling of light brightens up not only the night but also our moods, and symbolizes the hope of the sun's return in a few months' time. By the eighth night the spirit of joy and celebration that has been building all week comes to its fullest expression.

But you know what full expression means in the theatre world: it means big feels.
It means a production number about what you really really want at the close of Act 1.
Thing is, in Fiddler on the Roof, the close of Act 1 is a pogrom…Thus! I give you what we at The Broadway Theatre’s have as our own relationships to candles and light.

Macy's Parade Rehearsal
Jews are of course not the only people to celebrate light around the the winter solstice.
Light features prominently in many winter festivals, such as the Hindu festival of Diwali, Kwanzaa, Yalda, and of course, the lighting of Christmas trees.

And what is the best way to celebrate winter in NYC? Why! to cozy up inside a nice warm theatre and take in a Broadway show. And why not make that Broadway show one where everyone is bundled up in the Pale of Settlement in the dead of winter?

After lighting the candles, the whole family says a special prayer and sings traditional Hanukkah songs...(See what I did there…?) TRADITIONal Hanukkah songs like “Dreidel and Dreidel” and…um, well, an encore of “Dreidel Dreidel…”

At least at Fiddler we can sing “Tradition” over and over again, supported by our incredible orchestra lead by shiny genius Musical Director Ted Sperling.

Our Orchestra!

Oh! And what would Hanukkah be without music and dancing? Like this shtetl warm-up to “Moves Like Jagger” before the show with Tzeitel and Hodel:

What UP, internet?

Hanukkah has also been given a historical narrative, for, in contrast to the other major Jewish holidays, Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. Rather, its origins are traced back to mid-second century BCE. King Antiochus IV forbade the practice of Jewish laws and customs, and violated their Temple. A small Jewish army led by Judah Maccabee to fight the powerful Greek army and won.

Now that you know Hanukkah’s history, why not indulge in a few historical points from our Fiddler company. Here are some company members in shall we say “vintage” productions of Fiddler:

This isn’t Lori Wilner’s first Fiddler rodeo! She played Golde in both the last Broadway and recent Goodspeed productions:

And who is that? Whyyyyy that would be ME, giving you my 15-year-old Golde:

Michael Bernardi is Fiddler on the Roof royalty— as the son of the late great Hershel Bernardi (one of history’s great Tevye’s), he is (literally) wearing his father’s boots, and carrying on not just a tradition, but a legacy:

And let’s give the Greeks a little shout out with this photo of our resident Greek, George Psomas (who plays Avram the book seller):
George Psomas: GREEK PERSON

The Temple then had to be re-sanctified to the worship of the God of Israel. According to the Talmud, olive oil was required to keep the menorah ablaze within the Temple. But when the Jews returned to their oil supply, they found that there was only enough oil to burn for a single day. Eight days would be required to prepare a new supply of oil. The light in the temple would be doused long before then.
But a miracle happened…The oil in the temple lasted eight incredible days: exactly the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. Thus, Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, came to be. The miracle is a reminder to all of us about endurance and sustenance against all odds.

And, who better to represent said “miracle” than our own, and MY own Motel Kamzoil, Adam Kantor, who I have the honor of listening to every night as he sings “Miracle of Miracles” to me. This. This is us:

©David Gordon
©Allison Stock

6. FAMILY & ANCESTRY!Hanukkah is also a wonderful time to bring light into the lives of those around us. At Fiddler, we try to celebrate with our nuclear theatre family, which we, naturally, call “The Bursteins.” 
©Bruce Glikas
7. TRADITIOOOOOOONS! TRADITIONS!Traditions are important to all Jews… so important that we open one of the greatest musicals ever written with a song entitled, um, “TRADITION.” So what are the Hanukkah traditions?
We eat a LOT of food. I mean— we always eat a lot of food, but holidays are usually pretty spectacular. On Hanukkah it is customary to eat foods that are cooked in oil, such as doughnuts, called sufganiot, and potato pancakes, called latkes to commemorate the miracle of the oil, as are the oily foods traditionally prepared for the festival.
You hang with your family.
You light the menorah.
You sing songs (like “Dreidel”…on repeat…).
After all, without our traditions our lives would be as shaky and a Fiddler on the Roof.
Right? Of course right!

Hanukkah is a special holiday to connect with your loved ones — both blood-related and chosen. It is all about coming together to celebrate, and what better way to celebrate than with those you adore?
The six Fiddler "lovers" call ourselves the “Mishpucha,” which literally translates to “family,” and often means “extended family, and then some.” Well, there couldn’t be a better definition for the way the six of us feel about one another.
We go on triple dates.
And indulge in an on-going text chain.
And laugh and laugh and laugh.
And, as you can see from these diabetes-inducing photographs taken by Playbill at our Press Day, the love is real, and just like Jacques Brel, the love is alive and well and living in Anatevka. 


Finally, remember wonderful Playbill readers, the true meaning of Hanukkah:
Beyond all reason or logic, we, too — like the light in the ancient Temple of Jerusalem — are inextinguishable. In the darkest and most desperate hours, when we mine ourselves for more than we ever could conceive was possible, the fuel is there. So that we may continue on.
Hope may be fragile, but it is there.
Like light. . .

Sometimes blazing, sometimes merely a tender, trembling flicker that regardless, cannot be extinguished, that flame winking even in the darkest hours. So we continue to learn again and again as time churns ever onward.

Happy Hanukkah, Playbill readers. May we all mine ourselves for more — tonight and always.


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