Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Passing on

... there is a rhythmic undulation when traveling. When a child he watched and listened absorbing the process in a kind of intergenerational journey continuance. Ancestors witnessing from the corners guiding the way. Once on the path it is a song/call/dance towards an engagement. The practice is acquired, exchanged then valued. Each repetition is a creative movement embodiment ...

... we, by ourselves, cannot bring about the kinds of knowing that endure. So we journey together beyond geographical and cultural boundaries grounded in a place-specific standing under territory and self, experience and innocence, knowledge and play ...

... in the streets of Ottawa and in the homes of my relations I watch my son move with strength and with a sensual maturity shaped by attention, awareness and insight. My mother on my arm, weak and unsteady, follows doing the things she always did giving thanks. Myself, unsure as to exactly how the push/pull of existence works right now feel between, precisely as I am now on the plane flying ...

... flying to a place I call the Temple. Yes it is in the space between, in the air, connecting something to something, mother to son, the place of my ancestors to ... well it is in this connectedness I locate the feeling of home ...

We walk in a shared reality traversing all the places (in)be[ing](to)(we)en while we pass on.


::Note:: ... A week in Ottawa staying with Don mapping my ignorance ... Mom's 90th birthday present for us all ... Huge thanks Don ... Big hug Stefan ... special warmth to Brant, Betty, Margaret, Marge, Shirley, Deb, Tim & others ... Till next year! 

Tuesday, March 03, 2015


If you should go half dreaming where 
the soul quietly leaves the body 
insensitive to all suffering.

saying "I love you."

& encounter millions, desiring hundreds 
but love only the one who haunts life 
& watches death 

say "I love you."

Then go to the horizon of the impossible 
believing happiness will inevitably come.

And get rid of your identity, bury it in a hiding place
like a secret caught mid-air in a trust so gentle.

hearing "I love you."

::Note:: ... the Temple space has been unused this past month ... have not heated the space ... with the weather extremes yo-yo - melting/freezing ... ice has appeared on the carpet this morning ... like a body ... soon disappeared ... like all the experiments within the Temple space ... reminiscent of  Dante @tweet

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Stoon Shakespeare Lab

Sometimes it's best to let the director speak:

Directors Notes 

    So, what exactly are we up to? Well, I've had a number of conversations and debates over the past few years as to what a theatre company really needs in order to put on a Shakespeare play. Do you have to have a dozen actors to do Shakespeare justice? Do you have to have elaborate historical costumes? And that isn't knocking large cast productions (nothing makes me happier than wearing chainmail and wielding a sword) or even knocking large cast productions (more actors on stage, yes please!). But if we're already willing to accept that we're all in a theatre and not in a castle that is over two thousand years old, then how "simple" can we go? Shakespeare's company didn't trouble themselves with accurate costumes, so we're not worried about it either. If Shakespeare's company had men playing women, then I see no reason why women can't play men (if an actor is wearing a dress, then they're playing a woman). If someone says they have a sword then they have a sword.

    We've got the story, and we've got the text. Let's find out if it's enough.

    And while we're at it, why don't we do one of Shakespeare's plays that most people don't know. Our friends at Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan and Persephone Theatre will no doubt continue to do an excellent job of bringing Shakespeare to life, but they can't do them all. We're just bringing a different kind of Shakespeare to the table. We hope you're willing to come along for the ride.


... those were the notes in the program to The Saskatoon Shakespeare Lab's Cymbeline ... mission statement: "committed to giving theatre artists the chance to explore the plays of Shakespeare to bring Shakespeare to students and to produce the lesser known works of Shakespeare." (taken from the postcard flyer) ...

... so with some high school students I went ... debates will rage where two or more passionate theatre lovers meet ... witness this twitter "conversation" between a theatre maker and a critic ... but no debate after this show ... just awe, wonder, curiosity and thankfulness ... 

... something about just the story being told, the text exquistely articulated and the space so open, empty and white allowing the action to carve into the imagination ... something about the music, a delicate funeral lament sung, a ukelele toyed and plucked on and a startling thunder crash which tuned the imagination  ... something about the harsh white light of day, the soft blue light of night and the silhouettes of ghosts that so precisely pierced the imagination ... it was enough ... no it was just the right enough to free the imaginative body, space and image into a curious, complex story ...

... just right enough ... my Polish mentor Zygmunt Molik loved to share the "spring" metaphor ... I hear his broken English ... holding an invisible spring between his thumb and forefinger: "you see if you push the spring too hard it collapses and breaks ... if you don't press hard enough then nothing ... you must find just the right pressure then release and it will fly ..."

What was the pressure that made the imagination fly in Cymbeline?

 ... the actors ... yes their complete selfless effort ...the work of six to be seventeen characters was an uncomprosmising challenge ... & we experienced their work as play ... 

In everyday life, "if" is a fiction, in the theatre "if" is an experiment. In everyday life, "if" is an evasion, in the theatre "if" is the truth. When we are  persuaded to believe in this truth then the theatre and life are one. This is a high aim. It sounds like hard work. To play needs much work. But when we experience the work as play, then it is not work anymore. A play is play.”― Peter Brook

... the truth was we did not  ask whether that was a real fight with real swords and a real wound ... or could a poison cause death & resurrection ... or was that based on a true story of a king & queen ... or can a woman with flowing hair really be disguised as a young man ... 
... we listened and saw a battle and questioned why they were fighting & who exactly they were & when they won or lost what did they win or lose ... we watched a diamond ring move from finger to finger to finger and back again asking whose finger wore it well & who decieved us ... we never wondered whether the diamond was real ... 

... we listened and watched the story ... & it's all in the telling ... we think we tell stories but often the stories tell us ... learning to free the imagination requires the actor to hear the story, to have questions, to pause and hear silence, to dare to name it and then become the storyteller ... all of this takes, what my wife suggests, a "distanced spontaneity" (that's another writing for another time) ...

... I could quibble ... I always see those practiced skillful artists as my former students desiring more ... the formalistic structure demanded bold associative/abstract projections not illustrative markers of mountains or castle ... & play the angles, twist the bodies to create dynamic spaces ... no, no more pedagogy ... all of you simply did it ... released us into the story ... 

... Stoon Shakespeare Lab did it all ... artists explored, students reached out and the lesser known became known ... Thanks.

::Note:: ... i can only watch in admiration the work of Skye&Josh who so inspired me as an educator too many years ago now ... how they continue to inspire me to this day ... the picture is of six of the eight students who came with me ... i put them onstage afterwards saying silently "Hope to see you there again in a few years" ...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


You bring all you know about a person. Their life, their desires, their dreams, their likes, their dislikes, their duties and their practice.Yet it is the photos that haunt.

I remember entering the retirement home on a January evening. The body lay resting on the bed. She rested a lot these days. The mind - well who knows what is in the mind. Not wanting to startle but hoping she would wake, washed the few glasses accumulated from the daily pill taking each morning and night, collected the invoices and flyers sorting then dispatching most to the trash, checked the telephone messages, turned on the television to Law and Order, though not too loud, and waited.

Waited what seemed a long time. Only half an hour it turned out to be.

I felt she was ok. Still sometimes sleep looks so close to death. Couldn't really hear any sound. She was almost ninety. 

- Mom. Mom. I whispered.

She didn't stir. I reached down and brushed her shoulder.

- What? Oh, hi. My stomach's feeling much better now.

- You had an upset stomach?

- Yes. Right after supper. I'm quite tired.

- Ok. I'll come back tomorrow.

- Sorry you had to come over.

- No, don't be sorry. I wanted to come. Just rest. Get a good sleep and I'll look in on you tomorrow.

- How are you?

- Everything is fine Mom. Just sleep.

Reached for her hand and looked into her half shut eyes. She lay back and seemed to return immediately to sleep.

Quietly left the room, kept the hallway and bathroom lights on just as she liked. Put on my coat and slipped out of the apartment to the elevator.  Outside in the cold night with the sound of cracking ice underfoot I wondered if slipping into death was as easy as slipping into sleep or slipping out of a room.

At that moment I slipped on the black ice next to the car. Steadied myself and muttered - you can't even see it.

Writing this now I know one time and we can never really see it there will be no tomorrow and ...

And what? 

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Prayer on MacBird

Morning Prayer January 19, 2015
Our theatre guild has just wrapped another offering to our school and community. Last weekend, the play MacBird showed to audiences including grade 8 students who will become part of our Feehan Family. Thrilling tension, outstanding lead performances, many strong supporting performances, original writing, technical innovation – Macbird showcased the talent and commitment of our students and of course the guidance and permission of Mr. Montalbetti.
Macbird is based on Shakespeare’s MacBeth, and as all those who have been grade 10 English students remember fondly, both plays are about ambition which overpowers compassion in the lead character. Macbird is tempted by power, the ability to control other people, and their desire leads to violence which spirals into their destruction. The play prompts us to ask and to wonder: when have we been tempted to put aside compassion and pursue what we want ruthlessly?
Theatre, and all art, allows us to explore powerful emotions in ways which give us freedom from them. The word “catharsis” refers to when we feel so strongly with what is happening on stage that we essentially flush them out of our system. As we leave the theatre, we return to our lives better able to live with these strong emotions and still make good decisions.
Why these plays are so important is because they show us the reality of power. By the bloody end of the play, it is clear what the consequences of violence are. Macbird tries to seize power through violence, but in doing so makes himself powerless. He tries to rule through fear, yet he is the one most afraid. When he intentionally erases his compassion for others, he also loses compassion for himself, and submits himself to pain and violence.
This morning, we have a chance to think about how we want to live.
We only ever have happiness when we have compassion for others.  When we close off our natural concern for each other, we become locked up in ourselves like Macbird, afraid and alone. When we try to gain power to make others do what we want, we become enslaved to a thinking that only includes being controlled or controlling. God always clarifies the choice for his people: you can choose a life of peace or you can choose death by violence. In the end, it’s the only choice.
Jesus said, “My peace I leave you, my peace I give you.” I’m pretty sure that Jesus walked in the world so confident of his Father’s love because he shared peace with everyone he met. The human life of Jesus was the most happy one ever, and the saints who found him lived happy lives, peaceful within even if surrounded by violence.
Today the church celebrates St Agnes, who was a virgin like St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and she lived in the 3rd century in Rome. She affirmed she had the right to live without a man, and to choose her own faith, and the Romans sentenced her to death at the age of 12.  
St. Agnes, meet Macbird. Macbird, meet St. Agnes. One of you wielded the sword, the other was pierced by it. One of you prayed for your enemies, and the other could not pray when you wanted to. 
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father,
you know our weakness and
you know we want power.
Help us to see clearly that we can only be happy when we love others.
Set us free from the violence we inflict on others
in our words, thoughts and actions.
Show us your love and your peace
so that we never want to hurt others.
Give us the strength that 12-year-old St. Agnes had
to stand by the truth about ourselves.
We ask this with Jesus, your son, and your daughters Agnes and Kateri Tekakwitha, in your Holy Spirit.
St. Agnes pray for us
St Kateri
::Note:: ... prayer written by a colleague. I was moved. Working with the students I hope they get it but often wonder what the audience experiences ... do they get it each in their own way ... thanks Ryan and thank you cast and crew you inspire me ... photo below taken by a colleague at rehearsal ... students called it making love to a pot ...