Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Much Ado About Nothing at Pioneer Theatre Company


Friday night, I joined my friend Blair Howell to see Pioneer Theater Company's out of time production of Much Ado About Nothing

I was delighted with the universe--the design concepts helped to highlight the characters' journies, rather than fight against them. Often times, I find myself pulled in two creative directions--distracted by the world of the play. While the design was exciting--it contributed to the story and helped us to see Beatrice's independence, Hero's grace, and reminded us that Messina was a land on the edge of war, with all the pomp and rigor that comes when you live as soldiers, with soldiers. 

This production chose to highlight this by reminding audiences that it was the very old and the very young who would have stayed out of the wars and participated in the night watch. And so the night watch made up of a grandfather (Max Robinson) and his fierce collection of grandguards. 

The grid patterned set protected us from the warring outside world--while letting in the softly lit sky designed by Paul Miller. The whole world was a match of soft and harsh. Love and War. Honor and deception. Independence and vulnerability. Blues and yellows. (Thank you costume designer Elizabeth Caitlin Ward.)

It was refreshing to hear unmiced actors fill the space with their voices, rather than rely on microphones. At the top of the show, it seemed that the actors were more interested in simply cheating out with their speeches, rather than including the audience in the conversation. You know what I mean--dramatically looking out over the tops of the audience members without any acknowledgement of their existence. But finally, during Act 2--Claudio and Benedick are both alone and they turn and talk directly to the audience, rather than over our heads. I sighed. These soliliquies just make more sense when the audience is included, rather than ignored. From that point on, it seemed that conversations and speeches were more about communicating needs rather than just posturing. 

Beatrice was played with feisty independence and gravity by Rebecca Watson. T. Ryder Smith's Benedick was singularly juvenile and aged at the same time. He enjoyed the world he lived in while he was single and embraced the new world of love as an eager new student. His poetry was bad, but his heart was as charged in this new challenge as it had been when he was fighting as a soldier. Then again, falling in love with Beatrice couldn't have been too different from fighting in a great battle.

As love and war meshed together, we saw glimmers of green in the costumes. 

The grid iron set gave way to ripening vines as the play progressed. Colleen Baum gave a comical and magical performance. More comedic with a touch of magic in the first act--and more magical, but still with a smile of humor in the second act. 

I appreciated Matt August's insistence on carrying the humor through the heartwrenching scenes as well. It allowed the audience to enjoy the gravity, rather than endure it. This was especially enjoyable when Leonato (John Ahlin) and his brother Antonio (Terence Goodman) threaten the offending Claudio (Terrell Donnell Sledge) and Don Pedro (David Manis).

Overall, it was a stunning production where the actors and the designers were able to complement their gifts and create a cohesive and merry storytelling. 

If you want to see it, the show plays at the Pioneer Theater Company through March 8th. For more information, visit http://www.pioneertheatre.org/2013-2014-season/much-ado-about-nothing/

Monday, February 24, 2014

Crazy Dream/Crazy Life

I can only remember snippets now because it's been a couple of hours.

My mom was in it. She was trying to do something, but I didn't know if it was possible. I was trying to help her. But I don't remember what it was.

The clearest memory I have is that I had invented this device where you traveled in a self propelled water turbine type thing.

It looked like this water wheely thingy--only it was clear and plastic and I stood in the middle of it and made it go with my feet. You couldn't sit in it--you were standing--and the wheel turned around you--but you stayed standing as your feet made it move. I decided to ride it from San Francisco to Utah. San Francisco was only a 15 minute water wheel ride away. I started in this clear canal with tall San Francisco buildings all around me. I felt like I was riding through a canyon of beautiful city buildings. Eventually the canal stopped at dry land and I found I could ride my wheel over the land as well. Then I saw another canal and dropped my wheel into the canal.

This time the water was heavy with mud and I could barely move. I saw something moving to the side and realized it was a snake. Then as I went further into the bog, a huge snake the width of a man and about 15 feet long sidled up along my clear wheel. I don't know how I did it--but I managed to retreat from the bog and go back. The fear of the giant snakes woke me up and I tried to make sure I remembered my dream.

But the beginning part is lost to me. Hmmm... Riding a glass wheel into a snake filled bog? What does that mean Mr. Freud?

There was this basketball game happening too somewhere, but I didn't want to play in it. I just wanted to get things done while others were distracted by the game. Hmmm...

Memory is such a funny thing.

Yesterday was a great day. The women of the choir at church sang "I Feel My Savior's Love" and the two speakers were excellent and inspiring. Seriously. I have a new calling at church. I'm the 2nd Counselor in the Relief Society Presidency. Well, one of them. We have a large ward of adults--so there are 6 relief societies. I'm really excited to get to know the women in the presidency and to get to know the women in the relief society better. The word that keeps coming back to me is "counsel". I am not leading, I'm counseling. I have to remember this when I feel inclined to be get all bossypants about things. I think it will help me to be a better person honestly--and so in that way, I'm excited about it. I am nervous about whether I'm up for the task though. But I will try very hard. And that's all I can really do.

Yesterday was the first day, and I realized before I went in that I couldn't sit in my front corner bench by the piano with my feet up on the bench, eating candy and playing games on my phone during the lesson anymore. Now I have to sit up front with my legs together, paying attention. I shall behave like a lady now! I will miss my bench.

My step-dad has been in the hospital for the past little bit. It's been a great opportunity to gather with my siblings and witness how much love my mom and he share. They are so cute. Kim and I tried to give my mom a break for a few hours Saturday, but he kept asking for her. It was absolutely tender. They've been married for 23 years now. My favorite part was watching Kim feed her dad. "You took care of me, now I get to take care of you." It was a sweet moment. She's a great nurse.

I am not a good nurse. But I do what I can! I brought daffodils and some green beans and biscuits from KFC so my mom would eat something she enjoyed.

He's going to heal--but some things just take time.

Last night, I fell into bed at 8, but didn't manage to get to sleep until 11. I woke up feeling like a dump truck had run me over. I don't feel sick, just over exhausted. I think I should start juicing or something.

So there's a little slice of my life right now. How are you? I hope everyone reading is doing well. Have a lovely day folks. If someone wants to invent the giant human wheely thingy, I wouldn't go for a ride in a bog.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Lots of faiths give a tithe to God. Lots of people share their bounty with the poor.

It's one of those constants across all societies.

And some look at tithing as though it were this evil conspiracy to take money from the hands of hardworking people.

I don't see it that way.

My dad is a top sales guy at work. He has an easygoing demeanor that customers connect to and he was numero uno last month. The other day, he had no sales. I laughed that in all the time he's had the job--this is the first time he's had a no sales day.

When I asked him what he thought it might be--he immediately said, "Tithing." He had simply forgotten to pay a tithe last month.

So he's back to paying a tithe to his spiritual guru, and sales are back up.

I decided a few months ago to be more vigilant in my tithe paying. Every time I turn around, I see another blessing.

The fact is--I pay a full tithe, I get blessed.

I don't--I struggle more.

The big thing is--Why?

It seems to be less about religion (mainly because it seems to work regardless of faith) and more about the attitude towards money. If your attitude towards money is to grip and grasp and covet it--then it seems to slip through your fingers faster than you can earn it. But by paying a tithe first, you proclaim to the universe that money is so easy to come by that you can let it go. When I let it go, it always finds its way back to me either through opportunity, extra time, life balance, lower utilities, better health--the list goes on and on.

Rich people pay bills. They pay for their shelter, transportation, food, and services. They require the same daily expenses that poor people require. But they give the money without the gutwrenching angst. They know that even if things fall apart, there's plenty of money to cover their needs. By paying my tithing, I indicate to the universe that I belong among those who can give away their money freely. My relationship with money goes from being angsty and ulcer inducing--to being casual and friendly. I still pay my other expenses--and I may be left with very little. But rather than having a pit in my stomach, I feel things unclench as I hand off my tithing. I feel this spiritual trust fund open up for me. I anticipate blessings. Or I anticipate that I won't see the usual expenses. Potatoes are cheap. Turn down the heat. I'm comfortable. I'm unafraid.

I came to understand this partly when I worked as a debt consultant. (The irony...) I learned that people's debt to income ratio is the same across classes. If you fear losing money, you will take on more debt than you can afford--whether you're rich or poor. You spend and save the same ratio, regardless of the money you bring in. Your relationship with money is not about how much you make.

I'll end on this note. I see complaints about how the LDS Church may be using tithing funds. My reaction? I disagree with the assertion that building a high rise that will bring 1,500+ jobs to Philadelphia is a misuse of funds. But it doesn't matter honestly. Paying tithing, giving charity--it is a blessing to the giver because it changes our relationship with money from beggar to partner. We stop clinging to money like a desperate lover, and espouse ourselves to a blessed life. None of us are deserving of the gifts we receive. And yet the gifts keep coming.

This has been your inter-denominational sermon on tithes and offerings. 

Goooooooo TITHING! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Path

Life happens so fast.

I have been trying to avoid writing a travelogue, but I might just need to start there.

Last time I posted, I wrote about the need for competition. On Saturday, Feb 8th. I feel like this post woke up a sleeping monster. So much has changed since that little post.

I'm gonna travelogue for just a moment, so you can see some of the things that have transpired since.

Sunday: Meeting with friends to discuss a sketch comedy project. Friend gave me a referral for a great job! (Not complaining about current job. Love it!--but this would incorporate more of my grad school education.)

Monday: Got an offer to be a soloist in an upcoming production at The Grand. Visited BYU Law School to participate in a mock trial and connected with good friends. Had sushi with my brother Nick.

Tuesday: Joined a Gospel Choir group.

Wednesday: Went to the Utah Jazz game with my family! They won!

Thursday: Had dinner with my dear friend La Rae, whose husband and daughter are both lawyers to discuss going to law school. Got great advice. Had my brother Matt over--he just moved here from Iowa. Helped him apply for a job that my dad John had referred him to at his company.

Friday: My brother Matt got the job we applied for!! My dad Brent went in for emergency surgery on his gall bladder. Complications. They had to open him up to stop the bleeding and clear out infection that had spread to his liver. Enjoyed a reunion with some of my siblings, laughed over Thai food, watched a good movie, and then enjoyed babysitting for my little nephew Kannon.

Saturday: Worked ten hours and came home and did nothing. My dad Brent came home from the hospital after a good night's rest! I think he'll even be back to work next week!

Sunday: Despite feeling utterly exhausted, I went to church. Found out something very unexpected, but happy. I'm being intentionally coy. I'll talk about it later when I'm able to share. It was unexpected.  Enjoyed an evening with my dear friend Katie and her new hubby.

Monday: Had a phone interview for a great new job, scheduled an inhouse interview for Thursday. Helped my sister move into her new place with Matt and dad John. I gave her some furniture I had saved.  It is so fun to see her cute new place!

Today:  My current boss came by to visit. I told him about the potential other job--he gave me a big hug and congratulated me on being considered. Then told me that if I don't get it--he'd like me to take another position in his company where I would have free housing in a month.

So it's been a little over a week, but holy cow. Life is so unpredictable. So fast moving. It's funny what opportunities come your way when your schedule opens up and you have this internal willingness to say yes.

I think that's the key. Say yes. To the right things of course. During the last week, I've said yes to singing, to family, to opportunity, to friends, and to joy. The answer is yes!

As I spoke with La Rae on Thursday, we talked about how sometimes the choosing isn't about the destination--but about the path. I have no idea where I will be in two months. I could be with a different company, or in a different house, or on my way to Law School. I really don't know the destination. But I like the path I'm traveling.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


I have been searching for motivation lately.

I've been off. I've felt this gnawing dissatisfaction.

And I finally figured out what as it the core of my misery.

I like competition.

And I'm losing the game. As an LDS woman--there will always be women who are better at being an LDS woman. As an actor, I'm not winning any parts. As a single gal, I'm not winning at love. As a consumer, I'm in debt.

I'm losing. I'm a loser.

(I was going to insert a picture of roadkill here, but the pictures are seriously disgusting.)

As a person who likes to compete, knowing that I'm losing, it undoes me. If there isn't a chance I'm going to win, why try? I'm not good at intrinsic rewards. I like it when I have a fighting chance. This is why I'm great at school! I get to compete with my classmates and with myself. There's a judge to tell me, "You're a winner!"

I'm not good at doing things simply because the action is wise. I want to win!

So I'm going to honor my competitive streak. I'm going to create more competition in my life and motivate myself. I want to win at life.

These are the images that motivate me today.

Meryl Streep as the super powerful Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. That bitch uses everything at her disposal to rule the world! I shall find my inner Miranda!

I shall tackle my problems like a BYU tackle tearing victory away from a Ute... back when they used to do that.

I am a fierce lioness. I own this world bitches. This life is mine.

And on this amicable note, best of luck to all the Olympic competitiors! "We are the world... We are the Children..." And all that holding hands business...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Feelings About Looks

I have thoughts about looks.

Here are my thoughts.

How you feel about your looks is not synonymous with how you feel about yourself.

Yes--looking better adds to a general feeling of well-being--but feeling good about yourself should not be based on how you look.

I realize these are relatively simple statements. Apparently, a lot of people don't feel the same way.

The facts about my appearance do not affect how I see myself. It affects how you might see me. But this is not the same thing.

If I weight less, I feel healthier--and that is wonderful! I love having more energy and I generally am more eager to go out and do things. But in my mind--the way I think and the way I view myself and others--that hasn't changed.

Because of this, whether I'm skinny or fat--I carry this little bit of insecurity with me. I always feel a little like an outsider--because that's how I see myself.  If my looks change--then some of you will see me differently.  I have friends who notice the change in appearance, but then we move on to talking and laughing and everything is just as it always was.

I'm thinking about weight and how we see ourselves and one another because I had this strange conversation in a thread on Facebook with a guy who just couldn't get past the fact that I had admitted to being fat. Or rather--I admitted to being fat as a sidenote to a point I was making--and he kept harping on that one point. He just kept coming back to it. He wanted to solve it. He wanted me to promise that I would get help. While losing weight is certainly a healthy choice--I didn't understand why he kept coming back to the topic. I finally realized that he thought that when I said "I'm fat", I was also saying, "I hate myself." He talked about how he had lost a lot of weight and how much better he felt about himself. I realized that for him--he couldn't like himself if he was fat.

The conversation was about whether men or women should make the first move. I said that I preferred to wait for the guy to make the move because different guys have different types, and being a fat girl, I would prefer the guy make the move because it's the only way for me to know if the guy is into curvy girls. It was an innocent example. Some guys like thin girls, some guys like curvy girls. It's hard to tell at first what a guy is interested in.

And instead of commenting on that statement, he just kept talking about how I needed to lose weight. He said I was in denial. He said that unless I was sick, I had no excuse to be fat. It was really annoying. Not because I believe that it's better to be fat--but because he was unable to hear anything else I had to say.

I'm happy that he has lost weight. That's wonderful. But I'm heartbroken for him because his self worth is so wrapped up in his physical appearance.

I want to know that I will still like who I am when I'm old and wrinkled and saggy. I like knowing that the things that make up who I am have little to do with my measurements. My identity is not wrapped up in my weight.

At the same time, my appearance seems to change how others see me. It changes how people treat me. This is frightening honestly. Because how I see myself doesn't change a lot--it is nerve wracking to look beautiful. A couple of years ago, I lost enough weight to look like this:

My clothes fit loosely. It was easy to look good.

And during that time, I had my heart broken several times over.

I was still who I was on the inside, but I looked different on the outside. And I did not have the strength inside myself to protect myself. So I gained all the weight back and then some in order to be safe.

I don't know why I wasn't able to protect myself from heartbreak. I don't know why it is so frightening to be thinner. I do not why I feel so unsafe when I'm not carrying extra weight. But in order for me to change my outside appearance, I need to find a way to strengthen the way I see myself on the inside. I like who I am now--but I know that I have these weaknesses that have nothing to do with my appearance that I need to work on in order for me to bravely shed the extra pounds. 

Realizing that I can like myself regardless of what I look like--is a big first step. I think.

Honestly, it's hard to tell if I'm moving forward or backwards right now. I'm me. And whether I look good or bad--I'm always just gonna be me.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Diversity in Hairspray

Hairspray the musical is currently running at Midvale Main Street Theatre.

(All the photos in this post were taken by Will Dugdale of Mountain High Images. Show the guy some love by liking his Facebook page.)

I was the musical director for the production, in charge of making sure the cast knows the songs and that everything sounds as full and as balanced as possible. At this point, my job is done. I taught what I could, begged and pleaded for fuller sound in different places--and now I just let the actors and the sound tech do their magic every night.

But this post isn't about sound. I just wanted to make my bias clear.

I want to talk about race and diversity in Midvale Main Street Theatre's production of Hairspray.

I want to talk about it because the reviewers--and I'm sure some of the audience members--are talking about it.

Our production is pretty damned pasty. It's just the way it is. The play is about a little fat girl who wants to dance on an afternoon sock hop show in Baltimore. They won't let her because she's not skinny. Another little girl wants to dance on the show too--but she can't because she's black.

The show is about breaking down our definitions of who qualifies as "The Nicest Kids In Town".

So why would a white community like Midvale, Utah choose to do a show about racial diversity?

Because this community needs discussions about diversity.

The writers and head honchos who created Hairspray on Broadway envisioned this lack of racial diversity in communities that might want to produce the show and they wrote a letter especially to be published in the program. In the letter, they acknowledge that "not every community around the globe has the perfectly balanced make-up of ethnicity to cast Hairspray as written," and they ask the audience to "use the timeless theatrical concept of 'suspension of disbelief' and allow yourself to witness the story and not the racial background (or gender) of the actors."

Frankly, I think it would be absolutely delightful to see an all black production of Hairspray someday!

But back to my earlier statement. This community needs stories about diversity. And the show didn't lack for diversity--but our diversity reflected the diverse make up particular to our community.

In the cast, we have a range of ages. We have cast members from less affluent backgrounds, and some cast members are more privileged. Some of our cast members are Atheists, and some are active Latter-Day Saints. Some of the cast members are gay. Some are straight. Some are too young to care either way. Some cast members are skinny, some are roundish. Some are super conservative, some are super liberal. Some cast members are white. Some cast members are African American. Some are Latino. One girl is Japanese-American.  A lot of the cast identifies with several different groups--and in this cast, they know they can be whatever they want to be and think whatever they want!

A couple of reviewers have mentioned that everyone in the cast is white. And I imagine, under lights, everyone looks pretty pale. But this story about diversity is told by a cast of actors from varying backgrounds. And I love it. It might not be the 60s. We might not be fighting against segregation--but we are fighting against fear of the unknown. We still have families who won't allow their little Mormon children to play with kids who aren't Mormon. We have conservatives who misjudge all gay people. We have rich kids who have no idea that they might get along just as well with a kid with less money. And of course, a lot of vice versas going on.

Whatever your background, there's nothing like hearing a cast sing out in perfect harmony. Hopefully, the audience members will leave the show eager to get to know their different neighbors, and not just the neighbors who think and look the way they do.

I'm really proud to be a part of this production. It is an absolute joy! If you haven't seen the show yet, don't bother trying for Saturday night--it's probably already sold out. But get your tickets for Thursday or Friday at 7pm or the Saturday matinee at 2pm. Visit www.midvaletheatre.com for tickets and more information.

Midvale Main Street Theatre
7711 South Main St (700 West)
Midvale, Utah

Monday, February 3, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead

Heroin killed my brother ten years ago.

Heroin killed my favorite actor yesterday.

I can't watch Pulp Fiction. I can't watch this scene.

Whatever drove him to this kind of hell--he created a new brand of sexy in art.

Whether the man looked like this,

Or like this.

Our attraction to him had nothing to do with his weight or his style. It was his skill, his nuance, his focus.

He played a range of complicated small parts that--played by anyone else--would have been forgotten, throwaway types meant merely to foil the leading personalities. Instead, he made you wish the movie could focus more on the smaller parts. As a result of the charisma he brought to these parts, we have a slew of movies led by complicated everyman types. Movies with flawed antiheroes at the helm like Lars and the Real Girl, and Social Network owe their existence to Philip Seymour Hoffman. He convinced us that the really interesting stuff was happening to the guys and girls just left of perfect.

Despite the demons that drove him to his death, he worked constantly.

In True West, he and John C. Reilly ruled the stage--even switching characters some nights.

Ben Brantley of The New York Times says this about his performance as the iconic Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. "Mr. Hoffman does terminal uncertainty better than practically anyone, and he’s terrific in showing the doubt that crumples Willy just when he’s trying to sell his own brand of all-American optimism." 

What is terminal uncertainty?


Perhaps Mr. Hoffman died of terminal doubt. Doubt in the fortunes of his future. Doubt in himself. Doubt in the world. Doubt that his death would matter as much as it does.

He taught me that despite whatever doubts I may have--I have stories to tell. He complicated our notions of captivating and drew our focus to a better story. There are still those who tell us to wait until we have the perfect body, that character actors are only supposed to be comic relief to the complicated stories of leading men and women, with leading men and women faces and bodies. Those people would be behind the times that Mr. Hoffman ushered in during his all too short career. 

Thank you for your gifts to us Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hopefully, we'll move forward, filled with hope and not doubt that the world can be a more beautiful place if we allow ourselves to focus left of perfect, and to love ourselves even when we're left of perfect.