The women of Lake County Jail had a performance on 12/16/11 and it was a joy. Millie, the aforementioned actress from my blog entry on 12/13, was superb and has taken a shine to the stage.
I asked her for permission to share some of her ideas with you. She obliged my request and I couldn't be happier.
Her sass and wit are things one cannot teach, and her writing is revelatory. It is at all times sarcastic, sincere and heartbreaking.
She was asked to talk about what she believed. An exercise we do frequently. She writes:
1. That there's something truly evil in Waukegan's water.
2. That most people want/need just enough information about you to categorize you.
3. Sometimes a fake wedding ceremony can/should be pulled off.
4. Jail is the worst experience of my life but I've never laughed so hard.
5. Cats can be used as dust mops. She underlines and makes bold strokes in her writing.
She scrawls her name at the bottom of the page in block letters.
Millie has probably been my biggest source of humor in what has been a stressful few months preparing for the show. But one writing in particular stood out to me, and it didn't make me laugh. She wrote:
Be like the air in thew ay that I hold you. And in the way you see through me. Pass through the walls, through these locked doors and I'm free again. Free to keep forgetting the part of me that I've lost. The air of me. The air that is you. We wander as we please but not too far form each other. No. Not far from home or our youth. The air is fine and sweet over here. Here with you, dear. I keep it close and pretend it's not just a dream... A cartoonish heart is doodled in the dead space of the page. She continues...
Be like the water and take me under. Take me down deep and drown me in forgetting, forgetting the part of me that I've lost. I'm like a current now and so are you We keep moving together and not too far apart. Nothing stays the same this time. So much here but I wish I was there...
Be like the earth in the way you grow me up. Keep your worms and roots a secret. I dig at you, wonder what's beneath. There's tunnels and so much inside you. I want to leave so much but you keep me inside of you...
When she reads this aloud to the class we are silently stunned. It's the type of moment people like me live for. Shock and awe.
December 21, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
The women of Lake County jail are in rehearsals for their new show, ‘Portraits of Women: From Memory.’ As always I continue to be impressed with their dedication, their insight into the work, their willingness to jump feet first into what can be a harrowing experience for even the most seasoned actor: the rehearsal process. More then ever, however, I am drawn into ‘Portraits’ in a way that I’ve never been before.
My initial inspiration to work with Still Point came after a brief encounter working as the production assistant for Angela Shelton when she took a week residency at Simpson College in April of 2008. Angela’s story and what she did with it (which can be found at http://angelashelton.com/) profoundly changed my life and my perspective. In Angela’s work I saw the power of telling stories and, equally important, the power of hearing them.
In ‘Portraits’ the actresses frequently tell the stories of other women. They read the words of their colleagues, most of whom have written in the third person about their experiences with drug use, depression, incarceration, and healing.
Standing ‘on stage,’ an actress, we’ll call her Millie, tells me, “I don’t get what you want me to do here.”
“Tell her story,” I retort. Millie is tasked with a difficult monologue: a woman has written about herself from the perspective of the air vent in her cell. She has given a bird’s eye view into the existence of a woman learning to look at herself in the mirror again.
“You know her. Part of her is you; part of her story is your story.”
The room is filled with heavy air and silence. I glance over to Christine to see if she has any words of wisdom to impart to this struggling, but talented, actress.
Millie starts again at the top of the piece, and the heavy air filling the room is sucked out. She is radiant and something immovable is moved, some indelible line dividing her from the words is washed away. She has connected.
She has connected not only to the words, but to a real woman. This writer is a woman who she may have met in passing, who she may have sat in workshop with, or maybe she has never met and maybe never will. Regardless, they know each other. They have memorized each others stories by heart.
Class ends, but we continue to remember the advice that stumbled out of my mouth half on accident, “You know her. Part of her is you; part of her story is your story.”
We all leave feeling more connected, less alone, filled with hope.
December 13, 2011