photo credit: the guardian.com
I come from a long line of performers. In addition to winning adult Charleston contests at 12 years old, my grandmother often entertained her neighbors and grandchildren with silly characters she’d create, dances she’d whip up on the spot and skits designed to make us all laugh. My grandfather’s creative outlet was a Hammond organ. I used to sit at his feet, mesmerized, while he’d play. My father, meanwhile, fancied himself a doo wap singer. He’d burst into song whenever a phrase or word would suggest a lyric he’d remember. And my mother? She was a dancer – and I’m told a very good one at that. I myself spent years as a triple threat, an actress who could sing and dance, fully immersed in the process of trying to “make it” in show biz, so it was no surprise to me when my daughter was also bitten by the bug.
A few weeks ago, my very talented daughter was invited to audition in New York City, for “one of those national television voice competition shows.” (I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you which one or they’d have to kill me. Well, actually, they’d have to sue me; it said so in the contract.) And as I watched her bare her soul, present her best self to a room full of strangers and wait for acceptance or a rejection based not just on talent but on so many other factors, it occurred to me: there is SO much we can learn from performers. Continue reading
The alarm goes off, again, at the crack of a weekday morning’s dawn. You wake up and methodically move to the bathroom, then to the closet, then to the kitchen…. Clean the same dishes. Wipe the same counter. Feed the same kids. Drive the same route to work… Maybe even shoot for the usual parking space in the parking lot. After hanging the same coat on the same hook, you arrange your personal items in their designated spots like you do every morning and put your coffee, the same decaf latte you order every day, in the same place on your desk. And so on… and so on…
Edvard Munch – The Scream
Ludwig van Beethoven, Vincent van Gogh and Virginia Woolf all had something in common. They all suffered from depression. There have been fascinating studies in the past few decades that acknowledge a link between creativity and depression. In fact, a large number of the world’s greatest composers, writers and artists have suffered from various forms of mental illness, from depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This realization isn’t surprising, though, if you know creative people.
A live arts experience can be fleeting. A play or concert might only last two hours. A poetry reading – even less. A visit to a museum offers palpable pleasure while physically there, but, as they say, you can’t take it with you. By the time we return home the multiple, finer details of a cultural experience are already fading. Sifting through the day’s mail or cleaning the dishes, we might only remember key moments or an overall impression of what we’d seen just hours before. Some of us wish the moment could have lasted longer or, better yet, come home with us to be played over and over again. An arts experience, so moving at the time, is impermanent. Why, then, do so many of us spend our hard-earned money on an art experience, when the benefits could be perceived as nothing but temporary?
Detail from Jerry’s Drawing
The homeless… Hidden in plain sight, we often walk right by these unfortunate souls, avoiding their eyes as much as we avoid any thought about their misfortune or desperation. I’m not sure why. Is it fear? A concern that their condition might be contagious? Or that we’ll be asked to give more than we think we can afford? Do some of us even blame them for their own predicament? Whatever the answer, by ignoring these individuals we deny their humanity. And by denying their humanity, we also diminish our own.