Sunday, December 20, 2009


I want to write all my friends
All my acquaintances
All my strangers
All my family
Who have helped me
Given me support
Given me insight
Given me their hand up
Their hand out
But it is too numerous
It’s like the apples
On the tree.

The birds circle the sky
The creeks get
Deeper and deeper every year
The trees know their role
They gather
Their roots sucking up water
Water sucking their tender shoots
Moment by moment
The dirt leaves
And then the fall
A bridge
A ramp
A railing
A calling
By the side.
Their greenness
Dissolving in the dark
Of the river that the creek
Became all those years..

And water cutting
Through dark earth to stone
Is grateful for the
Gift of green
Buried in its depths
Not seen, but known.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

8 days of workshopping with george

Still shimmering from all the work ending in 8 hours of work yesterday and my friend Bob Poole filmed 8 takes in 3 hours today. Lots of fabulous exploration. Cutting words, improvising, on script, off script, on the chairs, on the floor. Working from connection is bliss where we arrived and hard trying to get there. So so worth it. We both ended up in another world. That's the joy of acting. We'll edit it and if we've got interesting film for public viewing we'll put it up on this site. I need to let the tapes cook for awhile or I should say I need to let it all simmer in me so I can see with more objective eyes. I've learned so much about this piece.

Goodbye sweet George. Off he goes back to New York. And a big heartfelt shout out to Bob who came in at the last minute with time, heart, and clear precise thoughts on changes. Working together where it's all about the work and nothing else is such pleasure.

And now I know when you're lucky enough to have it going well you get energized not depleted.

(posted a few days later)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Workshopping it.

My friend George Wright and I are planning to workshop the first eleven pages of the play the first few weeks in September. A preliminary goal is to film it if we get that far and put the rough cut up on this blog.

It's getting exciting.

And now to put our feet in the actual water.

Emily is dressed.

I found a costume for Emily today. It's a more contemporary version. You'll have to wait to see.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

like a 12th century mystic

Fun reading the book THE MURDERER AND THE POET about the forger who foisted a made up poem of Emily Dickinson's on the world. It was sold by a sloppy Southby's auction to the Amherst Library. The forger used Franklin's documentation to create the "authentic poem". In passing the author said Emily Dickinson was like a Twelfth Century mystic. The Saint Francis bell is struck again. Nice authentication for me.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I thought I had taken a break from working on the play. I've been finishing up editing SKELETON WOMAN to be published and working on poems for a book. And treading water while looking for the next step forward. So I finished a poem in the middle of the night. Got up out of bed to write it down. I was sort of bent over and started to straighten and then I started dancing how it is to wake up after a long long time. It felt like Emily in the beginning of the play. And then she began to see the world.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th: In appreciation of our country


I loved the market today
The way the little girl
Crawled around
On her belly
In the fountain
While I ate
Hard boiled
Duck eggs
On top
Mole sauce
And the newborn
Sitting next to me
On her daddy’s chest
Was a wrap in a
To ward
Off a chill

And the way the
Deformed peaches
And the African queen
Selling her shea butter
Dreadlocks and drums
And the ten year old kid
Amidst the bongos
Amidst his father
Playing guitar
Amidst His father
And the little boy
Banging and
Chewing his gum
And not missing
A lick of beat
As his smiles
And eyes drifted
Off to the side
And a young teen girl
Doing cartwheels
And hoops around
Her middle
And the woman from
The Middle East
With amber and jewels
And turquoise
And silver crosses.

Then there’s the couple sitting by my
Side from the
Big city talking
About how their
Eating here was
So ecological
So sustainable
So retainable
Replaced later by
A walking couple
who remarked on why
the flags?
And I said
“It’s June.
There’s flags.
It must be flag
And isn’t it nice
I’m starting to
Like the flag again.”
And they agreed and said,
“ We’re starting to like our country again.”

My community ‘tis of thee
“Sweet land of liberty”
And pastries and salmon
And strawberry ices
And baskets and flowers
And tied dyed
Saris – all for
Prices out
In the open
To and fro,
With colors
And puce
And saffron
And lime and
Fro and to,
And scents
“And the living
Is easy.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

an old time friend

George Wright has been visiting from the East Coast. And by old I mean 35 years. Dare I blush. Well he took some acting classes in New York so I asked him if he'd like to read my play with me. He drops into the Saint Francis character with such pathos, fun, and depth. It's helped me see why I wrote some of the scenes I did and helping me see through lines in the play I wasn't even aware of. (Remember this play came out in a rush in two weeks as opposed to SKELETON WOMAN which I worked on on and off for over twelve years). And, as an actress I'm getting a clearer sense of the evolving relationship between Francis and Emily. It was a sweet experience to read with someone who knows me so well and vice versa and have that bubble out of the characters. Lots of laughter.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Finished reading this book last night. It was the last book Emily Dickinson read before she died. Gave me goosebumps. Themes that would have really resonated with her: the main character had bouts of blindness and embarks on a perilous adventure when he's blind. The second main character has no personal history for most of the book. And this character goes into extreme withdrawal after a great tragedy. Emily is reputed to have gone into massive retreat upon her nephew Gilbert's death. She never came out. And, Emily's last written words to her cousins before she died: CALLED BACK.


Today exploring themes begun yesterday plus the ending arcs of a movement. Realized I frequently get to the end and don't stay with it letting the end have it's most precious moments. That's the time of transition to the next move and also remembering that a choreography teacher said the ending of any dance piece is 80 percent important. So why not each move. I'm learning a lot about what is revealed there and like in an outbreath that's also the time of the most fun. Also playing with minimal movement to music (still listening to tango :-) ) and letting a still slight sometimes sculptural move happen in the most inconsequential time of a rhythmic sequence. Fun. Teaching me patience.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Choreography for Conversation I: OVERATURE

Emily will begin on the floor and I'm exploring the most rudimentary movement. I'm exploring the source of the movement from a purely physical exploration. I'm taking movement training from Kathleen Langermann and learning that arm movement should be initiated from ribs and loose scapula on top of core strength. Leg movement needs to be initiated from deep in the pelvis. So I'm rolling around on the floor playing. (Listening to fun tango music in the process. And yes this is totally irrelevant.) I've sound ideas for the movement and inspiration is also coming from my little grandson. So the physical place will underpin the movement and then there will be layers on top of that which will be influenced by sound, context, and the impulse for the movement.

A side note: It's amazing how much work I have to do to just get physically ready to do this play. Physical presence comes from strength and I'm slowly building that up. Pilates reformer, cardio-rhythm dance classes, movement training, walking, swimming.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Side Trip

Well with the delight of a new grandson and all that entails I haven't been able to muster the concerted effort I need to put up a full play - even work on the first 11 pages. I figure I'll get back to it in a month or two. In the meantime I've been writing a series of poems for a poetry book called EVERYDAY MERMAID POEMS. In the planning is a collaboration with Deidre Scherer to illustrate them.(you should look at her website by googling for it). And now the tie in to the play. In writing the poems I've realized how much I've learned about poetry by immersing myself in Emily Dickinson's work. She's such a nimble wordsmith and wrote on so many different levels. I've learned about cadences, line breaks, punctuation, simplicity, playfulness, slant rhymes, ordinary rhymes, patterns of lines. Of course I'd known a lot of this before, but Emily Dickinson writes with such precision and clarity of thought (even when she's deliberately obscuring). I love thinking I'm learning and or doing something for one reason and all of these side benefits crop in. Also I've learned a lot from haiku and had fun reading one review of haiku that said if you like haiku you'll love Emily Dickinson. And an aside note: I love how TWITTER is like composing haiku.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Choreography Tool

I learned today that Eric Hawkins pointed out 3 main movement curves of the body: 1. a forward circle (develope) 2. a backwards circle (envelope) 3. spiral. This is a fun tool for choreography. It can make the movement clearer by being decisive about which kind of curve is used.

The First Eleven Pages

I've decided I am going to work up the first conversation in this piece. Figuring out the staging and choreography. I did a reading with an actor friend cold for him and he showed me some softer ways of doing certain parts. I did this with my SKELTON WOMAN piece. It's really useful to have many people read different parts since there can be so many different points of view. Actors show meanings that the playwright hasn't thought of. Fun.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Saint Francis Visionary

The courage and vision of Saint Francis to bring the earth into the spiritual realm of the church. To do this in the Twelfth/Thirteenth Centuries is absolutely astonishing to me. We're even now as a culture still not much beyond the egg stage of valuing and nourishing this planet we live on and it's 700 years after Saint Francis. The force of the man.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Saint Francis bio

Saint Francis was born around 1181 in Assisi to a wealthy cloth merchant and a very religious French mother who originally named him after John the Baptist. She prayed he’d become a religious leader like John. His father having just returned from France renamed him Francis. Francis spent his youth fashioning himself after the troubadours. He sang, drank, and courted women. In his passion to be a knight he joined a group of knights and rode off to fight a neighboring city of Perugia. He was captured and spent a year in a wet dark dungeon where many died.He may have contracted tuberculosis of the bone at this time. He was freed, arrived home, and almost died. Instead he had visions of God. He returned to being a troubadour but began giving more and more money away to beggars culminating in giving away a great deal of money and cloth that his father had given him for a business transaction to a priest to help rebuild a church. His irate father dragged him to the local priest and the priest exhorted him to obey his father. Which prompted Francis to take off all his clothes to give back to his father saying that his only Father was in heaven. The priest accepted Francis’ proclamation and clothed him.

Francis lived the life of a beggar and received more and more visions. His spiritual journey led him to wed himself to Lady Poverty and he began to eat only that which he had been given. He wore a simple brown robe and if given a coat would wear it until he found someone in need. He would find caves to pray in and go on prolonged fasts.

Saint Francis began to see Christ in every thing and felt kinship with everything in the world even Sister Death. Everything was of Christ. Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Wolf, Sister Water, Brother Fire. As a child he was terrified of leprosy and in his visions of Christ he actually kissed a leper on the mouth. He would administer to lepers and it is thought he contracted leprosy later in life.

His life began to be one of going from village to village preaching. He felt everyone received Christ’s love and began the practice of greeting people with “good day.” He wrote songs in the native Italian dialect and wanted songs that were for the people and began singing songs and exhorted people to come to Christ and be redeemed. He called himself the Clown of God or a Troubadour of God. He practiced abject humility and would ask his followers to walk on top of him for his sins. He did not acknowledge class. He’s considered the first Italian poet since he felt songs should be written in the language of the people. Francis began attracting followers who lived the extreme life of poverty that he laid out. Nothing could be owned. Food had to come from begging. Reading was suspect. He was proclaiming a vital relationship to Christ.

He went to Rome to ask permission to organize a lay order. He was given one after the numbers of his followers grew. He met a young woman Clare who believed in his teaching so strongly she begged to become one of his followers. He helped her set up an order of nuns. Their order was cloistered. It was said that Clair hardly ever left the main room which housed the nuns. They would write letters to each other for the rest of Francis’ life seeing each other only a small number of times by Francis’ decision. Clare also fasted a great deal, but later in life she began to see it as destructive in the extreme and worked to limit the fasting of her followers.

Francis attempted two trips to the Middle East to convert the heathen. On one his boat was unseaworthy and he had to go back. On the second trip he was appalled at how the Christian soldiers behaved. He was able to work his way into the enemy Sutltan’s palace and engage him in intense discussions about God. He said he’d be willing to undergo a test of fire to show the Sultan the fierceness of his belief in the Christian God. The sultan liked him so much and was so impressed that he wouldn’t let Francis go through the ordeal. Francis left with the sultan’s good wishes and asked that Francis would pray for spiritual guidance for him. Francis left the Middle East disheartened with the behavior of the Christians, an admiration for the Sultan, and probably picked up malaria at this time.

He returned to find that his order had been taken over and modified. It was a dark time for him in which he had to write and modify some of his wishes for his Order. The Pope and others felt he had been too strict. At this time he picked up an eye disease. He was ordered by the Pope to have a treatment for the disease which did no good and then ordered by the new the head of his order who Francis had promised to obey to undergo another treatment.. The treatment proscribed by the latter was to have hot pokers placed on both temples. This treatment combined with all of his fasting and illness led to his early death in his mid forties.

Today many may think Francis’ practices were extreme, but they have to be seen in the context of his age. The Church at that time was bloated with wealth and greed. So Francis saw poverty as the antidote to get back to the spiritual life. Because Francis both so loved the world and so valued everything in it yet had taken the vow of poverty he helped create a shift in the Catholic Church. Before his life the church was fixated on the spiritual life which came after death while many in the Church lived a life of extreme wealth. Because of Francis the Catholic religion began to open the door to the natural world and more value came for the living of the life in this world and supporting the life in this world.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Seeing in the Dark

Well I've just had a very interesting experience. I've had this small growth in my eye called a pterygium for a number of years. It was slowly getting bigger and bigger and my eye comfort and vanity were getting tweaked so I went to an opthamologist. He recommended surgery. He said it was easy to do that I'd have three days of intense pain and that I could expect all redness to be gone within 3 weeks.

As I walked out of the doctor's appointment I remembered that Emily Dickinson and St. Francis both had extreme difficulty with their eyes. Emily was taken to Boston to see an eye specialist and was ordered to remain in a dark room for months. When she came home she was only able to do housework. And, in secret, this was one of the most prolific, creative periods of her life. Afterwards these bouts of eye trouble would come again and again. On and off for over ten years she would have to remain in dark rooms. Her upstairs bedroom became her sole haven in her later years. Towards the end she became totally blind.

St. Francis also had reocurring problems with his eyes. Some may have started as early as his twenties when he was a soldier for Assisi against Perugia. He was captured and placed in a prison in a dark damp basement where he may have contracted malaria and or bone tuberculosis. He was released after a year and almost died. Instead he had a revelation about his God. The combination of malaria and later conjunctivitis plagued his eyes throughout his life. His followers begged him repeatedly to do something about it. In his own way he probably did. Often wherever he traveled he'd search for dark caves for prayer and contemplation - particularly if he was struggling. The caves were probably also a refuge for his eyes. He would emerge refreshed and with new clarity and directives about his path. In his final years the pain in his eyes was so intense that his followers fashioned a hood for him which kept his face in shadows. Finally under spiritual orders from Brother Elias, now his Superior, Francis submitted to a treatment which was so brutal it probably hastened his death. Towards the end he became totally blind.

Both Emily Dickinson and St. Francis spent big portions of their lives in darkness, semi-blindness, and blindness.

Well I went in for the surgery. My husband drove me home, led me up our steps (I had been told to keep the other eye shut since this would help me not blink which would reduce the pain). So I had a patch on one eye and the other eye shut and as I was about to cross the threshold the sunlight hit the doorknob and bounced into my eyes. Blinding. I almost fell to my knees. I covered my closed eye with my hand. It did not help. I spent the next three days in the darkest corner of every room I could find with the blinds shut. The light was finding me wherever I went and it stunned me every time it found me. It felt like a blow. One night I lay on the floor with dark glasses on since my family was in a lit adjoining room. Good God this was a taste of what Emily and Francis had gone through.

Three days in the dark with no reading, my god I never realized I read so much, playing every conceivable bit of music I could lay my hands on. I thought this was a chance to go to a different place in myself to "be more still" inside which was my New Year's Resolution. I started pulling out all the music CD's that were highly recommended to me, but that I didn't really like like John Adam's version of Emily Dickinson's "Wild Nights", Buddhist monks from the Sera Je Monastery singing from such a deep place it sounded like Lucinda William's gravel road and I mean THE road. All of a sudden I was "getting" this music. I wasn't trying to get it. I just was. I was enthralled. I could hear what the sound was creating in terms of emotional places or physical locations in the body. I was in the world of sound. I was listening from inside of my body. I started hearing the whirling of the wind as it circled around the house (I do have to say at this point that I was able to do all of this with such equinamity because contra the surgeons's warning I had almost no pain--I'd gone to my acupuncturist and gotten some herbs and took homeopathic arnica--and it worked! God's green earth. It worked.) I could hear the wind echoing, bouncing off the trees near our home. I started hearing all of the clicks and thumps and whirrings and shudderings in our home. I had heard them all before, but now it was not heard one at a time , but more like a a concert. The sound was connected. This was even more so when I went outside (in the shade with dark glasses) and heard all the different bird calls, and tree stirrings from the wind, and the cows mooing - it was a symphony. One bird's full throated call evoked a yearning - I started to cry. I started living in rhythms and feeling rhythms inside of me. I started living in a different part of my brain.

Then, I started opening my eyes for little moments as the healing took place and the colors were leaping into my eyes: the translucent shimmering yellow of the daffodils, the deeply saturated lime intensity of the green slope in our meadow whose force of color was so wild that it seemed to shoot up into the air, the deep bluish-grey gravel of our driveway that pulled me in so deeply I could not look at anything else. Gravel for god's sake.

And then it hit me that those intense periods of blindness and seeing that Emily and Francis went through again and again throughout their lives contributed to their intense mystical and poetical brilliance. Sound is poetry. Inner hearing is poetry. Color is very close to sound. I believe mystical experiences blur the boundaries of the senses, blur the boundaries between people, between physical objects to create a unified experience, a feeling of unity. From my tiny experience I postulate that their life time relationship with eye difficulties and the necessity to retreat into the dark altered them both, intensified their experiences so greatly that it supported mystical experiences and their ability to hear these sounds and brilliant colors to write words that ignited the world. These physical experiences gave them a physical base for their own inner prayerful natures. The dark isolation supported them to write and preach/sing from their very souls.

"I taste a liquor never brewed
From Tankards scooped in Pearl.
Not all the vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an Alcohol.

"Inebriate of air am I
Debauchee of Dew--
Reeling--through endless summer days--
From inns of Molten Blue." --Emily Dickinson

(Emily Dickinson's poetry was so far ahead of her time that it is still ground breaking today.)

"Canticle of Brother Sun"
"Praised be You, my Lord, with your your creatures,
Especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor;
And bears a likeness of You, Most High One.
Praised by You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth.
Who sustains and governs us,
And who produces varied fruits with colored flowers, and herbs."

--St. Francis

(St. Francis has been called the first Italian poet and the first to bring the world and it's beauty into the Medieval Christian Church where before there was only room for heaven.)

Sunday, March 8, 2009


well i'm starting to work on the choreography for the opening scene. found out in the beginning i wasn't "still" enough. A "still" place gives room for different creative impulses to emerge. i'm also giving myself the same rule that i made for choregraphic work in SKELETON WOMAN: the movement has to feel good. exercises can stretch range of motion, but i don't want anyone doing anything that hurts the body.

Monday, February 9, 2009

music and reporting in

Just met with Devi Mathieu and she loaded me up with songs from Saint Francis' time - some probably written by St. Francis or at least influenced by him. So exciting. She said these songs are written with definite rhythmic structure. She said the troubadour songs which influenced St. Francis were word poetry driven and not based in set rhythmic patterns. So I get to dive into this and start getting a sense of what kind of sound/music do I want to permeate the piece. I love these dichotomies. And then throw in sound/music spinning off from words and rhythms of my play. And remember Emily Dickison based her meter on hymns of her day. Lots of sound ideas here.


Tomorrow I get to hear a private reading of my piece by a poet and an actor friend. This will help me externalize it a bit more when looking to see where gaps might be.

I realize I'm in a bit of a quandary about what to call this work. If I call it a play, then people's expectations are a more word driven piece. I saw an amazing "play" called ARABIAN NIGHTS by Mary Zimmerman and realize that my piece is between this and dance. So I end up calling it a "piece" most of the time. Have to get my brains around a better word.