Becoming Molly & Emily

In community theater, we don many hats – actor, director, tech, stage manager, costumer, set builder – you get the point. You are a Jack/Jane of all trades and you like it. One of the most common issues when putting on a larger show in community theater is the need to double cast your actors to cover all of the roles. Needless to say, this can be tricky at times to ensure you haven’t double cast an actor for 2 roles that are on stage simultaneously at any point.

I am in the upcoming Reedy Point Players production of Pat Cook’s play Titanic: Tragedy & Trial. The director of the show is a veteran actress/director and has directed the first act of this show as a one-act play previously. So, she knows what she’s doing. This is helpful when you have approximately 30 actors and a potential for 60+ roles in a show.

Our director asked at the time of auditions if we, as actors, would be willing to take on more than one role, should the need arise. I, of course, said certainly, as did most others. The role I really wanted was that of Maggie “Molly” Brown, though I knew in this production it was a smaller role. I really admired this person and wanted the chance to portray her, no matter the size of the role. Our director had the foresight to offer me said role and I accepted – doing a happy dance.

A little later on I was also offered the role of Emily Ryerson. Again, I was happy to take on another role. It seemed I had a little research to do now so I could portray both women accurately, even if their time on stage was brief.

This is the first show in which I will be portraying “real” people – those who lived and breathed, not ones created from a playwright’s imagination. I want to be certain that I know the women I will become for a brief moment in time. So, I headed to Google.

the-unsinkable-molly-brown-biography-picture

First up, Mrs. Margaret “Maggie” Brown was put into the Google search engine. This charismatic trail blazer of women’s rights and philanthropy has quite a bit about her on the web. There were a number of factoids I never knew. She ran for the Colorado state senate around the turn of the 20th century – something unheard of – especially since women didn’t have the right to vote yet. Maggie Brown was not referred to as Molly until after the Titanic sinking when a reporter gave her the moniker “the unsinkable Molly Brown” in a story highlighting her heroism during the Titanic tragedy. She was an avid activist, philanthropist, suffragette and in her later life an actress. Pretty amazing woman.

emily-ryerson

Next, I searched for information on Mrs. Emily Ryerson. Nowhere near as much information on this dear lady. She was my age at the time of that fateful voyage, from Haverford, Pennsylvania. Emily Ryerson, her husband, their three children and two servants were first-class passengers on the Titanic. Mr. Ryerson helped to load lifeboats, but unfortunately he did not survive the sinking. Emily, her children and servants were on lifeboat #4 and all survived. She provided an affidavit regarding the events surrounding the Titanic’s sinking to the senate hearings that took place in May 1912. Mrs. Ryerson eventually remarried another wealthy man and lived a long life. The only other information was some society column mentions.

The easiest way to distinguish the women when portraying them is their accents and their demeanor. Molly Brown was a larger than life character with a southern/midwestern accent. Emily Ryerson was a true society lady with the clipped accent of the upper crust of Philadelphia’s Main Line. Luckily I know both types of women and at times I am both in my own life.

Some would think it’s over the top to research these women when the roles are minor, relatively speaking. My thinking is that old adage – there are no small roles, just small actors. I’m excited for this production and want to give it my best.

When you care about what you do, you do your best, no matter the task.

 

 

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Living a Busy Life

Those of us who are busy people don’t realize how busy we are until we think about it – which we don’t very often. Busy people just do. We don’t think about it, we just do what we obligated ourselves to do. Those who are not busy people cannot imagine how we do all that we do. (That’s a lot of do’s!)

I call my activities obligations because I committed to them, not because I don’t thoroughly enjoy doing these things. The word obligation has such a negative connotation, such as I’m obligated to clean my house, instead of the reality that it is something you said you would do and therefore you do it. I digress.

I’ll give you a sample list of my commitments: going to work full-time (yay – love this job!), on the board of directors for our theater (actually the executive committee so more of a time commitment), one of the actors in an upcoming production, helping out with whatever I can on the current production, my activism, taking care of the house, taking care of my husband (he’s disabled so I have a bit more than others to do), and squeezing in time for friends and family. Doesn’t seem like an unmanageable amount and it isn’t.

A snapshot of a regular week:

  • Sunday – housework, theater stuff (rehearsals/meetings/or both), activism meetings
  • Monday – work during day, rehearsals or meetings at night possibly or I may have a night home, run errands, activism work
  • Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday – work during day; rehearsals or meetings or working on theater things from home, run errands, activism work
  • Friday – work during day, possibly go out with friends, run errands
  • Saturday – housework, theater stuff, errands, possible visit with friends/family

You get the picture…

I am not complaining about my life at all. I love what I’m doing and with whom I do these things. I enjoy being busy most of the time. Of course we all need down time to recharge our batteries. When I’m in that mode I either watch TV/movies or read.

Speaking of reading, I actually read almost every night before bed. It relaxes my mind so it’s not racing from the day’s activities. I focus so clearly on what I am reading that everything else falls away.

Reading isn’t the only thing that helps keep my mind at ease. Blogging is a great way for me to get my focus for the day. I tend to write my blogs early in the day when my mind is gearing up for the day’s activities. I love to write and it gives me a pleasant way to start my day.

So, as I gear up for today’s 8 hours of theater obligations, I sit here and write about my busy life. I feel blessed for having the ability to not only write about it, but to live it.

Photo credit: 
Balls in the air 2
Photo by AlamarPhotography on Getty Images

New Chapters

When one reads a book, the beginning of a new chapter is something designating a new scene or viewpoint. In life, when one refers to a new chapter, it’s typically the start of some new thing such as a job, living situation, relationship, etc.

For me, I have had a few life changes that would be a reason to refer to this time in my life as a new chapter. In November we found a new home. This month, I have started a new job. Two major life changes that signify a new beginning.

A new chapter in life is like having a clean slate. This concept has been sitting on my mind a lot lately. What does the idea of a “clean slate” mean? Does it mean everything else that was going on in your life and around you suddenly change too? No, of course not. Aspects – most of them in reality – of our lives don’t change when a new chapter in our life begins. Just like in a novel, the story lines are continuing, there’s simply a new twist/turn/aspect thrown into the mix.

For me, this new chapter of my life is a positive one. But last year, when we became homeless, that chapter was not so great. At times it downright sucked. There were positive parts – amazing support from friends and family, strangers being kind and helpful, a weeding out of those who weren’t so supportive and caring.

The hope that comes when a new chapter in our lives occurs is what keeps us going, no matter the tone of that chapter. Hope is what gives us all a coping mechanism when life takes a hard turn. Hope is what keeps us up when life is on the upswing. Hope is likely what helped turn your life to the positive.

There are a number of people who are scared to have hope. But somehow, we all seek hope out. We look for something to hold onto that will propel us forward. To keep some light peeking through the dark times. Hope provides the handle and the flashlight.

Hope is the constant in the book of life. It is the catalyst of many new chapters within that book. It is what keeps us writing our book of life when the chapters are bleak. Hope is our savior.

Find the hope in each new chapter of your life.

Hello, I’m Your Director…

I had the privilege of having my directorial debut at Reedy Point Players in December 2015 with the play Little Women. I had always wanted to direct, but the opportunity didn’t arise until 2015. I had submitted the play with me as director to Reedy Point early in 2015 for the 2015-2016 season. I was thrilled when I was told it was approved.

In September of 2015 I held auditions in a room at the Delaware City  Library. I had a decent turnout – including a few new faces. The three young women who were new to Reedy Point auditioned for roles as the March sisters. One had never performed, ever. One had primarily done school productions (given the school district they were top of the line productions). And the third had a full acting resume. They didn’t know each other prior to the auditions. Yet when the three of them read for me, the chemistry was perfect. Their audition gave me that special feeling of wow this is going to be amazing!

The cast came together nicely, with only one casting change a couple of weeks into rehearsals. One of my cast members, though she definitely had experience, struggled to capture what I asked of her for the character. This young woman was challenging at times, but I enjoyed the challenge. Her considerable talent was still raw and just needed guidance. I knew I could get it out of her if I was persistent yet patient. Demanding, sure, but understanding on how to demand the performance I wanted. I believe I became a better director because of her.

The young woman who had no experience had such natural talent and easy way about her, directing her was a cake walk. As was directing the young woman with the school performance background. My fourth March sister was a veteran of this theatre and was so determined to give me her best and it showed. When it came to show time, my cast did me proud. They gave outstanding performances each show. When Beth March died, I did cry a bit. (It was the mission of that actor to ensure I cried each time she died on stage.) The audience laughed, cried and felt every emotion the actors portrayed. It was the optimal debut for a director.

LitSo, why am I sharing this now? Well tonight I had the pleasure of seeing one of my March sisters perform at Chapel Street Playhouse in The Diary of Anne Frank. Oh she has grown as an actress! I received the best compliment a director could receive from a very seasoned actor – I am one of her favorite directors.

I am hoping to direct again next season at Reedy Point Players. This time a show a little different from Little Women, to push me as a director. I look forward to that next time when I can say “Hello, I’m your director…”

Healing Old Emotional Wounds

Yesterday, I posted a difficult story about myself. Yesterday is when I finally started to allow myself to heal from that emotional wound. It took almost 20 years before I allowed myself to start healing.

How many of us hold onto old emotional wounds like a tattered blanket around us? We beat ourselves up for choices we made, choices other people have made that affect us, and other outside forces that wound us emotionally.

When do we know that it’s time to throw that worn out, self-loathing blanket of emotional wounds? For me it was yesterday – 19 years, 8 months later. For you it could take a lot less time or perhaps never. It’s up to us to decide for ourselves.

Most people will say, and I did too – don’t judge me on my past mistakes. This is very true, but do we practice it for ourselves? How many times do we continue to replay events or conversations in our heads with judgement a key factor? How often do we berate ourselves for not doing something or doing something differently to change an outcome?

We are human, therefore we are fallible. We make mistakes, we make hard decisions, we choose to do or not do things that we regret later. As a human, we hopefully learn from these things and grow into a better version of ourselves.

How do we grow and better our lives? Sometimes it is as “simple” as speaking about something we did or had done to us to someone. Though, to be honest it’s never simple. I chose to finally share my story publicly. This decision was simple yet difficult for me, but I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do and the right time to do it. And yes, I shed tears when I shared at the rally and when writing my blog. I cried a bit then and will most likely shed more as the healing process continues.

Others, it may be talking about it to a therapist or counselor. This is a great way to handle old emotional wounds as you have someone who can guide you through acceptance of what was and moving forward toward a more whole version of yourself. It’s a safe environment where you can feel comfortable sharing your innermost thoughts. I highly encourage and recommend therapy as needed.

Another way is to join a support group. For those who are the children, adult children, significant others, family members, etc. of addicts, Al-Anon is a fantastic organization to help them. There are so many support groups out there, just do a Google search and you’ll find plenty in your area. Support groups can also be found on Facebook, which can be helpful.

Emotional wounds are the hardest to heal. They affect us on every level, a lot of times without us realizing it. They hamper our emotional and spiritual growth. They eat away at self-esteem, self-worth and self-love. Emotional wounds can sometimes never be healed because they are too painful. These wounds become part of our every day existence and it can seem you will unravel if you strip them away.

The benefit for attacking the issues at the core of the emotional wounds is a sense of freedom. Emotional wounds can feel like a prison, but when you address these wounds and begin confronting them it feels like a key unlocked that prison. It takes time to walk through that door and put it behind you, so realize healing is a process and takes time.

The healing from an emotional wound or from several can take a very long time. Perhaps we never stop healing from it. Like grief, it can sneak up on you when you least expect it. Some random thing will trigger the tears, the emotions. That’s okay. It’s part of the process.

We’re allowed to cry. We’re allowed to be angry. We’re allowed to feel sad. We’re also allowed to smile, to laugh and to feel joy. Most importantly we are allowed to love and be loved.

Standing Up for Planned Parenthood – My Story

Today, my husband and I went to a Planned Parenthood support rally (called PINK OUT!) in Wilmington, Delaware. It was one of those things that you think, okay I support them so I’ll show up – not thinking I would have the courage to share my story but I did.

This is my story. I’m sharing it here because I think it’s important to have people know the stories of those who support Planned Parenthood.

I was born in the late 1960’s to a woman who was not married, was in her early 40’s and was not interested in becoming a mother – again. She had been married 3 times and divorced 3 times. She had 4 children from two of the marriages, but was not their custodial parent. I have never met her. In 1960’s America abortion was illegal. My biological mother still had a choice, though 1 choice could be life threatening. Needless to say, she chose to give me up for adoption. I was lucky enough to be adopted by a loving family and will forever be grateful for that fact.

Fast forward 21 years… As a student at West Chester University, I became a patient at the local Planned Parenthood. They were informative, caring and kind. I had my gynecological exams done there, purchased birth control there, obtained free condoms from them and had STD testing at Planned Parenthood. At 23 years old I went to this same Planned Parenthood to get a pregnancy test. Lo and behold I was indeed about 8 weeks pregnant! The woman who counseled me at Planned Parenthood was so wonderful. I don’t remember her name, but her words of understanding and encouragement allowed me to decide to keep my baby.

This isn’t the end of my story…moving ahead about 6 years to when I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. Yet again I became pregnant. This time was different for me. I knew the relationship I was in must end, not just for me but for my 5 year old daughter. We deserved better than being treated poorly by a “dry drunk” who cared more about himself than anyone else. But I was carrying his child. We would be tied to each other for life.

Again, I went to Planned Parenthood. They again discussed my options – keep the baby, give the baby up for adoption or, as a last resort, have an abortion. NEVER did they encourage me to make any choice other than one that I felt was right for me at that time. I chose to terminate the pregnancy. I was almost 9 weeks pregnant at the time. The clinic I went to in Delaware no longer exists. But it was there when I needed it. There were pro-life protesters outside the building with disturbing images of fetuses on their posters, screaming that I was a baby killer and I was going to hell.

My mother was with me as I walked to the door of the clinic. No purses or bags were allowed, as the Police Officer stationed outside the door checked us in and apologized for the protesters. It was a small building, with a small waiting room and reception desk when we walked in. My memory has it as dimly lit, but I think that’s just my vision of it. They called my name to go have blood work and an ultrasound done. The nurse was quietly supportive. Then they wheeled me into the procedure room. As I lay there, I started to hyperventilate, tears running down my cheeks. The doctor spoke softly and kindly to calm me. The nurse held my hand throughout. I wept. It took only minutes. I wept. They brought me to the recovery room where I sat in a recliner and stared out the window while I wept. I wept for 3 days straight.

I tell this story because I do not take my choices lightly. I did not terminate a pregnancy on a whim. It’s taken me many years to begin to accept the choice I made. I am so incredibly thankful that thanks to millions of women who fought for a woman’s right to choose, I was able to make that choice legally. I had it done safely without worry of mutilation, infection or death. I was treated with kindness, respect and compassion by the people at Planned Parenthood.

I share this very private story of mine with the world so you all can see that we need the caring, compassionate and professional services of Planned Parenthood. I understand that by sharing my story there will be some that choose to blast me for my choices. That’s your right, but know it won’t change my mind. I am Pro-Choice because no one should ever feel they have the right to choose what I do with my body and my life but me.

Life Lessons in One Sentence

Life lessons in one sentence are a common thing in social media. Some are good, some are great and some…well not all are winners. Below are the briefly stated life lessons I like the most. (These are in no particular order, just randomly typed as I thought of them. No hidden meaning.)

One of the most beautiful things we can do is help another.

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.

Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality.

Never let a bad day make you think you have a bad life.

It’s not about the cards you’ve been dealt, but how you play the hand.

Winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit.

Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

True love means whatever happens you figure it out…Together.

I’ve learned so much from my mistakes, I’m thinking of making a few more.

Books are uniquely portable magic.

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

If it doesn’t feel right, doesn’t seem right, trust your gut.

Helping someone else is the first step in helping yourself.

Love is an equal opportunity emotion.

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Be careful what you say as words cannot be taken back once said.

There are so many more I could share with you all. What I find interesting is any one of these simple sentences is really quite complex in thought. I could write tons on each and every one of these statements. Yes, some are similar in meaning and thought, yet just a slightly different turn of phrase that expands the thought in a new direction.

I will leave you with this…find a simple life lesson and make it your own. Live it, breathe it and abide by it. You may find a new take on life by doing so.

My Favorite Authors

I have a few favorite authors, and a number I like and will read regularly. I designate one as a favorite if I tend to enjoy their books over and over, I look forward to each new publication, and I own a number of their books.

One of my all time favorite authors is Nora Roberts. I in particular enjoy her series – trilogies, quartets, etc. I like her development of each character – showing different facets of them to a reader. I enjoy the paranormal aspects she brings to a number of her books – making them part fantasy to encourage a fun journey in my mind.

BEFORE YOU READ ANY FURTHER – POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT!

Nora Roberts recently completed a trilogy called The Guardians Trilogy. The first book, Stars of Fortune introduces the legend/quest, the cast of characters – including a mermaid, an immortal, a time traveler, a wizard, a lycan and a seer, and the romantic pairing for this one. The second book, Bay of Sighs, continues the quest and the development of the unusual characters and offers up the next romantic pairing. The third book, Island of Glass, concludes the quest, has the third couple find love together and we find out how things wrap up for the other characters.

This formula is one that Ms. Roberts uses in most of her series, with different characters, quests or objectives, and pairings. It’s a successful formula and one I enjoy reading. Some may critique that it is a re-used formula, but given that she intersperses other novels into her repertoire that do not fit a definitive formula, I don’t see an issue with it.

Another favorite author is Heather Graham. She does primarily paranormal mysteries with a romance aspect to them. She has a series called Krewe of Hunters that will incorporate some of the same characters but mostly it is the name of the special FBI group – Krewe of Hunters – that is the tie between the books. Ms. Graham’s books tend to show a grittier side of life at times which keeps the books interesting and compelling. I also happen to like the way the romance aspect gets mixed in, but I’m a romantic.

Another favorite is Sherryl Woods. Her books are simply a joy to read. Contemporary romances that are sweet, non abrasive, with a hint of Mayberry and old fashioned/traditional values. The women portrayed are not some throwback to the 1950’s. They are strong, independent women. The type of women you want to be friends with and have in your life. The men are good guys (in general) but are not the focus. Relationships and family are the focus. Ms. Woods books can make a bleak world sunny.

I enjoy any number of other authors – male ones too – but these 3 authors are my “go-to” ones.

Who are your favorites? What genre do you prefer?

 

The Militants

As basically anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of the current administration in power in the US. Most people know that I am active in working for improvement in the state I live in – Delaware. I will work on political campaigns for candidates will best serve our state, I  will share information about national issues that concern me and I will do what I can to support organizations I care about.

That being said, I am not what I consider militant about any of it. How do I define militant? Someone who will not just be in your face about the issues, but are rude and unbending in their views. The militants will stand for something no matter how it may affect thousands in the negative because they feel their way is the only way.

I’ve seen it on both sides of the political fence. But honestly what kills me is when I see perfectly nice people get this way. Yes, there is so much outrage about what the current administration is doing that people are freaking out. Much for good reason. It’s the way some are handling this outrage that I object to.

One of the biggest arguments those who are called snowflakes or such have is that people blindly are following our President. Well, wake up and smell the coffee, some of you are doing the same thing with national organizations even though it can negatively affect many. But God forbid should anyone try to tell you that.

This is the problem. The extremists are the problem. The militants – whether leaning far right or far left are an issue. This country cannot survive living in an extremist state. If you are unwilling to understand that very fact, then you are part of the problem.

For me, I am re-evaluating who I align myself with and who I will support due to the militant attitudes I am coming across daily. I am a middle of the road person who reacts very poorly when confronted by a militant person.

When someone becomes militant they are in fact alienating many people who may agree with a lot of what they are fighting for in our country. But their abrasive and unyielding stance is the alienating factor. Nobody likes to have somebody forcefully shove their views non-stop down their throats, even when you agree with the view. It’s not just uncomfortable, it’s rude and uncalled for.

Now some who read this may feel that everyone has a right to be heard and they will not be silenced. I don’t disagree with that at all. It’s a question of how you choose to share your views. It’s a question of are you being rude and unabashedly aggressive or are you voicing your concerns and outrage in a constructive manner that may, just may allow people to actually hear you instead of wince and shy away from you?

Our nation, despite the issues we have going on (and most of these have been issues for my entire life), is a great nation. We have many freedoms that so many in this world do not have. We have free speech, the right to protest/demonstrate, the right to vote for who we believe will serve us best. No we don’t always get our way, but then again if our chosen candidate didn’t get elected, we need to figure out why. Blankly saying it’s because all who voted for the other candidate are ___________ is not only a cop-out its wrong.

Again, I am sure my views here will be scorned and I will be given my walking papers from some groups and individuals. But we need to stop being extremists and start listening and hearing each other to come to a middle ground. The only way this nation will be great again is if our next leader is a middle of the road politician who doesn’t cater to any extremist group.

Life is a Balancing Act

Every day we make decisions – what to wear, what to eat for each meal, what to watch on TV. Most are simple, inconsequential decisions, but some make a difference in how we live our lives – whether to take the new job offer, should you volunteer for an organization, do you take on a second job.

The hardest thing to say is no. The second hardest is to say I can no longer do _____. We intrinsically want to please others, so we say yes or continue doing some task even when it’s really putting too much on our plates. We don’t want to disappoint whomever is asking us to do something. We feel guilty and like we’ve let someone down. Sometimes we even will think like we did as children – they won’t like me.

In the past 5-10 years a trend has emerged – taking care of ourselves. This is a foreign concept to most of us and hard to do. I’m one of the worst at this and only take care of myself when I’m well past when I should have done so. I am in awe of those who have this down to a science.

Those of us who are caregivers always take on way more than we should and we pay for it. We spread ourselves so thin we have nothing left for ourselves or anyone else. Taking care of those who need it, working, volunteering, cleaning our homes, being there for others. It’s exhausting.

So how do we do that balancing act of doing what needs to be done and still taking care of ourselves? One way to do so is to look at what is necessary and what isn’t. For those of us who are caregivers, the person or persons we care for must come first. Next it’s what brings income into the home. Third is what is a long standing commitment. At this point you’re done committing to anything outside of these 3 things and yourself.

You probably have more than those 3 things on your plate. You need to decide what goes. How do you determine that? Look at what is the most time consuming outside of the 3 things mentioned above. That is what needs to go. It may even be you just reduce your involvement significantly. Or it may be you need to walk away completely. Either way, to keep your life balanced you must let go.

I face these crossroads with some regularity in my life and I am slowly learning how to identify when I need to say no. It’s a difficult process, training myself to not over-commit. We are repeatedly told to do more by society. We’re shown examples of people who do so much for so many. That’s great for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone.

We need to realize as things are being added to our load whether or not our shoulders can handle the weight. Do you know what your limits are when it comes to commitments? It’s different for everyone. The 3 categories listed above can include more than one commitment. This is why I say beyond those, it’s too much.

You need to decide what the priorities are for you. It’s important to take a step back and evaluate your load every so often. Make sure there’s balance to your life. It will keep you sane.