That Time I got to work with Marin Mazzie: an open fan letter

November 6, 16

Dear Marin.

If you knew me you would quickly find out that I suffer from a reality of not knowing “who someone is” and “why they are that person”, but you don’t know me, we’ve just met.

I’m just this person who is working with you,
who knows this person that knows you,
and has worked with you.

I’m the person who captured glimpses of strength
and the beauty of hope for today that you hold so dear
on the odd trip in a cab to the Emergency Room.

I’m the person who is having a hard time believing
that your station and talent isn’t making your life easy
in fact you are fighting an entirely different fight to stay on top.

I’m the person who is in a master class in perseverance
structured by a syllabus filled with matter-of-fact
as you go about your process and impress all.

I’m the person who has a talent crush seeing you perform at 15 paces
in awe of the comedy and heart that you offer in a single song
and the honesty you manage to deliver in every word.

I guess I am writing you this fan letter because you, unlike the many very talented people I get to work with, have an active story that you are sharing with whatever part of the world that will listen. A story that says we need to help fight this ass hat of a disease. You don’t want to be a martyr; you want to be a victor. You want to be a victor who sees other women able to seek treatment before their reality is the same as your reality.

I want to thank you for letting the world know that Ovarian Cancer is indiscriminate and can seriously mess up your conversations. Instead of regaling the room with an amazing life on the stage and trips to and fro you are informing people of the reality of ports and bowel activity. While treats fill the room you sip away at some broth. That cocktail conversation is about chemo not cosmos.

I want to write you a fan letter to let you know that when I am not lost in your talent, which is every time you are working, I am lost in thought of how your journey is helping to put my journey into perspective. A perspective that says, manage each moment in the here and now.

Always,
Julia xo

For those of you who read this blog and do not know Marin Mazzie’s recent story this is a blog that her husband has written.

http://jasondanieley.com/blog/?p=198

For those of you who have not yet seen Marin perform… I’m very sorry for you.

 

Farewell An American In Paris

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For the Company of An American In Paris
                             With Love: Julia

I wrap my arms around you trodders of the boards
while you kick and resist determined to go beyond
One art
One life
One story

You transcend the imagination of a single man’s dream
creating your own life
One art
One life
One story

The story you tell is of unity splintered by individualism
still closing up gaps in hopes of regaining
One art
One life
One story

On glorious occasion your entire being grows to trust
that you can succeed in portraying
One art
One life
One story

As this opportunity parts and fades know that you have left an indelible mark
Upon so many hearts
One art
One life
One Story

An American In Paris Company,
I enjoyed sharing your art with you. Your secret world of dancing rounded out with the glorious music and vocals that swirl up the Gershwin in any girl all strung together with the titanium thread of acting. A solid crew packed with integrity that you may never fully realize and sublime managers that take such pride in their work they are relentless in their pursuits.

Thank you for the laughs and the learning. Until we meet again I wish you all the very best each and every day.

Respectfully,
Julia

* Please note that this old lesbian uses Company in the global sense. All the people who make this shit happen nightly!

An ode of respect to a man called Jack O’Brien

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Jack be nimble 
Jack be — swift
Jack wax poetic with a brand new script

Shaw not breathing 
Shakespeare’s words run amuck
Skipping, tumbling through the text.
Art he finds
Music he makes – glorious music
Listening to his stories at his feet
on our backs wagging happily expanding
our love — transform our choice
Dissecting — determining each phrase, points, feeling.
Every word sustained creates a texture, a tapestry
a weave of mystery, imagination, depth.

His Globe was endless art — 9,490 rotations
Our globe was effected – beautified
Magic man you open up
Our eyes, ears, dreams
Truths balance our focus manage our expectations

He journeys an atlas through Rome with Floria
Baltimore with Tracy, Cincinnati with Jack,
The Big easy with Frank, The Soviet Union with Nina
Alabama with the Hubbards
He revived a good ball game, He premiered many more
Never missing a Cocktail Hour. His friends, not Imaginary helped
Knit his colorful tales. There were no lack of Scoundrels
Even the occasional Grinch.
Opera he blessed with the girl called Aida and a
Triple threat from a man called Puccini.

In a wink his adventures tied in a bow
will take us to a future filled with hope.
Another chance to create art with an act break

#BestDayEver

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I recently had the pleasure of being involved in the cast recording of The SpongeBob Musical and was wrapped up in the simple and rather infectious phrase, “its the best day ever”, other wise known as the SpongeBob theme. Its not the cloyingly annoying phrase you might think. I mean I can remember hearing the joy of the “happiest company on earth”, Kinky Boots, and being driven mad by the variety of zippy hashtags, like #youchangetheworldwhenyouchangeyourmind #justbe #werkkween. I felt super left out of that joy, it was another person’s celebration. Please note, I was a little miserable at the time Kinky Boots opened on broadway as I was working on a show that maybe was not the happiest place on earth, but that’s not this story. In fact this SpongeBob phrase as sung by our extraordinary cast is simple and genuine, when you hear it you actually think its possible that it might just be the best day ever and that’s a pretty super feeling. We were several hours into the night session when the cast started singing Best Day Ever and the Producers, Creatives & Technicians in the control booth were clicking away on devices and pushing the clock to not incur too much overtime and as we worked through the song there were in fact involuntary smiles that came across faces. They didn’t even know it, they were grinning, tapping their feet, glancing up from their screens as this beautiful phrase repeated. As the day wound down I became very sad watching this company part ways unsure of our next step in this world of Broadway real-estate where you feel as in control as a extreme liberal on the Senate floor. It’s a cast that never deserts one another, they all look at each other in the eye and make the moment true and vibrant. I know, I know, who’s cloying and annoying now?  As a stage manager you get to see the best and worst of everyone, so this feeling of company that came with The SpongeBob Musical felt unique and our time together zoomed by way too fast during the show’s out-of-town Chicago premier this summer. It did come with a lesson however, a lesson that has taken me a time and a couple glasses of rosé to formulate.  In my future endeavors I am going to try to be the very human being who stage manages and meets the demands of the *company instead of being that Stage Manager who has a solution for everything before anything occurs. I’m just not a by rote kind of a girl. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have major quirks and I like things done a certain way but I am not going to let those things interfere with me having the best day ever in this stand alone world of Broadway Theatre.

*A company by my definition is the entire group of cast, crew, creatives, musicians, managers… It is not just the cast as is often referred to on postings & notes.

Bipolar: There is nothing righter than the disease

You may never find the peace you strive for
although you search perusing the many possibilities that can get you there.
Then there is a crack and pieces of peace cover the ground
but not the piece of the peaceful mind
just that piece of glass that cuts into your skin asking for peace.

Your beautiful mind is in pieces spread across the universe
A shining of a star flaring too soon, a soul lost in space and time.
Your beauty flows swiftly and pools, your beauty, your blood
your mind swims lightly in a sense of peace.
The sun reflecting but not off your once bright eyes mind and spirit
Just off of your blood lost.

There is a glimmer of hope that steadies you as you go deeper
into this magical place where the release of inhibitions seem to come so easily
and all at once you are hoping that feeling will not end.
You don’t know who is controlling what or when what is controlling you
but you don’t care the who or what as the heat rises to the top of your
at last peace, some kind of peace.
But as the heat subsides and cool air rushes in you see you are left alone
but you can’t possibly be alone, you had peace, where is it now?
Maybe you are alone. Could you be alone?

You may never find the peace that you strive for, for it may not exist.
But pick up those pieces baby and see if they don’t just go back together
in a different way to create a new beautiful piece giving you the peace you so deserve.

Love,
Mommy

My daughter suffers alone with her bi-polar, with only her guides; her demons that tell her “right” from “wrong”. Trust me, her mom and I try to help. I pray prayers to rival the Pope; I fully expect white smoke to fly at any minute. Here’s the thing with mental illness that I am just beginning to understand. There is nothing righter than that disease in the moment. Bi-Polar is the powerful cunt that holds all of the cards. I adore my angel. From the minute that little baby girl was placed in my arms at the hospital I was hooked but there are more days than not that I have no idea who she is. I keep telling myself that puberty is upping the stakes, if her mom and I can keep her alive through this maybe with proper continued treatment she’ll be okay… I hate the word okay. I want her to be better than okay. I want that brilliant light to shine as she goes through life. God has delivered an Angel who must fight incredible demons every day and one day she will triumph and wake up with peace. I hope.

Beauty in a bunch of different people doing one thing together.

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(photo “acquired” from the internet and taken by the amazing Joan Marcus)

The following writing, poem for lack of a better word, is inspired by the Company (by company I mean Creatives, Cast, Crew, Producers, Musicians, Managers) of The SpongeBob Musical headed up by Tina Landau and her Viewpoints!

June 19, 2016

An Opening thought for The Best Day Ever…

We have been guided to shape a world with seemingly no rules
so full of joy and colors that it could make a rainbow blush.
We are made stronger by a group gesture of kindness
when the world has delivered pain that has broken through our make-believe.
Our environment is the architecture of mad genius
its slopes and angles offering a comfort that we call home.
There is a spatial relationship between new friends that we quickly call family
this family is there to support us at our most vulnerable moments.
We move at a tempo set for us by the moment we are in
then in the speed of light we are delivered to the moment we live in now.
We remain uncertain of the duration of this beauty we create
but strive to continue with strength and conviction to bring happiness.
All of our senses are alive in a kinesthetic response with the audience
living in the energy that only human response can bring to our art.
Our foundation is built on repetition of action
but within that repetition blows the nuance that leads to change.
Using our soft focus we take in this magical journey with all of its twists and turns
landing in this time, that we’ve come to today, which we all embrace
As. Something. Special.

My viewpoints have been wrapped in a whirl of joy surrounded by beautiful spirits
The familiar who is always ready with a quip full of heart
The one who tries anything and everything beyond comprehension
The professional who wraps us all up into being better
The little engine who could and has done and done and done
The trodder who brings a base of history with their every move
The youth who are still growing into their very talented paws
The creative who have a light in their eyes that cannot be extinguished
The steadfast that offer a calm in the creative storm

I learn and I learn and I learn and I learn and I learn and I learn
you all make me better and for that I remain forever grateful.

Getting on with a day, joke by joke

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I can jump up and down on a ball while juggling knives and telling jokes! ..Nope, not at all. Unless, bare with me on this, the ball I balance on is my career and my home life very well rounded and somewhat hard and very springy and often unpredictable in joyous ways. The daggers I toss in the air are the bi-polar manias of my incredibly talented and sweet natured pre-teen daughter who is super sick with a disease that most of us choose not to try to understand. The son who chooses only to listen to me and even then the term “listening” is a stretch, oh and he thinks we are wealthy. The youngest daughter who doesn’t say much but is full of experience at the ripe old age of nine thanks to her siblings and their oil & water personalities fueled by developmental delays and mental illness. The jokes I tell while jumping and juggling are real, I tell jokes all the time. Jokes to get by, jokes to let people know I’m listening, jokes to make everything okay in the heat of the moment, jokes to feel better, jokes to lift up, jokes that self deprecate, jokes to break the ice. So many jokes. I tell them to myself all day long, hilarious observations that will just die in my stunning memory. I have my buddy Matt who is my steady, my best friend outside my family, who goes down this darkened path of inappropriate humor with me. I cannot describe our relationship very well but to say when I’m not with him regularly I feel less whole. He is the man who makes my juggling seem bearable. I can tell him about the most horrific events that transpire and he’ll help me move on for the minute, hour, day. He’ll turn the worst possible situation into a reason to laugh and trust me when I say he has been put to the test over our nearly twenty year friendship.

I guess a good laugh isn’t always the best option, I know some people are heavily invested in the hearty cry and when I fall off  my ball and a knive stabs me right in the heart I can roar like a wounded animal with water works that match. This is not my favorite road to take because then I end up exhausted and listening to The Carpenters as a result of hitting this emotional rock bottom.  Then I have to start the process of cycling up musically, maybe next is James Taylor, perhaps Joni Mitchell, then early Springstein from there I can go in a variety of directions but it can be a long process of minor keys.

There’s also getting really angry and needing to give a good physical reaction to release. These were far more common responses for me years past and kinda dangerous roads for me to go down cause I’m pretty strong and my temper can get a little over the top. Then I feel huge waves of regret and occasionally have repairs to tend to. These huge waves of regret can also lead to The Carpenters which puts me in the above mentioned exhaustive cycle.

So I think its safe to say that the inappropriate monologue of humor that runs through my brain as an endless loop and slips out into the open maybe too often is my best course of action.

The Cooper Conundrum

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As many of my work colleagues, friends on Social Media, New Jersey police & Transit Police know my 11 year old son Cooper went missing this past Saturday for six hours. For many people this isn’t a surprise; I mean semi regularly Doreen, my wife, posts an “on the look out for Cooper” on her Facebook page. It is such a common sentiment that recently I went to get a cup of coffee at a local vendor, The Able Baker, and the woman helping me introduced herself as being part of the “Cooper look out team.” How awesome is that? I must give a shout out to the wonderful citizens and employees in our town who definitely keep a watchful eye out for my son. So why was this Saturday evening any different?

For those of you who don’t know my son suffers from autism. High functioning thank God, but as any parent of a kid on the spectrum can tell you, its a real thing! There are certain givens with Cooper: He adores NJ Transit, he desires many objects (often found in my shopping cart on Amazon is a Pokemon card or a plush toy), He loves to be on the go (and has had several bikes stolen in the process), He would like to go to NYC with me everyday if he could, He is passionate about eating at the diner and going to the ice cream store. So this last Saturday when he went to skate in the park just before 4:00 in the afternoon equipped with his cell phone and a plan to meet Doreen and his sister’s at the diner at 5:00 for dinner and then a stop by the ice cream shop it seemed like a lock. Doreen and I were babysitter ready with plans to attend the late show of Rita Wilson’s concert at the Cafe Carlyle that night; Doreen was perfectly priming the kids so her meeting me after my show would be a non event. Cooper never showed up at the diner or the ice cream store. His phone went straight to voice mail and texts were not being responded to. Doreen phoned to tell me he was missing at 7:00 in case he showed up at my work, which he has in the past. The Maplewood Police department and NJ transit Authority were informed in short order. As the night wore on the fact that Coop missed the diner and hadn’t called Doreen started to bother me more and more. By 9:00 terrible thoughts were racing through my mind and I just said many o’ prayer as the An American In Paris Orchestra continued to play and the performers went about their magic. By 9:30 Doreen and I were abandoning our anniversary plans, both of us bereft with worry, her trying to keep her fear from our girls while I tried to keep mine from my co-workers. Then at 10:10 I received word from a train conductor friend, Andre, that one of his conductor friends saw Cooper on the train that afternoon saying he was going to Trenton. Within minutes of this information coming in to me and Stairway to Paradise wrapping up onstage at the Palace Theatre Doreen got a call from the Trenton Transit Center that Cooper was there and needed to be picked up. Relief and exhaustion set in immediately!

I arrived home from work at midnight and sent our “date-night” baby sitter on her way and Doreen and Cooper rolled in at 1:30 in the morning. An extremely cuddly Cooper with nary a care in the world and a ticket for the SEPTA train in his hand comes up and rubs his face gently against mine. I took a serious tone, looked Cooper in the eye and said, “Buster, you simply cannot do that again. Mama and I were terrified that something horrible had happened to you. Your phone turned off. No more Cooper!” Coopers very sincere response was, “I wanted to go to Atlantic City and get a hotel room and come home tomorrow but it got too late to get a train.” Um… speechless.

We do the required take-aways from Coop’s freedoms and treasured stuff to try to make him understand the severity of the situation but the fact of the matter is Cooper is going to understand everything until the next time he is instantly taken by a need to journey. Cooper is a generally well mannered young man full of charm and an extra helping of life with a penchant to be on the move. So we have armed him with GPS tiles (thank you Apple) that will locate him wherever free wi-fi is available and added trackers to his phone that will work if it is on or not (thank you t-mobile) but the best we can arm him with is knowledge of people good & bad and an incredible network of friends that have his sweet back… that said, I will continue to pray!

Devotion at work, to a fault

1753_Traversi_Operation_anagoria.JPG“Its not brain surgery” this is an anthem often heard in the theatre, but I’d like to argue that there is a quality of caring among professionals in the theatre that makes this work our brain surgery. Lets face it, most of we theatre professionals never wanted to be brain surgeons nor did we likely have the passion for biology to consider this life or death profession. So while I am not going to trust the inimitable Jack O’Brien to wield a scalpel near any of my vital organs, I am going to trust that this master of the boards will make every attempt to see that a play is directed with absolute precision and heart. I believe the exchange for science is emotion and the delicate hand it takes to navigate around the emotional beings of the theatre takes absolute concentration and skill. When I go to work I am managing complex groups of people not governed by a code of ethics or trained for a very specific task repeated multiple times daily. These are people who invest in a living breathing entity called theatre. So to the dilemma I find myself facing; How do we as Stage Managers not let our devotion take us on every rollercoaster ride we are presented with in the theatre? How do we put breaks on our give-a-shitter?

There are no jobs backstage in the theatre, that I know of, that are total punch in/punch out professions. There are a few people who get to hide in high places like front light operators or flymen, but they are still invested thoroughly in the product. The Stage Hand is not a man or woman who punches in does their job and goes home uninvolved. Their contributions vary from the local stage hand who has a task that must be complete correctly day after day, to the sound engineer who must have the technical knowledge and the artistic sensibility to see that you as an audience hears the show as it was intended. Beyond their job they are interacting with actors, dancers, singers on a personal level, (after 28 years professionally in this business I can honestly say that there is no way to not be involved with performers on a personal level, they simply will not allow it), and providing a safe and confident work environment. The Wardrobe and Hair crew… they see people in little to no clothing and make sure they look they’re best or worst (as designed of course). They hear dressing room talk which is the professional equivalant to pillow talk. They are on their feet running about with laundry baskets and providing the performer with confidence that they don’t need to worry… about their clothes anyway. The actor; the well sung hero of our profession, everything is very high stakes for this often creative ball of vulnerability who puts themselves front and center for the audiences entertainment.

So I have a great idea, says a Producer, lets put all of these people (give or take musicians if it is a musical) in the same and often cramped (in the case of Broadway) building to perform what is ultimately a singular task that a brilliant creative team has built… but before we walk away to continue the task of building an audience, lets throw a couple of managers at them to run the thing day to day. Now Stage Managers are not on an island by any means… nope, its not that romantic! We work hand in hand with a true unsung hero, the Company Manager; the conduit between General Managers and Producers. The Company Manager is undoubtedly the Stage Managers best friend and ally, but I digress. The point is how do we, as Stage Managers, step back from this wildly diverse bunch of professionals (and occasionally un-professionals) and focus on the business and not the latest emotion. When I assist I have more time to ponder this question than when I am the lead stage manager (Production Stage Manager). I get to watch the lead stage manager either soar with great success through the storm like an Eagle with his eye on a doomed mouse or I sometimes I see him back into a corner like a Chihuahua caught in an ice storm. I once had the opportunity to work with a well respected stage manager called Beverley Randolph, whom I thought I disagreed with completely. Beverley was a force of nature and did everything by the Book of Beverley and insisted that those around her do the same. She felt that the Stage Manager should be “beyond reproach”; I still disagree with her on that point because I’m just not that gal. As it turns out there were several things that I took from the Book-of-Bev and one very important thing and while I may apply it differently it helps me to manage creativity without developing an ulcer “rise above it”. Sometimes, often times, things in our business do not go according to plan and rather than getting mired in the mix of right and wrong if you rise above it all you just may be able to look down and see the clear path.

Please note: Everything I mention about Beverley Randolph is with great respect. She was a female stage manager who paved the way for so many of us. She was taken from the American Theatre and the world too soon when she passed away in 2011. Rest In Peace Bev.