“old friends” meeting new friends

Well, I did it! I successfully self-produced CLEAN ROOM at WEST, with all ticket sales and a few on-the-spot or after-the fact donations turned over to HAVEN to support their mission. I had great houses and a marvelous team to help: Tomer Oz designed my lights; Kate Quisumbing helped me rehearse, ran my boards, and shared my house management duties; HAVEN staff and board members helped with ticketing and box office, secured food donations, and made lovely curtain speeches; and my husband came every night and did all the glamorous work like taking out the garbage and–before I could stop him!–Windexing the bathrooms. NHTP served as perfect “landlords” for WEST and I deeply appreciate their support in making this happen. In the audience were friends and colleagues returning to visit with Brighina and Stupino, as well as those making their acquaintance with these characters for the first time. My friend Penny said that seeing the characters again was like spending time with old friends–what an honor to hear! And newcomers have been asking questions and engaging with the writing and performance in ways I find endlessly fascinating. I had a blast performing and was reminded that, although sometimes life presents obstacles, most often things get themselves done!

I learned two interesting things about my relationship to this show:  1) I don’t have to be so anxious about it if I self-produce. It is such a simple show technically that the fewer people in the room with me as I prepare, the more relaxed I feel.  2) I had been preparing to retire Brighina after this performance because I had been feeling too old to continue playing her, but folks told me emphatically NO!!!! The mask does the work of suspending realism and I seem to effectively use my body and voice to communicate Brig’s youthfulness. So, at least for another few years, I just might get away with it.

But I would like to let go of the story she tells in Act One of CLEAN ROOM.  It is sad, and it has been told. So the quest begins for a new story for Brighina to tell. As for Stupino? The dude abides! Thanks to everyone for your support, and for supporting HAVEN!!!




This year, I’ll be producing and performing CLEAN ROOM as a benefit for HAVEN.  It goes up April 6 & 7 at 8 pm and April 8 at 2 pm at the West End Studio Theatre in Portsmouth.  Seating is extremely limited, so it’s wise to book your tickets early.  You can purchase tickets online (highly recommended) or call (603) 321-8550 to reserve seats or ask questions about the show.  Some FAQ:  The show runs about 70 minutes, including a brief intermission. It is recommended for mature audiences and contains adult themes. WEST is at 959 Islington Street and is handicap accessible.

Visit my CLEAN ROOM page for more information about the play, including past reviews, a trailer, and video interview with PPMtv!

Also, please visit HAVEN to learn more about their domestic/sexual violence response and prevention services and how you can help:  havennh.org

Thanks to Genevieve Aichele of New Hampshire Theatre Project for her great management of the performance space.  And thanks to all the folks at HAVEN for helping to bring this production to the stage.  See you at WEST in APRIL!!!

MSIM returns–and much more!

MSIMVetCenterflyer162016 has been a busy year, so busy that I haven’t been writing on this blog too much.  Most of the work I have been doing involves upcoming events supporting veterans and their families.  I’m thrilled to say that my traveling version of MAKE SURE IT’S ME will return to the Manchester Vet Center on September 29th.  I will be joined there by a cast of 5 veterans to read dramatic scenes from Kate Wenner’s play, as well as VA Manchester clinicians to help me address questions about Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD.  Then, on October 20th I will take it to UNH, where my readers will be members of the Student Armed Forces Association, joined by some Theatre majors.  That promises to be a winning combination!  The research and treatment options for TBI and PTSD keep evolving, so whenever I pull this presentation out I retool my framing material to reflect recent developments.  It’s also extremely fun for me to work with the coordinators and readers as different venues, as well as to meet the audiences and mediate the conversation on performance day.  So I’m looking forward to both of those events.

CS logoI have also had the honor of serving as Humanities Expert for Community Stories: Soldiers Home & Away, a nine-week event series celebrating, commemorating and supporting veterans and military families across 8 libraries in Southern NH, as well as Timberlane School District.  The event series runs September 16 through November 12. My duties to this project have included helping the amazing group of library officials on the committee to write the grant proposal for the New Hampshire Humanities (which was successful, thank you NHH!);  helping to identify presenters and keep a “humanities” angle across the event series;  and I’ll be contributing to the “after-action” report to NHH about how Community Stories fulfilled its mission.  I am also involved in three of the events: I will present a brand new presentation, “Staging War: Veterans’ Voices in Post-9/11 Theatre” at the Plaistow Public Library on October 4;  I will mediate a book discussion of “Either the Beginning or the End of the World” will the glorious author Terry Farish on October 27th in Hampstead;  and I will be co-presenting the final keynote presentation on November 12th, “War Trauma: A Changing Story”, with neurologist Dr. James Whitlock.  That final presentation will include some readings from MSIM, aided by veteran and former Vet Center counselor Al Porsche.

So that’s a lot of exciting work I’ve been putting together, with fantastic and inspiring collaborators.

I have also been invited to do several more ongoing projects:  The NHH Humanities To Go program has selected my new presentation for their catalog.  In response to their feedback, the title is slightly different from the one in Community Stories, but it will be effectively the same format: “Speaking of War: How Theatre Gives Voice to Combat Veterans.”  (It’s always tricky to figure out appealing titles.)  Once the presentation is in the catalog, it remains to be seen if anyone wants me to bring it to their library or meeting hall.  So stay tuned!

I have also been hired as an actor by PowerPlay Interactive Development.  PowerPlay was founded by UNH Theatre Department Chair David Kaye.  It is a UNH sponsored business that uses Applied Theatre techniques to address issues like corporate culture, gender bias, harassment, and diversity for clients who include university departments, nonprofits and corporations.  So far, I have worked on four improv-based workshops for Easter Seals in Manchester;  in November, I will be traveling to the University of Virginia to present a combination of scripted material and improv addressing biases and potential conflicts in faculty hiring.  This is extremely challenging, fascinating work!  I am learning a lot and, once again, working with a great group of people that includes David Kaye, CJ Lewis and Susan Poulin.

Lastly for now, I am pleased to have been cast in New Hampshire Theatre Project‘s winter show, METAMORPHOSES, directed by Genevieve Aichele.  Rehearsals begin in November.  Phew, that’s a lot!!!

HAVENlogoIn the meantime, my Board work for HAVEN is ongoing, so don’t be surprised if I tap your shoulder in a fundraising campaign.  Best wishes to all as we move into Autumn!

clowning for HAVEN!

clownteachOn May 21 I held a workshop on “Finding Mindfulness Through Clown” at Yoga in ME to benefit HAVEN.  This was an experiment to see if I could bring my ideas and interpretations of clown to non-theatre audiences through the yoga setting. Well–and I actually laugh out loud whenever I think about this–the answer for now is a resounding NO!  We had a marvelous time working for three hours with our host, yoga teacher and Yoga in ME owner Nancy Garnhart, and several of my dear friends from the theatre community, who were eager to explore clown through the particular lens of mindfulness.

Yogis and HAVEN supporters stayed away in droves, attesting either to the difficulty of picking a good day for a workshop during graduation and wedding season . . . or to the ongoing hard sell that is CLOWN in a world haunted by real-life Bad Clowns like John Wayne Gacy and Stephen King’s fictional predators. (Lately I have been noticing that some people in law enforcement or who create fictional police procedurals call criminals “bad actors.”  I agree that bad acting can FEEL criminal when you watch it, but it isn’t technically illegal.  And all actors must do it in the course of their careers, at some point.)

So I’m accepting any suggestions for the Great Clown Re-Brand!  The term “Physical Theatre” sounds kind of clinical, but “improv” misleadingly points to other forms of theatre.  I probably need to repurpose an innocuous word like “skylight” or “purple.”  Please give it some thought and get back to me on that, will you?

But the workshop was a blast and I loved every minute!  We explored physical leads and their relationship to status, we created soundtracks as well as physical “zeroes” for our clowns, we allowed clowns to meet and have little status battles, and we wound up the afternoon with classic solo turns interacting with the environment and a prop.  Everyone brought some new character to life over the course of three hours–it’s my favorite kind of theatre to watch and I’m always thrilled to make a space for that work.

Thanks to Nancy Garnhart for hosting and for publicizing the event to bring more attention to HAVEN in Southern ME and Portsmouth.

HavenSWNA few days later, I was honored to help represent HAVEN at the Seacoast Women’s Network’s networking night.  I joined Joi Smith, Lori Waltz-Gagnon and Debra Altschiller.  I really love spending time with every member of the HAVEN Board of Directors and Staff.  I look forward to meeting more of you in the future!

Happy and healthy summer to you all, and I’ll keep you posted on my next adventures . . . MAKE SURE IT’S ME will be popping up in various ways in 2016!

I am honored to be a member of the Board!

I am delighted to share the news that I’ve been invited to serve on the Board of Directors for HAVEN NH, the new umbrella organization formed when SASS (Sexual Assault Support Services) and A Safe Place merged last November. My Mom was a SASS Board member for many years and I have hoped to find some way to contribute my energy to their cause. Now I’m thrilled to help them pursue their mission of protecting, sheltering, advocating for and educating New Hampshire families grappling with domestic violence and sexual assault. HAVEN provides a crisis hotline; advocates who can escort victims to emergency rooms or shelters; classroom educators who use puppets and role play to discuss body safety, boundaries and other issues; and a shelter for women and families in need. While HAVEN is based in the Seacoast, they also coordinate with the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to help families across the state.

I will be learning much, much more about this great organization’s past successes and plans for the future, but for now I refer you to their website at HAVEN. Also, I have jumped feet-first into the No More Challenge fundraiser, in which HAVEN is competing to win $50,000 from Verizon to further their goals! If you’d like to contribute, I have made a fundraising page linked to HAVEN’s CrowdRise campaign, and you can find it HERE.

I’ll leave you with a great picture of two HAVEN educators, Emily Murphy and Rhiannon Duke, in the classroom with their puppets, a heart-warming image to balance out the seriousness of the cause. Love to you all!

Sexual Assault Support Services educator Emily Murphy, left, holds puppet Lene and interacts with puppet Gwen, held by SASS educator Rhiannon Duke, who is also part of the Americore Victim Assistance Program. The educators use the puppets to demonstrate how they talk to kids in elementary schools about body safety through their prevention education program. Deb Cram/dcram@seacoastonline.com

Sexual Assault Support Services educator Emily Murphy, left, holds puppet Lene and interacts with puppet Gwen, held by SASS educator Rhiannon Duke, who is also part of the Americore Victim Assistance Program. The educators use the puppets to demonstrate how they talk to kids in elementary schools about body safety through their prevention education program.
Deb Cram/dcram@seacoastonline.com