April 11, 2017

Dear rally organizers,

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 6:55 pm by chavisory

We need to talk.

Last week, I attended the Rally to Save the Arts in front of City Hall in NYC.

It was a really lovely rally in a lot of ways.  I’d been feeling not great the night before and considered not going, but David Byrne was supposed to speak.  I couldn’t miss that.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day outside, I met up with a friend waiting in line to get in, and I got to wear my “Noncompliance is a social skill” t-shirt.  The crowd was not large, but not bad for the middle of a week day, and there was even a little marching band, complete with drums and fifes, that showed up.

The memorial statue of Nathan Hale looked out over it all.

FullSizeRender 4

We were all gathered on the City Hall steps flanking the podium where city council members and union representatives spoke.

And no one there could hear a damn thing.

There was no amplification for the assembled crowd.  There was a whole bouquet of microphones, but they seemed to only be there to feed sound to the television cameras–there was absolutely no amplification for those of us there in person.

We cheered and clapped when it seemed like we were supposed to.  Somebody tried to get a chant going, but no one could hear well enough to pick it up.  Somebody tried to start a sing-a-long of “Over the Rainbow,” but no one could hear well enough to follow and it fizzled out.

I stood less than 20 feet from David Byrne, but I did not get to hear him speak.

It was particularly, painfully ironic given that this was a Rally to Save the Arts.  At least half the people in the crowd, which included stage managers, musicians, and sound engineers, could probably have set up a sound system for them.

You absolutely need to consult a professional to set up appropriate amplification at your event.  Particularly when we’re talking about the importance of support for the arts, respect for the arts, and how Arts = Jobs (at least, I presume so, but I couldn’t really hear), it’s really…telling, when it’s obvious that you didn’t think to hire one to make sure your event goes the way it’s supposed to.  It’s also a matter of respect for your audience and rally participants.  We took time out of our days, we took off work, we made signs, we went waaaaay downtown.  Which is fine!  Everybody wants to do our part right now.  If it’s important that a lot of bodies show up for the TV cameras, you can say that!  But when we cannot so much as hear what’s going on at an event we came out to support, it kind of looks like you just see us as props.

This is 100% avoidable.

The other thing that happens is somebody did set up a sound system, but super obviously didn’t soundcheck, or doesn’t know how to prevent things like popping and feedback, leading to scenes like the Rally for Planned Parenthood in Washington Square Park earlier this winter, where virtually every time somebody moved on stage, I wound up huddled on the ground clutching my ears in pain while the people I was with asked if I was okay.  Yes, I have more-than-typical hearing for neurological reasons, but I also work in the performing arts, I attend rock concerts on a semi-regular basis without any problem, and I know this is not inevitable.

There are people who do this professionally.  Please find one.  Make sure the message  you worked so hard at crafting can actually be heard.

June 8, 2012

Great minds thinking alike

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 12:16 am by chavisory

“You take all your interests and all your preoccupations and you kind of fill up a bucket.  And the stuff that runs off, over the top, is a song, or is a novel.”  -Josh Ritter

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled.  The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”  -Ray Bradbury

Two men whose writing has meant the world to me.

Josh had just better plan on sticking around a while longer….

May 2, 2012

Incongruity

Posted in City life, Weird stuff tagged , at 12:05 am by chavisory

I was on my way to an event in Times Square last week when I smelled…what in my childhood memory is the smell of driving through southern Kansas….

Yep.  Oil.

The only thing weirder than walking past oil pumps in Times Square?…was watching the number of people who walked right past them without even blinking.

January 17, 2012

Help me make some theater happen!

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 11:41 am by chavisory

So I’m very bad at asking people for things.  Most especially money.  And I know that in all likelihood, pretty much everyone you know is involved in one or more campaigns for very important and wonderful things.

However…I am very much in love with my current production, Maya Macdonald’s Leave the Balcony Open.

It’s a brilliant new play, about love and loss, the insufficiency of language to emotional experience, and deciding how to live in a shattered world.  I’m very, very devoted to this show.  It’s the kind of play that makes me love theater for what it can mean to people’s lives.

And we still need help to make it happen.

Our IndieGoGo campaign is here!  Thank you prizes include program credits, voice-over cameos in the show, tickets, and dinner with the playwright.  Watch our trailer video above, check out the IndieGoGo page, and if you’d like to have a hand in making this beautiful show all it can be, consider making a donation.

http://www.indiegogo.com/Leave-the-Balcony-Open

And if you’re in the New York area in February, I’d love it if you came out to see us.  Previews begin February 5!

Love and thanks,

Emily

December 6, 2011

Nerd fun at the NYPL

Posted in City life tagged , , , , at 11:25 pm by chavisory

I just got home from the New York Public Library, where I went to hear to Josh Ritter, Wesley Stace, and Steve Earle discuss the relationship between music and writing.  All three were lovely and marvelously intelligent, and though I went to hear Josh (of course), I think it was Steve Earle who said the most intriguing thing of the evening:

“What separates us from animals is not opposable thumbs; it’s that only humans make and consume art.  That’s what separates us from the beasts.”

And while I don’t want to denigrate the quality or value of animals’ emotional lives…I suspect he may be right.  I don’t tend to believe that humans are vastly superior to the rest of the animal kingdom in morals or capacity for empathy or emotional complexity…but I cannot think of another species that produces and consumes art for art’s sake.

Discuss?

November 9, 2011

Reality: Ur doin’ it wrong.

Posted in City life, Lists, Reality tagged , , , , , at 10:48 pm by chavisory

On Fantasy

 Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.

-George R. R. Martin, author

**********

I feel much the same way as GRRM about fantasy—that it connects us to a deep internal knowledge and history of our own psyches, and recalls something huge and eternal in us.  Epic fantasy, when I was in middle and high school, assured me that there was so much more worth living for than my schools and community were trying to tell me.

But I’m not sure about his dim view of reality…as opposed to the disposable and shallow nature of much of what is sold to us as “reality,” and told we have to accept as the scope of our adult lives.

May I suggest, that if strip malls, plastic and plywood define your reality, and you don’t like it…you’re doing reality wrong.

Because reality is all that stuff, George, but reality is also—

The whistle and rumbling murmur of an early-morning train.

Reality is the first pale green shoots of peppermint pushing up through the dirt in March.

Reality is the guy who plays Simon and Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa” on Peruvian pan pipes in the Times Square subway station.

Reality is the stunning silence of a great blue heron taking flight.

Reality is the old Hispanic men in my neighborhood who sit outside in the summertime, playing an eternal sidewalk game of dominos with their boomboxes turned up loud.

Reality is sunset over the Hudson River.

Reality is moonlight, starlight, candle light, lantern light.

Reality is creaky old bookstores, and the thrill of reading a forbidden book hidden between the shelves.

Reality is the feel of sand as soft as cake flour under your feet.

Reality is the smell of wood smoke on the first cold night of fall.

Reality is stained glass, dark coffee, red wine, rosewood incense.  The brush of a fat cat around your ankles, the way evening light moves over the Brooklyn Bridge and tops of the sycamore trees, rooftop Fourth of July parties with the sky on fire around you, waking up on a foggy morning in the Catskill mountains, the sound of the concertmaster tuning an orchestra, tiny cemeteries behind old churches, hidden waterfalls, thunder in a snowstorm, the way deer’s eyes shine in the dark in a flashlight beam.

Nurture magic, wonder, and beauty wherever they occur in your life.  They are real—far more real than strip malls, suburban office parks, and Disneyland—whatever anyone tells you.

September 21, 2011

A tribute to young artists

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 4:23 pm by chavisory

“I should be doing the ritual thing and blessing you with words of wisdom and encouragement, and I will.  But the truth is, all I really want to do is thank you.  Thank all of you students who, against all odds and against all pressures to do otherwise, have chosen to have a life in the arts.  All the paradigms of success that we routinely encounter in our everyday lives–on television, in movies, in the online world, in the constant din of advertising, even from our friends and families–all these “models” for success and happiness American-style are really about what is ultimately a disposable life, about a life centered around material gain and about finding the best possible comfort zone for yourself….

…The arts, however, are difficult.  They are mind-bendingly and refreshingly difficult.”

-Composer John Adams, 2011 commencement address to the Juilliard School

August 7, 2011

A hope for neurodiversity in education

Posted in Marginalization, Schooling and unschooling, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 12:13 am by chavisory

Sometimes when I’m feeling frustrated and pessimistic, I get to wondering if humanity is irredeemably stupid.  Sometimes I look around at some of the things we do to each other and the immensity of the problems we’ve created for ourselves through greed and short-sightedness, and the state of politics in this country, and just can’t fathom how we’re ever going to find the unity, compassion, and concerted problem-solving to get ourselves out.

But I’ve been watching TED talks lately…and this conference has found a really astonishing number of people who have totally brilliant ideas and things to say.  You can really click randomly on just about any TED talk video, and people you’ve never heard of before in a hugely diverse range of disciplines are saying and doing incredible things.  Which makes me think, instead, that we actually have a nearly infinite number of wise and brilliant people on our side.

This talk by Sir Ken Robinson is actually about 5 years old, but for that I think what he says is actually more urgent now and not less.  He says that we’re actually educating kids out of their creativity and natural genius, to our own impoverishment…that we actually stigmatize many kinds of intelligence that simply don’t perform well in a confined classroom environment or on a standardized test.

Creativity isn’t just about making art; it’s that misunderestimation that makes it easy to marginalize as impractical or financially untenable.  We have environmental problems, health problems, food problems, and budget problems, and they’re all going to require creativity to solve.  Balancing our budget will take creativity.  Making alternatives to fossil fuels safe and affordable will take creativity.  Finding ways to teach kids from the most difficult of life circumstances takes creativity (like setting up a pirate supply store as a front for a free tutoring center, as Dave Eggers explains here).

“It’s education that’s meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp,” Robinson says, noting that we’re trying to educate kids for the next 50 years of their lives, but we have no idea what the world will be like in 5 years.  We have absolutely no basis on which to say that one kind of thinking, one curriculum or set of skills or knowledge, will be the most important one in the future and therefore to stigmatize all the others.

It’s here that I’d like the educational establishment to consider borrowing an idea from the autism community:  neurodiversity, or the conviction that there is very broad natural variation in human neurological wiring, in which even difficult differences should be valued on their own terms.  It’s become a somewhat contentious term and there are plenty of legitimate criticisms of it, but I don’t believe that it’s a denial of the reality of the disabling aspects of this condition, or a denial that people need and deserve help with things that really impede their quality of life.  I see neurodiversity as asking us to understand and accept a way of thought and a way of being on its own terms before we devalue it or decide it should be eradicated from the human experience, to see people first for their gifts and the ways in which humanity needs them.

As Temple Grandin says, “the world needs all kinds of minds.”

To me, neurodiversity’s not just about how we value autistic people, but how we value everyone who thinks differently, anyone who’s out of step with what the culture has decided it values and doesn’t value, and whatever is distinctive about every person.

Very much echoing what I interpret to be at the heart of the neurodiversity movement’s goals, Robinson says “Human communities depend upon a diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability.  At the heart of the challenge is to reconstitute our sense of ability and of intelligence.”

Robinson talks specifically about how dance and performance arts are devalued in the educational system, and I think of the League of Extraordinary Dancers, as well as all the dancers I’ve worked with, who never stop amazing me with how their brains work in ways that mine doesn’t.  Skills like these are probably not measurable by standardized test, but, I mean, they only have the potential to revolutionize assumptions about what the human body is capable of and the artistic potential of technology and the internet.

No one gets better or stronger or smarter by being defined and valued according to their weaknesses, but that’s exactly how we educate kids.  We sort students out by what’s wrong with them instead of allowing them the resources and freedom to nurture what’s right with themselves.

I think of Hogwarts, by contrast, which begins the process of formal education by sorting students according to their most basic strengths: Gryffindor students are courageous, Ravenclaws clever, Hufflepuffs hardworking and fair, and Slytherins cunning and ambitious.  Notice how the Sorting Hat doesn’t sort anyone out by their deficiencies.  And how it required the gifts of every single House to save the world from Voldemort.  (Even Slytherin, reviled by all the other houses…Snape’s cunning obviously being what allowed him to act as a double agent for the Order, and it was Narcissa Malfoy’s loyalty to her own family first and foremost that led her to betray Voldemort.)

We all need each other.  We all need each other’s brilliance.

{I couldn’t exactly weave this in to my thesis, but it’s just beautiful and I wanted to share it: spoken word poet Sarah Kay talks about how she found out what she wanted to do, using poetry to solve problems, and teaching self-expression through performance poetry.}

August 5, 2011

All you have to do

Posted in Reality, Reflections, Uncategorized tagged , , , at 11:42 pm by chavisory

I am in love with this passage I came across from Sugar, who is consequently my new favorite advice columnist.  She writes in The Rumpus.

“You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts.

You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth.

But that’s all.”