Currently, I’m doing some contract work with the United Way here in Portland. One of my tasks is to visit funded organizations and initiatives and talk to the people there to get their stories.
Today took me out to an organization called JOIN that does outreach for the homeless to get them up on their feet and back into the game. One of the biggest hurdles to coming off the street is building a sense of self-worth back up. Both of the people who shared their stories of coming off the street, told me that it was the most renewing thing to have people approach them and validate and appreciate their situations. It was the first time in years for these folks, but that simple act of having someone finally say ‘Yes, come in, and we’d like to help you’. The program does this out on the streets, largely. For the long-term homeless, there are incredible trust issues that need to be dealt with before they can make headway towards stability. They don’t trust because they’ve been denied so often.
In the world of improvisation, we know that appreciating, validating, and “yes”ing is how relationships and stories are built. The reason it works so well in improv is because it works well in life. Saying ‘yes’ to a homeless person is the most vulnerable thing for privileged person to do, but one of the people I talked to today told me, when they were at their lowest, two different people reached out to help and validate his need. He told me that those gestures awakened hope in him and gave him the strength to press on and work towards change.
That’s the deep power of yes. It builds trust between people. It affirms the value of a developing relationship, and it inspires us to do our best for ourselves and ultimately for others.
On a whim, I began netflixing the old TV series “Kung Fu” with David Carradine. As I’ve been ticking off the seasons and the episodes, they all had this feeling of familiarity. Then it dawned on me that I used to watch it all the time when I was like 7 or 8. As Kwai Chang Kane’s master started quoting passages from the Tao Te Ching it hit me. The roots of my philosophical and spiritual inklings were sooo influenced by this show. It’s scary.
Then I wondered why they couldn’t have an actual Chinese actor to play Kane. Ah, the 70’s.
As my time in Rochester winds to a close, I’m becoming romantic and reflective.
Nate Halloran and I just finished a short run of shows by knocking it out of the park last night to a great crowd. We ended up pushing a piano out onto the stage on a whim before the show, and it was THE right thing to do. It added a whole other level of magic to what we already had. Nate’s musical skills are divine. I’m sad that it will probably be a year before that can happen again. Although, it was nice to have this follow our difficult show up in Toronto. We went up and performed in this pseudo-competitive bar show that my buddy Kurt puts on. We came in last of three, and it dashed our spirits a bit. I think that our success last night was largely due to our failure in Toronto. It’s only when you have nothing left to lose that one can be free. We were free in spades last night.
This anthropology project has led to the forging of a few new friendships and helped build on a few others. There were performers in the audience last night from the performance troupes that I have studied, and Nate and I surprised them by calling them up for a jam at the end of our show. It was fabulous. I really am riding an awesome love high. You know that warm feeling you get when you’ve done something right by a lot of people, that’s what I’ve got. Because I got the two troupes in town who never work together to work together. I’m a collaboration fiend. Who knows if it will go anywhere, though. Happy Holidays Everybody!!!
PS – beware “2girls1cup”. I am scarred (and splattered).
So my good friend Tim, whom I’ve been friends with since 1981, is marrying his fiancee, Virginia. For this reason, I got ordained by the Universal Life Church to officiate their wedding. Tim and I grew up together in Wisconsin. We met in catholic grade school, played AD&D throughout high school, and hung out and partied through the early 90’s. He took me to get my first tattoo when I was recovering from a terrible bout of food poisoning, and he accompanied myself and a friend on my move out to Portland back in 1995.
Tim is one of a core of 5 guys that I’ve known for over 20 years. He’s lived all over the world in squats, ranches, and houses throughout Central America and Europe. He’s a woodworker and carpenter, a fire-dancer and musician, a clever wit and a tender soul. I have met very few people in life who are near to his level of genuine, caring sincerity.
Virginia grew up in Argentina. She is an artist, and her specialty is making puppetts of late. She is a classic beautiful latina with a gracile frame, warm smile, and wonderful laugh that seems to somehow communicate her own generous spirit. They met when Tim was living near Mexico City back in 2004.
To see them together doing anything is to see love. It is something that hangs in the air between them.
So last week when they were proclaiming that they were trying to get married in the next couple of weeks (because they are both tired of having to play the immigration hokey-pokey for Virginia). I caved and followed through with becoming ordained because I had wanted to for some time. That, and I wanted to be the one to marry them. Tim is like my brother, and Virginia is just such a wonderful, intelligent, kind woman. I can think of no greater honor than marrying them today at noon.
My week at Alki Middle School was a blur. I had 30 6th, 7th, and 8th graders for 47 minutes a day for 5 days. It was a mad dash to impart some basics while providing plenty of opportunity for practical and active involvement from the students.
They had some great success with this silent emotions exercise that I like to do. It was surprising some of the things these kids would bring out. One kid played Hannibal Lechter in a scene. That was surprising to me. He ended up being a Lechter who was trying to reform, but he would nibble on pieces of himself. His dinosaur friend was trying to help him through a rough part in his twelve step cannibals anonymous program.
It was amazing that these kids were oftentimes naturally drawn to do really good environment work, and they were champs at taking risks and refining things rapidly on the fly. That’s when I started to realize that the short attention span often meant that they ‘got it’ but were bored waiting to ‘do it’. The flip side was that they often had violent imaginations and were prone to power struggles. I had to give a little speech on finding the ‘love’ in scenes and how it’s boring for the audience to watch violence (not to mention how people won’t want to play with you if that’s what you’re about).
I also loved working with my friend Abby whose students these were. We need more improv training in American schools. I want to know more about how the Canadian Improv Games are structured and administered. I’d love to do the same in the US.
When I was in Rochester, I met Rene. We ‘hung out’ a couple of times, and the tone improved markedly between the first and the second. Since I left, we’ve chatted at length online almost every day. He’s revealed that he has some feelings for me and vice versa. We’ve both remarked that this seems to be our luck. We either meet guys with commitment issues or they’re in another city. In our case, we have this incredible chemistry that we’re both completely and happily surprised by.
The last time I tried the long-distance thing, it failed miserably, BUT in that instance, we rarely talked and barely stayed in touch. Rene is working on getting a visit set up and flying out. He’s thinking about leaving Rochester, anyway. Anywho, just looking for feedback from others about the long distance thing.
So I’m currently engaged in writing a paper on “What is Improvisational Theatre?”. It’s at 27 pages and counting. I’m approaching it from a socio-cultural standpoint, an anthropological standpoint, and I’m realizing that I could probably write another 30 pages to do it justice.
Unfortunately, I have to hand something in to my advisor tomorrow. I hate the fact that I find all of my best theoretical resources at the end of this reading and conference. Thankfully, I’ve built in time to keep developing this next term because I keep doing things like posting to livejournal instead of writing.
On top of everything, I’ve got Strep throat. I just found out today. Antibiotics, do your stuff.