Monthly Archives: October 2009

>Time To Write . . finally, maybe


Oct 15, 2009


As I left my loft downtown, bouncing my bike down from the loading dock and donning my slicker, while coughing heartily into my hand, I encountered my neighbor.

Wow even in the rain, this cold, the bike . .  . really ?


 Oh well if you give your self a day off, or an excuse you are done for. . .


With that I pedaled off coughing and wheeling into the pelting downpour. I was wearing no hat and had grabbed only thin sweat pants to wear. I was on my way 3 miles north to a Pilates class, having forsaken my warm home and the promise I’d made to write something today that didn’t involve work. Meaning neither a journalistic piece on quilts nor a grant to support housing for homeless women. All important, but  diversions from my creative writing.


As I peddled off I was rattling around in my head, Never give yourself an excuse or an easy way out. You have to brave the rain, cold to stay strong. Go on out into the rain on your bike. I seemed truly crazy. And has I felt my fever heat and cool me simultaneously and my cough kept me hacking I had a simple epiphany as I crossed Canal Street. I am nearly sixty years old, when can I give myself a day off ? Or when can I take a respite just because I feel like it. WHEN?


And just like that I circled back and rode home. I turned my metal mule around and bumped back up the slippery loading dock and came home into the warmth. Ate a crisp apple and read.


Rather than feeling defeated I felt as if I  made a grown up decision. Pilates is wonderful but this cold and sore throat will not get better by beating myself up. I have a few hours without meetings and I am a writer who says she never has time to write.


Please do not think this is what I am passing off as my writng time, no this is the prelude, the foreplay to re- announce my intention to myself. As Lizzie Simon said in her wonderful  SHEWRITES.COM webinar yesterday, “Practice being a writer by writing every day for 30 minutes. Be in the void” Hell I spend a half hour wondering if the cats are actually smiling at me. Another thirty minutes pondering banana bread or a trash toss; so I think can invest that time in me and my desire to amass words into a form that might become a book.


I also went to a poetry reading this week given in a local gallery by the seductive and talented Max Blagg who said, “ I write1000 words every day, not all good words, not all keepable words, but words to get the juices flowing and refer back to perhaps when the real writng starts. Like keeping the machine in order.” His words and rhythm are magical and if they come from a rigor of daily writing then maybe I can join in.


At any rate I am home having turned back from rain and cold and wheezing and embracing, for a little while, the warmth of my home and the comfort of words.

>Let Me Down Easy Anna Deavere Smith


Let Me Down Easy  Written and performed by Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith is a genius, and she even has a MacArthur fellowship to prove it. Anyone who is lucky enough to take a seat in the Second Stage Theater on West 43rd Street and be regaled by the 20 real life characters created by Smith in For Let Me Down Easy will burst out acclaiming her bravura intensity for all to hear.

Anna, as her characters refer to her, pioneered a form of theater at the confluence of journalism, caricature and mimicry, all tied together with a shining bow of theatrical excellence. Anna takes her time to create her work and will not be rushed. For Let Me Down Easy she spent years interviewing celebrities, folks, clergy, doctors and hospital administrators across the county in order to find a synthesis that hits pitch perfect.

Health care in America at this crucial moment is on all of our minds: how to get it, how to pay for it and how to feel safe. Anna began work on Let Me Down Easy with a commission from the Yale School of Medicine. Her findings were then wrapped into an early version of the play and shown at New Haven’s acclaimed Long Warf Theater, and then debuted this fall on Broadway. This is not the usual route to creating theatre, but then Deavere Smith has never done anything other than work off the grid and make her audience rethink whatever subject she is tackling.

She is a consummate journalist whose ear is pitch perfect when both questioning and listening to answers. She begins by taping everything and then she returns to the tapes, edits them and becomes the person whom she interviews. Do not skim over this, she is an alchemist and she becomes for our delight and education a Buddhist monk, a boxer, her aging aunt, Joel Siegel, Eve Ensler, former governor Ann Richards, a patient at Yale New Haven hospital and Lance Armstrong among others.


Each character contributes a salient piece on the debate about ageing, becoming ill, dying or attempting to be well and achieve in a society which often seems to not value those who are not perfect: women who are not svelte, the wounded, the poor, the uninsured, the uneducated. Anna gives them all an eloquent voice. She equally allows the celebrities and higher ups in the pantheon of medicine to wax poetic about how they view this confused landscape of medical care and the shifting sands of health.

As the characters emerge Anna is served props or costume pieces by an unidentified hand maiden and by the end of the nearly two hour piece the wonderful set, flaked by mirrors, is littered with the detritus of the twenty characters we have seen metamorphosis before our eyes. Boxing gloves, wine, eyeglasses, a hospital gown, and various suit jackets, all remain to remind us that every character, every story builds on the one before it in this play, as in our lives.

This kind of thought, effort and execution is rare and is the result of long hard work. Anna Deavere Smith has a glorious team surrounding her in the director Leonard Foglia, set designer Riccardo Hernandez, lighting designers Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, costumer Ann Hould-Ward and the movement and dialect coaches, dramaturge and various assistants; they all must be noted because Anna obviously knows that all the characters she brings so vibrantly to us are the work of a kind of distillation whereby gallons of liquid are distilled to produced drops of elixir. Do not hesitate to run and drink from the magic Anna Deavere Smith has created.

Thru November 8


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