Monthly Archives: October 2017

Tiny Beautiful Things

Tiny Beautiful Things

by Wickham Boyle
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Oct 13, 2017


Tiny Beautiful Things

The “Dear Sugar” advice column was nearly a totemic tool for many people searching in a landscape of hopelessness, fear and confusion. Writer Cheryl Strayed assumed the mantle of columnist Sugar when the original Sugar, a man, retired. The results of her column are legendary and were curated and collected to become a New York Times best-selling book, entitled “Tiny Beautiful Things.”

Strayed’s book was adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos, who is a much-lauded actor who embodies Sugar in the production. This same production was heralded when it ran last season in a smaller Public Theater venue. Now it is back in the beautiful Newman space where more people can guffaw and weep or sigh and nod in agreement.

The work was co-conceived by Marshall Heyman and director Thomas Kail (of “Hamilton” fame) along with Vardalos. This production features a wonderful sprawling set, wrought by Rachel Hauck. It’s emblematic of a messy family home executed with an attention to detail that extends to kid’s drawings on the fridge, and pantries filled with snacks and liquor that the cast freely dips into. There is laundry strewn and folded, tables neatened and all as the marvelous cast Teddy Cañez, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Natalie Woolams-Torres and of course Vardalos as Sugar, interact in an almost balletic manner. They alternate reading actual letters, answering as a Greek chorus or listening intently as Sugar spins her answers.

Thousands of people wrote letters to Dear Sugar and her answers were sometimes brutal, often humorous, insightful and downright honestly brilliant. Sugar allowed her readers to witness heartbreak or the loss of a loved one. They wrote of boredom in marriages, anger at abusive parents, confusion with gender or rage at race, and all the while she imbued her answers with a sagacity that came not from a study of physiology, but rather from being a student of hard knocks, often at her own hand.

She references her abandoned childhood, her sexual abuse as a toddler at the hands of her grandfather and her divorce, drug addiction and digging out of all that life could throw at a person. But she continued to shine and evolve. And she shares it with her readers, and now with the audience. It is gobsmacking.

The columns and hence the play weave stories of theft and loneliness, of desire or ennui, mistrust and endless longing. Perhaps the most informed opinion on this work can be gleaned from the program note written by Oskar Eustis, the Artistic Director of the Public Theater. “Cheryl’s advise is as big as her heart: she does something brilliantly counterintuitive, using self revealing stories of her life for completely generous purposes.”

“Tiny Beautiful Things” runs through December 10 at The Public’s Newman Theater, 425 Lafayette Street. For information or tickets, call 212-967-7555 or visit 

YANA and Encore a First Date

YANA and Encore, Witnessing a First Night Alliance
10/26/2017 • By Wickham Boyle
The older we get, if we are lucky and open-hearted, the more we seem to orbit in a panoply of worlds. Our many careers, our families, friends, kids and their friends, art classes, book clubs, garden nerds, current work, politics, neighborhoods, where we volunteer. They all make little Venn diagrams, like the ones we used in school to describe overlapping theories or principles.

I am particularly fascinated by the places where my worlds overlap. I love edges, confluences and the dark spaces in between, so last night was very exciting for me. and Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance (YANA)hosted an evening at the offices of Atlantic Philanthropies in lower Manhattan. I have feet in both organizations and am very proud to be a passionate, active participant in each. I was an Encore 2015 Purpose Prize Fellow for my work in founding and running a passion project called Just Shea, which helped empower and protect women shea harvesters in Ghana. And for a little less time I have been a member of YANA, working with a diverse group of alums from many Yale schools and colleges who come together through an evinced interest in the non-profit sector.

YANA and Encore are a perfect match, coming together to augment each other’s mission and enhance outreach. The evening was an easy meet and greet. Mediterranean snacks, some lovely wine, the rain abating outside and a crowd of about 35 folks gathering to hear more about how these two organizations can provide opportunities to have a greater social impact in our communities.

After imbibing and some chatter, the door slid open to the conference room and Janet Shaw, New York Program Director for Encore Fellowships welcomed guests and panelists. There were four wise women seated at the table ready to tell stories, answer questions and hopefully inspire more good works across sectors.

After I unpacked my interest in these two organizations, which I saw as so integrally connected, Janet Shaw illuminated her personal story from three decades in pharma communications to jettisoning that for her encore career helping great non-profits find Encore Fellows from successful careers in the corporate sector. The paths people take, the twists and turns, all are so unexpected and the results are stunning.

The two other women at the table were Adele Brown, a current Encore Fellow in her early sixties who had been a private investigator among many careers. She was matched with Youth Inc. where she was supervised by her new younger colleague Katrina Huffman, also on the panel. In the midst of Brown’s fellowship, Huffman left to helm Change for Kids, where she has already brought on another Encore Fellow.

What we heard over and over was the joy and cooperative spirit that exists in these non-profit organizations. Janet said when she began at Encore she had to do a mind shift away from, “who are our competitors” to “how can we collaborate.” “I spent thirty years worrying about competitors,” she explained. So that was entirely new.

Katrina began her piece from a very personal place, revealing a passion for young people that emanated from her background growing up up in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where she never realized she was poor until arriving at college. Her church was a buffer to that poverty, providing so many amenities that might have been missed. She went to Broadway shows, summer camp and was surrounded by a fellowship of folks who cared. Her attraction to Change for Kids is that it provides many of the missing pieces that aren’t happening in today’s schools. Katrina provided detailed and wholehearted kudos for Encore Fellowships and the general idea of experienced talent. Katrina is an advocate and a wonderful spokesperson. In both instances she hired fellows to do marketing which she said ‘isn’t her thing’ and in both cases, her fellows delivered.

Katrina and Janet had a spirited back and forth extolling why the fellows program is as important for organizations as it is for for the fellows. These are the kinds of programs that make so valuable.

Between Katrina, Janet and Adele, a list emerged of what makes Encore Fellows unique and how both fellow and nonprofit leader can set themselves up for success. To paraphrase:

A fellow is a great way to fill a gap (As Katrina put it, “someone who understands what I don’t know…and I don’t know marketing!)
A fellow is a thought partner who can “go to meetings with me, or for me.”
A fellow has emotional maturity and can manage her own time.
To set up for success with a fellow, nonprofit hosts need to properly integrate and onboard the fellow and onboard (including enough history so that the fellow isn’t offering up ‘last year’s big idea’ to a junior staffer too polite to point it out.)
Nonprofits should understand that this isn’t just a consulting gig, it’s a matter of heart and head.
Fellows need humility to do this job and t take the time to understand the culture of their host. Even for fellows with impressive backgrounds, they are joining a team of specialists and experts.
A great fellow needs to a realist, flexible, and above-all passionate.
Sometimes as a fellow it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
Nonprofits are often filled with young people, so fellows often bring an intergenerational element to an organization and serve as a peer for a founder or ED. But that doesn’t mean the learning goes only one way. Fellows learn every day from their junior colleagues.
At the end of the evening there was a consensus that this was an important alliance. The YANA program brings a host of talented, brilliant new people into the encore circle and I hope to see new programs developed, funds raised and consciousness expanded on both sides. I think I see many more YANA/Encore partnerships going forward.

YANA and Encore, Witnessing a First Night Alliance

Hudson Valley Professional Theater Rocks Tivoli

by Wickham Boyle
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Oct 10, 2017

“Constellations,” written by Nick Payne, bowed at the Royal Court Theater in London in 2012. It then had its American premiere at the Manhattan Theater Club in 2015 staring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson. It is roaring back to an upstate stage produced by the small, plucky Tangent Theater.

Tangent, a company founded in 2000, occupies a former Carpentry shop on a back alley in sleepy Tivoli, New York, but their production is anything but somnambulant. You enter the small space with seating for perhaps 50 and discover that for this production there is seating in the round, surrounding a floor painted with a swirling cosmos designed by Caitlynn Barett so skillfully realized by painter and artist Joel Griffith (and who happens to be Tivoli’s mayor). This is where the two-person play unfolds.

We find Roland, played masterfully by artistic director Michael Rhodes, and Marianne who, as embodied by Molly Parker Myers, spits great dialogue and provides an anchor for the sometimes-complicated work. This is a boy meets girl, sometimes falls in love, sometimes marries, sometimes health overwhelms them, but they keep moving forward.

He is a beekeeper; she is a cosmologist a purveyor of the principles of string theory, relativity, and quantum mechanics. They are perhaps an unlikely pair in a play written in an unusual, Groundhog Day style. This means that many scenes are played repetitively with twists and quirks, little differences designed to show that at any, and every moment in our lives situations could go this way or that.

If I knew more about the scientific theories pursued by Marianne I might be able to discourse on how the paths of stars, or the vibration of the spheres influences and changes the course in our lives, spinning new webs or universe. Or as they refer to in this play “the multi-verse.”

What we all can relate to, and this production does much to illuminate this, is that our lives are fragile and going left rather than right, being late for a train, or taking one course of action over another, eventually all strings together to create our lives. If we looked back, regarding our choices, and adjusting them, we might have envisioned or created a different us.

In this 70-minute work, which at times feels like a musical fugue where one trope overlaps another and then reappears slightly morphed, we begin to let go of a linear expectation for a theatrical encounter. This is tough stuff, the lines have to flow and lap like water kissing the shore and this little company has done a great job of presenting an evening that will shake audience members to reevaluate how their lives have come together in lesser and greater ways.

“Constellations” runs through October 22 at Tangent Carpenter Shop Theater, 60 Broadway, Tivoli, New York.
For information or tickets, call 845-230-7020 or visit

The Principles of Uncertainty at BAM

Entertainment » Theatre
The Principles of Uncertainty
by Wickham Boyle
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Sep 29, 2017

The Principles of Uncertainty
What is the dance/theater work called “The Principles of Uncertainty” by John Heginbotham and Maira Kalman?

The Principles of Uncertainty

It is a calm, funny, hour-long evening filled with words, wonderful and quirky line drawings, a fake cake tossed stage left, soaring or soothing live music, and a lovely coterie of seven dancers all moving across the stage like the autumn leaves we wish were outside, rather than the soggy, sodden late summer that took our city hostage.

Maybe this still needs unpacking. Over the course of a year, the beloved author and illustrator Maira Kalman kept an online journal filled with words and her inimitable drawings for the New York Times. She called it “The Principles of Uncertainty.” The entries range from musings about the weather, the passing of time, useful objects, and the quotidian that enriches our lives.

John Heginbotham is a former Mark Morris dancer who began creating his own works shortly before retiring from the company in 2012. They met when Kalman designed the set for Morris’ “Four Saints in Three Acts” at the turn of the millennium. Together Kalman and Heginbotham set out to capture the shards of events, thoughts, and movements that knit together and make our lives.

Kalman and Heginbotham describe their work as “a basket of things we’ve fallen in love with,” and the evening is certainly that. There is a musical ensemble, which provides an original score composed, arranged, and curated by Brooklyn Rider and Colin Jacobsen of the Silk Road Ensemble. The music punctuates the dance as the four women and three men, all members of Dance Heginbotham, navigate across the floor and into boxes or hold an aquarium aloft so that a projected whale can swim inside.

The ensemble is costumed perfectly by Kalman, who also provides projected illustrations, other scenic pieces, and has even covered each seat with a muslin cover proffering kicky phrases like “a platter of frogs,” all rendered in her recognizable hand. In each program is a pretty pink painting of a potato and a reading list from both Kalman and Heginbotham. There is no detail ignored, and yet nothing is earthshaking.

The choreography is languid and lush and often humorous, as is the text, read by Kalman, who also does a tiny dance or two. All the elements unite to bring an evening to pitch perfect.

“The Principles of Uncertainty,” part of the BAM 2017 Next Wave Festival, runs through September 30 at BAM Fisher Space, 321 Ashland Place in Brooklyn. For tickets or information, call 718-636-4100 or visit