I wrote this speech 5 years ago while I was serving as Vice President. Today 5 years later and after 10 years of membership, my heart still warmly resides within the walls and amongst the ghosts.
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So after over a month away and seeing nothing in the city, this past week I got my fill and am very excited to say I attended two truly wonderful performance events and I just wanted to share. The two performances I saw were Universal Robots by the incredibly talented Mac Rogers (be sure to check out the New York Times profile) and a traditional Players Pipe Night for Cagney the Musical.
When I first became very active in the theatre here in NYC I worked a lot with a great group of people who ran Manhattan Theatre Source on MacDougal St. in the Village, where the incredible Estrogenius Festival was created. I became a part of an amazing playwrights group, then called The Writers Forum, and met some of the most talented writers. To this day I continue to work and collaborate with many of them.
Anyhow, this is where I first saw the original production of Universal Robots in 2007. Its not often a playwright focuses on sci-fi (which I oh so love!), but Mac Rogers does it and does it right. To this day that play resonates in my mind. I remember laughing then being in tears, then getting angry. The play evokes an incredible amount of emotion and the desire to stand up and take a stand for what’s right.
When I saw that the play was being produced again, it was the one play I knew I had to see as soon as I was back on my feet…I literally made it to the last weekend and I am so glad I did. It is wonderful to see Mac getting the attention he deserves for such a topical and relevant piece of theatre. Gideon Productions is known for putting up great theatre and yet again they succeeded. I was so absolutely thrilled to see that the poignant Jason Howard was reprising the role of Radius. I must say he was and is a huge reason for why this play spoke to me. His understated and moving portrayal of an AI is spot on. The rest of the cast followed right along. The wonderful Tandy Cronyn gave life to a snarky, eccentric scientist and the talented Greg Oliver Bodine adds to every cast. All of them were wonderful (Nikki Andrews-Ojo, Hanna Cheek, Jorge Cordova, Neimah Djourabchi,, Tarantino Smith, Sara Thigpen, and Brittany N. Williams).
I wish I could tell you to go see it, but sadly the production is over…the shitty part about off-off Broadway, it doesn’t last! However I highly suggest following Gideon Productions and Mac Rogers to see what they do next. I guarantee you won’t be sorry!
This past Monday I attended The Players first Pipe Night in seasons for Cagney The Musical. What a blast! This is one of those events that makes it truly special to be a Player (what we warm-heartedly call our members). This event is one that only our members and their guests can attend, making it very special to us. However, I will point out that ANYONE can go see this show and should!
Robert Creighton, the creator and star of Cangey is a member of the Players. It was a joy to honor him for the work he has done and the success he has had. Not only is he incredibly talented, he is most certainly a lovely human. Which is quite important since the original and actual James Cagney was a beloved member of our club, making this event doubly rewarding.
Robert and members of the Cagney cast (Jeremy Benton, Danette Holden, Bruce Sabath,
Josh Walden, Ellen Zolezzi) entertained and shared with us both personal experiences and creative aspects of the show. It was a night of celebration and camaraderie and a reminder of why I serve as Vice President of the Board and have put so much heart and time into helping to preserve the legacy of the Players.
There is a magic to the theatre and the people who create it. It is a place to share stories and life moments. A place where real people create worlds right there in front of us and take us on a journey. These lovely and talented creators are not simply entertaining, but bringing joy to those they share their work with. The Players was the perfect to celebrate that!
This is a wonderfully fun and poignant play. Go see it! Tickets are available through September 24th. Click here for tickets. Its a show not to be missed.
What is it really? This thing we call art. I have had so many opinions on it over the years. My disagreement with some concepts and executions. Truly though, as I begin with an open mind. What is art?
I think art is more than the forms we see or performances we experience. I heard recently that art is often the artist themselves. That struck me. One of my focuses as a theatre artist has always been on the process, the artists themselves, the creation of the work and what happens within that as much as the final experience.
Many don’t have the inside seat on the relationships and personalities at play behind the scenes. So much of what makes art good or bad (in each and all’s opinion) is founded in the process; the sharing and shaping of the the work. The vision is a piece but not all.
Since I have been revisiting my visual art and writing, I see it again. So much is in the process. In the heart of what is being created and why. The outcome may not appeal to everyone but there is life in it, at least for those who take it seriously. I have seen this over the years repeatedly. What is the difference from one thing to the next. Why do I love this dance piece or that. Its all perspective.
Some people truly see only the technique and appreciate it above all else. Some see through that and find the personality, the essence of the work. For myself I most certainly prefer the latter. I have seen my fair share of perfectly executed art; dance, theatre, photography, literature, etc. I certainly appreciate every aspect of it. The talent and skill required is astonishing. However I have found myself often bored with perfection( so why is it that I often strive for it?).
What pulls me in and excites me is the collaboration. To me fantastic art includes its audience. It leaves an open door for them to walk through, to explore and to leave filled up with inspiration, emotions, ideas, whatever. Its not my place to judge that. Even as the artist, I have an intention but it is my intention alone. If an observer leaves with something different, perhaps somehow the work took a step beyond the itself. If they find something personal and unique, how spectacular is that! There is nothing better than art that grows beyond its own boundaries.
So as I sit here contemplating about what is next for me. I am letting go of what it is I “think” I should do. I am entering my creative experience as an observer of self willing to to find something different. I am releasing shoulds and musts. Embracing the simplicity of color and space, of heart and mind, of light and touch. I am confronting the simple DO to see what happens.
This is a whole new experience for me outside the theatre. It’s time to take those skills I gained and spread the wealth, to find the the connective thread that moves me. Its time to allow myself to be the art, expressive and free. As we all should.
This year has been an interesting one for me as an artist. There have been both epiphanies and regrets.
When I started as an artist, it was all about the visual. I remember being encouraged every step of the way by my family. A number of family members are artists, though none pursued their amazing talents for various reasons. But not me in college I dove in. My mom tried to convince me to get an Art Ed degree, I had no interest. When asked, “What will you fall back on?”, my attitude was “ART” that’s what.
In my second semester I decided to take a leap and try theatre, I failed miserably at first as a performer but my perseverance encouraged the stage manager to ask me to assist and a theatre rat was born. I had no boundaries, I used everything I was learning to create, to put together performances and events without a worry as to whether or not it was the norm …and I thrived! The ideas came and I found a way to make them happen. I directed, wrote, choreographed, produced, designed lights and sets, I made art and managed projects with others – I was referred to as a “renaissance woman”. I had the all-around skills to understand one side to the other and I reeked of creativity in the best possible way.
Then I fell in love with the craft of acting. I knew it would be difficult because I had a certain look and not a perfect body (as I was told more than once). I thought, “It’s a challenge”, a challenge for me to get past my body image issues and become free. I had some amazing teachers who helped me through blocks, read books, performed and had fun. I was so excited when I got my first headshots, but it was the first lesson I learned hearing over and over, “we have too many like you” (ie. tall, blonde, and blue eyed). I grew out and dyed my hair black, got new headshots and started getting roles. I had to change to fit the industry.
I came to NYC after realizing RI wasn’t going to make me a career, it was a dream I never thought would happen for so many personal reasons, but it did! My first year here was amazing; auditioning, meeting people, the independence of being away from family, having our first dog. I didn’t have to work and got to take classes and discover Manhattan. It was exhilarating! Then somehow toward the end of that first year things shifted, I found myself questioning everything; my choices, my talent, my body (which was the healthiest it had ever been), and my abilities. I broke down. I loved acting but instead of seeing that it had nothing to do with my talent or abilities I focused on all of the personal criticisms that come with the business; not thin enough, not pretty enough, too tall, too young, too old, my resume not full enough with the “right” names. I believed I was a failure.
I decided to turn it around and took the advice I had heard over and over, “do it yourself”. I created a theatre co. and it was successful. Over a number of years I gathered great talent; actors, writers and directors. We did incredible and moving work, so good it got to a point where I had to make a decision to take the next step and grow or pull back and rethink what I really wanted. I again focused on the wrong things for my own success. I created the company so that I could play the roles I wanted and I did, but being the leader I was the one running the company, taking on the admin work and the communications and everything else. I didn’t know how to ask for the right kind of help and I wasn’t getting what I felt I needed. I pulled back and thought about it, stepped away from the company and decided again to focus on acting.
Reality check…acting wasn’t making me happy. Through all these years it never fulfilled what I thought it would. I’m not sure what I was looking for but as much as I love being on the stage or in front of a camera, something was missing.
I had it all wrong.
What happened for me is that pursuing a career that requires so much work and relies so much on who I know, what theatre I have on my resume and what I look like personally goes against all of the creativity in my being. Though the rush and freedom of the moment as lived out on stage is exhilarating for me, it doesn’t last. I started reflecting on what I fell in love with about theatre, reminding myself that what I wanted was to create worlds that touched people; I love the stories, the characters, the big picture, the artistry of the stage; it is versatile and ambient. The stage can be anything and all encompassing, it can swallow you if you let it. As an actor I was focused on my character and the moment I was in instead of the concept and creation of the world around me; I wanted a hand in the big picture, I missed it!
I was stifled.
This year I’ve started writing again; something I had blatantly left behind. I picked up my pen and inks and opened my paints. I am allowing my brain to stop focusing on my next headshot, my “look” and what my type is and start allowing the ideas to flow again, releasing my judgments of art and myself. I am once again letting go of the outcome to allow the genius within to escape unafraid of failure because there is no failure in a lesson, only wisdom.
I don’t regret the time I’ve spent pursuing the dream I thought I wanted, the people and experiences it has contributed to my life are essential to who I have become, but I’ve come full circle. I am in true transition. I feel the world reopening and restrictions disappearing. I am strong; my lessons have been both hard and well earned. It’s time to simply create and follow my gut (which has served me greatly) and change my paradigm. The future holds no boundaries.
I remember the first time I saw Eve Ensler live. It was on Broadway and it was THE GOOD BODY. I had read THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES and though I enjoyed it and “got it”, I couldn’t connect to it. But I had seen Ms. Ensler in interviews and thought, wow…how brave.
As I sat in the theatre listening to the bravery of a woman sharing her most vulnerable feelings about her body, how it tormented and bemused her, my mouth dropped open in awe of her courage.
The play was about an hour and a half and throughout I sat crying, privately clearing away tears I wanted no one else to see, because then they would know. They would know, I too feel like this. I too look in a mirror and think or say deplorable things to myself. I stop myself from doing things I know I’m quite capable of and I hate myself for it being so important.
I don’t know that I had ever experience theatre that way before. It was so different from seeing say, JOURNEY’S END where I left with the wonder of the theatre and the empathetic pain of those who’s lives I felt had just touched me. No, this was different. This was me onstage being exposed. This is the power of theatre!
I wanted to meet her, to be one of those who waited as she exited the theatre, to tell her, “I understand”. I didn’t; instead I walked for a while, thinking and reflecting on my experience. I was frozen and yet impelled; to do what, I didn’t know. I think then, I thought about a blog, back before it was truly cool or popular, but I wasn’t ready. That would be true exposure.
What I did do is tell my husband. I told him, I know you have never understood how or why I feel about my body as I do or what it is like and I don’t know how to explain it…it fact, I can’t. But I want you to see this show, if you do, you will know me better. We bought tickets the next week and after we left the theatre, he simply held me.
I don’t speak of these things. I don’t like to make it important because my true nature tells me I am beautiful no matter what. But sometimes my brain and the outside influences of media and frivolity devour my senses.
I was watching TED talks, my new obsession, and I came across Ms. Ensler and sat to listen and to be reminded of that connection I made years ago. The connection through art, theatre and my heart. It reminds me again why I am an artist. The fact that I am writing this in this blog tells me how much I have grown.
In the past, I would never share these vulnerabilities, these truths. What I have discovered is that these truths, though painful are a part of who I am and who I want to be and sharing that is where the growth is. The Good Body was a first step for me back in 2004. That was my first year in NYC; my brave leap into my new life.
Now I’m living that life; fully, honestly and authentically.
As a nature lover infatuated with trees, the quote above has stuck with me. It is from a woman Ms. Ensler had interviewed in Africa. Over the years I sometimes in my head I say, “Nichole, you’ve got to love your tree. Love your tree”.
I can’t begin to thank the artists who have inspired me enough. But I would like to share with you her words. Below is an awesome Talk after Eve had been through cancer and realized what she had been doing to herself and the reality of what it truly important.
To whoever, if anyone is ready this; I hope you have some time to listen if not now then later…its worth it!