The last day I spent with mom, we were having lunch on the back terrace of the nursing home. The food wasn’t great but it was a beautiful hot day. I picked a tigerlily for mom and put it in her hair.
We sat outside and talked a while. She asked why he was brought there and I explained it to her again. She was on orders to stay in her wheel chair unless someone helped her so I took her everywhere she wanted to go. I walked her around the yard in to the shade and she asked, “What’s going on in your life?”
I said: “Mom, my life is like the story of the empty bag. Wanna hear it?
Once upon a time there was a boy that everyone called Noodle Head who wanted to help people out but always seemed to mess things up. So all he ever heard people say was ‘Get out of here Noodle Head!’ he went to the market and asked the grocery if he could make his day better. But no sooner had Noodle Head asked the question when he accidentally kicked the leg on the grocer’s cart causing it to fall spill the wares in to the street. ‘Get out of here Noodle Head!” the Grocer yelled and Noodle Head ran.
A little while later Noodle Head met a woman buying ice cream for 18 children. ‘I can make her day better.’ Noodle Head thought and ran to catch one of the scampering children. But he in doing so he bumped the woman. She dropped all 18 ice cream cones, and all 18 children began to cry as one. ‘Get out of here Noodle Head!’ The lady shouted and Noodle Head ran.
A while later down the road Noodle Head met a beggar holding an empty bag and crying. He asked why the man was crying.
‘All I have in the world is this bag.’ The man said. ‘When the bag is full I have plenty but when the bag is empty I have nothing and I weep.’
Suddenly Noodle Head snatched the beggar’s bag and ran. The beggar chased him shouting ‘Stop thief! Come back!’ but Noodle Head was too fast. Once he was out of site of the beggar Noodle head dropped the bag in the middle of the road and hid. When the beggar came running and saw his bag on the ground he jumped for joy. ‘ Oh my beloved bag! I thought I lost you forever.’ He walked away happily. Noodle Head walked out of his hiding place and said ‘At least that’s one way to make someone’s day better.’
Mom, I kind of feel like that beggar right now. I sold my house and it didn’t work out so well. I’ve made some big career mistakes. I fell like my bag is empty. But I’m here with you right now so I still have my bag. So this is enough.”
And we sat a while longer in the shade and agreed our bags were empty but we still had our bags and that was enough.
Every Day feels like a relentless grind. Where I once I got out of bed by instinctively moving a series of now it is a conscious decision and focused effort. I feel empty. Mostly numb and heavy until the sadness ambushes with a sneak attack. Then I am rushing out of the bookstore, or mall or wherever to be to find somewhere more private before my emotional breakdown erupts. I’ve lost any excitement for the richness and glittering prizes that fill my enhance my life. I can speak my blessings aloud but it feels like a lie because the gratitude is in my head but there is nothing in my heart. I feel like a cardboard cutout pretending to be a human being. Until the sadness ambushes with a sneak attack.
Sharing a cup of coffee good or bad.
Spaghetti with meat balls.
Arguing over who gets to sleep on the couch.
Watching “A Muppet Christmas Carol” on Thanksgiving day.
Opening 1 present on Christmas Eve.
Giving her the perfect gift that makes her hands shake as she opens it.
The look of surprised delight when I visit, even when she knows I’m coming.
An organization I was working with was creating a project to show the diversity of the Black community. The project was going to include a series of recordings and one of the producers contacted me about auditioning we scheduled a meeting. The day of the meeting the producer never showed up. I sent a follow-up email to reschedule. She never replied. I phoned and left a voice mail. No reply. A week later open auditions were announced for the voice over project, and I called and emailed again requesting an audition appointment and still, no reply. eventually I gave up confused, frustrated and feeling more than a little insulted.
It was some time before I had a suspicion of the reasons behind this. They didn’t like the way I speak. I speak with what some people call “accent neutral” English. Both of my parents had been English teachers as part of their careers and they understood the power and value of being articulate. So they insisted all their children properly and with as little accent as possible. I remember my mother tirelessly correcting me to say ” I saw” instead of “I sar”. I don’t speak perfectly and I still struggle with grammar a times. But I do speak very well. So some people think I “Sound White.” I suspect that this is why I was dropped from consideration for this project. I suspect it was someone over the producer’s head who made the decision and she didn’t want to say it to me directly. So instead she avoided me. I’ve gone for projects since then which have made the same decision but in those cases they actually told me they that I “sounded too White”, or I “wasn’t Black enough”. And there are enough similarities to for me to think the decision process was the same.
There are two points I’d like to make here. One since I am in face a Black man I DO sound Black. Every sound I make even if it is a resounding fart sounds Black.
Second, It qualifies as a fail ,if not an epic fail, when you plan an arts project to celebrate the diversity of a community then execute the project based on a narrow stereotype.
In loving honor of my mother and friend Anna G. White.
We planned and created much of Mom’s funeral ourselves with a huge amount of help from her church community and friends. During the service I read a part of the poem “The Dash by Linda Ellis You can read the whole poem here.
After I shared the story of how mom gave me my first acting gig:
I was maybe seven or eight years old and mom took me to McDonald’s ™ for dinner. One of her friends from work came in to the restaurant with 2 other acquaintances and didn’t say hello to us as he passed our table. My mother did not take insults lightly. So she turned to me and said “Alan I’ll buy you an extra ice cream if you go up to my friend and say ‘Hi Daddy, when are you coming home?”
and thus a career was launched.
The Blue and The Green
Long ago before the before times, the sky people lived in a vast castle above the earth. For generations the castle rose and rose until nothing could be seen of the earth below except the blue and green, and the blue and the green.
One day the wisest sky people gathered everyone and said “ Our home continues to rise. Soon it will rise past the white, past the blue and, in to the black which we fear. To save ourselves we must leave our home and choose to fall.”
But where should the sky people fall: to the blue or the green? Everyone argued no one agreed. So So the sky people built two great ships, falling ships, on to fall to the blue and one to the green.
On the day of the fall the sky people ran for the ships. Many ran to the blue ship, then called, and cried and begged for their friends, and family and lovers to join them. Others ran to the green ship, then called and cried and begged for their friends and family and lovers to join them. Still others paralyzed with fear remained still in the castle.
The ropes were cut and the ships fell.
The blue ship fell and fell and fell. It struck the blue and kept falling. Submerged, the sky people left their ship and became shimmering racers, sparkling rays and, great graceful leviathans that plunged to the depths and filled the blue with songs that those on the castle still would know they were never forgotten.
The green ship fell and fell fell. It struck the green and shattered. The sky people shattered as long legged leapers, bright swift birds and lumbering giants, that filled the green with song and call that those on the castle still would know they were never forgotten.
The sky people on the castle still rose and rose. They rose past the white, past the blue, and in to the black which they once had feared. Yet in that black they found stillness and peace. One sky person stepped from the castle in to the black, reached out and lit one small light. Then another sky person stepped from the castle, then another, and another. As the sky people in the black walked the new roads they lit countless lights, so that those in the blue and the green would know they were never forgotten.
© Copyright 2015 Alan White
A lot of people have asked about my experience training at Double Edge Theatre. It’s been a little hard to navigate that because of the nature of the training and because part of the work is not to talk about what you do so that you don’t over analyze it. So this post is my reflections on it that I am able and willing to share.
The most common thing you’d hear me and most other people say about the training is that it’s very physical. That’s what everyone told me when I asked. That’s a fact but it doesn’t even scratch the surface. I could also offer a list of some of the skills that we worked on like, stilts, or dramaturgy, and design, but that is still no deeper an explanation. The training is physical, emotional, energetic, and a little bit dangerous. The training leads you in to strange lands and leaves you to accomplish what you thought impossible. The training takes you to a place where you succeed and fail at the same time. Training is change.
This is perhaps the best description I can offer. The training is such mutable thing, the description would have to change based on who was asking and his or her world view.
I can offer one final thought: the experience of the training is very individual and so while what little I have said here is true for me, it may be entirely untrue for everyone else.
See you soon.
When I went to see Girl Talk Theatre I didn’t know if I would enjoy it or not. Lately I’ve been to see some theater that was very transforming and helpful to the people creating it, and or a small part of audience but not as relevant to the rest of us who were there. I support the use of theater in healing and transformation one thousand percent, and I will sit through theatrical works of this nature because I believe the audience is an essential for the cyclical energy of live performance to exist. I’ll continue to watch these things even if I enjoy them less than more polished productions created by professional artists. I can support it for what it is even if I only mildly like it.
This was not the experience at Girl Talk Theatre’s Shelter from the Storm The production was made up of a series of mini-plays, spoken chorus, mock interviews, and stories told by an ensemble of women who were ,and are homeless. The first mini-play “The Bed Lottery” introduced the audience to the some of the realities of homelessness, both the bleak and the bright all of which were unexpected. As we follow a woman new to the system the themes of compassion, and gratitude surface time and again. We get a glimpse of how confusing the homeless shelters are, how the system is a maze of twists and turns, with so many rules. We also see how and why the rules keep everyone in the care of the system safe. The relationship with the rules is summarized in the line “The rules are our enemy, the rules are our friend.”
The most powerful part of Shelter from the Storm Is that it pulls draws out your soul and not only touches but merges you with the souls of the performers. Regardless of your ethnicity, gender or background you can see yourself as these women. You feel like you take their journey as they share it. Anyone who lives in the city encounters homeless people on a daily basis. Most of us have developed an emotional armor that allows us to go about our daily lives without being overly effected. Maybe some of donate to charity, or occasionally give some spare change. Shelter from the Storm quietly and gently shatters that emotional armor transforming the audience to being of pure empathy. Becoming homeless is something I have always been afraid of, in this state of empathy and not armor the answer to facing my fear came. The Piece Yvonne’s Boots brings us on a woman’s journey from how easily she lost everything to when she gets her new home. The story carried me right down the long dark tunnel of my fear and out the other side. Which is a gift I never expected.
The ensemble were not professionals, and their art was raw sincere, powerful, charming, and so very human. Its some of the best theater I have ever seen. If you have a chance to see Shelter from the Storm or another Girl Talk Theatre event you should definitely do so.
J.P. Kallio is a really great singer songwriter and I follow his blog. Yesterday he sent an email to his list inviting us to sign back up vocals for him on his new song and we could do it right at home. I was like YEAH! All we had to do was all we had to do was sign up at a website called Melosity It is a free online recording and mixing app, Like a very stripped down Protools, or Garageband.
Once I signed in J.P. invited me to the songs workspace and I spent a while listening to the song and then recording a track for my contribution. Again I never had to leave my desk. Once I liked how the rough track sounded with the master I saved it. and that’s that. Myself and who knows how many other net citizens will be the backup vocals on the new song when it is released. I love the many ways the internet connects creative people so they can work together. Definite bright spot in the time stream.
Five or so years ago my car was totaled. It was a silver 2001 Toyota Prius, and It was completely paid off. I bought it when I was still working as a software Q.A. engineer. When it was deemed a total loss I had to choose a new car that fit the budget of an actor. Giving up on hopes of ever buying another Prius, I bought a little red 2008 Toyota Yaris. To soften the loss of my beloved Prius I wanted to buy an Autobot decal for the hood. But I couldn’t find one. Searching the Internets only returned one source that said the item was out of stock.
The world of car detailing is a totally alien landscape. Ironic since my family was supported by the car industry and I grew up surrounded by them. But I didn’t search very long. I mentioned this to my partner and she asked why not search online again. I answered, “I’m just not committed to the cool”. What does that mean? Sometimes I want something just because I think it will look good. Sometimes I want something because it feels like an expression of my creativity. Both of these are things I think are cool. The difference is if something doesn’t have that feeling of self expression, I have a finite amount of effort I’ll put in to it. I was trying to get the decal as a consolation prize. I didn’t really want the decal. I wanted my old car back! It was cool. It was my kind of cool: less pollution, less money on gas, and paid off. Did I mention paid off? Buying the decal I was trying to force a cool I really didn’t want. Eventually as it takes more and more effort or time to achieve “the cool” that’s not true to me, it becomes less important. Instead of putting a Transformers decal on my car I’ll just watch some episodes of the cartoon on the web instead.
There are other “cools” that are in tune with my creativity and the effort to find or maintain them is fun. Like my bowler hat. I wore a bowler as part of my costume in “Ragtime!” and I knew I had to own one. It took some time and a significant investment but I found the right one. As I’ve learned over the years quality hats require quality care and effort. But all that commitment feels like part of the prize.
Its a cool that feels true to me and a cool I am committed to because it comes from a place of good feelings and alignment with myself. And the reflections I get from the outside world echo that positive energy.
So what cool are you committed to?