Tuesday, March 31, 2009

news hits close to the heart

"The economy is falling, the economy is falling...."

I've heard the cry. I've seen the cutbacks, seen the foreclosures, the disappearing businesses, the lay-offs, the downsizing. I've been present literally or virtually while clients plead and reason and rant and request that services not be cut because of x or y or z. And still I was in shock when two friends were suddenly laid off.

Yesterday I learned that Mead Hunter was laid off from Portland Center Stage. He was the Literary Director and resident dramaturg, as was another person in the literary department, which pretty much eliminates that department.

This morning I learned that another friend, Jenn Rehnke, an advocate for accessibility and an all around good human being was also let go from Portland Center Stage.

I know my shock and disappointment, as well as musings about how their absences will affect the future of PCS, are nothing compared to what the two of them and the other two or three let go are experiencing. But I am surprised and I, well, I'm, um, surprised. Mead had spearheaded the popular JAW festival, was a huge advocate of new play development, and was a great supporter and promoter of PCS. Jenn was good at her job, seemed to have excellent rapport with the box office staff, friendly, and a big advocate of disabled patrons rights and was great to work with in that capacity, an artist and supporter of the arts.

I'm having a hard time imagining PCS without their talents and personalities. I feel for them as they are forced into new beginnings - of which I'm sure they are very capable and will triumph in whatever comes their way next. But the suddenness and their loss are significant. I hope that the larger Portland theatrical and creative communities outside of PCS will remain their home and that there is something waiting for their skill sets and person-hoods to step into.

Monday, March 30, 2009

...about the potential falling into the water thing...

A coworker was asking me about the dragon boat experience last night. Which made me remember on the way home that one reason I continued with the same health insurance plan even after I lost the part-time faculty partial insurance payment stipend was just this. I could fall in the river and, if it's been raining, could be exposed to all kinds of nasty diseases. Or slip on the boat with a serious enough injury that I would need medical attention. Or slip down a trail on a hike; or on the Mt. Tabor stairs; or misstep on the treadmill at the gym.

Point being: Now that I'm more active, there are increased physical risks (though far less than if I'd gotten involved in downhill skiing or race car driving or hang gliding). So, as long as I can, I'm putting out about $375 a month for health insurance. I don't want to tempt fate too much by not having it and, because I'm not undernourished and unhealthily thin (which is what the current insurance scale would require; last time I weighed that amount my doctor said I was not healthy and needed to put some back on; you'd never guess that now!), so getting insurance again if I lose it will be a near impossibility. And I'm not 25. So I put out the money, have figured out how many hours I have to work to pay that (cough cough), and know that it's worth it. Unless I want to gamble on losing my house and everything else if a medical emergency strikes.

But at least I do have work and can afford it. I'd rather do something else with that money, but, I have it and I think it's a wise choice.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

eye dotting ceremony

The PKSCA dragons are awake, following a rainy eye dotting ceremony on the Portland waterfront. The following pictures are from a teammate, Kathleen Hargis Schuyler, and her husband. I had a difficult time getting myself down there because of work my hours (got home at 2AM and I can't just go directly to bed, despite my best intentions). But I was really glad I went. It felt good to be a part of the celebration and to be there for the blessings of the boats and to see the dragons wake up.

After which I stayed for the tiller practice. My first ride on the actual dragon boats. There was a boat of paddlers (with one tiller, of course) and then I was in the boat full of tillers who were, of course, paddling. We rotated through and practiced taking the boat out into the river, turning around, and heading back in, then docking. Each of us had the chance to be the tiller once. And the rest of the time we paddled; for nearly two hours.

It was exciting to be on the dragon boats and I now know the difference, by feel, of the aluminum six-sixteen/Hong Kong boats we've been practicing with and the 1000 pound wooden dragon boats we will be using for the race. And I now know that the till truly can knock me into the water on the actual boat. I remember feeling that way the first time or two out on the smaller boats, but the fear was more of losing my balance and going in. Today I felt the power of the boat; the additional weight of it on the till; how the wind actually has a stronger impact on the larger boat, maybe partly because of the ears and tail; and I felt that till, which is two to three times the size of the other one, as a very strong force I need to pay attention to. But it was exhilarating, too. I left the nearly two hour practice of paddling, and tilling, and getting very wet and being cold, feeling better than I have for a couple days. Energized. Positive outlook. Ready to take on whatever happens.

And ready for a steaming latte, which I picked up at a place on the dock on the way to my car!

Ah. A good day.

Thank you for sharing your pictures, Kathleen!

eye dotting ceremony pictures
by Kathleen Hargis Schuyler

Thursday, March 26, 2009

lesson in playwriting

I just read an inspiring and well-written piece by Sven at Scarlet Star Studios, titled "writing 10-minute plays for stopmo". It is about storytelling, writing, film, theater, 10-minute plays and how to write them. Excellent piece. Below are a few tidbits, then follow the link to read the rest. You'll be glad you did! Thanks, Sven.

Most people agree that the most important aspect of a film is the story. If the story doesn't work, the film doesn't work. So for the past 15 months I've been studying the construction of story.

Before I go any farther… I'd just like to emphasize that dramatic stories are not the only legitimate type of film. For example, some films provide an experience that is primarily aesthetic… If there are characters at all, they're often anonymous, enigmatic, silent; there may be no discernible conflict or climax; but at the end of the film you wind up feeling like you glimpsed something beautiful, nonetheless. Traditional stories with understandable characters, dramatic conflicts, beginnings, middles, and ends, tend to be most popular -- and not without cause… But even though I neglect to discuss other species of filmic experience here, please don't think I'm putting them down!

Back to topic… My research on story has encompassed three art forms: film, literature, and theater. Research tends to start broad; then, as you clarify exactly what it is that you want to know, your scope narrows. So it has been for me…..

[the sections of Sven's essay are:]

Read the entire essay at the Scarlet Letters.

Monday, March 23, 2009

sleep is an amazing thing

I know I've ranted that sleep is overrated. That I can do with minimal amounts of it and, by goodness, let me show you how. I may not be 25, or 26, or even 35 any more, but I can skimp by with a few hours just fine!

But then. Woo. A few days off from work and, whadda ya know, sleep happened! I found myself being the first one to bed (it was still midnight or so), where I would read and then turn off my light and go to sleep. No cat walking on me throughout the night or crying to be let into the room or out of the room or wanting water. No early risers getting up in the bedroom right below mine. No alarms to wake me up in the morning and my mobile phone deliberately turned to silent so it wouldn't even buzz. Only me and my sweetie and the ocean outside where we were staying. And I slept. When I woke up to take care of bodily functions, I crawled back into bed and read for a bit if I was feeling the pull to get up and it was still early (which means 6 or 7 am for me), or I just fell right back asleep. Left to its own rhythm and a need to make up for lost time, I think, I slept probably a total of 9-10 hours a night.

And driving home tonight, how did I feel? Awake. Normal energy. Didn't feel a need to tank up on caffeine to complete the 2 1/2 hour drive. Alert.

Hmph! Maybe I need to readjust my priorities again and move sleep up the list a bit.
graphic from
The Daily Galaxy

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy World Poetry Day

UNESCO decided that March 21st is World Poetry Day to "promote reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world and to give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements."

Here is an original ASL (American Sign Language) poem
It is not intended to be translated
The title is
written and performed
Clayton Valli


Thursday, March 19, 2009

event: drop-in workshops

are continuing to team together to provide monthly writing workshops. See below for more information about times and location. You can register in advance for the date you want to attend (preferred) -- or you can show up without registration if your schedule changes and you become available, or you simply wake up in the mood to join a small group of writers to share a couple hours writing and giving/getting feedback. The facilitators are Write Around Portland volunteers, with coffee, tea, and a snack provided by Hot Lips Pizza.

Location & Details
HOTLIPS Pizza, 2211 SE Hawthorne
Thursdays 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Sundays 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Pre-registration is encouraged. To register, email hotlipspizza@writearound.org with your name, phone number and the date of the workshop(s) you would like to attend.

$25.00 Suggested donation to Write Around Portland per workshop. All proceeds go directly toward funding Write Around Portland workshops and programs for people affected by HIV/AIDS, veterans living with PTSD, survivors of domestic violence, people living with mental illness, homeless youth and many others. For more information, go to www.writearound.org.

Workshop Dates
Thursday, April 16
Special Sunday workshop, April 26
Thursday, May 21

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

the clock is ticking down

One more day of work and then off for five days.
step by step
bird by bird
brick by brick
I will make it until Friday!
But please not minute by minute or I will be crazy by the time it gets here!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Deaf student wins statewide poetry contest

By Justin Much • Statesman Journal • March 14, 2009
The winner of this poetry contest spoke not a word.

Oregon School for the Deaf student Tiffany Hinano Hill signed Diane Wakoski’s “Inside Out” today during the final round of the statewide Poetry Out Loud contest at the downtown Grand Theater.

Hill beat 21 other contestants with her delicate yet vivid hand signals that created a visual portrayal of the Wakoski poem. An interpreter read the poem directly before her performance.

“I really liked that poem when I first read it; I felt like I could see that poem like music, and I really wanted to express that,” said Hill, a OSD junior from Eugene. “The first time I read it, it was complex. I wanted something that would be a challenge.”
It was a challenge for both Hill and for the judges, who for the first time had to factor in the element of deafness.

West Salem High School junior Jackie Lubbers finished second. Salem Academy senior Katharine Hormann also advanced to the final round. Sprague junior Merry Borchers and Woodburn’s Brianna Eamons also represented the local area. Other contestants came from Bandon on the south coast to Central Oregon’s Crook County to northern high-desert Arlington.

The Oregon Arts Commission hosted the event, which is a stepping stone to next month’s National Recitation Contest in Washington, D.C. As the statewide winner, Hill won a $200 scholarship, $500 for the OSD library and the honor of representing Oregon at the nationals April 26–28.

The judges deliberated for more than 45 minutes after the final round today — much longer than expected. Event coordinator Deborah Vaughn said points were extremely close, but the decision was unanimous.

“It was a razor thin margin, and a tough decision,” said judge Scott Poole, the house poet for OPB’s “Live Wire” radio show. “We discussed and went over everything.”
Judge Jeff Wildenstein of Seattle, a sign language interpreter, said Hill’s performance showed the poem’s depth.

“I can say with 100 percent certainty that she nailed it,” Wildenstein said. “It was beautiful to watch, but it also conveyed the meaning.

“We were looking to see that the integrity of the poem was upheld in the interpretation,” he added.

Wildenstein said he thinks Oregon is the first state to include a deaf person at such a poetry contest.

. . . .
[click on the title of this post to read the remainder of the article]

(Photo Credit Sabina Samiee)

Friday, March 13, 2009

"don't interpret that!"

There is a situation I run into regularly while interpreting which I find interesting. I experienced a slight twist on it recently, so it brought it back to mind and raised my curiosity, again.

Here's the deal. My job as an interpreter is to, well, interpret. This means I interpret everything. If a person is signing, I interpret everything into spoken English. If a person is speaking English, I interpret everything into sign language. Sometimes it is more complicated based on a number of factors - but that's the basic idea.

So, the situation. The person using spoken English swears and then says "don't interpret that."

Wait. That's my job. That's why I do what I do.

What this has meant is that the person who swore doesn't want the other person to know they said that. If it's in an elementary or middle school, I get that the teacher doesn't want the students swearing, yada yada. But, still, the kids with usable hearing heard it - so why shouldn't the students who are deaf get to hear it through the interpreter?

Recently there was a situation where various people involved were swearing. One person decided that it wasn't okay to do that to the interpreter. The new spin is that they were fine with swearing, but felt it wasn't right to "make the interpreter swear." Huh! I hadn't heard that reason before.

But it did make me think. I am fine with swearing; I don't make a habit of it because I know it is offensive to some, or it's not professional (work and swearing = not a good thing if the words are my own and I'm there as a professional). But I do swear sometimes and it doesn't bother me unless it is being used as a weapon against someone. What I find much harder to interpret is a lot of really religious god-talk or gay bashing or racist comments. But people don't think about those. And I'm not saying they have to because, my job is to interpret what the participants are saying to each other, not share my own personal opinions.

It just struck me that I may be interpreting for someone who swears and then apologizes as if it's offensive (which is fine, I don't mind - swear or not - apologize or not *grin). But then that same person may go on to talk about the supreme deity of his or her choice punishing those who are homosexuals and how that is right and true, but there is no thought that that may be offensive, and no apology (I don't expect or need one - just noticing the disparity).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

a little boost

Today (well, technically, yesterday now) I received notice that one of my writing pieces was accepted for publication. Woo hoo!

My poem, "Spanish Rice and Party Mix," will be appearing in the launch issue of Alltopia in April.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

blog ethics

Today I received an email from a friend about a mutual blog. There are, I think, five of us who can contribute to it; but it has been mostly inactive. It was a good idea, born of a "cabal" style workshop/group which someone other than today's email writer set up two or so years ago. But little has been posted recently and it was dormant for a long time.

I have this blog. The email writer has two of his own blogs, as well as work-related blogs. The person who originally set up the cabal blog has one or two blogs of her own. And we are all busy.

So, today, the cabal originator sent out an email requesting input on putting the for all practical purposes abandoned blog to sleep. So far, a second (the originator) and an aye (me). Why take up thought waves on something that was a good idea but has gone nowhere? Why give any of us one more thing to feel guilty about.

It was a great group when we were meeting in person and I wish we had time for more of that. But the blog never became a cohesive entity and no one had or has the time to keep it timely.

So, goodbye, Dramaturgy Cabal. It will be available for a little while yet, and today's email writer will announce it on the site, with a list of references to similar content which is better attended to. And soon, it will join the blogs of days past, in peace.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

who needs art?

According to Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian, the Oregon Legislature today passed the " $855 million rebalancing plan." This plan includes taking "$1.8 million out of the Oregon Cultural Trust's account to help balance the budget." This money was generated from sale of the Culture license plates.

Shame on them.

Click the link below for a group working to keep and restore the Arts.

Read Jeff Mapes' entire article here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

paddles up!

Last night was Miss Fit Dragons' first night of practice *on* the water. The river was calm. It was not raining. There was no wind. The boat was relatively free of water even though our practice time started at 8 pm.


I'm so glad I hung in there through my doubts about the huge commitment. About doing a team event. About wondering if my shoulders and wrists and arms could do it. The running up and down the flights of stairs at the coach/trainer's office as part of our circuit training.

Being on the water, the paddles dipping and pulling
and resting together. The moments
when timing was pretty spot on
and we glided through the water -

Paddling water is so much easier
than paddling air.

Photograph of a previous
Miss Fit Adventures
Dragon Boat team
(the Miss Fit Dragons).