Belle On The Scene

Belle re-enters the scene. Don’t let that sweet bow fool you.

(Why am I naming days?)
09/21/15, Day 14,383 (Mercena Day 402): Radio Flyers and Trumbull Victorious

This day is named for two reasons, and the first is entirely celebratory. My dear friend Matthew Trumbull took home a New York Innovative Theatre Award for his role in The Temple. I could not celebrate with him, because I was home with Mercena so that Heather could present the Caffe Cino Fellowship Award, but I rejoiced at seeing my Facebook and Twitter feeds light up with Trumbull-ocity. He is deservedly beloved, not only because of his talent, but because of his kindness, thoughtfulness, and mid-westerly comic brilliance. I think of so many Flux Sunday readings where he’s brought a sudden depth to a barely-rehearsed scene and suddenly we are there, at the heart of the raw mystery; the rest of us stand there, scripts in hand, wondering how he did it. My betters will find funnier ways to honor his victory, but mostly, I’m just grateful to see a truly gifted and good human being deservedly celebrated.

Of course, the day would’ve been even better if Becky Byers had won for Once Upon a Bride There Was a Forest, but since fate is fickle, let me use this little space to honor her work. Becky played Belle Wright like a pink and sparkly lit fuse, creeping  down a frilly wick toward a fierce boom. She caught Belle’s humor and charm while keeping the unstable motor of her anxiety always thrumming. I had the good fortune of seeing her performance evolve over the course of the run, and each show she discovered more nuance and drive. If you’re one of the rare people reading this who haven’t seen her work, get thee to The Honeycomb Trilogyand get on board with the Byersmania.

The other half of today’s name acknowledges Mercena’s obsession with her Radio Flyer toddler bike. Last night, as I was putting her to bed, she noticed the bike in the corner of our room and went from peaceful-sleepy to I-shall-toddle-that-bike-sleep-be-dammed in seconds. Luckily, her outrage over being denied a bedtime biking reprieve disappeared once I started singing her lullaby.

The day also included beginning Chapter Six of After Earth; working late on TCG stuff (and an exciting meeting about publishing some of our EDI work); hunting for a space for some upcoming Flux events, and prepping for NET’s NYC Listening Tour this Saturday. Busy goes the bee; but here’s four days on the blog in a row! Look out.


Playground Climbing

(Why am I naming days?)
09/20/15, Day 14,382 (Mercena Day 401): Reasons

Yesterday is so named because I completed a new short play called Reasons, which is my contribution to the Climate Change Theatre Action (CCTA) launched by NoPassport, The Arctic Cycle, and Theatre Without Borders. Led by Elaine Avila, Chantal Bilodeau, and one of my favorite collaborators, Caridad Svich, CCTA is a series of worldwide readings and performances intended to bring awareness to, and foster discussion around, climate change during the months of November and December 2015. This action is in support of the United Nations 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21) taking place November 30-December 11, 2015.  Learn more here, and learn how your theatre can participate here.

It was fun to be writing a play (albeit a very short play) again. This kind of prompt is exciting because the context of the event is so specific. How to create a theatrical moment within that context that is both aesthetically and ethically transformative? This intersection of ethics, aesthetics, and a live communal event is what’s most interesting to me about theatre at the moment. In the case of Reasons, the play is designed to adapt to the particular of the actors and audience and the emergent moment between them. There’s a hint of ritual, but it’s a light touch. I tried to hold myself accountable—to summon my own best hopes and worst hypocrisies—while also creating space for perspectives different than my own. I look forward to seeing how it plays.

Mercena, Heather, and I journeyed to yet another playground in the afternoon before heading out for Thai food for dinner. Mercena loves eating out, and she made fast friends with your waiter, who gave her a generous helping of hi-fives. She added a new trick to her adorable repertoire, leaning her head down on her high-chair tray in a fake nap, a move that she knows delights us. For better and worse, she is constantly testing out how her behavior impacts us; she likes to drop things and say, “uh oh,” to get our attention. Luckily, whenever she’s pushing our buttons, we can just say the word dance, and that’s just what she’ll do. Dance breaks are the best kind of healing.

One last Mercena moment: when I grind beans for coffee in the morning, I pretend that the whirr of grinder is electrocuting me, which always gets a smile. Comedy is one of the most fascinating things to watch them learn.

I’ve made it three updates days in a row here on the blog. One (named) day at a time…

Mercena's Workbench

(Why am I naming days?)
09/19/15, Day 14,381 (Mercena Day 400): Mercena’s Workbench

Yesterday Mercena turned 400 days old! We celebrated her quadriqoudtenial (yes, spellcheck, I know that’s not real) with a classic double-playground day. We’re fortunate to have several great playgrounds nearby, including Russell Sage, which is basically our backyard (and was a big reason why we wound up where we did).

When we were home, however, Mercena was either focused on crawling at alarmingly fast speeds, or getting things done at her workbench, aka, our former coffee table. She’s reached the age where she’s as interested in putting things together as knocking them apart, and so the cups and stacking pyramids you see in the picture above can easily entertain her standing self for extended periods of serious focus.

She’s also increasingly interested in mirrors, with several mirror books her new favorites to page through. I’m hoping this in no way presages any meddling from the Mirror Man.

Her talking has reached such a blue streak that I almost called yesterday Mercena-logues to honor the length of her wind. While Heather was away at a Flux meeting, I took Mercena to the Austin Street playground (my personal favorite), and we decided to take the long way past the tennis courts, only to find everything blocked off for a concert at Forest Hills Stadium. As we navigated our way through a maze of bored cops and crowd control fences, she monologued without much pause for breath. Although I didn’t catch much of it, I have a hunch that 400 days from now, I’ll be catching more of it than I can handle.

Two People I Love

Well, here are two people I love very much.

(Why am I naming days?)
09/18/15, Day 14,380 (Mercena Day 399): Our Fourth Anniversary

I’ve had a hard time keeping up with naming days here, and that’s too bad, because the days have been interesting. It’s been a sometimes satisfying but mostly frantic month, and I’ve been feeling always at least one step behind, which makes reflection here seem like a luxury.

But I do need to stop and acknowledge our fourth anniversary. Our wedding day exceeded all my expectations (which were anxiously high) and really was the best day of my life until Mercena was born (those days are now locked in an amicable tie). Looking back at that day now, it gives me solace and strength, and the reaffirms the deepening love I feel for Heather. It centers our love and my life in the way I think weddings are supposed to do.

Our plan last night was simple. We walked to our favorite Forest Hills restaurant, Jack & Nellie’s, with our wedding officiant Kelly staying at home to watch the sleeping (and still teething) Mercena. We had drinks, appetizers, and dinners like normal people. We remembered favorite moments from the wedding (like when I dropped our vow scripts on my long roundabout walk to my processional entrance, and spotted them in the grass at the last possible second), talked about our daughter, and then, miracle of miracles, made it a good twenty minutes not talking about our daughter. We drank rioja and riesling, appetized on olives (freakishly good) and artichoke dip, and dined on salmon (Heather, not veggie-me) and vegetable risotto (can a risotto be refreshing? Cuz this risotto was like creamy spring (weird)).

Then we took the long walk home through the fancy part of Forest Hills. It was a perfect fourth anniversary, and after a difficult week at work, a night of renewal (hence getting back in the blog saddle).

Two other things to share before I start working on all my overdue projects. Mercena has been a marvel this past month, and a few of her quirky new behaviors must be recorded in the book of life (or at least this blog):

  • Google Search pointing: She now wants to know what everything is, and will point and go “ehh” to be told what different things are. It’s the old school Google Search.
  • Nosies offstage: When she hears a nice for which she can’t trace the source, she points in the general direction and goes, “ooh,” to alert us to the mystery.
  • Shirt stuffing: Her favorite game for about a week was to drop toys down our shirts and then have us shake them out. Why? Who can say? But it really was fun, minus the chest hairs of mine which she inevitably ripped out in the process.
  • Zerbert-ing: I’m not sure anyone else in the world calls body raspberries “zerberts,” but I for some reason do, and Mercena has long delighted in me giving her stomach zerberts. Then, one night while she was breastfeeding during bedtime, she got this mischievous look in her eyes and gave Heather an enormous zerbert on her stomach and then looked up expectantly. Of course, we both burst out laughing and then so did she, and we played that game until we were all laughed out.

Lat thing to share: I’ve completed Chapter Five of After Earth, one morning subway ride at a time. It looks like it takes me around a month to finish a chapter with those half hour  subway bursts on the weekdays, around a half page a day. I wish I had so much more time to give this book but even that little touch makes a difference. It feels like a prayer to me; a little candle of creativity in a sea of obligation. I haven’t worked seriously on a new full-length play in almost a year, and beyond writing short plays in support of various projects, I don’t see myself starting a new full-length play anytime soon. I don’t expect that break from writing plays will be forever, but at the moment, I can’t really see where there is to get to.

Thanks to this book, however, I feel renewed as a writer. There’s an odd voice that’s telling me, “this is what you should’ve been doing all along.” I don’t trust that voice yet, as I’m suspicious of simplicities that makes things the wrong kind of easy. But let me not hold on too tightly to the thing I was and miss the thing I could be.

It looks like I might need to spend more time reflecting here, deadlines and obligations be (momentarily) dammed. But for the moment, I’m just grateful for my amazing wife, and the strength and joy of our marriage. Here’s to four more years, and the forty-four more after that.

New Chapters

(Why am I naming days?)
08/19/15, Day 14,350 (Mercena Day 369): Chapter Four of After Earth Complete

Yesterday was particularly satisfying because two important projects very dear to my heart passed important milestones. I completed the fourth chapter of my sci-fi novel After Earth on the subway in the morning, and in the afternoon, received the green light for the launch of a TCG project I’ve been working on for almost two years. A great deal of work remains on both counts, but my life is all about the long game now; chipping away at these big dreams one day at a time. One setback, one adaptation, one little victory at a time. More on both these things soon.

08/18/15, Day 14,349 (Mercena Day 368): Liminal at the Fringe

This day was mostly defined by intense preparation for a presentation related to the TCG project above, but I also had the delightful opportunity to see my friend Amelia Parenteau’s production of her play Liminal at the Fringe. She had a great actress in the lead role, and the scenes with a chorus of NYC women undermining her protagonist’s claims for a single story were a particular joy. It was a 9:30pm show, and a late ride home, but I was grateful to reconnect with the Fringe, and witness Amelia’s work brought to vivid life. It is a searching, aesthetically restless, and socially-curious play that explores what connections are possible across our barriers of privilege, and how healing after trauma happens in a city of strangers. Bravo!


(Photo by Sarah Schulenburg.)

(Why am I naming days?)
08/16/15, Day 14,347 (Mercena Day 366): The Day After One; or, Cousin Robert is the Coolest

A quick two-day update: the Sunday after Mercena’s first birthday was our chance to spend some extended time with Cousin Robert, Aunt Sarah, and Uncle Allan. Robert may be going through his Terrible Threes, where the default is No first and Think later, but to Mercena, he is a wondrous creature that instantly becomes the most exciting thing in the the room. She may be more interested in playing with him than the reverse, but her definition of playing with him can simply involve proximity, so she had plenty of satisfying parallel play. The highlight of the cousin party was a bath where Robert shared his turtles with a rapturous Mercena–we were worried she wouldn’t be able to sleep from all the excitement (she did).

This last day of family also involved more Catan (victory for me), Cribbage (crushing defeat at the hands of my brother), and local corn for dinner out on the terrace. It was great to have time to really talk with Sarah and Allan, who have proceeded us on this parental journey by several years, and who offer weary wisdom about the challenges (and joys) to come.

We also had a great time at Yellowstone Park, where Mercena took her usual delight in being soaked by sprinklers as larger kids dash all around:

Park Fun

08/17/15, Day 14,348 (Mercena Day 367): Zero Inbox TCG

It’s somewhat embarrassing to admit the delight I took in reaching Zero Inbox at TCG, but it’s been so long–eight or nine years?–since I had zero emails in my inbox at the end of the day that it really does deserve the eponymous honors.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m actually caught up with work at TCG; oh, what an amazing feeling that would be! But it does mean that I can actually think about what projects I want to focus on, rather than batting the email endlessly back over the net.

Speaking of net, I worked more on prep for the gathering, and had a ridiculous impromptu Flux meeting that involved the full arsenal of G-Hang silliness (and we got some work done on planning the fall fundraiser). Then it was cleaning the house, eating dinner, catching up with Heather and suddenly, it’s midnight and I’m exhausted. After finally feeling better after a few days under the weather, I didn’t push it; I went to sleep at a semi-reasonable hour, and had uneasy dreams about Mercena crawling out of our car and getting lost on the beach…there is no escape from worrying about these lovely crituras, not even in sleep…

1st Birthday(Why am I naming days?)
08/15/15, Day 14,346 (Mercena Day 365): Mercena’s 1st Birthday Party

If I try to capture all of the emotion and memories caught up in Mercena’s first year, I’ll wipe out before I ever get started. Let me ride a smaller wave: a few memories of her birthday itself:

  • Waking up still sick with a sore throat, and worrying about getting through such a big day with so many people;
  • As Mercena nursed in the bed, remembering her first day of life, how she was born over the birthing stool and was lifted up into our arms bawling and bigger than I could’ve imagined, enormous (but really so small), and how we first fell asleep together as a family in our own bed, thanks to the courage and preparation of Heather and the support of our midwife and doula for our home birth (and the scare of the placenta that wouldn’t come out until it most painfully did), and how my gratitude for that home birth grows (and how difficult it will be to ever leave this co-op of so many memories);
  • How on days like this, every present thing carries some memory of the past in parenthesis (even typing this now, I remember those first journal entries and how I felt like I needed to capture every little thing, and regret ever day I’ve missed);
  • Standing with Mercena on the terrace for our morning gratitude ritual and thanking the world not just for the day, but for the year;
  • Rising to find our helper Sandra “MomMom” asleep on the couch as I made the coffee (and how we can never stop using the French Press, even if we fix our old automatic brew, since now Mercena has rituals involving the preparation);
  • How she napped beautifully and let us complete our intense schedule of cleaning (which has now of course fallen into disarray post-party);
  • How my weary and sick self was distracted (by memories, of course) while cooking beans for a taco lunch and I burned my hand to the point of scarring on a pan’s handle;
  • How useless I felt soaking my hand as Allan, Sarah, Nana, and Robert arrived to help us with the rest of the party prep;
  • How ridiculous I looked holding my singed hand in the only position that felt comfortable, a weird elevated claw (and how gleefully my family made fun of it);
  • How at least the burn distracted me from the ache of my cold;
  • Mercena’s arms and legs flapping with delight upon seeing her cousin Robert;
  • How no one makes Mercena laugh as often or with as much delight as her Nana (and how this adds another room in the house of love we have for our own parents–the way they bring delight to our children);
  • The guests arriving, the thrill of seeing who’d made it, the sadness of those who couldn’t, and the regret of the folks we should’ve invited but just didn’t know how the day would go, and how the stress we had feared would be so much less than the love we felt (and then wanted to share with more friends);
  • Holding Mercena’s cake with my hand in a claw to avoid it touching my burns, and her silent wonder at the display of all the people singing for her, and the candles on the cake burning;
  • All the antics of our friends and family–Zach’s juggling song, Isaiah hiding in a blue bag, Amanda’s daughter Maggie scooting around on Mercena’s Radio Flyer (and climbing, oh my goodness, how soon will Mercena be climbing like that?), Ken playing the guitar, Emily carefully preventing Mercena’s attempts to slam her face into her new music table (she eventually succeeded), all the thoughtful gifts people gave;
  • And especially the moving gift of an email address for Mercena that features emails from all the Friends of Flux to be opened on her 18th birthday…I have no words for all these beautiful words (but thank you Shaun, Kia, and everyone);
  • All the pizza! And it was good! But so filling! I am now made of pizza!
  • How deftly we had to weave the bedtime schedules of Robert and Mercena (but we made them work);
  • The speedy clean-up, aided by my hand healing faster than expected (though I do have a cool scar);
  • The game of Settlers of Catan (Cities and Knights, of course) that ended at a reasonable hour, with a triumphantly tied Heather and Zach taking the victory, but everyone in good spirits in spite of our competitive natures; and
  • At last, falling into a deep sleep, full and tipsy and burnt and aching and grateful and happy.

There’s so much more to say about the day, about the year, about our daughter; but it’s another day already, and there’s still a lot of party to clean up.


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