Waving Through a Window

On the outside, always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?
‘Cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
I’m waving through a window
I try to speak, but nobody can hear
So I wait around for an answer to appear
While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass
I’m waving through a window, oh
Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?

Have you ever felt this?
Feeling isolated and alone, watching life pass by?

Last week I sat transfixed watching Dear Evan Hansen, the Tony award Broadway musical, and every morning when I wake, all I hear in my head is,
I’m waving through a window,
Can anybody see?

And I knew I had to write to you about it.

I’ve been waiting to see this show for over a year.  It’s the hottest ticket on Broadway right now, rising in acclaim from a loyal fan base, and winning the Grammy for best album.But, what surprised me most was, I actually didn’t know what the show was about.

Somehow from some past conversation, I had thought the show was about bullying, so as I sat in the audience during pre-show, and watched the screens showing constant social media feeds, I thought,
Right…the effect of social media on teens….cyber bullying.

Then, the show began, and it was all too clear this was not about bullying.

The show is actually about teenage suicide and depression.

Not exactly what you would expect from a Broadway musical, right?
Aren’t musicals about happy people, dancing, and bursting into uplifting songs?

Why do so many people relate to this musical?
Why is it able to command some of the highest ticket prices and sell out every night?

Throughout the theater, the sound I heard was tears…crying….sniffling. And at the end, the entire audience was on their feet.

I’m waving through a window, oh
Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?

 

I slam my dance clothes into my bag, holding back tears as I feel the hot sting of embarrassment.

I’ve been cut again.
It’s not fair.

I look at all the women being kept to sing, mourning my lost opportunity.
My voice is warm, I have my best song with me, and yet it doesn’t matter. They don’t want to hear me sing.

This won’t be my show. This won’t be my opportunity, and it’s back to another audition.

I see my colleagues, friends, all booking their Broadway show.  I feel like screaming,
Give me my CHANCE! Please!

On the outside, always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?

And I jam my headphones into my ears, and walk out onto the city street.  I’m getting older, I’ve been professionally performing for over 15 years….and the question arises in me,
Will this ever happen?

Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?

 

Three years later, I slam the bathroom door, and slide down the wall, curling into the smallest ball possible.
I feel the heat pipe behind me, and wonder if I hold my hand to it, would it burn?

Then I look at the bathroom window, and wonder,
can I squeeze through it?

This bathroom is three stories up……

I’m losing this home anyway.
I’m losing this marriage…..I’m losing this life.

Could I fit through the window?
And then, would all the pain I feel pass?

For a moment, I stare at the window and consider, and then I come back.  I come back to the fact my entire life is falling apart.  My husband is leaving me.  I’m not getting pregnant.  Everything I had planned has slipped through my fingers.

I feel the pain, and realize I’m still breathing. And I realize I want to live. 

I want a devoted husband.
I want a family.
I want a life in the arts that fulfills me.

And I realize it’s not happening here….it’s been crying out for years, and now the truth is here.

And I take a breath, wipe my tears….and get up.

And I start to speak….
I start to ask for help…
I start to write about all that has been trapped inside me.

And the biggest surprise of all?
People listen.
People come close.

And I realize, I’ve been WRONG all along.

We actually have far more in common than differences.

All my doubts, all my fears, my heartache and vulnerability are actually what I SHARE with others.

I had thought I would be rejected for my vulnerability and people would leave.  Turns out, this is what was missing all along.

 

And the writers of Dear Evan Hansen knew this too.
They knew it intimately.

We actually all just want to be SEEN.
We want to be HEARD.

Starved for connection in our present age…..we deeply want to BELONG.

Dear Evan Hansen isn’t talking about something new.  Teenage depression and suicide have been around for a very long time, but the writers are giving it a VOICE.  They are releasing the shame and stigma around something that millions of families deal with, to offer the simple message,

You are not alone.

As an Artist, the greatest gift you bring to the table is your HUMANITY.  It’s not your perfection….it’s what you share with your audience.

We all cry.
We all feel loss.
We all have hearts that break, and bend, and burst.

And as an Artist, YOU have the ability to translate that.

You have the ability to translate these aspects that can feel so hidden to your audience into,
song
word
visual art
photography
dance

This is your gift. And it allows your audience to touch their humanity, and to open to loving their life.

So, take a breath, and tap in.

Are you sharing your Humanity with your audience?
Are you focused on what you have in common?

Listen, speak to them, and share what you have in common.

That’s when they will listen.

As Evan sings,
Have you ever felt like nobody was there?
Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?
Have you ever felt like you could disappear?
Like you could fall, and no one would hear?

Well, let that lonely feeling wash away
Maybe there’s a reason to believe you’ll be okay
‘Cause when you don’t feel strong enough to stand
You can reach, reach out your hand

And oh, someone will coming running
And I know, they’ll take you home

So let the sun come streaming in
‘Cause you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again
Lift your head and look around
You will be found

 

We are stronger together.
Create your Art from our shared humanity.

Image courtesy of: Seattle Times

Theatre Language

El Laurel Lantern

A voice soars over the dark silence, piercing through the musty summer air; calling to be heard, announcing new beginnings with an upturned palm.

The other hand holds her skirt, gathered at her hip, the patchwork rags and neutral muslin already in sway.

Then the castanets begin.

The lights turn warm on her face, illuminating the whole stage. White to orange, yellows and golds, she begins to glow as the music builds.

In a tight-knit circle, eyes focused to center, all surround, gathering their energy and rhythm, clapping in time and answering in kind.

Sea Norabuena
Norabuena Sea!

 

My summer months have been filled with the tale of Daphne, Apollo and Cupid, choreographing an original piece for Repertorio Espanol, here in New York City.

El Laurel de Apolo is a Zarzuela:

“a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular song, as well as dance.”

We have taken a script from the 17th century and added original contemporary music, and modern design and choreographic elements to bring this story to audiences at this historic Manhattan theatre.

The piece is all in high Spanish verse with English subtitles.

I don’t speak Spanish.

Well, maybe un poco.

 

When I was interviewed by the director for the job, I was taken by her energy and her vision for the piece, tying in elements of consumption, feminism, and politics. I loved her design inspiration and attention to detail.

But, what I really resonated with was her desire for collaboration.

Our first company rehearsal was a Meet and Greet in the director’s apt, complete with pasta, laughter, and introductions. The cast all brought research they had done on their characters and from the very beginning, a common thread was formed, and a common engagement.

Over cookies and fruit, I met the creative team, and soon we were throwing out ideas for Daphne’s transformation into a tree. The set designer brought out sketches, and the lighting designer added in color inspiration.

I could feel my excitement rise, as our voices joined for the new vision.

This is the kind of art I love. One made from many.

 

As I threw out my earnest attempts at connection during rehearsal, the cast and team smiled with encouragement, playfully teasing my pronunciation:

Gracias
De nada
Adios
Principio!
Como Estas?

While the cast taught me some new words, I found myself humming a song from my childhood, a tune I sang when I lived in Clovis, New Mexico, one I had forgotten:

Adios Hasta Manana
Adios Hasta Manana
Adios Hasta Manana
Adios adios adios!

I learned to speak in the small English village of Wheatley, but the first foreign language I heard was Spanish.

In between my Barbies and running through the summer sprinkler, I sang this song, a four year old bounding to her sandbox, and playing in the Southwestern American sun.

There was no awareness of separation, just the words pouring out in song, in fun. These were just other words to say the same thing, in a different way.

And now, I stood before a script and music score all in Spanish and created a physical story to be understood regardless of language.

A return to childhood.

A return for us all.

 

I sit in the theatre as the lights dim, dressed in silk and heels, my rehearsal pants hanging in my closet at home. Before me, the Nymph Iris walks downstage to a mic, holding her guitar, and posed for the first chord.

I see the director, the lighting designer, set designer, costume designer, composer, and stage management team; their faces towards the stage, awaiting the first note.

The subtitles light up in my view, but I know the story now.

No translation needed.

This language makes perfect sense.

Titiriti