(My apologies for the unready send of this a few minutes earlier – WordPress went mad! read this one and delete the other! Thank you, Kate.)

______________________________________________________

Last week I wrote about two of the Personal Magic activities with which I have been involved. Maybe it is the coming of Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere but it seems to be bursting out all over (to badly paraphrase an old line!)

The next three stories that I will share with you also relate to live theatre in some way. As I write in the book:

‘There is an old adage, ‘There are no small roles, only small actors.’ Likewise, there are no small people, only the small self. By embracing your Personal Magic and bringing that to the world, you can be the hero at the center of your story.’

Perhaps that analogy works so well because indeed we are all players on our personal stage and, through our ‘performance’ have the capacity to reach and touch others. The challenge is how to be empowered when so much of the time it seems that we are dependent on the actions of others. I hope the next three short stories will exemplify how your Personal Magic can shine even when you are not running the show.

Fred & Mary Auditions:

In July 2012 as part f the AZ Centennial Celebrations, a world premier play by Micki Shelton will open at the historic Elks Opera House stage in Prescott, AZ. I am the honored and terrified director! The script for Fred and Mary: An Unconventional Romance is in hand, a start on raising the money needed has been made, and so we finally stepped right to the heart of it – finding the actors the show needs! Last Saturday we held the first round of auditions. (A second opportunity will take place on the 17th in the Phoenix area.)

There is not much that is more courageous than auditioning. Think about it. You come in with only your body, voice, and your brain and say, ‘Here I am. Will I work for your needs?’ There is not much more that relies to such a great degree on you displaying your shining, inner self more necessarily than auditioning.

Somehow, through the prepared piece (someone else’s words), the scenes you are given to read (someone else’s words), you have not only bring to life a different character but do so with all of your power and strength and, yes, joy. When you can love what you are doing even when you are scared to pieces that power will show. Your Personal Magic is essential to being able to give yourself to the work at hand, creating a character in which the audience can believe.

Ultimately you are offering the gift of yourself without attachment to outcome and with delight in what you bring. You become the hero at the center of the story.

The Artist’s Path:

The following Monday I met with a small group of talented, creative and hard working people for the first rehearsal of the April 2012 Artist’s Path production, ‘Love Make The World Go Round’. I was there as an actress, holding 2 monologues in my hands written by people I didn’t know, which I will inhabit over 6 performances in April.

Under the leadership of Gail Mangham, visionary and stalwart Artistic Director of the company, and with actors – some of whom I had worked with and others I met for the first time that evening – we began the process of creating a show. There is something very exciting about the first time you hear words out loud in a group. Something that says, ‘The Creation begins!’ Something that also says, ‘And you had better do it justice!’

The mix of doubt and hope, fear and delight that the actor has to accept, offers an opportunity to truly embrace Personal Magic. Placing yourself firmly at the center of creation, owning the responsibility, and then giving it away, you are empowered.  In the service of another you are enlarged and empowered.

Students:

Throughout all of this runs the ongoing thread of the Students with whom I meet twice a week. The daily courage it takes to be an engaged, open, responsible student, should not be understated. That each student is a unique individual, with a personal story, challenges, passions and dreams, brings to the group a myriad plethora of Personal Magic! They require that I keep owning my magic, that I raise my bar and keep expanding my capacities.

We are each, the students and myself, at the heart of our individual unique stories, and those story-circles intersect and inform each of the other personal circles of magic.

And perhaps that is the true magic of Personal Magic. As it grows you so it also has the possibility to inspire others to engage and express their Personal Magic. The dancers in the art gallery, veterans embracing the theatre, auditioners offering their gifts to me in a cold hall, the group of fellow actors with scripts in hand for the first time, and the students balancing their lives with the demands of the course work, all bring their magic to me in ways that inspire me to my Personal Magic.

As I write in the book;

“… share the story, creation, gift with someone, somehow. The sharing increases its power, magnifying the magic from its beginnings as your Personal Magic into the power of a gift to others. Personal Magic is just that, something which journeys out into the world beyond self.’

In what ways do you take your Personal Magic into the world?

This week I began teaching an after-school, enrichment drama program for elementary age children for the first time in many, many years. There are anything from 10-15 of them, from 1st grade to 5th, and not always the same 10-15.  A few have been there each day this week, and new ones still arrive.

Two immediate and lasting impressions: If you could somehow connect these kids to the electrical grid, the entire town of Mayer and surrounding areas would have power. The energy is Incredible. The other is that there is nothing more different than a 1st grade boy from a 5th grade girl. Put a camel next to an apple, these kids would be more different.

For 40 minutes Mon-Th and an hour on Friday, I am surrounded by manifestations of Personal Magic in varying degrees of good health.

In the book Personal Magic I write:

“Very simply, I summarize three main stages in the maturing of ‘Self’ in human  beings within society and culture. First the baby becomes aware that there is him/her (Self), with other objects and beings beyond its own flesh…. has no notion of being right or wrong, or needing to fit into a certain form or framework. Indeed, the very young child seems to be curious and accepting of  almost any person or object that comes into view, touch, taste or smell.

In the second stage, human beings become self-conscious; that is, he/she begins to  see him/herself in comparison to others, to judge and evaluate his/her own Self in relation to the other human beings in the immediate and then the larger community and the world.

 It is at that stage that most young people begin to lose that connection with the deeper inner world, with their Personal Magic.”

The first graders (boys and girls) are opinionated, eager, demandingly helpful, loud, constantly in motion and affectionate. The 5th graders (boys and girls) are careful, watchful, hesitant, deliberately resistant or even obstructive, tend toward leaning on walls or lying on the floor, and have a fit if any person other than their chosen best friend touches them.

I am fascinated, inspired and in awe of them all. With the book about to come out, I am glad to be reminded so starkly of the fragility of the expression of Personal Magic. What happens between 1st grade and 5th grade, that the open, confident expression of Self becomes so restricted?

The longer a person is exposed to the pressures of a social structure which depends on conformity and sets up right/wrong, good/bad, acceptable/unacceptable, the less there is capacity for comfort in Self. The challenge we face as the adults raising, teaching, working and playing with our children is how do we impart the options available to them to chose ‘appropriate’ behavior without destroying their Personal Magic?

It is not easy. I find myself doing a lot of STOP. ‘Sit down’, ‘Be quiet’, ‘Stand up’, Don’t stand on your hands and climb the wall with your legs’. I endeavor to be as conscious of all the opportunities to do YES!

I try to remember that their bodies need to move and their brains need stimulation as well as direction and clearly defined boundaries within which to stretch and dare. I pay attention to the difference between those 1st grade boys and 5th grade girls, and pace the class so there is (hopefully) a balance of time and space for ideas as well as activity.

I choose not to have the big kids  ‘take care of’ the little kids. They are not there as babysitters but to explore and risk as themselves. I learned a long time ago in my early teaching in the classroom days, that although the noisy, boisterous, obstructive ones are easily addressed, it is the quiet, watchful ones that need equal time, eye contact, verbal response and, if appropriate, touch.

Today, Day 5, I saw the results of the efforts of the week. I mean my efforts and those of the mixed bunch, bouncing around the high, wooden stage behind the blue curtain in the gym, where a PE class was also going on. We have established a warm up routine for the ‘Tools of the Actor’, as I call it: Body, Focus, Voice, Imagination. In spite of the bouncing and slouching tendencies they do it and have some confidence in that routine.

From there we branch out into slightly new activities, struggling to get the instructions to them before they break loose into apparent chaos, then stopping to check in and ask what is working, what isn’t and why? Today a particularly thin, blonde-haired, wall-climbing 2ndgrader said, ‘We need team work!’ We ALL agreed!

Today one who had been most standoffish (4th grade girl) held my hand (only, of course, to help her balance herself in a game we were playing). A small boy who usually plays his own noisy, ‘bumping into other people’ game was front and center volunteering to be the button for the ‘machines’ we were creating with our bodies and voices.

I did less ‘Stop’ and much more ‘YES!’ I let my sense of humor, play and awareness of their anxiety inform how I worked/played with them.

Personal Magic was on pretty good display today. The group is consolidating, with routine and therefore more willingness to risk. The safety in knowing what and how we do at the beginning leads to confidence to go into the unknown later.

I am earning their trust and, in turn, they are sharing their Personal Magic more openly with me. The little ones make more of those appropriate choices now and the big ones more often forget their discomfort with Self and shine.

So for all of us who have children in our lives, or adults who have somehow lost touch with their Personal Magic, share with them your joy and Personal Magic. It will lead the way to uncovering their personal paths into their powerful, confident selves. And, most magically of all, so your Personal Magic will be increased and shine more brightly, even when you feel exhausted and Thank God It’s Friday!

Imagination – it is what humans brought to this world telling stories around the around the campfire, working out how to live in the environment, learning from the past, picturing the future, solving the problems of day to day existence.

Then we humans embraced logic and the measurable tangibles and separated the artists from the scientists. For a while it seemed the imagination was destined for bins the bad old days before we were rescued by the wonders of The Age of Science.

This affected the practice of medicine and what we emphasized in education. The offspring who announced they were seeking to go to university and study in the sciences was greeted with approval.  Alas for the artsy student who wanted to study literature, be an artist or, heaven forbid, go into live theatre.

But the word is leaking out. The real leaps in discovery seemed to come with imagination!! From physicists and the brigade of Silicon Valley wizards, to Nike and the digital media folks. They imagine what might be and then worked out how to make it happen.

On Nov. 7, 2007, Cornell Professor of Science Communication Bruce Lewenstein presented a talk entitled “Imagination in Science.” ‘Scientists and engineers struggle with the role of “imagination” in science, regularly acknowledging the creative power of imagination in designing experiments, interpreting results and developing theories.’

Medicine began to approach the idea of incorporating the arts into healthcare. (There is an entire organization dedicated to that, researching and supporting that idea, The Society For Arts In Healthcare). There was something about the ‘immeasurable’ effects of the imagination and creativity on improved health and even treatment that seemed to work.

Just this week I read and heard two pieces I related to the topic of Imagination in Education, also called a Liberal Arts Education.

One was Reclaiming the Imagination, an article by philosopher Timothy Williamson on August 15 in the NYT Opinionator. He makes the point that the imagination is not just about fiction. but ‘… it is integral to our painful progress in separating fiction from fact. Although fiction is a playful use of imagination, not all uses of imagination are playful.’

On the 17th I listened to The Diane Rehm Show on the radio. She was speaking with Andrew Hacker, professor of Political Science at Queens College, New York, and co-author with New York Times writer Claudia Dreifus, of “Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids – And What We Can Do About It”

He urges that every undergraduate student major in the liberal arts, as a way of ‘wrestling with issues and ideas’. (from a 2010 interview in The Atlantic)

Also on the program was Mark Taylor, Education chair of the Department of Religion at Columbia University and a former professor at Williams College. His latest book is titled, “Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming our Colleges and Universities.”

He urges that departments work across disciplines, focus on teaching rather than research and embrace options for learning (such as online networks of students from throughout the world.) A foundational underpinning of his plan seems to be thinking and learning creatively, using the imagination to open up the minds and opportunities of our students.

I taught in the theatre department of a Liberal Arts college for many years. (Linfield College, in Oregon) The development of the imagination (as actors and problem solving for a start) was equally matched by the skills to work collaboratively and with ever increasing levels of expertise in different aspects of theatre. The students who came from other disciplines to take that ‘cheap liberal arts credit’ were soon challenged, engaged and nurtured in an environment that both dared them to step outside their comfort zone at the same time as it let them play. Discipline and Imagination.

I believe that all students should be given that gift and indeed all of us be offered opportunities to continue to stretch and bring those together. It could improve your health, make you a more productive member of your workplace and certainly give you a moment to explore beyond and into places you have never dreamed of. Who knows? You may find that you are stronger, kinder and smarter than you knew.

In one of my early blogs, Exploring the Unknown , I mentioned Errol Morris’s NYT Opinionator  who wrote of The Anosognostic’s Dilemma.

Anosognosia is not knowing that you don’t know. To get beyond that, you really do need Imagination and yet all of human-kinds’ great developments, discoveries and knowledge had to begin there.

There is a generation of students and their teachers, who will be working with some extraordinary challenges in their lives. These are also Opportunities if we chose to use our imaginations and think of it that way. This requires that there is a generation with respect for the role of the imagination and the skills to bring that to whatever their specific field might be.

I close with this. Albert Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”