Hello All. It has been a long, strange, many-stringed journey since late  March this year. Much has changed, much has been released and more  has been added, blooming in the desert of letting go.

I find myself invigorated through the deep work of live theatre even as I am almost totally bobbing like a cork on the oceans of uncertainty. The energy of creating in collaborative endeavor is like the sun and rain that feeds the vastness of an otherwise desolate terra firma. Fred & Mary, the world premier production that I began with in September last year, is finally fully underway. 14 actors, 4 designers, the playwright and director, stage manager and volunteers – we are all only 2.5 weeks from that surely coming opening.

Directing!

With so much of my life spread out among 4 different locations as I slowly drift into the unfolding of this next chapter there are two pillars of strength. One is the daily responsibility and community of the theatre work. It reminds me I am valuable, worthy, capable and smart. The other is the little grey horse who has managed to stay pretty close to me as I survey the possibilities while living in the moment.

Riding in the red rocks of Sedona, my path blessed by the heron, coyote and deer whose creeks and land I travel through on my four-footed partner, any fear and doubt is gently lifted. I am reminded that the universe is far greater than the tiny piece of my corner of it. Conversely ,and perfectly aligned, is also knowing that my corner of it is the most valuable gift that I have been offered.

Magic indeed is all around me and while there are times when it seems almost impossible that any order will come from the chaos, I am nestled in the arms of something as ordered, as calm and as powerful as any reality I could conjure.

Red Rocks/Grey Horse

As I say in the very first paragraph of the introduction to the Personal Magic book, ‘Personal Magic offers a way of being in the world, a way to live your life with power, resilience, hopefulness  and – ultimately – with joy.’

I am glad that I have spent a life time uncovering and embracing my personal magic, that I took time last year to articulate that in a book. It is guiding my ‘walk’ now as I have to follow up on that ‘talk’.

There will be more work and sharing of the book, more blogs and newsletters. For now I am busy and spreading out into myself again after a hiatus both of choice and circumstance. The balancing opposite poles of my life, the creative arts (theatre) and the earth (horses) are both, in their own ways, giving me haven and strength to nurture and share my magic.

I can only wish you similar opportunity and joy.

(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.)

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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?

The last couple of weeks have been very full, hence the delay with the new blog! I have been engaged in a range of activities all of which have been shimmering with expressions of Personal Magic. Today I will share two with you and, in the next blog post, another two.

At the very end of the Personal Magic book I write:

‘If you are to rise above mere survival and to thrive in the years to come, you will need to be aware of – and have the courage to manifest – your Personal Magic in the world. I cannot write this too often or strongly enough – you already are a powerful, kind, resilient and confident individual with an unique magic to share with the world. Own it! The World needs it!’

I have been privy to much of that magic lately and here is a sample.

Bricks and Bones:
I attended the opening of a unique and thought provoking interactive sound installation created by Tamara Albaitis. Not withstanding the detailed and elaborate weave of wires punctuated with speakers, in a beautiful wood floor space, the opening included a collaborative sound/sculpture/performance. Created by four dancers from Prescott with Tamara (who is from San Francisco) the art was introduced to us through the added layer of movement and bodies in space.

While I may not have totally understood or even be able to tell you what it was about, being present, in the presence, of art being created, offered and witnessed (the room was full) was in itself enough. The different bodies of the dancers each brought a unique quality to the group movements, a sound-scape subtly took us on a journey, and the focus and attention of the standing audience together created community magic, brought to us by the initial vision, courage and work of one individual.

(This installation in on display at the Prescott College Art Gallery, Prescott, AZ, until March 24, 2012)

Veteran’s Theatre Scene:
I have been working with a group of veterans at the Prescott VA for the last 6 weeks, assisting in creating a 3-minute original scene for submission to the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. (This year hosted by the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System in Boston, Massachusetts October 8-15, 2012.)

A few of the group have had theatre experience, most have not. Each individual is working through personal issues that require courage and commitment to overcome. The group has slowly consolidated itself into those who are able to make the commitment to this project.

Creating and sharing live theatre requires the kind of courage and commitment we often need in our ‘real’ lives. Yesterday we had the last rehearsal before we filmed it today, in order to submit it. Personal Magic is most needed when we face fear of possibility of failure. That is when you need to dig into your deeper self to stay with it even when you are terrified. Working with this group of people, each of whom are learning how to face their personal challenges, I saw clearly that this theatre process was a microcosm of that work.

Witnessing each individual’s process as they worked through that passage of fear and courage, I was again reminded of the power of live theatre to encourage and build Personal Magic, while also sharing that with others.

These two experiences were at very different ends of the creative performing arts scale. One was a group of women with many years of work and creative experience between them who came together to create a living sculpture for a live audience of art supporters.

The other, a group of men and women with almost no experience who came together to create something with very defined parameter (3minutes and a set of rules) and purpose, (to submit to a conference) for an audience they will not see.

Both groups, while so very different on the surface, are the same: individuals working collaboratively to bring something new to the world. Each individual took risks, experienced courage and ultimately brought their Personal Magic to the group. Each individual discovered a new level and depth of resilience, kindness and power.

When did you last experience an awareness of your Personal Magic?

Last night I was privileged to participate in an extraordinary dance performance as one of the dancers. Now let it be said, I am NOT a dancer but I am an actress and willing to learn and this was not a ballet. It was, quite simply, one of the most challenging, empowering and remarkable performing arts experiences I have had.

‘Prima Spira’ is the creation of a young woman at Prescott College. She took the roles of writer, choreographer, director and also both danced and sang in it. Lest she sound like an egomaniac, know that she also opened it to the group who assembled to bring the idea to the stage. Thus she was also collaborator, teacher, member of a team and a real person with fears, frustrations, hopes and vision.

The team that finally stuck over a period of 4-5 weeks of development, consisted of 8 dancers, a costumer, violinist, a hoop-dancer, an acrobat, lighting person, a little girl and me, 50+. All female.

The final scenes of the story brought  all the dancers onto the stage, slowly moving toward each other, under soft red-blue-yellow lights to some of the most beautiful music I have heard. As if we were underwater reeds, fish or sea nymphs, all from our different places on the stage, we moved, sleep-like, into one slowly falling, melding of soft bodies.

Lying on the floor, each of us on one and supporting another, our eyes closed, hearing the breath, feeling the rise and fall of oneself and another. Smelling the work of these bodies, aware of the pressure of hip-bone or foot, ribcage or thigh, the finger tips of a hand held lightly. Not knowing where one body begins, or another ends, even the boundaries of ones own shape blended to others.  It was perhaps the most non-sexual, sensual experience one could ever have. A oneness like no other.

Arising out of all the work and effort of the preceding weeks, culminating in only 2 public performances, we arrived at this perfect place in the journey unfolding on stage, and our journey with the creation and performance of it. We came together in a literal ONE for a minute or so of rest. When the final gentle, soft ‘a cappella’ song ended, our mass slowly awoke, stretching upward, separating and parting gently, beautifully waving out of the ground and slowly, almost footlessly, leaving the space.

Backstage the joy of the work/play achieved beamed from all faces and the final mad dance curtain call was the precisely perfect opposite and balance to the slow, soft end scenes of the story-dance we had just completed.

In an era where this sort of engagement is not the norm I was profoundly grateful to be a member of this ensemble. And beyond that, the depth of compassion, support, honesty and courage each and every member of this group lived was enormously encouraging. I did not hear any of the fabled ‘girl bitchiness’; I didn’t notice any prima donnas, nor experience any discrimination with these young women.

In my Book Personal Magic I write:

 ‘We live in an age where friends are found and made on the net, and many of our interactions, dialogue and socializing occurs through a medium that precludes direct human touch, sound and visuals. Personal Magic becomes more valuable as well as possibly more elusive.’

Remember, I define Personal Magic as:

‘Personal Magic is the uniqueness that you, and only you, bring into the world. It is the tangible expression of your connection through your Soul to the Great Spirit, Creator, Higher Power, God, whatever language you wish to use, by which we are all connected. It can be directly accessed through the creative endeavor.’

‘Prima Spira’, the performance, was a mirror-opposite to the digital experience. This group used their bodies – touch; worked with breath and sound; engaged minds and hearts in direct conversation to raise concerns and solve problems. Each person had to work through their own fears and doubts, in a piece of work that dove deeply into the depths of what it is to be human. Finally, we had to give that in real time to a live audience.

Dancers who really embody their characters’ intention and the needs, ultimately have to trust their creative instinct – that connection to something bigger than their bodies, deeper than their minds. It is that Spirit from which all the movement ultimately arises and moves through us. This performance gave each of us the opportunity to really Do and Feel that connection.

From the little girl to the lighting girl, the hoop-dancer to the extraordinary costumer who turned us into trees, mermaids, skeletons, mythological beings like Coyote, Kali and La Llorona and even the Scales of Justice. The violinist who improvised with the recorded sound, the woman who brought her makeup magic to augment the costumes – and this middle aged woman who had never danced like this in private, let alone in public.

And the dancers, the creator herself among us, changing in and out of costumes, silently backstage reminding each other of moves and counts, high-fiving and hugging. All of us brought our unique personal magic to the live performance and each of us were enhanced by sharing that – in real time, together, literally body to body.

May you find a living, breathing community with whom you can create, share and grow. You may not think of yourself as an artistic person, any more than I think of myself as a dancer. You may think you are too old or not old enough – try it anyway. Ultimately, allow yourself the joy of physical ‘here and now space’, interpersonal creativity and work and play. Dance with another – or a group of them!

(PS. the music is ‘The Night Knows Nothing at All’ by ‘Six Organs of Adventure’.)

The past week offered me experiences of either end of the Personal Magic that comes through live theatre. On Tuesday I visited with the costumer at the incredible Arizona Broadway Theatre, and on Thursday the elementary school children with whom I have been working presented their show at the school.

Visiting with the costumer at AZ Broadway Theatre was a tangible connection to a past that has been informed by theatre and teaching since before my daughter was born. Martha was a student in my very first days teaching 23 years ago at Linfield College, Oregon! Since then, she has taught and costumed her way around much of the USA, and landed 5 years ago as a founding member of the a theatre here in AZ.

I didn’t feel old (although it was noted!) so much as incredibly awestruck and delighted by the successful, varied journey in the performing arts by someone I really only remembered as a college student in Oregon, acting in her only play there and terrified. (After all, she wanted to be a costumer!)  Today she is just down the road from me, both of us still in the field through which we had met in such different capacities, and now equals in our respective specialties in the theatre world.

The elementary students this time last week were not even a solid group and in fact the very night of their show were not even all the same people whose names were in the program! The power of the collaborative creative endeavor, however, waved its magic wand.

One of the Kings Horses stepped in for the missing Wall and the Kings’ Woman took the horses’ line. The Cupboard managed his cardboard box costume even after the front fell off during a rowdy dress rehearsal (the hour before their parents arrived), and the Hungry Dog preferred that his ears be worn more as a collar rather than hanging from a girl’s headband.

Observing this disparate crew of 1st to 6th graders exhibit the same sorts of scared, overwhelmed, unsure and excited behaviors as many adults do when in challenging new circumstances was strangely reassuring.  We are all on the journey of discovery – who we are, how we behave, adding skills and building confidence in our sense of Self.

In the Personal Magic book I write:

“… as parents or teachers, you can (and, in fact, must) seed opportunities for that Empowerment of Self to arise in others. Those opportunities will vary widely based on age, ability and circumstance. … find ways to expand the horizons, broaden the activities and environments, and widen the range of relationships and activities for each individual. Through your efforts others may find ways to attempt, fail, succeed and finally experience the true exhilaration of well-earned pride and the empowerment that struggle and outcome can bring.”

The difference between those who become adults in awareness of and thus control over their behavior is the opportunity to experience, uncover and practice strengths and skills, in a safe, supportive environment.

Martha studied at an undergraduate college that gave her a good solid basis in her field of interest and skills working in a collaborative environment. She had supportive family and friends and took her own determination and power into the world she wanted for herself.

The children pulled their fears into a powerful force of focus and determination. A mere 45 minutes before the show there had been tears, near mutinies, costume refusals, absolute line losses and a desperate need for hugs, reassurance and pizza. When the time came, they worked as a team in front of their amazed and delighted parents. The vibration of their experience of pride and joy rings in me even as I write this.

Our Personal Magic is truly awakened when we move into places that challenge us, when we do so with people who love and encourage us, when we are rewarded with well-deserved pride in the accomplishment.

Martha started her journey long ago and seeing her last week as a fully-grown woman running a huge, beautiful costume shop in a strong theatre is a perspective that encourages me to keep on in my work.

The elementary kids are just beginning and the struggle to the reward of Thursday was a visceral reminder. It is urgent that as adults who care for the wellbeing of others, we bring what we can, when we can, to the children we meet wherever that is.

May your Personal Magic shine on others around you and may you experience the glow of another’s Personal Magic in your life.

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!

This time last week I was freshly basking in the aftermath of the extraordinary TwentyFour Hour event. The last blog post explains what that is and the process by which we got to the moment of presenting 5 brand new plays (literally barely more than 12 hours old) to a paying public!

The night unfolded beautifully. 15 actors embodied their characters created under the watchful, creative, problem-solving eyes of 5 directors. Together, through the entire day from 7.30 til 7.30pm, they had labored to bring the scripts to life. Now, as I sat there with 4 other playwrights, they appeared before our amazed eyes. The stories filled our delighted ears and grateful hearts – stories of which we had not heard a whisper until now.

The audience shared the delight and wonder although I know that, because they had not been one of the creators, to some extent they could not have felt all that we felt. That is perhaps the real power of creativity. It is in the furnace of creation, that we gain the greatest gift.

Why do we, the One Day Play lunatics, do it? Even if we have done it before, the discoveries each event are the same. We are most alive when we are challenged, most supported when working in community. Because in pushing to the boundaries of our capacity we find anew a strength and power we didn’t know or had forgotten.

The list of findings include: Letting others assist us, lending what we can to others. Placing our focus on the gift we are creating to give away that evening. Honoring each aspect of the creation from the writer to the director, the technical crew, the actors and the producer. Knowing that each cell in that glorious organism, the show that opens up that night and then blooms in full, depends on each of us to do our personal best.

In the Personal Magic Book I write about the things that can stop you from engaging in the arts and creative expression, and ultimately from truly stepping into your Personal Magic place of unique strength and power. One of them is waiting until it is perfect before offering the gift. The TwentyFour Hour Play experience certainly blows that option out of the water!!

I also write:

“What else stops you? Fear – fear of being wrong, looking stupid, being  surprised,  disappointed, or worst of all, hurt. Perhaps also it is a fear of being free and  finding yourself flying. When you are flying, not buried in the mud, hidden in a  cave or clinging to a rock in the crashing surf, then what? You are, in short, Empowered – to follow your personal and unique path, create your life, your  story. That is Big!”

At the final curtain call last Saturday, I shared the applause on stage with the community with whom I created the gift, before an enthusiastic and amazed audience, and felt the warmth between all of us. I had that Flying sensation. And looking around at the energized (if tired) faces with shining eyes, loose relaxed limbs, hearing the excited, joyous voices and Feeling the palpable energy of Power, I knew that all of us were empowered in the best sense of the word.

Empowerment means being able to stand up, loud and tall even when you are afraid. It means offering your gift, yourself your work, with a confidence that says ‘Here is my best.’ It means allowing yourself the imperfections, and celebrating the wonder of courage. For most, it is only after the actual moment of fear on stage that the true magnitude of the Power can be felt. Without that effort, would that joy be possible?

For the audience too there is definitely an experience of being bathed in a light and radiance emanating from the Personal Magic each of the creators whose work you have witnessed. Somehow in the expression of courage, joy, (and yes relief!) of the LIVE people before you, the audience is, as the Greeks knew so well, empowered too.

True the TwentyFour Hour play event is a rare microcosm of a life experience. It is not everyday that we are given such a clear-cut and concise, precise, time-framed opportunity to practice empowerment! Very often the opportunities are quieter, more mundane and even routine. The steps are the same. Focus on the task at hand, allow and offer assistance, share what you can and celebrate the gift.

And in a way, each of us lives a 24hour play every 24 hours. May you bring your Personal Magic to each of your 24 hours. May others sometimes get to bathe in that radiance, and may there be times when you bathe in the light of anothers’ Personal Magic.