(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?

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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?

I know that it is over a week since I last posted. It is testament to how busy I have been with the Personal Magic book… well, busy anyway.

Last week was a wonder-filled week. So much came to bloom (or at least to bud) that has been slowly brooding in the hopper. (How many of these old cliches can I mangle?!)

It was a week of ‘culcha’ (to lapse into dialect of the mother tongue – Australian…) On Monday, two bold and beautiful ten year old girls auditioned for a spot in the Cordes Lakes Days talent show. As they were the only ones under the age of forty-five with the gumption to call for a time, arrive and then blow my socks off, they will be featured as Cordes Lakes Talent. (No contest, just them with the two adults who also came out of the wood-work and will be featured.)

I was honored and delighted to sit in the dismal, institutionalized looking hall and be energetically entertained by the blonde Caucasian and dark Hawaiian pair, dancing their way through an intricate, self-choreographed rap piece. Gorgeous! And to high five them,  breathless, grinning and with that stunned ‘we did it’ look, made me as happy as I have been in ages.

Tuesday night we went into Prescott and had a completely different arts experience. The Hopi artist Filmer Yoimasa Kewanyama was showing some of his paintings and speaking about the spiritual symbolism inherent in his work. Held at Quixote’s Garage – a remarkable venue in itself offering daily safe haven to the homeless – I was mesmerized. The stories of the art, the journey of this man and then the place itself, a tiny art gallery of sorts, run by a tall, thin woman with huge kind eyes, were redolent with the power to transform.

Art that comes from the heart has meaning. It gives passage and also offers escape. The art is also in the creation of safe place, respect given to all, and the coming together of people from widely different walks of life to sit in old, mismatched chairs, in a converted garage and receive a little of the wisdom from a culture steeped in ancient understandings which is embedded in their art.

On Wednesday I offered the first of what will be four introductory workshops to Veterans at the new Oasis Center  (through the VA) in Prescott. Five bold veterans let me guide them through the beginning  exercises of my unique, and perhaps confusing, Performing Wellness ™ writing process, trusting that simply writing, writing to the odd instructions would pay off. It did.  They shared powerful pieces of poetry, and then another piece of writing, startlingly and perfectly decorated with crayon right onto the page, all to much amazed and delighted laughter.

Thursday we were back in Prescott (my car can take itself there now and knows where the speed traps are) for an evening of new monologues, hosted by Tomorrow’s Theatre Tonight, a brainwave made reality by the passion and hard work of two playwright women, Micki Shelton and Charissa Menefee. TTT opened its 5th year this past Thursday and will meet each 3rd Thursday until next May, when they take a summer break. It is an opportunity for writers to hear their work and receive the input of an audience in an informal setting.

This night, three intrepid writers put out four monologues to a small, enthusiastic and again, diverse crowd, convened in the cafeteria at Prescott College. Each monologue was read by an actress who embraced the words and the stories with all that they could bring. The power of theatre, when the creation of one artist (the playwright) meets the creation of another (the actress) to double the impact of the story cannot be understated.

I was honored to give a monologue I had written to one actress and then in turn read one she had written. The rewards of open, supportive giving and sharing through the performing arts multiply. In July Tiffany produced the incredibly successful Dirty Laundry women’s playwright festival, and that Thursday she sat on a chair and read a stunning monologue by a very first time playwright. As theatre artists we learn to risk what we create, to trust others with it, and to celebrate each step of courage and gift in the creation.

Friday I was back with the Veterans and this time we did an introductory acting workshop. If there is something I enjoy more than facilitating writing it is watching people step into their greater selves through the acting process! As the terrible cloak of self-consciousness gives way to the joy of play, so bodies, voices and imaginations free up to become closer and closer to the great truth of realized potential.

Of course, no-one knows that but they know they are laughing and making eye contact with each other. And the vet who habitually stood with his hands behind his back in that odd military ‘at ease’ stance found he was able to bring them around in a pleading motion to his acting partner during the little mini-scene at the end of the two hours. Freedom indeed!

Saturday night we were closer to home when we drove the 3 miles to Arcosanti, joined a work co-hort on her little deck overlooking the outdoor theatre, and were transported by the amazing Phoenix based Fushicho Daiko Drummers. The body-vibrating energy of the drums, beauty of  movement, all fluid discipline and each focused with meaning, of voice and body, mind and imagination. The transforming power of art again. Six people (four of them women) with their drums led a diverse audience on the wings of an ancient Japanese form into a journey that was personal and communal, out on a mesa in Arizona.

Sunday we culminated the entire week with another trip into Prescott and this time we were entertained, educated, amazed and proud to wander almost as tourists through the vast parade that was Prescott’s Best Fest, a pre-AZ Centennial Party offered by the city of Prescott.

We began the Elks Opera House as Gail, (whose monologue a I had read and who had read mine on Thursday), ala Florence ala Zaza, welcomed us to the oldest theatre in AZ. We wandered through the art booths, meeting again with two of the artists we had first met at Quixote’s Garage on Tuesday.

Across the corner of the square in the Native Village, dance performances from a number of tribes, were ringed by beautifully made models of their native homes and booths of handmade treasures. A measure of stillness hovered where the wisdom of the older artisans combined with the clay and stories.

I ate blackened catfish and hushpuppies, admired the entrepreneurship of one Johnny Hotshot at the Western Village and witnessed the sobering, heartfelt performance by the Buffalo Soldiers in the Military Zone.

Leaving the world of downtown Prescott which was really many worlds, we wandered through a final performance by the Mexican group Ballet Folklorico La Palomo on the way to our car, parked four hours earlier. I was sunburned, delighted, and once again, humming with the magic of the artistic endeavor.

The variety to which the magic can be applied – to supply a vessel, make a point, unravel a mystery, or simply to entertain – is breathtaking. And when we embrace the magic that is Creativity it can all happen and sometimes for more than one application from the one creation.

In the midst of all that I received notification that an essay I had written was one of seven selected by the WEconference (women’s  empowerment) to be held in Irvine, CA  on October 1. The first time my writing won me anything, outside of its own inherent joy. Titled The Stories Women Tell, it traced my beginnings with storytelling and the role of that form of the arts to create community and ultimately to come to name our own personal magic. (I will post it in full here after the conference but you can go here to read it now if you wish.)

And the book? Well, we have a cover coming along that will be ready next week; it is undergoing a subtle name change (Personal Magic: Conscious Empowerment through Creativity and Spirit); and my daughter is working on little pen and ink illustrations. It is not forgotten.

The week that was, offered me a vibrant reminder of just what this thing is called creativity in all its forms, for so many, at so many levels, for more purposes than we can begin to list. The spiritual dimension is a thread through all the work, either articulated or a silent current by which it moves through us.

So the magic for me this last week was not just personal magic but the magic of the community of artists, in all their specifics, and years of experience or newness to a process, who are all around. I urge you to go out and create! It is totally worth it. It will float your boat, let loose the angels and carry you over the rainbow! (to mess with a few more metaphors!) Just have fun…

Thanksgiving is one day away and there is much for which to be thankful this year. Mostly I am thankful that, through my life and the choices I have made to listen to and share stories, my journey brought me to know the truth of Thanksgiving.

I am not an American but after more than 24 years here, the 25th of November looms, if not as heavily or intensely for me as the average American, at least with resonance. There is an associated series of images, emotions, intentions and finally an agreement for/with myself regarding the meaning of ‘Thanksgiving’ to me.

When I first arrived here and experienced Thanksgiving with my new American husband, the confusion in my mind was with the way I had grown up celebrating Christmas in Australia. Much was the same in the way of extreme efforts made to travel great distances to be with family (whether one wanted to or not); similar food (turkeys, special stuffing and veggie dishes, Grandma pies) and way too much of everything.

The only piece missing, it seemed, were the presents. (Although the next days’ rush to Shop for Christmas at least put that piece in the minds of many.)

Oh and there was the football! It was cricket at Christmas as I recall, although it has to be noted not to the extent that the game here dominated on the TV.

Over the years as a member of an American family, I experienced the joy and the challenge of organizing and participating in the Thanksgiving ritual. My daughter came home from preschool and then school offering cardboard turkeys bristling with crinkly paper tails, colored corn seeds glued onto paper plates, and confused contradictory stories of Indians, food shared and odd looking hats.

The thankful bit seemed to be more unspoken than verbally articulated. And at least the pressure was off to be with family at Christmas time.

Later after I was divorced and not tied into a particular family, I wandered the prairies of Thanksgiving, a guest in various households. Some were definitely based in the Family of Origin and some were the people who got together because they didn’t have family right here, couldn’t afford to travel or simply didn’t want to be with that family.

There were a few years when I (thankfully!) eschewed the entire thing and spent the whole day in Powells off Burnside in downtown Portland, Oregon. Disappeared into several floors over almost a city block at about 10 am. Wandered about stacks of books, latte in hand, sometimes sitting at the window tables, heedless of the world outside.

There were always people there – the same as me perhaps. We exchanged nods but no conversation, and continued our solitary ways through the worlds around us – in books. At the end of the timeless, silently filled day I emerged into the cold, late afternoon dark of the NW fall, relaxed and rested, surprised to find the world still there – and hungry.

It wasn’t until 2005 that I discovered the real meaning of Thanksgiving and the family with whom my heart still spends it, even though I am in a different state now and cannot be there in person

I had been fortunate enough to create stories and put them on stage, with a group of veterans of war. These courageous, wise men and women shared their very personal stories with me, then with actors and finally before the public. The four months these writers and I all spent together were intense, challenging for all of us in different ways, and ultimately the making of some very deep friendships.

I was invited to the Thanksgiving meal they shared each year and arrived on a misty, cold Oregon afternoon to a wooden house tucked into a quiet, tree lined street. The dining room table had been extended longer than I had ever seen it, water glasses and cutlery, butter dishes, salt and pepper shakers, and other assorted gifts of food and comfort spread their way over the tablecloths. Somehow enough chairs were crowded around the entire table surface.

Filling the kitchen were people with knives, aprons and cloths, pots and covered pans whisked to the back room, turkey smells, voices and bodies moving in and out. Hands passed things to and fro. More people arrived, more dishes and smells vied for space and comment. Men and women and at least one small child found places in the living room to sit, jobs to do and stories to share while the thanksgiving meal was assembled and the final guests arrived.

I found myself sitting at the table, surrounded by this unique group of people. Each of them had truly traveled through a journey enough to bring Thankfulness and Gratitude to a simmering point of real meaning. I was washed in their deeply felt appreciation for all they had.

When we are all seated, our plates filled before us, this first time and the years since that I have been able to sit at the table, each of us takes a moment to articulate our thankfulness. Nothing is taken for granted. It is spoken out loud. Each offering is honored from the youngest to the oldest person, the plain to the emotional, the practical to the philosophical.

At this table, from the bottom of their hearts and the depths of their souls, each adult knows what a precious gift life is, feels it in their bones, its fragility and wonder, breathes deeply into loss and love, unrealized dreams and future hopes. They hold the hands of those they love, meet the eyes of those who, through their own experience, know the inner story; and freely give thanks for this family they have chosen, for this present, this now.

On Thursday 25th, 2010 I will be hiking on a red rock trail in the Sedona, Arizona, area with a few more recently found friends. We will pack turkey and cranberry sandwiches and I am insisting on carrying a pumpkin pie in my backpack. We will sit out there in what is promised be sunshine, and each give thanks in our own way.

I will be thankful for my daughter and for the future that is unrolling with such joy before me. I will, as I have ever since the first time with that family, remember the veterans with whom I created live theatre 6 years ago. I will sit in gratitude for their love and kindness to me and acknowledge their generosity and courage in including me in their lives. I will thank them for the privilege of carrying their stories. I know that the meal and family experience I have had with them is truly what Thanksgiving is meant to be.

May you be as blessed in your Thanksgiving this year, and always.