Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

My Friend John Wulp: A Man of Many Roles

My friend John and I have known each other for 44 years. He is 88, I am 69, and when I recently told him for the first time that I love him, he laughed and said “OK”.

My friend John Wulp, in 1977

My friend John Wulp in 1977 

In 1973, my husband, Roger Morgan, introduced me to John as a Photographer, Scenic Designer, Painter, Playwright, Lyricist, Broadway Producer, Chef, Professor and Entrepreneur; I thought he was joking.  Over the years, however, I watched as this exceptional man collected Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Tony Awards, while somehow managing to found the Playwrights Horizons Theatre School along the way.

As John Guare wrote in the introduction to John’s 2003 autobiography, John Wulp: ”Wouldn’t a bewildering array of identities imply no identity at all? Maybe, but in Wulp’s case that elusoriness of identity, its very multiples, become part of his intriguing and powerful persona.”

John is a solitary fellow; he’s never married or sustained a longterm relationship. Over the decades I’ve watched him listen to his muse (though he never called it that) as he seemingly stumbled into his next project. His unflagging spirit was inspiring. 

About a year ago John began to phone me from his home in Vinalhaven, Maine, to read me poems he’d written. Poems, John?  I’m not a poetry person!  Maybe that’s what appealed to him, because he kept calling for weeks, and I listened to not just a few poems, but hundreds… he said he just couldn’t stop. 

In fact, a collection of his poems was released a few weeks ago: 

Cormorant Time – A Madman’s Journal – Poems Written in a Time of Fever

So John has added yet another role to his life. 

CORMORANT TIME 

Cormorant time
Is devouring me
Alive
Each day it eats
A part of me
The very heart and soul of me
And yet I feel
More alive
Than I’ve ever felt before 

Published by Hugh Martin, edited by Philip Conkling: ISBN 978-0-692-80513-8 © 2016  

John with his portrait of neighbor (Name) Crossfield

John with his portrait of Foy Brown, a neighbor in Maine  

 

Recently I was compelled to call John to let him know how important he’s been to me over the years, and that he was my model for an artistic life.

It was when I told him I loved him and he laughed and said “OK”.

It meant so much to me.

“OK”.

A Love-Fest With My Ancestors

A couple of years ago I began to write a book about seven generations of my paternal family in America. It was a labor of love in anticipation of the 100th birthday of my grandparents’ Adirondack cabin. The house, now owned by my siblings and our families, is located in the High Peaks region of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve, in a tiny hamlet called Keene Valley. It’s across the brook from the site on which my great-grandparents’ home once stood. 

My Grandparents' Home: 1915

My Grandparents’ Home, Rushing Brook: 1915

The centennial took place in August, 2015, and included 3 glorious days of swimming, hiking and family story-sharing. 50 double cousins*, from 2 months to 82 years, gathered for the occasion. 

*Double Cousins: 2 brothers married 2 sisters. Julius Sachs married Rosa Goldman; Samuel Sachs married Louisa Goldman. Their offspring are double cousins.
My Great-Grandparents' Home in 1890

My Great-Grandparents’ Home, Waldfried: 1890

I circulated my first draft of the book at the event, and asked family members to check for errors and omissions (there were plenty). It’s difficult to describe how deeply I loved working on this project, which felt almost as if I was traveling back in time, meeting my ancestors one-by-one, and falling in love with many of them. The year turned into a virtual love-fest in my imagination.  

It all began in 1837, when two young Jewish men met in a synagogue in Würzburg, Germany. Both excelled in their studies: Joseph Sachs (20) was gifted in languages, Marcus Goldman (16) in mathematics, and the two quickly became close friends.  

The custom in 1840s Würzburg, was that well-to-do Jewish families boarded poor students. Joseph was the poor student, and his generous hosts were successful goldsmiths who were also the parents of brilliant, young Sophia Baer.

Sophia Baer Sachs

Sophia Baer Sachs

Joseph Sachs

Joseph Sachs

The student and the young lady fell in love, and when Sophia’s parents objected to their daughter “marrying an impecunious teacher”, the young lovers eloped to Hamburg, then sailed for America in 1847. Marcus followed suit in 1848, and the very day he arrived in Philadelphia he and Joseph bumped into each other! Their chance meeting foreshadowed a future alliance between the two families (albeit 30 years later) that would influence the world: Goldman Sachs & Co.

Bertha and Marcus Goldman

Bertha and Marcus Goldman

Meanwhile, Bertha Goldman (no relation to Marcus), was a young seamstress who had also arrived from Germany in 1848, then moved to Philadelphia in 1851. She met Marcus, who wished to court her with a bouquet of flowers, but because his work as a peddler left him no money, he surprised her with a bunch of radishes hidden in his hat. It worked. The two fell in love, and were married later that year.

Joseph, Sophia, Marcus and Bertha were my great-great-grandparents. Feeling connected to them is visceral to me, although Joseph and Sophia never even visited Keene Valley (alas, they died too young). Their spirit, however, is everywhere surrounding Rushing Brook: in their commitment to “do what you love and give it your everything”, and in the unflagging support and trust for family.

Steps to Waldfried from Rushing Brook

2015: Steps to Waldfried from Rushing Brook

When I was 12, my parents invited several musician friends and their families to bring their instruments and join us for a long weekend of music and improvisation at WaldfriedThe sensory experiences that summer were unforgettable: hearing and playing the music, feeling the freezing water on our bare feet as we ran across the brook and back, throwing meals together on the run… it was creative collaboration. I didn’t know at the time how deeply it would impact my future career.

These days I feel privileged to literally follow in the footsteps of our ancestors: down the old moss-covered-stone-steps, across the brook, and back up the other side, inhabiting their space, which I believe, on occasion, hosts their spirits as well.

A love-fest indeed. What a gift.

SOURCES: Birmingham, Stephen, OUR CROWD: THE GREAT JEWISH FAMILIES OF NEW YORK (Harper & Row, 1967) ISBN: 0815604114; Immigrant Entrepreneurship, MARCUS GOLDMAN: http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=100; Sachs, Bernard, BARNEY SACHS: 1858-1944 (New York, 1949: Privately Printed); Sachs, Ernest, M.D., FIFTY YEARS OF NEUROSURGERY, A Personal Story (New York, Vantage Press: 1958); Sachs Jr., Dr. Ernest, GOLDMAN FAMILY TREE (Privately Printed: 1981); Straus, Helen Sachs: SACHS FAMILY TREE (Privately Printed: 1977) 

Words. Words. Words: 10 Beloved Quotations

I began collecting quotations during my high school days. These words are not all related to the theatre, but they’re all theatrical!  This piece was originally published in June, 2013. 

1. “All the world’s a stage, and most of us are desperately under-rehearsed.”  

Sean O’Casey  (March 30, 1880 – September 18, 1964) 

Sean O'Casey

 

2. “I got my start by giving myself a start.” Madame C.J. Walker

 Born Sarah Breedlove  (December 23, 1867 – May 25, 1919)

Madame C.J. Walker

Madame C.J. Walker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. “The word theatre comes from the Greeks. It means the seeing place.”

Stella Adler (February 10, 1901 – December 21, 1992)

Stella Adler

Stella Adler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. “The theatre is the involuntary reflex of the ideas of the crowd.”

Sarah Bernhardt (October 22, 1844 – March 26, 1923) 

Sarah Bernhardt

Sarah Bernhardt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. “A whisper can be stronger, as an atom is stronger, than a whole mountain.” 

Louise Nevelson (September 23, 1899 – April 17, 1988)

Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. “If you give an audience a chance they will do half your acting for you.” 

Katharine Hepburn (May 12, 1907 – June 29, 2003)

Katharine Hepburn

Katharine Hepburn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” 

Dorothy Parker (August 22, 1893 – June 7, 1967)

Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. “Theatergoing is a communal act, movie going a solitary one.” 

Robert Brustein (Born April 21, 1927)

Robert Brustein

Robert Brustein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. “Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.”

Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960)

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. “The theater is so endlessly fascinating because it’s so accidental. It’s so much like life.” 

Arthur Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005)

Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a BONUS! Number 11…

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” 

George Bernard Shaw (July 26, 1856 – November 2, 1950) 

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits:
O’Casey: The Irish News; Adler: John Chiasson-Liaison/Getty Images; Bernhardt: Paul Nadar; Nevelson: Pedro E. Guerrero; Hepburn: Hooked On Houses; Brustein: Berkshire Fine Arts; Hurston: The Poetry Foundation; Miller: Associated Press; Shaw: Magazin Gracija. 

My Daily Brain-Food Addiction

Brain Food

About a year ago I began posting a daily quote on Twitter, selected from my eclectic collection and using the hashtags  #TheatricalIntelligence or #WomanofWisdom: 

#TheatricalIntelligence: “I’m curious about other people. That’s the essence of my acting. I’m interested in what it would be like to be you.” Meryl Streep

#WomanofWisdom: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Maya Angelou  

My Twitter followers enjoyed the quotes. (Some even suggested that I publish them in a “little book series”. Go figure.) Then six months ago on this blog, I shared a series of quotations in categories:  Actors on Acting, A Life in the Arts, On Critics, Criticism and Reading Reviews, among others. 

The tricky part on Twitter, of course, is that one post = 140 characters including the hashtag. So I found myself scavenging for more and more inspiring quotes that were short.

#TheatricalIntelligence: “What I love about theatre is that it disappears as it happens.” Lusia Strus (= 104) 

#WomanOfWisdom: “I believe the rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century.” Hilary Clinton (= 124)

Then LinkedIn mimicked Twitter’s hashtag idea, and their posts can be longer so my quotes g-r-e-w, as did their hashtags:

#TheatricalNostalgia, #TheatricalWonder, #TheatricalWisdom, #ArtisticWisdom, #LiteraryWisdom, #WorthConsidering, #WorthRemembering, #LetsDoThis and #PoliticalPoetry. Yikes.

Daily posting became addictive. I began to feel like my friends who never miss the daily NYTimes crossword puzzle, or others who are deeply committed to “Words With Friends” or (what I take to be its visual equivalent) “Candy Crush”

My daily brain food, I’ve concluded, works for me because the words have such meaning when they’re strung together, that I remember them.  I simply love each one of them because they inspire me.   

Brainfood

Is this addiction a terrible thing? How long will it take me to kick the habit? Do I HAVE to? Help!

Theatrical Logic

Imagined interior of London’s Fortune Theatre (1599). Sketch ©Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland.

Occasionally a colleague responds to the term Theatrical Intelligence with “Isn’t that an oxymoron?” and much as it irks me to hear it, I understand. Theatrical logic doesn’t make much sense to those who are not in the theatre.

The theatre ditty below reflects amusing contradictions in what some think of as our oxymoronic world

In is down, down is front
Out is up, up is back
Off is out, on is in
And of course
Right is left and left is right.
A drop shouldn’t
And a block and fall does neither.
A prop doesn’t
And a cove has no water.
Tripping is OK.
A running crew rarely gets anywhere
A purchase line will buy you nothing
A trap will not catch anything
And a gridiron has nothing to do with football.
A strike is work (in fact, a lot of work)
And a green room, thank God, usually isn’t.
Now that you’re fully versed
In theatrical terms…”Break a Leg”.
But not really.
Author Unknown
 
 The language is confusing but absolutely explainable.

In fact, there is a long history of theatrefolk being thought of as not quite normal or respectable: in the early 20th century, it was common to see  NO THEATRICALS signs on reputable hotels and eateries; women onstage were assumed to be prostitutes. Yes, the prejudice was rampant.

When Actors’ Equity was founded in 1913 as the first labor union in the performing arts industry, it paved the way for The Four A’s: the Associated Actors and Artistes of America.

These days there is a national hunger for creativity in the workplace. Corporations, governments, academic organizations and communities of all kinds are looking to artists for inspiration and answers to the lack of satisfaction of their workers. It’s the reason I’ve started leading Theatrical Intelligence Workshops, because it’s time to spread the word.

So,what is the answer to the question “Is Theatrical Intelligence An Oxymoron?”

YES, if you’re a skeptic.

NO, if you’re willing to challenge your assumptions and imagine a stage as the center of your world.

For those of us who work in the theatre, that’s what we’re lucky enough to do every day.


Theatrical Intelligence Workshop: NYC

There is more to what you do than meets the eye.

And it cannot be seen through a regular lens...

Learn to look through another lens: use Theatrical Intelligence.

What is Theatrical Intelligence? It’s a process that uses theatre concepts to impact work performance. In this workshop you’ll identify the role(s) you were born to play by tapping into one or more of its 8 roles as your own creative strength.

Join us in a supportive, collaborative environment, and discover “the fun part of being smart!”


The ACADEMi of LIFE

presents

A Theatrical Intelligence Workshop

THE MUSE HOTEL

130 West 46th (6th & 7th)

$195. (lunch included)

REGISTER HERE (Click CLASSES)


WORKSHOP LEADER:

ANN SACHS: President and CEO of Sachs Morgan Studio, former leading actress on Broadway; award winning entrepreneur and founder of Theatrical Intelligence.

“There is no joy in living without joy in work.” Thomas Aquinas


“Remember the Ladies…” and Their Words of Wisdom

On each of the past 52 weekends, I’ve posted one short quote on Twitter. It’s been a sort of ritual I intend to continue. Sometimes abbreviated due to the 140 character limit, these little gems give me an inspirational boost.

I was struck (though not surprised) as I reviewed these words of wisdom today, that most of my favorites come from women. So in the words of the great Abigail Adams, let’s “remember the ladies”!

ADAMS 

Abigail Adams, writing to John Adams in 1776:

”…in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.”

 
 
 
 

“Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.” 
Zora Neale Hurston

“There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.” 
Madeline Albright

“I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.” Virginia Woolf
 

 “Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.” Madeleine l’Engle 
 

TWAIN


 

And an honorable MEN-tion:

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Mark Twain

 

Where Inspiration Spreads Wide Its Glorious Wings*

* Inscribed (in french) on the proscenium of the old theatre in the Carnegie-Mellon School of Fine Arts, my alma mater.

Once again I have returned to Baker Library in the town where I grew up: Hanover, NH. This is the place I wrote my term papers in high school…

The place I Iearned from a classmate in 1963 that Oswald had been shot.

The place I found a desk with a secret drawer filled with treasures.

The place of many flirtations.

The place “where Inspiration spreads wide its glorious wings”.

The place I am from.

Of the many rooms I love in this library, I’m drawn once again to the Theodor Geisel (Dr. Suess) “imaginative place to study!” Must be something about unleashing the imagination of my childhood.

Voices from long ago join me, yet it is silent and I am alone. An exhibit in the hallway about the history of printing and binding of books reminds me of my brother Jim (who invented the electronic book).

I ponder an illustration from Dr. Suess’s last book, published in 1990: Oh, The Places You’ll Go! and I can’t imagine a more perfect place to work.

It’s time to disconnect: no tweets, no emails, no calls.

Over and Out.


On Writing: “A Deep-Sea Dive…”

This week I’ve been immersed in another solo writing marathon in New Hampshire, cast in my current favorite Theatrical Intelligence role: Writer.  When Studio projects required my input, I stepped out of Baker Library and into my role as Producer or Manager. I have a quick-change-agility at jumping from Performer to Producer to Director and back.

I am not, however, agile enough to change roles when I’m writing. So it’s been a challenging week.

Dave Eggers. (Photograph © Maria Laura Antonelli)

Writer Dave Eggers was recently quoted in a newspaper article : “Writing is a deep-sea dive. You need hours just to get into it: down, down, down. If you’re called back to the surface every couple of minutes by an email, you can’t ever get back down.”

It’s the “…you can’t ever get back down” part that’s been killing me all week. On one of several breaks today to see if I could recover from “Studio Surfacing” as I’ve come to think of it, I chanced upon a slim volume of quotes from literary women.

The mighty Virginia Woolf came to my rescue: “Arrange whatever pieces come your way.” Her words stirred my soul.

How fortunate am I that millions of pieces have come my way!

Whether or not I can take a plunge into an Eggers-like-dive after surfacing to answer a phone call or an email, I can arrange my pieces. Every single day I’m aware of one little theatrically intelligent moment or another, from an early decade or a more recent one. So that’s what I did today: began to arrange my pieces.

As I pondered and reflected, more pieces kept coming at me and it was harder and harder to pay attention to the phone. The emails are still waiting.

What a wonderful day.


Retreating to a Place of Youthful Inspiration

Hanover, NH and Norwich, VT

Hanover, NH and Norwich, VT

For 10 days last month I retreated to the New Hampshire town of my youth. I had become increasingly frustrated with my inability to work effectively on my book in the middle of my hectic city life, and decided to just vacate. “To get away from it all”. (What a cliché from the 80s!)  I didn’t understand the phrase then, and wondered now: “What do I want to get away from?”

Of course it wasn’t what I wanted to get away from, but rather what I was going to that made the retreat a great gift to myself.


Baker's Tower Room

The minute I walked into Dartmouth’s Baker Library I connected to a place of inspiration from my past: the scene where my writer self had lived for a while, blossomed briefly, then disappeared for decades.

The aura of respect for the written word still permeates the hallways. How I cherished that environment! I could see my Hanover High School classmates walking the halls – same bodies, different heads – relentlessly writing and re-writing term papers and stories, all the while pretending we were in college.

I’m happy to report that my writer self fully emerged in New Hampshire and made herself comfortable. She has continued to grow after returning to New York and I’m confident will continue to do so. The book is depending on her.

New Hampshire Lilacs

It may not be necessary to do so, but I’ve decided to visit Hanover again in the end of March. And another trip is on my calendar for the end of May when the State Flower of New Hampshire blooms.

Inspiration from our youth is such a treasure, irresistible to touch, and to re-capture again and again and again.