Posts Tagged ‘Love’

My Friend John Wulp: A Man of Many Roles

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

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”.

On Mothers Day: A Letter From My Daughter

Sunday, May 11th, 2014
I received this beautiful letter today from my daughter, Abigail, who lives in Los Angeles. She asked my permission to share it on her acupuncture blog, MAMAFLOAT. Of course I agreed. I’m bursting with pride as I write this and forgive me, I asked her if I could post it here. Thankfully, she also agreed. (This post is not part of Theatrical Intelligence except by association with me.)

1981Dear Mom,

On this 39th Mother’s Day since you became a mother, I am writing you a love letter. You know I love lists.  So here’s a Love List!

I love you for patiently waiting 43 weeks for me to make my arrival, and for giving birth to me naturally, bravely ignoring the 12 men staring at your vagina in that teaching hospital.

I love you for rocking and nursing me in the Stickley Chair (which I now have in our living room), calmly convinced that it was normal for a baby to cry for 6 months straight. Colic. How did you survive?

I love you for introducing me to chocolate peanut butter cups.

I love you for loving lilacs.

I love you because of the way you always look me right in the eyes when I have something to say, your head perched between index finger and thumb.

I love you for saying about my spirited child: “he just has a hard time getting through his day. Like you did as a baby.”

I love you for saying “yes, and…” when everyone else said “no.”

I love you for making Fiesta Ware our everyday dishes.

I love you for raising me and Sam in Manhattan, where the nuts come from.

I love you for sending me to the Bank Street School.

I love you for flying 3,000 miles to meet my firstborn, arriving when he was a mere 20 hours old, and arranging fresh flowers in my bedroom every day.

I love you for taking G to the museum while I labored with L… and getting to meet her just a few hours later.  Her middle name is your first.

I love you for showing me what marriage can be: you and Dad, after 43 years, make it look easy.

I love you for introducing me to Shakespeare.

I love you for your curried chicken salad, which is totally delicious and just a little bit weird.

I love you for showing me the value of two simple beauty products: Yardley’s lavender soap and Keri lotion.

I love you for letting me fall asleep with your nightgown on the nights you and Dad left us a with a sitter.

I love you for my annual birthday gift of a trip to the Town Shop (for real or online) for new ladythings.

I love you for the cheesy way you always say “This is God’s country!” the moment we open the car windows on the drive into Keene Valley.

I love you for finding your writing voice as a Woman of the Fourteenth Moon.

I love you for suggesting I apply to Bard College.

I love you for inspiring me to become a woman business owner.

I love you for your many scarves; I always said I’d never wear them.  Now I have 14.

I love you for showing me that motherhood could be the most important job you (or I) would ever have.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you!

YLD,

Abigail

Written by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., all rights reserved.  Photograph (1981) courtesy of Roger Morgan.  This post was inspired by a writing project I’m part of called 40 Love Letters in 40 Days.  Special shout-out to Stacy de la Rosa.

 

Falling In Love With A Theatre

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

This article is revised from our Studio Newsletter archives in honor of World Theatre Day.

World Theatre Day

What makes someone fall in love with a theatre? I asked a bunch of theatrical colleagues to name a theatre that they love and say why they love it. Here are some responses:

“There are so many! But the one that comes to mind is THE GUTHRIE when it was being built and I was going to be playing Hamlet in the inaugural production. Tony [Tyrone Guthrie] and I walked into what felt like Yankee Stadium and I was terrified. How was I going to fill that space? Then when we walked down onto the stage, suddenly it was only half as big, and I did manage to fill it; over the years it was as if I was playing a dearly beloved instrument.” George Grizzard, Actor

“GLYNDEBOURNE, the famous Opera House in England. My husband and I had a private tour, and I stood on the stage alone and sang into the empty theater. The acoustics were incredible – I got the chills hearing my voice ring out like that… it sparked my imagination!”
 Melora Hardin, Actress

“THE MUSIC BOX, on Broadway. It’s a theatre of reasonable size and seating capacity, yet it manages to feel intimate. Rounded boxes flanking the proscenium are a particularly pleasing feature. It is a theatre that really helps the director.”
  Ed Sherin, Director

“IL TEATRO PIU’ TEATRO PICCOLO DEL MONDO (“the smallest theater in the world”) in Umbria. What a gem! It was built in the early 1800s by the families of Monte Castello di Vibio who wanted a place for social gatherings. The mindset at the time was of concordia tra i popoli (concordance between the populations) so the theatre was named Teatro Concordia. It is a space with perfect proportions; a space where you can feel the history of elegant and probably melodramatic performances in that tiny town.” Marianna Houston, Theatre Educator

“I love various parts of many Broadway theatres: the Tiffany stained glass fixtures and wood paneling of the BELASCO THEATRE; the inner lobby of the MAJESTIC and its grand house; the ingenious combination of new and old to combine two theatres into one dazzling space as the HILTON THEATRE [ed: now the FOXWOODS]. And I want to add another gem of a building Off-Broadway, the WESTSIDE THEATRE’s building, lobby and interiors are remarkably beautiful.” Bob Reilly, Company Manager

“THE VIGSZINHAS (Vigszínház) THEATRE in Budapest, Hungary – a magnificent 19th-century horseshoe shaped house with four or five balcony tiers. The stagehouse was completely re-built, and the stage is so deep – it covers a whole city block – with the loading door smack in the middle. For Six Characters In Search of an Author the city agreed to close off the street to traffic every night one half hour before the performance, so the audience saw the cast enter from the city beyond. That 19th century magic was made possible by the 21st century rehab.”
 Peter Frisch, Director

“THE BARTER THEATRE in Abingdon Virginia because it’s where I fell in love with my husband of 50 years! Barter inherited the seats and the curtain from the old EMPIRE THEATRE on Broadway, which gave it a certain mystique, and by the way, probably fostered more romances than any other theatre in America!”
 Diane Hardin, Acting Teacher/Coach

“I love lots and lots of theatres. At the moment I love the McCARTER in Princeton because Emily Mann and everyone there is so wonderful and willing to do anything I ask.” Eugene Lee, Scenic Designer

What is YOUR favorite theatre? Please share it!

 

ON LOVE

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Love-in-sandI’ve been thinking a lot about love. 

It may be an age thing. I’m in my mid-60s and loving it, my husband Roger and I just celebrated our 43rd anniversary, and our love for each other and our work has grown exponentially over the decades. When we were blessed with grandchildren 3 and 5 years ago, I thought the level of love in our family might actually burst. It didn’t, of course. In fact, it has expanded into a three-generation-love-fest.

And everywhere I look these days, I see love. 

Can it be that love really belongs in this theatrical quotations series?  Absolutely. Why? Because for those of us who spend our lives in the theatre, a passionate love of what we do is the common denominator within the  Six Principles of Theatrical Intelligence.

Let’s take a moment to review those principles, based on the theatrical production model (as is the whole concept of Theatrical Intelligence).

1. Collaborating on a project to make it work for everyone, is number one: EVERYONE SHARES THE SAME GOAL.

2. If the show is a bust, if tickets don’t sell, no one gets paid. That’s the reality: EVERYONE SHARES AN EQUIVALENT RISK.

3. If a play is sustainable, its next steps are defined within the 3rd principle: COLLABORATION RULES.

4. Given: throughout every phase of every project, THE WORK MATTERS.

5. If part of a production’s infrastructure isn’t working (often the case) everyone understands that FAILURE IS YOUR FRIEND AND THE QUICKEST WAY TO LEARN.

6. And finally, a reflection of the commitment to innovation and acceptance of high risk: SUCCESS COMES WITH THE COURAGE TO STEP INTO THE UNKNOWN.

Those who work consistently in the professional theatre simply love what they do; if they didn’t, the ever-changing conditions of the creation, development, rehearsal and run of a show, would be intolerable.

I’ve chosen my favorite quotes on love from my collection. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. 

zelda-balletZelda Fitzgerald (1900 – 1948)
 
 “Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.”

 

Zora Neale Hurston, Class of 1928, Chicago, Ill., November 9, 1934Zora Neale Hurston (1891 – 1960)
 
“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”

**************************

NerudaPablo Neruda (1904 – 1973) née Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto
 
“I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”
(From TWENTY LOVE POEMS AND A SONG OF DESPAIR) 

*******************

Shel Larry Moyer Shel Silverstein (1930 – 1999)
 
How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it.
How many slices in a bread? Depends how thin you cut it.
How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live ’em.
How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.

**********************

George EliotGeorge Eliot (1819 – 1880) Née Mary Ann (Marian) Evans

“I like not only to be loved, but to be told that I am loved; the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave.”

************************

Nelle Harper LeeHarper Lee (Born 1926) 
 
“With him, life was routine; without him, life was unbearable.”
(From TO KILL  MOCKINGBIRD, Chapter 12)

*************************

Jarod KintzJarod Kintz (Born 1982)
 
 “With my last breath, I’ll exhale my love for you. I hope it’s a cold day, so you can see what you meant to me.
”

**************

Dorothy ParkerDorothy Parker (1893 – 1967)
 
“By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing.
And he vows his passion is,
Infinite, undying.
Lady make a note of this –
One of you is lying.”

****************************

Ingrid BergmanIngrid Bergman (1915 – 1982)
 
“A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.”  
 

If you’d like to share your favorites, please do. This love thing is positively contagious. Let’s keep it going.

*********************

Picture Credits
Fitzgerald: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum
Hurston: The Estate of Zora Neale Hurston
Neruda: Pablo Neruda – Poemas Originais Traduzidos
Silverstein: Larry Moyer/Evil Eye LLC
Eliot: London Stereoscopic Company/Getty Images
Lee: The Birmingham News
Kintz: Jarod Kintz.com
Parker: DorothyParker.com
Bergman: LIFE Magazine
******************************

My Mother’s Gift To Me… Via Frank McCourt

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Jeanne O’Sullivan Sachs  (15 October 1920 – 19 July 2009)
Francis “Frank” McCourt   (19 August 1930 – 19 July 2009)


My mother was always a mystery to me. The oldest child in a large, Irish Catholic family, she was a brilliant beauty whose musical gifts inspired everyone around her.

I was the polar opposite: scrappy, frizzy-haired, cross-eyed, born to bluntly question and challenge the world. I was convinced throughout my childhood that I was adopted; how  could I possibly be related to such a refined, remote, creature?

It became a lifelong quest for me to make sense of the distant dynamic between Mom and me.

My mother was a gifted cellist, a child prodigy who grew up outside Boston during the Great Depression and became a soloist throughout central New England.

Awarded a scholarship to a prestigious music conservatory after high school, she chose instead to work as a secretary in a Harvard cancer research laboratory to help support her younger brothers and sisters. It was there she met her future husband: a young doctor of German-Jewish heritage who shared her love of music. It was the first of many sacrifices she was to make over the next 60 years of what she always termed a happy life. I never experienced my mother as happy. She always seemed far away to me – detached – as if she wished she were somewhere else.

It was probably no surprise that Mom gave up her solo career when she married; and that she played very little music during the years she birthed and raised six children. I struggled for decades to understand the irony of the life she chose as opposed to the life she might have built.

When I read Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes in 1996, it opened a window of understanding that changed my view of my mother forever. Never has a book had such profound impact on my daily life. Not that Jeanne O’Sullivan and Frank McCourt shared similar childhoods… When young Frank was growing up in Limerick, as he wrote in the first chapter of Angela’s Ashes: “It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”

Jeanne’s childhood was poor, Irish and Catholic, and filled with with the joy of music. As Mr. McCourt memorably wrote: “Happiness is hard to recall. It’s just a glow.” Those were the words that connected me to my mother.

It is somehow fitting that Mom and Frank McCourt died within hours of one another. As the Irish American journalist Pete Hamill wrote in The Irish Central (July 22, 2009): “Irony, as practiced by the Jews and the Irish, can be wielded as a weapon, but it is above all a kind of armor… Irony creates distance, a certain knowing detachment, while acknowledging membership in the club of human weakness and folly.” That was Jeanne O’Sullivan Sachs.

During her final days Mom kept her children laughing while whispering again and again that she loved us and was grateful for her happy life. I didn’t know that Frank McCourt was dying at that exact time. I wish I had thanked him for teaching me about the kind of happiness that is so unquantifiable that it just glows. Because that is what I treasure most about my mother: however far away she seemed to me, she always glowed.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom. And thank you, Mr. McCourt.

I’m imagining the two of you conversing, one more eloquent than the other, and wondering if you arrived at the gates of heaven together. Yes… I think magnificent music must have welcomed you as you danced your way into the kingdom.

A Theatrical Love Story

Thursday, September 8th, 2011
 
I’d like to introduce you to a great love of mine. Mind you, I’m not alone: hundreds of other theatre professionals continue to participate in our love circle of 33 years, including my husband.
 
Please meet THE ENSEMBLE STUDIO THEATRE (EST). 

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve been a member of EST since 1978. My husband and business partner, Roger Morgan, is a founding member who signed the original articles of incorporation in 1968, alongside EST’s Founder, the late Curt Dempster

EST is a safe haven for several hundred theatre professionals who apply for free membership based on:

1) the quality of their work

2) their commitment to collaboration. 

Actors, writers, producers, directors, designers, managers, technicians and critics (the 8 Roles of Theatrical Intelligence I write about on this blog), become “Ensemble Artists”.

THE ENSEMBLE in the theatre’s name = its members.

STUDIO = a “theatre gym”, where members gather for vigorous workouts and candid de-briefs from fellow members and the artistic staff.

THEATRE = Place: 549 West 52nd Street, Hell’s Kitchen. In spite of its grit and an occasional mouse, it is passionately loved by its users.

These three elements = THE ENSEMBLE STUDIO THEATRE, which provides a lifeline to creativity throughout the best (as well as the worst) years in the lives of its artists.

Since its inception, EST has developed an astonishing 6,000+ plays. More importantly, it continues to nurture its artists for as long as they care to be nurtured, using its own collaborative technique.

With a current annual budget of $1.3 million, EST has been recognized by the American Theater Wing, the NY Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk Awards and Village Voice Obies; collectively, its members have won Pulitzers, Oscars, Tonys, Golden Globes… the list goes on.

So why does this trashy little place matter so much to its members?

To use myself as an example, I dared to write, direct, produce, and spread my wings as an artist at EST. I had never stepped into any of these roles before.

In 1987, EST actress Christine Farrell asked if I’d join a group of leading ladies in an evening of our own making. She knew that we’d never be cast in the same play, and she simply wanted to be onstage together for a change, instead of competing for the same roles. EST member Pamela Berlin joined us as DIrector.

We wrote, workshopped, disagreed, re-wrote, disagreed better, re-wrote better, learned to trust, performed, published and produced MAMA DRAMA, a collaborative piece that is still performed in academic and community theatres nationwide.

My development as a leader is directly attributable to EST. By the late-80’s I was sick of performing, but I wasn’t trained to do anything else. I wanted to work ON a play instead of IN it. Because EST members are able to initiate their own projects, I did. I wrote. Directed. Managed. Experimented. Convinced people to work with me for free.

It became clear to me that I could bring a project to life by identifying strengths in my collaborators that they didn’t necessarily know they had. The trick was to reflect them back so they were somehow quantifiable.  Each time this happened, a profound level of trust was established in the group and we often believed that together we could do anything! (This was frequently followed by a spectacular and unforgettable failure.)

Immediately after the experience of writing, directing and producing, I shifted my career, a direct result of exploring these roles. Writing is now one of my great passions and part of my daily life, and it would never have happened without EST. It’s where I discovered my “CEO shoes”, and they fit so comfortably I never wanted to take them off.

Curt, Christine, Leslie, Rita, Annie, Donna, Marianna and Pam changed my life.

There are many EST stories just like mine. Why? Because this theatre is the place to try out new stuff and know that it’s OK to fail. In fact, absence of failure is a bit suspect, and falling flat on your face is certainly the quickest way to learn: check out the 6 Principles of Theatrical Intelligence.

And at EST, once a member always a member, so we get to fail again and again!

These days I’m back at EST experimenting in yet another role: Vice Chair of the Board of Directors. 

I believe it’s essential to spread the word about this model of creativity, and work to ensure that it builds a financial foundation for its future. Because EST is not only a theatre that is deeply loved – it is a theatre that knows how to love back.

What could be better than that?

 

Photo above left: The Ensemble Studio Theatre by Christopher Cayaba

Photo above right: MAMA DRAMA, clockwise from left: Leslie Ayvazian, Christine Farrell, Rita Nachtmann, Anne O’Sullivan, Ann Sachs (seated, center). Not pictured: Director Pamela Berlin, Donna Daley and Marianna Houston.

If you’d like to see what’s going on at EST: please join us!

 

What It’s All About…

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

This is my daughter Abigail, with her 2-year-old son Gabriel and 6-week-old daughter Lucy. My grandchildren. Was ever a word so apt? Grandchildren. These two little tykes have taught me the most profound lesson in my life-to-date: they are the reason I’m here on this earth.

Cliche? Yes. Over-the-top sentiment? Absolutely. Never did I imagine these hackneyed terms would apply to me! I always thought it would be fun to watch my children if they became parents, however, this generational connection stirring in my soul has caught me by surprise:

  • I find myself whispering words of wisdom into their ears.
  • My inner child (it’s OK to groan here) behaves with utter abandon, yet…
  • My hard-fought-for skills of diplomacy and restraint seem effortless.
  • I have never felt better about forging my own trail on my own terms.
  • I am compelled to continue growing, to be my best self for them.

My twice-daily-ritual, morning and night, is to recall everything I am grateful for. Gabriel and Lucy have given me the gift of a generational lens, through which the love in my life has multiplied a thousandfold. I am so thankful.

And that’s what it’s all about. For me.


Happy Birthday Jim, Forever 47, On What Would Have Been Your 55th Birthday…

Friday, January 22nd, 2010
Jim in the Adirondacks, 2001

Jim in the Adirondacks, 2001

Those of you who read my blog may remember that I wrote about my brother Jim Sachs, who died in 2002 (see September 9, 2009). Today is his birthday, which in our adult lives we used to share with childlike relish at midnight Eastern / 9pm Pacific time, as my birthday is the day after his.

Our enormous family spent as much time as possible with Jim in the months before he died. We accompanied him on one last trip to the Adirondack mountains, where we had spent every summer of our childhood, and we frolicked together at his home in California. It was an unforgettable time.

One day during that last summer, Jim and I were sitting alone by the pool at his home in Atherton, and I read a limerick I’d written for him:

 
 
You darling young brother named Jim,
Came into the world with such vim
And vigor and smarts
In all of your parts
That your four siblings welcomed you in.

You barely were two
When your family knew
That you had your own way of thinking
You’d play in the dirt
Wearing Chris or Pat’s shirt
Making toys and inventions (some stinking!)

And when you were nine
I remember the time
I thought you were rather deluded
You concocted some stuff
An object – enough
To prove to me what you’d concluded.

You explained it to me
With great patience and glee:
The widgets ’n’ stuff (on the side)
Worked together to make it
With no need to fake it
Add – multiply – subtract – and divide!

You went on to say
In the future some day
Smart people would show up to hock it.
Your further conclusion:
(I thought, a delusion)
We would each carry one in our pocket!

At twelve you were solving
The problems revolving
Thru Dartmouth’s math classes each week.
And word got around
That the kid from the town
Was the true and original geek.

Now I was much older
Clearly wiser and bolder
(The Dartmouth men were all mine)
But YOU had the gall
To break down the wall
Into Dartmouth’s mainframe! (So fine.)

Your room in our cellar
You (solo) the dweller
Had carpeted walls plus a lab
To produce your photography
Math and geography
Your Life – As You Saw It – Way Fab!

As we all got older
(Less wiser, less bolder)
You seemed to take off in a spin.
Your toys and inventions
Broke all known conventions:
Apple’s Mouse, Laser Tag, Ted Ruxpin.

And now I see YOU
With your life partner Sue
And Jessica, Betsy and Chris:
You’ve taught us to squeeze
With such joy and such ease
Each minute with its unique bliss.

And so with this ditty
Altho itty-bitty
I’m striving to thank you and say
That you’ll be in my heart
And each memory part
For the rest of my life, every day.

Neither of us could speak for a while. Then Jim, to me, oh-so-quietly: “Vigor and smarts in ALL of my parts?” (Pause) “Like that.”

We sat silently by the pool for a long time.

Sometimes there are no words.


“This Is The Wisdom I Have Learned”

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

William Goyen’s House of Breath opened on November 4, 1969 at Trinity Rep, in Providence, Rhode Island. Every year I celebrate this play on this date. Why?  Three reasons: it was a theatrical production ahead of its time, I became a member of Actors’ Equity during its run, and it marks the occasion I fell in love with Roger Morgan.

Roger in 1969

Directed by the brilliant Adrian Hall, with sets and lighting designed by Eugene Lee and Roger Morgan, House of Breath was a powerful, poetic piece about an East Texas family in the early twentieth century. The production pioneered non-traditional casting before the term even existed, and explored trans-gender issues in flamboyant Adrian-Hall-style. The late great Ethyl Eichelberger (known at the time as Jim) played the role of a sexually repressed young man whose imagination transforms him into a black showgirl. I played Jim’s dead sister Jessie, brought to life through the memories of her family. (See Roger, above, in 1969, and me, below, in House of Breath.)

Ann in House of Breath, 1969

It’s hard to describe how everyone loved that play. We knew it was groundbreaking. And it’s romantic to remember the magic of that opening night when Roger and I were caught completely off-guard by the depth of our connection. Each of us thought it must have been the high of the production that swept us off our feet, and partly of course, it was. What I have recognized over forty years of acknowledging November Fourths, however, is that the collaborative experience of that project provided the foundation upon which Roger and I subsequently built our lives. The spirit of the work at Trinity quickened the pace of our courtship – of course we fell in love that night! We didn’t know at the time that it marked the beginning of a collaborative, creative and frequently improvised life.

2009 (40 years later)

Roger always loved one particular moment in the play. Young Jessie (my character) remembers her brother dressed up as a King in a pageant, and declares with great wonder: “This is the wisdom I have learned!” referring to the power of memory.

“This is the wisdom I have learned” is one of those code phrases that pops up in our marital dialogue, often with humor as a “duh” kind of realization. Recently, however, the phrase has come to represent the collaboration, risk, and belief that we’re doing something that matters: 3 of the 6 Principles of Theatrical Intelligence. I shall always be grateful that Roger and I met in the middle of the wonder that inhabited House of Breath and Trinity. It was within that context that our lives changed forever.

 

My Brother Jim Sachs

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

My recent infatuation with Twitter makes me think of my brother Jim. He was a man of few words and the 140 character tweets would have suited him just fine. I’m sad to say he’s not here to join the fun; he died of cancer in 2002 at the age of 47, leaving a void in the hearts of his wife, three teenagers and his enormous family. Jim certainly left his mark.

His name, with 3 of his colleagues, is on the patent for Apple’s mouse (below). 

Jim’s Name on Apple’s Patent for the Mouse: 1988

He invented the electronic book a dozen years ago, and predicted it would take about a decade to catch on. Need I say more? No. (But I will… he was my little bro, y’know?) Jim’s electronic wizardry made Laser Tag and Barney possible (remember that  talking, purple dinosaur?) I often wonder what other breakthroughs he might have come up with, if he’d only had a bit more time.

Jim has been on my mind this summer, influenced no doubt by the death of our mother. I’ve been flooded with memories of older-sister-younger-brother shenanigans from our childhood in New Hampshire. In retrospect, Jim was the first person in my life to give me a glimpse into what I now refer to as Theatrical Intelligence.

One particular memory from the early 60’s keeps coming back to me: he was a serious 8-year-old and I was a rather dramatic 16, preparing for one of those standardized tests and trying to make sense of a word problem that had one train going X miles an hour colliding into another train going Y miles an hour and I was nearly apoplectic at the image. Jimmy (as we then called him) asked “What’s the problem?” And I launched into a harrowing description of children being catapulted from the train and lovers “untimely ripped” from each each other’s clasp and infants rendered orphans and… Jimmy stopped me and said “Ann, it’s a math question.” To which I immediately responded “It’s a tragedy!”

I will never forget that little face peering up at me through 1960’s glasses, shaking his head in disbelief: “I guess that’s why you’re going to be a Broadway actress,” and I, with deep disdain: And you’re going to be an engineer!”

It was a pivotal moment: we understood that each of us viewed the world through a completely different lens (albeit his lens in this case sure was clearer than mine!) Over the years we reflected back on that particular moment, and as we grew older confided in one other about our contrasting perspectives. We both loved learning, and never ceased to learn from our differences.

Looking through my Theatrical Intelligence lens today, I see that Jim’s dominant roles were Designer, Technician and Producer, whereas mine were Actor, Writer and Producer.  We came together as conversation partners as Producers, and were able to expand our capabilities by incorporating the other’s vision.

Shortly before he died we had a boffo laugh when we secretly agreed that together we would have made one perfect person. How blessed have I been, to have such a brother.

Sometimes I think that writing this blog is not only a way to explore the world of Theatrical Intelligence, but a way to continue my conversations with Jim. 

And when I miss him, which is every single day, I find myself saying…

“This is for you, Jim.”