Tuesday, July 28, 2015

joy in human beings

 A student just wrote to ask if I'd work with her privately on her writing. She concluded:
I would very much love to work with you as I admire not just your teaching ability but how you savour life and find joy in human beings. 

How nice is that? Speaking of savouring life - on this boiling hot day, I'm meeting dear friends Jean-Marc and Richard to cycle down to the ferry terminal and take the ferry over to the island beach for an evening picnic and a swim. Mmmm.

Another student sent me a blog post about writing, that I think expresses beautifully what we're trying to do in our work:
No doubt you’ve all heard the expression, often attributed to Hemingway:“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.”
The first time I read this quotation it resonated with me, but I didn’t realize that what I’ve been talking about – translating both the happiest and most painful experiences in life into one’s work – is how we bleed. At least, that’s my take on it. 

This kind of writing – writing with a kind of brutal emotional honesty – is uncomfortable because we feel a bit like we’re undressing in public. It’s a bit like living out one of those stress dreams we’ve all had where we walk into a crowded room, stark naked.
But, in a way, that’s what we’re doing. We’re revealing our essence, exposing our soul.

Yes, yes we are. I sent the manuscript of my exposed soul, aka the current draft of my new memoir - a mere 49,000 words - to two readers yesterday. Writing a book, for me, is like climbing a mountain; periodically I need to stop on a plateau, rest and take in the view, which means getting some feedback, assessing where I am before continuing the climb. So we'll see what they say and what I decide about the next draft.

In the meantime - it's majorly summer. Time for a swim. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Robin Phillips, R.I.P.

While he was here this past weekend, Edgar my ex learned that Robin Phillips, one of his best friends and colleagues, former Stratford Artistic Director, had died on Saturday July 25. Almost 30 years ago, Ed was pushing through the merger of two Toronto theatre companies to become Canadian Stage when he met Robin. Eventually, he produced the "Macbeth" that Robin directed with Glenda Jackson and Christopher Plummer, which should have been a huge hit but which fizzled on Broadway. He and Robin worked together several more times as director and producer, and were close friends for years afterwards.

I worked with Robin once myself, not as an actress, but as his assistant for a weekend on a new play workshop. It was an eye-opener. The man was such a fierce perfectionist, so hardworking, coiled and intense, always brilliant but sometimes unbearable, it's amazing he lived as long as he did. He used what I came to call "the theatre of abuse" - he pummelled actors into working the way he wanted them to work, and often, his methods worked incredibly well and drew out emotions and skills actors didn't even know they possessed. Sometimes, however, they were defeated instead, and I fear that other directors, far less brilliant, learned his methods without the incandescent genius behind them.

When we visited as a family, he was lively, warm and open, he and Joe in their beautiful farmhouse in the Ontario countryside - interested even in our children, in my thoughts and career, in everything. The kids loved him. I know that many in Canadian theatre did not; he came here at a time of intense nationalism in the arts as elsewhere, and his very Britishness, not to mention that he was a supremely visionary and talented and yet difficult man, led many to dislike him. But most of the time, he was so very good. I remember a production - "King John"? - in the Patterson Theatre he'd designed himself at Stratford, clean, spare, profoundly moving. He brought a new expertise and pride to the theatre artists of this country, and left behind a generation who'd been transformed.

Thank you, Robin. I hope you received as much pleasure as you gave.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

all you need

8.30 a.m. Sunday morning, quiet and fragrant and blessed. The garden is moving into its mauve period - phlox, rose of Sharon, lavender - with a pop of yellow rudbeckia, the white balloons of hydrangea and the giant toppling golden glow behind. I thank you god for most this amazing day ...
We are gathering here for bagels and smoked salmon this morning.  We are a cliché of togetherness. How I love being a cliché, for once.

With all this going on, I've still managed to carve out a bit time for work on the new memoir, working title "1979". As usual, all I can think is - who cares? Who wants to read about a confused 29-year old woman who doesn't know what she wants in life? This one isn't even funny, it just rambles on and on. I'm sure it's terrible. But I also think there's a kernel of something that will work, if I can just figure out what it is. So next week, this draft will go to two trusted readers, to get a sense of where I am and where I have to go.

In the meantime, I have to go get dressed and prepare for brunch.

There's a wonderful website, Pop Sonnets, that does Shakespearean versions of well-known pop songs - very clever and skilful. Your morning smile.
(There's nothing you can do that can't be done
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy
There's nothing you can make that can't be made
No one you can save that can't be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn to be you in time
It's easy
All you need is love)

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Friend Suzette just sent this great quote:
From the NY Times Sunday Book Review interview with novelist Etgar Keret:
"I...try to avoid...memoirs, since I tend to distrust people who are telling a story they have such a great stake in. As someone who has just released a memoir I must add that unlike others, I'm totally trustworthy when it comes to telling my story."

Me too, Edgar, totally trustworthy - and all my students too!

Suzette also wrote "More baby pictures, not less." How can I deny her? But baby right now is across town.

Yesterday, the team came to Glamma's - babycakes, big brother, Grampa and Mama. Baby slept and the rest of us ate take out sushi in the garden. And then Mama and babe went home, and Eli stayed for a sleepover with his grandparents.
Grandpa, who had spent the day in the sun, went to bed before Eli, who was bouncing until - yes, it was unfortunately true - 11.15 p.m. His weary grandmother just let him bounce, until he was finally still.

This morning at 7 a.m., there he was, bouncing. "I woke up and dere was Mr. Sun!" But he got into bed with me - looking out the window, "We're so HIGH and dere's birds," - and went back to sleep for a bit. The morning with us,

listening to a CD, doing numbers with Grandpa, and a tour of Parliament Street looking for a hat to protect his grandfather's head. Now, off to meet his mother and brother at a First Nations powwow, part of Panamania. Tonight, a barbecue at his mama's with his father and hers, and tomorrow, everyone to Glamma's again for brunch. A busy social life for someone who has just turned 3.

I count my infinite blessings yet again, that this man and I, who loved each other profoundly once and lost that feeling along the way, have found it again. And here he is, a wonderful grandfather, father and friend, staying in the house we bought together in 1986, where our children grew up. Something has come full circle, something has been healed, we are family.

Speaking of family, there's an unusual obituary from the Toronto Star making the rounds. Here's an excerpt:
Pat Stocks, 94, passed away peacefully at her home in bed July 1, 2015... She left behind a hell of a lot of stuff to her daughter and sons who have no idea what to do with it. So if you're looking for 2 extremely large TV's from the 90s, a large ceramic stork (we think) umbrella/cane stand, a toaster oven (slightly used) or even a 2001 Oldsmobile with a spoiler (she loved putting the pedal to the metal), with only 71,000 kilometers and 1,000 tools that we aren't sure what they're used for. You should wait the appropriate amount of time and get in touch. Tomorrow would be fine. 

Here's a link to the whole thing:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Grampa's here

Dear readers, I promise this plethora of baby pictures will end soon; my brain will return and life will go on. But for now - here are some more. My dear ex came to town today, is staying here at the house till Sunday. He went directly from the airport to Anna's to visit his new grandson, one week old today, and his old one, who has just learned to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels, fast, up and down the alley. Spectacular. Uncle Sam, aka Stinkbutt, came over too. 
We may not be an ordinary family - after all, he and I have been divorced for 25 years - but we sure felt like one today.