After an absence of nearly a year, I’m returning to the radio waves tomorrow morning.
It’s a weird mix of nerves and excitement I’m dealing with right now: fear over the live aspect, of under-prepping (I’m currently, madly, mowing down every piece of info I can find), of being late, of guests getting lost, of me getting lost, of scary electrocuting microphones, of power outages, and tripping on wires and downed signal towers. Some of those fears are, I suppose, more well-founded than others.
A bigger issue is the confidence it takes to get in front of a mic and talk to complete strangers with some degree of authority. When I left a career in advertising many moons ago to go to broadcasting school, I was scared, sure, but I was also armed with an astonishing confidence and self-belief that stupifies me, looking back. Life experience is supposed to make you more resilient, more comfortable in your skin, more ballsy and more brave -not less so. Right?
Another part of me, that small voice that still shouts my love of broadcasting in tinny, transistor-esque tones, is happy, excited, joyful and … content. It feels like a good kind of return. A return to a version of me I miss terribly -the one that wags a joyful tail at strangers and bounds up to a microphone fully confident of the words about to be delivered, half-improv, half-melody, with high and low tones singing a full stream of bleary-eyed morning magic.
Won’t you tune in?
Take 5, CIUT 89.5FM Toronto – I’ll be on after 9.30am ET, interviewing choreographer Wen Wei Wang about his new work, Cock-pit. And yes, there will be more -next week.
Know the anxious, wearing feeling you get when you really want to do something outside your usual comfort zone, but this little gnawing voice inside you keeps whispering, in that tiny, tinny, maliciously-snickery way, “you can’t… you can’t… ” ? You know that going through with whatever task it is will, in some way, be an important step in terms of development, but there’s that constant voice – mocking, questioning, criticizing –making you question your judgment and motivation, making you weight the outcomes, blowing the putrid stench of fear all over your best intentions. It doesn’t matter whether the task is big or small; usually those tasks, for everyone, involve a display of vulnerability.
Vulnerability is scary. It implies openness. And within that openness, a willingness to go forwards, into the unknown. The best kind of creativity –and certainly, my favourite sort of live performance –involves artists confronting their own vulnerability. With performance, the fact this quest is done within a public sphere makes the journey all the more thrilling, involving, and yes, important. We need to see that bravery, so we can embrace it in ourselves and go forwards.
The Book of Judith is Michael Rubenfeld‘s attempt to wrap his head around his relationship with disabled advocate Judith Snow. As he told me when I interviewed him about the work on Take 5 recently, he met Snow through a friend who was working as her personal assistant. Snow has no qualms about displaying her vulnerability for all the world to see; then again, she doesn’t have much of a choice. She is a quadriplegic. She depends on others for her survival. She has had to make peace with her vulnerability being a fact –publicly and privately –for all of her fifty-plus years.
Rubenfeld was inspired to write a work around her when he was asked if he knew anyone who might want to be her lover. The Book Of Judith is his personal odyssey to create a work around Snow related to this most distinct of inquiries – but in so doing, he finds something much greater, something I suspect he hadn’t thought he’d find when he first started out. He finds the lines between “able” and “unable” dissolving; he finds definitions of “normal” and “abnormal” fading, and perhaps most importantly, he find a whole new way to embrace his own vulnerability –thus allowing us to embrace ours. Several times through the play, we’re asked to make eye contact with our fellow audience members, share food, sing, clap, cheer, and relate not just to what’s unfolding before us, but to what is being revealed within us.
I’ve always had mixed feelings around personal memoir-style theatre; much of it tends to fall into the gutter of self-indulgent preaching, and here, Rubenfeld walks a fine line; while he claims knowing Snow made him “a less arrogant prick,” he displays a stunning male bravado, full of ferocious cheerleading and sloganeering. That all falls away, however, when he realizes Snow had, in fact, wanted him as a lover. The fervent gospel-style preaching he’d indulged in earlier morphs into guilt, angst-ridden justifying, fervent bargaining, self-loathing, and finally, the kind of vulnerability that might make more staid audiences shift uncomfortably. Yup, he gets his kit off. The fact he so willingly uses his own body as a palette on which the audience may paint their own prejudices, sketch their own fears, and project their own vulnerabilities, is remarkable –it’s a brave choice, but it’s also the right one.
The Book Of Judith is a good reminder of the healing effects of connection, one of those being the community created through art. Judith Snow has written that “living in this way challenges and extends our courage, our love, our empathy for others and our creativity. We see and hear what others miss entirely.” That’s a good metaphor for artists. And Snow is her own kind of artist –the kind who accepts and in fact, loves her vulnerability. The voice we hear saying “you can’t” is one she’s turned into “I have… and I am.” Hallelujah. Praise be.
When people think of warfare, images of fatigues, guns, and tanks come to mind. Taken for granted is the gender of the soldiers. But female soldiers do exist. Really.
Colombian director/ playwright Bea Pizano explores this fascinating reality in her new work, La Communion. It’s being read as part of this year’s Groundswell Festival put on by Toronto’s Nightwood Theatre. La Communion portrays the experiences of a young woman who’d been kidnapped by guerillas at the age of twelve. It isn’t just based on imagination, either; Pizano actually met and spoke with several women who’d been kidnapped and forced to be part of Colombian guerilla groups during their childhoods.
Bea Pizano talks about women, drama and warfare, tomorrow on Take 5.
Just after 9amET.
Listen local: 89.5FM or Online: ciut.fm Click the “listen live” button on the top right.
The popular Albert Camus novel L’Etranger tells the story of Mersault, who kills an Algerian man and is put on trial. It’s been adapted for film, and has influenced music and pop culture since its publication in 1942.
The Next Stage Festival may be wrapped up for another year, but Toronto’s theatre scene is hopping. The Groundswell Festival, celebrating Canada’s incredible female playwrights, kicks off January 26th at the Berkeley Theatre.
Wednesday morning I’ll be speaking with one of the writers featured at this year’s fest: Florence Gibson.
Originally trained as a medical doctor, Gibson is known for her powerful portraits of family and relationships. Her new work, Augury, revolves around the 1879 abortion trial of Emily Stowe, one of Canada’s most important historical figures.