Monday, January 14, 2013

Clarity is Focus...

For me the greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clarity.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

For me, an area of moral clarity is: you're in front of someone who's suffering and you have the tools at your disposal to alleviate that suffering or even eradicate it, and you act.
Paul Farmer

The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.
Conan O'Brien

Does anyone else get lost in their work and forget the mission they started out on?  Do the raging waters of work ever swallow you up?   I know I sometimes start panting for breath as I drift out to sea, yet there always comes a moment when I reach shore bursting through the water as my clarity of purpose is found.  That happened to me the other day after receiving a comment on MY OTHER VOICE's indiegogo page ( 

I’ve been working very hard on building this production company up, meeting with people, talking about the work, editing, rearranging, creating, sharpening, writing, and the list goes on!  I was doing so much swimming that I slowly started to lose sight of shore.  Two days ago, while I was singing through some of the show, getting frustrated with the way my voice sounded, my phone went off saying I had received a contribution and a comment.  The donation came from a woman that I have never met, a complete stranger, and was also one of our largest contributors to date.  Not only was I floored that a complete stranger had heard about our project, but when I read her comment I was immediately resuscitated.  She wrote, “This contribution is in memory of a Kirby who lost her life, at age 28, to ovarian cancer on January 30, 2012.” 

I immediately stopped what I was doing and went numb.  Then a surge of emotions rushed through my body… I felt overwhelmed that she lost her fight, grateful to be able to read such a comment, lucky to have made it, and finally empowered knowing that my play could be a voice for others like Kirby.   All of this happened in less than a minute as I read the comment over and over again.  One thing cancer survivors have to deal with is “survivors guilt.”  For some people it can be a very intense feeling, often overwhelming, while for others it barely enters their consciousness.  In my own experience my survivor guilt is not as deep as others but still dormant; however, I’m very aware of how blessed I am to still be here.  In fact, this blessing is what has always compelled me to give back with my play.  Though my journey was hard, it was not nearly as difficult as others, and ultimately I still have a voice to empower, motivate, and inspire. 

Comments like these are what keep me on this journey.  I’ve never met Kirby but in some ways I have.  In some ways, everyone who’s been told they have cancer knows each other on some basic level.  These are the people I write for, that don’t have a voice, or don’t know how to use it.  That wish they could see beyond another chemo infusion, hoping for tomorrow, and continuing to fight even when there’s no fight left.  So Kirby… this one’s for you, I hope you hear our voice.    

What have been moments of clarity in your work?  I would love to read in the comments!  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Faith is Starting

"As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, 
to your great delight and benefit."
-Emmanuel Teney

“Sometimes beautiful things come into our lives out of nowhere. We can't always understand them, but we have to trust in them. I know you want to question everything, 
                                          but sometimes it pays to just have a little faith.”
Lauren Kate, Torment


Why is having faith so hard sometimes?  I mean, we’re all taught to have faith in our dreams, to really go for it… “Leap, and the net will appear (John Burroughs)!” Ah, it sounds so beautiful, right?  But then somewhere along the way we start to think, “well yeah, but there’s no way.”  But why?  These aren’t just fancy quotes by fancy people; these are people who have achieved by leaping.  The miracles in their lives are just as real as anything else.

Recently, I’ve really been trying to live in faith that all will be provided if I’m acting in a way that helps others.  Half the time I write about this to keep reminding myself.  When I first decided to come to Ann Arbor with my play MY OTHER VOICE, there was no road map, blueprint, or gps.  However, there was a final destination… yet, plugging in a final destination to your phone and then having it say “network error” is not always the most comforting.  But you know you have to get there, somehow. 

I talk a lot about trusting, believing, the power of positivity, and all of that so now I’m putting my philosophies where my mouth is.  This journey I’m on to make this show happen at the Arthur Miller Theatre is about more than me.  This show is about an entire generation that is just now starting to get a voice…. the young adult cancer population.  We’re starting to be heard and our voices are getting stronger.  I came here with one goal and it will be done… how?  I have no idea!  And I still don’t really.  Every day the Universe, God, whatever you want to call it, is revealing more and more to me. 

Obviously, I came to Ann Arbor with a plan.  I never blindly go into anything without first giving it careful consideration, but already that plan is morphing and shifting into possibilities that I couldn’t have imagined.  I started with this indiegogo campaign, which has already seen enormous support thanks to many of you!  We’ve still got time left to reach our goal and this is only one small piece of the puzzle:

The ideas started there and then opportunities started presenting themselves.  Last weekend, I had the great privilege to meet with the President of the University Musical Society (, Ken Fischer, over coffee at Starbucks.  The meeting was set up by a chance run in through somehow who knew about my show, which lead to a meeting with him.   UMS has a huge presence at Michigan and is responsible for bringing in major acts like Audra McDonald, The Royal Shakespeare Company, Yo-Yo Ma, and the list goes on.  When I was student here I remember reaping all of the benefits, one of which was sitting three rows back center stage watching Patrick Stuart play Anthony in ANTHONY AND CLEOPATRA!  Well, last weekend the man responsible for all of these wonderful triumphs was talking with me about my show.  Now, before I got here I would have never assumed we would be having coffee discussing my show, but there we were rattling off ideas and possibilities for MY OTHER VOICE.

That meeting then led to a lunch yesterday with the associate producer of the original SWEENY TODD, Judy Dow Rumelhart.  Interestingly, she was my scholarship donor and provided me the opportunity to go here when I was a student.  Did I ever think we’d be sitting down at lunch talking about a show I had written?  No, of course not!  She was merely an untouchable amazing woman I used to write thank you letters to for her support.  Obviously, the letters haven’t stopped but the subject matter has changed. 

Now, finally I’m beginning to talk with a few doctors at the University Hospital who are deeply connected to The Medical Arts Programs at the University of Michigan.  “The Program’s aim is to enhance the ability of medical students, interns, and residents to provide high-quality, humanistic clinical care through experiences and analysis of the musical, dramatic, literary, and visual arts (”  BAM!  This is exactly what my show and production company is aiming to do… make better Doctors, residents, and smarter patients.  Did I have any idea that this program existed before I got here?  No! 

And still even now, all of these meetings, upcoming discussions, and talks are seeds being watered.  Yes, more is being revealed but how this puzzle piece is going to come together is still not concrete… and that’s ok.  I’m trusting that that is ok.  Faith is starting.   

Is there something you’ve wanted to do for a while now?  How can you step out in faith?  I’d love to hear!