This just in: Pancakes & Booze (and art and music) in D.C.

Art by CJ Bown
Art by CJ Bown

Last night I went to The Pancakes & Booze Art Show in D.C. My friends and I arrived as soon as the doors open and already there were lines down the block. We were thrilled by the excitement and support of local D.C. artists. I fell in love with the photography of CJ Bown, a Philadelphia-based artist, and picked up a canvas of his stunning view of the stairs to Bethesda Fountain in New York City. It’s one of my favorite places in the world and CJ captured it from such a stunning viewpoint. It’s now happily hanging in my home and I can’t stop looking at it. Something tells me I’m going to license this photo to be on the cover of my novel, Where the Light Enters.

art, community, compassion, experience, social media, technology, theatre, Washington

This just in: Dear Evan Hansen – theater review

Dear Evan Hansen at Arena Stage
Dear Evan Hansen at Arena Stage

As someone who’s used social media for everything from meeting new friends to learning to generating career opportunities to dating, I’ve been thinking a lot about the underside of social media. What if it doesn’t help us connect? What if people don’t like our posts or accept our invitations or offer support when we so clearly needed it? What if we do that hideous comparison game of viewing our own real lives with all their difficulties side-by-side with the perfect lives that people espouse to live via their shiny screens? If we already have anxiety, and who among us doesn’t?, interacting on social media is nearly as frightening as the real world. It’s yet another avenue for rejection and disconnection.

These are the kinds of questions and scenarios that Dear Evan Hansen raises in its gorgeous premiere production at Arena Stage in Washington D.C. The odd and awkward actions online and off that are showcased made me laugh, cry, and contemplate just how hard it is to wrestle through our digital world and navigate its border with the physical world.

There were so many times that my heart just hurt for Evan Hansen, a sweet and shy teenager who’s just trying to get by without having a breakdown. He doesn’t have a lot of friends—he never has—and his family life is less than ideal. He always feels separate and apart from the world around him. He’s someone with a good heart who just can’t connect with people, sometimes rubbing them the wrong way with his awkwardness. He reminded me of a man I used to know, a man I wish I still knew, who also suffers from the same social anxieties and misfortunes with people. I sent that man a virtual hug during the show, not online but in my heart, and I hope wherever he is that he felt it.

Unlike most musicals, Dear Evan Hansen‘s songs aren’t commercial breaks. They move the story along with power, grace, and humor in just the right amount at just the right time. Ben Platt’s voice and demeanor exudes charm and heartbreak, grace and raw honesty. I wanted to run up on stage numerous times, give him a hug, and tell him that it’s all going to be okay. Because that’s really all he needs to know—that someone’s going to stand by him, listen to him, and care about him, especially when he feels uncomfortable and frustrated. He needs to know that someone’s going to be patient with him when he can’t be patient with himself. Isn’t that what we all need and want? Isn’t that the real definition of love? Tom Stoppard said, “It’s no trick loving somebody at their best. Love is loving them at their worst.” I agree.

After seeing Dear Evan Hansen, I didn’t have the best weekend. I’ve got a few personal situations I’m juggling that feel sad and confusing. To be honest, I’m at a little bit of a loss of what to do, say, or feel. My heart and mind feel jumbled and tired. All I could think to do to feel better was smile more, reach out more, and feel more. The instinct might be to shrink away from discomfort, but thanks to Dear Evan Hansen, I leaned into my weekend. The results were mixed, but feeling all of it actually felt better.

And that’s the power of theater. It reminds us that we aren’t alone in our experiences. So much of what we think, feel, see, and bear is shared across space and time by so many others. At its core, Dear Evan Hansen is about friendship and our need to feel cared for and accepted, flaws and all. See it. You’ll walk away a better, kinder person for carrying this story with you online and off.

Dear Evan Hansen will be at Arena Stage until August 23rd. And I’m sure it will have a very long life in many cities across the country soon.

art, museum, Washington

This just in: A day at The Beach at Washington D.C.’s National Building Museum

The National Building Museum is one of my favorite places in D.C. It always has interesting exhibits that are often interactive and always raise issues about what it means to live and work in an urban built environment. They often blend science, art, and society. The latest exhibit, The Beach, brings out the kid in all of us. I went with a big group of friends this week and we had a blast. After playing around in the giant ball pit, we had some cocktails crafted Union Kitchen and danced around to the music of a jazz quartet. Here’s a slow mo video of part of our group. I’m the one on the far right who completely disappears. If you’re in D.C., I highly recommend stopping by!

action, adventure, art, theatre

This just in: I’m keeping it weird in Washington, D.C.

Image by Luke + Mallory Leasure
Image by Luke + Mallory Leasure

This week I met with an artistic director of a theater company as I investigate ways to get involved with Washington’s creative community. He likes my variety of business and art skills. This was also true when I interviewed for my current job at my ed tech startup. My weird and winding road, my New Yorkiness, is of value in Washington where being unique isn’t always seen as desirable. This has been a welcome surprise for me and I feel like I’m in just the right place at just the right time. I’m not sure exactly where this next chapter of life is heading, but I’m excited for the adventure and possibility!

art, creativity, decision-making, theatre, Washington

This just in: Break it down

Image by Guille Faingold
Image by Guille Faingold

I’m in the very early phases of a new theater project in DC, or rather what may become a new theater project. Right now, I’m researching the community and the potential opportunity for my idea to spread its wings in this new city. It would be the biggest project I’ve ever considered doing, and therefore requires more research and consideration than any other decision I’ve ever made.

Whenever I’m approaching a big idea, I break it down into its smallest elements as fast as possible. That way I can take it one piece at a time. I can see myself approaching from a distance. I have to time to prepare and can take in the whole landscape around the idea.

There’s a time for taking a giant leap. There’s a time to run toward something as fast as our legs will carry us. And there’s nothing wrong with testing the waters before diving in head first. It’s the best way to avoid the rocks and provide us with smooth sailing.

art, creative process, creativity, decision-making, dreams, theatre

This just in: Know when to dream and when to do

There's a time to dream and a time to do. Know and respect the two.
There’s a time to dream and a time to do. Know and respect the two.

“If you freeze an idea too quickly, you fall in love with it. If you refine it too quickly, you become attached to it and it becomes very hard to keep exploring, to keep looking for better. The crudeness of the early models in particular is very deliberate.” ~ Jim Glymph, Gehry Partners

Right now, I’m kicking around some ideas for a new theater project here in D.C. I’m excited about the possibilities that this community offers. It’s open and welcoming vibe is just what I’ve been looking for and it’s opened up my sense of what’s possible.

Whenever I begin a new project, I try to leave my mind open for as long as possible. Eventually, I do need to synthesize my ideas but I try to stay in the generation process as long as is feasible. Sometimes, we’re so anxious to get to an answer and then get on with the work.

This quote from Jim Glymph reminds me that there’s a time to dream and a time to do. Both of those states are equally important to the creative process and each deserves its due.

art, story, theatre, Washington

This just in: The free showcase for my storytelling class in D.C. is on August 24th

My storytelling showcase is on Monday, 8/24 at 7pm
My storytelling showcase is on Monday, 8/24 at 7pm

Come one, come all! The free showcase for my storytelling class with SpeakeasyDC has been announced. It will be on Monday night, August 24th, at 7pm at Acre 121 in Columbia Heights. 1/2 price apps, $5 drinks, and me telling a true story about my life on stage with 5 other brave souls. All are welcome and please feel free to spread the word. I’d love to see your smiling faces in the audience. To RSVP, click here.

art, story

This just in: How to tell stories out loud


As I prepare to start my storytelling class at SpeakeasyDC in a few weeks, I’ve been sorting through different stories I’ve written and thinking about the stories I’d like to tell on a stage. The ones that are closest to my heart, that are like oxygen to me, leave me choked up. Sometimes teary-eyed. And I wonder, “How on Earth am I going to not only kick my stage fright (which is honestly so hideous my stomach turns just thinking about standing on a stage) but also find a way to tell a true story that matters to me, out loud for other people to hear?”

I start to think,“Oh God, this is the worst idea I’ve had yet. Am I insane? Do I get some kind of odd thrill out of being terrified?” I think the answer to all of those questions is a resounding, “Yes!” And I also think that’s okay. I find the whole process of telling my story to an audience terrifying. I can present business cases, teach yoga and meditation classes, and offer advice by the truckload in front of an audience without missing a beat. Letting an audience rummage around inside my mind and heart while their eyes are fixed on me? I can barely breathe.

But the thing is that I will breathe. But with difficulty, but I’ll do it. Maybe because of the training I get in the class. Maybe out of sheer pride. I’ll find a way to screw up enough courage to plant my feet on that stage, clear my throat, take a deep breath, and say what I have to say as truthfully and as clearly as I can.

art, love, music, theatre

This just in: Once is now playing at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center

The touring cast of the musical Once

Love can change our lives in an instant. Suddenly our view of the world, of ourselves, of what’s behind us, and what’s ahead of us shifts. It stays with us even after the faces and circumstances change. Love endures. That’s the message of the musical Once—that love can open doors where there were only walls. It can chart new beginnings and reawaken what we thought was long since dead.

For two and a half hours I sat in the Eisenhower Theater completely enthralled by the dexterity of the cast, expertly led by Stuart Ward and Dani de Waal. With inventive staging, soaring music, raucous dancing, and raw emotion, they constantly shuttled me between despair and elation, and I didn’t mind that rollercoaster ride one bit. The journey reminded me of that beautiful quote by Rilke:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue…the point is, to live everything…perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Once doesn’t have any answers about the many conundrums of love nor how to resolve all of the complex questions that live deep within the layers of our hearts. What it does show us is that we must allow ourselves to feel everything, and be both glad and grateful for all of it.

Once runs through August 16th in Washington D.C. at The Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater.

art, creative process, creativity

This just in: Live life like a sculptor carves stone

A sculptor's capable hands make use of imperfections
A sculptor’s capable hands make use of imperfections

Rarely is a sculptor handed a perfect piece of stone to carve a work of art. Often the stone is craggy, jagged, and discolored in some spots. Imperfections abound. While there is the impulse to do away with all of those imperfections, the capable sculptor sees them as gifts to be worked into the piece rather than subtracted from it. He or she doesn’t fight them, but cherishes them and uses them.

Our lives are like these stones. If we have lived, really lived, we have been broken. Sometimes repeatedly. When there’s a fresh break, healing can feel like Oz, a destination we can see but never reach. But if we can sit with these disappointments, massive and painful as they are, we find that Oz is not so unattainable after all. If we can really let the light flow freely through them, if we can find a way to learn the hard lessons that brought them to us, then these misfortunes are as valuable as every triumph we ever achieve. Maybe even more so. We can make meaning out of them just as the sculptor draws meaning from every stone, imperfect as it may be.