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.

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.

books, childhood, creativity, theatre, Washington

This just in: Down the rabbit hole with ALICE and Dodgeball Theatre

ALICE by Dodgeball Theatre
ALICE by Dodgeball Theatre

I’ll go see any show that’s a take on Alice in Wonderland, my favorite book of all-time. Last weekend I went to see Dodgeball Theatre‘s steampunk-inspired ALICE, a part of Capital Fringe. Performed in the round with exaggerated stage movement and outlandish characterizations of the story roles I love so much, I was able to see the story in a whole new light.

Seductive undertones, a dream-like weaving of the story’s most famous lines, and a triumphant Alice all made me realize that stories, like life, are malleable. Words are only the beginning. Physical movement, rich visuals, and lush music can transform lines of text into an experience that we can dive into head first and never look back. Like the white rabbit, I lost all sense of time and space as I looked on waiting to see where this multi-talented and imaginative cast would take me. Falling down the rabbit hole with them was a delight.

You can still catch ALICE on Thursday, July 16th, Saturday, July 18th, Tuesday, July 21st, and Saturday, July 25th. And if I were you, I’d mark these down as very important dates to relish how theater can make an old story new again.



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, 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.

story, theatre, Washington, writer, writing

This just in: I’m taking a storytelling class at SpeakeasyDC


Anne Lamott once said, “If you have the courage to free yourself, take a risk and tell your story with the hope of freeing someone else.” So, here’s hoping. Yesterday I decided to take a risk and so something that really scares me: I signed up for a storytelling class at SpeakeasyDC (soon to be renamed Story District), a nonprofit here in D.C. that specializes in the art and science of storytelling. On July 20th, I’ll start the 5-week intensive program that will culminate in a public performance.

This class will help me discover a whole new community of like-minded people in D.C. while also helping to foster a time of personal growth, discovery, and creativity along with a new outlet for my writing. SpeakeasyDC has a show on Tuesday, July 14th, entitled The Charismatic Leader: Stories about those we follow for the right & wrong reasons. Looking forward to seeing the finished product and then learning the behind-the-scenes work that brings it to life. Here’s to taking on tasks that scare the wits out of us! They make us feel alive.

art, dreams, theatre

This just in: What a difference a year makes

Sing After Storms One year ago today what I thought for many years was impossible became possible through the tremendous dedication, love, and talent of an incredible group of people. My play, Sing After Storms opened in New York, and when that final black out happened I cried. A lot. A year later, life is so different, and that play still remains the piece of work that I’m most proud to have ever been a part of.

Thank you thank you thank you to everyone who supported that effort and most especially to Rob, Ellie, Joe, Kate, Jaclynn, Amelia, Brianne, Oheri, Brittany, Mia, Celia, and Marita. Thank you a million times over!

art, commitment, courage, creativity, theatre

Inspired: How Sing After Storms Won at the Thespis Theater Festival

Sing After Storms For the team that worked feverishly on-stage and behind-the-scenes at Sing After Storms, I will be forever grateful, forever standing on my feet and giving you a standing ovation of wild applause for your courage and commitment to create. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

We didn’t win the Thespis Theater Festival in the traditional sense.* We were one of 6 finalists nominated for best play out of 39 plays presented, and we didn’t walk away with any prize money. To me, we won in every sense that matters: getting down a painful, powerful, and thought-provoking story to free it in the hopes that it helps to free others.

Theater is hard, so damn hard. It’s more difficult to create than many other art forms because we must build it together. That togetherness must then be orchestrated and tuned with a light, but steady and confident hand. It’s about giving boundaries—the story lines, the confines of the physical space, time—and then just letting people play within those boundaries. It’s a heavy burden and a limitless gift. We put our story out there into the world for judgement and critique, and then allow others to change it, color it, and give it its own life separate and apart from the life the playwright infused into it.

It hurts to let a story go out into the world to fend for itself, and yet in that letting go it saves, serves, and heals. Perhaps that’s the greatest gift that this show has given me—the chance to be free and whole all at once, and the chance to find and sing my song.

*Comparing large-scale musicals to intimate relationship-based dramas, and films of staged shows to live performances, seems a bit odd to me. It also seems unfair to expect a show that was staged two and a half months ago to pull a cast and crew back together with 5 days notice over a holiday weekend to give a performance to be judged against shows that closed much more recently. However, I’m willing to put that aside now that I’ve written it down and expressed my opinion so I can feel nothing but pride for our team. Thanks for allowing me to digress for a moment.