poetry is my subtext

Friday, July 8, 2022

And Another One...

Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

So, I've been processing and considering how to/if I needed to address recent, though not isolated, theatre closures and resignations due in part to the conduct of boards of directors.

Here I go.

"In all my YEARS of the great American theatre…" 

I can tell you where I first heard this phrase. I can not tell you who first said it. If you know, let me know. I'd like to give credit where credit is due.

I usually find myself saying this phrase in a melodramatic fashion, complete with a silly voice and a delicately placed hand on my chest to clutch my imaginary pearls, when something seemingly outrageous, surprising, and/or wonderful happens in the industry I have loved and have invested much blood, sweat, tears, physical, mental and emotional labor.

For context, I have been grateful to have worked professionally in the Chicago theatre scene for the last 14 years. WOW. What. Is. Time. In that time I have experienced deep mentorship, friendship, nuanced and exquisite craft-building art, incredible opportunities, some financial gain. I have also experienced harm and loss. I say this to say, the "negatives" are not necessarily bad. I find there's been a lesson in each situation. AND/However, there has been a pattern when ego fuses with positions of power that is not new nor is it specific to theatre or Chicago, but it is where I will focus most of this post: Harm (intentional or not) is exposed; It is acknowledged, sometimes corrected; Harm (intentional or not) is exposed; It is ignored and/or survivors of harm have been discredited, shamed and/or retaliated against.

For additional context, I have safety training in stage combat, some first aid, some emotional first aid, some intimacy captain/safety, some federal ethics training, and I read contracts. However, I am not a lawyer or a certified care professional. 

I know it may seem like I'm dancing around, but go with me.

I have been an Artistic Director of a theatre. We were a touring troupe that eventually produced some more permanent sit-down performances. I started at the founding as secretary, then interim AD and eventually AD. We. Learned. So. Much. How to be artists in business. How to be friends in the business of art. How to be friends. How to discern and honor the boundaries of being in business and/or being friends in business. That friendship is not necessarily business and business is not necessarily friendship. How to care for our bodies to continue to be "trained movement professionals." This is not an exhaustive list of all the things we learned.

One of the best pieces of advice we received early on was from another Artistic Director of a long-standing, established company. He was talking about the life cycles of a business, and he asked us where our theatre was in it's life cycle. We joked that at the time, we were the four-year-old, excited about life and discovery and can't always find our shoes. We had a lot to learn, but we had the desire, the energy and a team to go along the journey. Then the AD dropped this gem (I wish I remembered it verbatim): [People will come to your ensemble to join in the work, and people will leave the ensemble and the work. And. If you can all be open about where you are [in your journey] and what you need and what you can give and can't, that's got to be ok]. We started our company with a leadership team of 10-12 people, eventually we had 8 people, then we had about 5 people. There were too few of us to carry the load that had grown, and the labor of love got too heavy. Around 2015 (though the dates are fuzzy now) we decided to dissolve. We had built in the habit of having postmortem and restructuring meetings after every show closing and anytime someone's life/career situation shifted to 1) Celebrate, 2) See where we could plug new folks in, where we could pick up slack, and 3) Process anything that didn't go as intended. It wasn't perfect because we're human, and it was messy because of the intimacy of friendship, HOWEVER, I believe that even in the hardest moments, at the very least, we had the book of the situation opened to the same page.

I scratch the surface of this very and varied and nuanced journey to say, When it's time to call it "done," it's time. And that's okay.


Considering some of the very recent resignations of Chicago theatre practitioners, and considering for most of them this was a very last resort—I. Under. Stand. The theatre closure? I. Under. Stand.

And, if you are seeing artists and administrators processing their frustration, speaking for myself and my own experience with three specific companies (not the one I've mentioned above), the frustration and the hurt comes from the fact that we/they tried to address the issues of concern internally with grace and patience (some may read— The "right" way), and yet, we/they were still shut out, undermined, concerns ignored, and additional physical and emotional labor placed on my/our/their shoulders to do the work anyway because isn't it great to be representing diversity, equity, and inclusion? 

Speaking for myself, there is an organization I have officially stepped away from, mostly to open up my time and labor for other union opportunities, but also because when I asked how the org was going to work to minimize future harm and increase its diversity, equity and inclusion to better reflect the demographics of the planet and their audiences, I was told in a very long email they were going to do what they've done before. What they've done before for context: When I sent my exit/resignation letter, we had recently resolved a long and messy conflict in which I incurred harm and was dismissed and ignored by leadership when I brought it up, until I took the issue to the board and the union. I received a very long letter about intent without accepting the impact of their actions, but was assured that there would be a change in behavior and that leadership would do everything they could to rebuild our friendship and trust. They only reached out to me to work on the last project I did with them. Maybe they thought that was enough.

What strikes me so personally about recent resignations is that these are organizations who have brought in their most recent artists, staff and administrators, by broadcasting the organizations' (re)commitment to support BIPOC stories, neighbors and professionals, however, we BIPOC Neighbors and professionals are resigning because of lack of support, undermining authority and ignoring calls for transparency and access to resources agreed upon in writing at the time of hire.

If you are a predominantly white institution (PWI) authorizing the hire of BIPOC professionals with the shared and written understanding that BIPOC stories, neighbors and professionals will be supported by and have the agreed-upon access to resources in the organization, but ignore, undermine and discredit concerns raised by BIPOC professionals and other folks on your payroll when these agreements aren't met, 

How is that fulfilling your mission/harm reduction/anti-harrassment/EDI statements?

Many of the resignation letters and receipts I've seen express that folks with concerns started with the invitation to address the issue(s) so that they could internally come to solutions that would keep the org moving forward and to thrive. Why not accept that invitation, challenging as the work may be? 

I can speculate based on my experience in being a "diversity prop" for the benefit of donor dollars. AND. I would love for that to not be what's happening with these recently exposed toxic work environments.

"In all my YEARS of the great American Theatre," I've seen theatres close because of committing harm in these and other ways. Intentional and unintentional. I've seen orgs shut/shutdown overnight.

And. I am cautiously and wearily hopeful because I have also seen

Organizations expel folks who have harmed who are unwilling to accept the impact of their behavior. 

Organizations doing the messy, exhausting, heart-work to attempt to build a more transparent community, to get on the same page of a different book, to not use the book of "upholding the status quo," and not setting the labor of this work squarely on the shoulders of BIPOC practitioners. 

I have seen and felt encouragement and solidarity by and with my fellow theatre practitioners who have stepped up to say [Your experience is valid, what happened wasn't right, let's find a solution.]

One more Side-Quest. Stick with me:

When I was training for my motorcycle license, one of the first things our instructors stressed and reminded us of often was it's a huge risk getting on a motorcycle, so it's important to assess how much risk you can manage. Do you know how to operate your bike? Can you best operate your bike in this moment, mentally and physically? Is your bike in sufficiently working order? What's the state of the road you're on right now? What are vehicles and pedestrians doing around you? Risk Management. We were reminded of the risks and potential damage to life and property, and the thing was, on that first day they also said, [Hey, if at any point you decide you don't want to manage this risk, you're welcome to leave the class, no judgement. But also, if at any point any of the instructors repeatably observe that you may be a danger to yourself or anyone in the class, you will be asked to leave the class.] Safety first. Those where the clearly stated parameters and expectations set at the beginning of class. We started the course with maybe 20 students. We ended the three days of training with maybe 5 (and we all passed.) And that's okay.


Yes, there are nuances in each of these theatre-situations that I don't know, even the situations I was directly in. 

However, and I know I am not the first to say this, being invited to address an issue is not being attacked. And resigning because of unchanged toxic behavior is not "cancelling" someone. When I go into a business partnership, I want us to make our expectations and parameters clear. The contract/agreement. Let's put it in writing, so we can refer to what we've agreed on and assess if changes and what changes need to be made.

"Let your yes be yes and your no be no." That and the humility to admit when you're wrong, are key.

Most of these resignations are happening because of a lack of humility and transparency from the boards/leadership. I'm sure there's more to each situation than that. AND. The lack of humility and transparency are very clear.

That said,

Please support the people of Flint, Team CULLUD WATTAH, and the resigning cohort/ensemble, and staff of Victory Gardens and The House Theatre. They/we have carried more load than is fair or sustainable.

to sit in this theatre feels like a home away from home… sigh...

Love y'all.

I'm gonna go bake some bread to decompress.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

"Hold Please"

 Oh hey!

It's been about a year, so I'm right on time to write a new post! LOL

Firstly, I love you and I'm glad you're on this planet, breathing, living, learning, loving.

I pray you are finding ways to be gentle with yourself and with others. Everyone's going through something.

Secondly, some of you may already know this,

I'm writing the first draft of a new Afro-scifi novel series, and I'm inviting you to support this effort by buying me a coffee

The Series: The Drops of Glass/Light Saga

"In the 31st century, three generations of Afro-Martian Seers scourer their DNA, dreams and the intergalactic record to fulfill an ancient prophecy amidst growing cries for revolution."

Book no. 1: Journals of a Minor Prophet

Currently 218 pages in.

If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, some of this may look familiar. 

These novels are directly connected to several screenplays I've written that I'm calling The Sister Series. They make up an Afro-past-present-and-futurism multiverse spanning TV and Film including Blackwell (sci-fi tv drama), WISHs, Or What I Should Have Said (comedy web series), and Subordinate (solo short film).

I'll be sharing updates through my buy me a coffee page, but here's a taste to thank you for dropping in on this post:

One of the things I realized today after reading yesterdays pages, is I crave moments in art where someone who is mourning is deeply cared for. Moments where, even ask they are breaking into pieces, they discover they aren't alone. It doesn't invalidate their pain, it may not take the pain away, but it gives them a soft place to land. I think a lot of time we expect this tenderness from family, from significant others, friends, chosen family. 

I wrote this moment yesterday, and the source of the comfort shocked me by the who and the how it was so gentle.

circa page 215:

“She’s gone,” I’m gasping, panic seeps from my eyes, but now I feel Damien’s arm around my waist and Carla’s hand on my cheek. Everyone. Everyone can see me making a spectacle of myself in my mother’s dress. Shit, shit, shit! “I’m fine-” I sputter.

“You’re not,” Carla says gently, “And you don’t have to be.” She takes my hand, “Trust me on this...”

To have someone hold space for you to feel your feelings feels deep. Amazing. 

Thanks to all you Neighbors who have held space for my grief. 

Coffee and tea consumed thanks to your generosity!

From Chiya Chai in Logan Square

From Fairgrounds in Wicker Park

LavAzza Qualità Rossa from my kitchen

Click here or share to buy me a coffee

Thanks in advance!

Friday, February 5, 2021

Warming Center...


How are you? Really.

Check in with You.

I'm still on a social media break (going on three weeks... but also, what is time rn?), 


I wanted to share this note I just wrote to myself after an unexpectedly emotionally laborious errand to and from an otherwise routine annual appointment:


12 degrees in '21. 12? Fine...
Time, bitterly still and blindingly quick.
Passing boarded-up windows plastered with slogans
    For Sale/For Rent/Space Available
On one storefront:
And a list of names...
The window too small
for all the names...

Your phone pings your arrival before you even reach the door.
That New App Magic. Okay...
And movement.
And more waiting.
You are grateful to have access to this care.
You wait.

Questions you expect.
You don't expect
"What breaks your heart?"
is "easier" to answer than
"What brings you joy right now?"
You don't expect
The feeling your response to 
[What's a typical day like?]
Is inadequate,
Because what is typical right now?

You scoff at yourself... 

And all of the sudden (though not really)
Your heart is in your throat,
And you're glad you're wearing a mask,
and your giant glasses
to hide the twisting of your lips, your cheeks,
maybe even the tears welling up in your eyes.
Maybe you can blink them back before they spill out...

But you can't and they do... 

I understand we don't want to cry
in the cold
in this office
in public
into our mask,


It's okay
to feel the deep ache,
building up in our gut
until we can't say another word
until we let loose the sob.
I understand, we like to give our catharsis parameters.
But maybe
It just needs space. Like us, Beloved We.
And, here's the best part, there's plenty of space available.

Also, If you need info on warming centers in Illinois, call 3-1-1 and they'll give the most up-to-date info.
Take care, Beloveds.
Have you ever tried to send a text while your "purples" are dilated?

Stay prayed up. The Lord is at work making all things new.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Other Source Connect...

 Neighbors. Love y'all.

If you're like me, you've had time, perhaps a LOT of time, lately to sit with yourself. Maybe the sitting hasn't been your choice: 

Your workflow has slowed significantly or stopped all together.

Your body/heart/mind is overwhelmed and exhausted.

Superfluous distractions have been stripped away.

Beloveds, I hope you are finding ways to be gentle with yourselves. I hope you are finding ways to be gentle with each other. In the midst of all the grief and chaos of this time, there will be renewal. There will be restoration. And mourning looks different for everyone. Check in with each other.

Take this time to take stock in your Foundation. Is it built on a rock or on sand?

For anyone who doesn't know, I love Jesus and I believe the Bible. And Church hurt is some of the hardest hurt to heal. AND that healing and restoration is possible.

Also, I started tele-therapy pretty early into the pandemic/paradigm shift (it's a revolution, y'all.) I had/have a growing need to stop and examine all the wounds I've acquired over the years. Losses. Insecurities. Unhealthy expectations I've put on myself and that others have put on me. 

The key thing about this human experience is we are multiple layers:

Physical and metaphysical, mental and spiritual, will and faith, obedience and rebellion, cultural, multicultural and counter-cultural.

Our hurts and joys exist in so many forms in so many layers. Sometimes we can't see the root cause of what we feel. Sometimes we need help to process the cuts, the harms done to us and that we've done to ourselves so that we can fully embrace the joys.

There is no shame in saying, "I'm not okay today."

And there is no shame is saying, "I'm not okay today, but right now I'm going to focus on joy."


I encourage you to tap into the Source (I'm a Christian, so I believe our Source is God), and ask what you need. Where is the Source at work in your situation, in your sphere, and what must you do to join in that work?

I didn't sit down thinking I was going to type all this, but what I hope you hear/read as the thesis is, our God is not a God of confusion. Our God is a WayMaker, and if you are unsure of anything, you can literally ask the Source. Then Listen deep.

You are Loved. You are not alone. I'm glad you're here. Tap in.

(model: me, photo and edit: me via Polish Photo app)

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Pen Pals

Today I wrote a letter I'd like to share with you.

Shout out to #TheInklings for nurturing the space,
and time, and kindness to pen this.


Dear Past Me,
It’s been a while. You’ve been away from us. Or we’ve been away from you?
I look at photos and wonder “who are those young people? Do they know they look scared? And full of joy at the same time?”
If I were to give you some advice years ago, I think I would start with this:
There will be times when you have no idea how
There will be times when you can’t see a path
The things that must be
The Lord will make a way
There will be bumps along the road.
There will be wrong turns, and sometimes the pavement will crack.
There will be “recalculating.”
Sometimes the trail you traveled before will be overgrown and look unfamiliar.
Sometimes you won’t be able to see the next step through the tears.
Lean in.
Sometimes you will need to pause, and heal.
Sometimes you won’t have a choice but to press forward,
Lifting your foot and praying the ground will come up to meet you.
To keep your legs moving so you don’t trip and fall.
Sometimes you will crawl or be carried, when all you want to do is sit and weep.
To hide and/or sleep.

To you I say:
Sometimes it’s okay.
Sometimes it’s not okay.
Listen deeply to discern which is which.
Sometimes the answer is a shout
Sometimes the answer is in the silence,
The light, the art, the wind, the soil, the song, the soul.
I wish I could tell you all the answers,
But I’m still learning, too.
And though, I know, sometimes We hate this answer,
We’ll have to wait and see.


I’m glad that I’ll be with you, I’ll bring you along
When we get to walk into Eternity.
I’m glad that, even as the minutes, days, weeks, years count on and upward,
You’re always with me, and I am with you, whether you know me, yet, or not.
To you, to me, to us.

Learning to love you and listen to you better,
Present and Future Me

Friday, April 3, 2020

Creating and COVID 19: How's Your Spring 2020?


I've been released from production contracts (for reasons of protecting ours and our Neighbors' safety, with I 100% support) from Friday, March 13th (that's right, Friday the 13th) until September.

I know my situation is not unique as millions of people around the country and even more around the world commit to social distancing and shelter-in-place orders are set in place to try to manage the spread of the Coronavirus.

I have a lot of time... to figure out how to spend that time...

Some days are easy--"I'm working from home like I usually would outside of rehearsals..."

Some days are... not--"This is all so BIG..."

So, I'm practicing checking in with myself (as well as others).

How am I today?
How am I right now?
How are you?

I am grateful,


It is hard to process the gravitas of this global crisis.


That's okay.

I hope that you are healthy and have what you need.

If you're an essential worker, THANK YOU.

If you've lost/are continuing to lose income, I HOPE RELIEF COMES TO YOU.

If you're structure has been shaken and you feel lost, I AFFIRM YOUR VALUE OF BEING YOU.

And if you're like me, and you need to be reminded of all these things when your mind spirals and gets swallowed by the gravitas, let me remind us



If you can support essential businesses, please do.

If you need help, please ask.

You are loved. We are Neighbors.

Be gentle with yourselves, especially during this time.

Also, stay home stay home stay home whenever you can and Wash. Your. Hands.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Taking a Moment to Breathe...

Hey All Hey!

I hope all is well and/or you are seeking and finding the support, rest, motivation you need.

I'm working with a wonderful team, getting ready to open (THIS WEEKEND!!) the Chicago premier of THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR SHOW at Chicago Children's Theatre (link for show info).

While I have a moment, I'd like to share with you a new poem.

Grief Doesn't Expire
I am grateful,
I am healing,

I am hurting,

I trust in process,

and I acknowledge

the pain of missing your dear hearts
          is a non-perishable item,

even when it exists with joy.

Be kind to yourself as you heal. Some days are easier than others. That's okay.