Rave reviews count, even when they’re from a dear friend!  Here’s a link to Ms Kristy’s assessment of the show:  “Hey, Sailor” transforms and delights. Thanks, Kristy, you are ever so sweet and awesome!
Six shows left:  8pm Th/Fri/Sat through Oct 4.  Click here for tickets & info or call 1-800-838-3006.  If you’ve already seen the show, please tell people about it and consider posting your thoughts/reviews on the SFGate page.
We had a wonderful first weekend, I’m finally over the flu, and looking forward to enjoying the next six performances.   Miraculously, I still remember all my lines after four days off!  Once a show has seeped into my body, it’s there for good– I wonder if I’ll be reciting Squeak’s syphilis monologue for the next ten years…??  The show is just getting better and better, as all of us get more comfortable in our characters, in the theatre, and with our lines. 
On Saturday I felt well enough to go with friends out after the show, which is my favorite thing to do, since I’m usually wired from performing and excited to see people. It was a balmy SF night so we walked a couple of blocks to Mel’s Diner and through the giant Oracle craziness in Yerba Buena Gardens, which was sort of magical-looking, with tents and fairy lights everywhere.  As we walked and talked, we realized we’re all in some form of big life/career transition.  Maybe that’s what our late 30s are about…  M wrote and received a giant government grant, so now she’ll be moving from being a professor to administering a campus-wide program to improve outcomes for underserved Asian Pacific Islander students.  F is thinking of leaving his corporate training gig so that he can actually learn something new himself.  And J is only two weeks back from a long stint Beijing and still in culture shock, yet people keep asking him “What are you doing now?”  
I shared my own personal metaphor for that, when people ask me what I’m doing next — before the book has even come out!  It’s kind of like there’s a woman having a baby, and they’re cutting her open, and the crown of the baby’s head is just coming out, all bloody and sticky, and the baby hasn’t even taken its first breath yet, let alone cried or fed or pooped or puked, and someone says to her, ‘So what are you going to do NOW?’ 
Really, what I’m doing now is just trying to BE in the transition.  That has a few elements:
– Being in “Hey Sailor” … shifting from the inward and isolated mode of writing to a much more extroverted art form, working in collaboration with a great cast and crew.  Aside from the awesomeness of the script, it feels like great pre-book-tour training as I learn what it takes for me to perform, connect with audiences, and stay sane and healthy.
– Working with a coach, who is helping me to set goals and clarify where I want to be in a year, and how to get there.
– Writing up a business plan for myself, a culmination of a great class I took from the Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment, which has helped me understand things like “cash flow” — i.e. why some months I can afford shoes and other months I can’t!  The business plan is great because it gives me a sense of how I’m going to be supporting myself over the next 18 months, how much & what kinds of paid work I need, and how to get it.  
– Laying the groundwork for marketing and book touring, connecting with folks everywhere.
– AND, enjoying life, relationships, family, friends, myself, yoga, the City … Just taking time to, as a friend suggested, bask in the feeling of completion.  Sometimes I still don’t *really* quite believe that durn book is DONE!


Dress rehearsal tonight, opening night tomorrow, could I be more excited!!?

“Hey, Sailor” in the news:  Kate Raphael of KPFA Women’s Magazine did this wonderful interview with QU Productions on KPFA (24 minutes in, on the MP3 link).  We talk about feminism, trans politics, and desire!

And here’s a great blog piece about the show.

And get your tickets now; it is a very small theatre!

Already got your tickets?  You rock!  Let me know what night you’re coming, and we can hang out afterward. 

Yes, you need to know this:  I’ve been told that once the show starts, there will be NO late admissions.  The theatre is very intimate and it would be way too disruptive… so please, please, please, all my dear friends who are as chronologically challenged as I am, please do what ya need to do get there on time!  Doors open at 7:15 and the show starts at 8:00.  Run time is about an hour and a half, plus there will be a 10-minute intermission.  

Where is it again? The Omnicircus550 Natoma (click here for map) , between 6th/7th and Mission/Howard, downtown SF.  There is street parking but do allocate some time to navigate the one-way streets and find a spot.  The 6th St side can be kinda sketchy so please be careful if walking alone.  I recommend parking on 7th St and coming in from that side. 

Hungry?  There is food nearby at the Yerba Buena/Metreon complex around Mission & 5th, including Samovar (which I love) and a swanky food court; a Custom Burger at 7th & Natoma (yummy but not as quick as you might expect; it takes about 20 minutes for a burger if there’s no line, because they make each one); and a chain sandwich shop at 7th & Mission.  If anyone knows other good food/drink spots in the immediate area, including late-night places to hang out after the show, please share!

See you soon!

Backstage at “Hey, Sailor!”

No one in my real life has seen me much lately because I’ve been madly rehearsing for the play I’m in, “Hey, Sailor!”  Last week we moved from our rehearsal venue to the actual theater.  It was, frankly, terrifying! 

The rehearsal space, Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory,  had been warm and fuzzy for me, since I’ve worked there previously on other performance projects, back when it was the Jon Sims Center for the Performing Arts.  It was the perfect artistic incubator:  a just-right-sized, cozy room with black floors and walls. 

By contrast, the theater (a) is new and unfamiliar, (b) serves as crash space for several visiting artists whose living spaces somewhat overlap our rehearsal area, and (c) is full of terrifying looking robots, built by its owner and used in his own performance work, with many sharp edges and automated moving parts.  And most importantly (d) it’s an indication that we are not just goofing around with beautiful text and enjoying the playful energy of acting like characters, but that we’re working toward an actual production!

with actual audience members!

who pay money for a good show!

and who will be sitting excited and expectant in all those empty seats! 

(Fill the seats: Buy yer tickets now. We have nine shows, 8pm Thurs/Fri/Sat, starting September 18.)

So I got terrified, had my mini-freakout, wept in and out of rehearsal, received and accepted fabulous support from my fellow actors and genius director, and am now better adjusted.  It also helps to have a couple of days off to do my laundry, catch up on the rest of life, keep memorizing my lines, and get excited about going back into rehearsal Wednesday night. At least that was the plan, but now I have a sore throat which makes it hard to talk let alone run lines… along with flu-type symptoms, grrr … so I’m trying to rest up, take Tylenol every six hours, and drink lots of miso soup and ginger-honey-lemon tea. 

Meanwhile I love love love my character, Squeak, and am working toward the right balance in her of vulnerability and street toughness, naivete and manipulation, humor and anger.  With each rehearsal I learn something about her, and also, in some mysterious way, about myself — the ways that I am like and unlike her. 

And I’m appreciating how cool the theater really is.  It started life as an illegal liquor hall and brothel during Prohibition, went through phases as a speakeasy and a machine shop, and is now a performance space, mostly for robot shows.  It’s located downtown (550 Natoma near 7th & Mission) and is called Omnicircus. The link is worth checking out because it includes the robots, who all have names and personalities and are created & choreographed by artist/owner Frank Garvey. 

The space couldn’t be more perfect for our show.  It gives us an amazingly textured, gritty, industrial-urban backdrop without having to engage a set designer.  And the centerpiece of the stage just happens to be a giant whale skull, which is just crazily spot-on since “Hey, Sailor!” is inspired by the novel Billy Budd by Herman Melville, who is better known for his whale epic Moby Dick.  Wild! 

I may not blog again until after the show opens.  See you there!


PS: A note on access: Most of the seats are balcony-style, up a short flight of stairs. Floor seating is available for those who use wheelchairs or do not climb stairs. The restroom is not wheelchair accessible.

Cookies for everyone!

My two favorite cookies these days are from Arizmendi Bakery.

#1 The apricot almond cookie … it’s like a whole meal!

#2 The chocolate mint cookie … just crazy delicious and super-chocolatey.

(Yes, they’re vegan!)

Packaging a big baker’s box and sending around to yall.  *Muah!*

Esoterica: Manga, Buddha, Brahmanism, Shramanism

I’ve now devoured and loved Volume 1 of the Buddha series by Osamu Tezuka.  The manga is gorgeous of course, the story moves beautifully, and he incorporates an interesting critique of the Hindu caste system during the time of the Buddha.  These days the four castes are sometimes described as priest, warrior, merchant, and laborer.  But Tezuka is less euphemistic; he describes the Shudra caste as slaves, and the story depicts them being sold and treated like property, etc. 

Coincidentally, I’m also reading a little book called Brahmanism, Buddhism, & Hinduism by Lal Mani Joshi. It’s more a pamphlet than a book, actually one longish essay, and sort of esoteric in one sense, but also deeply political and relevant in another sense.  Let’s see if I can convey how so!

In brief:  Conventional wisdom is that Buddhism arose as a reformist movement or reaction against/within Hinduism (Tezuka repeats this idea in the graphic novel version, by the way).  Furthermore, mainstream Hindus tend to believe that Hinduism comes directly from the Vedas, a set of scriptures, and that these Vedas were brought to India by the Aryans of the north (lighter skinned, with written culture), who eventually subdued the “tribal” peoples (darker skinned, with oral cultures) that existed in a non-unified way across India.

OK.  So Joshi argues against this.  Instead, he lays out evidence that the roots of Buddhism are in indigenous, pre-Vedic practices in India. He puts these indigenous practices under the label “Shramanism,” which he contrasts with Vedic “Brahmanism.” He claims that Buddhism arose out of this Shramanism strand of Indian thought and belief.  And he goes even further, saying that modern Hinduism owes just as much to Shramanism in general and Buddhism in particular as it does to the Vedas. 

It’s a complicated debate and I can’t repeat all the textual and archeological evidence he cites here, but it’s definitely very interesting in its modern implications.  That’s because basically, right-wing Hindus today are claiming that their version of religion, which is to say Brahmanism (aka “orthodox” Hinduism, which in my opinion is an oxymoron anyway, but that’s another story), arose directly out of Vedic culture and is the one true strand of Indian belief, with other religions such as Buddhism being merely reactions to Hinduism, and not containing much in the way of original philosophy.  Muni’s argument directly goes against this hegemonic approach. 

He argues that many of the elements of what is considered Hinduism today did not come from Aryan Vedic culture, but came from the indigenous Shramanism strand. He’s not here talking about rituals, esoteric tantric practices, etc., but about basic elements of Hinduism like the philosophy of transcendent liberation (moksha/nirvana); the practices of yoga and meditation; the idea of renunciation of worldly goods as a way or stage of life; etc.  Anyway, by placing Buddhism within an alternate tradition that is just as old as anything in Hinduism, he’s really challenging the dominant view.

And this, in turn, is relevant to today’s caste system.  (Which, legally, is supposed to not exist in India, but clearly does.)  Although Buddhism started in India, it was absorbed by Hinduism to the point where there were almost no Buddhists left in India.  It was during the pre-independence period that a freedom fighter named Dr. Ambedkar, who came from a so-called Untouchable (also known as Dalit, or Scheduled Caste) community, decided to convert to Buddhism because of its egalitarianism and anti-caste stance.  Thousands of his people also converted en masse, and today most Buddhists in India come from these traditionally outcaste communities.  

So, an argument that holds that Buddhism is original, indigenous, and deeply influential in mainstream Indian thought is also, almost de facto, an argument for the worth of these communities and a validation of their spiritual path.

That’s how I read it, anyway.  And if you made it this far, you deserve a cookie.  Or some good karma for your next lifetime.

Eat, sleep, rehearse

Last night Patty took me to Manzanita, a little macrobiotic place in Oakland.  Yummy, in a totally unpretentious way.  It’s the kind of food you’d cook at home if you were in a healthy mood and/or lived in a Berkeley commune.  There’s just one menu each day (posted daily on the website), and depending on how hungry you are, you can choose between the “simple,”  “moderate,”  and “full” meals.  We had ginger miso soup, curried hummus, a wild rice thing, stir-fried greens, and corn on the cob with ume paste (I might need to create a whole category for my blog entries with ume in them).  I have been limiting my sugar to once or twice a week, so I splurged for the mini chocolate bundt cake with kahlua — super moist.  All organic, all vegan!   I do so love the Bay Area.

This morning I woke up way too early, couldn’t go back to sleep, and ended up doing yoga in my living room at 6 a.m.  It’s actually supposed to be the perfect time, and I could sorta see why — very nice to do the sun salutation toward the rising sun.  Not that I’m ever going to do it again, if I can help it, cuz I do love my sleep!  Then I meditated for a bit, and for breakfast I made a delicious non-traditional breakfast taco — a homemade (not by me) corn tortilla with grilled zucchini slivers, japanese yam I had roasted and diced up, black beans, chopped fresh cilantro, and a dash of cayenne and salt.  I laid down again — the post-yoga post-breakfast nap is really quite lovely.  Woke up just in time to be just a little late to my bodywork session. 

Afterward, I had a lovely mellow lunch at Park Chow. They make an awesome garden burger, although it’s annoying that you have to remember to ask not to get the weird white yogurt sauce.  Why make a perfect vegan food into a non-vegan thing?  It makes no sense. 

Then I looked at my script for a while, got home, took out the trash, gave the cat a washcloth bath (you really wanted to know that, didn’t you? well, he was filthy), and took another nap to make up for not sleeping enough.  I slept a lot harder than I expected, woke up at 5:56pm and FLEW out the door to make it to 6:30 rehearsal — whew.

Rehearsal was, well, whew!  We were all supposed to be “off book” for our Act I “stumble-through,” meaning we went through the first half of the show all the way through without stopping.  It was the first time I got to see all the scenes I’m not in, and wow, what an amazing talented cast!  Of course, we also have our work cut out for us.  All of us are definitely works in progress.  Like a dork, I forgot to memorize a whole scene because I thought it was in the second act!   Now that I can see where we are, I’m madly trying to clear my schedule for the next few weeks to cram in extra rehearsal and script time for myself. 

Tomorrow:  Sleep in (I hope), and rehearsal again.  In between, who knows?  Options:

a) do some work — oh yes, I do have SO much work to do.  i MUST i MUST i MUST make my media & publicity list.  I MUST!

b) enjoy the heat wave and go boogie boarding!

c) cook and fold laundry and do house stuff.

d)  some combination of the above.

e)  none of the above.  Just wait and see what the day brings.



We did it!

I’m playing around with the blog templates in Movable Type. I kinda like these pink hills. I also kinda like that almost no one reads this blog right now, so I can do whatever I want.  Someday soon I will have a real web designer who will make it look all spiffy… till then, I’m just goofing around.  (Facebook friends: in case you’re super-confused, this paragraph refers to the actual blog at which is where I import these notes from.)

Wow.  A full week after I shipped off the final-final-final manuscript, it has finally sunk in that the book is actually finished.  I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and was writing in my journal, as I sometimes do in the middle of the night, and the words that came were, “We did it!”

By “we” I meant, of course, all the parts of myself — the journalist and the poet, the little artist child, the grownup disciplinarian, the critic, the productivity monster, the logistical brain, the nap-taker, the intuitive emotional self, the wise old crone… — selves who were often at war with one another, but eventually somehow all pulled together in the end.

And of course, “we” also includes my fabulous team of people who loved and supported me through the whole insane writing process.

Someday maybe I’ll write more about what it was like to write this book. I had no idea when I started that it occupy seven years of my life, and change me so profoundly.

But for now, I am doing as a friend suggested and trying to just stay with this feeling — to bask in the sensation of completion.  BASK — what a great verb. Makes me think of sunny beaches, and palm trees, and margaritas.

Wow. We did it.

2 bizzy 2 blog

This was a busy busy week! 

Last Saturday I did the film shoot for “Hey, Sailor” — six hours, sundress, cold drizzly SF night.  Ah, the glamour of the acting life!

On Sunday I worked about 10 hours on my page proofs.  (This, after a 12-hour day on Friday.)  A couple more hours Monday morning, then I was done!  This was the very last set of changes I get to make on my book before it goes to press. 

George came over Monday morning and we went to the shipping store together.  We watched our “baby” get weighed on the scale, and I made the guy box it up and tape it in front of me before leaving the store.  Sigh!  Then we went to Burma Superstar to celebrate.  I had the veg samusa soup which sounds ridiculous (lentils PLUS falafel PLUS broken-up samusas??), but is delicious.  (Hey lookie, I made a rhyme.) 

We strolled over to Green Apple Books to look for a copy of BKS Iyengar‘s Light On Yoga book, because it’s a required text for her yoga class this fall at SJSU, but they didn’t have it.  So we gave up and went home to take a three-hour nap.  (“A three-hour nap….”)

On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I worked at my magazine gig (Turning Wheel: A Journal of Socially Engaged Buddhism) and we got the pages out to the printers Thursday afternoon.  Hoorah!   Another project nearly wrapped up; we get the blue-lines back this coming week, and then that’s it.  The magazine looks gorgeous, it’s a 92-page special anniversary issue, and it’s a bit sad that it’s only going out to members of the organization rather than newsstands.  Such is the economy of small magazines, though!  (The org, by the way, is the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, a totally great, progressive, and diverse organization, very worth joining if you’re interested.) 

Also on Wednesday and Thursday nights I had rehearsal.  I’d sort of forgotten how physical the work of performance can be.  It seems like I’m just standing around saying lines, but somehow I’m a sweaty exhausted heap by the end of the evening!  I am absolutely loving the work, though, and starting to get a deeper sense of my character, bond with the other cast & crew members, and get comfortable being in my performance body again.  To do list: This week, memorize Act I.  Next week, memorize Act II.  Whew!  Another rehearsal this afternoon.

After all that, yesterday I went to the Kabuki Springs with Zombie Mom.  We had been trying to plan this excursion since her birthday back in February, but with both of our crazy schedules, here it is August!  The timing couldn’t have been better for me, though, after this week.  She’s a Pisces and I’m a Cancer so of course we both find it the absolutely most perfect way to spend a few hours — soak, steam, nap, soak, steam.  There is something very satisfying about the kind of nap that happens in a steam room, or just outside it, when your body is all warm and relaxed and your brain is on vacation and you just kind of float away. 


Then we went up into the Japantown Center for lunch.  I love that there’s awesome vegan sushi available pretty much all over this city!  I had a caterpillar roll — asparagus tempura & cucumber inside, avocado draped outside — as well as an ume roll (salty pickled plum!) and miso soup.  Yummm. 

And THEN we went shopping for the cutest of cute office supplies at the Kinokinuya Stationary store and Ichiban Kan, which is quite possibly my favorite little shop in the city.  When I was writing the book, I used to go there for my ‘treat’ at least every few weeks — an awesome place to do some quick retail reward therapy for under five bucks. I got very cute folders, a notebook (cuz I always need notebooks) with little dots instead of lines in it, sticker tabs shaped like ducklings, and a set of half-sized index cards on a ring, which I’m going to use to help me memorize my lines. 

Zombie Mom had to go back to work, but I had decided to take the day off (yay!), so I sat in the cutest little tea place and drank hot honey ginger tea.  I am trying to drink soup and herbal tea as much as possible because all the rehearsing is getting to my throat, and it needs soothing.  I also had some kind of delicious little sweet red bean bun thingie.  All refreshed, I then had more shopping energy, so I went into the downstairs manga section of the Kinokinuya bookstore. 

I browsed around for a while and then bought the first volume of the Buddha series by Osamu Tezuka, which I’ve been wanting to read!  I decided that’s going to be my treat over the next few months… every time I do a big task, I get to buy a new volume.  There are 8 total, so that should carry me for a while!

Came home, took 2nd nap until my cat woke me, jonesing for his dinner.  Read Volume 1, it was beautiful and moving and funny and made me happy.  Got back in bed, drew and wrote in my journal for a while, and went to sleep very satisfied with myself.

Today:  Back to work!  Class this morning (working on my business plan) — actually I’m late! — and rehearsal this afternoon. 

Tomorrow, George and I are going to my god-daughter’s 2nd birthday party.  Balloons, bubbles, and toddlers, oh my.