Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Inspiration Comes Knocking- Path Announces Festival 2016

Inspiration is fickle.  It refuses to show up when you beckon.  When you carefully set the stage, it hides shyly in the wings.  You wait, breath held, eyes wide, listening for it to whisper in your ear.   But...nothing.

Then... some time in the dark hours of deep night,  it tickles you awake, blessing you with an image, an idea, a sound.   You sit up in bed grasping at the shredded shadows of dreams and some time you are blessed and the shadows coalesce into bright landscapes full of imaginings.  Or you are driving along listening to music on the radio when a lyric grabs you; your chest expands; your breath deepens;  tears prick your eyes; a smile draws a curve across your face.  Ah, there you are.  Finally.  Well, hello Inspiration.

Or at least that's how it usually works for me.  Many things--hate that word, but what else to use--have inspired me over my lifetime beginning with Jason Robeson's rendition of Ole Man River from SHOWBOAT.   But since April of 2014  when we completed the third festival of The Artist's Path on Journalism and Ethics in the 21st century, I've waited for Inspiration to come knocking.  The wait has been long, with several false appearances.  And then I was reading the play GRAPES OF WRATH, preparing for an upcoming audition.  The final scene in the play touched me just as deeply as Mr. Steinbeck's novel did when I first read it in my early teens.  I thought of all the years of my own personal migration from home to home, city to city, state to state and even to other countries. Though never a true immigrant I could always identify with the impulse to pull up stakes whether out of a need to escape a present or the yearning to seek a different future.

This need to move, relocate, migrate, travel, journey, voyage, trek is a human need and is allied with that other very human need, the putting down of roots, the anchoring of self. We are a nation of immigrants here in America whether we are recognizing earliest man finding his way to this continent via exposed land bridges or European settlers arriving by ship and in the bellies of those ships... African slaves.  Or the youth from Central America seeking refuge from a life without hope.

Native Americans Greet the Mayflower

The Unwilling Immigrants of Africa

Unaccompanied Children on Border of Mexico

But I would argue that the Joads were immigrants as well, seeking escape from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to the sweet smelling orange groves of southern California.

Today we still see people risking their lives and those of their young to find a better place to put down those roots.  And not satisfied with the thin crust covering out planet we explore the depths of our oceans while we search for habitable planets in the dark reaches of deep space.    Sometimes those who came before us turn their backs to us, the newcomers.  We struggle with change in climate, language, culture as we make the effort to blend in without losing our sense of self. There are those times when our wandering demands the sacrifice of our lives. No matter the challenge, no matter the danger,  the barriers,  the sheer magnitude of our aspiration, we humans are on the move.  

And so along the circuitous path of inspiration, I came finally to the next festival of The Artist's Path.  In the tradition of the first three its title is:  The Artist's Response to The Immigrant Experience through Theatre, Film, Dance and the Humanities.  Path is calling on residents of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to help bring this project to the stage.   First we need the artistic gifts of playwrights from these four states to create 5 to 10 minute performance pieces around The Immigrant Experience.  And we ask all of you to share any family photos that in some way reflect an immigrant experience.  Details for approaching these 'Calls' are at www.The
Let's all dig into the rich soil of The Immigrant Experience, plant some seeds and see what comes forth.

Gail Mangham, Artistic Director, The Artist's Path

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Artist’s Path was birthed in my sub conscious after working six hundred hours on a production of Golda’s Balcony, a play that explores the life of Golda Meir, the first woman prime minister of Israel.  It was never a conscious intent of mine to start either a theatre company or one that tends to focus on social justice themes.  One of the drawbacks is that once the work has been done on topics like apartheid in South Africa, nuclear arms in Israel, the aftermath of 9/11 and its impact on firefighters, the challenges women face in Cambodia, Guatemala, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia and Nigeria, and finally this past April the changing landscape of journalism with a memorial tribute to fallen journalists—well, these subjects never really leave you.  When any of these places, people or issues rise up in the news, I’m drawn to them.  Often the news is distressing as is the nature of social justice issues.

So this morning the news of yet another journalist, James Wright Foley, lost to the risks of his chosen profession weighs heavily on me. See article at  Committee to Protect Journalists.  This past April when The Artist’s Path held its third ‘festival’ on the topic of journalism, just over 1050 journalists had been killed since 1992.  Today, August 21st 2014 the number stands at 1071.

James Wright Foley  Died August 20, 2014

There are days when I am overwhelmed by the horrors happening on the world’s stage.  I question why I care so much about total strangers half way around the world.  I want to withdraw and bury my head in the sand.  I ask what is the point of doing the work of ‘Path’?  Then I look into the face of James Foley in his final moments, into the devastation of his parents’ faces and I realize that of course my angst over the state of our planet, my feelings of despair, frustration, sorrow are not even in the same universe of their own loss.

And I remind myself that my efforts to make a difference in my small corner of the world, while negligible, are mine and those I’m privileged to collaborate with.  I tell myself that making a difference takes many paths—raising a family, being a great co-worker, planting a garden, calling home, engaging in civil discourse, listening to understand the Other—and that for a while my path is to explore that of the artist. I will honor this young man's memory by not withdrawing from my own field of battle.

So James Wright Foley I thank you for your contribution to bringing light to bear on dark places.

Rest in Peace…

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What's Next?

Once again a 'Path' festival has come to a close.  The work on this project began in November of 2011 when I read, Molly Ivins' book, Bushwhacked, Life in George W. Bush's America and ended with the final performance of Red Hot Patriot, The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, Saturday evening April 12, 2014.

What a treat to play Molly.  I am especially grateful for the superb direction of friend and colleague Julie Harrington who helped me face down some of my acting demons and banish many of them to other realms.  Joseph Hough as my copy boy helped to anchor me to the space and to the story with his confident demeanor that seemed to go beyond this mortal plane of existence.  Providing incidental guitar music was a newcomer to our project, Matt Simper.  His creative work underscored moments, sharpening them and giving them a deeper context that echoed in the bones and the sub conscious as only music can do.  Bob Carnahan and Joseph Hough tackled the light, sound, and slide issues.  I heard many compliments on that aspect of the show.

And I am so grateful to our symposium panelists who came from around the state to participate in a discussion on Journalism in the 21st Century.  Jim Patten, Peter Friedirci, Kim Newton, Jana Bommmersbach, and Tom Cantlon.  I know we could have spent at least another hour with this panel on the subject at hand.

And I'm thankful for the volunteer work of Marion Pack, Micki Shelton, Barbara Jacobsen, Helen Stephenson.  And kudos to Chris and Mark Bonn who generously allowed us to show their film, The Ray Parker Story.  The Elks Opera House Guild always provides a touch of class as they usher our patrons to their seats.  And always I must thank Colette Greenlee who manages our theatre with grace and competence.

So now the set is struck, the props returned, reports written, taxes filed.  As President Bartlett was wont to say on my favorite TV series, West Wing,  "What's next?"  Good question. Path seems to be evolving into an organization that tackles issues with a certain gravitas.  Climate change is on the minds of many of us, but I'm struggling at the moment with how to build a theatre piece around that.  No difficulty finding scientists to come be on a panel, or show a documentary film etc.  But the visual arts, theatre, dance...hmmmmmmm just not sure.  Comments welcome.  I've also thought it might be interesting to explore the place of comedy and laughter in our development as homo sapiens.

The next theme for the fourth festival will be announced on September 11, 2014, the 5th anniversary of our AZ incorporation.  The project itself will happen in April of 2016.

So here's your chance to weigh in with suggestions.   What's next?

Gail Mangham, Artistic Director, The Artist's Path