LANNEFF Femmes Fatales, 2016

LANNEFF Femmes Fatales 2016

Thank you, LANNEFF, and congratulations to my INDIGO LADY stars, Sapna Gandhi & Rebecca Longworth.


VOICE, a performance art web series: The End

IMG_1787-0Around this time in 2013, I was sleeping less than 5 hours most nights because of being awakened by my homeless neighbor George talking very loudly to a voice whom I found out was Robert. Robert is cruel and aggressive. Not only that, it was clear from the exchanges between George and Robert that George was sexually abused or molested at some point and that he was conflicted about his sexual identity.

It was shocking to witness this in the middle of the night. I have tried to treat George with the same respect I would treat any middle-aged male neighbor who was particularly respectful and polite, since when George is lucid enough he practices the kind of manners that boys at Sunday School had in the 1950’s. It is painful to think of your neighbors living in some sort of hell.

However, during one particularly bad night when I only got one and a half or two hours of sleep because the yelling was so wrenchingly horrible, I realized George was winning. He was calmer, more sure of himself and spoke with firmness and self-confidence to Robert. That was an amazing lesson for me. In 2009, I had realized that 1250 mgs of Depakote was not making a damn bit of difference to my mood swings – probably for over 5 years; and that my primitive version of stress management was what was keeping me out of manic misery and suicidality. I have had good experiences in therapy, but no therapist ever did the work for me. In fact, my work on myself – self awareness, mental discipline, believing I could feel better – started when I had my first depression at age three and a half. I’m not special. I am an organism made up lots of little organisms – our job is to survive. I knew nothing about death when I was three and a half, but I believed depression was trying to destroy me. Me and all those little organisms fought like sons of bitches to stay alive.

After listening to George, Robert and at some point, John (a meek, soft-spoken voice that I have only heard two or three times), it hit me like a stinging slap upside my head, George, who mostly stays out of jail and the hospital, who has enough sense to eat solid food despite frequent self-medication, who even while raving will make eye contact however briefly to say “Yes, ma’am” and “Thank you,” and who minds his own business and does not harass or verbally abuse anyone except Robert, George is keeping his life together in his own way without taking anything away from or violating anyone else. He is not the man who is so together and professional at work but yells at his kids and hits his wife just because he’s angry. He is not the woman who takes her most capable child for granted and denies her attention because she mistakes the child’s being perfect for not needing her. He is not the drunk boyfriend who beats up a baby for crying.

No, George has his shit together, relatively speaking, compared to a lot of people. We all overrun our edges at times – it is not okay to flood any other person with one’s crap.

VOICE and its backstory began forming inside my head when my sunny weather hypomania was worse than usual going into June and July 2013. I did my first story development monologue for VOICE that July. My own inner noise was so so so much worse than usual – but what I realized is that even though my voice, Susan, does not verbally beat me up any more, the noise is almost always there – loudly and piercingly and crazymakingly more so the closer the days get to July. This realization was liberating and I set off on my VOICE adventure with hope and excitement about the story that I believed would eventually develop and start storyboarding itself inside my head.

The story developed. It storyboarded itself inside my head. But I couldn’t make it happen until it became clear that it would take a number of chapters for the story to resolve. And VOICE finally has resolved – like anyone else who enters therapy, once the protagonist Psyche figured out what was really bothering her, her journey through VOICE ended and she began a new one.

VOICE Parts One through Eight are in the can. Part Nine is nearly finished. The series needs 4 or 5 more episodes to resolve; and a good part of those are done. The series will be complete by December. I, whose greatest fear is ‘running out of art,’ would be freaking out if I hadn’t already begun working on Killer Jane, whose backstory is still developing. And, also, since I learned so much about greenscreening while making VOICE and I began learning animation last year for PASSAGES, A MYTH, I am greatly encouraged to go back to work on character and effects development for DERMALIAN, a sci fi story about a race of aliens far in the future who find a collection of Shakespeare’s compleat plays during their excavation of the New York Public Library long after the extinction of humans. The Dermalians, who resemble jellyfish, choose their own gender. Their highest class are artist-anthropologists, who often develop human form and practice human customs because they find human culture so interesting. My husband, Michael Lewis and I will collaborate on DERMALIAN.

Rarely bored. Often, however, overwhelmed. Film at 11.

Thinking about Story … again

I have been thinking about ¡Story! and how/what to write about it for months. Today my brain finally formulated concrete, latch-on-to-able state-able concepts that can represent both my beliefs about story and basic principles that I practice every day in my work as a filmmaker.

My first epiphany was about moments. Stories are a series of moments – defined 1., as “a very brief period of time,” and 2. as “importance.” In other words, the beginnings, middles and ends of stories, as well as the plot points and, of course, the details, are all moments. This epiphany was so unburdening and such an “Aha” or “Eureka” personal event. But my next epiphany was jarring and almost shocking: Is story about what I want to express to other people and engage them in, regardless of whether I believe they will be easily engaged and understand (without any difficulty) what it is that I’m showing on the screen?; or is it about expressing events (real or fictional) in my own voice (from my own point of view) in a manner in which both the subtext and my intention in telling the story is accessible to other people.

Obviously, there have been a lot of writers who told stories that they themselves wanted to tell regardless of whether those stories would be understood, would resonate with the writers’ contemporaries. On the other hand, there have been storytellers like one of my bipolar peers whose real name probably was not Jeff, who live as if the world was inside their heads; and who either aren’t concerned with being understood or who presume any stories that they tell will be understood by everyone because the world is inside their heads.

And then, on the other hand (or, probably, one of a number of other hands) there are storytellers who tell stories that everyone knows already – and that’s exactly what they want to hear; as well as storytellers who tell stories based on archetypes with which all of us are familiar, even if those stories arc or resolve in unexpected ways or have unpredictably disturbing endings.

I care how people feel. But I find it difficult to care what other people think. Opinion, even when formed on an emotional foundation, is not emotion. And there is a grayscale of skewing along which each of us forms opinions. The more limited our direct experience in – or even, interest in or engagement by – one or another sphere of human endeavor, the more skewed our opinion (and point of view) is likely to be.

As a storyteller I try to create archetypal characters with whom any other human can empathize. The environments I create for those characters, however, are skewed. I place archetypes alone in minimal landscapes with limited, stripped down references to society.

As a storyteller, I am interested in the individual’s experience of his/her own existence regardless of society.


Story: The world of a story has its own neurochemical physicality

I have had the very interesting experience in the past four or five days of “watching” my brain lay down pathways for a new project to happen. I cannot help but believe that composing inside one’s mind, forming images, feeling a character’s responses to its environment/discovering her emotions, planning actions and events that take place in an imaginary world of one’s own making, that all of that is a physical process that happens in the brain and that changes the brain.  And that this process creates a “location” for story that becomes more and more real as the pathways are traveled and the story is told.

The world of a story has its own neurochemical physicality.

Dear Art Teacher who told me “You can do anything you want to,” thank you – you were right!

VOICE Episode 1 The Status Quo  850005349

“The Status Quo” is now available on Amazon and Vimeo.

Fragment: Audience 

As a young person, whenever I was involved in theater as an actor I became restless and claustrophobic. I might have lost my path in theater, in fact, if not for random individuals who cajoled, enticed, dragged, pushed me back into theater off and on for 20 years until one Sunday night, I saw a performance poet on TV and knew that I wanted to be able to perform solo, put a whole world into my body and recreate that world on stage so audience could be my captives and see things the way I saw them. 

But that’s not the way it works if you don’t want to totally suck as a solo performer. 

I found that out immediately upon performing a piece that I’d written (after many rewrites, Finding the Golden Thread) onstage by myself the first time. I felt more like the servant than the master. I knew right away that not only is the audience not there for you, the audience creates as much energy in the room, fills the air with as much subtext as you (hopefully) do. In other words, the audience/solo performer relationship is a mutual exchange. As a performer, you owe your audience. 

That is one of the most important things I know. 

Artist’s statement: collaboration


Last week one of my videos was used in a mashup that I was not consulted about by the person who made the mashup. I was upset about not being consulted. And, well, I’m not shy about expressing my opinions. 

I write and make art about things that people used to get burned at the stake as witches over. I have performed hourlong, autobiographical solo shows about mental illness. More than once after my show I stood at the theater door, for 2 hours, twice as long as the show was, while, one by one, people from the audience queued up to speak to me privately about things people like themselves or a loved one (and I) are supposed to feel stigmatized and ashamed about. 

That secrecy still makes me sad, which is why I blog as a mentally ill peer and make most of my social media posts public. I have nothing to hide and people who are interested in what I’m saying shouldn’t feel obligated to be open about and or “friend” me. 

Theater is collaborative. I am grateful for my 20 years in it. But I am a solo artist now with probably not much more than 20 years left. I intend to spend my last years doing my own thing my own way, answering to noone. That’s the way it is.

Still, “Nobody,” VOICE pre-production