Monday, January 18, 2016

"Going There" (warning: spoilers for Brigadoon!)

It's not the first time I've been asked to portray a moment of grief onstage.
I'm honored to be performing the role of Maggie Anderson in Brigadoon at the moment with Performance Now Theatre Company, and we only have one more weekend left.
Seems time has gone quickly in this process and it's been a unique one. It has demanded much of my energy and time but I'd do it all again gladly. Co-choreographing this production along with being part of the talented cast has molded me incredibly much as a dancer and choreographer.
If you ask me what the most draining part of the whole experience has been however, I'd have to choose the funeral scene in Act 2. 
Maggie is asked to deal with one of the most traumatic things in the world-- a death of someone she has given her entire heart to. 

Maggie and Harry (played by Will Treat) (photo by RDG Photography)
She (at least the character I have created for this production) is the "funeral dancer" of the town and therefore must dance through her shock, grief, anger, and confusion.
Maggie dances at Harry's funeral (photo by RDG Photography)

Maggie dances at Harry's funeral (photo by RDG Photography)
This friend and imagined relationship she is forced to grieve is linked heavily to dancing in general (she and Harry grew up dancing together, and are close friends on top of her romantic feelings). She really believed (prior to his death of course) they would someday build a life together, get married, have children.
Harry (Will Treat) and Maggie dance in the town square of Brigadoon (photo by RDG Photography)
The process of choreographing the funeral dance has been long (it is still morphing in tiny ways as I perform it depending on how I sense Maggie's process at each moment). It has demanded that I vividly remember grief/love lost experiences from my own teenage experience and actually "go there" in rehearsal and performance.
As an actress I have felt my heart be sculpted by Maggie's emotional roller coaster. To love someone desperately and believe you will eventually be together can be exhausting and this is what I am hoping to convey as this young woman.
There is a part of Maggie in each of us. Every one of us has loved desperately and hoped wildly for something. Something or even someone that perhaps does not return all the feelings we harbor.
I love theatre. I love "going there" with my characters and living another life although it isn't always a happy or fun scene. I consider it a privilege to attempt to touch and move an audience, to help them feel something. 
If you'd like to catch the show in it's last weekend, here's the ticketing info:
Brigadoon at Lakewood Cultural Center with Performance Now Theatre Company ticketing link--

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

My Love Letter to You.

Every good love story has it's peaks and valleys, but some of the best ones have highs up in the wispy white clouds, and lows in the dungeons of darkness.
My love story began almost exactly one year and ten months ago when my life was turned upside down with a flippant use of a pregnancy test (the one time in my life I was convinced it was negative). That surprise of reading "Pregnant:2-3 (weeks)" was one of God's greatest moments in my life, I for once was calm and just doing the test at Casey's request. (For the full story, go here:
Those ten months showed me what sacrifice means more than any other experience of my life. I temporarily gave up 90% of what made profesional me, me-- career, aspirations, etc especially in dance (shout out to Ken and Kelly who let me be part of a musical by choreographing a tiny part of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers...). I am forever grateful for you, my friends and family, that supported me through this incredibly trying transition. My daughter ended up being the biggest gift I could ever ask for-- and I would give it up all again (even forever) for her, but that time as a pregnant "dancer" was understandably rocky.
Then the Peanut arrived and Casey's and my heart broke wide open, expanded to be ready for the greatest love we'd ever felt. It is like your worst crush, but amplified times one thousand. You can't wait to see them when apart, and your heart beats a little faster because of them.
You who were and are there for me have become like diamonds-- incredibly valuable and prized. You brought me food, teeny tiny clothes, love and support. You sat and listened while I talked and talked about how different things were. You nodded. You hugged me. You loved me. You loved my precious Peanut.

I cannot tell you how much you mean to me. You, who were and are there for me in my most formative and trying hours. I am currently doing well in recovery for post partum depression-- yes, I said it-- and every week climbing even higher with the help of God's most unselfish Love, Casey's unending support, counseling and regular exercise/dance in my life. I learned that there is a surprisingly high percentage of women who go through this same experience, and yet it is rarely talked about. It needs to be. It is treatable and there is help. Please contact me if you are suffering, I would love to support you.
It is Peanut's first birthday soon. It is also going to be the anniversary of me becoming a Mom, and Casey's becoming a Dad for the first time. We made it. I made it. I really didn't think I would at first. Some of the lows were so low I didn't think I'd ever climb out.
But it turns out I didn't have to climb out by myself. Your love and companionship helped celebrate with me regarding my most incredible gift. In a few days it will be the anniversary of the most blessed moment of my life, when Peanut was born. Also a year since my heart became something completely other and will never be the same. I would never go back to the old heart. Ever. This last year has formed me into the person I was always meant to be, and I don't even want to think about what my life would be like without my Peanut.
So, this is my love letter to you. You who held my hand and heart through this last year. Your sacrifice of love helped me stay afloat and you are a gift from Heaven. You who sat with me in the dark and celebrated with me in the joyful light are my diamonds-- more precious to me than you will ever know.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Dramatic Changes in the Dramatic

When I deeply ponder the dramatic changes to my life (pre-Peanut vs Peanut on the outside) that have happened in just a year and a half, I am floored. I was rarely at home, danced/taught all day long. I was involved in at least one show at all times (not rarely, two).
Now I am at home a good part of the time-- the kiss of death to previous Gina. I'm 24/7 taking care of a mini human being. I am even more busy if that is possible-- yet a different kind of busy. It has been a huge challenge to what I thought I could "handle" as a human being. I was the typical do-a-million-different-things-and-errands-a-day type person and thought that's what I needed to stay sane. But I didn't.
It's amazing what you find out about yourself (and how your previous beliefs are challenged and destroyed) when you go through such a fundamental change. Luckily I am able to continue dancing/performing now and will never stop as long as I'm able.
My point? I find that I really appreciate the slower pace, as well as the artistic/soul time on a whole new level. It's a deeper and richer experience. It was meant to be. It's part of my story.
Before Peanut, I would sometimes stress/worry/even cry myself sick about the quality of my performances and dancing. It was not always healthy. Now, I feel the anchor of a love that transcends anything I've ever felt for another human being. She is my greatest love, and she adds to my life in a way that grounds me. It's strange but her presence and relationship calm and relax me more than anything I've ever experienced.
Guys and Dolls with Performance Now Theatre Company (photo by RDG Photography)
The unexpected dropping of the majority of the stage anxiety has made me an infinitely better performer. More confident and more able to be in the moment. At least, that's what it feels like to me-- you can let me know if you agree next time you see me onstage, wink wink.

Peanut at 8 months.
Thanks Peanut. And thanks God for the precious gift of this little life next to mine.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Say It To Her Face

Facebook has become a prime place for rudeness.
Maybe it's always been that way. But more and more I notice just plain old jerkery as I scroll through my newsfeed. I notice it in comments when friends share their hard days, I notice it in political posts, I notice it in plain old boring status updates.
What I want to say is, would you say that to this person's face? What if you ran into them in Starbucks and you saw how tired and haggard they looked? Then they shared about how they stayed up all night cleaning up after two young children vomiting and crying. Would you say flippantly, "It's amazing to me how you moms flip out when your husbands are gone for a week. Just be glad you aren't a single mother." That was an actual comment I read off my friend's page a while ago.
Most times these people are not ones you are close to in actual life. They are just your "Facebook friends" who are privy to your pictures, and life events that you share with your Facebook community.
Why do we feel the need to lash out (even passive aggressively)? If we spent more time connecting with people face to face and having real, vulnerable conversations with people we trust maybe we wouldn't feel the need to let off steam in a place where there are seemingly fewer consequences. In actuality the ripples felt from the rocks of your words are very real.
Let's not go back to elementary school, let's be adults. Let's be kind. Let's think through what our words might make another person feel. If you wouldn't say it to their face... Don't say it to them on Facebook.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Love Pains

Have you ever loved someone so much it physically hurt?
I'm not talking about those teeny-bopper crushes you had as a preteen. I'm not even talking about what some jerk guy or girl that dumped you by text does to your heart, and being in the middle of those tough post break up moments.
I'm talking about the moments your love puts their arms around you, or laughs with you, or just sits there smiling at you and being the most amazing human you've ever set your eyes on.

I'm talking about the moment you realize how huge your feelings and love are for this person, and the thought of any harm coming to them causes you the most pain and fear you've ever felt in all your moments on earth so far. I'm talking about seeing them after being separated for a while and it literally feels like your heart is going to explode with an ache that can only be described as a love pain.
It feels like your heart is going to physically break because it is so full of love.

6.5 months old
It's an enchanting love pain that, incredibly, continues to grow as the days tick by. The material of the heart, intentionally designed to be of the most elastic quality in the universe, stretches to what feels like it's very end every day. It's a miracle it doesn't break. But then again, this miracle is nothing compared to the little human sitting before me every day.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Leaving the Drizzle

It's super cloudy out today. A big difference from yesterday, when the sun was out and about, reminding me of beach weather due to the breeze flying around. I miss the beach. I grew up about forty five minutes from Bodega Bay, California. And although we didn't go often, I still feel there's a tiny ocean living in my heart constantly calling me back to the big ocean.
Isn't it true that certain weather, smells, even temperatures can bring a person back to past experiences in a nanosecond? This is especially true for me when I'm tired. I always feel more vulnerable on days like today. The Peanut woke up at four a.m. this morning, FOUR A.M. It's amazing what a few months will do. When she was a newborn that would have been a dream night for me. As for the me of today... I am exhausted. Just goes to show that little people are just like big people, sometimes they just wake up for no reason at all or  have trouble sleeping. I've had a hard time lately in general, feeling more deeply the fundamental changes to my life that she brings. So today is feeling a bit more raw than usual.
The gray sky outside brings me back to Portland. I lived there for several years after I moved back from Florence (another veritable storm of emotionally charged memories). It was there I met my love Casey and the direction of my life changed totally.
One of our first dates. We were clearly a good match as far as weirdness went.
 It was there I took a chance and thought, if I was ever to audition for ballet companies again, it would be now (professional ballet dancers retire at a surprisingly young age). It was there I experienced what felt like a miracle, when a ballet director named James hired me (after training my butt off after a years-long break from the daily grind of ballet). So we moved to Denver, where my new job at David Taylor Dance Theatre (and totally different lifestyle) was waiting.
The cool bite in the air in Denver today reminds me of darkish coffee shops, the drizzle on my face, and Powell's (one of the best bookstores ever) in my previous home-- Portland. It makes me feel the excitement, newness and naivete of my then new marriage. It brings me back to learning New Testament Greek at George Fox Seminary, and while there realizing that I was a whole lot more competent and intelligent than I ever gave myself credit for. I remember the exact moment my professor Mary Kate Morse gave me that gift of confidence by telling me I was actually very good at it. I think she knew I needed to hear it.
When you are in the process of making a place your home, you never really think about how hard it would be to leave, even if it is really the right decision. I left a huge part of my heart in Santa Rosa, in Salt Lake City, in Florence, and in Portland. Each place equally beautiful. Each place gave me some of the most amazing gifts, that I will carry in my heart forever.
What places are you carrying with you today?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Mini's Minis

You learn a lot of things when you have a baby. Some lessons are from the school of hard knocks, like learning how to hold your breath until that dirty diaper is safely in the diaper pail. Or how to keep yourself from running full speed into the nursery (and crying yourself) when your baby is wailing, for the 100th time.
Others are fun lessons. I never knew how much I'd love dressing Mini up. I love the tiny socks, the little hats, and the bows covering everything.

My favorite pair of shoes I've ever seen, baby or otherwise.
People constantly warned me, when I was pregnant and telling them that I was feeling tired, that I should just wait till Mini arrived. That I'd be infinitely more tired (by the way, for any of my first time pregnant friends hearing the same thing--- there are days this is true, but mostly I have found that this is a false statement. That's only me personally, of course. I was a very tired pregnant apparently). Instead, they should have warned me how much fun I'd have putting mini clothes on my very own Mini.
It rivals eating tiramisu while sipping a delightful glass of Pinot Grigio. And if you know me, that is saying quite a lot.