While I have been slumbering, figuring out what to say/do with this blog, someone “liked it’ this morning: rereading it, it gave me a renewed sense of purpose. I am job hunting, and that has taken over most of my concentration. Today I have two interviews, both for Director/Manager of Education position in arts administration. This post already has helped clear some of the cobwebs I’ve laid in my own way. Thanks for the like, Isurrett2.


One of the most disturbing things that I have heard  from a student was:

“Why should I try? I’ll only be working at McDonald’s.”

I was an Artist-in-Residence for a year for a large school district in Westchester County, NY. Still early in my profession, that statement was both a shock and a revelation of a point of view I had never considered before: low expectations given, and projected; leading this student to live  that that is all they can do. The young lady who said that to me was in a ninth grade repeat class. Most of them, I was told much later, were on their THIRD repeat of ninth grade.

Yes: she was a third timer.

It was not that working at McDonald’s is such a negative job, but the expectation of that is all she could expect in life is. There are jobs that many would never…

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What Is A Drama Teacher?

A Fourth Grade Classroom:

I was asked the question: “What is a Drama Teacher?” when I had announced that I am one.

According to a young lady , who I had the pleasure to work with that day, a Drama Teacher is:


“Someone who teaches others to exaggerate emotions so they can be Drama Queens.”


I think that pretty much says it all.


Save The ARTist (Creativity Plus)

There is a great deal of concern and hand wringing over saving the arts. Recently, the Westchester County Arts Council sent out a plea for us to write to our congressmen about major cuts to the arts. I did is they asked, knowing that in even the smallest way our voices have to be heard.

I got an answer back not from the congressmen but from his assistant. there was a lot of blame and finger-pointing in this letter, it still talking how great Westchester County is in comparison to other locations. I will copy and post her letter, but before I do: I have something to say. Yes, big surprise.

With all the talk about saving the parts one very important component seems to be forgotten:


I am a performing and teaching ARTIST. I make my primary living from working in the Arts. My discipline is Theater/Drama, Storytelling and Creative Writing. I do not create “lasting” art in Fine Arts, but I DO perform a service in the Performing Arts.

When you cut the funding for the arts, you are not just cutting out a sculpture or a painting, or a dance or theater piece, or a choral work, you are taking money out of reach of PEOPLE who are trying to pay their bills and survive. by making these budget cuts to save organizations, you are also then putting more people on unemployment. This fall, I have been unable to find a job, mainly because in my field there’s much less work. There are also more people out looking for any work, so even jobs that I could fit into are inundated by other people looking for work.

Where would we be without ones like Van Gogh?

Is it just me, or does this just not make any sense? A good friend of mine has put it  very simply: at this point in time, if everyone across the board and that means the big boys in the middle management boys played fairly, more people to keep their jobs. It’s part of what I’ve been saying in that we need creative solutions and problem solving in place of the reactionaries.

I do not want to be on unemployment. I want to work. I feel there are ways that more people can work and keep their jobs. Today on the news from NPR I heard that more than 28,000 postal workers will be laid off soon. What jobs will they be able to get to support their families?

It’s very easy to cast blame and point fingers. As a country, we seem to excel at that.

Wouldn’t we be better off if we were creative problem solvers?

As stated above, here is the letter I got today:

Thank you for writing to County Executive Robert P. Astorino regarding funding for the arts.

Please be assured that Mr. Astorino has read your message and he has asked me to respond to you on his behalf.

The county executive understands and appreciates your concern for the arts.  While developing the proposed 2012 county budget, Mr. Astorino and his administration have given the arts the same consideration accorded to every program, service, agency and facility supported by county government.

As you know all too well, this is a very challenging economy.  There is a critical need to balance a $114 million county budget deficit with a responsibility to provide essential services and property tax relief, protect Westchester’s neediest residents, promote structural financial reform and reduce government spending at all levels.  One of the major roadblocks to maintaining the funding level for Arts Westchester and many other worthwhile programs and services, is the failure of the public employee unions to agree to make a reasonable contribution to their healthcare premiums.  Westchester County’s union employees are one of the few groups left in the nation that contribute nothing to their healthcare costs.  This ever-increasing financial burden necessitates reductions in other portions of the county budget.  The county executive, since taking office two years ago, has attempted to get county workers to agree to the same level of healthcare contributions state workers make.  While there is a reduction in the allocation to arts programs, the County Executive’s proposed budget includes funding for the arts at $750,000.  This action is in no way a reflection on the outstanding quality of exhibits and performances presented by the arts community nor the talents and efforts of all who labor to bring these offerings to fruition.  It is instead, a part of many across-the-board measures which must be taken during these difficult times.

Your views and those of all who live and work in Westchester are very important to the county executive.  Your input is both welcome and valued.

Again, thank you for writing.


Janet Lokay
Assistant to the County Executive
148 Martine Avenue
White Plains, New York 10601
(914) 995-2127

Here was my response to Ms. Lokay:

it’s not just the exhibits and performances.

You forget a very essential part: the artist has to live, pay bills, and be part of the economic structure. By cutting the arts, it’s not just the end product but the people who live through the process. Two very different things.

I am a Teaching Artist and a performing artist. My entire life is creative and my livelihood depends on schools, libraries, community centers and more have funds to hire me and others like me. I live for the educational process that is part of the learning process…and it does not seem politicians realize this.

Schools may not hire a full time Theater Teacher anymore (I have my NYS Certification in Theater), but they SHOULD hire me as a consultant, which is what a TA (teaching artist) really is. I integrate my work into the school core curricula, and it enhances, not wastes, the teachers’ lessons.

I would love to have a conversation  about this. Yes, many of us produce art that is seen; there are many more of us who produce art that is part of the educational process, for ALL ages, and we’re hurting, trying to make a living.

My thing: instead of telling me why something isn’t working, why are we not doing problem solving around the negatives out there. I’d rather know what has been attempted, or will be, instead of what is not working. I  work a lot with my students, when I get them, on problem solving.

I’m serious about talking with Mr. Astorino.

She gave me her phone number. If I don’t hear from them, and if you know me at all, they will hear from me. I will let you know what happens next. I’m tired of the excuses. Let’s get off of  unemployment

How I Found My Creative Voice

Now, sit right down and let Stu tell you a story. Settled in? Good. Now, mind the spittin’ bucket if  old Ned comes by. He never could give up his chaw even after them docs took away half his jaw. His aim aint so good no more, so…you’ve been warned.

There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. ~ Martha Graham

Creativity is contagious. Pass it on. ~ Albert Einstein

It happened that I did something early in my life that I swore I would not do: work for the money, not for what I wanted to really do. For fifteen years I worked a soul killing job. I had a break in my personal life during this period and I found something I was missing: an improvisation class in NYC.

It was heaven. Creative heaven. I had an amazing year+ with this company, but inner politics ruined it (as well as things I might talk about another time: My Run In with Scientology. No joke).

A two year semi creative dry spell fell upon like the wrath of grapes, and then…one summer afternoon, at the Tuxedo NY Renaissance Faire, I was found….

…by the members of the Instant Shakespeare show. My kids were pointing at me like crazy to get chosen (so, all of this is YOUR fault, Adam & Jessica ;P  ) and sure enough, I was picked to be the audience patsy.

Except, I had the best time of my life. I added a few things, hammed it up,  and had the crowd in my hands. I made the MC (Scott Eck) laugh so hard he even said  he gave up the show to me. Afterwards, so many people asked if I did this for a living. Many said I should. Less than a year later…well, I had a lot of great creative adventures. A lot.

Which now brings me to the point: if I let the roadblocks of my life (and I consider a money job as opposed to a passion job a road block) stop me, I would not have found my creative voice, and I would not be as happy and fulfilled.

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook

It also brought me to this:

My very first solo eStory on Amazon

Thanks to the fine people at Trestle Press I now have an eStory published that is not part of an anthology. It’s 4,000 words long, and it costs just $ .99. I get 70% of that, so…yeah, the more the merrier. Won’t you make me merry?  😉

Product Description: Seth had been devoured by fire. What does a man do when the life of flame becomes as real as his waking life? When the sound of fire is the beat of his blood through his body? When what he sees he lives?

You can find it at Amazon: Flash Over

I have two more stories published, both in charity anthologies, supporting Doctors Without Blorders. You can find them on my brand new Amazon Authors Page. Two volumes, both $3.99, and both support a worthy cause. Please give them a try.

Thank you.

In Love With Language

Language is wine upon the lips.
Virginia Woolf

Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body. Martha Graham

Music is a great energizer. It’s a language everybody knows. Bill Hicks

It’s my belief we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain. Lily Tomlin

By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth. George Carlin

What we are all trying to do is communicate, whether to enlighten or obscure, we communicate in a number of different languages. I embrace the beauty of the spoken word as a storyteller and performer, immerse myself in the language of a creative writer, physically and verbally share the language of theater through my educational workshops and residency classes…and this is just the grace of language in a professional level.

Right there: that word, “professional,” as I typed the final letter, took on a life of its own. Automatically, it gives the whole sentence weight (to me) and to some vast importance. You don’t know if I wrote it tongue-in-cheek, with reverence, or in anger. It’s a word that it’s meaning is assumed by the reader. This medium, texts, twits, IM’s and the like, has an immediate flatness that don’t often allow the whole story of language to surface.

I use language as I  talk with my hands (gesture is supposedly the first language).  Body language takes on its own life. We communicate language in all areas of art: it is a way to express our feelings and thoughts in various ways.

My language art is mainly in words: spoken or written. Dance, Fine Arts and Music explore a different value of language, reaches its audience in a number of different ways, and explores a huge range of exploration, inquiry and interpretation…when it is allowed to happen.

The above picture just exemplifies how I feel about words/language, written or otherwise. I am embraced by it as a whole. It can feel comforting, enlightening, provoking, expansive, and more. It  can also repel, used for the ugliness of intentions, when language is used as a weapon. That is done all too often, when the words are used as obfuscation of truth, of seeing the bigger picture, or to keep people “out of the club.” If you’ve read me enough, you know what I am alluding to. I wrote of these things on other blog posts.

Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation.
Noam Chomsky

How do you use language?

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