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

Creativity is Dangerous (Creativity Series)

What can I say about Michael Sullivan? Actually, quite a bit!

Mikey was one of the first members to join my theater company, The Brothers Grinn, way back in 1994. He was with Grinn for quite a long time, and like a number of others, whether he believes this or not, he is missed. A lot.

What I can tell you about Mikey: he also is a very creative person, a writer, performer, and he now works in the medical profession as a pediatric nurse. Oh, and he is husband, dad, and a supreme klutz! 🙂

He is also just a little bit off. That IS a compliment!

Here is Michael’s very different take on creativity. I would’ve expected no less.

# Three in The Creativity Series


Creativity is dangerous.

There should there be a label on the outside of our skulls in big red letters –


Maybe then we would pay attention to it.

Creativity is dangerous, but it is everything.

Two children with pasts as dark as they come. Violent. Explosive. A call comes into the hand-phone.

“What? A bank robbery? Monsters everywhere? You need two heroes, Commissioner? Our two finest heroes? Jeeze. Let me see if they’re available.”

I look over to the children, patients in an acute psychiatric hospital.

“Let’s go, Batman!” says one.

“The jet!” yells the other.

The two roar off, leap from the jet, battle the invisible mob of evil, return the stolen loot, and are back within moments.

But the hand-phone rings again. “Another assignment, Commissioner?” Another few hours.

Not a curse word or moment of violence passes between them.

Later, it does. Later, one shoves the other.

“Is that the way heroes act? Are you the same ones who just saved the city like 500 times together?”

The kids look sheepishly away.

“Shhh! What’s that?”

The kids look around, unsure.

“There’s something at the end of the hallway. I know it… No! It can’t be! How did he escape? Let’s go a different way… Unless…Unless the heroes are available. They’re the only ones who can defeat Lord Hideous.”

And there they are. Instantly. Goodbye, Lord Hideous!

Creativity is dangerous, but it is also healing.

Will you answer the call?


To know more about Mr. Michael Sullivan, please visit his website M Sullivan tales: Poems, Prose, and Play.

His blog is: MSullivanrales Blog

Editing Shakespeare

The world’s greatest playwright!

The Bard of Avon!!


First, my warning: I do not hold the works of William Shakespeare on a pedestal, to be revered from far away, where only those with the malady of StickUpTheButtitis can be the only ones, the elite, to treasure the man’s work. I would not be the one on the stage balcony of the Globe, only wishing to be noticed, and in so doing, care only about that (take that, bourgeoisie!).

I’d want to be with the groundlings (not the famous, and well deserved to be, Improv company…although if they asked me to join, it couldn’t hurt). The groundlings, the common people, that made up the majority of the audience. The popular culturist of his time. I truly believe, and I say this to my students, that if Shakespeare were alive and writing today, he’d be writing for HBO or be a rapper.

So…considered the “English world’s greatest writer,”… but what chutzpah we have, in that editing Shakespeare’s plays is TAUGHT in schools/higher learning!! Meanwhile, a certain playwright who I won’t name (NS) would sue your pants off if you even changed an “A” in one of his plays and,  in my opinion, NS is no Shakespeare.  We edit Shakespeare for a number of reasons, time being one of them (well over two hours, in most cases, if the play is done in it’s entirety). Then we play around with setting, time periods, etc. as fits the whims of the director &/or the location it is being performed in.

So, I am in the process of EDITING SHAKESPEARE: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“, one of my favorites. I have to take this way over two hour play and not only it edit it down for time, but also to make it an age appropriate program for a Drama Camp. If you don’t know, Shakespeare is full of bawdiness and innuendo, and his satire was aimed at the  elite, the folly of men and women, and overall the plays that he adapted (yes, I said it: Shakespeare was one of the worlds greatest adapters) were rife with the socio-political climate of his day.

I’m almost done with my first edit. Since I am adding singing and dancing to the production, I am adding time as well, and more edits will have to happen. BTW… Thank YOU to Mr. Mark Rylance. I had the extreme pleasure of seeing “Measure for Measure” at The Globe Theater in London when he was the Artistic Director. He directed and starred in the production, and his going to the roots of how a show might have unfolded in days of yore was eye opening. Easily one of the best productions I’ve seen, and heard. You go to hear Shakespeare. It’s language is musical, when done well.

So, I will most likely have to edit this down even more after the first read through. I had a tough time “selling” this as the play I wanted to direct this summer. Big and splashy musicals always seem to hold more sway over the minds of what should be done. Audience pleasers. I hope that with the enthusiasm I have I can show what can be just as pleasing.

Shakespeare: never for just the “elite,” even if they still think it is so.

More over the summer about these trials and tribulations.

Have you ever edited a Shakespeare play? Why and werefore and to whit and hencewhy?

What was the best edited WS show you’ve ever seen?

Above, Mickey Rooney as Puck!!

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