The play‘s the thing. We see where life leads and run with it, see where our onion lands and play along. As in PLEASE PLAY. That’s a short short, filmed and edited by Kathy Fischer, which features 7 or 8 Rosenblatts (Adolph has genie rather than genius status), Genevieve Leplae, John Gourdoux, Artasia, Rosenblatt Gallery, sculptures, buddhas, Japanese bath tubs, and a red onion.
One June night in 1977 I awakened in the middle of an intense dream and wrote it down. That's how I started writing short stories, a sudden, unexpected step into my future. My short stories became longer ones, then I began to write travel journals after trips, then memoirs in the third person and personal journals in the first person.
The circus parade flowed past. How did it feel to be one of those animals, a natural part of the jungle, yet instead pulled in a cage or clomping on cement down Wisconsin Avenue with hordes of two-legged creatures staring and pointing?
Part of being human is our ability to imagine ourselves in others’ shoes, or others’ hoofs! And another major parade taking place in Milwaukee this summer, on August 8th, will do just that. It’s a parade that will, in a sense, be the opposite of the circus parade: the animals that clomp or dance or trumpet past will be created by, not captured by, humans. You could say it’s the humans who will be caged in their self-made costumes. Aren’t we all?
Artists and non-artists of all ages, races, religions, and ethnicities are working together to create THE ALL-CITY PARADE AND PAGEANT, produced by Milwaukee Public Theatre and Milwaukee Mask and Puppet Theatre . The structure is based loosely on Minneapolis’s annual HEART OF THE BEAST parade; the content was developed through brainstorming sessions that began last April in the Milwaukee area.
I went to one. We sat in a circle and threw around our problems and pleasures, our nightmares and dreams, and the visual images these evoked. The sessions eventually provided the material for the parade’s themes: a close look at greed and all its implications, a look at where we’re heading and why, at problems and solutions. Participants will express all this through the senses, through the arts, visually, musically, in dance, in words.
I went to one of the workshops last month and saw the beginnings of the masks and puppets volunteers are creating.
Our family has two events this weekend, and in a funny way they're related. They're both rooted in the basic human instinct of creative play. The event on May 8th, which I wrote about in my last blog (and which I'll update here) is a display of creativity in several of its many forms, dance, music, acrobatics, and visual art. The second event, on May 10th, is a discussion of the process of creating by Adolph and me at the Urban Ecology Center. The title is "Does my left brain know what my right brain's doing?" And a follow-up question might be: Do I WANT it to know?
Adolph and I have different approaches to talking about creativity, though basically our process is the same. I can't merely say to my left brain, "Stop monitoring, let the dream side take over." It might not cooperate! So I'll discuss how I go about getting into the creative flow. And how that flow has gone about changing me.
Adolph, on the other hand, who's always right-brained, in fact was born that way, will talk about what his thoughts are when he works. He's focused on what is happening, about his relationship to his subject. Whether it's a person, a house, a tree, or a cow, he wants to capture its spirit.
You’re running though the door in slow motion, turn around and someone is lumbering after you, also in slow motion. Someone, slo mo, tries to hide under the dining-room table. Someone, slo mo, scurries into the kitchen. No, it’s not a nightmare, it’s slow motion tag. And it’s so ridiculous, we can’t stop laughing.
My friend Genevieve and I formed a play group over a year ago, and once a month we play creative games. Someone starts to tell a story, and anyone can butt in and continue it till the next person interrupts. Or maybe we’ll play the game in writing. Write a line, then pass it to the person on your left to write some more. If ten people play, we’re passing around ten stories at once.
Or everyone writes a topic on a piece of paper, folds the paper, then throws it into a bowl. The players each pull a topic out of the grab-bag bowl and give a one-minute talk.
Each person makes three statements about himself. Two are true, one’s a lie, and everyone has to figure out which is the lie. There are other games, like dictionary or charades, or various versions of mime or speaking in gibberish, or playing with sounds or gestures. Or slow motion tag.
At a time when almost everyone is stressed out, it’s great to do something in which everyone’s imagination is stretched out. If it sounds like it might be fun, we’re open to trying it.
As a painter, poet, performer, dancer, my creativity usually begins with getting into the flow. My hands become my eyes and put down the image, my feet listen to the music and decide the moves, the dream part of my brain tells me what to write. It’s basically losing the self to find the self. I have decades of flow behind me; I don’t know what I’ve got ahead!
I’ll have the opportunity to discuss my thoughts on creativity in a presentation at Danceworks, 1661 N Water Street, on Friday, October 17, at 7:30 PM. I’ll also have some of my latest artwork, and some of my oldest artwork, on exhibit there from October 10 to January 8, opening reception October 17, 6:00 to 8:30 PM. Below are a few of the recent drawings I'll include in the show, and some comments about them.
Why do I draw dancers? I'm not a dancer, I just love to dance, even if I make an absolute fool of myself, love to move to music, letting my feet guide me, love feeling energized and free. So when I draw dancers, I'm feeling the movement and energy. And freedom.
On Martin Luther King Day, as I listened to a replay of Dr. King's last speech, I mused on that sore spot in the psyche, the one that makes tragedy repeat itself. MLK, JFK, RFK, each time we celebrate their lives, I'm reliving their deaths, re-mourning their absence, and wondering how history would have played out if they were still here.
Our country needs Martin Luther King, Jr. more than ever. So does Shorewood. Last summer at a rummage sale I overheard a man ask a woman, “Did you move to Shorewood?”
She replied, “Never. You know me.”
“Why wouldn't you move to Shorewood?” I asked.
“Lack of diversity.” That's what I figured, and although I love living here, I felt ashamed.
Shorewood seems more diverse than it was when we moved here in 1969. One big change is all the Russian Jews, who walk the bike path fearlessly and shop along Oakland Avenue. I googled the statistics, and here's what I found: Shorewood Population - 13,763 (I suspect this is a couple of years old): Latino 2.5%, White 89.8%, Black 2.4%, Asian 3.2%, Other 1.8% Median income $56,698. Thanks to busing, the schools are somewhat integrated, but they should be integrated thanks to housing. We do have a lot of modest housing, Milwaukee bungalows and duplexes that would be reasonably priced if they weren't located here. People move to Shorewood for the schools, not the homes, yet living in a diverse community is a major part of education.
I heard a segment on NPR last week about a new study: Diversity Spurs Workplace Creativity. My personal education stems in large part from the places I've been, not from the places themselves but from the people I've met there, from trying to understand lives as different as possible from my own. That's the challenge for us all.
Where am I going with this? Possibly nowhere. The solution is affordable housing, and I don't hear anyone talking about that. Well, actually I do. As the housing market bottoms out, maybe Shorewood will become affordable.