Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Acting in Wonderland

“Do you think I’ve gone round the bend?”
“I’m afraid so. You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.” (from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland)

I’ve hung out with theatrical types for more than twenty years, and I’ve discovered a few ways they are, shall we say, the “best people.” Throw a group of theatre people together and it’s an instant party. They provide their own entertainment and are their own biggest fans. Unlike normal people, theatre people get up and dance as soon as the band starts to play. There’s no need to wait for alcohol to lower inhibitions because they were born uninhibited. This suits me well, as I hate to drink but love to dance.

When you assemble several theatre groups from across the province, you ignite something fantastic. It’s called the ACT Festival (Association of Community Theatre) and it happens every year about this time. This year, its 35th, our own Prairie Players will host it at the William Glesby Centre. The overall theme for the weekend is “Through the Looking Glass,” so if you notice conferees running around town dressed as characters from Alice in Wonderland, you’ll know why. That’s another thing about theatre people. When called upon on to wear a costume, they participate. Personally, I found the perfect Alice dress at the Portage MCC for a steal of a deal. 
Photo taken before I got the crinoline. It's as poofy as Alice's now!

Opportunities abound for you to participate as well. If you enjoy live theatre, here’s your chance to see up to eight plays.

Friday evening, April 26 at 8:00, our local troupe will kick things off by presenting a short sketch written by Jean Burch called The Burglar. Narrated by Barb Burch, it features Keith Burch and Vicki Hooke as the burglar and the old maid, respectively.

Saturday morning will start at 9:00 with The Good Doctor presented by Broken Records Productions of Winnipeg. At 10:30, The Pinawa Players will present Half Life. The afternoon line-up includes Act 2 from A Month of Sundays, starting at 1:30 and performed by Tumbleweed Productions of Virden.  At 3:00, Shoestring Productions of Winnipeg will present scenes from Quilters, followed at 4:15 by the Phoenix Players, also from Virden, bringing us Just Around the Bend.

Between plays, three theatre professionals offer their critiques and I always enjoy the challenge of predicting what suggestions they might make. Groups can also take advantage of the opportunity to workshop their play with one of the three pro’s. It’s a great time of learning together and then celebrating at the dinner and dance on Saturday evening.

Sunday morning kicks off again at 9:00 with two plays presented by Flatland Theatre Company of Winkler: Not My Cup of Tea and A Human Write. The Vagabond Theatre Company of Binscarth will wrap things up at 10:30 with an excerpt from The Cemetery Club. At least seven other groups will attend, from places like Holland, Swan River, Thompson, Gimli, Dauphin, and Neepawa.

If you’d like to see the Friday evening performance only, tickets cost $5 at the door. You can attend Saturday morning or afternoon for $10, or all day for $15. Sunday morning also costs $10.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

I hope you can join us for a little bit of madness and whole lot of fun this weekend.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Five Things I've Learned from Writing

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking at the Portage Learning and Literacy Centre’s Career Fair and Open House. They invited me to talk about “being a writer.” That thought alone landed in a weird place with me. Am I a writer? The word, in my mind, conjures an image of a guy with suede elbow patches on his corduroy jacket, hunched over his typewriter pecking away all day, every day, drinking endless cups of coffee and smoking countless cigarettes. He ventures out only for book signings, which he resents. His hair’s a mess. His desk is cluttered, his wastebasket overflowing. If his photo were not featured on the backs of his multitude of bestselling novels, no one would know what he looks like. His royalty cheques put him in the highest tax bracket, yet he lives in a dingy little apartment and his newest clothing is a pair of socks someone gave him five birthdays ago.

I am not that person.

Still, I managed to blather on about “being a writer” for a good 40 minutes before the break and another ten or so afterwards. And I noticed only one person dozing off.

So I thought I’d share with my readers a few things I shared with the folks gathered there. In a nutshell, here are five of the many things I’ve learned from writing. 

1. If it’s important enough, you’ll make the time. I don’t buy it when people tell me “I’d like to write a book someday, if I can ever find the time.” I’m willing to bet that person never will find the time. Charles Buxton said “You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.” For me, this meant changing jobs. For someone else, it might mean turning off the TV, getting off Facebook, or just getting your bum into the chair and writing.

2. Nothing worth having comes easy. Writing is hard work. No one writes the next great novel without a ton of research, rewriting, and revising. Louis L’Amour said “If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.”

3. Perseverance and tenacity are a must. All writers, even bestselling authors, experience rejection. It’s part of the game, but you can’t let it stop you. Author Gina Conroy said, “What keeps me going is the fear of missing out because I gave up too soon. It’s not easy to persevere through sweat and tears, but when I keep my mind on the goal and my heart attuned to my calling, then quitting isn’t an option.”

4. Humility makes you strong in the long run. I love the Snoopy cartoon where he’s sitting on his dog house, typing a letter: “Gentlemen. Regarding the recent rejection slip you sent me. I think there might have been a misunderstanding. What I really wanted was for you to publish my story and send me fifty thousand dollars.”
Rejection hurts. So does criticism. But both of these, when done constructively and honestly, can teach you more than any book or course. 

5. Passion supersedes perception. I’ve learned I must write from my heart —the stories I feel most passionate about touch my readers the most.

Maybe writing isn’t your thing. I dare you to take whatever is “your thing” and relate these same five principles to it. I bet they apply. 

You won’t find me taking up elbow patches any time soon, or cigarettes EVER. But by God’s grace, I’ll still be pounding away at the keys and learning more about writing for another twenty-five years or more. Isaac Asimov said, “If my doctor told me I had only six months to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type faster.”

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Conversations with Myself

If admission is the first step to recovery, I’ll just blurt it out.

I’m Terrie and I talk to myself.

My co-workers can attest. Although I do keep it somewhat in check at work, they’ve gotten used to me muttering at my desk as I think my way through tasks out loud. The best part comes when I finish one thing and am ready to move on to the next. “Okay. Now…” is the official signal. Lucky for me, my colleagues are gracious enough to ignore it. Either that or they wrote me off as a loony tune ages ago.

Last month, I wrote a Municipal Accounting exam and talked the entire three hours. Thankfully, I sat in a room by myself. There’s no way I could begin to pass a test while surrounded by other test-writers expecting me to zip it. It’s like my brain needs to not only see the words, but say them and hear them as well before there’s any remote possibility of new information seeping into my overloaded noggin.

It gets worse when I’m in my car. A vehicle is a great place to think aloud because no one can hear me, and if anyone sees me, I can start bopping my head as though singing along with the radio. No one needs to know the radio in my car hasn’t worked for years.

That raises another question, though. If it’s okay to sing to yourself, what’s wrong with talking to yourself?

At home, it’s worse still, especially if I’m alone. Oh, it’s not as if I look in the mirror and chant Stuart Smalley’s daily affirmations or anything. (“Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”) But I’m convinced I cannot cook without talking myself through it, especially when it’s a new recipe. If I don’t read the instructions aloud, I forget what it said in the split second it takes my eyes to leave the printed page and focus on the food. 

You might be thinking I should acquire a pet, so I can talk to them instead. But who needs a cat or dog when you can talk to your appliances? One day I accidentally opened the dishwasher while it was running. “Oh, sorry,” I said. Then again, I suppose most polite Canadians apologize to inanimate objects all the time. So maybe that doesn’t count.

Another day, I went to put a dirty dish into the dishwasher.

“Oh wait, those are already clean,” I said.

“We’ve had this conversation already,” I said.

And we had. Or I had. Whatever.

My next words were probably along the lines of “Good grief, I’m outta my mind,” followed by, “I know you are, but what am I?”

But that hasn’t stopped me from continuing my habit.  

I’m pretty sure I inherited this trait from my mother, and a quick check on the internet tells me we’re not alone. Lots of people wonder if they need therapy. Wiki-how even offers an article called “How to Stop Talking to Yourself.” The suggestions sound a little cruel to me, like pressing two fingers over your lips to keep the words inside. 

My head would explode.

Maybe I don’t truly want to recover. After all, sometimes I overhear the most interesting things. Occasionally I even tell myself a pretty good joke. Besides, I can’t afford to let my cooking take a nosedive. And I certainly don’t want to fail any exams.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have standards. You know that annoying thing kids do when they copy everything the other says in a nasally, irritating voice?

Yeah, if you ever catch me doing that while I’m all alone, just lock me up.