Play The Same Stuff [on Merely A Thought Monday]

string bass with frame copy“If you are a chef, not matter how good a chef you are, it’s not good cooking for yourself; the joy is in cooking for others – it’s the same with music.”

I lived most of my life believing I didn’t have a musical bone in my body. I was convinced that I had a tin ear. I was afraid to sing. I carried a guitar (I named her Magnolia) with me for years – a gesture of hopefulness amidst my absolute commitment to my ineptitude – and finally gave it away to someone who could play it. An instrument needs to be played and I felt I was being selfish holding onto a guitar that I would never play. Oh, how I wish I had Magnolia today.

I didn’t just make up my fear of music. I had plenty of reinforcement, lots of shaming, before I committed to a story of I CAN’T. Over time, with more and more horror experiences, my story solidified into I WON’T. Ever. Close the door. Kill the desire.

When I met Kerri – a consummate musician – I told her this: “You have to know two things about me. I don’t sing & I don’t pray.” A few months later we were driving back roads in Georgia, windows rolled down, a James Taylor CD blaring, Kerri singing at the top of her lungs, I thought it was safe to sing along. She’d never hear me. But, she did. She burst into tears and pulled the car off the road. I shook like a leaf but we sang together and it was grand.

It took her about 15 minutes to identify my obstacle. I had to relearn how to hear. That’s it. It took a few months and a willingness to mightily miss notes and my scary story of CAN’T crumbled. I learned how to feel the sound. The music was there all along.

Here’s the magic for a beginner like me: when I am rehearsing with the ukulele band or singing in the choir, I am capable of so much more than when I am practicing by myself. Playing the same stuff elevates everyone. It’s as if we transcend ourselves. Actually, we do transcend ourselves. We sync up and the energy uplifts everyone. Even me. Especially me, a toddler in knowing that I CAN.


read Kerri’s blog post about PLAYING THE SAME STUFF


at jonathans with bear website box copy





Hear The Voices

photo-2This is the most unusual rehearsal process I’ve ever navigated.

First, I wrote the play and in preparing to perform it, I’m discovering it anew as if someone else wrote it. There have been brilliant and funny moments when I ask myself, I wonder why he wrote that? The good news is that I remember whom to ask.

Second, the play was originally meant for Tom to perform and since the story is Tom’s family narrative, I wanted the language and syntax to be Tom’s. In development, I recorded hours of conversation with him. Much of the first draft was a transcription so that I might capture word-for-word his language choices and speech patterns. Those structures survived the several rewrites that happened after Tom’s death. In preparing to perform the play I’m wrestling with the language. I’m wrestling with his language. It is almost as if I am discovering my own speech patterns and syntax – in telling Tom’s story I’m finding it necessary to tell it my way, not his. Essentially, as is true in all good storytelling, I am finding myself, my voice, through his story.

Tom and me a long time ago.

Tom and me a long time ago.

Finally, the music is a character in the play and the musicians, Mom’s Chili Boys, are madly rehearsing in California while the actors (Kerri and I) are rehearsing in Wisconsin. The internet is a beautiful thing as, each day, we pass notes, record voices, email questions; we will only be together in the same room 3 days before the first performance. We’re essentially workshopping the play from two locations. It is akin to rehearsing a symphony in parts and the parts only come together in the final day. They get to experience the whole symphony, the fullness of their music as played through all of the voices, only in the final hour. And that will be true of this play.

Each day I rehearse and I hear Tom’s voice in my head, telling me the stories that comprise the play. I am reminded that, whether artist or audience, art is a living thing. It is a relationship and ultimately that relationship is with your self.

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Untitled by David Robinson

Untitled by David Robinson

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