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Theatre Beyond the Walls, With a Door

"Backspace until it's...blank." Until about 5 years ago, I'd back away from showing anything that didn't feel whole, complete or ready. The problem there is...well, nothing's ever truly complete. There is no complete, whole stage to get to. The process and doubts are as whole as we are. So, showing all of that matters. Because if you don't show that... you back away from ever showing anything. That is exactly what I did for a very long time. It escalated until I truly could not face showing myself. At all. I was writing a play about self-isolation... and then March came and 'self isolation' became the way of the world. I'm working to tell my story about learning to be open, even when I felt impossibly distanced. The process of finding words is messy and scary but it's all a part of the beautiful signs of growth- the kind that battles to be seen through harsh conditions and sprouts. When we see it, we know "there's a sign of life". Being strong enough to show the truth of the struggle reminds us we're alive and brings us closer, letting our humanity overpower whatever screen, doubt or wall that attempts to separate us. After 8 months where I can count the in-person conversations I’ve had, but can't count the number of days when I haven't spoken out loud at all… I had the gift of what was very likely the best week of my life. A week workshopping my play at Theatre Passe Muraille. This week called upon every ounce of strength in me. There were moments when I felt paralyzed in panic, thinking that it might require more strength than I have in me. Classic "best week of my life" material, right!? :-) But the fears and doubts existed in the company of trust. Even amidst uncertainty, my doubt had the chance to be present, but not in power with trust's reassuring presence leading the way. In this brilliant workshopping week, I was offered the chance to jump just a liiiitle beyond my abilities with the safety net of creative support that comes with a caring team. This revitalizing energy of collaboration is theatre's link that connects us all over the distance and establishes new possibilities. Whether the distance of that fourth wall is a seat away, or a city away. We care. We listen. We keep telling and creating stories. We keep connecting our minds and hearts. Here's a look through my view of the week with some in-progress thoughts I had while working through the in-progress telling of my story: After 8 months of isolation, I was gifted the best week of my life. It led up to Toronto's second complete lockdown. It had been too long since I'd been with people in a place where I could care and feel cared for. I know that what I got to experience this week was a boost of energy and love that will be helping me through the Winter. I also know it was an immense priviledge to experience being in a real space with real people. If reading this is feeling a little annoying at this point because, "YES, we all get it! Being with people feels a little bit magic and we MISS it!"...Well, I'm already there with ya again. It's been over a week since I've spoken to anyone in person and, what I hope this show can eventually do, is address how we can find pieces of that magic of closeness even from a distance. As best as we can, through the current barriers that hold us back. I do hold onto the belief that, over a distance, we can feel together through the depths of loneliness and into a shared space of hope. To get closer when there's a screen in the way, we have to bring who we are inside right out into the open as much as we possibly can. We have to bring our experiences of our isolation right to the surface. When we are thoughtful together, we exist in company. TPM created a place of safety and thoughtfulness and everyone seemed to feel it. COVID protocols were carefully followed and check ins were frequent and open. As we sought to explore themes of distance and connection, we felt the genuine presence of our designer, Lindsay, who helped our space find its visuals all through zoom and from the distance of Stratford. True accessibility is about having your abilities met where they already are. In our team debrief meeting, Indrit noted that, we've been putting lots of focus on how to make Lindsay more present in the room when the question is how do we make the room more present for her. Working with a team that thinks this way creates hope and strength in absolutely everyone involved. It's a place where you know you will be heard and valued for the way you see and think and what you can offer, matters. What you can't offer, well that doesn't matter quite so much. When I was struggling, trying to scramble an ability to force re-writes when I only write in tiny moments of energy spurts, I knew I could be open and truthful about it to my director/dramaturge, Marjorie. She responded with, "we continue at your pace". Marjorie and Indrit have created this BUZZ Development framework to "place the art and artist at the centre". I heard them speak this in their introduction seconds before walking into view of a livestream where I would voice some of my most vulnerable moments to three cameras and to whoever had the link. After hearing them phrase it this way, I felt a sense of home, safety and very strong connection. Beyond the walls. This week helped me see, by example, what I struggle with and where I need extra help. While researching NVLD for the show this article phrased the importance of people for those with NVLD this way: A pretty drastic and grim prognosis, but it indicates the sense of the impossibility I face when the only way I learn is around people. With nvld I only learn with example. I imitate based on all the versions of reaction and interaction that I have stored in my database. This week gave me the chance to tangibly hold and sort information that was tangling conceptually in my head. The most important thing for anyone who has NVLD, is being able to voice the process. I need to talk it out (...and out and out). also has a rather good description of this too --> Every day I was handed a mic, and I was offred the space to talk it out as well as the space to be unsure of how to talk it out. The week was essential for the way I think, letting verbal problem-solving pair with the support to try linking the non-verbal, physical reality of my play. By the end of the week, I started understanding what works and making those edits to get right into the action. The care and consideration shown to me and my story by every member of this team has helped me to go far beyond the place I was straining from alone. Where my abilities end, theirs come in and create follow through. It was a way through to the other side, after over a year staring down the same wall. Beyond the walls, there's a door. Everyone sharing their thoughts has helped me to extend my thinking. Everyone. Thank you Marjorie, Rinchen, Merlin, Nicole, Lindsay, Echo, Christopher, David, Eric, Indrit, Emily, Ceridwen, and Kourtney This week, I got to extend my hope and thoughts further than I thought possible. Thank you for helping my ideas and confidence grow. Thank you Passe Muraille for making this exploration possible. And thank you to Toronto Arts Council - Open Door Strategic Funding, Tangled Arts, and Ontario Arts Council for their additional support.

Feeling Open Before Lockdown, Round 2

This week has been a full-hearted whirlwind💓. Looking toward tomorrow’s lockdown, I am holding hope from the feeling of sharing the story behind these words: “There’s a room. A box. Inside this box there’s a feeling running around. It’s a feeling that sprints in and down and twists tight, but it’s also a feeling of what nothingness feels like. So it’s hard to know there’s a feeling there at all. I catch a hold of what it is. I’ve known its opposite now...So I think I finally understand what this is. It’s a feeling that I think...I think people would try to sort it into the word, ‘lonely’. A word that unravels. It unwinds. It won’t fit in it’s box. It flutters out and escapes. It flaps its fearful wings through all you know. It roots within, becoming a part of all you know. With this word as a key that I hold, I see it connect possibilities toward people. From afar, I feel a part of it. The tug of community linking me back into existence. Apart, but a part of a whole. A feeling of wholeness that is indefinite. Whole, without needing to be complete. When loneliness is voiced, it loses its hold. It moves through to being seen. And loneliness can’t turn our insides to isolation when it’s seen in a shared space of thinking and feeling together.” I don’t yet have the full words for the gratitude I feel. It has brought such immense joy to know this phenomenal experience of collaboration after the strain of solo creation. My heart is beaming in thanks to you, @beyondwallstpm@magicalmudge@indritk@callmerewa@limpvvrist@nic.ej.bell@echoaroundtheworld@coleenshirin. Thanks for helping my ideas grow in the company of yours. Thanks for helping this story discover its visual voice 😌🌱 Thank you TPM, @tangled_arts@torontoartscouncil and @ontarioartscouncil for supporting this project.

Hope Grows Underground

☀️A bit of light in the right moment and our surroundings align to create meaning that echoes and grows over time. This photo is from last summer when, by chance, I sublet Coleen’s stunning home while she was away. I didn't know her then. I do now. And it turns out she's a rather spectacular person☺️✨. She thinks in a wonderful way and it helps me think too. Like right now, our coincidental friendship makes me think about how moments mean more than we can ever see from the view we have when we’re inside them. As light changes and shadows alter, the map ahead finds new paths that we never could have drawn ourselves. Hey you out there, I bet you're creating some deeply impressive impressions at this very moment. Hope grows underground and blooms in places where we didn’t even know we’d planted it🌱🌿💫

Passe Muraille Artist Residency

I’m thrilled to share the overwhelmingly joyful news that I’m working with Theatre Passe Muraille as an Artist-in-Residence. I’ve wondered whether I can be enough for this opportunity. Do I know enough, am I ready? But I write to celebrate the growth of our ever-changing identities. The show I’m writing is about finding the courage to speak as you are and letting words weave alongside you. It is about finding a sense of home within yourself as you let yourself grow. As an Artist-in-Residence, my ‘self’ is welcomed into a space where I’m met as I am. I can reside in a place where the expression of imperfection is celebrated. How do we navigate distances that exist within us? What happens when our lives wander into a timeline that feels parallel to the world? How do we escape self-isolation when it’s an eternal feeling that begins inside and spreads through all of our interactions? What happens when we share this solitude? I’ve always struggled with communication. I think a lot about how to share in an authentic way while fitting in with what’s expected. My struggle to connect through a learning disability and mental illness led me to an isolation that accompanied me constantly. This opportunity gives us a chance to think through the depths of loneliness, together. Multiple solitudes, showing themselves in full. A message sent out across the distance of isolation. This is what theatre offers us. A communal place to think together and see each other into existence. We all face limitations in our daily communications. When we speak the differences we feel, the distance eases. Currently, theatre is also tackling the limitation of distance. How do we connect across the barrier? While apart, we can still think together. We feel compelled to do so with even greater strength and focus. A message from the stages of our mindsets, sent out into the air with hope. This is a chance to feel together beyond the walls 🥰💫. I’m thrilled to be a part of #TPMNavigatingTheNow Thank you @magicalmudge@indritk@limpvvrist and all the TPM team for believing in me and establishing safety in vulnerability. Thank you @tangled_arts and @ontarioartscouncil for your support.

Showing the "broken" parts

It’s a year since I got to see art that had been with me for years printed onto tote bags and sold at @dearevanhansen to fundraise for @jackdotorg and @kidshelpphone. Last year, when writing about this experience, I wrote about what the message to “Step Into The Sun” meant to me as someone whose anxiety and depression had led to in-patient admissions in psych wards as a teenager. As I wrote about it then, I wished I could link in an explanation about WHY I share this information, how I feel when saying those words– “psych ward” - and what it means to know they are attached to the path my life has taken. Now I do have an article that shares these views! Thanks to @shedoesthecity those words are published, here. This morning, I was listening to the @thesparkfile podcast chat about kintsugi, the art of broken pieces. In this practice, broken pottery is connected back together with melted gold that leaves a visible golden scar. This process creates something even more valuable than when the pottery was “whole” or “perfect”. The label of the ‘psych ward’ is the visible evidence that I faced a time when I felt broken. I mention these times with pride because they show how I have come together. The process of seeking help and learning to accept feelings of sadness in a positive way saved my life and brought me new life that I am proud of. When I am open and “lead with the worst of me”, I have the freedom to share that those lows have become a part of the best of me. This is what it is to “step into the sun”. As we connect over distance these days, it does take ‘waving through a window’ to make sure that everyone feels seen and heard. Sending light your way, and please know you can always step into the sun and find that your best light is there to show all the stages of you and who you are. ⚡️☀️💌🌱

She Does The City Article: "I was in a Psych Ward and Here's Why I Tell People"

Thank you She Does The City for this opportunity to share💌. I always try to speak as openly as I am able about my experiences living in psychiatric wards as a teenager. It is always a process that is heavy, and scary, but freeing. Even just calling that place by that name can seem risky. The words “psych ward” are so deeply associated with layers of misrepresentation. Even as someone who has lived there, I find it hard to use that title without feeling I’m referring to some grim fictionalized place that shouldn’t be spoken about. But at the end of the hallway where I lived, there was a sign “Youth Psychiatric Ward”. I spent enough time looking at it to know that those are the words I have to use to explain that part of my past. So, those words are very worth saving from the misrepresentations. It was grim. Though it was also very real, and very important to speak about. (Excerpt from article. The full version is available here): “My ability to be proud of that time derives from my decision to share the details of that time. I am not proud to say I was a psych ward patient; I am proud because I am able to say I was a psych ward patient.”

Training to Take Care

Holding feelings and getting to know them is seeming like the other day when it was sunny and snowed at the same time. It was Monday (I think🙃) and the sky was grey, then blue, then a sudden hailstorm showed up for a bit. In the evening, all of those elements simultaneously held the sky together. It snowed into the midst of golden light also making it’s way through the clouds. I’m familiar with pushing past feelings without looking at them. I know how to distract so they don’t run their course and fall into view. Though in the midst of pandemic, I’m feeling able to give permission to any forecast– whether predicted or unexpected, I’m becoming okay with looking into what falls. I feel that with the atmosphere we’re in, there are factual reasons to point to as a way to explain sources of negative feelings. Because of the examples available, I feel able to hold harsh emotions because they seem valid and in company with the current worldwide experience. By learning to acknowledge, and accept all that’s felt, it’s allowed to settle and exist as a whole that is seen. It creates a moving dynamic towards understanding. But of course...We shouldn’t need reasons or excuses to allow feelings. This freedom of emotion presented by the existence of pandemic reminds me of a comparison I’ve noticed in the past when sick. When I have physical symptoms, I find I’m suddenly able to take proper care of myself. It’s as if proof is required for worth when of course we all require care in all seasons and at all strengths. Pandemic or not, our everyday experiences hold depths of nuanced feeling that require essential care and allowance of existence. I feel that in this time as we learn to be at home in ourselves, we have a training ground for the process our emotions take. I know a lot of us are feeling every possible weather change within us in the course of each day– or each hour. Together, we’re encountering new weather unlike anything we thought possible– it’s falling upon us and surrounding us, and we’re learning how to look at it, hold it, and recognize it’s nature. It helps me to remember that, as we do this, we’re all under the same sky.

Intermission Article: “Click The Link To Connect”

Thank you Intermission Magazine for the opportunity to share.💞 Excerpt below, and “Click The Link (here) To Connect” (to the full article) :-) (...)We can call out through technology. We can call out through theatre. Both forms of communication allow us to share with the perceiver at a distance; both involve sharing with the expectation of instant perception and response, removed. We are already familiar with the theatrical fourth wall; I’d say our methods of sharing digitally have a similar separation. And of course, there is the emerging option of combining them. In a real time, “in the moment,” real life way, we can create art that uses technology to break down barriers. With live digital art, we can respond in the moment, and both the ‘fourth walls’ of distance and response are overcome. Tech is very much two-sided, and encourages the audience, the perceiver, to add their perceptions to the overall effect of the art. Two-way theatre is often thought of as the future of contemporary liveness. It allows us to highlight why we share stories in a living, present way; it is the response to presentational screen acting. Currently, tech is offering us two-way theatre in which art, artist, and audience are all a part of a whole. To zoom out even further, we know this whole experience is global. We are in the midst of a unique time, when every human on the planet is sharing an experience. It is an experience rife with fear and tragedy, and it calls for closeness. This shared feeling can make us feel together and create together and listen with greater focus to what is shared. In response to global isolation, I’ve noticed a shift as we lean towards genuine digital connection. (...Continued here)

Isolation Day15: “Watch out for those cobbleypops, they’ll break your ankle”

“Watch out for those cobbleypops, they’ll break your ankle”!! That was a kid Kate PSA phrase about the dangers of cobblestones (that I truly did say to anyone who would listen), and today it’s also a useful phrase to remind ourselves that tiny hazards can cause big effects when we don’t take proper precautions....🚰🧼🚪...I’ve been saying it a lot lately. Though, that’s also probably because I’m on Day 15 of isolation and now all my usually-filtered kid Kate phrases are being set freee!! ALSO. Everyone should probably know Dhanish and I realized that this morning, from our isolation stations across the city, we simultaneously just happened to be thinking about the dangers of cobblestones. And I just think that’s the most random and beautifully strange #AloneTogether moment that ever there was. 💞😄🏡😄🏡💞

Isolation Day 12, Remembering to see the WONDER

How the entire world looks from the indoor view of Isolation, Day 12 ...☀️🌈✨ 🌈🌿💫!Currently feeling a big burst of appreciation for the people in my life– and honestly, by big burst I mean it. Picture, like... “dog waiting at the door” type of bursting energy over here. Ya, THAT sort. The endless love type of appreciation. This is a photo from a time that never seems quite real to me in memory, because it also felt difficult to feel grounded and connected while I lived it. This was taken when I was 15 and for over 7 months, I wasn’t around people all that much (let alone anyone close to my age). The eventual result was a deep reaching sense of WONDER for all humans. It’s a feeling that always gives me motivation because it reminds me of how beautiful it feels to be just a little starstruck by ALL people, and to feel excited about listening to their stories, and ideas. It’s a feeling that presents a dose of wonder for people who are just being genuinely themselves. It doesn’t take something out of the ordinary for people to feel special. Right now, with the entire world in a situation that is out of the ordinary, it seems pretty clear that any form of “normal” connection can be incredibly special. Hey to you out there, fellow isolators, I know all things “normal” seem far away right now. I hope you have moments where you can listen to absolutely whatever feels genuinely right for YOU❣️That’s powerful and I love you for it!!!

Isolation Day 8: All in the water together

With so much unexpected change, it’s been beautiful to watch people respond by being present and looking to each other. As strict distancing enforcements went into effect today, I noticed spirits rise over these barriers and instinctually connect in a place that reached above them. In downtown Toronto, security guards are limiting the number of shoppers that are allowed inside the few essential shops that remain open. In the long lines today, people were looking out for strangers and creating opportunities to cheer up the surrounding community. From the few interactions I’ve had this week, there’s always been an initial feeling of closeness that is added because of the strange, protective distance that we keep. The responses remind me of the way we look to each other when a rainstorm hits and suddenly everyone outside is soaked in the instant ocean of water that pours down. It’s a new current state for everyone out there and we’re all feeling the wildness of this new normal. In the type of storm where it seems like the air has been replaced with water, and there’s suddenly no choice but to swim through it– we‘re more likely to openly connect with each other through the shared experience. For me, the strangers who were joking and checking in with each other in the distanced lineup helped me to remember that humanity wasn’t shutting down, but opening up. As the atmosphere surrounding us grows more solemn, every encouraging smile helps. We’re all in the water together. And it’s together that we help each other breathe through it.

Isolation Day 7: Reintroduced to what "trapped" can mean

Isolation and the idea of being trapped are big themes that have caused big panic for me in the past. Though this week, the world has been helping to reintroduce me to new versions of these words. I started this week very frightened about whether I could handle a situation that made me directly confront my fears alone. I was thinking inwardly– I thought that would be my only option. However, the shared energy of care and hope all around the world is palpable. From inside, we seem to all be thinking outwardly and thinking together. It has been helping me find that there can be new safety within words that I thought could only be associated with feeling unsafe. Every day I think about how special it is to be turning my fear of being ‘trapped in a space’ into a new experience where I am acknowledging the old experience and shifting my perspective on what the meaning of “trapped” can be. In a time of distance, there is greater connection everywhere I look. Even when I’m inside alone, I can’t help but feel the rest of the world doing the same thing along with me, but with everyone doing so in their own unique ways and spaces. I hope every human is feeling the extra love in the face of fear. The extra love is most definitely out there and it’s absolutely strong enough to reach in to you wherever you happen to be sheltering, cocooning, hibernating or nesting. 💓🏡🏕🐣

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