Taking stock of 2016 feels like an enormous task given all that's happened in just 12 months. Feels like some kind of massive shift is about to happen, but I can't really tell whether to fear it or embrace it. For me, 2016 has more highlights than lowlights, but here's a quick summary taking many moments into account.
This collaboration with writer-performer Jenny Macdonald and scenographer Troy Hourie made last year's list as well, and the project only continued to provide valuable learning experiences, moving rehearsal and performance moments, and an expanding web of collaborators and audiences who were touched by Jenny's profound writing and performance of this autoethnodramatic, one-person show. Jenny's world premiere at Dublin's First Fortnight Festival and her American premiere at the 20th New York International Fringe Festival garnered lots of support and positive affirmations for the work's bravery and its lasting impact. It's been an honor to work as a director and dramaturg on this piece, and I know it will continue to impact audiences in the coming year.
So Keith R. Huff and I wanted to write a site-specific serial comedy that would create an immersive theatre experience in a coffee shop in Harlem. Manhattanville Coffee agreed to host the event on six Friday evenings in October and November. Five actors came on board to fill the principal roles, and eight more actors filled guest starring roles over five of the six episodes. Keith and I co-wrote over 200 pages of material in about two months, and the actors learned all that material in less five hours of rehearsal per week. Close to 200 audience members experienced our first season of Full City+, and we're exploring all of our options for a second season in 2017. Stay tuned!
I had the pleasure of working on two book chapters in 2016. The first chapter on ethnodrama and ethnotheatre will appear in Patricia Leavy’s new Handbook of Arts-Based Research set for publication in 2017 through Guilford Press. The second chapter examines opportunities and challenges with performed and embodied research and is co-authored with Nisha Sajnani and Richard Sallis. That chapter emerged from a public conversation that the three of had in April as part of the NYU Forum on Educational Theatre podcast series, and it’s set to appear in Drama Research Methods: Provocations of Practice, edited by Peter Duffy, Christine Hatton, and Richard Sallis, published by Sense Publishers. While all of this writing took a lot of time, it really helped me to solidify my positions and ideas on these forms of research and playmaking.
Teaching playwriting for the first time
In July, I had the chance to teach a three-week intensive playwriting course focused on the 10-minute play format. I had an excellent group of students, and they produced exciting and innovative 10-minute plays for adult actors and young, school-aged actors.
January 23 marked the largest snowstorm to date in NYC (I think) with 27.5 inches measured in Central Park. It was certainly the biggest snowstorm during my sixteen years living here. Otherwise, the weather was pretty calm throughout the year. I love the fall and the winter in NYC!
On July 21, my dear cat Buster left this world to find his brother Dusty and his dad Craig. We got Buster in September 2003 from a shelter in Brooklyn, largely as a companion for Craig while he was home recovering from his chemo. Buster provided us with hours of enjoyment and companionship, and he became a great big brother to Dusty who passed away before him in 2013. After that, it was Buster and I for three years, and he was with me every step of the way. I miss him terribly, especially now in the winter when he used to jump up on the bed at night and cuddle next to me to stay warm. In a strange and somewhat ironic turn of events, Buster passed just a couple months before the 10th anniversary of Craig’s passing in September. It felt like a marking of time in some way, like the end of a chapter.
Vacation 2016: Asia
In August, I spent two weeks traveling through Asia with Miguel, Claudia, and Elena. We visited Beijing and the Great Wall in China, Koh Yao Noi and Bangkok in Thailand, and Tokyo, Japan. The trip provided us all with great memories and with a lot of learning along the way. The biggest takeaway for me: the United States of America is not the center of the universe. I knew this already, but I appreciated the reminder over and over again throughout the trip.
This year has been a toughie. The presidential election process caused me lots of angst and inner turmoil. For many reasons, I’m loathe for January 21, 2017 to arrive. I’m less afraid of Donald Trump because he can’t keep a position on anything for me than 30 seconds and more afraid of the Republican Party’s overall agenda for the “United” States. A close read of the 2016 Republican Platform reveals unpleasant ideas about what the GOP believes should happen to the rights of LGBTQ people (see pages 31 and 32), not to mention the rights of women, immigrants (legal and undocumented), and countless of other US citizens (health care). After a certain point in 2016, when the circus became too much for me to bear, I decided that I had nothing left to say. I got tired of arguing and found it depressing that people could actually think Donald Trump and a Republican agenda were good ideas for the country. Subsequently, after the election, I’ve had friends and colleagues who’ve been physically and/or verbally attacked here in NYC for reasons easily linked to the rise of hate and hate crimes in the post-election environment. It pains me to imagine what it must be like in places where kids are chanting, “Build the wall” as their classmates sit and try to eat lunch. But this is what the electorate as defined by the electoral college wants, and this is how our strange sense of democracy works in the United States. Bottom line: The phrase “liberty and justice for all” feels pretty empty right now, as it’s very clear that “all” really means “some.” The straight, white, cis male, heteronormative “some.”
PRs in two races
I set personal records at two race distances this year. 28:03 for a 4-miler and 1:09:44 for a 15K. The prior 4-mile best had been in place since 2011, so it felt great to finally break that by 51 seconds. And I PRed at 15K in the same race last year, but dropped 1:54 off of that time in 2016. See the next entries below for reasons why.
In June, I committed to something called a Whole30. I basically ate only meat, vegetables, fruit, eggs, some nuts, and fats for 30 days. I hadn’t been feeling all that great, and I wanted to do some kind of food reset. I eliminated all gluten, dairy, legumes, corn, processed sugar, and alcohol for 30 days, and I learned a ton about what food can do in positive ways and negative ways. I didn’t start eating this way to lose weight, nor did I start working out like a madman. In fact, my workouts stayed virtually the same. After 30 days, I felt so good that I’ve continued to eat following the basic tenets of the Whole20 program. The exceptions are that I do have alcohol and sugar, but I stay away from dairy and gluten as much as possible. To date, I’ve lost 20 pounds without trying, and I’ve experienced a significant shift in my moods and my ability to handle stressful situations. No more random inflammation around my eyes, and I can actually see muscles that I never knew existed. Now I’m working on how to re-introduce the occasional pastry or milk-based item without face planting into a box of Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s an experiment, but I love the results.
This year I’ve been learning about primal movement in my weekly sessions with my trainer Jonathan Angelilli. This movement practice is somewhat difficult to explain, but it feels like a fully integrated approach to movement that gives me lots of information about my body. This movement practice takes up more than 50% of each training session with Jonathan, and I now integrate at least 5 minutes of it before a run and 10 minutes before a race. I also use it to calm myself when work or life just stresses me out. It’s been a game changer. I don’t have pain when I run, my guts are less knotted after I do it, and I’ve become a lot more aware of when I’m out of alignment and/or not breathing while I move. And I’m sure this movement practice coupled with my new understanding of food contributed significantly to those race PRs I mentioned above. I look forward to finding more uses for primal movement in the coming year.
It’s time to move forward into 2017. The tunnel into the new year looks a little foggy ahead, so I’m going to proceed with caution. And I’m carrying four hashtags into the New Year: #enterwithcuriosity, #vigilance, #resistanceasopportunity, #dontdwelldo
Wishing all of us a peaceful, enlightening, and lesson-filled 2017!